Bikeways at overpasses: Utrecht vs. Portland

A photo shared on Twitter the other day by London-based bicycling advocate and blogger Mark Treasure threw the differences between us and the Dutch into stark relief.

Mark pointed out how road designers in Utrecht (in the Netherlands) handled a situation where a road and its bicycle paths went under an overpass. The photo showed clearly how the quality and width of the bike paths were maintained — while the roadway was narrowed.

Here’s the photo:

The photo immediately reminded me of a major pet peeve I have with our bicycling conditions here in Portland. Often, when a road with bike lanes travels under an overpass and some narrowing occurs, our solution is to either narrow or completely forget about the bicycle path in order to maintain the auto lane width. This happens all over the city and it shows a very serious lack of respect for bicycling. Below are a few examples…

The bike lanes just vanish on NE Lombard when it goes under 42nd (where people drive well over 40 mph too):

And there’s the one on N Interstate at the Larrabee ramp where the bike lane narrows to a width below the city’s own guidelines while the lane next to it maintains its width. (This one constantly worries me because of the mix of large trucks and high bicycle traffic volumes it sees everyday)…

Another one where bike lanes simply vanish is on NW Naito under the ramps for the Steel Bridge…

I realize these might not be apples-to-apples comparison with the Utrecht example, but the fact that our city and state roadway engineers cut out the bike facility in situations like this shows that while many officials and leaders will say, “Safety is our #1 priority!”, our design choices show a clear priority toward maintaining driving speeds and convenience at the expense of the cycling experience, while the Dutch design shows a priority for bicycling and safety of all road users.

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