Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 8th, 2018 at 11:59 am
I have a complicated relationship with speed bumps.
“These are terrible, speed bumps have never been an issue for bikes.”
I love them because they slow me down when I’m driving. This means streets are safer and I’m less likely to be in a crash. I like that (and my neighbors do too).
But I don’t like how speed bumps reduce comfort when I’m on my bike. When I’m riding in the city I prefer smooth streets. Even though the angle of the Bureau of Transportation’s speed bumps are relatively chill, I still feel a thump and bump when I go over them (even on my big bike with 2-inch wide tires). If I can, I’ll usually try to veer around the bumps near the curb.
Last week I found myself biking up SE Clinton near 26th when — lo and behold – there was a nice little cutout in the bump that was perfect for my tires to roll through. The nearby sharrow also happened to point right to it as if me and that little groove were destined for each other. I smiled as I rolled through without any bumping or thumping.
Then I posted a picture and glowing review on Instagram. I didn’t think it would be such a hotly debated issue; but it turns out people have many mixed feelings about these. Some say their pedals strike the bump when they go through and the channels are dangerous. Others love them as much as I do. There was also some confusion: Many people (myself included) assumed the cutouts were for emergency response vehicles.
Here’s a sampling of the 70 or so comments our post has gotten so far (a lot for our IG posts):
topramenofficial: You mean the death crevasses? Speed bumps I’m down for but those cut outs are dumber than the 2nd ave bike lane.
icomeoutatnight: Yep, those grooves are great when you pedal hits the speed bump.
liefrunsfar: Those are cool. Can we get them in @fortcollinsgov @bikefc
logangoeswest: Have to disagree with you on those cut outs as well. Not a fan! I usually go around them. If you don’t see one at night and hit it on the edge it really catches you off guard and knocks you to the side a bit. Add rain, cars, pedestrians or any other distraction/obstacle/condition to the mix and I could see a potential hazard. They are just one more you have to watch out for while trying to let your eyes on everything else.
flybytyre: Those things are for sure death traps.
toddbschmidt88: I have bottomed out a crank a few times trying to go through those cuts on NE 28th, so I just go over them now.
gabrielamadeus: These are terrible, speed bumps have never been an issue for bikes, but now these off camber curious are totally a hazard. Not to mention vehicles driving/swerving erratically trying to align their tires.
portlandgypsycab: Definitely opposed to these cut outs. Cars aim for them, bikes can’t really. It’s just easier to go over a smooth bump on the bike.
feministvagenda: When u aren’t expecting those groves they can be quite a shock! I can see how if you know they’re coming u can make them work to your advantage, but they can be dangerous for those who aren’t in the know.
hobotech_: The cargobike bottoms out on them and if you hit them wrong in the dark you’d better hold on. I haven’t had a crank hit yet but I bet that sucks. They’re the new MAX tracks.
jbogli: if I’m driving I swerve to get the smooooth spot – no lie.
geraldfitt: Also not a fan of the cut outs. They are more a hazard than they are a benefit. Glad to see most people agree on this issue. Let’s ban em.
sarah_iannarone: I find them dangerous and annoying. They’re definitely not designed w bikes in mind. Must be for firetrucks or something.
bike2brews: I came across them for the first time in the dark and almost ate it. Not a fan.
aggieotis: I love them. They allow me to shoot the line and have a smooth ride the whole way down. When carrying my kid on the bike going to school we don’t get tossed up like on a regular speed bump. And I have 200mm cranks on my regular bike (so my pedals are about an inch lower than most peoples) and I’ve checked these bumps and there’s no risk of pedal strike at all. Thanks PBOT for trying something new. I love it!
Turns out I wrote about these bumps before they went in back in January 2017. At that time I reported that PBOT would experiment with a design that would be both bike and fire-truck friendly. The city has installed fire-friendly speed bumps at several locations, including NW Cornell, and has had mixed results: They reduced speeds and emergency vehicles can get through them, but everyday drivers also swerve into the channels, creating a hazard for other road users (see photo).
After the Instagram post spurred such a difference of opinion, I decided to follow up with PBOT.
Communications Director John Brady confirmed this morning that these bumps were not designed with emergency vehicles in mind. “They are ‘bike-friendly’ speed bumps that we are testing out,” Brady shared via email. “They’re specifically designed for people on bikes.”
So… What were the test results?
“We’ve done some field observations and found that the vast majority of bikers used the channel that’s provided and that most cars were not.”
That’s good to hear; but their observations don’t mesh with the feedback we got on Instagram.
I’ve asked Brady for more details on their assessment and whether or not PBOT plans to make these standard issue on all neighborhood greenways in the future. I’ll update this post when I hear back.
Have you ridden over these? Do you like them? Or would you rather change the channels? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.