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TriMet detour near OMSI will come with permanent bike traffic improvement

Posted by on April 17th, 2013 at 10:28 am

Map of SE Water Ave just north of OMSI in the central eastside. TriMet plans to install a left-turn box for bicycle traffic as part of their light rail project.
(Turn box graphic: TriMet)

TriMet announced yesterday that one part of their detour near OMSI will stick around even after the construction project is over.

As we shared earlier this month, on May 1st, TriMet will close a portion of the Eastbank Esplanade/Eastside Greenway Trail near OMSI for 14 months (through June 30th, 2014). The path will be closed so construction crews can work on the new Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail bridge. The detour route will take people on bikes from the Esplanade just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, onto SE Clay and then onto SE Water Ave.

To help facilitate bicycle traffic during the detour (this is a very busy artery in the bike network), TriMet is adding reflective bollards between Water Ave and the Esplanade path. They’ll also have maps and signage throughout the detour. And yesterday, TriMet Community Affairs staffer DeeAnn Sandberg said one part of the detour will be permanent: a “left turn bike box” on the northeast corner of SE Water and Clay (they’ll also add bicycle detection to the traffic signal at that intersection).

What Sandberg refers to is more commonly known as just a “Copenhagen left”, or a “two-stage turn queue box” according to the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The box will help people on bicycles who are traveling on SE Water Ave make the left turn onto SE Clay without having to wait in the line of auto traffic in the middle of Water. Instead, they’ll be able to first turn right onto Clay (east) and then re-orient themselves to cross Clay (west).

Cycletrack on SW Broadway-10

Left turn box at SW Montgomery and Broadway.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

There are several places around the city where PBOT has already used the left-turn boxes, most notably at the northwest corner of NW Lovejoy and 9th and at SW Broadway and Montgomery near Portland State University.

Learn more about construction and detour details on the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project website.

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  • jeff April 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

    ya, great, that won’t confuse the hell out of anyone….

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    • Chris I April 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      How is it confusing? “Copenhagen left” boxes are already in use around town, and many cyclists use the technique when they are not present.

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      • q`Tzal April 17, 2013 at 6:03 pm

        I don’t know, some people seem confused about whether they are supposed to drive between the white lines, yellow lines or if it is okay to drive on the sidewalk.
        Never underestimate the stupidity of homo sapiens.

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  • Bill Walters April 17, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Is this what’s known as a “Copenhagen left”? You can already do it without any special apparatus as long as you obey the signal cycle — correct?

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    • Nick Falbo April 17, 2013 at 11:21 am

      yes, although the signal at that intersection needs to be actuated to give the green light. I’m sure PBOT will install a bicycle loop detector as part of the installation so that all you have to do is roll into the box to trip the signal.

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  • oliver April 17, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I saw someone applying reflective bits to the bollards the other day.

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  • takeaspin22 April 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I think the small area provided by a left-turn box will be completely inadequate during peak bike traffic hours. Also for a family of four trying to get to the esplanade.

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  • Erinne April 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I hate these. I never use them. Even when I’m hauling my dog around I’ll merge over instead.

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    • ed April 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Yes. They are confusing, counter intuitive and conflict with idea of bikes as legitimate traffic. Almost as bad as expecting people on bikes intending to go left to go to perpendicular street at intersection, pull over and wait at curb and to then travel straight when signal changes. (as opposed to signaling, then shifting to left lane and turning as the rest of traffic is doing) Despite them being called “Copenhagen lefts” in most good cycling capitols (and there too) cyclists use lane to turn left and act as traffic.

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      • Chris I April 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        Depends where you are in Copenhagen. In the areas of the city that have marked bike lanes, they are separated and elevated above the roadway. Cyclists executing a left turn continue straight through the intersection and then turn left at the next cycle, continuing on the perpendicular cycle track.

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  • Mabsf April 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    How about getting right-hooked by the cars wanting to turn on Clay?

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  • JAT in Seattle April 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I’m pleased at the tenor of comments so far; it does seem an approach which does little to advance cycling as a regular legitimate road use. Appropriate for some road users, maybe. less so for others – so if OR is a mandatory bike lane state are you now legally required to turn this way?

    they make cars do this in Melbourne: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_turn

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  • JL April 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    can anyone spot where a ‘Left Turn Yield to Oncoming Traffic’ sign will need to be with this design?

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  • Granpa April 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    As Clay St. does not continue west past Water Ave., southbound motor vehicle traffic will not expect traffic (cyclists) to be turning left where there is not a road. There is no left turn lane and no room for any sort of left turn refuge. It is a unpleasant intersection, and with the detour it will get worse. Proceed with caution and your “A” game.

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  • GlowBoy April 17, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I’ve been taking Water Ave the last couple weeks now that it’s so much wider, but I continue two more blocks to Madison (under the Hawthorne bridge on-ramp). I’ve been finding it works much better for me to turn left there than at Clay, and I don’t have to traverse that substandard-bollard-infested parking lot either.

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    • Richard Allan April 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Nice suggestion. I think I’ll be doing that. Thanks.

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  • KJ April 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I am under the impression this kind of road treatment is for the kind of person who doesn’t feel comfortable taking the lane and making a left on Clay to the Esplanade. Those who do, already do this. There isn’t really much room for a bikes only left light signal at that intersection and I bet that if there was it would cost more than they could pony up.

    It sounds almost like they read the comments on that last article, made some changes based on what they read and that is kind of awesome.

    I’m with GlowBoy and others on just heading up to Madison for a left. Much easier, lighter traffic, usually. But then I’m of the sort that avoids the esplanade all together and ride up thru SE industrial to get to the R.C., I hate riding the esplanade. beautiful view, terrible traffic in nice weather! =)

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  • Ted Buehler April 18, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Hey, that’s a GREAT sign. I forsee it becoming standard all over the place.

    Can we get one on the Lovejoy Viaduct headed down to NW 9th?

    How about to new left-turn boxes on Broadway for left turns from Broadway to MLK, Broadway to Vancouver?

    Thanks PBOT, TriMet, whoever you are (or some other agency somewhere else that designed it originally).

    Ted Buehler

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  • suburban April 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Why would a cyclist not simply turn left here?

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    • Ted Buehler April 19, 2013 at 1:23 am

      >Why would a cyclist not simply turn left here?<

      Perhaps because the Esplenade caters to new cyclists, elderly cyclists, etc., who don't like playing fender tag with industrial traffic when making a left turn…

      I road from NE to NW today, and they sure need one of those WB on Broadway at Larrabee and WB on Lovejoy at 9th. I'm going to send in a request to safe@portlandoregon.gov and see if it flies…

      Ted Buehler

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