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Here are six locations where Portland could create protected intersections

Posted by on February 10th, 2016 at 10:58 am

West Burnside & 3rd

West 3rd Avenue at Burnside Street.
(Images: Nick Falbo)

The local street planner who created the “protected intersection” concept has come up with six sketches of where it could be done in Portland.

The catch is that in many cases, the city would have to re-allocate road space away from auto parking and standard travel lanes.

The design uses a few relatively simple changes, inspired by Dutch design — a “median refuge island,” a “forward stop bar” and so on — to slightly rearrange traffic flow in a way that greatly increases biking and walking visibility, comfort and safety.

Nick Falbo, who works as a senior planner for Alta Planning and Design but did this project as a volunteer on his own time, said he got the idea to create them after he gave a presentation about protected intersections at a conference last fall. A city employee who was attending, he said, asked where in Portland protected intersections could go.

“I’m thinking, like, where can’t they go?” he said.

The catch is that in many cases, the city would have to re-allocate road space away from auto parking and standard travel lanes to create the protected intersection and accompanying protected bike lane. In the example above, the city would remove a handful of parking spaces along the north side of Burnside (not exactly a thriving business strip at the moment) in order to create a vastly improved connection for people coming across the Burnside Bridge and turning left onto the new 3rd Avenue bike lane.

But tradeoffs wouldn’t be needed everywhere.


Above is an example of three streets where no traffic tradeoffs are needed at all: the newly important bike intersections at Southwest 3rd, Stark and Oak downtown. On all three streets, Falbo suggests switching the position of the parking and bike lanes to put bike lanes along the curb. Presumably this would require removing a parking space or two to keep open lines of sight at parking lot entrances, but that’s doable.

Today, all of these streets have wide buffered bike lanes. Why don’t they already have parking-protected lanes? On 3rd Avenue, it’s not clear. But on Stark and Oak, the reason was that the Portland Fire Department said it needed both lanes of traffic in case a ladder needed to reach one of the buildings there. If parking spaces ran down the middle of the street, they might not have a place to position the side braces of their ladder truck.

Falbo questions whether that’s really a problem, pointing out that if necessary, a single mid-block parking space could be kept clear for that purpose.

Broadway and stark

Moving west through downtown, here’s where Stark meets Broadway. This would let the flow of bike traffic south from the Broadway Bridge and Northwest Portland make a simple two-stage turn onto Stark rather than merging left three times across Broadway. It’d require removing one of Broadway’s three auto travel lanes.


On the west edge of downtown, here’s the ugly cluster of streets where Alder meets Burnside at 19th. Here Falbo envisions two useful bike connections meeting up: Northwest 19th, which has a southbound bike lane just north of Burnside and would lose a dedicated right-turn lane; and Alder Street, which would lose a general travel lane and get a 10-foot-wide bidirectional parking-protected bike lane. As we reported last week the City is already looking at this location for potential bike access improvements, but so far they haven’t released any details.

Falbo said he’s got mixed feelings about bidirectional protected bike lanes, especially relatively narrow ones on a hill, as this one would be. But he said this might be worthwhile because Alder provides such a natural and intuitive connection to the Morrison Bridge — a perfect link between the fast-growing residential area of Northwest Portland and the fast-growing job center of the Central Eastside.

Burnside and Grnad

Speaking of the Central Eastside, here’s Falbo’s attempt to correct two of Portland’s biggest biking failures of the last decade: not installing a north-south bike lane on Grand along with the east-side streetcar line, and not building an east-west protected bike lane on Burnside when that street was rebuilt in 2009.

Here, Falbo suggests a left-side northbound parking-protected bike lane on Grand, replacing one of the street’s four general travel lanes.

Burnside would also get an eastbound protected bike lane and lose one of its three eastbound travel lanes. This would still leave potential conflicts with the many buses that run east on Burnside — they’d presumably have to stop in one of the two travel lanes and unload onto a new “floating” bus platform.


Finally, here’s a world-class bike facility concept on what Falbo describes as maybe the most challenging street in Portland for a new protected bike lane: inner Southeast Hawthorne, with its huge volumes of bikes, buses and cars.

On 7th Avenue south of Hawthorne, Falbo imagines removing a left-turn lane in order to make room for better bike lanes. North, he’s got a center turn lane but no street parking on the east side.

Whatever the case, a protected intersection would create a smooth, intuitive two-stage turn for people biking east from downtown and turning north up 7th, or south on 7th to turn east on Hawthorne.

“Once you’ve figured it out here, you can figure it out anywhere in the city,” Falbo said.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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  • sean February 10, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Almost all of this could be done tomorrow for cheap with bollards to test whether they work. We just need a little political willpower. I’d consider moving back to Portland if stuff like this existed. Thank you Falbo.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. February 10, 2016 at 11:26 am

    These are all terrific ideas. PBOT should take these ideas and run with them, especially since they have shown interest in a protected intersection at SW 19th and Alder. Many of these could also be incorporated into the Downtown Multimodal Project.

    Additionally, every east side street that leads to a bridge should have protected bike lanes and intersections. Start with E Burnside, as it currently has the worst facilities on and off the bridge.

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  • rick February 10, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I’ve seen bad crashes at 3rd and West Burnside with pedestrians. People often don’t obey the new “No turn on Red” sign when driving south on 3rd.

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    • Paul February 10, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      No turn on reds will always be disobeyed until we: a) ban rights (and lefts) on reds statewide and probably at the Federal level, or b) Move the stop bar back significantly AND position the stoplight next to the stop bar, curbside. This would reduce turning right on red significantly.

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      • Gerald Fittipaldi February 10, 2016 at 10:57 pm

        Red light cameras would also do the trick.

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  • Terry D-M February 10, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Until PBOT gets a clue and builds greenways with diversion at every arterial, from the get go, I am beginning to think that we should stop building them entirely. Funnel the money into projects like this that remove lanes and parking.

    If the purpose is to get people on their bikes, four miles of greenway in NE without diversion will not do it. These might though if part of a larger Burnside remodel turning it into a linear bike highway with protected intersections from NW 19th to Gresham.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. February 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      A greenway without diversion just becomes a cut-though for drivers without stop signs and ends up worse for people cycling. We need to be actively taking away space from cars via parking and travel lane removal, if we want to encourage people to cycle more.

      The 20’s bikeway as implemented is a complete waste of limited revenues as it adds little to no benefits for the people it aims to help.

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      • paikiala February 11, 2016 at 11:04 am

        The funny thing about a hypothesis is you may never be able to prove it, but you can disprove it with only one example. Your statement implies *in every case*, but there are several greenways in Portland without significant diversion that are meeting current standards.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. February 10, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Regarding 3rd Avenue, we should be ashamed as a city to accept painted bike lanes in motor-traffic-heavy Downtown. In no way should a strip of paint be acceptable as bike infrastructure. The volumes of traffic downtown warrant complete physical protection, yet we are being offered scraps.

    Additionally, nearly every street downtown has room for cycle tracks if we remove a travel or parking lane. All three-lane streets should be reduced to two with a protected cycleway. Why are we working so hard to maintain car access to Downtown when every MAX line and a majority of bus lines go there?

    If we want to be serious about riding a bike for transportation in this city, we need to implement Nick’s idea for protected bike lanes and intersections on 3rd, as well as the rest of downtown.

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    • Gary B February 10, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      I don’t know. Downtown is the one place, because of its traffic volumes, that I am glad to take any lane. How about just a 15 mph speed limit downtown, every street, and no bike lanes? I suppose then you’re stuck in the same traffic, so maybe that’s not ideal either.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. February 10, 2016 at 4:58 pm

        There’s already a de facto 15 mph speed limit downtown. The signals are all timed and synchronized to keep drivers to under 15 mph. This makes downtown far more comfortable to ride in than any other American downtown I’ve ever ridden in, but it’s still far from ideal from a cycling perspective. Additionally, the speed limit doesn’t make intersections much safer as you’ve still got the same conflicts. It may already be reasonably safe to cycle downtown, but the signal timing is not immediately obvious to the “interested but concerned”. Protected bike lanes are obvious and will get more people riding. Safety in numbers works.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. February 10, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        Downtown is already held to a de facto 15 mph speed limit because the signals are timed and synchronized to limit to that speed. This makes riding downtown feel safer than any other American downtown I’ve ever cycled in, but it’s still far from ideal. You still have the same conflict points at intersections. Drivers will still try to claim their space from you. Additionally, it still looks unsafe to the “interested but concerned”. Protected bike lanes and intersections are not only safer, they look and feel safer which is a huge deal to get more people riding. Safety in numbers.

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      • El Biciclero February 11, 2016 at 10:14 am

        I wouldn’t mind a compromise of a few confined…oops, I mean “protected” bike lanes along major routes, perhaps with the removal of bike lanes on slower (or in the downhill direction of) streets with the understanding that human- and motor-powered vehicles are all traffic, with full rights to any lane at any time. Perhaps as with the sidewalk riding prohibition zone, we could designate a similar area as an ORS 814.430/814.420 suspension zone.

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      • was carless February 13, 2016 at 3:06 pm

        Yes, but many people simply aren’t confident enough to do that.

        My 65 year old parents won’t. My future 8 year old kids won’t, either.

        That leaves downtown PDX for bicyclists in the 20s, 30s and 40s only. Is that good policy? How will we have future cyclists if the city isn’t safe for children or old people?

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  • Eric Leifsdad February 10, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Good demonstration that the space is available. We do have to get the details right, and the two-stage design is not going to scale to 2000 bikes/hr — that’s 33 people on bikes waiting in the crook iff you can move at one cycle per minute, and we still have to watch for the right hook. That bump-out might still help, but I think we should plan something more efficient than a two-stage left.

    Consider a simultaneous bike green or perhaps just a protected left turn lane+signal from burnside. The NE corner shouldn’t have a radius there.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. February 10, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      This design works perfectly fine in the Netherlands and they have levels of cycle traffic we can only dream of.

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      • Eric Leifsdad February 10, 2016 at 2:43 pm

        Details will make or break it and this isn’t a standard junction. With a red facing Burnside, you still have to contend with right-turning drivers on both ends of the crossing. You can even try this left while the entertainment district is closed and see why I would rather go directly in a dedicated cycle instead of going out of my way to get to the right-hooking place. A two-stage turn will keep bikes out of the way of Burnside traffic, but a bike signal phase would give them priority, which is what our plans say we do, right?


        One could also envision the right-on-red entitled driver pulling from 3rd into stopped burnside traffic and blocking the bikeway, while leaving the auto lane open behind them. Or, imagine hanging a bike left turn green signal there next week? A platinum bike city with a vision zero plan would probably hang the light first and build the bump-out later, but skip the 2-stage turns.

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. February 10, 2016 at 3:11 pm

          I think it’s assumed that all these designs feature bike-specific signal phases. Otherwise, the protected intersection doesn’t work as well.

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          • El Biciclero February 11, 2016 at 11:37 am

            Assumed by whom would be the key. Assumed by you, of course, because it’s obvious to someone who would actually be expected to use any such infrastructure. However, it seems that many “protected” bikeways are designed with the assumption, “There. That ought to keep bikes out of the w—I mean, ‘safe’.” The goal of creating protected infrastructure up to this point has NOT been to prioritize, enhance, or streamline bicycle travel, the goal has been to confine bicyclists in an out-of-the-way position, and force them to fend for themselves at intersections. I can’t imagine the goal going forward would be any different, even if intersections were the new focus. Put down some bollards—or even concrete if the budget could handle it, and then call it done. Look at the west end of the Tillicum bridge (or the east end, for that matter)—TONS of new infrastructure “for bikes” that is inconvenient at best, and unsafe and impossible to navigate at worst. Granted, that was a transit project with bike “accommodation” tacked on with staples and glue, but the same mentality seems to pervade all designs for new bike infrastructure. It’s as though we just can’t bear to create the appearance that bicyclists are being given an advantage. It must be a class thing: “yes, we can ‘accommodate’ bicycle travel, but not if it makes it more convenient than car travel—drivers would get mad! And drivers are the majority of voters.”

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      • B. Carfree February 10, 2016 at 11:34 pm

        Yes, but simple zero-tolerance traffic law enforcement worked in Davis forty years ago to give bike modal shares the Dutch can only dream of. All the added bells and whistles infra done since the traffic law enforcement stopped haven’t brought the bikes back.

        It looks to me like these Dutch copies can work if and only if we do significantly more and better traffic law enforcement than we are currently doing. However, if we’re going to do that enforcement, why bother changing our infrastructure since the enforcement would be sufficient to get the job done.

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        • El Biciclero February 11, 2016 at 11:54 am

          This is the critical piece of “Dutch infrastructure” that is left out in these discussions. The Dutch legal infrastructure seems to be much more favorable to bicycling than the U.S. legal system. The U.S. really has to start treating driving as a privilege, not a right, make the licensing process much, much, more rigorous and difficult (start by requiring passage of an accredited driver’s training course) so that drivers have to actually earn the privilege, not just pay for it, change laws to allow easier restriction of driving privileges when drivers abuse those privileges (including allowing confiscation of cars in some cases), allow more pervasive automated enforcement so that citations were more of a certainty when laws were broken, ascribe a more appropriate level of responsibility and accountability to those choosing to bolt around in giant, motorized machines—no traffic crash should be considered an “oopsie”; the resolution of every crash should involve a citation issued to at least one party, unless it involves animals jumping onto your car or a tree falling across the road. There are hundreds of bits of legal “infrastructure” that are missing from any road design plans, and until they are in place, it will be hard to implement anything that is truly “safe”.

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        • Robert Hurst February 12, 2016 at 7:47 am

          Dutch infrastructure = 80% shared streets w no bike lanes and 30 KPH speed limits. Dutch infrastructure is substantially free. If we really wanted it, we could have it.

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      • Buzz February 11, 2016 at 10:38 am

        Engineering alone will not solve the vast cultural differences between Dutch and American society when it comes to motorist acceptance of and cooperation with other transportation modes.

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        • Eric Leifsdad February 11, 2016 at 10:49 am

          Cultural differences don’t matter so much except in how they manifest in our engineering and enforcement — our speed limits seem to be 1.5x theirs in any given setting, our lanes are much wider, and our enforcement is much more lax. We don’t have to change the culture, just the status quo.

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    • Nick Falbo February 10, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      I’m glad you brought up the capacity question, and the need for short signal cycle lengths. Capacity in a two stage turn is part physical space, and part temporal flow. Short cycles let the intersection frequently clear platoons of bicyclsits.

      The earliest protected intersection in North America in Quebec is in a forced turn on a two way bikeway. This means that ALL bicyclists must travel through one corner – capacity is reported to be a problem in that location.

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      • Eric Leifsdad February 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm

        At maximum bike capacity with a two-stage turn, isn’t the right turn from 3rd completely blocked? (Blocked, until they get frustrated and push through.) Compare to a dedicated “bikes turn left” phase, which could go twice per cycle and allow right on red, maybe at some expense to burnside auto traffic (though it seems like that’s often congested after this light anyway.)

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  • Chadwick F February 10, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Those things are gonna look great in Seattle.

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  • David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC February 10, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Nick, I like your work. Very colorful. Do you have to move any sewers for these projects?

    Do you have similar designs for outer Powell? I hear they have $20 million to rebuild Powell at 122nd and at 136th, both of which are high-crash intersections. You might also look at 122nd & Stark and 122nd & Halsey, as PBOT is committing $8 million along 122nd to improve bus 71. You know, actual funding…

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    • Nick Falbo February 10, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Hi David. In some cases, yes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some easy reconfiguration options available. The installation in Salt Lake City was able to preserve existing curbs and drainage.

      As for Outer East Portland, I see tremendous opportunity and I’d love to explore possibilities in those areas.

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  • Buzz February 10, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    So how are you any better protected from right hooks with this design? IMO, your risks may actually be higher.

    Also, I would foresee many conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians on busy downtown sidewalks with this design.

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    • El Biciclero February 11, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      In the absence of separate signal timing, the theory is similar to “taking the lane” (for some situations), I believe. Rather than remove bicyclists from the path of turning drivers, moving the point of crossing farther back from the intersection makes bicyclists more visible to turning drivers, who should yield when they see a bicyclist crossing. The assumption is that drivers right-hook bicyclists because they don’t see them, since this design should allow turning drivers to more easily see bicyclists, then right hooks should decrease.

      I, myself would much prefer to be allowed to merge into the through lane. Doing so forces me to depend on through drivers seeing me and slowing if necessary, but it removes me from the path of any turning driver. Given the closing speed between a bicyclist going 15 – 20 mph and a driver going 15 – 30 mph, vs. the sudden intrusion of a turning driver into a bicyclist’s path, I would rather take the risk of a rear-end than a right hook.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. February 10, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    By the way, we already have two protected intersections in Portland.

    SW Naito and Lincoln
    SW Moody and Tilikum

    Albeit, they could use some improvements.

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  • ODOT's Roundabout Madness February 10, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    These protected intersections look great, but ODOT is on a roundabout rampage downstate. They’re finalizing plans for no fewer than five huge traffic circles on Franklin Blvd. in the center of Eugene/Springfield.

    The reverse of Nick Falbo’s great design to increase bike/ped safety and mode use, ODOT’s plans (in cahoots with Springfield) prioritize CARS, CARS, CARS.
    -Cars don’t have to stop at all.
    -Cars get a direct shot across the circle.
    -Cars are protected from high-angle, high speed accidents.

    In contrast, bikes/peds get:
    -Numerous forced stops at supposed crosswalks where cars rarely yield to pedestrians and rarely signal, especially with signals that won’t stay on while turning a curve.
    -Three to four times the walking and biking distance through the intersection.
    -Long, dangerous, boring travel times to any real destinations since the suburban-design, traffic circle gobbled up so much land in the middle of the city.
    -Decreased visibility from drivers (almost all with no roundabout experience) bobbling their heads around when parabolic traffic makes rearview mirrors useless and unclear stopping, merging and lane rules for other traffic.
    -No protection from reduced high-angle, high speed accidents since they aren’t encased in steel.
    -No dedicated bus rapid transit lanes.

    I know this ain’t Portland, but ODOT will no doubt soon be bringing its crazy roundabout fetish to a city near you. PLEASE, PLEASE WRITE ABOUT THIS.

    There’s lots of info out there:
    Here’s the project website – http://newfranklinblvd.org

    Here’s a roundabout critique from a Canadian transportation professor now visiting the UO:

    Senators Wyden and Merkley have both written letters in support of the roundabouts:

    Here’s Nick Falbo’s video of protected intersections:

    Contrast that to ODOT’s roundabout vision where bikes dismount:


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    • was carless February 13, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      Those projects aren’t really in the center of anything. Its a kind of no-man’s land between the U of O and Springfield, with only strip retail along the highway. Franlkin is essentially a highway through there.

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  • Clark in Vancouver February 10, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    I don’t know these specific intersections but they all seem great!

    One suggestion for writing about it, instead of saying “lose a travel lane” say “repurpose a travel lane”. It’s still going to be “traffic” that’s in them.

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  • Ted Timmons (Contributor) February 10, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Ah yes, the “but the fire department!” argument. It’s a key piece of my “transit wonk drinking game”.

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  • Spenzor February 10, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I think you are on the right track, but you left out:
    c.) Consistent, frequent and significant enforcement of the law

    In the last 3 years of daily bike commuting through downtown, I don’t remember seeing more than 3 people who were pulled over. Yet I see dozens of traffic infractions a day.

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    • Buzz February 11, 2016 at 10:39 am

      PPB typically does not do any traffic enforcement in the downtown core.

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  • Spenzor February 11, 2016 at 11:43 am

    I suppose PPB has their reasons (lack of funds?) but I really wish there was some kind of police presence aside from the occasional empty police car outside of a lunch establishment. It is one of the few things I would be willing to pay higher taxes for. And to be clear, I do think that any police presence should be spread throughout Portland evenly and not just focused on the rich people at the center.

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  • maccoinnich February 11, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    A bidirectional protected bike lane on Alder would be fantastic. It could change the Morrison Bridge MUP from being one of the least used crossings of the river into one of the most used. On the West side the City is already looking at ways to better connect the NW 18th and 19th bike lanes to SW Alder. On the East Side the City is planning a Morrison-Belmont bikeway couplet, including using the roadway under the viaducts and making SE Morrison between Grand and 12th one way in order to add a bike lane. All these projects together would not only connect Northwest to the Central Eastside, as mentioned above, but would also provide a great new connection from inner SE into Downtown.

    All of which is by way of saying that it’s very odd that in the Transportation System Plan section of the draft Central City 2035 plan (published yesterday) it is proposed to remove the “City Bikeway” designation from SW Alder between 2nd and 12th.

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