BikePortland

County shares plans to address cycling safety during major road closure


County will install signs advising drivers to use caution around bicycle riders on roads like NW Skyline Blvd.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last week we reported on a project that will close NW Cornelius Pass Road between Highway 30 and NW Germantown Road to through traffic for 13 weeks starting July 8th. Cornelius Pass is a major highway that connects Washington County (near Highway 26) with Scappoose and other destinations along Highway 30.

This is a big deal for bicycle riders because the project will detour thousands of people driving cars and trucks onto what are usually quiet, rural roads that happen to be on very popular cycling routes.

Concerned about safety impacts, we asked Multnomah County if they’d considered bicycle riders in their detour and outreach plans. So far the traffic plans shown on the County’s website and other materials makes no specific mention of cycling routes or cycling-related safety issues. Thankfully it now appears the County will integrate cycling-specific safety messages into their plans.

The average daily traffic volume (ADT) of the section of Cornelius Pass that will be detoured is around 13,000 driving trips. According to the County, about 13 percent of those — around 1,500 vehicles — are big-rig trucks and buses that will take an all-highway detour that won’t have a big impact on cycling. However, that still leaves about 11,500 additional car and (non-commercial) truck trips that will be using roads like NW Newberry, NW Skyline, NW Old Cornelius Pass, NW Phillips and others during the closure.

Yesterday I heard back from County spokesperson Mike Pullen about what they plan to do to address cycling conditions and make drivers aware of the presence of bicycle riders on the roads. Here’s the plan:

Signs: We will install signs on popular cycling roads near Cornelius Pass Road to alert drivers that cyclists are likely to be on the road. These roads will include Skyline, Newberry, Old Cornelius Pass Road, and probably Germantown and McNamee.

Outreach/Communication: We will be sending a mailer to a large zone in the three impacted counties, issuing news releases, project updates, social media posts and maintaining the project webpage. A key message for the public will be for all road users to share the road and be alert for increased traffic on sideroads and the presence of bicyclists. A message for recreational cyclists will be to alert them to the increased traffic we expect on specific sideroads so they can avoid the area if they choose.

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No Trucks: A big part of our safety plan is to restrict large trucks and buses from narrow sideroads where they are not permitted. We will be installing more signs to on sideroads where through trucks are banned (such as Newberry and Logie Trail Roads) and working with the Sheriff’s Office to enforce the restriction and cite truck drivers who violate the bans.

Some members of the County’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee thought speed bumps on NW Newberry (the main detour route and favorite climb of many riders) would be a good idea. Pullen said they reviewed that idea; but because driving speeds are expected to already be slow due to the increase in traffic volume. “Installing speed humps on a steep, curving rural road is not warranted, according to our engineer,” Pullen said. He also shared that a temporary traffic signal will be installed on Highway 30 at NW Newberry.

Another idea floated by people concerned about cycling safety was to create special pullouts in shoulders. “In practice, it’s hard to do this,” Pullen shared in an email yesterday. “Bicyclists will tend to find a wide spot in the road or a driveway if they need to get out of traffic in an area where roads are narrow.”

So as of now, beyond the signal at Newberry and Highway 30, there’s no hard infrastructure planned to help mitigate safety concerns related to this project detour. The focus from the County is signs, outreach and enforcement.

Once the detour starts in July we’ll monitor the situation closely. I ride these roads a lot myself, but please get in touch if you have feedback or experiences to share.

More info: Cornelius Pass Road Safety Improvements project page and traffic plan.

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

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