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Police to target enforcement at NW Broadway/Couch stop signs – UPDATED

Posted by on February 13th, 2013 at 10:02 am

New stop sign at NW Broadway and Couch-1

Members of the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division will be out in force today at NW Broadway and Couch. They will be on the look out for stop sign violators during a “traffic safety mission” that will last from 10:00 to 11:30 am.

Lt. Chris Davis and Capt. David Hendrie were at the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night (someone from Traffic Division attends every month) and told us the mission comes in response to complaints that some people are blowing through the stop sign. Lt. Davis said their hunch is that many people look ahead to the traffic signal at Burnside and do not see the stop sign in time. They’re worried that someone might get sideswiped.

Here’s a snip from the official PPB media statement about the mission that was sent out this morning:

The intersection of Northwest Broadway and Couch Street has recently become a four-way stop and there have been reports of motorists regularly running the stop sign, endangering other motorists, pedestrians and bicycle riders.

While the statement specifically mentions “motorists” as routine violators, Capt. Hendrie reminded me last night that they will pull over any vehicle operator that does not fully comply with the stop sign.

This intersection became a four-way stop in March of last year. PBOT has said they would prefer to have a full signal, but they have yet to make that investment a top priority.

You have been warned.

UPDATED, 4:23 pm:
PPB Traffic Division reports a total of six citations and nine warnings were given out during the mission this morning. Here’s the breakdown via a PPB statement:

“Four citations and eight written warnings were issued to motorists while two citations and one written warning to bicycle riders.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • VTRC February 13, 2013 at 10:09 am

    That’s a strange enough intersection I can’t imagine not stopping.

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    • John Lascurettes February 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      I said it when they first put in the stop signs. They should have put a median on Broadway preventing cross traffic from Couch and no stop signs on Broadway. Let that traffic flow through. Allow right turns onto and off of Couch and nothing else. There are other ways to get across Broadway in the vicinity that are already controlled by stop lights.

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  • yoyossarian February 13, 2013 at 10:12 am

    This definitely ranks as one of the stupidest things PBOT has ever installed in the city. They simply could have blocked traffic from crossing Broadway and solved the problem, but a four way stop with Broadway having more than two lanes on its own? A block before a stop light? I bike through here at least three times a week, and before the stop sign I never had a close call, now regularly crossing Broadway I have close calls with cars failing to stop, or not seeing me because they’re behind the car in the lane next to them.

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    • grimm February 13, 2013 at 11:29 am

      That is an interesting point to why this stop sign has felt unnatural since it’s installation. I think the 4-way stop was selected more for pedestrian (and bike!) crossings on Couch. Prior to this it felt more like a gauntlet.

      It really needs a signal (as do a few other intersections on Couch), timed to work nicely with the Burnside intersection as the rest of Broadway seems to do relatively nicely. But I’m betting there is ‘no budget’ for improvements.

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    • John Lascurettes February 13, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      I had plenty of close calls before the stop sign too. When traffic from the Burnside light backed up all the way to Couch and drivers kept the intersection clear, drivers from Couch would dart across without checking (and with poor visibility to do so) the bike lane traffic first.

      They simply should not allow cross traffic on Broadway at this location. All problems solved.

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  • Ryan February 13, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I ride Broadway every day of the week and probably come to a complete stop only 50% of the time. It is often pretty safe to roll through at <10mph. Pretty stupid they'd pull over cyclists…

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    • rain bike February 13, 2013 at 11:41 am

      I drive Broadway every day of the week and probably come to a complete stop only 50% of the time. It is often pretty safe to motor through at <10mph. Haven't hit a cyclist or pedestrian yet. Pretty stupid they'd pull over me in my car. I'm trying to get somewhere.

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      • spare_wheel February 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm

        a neighbour stepping on your lawn does not provide justification for burning their house down.

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        • q`Tzal February 13, 2013 at 5:39 pm

          But the flames are so pretty.

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      • Bill Walters February 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm

        I’m “liking” this in a Tom Swiftian sort of context.

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  • daisy February 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

    It seems like there should be some sort of general understanding that four-way stops don’t make sense for four-lane roads. It’s quite confusing, as a bike or driver, to figure out who got there first, are there pedestrians, etc. There’s just too much going on. A light would solve this, as would making it so you can’t cross Broadway there, though I imagine that sort of re-engineering could be as pricey as a new light and would make it harder for pedestrians.

    Having said all that, and also admitting that I don’t always come to a foot-down stop when I bike through there myself, I’m glad PPD is doing this enforcement.

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    • Pete February 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Fortunately you’re not required to put your foot down for it to be considered a stop by law. Unfortunately much of the non-cycling public doesn’t understand that (and that includes some police officers).

      I recently watched an SF news segment called “People Behaving Badly” that often targets bicyclists. The newsman had filmed bicyclist after bicyclist ‘rolling’ through a stop sign at a low-volume intersection, including “one cyclist who was about to blow through the stop sign when he was nearly hit by a motorist not paying attention.” While I considered many of the cyclists I saw as having stopped, the newsman pointed out that only one of the cyclists he saw had actually stopped – and that, coincidentally, was the one person they showed putting a foot down.

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    • was carless February 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

      “4 way stops are just confusing.”

      No they’re not, you’re just stupid.

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      • are February 14, 2013 at 11:27 am

        jonathan, i think this comment can be pulled

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      • Pete February 14, 2013 at 11:31 pm

        I agree with daisy entirely – 4-way stops are indeed confusing on four-lane roads, as the timing of cars varies side by each so the coordination of rights of way isn’t clear. On two-lane roads that’s another story, but I suspect you didn’t comprehend her point.

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  • Bjorn February 13, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Sometimes extremely low compliance with road signage is more indicatory of poor design and signage choice than anything else…

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    • Mike February 13, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Like speed limit signs…

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      • 9watts February 13, 2013 at 10:37 pm

        I actually don’t think that is a good example of this. Speed limit signs are not bad design or poor signage. They represent a limit on the freedoms promised in all those car ads, and social convention, not to mention law enforcement, have tacitly–no explicitly–endorsed going over the limit. Probably because many of them do it too.

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  • RH February 13, 2013 at 10:52 am

    I bike this intersection every day. The issue that that Broadway has traffic lights all the way down and then out of no where there is this stop sign. It’s not a predictible traffic control sequence I can see why some folks miss it. Burnside is a long light, so when people see it green, they focus on that and (cars and bikes) want to try to catch it.
    I guess a traffic light was too expensive to put in.

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    • John Lascurettes February 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      No kidding. I hadn’t thought of that but I think you’re right. As I picture the length of Broadway from NE 39th all the way to PSU, I think there is only this one single stop sign on that length. On top of that, the lights between Hoyt and Burnside (not counting Burnside) are timed with each other for about 20-25mph.

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  • BURR February 13, 2013 at 11:03 am

    couldn’t they remove the stop sign and just sign and paint the intersection in a way that indicates you’re not supposed to block the intersection? NYC does this all the time and I believe that’s the problem they are trying to solve here…

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  • Nate February 13, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I’ll be really curious to hear stats following this “enforcement”. I worked in Old Town when this intersection changed (no longer) and made a left onto Couch from Broadway to get to work each day. This stop was so frustrating because of the number of people that were clueless about what to do, or completely failed to obey.
    On other occasions when I was/am continuing S on Broadway, I’ve often pissed off cyclists behind me by *gasp* stopping at this sign along with auto traffic. This is one of a handful of places where I consider it my duty to be a good ambassador for cycle-dom by coming to a complete stop regardless of cross traffic.

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  • Sho February 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Glad to see some enforcement here, it seems to have become a much more dangerous intersection (myself seeing a numerous amount of near misses) since the stop signs were installed.

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  • spare_wheel February 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    “Police were called at 5:59 p.m. to the 7900 block of Northeast Glisan Street Northeast on reports that the female pedestrian had been struck by a 1985 Chevy Blazer while in a crosswalk. She was pronounced dead at the scene.”

    “Police said Brumett was headed west across Southeast 82nd Avenue with another man, about 500 feet south of Sunnybrook Boulevard, when he was struck in the area dividing the two southbound lanes… ”


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  • JC February 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    This intersection is NUTS. But the last thing they need is another SIGNAL. Put in a traffic circle with the traffic on Broadway getting priority.

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  • rreodc February 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I ride through this intersection every weekday, going south on Broadway. I haven’t had a close call (yet) but this has quickly become one of the intersections I worry about the most on my ride.

    Admittedly, I come to a full stop about 50% of the time. The rest of the time, I ride through with southbound motor vehicles (whether or not they’ve come to a full stop) because I feel like they give me some protection from motorists on Couch heading west that may not see me.

    Another little gripe about this intersection: the stop sign for the south-bound bike lane puts you square on top of a manhole cover which can get slick when wet.

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  • John Lascurettes February 13, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I got pulled over the Friday or Monday by Officer Clark (motorcycle cop) for making a WTF face at a driver that pulled into the bike lane there before making a right turn. We argued at length as to whether he was within his legal right to do that. So there was no real reason to pull me over (I had stopped) other than to intimidate or harass me. I gave him my email so he could show me the specific statutes that allow him to do that. He never did. I don’t think the truck was within his rights (and it was definitely an unsafe maneuver the way he did it) – Ray Thomas doesn’t think it was legal either.

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    • peejay February 13, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      And I got pulled over a few years ago for questioning a motorcycle officer’s judgement in parking across the bike lane on the Hawthorne Bridge. He threatened to arrest me for assaulting him when all I did was told him he shouldn’t be in the bike lane as I maneuvered around him. Some police officers are funny when it comes to the law.

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    • El Biciclero February 13, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      What? You can get pulled over for making faces now?

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      • Alan 1.0 February 13, 2013 at 11:25 pm


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  • GlowBoy February 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I don’t go through this intersection much, and even I have seen motorists blow through the stop sign without slowing down much. The stop signs just seem so out of place and unexpected there. I know there isn’t the budget to put in a stop light, or the space to install a roundabout. But maybe some other traffic calming-ish options (like those suggested above) might be a better treatment than the 4-way stop we currently have, which clearly isn’t working.

    And what do you want to bet that even though stop-sign-running motorists are the real hazard here, cops will end up pulling over disproportionately WAY more cyclists, because we’re easier to catch and more fun to pick on?

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    • JRB February 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      I ride through this intersection every M-F and I don’t recall every seeing a car blow the stop sign. Most cyclists, including myself, do an “Idaho” stop. Far too many other cyclists just blow through failing to yield right of way to east/west traffic on Couch that arrived at the intersection first. I agree with others that a median or light makes more sense.

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  • Paul February 13, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    This situation could be resolved with an underpass! 🙂

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    • was carless February 14, 2013 at 9:57 am

      …preferably a gold-plated one. Maybe the homeless can camp under it.

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      • are February 14, 2013 at 11:31 am

        and again. maybe “was carless” could take a break for a day or two.

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  • npdx February 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I can’t believe that is all they wrote for tickets. They need to do an enforcement from 4:30 to 6 M-F. Approaching this intersection on Broadway from Burnside there have been days where I have witnessed 4 or more cars run this stop sign by the time I have made it through the intersection. I have seen plenty cyclists run it as well. During rush hour the cars running this stop are blatant. One car will stop while the one in the other lane just blows through and I have witnessed countless cars follow a car that did stop straight through without coming to a stop themselves. It looks like just selfish behavior to prevent cars on Couch from turning onto Broadway heading south. Of course they only wrote a couple tickets from 10-11:30 AM because no one is driving then. Doing it for one day during rush hour would clog traffic yes, but everyone would see it and become more aware, people are honestly clueless at this intersection.

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  • Ted Buehler February 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    NW Broadway and Couch is a good place to come to a full and complete stop. It’s backed up much of the day, and drivers & bicyclists both need to pay extra attention to make sure they’re all taking turns.

    Don’t go out of turn. Stop, look, and wait for the outfit to your right to go (unless you can go at the same time as the folks opposite you).

    See page of the Oregon Driver Manual
    This eight-sided sign means just what it says—STOP. You must stop at a marked stop line or crosswalk on the pavement, if there is one. If there is no stop line or crosswalk, stop before the unmarked crossing area. If there are no pedestrians, pull forward until you can see traffic coming from your left and right, but before you get into the intersection. You may cautiously drive through the intersection or enter the intersection and make your turn, after looking both ways for oncoming traffic. Yield right of way to traffi c in the intersection or close enough to be a hazard (including people walking or riding bikes).

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler February 13, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    >>Most cyclists, including myself, do an “Idaho” stop.<<

    Idaho Stops aren't appropriate for 4-way stops when traffic is heavy.

    You not only need to make sure that you aren't proceeding when a moving car has the right of way, you also need to make sure you aren't going to take the right of way from a car who has been patiently waiting for its turn.

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    • Alan 1.0 February 13, 2013 at 11:29 pm

      Not only not appropriate, they aren’t legal in that situation, not even in Idaho.


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    • JRB February 14, 2013 at 7:42 am

      Ted, you misunderstood what I meant. An Idaho stop doesn’t mean you don’t come to a full stop for other traffic that has right of way.

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      • Ted Buehler February 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

        JRB, yes, I misunderstood.

        There’s two different ways to “run” a 4-way stop.

        1) cruise up to the stop sign, passing cars, look to see if there’s any cars or peds actually entering the intersection, and if there aren’t, blast through.

        2) approach the stop sign (fast or slow), come to a near-complete stop and verify that not only is the intersection clear, but that there’s no other cars/bikes/peds that have waited their turn and are now about to enter it. Proceed when it’s your turn to go, having “paused” long enough to figure this out.

        Didn’t mean to sound draconian up there.

        But, in Davis, CA, the main route through downtown has four 4-way stop signs, all in sequence. And bikes get a bad rap from drivers because they just cruise through without waiting their turn. (2 blocks north is the main car thoroughfare, with pretty nicely timed lights, so bicyclists have a reason to feel spiteful).

        Sure, it’s dumb design to put 4-way stops up for a traffic mode you’re trying to favor, but it still makes a lot of sense to encourage bicyclists to wait their turn.

        Ted Buehler

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  • Alan 1.0 February 13, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    So, the warning/ticket ratio was 1/2 for cars but 2/1 for bikes. Why the bias?

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    • Alan 1.0 February 13, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      oops, reverse the ratios, got my num/den mixed up. cars were four times more like to get a warning than bikes. why?

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      • Chris I February 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

        I think you might need a larger n value before you start drawing statistical conclusions…

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  • Steve Scarich February 14, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I don’t know what an ‘Idaho stop’ is, but the officer interviewed on last night’s TV news gave the thumbs-up to what I call the California stop. He said they were not out there to ticket cyclists who slow down dramatically without actually stopping; they were targeting cyclists who ‘blew through’ the stop signs. right on!

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    • JRB February 14, 2013 at 11:28 am

      In Idaho, the law allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. You are not required to come to a full stop unless necessary to yield to someone who has the right of way. Many cyclists here in Portland, including myself, ride as if that was the law here. When approaching a stop sign, they slow down and stop to yield right of way to pedestrians or other vehicles or proceed if they can see the way is clear.

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  • Robert Burchett February 14, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I agree with anybody who said the 4-way feels unnatural there, but I stop anyway, foot down or otherwise. As bad as it is, there is a pedestrian right of way, and many use it. Roll through=bad actor, sorry.

    As for creative solutions, the DOT isn’t going to do anything that won’t transition into the projected Burnside-Couch couplet, I bet my 2 cents.

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  • Bill Walters February 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Right on, Robert; no roll-through. A trackstand is a stop and can be done even without a fixed gear. Point your front wheel up the crown of the road (to the left, generally) micro-pedal an inch or two, then let yourself micro-roll the same distance back down the tiny slope. Repeat as needed, and maybe use your brakes to modulate your micro-pedaling. In the saddle, with subtlety, is better style than standing and flailing. Fat tires make it easier. But really it just takes practice.

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  • Zaphod February 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    As a cyclist whose route has me needing to get on Burnside heading over the bridge Eastbound, the four way is a welcome way to be able to make a right turn from a side street and get into the left lane on Broadway in anticipation of my left turn. I really like this addition. I see the validity in some of the above complaints but it’s kind of optimal for me.

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  • resopmok February 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    The intersection of 71st/72nd and Powell is in desperate need of red light enforcement. Many accidents take place, and bicycles are particularly vulnerable here. Perhaps officers would like to pay more attention to accident statistics to decide where they should be enforcing, rather than sentiments and concern written by people with no information about reality?

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  • Doug K February 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I like the 4-way stop, as I can now use Couch to go from the Burnside Bridge into NW more easily. Before you often had to thread your way through backed-up southbound cars on Broadway waiting for the light at Burnside. Now, it seems they’re more likely to keep the intersection clear. Likewise heading east on Couch to get to Fifth, my preferred southbound route in Downtown.

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