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Say hello to “crossbikes” — Portland’s latest bikeway innovation

Posted by on August 2nd, 2016 at 2:56 pm

PBOT's new crossbikes

One of the new crossbikes at NE 37th and Killingsworth.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been eight years since Portland proudly proclaimed the color green as its go-to hue for bikes. Now, following in the footsteps of bike boxes and green lanes that have sprouted up all over town, it’s time to say hello to “crossbikes.”

By the end of this week there will be crossbikes at seven intersections around the city. If you see one, don’t fret. Treat them exactly like they sound: sort of like crosswalks, but for bikes. The Portland Bureau of Transportation is set to officially announce the new treatment tomorrow with an educational push (see new sign below) similar to the one they did around bike boxes in 2008.

Everything you need to know.(Image: PBOT)

Everything you need to know.
(Image: PBOT)

So far PBOT has striped crossbikes at NE 37th at Killingsworth, NE Going at 33rd, N Williams at Rosa Parks and NW Johnson at 21st. By the end of the week there will be three more: N Michigan at Killingsworth, SE Lincoln at 60th, and NE Tillamook at 15th.

You might notice that all the crossbike locations have one thing in common: they’re on neighborhood greenway streets. Roger Geller, PBOT’s chief bicycle planner, said it’s just the latest effort the bureau has undertaken to make crossings safer on what are designed to be low-stress, family-friendly streets where people on bikes and foot are prioritized.

Geller said it’s an idea he’s be working on for several years (we posted a Q & A with him about crossbikes back in 2011) and it came from how he observed people using curb extensions — where curbs are bulbed out in order to narrow the crossing distance. “When a cyclist was taking advantage of the curb extension and stopped at the end of it, it was clear from our observations that motorists would be paying attention more because they would stop,” Geller shared in a phone interview today. “So we thought, if we put more indicators in the intersection that more clearly signal that this is a crossing, it would lead to even greater awareness.”

“We we wanted to indicate that these intersections aren’t just pedestrian crossings, these are also bike crossings,” Geller added. “The green bike bars indicate this is an extention of the bikeway thru the intersection.”

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Here’s how the one at Rosa Parks and Williams as you approach the bike street from Rosa Parks:

PBOT's new crossbikes

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

And here’s another view of 37th at Killingsworth:

PBOT's new crossbikes

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

NW Johnson at 21st (image by PBOT):
cross-21johsnonpbot

NE Going at 33rd (image by PBOT):

crossbike-33going-pbot

Legally-speaking, crossbikes aren’t crosswalks. In a crosswalk, people are required by law to stop for anyone on bike or foot who shows intent to cross. Not so in a crossbike. But if you’ve walked or biked at all in Portland you’ll know that people tend to happily stop at neighborhood greenway crossings already so these markings should only increase awareness. Crossbikes will also increase the amount of people who stop to let you cross — even when they don’t have a stop sign.

“We want to make things as safe as possible for vulnerable roadway users and for modes that we’re looking to encourage. We think this can be an effective and relatively low-cost way to do that.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT

Keep in mind these crossbike locations aren’t just picked randomly. The cross-street must meet specific criteria that has been vetted by Geller and PBOT traffic engineers. They are only used on what are known as “minor collector streets” — a designation that applies only if the street has (at the most) one lane of traffic in each direction, no more than 10,000 cars per day (with 1,000 in the peak hour) and a maximum speed limit of 30 mph.

PBOT has already set a precedent for using green bars to mark caution areas through intersections; but this is the first time such markings have been used on neighborhood greenway streets (and not on streets with dedicated bike lane). PBOT plans to work with a Portland State University researcher to evaluate the new markings to see whether they improve conditions.

Each marking costs about $4,000 (including signs and crosswalk striping if necessary).

Geller says it’s all part of Portland’s march toward more bike-oriented, safer, streets. “We want to make things as safe as possible for vulnerable roadway users and for modes that we’re looking to encourage. We think this can be an effective and relatively low-cost way to do that.”

— 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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Kate
Guest
Kate

Nice work Roger and PBOT! I’m excited to use the Williams/Rosa Parks crossbike on my way home this evening. Giving drivers more awareness of the crossing — especially on that road where parked cars sometime obscure views when trying to continue north on williams — is worth a high-five.

BB
Guest
BB

These have been all over the greenways in Seattle for a couple of years now – and be sure, nobody driving a car will give you the regard they might to a pedestrian in a classic crosswalk.

Adam
Subscriber

Geller says … “We want to make things as safe as possible for vulnerable roadway users and for modes that we’re looking to encourage. We think this can be an effective and relatively low-cost way to do that.”

Read: this is a cheap way to look like we’re helping cyclists, while ensuring drivers experience zero inconveniences. Want to really make things as safe as possible? Tame the drivers through real bike infrastructure, rather than more paint. I am so sick of being buzzed constantly by aggressive drivers on our supposed “low-stress” streets.

mh
Subscriber

I’ve been treating 16th crossing Burnside in exactly this way since the pedestrian islands went in. It usually works, and Burnside is three lanes at that point.

ethan
Guest
ethan

These look really ambiguous.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Awesome! Two more Johnson locations would be great: at 14th and at 23rd. Both already have crosswalks on the north & south side of the street, and many drivers stop for bikes here anyway (which is really confusing when you’re not in a crosswalk).

m
Guest
m

It says: (1) the cars don’t have to stop so use caution and (2) cars do have to stop when “…bicycling slowly through a crosswalk…”

Which is it?

Chris
Guest
Chris

Cars on that stretch of Killingsworth regularly exceed 40 mph. Would be nice to see the City invest in some speed limit enforcement in addition to these measures.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Lets see, failure to stop for pedestrian in crosswalk, large fine if caught. Mow down cyclist in crossbike causing death and get off with slap on wrist and small failure to yield fine. hmm

Dave
Guest
Dave

What a stupid little waste. Why not on-demand blinking signals such as what Vancouver has installed on Fourth Plain Road and on Fort Vancouver Way?

Adron Hall
Guest

So I ride, especially at intersections, often standing up – which triggers certain behavior in drivers. Often to give me the all clear. However, encouraging and perpetuating an unclear right of way situation is and continues to be a little bit sketchy. For the less dominant and assertive riders, I’m not sure how this actually helps. When I ride, I always think from their perspective – and this actually gave me a hesitant approach but I was curious anyway.

I’m very curious to see any actual data behind it.

Josh G
Guest
Josh G

The Going St @33rd crossbike has been there for months. I avoid biking on the green thermoplast with any moisture present, as it’s right where you are leaned over for the turn on/off of the cycle track. More often lately, I see southbound auto traffic backed-up from the Prescott light past Going St. Crossbike doesn’t keep cars from blocking intersection, but perhaps has added some awareness of crossing cyclists. I think ped.s never understood where they were supposed to cross, not sure if the new green helps much.

J_R
Guest
J_R

This is confusing as all get out!

Presumably bicyclists are still vehicles and are required to stop at the STOP sign. But how many will?

It’s apparent that motorists are already confused by the combination crosswalk/bike crossing warning signs at places like Clay and 12th in SE. Some cars stop; some don’t. I appreciate it when motorists stop and allow cyclists on Clay to proceed when they can see they’d have to stop for the signal a block away. I’ve seen motorist begin to move after the initial wave of bicyclists passes and the light ahead has turned to green. Then they end up braking hard when bicyclists zoom through the stop signs expecting autos to remain stopped for them.

I’d prefer to see green pavement used where autos MUST yield. This new marking system just denotes a caution area where bikes are present. I hope PSU or somebody can do a study to determine the direct and indirect effects of this experiment.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

What’s good about crossbikes is that it shuts up the busy bodies who get bent out of shape when someone bikes on a crosswalk.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Since the cyclist is a vehicle on a minor street with a STOP sign, I think the cyclist will be the one getting the citation for failure to yield. I predict no citation for the motorist who hits a bicyclist in a cross bike.

J.E.
Guest
J.E.

“But if you’ve walked or biked at all in Portland you’ll know that people tend to happily stop at neighborhood greenway crossings already”

I’m sorry, which Portland are you cycling in? Must be the one in Maine, because that’s not how things work in Portland, Oregon.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest
Kyle Banerjee

I ride over these with some regularity. My anecdotal experience is that the green seems to improve awareness in motorists and encourages playing nice.

Having said that, there are disadvantages. Such markings encourage cyclists to think they have right of way where they don’t. Paint doesn’t provide nearly the same grip as the road. I don’t like riding on such stuff even in the dry, and it gets significantly worse as you add wet, rotting leaves, frost, and frozen fog.

There are areas where they could be helpful, but I certainly don’t want to see them everywhere.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Looks great, but it will likely encourage even more people to run the stop signs, albeit in a legally ambiguous manner. Now we’ll train every driver in Portland to be overly polite and wave us through stop signs.

Carter Kennedy
Guest
Carter Kennedy

I don’t see the necessity for this. Half of the drivers already treat bikers as pedestrians, stopping whenever a bike is near a crosswalk.

Tyler Bradford
Guest
Tyler Bradford

As much as I’d love to applaud these efforts, I got a small issue with the placement. Specifically…

Every North/South street number > 82nd. And this, on a week where we’ve had a fatality on 82nd and Flavel.

It may not be as drastic and as clearly delineated as the events of the Vanport Flood or the I-5 Freeway construction, but all these small choices are creating the same kind of structural disadvantage in East Portland as the city created in North Portland, seventy years ago. And we will see the same results.

SaferStreetsPlease
Guest
SaferStreetsPlease

They should seriously consider one at Ankeny and SE 28th.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Ugh! Awful! Really, putting a sharrow marking and a “crossbike” in line with the parking lane on a roadway where a cyclist needs to take the lane is just going to INCREASE intersection conflicts.

Ignore, for the moment, the cross traffic and just consider a motorist overtaking a cyclist. If a cyclist foolishly moves over into that marked space, the motorist is going to pass in/just after the intersection. Where does that leave the cyclist? Trying to negotiate the curb, parked car and second passing motorist all at once. FAIL.

I often wonder if the folks at PBOT ever ride. Ideas like this should have spawned a brief discussion and then been tossed pending solutions to the problems they create (while solving no problems at all).

Bill
Guest
Bill

“Legally-speaking, crossbikes aren’t crosswalks.” These scare the heck out of me

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

The use of an enhanced marked crossing for cyclists works well in the Netherlands…they are generally called “elephant tracks” and often only marked in white at the edge of the crossing (remove the green bars in the portland example). Some are placed over red lanes but not always.

As this design is refined for phase 2…I would recommend: making the white border of the bikers as a square block (aka elephant foot print) AND make a 0.5 ft to 1.0 ft break in the now merged white crosswalk / crossbike stripe to add more contrast and make it more visually conspicuous.*

Note*: unless these lanes are purposely “merged” in order to include the crossbike crossing in the institutionalized protections of crosswalks in state law..vs just combining them due to limited intersection space.

JoeL
Guest
JoeL

stupid. sometimes the rules are this, sometimes the rules are that… we’re all so much safer when no one knows what to do. yay.

Spiffy
Subscriber

Geller is right, they will get more people in cars to stop, illegally, obstructing traffic, while I sit there hoping they’ll hurry so I can cross after they’ve passed…

so very disappointed…

Tom
Guest
Tom

The lines should be white and extend across the intersection without a gap, like you see in front of some big box stores. I don’t want to be herded to the right, I want legal protection throughout the intersection.

Alex
Guest
Alex

As mentioned in comments, this type of marking has been done all over the world and in many parts of the US for years. So it’s a bit misleading to imply that they are Roger Geller’s “idea that he’s been working on for years.”

Having used facilities with similar crossings extensively in Minneapolis, I think that the effect of raising awareness of a bike crossing is more beneficial than the negative of confusing users as to right of way. However, it seems like the French practice of putting sharrows with bike symbols facing cross traffic and chevrons indicating the direction of the bikeway is more clear and just as visible. (I’ve only used bikeways with such markings briefly personally, though — in Montreal, which happens to be the best North American biking city.)

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

This feels like a waste of time and money to me.

pooperazzi
Guest
pooperazzi

Salmon always gets no love-

SE Salmon and SE 20th
SE Salmon and SE 12th
SE Salmon and SE 11th

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

I hope it does not lull anybody into a sense of false security. Paint on roadway has seldom provided anything more than a suggested guideline. Put bollards in the roadway requiring careful navigation, lest you scratch your paint on your car. That will promote safer intersection navigation.

Andy K
Guest

The green thermoplastic, if nothing else, is a signal that cyclists may be present, and it’s cheap to install. Win-win.

I’m not convinced MUTCD compliance matters. We have an entire MUTCD-compliant transit mall downtown that sees hundreds (or thousands) of traffic violations per day due to confusion, information overload, and intentional law breaking.

Zaphod
Guest

I could not hate these more. The risk of ambiguity can be fatal. Clear traffic laws on who has right of way will always be best. I’m convinced that nearly no one knows the actual laws surrounding pedestrians and bikes. The bikewalks are wildly dangerous. I’m surprised that the insightful and wise Geller is on-board knowing the dynamics of the road and human nature. I am 100% opposed.

eawrist
Guest
eawrist

I would love to see this or an actual signal and diverter at 9th and Killingsworth.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

Yes there is ambiguity with the ‘crossbikes’. I’m personally more sensitive to neologisms than to funny pavement markings. Having ridden NE Going St. from Vancouver to NE 47th Av. about 3000 times since the stop signs were turned I’d like to point out that a person who thinks there is no ambiguity in an intersection where traffic crossing your street has a stop sign, is courting danger. ORS and MUTCD don’t make you safe from harm.

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

In Holland, they have separate crosswalks for bikes and peds at each intersection controlled by stoplights, set next to each other. The boundary for the ped crosswalk has standard markings, while the one for bikes is bounded by big white squares on the pavement (nicknamed “elephant feet”). The signals are always set to let the bikes go across first, then the peds. I’ve been watching the YouTube videos of BicycleDutch (formerly NL Cycling), and there are examples of this in almost all of them. (Some great examples of intercity bike trails Dutch style there as well.) Worth a look.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Hey, folks, go easy on Roger!

These are “innovative,” so they must be excellent!

Paikiala
Guest
Paikiala

Green for bike lanes was mandated by the Federal government.

Osric
Guest
Osric

These are so odd, for all the reasons stated above. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put in a raised intersection with a different type of pavement or stripe the whole darn intersection? The tiny stop bar with the bike symbol is bizarre, since it’s after the stop sign and there’s no stop line for cars. If I were going straight across this intersection I would stop in the middle of the lane since the right-hand side of the road across the way is a parking lane.

What this says is that we still don’t know how to do basic intersection design. Everyone should read the CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic to get some ideas about how it’s been done for decades. And it seems it would be simple enough to change the stop signs so that the people using the “neighborhood greenway” don’t have to stop and the cross traffic does.

rick
Guest
rick

Confusing. The poster says “driver do not have to stop” but says Oregon state law requires drivers to stop when bike riders are riding slowly and giving drivers adequate time to stop.

Matt
Guest
Matt

While I appreciate the continued efforts on behalf of PBOT, this is poor design. The striping is difficult for drivers to see unless they are close to it and paying attention. If anything this lures cyclists into a false sense of security. I get that it is cheap but spend the money on more effective traffic controls such as lights and physical barriers instead. Seems like the only cycling initiatives we see these days is more paint…

Maxadders
Guest
Maxadders

Ugh, this is maddening. When drivers needlessly stop for my vehicle– which happens to be a bike– while I’m waiting at a stop sign, it pressures me to enter a potentially unsafe intersection, one that I’d rather cross without drivers doing me any “favors.”

I agree with the countless other commenters: ambiguity = danger. This is yet another inconsistency introduced by “forward thinking” PBOT who are seemingly quite out of touch with what cyclists actually need! Less time making cutsie Bowie / Prince lane markings, more actual research and design please!

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

This seems like a too-clever way to suggest the Idaho Stop. Why not just announce that the Idaho Stop is legal in Portland, and stop enforcing it? We already ignore certain Oregon parking laws in Portland.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Unless (and until) cyclists have the right of way on them, these will only create confusion, resentment and possibly even extra collisions.

Terrible, awful idea if they aren’t actually indicating that motorists should stop for cyclists using them.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Ugggh, I really don’t like this ambiguity when I’m riding my bike or driving my car. So who has the right of way in the first photo: the person riding the bike on Rosa Parks, or the person riding their bike in the green striped section on the cross street (Williams)? The law says the person on Rosa Parks (right?), but I would wager that at least 50% of the folks using this intersection wouldn’t know that. All in all, I think the $4000 could/should have been spent on one of the myriad of other safety issues on our bike paths.

bendite
Guest
bendite

I like it. Confused drivers are a good thing (in these types of situations).

Eric G
Guest
Eric G

Sometimes drivers stop and expect me to cross at this sort of thing, even when there is moving traffic in the other lanes. I even get honked at every now and then. If I don’t feel 100% safe, I wave the driver through, checking first that another cyclist isn’t going for it.

jered
Guest
jered

I’m on a bike therefore I follow (or break) traffic laws. Crosswalks are for pedestrians, but green ones are for bikes minus any actual legal status. A color to signal that a bike might be crossing traffic but you don’t have any obligation to stop for the bike.

I will get off my bike and use the crosswalk if I can’t catch a break in traffic, but usually I just wait for a clearing.

This really isn’t that complicated.

Paul Z
Guest
Paul Z

This looks to me like it could be a precursor to legalizing the “Idaho” stop for bicyclists in Oregon.

Teddy
Guest
Teddy

How is this legal since Bicyclists are vehicles not pedestrians!? I sure do not want to hit anybody, but I thought Bicyclists have to be walked across intersections.