Harvest Century September 22nd

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

Advertisement

Big sale at Community Cycling Center

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

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.

BikePortland needs your support.

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

36 Comments
  • Avatar
    Jim Lee August 16, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Do not mess with Roger!

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty August 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm

      Hey Jim, I get where you’re coming from… but I think that’s enough.

      Recommended Thumb up 8

      • Avatar
        John Lascurettes August 19, 2019 at 4:03 pm

        I don’t even know what he was getting at but I felt it was dripping with snark.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty August 19, 2019 at 5:13 pm

          He was trying to call out Roger (assume you know who this is) personally in several parallel threads for the “innovative” designs PBOT has been coming out with lately. While calling people out publicly is all the rage among the kids these days, I think it’s generally a pretty shitty thing to do, doubly so if you are really not actually sure if the person you’re calling out is responsible for the bad behavior in question (as is usually the case), and is almost certainly the case in this situation.

          Is Roger responsible for the designs in question? I don’t know. I’m willing to bet that Jim Lee doesn’t know either. So let’s back off, and return to our regularly scheduled programming.

          Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Avatar
      mh August 17, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      Has anyone ever gotten a convincing explanation for PBOT’s timidity in every bike infrastructure project?

      Recommended Thumb up 13

      • Avatar
        X August 18, 2019 at 9:37 am

        (sorts through basket of cliches)

        –penny wise, pound foolish?

        Recommended Thumb up 3

      • Avatar
        Matthew in PDX August 19, 2019 at 9:37 am

        Every time PBOT/ODOT or similar proposes spending $5 on anything other than infrastructure for motor vehicles O-Live lights up with hate filled comments from people who think that motor vehicles are the only form of legitimate transportation. I think that these people are nascent Daleks.

        Recommended Thumb up 8

      • Avatar
        Johnny Bye Carter August 19, 2019 at 10:23 am

        They don’t have convincing explanations; they have lame excuses.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Avatar
    Todd Boulanger August 16, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    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…]

    Recommended Thumb up 18

    • Avatar
      Fred August 19, 2019 at 7:07 am

      You’ve hit the nail on the head, Todd. This type of infrastructure is acceptable to local gov’t (planners, law enforcement, etc) b/c they themselves will never have to use it. They get to say, “See – we did something to address your needs; now shut up!” Reminds me of the Monty Python saying: “You will get nothing and like it.”

      Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Avatar
    B. Carfree August 16, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    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?

    Recommended Thumb up 11

  • Avatar
    q August 16, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    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.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Avatar
      maxD August 19, 2019 at 10:03 am

      That is exactly how the concord bridge over Going works- it is so sketchy and tight and full of conflicts. People walking will wait for each other and go single file. ON school mornings with kids heading north and people on bikes commuting south it is a clusterf%*&!

      Recommended Thumb up 5

    • Avatar
      maxD August 19, 2019 at 10:07 am

      BS alert!! the “improvements” planned for Greeley: 2/3’s of the route will be a barrier-protected, 2-way bike lane, then it switches an existing walkway that is under ten-feet wide. It ends with a couple of 90-degree turns on to of off of a sidewalk, then down a single ramp into the bike lane with another 90-degree turn. An, the ramp is switching to 2-way bike traffic- a single ramp! This is a major project where they are spending millions of dollars- BS!!

      Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Avatar
    Toby Keith August 17, 2019 at 8:18 am

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

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

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • Avatar
    CaptainKarma August 17, 2019 at 11:56 am

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

    Recommended Thumb up 11

  • Avatar
    J Chris Anderson August 18, 2019 at 9:32 pm

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

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • Avatar
      GlowBoy August 20, 2019 at 8:52 am

      Are class 1 and 2 e-bikes illegal on sidewalks?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • TonyT
        TonyT August 20, 2019 at 10:29 am

        Yes.

        “814.410 Unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk
        (1) A person commits the offense of unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk if the person does any of the following:…
        (e) Operates an electric assisted bicycle on a sidewalk.”

        One could interpret this to mean that if you turn the power off you can operate your ebike on a sidewalk.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Avatar
    GlowBoy August 19, 2019 at 9:22 am

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

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Avatar
      Middle of the Road Guy August 19, 2019 at 10:49 am

      You can have nothing, also.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Avatar
        q August 19, 2019 at 11:55 am

        Or we could have better things. And the poor designs often aren’t poor due to low budgets.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

      • Avatar
        GlowBoy August 20, 2019 at 8:55 am

        Sidewalks and sharrows are usually better than nothing. By a little.

        Unless they allow planners to declare victory (when, in fact, they signal defeat) and stick us with inadequate infrastructure indefinitely.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Avatar
          Opus the Poet August 20, 2019 at 2:05 pm

          I invented this quote, so I might as well put it here:
          “Sharrows are the bicycle equivalent of Abstinence-only sex-ed. Money spent to feel good without any quantifiable gains towards the desired result.”

          Recommended Thumb up 4

          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty August 20, 2019 at 2:15 pm

            I like sharrows in many (but hardly all) cases.

            Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Avatar
    Opus the Poet August 19, 2019 at 2:37 pm

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

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • TonyT
      TonyT August 20, 2019 at 10:25 am

      My favorite example of this is the sidewalk section between the tracks and Tilikum Way between SE Clinton and SE 8th. There are 3 designated pathways on the sidewalk. One way pedestrians on the either side and both directions for people on bikes in the middle. So the slower speed walkers get their own lane and people on bikes are supposed to ride at each other while threading between people walking. Just a head shaker.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Avatar
    n8m August 19, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    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.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Avatar
      q August 20, 2019 at 9:25 am

      “There are instances when pbot could very easily put our asses on the ‘sidewalk’ and it would be an improvement.”

      I understand your point, and it could be true for people on bikes. But it’s never an improvement for people walking on the same sidewalk.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Avatar
    Bike Guy August 20, 2019 at 11:36 am

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

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Avatar
    broMan August 22, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    +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.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Beth H August 27, 2019 at 9:59 am

    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?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty August 27, 2019 at 10:04 am

      As long as you are not downtown, PBOT is cool with that.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Dan A August 27, 2019 at 10:53 am

      If it’s legal in that location, sure! But keep in mind there are other dangers you’re introducing by riding on the sidewalk, which I’m sure you’re aware of.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      q August 27, 2019 at 10:59 am

      Well, a month ago a joint PBOT/Parks/Water Bureau project showed up in Willamette Park on a busy Sunday, running a large backhoe back and forth, often backwards, on the Willamette Greenway for hours, for a project outside the park, with no flaggers, spotters, or anything, while people, including lot of families with kids on bikes (who come to the park for a safe place to ride) dodged it. They also used the trail for a parking area for their truck, forcing people off the path entirely.

      When I complained to the City worker there, she told me it was all fine because the path would be treated as a street for traffic law purposes. Later, the project told me “all safety procedures were followed”.

      So since PBOT is fine using a crowded bike/walking path for that, you should be fine biking or even driving or parking on any sidewalk. Just be sure to put a Vision Zero bumper sticker if using a truck.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar