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City lowers speed limits in latest effort to control the insanity on Marine Drive

Posted by on May 31st, 2019 at 10:43 am

PBOT crews installed the new signs this morning.
(Photo: City of Portland)

Marine Drive has been a problem child for the Portland Bureau of Transportation for years and the city hopes recent disciplinary actions help set it straight.

The road’s design encourages dangerous driving and the city has tried all types of tricks to slow people down and prevent them from running into each other, or from running off the road and into the Columbia River — something that happens more often than you think.

In one week last month, two drivers failed to control their vehicles and ended up in the river. One of them didn’t make it out alive.

The latest move is a speed limit reduction from 45 to 40 mph on an 8.5 mile segment between NE 33rd and 185th (Portland city limits). Last year PBOT lowered the speed limit west of this segment (from 40 to 35) and installed speed cameras at two locations (33rd and 138th).

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It’s really a two-lane freeway.

Why the fuss? Consider these stats: Between 2012 and 2016, there were 189 total crashes on Marine Drive between 33rd and 185th. Those crashes included four fatalities and 144 injuries. Since 2017, six people have died while driving on that segment. Turns out streets that have no guardrails (it’s built on a federally protected levee), are adjacent to industrial/rural zoning, have straight and clear sightlines and relatively few stop signs and traffic signals, are a petri dish for dangerous decisions.

And of course Marine Drive isn’t just an arterial for driving on, it happens to be a vital part of the very popular 40-Mile Loop bike route and serves as a gateway to many popular areas.

PBOT says this is just part of their ongoing war on speeders and dangerous drivers on Marine Drive. The construction schedule for this summer also includes: a new traffic signal at NE 122nd, gaps filled in the existing path from NE 112th to NE 185th, flashing beacons at NE 112th and NE 138th), buffered bike lanes from NE 112th to NE 122nd, and centerline rumble strips from 33rd to 185th.

— 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 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

66 Comments
  • Avatar
    J_R May 31, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Simply changing the speed signs to a depict a smaller number doesn’t really count as “part of their ongoing war on speeders and dangerous drivers on Marine Drive.” Changing the signs will result in more motorists being in violation of the law.

    I’ve detected no change in the speeds on my street as a result of the Speed 20 sign the city installed. I don’t expect Speed 40 signs on Marine Drive will produce anything different.

    Some kind of enforcement will be needed to cause a change in behavior on Marine Drive and elsewhere.

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      paikiala June 4, 2019 at 12:35 pm

      A. You can’t enforce a lower speed limit until it is posted.
      B. The police enforce speeds.

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        J_R June 4, 2019 at 1:13 pm

        A. You can’t enforce the speed limits unless you are willing to devote resources to enforce them.
        B. There is little evidence that traffic laws are actually being enforced in Portland in any meaningful way.

        The PPB statistics indicate only about 90 traffic stops per day (drivers and pedestrians). During an average day in Portland, vehicles travel about 9 million miles. That’s one traffic stop for every 100,000 miles of driving. That is virtually no enforcement.

        Today, I had an extraordinarily busy day with about an hour driving. I had people blowing past me on OR 99E at 10 or more mph above the speed limit and saw four motorists run stale red lights (they’d been red for a full second or more).

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    dan May 31, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Jersey barriers, curbs, or guardrails built on the current fog line would probably help, but I know the city doesn’t care enough to take those kinds of measures. Even rumble strips would probably help, but again, much cheaper and easier politically to mumble “vision zero” while updating some signs.

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      Steve B June 3, 2019 at 5:57 pm

      Certainly more can be done, though my understanding is there are constraints to adding these types of treatments on top of the Marine drive berm.

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    Middle of The Road Guy May 31, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Enforce Enforce Enforce. And crack down on the folks racing there at night.

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      bikeninja May 31, 2019 at 11:30 am

      We agree again, but we may have to figure out a way to reshape county borders to get this in to Washington County. My new Saturday morning hobby is to ride up to the pedestrian bridge crossing hwy 26 at the Sunset Transit Center and watch the Washington County Sheriff’s Motorcycle cops ticketing scofflaws from Portland heading Westbound. They know it is easy picking because the speed crazed motorists from Portland are so used to having no enforcement of traffic laws that they break the speed limits without even thinking about it. My favorite is when one of these speed criminals is caught near my vantage point and I can see the dazed and befuddled look on their face as they get a ticket , it is like they are seeing Elvis risen from the dead.

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    John Lascurettes May 31, 2019 at 11:19 am

    So, they’re lowering the speed on an undivided 2-lane highway from a lethal to still lethal (not even taking into account the speeding). Plus add 40 to 40 in a head-on collision and things get worse. I really don’t see how this is going to help much.

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      Johnny Bye Carter May 31, 2019 at 5:16 pm

      “Plus add 40 to 40 in a head-on collision and things get worse.”

      Physics doesn’t work that way, it’s still 40. That’s better than 45 but as you say it’s still going to kill you. Better the cars aren’t crashing at all.

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        John Lascurettes June 1, 2019 at 11:27 am

        Please explain yourself. Because that’s the way math (and physics) works. The speed differential between two cars doing 40 MPH in opposite directions is 80 MPH. Yes, that’s better than a 90 MPH differential, but it’s still too high a differential to have on a 2-lane undivided highway.

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        meh June 3, 2019 at 6:20 am

        And that is just a myth. Head on collision is not double the force.
        http://warp.povusers.org/grrr/collisionmath.html

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          John Lascurettes June 3, 2019 at 9:41 am

          Last I checked, there’s not that many brick walls to collide with at 40 MPH on Marine drive unless you want to count two overpasses. I’m still going to assert that an 80 MPH differential is worse than a 40 MPH one.

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            John Lascurettes June 3, 2019 at 9:44 am

            Ah, never mind. I finally read it all the way through. Yes, a head collision on is like hitting a brick wall at 40 MPH (if they’re only doing that). So yeah, enough to kill still. An more importantly enough to nearly always kill anyone outside of the car.

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        meh June 3, 2019 at 6:22 am

        Does nothing without enforcement. Throw the police out there every day for a month and ticket everyone exceeding the limit. No warnings, tickets for everyone. Then one day a month ever after do a blitz.

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    Chris I May 31, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Narrow roads reduce speeds. Why can’t we shift both lanes south and install a jersey barrier with bi-directional MUP on the north side? This would:
    1. Reduce average speeds (11ft lanes with no shoulders)
    2. Eliminate the risk of drivers ending up in the water
    3. Protect vulnerable road users.

    The disconnected MUPs are unacceptable, and discourage all but the bravest cyclists. I very rarely see anyone walking or running east of I-205 for this reason.

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    SilkySlim May 31, 2019 at 11:50 am

    Geez, bunch of negativity up in here.

    I’m a big fan of reducing speed limits. Effectiveness aside (we will see….), it is just so simple and cheap. Probably took an afternoon to swap in a new set of 10-20 signs. A great starting point. Should have done 35mph if you ask me, but this is something.

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    Ed May 31, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Clearly 40 mph is way too fast for any non freeway road in the city. Unfortunately, on roads like this it is ODOT that has final say over speed limits.

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    9watts May 31, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Folks here object, but the fact remains that not only does road design encourage speeding, the way cars are designed to insulate us from our surroundings, mask the dangers we pose to ourselves and others. The mandated steel spike in the center of the steering wheel—the inverse of the airbag if you will—would go a long way toward driving home the point.

    As to the naysayers, in the long run I think lowering the speed limit is all to the good. Effects may not show up immediately, but some things take time.

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      Pete S. May 31, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      I’ve often thought that the world would be a much better place if all cars were replaced with VW Vanagons.

      Too slow for speeding to be an issue
      Highly unreliable so many would remain immobilized
      Very dangerous to its occupants in the event of a crash

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        Toby Keith May 31, 2019 at 9:07 pm

        And terrible emissions to boot!

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      Steve Scarich June 2, 2019 at 8:54 am

      You’re absolutely correct; my 4200 lb. sedan feels, and sounds, about the same at 40 mph as does at 100 mph.

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    Hazel May 31, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Speed limits are being lowered all over the city but I’m not really seeing any change in driving behavior.

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      Chris I May 31, 2019 at 1:58 pm

      You do in the areas that have speed cameras.

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        Johnny Bye Carter May 31, 2019 at 5:18 pm

        And only in the half mile leading up to the camera.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2019 at 2:43 pm

      I agree with you Hazel that speed limits are not a magic bullet. I think they are a nice piece of the puzzle however, and are absolutely part of the solution. I do believe that lower limits lead to lower speeds, and they’re especially effective when paired with speed cameras (which Marine Drive has) because the cameras are then set to the lower limit (after a grace period of course).

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        Stephen Keller May 31, 2019 at 4:02 pm

        Seems like GPS-enabled engine controls could be tied to posted speed limits for each locale such that speeding was impossible.

        It would take a federal or (at least) a state mandate to implement

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          Asher Atkinson May 31, 2019 at 11:55 pm

          Automatic adherence to speed limits is already an option available from several car manufacturers. I believe Audi, Ford, and Mercedes are examples. This will soon be an available option on most cars. So the implementation is already happening without government mandates. I think the more important hurdle is adoption, and the key to that is insurance companies providing meaning incentives to drivers utilizing these maturing safety technologies.

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        J_R June 3, 2019 at 4:15 pm

        Changing the speed limits may be a “nice piece of the puzzle,” but it appears to be one of the only pieces being used. Because we’re not electing to do any enforcement, the puzzle will never be completed. It looks like Vision Zero is a fancy box with about two puzzle pieces in it. It’s not very rewarding or satisfying once you open it. We’re still killing one person per week on average and we’re still mesmerized by the fancy box.

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      paikiala June 4, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Where have you measured?

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    Todd Boulanger May 31, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Part of the problem is still how this issue is viewed and communicated:
    “PBOT says this is just part of their ongoing war on speeders and dangerous drivers on Marine Drive. ”
    Speeding as a motor vehicle condition is “dangerous driving” in our Vision Zero policy era.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2019 at 2:36 pm

      Those were my words Todd, not PBOT’s. And I don’t really see your point FWIW.

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        Todd Boulanger May 31, 2019 at 4:21 pm

        Jonathan, good to know that was your word choice vs PBoT…
        What I was trying to point out is that speeding is also dangerous driving, period. Perhaps your were thinking of “aggressive” driving as a word choice.

        SPEEDING:
        Most communities that have adopted vision zero (fully and effectively) would say that any speeding especially US roadways that are regulated by the [now out of date] 85 percentile rule of thumb…where it is expected that all drivers are prudent and can safely set the operational speed no matter the conditions (day/ nite, dry/ wet, alert/ sleepy/ stresses, etc.)…thus already too ‘permissive’ and thus extra dangerous to vulnerable roadway users. [Versus streets with speeds modified under vision zero: Locations with possible conflicts between pedestrians and cars (18 mph vs. 30 or 35 mph more common in Portland), Intersections with possible side impacts between cars (31 mph vs. 40 or 45 or 50 mph common in Portland), etc.

        https://visionzeronetwork.org/resources/safety-over-speed/

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        Johnny Bye Carter May 31, 2019 at 5:22 pm

        “PBOT says this is just part of their ongoing war on speeders and dangerous drivers on Marine Drive.”

        Should have been:

        PBOT says this is just part of their ongoing war on dangerous drivers on Marine Drive.”

        The term “speeders” is redundant because they’re already in with dangerous drivers. The way it’s written makes it seem like speeders are not part of the dangerous drivers group.

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    • Avatar
      Chris I May 31, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      Speeding is dangerous, but there are also dangerous driving behaviors that don’t involve speeding.

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    Babygorilla May 31, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    dan
    Jersey barriers, curbs, or guardrails built on the current fog line would probably help, but I know the city doesn’t care enough to take those kinds of measures. Even rumble strips would probably help, but again, much cheaper and easier politically to mumble “vision zero” while updating some signs.Recommended 4

    Not that PBOT would implement those infrastructure changes because where have they, but this road is subject to some sort of oversight / regulation by FEMA / Army Corps of Engineers (levy certification issues for flood protection) and physical intrusions into the levy may limit design options.

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    Al May 31, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Good. Maybe when enforcing the new speed limit, they can also enforce stop signs for the FedEx and Amazon delivery trucks, sometimes double long trucks which pull out on to Marine without stopping! I have had several encounters as both a driver and cyclist like this.

    What are trucks like that doing on Marine to begin with? They have access to the highway in Troutdale!

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    pdx2wheeler May 31, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Like they say, “Enforce or it didn’t happen “…

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    Johnny Bye Carter May 31, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    “it happens to be a vital part of the very popular 40-Mile Loop bike route”

    Only around 15% of it from 13th to 33rd. The rest is a MUP next to Marine Drive. That 15% section isn’t even “vital” since you can go around it through Delta Park. It’s an ever smaller section when you look at the entire look and not just Marine Drive. Granted, it’s the worst section because it’s a bike lane.

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    Johnny Bye Carter May 31, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    The easy solution here seems to be to close Marine Drive at the Sea Scouts Camp and just have a large turn-around. They could even put in a small park. That will stop most all of the traffic instantly.

    This is a narrow road along a river serving boat docks and should not be a through commute route for motor vehicles.

    Columbia Blvd will handle any local industrial traffic.

    I don’t see any justification for leaving it open as a through road.

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    • Avatar
      Middle of the Road Guy June 2, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      I’m guessing you don’t use it as a through road.

      This city is woefully lacking in East/West thoroughfares which is why Marine gets used that way.

      If you don’t use it, i can understand why it seems like a foreign concept.

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  • Avatar
    resdar May 31, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Two quick notes about the intersection of 33rd and Marine Drive:

    – 33rd and Marine Drive seriously needs a traffic signal. Pull up a seat and watch the driver drama there any weekday afternoon.

    – Note that the speed camera is near 33rd. Also, note that the speed limit changes substantially at 33rd. The camera is on the reduced speed side. That’s what drivers will name a speed trap, and that’s something they’ll show up to complain about. This specific speed camera is primed to be a thorn in the heel of future speed camera placement. The reduction in speed differential won’t eliminate that risk.

    All of this is a long way of saying that signalling more intersections on Marine Drive would be more effective at sustainably reducing speeds and improving safety. Cameras are a delayed enforcement tool, not proactive speed controls. Even the worst drivers hit the brakes when they see a red light. Sure, they’ll hit the brakes when they see a speed camera too, although cameras don’t advertise their presence nearly so well, and their control of traffic is implied, delayed, and constrained; not explicit and immediate.

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      O O June 3, 2019 at 6:11 pm

      I agree. 33rd absolutely needs a signal as well as some other busy roads meeting Marine further East. I feel like that could help reduce some wrecks as well as temper speed a bit. PDOT and ODOT seem to be be very hesitant to implement signals either at all or that are timed well.. I often wonder if PDOT ODOT deciders ever even drive the roads they have say over let alone ride bikes along them. .

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    PATRICK June 1, 2019 at 10:29 am

    It’s OUR job to drive the speed limits everywhere we happen to be behind the wheel. I’m no longer shocked at how many people routinely speed everywhere. I enjoy 20 mph routes just to ACTUALLY DRIVE 20 mph… and I’m not the only one! As more of us make a firm commitment to ALWAYS drive the speed limit, it spreads. When Ainsworth first went 20 mph, I had angry drivers behind me everytime, now I see other drivers ahead of me also driving 20. Slow streets to highways and EVERYWHERE IN BETWEEN–drive the speed limit make it a personal driving mission.

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      Dan A June 1, 2019 at 11:15 am

      I’ve been driving 20 in my neighborhood for a few years now (on 25mph roads), and I’ve noticed more drivers around me doing the same. Not many more, but a few more……and I’ve been getting tailgated a bit less as well.

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      Ryan June 3, 2019 at 1:52 pm

      Wished this worked for me when I drive down Foster with the 25mph limit. Maybe I don’t drive it enough, but even if I accidentally let my speed drift to around 30 (easy to do if I don’t check my speedometer for a bit with all the cars ahead of me are speeding away quickly) I’m aggressively tailgated, and I’ve had vehicles pass me both by using the median lane and on the right when the road widens enough on the right side for a vehicle to get through.

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        J_R June 4, 2019 at 1:17 pm

        I’ve had exactly the same experience lots of places. Yesterday afternoon on Woodstock, while driving the speed limit, I had another motorist swerve around me, pass in the other lane, and accelerate to the next intersection where he made a right turn!

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    Mark smith June 1, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    How about speed cameras?

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      B. Carfree June 2, 2019 at 8:03 pm

      I think speed cameras can only be used to cite people going more than 10 mph over the posted limit. I guess they would be good for holding things down to around 50 mph, but that seems terribly inadequate to me.

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      paikiala June 4, 2019 at 12:41 pm

      Marine Drive has speed enforcement cameras. They can only be used on the most dangerous roads. Something like the top 2%.

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    Mark smith June 1, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Speed cameras should be everywhere. On every block.

    resdar
    Two quick notes about the intersection of 33rd and Marine Drive:– 33rd and Marine Drive seriously needs a traffic signal. Pull up a seat and watch the driver drama there any weekday afternoon.– Note that the speed camera is near 33rd. Also, note that the speed limit changes substantially at 33rd. The camera is on the reduced speed side. That’s what drivers will name a speed trap, and that’s something they’ll show up to complain about. This specific speed camera is primed to be a thorn in the heel of future speed camera placement. The reduction in speed differential won’t eliminate that risk.All of this is a long way of saying that signalling more intersections on Marine Drive would be more effective at sustainably reducing speeds and improving safety. Cameras are a delayed enforcement tool, not proactive speed controls. Even the worst drivers hit the brakes when they see a red light. Sure, they’ll hit the brakes when they see a speed camera too, although cameras don’t advertise their presence nearly so well, and their control of traffic is implied, delayed, and constrained; not explicit and immediate.Recommended 1

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    Patrick S June 2, 2019 at 9:26 am

    Awesome. The one east-west road that actually moved (when not stuck behind some holier-than-thou prius going 5-10 under). I cant wait for the logical conclusion of this zero vision when the speed limit city wide is 15mph. Its already happening in my neighborhood. A major road that was 35 just changed to essentially 15. AN ARTERIAL ROAD. IS 15MPH. Portland must be so proud…

    Can you (Portland bikers) be honest and just say that you want to punish car drivers and anyone that doesn’t have 3 hours a day to commute by bike or public transit?

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      Dan A June 2, 2019 at 4:20 pm

      This is just way too much hyperbole in a single comment to be taken seriously. Be honest in your description of reality if you want an honest response.

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      paikiala June 4, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      I’m calling BS. There are literally only about 3 streets in the entire city posted for 15 mph. And they are all narrow residential per state statute.

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        Chris I June 5, 2019 at 11:36 am

        He clearly has some kind of dyslexia or learning disability. Literally nothing in his post is correct.

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          Dan A June 5, 2019 at 1:36 pm

          And….somebody liked it!

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          El Biciclero June 5, 2019 at 2:57 pm

          Dyslexia? I didn’t know there was such a thing as a speed limit of “51”. A posted speed of 35 usually means people will drive 51…maybe that’s it.

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    Steve Scarich June 2, 2019 at 11:17 am

    I see some car-driver bashing here, and I want to defend those who ‘have’ to drive. Then, I look at my neighbors. I have seven nearby neighbors, and I can see the parking lot out my front window. My neighbors, never, I mean never, in 10 years do anything but drive for nearby errands. I see their Safeway bag, so I know that they drove the 1.5 mile round trip. At least four of them are twenty something, serious rock-climbers or skiers (I live in Bend), so physical ability is not an issue. The others are fifty or younger with outdoor blue-collar jobs. so, if we can institute some kind of driver tracking that charges people for driving these easy roda-clogging trips, that would be a start.

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    mark smith June 2, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    Steve Scarich
    I see some car-driver bashing here, and I want to defend those who ‘have’ to drive. Then, I look at my neighbors. I have seven nearby neighbors, and I can see the parking lot out my front window. My neighbors, never, I mean never, in 10 years do anything but drive for nearby errands. I see their Safeway bag, so I know that they drove the 1.5 mile round trip. At least four of them are twenty something, serious rock-climbers or skiers (I live in Bend), so physical ability is not an issue. The others are fifty or younger with outdoor blue-collar jobs. so, if we can institute some kind of driver tracking that charges people for driving these easy roda-clogging trips, that would be a start.Recommended 0

    Bend is like the classic town that wants to make everyone happy. Cars, bikes..walking…but in the end…cars just take over.

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      Middle of the Road Guy June 2, 2019 at 8:16 pm

      Democracy in action!

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    B. Carfree June 2, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    Oh no, I see they want to add center-line rumble strips. Ahk! Those are truly horrible for any road that may be used by someone on a bike. Motorists mostly refuse to move over to make a safe, legal pass of cyclists when they have to go over a rumble strip, so anyone riding on the shoulder will get close-passed. These things are true motorheadedness. They ruin roads that were previously acceptable to ride on.

    Two roads near my house had center strip rumble strips installed. They went from about 20% of the motorists who pass me doing so illegally close to 70%. It’s so bad that if I still lived outside of town and had to ride in on one of them daily I would fill them in myself.

    Maybe our current crop of traffic engineers are more into vehicular cycling than I thought, since the only way to make these roads work for cycling after the rumbles go in is to eschew the shoulder and take the lane.

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      Steve Scarich June 4, 2019 at 9:15 am

      Yes that is my experience as well, both as a cyclist and as a driver. As a cyclist, so far it is about 50/50, drivers getting closer to me or hitting the rumble strips. As a driver this last weekend, I found myself trying to thread the needle between avoiding the rumble strips and gettng close to cyclists. There were many cyclists on the road that I was on because a cycling event was happening. I did not get close to any cyclist, but I got closer than I would have previously. I drive a big sedan; it must be much more noticeably in an SUV or truck. Now, maybe the rumble strips (they are actually grooves, not strips) will smooth out over time. There are also more subtle strips where the fog line is, too, so that keeps cars in their lane.

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    pete salomone June 3, 2019 at 8:14 am

    The article states, “The road’s design encourages dangerous driving” A design problems requires a design solution. A design solution is to narrow the vehicle lanes. Since there will be added space on the shoulders PBOT might as well turn the shoulders into bike lanes. And if there is enough room – protected bike lanes.

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      paikiala June 4, 2019 at 12:45 pm

      Seems like, if you’d been there, you would see there is no more space to give, or take, without a major widening project, on a dike the Army Corp would not permit.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson June 4, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    There is a similar road in the Bay Area, SR 37 I think, which is two lanes from the Sonoma cutoff to Vallejo. Double yellow “no passing” the whole way, a reasonable speed limit..50 mph. The last time I was down there…now years ago, they had place jersey barriers the entire length. So, there was really NO Passing! and you just got it line a proceeded at a decent pace. That is what Marine Dr. needs from 33rd to 185th.

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      Chris I June 5, 2019 at 11:39 am

      They had to spend a lot of money to first widen the road before they could do that. Not really a solution on Marine Drive because it is a flood-control dike. It could be done, I suppose, but we’d be talking hundreds of millions.

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