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A lower speed limit on St. Johns Bridge? Maybe


A very sad sharrow in a stressful riding environment. The least ODOT can do is lower the speed limit. (And just FYI, that sidewalk is very narrow and is not technically wide enough for bicycle users and walkers to share.)

I have good news to share regarding a little advocacy effort in St. Johns.

Remember how the Oregon Department of Transportation lowered the speed limit on the St. Johns Bridge to 25 mph during a recent construction project? They told me the rationale was to protect vulnerable work crews who were walking on the bridge sidewalk.

It struck me that everyone who uses the St. Johns Bridge outside of a car is just as vulnerable as a construction worker, so why not keep make that speed limit reduction permanent?

As I shared in October, I made a request to ODOT through their public input portal to do just that. ODOT told me the request would have to come from the City of Portland. So I made a similar request to the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) via the 823-SAFE hotline.

Guess what?

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PBOT, in their infinite wisdom and open-mindedness, agrees!

These people deserve the same safety considerations as other vulnerable bridge users like construction workers.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

After three months I heard back about my request. A PBOT engineer investigated the issue and emailed me this week to say: “We reviewed your request to reduce the speed limit on the St Johns Bridge and agreed that a lower speed limit would better match the mixed use of this important bike connection.”

Since ODOT owns and manages the bridge, PBOT has made a formal request to them to conduct a speed study. That could take up to a year, but will probably be done sooner than that.

Given the importance of the St. Johns Bridge in our bikeway system (it’s the only Willamette River crossing in north Portland), combined with the fact that ODOT currently requires us to share the bridge roadway with people driving well over the posted 35 mph speed limit*, it seems reasonable to me that they consider a lower speed limit.

I’m eager to see what ODOT’s investigation uncovers. As I reported last week, they say they want to be more sensitive to speed decisions in urban, mixed-use contexts. This is golden opportunity to put their words into action.

I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed!

(*A 2010 City of Toronto study found that only 54% of bicycle riders feel comfortable riding on a “major road” with sharrows (PDF, page 27).)

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