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First look: New buffered bike lanes on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway

Posted by on December 2nd, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Newly buffered bike lane on Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy.
(Photos by Barbara Stedman)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has been busy in southwest Portland lately. We recently shared their plans for a new protected bike path on the Terwilliger “teardrop” and BikePortland reader Barbara Stedman has been keeping us in the loop on a host of other, bike-friendly changes going on in the area.

Stedman is a daily bike rider who lives in Hillsdale with her daughter Helena and husband Kenneth (we profiled their morning commute last year).

Stedman has recently noticed a new sidewalk and bike lane on SW Sunset near the Hillsdale Library and she’s eagerly watching progress on PBOT’s project on SW Multnomah (between 22nd and 40th) which will include a new sidewalk and cycle track. With a six-year old who rides her own bike in traffic, Stedman is also excited for the soon-to-be built SW Ilinois-Vermont neighborhood greenway project.

Today we’re going to share Stedman’s photos and thoughts on the new buffered bike lanes on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (BHH) that PBOT installed about a month ago

The newly buffered lanes go about 2 miles from SW Dosch to about 45th. To get room for this extra, bike-only space, PBOT simply narrowed the existing standard vehicle lanes (there are four total, plus a center turn lane) by one foot (from 12 to 11 feet wide). Stedman reports that the newly widened bike lanes are also expected to be used by people walking, since sidewalks are absent along much of this corridor.

These changes to BHH come out of PBOT’s High Crash Corridor program. With little in the way of traffic calming, BHH is notorious for its high speed driving. The widened bike lanes are just one in a host of measures PBOT will take to tame BHH in the coming months and years.

Stedman is happy to see them; but she calls it just “a small step” in the right direction. “They offer a little bit more protection on a fast paced highway, but nothing that would encourage the “interested, but concerned” or children. I wouldn’t voluntarily ride longer stretches on it.” To really get people out on bikes, Stedman would have liked to have seen a full-fledged cycle track.

It’s interesting to see how PBOT addresses safety problems on BHH. It has a similar profile to nearby Barbur Blvd, but that notoriously dangerous road is managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

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Adron @ Transit Sleuth
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Oh man. I mean, it’s kind of nice that they built them. But seriously, this is kind of a bad joke.

No actual fixes to the road, no clear physical buffering, just paint. Better than nothing I guess, but damn… people are still going to die for lack of doing it right.

I love how it’s always, cars cars cars, oh yeah, people can walk in it too, “see now we’ve thought of everybody”…

:-/

I’m gonna shutup now cuz’ I got nothing else positive to say about that paint on the road. o_O

Terry D
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Terry D

What is the actual width of the bike lane and the actual width of the “buffer”? It is difficult to tell from the pictures.

Peter Michaelson
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Peter Michaelson

How about law enforcement? Speeding tickets? Too unpopular?

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

This is a good start at addressing another poorly designed out of date arterial…

…does anyone know if PBoT will be adding any reflectorized RPMs in the buffer to help visually segregate the lanes?…this is very helpful for higher speed arterials during these dark and wet months.

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

I, too would be interested in the widths here. It seems that the bike lane hasn’t actually been widened, it has been “offset” further away from the space that cars are “supposed to” occupy. I have a new-ish bike lane in my neighborhood that looks like it was painted at a nice 6-ft width, but then a buffer line was added inside that width to create a 4- or 5-ft bike lane with a 1- to 2-ft. buffer. Sort of defeats the purpose in my view.

The few times I’ve driven BHH lately, I’ve seen plenty of other hazards that virtually eliminate the WB bike lane just after the Capitol split coming down from Hillsdale: I saw gravel and great piles of leaves narrowing the bike lane down to just the buffer in places. Maybe those spots have been cleaned up, but expecting pedestrians to use this space as well creates a de-facto painted MUP (even though pedestrian use of bike lanes is technically illegal), which is more dangerous than nothing at all. Half-assed “protection” creating an illusion of safety does no one any favors–except drivers of cars.

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

Why is the bike lane so narrow and the gutter/debris-buffer so wide? Are there any photos from the inaugural up-hill policymakers ride?

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

I rode this not long after they finished it and feel like it is much better than before. Partly that’s just the fresh paint effect though: once the paint wears down the visual separation won’t be so stark.

The only downside (maybe an upside?) is now it is even more obvious where the MultCo/WashCo border is (the buffer ends, and not long after that the bike lane vanishes).

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

And people on bikes are supposed to share the “bike” lane with people on foot?

wsbob
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wsbob

“…Stedman is happy to see them; but she calls it just “a small step” in the right direction. “They offer a little bit more protection on a fast paced highway, but nothing that would encourage the “interested, but concerned” or children. I wouldn’t voluntarily ride longer stretches on it.” To really get people out on bikes, Stedman would have liked to have seen a full-fledged cycle track. …” bikeportland

Haven’t ridden this section of the road since the buffer installation, but expect what I find will agree with Stedman’s characterization of the change. It would take very serious commitment to make it happen, but a full-fledged cycle track, physically distanced from B-H highway some 10′-15′ could be a great idea, extending all the way from Hillsdale to Beaverton.

“…It’s interesting to see how PBOT addresses safety problems on BHH. It has a similar profile to nearby Barbur Blvd, but that notoriously dangerous road is managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation.” maus/bikeportland

Okay, it’s off topic, but here’s something for you to think about, if you haven’t already: If PBOT managed Barbur, how would the city dept address safety on Barbur, in a way that corresponds with the changes made to B-H highway, which has not had its number of lanes reduced via a road diet? Possibly, existing main lanes and non-continuous bike lanes on Barbur, could be realigned to allow installation of a pavement line designated buffer area. That still leaves the bridge areas of the road, where the road narrows; involving a hugely expensive and/or, dramatic alteration of the road to achieve.

manville
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manville

Hate to say it but Beaverton has the best bike lanes in the metro region.

spencer
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spencer

the route now “feels” much safer with traffic only drifting over the buffer line, and not the bike lane, thus keeping me alive to write this post.

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

Buffered? Bah. My instincts tell me that no painted buffer under four feet is going to add any measure of protection from drivers who drift. Put in some candlesticks (with teeth) and drivers might learn to respect the “buffer”.

John Liu
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John Liu

Drivers tend to drift into bike lanes when the lanes are on the inside of curves. I think some rumble treatment (strips, raised reflectors, etc) might be helpful there.

Keith
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Keith

PBOT needs to encourage Washington County and ODOT (who have jurisdiction over Scholls Ferry and Oleson roads) to provide good connections with the bike lanes on these streets. Currently, the Raleigh Hills area is a disaster, discouraging bicycling on BH Hwy.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I would like to see them install rumble bumps as a standard practice on higher speed roads like this. Other than collisions at intersections, my biggest fear is a distracted driver drifting to the right and nailing me at 50mph. ODOT just widened a section of outer NE Sandy and applied this treatment.

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

I rode this stretch of BHH both directions several times per week up through the time change. The safety improvement was awesome but its still too sketch for me to ride it in the dark.

The bike lane is ~5ft and the buffer adds another 2ft. The 2ft buffer was taken out of each of the travel lanes (now down to 11ft each). It’s easily the best safety improvement in the metro area per $ spent in my opinion.

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

> Agree. BHH is disgraceful to all except car drivers. While the buffered lanes help ease the anxiety a bit, the speed differential between bikes and cars is enormous;

It constantly amazes me that Portland is lauded for having a non auto focus, yet we have a road network that not only allows motor vehicles to go everywhere, but sometimes even has multiple lanes in each direction for autos in the same places where we have zero lanes for people walking or biking.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Sounds like those who are criticizing the change, or don’t think this qualifies as a buffered lane, are people who DON’T have to regularly ride between Beaverton and Portland. Listen, those of us who do are forced to choose between some really bad options. This is far from ideal, but it’s a big improvement for us. Personally I still won’t ride BHH in the dark (I go over Sylvan in the winter, even though the route is longer, steeper and slower). But now I will ride the much-faster BHH route in daylight, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that this has amounted to a pretty substantial improvement in my life.

For the record, this project was done around the end of August (which is why it’s already improved my life, even though I don’t ride it in the dark). Not “about a month ago” as BP is reporting here. It just took that long for BP to find out about it. I have mentioned it in the comments section a number of times, including pointing out its omission from a recent post about new bike lane activity around town, but this area’s pretty far off BP’s radar.

To those who are outraged that PBOT “expects” people to walk in these bike lanes: they already did! I find myself sharing this bike lane with at least one pedestrian almost every time I ride it. Thanks to this extra buffer, at least I’m no longer forced into the car lane to go around pedestrians now.

Yes, this bike lane still has problems. In their zeal to maintain an 11-foot car-lane width, PBOT allows the width of the buffer to fluctuate. The places where it gets narrowest also happen to be on the inside of a couple of curves that IMO were already the worst spots for cars to encroach on the bike lane.

The bigger problems with this buffered bike lane, of course, have to do with the fact that it doesn’t cross the Washington County line. Just a couple blocks before you enter MultCo, on the eastbound side you’re forced to ride in the NARROWEST bike lane I have ever seen (right in front of Key Bank, for those who want to check it out). And the Five Corners intersection is indeed a complete clusterfk as Nick has pointed out, and unavoidable as there is no possible crossing of Oleson/Scholls Ferry for nearly two miles in either direction. And then, west of there the bike lane disappears completely (well, actually, in true WashCo style it comes and goes a couple of times) even though the PAVEMENT IS WIDE ENOUGH for a continuous bike lane while maintaining 12 foot travel lanes. Way to go, ODOT!

Given the state of BHH once you cross into Washington County, these newly buffered lanes are paradise.

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

Washington County is in the process of designing and constructing a major multi-stage project at “5 Corners” that will replace the bridge over Fanno Creek on Oleson Road and provide safety and traffic capacity improvements to the entire intersection.

Joe
Guest
Joe

This is awesome BTW but we need laws that protect ppl in the bike lane some drivers like to swerve into the lane or shoot down it to get off the road fast 🙁 careful if you hug the white line while ride just because its buffered your still in danger of whats behind you. I ride Fanno from start to finish and glad they are working on some safer infra areas that end into a busy street with speeding cars… HALL RD

Joe
Guest
Joe

Cedar Hills is crazy I rode that for 3 years its madness be safe if you ride it, all I have to say.. * I take the lane and keep up with traffic no bike lane lotta place for cars to right hook some get mad but I’m just trying to get out of that spot alive

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

Buffered bike lanes are great… in the right context. Streets with moderate levels of traffic and speeds in the 25mp-ish range? Wonderful. Streets with high traffic and high speeds situated in the middle of a nation with no real legal or cultural expectations to drive safely? A joke.

Joe
Guest
Joe

yes drive safely is really not happening these days!

Jim
Guest
Jim

It’s remarkable seeing cyclists carefully riding between the two narrow lines, closer to traffic than ever before. Seems like some hashes or other marking between the double whites would have been prudent.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Also, too bad some construction project has BLOCKED the westbound bike lane – and buffer – for about 50 yards, just prior to Bertha Blvd for the last couple of weeks. There are signs that say “BIKE LANE CLOSED” and “NO PEDESTRIAN” access, but no f*cking detour posted as if we’re just supposed to teleport across their little project.

There’s almost room for a skinny bike lane next to the jersey barriers they’ve put up, or they could temporarily restripe since there’s way more than enough pavement there. But as it is we’re forced out into busy highway traffic.

Platinum my ass.

Vince
Guest

Turns out, maybe, that while buffered bike lanes sell the idea to cyclists, the real safety value lies in narrower vehicle lanes. Some great ideas based on solid research and engineering in the article above.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Great link. And applied to the road in question, it would be awesome of BHH/Capitol Blvd had 10 foot lanes at least through central Hillsdale. Many drivers really fly through that busy pedestrian district, at well above the posted 25 mph.