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Is Portland ready to start building streets for smaller trucks?

Posted by on December 1st, 2014 at 3:30 pm

truck on right

Big trucks in busy American cities are often seen as a necessary evil. But maybe that’s only half true.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Cities can’t exist without cargo. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that cities can exist with fewer big trucks.

Two weeks ago, the day after local man Kirke Johnson was killed in a collision with a right-turning semi-trailer truck that apparently failed to yield as he passed it going straight, urbanist website CityLab published an interesting bit of news.

After years of selling 15-foot cargo vans as delivery vehicles in Europe and Japan, Nissan has found a market for them in the United States, too:

“We did talk to businesses that operate in condensed urban areas,” says Bedrosian. “They were really having a tough time maneuvering within the city. They wanted a vehicle that could easily get into the city and out.”

Michael Bunce, Vice President of Nissan Commercial Vehicles, believes these smaller cargo vans may sell upwards of 75,000 units in the United States this year. “We’re getting to the point where we’re going to be more successful in the U.S. than in Europe,” he says.

Some of this is due to American small-business owners who need something bigger than their family car but don’t need a commercial truck. Either way, it’s a win for safe streets. CityLab adds:

The Federal Highway Administration suggests having traditional 30-foot trucks in mind when designing residential and local city streets and intersections. But in its latest design guide, the National Association of City Transportation Officials recommended preparing for a 23-foot vehicle in such situations. The City of Chicago has followed suit; its latest street guide (with Nelson\Nygaard as lead consultant) also introduced a 23-foot delivery van for neighborhood streets.

There are really a couple different issues here.

Whether articulated tractor-trailers should be in urban areas at all. First, are tractor-trailer rigs like the ones that killed Johnson — and Kathryn Rickson in 2012, and Tracey Sparling in 2007 — compatible with central cities?

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In Rickson’s case, the county prosecutor’s office concluded that the truck’s driver couldn’t possibly have seen her in his mirrors as he began to turn. (A civil lawsuit later called that into question.) If drivers of the biggest trucks are physically unable to see whether they’re about to kill someone, should such trucks be legal?

Another alternative, used in parts of Europe, is for big rigs to stop at the urban periphery and transfer their loads to smaller vehicles. But if so, how do we decide what is and isn’t an “urban area”?

15136611816_6a9a2da12d_z

The 15-foot Mercedes Sprinter cargo van
is an increasingly popular freight option.
(Photo: Jason Lawrence)

Whether fleet changes could reduce the number of unarticulated 30-foot trucks. These are more common inside U.S. cities than semi rigs, but arguably have a bigger influence on cities because urban streets have been designed around them. You know how many street corners built since the 60s are rounded off, enabling people to whip quickly around them in their cars? The idea of designing a street around the largest vehicle that regularly uses them (30-foot trucks) seems sensible enough. But since the 60s, we’ve learned that doing this changes the natural behavior of the other traffic on the street, too, making it more dangerous 24/7.

This is why a shift toward 23-foot cargo trucks, 15-foot cargo vans, or even pedal and electric-powered trikes — in the cargo market and in urban planning — would make so much difference. Not only would it change the type of vehicles on the street, it could in the way we build streets in the first place.

bike traffic walmart

This curved-corner design, from the Walmart on Southeast 82nd Avenue, is actually much safer than most because of the raised crosswalk.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Here in Portland, the fact that most cargo vehicles are big and dangerous to be around is a subtle influence on almost everything we do with our streets.

Last week, discussing chaotic behavior on North Williams Avenue, city project manager Rich Newlands wrote in an email that although it’d be “better” to run a concrete curb alongside a green-painted bike lane just north of Broadway, that would be impossible because of the “the turning radius of large trucks.”

Two weeks earlier, city staff recommended keeping protected bike lanes off Grand Avenue, citing the city’s policy to separate freight and bike traffic by nudging them onto completely different streets.

Like so many things about our streets, this policy is based on the assumption that in order to survive, any major commercial area requires daily visits from dangerously large trucks. But what if this isn’t actually true?

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88 Comments
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    Huey Lewis December 1, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I drive a big MB Sprinter for work. There should not be anything larger carrying cargo within city limits. At all. Ever.

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      paikiala December 1, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      What about school buses? Garbage trucks? UPS? FedEx?

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        Joseph E December 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm

        Just say “NO” to school buses.
        Trimet buses are necessary, but they stay on fixed routes.
        The school buses can follow the same streets as Trimet.

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          J_R December 1, 2014 at 11:20 pm

          Just guessing you’re not a parent of school age kids. I’d rather my kids and the neighbors’ ride school buses to middle school four miles away than have another one or two hundred SUVs driving them to school. If you make it too difficult for school bus transport, individual driving will be the replacement.

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            Chris I December 2, 2014 at 5:59 am

            School busses can be smaller. 30ft maximum. I used to ride the 40ft busses in SW Portland as a kid, and they were never full.

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              Brian December 2, 2014 at 6:18 am

              Every bus that pulls up to my school is full.

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                Psyfalcon December 2, 2014 at 8:01 am

                More buses?

                That costs money, but then we start weighing that against what a life costs with the wider-faster roads and large vehicles.

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              J_R December 2, 2014 at 8:38 am

              Maybe the problem is the lower density of SW Portland due to topography. The lower density results in either excessively long driving duration by school buses or less-than-full buses in these areas. My kids report full busses every day where we live in SE – a dense area with a nearly complete grid street system. I don’t think your remembrances from riding buses as a kid in SW are the norm for current school bus operations.

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          mike December 2, 2014 at 8:08 pm

          Only on bikeportland can someone post(with a straight face no doubt) “NO” to school buses. What’s next? NO to puppies?

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            9watts December 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

            “What’s next? NO to puppies?”

            Oregon Mam(a)cita has suggested that one here several times.

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        CaptainKarma December 1, 2014 at 5:39 pm

        My psychology instructor’s daughter was killed on her bike by a garbage truck.

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        esther2 December 1, 2014 at 5:53 pm

        UPS and FedEx are two of the worst offenders. They can off load their small cargo items onto their smaller vans 100% of the time. Garbage trucks come down the street once a week.

        We have beer trucks driving huge semi trailers to deliver kegs and cases of beer that would fit in the back of a station wagon. No excuse for not offloading to local delivery services.

        We do not have any kind of manpower shortage.

        There is also a problem with trucks leaving the freeway during rush hour to take MILK and Williams to avoid traffic. It should be illegal.

        I have been ranting about this for years.

        Its not only killing people, its tearing up our streets and curbs. I live off Interstate Avenue and huge trucks turn all the time in spite of the signs saying “no turns trucks greater than 50′” Then they get stuck and theirs a cluster F while they back up and forth trying to complete their turns.

        I would like to know what was in the truck that killed Ms Rickson that made it so necessary to drive that behemoth down a city street, risking lives in that way. And to act as if not being able to see her in his mirror is a defense. If he couldn’t see what was in the lane beside him, he shouldn’t have turned. It was way too risky.

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          Kyle December 1, 2014 at 6:23 pm

          I swear UPS and FedEx trucks have been getting bigger over the years. Just this evening I saw a FedEx truck pulling off of Belmont and unable to make the turn, so the driver held up traffic for a while trying to correct his/her mistake.

          Last week I saw a huge long semi truck making an illegal turn from the left lane onto NE 28th from Burnside – not only did the truck still fail to clear the curb, but it scraped the side of the utility pole as well and completely blocked the intersection for a couple of light cycles. How is a truck like this able to legally drive on Portland’s narrow streets? If a vehicle cannot make a safe and legal turn at an intersection it should not be in the city.

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          meh December 2, 2014 at 7:20 am

          So you expect a station wagon to deliver the beer. Ready for a price increase as it would take 20 station wagons to cover the route of that single truck. But at least it becomes a make work project, adding 19 people to the payroll to drive those extra vehicles on the road. And all those extra vehicles on the road will certainly have a calming effect as gridlock spreads.

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            Kyle December 2, 2014 at 11:24 am

            Nobody said station wagons – just no massive semi-trucks. And that’s the same scare tactic used by all profit-hungry corporations. Price increases. Instead, they could do the right thing in the name of safety and liveability – hiring more people to boost the economy as well – and make slightly less profit.

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              wsbob December 2, 2014 at 6:16 pm

              “Nobody said station wagons – just no massive semi-trucks. …” Kyle

              Beer, soft drinks, building supplies and plenty other items delivered, weigh a lot, and, or, make for large volume. This is part of the point some people in their comments here, are trying to get across.

              Easy for some others to say ‘use smaller trucks’ or trailers, without consideration for safety or efficiency that can be superior through the use of larger capacity trucks and trailers, than by the use of double, triple or more numbers of smaller capacity vehicles.

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            esther2 December 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm

            Ask the Rickson family if paying a few pennies more for a pint of beer would be worth it or for whatever was in that truck.

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          was carless December 2, 2014 at 11:46 am

          I thought all delivery in the USA was going to be replaced by autonomous drones next year? That and self-driving vehicles.

          …is that not happening after all??

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        Mike December 2, 2014 at 9:24 am

        Just say no kids. They will only create more pollution and congestion.

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        Opa December 2, 2014 at 9:46 am

        Most children should ride their bicycles to school. School buses are just about non-existent outside of the U.S. This is healthier and improves academics. Every child within 3 miles of a grammar school, 7 miles of a Jr High, and 10 miles of a high school should be able to safely ride to school.

        UPS & Fedex already have much smaller vehicles in their fleets. Same for garbage collection and other uses of large trucks. Some are moving to smaller anyway for fuel economy and improved logistics and personnel management.

        If we begin changing the paradigm to tighter curb radiuses and narrower traffic lanes then every entity with supersize trucks, including fire departments, will begin replacing them with smaller vehicles as replacements are needed.

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        Cory Poole December 2, 2014 at 10:01 am

        School busses have a short wheel base for their length. They can make much tighter turns then big trucks. I don’t think they would be impacted. Same with garbage trucks. The only losers I can see would be large moving trucks that use tractor trailers for interstate moves.

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        davemess December 3, 2014 at 10:27 am

        Are there that many school buses in Portland? I rarely see them, and all the schools around me don’t have busing. The couple of high schools i ride past all just use TRIMET.

        What schools are getting bused?

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      wsbob December 1, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      “I drive a big MB Sprinter for work. There should not be anything larger carrying cargo within city limits. At all. Ever.” Huey Lewis

      Depends a lot on what weight and volume of freight needs to be delivered during a shift, and the largest size or weight of freight to be delivered. That someone sees only a couple beer kegs in the back of a thirty or twenty-three foot trailer, doesn’t mean that’s the entire load for the run or the shift.

      Without having at least some sense of the logistics related to delivery of freight for a given area, it’s not reliable to accept a flat dismissal of need for vehicles with a cargo space, longer than a modest, fifteen foot in length.

      Where realistically practical for freight delivery in the overall freight delivery system, vans of modest length, like the fifteen foot Sprinter, look like they can make things easier. Easier for people walking, biking, driving. Easier for property and business owners. Much depends on how much work needs to be done, in what frame of time.

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    Pete December 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    In addition to the safety benefits, big trucks are designed to be more efficient for long hauls and not stop and go traffic. One would think that properly designed engines and drivetrains – including EV and hybrid technologies – would yield better operating efficiency for their operators and possibly cleaner air in urban concentrations.

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      meh December 2, 2014 at 7:23 am
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        jeg December 2, 2014 at 8:23 am

        Natural gas is not green. That’s propaganda.

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        9watts December 2, 2014 at 8:30 am

        Neither is electric drive. Electric propulsion is no better than the fuel burned to make the electricity. Generating the emissions somewhere else is hardly a solution.

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          jeg December 2, 2014 at 8:58 am

          Actually, power plants are far more efficient than any vehicle.

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            9watts December 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

            Yeah, well. I wasn’t talking about efficiency. We worship efficiency in this country and it is enslaving us. The point is we are on the hook to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, and by shifting our transportation system toward electric propulsion we are *increasing* our reliance/dependence on fossil fuels.

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          Kyle December 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

          And there’s far greener methods of power generation available.

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            PorterStout December 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm

            Hear, hear. We’re on the Blue Sky Program at my house, meaning we pay for 100% renewable electricity (and this doesn’t mean hydro). While I can’t tell you exactly where the electricity charging up our car came from since it’s all mixed together in the grid, I can tell you what source is replacing it on the input side. The fact that our national electrical system still relies on a lot of fossil fuels (or nuclear) is a separate issue, and you have the means in your own hands to change it on at least an individual basis.

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              9watts December 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm

              Yeah, I have a similar program for my residential electricity. All fine and good, but we’re decades (centuries?) away from having a renewable supply infrastructure that can take over our current non-transportation demand for electricity, never mind the massive increase we’d see if we shift our transportation to electric propulsion.

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    peejay December 1, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    In Japan, even the garbage trucks are miniature versions of the ones we use. I guess they unload to larger trucks that stick to main roads, but I’m not sure.

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      9watts December 1, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      the Japanese produce less garbage (per capita) than we do.

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        Psyfalcon December 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

        But their cities, especially Tokyo are much more compact. Even if they make 1/4 of the garbage we do, they probably have 4x the population density. You still have the same amount of garbage per street.

        (I’ll go look up real numbers later)

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    jonno December 1, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    While we’re at it making them smaller, can we make them quieter too? Can’t believe the noise levels generated by trucks on urban streets, especially garbage trucks…

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    Chris Anderson December 1, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Some of the worst air-pollution comes from school buses and other old trucks.

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    Josh G December 1, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Michael,
    Good quote from Nissan, but there are a lot of companies selling Sprinter size trucks, including Daimler right here in PDX, ya?

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    MaxD December 1, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    I think about this everyday when I ride down Interstate Ave: designing for huge freight vehicles is one reason the motorist lanes are so grossly oversized! I would LOVE to a 10.5-11′ motorist lane striped here with a painted buffer to the bike lane.

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      oliver December 2, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Not only that, but it induces consumer demand for passenger vehicles built on things like the GMT900 platform.

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    9watts December 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm
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    Jeg December 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Electric cargo vans!

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    Paul December 1, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    q ‘ Tzal, realistic?

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      q`Tzal December 6, 2014 at 1:31 am

      I suspect that this is on the wrong article.

      Besides… <Austin Powers>
      Who needs “realistic”? I’m supernatural baby!
      </Austin Powers>
      Maybe that was Zaphod Beeblebrox.

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    caesar December 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I lived in Sydney for nearly three years. Smaller “lorries” everywhere in the city and suburbs, the big trucks (like our 18-wheelers and articulated trucks) only on the highways.

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    Chris Smith December 1, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    This would be a great trend if it comes about (and I hope it does!). There are however at least two factors that militate against it:

    1) Labor efficiency. A shipper wants to send as much stuff out with a driver as he/she can unload and deliver in a shift. If the driver has to return to the depot for another load before the shift is over, that’s very inefficient.

    2) Sustainability. A 15-foot vehicle uses more than 50% of the fuel that a 30-foot vehicle uses. Fuel efficiency per pound of cargo goes up as the size of the truck goes up (as long as the truck is full).

    On the other hand if smaller vehicles can access urban environments more easily, that may offset the two factors that I cite. Here’s hoping…

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      Doug Klotz December 1, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Chris:
      I suppose there are studies/charts of efficiency in per-pound, and/or in per-cubic foot for different trucks. I note, as others have elsewhere, that high-volume, low-weight loads (packing peanuts,e.g.) may play out differently (they need a large but lightweight/low power truck), whereas heavy, concentrated loads (bags of concrete), would need a small but powerful truck, or travel in a lower gear (slower).

      Also, would proximity of freight terminals to the central city, make going back to the warehouse for a second load less onerous? If the driver leaves the CEID and distributes west of the Willamette, and then comes back, reloads, and goes out to the east side, is that still as efficient (or more efficient) than one truck going out all day, including when it comes right by the warehouse later in the day on its way? And, on the second half of the day, this big truck is half-empty, so less efficient.

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        paikiala December 2, 2014 at 10:25 am

        Don’t forget the Federal rules regarding the national highway system and access, coupled with the Oregon trucking lobby and ORS hole in the air rules. Most local jurisdictions have the authority to limit size, weight and time of day for particular road users, so long as those rules do not attempt to trump the forces in the first paragraph.
        Eliminating the Federal weight exemption for buses and garbage trucks could be one way to get smaller vehicles.

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      Paul December 2, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Efficiency is a huge issue for delivery companies. An 80,000# tractor-trailer rig at 6 MPG is more than 3 times as efficient as a 3,000# Prius at 50 MPG from a weight to fuel consumption standpoint, discounting that the Prius would be higher on diesel fuel. Of course, there would be a huge volume capacity difference as well. Duh!

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        was carless December 4, 2014 at 11:00 pm

        There would also be a lot of businesses requiring much more frequent delivers, and thus paradoxically MORE truck traffic. Although those trucks have to be a heck of a lot safer on the street than an 18-wheeler.

        However, if I’m riding on a cramped street and a big box truck passes me, it can still be hair raising.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson December 1, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Michael, take this story to the Portland Freight Committee, PBOT’s more and wider roads advocacy group. They got the big wide lanes on the rebuilt Naito, making it even less friendly for crossing. They meet the first Thursday of each month, City Hall, Pettigrove Room, 7am. That’s this Thursday! Ask Bob Hillier, who staffs it for PBOT, to put this story on the agenda. They refused to seat me as a representative of Swan Island about 10 years ago cause down there we moved freight by helping folks get out of their cars.
    This committee needs to be opened up to residents who live near truck routes and to active transportation advocates. The city should not staff a “more roads” advocacy group!
    In ’91 PBOT wanted to put big radii at the 23rd & Burnside, to accommodate semis coming off 23rd! George Crandell and I said, “Wait a minute! what’s a big truck doing on 23rd!” Its a pedestrian street. They came about to that with “what about fire trucks?! I pointed out that Burnside has two lanes, and that fire trucks can probably take both. We got smaller radii, for what that’s worth. But not much has really changed.

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    Ted Buehler December 1, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Another point —

    It’s been about 20 years since the USDOT changed the maximum trailer length from 48′ to 53′.

    There’s still many places in the US where the roads haven’t been widened so that 53′ trailers can safely navigate the streets. And, most of these places will never be widened, so we keep on getting the scenarios like Esther described above.

    I think there would be a good case to be made to ban 53′ trailers from sections of US cities, or at least Portland, where they simply can’t make a turn without taking a couple lanes.

    Next time you’re riding west on Broadway to the Willamette River, watch to see how the 53′ trucks hog the right turn lane and the bike lane to make a right turn on Larrabee. And this intersection was rebuilt 15 years *after* 53′ trucks were legalized.

    Ted Buehler

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      Pete December 2, 2014 at 6:22 am

      Yes, and it’s a big problem when trucks are banned from certain roads and drivers don’t know it or use them anyway, like this one that killed Ethan Wong: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Ethan-Wong-IDd-As-Cupertino-Teen-Killed-on-Bicycle-by-Dump-Truck-280942932.html

      I’ve gotten into arguments here before about ‘privacy’ versus electronic tracking systems in cars/trucks, but Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) networks are coming, mark my words. There’s something to be said for your truck knowing where it can and cannot route you; transponders are already in use in vehicles that operate on airport tarmacs to minimize “incursions.”

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    Charlie Pye December 1, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    So I presented this at the far-fetched transportation ideas event a month ago…
    http://www.cargocap.com
    I still think it’s a good idea. Instead huge, dangerous trucks tearing up the roads, we get smaller more efficient cargo pods underground. Put up distribution centers near the freeways and around the city, transfer to small trucks/cargobikes as necessary, and there’s no need for heavy trucks on city streets.

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      Pete December 2, 2014 at 6:15 am

      Similar to Amazon’s robotic warehouse system, yes? It makes sense, though underground construction has its challenges in seismically active areas. I wonder if a system like this could be piggy-backed on the MAX rails, multiplexing passenger cars with cargo cars? Probably not for the necessary capacity though – the underground system would be better.

      Or maybe Amazon’s drones will solve all of our problems? 😉

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      James Donohue December 2, 2014 at 7:37 am

      You do realize that this has been done before? in Chicago?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Tunnel_Company

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    Andy K December 1, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Studies may show that smaller trucks (and the infrastructure designed for them) are a better idea but the design standards that we are required to follow in this area are the exact opposite: we always design for the largest possible vehicle.

    I wish designers and engineers were given a green light to use context-sensitive designs (like skinnier lanes and tighter curb radii) that promote smaller, safer vehicles, and lower speeds.

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    James Donohue December 2, 2014 at 7:32 am

    That Turning Radius Diagram is Flawed… the Inside Swept Radius *should* begin at the REAR Axle. the Diagram shows the dotted line stating at the Front Axle… A Cyclist can get run over by the Rear Wheels of a Truck, and this Diagram fails to correctly point-out the true hazard.

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    Dave December 2, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Don’t forget Tri-Met; much of Portland is a 19th century street grid yet they insist on cramming giant buses down Hawthorne, through Old Town, etc.
    Smaller buses more drivers–remember, this focus on effciency is not the best thing for employment.

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      random December 2, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Because Tri-Met isn’t expensive enough yet…

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      Barrett Ross December 2, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Trimet should be running smaller buses on a lot of their routes, especially on the west side. They should also have a use them for night service, when the buses virtually never fill up.

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    Ted Buehler December 2, 2014 at 8:20 am

    In response to the headline: (& a variation on my earlier comment)

    “Is Portland ready to start building streets for smaller trucks?”

    The answer is Portland is not building roads for the current maximum size trailer of 53′.

    So, they’re already done it. Already started building roads for smaller trucks. Or, chose to never build roads large enough for the maximum legal size truck.

    For instance, the right turn I mentioned from eastbound Broadway at Larrabee, rebuilt in 2010, where trucks need to take up the bike lane to make the turn. Another instance is the right turn from westbound Broadway to westbound Lovejoy, where the 53′ trucks always “sweep” their trailer through the Lovejoy bike lane. This is why those candlestick bollards that PBOT installed in about 2012 disappeared so quickly — it only took 2 or 3 US Mail trucks to crush those candlesticks into pulp.

    The term is “geometric design.”

    So, the question in my mind is:

    “Is Portland ready to restrict movement of trucks to roads that can physically provide for them?”

    I doubt it, but this is one basis from which to start whittling at the problem.

    Ted Buehler

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      Paul December 2, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      CA severely restricts which roads 53′ semi-trailers are allowed on. I worked for a large distribution center that was only one block off the “oversize” truck route and the local PD was writing drivers “off-route” tickets! The transition intersection had to be modified (at great expense!) to allow them legal access.

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        Ted Buehler December 2, 2014 at 9:17 pm

        Good info — this could be an important start.

        For instance, after the USPS main office gets relocated in 2020 or so, PBOT could ban 53′ trucks from Lovejoy.

        Ted Buehler

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    J_R December 2, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I’m not convinced that narrower lanes or roads will produce the desired results. I already see plenty of undesirable diversion to neighborhood streets when there’s a bit of slowing due to construction on collectors or arterials.

    In my experience, narrower lanes at least on collectors and arterials with bike lanes, do not seem to produce much slowing of motor vehicle traffic. It simply results in more encroachment into the bike lanes. Look at the locations where there’s a modest curve in the road and see how quickly the bike lane line marking gets worn away. That’s not being caused by trucks, it’s caused by 50 percent of the cars that simply take the shorter path around the curve.

    Maybe there would be some benefit if a 5-foot bike lane and an adjacent 12-foot motor vehicle lane were restriped to 6 feet and 11 feet, but I surely don’t want to be riding in a 5-foot lane adjacent to a 10-foot lane.

    I can’t track it down, but I think I saw a paper on the effect of bike lanes on speeds travelled by motor vehicles done by researchers in Ohio.

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    Eric in Seattle December 2, 2014 at 9:25 am

    This is something I’ve noticed in older European cities. The cities and the roads already existed, so the vehicles were sized around them. Over here we seem to take the opposite approach. Businesses in Paris or London still get their wares delivered. None of their cities have burned down because of the smaller size of their fire trucks. Designing cities for people rather than for ever-larger vehicles just seems to make sense to me.

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    Opa December 2, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Delivery aggregation is another option. In many European cities a company will make their deliveries to an aggregator just outside the metro area. The aggregator will then make the deliveries within the city using smaller vans or even cargo bikes. This significantly reduces the miles per delivery and thus the number of vehicles on the road, fuel consumed, pollution, noise, etc.

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    Opa December 2, 2014 at 10:00 am

    J_R
    I’m not convinced that narrower lanes or roads will produce the desired results. I already see plenty of undesirable diversion to neighborhood streets when there’s a bit of slowing due to construction on collectors or arterials.

    Agree. The local streets should be made unappealing as through streets. For example: http://streets.mn/2014/04/08/st-paul-bicycle-plan-completing-the-local-mile/

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    Jeff December 2, 2014 at 10:18 am

    The reason for longer trucks is the efficiency they bring to the system. If local deliveries were made on smaller vehicle many more of them would be needed. This means more delivery vehicles, more pollution (larger vehicles are more fuel efficient) and even larger need for drivers.

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      Jeg December 2, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Drone delivery and electric vehicles will offset the demand for drivers due to increase in quantity of smaller cargo vans.

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      Opa December 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      You cannot assume this would mean significantly more vehicles on the road, etc. Two smaller trucks replacing one single truck will each have shorter routes than the larger truck since each theoretically covers half the destinations. In reality each smaller trucks route will be about 60% of the single larger truck so a 20% increase in total truck miles on the roads. Many of these overage miles will be on motorways however which has little impact on local streets.

      Being smaller these vehicles take up less space so even considering an increase in miles there is a decrease in total space taken.

      This will likely cost the company a bit more, but what is the value of a life or being able to walk rather than spending 40 years in a wheelchair after being hit by a US Foods or UPS truck?

      If a city says that in order to make things safer and more appealing to people walking or riding a bicycle or disability scooter that trucks over 23′ x 9′ are not allowed and speeds are 20 mph except on a very few arterials then companies will adjust. It might cost a bit more for delivery but retailers will be OK if the safer and more appealing environment increases the number of customers.

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        wsbob December 3, 2014 at 6:42 pm

        “…Two smaller trucks replacing one single truck will each have shorter routes than the larger truck since each theoretically covers half the destinations. …” Opa

        Distance of the delivery points from each other is what would determine the overall length of the route. On a route in which the delivery points are numerous and close together, and the total amount of freight is considerable, use of a big trailer, as opposed to a small trailer, could represent superior efficiency and safety.

        Could depend on the nature of the load too. If the freight represents large volume but is light in weight, such as insulation, toilet paper, or light bulbs, a big trailer could be the better choice, though maybe one designed for that type of weight, rather than one built for 40,000 lb capacity.

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      GlowBoy December 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      The efficiency of longer trucks only applies to large loads. For shorter runs delivering multiple smaller loads around the city, the larger capacity is often not very well utilized.

      Yes, more trucks will be needed, but not proportionately more relative to the size of the vehicle, and the amount of road capacity needed may actually be less.

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        wsbob December 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm

        “The efficiency of longer trucks only applies to large loads. …” GlowBoy

        A capacity load utilized, relative to the capability of the vehicle’s cargo area, is where efficiency is accomplished.

        Sending out a truck with a 40′, 40,000 lb capacity trailer, to make deliveries utilizing only twenty five percent of capacity, isn’t efficient, and may be a lost opportunity for safety on the road a truck with smaller capacity could offer.

        People working for trucking companies that do delivery planning, may be able to offer better insight on what potential there is for making more use of smaller trucks and trailers for delivery in the city.

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    Dan December 2, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Opa
    Most children should ride their bicycles to school. School buses are just about non-existent outside of the U.S. This is healthier and improves academics. Every child within 3 miles of a grammar school, 7 miles of a Jr High, and 10 miles of a high school should be able to safely ride to school.

    I assume you’re talking about AFTER roads are made safe enough for kids to ride on. Take a look at the access for these elementary schools and tell me you would let your kids ride on these roads.

    Skyline
    https://www.google.com/maps/@45.6070212,-122.8588118,908m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Findley
    https://www.google.com/maps/search/elementary+schools/@45.5492551,-122.8122952,368m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Rock Creek
    https://www.google.com/maps/search/elementary+schools/@45.548592,-122.8680756,402m/data=!3m1!1e3

    McKinley
    https://www.google.com/maps/search/elementary+school/@45.5300186,-122.8672369,378m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Barnes
    https://www.google.com/maps/search/elementary+school/@45.5060869,-122.8194562,309m/data=!3m1!1e3

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      Opa December 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Yes, after the roads are made safer, ideally with segregated side paths or cycletracks (and accompanying safe junctions) on higher speed roads and other roads slowed to 30kmh.

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      KristenT December 3, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Dan, it’s not just those arterial streets that are in need of upgrades in the name of safety. Collectors do, too.

      Fowler Middle School is almost exactly 1 mile from my front door, yet none of the kids in my neighborhood, nor the ones in the neighborhoods surrounding mine, nor the ones in that mile to the South and West of the school, can safely walk or bike to school.

      Tigard is planning on upgrading Walnut from 99W to 121st with sidewalks and bike lanes, but the problem area is still going to be Fonner, and 121st between Walnut and Gaarde.

      Until those roads at least get shoulders, or maybe bike lanes, or– and I’m totally dreaming here– sidewalks, the kids still won’t be able to get to school except by school bus or their parent dropping them off. Or by taking their lives in their hands and walking in the road, with the 35+mph traffic that won’t slow down or move over to pass (personal experience talking here).

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    John December 2, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    I work for a Portland-based truck manufacturer that employs a lot of bikers, we have to deal with truck traffic every day on our ride to work and are very sympathetic to the challenges discussed in this article. It may not be possible to get heavy trucks off all our city roads but there are some technologies that can help prevent tragic incidents like the one two weeks ago. There are a number of Side Object Detection Systems on the market which use Ultrasonic transmitters, radar or cameras to detect objects on the side (or front or rear) of a truck and warn the driver or apply brakes to avoid a collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown that these technologies help to significantly reduce collision incidents but none are required by law. Sometimes the most effective solution to problems like these is to petition the regulatory agencies responsible. Here is a NHTSA review from 2010 regarding these technologies: http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/NRD/Multimedia/PDFs/VRTC/ca/capubs/sae951010.pdf

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    Paul December 2, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Right hooks aren’t just for bicyclists. Earlier today we were out and about and observed a Safeway semi right hook a car. The truck was attempting to turn south onto 242nd from eastbound Division in Gresham. The tractor and 53’ semi-trailer were completely in the left through lane when he began his turn, and collided with a car in the right through lane! The left front corner of the car was badly damaged.

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    Bald One December 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    I am fed up with PBOT’s pro-freight stance, including continuation of the idea that bikes and freight must be kept separate. This is just an anti-bike attitude masquerading as some type of safety program. Call it what it is: pro-freight lobby that is decidedly anti-bike. So much of the big rig traffic in Portland city limits (non freeway traffic) is just transfer of dry boxes between the railroad yards and the cargo ports. This is dangerous, polluting freight that has little economic benefit to portland – it’s just a truck connection for a missing 5 miles of rail for foreign goods to get to the east coast.

    I support restrictions on big rig use of local access streets and neighborhoods. Deliver and pickup in smaller trucks and keep the big rigs on the freeways. These day trip cargo box haulers cut through anywhere to avoid traffic, drive old and polluting trucks, and tend to drive aggressively. It’s time for some changes to the “freight priority” in Portland and at ODOT and PBOT.

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    Franklin Jones December 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    B-line continues to work with our partners to reduce truck and larger vehicle traffic in Portland’s downtown core. Companies like Organically Grown Company, Office Depot and Dynamex, Glory Bee Foods, Portland Roasting, Dave’s Killer Food, are actively pursuing solutions and deserve a shout out.

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    esther2 December 4, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    The necessary huge deliveries that need to be in semi’s such as to grocery stores, big box stores could make their deliveries at certain restricted times. There is no need for semitrailers to be negotiating in city streets routinely.

    Do you think the driver’s like it? They probably dread it as much as we dread them on our streets. Its for the convenience and pocket books of the owners.

    Getting our cheap Chinese manufactured crap delivered from Amazon.com as quickly as possible is not the most important thing in the world.

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      9watts December 4, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      “The necessary huge deliveries that need to be in semi’s such as to grocery stores,”

      that depends. In Europe grocery stores are not all supplied by semitrucks. Many in the city are not accessible by that size vehicle. They use the equivalent of Sprinter vans.

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        was carless December 4, 2014 at 11:03 pm

        The Fred Meyers and Safeways of Portland get fairly large weekly or biweekly deliveries, however. In order to fill that, that might require increasing the number of deliveries with smaller vehicles, likely 23 or 30 foot trucks.

        I really don’t see how they could get by with Sprinter vans. In any case, it will require a lot MORE trucks on the road – and instead of chaining their trips (warehouse -> store -> store -> done), they will be serving individual stores (warehouse -> store; warehouse -> store).

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          wsbob December 4, 2014 at 11:41 pm

          “The Fred Meyers and Safeways of Portland get fairly large weekly or biweekly deliveries, however. …” was carless

          Include with those two, the big box stores, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and so on. That’s a lot of freight.

          I expect few if any of us commenting here, are experts in the freight business, meaning we can’t well know without asking people that are, how a reduction in the use of longer trailers for shorter ones for a given area, somewhere the Metro area, could be accomplished in a practical manner.

          We can ‘blue sky’ endlessly, the idea that’s popular here at bikeportland, of using Sprinter vans instead of twenty five foot and longer freight rigs, but the logistics and numbers people in that business, likely have a much better idea of what’s realistically possible for our area.

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