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New section of Springwater will come with 10 new stop signs for path users

Posted by on March 6th, 2019 at 1:22 pm

You can thank the ODOT Rail Division.

The Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau has started paving a new section of the Springwater Corridor path in Sellwood. This long-awaited project will close one of the last remaining gaps in this important regional path. It’s just a 0.4 mile section of the Springwater between SE Umatilla and 13th; but as any regional trail advocate will tell you, the sum impact is greater than its parts.

While it’s good to finally see progress on this segment of the “Sellwood Gap,” I was disappointed to find out that the City of Portland will install 10 stop signs along the new path. According to the official project plans, there will be stop signs (and associated stop bar striping) at the crossing of each roadway that intersects with the path: Umatilla, Harney, Marion, 9th, Linn, 11th, and 13th.

“Attempts to require path users to yield or stop at each cross-street promote noncompliance and confusion, and are not effective.”
— Alta Planning Rural Design Guide

According to a Parks spokesperson, the stop signs are mandated by the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Rail Division. They have some jurisdiction over the project because this section of the Springwater is adjacent to an extant railroad. The Oregon Pacific Railroad line is rarely used these days and travels at a very slow speed. It’s also worth noting there are no stop signs — only yield signs — where the cross-streets intersect with the path. (ODOT has now confirmed that stop signs will be added where roads cross the path.)

All these streets are very low-volume and there will be many more people using the path than using the roads.

Andrew Holtz lives near the new path and attended a recent meeting where Portland Parks staff shared a presentation about the project. He thinks erecting stop signs on the path is a terrible idea. “The dominant traffic will be trail users and they should have the right-of-way. I don’t think the stop signs will serve any purpose.” he said in an interview today. “The only people that cross those streets are a few homeowners. People using the trail will get used to never seeing cross-traffic and get into the habit of ignoring the stop signs — and that’s not a good habit!”

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Note the location of the stop sign.
(Source: Alta Planning Rural Design Guide)

Alta Planning, a national firm that designs paths and trails, echoes Holtz’s argument in their Rural Design Guide. In the section on Minor Street Crossings they write, “Attempts to require path users to yield or stop at each cross-street or driveway promote noncompliance and confusion, and are not effective.” As you can see in the graphic above, they recommend a stop sign on the cross-street, along with a crosswalk and clear sight lines to ensure safety.

The stop signs on the SE 17th Ave. path in Milwaukie were removed after lobbying from that city’s mayor.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

We’ve experienced this same issue in two very nearby locations in the past. In 2013 we reported on how the Portland Police Bureau was concerned with a lack of stop sign compliance from Springwater Path users at SE Spokane Street, just three blocks south of where this project will begin.

And just a few blocks southeast of this project, on the SE 17th Avenue path between Sellwood and Milwaukie, the City of Milwaukie was forced into the same situation. When that section of the path opened two years ago we lamented all the unnecessary stop signs. ODOT Rail engineers forced the City of Milwaukie to install them on the path — even where it crossed private residential driveways.

Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba didn’t think the signs were necessary and he eventually convinced ODOT to remove them. It remains to be seen whether anyone at the City of Portland will show as much courage as Gamba and question ODOT’s engineering.

After all, is this really about safety?

Does anyone think it makes sense to require bicycle riders to make a complete stop this often on a multi-use path where cross-traffic travels very slowly and is rarely present?

Would ODOT ever mandate stop signs like this on major driving corridor?

There must be a more sensible solution.

UPDATE, 3/7: Parks just sent out a project update that included a bit about the stop signs:

Automobile traffic will be required to come to a complete stop before crossing any point of the trail. At this point, for cyclist and pedestrian safety, there will also be STOP signs on the trail at all crossings. In these instances, the cyclist(s) and/or pedestrian(s) will have the right of way.

Interesting they wrote, “At this point.” Also of note that despite it being a 4-way stop intersection, Parks says path users will have right-of-way.

I’m still waiting for ODOT to answer some more specific questions. Will update when I hear more.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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JJJ
Guest

“ODOT Rail engineers ”

Hi, maybe leave trail design to trail experts?

We don’t ask aerospace engineers for their thoughts on traffic signal placement.

Gregg Lavender
Guest

Oregon has a supermajority. Anyone know if they are discussing the Idaho Stop Law? Delaware and Colorado are on it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idaho_stop

SuWonda
Guest
SuWonda

Platinum

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

The stop sign is a traffic control device for motor vehicle traffic.

What is a stop sign supposed to mean on a facility governed by pedestrian rules? On a pedestrian facility bicyclists have the rights and responsibilities of a pedestrian unless otherwise noted in 814.410.

If the stop sign doesn’t apply to and enforced for pedestrians, it isn’t going to mean anything to a bicyclist either. I don’t get it.

Eric H
Guest
Eric H

LOL! And everyone was so thrilled that they were finally(!!) paving this section of perfectly rideable packed gravel. Well, here’s the result. Enjoy!

Que
Guest
Que

These stop signs aren’t intended to be traffic control devices and there will never be any enforcement of compliance by law enforcement. These are placed so that if anyone on a bike is run over in a crosswalk by a motor vehicle operator, the motor vehicle operator can claim that the person on a bike “ran the stop sign” so there is no liability.

q
Guest
q

I have no idea whether Parks is correct about the ODOT Rail rules. What I do know is that Parks installed stop signs on the recently improved Willamette Greenway Trail where the trail crosses a private DRIVEWAY for the handful of houseboats south of the Sellwood Bridge, where there were no ODOT rules in play. When I objected to Parks, saying that a) it makes no sense to require hundreds of daily trail users to stop for a few users of a private driveway, b) the stop signs make no sense for pedestrians, and c) nobody will stop anyway, staff told me they would absolutely not consider removing them, and it was up to individual trail users to choose whether to comply with them or not. When I told them that just makes it more dangerous–drivers assuming someone will comply who ends up not stopping–they just didn’t want to talk to me any more.

Parks and other agencies also love to say, “Sorry–code issue that’s not our doing” to skirt responsibility. Often the code doesn’t say what they claim at all, or it allows exemptions that they don’t bother pursuing.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Each intersection already has a Yield or Stop for the street traffic. There’s no reason to put in additional stop signs for trail users when all the other traffic has the responsibility to stop.

This will also mean that trail users will have to stop even when there’s a train across the road and other street traffic can’t conflict with trail users.

If these crossings aren’t important enough to put in automated arms for the train then they’re not important enough to make all trail users stop.

catherine feta-cheese
Guest
catherine feta-cheese

An additional urgent concern about PPR’s Sellwood Gap paving project which was voiced by neighbors at the meeting is PPR’s plan to clearcut all the mature trees (incl. large fruit trees) in the woodland strip between SE 9th and 11th. Instead of saving any of the trees with a steep slope or retaining wall, PPR will devastate this strip of urban woodland and only plant “replacement” trees on a completely different lot. PPR says they are using a wide pavement, shallow slope and clearcutting of trees to provide “a higher level of comfort to cyclists.” As a neighbor and long-distance Springwater bike commuter, I find that absurd and it is heartbreaking to anticipate PPR clearcutting the old cherry, apple and other tree canopy for this paving project.

Tim E
Guest
Tim E

It really doesn’t matter what logic you apply to this situation. If ODOT has any liability, they have to demand the signage that relieves them of that liability.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Some people say that railroads are next to God in terms of authority and power. Railroads object to that characterization.

dan
Guest
dan

Holy HTML gore, Batman!

Holtz
Subscriber

SE 13th has no stop signs south of Tacoma… even where it crosses the RR south of Linn. Based on city traffic counts, there is much higher volume on the Springwater than on this part of 13th, bolstering the case that the trail is the dominant traffic flow. PBOT routinely denies requests for stop signs on dominant streets. One example is SE 13th at Sellwood Blvd/Knapp… which has frequent crashes when people try to drive across 13th in front of N/S cars.

james
Guest
james

Jesus these are so freaking stupid and unsafe. I go from Johnson Creek to downtown and have to deal with these. Every street has a crosswalk and a stop sign, so cars don’t know if to stop because we have a stop sign but if we stop they should yield, right? Who freaking knows, either lose the crosswalk or put a yield sign. No one stops at these signs because they are freaking pointless.

todd boulanger
Guest
todd boulanger

Its very odd to see much of the article and all of the comments crossed out…

Jesus
Guest
Jesus

Gotta bitch about everything.

Jason McHuff
Guest
Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Not sure what the big deal is exactly? The connecting part of the trail will be more user friendly and what’s the actual harm in stopping? I mean, it’s better for a family of 4 to stop at some low volume “intersection” then it would be for them to have to try to cross 13th and 17th. We clearly know that PPB isn’t going to toss out tickets if you don’t stop and just out of curiosity, I wonder how many people stop at SE Stanley? Probably very few despite a stop sign being there. Why can’t we celebrate this!? Seems like spilled milk.

q
Guest
q

I spent years riding and running on the Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle almost daily. I don’t remember more than a few stop signs in several miles, including in very urban areas. The first time I rode very far east on the Springwater I couldn’t believe how many stop signs there were, and have never bothered riding there since.

This new link, in comparison to the Burke-Gilman, looks like a toy trail–better than nothing, but so much less than it could be. Maybe that could be its slogan.

Matt M
Guest
Matt M

This is great! It is going to dump a whole bunch more cyclists into the Garthwick neighborhood…. they are going to throw a NIMBY fit, and hopefully their irritation will force the City to figure out how to finish the last 0.4 mile section that is not getting paved as part of this project. Then the final big issue will be a redesign of the 17th and Ochoco intersection with a safe pedestrian crossing!!!

eddie
Guest
eddie

Can anyone confirm that it’s a $242 ticket to run each or any of these stop signs on a bike? I got 242-ed downtown several years ago, but that was downtown. In front of the police station. In front of a cop.

Al
Guest
Al

Stop signs like this already exist on the section of Springwater from Gresham to Boring, even for driveways that property owners have permanently blocked and can’t possibly have cross traffic. Progress!

axoplasm
Subscriber

What is it about railroad-adjacent infrastructure that makes planners lose their dang minds? I’m reminded of that fence appearing for all of a week in Willamette Park (https://bikeportland.org/2018/01/10/making-sense-of-the-fence-why-parks-closed-a-path-into-willamette-park-264153)

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

I haven’t been riding on the Springwater for a few years. Less worried about the potential for violence but just didn’t want to have to explain to my kids what the “man shooting up” is doing. I was just wondering if it has gotten better. If it hasn’t, why are we investing in more homeless encampment areas?

Zack Rules
Guest
Zack Rules

How funny, stop signs on trails were conceived many years ago by traffic engineers to “warn” trail users they were coming to a roadway. Nowadays, the MUTCD says engineers should only put trail stops where people biking are required to stop. https://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/2009r1r2/mutcd2009r1r2edition.pdf The AASHTO bikeway design guide also explicitly does not recommend use of stop signs on trails http://imentaraddod.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/AASHTO-GBF-4-2012-bicycle.pdf The real question is, why are your local Agencies not following Federal rules and best practices? ODOT has had significant compliance issues with not following Federal rules and regs (ie ADA) in the immediate past. Do they want more liability for an unsafe design/

q
Guest
q

Doug Hecker
Stop signs at driveways are much different than at real streets. Jonathan’s example is misleading but I think you already knew but you’d rather fish for an example then give an actual 1-1 example. Also, the engineers that you bring up are primarily pro- bike and it’s easy to take them for their word but I have yet to live in a place where stop signs were viewed as unsafe. Good luck in your pursuit in getting people to believe that wild scenario.Recommended 0

If you won’t accept my opinion, or others here, or Alta’s, how about the Uniform Manual of Traffic Control Devices? I took the following excerpt from this article, which is one of many discussing stop signs on bike paths:

http://wabikes.org/2010/11/15/stop-signs-the-kudzu-of-american-bike-paths/

Here’s the excerpt:

Traffic engineers know that if you put too many stop signs where they don’t belong, people—both drivers and cyclists–will start ignoring them. In fact, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials says that it’s a “misconception” to think that peppering bike trails with stop signs is a good way to reduce crashes. Thus, the national engineering standards that govern such things urge local officials to go easy on the stop signs on bike-pedestrian trails.

The 2009 edition of the Uniform Manual of Traffic Control Devices (the engineers’ bible for such things) says that: “Speed should not be the sole factor used to determine priority, as it is sometimes appropriate to give priority to a high-volume shared-use path crossing a low-volume street, or to a regional shared-use path crossing a minor collector street.”

The draft American guidelines for cycling facility design say that “ installing unwarranted or unrealistically restrictive controls on path approaches in an attempt to ‘protect’ path users can lead to disregard of controls and intersection operating patterns that are routinely different than indicated by the controls. This can increase an unfamiliar driver’s risk of collision, and potentially lead to a loss of respect for the [traffic] control…”

Ron Swaren
Guest
Ron Swaren

OMG, I’m going to miss out on those bikers with no horn, no lights, riding through the stop signs on my street. Oh, the horror. Guess I’ll get in my bunker now.