Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Diverter and new bike lane creates calm on NW Marshall

Posted by on October 19th, 2012 at 9:50 am

changes on NW Marshall-3

Aaaahhhhh, that feels much better.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A year after the Portland Bureau of Transportation acknowledged publicly that NW Marshall was failing as the bike-friendly street it was intended to be, they have finally begun to do something about it. Earlier this week crews restriped Marshall between 10th and 11th and they have closed it to westbound auto traffic (just as their plans promised). A temporary barricade will soon be replaced by a more permanent one with the aim to prohibit left turns from 10th.

Marshall is an important street for bicycle traffic because, as City of Portland Planning Commissioner Chris Smith puts it, the old bike route on NW Lovejoy is now a “track-filled-cycling-wasteland”. This project is, “a small bit of mitigation for the Streetcar Loop that is finally being fulfilled,” says Smith.

I went out this morning to take a closer look. The impact of the change has been significant and immediate.

changes on NW Marshall

changes on NW Marshall-2

Instead of breathing exhaust and jockeying for position with other vehicles, people on bicycles now have a six-foot wide, curbside lane all to themselves in the westbound direction (with a one-foot buffer between a new auto parking lane).

Seth Hosmer, who works directly across the street from the intersection, said from his vantage point many people are still adjusting to the change. He regularly sees people drive up the intersection with their blinkers on and still attempt to turn left. Some of them actually still do. While we were chatting on the curb, a man swerved left, then realized his error and continued north to the traffic signal at NW Northrup. (There are several new chunks of concrete missing from the northwest corner of the intersection.)

An education period is to be expected, especially since the permanent diverter isn’t installed yet. It will also be more obvious that left turns are not allowed once people start parking in the new, floating parking lane.

As Smith puts it, “Let the re-education continue!”

This is a great first step to improving bicycle access on Marshall. Next up, it’d be great if PBOT would consider flipping some stop signs like they do on neighborhood greenway streets in other residential areas. It’s also worth noting that this is yet another unconnected island of good, low-stress bike access. Unfortunately, the dedicated bike space ends at the next block.

Have you ridden this new section of Marshall. What do you think?

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  • Dave October 19, 2012 at 9:56 am

    That looks great – I’ll be giving this a go on my way home today! I think the parking-buffered lane makes a lot of sense for a smaller, lower-traffic street like this, will be interesting to see how it goes in the long run.

    Though, it looks like it only goes one block and then goes back to the standard arrangement with car parking curbside? (Let’s get it extended up to 23rd!) There are enough bike lanes in Portland already that run you head-first into car parking.

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  • gl. October 19, 2012 at 10:03 am

    thank you, PBOT!

    “Next up, it’d be great if PBOT would consider flipping some stop signs like they do on neighborhood greenway streets in other residential areas.”

    I cannot agree with this nearly enough.

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  • Dave October 19, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Thinking about this more, I think it would actually be pretty awesome if Marshall became one way for cars all the way from NW 23rd (or I guess 22nd, since it runs into the hospital there) to here, but remained bi-directional for bikes, with a parking-buffered contra-flow lane all the way. Can we make that an official request? 🙂

    Seems like it would be a good test of a whole new genre of street for us (and one which is actually fairly common in other countries).

    Would make Marshall a great connection to all the major streets in the Pearl District and NW Nob Hill area, and if it worked out well, I could see this also working on some of the other streets in the area, both East-West and North-South.

    One-way streets are not exactly a new concept to people (good lord, there are a lot of them in Portland). Plus, it preserves the holy cow (heh), car parking.

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    • Art Fuldodger October 22, 2012 at 11:23 am

      “Plus, it preserves the holy [CASH] cow”

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  • Matt October 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

    “…closed it to northbound auto traffic…

    Don’t you mean westbound?

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  • npdx October 19, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I think that the buffered parking lane is a great idea. Having the cars parked facing the oncoming bike traffic surely must increase visibility of the cyclist by the motorist. Much easier to look up than to look in side mirror or over shoulder for a cyclist. Also if they do door you it would smash the door back on them and most likely be easier on the cyclist since they would glance off it instead of being slammed to a halt as the door hits the limit of its hinges. Two way cycle tracks with a buffered parking on either side of a two way street would accomplish the opposing parking arrangement.

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  • 9watts October 19, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I always smile when I see one of those DO NOT ENTER except bicycles signs. It seems like a tiny but important gesture, the inverse of a freeway perhaps.

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  • Reza October 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Semantics aside – “parking-buffered bike lane” vs “cycle track” – this contraflow lane is a great addition to the area, and will not only improve conditions for bicyclists, but also calm auto traffic on Marshall, which had seen daily vehicle counts skyrocket going westbound once the couplet was put in. This had been wreaking havoc on pedestrians trying to cross Marshall in what is a dense, urban environment.

    And this leads me to my next point. Should the stop signs on Marshall really be removed? I know that this is a bike-centric blog but keep in mind that there is a high volume of pedestrian traffic, and turning the stop signs to allow not only bicycles, but motorists to continue on Marshall unimpeded will have significant impacts. I know the diverter will help reduce vehicular traffic, but I think this is an important discussion to have, and I suspect it is the reason why PBOT has yet to do this as it has with other neighborhood greenways.

    I am not saying I necessarily prefer things one way or the other, but I do think that Marshall is a poor bicycle route due to lack of connectivity to 23rd , and therefore usually use Overton to access NW.

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    • Dave October 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

      (21st is more interesting than 23rd, anyway) 🙂

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    • Rebecca October 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      I definitely agree with you that the pedestrian traffic deserves special attention in the Pearl, and that removing stop signs entirely might not be the best answer. I think the suggestion is “flipping” the signs in the Pearl where possible so that the stop signs affect the northbound/southbound traffic while allowing better continuity for eastbound/westbound traffic.

      In the more western, residential part of Marshall past NW 14th Ave (which sees less foot traffic), perhaps some stop sign removal at 4-way stops would be feasible. It would be excellent to see a traffic diverter+stop sign flip/removal+pedestrian crosswalk combo in a few locations here. Limiting auto traffic and creating clearly marked pedestrian crossings would create a safer environment for everyone.

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      • Reza October 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm

        Agreed on turning stop signs in the section west of I-405. How about removing the yellow centerline divider as well? Those should be removed on a lot of two-way streets in NW/Pearl because they only reinforce the misconception to drivers that they are not allowed to pass bicyclists taking the lane – whom they promptly proceed to tailgate.

        I know that PBOT may also put in a eastbound diverter on Marshall at 15th depending on traffic counts. Only if/when that goes in would I be more supportive of removing stop signs on Marshall (that is, converting them from four-way to two-way intersections). It’s not the bicyclists that pose a huge danger to pedestrians, it’s the motorists.

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        • Adam October 19, 2012 at 5:55 pm

          I would love to see a diverter a the other end of Marshall too. Not at 15th necessarily, but more like somewhere between NW 20th – 22nd. The reason for this is, Legacy Good Sam’s parking garage entrance and exit is on NW Marshall at 22nd or so, and a LOT of car traffic drives up Marshall to access this parking.

          Let’s get a diverter near the parking garage, to get motor traffic off of Marshall at this end too 🙂

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          • Chris Smith October 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm

            I think you might still need a diverter at 15th, as there are an awful lot of potential sources of traffic between 22nd and 15th.

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    • Chris Smith October 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      It probably won’t make sense to turn the stop signs unless the traffic counts are reduced significantly in BOTH directions (and a diverter up at 15th might still be necessary to reduce the eastbound traffic).

      Even then I’m sure the neighborhood will want to have a robust discussion about the pedestrian impacts of turning stop signs.

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  • Schrauf October 19, 2012 at 11:55 am


    Are those really parking spots in the last photo? They look barely large enough for a Smart Car. Or motorcycle. If the bike lane is six feet wide, the parking strip can’t be much more.

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    • Joseph E October 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      The parking lane is 7 feet wide. Even a Hummer H2 is “only” 6ft 9inches wide, so it’s fine – as long as drivers are careful when opening doors.

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      • matt picio October 19, 2012 at 12:49 pm

        That is the caveat. Sometimes I think “as long as” is the flipside of “but” (this isn’t aimed at you, Joseph) – the (somewhat cynical) saying is that anything before the “but” doesn’t mean anything and can be ignored – that’s kind of true for anything after “as long as”. There’s kind of a truth to that, in that when anything is conditional on something else, there are a whole host of circumstances in which it has no practical benefit. It would be awesome if the engineering could always manage a solution that isn’t dependent on the good behavior of drivers/cyclists/pedestrians (i.e. “people”).

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  • Adam October 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    LOVE IT!!

    But one question. Why haven’t they attached two big neon-orange flags onto the newly installed “Do Not Enter” signage??

    It is standard practice to stick two orange flags – one sticking out from each side of the sign, whenever a new stop sign etc is installed on a roadway.

    I guarantee orange flags will reduce the number of people accidentally turning left in the first few weeks of this change to Marshall.

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  • Adam October 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Also. Was wondering, is the striped buffer zone supposed to just that…a buffer zone? Or is it now for car parking?

    If it were the latter, it would work immensely well in the new one-way system’s favor by narrowing the street-width that is actually drivable, and making it much harder for vehicles blatently ignoring the new one-way configuration by illegally driving the wrong way up the street to do so.

    AKA if there is room for two cars to drive in opposite directions on a roadway, they will do so. If the street is narrow, and there is only room for one direction of vehicular travel, cars trying to break the law may be less inclined to do so!

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    • Chris Smith October 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      It’s intended to be parking. I assume when the project is complete this will be clearer.

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  • Rebecca October 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks to the PBOT staff who made this happen. The pieces are coming together – looking forward to the ride home!

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  • K'Tesh October 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Seems to me that PBOT could park an impounded vehicle in the first parking space as a visual aid to remind drivers not to turn there.

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  • BURR October 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    It seems like there’s an awful lot of dead space there in the buffer zone, why didn’t they just make the bike lane wider???

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    • John Lascurettes October 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      So we can say we’re only using the part of the road that we paid for. ;p

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    • Adam October 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      It looks as if other commenters have cleared that up – it is going to be parking spots 🙂

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  • Rol October 23, 2012 at 10:08 am

    I rode on this yesterday (sort of accidentally, since I generally make up my routes as I go). It took about 15 seconds to traverse, which consisted of about 5 seconds of “oh yeah I remember reading about this” followed by 9 seconds of “meh” and 1 second of “that’s it?”

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