Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Here’s an idea: Force us to share one lane while driving on a two-way street

Posted by on May 29th, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Cars share middle lane-2-3

A bike lane on both sides but just one regular lane in the center — even with two-way traffic permitted.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

One of the many methods the City of Copenhagen employs to create safer streets is to force people in cars to share one lane — even on streets where two-way auto traffic is permitted. A friend at the Portland Bureau of Transportation says these are called “channelizers”. I’ve seen two examples of them in Copenhagen and they’re pretty awesome. Both examples occur on streets with a shared environment. That is to say there’s no bike-specific infrastructure.

The first one I’ll share is near the intersection of Rantzausgade and Kapelvej in the Nørrebro district.

Copenhagen Day 2-59

Notice in the photo that the basic method is to install two median two median islands that create a protected bike lane on each side. Then they’ve put a speed bump in the middle and they’ve made the opening large enough for just one car at a time. This means that people who are driving must slow down to make sure there’s no one else coming the other direction.

Copenhagen Day 2-60

I watched this intersection for a while and it worked well (it must be, if that guy in the photo above feels safe enough to have his young daughter riding with him). Trucks and cars slowed way down before heading through. (Of course there was that one delivery truck driver who swung into the bike lane to avoid the speed hump!)

The other example of this — and the one I like even better is just to the north on Guldbergsgade. As you can see in the photo below, the City has installed bike parking on the median islands. UPDATE: Today I met a former City staffer who had a hand in creating this project. He said engineers initially installed just a speed bump. Meanwhile, the bicycle program office needed space for bike parking and they found it via the median islands. There was some concern about people getting their bikes out of the racks and getting the way of bike traffic. To help remedy this, the bike racks were angled so that people are forced to see oncoming traffic as they remove their bikes.

Cars share middle lane-1-2

And here’s another view…

Cars share middle lane-3-4

The coolest thing about this traffic calming concept is that the Portland Bureau of Transportation is already aware of it. They’ve actually done something very similar on their neighborhood greenways. Check out the image below of SE Spokane Ave…

BTA New Year's Day Ride-14

The difference is that the Portland version has shorter medians and the middle lane is wider. By not going all the way and narrowing down the center lane (which would also allow for wider bike lanes), many people just ride in the center lane because the bike lane seems oddly small. Spokane is also a very low-traffic street. I’d love to see PBOT try this with larger medians and narrower center lane on a street with higher traffic volumes. Anyone have a suggestion as to where this might work in Portland?

UPDATE: Fellow traffic calming geek Greg Raisman sent in this example from Utrecht which he says prevents people from driving in the bike lane:

Residential Traffic Calming for Bikes

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  • RJ May 29, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    How about on a collector-level neighborhood greenway, like Ankeny or Clinton?

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  • Todd Boulanger May 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Yes good discussion, this is a very common and effective tool in use in the Netherlands too. And the nice thing if it is done well is that you can add traffic calming with bike access to a street without having to mess with drainage.

    Though PBOT has to skinny the shared car lane down as mentioned in the post, part of this may be the internal struggle with the Fire Department mandating a ~20′ minimum “street” (or shared lane) width.

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    • 9watts May 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Not quite, Todd.
      See VI. on p. 8 of the following document:

      An Oregon Guide for Reducing Street Widths


      Designing streets so that moving cars must
      occasionally yield between parked cars before moving
      forward, as shown below, permits development of nar-
      row streets, encourages vehicles to move slower, and
      allows for periodic areas where a 20-foot wide clear area
      is available for parking of fire apparatus."

      there's also a graphic in this report that suggests a version of what this article is about but I don't know how to reproduce it here.

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson May 29, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    love to see it on Clinton!

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    • KYouell June 3, 2013 at 1:02 am

      This sounds very similar to the block of SE 34th between Division and Clinton where we all have to negotiate who is going to go. I like it.

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  • Jim Lee May 29, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    What I’d like to see on Clinton is bike speed bumps at the intersection with 26th. Twice I have been nearly picked off while exiting the 10 bus in front of Noho’s.

    Schussboomers, carrying downhill speed but blocked by the bus occupying the street, jump onto the sidewalk and motor on among pedestrians.

    MANNERS, people!

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    • NF May 30, 2013 at 7:28 am

      Bikes are on the sidewalk at NoHo’s? or are they not yielding to you in the crosswalk?

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    • KYouell June 3, 2013 at 1:00 am

      I hear you! I live very close and use this intersection 4x/day. As a slow-moving bakfiets I damn well stop and I try to use body language and smiles to let the drivers know I’ll go when it’s my turn instead of when one of them decides to wave me on (they seem very unaware of how much glare makes them invisible and that drivers coming the other way may not agree that I should be going out of turn). I find myself shaking my head at other people on bikes that blow through the intersection. I think if I saw someone blowing the stop sign and riding up onto the sidewalk I’d lose it and scream my head off. Talk about encouraging the people in cars to see us as idiots.

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  • Carl May 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    The cousin to this device — narrowing side streets to one lane at intersections — is something I’d really like to see Portland try, particularly as the city experiments more with cycle tracks. Got any good pictures of the various ways Copenhagen makes cycletrack/side-street intersections slower and safer?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      Hey Carl,

      I’m planning a whole post just devoted to how they do cycle tracks here. I think I’ll have something about side street safety.

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      • Carl May 30, 2013 at 12:04 am

        Awesome. I hope you’ll also weigh in on the similarities and differences between the “bones” of our cities (density, block length, frequency of driveways, variability of street width, etc.). Keep up the great work. Really enjoying these posts.

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  • dwainedibbly May 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Most American drivers would be driving in the bike lane. I’m not sure that even the “Utrecht treatment” would prevent that here. Still, I’d like to see PBOT try it on some additional streets. Even a two-lane, one-way street would be calmed by this as motorists had to merge two lanes into one.

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  • Chris Anderson May 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Portland is the American capital of waiting for the other car to move between the parked cars, so your car can go. You see it all the time on streets where there is parking on both sides. So I think we already have this, all over the city. Especially in inner Southeast.

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  • AndyC of Linnton May 29, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    I’m thinking of SW Stark downtown.

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  • Craig May 29, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Don’t know if you have time, but it would be great to see a post on how Copenhagen cycle infrastructure accommodates cycle touring into or out of Copenhagen by bike.

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  • Niels Hoe May 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    The example you like the best at Guldbergsgade. Is actually in 2 steps. First the City established the speed lowering element. Work done. Then some year latter a colleague and I came by in surch of space for bicycle parking. And here it was. 30 more parkings for the conoenhageners.

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  • Patrick May 30, 2013 at 10:34 am

    For a proper higher volume street, I’d like to see Harold Street in Southeast get something like this. I’ve been trying to advocate for the city to take a proactive approach about making outer inner southeast streets safer for bikes rather than a reactive approach. It seems like instead of altering some of our wider, busier streets to make them safer for bikes, they take streets that are already calmer and designate those greenways. I get why, that’s the easy, cheaper option. I’d like to see something more ambitious. Harold would actually connect 82nd/Foster to the upcoming 52nd bikeway because it’s a straight shot east-west street (the same reason so many cars use it as a shortcut). But the word from the city is that streets like Harold are too complicated to fix.

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  • Thomas May 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Wait – I don’t get it, what’s the point in dividing the bike flow and channeling the car flow for 20-30ft? Are these at intersections? I think I missed something when I read through – because I’m totally missing the point of this.

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    • Opus the Poet May 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      It forces drivers to slow down. Basically this is traffic calming on Quaaludes, as opposed to steroids. Drivers know there is a one-at-a-time bottleneck ahead so there is no incentive to drive like an idiot to beat the bike to the intersection, when they get there the bike has a free-flowing lane and the driver has to negotiate with other drivers to safely negotiate the intersection entry, much less getting through the intersection.

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  • Thomas May 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    So in all of the pictures – the photographer is standing in an intersection?
    This so doesn’t make sense.
    I need a plan view and an explanation of how this is supposed to help anything – cause it just looks like a way to put more obstacles in the roadway… (and increase cost)

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