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470 bollards not enough to protect ‘Better Naito’ bikeway

Posted by on May 2nd, 2017 at 4:40 pm

seriously man_.jpg

This is supposed to be a carfree lane.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Let me make this as clear as possible: If Portland wants to get more people cycling, we must provide a network of high-quality, physically protected routes that are connected to destinations. Any bikeway that does not provide physical protection from “A to B” that’s both real and perceived is a gap in the network.

I bring this up because of the fanfare that launched Better Naito last week. Don’t get me wrong, I think the fanfare is justified. The volunteers who advocated for the project initially and the city staff that have embraced it have many reasons to be proud. But let us not forget that this is still second-rate infrastructure designed on the cheap.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that it doesn’t work as well as it should.

During the Better Naito press conference, a man in a small Acura SUV drove right into the bike-only lane, following right behind a woman on a bicycle (in photo above). He was completely clueless that he had crossed over in a no-car zone. I dismissed it as a fluke and thought, surely, that with 470 plastic bollards installed by expert city engineers, we wouldn’t have to worry about such things.

Then I got home and someone texted me a video…

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Then I saw this via Twitter today…

Sigh.

How do we prevent this? It’s extremely simple. Just design it like we mean it and add real protection. Make our bikeways clueless driver proof. Here are a few examples I saw during a trip to New York City in 2012…

Ride Along with Molly Fair-4

Columbia Protected bike lane-3-1

Flushing St protected bike lane-3

Flushing St protected bike lane-7

It’s widely known that Portland’s reputation as a great cycling city has been damaged by our lack of protected bike lanes. The most recent example is an article in Sightline by David Goldberg (the man who coined the term “complete streets”) who determined that Vancouver, Canada is now the best big bike city in Cascadia. That’s despite the fact that by sheer volume we have nearly twice as many “bikeway miles” as they do. The chart below shows the key discrepancy…

(Chart from: Of Cascadia’s big cities, who’s tops in bikeways? published on Sightline.org on May 1st.)

We must do more to protect the most vulnerable road users from the ones with the potential to do most harm. I guess we’re making progress. Better Naito started with traffic cones and wood palettes. Now it’s got flexible plastic bollards. How long do we have to wait for something that will actually deter people from putting their dangerous motor vehicles where they don’t belong?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and 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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Eric U.
Guest
Eric U.

the ones in New York seem to mostly just be narrower. Plastic wands at intersections splitting the bike lanes in half would probably give a better visual cue. Of course, they would have to be easily replaceable

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

Well, at least PBOT/City Council can be complacent, er… comfortable, in the knowledge that the League of American Bicyclists will again re-certify Portland as “Platinum” despite all evidence to the contrary.

/s

Adam
Subscriber

Hate to break it to you, but plenty of people drive and park in the bike lanes in New York also. So many drivers just don’t seem to care, or can’t be arsed enough to look up from their phones once in a while. Driving is inherently a selfish and anti-social act, so it’s no surprise that there are some drivers who couldn’t care less about the safety of others.

The one bike lane in Portland that never seems to have this problem is the SW Moody cycleway, and there’s a specific reason for this – it’s actually built as a proper cycleway. Permanent Better Naito should resemble this example. It’s too bad we didn’t just spend the money on getting Naito right the first time, rather than spending extra money iterating over the design every year.

J.E.
Guest
J.E.

They need to have the plastic wands at all the crosswalks across Naito running parallel to the crosswalk (like the put on the south end of Better Naito near the Salmon Spring Fountain). Problem is they can’t in certain stretches as long as the bike/ped lane serves as a loading zone and vehicles need to enter and exit the bike/ped lane. Even if they put up Jersey barriers, you’d still see oblivious drivers entering the bike/ped lane as long as there isn’t anything blocking their entry. So really, this isn’t a problem with the plastic wands, it’s a problem with the contracts the city has made that forces Better Naito to do double-duty as bike lane and loading zone.

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

Why not place a plastic bollard in the center of the expanded bikeway at the start of each block? It would be just like the off road routes in Fort Stevens and other state parks that prevent cars and trucks from entering in the first place.

rick
Guest
rick

Where is the enforcement ?

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

This is related tangent and open question: I frequently see delivery trucks stopping on E Burnside between Grand and 11th. The bike lane is not narrow enough to accommodate the trucks, but they put on their hazards and pull all the way into the bike lane, fully blocking the bike lane and partly blocking the right-hand motor vehicle lane. Is there any reason they could not simply stop in the right-hand lane, put on their hazards and make their deliveries? They would still have to cross the ike lane, but it would leave the bike lane open and only block one lane instead of 2.

Pete
Guest
Pete

To be fair, in that Prius video there’s no real clue after the railroad track that it isn’t just another (auto) lane with a bike lane to the right. The original bike lane maintains its “bike-person” marking to the right of the bike-lane-width paint stripe, and there are no other signs or street markings (that I saw).

I think as a (cycling-aware) driver I’d have taken a clue from the context that it was a ‘protected’ bike lane before the tracks, so probably after, but I think the city could have done a better job of making that transition ‘idiot-proof’. The fact a driver could so effortlessly and easily make that transition is proof enough for me.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

As long as we continue this now four-decades long experiment of zero traffic law enforcement, all the separation we build will be for naught. Our motorists are running into houses and retail stores, for goodness sakes. A bit of mid-block concrete will not only not protect cyclists (take a look back at the post of the motorist who managed to get stuck on the new Sellwood bikeway while it was under construction), it will certainly do no good at intersections and will likely do much harm. Add in the fact that what some are asking for is to basically ban bikes from using general roadways, and the more separated facilities are built the stronger their case becomes, and you can count me out.

We can and should invest our limited resources on raising the quality of roadway use. That means education, most of which will come with tuition (citations). This is how Davis got cycling to be the majority modal share back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. People can and do learn how to behave, especially when the instructors wear badges or robes. Absent that, we can expect more of the same (failure). Removing that enforcement is also how Davis came back to Earth in the mid-1980’s and has struggled to regain its mojo ever since.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I don’t think it would help very much, but my interpretation of the MUTCD suggests that the wands between the northbound auto lanes on Naito and the southbound cycle track should be yellow with yellow pavement markings. White is for delineating the lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.

q
Guest
q

Priuses are not allowed to use bike lanes?

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

This article doesn’t actually make the case that plastic bollards don’t work, since none of the drivers mentioned drove over any bollard.

It simply observes that you need a bollard to actually block off the entry to lanes that you don’t want people to drive into.

If you can’t block off the entry to a lane, because you need access for deliveries, then you need to use a lot more signage.

q
Guest
q

A bit off subject, but does anyone else think the metal railings on top of the NY concrete barriers look a bit dangerous? It may never occur, but they look like hand- or handlebar catchers if someone fell or brushed into them. At least they’re not sharpened metal spikes like Portland has along SW Vista railings that I always felt like I’d get skewered on if I tripped running.

They dress up the concrete and provide a bit more visual separation, but otherwise seem expensive and non-functional. (Or is NY trying to prevent people from climbing over them?) The exception is the first photo with the low concrete barriers that could be too low by themselves. Horizontal railings–metal or cable–would seem safer than the designs pictured. Small quibble in the overall picture.

JJ
Guest
JJ

And the money for this comes from where?

Travis
Guest
Travis

Second-rate infrastructure. Yikes. How would Greeley and Willamette rank?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I’ve also seen people drive (and get stuck) in the bikeway crossing the river on I205. An oddball cluеless driver like this one is a nuisance rather than a safety problem or any kind of issue worth solving.

Much better to direct resources where they’ll do some good. BTW, there are a lot of places where people routinely park, wait, or drive in separated bike lanes. I see this almost every day on Broadway as you approach PSU. That is also a nuisance rather than a safety problem.

If drivers keep making this mistake, something can be done near the entrance. But focus really needs to be on making the whole city rideable (i.e. put infrastructure where there is none) rather than wasting time on showcase stuff in the core.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

A bollard centered in the bike space every couple hundred feet would also get the message across.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I recently concluded a relatively longitudinal, sorta peer reviewed, somewhat scientific study that concluded that the worst drivers on the road in PDX are Prius drivers.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Seems like it would be pretty easy to enforce this with an automated camera system. I am sure there is a standard fine for driving in a prohibited lane. I don’t buy that most of these folks are “confused”, they are making a decision to disregard that the lane is not for cars, while physical separation would be better some strict enforcement would probably also be pretty effective.

AJ
Guest
AJ

I think using jersey barriers for most of the route would help here, but while retaining the removable plastic wands at the driveway accesses under the Morrison and Burnside bridges. That way, loading could still be accomplished by removing those bollards under the bridges and parking the loading vehicles in the spaces under the bridges. Along with adding single plastic wands right in the middle at crosswalks, by those driveways, and up at the RR xing, to prevent drivers from getting in at those locations, that could pretty much eliminate bad/clueless drivers from taking over this space.

PBOT could also temporarily remove parking and designate more loading/unloading zones on streets perpendicular to Naito, so that the heavy loading/unloading can occur under the bridges, and the lighter loading/unloading can occur just across the street. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of the festival organizers to cross a single street as part of their setup/teardown instead of inconveniently and unsafely blocking Better Naito; businesses do this all the time throughout downtown already.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Where is this six miles of “protected” bike lane?

Stephan
Guest
Stephan

One of the reasons why Better Naito cannot be made better is because it is temporary. For instance, painting the bike lane would help, at least a little bit, but that’s not an option here. This way is just looks like a separated street for cars to drive on.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Where is judge Dredd when you need him?

Joe
Guest
Joe

also note same seems still happen at the end of the hawthrone bridge on east side.

Brian
Guest
Brian

9watts
“True, but it can make it easier to accomplish all of life’s daily tasks efficiently so that one can do things like help with homework and spend some quality time with them. Selfish? Perhaps. Important as hell for parents? Definitely.”
This is so problematic a place to start. If you have a car, have no experience living without a car then… of course… you may see things as dependent on a car as you suggest above. But if you live without a car—before you have a kid—the situation as you find yourself with a child may look completely different. Having a child in no way necessitates or even benefits from having a car. Do you really not know anyone with children who does not have a car?
Recommended 1

I really do not know anyone with children who do not own a car. Do you really disagree that using a car can free up time for life’s pleasures for some people?

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

Wait, hang on, we have 6 protected bike lanes? Are we counting the ones that a “pseudo-protected” by parked cars? Or vaguely protected by planters? Because I honestly can’t think of any, otherwise.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Got to Paint/Stain green (or red like the Dutch bike lanes) all the bike/pedestrian lanes that are not physically protected..some plastic bollards and little white symbols on the ground don’t cut it…
And why did Portland Pick green for bike lane stuff anyhow..why not red like to dutch..red to me is stop in a car..easier for driver to associate..in my opinion.

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

This very site has posted multiple articles over the years about drivers getting onto completely separated paths (like the 205 bridge, 205 path, and Springwater). Occasionally people do dumb things. This happens a lot more when things are new to people.

Do we have any real data this is happening with much frequency? One or two cars a day driving in this facility (especially as it’s so new) doesn’t seem like a major fail.

KTaylor
Guest
KTaylor

My point here is that just because you prefer to do things a certain way (drive everywhere in a car), that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. People don’t tolerate conscious awareness of doing harm very well. If people didn’t insist on feeling good about everything they do, the world wouldn’t be such a mess.

Brian
Guest
Brian

How does this happen? How do you convince the majority of Americans who enjoy their current standard of living as being (a) not ideal, and (b) needs to change because of the things you listed above (climate, environment, possibly killing others), and (c) they need to force their elected leader to enact policies than necessitate that change. I wish I wasn’t so pessimistic, but man…..

TK
Guest
TK

Has anyone considered simply putting the PBL on or next to the waterfront path itself? That would answer the issue with drivers absentmindedly driving into the PBL, as the drivers would first have to absentmindedly drive into the park.

pdx2wheeler
Guest
pdx2wheeler

I quit “Better Naito” last year after nearly being hit by a school bus in the lane and then getting yelled at by that driver to, “Get out of the lane”. Seemed most the times there was some lame reason a vehicle needed to be parked in that lane, forcing me into head-on Naito traffic… Well bus driver, I hope you’re happy, I got out and stayed out.

Steven
Guest
Steven

I don’t see parking enforcement or Portland police bureau penalizing these people for any of these infractions. Nor do I see police pull people over for egregious traffic violations in Portland or neighboring communities. If people were penalized where they really feel it (their bank account) they might start to take notice!

oliver
Guest
oliver

“Our road designs must be clueless driver proof.”

Our penalties and the pricing thereof ought to “clueless driver” proof our roads.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Three cars stopped today for the all important Cinco festival on OUR waterfront.
I politely suggested to one as I rode around that they were not supposed to be in this lane.
The 2 passengers and driver screamed obscenities (probably already drunk) and then followed me in their car across the steel bridge to threaten me some more.
Have fun with your waterfront this summer, I guess I will finally, after years of commuting on Naito, find another route.

John McBurney
Guest
John McBurney

I’m working a week a month in Minneapolis right now. The investment in separate infrastructure is truly impressive. Of course having recreational multiuser trails along aren’t the same as having a network that allows biking as transportation. The rails to trails conversion of abandoned rail corridors begins to address this. 3 bridges across the Mississippi that are car and pedestrian only is really amazing.

But what is really awesome is the rapid construction of complete streets in the redeveloping areas in the central city. The new NFL stadium and MLB field are served by bike trails. Imagine catching a game without the traffic! There must be billions being spent on infrastructure here!

I was trying to figure out a way to upload a picture of a complete street under construction. It’s inspiring. Yes a curb separates the auto traffic. And there is dark concrete that is the bike lane separated from the ped space by a planting area and trees.

peter
Guest
peter

I get so tired of all the complaining. Our lack of appreciation makes all of our community look bad.

Skid
Guest
Skid

Never Mind the Bollards

Here’s the SUV Drivers

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Although I’ve been critical of Better Naito in the past, this is better executed than in the past. The bollards give more space than the cones did, and the markings so far have helped keep things a little more sane. We’ll see what happens when the festival starts.

BTW, I clipped one of the bollards at speed yesterday. Surprisingly bike friendly — it slammed down immediately and didn’t destable my ride.