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First Look: Portland’s new solar-powered LED bike lane lights

Posted by on October 30th, 2013 at 9:56 am

LED bike lane lights on NE Couch-1

They’re on!
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As promised, yesterday the City of Portland installed solar-powered lights to delineate the bike lane on NE Couch as it approaches the Burnside Bridge.

The lights, imported from Denmark by Saris Racks, are part of a test by the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to see whether they improve visibility of the bike lane and provide a safety benefit for road users. Because of the “s-curve” at this location, some people tend to veer into the bike lane while driving onto the bridge.

I went out last night to see the lights in action last night…

LED bike lane lights on NE Couch-5

LED bike lane lights on NE Couch-7

LED bike lane lights on NE Couch-6

LED bike lane lights on NE Couch-3

LED bike lane lights on NE Couch-4

LED bike lane lights on NE Couch-2

As you can (hopefully) see in the photos above, these lights are not very bright. Perhaps they’ll get brighter as they soak up more light; but as of right now they’re not exactly super impressive. That being said, they are definitely visible from the perspective of a bike rider. I haven’t seen them from inside my car, so that will be the next test.

Speaking of cars, are drivers respecting the bike lane more with the lights? While I was out there last night, I didn’t see anyone drive into the bike lane.

Another issue we’re currently trying to find out more about is whether or not the installation is complete. Right now, there are relatively large divets around each light. We suspect PBOT will fill in these divets with some sort of material in order to maintain the smoothness of the bike lane stripe.

We’ll keep you posted on any developments with this interesting new addition to the bike lanes.

Have you ridden by these yet? Let us know your thoughts.

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PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

How are these supposed to be better than the standard reflective bumps, which can reflect alot of light from car headlights?

TonyT
Guest
tony tapay

While appreciate this effort, none of this would be needed had the bike lane been part of the elevated walkway instead of part of the road. It a patchwork repair to a bad design.

Dan
Guest
Dan

What would be wrong with a wall? This seems kind of silly.
The same issue exists coming down the Lovejoy ramp, I’m always jealous of the wall that the pedestrians have.

andy
Guest
andy

At least the city did not have to pay for the lights. I rode by at 6:30am and was not impressed with the brightness of the lights.

was carless
Guest
was carless

They will likely get less bright over time as their batteries degrade. But, if you can see them at all…

John Lascurettes
Guest

Jonathan, most importantly: what was your assessment of how cars were reacting to the lights? Were they still cutting across that second apex? Cars don’t cut across the first one (because they’re on the inside of it), nor the straight section. It’s the last curve that they’re cutting across – including TriMet busses. That’s the only spot I ever feel squeezed.

BURR
Guest
BURR

My guess is that the divots will remain, since they are only a hazard to cyclists and not to motorists. 😉

But seriously, I think they had to grind those divots in order to get the lights flush with the road surface and they can’t fill them in or they would obscure the lights themselves.

Also, although the surface of the lights is textured it still looks like it’s probably slippery if you hit it with skinny tires in the wet.

Thomas
Guest
Thomas

They are a solution – but to what problem, I am not sure.
I rode by these on my way in this am (between 6-6:30) and I didn’t find them to be very bright nor did I notice any change in automobile driver behavior (but traffic is very light at that time of the morning.)
Actually – I’m not sure of why there is a focus on this spot – as I’ve never seen a problem. Take those lights to the West end of the bridge and create a proper transition from bike lane to through lane – and then I’ll have something to get excited about. That transition is dicey – even for experienced riders.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Roundabout 11pm they were looking the same: noticeable, but not exactly attention grabbing. Surely they’re more effective in marginal light than reflectors, though. With the partial closure on Burnside, the end-to-end trip was very nice.

That does bring me back to beating the dead horse… I mean drum… for priorities. This project was peanuts, and it couldn’t be spent on the other end, but c’mon: it’s just a prettier ramp to the W Burnside buzzsaw. It’s even worse on Friday and Saturday nights when you can’t ride through Old Town.

As for walls, please don’t. Timing the lights down Couch builds a lot of momentum to take over the bridge, and you conserve just a little bit more by going slightly wide on that curve.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

About 7:30 today, I noticed them and was kind of impressed with how bright they were. I clearly saw them when I was rolling from Grand to MLK waiting for the light to change. Once the #12 pulled away from the curb, they were visible. Maybe not super bright, but enough for me to see them.

I did notice, however, that several of them were not working. Not sure why that was as I thought they were solar powered.

Cold Worker
Guest
Cold Worker

Why can’t anyone be stoked on anything?

indy
Guest
indy

At the very least can we prioritize these lights to LOW LIGHT-condition areas? The Barbur Bridges, and the onramp to Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy come immediately to mind. The bridges are in pitch black!

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Allegedly there is a brighter version of this from Saris. Chews batteries faster but what’s the payback on deployed effectiveness?

I mean if PBOT purchased some I’d want them to be bright enough to have made a difference.

BIKELEPTIC
Guest

Yay! They put one more bumpy thing on an already sh*tty, dangerously horribly hazardous, swerving into traffic S-Curve!! I can’t wait until my first commute over my generally prefered bridge to downtown so I can hit one with my tire and skid into traffic. Maybe it will even be icy causing even more knuckle crushing, jaw clenching panic.

kww
Guest
kww

I’m a fan of the good ole plastic flexible traffic delineators (aka wiffle bats). Glue them in the inside curve portions, and cars for the most part will try not to hit them as their paint would be scraped. Also provides an audible warning for bikes.

For that particular location though, Jersey barriers are the best imo.

And if you really want to go upscale and euro, Swarovski has retroreflective traffic control glass reflectors:
http://swareflex.com/index.php/ts-home/ts-products/glass-reflectors

David
Guest
David

A timelapse of the lights in action from last night. It seems that there is too much light from the streetlights and light pollution in general from the city for these lights to be most effective. I can see in a darker part of town or in rural areas where a light path would be useful.

http://vimeo.com/78204977

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

There looks to be a lot of ambient artificial lighting in the area which reduces the level of conspicuousness of lower powered solar lighting…(INHTO) this type of product would have more effect on trails or darker rural/ suburban facilities . I will go out and see them to see if I reconsider …

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Thoughts: 1. From the KGW story last night, it looked like they were installed in the afternoon, so they didn’t have much time to charge. 2. By morning, I bet they’re going to be really dim, so they won’t help morning commuters much if at all. 3. In our short, dark winter days, they’ll build up even less of a charge.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I saw them this morning at 5:30 am and they were bright enough, about as bright as pavement reflectors. Maybe they will get brighter with more charging time.

Which doesn’t answer the question of why not simply use reflectors? To which the answer is: this is a test, a demonstration. If the LED lights work, and depending on how well they work, then the city can think about the optimal places to use them.

My view on this spot is, I would not want the bike lane physically separate from the traffic lane, because most of the time I ride here, I take the lane through the left curve and then join the bike lane halfway through the right curve. You come down Couch at 20-25 mph, the lights are synchronized, a bike goes through the S curve as fast as most cars.

Therefore, if we want to delineate the lane, either these lights, reflectors, or plastic bollards (wands) would all work okay. Just – no curb or other continuous barrier, please.

(If traffic is clogged up and you hit the red light at MLK then using the bike lane all the way through the S makes sense, but then you’re only going 12 mph into the left curve so the LED lights won’t be any kind of slipping hazard unless you are pretty careless.)

jeff
Guest
jeff

first snow plow and those things are history…

AndyC of Linnton
Guest
AndyC of Linnton

Whoa! Get ready for those cycling stagnation numbers to be blown out of the water!

was carless
Guest
was carless

Maybe they can install these on the Springwater! That would be really cool. Occasionally people forget their lights on the stretch new Sellwood, and you can’t see a thing on moonless nights.

joel
Guest
joel

At the start of the curve there is obviously no danger of cars coming over the white line, so the lights just advertise the lane more? I have to say, ever since the buffer was painted where cars have a tendency to cut the corner things have been better. I have not noticed cars cutting in ever since then (hardly at all).

scotth
Guest
scotth

I don’t understand why they didn’t just install something more practical ( and probably cheaper ) like candlestick bollards http://bikeportland.org/2013/10/11/county-adds-plastic-candlestick-bollards-to-hawthorne-viaduct-95457

Bill Fuchs - Logical Green Solutions
Guest

From the photos, it appears that the asphalt is milled out, the light epoxied in place, with approximately 1/4″ set above the surface.

Any idea how these are going to hold up to a snow plow?

I believe that the concept is applicable, but the concerns regarding light output and plowing are legit.

Will be researching to see if there is a manufacturer that combines the reflective strip WITH the LED lights.

kittens
Guest
kittens

These would make sense on a straight section of lane, but the viewing angle from a car is not favorable. I think reflectors, by their nature are more effective in this application.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Why not simply install some thin bollards in these type of locations? Auto’s are not going to cross into the cycle path if it means smashing into a bollard first. Plus it would give cyclists a much greater sense of safety with a clear barrier between themselves and the auto traffic.

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

I’d like to see how these would work if they blinked, like the lights on the ground that I’ve seen in Olympia, both at a ped/bike crossing and along a road centerline.