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ODOT proposes first-ever flashing ‘Bikes on Bridge’ sign for Barbur Blvd

Posted by on May 14th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Detail of proposed sign. See larger image below.

Responding to concerns about poor quality bike access on two narrow bridges on SW Barbur Blvd, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has proposed a new flashing sign that would warn road users about the presence of bicycle traffic. The new sign is being considered as part of the $5 million Newbury & Vermont Street Bridge Rehabilitation Project.

ODOT announced the new sign at an open house for the project last night and they’ve updated their project website with a graphic of the proposed sign. They are currently asking for feedback as to whether or not it would be worth installing. The plan would be to install four signs total — two per bridge and one in each direction. They come with an automatic sensor, which means the lights would flash without someone on a bike having to stop and push a button. ODOT says this would be the first sign of its kind on any highway or bridge in the entire state.

Here’s a larger version of the conceptual design of the sign released by ODOT:

Currently, the bike lane stops completely and the road narrows where SW Barbur Blvd goes over the Newbury and Vermont street bridges. This situation, along with the repaving of the road that will come with this bridge rehab project, spurred citizen activists and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) back in January to urge ODOT to grab this opportunity to do a road diet and add bike lanes to the Barbur bridges. ODOT said a road diet would be beyond the scope of this project and instead they referred the idea to the SW Corridor planning process (where it’s currently being considered).

Despite ODOT’s reluctance to move forward with the road diet, citizen advocates continue to push the idea. Last week the newly formed Friends of Barbur group met for the first time to outline steps to make the road diet a reality. “Few streets in Portland have received some much planning and attention yet so few improvements,” says the group’s website.

One veteran transportation activist from southwest Portland says the signs are appreciated, they won’t solve the core safety issues. “While the flashing warning signs proposed will be helpful, ODOT continues to fall far short in addressing the fundamental safety issues on Barbur between Naito and Terwilliger.”

ODOT says the four signs would cost about $80,000 and they could be moved and used at other locations if future projects (like a road diet) were implemented. For more information, visit the project website.

If you have feedback about this proposal, please tell ODOT what you think. Contact Jilayne Jordan via email at

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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

  • Spiffy May 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    good and bad again… drivers might see the flashing lights and use caution… then whenever they see another cyclist in the roadway of a bridge where no sign is present they might think the cyclist doesn’t belong there and go into rage mode…

    I’m in favor of making people think and removing a lot of the signs we already have… and let’s make REAL penalties for the violators…

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    • john September 20, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Not sure how ‘real penalties’ will help somebody like Henry Schmidt… In fact, increasing the severity of punishment will just make people more likely to run from an accident.

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      • Peter W September 20, 2013 at 6:21 pm

        If penalties for DUI are much greater than for hit and run, the “smart” thing to do may not be the same as the responsible thing to do.

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  • 9watts May 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    The signs seem to reinforce (however unwittingly) that people riding bikes in this location are the exception: their presence will be announced by special lights. Like children near a school or wildlife.
    Even though I don’t need to push a button here, the flashing light is like the special clothing ODOT wants people walking and biking to wear so those in cars don’t have to pay close attention to their surroundings or slow the heck down.

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    • Chris Anderson May 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      That fluorescent green stuff really works. At least I feel the cars stop for me more when I wear it.

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      • Indy May 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm

        “Feel” is not actual science.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    – revise sign text to “bikes ahead, yield”
    – will this rural treatment be effective given the speeds volume and length of zone and uphill grade?
    – reinforce signage with reduced speed zone reactive LED sign to 30 mph from 45 mph posted
    – if a traditional road diet cannot be done (“scope of project”) how about dropping one lane on one side over the bridge for additional hard shoulder space split for both sides…that peds and bikes and drivers would use. Pick the lower volume direction.

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    • Spiffy May 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Todd Boulanger
      – reinforce signage with reduced speed zone reactive LED sign to 30 mph from 45 mph posted

      great idea! just like the school zone speed reduction when the lights are flashing…


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  • Chris I May 14, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    This bandaid basically makes the assumption that the bridges are the only problem with biking this section of Barbur. The entire stretch is very uncomfortable to ride, given the vehicle speeds and lack of separation. Do it right: put this road on a diet. The traffic counts show that 4 lanes are not needed.

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    • markunono May 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm


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    • was carless May 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      Agreed. This is a ridiculous attempt to appease the bike lobby, while the road itself is pretty unsafe due to the speed of traffic and basic roadway design.

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      • Chris I May 14, 2013 at 9:26 pm

        A cable barrier down the middle would help with safety as well. There have been a few fatal head-on crashes in this stretch.

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  • Daniel L May 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I guess it is better than nothing, but it’s not a great fix, like the flashing lights over the crosswalk that’s also somewhere in that section of Barbur. It’s still a pretty bad stretch of road that is extremely unfriendly to both bikes and pedestrians.

    The real big problem with that whole stretch is that despite speed limits of 35 through most of it (some is 45, but I’m not sure where) people go 55-70 and treat it like a freeway. The bridge would be an inconvenient issue, but not a potentially life threatening obstacle if they made some serious effort to slow traffic through that section, at least down to the posted limit, preferably down to about 30. Instead they’re continuing to design around traffic going as fast as possible and just warning them when there may be someone in the road.

    Of course the full on road diet and large buffered bike lanes would be best. As Chris said above, it’s pretty uncomfortable to ride that stretch, even discounting the bridge.

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    • Chris I May 15, 2013 at 7:12 am

      The best way to reduce speeds is to narrow the roadway. It’s hard to go 55 when you only have one lane, and Grandma up front is doing 40.

      2 lanes creates a competitive effect, where most drivers will subconsciously increase their speed because they “need to pass” the person in the right lane.

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  • LoveDoctor May 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    While the flashing signal isn’t the utopia we would want for Barbur, we must live within the constraints imposed upon the short term funding available. I bike this section everyday, and I’ll take what I can get. These signals, hopefully combined with Sharrows, at least take a step in the right direction. ODOT has repeatedly said this is a short term, relatively low budget fix primarily aimed at rehab’ing the structure of the bridges, not a roadway redesign. Let’s put the best possible polish on this turd and make things safer in the here and now.

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    • Craig Harlow May 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Agree. Add sharrows for a decent distance at either end, and this may be a good solution.

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  • bean May 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    There are already bike lanes on Barbur! This line in incorrect:
    ….”ce (BTA) back in January to urge ODOT to grab this opportunity to do a road diet and add bike lanes to Barbur. …..

    The Bridges are the only part without bike lanes. I ride this 3 or 4 days per week morning and evening. The Flashing lights are in interesting idea.

    My idea was to paint the entire right lanes of the road over the bridge the “Bike Box Green”. This would mean that if a bike is in the lane, the car needs to yield to it. That would mean that bikes need to take the lane when going over the bridge. I do it all of the time, it works quite well.

    Other than the bridges I find Barbur fine to bike on. The bike lane is plenty wide enough. Yes, ideally, there would be a Jersey barrier separating cars from bikes, but I think I’d rather see money spent elsewhere.

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    • Psyfalcon May 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      I think those are just hard shoulders. I’ve seen no bike specific markings unless they went in within the last year.

      Full of puddles too.

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      • Spiffy May 15, 2013 at 7:49 am

        that bike lane marking is older than a year… and it’s not the only one…

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        • bean May 15, 2013 at 9:15 am

          Correct, there are quite a few bike specific markings in the bike lane.

          Psyfalcon: Are you really complaining about too many puddles? Fenders work well, give ’em a try.

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  • Andrew K May 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Sounds like the pressure is getting to ODOT and they are attempting to throw the bike advocates a bone. My response would be we need to pressure ODOT even harder on this issue and continue to address it as a safety improvement (which it most certainly is).

    As for the sign itself, I would like to see it address a specific speed limitation to motorists, like “When Flashing, Slow to 20mph” or something similar.

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    • Chris Anderson May 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      I’m convinced that bike investments pay back so well that we shouldn’t be thinking of a limited budget. Investing in bikes is like free money for the city, they should be going all in eveywhere.

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      • Paul Souders May 14, 2013 at 10:41 pm

        I think the city would likely agree. If the city had to foot the bill to maintain all that unused asphalt between Hamilton and Terwilliger it would want less asphalt. But this stretch of road is ODOT, not PBOT, and they want a highway here, actual usage be danged.

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  • longgone May 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I have always professed that all road users should be informed,know the law, and act accordingly.
    I always used to believe that the law really did matter, cycling was a right I had, and it was protected.
    I realize at times this is just wishful thinking.
    Im also always amazed that cyclists seem to abhor anything that they think paints them in a negative light. Well guess what?
    82% of the motoring public hates us.
    That is a given.
    Personally,I think there should be alot more signage.

    Perhaps the better point would be how a sign, in places such as this, should be worded.
    How about…”Hey jackass, heads up! bikes in road.” then below …
    “Violation of vulnerable road use laws = $$$$$”
    I like the sound of that.
    Yup, more signs.

    I really do not care what Joe blow motorist thinks of me as a cyclist, as long as Johnny Law in the roller does his job right if I am violated.

    I could have used a sign like the one above in Newport, going south on the bridge in 1989, when a violent hickerbilly in a clapped out Taurus tried to kill my female riding partner, on purpose.

    Barbour is pretty busy is it not?

    There are signs that inform us of truck turnouts, schools and any number of things that should make one move a toe from gas pedal to brake..
    Why are signs such as this bad? Because “wittle baby-fweewheel might get their feewings hurt”?

    What is the euro standard for things like this? I would assume it might be an indicator of the right way to go.

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    • Paul Souders May 14, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      “I could have used a sign like the one above in Newport, going south on the bridge in 1989, when a violent hickerbilly in a clapped out Taurus tried to kill my female riding partner, on purpose.”

      I had TWO similar experiences on the Newport bridge in 2002 and 2010, long after they installed signs/lights like exactly these. (In 2010 I was towing a kiddie trailer too! Luckily the trailer was loaded with groceries not kids.) Part of me wonders if those signs actually prime motorists to get aggro.

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      • longgone May 15, 2013 at 9:05 am

        I am two steps up the ladder from trailer trash myself. I grew up in a Metrop. that has the highest commuter milage by car per capitia in the Good ‘Ol U.S.A.
        I have a keen sense of how most of theese folks work and think, as I am from their stock, as hard as that is to swallow at times.

        Do people yell and scream at tractor turnout signs, and school speed zone signs? These signs have been in their mindset for 85 years. As more people cycle, and more signs appear, I believe a bit of bad logic and anger would subside. Lets face it people are stupid. They are exceptionally stupid behind the wheel. I have been so myself. It is a strange possession that occurs.

        This mind set in not induces by signs, and if they are not present they will act the same. For me it is like the padlock on the shed..Dad said it was there to keep honest people honest.

        It is my opinion to hold, but the cycling public need to get over their fear based image perception.
        I see no issue with more signs such as this being proliferated. I do be;ieve they will help in the long run. Like other ills that plauge our society, the aggressive nature of the public towards cycling will deminish as our youth, (who I hope see how f-ed up we are) become road users themselves.

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  • J-R May 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    When riding 101 a few years ago, I encountered this for the tunnels. In my limited experience the signs and flashing lights provided NO benefit.

    I concur with the suggestions that propose a 30 mph speed zone when lights flash WITH enforcement. This would require changes to state law.

    I guess I come down on the side of “let’s try it.” Then when it doesn’t work, we can try again at the legislature for real vulnerable road user laws and real passing clearance laws plus real enforcement and real prosecution and real penalties.

    ODOT, thanks for trying.

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  • Danny May 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I agree with Love Doc above. Polish this turd with flashing lights, reduced speeds, and lots of sharrows and green paint. I’ll take whatever I can get until this section of road can be properly fixed.

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  • BURR May 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    This is another band-aid, and not a real solution.

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  • dwainedibbly May 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Meh. How long will they flash? Granny going 6mph will be on the bridge a lot longer than The Spandex Twins on their tandem at 25mph. I appreciate the creative idea, but I’d greatly prefer something else.

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  • q`Tzal May 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    As I said back on the road diet story last month when I suggested almost exactly this:
    This is a needed stop gap to a permanent and thought out redesign of this problem area.

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  • was carless May 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I would be worried that motorists would look at the sign and not see the cyclist actually on the road. Especially if its at dusk, when the daylight contrast is the worst.

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    • q`Tzal May 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

      You should be worried that motorists are looking at EVERYTHING else except for the condition of the road ahead of them.

      I agree in principle about the visual confusion of road side sign overload; fortunately decades of practical application and neurological science show that official road signs are more than a net gain for overall road safety.

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  • Kevin Wagoner May 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    I don’t think this will increase ridership on SW Barber. I really wish they would go with the road diet, reduce the speed limit, and automate enforcement of poor driving habits. If it makes it safer I welcome it, but it feels like a fail.

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    • longgone May 15, 2013 at 9:11 am

      If in fact all of your ideas came to pass, on Barbor, ridership would increase. I never feel in danger there, but I also have been riding in high density my whole life. I think this is a good idea, and if the road diet comes than all the better, There certainly is room for improving road work for cycling in the S,W. area. I would ride and explore more there if so.

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  • Caleb White May 14, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    There are already Bikes in Roadway signs and flashing lights both directions on both bridges.

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  • GlowBoy May 14, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. Yes, Barbur needs a road diet. Yes, speed limits should be lowered and enforced. Yes, ODOT can do better than this. Yes, Barbur is far from ideal, even ignoring the bridges

    But the bridges really, really, really, really, really, REALLY suck. Like several others above who actually ride Barbur with regularity, I find the two bridges to be overwhelmingly the worst part, and the main reason I don’t ride more often. In fact, other than the bridges I don’t find Barbur particularly intimidating (although it would be nice if they’d cut back the vegetation along the flyover ramp coming down from Capitol Hwy, because it’s starting to push a lot of drivers into the bike lane).

    Anything we can do to make the bridges safer is a HUGE improvement over what we have today. Does this design “appease” me? Hell yes!

    Paraphrasing q`tzal above, it’s only a stopgap … but a desperately needed one.

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    • Mindful Cyclist May 14, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      I have to agree with what you said about the bridges. It has been a long time since I have traversed this stretch and really have no reason to do it any longer. Going up the hill and coming to these bridges flat out sucked!! Going downhill, no so much a problem because I had good speed, but going up the hill was no fun at all and often just rode carefully on the sidewalk.

      What is being offered here seems like a decent, albeit far from ideal, measure to help. Heck, change the sign to SHARE THE ROAD if BIKES ON ROADWAY makes us sound like deer. And, I think the real plus to this is that it will come on when it detects me so I do not have to come to a dead stop going up the hill to push a button.

      Once upon a time, I heard there used to be red light speed cameras located on this stretch. I say put several of them up along Barbur. The cops cannot be out enforcing all the time.

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    • longgone May 15, 2013 at 9:12 am

      I believe you are correct, thumbs up.

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  • Terry D May 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    I commuted this route to work for five years. These flashers would be a great improvement, PARTICULARLY if they can be moved to another location later on after the road diet happens…which it WILL. In the meantime, we should take them and keep pushing. “Speed limit 30 when flashing, traffic fines double”….a definite cheap addition to this idea which should be included.

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  • Rob May 15, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I am highly familiar with this stretch of roadway. First the ped/bike grade-separated sidewalk should be widened to 6-8 feet. Second all of Barbur needs a grade separated bikeway. With the car speeds, any bike/ped-car crash will always be fatal. That is a major commute route to Western, Southern and Clackamas County suburbs (Sellwood Bridge). Therefore a diet and rational speed limits will not work.

    Thanks for covering this and Portland bicyclists stay involved!

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    • Chris I May 15, 2013 at 7:26 am

      You cannot get a 6-8 foot bikeway on the bridges without a road diet. The width is not sufficient. Have you driven the stretch between Capital and Miles? I grew up about 1/2 mile from that stretch. There is never enough traffic to justify two lanes in each direction. The bottleneck is the signal at Hamilton northbound, and the signal at Miles southbound. The road should be 2 lanes in each direction between Hamilton and Capital, then a transition to 2 southbound lanes and one northbound lane until Nevada St., where it would transition back to 2 lanes in each direction. This will allow for 7ft bike lanes with a 2-3ft buffer or barrier, and room for a barrier down the middle to prevent head-on crashes.

      This would only slow down those that break the speed limit northbound. It will not affect the bottlenecks at the signals, and it will not reduce throughput.

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      • longgone May 15, 2013 at 9:16 am

        People who use this stretch often in autos may infact start to scrub off speed more with this freindly reminder in place. I believe it will raise awareness, and relieve stress a bit. Bottlenecks still occur, but at a less threatening pace perhaps.

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  • Brandon Van Buskirk May 15, 2013 at 9:18 am


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  • gumby May 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I bike this section of Barbur five days a week. My biggest concern about the lights is that installing them makes it less likely that the road diet would be implemented while only marginally improving safety. I’ve biked down the coast and the lights warning about bikes in the tunnels seem to be largely ignored.

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  • q`Tzal May 15, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I’d be very tempted to make up a sign in the yellow advisory format that says “SMILE YOU’RE ON CAMERA” and attach it below the new installation.
    And then NOT install any cameras.

    Can you imagine how much motorists will slow down for a camera they can’t see or ever find? The doubt and paranoia would pervade the driving habits of all who travel near there.

    [insert evil laughing here]

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  • q`Tzal May 15, 2013 at 10:54 am

    To all that think any any measure less than a 100% fix:
    You have to put the frog in warm water before bringing it to a boil.

    The mere concept of what a road diet means (taking part of the road width away from automobiles) is such an anathema to the MAJORITY of Portland, Oregon and American voters that the only 2 politically realistic options are authoritarian force or sneaking the idea up on them slowly.

    If i got to be benevolent dictator I’d flip our archaic transportation system so fast you’d think someone dropped the United Federation of Planets on your head.
    We don’t live there; we live in a representative democracy. Because of this our society and laws are based on popularity not logically reasoned thought.

    Work with what you got,
    Live to fight another day,
    Infiltrate the power base,
    Try not to be a stoggy old fart afraid of anything different when you get there.

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  • Joe May 15, 2013 at 11:20 am

    drivers don’t like flashing lights they speed past them, but hey its good to
    have when it gets dark and your riding.

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    • q`Tzal May 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      Drivers speed past everything.
      In the light, in the dark
      When the road is dry, when the road is wet
      When they are late for work, when there is no reason whatsoever.
      Drunk, sober, beautiful, blizzardy, meteor strike or alien invasion:
      Drivers speed whenever they feel like it.

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  • Peter W May 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Appreciate that ODOT recognizes the need and is willing to work towards fixing that.

    Strange that they’re saying a road rightsizing project is out of scope; seems that the simple solution is to add that into the scope, so we don’t waste money by redoing the paint a year later.

    Also, Metro’s SW corridor process should have resulted in a traffic analysis for the Barbur road rightsizing project by now. If they show that this can be done w/o a significant traffic impact, there is really no reason not to fix this now. Jonathan, have you seen those results yet?

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  • Sunny May 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    The rate of flashing determines driver attention — like an ambulance.

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  • AndyC of Linnton May 16, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Great. I emailed odot in support of the proposed road diet plan, whilst supporting the flashing signals for the interim.

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  • longgone May 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Thank you AndyCofL. !
    I assume Barbor Blvd is more than likely NOT on your commute from Linnton, but your camaraderie, and common sense are setting an excellent example.
    You get a” bull by the horns” “gold star”, for being a team player.

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