The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Fact check: The St. Johns Bridge does not need 19-foot wide lanes for freight traffic

Posted by on November 9th, 2016 at 2:59 pm

The St. Johns Bridge looking west. (Photo: Joe Mabel/Wikipedia)

The St. Johns Bridge looking west.
(Photo: Joe Mabel/Wikipedia)

Despite multiple demands over the years to improve bike access on the St. Johns Bridge, the Oregon Department of Transportation has used many different excuses for why the current lane configuration simply cannot change. And it turns out their latest excuse — that state design guidelines for freight traffic require 19-foot wide lanes in both directions — is untrue.

ODOT is facing renewed pressure to make the bridge safer for cycling after 55-year-old Mitch York was killed while biking on the bridge on October 29th.

The claim about lane width first raised eyebrows on October 31st when ODOT spokesperson Kimberley Dinwiddie told KGW News that state law mandated 19-feet of width. We immediately questioned the figure in a Twitter post and a KGW reporter then followed-up with Dinwiddie in an effort to clarify the information.

In a Q & A posted as an update to the original KGW story, Dinwiddie repeated the claim…

Snips from KGW story.

Snips from KGW story.

I checked both the relevant Oregon law (ORS 366.215) and the Oregon Administrative Rule that implements that law and found no reference to 19-feet, so I also asked Dinwiddie to clarify the statement. On November 2nd she reiterated the claim she made to KGW. The 19-foot lane width is, “a guideline we use statewide to make sure freight can move over a variety of different kinds of highways and bridges,” she said via email. When I followed up again two days later to ask whether or not it applied to both directions (meaning they’d need 38-feet of width for freight), ODOT’s Public Information Coordinator David Thompson also mentioned the 19-foot guideline. Thompson then said he’d check with ODOT’s Motor Carrier Division just to make sure precisely when the 19-feet stipulation applies.

As promised, yesterday I heard back from ODOT Region 1 spokesperson Don Hamilton who met with the agency’s freight experts in Salem. Hamilton said the 19-foot guideline applies only during construction. “In our earlier communications with you, we misunderstood this guideline,” Hamilton said. “Our apologies.”

So, just to be clear, ODOT does not need to preserve 19-foot lanes in each direction on the St. Johns Bridge.

The other excuse they gave KGW for why there’s no room to improve bicycle access on the main bridge roadway was, “because of the congestion and dangerous situations that could occur from that.” That claim also doesn’t quite match up with the facts and deserves much more scrutiny.

In fact, the more I learn about this issue, the more it seems like ODOT doesn’t have any legitimate excuse for not considering design changes on the St. Johns Bridge; changes that could vastly improve safety for all users. So why aren’t they more open to ideas? That’s a good question.

Stay tuned.

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

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88 Comments
  • Kevin November 9, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Great investigative work. Keep up the pressure.

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    • Mark smith November 10, 2016 at 7:08 am

      It’s the peoplease who put the pressure on.

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      • Kevin November 10, 2016 at 9:56 am

        I’d say it’s a mutually supportive relationship.

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    • gl. November 10, 2016 at 9:19 am

      This is a great reason to donate to Bike Portland!

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  • Eric Leifsdad November 9, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    This sounds a bit like that myth about how gas taxes can only be spent on active transportation when it’s alongside motorized roadways. The constitution actually says “highway” and nothing about motors.

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    • B. Carfree November 9, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      I can’t find the original information, but I recall that bike paths, originally called bike trails (as were bike lanes) were designated roadways by ODOT. Somewhere along the way, they changed the name and redefined them down to sidewalks. (The primary difference between a bike path and a sidewalk is right-of-way.) I suspect there would be a lot of resistance to returning to a definition of bike paths, currently named shared use paths, to roadways, not least because it might allow for more funding sources.

      What a sorry history of off-street cycling facilities. First they are bike paths, then shared use paths, which are essentially off-street sidewalks, and now many of them have become shanty-towns. Lots of interlocking problems to solve along the way to bring them ’round full circle.

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  • Matt November 9, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    So, long story short: ODOT has no fucking clue what they’re doing, but they sure do love motor vehicles.

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    • GlowBoy November 10, 2016 at 11:55 am

      Clearly it needs to be renamed ODOMT.

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    • Bald One November 10, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      They sure do love freight.

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      • wsbob November 10, 2016 at 6:23 pm

        I suppose the people that have the job of hauling freight, also love freight. In the neighborhood, not far from where I live, I count at least three long haul tractors in different house driveways on occasion. People driving those rigs likely love freight too, and are glad when they have to, to be able to expediently drive over the St Johns bridge to deliver and pick up freight. How much might the installation of bike lanes on the St Johns, affect their job stability?

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        • Gary B November 17, 2016 at 10:49 am

          Zero. None at all. It was a neat rhetorical trick, but let’s be sure to answer it rather than just leave it open. One lane accesses the bridge in both directions. Unless vehicles have figured out how to spawn, the same number of vehicles that got on the bridge will be on the bridge. And to repeat, they got on there via one lane. There is literally no possible way that having only one motor-vehicle lane each direction on this small portion of their route could reduce capacity.

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          • Dan A November 17, 2016 at 12:49 pm

            In fact, having an extra lane adds delay for freight trucks here. As soon as you leave the one lane road and get onto the bridge, you get passed by a bunch of speeding cars that you now have to sit behind at the light on the other side.

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            • wsbob November 17, 2016 at 8:23 pm

              “In fact, having an extra lane adds delay for freight trucks here. …” dan a

              Having only one main lane on the bridge could pose delay for people driving in cars too, stuck behind some trucks that may be very slow moving, due to load, power, etc. Faster trucks could be delayed by slower trucks.

              Travel time across the bridge will vary according to hour of the day, particularly during high traffic rush hour. With only one lane, during heavy congestion hours, there’s a question of whether the number of vehicles on the bridge would exceed the capacity of the single lane for the length of the bridge, in which case, two lanes would double that capacity, and thus keep the traffic from backing up into the neighborhood in St Johns, or onto Hwy 30.

              Looking at the old study for clues to what’s happening may help answer questions. Or some new studies.

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  • bikeninja November 9, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    ODOT, A neolithic agency that relies on a bizzare combination of unwritten rules of thumb, haphazard guesses, smoke signals, and tarot card readings to design and manage the states roadways instead of clearly defined and recorded laws. Staffed by equaly backward dinosuars. If we are lucky Trump will pack them up and move them back to D.C. as an example of the future of his government.

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    • rick November 9, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      And then what? Bail out the auto industry like Hillary ?

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty November 10, 2016 at 10:20 pm

        Yes, just like president Hillary did.

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        • rachel b November 11, 2016 at 12:04 am

          I heard she also canceled Firefly.

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  • Mike Gilliland
    Mike Gilliland November 9, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    I agree great job.

    I’d like to add as my profession includes roadway design, to add to the discussion, a behemoth Cadillac Escalade is 6′ 2″ wide, and a semi truck is 9′ 2″ wide on the average (roughly 16-17′ side by side). Both the largest vehicles you could encounter on a bicycle in normal shared conditions.

    Maybe this where the ‘rule of thumb’ 19′ wide lanes are derived.

    Unfortunately, reducing the width while still allowing truck traffic would probably require limiting truck traffic to one way, leaving 3 vehicle lanes and a protected bicycle lane. A definite investigation would have to be undertaken to revise the conditions on the bridge, but it needs to be explored.

    I have advocated that any interim action sooner than re-engineering the lanes at the funneled SW intersection at NW Bridge include; strict speed reductions; tactile striping; green boxes; and specific cyclist/pedestrian crossing lights at the west end (ala SE Johnson Creek and SE Bell), which would provide clearer directives for those not using powered vehicles.

    Conditions at the N Philadelphia could be enhanced with signage and striping, perhaps directing cycling/pedestrians into the neighborhood streets to disperse congestion. We need to keep these ideas in the discussion.

    And then again maybe a bike ferry doesn’t seem so far fetched…

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    • Eric Leifsdad November 9, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      haha bike ferry, why not just ride across: https://youtu.be/NlurwAD1nro?t=47

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    • Al Dimond November 10, 2016 at 9:59 am

      I would guess that the directive specific to construction zones is taking into account extra width for trucks to maneuver around temporary obstacles. In the middle of the bridge, in permanent conditions, going straight, there’s not so much need for that. But near intersections trucks will need extra room to change lanes and turn.

      The bike lane ideas proposed around here haven’t involved substandard lanes widths. There’s no reason to ban trucks in one direction; in a three-lane scenario (including those with a reversible center lane) you’d never have side-by-side traffic in the one-lane direction.

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  • Travis November 9, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you for this. I am hoping ODOT responds more appropriately in the coming weeks and addresses this PR blunder internally with the responsible individuals. Culture aside.

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    • J_R November 9, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      But it’s only a blunder if this LIE is picked up by the general media. I seriously doubt that ODOT makes a general retraction to KGW, KATU, The Oregonian and all the others that originally reported on this. So, the general public and 99.9 percent of motorists will remember and know for certain that 19 feet is the minimum. It just convinces the general public that cyclists are a bunch of whiners.

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      • Travis November 9, 2016 at 8:23 pm

        I wouldn’t have faith in the media or the general public giving much attention to a retraction. If the bridge can be calmed for all users, does it really matter if the public knows ODOT fouled-up a statement? The agency is already hyper awkward when it comes to commenting on active transportation.

        The bigger picture is accomplishing improved safety for all. I see no purpose in forcing ODOT to look backwards if we can encourage them to look forward.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 9, 2016 at 9:38 pm

          I don’t fully agree with this Travis. I believe that in order for an agency to truly change it must first acknowledge mistakes and try to right past wrongs. Also keep in mind that IMO there is tremendous value for the community to know the truth about what happened in the past so we can be better equipped to make good decisions in the future. But I do agree that we need to encourage ODOT to do better in the future!

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          • Travis November 10, 2016 at 12:11 am

            Regarding the value of ODOT addressing past decisions and their stagnant STJ Bridge narrative, I agree. Absolutely. On all fronts.

            My blunder and “look backwards” comments were specific to the misrepresented 19′ rule. How at least two ODOT media contacts failed to fact check their own fact is absurd. The Region 1 media team easily sourced the correct information when pressed by you (thank you). No doubt, convenient 19′ rule or not, the team’s messaging to the media and public would have remained the same. Rather lie or mistake, the intentions were obvious: protect the status quo; justify past decisions; prioritize freight and automobiles.

            I guess, I do not want the 19′ rule or any other available excuse that slights people to distract me personally from my goal of encouraging ODOT to have the BS free conversation that needs to occur with all of my communities (STJ, cyclists, parents, schools, etc). From there, I know many of the solutions will face difficult barriers and long processes. But the logic is simple: consider people first.

            That’s my lofty bigger picture.

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            • wsbob November 10, 2016 at 6:09 pm

              “…But the logic is simple: consider people first. …” travis

              Don’t you think that ‘consider people first’, is exactly what people needing to drive across this bridge to go to work, and that are working as truck drivers, have been thinking all along? This is likely what they’ve been thinking. They’ve got to put food on the table. They’d most likely be receptive to provision for bike lanes, if this addition didn’t constrict or further aggravate congestion approaching and crossing the bridge.

              Number questions: Currently…how many people cross this bridge on a bike, daily, and on weekend days? How many of those people are riding to and from work, and how may are not riding to and from work?

              Get those numbers and then, for the sake of discussion, double or triple them, to get a number that might conceivably be hoped would begin riding across the bridge if some type of bike lane were installed in exchange for a reconfiguration of the bridge’s main lanes, possibly consisting in a reduction from four, to three, or maybe four.

              Will the resulting number of people riding across this bridge, be sufficient to justify in the minds and hearts of people needing to drive across the bridge, whatever compromise in traffic flow or increased congestion that turns out to have resulted due to the installation of bike lanes on the bridge by conversion of one or two main lanes for the creation of bike lanes?

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              • Robert Burchett November 14, 2016 at 9:46 am

                We won’t know how many people want to bike across this bridge until there is an adequate facility that most (85%?) bike riding perceive as safe for bikes. I don’t have a strong personal feeling about this because for my few trips across the bridge the sidewalk has served well enough. A minimum amount of courtesy and a short wait got me past the rare pedestrians with no bad feelings. What I’d like from ODOT: A study from a freethinking traffic engineer, ¡stop snickering! that would convince a person that throughput on the bridge does, or does not, depend on two MV lanes each way.

                Alternatives: I like a boat ride as much as anybody but a bike ferry would require a significant descent and corresponding climb for each trip (cargo bike here). Also bike right-of-way to the landings, which would have to be built at considerable cost. Also a boat, ditto. Also crew, 2 per boat, 2 shifts, plus relief for breaks and days off.

                If we can’t get a striped lane, with buffer, I suggest dedicated short bus(es), with triple racks back and front, and seats knocked out for long bikes (priority for mobility devices when present). This costs less, uses no more fuel (could be electric), is faster, less affected by weather and daylight, less crew, hardware is off-the-shelf, less construction, etc. Main problem I see at this point is turning around on the West end.

                It’s clear that the bridge is a choke point for MV. It’s not clear that the limitation is the number of lanes, as opposed to the queues and signals at the ends.

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              • wsbob November 14, 2016 at 11:10 am

                …there is a study, but if I remember correctly from mention of it in a previous story, it’s an old one, 14 years or so old. Partly because I’ve been too lazy to go dig it up and study it, I don’t remember what it says in terms of numbers of people riding across the bridge, or of other means of travel. It’s important for future decisions about the bridge deck configuration, to have some sense of what the numbers are, in today’s use.

                It’s not difficult to figure that with each coming year, more people are going to be needing and wanting to use this bridge to cross the river: population is growing, not declining. I don’t think there’s a lot of housing directly across the bridge on what I think of as the south end (others may have referred to this as the east end.)…though I’m not sure what the situation is, or what all are the destinations near to it. Again…good bet is that there will come to be more destinations, or reasons people will be needing to cross this bridge to get to. And obviously, recreation is one of those reasons.

                This bridge, rightfully should be one of the city’s finest river crossing experiences. I certainly would not want to see the freight business stagnated or otherwise hurt by overly restrictive use of the bridge’s deck for travel. Commuters in personal motor vehicles, also shouldn’t have to face arduous stop and go, inch by inch crossing of the bridge during rush hours. People wanting and needing to cross the bridge on foot and bike, should be able to expect from this bridge and the state that manages it, a good experience, safe, enjoyable, an excellent experience that lives up to the architectural and engineering magnificence from a distance, of this rather extraordinary bridge for Portland.

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  • Moira November 9, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    I wondered about the 19 foot rule for freight as a biker on interstate. Particularly the stretch of interstate south of the ramp access to the broadway bridge with the overpass the is a tight “pinch” and would not seem 19 feet wide and carries significant freight.

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    • Oliver November 10, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Does it have something to do with the bridge being a state highway (30)?

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  • rick November 9, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Justice for Mitch.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 9, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Don and Jonthan thanks for this update.

    Perhaps in this case – we should “give a break” to Hamilton & Thompson & Dinwiddie as they are likely only the “messengers” to 1 or more ODoT engineers/ administrators somewhere in the system whom gave them this [mis]information to them to report.

    Jonathan or someone else, please do a FOIA request to see where this [mis]information arose from so as to check to see if there was a conspiracy of thought or just laziness. And to also give credit if anyone inside ODoT ‘blew the whistle’ on this misinfromation too.

    [Lessons learned: perhaps the public affairs section will fact check it themselves in the future.]

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  • Nolan Johnson November 9, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Someone posted a GREAT idea to the St Johns FaceBoo page a few days ago. I do NOT take credit for it, but it deserves much wider consideration that it has received to-date.

    Obviously we can’t go WIDER on the St Johns – way too expensive – so a HORIZONTAL solution is out of the question. Spending time thinking about lane changes and “calming” is treating the symptom, not fixing the cause.

    Why not go VERTICAL? As in, suspend a bike lane just under the main deck, and route bike lanes approaching the bridge to this bike-only suspended bike path? No cars, no trying to share the sidewalk.

    Big events like the annual Seattle To Portland ride could use this route without impeding bridge auto traffic. Of course, the Bridge Pedal should still be allowed to ride on the main deck – that ride’s too awesome to change…

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    • rick November 9, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      I agree. Many bridges like Marquam and Fremont bridges need bike access underneath the bridges.

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    • Todd Boulanger November 9, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      …if there is a blank check….then yes…let ODoT do it…plus do the 405 too!…

      …imagine a nice stop free almost downhill ride (150 ft drop) at 30 mph from Mississippi (Ivy Street entrance ramp) to the West Burnside / Pearl District in 12 minutes vs 21 to 25 minutes on surface streets.

      Now that would be a Bike Super Highway!

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    • Spiffy November 10, 2016 at 9:31 am

      and those new paths need to have VERY bright lights…

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    • MIke Sanders November 10, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Similar suggestions have been made for the Bay Bridge (Oakland-SF) and the George Washington Bridge (NYC-NJ). The latter has a ped/bike deck on the south side of the upper level that is narrow and tends to be crowded much of the time. Building separate ped/bike bridges have been suggested before in both cases. Besides that, the St. Johns is a suspension bridge. How much added weight could it handle if you put a ped/bike lane beneath the main deck? Not to mention maintaining traffic while it’s being built along with the river related issues. A separate, adjoining bridge might be the answer, but getting it funded is the $64 question. Trump’s election throws an X-factor into the situation, too.

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  • rick November 9, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    What protected bike paths will Mr. Wheeler build?

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    • rick November 9, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      On the St. John’s Bridge

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  • Jim McLaren November 9, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    How much room is required for vehicle lanes on the bridge? Would there be enough room for one bike lane in each direction?

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    • eawrist November 9, 2016 at 5:49 pm

      Physically separated 2-way bike path, with three lanes of vehicle traffic (alternating the middle lane with traffic signals based on time of day. ODOT did not study this obvious alternative.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 9, 2016 at 7:30 pm

        that was actually one of the options considered back in 2002.

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      • mark ginsberg November 10, 2016 at 1:33 pm

        I was the Chair of the City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee when all of this was happening, and the answer is the Freight Advisory Committee. They are a very powerful committee and they didb’t like the report saying it was doable, and ignores facts to push two lanes in each direction and they got what they wanted.

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        • Bald One November 10, 2016 at 2:08 pm

          ODOT policies are clearly dictated by the freight lobby. They are not interested in giving an inch, ever.

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        • Scott Mizée November 12, 2016 at 6:08 am

          WOW. Not surprising to hear the truth, but still such a shocking disregard for people’s lives.

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  • wsbob November 9, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    The basic situation remaining, is of a bridge that must be configured to provide for the daily passage of a great number of motors, including many that are transporting freight. Along with apparently quite a small number of people traveling across the bridge by bicycle in the main lanes.

    I’ve heard opinions from people with regards to traffic congestion on the bridge during rush hour…some saying two main lanes in each direction being important to relieving traffic backed up traffic on the bridge approaches, and some saying the two main lanes in each direction do little if anything to relieve backed up traffic on the bridge approaches.

    What’s the story on this? In actual use from somebody first hand, and what does a study say about this, if one has addressed that question?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 9, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      stay tuned wsbob. i’ve got some analysis of the various options coming

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    • Spiffy November 10, 2016 at 8:09 am

      “must be configured to provide for the daily passage of a great number of motors”

      I take issue with this statement… particularly the word “must” and phrase “great number”…

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      • wsbob November 10, 2016 at 5:35 pm

        “…“must be configured to provide for the daily passage of a great number of motors”

        I take issue with this statement… particularly the word “must” and phrase “great number”…” spiffy

        Okay…don’t just stop there. Explain what you mean, please. Honestly, I don’t the numbers for that bridge before me, so I can’t say what numbers of vehicles travel over it during a day, or by the hour, but it seems to me this is something important to be familiar with in deciding whether to limit the width of the bridge for motor vehicle travel.

        I just noticed that Steve, above, posting this morning at 10:04, is the first person responding to my question about rush hour congestion approaching and crossing the bridge, and about the importance of the four main lanes on the bridge in handling traffic volume. The experience he expressed, differs from that of someone I know who has related their experience with rush hour congestion approaching and crossing the bridge.

        There should be various, reasonably simple ways…overhead video for one… to figure out just what the congestion situation approaching and crossing the bridge, actually is, if it’s not already been definitively studied.

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    • Steve November 10, 2016 at 10:04 am

      I use the bridge frequently for my commute home, both by car and bike, I am typically crossing eastbound about 4:00p-5:00p. Without a doubt the bridge could go to one auto lane each direction. The back-ups occur prior to and after the bridge. The bridge is just a nice 50mph break for cars and trucks to hurry up and stop. The new apartment complex being built in downtown St. Johns appears to be affecting traffic much more.

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  • Andy November 9, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Great job Jonathan. It is a shame that ODOT cannot be trusted. ODOT spokespersons should always be asked for a citation to the law or rule they are referencing.

    A great follow-up question would be whether they will look at a redesign now that the reason they gave for not considering it is no longer an issue. My bet is they’ll say no.

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    • Dan A November 14, 2016 at 7:03 am

      I get the same sort of nonsense in my emails with Washington County. Here’s a non-fact I received recently from an engineer:

      “Oregon speed zoning laws do not allow a 20 mph zone except in school zones and business districts.”

      So then I pointed out the 2011 change in Oregon law that allows neighborhood speeds of 20mph, to which he replied with another non-fact:

      “The City of Portland is lowering the speed to 20 mph in conjunction with the Neighborhood Greenway Program. We do not have this type of program at this time.”

      So I sent him a copy of Washington County’s neighborhood bikeway plan, which states, “Installation of the neighborhood bikeways can currently be implemented under the existing authority of the County Engineer as operational traffic improvements.”

      After which he passed me off to the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator for more information on that program.

      The whole process is pretty baffling. They either don’t know what they can or can’t do, or they don’t want YOU to know what they can or can’t do. I suspect they spend much of their time coming up with reasons not to make safety improvements, so that they will have more time and money for cramming road widening projects down our throats.

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  • I voted for Trump! November 9, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    What’s wrong with riding on the sidewalk to cross the bridge? Looks like that would be the safest. They could use a guard rail on the road side of the sidewalk.

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    • Todd Boulanger November 9, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Dear Trump…

      Please take a bike ride on the sidewalk during [peak hour traffic] – give it a try.

      I doubt ODoT would recommend installing a guardrail “on the roadside” in a 10 foot wide lane as that would reduce the lane width to 8.5 ft to 9 ft … unless that lane then became a bike lane.

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      • I voted for Trump! November 16, 2016 at 11:18 pm

        I’d attach the guard rail to the vertical face of the sidewalk. Make it thin so it doesn’t take much room out of the motor vehicle lane.

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    • Mark smith November 10, 2016 at 7:07 am

      Good luck safely passing a pedestrian.

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      • I voted for Trump! November 10, 2016 at 11:10 am

        I assume you’d ride slowly, maybe stop to let a ped go by, and I’d hope that peds would move over if you came up behind them and wanted to pass. Are people not courteous to each other on this bridge?

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        • Chris I November 10, 2016 at 2:26 pm

          They are not. The generally speed at 15-20mph over the posted speed limit, and often will pass cyclists in the right hand lane much too closely. Have you ridden the bridge on either the sidewalk or the deck?

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        • J_R November 10, 2016 at 4:36 pm

          So, you assume that bicyclists would ride slowly and that all sidewalk users would be courteous to each other. The law makes it very clear that pedestrians have the right of way on the sidewalk.

          On the other hand, you seem to suggest that bicyclists, who have a legal right to use the lane, should move to somewhere else. You do not seem to think that the motorists, who according to actual speed studies regularly exceed the posted speed, would behave courteously by giving plenty of room to cyclists when they pass.

          As several others have suggested to you, Trump, I suggest that you actually try riding the sidewalk and riding in the lane on your bike. You might also want to experiment by driving your car at the posted speed on the bridge and see if you observe more than a few motorists who do not pass you.

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          • I voted for Trump! November 16, 2016 at 11:20 pm

            I would not even consider riding in the lane on that bridge. Too dangerous.

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    • Spiffy November 10, 2016 at 8:14 am

      the railing is about hip height so there’s a risk of falling into the river if there’s a gust of wind, which isn’t helped by the big rigs a foot away on the other side of you…

      you basically have to stop to pass a pedestrian…

      and have fun going through those piling tunnels with a cargo bike or trailer…

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      • GlowBoy November 10, 2016 at 11:57 am

        I agree with Spiffy, the SJB sidewalk sucks (although not as bad as the Ross Island Bridge sidewalk before they redid it so many years ago). And I still ride it when I take the SJB. That’s how dangerous the bridge deck there is.

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      • Robert Burchett November 14, 2016 at 10:29 am

        I can clean the pier passing on my cargo bike, which has a 72″ wheelbase. Waiting for the occasional pedestrian beats going 7 miles around. I’d rather make nice with 2.5 humans than trust 57 humans to make nice with me. I consider the rail adequate, just. Tell me how many times you have ridden into a rail? Probably less times than you’ve been hit by a mirror.

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  • K'Tesh November 9, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Since a bicycle is, in Oregon state law, a vehicle, we should demand a vehicle lane to preserve our ability to travel safely on this road. It will not reduce vehicle volumes, it will increase it thanks to all the cyclists that will use it.

    ODOT KNEW

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  • Tom November 9, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Is there a complete set of ODOT guidelines published anywhere online, or can a copy be requested? If not, would sunshine laws allow the complete set of guidelines to be obtained?

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  • Graham Ross November 10, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Jonathan, in your (awesome) work in maintaining pressure for ODOT to learn their own rules did you get the sense that there is anyone in ODOT who was sympathetic. Maybe a bike commuter or two?

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  • Mick O November 10, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Remember, #ODOTknows … even when they don’t know.

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  • Psyfalcon November 10, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Is it a problem when Wikipedia cites its sources better than government representatives? Would it really be a problem to release a transcript with proper citations so we dont have to go back and ask them every time?

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  • SD November 10, 2016 at 11:32 am

    ODOT and related agencies are allowed to operate in a quasi scientific realm that makes it possible for them to be agenda driven, and use “data” and “expertise” to justify their actions rather than guide their actions.

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  • Ben G November 10, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I don’t see why a 3-vehicle lane solution isn’t on the table. It seems like a huge miss. As-is the lanes as is are very tight for motorized vehicles, but the openness of the bridge deck makes people feel as though they should drive at 55 (in a 35). It wouldn’t slow down travel over the bridge since both sides before the bridge are slow to feed traffic onto the bridge (from single lane sources).

    It could both widen the available lanes and add two bike lanes with something like this: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/2742357/StJohnsBridge.png
    Or be even more innovative with a single buffered or separated lane on the south side:
    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/2742357/StJohnsBridge2.png

    Obviously not to scale, but if you remove one vehicle lane you should be able to divide that into a bike lane plus buffer room.

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    • wsbob November 11, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Looking at just the bridge deck width and the objective: creation of bike lanes. …it seems to me the third lane/alternate direction travel/am-pm commute configuration, may pose some serious issues. Can they be addressed significantly to have that configuration be effective and satisfactory?

      Bridge deck is just 40′ wide. Convert one of the 10′ wide main lanes for two 5′ bike lanes…leaves just three 10′ wide main lanes…center lane to be used alternately by the heaviest traffic flow in either the morning or the evening rush hour, depending on which is heaviest. Accomplish this how? With traffic light signals? Can signals do the job of preventing head on collisions in such a unique traffic management approach?

      10′ wide lanes are cutting it kind of slim in terms of vehicles passing each other. With the current configuration, in opposite directions, vehicles pass each other, but only in the passing lanes, allowing a margin for error if someone has to duck back into the right lane because someone passing in the other direction has swung over too far too the left of the passing lane.

      With just three main lanes total, and the bike lanes, there will only be the bike lane and the same direction main lanes for motor vehicles to duck into in such a situation. Motor vehicles abruptly ducking into the bike lanes to avoid head on collisions, would pose a hazard for people biking in the bike lanes. If there were no physical barrier, like a concrete jersey type barrier to prevent this from happening. By the way…the jersey barriers’ foot may be something like 20″-30″ wide.

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    • wsbob November 11, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Meant to close by writing as I have before, that to me, it seems that maybe the easiest, most economical, least disruptive of traffic flow adjustment to the bridge would be to bring traffic speeds across the bridge, at least during working hours and rush hour times of the day, to 25 mph, maybe 30 mph, tops. Accomplish this with digital display speed limit signs and photo radar speed gear.

      I tend to feel that A fair range of different skilled people riding bikes, could deal reasonably well using just the right lanes of the road with motor vehicles, if the top mph speed weren’t higher than 30 mph. 20 mph, and even 15 mph, tops, would be better of course…but I doubt those lower speeds would have a ghost of a chance of being approved.

      Before and after those hours, when it would seem vehicle numbers on the bridge would be low, with possibly very few people biking…maybe higher speeds would be fine, not that I think speeds of 30 mph over this bridge, are that important or valuable to be able to attain.

      Why go the high speeds of 40, 45, 50, maybe even higher, that some people may be wanting to travel over this bridge? I just don’t see those high speeds being a significant time or money savings. High motor vehicle speeds are effectively destroying the varied, beautiful experience this bridge was designed to offer everyone living or visiting in this area, and in traveling across the bridge.

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  • Bro'Donnell November 10, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Excellent follow up on this! ODOT, like all government agencies, deserves to have their feet held to the fire when it comes to challenging rules/assumptions.

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  • Jack C. November 11, 2016 at 1:07 am

    I’d opt for improving the bridge sidewalks with lane/usage markers and leave the road alone. Trucks with wide loads need extra lane-width at random times.

    I never really feel safe on major streets without a curb or other barrier between me and cars, so riding on the road doesn’t appeal to me unless it’s unavoidable. I take side streets whenever possible. Cars and bikes just don’t mix that well, and bikes will always lose in a crash.

    It’s good to be pro-bike, but not fanatical about “rights” that don’t exist in the realm of random mishaps, like the guy who was killed recently. I think the more you ride with no barrier from potentially bad drivers, the higher your odds of getting hit become over time. It’s not as if the bridge suddenly became less safe that day.

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    • Mike November 11, 2016 at 8:19 am

      Those sidewalks look plenty wide for riding on a bridge that doesn’t get that much pedestrian usage. I’m sure that ODOT has plenty of other priorities given their tight budgets in a state where everybody wants everything but doesn’t want to pay for anything.

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      • Ben G November 11, 2016 at 8:53 am

        Please, go try it. It’s really not that wide. You feel very up high and its usually breezy. When you have to go around a pedestrian it feels pretty life and death that you could fall into the lane. As currently designed I would deem both options unsafe.

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        • Kyle Banerjee November 11, 2016 at 11:28 am

          Just looking at the pic, it does look tight with the peds.

          But no worse than the upper deck of the Steel Bridge. Too bad that rail is there. Really not needed for protection and the space would be super useful. Also I think more people would take the bridge deck itself if they thought they could just step up if the traffic were too slow.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu November 11, 2016 at 3:51 pm

        You really need to try riding the footpath for yourself, before you can sensibly comment. It is very narrow. There are columns that intrude into the path. The railing barely comes up to your hip when you’re riding. It is frequently very windy, with gusts hard enough to push a cyclist into the rail or columns. And once over the rail, it is over 200 feet down to the ground or water. In short, it is not a safe place to ride, actually it can be quite scary. I ride in the lanes in preference to to footpath.

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        • Kyle Banerjee November 12, 2016 at 12:10 am

          Fair enough. I don’t ride footpaths given a choice, and I never even thought about riding anywhere other than the road until recent articles here. These old bridges just don’t have much space.

          I’m not a particular fan of SJB, but I’m surprised it bugs people who can handle the roads it connects which also aren’t the best to ride on. The only reason I take SJB is to get to the hills.

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        • Robert Burchett November 14, 2016 at 10:16 am

          I’ve ridden the sidewalk. On average, I encounter maybe two pedestrians, and interact with one faster or slower bike. I put my foot down and let them pass, or signal my intention to pass and wait for them to get comfortable before I do it. It’s actually pretty easy to be courteous with people when they aren’t inside a machine. There’s enough room on the sidewalk to respect personal space.

          One time (out of fifty?) I had to walk my cargo bike across the bridge, but I’m reasonably tolerant of bridge crossings. It’s also true that my crossings are generally elective so mostly in fair weather. I might suggest a modification to the rail, maybe to make it a foot higher and provide some degree of windbreak. I think that could be done with respect for the esthetics of the bridge.

          And Jersey barriers: it’s been pointed out that they take a certain amount of width. They are also heavy. A single row across the bridge would weigh a million pounds, or a million and a half if you use the serious ones. So, two protected lanes would add two or three million pounds to the bridge deck. That’s like 30-45 fully loaded semi trucks out there at all times, and an added static load can get an old bridge into trouble.

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          • wsbob November 14, 2016 at 10:49 am

            robert…I’m glad you read you’ve pointed out the issue of weight associated with use of jersey barriers for bike lane protection, because I hadn’t thought about that one. Weight is definitely something of serious importance to think about.

            I continue to feel that contriving some reasonable way of slowing top mph speed of motor vehicle traffic across the bridge may be the most readily accessible means of having this bridge become more functional, as well as safer and more enjoyable to use, for nearly everyone…except those that want to drive rudely, carelessly or recklessly at the expense of everyone else.

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        • Alan 1.0 November 14, 2016 at 9:34 pm

          Here’s a 3-second video that gives an impression of the StJB sidewalk:
          https://twitter.com/StJohns_SALT/status/798380826685677568

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          • Dan A November 15, 2016 at 6:59 am

            Gah, scary!

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  • Andy K November 14, 2016 at 11:34 am

    If we’re talking road diet and protected bike lanes, striping one 12-foot travel lane in each direction with 2 foot shy distance to a curb or barrier will likely meet all ODOT standards.

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  • Paul November 20, 2016 at 1:49 am

    The photo at the top appears to show a sidewalk on both sides of the bridge. Could not the sidewalk on one side be dedicated to bicycle traffic and the other preserved for foot traffic? Would this not at least be an improvement over the existing configuration?

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