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First look: ODOT’s new path around deadly Lombard intersection

Posted by on May 23rd, 2017 at 8:43 am

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-6.jpg

It’s 450-feet long but it could be the difference between life and death.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The State of Oregon has completed construction of a new bike path on NE Lombard (Highway 30) at 42nd. The path is about one-tenth of a mile long and is separated from motor vehicle traffic by a guardrail.

It doesn’t have an official name, but I’ll always think of this as the Martin Greenough Memorial Bike Path.

This is the location where Greenough was hit and killed by a selfish and irresponsible automobile user on December 2015. Greenough was riding in a bike lane that disappeared suddenly as the road narrows to fit around a large concrete pillar that holds up the 42nd Avenue overpass. ODOT built this path so that future bicycle users don’t have to ride through that dangerous pinch-point.

I took a closer look at the path yesterday.

The path starts just east of the ramps that lead up to 42nd Avenue from Lombard. ODOT has added a “Bike Route” sign with an arrow just before the curb ramp that provides a way to roll from the on-street bike lane to the new path.

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-2.jpg


Here’s the view where it starts looking west (against traffic).

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-7.jpg


Given the dangerous pinch-point, I think ODOT should have done more to prevent someone on a bike from continuing on the road. This isn’t your typical, “interested but concerned” versus “strong and fearless,” some-people-will-opt-for-the-path-while-others-can-opt-for-the-street situation. Continuing to ride on the street at this location is extremely dangerous and now that the path is built, I feel like it’s an option that should not exist.

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-3.jpg

One small green sign is easy to miss (especially at night and/or with scary vehicles speed by you at around 50 mph). Perhaps a large arrow on the pavement near the ramp? Or even a concrete curb/median with reflectors on it? Not only is the entry to the path under-designed in my opinion, they also left a large yellow “Bikes on Roadway” sign in place. I realize that’s useful for drivers in case someone is cycling on the road — but it also confuses bicycle users who might be unsure what they’re supposed to do.

I keep wondering about Martin. Would he have noticed this path? Is it obvious enough? He was new to town and the night he was killed was likely the first time he’d ever biked home from work.

The path itself is what you’d expect. About six feet wide and smooth pavement.

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-5.jpg

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-8.jpg

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-9.jpg


I was disappointed to see that the path is already strewn with garbage, broken glass, dirt and gravel.

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-11.jpg


Here are two views looking back (west) at the path from its terminus.

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-13.jpg

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-10.jpg


From this aerial perspective (on the 42nd Avenue overpass bridge) you can see how ODOT ground down the old bike lane stripe to create a series of hash marks that begin where the new path starts…

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-14.jpg

New path from ODOT on Lombard at 42nd-15.jpg

Aside from a few quibbles, this is a welcome improvement. Granted, this stretch of Lombard does not see a lot of bicycle use, but the previous conditions were deplorable and so clearly negligent that something had to be done. Next we’d really like to see ODOT do the same thing on the other side of the street. The westbound bike lane suffers from the same dangerous condition as this one did and will eventually lead to the same tragic consequence if it goes unaddressed.

And of course this section of Lombard will never realize its full potential as a local and regional connector until auto traffic is tamed through a redesign of the street and physically protected bike lanes are added for its entire length.

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

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39 Comments
  • BB May 23, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Horrible. It looks like someone sent out a team of construction workers with no real plan or design for this.

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  • John Stephens May 23, 2017 at 9:12 am

    What I realize upon seeing the new Lombard path under the 42nd Ave overpass is that the entire stretch of Lombard needs a completely separate and protected bikeway–not just that one tight section. That road is dangerous for cyclists at every stretch.

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  • jonno May 23, 2017 at 9:22 am

    I just moved to a neighborhood near Lombard and often drive on it. I have seen 2 bike riders in 2 months, and I myself will *never* ride on it.

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    • eawrist May 23, 2017 at 9:56 am

      I’d ride it if there was a separated path. I would recommend to any friend they not ride it otherwise.

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    • BB May 23, 2017 at 11:21 am

      Part of the problem right here.

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    • Chris I May 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      The project should have reduced Lombard to 2 lanes in each direction with a turn lane, and then utilized the extra space to create a 2-way jersey-barrier protected multi-use path. But this is ODOT…

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      • MaxD May 23, 2017 at 3:39 pm

        do you mean one lane in each direction with a center turn lane?

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    • CaptainKarma May 23, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      I would recommend something soft coverinh the beginning of the guardrail, because sooner than not, a bicycle driver is going to be forced over and directly into it, which could also be deadly. Every one of the wood posts supporting the guardrail on the bike side is also a potential face-mangler. Just needs it’s own inside guardrail, even if it’s plastic. But yeah, the whole project is a vast improvement over what was there.

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  • shirtsoff May 23, 2017 at 9:34 am

    I used to cycle through this area all the time when I was in my teens. I hated it then and hate it now decades later. This is a welcome improvement.

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  • Kyle Banerjee May 23, 2017 at 9:46 am

    “Continuing to ride on the street at this location is extremely dangerous and now that the path is built, I feel like it’s an option that should not exist.”

    An interesting thought. I have ridden this section, but not since the path was completed. If it weren’t for this blog, I would not know why the path was there and wouldn’t take it even though this pinch point is dangerous. I still don’t know if I’ll take it next time I go out — that will depend on the specific conditions at the time.

    My experience with sidepaths as you get further out is they often have bad surfaces, broken glass and other debris, and I don’t like riding in areas with poor sight lines in the dark obvious ambush points — I’d rather ride with cars that I can keep an eye on.

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  • Allan Rudwick May 23, 2017 at 9:50 am

    They just need to scratch of the old paint and put the white line towards the curb directing bikes over. So obvious. Get it done ODOT

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  • wsbob May 23, 2017 at 10:06 am

    The thing about referring to as “…deadly…”, the passage for bike traffic below the overpass on Lombard Rd, up until that point, on a bike lane, is that how the former bike lane ended and transitioned into the main lanes, was basically just a standard merge typical of many roads and streets in Portland and other cities in Oregon.

    Of which most users, driving and biking, apparently are able to reasonably manage with a fairly safe level of use. Except in the case of types of road users such as the guy driving and involved in this case, who it was discovered after the police somewhat miraculously tracked him down with as I recall, the help of a tip or two from the public.

    The guy driving and involved in this collision was found to be very high on the increasingly socially acceptable ‘wonder drug’ Marijuana, aka ‘pot’, ‘weed’, ‘mary jane’, etc, etc. He was quoted in the O story, effectively as not being able to clearly see what was on the road ahead of him. He, not the “…intersection…”, was the guy that because he was having a jolly green good time on pot, made the transition under the bridge deadly for Martin Greenough on his bike.

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    • Hazel May 23, 2017 at 10:33 am

      Have you ever ridden this section of road? I’m a regular user of this bike path and every time I came to the pinch point, I would stop and wait until there was no traffic coming. It was not safe, especially with all the semi trucks that blast through the area going well above the speed limit.

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      • Dan A May 23, 2017 at 2:19 pm

        Kyle thinks it’s fine.

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        • Kyle Banerjee May 23, 2017 at 3:05 pm

          I’m not sure fine is the operative term. I would say that there are many threats on roads like this that at least rise to the level of danger presented by pinch points.

          When cars move at highway speeds, the importance of timing gaps, herding cars cars (or failing that being prepared for Plan B), and the like increases dramatically. Failing to keep track of what’s going on is always dangerous so even if this short section were perfect in every way, there is still the reality of the rest of the road.

          One thing I find ironic is for all the play this particular section gets, there’s not much said about Lombard from 11th all the way into St. John’s which has no bike lane whatsoever — i.e. where people might actually want to bike because the distances are more reasonable for most cyclists. Try riding both ways between 11th and Interstate where the traffic finally slows down a bit after the traffic has merged on from I5 and say with a straight face that is bridge is so much worse.

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    • CaptainKarma May 23, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      I’d rather see every person driving under the influence due to the pervasive culture of alcohol in this town be “high on maryjane” instead of having an ounce of that wonder drug alcohol in their blood.

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      • Lester Burnham May 24, 2017 at 7:38 am

        Impaired is impaired. Defend weed all you want.

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  • Kittens May 23, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I’m torn on this. While I am encouraged by the relatively quick action by ODoT, it’s clearly slapdash and poorly executed.

    Problems:
    Why did they leave the BIKES ON ROADWAY sign when right in front of it they installed a sign directing bike traffic onto the path?

    Why does the road striping for the old bike lane continue to exist? This section of Lombard was recently restriped.

    Why did they use a concrete apron for the entry and exit portals, forcing users to cross at dangerously acute angles when they could have just easily made a square approach angle?

    Maybe there are reasons for doing it this way but it sure doesn’t appear to be competent or logical to me.

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    • Kyle Banerjee May 23, 2017 at 11:43 am

      I can’t see how it’s ever bad for motorists to be reminded near dangerous areas that they may encounter bikes on the roadway. Pinch points are hardly the only place motorists and cyclists need to be vigilant. People accelerate when pulling out while looking behind for traffic rather than in front at cyclists, they sometimes look in front of cyclists into their turns as they pull right while worrying about traffic behind them, etc.

      The angle of approach discourages use of the sidepath, but this seems a common (and unfortunate) practice. At least this sidepath makes some sense unlike the new one between Couch and Davis.

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  • JJJ May 23, 2017 at 11:05 am

    I agree they need an arrow, it looks like a driveway. You have to know to use it.

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    • El Biciclero May 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Yes, pavement markings are needed. Either an arrow, or as suggested earlier, bending the bike lane line to guide onto the path.

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  • OregonJelly May 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    “Continuing to ride on the street at this location is extremely dangerous and now that the path is built, I feel like it’s an option that should not exist.”

    Another activist eager to give away my right to the road.
    The bike lane is what created the danger and was a result of someone’s desire for “safe” infrastructure. All those people right-hooked in bike lanes? Same thing. Old guy runs you over with his corvette? Same thing.

    Good intentions are not preventing poor implementation. When you get your completely separate system fully built out, we’ll talk about prohibiting riding in the street.

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  • Glenn May 23, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    man what a half ass job on the new path…

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    • Buzz May 23, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Exactly! Those gravel shoulders are both lame and dangerous, drop a wheel in the gravel in the dark and there’s a good chance you’re going down.

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  • Dan A May 23, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    “slapdash”

    Yep. That is how ODOT does bike facilities.

    https://tinyurl.com/msze7sa

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  • gl. May 23, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    Both sides are dangerous pinch points. Only adding a path on one side because someone died is barely conscionable.

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  • Pete May 23, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    “It doesn’t have an official name, but I’ll always think of this as the Martin Greenough Memorial Bike Path.”

    I vote we enlist one of those artistic ‘anarchists’ up there to leave bikeshare alone for a minute to commission that name in paint on the retaining wall (that taggers already staked claim to).

    Frankly, as far as table scraps go, I’ve seen worse. Could use a mid-lane painted arrow in advance of the junction (no, not right next to it, you non-cycling public works folks), if that’s not gonna bust the bank (sarcasm).

    And I’m with Kyle; if I’m tooling down this (unfamiliar) road my attention will likely be on monitoring overtaking traffic with my mirror than on suddenly recognizing a short, unmarked, jury-rigged bypass. They do that all the time with bike lanes here on suburban Cali streets to bypass older city trees, but of course the pavement is almost always broken up with roots that will launch you if you choose to follow the markings at steady speed. So no, please don’t tell me I can’t take the lane if I choose to (but yes, I’d definitely prefer a protected lane for such a stretch that would have minimal intersection crossings).

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    • Stephen Keller May 24, 2017 at 7:40 am

      Pete
      …a short, unmarked, jury-rigged bypass.

      One that is also chock full of hiding places for someone with a bat waiting to crack ones skull and steal ones bicycle. I am not sure I would want use this path under the darkness of the wee hours.

      Stph

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  • Noraa May 23, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Apparently some of you have never ridden this section of road. This IS a welcome improvement. I rode Lombard/Killingsworth for many years and never had a problem, but it sure felt sketchy under that bridge. I have since figured out that there is a much more peaceful route through the neighborhoods to the south. And it’s only 5 minutes longer.

    My question is, why didn’t they fix the drain on the east side of the east bound lane at the same time?

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    • Kyle Banerjee May 23, 2017 at 9:18 pm

      There are clearly some people who know this area well, but I’m guessing the ones who haven’t ridden it are complaining the most. Some cyclists will like the fix better than others, and some of them may alter their opinions with the natural passage of time.

      Sections like these are never fun, but there are numerous things cyclists can do to dramatically improve safety and lower stress at pinch points.

      I stand by my comments about the areas of Lombard closer in. Fixing a handful of places where tragedies occur only improves those very specific locations — the overall road situation remains the same.

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  • q May 23, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Which Cub Scout pack was it again that built this path?

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    • rachel b May 24, 2017 at 1:05 am

      Har!! “I made it myself!”

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  • Daniel May 23, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    A few years ago I commuted to/from the airport on Lombard. I actually never had any problems with traffic (as far as I remember at least) but its not a pleasant ride at all. I feel safer on the shoulder of the Dirty 30 then I did on Lombard which says a lot I think. Yes there is a bike lane from MLK all the way to 205 but its full of gravel and broken glass year round and traffic is going minimum 50. The speed limit is 45 but no one does that.
    This little detour through that underpass could be better but its a lot better then just riding on the tiny shoulder like before. The biggest problem I see is this doesn’t fix the same problem on the other side of the road. There’s another chock point there that needs to be fixed somehow.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu May 24, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Some criticisms of this bit of bike infrastructure is based on assumptions about the reaction of a rider who is unfamiliar with the location and seeing the bypass for the first time.

    I’d suggest that anyone who rides that route even semi-regularly will quickly figure out what the bypass path is and how to use it.

    That said, a bit of roadway marking (an arrow pointing bikes to the path) wouldn’t hurt.

    The bigger question is, why isn’t there an equivalent bypass on the other side?

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    • Dan A May 24, 2017 at 11:38 am

      “Some criticisms of this bit of bike infrastructure is based on assumptions about the reaction of a rider who is unfamiliar with the location and seeing the bypass for the first time.”

      Like Martin.

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  • q May 24, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    It’s an improvement, but nothing ODOT should be proud of, and the fact it took a death to get anything to happen makes it worse.

    Other agencies here also have incredibly low standards for themselves in regard to bike and pedestrian safety. I recently asked the County why it failed to install code-required detectable warnings (yellow bumps) on the new section of Greenway Trail between the Sellwood Bridge and Willamette Park, in the locations where the path enters roadways (the houseboat driveway and Miles Place).

    After a month, I got a lame reply from Parks (the trail is a Parks facility) that the reason was that the code was different when the project started 6 years ago, and the bumps will be installed in summer.

    I replied that detectable warnings have been required for literally DECADES, so their response was clearly a cover-up. I also asked them why they would choose to violate code requirements and leave a dangerous situation for months (since without the warnings, people with vision disabilities may wander from a pedestrian path into vehicle traffic and get killed) when the installation would literally take only a few hours.

    I got a “thank you for your comments” reply. The warnings aren’t there yet, and Parks doesn’t care.

    I wanted to point out problems with the stupid (and I believe dangerous) stop signs for trail users at the houseboat driveway, but didn’t bother because Parks staff couldn’t even acknowledge that its trails should meet basic minimum disability/safety code requirements.

    Similarly, anyone with any sense could see this Lombard situation–pre-“fix”– was a death waiting to happen, yet it got designed, reviewed, drawn, installed, and inspected with nobody noticing or caring how dangerous it was. So somebody did die. The new. make-shift work should be a cause for shame for ODOT, not anything to take pride in.

    Over the next few years, we’ll see many more deaths at locations where people have already raised safety concerns, including ones where the solutions would involve only a few dollars of paint, signage, detectable warnings, etc.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. May 25, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    This path looks like a drunk engineer designed it. The path isn’t even remotely straight and has rough, hard edges. And the transition from bike lane to path is garbage. Why doesn’t the curb ramp extend all the way to the start of the path? Rather, it is designed so that cyclists must make a hard 90° turn onto the path. The path should taper at the ends, too. I mean, I’m glad for the extra protection here, but ODOT usually designs excellent cycling paths and this one just seems half-assed.

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    • Dan A May 27, 2017 at 10:21 pm

      Do they? I don’t know which paths have been designed by ODOT, so it’s an honest question.

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  • Be Quick, Don't Dawdle May 29, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    This is a big improvement. It’s not perfect, but will do. There would be no danger in riding on the street in this section as long as you check behind you and determine you can beat the approaching cars past the pinch point.

    Good job ODOT!

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