When it comes to bicycling, Broadway might be the most important street in Portland. It delivers people from some of our busiest bikeways (Williams, Tillamook, Interstate, Broadway Bridge) and most bike-oriented neighborhoods to the heart of our “living room” (Pioneer Square), cultural district, and one of the largest universities in Oregon.
Unfortunately Broadway’s bikeway has never lived up to its potential. A new project from the Portland Bureau of Transportation has taken the biggest step forward for cycling access on Broadway since former Mayor Sam Adams made it the site of our first protected bike lane over a decade ago. As I shared last month, PBOT has reconfigured the lanes on Broadway between Hoyt and Oak to create more space for cycling. With the project completed (except for a few corners), I took a closer look over the weekend.
The topline summary is that there’s a new protected bike lane on both sides of Broadway between Hoyt and Oak. PBOT has also created a roundabout in the vast expanse of the Burnside/Broadway/Ankeny intersection (taking us one step closer to a future public plaza space).
If you’re headed south into downtown on the Broadway Bridge ramp (which was restriped to handle more bike traffic in 2013), the first change you’ll notice is that car and truck users can no longer turn right onto NW Hoyt (see photos below). Portlanders spilled lots of blood at this intersection before PBOT took this much-needed step.
The new southbound bike lane is curbside, except for the block between Hoyt and Glisan. PBOT introduced a weave between the bike-only lane and the adjacent general travel lane in order to facilitate right turns at Glisan. In a green-colored lane protected by plastic wands and curbs, bike lane users merge to the left before the Glisan intersection. The thinking here is that a mid-block merge that can be controlled with paint and plastic is better (safer and less expensive than a bike-only signal) than doing it at the intersection. Bike lane users have the priority (based on shark teeth markings pointing at the other lane). From my observations, driver speeds are pretty low thanks to the narrow lane and the merge seems to work OK.
After Glisan the bike lane goes back to curbside and continues to Burnside without a hitch. There’s a new floating bus island in front of Central City Concern just before Burnside that’s the same product PBOT recently installed on NW 18th and 19th. North of Burnside to Oak, the bike lane feels luxuriously wide — so much so that I’m afraid the old unprotected, door-zone bike lane between Oak and Clay (where the PSU protected lane starts up) will feel even more narrow and stressful.
Northbound from Oak PBOT has installed a contra-flow bike lane that rolls into the new roundabout at Ankeny. The roundabout is the only section of the new bikeway where bicycle riders don’t have protection. The roundabout is marked with sharrows and is shared with TriMet bus operators and other drivers.
The bike lane picks up again to cross Burnside and it’s protected with a mix of paint and plastic wands and curbs all the way back to Hoyt where it connects to the existing bike lane up to the Broadway Bridge.
It’s exciting to have this new protected space on such a marquee bikeway; but my glee was tempered by a few things.
First, there’s a lot less bike traffic downtown right now because so many people are working from home and/or are choosing to drive due to the pandemic. This makes it hard to really assess how the new design is working. The amount of leaves in the protected lanes is also a big problem. This is happening citywide and it’s not yet clear if PBOT has a plan or if they even have the right tools to get into these narrow lanes.
And last but definitely not least, people and their belongings are spilling into the bike lanes and several sections are impassable. The amount of people camping on streets in Old Town has gone up a lot during this crisis and it’s no surprise they’ve expanded into these protected spaces. This is heartbreaking on so many levels and we must do more to address this issue.
Have you ridden this yet? If so, what’s your experience been like?
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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