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First look at new, left-side buffered bike lanes on NW Everett

Posted by on August 26th, 2014 at 2:33 pm

new buffered bike lane NE Everett-14

There’s a new, 10-foot wide bike lane on NW Everett (and as you can see not everyone knows it’s for bikes only).
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

PBOT has completed a lane “reorganization” project on NW Everett Street between NW 25th and I-405. As we reported back in May, this project is the result of two factors: An understanding by the bureau that the intersection of NW Everett and 16th is unsafe due to its history of right-hook collisions; and a repaving project that gave them a golden opportunity to do something about it.

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Looking east from NW 23rd.

I spent about thirty minutes this morning taking a closer look at the new lane configuration. (As you read my observations and check out more photos, keep in mind that NW Everett is a one-way street that goes eastbound from the Nob Hill neighborhood all the way to the Willamette River. It has a gradual decline almost the entire way.)

The changes start at NW 24th, where PBOT has striped a mixing zone to encourage bicycle riders over to the left side of the street. Putting bikeways on the left is a new — yet increasingly used — tool by PBOT to help mitigate conflicts on the right side such as right-hook collisions and bus/bike conflicts. A street design update coming to N Williams later this summer will also feature a left-side bikeway.

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The new buffered bike lane on Everett starts at 23rd (new signs tell drivers in the left lane that they must turn left from Everett onto 23rd). Once on the new buffered bike lane, you notice the width right away. At seven-feet wide, the bike lane itself feels nice and wide. Then there’s a three-foot buffer. The 10 feet of width is needed, because, while PBOT removed one standard lane from the cross section, they have maintained auto parking lanes on both sides of the street. This means the new bikeway is in a door-zone — albeit a less dangerous one because it’s on the passenger side as opposed to the driver’s side.

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new buffered bike lane NE Everett-6

There were only a few bikes on Everett while I was out there.
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Green stripes at intersections.
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As this person so perfectly demonstrated, left-hooks are a possibility, but they’re a lot less likely then right-hooks because drivers have better visibility on their left side.

The buffered treatment continues for several blocks, but it goes away approaching major intersections. At NW 21st, the buffer drops and PBOT has created a “mixing zone,” an environment where riders need to be prepared to share the lane with people turning left.

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Mixing zone as you approach 21st.

At NW 19th, the bike lane narrows, the buffer goes away, and the street widens to accept an additional standard lane. Then, as Everett approaches the I-405 crossing, it disappears completely. PBOT has installed a sharrow just east of NW 14th to help transition into the different environment of the Pearl District.

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Approaching 16th, there are two standard auto lanes (instead of one) and the buffer goes away.
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At 16th you can see where the old green bike box has been scraped away. The new bike lane is in the background.
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East of 16th, prepare to share.
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Welcome to downtown Portland!

Now that we’ve taken a photo tour, here are a few of my observations:

While the new bikeway is nice and wide, it feels under-designed. There is only scant use of green paint (a few skinny strips prior to intersections), there is no physical protection (like planters, curbs, or plastic wands) or striping of any kind in the buffer zone (like hash marks or yellow color like on NE Multnomah), there is only one bicycle symbol on each block face, and no overhead signs to remind people that the left lane is only for bicycling (something I’d love to start seeing here and elsewhere).

Fortunately, PBOT says they’re still assessing the new striping and some tweaks are still possible.

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Oops.
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Oops again, but you can hardly blame them since it’s new and not very well marked as a bike lane.

With a lack of visual and/or physical cues that the left lane is for bicycling only, people use it for driving. Whether they’re swerving into the bike-only lane to avoid congestion, or to access a parking space, or simply because they’re oblivious of the legal standing that bike lanes have in Oregon — all those behaviors undermine the safe conditions we’re trying to create.

new buffered bike lane NE Everett-18

With cars backed up for 2-3 blocks, that bike lane becomes very tempting.

When PBOT did a similar treatment on SW Stark and Oak back in 2012 they also left the bike-only lanes under-designed. It took an outcry from the community for them to go back and add the green paint. With that addition, Stark and Oak are arguably the best bikeway in the central city.

Speaking of couplets… This new and improved bikeway on Everett (a one-way street eastbound) only makes it more unfortunate that we don’t have an westbound couplet on NW Flanders or Glisan. We had a golden opportunity on Flanders when former Mayor Sam Adams (then the transportation commissioner) proposed using the old Sauvie Island Bridge as a biking and walking-only bridge over I-405; but that plan was scrapped after it fell victim to mayoral politics. Today, the lack of safe bike crossings of I-405 north of Burnside remains a major gap in our network.

(UPDATE: A commenter below says a source at PBOT has informed him that they are planning a similar buffered bike lane on NW Glisan (a westbound complement to Everett) when that street is repaved. Great news!)

“This is a big improvement in my everyday cycling and I couldn’t be happier about it.”
— Brendan Ault, nearby resident who rides Everett daily

With the new cross-section having one standard lane, a similar situation will develop here as currently exists on Stark and Oak: When service vehicles like FedEx and garbage trucks double-park, the cars behind them back up. When that happens, people become impatient and they will tend to swerve over into the bike-only lane to get around the stopped traffic.

As for what the reaction from users has been so far, I’ve read nothing but positive responses. Reader Brendan Ault lives near Everett and 22nd, works downtown and wrote us yesterday to share that he “couldn’t be happier” about the new bike lane. “In the past,” he wrote, “I haven’t gone farther east on Everett than 19th because even with the stub of a bike lane leading up to the 405, as soon as I got over the bridge I got pushed into traffic on Everett without any chance to get over to Flanders and calmer traffic/sharrows. Now that the buffered left hand lane is in place, it is easy to cruise down Everett, across the 405 bridge and take a left onto Flanders, take that to Broadway and join the bike commuter trains there.”

Seth Hosmer, who lives in the southwest hills and owns a business in the Pearl District, also likes them. “With the new pavement and the nice bike lane,” he wrote to us via email. “It’s definitely a big improvement.”

But of course not everyone is thrilled about the change. John Blair, who lives in an apartment at Everett and 20th, was outside while I was taking photos this morning. “This is crazy!” he exclaimed. “It’s completely unsafe.” Blair said drivers in cars are backing up for blocks during peak hours, while the bike-only lane sits empty. “The other day, a TriMet bus was stopped behind other cars. Then it swung into the bike lane and almost took a cyclist out. He [the bus operator] had nowhere else to go!”

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John Blair doesn’t think the new design works very well.

Blair said he heard that PBOT traffic engineers said the new lane configuration (from two standard lanes down to one) would not lead to more auto congestion. “How could he think that?!” Blair said incredulously, “Is he smoking crack? He obviously doesn’t live down here.”

If PBOT wanted to keep buses and cars from using the bike-only lane, he says “They should have put up a barrier.”

——

What do you think about the new design? Share your comments below and make sure to tell PBOT your opinions via safe@portlandoregon.gov.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Cheif
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Cheif

It looks a lot like the left side bike lane on 2nd ave in downtown Seattle, which is currently being replaced by a two way bike track and separate signals due to the fact that it’s the most dangerous installed bike facility in the city.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I’ve said it before: diagonal hash lines in the buffer help keep drivers in line.

Reza
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Reza

“Speaking of couplets… This new and improved bikeway on Everett (a one-way street westbound) only makes it more unfortunate that we don’t have an eastbound couplet on NW Flanders. We had a golden opportunity on Flanders when former Mayor Sam Adams (then the transportation commissioner) proposed using the old Sauvie Island Bridge as a biking and walking-only bridge over I-405; but that plan was scrapped after it fell victim to mayoral politics. Today, the lack of safe bike crossings of I-405 north of Burnside remains a major gap in our network.”

You mean “Everett (a one-way street EASTbound) makes it more unfortunate that we don’t have a WESTbound couplet on NW GLISAN (not Flanders), right? Flanders is a two-way street while Everett and Glisan is the one-way couplet.

Jacob
Guest
Jacob

Yet another missed opportunity for a protected bike lane, which would easily prevent the misuse of the lane by drivers AND make more people feel comfortable using it, avoiding the “empty lane problem”.

In other news, the list of cities with more miles of protected bike lanes than Portland now includes: Champaign IL, Austin, Seattle, Cambridge MA, Boulder CO, Washington DC, Indianapolis IN, San Francisco CA, Chicago IL, and New York City. Nipping at Portland’s heels are Temple City CA, Cincinnati, Long Beach CA, Eugene, Urbana IL, & Baltimore.

Reza
Guest
Reza

Andrew Sullivan at the City has informed me that a NW Glisan buffered bike lane west of I-405 to mirror Everett will be done whenever that street is repaved.

Rob Chapman
Guest
Rob Chapman

Jonathan, having ridden the left side lane now do you think this treatment will improve riding conditions on N. Williams?

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Agreed with Pete, hash lines would help clarify the buffer zone. And I agree that the 7-foot bike lane (slightly wider than most cars) looks too much like a general line and needs more visual distinction. I’ll have to check this out soon.

I do wonder how well a left-side bike lane is going to work. I know this is mostly to eliminate the downhill right-hooks at the freeway entrance, but maybe a block-long mixing zone on the right might have been a better solution. As Cheif mentioned Seattle is getting rid of an infamous left-side bike lane, as did Minneapolis on the now-luxurious-for-cyclists Park/Portland couplet.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Yes, this will clearly increase congestion during 10% of the day (rush hours). It will, however, make the road safer for 100% of the day.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

I encountered this today for the first time (as a motorist, after dropping off several kids at camp) turning right from NW 21st. The extra width of the lane and relative lack of bike only paint symbols is really going to confuse the average motorist, especially as this morning at 9:30 I didn’t see a single bike using it to give clues as to who belongs where. I was almost unsure if there was really only 1 auto travel lane or not myself, but could tell from the narrower lane width to stay to the right.

Most non cycling aware people are going to assume the fairly wide buffer itself is the bike lane, and that the bike lane is an auto, or at least sharrow lane. The left side curb parking doesn’t help things either.

This design solves the 405 ramp right-hook problem completely, but the tradeoff in other design issues hopefully isn’t worse in the long run. Time will tell as people adapt. tweaking signage and paint markings could go a long way.

maccoinnich
Guest

I live in the neighborhood, and while I haven’t had a chance to cycle on it yet, I’m looking forward to it. The new configuration seems like huge improvement, especially between 23rd and 19th, where there was nothing at all before. I agree that the way it terminates at 16th seems less than ideal. I wish they could take the bike lanes on NW Everett all the way to the river through the Pearl and Old Town, perhaps by removing the left hand side parking on Everett. There are a couple curb extensions that would need re-worked, but I would think it would be doable if the will was there. The Pearl is sorely lacking in bike infrastructure right now.

galavantista
Guest
galavantista

I’m sorry to see that, with that much lane space available, the city didn’t see this as an opportunity to put the bicycle lane curb-side and have it be buffered by the parked cars instead. Much safer for bicyclists than riding next to traffic moving a lot faster — also, the perception of a narrower street (because of the placement of the parked cars) typically makes drivers slow down to more appropriate speeds. Sigh.

charlie
Guest
charlie

Thats… interesting. The huge width is great, but I dont like having it on the left. What if I want ti turn right on 18th, and go up there to take alder across I 405?

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

In other news, more work is planned for the 405 crossing, but ODOT is planning a repair/overlay project later this year.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Is paint really so expensive that the little biking stick symbol can’t be placed at least 2x per block?

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I found myself turning on to Everett from NW 22nd sunday night. Despite have read about this on BP and being pretty well-informed about lane configurations in Portland, I was initially confused about what I was looking at and it took me a minute to figure out that one lane was now a bike lane! PBOT is not setting themselves up for success by not clearly marking this thing at every intersection and driveway.

todd.boulanger@yahoo.com
Guest
todd.boulanger@yahoo.com

Jonathan, are there any two stage turn queue boxes (Copenhagen “right”) on this corridor? And if yes, how well did they function vs. the more typical “left” side orientation?

[I ask this question, as their use on Williams as shown in the “final” plan set at the recent open house, they look to be too small and constrained for bike riders to reach and stage in.]

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Hash the buffer, and hash the outside 3 feet of the bike lane while you’re at it. (You obviously can’t put up barriers as long as there is parking along the left side of the street.) Put down green paint a la Stark or at least some “Bike Lane” lettering.

If this turns out to cause motorists to back up, I’m concerned it’s going to fuel some of the “us vs them” mentality that some people who don’t ride already feel. Hopefully some drivers will divert to other roads, etc, and the situation will normalize.

Charlie
Guest
Charlie

paikiala
What did you do if you wanted to turn left onto a northbound street before the change?
Recommended 3

It’s not really equivalent. South of everett the grid gets broken up, so the only continuous west to east road is everett or burnside (not fun to bike on). That means I often need to ride on everett and then make a right. North of everett, there’s plenty of good streets to ride on, so i wouldn’t need to be on everett at all.

If they wanted to also complete the grid by adding a bike path for davis or couch i’d be all over this.

Andyc of Linnton
Guest
Andyc of Linnton

I’m psyched for the width of the lane, but from the photos it does look to confuse motorists. I agree with planters, hash marks in the buffer and even over head signage.
I wonder if moving the parking to the middle and putting the bike lane on the left curb was ever considered, or is there something making that even a worse idea(other than left hooks across a car parking lane-which maybe a bike only light could be helpful).
Looking forward to using this this week and seeing for myself.

davemess
Guest
davemess

This looks a lot like issues on 52nd. PBOT is not marking these new lanes wide enough. It’s so important when then make this big changes and make the lanes just about wide enough for cars. I really don’t understand why they at least can’t get some temporary “New Lane Configuration” signs.
These lanes need to be better designated.

carrythebanner
Guest

(With better markings) I’d like to see this on SE 11th and 12th between Burnside and Clinton as well. Even during peak commute hours it never seems like both lanes are fully utilized, motor vehicles or otherwise. I avoid it now because it can be a bit dodgy taking the lane, but with a well-marked buffered bike laneit’d be an excellent connector between Ankeny and Clinton (and the Orange Line multi-use path, once that’s finished).

Beth
Guest

I used it today. Lots of “oops” episodes like what happened in your first photo up top. In fact, two drivers honked at me from behind me, to get out of their way. So I think it needs more than a few “tweaks” from ODOT to stop being the massive fail that it was for me today.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Yes, JM, there was politics in Sam Adams’s plan to repurpose the old Sauvie Island bridge, but it also was a no-go structurally.

A bike bridge over 495 on Flanders is a great idea, however, and I happen to have a nifty design all prepared…

If I had beat Sam in 2008 (ha ha) PDX might have another, albeit smaller, cable-stayed span.

rreodc
Guest
rreodc

Maybe this has been addressed in another article but why not make bike lanes yellow or red or at the very least add “No Cars” lettering to every block? These all seem as if they would be stronger visual indicators that something’s different about a street than plain pavement or green paint alone.

Joe Suburban
Guest
Joe Suburban

“We’re educating the drivers with concrete.” This is my favorite quote of a city planner from a major city in Eastern Europe. The issue there is drivers parking on the sidewalk with their bumpers touching the buildings! They tried rubber, then metal bollards, which kept getting stolen or cut off. So they separated the street from the sidewalk with miles of 3 ft high concrete barriers. It has a certain Baghdad IED blast wall feel to it, but they’re effective! Should have done the same on the left side of Everett.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Why are we so surprised or upset that on the first few days after a roadway change, not everyone has figured out the new lanes? Add some markings and paint, and some t i m e – drivers (and riders) will figure it out.

I am curious why we don’t more often see “parking-protected bike lanes” – meaning a configuration of curb, then bike lane, then parking, then traffic lanes. We have this in only a couple places (e.g. by PSU) – does it not work? What are people’s experiences with it?

Joe
Guest
Joe

Biggest issue I feel is car parking next to a buffer lanes. 🙁 was almost nailed by a driver swinging to get a parking spot.

meh
Guest
meh

“As this person so perfectly demonstrated, left-hooks are a possibility, but they’re a lot less likely then right-hooks because drivers have better visibility on their left side.”

Drivers have the same visibility to left or right, a mirror and a shoulder check.

In this situation I would actually consider that there is less visibility in that drivers that are aware of bike lanes expect them on the right and if aware will yield to the bikes in the bike lane.

Most drivers don’t expect a bike lane on the left. And in most cases the left lane is oncoming traffic. Drivers don’t use the mirror or shoulder check for left turns because the are focused on the breaks in oncoming traffic.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I rode this new lane this morning from 22nd on down. Now I’m even less confident that it will improve things.

It appears to me that the right-hook conflict with cars turning onto southbound I-405 at 16th has been replaced by a left-hook conflict a block later with cars turning towards northbound I-405 at 15th.

When this was part of my regular commute, after I had learned to watch for right hooks at 16th the bigger stress point for me was figuring out how to get merged into the traffic going down Glisan by the time I reached 15th, where the bike lane ended. But at least I had a block in which to do it. Now the bike lane ends at 16th. It vanishes unceremoniously and is replaced by a left-turn-only lane to go north on 15th towards the I-405 on-ramp.

Maybe the intent is to make 15th-to-16th a mixing zone, but it’s not labeled as such. As of this morning there was NO “BIKE LANE ENDS” sign, and no “EXCEPT BIKES” exemption bolted on below the “LEFT TURN ONLY” sign. Things still looked a bit unfinished today, so I’m hoping it’s just that they’re not done with the signage. Still, I’ve yet to see a turning-traffic mixing zone that worked, in cases where the bike lane ended at the same time.

On the other hand, being forced to turn left onto 15th wouldn’t be a terrible thing if Flanders were made into more of a bike boulevard.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Do left side bike lanes change lane position and passing etiquette for other bikes in the lane? Is it ride left, pass on the right for the left side bike lane?

That would seem to make sense, but now that it has occurred to me, I don’t think I have ever seen this discussed.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Nice work, Portland. One less car lane, one more bike lane, safer roads all around.

If the current markings are insufficient to let car drivers know that it’s not a lane for cars, I hope PBOT does a follow up with more hashmarks, more stencils, more green paint.

If ya’all like this, make sure you send a thank you note to the authorities at PBOT so they know you care.

Steve Novick, City Councilor
http://www.portlandoregon.gov/novick/59989

Leah Treat, PBOT Director
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/456821 (snail mail address)

Rob Burchfield, PBOT head engineer
(use snail mail address)

Anna
Guest
Anna

I live on NW Everett and I’m pretty happy to see the new bike lane, but this morning as I walked from 22nd to 16th I saw as many cars driving in the bike lane as in the car lane. It was fully being used as a two lane street by the cars. There were two cop cars parked at Everett and 20th and they seemed to be watching traffic but were ignoring the problem as far as I saw.

Frank
Guest
Frank

The improvements look nice, but the east end of the lane empties into a nightmare in my opinion, so I doubt I’ll use it much.

I ride from NW 23rd to NE PDX a few times a month normally. I avoid Everett in favor of Marshall to the Broadway Bridge. I take that detour because of the mayhem Everett turns into once in the Pearl, especially during evening rush hour. Its not just the road design, but also the state of the road once you are past the highway. Super bumpy + door zone + can’t see the torn up road in heavy traffic + freewheeling jaywalkers everywhere = I sense the impending road rash. Even if this lane is made better through paint, etc, so long as it empties into the white-knuckle ride that it does, I’d rather sidestep to the relative calm of Marshall.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Marshall is 10 blocks out of the way . . . Just take the lane when in the Pearl, car traffic there is so congested, all but the slowest riders can keep up with traffic, and no need to be in any door zone.

Sherwood
Guest
Sherwood

Rode this yesterday and agree with many here that this is a terrible solution to a genuine problem. It’s confusing, the number of conflict points is the same, and the possibility of serious injury is now even worse at the 405 Northbound merge. To take away a car lane for something this bad will be used for years to knock the bike community.

Johny
Guest
Johny

Stupidest design EVER! I’m an avid cyclist and love biking Portland, but I like to drive and ride a motorcycle too and this while situation is dysfunctional. Bikes should share this lane with traffic, be well lit with strobes and solid lights and everything would be fine. It’s downhill.