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First look at buffered bike lanes on North Denver Ave in Kenton

Not wide enough for side-by-side riding.


New bike lane in action. This is a still from video you can watch below.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has finished their re-paving and re-striping of North Denver Avenue in Kenton between Lombard and Watts.

The bike lane moves curbside to go behind a floating bus stop island at N Russet.

The $1.9 million project comes with smooth pavement, wider bike lanes and a floating bus island median at North Russet. Previous cycling conditions on this section of Denver were a standard, unprotected, door-zone bike lane that was adjacent to auto users. The new bike lane remains adjacent to auto users and adds a three-foot buffer zone on both sides. PBOT gained space for a wider bike lane by removing the center turn lane.

As we’ve covered in the past, there was ample community support for a parking-protected bike lane that would have given bicycle users a straight path, away from other road users; but PBOT inexplicably decided to ditch that plan after a few residents opposed the change.

Below is a video riding northbound, followed by more photos:

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Looking south at N Watts.

(Click images for captions).

I rode the new lanes on Tuesday. While I appreciate the painted buffer zone, it’s disappointing that a few weeks from the year 2020 we’re still building paint-only bike lanes next to car and truck drivers. As you can see in the video and images, it’s stressful to ride on this street when a large delivery truck rumbles by. The bike lane itself (buffers aside) is also only five-feet wide. That’s not wide enough for social, side-by-side cycling that’s most comfortable when riding with kids, novice riders, or when you simply want to have a conversation with someone.

I couldn’t help but compare this new bikeway to the recently completed, parking and concrete curb-protected bike lanes on N Rosa Parks Way just a mile or so away. We often hear from engineers that consistency and standardization in road design is better and safer for everyone, yet when it comes to bikeways, we have dozens of different designs. And on Rosa Parks, PBOT intentionally made drivers swerve in order to slow them down. However on Denver, it’s the bicycle users who have to swerve every block because PBOT maintained the curbside parking lane.

Bike lane on Denver just south of Lombard (a block away from the new bike lanes).

It’s also worth noting that north and south of this section of Denver, riders have even worse conditions. North of Watts in the Kenton commercial district, bicycle riders lose all buffer zones. South of Lombard the bike lane is even narrower (see photo at right).

If we want to make good on the promise of Neighborhood Greenways — which was to build demand for cycling from new riders — we must provide better bikeways on key collector streets like Denver Avenue. It concerns me that with a clean slate to work with, the City of Portland didn’t do more to create a low-stress, all-ages bikeway to connect neighbors to local businesses and other destinations.

Speaking of Denver, a link we shared in this week’s Monday Roundup from Colorado’s Denver included a city staffer pushing back against residents’ parking concerns. “We really have to think about what’s more important,” the employee said in a story about a controversial bike lane project. “Providing safe connections or being able to park your car? And a life has got to be more important than the proximity of your parking spot.”

This is the kind of language we need to hear more from PBOT leadership and staff if we are going to meet our transportation goals.

Have you ridden this yet? How did it feel to you?

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