The City of Portland fined and publicly shamed two construction companies for blocking streets today. The companies went beyond the scope of their permits and were accused by the Bureau of Transportation of, “exacerbating rush hour traffic delays.”
While it’s nice to see PBOT get tough and defend public right-of-way like this, we’ve noticed this response differs considerably from how they deal with people illegally parking in bike lanes.
Here’s more on today’s announcement from PBOT via a news release:
“Last week, the Portland Bureau of Transportation fined two contractors who blocked the public right of way without a permit or in violation of a permit. The blockages exacerbated traffic congestion during the busy summer construction season. PBOT will continue to issue fines as needed to prevent unnecessary traffic congestion.
On Monday, July 31, Columbia Construction Service blocked a turn lane and a through lane just west of the Burnside Bridge, narrowing the street to one lane westbound during the morning rush hour. This closure caused extreme congestion, which delayed public transit service and other road users.
On Thursday, Aug. 3, PBOT ordered Turner Construction Co. to stop all work in the center lane of SW 12th Avenue, between SW Morrison and SW Alder. The company’s permit only allows the closure of the right lane.
After receiving complaints and photographic evidence, both companies were fined last week.”
Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman said he was “disappointed at the blatant disregard for the public,” and added that, “for a private construction company to block a lane during rush hour, delaying thousands of people and undermining our efforts to reduce traffic congestion is unacceptable. We will hold them accountable.”
According to The Oregonian, both companies were fined $500.
Meanwhile, motor vehicle users continue to block bike lanes throughout the city with no such censure. One particular segment of the new 20s Bikeway just north of Sandy Blvd is often blocked. Yesterday our friends at Path Less Pedaled were just the latest to post a photo of this illegal behavior on social media:
28th and Sandy buffered bike lane fail. @BikePortland @PBOTinfo pic.twitter.com/eXwILYSfN8
— ThePathLessPedaled (@pathlesspedaled) August 7, 2017
When people park in bike lanes, it forces bicycle users into the adjacent lane. This can create a safety hazard and it can lead to tense interactions between bicycle and motor vehicle users. In addition, the inadequate designs that lead to the problem in the first place send a signal to the public that the City of Portland does not respect bicycle users to the same degree as automobile users. This is a problem in a city with adopted transportation policy that gives a higher priority to bicycle use than single-occupancy vehicle use.
The response from PBOT and the strong words from Commissioner Saltzman about these construction companies blocking the road provides a stark contrast to how Portland handles bike lane blockages.
We’ve been covering this issue since at least 2011 when we posted a series of articles about why people illegally park in bike lanes, how PBOT policy reacts to it, and what we as a city can do about the problem.
In Toronto the city responded by assigning a few police officers to a dedicated bike lane blockage patrol unit.
It’s great to see PBOT defend its right-of-way. Now let’s hope they stand up for all right-of-way with the same sense of indignation and urgency.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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No new laws are needed. It is not legal to park in a bike lane. Send parking enforcement and hand out steep parking fines. Whenever I see this sort of thing I stop and call the PBOT parking violation hotline. Sometimes they come and hand out tickets. Would seem like a no-brainer to send parking patrol every time and collect guaranteed revenue.
this has been going on for years. there’s got to be something better than asking citizens to report it (which the vast majority never do and never will do) and then sending out parking enforcement. The design of these bikeways is a contributing factor and so is the response to the illegal behavior itself.
PBOT really needs to up the signage they put on their new bike facilities. When you’re taking away parking that has been there for decades you need to make it ridiculously obvious that there is no longer parking there. Instead we get bike stencils every 2-3 blocks and no “no parking” signs. It’s so predictable.
I see this a lot on SE 60th between Powell and Division. No signage, just pavement markings every so often and a wide strip that looks like curbside parking even though it’s a bike lane.
That should read 52nd, not 60th. But I just clicked on and read a related article at the top of the comments about putting “No Parking” signs along there. This is from 2014, and I’ve never seen them.
When I lived in Brooklyn NY, NYPD was notorious for doing this (and parking on sidewalks). In fact, I recall one case where the cops parked in the bike lane, then ticketed cyclists for riding into the traffic lane to get past (I think they expected cyclists to stop, dismount and walk their bikes on the sidewalk). Mayor Bloomberg took away a lot of parking placards for city employees, but Comrade De Blasio has given them all back, and then some. When every city employee has a parking placard, they park wherever they feel like it.
Enforcement-wise, I say allow citizens to send in pictures and have (maybe desk duty) officers write tickets based on that. The alleged offenders could ask that they see the reporter in court if there’s a dispute.
They were all in Katie O’Brien’s, right? Neatly parked, so they could go in and “investigate an incident”, no doubt.
That seems to be the attitude of all the violators, not just cops. They always have some reason why they are exempt from laws.
The Sellwood Bridge project’s contractors took the attitude to new extremes. When they were blocking driveways and blocking my entire dead end street, and I confronted them in the street, they threatened to call the police to have me arrested for “entering their live construction zone”. There was no construction happening on the street, and the street is the only way in or out of the neighborhood, yet they viewed it as theirs, with the businesses and residents being trespassers.
Do you suppose part of the reason these violations have been allowed to go on and on is tribal in nature? Almost all of the city staff responsible for keeping the cars out of the bike lanes drive to work, shopping and play as their primary, and often only, means of transportation. From their windshield perspective, keeping the bike lanes clear isn’t nearly as high a priority as other parking issues since it never affects them in any meaningful way.
I once had a nice conversation with a parking enforcement officer about this. She assured me that if someone parked in the travel lane adjacent to a bike lane, she would have it towed immediately. However, when someone parks in the bike lane, she doesn’t even cite the vehicle without a complaint being lodged. At least she pretended to see how insane this was.
I tried to report this last night but it was outside of the Portland parking enforcement hotline hours, which is usually the case in this location. Only 1 of the ~10 cars was ticketed.
Seriously. Uber and Lyft drivers are the absolute worst. Just because you have your hazards on doesn’t mean you’re automatically excused from the rules.
+1 or without hazards on.
I talked to a Uber or Lyft driver who parked his car in the bike lane on Williams while waiting for the customer. His response? “I am waiting for the customer!” So that gives you a reason to violate the law?
A good perspective on people short-parking their car in the bike lane is to ask why they do that in the bike-dedicated lane but not in the car-dedicated lane. No one would dream of doing that because if would hinder the car traffic “flow”.
I see you haven’t spent much time in Boston.
In general, I’m pretty chill and don’t engage with knuckleheads. But I make exceptions for those who park or wait in bike lanes.
Having said that, design is a contributing factor and it’s not good to be unkind to people who make honest mistakes.
I can see that, but the bike lanes have been on BH Highway in Portland city limits for a long time. Frans Pauwels helped get the Alpenrose Velodrome built and he often rode on BH Highway and he helped make Portland a safer place to ride a bike.
Except the improved lanes they just stripped on the north side of BHH are VERY wide (so much so that they look like a parking lane). Thus they need to do a better job of signage.
If every bike commuter stopped to call in violations whenever they encountered one, cycling would instantly become the slowest and least efficient form of transportation in the city. This is like asking all pedestrians to stop and report all sidewalks not meeting accessibility standards and encroachments including all limbs, bushes, and parked cars.
Complaints about sidewalks with huge cracks or displacements are EXACTLY how the sidewalk problems are resolved. Complaints trigger in inspection that leads to a notice to the property owner to correct the deficiency at his/her cost.
I saw two cars parked in the bike lanes of BH Highway over the weekend. Fully painted from SW Capitol Highway to 65th. I tired to find the person who owned the cars.
Jonathan, you don’t know how incredibly timely this is. In Willamette Park, a new bike path was just opened up a couple weeks ago. But the project has left a porta-potty right in the middle of it for the past week. It’s not really used anymore by the contractor, since their work is almost done near it, and there are other toilets available closer to where they’re working. You can squeeze past it, but it’s still thoughtless. It’s even being serviced, and due to its location, the service truck has to block the park entrance to service it.
I think I’ll tell the Bridge Pedal, since 1500 participants will be peddling on that same path next Sunday.
Adding a wrinkle, the project hasn’t yet installed the bollards at the park entrance near this porta-potty, so cars are stupidly but regularly driving onto the new bike path, thinking it’s a continuation of the street. Ironically, now when they drive into the park, they now can’t drive on the new path because the porta-potty blocks them. So they head right, onto the the even narrower, windier path along the river. I just saw a cyclist yell at one that ran him off that path.
It’s exactly like your remark that blocking bike lanes drives bikes into traffic, but taken to ridiculousness. Here, the bike path blockage isn’t forcing bikes into traffic, it’s forcing cars illegally using the bike path off of the path, and onto another bike/pedestrian path where they’re even MORE dangerous.
Such locations should be signed with prominent warnings: “Auto Parking Prohibited in This and All Bike Lanes. $1500 Fine. Strictly Enforced. No Exceptions.” The fine for illegal parking in a bike lane should be at least $1500, maybe more. Bites in the pocketbook just might send a message. Security cams along these streets would help, too. Commercial traffic blocking bike lanes for delivery/pickup purposes should be allowed one hour to do their business, no more. Such vehicles could be fined double, I.e. $1500 might become $3000. Such locations should be prominently signed, and businesses should be warned to advise drivers/assistants of the parking limit on the bike lane. Blocking driveways AND bike lanes should be fined $6000 – $3000 for blocking the driveway and another $3000 for blocking the bike lane. Prominent overhead signs pointing out the bike lanes shoukd be encouraged wherever phisically possible.
This is “about time” for PBoT and Jonathan you make a great point about the lack of equity of work zone enforcement…PBoT/ inspectors turning a blind eye to blocking bike per and ADA lanes by contractors…
2 Cents: Though I have to add that a single $500 fine for a contractor may be TOO LOW, as it may been seen as “worth it” as a way to make up lost construction time (or to even gain bonuses paid for completing construction earlier than contracted).
That’s a poor analogy. These contractors tied up lanes for relatively long periods of time…long enough for PBOT to take action. Delivery drivers come and go in less time than it takes being on hold when calling PBOT.
If you want Sysco trucks fined for unloading in the bike lane or janky Caddillacs given a parking ticket, hire more cops and parking ticket writers so they can intercept that stuff when it happens.
it is about safety
General rule of thumb that applies in NY: if it’s not physically protected, it’s extra parking. What is great about Portland, on the other hand, people on bikes rarely need to worry about the PPD parking in bike lanes.
Do the PPD use bike lanes as a parking lot (i.e. for their personal vehicles and during all hours)?
“our efforts to reduce traffic congestion”
Does anyone know what efforts he’s speaking of? This is is the first I have ever heard of such a thing from Portland.
A simple policy of towing and impounding all vehicles that block bike lanes and other active transportation features AND allowing independent towing companies to do the towing (after documenting the illegal parking) would keep the bike lanes clear as close to 100% of the time as is possible.
Let’s see, $400 for the tow, $200/day for the impound/storage (with the impound yard only open one or two days per week), finding alternative transportation until one can recover the car, missing work to recover the car during the two hours the yard is open for recovery, this is going to add up quickly. After a few stories from people who have met this fate, I daresay no one will park in a bike lane.
Added bonus: no city staff time needed. Just allow the private tow companies to profit from the people who are blocking the bike lanes and the problem is solved.
They do that in NYC, all five boroughs are a tow away zone. If a vehicle has a ticket on the windshield, any tow truck company in the city can tow the vehicle to the impound lot. When we lived there, our condo building regularly had its driveway blocked by people illegally parking in front, we’d call the NYPD, they’d send a traffic cop – as soon as the ticket was written, call a tow truck company. The tow trucks would get paid a fee for towing (sometimes they’d tip doormen for sending work their way). So maybe Portland city council should make the entire city a tow away zone.
I’ve read too much about the behavior of tow companies to think this would work out well, even though I love it in theory.
I was in Chicago over the weekend and I think we should put in place a version of the signage and associated laws that they have on their highways to protect highway workers. The exact wording on the signs is, ” Hit a worker, $7000 fine and 15 years in prison.” Ours could be, ” Park in a bike lane, get your car crushed.” and ” Hit a cyclist $10,000 fine and 15 years in prison.
The obvious solution to autos parked in the bike lanes is stop sign enforcement in Ladd’s Addition.
Clearly this is the proper approach. With enough harassment, no one will ride a bike and all the bike lanes can revert to parking lanes. Problem solved.
I have been successful calling in the construction projects that seem to forget and fence the bike lanes. Particularly on SW Front under the Fremont Bridge, where, since I complained, they moved the temp fencing and have kept the bike lane reasonably clean and clear. The flaggers have included the bike lane in their controls as well.
Unfortunately it takes our diligence to stay on top of this. It is a safety issue.
Which line do you call? NE 7th between Halsey and Clackamas has both sides of the sidewalk blocked off with a sign telling you to use the other side…. And there is a big preschool right there. I’m not sure how to comply even if I wanted to?
When I encounter drivers stopped in the bike lane I stop and ask them if everything is OK and if they need any help. Feels more effective than getting nasty.
Most of the time delivery drivers or short term construction in the bike lane should not be a problem – signal, change lanes and go around. The problem is driver entitlement. I have been threatened for merging into traffic around construction. Screaming stay in your F- bike lane when I am traveling the speed of traffic is a real problem. Maybe she thought I was Sagan and I could just bunnyhop the construction.
That location with the cars blocking the bike lane is right in front of Katie O’Brien’s; this business was opposed to the bike lanes and is now allowing their customers to blatantly disregard them.
Why is it their responsibility to police the parking habits of their customers?
Perhaps not a legal responsibility, but a responsibility as a good neighbor.
Once I helped a restaurant understand the value of behaving neighborly instead of just legally. I owned a building with a large, fenced, signed parking lot across the street from a restaurant. One day it suddenly filled up with about 20 cars at lunch that I didn’t recognize. I saw some people walking from the lot into a restaurant across the street. I went in to it, and asked the restaurant manager to tell his customers to please move their cars out of our lot, because our tenants needed the parking. He refused, saying it wasn’t his responsibility to police where his customers parked.
So I went back and locked the gate to the lot. When people came out after lunch, they said the restaurant had said they could park there. I told them that was wrong, and I was having all their cars towed unless they could get the manager to apologize to them and to me. I also told them I’d politely asked him to have them move their cars before their food had even arrived, and he refused. I think 20 carloads of angry customers going into the restaurant and almost dragging him out to apologize made an impression, since it never happened again.
It’s common for neighborly businesses to post signs, “Please be considerate to our neighbors and don’t park in (X location)” although not legally required.
I agree, and that’s a great story! In this case, I’d guess the restaurateur doesn’t want to acknowledge the validity (or even existence) of the bike lanes, and is being passive-aggressive about it, pretending she or he doesn’t know exactly what is happening.
Yes, so it could be time to turn things around, where the customers get ticketed and get angry (with some justification) at the restaurant for not warning them not to park there.
This doesn’t involve a bike lane, but I reported a car in a Portland park that was parked 1/2 in an accessible parking space and half in a crosswalk. After I reported it–more than once–and after Parks staff said they’d make removal a priority, it remained there about 10 days, in a lot that doesn’t even allow overnight parking.
Unfortunately, I don’t see bike lane enforcement being made a priority when accessible spaces and crosswalks are not.
This problem is pretty universal. Down in Eugene, several friends and I reported a car with Washington plates and a registration tag that was almost a decade out of date to our so-called parking enforcement as well as our police department because it was parked in a bike lane. In spite of literally dozens of calls, it remained there for over two weeks. Eventually, it was moved to the other side of the street, where it was also illegally parked, and remained there for a few months. It never did receive any citations.
Just start writing on the windows with paint pens that can be scraped off and maybe start stacking junk on it like old tires.
great idea ! this occurred at the eagle creek trailhead in the gorge where several cars were parked illegally (including mine) although not in any way blocking traffic. Came back from my hike to find a large “TOW” painted on the back windshield. It rubbed off easily but made me rather wary. Funny thing no one is actually sure it was the forest service or just a vigilante of sorts.
A $500 fine is not an effective deterrent if the contractor is working on a multi-million dollar project. A lot of companies see these “nuisance” fines as part of the cost of doing business. $500 might be appropriate for an individual motorist parking their car in a traffic lane, but companies need to be fined $50,000 per offense, with a possibility of stopping them working in the city at all.
Making the city a tow away zone, whereby tow truck operators could tow away any illegally parked vehicle would be great – especially if the tow truck driver could just photograph the illegally parked vehicle instead of waiting for a traffic cop. Maybe deputize them for that specific function.
Enforcement should never be done by those with a profit motive!
That was my thought that $500 is nothing and the time savings by shutting down the extra lane probably more than make up the cost. A stronger message would be to shut down all work in the right of way until they can file a new traffic plan showing how they intend to complete the work without shutting down the extra lane
$500 just means that the board will have to forgo dessert at their next meeting. Or the brandy and cigars afterwards. Decisions, decisions….
That location with the cars blocking the bike lane is right in front of Katie O’Brien’s; this business was opposed to the bike lanes and is now allowing their customers to blatantly disregard them.
In principle, I agree that law enforcement should be done by officials, however, when someone is blocking the right of way, it is straightforward to take photographic evidence (of car/truck in bike lane) and law enforcement officials are indifferent, I’d be willing to make an exception.
Seems like a great market-based solution.
Copenhagen has a policy of keeping bikeways open during construction projects: http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/04/accommodating-for-cyclists-during.html
Portland does too. When i have been responsible for work in Portland’s streets, I have to get a permit. Part of the permit requires a traffic control plan and accommodations for pedestrians and bicycles. being the responsible neighborly type, I get the permit and make sure cyclists have a safe route even if it means hiring extra flaggers. So it really gets my neck hair up to see irresponsible types and the city itself not accommodating pedestrians and bikes.
The problem with permits is that responsible people are burdened with expensive time consuming permits to do the right thing that they planned to do in the first place, while smucks don’t get the permit and do whatever without consequences.
Or contractors get the permit but then violate it, by either not working within the spirit of it, within the hourly guidelines, or just ignoring what they are supposed to do.
My favorite is the temporary orange work zone sign that is installed right smack in the bike lane with no prior notice or sign posting – the words on the sign, “bikes may be in lane”. Timely start to the work zone for the bike that first has to detour into the car lane to go around this sign, sometimes a 1/4 mile before the first work truck or before work has even begun.
If you’ve tried to walk anywhere in the pearl these past few years, you’d quickly realize that the extent to which most construction projects make allowances for non-motorized transport is “use that sidewalk over there”, even when that sidewalk over there is also closed.
Unfortunately, this is not hyperbole or exaggeration.
I see FedEx trucks and armored trucks (GARDA, et al) in the bike lanes all the time.
Even on 99E through Oak Grove and Gladstone, where every business has a parking lot, the armored trucks can’t bother to pull into the parking lot and instead they block the bike lane. Mind you this means any cyclist has to detour around into the vehicle lanes where the speed limit is 40MPH and traffic usually moves much faster than that. I literally stopped in the bike lane, got off my bike, and lifted it onto the sidewalk rather than risk my life trying to merge with the cars.
I wasn’t sure whether to call ODOT or the police (County sheriff?) in this case. I suppose both should know about the problem?
ODOT or their contractors also frequently post the orange diamond signs in the bike lanes as well when construction is ahead. Blows my mind that they think it is an appropriate place for a sign like that.
I’ve lost count of how many of those signs I’ve moved over the years. It’s at least a few hundred.
glad they got fined
things really aren’t too bad for bikes overall eh?