Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Collision raises questions about changes on Hawthorne Bridge

Posted by on November 20th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

SE Hawthorne at 99e offramp-1

View from the standard vehicle lane. The bike-only lane is to the right of the white delineators and riders cross right-to-left.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

A man whose right elbow was broken in a collision on the recently redesigned Hawthorne-Madison viaduct last week says he thinks the new design is confusing for motor vehicle operators and puts bicycle riders like him at risk.

Early last month, city and county workers collaborated to widen the bike lane, add a walking lane and add a tightly spaced row of plastic “candlestick” delineators to separate bike and auto traffic.

But Carl Batten, who was injured last Thursday, thinks the posts are causing people to be less cautious in avoiding collisions when they bear right onto McLoughlin.

“They see bikes on the right of them, they see this picket fence separating them, they see the picket fence curving to the right, and they just assume that they’re going to continue to be separated from them as they go down the ramp,” Batten said in an interview Tuesday.

Batten said he walked along the posts after his injury to understand the new design from the perspective of a person driving a car.

“As you’re on there, you really can’t see where the bike lane goes,” Batten said. “That row of bollards curves, and as far as you can see when you’re approaching it. You can’t see down the ramp. There’s no visual indication that the bike lane is going to cross the ramp until you’re right there.”

Plastic bollards on Hawthorne Bridge-6

SE Hawthorne at 99e offramp-4

Batten said he was hit on that crosswalk at about 4:40 pm, when it was dark enough for him to have turned on his front and rear blinking bike lights and for most cars to have headlights on.

“I think I was going somewhere between 10 and 15 miles per hour – I wasn’t moving very fast,” Batten said. “And traffic was moving at approximately the same speed. It was getting a bit thick.”

A car struck Batten when he was about a third of the way across the green-striped bike crossing. Though he’s unsure how it happened, he fell on his right arm, fracturing the head of his radius and possibly also breaking a bone in his wrist.

“Somehow my bike must have gone over me, because I hit my right arm but I ended up with my feet pointing down the ramp and my bicycle on top of me,” he said.

Batten has received treatment and is recovering.

Batten, who works as an economist for a private company downtown, said he isn’t sure of the best way to make the design better, but thinks it needs some sort of change. The basic problem, he said, is that “the cars that are on their way down the ramp are on the way down the ramp already when they get to the point where the car lane crosses the path.”

“There’s no message to drivers that they have to yield to bikes,” Batten said. “I don’t know what the best way to convey that message is, but I think better signs, and at least one sign that has the word yield in it, and then maybe not having the bollards curve around and then maybe move the crossing a little bit further north along the ramp.”

Here’s a shot of the old signs:

And the new ones:

SE Hawthorne at 99e offramp-6

Signage indicating the bike and foot crossing.

The bike crossing, he noted, “makes an S-turn when before it used to go more or less straight across.”

Batten said he’s tried to contact the city and county to alert them to the problem, but made little progress.

“I haven’t been able to reach any of them, because it’s the county’s road but they rely on the city to help them, and there’s not always clear communication between the two,” he said.

Batten’s experience is worrisome. Though protected bikeways can be great for comfortable biking, they have the opposite effect when the designs aren’t intuitively usable by everyone on the road. And in this case, the shared authority for this design between the city and county may make it harder to get things right. We hope they give this a close look and make any changes that might be needed.

Update 11/21: Andrew Holtz of the county bike-pedestrian advisory committee says the committee will review the design and adds in a comment below: “The staff liaison is Kate McQuillan. Her phone number is 503-988-5050, extension 29397. Information about the committee and county bike/ped contacts is available on the Multnomah County website.”

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  • Todd Hudson November 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I commute home from downtown a few times a week, and exit on to the Eastside Esplanade (and then cut over to SE Salmon) because I’m really wary of that particular crossing.

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  • Syzlak November 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Install a speed hump for people approaching the crossing by car- it would force them to slow down and (hopefully) examine their surroundings.

    The key problem is that people driving approach the intersection with high speed despite the fact they don’t have right of way.

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    • Neilz November 21, 2013 at 10:11 am

      The Author said he and the cars were doing 10-15 mph, so no speeding involved. I think the design is much worse than before, yes from the car lane you would think the bikes continue right.

      I bike it every weekday and am not timid in traffic, fyi.

      Also the crossing is after a crest in the road, there are so many crossings around town just after a crest I have no idea what PBOT is thinking.

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    • matt picio November 21, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Speed humps aren’t permitted for that type of road classification.

      Personally, I don’t like the “S” curve, and I have some concerns about visibility, both of which I will bring up at the next county bike/ped meeting.

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  • Marc Charbonneau November 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Still much better than crossing the merge lane on the west side of the Morrison bridge.

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  • Nathan November 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    They should have put the bollards straight and used green paint on the crossing section, and put in a yield sign instead of just a yellow bikes/peds sign.

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    • dmc November 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      I agree. The bollards should have kept a straight line on the right side of the vehicle lane before and after the off ramp. It would eliminate the impression that the bike lane veers right and continues down the off ramp.

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      • dwainedibbly November 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm

        I was going to say that perhaps the bollards/pickets/whatever should just end sooner, to give people in cars a better view, but keeping them in a straight line would have something of the same effect.

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        • Easy November 20, 2013 at 9:23 pm

          Continuing the bollards straight would also make a sharper turn for cars with a smaller radius, so they would have to slow down before they turn and cross the bike path.

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          • dave November 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

            I never thought about it that hard before, but when I rode that area prior to these changes I always continued straight and crossed the vehicle lane early rather than take the (then just painted) curved path – I felt much more visible that way, and had a good opportunity to merge with and through whatever auto traffic was there. The only time I’ve ridden it since it seemed much less friendly in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

            It does seem like given that what’s really happening is the bike lane is continuing straight and auto traffic is turning across it, the layout should reflect that better. It’s clearly been laid out to try and reverse that assumption, and put cyclists in the inferior position of crossing a continuous vehicle lane. No surprise then that people both on bikes and in cars are getting confused and worse, injured.

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            • Ben November 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm

              Yep, two or three revisions ago I did exactly this, even though the bike lane veered off to the right, I used to just keep going in a straight line. I’ve ridden the new one once, and it is horrifying. I can’t believe there haven’t been more collisions there.

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    • Suburban November 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      It seems the old yield sign would work just fine reinstalled, not just sitting in a warehouse.

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  • mh November 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Signalize it. Flashing yellow always, sensor in bike lane triggers a red light for any turning vehicles.

    Since the reconfiguration, I approach that crossing dead slow.

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    • Mike November 20, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      If you are going to put a red light for cars it would only be fair to do the same for bikes right?

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      • Ian November 21, 2013 at 8:30 am

        Traffic signaling isn’t about fairness, it’s about safety.

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        • matt picio November 21, 2013 at 10:36 am

          Traffic signaling isn’t about fairness OR safety, it’s about maximizing throughput on all signalled approaches. If it were about fairness and safety, then pedestrian walk signals wouldn’t be dependent on pressing a button, nor dependent on magnetic sensors.

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          • Vinny November 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

            Safety and pedestrian delay are also valid reasons for a traffic signal. Vehicle throughput is only 3 of the 8 warrants.

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      • PorterStout November 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

        Hm, fairness. Check out how many of the comments say “I avoid that intersection for safety reasons” in response to this or many of the other articles on this blog. How many times do you hear drivers making a similar statement?

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    • jeff November 21, 2013 at 9:10 am

      the hawthorne bridge would be gridlock for 2 hours every night if that had intersection had a red light.

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      • Jane November 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

        Let them sit in it if they so choose then. A delay to motorists is of far less importance than peoples’ safety.

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      • VTRC November 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

        I don’t think it would. There’s a limit to how many cars you can put into MLK because of the light at the bottom of that ramp.

        Besides, a collision would ruin everybody’s commute for the night.

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      • Paul in the 'couve November 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm

        We are looking at cars heading SOUTH on MLK after crossing the Hawthorn. For people heading further south than division, there are already other options, for them Hawthorn is possibly a relief valve for traffic on Powell / Ross Island Bridge, but isn’t naturally superior. Anyone heading further east than could just as easily continue east on Hawthorn. So really how many drivers would be really inconvenienced by slower or more complicated access to MLK south from the Hawthorn?

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  • Kari Schlosshauer November 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    IMHO the signage needs to be vastly enhanced and improved. I’ve always been wary of that crossing because the “signal” (sign and flashing yellow) for the cars only shows up beyond where the crossing is, is very small and low — it’s almost as if it’s been placed for the cyclists to see, not the cars.

    It would be better if there were an initial sign much further back (200 feet?) where drivers can see it and anticipate what’s coming up. Especially if you’ve never driven that route before, it’s a shocking surprise when you figure out what’s going on with the crossing/yielding/bollards situation there.

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  • spare_wheel November 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    That intersection is ridiculously dangerous. I always take the lane on the east bound ramp. Always.

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    • El Biciclero November 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Ding-ding. Right answer. To codify this, the bike lane should move over to share the bus lane at the bus stop, then continue to the left of what now appears to be “no-man’s land, while the striped “no-man’s land” should become an exit-only lane after the bus stop. Drivers have to merge across the bike lane to get into the exit lane, but this is a much more obvious move than having bikes stay far right, then jog across fast-moving exit traffic.

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  • Shoemaker November 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    As far as signage goes, There used to be a “Yield to Bikes” sign right there above the flashing yellow. It was recently replaced by the one that just features a person walking and a bicycle.

    This is the most heavily traveled bridge for bicycles in the country. Just close the off ramp.

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    • Reza November 21, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      That actually makes a lot of sense. Why not force everyone going south on OR 99E to use the Morrison Bridge? That bridge has been more or less ceded to motorists anyway and will likely never be a bike-friendly connection as long as the I-5 interchange remains in place.

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    • Carl November 21, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Most recent count puts the Williamsburg Bridge in NYC at 6100/day, which is about 500 more than the Hawthorne.


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  • nuovorecord November 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    This crossing is why I peel off the bridge and connect to Clay via the Springwater, even though it takes longer and involves a hill. I’ve never felt comfortable using Hawthorne east bound past the ramp to the Springwater. I hope Mr. Batten heals quickly!

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    • Alex Reed November 21, 2013 at 7:23 am

      I tried that for a while but found it just as stressful. The pavement on Clay is so bad that I had to avoid large cracks parallel to my path. With some people driving way too fast on that street (many using it as a shortcut to/from the Water Ave interchange near Morrison I suspect) I just wasn’t comfortable there. Neighborhood greenway fail. I’ve called it in to the City. Last time was almost a year ago now. No action.

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      • Reza November 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm

        Indeed. Clay is just an awful street for bicycles.

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  • Charley Gee November 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    I ride through the crossing every day and it is one of those areas that makes me think “wow, we put a lot of faith into our fellow human beings to know what to do and to be able to do it.”

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    • BIKELEPTIC November 21, 2013 at 12:55 am

      Don’t you have any fantastic advice about slapping a lawsuit on the County? Technically you could make a (is it civil?) case of it because though the driver is still accountable for their actions; perhaps with better signage and proper bike lane that could have been avoided. And with their recent eff-up (the ill-fated bike speed bumps) they’re not in a good position to say that they’re making good infrastructure decisions.

      Go Home County Planners! You’re Drunk!

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  • dan November 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Ouch, a broken elbow sounds incredibly painful. I agree there are design issues at that intersection — I would have laid it out very differently — but as a cyclist (i.e., the party who will lose in any collision), I also make certain that motor vehicles are stopped / yielding before crossing the lane there.

    Looking back before crossing the lane has saved me from being hit there by a car doing easily 40 mph that didn’t even slow down (note, this was before the redesign). Since that experience, I wouldn’t even consider crossing without signaling, looking and confirming that cars are stopped or stopping.

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  • SJ November 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    It’s an awful design now. There’s too much going on with these vertical eyesores that only hinder drivers seeing riders. Before, at least there was a clear line of sight. When will Portland favor good, simple design over throwing bollards, bumps, and boxes (whose designs vary and confuse drivers and riders alike) at every perceived “problem” ? *detouring to the Steel, even if it means going way out of my way.

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    • matt picio November 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

      SJ – “Portland” is not the county, and vice-versa. The current bridge design is the result of county planners. If you really dislike it, come to the county Bike/Ped committee meeting on the 2nd Wednesday of the month and make your voice heard. It’s very rare for members of the public to show up, so people’s voice AREN’T being heard except through Bikeportland comments.

      The public comment period is one of the first items on the agenda at eash meeting. 6:30pm, 2nd Wednesday, County building at Hawthorne & Grand.

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      • Carl November 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm

        …and, while some county planners will probably read this, it’s not safe to assume that the many many comments here will be heard by anyone who has the power to change this design.

        Matt’s right. People need to speak up if they want change. Commenting on the internet isn’t speaking up.

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  • Mindful Cyclist November 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I took the Hawthorne Br one day going home for a change of scenery and was suprised to see this. My first thuoght almost was that I was going to have to exit off and go on to MLK.

    I worried it may give the drivers the same idea. It seemed better when the path was much more direct and did not have the curve.

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  • dan November 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    That could work pretty well! Even better, sync the light with the Grand light at the bottom of the viaduct — no more burning off a full head of steam by stopping at Grand.

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    • Nathan November 20, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      That’s actually not a bad idea… putting a light in on the bridge, synced to the light on grand. One bike-specific light and one turn-lane light; let the rest of the lanes proceed to the intersection. Let the bike light turn green about 5s before the light at grant, and make the turn light red. Better yet if it could sync the turn light up to the light at Clay & MLK too.

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  • BURR November 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Um, I told you so??? I no longer use this facility and consider the new design unsafe.

    On top of the flaws in the design described by Mr. Batten, the changes the county made now cause motor vehicle traffic to back up further in the evening than previously, no doubt resulting in increased motorist frustration and potentially unsafe behavior when they finally do reach the off-ramp.

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  • Granpa November 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I ride that intersection at least 3 times a week and always make sure the car driver sees me by making eye contact. I see cars and bike breeze through the crossing all the time and have wondered when someone would get creamed. Considering the possibilities a broken elbow is small damage (although I agree W/ Dan that it has got to hurt!)

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  • colton November 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Holy cow, I would never have guessed that the cars were expected to yield to a bike going 10 MPH. To me, that sounds like shooting across a lane of traffic. Lawful or not, it doesn’t sound like a very good bet to me.

    From the perspective of both driver and cyclist, I would expect the bike to be prepared to come to a complete stop unless they can determine that the car is going to stop/yield. I do expect that most cars would recognize the situation and come to a stop.

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    • tony tapay
      tony tapay November 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      I’ve done it for years and it’s never been a problem. I can see how the bollards make it worse for a variety of reasons.

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    • jeff November 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

      made worse due to the fact that generally cars merge with other vehicles from the right, not the opposite direction as happens at this intersection. without any significant signage and with driver conditioning/expectations of typical road use, this type of thing will probably happen again.

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  • kww November 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Force the cars to SLOW down to bicycle speed to eliminate the speed differential. Right now, the exit for the cars encourages speed. A very bad design.

    PBOT should have a bike signal there and a dedicated third lane for cars (the space is there). Very similar to the signal at the west side of the Broadway Bridge.

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  • whyat November 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I crawl through this intersection when I have to ride it. It got a ‘what were they thinking!?’ the first time I rode through it. There is a tiny ‘Yield to bikes’ sign, but if a driver were looking anywhere else they’d miss it. Yet another over engineered solution that fails. I try not to be bitter about changes like this- but seriously- what were they thinking?

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  • ChamoisKreme November 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    the sign in the first picture looks like it’s telling drivers that peds and bikes are going to turn right and go down the ramp, don’t worry.

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    • BURR November 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      It looks like they actually took down the previous sign which said quite clearly that motorists are supposed to yield to cyclists.

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  • was carless November 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    How about a merge marker int he car lane (those triangle/sawtooth white things) along with maybe removing 1/3 of the bollards to enhance visibility? That might make it more obvious.

    Also, a yield sign would be a good thing.

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    • Todd Boulanger November 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      The term you are searching for is “sharks teeth”. It would add another bit of information to communicate to the driver about their responsibility to yield.

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  • MaxD November 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    This bridge is designed like a freeway, complete with high-speed on- and off-ramps. This is inappropriate urban design. Close these stupid ramps, and let cars get off the bridge and use the grid (Grand, Main, MLK, all lefts- no right hooks)to get where they are going. Also, get some reasonable speed limits on our bridges AND some enforcement. People drive super f-ing fast, and the design encourages, and enables it. Those ramps are a relic and only serve the purpose of moving traffic faster than is safe.

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    • matt picio November 21, 2013 at 10:44 am

      MaxD – how do you propose getting cars down on to 99E if the ramps are removed? It’s easy to call it “bad urban design”, but those ramps were put in 50+ years ago. Uncomfortable, yes. Bad design, surely – but there wasn’t a lot of *good* design between 1940 and 1970. What it’s not is particularly lethal. Cars need to get onto 99E somehow, and if the ramp is removed, they are going to do it in new, creative, and potentially unsafe ways which will likely be worse that what currently exists.

      That said, I’m personally not happy with the sight issues caused by the bollards.

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      • MaxD November 21, 2013 at 11:01 am

        direct cars heading south to turn left on Grand, left on Main, and left on MLK. No right hooks, no competition with bikes,. Main could be one way westbound here to accommodate large vehicles. Some decent signal timing could make this pretty attractive, too.

        The ramp could become bike/ped/park space. Innner SE has very little outdoor gathering space. With the streetcar and tons of redevelopment the area has seen, there is increasing demand for park and plaza space. A sloping paved ramp with little seating terraces overlooking the central green could be pretty sweet. Or tear it down and redevelop the bridgehead with some mixed-use building or even housing for homeless people! Anything would be better than maintaining a high speed auto device in this congested of an area!

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  • Alexis November 20, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Wow. I haven’t been that way in a while, and this looks like an awful choice in what was otherwise a great improvement. Did they take out the existing sign saying yield to bikes?

    I always used to take a more direct path there because I felt the curved one shortened the danger zone at the expense of making it more dangerous because you can’t select a time to cross when the yield looks safe. If they are forcing people to take that path now, there needs to be a very strong yield message to drivers, which there clearly isn’t.

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    • Alex Reed November 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      They did, they replaced it with what I think is a more typical yellow sign with bike, a pedestrian, and an arrow. Lost the cars must yield message.

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  • John Lascurettes November 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    At minimum, there should be “sawtooth” triangles in front of the zebra stripes to indicate that cars should yield to bikes and pedestrians. Not that I think we should complicate the area even MORE with signage and symbols.

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    • John Lascurettes November 20, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      I don’t think most car drivers know that they’re supposed to yield to bikes in these mixing zones. I get the same thing on the Burnside and Broadway bridges routinely, where I have to yell and swerve to avoid a driver that aggressively encroaches into the mixing zone before bike traffic has cleared it.

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    • Sho November 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm

      An issue with the sawtooth here is that cars typically aren’t looking right at the ground here where the crosswalk is. It also makes it harder for them to see anything painted on the ground since it is at point the ramp down starts and starting around 4:30p it gets pretty bumper to bumper. I also agree most drivers don’t understand what a sawtooth means.

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    • Todd Boulanger November 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Term: Yield Line aka Sharks Teeth


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  • tony tapay
    tony tapay November 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I totally agree with his assessment. Those bollards don’t help and definitely could lead a driver to think that those on bikes are being funneled down the ramp too.

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  • Pat November 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    They need to get rid of those bollards. It makes it a lot harder for drivers to see bikes on the other side. The intersection was way safer before the “improvements.”

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    • jj November 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      I agree that they make it much harder for drivers to see bikes – I was driving across the other night and it was VERY hard to see bikes there – luckily I knew I had just passed some so I stopped and waited, but if I hadn’t been watching for them before I reached that point, I may not have seen them in the rain/dark, even though they all had lights. Not a fan of the bollards.

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    • Chris I November 21, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Well, we know we can count on some law-abiding motorist to remove the bollards for us in the near future. I think the ones on the Lovejoy ramp only lasted a few weeks.

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  • Faux Porteur November 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Once again, poorly engineered separated bike paths have led to a serious injury. There should not be separated (by bollards, parked cars, “candlesticks”, sidewalk, etc) cyclepaths at intersections/off&on ramps. Its out-of-sight-out-of-mind for people in cars. There isn’t really a great solution for the Hawthrone bridge besides taking out the off-ramp. Giong back to what we had for the last decade+ (standard bike lane crossing off-ramp) would be safer.

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    • spare_wheel November 21, 2013 at 7:54 am

      The bollards have cut down on cyclists merging left, which was, IMO, the real intention behind their installation.

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  • Alex Reed November 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Noo! Not Carl! He’s my ex-coworker and he is awesome!! Sorry to hear that man, I hope you heal up quickly!

    My first reaction to the new bollards and all was positive, but as I’ve ridden it more I’ve gotten more negative. This crash and the thoughts around it make me definitely negative on this. Yielding needs to be clear here. A light would be awesome. Failing that, a bike lane that goes straight through versus a car lane with a big turn right before the bike lane (rather than vice versa which is what we have now) would do a better job of showing that cars should yield to bikes.

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  • Sho November 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    As the city has proven many a times, there won’t be change until there’s a death. You can take a look at the older post on here when this was first reconfigured and many praised it while quite a few also criticized it for the same elements or errors that are being observed now.

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  • Aaron November 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    My mom always taught me to look both ways before crossing the street. Seems like this would apply here.

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  • JJJJ November 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    The car lane needs painted yield markers indicating where to stop.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 20, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    The big “Yield To Bikes” sign should come back. Unclear why it was removed?

    Otherwise, I ride this 2-3 X a week and don’t see either drivers or cyclists acting any differently than with the old crossing. Personally, I look over my left shoulder as I approach the crossing, maybe raise my arm; if I saw a car barreling along, I’d hit my brakes; but I so far have not encountered that. I don’t sail into the crossing without looking; maybe some cyclists do, it is a bad habit to say the least.

    Worst case, if problems continue here, PBOT could put a stop sign at the crossing, make it a mandatory stop for cars.

    (But I think it is a bit preliminary for that. There are accidents at every intersection and crossing, no matter how safe; there will be accidents at this one, no matter what controls or signage are installed. One accident doesn’t mean you frantically redesign the crossing.)

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  • Livellie November 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    This crossing went from a moderate risk to a very high risk courtesy of these new “improvements”. What were they thinking indeed! Bunch incompetent nincompoop designers…shame on them. Carl, I hope you recover soon.

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  • GlowBoy November 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    IIRC there were at least two “Yield to bikes” sign at this ramp, not just the one shown in BP’s photo above. As others have said it’s fundamentally flawed to have an outdated 50s-style freeway ramp here. Of course forcing cars to make a 90 degree turn down at 99E will cause ridiculous right-hook problems, so maybe it’s better to work with the ramp but do something to drastically reduce vehicle speeds so it doesn’t feel like a freeway ramp.

    I had thought that the new design might improve things by forcing interaction to take place at more of a 90 degree angle, but removing the Yield to Bikes signs and putting in bollards that make it seem like bikes are separated when they are really just about to cross cars’ paths are both proving to be really bad ideas.

    For the record, I don’t feel particularly unsafe at this crossing, even with the new design. I always use caution and check to make sure no one is barreling through, but almost never have had a car fail to stop for me in recent years.

    This spot was a lot, lot, LOT worse back in the 90s before they put up all the Yield to Bikes signs, and before drivers were as aware of bikes as they are today.

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    • spare_wheel November 21, 2013 at 7:43 am

      In my experience the row of bollards has led to a significant increase in speeds on the ramp. I’m acutely aware of this since I refuse to use this ridiculously dangerous facility and still merge left into traffic. I am far less concerned about being hit from behind by same direction traffic than I am about being hit by a clueless or distracted motorist at a blind intersection on a de facto free way ramp. And let’s be honest, this new facility had little to do with protecting cyclists and much to do with preventing cyclists from slowing down motorists.

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    • Adam H. November 21, 2013 at 8:21 am

      Put up a traffic light, and force cars to stop further back from bikes so there is a clear line of sight.

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    • MaxD November 21, 2013 at 10:35 am

      The ramp on Hawthorne is to head south on MLK. If it were closed, autos could be directed left on Grand, then left on Main and left on Mlk- no right hooks, minimal contact with bike. Main could become one-way for this block to facilitate large vehicles.

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  • Luke November 20, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Yikes, I fly through this every afternoon. So far I’ve only had one close call, but after reading this story I’ll slow down and approach with more caution.

    Get well soon Carl.

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  • was carless November 20, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    This may be pertinent to future discussions about red-light running motorists:


    ‘”Not all bad drivers are criminals,” said Kelling. “But a lot of criminals are bad drivers.” He and other panelists cited several studies that show people who run red lights, for instance, often have other violations such as speeding on their record. And speeding is one of the riskiest behaviors that drivers can engage in.’

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  • hazel November 21, 2013 at 1:12 am

    I rode over the Hawthorne for the first time tonight since the change. Such an awful design. Because of the curve I couldn’t really see if there were any turning cars until I was in the intersection. I also found it safer to cross the turn lane early if there weren’t any cars close to me and now I can’t. Seems really confusing for drivers too. I’m glad this isn’t a regular part of my commute.

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  • kittens November 21, 2013 at 3:59 am

    What exactly were these bollards supposed to do? The auto lane is so vastly spacious that surely it was not to enforce mode separation. I think they look nice and give riders a false sense of security, sort of like those lights in the roadway on Burnside.

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    • Andrew Holtz November 21, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Actually, before the bollards were installed, there were many, many complaints about cars cutting across the painted lane dividers.

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      • davemess November 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

        Yes I remember just a month or two ago, so many here praising the new design and hoping they would permanently leave the bollards in. My how the tides have changed.

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        • kittens November 22, 2013 at 2:15 am

          Seems there is a lot of experimentation by PBOT. Some they get right, some they don’t. Nothing wrong with trying to make things better as long as you admit a mistake and fix it!

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          • BURR November 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

            except in this case they took something that had been working reasonably well for over ten years and screwed it up by messing with it.

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          • davemess November 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

            And major differences of opinion on this site. Just goes to show you can’t please everyone.

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  • bobcycle November 21, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Under the old design I used to check over my shoulder and cross earlier if clear and later if autos were coming, the bollards take away this option. Also, I was wondering now that the yield to bike signs are removed are cars legally required to yield? I thought they only had to yield to peds and cyclists going at a pedestrian pace. Am I wrong? I was told that similar signage at Going and 33rd and Going and MLK did not require cars to yield to bikes.

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    • John Lascurettes November 22, 2013 at 8:45 am

      They need to held before turning across a bike lane (which is marked here as a “mixing zone” with the zebra stripes), not that most drivers even know this.

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  • Andrew Holtz November 21, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Terribly sorry to hear about Carl’s injury.

    The Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizen Advisory Committee (of which I am a member) reviewed draft lane & marking changes on the Hawthorne Bridge, though the staff makes the final decisions. I’m sure we will again review things, now that we have some real world experience… good and bad.

    Carl (any other member of the public) is welcome to attend our monthly meetings. The staff liaison is Kate McQuillan. Her phone number is 503-988-5050, extension 29397. Information about the committee and county bike/ped contacts is available on the Multnomah County website. A direct link to committee information is: http://web.multco.us/transportation-planning/bicycle-and-pedestrian-citizen-advisory-committee

    Heal quickly, Carl. And come join the discussion. (By the way, the committee will be seeking new members in the coming months.)

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) November 21, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Thanks, Andrew. I’ve added this information to the post.

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    • Alexis November 21, 2013 at 11:27 am

      I’m curious to know whether this raised any question during the design phase, and if not, why not? Who else had the opportunity to comment, besides the committee — was there a public open house? I seem to remember seeing some plans for this design (on BikePortland even) but I don’t remember the details of the process or whether anyone saw this part of it and/or raised an alarm.

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  • Adam H. November 21, 2013 at 8:20 am

    If you are going to put a red light for cars it would only be fair to do the same for bikes right?
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    I think a standard traffic light would make the most sense here.

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    • davemess November 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      That’s a two edged sword. Frankly, as cyclist, I don’t want to have to wait for a red here, anymore than cars do.

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  • TJ November 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Were there major accidents on the Hawthorne Bridge prior to the redesign? In many cases it makes the most since for cyclist to take the lane as was always the case with the east side of the bridge (I haven’t used Hawthorne for commuting since ’08). There’s enough bicycle traffic there that community habits exist. In the immediate, I forget the economic term for this. Separate infrastructure is always rad, but creating situations where car drivers assume they have the right away is irresponsible. Hooks and intersections is where cyclist get hit, so we create one? Rarely cyclist get it from behind –presuming the speed of traffic allows for taking the lane. I’d rather a driver be frustrated by what they can see than collide with something they couldn’t or failed to see. Too, separating the lane is just going speed-up the auto traffic there.

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    • spare_wheel November 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      my impression is that average traffic speeds have gone up 5-10 mph since the bollard installation.

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      • jeff November 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

        really? have you stood out there with a radar gun to confirm this?

        from what I see traveling through here each and every day is generally slow moving cars and backups on the bridge at rush hour.

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        • spare_wheel November 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm

          no radar gun needed. before installation of the new bollards i used to ride at a cadence of 90-100 and kept up with most traffic. now when i take the lane many vehicles blow right by me.

          “from what I see traveling through here each and every day”

          and i bet you do not ride across at 7-8 pm like i typically do.

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  • BURR November 21, 2013 at 11:17 am

    “Though protected bikeways can be great for comfortable biking, they have the opposite effect when the designs aren’t intuitively usable by everyone on the road.”

    The failure of this redesign points out that, while protected bikeways might make cycling more comfortable in some instances, it is still the intersections where conflicts will occur, and an intersection between a protected bike lane and motor vehicle traffic is even harder to design safely and correctly than an intersection not involving a protected bike lane.

    Personally, I think this intersection was designed by the same county staff who decided that rumble strips for bikes was a good idea in the westbound direction, and that that person should be relieved of their duties before they screw up any more bike infrastructure.

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  • Skid November 21, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I have to wonder if the people who design the stuff have ever swung a leg over a bicycle and rode in the rain. The last thing you want to do while leaned into a turn is hit markings on pavement. They are slick, and your bike is at angle to the ground. I think we all know what is likely to happen next.

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    • spare_wheel November 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      wet paint and thermoplastic definitely increase your chances of sliding out…especially at an angle.

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  • Ted Buehler November 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    They definitely need to put the sign back up with the “right turning cars yield to bikes in the green lane” diagram.

    As I understand it, the new signs indicate that it is a multi use path crossing a street, where
    * Peds have the right of way before cars, but
    * cars have the right of way before bikes.

    That, or, put up a stop sign for bikes so they don’t get creamed.

    This is an experimental new design. It’s not found in the MUTCD diagrams, Oregon Highway Design Manual, NACTO Bicycle Design Manual, or anywhere else. Experimentation is good. But, if and only if, you make the signage and lane markings as clear as possible, as consistent as possible, as smoothly functioning as possible, and as UNIFORM as possible with the well-tested designs in the manuals.

    This crossing, with no yield or stop control in either direction, fails the uniformity test and the functionality test.

    Two high-speed traffic streams crossing each other with no traffic control signage indicating who has to yield to whom = fail.

    Ted Buehler

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  • John Landolfe November 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    In the photo second from top you can see that the driver’s sightline just barely reaches the top of the candlesticks–much lower than the sightline of the person on the bike. I think this illustrates the risk of visual obstruction.

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  • MaxD November 21, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    A first step to addressing this would be shortening the bollards to 16″ tall to improve visibility. Then close the dumb ramp to autos!

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  • Todd Boulanger November 21, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    The question the County and its BAC must begin to ask itself is, has it used all the tools in the toolbox that are available [and correctly] for this facility given the very high volumes of bike traffic?

    Here are some more recent links to the 2009 MUTCD Yield Line/ ‘Sharks Teeth’ Guidance:



    Generally you try to wait ~6 months to allow the facility users to get used to a change in design before you modify it…unless there is found to be some major deficiency or oversight.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    And given the continued bikeway design faux pas on this Bridge of late …the question that the City of Portland, cyclists and the area business leaders must ask is …

    …it is time for the City to move to “take over”* responsibility of the Hawthorne Bridge? …

    …so that it can be better “managed” to not be a barrier or safety risk in the City’s fulfillment of its 25% bike commute mode split.

    It is no longer ‘1890’, [or 1950] and the bridge [and viaduct] does not serve separate independent jurisdictions anymore … and is a primarily a local traffic facility that has equal transportation value for bike ped and transit trips vs. motorized vehicles.

    *Purchase, trade, etc.

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  • Joe November 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    some drive way to fast at the spot. if you know bikes are on the road its simple math to just eazy up and slow down.

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  • El Biciclero November 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Half-assed “protection” strikes again. If we actually gave bikes some priority, we wouldn’t have situations like this. In my view, these bollards serve as a bird cage to keep the fragile little cyclist-birds away from the mean old car-cats. Only this bird cage has an open door at the end with cats just waiting to pounce. What we need to do is to de-claw the cats and put them on leashes so the birds can fly freely.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 21, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    How many bike-car collisions actually happened here per year, on average? Anyone know?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 22, 2013 at 9:31 am

      No ones knows because bicycle-involved collisions are vastly underreported. It’s a big problem that no one has really tried to solve to my knowledge.

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  • Mike November 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    The only way to make it safe is for both the cars AND bikes to have a traffic signal. Allowing bikes to cross traffic is a poor design and only inviting more injuries.

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  • JL November 21, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    I think that the ramp should be closed to Autos. Any cars going south there need to have chosen to go over the Ross Island bridge from west to east side.
    Removing the ramp for autos would also help relieve congestion on MLK for cars heading south that are merging over to head west over the Ross Island bridge. Think about it…

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    • davemess November 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      By that same logic though, any cyclists heading north of Hawthorne should have taken the Morrison or Burnside bridges.

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      • Paul in the 'couve November 22, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        Except that both of those bridges also have serious problems for cyclists especially with east side connections. In order to make that argument valid at least one of those bridges would need to actually be a better, more convenient and safer alternative to the Hawthorn is currently. As it is, the Hawthorn and the Broadway are the two bridges that have most nearly adequate cycling facilities.

        Meanwhile they all work for cars. All of these connections are optimized for motor vehicles. None of them are really great for cycling. If we had 5 bridges that really were quality facilities for bicycling, it would be a much different story.

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  • SD November 21, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    How many different bureaus are there that are allowed to “design” bike infrastructure?
    Which one does the best job?
    Do they talk to each other?
    Is this the same group the put down rumble strips?
    The Hawthorne bridge is becoming a good example of what not to do.

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  • Zaphod November 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    It looks pretty ambiguous whether a driver should stop or not.

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  • Eric November 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Most recent count puts the Williamsburg Bridge in NYC at 6100/day, which is about 500 more than the Hawthorne.
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    Kind of non sequitur but that’s actually a pretty amazing statistic. NYC has essentially 3 bike-able bridges crossing it’s major waterway (Billburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn) and a population about 15x that of Portland (~8x if you only count Manhattan and Brooklyn) compared to Portland’s 4 (5 if you count St John’s which I wouldn’t on a weekday). Yet, for their busiest bike bridge they only get 500 more bikes crossing it a day than Portland does for it’s busiest bridge.

    And as horrible as that crossing is (and it is…I, like many used to straighten out the curve because it felt safer crossing where you were more visible), at least PPD isn’t parking cruisers and meter maid trucks in the bike lane like they routinely do on the various NYC bridge bike lanes.

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    • Paul in the 'couve November 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      Portland’s stats are definitely impressive.

      In justice to New York however, from entrance to exit on the Williamsburg the bike route is 1.5 miles. Manhattan Bridge is also 1.5 miles.

      The hawthorn is only .3 miles and despite the limitations, both ends connect to very nice MUP paths. On the Hawthorn 1.5 miles takes you from Naito to S.E. 20th. Given the distances, and even worse connection problems at both ends of the NY bridges, and that in New York there are multiple subway, ferry and water taxi options for covering the same distance it isn’t too surprising that we are beating them.

      It’s still cool that we have higher counts given the population but if there was a 0.3 mile connection from Brooklyn to Manhattan it would have way more traffic.

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  • Trek 3900 November 26, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Looks like they need a couple of signs. One to say: “Bike Crossing 50 Yards Ahead”. And then a Yield sign with another “Bike Crossing” sign. AND both need to be before the end of the white pickets.

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  • Spiffy December 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    I rode this yesterday and also thought it was a stupid design…

    it should simply be a straight bike lane like every other one… the bollards obscure riders (I hate to think of the danger recumbent riders) and confuse drivers… the curve right and then turn left of the bike lane do nothing but slow riders and cause slippage issues in the rain…

    it’s a horrible design and the city should have known better…

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  • Gezellig December 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    As others have pointed out, any time a bikeway crosses a busy highway on/off-ramp there should be signalized lights. For both cars and bikes. It’s worth waiting a bit extra for the massive increases in safety for everyone involved and also encourages people to bike who would never have before.

    These kinds of approaches are standard practice in the Netherlands and work perfectly. Video example below:


    Obviously the actual design shown there in Utrecht is different from a narrow viaduct where space is at a premium but as others have mentioned in the thread the lights could be timed with those on Grand (and maybe even the earlier eastbound lights on the bridge before eastbound traffic crosses the water) to prevent cars from backing up at the onramp.

    As shown in the Utrecht video above, the potential problem with that junction is that there’s too much space (rather than too little) leaving a potentially time-intensive crossing by bikes waiting at lights but everything is expertly timed for both cars and bikes so this isn’t really a problem.

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