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PBOT adds warnings to bike lane on SW Madison

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

The new warnings have
been painted in the bike lane.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Bureau of Transportation has completed installation of new signage and pavement markings on SW Madison where a woman was killed in May of last year.

In the bike lane on SW Madison between 3rd and 4th, PBOT has added white hash marks followed by the words, “SLOW LOOK FOR RIGHT TURNS.” In addition to those markings, new turn warning signs (directed at people driving cars) have been added (see photos below).

The changes were announced back in October after PBOT revealed that crash statistics showed an unexpectedly higher rate of right-hook collisions at four intersections where bike boxes had been installed. Given the rise in collisions, coupled with a detailed investigation from the District Attorney’s office about what led up to the fatal collision that claimed the life of Kathryn Rickson, PBOT determined that changes were necessary.

Leading up to SW 3rd Ave.
Two of these signs have been added.
Notice how dark and worn out the green paint
is leading up to the intersection.

PBOT is now doing zebra striping to warn about caution areas.

Key to PBOT’s decision to place the markings in the bike lane was the finding that many of the collisions occurred when the bike box and accompanying green lane were on downhill streets. PBOT said they felt the biking speeds in the collisions were unsafe for conditions and further findings showed that a significant number of the collisions occurred when the person riding the bike attempted to overtake the person attempting to turn right.

From the initial reactions I’ve heard, some people feel that the new markings put the onus of responsibility on people in the bike lane, when Oregon law actually does the opposite.

Reader Amanda D. wrote in to say that, “I suppose that the city is trying to alert bicyclists to the danger of that intersection, but I feel like these words make it seem like bicyclists do not have right of way by telling us to watch for right turns.”

It’s tricky to try and use street design to communicate proper behavior. While PBOT clearly wants people using the bike lane to use more caution, Oregon law says people in cars must make sure the bike lane is clear before making their turn.

Also of note is that the green lane on Madison appears to not have been re-painted along with the bike box and new green zebra stripes in the intersection (see photos above). I haven’t confirmed it yet, but my hunch is that PBOT wants to minimize the green in the bike lane leading up to the intersection in order to not promote the false sense of security that might have contributed to some of the recent collisions. That’s just a hunch and I’m hoping to confirm with PBOT soon.

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