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A tour of Washington County’s new ‘bike infrastructure theme park’

Posted by on August 29th, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Looking north toward Highway 26.
(Photos: Naomi Fast)

– Words and photos by BP Subscriber and Washington County Correspondent Naomi Fast

I took a tour of some of Washington County’s hot-off-the-asphalt-truck bicycle infrastructure, and my verdict is in: it’s worthy of inviting guests from Portland to come check it out.

So come take a virtual ride with me!

The County spent $18.3 million to widen Cornelius Pass road between Cornell and Highway 26. The project included new sidewalks on both sides of the roadway, a buffered bike lane on the west side of the road, and a separated, two-way bike path on the east side (among other things).

(Map: Washington County)

Ready to ride? Let’s go…

For those who already bike around here, for now this particular bikeway could seem more like a destination itself than a way to a destination, like biking to a bicycle infrastructure theme park. It’s an earned respite from biking right next to cars… but alas, it only lasts a mile.

We could take the MAX to Hillsboro, but I thought we’d just bike it. Hope you don’t mind the extra 7.5 or so miles of biking. It’s mostly flat, by the way, in case you already biked a bunch of hills on the way over here.

My route from the Beaverton Town Square/Beaverton Transit Center MAX station vicinity: Go to SW Lombard Ave and turn right, then left on SW Center St, right on SW 124th Ave and left on SW Fairfield street. Once we (fiiiiinally) get a green light at the intersection, cross Cedar Hills Blvd into the Winco parking lot. This part is because there’s no bike lane on Cedar Hills at this spot. You could also ride the sidewalk to Jenkins if you want, but be prepared for lots of driveways. I personally don’t ride on Cedar Hills along here; in white water rafting terms, I’d rate it Class 4 rapids. Class 5 if we count cell phone use behind the wheel as hidden rocks.

Once in the Winco lot we’ll make our way northwest-ish through the lot toward Jenkins, where it’s a left turn across and into the Jenkins bike lane. Oh yeah. Some Beaverton utilities contractors (at least I guess that’s who) put a line of bumpy asphalt in a stretch of the bike lane here recently. Sorry about the rough ride. Let’s hope that’s a temporary thing.

From here it’s a straight ride into Hillsboro. No; we didn’t make a wrong turn off Jenkins: the arterial turns into W Baseline Rd. It actually changes names again later—but only if you accidentally fly past our turn. We’ve already got plenty of street name changes without keeping track of that one.

Alert: road construction on SW 158th is affecting the Jenkins bike lane approaching the Jenkins & SW 158th intersection, which you’d also cross to get to Costco. Expect to merge into the lane with big SUVs and such. Once through the intersection it’s right back into the Jenkins bike lane.

Also: later down the road, just after SW 173rd, take care at the MAX tracks that cross Baseline. You’ll need to turn your bike slightly to take the tracks at a right angle.

Eventually, after a bunch of (probably uneventful, in spite of the MAX tracks) riding next to lots of loud, fast cars, and passing through intersections you still can’t believe the size of, you’ll reach SW Cornelius Pass Rd. Turn right, which is north, toward the 26. From here, it’s another 1.7 miles or so with bike lanes all the way to NW Cornell Rd (where, coincidentally, there’s another Winco). At this point, SW Cornelius Pass is now NW Cornelius Pass.

The northbound Cornelius Pass bike lane now officially ends at Cornell. At the intersection, we’re clearly and easily directed through the intersection and led onto the brand new two-way bike path with adjacent walking path, complete with very helpful wayfinding signs and markings (I think I may be most excited about the wayfinding signs!).

Easy-peasy to merge from the northbound side. And wayfinding signs, neat! Though ‘Orenco’ needs an arrow pointing right.

Even with a separated bike path, this is still car country. Let us not forget, Hillsboro’s baseball venue, “Tonkin Field”, is named after a car dealer.

New road – Ronler Dr.

Another view looking north

Cornell sidewalk looking toward Tanasbourne (eastish).

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Cornelius Pass Bikeway looking south toward Fred Meyer.

If you build it, they will ride it

There’s still a southbound bike lane on Cornelius Pass for anyone who’s biking south on that side and doesn’t want to cross over to use the two-directional bikeway. But the northbound side may represent one of those rare times when the law says, however confusedly, that we must use the bikeway. I shall defer to law experts on that.

Cornelius Pass buffered southbound bike lane.

Looking at the southbound bike lane; look at the size of that intersection.

Now here’s a possible news scoop: on the bikeway, at the intersection with NW Evergreen Pkwy, we come upon what I believe to be Washington County’s very first bicycle signal! At least, it’s the first I’ve encountered west of Portland. Confirmation of this breaking news is pending further investigation. And there are green bike boxes everywhere!

The bike signal.

Green bike box to help with turning.

It’s starting to feel like home.

Note: I did have trouble triggering the signal to get a green bike light from the northbound side. I tried lingering back. I went all the way forward, which feels too far forward to wait even though that’s where the diamond is. After three or so light cycles I finally just used the crosswalk button to get a green bike light. After crossing, I checked out the triggers on the other side, which worked much better.

Testing the triggers.

While I was testing the southbound side, someone else had trouble on the northbound side. His solution was to go while the right turn arrow was flashing yellow for those in the car lane. Problem is, during that flashing yellow arrow turn phase, the bike signal still gives us a red. The signal issues are a little bit messy right there, IMO. And for the record: I cannot stand the flashing yellow left turn arrows that the county uses all over the place. They give me the shivers.

Now for the answer to the burning question: How far does this thing go?! Does it go all the way to the Rock Creek Trail underpass?!

I hope this thing goes to the Rock Creek Trail underpass!

Spoiler alert: The bikeway ends at the 26. But it’s a fun mile while it lasts.

Sad “Bikeway Ends” sign.

These kinds of bicycle improvements feel wonderful and welcome, but also a bit weird. They’re a teaser for how great the potential is for bike commuting (for commerce and such) across this big county. But for those who already bike-commute around here, for now this particular bikeway could seem more like a destination itself than a way to a destination, like biking to a bicycle infrastructure theme park. It’s an earned respite from biking right next to cars… but alas, it only lasts a mile. My roundtrips that day took me closer to 30 miles total, according to my bike odometer.

On the other hand, this bikeway is connected to major east-west arterials that have bike lanes (heads up: as of August 25th, Evergreen Pkwy still needs its bike lane stripes painted back in after paving). And the bikeway is in a spot that could potentially be part of someone’s bike route to actual destinations, like McMenamins on Cornelius Pass, Fred Meyer off Imbrie Dr., a gym for post-ride yoga & arm workouts, and the Hillsboro Hops field.

Seriously, come check it out in person! Nice work, Washington County. Thank you.

— Naomi Fast, @_the_clearing on Twitter

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GlowBoyeawristewsbobNaomi Fast (Washington County Correspondent)Peter W Recent comment authors
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Andrew Kreps
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Andrew Kreps

I do enjoy the tounge-in-cheek style of reporting here. Especially this turn of phrase:

” I personally don’t ride on Cedar Hills along here; in white water rafting terms, I’d rate it Class 4 rapids. Class 5 if we count cell phone use behind the wheel as hidden rocks.”

Adam
Subscriber

Looks like a really nice path, although I’d feel uncomfortable going though some of those monster intersections. Some green paint throughout could help a bit. It’s unfortunate we needed a street widening to get this path, but it’s welcome nonetheless. I believe the 158th widening will have a similar path?

I’ve found that Washington County tends to build better cycling facilities than Portland, however they don’t have as good of a connected network. I’m fairly certain WashCo has more miles of protected bike lanes than Portland though. There’s one by Nike Beaverton Creek, a short raised cycleway along Century Blvd in Hillsboro, a longer one near the airport, and that’s not even including some of the high-quality and well-signed multi-use trails.

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

This thing… ugh. Meanwhile they erased the Bike Lanes on NW Evergreen for several miles right next to this thing (Corn Pass to 185th) for over a month. For a jurisdiction with tons of infrastructure money, they seem to use it in fairly useless ways. Maybe this thing will connect to something eventually, but theme park it will remain for the time being.

rick
Guest
rick

Nice, but it desperately needs giant Oregon White Oak trees or suitable trees with lots of shade. It is still lame to see so many car lanes. Country roads turning into rat race boulevards. However, it could have been worse.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Nice pictures, good writeup.

I worry about right hooks with so little space and such a large (i.e. high-speed) radius between the turn lane and the bikeway crossing. Such big intersections, you’ll need a bike to get across them (maybe the crosswalks here require a bikeshare system.)

It’s nice to have some vegetation if that grows up to be an exhaust/noise absorber. What about a little shade though? Visibility at the corners will be an issue with that, of course.

It will be interesting to see ridership counts there in a year or so. Is it a stranded mile, or is there enough housing and destinations connected to it for it to shift mode share?

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Nice report! Glad to see bike infrastructure being built here.

I assume there’s been no improvement to Cornelius Pass Road north of this area?

A friend and I once rode from Hwy 30 to Hwy 26 on Cornelius Pass Road, and it was a harrowing experience. Narrow two lane road, little to no shoulder, ragged pavement edge, and heavy 18 wheeler traffic both directions. As we hugged the last inch of pavement, the truck drivers tried to cross over the centerline to give us room, but they sometimes were forced back into the lane by oncoming semis, resulting in many 6 inch passes by roaring 18 wheelers. Getting to the normal roads after Hwy 26 was a relief, even with 50 mph traffic and no bike lanes (back then), they felt safe and welcoming.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

It was hard to read after looking at the first photo. That steel bollard just waiting to whack someone who allowed their attention to drift after avoiding the jutting curbs just makes my skin crawl. (Note that I ride a tandem with a kid-bike trailing on it and sometimes a cart behind that, so I’m sensitive to such failures.) With that much road space, they really needed to create shoe-horn worthy infra? Good grief!

And of course it has lots of right-hook invitations and completes the (insert word for human waste) sandwich by putting in a bike-specific signal that not only will create extra delays for those who choose to ride, but doesn’t even work.

I kind of feel like I did after Fukushima where the best engineers in the world couldn’t manage to avoid the stupid blunder of putting the emergency generators in a basement that would flood in a tsunami emergency, thus leading to an avoidable meltdown. That showed me that we’re just not ready to do things like nuclear power yet.

Likewise, if this sort of infrastructure is the best our traffic planners/engineers can do, then we’re clearly not ready to do cycling infrastructure beyond basics (like seven foot wide bike lanes). I’m tired of my health being part of their poorly done experiments, especially now that my grand-daughters are in the game.

Adam
Subscriber

I just noticed that that new street, Ronler Drive, has raised cycle lanes.

wsbob
Guest

A few weeks ago, some people and I rode a section of new bike path that looked like the top picture…physically separated from the main road by about 8′. It was nice, but short, maybe no more than three-quarters of a mile long. Rode it on a Saturday morning, so it wasn’t busy. It was east-west and maybe just north of Quatama.

I like not having to sweat wondering about what motor vehicle traffic right on my flank is doing. On the other hand, the riding surface is concrete with seams, so for me, it’s not wonderful for fast riding. If this type of riding surface for bikes was the standard everywhere in the county, I’m not sure I’d personally be delighted to feel obliged to ride it. So if it were, I might opt not to ride it.

Definitely seems the kind of separated infrastructure I’ve heard told about is big over in the Netherlands, Germany. Washington County has the land availability to realize this kind of separated infrastructure, and is in a much better position to do so than Portland, and maybe many parts of Multnomah County…because Washington County isn’t yet so completely developed and designated for other uses and projects already.

The cruiser, hybrid and folder class of people riding bikes, that have an aversion to riding in almost any kind of traffic that includes some or much motor vehicle traffic, should feel fairly well riding on what Washington County has produced for separated bike lanes.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

The bike signal does need some finessing. I’ve never gotten the north bound sensor to ever pick me up. It really needs a dedicated phase each cycle. And then when it does change beware, I’ve seen many NB cars illegally disregard the red right arrow and no turn on red signs during the bike signal phase for a potential right-hook. Guess that’s just typical mind numbed WaCo drivers. An enforcement action with a couple motorcycle officers could solve things but I’ve never seen any LEO anywhere around.

emerson
Subscriber

Nice post.

I’d probably avoid the WinCo parking lot by taking 124th–>123rd–>Walker–>Ecola–>Jenkins, but it all gets you to the same place.

To be frank it’s sprawlville out there, but at least they’re trying. I agree planting some trees for an eventual semi-canopy is a good idea.

rick
Guest
rick

Thank you Hillsboro Elks Lodge for the adopt a road for Cornelius Road !

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Why the ‘Theme Park’ moniker? This seems pretty straight-forward. The 20’s bike route in east PDX that just opened is more of a ‘theme park’.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I’ve ridden this stretch a few times when the Rock Creek Trail under 26 was impassible due to flooding. The infrastructure itself, I think is fantastic. At worst, it takes eternity to go from NB Corn Pass to EB Evergreen due to complicated signaling at the giant intersection.

But it’s really kind of a bridge to nowhere. Heading north, as soon as you get to 26, you’re back in the horrible situation of a very trashy / tire slashy bike lane to get over 26 and furious traffic.

Unless you’re actually heading to something along Corn Pass, then I feel that Washington County would have been better to spend the money diverting flood waters on the Rock Creek Trail. But maybe this is part of a master plan (I hope).

BradWagon
Subscriber

So lame they didn’t extend this over 26. Overpass looks to be complete now, can’t recall but I believe it is 6 car lanes with standard bike lanes (they might be buffered, regardless, so inadequate). Rode this once in the spring but turned on Evergreen to go under 26 on Rock Creek Trail. A very barren place to ride a bike, but a nice break from the on street bike lanes I suppose.

Mr. Know It All
Guest
Mr. Know It All

Lots of folks claiming this infrastructure goes to nowhere. Ronler Drive, with raised bike lanes referred to by Adam in a comment above, goes to Intel Ronler Acres and it connects to the CP separated bike lanes pictured above. A few thousand people work at Intel 24/7/365. Perhaps in the future even more may work there – who knows. The widening was needed during rush hours. Perhaps these bike lanes will encourage more folks to commute to Intel via bike. That’s the goal, right?

Also, Adam mentioned raised bike lanes on Century Blvd which runs between major residential developments, a MAX station, and Intel. Perhaps they’ll improve the rest of the bike lanes in this area and make it even better. It’s a start.

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

It is a start, but I wonder about those long distances from curb to curb at many of the major intersections. Extra wide streets with lots of traffic always scare me. They look more like the long crosswalks I’ve seen in YouTube video of LA. Can these crosswalks really be considered safe routes to school? The long crosswalk at 99w and Capitol Hwy. is another one…I think it’s the longest one in Portland. Tokyo often has ped bridges or tunnels over or under busy streets and intersections. Intersections like these should have bridges (preferably enclosed) or tunnels for safety’s sake.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Rode the full length of this for the first time a couple weeks ago, although I’d been on parts of it while it was still under construction, going back to last winter when it was under snow and ice. No it’s not perfect, but way better than bike lanes would be on that nightmare of a car sewer.

I do hope it doesn’t take too long to extend it across the Sunset and connect to the Rock Creek trail on that side. Meanwhile Evergreen is a good connection to the Rock Creek. If the soon-to-be-restriped bike lanes are uncomfortable the sidewalk on Evergreen’s north side has very few driveways.

By the way I would agree on NEVER advising anyone to ride Cedar Hills Blvd. I’ve sometimes done that part of the route as described, but my preferred route from that MAX stop to Jenkins is to exit the station on Millikan, then north on Hocken to Jenkins. Decent bike lanes the whole way, and also takes you right past New Seasons FWIW.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

This used to be a railroad grade I believe. You can still see the remnants of the railroad North of Hwy 26. Example:

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.5709234,-122.8988694,3a,60y,187.23h,86.46t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1st-CGYHskCV87AGKCgyO5Sw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!5m1!1e3?hl=en&authuser=0

Hope this is rail-to-trailed.