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Ask BikePortland: Do I have to stop for red lights while riding on ‘Better Naito’?

Posted by on May 27th, 2016 at 2:19 pm

The cones and wide bike lane are temporary, the legal requirement to stop at lights is not.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The cones and wide bike lane are temporary, the legal requirement to stop at lights is not.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Ask BikePortland is a regular column. Browse the archives or drop us a line if you have a question you’d like us to answer.

Today’s question is about Better Naito, the temporary project that has created a two-way, 15-foot lane for biking and walking on Naito Parkway.

Reader Skip Winters lives in West Linn and commutes into northeast Portland (thanks to an electric bike he says). His favorite part of the ride is Naito Parkway, especially now with the generous amount of space and safety afforded by the new alignment. But he’s confused about the signals.

Here’s his question:

“I’m just a bit confused about the signage and the rules – and have in the past month seen all variations of how riders are handling it. Some folks cruise along ignoring the lights. Some full stop if they are red – causing a few near-collisions with bikes treating the intersection, red light or not, as ‘full-speed through traffic.’

Are we supposed to stop at red lights only if there are pedestrians? Is that why the “Stop for Peds” signs have been painted and placed on the cones?”

Adding to the confusion is there is at least one bike specific traffic light near the Morrison Street bridge. Should we infer that that’s the only light to pay attention to? In addition to watching for pedestrians?”

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Thanks for asking this question Skip!

I’ve been riding this at least once a day and have seen (and felt) the confusion first-hand. As an aside, T-intersections where the bike lane continues have long been a pet-peeve of mine. Along with allowing “Idaho stops,” I think we should allow bicycle riders to carefully roll through T-intersections when it’s safe. But I digress, let’s get you some answers…

I asked PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera what’s up.

To the chagrin of you “full-speed” types, Rivera said — surprise! — everyone needs to stop for the red lights. “Those people are doing the wrong sort of cruising. If you want to get technical about it,” he added, “by the definitions of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the people on bicycles are part of the intersection (<30 feet from the Naito traffic signal) and therefore they should stop at the red light." And what about the "Stop for Peds" signs? Should people infer that it's cool to roll through if nobody is walking across the street? Nope. "That's the wrong inference," Rivera said. "If the light is red, you should stop." While laws are cut-and-dry, the signalization is confusing and it's one of the downsides of the Better Naito project. If you have feedback on this issue, please make sure to let the City know about it by emailing NaitoParkway@portlandoregon.gov.

CORRECTION: This post initially stated that the City’s response came from Signals, Lighting and ITS Division Manager Peter Koonce. I regret the error and any confusion it may have cause.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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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9watts
Subscriber

intersections where the bike lane continues have long been a pet-peeve of mine. Along with allowing “Idaho stops,” I think we should allow bicycle riders to carefully roll through T-intersections when it’s safe.

Hear, hear.

Jim
Guest
Jim

Red traffic light always trumps all, unless you see a sign that specifically says cyclists can roll through a red.

Spiffy
Subscriber

so you’re saying that the “stop for peds” signs were a waste of time/money and have absolutely no authority…

good to know… I took them as a replacement for the existing traffic controls… which I think is an argument that could hold up in court since the newest controls usually win over the older ones…

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

If someone cruises through one of these reds and creams some festival goers this summer, we are going to have some really bad PR. Slow down and proceed with caution folks!

Spiffy
Subscriber

what if I convert to a pedestrian into the pedestrian lane? then aren’t I allowed to roll through the lights as if I were a pedestrian on a sidewalk?

do the pedestrians in the curb lane need to obey the red lights as well? if not, then I’m moving into that lane to run the lights… unless none of the lanes have any legal status… in which case I could ride in the motor vehicle lane without having to abide by the side-path law…

or does the original bike lane still retain its legal status and I’m required to ride there?

what is the current legal status of the previous bike lane turned pedestrian walkway?

so no, this article doesn’t cover enough of the possible scenarios to let me know what I’m allowed to do with this reconfiguration…

Spiffy
Subscriber

everywhere around the city each traffic lane has its own traffic light, except for bike lanes… this gives the impression that bike lanes have no traffic controls… you’re not supposed to obey the traffic controls of other lanes… this seems like a serious enforcement issue…

Adam
Subscriber

I don’t stop for the red lights on Naito, but I’m also riding along at 10 mph. It’s hard to even see half the signals anyway, since there’s nothing above the bike lane. If there’s a large group of people walking, I’ll just slow down and go around. However, I find it odd that we’re supposed to stop for all reds like a car driver, but when we want to turn left into downtown, we’re on our own with no signal. Funny how we’re expected to follow exactly the same rules as car drivers, yet we’re consistently given inferior infrastructure.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Adam H.
I don’t stop for the red lights on Naito, but I’m also riding along at 10 mph. It’s hard to even see half the signals anyway, since there’s nothing above the bike lane. If there’s a large group of people walking, I’ll just slow down and go around. However, I find it odd that we’re supposed to stop for all reds like a car driver, but when we want to turn left into downtown, we’re on our own with no signal. Funny how we’re expected to follow exactly the same rules as car drivers, yet we’re consistently given inferior infrastructure.
Recommended 0

at that speed, maybe you should be on the waterfront path.

Samantha
Guest
Samantha

I’ve been coming across this. I run from my office and around the waterfront daily, and have had trouble with cyclists not yielding to pedestrians crossing Naito. I slow down, make eye contact, and hold up my hand in a “stop” gesture as I cross in the crosswalk with the walk signal lighted, the same way I do with cars. So far it’s 50/50 on whether cyclists will stop, which is about the same as what I experience when crossing an intersection with a stop sign elsewhere in the city. I’m also a cyclist, btw.

Brent
Guest
Brent

I asked this question last year regarding the shorter-term Better Naito installation and got the exact opposite response from the Better Blocks people. It almost makes taking Naito not worth it if I have to stop for the red lights. The waterfront path might be faster overall because at least I don’t need to stop.

Jay
Guest
Jay

What about heading South on Better Naito? Aren’t the red lights only visible to cyclists heading North? While I ride North almost daily, I never ride Southbound, so I honestly don’t know.

Sylvia Halpern
Guest
Sylvia Halpern

I always stop at this light but feel stupid doing it. Thanks for setting the record straight.

What
Guest
What

“While laws are cut-and-dry, the signalization is confusing and it’s one of the downsides of the Better Naito project.” How is it confusing? Better Naito never took away the crosswalks red lights. What has changed that would indicate those still very visible pieces where not there and ignored? This has been answered before, and I cannot see anything done to confuse the situation. http://oregonbikelaw.com/facing-red-light-bicycle-lane-t-intersection-charley-gee/

Scott Kocher
Guest

This Naito is Better. As a permanent multi-use route with proper signals and ped crossings it will be Way Better. Let’s make it happen.

stephanlindner
Guest
stephanlindner

I think this is a great point and is a serious downside to “Better Naito”. I prefer the waterfront over the Naito path because of the red lights. I rather switch to the east side esplanade than using “Better Natio”. So that affects the number of bicyclists on “Better Naito” and in turn its perceived success.
This could be an example of putting some bike infrastructure in, not being willing to spend enough money to make it work well, and then arguing that there is little demand. The answer is simple: make is the quickest way to get from A to B and people will use it.

Curtis Roth
Guest
Curtis Roth

Since every motorist obeys the speed limit, I understand why cyclists must stop for red lights.

Brian
Guest
Brian

On a sorta- related note, what do you all do for buses with the stop sign out? For example, I often encounter them on the Walker Rd adjacent to NIKE. The buses are heading in the opposite direction of me, and I stop despite the fact that the kiddos never cross the street (and I have zero chance of hitting anyone).

Holtz
Subscriber

I interpreted the octagonal stop sign image with “stop for pedestrians” as meaning we should treat the intersections as if they had a stop sign when people are crossing (when they have the the WALK signal). I was surprised to hear that the city expects everyone to come to a full stop for the duration of red lights when there is no cross traffic. So obviously the signage is confusing.

jonny
Guest
jonny

Based on the picture it looks like there is a light above the temporary bike lane. Could they cover the light it up to look like a bike signal? It’s not at the ideal height for a bike lane but might help clarify that bikes should obey the light as well.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Why don’t those red-light-stopping rule-followers just use the hand signal to indicate a slow or stop?

Oh yeah because this is Oregon where no one signals.

Adam
Guest
Adam

How confused about a red light do you have to be?

It’s a red light.

There are pedestrian crossings at every intersection across Naito.

It means stop.

It’s hardly difficult.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

Adam H.
Funny how we’re expected to follow exactly the same rules as car drivers, yet we’re consistently given inferior infrastructure.
Recommended 4

I vote for this for comment of the week.

Jim
Guest
Jim

Adam H.
One cyclist does something bad: blame all cyclists! No protected bike lane for you!
Hundreds of drivers do something bad: unavoidable accidents! More lanes on the highway!
Recommended 15

One cyclist? Read all the comments, there’s a lot of cyclists behaving badly. Stanley Roberts ought to come up here.

Kittens
Guest
Kittens

Stopping at reds on natio without peds is pointless and littererly a waste of time and energy.
Use your head people!

Roland Klasen
Guest
Roland Klasen

Stopping at a red light in a car without anyone around is a waste of time and energy too, just run it!

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

soren
In OR the red traffic light does not trump all if you are riding a bike:
Permits bicyclist or motorcyclist to proceed at stop light…
https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2015R1/Measures/Overview/SB533
Recommended 1

Provided you are willing to wait “one full cycle of the traffic control device.” Not really relevant as a justification for rolling (or cruising) through stop lights.

Paul
Guest
Paul

I fixed it:comment image?dl=0

Adam Z.
Guest
Adam Z.

So this very morning I had a red light on Naito at Yamhill and I circled around to cross to the west side of Naito via the cross walk as I do every morning and was nearly run down by a cyclist that did not believe he needed to stop. I said, “hey, that’s a red light,” and was berated by him for not knowing “how this works, dude”, to which I replied, “that’s a red light” and proceeded to cross. People, if it’s red/stop sign and you don’t stop, and nearly run someone over, you are at fault. Get used to it.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

With a permanent protected and separated bike lane at T-intersections the bike lane should have its own separate traffic light to allow green until pedestrian crossing phases.

pdx2wheeler
Guest
pdx2wheeler

They should just install those swinging Tri-met gates at each light… That will fix the problem.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Thank you for the heads up!

I think many of us are confused because we were under the impression that Better Naito turned the bike lane into a “multi-use path” separate from the roadway, even though it’s still technically on it. In that scenario, we would still yield to pedestrians but treat red lights as though we were on separate pedestrian-bike infrastructure (like a sidewalk we can legally ride on).

I will totally stop at these red lights, but I understand why others currently don’t. A confused cyclist asked my partner why he stopped at these red lights on bike just the other day. It’s counter-intuitive since this isn’t a protected bike lane, but rather a weird pedestrian-bike combo that is a sidewalk for them and just a normal on-street bike lane for us.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Do pedestrians have to stop walking also????? Of course not. I’ll continue to ride safely, yield to people on foot, be nice to others, and roll through the lights on Naito in the new Better Naito MUP