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The case for a better bikeway on Broadway in three pictures

Posted by on February 27th, 2013 at 10:10 am

Bike traffic yesterday morning on SW Broadway at Oak. (Now imagine what it would be like this summer.)
(Photo: Peter Koonce)

You could make a pretty good case that Broadway is the most important piece of Portland’s vaunted bikeway network. And as the three recent images in this post show, Broadway often reaches full bike capacity at peak hours. Isn’t it time to expand the bikeway to accomodate this demand and encourage this positive travel behavior even more?

NW Broadway at Hoyt on February 13th, 2013.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Broadway and Hoyt on September 26th, 2012.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Broadway is the main artery that captures bike traffic headed downtown from all of north and northeast Portland. (And it’s worth noting that inner northeast has the highest bike mode share in the city according to a 2008 City Auditor report that found 29% of inner northeast Portlanders use a bicycle as either their primary or secondary commute vehicle.) That traffic rolls onto the separated path on the Broadway Bridge and then splits into either northwest or downtown.

When Peter Koonce (who happens to be PBOT’s division manager of signals and street lighting) uploaded the lead photo in this post to Twitter yesterday he noted that 16 people on bikes that went through the intersection on one signal. That’s more than the amount of people who went through in cars in the adjacent lane.

Regarding Broadway’s bikeway future, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that Broadway is also one of the most dangerous and unpleasant streets to ride on. It’s notorious for right hooks at Williams, Hoyt, and other intersections, and the narrow bike lane through downtown is often full of obstacles from dooring hazards to idling tour buses and taxis. The good news is that the City of Portland is working on a plan that could make it much better.

As we shared back in January, a current plan in development would pour millions into a much-needed downtown bikeway facelift. PBOT hasn’t revealed details of that plan, but I’ve heard from sources that it is still very much in play.

Whether or not a protected bikeway on Broadway is a part of that plan remains to be seen. But there’s no denying Broadway needs the help and it’s consistently identified as a high priority by advocates and citizens. If we want to keep calling ourselves “America’s most bike friendly city” then it’s time to start putting some money where our mouth is. The demand is clearly there. And hopefully soon, the money will be too. Stay tuned.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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are
Guest

the date on the third photo seems anachronistic, but i do like seeing bikes taking the necessary lanes and not worrying about the striped bike lane way over on the right.

Reza
Guest
Reza

If Broadway actually had lights on every block north of Burnside to slow traffic, it would be even easier to eschew the bike lane and just take the traffic lane. I already do this sometimes anyway and and once I get south of Burnside I don’t even touch that door zone bike lane.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth
Guest
Steve Hoyt-McBeth

Jonathan, I think the caption for your September photo is intended to be 2012?

Scott
Guest
Scott

The bike lane on Broadway is a bust on the west side. Take the lane. Save the money.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

the hotel zone bike lane is definitely one of the worst bike “facilities” in pdx. if pbot thought more about the needs of cyclists *TODAY* and less about future brochures, broadway would have been carpeted with sharrows a long time ago. and while sharrows would not help most 7 year olds negotiate downtown, they would help many of those who ride broadway *TODAY*. its time for so-called “advocates” to consider the needs of those who cycle *NOW* as well as the needs of those who might some day cycle when we have amsterdam-style traffic calming, strict liability, and separated infrastructure.

SHARROWS NOW!

RJ
Guest
RJ

It’s time to make this happen. Yes, we all know that traffic operations-wise, it isn’t the low-hanging fruit that NE Multnomah, NE Cully, or outer Holgate are. Repurposing an existing travel lane will hurt the vehicle LOS. We simply have to agree that the trade-off is worth it.

That bike lane is absolutely deficient. The door zone issue is terrible, of course, but more than that, we need a sufficiently wide facility not just for bicycle throughput, but so that fast riders can pass slow riders comfortably. I LOVE my no-sweat, 13mph commute, and faster riders shouldn’t have to veer into a vehicular lane to pass me.

The Portland Plan says that 25% of commute trips should be by bike by 2035. What’s going to move the needle? Making the central city bike system more comfortable and more attractive to ALL existing and potential riders — not just those who are willing to “take the lane.”

Joe
Guest
Joe

love seeing huge bike trains rolling :))))

ScoBu
Guest
ScoBu

The absolute worst section of my 16 mile daily round trip commute due to all the hazards listed in the article. And I’m there before 7am..I can only imagine what it is like around 8am.

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

Bike traaaaaaaaaaaaain!

John Landolfe
Guest

We also need to amend the laws regarding the expectation that bikes occupy a bike lane or the lanes on the outer edges. Quite often, the middle lane on a one way street is the safest. I’ll use bike lanes when available, and their presence is great, but no other vehicle is expected to be making illogical compulsory maneuvers when changing lanes. For example, I was in the middle lane on 2nd ave a few weeks ago and a cop actually yelled to me from a motorcycle to get on the right most or left most lane. I was headed from right to left, and in heavy traffic, didn’t think it prudent to make the maneuver in a single city block. The cop was just doing his job. The law needs to change.

Brandon Van Buskirk
Guest
Brandon Van Buskirk

I would also be interested to see it go in both directions.

Indy
Guest
Indy

Why millions? Why here? How does this encourage biking? It’s a low speed traffic street.

There are hundreds of priorities other than downtown. Downtown is slow, predictable, yes, even right hooks you can see pretty easily.

Put the money to get people on bikes, commuting inward. Put it into, say, Barbur, which is too scary for most fairweather bikers to ride, let alone hardcore bikers. Get those people out of the burbs and into our city by bike!

I bikie in N, SE, downtown, and SW, and by far downtown I feel the safest, because cars are predictable and slow and actually pretty sparse.

John Lascurettes
Guest

That first shot at Oak and Broadway also often has taxis in the taxi stand spots parked wide into the bike lane and a driver standing in the bike lane smoking.

Sho
Guest
Sho

Grabbing only three photos from a pretty extensive time span is definately swaying matters to how you want along with the 2008 report. However I do agree something needs to be done (just a even buffer zone would be great) as riding this route daily up until recently. The hotels further up cause major issues with vehicles as well in which the city seems pretty ignorant towards, even in regards to future planning on new developments’ drop off (valet) zones.

daisy
Guest
daisy

I think most folks who drive on Broadway regularly are pretty good about looking out for bikes, but the whole set-up is a big mess. Taxis and airport vans can be terrible. I commute daily by bike from inner NE to PSU, and, a few blocks past Burnside, I head over to the Park Blocks.

Brian
Guest

Surely creates a nervous moment when faster people are trying to pass slower people and the lane is not very wide.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Two-way cycle track on the east side?

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

I’m curious if the bta or anyone else is floating the idea of a blanket “No Right on Red” for cars downtown? Given the many problems we have along Broadway with individually signed no right on red rules it might work better if there was a simple and easily grokable no right on reds rule.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Pedestrian traffic is can be heavy enough downtown that right-turning cars often have to wait quite a while to make their turn. For some right-turning movements you often end up waiting until the red before being able to make the turn. If you want to create gridlock downtown, a blanket North Dakota-style ban on right turns on red sounds like a pretty good first step.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Be friendly and look out for eachother when it reaches large rider amounts. try to help eachother if possible see alot of ppl fighting over small stuff think peloton 🙂

Danny
Guest
Danny

I was just in Florida, which is a good reminder of how relatively good we have it here, despite the need for improvements to have a truly safe and workable bike transportation system.

I ride Broadway frequently, and while I agree that one has to be vigilant, it is nevertheless great to have at least some dedicated bike space on the main street downtown. Ironically, the Broadway cyclotrack is my least favorite section. The PSU students often walk into the bikeway without looking, as do people getting into and out of cars. The school needs to do some better outreach to educate students that the cyclotrack is not just a place to get a head start while waiting to cross the street.

Bc
Guest
Bc

What Danny said. Ride it to PSU every week, thumb on bell ringer and sometimes they STILL don’t get out of the way. Maybe my forthcoming Orp will help.
Still not convinced Broadway is the answer. So many conflicts. Carless Park Blocks, anyone?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

This story doesn’t report for how long a period during commute hours, bike traffic is as heavy as shown in the pictures, or how it varies over the 7:30-9:30, 4-6 commute hours. Top two pictures show quite a bit of bike traffic, and if that’s heavy for say, an hour of both am and pm commute hours of the day, that would be impressive.

If the bike traffic is cruising 13-15 mph or more, it taking the lane should work out. It it’s traveling 10 mph or less, I suppose that could slow up traffic, including motor vehicle traffic, maybe posing problems that people would want to work out.

Along its entire length, character of traffic and the road itself varies a lot. NE, NW, and SW are all quite a bit different from each other. I suppose a ‘bikeway’ for the entire length of the road would need to take those differences into account.

Ryan Slim Jim
Guest
Ryan Slim Jim

Broadway is a mess, agreed. I have never enjoyed riding this way into downtown but I do so because it is faster than going down NE Multnomah, over the steel bridge, and through the waterfront…The hotel door zone is brutal. I’ve had two calls over the years. Nowadays I just refuse to ride the bike lane. I’ve seen countless close calls w/ other cyclists and two doorings. I’ve always thought that it will take a few deaths before Broadway will be changed for the better. Morbid, I know, but it will take a few deaths. That is unfortunately how it works here in Portland.

Mike bodd
Guest
Mike bodd

Ah , it is an adventure . I have been cycling in this city for 30 yrs. Back when more roads were like todays se 82 nd av or ne Columbia blvd. broadway is not that hazardous.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

On topic, yeah Broadway sucks downtown. I remember when they were starting to put in that bike lane in (ot sure, but maybe 10-12 years ago?), and my first reaction was “GREAT!”.

Then I saw how they did it, especially the door zones in front of the hotels, and my reaction was “WHAT??!”

Zaphod
Guest

Sharrows +1

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

What do the bike counts say about Broadway?

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

The Broadway bike lane issues will never be fixed as long as the city puts tourism dollars ahead of citizen safety.
This is the problem with broadway, and will continue to be.
I could see this bike lane being rerouted off BroadwY in the future Asa lame compromise. Safety will never be as important here as