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Protected bike lane boom: Nine city projects will have physical separation

Posted by on May 11th, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat’s decision last year to make physical separation the default design for bike lane projects is starting to pay off.

Geller at the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Geller at the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller on Tuesday shared no less than nine projects, all approved and to some extent funded, that will scatter new, modern protected bike lanes into every quadrant of the city within two years.

None of them is a complete corridor treatment that runs longer than several blocks (though potentially larger projects in the central city and East Portland would be funded by the gas tax package that voters will decide on next week). And while they include some physical protection, they also include a lot of paint. Geller says that’s because the budget still isn’t where it needs to be. “We’re still operating on a budget that relies on shoestrings, hence a lot of color,” is how he put it last night.

But even so, if built, these projects will prove the city has taken a major step forward in its day-to-day process of planning incremental bike infrastructure improvements.

Geller presented the nine projects, along with several others that won’t include physical separation, to the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) Tuesday night. He also spoke with us by phone to briefly elaborate on each.

SE Morrison between MLK and Grand – construction this summer

The Morrison Bridge has a great bike facility that is almost impossible to reach, let alone find for the first time. With public bike share arriving in July, this proposal for a contraflow lane on SE Morrison Street would help people find their way to and from the bridge landing on Water Street. Both create a parking-protected westbound bike lane on this awkward stretch of road, a definite improvement for people looking to jump quickly between the Central Eastside and downtown. Geller floated two possible options to the BAC Tuesday night:

morrison contraflow 1

morrison contraflow 2

SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 35th-39th – construction late fall 2016

This is just a four-block stretch of a very important road, but Geller said upgrading it from a buffered bike lane to a post-protected one will demonstrate “the design that we want to continue with” as more parts of the roadway are repaved or reworked. Also note that PBOT is proposing a shared bike/walk lane because this section of the highway has no sidewalk. Asked about this last night he said the sight lines are good and he expects people to use the lane with courtesy. Here’s a basic before-and-after:

before after bh highway

NE 21st Avenue bridge – construction starts 2017

Today, this bridge is arguably the most comfortable crossing of Interstate 84 in inner Northeast, but that’s not saying much. A planned redesign would remove a few parking spaces on each side of the bridge, upgrade and extend the southbound bike lane with a buffer and upgrade the northbound bike lane into a bidirectional protected bike lane — meaning, yes, you will be able to cross the bridge southbound using whichever side of the bridge you want.

Here’s the proposed north landing of the bridge:

21st bridge north

And the proposed south landing:

20th bridge

Geller said the two-way bike lane on the east side of the bridge (the one that heads north today) will have some sort of vertical separation, possibly hard plastic posts.

“We’re going to put something in there,” Geller said. “We’re not yet sure what it will be, but it might be like the treatment on the Hawthorne Bridge. We’re looking at that.”

As for the interesting new “circular bikeway intersection” just beneath the Y of the southern landing, Geller said the center of the little roundabout “might be a painted element, it might be a raised element.” Whatever it is, it’ll be the first of its kind in Portland.

Also worth noting that the southern end of this project — the southbound curve on 20th — is where activists placed traffic cones to create protection for the bike lane back in March.

N Lombard at Pier Park – construction ends April 2017

This stretch of Lombard, a bit north of downtown St. Johns, is a useful connection to the parks and trails that meet at the tip of the St Johns peninsula. Geller said a series of restriped segments on Lombard and Burgard (which is what Lombard is briefly called when it jogs east to meet Columbia Boulevard) could combine to greatly improve access to Kelley Point Park, creating a bidirectional protected bikeway on the east side of the street that could potentially transition to a shared path.

lombard upgrades

This seems to be one of the less detailed plans so far, but Geller is right that there’s room to do something.

NE Halsey-Weidler in Gateway – construction 2017

We reported yesterday that the upgraded parking-and-curb-protected bike lanes in this commercial district, the only sidewalk-facing commercial strip in East Portland, will be among the best in the city. Geller uses that language, too. His plan for the area reveals some new details, including a bike-specific traffic signal phase at the busy 102nd Avenue intersection:

halsey weidler

Geller said this course change for Halsey-Weidler was a “direct result” of the memo Treat issued last fall, telling the city to assume that every new bike lane should be protected and only downgrade it to paint if necessary.

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NE 47th, Columbia to Cornfoot – construction 2017

This project links one of the few crossings of Northeast Lombard Street with the Columbia Corridor industrial area and, intriguingly, Portland International Airport. It’s also a connection to Whitaker Ponds Nature Park, which sits just north of Columbia Boulevard.

The plan is to have sidewalk-level green bike lanes separated from auto traffic by a planting strip:

ne 47th

Nearby property owners, including the city parks bureau, are contributing to a voluntary local improvement district to pay for these changes to 47th. Unfortunately, the overpass that connects this stretch to 42nd Avenue and Northeast Portland’s residential neighborhoods is still pretty awful. This work won’t really pay off until that link can be closed.

NW Thurman and 20th – construction starts late 2017

Redevelopment of the huge Con-way site in Slabtown — haven’t heard much about the Slabtown neighborhood? you will — is leading to a complete developer-funded rebuild of two streets in northwest Portland. There’s more to see in the full plan, but here’s the most interesting section:

protected intersection thurman 20th

With the notable exception of the eight-lane freeway overhead, the design here is practically Dutch: raised bike lanes on 20th, protected intersections, raised crosswalks and even one block of a biking-walking street between 19th and 20th, beneath U.S. Highway 30. North of the freeway, a new bidirectional protected bike lane will connect west to 21st and 22nd avenues, which are proposed to get a new bike lane couplet.

Obviously this intersection won’t be truly human-friendly as long as the freeway is looming and roaring above. But for better or worse, Portland’s housing shortage has turned this into prime real estate anyway. That’s given the city a chance to make the space dramatically better for getting around without a car. At the BAC meeting last night Geller was frank about the lack of quality bike infrastructure in northwest: “We should see more biking in this area but we don’t, and I think that’s probably more of a failure of our facilities than anything.”

SW Bond Avenue – construction 2018

This will be a newly built street in the South Waterfront, running through the middle of the former shipyard between Moody Avenue and the Willamette River, connecting to the unfinished intersection on the west landing of Tilikum Crossing. When we got a look at the plans in September, we reported that as of that spring, the city was still preparing plans that showed a door-zone bike lane here.

No more. Thanks to the Treat memo issued in October, the city and the site’s developers changed course on Bond and are now planning a much more comfortable raised bike facility:

bond ave 2

“Director Treat said we’re going to start with a protected facility,” Geller told BAC members last night. “In the past we’d look at the standard treatment of bike lanes and try to work our way up to something better; but when you start with a protected bike lane and you’re directed to do that, you get different results.”

In the past, the city has rightly worried about whether sidewalk-level bike facilities invite conflicts between people walking and biking. But Geller said the solid green color installed on Moody Avenue last fall is working much better than the previous uncolored sidewalk-level bike lanes.

“This design that we have finally implemented on Moody is working really well for road users,” Geller said. “I think we also saw in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Separated Bike Lane Planning and design guide, they had some really good images that clearly showed a really strong visual separation. I think that also reinforced our experience.”

SW Burnside-Alder-19th-18th – construction TBD

We broke the news in February that the city was considering adding protected and buffered bike lanes, plus protected intersection elements, to this hectic triangle of pavement. Geller shared the rendering from local consultants Kittelson and Associates:

19th 18th burnside alder

You can read more about this project in February’s coverage. It’s great to see the protected intersection concept (which had also been floated in some pro bono work by local street designer Nick Falbo, who coined the “protected intersection” phase) continuing to move forward.

After Geller had gone through each of these projects, I asked him whether they represented a breakthrough for the city’s internal assumptions about protected bike lanes: for example, the fire department rules that prevented the lanes on Stark and Oak downtown from being parking-protected, or concerns about keeping them clear of snow or debris. (The Oregon Department of Transportation has floated that a few times as an obstacle to protected bike lanes.)

Not really, Geller said. Those obstacles aren’t any larger or smaller than they were before.

“The Fire Bureau wants 20 feet [minimum open roadway width] and that hasn’t really come up in these particular designs,” Geller said. “I think we’re going to have to continue to work out maintenance on these. We may need some new equipment.”

“The bureau is focused on problem-solving those issues as they come up,” added city spokeswoman Hannah Schafer.

Geller is, however, optimistic about new collaboration with the Bureau of Environmental Services, which is often looking for chances to add permeable rain gardens to city streets. Geller said a closer relationship with BES might let the city turn storm-runoff strips into protection between bike and car traffic.

“We recently did an in-house exercise with them and I think we’ve got some good opportunities to do some new techniques,” Geller said. “Certainly as we get into the central city project, that will come into play.”

PBOT has several other projects in the hopper that will improve bicycle access at key locations throughout the city. Stay tuned for a look at bikeway improvements coming to NE 37th and Prescott, NE 122nd and I-84, NE 16th near Sandy and SE 41st and Holgate.

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

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Bob K
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Bob K

Huzzah. Really excited to see the 21st Avenue bridge project on the list. Now to remove one side of the parking on the stretch between Multnomah and Weidler and add some dedicated space for bikes.

rick
Guest
rick

SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway needs it between SW 30th to SW 39th. It has just one driveway on the north side of the highway and less than eight driveways on the south side. There is just one floating sidewalk in that space.

Christopher Jones
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Christopher Jones

Excellent. I’m excited for those Lombard improvements! The new section of Lombard just north of N Terminal used to have a separated lane (during construction). I’m excited to see that return in a permanent fashion.

The improvements south along Lombard to Pier Park will be a great help as well. A few years ago, I was hit by a car while riding Lombard between Weyerhaeuser and Bruce (a block before Pier Park). It could have been worse, but I had an a-c joint separation, bruised ribs, and was pretty scraped up. Excited to see that be much less likely with these improvements.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

The SE Morrison project is a ridiculous waste of money! The only way to get to it from the east is on a sidewalk that is already crowded with people, bus stops and cafe tables on Morrison or Grand, then it goes nowhere. This block has virtually zero traffic on it and needs nothing. Every other single thing about the Morrison bridge should be fixed before this! Shocking.

That Burnside project is fine for cars, an improvemtn for bikes but truly a travesty for people walking on the south side of Burnside! Shame on Geller for being overly bike-focused. A little bit of spine and creativity could solve this. The Alder sliplane should have been closed years ago, it is complete hazard to people walking.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I was so excited to read this article about PBOT getting to work, but I am so disappointed in the quality of these solutions. The bi-directional bike lane on Lombard seems egregiously dangerous. traveling against the flow of traffic in such a skinny lane on that particular stretch is simply a mistake. Cross traffic turning right are already used to rolling through stop signs. This area has many times of the day/week when traffic is light, and bike traffic is frequently light. This plan puts bike riders in a super vulnerable position on the road. There would need to be an unprecedented amount of enforcement to make this design work. IS there an opportunity to weigh in on these? All of these areas (except the Morrison stretch) need improvements, but much of what I see here is expensive steps backward.

ethan
Guest
ethan

The 21st street bridge looks oddly thought out and it still keeps the worst part (in my opinion) – the merge on the South side of the bridge. Would it be that much extra work to get rid of the parking from the bridge to at least Ankeny and add protected bike lanes?

Also, if they’re going to be doing any structural work to the bridge, it would be swell if they could make the “crunch zone” of the curve a little wider for people walking and biking.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

This sounds like progress. I hope PBOT soon realizes they need to design ramps, turns, and sightlines for 20mph+ bikes (including uphill, because electric), with space for 2 bikes abreast in each direction. Drivers get fast, efficient infrastructure and free parking so maybe we should try to make it so people can just as easily get somewhere on a bike? (Cue somebody claiming a biketown cannot get to 20mph.)

We’ll need more than “strong visual separation” to keep toddlers and puppies out of the bikeway. Too often, it sounds like the bikeway planning assumes this is recreational space rather than transportation corridors. Sometimes you need to get somewhere instead of pet a puppy.

The shared bike/ped space on BH highway is a start, but isn’t going to cut it in the long term. And, would that legally be a sidewalk or a bike lane, or one of each? (Because electric bike law, mandatory sidepath law, and driveway / intersection right-of-way laws are totally different in those two cases.) Seems like an important detail, yet when I ask this of PBOT they shrug at me?

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Some context for the Thurman and 20th project: right now drivers coming off the freeway and into the Con-way masterplan area turn left onto NW 23rd. As the area develops (construction is about to start on a 385 unit apartment project) a lot more cars will be using that intersection. As mitigation, the developers are paying to construct a traffic change that would route cars off the freeway onto NW Wilson, and then onto NW 20th. What makes the project expensive (over $4 million) is that NW 20th doesn’t currently extend underneath the freeway, and the lack of clearance means they have to excavate down a little. It’s mostly a project to benefit drivers, but the additional traffic it will bring means the protected bike lane / intersection treatment is well warranted.

The drawings look make it look like there will be some form of diverter at NW Raleigh, to stop cars traveling further down NW 20th. This is good, given that if the gas tax passes NW/SW 20th is meant to be upgraded to a neighborhood greenway all the way to the Goose Hollow MAX station. It will however also add more cars on NW Raleigh, which is barely functioning as a greenway as it is. Upgrading NW Pettygrove to greenway standards therefore becomes even more important.

David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
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David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC

A “buffered bike lane” is not a “protected bike lane” unless there is some physical barrier between the bike and car traffic, such as parked cars, curb, planters, or concrete barriers. The project on 21st is a simple buffered bike lane, not at all “protected”. Lombard is not much better.

Adam
Subscriber

Glad to see the city working on concrete plans for more protected cycleways. Most of these look great! Not so sure about the Morrison project though as it looks a bit confusing. Also, the bike roundabout on 21st looks too small to really be useful. Bikes can’t make that sharp of a turn and most people will just ride over it anyway. I hope that if the city feels they can’t afford a curb to use cheaper flexible bollards instead of just paint. Curbside buffered lanes are okay, but some sort of vertical separation would be better than paint. Then in the future, when the money is there, add the curb. The Thurman and 18th/19th projects look especially exciting!

Overall, glad to see the progress and happy that Director Treat is working on implementing her ideas. Looking forward to seeing these on the ground.

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

So very glad to see the Thurman St project. Right now, a cyclist heading west on NW Thurman (from east of 19th Ave) has to veer onto a side road that drops them on an off-ramp of Hwy 30, with the trucks and heavy car traffic exiting the freeway from the Vaughn St Exit, if they want to continue going straight. It’s not the best.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Ridden the section of N Lombard/ Burgard past Pier Park so many times. Desperately needed bike lane fill in for this gap as shown. Although, the low hanging fruit (Bruce to Structure) where there is loads of space and feeling safe while biking is never an issue, it’s the part shown in red and light green that need help – especially the 40′ bridge structure where the true pinch point is located and then the blue line that curves around which needs the SDC funds. The city recently worked on this area and put up 45 mph speed zone on a blind corner, on a bike lane gap, where heavy, constant truck traffic typically drive 10 mph higher than posted. City needs to work to not only add bike lane stripes, but also to control traffic speeds in what is a heavy trucking cooridor – especially around congestion, driveways, and blind corners. This area feels really dangerous, but doesn’t have to be if city would complete all the aspects of controlling traffic here, not just striping the lanes.

This works needs to go forward without further delay. They also need to close the gap on the only other way into this part of town, the Columbia Blvd section from Chimney park to Burgard. This is also a truck-speeding race track with a bike lane gap of 1/4 mile.

Roland Klasen
Guest
Roland Klasen

I’ll be glad about the Lombard improvements. Right now I avoid that whole stretch by taking the Columbia Blvd sidewalk to Chimney Park and across the bridge to Pier Park.

buildwithjoe
Guest

More bikes hit the death zone on the West end of the Hawthorne Bridge (Westbound .

When will the city admit to one of the largest safety gaps in our network. These 9 projects are mild buffering, barely separated. Separate is when a drifting car can NOT hit you.

Our city leadership is still too silent on parking and diverters on greenways. And connecting to safe arterials.

People want to drive less and we are pushing them to drive with scattered projects all over town. Our 30 year plan sucks, the fact we will only imement 30% sucks too.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

I’m disappointed the Unipiper was removed from the plans for Bond Ave. When will PBOT get serious about diversity?

Asher Atkinson
Guest
Asher Atkinson

While I like these modest initiatives, the project timelines, costs, and distance covered highlight the challenges of putting in place physical separation. I’m very much an optimist when in comes to technology and believe effective virtual separation enabled by sensor ladened vehicles will arrive sooner than we think. Whether it’s keeping vehicles from crossing into bike lanes, or efficient routing of vehicles along designated arteries, virtual separation is the only practical way to deploy protection over a significant portion of our transportation infrastructure. It won’t be perfect, but it holds far more promise than physical barriers. Don’t read me wrong, I’m not trying to bash these efforts. I’m just reminding advocates for safety that it is important to look ahead and not focus entirely on solutions to yesterday’s problems.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

The idea of mixing, albeit with a ? protected ? lane of travel for a few blocks on Lombard out to Kelley Point and Marine drive seems short of vision. Parks is working (slowly, IMHO) but working, to build that section of the npGreenway from the former SJ Landfill, with a funded bridge over Columbia Blvd ( another freight corridor) on to Chimney Park, over the recently dedicated rail overcrossing into Pier Park, passing thru PIer on a paved and very nice segment of trail onto N Bruce St and on to an at grade crossing at Lombard and then on neighborhood greenways to Cathedral Park. A far superior route connecting to Kelley Point and beyond, not only for those strong and fearless, but for the lower echelons of bike gentry. Flipping off the freight community seems short sighted: they have their work to do, and are not excited about the added risk of ‘separated bikeways ‘ on the official freight route to Rivergate and Marine drive.
Focus the energy on completing the Kelley Point to Cathedral segments.. low hanging fruit for Metro and Parks, owing to the large pieces of public land in the alignment. A ride in the park(s) is far preferable to sharing the road with 80k GVW trucks belching diesel.

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

Great job PBOT, but I’d much rather see a permanent, ada-compliant sidewalk on Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy between 35th-39th than 45 seconds worth of Protected Bike Lane.

q
Guest
q

The current Beaverton-Hillsdale situation is horrible–can hardly tell if it’s a bike lane or just a shoulder for many stretches. The proposed design is a great improvement. But at the same time, how sad that something that can be viewed as a great improvement is still so pathetic. A major route like that should have real sidewalks, and not force cyclists and pedestrians to share a still-narrow path with cars whizzing by at 40 mph 1.5′ away.

I’m not criticizing the improvement, just pointing out how low standards have been here for decades.