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New striping on Vancouver Ave is a ‘SAFE’ hotline success story

Posted by on January 8th, 2015 at 3:54 pm

vancouverbufferedlane

New buffer striping on N Vancouver came about because
a concerned resident asked for it.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

One great thing about Portland that never shows up in bike-friendly rankings is the incredible amount of smart, active and engaged citizens in this city that care deeply about making biking better. Our cycle tracks and bike-only signals might be the ostentatious window display, but it’s our citizens that form the foundation no one sees. That civic currency, combined with a bureau of transportation that’s open and willing to work with them, is often what gets things done around here.

At least small things.

“There is so much wasted space there, it’d be great to create a buffered bike lane in this area.”
— Kirk Paulsen, in an email to PBOT

This morning I noticed a new buffer striped on the southbound side of the North Vancouver overpass of I-5. It made what was just a standard bike lane and made it into a super-sized bike lane. Not a huge deal, but definitely something that makes me feel safer. After I posted about it on Twitter, I got an email from reader Kirk Paulsen.

Turns out that stripe was the result of Paulsen using the City of Portland’s “Transportation Safety and Neighborhood Livability Line.” That program — which includes two special phone numbers and the safe@portlandoregon.gov email address — is set up to capture the public’s concerns, requests and ideas for making roads better.

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It’s not the place to request a new cycle-track on Sandy Blvd or a new bike-only bridge between Swan Island and northwest (although you’re welcome to do so and they’ll take note of it); but for small things like new sections of bike lane or that annoying pothole you hit every day, it often works like a charm.

In this case, Paulsen (who happens to be a professional transportation engineer by day) saw an opportunity to add some girth to a bikeway and took action by telling PBOT about it.

Here’s an excerpt from the email he sent to safe@portlandoregon.gov back in July (emphases mine):

Hello Safe,

The N Vancouver Ave bridge over I-5 is striped for two standard lanes + the bike lane where the roadway is approximately 40 feet wide. Rough measurements show the bike lane as 6 feet, the adjacent travel lane as 14 feet, and the far travel lane as 20 feet.

There is so much wasted space there, it’d be great to create a buffered bike lane in this area so that cars are already positioned in the eastern portion of the bridge where they eventually need to be when they arrive at the signal, and buses would carefully merge into the bus/bike area. As it is right now, odds are it won’t happen but you never know if that person driving the car behind you is going to miss the fact that the far right lane at the end of the bridge where the bike-only lane disappears is for bikes & buses only. A buffered bike lane would do a lot to create a more comfortable experience when approaching the complicated intersection

Any assistance to have these issues reviewed would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Cheers,
-Kirk

Notice how he was respectful and offered a specific and reasonable solution.

This is a great example of how someone in the community can take action, make a request through the proper channel, and get results. Does it work every time? Nope. Should we always have to rely on the public’s nagging to make our roads safe to ride on? Nope. But it’s there and it does work.

Even Paulsen doesn’t expect that all his requests will be filled, but he’s encouraged that PBOT at least hears him. “It gives me positive feedback that communicating with SAFE indeed works for these smaller issues,” he shared with us via email.

— If you have an idea to improve striping, markings, or signage call (503) 823-SAFE. If you see something that’s more of a service request, like trimming a tree that hangs into the bike lane or sweeping broken glass, call (503) 823-1700. The general email address for all requests is safe@portlandoregon.gov. Learn more at PBOT’s website.

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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Ted BuehlerJohn LascurettesmattpaikialaSteve B Recent comment authors
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Adam H.
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Adam H.

You’ve listed two different email addresses: safe@portlandoregon.gov and safe@portland.oregon.gov. I’m guessing the former is the correct one?

Jeff S
Guest
Jeff S

The former.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

823-1700 is only for maintenance of existing items, not new stuff or missing things.

Adam H.
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Adam H.

Looks like the article has been fixed. Thanks!

Esther
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Esther

I have another one.

Cars heading southbound on E 12th were frequently turning right (west) onto Burnside – the WRONG way – next to Portland rock Gym.

On my bike, since I’m usually heading towards Sandy, I am usually waiting at that red light (which is at the top of a hill) and have gotten in the second-to-left lane (out of the bike lane) because that’s the lane to continue East on Sandy. Last August a car came tearing around that corner at high speed. I was already waiting at the light, but a car was coming up in the lane (closest to the rock gym) – directly in the path of the incoming car. The incoming driver (going the right way) saw that car and started to veer into me. In slow motion, I started screaming, and then the car veered directly between me and the car that was coming up the left hand lane and shot past both of us past Bar La Bomba. (If I had been in a car, rather than a bike taking up a tiny portion of the lane, he would have hit me for sure.)

THis was not the first time I had seen a car incorrectly turning here, nor the first time I reported it to 823-safe.

This time I got a response a few months later from traffic operations:

“I received your request to evaluate the need for more visible signage or markings to show traffic that the movement on E Burnside was eastbound only.

Thank you for taking the time with this request.

I evaluated the need for markings and signage and from my visit, and from multiple complaints regarding the same issue that you have brought to my attention I wrote a work order to have eastbound arrows painted on E Burnside St and also southbound arrows on 12th Ave.”

Esther
Guest
Esther

The bike lane on NE Sandy at 37th at the Banfield onramp has also been repainted twice over the last 4 years after it faded (because drivers drive over all the time) and I called it in. The most recent time it was painted with double stripes on the outer line.

Esther
Guest
Esther

TL;DR a car turning the wrong way almost took me out and it was hella scary. 🙂

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I am impressed and a bit jealous! I have been requesting a buffer on Interstate Ave a few times a year for the last few years! My latest request is below in case some one wants to figure out a more PBOT-friendly way to make this request.

North Interstate Ave has very narrow, 5-foot bike lanes. It also carries a lot of freight vehicles. It also has relatively few intersections to control motorist’s speed, so fast driving is common. I commute down Interstate Ave from North Portland to Inner SE for work every day. Almost every day, I ride my bike. I have noticed that the vehicle lanes vary greatly in width. I believe that if PBOT added a stripe to define the left-most motor vehicle lane as a standard 11-foot lane, that safety would be greatly enhanced for cyclists. This varying-width buffer would guide motorists to stay within their lane and encourage motorists to drive the speed limit. It would also highlight (for motorists and cyclists!) those spots along the route where the lanes converge and there is no buffer, so that greater care can be taken. Although this a relatively simple procedure, I predict that a significant increase in safety and comfort would result because all road users would have a much more clear understanding of this road’s conditions. I hope you will consider my request.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Speaking of narrow: has anyone noticed the bike lane going southbound on NE 15th when it reached the light at Halsey is so narrow that it looks like a buffer zone on N Williams? It can’t be more than two and half feet between the white lines of the bike lane and the right turn lane.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Did you contact safe@portlandoregon.gov? The auto lanes appear to be too wide on that half of the road.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Will do.

davemess
Guest
davemess

This gives me a little hope for the horrible pot holes/cracks on the 52nd bike lane (around Powell) that I wrote in about yesterday. Crossing my fingers.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

This is great! And I must say that you really hit the head on the nail when you wrote, “One great thing about Portland that never shows up in bike-friendly rankings is the incredible amount of smart, active and engaged citizens in this city that care deeply about making biking better.”

As a municipal Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, who received my Masters from PSU and now lives elsewhere, I really miss the extremely engaged public. In Portland, you couldn’t get people to stop talking about their ideas for improving the City. Where I currently work, it seems we have to nag and nag to get people to participate.

It is the people, the engaged public, who demonstrate citizenship daily by shaping their neighborhoods, government and the city as a whole who are making Portland a leader. From the guerrilla traffic diverters (probably not the best idea for safety) to this blog and of course this story, the biggest thing residents in other cities could learn form Portland is participate.

Great story. I’m glad it worked out so well.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

A few years ago I emailed SAFE requesting a marked crosswalk near where I live after being honked at, flipped off, swerved around, and otherwise menaced by angry drivers who don’t understand/care that unmarked intersections are legal crosswalks (and it’s a signed 25mph street at the intersection of a bike boulevard). It took a few months, but PBOT sent someone to observe the intersection and a crosswalk was promptly installed. Now the driver compliance rate is ridiculously higher and my neighbours have remarked on how much safer they feel crossing there. Pretty cool!

TonyT
Guest
TonyT

While this is a victory of sorts, it unfortunately reinforces the ignorance that a crosswalk has to be marked.

By my own rough calculation, made from a list of crosswalk enforcements I received from PBOT, only one in ten enforcements happen at unmarked crosswalks. Given that the VAST majority of crosswalks in town are unmarked, it seems that the enforcement ratio is backward; the majority should be at unmarked crosswalks. This is something that I’ve requested numerous times, yet the preference for running enforcements at marked crosswalks continues.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

I totally agree. I’ve called multiple times requesting enforcement at certain unmarked crosswalk locations and they’ve never happened. And the city refuses to mark crosswalks if they’re “too close to a traffic signal” (i.e. one block away) even though there’s precedent for doing so at other places in the city.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

Thanks for this Kirk/PBOT/SAFE. I’ve sent in another request for blackberry removal from the NB shared bike/ped lane on SW Barbur Blvd (just past SW Hooker). Nearly got clobbered passing a ped who was walking in the bike lane because of the blackberries overgrowing the ped side of things.

Goats… More Goats! Please

Scott Kocher
Guest

I want to add my own thank you to Eileen Dent at PBOT Traffic Investigations, who for years has has fielded the e-mails that come to SAFE, and done it with professionalism and patience. As long as safety and maintenance are going to be done on a report-driven basis it’s crucial that people in all communities use SAFE and have a positive experience. It’s wonderful to read this article and see that I’m not the only one.

Steve B
Guest
Steve B

Way to go, Kirk and PBOT! I have been enjoying this improvemnt.

One thing I’m curious about is PBOT striped a buffer lane with paint about 6 months ago on Vancouver Ave between the hospital and Russel, which has since worn away and was not repainted. Was this a failed experiment? I thought it was splendid.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

It is in the GIS as part of inventory. Contact maintenance at 823-1700 and request the buffered bike lane marking to be restored. Paint doesn’t last too long, especially if autos drive over it much.

matt
Guest
matt

Not going to do much good when a majority of time that catch basin on the NW corner of the bridge is clogged, creating a pool and forcing you into the travel lane…

Ted Buehler
Guest

Nice work Kirk, Esther, Kyle, and everyone else who has made a complaint/request. & Thanks to PBOT for the improvements.

Try it out, folks, on your biggest safety/comfort problems on your daily ride. There’s a decent chance your problem will be repaired/fixed, and the ride will be safer for you and all the other bicyclists who use that route.

Ted Buehler