Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Bike traffic on NW Broadway shows need for re-design

Posted by on May 6th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-20

Morning rush hour on NW Broadway just north of Hoyt. Notice how much space is needed to move people in cars compared to on bikes.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The streets of Portland are teeming with bike traffic these days. The warm and sunny weather has mixed with the ongoing and consistent growth in bike use all over the city. The result is places in our transportation network where the road design is very outdated and it does a poor job of serving people on bikes.

One of those places is NW Broadway from the Broadway Bridge down to Burnside.

After hearing whispers about major changes coming soon to this stretch of Broadway from various sources at the BTA and at the City of Portland in the recent days, I hope to share some exciting news about it later today.

For now, feast your eyes on the bike traffic I observed this morning…

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-1

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-2

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-3

Emerson School is just a few blocks away and NW Broadway is the route taken by many parents and their kids.
Bike traffic on NW Broadway-8

This was the most bike traffic I have ever witnessed at this location.
Bike traffic on NW Broadway-12

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-13

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-16

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-17

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-9

The platoon just south of Hoyt.

These platoons of riders numbered around 30 people (easily as many people as there are in cars). After they queue up at the light at Lovejoy and the west end of the Broadway Bridge, they come whizzing down the viaduct south toward Hoyt. One of the larger groups this morning stretched almost the entire length of the viaduct from the bike signal at the bridge to the signal at Hoyt. The bike lane in this section is far from adequate. It’s only a standard width of five feet or so and it is full of bumps. It can feel unsafe for some riders, especially when it’s full of people riding at different speeds. Some people on bikes will squeeze by and pass without an audible warning and/or with cars in the adjacent lane. Others will opt to simply take the lane and mix with auto traffic.

At the bottom of the hill is NW Hoyt and a notorious right-hook hazard. PBOT has installed a bike box and caution sign here, but there are still collisions.

It’s important to note that this is a city designated “Truck Route” (the U.S. Postal Service main headquarters, post office, and sorting facility is located on the northwest corner). As you might have read on the BTA blog recently, bike advocates and PBOT staff have been working hard to collaborate and build relationships with trucking and freight interests. A re-design of this stretch of Broadway will only happen if freight and bike advocates work with the City to hash out their differences and work toward mutual interest.

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-7

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-11

NW Broadway is clearly in need of improved bike access (as I said with words and pictures back in February too). Thankfully, PBOT is already aware of this and they — along with the BTA — have already started to make something happen.

Stay tuned.

Do you ride on this stretch of Broadway? How does it work for you?

UPDATE, 3:26 pm: The project has been confirmed. Announcement and more details here.

Please support BikePortland.

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Tanner Volz May 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    wow, bike traffic is equal to or greater than auto traffic here! This is exciting, despite datedness of infrastructure. Looking forward to news on this.

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    • JRB May 7, 2013 at 8:14 am

      I’ve been taking this route for 14 years and while I have certainly observed a steady increase in bike traffic, I would not take Jonathan’s snapshot in time as proof that bikes outnumber cars over the course of a day. His basic point, however, is still valid, Better infrastructure for bikes is desperately needed

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  • Matt May 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I take this everyday to work, and yes, Hoyt can be a bit unnerving, but northbound Broadway can also be a problem, with a lack of any bike lanes. Parking seems underutilized, so I would hope their could be a better solution there as well. And there’s, of course, the awkward intersection at Couch and Broadway.

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    • Reza May 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      That lack of a northbound bike lane is especially egregious because Broadway is only one lane northbound, so if I take the lane I sometimes feel pressured to pedal fast to avoid the feeling that I’m holding everyone up. Whereas if there’s two or more lanes in the same direction, I’m more comfortable since drivers can just change lanes if they feel so impatient.

      Without removing any parking, I would GLADLY trade the southbound door-zone bike lane south of Hoyt for a northbound bike lane and just ride in traffic when heading towards Burnside. If they ever get around to signalizing every intersection like the plan I linked to below specifies, it would make bike riding in this corridor much less stressful.

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    • are May 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      the design intention is that you take the sidewalk

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      • Reza May 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm

        Quoi? We’re talking about the section between Burnside and Hoyt….

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        • are May 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm

          not obvious from context, sorry

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  • Reza May 6, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    If it’s anything like the design in the Pearl District Access and Transportation plan adopted last year, we already know what it will look like.

    For reference, page 22 here:

    One 11.5′ lane northbound, two 11.5′ lanes southbound, a 3.5′ buffer, and a 7′ southbound bike lane.

    And it still won’t be enough, because it doesn’t address the lack of a northbound bike lane south of Hoyt!

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  • KJ May 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Awesome! And yeah, like Williams and Hawthorne, bikes need more room!

    Feels like # are up all over, My commute from Kenton via Interstate.. by the time I hit Skidmore…so many more people in the mornings now. I am rarely alone. Used to be kind of a lonely commute in.

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    • A.K. May 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      What time are out out there? I do the ‘ol “reverse commute” out past the airport, and I switch it up between taking Williams to Marine Drive, or Clinton to the 205 bike path. At ~6:00 am, I’m usually the only person going my direction. Sometimes I’ll pass one or two others, but it’s pretty empty.

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      • KJ May 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm

        I travel between 8 and 8:30am, more bike traffic between 8 and 830 than 830 and 9. I started taking Concord between Lombard and Alberta as well and it’s been nice seeing all the Beech school family bike commuters. Going home up Interstate has been more crowded too, though I have been alternating with Williams lately. But it’s nice to see more people huffing up the hill with me too. I think that is part in due to the congestion on Williams.

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    • Reza May 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      I must be the only one who enjoys having a “lone wolf” commute until I hit SW 3rd. The “rat races” on the bridges and Williams is not for me.

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      • kj May 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm

        It’s bittersweet. I like being alone or near enough, I tend to avoid the busy routes. But I also know how awesome it is that more people are biking. I’m only on Williams right now because I took a couple months of bike commuting this winter due to some serious life stuff and Interstate and I are just getting reacquainted on the uphill. I am using Williams as a trial in patience. =)

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  • ScoBu May 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    That was TODAY?!! Wow. All I can say is I’m happy I roll through this part (and every part) of downtown at 6:45am. A major overhaul is definitely needed.

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  • Paul Cone May 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I’ve been riding this route for over 10 years. It seems there has never been as much importance in keeping this bikeway maintained as the Hawthorne Bridge one. The extra markings on top of the jersey barrier got hit by a motor vehicle years ago and have never been replaced, and the roadway has been torn up with various work without the markings being replaced. And when it’s raining, the water puddles up in the asphalt because it is in such poor condition, so your feet get extra wet.

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  • Alexis May 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Holy crap! I ride this section all the time and it’s always busy, but that’s more than I’ve ever seen. I counted this intersection last summer in the PM peak and IIRC the count was over 500 – very heavy. North and southbound movements were both heavy even in the evening, so we really need a good bike lane on both sides. Buffered would be my choice here due to the variety of movements that are possible, maybe with a bike-only signal at Hoyt, and all intersections signalized through to Burnside to relieve the danger of crossing at Flanders and the nonsense that is the 4 way stop at Couch. Plus a box turn area painted on Everett, since it’s the best place to go through to get onto 5th or 3rd.

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  • Andrew K May 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Though it warms my heart to see so many bikes here I would have to agree. This section needs some major improvements and I hope they come quickly.

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  • ride-bi May 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Imagine the congestion if all those bikers were in cars. Bikers are doing their part to make Portland more livable. They also reduce wear and tear on our streets. The motorists are the greatest beneficiaries of cycling. What do the cyclists get? Marginalization to a narrow, choked bike lane and exhaust fumes. Thanks, Portland for recognizing the benefits of cycling.

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    • Chigger Mortis May 7, 2013 at 7:43 am

      They don’t reduce wear and tear, they cause less.

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      • younggods May 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

        That’s what reduce means.

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      • are May 7, 2013 at 10:15 am

        they don’t mitigate or ameliorate, but they do reduce

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    • chucklehead May 7, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Bikes don’t reduce wear and tear…..that suggests wear and tear are being reversed. They simply don’t cause as much.

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      • El Biciclero May 7, 2013 at 12:47 pm

        If you switch to a cheaper insurance policy, are your payments reduced? Cheaper insurance policies reduce premium payments. Of course, the assumption there is that you have an insurance policy in the first place. The insurance company doesn’t have to start paying you in order for your premium to be “reduced”.

        Perhaps the subtle distinction people are arguing about here is that if someone who drives switches to bike riding, then wear and tear is in fact reduced from its actual previous levels. If we assume that even some people currently riding bikes would otherwise drive cars, then we can reach the same result of “reduction” in concept, and could measure it the same way based on the assumption. If we assume that nobody riding a bike would ever switch to a car, then we get into “cause less” territory.

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  • was carless May 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Approaching a critical mass of bike commuters, it seems! This summer should be interesting. There is definitely a year-on-year growth in people choosing to bike (I try to refrain from the term ‘cyclist’). I try to encourage everyone I know who might be inclined to bike, I usually have a few converts every year. 😉

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  • bArbaroo May 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Only a handful of years ago I used to commute from Beaverton to Hollywood by bike. I crossed the Broadway Bridge everyday and if I saw even one other cyclist, I was surprised. I get really choked-up seeing that line of cyclists in your photos- including family cyclists – heading into work by bike. Just amazing! No matter how far we think we have to go, let’s not forget how incredibly far we’ve come in making Portland bike-friendly. Way to go people!

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  • Tim May 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    We need an annual drive to work day. Where all the people who usualy bike drive to work, plugging the streets and taking up all the parking.

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  • wade May 6, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    i ride this stretch most days on my way to work. i often find myself in the automobile lane where i’ve witnessed bikes and autos coexisting in begrudging harmony.

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  • are May 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    downhill, it rarely makes sense to keep to the bike lane, which is narrow and full of debris. at the bottom of the hill, unless you happen to catch a red light, you are fighting through motorists wanting to make right turns. and then south of hoyt you are dumped into a forced right turn lane. all of which tells me to take the lane from the top.

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  • andy May 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Add 1 more to the list. This was my route to work 3 years ago and when I move back from the dark depths of LA it will again be my route to work come July.

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    • locals only May 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Hoping that’s me a year from now. It was always great to see another biker in the distance going down Vancouver and then catch up to her when I merged onto Broadway from Flint. Now it looks like it’ll be catching up to a pack.

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  • md May 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I have ridden this section of Broadway almost every workday for the past 4 years, and I have never considered it inadequate. I feel like the more important issue is making the northbound stretch of Broadway, between Burnside and Hoyt, more bike-friendly.

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    • Indy May 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      The very pictures above prove it is inadequate. You have about 2-5x more bikers than cars in those pictures, and yet the bikers are queued up like cattle.

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      • Chigger Mortis May 7, 2013 at 7:54 am

        You mean pictures that were one snapshot in time and selected for by the editor of a pro-biking website?

        One could easily post photos where there are no bikes and state that there is too much cycling capacity.

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      • chucklehead May 7, 2013 at 8:35 am

        No. You don’t design a system to handle maximum capacity all of the time. One could easily post pictures of that stretch of road and show it being underutilized by bikes.

        Using your logic, we should expand Highway 26 and the Columbia river bridge because there are times they are at max capacity.

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  • atxbicycle512 May 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Greetings from Austin, TX.

    These photos are such an inspiration! Well done Portland! It’s exciting to see the number bicyclists continue to grow in your city while showing the rest of the country how beneficial and no-brainer using a bike is.

    We are working hard on improving bicycle infrastructure here in Austin and look up to Portland as our role model.

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  • Indy May 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Do what I do: Take back the streets. I do this on Naito, because there is no way to turn left into downtown without crossing into car lanes.

    I would do this on Broadway, were this a part of my commute.

    Take back the streets for humans.

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    • are May 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      from the bridge, your alternatives are broadway and lovejoy. if i am going anywhere west of broadway, i do in fact take lovejoy, not exactly a back road, and in order to make a left onto 9th i generally cross the tracks at the dogleg, though the city fathers would have you get into a copenhagen box at the bottom.

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  • Indy May 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Another thing I’ve seen (as a pedestrian) is on the Steel bridge bikers take the South Pedestrian path on the upper deck to get past all the light limitations at the intersection. The problem is this path is extremely narrow, and pedestrians MUST get out of the way to allow bikers. I find myself sympathizing with them for that wait, but getting slightly annoyed at having to move out of the way constantly. Pedestrians should never have to move for bikers.

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    • Concordia Cyclist May 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      I agree with you on this. The only time I’ve taken that is to escape a lengthy bridge lift or festival crowds, but I always get off my bike and walk it if I come across pedestrians on it.

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    • are May 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm

      if you are taking the deck on the steel, you should take the travel lane

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      • Dan May 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm

        I ride on the sidewalk going Westbound on the North side in the evenings. Is that okay? I sometimes need to go by a few pedestrians, but I pass them very slowly and always let them know I’m there.

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    • Mike May 7, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      We should all share the paths. Pedestrians walking in groups can clog paths for bikers, and should be aware of that (and consolidate to keep the path clear). And, mostly, they do.

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      • are May 7, 2013 at 10:54 pm

        no disagreement, but i think the sidewalk over the steel bridge is not really intended to function as a multiuse path

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  • Zaphod May 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    I take this route frequently. It requires high vigilance due to right hooks, fast frantic riders, inexplicably slow riders, debris and… winter… remember winter? Water flows right down the lane like an 1/4″x3′ aquaduct. This makes it prudent to leave a gap between you and all but the uber-civilized cyclist with full fenders and low hanging mud flap.

    Dare I suggest… two lanes like the uphill section leading to the Hawthorne bridge? Greedy I realize.

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    • Reza May 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      You’re in luck! It’s called taking the right vehicle lane when you bomb down the hill. You pass all the slow riders and avoid the right hook dangers at Hoyt at the same time! Try it sometime.

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    • spare_wheel May 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

      and despite those two lanes on Hawthorne i enter the vehicle lane to pass just about every day.

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  • shirtsoff May 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    the design intention is that you take the sidewalk

    This is untrue. Cyclists are intended to utilize the northbound lane of NW Broadway in the downtown core until they reach the bike lane by Union Station as they approach the Broadway Bridge. See Portland city code 16.70.320 for details on which cyclists are not permitted to ride on the sidewalk in this area as well as other sections of the downtown core. I do not believe the sidewalk on northbound NW Broadway to be designated as a bike path. 16.70.320 begins on the next line of this post -note the boundaries of the area where cyclists may not utilize the sidewalk.

    16.70.320 Operating Rules.

    (Amended by Ord. No. 165594, July 8, 1992.)

    No person may:

    A. Leave a bicycle so that it obstructs vehicle or pedestrian traffic on a roadway, sidewalk, driveway, handicap access ramp, building entrance, or so that it prevents operation of a parking meter or newspaper rack;

    B. Leave a bicycle secured to a fire hydrant or to a police or fire call box;

    C. Leave a bicycle on private property without consent of the owner or legal tenant. Consent is implied on private commercial property;

    D. Leave a bicycle on a street or other public property for more than 72 hours; or

    E. Ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, unless avoiding a traffic hazard in the immediate area, within the area bounded by and including SW Jefferson, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue, except:

    On sidewalks designated as bike lanes or paths;
    On the ramps or approaches to any Willamette River Bridge; or
    In the area bounded by the west property line of SW Ninth Avenue, the east property line of SW Park Avenue, the north property line of SW Jefferson and the south property line of SW Salmon Street.
    For police or special officers operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties; or
    For employees of the Association for Portland Progress and companies providing security services operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties. These employees must have in possession an identification card issued by the Chief of Police certifying the rider has completed a training course in the use of a bicycle for security patrol.

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    • are May 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      be it known that when i said the design was to take the sidewalk, i was talking about north of irving. evidently this was not what matt, and then reza, intended.

      the main story is about the downhill from the bridge to hoyt. i misunderstood the “northbound” comments to be referring to the same stretch. the words “underutilized parking” and the reference to couch should have clued me. they did not. sorry.

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  • John Handley May 7, 2013 at 4:14 am

    I’ve never been to Portland, love to visit one day. But here in Melbourne, for Princes Bridge, we have just approved changing four lanes of traffic to two lanes for cars and two for bikes. Plus two for the trams – the busiest tram route in the world, apparently.

    Currently bikes have a very narrow onroad lane or a shared path with pedestrians. The pedestrian lane does not work because there is just too much foot traffic, and pedestrians seem unaware of the shared lane, possibly because it is covered with people most of the time!

    This is a major step forward for us, as it links St. Kilda Rd. – a major bike route into town, with Swanston St., which has removed almost all traffic and is a priority bike route.

    Apart from maximising movement of people in all modes of transport and making everything safer, this change signifies a shift in thinking about how people move in the city.,+Melbourne,+Victoria&hl=en&ll=-37.820107,144.971209&spn=0.009068,0.021136&sll=-37.860283,145.079616&sspn=1.160141,2.705383&oq=sw&hnear=Swanston+St,+Melbourne+Victoria&t=m&z=16&layer=c&cbll=-37.820335,144.968872&panoid=IA9HASTP6RNgWXtahCrmsA&cbp=12,0,,0,0

    If you change to street view you will see how this will work.

    All the best, John

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  • Hugh Johnson May 7, 2013 at 6:31 am

    Yes something needs to be done. In this particular area, i’m more worried about being taken out by other cyclists. Cars are the least of my worries. Is it really necessary to ride to close to my rear tire that we rub? Or cut me off and again almost hit my front tire? Cycling is where Portland shows some of it’s worst.

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  • JL May 7, 2013 at 8:29 am

    This makes me think I could take to the sidewalk downtown when valets and taxis are just hangning out “in the immediate area”

    Not that I would… but I never remember seeing that wording before.

    16.70.320 Operating Rules.

    (Amended by Ord. No. 165594, July 8, 1992.)

    No person may:

    E. Ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, unless avoiding a traffic hazard in the immediate area, within the area bounded by and including SW Jefferson, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue, except:

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  • Paul Cone May 8, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Along with the increased traffic off the bridge, on the bridge it is getting a little hairy, too. Three times in the past couple of weeks I’ve riding on the bridge itself when bicyclists and pedestrians have almost come into contact. The problem is that some bicyclists are in a hurry to pass other bicyclists, and going too fast and not allowing enough space and time as the slower cyclist is moving left to pass a pedestrian. It also seems like the sightlines on the Broadway, with its slight arch and rather narrow sidewalk for all that traffic, are not as good as the Hawthorne, which has a wide, flat, straight path, so I think that contributes to the problem as well. Cyclists need to signal their intention to move left more clearly, and the fast riders need to slow down.

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