Tour de Lab September 1st

A good example of bus/bike integration at a transit stop

Posted by on August 8th, 2019 at 10:03 am

New bus island on NE Weidler west of 103rd Place.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Yesterday while taking a look at the new striping and other changes the City has made to NE 102nd (story to come), I decided to take a ride on the newly updated Halsey-Weidler couplet through the Gateway district. I reported on the project back in June and wanted to give it a check-up.

Before.

Two things caught my eye: Gateway Discovery Park and the new bus stop at Northeast Weidler and 103rd Place. The park is a-ma-zing. It has so many cool features and amenities. Best of all, it was packed with people using them — people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, incomes, colors and interests! I’d love to write all about it and why I think high-quality, modern public parks are so important to our city; but since this is a transportation blog and not a park blog, I’ll just focus on the bus stop.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and TriMet have tried a million things when it comes to getting bicycle users through a transit stop safely and efficiently. Lately we’ve seen more floating transit islands that allow bus operators to service stops without swerving over to the curb. That’s a good thing because curbside service blocks cycling traffic, creates a dangerous leap-frog passing situation, and causes impatient road users to do bad things as they try to go around stopped buses.

For some reason this bus stop on Weidler near 103rd must have not registered when I first saw it back in June. After seeing it again yesterday, I think it deserves more scrutiny. My first impression is that it’s one of Portland’s best examples of how to integrate transit and bicycle users.

Scroll down to find out why I like it so much…

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Unlike some of our other floating transit island designs (like several on SW Moody and others on Halsey-Weidler), this one has the bike lane at the same elevation as the island. Sharp curbs and bike lanes are not a good mix. I don’t love the feeling of biking in a narrow chute with curbs on both sides, curbs also trap debris and make leaving the bike lane hard/impossible depending on your ability to bunny-hop.

The biking space is clearly delineated from the walking space. It’s not only green, but the coloring material has a different texture than the adjacent sidewalks. This helps people understand how to treat the spaces: one is for waiting and walking, the other for through traffic.

On a similar note, PBOT was didn’t skimp on their installation of metal railings. I don’t recall seeing this much effort made to keep a bike lane clear of walkers (if that’s their purpose) anywhere else in the city. I like these railings. They reinforce that the bike lane is a traffic lane that should not be encroached upon. There are openings on each end, so people can easily access the bus island.

The entry and exit from the island is straightforward and safe.

Of course I’m biased. I rarely take the bus and I navigate the city on two wheels much more often than on two feet. When I shared a photo of this bus stop on Twitter yesterday, several people had questions about how it works for transit users.

“Wow, that looks confusing,” remarked one reader. “Certainly not intuitive. Will probably need a lot of lettering on the pavement so you’ll know what’s going on. Or signs?” Others pointed out the stop could use shelter, benches, and other amenities (note that I’m not judging the stop itself, just the bike/bus integration).

Overall the reaction to my tweet was positive. One person said, “It’s leaps and bounds ahead of what we’ve done before.” Another person who rides by it daily said they “love it.”

What do you think? How does this bus island compare with others in the city? If you want to take a closer look at this — along with some of the brightest biking minds in Portland — join the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee on a bike ride next Tuesday (8/13). Meeting agenda and route map here (PDF).

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

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23 Comments
  • Avatar
    John Lascurettes August 8, 2019 at 10:40 am

    Sure looks nice in photos. I like that they put the rail up between the platform and path so it limits the random crossing. The rail around the telephone pole on the sidewalk seems a little excessive as it chokes down the ordinary capacity of the sidewalk.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty August 8, 2019 at 12:03 pm

      The railings are key; I believe TriMet is planning to omit from the new bus infrastructure along outer Division.

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    idlebytes August 8, 2019 at 10:47 am

    I’ve been walking, biking and busing on this road for 20+ years now this is a great improvement. However my nextdoor page is filled with my neighbors complaining about these changes similar to the 7th and 9th proposed changes I wonder if these are the same people that have been upset at PBOT for ignoring their neighborhoods for the past 20 years.

    Unfortunately even with these changes riding on the East side is still pretty intense. It’s a shame there aren’t more through non-arterial streets that could be changed to greenways. I doubt we’ll see much change in the mode share without protected infrastructure.

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    igor August 8, 2019 at 11:09 am

    “[…] creates a dangerous leap-frog passing situation, and causes impatient road users to do bad things as they try to go around stopped buses.”

    Doesn’t this design do just that: blocking one lane of car traffic, and encouraging drivers to try to leapfrog around the busses?

    As a cyclist I like the idea of not having to manage scissor merges with busses, and fewer points of interaction with pedestrians trying to get on and off the bus platform.

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      Chris I August 8, 2019 at 11:20 am

      There are two travel lanes here, so cars can easily go around stopped busses. I have seen many more close calls in areas where busses have to merge back into traffic, and some people ignore the yield requirement, or swerve into oncoming traffic right as the bus pulls out.

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      Champs August 8, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Or, you know, vehicles in the general travel lane can just wait behind the bus.

      The old design required two merges, but now merging entirely optional.

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    David August 8, 2019 at 11:13 am

    This stop is going to be part of next week’s Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting/ride. It’s listed as Discussion Stop 4 in the linked document here: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/739238

    All are invited; there’s a good variety of infrastructure and much to discuss.

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      idlebytes August 8, 2019 at 12:00 pm

      Thank you for the link. Hopefully I’ll be able to to make it to this meeting.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 8, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      of course! Thanks for reminding me David. I will add that to the end of the story.

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    Chris I August 8, 2019 at 11:17 am

    This is now one of the few “low-stress” portions of my ride from NE to Gresham every day. The improvements on Broadway/Weidler and 102nd are great, from my perspective as someone who regularly bikes and drives through this area.

    The posts on Nextdoor are ridiculous. It was pointed out by several people that the only fatal crashes have been caused by drunk drivers, as if that absolves the road design somehow.

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      Andrew August 9, 2019 at 8:38 am

      102nd has gone from totally unrideable to ‘not bad’. I was under the impression there was going to be an asphalt ramp installed from the sidewalk to the 2-way track south of the turn lane to Fremont. I’ve been staying on the sidewalk SB until the intersection with Morris since the curb is a bit of a doozy to hop from.

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    Champs August 8, 2019 at 11:28 am

    It’s a pretty good design. I like that buses and bikes will not have to mix, of course, and that it limits mode conflicts, but the railings fill me with ambivalence.

    It’s a contrivance. It is better than the Mistake on Moody, and whatever it asks of riders, it pays them back by avoiding merge delays and (hopefully) expedited boarding.

    They control where people cross a legitimate traffic lane. It could do more for the *when* if it was clearly for loading and unloading only, with departing/arriving buses as a cue.

    …can it hold up to East Portland driving?

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    • Avatar
      Champs August 8, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      That wasn’t great editing, so let me clarify: mixing and mode conflicts are the same thing (duh), departing/arriving buses would be a cue *for people using the bike lane*, and by “East Portland driving” I expect significant damage from at least one dangerous driver within a year.

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  • Avatar
    Jim Lee August 8, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    Champs
    It’s a pretty good design. I like that buses and bikes will not have to mix, of course, and that it limits mode conflicts, but the railings fill me with ambivalence.It’s a contrivance. It is better than the Mistake on Moody, and whatever it asks of riders, it pays them back by avoiding merge delays and (hopefully) expedited boarding.They control where people cross a legitimate traffic lane. It could do more for the *when* if it was clearly for loading and unloading only, with departing/arriving buses as a cue.…can it hold up to East Portland driving?Recommended 0

    “Mistake on Moody,” yes. Which one?

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    Mike August 8, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Why is the crosswalk marked only across the bike lane but unmarked across the vehicle lanes?

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      David Hampsten August 8, 2019 at 6:39 pm

      Good catch. My guess is that the original design called for pedestrian crosswalks but the people who actually implemented the project were themselves auto-oriented. But it could just as easily be that the PBOT staff were so bike-versus-car centric on the design that they forgot the basics in pedestrian safety design – marked crosswalks not only for local streets, but crossing major ones too.

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    Doug Klotz August 8, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    I haven’t been out there yet, but I think the biggest problem with this design is the railings. They may be fine for cyclists, but they’re insulting to pedestrians. Why would anyone walk along that narrow walkway between the traffic lane and the railing? They might walk behind the railing in the bike lane instead. Either move the railing over, or eliminate it. As noted, the sidewalk railing near the tree is an unnecessary encroachment on pedestrian space.

    I would say a better approach, to let pedestrians know that they’re crossing a bike path, is to indeed have low curbs. Not square curbs though, but angled about 30 degrees from horizontal. So, a 2 inch height difference and “ramped” curbs, so you can indeed ride out of them if you need to. I also object to corralling pedestrians to only cross the bike lane in two “gates”. I think the bright green surface, with an added height difference is adequate. At the actual stop location, yes you need ADA access. I’m not sure you need the DW though for bike traffic. And I still am looking for the 8′ deep level area (and level access too it) for loading a person using a wheelchair. If the bike lane were flush at that point rather than have a side angled area, it could serve that purpose for the short time of loading.

    Yes, the footprint of the stop is good, giving enough room for all. But the railings as a substitute for a height difference are not a good choice for making a place you’d want to use.

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    • Avatar
      Paul August 8, 2019 at 4:11 pm

      Without the railing, people would treat the bike lane as part of the walking/waiting area, so there would effectively be no bike lane. I don’t think height differential would be enough to change that.

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        Chris Imondi August 8, 2019 at 9:17 pm

        Even with the railing, I’ve already had to move around peds in the bike lane here several times. People have started to park cars very close to the bike lane at times, I’m assuming so they can open the driver door without waiting for a break in traffic. The result is a passenger side dooring risk for cyclists.

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          Doug Klotz August 8, 2019 at 11:38 pm

          Seems to confirm my conjecture, that the “platform” is so narrow that people don’t want to stand there that close to passing cars/semi-trucks, so they don’t want to walk along it, and use the bike lane (further from the cars) instead. If the sloped area between bike lane and railing were available for use by pedestrians, the platform to wait on would be effectively wider and more likely to be used. My theory, anyway.

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    maxD August 8, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    I believe Elizabeth Tillstrom was the project manager for this. She is very smart and capable works hard to get the best designs possible. She is a great example what is still working within PBOT. When I look at what got built at 37th/Prescott and what is planned for N Greeley, I wish she could be cloned AND put in charge. Anyway, I am not sure how involved she was in the design of this particular piece of infrastructure, but in general I would say she is someone who supports good design and works hard for best improvements possible.

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    Paul B August 9, 2019 at 10:50 am

    First Impression:

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    mark smith August 10, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Pbot. My hats off to you for taking a simple Amsterdam design and making it overly American Complicated.

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