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City will install signs in Waterfront Park to discourage unsafe riding

Posted by on September 17th, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Shared path Waterfront Park-1

The path in Waterfront Park is no place
to be riding fast.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland

With the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge in full swing and warmer than usual weather sticking around, there’s a lot of bike traffic in and around downtown Portland these days. Especially on the Waterfront Park path, which is also popular with joggers, tourists, walkers, and lots of other types of users.

Concerns about unsafe passing and crowded conditions have spurred the Portland Parks Bureau to partner with the Bureau of Transportation to install signs encouraging faster bike riders to use Naito Parkway and all others to ride slowly and use caution when the path is crowded. They’re calling the path a “Pedestrian Priority Zone.”

Here’s a first look at the new signs:
parkssigns-pedzone

parksigns-fastbikes

In a statement about the reason for the new signs, the Parks Bureau says:

“Shared-use environments can sometimes result in negative or unsafe interactions between cyclists, pedestrians, and other trail users. Concerns are regularly expressed to City Hall and PP&R staff about negative interactions and safety concerns, particularly regarding Waterfront Park, Eastbank Esplanade and RiverPlace trails.”

Given that issues of crowding and unsafe behaviors on this path and the Eastbank Esplanade are not new, the City is concerned that current constructions projects will make matters even worse. The combination of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail, Sellwood Bridge, and South Waterfront developments projects will create even more demand on these paths. Parks says the paths are already “at or over capacity during good weather.”

Parks plans to install 25 of the signs (“mainly at entrances, transition points, and known congested areas,” according to spokesman Mark Ross) tomorrow (9/18) and then monitor their effectiveness.

It will be interesting to see if mere signage will be enough to change behaviors. Most people ride on waterfront paths because they are the most direct, well-connected, and safest ways between point A and B. Naito Parkway’s old-school bike lane next to fast-moving auto traffic doesn’t provide an adequate level of safety and doesn’t as smoothly to key bridge crossings as the path does. On the east side of the river, the Esplanade is the only north-south option that doesn’t require riders to navigate the central eastside.

To really alleviate this problem, Parks and PBOT need to team up and improve bicycle access by installing a dedicated cycle path on or adjacent to Naito Parkway and on the Martin Luther King Blvd/Grand couplet on the east side.

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Blake
Guest
Blake

Kindof insulting to think the way to solve the problem is by pushing more people into an already narrow bike lane on Naito. And don’t get me started on SB Naito, which is almost useless.

Luke
Guest
Luke

The worst thing on the waterfront are those tourist pedal cars, lets get rid of those and see how things go 😉

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Hmmmm. I’ve always (through what is it now, 7-8 years of daily commuting on the waterfront by bike and foot) been impressed by the level of aptitude shown by commuting/regular cyclists on the MUP. Whether it be dodging tourists, street kids, joggers with headphones, whatever – I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an incident. I’m sure signs about the cheapest piece of infrastructure available, but in this case, I wish we didn’t even spend on them.

billbowlrider
Guest
billbowlrider

totally agree conceptually that fast bikes should use naito, but naito has stop lights. If your timing is bad and you respect the lights, you are a fast biker going very slowly on naito. So, in practice, the waterfront paths can be faster. I wish the waterfront paths – where wide enough – had painted lanes designating where bikes should bike and where walkers should walk. Maybe that would help with the unsafe passing a bit?

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

I use Naito by preference during good weather anyway because as bad as those lanes are, they feel safer than riding in the crowds in the park. So now my question is: Will I be fast enough to use Naito? Because I’m by no stretch riding a “fast bike”.

dan
Guest
dan

If you can’t be respectful of pedestrians when biking in Waterfront Park, how can you ever expect cars to be respectful of you when you’re biking on the street?

Teri Solow
Guest

“On the east side of the river, the Esplanade is the only north-south option that doesn’t require riders to navigate the central eastside.”

Doesn’t Water Ave on the East side serve pretty much the same purpose as Naito on the West side?

Josh Berezin
Guest
Josh Berezin

A two-way cycle track on the east side of Naito seems like it would be awfully straightforward to put in.

Reza
Guest
Reza

This is where we get the 2-way cycle track on Naito, right? And a fix for the Naito Gap? And something useful south of the Hawthorne Bridge?

Oh…

FauxPorteur
Guest
FauxPorteur

Having a dedicated cycle path along the park would be nice, I would suggest that it should be a two way path on the east side of Naito, or adjacent to the mixed-use path along the sea-wall.

Putting a cycle-path along MLK/Grand would be horrible because there are intersections every block making turning vehicles a huge threat.

takeaspin22
Guest
takeaspin22

In the interest of safety, the following sign should also be installed:

Park Users:
STAY TO THE RIGHT!
PAY ATTENTION!

Zac
Guest
Zac

The Naito lane is more demanding to bike down than the Waterfront path mostly because of all the stopping and starting (it’s hard to catch more than 2 greens in a row). It’s also a test of patience to stop and wait for a timed light when there are no pedestrians or cars crossing the bike lane, which happens at the vast majority of red lights on Natio.

Because of this I use waterfront for my daily commute. I take it slow, but there are many bikers who don’t, which contributes to the pedestrian stress level. I’ve seen many close calls, lots of weaving cyclists taking the path like a slalom. Not good. Furthermore Waterfront is becoming a tourist hot spot, I hate that people visiting feel threatened by bikers going too fast/weaving.

I’d prefer bike speed limit signs or a no-pedestrian bike lane painted onto the waterfront path over this attempt to get people to use the inferior facility.

Ideally, we could get a two way track along Naito. I remember Hales saying Naito could get a wider bike lane at some point on the policymaker’s ride (taking out a lane of traffic). It’s a good idea, but the timed stoplights, being designed to control car-pedestrian interactions and cars turning out of downtown, hinder the bike lane’s appeal. The stop light formality should be stepped down considerably for bike-pedestrian only interactions along a hypothetical two way track.

For the bike track, I’m imagining designated pedestrian crossings with flashing lights in the track when pedestrians are present and signs instructing bikers to yield. Seems like by taking out the southbound bike lane and moving car traffic west, there would be plenty of space for a track on the east side of Natio (even more so if Hales is serious about a road diet).

Would be cool to show off a cutting edge bike facility to the visitors in the new tourist corridor.

Bonus points for extending track south along Harbor Way/Harbor Dr on the west side of Three Degrees and associated town homes down all the way to River Parkway so no one has to bike down cafe-row to get to the south waterfront.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

The Naito Pkwy bike lanes are okay if you want to ride quickly. I rode them all the time when I worked in a building in that area.

If you’re not comfortable there, ride the park path – but don’t expect to ride quickly. 10 mph is fast when there are a lot of walkers on the path, and on really crowded days, getting off and walking is easier.

A dedicated bike road along the west edge of the park would be nice, but as far as downtown project priority, I’d put it well behind 2nd/3rd or some other north/south couplet in core downtown. Because there already are bike lanes on Naito, whereas there are none on most downtown core streets.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Sometimes I think the best thing would be to rip up all the concrete and put in bumpy cobblestone but this surely would affect ADA compliance.

Sometimes I like the British “ladder & tramline texture” trick where on a shared path you install on the walking side perpendicular bumps and the bicycle side longitudinal bumps. This really doesn’t help with speed and just segregates the traffic somewhat. Also, I’m guessing it has ADA implications as well.

Since the issue at The Strand (Riverfront condo owners urge bike traffic to avoid their property – UPDATED) a few years back I’ve been tinkering with an idea for a surface treatment that would not impede wheelchairs and other ADA mobility devices while discouraging high speed travel.

It is a given that no surface treatment will work on a well suspended downhill MTB rig.

We might try a wavey concrete texture. Not speed bumps but a rising and falling surface that would have little to no effect on traffic below 3-5 mph but as your speed increases it transitions to nauseating then jarring as you are continually jostled up and down anywhere from 2″-6″. A smooth textured concrete surface with a lazy sine wave profile might just be the ticket for unconsciously discouraging high speeds: wheelchair wheels still glide smoothly but high speeds become unpleasant quickly. Make high speed feel bad and people slow down without enforcement.

For the suspended bikes: aggressive street vendors that get tax breaks from PBOT for each fast bicycle they jump in front of.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Since we’re giving way on the path, can we keep pedestrians out of the bike lane next summer?

Odd the signs are going up now.

Roger Geller
Guest
Roger Geller

The signs encourage people bicycling to ride slowly in the presence of pedestrians and to treat them with courtesy when passing (“Ride Slowly When Crowded”). Nobody is being told to get out.

Too often, people on bicycles are to pedestrians as people driving are to those who are riding: Fast. Scary. Oblivious. “No hit, no foul” is not a good guiding philosophy when bicycling in crowded conditions. People walking are regularly frightened by people on bicycles passing them fast, in close proximity ad silently. Simply take a walk on the Eastbank, the Hawthorne Bridge or Waterfront Park during rush hour to experience it. Better yet, take your 80-year old grandparent with you.

The path was not designed to accommodate the number and type of users on it today. Naito was underbuilt compared to designs we would consider today. While we will not be able to build a wider path nor shut down a travel lane on Naito next week, we can try a little education and encouragement.

If you want safer conditions for bicycling and walking in the downtown, then participate in the Central City Planning effort (https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/47907) and the Central City Multi-Modal Transportation Safety Project, when it starts in a year or so.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

This is the problem with MUPs. And it’s not just the cyclists, it’s the oblivious joggers w/ earbuds blasting, peds walking 3+ abreast, and the ‘travelers’ spilling out with their dogs, etc. from the benches into the path.

But I’ve also had trouble with ‘Freds’ riding too fast to control their bikes, too.

V$
Guest
V$

Fix the Naito gap and I’ll never look at the waterfront path again!

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Hopefully the signs are just a short-term stop-gap while the City gets funding together for separated, bi-directional bike lanes just east of Naito.

Cycledad
Guest
Cycledad

When are they going to put up the no homeless kids blocking the path signs? I have seen to many families harassed by those kids cause nobody could get through the mass of them when they start spreading out. The other day I overheard tourists saying they won’t be coming back to Portland for that very reason. They were harrased and didn’t like it.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

I go to the Marina several times a week, and using Naito is not an option. I’m sure as hell not going to ride the Naito Gap, which means I would have to cross through the area of Salmon St. Fountain, which is incredibly packed with randomly-running children. And I’m riding a less-maneuverable cargo bike….

Riding Waterfront park isn’t pleasant during crowded times and signs will help only marginally. It’s a gauntlet of people who at any point could sidestep into your path. And then you have the bums and druggies that treat the park as their personal prison yard (I’ve twice collided with vagrants fighting on the sidewalk), and those bloody Surrey buggies helmed by clueless tourists (it’s really cute when they’re crossing the Hawthorne Bridge in the wrong direction).

Putting up signs is a cop-out. Pass the street fee so we can build safe routes like a Naito cycletrack that goes all the way to the Riverplace Hotel.

Dmitriy Zasyatkin
Guest

Vancouver BC addressed this at their super-popular Stanley park by widening the path and painting lanes just for bicycles, so the pedestrians have their safe zone and bikes keep to themselves. I think in some spots they also had a lane just for boards and skates.

I hope that this signage opens up peoples minds to installing similar signage for cars on NGs. I am really surprised I don’t see any pro-quality guerrilla signage against cars on NGs.

Steve B
Guest
Steve B

Can we please fix the Naito Gap? 8+ years in process, already funded by ODOT, little progress on the ground. I understand it’s complicated jurisdictionally but for folks who use this route regularly, it’s insulting.

http://bikeportland.org/2007/06/22/city-working-on-fix-for-naito-gap-4149
http://bikeportland.org/tag/naito-gap

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

New sign language:

Attention Cyclists,
Didn’t you notice we’ve completely failed to give you adequate facilities? Seriously, back off.

I don’t condone unsafe riding, but like (nearly) everyone here, I’m at a loss for what a reasonable alternate route is. I’ll probably continue to use the waterfront, continue to ride under control and pass only when it’s safe, and continue to plead for scraps at the transportation table.

PJ Souders
Guest

I would love to never have to ride my bike on the Waterfront path again.

But Naito NB is just atrocious and no way no how am I riding on it with my kids on board. (Naito SB is just pointless)

If Naito had a good cycle track from Barbur to the Steel Bridge we wouldn’t need the signs.

Kevin Wagoner
Guest
Kevin Wagoner

I think it would be great if that area was painted with lanes like the Cycle Track next to OHSU on Moody.

KVC
Guest
KVC

“Fast Bikes Use Naito Bike Lanes”. Really? REALLY?

That’s what the City offers people who are trying to commute by bike (as opposed to leisurely cruising along the Waterfront). This refers to the same bike lanes that are narrow, have frequent stormwater grates that run almost their entire width, poorly timed lights, especially at the ramp to the Morrison Bridge, and large trucks with their side mirrors hanging into the bike lane. And then, to really top things off, during the busiest times of the year, the City will put chain link fences right up to the curb or even into the bike lane itself, which forces pedestrians into the “fast bikes” lane.

I commute SB on the Waterfront path in the mornings since it’s early enough that there are very few people out. In the evenings when I’m heading NB, I’ll use the path during the coldest and rainiest months, but ride Naito most of the year.

Some days when I’m feeling lazy, especially when the cherry blossoms are blooming, I’ll ride NB on the path and know that I’ll be going slow, continually watching out for other users and occasionally having to come to a complete stop. But most days I just want to get home from work and would like to go more than 7 mph. So I ride Naito and deal with the lousy conditions. I’m already doing what the new signs tell me to do. But I wouldn’t expect the interested but concerned crowd to brave those conditions. And the City decides to ignore these conditions but try to dump even more folks into the mix.

Just wow.

The eBike Store
Guest

Idea: why not recess the ship bollards? Run the ropes under ground with a steel cover. That would free up enough space for walking lanes and bike lanes.

When you consider that how much space cannot be used on Portland’s most expensive, most heavily used real estate – it makes sense to run them underground.

Would probably cost less to than caring for one more person who becomes quadriplegic after hitting the dang things….

Vance Longwell
Guest

You folks just love to send, ahem, messages to people with whom you disagree. Why can’t you see that it’s your turn now? Portland bicycle riders are almost exclusively not-from-here. There is a lot of resentment toward outsiders, in Portland, in case you hadn’t noticed. To make matters worse, Portland bicycle riders have turned my streets into a Mexican Three Ring Circus, and I do not appreciate it. Neither do the vast majority of people here, even the ones in your own Church.

I rode these streets for 30+ years. Now I’m so ashamed of other bicycle riders in my hometown, I’m too embarrassed to ride anymore.

Thanks for that.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

another pointless sign cluttering up the landscape telling people what they already know…

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

Though I long since have moved from Portland, I always loved the day that it first really rained in the fall, I called it “The first day of Waterfront Park riding season”. Enjoy!

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

I would love to see signs about unsafe running and walking as well.

The last thing I want to see is a separation of users on the waterfront, or on the streets.
The push, especially by cyclists and advocates, for separation is backwards thinking, and an injustice to us all.

Pigeonholed I tell you.
We will be pigeonholed, and fined for riding in exactly the places we should be riding….