Green Zebra SE Division Store Now Open!

Comment of the Week: The problem with inconsistent, “chaotic” street design

Posted by on January 17th, 2020 at 9:47 am

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Our story based on a report about public sentiment and perception of transportation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation led to some interesting reader feedback. One part of the report several readers related to was the feeling expressed by focus group members that the city’s bikeway designs are not always consistent or intuitive.

Reader “chris” shared a thought that was nominated as Comment of the Week by several readers. Here it is (note that he begins by quoting parts of the report):

“I fully endorse putting bike lanes in… but it feels like they’re changing their minds continuously on how they want to do that. Some areas there are green stripes, some areas it’s on the edge, some areas it’s in the middle, some areas they’re taking the entire lane out.”

This is my criticism as well. Our bike lanes follow no best practice or uniformity of design. It’s as if PBOT is conducting an experiment every time they build a new one. It’s produced a lot of visual clutter that’s difficult sometimes for even me to parse, to say nothing of motorists from out of town that aren’t used to driving around bicyclists. Most of the designs aren’t very good, and the addition of new bike lanes has been effectively cancelled out by increasingly chaotic traffic patterns. It has not lead to an increase in bike ridership. As this blog has pointed out in the past, ridership has fallen by a percentage point, so new infrastructure clearly isn’t producing the desired result.

Advertisement

“I can control who’s in my space when I’m in my car, and I don’t have to worry about someone random bashing me in the back of my head while I’m driving… When you don’t know people, they could look completely normal, and next thing you know…” said one person. “I was one of the people that was on the MAX when [the stabbing happened]. Right after that is when I got my car,” said another. Bloom called this a, “Collective fear of other people and the uncertainty that comes with being around those you don’t know,” and determined that, “Portlanders generally feel safer in a car because they have some control over what happens to them and their families.”

This is a sentiment that should be taken seriously, as it’s widespread. Most people in Portland will vocally express support for more bike lanes and public transit, but in terms of their actual behavior, they’ll respond to incentives. Even if they recognize that it’s inefficient and wasteful for the majority of people in a city to drive, they’ll do what they perceive as being in their immediate self-interest. If the public space is dysfunctional and chaotic, people will armor up. Even if they’re miserable sitting in traffic, at least they get to be miserable in their own private bubble. If the city attempts to disincentivize driving by making it less convenient and more expensive while not improving the cycling and transit experience at all, people will react against a strategy that they see as all stick and no carrot. They will perceive the city transportation policies as malicious and actively reducing their standard of living.

I like chris’s comment because he includes the specific passage he’s reacting to, he makes well-reasoned points without insulting anyone (at least not in a direct/intentional way), and he uses good grammar and correct spelling (which helps in getting points across). Whether or not you agree with him, I hope you can appreciate a quality comment and be inspired to write more of them yourself.

Thanks for commenting chris!

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org. Get our headlines delivered to your inbox. Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

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

30 Comments
  • Avatar
    BikeRound January 17, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I completely agree with this commenter. One of the factors that makes biking infrastructure in the Netherlands such a success is its uniformity.

    In towns, traffic is always organized according to a basic layout. Starting from the right side of the street and moving left, the order is: sidewalk, bike lane, parking lane (if provided), and car lane. The bike path is clearly delineated from the car lanes by being slightly elevated and by the use of red asphalt; the sidewalk, which is also elevated compared to the bike lane, is further separated by a curb. Going through intersections, the order of the lanes does not ever change. Drivers turning right have to look out for cyclists going straight, but this is not an issue as the bike lanes are so prominently marked and since drivers have become so accustomed to having to yield to cyclists. Further, drivers also have to yield to people walking straight through an intersection, so it is not an unusual concept for motorists to have to look out for traffic on the right-hand side of the vehicle when turning right.

    Recommended Thumb up 21

    • Avatar
      Tim January 17, 2020 at 3:02 pm

      Netherlands and uniformity – not the Netherlands I have ridden in. Lots of bike infrastructure but also huge variety. For example some of the bike infrastructure you may encounter in just a few kilometers of riding:

      Solid striped bike lane which means bike only except for parking on Sundays and unloading.
      Dashed striped bike lane for bikes and passing cars.
      Off street path that may be as narrow as 4 feet and include two-way bike traffic (lots of E-bikes) and pedestrian traffic.
      Bike lanes as narrow as 18 inches.
      Bike lanes that switch sides of the road.
      Bike lanes and routes that may be gravel, dirt or cobblestone – lots of cobblestone bike path adjacent to freshly paved roads that you can’t use because of mandatory side path laws.

      The dutch have bike infrastructure because nearly everyone bikes. They don’t bike because they have infrastructure. Just like here, bike infrastructure is intended to keep bikes out of the way of drivers. So if you want more bike infrastructure, get out there and ride until drivers insist on more bike infrastructure.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • Avatar
        BikeRound January 17, 2020 at 3:11 pm

        I have done several bike tours in the Netherlands, and I have to disagree. Outside of towns, the bike path can switch from one side of the road to the other, but in town there are bike lanes consistently on both sides of the street (unless the street is very narrow, in which case there are speed bumps closely spaced together). The bike lanes are also visually and physically separated from the car lanes, and drivers do not intrude upon them. Especially in the older parts of Amsterdam, for example, everything is laid out so much for the benefit of bikers and walkers that most streets have little motorized traffic.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Avatar
        USbike January 20, 2020 at 1:07 am

        The dashed lanes that you often see in towns and cities, and sometimes on the country roads, are not bike lanes even if they have bike symbols within them. If they were legally bike lanes, there would be a lot of problems because legally you can ride 2 abreast and most of these types of lanes are not wide enough for that. They are typically used to optically “narrow” the roadway to prevent unnecessary speeding and also for aesthetics. Mostly the 18 MPH streets use these, but many equivalent types of streets are just completely black asphalt or with bricks. I would be interested in knowing where you saw bike lanes less than 18 inches, because after living in the Netherlands for 4 years now and having visited over 50 towns/cities, I have never encountered such a narrow bike lane (the most narrow one was 1 m, and on one little block in Bergen op Zoom). That would be completely unacceptable bicycle infrastructure here. Maybe you could point out where you saw such a thing. Was it perhaps one of those dashed lanes? I have seen those as narrow as 18 inches. I will say that not everything is perfect yet in the Netherlands. There are still many remnants of infrastructure from decades past that are completely not up to modern standards. Anyone who wants to find sub-optimal infrastructure will most certainly succeed.

        With regard to paths that are gravel, dirt or cobblestone, you mainly see these as 37.5 MPH country routes between towns and cities, and are often obscure connections (dike roads cutting through open farmland) that are mainly used by farmers or people who live out in the countryside. These are meant for everyone, including motorists. I sometimes bike on these just a little contrast and have never encountered a car on such a road. An actual bike path would never be paved this way. But it’s true that not every single inch of road for cars has an adjacent bike path. In these cases, the route for bikes will take a detour some distance/direction away. Sometimes this makes it shorter for cyclists to get to the same place, and sometimes it’s a longer detour (everything can’t always be bikes first, after all).

        And as for keeping bikes out of the way of cars, that’s an interesting remark I hear a lot. A huge component of the philosophy behind Dutch traffic is convenience and safety. They achieve both by keeping the different modes of transport (buses/trams, trucks/cars, bikes, pedestrians) separated as much as needed to prevent conflicts. Since you have biked in the Netherlands, surely you saw a lot of streets without any bike infrastructure in the city centers. At low speeds, cars can mix just fine with bicycles as long as there aren’t too many of both. But at higher speed roads (31 MPH or more), this is where you find the separated bicycle paths. How do people imagine the roads would work if you tried to have thousands of cyclists sharing the lanes with thousands of motorists on roads that are 35, 40 45 or 50 MPH, while keeping in mind that all age groups and demographics ride a bicycle in this country? For motorists, it would also be extremely annoying to constantly be trying to pass cyclists. Personally, I don’t want to bike “in the way” of cars that are going at speeds of 35, 40 + MPH and have my safety be completely contingent on every motorist approaching me passing with sufficient space so as to not hit or run me over.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

        • Avatar
          Tim January 21, 2020 at 1:12 pm

          The bike traffic features I noted above are all found within a few Km of Vaulkenberg, in the hilly part of the Netherlands. The narrow bike lane was found near the base of the Cauberg.
          The dashed lines identify bike priority lanes where the road is too narrow and cars need the room to pass but must give way to bikes. They work very well and we could use them in this country if drivers were anywhere near as courteous as they are in Europe.
          My point is that bike infrastructure in the Netherlands and Europe involves a wide variety of features often necessitated by a medieval road system. It is not one size of separated bike lane fits all. just like here, I do wish they didn’t have mandatory side path rules so if the bike facility was inadequate, you wouldn’t get honked at. Also, I don’t think any of the nice bike features, including courteous drivers, would exist if riding bikes was not so common.

          Recommended Thumb up 1

          • Avatar
            USbike January 22, 2020 at 2:05 am

            Thanks for the feedback and the location. I took a quick look but could only find very narrow roads without any bike lanes or the dashed auxiliary type of lanes. But I’ve not been to that area and won’t discount the possibility that such bike lanes could exist somewhere. Just for clarification, these dashed lanes are sometimes bike priority streets as you mentioned, but most of the time they are nothing more than 18 MPH roads that are meant to optically narrow the main routes through cities, towns and villages. Sometimes 37.5 MPH roads connecting 2 villages may also use these if there aren’t too many cars using it.

            I think care should be taken to not treat Europe as if it was one homogeneous entity. Most of Europe is not anything like the Netherlands in terms of infrastructure (especially bicycle infrastructure). The Danes are the next closest with providing for bikes, but there are already huge differences in designs and implementation (such as bicycle paths ending before intersections and turning into a combined bike lane/right-turn car lane). We have a lot of tourists from Belgium and Germany here in Zeeland, and many of them are really not used to all the cyclists or the bike-specific infrastructural treatments. Most of them are overly cautious and way more courteous than many Dutch drivers; a minority will completely not give cyclists priority where it is required probably out of sheer ignorance. It’s logical to assume that Dutch drivers are extra courteous, but that is not my experience at all. They are so used to cyclists that they tend to pass more closely and at faster speeds compared to most foreigners. Sometimes on the country roads, drivers will pass me at ~40 MPH with their side mirrors only 3-4 inches away from me. That’s about the least pleasant thing I ever experience here. While they have 18 MPH speed limits everywhere in their cities, so many drivers don’t follow that limit. If anything, I’m more “pro-bike” than most of my Dutch friends. They really take their infrastructure for granted and are always complaining about having to take long-winded detours with their cars through cities among all the other restrictions.

            As for the requirement to use bike paths, I understand the sentiment in places where the infrastructure sucks, like in many cities in Germany. But it’s really not applicable in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, predictability is a major component of traffic safety. If some cyclists would start to choose whether to use the bicycle path of the adjacent car lane, that could make the traffic much more chaotic. For drivers it would not only be annoying but actually potentially dangerous because now you don’t know whether to expect a cyclist in your lane or not. Now, as much as I appreciate the infrastructure here, I will admit that sometimes, in some places, certain treatments for bikes can feel a bit over-engineered or even superfluous. For me, that is. But then I have to remember to keep it all in perspective to the reality here. It’s about designing streets for everyone. There are kids as young as 3-4 years to 80+ year olds that also commute on the same streets that I do. The infrastructure has been designed with all of these demographics in mind.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    John Lascurettes January 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

    Even the lowly “traditional” bike lane gets no consistent treatment around here. On a particularly long block, only one bike symbol printed at the start of the block to indicate that it’s a bike lane and nothing else — half the people parking in one probably don’t even know. Add a buffer to that and it’s usually a plain stripe that ends out looking like a skinny bike lane that drivers usually use to place their right tires into while driving.

    Recommended Thumb up 23

  • Avatar
    Alex G January 17, 2020 at 11:16 am

    This is 100% correct and is having a very negative impact on cycling in Portland.

    As a cyclist and a driver, trying to navigate Portland’s shared streets is a terrifying nightmare, especially on a rainy night. PBOT can’t even decide which side of the street cyclists belong on, let alone how to consistently divide traffic in ways that make it clear where each of us belong. The visual clutter of confusing signage, sometimes-painted lanes, haphazard striping, street graphics, plastic posts, unneeded medians, and sharrows and arrows sending people in nonsensical directions almost guarantees that even more people are going to get hurt.

    Vancouver went from mildly inconvenient to prohibitively dangerous. Whatever is going on along SE 28th is a mystifying maze. And whose idea was that oh-so-clever roundabout in the bike lanes on NE 21st?

    “It’s as if PBOT is conducting an experiment every time they build a new one.” is a great way to describe it – except people are supposed to learn from experiments and then implement what they learn.

    Recommended Thumb up 36

    • Avatar
      David Hampsten January 18, 2020 at 1:10 pm

      I too am absolutely horrified by PBOT’s inconsistent and imperfect bicycle infrastructure. PBOT should have fully built out it’s entire planned bike network way back in 1990, with the firm expectation that the city population would double by 2020. Instead, in the past 10 years it has built a new freeway bypass, multi-lane tunnels under the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, a tramway to Pillhill, the tourist streetcar trolley and a downtown MAX subway, a total waste of taxpayers’ money. It should have instead built protected bike lanes on all it’s arterial and collector streets, even on relatively low-volume streets, rather than painted bike lanes, simple diverters and silly sharrows, not to mention all those sidewalks in poor blighted East Portland and Southwest Portland. And all those public meetings and advisory committees – as if the public ever knows what they want – what a waste of time and staff resources!

      Recommended Thumb up 8

      • TonyT
        TonyT January 23, 2020 at 12:30 pm

        “. . . in the past 10 years (PBOT) has built a new freeway bypass, multi-lane tunnels under the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, a tramway to Pillhill, the tourist streetcar trolley and a downtown MAX subway, a total waste of taxpayers’ money.”

        What freeway bypass are you’re referring to?

        Can you provide a link for the multi-lane tunnels under the rivers? That’s new on me. Pretty sure PBOT doesn’t have the budget for that.

        The tram opened over 13 years ago and logged a million passengers before it was a year old. It averages about 10,000 riders per weekday and has been a pretty amazing success and the primary way up the hill for many bike commuters.

        Downtown MAX subway? Again, can you please provide a link to that?

        Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Avatar
    El Biciclero January 17, 2020 at 11:38 am

    This comment is spot-on.

    The first leg of my commute home is a “straight” shot up Jefferson from 1st to Goose Hollow. On that run, there are “normal” bike lanes, bus/bike lanes—which are always blocked by waiting buses (not servicing stops, just stopped)—buffered bike lane, green-painted bike lane, wand-“protected” bike lane, and a “mixing zone” where bicyclists are expected to merge with auto traffic. The alignment of the bike lanes/bus lanes is not consistent, I have to merge with auto traffic going uphill to get around stopped buses, near-right-hooks are way too common at the end of the wand-protected section at 12th, pedestrians trying to cross Jefferson at 11th like to stand at the entrance to that same wanded section, blocking the bike lane – and that’s all just on one street, in less than a mile of distance. This is one place where I would be much better off just operating [trigger warning] vehicularly, and avoiding the jumbled mess of “infrastructure” I’m legally bound to use, but it is largely uphill, and I know not everyone is up for huffing it uphill at a speed that doesn’t “impede” traffic.

    My personal opinion is that this is what we get when we try to please everyone, instead of picking a consistent set of guiding principles and choosing a consistent strategy to make changes according to those principles. We’re trying to preserve the ease with which everyone can drive everywhere, keep “bikes” out of the way make bicyclists feel safer, even if they’re not, and create a ton of confusion in the process. Really, it’s a lot like when the new manager takes over and has to “effect change” just to say they are an “agent of change” and put it on their resume, even if the changes they effect degrade the system as a whole.

    With all the different treatments we’ve tried, and all the examples we have from elsewhere to look at, it is truly amazing we haven’t been able to create a single intuitive, [actually] safe, direct, comfortable bike route that lasts more than three blocks. I think the longest stretches of straight, continuous bike route (that aren’t impinged by trailside camping) are directly above the river.

    Recommended Thumb up 39

    • Avatar
      David Hampsten January 18, 2020 at 2:21 pm

      I hate to defend PBOT, but I can’t tell is some of the more popular comments here are meant to be sarcastic and snarky, or if they are serious.

      I live in a city that in 1980 made a series of expensive decisions about expanding the city roadway system built on an assumption the city would grow from 250,000 to 1 million by 2020. The fact that we now have 290,000 people in spite of doubling our area means we have a road system that we cannot afford to maintain, let alone expand, but it doesn’t stop us from going into massive debt building stadiums, bypasses, and other equally regressive infrastructure. And in that time, 80% of the community has no sidewalks, 95% without bike facilities, and 50% without bus service.

      Portland from 1950 to the late 80s had essentially zero population growth, even many negative years during terrible recessions. From 1986 through 1992 it annexed East Portland, Brentwood-Darlington, & the Cully area, effectively expanding the city area by 30% and its population by 20%. Unexpectedly, the city has been continuously growing by a very rapid rate since about 1992 while annexing virtually no land – it’s density has nearly doubled in that time. No city can easily plan for that.

      All those painted bike lanes you see in Portland were put in when the city was much smaller, had a lot less traffic, and had a much higher property tax rate until 1992, except those put in by the county in East Portland. Since then PBOT has been pretty consistently broke – they are lucky to even maintain any city streets let alone build fancy new infrastructure. And they must spend an inordinate amount of time and personnel at public meetings, dealing with whimsical city councilors, and pain-in-the-ass community advocates (such as myself before 2016). Everyone has an opinion on diverters and PBOT engineer designers have to constantly keep redesigning crap.

      PBOT consistently builds state-of-the-art bicycle facilities – but the state of the art keeps changing every year. And so do on-street conditions. Its earliest bike lanes go back to the 1970s – 50 years ago. And some of those bike lanes are still adequate given local traffic volumes and speeds – why build a protected bike lane on a low-volume collector when painted stripes will do? Portland is so walkable because its blocks are so small, but it also means its streets are remarkably narrow, too narrow in most cases for that consistent infrastructure you all crave for.

      Perhaps you might think of moving to my city, Greensboro NC – we have consistent bike infrastructure: no infrastructure at all. And bike ridership to match: 0.27%

      Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Avatar
    JeffP January 17, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    inconsistency requires people to think about what they are doing – we know that is too hard for everyone regardless the mode of transport.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • TonyT
    TonyT January 17, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Amen. It’s my understanding that DOTs don’t employ designers or people otherwise trained in user experience. What I see are projects that likely hit the all important numbers without passing some basic, ease-of-use sniff tests. I mean, just look at the 20s Bikeway transition on SE 30th northbound as you’re supposed to take a left onto SE Washington. I’m sure there are specs that are dutifully followed, but just ride the thing! Taking a left into a 10 feet long patch of paint that is supposed to accommodate bikes going in opposite directions and where car parking is permitted right up to the paint. I mean, it’s so messed up that it’s hard to describe. Sure you can enter via the outbound car lane, but good luck if you get hit by a driver coming out of there. You weren’t in the paint and it’s on you. PBOT really needs to employ families with kids as consultants. And don’t argue with them! If they don’t get it, you gotta start over again.

    Just look at this “Family biking profile:” https://bikeportland.org/2018/07/10/family-biking-profile-kathleen-youell-moved-to-portland-to-live-carfree-285480

    Kathleen Youell’s response to what she’d wish she had known? “Stay away from most of the city’s designated routes! Door zone bike lanes and hills are not your friend.”

    I mean, this is the indictment of all indictments of Portland’s system.

    Recommended Thumb up 22

    • Avatar
      Another Engineer January 17, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      Aside from some of the comments about the circuitous or hilly nature of routes it would be interesting to hear more constructive criticism about the design issues at hand. It may be because I am also a transportation engineer, not at PBOT, but most of the time when looking at something odd I can determine why this choice was made given the existing constraints. Limiting the number of tools in the toolbox during retrofits for the sake of consistency can really limit the ability to design, this will only become more of an issue as more protected bike lanes are built and legal roadway accesses that cannot be closed create odd situations. If retrofits start getting into moving curb and gutter prices go up significantly.

      A great example of this is the odd street crossing at SW Taylor St and SW 14th Ave. If its congested and I cannot make it into the lane then I will use it. I don’t even think its technically legal but I appreciate it being there and understand that the Salmon St Providence Park I-405 exit, installed by declaring a State of Emergency for the I-405, precludes the bike lane being on the correct side of the street without some sort of additional signalization.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • Avatar
        Another Engineer January 17, 2020 at 1:28 pm

        Whoops I did not mean for this to be nested. Should have been a general comment.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Avatar
      JP January 21, 2020 at 9:34 am

      Totally agreed.

      I live in East Portland and am deeply grateful for the recent and upcoming improvements in my area (NE 102, NE Glisan, and soon, NE 122). That said, PBOT’s design and testing process clearly needs some work. After the painting and signage was put in on NE 102, I rode the new bike lanes southbound between Prescott and Halsey and found that despite construction being apparently complete, there was no ramp or cutout to move from the sidewalk on the east side of the overpass just south of Fremont into the two-way bike lane that begins about a block south of there. I emailed the project manager to see if that was an oversight or on the schedule or what and was told a solution was going to be implemented soon. Within a couple weeks, a crude, unmarked asphalt hump was installed allowing riders to ride from the sidewalk to the bike lane without dismounting. This new piece of the infrastructure was hard to see by both motorists and cyclists, partly because it also happened to be installed about 20 feet north of where the two-way bike lane (and paint/bollards that indicate its existence) begin.

      This led me to ask the PM about what PBOT’s quality assurance process for these kinds of projects was. I’m a PM in the software industry, so my mind immediately went to the kind of problems it would cause if I failed to obtain verification that a new feature we were building behaved as intended. I assumed that for project like this, at least very basic QA/testing would be done (have a tester walk, drive, and cycle the new infrastructure and report back at the very least). I was surprised to find that that is apparently not common practice! Given this lack of testing, I think it’s not surprising we’re ending up with a melange of well intentioned but chaotic and confusing infrastructure.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Avatar
    Carrie January 17, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    Another Engineer
    Aside from some of the comments about the circuitous or hilly nature of routes it would be interesting to hear more constructive criticism about the design issues at hand. It may be because I am also a transportation engineer, not at PBOT, but most of the time when looking at something odd I can determine why this choice was made given the existing constraints.

    Why did PBOT install a two-way protected cycle-track for two blocks on NE 28th near NE Wasco where n-bound cyclists are supposed to turn left to get into it when they could have extended the N-bound bike lane up 28th until it connected with the existing greenway north of Weidler? Yes, they would have had to remove car parking, but I can’t see that there is any other infrastructure weirdness in this area to make cyclists do a dangerous, non-intuitive, weird routing in this area. There’s my specific example/criticism that could be applied to other bikeway infrastructure in town.

    Recommended Thumb up 12

    • Avatar
      Another Engineer January 17, 2020 at 5:31 pm

      Out of curiosity I dug through the notes, here is what was in the last Stakeholder Advisory Committee notes, it appears the bend at Halsey was an issue and 26th has a lot less traffic volume.

      “Broadway to Wasco

      While there are many potential design treatment options for 28th in this section, the key issue with using 28th Ave is the Halsey corner, which provides poor sight distances and a very constrained ROW for improvements. Staff believes there is not an adequate design treatment to remedy that section that does not require a shared design in a high traffic volume environment, along with poor sight distances. For this reason, along with 26th Ave providing a Greenway environment without any out-of direction travel, 26th Ave is preferred. The overall effectiveness of this option is conditioned on making a good crossing of Broadway at 26th Ave.”

      I haven’t rode this but the tie in at Wasco leaves a lot to be desired.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Avatar
    Todd Boulanger January 17, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    As a practitioner, I totally understand (and sympathize) with our public street “customers” that say the difficulty of the range of facility treatments can be confusing. But there are generally two primary reasons for this, and a tertiary one too:
    1) Other than totally new streets, most of our urban roadways are retrofits and the politics of design is that roadway space is allocated traditionally from the centreline out to the curb (vs. curb to centreline in the Netherlands)…thus the bikeway [and pedestrian facility] facility often takes the brunt of the “compromise” from constraints (actual right of way available, funding, etc.) that may leave less space after parking and motor vehicle movement needs are provided for 100%;

    2) Our field of work has had much rapid design development (NACTO etc) in the last 10 years as it had for the last 100 years for cycling and since our community will not “tax” itself accordingly to reconstruct its streets as frequently as may be needed (like the Netherlands) or desired for new design consistancy thus you will see legacy / pilot street designs that are not updated to reflect current standard details / changed for 20 to 50 years depending on the resurfacing /reconstruction cycle.

    3) And please note that what you see on the street may not be what the [planners and] engineers approved on their stamped final plans – thus out of their hands – as the contractor / street operations crew may “need to” or “choose to” not do what the plans say to do; as an example, the designed sharrows on the City of Vancouver’s East Evergreen Blvd. project from 2000 were never installed (operations “request”) and still are not installed …even though sharrows are now adopted/ installed at the City on other streets and approved nationally.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Becky Jo (Columnist)
    Becky Jo (Columnist) January 17, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    I realize I’m new here and am still learning, but my comment isn’t really even my comment (and I’m working on a post with some of this info for you), but I was talking to Robert Alan Ping, Exec Director of Trips for Kids, and at one point in the meeting, we joked about how N Rosa Parks/Willamette is difficult to drive sober…and Robert pointed out that one thing that works to keep drivers alert and aware, as opposed to driving on “auto-pilot” where they may miss seeing pedestrians and cyclists, is changing traffic patterns. So, while it’s chaotic, it may actually serve a good purpose, intended or otherwise.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Avatar
      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 17, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      That’s a really good point Becky Jo! And I completely agree (and have even reported as much in the past)… But I think these are two slightly different things we’re talking about. There’s road design that’s done with for the specific reason of making it harder to drive (like in that link I just shared and in this example from Copenhagen), then there’s designing bikeways depending on what is politically convenient at the time. The former is a good strategy, the latter results in inconsistencies that IMO are bad for all users and hurt the overall quality of the network.

      Recommended Thumb up 8

      • Becky Jo (Columnist)
        Becky Jo (Columnist) January 17, 2020 at 4:49 pm

        aaah, gotcha! still drinking from the firehose here.

        I did see your tweet RE the Rosa Parks bike lanes and excellent question about debris clean up in those lanes BTW. I’ve been wondering that myself.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Avatar
        Tim January 21, 2020 at 1:17 pm

        Lawn furniture is common thought out Europe. Almost every village served by a two lane road has a giant flower pot that narrows the road to one lane at the edge of the village. If drivers don’t pay attention they will end up with a giant flower pot embedded in their bumper. The flowers look great, too.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Avatar
    Keith January 18, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Interesting stream of comments. While I appreciate PBOT’s willingness to think out of the box and be creative, we also need consistency so that all users understand what’s expected of them when coming upon multiple design treatments on virtually every trip. I think one problem with the design development and review process is its heavy reliance on plan view drawings and aerial photos. What makes sense “in the air” may prove to be the opposite for someone encountering it for the first time on the ground. The perspective is totally different. Also, designer field visits are normally done during daytime work hours in decent weather, and the impact of dark/wet conditions often aren’t fully appreciated.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Avatar
    Buzz January 19, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    As an experienced urban cyclist, I cringe everytime PBOT takes on another bike infrastructure ‘project’ now, knowing that’s once it’s completed it will most likely be something or somewhere that I will want to avoid forever thereafter.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Mouse January 20, 2020 at 12:12 am

    Whats the point if bikers keep flouting the law, running stop signs and breaking other traffic laws?

    https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2020/01/motorcyclist-killed-in-ne-portland-crash-was-passing-in-oncoming-traffic-lanes-police-say.html

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar