With a few dozen orange cones and minimal fuss, a team of bridge inspectors and a county traffic safety specialist assembled a perfect Portland-quality detour on the Burnside Bridge Thursday.
It might seem like a small matter, but anyone who’s ridden a bike or walked near many construction detours knows how frequent it is for them to push people into mixed-traffic lanes rather than meddle with the flow of cars — even on streets that are far wider than they need to be for cars to keep flowing freely.
The good things about this short-term, lightly mobile midday detour started right at the beginning, with the well-placed warning signs:
Closer to the heavy machinery, the bike lane peeled off gracefully, while the machinery itself remained clear of the sidewalk:
With the cones in place, it was perfectly comfortable to merge left and ride in the bike lane next to traffic moving 30 mph or more, while also staying clear of the trucks on the right. Coming across the bridge at 2:30 p.m., there didn’t seem to be any traffic congestion issue.
The cones continued for a bit on the west side of the detour, letting people decide when to merge right into the bike lane or whether to remain straight in preparation for the shared-lane descent into downtown.
The detour was the work of Kevin Smith, a county employee assigned to support the private bridge inspection contractors during their annual job hanging over the side of the bridge.
“We just had a brainstorm in the morning,” Smith said when I stopped to ask what the planning looked like. “We try to do it the best way possible without obstructing and keep everybody safe.”
Smith mentioned that not everyone on a bike is going to use the detour, with some exercising their judgment that the main travel lanes are safer. Every person I saw pedal past seemed stress-free and content to be using it, though.
All in all, this was a detour that perfectly upheld this famous image in the city-county Climate Action Plan:
It was enough to make you wish the Burnside had physical separators to improve the bridge’s bike lanes on every other day of the year, too.
This is indeed a great adaptation for temporary bike lanes. It also seems that the placement of the sign truck right where the work starts is a valuable feature.
It seems like they had to close the right vehicle lane anyway, since leaving it open would have created a hazard for the construction crew.
When I was visiting Copenhagen last summer, there were countless construction projects, like in any big city. Not once did I observe people riding bikes unceremoniously dumped from their separated lanes into mixed traffic lanes. They were always accomodated in much the same way described in your article.
Compare that to this morning downtown, where I (and anyone else riding on NW/SW Broadway) found myself getting merged into shared lanes due to construction in two separate instances within six blocks of each other.
This can be done better! Thanks for providing a good example of how.
Thanks, Kevin Smith! Gives me a feeling of relief, just looking at it in pictures. Cones!
Surprisingly, one of the building companies on N Williams did a great job of making a bicycle detour around some heavy equipment/trucks just north of Fremont just two (?) nights ago. I was almost impressed enough to get off my bike and send pics in to bikeportland, but I was late for happy hour 🙂
I experienced that as well. Really great to see! 🙂
Nice work zone work! so…a win win situation:
[ Nice wide well signed bike lane detour = better safety zone for workers from motor vehicle danger]
And these temporary inspection work zones often do not have a long planned / well developed TCP (traffic control plan), so 2x impressed at their care and planning today!!
Thanks for these photos! I just shared one with the Florida DOT who are doing work on US 92 in Daytona Beach but are currently not providing a detour for bikes when they block the bike lane and right travel lanes.
Cool to see you highlight this! I biked over the Burnside bridge today at about 1pm and the bike lane detour was awesome.
Beautiful. But I’d like to change the headline to, “dear most places, including right here in Multnomah County …” For this is not how the detours are being handled on N. Williams nor the several detours on NW Broadway have happened over the last several months.
I would love to see bike-green cones become a standard for bike lanes in work zones. Orange is more likely to scare bikers out into the traffic lanes. Maybe alternating orange/green or orange cones with a green ring/hat? (Could be an accessory rather than carrying two sets of cones.)
Love giving credit where it’s due 🙂
I can’t tell if the woman in the white coat is carrying her purse or her helmet (or both) ?
Looks like job well done to me.
Bravo, Kevin Smith and Multnomah County.
Dear Washington County…
This is almost as good as the traffic cone diverter on 60th and Division that was up over the last month while there was construction (the same location that the guy huffing paint thinners and driving almost killed someone at).
Instead of having a flagger out and stopping traffic, the city just diverted traffic that is usually around 40-50mph straight and directly into the bike lane, without any form of speed bottling or anything.
You know, just drive RIGHT into the bike lane there… sorry for any inconvenience you may experience by having to drive over debris or cracked pavement.
What a joke.
They had another similarly designed detour set up on the Hawthorne Bridge viaduct heading westbound mid-morning Friday, between Grand Ave and before the bus stop. Kudos!
I don’t want to belittle the efforts made by Multnomah County on this detour/closure, but there’s a big difference between this and other closures. First, it’s pretty easy to have a short-term closure for a few hours that begins after the morning peak hour and ends before the evening peak hour. Second, it’s lots easier to have a closure of a four-lane road than a two lane road. Third, this was executed by county forces very near their headquarters near the Hawthorne Bridge.
It’s lots harder to develop and execute a closure plan for a week or longer on a two-lane facility and have it done by a contractor. Certainly, it can be done and done well, but the costs can be considerable.
I saw a detour much like this at W Burnside going south on Broadway this morning. Cones on the NW side to move the bike lane and move the cars into the left lane only, and then a new “lane” designated by cones on either side on the S side of Burnside. That was cool. Even the pack of bikes seemed to go single file thru the detour. No pics, though. And I am not sure which entity was fixing the asphalt.
Thank you! I appreciate it!
SE 12th where the goats used to be….feels like a subway track.
I saw this recently, and kudos to the workers, over on Williams! They setup and had a clearly marked path for cyclists and motorists. Good job indeed!
I guess they got the memo and are delivering! I’m really happy to see this. 🙂