Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 12th, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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.)
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).
➤ 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.
➤ 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:
➤ 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:
➤ 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)!
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?
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