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Bike traffic on Williams Avenue is bonkers right now

Posted by on May 4th, 2016 at 11:42 am

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-13.jpg

Peak-hour traffic on Williams Avenue.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been a few years since the last time we shared a look at Portland bike traffic. With the sunny weather we’ve been having and the first year of the Bike More Challenge in May instead of September, I figured it was time to take another look.

I think we can learn by looking at bike traffic. We can see how people use the street and get a wider context for our design discussions. I often find the people themselves most interesting. Do riders prefer backpacks or racks? How many people ride drop-bar road bikes versus upright bikes? Do their faces look stressed out and angry or calm and serene?

I started out near the Hawthorne Bridge but wasn’t all that impressed with the volume of bikes so I rolled north to Williams Avenue.

I’ve said for years that Williams is the best bike street in Portland and after seeing it yesterday I’m glad to know that remains true. Glad not just because it leads to my neighborhood and I ride it a few times a week (I usually opt for the Mississippi/Albina hill via Interstate), but also because it’s the only dense commercial and residential street that has quality cycling access. Our other popular, dense, and destination-rich commercial streets like Hawthorne, Mississippi, Belmont, 28th have no dedicated bicycle access and East Burnside only has a standard (and uncomfortable in my opinion) bike lane.

For the uninitiated, Williams is also perhaps the most hotly debated bikeway in the city. When I last photographed bike traffic there in 2011 it was already the busiest bike street in Portland but it still had nothing more than a loathsome bike lane. It was bursting at the seams with traffic and it was frequently driven over by bus operators picking up passengers. This bus/bike “leapfrog” action was a major reason the Bureau of Transportation decided to redesign the street in January 2011. Then the project sparked a debate when members of the advisory committee said perspectives of longtime black residents were not being respected. The conversation turned from engineering to an important dialogue about the intersections of systemic racism, urban planning and gentrification in a neighborhood that was once an epicenter of black culture.

After a 17-month public process, the new plans for Williams Avenue shifted the bike lane to the left side (to avoid bus conflicts) and dramatically reconfigured road space to devote much more room to cycling.

The new design has its detractors and it’s far from perfect; but overall it’s vastly improved over what we had before. And after watching peak-hour traffic yesterday it seems to be doing its job of facilitating a high volume of bicycle riders.

But before we get to Williams, here are a few others shots and thoughts from my observations yesterday.

I’ll return to Hawthorne to photograph bike traffic some other time, but this one image from yesterday really stood out. The bridge path is very crowded during peak hours. Look at the expression on the face of the man behind the person with the yellow jacket. He’s worried that if those people walking and running swerve at all there could be a bad crash. (Hint: If you are in this situation, don’t stress! Just sit up and slow down.)

Portland bike traffic-1.jpg

Another busy spot is the Esplanade near the Steel Bridge, especially the ramps leading up to Peace Park and the Rose Quarter area…

Portland bike traffic-2.jpg

At the top of the Esplanade path where it re-joins the street (NE Lloyd and Oregon) there’s a bike signal that always has a large queue. Yesterday it was even more hectic due to a BTA Commuter Station set up near the top (and the free coffee and snacks were totally worth it!)…

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Then I observed the Rose Quarter Transit Center. Remember when riding through here was illegal? Thanks to the BTA and TriMet these bike lanes through the transit center have been serving thousands of bike riders every day since 2008. Here’s how it looked yesterday…

Portland bike traffic-8.jpg

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Now let’s talk about Williams. It was actually hard for me to contain my excitement a few times when I stood aside the huge platoons of bike riders that went by. There were some groups that were 30-40 riders strong and at times you could see 2-3 separate groups all the way up the road. I’d love to know how current bike traffic volumes compare to auto volumes.

One reason Williams gets so much bike traffic is the feeder routes are strong. Most of that traffic from the Esplanade and the Rose Quarter heads right for it. So too does a ton of bike traffic from Weidler off the Broadway Bridge.

This is Weidler looking west from Williams…

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-2.jpg

And this is the start of Williams as it leaves Wheeler Ave near the Moda Center…

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-3.jpg

And here’s Williams:

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-1.jpg

Portland bike traffic-11.jpg

One thing I noticed is that about half the bike traffic on Williams are people who I assume are women present as women:

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-4.jpg

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-5.jpg

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In the photo below, notice how far people ride to the left. This tells you how important physical separation is — and how little people trust other road users to not suddenly swerve into the bike lane…

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-14.jpg

Bikenomics in action. These full bike racks at New Seasons Market always make me happy…

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-15.jpg

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-16.jpg

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-17.jpg

Photographing people on bikes is sort of an obsession of mine. I hope you find these images interesting and useful so I can justify continuing to do it. Is there anything in these images that stands out to you?

— 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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Adam
Subscriber

Too bad we got a substandard design that can’t handle the bike traffic and creates more conflicts instead of a world-class cycleway Portland could be proud of.

rh
Guest
rh

A nice article is written that gives a sense of excitement and enjoyment…and then the first comment everyone sees in negative.

kittens
Guest
kittens

I think it is great to have a point-counterpoint setup. And where would we be if people didn’t dare to dream?

After having ridden some amazing bike infrastructure in Scandinavia, I can’t help but see the shortcomings and feel frustrated in our lack of progress on this front. My feeling is, if Portland can’t do it on Williams, where and how long do we have to wait for real change?

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

Can’t speak to the numbers in Scandinavia, but I just recently found complete injury and fatality data for Copenhagen (took me a very long time to find it – they hide it well), and am currently working on the numbers but as a sneak peak, lets just say in raw data, Copenhagen has on average more than twice the bicycle fatalities than Portland and almost 10 times the annual injury rate of Portland as well.

These are base rates unadjusted for ridership numbers or miles traveled and doesn’t take into account the fact that socialized medicine, better reporting, and data gathering have on the numbers. But by in large I suspect that riding a bicycle in Portland – right now as is, is likely statistically about the same as Copenhagen.

Depending on what our ridership numbers do this year (and most indicators look like a huge bump up for us even before Biketown hits) we might very well be safer. Especially considering most Copenhagen citizens rides average just less than a mile and for over a decade their ridership numbers have been dwindling.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Interesting. I’d love to see a reader’s post on this.

soren
Guest
soren

i agree that by north american standards portland is a very safe city to cycle in. however, cycling mode share of municipal copenhagen is ~12x higher than metro portland’s (~8x higher for the city to city comparison). it’s also interesting to note that many of cph’s recent fatalities occurred due to right hooks on conventional bike lanes. maybe cycletracks with intersection treatments are not such a bad idea after all.

soren
Subscriber

and for over a decade their ridership numbers have been dwindling

that is not correct — bicycle mode share in copenhagen is now 45%.

http://www.cycling-embassy.dk/2015/05/06/new-bicycle-account-from-copenhagen/

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

I doubt it, that would be a +50% in bicycle modal share in one year and would be front page news on every bicycle related news source in the world, and many non-bicycle new sources as well.

http://cycling-embassy.dk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Copenhagens-Biycle-Account-2014.pdf

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

Your link, gutterbunny, gives the 45% also:

This year’s Bicycle Account, for example,
shows that fully 45% of all journeys to
places of work or education in Copenhagen
are made by bicycle

Adam
Subscriber

The comment section exists for people to contribute their thoughts and concerns about the subject of the article. Whether that view agrees with the article’s premise or not is irrelevant, as the goal here is for open discussion.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Too bad we got a substandard design that can’t handle the bike traffic …” adam h

Williams Ave’s design doesn’t seem to be handling the motor vehicle traffic either,, if that’s any consolation. Pictures show that the bike lane is at capacity, and main lanes are at capacity; seems unlikely that protected bike lanes could have handled bike traffic more safely and efficiently under these circumstances as shown in the pictures in this story.

For years, there have been people expressing on this weblog, often, how they dreamed and wished the streets of Portland to be filled with people riding bikes. Now, on Williams and on the Hawthorne Bridge, examples of bike traffic congestion are presenting themselves. Riding in that congestion doesn’t look like fun, though cold, wet weather may help ease the congestion.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Looks like fun to me! I’d rather bike with a bunch of other people rather than be a solo cyclist in a sea of cars, like biking in much of the city is like.

AEG
Guest
AEG

you’re bummin’ my high!

Kate
Guest
Kate

I will admit I was skeptical of the redesign when the bike lane was moved to the left-side. But since there are so many bikes at all times of day, most drivers seem to have adjusted and it works pretty well on my daily commute. I’ve only ever had one really close call with a driver cutting me off to park on the left while going north on williams.

As a sidenote- I often ride pretty far left but that’s not due to being nervous about vehicles which are mostly moving pretty slowly on this corridor due to congestion. Instead, I ride far left because there are so many bikes here, I try to give faster folks plenty of room to pass.

daisy
Guest
daisy

Yes, exactly, Kate! My observation is that more experienced folks keep left, rather than cruising in the middle of the bike lane, to make it easier for faster riders to pass on the right without needing to use the wider car lane. I remember this being a big part of why we wanted more capacity on Williams — that we needed room for cyclists to pass each other safely.

(I do hate the jockeying for position in that short stretch from Weidler to Broadway though. There’s plenty of room to pass up ahead; I don’t understand why folks gun for it there, only to have to stop and wait at the Broadway light.)

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

Nice write-up and great photos! I love the Williams re-design. Although I most frequently use Interstate to get to work in the Central Eastside, Williams is a great option, especially to grab groceries on my way home. The left lane works great and has eliminated the terribly sketch y bus conflicts. The southern end of Williams, where it T’s into Interstate remains a conflict: cars heading south can be surprised by bikes, bikes are heading downhill and tend to run the stop sign (I almost had a bike-bike collision with 3 people on bikes running that stop sign and jamming right into the bike lane as I was traveling through!) I think this intersection may warrant a traffic signal.

daisy
Guest
daisy

What intersection do you mean?

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

I’m guessing this is actually where Flint meets Broadway?

Lots of scofflaw drivers there, and some cyclists too.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

People on bikes heading south on Wheeler frequently run the stop sign at Interstate. Many, even more dangerously, turn left and ride in the oncoming lane as they try to cross Interstate. The “real” fix involves a proper transit center that grade-separates rail and buses from cars, trucks and bikes, but that is a pipe dream for now. In the mean time, a signal may be in order. This is one location where I would support traffic enforcement for bike behavior (but after they enforce for people distracted driving, speeding, and blocking bike lanes and intersections in the Rose Quarter!)

daisy
Guest
daisy

Oh! Where Wheeler meets Interstate in the Rose Quarter!

Yeah, it’s not Williams there. And, yeah, it’s very tempting to zip through that intersection.

Jonathan Gordon
Guest
Jonathan Gordon

Wow, so many more people on bikes than in cars. Can’t those folks in autos find another street that’s safer for them?

I keed, I keed. I’m just so darned tired of that refrain turned on those of us who bike who want to visit streets like Hawthorne, Belmont, etc. It’s nice to finally be a majority on a major commercial street.

Paul Wilkins
Guest
Paul Wilkins

It used to be so lonely going up Williams, now where will we CAT 6 race?

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Hopefully the spandex mafia and the e-bike hot-rodders will use the new greenway and stay off Williams.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

those damn scorchers.

Spiffy
Subscriber

why would faster riders take a slower route? no, they’re going to take the largest most direct route…

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Jonathan, please don’t assume pronouns.

charlietso
Subscriber
charlietso

Thank you for sharing these really interesting pictures! It makes me really happy to see so many more people biking on the street. I have noticed that since Bike More Challenge started, there are more people on the road who look more like they are casually biking and going at a slower speed. My interactions with really fast bicyclists who’d past you at a 3-inch distance have gone way down. What we have been seeing this week is the kind of bike culture we need to cultivate and make permanent so that anyone, any age, men, women, people in all kinds of physical shape can feel comfortable with biking in the city.

Katherine Rose
Guest
Katherine Rose

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Thanks for the feedback. Do you have some advice on how I can express myself in that context?
Recommended 1

when you don’t specifically know a person’s pronouns, “person” in place of “man” or “woman” and use of they/them/their will do!

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

How do you refer to the person in the possessive? Do you have to say “the person’s”? In some cases, that term can’t be used. Can you say “his or her” or will you have to say “its”? Or rewrite the sentence completely?

Poetry and lyrics are going to get pretty stilted.

E.g. Jimmy Cliff would have to sing

“Yesterday, I got a letter from my friend fighting in Vietnam
And this is what he had to say
“Tell all my friends that I’ll be coming home soon
My time’ll be up some time in June
Don’t forget”, he said, “To tell my sweet Mary
His or her golden lips are sweet as cherry” . . . “

ben
Guest
ben

How do you know the rider behind the rider in the yellow jacket (photo #2) was thinking that about the walkers and runners? Did you ask him?

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

His expression seems pretty clear. Maybe not- maybe he’s thinking about something else, but reading facial cues is something we tend to do as humans.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

Thanks for calling this out, Ted. I agree that we should not be jumping to conclusions. That guy could be mentally preparing for a meeting, maybe just received some concerning news, maybe he is a structural engineers eyeballing the railing!

ben
Guest
ben

I called it out for precisely these reasons. Who knows what he was thinking unless he was asked directly by Jonathan. And yes, humans have been reading facial expressions for eons but publishing what you think you see is different. Next time — ask the rider!

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

Or maybe Jonathan was observing him for longer than the 1/125th of a second it took the camera shutter to fire and he has a little more context on his other body and facial language.

PNP
Subscriber

Or he a guy on a bike keeping an alert eye on those around him.

CarsAreFunToo
Guest
CarsAreFunToo

Ah . . . the dude is pretty clearly eyeing the gal obscured by the guy in the orange shirt and I think there’s a solid chance he’s only got one thing on his mind.

But yes, BikePortland loves to be insanely presumptuous in it’s captioning. The second picture of this article from way back in 2014 is a good example:

http://bikeportland.org/2014/08/25/ma-closer-look-at-broadway-110268

The caption reads, “A man bikes on the Broadway sidewalk last week, presumably to avoid riding alongside traffic.”

That’s just really, really, really terrible journalism. Like really terrible. BikePortland doesn’t know jack about why that guy is riding on the sidewalk but dreams up a reason that suits their purpose as if it’s the only one it could be. That’s some Fox News level crap right there.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Why are we assuming this person is a man?

Sorry (not sorry). Let’s please keep this kind of slippery slope in mind as we propose new restrictions on the way we use language.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

What’s wrong with showing a little respect and sensitivity?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Trigger warning, please. Some people have bad associations with the word “sensitivity”.

RB
Guest
RB

Please don’t use “trigger”. It stirs unwelcome emotions…please find another word or preferably multiple extended sentences.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Well, regardless of whether you perceive this person as a man or a woman, it is clear that they have seen something startling and disturbing just out of the frame. Evidence for aliens, perhaps? Jimmy Hoffa? Ted Cruise kissing Hillary? Whatever it is, I’d like to ask Jonathan to dig a little deeper. There is obviously a bigger story here that some readers (co-conspirators?) are trying to distract us from. The truth is out there!

Al Dimond
Guest

Yeah, this.

He was looking over at the other people moving around him, which is a good thing to do when you’re biking, and making some kind of face that might be interpreted as “breathing”, which is also a good thing to do when you’re biking.

He couldn’t have been going all that fast based on his following distance.

If we look around us and breathe we’ll all do OK. If we sit up and slow down (cool tip), making sure to wear the politically correct oblivious smile indicating, “I feel as one with my fellow cyclists today,” as we stare up at the clouds, then we’ll all just get in the stupidest looking bike pileup in history, then suffocate to death, as the cagers look on in stupefied horror.

You don’t want us to look stupid and then die, do you, Jonathan? Then maybe leave us to our own thoughts and facial expressions.

Seriously, though, there’s a reason I react so strongly against this kind of thing… it’s super invasive to get on a guy’s case for the appearance of worry. Care for others’ safety is a baseline social responsibility, and politeness isn’t too far behind; if you see someone violating these, absolutely call that person out. But you’re saying, “If people ride my way they’ll be free of worry!” Guess what? Some people worry about things and sitting up on their bikes won’t “cure” them. Don’t tell us to smile or whatever.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

All I can say is wow… that’s a lot of bikes!

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

I’m in the “like the new Williams” camp. I love when I get to ride across Broadway and up Williams, and occasionally I get to do Steel->Rose Quarter->Williams, which is even more fun. Lots of riders of all types on there, and that means the car drivers are generally aware of it.

It creates some oddities- I won’t ride in the door zone, so it means I may get passed on the left, but since it’s a gentle incline the riders tend to separate by strength/desire to arrive sweaty.

Al Dente
Guest
Al Dente

Do the Yellow Line’s bike hooks tend to get full even when it’s nice weather?

ethan
Guest
ethan

In my experience, yes.

Jack G.
Guest
Jack G.

One of the things that really strikes me about those pictures, is just how many people can can be moved by a lane like that. Comparing the regular lanes next to the bike lanes, you can see how much more capacity for moving people bike lanes add to a street. Imagine the traffic jam if all those people were in cars…

Steve B.
Guest
Steve B.

Wow those photos! I needed a good dose of Portland bicycle enthusiasm today. Great coverage, thank you.

Active
Guest
Active

Not a lot of people of color in these photos. Maybe that says more about the City as a whole than this corridor in particular, but it’s striking to see it so clearly in the images.

Brian
Guest
Brian

This is excellent! I took my high school students to Williams to do field work on how the neighborhood has changed and they were amazed by the number of bicycles in the middle of the day. I will have to show them this article and really blow their minds! Looks like things are working perfectly given how many people are using it.

Al Dente
Guest
Al Dente

My journey from the Zoo to Delta Park last night via Everett – Broadway – Williams

Took that cool path I never knew about until recently (thanks BikePortland some how I’d always ridden by it) Down to Burnside.

Crossing Burnside at 4:30 was weird but managed, then left side bike lane on Everett was calm until the two cars that were in my blind spot sped up to make the left turn onto 15th, or is that an on ramp? It was nothing out of the ordinary though, and they were painted in High Viz yellow so I saw it coming.

Broadway to Williams was really calm, and only about 8 bikes lined up at the start of the Williams to North Multi Modal 24/7 365 Race. No spandex but mine and a clear shot for glory.

Starting out bunched up in the bike box, and without what seemed any order the group spread into single file. No hand signals were used, it stayed single file and to the left side of the bike lane while getting through the first intersections. Then the faster riders moved ahead, and everyone took the lanes that worked best for where they were headed.

Automobile traffic was calm except for at a few places where some lanes yield to others like at New Season’s and a couple of other spots. I had another two drivers take some left turns on me, but to be fair they weren’t paying attention so it’s cool.

When catching up to the back of a wave of auto traffic when in a bike lane take caution. The drivers at the back of the line can make sudden lane changes or turns, and the drivers at the front are trying to figure out how to turn left when there is a lane next to them full of traffic going straight.

Killingsworth must need better signage, or whatever helps drivers figure out left or right in a safer manner.

I spent most of my ride on Williams last night and I doubt I’ll have such an empty one again this summer. I really enjoyed looking at your photos showing what a little time difference can make.

Spiffy
Subscriber

Killingsworth must need better signage, or whatever helps drivers figure out left or right in a safer manner.

yes!

I rode Williams after work last night because I had to pick up something in NoPo and the run up to that intersection was the worst spot of the commute… cars blocking the bike lane and creeping at the red so you never know which gap to take…

I felt glad that the light was red and I didn’t have to avoid fast moving cars violating my right of way…

fourknees
Guest
fourknees

I like seeing this coverage with lots of pictures. I mainly ride between westside and NW. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many bike commuting. Makes me want to ride over to Williams after work to check it out.

The volume reminds me of a Sunday Parkways.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

I’m wondering how different it will look in a decade when we’ve met our “25% of all trips” goal and the entire street network is down to 1.3 cars per bike. Perhaps Sunday Parkways volumes should be our design capacity.

lop
Guest
lop

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/452524

Projected decline in motor vehicle miles traveled, 2030 compared to 2011:

9%

That’s assuming 25% of trips are by bike, 20% on foot, 12% on transit, MV trips declining from 73% to 43%. Lots of new non auto trips are short, lots more people means you don’t actually cut car usage all that much. Since this seems to be about Portland residents, is it counting all the people who travel into the city, very often by car? Will auto use by those traveling into Portland decline? Enough to make up for the growing population? Counting that, is there actually a projected decline in MVMT? When use isn’t really declining it could make it politically harder to take space currently used for autos to make room for bikes and transit.

9watts
Subscriber

Projected decline in motor vehicle miles traveled, 2030 compared to 2011:

9%

Bureaucrats and their projections. so funny. That is 14 years out. We might not have a habitable planet in 14 years, and all they can come up with is a 14% net decline in automobile traffic!

9watts
Subscriber

9%. Sorry. 🙂

Jon
Guest
Jon

Al Gore has invented pedal powered wave runners since we all will be pedaling through rising seas and rivers. Don’t worry – be happy!

Kristin
Guest
Kristin

As someone who does most bike commuting on lower bike traffic routes in Vancouver, it’s such an amazing feeling when I occasionally end up on Williams during rush hour and get to be part of the two-wheeled masses. Great photos.

PNP
Subscriber

Great photos. I like seeing your pictures of people on bikes, and this might be the best one yet. It’s amazing seeing so many people riding.

I can’t help but contrast this with your article on the changes coming to Foster, with complaints about the changes being made only for pedestrians and cyclists. What business person wouldn’t want this kind of traffic passing by, rather than motorists doing 45 and intent only on going faster?

Adam
Subscriber

The changes on Foster are in no way meant for cyclists. The bike lanes will be too small, nearly fully within the door zone, and are really only a shortcut to allow a 4-3 road diet without moving the curb.

The changes for people walking, however, will be monumental and I can’t wait to be able to walk down Foster without fearing my life.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

Yeah, yeah yeah…

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

just a little secret….they (and likely you did too) said the same thing about Williams when it was in the planning stages as well. (accidently put this part in alligator mouths in the comment above…stupid html)

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Too bad all of PBOT’s cars are 11ft wide or they could add a couple feet to the bike lanes.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Speaking for myself at least, safety from rush hour automobile traffic isn’t the reason for keeping left on Williams. Parents riding with children don’t give that much ground to faster-moving *oncoming* traffic on neighborhood greenways. For that matter, this behavior is uncommon during off-peak hours on Williams. I think it’s fair to question this asserted motive.

Sometimes I’m just not into the Cat 6 drag race on lower Williams during rush hour. There are alternatives: Jonathan pointed out Mississippi, and I’d add Graham if your destination is more NE. These punchy little climbs are a more personal, less competitive challenge. Ride where you please, of course, but that only strengthens the argument to try the roads less traveled.

alankessler
Subscriber
alankessler

If you had asked me before I looked at the photos, I would have predicted a much higher number of non-helmeted heads.

BarbLin
Guest
BarbLin

Looks a little like Fregonese..?
If so his thought was: “Holy crap, the planning actually worked, look at all these people living/visiting/working on an urban corridor!”

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
His expression seems pretty clear. Maybe not- maybe he’s thinking about something else, but reading facial cues is something we tend to do as humans.

Recommended 1

kittens
Guest
kittens

Nice piece Jonathan. Reminds me of the old days of bikeportland.org!

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

“Our other popular, dense, and destination-rich commercial streets like Hawthorne, Mississippi, Belmont, 28th have no dedicated bicycle access and East Burnside only has a standard (and uncomfortable in my opinion) bike lane.”

I believe the people that live, work, and shop in Montavilla might argue with you about Williams being the only one commercial street with bicycle access in town.

And until recently there wasn’t much commercial on Williams either. I remember riding my roller blades (occasionally my bicycle) down the middle of it in the early 90’s as I rode from the house I rented at 7th and Alberta to Memorial Coliseum when I worked PT as an aisle vendor – would often arrive early to ride the smooth as glass concourse before work too, almost ran over Larry Parish once.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

Robert Parish, Don’t know what’s gotten into me lately.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

“…bursting at the seams…”, not ‘seems’

Thanks Buzz. Fixed it – Jonathan

ethan
Guest
ethan

Are there any bike counts done on Williams regularly? It seems like there should be.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Absolutely!

The city and the public need to realize how much bike infrastructure is helping control traffic congestion.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Put me in the camp of “don’t like the N Williams redesign.” I use it every day home from work and often at other times for recreational riding. As much as I use it, it still seems foreign and difficult. With additional car traffic turning left from the new construction through almost Killingsworth, I often look like the “worried guy” in the photos above. Don’t even get me started on what is arguable worse, the conflicts on Vancouver especially around the Fremont Bridge. For the “Better Naito” photos that I suspect will show up (Jonathan, I rode right by you this morning), I hope you capture the truck parked in the “better” lane along with the car driving straight at those of us traveling south. All of this increasingly convinces me that being a vehicular cyclist, which I have to be at times anyway, is ultimately the safest approach until I move to Copenhagen.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

The photograph used to support the claim that cyclists ride far to the left in the Williams bike lane because they are afraid of cars, happens to be the only photograph showing cyclists riding far to the left. All the other photographs show cyclists using the entire bike lane and the buffer too. I suggest that claim is baseless. Hasn’t this blog itself tried to spread the word that on Williams, slower cyclists should stay left and faster cyclists should pass on the right? How do you know the cyclists shown in that single photograph aren’t simply feeling slow that day?

Gabbi
Guest
Gabbi

I’m not a fan of new N Williams either. I’m a pretty confident rider, and tend to be a bit of a speedster even when I don’t mean to, so navigating the shared left-turn/bike lane above Russell isn’t the worst for me, but it would have made me nervous as heck when I started riding 7 years ago. The biggest problem for me continues to be the awkwardness of turning east. Usually I’m only going as far as Tillamook but a couple times a month head up to Going, and I so rarely see anyone using the bike boxes on the left side for turning. Most people, myself included, wait for a break in traffic (or don’t–some people are bolder/stupider than me) and cross the auto lane laterally. It has always seemed so stupifyingly basic to me–before designing a road, ask how people are going to want to get off. Design for that.

are
Guest

that question did come up in the planning stages, and at the time i had the same thought, since i lived east, but i heard from others that in fact a lot of people are heading farther north and/or ultimately west. even if the mix is sixty forty or whatever, a left or right orientation is going to inconvenience somebody.

luckily we do not have a mandatory sidepath law in oregon. oh, wait.

are
Guest

i should also mention that a prominent concern in the design process was how pedestrians would use the space. i am not sure the final design sufficiently accommodated that. at the time i was arguing for signalizing a couple or three more intersections in order to optimize speeds well under twenty and create pedestrian crossing opportunities at regular intervals.

Joanna
Guest
Joanna

I hope one day that the city will designate certain streets like Williams as pedestrian, bus and bike only. Any progress is good. Most people that I know who don’t bike say it is because they don’t feel safe from auto traffic, yet they complain that auto traffic is getting worse in Portland. We need to continue to improve streets for biking and walking to get more people out of their cars.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I am also in the “like the New Williams” category. Perhaps because I enter from the left after Broadway and exit to the left it appeals to me because I never have to cross traffic. To me, the design gets a bad rap because most of the problems since it has been changed have been due to construction and delivery trucks parking in either the bike lane or the main travel lane forcing cars in to the Bike lane. The best thing that PBOT could do with the current design to maximize bike and car throughput and safety is to mandate delivery truck parking on the side streets and prohibit it on any part of Williams.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Great photos, and I share your excitement at the quantity of riders!

I spotted a friend of mine in one photo in the “assume are women” section, and I can confirm that she is indeed a woman 🙂

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Though one thing is still missing from Williams after the redo – it is making me ride slower I think – when will the bananas and power up symbols get put back up? Do I have to call Portland Transformed to get it done? (Do they have a public request app yet?)

Patti
Guest
Patti

I want to like it more but still see a lot of inconsideration by bikes and cars, particularly for pedestrians trying to cross Williams at Graham.

Chris Balduc
Guest
Chris Balduc

There are not many times when I find myself disagreeing with Jonathan Maus, but now is definitely one of them.
From the southside beginning of the N Williams and NE Broadway “Intersection from Hell” all the way to Killingsworth, I have never felt secure from the threat of zealous bus drivers, distracted soccer moms, or clueless idiots idling in the bike lane.
So glad I don’t have to commute though there anymore.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

I enjoyed reading this, Jonathan – thank you. I’m interested in seeing a follow up in a year to 18 months. By my count, using Next Portland, there are approximately 1500 units of apartments/ condos completed within the last year, under construction, or planned to begin this year along a one-mile stretch of Williams and Vancouver. I’m guessing those units will bring 2500 or so new residents, many of whom will not likely drive on a daily basis. The change from what we see today could be even more dramatic than what you documented over 4 or so years.

JJJJ
Guest

Compared to Boston, NYC, and DC, the helmet use in these pictures is surprisingly astronomical.

Almost creepy really.

Spiffy
Subscriber

I mostly wear my helmet because then my camera points wherever I look…

when not commuting to work I put it on my handlebars for quick neighborhood trips to the store and restaurants since I’m not keen on carrying my helmet around…

soren
Guest
soren

The BTA and PBOT heavily promote helmet use despite it’s negative impact on cycling mode share.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

So I’m curious. Williams got a big redesign. Does Vancouver now need one? Or is the traffic northbound on the former greater than the traffic southbound on the latter?

Spiffy
Subscriber

I’d think it wasn’t needed because you’re passing fewer people going downhill…

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Too bad jersey barriers are in short supply.

Paul Frewt
Guest
Paul Frewt

I like looking at photos of cyclists almost as much as you enjoy taking them.
Look at all the people! This is a great post. I love seeing examples of how vibrant new Portland is.
For a while BikePortland.org featured photographs of people riding bikes, a simple but beautiful series of single rider shots. I loved those posts! They are very telling of new Portland and I enjoyed looking at them. It is the Portland I want to see, the Portland I want to grow.
Please keep up the people on bikes (groups like this or solo shots like before)!

Beth H
Guest

All the growth doesn’t diminish the fact that, for many riders — especially those of us who are slower — separate bicycle tracks are still the most desirable addition to bicycle infrastructure, and the one least likely to be implemented in US cities.
I ride Williams, but only when I have to. Otherwise, I go north on residential streets like Rodney, Mallory or Garfield. Once I cross Fremont, I sometimes take 6th up the hill to Alberta for a change of pace. All of these streets are quieter; some feature speed bumps to make them less attractive to motorists looking for a “short cut” and none of them are so far out of my way as to be truly inconvenient.
What I don’t like about Williams and similar designs is that they force me to share a busy road with automobiles and as a result, I find myself having to ride more aggressively than I like our of a heightened sense of fear.
That’s not a positive sign of growth as far as I’m concerned.
Give me the slower, quieter, longer route home anytime.

Adam
Subscriber

Yep! I also am a slow rider and that gives us a vastly different experience of the road than many people here seem to understand. Motorists are more aggressive to slow riders, making turns across traffic is harder, and taking the lane is a harrowing experience. I’ve even gotten yelled at by other bike riders for being too slow!

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

A modest proposal: before each bus stop on Williams, give all private m.v. a penalty loop, forcing a right, left, left, right turn (with stops at each corner) to continue travelling North on Williams. Dedicate the block to a bus zone, a loading zone, and table space if anything is left.

Result: Williams becomes a Destination for the Motoring Public, not a thouroughfare. Transit operations become much simpler. Bike traffic increases on Williams (build-it-they-will-come). Bikes have a safe way to make a right off Williams. Car commuters will go off to some other hell of their own making.

Everyone has a fantasy. That’s mine.

daisy
Guest
daisy

And my neighborhood streets are flooded with traffic. No thank you!

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

Until the end of last month I lived two blocks off Williams. The traffic is already there! I saw lots of whack driving in the neighborhood. My point is to use design to send the message that through traffic belongs on MLK, or the freeway. Or let them ride the bus.

Tim
Guest
Tim

Looks a little like Amsterdam where a hundreds bikes are crowded onto a narrow bike lane so 10 cars can wait in traffic. However, on streets with no bike infrastructure, there is one car waiting behind a dozen bikes.

Maxadders
Guest
Maxadders

Williams was terrible even before I got priced out of the area (2013), and it wasn’t the bike lane’s fault, nor was it bus leapfrogging. The problem was my fellow bicyclists, specifically the hoardes of aggressively oblivious fairweather riders who’d show up every spring. Running stop signs, running lights, tailgating, shoaling, etc.

I’m a reasonably fast, experienced year-round rider (bike commuting since ’99) and I completely gave up on Williams / Vancouver a long time ago and began taking alternate routes.

I’ve used the new half-baked lane config a few times since and it’s been an even greater mess (now people are confused too! Yay!). Won’t go near it during rush hour.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

I’d like to give my fellow bike riders some credit here. After avoiding Williams for some time because people were riding like newly fledged Uber charioteers, or chimpanzees perhaps? –I fell back into it because I lived for 3 months on Rodney and it was just too convenient. There was an amazing improvement! Less of the aggressive passing, people sorting themselves into pace lines almost, actual civility breaking out. I am refreshed. Thanks!

Audrey
Guest
Audrey

I bike Williams every day, and I’m significantly more comfortable riding after the new design than I was with the old. Dodging buses was terrible.

With all the traffic I do think that a plea for tolerance and kindness is warranted, regardless the mode of transportation. Yesterday a car was inching out, trying to turn left onto Williams. A fast Cat 6 rider whipped around him and gave the driver a middle finger. This is the type of behavior that would make that driver dislike cyclists, and was totally unwarranted for the situation. We plead with car drivers to slow down, that it isn’t a race and its ok if they get there 75 seconds slower… I think many cyclists need to take that advice.

Bicylist Mama Carie
Guest
Bicylist Mama Carie

We’ve/I’ve been having fun Mon/Wed mornings all school year long, offering folks to pass me (cargobikew/heavy 5 yo)at red lights/thanks for bell warnings when passing- glad I signed L up for swim lessons to share the bike love all morning long. Williams is as good as we make it, the City will make it as good as we demand. Thanks for helping amplify our voice on this!

was carless
Guest
was carless

I can’t believe virtually everyone rides using dropped handlebars.

I can’t be the only one who prefers a city bike and upright posture?

JJJJ
Guest

Good point. It goes with my observation about helmets. Almost seems like a conformity uniform rather than individual decisions.

Got to fit in I guess.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Most people do not want to be organ donors, apparently you do.
I have cracked (2) helmets. They work….

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

see, there you go, conforming with others.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Dammit… I was going to say that.

JJJJ
Guest

If you have balance issues then you absolutely should use a helmet

dwk
Guest
dwk

Nice try…..

pengo
Guest
pengo

I have noticed that many people do not prefer the thing that I prefer. I do not see how this can be. Please explain.

Adam
Subscriber

You’re not the only one! I love my slow upright bike with a rack and front basket!

jeff
Guest
jeff

Upright posture is nice if your commute is short, which not everyone’s is…

are
Guest

or if there are hills. on a properly fitted bike you get much better mechanical efficiency if you are leaning forward.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Where are the images from January?

Mao
Guest
Mao

Just tossing this out here, because I know I’m in a massive minority here, but I’ve been missgendered just about my whole life.

I’m cis, I’m a biological woman.
But I dress juuuuust androgynous enough that I’ve had people say ‘Uhh, sir, err, ma’am’ every so often.
It’s been that say since elementary school.
Long hair, short hair. Hoodie or tshirt.

As long as people aren’t being malicious, it’s never bothered me.

I’ve even had people ask me about being trans which is awkward for both parties.

9watts
Subscriber

I appreciate your telling us about your experience here. A question I’ve always had and which your reply reminded me of is this: Since choosing to dress androgynously would seem to increase the chances of being mis-identified, I assume your choice of how to dress is done with the full knowledge that this outcome is both likely and reasonable? Or is there something else going on?

are
Guest

if you find yourself trying to sort everyone you encounter into two categories you might ask yourself why.

9watts
Subscriber

I always assumed—perhaps I’m wrong about this—that this is one of those things that we instinctively/subconsciously/reflexively do – you don’t?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I think the categorizing of things into male and female happens on a pretty basic level; I don’t think it is learned or socialized behavior.

are
Guest

i do, and i notice it, and i ask myself why.

hello kitty says it is innate, and this may be so, though i am not certain the research bears this out. in any event, i think having the more developed prefrontal cortex might offer us the opportunity and/or maybe even give us the responsibility to try to get past some of this stuff.

at one level, though, i was taking your question to mao as placing the responsibility on her to explain why she does not conform to cultural norms. my own experience, which need not be detailed here, is that the norms are confining, and that conformity to them tends to imply an acceptance that feels inauthentic.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I’m not saying one can’t overcome an innate view of the world — there are plenty of examples where people can and do. There are also tons of examples where society has general categories for people that work in aggregate, but often fail on the individual level. Politics (left/right, dem/rep, etc.), race, sexuality, etc. Gender may be another one of these. Binary categorization works most of the time; it is impossible (or difficult at least) to come up with a categorization system that works for every single individual that is also not completely cumbersome to use. If we want to be able to generalize, we need to use some categorization system; none will satisfy everyone, especially on a subject as personal and individual as gender identity.

I am a total believer in showing people respect and consideration, and I practice what I preach in this department; I also think that it is possible to take things too far, and, in my opinion, criticism of the original caption (if it said what I think it did) was a bit much.

9watts
Subscriber

Good stuff, are. And I agree with what you are saying.

“at one level, though, i was taking your question to mao as placing the responsibility on her to explain why she does not conform to cultural norms.”

I guess that is close to what I was saying. All I was really saying is that an androgynous dresser who is consistently misgendered is going to have a Quixotic or Sysiphean experience. Whether this is placing responsibility on her, or simply acknowledging that of all the things we humans do this may be one of the more innate and, I would venture, harmless things, and therefore pretending it is not there or resenting that it is are both in my view hopeless stances. Mao didn’t specifically say she did either, but these are in my view some of the possible implications I was trying to understand better through my questions.