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City of Portland boosts network with 5.6 miles of newly buffered bike lanes

Posted by on November 22nd, 2016 at 7:44 am

A few of the streets recently striped by PBOT to narrow standard lanes and provide more space for cycling-only lanes.(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A few of the streets recently striped by PBOT to narrow standard lanes and provide more space for cycling-only lanes.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Have you noticed all the new white stripes on Portland streets? In the past few weeks, several key bike lanes across the city have been beefed up with an additional bike lane stripe. These buffers create more breathing room between bicycle riders and automobile drivers.

After coming across several of them while riding around recently, I asked PBOT what was going on.

According to city spokesperson John Brady, the new striping was made possible with about $80,000 that was left over from larger capital projects that came in under budget. With a bit of money on the table, PBOT Director Leah Treat decided to look at the map of bike lanes in need of a safety upgrade. Along with new buffers on existing bike lanes, the city has also put the money toward bike-related crossing treatments at major intersections, signage, and new bike lanes where they didn’t exist before.

In total, 5.6 miles of bikeways have been upgraded.

Here’s the complete $80,000 list (provided by PBOT, not all projects completed yet):

bufferedlist

Yes this is “just paint” and yes it was done with just crumbs from the budget and yes we need to do much more to create “8-80” bikeways where all Portlanders feel safe enough to ride. But this shows that when given the opportunity to improve biking — even if it means narrowing existing standard lanes — PBOT is ready and willing to do it.

Before I confirmed all this with PBOT, I mentioned the new striping to a friend of mine who works at the agency. The employee just smiled and said, “It’s because we have a good director.” This confirms to me that the decision to use a bit of extra funding to improve cycling came directly from Director Treat. That’s a good sign. It also shows the importance of having people in leadership positions (like Treat) who ride bicycles daily and who intimately understand the urgency of improving bike access.

Have you noticed these new stripes? Do they improve your cycling experience?

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

51 Comments
  • Tad November 22, 2016 at 7:49 am

    I guess they’re not including the much-improved buffered northbound bike lane on SE 17th Ave coming out of Milwaukie that they’ve put in alongside the new multi-use path they’re still constructing to connect the Milwaukie Trolly Trail and the Springwater. Both upgrades are 100% welcome, seeing as I use 17th all the time when out biking with my kids.

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    • Paul H. November 22, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Most of that new striping on 17th is in Clackamas County, so not under PBOT’s jurisdiction.

      I do completely agree with your assessment of its value. It makes for a nicer ride on my way into town every workday.

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  • rick November 22, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Nice, but protected lanes, I believe will bring more people to try riding more often. I’m glad the new lanes make for wider bike lanes, though.

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  • PdxMark November 22, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Riding the new buffered lanes on the NE 21st overpass over I-84 I realize that buffering serves two purposes. Mainly, of course, it defines a buffer zone between a car lane and a bike lane.

    I realize, though, that making the bike lane line and the buffer line avoids the ambiguity that would arise for car drivers if only one stripe was used to define the larger bike lane. With only one stripe, the larger bike lane could look like a car lane, based on width. The two-stripe implementation helps reduce that confusion – giving a wider bike lane without car drivers thinking it’s just another car lane.

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    • Pete November 22, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Fully hashing the buffer is even more effective, and I’ve read studies that claim it helps reduce speeding. Unfortunately cities are too cheap with budgets to do that.

      I worked with the City of Santa Clara to create the buffer here:
      https://goo.gl/maps/VxqBrqbdeST2

      Unfortunately the Apple buses and cars pulling out of Swallow have pretty much worn this paint away, as well as the hospital traffic that drives over it to carry speed into the right turn to Kaiser. (It’s 35-MPH where traffic easily averages 40-45 MPH). Our traffic engineer agreed with my proposal that keeping the travel lanes a consistent width should help reduce speeding, and when the paint was fresh that seemed to be the case.

      I told him the next time it gets repainted I’ll gladly fund the missing hash lines myself… (I’ve actually proposed crowdfunding bike/ped improvements to our city, but that would require “radical” change in the way things are done).

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      • ebw November 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm

        Adding some kind of marking/hashing to the buffer would provide one more signal to drivers not to be in that lane.

        I was riding up N Williams a few weeks ago (my regular commute) and took a spill on some wet leaves while trying to get out of the way of a truck driving up the bike lane! I had all of my lights on, so the driver had to know, right? Then as I am getting myself and my bike up off of the pavement (after I fell the truck merged into the car lane) another car drives up the lane! WTH? So I am standing, arms raised, bike down in the middle of the lane as this person tells me to get out of the way. She reluctantly apologized when I let her know it’s a bike lane, and kept driving…ugh.

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        • eawrist November 22, 2016 at 6:31 pm

          Great example of case where the person in the car may not have known because conditions (eg of low light and leaves) that she was driving in a bike lane -perhaps a mistake a lot of typical people could make in cars. Given a physically separated bike lane, this problem is easily solved. Williams/Vancouver could have separated facilities in several segments, and would cost the price of bollards. Very difficult to see why PBOT has not separated traffic in places where a simple switch of parking lane and bike lane would prevent a lot of grief.

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    • shirtsoff November 22, 2016 at 6:35 pm

      @PdxMark

      Thank you for sharing that insight. It helps articulate budding thoughts I’ve been kicking around lately. I feel this insight could help better encourage action to define bikelanes elsewhere and further discourage parking within them. In particular, I have N Mississippi Ave as it winds up the hill underneath I-5 towards N Fremont and the entirety of SE 52nd Ave where the bikelane is curbside in mind (especially northbound SE 52nd Ave between Division and Powell Blvd but also further south in front of Toast Restaurant and southbound near SE Holgate) as areas where a buffered, double bikelane edge is needed.

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  • Tom November 22, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Is PBOT okay with DIY soft hit post installation in some of those buffers if done to their guideline?

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    • pdxpaul November 22, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Thanks for asking. You have my permission as a voter and taxpayer.

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  • David November 22, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I love added bike infrastructure but there’s a big missed opportunity here: marketing and communication.
    The fact that you had to contact PBOT in order to find out what was going on makes my point. Doing stuff, i.e., upgrading biking infrastructure, is important but telling your story and crafting the narrative about it is almost just as important. That way you keep the story going and let people who don’t ride at all or as frequently to know what’s going on to improve biking in PDX.
    It doesn’t have to be a big fancy marketing campaign but if PBOT is in the business of doing then they’re in the business of telling people what they’re doing and why.

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    • Greg Spencer November 22, 2016 at 9:39 am

      Exactly! The PR about the paint is even cheaper than the paint. But for some reason, it’s neglected.

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    • soren November 22, 2016 at 11:27 am

      marketing is more expensive than paint.

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    • Chris I November 22, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      I’d rather they spend the money on more paint. 99% of the city doesn’t really care about this.

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      • Kate November 23, 2016 at 9:19 am

        And the cynic is me would guess that promoting it would bring out the anti-bike vocalists who feel that all PBOT does is “cater to the cyclists” and that every extra dollar should have been filling in a pothole somewhere. And I like the idea of filling it potholes- they are dangerous for all users! But I’d rather they market (and deal with the inevitable backlash) on the bigger projects and target these savings to these small projects.

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        • Anne Hawley
          Anne Hawley November 23, 2016 at 10:45 am

          Agreed. That was my first thought. If they just quietly keep painting these stripes (which, yes, are way better than nothing), and maybe keep a low profile on weird traffic circles with daisies painted inside, those of us who ride already will find them, without the nasty comments and negativity.

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  • Alex November 22, 2016 at 9:09 am

    I noticed the lines on Larrabee the other day (heading north) but also the floating parking spots on the south lane that buffer the newly painted bike lane. The interstate bike lane where you can exit to broadway was done a few weeks ago but I noticed that cars were still cutting across the bike lane but yesterday I noticed new white poles up that don’t allow cars to cut across the newly re-arranged and striped lanes and changeover. Seems like good progress to me and that area feels less like trying to navigate a highway on/off ramp now and should slow things down a bit.

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    • MaxD November 22, 2016 at 10:00 am

      As a daily commuter down Interstate, I welcomed the new paint for the clarity it brought to this ambiguous and dangerous location. However, as Alex noted, the cares simply drove over the paint. Once they added the white plastic wands, the change was transformative! People driving are no longer racing up the ramp. People are driving slowly and respectfully and it is completely different that before. Of course, the bike lane still shrinks down to less than 3′ under the Larrabee Viaduct, but with the slower traffic, it is much easier to merge and take the lane. They also paved over the super sketchy storm drain in that location making it much safer for people on bikes. I would love to see the signage improved in this location telling people driving that people biking will be in their lane because the lanes are narrowing; the wording and location of the sign are pretty weak.

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      • Blake November 22, 2016 at 11:07 am

        I second everything you say, MaxD!

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 22, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      I don’t like the white poles even if they do keep cars out of the paint.

      They work well enough right now when bike traffic is light. However, when you get a gaggle of bikes (i.e. very common in good weather), cars and bikes alike get bunched up — this amplifies conflict and encourages people to make unsafe moves.

      Excess speed is not a good thing, but it’s better to keep things moving along and spaced out rather than bunched up. The poles prevent smooth (and logical) interleaving.

      But I’m enjoying it for now while the weather is bad.

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  • grrlpup November 22, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I’m happy about the SE Woodstock ones! When I drive that stretch there’s often tailgating and obvious frustration that I’m not speeding. I hope the narrower auto lanes give it a different feel.

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  • RH November 22, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Yes! I daily ride the Interstate/Larrabee and the NW18th-Burnside to Overton. It’s great and a nice improvement. I hope that one day they will figure out how to make riding the hill on Interstate north of Greely a bit less nerve racking.

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    • Oliver November 22, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      An enforcement action ticketing everyone who strays over the line might help. I think the rightward drift/bike lane encroachment is a result of bad habits and laziness. (cutting corners while driving too fast is a different issue)

      For the life of me I can’t figure out what drivers’ fear of driving next to the curb along inside of their lane is. I don’t seem to have a problem doing it.

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  • maccoinnich November 22, 2016 at 9:39 am

    “The employee just smiled and said, ‘It’s because we have a good director.'”

    I hope PBOT also has a good Commissioner-in-charge in January.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 22, 2016 at 10:38 am

      I predict Wheeler.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • maccoinnich November 22, 2016 at 11:59 am

        I think you might be right.

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      • SafeStreetsPlease November 22, 2016 at 1:03 pm

        Per a conversation with a PBOT employee, it’s actually looking like Saltzman is a real possibility. It was noted that transportation is too big of a load for an incoming mayor. Take that for what you will.

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  • Bjorn November 22, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Great news about 57th/cully but we need physical separation on this stretch. Take a look at the fence along the cemetary sometime, there are a half dozen places where it is messed up from cars going through it into the graveyard. Hopefully the narrower lanes will help slow cars down a little at least.

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    • Oliver November 22, 2016 at 10:15 am

      Drove by there last year and noticed the a huge amount of fence damage. About 100 feet further along there was a car on its roof resting against a headstone.

      I was imagining that since the vehicle hadn’t been towed, that the occupants had probably gotten away.

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      • Bjorn November 22, 2016 at 11:12 am

        Earlier this year someone took out most of the guard rail at the corner, went through the fence, and hit a tree hard enough that the tree didn’t survive. I am happy to see that the city has listened to all the people who said that being able to walk on the west side was important, but there is ample evidence that drivers can’t control their cars on that stretch and I’d like to see grade separation if not physical protection through that whole section.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 22, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Yay!…And thanks to a dry November too!

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  • Scott Kocher November 22, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Yes NW 18th is terrific. Hopefully the NW 19th stripes will happen soon? And a leaf sweep so they’re actually ride-able (several tries, no luck).

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  • I wear many hats November 22, 2016 at 10:02 am

    It helps, but it will only reduce, not prevent, distracted driving deaths. Just rode Hillsdale last night and I was thankful for the buffer, especially since there were cones and signs occupying the bike lane.

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  • Kate November 22, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Thank you PBOT!

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  • B. Carfree November 22, 2016 at 10:43 am

    “It also shows the importance of having people in leadership positions (like Treat) who ride bicycles daily and who intimately understand the urgency of improving bike access.” – Jonathan Maus

    Hear, hear! Amen, ten thumbs up and all that. This is really important and cannot be stressed enough. In all the places I have lived this is the key factor in getting things done that make riding a bike the joyous experience it should be.

    I’ll add that it is also important to have staff in non-leadership positions riding bikes. However, since bureaucratic cultures tend towards emulating leadership, getting the leaders in the saddle is a great way to start.

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    • Kevin November 22, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Tone at the top.

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  • maccoinnich November 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    So happy to see that the gap on NW 16th between Johnson and Glisan will be disappearing (or maybe already has?).

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  • igor stravinsky November 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    grrlpup
    I’m happy about the SE Woodstock ones!

    I ride that stretch often too, but it’s a shame the lanes end at 69th, and then start up again at 72nd. That’s a gap that should have been addressed with the new paint….

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    • Deeel November 22, 2016 at 4:38 pm

      My thoughts exactly.

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    • Slug November 23, 2016 at 7:07 am

      That gap is exactly the reason I don’t ride that stretch. I do hope the paint will calm drivers. I am really annoyed at the tailgating and flashing of lights when I drive the speed limit down Woodstock. I’m sure the residents at Woodstock and 69th are also annoyed by the two telephone poles, one retaining wall, and one fence that have been taken out by careless speeding drivers right there in the last year.

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    • JeffS(egundo) November 29, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      If you ride this section of Woodstock and want to see the bike lanes completed, call your request in to 503-823-SAFE, or online here: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/564769#MO

      Seriously.

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  • Steve B. November 22, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Super rad! Thank you Leah Treat & PBOT!

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  • Caitlin D November 22, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Yay, thank you to Leah Treat and PBOT! Also, I was happy to see this morning that bright yellow flexi-posts have been installed at the start of the contraflow bike lane at SE 34th and Division. Even little improvements are good to see.

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  • Andrew Kreps November 22, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Any idea when they’ll put the paint back down on Oak between Front and 3rd? it’s now four car travel lanes, and even the busses are using what used to be a bike lane.

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  • Zaphod November 22, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    It makes a difference. Thank you for making a small investment go a long way.

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  • know_elle November 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks for bringing these to our attention. I live in North Portland, and have noticed some new bike lane striping along Lombard between the new New Seasons and Portsmouth. Each block of bike lane has a bike symbol at the beginning of it. Unfortunately it appears they haven’t fixed the signage, as people are still parking the in the lanes. Maybe Jonathan can do a story on this area as well?

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    • Beeblebrox November 22, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      That is an ODOT project that was just installed. It will probably take them a little while to get all the symbols and signage in place. This is a case where a 5-foot bike lane with a 1-foot buffer would be better to prevent people from thinking it’s a parking lane, but ODOT almost never does buffers.

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  • Tom Hardy November 22, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    I noticed new 8 inch striping on NW 18th from Gleason to Thurmond. it’s spacing is about 14 inches more out of the motor lane, it needs the diagonal hashing for better visibiity. I saw 4 cars taking the bike lane (on the right) to go around cars going
    northbound going the speed limit. Every one of the faster cars took a left turn withing 3 blocks. :=(

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  • Eric Leifsdad November 22, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Good. How are we doing on that 20% figure? http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55350

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  • David Hampsten November 22, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    The bike lane on 102nd is way overdue. About time!

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  • TOM November 24, 2016 at 11:38 am

    So that the white people can make it to the anti-Trump protests without getting their cars vandalized. Great idea.

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