Starting this spring the Portland Bureau of Transportation will create new bike lanes on outer Northeast Glisan in a bid to tame dangerous driving and improve safety for all users. It’s Phase 2 of the East Glisan Street Update project that began in 2019 and has already led to significant safety impacts.
You might recall our coverage of Phase 1 that restriped Glisan between 122nd and 162nd (city limits). That project changed the configuration of this dangerous arterial from five general lanes (including a center turn lane) and no bike lanes to three general lanes (including a center turn lane) and parking-protected bike lanes.
At intersections, the cross-section transitions to two general lanes in each direction and buffered bike lanes. This is part of what PBOT refers to as a “narrow road, wide node” design that looks to create safer conditions while not having a major impact on travel times for car users. In a October 2019 video, PBOT explained how this “smarter street” reduces speeds between signals but, “You’ll still [drive] efficiently through the major intersections, keeping your overall travel time close to what it is now.”
Phase 2 will focus on the section from 102nd to 122nd. PBOT will install new crossings with flashing beacons at 108th, 113th and 155th. The lane configuration will be different depending on which direction you’re going (see images above and right). Eastbound will have two general lanes and buffered bike lanes; westbound will have a center turn lane, one general lane, and a parking-protected bike lane.
This “offset cross-section” isn’t standard for PBOT. They say it was done in response to community feedback and traffic volume analysis that suggests one general lane eastbound would create too much delay for drivers. “Adjusting the street to have one driving lane in the westbound direction still offers many of the safety benefits and provides space for bike lanes,” PBOT says.
Data collected by PBOT after the completion of Phase 1 showed, “an overall improvement in safety measures,” and no significant travel time delays or diversion into neighborhoods.
Drivers slowed down across the board, with particularly steep decreases in top-end speeding. An evaluation of Phase 1 changes (PDF) also shows the lane configuration changes didn’t have a significant impact on transit times (outside of relatively small increases in peak times) or car user travel times. The worst part for drivers is a 30-second travel time increase during the evening peak period (note the data was collected in February 2020, prior to major shifts due to Covid).
PBOT also measured how bicycle users were impacted by the Phase 1 changes. PBOT uses a “Level of Traffic Stress” metric which rates biking conditions on a scale from 1 to 4 with four being the highest stress. With no bike lane prior to this project, Glisan was an LTS 4. The sections with parking-protected bike lanes are now considered LTS 1. Where there are only buffered bike lanes (approach/at intersections), the stress level rises to LTS 3. PBOT says recent speed limit reductions on Glisan (from 40 to 30 mph) bring it down to LTS 2.
This is just one project in PBOT’s “Gateway to Opportunity” effort to improve road safety in outer northeast Portland. Learn more at Portland.gov.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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