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PBOT eyeing cycle track on SW 12th through downtown

Posted by on March 15th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Red line shows location of potential cycle track.

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is in the early stages of a downtown cycle track project on SW 12th Avenue between I-405 and Burnside. I began hearing chatter about this project from sources several weeks ago and have now confirmed that PBOT pitched the project to the Portland Business Alliance at a meeting on Tuesday.

The idea is to redesign SW 12th so that it includes high-quality bike access. Currently the configuration is one-way northbound with three standard vehicle lanes and parking lanes on both sides. Here’s how it looks today…

Plenty of room! Let’s make it a great bike street shall we?!

PBOT says that — similar to SW Broadway, where they installed a cycle track back in August 2009 — SW 12th has more auto capacity than is needed. The street has also caught planners’ eyes because it has no rail tracks and it connects to Portland State University and the existing buffered bike lane on SW Stark.

SW 12th is a bit off the beaten track and it’s definitely not the most popular downtown bike route. PBOT says they’ve considered other streets, but various factors have made them less feasible at the moment: SW 10th has streetcar tracks; SW 6th has MAX tracks and is part of the transit mall; SW Park doesn’t have signals; and SW 4th has “heavy traffic volumes.”

PBOT spokesperson Dan Anderson said today via email that, a cycle track on SW 12th will give them the, “opportunity to consider lessons learned from the Broadway Cycle Track.”

Currently, PBOT is in outreach mode. They’re giving presentations and talking with property owners, churches and people who live on the street. Stay tuned for more on this project and weigh in below with your thoughts.

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  • peejay March 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I use this route frequently, coming off the train at goose hollow. I hope they do it. (Vehicular cyclists may throw themselves in front of cars on other streets.)

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  • Ryan Howard March 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    We need a good northbound bike route downtown but this seems too close to 14th

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  • daisy March 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I do wish this could be closer to Broadway, but I would probably zip up a couple of blocks from PSU to take this. I would never go over to 14th–since I’m heading to the Broadway Bridge, I wouldn’t cross 405 to get there.

    I’m also interested in the lessons learned from Broadway. I hope the lessons are that a narrow bike lane on road with a lot of hills isn’t actually a cycle track.

    I take 10th now, either the middle lane or left lane (when there are only two lanes). It’s not great, but it’s the best option I think for getting from PSU to the Broadway Bridge by bike.

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  • Matti March 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    I ride along this north-bound street every morning from the PSU campus. I agree it could easily lose an auto lane. It has good connection across Burnside to the Pearl District with a signalized intersection and it intersects the east-bound Stark Street cycle track. This would make a nice addition to the system of downtown bike facilities.

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  • grumpcyclist March 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Seems awfully silly to me, the street is downhill pretty much all of the way downtown, you can easily maintain the 12.5 mph necessary to keep up with traffic while staying right in the middle of one of the traffic lanes. A better way to spend the money would be creating a CONTINUOUS cycle track heading south (uphill) from SW Burnside to PSU, either via Broadway or some other street.

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    • Lance P. March 16, 2012 at 9:21 am

      a true cycle track would mean that bikes would be going north and south.

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  • was carless March 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    We need multiple cycle tracks. 12th is too far out of the way for most people, although it would serve the relatively small niche of PSU students commuting from NW Portland & the Pearl.

    For anyone riding to downtown over the Willamette, next to useless. We really need a cycle track between Broadway and 2nd.

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  • Paul Manson March 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    It would be better if there was a logical way to tie into Madison and access to the Hawthorne Bridge. But the condos and PAM block a direct connection west of the Park Blocks.

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  • dwainedibbly March 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I live in this area. I say to use 10th and put the cycle track on the left side of the street. We need to make everyone realize that it is OK for bikes to use the left side when there are streetcar tracks on the right side of a one-way street.

    12th will probably be ok, and I agree that it has excess capacity as it exists now. It just seems a little out of the way for most people so it isn’t going to have as much impact as it should.

    I also agree with the comment that we need another southbound cycle track. Broadway, with it’s short but steep hills, is really terrible. 11th would work, again with the cycle track opposite the streetcar tracks.

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  • cara March 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I can’t see the point. I take the lane on 12th, any lane, and have never had anything resembling a problem. It’s downhill and wide and easy. Can we have one southbound instead?

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    • A.K. March 15, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      Agreed – I’ve taken this street many, many times and have never had an issue. I just hog the whole right lane. No muss, no fuss. I’ve never had an issue on any street in downtown, and to be honest, my least favorite place to ride is the cycletrack by PSU and the bike “lane” leading up to it.

      PBOT – please, PLEASE try and aim high with these projects. A “cycle track” on a street with “excess capacity” is exactly the opposite type of street that truly needs improvement. Someone needs to grab the bull by the horns and stop approving these projects that are next-to-useless.

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    • was carless March 15, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      I kind of agree with you. Actually, when I bike from PSU to the Pearl, I normally take the middle lane on 10th (to avoid the bumpy streetcar/max intersecting tracks), and then switch to the right-hand lane in the middle of the streetcar tracks north of Salmon. Most people would think I’m crazy.

      However, there will likely be 1,000s of condos/apartments residential units built west of 10th over the next 10-20 years. Now’s the time to reserve streetspace for bikes, before there are any other NIMBY/”interest” groups (pro-car) who don’t want to share the road.

      As it is, noone will likely care about putting 12th on a road diet.

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  • are March 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    if PBoT gets a green lane project grant from bikes belong there will be money to fund various public relations activities around this and similar installations, including money for studies to show how well the thing works, so that other cities may be encouraged to do something similar. to compete for the grant, they had to identify specific projects that they could put in during 2013. check out the surveymonkey link on
    in short, you may want to ask whether 12th was selected in part because it would not be difficult or expensive to implement quickly, and the data (depending how they frame the study) are likely to show that it “works.”

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  • Andrew N March 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I think this is nice, but not particularly impressive. Seems like PBOT is desperate to come up with more low-hanging fruit to pick.

    I say make a statement on Broadway with a separated 2-way cycle track and road diet from at least Burnside to PSU. If NYC/Sadik-Khan can show guts and heart with what they’ve done in Manhattan, we should be able to as well.

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    • was carless March 16, 2012 at 12:07 am

      See my comment below about using 5th instead. Broadway has a lot more traffic compared to 5th, and 5th goes by a lot more office buildings, not to mention the mall and the PSU urban center, all the way to Old Town. It also has a much better connection over I-405 to SW Portland.

      Also, 5th averages 41 cars an hour (~1,000 cars/24 hours). Thats less than 1 per minute. I don’t think motorists would miss it, at least by PSU. Add in a 10,000 bicycle parking station by Pioneer Place Mall, Portland State University, and near Burnside… I think you’d have a winner.

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  • spare_wheel March 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    how about giving cyclists a whole “buffered” lane. given signal enforced speed limits down town there is absolutely no need to “protect” cyclists behind a wall of parked cars (as on broadway).

    the cycle track walled garden is not the ultimate destination, its just a temporary fix.

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  • Alexis March 15, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Are they considering a two-way track? Southbound flow is needed much more than northbound, I think, because it’s uphill and 14th already serves a lot of the northbound traffic.

    I think it’s a great idea for an experiment, but I agree with several others that the street that desperately needs this treatment is Broadway.

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    • are March 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      what broadway needs is sharrows in the right travel lane and get rid of the striped lane altogether. the lane is especially useless through the hotel loading zones, but is frankly a nuisance from lovejoy on down.

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  • was carless March 16, 2012 at 12:02 am

    My suggestion (in addition to 12th):

    I think that a bidirectional cycle track on 5th ave would be great – its not like that many cars use the street anyway. Just ban cars from the street and everything would be peachy.

    This is seriously one of the most underutilized streets in downtown, automobile-wise. There are roughly 1,000 – 2,000 cars per DAY that use the street – far fewer than Vancouver/Williams couplet, which are during peak hour more than 2,000 per hour! Anyways, Broadway is 2 blocks over. So is 3rd. Both of those streets have far higher traffic counts, likely because they are much better streets to drive on.

    Take a look at this Portland traffic count map if you don’t believe me:

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    • Geoff March 16, 2012 at 9:11 am

      I agree with this. In my opinion one major problem in downtown is the complete lack of northbound bicycle facilities between Naito and 14th. A continuous northbound facility from Barbur to the Broadway bridge would be ideal.

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  • Daniel R. Miller March 16, 2012 at 12:30 am

    I guess we’re supposed to be happy at any and all cycle-track projects, but like the one by PSU and the one in Cully, this is yet more low-hanging fruit. How much proof-of-concept do we need before exerting the political courage to do something truly useful? As many people have noted recently, Portland is in a plateau/rut when it comes to bike infrastructure improvements.
    Yesterday’s “world class” is today’s also-ran. Cycle-tracks-to-nowhere are almost more embarrassing than they are effective showcases, or perhaps they are effective to the degree that they get us to say “hey, when the hell are we going to get one of these on a street that matters?”

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  • spare_wheel March 16, 2012 at 8:51 am

    there are literally thousands of cyclists who head towards the willamette bridges from ohsu and psu. please remind me of a single downtown facility that serves them. is this what one would expect in a world class cycling city?

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    • davemess March 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Why do most cyclists need special services? Portland is easily one of the easiest and safest cities to bike in the downtown area in the US. I have gone from OHSU to hawthorne bridge hundreds of times and never had anything resembling a problem cruising around downtown, taking the lane. The lights are all timed nice and slow, so a cyclist can easily keep up with them.

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      • spare_wheel March 17, 2012 at 6:34 am

        taking the lane in the midst of harried rush hour traffic is daunting for less confident cyclists. also, during rush hour traffic frequently piles up making cycling unpleasant. i see no reasons why cyclists should not also have a north-bound facility given that there are literally thousands of bicycle commuters who take this route.

        “The lights are all timed nice and slow, so a cyclist can easily keep up with them”
        the timing of those lights don’t help much when you are stuck in traffic. a bike lane would provide incentive and encouragement to take the most direct route to the willamette bridges. why is this hard to understand?

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    • davemess March 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      Also there is a bike lane all the way from OHSU to where 6th begins on the other side of 405 (with a nice bike box at the corner of 6th and Broadway).

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      • spare_wheel March 17, 2012 at 6:42 am

        my comment was focused on down town. i am well aware that terwilliger has a bike lane…AND a MUP.

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  • Gregg March 16, 2012 at 10:08 am

    C’mon PBOT! We can do it!

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    • Gregg March 16, 2012 at 10:11 am

      Where is that delete button. After reading more closely, I agree with Andrew N above.

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  • Ted Buehler March 16, 2012 at 10:11 am

    A SW 12th cycletrack is a great idea.

    Of all the SB streets in downtown, this one has plenty of excess car capacity. And it goes straight from PSU to Lovejoy.

    Before the Lovejoy Bike Lane was decommissioned as part of the streetcar project, 12th => Lovejoy => the Broadway Bridge was an underappreciated route from PSU to N/NE Portland. Except for a 3 block jog off the Park Blocks, it was as direct as direct can be, made excellent use of the downhill bonus, and had little car traffic. It’s still good, as Johnson/9th work just fine to get to the bridge.

    Thanks PBOT, let’s do it!

    Ted Buehler

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    • borgbike March 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      I missed the connection from 12th to Lovejoy to the Broadway Bridge. A lot was lost here when Lovejoy was closed to bikes!

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      • are March 16, 2012 at 10:01 pm

        i still occasionally take lovejoy from 12th to the bridge. not aware it was closed, though the rails make it somewhat less convenient.

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  • Brandon Van Buskirk March 16, 2012 at 10:17 am

    I’ve always thought 12th needs to be turned back into a 2 way street with bike treatments going both directions. There are not enough 2 way streets in downtown to create a well connected, efficient grid.

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  • Charley March 16, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Cool. But what about Broadway???? That’s the main route into town from N and NE Portland, and it’s the most dangerous thing I ride. I ride it EVERY DAY to work! I hate getting doored, I’m tired of getting hooked. So why not deal with that instead? It’s a huge safety hazard, and it’s a way bigger problem. Why are they avoiding dealing with it????

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      politics, fear, lack of confidence

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    • spare_wheel March 17, 2012 at 6:52 am

      in 21 years of commuting i rarely (if ever) had a close call with a pedestrian until i started riding the broadway cycle track. i now take the lane every day instead of riding a facility that its often filled with oblivious pedestrians waiting for the crosswalk signal, shuttle buses, or their rides. and this problem was *created* by pbot’s unwillingness to remove parking. with pbot its always about squeezing in a cycling facility somewhere where it won’t impact motorists.

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  • BURR March 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    A better, cheaper solution would be to just close the Park Blocks to through motor vehicle travel.

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  • BURR March 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    There is not enough traffic on SW 12th to justify this, it’s easy to take the lane and make all the lights, it’s mostly downhill.

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  • Mindful Cyclist March 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I have only skimmed the comments, so probably just reiterating many of the same points it seems, but as far as I am concerned, this is not needed. I take 12th on my way home from work and traffic is very light, it is basically downhill, and the lights are set at 12 mph anyway. There are three lanes so there is plenty of room for a car to go to another lane to get around me.

    There are so many other things that we could focus on instead of this.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson March 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    A West End planning proposal a few years ago called for making SW 12th Avenue a calmed two way street, with one motorized traffic lane in each direction. There is plenty of room left for very generous, protected bike lanes/tracks in both directions. This street connects PSU directly with NW College of Art in the Pearl District, with both Johnson and Marshall getting you to the Broadway Bridge. Then we just need the NE 7th Avenue Bridge over Sullivan’s Gulch.

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  • borgbike March 16, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I bike down 12th Ave everyday on my way home. I find this street to be very safe, as is, for bikes. The traffic lights are regulated and there is already plenty of room. (I ride the bike lane all the way up 13th Ave too.) Ironically 14th (or whatever is on the west side of I405 has a bike lane all the way north. This street is much more dangerous on a bike. The transition from the bike lane on the left of the street to the right just before Burnside typically seems dangerous probably because the auto drivers aren’t used to sharing the road with bikes here.

    I’d prefer to see the city do something bigger and more significant with Broadway. Converting 12th seems like a flaky half-effort.

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  • Daniel R. Miller March 17, 2012 at 1:18 am

    I’ll say this, following on my previous criticism of the project being a too-easy cycle-track-to-nowhere: if it is two-way cycle-track (perhaps as part of making 12th 2-way for autos as well) and goes all the way to Lovejoy, then we’re talking some more substance and utility, and something that could serve as a broader proof-of-concept than the upper Broadway snippet of cycle-track.

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  • Seth Alford March 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    As I recall, 10th and 11th were rideable before the streetcar. Rip out the tracks and they would be rideable again.

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  • Seth Alford March 17, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Furthermore, the worst part of my commute is the intersection of Beaverton-Hillsdale/Oleson/Scholls. Since Portland can expect Clackamas County to help pay for th

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  • Seth Alford March 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    …the Sellwood Bridge, I think Washington County can expect Porland to help pay for a fix for BH/Oleson/Scholls. I think that the money for a 12th Ave cycletrack should instead go to fixing BH/Oleson/Scholls instead.

    (Sorry, hit the post button too soon.)

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  • Steve B March 18, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Sounds good to me, especially any consideration to a 2-way cycletrack. It’s a real bummer than Streetcar/MAX tracks have precluded bikeway improvements where there is a great need for them. Something we should definitely watch out for in future rail proposals.

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  • No Spin March 19, 2012 at 8:16 am

    The street has also caught planners’ eyes because it has no rail tracks.

    PBOT says they’ve considered other streets, but various factors have made them less feasible at the moment: SW 10th has streetcar tracks; SW 6th has MAX tracks and is part of the transit mall; SW Park doesn’t have signals; and SW 4th has “heavy traffic volumes.”

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    • BURR March 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      once again cyclists get the left-overs

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  • No Spin March 19, 2012 at 8:20 am

    OOPS – Cold Fingers

    I would love to know what the lessons learned are?

    The street has also caught planners’ eyes because it has no rail tracks.

    PBOT says they’ve considered other streets, but various factors have made them less feasible at the moment: SW 10th has streetcar tracks; SW 6th has MAX tracks and is part of the transit mall; SW Park doesn’t have signals; and SW 4th has “heavy traffic volumes.”

    Then we look to SW Moody where you have a blank canvas and find out that Max is going to cut right through the center of the cycle track.

    Its like Multnomah County needs to pass legislation like Clackamas County. No new projects without a vote of the public.

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  • Andyc March 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    I for one can not WAIT to see this in all the videos showing what a great bicycling city Portland is.

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  • brett March 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I ride from PSU to downtown, Pearl, NW and back most days and would love a two-way cycle track on 12th, which can certainly stand a road diet. If tumbleweeds grew in Portland, they’d be blowing down 12th most days. Agree with almost everyone above: 14th is tricky, Broadway is dooring territory. 10th is my favored route north but the streetcar tracks are annoying and it’s probably too intimidating to the interested but concerned. I’d love Broadway to become the primary N-S route but the hoteliers and retailers on Broadway would howl at removing parking.

    Instead, +1 on the idea of making 5th bike/transit only or closing Park to cars and making it bike/ped only, which would make downtown a quiet, calm walker/cyclist paradise and facilitate cafes etc. In fact, I’d trade the dangerous Broadway bike lane for a bike/Max only 5th and/or a bike/ped only Park, and a two-way cycle track on 12th. Are either of those politically feasible?

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson March 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Why all the trackphobia? The thru lanes on the Transit Mall, 5th & 6th Avenues, are better for bikes than for motor vehicles. We should own them. 10th & 11th have three lanes, so take a lane and relax, especially on 10th going downhill.
    12th, if done two way, offers a direct path from PSU to lots of destinations in NW. Seems like a winner to me.

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  • zefwagner May 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    I will go ahead and echo many others that this will only be worth it if it is two-way. Ideally the whole street should be two-way for both cars and bikes, with either bike lanes or cycletracks. Currently it is downhill going north and the lights are timed correctly for bikes, just like 4th.

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