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First Look: Southwest Moody is now probably Portland’s best street to bike on

Posted by on August 14th, 2015 at 5:09 pm

moody lead

The new coloring and lane sorting makes things much more intuitive and comfortable for people biking and walking.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Just in time for Tilikum Crossing’s public preview last weekend, TriMet and the City of Portland unveiled a new design for the main street leading to the South Waterfront.

In two words: It’s fantastic.

moody high

Gone: the confusing weave that sent people biking and walking across one another’s paths right below the Ross Island Bridge. Both bike lanes now remain on the curb side of the Moody sidewalk throughout, with people walking closer to the western hill side. The trees on the Moody sidewalk now serve as part of the buffer between people walking and biking rather than the buffer between the two directions of bike traffic, which is more intuitive and helps keep everyone out of each others’ way.

moody transit bend

Upgraded: the lonely Hawthorne Bridge-style circles that mark which mode is supposed to go where. Backing them up in the most visible way possible: lots of textured green pavement coloring that makes it impossible to mistake the bike lanes’ route in the most complicated part of the street, just across from the bridge and the new OHSU-OSU-PSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building.

Moving the bike lane away from the hill also mitigates an awkward bend around a freeway support pillar further north on Moody.

Almost all of the $310,000 for these changes came from TriMet. That’d make it one of the most expensive bike-focused projects ever built in Portland, but it’s pocket change in the $1.5 billion Orange Line — which, as we reported in March, finished tens of millions of dollars under budget.

Why was the biking-walking “weave” on Moody in the first place? TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said it was because the city and TriMet had wanted to avoid sending bike lanes in between the sidewalk and transit stops on Moody — a design that’s widely used in other countries and cities but only exists in a few Portland locations.

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However, the new design handles this nicely, getting the attention of people biking by prompting them to bend around the station and creating a marked crosswalk where, presumably, people walking have the right of way.

One aspect of Moody’s new design troubled me: the amount of time that north-south foot and bike traffic gets a red light at the bridge landing. Obviously red lights here are important when bus, light rail and streetcar traffic is crossing Moody. But the signal at Moody and the bridge also gives north-south traffic a red light every time someone gets a green light to cross Moody on foot or bike, which doesn’t seem necessary and threatens to create a sense that the signals can safely be ignored — which, of course, they can’t.

moody tracks

If there’s no east-west traffic detected across Moody, the light at the bridge landing is always green in the north-south direction by default.

Another big issue on Moody will be the length of the traffic signal for people crossing Moody coming on and off the bridge. It’s currently very long north-south and very short east-west, which will be frustrating to many people on bikes and seems likely to lead people to ignore the signal. During rush hours, when many people are likely to be heading eastbound from the Moody protected bike lanes across the bridge, the long signals seem likely to lead bikes to back up across the bike lane. You can see a little bit of that starting to happen in this photo from last Sunday’s bridge preview day:

queuing

Hopefully TriMet and the city will continue to treat those signal timings and other details here as works in progress.

Generally speaking, though, it seems to me and to the people I’ve talked to that anyone who uses Moody by bike or foot is likely to be well-served by these changes. John Landolfe, the transportation options coordinator for Oregon Health and Science University, said Friday that he’s a big fan of the new design.

“We submitted recommendations based on our observations of how Moody was used and feedback from OHSU commuters,” Landolfe said. “We’re delighted that TriMet and the city have opted to fast-track safety improvements ahead of the opening of the new bridge. … This street serves not just OHSU but the larger community. We want people to feel safe as they travel by bike, by foot, by rail or road.”

“Improvements generally don’t come as fast as you want them to,” Landolfe said. “This time we got it.”

moody chair

Obviously there are lots of unique things about Moody that make it relatively easy to have such high-quality bike facilities there. There are no driveways, no conventional intersections and no on-street parking on this stretch. There’s very little commercial activity (yet); in many ways it resembles a short off-road path segment, even though this is part of a city street.

But that shouldn’t detract from the credit that the city, TriMet and other involved parties like OHSU deserve for making this as nice as it is. It’s simply the most intuitive, comfortable, low-stress set of bike lanes in the city. With the free bike valet at its south end, it already deserves to be a stop for every Portland bike tourist; this half-mile of first-rate bike infrastructure should be held up as a model of how well Portland can do these things when it sets its mind to it — and when it’s willing to learn from and correct its mistakes.

If all goes well, that’ll continue on Moody and elsewhere.

“I’m excited, but it’s of course a wait and see,” Landolfe added. “There might be future improvements too.”

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B. Carfree
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B. Carfree

In keeping with today’s weather, I’m going to rain on the parade a bit here.

This implementation would fail by even the standards of California. Here’s a few of the requirements for such an installation down south (all from the CalTrans Highway Design Manual):
Fixed objects (light poles, signs, trees, etc) cannot be placed closer than two feet from the edge of a bike path.
There must be five feet of separation between bike paths and adjacent pedestrian facilities.
When there is an adjacent fence or railing, there must be a solid white stripe two feet from the obstruction to minimize incidental contact. (This is because those objects do narrow the useful pavement for bikes.)
Bike paths not on a structure require a minimum two foot shoulder with three preferred.

So, if this is the best we can do, we’re certainly in a sorry state, pun intended. It’s almost like there’s a plot to make lots of really lousy infrastructure so that the public will embrace mediocre compromises later on. Just look at the pictures where a single person is blocking the pedestrian space and also notice how difficult it would be to pass slower cyclists if we ever succeeded in moving past 6%. Maybe that’s the point: to design in such a way that we will never get over 6%.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

single-file bike lanes that allow no passing room…

narrow sidewalks that don’t allow couples to pass each other…

beg-buttons to cross unless you’re driving…

the tall mock-up at the top shows people crossing Moody and the bridge landing simultaneously, which to me was great to allow all modes to cross both directions while motor traffic was stopped… but you state that the lights actually take turns alternating…

it’s certainly not fantastic, but it’s decent…

when I use it I’m sure I’ll be failing to obey traffic control devices in favor of what actually works…

it’s a confusing mess of poles and traffic control lights…

given all the available space and technology I’d still consider this area a fail… I don’t see that we’ve learned anything…

Alison Fulmer
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Alison Fulmer

Hope you can give us further information about how to safely navigate from Moody to downtown. I bike commute from Eastmoreland to Max at Goose Hollow and am not at all clear how to get in reasonable safety from the west end of Tlikum further north and west.
The issue of traffic lights being defaulted to facilitate N/S automobile traffic is a problem on the east side cycle approach as well. Long waits at 8th, 11th, and 12th and no stop sign for auto traffic heading south on Water at Carruthers. LOTS of southbound auto traffic there in the evening as this has been discovered as a way to avoid the 99E viaduct.
Exciting to have the bridge finally open, hope that we get the safety and convenience we need.

Justin
Guest
Justin

Uh, let’s not go to negative town. This is pretty good.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Any success here may be solely due to ODOT’s lack of participation.

Adam Herstein
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Adam Herstein

Moody is great to ride in and likely Portland’s only example of world-class cycling infrastructure. It even features concrete islands, waiting-to-turn areas, and bike signals like Dutch cycle tracks. Moody is evidence that we can design great cycling infra and we should use this as an example of how to build cycle tracks in the future. Let’s use this design on Naito.

Dead Salmon
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Dead Salmon

Quote from the article: “Hopefully TriMet and the city will continue to treat those signal timings and other details here as works in progress.”

You can bet a paycheck that this will be a “work in progress”. An entire team of goobermint workers will retire on improvements to this thing. 🙂

Looks pretty complicated for a bike path; but let’s hope it’s safe for all.

Joseph E
Guest

It’s pretty good for north-south bike and pedestrian traffic, now. This is a big improvement from the previous design.

However, getting across Moody to the new Tilikum bridge will be a problem when this route is busy. The westbound bridge to northbound connection will be acceptable if the light phase is long enough, because there is plenty of room for bikes to line up at the signal, and there a is fence preventing people from accidentally ending up in the path of a train. But going from southbound Moody to the eastbound bridge route will be a problem at busy times. When there are more than 3 or 4 bikes waiting, there will not be enough room to wait at the light without blocking the northbound bike path or sidewalk.

Bella Bici
Guest

I ride this route almost every day. One item that I have contention with regularly is cars eastbound on SW Sheridan St as the approach SW Moody Ave.

The cars that want to turn right, especially at times other that peak commuting hours, often encroach fully into the crosswalk agitating for their free right turn on red. There is a sign on SW Moody Ave that is lit for “NO TURN ON RED”, but that is not always activated.

This is also a problem up where SW River Pkwy (westbound) intersects SW Harbor Dr. Now that intersection has a sign stating “NO TURN ON RED”, but is often ignored, while drivers run over the green bike box and encroach upon the cross walk. With their heads, turned left, looking for approaching cars on SW Harbor Dr, and often ignoring cyclists heading across their path, which they have right of way.

wsbob
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wsbob

Aside from all that green paint, pictures and information about the latest improvements to Moody seem to suggest good things happening there.

In the morning for about the last six months, I’ve driven once a week on Market from the west down to Moody and the Skourtes Tower. It’s a tangled route to drive, and a real challenge to someone new to the route.

Observed while continuing to travel south, quite a number of people biking tended to be on the road east of 1st (not sure if that’s River Pkwy or part of Moody.), making their way south along Moody towards the Skoutes, and further to the tram station. Configuration of the road at the point at which lanes of traffic…main lane and bike lane and street car, travel under the overpass in crossing a side street, was very tricky, particularly with people on bikes also making their way south on the west side of the street.

The street at that point makes a strange little twist that left questions to people people driving, as to where people biking would be going. Whether the road’s most recent infrastructure changes resolve that issue and some others…don’t know, but hope so.

For this relatively short length of street from approximately the Riverfront Marina, past the Skourtes, the tram station and the OHSU-OSU-PSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building, relative to other streets I’ve traveled on the wider west side, or Portland’s west side, there comparatively is a lot of people biking. Not throngs of bikes like seen in pictures of certain European cities, but quite a number. Enough that there definitely requires a greater than usual need to aware of and watchful for bike traffic than on other streets.

And, if popularity of practical biking continues to expand, it’s possible that multi-mode traffic in this area could get much busier and intense than it is now, even with improvements to the road’s infrastructure; there’s a couple already leveled and prepared but not yet built upon lots along the riverside to the north and south of the Tillikum’s west end. Adjustment to dealing with far more people on bikes in a given area than most people have ever experienced traveling Portland streets, could turn out to be a big challenge for all road users.

maccoinnich
Guest

For those worried about the connection between the bridge and SW Moody, it’s worth noting that eventually SW Moody won’t be the only connection between the bridge and South Waterfront / Downtown. There will be a riverfront greenway trail system that connects to the bridge, with separated bike / ped paths similar to the recently open section through the South Waterfront central district. Construction of this is meant to happen concurrently with development on the vacant parcels. Zidell are currently moving forward with two new office buildings, and OHSU are planning a new building immediately north of the CLSB. The construction of the greenway will probably happen later than these buildings, but is meant to happen at least by the summer of 2022, under a development agreement between the City and Zidell.

Also, the phased extension of SW Bond between Riverplace and the Center for Health and Healing is currently being designed by PBOT. The first section of it (between SW River Parkway by the Marriott and the future SW Porter) will be built in the next few years. Long term it is meant to be the main northbound route for cars out of South Waterfront. It’s not clear to me whether there will be any bikes lanes the street, but I certainly hope there will be.

rainbike
Guest
rainbike

New paint and signage and STILL joggers in the bike lane this morning. Hopefully they’ll figure it out in a few weeks.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

Why aren’t all of the transportation engineers on this thread working in that industry?

eli bishop
Guest
eli bishop

It’s seriously killing me that we don’t have bike access on the MAX flyover. That would make -getting- to this great bike infrastructure a lot easier.

jim chasse
Guest
jim chasse

A quick reminder to you all that .7 mile of Moody Ave. improvement several years ago was a $40 million project to bring it above the flood plain. It should be a world class ride!