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As area grows, North Vancouver Ave gets more space for cycling

Posted by on October 1st, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Note where the old lanes have been removed. New bike lane is now away from door-zone and commands more of the street space.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

While the North Vancouver-Williams corridor continues to grow at a dizzying pace with new residential and commercial buildings popping up everywhere, the space allocated for driving continues to shrink. It’s been almost five years since the City of Portland restriped Williams to give bicycle users more space. Now they’re doing the same thing with Vancouver — albeit at a much slower pace and with much less fanfare.

In recent months we’ve noticed the bike lanes on Vancouver getting wider. First the striping changed south of Russell Street where a relatively standard-width bike lane has matured into a buffered bike lane that’s just as wide as the one drivers use. The balance of power (related to how much space each mode has) on this street is slowly but surely becoming similar to what we have on SW Stark and Oak downtown (without the green coloring).

The most recent changes are on the two-block section between Beech and Cook.

(Click images for captions.)

PBOT has ground away the old lane markings and replaced them with a cross-section that gives much more room for cycling. Where the street used to squeeze in two parking lanes, two standard lanes, and one door-zone bike lane; it now has one fewer lane for drivers and a much wider — and buffered – bike lane. The new bike lane has buffers on both sides — away from moving vehicles and from the door zone. At the intersection with Fremont (at New Seasons Market), PBOT has striped a bike box and removed one parking space.

The changes give users much more breathing room at the busy Fremont/Vancouver intersection. For a sense of how it used to look see the image below…

Person in yellow is at Fremont intersection. Note how much less space she and other bicycle users had.

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It appears like this is a work in progress, so we’ll see how it shapes up (and I’ve asked PBOT for more info). We’re also waiting to see what PBOT does to improve the messy block between Fremont and Cook where we have to deal with drivers leaving the News Seasons Market parking lot and people swerving across the bike lane to get onto I-5. Two years ago PBOT unveiled a big plan to switch the bike lane to the left to avoid this conflict; but apparently shelved the idea after was panned by many bike riders. Given this new striping, it appears that plan is officially dead.

PBOT has also widened the bike lane south of Russell toward Broadway (see images below). Similar to the Beech-to-Fremont striping, PBOT has leveled the playing field so that bicycle users have the same amount of roadway space to use as car users (not counting the two auto parking lanes of course).


Vancouver south of Russell.

We love seeing more space for cycling, especially in such a growing and busy part of town. However, it would sure be nice to have more consistency so bicycle riders could count on having a wide and safe — and ideally physically protected — experience for the length of the corridor. Do you ride this section of Vancouver? What do you think of the changes?

Watch for an update to this story if/when I hear back from PBOT.

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

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25 Comments
  • Avatar
    turnips October 1, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    hoping PBOT is working on this now because the construction diversion between Mason and Failing will be removed soon. it looks like those projects are almost done.

    when I rode through the morning after the new paint, most folks in cars were driving with their right wheels in the left buffer (like you can see in the top photo here, but even further right).

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      PDXCyclist October 1, 2019 at 4:00 pm

      Almost every driver does this on Beaverton Hillsdale Highway too, until those flex posts went up for part of it. Now, they all seem to magically be able to stay within their lane for the section with the flex posts. The section closer to Beaverton doesn’t have it, and drivers drift all over the place.

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        turnips October 1, 2019 at 5:58 pm

        the posts are nice until I want to get out of the bike lane for any reason. even then, they seem to generally be spaced widely enough that they’re not too much trouble.

        $50-ish each plus labor for installation? anybody know how that compares to the cost of paint only lanes?

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      jamie October 1, 2019 at 4:07 pm

      This is because police do not cite people for failure to maintain a lane unless used as a pretext for a DUII stop.

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      cmh89 October 1, 2019 at 6:38 pm

      They just dont want to ride in the door zone!!!

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    eawriste October 1, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Protected. Bike. Lanes.

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    Matt October 1, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    meh – talk to me when they remove car parking to the right. It’s one of the busiest bike lanes in the city and SUVs, vans, pickups pull in there and try to parallel park. Bad design.

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    Josh October 1, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Awesome!

    I know there is a lot of push for physically separated bike infrastructure, but personally, I feel most comfortable with these really wide bike lanes, ie. Williams and Harvey Milk/Oak couplet downtown.

    On a tight street like this I think they provide some traffic calming for vehicles, and they also allow for the flexibility of cyclists passing each other or turning at various locations, etc. Plus they are so much cheaper!

    I do think they are better painted though.

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      Zach October 2, 2019 at 9:43 am

      Physically protected bike lanes could be wide, too. They usually aren’t, but they could be.

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      Connor October 2, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      Totally with you on this one! Protected bike lanes are GOOD, but I find the maneuverability of a wide open lane to be preferable to almost any confined space. ESPECIALLY when that protected space is delineated by something that could ultimately be something I collide with when attempting to avoid another obstacle in the ROW.

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    Carrie October 1, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    I ride this daily and feel very mixed about it. On the one hand, it is SO MUCH better than it was before. Most specifically the area south of Russell. And I am so pleased they just quietly removed a lane of parking near Beech. And, while I very much know from personal experience that paint is not protection, I think all of the new lanes need green paint.

    With all of that, I still would be VERY uncomfortable riding on this road with a rider < about 14 or 15. There just are too many car drivers not looking cutting across the lanes on both roads to be at all comfortable with kids, IMO. I feel much better on the corridor with my e-bike because I can accelerate faster, but I know that would not have prevented the person from hitting me with their car in May on Williams.

    However I feel like this corridor could be transformed dramatically for the better if one of the two one-way streets were made into a bike/scooter only road and the other were two-way travel for cars. It's probably too logistically challenging because of the private residences along the route, but it's my dream. That or a physically protected bike lane where car drivers have to go around the block or some-such to enter businesses/hospital, etc. I'm especially nervous around the Uber/Lyft drivers who regularly pull into and out of the bike lane, stop, etc and often don't look or don't care that they are impeding traffic.

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    • Avatar
      turnips October 1, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      I’m trying to get better about reporting that stuff instead of just going on my way. I stop and take a photograph or two, and submit complaints when I get home or to work. just read about safelanes.org, and haven’t used it yet. Uber and Lyft don’t make it easy to lodge complaints if you aren’t a driver or passenger, but it’s possible. this may not make any difference at all, but it also might and it takes very little effort.

      safelanes.org
      https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/57927

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    Dude October 1, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    It is indeed painfully slow in being developed. But it’s one of the best corridors in town, and the current spacing will allow for the installation of flex posts. They should be installed next IMO.

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    maxD October 1, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    this very nice for people who’s trips start and end on Vancouver and Williams! Now if only PBOT would complete the bike lanes onSkidmore between Michigan and Willams. Or if they could improve the bike lanes on Broadway to get to the Broadway Birdge, or to the Steel Bridge without a bunch of confusing and scary stretches. This is a good start, I guess

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      turnips October 1, 2019 at 5:53 pm

      the bike lanes on Broadway are pretty bad. maybe even worse: I crossed Broadway on foot at Wheeler the other day. it was terrifying.

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      Toby Keith October 1, 2019 at 7:20 pm

      I’ve been saying It for a while now….bike lanes all the way from Michigan to MLK! Take the street parking off Skidmore and let’s make that a good east-west connector to get to the Going greenway.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson October 1, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    If ODOT gets its way, Broadway/Weilder will get worse over I-5. Time to calm that couplet down to two lanes each way…and extend Streetcar to Hollywood and put in some real bike facilities.

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    Nick Fox October 1, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I ride it everyday and noticed the grinding, then the striping, and … yeah. It’s better. But as others say, still not even close to 8-80 infrastructure. And, as Jonathan points out, the really tricky part is the next block. In the drawings of the (bad) idea to switch the lane to the east side of the street, there was a dedicated signal at Vancouver/Fremont, if I remember correctly. That would help a lot, I think….

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    BigBenBikes October 1, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    It is nicer, in terms of room to pass, not worrying about getting doored, etc., but I’ll second the earlier comment about cars with at least a tire inside the buffer. I see this at least every other day, and it’s especially concerning when cars start doing it while speeding to get ahead of a line of bikes to turn right on Cook. I still think I’ve had more close calls going north on Williams, though, including a near left hook on Monday from a driver whose excuse, after forcing me into a partial left turn, was “I’m a cyclist, too.”

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    Scott Kocher October 2, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Serious question: which is better, a narrow door-zone “bike lane” (e.g., SW Broadway south of Burnside, SW Moody south of the Tram), or none at all?

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      David Hampsten October 2, 2019 at 8:57 am

      It depends.

      I’ll assume you are talking about a good ol’fashioned 5′-6′ bike lane as “narrow door-zone”. A door-zone bike lane is a cheap traffic calming device used by traffic engineers in politically conservative communities (which includes most of the USA outside of the West Coast) designed firstly to keep cars in their travel lane(s); secondly to protect drivers from being doored by users of parked cars; and thirdly to provide extra wiggle room for passing buses, trucks and emergency vehicles. There were never designed to make bicycling safer, quite the opposite really, and most traffic engineers recognize this, even the engineers who don’t bike at all. In this respect they work really quite well in lieu of speed humps, chicanes, etc.

      While they provide no protection at all for bicyclists, apparently not even legally in some communities, they do serve a positive political purpose in identifying streets that eventually may get useful bicycle infrastructure such as protected bike lanes during future upgrades. To clarify, by not having any facilities at all, safety isn’t decreased one iota, but even with the unsafe facility, bicycle advocates can then more easily get upgrades after each subsequent street repaving or rebuild, by having squatter rights of perceived street usage, as most infrastructure is built by gradual and incremental improvements, including facilities for cars and pedestrians. It’s easier for us to advocate that a poorly designed bike lane be upgraded than to get a wholly new facility on a street that never had any to begin with.

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    Joe Fortino October 2, 2019 at 11:25 am

    awesome news only issue is some drivers really don’t understand most bike infra in regards to driving habits… also keep eye on construction along with busses trying to share 🙂 morning and after 5pm is busy time with both streets.

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    Mick O October 2, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    I thought I read a side note in a BP post earlier this year that Portland had gotten something new to replace that line-grinding tech that replaces old unwanted painted lines with rumble strips for bikes… but I can’t for the life of me remember what article it was in. I guess I must have dreamt it since we’re still doing that?

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    Mark smith October 2, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    All that work for a half measure of making extra big door zone bike lanes.

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