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Bike lanes coming to outer SE Powell: A missed opportunity?

Posted by on February 14th, 2013 at 8:35 am

ODOT’s cross-section for a $5.5 million repaving and “safety” project on SE Powell Blvd.


Well, our hopes for a protected bikeway on SE Powell Blvd have been dashed. At least for now.

Back in October we shared news that ODOT wanted feedback on how to make SE Powell between SE 111th and SE 174th (map) safer for all users. Their $5.5 million Outer Powell Safety Improvements project is focused “on strategic safety improvements” as well as repaving.

Powell today.
(Photo: ODOT)

We hoped there would be a possibility to push for something more than standard five-foot bike lanes with no separation between motorized traffic. Prior to their October open house on the project, ODOT wanted input on, “How to modify and better delineate the road shoulder and roadway striping to reduce conflicts between vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.” We thought that might have meant some sort of protected bikeway; but unfortunately it turns out they just wanted to know what type of striping to use. The actual width and design of the lanes themselves was not on the table.

ODOT Community Affairs staffer Shelli Romero said people at the open house were shown a few different types of bike lane striping — yellow or white stripes with bumps or without bumps. “People said they wanted the most durable and visible striping possible… And they like louder treatments. The louder the better so cars don’t cross over.”

ODOT showed the image below as an example…

As you can see in the cross-section graphic above, ODOT plans to have two 12-foot wide standard lanes next to a five-foot bike lane and a three-foot shoulder for people to walk on. There are no sidewalks on this stretch of Powell, and Romero says unfortunately this project’s budget and scope don’t allow for putting them in (Romero also said ODOT is mindful of Metro’s forthcoming high-capacity transit corridor planning process on Powell which might lead to a larger investment and/or widening, etc…).

So instead of crosswalks, the eight-foot outer lanes will be shared by people biking and walking. While common on rural roads around the state, this biking/walking mix is new for urban areas, Romero said.

Left with just a five-foot wide travel lane for bicycling, I asked Romero why they insist on keeping the other travel lane 12 feet wide. There are many 10-foot wide lanes throughout the city. Romero said Powell is classified as a “major truck street” and it’s also a highly used transit line. TriMet bus mirrors, she said, make the vehicles 10.5 feet wide and “They need those 12-foot lanes to avoid wavering into that bike lane,” Romero said. “For that reason, we don’t consider narrowing the lane to give another foot or so to bikes.”

Even the warm-fuzzy logo for this project makes it clear where ODOT’s priorities are.

The graphic below is from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. It’s a good visual of bike lane widths:

I understand trucks and bus operators need space and I know the policy/bureaucratic constraints ODOT operates under; but since we know five-foot bike lanes on arterials barely move the needle for better biking, I wonder if there’s not a better solution. Our adopted policy goals (remember the “green hierarchy”?) make it clear that non-motorized transportation should be given a high priority; but these conversations always assume that people operating bicycles have no width requirements. Every time I see ODOT invest in a road design that doesn’t create conditions that are appealing for the “interested but concerned” I can’t help but think it’s a missed opportunity.

What do you think?

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Nick Falbo
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Nick Falbo

Check this out. One of their proposed improvements is to install “red light extension loops.” What this does is makes it safer to run red lights. It might be safer, but it’s not better. Why isn’t their solution focused on reducing red-light running in the first place?

Although ODOT loves 12′ lanes, an “easy” modification to their current proposal would be to narrow the 12′ travel lanes to 10′, and use the remaining space for a painted buffer. It’s no Cycle Track, but every foot helps. Since this is supposedly a safety project, it seems like something they should at lease consider.

Blake
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Blake

Would it make sense/be possible for them to have 10.5′ lanes with a small buffer between the bike lane and the travel lanes, like on N Wheeler? It’s not much of a buffer, but that road has frequent bus use and the small buffer makes a huge difference versus, say, N Interstate where getting passed by the 35 bus at relatively high speed can be intimidating (particularly in narrow spots where there are drains to be managed/avoided), although that doesn’t seem to be a potential problem since the drains are in the parking area–http://goo.gl/maps/YV1kF — (although it does nothing to help with the potential for car door hits)

9watts
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9watts

Trimet mirrors are unlikely to be any wider than that ghastly rumble strip. So I don’t see why they need both the twelve feet and the rumble strip.
“Every time I see ODOT invest in a road design that doesn’t create conditions that are appealing…” When have we seen ODOT do anything different? I can’t recall the last time I heard anything I liked coming out of that operation.

Elliot
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Elliot

No buffer or other protection means the 5′ bike lane plus 3′ shoulder will look like a nice 8′ parking lane. It’s already common for drivers to pass on the right using the bike lane when another vehicle in front of them is waiting to make a left turn. Without an improved physical or visual buffer, this dangerous practice will probably continue unabated.

peejay
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peejay

Five foot wide bike lanes on a busy street where the average speed is substantially higher than the posted speed limit? ODOT would claim that it’s better than nothing.

Meanwhile, another fatality hit and run on Holgate today.

In other news, the mayor I didn’t vote for says we should get back to basics.

Alan 1.0
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Alan 1.0

re: “the warm-fuzzy logo,” are those ghost bikes and peds?

was carless
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was carless

Lip service in their “planning” to prioritize non-motorized transpo, but in reality its all focused “back to the basics” for automobiles. And of course, Trimet, which has received more money than probably any other infrastructural investment in the city of Portland for MAX.

Spiffy
Guest

biking and walking conditions are horrible out there…

* there’s always glass in the bike lane every few blocks…
* people are always walking in the bike lane because the shoulder is mostly dirt…
* motor-vehicles are always passing people on the right in the bike lane because they can’t be bothered to wait behind left-turning vehicles…

they need physical separation between the motorists and bicycle riders to keep the motorists in their lanes… rumple-strips won’t work because people are doing it intentionally for a short distance…

they need to drop a couple of those K-Rail/Jersey barriers between the bike lane and motor-vehicle lane at every T intersection in order to prevent it… otherwise they’re going to need to put in a sloped curb like on Cully…

paint is not going to help…

Mabsf
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Mabsf

…and this changes the street conditions how?

Robert Burchett
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Robert Burchett

I’m ambivalent to skeptical about bike lanes, but on that part of Powell, 5 ft. of pavement outside the fog line or whatchacallit–I’ve ridden in much worse places. I actually kind of resent the ‘rumble strip’ for the obvious reasons. Basically they’re telling bikes to make a Copenhagen turn, it’s ghetto-izing. As to the lane width–I’d support giving big motor vehicles a swath of pavement they can stay in, if only they stay within it! And why give the rogue driver an excuse, even the lamest excuse, to slap somebody with a mirror?

Would this article be more a news piece or an opinion piece? The two don’t have to be entire separate, but–some kind of labeling might be good. Even within the text.

BURR
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BURR

Rumble strips are a hazard for cyclists, they need to figure something else out.

grimm
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grimm

Maybe it’s entirely a mental thing, but I enjoy the double stripe on Barbur. The buffer is nice. Maybe throw a rumble strip on the one closer to traffic in area not around intersections. Im not the biggest fan of the rumbles, but in an area like Powell with fast traffic it would help the nerves.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

My biggest concern on a street like that is a distracted driver (texting, watching videos, etc), or one who’s simply lazy, drifting over the line into the bike lane. I see this kind of sloppiness all the time. Rumble strips DO deter this, even if they won’t stop people from deliberately entering the bike lane to go around a left-turning driver.

I just don’t get why rumble strips are considered such a hazard to biking (except perhaps on fast downhills). Maybe if you run 23c tires, but that’s not what the Interested but Concerned are riding. I’d sure rather see rumble strips than a physical barrier that makes it difficult for cyclists to leave the bike lane and make a normal left turn.

Syzlak
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Syzlak

How about a 13ft wide bi-directional shared-use path on one side with a 3ft buffer between the bike/ped traffic and the motorized traffic?

That way motorists don’t intentionally weave into the bike lane and should someone crash there’s actually a barrier. I don’t know what the bike/ped volumes are like but given the constraints and high speeds traffic tends to go when given a 12ft lane, it may be an improvement to simply have a 13ft bi-directional path with a 2 or 3ft wide buffer.

Opus the Poet
Guest

Bollards separating the bike lane from the motor vehicle lanes with random bollards replaced with the same size steel pipe set in concrete with the plastic bollard base dropped over the pipe. Not big enough to actually destroy a car, but big enough to do a few thousand$ in damages. The steel “bollards” would also inflict serious damages to a semi drifting into the bike lane even though it wouldn’t actually slow it down much. Increase the density of the steel bollards near intersections where incursions would be more likely as people try to get around left turning vehicles that are “in the way” (it isn’t just people on bicycles, it’s anyone that isn’t moving as fast as the idiots want to go). Give lots of publicity to people that wreck on the steel bollards with heaps of scorn and ridicule for not being able to keep their vehicle inside a 12 foot lane when most cars are less than 7 feet wide (what, 5 feet of wander room isn’t enough? you need another lane full of soft and squishy humans to drive in, too?). Do this every time someone hits a bollard and can’t drive away. Include a banner on the bit that says “Idiot Driver of the Day”. There will be rare times when someone will do something stupid that forces another driver into the bollards, make that driver the “Idiot” under the banner. Also with most of the bollards actually being plastic, most of the time when someone goes off the road it will just be a scare and not property damage other than some scratched paint.

And yes I’m serious about this. I don’t want people hurt either riding a bike or in a car. I want the people in the deadly weapons of transportation to fear endangering cyclists and pedestrians as much as we fear one of them hitting us. It took me a long time to recover what I lost when I was hit, and I’m still not where I was before I got hit, and never will be. I want to spare as many people that fate as possible and if it takes making some drivers look like out-takes from “Dumbest Stuff on Wheels” (great show) then that’s a small price to pay. Hurt feelings are trumped by broken bones and brain injuries.

Jack
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Jack

If you live out here, you know the HUGE problem with Powell east from I-205 through 148th: light. You and I have driven by seeing the people dressed in black who are invisible until you’re right next to them. I almost always switch to Division after 92nd when I’m driving. The fog line is a nice touch and improvements would be nice, but if I had the billions, I’d put Xenon lights overhead along the south side so pedestians and cyclists could be seen, before I put it into knobby striping. If it’s possible to go from I-205 to 148th without using Powell, so much the better though. I haven’t looked for that – I’ll give it a try.

Dave Cary
Guest
Dave Cary

If we could get a commitment from the City to regularly sweep the bike lanes (straight thru an intersection without leaving the debris triangles), it would make it easier for a biker to stay to the right of whatever width lane we finally get. Bike lanes without regular maintenance are like cars with regular maintenance: they don’t work.