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Plastic wands installed to protect bicycle users on NE Multnomah, NE 1st, and N Greeley

Posted by on November 10th, 2017 at 11:21 am

Greeley protected bike lanes-9.jpg

Newly installed plastic wands create some physical protection for a bike lane on North Greeley Avenue just south of the Adidas campus.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is on a bit of a plastic wand binge.

In the past week we’ve learned of white wands (a.k.a. delineators, plastic bollards, candlesticks) going up in the Lloyd District, near the Convention Center, and on Greeley near the Adidas campus in north Portland.

My first thought was that this was finally a moment I’ve been looking forward to for a long time: When PBOT systematically goes through their dozens of miles of buffered bike lanes and adds protection to them. Unfortunately PBOT says that time hasn’t come yet; but it’s still good to see them adding physical separators in specific locations.

PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera confirmed yesterday that they haven’t developed a standard design application for protecting bike lanes, “but have been able to install some on a case-by-case basis.”

I took a closer look at all three of these locations yesterday. Here are my thoughts, along with comments from Rivera.

NE 1st Avenue near the Convention Center

New wands on NE 1st.jpg

This is a stealth little connection between the Steel Bridge and the Lloyd District. NE 1st in the shadow of I-5 and the Oregon Convention Center gets people from the bike signal at NE Oregon and Interstate to the bikeway on NE Multnomah.

Here’s the PBOT rationale via Rivera: “We installed the wands on 1st Ave because a lot of people driving were using the bike lane as a de facto right turn lane there.”

This is a straightforward application of wands and it vastly improves the short stretch of bikeway they’re used on. Unfortunately there’s still a pesky one-block gap to Multnomah where bicycle users are thrown into a shared lane (with a sharrow). With these new wands, we’re now tantalizingly close to a continous, low-stress connection between the Esplanade and the protected bikeway on NE Multnomah.

NE Multnomah at 9th

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Some of you might have noticed these new wands in one intersection on NE Multnoman outside of Lloyd Center Mall. They’ve been added to help people navigate through the mixing zones — areas at intersections where auto users merge into the bikeway to turn right.

The mere fact that we’ve added wands here shows the limits of paint-only bikeway design. Without the wands PBOT relies on yield carats, sharrows and turn arrows in hopes that the straight-going biker and right-turning driver interactions go smoothly.

Rivera said this specific application was done in cooperation with a National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC, based at Portland State University) study being led by Chris Monsere. “That study is looking at intersection treatments for protected bicycle lanes and Chris wanted to study the behaviors associated with a protected entry into a mixing zone,” Rivera shared. “In-house we consider that a good design and were more than happy to assist in this way.”

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Greeley south of Willamette near Adidas

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There used to be wands here, but they’re gone now.
Greeley protected bike lanes-1.jpg

PBOT took advantage of a paving project on Greeley between Going and Killingsworth to add a buffer to existing bike lanes. Between Going and Emerson (right in front of the Adidas headquarters campus) they’ve now added plastic wands inside the buffered area.

Earlier this week we heard from longtime reader and highly experienced bicycle rider John Beaston (and winner of the 2017 Volunteer of the Year award from The Street Trust) about his concerns with this application. He cc’d us on an email to PBOT’s “Safe” email hotline (safe@portlandoregon.gov) that tracks and responds to livability concerns. “While we appreciate the effort to improve things,” Beaston wrote, “the new bike lane treatment on N Greeley has made things worse for transit users, people on bikes and drivers.”

“We hope this design gets another look and corrected, since it is not been engineered using principles of Vision Zero.”
— John Beaston, local resident

Beaston lives a block away and said he bikes and uses the bus on Greeley to get downtown. His main concern is that PBOT placed wands right in front of a bus stop. “Bus drivers must now stop in the travel lane due to the bollards,” he shared. “Transit users must now carefully cross a wide, fairly high-speed (slight downhill) bike lane. This has created a high-conflict situation where one did not exist previously. In addition, when a bus is stopped in the travel lane, cars now cross the double-yellow line to pass. The double-yellow area also has a northbound left-turn lane just south of the transit stop. There will definitely be conflict between left-turning vehicles and those passing a stopped bus.”

The wands in front of the bus stop are now gone. We aren’t sure if PBOT removed them or if they were victims of bus and car operators.

In his opinion, the “plastic bollards” are ineffective — especially because they continue to be dislodged and scattered all over the bike lane.

“We hope this design gets another look and corrected,” Beaston wrote in his email to the City, “since it is not been engineered using principles of Vision Zero.”

Rivera said the addition of plastic wands in this location, “Is consistent with Director [Leah] Treat’s directive that we ‘make protected bicycle lanes the preferred design on roadways where separation is called for….[on both] existing roadways as well as …[on] new construction.'” We asked Rivera to respond specifically to Beaston’s concerns but haven’t heard back yet.

One of our big concerns with these newly protected bike lanes is maintenance. There were piles of leaves (not to mention a dead wand or two) in the Greeley bike lanes. PBOT has at least one small bike lane sweeper; but we have yet to hear about a strategic plan to keep these new bikeways clean. The agency’s newly released Winter Weather Plans made no mention of cleaning protected bikeways.

And I’m not sure what’s better: Unprotected and clean bikeways, or protected and dirty ones. I wish we didn’t have to choose.

Greeley protected bike lanes-11.jpg

Greeley protected bike lanes-12.jpg

It’s great to see PBOT prioritize protection on bikeways, but the installation of these wands still needs a bit of work. Quality of bikeways matters just as much as quantity. We’ve got to this right if we want people to use these bikeways — and if we want people who don’t use them to respect them.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Automobiles are kind of like goats. Lots of people like them, but if not properly fenced they wreck stuff and ram innocent bystanders.

Joe
Guest
Joe

almost every bike lane has leafs blown from the sidewalk into bike lanes this time of year.. * or clear the gutter and make sure they end up in middle of bike lane * :/

Blake
Guest
Blake

I was glad to see the wands installed but dismayed by the lack of coordination that meant they didn’t even clean the bike lane before installing them, leaving all the leaves trapped in the bike lane (significantly narrowing its width).

Also, on the NB direction, the turn L onto Willamette Blvd is much better with a wider center area (which seems like it will be also maybe protected – I don’t know, but I hope it is). However, the last set of 5-6 wands right leading up to the turn create a more difficult left because they either force you into the main lane, or significantly shorten the amount of space left to merge before turning left. I would almost rather see these last few wands removed.

RH
Guest
RH

Wonder if these will be going on the hill of N. Interstate anytime soon? Not sure if there is much space for them as that bike lane is pretty narrow with no buffer.

Joe
Guest
Joe

bikeninja
Automobiles are kind of like goats. Lots of people like them, but if not properly fenced they wreck stuff and ram innocent bystanders.
Recommended 4

reason I use the term ” goat rope ” huge line of traffic.. haha \m/

soren
Guest
soren

In his opinion, the “plastic bollards” are ineffective…

After reading this, I made a bet with myself that John Beaston (a former BTA board member) is a highly-experienced cyclist that likely has little personal need for protected infrastructure. Google rapidly revealed their bike team memberships, multiple long-distance highway ride blog posts, OBRA records, and published comments about being a bike commuter for 25+ years.

Hmmmm…

PS: My support for bollards here in no way condones the “on the cheap” way in which bollards are installed in Portland.

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

NE 1st is also a “stealth connection” from downtown to N Portland, via the Steel Bridge, NE 1st, Multnomah, NE 3rd, then Rodney from Hancock to Killingsworth.

Good to see PBOT doing more for bikes,

Ted Buehler

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I’ve never actually seen the bike lane sweeper in action. Has anyone?

fourknees
Guest
fourknees

Part-way to vision zero solution: Make every the first post and then every third or fifth post metal and anchored into pavement.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Smashed bollards and wands make empirical evidence for real infrastructure.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Glad to see more protected lanes going in, but you can say goodbye to at least a few of the ones shown on Greeley within a week. Plastic bollards on curved roads simply do not work. Period. Other treatments are needed: either raised curbs or tougher separators.

Why not put down the concrete curbs that Seattle uses all over the place to separate opposing car traffic from each other, and even left-turning traffic from non-turning traffic. These would seem to be ideal for keeping cars out of protected lanes, possibly topped with plastic bollards for visibility:

https://www.google.com/maps/@47.6904116,-122.3445784,3a,75y,171.12h,63.97t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1szDzFYnX_G4u85l6PpBuigA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

turnips
Guest
turnips

Chris Monsere’s a good egg. there’s a pretty good group of forward-looking folks teaching transportation engineering (and planning, though I’m less familiar with that) at PSU. sadly, many PSU engineering students end up with internships at ODOT and come to the conclusion that what they learned will never be implemented.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

If PBoT wants to put these wands in, they should first change the crowning and drainage so that the bike lanes don’t end up completely useless traps for debris.

However, if the purpose is to shove people on bikes into completely useless spaces in the hopes of simultaneously silencing the loudest voices for “protection” while also killing off cycling in Portland, this is definitely an approach that shows promise.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Thanks for the depth treatment on protected lane maintenance in this story – wish you could pin down Rivera on it a little better…. I suspect they have no special plan for bike lane sweeping on arterials (and now with wands), which is really unfortunate.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

I can’t comment about the Mult or NE 1st treatments as those look pretty good, but the wands on Greeley are a bit of a head scratcher…. IMO, the most useful purpose they have are to keep the bus out of the bike lane, but now that’s gone. I guess one more use is to keep folks who pull over in the bike lane to take a phone call and use it as a breakdown lane out of there, also.

Not sure how these wands really add actual safety in this location or why it was chosen over many more places in much greater need of this treatment, although the much wider double striped lanes after re-painting are better than the older lanes. Of course the wands claw back the width of the bike lane back to the first painted stripe, anyway. How come wands are not located on outer stripe?

Steve B.
Guest
Steve B.

Another step in the right direction for PBOT. It would be very useful to install these all around the Rose Garden (aka Moda Center) to help deal with the persistent issue of uber/lyft drivers parking in the bike lanes on Multnomah & Wheeler.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I am glad that PBoT is moving forward on the use of physical separation go cyclists at points where motorists like to conflict…though I am still strongly concerned about:
1) maintenance;
2) finding a better delineator for separating bikeways and motor vehicles (as the wands rarely function well long term when placed between high friction vehicle lanes of any sort – car on car lanes etc); AND
3) the issue of late season capital project work (wet and cold weather) being used in a high frequency to work on bikeway and led projects…this may be great for the contractors and PBoT staff scheduling but does it degrade on the longevity of the work and safety outcomes.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Am I fantasizing, or are the angry grilles of the five cars lined up behind the lone cyclist on NE 1st about to engage in a feeding frenzy?

Justin
Guest
Justin

Is it too late to chime in and say I hate this for some reason?

Mark
Guest
Mark

That last bit is the part that concerns me most. I could likely argue my way out of a ticket in court, but I know that law would eliminate any civil settlement in the event of a collision.

Bill Stites
Subscriber

From this post by Jonathan:
“One of our big concerns with these newly protected bike lanes is maintenance. There were piles of leaves (not to mention a dead wand or two) in the Greeley bike lanes. PBOT has at least one small bike lane sweeper; but we have yet to hear about a strategic plan to keep these new bikeways clean. The agency’s newly released Winter Weather Plans made no mention of cleaning protected bikeways.

And I’m not sure what’s better: Unprotected and clean bikeways, or protected and dirty ones. I wish we didn’t have to choose.”

I have recently contacted PBOT about looking into a human+electric powered solution to cleaning these limited-access bike lanes. I’m simply interested in starting a conversation, but my gut tells me that an eTrike pulling a sweeping trailer has some merit.
To be clear, there will likely still need to be a few of the large machines [some over $200K, all run on diesel], but why not consider a small fleet of trikes+trailers buzzing along the bikeways clearing a path?

I’ll keep you posted on progress, as I may need to come back here for support. Bureaucracy is a thick sludge.
Stay tuned.

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

Perhaps like the city’s “adopt a drain” message of civic engagement, we could “adopt a block” for greenways, arterials, collectors, and multimodal pathways that are underserviced via the complaint-driven lane sweepings. I know after last year’s snowstorms and having waited over three weeks for PBOT to clear up the residual gravel, I ended up sweeping four blocks of gravel off the roads. It took a few hours, but it made the commute for several cyclists much safer. Ideally, we need a city-wide, systematic response to the debris that can accumulate within these narrow and/or protected paths. Until then I would encourage each of us to identify a block that they could commit to keeping cleared.

ric
Guest
ric

I’ve been seeing drivers on Multnomah make right turns onto 9th from the through lane since the bollards went up. Either people are confused about whether or not they can still use the right turn lane or they’re just missing the smaller window to get into it.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

PBOT appears to use two types of plastic wand aka bollard. One is plastic all the way to the flared base that is attached to the pavement. The other has a narrow black rubber hinge section in the last inches before the pavement. What’s the difference; is one more resistant to damage from cars?

Here is an example of the former:
https://static.grainger.com/rp/s/is/image/Grainger/3UTX1_AW01?$zmmain$

Here is an example of the latter: http://www.impactrecovery.com/images/products/67/delineator_app1_300x300.jpg

dudeluna
Subscriber

i did see what appeared to be convention center crew blowing the leaves out of the bike lane on NE 1st, but i wonder what will happen now during the cars shows at the convention center. they usually use the NE 1st St. bike lane as a staging area for the cars. now with the posts there, i wonder if they still will do that.

Momo
Guest
Momo

The initial installation of wands in front of the bus stop was most likely a simple mistake, quickly fixed, rather than intentional. It goes against ADA rules and city policy to have buses stopping in the street rather than against the curb, since a wheelchair user wouldn’t be able to board in that case. Many bus stops unfortunately still have on-street parking allowed in front of them, but those are typically fixed whenever any transportation project touches the street.

Overall, I don’t think it’s too big of a deal to have buses stopping in the bike lane as long as it’s not a layover spot or time-point spot (where buses wait to get back on schedule), not a heavy ramp deployment spot, and not a super-crowded bike corridor. Greeley only attracts cyclists willing to climb a steep hill, so it doesn’t have nearly the use of Williams, for example. On Williams it was pretty much essential to remove the bus-bike interaction, but on Greeley it seems less important. There’s no room for bus islands anyway.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

When I saw all these bollards go in on Greeley, I was almost heartbroken. Significant effort and money spent with good intentions that will end up being completely wasted. I was wondering if it was something Adidas had asked for? Like how New Seasons got that short stretch of bike lane added on Lombard.

One other thing. Didn’t anyone remember that Portland gets snow and ice in the winters from now on? I’d say the bollards would screw up snow removal, but I don’t expect they’ll last all that long.