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First look: New bike lanes on 3rd Avenue downtown

Posted by on October 19th, 2015 at 1:06 pm

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-13.jpg

Traffic on 3rd Avenue this morning.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A year after activists pulled off an inspiring demonstration of what 3rd Avenue could look like, the Bureau of Transportation followed up with their permanent version.

The project comes with strong support from business interests (something almost as rare as new downtown bike lanes themselves) and the Old Town Chinatown Community Association. While it’s not the physically protected bikeways activists want (and Portland needs), the project represents a significant re-allocation of downtown real estate away from auto use and toward bicycle use. This new bike lane is the latest change in an area that is slowly but surely evolving into a much more human-centric place: Along with newly painted crosswalks on 3rd and 4th on both sides of Burnside, there are serious talks of a new plaza outside of Voodoo Doughnut on SW Ankeny, and the City of Portland is currently planning how best to spend over $6 million dollars to improve bicycling downtown.

I rode and walked the entire length of the new bikeway this morning. Here are my photos and thoughts…

At NW Glisan it’s a standard, six-foot bike lane with no buffers. There’s a parking lane on the right and two standard lanes to the left…

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Looking north from Davis. Note the old lane marking.

No buffer space means you’re this close to cars…

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-3.jpg

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At NW Davis (home of the raining crosswalk), the buffer begins. There’s a two-foot buffer on the left and a three-foot buffer on the right.

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-4.jpg

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This buffered lane lasts until just north of Burnside where PBOT has installed a new “mixing zone” where the bike-only lane disappears and is replaced with sharrows and right-turn arrows…

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-6.jpg

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Looking north at mixing zone north of Burnside.

One of the well-known issues (happens on N Williams too) with these unprotected and uncolored bicycle lanes is that they are often confused for standard lanes…

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-22.jpg

Here’s a shot of some mixing going on…

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Across Burnside the buffer continues and is accentuated with green near Voodoo Doughnut…

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-16.jpg

Looking back north from Ash toward Burnside…

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Here’s how it looks outside of Stumptown Coffee between Ash and Pine…

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Unfortunately, the new bike lanes end abruptly at SW Stark. Makes me wonder how this woman’s feeling about cycling will change from this block to the next…

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-35.jpg

PBOT has also added two new left-turn boxes at Burnside and Oak for people approaching the new bike lane from the east. These boxes help direct people onto the new bike lane. Here’s how one of them looks if you approach the new bike lane from SW Oak:

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-8.jpg

This project has evoked a mix of reactions from the community. People involved in the project are ecstatic to see such a significant redesign of a downtown street — especially since the changes came as a direct response to a grassroots demonstration. However, some people are disappointed that the project doesn’t include some form of physical separation and that it doesn’t transform the street like Better Block’s demonstration did last year.

I can understand both perspectives. Speaking of which, perspective is everything. I was struck by how different this bike lane looked and felt south of Burnside depending on which side of the street I stood on. 12-feet of dedicated bike lane sounds wonderful; but it’s really nothing compared to the vast expanse of roadways space we allow driving and auto parking on.

Here’s how the new bike lane looks from the east side of 3rd at Burnside. Compare the images below to the ones above…

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-30.jpg

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And from the west side of 3rd at Ash the new bike lane drops at intersections, making it feel even less like the oasis of safety it should be…

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-11.jpg

The street outside Voodoo Doughnut is full of people and there’s a very clear demand for a public plaza and safer ways to cross. PBOT has recently painted new crosswalks on SW 3rd and 4th. This is great progress, but it has induced even more demand for even better walkways and bikeways…

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-12.jpg

New bike lane on 3rd Ave-1.jpg

Recently painted crosswalks at SW 4th and Ankeny.

It’s also worth noting that north of Burnside, people using this new bikeway face three different riding environments over the course of just a few blocks. As you can see in the image below, first there’s a bike lane without a buffer (background), than a buffered bike lane (middleground), then a mixing zone (foreground). Seems to me that a more consistent environment would be much lower-stress and would encourage more people to ride…

new bike lane on 3rd.jpg

That thought raises the question: Will these new lanes inspire people to give biking a try? They do open up a nice connection to the green bike lane on SW Oak and the network effect will be even stronger once we build more bike lanes downtown.

What do you think?

— Jonathan Maus
jonathan@bikeportland.org
(503) 706-8804
@BikePortland

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Adam Herstein
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Adam Herstein

Why are we still building bike lanes with mixing zones? PBOT is installing bike lanes with built-in conflict. When the bike lane suddenly disappears at the most dangerous point (the intersection) it undermines the entire thing. The bike lane is only as good as its weakest point.

This bike lane should have been a protected one from the start. I’m skeptical that this will attract new riders that previously did not ride. Plus, it connects to nothing from the north, so it’s not even that useful to people who do already ride.

PBOT, you need to try much harder if you want to end traffic violence and reduce car dependency.

chris
Guest
chris

I predict that motorists will turn right across it without checking their blind spots, drive in it as if it were a regular lane, and sometimes just sit in the middle of it with their hazard lights on while waiting to pick somebody up. (“It’s an emergency! I HAVE to block your bike lane or else I might suffer some inconvenience. Hence, my hazard lights.”) Delivery trucks will use it as a loading/unloading zone.

I don’t understand why Portland hasn’t learned any lessons from the poor implementations that it’s built in the past, such as the Stark and Oak bike lanes. You have to either build a bike boulevard (which Portland is relatively good at) or go full Amsterdam and actually follow the industry best practices for separated bike lanes, or else you will just end up creating something worse than what you replace.

I don’t agree with this whole “Any bike infrastructure is better than nothing” philosophy. I would actually prefer nothing to something done poorly because a) bad bike infrastructure can be more dangerous than none and b) that money could be used to build something properly.

Steve B
Guest
Steve B

Awesome!! Thank you PBOT, Old Town Biz Association, Better Block for leading the way on this. Just sent Better Block a donation. Looking forward to more practical lane re-configurations like this around downtown.

soren
Subscriber

mixing zones aren’t close to being ideal but they are definitely an improvement over the green through lane at sw 3rd and madison where kathryn rickson was killed.

>This bike lane should have been a protected one from the start.

there was no funding for a protected bike lane.

>I’m skeptical that this will attract new riders that previously did not ride.

currently when I ride to the bridges from the pearl i often use sketchy naito connections. being able to ride down flanders to 3rd and then to oak seems like a significant improvement to me. moreover, this will eventually connect to bike facilities that will be built in and around the post-office. i also see no reason why it cannot be extended all the way to sw 3rd and jefferson. bike infrastructure rarely shows up as fully connected infrastructure — it often shows up on piece at a time.

Erinne
Guest
Erinne

Great, now I can’t ride in the left lane, which is the lane I need to be in to get to work. And this is supposed to be a win? Plus I already experienced the confusion of a right turning car half in the bike lane and half out.

Paint. Woopdee freakin’ doo.

(Sorry, Better Block + others – I know you all tried and had a great vision. But a few blocks of buffered lanes hardly seems like a victory.)

ethan
Guest
ethan

This looks like a mix of every bad bike lane design in Portland. Good job, PBOT! You almost couldn’t have possibly made this worse.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

It’s actually worse than I expected, I had no idea they were going to put bikes to the right of right-turning traffic on the north side of Burnside.

🙁

And can’t they figure out a better way to get the old lines off than that stupid grinder, which permanently damages the surface of the bike lane wherever they use it?

🙁 🙁

Boris K
Guest
Boris K

Next steps:

Businesses on 3rd Ave: try to cater to cyclists during morning and afternoon rush hour, as well as lunch rush. That might mean more coffee and pastries for folks headed to work…or a convenient and unique grocery store for folks headed home. Bike shops in Old Town, put up signage for bicycle repair services. Think about convenient bike parking for folks stopping in…even if your main business today is a Friday/Saturday night party crowd. I’m sure you’d like to make money the rest of the week too.

Cyclists: frequent the businesses along 3rd Ave and rave about how awesome the lanes are and that they are the reason you are there. You’ll have the bike infrastructure you seek in no time when the businesses become your champions and the city gets better at the experimental method.

So excited to see this take fruit! It’s a depressed neighborhood coming to life…it’s not just about the bikes!

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

They do open up a nice connection to the green bike lane on SW Oak

and the green bike lane on Oak goes to (nowhere I want to bike) Naito…

this new bike lane would be a win if it went past Oak all the way to Madison so I could get to the Hawthorne bridge more safely…

tedder
Guest

Is PBOT afraid to use green paint?

Certainly true physical separation would be awesome, but even small raised white bumps (similar to Botts Dots) would help discourage drifting into the cycle lane.

Old Town
Guest
Old Town

Big thank you to PBOT & Better Block for responding to the Old Town Chinatown Community requests for these improvements and the many new crosswalks!

The crosswalks and buffered bike lane have already calmed traffic in our pedestrian rich neighborhood.

If people would like to see a more robust design for cycling, than positively advocate for those improvements. The community goal from day one was to create a safer walking environment on the street as quick as possible via restriping to calm traffic.

Thank you PBOT for responding to these community needs and thanks to Better Block for helping illustrate the ideas! Now, let’s work on an expanded Ankeny Plaza!

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

I just tried it out at 3:15, and liked it.
There’s some broken glass in front of Portland Prime just after you cross Ash. Be careful!

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

From the photos it looks like PBoT striped 90 degree head-in parking with a wide left side curb lane.

PHASE 1
(+) 90 degree parking typically provides the “highest” linear capacity for curbside parking vs. parallel. (If car parking is the #1 goal?)

(-) If one is going to do 90 degree angled parking with a wide (~20 ft?) adjoining lane would it not be better to do back-in 90 degree parking? (If traffic safety is the #1 goal?)

PHASE 2
Perhaps the extra (16+ ft) space of street width that the 90 degree parking and supporting lane layout “required” could have been better or more creatively allocated?

Tune in if there is a tweak or a phase 2 redesign in the future.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I really don’t like buffering a bike lane on the traffic side. Just allow the extra width to be part of the bike lane. Those who want to ride further from the next lane over still can, but putting in a (slippery when wet) thermoplastic buffer unnecessarily interferes with cyclists who are comfortable closer to the travel lane and makes passing less safe.

I’m very happy to see the bike lane buffered on the parking side. Ignorant or misinformed riders will all too often ride in the door zone and this buffer, if only it was a bit wider, can get them out of it.

Brent Shultz
Guest
Brent Shultz

First off, this is progress. On the less positive, I really wish PBOT would be willing to stripe the buffer lanes with a diagonal or chevron to indicate that area is NOT intended to be used. Same deal with Williams. I see >50% of riders there riding in the door zone buffer. Ouch.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

“One of the well-known issues (happens on N Williams too) with these unprotected and uncolored bicycle lanes is that they are often confused for standard lanes…”

This is peculiar to me. So let me assume for a second that I miss the bike lane indications and think this might be a car lane. . So what do I think those double white lines are if not a bike lane buffer? The Oregon Drivers Manual tells me I can’t change lanes if there are double white lines–so even if I think it’s a car lane, I can’t enter it! So what then are those cars thinking? (Rhetorical question.)

Mark
Guest
Mark

You won’t find me with my baby in cargo bike on that street. Now…if it had some little armadillos or the cars parked on the other side……..maaaaaaybe.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

The thing about this that really pisses me off is that SW 3rd was a good street to cycle on before PBOT screwed it up with this poorly designed bike lane; I used it regularly. Now I’ve got to find an alternate route, and there really aren’t any good alternatives.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

If this was a curb-protected cycleway with no mixing zones on the right side of the road, the rider would be stuck in that path, on that side of the road, unable to pass slower riders, unable to go to the other side of the road to make his left turn. He would be exposed to right hooks at every intersection, absent a complicated set of separate car vs bike signals which would slow the riders (and drivers) down. Half the street parking would be gone, along with most of the business support.

And BP would still be complaining bitterly about it.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

It’s interesting to watch the language of green develop. I feel like I would want to stop in the green box at the beginning of the block — maybe it should be pointed or a triangle. It looks like half of the blocks are designated as mixing zones, which might lead to all of them getting used that way. Dedicated bike space is nice, but this street still has a lot of auto traffic and a lot of activity at the intersections.

I’ll look forward to seeing the city council riding on it.

JJJJ
Guest

I fully agree with a couple of prior comments that sometimes the tone is far too negative, and some will never be happy.

That being said, from the windshield perspective, this kind of striping can be a nightmare at night in the rain. I wish they had spent a few more dollars on more green and striped lines across the intersections.

soren
Guest
soren

Jonathan Maus: Seems to me that a more consistent environment would be much lower-stress and would encourage more people to ride…

Bike boxes provided a consistent environment by adding green striping through intersections but also consistently increased the risk of people biking being hit at some intersections.

http://www.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2012/10/16/city-finds-bike-boxes-may-actually-increase-crashes

I road this facility yesterday and I felt no additional stress when I transitioned from a 6 foot wide bike lane to the 7 foot wide bike lane. And compared to nothing at all, It was actually @#%$&#@% great!

In my opinion, this is the most negative review of new bike infrastructure I’ve read on bike portland. Generally, Jonathan takes a wait and see approach and refrains from negative editorializing immediately after a facility is installed. This review was different. It was littered with negative editorial comments and the use of 8 images depicting the same intersection gave the erroneous impression that this facility is one large mixing zone. It’s not.

For those of you who prefer riding in bike lanes to riding in the midst of car and truck traffic, I ask that you reserve judgment until your actually ride this facility.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I think some plastic wands on each block, at the start of the bike lane, and marked “bike lane”, would deter most drivers from driving in the bike lane. Shouldn’t interfere with parking, since you can’t park right at the corner anyway.

The city does seem too sparing with pavement markings. One or two small bike symbols per block is not really enough. Green paint could also be used more than it is. That is a general comment throughout the city. I think there are gritty, non-slippery thermoplastics.

I don’t think most people driving in bike lanes are doing so deliberately, instead I think most are just unaware or unthinking.

Boris K
Guest
Boris K

The best way to get the plastic flex-posts at the beginning of the block is to crowd-fund them and present the ready-made plan to PBOT with money lined up.

Make it easy for busy city staff and things can happen very quickly.

Concrete is best avoided for many reasons, chief among them being impacts to Stormwater drainage issues. Only after we have a chance to watch how this works with paint for a while will we even know where the concrete should go (if at all).

Mark
Guest
Mark

The dirty secret as to why bollards are rarely included is to allow the put upon delivery trucks to park in the bike lane.

KristenT
Guest
KristenT

“It’s also worth noting that north of Burnside, people using this new bikeway face three different riding environments over the course of just a few blocks.”

This is one of the most disappointing things here– lack of consistency results in confusion and does not contribute to safety or encourage people to take this route, especially if they’ve never taken it before or are bike-curious (good term!) and not altogether confident in traffic.

I get that PBOT is, frankly, experimenting with the best/most cost efficient thing, but changing things dramatically every block or so is ridiculous.

On the positive side, it’s great that PBOT is trying new and different things.

maccoinnich
Guest

So I haven’t cycled on the new 3rd yet, but I did walk along it this evening. A few observations:

– Once the Flanders bikeway is implemented this will be a great route from NW Portland into Downtown.
– There’s now only 8 blocks of SW 3rd left without some form of bike lane. That’s got to be low hanging fruit for the Central City multimodal project. If this even extends two blocks further it would provide a good route to the much underused Morrison Bridge multiuse path.
– I’m really glad the widened the lane between Glisan and Davis. It was so narrow before that for a long time I hadn’t actually realized it was there. Having stripes on both sides of the bike lane, even if they’re not buffered, is also a huge improvement.
– For all the “ZOMG mixing zones” comments on this and other threads, you’d think they were everywhere. There’s exactly one, at the intersection of 3rd and Burnside. Given that a high volume of cars will be turning right there I think it’s probably the best design solution for now. Striping the lane straight and having cars turn across it would have created a much more dangerous situation. Rebuilding the whole intersection of 3rd and Burnside might be a nice dream for the future, but will not come cheap.
– It’s a bit disappointing / confusing that there’s a left-turn box for someone coming off Oak and onto 3rd, but none for people on 3rd turning onto either Burnside or Stark.

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

Nice work PBOT and Better Block, I’m happy to see another few blocks of buffered bike lane in downtown Portland.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Ted Buehler

John Liu
Subscriber

Buzz
I can ride all day on streets with no bike lanes at all and be perfectly safe and fine at the end of the day.Recommended 0

So you never needed or wanted any bike lane/infrastructure on 3rd St in the first place?

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

200, woo hoo!