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First look: The tiny (yet important) cycle-track on SW Terwilliger at Capitol Highway


It might not look like much, but it makes a big difference.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“The changes are a big improvement.”
— Barbara Stedman, southwest Portland resident

Slowly but surely, the City of Portland is improving bikeways in southwest. Case in point are the recently completed changes to the intersection of SW Capitol Highway and Terwilliger (a.k.a the “teardrop”).

People who ride in this area know the intersection well because it was a common place for close-calls. I experienced this first-hand during a ride-along with a southwest Portland family in 2012 (see photo below). The curvature of the road, mixed with the unprotected bike lane was a bad combination. Fortunately a Portland Water Bureau project provided the impetus to finally fix the bikeway and make something much safer (and we were fortunate that a volunteer advocate spoke up to make sure it happened – thanks Keith Liden!).

Before I share more photos of the new bikeway, here’s how it used to look (note the pinch-point and how the younger rider opts wisely for the sidewalk):

And here’s how it looks now:

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And coming back southbound toward Capitol Highway (note the old lane markings that have been ground down):

As you can see, in addition to the new grade-separated bike lane, PBOT has restriped the notorious s-curve in both directions. They widened the southbound bike lane, gave it a generous (but only painted) buffer, added a mini-bike box at the intersection, and added a few cross-bike markings into the intersection for good measure.

As for the teardrop itself, there are separate paths for bicycling and walking and pavement markings throughout to let you know where you should be. The design overall is straightforward. North of Capitol Highway the paths re-connect and then bicycle users are directed back onto the unprotected Terwilliger bike lane (via a curb cut and arrow markings) a few hundred feet later.

This is an important intersection because of its location at the crossroads of a major north-south bike route (Terwilliger) and the main access road between Barbur Blvd and Hillsdale (Capitol Highway).

Southwest resident (and the subject in that harrowing photo above) Barbara Stedman says, “The changes are a big improvement. Widening the street and adding the cycle path and MUP to the sidewalk was very helpful.” Stedman worked with PBOT and volunteer advocate Keith Liden to design the bikeway. She also mentioned that the sharp curve to the left at the split of the bike and walkways is “kind of awkward” (especially since it comes on a slight downhill when people on bikes have a bit of speed) and that many people ride on the walking path instead.

I also noted that on the section of Terwilliger right outside of downtown Portland (near the Sam Jackson intersection), PBOT has repaved the street and widened/buffered the bike lane. It’s great to see improvements like this and they follow a positive trend of PBOT upgrading bicycle infrastructure whenever they repave or do other projects.

Do you ride through here? What do you think about the upgrades?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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