Splendid Cycles Big Sale

On SW Broadway bikeway, a solution for LIFT vehicle access

Posted by on June 19th, 2012 at 9:52 am

It’s been an issue ever since the protected bike lane (a.k.a. cycle track) on SW Broadway went in: How to improve access for TriMet LIFT Paratransit Program vehicles that need direct access to the curb in order to drop off and pick up people with disabilities, while not blocking the flow of bike traffic.

In its current configuration, the bike lane on SW Broadway near Portland State University is curbside and the auto parking lane is in the street. This was done to create a protective buffer between people on bikes and people in moving auto traffic. The problem is, LIFT vehicles need to extend a ramp so that riders with wheelchairs can roll directly onto the sidewalk.

When the SW Broadway bikeway first opened, vans parked at the curb. Some people on bikes were perturbed by the blockage of the lane, which forced them to either stop and wait, or squeeze between the LIFT vehicles and parked cars. “TriMet has come under criticism by a vocal minority of cyclists for blocking the cycle track,” reads a PSU document about the new plan.

Further complicating the issue is the length of layovers with LIFT vehicles can be quite long since operators often escort their riders door to door.

“This is a small project, but a big step forward in improving things on Broadway.”
— Ian Stude, PSU Transportation Options Manager

Now, thanks to a collaborative effort between PSU staff, the Portland Commission on Disability (PCOD), the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), and TriMet, a solution looks to finally be in the works.

Ian Stude, the transportation options manager at Portland State University, says the school’s Disability Resource Center (housed within the Smith Student Union building) at the corner of SW Broadway and Harrison averages about six pick-ups and drop-offs per day. Ideally, LIFT vehicles would stop right at the curb outside the DRC to service their riders. But since this bike access issue arose, vehicles have avoided the stop and have instead been stopping at SW Mill between 6th and Broadway. That location is several blocks away from the DRC.

“When you factor in that these are people with disabilities,” Stude shared with us, “That’s less than ideal.” He added that due to the nature of LIFT stops (it’s not a set route), people waiting for a ride need to have refuge from the elements and be visible at the stop.

A group of bike advocates and representatives from PCOT, PBOT, TriMet and PSU began meeting about this issue back in June 2010. At that time, some members of PCOD aired serious concerns about how disabled people would be impacted by the growing trend toward curbside, protected bikeways.

At the City’s monthly Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last week, Stude presented a new plan that has been endorsed by all the stakeholders. Here’s a look at the configuration..

The plan is to extend the current, 20-foot wide no stopping or parking zone (labeled “NSOP” in the drawing above) at SW Harrison another 40 feet. This would create ample space for the LIFT vehicles to park at the curb. The bikeway would then be directed around the LIFT vehicle in a six-foot bike lane with a two-foot buffer from the standard vehicle lane on SW Broadway.

Stude says he’s already gotten approval for this design from the Commission on Disability. “This is a small project,” he said at the BAC meeting last week, “but a big step forward in improving things on Broadway, and it’s another stepping stone toward goodwill between the bicycling and disabled communities.”

The new configuration will be installed for a 3-6 month testing period before the street is permanently restriped.

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John Landolfe
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Nice work. Transportation doesn’t always have to be about competing interests.

Joe Rowe
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Joe Rowe

Nice solution. This is what happens when groups get together to challenge the myth things can’t be done. This worked for the greater common good because nobody argued the stupidity of keeping 2-4 parking spaces.

Wear No Pants
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Wear No Pants

Love it! I’m a PSU student, and I think that this will work well for everyone.

dwainedibbly
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dwainedibbly

Bus 68 pulls this maneuver all the time (when there are no cars parked, like in the early morning hours). Is Tri-Met going to do the same thing at the bus stops? I witness it all the time. It seems to be routine practice.

I guess this will work. Hopefully LIFT drivers & cyclists will watch out for each other when the LIFT vehicle crosses the bike lane.

Steve B
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I LIKE IT!

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

Wait–they removed on-street parking for this????

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

Wait again–so The City moved the bike lane over to the curb and hampered LIFT access to the sidewalk with parked cars (as an experiment), and now “the cycling community” has to take steps to build goodwill with the “disabled community”? Was there “badwill”? Where did it come from?

Pete
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Pete

Certainly not from the driving community, but I imagine the parking community will be pretty pissed that their right to park has been infringed upon here.

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

I just wish the parking community would start policing themselves. Scofflaw parkers make all parkers look bad…

Esther
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Esther

Congratulations to everyone involved for coming up with a workable solution. I also appreciate the efforts PSU has put into preventing people parking their bikes on ramps/locking them to handrails, effectively limiting their use for people with mobility impairments. This is a big issue all over the city at public buildings.

spare_wheel
Guest

i no longer use this facility…ever.

imo, the broadway cycle track is a disaster:
*it has been repeatedly blocked for long periods by PSU construction.
*it is often blocked by vehicles (pull ins and buses).
*in the am it is full of kamikaze pedestrians.
*in the winter it is a gritty and gravelly mess.

despite the above annoyances i dutifully road the track for a good year and a half. i stopped using this terrible facility after i was almost flattened by a speeding 4×4 at the terminus. not only is the terminus a right hook but it is a right hook in which the cyclist is now hidden by a wall of parked cars.

Alex Reed
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Alex Reed

Well done! As I recall the lift vehicles don’t have driver-side doors so there’s not even any dooring hazard! This is a good solution given budgetary constraints.

I think the best solution would be a built-up (sidewalk-height) pedestrian refuge bus stop in part of the area where car parking was. That way the bus wouldn’t have to weave across the bike lane and the LIFT passengers could still disembark to a sidewalk-level facility. But, budgets are budgets. Hopefully someday….

Chris
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Chris

I wish they would go back to the bike lane and scrap the bikeway. Being sandwiched between the curb and parked cars is more dangerous. I have come amazingly close on more than 10 occasions, of hitting pedestrians (students I presume) as they saunter into the bike lane. This didn’t happen before the lane was moved. I also have had to lock up the brakes on several occasions and seen others do the same as right turning cars suddenly appear in front as they turn into a parking lot near the south end of SW Broadway. I can’t fault the drivers as bikes are nearly invisible on the other side of parked cars.

Lastly, the other chance of being hit is when cars parking over shoot the parking space and end up in the bike lane. It is certainly not an improvement over the old bike lane in my eyes (I use SW Broadway section 2-3 times a week on average). I would easily take the old challenges over the new ones and then the buses could easily pull to the curb for disabled passengers as they do elsewhere.

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

You and spare_wheel must be riding too fast. Everyone knows that bicycles are inherently dangerous and must be ridden at no more than “an ordinary walking speed” in an environment like this. Better yet, why not just get off and walk your bike through this safety zone? That way, everyone gets where they are going and nobody has to watch what they are doing. Oh! Even better yet–why not just divert over to the park blocks and walk your bike through that lovely, wooded stretch? Wouldn’t that be even more pleasanter?

(just in case–you will need a mop to clean up the sarcasm dripping from this comment. Don’t know why I am so bitter lately…)

Alex Reed
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Alex Reed

I agree that there are new hazards. But I see most of these as growing pains for a city going from ~5% bicycle mode share to 15-25% mode share. Unprotected, door-zone bike lanes are not enough to convince the “interested but concerned.” Personally, I never used Broadway before the change was made and now I do use this little stretch of it.

Hopefully, once there are more facilities like this, pedestrians will figure out where they are supposed to be.