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County adds buffer to bike lane on Hawthorne Bridge approach

Posted by on October 8th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

new striping on SE Madison-Hawthorne Bridge-2

A new buffer on SE Madison.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The bike lane on SE Madison St. as it approaches the Hawthorne Bridge just got a three-foot buffer this morning. This is one of a trio of projects coming to the east and westbound approaches that we can expect in the next few months as part of a joint effort by Multnomah County (they own/manage the bridge) and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to improve bike access.

This first phase has added a three-foot buffer to the existing six-foot wide bikeway on Madison west of SE Grand Ave. According to the County, the new striping, “will provide greater separation for westbound bicyclists and motor vehicles on the popular bike bridge.”

The new striping begins where the existing, double-wide bike lane ends just west of Grand Ave and it continues all the way to where the bike lane transitions up onto the sidewalk at the TriMet bus stop (above SE Water Ave). The plans call for chevron marks inside the buffered zone (see work order below); but as of this morning those markings were not there*. When I observed the area this morning, I noticed many people on bikes using the new buffer zone as a passing lane.

new striping on SE Madison-Hawthorne Bridge-3

new striping on SE Madison-Hawthorne Bridge-5

There are no plans to install plastic bollards or any other type of material that would create a physical (not just paint) separation.

Here’s how it looks looking eastward toward SE Grand…

new striping on SE Madison-Hawthorne Bridge-6

And if you’re so inclined, below is the official PBOT work order for the project:

PBOT work order (click to enlarge)

Stay tuned for more changes to Madison and Hawthorne on the eastern ramps of the Hawthorne Bridge. In 2013, the County and PBOT plan to address the area where people bicycling mix with walkers near the TriMet bus stop on Madison (above SE Water). There’s also a project in the works to re-stripe the bike lane on eastbound Hawthorne where it crosses the SE Clay off-ramp. Current plans call for a new sidewalk and buffered bike lane leading up to SE Grand.

Did you notice the wider bike lane riding into work this morning?

*PBOT engineer Andrew Sullivan tells me that the chevrons should be added sometime in the “near future”, hopefully by the end of this week.

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  • Andrew K October 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for making my daily commute a tad bit safer PBOT and Multnomah County!

    I’ve actually always found the traffic on the Hawhtorne Bridge to be pretty respectful for the most part, especially considering the small space is shared by bikes, pedestrians, and cars. We all seem to make it work most of the time. Still, even a small improvement like this is nice.

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  • K'Tesh October 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Looks good! Been seeing buffered bike lanes popping up in Washington County lately

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  • o:= October 8, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    i wonder where the left lane goes… to nowhere?

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    • Spiffy October 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      damn scofflaw bikers and their buffers to nowhere!

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  • bartelby October 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I saw you there taking pictures this morning! Any idea if they plan to do something about the bus-bike conflict at the bike box on Grand? Lots of bikes stack up there in the morning, so that sometimes you have to sit behind the bus and wait for it to turn across the bike lanes. That happened to me this morning, and I accidentally ran the red light, as there was a box truck trying to illegally turn right across the bike lane, obscuring view of the traffic lights. By the time I saw it was red, I was out in the lane and getting honked at. Perhaps a bike-only signal to give us a 20-30 second head start?

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    • Bike-Max-Bike October 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      Perhaps moving the bus stop back a block would really do the trick. Think about that as you ride it this week.

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  • Randall S. October 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I might be on my own here, but I saw it this morning (I ride over Hawthorne every day), and it seems kind of pointless. The lane is already wide enough that I can pass people while still in the lane, plus the motor vehicle lane was already really wide.

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    • Nick Falbo October 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      Whenever adjacent lanes are “really wide”, we should be painting these extra buffer lines. They add comfort for bicyclists and reduce the temptation for car drivers to speed. This is a win-win for safety.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm


        Curious what you think…. Do you think it’s a no-brainer to add some sort of bollards, reflectors, or other manner of physical objects to increase separation?

        Oh, and seems to me that Burnside Bridge is a glaring opportunity for a similar treatment.

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        • Joseph E October 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm

          “Do you think it’s a no-brainer to add some sort of bollards, reflectors, or other manner of physical objects to increase separation?”

          Normally I would say yes, BUT only if the bike lane is already wide enough. Standards in the Netherlands call for 10 to 12 foot wide bike lanes in high traffic areas so bikes can pass easily, and the Hawthorne bridge is about as high traffic as you get in this city. For now it is nice to have the buffer as a usable area for passing.
          But if the other lanes could be narrowed by another 2 feet, there would be enough room for a 45 degree angle curb or a line of plastic bollards, plus the wider usable bike lane

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          • Nick Falbo October 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

            I’m with Joseph on the need for bikeway width before barrier protection becomes particularly functional. One of the very legitimate reasons for strong opposition to protected lanes from the vehicular cycling community is because the rider is trapped in their lane. Riders can’t avoid obstacles and can’t easily pass others. With enough width, these problems are less of an issue.

            In this stretch leading to the Hawthorne bridge I’m routinely passed by others, so I’d rather see the extra passing space than physical barriers if I had to choose. But if we could get a 9 foot bikeway space, protected by a 3 ft buffer zone with bollards/fencing I’d say go for it.

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      • Vance Longwell October 9, 2012 at 6:55 am

        We already have speed limits. They punish speeders. Now, you would punish strangers for, “THINKING”, about speeding? Yeah, you all are still a bunch of nazi hall-monitors. Thanks for that. Maybe, just maybe, nobody follows you people’s silly rules ’cause they are dumb? Maybe nobody cares what you feel about other people’s business? Now you’re gonna MAKE ’em care, aren’t ya? Hehe, more power to ya, really…

        Some one once said, “The tighter your grip, the more sand slips through your fingers.”. Squeeze mamma’s boy, SQUEEZE!!

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        • Randall S. October 9, 2012 at 10:45 am

          Haha… speed limits punishing speeders… that’s a good one. It’s like those stop signs that punish cyclists who run stop signs, right?

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          • Vance Longwell October 10, 2012 at 7:44 am

            Randall S. I’m sorry R, ’twas my thought that a civil fine IS a punishment. Did I write something incorrectly? I did not mean to anthropomorphize traffic signalling devices.

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    • Chris I October 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      Wide lanes encourage speeding. No lane should ever be wider than 12ft. Anywhere. A buffer provides 2 extra feet of “oh crap” protection. As in: “I just dropped my coffee” or “I need to change this radio station”.

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      • Spiffy October 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm

        I’d rather they crash into me than to think we’re ok with their inattentiveness by giving them more room for it…

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        • Chris I October 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm

          Leaving your lane is still illegal. You’re a sick bastard if you would rather see someone get injured or killed when the road is wide enough to have a buffer.

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    • spare_wheel October 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      this new lane made passing all of you so much more enjoyable. its about time pbot built some infrastructure for faster cyclists!

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  • Pete October 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Damn, you guys get a 3′ buffer and we can’t even get a 3′ passing law passed! 🙂

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  • deborah October 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    I immediately noticed and appreciated it. Yes it was possible to pass and get passed on the stretch already, but with the possibility of a bus approaching from behind and at the speed that most reach on this decline it seems safer and more controlled with the extra room.

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  • dwainedibbly October 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    I like the buffer as a passing lane, frankly. Add the chevrons, and we’re good to go. Then I won’t have to worry about slowing anyone else.

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  • Jeremy Cohen October 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I saw it and loved it! I always thought the two lane start into a single lane merge happened too quickly on this stretch–there was almost always someone trying to pass or getting passed just as the lane became a single bike lane–now there is some extra room the whole way! Excellent job PBOT!

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  • RyNO Dan October 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    For me, it’s the westbound exit into downtown that was/is the most “problematic”. It needs some serious “engineering”. A huge improvement would be to eliminate the bus stops on main btw 1st and 2nd.

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  • are October 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    there seems to be some confusion among these comments whether the buffer is intended to function as a passing lane. obviously it can be used for that purpose, but its intended function is as a buffer against the right travel lane. the chevrons, when they are added, will be oriented contra the flow of traffic, i.e., they will not be in the nature of sharrows or bike lane markings.

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  • Adam October 8, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I like the buffered extra three feet! But why is it not “filled in” with diagonal striping, like they do for any other bikelane or cycletrack buffering? I think consistency is key where bike striping is concerned.

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    • Chris I October 8, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      It will be.

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  • GlowBoy October 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Yay! It always seemed like the existing “passing lane” ended EXACTLY as I was starting to catch up with and pass the largest number of slower cyclists.

    I agree that wide lanes encourage speeding (which is rampant in this location), but motorists also tend to drive down the CENTER of the lane. By adding this buffer we’ve just shifted the perceived center of the lane over a foot and a half, giving us pedalers some more breathing room. Not that I’ve had any trouble with motorists not giving me room there, but it’s still nice to have.

    And as mentioned above, sure would be nice if someday we can untangle the total mess that is the OTHER end of westbound Hawthorne!

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    • spare_wheel October 9, 2012 at 8:50 am

      thats because they speed up as you approach.

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      • was carless October 9, 2012 at 10:44 am

        Cat-6 racing at its finest!!

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  • Martha R October 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    That buffer put a smile on my face this morning! The previous design was good enough, but the little bit of extra space sure made it feel more comfortable (I’ve been bike commuting on this bridge for 20 years, so I’m used to a bit of discomfort).

    The new design feels so dignified. Thanks, Multhomah County!

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  • kittens October 9, 2012 at 1:53 am

    sorta like a politician kissing a baby

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  • John Landolfe October 9, 2012 at 8:19 am

    It’s a welcome improvement. Thanks!

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  • spare_wheel October 9, 2012 at 8:54 am

    i urge all faster commuters to call pbot and let them know how much “safer” (*cough*) this buffer has made them feel. please stress how this buffer makes you feel comfortable cycling with your toddler and/or grandma.

    maybe we can fool pbot into striping more fast lanes…

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  • Alex Reed October 9, 2012 at 11:47 am

    This set of planned changes is great! Now we just need to shame PBOT into improving THEIR routes that provide access to the bridge. Madison is a bike lane wedged between cars and buses. Clay has shamefully bad pavement and cars racing down the hill. The Springwater is nice, but it’s only a useful access route from points south.

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  • BURR October 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    This morning they were marking the buffer zone with thermoplastic chevrons. What that means is that, in effect, the buffer zone will have a form of rumble strip in it.

    This design adds nothing to safety and may actually cause more cyclist-on cyclist-conflict, since cyclists that want to pass other cyclists will now be confronted with rumble strips to ride on and more passing cyclists will probably try to pass within the six foot bike lane instead of moving left over the line to pass.

    They would have been better off just making the bike lane 8 feet wide, so cyclists could actually ride side by side within the bike lane; the buffer zone doesn’t really add anything since motorists rarely encroach on the bike lane here and there is no curbside parking in this location forcing cyclists to ride further left outside the door zone.

    Thanks alot for another poorly planned, crappy design.


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    • Chris I October 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      How do you know that it adds nothing to safety? Do you know that drivers treat it the same way with or without the chevrons? Care to point us to a study?

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    • El Biciclero October 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      But if you make a single bike lane too wide, drivers will think it’s another “car” lane; it won’t matter if there are bike symbols in it. Similarly, if a non-hash-marked buffer were added, drivers would likely think parking had been restored. What would be cool would be an 8- or 9-foot-wide bike lane with a dashed stripe down the middle to indicate two same-direction lanes of travel…

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    • matt picio October 9, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      BURR, if you’re an expert, why weren’t you at the county or city bike committee meetings to provide input? Feedback’s important, and both the city and the county put these projects before their respective committees to get input before changes are made. The planners don’t always accommodate committee (or public) input, but usually they do.

      If you don’t show, *no* changes will be made. It’s fine & dandy to complain after the fact, but why not be part of the process rather than part of the postscript?

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      • BURR October 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm

        Thanks but no thanks, I’ve spent plenty of time in those trenches already and I consider myself retired from the mind-numbing public planning process.

        My point is simply that, if they are going to dedicate even one or two more feet of hard-to-come-by road space to cyclists, they should at least make it all usable space.

        And I’ll continue to stand by my assertion that one eight foot bike lane (or two four foot same-direction bike lanes [essentially a continuation of the passing lane design on the viaduct approach]) would have been a much better and more thoughtful design for this location than the buffer zone that was installed.

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    • spare_wheel October 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      i had no problem with the chevrons when i passed *everyone* this morning.

      i did have to swerve out into the vehicle lane to avoid a clueless commuter who abruptly entered the fast lane/buffer without a glance backwards. i am really looking forward to the rainy season.

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  • Granpa October 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I rode westbound over the Hawthorn bridge this morning and didn’t even notice the extra stripe.

    That does not however prevent me from complaining about it. What sort of black-hearted monster of a transportation department foisted this travesty upon the unsuspecting cycling public? The wide stripes are too narrow and the narrow lane is too wide. It makes fast riders slow and slow riders slower all while giving Segway riding tourists an undeserved sense of entitlement that they wear with haughty disdain.

    and I mean it!

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  • mark kenseth October 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Can’t wait to see it. And I can’t wait to see the buffered (double lines) and reflectors on the Burnside Bridge.

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    • Chris I October 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      They would need to cut the eastbound lanes down from 3 to 2. I can’t see PBOT doing this any time soon. This would affect vehicle throughput going east.

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      • mark kenseth October 9, 2012 at 9:35 pm

        I hear that. But hey, two lanes would leave room for a buffered bike land AND planter boxes 🙂

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  • mark kenseth October 9, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    I hear that. But hey, two lanes would leave room for a buffered bike lane AND planter boxes 🙂

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