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

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

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.