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City’s latest experiment to protect NE Couch bike lane has failed

Posted by on January 19th, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Bumps already ripped out on Couch-3.jpg

A few of the ripped out rumble bars.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Illegal driving and the force of car tires has made quick work of the new “rumble bars” installed on the Couch curve where it winds onto the Burnside Bridge.

On January 8th we reported that the Portland Bureau of Transportation added 70 of the round bumps in an effort to prevent people from driving in the bike lane. Keep in mind that it’s not only unsafe to encroach into a lane dedicated to cycling, it’s also against the law (ORS 811.435). But for some reason, many people driving into downtown Portland feel like that law doesn’t apply to them.

PBOT installed these bars to encourage safe and legal driving. Unfortunately, as of this morning, more than one-third of the 70 bumps have been ripped out and are currently strewn about the roadway. At this rate, by the end of the month there will be no bars left.

Bumps already ripped out on Couch-4.jpg

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KGW-TV news reporter Chris Willis was the first to tell me the bars had been ripped out. He interviewed me about it for their story that aired last night:

PBOT says these rumble bars were installed as part of a test, “to give people who are driving an audible warning and vibration when they encroach into the bike lane.”

PBOT spokesman John Brady said they’re aware of the issue and the city plans to replace the bars once they find stronger epoxy. There’s no date for when that will happen.

Even with stronger glue, I’m concerned that these rumble bars aren’t doing enough to change people’s illegal and unsafe behaviors. As shared in the KGW report, maybe it’s time for PBOT to stop with these half-measures and just install some good old-fashioned physical protection. The City has determined that the need exists to protect this bike lane and the people who use it, so they need to make sure their method of providing that protection actually works.

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

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maks
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maks

jersey barriers. nuf said.

alankessler
Subscriber
alankessler

“stronger epoxy”? Is the logic that people would stop driving in the bike lane if only those rumble bars wouldn’t become detached when people drive in the bike lane?

This experiment wasn’t a failure. It confirmed that rumble bars do nothing and a physical barrier is necessary.

Adam
Subscriber
ethan
Guest
ethan

I was on a bus last night going through this area and the bus driver veered well into the bike lane even though there was plenty of room on the left.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Reminds me of the same problem on the Broadway -> Lovejoy turn, where the barriers were gone within a week.

It’s frustrating that these obvious indicators that drivers are reckless and unconcerned with safety are so casually dismissed instead of making everyone see the actual conditions in which bike riders risk their lives daily.

Hazel
Guest
Hazel

While some of these corners might not be designed well, it’s really not that hard to drive correctly and not into the bike lane. This is an issue in many more places and it’d be nice to see something done about these as well. The ones that come to mind for me are on NE 20th/21st at Tillamook and just north of Irving, on Sandy at the I-84 west on ramp and NE 57th/Cully north of Fremont.

Keviniano
Subscriber
Keviniano

This bridge is effectively a half-mile stretch of undivided highway in the middle of the urban grid, yet it has no meaningful protections for bicyclists or pedestrians. It’s demonstrably deadly to vulnerable users and a perfect candidate for applying vision-zero thinking. It needs barriers along the entire length of it, starting with this horrific curve. It could probably benefit from a host of other treatments, like narrower lanes, to slow down the cars.

Anyone know if something like this is in the hopper at the City?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

This is a classic case of where a Jersey barrier is needed in this location. I suspect PBOT will resist because trucks have a hard time navigating the turn without encroaching on the bike lane. I think truck encroachment is part of the design.

Do we build our infrastructure to accommodate all vehicles, or do we limit our vehicles to fit our infrastructure?

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Both Lovejoy and the Couch curves need spike strips. After a few hundred ruined tire, some of the motorists might get the message.

Emily Guise (Contributor)
Subscriber

OMG PBOT JUST PUT IN A CURB ALREADY!

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

I think we’re all overlooking the obvious solution here, which is to remove the bike lane.

[/sarc]

Al Dimond
Guest

I recently visited friends and family in the Chicago area. Some combination of city and state government has started installing red-light cameras that send you robo-tickets if you go through on orange, or fail to stop before the stop line. I know this because people I know hate it, and complain about it all the time. Y’know what else they do? They obey they law. They don’t creep forward into the crosswalk at red lights anymore (I did a lot of running in the ‘burbs while I was there, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a low rate of crosswalk encroachment anywhere — this in places where you hardly ever see anyone out walking, so it’s not out of widespread pedestrian sympathies). I’ve heard from people, inveterate speeders, that now slow down to the speed limit near stoplights to make sure they’ll be able to stop in time.

A little enforcement goes a long way. It doesn’t have to be a big ticket, AFAICT research seems to indicate regular enforcement is a better deterrent than giant fines. Totally automated enforcement might be out, but half-automated enforcement, where a guy with a tripod takes photos and loads of tickets are mailed at the end of the day, could be done at trouble spots a few times per year. Maybe first-time offenders could even get warnings. People will hate it, they’ll complain about how the curve is designed wrong (which is silly — any time the lane lines are painted tighter than the pavement drivers will tend to cut inside), they might even get covered in the news. They’ll also slow down and take the curve properly, which is the only thing that matters.

yashardonnay
Guest
yashardonnay

By the time PBOT is done with iteration after iteration of failed half measures here, they probably could have put in jersey barriers within the same ballpark of cost.

spencer
Guest
spencer

every one commenting here should call 823 SAFE and report this.

Champs
Guest
Champs

As built, that curve simply isn’t sharp enough to consistently slow traffic and/or not wide enough to accommodate buses.

Call it perverse, but I think that this traffic calming creates a safety hazard, and more pavement is the only way to fix it.

maccoinnich
Guest

Why wasn’t this built as a raised / protected bike lane in the first place? The standard reason given for the fact that we don’t have protected bike lanes is that it’s expensive to retrofit existing infrastructure. However this is a stretch of road that was built from scratch only 6 years ago. Raising the bike lane would have only had a marginal cost, if anything.

Jacob
Guest
Jacob

How they do it in NYC:
https://goo.gl/maps/Yomq7juv3gJ2

Voila, a crazy scary turn becomes one of the most popular bike routes in the city.

rick
Guest
rick

just wow

Joe
Guest
Joe

Didn’t the city go through the EXACT same process with the bollards on Lovejoy coming of the Broadway bridge?

First they installed bollards and they were hit and removed quickly. Then the said they needed stronger epoxy. Once again, they got hit and removed. Then they “solved” the problem by doing nothing… (http://bikeportland.org/2012/01/25/once-again-bike-lane-bollards-torn-out-by-auto-traffic-on-nw-lovejoy-65907)

These half measures are a waste of money and a bullshit way to say the city is trying to improve the situation. These measures don’t work, you’ve previously proved they don’t work, yet they try the same thing again.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Jonathan – I tried going back to the earlier article to refresh my memory…it was a 8 January not 8 December posting it seems…

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

I’d like to see Gladstone used as a secondary test. I dodge a lot of sides of cars riding that in the morning.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Perhaps the engineers or striping crew members that read this blog can chime in on this issue: these raised pavement markers most likely failed due to their application during the winter (cold temp and perhaps partially wet pavement crevices) AND this is a very challenging location due to the vehicle wheel movement striking and pulling each RPM at an angle through the curve.

[I am assuming that the contractor followed all the manufacturer’s instructions per surface preparation, material handling (kept warm and dry before installing?) and installation. Or else this might be addressed as a warranty issue…unless PBoT waived it due to the other issues mentioned above.]

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

John Lascurettes
Why is the alignment not like this: http://cl.ly/2a3D3W2I0i32 ?Recommended 0

Because then the Fair-haired Dumbbell wouldn’t have room for a skybridge.

http://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2014/4/2/burnside-bridgehead-designers-disneyland-april-2014

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I would request that the Portland PBAC to investigate this issue: is it appropriate for bike project striping and stencilling to be done in the winter/ wet months given that these locations are typically located in adverse sites (intersections or corners) with a lot of vehicle wear and wheel strikes? [Installing signage is the only appropriate winter task in my mind other than making emergency spot repairs.]

I ask the question above as:
1) I have been seeing a lot of other bikeway striping work done this winter as it was making me think that these locations would likely prematurely fail due to the challenges of surface prep, installation and protection before the materials can set up (as discussed before); and
2) if there is any institutional bias in how project resources are programmed and thus pushing bike work into less than ideal weather or time periods (this has come up in internal discussions at another local jurisdiction that striping crews have in the past predominately scheduled bike striping projects to be done at night or summer weekends so that they get higher overtime payment…the end result programmatically is that the small pot of bike money is spread to fewer projects.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

My memory of other mountable delineators (hedgehogs etc.) used in the UK, NL, DE are often screwed AND glued down to avoid this problem that seems to besetting PBoT’s bike projects.

But since our mountable delination tools are here are more limited (adoption and supply)…should we fall back on a older more effective lane delineator: the 6 inch or 8 inch raised ceramic marker?

[These would be placed on the left side of the striped buffer lane so should not trigger a conflict with bikes. And a more modern version has an inset reflector.]

http://www.apexmarker.com/non_reflective_ceramic.html

Of the top of my head..the closest local use of this type of delineator are the concrete blocks with domes along the older MAX tracks in the City Center. It would be performing the same task.

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

The bike lane should be raised to the level of the sidewalk with a healthy buffer area by the curb.

Train Engineer
Guest
Train Engineer

Driving a motor vehicle is allowed if you are getting ready to make a right turn, or if you are driving into a driveway, etc.

http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.440

Spiffy
Subscriber

with regards to enforcing ORS 811.435 is the buffered section actually considered a bike lane?

in other words, can I ride my bike while staying entirely in the buffer?

what about streets like Multnomah where the buffer is a wide painted area with planters? can I bike entirely inside this buffer and it still be considered part of the bike lane?

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

I laughed so hard to read about this. It really is as if the engineering for these experiments is done by distracted middle school students, not dedicated, paid and trained professionals.

kittens
Guest
kittens

These kinds of episodes do little to encourage confidence in the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Is this what competence looks like? This constant “experimentation” is both damaging to esteem and completely unnecessary.

You have got to start with a solid design and work from there. All this crap about plastic stickers and signs and flashing lights is a joke and completely unacceptable on brand-new infrastructure.

J_R
Guest
J_R

How about the PPB conducts an “enforcement action” complete with advance warning signs?

A couple cops on the corner spotting people driving in the bike lane and a fleet of cops writing tickets at mid-span. We can certainly afford to lose one lane for a few hours.

Maybe the enforcement action would “educate” motorists to obey the law. Has any motorist ever been cited for driving in the bike lane in Portland?

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Spikes strips in the buffer, with “severe tire damage if you drive in the buffer” signs?

Keith
Guest
Keith

I wish all major bike routes into downtown would receive the same amount of attention as this one. The effectiveness of the actions is open to debate, but at least the city has tried something. That can’t be said for many other routes in/out of downtown.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Does anyone continue to believe that PBOT any design ability whatever?

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I like being able to ride in the traffic lane for the first curve, then slide over into the bike lane during or after the second curve. This is the fastest way through the S curve for a cyclist. Since Couch is downhill, and the lights are well timed, you can enter the S going as fast as cars, and also go through the S as fast as cars. The momentum then helps with the slight grade on the bridge.

Thus, I don’t want the bike lane elevated, or rumble strips in the buffer. A short section of barrier, right at the apex of the second curve, would be better, if we have to have anything.

I do see trucks and buses cutting that corner quite often. But I’ve not heard of any car/bike accidents as a result, and I’m not convinced a jersey barrier wouldn’t cause more bike accidents than no jersey barrier.

David Lewis
Guest

This is why I laugh a little (and cry inside) when I hear all the hoopla about Portland being such a bike town. Whatever.

It’s not about certain intersections, or this mistake, or that failed effort or any one particular flop. It’s about the people who design(ed) the streets, who pour the concrete and who, deep in their hearts, have no interest whatsoever in any topic other than the promotion of private automobile use over all other modes of transportation. It’s deeply entrenched in even the local folksy liberal politicians and the agencies they run, and right on up to the state highway deathtraps… to say nothing of the interstate highways that lay claim to what amounts to hundreds of millions or more of dollars’ worth of land in the central city, that I don’t see any public face to evicting from the riverbank.

I applaud Bike Portland and all the other local advocacy organizations for raising [word that would probably get this post flagged], but the problem with issue advocacy is how easy it is to throw a bone. Until we have a bicycle superhighway connecting Tigard to Gresham, every single politician that parades around and feigns interest in your cause is part of the problem.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

ROFL

Adam
Guest
Adam

Why they didn’t put an elevated cycle track on this one block severely curved, high-speed stretch of road is beyond me. It would have hardly broken the bank.

I suppose they’ll do what they always do, and wait til someone is killed on it before deciding to raise the design bar above mediocre.

JJJJ
Guest

The fact that these were ripped out so quickly – when rumble strips exist on highways – and the flex posts were ripped out too means the city is being ripped off on their epoxy supplier.

Josh Chernoff
Guest
Josh Chernoff

nothing a little concrete barrier wont fix. Let them try and drive into that 🙂

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

If these “RPM” bars are still out laying on the street…perhaps it would be opportune for bike commuters to collectively pick them up and mail them as postcards to Portland City Councillors, PBoT Director, Project Manager and City Engineer?

BikeLOUD are you out there? – help us! [The USPS will mail almost anything stamped: coconuts, etc.]

Brad
Guest
Brad

Not surprised. I stood on this corner waiting for a minute waiting for a light. Every single vehicle that went by ran over those rumble strips, without exception.

Train Engineer
Guest
Train Engineer

JL,
The law as written is unclear and it should be reworded – if a lawyer is required to decipher the meaning then it is of little value to most drivers – and may even be a hazard. Nowhere does Oregon law require the motorist to “move over next to but not on top of the bicycle lane”. That may be the intent, but that is not the text of the law, thus it is NOT the law. In court, you do not get “justice” you get “the law” as written to the letter and the law states:

(2)
A person may operate a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane when:

(a)
Making a turn;

CASE DISMISSED! Gavel slams on the bench!

Clarifying this poorly written statute should be given a high priority and it should appear in all new driver handbooks. The California Rule would make right hooks less likely for cyclists, but might expose them to the dangers of other traffic if they passed a car in the bike lane on the left.

A J Zelada
Guest

http://www.72km.org/bcn-may-22.html…if you look half way down my web page, this shows a simple but direct separated lane in Barcelona. It consists of tire like but very heavy rubber tires which are a chord like section of the tire’s curve. It is a Simple Separator when you want the traffic to simply respect vulnerabilities and tendencies of motorized traffic to take the shortest distance like of trajectories.

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

Wait, am I correctly understanding that little plastic bumps did NOT stop motorists from just driving right over the top of them? I’m so confused. How did this happen? I really thought little plastic bumps were sufficient to stop 2000lb motor vehicles.

Thomas
Guest
Thomas

I’m thinkin’ tire spikes would be a good deterrent… a little negative reinforcement usually works to change behavior…