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Here’s what Portland’s new carfree street and elevated bikeway will look like

Posted by on August 4th, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Couch Court looks like it will be a nice place to hang out.(Drawing courtesy City of Portland)

Couch Court looks like it will be a nice place to hang out.
(Drawing courtesy City of Portland)

In about one month the City of Portland will break ground on a new carfree street and plaza at the east end of the Burnside Bridge that will be known as Couch Court.

We first reported this news in early June and the Bureau of Transportation has just released the first renderings of what the finished design will look like.

As you can see from the image above, Couch Court will be a large plaza created in the space between two new buildings and Northeast 3rd and Couch streets. It will have tables, benches, and trees. Running through the middle of it will be a 14-foot pathway for two directions of bicycle traffic. This new plaza opens at the same time Ankeny Alley is coming to life on the other side of the Burnside Bridge and marks just the latest example of Portland’s march toward a new era of open streets.

As an example of the inspiration behind Couch Court, PBOT spokesman John Brady shared this image of Seattle’s new bikeway on 7th and Blanchard:

(Photo: PBOT)

(Photo: PBOT)

The Burnside Bridgehead is popping with new residential and commercial real-estate development. The owners of these new buildings formed a Local Improvement District back in April to pay for the plaza and a major improvement to the “Couch Curve” bikeway directly adjacent to it. Members of the Couch Court LID have agreed to split the $536,632 it will cost to build the new street and bike path. The final plans have been drawn up and all that remains is a City Council hearing on August 24th to approve a few minor changes to the project.

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Couch Court was originally planned to be a more typical street open to car users — but cars entering Couch Street could have presented a safety hazard to the 2,000 or so people who bike on it every weekday. Without cars in the picture, city engineers were able to narrow the street cross-section by four feet which leaves more space for walking, riding, and visiting with neigbors.

While a new carfree street will get all the attention, it’s likely that improvements to the Couch Street bikeway will be even more important overall to the newtork. This “s” curve between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and the Burnside Bridge has been extremely problematic for many years. It has been a safety issue and a design puzzle that PBOT has yet to figure out. Their latest plan (that will come to fruition with this project) is to create a six-foot wide bike lane that will be rasied three inches above the main roadway. The curb on each side of the bikeway will be painted yellow and PBOT will paint cross-hatches to create a visual buffer at the final corner of the curve (where many people tend to drive into the bikeway).

See the design drawings below:

couch-drawing1

couch-finalcurvehashes

PBOT’s Brady says the city plans to start construction the week of September 12th.

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

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19 Comments
  • Avatar
    Eric Leifsdad August 4, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    That 6ft wide bikeway looks like “yet another ORS 814.420 (2) mandatory sidepath exception PBOT bikeway design” to me. How about at least 8ft of width in a 20+mph curve? If we only gave cars 1.5ft on each side, they would have 10ft without the hatched space. Where are the jersey barriers?

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    Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 4, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Here are more pics of that Seattle bikeway. It’s one-way and is buffered from cars by plants, which don’t open doors or accidentally park in the lane.

    A raised section through the s-curves is definitely a start in the right direction.

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    ethan August 4, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Rather than keeping the bike lane narrow around the curve and adding a buffer, wouldn’t it be better to narrow the southern-most lane, turning the right travel lane into the truck / bus lane and using the leftover space for a wider turn for the buses and adding a couple of feet to the bike lane around the corner?

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    rick August 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Road diet needed for Burnside bridge.

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  • Scott Kocher
    Scott Kocher August 4, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Nice, but Portland’s new carfree street and elevated bikeway will be… 70 feet long?

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    Jake August 4, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Coming out of that s-curve is a filter area where faster riders can get past slower riders before the ride up the bridge ramp. I’d like to see the raised portion end a little sooner to preserve that filter area, especially considering the increased bike traffic that’s bound to happen when all these new apartment buildings go up. But, hey, this looks great, so maybe I’m just being nit picky.

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    Corey Burger August 4, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    1.8m wide bike lane? No easy way to turn right off Couch? I haven’t ever ridden this section (not living in Portland), but colour me deeply unimpressed. This isn’t North American-leading stuff, let alone World-leading stuff.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu August 4, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    If you are going 20 mph through the S curve, you can ride in the traffic lanes and you’ll be passing cars. The raised bike lane will be plenty wide for cyclists riding at lower speeds.

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      alex August 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      i often pass cars in the curves on a dry day..

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    James August 5, 2016 at 12:31 am

    These look great! I hope someone puts a planter or two in the yellow cross-hatching, but regardless, I’m grateful for every foot of buffered bike lane that gets added to the streets. I hope we get stuff like this in the further southeast some day.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson August 5, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Burnside Bridge needs a diet! Two traffic lanes each way and big, wide, raised bike/ped promenades on both sides. Come on Multnomah county!

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      Spiffy August 5, 2016 at 11:45 am

      it also needs a speed limit reduction since it’s 10 mph faster on the bridge than it is on either side of it…

      generally referred to as a speed trap when there’s an arbitrary change so close together…

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty August 5, 2016 at 12:43 pm

        It’s not entirely crazy to allow faster speeds on a well-defined segment where the road is straight and there are no intersections or turns. I agree with others who have proposed improvements to the cycling environment on the bridge. It’s not awful, but could be much better. A physical barrier would help riders feel more secure.

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          Adron @ Transit Sleuth August 6, 2016 at 11:44 am

          A physical barrier might have saved the person’s life who was killed by the motorist who “choked” a while back too. Thus we’d have the wonderful effect of real safety to go along with the simple notion of *feeling* safer. 🙂

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      Eric Leifsdad August 5, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      We were going to have Better Burnside Bridge this summer, but apparently that’s been shelved because of construction projects on each end (don’t ask me how this logic makes sense, I would think a better bridge would be better regardless. Somebody has to defend the status quo?)

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    Matt Meskill August 5, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    “…a safety issue and a design puzzle that PBOT has yet to figure out…” *groan*

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    alex August 8, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    i ride this everyday and think this is a very bad idea. first the ankeny diverters and now this..

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      alex August 8, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      i like the new NE Couch path though..

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    • Jessica Roberts
      Jessica Roberts August 8, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      It’s true, god forbid the City do anything to provide physical protection from cars for people riding bikes…

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