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State says there’s not enough proof that bike lanes boost safety, so 26th Ave lanes should go

Posted by on August 26th, 2015 at 11:37 am

26th powell bike box

The City of Portland wants to create a second, more comfortable crossing of Powell at 28th, but the state says it won’t allow one unless bike lanes and bike boxes at 26th (shown here) are removed.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Three weeks after being asked if it can cite any evidence supporting its claim that removing a bike lane can sometimes increase bike safety, the State of Oregon has come up empty.

Moreover, a state spokeswoman wrote in an email Tuesday that four studies cited by the City of Portland that document safety benefits of bike lanes are inadequate, though the state did not say in what way the studies fall short.

“More research needs to be done,” the Oregon Department of Transportation said in its statement.

Research notwithstanding, the Oregon Department of Transportation is continuing to deny the City of Portland’s request to install a new stoplight at 28th Avenue and Powell (which would let the city create a new north-south neighborhood greenway on 28th) unless the city agrees to first remove the narrow bike lanes from nearby 26th Avenue.

Those bike lanes, which cross Powell directly in front of Cleveland High School and connect to the major commercial node at 26th and Clinton, are currently used for about 600 to 800 cycling trips a day.

ODOT’s statement came one week after BikePortland asked if the state had any response to a letter about 26th Avenue, sent by Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller to the city’s bicycle advisory committee. In the letter, Geller had cited four studies showing, he said, that even a very narrow bike lane like the one on 26th Avenue tends to increase safety on the street.

“Research on this topic is not always conclusive and can even be conflicting. More research needs to be done.”
— Oregon Department of Transportation, on whether narrow bike lanes are safer than no bike lanes

According to the studies, even narrow bike lanes prompt people to bike further from the doors of parked cars and prompt people to give bike users more space when passing them in a car. According to a federally funded academic meta-analysis, bike lanes reduce crash rates on a street by 36 to 50 percent.

In an email Tuesday, ODOT said the idea that bad bike lanes are better than nothing was not a reasonable conclusion to draw from those studies, but didn’t say why Geller’s interpretation was inaccurate.

Also in that email, the state denied that the head of its engineering department had ever claimed, in an interview about the 26th Avenue bike lane, that there are “conflicting studies” about the phenomenon of “safety in numbers,” the frequently cited observation that increasing the number of bikes on a street or in a city tends to reduce the risk of biking.

Narrow bike lanes are better than nothing, city says

26th powell crowd in bike box

10 a.m. southbound bike traffic at 26th and Powell.

Aside from the question of evidence, the state’s fundamental argument is fairly simple: if you remove the 3.5-foot bike lanes from 26th Avenue and create a greenway crossing at 28th, most people will probably cross at 28th, which is safer than 26th because it will have fewer turning vehicles.

But if you do that without removing the bike lane from 26th, the state says, many people will keep biking on 26th.

The city, on the other hand, argues that people should be able to choose which street to bike on, and that many people are likely to bike on 26th Avenue (or at least to cross Powell there) whether or not there is a bike lane. Removing the bike lane, the city says, will make 26th Avenue more dangerous for no good reason.


Here are the four studies Geller cited, showing (he said) that even narrow, substandard bike lanes like the ones on 26th Avenue are safer than a street with no bike lanes:

Evaluation of Shared-Use Facilities for Bicycles and Motor Vehicles,” Transportation Research Board, Record No. 1578, Harkey, D.L, Stewart, J.R., 1997 concluded that “bicycle lanes as narrow as 0.92 m (3 ft) provide sufficient space for motorists and bicyclists to interact safely. At the same time, a 1.22m (4-ft) wide bicycle lane tended to optimize operating conditions because there were very few differences in the measures of effectiveness when 1.22-m lanes were compared with wider lanes.”

Effect of Wide Curb Lane Conversions on Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Interactions,” Report prepared for the Florida Department of Transportation, William W. Hunter, John R. Feaganes, Highway Safety Research Center, University of North Carolina, April 2004; concluded that people bicycling and people driving positioned themselves more safely on a roadway with 11’ travel lanes and 3’ bicycle lanes than with just a 14’ travel lane.

National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 766 “Recommended Bicycle Lane Widths for Various Roadway Characteristics,” Transportation Research Board, 2014 provides a literature review that states the following:
“Bike lanes have a positive impact on safety when compared with unmarked roadways. Bahar et al. (2008) found that the presence of a bike lane reduces bicycle crashes by 36%. This finding is supported by other research.”
“Reynolds et al. (2009) examined the relationship between bicycle infrastructure and cyclist safety through a review of 23 papers from 1975 through 2009. When examining the studies related to roadway segments (rather than intersections), marked bike lanes and bike routes were found to reduce crash rates and injuries by about half when compared to unmodified roadways. The safety effectiveness of specific bicycle facility designs was not described by Reynolds et al.”

How Pavement Markings Influence Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Positioning: A Case Study in Cambridge, MA” Report prepared for City of Cambridge, MA, Ron Van Houten, Mount Saint Vincent University and Cara Seiderman, City of Cambridge, concluded bicycle lanes “encouraged cyclists to ride farther away from parked cars” helping to reduce the chances of being doored when compared to streets without bicycle lanes.

In an email Tuesday, ODOT spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie offered “ODOT’s response” to Geller’s citation of these studies. Here it is, in its entirety: “We don’t feel it’s fair to boil down many research studies into one black-and-white summary statement. It’s not that simple. Research on this topic is not always conclusive and can even be conflicting. More research needs to be done.”

State says engineering manager never claimed that reducing bike traffic can improve safety

students biking in crosswalk 26th powell

Some people who bike on 26th already don’t bother with the bike lanes.

Another issue raised by BikePortland’s Aug. 5 interview with several ODOT officials, including regional traffic engineering manager Sue D’Agnese, was what D’Agnese had meant when she said that there are “conflicting studies” about whether having more bikes at a location increases bike safety.

Because she said ODOT was motivated “only by safety” in pushing the city to remove the 26th Avenue bike lane, I’d asked her whether she had any evidence that removing the 26th Avenue bike lane would in fact improve safety. Even if most people began crossing at 28th, I said, the people still biking on 26th would see increased risk — if nothing else because there would be so few of them.

In the interview, D’Agnese responded that the “safety in numbers” trend was not always true.

“There’s conflicting studies in the transportation safety realm,” she said. “There’s also studies that when bike volumes are high, crash rate goes up. … It depends on the geometry and the site-specific conditions.”

At the time, I told D’Agnese that this was contrary to everything I’d heard about the subject as a reporter, so I would like to know where that information was coming from. On Aug. 18 I sent another email making the request more explicit.

In her email Tuesday, Dinwiddie (who wasn’t herself present at the first interview) wrote that ODOT believes my notes from the interview were inaccurate:

Unfortunately that’s not an accurate summary of what Sue said. She said: “Regardless of mode, generally more traffic results in a higher frequency (total number) of crashes due to the higher exposure. Therefore, an increase in bike traffic could result in an increase in the frequency of crashes. However, an increase in the frequency of bike crashes could occur at the same time there is an overall lower crash rate due to higher total traffic volumes.”

That’s a perfectly reasonable statement — to carry it to an extreme, of course there would be zero bike crashes if no one ever rode bikes — but it doesn’t have any bearing on how the state is balancing the potentially increased risk of biking on 26th Avenue against the safety benefits of a new signal at 28th. Also, it’s definitely not anything close to what D’Agnese said.

Assuming ODOT does not change course, the city’s staffers have not yet reached a decision about whether to scrap their request for a signal on 28th Avenue or to scrap the bike lane on 26th.

“Our intent is to keep our options open,” city project manager Rich Newlands wrote Tuesday. “We believe there are still creative solutions that will allow us to have both the new signal at 28th and retain the bike lanes on 26th.”

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81 thoughts on “State says there’s not enough proof that bike lanes boost safety, so 26th Ave lanes should go”

  1. Avatar 9watts says:

    Uncanny, how they (ODOT) always manage to hit the right notes!

    1. Avatar Ed Birnbaum says:

      It’s past time to demand a complete cleansing of the house at ODOT. Their anti-bike and anti-pedestrian bias is obvious and should not be tolerated in this state. I don’t think it can be reformed without some cutting off of heads. The biking (and walking) community shouldn’t be shy or timid about this. The response Jonathan got, alone, would be enough reason, but there are so many others. Their behavior is costing lives. The people at the top have gotta go and the Governor should be held accountable for what she does about it.

  2. Avatar Adam H. says:

    There’s also no evidence that widening roads reduces congestion, yet ODOT does it anyway.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:


    2. Actually nearly all the studies on widening roads and adding lanes show that congestion gets worse not better.

      1. Avatar Adam H. says:

        Yep. ODOT spokespeople have even explained induced demand in some interviews, but still seems to ignore their own advice.

  3. kiel johnson kiel johnson says:

    ODOT just made the case to remove all auto taffic saving over 30,000 lives each year!

  4. Avatar AndyC of Linnton says:

    I say there’s not enough evidence the state and ODOT do anything to boost safety, so I think they should be the ones to go.

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      Their “Powell safety project”, which this is all part of, does not even mention speeds on Powell, even in passing. Any safety project that does not acknowledge the single most critical traffic safety factor cannot be taken seriously.

      1. Avatar Adam H. says:

        I actually had a conversation with the project manager at ODOT in change of the Powell project and I mentioned many times that speed was the #1 issue. His solution was that the additional left turn lights and more visible striping would reduce speeds. While he seemed to agree that speeds need to be lowered, he believed that the presented solutions will achieve this. They wont.

        1. Avatar J_R says:

          I had similar conversations with several ODOT staffers at the recent open house about the “Powell Safety Project.” Speed and motorists blowing the red light are the real problems. My kids attend Cleveland HS so I’m pretty familiar with the area from the perspective of both cyclist and motorist. I regularly see motorists traveling 40 mph westbound (downhill) and running the red at 26th.

          One of the big “safety” elements proposed by ODOT is the removal of lots of trees (I don’t remember the number, but I think it was over 50) to improve sight distance and visibility of pedestrians. I countered with the opinion that removing the trees will result in higher speeds.

          I also suggested that a school speed zone be established on Powell even though school speed zones are not generally used for high schools. I argue that this is a special case because of the high volumes of autos and pedestrians and narrow sidewalks.

          With this latest demand from ODOT, I’m convinced that ODOT is simply using the term “safety” as a rebranding of what is really a “capacity” and “through-put” enhancement project on “the critical state highway connection from Portland to Bend.” It’s time for ODOT to get out of the business of surface streets in urban areas and change their name to the Oregon Highway Department.

          1. Avatar Dan says:

            The MUTCD does not distinguish between elementary & high schools when it comes to school speed zones. Traffic engineers can choose to establish one on Powell if they want to (

            There are school speed zones in front of Sunset (, Westview (, Century (, Aloha (, Jesuit (, Southridge (, Tigard (

            Many of those are on 45mph roads too, like my own high school, Crescent Valley ( Pretty much NOBODY walks to Crescent Valley, though there are some who bike there, because the road to it is pretty much a rural highway.

            Not putting a school speed zone in front of Cleveland is just D U M B.

          2. Avatar Seth Alford says:

            Another example of how ODOT mis-uses the word “Safety” was with the Scholls Ferry Road Safety Project. Here’s a compilation of helmet cam videos taken on weekend days of that project. You’ll see the bike lane partially and fully blocked, no bike lane detour, road construction signs in the bike lane, and worst of all, the sign saying to expect bikes on the road was placed AFTER the point people on bicycles had to merge into the general purpose lane.

  5. Avatar J_R says:

    Official ODOT Policy: Safety of bicyclists and pedestrians is NOT OUR CONCERN!

  6. Avatar Todd Hudson says:

    1. Acquiesce and remove 26th Ave bike lane
    2. ODOT installs and activates 28th Ave signal
    3. Re-stripe 26th Ave bike lanes after ODOT is done installing signal
    4. Profit!

  7. Avatar ethan says:

    More ******** from ODOT. Perhaps if narrow bike lanes are not safe enough, they should use the full width of the road as a bike lane. It seems like that would be safe to me.

    1. Avatar Jeff says:

      I will be riding full lane at all times from now on. All roads, at my sole discretion.

      1. Avatar KristenT says:

        You could already be doing this– you can leave the bike lane at any time if, in your opinion, conditions are not right to stay in the bike lane, such as a hazard, slower rider, pedestrian, etc. I regularly merge into the traffic lane on Hall Blvd, for example, to avoid having to ride through the dropped fruit from the cherry and apple trees overhanging the road just North of the light at Bonita (heading south). I also merge into the main traffic lane to avoid things like drainage grates that are below grade, incredibly rough patching and potholes, sunken grades because the roadway is falling down into a hole (not a pothole, as the roadway remains intact), debris from landscaping and overhead trees dropping branches/leaves/fruit/nuts.

  8. Avatar Bald One says:

    Are they both right? You have to look at the overall area and the approaches to SE Powell to understand people’s cycling behavior at the one spot on the route where it crosses SE Powell. I don’t think you can argue about usage in this one crossing without considering all the routes leading here. In my own usage, I choose several different routes and crossings of Powell on different days for different times.

    In this debate of 26th vs 28th, we have to consider the different uses. For example, riders coming/going to SE Woodstock or East Moreland areas frequently stay low on SE 26th S of Gladstone in order to avoid the crappy, narrow, and inadequate bike lane on SE 28th between Steele and Holgate. Why do they choose to ride on a parallel street through an industrial area with no bike lanes instead of a neighborhood street with a painted bike lane (between Steele and Gladstone)? This answer might support ODOT’s position. Why do they choose to ride the bike lane between Gladstone and Clinton on 26th instead of SE 28th where there is none – because there is no crossing at Powell. This would support PBOT’s position.

    But, different folks are going to do different things, based on where they are going and coming from and the rest of the route. If the city wants to make the 28th Powell crossing option a good one, they will have a lot more to do: fix the streets on SE 28th, turn the stop signs, trim the shrubs, put down a bike lane on 28th between Holgate and Gladstone, widen the bike lane on 28th between Bybee and Holgate. Fix the numerous garbage pavement and storm drain sections of this bike lane gutter. After they do all this, they can make a compelling case to ODOT to put up the crossing signal, there. Until then, we are still arguing about two crappy routes and how they cross one street over the course of them. They should get UPRR to pay for all of these upgrades on SE 28th, otherwise, we should restrict 5-axle 53′ trailer trucks from SE 26th.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      “In my own usage, I choose several different routes and crossings of Powell on different days for different times.”

      Precisely. Which is probably true for everyone, regardless of their mode. And this is also what I took from PBOT’s perspective on this. Why single out cyclists for this zero sum: you can only have one route logic?

      1. Avatar Bald One says:

        I agree.

        City needs to pursue the new crossing of SE Powell at 28th with ODOT as being necessary for children crossing the highway to get to school.

        City needs to maintain the bike lanes and crossing at 26th as another link in the cycle commuter and routes chain.

      2. Avatar Adam H. says:

        Drivers get to drive on every street – even ones meant for people riding bikes. Why do we need to be coerced into only using one single street?

        1. Avatar 9watts says:

          Well because we’re third class, that’s why.
          Or maybe it is because ODOT in its current form is not only unaware of what the world looks like from the seat of a bike but also, apparently, unaware of how that ignorant stance appears to those who see the world from that vantage point, who also happen to pay taxes that fund the agency that acts in this inexcusable fashion.

      3. Avatar El Biciclero says:

        “…you can only have one route…”


        “We think if we make it dangerous enough, and tacitly approve of motorist harassment of bicyclists, then ‘the bike people’ will ride elsewhere!”

        Enter through service entrance, bicyclists.

      4. Avatar lop says:

        How many cyclists do you need to see significant safety in numbers benefits? During peak hour in peak direction bike counts

        show about one cyclist per minute. Reverse peak it’s one cyclist every 2-6 minutes. What happens if they put the signal in on 28th, you get some shift to 28th, increased total bike crossings, but a decline of 25% on 26th. Are there enough bikes on both roads to see safety in numbers benefits? A skilled cyclist can usually keep themselves safe on a hostile road, and will be fine on 26th with or without a narrow lane. Does a bike lane encourage less skilled cyclists to ride on 26th, and is it safe enough for them?

  9. Avatar resopmok says:

    There’s another alternative too: prohibit left turns from 26th onto Powell, remove the left turn lanes and widen the bike lanes. Then, remove parking and extend the lanes all the way to Clinton. Take the shiny new left turn signal and move it to 21st where it would really help a lot. Then they don’t have to spend a bunch of money on a new signal at 28th, the bike lane would be wider and traffic volumes on 26th ought to be reduced as a result. 21st could then also handle larger volumes of left turning traffic, as control over that traffic with a left turn lane and signal is needed anyway.

    The biggest objection I can foresee is that it would somehow be sacrilegious to ban turns and remove parking. Forgive me for looking at the bigger picture..

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      Litmus tests for ODOT at every step. And they manage to fail them every time. Good points, all.

    2. Avatar Bald One says:

      I was nearly creamed off my bike by a car turning left onto Powell at SE 21st just last week. 21st needs the same left turn signal treatment that SE 26th just got, plus some parking removal and additional help at this intersection and on the approaches S of Powell. But, you can’t remove the new light at 26th. And the new crossing at 28th is for the kids. This whole area needs lots of help. It’s a good example of some of the oldest and original cycle infrastructure in Portland (unsafe, inadequate, and out of date in today’s city) It’s time for an upgrade.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        It needs the same treatment that is proposed for 28th.

    3. Avatar lop says:

      Peak hour counts showed more people turning left from 26th to Powell than riding bikes through the intersection.

      1. Avatar 9watts says:

        O.K., but what if we did the opposite of what ODOT is suggesting (= what resopmok* suggested above), what do you think would happen to those numbers? None of this occurs in a vacuum.


      2. Avatar resopmok says:

        Is it too much to ask people to drive 5 more blocks to make a left turn onto Powell? What peak hours are these left turns being made that 21st wouldn’t be able to accommodate them? Aren’t left turns primarily what is causing congestion on 26th anyway, seeing as how short the left turn lanes are? Why do cyclists have to be made to be inconvenienced in order to solve this problem? Is my suggestion actually without merit or do we just eliminate it because we don’t like how it sounds?

        1. Avatar lop says:

          No, a five block diversion shouldn’t be too much to ask. But will the extra traffic between 26th and 21st (Gladstone and Tibbetts ?) be a problem? And what’s the expected compliance rate for the turn ban? You can put up signs before powell to send the cars on Gladstone or wherever, but some drivers will miss them. You can get google and other map companies to direct turning traffic to 21st, but not everyone has a nav app running. Some drivers will still get to 26th expecting to turn, will a no turn sign stop them? Or will they try to turn anyway and you’ll get annoyed drivers behind them, and those cars whipping around the illegally stopped car, swerving into the bike lane in the process? There have been a couple crashes recently where left turning vehicles cut off cyclists going straight, will a turn ban lull cyclists into a false sense of security at the intersection?

          Now it would be great if those drivers who get to 26th expecting to turn would have the courtesy to go straight and make the next left and then head back to Powell from there. But I don’t know how many will do that. In much the same way it would be great if cyclists on the waterfront would slow down when pedestrians are around, but people are ______ and expecting them to be decent doesn’t always work out.

          Your idea shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, and I’d like to hear what a traffic engineer familiar with local traffic patterns thought of it. I’ve only biked through the intersection a few times, and don’t like it. I’m not sure a turn ban and wide bike lane would make it better. If the pavement on 28th gets fixed up, a light put in on Powell, and your turn ban on 26th, I’d probably find myself crossing on 28th.

          1. Avatar Dan says:

            I regularly cross at a spot where there is a ‘right turn only sign’ and pavement markings that indicate the same thing. About 1/5 of the cars that I see there make an illegal left turn, and they purposely don’t signal when they do it.

            I’ve nearly been hit there by drivers making this turn, because I expected them to NOT illegally turn into me. Now I just assume that there’s a good chance they will turn left, and I wait for them to clear the intersection before I go.

        2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

          PBOT would not support redirecting traffic from 26th to 21st, even if it made sense. Though it does not look it, PBOT classifies 21st as a local service street (its lowest classification), whereas 26th is a collector, and is intended to carry more traffic.

          But it doesn’t make sense in any event. 21st should be a proper greenway. It passes very close to an Orange Line stop, and provides potential good connectivity to the new bike trails. When 28th is up and running, there will be very few routes where 26th would be better than 21st. 21st also offers much more potential for improvement than 26th does, due to its lower classification, and more “neighborhoody” feel.

  10. Avatar davemess says:

    I don’t think ODOT understands what a meta-anaylsis is.

    As a scientist,“More research needs to be done,” is often used as a cop out, which it clearly looks like here.

    1. Avatar Adam H. says:

      It’s also used by every pseudo-science pusher and outright science-denier. They will forever scream for more data and definitive proof because they don’t understand how scientific research works.

      1. Avatar q`Tzal says:

        There is no definitive proof that human drivers of automobiles are safe by any measure.
        OTOH, the FHWA has a long run of automotive related death statistics that shows human drivers ARE definitively the cause of many deaths annually.

        Where is ODOT’s “proof” that cars can be driven safely here?

    2. Avatar 9watts says:

      “I don’t think ODOT understands what a meta-anaylsis is.”

      ODOT I suspect doesn’t even know what a lot of less sophisticated research methods are. I take no pleasure in taking whacks at ODOT, but they make it so hard to like anything they do or say. Why do we always get the middle finger from them?!

    3. Unfortunately the overall assumption of ODOT is correct. Even segregated bicycle infrastructure only offers (most optimistic studies) a 10% reduction of injury/fatality rates.

      Considering that the average bicycle injury rate in Portland is 22 a year, and 2 fatalities a year (averaged over the last decade) if every street in Portland was world class cycle track at best you’d see 2-3 less injuries per year incidents and one less fatality every 5 years (assuming the 10% number not the five percent).

      1. Avatar davemess says:

        Care to share your citations (that seem to differ from PBOT’s)?

        1. Here’s a few, there are others

          MInd you I prefer European studies over US studies. They have better stats, and their studies have implications much greater than just transportation because of their more extensive universal health care coverage their data effects policy on more than just one single aspect of expensive government agencies. Which is why they (Europe in general) is anti-helmet, they are more concerned with health and well being of the population at large than they are at the individual level.

          Don’t think that because I don’t think (it is controversial, both sides of the debate have “studies” supporting their sides) bike infrastructure doesn’t improve safety that I am anti bike infrastructure. I want more people on bikes, and I want more infrastructure. I just don’t like the safety argument, because at their best, the results in safety aren’t very impressive. If they were their wouldn’t be any controversy over the stats and studies. It does increase ridership, and that is where a lot of people don’t get the safety in numbers concept

          Consider safety in numbers like a (as distasteful as this example is) a random shooting. Are you (personally) more likely to be shot while in an packed elevator with a handful of people, or in sold out Moda Center event? More people might be shot at the Moda center than in an elevator, but their are also many more survivors at the Moda center event than their would be in elevator. And that is the hope with bicycle infrastructure, the rates of incident might increase, but hopefully the ridership numbers increase significantly more than the rate of incidents.

      2. Avatar 9watts says:

        Why would this be linear?

  11. Avatar SD says:

    The more that ODOT speaks, the more clear it becomes that ODOT is not equipped to handle complex urban traffic infrastructure.

  12. Avatar Tom Hardy says:

    Even in the best of times 28th sucks as a bike crossing at anytime except 3:30 and 4:00 AM. In the evenings, it is at a dip in the road and oncoming headlights blind oncoming traffic. Drivers would not give ANY lights a second glance, let alone crossing cyclists or pedestrians. AFTER SUNUP the sun is in their eyes. Same thing. Evening the motorists are in a hurry to get home or to the pub. Need I say more?

  13. Avatar JAllen says:

    Adam H.
    It’s also used by every pseudo-science pusher and outright science-denier. They will forever scream for more data and definitive proof because they don’t understand how scientific research works.Recommended 0

    Do you have more research data on that?

  14. Avatar Allan says:

    I will say this about ‘safety in numbers’

    It always seemed to me that living in a metro area or neighborhood with more bikes made it safer to ride a bike, since drivers are more aware of bikes being on the roads.

    However, having more bikes on one specific road doesn’t seem like it would make me more safe on that road

  15. Avatar Scott H says:

    “According to the studies, even narrow bike lanes prompt people to bike further from the doors of parked cars and prompt people to give bike users more space when passing them in a car. According to a federally funded academic meta-analysis, bike lanes reduce crash rates on a street by 36 to 50 percent.”

    So ODOT has finally given up on trying to support decisions with logic and data and is going full on temper tantrum instead.

    1. Those rates are for being overtaken (rear ended) which is only 5% of the overall bicycle crashes (though i don’t know which one’s you’re specifically quoting) those same studies if you continue reading also show usually a 30% or greater increase in bicycle crashes at intersections which easily accounts for more than half of all bicycle crashes.

      So yeah you might cut your chances of being rear ended by a car by nearly half (which is very rare in an urban environment – more likely rural) but you greatly increase your chances of getting hooked at an intersection with bike lanes (of all kinds) which already many more times likely to happen than getting overtaken.

  16. Avatar q`Tzal says:

    #ODOTScience the world may be flat, we need more studies
    #ODOTScience water may not be wet, don’t trust common wisdom
    #ODOTScience we can’t rule out that the sun is ferried across the sky by a chariot; maybe it’s too bright to see.

    “#ODOTScience” – run with oh great and powerful interwebs.

  17. Avatar Mitch says:


    1. Avatar K'Tesh says:

      Hey… That’s my line…

      1. Avatar Seth Alford says:

        I ended my video criticizing ODOT’s Scholls Ferry Road “Safety Project” with #ODOTKnows. Hope you don’t mind.

        1. Avatar K'Tesh says:

          Not at all… Please feel free to use it. 🙂

  18. Avatar invisiblebikes says:

    PBOT’s response to ODOT should be “OK we’ll completely remove the bike lanes from 26th And close it to all traffic other than pedestrian, bikes, emergency vehicles and buses!”

    I’d like to see how many Sphincters close up tighter than a drum over that ultimatum

    1. Avatar q`Tzal says:

      There’s no proof cars for on public roads are safe.

      1. Actually what data we have now proves the opposite, that cars on public roads are deadly and will always be deadly without massive re-engineering of those roads. That is what Vision Zero is all about, making massive changes in streets and roads so that motor vehicles don’t kill.

  19. Avatar Tim says:

    Since there is no enforcement of motor vehicles in the bike lane, maybe we shouldn’t call them bike lanes. We could call them what they are – a buffer zone. Whatever we call these shoulder zones, they improve road safety for all users.

    Roads with bike lanes have lower traffic crash rates (the car to car type). This argument could help those who only understand cars.

  20. Avatar eyestrain says:

    Does anyone have contact information for anyone at ODOT regarding this project? I’d like to write an old fashioned letter/email/phone call regarding this project. Write my state representative instead? Any tips?

    1. Avatar Gerik says:

      I recommend communicating with the Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation, Matthew Garrett.

      His email address is:

      His website is here:

  21. Avatar K'Tesh says:

    So, ODOT will just wait until the body count starts racking up statistics for them?!

    1. Avatar K'Tesh says:

      If/when people start being hurt on this road, I hope that their Lawyers remember this decision when it comes time for the lawsuits that are sure to follow.

  22. Avatar Allan says:

    What if they removed one of the skinny bike lanes and just made 1 way bike lane 7′ wide?

    1. Avatar Seth Alford says:

      Separated by paint? Less safe than 2 skinny bike lanes because of counter-flow. Right turning cars don’t look right for a bicycle counter flowing, for example.

      Separated by more than paint? What do you do when your single bike lane has to cross an intersection or a driveway?

  23. Avatar Mark says:

    Let’s dream big here and help out ODOT. All roads, listed under 45 mph, shall be transferred to Portland at the end of 2015.

    That should free ODOT to do what they love most. Highways and bridges.

    ODOT clearly has not received, nor recognized, the memo that roads are designed for everyone EQUALLY.

  24. Avatar kittens says:

    wow. Amazing how determined ODOT is to ignore science and common knowledge.

    Really highlights how a savoy spokesperson can take just about anything and spin it when they have a hidden agenda.

  25. Avatar Dwaine Dibbly says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll be taking the lane along there from now on.

    Any plans for some sort of “mass bike protest ride action”, perhaps on Friday, during evening rush hour?

  26. One of the problems of many historical safety studies on this topic is the lack of “exposure” data (i.e. how cyclists before/after bike lanes were installed). So it can be hard to find a reduction in personal crash risk if (not unsurprisingly) a new bike lane attracts more people to the route.

    I undertook a study in Christchurch NZ a couple of years back where we had not only good crash data but also a good time series of bike count data – see Key findings: “Twelve routes installed in Christchurch during the mid-2000s were analysed, together with some control sites… Taking into account the relative changes in volumes and controls, the study also found notable reductions in cycle crashes following installation, typically with a 23% average reduction in crash rates.”

    Unfortunately the numbers involved are not quite statistically significant. But I think I’d be happy with a likely 20% average reduction in my cycle crash risk from having a bike lane vs having nothing…

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      Thanks, Glen, both for your study and for reporting on it here.
      But ODOT has already thought of why your study doesn’t apply to our situation, why in fact none of what we are discussing here has any bearing on their decision to flip us the bird.

    2. And what is the original crash risk?

      For example here in Portland more people cross the Hawthorne Bridge in an hour (on average) than will be killed or seriously injured on a bicycle in the next 100 years.

      If you’re risk is that small to begin with, 20% is pretty insignificant.

  27. Avatar q`Tzal says:

    Ban the criminal, not the victims.

  28. Avatar Eric Iverson says:

    In a tribute to Will Vanlue’s petition to #DowngradePortland, I’ve created one on this horrible situation:

  29. Avatar yashardonnay says:

    Is there a contact at ODOT who I can connect with as a concerned cyclist and someone who resides near the intersection in question? Are there organized outreach efforts so they can receive constructive feedback from local cyclists? The more they hear from us the better.

  30. Make 26th southbound only for autos, widen the bike lanes, problem solved.

  31. Avatar sam says:

    Is safety the only concern here? If you’re trying to encourage more cycling then percieved safety is the key, which is different than actual safety. If a bike lane does not increase safety but it increases percieved safety and therefore ridership, it’s still a net positive.

  32. Avatar wsbob says:

    Way too much reliance on studies and statistics, rather than on seat of the pants, first hand experience actually riding 26th Ave with lots of motor vehicle traffic. Even a narrow bike lane provides people riding with a relatively car-free area of the road they can be in when main lane traffic is too busy or fast.

    Realistically, actually riding down the middle of bike lanes is often disaster prone (junk, debris, who knows what all.), so people knowledgeable and skilled in riding bikes in such situations will legally be either riding the line dividing main lane from bike lane, or riding in the main lane itself rather than the bike lane.

    Similarly on roads and streets without designated bike lanes, the center of the lane is often the more reliably safe choice than is the far right side of the road.

    I would like to hope that ODOT officials and spokespeople can be relied upon to have researched and informed themselves about this basic biking consideration, before having publicly made the comments they have about their feeling that removal of the 26th Ave bike lanes would be a good decision in the interest of safe riding.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      “Way too much reliance on studies and statistics, rather than on seat of the pants, first hand experience actually riding 26th Ave with lots of motor vehicle traffic.”

      I don’t know why it has to be either/or. Your consistent dismissal of studies, though surprising, is familiar around here. I think ground truthing is always good but I would caution against dismissing any studies that pertain to the subject at hand.

  33. Avatar george ramos says:

    Leta get the parents of students at the HS at that particular intersection involved. Im sure MANY students bike to school using 26th. Removing an established bike lane is absurd and potentially dangerous. ODOT stop playing with fire

  34. Avatar James Donohue says:

    Bicyclists have the right to use the road whether it has a Bike Lane marked or Not… 99% of motorists get past the bicycles with No Trouble… the Bike Lane (Markings) are for the “other one percent” of motorists…

  35. Avatar paikiala says:

    Roger Geller not withstanding, the best available data on bike lane safety is at the CMF website
    Most of the studies are only average quality, and the crash modification factors are all over the map, from 65% of the before crashes to 141%.

    1. Avatar soren says:

      With all due respect, the best data on bike lane safety comes from before-after studies with regression/GLM statistics. Science is hard in the underfunded backwater that is USAnian vulnerable traffic safety.

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