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Reader mailbag: Confusion reigns on Williams Ave while City urges patience

Posted by on October 22nd, 2014 at 11:48 am

williams-ted

Reader Ted Buehler sent in this photo
yesterday with the subject line: “Lifeboat facility.”

Thanks to PBOT’s N Williams project, our mailbag has been pretty full lately.

Last week we shared some feedback we’ve received about how traffic back-ups on Williams are impacting users of NE Rodney — a street the city has tried to set aside as a lower-stress alternative.

And yesterday we received several more emails from people who are still trying to ride on Williams. Most of the emails have to do with concerns over how the project is being phased-in and the general confusion about where and how to navigate the newly striped bike lane — which is now on the left side of the road instead of the right.

For the city’s part, PBOT says they understand the concerns. Reached by phone this morning, agency spokeswoman Diane Dulken asked for patience. “It’s still an active construction site. We’re in an awkward phase of switching from right to left and we’re dodging the weather.”

Active construction zone or not, the street is still open and people are riding it.* On that note, I’ve pasted five emails below (all received in the last 24 hours) in hopes some of you (including any PBOT staff that happen to be reading) can help these readers with support and tips on how to make it through…

From E.W.:

I am not sure if this is your daily route, but it seems a bit of a cluster at the moment and only 1/2 way thru the project. Sometimes it’s unclear which side to ride on or where there are mixing zones. Also, the transtion/mixing zone at Killingsworth appears to be worse than before as the left lane (to turn left) is always busier than the right. Any suggestions?

From D.D.:

So far I have had a negative reaction to what is going on on Williams and I have talked to coworkers who commute to NE and they have had similar experiences. A friend of mine said “I’m trying not to hate it just because it’s new, but man, I really hate it” and I think that sums things up pretty well.

Yesterday I was almost hit by somebody on Williams at Broadway because they realized that they were about to exit on to I-5 and they didn’t want to. A little while later (near New Seasons) I saw a girl get hit by a car and go down. A few bikers (myself included) stopped and made sure she was OK. Taking a right on to Going St. is also a royal pain now during rush hour. My coworkers have also noted that bus exhaust comes out the left side of the some buses and city buses are much louder when they are on your right.

I have tried Rodney as an alternative and didn’t like it (it’s slow due to stop signs, now there are a ton of cars, some are driving over the barrier, etc.). I think I might try Broadway to 15th tonight and see how that goes. I’ll try to keep an open mind but so far moving the bike lane to the left side has done nothing but make my ride home miserable.

Hoping things will get better soon.

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From C.H.:

I think the concept for N Williams is great, I do. However, last night I rode home on my usual route and found that the old right side bike lane had been ground down before the left side bike lane was complete. Riders didn’t know if they should be passing on the right or left, or if the narrow extra lane on the far right was for passing. Honestly the whole set up is very confusing.

Its especially hard when the cones are half way into the bike lane and the lanes don’t line up across intersections.

I am not a new commuter, this is just a mess at the moment. How are we supposed to ride on Williams?

From M.D.:

N Williams is taking shape. The large bike lane is now at the west side of the ave. typically, I believe, cyclists are used to bike lanes being on the right side of the street, so slower bikers will ride to the right, while faster cyclists will pass on the left. The bike lane being on the right creates a tendency for slower cyclists to ride near the far left side of the bike lane. Are the passing cyclists supposed to pass on the right or should passing still occur on the left, even though this is hindered by the typical, slower bike traffic on the left?

From M.G.:

I rode home on N. Williams Ave. yesterday evening and was really confused by the re-routing. I did understand that changes were coming, but at several points along the route it was unclear what we were supposed to do, which maybe could have been helped by more signs. Also, if you want to make a right turn from the left hand bike lane, what is the best way to do that? If you want to pass a slower rider, should you still pass on the left or is it now better to pass on the right? Do you think you could get PBOT to provide an explanation of how the new route is supposed to work? That would be super helpful. Thanks so much for your great reporting, as always.

Dulken said project contractors have completed all the striping for the project, but there are still details that need to be finished up — many of them being weather-dependent. In the meantime, Dulken urges caution and reminds everyone to follow all the traffic controls.

“We understand people’s concerns and ask them to bear with us as we go thru this active construction phase.”

Please use the comments to share the latest conditions on Williams.

UPDATE, 5:35 pm: I just rode up Williams. The main re-striping is complete. The old right lane has been completely removed and the left lane is open for business. During rush hour, people in cars backed up all the way to Broadway and north to about New Seasons. The left side bike lane is open and easy to follow. Can’t wait so see how it all works out once it’s 100% complete.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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are
Guest

as far as turning right from the left side, they are supposed to be putting copenhagen boxes at key intersections.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

on the old configuration how were people making a left from the right-side bike lane? I’d think it would be the same, but mirrored… actually easier now since you don’t have to merge across an extra lane…

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Merge into the left lane if you felt comfortable doing so, Copenhagen left if you didn’t. Haven’t ridden it since the changeover, but I agree that you should be able to mirror that.

Dean
Guest
Dean

Yeah that still works here but in my experience (which is riding Williams every day) it is pretty traffic-dependent. If there is a constant stream of cars, I have been detouring to the left slightly, aiming my bike at Going St. (which is my cross street) and waiting for a break in traffic to cross the street. If I look behind me and see a break in traffic I signal, move in to the car lane, and then take my right like I used to to make a left-hand turn.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

I think we’ve reached the point where you can add all the signs, lane markings, and police enforcement you’d like, but it’s a fact that drivers in general are getting worse as time moves forward. We’re never going to truly fix things until we make initial driver testing significantly more difficult and start requiring periodic retesting of all drivers. Anyone who wishes to get behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s easily capable of murder needs to absolutely be an expert at driving, and should be familiar with ALL of the driving statutes. Those who cannot meet these standards or who choose not to should not be behind the wheel. Driving is not a right.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

The Safe Systems approach looks at the problem and involves all the players, from road designers, to road users, the law enforcers, adjudicators and legislators. We all have a part to play.

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

bike lane down the left side, and wanting to turn right. Wait. My helmet mirror is on the left side of my helmet. Not easy to look back to see if it is clear.

jered
Guest
jered

I’ve found turning my head is a great way to see if the lane is clear to move over, my head turns both left and right making it really easy to see what is around me.

I use this technique both on my bike and in my car when changing lanes to insure nothing is in my blind spot. Sometimes when I sleep funny my neck hurts and on those days I wince and use a bit more shoulder when check the lane but I’ve found this to be a really easy way to insure my safety and it is FREE!

was carless
Guest
was carless

Thats actually genius, I’ve never thought of using that technique.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Add a mirror to the right side of your helmet.

Indy
Guest
Indy

Yeah, so like I said long ago, there’s little consistency in how Portland is building out its bike infrastructure, and its biting us in the ass now, and into the foreseeable future. It’s not just this area, I’ve seen it on Couch, Moody, and downtown, as well.

sd
Guest
sd

I feel the same.
Consistency and knowing what to expect is an important part of safe driving and safe cycling. Many of the car drivers will learn how to drive safely on Williams, but there will always be a percentage of new and confused drivers on this road.
This design, as well as many of the other compromises that have been made for cycling infrastructure, rely on hyper-aware, non-impulsive drivers who don’t get angry with cyclists being “in their way.” In other words, a fantasy that is the opposite of American car-culture.
This seems more like “Vision- Learning Curve” rather than “Vision- Zero.”
There were better options on the Williams redesign table.
I hope it works out.

davemess
Guest
davemess

A national standard is really imperative at this point. Infrastructure should be similarly designed everywhere you go in the US (let alone Portland). Roads should have predictable design.

Heather
Guest
Heather

Yeah, I’ve been riding Williams and it’s pretty hairy. I really would like a consensus on which side of the bike lane I should ride on to allow faster bikes to pass. In my head it makes sense to stay to the right (now closest to the auto traffic lane) and still have people pass on the left. But I understand why slower, possibly less confident riders would prefer to stay farther from the cars/busses/trucks. Frankly I don’t care, but can we make a decision? Maybe post a sign? “Slower bikes stay right/left”?

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Ride left, pass right.

That seemed to be the consensus from the discussion of the Williams bike lane a couple of weeks ago, anyway.

It will take awhile for that behavior to filter through to all the riders, though.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I have been riding this, and from what I have experienced, the slower riders should right left, but not so far left that they are in the door zone. This enables a cyclist who wants to pass to take the motorist lane. Even though this lane is wide (7′?) once the door zone is subtracted I do not think there is enough width for safe passing.That doesn’t seem right since a lane has been repurposed, but that is how rides

llee
Guest
llee

Confusion, rain on Williams. Bad combination. I’ve tried to keep an open mind since this design was suggested but it still seems just wrong. Consistency is a good thing when trying to establish traffic patterns (as in bike lane on the same side on Williams & Vancouver). Those that use this route regularly will get used to it, but there will continue to be confusion and impatience for those that are unaware (or who don’t bother to find an alternate route). And suggesting that all that remains is “details” is laughable. Or would be if it didn’t involve big trucks bearing down on me.

TJ
Guest
TJ

The mess on Williams was promised to be cleaned-up by Spring 2014. Traffic has only gotten worse. While New Seasons and circling for happy hour street parking is causing some of the problems, many of the cars are using Williams to avoid MLK, Interstate, and I5.

All the new bike infrastructure in the world won’t increase Williams’ capacity for cars, which includes moving and parking.

Is anything being done to deter Williams as a route to Vancouver, WA?

Ted
Guest
Ted

You mean besides reducing the road down to one lane of traffic? What kind of deterrent did you have in mind?

Ted

TJ
Guest
TJ

I gather you knew I am not a traffic deterrent engineering pro.

I’m not anti car by any means, but rather fail to see how the mess that’s become Williams (and Division) is enriching the lives of anyone other than developers.

Reza
Guest
Reza

It’s always ideal to adapt to your surroundings/biking conditions instead of blindly following dogma (such as passing must ALWAYS be done on the left).

Yes, on a left side bike lane, slower riders should stay to the left, and faster riders should pass on the right, towards the auto lane. And if there isn’t enough room within the bike lane or buffer, take the full auto lane.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Exactly… the responsibility of the slower rider in front in to ride in a straight line. That’s it.

It’s up to the faster, overtaking rider to make the pass a safe distance from the slower rider. That can’t really be done effectively if the faster rider is trying to shoot a gap between the slower rider and parked cars to the left.

Passing to the right, where there is more room to maneuver, is the proper thing to do.

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

The problem with this theory is that different people’s assessment of surrounding conditions will differ. That’s what “dogma” is *for* in traffic. For instance, faster riders squeeze past me on my right when the conditions justify my dogmatic expectation that they’ll pass on the left. I’ve had more than one close call that way.

Reza
Guest
Reza

If this was in a conventional bike lane and they passed in between you and parked cars or the curb, they were in the wrong.

DNP
Guest
DNP

Just to clear up some of the no passing on the right ever mantra that get’s thrown around quite a bit. The language is not as hard hitting as many probably wish. “Safely” making passage sounds about as low of a bar as possible and equates to “don’t make contact”. It sounds as forgiving as the passes allowed by motorists around bicycles <35mph and in the presence of bike lanes.

http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.415

ORS 811.415 (2C)

"Overtaking and passing upon the right is permitted if the overtaking vehicle is a bicycle that may safely make the passage under the existing conditions."

AG
Guest
AG

The bike lane is not wide enough to pass and taking the lane was much easier when there were two lanes for cars. Now that its down to one, its very dicey. Another big problem is cars turning left are not used to looking for bikes. I’ve ridden Williams almost daily for years and have never seen it so chaotic.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…And if there isn’t enough room within the bike lane or buffer, take the full auto lane. …” Reza

“Exactly… the responsibility of the slower rider in front in to ride in a straight line. That’s it. …” encephalopath

These two comments sum up the situation well. People wanting to ride faster in the bike lane than other there are riding, should transition to the main lane, pass, and then return to the bike lane as needed. Hand signaling to aid in safe transition, of course.

Different rates of speed of riders on a single lane bike lane with high numbers of people riding there, poses the potential for challenging situations. Situations where the rider or riders riding at a considerably lower rate of speed are very much the minority number of overall riders, could have large numbers of people riding faster, for example, five, ten or more, deciding to leave the bike lane for the main lane to pass.

How well people can make this kind of traffic movement work on a busy street like Williams Ave during commute hours, will be worth watching for.

Dave Hoch
Guest

The whole Williams project is clearly a missed opportunity for Portland to reestablish itself as a top notch cycling city. Why on earth is there not a buffered bike lane on that road? It’s the top cycling route in the city for crying out loud!

The band-aid redesign shows the difference between our city and say, Copenhagens. I’m sick and tired of the half-ass approach being taken, yet the self-righteous attitude that we’re the best in America bravado reigns king.

Do it right, or don’t do it at all.

Ted
Guest
Ted

Huh, I was thinking that all the redevelopment, with many bike-centric business serving large numbers of daily bike trips made Williams a model for bike-centric living and was part of the argument that Portland is a top notch cycling city.

I think the new bike lane up Williams is luxurious compared to what was there and once it gets built out and bikers get used to it, it will provide a very comfortable commuter route.

In situations where multiple conflicting constraints make it hard to make any improvements, I am not a big fan of the “Do it right, or don’t do it at all” philosophy.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

All or nothing usually results in nothing.

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

I’m with Dave on this one. More proof for me that PBOT is an agency lost at sea without a pilot. The ham-handed public process led to a dangerous design rather than the safest option (fully buffered right-side cycletrack). Not even remotely Platinum-level. I’m going to be a first-time dad in a few months and I am pissed that they call this a “safety project”: truly Orwellian and a sad statement on the reality of how far Portland has slid. I would never ride with a child on Williams with “mixing lanes”, heavy bike traffic, and cars trying to parallel park to the left of the bike lane. And no, I don’t want to be shuffled off to Rodney either.

We need a new City Council that will clean house and show some vision and guts.

Also, time to acknowledge that all my hopes that Leah Treat might turn out to be Portland’s version of Janette Sadik-Khan have officially been dashed :-(.

Lastly, Ted, many of those “bike-centric” businesses you mention were staunchly against taking any space (particularly the free/un-priced parking) from automobiles.

Mossby Pomegranate
Guest
Mossby Pomegranate

First you need to clean house of the current city council before you’ll get one that shows some guts.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

JSK was the implementer of the NYC Mayor’s vision.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Ben
Guest

Re: the difficulty of taking a right on Going, I noticed that yesterday evening as they took out the old stripes. At rush hour, a *lot* of cyclists turn right there. I don’t have exact numbers (a couple of months ago I saw some people counting bikes on that corner, so presumably *someone* has exact numbers) but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s 25% of the traffic that makes it that far up Williams. There’s no light, no little pull-out to the left , no signage indicating what to do…

It’ll be interesting to see what happens there over the next few days. I suspect that the brave and aggressive will take the lane and turn right, the less so will wait in large numbers on Going or before.

I hope I’m wrong, but that turn looks like an accident waiting to happen to me. Drivers have just gotten out of the busy section of North Williams, and they are accelerating up the hill from the light at Skidmore, probably thinking they can let their guard down a bit, and suddenly all these bikes are turning right in unpredictable ways. On the good side, it’s frequently the case when biking from that light at Skidmore that you get to Going just about the same time as the last of the cars that were held up at the light go by, so there is a gap in the car traffic…

Ted
Guest
Ted

If you took the time to look at PBOT’s inforamation about the project you would see that there are plans for a left turn box there and pedestrian crossing improvements:

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/498535

Ben
Guest

Well, that’s good news.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

This is yet another good reason to make Skidmore the “Going to the River” route from NE 6th Ave to N Concord. All the crossing infrastructure is in place, it is a direct, well-connected, easy to follow to route.

TR
Guest
TR

This intersection, to me, shows the bad planning involved. Why would they not provide a safer link from one major bikeway to another? As far as how I negotiated this last night, I crossed over to the right side at the traffic light on Skidmore and high tailed it to Going to make the right. Cars are going to get very frustrated with all this crossover. It just makes no sense.

Ted
Guest
Ted

I have already posted this above…this is what it will look like when it is done.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/498535

Alexis P.
Guest
Alexis P.

D.D. (or anyone else reading), I would advise against NE 15th. The pedestrian bump-outs, frequent buses, and curbside parking make it fairly hairy for cycling.

I work on SE 11th and live on NE 11th, and have found 7th going south to Lloyd Center to be calm and well protected. Going north, I cross I-84 on 12th and cut around the mall on 9th, then head over to 11th just north of Broadway for the final stretch.

My office is moving downtown in December, and if this situation persists, I’ll probably avoid Williams altogether, even though it’s the “approved” route.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Hi, Alexis! We’re neighbors (according to common friend Amy S). I’ll be perfectly willing to share my preferred route from our hood to downtown once you make the move downtown.

D.D.
Guest
D.D.

Thank you for your concern. I have lived in NE for 9 years and I have ridden 15th before and it’s never been a problem. When there is little traffic, it’s mellow. During rush hour, it’s easy to keep up with traffic and just take the lane. At least that has been my experience. I was also toying with the idea of diverting to 21st so I can get a hill climb in on my ride home.

Josh G
Guest
Josh G

Unaware it was (partly) ready, I rode the new lane to Going St at 9pm last night. Anyone ever ridden the lanes in downtown Minneapolis that go down the middle of the road?
I’m skeptical that a consensus on bike passing will ever happen. Just like passing on Hawthorne Bridge is still chaotic.
I’m interested in the bus exhaust side issue. Having lived with propane buses that seem to only put out warm air and water vapor, I wonder how much more our bio-diesel buses impact my lungs. Better to breath a french fry particle?

bicycledave
Guest
bicycledave

Trimet’s buses are only 5% biodiesel so you’re pretty much huffing diesel exhaust when taking in Trimet exhaust.

Josh G
Guest
Josh G

Bummer. Are the “Biodiesel” tags on the buses inaccurate then? http://portlandtribune.com/component/content/article?id=67484

Rob Chapman
Guest
Rob Chapman

Reza
It’s always ideal to adapt to your surroundings/biking conditions instead of blindly following dogma (such as passing must ALWAYS be done on the left).
I wouldn’t mind seeing this sentence carved in stone somewhere.

Edwards
Guest
Edwards

“Yesterday I was almost hit by somebody on Williams at Broadway because they realized that they were about to exit on to I-5 and they didn’t want to.”

This will be a big problem there because I see (I work near and drive/ride through that intersection multiple times a day) about 1 in 5 cars doing that before the new updates… a driver turning right from the I-5 only turn lane will jump across/cut inside to Williams so they can go up Williams.

Now with the new bike lane update those drivers will be doing it in an extremely dangerous way, by crossing the bike lane (accelerating hard) and then into a single lane…

I expect to see some bad interaction happening there now between cyclist and drivers (driver breaking a serious law) I won’t be surprised if someone gets hurt real soon… but I will be really pissed!
And I’ll start documenting those idiot drivers to help get something changed there!

All they have to do is put in some of those lane separating polls extended back from the curb that forks Williams and I-5 on ramp which will deter people from making that decision “on the fly”

Hazel
Guest
Hazel

I rode the new Williams route for the first time last night and it was terrible! I don’t trust that cars won’t be right hooking cyclists since they’re not used to looking for bikes there. Also, now when the bus pulls over, cars just go around it in the bike lane. Also, cars attempting to park on the left just swing in without looking. My worry before the change happened was about exiting Williams to the right. My guess is the majority of cyclists will be exiting at some point to the right and at rush hours I felt my only option was to get to the right well before my turn and I’m guessing this will start to anger motorists.

Ted
Guest
Ted

Kyle
I think we’ve reached the point where you can add all the signs, lane markings, and police enforcement you’d like, but it’s a fact that drivers in general are getting worse as time moves forward.
Recommended 8

Kyle,

What can you offer us, other than your own personal opinion, to support this “fact?”

are
Guest

well, now, ted.

to produce statistics someone would have to do a formal study with appropriate controls. which means someone with money would have to care about the data.

there is plenty of indirectly related research out there showing declines in various relevant skills as technology replaces the need to pay attention and make ongoing critical assessments of your situation. much of the readily available data focuses on injury and fatality rates, but of course these have been pushed down in part by better airframes, more widespread use of shoulder harnesses, airbags, etc.

Ilan
Guest
Ilan

I can easily see someone getting hit at the entrance to New Seasons, if no one has already. I rode it today from Dawson Park to Shaver, and I had enter the standard lane to avoid a car trying (badly, I might add) to parallel park, a beer distributing truck parked in the bike lane, and was followed for two blocks by someone driving in it.

For the most part, it does feel significantly more comfortable than what we have before, but we all still know PBOT should have done this the right way. This is not a world class, platinum level bike way. Not just compared to cities in Europe, but even to other cities in the US. We try to shape these projects to cater to every group yelling and screaming, and we end up with ”experiments” all over the place that lack consistency. Other commenters here right – It WILL bite us in the ass one day.

Also for everyone asking how to turn right, it’s no different than turning left off of a right side bike lane. Either merge into traffic, or do a Copenhagen turn. We should know this already.

Andyc of Linnton
Guest
Andyc of Linnton

Yeah. I thought I’d meet up with a friend in North Portland after work and check it out the other day instead of heading straight home. Never had I felt more happy that my daily commute is down Dirty 30. It’s not a very nice one but at least it’s straightforward and doesn’t lie to me about it’s crappiness.
Greeley, 7th, Rodney, Williams, Interstate, MLK.
It’s nice that these routes have distinctively different reasons for making them all equally terrible.

TJ
Guest
TJ

I live in NE Portland just off Rosa Parks and Williams. Still, I usually take Dirty 30 home too.

Maybe the city should have bought the old Sellwood Bridge from the county to create a straight shot bike path over Williams.

ac
Guest
ac

Indy
there’s little consistency in how Portland is building out its bike infrastructure, and its biting us in the ass now, and into the foreseeable future.

THIS

Jen
Guest
Jen

I’m a 20 year NE Portland resident and this used to be my favorite route whether on my bike or the times when I have no choice but to drive my car. But now it’s way too stressful as a cyclist and a driver. What were they thinking? I know it’s not done yet but I have looked at the website with the final “product” and the left hand bike lane seems like a bad idea. Ok, so the locals will get used to it, but Portland is a tourist town. Can Rodney become the bike thoroughfare and Williams be for cars? Like the Going/Prescott set up which I love.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“Can…Williams be for cars”

Grrrrrrrrr.

sd
Guest
sd

No

Cheif
Guest
Cheif

A good average example of why not every single person should be allowed to drive..

are
Guest

how many of the commenters here decrying the left side configuration participated in the public process?

pdx2wheeler
Guest
pdx2wheeler

Hang in there everyone! Hopefully things will smooth-out as this project moves out of this awkward phase and everyone (i.e., cars, buses, cyclists, pedestrians, beer trucks, etc…) adapts to the new roadway environment. For now be the bigger person, stay calm, and let safety guide you on your way home. Best of wishes!

stasia:)
Guest

YES! Any change is going to be awkward for a while. It makes me think of Boise, ID, where they tried to add buffered bike lanes on a main street downtown, but only put them in for a month–everyone complained about how confusing it was, how it was unsafe, how it would never work, and now they’re gone. And I wish people had gotten over their fear of change to give it a real try before deciding it would never work.

So I hope that’s the case here. Give it a try, give people some benefit of the doubt, breath deeply, maybe even smile for a second, and I suspect we can figure it all out.

pabstslut
Guest
pabstslut

It feels awkward riding on the left, but I’m sure I will get used to it. I have been swinging right into the auto lane in order to pass. Passing on the left between slow(er) moving traffic and either the curb or parked cars is asking for trouble. One thing I noticed on Tuesday is that where the bike lane immediately abuts the curb after Fremont, there was already a significant buildup of leaf debris halfway out into the bike lane. The contractor needs to hurry up and finish the sidewalks. There are multiple instances of dangerous gaps where the curb hasn’t been poured yet.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

What a bunch of bellyaching! I ride it everyday and it’s new, requires thought, might need to ride slower, and no big deal. The change once it’s done should be quite nice.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

Seriously. The facility is no where near completion and people are already acting as if the sky has fallen.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Honestly, most of the complaining here has more to do with people uncertain how to ride, than deficiencies in the bike lane.
– How do I look behind when my helmet mirror is on the left: turn your head, for riders and drivers alike a glance in the mirror is never enough.
– How do I pass and get passed: ride left, pass right, simple. Or, even simpler, ride where ever you like, just keep in a straight line and let the passers figure it out.
– How can I turn right across the car traffic: how did you turn left across car traffic? just do that, i.e. merge into the car lane if there is a space, otherwise pull over and wait for a space.
– How do I avoid bus exhaust: you don’t, we live in a city after all.

DNP
Guest
DNP

The educational comment of the week. Just make it a sticky for a week or two.

Reading these complaints mirrors those drivers who suddenly forget how to drive when a bicycle is present. I don’t understand the mental block, but I understand that it exists for a lot of people regardless of vehicle.

TJ
Guest
TJ

You’ve settled to a point of complacency when you’re calling the concerned complainers.

This isn’t a situation of MLK or Sandy is too dangerous so ride on a side street. Williams is supposed to be safe for cyclist, yet it’s beginning to look worse than Sandy and MLK combined.

Alex Reed - BikeLoudPDX
Guest

I have to say, this seems like fairly absurd hyperbole to me. I’ve ridden on Sandy and MLK and the new Williams is nothing close to as bad as a bloated multi-lane streetcar-track-ridden speedway.

Alex Reed - BikeLoudPDX
Guest

And you can bet I’m not a City project apologist in general….

TJ
Guest
TJ

I actually prefer Sandy and MLK (less-so MLK post street car tracks). I’ve been nearly hooked, doored, and sideswiped by parallel parkers to many to count on Williams. Williams is a lesson in failed mix use, having four moods of virtually equal proportions: walkers, cyclist, cars, and buses where an overwhelming focus is placed on cars.

As someone who tends to not be anti car or not opposed to the “storage of private property on public street” I feel the city should stop catering to cars on Williams. The businesses and housing that is going (or went) in touted being low car. This has certainly not been the case with New Seasons at the very least.

Ted Buehler
Guest

I rode the left side lane yesterday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though only Fargo to Beech (didn’t ride the whole thing).

I recognize that there are new conflict points, new passing protocols to be established, and a whole lot of construction cones making navigation difficult and compromising safety.

But, I think the end product will be a huge improvement over the previous facility, and folks just need to withhold final judgement for a couple weeks until they finish the curb bulbouts and islands, markings, and signage.

Then, I’m sure there will still be problems to fine-tune. And I’m pretty sure PBOT will be on top of it.

In the meantime, be careful, set your headlight on “blink” mode to help avoid left hooks, enjoy the super-wide left side bike lane, and encourage everyone else to play it calm and chill until the work is done. Then, evaluate and scrutinize.

Ted Buehler

stephen salter
Guest
stephen salter

i rode it late last night and it was an epic thunderdome/darwinian/might makes right/quick and the dead sort of affair. i loved darting in and out of the car lane when the bike lane just disappeared and i was forced to red line it to get up to the speed of traffic and merge into the flow to get to the other side of the street to get into the “bike lane” which seemed to be a couple of cones here and there. i cant wait til its done. its gonna be grid locked, frustrating, and dangerous for every travel mode that uses it. i say get rid of all the lines and let us sort it our for ourselves on the roadways. sure its not a fair match power wise but at least we wouldn’t be shoved into the corner vulnerable and powerless in our second class citizen lane. cars dont have to pull into a box on the side of the road and wait to turn, why should we have to?

Ted Buehler
Guest

And, I rode up the right-side lane Thursday at rush hour. The car lanes had been reduced to 1 at that point. Cars were backed up all the way from Broadway to New Seasons. I zipped on up, passing every car on the route. It was pretty satisfying. To see that PBOT had actually done it — removed a travel lane, causing increased car congestion, purely for the sake of increased safety and throughput of nonmotorized transportation.

Major kudos to PBOT.

Now get out there and ride it folks — fill that double-wide lane with bikes, all hours of all days. Especially after its finished in a couple weeks. Tell your friends. Complement and thank your public officials. Take pics of moms and kids happily cruising up Williams and spread the buzz on social media. Give the new facility some love.

Because, PBOT and city council are certainly going to get pushback. In the short term, cars will move slower. FedEx trucks will be “behind” on their routes. Motorized transportation is represented by powerful interests that like to raise a fuss.

In the long run, a safer Williams, and a boost for bicycle numbers, because the wider, safer lane from Broadway to Killingsworth will enable some people to commute by bike who were previously deterred by being sandwiched into a door zone by passing cars and bicycles. And, consequently, fewer cars on the streets, and less congestion for cars in N/NE Portland overall, even if a permanent increase in congestion in the Williams Corridor.

Ted Buehler

wade
Guest
wade

i didn’t really experience the apocalyptic mayhem described above. I think the new lane, even in its current incomplete form, is superior to the prior right hand lane. Riding up Williams last evening I felt like an envelope in a pneumatic tube.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Let’s be clear here: Williams sucked pretty bad before this work. A clogged, 4ft wide door-zone bike lane. I’ve only ever witnessed a cyclist getting doored once, and it was on Williams.

shtuf
Guest
shtuf

Man, I agree, a lot of bellyaching here. Take a second to figure it out and keep riding.

Oh, Williams is too scary but Rodney is too slow? Whatever… stay home.

This has been a long long process as most of you know. I commend the effort and I’m glad construction has begun.

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

Why so dismissive? It is so unreasonable to expect that a bicycle facility presumably built for all citizens to use meet the expectation of safety and convenience for the majority of those citizens?

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“Why so dismissive? It is so unreasonable to expect that a bicycle facility presumably built…”

Because people are complaining about a construction zone as if it’s the finished product.

Ted
Guest
Ted

While that is not an unreasonable notion I think it is an unrealistic expectation since this project is trying to address multiple issues and has had to accommodate multiple users with conflicting desired out comes. If all that was required was to get consensus among the cycling users on a design for the safest and coolest bike facility, and money was no object, that MIGHT be doable. But compromises are necessary and funding is always a limiting factor. As others have said, this is a huge improvement from the previous bike lane and a lane of traffic has been removed! Is it the biggest and best thing possible? But as a regular commuter on Williams I am glad to see improvement.

OnlyWayToRoll
Guest
OnlyWayToRoll

I’ve been riding down Vancouver and up Williams at least 5 times a week for over 3 years straight. Williams is an incredibly dangerous street to ride on right now.

The construction and partial changeover is only a symptom. The problem is that there are 20 or more new businesses on that street in the 3 short years I’ve been riding it. New Seasons killed our bike streets. Each new wine bar is another nail in the coffin. The 250 new apartments going up? Thats the incinerator where the viability of biking on these streets gets cremated.

We need to move on. There is no stopping the new Williams. It looks like the city wants us on Russell. Do we try to make the best of that?

Ted
Guest
Ted

We need to move on?

I think YOU need to move on.

I am pleased with the new bike lane because I think the left side bike lane, the buffer to prevent dooring, and the light at Cook will make it safer for me to move through during rush hour.

Yes, there is a lot more congestion from all the development, but that has happened/is happening so there is not much use in belly aching about how you wish things to be. If you do not feel comfortable/safe on Williams, then take another route.

Ted

BIKELEPTIC
Guest

With any sort of congestion/traffic that makes commuting unpleasant – why are you torturing yourself with it!? I know I somehow managed to live in North Portland and commute to SE and downtown for two years and never took Williams. By choice. Because I hate Williams. Because I hate taking a route that everyone else is taking. I purposefully avoided it and any other sharrow or bike lane due to abundance of flashing lights and busy traffic lanes like Broadway, Weidler, Tillamook, etc. because of traffic because of congestion. And you know what I found out? I enjoy riding my bike for one. I was able to chill out and relax. And my commute was faster. Get creative. Don’t ride the same route every day. Explore and discover on your commutes. You’ll never know what you’ll discover. You’ll find yourself with less stress and you’ll get off the main roads!

BIKELEPTIC
Guest

(this doesn’t change the fact that there is need for safe infrastructure for drivers/cyclists/pedestrian – everyone et all. Including slower speeds, more lighting and all that good stuff. I’m just saying that “Wolf Packing” is dangerous whether you’re cyclists or drivers. Clustering like that causes that congestion. Dispersing, spreading out, changing up the routine. Better for self-care and better for traffic.)

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

I biked the new left side lane for the first time tonight, it really starts to fall apart somewhere north of Russell. It is indeed very confusing where you are supposed to bicycle and where cars are supposed to drive. I’ve biked on Williams daily for the better part of a decade and tonight was the first time that I was almost nailed by a car. Hopefully the finished product will be better. In the meantime, PBOT needs to get out there and add cones, signage, barricades, etc to make it more clear how road users should behave. I also encourage people to get out there and film, photograph and otherwise document.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

The big news is that motorized vehicle lanes on Williams were reduced…this is huge; it slows that motorized traffic, makes it safer for folks to cross and gives bikes a ton more room. If you want PBOT to continue to show this kind of nerve and do more “road diets,” put up diverters, etc., you had better do your best to make Williams a huge success. Celebrate, don’t “Belly ache!”

Ted Buehler
Guest

EW was quoted in the original post:
“…the transtion/mixing zone at Killingsworth appears to be worse than before as the left lane (to turn left) is always busier than the right.”

If this is still a problem when the project is complete, folks can request a “Begin: Left Turn Yield to Bikes” sign here. I don’t recall seeing any drawings with this level of detail. But I suspect they’ll be putting them in at all the left turn pockets that cross a bike lane — Cook, Fremont, Alberta, Killingsworth, and maybe Skidmore and Shaver?
That’s “Sign R4-4, left version” Found in http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/2009r1r2/part9.pdf p. 793, example installation on p. 812

Folks can also request a “left turn yield to bikes” sign where there are no levt turn lanes, like thee New Seasons parking lot entrance.
That’s “Sign OR10-15a” left version. Found in http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/TRAFFIC-ROADWAY/docs/pdf/entire_sign_policy.pdf p. 3-106

These are pretty standard safety signs. Since the left side bike lane needs all the safety assistance it can get (folks driving both bikes and cars need to do a little more thinking and careful observing to use the facility safely) I would think the N Williams is a prime candidate to receive all the safety signage in the book.

If nobody else steps forward to ask for these signs, I imagine we could do it through BikeLoudPDX.

Ted Buehler

Ted Buehler
Guest

From the headline
“Confusion reigns on Williams Ave”

from the 3rd paragraph of the post
“Most of the emails have to do with concerns over how the project is being phased-in and the general confusion about where and how to navigate the newly striped bike lane”

E.W. quote
“but it seems a bit of a cluster at the moment and only 1/2 way thru the project. Sometimes it’s unclear…”

M.G. quote
“and was really confused by the re-routing.”

stephen wrote
“i loved darting in and out of the car lane when the bike lane just disappeared and i was forced to red line it to get up to the speed of traffic and merge into the flow…”

Folks.

This is a construction zone. It can’t work perfectly all the time, every day, when they’re switching things back and forth. It doesn’t work that way for all-car construction projects either.

There’s signs up that say “bike on roadway.” There’s also signs up at Hancock, Beech and a couple other places directing bicycles to detour on Rodney, which received traffic calming treatments a month ago specifically for the purpose of providing bicycles a safe, comfortable alternative for the construction period on Williams. The detour signs have been up for weeks.

Note that the Oregon Driver Manual instructs everyone so go slow and cautiously in work zones.

“Work Zone Signs
“Slow down and pay complete attention when you see these signs.
(p. 20) and

“Work/Construction Zones

“Driving through a maintenance, construction, or utility work zone is one
of the most challenging tasks for drivers. Following are some facts you
should know to make the trip through or around the work area safer:

“It’s definitely not “business as usual.” There may be narrow lanes, fewer lanes, or construction vehicles entering the roadway. Barrels, cones and barricades, or heavy machinery may be very close to traffic.
(p. 94-95)

http://www.odot.state.or.us/forms/dmv/37.pdf

Historically, bicyclists ride Williams like its a race. Bicyclists with different speed preferences are always leapfrogging past each other, often with very tight margins of safety. This practice is of questionable value at best — compromising everyone’s safety for a minute or two of time savings by the fastest bicyclists. In a construction zone it’s a really bad idea.

Slow down, folks, take it easy. If you’re unclear if the bike lane continues ahead, slow down, and prepare to stop if necessary before merging in to the car lane.

Ted Buehler

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

And with real rain now starting, be more cautious. Drivers and cyclists alike have reduced visibility, of each other and of roadway markings, signage, road hazards.

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

Is anything being done to deter Williams as a route to Vancouver, WA?

Besides blocking the construction of a new bridge for traffic and light rail?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Reducing it to one lane is going to do a lot to discourage people from using it as a bypass.

daisy
Guest
daisy

This is my big hope for this project.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Like…removing a vehicle lane to make higher speed and passing less possible?

Emily G
Guest
Emily G

I rode up Williams on Monday for the first time around 8 pm. I’ve been a bit skeptical of this project but it was SO awesome to ride in a lovely wide lane with a buffer! Way more relaxing than the old one. My bf and I could ride side by side and chat and not worry about getting doored. I’m cautiously optimistic.

F.W. de Klerk
Guest
F.W. de Klerk

But was it wide enough for the guys in full race kit to aggressively pass you and cut in front of you inches from your front tire? ; )

jeffb
Guest
jeffb

No thread is complete without some lycra shaming. 🙁

F.W. de Klerk
Guest
F.W. de Klerk

It’s not shaming lycra. It’s shaming rude people who feel the need to show you what great “racers” they are. Hey buddy I’m just trying to get to and from my job. Sorry to be in your way.

jeffb
Guest
jeffb

Then say “rude people,” or whatever. I’d be quite willing to bet that the anecdotal riders you mention aren’t trying to show you what great “racers” they are, they are simply going faster than you. No one “type” of cyclist has a lock on being an a-hole in Portland.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Right?

I rode Williams from Broadway to Alberta yesterday. The bike lane was very nice – wide and well marked. There were some places where it is not fully striped, but give it time. I was cruising in my work slacks and button down shirt on my 35 lb bike, feeling like such a politically correct Portlander.

But then in a moment of selfish thoughtlessness, I actually passed someone. I knew it was wrong, everyone on BP says so, but my legs felt good and I just couldn’t help myself. I cringed and apologized as I went by, and spent the next three blocks agonizing about how I’d ruined her day and maybe her life with my hostile display of speed. Maybe I should have slowed way down so she could re-pass me, but then would that just plunge her into the same moral cesspool? Or maybe she’d make a cutting remark and reduce me to tears? In the end I just shifted into 53×12 and rode as fast as I could, vainly trying to ride the miasma of shame off my wheel.

And then I turned east on Alberta and continued south on 33rd across the freeway and wondered “can we really be complaining about Williams?”

sd
Guest
sd

Cheers to everyone on this one. I have enjoyed reading the range of responses to the construction/ remodel of Williams, from friendly Ted to Ted. I am glad that people are expressing their concerns about safety and design. If cycling mode share continues to expand beyond the adventurous core of cyclists, we can expect to see higher expectations for safety and comfort, even if that is based more on the perception of safety and individual tastes for comfort. I also think that the concerns about this project reflect some skepticism that the finished project will work well. I imagine much of that skepticism comes from frequent experiences where construction zones, lane design, or lack of bike lane maintenance lead us into sketchy situations in a way that does not happen in our cars. Although, the same people are probably not responsible for all these problems. It is also great to hear the optimism that this will be a great bike route and people are having good experiences. Hopefully, Williams will become a real 8-80 corridor and the voices of all of those cyclists will have a place …and there will always be someone there to remind them to “take the lane.”

TJ
Guest
TJ

Adventurous core? Williams is used by commuters who necessitate a bicycle to get to and from work, but do not enjoy cold-soggy-rides. Many less adventurous ride through winter to avoid budget breaking parking downtown –as an example and not touching on traffic or green convictions.

The ability to bicycle safely to work is as much a need to keep Portland moving as the ability to drive safely to work. And neither need be an adventure (though it’s nice bikes afford the option for those of the spirit and creative).

es
Guest
es

I like it so far! I’ve ridden it every day since the switch over, and even during the switch over on Sunday, where it was unclear what to do, but the flaggers helped and the cars were respectful. So far Iv’e found it to be better than I thought it was going to be, and better than the right hand side bus dodging we were dealing with before.

leah treat
Guest
leah treat

I ride N Williams every day and am experiencing some difficulties myself. There are some good questions posed here and I or my staff will post a response tomorrow.

Nick Fox
Guest
Nick Fox

A moderately positive comment to add: I thought the merge at Broadway was going to be a disaster, but I rode it during rush hour for the first time tonight and thought it worked pretty well.

evan
Guest
evan

I agree this is a missed opportunity ( for a fully protected bike facility ) and am seeing several “side effects” that make Williams Ave. less safe. Trying to get used to saying “on your right” while passing other cyclists, when I ring my bell- people subconsciously drift to the right where I am trying to pass. Had a driver pull into the bike lane last night to pass a bus right in front of me without checking their blind spot. Drivers are not used to checking their blind spot on the left side.

soren
Guest
soren

i would love to see a curb-protected cycle track installed on williams or foster but until someone finds or donates the tens of millions missing from pbot’s budget this is not going to happen. buffered/enhanced bike lane are not perfect but they are a huge improvement over crappy door zone bike lanes or *nothing*.

i really worry that strident criticism from “perfectionists who cycle” is going to give ammunition to “bike haters”. imo, if williams ends up becoming a political cluster #$%^ we can pretty much kiss a cycle track on broadway good bye.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Come next summer I think we will really see how this improves the situation for cyclists on Williams. That said, it is very disappointing to see PBOT missing another great opportunity to put in a protected bike lane. Free on-street parking continues to be a sacred cow that the City Council refuses to touch. At the very least they could have taken out the parking and put in widened protected bike lanes along blocks where you have no businesses fronting the street – such as the New Seasons parking lot and private housing at the north end.