Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

In Vancouver, bike lovers celebrate restriping of an overbuilt arterial

Posted by on September 10th, 2013 at 11:24 am

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, center, joined
the crowd trying out a newly right-sized
MacArthur Boulevard Saturday.
(Photos: Dan Packard)

“Like it a lot.” “Love it!” “Feels a lot safer!” “Freakin’ FANTASTIC!”

These were some of the comments from people on a bike ride Saturday along the newly restriped, right-sized MacArthur Boulevard in Vancouver, Wash. After months of advocacy and activism, people who use bikes finally have a model transportation corridor along a portion of the major east/west bicycle route across the southern part of Vancouver.

Mayor Tim Leavitt was one of the approximately 35 people who joined the ride of the new buffered bike lanes. Speaking afterward, he said, “I’m very pleased with the outcome of all the public involvement and advocacy. This new configuration really improves connectivity and safety for everyone who uses the road. And this is just the beginning for this community and will be an example of a smart, safe transportation corridor.”

As part of a restriping project along MacArthur, the city had initially proposed sharrows as a way to appease both people concerned about a sub-standard shoulder for bikes and people who wanted to keep two lanes of auto traffic in each direction, even though the road is very lightly traveled.

Some people who bike protested that sharrows wouldn’t work for drivers who didn’t understand what they mean, and wouldn’t be safe to ride in, especially for children and less experienced riders. MacArthur has two public schools along the route and runs through several residential neighborhoods. Cars frequently speed along the road.

The city responded by doing traffic studies that confirmed what most cyclists already knew: traffic on the road did not warrant two lanes of travel, and speeds well exceeded the posted limit. City engineers then re-worked their plans and decided on what bicyclists, pedestrians and safety advocates had been urging all along: one lane of traffic and a buffered bike lane in each direction. There is of course still grousing among motorists. Several of the riders Saturday had also ridden the route a few days before. Ron Doering said a motorist blasted past him honking his horn. “You can tell an angry toot from a friendly one,” said Doering. Other riders reported hearing irate comments from drivers yelling at the painting crew.

One of the most prominent voices of opposition is conservative commentator Lars Larsen, who actually lives in the neighborhood. As reported by the Columbian, he emailed the following to Leavitt: “Which idiot decided to stripe MacArthur down from two traffic lanes to one? … How does it serve the commuting public, 95 percent of whom use automobiles, to reduce the lane capacity of any major street by 50% to superserve the bicycling public … who are likely less than five percent of the commuting?”

In a leavened mood, Leavitt addressed those comments. “If he’d paid less attention to the CRC [Columbia River Crossing] and more attention to what’s going on around him – read the coverage in the paper, attended neighborhood meetings and followed local issues – he would have seen the studies and this would have been no surprise to him. You all know we’ve had several city council meetings to discuss this, and the council unanimously agreed with the plan.”

Riders in the group Saturday, speaking as regular drivers themselves, agreed that the new configuration was better.

“With two lanes, it was sometimes uncomfortable,” said Glenn Teague, who lives in an adjacent neighborhood and drives frequently along MacArthur. “People were always speeding by.”

Carole Dollemore has a five-year-old grandson and really appreciates the safeness of the new layout. “This will get kids used to riding in the street. It’s a good way to get them out there without the hazards of regular riding.”

And even experienced cyclists were impressed: “Wow, we have our own lane!” and “It makes you feel important!”

Some more photos of the day, from Dan Packard:

Madeleine von Laue is BikePortland’s correspondent in Vancouver, Wash.

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  • shirtsoff September 10, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Terrific news! Now cyclists will not be encouraged to ride in the drain ditch as with the design before. MacArthur is an excellent east-west connection in the southern half of Vancouver. Actually I don’t believe I ever found another route comparable to it. So any improvement to this road is a major gain.

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  • vangroovercommuter September 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Yep, I rode this out to a race a couple of weeks ago and I must say it’s seriously the nicest bike lane I’ve ever been on. For real. Well done.

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    • dmc September 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      I was thinking this very same thing.

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  • davemess September 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Lars Larson, what a bonehead! There is minimal auto traffic on that street and multiple schools. Keep living in 1955 dude!

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  • Brian E September 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    In regards to Lars Larsen. I just finished listening to his show today, as I do almost every day. He had a segment focused on this road project and said something to the effect that cyclist don’t contribute a single dime towards paying for the roadways, etc. etc. My taxpaying wallet disagrees.

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    • A.K. September 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      That guy is a tool who will spin anything to get a rise out of his listeners, even complete falsehoods.

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  • Paul September 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Lars Larsen – a person with a very Danish name – should go to Denmark and experience how his people live.

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  • Racer X September 10, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Well I am sure Mr. Larsen’s Portland based employer is supporting the Bike Commute Challenge this month, so Lars is cycling to work at least one day a week as his schedule allows.

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  • davemess September 10, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Yes look at all the cars in the pictures that the bike lane is displacing!!!!

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  • davemess September 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    For those who had not ridden this road before the makeover. The line on the far right of the bike lane used to be the dividing line between the auto lane and bike lane. So yes, it went right over the depressed sewer grate.

    I dislike all the complaints on the Columbian about the neighbors not being informed. I go to Vancouver once a week or so, and live in SE Portland, yet I still knew about this project and a couple of the meetings about it.

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  • Lila September 10, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    When Vancouver did a traffic count this spring in response to advocacy for the lane reduction, they found that at PEAK volume, auto traffic was 30% of capacity for ONE lane. That was a tough stat to argue with.

    If you live in Vancouver, please vote in the upcoming city council / mayor elections. Mayor Tim Leavitt was a great voice of reason on this decision & gets it on the importance of active transportation, and of planning for the future, not the past. He is endorsing Anne McEnerny-Ogle, who also came out and rode MacArthur this weekend, and Alisha Topper in other council races.

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    • davemess September 11, 2013 at 8:53 am

      Maybe the city just needs to print that on a single postcard and mail it to EVERY house in the neighborhood. Seriously how can they argue with that!?!?!?!?!

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  • Ted Buehler September 11, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Nice! Thanks and congrats.

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  • Ian Stude September 11, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Great work, Vancouver! This is a fantastic route that I’ve used for many years, and this is a huge step towards a friendly street for all users. I can’t wait to see the follow-up data that will hopefully show reduced speeds, less crashes, and of course more people on bikes.

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  • Adam September 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Wow! Speaking of overbuilt arterials… can we get one of these on Hawthorne?!

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    • Todd Boulanger September 12, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      You can thank the US Goverment (VHA, etc.)…much of this area was laid out during the war for worker housing. This recent project makes an interesting shift in neighbourhood design and roadways sine this area had the first post war suburban master planned developments and first auto centric shopping centre for Vancouver. Some of the original visioning of this corridor project proposed to ‘depave’ one side of the street by moving all motorised traffic to the other side. That will wait for now as we see how well it functions. 😉

      (There is also an urban myth that this road and right of way was designed so broad to function as an emergency landing strip for the war.)

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      • wallis September 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm


        Thanks for the historical insight. I am pleased to see that you appreciate the debt Vancouver owes to the feds for helping them create the place that Lars calls home.

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  • Larry September 12, 2013 at 9:41 am

    More room for bikes, yes. I rode it again today. Even rode it while they were repaving it. However the paving must have been done by the “B” crew. Not very smooth. The new paving on I-84 in PDX is much nicer.
    Oh well, better than nothing.

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  • Carl Jorgensen September 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I’ll be back to re-claim my Strava KOM’s on that road, at which point ya’ll can flag them again.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Here is a link to some of the earlier community visioning that went on for this corridor. Think of the current striping as just step 2 of many steps to slowly implement it as the restrained local funding allows.

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  • Jeff Beilfuss September 13, 2013 at 8:52 am

    As mentioned in another comment, MacArthur is way under utilized by auto traffic and is not like Mill Plain. There is never more than one-lane’s worth of traffic there, not many cars or trucks, and seems mostly utilized by people who live in that neighborhood or people being transported to the schools twice a day. It isn’t as if the entire boulevard was destroyed for bicycles. If automobile traffic warrants it in the future, it can be re-striped. Lars is way off the mark here. According to his logic we should be charging pedestrians for using the sidewalks. After all, there doesn’t seem to be that much pedestrian traffic compared to motor vehicles to warrant a sidewalk. I’ve lived in communities like that, and can tell you it is no fun. As for taxation, I pay property taxes and automobile license fees. I use sidewalks and do errands by bike. People-to-people interaction creates a lovely community to live in; cocooned in an automobile does not.

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    • davemess September 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

      Preaching to the choir here. Might want to post THAT on the Columbian site.

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