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City debuts new ‘Tuff Curb’ to create physical separation for bikeways

Posted by on May 12th, 2016 at 3:15 pm

City crews installed a new plastic curb at SW 13th and Clay today.(Photos: City of Portland)

City crews installed a new plastic curb at SW 13th and Clay today.
(Photos: City of Portland)

Hallelujah! At long last the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is using an actual curb to separate bike-only lanes from standard vehicle lanes.

For years PBOT has struggled to figure out how to cheaply and quickly add physical separation. They’ve tried using plastic wands but those rarely last more than a few days before they’re hit and ripped out by people who can’t control their cars. PBOT’s most recent attempt to help separate the bike lane from encroachment by motor vehicle operators came in the form of “rumble bars.” Those failed too.

With budgets not willing to spend money required for raised cycle tracks (like the ones on SW Moody Avenue or NE Cully Blvd), finding a quicker-and-cheaper method is really important. We will not reach our transportation, climate, and planning goals unless we create more physically-separated bikeways. It’s a must.

That’s why are very happy to see that PBOT is testing a new product called “Tuff Curb” to separate a bike lane on SW 13th just before Clay. As we reported when they installed plastic wands there back in January, most of them were ripped out within a week.

Their new installation looks really solid. It’s similar to what Multnomah County installed on the eastbound Hawthorne Bridge viaduct back in 2013.

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Based on prices for similar products we found online, this project on 13th and Clay likely cost about $4,000 in materials. Here’s more about Tuff Curb from a product website:

Tuff Curb is a durable, high performance traffic separator curb… Integral coloration makes Tuff Curb highly visible and resistant to UV damage and fading. In addition, enhanced profile dimensional properties and 3M™ reflectors provide maximum visibility and traffic separation both day and night. Tuff Curb’s safety and durability has been tested by Texas Transportation Institute to 2009 MASH standards and is also federally approved.

This is an encouraging sign. Not just because the bikeway at 13th and Clay is now more comfortable to ride in, but because PBOT has taken the time and resources to figure this out once and for all. Using this new plastic curb product shows that Portland is treating bikeways with the level of seriousness they deserve.

If you’ve ridden by it, let us know what you think. It’ll be interesting to see if they use it anywhere else. And if it lasts more than a week.

Stay tuned.

— 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

69 Comments
  • Avatar
    Dave May 12, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    I will be headed that way after work for an evening ride. I look forward to checking these out in person!

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 12, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Great Dave. Please report back.

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        Dave May 13, 2016 at 8:33 am

        My initial impression was positive. It does create a very visible barrier between the lanes. As I was riding up to it the two cars in front of me were turning right and it forced them to make the turn without cutting across the bike lane like I’ve seen there a lot in the past. I was a little concerned about visibility since they are tall, but someone turning right did see me and yield as they were turning right without issue. Obviously they may have been just a very aware driver.

        I can’t speak to the durability of them but in passing it looks more solid then just the wands attached directly to the road surface. Time will tell I guess. Overall I’d say as a quick positive addition to a lane I’d like to see them show up elsewhere in town.

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          Niall Mc Cusker May 14, 2016 at 5:46 am

          Drove onto 26W from 16th past one of these today. Definite concern that these will make bike harder to see in the mirror.

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    John Lascurettes May 12, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    Hmm. I’m going to take the skeptical wait-n-see on this. Here are my initial fears:

    1. The wands will still be knocked down in short order, these are proven to not be very resilient.

    2. The “curb” is still very easily mountable and straddle-able by most 4-wheeled motor vehicles while …

    3. Almost certainly a potential crash hazard, especially when wet, for a bicycle rider.

    So rather than looking like it keeps cars 100% out, it looks more like it’s going to trap bikes 100% in — and that’s an issue for those looking for an escape route in an emergency maneuver.

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      John Lascurettes May 12, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      Though I appreciate the difference between this and what has been tried in the past. This at least is trying something different!

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      Chris I May 12, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      How is it any more of a crash hazard when compared with a poured concrete curb?

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        Buzz May 12, 2016 at 10:27 pm

        Um, about equal except one is more permanent than the other

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      rain panther May 12, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      I dunno, I think it looks like a pretty solid solution for short stretches of road – like the example shown. In a situation like this intersection, I don’t mind being kept 100% in for a span of 10 or 15 yards as I approach the corner. If I don’t want to be in the bike lane at that point, I will have already made up my mind and changed lanes earlier. I wouldn’t be thrilled if it ran the entire length of a a block, however.

      And the curb is, in fact, easily mountable by a typical automobile – much the same as most other curbs. That is largely the nature of curbs. This will probably be true of just about anything short of a wall, but at that point we’ve gone from relatively easy, quick and inexpensive to difficult, slow and spendy.

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      soren May 12, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      every curb in this city is easily mountable by 4WD drive vehicles…

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      wsbob May 12, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      I guess ‘If it makes you feel good, it is good ! ‘, is the reaction hoped for here.

      This cleverly designed curb material doesn’t make a main lane adjoining bike lane, a protected bike lane. The material may help discourage some inconsiderate people driving, from veering across the bike lane at the last moment, in front of someone biking. Maybe that’s enough to justify the use of this material.

      There are people, I expect, that will drive over this type of physical separation, just for sport. Let’s see some video of motor vehicles driving over the material. Watch for the big ‘ka-bump! ‘, with the vehicle possibly lurching wildly, that I expect will happen when a vehicle goes over the material. Will the person operating the vehicle, correct its direction of travel and return to the lane they were in? Or try to fully complete the crossover? On a bike, I think I’d rather not be near a motor vehicle, should a crossover incident like that happen.

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        tedder May 15, 2016 at 10:06 pm

        most people are less willing to have their car damaged by a wand than they are to stay out of other lanes, I think.

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      gutterbunnybikes May 12, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      “How the world still so dearly loves a cage”

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      q`Tzal May 12, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      The wands – either:
      () make the base attachment a flexible stretch spring that pops the candlestick bollard back in to place
      () Or use uniquely identifying STICKY confetti/glitter (like are spread around every time a Taser(tm) is shot with micro printed serial #’s) on each bollard so that damage of public property can be tracked back to a single vehicle. Even if it can’t be tracked back to a person for ticketing the cost of repairs can be tacked on to annual vehicle fees.

      () or both.

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        tedder May 15, 2016 at 10:07 pm

        barbed wire that scrapes the paint might be sufficient.

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          q`Tzal May 16, 2016 at 1:41 pm

          BZZZT! NO!

          Bicycle rider could fall against this at speed definitely injuring and potentially killing them.

          Also, scraping and scratching property damage to automobiles is so common no one could ever localize it to any geographic location in particular.

          Please play our game again!

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    Gary B May 12, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Very nice. It looks like the wands are replaceable, too? (not that a vehicle would *still* manage to hit them or anything…)

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      Opus the Poet May 12, 2016 at 10:45 pm

      They shouldn’t be “replaceable” they should be heavy wall steel and set deeply in and filled with concrete. Garaundamntee you that it won’t take more than 2 cars getting the right front corner taken off to get cars to stay the hell out of the bike lane.

      I’m sick and tired of “protected” bike lanes that wouldn’t stop or even noticeably slow down a vintage VW Bug (with the original 12 HP engine) driving through the “protection”. Put in the steel bollards at random intervals and locations, and make the plastic wands look exactly like them so the city doesn’t have to spend as much on the steel ones, and eventually the city won’t need more than 2 or 3 steel ones per block, just to remind drivers that bike lanes are not for cars.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. May 12, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    This treatment looks very nice. It works well on the Hawthorne viaduct so I see no reason why it can’t work anywhere else. Perhaps PBOT finally has a solution to the Couch curve? I can think of a couple hundred other places to install these around town as well, so here’s hoping the manufacturer offers a bulk discount!

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      Abide May 12, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      Speaking of the Couch curve, are the developers of Slate reconnecting Couch from the curve to 3rd for cars??? If so, that’s totally NOT cool.

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        maccoinnich May 12, 2016 at 6:15 pm

        They are building a new street (NE Couch Ct) that will connect the curved section of Couch to NE 3rd. The street will be one way westbound, with a contraflow bike lane eastbound.

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          John Lascurettes May 12, 2016 at 10:23 pm

          That seems like a really, really horrible idea. Drivers going through that chicane are going to be very blind to bicycles on their right because of the angle. I go very fast through that chicane in my designated lane. Now I can expect to be right-hooked at some point. Swell.

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            Buzz May 12, 2016 at 10:29 pm

            I use 3rd for my commute and am definitely not looking forward to the extra traffic. I was hoping it was going to be eastbound only for motorists.

            🙁

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              Social Engineer May 13, 2016 at 12:07 pm

              Why do you think making it eastbound only for cars wouldn’t generate extra traffic on 3rd?

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            Mark May 13, 2016 at 8:49 am

            Agreed. That’s a terrible idea. I commute through there daily on my bike too. There’s no way that configuration can be made safe.

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            Social Engineer May 13, 2016 at 12:02 pm

            Leading bike interval on Couch at MLK will help this by giving riders a head start through the curve before drivers.

            I will appreciate having a way to cut over to the bridge westbound from 3rd Ave without having to go all the way around to Davis (and then risking the streetcar tracks on MLK for 1 block).

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    Ben Schonberger (@SchonbergerBen) May 12, 2016 at 3:48 pm
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      q`Tzal May 12, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      What fresh hell are you talking about?

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    Jonathan Gordon May 12, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Looks like progress to me!

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    bikeninja May 12, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Looks great, seems like an improvement over the other methods. Only thing I would add is little smooth steel ball on the end of each wand so that if a car hits them they would put a reminder dent in the car’s hood, fender or grill to keep the driver from being careless next time,

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    Steve B. May 12, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    VERY NICE

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    JJJJ May 12, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    $4000? I should bid on these projects.

    Behold, my solution:

    http://www.uline.com/BL_1062/Parking-Stops?pricode=WR273&AdKeyword=%2Bparking%20%2Bstops&AdMatchtype=b&gclid=Cj0KEQjw09C5BRDy972s6q2y4egBEiQA5_guvzcfmhXD_9sHOE0zqCwBzM8AaYDmlun-NXBER5-ZDtEaAlWV8P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds

    Place one. Then place plastic bollard. Then place one. Then place plastic bollard.

    $62 + $50 + $62 + $50 = $224

    I’ll do it for $3,500.

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      paikiala May 12, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      Rent on the concrete drill?
      Your hourly wage, BOLI, liability insurance?
      Bonding?
      Self employment taxes (SS/Medicare/Income; state; local)?
      work zone traffic control plan and signing/set up and removal?
      epoxy for the holes you drilled?
      lag bolts for the epoxied holes?

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        Eric Leifsdad May 12, 2016 at 10:19 pm

        Plastic jersey barriers – $200 each, some sand, and a least a few beers…

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        Gary B May 13, 2016 at 9:03 am

        While that’s all true, Jonathan’s $4000 number was for just the materials, too. It is pretty high considering the materials/technology involved, but that’s the nature of a niche product. Hopefully it will grow and scaling/competitors will drive the cost down.

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        gutterbunnybikes May 14, 2016 at 9:23 am

        You forgot that all government contract works requires employees be paid prevailing wages.

        But here is a brief rundown of some of the tools that would be necessary and their costs (I do stuff like this for living).

        1) Truck – variable cost. as much as you’d like to perhaps do this by bicycle the tools are too much even for cargo bicycles, and should something happen and you need to make a quick trip for more epoxy midway through the install you wouldn’t want to waste the time of the likely 4-6 person crew hired (again at prevailing wage).

        2) generator – at least $1000 for a reliable one, this doesn’t include the fuel or maintenance costs.

        If there is any welding involved in the install you’re looking at around 5k for a decent basic commercial set up, and look at paying at least $100.00 an hour for a prevailing wage welder (including workman’s comp and all that back end payroll stuff). The welding machine I use uses roughly 5 -7 gallons of gas a day when ran for an entire 8-hour shift. And needs to have the oil changed every 100 work hours (or about every two weeks).

        3) roto hammer – $300+

        4) bits for roto hammer $20+ (I’ve spent as much as $200 for a single bit) each is good for about 100 holes each but that varies too depending on the material being drilled into.

        5) extension cords – 100′ of 12 or 14 gauge wires for outdoor use about $50.00 each. Use of smaller sized cords will cause your tools to burn out.

        6) epoxy – depending on what is required by the engineer, you’re looking at $30 – $50 a tube not including the gun for the application which runs $100 from Hilti or I think about $25 for Simpson (note these are for the hand operated ones, there are automatic ones too which cost significantly more).

        A tube from either manufacturer will fill about 5-20 holes depending on hole size. If there are cracks and their size is significant enough you need to screen the holes which are also brand-specific and cost around $10.00 each and even then they still use much more epoxy than standard holes.

        7) Quality air compressor for cleaning out the holes, good ones for commercial work run about $300+ (not including the hoses and attachments), the cheapies will burn out on you very quickly.

        8) steel bristled bottle brushes also for cleaning the holes which run $5 -$20.00

        9) you’ll also likely need a decent corded impact wrench – $150+, and a full selection of bits and extensions for it another $100.

        Let’s not forget that installing epoxy requires full-time independent inspection (add another person whose job is to just watch and assure installation was done properly – at a likely cost of $40-70 an hour I don’t know at what cost inspection companies bill but I do know roughly how much inspectors make).

        That doesn’t even get into traffic control which will be at a minimum of 1 flagger (on a one-way street) candle sticks (tall skinny cones) , signage, and temporary barriers and possibly fencing. More than one flagger would also need walkie-talkies.

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          gutterbunnybikes May 14, 2016 at 9:48 am

          I should also add parking stops are designed for controlling traffic traveling at full speed. Many of the concrete ones don’t even anchor into the ground and would slide if hit at full speed.

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          Andy K May 14, 2016 at 8:00 pm

          It’s entirely possible that JJJJ just accidentally left a zero off his bid.

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    Colton May 12, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    I like the idea, but wonder how broken glass and fall leaves will be dealt with.

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      Jack G. May 12, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      I did a quick search for ‘Bike Lane Sweeper’ and discovered that Portland has (had?) one!

      http://bikeportland.org/2013/11/18/meet-portlands-new-bike-path-sized-street-sweeper-97302

      Does anyone know if it’s still around?

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        VS May 12, 2016 at 7:21 pm

        I saw it driving in NE a few weeks ago. It’s so strange looking, you can’t miss it.

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        canuck May 13, 2016 at 7:36 am

        The more separated lanes the more of these that will be needed. One certainly doesn’t cover what we have well, and even unprotected lanes only get swept when they do the roads, which isn’t often enough.

        In my area it would be great if it were done after every recycling day. The trail of glass shards is amazing.

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          tedder May 15, 2016 at 10:11 pm

          on the bright side, protected lanes shouldn’t get as much displaced crap from road lanes- gravel and glass, for instance. certainly there will be junk, but not so much derived from the cars.

          those little sweeping vehicles are cute.

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      Steve Scarich May 13, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Good point. Over here in Bend, I have noticed that ‘non-standard’ curbing ends up trapping lots of debris. Street sweepers are too big to clean it properly, so we now have several years of crap built up next to them.

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    K'Tesh May 12, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    If that doesn’t work, can we try severe tire damage claws embedded in a material that the heaviest bike can mount, but a car will find… um… it shouldn’t have tried?

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    Champs May 12, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Isn’t that basically the same treatment Washington County put on SW Farmington and is widely panned, except less permanent?

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      canuck May 13, 2016 at 7:39 am

      On SW Farmington it is a concrete curb, but it’s also multi-use and not a bike lane only. And it’s only on the south side of the street.

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    mikeybikey May 12, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    They gonna drop these on NE Broadway once the demo is over?

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    JeffS May 12, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Portland: The city where every single piece of cycling infrastructure is a one-off test.

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      paikiala May 13, 2016 at 10:30 am

      J,
      Hardly. PBOT has more than:
      30 semi-diverters
      120 refuge islands
      300 curb extensions
      1100 speed bumps

      You have to start with one, before you can have two.
      A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
      one more:
      “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

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        tedder May 15, 2016 at 10:13 pm

        speaking of new, that quote doesn’t seem to have provenance before 1995.

        but why new experiments when we know what works in other cities? Hell, why so many “experiments” rather than projects?

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    Spiffy May 13, 2016 at 7:32 am

    decided to ride through this on the way home… people weren’t driving over it, and they waited for bike traffic before turning…

    my worry is that there are a lot of poles obscuring the ability to clearly see bikes in the bike lane…

    the worst part was the few blocks leading up to it… several cars blocking the intersections and bike lanes with their incomplete turning movements…

    but this change seems like it will work better to keep people out of the bike lane there… and sharp corners like that seem to make drivers think about why it’s such a slow sharp corner…

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    Andy K May 13, 2016 at 8:58 am

    If this gets wiped out I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple “WATCH FOR BICYCLES” fluorescent yellow-green signs mounted in the dirt behind the existing concrete curb.

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    Kyle Banerjee May 13, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I appreciate the effort and like the concept, but some things designed to improve bike safety introduce crash hazards that are worse than the crash hazards they reduce.

    I believe this particular solution falls into that category.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. May 13, 2016 at 9:51 am

      It works fine on the Hawthorne viaduct. AFAIK, it hasn’t caused any issues there.

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      tedder May 15, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      Who/what/whom do they introduce crash hazards to? The cyclists? The drivers? I’m having trouble following.

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    Evan C May 13, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Seems like we should have these (or jersey barriers or curbs…anything!) everywhere where there is high speed traffic and no parking on the side – e.g. Greeley between Going and Interstate and going up the hill on Interstate to Kaiser Permanente.

    People have been injured and killed on these sections before because there is no separation between 50+ mph traffic and bikers. There is no reason for this.

    In a related note – there is still no safe way to directly bike from Swan Island to the Broadway Bridge.

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    Mike Sanders May 13, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Seems to me that the Tuff Curbs should be painted bright yellow to make it stand out from the road surface, not white. The wands, too. If they’re reflectorized, they should be yellow, too.

    And a reminder: there should be a “No Right Turn for Bikes” sign there, since the ramp connects to a freeway (US-26) that is closed to bike traffic. Especially important for out of towners who may not know that!

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      canuck May 13, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Yellow is designated for center lines between oncoming traffic, white for fog lines, shoulders and bike lanes.

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    GlowBoy May 13, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Glad to see this happening. Unlike Portland, Seattle (where I lived before I moved to Portland) uses barriers like this all over the place, not just to protect bike lanes but to separate opposing lanes and even left turn lanes in places. It’s not like Portland gets more snow than Seattle.

    Most of Seattle’s lane separators are concrete (and painted either yellow or white, same as the paint/thermoplastic they replaced), but even back in the 90s I remember them using plastic ones in places. Actually, I think some of the concrete ones have bolt holes, so presumably they could be installed just about as quickly and cheaply as the plastic ones.

    Also, after a year-plus in Minneapolis, where we have lots of protected bike lanes where the bollards are *NOT* getting knocked down, I’ve finally realized why: Portland has been putting up bollards to try to keep cars out of the bike lane on curves and turns. Minneapolis only uses them on straight stretches (North Plymouth, W 36th near Uptown, and the East 26th/28th couplet in south-central come immediately to mind). Bollards alone are simply not enough to keep drivers from drifting to the inside of turns/curves, such as 13th or the Lovejoy Ramp.

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    Bill Stites May 13, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    This looks promising. The far end of this installation is likely to be vulnerable to cars and trucks turning a little too tightly … though I appreciate that they installed it all the way to the crosswalk. I would wager that the last couple of pieces are busted up within a couple of weeks.

    How about something more substantial just for the last 6 feet or so? One jersey barrier at the end? Or at least use pieces that are a different color? I wonder if Tuff Curb makes slightly taller versions for end caps and other areas that may need some delineation from the rest of the line.

    Generally great idea and will likely be an improvement. We should all keep in mind that they will not stop an encroaching car when something unexpected happens.

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    Jonathan May 13, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I was thinking something like this might work well on N. Vancouver, just north of N. Cook where cars turn right to get to the Fremont Bridge. Maybe some spots on Williams as well.

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    Drove by May 15, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    From a driver’s perspective, I thought they were more imposing than traditional wands or raised tracks like on Cully, both of which have historically been driven over. So I think from a psychological standpoint, this driver does not want to get close to them. Additionally, I did not have any difficulty performing my normal check the bike lane measures.

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    Paul Z May 15, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Are these going to cause rainwater to “pool” on the left side, creating a hazard for motorists, and a potential “shower” for bicyclists?

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      q`Tzal May 16, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      There are gaps between the individual segments allowing water flow.
      Also they are very likely not perfectly flat nor is the pavement; water can flow under as well.

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    RH May 17, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Wonder if they would put some of these on N interstate heading up the hill?

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      Eric Leifsdad May 18, 2016 at 9:25 am

      oops, I botched the reply. see 823-SAFE link below

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    Eric Leifsdad May 18, 2016 at 9:22 am
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