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#WorkZoneWTF: Advocates want city ordinance to ensure safe passage through work zones

Posted by on March 18th, 2016 at 1:22 pm


This work zone on North Williams Avenue forced bicycle traffic into the adjacent lane.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon Walks and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance have had enough. The two Portland-based nonprofits are calling on the City of Portland to pass a new ordinance that would require all city bureaus, contractors and private parties to maintain work zones that do not interrupt cycling and walking routes. And if they do, an adequate detour must be created.

The two groups have launched a new website, a list of 13 recommended policy guidelines, and a social media campaigned centered around the #WorkZoneWTF hashtag encouraging Portlanders to share photos of unsafe work zones. To give the campaign extra urgency, they’ve tied it directly to the bureau of transportation’s committment to Vision Zero. In fact, the campaign is officially called Vision Zero Work Zones.

Here’s one of the Twitter posts…

“Vision Zero… must guide the design of our work zones,” an Oregon Walk statement reads. “When people are forced into fast moving traffic and our safe networks are disjointed, we are putting people in danger and increasing the barriers to walking and biking.”

The recommended policy guidelines include: a clearly-marked detour route “immediately adjacent” to and “no higher stress” than the original path; “modally-specific” detour signage placed far enough in advance of the work zone, “for users to be able to choose an alternate route without backtracking”; detours must not direct auto users onto neighborhood greenways and must be ADA compliant; a “strict enforcement protocol” for work zone policy violations, and so on.

This Sunday (3/20) Oregon Walks is leading a walk to view several current street closures in downtown Portland. If you’d like to join, meet at the Sentinel Hotel lobby at 614 SW 11th at 3:00 pm.

For more coverage of the impact of work zones on cycling routes in Portland, browse our archives.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Champs March 18, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Long overdue. Right now the city is permitting an outrageous number of sidewalk closures around the union of the MLK/Grand and Burnside/Couch couplets. Walking between the NW corner of MLK & Davis and the SW corner of Grand & Burnside is not even close to straightforward.

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  • rider March 18, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I don’t know, last summer’s Divsion zig-zag was so ridiculous it bordered on entertaining. Kidding aside, there definitely needs to be at least some thought and oversight put into pedestrian impacts by construction projects.

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  • Ben March 18, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Just yesterday I had to stop to move a “Utility Work Ahead” sign that was fully blocking the northbound lane on SE 52nd onto the sidewalk. Said utility work wasn’t even on that side of the street. This wasn’t the first time.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. March 18, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Hah! I live on 52nd and have moved that sign many times already!

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    • David March 18, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Here in Hillsboro they are doing work on 25th St south of Cornell rd. Just after the intersection they have construction signs warning vehicles of work ahead, and that their 2 lanes will merge to 1, and finally a Bike’s on Roadway sign just before the next intersection. The irony is in the order placement of the signs. The first few signs are placed IN THE BIKE LANE forcing cyclists into the auto lanes BEFORE the lane merge sign AND the Bike’s on Roadway sign.

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      • Dan March 18, 2016 at 5:57 pm

        Evergreen Parkway is so bad right now. There are multiple sections where utility work bumps cyclists out into traffic right now. That plus multiple construction signs in the lane rather than in the grass strip between the curb and the sidewalk are a real headache for anyone trying to commute or ride out in N Hillsboro/Beaverton. Walker has the same trouble in some spots too.

        I mean, riding in Beaverton/Hillsboro is never *good*, what with what goes for bike facilities out there, but hopefully Washington County will see some benefit from construction firms changing processes and habits to conform in Portland proper.

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  • Munkey77 March 18, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    There needs to be someone to address these safety complaints promptly, calling 823-safe doesn’t cut it. Often I find these situations on my way home from work or on the weekend when there is no one to respond at the city. I also hate the response that it is ODOT or PGE so call them. How am I suppose to know? There should be one place to complain and and then send the comment to whoever needs to take care of it promptly.

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  • Carrie March 18, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    This is excellent news! I will pass it onto the SMILE transportation committee, as our neighborhood board has been pushing city council on this issue re: blocked sidewalks for months.

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  • Chadwick F March 18, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Depending on the kind of work zone, as in the kind pictured above, I will scoot tape and sawhorses over and walk thru the zone if there is no adequate walking facility provided. You are welcome for the faint shoe prints you have to remove, Portland.

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  • Mike G
    Mike G March 18, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Bravo. We see very few accommodations for peds and bikes at const zones.

    As tire wash for const site trucks is required by city specification, they also would should have to maintain a clean detour surface. Too many times you’re forced to take the traffic lane as there is too much gravel, mud, and const junk dotting the detour making any efforts on their part worthless for bikes.

    BTW take extra care to watch for maneuvering trucks, cranes, confused drivers, etc. making rightfully unexpected moves around these detours. Even more reason peds an bikes need a place to be.

    OSHA mandates safety at construction sites at a high level. That simply needs to extend to these cases as well.

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  • GlowBoy March 18, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    About freaking time.

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  • Tom Hardy March 18, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    The one on SW third on the east side of the street just north of the Federal court house is nasty for peds. No sign warning the peds at the street before. Peds are expected to know the sidewalk and parking lanes are totally blocked.

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  • Todd Boulanger March 18, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Yes – its long over due…especially for pedestrians per transportation equity (and importantly the ADA).

    The next big discussion in the profession will be: setting up maximum thresholds when a pedestrian detour is too long (or too many conflict points) per Vision Zero and the ADA …and that not setting up a diversion has to be revisited more seriously.

    The transportation industry’s standard of practice seems to default to the “detour” solution vs. the “diversion” or bridging mitigation all too often. The city/ county / state approval of the work zone TCP all too often does not challenge this, as it would seem from the outcomes we walk around or over each day.

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    • rick March 18, 2016 at 5:21 pm


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  • Allan L. March 18, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Nothing will happen until it’s a requirement, and enforced.

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  • Ovid Boyd
    Ovid Boyd March 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    I had no idea there weren’t already standards. I reported a “Construction Work” sign (quite unnecessarily) in the bike lane of NE Airport Way last week. The next day, the sign was moved, and then when they needed to place some sort of engine in the bike lane one morning they had cones warning and the construction worker there even keeping on eye on bike/vehicle conflicts (on that already intimidating road). I was impressed. But how is this not already required?

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  • Jason March 19, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    There’s been a construction zone for months on burnside around 57th or 56th. The have their fences all the way out to the curb. There is a sign saying sidewalk closed, but there are no crosswalks so you either wait forever while the speeders don’t stop (as we know, they are supposed to stop even when there is no crosswalk) or backtrack to the light at 60th or 55th. Why couldn’t the make a pedestrian lane out of a travel lane like they have on Belmont and 22nd?

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    • Eric Leifsdad March 19, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      There is a crosswalk at every intersection, whether marked or not. The law says you may gently extend any part of your body or a number of other things into the street to indicate your intent to cross.

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  • Jason March 20, 2016 at 11:12 am

    Eric Leifsdad
    There is a crosswalk at every intersection, whether marked or not. The law says you may gently extend any part of your body or a number of other things into the street to indicate your intent to cross.
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    I’m well aware of the law. Ever try to put that in practice on a busy 4 lane street?

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  • Ted Buehler March 20, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Nice vintage picture of N Williams — from 2008?

    I wonder how many times Williams bike lanes have been blocked by construction since then. Well over 30, I’d guess…

    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler March 23, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Or, hundreds. Since each of the 12 to 18 month construction periods of each apartment building has many different phases. Each phase has a separate group of contractors setting their stuff on the street, shoving out the fence, etc.

      I’ve called or emailed in quite a few of them. And many times I’ve just gone out there after dark and shoved the fences out of the bike lane.

      In four months there will be no construction projects on N Williams, for the first time in about 5 years. We’ll get to test out the new bike lanes in actual normal operating conditions…

      There are 3 new construction projects going in on Vancouver between Failing and Mason, but all of these are on the left side of the street, so shouldn’t directly impact bike lanes.

      Folks, always call these things in. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. Send pictures is you can.

      Ted Buehler

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  • peejay March 21, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I present my avatar. This is the standard in Washington County at least, but I see a lot of it in Portland. The bike lane is used as a means for placing detour signs for, you know, “real traffic”. I don’t think anybody responsible for these even realizes what’s wrong with that picture.

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