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Comment of the Week: Let’s stop with the bikes-on-sidewalk B.S.

Posted by on August 16th, 2019 at 2:24 pm

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Our post last week about the new crossing treatment on Northeast 37th at Prescott attracted a lot of ire. The vast majority of people we heard from do not like the new design.

High on the list of grievances is the fact that the transportation bureau decided to route bicycle users up onto a narrow sidewalk.

Long-time BikePortland reader and noted local activist Betsy Reese wasn’t having it. In fact, you could say she called B.S. on the idea.
Here’s her comment:

This is one more example of BS masquerading as an MUP.

MUP definition: Multi-Use Path. A shared pathway for bicycles and pedestrians which is either

1. very low traffic,
2. very scenic,
3. very long, or
4. has pathway and access/exit structures that are wide enough so that bikes and pedestrians are not in conflict.

MUPs are good for transportation, recreation, and novice bicyclists who are not yet ready to ride in the street.

Examples of MUPs:
– Springwater Corridor
– Eastside Esplanade at non-peak travel times
– Banks-Vernonia Trail
– SE 38th Ave. just south of Taylor 1/2 block ped/bike path at dead end

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BS definition: Bikes on Sidewalk. A work-around when designers can’t figure out what to do about bikes or when bikes are an afterthought or lowest priority in allocating space. A BS:

1, puts bikes and pedestrians together in a situation that causes conflicts
2. makes enemies out of people who should be friends and advocacy allies
3. flips the blame to the bicyclists and pedestrians caught in this set-up with the admonishment of “Why can’t everyone just get along?”

BS is no good for anyone.

Examples of BS:

– Clinton LRT Station area of Clinton Greenway between 11th and 12 Aves.
– Hollywood LRT Station approaches and freeway overpass
– Hawthorne Bridge sidewalks
– Steel Bridge sidewalks

And a MUP that is just squeaking by with today’s volume, is tomorrow’s BS.

No more BS, please!

Provide proper MUPs, and provide bike infrastructure on streets like,

1. protected bike lanes,
2. side paths,
3. low-traffic Greenways, and
4. traffic law and the corresponding education and enforcement that protects bikes on all streets.

If you can’t figure out what to do about bikes, don’t just pop them onto the sidewalk. Step up to the challenge and figure it out.

Let’s be prepared to call BS when we see it in the planning stages. Let’s coordinate with pedestrian advocates and present a unified voice on this issue.

Thank you Betsy for contributing to the discussion here on BikePortland. Check your mailbox for a postcard and stickers! And thanks to everyone who flagged this so it was easier for me to find. Remember, when you see a great comment, just reply to it with “comment of the week”.

— 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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Jim Lee
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Jim Lee

Do not mess with Roger!

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Thanks Betsy! In my experience…this is a long practiced “design behaviour” of the US transportation engineering [and planning] profession of either “throwing their hands up in the air” [designing facilities they never expect themselves to use] or a “poverty of design practice” / institutional accountability. For example, just look at the photo … they did not even to bother to remove the turf grass and concrete the departure lane from the ramp.

It is the transportation profession [my industry] of choosing to always default to the “easy way out” of relying on cyclists to “be pedestrians” or “vehicles” when it suits the facility designer…vs. designing for what is the best facility for the desired outcome [traffic safety, bike volumes, promoting bike use for environmental goals, etc.]

[Note: I hope this is instead a “short term fix” AND that the fix has already been designed but is just waiting to be built next year as funds are programmed for 2020…]

B. Carfree
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B. Carfree

Has anyone seen the new AASHTO standard for bike paths/MUPs/SUPs? It calls for 14′ minimum widths, and 15′ where there is a significant pedestrian presence. Many folks have been calling for wider paths for years, but pretty much every jurisdiction has opted to go with overly narrow BS conflict-laden paths.

It’s going to be interesting going forward. If any city works on a path, it’s going to have to either bring it up to standard or risk being sued. I sure wish the old BTA was still in existence to carry this forward. Without the kind of folks who will believably threaten legal action, we’re probably looking at a continuation of mediocre paths going forward.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we built infra like we really intended to meet our active transportation goals?

q
Guest
q

Great choice for Comment of the Week.

The City is currently building a rail crossing near me that also routes bikes onto the sidewalk, but–even worse than the example above–just has them get on and off the sidewalk via a private driveway curb cut. So you enter by driving directly at cars leaving a private parking lot. If the business closed that driveway, there’d be no access to the crossing without lifting your bike onto the sidewalk, or biking back to the curb cut at the corner of the block.

Betsy’s comments apply perfectly to it.

Toby Keith
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Toby Keith

RESIST PBOT. First the 102nd mess, now this.

I always cross at 35th anyway and never have any problems.

CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

I can’t imagine negotiating this in late December Kdarkness all around), rain, leaves still illegally piled in the lanes, @ about 32 degree F.

J Chris Anderson
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J Chris Anderson

Isn’t this infrastructure illegal to use on an ebike? In 2019?

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

Routing bikes onto sidewalks is just as much an admission of failure as the presence of sharrows in a street.

Opus the Poet
Guest

Routing bikelanes into sidewalks is just designing in conflict. Might as well build a protected bike lane down the middle of a freeway.

n8m
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n8m

There are instances when pbot could very easily put our asses on the ‘sidewalk’ and it would be an improvement. It’d be an instant MUP. I can’t speak to this instance as I haven’t cruised it yet. (It looks pretty bad though). Yet the design at NE Lloyd Blvd & 12th that pushes us into the southbound lane with fast moving cars chomping on the bit to get on I-84 sucks. Why? Because the west end sidewalk on this bridge is huge and could easily be ramped & striped to accommodate both pedestrians and bikes.

Since being marginalized is the unfortunate norm of cycling in America, I’d rather take my time, stay alive, and get pushed onto a sidewalk — as opposed to getting funneled onto a busy street with a disappearing sharrow stenciled on it. It’s an insult and dangerous. In the meantime, we can hope that some day we’ll have a gov’t that’ll construct actual bike infrastructure. As in, actual cycle tracks down commercial arterial streets. We could sell environmental bumper stickers Portlanders could put on their cars to pay for it.

Bike Guy
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Bike Guy

I’m sorry, but this looks hazardous to try to negotiate on a bike.

broMan
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broMan

+1000 on this. I’ve never been a fan of what I call the ‘clever bike solutions’, tongue-in-cheek, of course. Furthers the wedge between motorists and cyclists, in my opinion.

Beth H
Guest
Beth H

So if bikes are being directed into sidewalks, then I can ride mine onto any sidewalk I need to whenever motorized traffic makes me feel unsafe.
Are we cool with that, PBOT?