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City lowers speed limits on Marine Drive west of 33rd, the ‘gnarliest gap of them all’

Posted by on September 26th, 2018 at 11:34 am

View of Marine Drive eastbound approaching Columbia Edgewater Country Club.

(PBOT graphic)

When we shared the news of improvements coming to the NE Marine Drive last month, many of you were disappointed that nothing was being done on the section between I-5 and 33rd Avenue.

A commenter named Kristin shared that, “Though there’s a ‘bike lane’ through that section, it’s crazily overgrown and very narrow in spots, making the fast truck traffic even scarier.”

We’re happy to report that as of Tuesday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has lowered the speed limit in this two-mile stretch from 40 to 35 mph. And lest you think it won’t matter because of a lack of enforcement, recall that PBOT also has an active speed camera near 33rd. According to a statement this week, the camera will issue warning for two weeks to give people a chance to adjust to the lower speed limit and citations will resume October 10th.

The camera is going to be very busy given that PBOT’s latest traffic study found that around 1,000 people per day drive at least 50 mph or over at this location.

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“The gnarliest gap of them all.”
— Jim Sjulin, 40-Mile Loop advocate

Lowering the speed limit is one way PBOT is trying to get a grip on the dangerous driving that has plagued Marine Drive for years. In the five year period between 2012 and 2016 there were over two crashes reported on Marine Drive every month.

While these anti-speeding measures will help, this section of Marine Drive needs much more aggressive interventions. Given that it’s part of the 40-Mile Loop and that it connects to north and northeast Portland neighborhoods and existing destinations like the Columbia Slough path, Delta Park, and Vancouver — we’ve must get this fixed as soon as possible.

Advocate with the 40-Mile Loop, Jim Sjulin (whom we mentioned last month), said the one-mile section between the Bridgeton neighborhood and 33rd is, “The gnarliest gap of them all.”

East of Bridgeton, Sjulin is pushing for a complete re-build of Marine Drive and a new multi-use path across Port of Portland property on the south side of the road that would connect to the existing off-street path at 33rd (behind the boat shop).

Here are two of Sjulin’s slides that show the location:

Marine Drive is a vital connection to the river and key piece of our active transportation network. It’s nice to see PBOT address its safety problems and we look forward to much more being done in the future.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

  • Clicky Freewheel September 26, 2018 at 11:40 am

    You’d have to be insane to ride in those shoulder bike lanes, regardless of whether PBOT reduces the speed limit or not. The city should build that bike path ASAP.

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    • John Liu September 26, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      I ride there, as do others. Marine Dr is a commute route for me.

      It helps a lot if you use a mirror. As long as visibility is okay, it is rideable. In fog or nightime rain, I avoid it.

      The city could really improve things by pressing rumble strips into the pavement *on the car side* of the line marking the bike lane. Those strips are really unpleasant to drive on, drivers will stay away from them. Clearing vegetation and educating people about keeping garbage cans and parked cars out of the bike lane would also help.

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      • Al September 26, 2018 at 1:24 pm

        I ride this occasionally and my biggest problem isn’t actually the drivers but obstacles in the bike lane forcing me into the road. It’s mostly tree limbs and potholes. Because I’m typically there on weekend days, I don’t encounter trash bins.

        Well managed bike lanes, which shouldn’t cost much money would actually do more for bicycle safety than this speed limit change.

        But yes, a continuation of the path coming in from the airport would be even better still.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy September 26, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      I’ve never really had an issue there. It could be wider but it’s not that bad.

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  • KJC September 26, 2018 at 11:51 am

    I love that they are taking a broader look at bike safety along 33rd, but can we talk about the effectiveness of the cameras? I noticed in the great report by the TriMet driver that he called for more cameras as well. But what about all those license plate covers increasingly appearing on cars across the city? Some of them are so dark or opaque that you can barely see through them standing a few feet away. And I am guessing that the bubble shape of many are to even further decrease the chance of a successful photo. Aren’t these illegal?

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    • Clicky Freewheel September 26, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Unfortunately, Portland doesn’t enforce any traffic laws, so even if these are illegal, it’s not like these people will ever get caught.

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      • John Lascurettes September 26, 2018 at 12:49 pm

        I couldn’t find any law that explicitly prohibits particular types of coverings, but I suppose anything that obfuscates plates in any way would be a violations of ORS 803.540(1)(c):

        The plates must be in plain view and so as to be read easily by the public.

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        • John Lascurettes September 26, 2018 at 12:53 pm

          Ah, found it! ORS 803.550(2)(b):

          (2) A registration plate is illegally altered for purposes of this section if the plate has been altered, modified, covered or obscured in any manner including, but not limited to, the following:
          (b)Any material or covering, other than a frame or plate holder, placed on, over or in front of the plate that alters the appearance of the plate.

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      • HJ September 26, 2018 at 11:02 pm

        This would seem like a good thing to task parking enforcement with. They’ll ticket you if you’re parked legally with expired plates, why not with illegal plate covers? Strikes me like a good way to see a big change happen quickly.

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      • waterpopp September 29, 2018 at 5:57 pm

        They have traffic cameras to enforce speeders now at 33rd and marine drive

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    • Johnny Bye Carter September 26, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      Usually those covers are made of a material that when flashed with a speed camera light causes it to blank out so you can’t see the plate at all, just a rectangle.

      And yes, it’s illegal under ORS 803.550.

      “A registration plate is illegally altered for purposes of this section if the plate has been altered, modified, covered or obscured in any manner…”

      I doubt that this is enforced because I see so many people with them. When I lived in California you’d get pulled over right away if you had one of those covers on your plates.

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      • Dan A September 26, 2018 at 2:00 pm

        Our roads are covered with cars that have completely obvious illegally-dark tinted front windows, and nothing is done about it.

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        • mark September 26, 2018 at 2:20 pm

          If you are struck by a hit-and-run driver, and have the vehicle description and plate number, but cannot identify the driver, you cannot bring charges against them. Tint violations need strict enforcement.

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          • Bald One September 27, 2018 at 2:55 pm

            Same goes for Big-Rigs hauling local container traffic on railroad-owned chassis trailers. You can’t identify anything about the cab or driver if you can only see the rear of the truck, including the out-of-state trailer registration and license plate.

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  • Josh G September 26, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Despite all the forecasted improvements, the intersection of 33rd and Marine Dr will continue to be off the charts dangerous during every rush hour, as impatient drivers skip the northbound wait, using the boat dealer’s frontage road to make incredibly rash movements to continue West (and East!) on Marine Dr, making for complete chaos for all users. I look forward to never having to use this intersection again while biking, but I still have to drive it. The trail on Port Authority property “behind the boat dealer” is already there. Make it happen!

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    • Chris I September 27, 2018 at 1:41 pm

      I can’t believe they aren’t getting funding for a signal there. We need a MUP on the north side, starting at 33rd that will tie into the neighborhood to the west. A signal at 33rd would facilitate the crossing here in a much safer way.

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  • CaptainKarma September 26, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Drivers need to see tickets being issued by real humans for idiotic maneuvers like cut-throughs onto parking lots which won’t show up on camera. I’m seeing this all the time lately. Some unsuspecting slower, older, handicapped person or child will be mowed down and the or to will run across state lines.

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    • Clicky Freewheel September 26, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      I agree, it’s getting crazy out there. On multiple occasions, I have seen people drive though the food cart pod near me, maneuvering around diners and tables. How dumb can you be?!

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      • PeaDub
        PeaDub October 10, 2018 at 10:36 am

        Driver entitlement is a hell of a drug…

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    • Dan A September 26, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      I’m just not even sure who these humans would be. I’ve seen one Portland police car in the last ~3 months, and the driver was speeding, then he made two lanes changes without signaling and then a left turn without signaling. Is that the guy that’s supposed to be enforcing traffic law?

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      • Clicky Freewheel September 26, 2018 at 2:54 pm

        I constantly see PPB vehicles parked on the sidewalk near the TriMet police station. Not to mention cops running red lights, driving in bike lanes, and speeding down greenways yelling at cyclists. Do as I say, not as I do.

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  • Johnny Bye Carter September 26, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Drivers shouldn’t be getting a 2 week warning period. If they aren’t paying attention to the signs then they deserve a ticket.

    Why are we still mollycoddling drivers?

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    • John Lascurettes September 26, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      I believe in this case, with photo enforcement, it’s a prudent measure to prevent any court cases claiming it was done to create a revenue-driven speed trap.

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      • Gary B September 26, 2018 at 4:33 pm

        I’m not that great of a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure “it was a revenue-driven speed trap” is not a valid affirmative defense. Practices like 10+ over are rooted in meeting the burden of proof, and Oregon law requires notice of the camera, but the grace period–I believe–is purely to not piss people off too much (i.e. political).

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      • KristenT September 27, 2018 at 9:52 am

        Like the mollycoddling drivers get when police do crosswalk stings. They put out press releases to the media including Social Media in advance, then day of they put up signs warning of a crosswalk sting at the locations of the stings to warn drivers that there is a sting happening ahead.

        And people still get caught in them, even after all that warning. And the people complain about it, too!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 26, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      I agree Johnny… But I’m pretty sure this is standard practice because if a certain amount of mollycoddling doesn’t happen the tickets won’t hold up in traffic court. A lot of how we enforce speeding (like the 11 mph over thing) and other moving violations comes down to whether or not police can be confident that a citation won’t be dismissed in traffic court. Sad but true. To change this we have to not just change transpo policy, we have to create a systemic, holistic change in our culture so that we ultimately have judges in court and people on juries who have more sympathy for vulnerable road users than for auto-protected road users.

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      • B. Carfree September 26, 2018 at 11:08 pm

        Since scofflaw motorists mostly kill other motorists, perhaps our best approach to getting meaningful traffic law enforcement (really we want compliance and see enforcement as a tool towards that end) is to create a societal change in which judges and juries see themselves as the potential victims of scofflaws rather than as scofflaws themselves. Besides, motorist vs cyclist/pedestrian runs up against tribal animosities, but scofflaw vs other motorists doesn’t.

        Now that’s going to be catch-22 hard. It probably backs up into the legislature, so we’ll need our legislators to see scofflaws as the “other” and impose upon the judges a requirement for directed verdicts when certain (likely automated) evidence is in play. So, any ideas on getting our legislators to drive lawfully, or at least to think of themselves as lawful road users?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty September 26, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      Comments like this reflect a theoretical understanding of how driving would work if robots were doing it, but no practical understanding of how driving or the human brain works.

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  • Ted Buehler September 26, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    They really need a 3-way stop at 33rd and Marine, like they have at 122nd and Marine.

    Jonathan, did you get any info on whether this was listed as a possibility as a safety improvement?

    And, I’ve sent requests regularly over the years for worn off paint and for vegetation in the bike lane on N and NE Marine. I encourage everyone to do the same. (ODOT also encourages this).

    You can complain about the system being stacked against people on bicycles, but in this case it’s just a matter of asking for maintenance, and they’ll do it. It’s not a very high threshold.

    We should also all send “thank you” emails to Commissioner Edulay for this.

    (And, if you’ve never biked to the airport for a flight, try to allow a little extra time and take 33rd/Marine to get there. It’s a great ride, and you’ll rest more comfortably on your flight).

    Ted Buehler.

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    • Chris I September 27, 2018 at 1:43 pm

      They have a 3-way stop at 122nd now?

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      • Ted Buehler September 27, 2018 at 2:00 pm

        Oops, my bad. Just checked Google Streetview.

        I guess I’ve gotten stuck driving east there at evening rush hour, the right-turning cars loops back from the 205-North onramp at Airport Way, creating a long wait for folks continuing east on Marine.

        They could use a 3-way stop at 122nd, though.

        Ted Buehler

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  • jered September 26, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    This is often part of an exercise ride of mine. I avoid Marine Drive from I-5 to the country club going through the weird hotel/townhouse area and then take a little dirt path (easy on 23’s even in the mud) up to a very calm section along the slough/marina, from there you have to ride the country club stretch, to 33rd but that is pretty easy and doesn’t feel too bad. Always nice to get some dirt in there!

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    • PS September 26, 2018 at 3:22 pm

      Just looked this up on google maps, great suggestion to extend the bridgeton detour.

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  • bikeninja September 26, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    I am more and more certain that one of our problems is that a large percentage of the drivers on the road today grew up confusing GTA ( the video game, Grand Theft Auto) with a drivers ed class.

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  • J_R September 26, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Just another joke by the City of Portland to pretend that they are making progress toward Vision Zero. The reduction in posted speed will, however, be a line item in the annual report even if there is no change in motorist behavior.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty September 26, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    Even 35 MPH on a street with old-school bike lanes seems too fast. Safety first!

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  • igor September 26, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Hello, Kitty
    Even 35 MPH on a street with old-school bike lanes seems too fast. Safety first!

    I propose that all Portland streets with unprotected bike lanes and speed limits of over 35mph should have their limits lowered to 35. What roads would that include? Greeley? I ride a stretch of Multnomah every day that’s 40mph…

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    • HJ September 26, 2018 at 11:09 pm

      Doubly so for streets without bike lanes/sidewalks. Here’s lookin’ at you Cornell Rd and Miller Rd. 45mph, residential areas, receive regular bike and ped use. No shoulder, no sidewalks, nothing.

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      • John Liu September 27, 2018 at 9:21 am

        Cornell and Miller, and similar West Hills roads, desperately need to have the pavement widened to make room for paved shoulder/bike lanes. I *think* there is enough ROW for that?

        Lower speed limits will have only a modest effect on those roads, because of the grade. It is hard to get a driver to ride the brakes all the way down a long downhill.

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    • paikiala September 27, 2018 at 10:27 am

      The new standard is 30 mph posting for unprotected bike lanes.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty September 27, 2018 at 10:54 am

        Why wasn’t that standard applied here?

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  • Mike September 26, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    I wish I could get excited about this but in all reality, it’s just a white sign with a couple numbers on it. It isn’t going to change a thing.
    Ok, it may help your estate to prove gross negligence *after* you’ve been hit but as far as effectively lowering speeds and reducing dangerous driving ahead of time?…nope.
    PPB can’t even regulate the streets closer into the precincts. I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw someone pulled over. Not the car doing 50 on Powell running a red light. Not the truck making an illegal right turn through a bike box. And certainly not the scores of vehicles with drivers on their phones.
    None of this means anything without enforcement.
    Looks good on paper though.

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    • Dan A September 27, 2018 at 8:21 am

      It’s a single lane road with double yellow lines. If one person drives slower, everyone behind them will drive slower too.

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    • paikiala September 27, 2018 at 10:28 am

      ‘All or nothing’ usually results in the latter. I’m in the ‘something is better than nothing’ camp.

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      • Clicky Freewheel September 27, 2018 at 2:06 pm

        Presenting “all or nothing” as the only two alternatives is the problem. The reality is that these things are on a spectrum. For once, it would be nice to get something “really good” rather than “half-assed”.

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    • Ted Buehler September 28, 2018 at 11:15 am

      I’m excited about improvements made by inches.

      Reducing traffic speeds by 4 mph will give all people on bikesin this corridor another second or two of time to be seen and slowed for than current conditions.

      Hoping for major fixes to major problems isn’t particularly realistic.

      And, it’s much easier to get 100 fixes by a few inches than 5 fixes by feet. (“5 mph speed limit reduction” scope vs “Foster Road Redesign” scope).

      Fixes by inches can happen fast. They don’t get political pushback. There’s lots more to choose from. They cost less then 1/20 than a big fix.

      Fixes by inches are an under-appreciated possible game changer for bicycling in Portland.
      Keep up your tweets, emails, 823-SAFE calls, etc. about small things they can easily change.

      Ted Buehler

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  • oliver September 27, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Picture number two. E view of conditions on E marine driver.

    This is something that has bothered me for years; the sand and gravel that has accumulated alongside the guardrail* needs to be scraped and swept, it covers more than half of the bike lane in places and hasn’t been cleared one time in the last 12 years that I’ve seen, and seeing the vegetation growing in it, maybe never.

    *Also, why is there even a guardail here? What is it guarding, the wall at the golf course?

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  • Greg Spencer September 27, 2018 at 9:59 am

    One useful thing about this: it could be a useful trial on the impact of speed-limit reductions as as a stand-along measure to calm traffic. ODOT’s main argument for not reducing speed limits on major arterials — NE 82nd, for example — is that they don’t work in absence of significant street modifications — e.g. road diets or lane narrowing. That makes speed-limit reductions much more costly and a much bigger “ask”. While I also hope for further interventions on Marine Drive, I hope the 35 mph limit and the camera enforcement have a good impact. It could set an important precedent.

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  • carlin September 27, 2018 at 11:34 am

    I reported multiple safety issues with this section of road to PBOT through the ORCycle app a little over a month ago and they seem to be addressing all of my concerns. I think the Portland city government takes bicycle safety seriously but they need us to report issues to them and not just complain online.

    Of course lowering speed limits, installing traffic cams and trimming foliage are easy things to do, compared to enforcing license plate visibility or arresting bike thieves.

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    • oliver September 27, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      Mea culpa; I am very much guilty of grumbling about the state of this stretch of road, while not making any formal complaints to the city about it.

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