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Eyes on the Street: New striping, medians at N. Vancouver and Morris – UPDATED

Posted by on June 17th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

New striping and more on
N. Vancouver Ave.
(Photos: Joan Petit)

The Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has made changes to the street around the intersection of N. Vancouver Avenue and Morris. This stretch of Vancouver is a busy bikeway and it sees a fair amount of people walking due to the adjacent park (Dawson Park) and several Legacy Emanuel Hospital buildings.

Reader Joan Petit recently spotted some changes to Vancouver that she feels have made a big safety improvement. I’ve shared her thoughts and photos below:

I live near this intersection, which is also part of my daily bike commute to work. Previously, it was hard to walk across N Vancouver because traffic moves quickly (even with only one vehicle lane), yet there’s a fair amount of foot traffic in this area because of Dawson Park and Emmanuel Hospital, which flank this intersection.

Previously, it was sometimes awkward for cyclists on N Morris to turn left onto Vancouver. Even when there was no car traffic, the narrow bike lane was often busy with fast-moving bikes, making the merge tricky.

Pedestrians can now cross in clearly marked crosswalks. The intersection works better for cyclists too. Now, cyclists traveling south on N Vancouver split to the right of a traffic island before N Morris; cars go to the left. The island gives extra space for a newly added turn and merge lane for bikes coming onto Vancouver from Morris. Turning bikes have space to get up to speed before merging into bike through-traffic.The best part? The new traffic flow is clearly marked, making it quite clear where bikes should go.

In just a few days, I have already found this new traffic pattern to be a big improvement. I appreciated PBOT’s efforts to find a sensible, custom solution for this particular intersection.

These changes are part of the NE Klickitat Street Neighborhood Greenway. Vancouver is the easternmost point of that greenway, which runs all the way to NE 67th.

Here are a few more photos:

Looking east from northeast corner of intersection. Notice the new median with bike lane behind it.

Just a bit further north from the above photo.

Have you ridden through this yet? What do you think?

UPDATE, Tuesday 6/17 at 8:55 am: – I checked this out for myself this morning. See the photos below for a better sense of what the approach to the median feels like. I think PBOT should remove that last parking space (where the van is) in order to vastly improve sight lines on the approach:

Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-1

Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-2

Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-5

Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-3

Changes at N Vancouver and Morris-4

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maxadders
Guest
maxadders

I ride through here several times a week and I feel that the implementation is poor. The new cement island is placed at the bottom of a slight hill / turn and coming up on it, at speed, is a little surprising. It’s also directly in what I would consider the “natural flow” of the bike lane– you have to veer right to not hit it head-on. I fear someone who’s passing another cyclist won’t see it in time, or a rider with poor / no lighting is won’t see it at all.

And while this is a lesser gripe, the road crew dug up the old bike lane stripes before painting the new ones; the result is shoddy looking and one more thing to pay attention to if you, like me, commute on skinny road slicks– the ruts from the old striping cross the new lane at near-parallel angles and are sketchy.

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

I feel that the concrete divider is a risk. It is positioned in front of a the space of southbound cyclists that requires a curve of one’s trajectory to avoid hitting. I’m sure someone at night will eventually not notice it in time before crashing into it.

Steve B
Guest
Steve B

I believe this is a great idea, but also found this implementation a little sketchy for cyclists coming down Vancouver. It feels like the bike lane here is a bit more pinched and you need to stay vigilant in order to not hit the median. Was this mini-project brought before the BAC and PAC?

Matheas Michaels
Guest
Matheas Michaels

I don’t like it either and agree with the above comments. I feel as though too often bicycle infrastructure is about managing bike traffic and not making their use of the road more efficient and intuitive. Also, as previously mentioned I believe it could be hazardous at night.

V$
Guest
V$

I almost ate it the other day on the ruts. It really needs better paving.

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

I like the improvement. I come to this intersection from Morris everyday for my commute. It greatly simplifies the merging of two flows of bike traffic, particularly with car traffic coming down Vancouver.

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

I agree with the above that the concrete divider is risky if someone is trying to pass and doesn’t see the curve soon enough. I was thinking this on my way to work this morning as I rode through there. The uneven concrete makes it slightly confusing as well.

joan
Guest
joan

Oh no! I’m bummed to hear these changes aren’t working out for folks who are coming down Vancouver. It is so much better for folks merging in from Morris.

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

That island is hazardous, causing riders to move into the wider lanes to the left….just like the conditions created at Cook St. Do the designers even ride bikes? I’m really asking that question.

Nick Fox
Guest
Nick Fox

I commute with my kid in a burley down Vancouver and need to go left on Morris here. While I can see how this change benefits downtown-bound traffic coming off Morris, for people making a left from Vancouver onto Morris it’s just as bad as it was.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

This has to be one of the dumbest things PBOT has ever done. That island is going to end up killing someone.

And it won’t make the pedestrian crossing any safer because the island is the first thing car and bike traffic has to negotiate there. The island says, “Hey, pay attention to me.” Especially for bikes, due to the narrowness of the lane with concrete on either side, the primary focus of bicyclists is “don’t hit the island.” The pedestrian crossing is secondary among thing for cyclist’s to pay attention to because DON”T HIT THE ISLAND.

This isn’t helping. I don’t see how this makes things better for anyone. Did anyone from PBOT bother to spray this design out on the road then actually ride through it before they started pouring concrete? I would be shocked to hear that any of them gave this a dry run on a bicycle.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

PBOT has created an inattentional blindness problem there. They made an obstacle that demands high priority attention. Things that are of lower priority will simply not be seen.

Traffic calming is lovely and all but placing a hazard directly in the path of bicyclists probably isn’t the way to do the job.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

I went out of my way to check this out today. I was ready to hate on PBOT for their past sins, but the new curb and lane placement is not as bad as I expected. One would have to be riding over the speed limit (30 mph here?) or riding negligently at a slower speed to not see the bright yellow sign and paint marking the median – even with the gradual curve, and even if you are passing in the fast lane. Maybe they could add a yellow bollard at the head of the median to make it even more visible, especially for when it snows once every two years.

The pavement gouge from grinding away the old stripe is ridiculous, however. My PBOT hate is back on. A slash like that parallel to and in the middle of a bike lane can easily catch bike tires, especially when wet. I realize we can’t use the asphalt-colored paint to “remove” white paint in this area because it rains too often for the cover-up to last. But maybe a more precise grinding machine, or a better operator??? Why destroy thousands of dollars of pavement to move a line and create risk? Oh, but we are also okay with tearing up miles of good pavement to replace water pipes, and then repaving with asphalt “patches” that are worse than most potholes and will probably disintegrate into gravel in two years. So I suppose it is par for the course.

John Lascurettes
Guest

It’s curiously complicated. Lots and lots of lines on the ground at that point. I see people’s concerns about the placement of the island as well.

What I don’t get:
Why do people turning left from Morris need a “merge lane”? Isn’t that what the auto lane is/was? This is precisely how merge onto Vancouver at Knott in the morning and how I merge onto Williams in the afternoon. If the auto lane is clear I make my left into that, then I check my right shoulder and merge into the bike lane when I can.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

I just added a few more photos of the intersection from the perspective of riding south on Vancouver just before Morris.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

In this instance they created a hazard for one vulnerable road user in order to serve the interests of another vulnerable road user.

Switching “cyclist” with “motorist” does not replicate that same dynamic.

stace
Guest
stace

I rode this again this morning and just think that they should remove the last parking spot where the Oregon Electric van is parked in the photos above. This would allow for better sight-lines to where pedestrians would be crossing. There was a similar van parked there this morning. The island seems okay now with the yellow paint and sign installed.

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

I ride this route daily. I love the more pedestrian and bike friendly features. This morning they may have helped attract a fiddler and guitarist who were playing for late commuters on the corner of Morris and Vancouver. Sweet!

Hazel
Guest
Hazel

They really do need to remove that last parking space. The first time I rode through after the traffic changes, a van was parked there where it’s door wide open. I had to jump out into traffic because I couldn’t actually get into the bike lane with the divider there.

Amy
Guest
Amy

Slightly off-topic question re the yellow sign, with the pedestrian, bike, and arrow: Obviously pedestrians have the right of way in an intersection. Does the picture of the bike on the sign mean that bikes ALSO have right of way? That’s generally not the law, but the other day someone who was riding with me across NE 39th at Couch said that this sign (which also exists at 39th and Couch) meant that we bikers had the same right of way as pedestrians crossing 39th. Cars frequently stop for me there, and I never know what to do.

Hey Hey Roseway
Guest
Hey Hey Roseway

I recommend Ray Thomas’s “Pedal Power” for this kind of question:
http://www.stc-law.com/pdf/pedal-power.pdf
“Oregon law allows bicyclists to have the right-of-way in crosswalks like a pedestrian. On the other hand, the law also sets a speed limit that
conditions the right-of-way for bicyclists entering or approaching a
crosswalk on proceeding no faster than a “walking speed”. ORS 814.410.”

I believe the sign you’re referring to is meant to make roadway users (motorists and cyclists) aware of frequent bike and pedestrian cross-traffic at that intersection, and to yield appropriately. I don’t think it confers special privileges at that intersection (but I’m not a lawyer like Ray – so maybe ask him at the next BTA Legal Clinic – Wed, June 19th, at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance office: 618 NW Glisan St., Suite 401, Portland, OR).

Brandon Van Buskirk
Guest
Brandon Van Buskirk

Vancouver is actually the westernmost point of the NE Klickitat Neighborhood Greenway. I think that greenway needs to jog over to Monroe and go along the Kirby off ramp, onto some side streets until it reaches N Mississippi. Its a really fast connection that just needs minor improvements and some signage.

gumby
Guest
gumby

I almost wiped out on this section this morning. The thick white paint seems to have a lot of loose sand on the surface. I will be taking the lane here until everything gets stable. I ride a long wheelbase recumbent and the front wheel is particularly susceptable to slippery conditions.