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State says raised bike lanes won’t work on outer Powell after all

Posted by on July 28th, 2016 at 9:39 am

concrete with durable striping

A sidewalk-colored bike lane (described here as a “concrete shoulder”) set off by slightly raised striping is the state’s preferred alternative for bike lanes on a reconstructed Powell Boulevard east of Interstate 205. The state-run road carries about 20,000 motor vehicles daily.
(Image: ODOT)

After an advisory group agreed that it wanted an upcoming rebuild of outer Powell Boulevard to include raised bike lanes, the Oregon Department of Transportation says they’re not practical after all.

Instead, it’s drawing the ire of some (though not all) advisory committee members by saying there won’t be any vertical protection between bike and car traffic on the busy state-run street.

“[A raised bike lane] presents a long list of challenges.”
— Matt Freitag, ODOT project manager

Among the issues the agency has cited were difficulty getting water to run off the pavement and into drainage areas; the number of driveway crossings; and the difficulty of sweeping debris or snow from the bike lanes, which would be narrower than any of the equipment the agency currently owns.

“Each of their own wasn’t a dealbreaker, but taken in aggregate [a raised bike lane] presents a long list of challenges,” said Matt Freitag, an engineer and project manager for ODOT’s Portland regional office.

Instead, Freitag said, the agency’s “preferred alternative” for Powell between Interstate 205 and 172nd Avenue is what it calls a “buffered bike lane.” But Freitag and project manager Mike Mason said that the “buffer” along Powell might be built with a different-colored material from asphalt and/or might include some sort of non-curb vertical separators.

A February memo that summarized options for Powell illustrated the “buffered bike lane” option as including “durable profiled striping,” which ODOT has described elsewhere as thick enough to give “auditory signals” to people when they drive over it.

durable profiled striping

Another option for buffered bike lanes: durable profiled striping with no color change.

Freitag and Mason said Wednesday the project is mostly done discussing whether or not there will be a raised or buffered lane.

“What’s undecided is what gets in the buffer,” Mason said. “Is it profiled striping, that raised striping that creates a vibration when you go over it, or some other type of raised pavement markers?”

Potter and Grosjean: ODOT tried its best to make separation possible

caption

A rendering of a raised bike lane on Powell, prepared by ODOT but rejected as an option.

In interviews, two members of the advisory committee who had previously expressed support for protected bike lanes on Powell said they’ve been persuaded that raised bike lanes aren’t worth the cost on the street, which gets unusually heavy runoff from nearby hills during rainstorms.

“They really went into it trying to figure out how to get enough drainage,” said Cora Potter, a frequent bike user who sits on the Outer Powell Safety Project’s Community Advisory Committee. “Anything that involves grade separation greatly increases, like quadruples, the cost. … If you have a curb, you basically get a puddle at the curb that then comes in and covers up the bike lane. If you don’t have a curb, it just flows off the bike lane in a sheet.”

Paul Grosjean, the committee’s co-chair and a member of the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association, said that “after thinking about it for several months,” he’d decided a buffered bike lane would be fine.

“I have driven the entire corridor with just that in mind, and kind of looked at as I drove and said ‘What is this going to be like?'” He said. “I think this is the best solution that is available.”

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Potter said she thinks there’s still a chance for the street to get domes like those used in Houston, Washington DC and elsewhere.

“The turtle dome things are actually kind of good, I think, if they’re spaced close enough together,” Potter said.

Potter also said she expects the bike lane to be very visually distinct. If it isn’t, she said, more people will drive in the bike lane to jump the queue for right turns, etc.

“The asphalt would be a different color or they’d make it out of concrete,” she said. “If they don’t, then I’ll be really disappointed. Because it needs to be visually very very clear that the bike lane is not a place for cars on Powell.”

Protected intersections might yet be included

caption

A rendering of a protected intersection included in ODOT’s memo for possible intersection treatments on Powell, for example at 122nd Avenue.
(Image: Nick Falbo)

Elizabeth Quiroz, a professional advocate for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance who sits on the advisory committee, said in a July 12 email she doesn’t like the new plan.

“Many community members are not happy with the final option presented by ODOT.”
— Elizabeth Quiroz, BTA

“Many community members are not happy with the final option presented by ODOT,” she said in an email. “Our understanding was that a raised bike lane was a top priority. … We expected better and safer infrastructure.”

Mason and Freitag said that none of the issues ODOT identified with a raised or otherwise protected bike lane were insurmountable.

The City of Portland might be able to get a narrower street sweeper. Higher-grade crossings and driveways might prevent the “up and down” bobbing that they fear a raised bike lane might give people biking. Even the drainage issues might be solved with enough money.

They and Potter, the advisory committee member, also said there’s still potential for greatly improving the signalized intersections at 122nd and 136th with Dutch-inspired elements like bend-out bike crossings and corner safety islands to force sharper turns.

“The intersections are what really scare me,” Potter said. “As a bike rider, my honest opinion is if they can do the treatment that makes it obvious it’s a bike lane, like a different surface, and then plow as much money as they can into the intersection treatment, as someone who will probably ride a bike there, that’s what I would do.”

Freitag said protected intersection designs are possible at the signalized intersections.

“We’re certainly looking at options that include those elements,” he said.

Mason said that whatever happens on Powell, it’s going to be settled quickly — at least for the stretch from 122nd to 136th where reconstruction was already funded by the state legislature.

“The discussions with the city should happen over the next couple of months if not sooner,” he said. “We’re on a fast track to get this designed and built, so we need to be making decisions.”

Update: The East Portland Action Plan, a prominent advocacy group that had four members on the project’s advisory committee, has come out strongly in favor of protected bike lanes and against what it sees as ODOT’s proposal not to use them.

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

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Correction 10:05 am: An earlier version of this post’s headline incorrectly summarized the most recent position of the project’s community advisory committee.

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Bob K.
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Bob K.

“We’re certainly looking at options that include those elements,” he said.

Classic ODOT statement. We’ll look at it and then tell you why we can’t do it. So disappointing.

eawrist
Guest
eawrist

ODOT out of Portland.

ethan
Guest
ethan

They’re planning on rebuilding the entire roadway, correct?

If that’s the case, why not plant the trees between the asphalt and make the sidewalks into 16′ wide MUPs on both sides?

Adam
Subscriber

Everyone saw this coming.

Adam
Subscriber

ODOT cites cost as a reason not to build protected bike lanes, but keep in mind, this is from the state agency that spent 10 years and $130 million building a two-mile expressway.

gretchin
Subscriber
gretchin

This is why nobody wants to serve on committees. All that work and for what?

Spiffy
Subscriber

“Potter also said she expects the bike lane to be very visually distinct. If it isn’t, she said, more people will drive in the bike lane to jump the queue for right turns, etc.”

that’s cute… but the only way to stop people from driving in the bike lane is to make it impossible to drive in the bike lane…

otherwise people will continue to illegally pass on the right in the bike lane either to pass people turning left or to pass people in order to turn right…

those are the driver movements that worry me the most when riding that section of Powell…

yeah, enforcement might work, but I don’t see that happening before infrastructure…

Spiffy
Subscriber

ODOMCAFAP… Oregon Department of Moving Cars As Fast As Possible…

JJJ
Guest

Remember that one time a highway lane expansion project was cancelled due to drainage concerns?

Lol.

rick
Guest
rick

Pathetic !

Paikiala
Guest
Paikiala

Street level bike lanes are only OK if the speed limit is 30 mph or less. The drainage hurdle is self-made. The storm water swales could be next to the car lanes.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

PBOT has a street sweeper for narrow raised bike lanes, as on Cully. Mike Mason, the project manager from ODOT, knows this. Also, if ODOT wants to use SDC funding from PBOT for the bike lanes, they are going to have to either raise them or provide barriers; simply replacing existing on-street bike lanes with new on-street bike lanes is not going to get them SDC funding for the lanes. $6 million in extra match funding down the toilet.

I’ve worked with Cory and Paul. I’m not pleased with their position on this. I thought they had more spine. Disappointed.

Still, for those who hope for “protected” bike lanes, rejecting the cycle track should give at least a bit of hope, especially if ODOT wants more PBOT funding.

If you want to campaign for better improvements, don’t talk with City Council – no, go talk with your state legislator instead, they have pull with ODOT.

Nick Falbo
Subscriber
Nick Falbo

Two words: Valley Gutter.

Valley gutter drainage puts the drains and water flow in the center of the street rather than at the curb. All water flows inward, away from the sidewalk.

This is great for transit, as buses and cars will no longer splash water on waiting passengers as they drive by.

This is great for safety, because the superelevation on turns actually encourages slow speeds rather than racetrack style turns.

This is great for raised bikeways, as the water will flow away and off of them, rather than pooling in the bikeway itself.

Paikiala
Guest
Paikiala

The turtle bumps are a red herring too. They are not considered safe for motorcyclists at the speed the street would be posted.

bikeninja
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bikeninja

The raised bike lanes would move the drainage problem to the roadway, which would be a good thing. This would be poetic justice because the main cause of the run-off causing the road to flood is the acres of impermeable surface ( parking lots and roads) that prevent water from being absorbed by the ground in a heavy rain. Perhaps it is high time that motorists have to face the consequences of happy motoring and not pawn them off on others or the residents of the future.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Well, it *is* ODOT you are talking about here…

Or rather, ODOC, since the last letter of the acronym should really just be “cars” and not “transportation”, since cars seem to be mostly all they give a hoot about.

Quelle surprise!!

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

So many challenging trade-offs to be “engineered” (in a real engineering profession, safety factors are numbers like “2”.) Permeable pavement might really help with the stormwater issues if we can be sure to keep heavy vehicles off of it (seems like a good characteristic for a sidewalk and/or bike lane.)

It only needs to be raised at the intersections and driveways. What’s the flow concern there? Maybe too many intersections and driveways?

If we’re not going to have it physically protected, just stripe it with 8ft lanes and have a 25mph speed limit, strictly enforced. Trade-offs, right?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Would it make sense to invite some of the committee members out for a bike ride along the street, and give them the opportunity to share the reasoning for their recommendations?

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

Fine with me. I’m not a fan of raised lanes adjacent to a travel lane.

That said I think we all realize that the main reason they’re keeping the lane on-grade is so they can be parked in if need be. They probably refer to it internally as the breakdown lane.

David Lewis
Guest

It’s funny how people regard Portland as a bicycling haven until they actually come here and find out that bicycle activism is a full time job because of the rigidly pro-automobile culture of the local layers of government. It’s absurd.

And I find it especially hilarious how the vast majority of the city looks exactly like any other city’s urban sprawl with parkways and strip malls and SUVs and fat people and the whole nine yards.

We elect our policymakers, and this is what we get?

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Putting “durable profiled striping” along the inside of the buffer adjacent to the bike lane (a la North Interstate, north of Denver) is ridiculous, and possibly dangerous to have adjacent to a bike lane. It’s unacceptable.

Someone needs to tell the next contractor so we don’t end up with more of it.

Jim Chasse
Guest
Jim Chasse

I’d like to make a comment, but work is busy and
I’m committed to my employer at the moment. There is much more going on than what has been reported and I’ll try to fill you all in later this evening. East Portland Action Plan members, ODOT and PBOT staff met Tuesday evening to work on this issue and it was a most productive meeting. Thanks to all that are interested in this project and I think by working together we may all end up with a great facility on outer Powell. Jim

Gerald Fittipaldi
Guest
Gerald Fittipaldi

Side note: Dan Kaufman, founder of Livable Streets Action and very involved advocate for making a safer Powell, testified at the Oregon Transportation Committee meeting on July 21st. He handed out photos of a bus stop on Powell that had been obliterated by a motorist that ran off the road. His testimony was very powerful and got the attention of the five governor-appointed commissioners of the OTC.

Soren and I also testified that day to comment on the State’s draft Transportation Safety Action Plan (TSAP). Slightly off topic, but the deadline to comment on this plan is Monday, August 1st. Comments can be emailed to safety@odot.state.or.us.

Full details on submitting comments to the OTC on the TSAP, including a link to the plan: https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/TP/Pages/tsap.aspx

IMO the TSAP is too car-centric and doesn’t acknowledge just how important safe infrastructure is for eliminating Oregon’s roadway fatalities, a stated goal. It also blames cyclists and pedestrians for wearing dark clothing and seems to send the message that peds’ and cyclists’ responsibilities are on par with motorists’ for everyone’s safety. I strongly disagree with this and I let the OTC know this in my testimony.

And for anyone who’s on the BikeLoudPDX listserv, here’s one thread that goes into more detail on last Thursday’s OTC Meeting: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/bikeloudpdx/j5ocTQg9o-k

Catie
Guest
Catie

Grade separated bikeways are the norm in Copenhagen. I might be mistaken, but it also rains there. Ramps to change grades to the road or sidewalk are easily made with a triangle patch of asphalt, the same you would use to fill in a pothole.

Champs
Guest
Champs

“…different-colored material from asphalt”

What I’m hearing is the sound of a can being kicked down the road, all the way to the green lanes on the Sellwood Bridge. Ahem.