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Washington County installs first bus/bike priority lanes

Posted by on August 25th, 2020 at 1:27 pm

Cornell Road looking west.
(Photo: William Vertal)

Two sections of major roads in Washington County have been striped and painted for the exclusive use of bus and bicycle operators.

In a first for the County, they’ve used red and green coloring to designate transit and bike priority lanes. The new striping was installed this week on Cornell Road and 185th Avenue.

BikePortland reader Naomi Fast rode the new lanes on Tuesday. “Physically speaking, riding on the paint doesn’t feel that different than it did before. The same road user conflicts that existed before still exist,” she reports. “But to me it is a bright spot in the status-quo, a crack in the car-centrism… While paint is not infrastructure per se, in my opinion it does add a modicum of safety, in that it helps drivers expect to see us on bikes, and is a reminder in living color that we all belong.”

Here’s the planning graphic from the County:

(Graphic: Washington County)

And here’s more from a County statement:

“New striping and signs on the right-turn lane on westbound Cornell and the right-turn lane on southbound 185th will allow buses to travel through the intersection to access far-side bus stops and avoid congestion. Portions of the lanes will be painted red. Only buses will be allowed; other vehicles are prohibited.

The transit priority lanes will improve reliability and speed for TriMet’s Line 48 (Cornell Road) and Line 52 (185th Avenue). These high-ridership routes are often delayed during high-traffic periods, particularly during commute hours. A study of traffic impacts and drivers’ response to these lanes will be conducted in the future.

Green bike priority lanes will also be added to the intersection. Just as the red bus priority pavement increases drivers’ awareness of buses, the green pavement increases drivers’ awareness of bicyclists.”

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New green and red lanes on southwest corner of 185th and Cornell Road.
(Photo: Naomi Fast)

Currently the bike lane on westbound Cornell Road hugs the curb after crossing 185th. The new design put the bike lane to the left of a bus-only lane and fortify it with solid green coloring that will be striped in a caution zone where the bus operator needs to merge back into traffic. A similar situation is present on southbound 185th after crossing Cornell.

While I’m not sure these tiny islands of calm amid the vast sea of cars and drivers qualifies as a “lane,” and we still only have an unprotected bike lane, this is a nice step forward. In a place where drivers enjoy nearly total domination of the roadways, every little bit counts. This project shows Washington County is aware of the urgent need to re-allocate road space away from drivers and toward other users.

I look forward to seeing these in action. If any of you have ridden here (before or after the changes), please share your experience.

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

ODOT has considered a street buffet (road diet) for SW Canyon Road in West Slope between Highway 26 and about SW 87th Ave for the next repave of Canyon for 2024. Contact Christopher from ODOT (basil.r.christopher at odot.state.or.us) and the county commissioners in Multnomah and Washington counties. The side streets are alright for riding a bicycle on a suburban level but it requires often riding on the brakes in comparison to Canyon Road.

Tom
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Tom

Cornell out in Wash co is comparable to Powell or Sandy in Portland. The fact that there is a bike lane with paint on it is actually light years ahead of us since we don’t even have bike lanes on our main roads here.

rick
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rick

May I ask where is here? Powell is getting sidewalks and bike lanes in that Doug fir tree neighborhood.

was carless
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was carless

I don’t understand why you would put a bicycle lane to the left of a bus lane.

Chris I
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Chris I

Because busses need to pick people up on the curb.

MaddHatter
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MaddHatter

The alternative would be people cross the bike lane to board the bus, and I don’t think that’s bad, per se. I can imagine cases where it wouldn’t work, and others where it would.

Lynne
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Lynne

That bit of paint on westbound SW Cornell is a welcome addition. When I was commuting out to Hillsboro daily, that particular stretch (drivers wanting to turn into the shopping center, busses stopping and starting) was always kind of stressful. The paint clarifies where everyone should be. (Not that they’ll necessarily play along, but it is a start).

For those of you not out here, SW Walker has bike lanes west of SW Cedar Hills all the way out, but for some narrow bridges. SW Cornell and SW Evergreen also have bike lanes. SW Canyon – not so much. These are all major E-W stroads.

Alex
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Alex

“Not that they’ll necessarily play along…”. Yes, see photo 2. Happy to see the effort but I am afraid it is going to take many years and much (much) more of this to see Washington County drivers become aware and understanding of what they are looking at. Most of Portland’s driving population seems to remain confused.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

Welcome, even if it doesn’t make a huge difference in the situation for cyclists. I’ve ridden through this intersection many times (both on 185th and on Cornell), and the biggest problem for me is the sheer width and number of lanes on 185th. Not fun to make left turns there, though I still usually manage to make them the conventional way.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Naomi’s observation that “paint is not infrastructure” is spot on.

rick
Guest
rick

I think Washington County has had a bus-only west-bound lane for perhaps since 1998 on SW Barnes Road to the east of the Sunset Transit Center. It isn’t much of a time-saver, but it is still there. The nearby west-bound bike lane on Barnes gets worn away by car drivers like an apex at PIR.

Ms Fast
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Ms Fast

rick, do you mean that spot where buses wait to enter Sunset Bus & MAX Transit Center? Per City of Beaverton’s ‘Report a Problem’ jurisdiction map, WashCo does own Barnes (& therefore the worn away bike lane paint) where Barnes veers right, but it appears that little bit of bus-only lane is part of the ODOT-maintained 217 on-ramp. As if ODOT secretly wants to rustle the STC bus lane into their hoard of “aux lanes.”

It begs the question: why would transit planners stick buses in the middle of a congested freeway on-ramp day in & day out, unless it was to drive those buses onto the freeway, carrying lots of Portlanders west to Silicon Forest jobs? Awfully strange plan.

BradWagon
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I believe a large safety improvement here is that buses will not need to merge through the bike lane after the intersection. The merge only happens once now before the intersection (both west and south bound instances). While this means the bike lane is further from the curb for longer it is aligned and mixing with those two right turn only lanes after the bus stop is in favor of the cyclist from a “visual right of way” perspective, specifically the westbound instance. Let’s hope this right most lane can be configured to a bus-only/turn lane all the way to 26 and reduce driving lanes from 3 to 2. That would make a substantial impact to the bus travel times when it’s congested.