Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

ODOT tames rural highway in La Pine with buffered bike lanes

Posted by on December 11th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Highway 97 in La Pine, Oregon now has a buffered bike lane.
(Photo: ODOT)

Last week I shared an inspiring project by the Michigan Department of Transportation. I was impressed that they retrofitted a segment of state highway with 12 feet of space for bicycling (six feet for riding and a six foot buffer zone). In the comments of that post an Oregon DOT employee pointed out that they’d done a similar project out in La Pine (about 30 miles southwest of Bend) back in October. This morning I confirmed details of that project.

As it turns out, there are many changes afoot in La Pine. The small town (pop. 6,000) became Oregon’s newest city in June 2011. Like many cities in rural Oregon, a state highway often doubles as main street. This can be a death knell for small towns because state highways are often high-speed — and high-crash — thoroughfares that do nothing to encourage the sense of community that’s crucial to a city’s success. La Pine’s leaders realized that their city will only work if they address conditions on U.S. Highway 97 — which runs through the heart of town.

In July 2011, just one month after officially becoming a city, a transportation engineering firm released the 254 page US 97/La Pine corridor plan. The plan looked at existing conditions on the 0.7 mile stretch of US 97 through La Pine and proposed ways to make it safer and more livable. Among the proposals was to add a buffered bike lane.

ODOT Region 4 Public Information Officer Peter Murphy shared the photo above. The new bike lane used to be a standard merging lane. It’s proof that improving bike access on state highways is possible and that even cities like La Pine need safe places to bike.

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  • Spiffy December 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    some center medians with plants would also help the street seem more narrow and slow down motor vehicles…

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  • Ted Buehler December 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Nice, good to see ODOT getting on board with the 2010s-era infrastructure design. And, paint is cheap, but can offer huge safety benefits by clearly marking the space for bikes, cars, and a buffer between them.

    It could still use a little fine tuning. The bike lane is partly in the concrete gutter pan. The gutter pan, and the adjacent asphalt, is not a good driving surface for bikes. The lateral seam between the two will shift over time, sometimes creating a rut, sometimes a ledge, and often having patches of pavement with poor drainage that collect sand and debris.

    Since there’s a generous amount of space here, it looks like a 5′ buffer and 5′ bike lane, I think it would be a better choice to buffer the bike lane on *both* sides. With a 3′ buffer between the bike lane and the car lane, and a 2′ buffer between the bike lane and the curb. Bikes would still have a 5′ lane, but would be riding on the roadway rather than the gutter. They could swerve to the left or the right to dodge debris in the bike lane, and they would still have a big enough buffer to offer protection from cars.

    My $0.02
    Ted Buehler

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  • Niko December 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Good on you ODOT.

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  • Schrauf December 12, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Thanks ODOT, any improvement is a good start. I agree adding two feet to the bike lane and taking that space from the buffer would make perfect sense. The buffer would also stand out more as a buffer, rather than looking like a second bike lane. Or is that the dirt bike & ATV lane… =)

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  • Sheryl December 12, 2012 at 8:31 am

    What about sidewalks or other infrastructure for pedestrians? The photograph indicates, but offers little information, that it is not safe in this area for a person to walk a few blocks or a mile to a destination. Great that the option of cycling is added, but that is not enough.

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    • Chris Shaffer December 12, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Huh? The picture shows a sidewalk on the right, and if you look closely you can see one on the other side of the street too.

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      • Barbara December 12, 2012 at 11:05 am

        Crosswalks with lights would be good. But maybe they are outside the pictured area.

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  • Unit December 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Curious to see other ODOT regions doing good work while local ODOT Region 1 – with by far the most bicyclists – conspicuously absent from the discussion.

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  • Steven Schindler, PE, PTOE December 12, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Not impressed- all that lane does is force bicyclists to ride where all the debris piles up! Also, riding that close to the curb makes it harder for drivers coming out of driveways to see bicyclists, as they are looking at the oncoming traffic and the oncoming cyclist is too far left of their line of sight.

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  • Andyc of Linnton December 13, 2012 at 9:10 am

    This is an excellent first step. I’d love to see even more treatments in place.
    One of the biggest bummers of flying down the highway while traveling is missing these small towns along the way. I always think, “Man, that place looked interesting”, as it recedes from view in the mirror.
    Whenever we do tend to stop in a small town it’s always way more fun than stopping at the highway gas station, and I’d encourage more towns to do this to their “main streets” along the highway.

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  • TERI December 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    La Pine was formed in January of 2007 and the city population is 1600 with an area popluation of close to 22,000 getting mail from La Pine Post Office. ODOT and the City worked to get this first step done a few months ago in August and we all hope that we will get real stop lights and other controls for fast moving traffic on the Hwy that bisects the town. This is a great start- I am waiting to see the bikes! t

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