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PBOT, via blog comments, responds to “difficulties” of Williams project

Posted by on October 24th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Williams Avenue-1

Williams and it’s brand new, left-side bike lane has been a hot issue this week.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“I ride N Williams every day and am experiencing some difficulties myself.”
— Leah Treat, Director of PBOT

This week marked a very positive milestone for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT): They seem to be opening up a bit about joining the comment section here on BikePortland. I think this is a great development because it shows they understand the value of direct online engagement with their customers (us) and it could be a sign that they’re gaining confidence around the bicycling issue.

PBOT staff have been commenting on BikePortland ever since Day One. But in recent years, changes in media protocol coupled with a bit more critical tone toward the agency from this site, has scared some of them away (not to mention all the talk of stagnation might have sapped some staffers’ mojo).

However, I’m happy to report that in the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten our first comment ever from PBOT Director Leah Treat and an official statement from Diane Dulken, one of PBOT’s media relations staffers. Both of the comments are in response to our recent coverage of the Williams project.

Treat’s comment was unexpected — and unexpectedly candid. Here’s the comment she left last night:

“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.”

I think it’s a great sign that PBOT’s top staffer has shown this degree of candor on such a hot-button issue without hiding behind a spokesperson or politi-speak. It also shows that she respects other commenters — which is something I believe is key to hosting a productive online community. (And yes, I did confirm that Treat is the real author of that comment.)


Then, just a few minutes ago, Treat’s promise of a response panned out. Agency spokeswoman Diane Dulken left a statement in the comment section of our 10/17 story on concerns that traffic from Williams is spilling onto Rodney:

On behalf of PBOT, we want to say thanks so much for all of these comments. We really appreciate the feedback. It helps as we keep rolling out the new road design for North Williams.

The biggest thing we want to stress is that Williams is still an active construction zone – you know that, but it bears emphasis: there are still elements of the bike lane that we haven’t installed yet. Part of the issue is all of the rain we got this week. We need to wait for some dry weather to stripe and install other segments.

We’re also very aware that an expanded left hand bike lane is an unusual treatment in Portland. Whether folks are walking, biking or driving, it’s going to take some time getting used to. To help with that, we are conducting the “A Safer Place for Everyone” education campaign (you can check that out here: We’re also passing out brochures and other info through the neighborhood and we plan to keep up education and outreach to help all travelers adjust to the new street design. For now, the biggest message is to please ride, drive and walk with care. We have to look out for each other out there.

A few other specifics: We plan to add signage on Broadway to make traffic patterns clearer, which should help reduce conflicts and confusion.

The issue with cars driving through the Rodney diverter is also on our radar and we’re discussing some possible solutions to that.

If you have addition comments, concerns or want to share some more info with us. please reach out to Dan Layden on our staff next week. He’s at a conference today, but will be back Monday. You can reach him by email at or by phone 503.823.2804. Thanks again for engaging with us.

So there you have it: PBOT is listening — and responding — to your feedback and they’re engaged in these important issues. That’s nothing new actually, I’ve always found them to be highly attentive. But what is new, and encouraging to me, is that they’re engaging with you and I directly here on BikePortland.

Please support BikePortland.

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

  • Zaphod October 24, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Thank you PBOT

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  • Tim October 24, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    I live in NE and work in Hillsboro, so I hit N. Williams on the driving commute home as I come off the Fremont Bridge. I do like the LH bike lanes as it makes it, um less stressful, turning right onto Shaver , etc. However, getting on to N. Williams is a PITA compared to what it was (it was a PITA before, just worse now). It looks as though the new temporary light @ N. Cook is helping a bit. Does anybody know if there a plan to put a light at N. Vancouver & N. Cook? If N. Cook continues to be a clog fest at rush hour, folks will continue to split and do the Fargo/Monroe/Morris trick where they’ll need to cross the LH bike lane…and because it is tougher to get onto N. Williams w/a car, drivers are going to “get impatient”.

    Hopefully there are plans to manage this part of the problem. In the meantime, my LH land biking friends, exercise an extra bit of caution as you get within 4 blocks or so of Fremont; keep an eye on those side streets to your left.

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    • daisy October 24, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      I asked about this during the Williams process. The Vancouver/Cook intersection has been noted by PBOT as one that needs a traffic and has problems. However, this pot of money is only for Williams, and traffic lights are expensive, so, no traffic light from this funding.

      I believe I heard something about New Seasons being asked to pitch in, however, and there may be a new traffic light because of that, but my memory is hazy.

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      • Tim October 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

        Thanks. Well hopefully it is a net improvement and did nothing more than move the problem.

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  • Adam H. October 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for listening and addressing our concerns, PBOT! 🙂

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  • Todd Boulanger October 24, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    PBoT how about some banners the width of each lane:
    Bike Here [w/ down arrow] + Don’t Drive Here [w/ Down Arrow] + Drive Here [w/ down arrow]

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  • Jonathan F. October 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for all of your efforts, PBOT.

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  • daisy October 24, 2014 at 4:28 pm
  • Gumby October 24, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    There is a lot of confusion with all the construction, but even with all that, I like the current configuration better than the old. I don’t have to ride in the door zone. I don’t have to play leap from with the bus.

    I’m pretty happy with how PBOT has handled this difficult transition. The only section I found difficult is where the bike path crosses NE Alberta. The bike path takes a sudden jog to the left as Williams takes a jog to the left. I have a hard time seeing where to go. I hope there will be some striping through the intersection at some point.

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  • jeg October 24, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Now how about we get bike lanes on Sandy!

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  • wsbob October 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    The new bike lane, extending uninterrupted, way into the distance as shown in the photo at the top of this story, looks absolutely excellent.

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    • Alex October 25, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      It looked exactly the same on the other side of the road at that location.

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    • was carless October 26, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Thats actually a really big deal for Portland, isn’t it? This will likely be a new model for coupleted commercial zones. Broadway/Weidler next??

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    • Dean October 26, 2014 at 9:20 am

      That part of the ride is fine. It’s when you get to where there are left-turn lanes and cars are also trying to merge on to/through Williams from the West side and traffic is backed up during rush hour when things start getting a little bit hairy.

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      • wsbob October 26, 2014 at 10:45 am

        Do you have any particular ideas about what things people riding may be able to do, in terms of riding procedures, that could help in effectively dealing with the hairier sections of Williams Ave’s new bike lanes?

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        • Dean October 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

          Well, as PBOT noted, it is an active construction zone. So, for the time being I have just been riding slower than normal, trying not to pass slower riders until passing gets figured out (e.g. pass on the right or left?), and expecting every car on the road to suddenly veer in to the bike lane without warning because that’s exactly what some of them are doing (and not because they are trying to be dangerous; I think the turning situation is really confusing for cars at the moment).

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  • Mike October 25, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    PBOT, thanks for joining the discussion. Even before all this windy weather, plenty of cones were missing from where they were supposed to be (temporary lane markers, etc), other signage was obstructing the new bike lane, vertical cuts in the road were not buffered, and leaf litter is building up and obstructing the new left side bike lanes. Given that this still an active construction zone and therefore higher risk corridor, I would expect more diligent maintenance of temporary signage so it does what it is supposed to do and not endanger users. Not trying to be snarky or ungrateful but this transition is more confusing and perilous than it needs to be. What’s up?!

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  • Chris October 27, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I’m still not clear to me what the impetus is behind a bike lane on the left side of a one way street. It’s going to cause confusion among bicyclists as they pass each other in the lane. It’s going to cause disorientation for drivers who are expecting us to follow common traffic flow. It’s going to cause confusion for drivers making a right turn unto Williams from a cross street who may be used to a right-side bike lane and overcompensate into the new left-side lane.
    Yea I know… These issues have been brought up ad-nauseum, but Williams is important to my morning commute. What say you, PBOT?

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    • daisy October 27, 2014 at 11:31 am

      The left side bike lane avoids bus-bike conflict, which was always a big issue. That was discussed on BikePortland quite a bit during the process. I agree that the left side lane is confusing, but it definitely limits the bike-bus leapfrogging which happened all too often.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu October 27, 2014 at 11:36 am

        Also less dooring risk with a left side bike lane, since most cars are occupied by only the driver.

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  • Richard October 27, 2014 at 11:13 am

    So far, things look to be going in the right direction – other than the multiple different construction sites on both sides of the road (PBOT, and private real estate/business development) starting south of New Seasons and stretching right up to Going…makes for frustrating, confusing times for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

    Also, turning right onto the Going greenway from the new left-side bike lane is challenging, and I don’t foresee it getting any easier, even once the construction is finished.

    Is there going to be special signage to warn drivers of the high volume of right turns for cyclists at that unmarked major bike intersection?

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  • Bald One October 27, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Hi PBOT,

    Can your team try to prioritize leaf litter removal from major bike lane arterials this fall? I think PBOT have a general plan to pick up leaves only one time per street citywide, which makes sense for most residential areas, but the major bike lane connectors with high use bike travel in the designated gutters (sic) bike lanes where bikes are supposed to ride get way too clogged and dangerous to only pick up leaves once per season. It’s not too hard to know which of these major bike routes need it the most and should receive priority pick up and multiple removals during November. Thanks!

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  • Genevieve October 27, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Is anyone else having a rough time merging to turn right on Going Street from the left hand bike lane on Williams? Any plans for additional signage at this intersection PBOT?

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  • Andy K October 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    So can I pass on the left, or nah?

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    • daisy October 27, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      Really I think we need to pass on the right, when we’re in the left-side lane.

      But regardless: it’s always okay to give an audible warning.

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  • Sean S. October 27, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    I decided to run the camera last Friday at around 6:30 PM on the way home from work and I found the transtion as going as well as expected. There are a few issues that will hopefully get easier with time at the following time stamps.
    7:34 A near left hook from a vehicle that had passed less than 30 seconds earlier. I watched the driver and once he saw my dual sets of lights he paused to turn his head and look but I saw no use of his left hand mirror and the partial turn had moved any view of that mirror useless.
    9:00 There is a line of moving/storage boxes left along the curb with the addition of a truck on the corner that have completely blocked any possible sight line from the cross street. Drivers are slowing/stopping far into the new lane with no regard to cross traffic.
    10:15 The light at Alberta are now using a green right turn arrow first with crosswalk light activated and delayed North bound lights activated a short time later. This is similar to Killingsworth but I’m curious as to how activating the right turn light at the same time as the crosswalk light is at all safe. They should all be delayed if the technique is going to do any good.

    I passed other riders along the way and I prefer the right side pass with the left lane but it will depend on where room to pass is at the time.

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    • Dean October 27, 2014 at 9:02 pm

      Awesome footage, man. I will say that traffic is a bit lighter at 6:30 PM vs 5:30 PM and it is a lot more chaotic during rush hour. That having been said, that was similar to my commute on Friday around 6p. When that van pulled out on Going St. I think it was due to the construction there. There are a few places where visibility is horrible right now (another section that sucks is when you are in a car, trying to leave the New Seasons parking lot to get on to Williams – there is that fence totally blocking visibility).

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  • Sean S. October 27, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    I completely agree. My usual commute time is around 5:30 but work ran late last Friday. 🙂

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  • Fred October 27, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    On your right!

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  • Vinnie November 5, 2014 at 9:44 am

    I have to say this project has created a nightmare… I have seen several cars take over the bike lane as they pass the bus on the left. This is a MAJOR issue as it escalates aggressiveness specifically towards bikers. Motorist need to be respected as well. I believe that this project has failed to inform people correctly. How do bikers now ride slow, do they ride on the left or right? How do you pass another bike? How do you turn right off of N Williams? How do cars handle bus stops? I really love Portland and its bike ability but this is a example of pushing an idea to far. Please help make this better…

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  • Asher Atkinson November 5, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    It would be helpful to reach consensus on the passing etiquette within the bike lane, now that it is widened and on the left side of the street. To me it seems obvious to pass on the right, i.e., to the ‘outside’ of the bike lane toward motorized traffic. Though contrary to the norm of passing on the left, isn’t passing etiquitte meant to keep the onus of contending with more dangerous/higher speed traffic on the one passing? If so, etiquette should call for one to overtake from the outside of the lane. Again, feels natural to me, but tonight I was scolded by a fellow cyclist for passing ‘on the right’ when we were in the new Williams lane.

    Overall, I like the new configuration on Williams and am not troubled by the growing pains.

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  • AG November 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    I ride Williams home every evening and since the update it does not feel safe. I go east at either Russell or Knott. Trying to cross two lanes of traffic that are going 30 + mph in dark, rainy conditions is scary. The alternative is slowing down and trying to stay out of the way of bikes while pulling out on the left at the intersection to try a Copenhagen turn. At Russell you turn into oncoming bike traffic/car traffic. On Knott its not lit so you can’t see where to stop. Studies showed that the majority of people go east off of Williams so they will all have to do this maneuver at some point on their ride home. I’ve given it a try and find it unsatisfactory and scary. I’ve been commuting on Williams for years and its now worse.

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  • HGee November 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Totally agree with Vinnie and AG. Just rode N Williams for the first time last week and was completely confused. With all of the blinking lights, a hat on under helmet against the cold (covering ears), driving rain, etc I def couldn’t see whether there was any wayfinding signage, directional arrows on the street, or what. Passing occurred on both the right and left, often without hearing any heads up first. Turning right onto Going…near impossible (hard to scan right and slow as bikes passing on right and left) — which makes no sense as I be that is where the large majority of N Williams people are headed. The whole route I had the feeling of an imminent crash coming on! After three days on that stretch, I am vowing “never again!” Not during rush hour, and not at least until there is clarity of lanes. I want to underscore that bike vs bike was actually more of a concern for me than bike vs car crash potential. An unfortunate unintended consequence by PBOT.

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