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SW Multnomah/Garden Home project is an opportunity for a better bikeway

Posted by on December 19th, 2018 at 2:33 pm


*Two concepts under consideration by PBOT

(UPDATE, 12/20: PBOT has just released new designs and the online survey. Check it out here.)

Big changes are coming to a crash-prone intersection in Southwest Portland thanks to a $2.1 million project co-sponsored by the transportation departments of Portland and Washington County.

The two agencies will split costs to update the intersection of SW Multnomah Boulevard, Garden Home Road and 69th Avenue. The goal of the project is to reduce crashes, improve sight distance, reduce vehicle delays and improve bicycling and walking conditions.

As you can see in the images, this is a non-standard intersection with tricky curves and turning movements that can be unpredictable because there are no median islands or diverters. A high volume of drivers (about 17,000 cars and trucks enter the intersection daily), lack of a signal, and at-grade parking lots owned by adjacent property owners add to the stress and potential for collisions.

In the ten years between 2006 to 2015 PBOT has recorded 33 crashes at this intersection. One of them was fatal, five of them included a bicycle rider and nearly half involved turning motor vehicles.

“I could save us all a bunch of money and just put up some stop signs.”.
— Eric Wilhelm, local resident

After an initial study into possible fixes, PBOT has come up with two concepts: a roundabout and a complete realignment that would include a traffic signal. Now they’re entering a public outreach phase where they hope to learn more from road users before adopting a final design.

BikePortland reader and SW Portland transportation activist Eric Wilhelm has been following this project closely. He’s eager to make this intersection better because he says it provides a direct and flat connection to about one-third of the area’s bikeway network. But from what he’s learned and seen so far, Eric is unimpressed with the approach. In an email today, Eric wrote that he’s concerned too much of the planning has focused on driving ease and access. “What really troubled me from the start,” he wrote, “is that PBOT seems to be focusing the outreach on how each of the two concepts will affect drivers… The two designs are both flawed by this car-centric approach.”

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*Naomi Fast (@_the_clearing) made this video of the intersection a few days ago.

Eric says at least one person at a recent neighborhood meeting complained about how possible turning restrictions would force them to drive out of their way to get home.

Project Open House

PBOT will host an open house for this project on January 17th. See the BikePortland Calendar for details.

In terms of which of the two designs he feels would work best, Eric says having a signal would make crossing easier. He worries that the roundabout wouldn’t do enough to slow drivers down — especially those headed westbound. The roundabout also looks like it might not have any dedicated space for cycling (for what it’s worth, the signal concept has only unprotected bike lanes shown at this point).

“I could save us all a bunch of money and just put up some stop signs,” Eric shared in jest.

With an entrance to the Fanno Creek Trail just a half-mile away, if we get this intersection right it could create a much-needed link in the sparse southwest Portland bike network.

To help get more people engaged, Eric is leaded the Westside Wet Wonk Ride tomorrow (12/20) at 5:30. Meet at Bar 3 (4444 SW Multnomah) if you’d like to join.

And save the date of January 17th on your calendar. That’s when PBOT will host an official open house for this project. It will be from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Garden Home Rec Center (7475 SW Oleson Rd). We’ll need lots of voices to help make this project as good as possible for cycling. Stay tuned for the online survey and if you live in the area watch for PBOT coming to the neighborhood and make sure to bend their ear with your thoughts and feedback.

Check out the official project page to sign up for updates and learn more.

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

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Eric Wilhelm
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Eric Wilhelm

I’m not joking about the stop signs. Either plan is overkill and they really just need to slow down the cars. At peak commute times, there will be a line of cars backed-up from Oleson to this point anyway but the high speeds through the wooded mile are dangerous and unpleasant for people biking alongside that car traffic. There will be a line of cars at the light at 45th and at Oleson. The long stretch in between gives a false sense of highway to this one mile of street where people often walk in the bike lane for lack of sidewalks. In fact, Kurkowski lost his life to what was most likely Willard Tow’s confidence in exactly that false sense of open road.

https://bikeportland.org/2016/05/30/someone-has-died-in-a-collision-on-sw-multnomah-184606

We’re not gaining anything by prioritizing car movement anywhere on this corridor.

Matt Hodson
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Matt Hodson

That intersection causes me heartache every time I bike home; I follow the curve to the left along the (rapidly fading) bike lane, but – almost every trip – someone crosses dangerously in front of me so they can head west. Neither choice looks like it would do a good job to stop this.

Dave Roth
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Dave Roth

Having recently taken a job in Tigard while still living in North Portland, I’m becoming quite familiar with cycling through this intersection and it’s one of about 5 or 6 somewhat terrifying trouble spots on my route home. Terrifying even for a very experienced cyclist. Realigning or adding a roundabout, if designed well, could really clean up this intersection and provide more clarity as to what pedestrians, cyclists and drivers are supposed to do to safely navigate it. For those cyclists travelling North/South through here, there’s a nice little neighborhood cut-thru to the south using 69th Ave and Raz Court. It would be great to see the project & design acknowledge it and provide opportunities for cyclists to use the cut-thru to get off of the main roads and onto some of the quieter neighborhood streets. I think Washington County is still working on a bike boulevard plan – maybe this route has been considered already.

Bill
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Bill

I used to bike through this section on my daily commute. I think a roundabout makes great sense here. My credentials? I now live in Bend and we have a ton of them. You do not need a bike lane in a roundabout and you do not want one. The “pro” commuters will take the lane as bikes can go through roundabouts faster than cars (bikes go almost straight, where wide cars have to make the curve). For the non-pro riders, the bike lanes lead you onto the sidewalk where you can go as slow as needed. They really do a great job of calming traffic, massively reducing serious accidents, and are much more efficient than a 4-way stop.

Roland Klasen
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Roland Klasen

This is my daily commute. The biggest danger is:

1. Heading east on Garden Home through the intersection turning left to Multnomah and getting hit by a car turning right to continue east on Garden Home. You have to look ahead (see #2) and can’t see what’s happening behind you. I’m signaling left like crazy and pray I don’t get hit.

2. At the same time you have to watch out for cars on 69th and Garden Home on the east side of the intersection turning left onto Garden Home west. This intersection is VERY busy during rush hour with very small breaks in traffic and these cars are very agressive crossing the street.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

I come from the UK, a country where traffic engineers believe every problem can be solved with roundabouts. It creates a really hostile environment for pedestrians, and is perfectly illustrated by the two side by side diagrams. Just look at how much extra walking distance is added for someone walking east along the south side of SW Multnomah and onto Garden Home.

Andrew Kreps
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Andrew Kreps

I know it’s a preliminary drawing, but why are there dashed lines for the bike lane on one side of the street but not the other? Also, relevant to recent discussion, do those dashes grant me any more legal rights when I ride through them than when they aren’t there?

AndyK
Subscriber

+1 for the roundabout.

Vince
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Vince

I am glad that something is going to be done with that intersection. Only if you are riding west from Multnomah does it feel slightly comfortable, and even then cars slide into the bike lane for a little more speed. And for what it is worth, I think the roundabout makes the most sense.
But I have to take issue with two things. First, please keep in mind that this is a joint project between Washington County and PBOT. Will WA Co residents be included in the survey?
Second, connection to the Fanno Creek Trail is mentioned suggesting that the FCT is a key to bike transportation in this area. I am not surprised to see this; City of Beaverton has also mentioned the FCT in their plans. But the fact remains that the FCT is managed by THPRD. Why should transportation be delegated to a Parks district? Shouldn’t that be the responsibility of a transportation department? It is not like THPRD has done a stellar job in managing this trail. If you attend the Jan 17, ride the first 1/2 mile of the trail from the Garden Home Rec Center and look at the drop offs, the dangerous lip as you move out of the parking lot, the fence with exposed pipes at chest height, and the narrowness of the trail as it passes though the trees. And then there is the lack of priority as a transportation link that THPRD gives to this section of trail. This is evidenced by the amount of time that the trail has been closed for various Portland water projects( yes, it is in Washington Co) It has been closed for MONTHS at a time. Washington County ought to be working on fixing Gareden Home Road between 92nd and Oleson rather than sloughing off their responsibilities to THPRD. An improved Garden Home road with sidewalks would connect the neighborhoods along that street making a much more pedestrian freindly area.

David LaPorte
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David LaPorte

I ride through this intersection fairly regularly when I bike home from work (Tigard to NE Portland), and when I go to Old Market Pub. It is one of my least favorite intersections, and is long overdue for an upgrade! I think I would lean towards a red-light option, but I really hope any design includes better sidewalks and more confined entrances/exits to Old Market Pub.

Tim
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Tim

Roundabouts where you take the lane through the intersection work great, but american style roundabouts where cyclists are expected to exit the roadway, and cross the road outside of the intersection are a disaster. The entire idea of the roundabout is no right angle intersections, but this plan requires the cyclist to make multiple right angle turns through curb cuts while watching out for traffic that is watching for vehicles coming from a different location. Look where the crossings are. What percentage of drivers will stop or even slow down at these crossings?

meh
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meh

I like the round-a-bout better than the alternative, but even then the way 69th intersects would is still problematic. Almost but not quite part of the round about flow.

Buff Brown
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Buff Brown

I ride through this all the time, too, and I am with Eric on his interest in a simpler solution. Both of these designs are $2 million. For $100K they could align the intersections as in #2 and put raised crossings with no traffic signal — maintaining existing . This solves all, and allows the rest of the dollars to be spent on something really good, like a protected cycle track to Fanno Creek Trail. Roundabouts are about cars and are over-designed. Bringing Garden Home (to the east) to a right-angle with Multnomah Blvd eliminates the risks when riding eastbound, and I agree that the entrances to Old Towne parking should be really small and all curb radii should be small to encourage slow turns, then the crossings should be raised to slow cars, then everyone wins.

Dan Sparks
Guest
Dan Sparks

I commute through here as well. Agree that heading East is really sketchy, both from the right hook potential from cars heading straight up Garden Home Rd, and then from cars heading West on Garden Home that get really aggressive trying to get out into the road because they’ve been sitting there forever. The bike lane in that curve is trash as well. The road quality is really poor and usually full of gravel. I often just kick into traffic during the morning commute Eastbound, as it makes it so I can’t be right hooked, prevents cars from pulling out into to me (since they don’t want to hit the car trapped behind me, even if they don’t care about running over a bicycle), gets me out of the crummy bike lane, and also gets me space from the cars wanting to turn that just plain creep out into the bike line anyway to get a jump when they have a hole in traffic.

Of course this pisses off the cars behind me briefly, but generally often it feels like the safest navigation.

Garden Home is my hood, and I’ve seen several post about this intersection on Next Door. This move is definitely fueled by car drivers, so I would not be surprised at all if the “solution” ends being car-centric.

I think the problems stem from just the sheer volume of cars. People are complaining because they don’t like waiting to make turns there, or waiting because of the heavy traffic bunched up by the light at Oleson, or those darn pedestrians that stop traffic at the crosswalk to Thriftway. If you are driving on the main road either way, it flows pretty nicely during non rush hour, but drivers also don’t like making the transition to the slower speeds when heading West. I always slow down to the 25 mph speed limit and almost always the car behind me goes into massive tailgating mode.

That crosswalk is heavily used as well and I think the problems at the intersection are related to the whole section from the intersection at Oleson to the high speeds on Multnomah Blvd.

I’ve personally seen several crash scenes up in the section by Thriftway, usually with Eastbound traffic and at the intersections of 71st and 74th, and only one at the actual intersection in question.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Bike lanes in a modern roundabout are a no-no.
The best modern roundabout design for cyclists provides two choices. The more confident cyclist should merge with through traffic and circulate like a motorist. This is made easier by the low-speed operational environment of the modern roundabout, which should not exceed 20 mph (30 kph).
The less confident cyclist should be provided a ramp to exit the street and use a shared use path around the roundabout. Such paths should be at least ten feet wide (3 m) and cyclist operate at low speeds, crossing at the pedestrian crossings. Sometimes space constraints, as with other intersection types, limit ideal design.

Safety Analysis:
MN: https://www.lrrb.org/pdf/201228.pdf
FHWA: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/innovative/roundabouts/ped_bike_brochure/index.cfm#pic4

Bikes in roundabouts videos:
Clearwater Beach, Florida: http://vimeo.com/54317041
La Jolla, California : http://vimeo.com/61988764
Bend, Oregon: http://tinyurl.com/bikesRABBendOR
New York DOT: http://tinyurl.com/bikeRABNYdot
Vancouver, BC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD9ZLLDsk1Y
Oslo, Norway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FqpYOryQbA

In other countries, separate cycle tracks are used and here’s a video of how they work at modern roundabouts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEXD0guLQY0

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

People using the road make mistakes (like running stop signs and red lights), always have and always will. Crashes will always be with us, but they need not result in fatalities or serious injury.

Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world – the intersection type with the lowest risk of fatal or serious injury crashes – (much more so than comparable signals). Modern roundabouts require a change in speed and alter the geometry of one of the most dangerous parts of the system – intersections.

The reduction in speed to about 20 mph and sideswipe geometry mean that, when a crash does happen at a modern roundabout, you usually need a tow truck, not an ambulance. Visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Roundabouts are one of several proven road safety features (FHWA).
The life saved may be your own.
https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/roundabouts/
https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/innovative/roundabouts/

Modern, slow and go, roundabout intersections have less daily delay than a stop light or stop sign, especially the other 20 hours a day people aren’t driving to or from work (it’s the #2 reason they’re built). Average daily delay at a signal is around 12 seconds per car. At a modern roundabout average daily delay is less than five seconds. Signals take an hour of demand and restrict it to a half hour, at best only half the traffic gets to go at any one time. ‘At best’ because traffic signals must have the yellow and all red portion (6+ seconds per cycle) for safety, and modern roundabouts do not. At a modern roundabout, drivers entering from different directions can all enter at the same time. Don’t try that with a signalized intersection.

Roads using signals are often widened just because of the signal delay and need to store cars waiting for a green. Roundabouts reduce such need for wider roads between roundabout intersections. A future expense avoided.

Buff Brown
Guest
Buff Brown

Please note the immense widening of Garden Home with the signalized version; not only is there a left-turn lane, but there’s a right turn lane, and later they may determine that Garden Home westbound leg will need a left-turn lane, and, in order to safely have the users of 69th, they signal will need to be split-phased so they have their own timing like the corner of 45th and Multnomah Blvd. Suddenly this thing is a monster and a major congestion point.
Thus, the answer should be a roundabout, or a simple fix of sidewalks and a realigning of Garden Home east-leg to T into Multnomah Blvd, some speed reduction strategies, and a good ped crossing or three, and see what great bike path improvements will allow safe connection to FCT.
This is how it works, road projects are for cars. Bike/ped are completely secondary. This will cost millions to make it “safe” for cars. Then, after that, they do their best to make it passable by bike/ped as long as it doesn’t reduce car safety, because the standards relate to driving safety.
Here, you have a chance to really make this a bike/ped project my making some simple changes with sidewalks and realignments without adding any lanes or any delay, and have the money to do something that is purely for bike/ped. Take option 3… one that’s not yet on the table.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

People will die and be seriously injured with a signalized intersection. That’s a fact. Plus, lights are dependent on electricity. You know…not exactly a perfectly reliable thing.

Round abouts are best. Signalized intersection enrichen lawyers, signal engineers and techs and hospitals. Everyone else, but fast drivers, lose.