Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

First look: New protected bikeway on SE Morrison

Posted by on October 12th, 2017 at 12:04 pm

New bikeway on SE Morrison-59.jpg

A spacious new place to ride on SE Morrison!
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has installed a new bikeway on SE Morrison between Grand and 11th (about one-third of a mile). It’s part of their SE Morrison Configuration Project that we shared details about back in August.

I rolled over to take a closer look at it yesterday.

Just for context, let’s remember that prior to this project, this segment of SE Morrison (like a lot of commercial streets in Portland) didn’t have any dedicated cycling space at all. It was six lanes of traffic. They all pointed west (towards downtown), except for one strange and unneccessary lane than went east. PBOT got rid of that eastbound lane and used the space to create the bike-only lane. The lane adjacent to the new bikeway is now bus-only during peak hours and auto parking off-peak. (See PBOT’s before-and-after graphic here.)

New bikeway on SE Morrison-50.jpg

Looking east toward the intersection with SE 7th Ave.
New bikeway on SE Morrison-51.jpg

New bikeway on SE Morrison-52.jpg

New bikeway on SE Morrison-63.jpg

The new bikeway is nice. It’s relatively wide at about six feet, plus a two-foot wide buffer that’s filled with tightly-spaced plastic wands. PBOT has added green bikeway coloring to the intersections at SE 7th and Grand. It’s nice to have low-stress cycling space on this destination-filled corridor. And not having cars curbside will also vastly improve the sidewalk on Morrison, which has several outdoor cafés and bars.

Here are a few more specific observations:

➤ On several blocks, the auto parking goes very close to the intersection. This is not good for safety because it inhibits sight lines. I also noticed that people driving across Morrison like to peek out to see oncoming auto traffic — which means they roll into the bikeway.

➤ Several of these blocks are on a downhill, so bicycling speeds might be higher than usual. (making sightlines and intersection designs that much more important).

Advertisement

➤ There’s a TriMet bus stop at 10th (or is it 11th) where the bus operator will have to swing over, into the bikeway, to service the stop. PBOT removed a few plastic wands to facilitate this; but it’s a shame we can’t have a standard design for a floating bus stop to preserve the biking space and make the operator’s job easier.

New bikeway on SE Morrison-65.jpg

➤ I was happy to see how tightly placed the wands are. If they remain standing, they should be enough to deter illegal parking in the bikeway. On that note, PBOT has posted these flyers on every block to help remind people how to park:

New bikeway on SE Morrison-64.jpg

➤ The striping design at Grand is really strange and I’m not a big fan. In order to facilitate a high volume of auto users turning right (north), PBOT has opted to encourage bicycle users to merge to the left prior to the intersection (so as to avoid being in the right-hook danger zone). This is a standard design for standard (unprotected) bike lanes without bike boxes; but I don’t think I’ve seen this used in this situation before. Here, the green-painted bikeway stops and a green stripe, followed by a sharrow symbol and another green stripe are meant as breadcrumbs to help bicycle users make the merge to the left. Then there’s a bike box where you can wait during the red signal phase, prior to squiggling your way to the existing bikeways that will eventually lead you onto the Morrison Bridge (more on that later).

I get the idea PBOT had, but the markings are confusing. Perhaps we’ll all get used to them, but it would be nice if they were more consistent all over town. Worth noting that what’s on the ground today is much different than what was in the striping plans on the PBOT website. I’ve inquired about that discrepancy and will update when I hear back.

Making matters worse, only a minority of auto users seemed to know how to position themselves without encroaching on the bikeway. And I noticed a much lower rate of bike box compliance here than at other bike boxes. Perhaps we need a “$260 Fine for Violation” sign under the “Stop Here on Red” sign. Check the images below to see what I mean:

New bikeway on SE Morrison-57.jpg

New bikeway on SE Morrison-54.jpg

New bikeway on SE Morrison-55.jpg

If I stay curbside I lose the bikeway and risk right hook. If I merge I get tangled in a mess of cars.
New bikeway on SE Morrison-66.jpg

This is what happened when I tried to position myself to the left of the auto users, both of whom were breaking the law.

➤ This new bikeway is nice, but it would be great if it actually connected directly to the Morrison Bridge. At Grand, bicycle users are treated like a second class citizen by being shuffled across Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, then onto a shared street under the viaduct, then onto a skinny bike lane, then onto an uphill path. Once finally on the bridge, the path forces bicycle riders away from downtown and onto Naito Parkway. Meanwhile, auto users can go straight from Morrison and directly onto the bridge and into downtown.

Look at the image below (end of bikeway at Grand) and imagine if the bikeway continued straight onto the bridge and into downtown (just like the grown-ups in the cars get to do)!

New bikeway on SE Morrison-58.jpg

With such a disparity in access where it matters most, is it any wonder why so many Portlanders still choose to drive cars instead of ride?

Have you ridden this yet? If so, what are your impressions?

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

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.

BikePortland needs your support.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

62
Leave a Reply

avatar
20 Comment threads
42 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
30 Comment authors
Vince R.Kyle BanerjeeDan A9wattsstephan Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
jake
Subscriber
jake

I’ll never understand why we continue to deploy esoteric intersection designs that will deter new riders. I like the lane generally, but that Grand segment is not good. Mixing bikes and cars in the same space is a non-starter for the very people a protected bike lane is supposed to entice.

And what’s even more frustrating is we already have the solution at NE Broadway and Vancouver: a dedicated right turn phase and otherwise cars are not allowed to turn and bikes can proceed forward without issue. We need to remove the conflict altogether.

BradWagon
Subscriber

Wow, that Merge/Bike Box atrocity is bad.

Bad for cyclists to try and quickly merge left, bad for cars to try and move right in what is obviously to small of a space. From just looking at I would say I’m not a fan as well. Would rather bicycles merge into auto lane much earlier or cross it completely into a bike lane left of the right turn lane back at even 7th with a bike priority signal.

Other option would be to just do a standard bike box that makes its “L” from the right rather than from the left as this one does. If right hooks are a real danger here we need to make it standard for there to be different bike/ped and vehicles signals so that right turning vehicles have a red when the bike signal is on and vice versa. If faster / more confident cyclists don’t want to wait while cars turn right they could merge into the auto lane and continue straight through with auto traffic. OR just eliminate the right turn altogether onto grand all together if this is such a critical bike route over the Morrison.

Overall this is again another point in which design of infrastructure for bikes is scaled down because “oh, bikes are smaller” when the reality is bikes need spaces and turning radii much more similar to that of autos.

BradWagon
Subscriber

Regarding Bus Lane / Parking and sightlines I would honestly be a bigger fan of having the bike lane outside of the parking / bus lane. Eliminates need for bus stop islands, improves visibility of cyclists for right turning and cross traffic. Also moves bikes out of the Gutter. Added conflict is parking access turning off peak hours and riding to the left of the bus… if this is concern then I agree Bus Islands and restricting parking approaching cross streets.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

This new buffered bike lane is going to be temporary. After the buildings on those blocks get the wrecking ball treatment, this new bike lane will make a nice 3-year staging area for construction vehicles, and then be turned into an Uber/Lyft taxi stand after that. Enjoy it while you can – I guess it should be sponsored by River City Bikes, as it seems like they drew a green carpet to their door.

todd boulanger
Guest
todd boulanger

I concur with the bike box comments…very likely needs to be rethought after observations…

And I am concerned that:
1) the installation of wands and other bike thermo so late in the season (cold pavement and damp surfaces) may adversely shorten their lifespan in the field…this is compounded by the fact that bikeways are often placed in high conflict areas with motorized vehicle movements vs. wands placed for strictly motorized vehicle projects (parking areas etc.); and
2) the public outreach/ education flyer for ‘parkers’ needs to be revised with a better “NO” ( red”X”) photo as its a bit confusing in its message…is the red x communicating to parking enforcement to not enforce or park in the travel lane?!

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I think these photos of cars waiting in front of the “wait here” line settles the debate about whether or not spending too much time in automobiles lowers your IQ.

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

We need someone on City Council, with PBOT under their wing, who is as passionate about bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as Chloe Eudaly is about housing justice. Until then we’re likely to continue getting stuck with inelegant, unsafe street designs like this crossing of Grand/MLK.

Am I the only one who feels like it’s time to demand Leah Treat’s resignation? Granted, she has never been given the necessary political backing to push for deep multi-modal transportation reform (the kind of support that Sadik-Khan got from Bloomberg in NYC), but she has quietly presided over the ongoing stagnation at PBOT for years now with barely a peep, even vocally supporting the I-5 Rose Quarter freeway expansion against all the counter-evidence. It’s a shame because there are so many young planners and designers inside PBOT looking to make change — but they need political and bureaucratic support, too.

pdx2wheeler
Guest
pdx2wheeler

I’d be tempted to just take the lane and head straight across the bridge with vehicular traffic versus being 2nd class and going through that maze you’ve described. I’m assuming it would be legal?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

“I get the idea PBOT had, but the markings are confusing. Perhaps we’ll all get used to them, but it would be nice if they were more consistent all over town….

Making matters worse, only a minority of auto users seemed to know how to position themselves without encroaching on the bikeway….”

This is exactly what I’d expect with this design and it’s not going to get better in the dark and the rain. Expecting motorists or cyclists to be looking for deteriorating paint paint on the ground and instructions in small letters in a highly dynamic environment for guidance is a recipe for failure.

I haven’t ridden this yet, but my guess is that there’s a good chance I’ll take the lane for the simple reason that the potential for conflict is much less.

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

Yes, my memory is that the two-way bicycle lane and do not enter except has been there since at least early this year. Google sattelite view doesn’t show it yet, however.

SD
Subscriber

If I was riding without knowing my route ahead of time and was wanting to get across the river, I would have no idea that I could use the Morrison Bridge.

Mark
Guest
Mark

The intersection with Grand is horrible. How many of those drivers made an illegal right turn on red?

Another problem I see in the first photo. There are already leaves piling up against the curb. What is the city’s plan to sweep these lanes? Oh, that’s right, there isn’t one.

I’ll be taking the lane. When a frustrated motorist assaults me I will inlcude the city in my civil suit.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

Overal, a very nice improvement between Grand and 12th. I hope they keep 6th one way southbound between Morrison and Belmont for motorized vehicles and 2-way for bikes. 6th is the best n/s route through the CEID by far, and the construction here has been an excellent diverter. We need a few more diverters and a few stop signs turned and 6th would be a great greenway.

Bill Stites
Subscriber

Overall, a great improvement to the streetscape. I work in the area and definitely appreciate the safer pedestrian crossings.

On foot, I observed lots of vehicles moving through the Morrison/Grand right-turn area … and they inevitably stayed left, cruising over the green paint, then turning right. Strikes me as a bit of a design oversight to think that cars and bikes are going to switch left/right positioning in this short stretch before the intersection.
Since cyclists are generally going near-straight, not turning right, it may make better sense to switch the “Wait Here” to the left side … and keep the green bike lane green flowing straight and continuous. This would also be consistent with most other bike boxes in the city.
I do like that there seems to be plenty of lateral width at this mixing zone. I appreciate that PBOT is trying to minimize right hooks, but I don’t think this design achieves that. Would like to see more clarity that cyclists going ‘straight’ have ROW, as per usual rules of the road.
Personally, for my own paranoid safety reasons, I would pace myself to only approach this intersection on a red light.

With the exception of a City car parking in the new bike lane between 11th and 12th today – with no occupant – I expect that parking in the bike lane will not be a big problem due to the numerous bollards. If you do see it, call it in: 823-5195 [PDX truly engages in only complaint-driven enforcement].

+1 liking the high frequency of bollards.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

This is horrible.

Portland bicycle riders get hit almost exclusively at intersections. Hiding those intersections behind a row of parked cars strikes me as nothing but pure idiocy. All because some unholy alliance has been formed between a) people who want to trick new riders onto the streets with a false sense of safety and b) people who want to get bikes out of the way of cars.

mark
Guest
mark

ORS 811.550(17)

Can we just start enforcing the law? It would be so much safer and more convenient for all road users.

Scott Kocher
Guest

My very Portland Tuesday complete with shameless plugs: Need a conference table. Stumbled across Urban Timberworks (wow, cyclist owner Leland hooked me up. Sweet!). Hit Showers Pass (’nuff said), Bunk Sandwiches (ditto). Pedaled west on Morrison. Whoa! Approaching Grand there’s… shark teeth and green paint everywhere. Felt a bit chuffed since someone was thinking of cyclists. Headed west across the cross-bike when… dang! somebody right hooks me. I narrowly avoid. Didn’t have a chance to diagnose, but it wasn’t a good first go.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

You stay to the left of right-turning motorists if you are going straighter than them, how hard is that to understand? Every one of Jonathan’s pictures shows enough room to pass right-turning motorists on the left. The protection offered by the green paint is entirely imaginary.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

The basic issue here is that this intersection should not be set up to cycle straight through. As John points out, it’s illegal to ride on the bridge itself. Grand itself is a particularly sucky road to ride with the tracks on the right and uphill grade.

Solution, absent major changes to the Morrison/Grand intersection? No bike box, bikes cross as peds with beg button. There is absolutely no reason not to walk this because once you get to the other side, you only can ride literally a few seconds before you have to stop anyway.

Pulling in front of turning vehicles with a light in a busy intersection is absolutely insаne — the only safe way to do this is to get in the flow on the outside. This is true even for the very few cyclists who intend to continue along Grand.

Vince R.
Guest
Vince R.

Scott Kocher
Pedaled west on Morrison. Whoa! Approaching Grand there’s… shark teeth and green paint everywhere. Felt a bit chuffed since someone was thinking of cyclists. Headed west across the cross-bike when… dang! somebody right hooks me. I narrowly avoid. Didn’t have a chance to diagnose, but it wasn’t a good first go.
Recommended 7

I’ve been watching/walking/riding this intersection for close to 7 years now, during mid-morning traffic through early evening traffic (I work nearby). I’ve had a few close calls over the years, but I have to say this new traffic pattern is HORRIBLE. Just yesterday I had the closest of all close calls, due to the confusion of the merging of bike/auto traffic lanes for the right turn. As I approached SE Grand from Morrison, I checked over my shoulder for any middle lane cars signalling to turn right (as they tend to make right-hand turns from the middle, “Straight Only”, lane onto SE Grand. There was one SUV in that lane just behind me, no signal blinking. We both had the green light. I intended on riding through the intersection, in the bike lane, to get down to MLK. As I crossed over the first light-rail track on Grand, I see the SUV in my peripheral, turning right onto Grand – RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. A very impressive two-wheeled skid/drift later (along with an echoing yell of some colorful wordage) I navigated around the back-end of the car. I then get the “I’m awefully sorry” wave from the driver.
I can only imagine how this may have played out if it was dumping rain and it was a new commuter maneuvering for their life.