Support BikePortland

Separation anxiety: Here’s why Portland isn’t building protected bikeways (yet)

Posted by on May 31st, 2016 at 11:15 am

Cross-section of one approach to protected bike
lanes on NE 47th Avenue.
(Image: City of Portland)

After almost 10 years of talking about building networks of physically separated bike lanes on busy streets, Portland seems more or less ready to move.

Theoretically, that is.

Various small projects are already in motion. A downtown network is funded and ready to start public planning. The next mayor won election making protected lanes part of his platform, especially for east Portland. Voters just ponied up enough money to start the work. This week, city staff were in Seattle talking nuts and bolts with peers there.

All of which means that a city memo about the various obstacles to protected bike lanes is revealing reading.

The 75-page “technical memo” by Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller and colleagues, posted to the city’s website this spring, is at once a trove of good ideas — almost all of it consists of diagrams showing how to fit buffered and protected bike lanes on streets of various widths and uses — and a tally of the hoops Portland requires a comfortable bike lane to jump through.

For example, there’s the 26 feet of open space requested by the Fire Bureau on any street adjacent to a building of at least three stories. That’s enough room for a 10-foot-wide fire truck with an eight-foot outrigger on each side, needed to provide stability for a ladder.

Advertise with BikePortland.

Could one or both of the outriggers straddle a curb or other obstacle that separates bike and auto traffic? Maybe. But it can’t straddle a parked car, which has prevented parking-protected bike lanes on narrow streets like Stark and Oak downtown.

Barriers to protection

Some of the issues cited in the PBOT memo:

  • Fire truck access
  • Stormwater/runoff requirements
  • Auto parking space buffer zone
  • Truck and bus turning radius requirements

Download the memo here

Another obstacle: stormwater. Rain that runs off city streets warms rivers and kills habitats there, so the federal and state governments require cities to add drainage swales and other features to reduce runoff on “projects that develop or redevelop over 500 square feet of impervious surface.” That gets expensive fast.

But as Geller’s memo notes, the city’s storm bureau cuts slack for walking projects like new curb extensions — it waives the requirement for better storm drainage in part because the city doesn’t want to create an “undue burden” on a walking project.

There’s no such waiver practice for biking projects, the memo says.

Another issue: the “step out” area the city generally provides next to a new parking space, for people who move from a parked car to a mobility device such as a wheelchair. As the memo notes, federal standards don’t actually require those extra three feet next to every parking space, only next to spaces set aside for people with disabilities. But Portland’s preference is to provide it on all on-street spaces, potentially reducing the space available for a curb-separated bikeway.

There are many other issues embedded in the diagrams, like turning radiuses for trucks, lane widths for buses and adequate separation between biking and walking traffic.

As we weigh these issues, let’s not forget the power and purpose of politics. With the right chemistry and leadership at City Hall a lot of these barriers could magically disappear, or be resolved in ways that accept or correct for the legitimate tradeoffs.

This memo is a useful reminder of how unfamiliar these designs remain for most city employees — and also of the fact that meaningful changes to Portland’s streets will require a sense of purpose not only within the city’s transportation bureau but the other bureaus, too. That means that ultimately, it’s up to the elected city council to decide if these new designs are worthwhile — and if they are, to tell the public’s employees that they need to take the time to work these issues out.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

Our work is supported by subscribers. Please become one today.

Greenfield Health
Please support BikePortland.

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

  • rick May 31, 2016 at 11:44 am

    What is the best way to make protected roundabouts, though?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Adam H.
      Adam H. May 31, 2016 at 11:59 am

      The cycleway goes on the outside of the roundabout with enough space between for a full car length to stop for cyclists without blocking the roundabout. Here’s a good diagram.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Roundabout Unsafe May 31, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Roundabouts prioritize car speed over bike/ped safety and usability and compact urban design and should be banned.

      Bikers are forced onto sidewalks where they must dismount and cross as pedestrians yielding to cars. Meanwhile, cars speed through without stopping. It’s like a small freeway cloverleaf right in the middle of a city. At crosswalks cars rarely yield to pedestrians and cyclists. The roundabout design about quadruples the space taken up by the intesection, forcing pedestrians and cyclists to travel long distances for car convenience. This kills street life and urban design, making the stark intersection even more deadly to actual humans.

      Under ODOT roundabout design, bikes may have the option of going directly through the circle. But this is not a safe option. Car drivers are inexperienced with circles. Circles make mirrors less useful. Circles often defeat turn signals. Collision speeds and angles safer for cars are deadly for those not encased in steel. Only the most confident cyclists will attempt traversing circles, reducing bike use by design.

      There’s lots of info out there:

      Here’s ODOT’s deisign for a roundabout rampage in the center of Eugene/Springfield-

      Here’s a roundabout critique from a Canadian transportation professor now visiting the UO:

      Senators Wyden and Merkley have both written letters in support of the roundabouts:

      Here’s Nick Falbo’s video of protected intersections, a far better option to roundabouts:

      Contrast that to ODOT’s roundabout vision where bikes dismount:

      An ODOT cartoon book also says bikes can’t bike through roundabouts safely:
      “Don’t ride fast on the sidewalk there can be elderly citizens, moms pushing strollers, etc. Cross at the crosswalk—walk your bike -drivers won’t have time to react if you ride in the crosswalk.”

      Here’s what a roundabout can do to a bicyclist:

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Eric Leifsdad May 31, 2016 at 3:07 pm

        You’re talking about two things. One is a roundabout, the other is a failure to give priority to people biking — it’s an ODOT thing. You can’t have a good intersection for biking without giving priority to the flow of bikes, no matter how you design it. “Driver must stop and push button to cross” will be totally safe with any design.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 3:32 pm

        It’s hard to imagine someone referring to the safest form of intersection in the world as unsafe.
        How many cyclist have died at modern roundabouts in the US since their introduction in 1990?
        two, and one was probably a medical condition.
        How many pedestrians have died at modern roundabouts in the US since their introduction in 1990?

        Modern roundabouts do not prioritize speed. They prioritize safety and reduce delay. Many people confuse ‘reduce delay’ with ‘go fast’, perhaps you are one of these people. Reducing how may people have to stop is how modern roundabouts reduce delay.

        Modern roundabouts operate in the 15-20 mph range, a speed very safe for cyclists to interact with. It is also a speed that makes interaction between motorists and non-motorist much easier.

        The best modern roundabout design for cyclists provides two choices. The more confident cyclist should merge with through traffic and circulate like a motorist. This is made easier by the low-speed operational environment of the modern roundabout, which should not exceed 20 mph (30 kph).
        The less confident cyclist should be provided a ramp to exit the street and use a shared use path around the roundabout. Such paths should be at least ten feet wide (3 m) and cyclist operate at low speeds, crossing at the pedestrian crossings. Sometimes space constraints, as with other intersection types, limit ideal design.

        Bikes in roundabouts videos:
        Clearwater Beach, Florida:
        La Jolla, California :
        Bend, Oregon:
        New York DOT:
        Vancouver, BC:

        In other countries, separate cycle tracks are common and here’s a video of how they work at modern roundabouts .

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Roundabout Unsafe May 31, 2016 at 11:49 pm

          Thanks for the video links. I want to believe the roundabout emperor has clothes, but I just don’t see any.

          Clearwater Beach, Florida: – This is some incredibly brave vehicular cycling (right lane on two way highway approaching roundabout) that 99 percent of people wouldn’t risk.

          La Jolla, California : – Brave vehicular cyclists in spandex on racing bikes going down the center of lanes in a low-density area with little traffic and no other cyclists. Cyclist wrongly thinks he has the right of way

          Washington: – That’s scary! Weaving in and out of two lanes of rotating, 30+ mph cars. Lots of very brave young men. Can’t imagine a mom with a kid risking it. Cars fail to yield to bike entering crosswalk. Very rural, highway design wastes lots of space.

          Bend, Oregon: – this links to something in Holland where drivers bike and yield to bikes or go to jail

          New York DOT: – This is a cartoon, not a video. It tells bikes to weave in and out of high speed two lane traffic or “dismount” and use the crosswalk

          Vancouver, BC: – posted by “alexwarrior1”. Another design for the very brave only. How do you expect to actually get a wider range of people cycling with this?

          Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Adam H.
        Adam H. May 31, 2016 at 3:46 pm

        Roundabouts do not prioritize motor traffic speed. On the contrary, it is signalized intersections that promote speeding through an intersection without slowing down. Roundabouts not only force everyone to slow down to enter the intersection (not just road users that happen to have a red), they also vastly reduce the number of conflict points over a signalized intersection with turning lanes. As demonstrated above, accommodations can also be added for people cycling.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Roundabout Dismount June 3, 2016 at 11:49 pm

          ODOT’s only roundabout “accomodation” appears to be forcing bikes to dismount and use the sidewalk.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Chris I May 31, 2016 at 9:29 pm

        How many cyclists have died in roundabout crashes? Dozens die at standard intersections every year, due to the high speed tangential traffic flow. Roundabouts are scientifically proven to be safer for all users.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Robert Ping May 31, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      And here is the WALC Institute webpage that introduced the term “protected roundabouts”, with diagrams, videos and technical specs:

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Roundabout Unsafe May 31, 2016 at 3:07 pm

        Thanks for the link. Compare the WALC freeway-inspired roundabouts to Nick Falbo’s, Dutch-inspired design for a protected intersection.

        The protected intersection wastes far less space, doesn’t prioritize car speed, doesn’t require bike/ped to take long doglegs where they are forced to yield to speeding cars, doesn’t make rearview mirrors useless, reduces high speed collisions with vulnerable users, costs less, etc., etc.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 3:24 pm

          I call BS on the space claim.
          Do the math. The right of way is over 60 feet and most of Portland’s rights of way are 60 feet or less.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gary B May 31, 2016 at 11:59 am

    I’m confused why a fire truck would need outriggers on both sides. The burning building side (side over which the ladder leans) is the only one seeing a load; the outboard side is doing absolutely nothing aside from a minimal counterweight. I’m sure it’s nice to have both out as a just in case, but maybe they need to think about their procedure a bit more.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • canuck May 31, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      The outriggers will actually take the load off the tires and put it on the outriggers. The outriggers allow the engine to be properly leveled. This ensures it doesn’t tip when using the ladder. The broader the base the more stable the engine.

      The picture on this link shows the vehicle wheels off the ground for leveling.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • gutterbunnybikes May 31, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        I work with cranes all the time (got one coming to the work site tomorrow even), and though an assumption on my part since a crane isn’t a firetruck, I would say that it is very likely that the outriggers can clear most curbs. If the truck can drive over the curb, the curb would be clear.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Gary B June 1, 2016 at 3:32 pm

        Interesting. That’s certainly an ideal (from the fire truck’s perspective) way to do it. But perhaps we need to reconsider whether it’s really necessary. Outriggers on the load side alone will prevent tipping–the truck would be resting on tires and the outriggers. It would sacrifice some stability, as the truck might want to rock a bit as the load shifts off the outriggers and onto the tires. But is that really a safety problem? Maybe, I certainly have no experience using fire ladders. But it could also be a case of not considering all the tradeoffs and alternatives.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • JeffS June 4, 2016 at 4:01 pm

          Maybe do some research on your own. Ask someone who knows about these things. Rhetorical questions about something you admittedly know nothing about are not helping your case at all. Quite the opposite in fact.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam H.
    Adam H. May 31, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    I saw on page 27 the Foster Streetscape project mentioned, specifically how to improve upon the current buffered bike lane design. Does this mean the city is looking into how to get a protected cycleway on Foster? If so, this would be huge.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Beeblebrox May 31, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      It all depends on the project budget, most likely. Protected bike lanes weren’t budgeted in the original scope, but there’s usually a healthy contingency that hopefully could be used.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • maccoinnich May 31, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Probably best if we don’t make them at all. Using Google Maps, I had a quick look at some built examples in the Netherlands. They were generally between 250 and 400 feet in diameter. There might be room for that size of intersection in Washington County, but there isn’t in Portland’s fairly tight grid system.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • maccoinnich May 31, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      That was intended as a reply to Rick, above.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      Many people confuse other and older styles of circular intersections with modern roundabouts. East coast rotaries, large multi-lane traffic circles (Arc D’Triomphe, Dupont Circle), and small neighborhood traffic circles are not modern roundabouts. If you want to see the difference between a traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout (UK continental roundabout), go to to see pictures.

      Single-lane modern roundabouts (90-120 feet in diameter) can handle intersections that serve about 20,000 vehicles per day with peak-hour flows between 2,000 and 2,500 vehicles per hour. Two- and three-lane modern roundabouts (150-220 feet in diameter) can serve about 50,000 vehicles per day and handle 2,500 to 5,500 vehicles per hour.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • maccoinnich May 31, 2016 at 12:27 pm

        Am from the UK, not confused.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 3:56 pm

          Then you know that 400 foot diameters are not modern roundabout diameters, but the old UK and east coast US rotary design, when freeway design guides were used to design them.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • maccoinnich May 31, 2016 at 4:32 pm

            As I mentioned above, the 400′ diameter number was arrived at by looking at built examples in the Netherlands:


            Granted, that was one of the larger examples, but I didn’t find any examples of roundabouts with protected bike lanes that were less than about 250′ in diameter.

            As a local example, even a single lane roundabout in Bend, without any bike infrastructure, is approximately 150′ in diameter:


            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • paikiala June 1, 2016 at 12:06 pm

              Fair enough, but one quibble. the standard for measuring is the curb of the auto travel lane, not the extras outside of that.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

              • maccoinnich June 1, 2016 at 12:43 pm

                This being BikePortland, I wouldn’t consider sidewalks or bike lanes to be “extras”.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

      • lop May 31, 2016 at 2:02 pm

        Is that the diameter of the inscribed circle? Including the traffic lanes? Including a bikeway separated by 15-20 from the roadway at intersections? A sidewalk?

        Division/122nd has peak PM hour volumes of ~4700. What would be the combined diameter of a roundabout with lanes wide enough to at least accommodate the buses that run down those streets, that could handle current traffic volumes, with a protected bike lane and sidewalk?

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 3:35 pm

          The ICD’s were listed – outside curb encompassing the auto travel lanes, excluding the typical US shared path space and any buffer.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

        • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 3:51 pm

          For Division at 122nd, a turbo design with an ICD of 102 feet almost fits in the current space. Buildings at the SW and SE corners make things difficult to achieve a fully protected bike path separate from the ped path. If the gas station property at the NE corner can be used, you could probably fit those things in 20 feet more, so a diamond box with 142-150 foot sides.
          This would be a 2-lane turbo design. I’m not sure the 4700 entering is accurate, but the turbo design is reported to be more efficient, reducing some internal friction.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • lop May 31, 2016 at 4:21 pm

            4700 based on the closest traffic count (pm peak hour) on each road to the intersection. Double counts some vehicles, doesn’t count others depending which way they turned.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • paikiala June 1, 2016 at 12:03 pm

              The issue with machine counts is they only count those that get through the intersection, not those that want to get through. Long queues of traffic mean there is more demand than capacity and the machine only gets the total over a few hours, not the true peak hour demand.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Adam H.
      Adam H. May 31, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      I’m willing to bet that a roundabout would fit into one of East Portland mega-intersections (e.g. 122nd and Division).

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • maccoinnich May 31, 2016 at 1:01 pm

        Using Google Maps to measure, Division at 122nd is about 92′ wide. The intersection is 133′ on the diagonal. To build a roundabout there with sidewalks and protected bike lanes would require a significant land take, including at least partial demolition of buildings.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 3:54 pm

          It would require some of the NW, SW and SE corners and probably all of the NE corner.
          Compared to the usual method – adding turn or through lanes, which need to be long (covering more properties) so they can store parked cars waiting for the green – modern roundabouts compete very well.

          First cost is the wrong way to compare projects. It would be like buying a car without knowing the fuel economy or safety of the thing, just its price to buy.

          Present Value Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) is the best way to compare two or more choices. When comparing modern roundabouts to signals for a 20-year life cycle (the standard period), modern roundabouts usually cost less. Costs to compare include: first cost (design/land/construction), operation and maintenance (electricity, re-striping, upgrades, etc.), crash reduction (what’s your/your family’s safety worth?), daily delay (what’s your time worth?), daily fuel consumption (spend much on gas?), point source pollution (generated by stopped vehicles = health cost), area insurance rates (this costs more where it is less safe to drive). Each of these things, and others, can be estimated for any two choices and everyone near or using the project area will pay some portion of all of these costs (and also gain benefits).

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Chris I May 31, 2016 at 9:32 pm

            Is PBOT considering this in east Portland? It would be a huge improvement.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • paikiala June 1, 2016 at 12:01 pm

              PBOT does not have an active modern roundabout plan, just one guy who goes to all the conferences. Maybe with Vision Zero things will change.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

        • David Hampsten May 31, 2016 at 5:20 pm

          According to the tax maps of Portland Maps (under the Assessor tab), the right of way is 90 feet on both 122nd and on Division. There is an existing curve on the SW corner, where the clock tower is.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • David Hampsten May 31, 2016 at 5:25 pm

            Correction: it’s 95 feet on the SW side of the intersection on Division, 90 feet everywhere else. (Unrelated note, but 122nd used to be named Buckley Ave, according to the same survey.)

            Recommended Thumb up 0

  • FauxPorteur May 31, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    With Portland having such short blocks and most of the inner Portland area being grid based, I don’t see how separated lanes will really work without increasing the danger level at intersections.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • soren May 31, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      as long as site lines are clear, a protected bike lane poses about the same risk as a wider conventional bike lane. in copenhagen many curb-separated bike lanes taper off 50+ feet prior to an intersection.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 4:04 pm

        And a cut in the barrier for every driveway?

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • soren May 31, 2016 at 4:41 pm

          and once again driveways are a problem with any kind of bike lane (or sidewalks for that matter).

          Recommended Thumb up 0

      • gutterbunnybikes May 31, 2016 at 5:22 pm

        Since the standard Portland block is 264′ (1/20th of a mile- center intersection to center of intersection) you take 100 feet out of it for intersection sight lines and you now got 160′ (even less) feet of “protection”. One driveway per block brings that down to 60 ‘. Quite frankly they aren’t very doable in much (note I didn’t say all) of Portland.

        And I’d love to see where you got your stats that the intersections on protected bike lanes are about the same as regular bike lanes. Most the studies I’ve seen show a 50-70% increase in intersection collisions with a protected bike lane.

        “A Danish study by Agerholm et al. in 2008[19] concluded that “Through the years many studies have shown that bicycle paths in built-up areas impair traffic safety. A new Danish study presented in this article confirms these results… the main results are that bicycle paths impair traffic safety and this is mainly due to more accidents at intersections, and that there has been no improvement in the design of new bicycle paths compared to the older ones.”

        (somewhere I got the full translated version of this one – but can’t find it right now)

        or this one:

        The 1987 Berlin Police Department study of bicycle crashes is notable for its importance in dispelling the myth of improved safety for bicyclists on sidewalk-type bicycle facilities (“sidepaths”, “cycle tracks”, or in German, “Radwege” — a word which generically refers to all bikeways, but in the Berlin study refers only to those alongside urban streets like sidewalks). for the translated version of this one.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • soren May 31, 2016 at 7:40 pm

          i posted links to those studies on this blog dozens of times as “spare wheel”. the removal of the curb or protection before the intersection came about as a consequence of the trafitec studies (so they don’t have bearing on my comment). and btw, best practice in denmark now involves the use of additional mitigation, including signals.

          portland has a lot to learn from denmark. it’s a pity that its elected officials don’t seem interested.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

        • soren May 31, 2016 at 7:54 pm

          I should also note that the study you cite makes no comparison between curbed cyclepaths and non-curbed cyclepaths. Previous studies in Copenhargen found that both were associated with increased injury/accident risk but that this risk was mitigated by positive changes to health. I realize that you are more comfortable riding in the lane but change is coming and you will either have to violate the mandatory sidepath law or suck it up and ride in the protected bike lane.

          (The Berlin study is irrelevant to my point because it examined awful legacy physically-separated facilities not curb-separated facilities.)

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • gutterbunnybikes May 31, 2016 at 9:28 pm

            I’m not arguing the health/risk aspect, won’t even touch that one. I completely agree that the traffic risk is 100%+ worth the benefits to society be it in the realm of health, economic and environment.

            I’m debating the all too often spoken phrase “improved safety” in regards to cycle track vs bike lane vs lane. And I’m not at all opposed to separated facilities. I just want the discussion to be honest, and saying that riding within two curbs or behind bollards reduces your chances of traffic-related incidents quite simply isn’t honest. It’s never once, as far as I’ve seen, been supported when intersection data is included in the study (many of them exclude the intersection data purposely claiming it isn’t relevant because of the intersections are shared spaces).

            They do give people a misguided sense of safety which does translate into more people riding bicycles – awesome and that is why I’m really not opposed to bike lanes, even separated ones (see the first paragraph).

            But this is a very slippery slope, do we really need to justify the extra costs for facilities when wider painted lanes and good greenways (note not the bad ones) are cheaper and nearly as effective in increasing rideshare? Is 500%+ increase in installation costs worth the extra 5%? At what point does infrastructure become an excuse for bad motorist behavior – could it be argued and won in court?

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • soren June 1, 2016 at 10:15 am

              i don’t think anyone is arguing that a protected bike lane alone increases safety at intersections over a non-protected bike lane alone. intersections need specific treatments that enhance safety of any kind of bike facility (and both kinds of facilities can be poorly designed).

              i think you are using the intersection argument as a strawman for your real rationale for criticizing protected infrastructure — cost vs benefit. i think this is definitely a conversation worth having and there are certainly situations where a buffered/painted bike lane or greenway treatment can make more sense that a protected bike lane.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

            • soren June 1, 2016 at 10:18 am

              They do give people a misguided sense of safety which does translate into more people riding bicycles

              there is safety in numbers so is this perception really misguided?

              Recommended Thumb up 0

            • Adam H.
              Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 10:20 am

              This is why you install protected intersections as well.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

              • JeffS June 1, 2016 at 12:48 pm

                Well, at least you admit that bike lanes are increasing risk.

                People are dying here because of poorly implemented bike lanes. Long ago, many people accepted the “better than nothing” rationale and never looked back.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Dan A June 2, 2016 at 8:47 am

                This is my concern with the “improvements” currently planned by Washington County. They want to widen some roads to 5 lanes and tack on a token bike lane (5 feet wide at most). Once that has been done, it’s unlikely we’ll ever seen another actual improvement to the road. ‘Hey, it’s got a bike lane, what more do you want?’

                Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Adam H.
                Adam H. June 2, 2016 at 9:33 am

                Yep. I even asked about protected bike lanes and they gave the typical list of excuses. Many others had asked as well. The county’s response to the query is below:

                Separated bike facilities were considered for use on this project; however it was determined that they would create challenges for bicyclists making turning movements, bicyclists avoiding debris, road maintenance, drainage, access, and transit stops. A two- way bike lane would also require additional right-of-way, which impacts homes and businesses along the corridors.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Dan A June 2, 2016 at 10:52 am

                They didn’t mind taking ROW to ‘improve’ Bethany.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

        • gutterbunnybikes May 31, 2016 at 8:41 pm

          Well, not for all of Denmark, but I’ve been doing some comparisons of Copenhagen and Portland. Took me about a year of searching to find the Copenhagen info (they’re pretty sneaky about some of it and these charts might help explain why).

          This is just the beginning of a little project I’ve been working on. Thinking of adding a few more towns into the mix too, if I can find the info.

          I should add that not on my chart only 2% of Copenhagen commuters commute the American average of 9 miles (15 km) or more per trip.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
            Michael Andersen (News Editor) June 1, 2016 at 11:52 pm

            Cool project – I’m interested to see more! You might be interested in this post we did a couple years back:

            The commute distance thing is huge … and a huge reason we write so warmly on BP about denser development. If I had to name one difference between Copenhagen (where I’m currently sitting) and Portland, it wouldn’t be the streets, great though they are. It’d be the fact that six-story buildings are legal on virtually every street inside the equivalent of the 205 loop.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

          • lop June 2, 2016 at 1:15 am

            Copenhagen is ~33.4 square miles. Portland is ~133 square miles of land. If you were to put together a Copenhagen vs inner Portland chart, how much do you think your numbers would change?


            This is a good source for Dutch stats if interested. They have an english page, but a lot of their stuff isn’t available in English. Google translating the dutch version might give you access to a lot more data.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

          • soren June 2, 2016 at 12:34 pm

            where did you get the commute average for the USA? most of the US trip data i’ve seen includes recreational cycling (which inflates the trip distance).

            cycling injury data in PDX is misleading because only ambulance trips logged by law enforcement are counted whereas in more civilized nations injury cause is coded at (free) medical facilities.

            copehagen has been remarkably successful in decreasing cycling risk:

            In 2014 there were 90 cyclist casualties and 1 fatality. In comparison, in 1995 there were 252 cyclist casualties. Apart from infrastructure upgrades, one of the reasons for the drop in the
            casualty rate is the growth of bicycle traffic.

            and the steady decrease in risk correlates well with the truly amazing increase in mode share:

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • gutterbunnybikes June 2, 2016 at 5:20 pm

              us ridership numbers from 2010 US Census.

              However, I recently found a Portland specific survey which puts the average Portland commute at just over 11 miles – unfortunately, it’s nearly as old.

              As for the density issue, I’m well aware of the vast difference between the two cities in this respect. But that isn’t the point of my little project. Though so far it’s just an implication, the broader point I’m trying to make is that Portland is just as, if not safer for cyclists than Copenhagen is.

              It kinda came home to me when I did a comparison to our injury and fatality rates to the Hawthorne Bridge counter (pre Tillicum) when I figured out that a single day of bike traffic over the Hawthorne was equal to over 200 years of Portland cyclist fatalities and serious injuries.

              From then on I’ve been trying to find a better way to determine our VMT because (no offence but our bike counts suck) and this is an attempt to get a better idea of our VMT based on a city who actually tries hard to collect such data.

              Even harder than Copenhagen though is numbers from Toyko, whom I’ve been fascinated with lately since they take a more legislative approach than engineer approach to achieve their amazing success as well. I’m not going to lie but I honestly think the secret sauce for the success of bicycles is when the jurisdictions take a more anti-automobile approach than a bike friendly approach. Because all I can say is that I’ve yet to see any safety data on bicycle infrastructure that really wows me – even the stuff that is done with a bias like leaving the intersections out.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

              • soren June 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm

                the average trip distance for the ohsu bike program 4.5 miles one way (5388 people registered). my guess is that this is pretty close to the average trip distance in the pdx area…

                Recommended Thumb up 0

            • gutterbunnybikes June 2, 2016 at 10:33 pm

              The PDOT (via ODOT) and the Copenhagen data are both based on police reports and not hospital inpatient data. I was actually surprised that both used the same metric since the health/risk aspect plays out to be much more significant in countries with socialized medicine than in our system.

              Before finding the data I assumed that this was going to be a greater issue with the comparison I was trying to make because I assumed they’d be more interested in the medical costs as opposed to reported instances. Needless to say, I’m pleasantly surprised.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

              • soren June 3, 2016 at 10:52 am

                imo, copenhagen safety statistics (a ~300% reduction in injuries over 20 years) and mode share increase (50%!) speak for themselves.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

            • gutterbunnybikes June 2, 2016 at 10:50 pm

              I’m still a little skeptical of the safety in numbers concept and it’s still under debate. It’s dirty little secret is number of instances can, and are often expected to rise – but as long as mode share increases in a more substantial way it is considered acceptable.

              As mush as I don’t like this compairson, it’s a lot like a random shooting. If there are two gun men and they both use the same amount of ammo, but the one difference between the two shooters is one goes to a community center pick up game, and the other at the NBA finals. Which shooter injures or kills more victims? Which one are you likely to survive if you were at both events? And the answer for each of the questions is the NBA finals game.

              And btw. it’s not a straw dog argument. I’m just curious how adding infrastructure which increases collisions more than it deters fits into the vision zero. And I doubt you’ll find anyone that is a bigger fan of greenways than me (but of course it likely because I do like to ride in the lane)

              Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Eric Leifsdad May 31, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Eliminate 3 out of 4 right turns by using the separation as a diverter (with a hole for crossing bike traffic.) That also eliminates 3 lefts. Not unlike a one-way grid. If we want to keep the connectivity in a denser space, probably best to slow everything down and keep the corner radii very small, but removed from the bike lane. Better Broadway was a pretty good demonstration of this though the corners should be tighter yet and posted with something substantial like a steel bollard. Removable or retractable bollards could allow fire trucks through.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ethan May 31, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    “We can’t build protected bike lanes because we would rather protect drivers getting out of their cars than protect people riding bikes.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • lop May 31, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Yea, who cares if we reduce access for people who need mobility devices, right?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Spiffy May 31, 2016 at 3:49 pm

        did you read the article? we’re giving 3 feet of space to the non-mobility challenged… so we’re giving 3 feet of space to get out of a car to those who don’t need it… we only need to give it to those who need it, but we’re wasting it on everybody at the expense of safety to others…

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • lop May 31, 2016 at 4:19 pm

          People who need mobility devices park in non handicapped spaces a lot. Because there aren’t many handicapped spaces. Put a couple on every block, is your bikeway still continuous ?

          Recommended Thumb up 0

    • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      Pending ADA standards propose one accessible space per block face. All curb side spaces are considered accessible, but if you separate the car from the curb, you need to provide a marked path to a ramp. This ends up putting the ADA car space at one end of the block or the other, so the space is close to the corner ramps.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Evan Manvel May 31, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Gotta start some systems thinking here. From Fire Chief magazine:

    For more than a few years now, fire chiefs have had to answer the question from local government leaders and taxpayers, “Why do you need this big and expensive truck running up and down the road for mostly medical calls and car wrecks?”

    The apparatus used in Western Europe typically excel in these four areas.
    (1) They’re highly maneuverable on the narrow, winding streets.
    (2) There is very little wasted compartment space.
    (3) They have a much smaller apparatus footprint than American rigs.
    (4) They carry most equipment in enclosed compartments protected from the elements.

    Every fire department states that their first priority is life safety. So why do fire departments continue to chase the holy grail of lower property insurance rates?

    “If life is indeed a greater priority over property, North County Fire District should look at its highest life loss problems. Currently, (and not identified by this study), vehicle accidents [sic] account for over a dozen deaths in the District’s service area,”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      Last I looked, about 80% of Portland Fire and Rescue responses are medical emergencies.
      It could be less if all residential properties were required to have sprinklers.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • paikiala May 31, 2016 at 4:01 pm


        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Eric Leifsdad May 31, 2016 at 5:40 pm

        Do we need to get the outriggers extended on both sides for a medical call?

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • paikiala June 1, 2016 at 11:59 am

          A fire could happen anywhere.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Hudson May 31, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I’m guessing that our system of city governance doesn’t help – each bureau is controlled by a different commissioner with a different agenda. In most cities, departments are administrated under executive perview, coordinated by a city manager appointed by the mayor.

    So Portland has one hand talking to a hand that isn’t listening.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Howard Draper May 31, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Agreed. Is there any advocacy effort to abandon our antiquated commissioner form of government? I would support that in a heartbeat.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Todd Hudson May 31, 2016 at 2:31 pm

        Look up the Portland Community Equality Act – they’re trying to get signatures for a ballot initiative.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Buzz May 31, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      Plus, management changes just about every three years, there’s no long-term vision.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Dan A June 1, 2016 at 9:46 am

        Just long enough to go on some junkets, form committees, make toothless plans, do favors for your nimby friends, and start running for unopposed re-election.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 10:04 am

        If there’s one thing Portland has plenty of, it’s long-term visions. Having the guts to actually act upon those visions is another matter entirely.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Eric Leifsdad June 1, 2016 at 11:24 am

          Or don’t worry about the long-term so much and just start doing more things right now that making biking easier, make it harder to drive like a lunatic, and more pleasant to be outside a car than in it. Orange cones? We have some of those at least.

          There are small glimmers. I’m not sure if it is a lack of guts. Maybe a lack of perspective, since none of the leadership rides a bike to work and/or the grocery store, or has kids who bike or walk to school? Difficult to smell and hear your city with the windows rolled up. Nobody notices the noise of 30mph+ traffic? Maybe 35 is a bit noisy and unpleasant with kids a few feet away? At least half of the voters say they would like to get out of their cars more and are afraid of biking in traffic, but there’s no political will to enforce 25mph speed limits on bike routes or do anything to constrict or rein-in the traffic?

          The leadership needs to say things like, “let’s make it nicer to get to school without a car, everywhere, this year” and staff has to come back with something that doesn’t involve pouring concrete over the entire city “as soon as we raise a trillion dollars.” Engineering means trade-offs, optimizing value, and safety first. Given the rigorous high-speed crash protection required for freeway-speed vehicles, a space with those things *and* unarmored people in it should be engineered from a default position of safety for the vulnerable people even if it means making the environment extremely hostile to the people operating the heavily armored things. Let’s at least get some barrels or petunias out there for people to hide behind.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Dan A June 1, 2016 at 3:32 pm

            Get 80-90% of kids walking or biking to school and I bet you get more people pushing for road safety.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

        • soren June 2, 2016 at 6:08 pm

          commisioners with vision would realize that we need a transportation bond.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mike Sanders May 31, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Federal regulations come into play, too. Some need to be modernized, but the way Congress is being run these days makes getting some rules changed almost impossible. If Trump wins this fall, big projects might have to be put on the shelf for at least 10 years, maybe longer. Waiting until next January for the new mayor to take over at Portland City Hall doesn’t help, either.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • gutterbunnybikes May 31, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      Any of the three candidates still in the race are all pretty much lame ducks the moment they’re sworn in. Democrat or Republican legislative members won’t fall in line with Bernie or Trump, and Clintons only chance of being even kind of effective is for the Dems to take the Senate “AND” the House (good luck with that one).

      No matter how the dice are tossed this time around, it’s four more years of political insider gridlock – yippie.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Cyclekrieg May 31, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Looking at the image at the top, has PDOT not discovered pavement and curb depressions?

    There is no need to pipe drainage off the car travel lane. At your low points along the alignment, do a either a depression or curb cut with metal topper (a flow though, if you want to get technical). Both are done all the time for driveways and sidewalks, so the paving/curb machines are set up for that already. Heck, if you wanted to get fancy, you could depression with a slotted trench. Then that stormwater can flow into the planter box/rain garden/infiltration trench. Everyone is happy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • paikiala June 1, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      Catch basin inlets are hand formed.
      Depressions are something a cyclists would ride through.
      A bridge over a depression would be rather shallow, with the prospect of getting clogged. The less maintenance the better and the less clogging, the less liability from hydroplaning vehicles.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Eric Leifsdad May 31, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Blocks tend to have driveways and other places that force a gap in protection. How hard is it to set the fire truck’s outriggers into these gaps? Any place a car could turn generally requires a bit of clear zone for sightlines as well.

    A block with a mix of some jersey barriers, steel bollards, and/or some parked cars, planters, and some rubber curb and/or flexi-posts is better than just some paint or a shrug. Any errant vehicle is likely to at least hit a hard thing or make some alarming noise while smashing stuff and coming toward you. Most drivers will stick to the straight line that misses the hard, immovable objects.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom May 31, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Holding out for the perfect continous stretch of protection may lead to the demise of many projects. Most all the benifit can be obtained by putting intermittent islands of variuos protection, as long as they are not that far apart. Do what you can. Make protection common, not perfect, with preference for scary heavy stuff that someone would not want to run their car into.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ethan June 1, 2016 at 11:19 am

    How do firetrucks deal with narrow residential streets with parking on both sides? I’m sure if they can figure it out how to put out fires when their fire engines can’t even get through the street, they should be able to figure out how to put out fires when the road is narrowed by a bike lane.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • paikiala June 1, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      When they find a problem, they request parking removal from half the street.
      This is about designing in an obstruction, or not.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Dan A June 2, 2016 at 8:50 am

        So we can request parking removal in the name of saving lives?? Interesting.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • paikiala June 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm

          823-SAFE or the online form, is where you request parking removal. It is usually requested related to visibility issues near intersections. It is often not granted unless there is a history of crashes at an intersection.
          I’ve observed that it’s not so much the car closest to the intersection that blocks what I need to see as the second car – depending on cross traffic speed.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • JeffS June 2, 2016 at 5:38 pm

            It’s absurd to have to walk 8 feet into the street to see if a car is coming. I’m over 6 foot and still have issues. My daughter has absolutely no chance.

            And yes, following Oregon law (which we don’t) would not be enough to provide adequate visibility. It would be a start.

            Recommended Thumb up 0