Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

What it feels like to ride Barbur Blvd for the first time (photos)

Posted by on February 11th, 2015 at 5:06 pm

to barbur

Seems easy enough.
(Photos Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

This post is part of our SW Portland Week.

Here’s a confession: though I’ve driven on Southwest Barbur, ridden the bus on it, and walked along it to reach a vigil for a woman killed while she crossed it, in four years of reporting on the street and its problems I’ve never actually ridden a bike on it.

Until this week.

During the summer, somewhere between 250 and 500 people per weekday use Barbur Boulevard to bike back and forth between the heart of Southwest Portland and the rest of the city. It’s not the only way to get in and out of Southwest, which is home to about 65,000 people within the city limits. But it’s the flattest and most direct. Also, it’s the way I usually get to Southwest by car or bus, so if I didn’t know anything else about the route it’s the way I’d naturally try first.

Furthermore, as you can see above, it’s pretty well-marked from downtown. So midday Tuesday I decided to ride it and see what I could learn. I headed down the Transit Mall until 5th Avenue became Barbur and followed the big arrow above. Here’s what I saw first:


Since there was nothing prompting me to turn right here, I didn’t. Only after getting across the next street did I realize that despite the arrow pointing left onto the sidewalk, I was supposed to have turned right and used the bike signal to cross the street. But thanks to the big highway sign pointing to Barbur, I realized what I was supposed to do. Easy enough after the first time.

Here’s the next corner:

two buses

As I waited behind these two buses — with so many wide highway-style lanes and onramps nearby, I didn’t feel comfortable pulling around them — another came up behind me. I stopped to take a picture of this bus stop from the side:

no bike lane

After I crossed Southwest Broadway (which is also U.S. highway 26), I rode in Barbur’s wide bike lane, probably about six feet. Parts were in the door zone of some street parking, but it seemed little-used so not particularly uncomfortable. Further south, it became curb-tight, which was downright nice. Here’s a shot from about a mile south, approaching the mostly undeveloped section of Barbur that I’ve recently been hearing people refer to as the “Barbur Woods”:

wide bike lane

Another half-mile south, I got to the one “intersection” in the woods: the overpass of Capitol Highway.

capitol highway overpass

There’s a fairly steady stream of cars moving smoothly into this right-turn lane. Two did so as I approached, and the second didn’t bother with a turn signal. After that I glanced behind me; despite the green paint and the sign telling people driving to yield to me, I would have yielded to them if there hadn’t been a break in traffic.

Across the intersection, I pulled over to take a picture of this bus stop:

terrible bus stop

Next came the hardest part of riding Barbur, and the focus of most of our coverage of the street for years: the two bridges, slightly narrower than the rest of the street, that don’t have room for bike lanes unless at least one of the general travel lanes were removed. So the bike lanes go away.

Advertise with BikePortland.

Last year, the Oregon Department of Transportation scraped the pavement off these bridges and repaved it. Though the agency decided not to restripe the street, warning that doing so might lead to significantly slower auto traffic in 2035, it did add asphalt ramps up to the 3.1-foot wide maintenance walkway.


With the bike lane merging into a 45-mph general travel lane, my first instinct was to ride up the ramp, which I was pleased to find was comfortable and smooth. But once I was on the walkway I reconsidered whether it was actually safer. Here’s a sense of its width:

narrow walkway

I decided I was better off taking the lane to my left. So I waited for another traffic break and swung back into the street, taking the middle of the travel lane across the bridge. I also did this on the second, similar bridge, less than a mile to the south:

car passing me on barbur bridge

This fellow, who pedaled past a little while after I did, chose to hug the right side of the same lane.

lonely biker on barbur bridge

I’d heard that although few people would ever linger on Barbur today, the southern bridge offers a particularly nice view of the Willamette River and the city. Here it is:


South of the bridges, the posted speed limit falls from 45 mph to 35 mph. Just before the stoplight that ends the Barbur woods section, ODOT has installed an LED sign that detects and displays the speed of passers-by. I stopped in the bike lane, straddled my bike and pointed my camera at the sign as people passed me around this corner.


43mph blur

36mph bus


The sign seemed to give the actual speed for everything below 45 mph. Above 45 mph, it just switched to a faster flash of the words “Slow Down.”

slow down red truck

Both of these cars got the faster flash:

slow down 2 cars

Around this corner is the stoplight that signals the end of Barbur’s hairiest section and the beginning of its commercial area. Though this part of the road isn’t anybody’s idea of a biking paradise, it came as a relief.

south of woods

Tomorrow, we’ll be taking a closer look at the progress and possibilities for improving the commercial stretch of Barbur.

Would the northern, wooded section of Barbur get easier to ride with a little practice? No doubt. The reason Portland’s bicycling advocates have been so adamant about improving the wooded section isn’t that it’s the worst place in the world to ride. The reason is that because of the nature of the street — no real intersections for two miles — the existence of passing lanes doesn’t actually increase the road’s capacity. They merely make it easier to speed. Because the traffic bottlenecks are the signals at north and south, restriping to add continuous bike lanes on this wooded stretch would have little effect on congestion.

I’ve heard many people say that this is a difficult concept to explain to the media and the public. I can only assume that most of those who think we shouldn’t bother trying have never ridden a bicycle in or out of Southwest Portland.

We’ll be here in Southwest all week. And join us Friday afternoon for a BikePortland Get Together and social hour at the Lucky Labrador Public House in Multnomah Village (7675 SW Capitol Hwy) from 4:00 – 6:30pm.

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. Thank you.

  • rick February 11, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    SW Barbur needs cycle track-style multi-use paths.

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  • danny February 11, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I won’t ride Barbur going south; Terwilliger is so much nicer and safer, and one gets a “fitness bonus” as well with the extra climbing. But I often ride Barbur going north since it is so fast to get downtown. But those bridges are one of the scariest places to ride in the city — perhaps rivaled only by the portion of Barbur a mile or so to the north where the street splits at 4th Ave. and the ramp down to Naito. Most people in cars there pay no attention to people on bikes, and riders face significant risk as they attempt to cross traffic lanes to stay on 4th toward downtown.

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    • Gary February 11, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Well, at that split you are directed to exit onto the sidewalk then cross the Naito ramp via the pedestrian crosswalk. That said, the cars also don’t bother to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross, so it’s not a great alternative. But yes, I instead take the lane(s) instead, too, and it is indeed scary as hell. There is absolutely no reason for a double-lane exit onto Naito. A single lane exit would be fine, and then it could cross a green bike lane. Would seem a very simple fix to a big problem.

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      • Owen February 12, 2015 at 11:05 am

        I ride this every day and I am unaware of any direction to exit onto the sidewalk approaching the split between Naito and Barbur. What I do see when a pedestrian or bicyclist uses the pedestrian crosswalk is that some drivers yield, or prepare to yield, while other drivers maintain a high speed, leading to near collisions. I start signaling a left hand lane crossing well in advance of the split, and move left at the first gap in traffic. This generally works well, although high speed traffic in the middle lane, and worse, high speed drivers in the left-most lane of Barbur attempting to move right to get to Naito close to the split, are a danger. I also use two red flashing lights to the rear year-round.

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      • Owen February 12, 2015 at 11:11 am

        I agree that a single exit lane with a green bike lane would greatly improve the safety of the Naito split. Where would the green begin? On the left of the single exit lane?

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    • 9watts February 12, 2015 at 8:05 am

      “Terwilliger is so much nicer and safer, and one gets a ‘fitness bonus’ as well with the extra climbing.”

      Except that some of us aren’t looking for any fitness bonus. We just want to get where we are going, & the direct, flat route would be the obvious choice.
      Remember the hue and cry over the Foster bikeway, and how the out-of-towners who commute in via Foster in their cars were going to rack up a whole extra three minutes or whatever because a lane was to be given over to the bikepaths? And these were people not expending any muscular energy getting to work.

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    • El Biciclero February 12, 2015 at 9:58 am

      Ditto. I use Barbur NB on occasion, and always feel like I have to crank it up to 30 to merge across the Naito split—but I don’t know how many more years of that I have left in my legs. The exit-and-wait procedure for crossing Naito back to 4th is a popular design strategy I’ve seen used in a few different places—even as the first element in Michael’s story here. But as you note, without a signal, drivers won’t stop to let you cross.

      I don’t use Barbur SB mainly because I would be taking the Capitol Hwy exit and the combination of the curve, the grade, the narrow bike lane, and the speed of exiting motor traffic (everyone is gunning it to get up that hill) make me opt for Terwilliger.

      So intimidation wins again. To 9watts point, I’ve had coworkers ask how I get to BH Hwy and when I tell them “Terwilliger”, they almost always express some incredulity that I ride that way, since “that’s a pretty big hill, right?” It definitely would make it more difficult to entice new riders (commuters) if I told them that traveling to/from SW/Hillsdale, they’d have to take Terwilliger.

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      • El Biciclero February 12, 2015 at 9:59 am

        Oops, I guess Gary noted that drivers won’t stop if you exit and wait at Naito/4th.

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    • Chris K February 12, 2015 at 11:59 am

      I also ride Barbur NB frequently, and I agree that the two-lane Naito exit is even scarier than the bridges. I try to merge over before if at all possible.

      I find that if I use the crosswalk during rush hour (when it is hardest to merge), drivers in the backed-up outer exit lane usually stop but those in the inner exit lane fly by at 45 or whatever. So that makes it unbelievably scary to cross that inner lane–you can’t see if a car going 45 is RIGHT there until you’re basically standing in front of it.

      Of course merging isn’t fun, either, because in heavy traffic you have to squeeze between cars rolling along slowly in the outer lane and then suddenly “crank it up to 30” when you merge left again. I’d love to see the exit be more like a right turn lane (even a double one? does that exist?), with the bike lane crossing to its left WELL in advance. That way my merging behavior is more predictable to drivers.

      I doubt the exit could be one lane, though, because the outer lane is always backed up during rush hour (I think because it leads to a Ross Island Bridge on-ramp) while the inner lane leading to Naito or downtown stays more-or-less open. The bridge-bound traffic would block the exit entirely if it was one lane.

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    • Michelle February 14, 2015 at 8:40 am

      Danny, you’re right, it is safer and includes a “fitness bonus”–I love that route if I have the time. However, for the last 2 years I was a PSU student who had to rush back to pick up my kids from school–I didn’t have the time to take Terwilliger, nor the finances to take the bus–so I had to just deal with this Barbur stretch which is dangerous and not designed with cyclists in mind. You have to keep in mind that this isn’t just a safety issue, it’s also an equity issue when routes are accessible to drivers, and not to cyclists.

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  • Curtis Roth February 11, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    As I posted yesterday (?) on a different string, I ride Barbur every day. Sure, it needs improvements. But to me it’s the best choice to get to and from work in close-in north Portland. I think Broadway (South bound through downtown) is scarier, with its door-zone bike lane.

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    • rick February 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      I think it is the speeding drivers along Barbur which might intimidate riders.

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    • hat February 12, 2015 at 8:48 am

      I no longer use the bike lane on Broadway. I find it much safer to take the lane and wait for cars to take a right. It seems to be more a buffer for parked cars than a lane and is treated as such by the city. Does anyone know if parking enforcement gives tickets to cars parked in this bike lane?

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  • rick February 11, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Please explore SW Slavin Road; the Red Electric Trail will link from the Hillsdale town center to that quiet road in order to connect to SW Corbett.

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    • Gary February 12, 2015 at 10:58 am

      That’s very interesting, thanks. I can spit on Slavin from my house but never thought about using it for some reason (I go up Hamilton to Barbur). Looking at the satellite view, it looks like it currently turns into a trail that continues all the way to Barbur, across the street from the BH split?

      So as of now you’d need to cross 4-lanes of Barbur (in a 45 mph spot) to get onto BH. What’s the Red Electric plan envision instead?

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  • PeeJay February 11, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: ODOT has blood on their hands. It’s criminal.

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    • rick February 11, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      They don’t want a painted crosswalk at SW 103rd Ave on SW Canyon Road.

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  • Kyle February 11, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    We need leaders at the city and state levels who aren’t afraid to buck the clickbait opinions of the media that so many people seem to latch onto. Leaders who will make some tough decisions and face some initial backlash knowing that they’re saving lives and improving the quality of life for a large number of people. Leaders who know that decisions as simple as re-striping in the near-term can bring long-term benefits through increased active transportation.

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  • 9watts February 11, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    We all own Barbur. The folks with the zippy cars have had their day (for about eighty years now). Now it is our turn to have a lane. Thank you.

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  • Rduk90 February 11, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Great article, I plan on giving Barbur a spin soon.

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  • David Lewis February 11, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed since I came back to the states a few years ago is the total consistency of state and federally owned roads to be hideously bad for every single mode of transportation except one: privately owned automobiles. And even then, they’re not great.

    The unfortunate solution is to transfer ownership of roads like this to municipalities, who often have dynamic and modern traffic engineers who want to improve things. When a bureaucrat decides a road like Barbur is some sort of escape route for when we’re attacked by pirates during an earthquake, their grip is too strong to let it go.

    So we’re left with a city like Portland that self-congratulates regularly on its bicycle friendliness but has veins and arteries running through it that are lethal and aggressive to bicyclists and owned by someone else. The activists typically don’t bother with challenges and we’re left with bike routes that look suspiciously like a specific person’s route to work.

    We need a political constituency, and act as a bloc. I do not think activism has been productive in Portland, because what I see for bicycle infrastructure in Portland is not nearly enough. Go to any German city and you’ll see what I mean.

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    • Adam February 12, 2015 at 8:04 am

      I’d like to see Barbur handed over to PBOT, like they did with Sandy Blvd.

      Also, a MAX line down it. That would slow traffic a ton, make it more multi-modal, and probably involve proper bike-lanes being added (see: Interstate Ave).

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      • paikiala February 12, 2015 at 10:01 am

        The new 2-year plan appears to agree, but still falls into the old paradigm of requiring upgrades, or the money for them, before the City takes control. This is literally a fatal flaw in the thinking of PBOT.

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  • wsbob February 12, 2015 at 12:06 am

    “…The reason Portland’s bicycling advocates have been so adamant about improving the wooded section isn’t that it’s the worst place in the world to ride. The reason is that because of the nature of the street — no real intersections for two miles — the existence of passing lanes doesn’t actually increase the road’s capacity. They merely make it easier to speed. …” andersen/bikeportland

    The two main lanes in each direction make passing slower vehicles legitimately possible, when the slower vehicle is traveling significantly slower than the posted speed limit. The lanes do not merely make it easier for people to drive in excess of the posted speed limit, which above five miles over posted, they should be receiving citations.

    It’s obvious from the pictures bikeportland’s Andersen has taken of Barbur’s digital speed readouts in action, that electronic equipment can accurately monitor speeds of passing vehicles. The sensible thing to do next, is accompany that monitoring with photo radar of the vehicle, its license plate, and if possible the person driving. Automatic citation in the mail. Watch the rate of excessive speeding incidents drop.

    At three feet wide, I think many people, including transportation dept officials, would likely agree that the sidewalks across the bridges are easily about two feet shy of what they should be. In other words, at least a five foot wide lane should be provided. Reconfiguring the road’s four lanes plus bike lanes, to allow that additional width to the sidewalks, likely would be far more readily accomplished than is making a convincing case for the road diet, primarily to allow the road’s main lane level bike lanes to be continuous across the bridges.

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    • 9watts February 12, 2015 at 8:09 am

      “The two main lanes in each direction make passing slower vehicles legitimately possible, when the slower vehicle is traveling significantly slower than the posted speed limit.”

      I got a good laugh out of that one, wsbob. Do you spend much time on Barbur? Did you see those speeds displayed in Michael’s photos? I’ve never been on Barbur, when vehicles were traveling significantly slower than the posted speed limit in just one lane.

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      • Gary February 12, 2015 at 11:05 am

        Indeed. And even if it does make it legitimately possible to pass a hypothetical slow moving vehicle, we’re talking about going to one lane on only a 1-mile downhill stretch (south, uphill, would retain 2 lanes; and 2 lanes would remain north of BH).

        Not only is a slow moving vehicle unlikely (I travel it daily and have never witnessed it), speedy can wait one mile!!

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      • wsbob February 12, 2015 at 7:17 pm

        Nevertheless, that’s one of the reasons the road has two lanes in each direction. Start issuing citations automatically with speed radar vans and watch the excessive mile per hour speeds drop. As they’re driving along, just seeing one of those vans can induce people to slow down.

        Congestion is the active element necessary to provide one of the functions that some people hope a road diet two lanes to one idea, will accomplish, which, is to induce people driving to reduce their vehicle’s speed, regardless of what the posted speed limit is.

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        • Gary February 13, 2015 at 6:22 am

          Ok, I gather you’re speaking of two lanes in a general sense, not that specific stretch of road. Yes you’re undoubtedly correct that two lanes, in general, are both for easy passing and increasing capacity (and helpful for speeding). Our point is that in this specific case they don’t serve either purpose to any meaningful extent.

          You go onto say that reconfiguring for 5-ft sidewalks with the existing 4 lanes would be far easier than a road diet. But that’s the issue: we’ve been told they can’t widen the sidewalks on the existing bridges. Tidy bike lanes everywhere else in the Barbur woods are useless without the bridges having proper bike lanes, which can’t happen without the road diet (so we’re told).

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    • Spiffy February 12, 2015 at 9:34 am

      significantly slower? how slow? it’d have to be more than 10 mph under the speed limit to be a problem, and even then you’re out of the woods within a minute or two…

      I’d rather be stuck behind somebody going 10 mph under the speed limit every say than have to ride next to cars going 10 mph over the speed limit every day…

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    • paikiala February 12, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Where do you park a radar van on Barbur?
      Fixed photo radar might fit, but that has to be authorized by the state.

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      • Reza February 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

        And it would only work in that one spot. Everyday commuters would catch on quick where the speed camera is located and then accelerate soon after passing.

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        • wsbob February 12, 2015 at 6:59 pm

          “…Everyday commuters would catch on quick where the speed camera is located…” Reza

          Using upper Canyon Rd as an example, people driving on that road come to know that the cameras are in use, but they can’t depend on exactly where the cameras will be, because the mobile camera vans move from periodically.

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          • wsbob February 12, 2015 at 7:03 pm

            ‘move periodically’.

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    • wsbob February 12, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Too late at night: Correction: What I meant to say, was ‘The present sidewalk width should be expanded to a five foot width that make it better for both walking and biking.

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  • Roger Averbeck February 12, 2015 at 6:18 am

    “when the slower vehicle is traveling significantly slower than the posted speed limit.” wsbob

    This mainly happens during the southbound PM peak rush rour… bikes can start at the traffic signal at Hamilton and catch up to and pass dozens of cars south of the bridges to the signals at Miles and or Terwilliger. To a lesser extent the same is true in the am peak inbound to downtown, north of the flyover ramp.

    RE the speed reader board: From personal observations during off peak hours, I have witness a lot of car breaklights go on when the speed reader lights up. It is helping, but I like the suggestion to do some automatic citations. Perhaps a strategically placed northbound speed reader is also needed?

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    • El Biciclero February 12, 2015 at 10:05 am

      I shouldn’t, but to be fair to the drivers whose speeds are shown on the digital sign—if that SPEED 35 sign is the first one drivers encounter, then technically, all of those whose speed is shown are still in a 45 MPH zone. Those registered speeds would be more shameful if the e-sign was a quarter-mile into the 35 zone. Of course it’s questionable whether 45 is an appropriate speed for the preceding section in the first place…

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  • Adam February 12, 2015 at 8:02 am

    So… BASICALLY… the Trimet bus was the only vehicle on the road obeying the speed limit.


    *end sarcasm*

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    • Spiffy February 12, 2015 at 9:36 am

      36 mph in a 35 mph zone is NOT obeying the speed limit… that’s called speeding and should earn you a citation…

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      • paikiala February 12, 2015 at 10:05 am

        Current ‘guidelines’ followed by PPB would only issue citations for 46 in a 35 zone. The excuse I’ve heard is that judges forgive speeding under this. A change in the DA, police, and judges’ behavior is needed if Vision Zero is ever to work.

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        • Dan February 12, 2015 at 10:43 am

          This needs to be changed at the federal level.

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        • wsbob February 12, 2015 at 7:32 pm

          “…citations for 46 in a 35 zone. …” paikiala

          Eleven miles over, is too much latitude. Six or seven, and you get a citation is, I think, fair. Eight over, would be for sure. Driving my vehicle, an older import pickup, my experience with the speed reader boards, is that they’re very accurate to within one or two miles per hour. It’s not that difficult to keep the vehicles speed within five miles of posted mph speed.

          Technically, as Spiffy wants to make the point, even one mile over posted is a violation. While this is true, I’d say that one mile over posted, isn’t the kind of excessive speeding most people disturbed about excessive speeding are concerned about. It’s the eight, ten, and more mph over, that is causing problems. Issue citations to the people that are doing this. Amazing how fast people learn to slow their vehicle down when they think they’re somewhere they may get hit with a $250 or more citation.

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          • Eric February 13, 2015 at 12:25 am

            I don’t think you get a ticket for 1-2mph under.

            I rode Barbur from downtown to Terwilliger at 10:30 tonight and it was ok, but not pleasant. I took the lane over the bridges (after activating the signal about 60ft before the green paint) with lots of wobbling and swerving to ensure that I was noticed by the traffic approaching at 55mph from behind (swerving about on the empty road also gives a chance to get a better view of approaching traffic.) Barbur and Terwilliger both have inadequate bike lanes.

            I saw 3 cars pass the speed indicator — all with the “too fast” flasher going.

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      • Kyle February 12, 2015 at 10:26 am

        Good luck enforcing that. Speed measurement is not 100% accurate; speedometers are not 100% accurate (and vary between car manufacturers); and unless everyone (dangerously) drives with cruise control on all the time on city streets, the human foot is not 100% accurate and is subject to occasional fluctuations.

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        • Dan February 12, 2015 at 11:13 am

          That must be why people do 50 in a 35.

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        • 9watts February 12, 2015 at 11:16 am

          “the human foot is not 100% accurate and is subject to occasional fluctuations.”
          which is why some of us err on the side of caution, eh?

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        • invisiblebikes February 12, 2015 at 11:24 am

          I was going to point out the exact same thing, my FJ is off by about 3 mph of actual speed. Albeit slower than what it’s telling me I’m doing and its completely dead stock.
          I am sure that bus driver had the speed O at 35 but actual speed may have been 36. that’s why police and judges give a little on speed because being with in a few mph is more than acceptable speed. but doesn’t mean the posted speed is safe either…

          That doesn’t excuse the people doing 5 and 10 mph over the speed limit though!

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  • Trebor February 12, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Jonathan–what route did you take after you crossed Terwilliger? I ask because, flawed as the Barbur Woods section is, the rest of Barbur is far, far worse. I agree wholeheartedly that the Barbur Woods portion of Barbur needs complete bike lanes and a road diet, but I also argue that such a change needs to be accompanied by much more far-reaching infrastructure further south.

    With little interruption, the rest of Barbur all the way to Tigard features numerous curb cuts and heavy traffic. At the Multnomah Blvd. overpass, the bike lane drops once in the southbound direction and twice northbound The first northbound lane drop is particularly tricky because it occurs on a deceptively challenging hill just before many cars turn right to head toward the Sellwood Bridge (I ride from NE to PCC Sylvania 3-4 days per week and my legs have consequently made their peace with hills, and yet that hill is the one I look forward to with the least enthusiasm).

    Other options from the Terwilliger intersection are little better. Terwilliger northbound is ok as SW PDX goes, but if ones going from downtown to that area one might as well just take Terwilliger all the way. SW Bertha is a bit better, but, it heads straight to Hillsdale which one can more easily–or at least equally easily–access via Terwilliger. Meanwhile, what seems to me to be the most useful connection to Barbur–Multnomah Blvd.–requires cyclists to climb a not-so-nice, curb-cutty section of Barbur to a point higher than Multnomah.

    In sum, I am all in favor of fixing the Barbur Woods section, but I also contend doing so should be done in conjunction with a larger series of projects aimed at rendering that important connection useful to those other than the “strong and fearless.”

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    • Spiffy February 12, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Jonathan didn’t write the article… but maybe Michael can answer your question…

      but yes, lots more obstacle to cycling other than speed once you’re out of the woods… you’re essentially in a suburb where drivers aren’t looking out for anything that can’t hurt them…

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      • DMV for Victory February 12, 2015 at 9:58 am

        It’s like a huge real-life version of the Paperboy video game

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 12, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Yep, that’s true – most of the rest of Barbur is also a mess. The difference is that it’ll be a lot more complicated to fix. Working on that post right now.

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  • groovin101 February 12, 2015 at 9:39 am

    I’ve never ridden Barbur myself, but this article did a great job of giving the uninitiated some perspective. Nice coverage!

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  • Trikeguy February 12, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Everytime I think a flatter, longer ride into town might be nice I come down to Garden Home/Multnomah/Barbur and then realize that climbing the hill over Fairview is always preferable.

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  • John Lascurettes February 12, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Jonathan, that shot of the other rider crossing the bridge must be flipped. You mention him hugging the right – but he’s hugging the left (and riding on the wrong side of the road) if this photo isn’t flipped.

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    • paikiala February 12, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Michael appears to have crossed the bridge to take the ‘view’ shot, so that is the view looking back accross the bridge.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 12, 2015 at 1:27 pm

        Paikiala is correct.

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      • John Lascurettes February 12, 2015 at 1:28 pm

        Ah, never mind. Trick of my eyes anyway. The rider is actually on the right and headed in the right direction.

        And sorry, Michael, I didn’t realize this was your essay instead of Jonathan’s.

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  • K'Tesh February 12, 2015 at 10:10 am

    When it comes to riding over those bridges… TAKE THE LANE!!!

    If you hug the right hand side, some ASSHAT is going to try to squeeze between you and the car to its left. If you don’t give them the space to do it, they’ll wait, or merge. Now that the bridges are resurfaced, there’s no reason not to.

    Inbound, typically, I’ll stay in the bike lane until I see a break in traffic, then I get in the lane, and I maintain position until I cross the OTHER bridge. Motorists can see you from a long way off, and realize that you’re not moving over, so they merge with traffic in the left lane, leaving you to ride in peace.

    Outbound is different (it’s uphill) so I’ll move back into the bikelane between bridges.

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    • Kyle February 12, 2015 at 10:29 am

      Well said. I do this any time there’s not enough room for a vehicle to safely pass me within the same lane (i.e., I’ll only move over if there’s a lane plus room for parking on the side with no parked cars present). This is especially important when leaving a standard bike lane to pass another bicyclist – occasionally an ignorant driver will honk at me or otherwise commit a bit of road rage, but it sure beats letting them squeeze by in the same lane and putting my life at risk.

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    • Chris K February 12, 2015 at 11:30 am

      AMEN! If you’re not square in the middle of the lane going over the bridges (or anywhere, it seems), most motorists won’t bother to change lanes when passing you; instead they swerve around by a few feet. Even when the inner lane is empty… I truly do not understand that behavior! And as K’Tesh said, taking the lane is even more important when traffic is heavy and they can’t change lanes easily.

      For several years I commuted to Lewis & Clark from inner SE via Barbur–luckily, I’d be going the opposite direction from most rush hour traffic. But in the mornings I’d see SO many bicyclists flying down the hill northbound, yet still hugging the bridge curb and facilitating all sorts of unsafe passing behavior from impatient drivers.

      I just hate that whole situation. It’s hard not to feel as though everyone behind me is pissed off, and in turn I can’t help but think of them as my adversary(ies). Bike lanes would be magnificent.

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    • wsbob February 12, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      “When it comes to riding over those bridges… TAKE THE LANE!!! …”

      If everybody it’s hoped will ride this road happily, were able and willing to take the lane, there’d be virtually no call for the road diet. I understand not everyone wants to ride like a cannonball down the hill on Barbur. Many people seem to want the opportunity on their bike to peacefully amble along, downhill at ten or maybe as ‘fast’ as fifteen mph on the road. Seems like wishful thinking, but telling them to take the lane doesn’t sound like something that’s going to give them much consolation.

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  • Electric Mayhem February 12, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I’ve ridden Barbur nearly every day for the last 4 years from Naito to 99W in Tigard. Thats about 1000 times in each direction. I’ve found that the bridge sections are actually the safest. I take the lane for the entire south bound section so that cars have a lot of time to see me and change lanes. The only scares I’ve had are when pissed off a-holes tailgate me. That doesn’t make me any less adamant that there should be a road diet. It doesn’t really matter whether the road is actually dangerous or just feels that way. The result is that it doesn’t serve as the vital bike corridor from SW to downtown that it should. The photos of the cars speeding through the speed limit sign is very typical, even when the entire road had reduced speed limits for construction.

    I find the rest of Barbur to be a lot more dangerous. There are lanes crossing the bike path and lots of driveways and streets. Recently there has been a lot of construction on North Bound Barbur which has resulted in lots of barricades along the street that act like blinds so that you can’t see the cars waiting to pull out. Cones and construction barriers block the bike lane with no warning.

    There are alternate routes that might be slightly safer, but at 55 minutes, this commute (from NE Portland to Tigard) is almost too much to fit in my schedule.

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    • 9watts February 12, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Hats off to you!
      Another, future ride-along opportunity, Jonathan?

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  • Curtis Roth February 12, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    I ride the sidewalk on the bridges. And when I don’t ride the sidewalk, I don’t “take the lane”. Instead I ride near the curb. I’m too afraid of the drivers who aren’t looking out for a slow moving bike. I wear bright yellow (vest or jacket) and have two bright rear flashers, day or night.

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  • Michelle February 14, 2015 at 8:45 am

    I’m so glad someone took the time to document this. I biked Barbur every day from PSU for about 2 1/2 years to and from the Burlingame area, and I lost count of how many times I got cut off or almost hit by drivers of motor vehicles. This route is absolutely designed for drivers only, and the design does not take into account the safety of anyone not in a motor vehicle. This is an equity issue when cars are the only ones that can access these routes.

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  • Paul Johnson August 11, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Amazing how Portland manages to get pavement markings backwards in bike lanes, but inconsistently so. “BARBUR TO” makes as much sense as “ZONE HOTEL SLOW”. At least the older markings still get it right with things like “◊ BIKE ONLY ⬆”

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