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SW 3rd Avenue is about to get downtown’s only buffered bike lane

Posted by on August 28th, 2015 at 8:39 am

SW 3rd at Oak

Earlier this year, bike markings unexpectedly appeared on 3rd Avenue. Now we know why.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Less than a year after a handful of businesses and volunteers hectored the city into letting them test a bike lane on SW Third Avenue in Old Town, one is about to be installed — probably next month.

“It was really interesting to have a coalition of the bar owners, the social service providers and the city working together collaboratively to refine the design.”
— Ryan Hashagen, chair of 3rd Avenue Stakeholder Advisory Group

The new right-side buffered bike lane will run from NW Davis south to the green bike lane on SW Stark, city officials and a neighborhood represntative said in a joint interview Tuesday.

It’ll be one of just three southbound bike lanes in downtown Portland, and the only bike lane in downtown to include a painted buffer.

In fact, Third Avenue’s new bike lane will have two buffers: a two-foot one on the left, between bike and car traffic, and a three-foot one on the right, to give room for car doors. Between the buffers, the bike lane itself will be mostly seven feet wide, narrowing to six feet at points where the parking lane widens to make room for a truck loading zone.

oak pine

Third Avenue’s new bike lane will have two buffers: a two-foot one on the left, between bike and car traffic, and a three-foot one on the right, to give room for car doors.
burnside corner

The city will also mark new crosswalks and add a left-turn box for people biking west from the Burnside Bridge and turning south onto Third.

As we reported in June, the plan was the unanimous recommendation of 3rd Avenue Stakeholder Advisory Group, which is part of the Old Town Chinatown Community Association.

“This started out as a discussion in the neighborhood about the entertainment district,” said Ryan Hashagen, chair of the advisory group and a volunteer for last October’s Better Block PDX demonstration on 3rd Avenue. “It became, quickly, a larger conversation about how to build livability, how to make it more enjoyable 24 hours a day. … It was really interesting to have a coalition of the bar owners, the social service providers and the city working together collaboratively to refine the design.”

In addition to the bike lanes, the city will mark new crosswalks and add a left-turn box for people biking west from the Burnside Bridge and turning south onto Third. Just north of the corner of Burnside and 3rd, the bike lane will disappear and become a mixing zone with right-turning traffic.

third avenue area map with bikeways

In addition to new crosswalks and other walking improvements, the proposal would create a wide new bike lane (marked here in orange) connecting to the existing ones on SW Stark and Oak (marked here in green).
(Image: BikePortland)

Bureau of Transportation project manager Rick Browning said that until earlier this week, the city was planning to install the new bike lane this weekend. But because rain is forecast, it’ll instead happen on the first dry weekend after Labor Day.

“Creating a more vibrant space for people of all stripes can create a more vibrant business environment,” said Hashagen, whose Portland Pedicabs business has an office in Old Town.

Hashagen’s view is shared by the community association’s chair and by many other business owners on the street, though not by the Portland Business Alliance, the regional chamber of commerce. Lisa Frisch, the PBA’s downtown retail development manager, told us in June that she believes there is zero connection between the number of traffic lanes on a street and the desire of people to spend time and money nearby.

Some compromises, but 100 percent consensus

voodoo doughnut

Third Avenue as it is today.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

In order to get 100 percent consensus, the stakeholder committee that included Frisch agreed on two lanes of auto traffic for the full length of the project despite 3rd Avenue’s low traffic counts south of Burnside. It also agreed to preserve every parking space on the street.

In combination, those two measures meant that the bike lanes won’t be able to offer any physical separation.


Timur Ender, a transportation policy advisor to City Commissioner Steve Novick, said the new buffered lanes might lay the groundwork for other changes.

“This is just the first phase of improvements — if the community sees a need for further improvement, that can be a conversation down the road,” said Endur, who was also a volunteer on the Better Block project before he joined Novick’s team. “We can explore that as part of the central city multimodal plan.”

The Central City Multimodal Safety Project, currently gathering speed, is a $6.6 million effort widely expected to include downtown’s first protected bike lanes.

Ender said that PBOT engineers calculate that with 3rd Avenue’s traffic counts, there will be no additional delay for people driving on the street.

A new model for public outreach?

Better Block

Better than an open house? Or just less accurate?
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

In some ways, the 3rd Avenue project is being done with little public outreach. There’s been no city-led open house, no page on the city’s website. The city ignored a request from BikePortland, under the state’s open-records law, to make public a rendering of the street that was already being vetted with businesses and residents.

In other ways, though, it’s one of the most public bike projects the city has ever done.

“The Better Block pilot project has been an engagement to the entire city,” Hashagen argued. “The Oregonian reported on it. We had TV stations there. … The overwhelming reaction of the pilot project was ‘When is this going to be done? How quick can this be implemented?'”

The three-day pilot project, of course, was different. It eliminated on-street auto parking and two passing lanes to create a huge public plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut. It protected the bike lane with wooden planters. And it stopped several blocks further north.

“This isn’t the be-all end-all for Old Town Chinatown. This is one step among many that we intend to take.”
— Chad Stover, office of Mayor Charlie Hales

Ender said Hashagen and a city transportation staffer went door to door this summer to every storefront on Third Avenue, and that the city mailed a description to every business with a Third Avenue address.

“Every single one of the businesses that we went to was for the most part excited to see changes to the neighborhood,” Hashagen said.

Ender said a much smaller version of the plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut will be installed early in next year’s work season. Some details about its design are yet to be worked out between the Old Town Chinatown Community Association, the Ankeny Alley Association and the city.

Chad Stover, a project manager for Mayor Charlie Hales, said Tuesday that he thinks Old Town Chinatown will eventually want to create a “business improvement district” that would let businesses pool their money in exchange for control over further changes to the area.

“This isn’t the be-all end-all for Old Town Chinatown,” Stover said. “This is one step among many that we intend to take.”

Correction 10:25 pm: An earlier version of this post said this would be the first buffered bike lane downtown. The lanes on Stark and Oak were previously buffered and are now wide colored lanes. This’ll be the only buffered lane downtown.

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123 thoughts on “SW 3rd Avenue is about to get downtown’s only buffered bike lane”

  1. Avatar Daniel Costantino says:

    Wasn’t the first buffered bike lane downtown the one on Broadway by PSU?

    1. Avatar Daniel Costantino says:

      Also, what about the original designs of SW Oak and SW Stark, would those not count as “buffered” bike lanes?

      1. Avatar RJ says:

        Yeah, I think the original treatments on Oak/Stark (circa 2011 or so) were buffered from the adjacent general purpose lane. The Broadway lane through PSU would probably be characterized as a parking-protected cycle track (ugh) under NACTO terminology.

      2. You’re right, I’m wrong and those earlier designs were the first. I’ll edit the post to “only.”

        1. Avatar Spiffy says:

          “the only bike lane in downtown to include a painted buffer”

          it’s not, as stated there are already 3 bike lanes with a painted buffer in downtown…

          1. Terminology issue: a “buffered” bike lane has at least two stripes that are at least a foot apart. The bike lane on Broadway near PSU isn’t just buffered; it’s “protected”, because the parking spaces create vertical separation between cars and bikes.

            The bike lanes on Naito and Broadway further north don’t have buffers or any sort of vertical separation, so they’re just bike lanes.

  2. Avatar 9watts says:

    Two questions.
    Are there any plans to have the bike lane continue beyond the fairly limited length indicated at some future date?
    What is PBA’s problem?

    1. Avatar Scott H says:

      The PBA is still stuck in the 1950s, and to the detriment of our local economy. We need to push the old nutjobs into retirement and replace them with some fresh minds. Starting with Lisa.

    2. Avatar eli bishop says:

      yes, this is ridiculously small.

  3. Avatar 9watts says:

    Lisa Frisch, the PBA’s downtown retail development manager, told us in June that she believes there is zero connection between the number of traffic lanes on a street and the desire of people to spend time and money nearby.

    Why trust studies never mind the experiences of people, businesses, cities, even whole countries that have found there to be a very clear connection, when you can just assert that it is nonsense?

    1. Avatar AndyC of Linnton says:

      There must be some really really entrenched hatred for people walking and people biking at the PBA. At this point it is well known that these treatments attract people who spend money, something you’d think they would be in to. I’d like to know what other big money sign they are looking at, or if are they actually this uneducated about it, which seems hard to believe. Anyone got any insights?

      1. Avatar 9watts says:

        Ideological objections.
        You know, like how the Oregonian editorial board decided (against the opinions solicited from their readers) to ignore climate change.

      2. It’s all about perspective.

        No one on the PBA (or in their peer groups) rides a bike on a daily basis so they simply don’t have the perspective and urgency to do anything to improve that experience. On the flipside, most of them likely drive to work so they don’t want to see that experience compromised in any way.

        And it comes back to my other comment on this thread below about compromised bikeway designs. The sick irony is that the really high quality bikeways that the PBA (or freight interests, n’hood haters, and so on) is preventing us from building are precisely the type of bikeways that — if we had them — some of those currently in opposition to them would actually use.

        It’s a vicious circle that we won’t break out of until the Mayor, City Council and PBOT realize that gently and smartly pushing back against people opposed to good bikeways — and getting those who oppose them to actually try them out and see how safe and wonderful cycling can be – is the only way we will achieve our planning goals, save our city, and save the world.

        1. Avatar 9watts says:

          All true, but haven’t we sent these people (the lot of ’em) on trips to places East of here where all of this good bikey stuff is well established, much loved, crosses all party lines? I think the ideological objections sneak back in when we remember that these people would have to be willfully denying what they have seen with their own eyes, and we all know on some level what works the world over, refusing to allow this camel’s nose under what they erroneously believe to be *their* tent.

        2. Avatar Brad says:

          Portland needs parking shrine so parking can be worshipped properly.

    2. Avatar oliver says:

      “When you can just assert that it is nonsense”

      This is has become standard playbook stuff for those on one side of the aisle to derail discussion. They’re not even trying anymore, it’s shorthand for “I don’t care what the facts are; I said theory, so it means the discussion ends here”

    3. The less lanes the more likely I would be to bring children there. If I have children with me, I am more likely to spend money.

      More lanes = less business.

      Anecdotally handled.

  4. Avatar Kyle says:

    Quite frankly I’d feel safer on SW 3rd riding in a traffic lane than in this buffered bike lane that we’ll now be legally obligated to ride within. With parking to the right of the lane and given that it’s downtown, we’ll be seeing the lane frequently blocked by cars either attempting to park or stopped/double-parked. And the mixing zones near intersections for right turn lanes take away one of the prime advantages of having bike lanes downtown since bikes will be stuck in traffic with the cars!

    It’s almost as if the city went door to door and asked businesses, “What if we could get bikes out of the traffic lanes for your convenience?”

    1. It’s almost like some people will complain about anything. If you like taking the lane then fine – they’re creating a bike lane here that is the full width of a regular traffic lane.

      1. maccoinnich,

        You may disagree with Kyle, but he has a right to complain as much as he wants. He also deserves to be able to comment without your subtle put-down. Thanks for trying to understand and please try to be a bit nicer in the future.

      2. Avatar Adam H. says:

        More paint won’t help anyone feel safer.

        1. Avatar 9watts says:

          I disagree. I read this here a lot. But I think this particular bit of paint (bike lanes) communicates a lot that your dismissal overlooks.
          (1) bikes belong here, have their own designated lane (static)
          (2) PBOT et al. are expanding their commitment to endorsing the presence of bikes, however imperfectly (dynamic)
          (3) not all bike lanes (or the paint which demarcates them) are created equal. Some bikelanes (SE 52nd) are magnificent (my opinion).

          1. Avatar Alex Reed says:

            I think curb-tight painted bike lanes, either nice and wide or including a moving-vehicle-side buffer, on streets with speeds (not speed limits!) not exceeding 30mph and not-too-high volumes can be good. SE 52nd is mediocre because A) it’s not curb-tight southbound – parking is allowed so the bike lane is largely in the door zone B) its speeds and volumes are borderline too high C) it’s not wide enough to have a buffer and D) there aren’t enough bike characters painted for people to know not to park in it – there should be two per block (no-parking-or-stopping-anytime signs would be better). I would never bike on 52nd with a kid under like 14.

            1. Avatar Adam H. says:

              In my experience, parking in the bike lane isn’t really an issue (Division to Powell anyway). What is an issue is since the travel lanes were narrowed, people are forced to ride right up against people driving too fast; and in the south bound lane, also right up against parked cars. People driving frequently cross the double yellow line into oncoming traffic to pass the 71 bus ( which is illegal). Speeding is rampant since there is zero diversion, speed control devices, nor even any speed limit signs. People frequently ignore the rapid-flash beacons at Woodward. People drive trucks that are too wide for the road, so they overlap into the oncoming lane.

              52nd should get a southbound diverter at Division and a northbound diverter at Foster. The road between Foster and Powell should be closed to cars. People driving should be using 50th as a through street and not cutting though a residential street with bike lanes.

              1. Avatar Alex Reed says:

                Parking for long periods isn’t much of a problem, but stopping “temporarily” is. When Franklin was in session and at its normal campus, I would have to merge into the motor vehicle lane to get past cars in the bike lane at least once a week. Now it’s less than once a week but still happens.

          2. Avatar Adam H. says:

            SE 52nd would be much better without all the people driving way too fast and drifting over the lane lines. Why weren’t diverters included south of Division?

          3. Avatar Alexis says:

            I ride in on SW Stark and see someone get right-hooked at 3rd pretty much every second or third month. I have close calls every other week. Since the collisions that occur are low-speed, it’s rare anyone gets seriously hurt, but it shows that motorists are so distracted by peds, lights, parking, and everything else competing for their attention downtown that this treatment isn’t going to make casual riders feel much safer.

        2. Avatar eli bishop says:

          Disagree. It would make me feel safer! It’s the transition zones that don’t make me feel safe.

        3. Avatar JeffS says:

          I disagree, and think that it will help a lot of people feel safer. Whether they will be safer is an entirely different issue.

          That said… six whole blocks. Who cares. It’s just another short-lived study for the planners.

    2. Avatar Adam H. says:

      The fact that the bike lanes disappear at every intersection is just a slap in the face. Bike infra always takes a backseat to the convenience of drivers in this city. Why are people even driving downtown in the first place? All five MAX lines go there and a good percentage of buses too!

    3. I don’t know if I would feel safter there or on the street. Depends on the traffic and kind of people out that day. I’m disturbed to learn that I can’t legally have my bike on the roadway. Seems like a slap in the face goes along with any small progress here.

    4. Avatar NC says:

      I agree, also with the traffic turning right for the Hawthorn and Morrison Bridges I always ride in the left lane. A bike lane on the left here makes more sense, especially as you head down towards Oak to turn left and take the bike route there.

      1. Avatar NC says:

        It helps if I don’t get 2nd mixed up with 3rd! Forget what I said.

  5. I can’t decide what’s more preposterous, the PBA’s ideas about transportation or the fact that PBOT actually takes them seriously.

    I feel like this design is yet another example where the city’s desire for consensus and willingness to compromise is not the right path for us.

    It’s as if the City is more willing to cater to what powerful interests want than they are about doing what will attract the “interested but concerned” they claim to be so focused on.

    I’m thinking of 12th Ave overcrossing redesign, the Williams project, this thing on 3rd, and so on.

    Bikeway designs that are halfway done and compromised don’t attract the type of diverse ridership (newbiews, 8-80 yr olds, people of color) that are imperative to building the kind of coalition and support we need to take the big steps necessary to fulfill our transportation and climate goals.

    If we want a big coalition to support and advocate for the major changes that must come if we truly want to achieve Vision Zero, than we must start designing streets in a way that respects and welcomes that broader coalition of users.

    1. I can’t explain the PBA’s seemingly unusual perspective on urban retail, but since Jonathan weighed in on that subject I though it might be worth piping up on the merits of this project in particular.

      I totally agree with Jonathan’s diagnosis of our general chicken-egg problem with bike infrastructure, and at some level every project that doesn’t solve it adds to that problem.

      That said…

      I think that despite the significant shortcomings here (mostly the mixing zones and the lack of physical separation) this is a pretty big deal for 3rd Avenue and for downtown. Here’s a secret: the whole “bike infrastructure is cheap” thing is at least half baloney. Good bike infrastructure requires real estate, and real estate is very expensive. This is a huge transfer of real estate that got UNANIMOUS support, including from the PBA, and is therefore about to create the beginnings of a connected bike lane network in the Portland neighborhood that has by far the most demand for bike commuting. That’s a huge benefit to new riders, who it seems to me are simply never going to be comfortable taking a travel lane downtown on a three-lane street, even though that is actually pretty damn safe and comfortable on 3rd/4th thanks to our lowish traffic volumes and green-wave signal timing.

      Personally I hate riding in a mixing zone, and the lack of color in these makes them less appealing to me than usual, but what’s the main alternative to a mixing zone? Traffic signal work. That’s not something that could have been done on this kind of schedule and budget. Despite the bad omens for future projects, what’s happened here is that valuable real estate was transferred to bike transportation. It’s not perfect but as I see it, that’s progress any way you slice it.

      1. Avatar Adam H. says:

        The problem is that PBOT will put in this bike lane and call it a day. I fear it will never be looked at for improvements “later down the road” because PBOT considers projects done once they go in. There has been no conversation about fixing the Williams debacle, and it took a full year of constant lobbying to even get the city to consider fixing Clinton!

      2. Avatar rick says:

        NW 3rd also needs a buffered bike lane.

        1. Avatar paikiala says:

          Davis to Burnside is NW 3rd.

    2. Avatar Brad says:

      The PBA membership includes many businesses who encourage or support cyclists. The last time the PBA tried to oppose bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, I wrote to several business members of the PBA I frequent on a regular basis (e.g., New Seasons) to notify them that I was upset they are supporting an organization that opposes my primary means of getting to their store.

      I’d encourage others to do the same. If enough local businesses get the message, they may take their concerns to the PBA. I can’t say how effective this would be, but it only takes a few minutes to send an email.

      1. Avatar AndyC of Linnton says:

        Where did you find the list of businesses that are a part of the PBA?
        PBA website?

  6. Avatar Nick Skaggs says:

    Hear, hear!

    I wish that arguments such as Lisa Frisch’s had to be supported by evidence. Someone can *believe* whatever they want to- I wouldn’t hold that against them- but when someone’s beliefs are clearly refuted by numerous studies and evidence, why should they have such sway over the city’s ear?

    1. Avatar Brian says:

      Excuse my ignorance on the matter, but have these studies been presented to Portland businesses? Are they aware that their “voice” is in opposition to these studies? Maybe it’s time to get the individual business members behind better cycling (and economic) opportunities, rather than trying to convince the PBA? The individual businesses are the ones supporting the Alliance with their annual dues, correct?

      1. Avatar Psyfalcon says:

        I would think that a group I am paying money to, to advance my business interests would be up to date on the various ways transportation affects my business.

        If I am a store owner, I am not a transportation expert. Thats what you join these things for.

  7. Avatar Adam H. says:

    Ugh. More bike lanes in-between travel lanes and parked cars is not what we need. Drivers will have to drive in the bike lane to park and probably to make right turns. Make the bike lane protected or don’t even bother; especially downtown.

    1. Avatar Alex Reed says:

      I have to disagree with this. Of course, a parking-protected bike lane with dedicated bike signals and bike phases separated from car turn phases would be better than this giant buffered lane. But I still think this giant buffered lane is a step forward, at a 10th or less of the cost of adding dedicated bike signals. People driving in the lane to park their cars will not be *so* frequent as to make the lane useless.

      1. Avatar ethan says:

        I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again.

        Painting lines on a street creates a bike lane in the same way that painting lines in the forest makes a road – it doesn’t.

        1. Avatar Steve B says:

          I hear this over and over, and I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m not sure that’s true. Bike Lanes are not a complete safety barrier, but they are certainly better than nothing at all. This can be easily seen when you take a ride down MLK or West Burnside and compare it to streets with bike lanes.

          1. Avatar ethan says:

            Look at NE Broadway – it’s pretty much the same as MLK would be with a bike lane, and it’s not very good, especially if you have to turn left, or park your bike, or do any of the other things you would normally do while riding a bike.

            1. Avatar Steve B says:

              Sure, it’s “not very good”, but without the bike lane it would be downright awful.

              1. Avatar ethan says:

                Without the bike lane, I could choose to ride on whichever side I like. All of my destinations on Broadway are on the South side, but the bike lane is on the North side. There’s no easy way to get to the other side.

                What we really need is fully protected bike infrastructure on BOTH sides of Broadway. Right now, it’s about as safe as taking the lane on MLK. I’ve actually had more negative experiences on Broadway rather than MLK, personally.

              2. Avatar Alex Reed says:

                I have to say, I think the net benefits of a narrow, 5-foot, door-zone bike lane on a busy street are limited, and may in fact be negative (due to the mandatory sidepath law plus driver perceptions forcing people into the door zone). The minimum thing that I think is clearly better than nothing is a 5-foot bike lane that’s curb-tight and NOT in the door zone. Even that I would never ride on with a child on their own bike (which I think is fairly damning).

              3. Avatar Steve B says:

                I appreciate that perspective. Though I don’t think you are a Vehicular Cyclist, this has been a classic lament of VC’ers. I’ll take this past the anecdotes we are all sharing and bring in some studies that appear to indicate bike lanes, despite their imperfections, are better than none at all.

                “Major streets without bike facilities are where the most bike crashes happen, followed by minor streets without facilities, bike paths, and then bike lanes.”
                Moritz, W., 1997 – Survey of North American bicycle commuters: Design and aggregate results, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1578, 91-101

                “A review of 23 studies on bicycling injuries found that bike facilities (e.g. off-road paths, on-road marked bike lanes, and on-road bike routes) are where bicyclists are safest.”
                Reynolds, C., et al., 2009 – The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: a review of the literature, Environmental Health, 8:47

                “The installation of many miles of new bike lanes in New York City did not lead to an increase in bike crashes, despite the increase in the number of cyclists.”
                Chen, L., et al., 2011 – Evaluating the safety effects of bicycle lanes in New York City, American Journal of Public Health, November 17, 2011

                “Men and women’s perceptions of safety and of the feasibility of bicycling differ; women are more sensitive to the absence of bike lanes and trails.”
                Akar, G., Fischer, N., and Namgung, M. 2013 – Bicycling Choice and Gender Case Study: The Ohio State University, Int. J. of Sust. Trans., Volume 7, Issue 5

              4. Avatar Alex Reed says:

                I guess in Florida or Pendleton or somewhere I could be convinced to support a new door-zone 5-foot bike lane based on the modest benefits in the literature (even though my own anecdotes are to the contrary), on the argument of “it’s the best we’re gonna get.” But in Portland’s political climate, I think we can get better than 5-foot door-zone bike lanes. And, I think settling for 5-foot door-zone bike lanes is unwise because it pushes out the timeline for doing any more bike infrastructure in that corridor to at least five years from the installation of 5-foot door-zone bike lanes on the “We just did that!” theory.

              5. Avatar Steve B says:

                “I think we can get better than 5-foot door-zone bike lanes”

                Of course! And here we have huge buffered bike lanes going in on 3rd ave, where there weren’t any. A great improvement from the standard bike lane.

  8. Avatar Paul Souders says:

    This is all OK I suppose but I still can’t think of a way to get my kids safely across downtown on bikes w/out riding on the sidewalk.

  9. Avatar hebo says:

    Glad to see the design is taking Burnside Bridge traffic into account and gives cyclists a better option for getting onto third than circling up to Couch or maneuvering a left hand turn from the right lane. I’ll be interested to see how this changes the huge expanse of 3rd just south of Burnside, too.

  10. Avatar m says:

    Sorry, but this is actually counterproductive.

    Physically protected bike lanes are what is needed. 2 main thoroughfares: one going north/south and the other going east/west downtown would be a game changer.

    1. Avatar soren says:

      Counterproductive? Buffered bike lanes are a huge improvement over nothing!

      I know that some have strong infrastructure preferences but buffered bike lanes played a large role in propelling German and Belgian cities from 5-7% bike mode share to 17-23% bike mode share.

    2. Avatar Pete says:

      And no intersection crossings…

    3. I was noticing today that some of the steepest grades are routed uphill for cyclists. I think this is designed to stop motorists from picking up speed as they go down them. This was okay when the fareless square was in place, right as Jefferson’s grade gets crazy you could hop on MAX at city hall, but now its a pain in the ass.

      We need a major redesign to downtown. Hales is using this, and most other bike infra projects i know of, as an opportunity to bemifit local businesses/developers. I’m all for supporting local businesses, but when money = speech. They are probably in a better position to be heard than your average taxpayer who simply doesn’t want to die in the way home.

      1. John Liu John Liu says:

        There is no grade (hill) in downtown that is meaningful enough to trouble an 8 year old.

        Seriously, a downhill grade in a high traffic area creates dangers for cyclists in a bike lane. In those situations, riders tend to coast/pedal too fast into intersections and get hit by right/left hooks.

    4. Avatar Chris I says:

      Moving the lane to the curb side of the parked cars would increase conflicts at intersections. Vehicles would be constantly mowing down cyclists as they turn right. They can’t see an approaching rider behind the parked cars.

  11. Avatar David says:

    Any reason they didn’t make this a parking-protected bike lane?

    1. Avatar Adam H. says:

      It’s always about money.

    2. Avatar soren says:

      parking protected bike lanes, like the one on SW Broadway, significantly increase risk at intersections by hiding cyclists from the view of turning vehicles. the only way to mitigate this risk is to remove parking spaces (ideally 2-3 spaces on each end) and removing parking is a political non-starter in our “business stakeholder” oligarchy.

      1. Avatar soren says:

        or use separate signal phases that reduce right-hooks.

      2. Avatar David says:

        They work just fine with separate signal phases. Even when you have a two-way parking-protected lane a la 2nd Ave up here in Seattle. With Downtown PDX’s one-way grid you only have to have separate phases at every other block, so costs should be pretty reasonable.

        1. John Liu John Liu says:

          Separate signal passes do add to traffic congestion. I think their use should be limited to intersections where they are necessary. A bike lane design that generically requires separate signal phases to be safe is not a good one.

          1. Avatar Alex Reed says:

            Limiting motor vehicles to safe speeds would also increase congestion. Nonetheless, it’s the right thing to do. Similarly with bike signals separate from car hook turns on arterials.

            1. Avatar 9watts says:

              “Limiting motor vehicles to safe speeds would also increase congestion.”

              You sure you don’t have that backwards, Alex?
              Reducing speed *differentials* (a side benefit of reduced speeds) I think help with congestion.

          2. Avatar soren says:

            A bike facility that uses separate signal phases is a good one for people biking and only a trivial inconvenience for people driving (who have many alternative routes).

          3. Avatar lop says:

            A turn phase would probably be accompanied by a pedestrian don’t walk phase. For cyclists the signal progression is slow enough that you should only have to hit one red light downtown when you’re going straight to catch up to the greenwave (even if the lane is extended beyond six blocks). For motor vehicles sometimes when you turn and hit the gas hard you can catch up with the green wave. This often involves cutting pedestrians off at the beginning of a walk phase. A potential delay of one red light for the first car to turn is possible, but the rest of the cars through the intersection will likely see no delay. Without crossing pedestrians you might even increase the number of cars that get through intersections at peak times. Pedestrians however would see a delay, since the lights aren’t timed for them and they will be more likely to reach a don’t walk with this new signal cycle. The added comfort of reduced crossing conflicts since cars have a separate phase can help make up for this. If cars have a no turn on red added to the intersection (presumably they would to avoid cars making a right on red into bike traffic) it increases the ability of pedestrians to jaywalk which helps make up for the added delay too.

  12. Avatar ethan says:

    Mixing zones? Really? I could have sworn I saw a quote from Charlie about wanting to separate modes.

    1. Avatar ethan says:

      Also, is this seriously only 6 blocks long?

      So, after months of waiting, demonstrations, letters, etc. we get a 6-block long, un-protected, mixing-zone bike lane with moving cars on one side, people driving in the bike lane (to turn and park) and parked cars on other side.

      Plus, there’s no lane on any corresponding street going the opposite direction, there’s no easy way to get to points of interest on the East side of third.

      Who came up with this idea and can they be fired? This will get someone hurt or worse, all so people driving don’t have to have any inconvenience (even parking one block farther) at all in getting from their suburb to downtown.

  13. Avatar Brian Davis says:

    “…It also agreed to preserve every parking space on the street.”

    You know, there’s actually a really, really simple way to preserve every last parking space and still put the bike lane on the correct side of the parking: smaller parking spaces.

    In downtown, parking spaces are striped 20 feet long, with a four foot buffer for every two spaces. That’s 22 feet per space, or nine spaces per 200-foot block face. This is a lot bigger than they actually need to be—if you go to Northwest Portland or some other neighborhood with full occupancy and unstriped spaces, you’ll almost invariably see _eleven_ cars parked on a 200-foot block face. So you could realistically stripe your parking spaces at 18 feet with the only downside being it’d be tricky to park a Hummer.

    You’d then have 19 feet at each end of the block face for buffer space–plenty of room to daylight your intersections and allow fire trucks to maneuver.

    I disagree with Jonathan _slightly_ here. Yes, the compromises are hurting our ability to do great things, but Portland being Portland, the need to chase consensus is probably inevitable, for better or for worse (usually for worse). That being the case, I think a lack of creative, outside-the-box thinking is another big culprit for what’s holding us back. When resistance is encountered in a bike project, we revert back to the small handful of decade-old tools in our tool box—buffered bike lanes, bike boxes, and other treatments that preserve the primacy of our automobile. What we need instead are new ideas and new designs and new strategies.

    There are ways to build excellent bike facilities that peacefully co-exist with on-street parking. Or with buses, or whatever. I’m not sure why we’re not finding them, but the old tools are getting rusty.

    1. Avatar ethan says:

      We could even INCREASE the number of parking spaces! Even if we removed parking completely from one side of the street and half of the other.

      All we would have to do is turn half the parking into bike parking. Bike parking spots are much, much smaller, about 10 per 1 car parking spot.

      1. Avatar Brian Davis says:

        This was precisely the point several of us made in arguing to create a Commercial Greenway on NE 28th, which was greeted with largely enthusiastic support from both the business owners and BikePortland community…and was greeted with a big ol’ “meh” from PBOT.

        1. Avatar ethan says:

          Yeah, I talked to Andrew Sullivan at PBOT about this one (and a few others). I can’t remember exactly what he said, but he sure made a lot of excuses.

          I think it’s ridiculous to send bike traffic 2 blocks East of commercial corridor while insisting that people driving need access to park and drive on 28th.

          There are so many people walking and biking in the area as is. It sure would be great if people could actually ride up to the stores and have convenient bike parking (even for cargo bikes!) and not have to worry about cars at all.

          IMO, there’s no point in having car access to that section of 28th at all. Deliveries, taxis, transit and paratransit can use perpendicular or parallel roads, rather than forcing people to walk or bike way out of direction to reach their destination.

    2. Avatar mh says:

      There IS no long term downside to it being tricky to park a Hummer.

  14. Tony T Tony T says:

    I think it’s time that there be some very public push-back against the PBA by Portland businesses that do NOT share their retro-grade attitude. I, a small business owner, would never join them, and none of the many business owners I know would either. The PBA/Chamber of Commerce is merely a mouthpiece for conservative interests and should not be mistaken for a group that attempts to represent actual small businesses.

    What alternatives are there to the PBA? Who can we empower by backing? It would be great if an alternative organization would actively challenge PBA for the status that they do not deserve. Shame on PBOT for caving to them.

    Jonathan, what progressive business groups are out there that need some money, and encouragement?

    1. Avatar Brian says:

      Here’s a good starting point. P

    2. Lots of folks agree with you Tony T.

      Right now, the only other biz association I know of worth mentioning here is Venture Portland – They represent all the neighborhood business associations.

      When I did my Copenhagen/Amsterdam trip a few years ago, the City helped pay for their Executive Director to join us… so that was an encouraging sign.

      I think the easier way to counter the PBA’s perceived weight is to build a groundswell of support for better street designs from the public and then use that grassroots support to change the politics from the bottom up. I think that type of strategy would bear more fruit than trying to prop up some other organization to unseat the PBA.

  15. Avatar Stephen Keller says:

    Sigh…, yet another north-south route through the city. It’s sure be nice if someone could punch through a south-north route. Except for 13th and Front every bike lane that parallels the Willamette goes from north to south. Well there are a few blocks up near PSU that go south to north, but those can hardly be said to go through the city.

    1. Avatar soren says:

      Downtown lacks a single north-bound bike facility. Currently people cycling north-bound are required to mix it up with angry rush-hour traffic, illegally ride on the sidewalk, or ride vehicularly and huff tail pipe emissions.

    2. Avatar Chris I says:

      Why is this not being done to SW 2nd at the same time?

    3. Avatar eli bishop says:


  16. Avatar Champs says:

    Oh boy, it goes all the way to Stark, that almost connects to the Morrison Bridge.

    Doesn’t look like they’re doing anything on Burnside. I’m equally thrilled to paddle my canoe over rough seas to that tiny island of green that is the left turn box.

    What I don’t see a problem with is the lack of separation. The street is only paced for ~15mph, i.e. less than a neighborhood greenway. At that speed, I’m far less worried about cars than the surface we’re sharing, and I don’t want to ride behind barriers that turn the space into a maintenance blind spot.

  17. Avatar Buzz says:

    Are they planning on preventing motorists from making right turns from 3rd for the length of this project? Because that’s the only way it will result in improved safety for cyclists, since intersections are where the greatest hazards are.

    1. Avatar Adam H. says:

      Nope. At intersections, the bike lane disappears and we’ll be expected to merge and share space with people driving.

      1. Avatar paikiala says:

        Car lanes, by your definition, also disappear at intersections.

  18. Avatar Paul says:

    If only we could separate transport from business. You know, like church & state. Same thing going on in San Diego—biz community killed cycle tracks on University Ave:

  19. I am just amazed at the negativity in this thread. Better Block deserve a huge amount of praise for championing this and helping to get it to a point where all the stakeholders are in support. As someone who rides in this area regularly this will be a huge improvement from day one. They are taking an existing traffic lane and turning it into a really wide bike lane, buffered on both sides. Beyond just providing a vastly improved route through Old Town it will also greatly improve the experience for cyclists coming off the Burnside Bridge, which is a pretty miserable condition at the moment. My only criticism is that there is no left turn box for cyclists coming from Old Town and going towards the Broadway Bridge.

    Going forward there will only be an 8 block gap between the new bike lane to Stark and the existing lanes that start at Madison. That’s almost a no brainer for a future project, perhaps as part of the Central City Multimodal project. If paired with a bike lane on 4th Downtown will finally have the north-south couplet it needs.

    1. Avatar rick says:

      Better Block did great work.

    2. *Burnside Bridge, obviously.

    3. Avatar Adam H. says:

      The Better Block demonstration was great. This painted buffer design falls far short of what was presented to us last year.

  20. Avatar rick says:

    Yes! Thank you!

  21. Avatar Steve B says:

    Kudos to Ryan, Better Block, the Old Town businesses and PBOT for making this happen! Nice to see this kind of consensus among the businesses for bike and pedestrian improvements.

  22. John Liu John Liu says:

    Amid all the negativity here – sounds like many commenters would prefer the status quo – I’ll say that a 12 foot wide bike lane, as this effectively is, is a lot of space, plenty actually.

    And I think mixing zones are actually safer than bike lanes that continue all the way to the intersection. With the latter sort of bike lane, when a driver arrives at the intersection intending to turn right, he has to looks in three places at once: to the left for cars crossing the intersection, to the right for pedestrians in or near the crosswalk, and behind him for cyclists in the bike lane. Drivers often don’t do so well at multiple simultaneous tasks. Cyclists in the bike lane, for their part, tend to sail blithely through the intersection, trusting in their right of way, and get right hooked. With a mixing zone, the driver merges in to the zone before the intersection, and when he arrives at the intersection he only needs to look two ways: left and right. Cyclists have the slight inconvenience of having to slow and/or go left around right-turning cars, but they know clearly which cars are going to turn right and thus can avoid right hooks.

    I think that, if you are riding a bike in the city, you have to be alert and on your guard, and can’t expect any infrastructure to allow you to ride like you’re on a MUP.

    Is this a bike lane suitable, during rush hour, for the unaccompanied 8 year old implied in the “8 to 80” slogan?. No. But why does that matter?. How many 8 year olds really need to ride alone through Portland’s downtown in heavy traffic on a regular basis? Streets in neighborhoods, leading to schools and parks, need to be “8” suitable. Downtown doesn’t.

    I rode through downtown every workday for eight years. Never touched a car, never a close call – well, two with other cyclists, but not with a car. It is not that hard, folks.

    1. Avatar Alex Reed says:

      Well… there are families that live downtown. Just sayin’. I agree that this is a good step forward, but I don’t agree with giving up on 8 to 80 downtown.

      1. Avatar Eric Leifsdad says:

        Maybe they need to get an 8yo to design it for them.

      2. Avatar Alex Reed says:

        Plus, downtown has a number of kid destinations that many families who don’t live downtown use: the central library, pioneer courthouse square, museums, fountains, a couple of schools…

    2. Avatar soren says:

      “I rode through downtown every workday for eight years. Never touched a car, never a close call – well, two with other cyclists, but not with a car. It is not that hard, folks.”

      John, I’ve been weaving through and in between urban traffic for almost 3 decades and have never been touched by another vehicle. Just because my hyperkinetic (and illegal) style of riding works for me does not give me the right to criticize those who want subjectively/objectively safer bike routes.

      1. John Liu John Liu says:

        But I don’t ride the way you describe. I ride in the bike lane, when there is one; obey red lights; stop at least momentarily at stop signs; I’m practically an advertisement for by-the-book urban cycling.

        One doesn’t have to ride like a bike messenger to enjoy incident-free riding in downtown.

        Here, just for the heck of it, are my rules, and anyone feel free to add yours:
        – Don’t enter intersections with a car in the adjacent lane on your left (your 9 o’clock) or immediately ahead and on your left (your 10 o’clock)- potential right hook;
        – Ride on the left edge of the bike lane when possible and watch the parked cars on your right for heads – potential dooring;
        – Wear and monitor a helmet mirror, or frequently check behind you – awareness of passing cars;
        – If there’s no room for that car to safely pass you, move into the center of the lane so he doesn’t try (realize that if car speeds are reasonably low as they usually are in downtown, two feet is a safe pass), and if there is room for a safe pass, then ride to the right if possible – don’t be a rolling roadblock unless you have to (the rule doesn’t apply to garbage trucks who, I think, will happily run you down; fortunately you won’t encounter them unless you ride in the wee hours)
        – Cover your brakes when approaching pedestrians who could suddenly step out into the street, or cars on cross streets who may suddenly pull out – presuming your own invisibility;
        – Slow and be cautious when passing vehicles that are stopped or stopping in a traffic lane, as this is often followed by doors flying open (“ooo, Nordstroms!”) or a bizarre lurching maneuver toward a parking space or missed turn – this basically means, give potential idiots a wide berth;
        – When stopping behind a car in traffic, stay at least a bike length back and near one side of the lane – drivers reverse for the weirdest reasons;

        1. Avatar soren says:

          But I don’t ride the way you describe

          That was my point! Extrapolating from my experiences, preferences, and skill level to others is a mistake. The vast majority of people who cycle for transportation will not ride like me or you (e.g. mirrors and “taking” the center of a rush hour traffic lane).

          Here, just for the heck of it, are my rules, and anyone feel free to add yours:

          With all due respect, those rules are not the stuff that 20% mode share is made of.

          1. John Liu John Liu says:

            I’m not sure I agree.

            If we made a list of the analogous rules that a car or truck driver has to follow to safely drive in the crowded heart of downtown, I think it would be at least as long as my list of rules for safe cycling downtown.

            Why should we expect safely riding a bicycle downtown to require less care, skill, and practice than safely driving a car downtown?

            Clearly most people can learn and observe these sorts of rules, because most people can drive. Not 10% or 20% of people, more like 80%. (If you exclude 8 year olds.)

            A novice cyclist who is just learning how to ride in a city should start his or her riding in a less crowded neighborhood, then venture downtown when they are ready.

            1. Avatar soren says:

              “Clearly most people can learn and observe these sorts of rules, because most people can drive.”

              Relying on education and vehicular rules to inspire people to bike does not have a good record when it comes to motivating people to switch from driving.

              “Why should we expect safely riding a bicycle downtown to require less care, skill, and practice than safely driving a car downtown?”

              Cycling, like walking, requires very little skill and poses little risk to others. IMO, it should be as easy and protected as walking!

  23. Avatar B. Carfree says:

    I appreciate buffering the right side of a right-side of the road bike lane as long as there is enforcement to keep all portions of the parked cars out of the buffer. However, I’m not happy with painting (thermoplasticking?) a buffer on the left side. Cyclists who want to stay further from overtaking traffic can simply ride further right in the bike lane. cyclists who wish to be further from the door zone have a problem with the often-slick thermoplastic in the buffer, so they lose a portion of the bike lane with no added safety.

    I would much prefer we do away with traffic-side buffers in favor of a wider bike lane. The eight-inch lane stripe is a legal, if not physical, barrier to encroachment by motorists. Now if we only had some sort of functioning traffic law enforcemement.

    1. Avatar soren says:

      I agree that too much thermoplastic paint on the left side is not a good idea since it can be problematic to cyclists passing in the rain. I think these lanes should be painted green as on Stark and Oak.

      1. John Liu John Liu says:

        Is there such a thing as thermoplastic with embedded grit?

        The silver lining is that riding on thermoplastic stripes has the benefit of lower rolling resistance. Saves a little energy, increases speed a little bit. I usually try to ride on those strips or on painted lines, unless cornering.

  24. Avatar Dwaine Dibbly says:

    Needs to start farther North (Glisan) and extend farther South (Market), but it’s a good start.

  25. Avatar Mark says:

    This is an amazing step forward. Eventually people will look at it and realize more should be done. I agree… In that kiddies aren’t using this lane. Put that effort into some real paths on the waterfront.

    1. Avatar Eric Leifsdad says:

      Kids have places to be throughout downtown.

  26. Avatar Katherine says:

    I’m curious to see how this will feel as someone who bikes daily on this route (to and from Emerson School at NW 9th and Couch– we head West over Burnside bridge and onto second on our way down and back via third and then onto Burnside Bridge heading east) every day with my 8 -year -old on his own bike and have for years. It seems like it will be an improvement. We haven’t really had any issues biking in Old Town, going into our fourth year now but my son is a confident and experienced cyclist. Looking forward to more lanes/paint though!

  27. Avatar resopmok says:

    Chiming in a little late, but here’s my $.02..

    First off, I would personally rather see the majority of this space, especially near Burnside, turned into a public plaza or park of sorts. Traffic until about Alder, even during peak hours, is typically light enough that three full lanes are unnecessary. Even two aren’t really needed. So, though I see merit in the argument that gaining space for bikes is a victory, albeit small, I see it as a pretty meaningless one, just crumbs from the table.

    Second, the green wave is nice, but useless during peak hours when traffic is so jam packed that only 5-6 vehicles make it through an intersection per light cycle. Though I try to avoid it, if I find myself in that mess, I just end up riding between lanes (yes I know it’s illegal and dangerous and maybe makes some people look bad but you know what, I get through all that traffic in a reasonable amount of time without feeling like an exhaust sucking sucker). It seems like most of the backup is from downtown traffic getting to the Hawthorne bridge. I feel like alleviating that problem could happen if traffic engineer would look at that pattern and come up with some creative solutions that help all traffic on the roads.

    Lastly, making decisions by building consensus might be a nice, feel-good pacifist way of doing things, but in my experience, it is crippling to decision-making bodies. It is simply impossible to get everyone to agree on something without watering down a decision so much that it loses most of its flavor or potency. In this case, that ends up simply supporting the status quo – cars on the road – even if the original well-meaning intent was to support more bikes.

  28. Avatar Andy K says:

    I’m worried about a missed opportunity with the shared bike-right turn lane at Burnside. Thru bikes will be held up by any right-turning vehicles who are waiting for peds, or attempt a potentially dangerous pass to the right or left.

    Tell me why we can’t convert the 7 west side parking spots between couch and burnside into a bike lane and remove the curb extension so the majority of bike traffic can continue southbound as they were.

    It’d be like Southbound Broadway at SW Clay. It isn’t the perfect solution but it’s waaaay better than this and drivers are used to it.

    1. Avatar lop says:

      Walking around there is already bad enough. Making the crossing longer won’t help.

    2. Avatar paikiala says:

      your proposal would double or triple the project cost.

  29. Avatar Dan says:

    John Liu
    If we made a list of the analogous rules that a car or truck driver has to follow to safely drive in the crowded heart of downtown, I think it would be at least as long as my list of rules for safe cycling downtown.

    I would love it if drivers followed a set of rules like that, to help them anticipate danger and avoid it. However, many drivers do not.

    1. John Liu John Liu says:

      Not all drivers are safe drivers, not all cyclists are safe cyclists.

  30. Avatar Mark says:

    parking protected bike lanes, like the one on SW Broadway, significantly increase risk at intersections by hiding cyclists from the view of turning vehicles. the only way to mitigate this risk is to remove parking spaces (ideally 2-3 spaces on each end) and removing parking is a political non-starter in our “business stakeholder” oligarchy.Recommended 9

    Ok, that’s incorrect and you are carrying water for the car lobby. First off, right turns are an issue. They are deadly when drivers don’t do their job and refuse to look over their shoulder when turning. They are enabled by the car centric government when the DA refuses to charge and the police magically forget to write tickets

    Second, cities all over the world use cars as barriers. They are quite successful and simply remove a parking space or two before the light. If you are a clueless cyclist and insist on running 30mph in the bike lane, well…maybe you might have a problem. Maybe better for you to run in the lane if checking your six isn’t your thing. For everyone else, it has a huge positive effect in ridership.

    So please, vehicular cycling will still be alive and well after we finally get installed protected lanes with parked cars.

    1. Avatar soren says:

      parking protected bike lanes are viewed as sub-par cycling infrastructure in nations that have the most experience with protected infrastructure. i am ok with parking protected lanes that remove substantial parking near intersections.

      This is what you quoted:

      They are quite successful and simply remove a parking space or two before the light.

      And this is what I originally wrote:

      the only way to mitigate this risk is to remove parking spaces (ideally 2-3 spaces on each end)

      So please, vehicular cycling will still be alive and well

      I never cycle as a vehicle. I cycle as a cyclist.

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