ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell says a recent collision has led to an internal assessment of bike safety on the St. Johns Bridge and he has directed his staff to do something about it.
In a phone call today, Tell said ODOT will install new signs on the bridge to make people driving cars more aware of people operating bicycles in the roadway. “From a motorists perspective, I think we can do more to raise awareness that cyclists are in the road… since it’s a legal use there,” said Tell.
“This would be an easy, low-cost fix. If it helps bring that awareness, than it’s something we should do.”
— Jason Tell, ODOT Region 1 Manager
Currently, the bridge has only one sign in each direction related to bicycles. They consist of a bicycle symbol and words “On Bridge Roadway.” However, even Tell admits they could be located more effectively. He said ODOT will move the existing signs to a more visible spot and they will look at adding additional signage to the middle of the bridge span (in both directions) instead of just at the entrances.
“The bottom line is, we can do more.”
In addition to new and more effectively placed signs, Tell said they will explore adding new pavement markings to the roadway. These would most likely be sharrows. When ODOT made the fateful decision to configure the bridge without adequate bike access when it was rehabbed in 2005, sharrows were not an option. Sharrows were not officially adopted by the Federal Highway Administration until 2009.
When we discussed sharrows today, Tell said, “I’m willing to explore them… New guidance from MUTCD [the FHWA’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Design] opens up options.”
Back in 2006, our friend (and former transportation planner for City of Vancouver) Todd Boulanger envisioned what sharrows on the St. Johns Bridge might look like…
Perhaps six years later we’ll see those images become reality.
ODOT engineers are currently working on these improvements and Tell says whatever they implement will be done by this spring. “This would be an easy, low-cost fix,” he said, “If it helps bring that awareness, than it’s something we should do.”
While sharrows and more signs aren’t the ultimate solution, Tell seems to realize that this could be just a first step to re-opening the dialogue about bike access on this beautiful and iconic bridge. ODOT was a much a different agency seven years ago (Tell wasn’t the regional manager back then) and I hope they embrace this opportunity to transform the St. Johns Bridge from a symbol of their past indifference to bike access into a symbol of their new — and future — commitment to it.