Opinion: Willamette’s new bike lanes are already outdated

Hang in there buddy. You’ll be smiling on that street someday.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Despite the fact that Portland has fallen way off the pace when it comes to building physically protected bike lanes, we continue to build “new” bikeways with nothing more than paint and hope.

That’s why I’m so ambivalent about the new striping on North Willamette Blvd.

Putting my cherished people on streets where I know far too much about the evils and dangers that lurk within, brings up a complicated mix of emotions.

I was very happy when the Portland Bureau of Transportation responded to neighborhood residents and reconfigured the lanes on the street last month. The move was clear sign that PBOT thinks space for people using bicycles is a higher priority than space for people to park cars. It was a good step forward.

In the past few days PBOT finished the striping with a nice, thick outer buffer line to the bike lanes. I wanted to take a closer look, so a few days ago I picked up my six-year-old from school and we pedaled over.

One way to shift your perspective on street design is to imagine how a six-year-old would feel using it. This is part of what drives the “8-80 infrastructure” movement, which says we must create streets and cities where our young and old residents can be confident and comfortable. As a father of three (I also have a 15 and 12 year-old), I’ve done this a lot over the years and it has had a tremendous influence on me. Putting my cherished people on streets where I know far too much about the evils and dangers that lurk within, brings up a complicated mix of emotions.

On Willamette the other day I figured I’d snap a few photos and take video of Everett in the new bike lane and then we’d go home. I might want them for social media posts or a future story, I thought. No big whoop.

But as he pedaled in front of me with people zooming by at 30-plus miles per hour, I felt frustrated. Why do we still build unprotected bikeways? Why haven’t we done more to slow drivers down? If preventing deaths and injuries is our top priority, why do we still install bikeways that put people in this vulnerable position?

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Willamette is crucial to the bikeway network. But like countless streets in Portland, it has been overrun by people driving cars — many of them simply looking for a faster cut-through instead of using larger, nearby arterials. If we want to avoid even more people choosing to drive, we must defend streets like this, tame the auto traffic, and make a better bikeway here (and everywhere).

“As an advocate, I’m unsure whether we should be supportive that new projects are going in or we should oppose projects that fail to meet these guidelines.”
— William Henderson via a recent BikePortland comment

And this isn’t just a crazy-activist-blogger-dad talking. New guidance from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) suggests that physical protection is needed on Willamette. Their publication just released this week, Designing for All Ages & Abilities: Contextual Guidance for High-Comfort Bicycle Facilities, says a two-lane, two-way street with a 30 mph speed limit and about 6,000 cars per day like Willamette should have more than just paint between riders and drivers.

And Willamette is far from the only street in Portland where this story could be told.

Portland resident William Henderson summed up my feelings in a comment on our last story about Willamette’s new striping. “I know a lot of great and dedicated people at PBOT are working hard to make protected bike lanes a reality, but we keep building new projects that are obsolete the day they go in. As an advocate, I’m unsure whether we should be supportive that new projects are going in or we should oppose projects that fail to meet these guidelines.”

I feel you William.

Fighting incrementalism is very tough in our “Portland nice” culture. People see you as a whiner, as unreasonable, as someone who’s always yelling and angry, or as someone who’s simply “never satisfied”.

It’s complicated, but we must create the public and political urgency to move the needle faster. As Bill McKibben wrote in Rolling Stone a few days ago, “Winning slowly is the same as losing.”

And this isn’t PBOT’s fault. I’m done pointing fingers. We’re all in this together. It will take all of us to protect our streets, our bikeways, and our future.

— I also posted this video on our Facebook page and Instagram. The comments — ranging from support and encouragement, to admonishment for even allowing my child to bike here — are very telling.

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

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TonyT
TonyT
5 years ago

“Putting my cherished people on streets where I know far too much about the evils and dangers that lurk within, brings up a complicated mix of emotions.”

So true. My 8-year-old son commuted the 3 miles to work with me a bunch this summer and I totally get it. The experience really showed me how far we have to go.

I’m really glad to have discovered SE 37th as a really great low-stress North/South route from Division to Laurelhurst Park (just part of our route). We could have used the SE 20s bikeway as part of our route, but it is terrible. It’s really useless for the purposes of 8-80 and I’d never take my kid on the busier/confusing parts of it. Such a waste. And now that proposal for N Vancouver? Yikes.

I don’t blame PBOT entirely. No one party gets all the blame. But man, PBOT really has been the champion of unambitious half-measures that satisfy the requirement that they do something but aren’t really worth the political and financial capital they use up.

buildwithjoe
5 years ago
Reply to  TonyT

For the sake of this question let’s ignore the ODOT roads in PDX. If PBOT can only take a percentage of the blame then who takes up the other blame percent. I’m really wondering. Who?

Catie Gould (Contributor)
Catie
5 years ago

“Fighting incrementalism is very tough in our “Portland nice” culture. People see you as a whiner, as unreasonable, as someone who’s always yelling and angry, or as someone who’s simply “never satisfied”. It’s complicated, but we must create the public and political urgency to move the needle faster.”

100% this. Transportation is a topic that comes up frequently…like the weather. Everyone experiences it and has an opinion. I struggle with trying to light a fire in other people about the situation we are in (losing progress on many counts, not on track to meet goals) without getting overheated myself. I’ve ruined many a party and conversation with my loud opinions. Friends are occasionally embarrassed by me. In many ways we are not fighting PBOT but car culture and people’s resistance to change in general. I would love to devote more dialogue to how to move this needle faster.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 years ago

Posted speed limit should be lowered to at least 25, preferably 20. Even if it won’t be enforced, and it won’t, at least it will encourage the “nice” drivers to drive slower, slowing down the other drivers or encouraging them to use alternative routes.

Manville
5 years ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I would be happy with the enforcement of the posted speed limits in most cases.

m
m
5 years ago
Reply to  Manville

Totally agree. I am very much in favor of many more cameras. But that will take legislative action. The stats about injuries at 20mph, 30mph, and 40 mph are very powerful.

Pete
Pete
5 years ago
Reply to  m

Even effective speed reader-boards would help. I saw one once that not only flashes when your speed is above the limit, but over a certain threshold activates blue and red lights… definitely caught the speeders that I saw off guard! Presumably much cheaper than a camera-and-ticket-review program, and at least more effective than nothing.

Glen Bolen
Glen Bolen
5 years ago
Reply to  Pete

I have little faith in posted speeds. If you design a road for 35 and then post it at 20 only the very careful people will drive the correct speed. The natural tendency will be to travel closer to the engineered speed. Traffic calming measures must accompany the drop in the posted speed.

SD
SD
5 years ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

20 mph in populated areas reflects vision zero values. Higher speed limits are not consistent with these values.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 years ago

FYI, Britain uses the “English” system for speeds, speed limits, and roadway distance markers, as well as beer volumes, even as they have sort-of switched to metric for other measurements (454 grams anyone?), so when they say “20s Plenty”, they are in fact referring to 20 mph, not 20 kph. Most cities in Europe have 30 kph urban speed limits, which is about 20 mph. I don’t disagree with you that even 20 mph is too fast, though I do see some cyclists going well over that speed. The real issue here is what is allowed by Oregon law versus PBOT’s ability to lower speed limits, especially on a collector like Willamette.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
5 years ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

PBOT has the authority to lower speed limits citywide immediately (on all PBOT-maintained streets), the city is just too spineless or corrupt to use it.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric Leifsdad

My understanding is that this is coming soon.

Momo
Momo
5 years ago

David beat me to it! England uses an extremely random mix of metric and english systems. Miles for distance, but litres of petrol.

Huey Lewis
Huey Lewis
5 years ago
Reply to  Momo

Liters of gas.

GlenK
GlenK
5 years ago
Reply to  Huey Lewis

…except that the UK (and many other places) spell it “litres” (and they also use “metres”, “tonnes”…)

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  GlenK

They are wrong.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  GlenK

They think they are bettre than us.

oliver
oliver
5 years ago
Reply to  GlenK

@ Hello Kitty, that’s what happens when you allow people to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  GlenK

I’ve always thought it came from acute Marmite poisoning.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  GlenK

As a Marmite poisoning survivor, I can tell you there’s nothing cute about it.

soren
soren
5 years ago
Reply to  Momo

this is not accurate at all. speed limits in non-urban areas are often metric in the uk.

Jim
Jim
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

Really, they’re not. Writing this from England right now. Maybe you’re thinking of km/h in Ireland?

Not even the UK is mixed up enough to have different units on different speed signs.

SD
SD
5 years ago
Reply to  SD

I made this comment because I think that many of us only look at lowering the posted speed limits to 20mph as an intervention to reduce speed. As a result, enthusiasm for this change is limited by presumptions that there will not be meaningful enforcement.

I would like to see the posted speed limits lowered because they contradict safe driving practices. Whether or not they are enforced is a separate issue.

Momo
Momo
5 years ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

The TSP update includes a new “Secondary Emergency Response Route” classification for Willamette Blvd along the bluff, which will allow fire-friendly speed bumps. That is likely what is needed to get speeds down to 25mph.

m
m
5 years ago

“But like countless streets in Portland, it has been overrun by people driving cars — many of them simply looking for a faster cut-through instead of using larger, nearby arterials.”

I think my wife would divorce me if she saw a video of me taking one of my kids on that road. The more we force cars off arterials with road diets, traffic calming, etc. the more we will have cut through attempts. This isn’t going to change despite all the utopian anti-car agenda I read on this site all the time. Cars are not going away. Bikes and cars should operate as far apart from each other as possible. The laws of physics always win.

m
m
5 years ago

Having lived in other places with actual major mass transit, I guess I just don’t see that happening here anytime soon. MAX has a fundamental flaw in the 2 car limitation because of the downtown blocks (they should have built a tunnel through downtown). The streetcar is a joke (it’s called a development tool when convenient and transit when convenient but does neither well). That leaves buses. Most “choice” riders hate buses. Too many stops and not reliable. BRT makes a lot of sense to me and should be explored more but the folks at Tri-Met love the trains. As to biking, I love it when the weather is nice. But for me (and I would guess a supermajority of people), riding when it is 43 degrees, dark, and raining just sucks (besides being dangerous). I know because I have done it. Carshare, Lyft, Uber, etc. are only making it more pronounced.

m
m
5 years ago

Understood. I have been a long time proponent of the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail. I used to think it would be a major game changer. Particularly as more vehicles become electric and the exhaust issue goes away. But these days I think it would be one giant homeless camp. That said, I would still like to see it happen. A well light, safe Sullivan’s Gulch Trail (and other trails like it) would definitely get more people out of their cars. Some paint next to cars zooming by does nothing for that IMO.

m
m
5 years ago

I think Sullivan’s Gulch fizzling out has more to do with the Union Pacific ownership issue than anything else.

I guess I disagree as to the meaning of “out of the way”. Speaking only for the east side (which is where I live and ride) and its large grid, I don’t see what the big deal is about riding one or two blocks over on a nice quiet side street (e.g., Tillamook) and avoiding most of the cars entirely and their fumes & distracted drivers. Road diets force the drivers on to those very side streets seeking a cut through. It isn’t going to suddenly make them want to ride a bicycle. Install lots of speed cameras on the arterials to slow them down, but don’t reduce capacity (i.e., take away lanes).

JeffS
JeffS
5 years ago

“People who choose to bike should not be punished and should not have limited accessibility options.”

You’re right. Except when the limited accessibility is a function solely of an individual users infrastructure requirement.

The starting position, before the first bike lane was built, was that bikes were free to ride virtually anywhere. Infrastructure, and mandates that we use it, are what have limited our accessibility options.

X
X
5 years ago
Reply to  m

Pie-in-the-sky = heaven. Implausible, never demonstrated, and not even desired by many of us.

The Sullivan Gulch Trail suggestion is on a scale ten times greater than we are accustomed to in Portland, BUT:

–it is feasible from the standpoint of design and engineering
–it makes use of a relatively unobstructed line of travel
–it has favorable topography
–it links the city center with (1) an area of future development, (2) a population that is underserved, and (3) natural areas
–it would facilitate bike tourism, producing economic activity and increasing revenue
–it would demonstrate to people here and in other places that Portland really is committed to human powered travel, #yesplatinum

The budget for SGT would approximate the cost of one freeway interchange. We have spent that amount of money, labor, materials, land, and displacement of community (or natural areas) many times over in Portland. Shouldn’t our reach exceed our grasp?,

Paul H
Paul H
5 years ago

Automotive roads have the advantage of enjoying a clear use-case: transportation. Not only that, but they have a (theoretically) police-enforced range of travel speeds. The standard deviation of automotive speeds on any given road is pretty narrow, and outliers run the risk of financial sanction.

Contrast that with separated active-transportation infrastructure that most often has two use-cases: transportation and recreation.

On wet, cold days, transportation users outnumber recreational users, and facilities like the Springwater Corridor are fairly road-like.

In nice weather, however, the standard deviation of travel speeds becomes much broader as families and saunterers enjoy the outdoors. Also, it’s not uncommon to encounter folks who insist on walking four-abreast and are confounded that others use the path for A-to-B transportation. (The situation can be particularly bad on the Hawthorne Bridge.)

In short, Portland’s separated infrastructure is forced to be a hybrid that can be discouraging for commuters (“why are you blocking the right of way?”), families (“why are you buzzing my kids at peloton speeds?”), and people just out for a nice walk (“we want to each other’s company without constantly needing to move to the right”).

Paul H
Paul H
5 years ago

I’m unsure how you inferred from my use of the word “transportation” that I meant “something more important and more serious and deserving of respect.” I didn’t say that nor did I mean it.

Moreover, your language about things “like driving to a hike, to work out in the gym, to walk their dogs at a park” confuses me. Hiking, working out, and walking the dog are recreational activities. Putting yourself into a car and driving to those activities is pretty much the textbook definition of “transportation.”

Scott Mizée
5 years ago

Your right on, Paul. Using your car to get to recreational activities is still transportation.

q
q
5 years ago

Jonathan, I agree. The ironic example for me is that the only time I’m eligible to use the I-5 carpool lane is when I’m driving with family members to visit relatives. We (along with a lot of other families) are passing hundreds of people–contractors, service people, delivery people–who really do need to be driving then.

And yes, you can say that technically, driving to the gym is not “recreational” but rather is “transportation to a recreational activity”, whereas in the case of someone biking for a workout, the trip itself is the recreational activity, and not pure transportation. But what a technicality.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul H

The springwater corridor is not transportation infrastructure. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?action=ViewPark&PropertyID=679 Even if it were maintained by PBOT, it is not adequate for transportation. It is legally a sidewalk.

The tilikum bridge and most of our other separated infrastructure suffers the same problems of puppies and strollers, which mostly stems from PBOT not taking seriously the mission of maintaining an urban transportation system in the 21st century. If we don’t collect enough money from car user fees to maintain pavement and keep people safe, obviously we need to collect more money and/or restrict automobility. Doing anything else is just adding debt.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric Leifsdad

That seems a bit odd for a couple reasons. Paul H. summed up the Springwater Corridor well, with “On On wet, cold days, transportation users outnumber recreational users, and facilities like the Springwater Corridor are fairly road-like”.

And isn’t saying it’s “legally a sidewalk” proof that it IS transportation infrastructure? Or does walking not count for you as transportation? It’s my primary means. So even if the presence of walkers and runners sometimes (or even always) makes riding fast impossible, that doesn’t disqualify it from being transportation infrastructure.

What about woonerfs–streets without sidewalks, where driving, cycling and walking are mixed together? Those are a prime component of transportation infrastructure elsewhere, despite being shared use.

PeaDub
PeaDub
5 years ago

Honestly I think it’s got more to do with darkness. Anyone with a 8-5 job (hi!) is commuting in the dark both ways this time of year.

X
X
5 years ago

We’re entering the time of year when Portland’s fragmented “bike infrastructure” bits are exposed as the afterthoughts that they are. When snow or ice hit the ground the city’s efforts to prevent, clear, or remediate poor traction conditions come to the bike lane last. When snow is already rutted, packed, and frozen to the ground there’s really nothing to be done. Maintenance is the responsibility of a street department that is concerned with car passage first and foremost. We’ve all seen bike traffic chokepoints used as a depositary for snow. The debris and damage of snow removal can remain for actual calendar months in bike lanes.

At times in the past I’ve taken a shovel to some of the spots that affected me most but there is a limit to what one person can do. It’s almost the winter solstice. Does anyone else out there want to get a shovel, find a way to attach it to their bike, and help clear the path on their bridge of choice early on day one of the first snow?

Tom
Tom
5 years ago
Reply to  m

43 deg is ideal actually. It was 32 this morning, and my train car had 12 bikes on it, about the maximum possible and the same as peak summer times. And the trains were running on schedule, not late.

m
m
5 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Nice and dry this morning.

Paul H
Paul H
5 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Agreed. Mid-40s is a nice temperature range for biking.

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
5 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I haven’t been riding much this season due to illness, but I concur, mid-40s is quite pleasant. Your observation about full trains in the winter also fits with my experiences. Even in late December and early January it can be hard to find room for bikes on the MAX. For this reason, I usually try to catch the 6:30 am train to go through the hill. If I wait much later than that, getting on MAX with a bike can be a challenge.

The main difficulty I have with winter riding is how to dress. I typically see a 10-degree difference in ambient temperature between my home in St. Johns and my office Hillsboro. This morning, for example it was 38F at home and 28F at work. If I dress for the home-side, I freeze on the office-side or vice-versa.

Stph

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago

I don’t think people like driving because it’s forced down their throats… People like driving because it’s comfortable, easy, and cheap (if you already have a car, that is). Many people simply prefer it to the alternatives.

buildwithjoe
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

.
the average vehicle costs $9,004 per year to own and operate. The breakdown of that calculation is made up of $3,271 for purchasing the vehicle, $2,418 in gasoline and motor oil expenses and $3,315 in other vehicle-related costs.
.
I’m on a debt inducing income and 9k each year is not cheap. I’d expect a Bike Portland supporter to say something “car ownership seems cheep but it can be 25% of most people’s income”

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/the_real_cost_of_owning_a_car

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  buildwithjoe

My vehicles have never cost near that much to own and operate. Besides, most of your costs are fixed (purchase price, insurance, etc.), so if you already own the car, it’s pretty cheap to drive somewhere on a per-trip basis. I’d be surprised if my last car trip cost me more than a quarter.

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Hm…, I own an old 1999 vehicle that fully depreciated. My insurance costs about $1000/yr, fuel for my typical annual mileage is about $2500/yr, and replacing consumable bits, keeping it tuned up and fixing the occasional tired and broken bits takes another $2000/yr. If my arithmetic is correct, that’s about $15/day. I suspect your last auto trip cost you more than you let on.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Keller

I drove 1.1 miles (carrying a very awkward load). I get about 35mpg in the city. The cost of driving, (minus the cost of not driving), was 2.2 miles / 35 mpg * 2.65 $/gal = 16.7 cents. Add a little for wear-and-tear, and we’re right about at a quarter.

Sigma
Sigma
5 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Keller

You need to shop around for insurance. My car is only 3 years old and I pay half what you do.

pruss2ny
pruss2ny
5 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Keller

the entire american economy is predicated on the truth that the only cost-benefit analysis that most consumers engage in is: Do I want it?

an advanced car centric cost-benefit analysis might take into consideration that public transportation is just very very poor here and that having a car gives you a sense of freedom to get from where you can afford to live to where you need to be on your own schedule. snark aside, underestimating that sense of accomplishment and freedom in owning your own car is where the pro-bike argument tends to fall into “elitist” territory.

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

And therein lies our problem. We have allowed a system to come into place that puts the costs up-front and fixes them in place so that each added mile adds trivially to the cost of being car-bound.

That doesn’t take away the fact that someone who does the arithmetic will realize that foregoing car ownership entirely during one’s twenties and thirties will pretty much pay for one’s house. Of course anyone who does that will look around at the other folks in their forties, realize that s/he doesn’t want their health issues, and may well choose to continue to forgo car use.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

The system that “we allowed to come into place” is also the only practical one given where we started. I suspect that the next revolution in transportation will be organized much differently, with much less frontloading of cost.

Sigma
Sigma
5 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

Have you really never met a 40-something car owner in good health?

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

We’re expecting to have our Subaru paid off soon — hopefully that means we’ll have 15 years or so without a car payment…

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
5 years ago
Reply to  Matt S.

Could be. My 1999 Forester has over 280K miles on the odometer and still keeps purring along. We’re pretty diligent about regularly scheduled maintenance and fixing anything amiss as soon as its found. We did have the top-end reworked at around 240K to correct some mounting oil losses. I’ll probably keep it going until something totals it beyond repair.

Pete
Pete
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Who says people actually ‘like’ driving? People in general are convinced it is a necessity, and some people indeed like to drive… given ideal conditions for driving the way they desire to.

soren
soren
5 years ago
Reply to  m

“…despite all the utopian anti-car agenda I read on this site all the time. Cars are not going away.”

I am most definitely anti-car but I don’t expect cars to go away in the least.

I do believe that reliance on fossil-fuel-powered human-driven cars will decrease over time and that uncertainty associated with climate change might make this transition more rapid than many expect.

It’s also ironic that you used the word “utopian” in a mocking way. This word has a political meaning and it just so happens that I am a card-carrying utopian (LSC DSA member).

m
m
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

Electric cars will outnumber gas powered cars on the streets of Portland long before bicycles ever have a critical mass on the streets of Portland.

soren
soren
5 years ago
Reply to  m

once people no longer identify as “drivers” everything will change, atmo.

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

The reason I have a car is to drive out of the city for recreation. How much will an automated ride to the coast and back cost? $120 – $200? I guess only rich people are to enjoy the great outdoors in the driverless state.

oliver
oliver
5 years ago
Reply to  m

“The laws of physics always win”

Which is why we should ban forthwith private automobiles from operating on any street where 18 wheel heavy truck traffic is present.

Richard Herbin
Richard Herbin
5 years ago

Raised reflective dots on the outer line (as used on CA freeways) and bollards on selected locations such as curves might help. Speed limit should be reduced to 25 max.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botts%27_dots

Pete
Pete
5 years ago
Reply to  Richard Herbin

Note that California studies have shown that “Bott’s dots” do not significantly reduce (automotive) crashes and they will no longer be installed by Caltrans.

canuck
canuck
5 years ago

This usually happens when a driver veers to the left to give more room to the riders and then pulls back right to reposition themselves in the lane. See it all the time. Watch the video, you can see that the van is well left while passing the cyclist and then moves back right after passing. I take it as in indication that the driver was giving more clearance to the me while passing them

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
5 years ago
Reply to  canuck

The paint would last much longer if we would lay it on as thick as ODOT did the Terwilliger crosswalk stripes on Barbur.

William Henderson
5 years ago

Thanks for following up on this, Jonathan. As advocates, it’s easy to forget that people we are ultimately advocating for are people who don’t feel comfortable biking today. When PBOT responds to pressure to improve a bad biking connection that we use all the time, it feels like a win for advocacy. However, if it isn’t a big enough improvement that it brings new people out on their bikes then it is also a failure.

And this cuts both ways. Improving the experience for people already biking isn’t that important if it doesn’t also get more people biking. Let’s say there were a hypothetical protected bike lane being built that was going to feel really safe for people 8-80, but was intentionally designed to limit riders to 13mph. Would we as advocates choose to fight this minor inconvenience to us, one unlikely to discourage anyone new to biking?

This has to be about more than just improving the experience for people who are already biking. I think it’s so easy to forget that. When you go out there and ride every day, you feel feel constantly marginalized and neglected as a biker. You might start thinking that this is about you and your experience. It isn’t. It has to be about the people that don’t currently bike.

JeffS
JeffS
5 years ago

Thank you. You have perfectly summed up why I despise bicycle advocacy.

GlenK
GlenK
5 years ago
Reply to  JeffS

I think you mean you despise bicycle advocacy by the ‘strong and fearless’ for the ‘strong and fearless’ – there are plenty of experienced riders advocating for better bicycle provision who get that it’s not about them.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 years ago
Reply to  GlenK

Or about them when they are no longer young and fearless, but old(er) and paranoid, with chronic aches from too many crashes during those young care-free (car-free?) days. I’m 50 and still haven’t learned to drive, and I know there are many BP folks who are older still. I still advocate, but I’m more skillful about it than in my younger days. Why fight battles you know you’ll lose, when there are so many other winnable battles that no one else is going to fight? So much low-hanging fruit, so many engineers to influence, so many advisory committees to corrupt…

m
m
5 years ago

Well said.

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
5 years ago

Any bikey facility that restricted cyclists’ speed so dramatically would be very unlikely to induce any people to ride. Think about it. What’s causing the speed limit? Obstacles. Who is least capable of negotiating obstacles? New riders.

Let’s stop eating our young by pitting experienced riders, many of whom are very knowledgeable about the limitations of various proposed incarnations of bikey stuff, against those who came to this since the turn of the century (and have never seen an American city succeed in taming cars) and get on to the real issue: our roads are being designed to be dominated by scofflaw motorists at the expense of our safety, lives and quality of life. All our infighting is less than useless “angels on the head of a pin”stuff.

Momo
Momo
5 years ago

I think this is a case where PBOT is “claiming the space” in an opportunistic way, which is a real win in itself. But agreed that a long-term, higher-quality solution is needed. Friends of Willamette Blvd should not be satisfied with this small win, but should organize and advocate for a major multi-million dollar project on this corridor.

soren
soren
5 years ago
Reply to  Momo

this new infrastructure has little to do with pbot. the only reason we have these new buffered lanes is due to the efforts of “activists”. perhaps the activists you have dismissed and derided do deserve a seat at the table.

John Liu
John Liu
5 years ago
Reply to  Momo

I’m afraid that “multi-million dollar” is the obstacle.

Scott Mizée
5 years ago

I understand your sentiment and thought process, Jonathan . How do we make those around us understand this?

Meghan H
Meghan H
5 years ago

I appreciate this perspective. Having been involved in the Foster Streetscape plan process for so long, I’m actually petrified that once the street is re-striped that few people will use it — because the speed limit will still be too high, and the door-zone bike lanes with no protection will still be too scary for families or unsure riders. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in Portland being an advocate for “incremental change”, especially considering it took us 10+ years to get this far, and we haven’t even started construction yet. Public comment / planning processes being what they are, I think we have to at least make sure these projects are aiming for one “increment” more than the bare minimum.

Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly
5 years ago
Reply to  Meghan H

Chin up Meghan. Ill definitely use it. If this is incrementalism, then I’ll take it. Creating a real walking business district in the heart of foster and being able to cross the street safely with my preschoolers is going to change my family’s life for sure. We will be spending more time and more money in our hood.

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
5 years ago
Reply to  Meghan H

Door-zone bike lanes are scary for more than just families and unsure users. I’ve ridden over 600k miles. I’ve ridden everything from (L)east coast cities to high speed rural highways to unpaved mountain passes, but I won’t ride in the door zone. I’ve had many hundreds of car doors fly open as I pass by, well clear of the door, and am certain that I wouldn’t be here if I made a habit of putting myself in the door zone.

So, if the city puts in a door-zone bike lane, I will not be riding in it. That sort of thing generates a lot of irritation and bike hate from the other side of the windshield, but they’re not the ones with skin in the game. Weighing the probability of cold-blooded murder from an inconvenienced motorist against a door flying open, I’ll chance the former but will blame the traffic engineer for giving me this horrid choice.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

I usually hang just inside the outer edge of the bike lane, for similar reasons.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

Ditto, though I don’t experience problems with people hating on me for doing this.

I also will not pass vehicles on the right if I have any reason to believe they might turn.

BradWagon
5 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

Why would anyone undercut a car they think is about to turn into them?…

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  BradWagon

Beats me, but I see people do it all the time. The practice enjoys strong support in this forum — the idea is that the cyclist has right of way and that the motorist should be watching.

Dan A
Dan A
5 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

“The practice enjoys strong support in this forum”

Prove it.

“the idea is that the cyclist has right of way and that the motorist should be watching.”

It’s not an idea, it’s a law.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

Your first sentence makes it look like you don’t believe people here don’t support passing on the right of vehicles that might turn (suggesting total lack of familiarity with attitudes here) while the second implies that you support this yourself. So what point are you trying to make

You appear to lack the intellectual curiosity to examine information that contradicts your preconceived notions and facts aren’t your thing. As such, locating them for you doesn’t strike me a productive use of time.

However, if you want some proof fast, just post something to the effect that you think people who pass on the right of vehicles they think might turn are purposely and needlessly endangering themselves and see what happens.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

Are you saying a cyclist has the right to pass a right-turning car on the right? This is only true when there is a bike lane, and even then is suicidal.

Dan A
Dan A
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

Thumbs up if you think cyclists should undercut cars they think are about to turn into them.

X
X
5 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

Why would anyone undercut another person on a bike?

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  X

Last night, I was almost bottom-hooked by a moleman. Be careful!

Andrew N
Andrew N
5 years ago

My partner and I joke all the time about Portland’s extensive “platinum” bike infrastructure now that we have a 3-year-old and a bakfiets. It’s hair-raising to go just about anywhere with him in the bike these days. Even the greenways can be dicey. This is a city whose mythology sinks deeper into greenwashing BS everyday and I don’t think we should expect substantial change until we get a mayor –or at least a councilperson with PBOT under their wing– who is passionate about transforming our transportation landscape *with a sense of urgency* and putting an end to our craven submission to the automobile. All this treading water is getting discouraging and, to be honest, we’ve ended up using our car when traveling with our own “cherished one” about 80% of the time. Risking his life just isn’t worth it.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  Andrew N

Exactly. Portland (especially City government) is way too impressed with itself when it comes to anything related to being “green”.

PeaDub
PeaDub
5 years ago

“One way to shift your perspective on street design is to imagine how a six-year-old would feel using it.”

I’m asking this question as a legitimate attempt to understand what others here think about this issue. Is this the right metric to use to determine if cycling/pedestrian facilities are sufficient? I guess for designated cycling thoroughfares I would agree it is. And yes, if we’re going to be redoing a road, do it right (whatever “right” means – e.g. don’t take away my ability to turn left in the middle of a block!!!!).

But to be honest I would kill for wide, paint-buffered (and how about maintained) bike lanes for the roads I ride on the west side. The new Willamette bike lanes appear as a mirage in the desert to my eyes.

PS – I know you were riding with your son and keeping him safe, I’m not questioning your judgement here at all. Did lots of rides like this with my kids when they were little, and had them riding solo to school and after-school activities in their early teens.

JeffS
JeffS
5 years ago

Politically, I understand how incremental steps and never being satisfied can be effective.

Personally, I find it annoying to see someone advocate for something and then criticize it and ask for the next change as soon as it is built.

Steve Hash
Steve Hash
5 years ago

Want to get cars off Willamette? Add traffic signals.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 years ago
Reply to  Steve Hash

At least $200,000 each, $300,000 if PBOT does it.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  Steve Hash

No way that would lead to more cut through traffic…

Jam
Jam
5 years ago

Incremental’ is at times all our public agencies can achieve given that they are beholden to the voices who weigh in on a project. I’d argue that we have to increment to bring everyone along but that we aren’t incrementing fast enough. Our goal should be to get flexi-posts up along the length of the curvy section by the time school is out. They aren’t physical protection, but go a long ways toward motivating the majority of drivers to keep their car in the auto lane.

And then…complete the flexi-posts along Greeley from Addidas to Interstate.
And then…start filling in the straight sections.

buildwithjoe
5 years ago

.
Video of a crash today at this site. URL below
.
https://youtu.be/OdmnyTXKNQc
.
URL above.
……………There is a 10mph zone that begins this bike lane. People go 25. The result that a driver totaled their new blue VW by rear ending a white car in this 10mph zone. The airbag went off and the whole front end was smashed and fluids were all over the road. She said she was not on her phone and got mad when I asked her why she was so distracted in a 10mph zone. I wish I had been filming when she went off on me.

Hey folks. Hit that “Recommended” button here. I have to work day hours and the audience here is gone by 6:38pm. If these posts were made at 7pm I’d make the podium once in a while.
.
.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 years ago
Reply to  buildwithjoe

One of the advantages of living on the East Coast is I get a 3-hour head start on BP comments.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  buildwithjoe

As if even a cyclist would take that curve at 10mph without a specific reason. I know I don’t.

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
5 years ago

A decade ago, when Eugene had a traffic patrol unit, I spoke with their watch commander (Sgt. Schultz, for real). On streets with bike lanes and curves, most all of the motorists drive well into the bike lanes. The good Sgt told me that unless the cars crossed all the way over the bike lane into the parking lane, he wouldn’t write them a citation nor would his subordinates.

He was telling me that the bike lane was a buffer to protect the parking lane. He’s retired now, but I have no doubt that he wouldn’t allow motorists to be cited for crossing over the buffer zone.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

If the buffer has a hatch, like on Holgate between 92nd & 122nd, the hatched area (technically called a “gore”) is actually illegal to drive on. When the buffered bike lane on Holgate was first opened, the Portland Police wrote lots of tickets.

John Liu
John Liu
5 years ago

How would physically separated bike lanes on Willamette work?

Would we have:
– a low curb separating bike lane from traffic lane, with openings at driveways
– bike lane grade-raised above the traffic lane, with driveway cuts
– barriers between bike lane and traffic lane, with openings for driveways and storm runoff
– rigid bollards, or flexible indicator wands, between traffic lane and bike lane
– other?

Storm drainage will need a solution.

Should there be any special treatment at intersections?

Would cyclists then be prohibited from riding in the traffic lanes?

Would this create any problems with cars, emergency vehicles, not being able to pull off the road?

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  John Liu

Would the time/money invested in overengineering a tiny section where riding conditions are already better than average be better dedicated elsewhere someplace that has nothing?

John Liu
John Liu
5 years ago
Reply to  John Liu

I do think a good number of indicator wands should be placed at intersections (to discourage drivers from using the bike lane to pass stopped cars, and from cutting the turns), and wherever paint starts getting worn off the bike lane striping (usually on the inside of a corner). That would be inexpensive and helpful.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago

I understand why people would have concerns about kids and others riding, but why devote so much energy and money to a section that’s already in good shape? It’s certainly not because of a rash of cyclists getting hit.

Visibility is good, hook threats are nonexistent on one side and significantly less than average on the other, and separation is already among the better sections of Portland.

On the greenways everyone seems to think are so safe, vehicles might not be going very fast, but visibility is terrible for drivers and cyclists alike. Very easy for a kid or anyone else to get flattened by a car pulling out of a driveway or crossing an intersection. This is where the real dangers are.

How does insisting on separated infrastructure not strongly support the attitude that bicycles do not belong on roads? And how does having separated infrastructure in a tiny number of areas that aren’t particularly dangerous contribute to safety?

And especially in Portland, a lot of the separated infrastructure is far dodgier than the roads. Go on that late at night, and if you encounter anyone, odds of them being on meth are a lot higher than the odds of them being on two wheels.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

I don’t think the point is that more money should have been spent on this particular project right now. It’s a more general point about improvements falling short of what they should be. So the solution will involve more than taking money from one bike project and spending it on another.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  q

I’m not sure I agree that they fall short. My sense is this is a simple and cheap but substantial improvement — exactly the kind we need more of.

It’s unusual for a section to be discussed on BP that I haven’t ridden quite a bit myself. This is a major city — I shouldn’t have even heard of most of the places, let alone have any experience. This suggests to me that a lot of people can’t be well served.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

By “improvements” I meant infrastructure in general, not just this particular project. I agree, this one was a “simple and cheap but substantial improvement” and also that we do need more of those.

But at the same time, the improvements being done all around here (including this one) DO fall short. This Willamette Blvd. isn’t that great, and it’s not exceptional in its mediocrity, either.

Susan Loftus
Susan Loftus
2 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

A wide body of research shows that 60% of the population needs protected bike lanes or quiet residential streets. Only 8% – 10% of people are served by this facility. (Most studies were done in Portland). So when you say “it’s a substantial improvement” you mean “a substantial improvement” for you and the other 8% and unusable facility for 6X other people. That doesn’t seem like an ethical way to spend tax dollars to me. You rarely hear from the other 60% because they’ve been designed out of biking, so I expect that’s why they seem invisible to you.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
5 years ago

Check out Willamette Blvd south of Rosa Parks…it used to be open to thru motorized traffic all the way to Greeley south of Killingsworth. Sometime way back in the roaring 70’s a barrier went up and it was closed to thru traffic, not to local. Image that kind of roadway all the way to U of P! Put the commuters from Scappose on Lombard or give ’em a bus with a $2 toll in the St Johns bridge for SOVs.
re Streetcar…15K rides per day…right up there with MAX Yellow Line and more than most bus lines, and housing springing up like mushrooms in a wet forest all along the alignment. Looks like success to me.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  Lenny Anderson

Lombard isn’t a good place to send anyone. Car traffic there is already snarled so trying to push more there will just result in lots of neighborhood traffic.

And if you want to talk about roads that could be friendlier to bikes, Lombard is a good candidate. Most of it is miserable to ride, and I don’t see other cyclists when I’m riding it myself. Curiously, the section of that road I can recall hearing complaints on BP about is the easiest part to ride which actually has bike lanes.

Likewise, tolling St. John’s sounds like a bad idea unless the idea is combined with adding bike lanes there. When traffic is light on that bridge, it moves fast and bail options for cyclists are terrible.

mark smith
mark smith
5 years ago

The homeowners don’t get that a protected lane, both ways, would raise their value.s\

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  mark smith

Not everything is about property values. Maybe it’s more about able to stop in front of your house without having to navigate traffic getting into and out of your driveway. Slowing traffic might help that problem as well.

Sean R-M
Sean R-M
5 years ago

Jonathan, In live in Seattle and from my view that new bike lane is probably better than 90% of bike lanes in my city. This new bike lane may not meet the 8-80 goal, but I think it is nice enough that it could actually encourage someone who doesn’t bike, to give it a try. I think that a bike facility that increases the number of bikes on the road is at least a partial success. If this lane can increase bicycle traffic along this corridor enough, it will make the case for a protected lane that stronger

Kittens
Kittens
5 years ago

I’ll blame PBOT even if JM doesn’t!

We elect, pay and bestow special rights and privileges to those people to represent us. Most average citizens don’t have the time to micromanage and advocate and lobby for the things we expect and need. It’s how representative democracy works.

PBOT knows what you want and knows how to design roads just as well as the best platinum citites. It’s not like a big secret. The only difference is they don’t want to offend anyone by actually prioritizing bikes over cars in any meaningful way. So we get stuck with meaningless platitudes (vision zero!) and convoluted and novel painting schemes instead of solutions and get called whiners when it doesn’t work out and fails as modeshare remains stagnant.

oliver
oliver
5 years ago

This is one of my bugbears, and in my experience has nothing to do with buffered lanes, drivers weaving back and forth over the fog line or in an out of the bike lane is an epidemic.

On Interstate it’s constant; drivers will put two wheels into the bike lane leaving 6 feet between themselves and the curb next adjacent to the light rail tracks like the train is going to jump off the rails and run into them. It’s infuriating.

The reason it worries me so much is that drivers that only pay attention when a cyclist is on the street are the ones that are going to run people down in the bike lane when they quit paying attention.

mark smith
mark smith
5 years ago

Hello Kitty, for a few, yeah..it’s about their perception of convenience. Yeah, for everyone else, it all comes down to magical time when you sell.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  mark smith

I think you have your proportions reversed.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  mark smith

But earlier you said homeowners don’t get that their property values would rise from protected lanes. So wouldn’t that make your “everyone else” be nobody?

mark smith
mark smith
5 years ago

Hello, Kitty
I think you have your proportions reversed.Recommended 0

Which type of homeowner are you? The one that doesn’t care about their home values and only cares about parking or…the other weird one ?

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  mark smith

“Property values” have never been an issue for me, nor, as far as I can tell, for any of my neighbors. Livibility, now, is far more important.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Actually, one thing that can REALLY raise property values is to rezone an area to allow higher density. Yet I’d guess that’s been almost universally opposed by every neighborhood it’s been proposed in, and the reason is concern for livability–all supporting your point.

Dan A
Dan A
5 years ago

Thumbs up if you think cyclists should NOT undercut cars they think are about to turn into them.

Dan A
Dan A
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

Well this is nested in the wrong place…

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

It’s probably just as well. No one would see it where you wanted it nested.

Hundreds of people have undoubtedly seen this article. Was your point to suggest that everyone who didn’t “like” the article actually favors passing on the right of a car they think will turn on them (i.e. everyone except a few people)?

Dan A
Dan A
5 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

No, there’s another place to vote for that, above.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

So you expect people to “vote” at the place no one will actually check? The one down here is definitely more visible. So far, 3 people think they should “NOT undercut cars.”

I would have designed the poll differently. Based on yours, it appears that everyone except 3 people think you *should* undercut cars. I think you have a future designing polls for Fox news

Dan A
Dan A
5 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

So far it’s 3-0 against passing a car you believe may be turning. Are you upset that it’s not proving your point?

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

What do you mean? The only “poll” you’ve made shows that 3 people believe you should NOT undercut and everybody else on the whole blog does not.

In the spirit of your polling methods, I have mounted another poll someplace that no one cares about. It says people should hit “like” if they think bicycles should be on roads or that bike infrastructure should exist. Zero people have chosen the “like” option so it’s clear there’s no support whatsoever for cycling… 😉

Dan A
Dan A
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

C’mon people, nobody has voted for “Thumbs up if you think cyclists should undercut cars they think are about to turn into them.”? Supposedly that opinion has strong support here! Let’s hear it.

q
q
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

What is “undercutting”?

Dan A
Dan A
5 years ago
Reply to  q

Kyle: I also will not pass vehicles on the right if I have any reason to believe they might turn.

BradWagon: Why would anyone undercut a car they think is about to turn into them?…

Kyle Banerjee: Beats me, but I see people do it all the time. The practice enjoys strong support in this forum…

soren
soren
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

I note that Kyle still has not come up with a single example of a person on bike portland advocating for passing potentially turning vehicles on the right.

X
X
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

Would Kyle say that every vehicle (driver) is potentially turning right? If so that is one thing we both believe to be true. Unannounced right turns are at least as common as the human tendency to go the wrong way on a one-way street. “I love this town! No stop signs at all!”

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  X

I do say that, and I am prepared for that possibility at every single intersection.

If I see that a car will overtake me just as I enter an intersection, I am likewise prepared for it to turn. I pay attention to what is going on behind me.

Vehicles mostly do not turn in front of me but sometimes they do. Whether they do or not, I never get hooked.

If it sounds like this requires a lot of attention, it does. I also drive with this level of attention to my surroundings and find it works well.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  X

: I couldn’t be more pleased to be proved wrong and to know that there is consensus in the BP community that passing on the right of vehicles that *might* turn right is suicidal.

I hope that more Portland cyclists will also realize this is an extremely dangerous practice as I see far too many people get hooked.

TC
TC
4 years ago

If you NEED a ‘protected lane’., YOU…NEED to move to the sidewalk. You don’t have the experience to be in the road yet. If need be, there SHOULD not be a problem with riding AGAINST traffic …as you should walk, so that you can SEE the danger coming..NO don’t stare at the headlights. It’s absolutely amazing, after riding in the neighborhood of 30,000m MILES, As people get closer to you ..just how much MORE of YOUR lane people in cars will take up..after they pass they go back out towards center. SO QUIT riding in your mirror I tell myself and concentrate on the roadside debris & dangers that could send me to the ground or into the danger of those cage drivers.

ride aggressively be HYPER AWARE !!!!!!

Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter
4 years ago
Reply to  TC

ALL riders NEED a protected lane. Those cars speeding around? The drivers don’t care if they inadvertently run you over. It’s the drivers of motor vehicles that need the protected lanes.

NEVER ride against traffic. It’s always a problem.

And why did you pick a year old article to resurrect with your misplaced admonishments?

Ride safely, and be aware of pedestrians.