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City removes portion of N Rosa Parks bike lane to allow right turns

Posted by on March 26th, 2015 at 1:57 pm

New bike lane striping at N Rosa Parks and Albina-2

It used to be a bike lane.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is trying out a new bike lane treatment on North Rosa Parks Way that they hope will lessen the risks of right-hook collisions.

A few weeks ago I noticed the bike lane on Rosa Parks (which was just installed in 2011) as it approaches Albina had been ground off about 50-feet from the intersection. In what used to be a parking lane and bicycle-only lane, PBOT has placed sharrow markings and a right-turn arrow.

The approach to this intersection used to offer dedicated, legally-binding right-of-way for bicycle users. Now it’s a shared environment where right-turning auto users and bicycle users (either going straight or turning right) mix together.

This isn’t the only place in town where PBOT has installed a “mixing zone” (NW Everett and NE Multnomah have them), but this is the first instance I’m aware of where an existing bike lane was removed and replaced with this treatment.

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New bike lane striping at N Rosa Parks and Albina-3

New bike lane striping at N Rosa Parks and Albina-5

A few weeks ago the person in that white Volvo would have been breaking the law.

This is a major change to how PBOT treats bike lanes at intersections, so I called around to find out what spurred the new design and whether or not this is something we might be seeing more of.

Turns out this change started via a citizen complaint made to the 823-SAFE hotline. The complaint was fielded by PBOT Traffic Engineer Carl Snyder. In a phone interview, Snyder shared that he ran the complaint by one of PBOT’s bike experts, long-time employee Jeff Smith, and the two of them came up with this design solution.

“Part of me really feels that this is just codifying illegal right turns and puts people on bikes in greater danger.”
— Noah Brimhall, nearby resident

According to Snyder the problem at this intersection was with auto users who would illegally drive over the bike lane prior to the intersection and use the bike lane and/or parking lane to make their right turn. (Oregon law requires that when a bicycle lane is present, drivers must stay out of the bike lane until the intersection.)

This is a scenario that Snyder acknowledges PBOT has “struggled with” for many years (and that’s definitely true). Some people prefer the California example of encouraging auto users to pull into the bike lane prior to the intersection to make a turn, thus reducing the risk of right hooks.

“It’s not a perfect design,” Snyder told us, “but we’ve tried this in some other places and the results are mixed.”

It comes down to where to you want drivers to cross your path; somewhere prior to the intersection or at a known spot in the intersection. Another consideration is that if someone is in a standard lane waiting for a bicycle lane to clear, they are holding up other drivers who want to go straight.

Snyder described scenarios at this intersection of people simultaneously turning right from both lanes (the thru lane and the parking/bike lane). “It’s a problem not just for bikes but for cars too,” he said.

I’m surprised to see PBOT doing this type of design because in the past they have defended the Oregon style bike lane. The thinking is that drivers need to respect the bike lane at all times and by creating some locations where people can drive in them sends a mixed message.

A benefit of this new shared design, Snyder says, is that it’s more clear where the conflict point exists.

There’s no relevant history of collisions at this intersection and it has relatively low vehicle volumes.

Noah Brimhall lives nearby and is the former transportation chair of the Piedmont Neighborhood Association. He says he has, “really mixed feelings about these changes.”

Here’s more from Brimhall:

“I know that before the change folks driving cars regularly turned right from Rosa Parks on to Albina from the bike lane and I found this really annoying and dangerous. One could make the argument that this is a way to make folks driving cars aware of the presence of people on bikes and make sure they know to share this space, but part of me really feels that this is just codifying illegal right turns and puts people on bikes in greater danger. It also feels like a further dilution of the sharrow and it seems like transport agencies are just using the sharrow in every possible situation where a bike could be on a road, but they don’t feel like (or can’t) actually put in a dedicated facility for people on bikes.”

Snyder acknowledged that prior to the change, people in cars were “not doing what they were supposed to do” and it’s his hope that the new design better clarifies those movements.

He added that this is not going to become a new standard treatment but that they’ll monitor how it works. How does Snyder think the design will work? “I think the jury’s out.”

Have you ridden this new mixing zone on Rosa Parks (or elsewhere)? What do you think?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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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Josh
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Josh

The message to drivers here is: keep breaking the law to benefit yourself and eventually the city will change the road infrastructure to suit your poor driving habits!

ethan
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ethan

Why?????????? These mixing zones are not safe.

paikiala
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paikiala

PBOT has added sharrows all over the city where the bike lane was already dropped for a curb side right turn lane.

Tyler
Guest

It seems like we’re never going to make real strides in building the well-integrated infrastructure needed to accommodate the “interested but concerned” crowd while we continue make these types of regressive steps.

Buzz
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Buzz

Good on them, let’s hope this design comes to more intersections with bike lane right-hook problems. Thumbs up!

Justin Gast
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Justin Gast

I ride through here everyday and have yet to experience a problem with the redesigned intersection (knock on wood). Works for me.

MaxD
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MaxD

Yesterday I got honked at by an impatient driver of a pickup behind my in a right-turn lane. I was waiting for traffic to clear before turning right-on-red on to a multi-lane road. I was waiting for a pick-up to pass because it was changing lanes and I wasn’t sure where it would end up, the driver behind me shouted that I should just go for it and not wait for every lane to be clear before going. IMO, the problem with mixing turn lanes with bikes going straight is that Oregon drivers feel entitled to the right on red and have zero patience to wait behind a bike for any reason or for any length of time. These mixing would better, IMO, if right-on-red were abolished.

invisiblebikes
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invisiblebikes

Snyder described scenarios at this intersection of people simultaneously turning right from both lanes (the thru lane and the parking/bike lane). “It’s a problem not just for bikes but for cars too,” he said.

But the well proven “fix” for this issue is to extend the sidewalks or create a #neckdown, narrowing crossing distances for pedestrians and sending visual cues for drivers to slow down and make a much safer right turn.

This intersection is a classic example of drivers breaking the law by using excess road space (the parking lane) and making it a right turn lane.
If PBOT added a traffic calming measure like a neckdown/curb extension it would immediately solve the conflict between road users and make it safer for all road users!
And in this case the curb could be extended and made into an island with the bike lane becoming protected at the intersection.

Sounds to me like Snyder and Smith need to think a little harder and actually do some research… or be fired!

Paul
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Paul

There are several right turn lanes off major thoroughfares In the Gresham area that continue the bike lane through the right turn lane, indicated by broken lines down the middle of the lane. If a through bicyclist is in front of the motor vehicle, the right-turning driver just has to wait. Why couldn’t this have been done at the above intersection? There’s also a bike lane at 257th northbound and Stark eastbound at the corner of MHCC that is routinely used as a right turn lane by motorists, completely illegally.

Eric
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Eric

This kind of design is fine if drivers will properly judge a bike’s speed and all bikers carry a sharrow bat. (A sharrow bat is a lot like a sharrow lane: it’s just a regular bat with a sharrow painted on it to remind drivers to share the lane.) Tightening the thru lane with a buffer line and some reflector bumps would reinforce the mixing area and prevent late cut-over drivers.

Psyfalcon
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Psyfalcon

Get rid of these.

Someone is going to get run over (or shot) because they blocked someone from making a right on red.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

If I’m not mistaken, some of the left-turns on N. Williams work this way now. The bike lane becomes a shared lane so that cars can turn left without having to cross a dedicated bike lane. I was driving up Williams when I first noticed this, and I found it confusing at first. Even though I’m familiar with sharrows, I was reluctant to pull into a lane that had a painted bike on it.

Spiffy
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Spiffy

why couldn’t they leave the bike lane and just put in a turn lane where the parking lane is at?

then everybody gets their own lane and no cars turning right are stuck behind a bike going forward…

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

every right turn lane should have an “except bicycles” provision… should be state law that bikes can go straight in a right-turn lane in the absence of a bike lane…

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

I’m your “interested but concerned but still bikes every day” older citizen, and I’m actually quite comfortable with this type of mixing zone. I haven’t ridden the one depicted here, but I use Multnomah all the time, and on the whole, I’d much rather merge into the car lane and be clearly visible to drivers. The road markings on Multnomah for these mixing zones, though kind of weird, seem to communicate the situation pretty well to most all users.

As to getting way over to the left side of a right-turn only lane, I always just assumed that’s what I was supposed to do. It signals my intent to go straight, while leaving room for a car to turn right–or at least letting me feel like I’m not actively preventing some impatient driver from turning right on red.

Mind you, my riding style is highly characterized by “avoid ticking drivers off at all costs.”

John Liu
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John Liu

This sort of mixed lane is very easy to use.

Cyclist going straight: ride or wait just to the right of the white line, where the sharrows is. Leave room for a car to go by on the right and make its right turn.

Cyclist turning right: ride then turn from closer to the curb. Stay far enough out into the lane that you take up the right turn lane.

Lester Burnham
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Lester Burnham

We’ll never be Copenhagen. Deal with it.

JJJJ
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JJJJ

People keep saying “like California” but the fact is, the law and design is the same in 49 states, only Oregon stands alone. People move, people drive across states. Standing alone is not good.

Also, in the pictured example, it seems like there is enough room for both a narrow bike lane and narrow turn lane.

Another treatment Ive seen is keeping the solid line on the left, and rather than erasing what was the solid line on the right side of the bike lane, making it striped. That way its clear bicycles have the priority but vehicles can pass into the bike lane if theyre too big to fit in the 8 foot right turn lane.

Brian Davis
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Brian Davis

Based on the comments I may firmly be in the minority here, but I like this treatment better than just continuing the bike lane. From a safety standpoint, removing the fundamental conflict that causes right hook crashes—through (bicycle) traffic in a lane positioned to the right of right-turning (auto) traffic—is a clear win. For that reason you see this sort of treatment all over Copenhagen and many other great bicycle cities.

The real question is one of comfort, and we’ve been having the debate about whether this idea is a win or a loss for comfort for years now. Comfort is such a personal thing that what may well be more comfortable for me is less so for you, but since on-street bike lanes require a person cycling to interact with car traffic to some extent anyway this doesn’t strike me as being much less comfortable than having dedicated bike-only space.

I wonder if the green lane project has any findings about how people perceive this design from a comfort standpoint. Michael, do you know? I recall that they investigated some elements of this treatment on Multnomah…

There may also be simple fixes to make it more comfortable as well. A bike box might work well here to maintain dedicated space for bikes, and the accompanying turn-on-red prohibition would prevent cars from trying to squeeze around someone on a bike, or would keep people on bikes in the middle of the lane from feeling like they are delaying a turning car. You could also manage the merge more deliberately as is done on Multnomah. Knowing that you’ve changed the key problem from one of safety (right hook risk) to one of comfort (bikes and cars sharing space) point you toward some potential fixes.

I don’t like it nearly so much as the truly 8-80 Dutch solution—physical separation of the bikeway and separate signal phases for bikes & turning cars—but I think this is a better design than a continuous bike lane that doesn’t address the right hook conflict. That said, we’ve been having this conversation for years now with no clear consensus. I remain struck by a comment from Roger Geller explaining why we don’t see this treatment more in Portland in response to a post I wrote suggesting it as a potential fix after the Kathryn Rickson crash: http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2012/12/why_bike_boxes.html#comment-45315

Champs
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Champs

The fact that NW Everett sucks does not mean this doesn’t work anywhere else. There’s nothing wrong with the shared lane above. It’s flat/uphill, so even the best of us are moving slower than auto traffic. Going downhill on Everett, you better believe I’m nervous about matching speed or even catching up to cars.

Consider the scenarios if you stay to the left:

A) run down from behind: think how many times it could happen, and how often it does. If you’ve ever been hurt riding a bike, this is probably not the thing that did it.

B) cut off: aim parallel to the danger, i.e. toward the curb, and tap the brakes. The danger, now moving even faster than you, will slip off into the distance.

C) everything goes fine: cars may turn at the intersection on your right—perhaps illegally, whatever. I’m pretty law-abiding, but glass houses and all that.

ethan
Guest
ethan

I rode through this intersection (from the West) last night and noticed some additional things about it. This is the only intersection with this treatment on this road. Most of the intersections are similar to how this was previously. In some cases, the parking on the right side is not there.

I noticed that since 1 intersection has changed, drivers have begun treating all intersections on this road the same way. When I was riding down this road (around 1AM), there were only 3 total other moving vehicles on the road (2 cars, 1 bike). The only driver to make a turn, did so illegally, merging into the bike lane before turning (and directly in front of me as I was travelling pretty quickly).

I also noticed that 1 vehicle was parked in a way that it was blocking part of the new “mixing zone” and a significant portion of a driveway as well. The parking spaces aren’t clearly defined, the lane is wide enough that drivers will attempt to pass a standing cyclist, etc. It’s not a good design.

The eBike Store
Guest

My shop is on this corner and from what I can see, the joint use lane has been working pretty will.

My only gripe is how many damn signs have been installed. Visually, this intersection was fairly clean and now it has advertisements on an ugly bus bench, three additional (and unnecessary) signs and additional markings painted on the road.

If the arrow is painted on the road, do we really need two signs repeating the message?

wake

JA
Guest
JA

The mixing-zone concept has been working pretty well on SE 92nd & Flavel. I’m pretty certain they replaced the traditional bike lane with a mixing zone a few years back or so.

At this intersection, if I position myself at the left edge of the mixing zone, there’s plenty of room for cars to turn right. And in my experience, drivers have typically been respectful and have proceeded carefully if I make it obvious that I’m leaving them space to turn right.

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

Dan & El Biciclero – we already dissected Sylvan/MUP ad nauseam in 2012. Kind of fun to re-read the comments. http://bikeportland.org/2012/06/01/on-bike-video-highlights-notorious-sylvanhwy-26-intersection-72655

Charlie
Guest
Charlie

I would think a pocket bike lane would be better here:
http://www.bikede.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/md_shared.jpg