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PBOT plans to (finally) fill the protected bike lane gap on SW Broadway

Posted by on March 8th, 2021 at 1:23 pm

(SW Broadway looking north and south from Oak. One section is protected and wide, the other is neither.)

Dashed line is the current gap this project would fill.

When the Portland Bureau of Transportation installed our city’s first protected bike lane (called a cycle-track back then) on Southeast Broadway adjacent to the Portland State University campus in August 2009, it lacked one crucial element: connection to anything else.

Despite Broadway being one of the most important north-south streets in the central city, that initial project (installed as part of former Mayor Sam Adams’ “First 100 Days” agenda) only went as far north as SW Clay. The goal was to connect all the way north to the Broadway Bridge.

Last fall, PBOT built protected lanes on Broadway from Hoyt to SW Oak; but again this crucial bikeway was left with a major gap through the heart of downtown. (Yes there’s a bike lane the entire length, but it’s a narrow unprotected, door-zone facility that’s woefully outdated.)

Now the full connection is finally within sight: At a meeting last week, PBOT announced they’ll reveal designs and start a public outreach process this spring in advance of finally completing the Broadway bikeway in 2022.

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PBOT plans for Broadway between Columbia and Jefferson. New protected bike lane is on the left.

The new design will reconfigure Broadway between Clay and Oak from three general purpose lanes, two parking lanes, and a bike lane to two general purpose lanes, two parking lanes and a wider, buffered bike lane separated from moving traffic by parked cars. Some parking spaces will be removed to improve visibility at intersections.

You might recall that this section of Broadway was part of a “pop up bike lane” demonstration by Better Block PDX in 2016.

Similar to recent changes to NW Broadway, this $500,000 “quick build” project will consist of paint, plastic posts, and signal timing updates. In addition to a southbound protected bike lane from Oak to Clay, PBOT will create a one-block, contraflow bike lane between SW Harvey Milk and Oak to connect the bikeway to SW 4th.

PBOT says new signal timing will separate bicycling, walking, and driving behaviors at some intersections that will have new right-turn only lanes. Another element of the project will be what PBOT calls “high visibility crosswalks” where yellow-ish “beeswax”-colored pavement color will be used (similar to NE Multnomah through the Lloyd) to cheaply create more space in the road where walkers can wait and shorten crossing distances. A PBOT staffer called them “visual pedestrian step-out zones” that will eventually be filled in with concrete.

The Broadway/4th couplet as seen in the 2018 Central City in Motion plan.

The creation of a “signature” north-south protected bike lane couplet on Broadway and 4th between I-405 and the Broadway Bridge is part of PBOT’s 2018 Central City in Motion plan. Fixing this gap would complete the southbound leg of the couplet. The northbound facility on SW 4th is taking much longer because it’s a full-fledged capital project (as opposed to a quick-build). The latest update from PBOT is that the 4th Ave project will break ground in 2022.

Stay tuned for more info on the Broadway plans. PBOT plans to start public engagement in the next month or so.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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eawristeSteve BGlowBoysquaremanKevin Recent comment authors
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eawriste
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eawriste

I hope at the very least SW Washington and SW Clay will have signal separation and protected intersections if only in planter form. It’ll be amazing to finally not have to ride in the center of a traffic lane downtown.

Scott Kocher
Guest

Re how much visibility at intersections (and throughout): what is the design speed for bikes? Same as the speed limit (20mph)?

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

This turns a bit uphill right around Taylor, so presumably visibility at design speed shouldn’t be an issue for bikes. I rarely exceed 10-12mph there.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

You go 20mph here and you’ll be stopping every block for a red light.

 
Guest
 

IIRC the one-way roads downtown are designed for 15 mph travel to hit every traffic light green.

squareman
Subscriber

NW Broadway between Hoytt and Burnside seems to be tuned to somewhere between 20-25 MPH (or at least it was when I used to ride it every day three years ago – I think changes have been made). But yeah, the timing seems closer to 15 MPH south of there. And it’s even hard to maintain that going uphill and after huffing and puffing to chase all the greens on NW Broadway (no, I didn’t have to, I chose to because it was fun).

All of the streets in inner SW downtown, especially the ones with bike lanes, seem tuned to right about 13 MPH or less. I find myself having to slow my pedal, even on flat-ground streets to avoid having to put a foot down at a red. I’m not putting forth any effort on flat ground until I’m going over 13 MPH which is why I say that seems to be what they’re tuned to.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

One of the tools to make PBLs safer and is used quite often in european countries as well as NYC is to time the lights to bike groups or “waves” such that it is virtually impossible for drivers to not see a cyclist and right hook them. PBoT can easily set signal timers can easily set signal timers to a steady average bike pace, relative to specific stretches. This is also one of the most overlooked benefits to PBLs: safety in numbers. And Broadway will be one of the busiest streets in the city once this connection is finally completed.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

The design speed actually varies between about 13 and 18 mph depending on which signal timing program is in place at the moment, as I have learned. This varies by time of day and day of the week (though it can be overridden for events).

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

Whatever the speed limit is for cars on this street, bike infrastructure should be designed to match. Anything less is an abdication of traffic engineers responsibility to prioritize effective and safe movement by bike.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Hey Steve I think I agree with the sentiment, but in practical terms it makes little sense. One could say that all modes should be designed to match, eg pedestrians infra should also be designed for people walking at 25mph. That bikes and cars both have tires, do not make them act the same. There are areas where engineers design PBLs to purposefully slow peds/bikes (but not cars) such as at protected bus stops. Signals on bway and 4th should be retimed for average bike speed downtown, not cars, which would make this point moot.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

My point is that the bike lanes and “protected intersections” should be designed to promote safe and efficient movement of bikes. Good sight lines, space to avoid hazards and other cyclists. I see a lot of tight bends and pinch points in various bike friendly infrastructure renderings and I was pointing out the continued primacy and affordances given to cars in these designs. In order to make bicycles a viable transportation option for more people, they need to be allowed to move as freely as possible.

If it’s possible to make a light by riding at 20mph but the intersection requires swerving and navigating a tight pinch point at maybe 10mph, that is a failure of design and priorities.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

I think we proly agree in the spirit of policy. Consider a couple different intersections as a case study: Clay and Broadway (which is at the end of a steep downhill) and Jefferson and Broadway (which is at the end of a fairly long uphill segment). It’s likely at Jefferson, people on bikes will be going 20mph. Signal separation (and straight, no-jog design) is crucial to safety here due to high risk of right hook. PBoT may try to sell their odd jog design at Glisan/Bway, but I am very skeptical of that silly thing (and unaware of any research on such a design).

Momo
Guest
Momo

As others have noted, in downtown the “speed limit” is set by the signal timing, and is about 15 mph. I’m guessing the legal speed limit is 25 mph, but if you do that you’ll hit a red light in short order.

maxD
Guest
maxD

I s this where are the hotel drop zones are? How are those being resolved?

maccoinnich
Subscriber

I don’t know, but in Seattle they’ve resolved this with a small step off zone in between the parking lane and the bike lane. If they don’t have the money to do that with concrete in this project I imagine they could do it with a ZICLA platform.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I remember when the SW Broadway stretch of bike lane was put in, sometime in the early 2000s. Coincidentally, I was taking the Portland Traffic and Transportation class at the time, and the universal agreement among everyone in the class (including our venerable instructor) was that it was awful. And it has been awful since, especially in the hotel zones, although the conflict with right turns onto Taylor has become a little less terrible.

Remember this when you find PBOT compromising on poor bike infrastructure: you may have to live with it for a VERY long time. Hawthorne, anyone?

drs
Guest
drs

Would you have preferred to have no bike lane on Broadway for the last 20 years?

I did a daily commute from North Portland, across the Broadway bridge, and through downtown for several years. While I found the Broadway bike lane to be awful, mostly due to hotel traffic and private for hire vehicles loading or unloading in the middle of the bike lane or randomly opening doors without warning, I would not have opted for no bike lane if given the option.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

I would have loved it if PBoT had taken out the standard bike lane, which often served as a loading zone. I learned after years of attempting to ride in it, having dozens of close calls, it was a lot safer to simply ride in the center of the lane. Standard bike lanes are more dangerous in some cases than no bike lane at all.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I did this same commute before the pandemic and just never took Broadway because it’s such a cluster. Bad bike infrastructure is worse than no bike infrastructure because it allows our city to keep focusing on SOVs while maintaining their green cred in the planning community by allowing PBOT to pretend it’s building bike infrastructure

squareman
Subscriber

When I first started commuting (2007ish), I would come off the BB down Lovejoy and use 9th to head south. I would ride the left lane to avoid the streetcar tracks. Sometimes I’d have somebody harassing me about having to be on the right side of the right-hand lane. I would just ignore them as they were ignorant of the laws around lane usage for bikes on a one-way street, as well as lane position, and the hazards of rails to bicycle wheels. But, man, some people would get indignant about it. Also, I felt like I dealt with a lot of punishment passes when going uphill. So I eventually moved over to Broadway and preferred having “my own” space. Yeah, I had a lot of close right hooks over the years – the vast majority of all my close-call experiences have been on Broadway between N Flint and W Burnside (including one like described above of a driver “diving” across the bike lane without signaling while going head in for a parking spot).

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I’m certainly not suggesting that this terrible bike lane was worse than if there had been no bike lane. My point is that even half-*** infrastructure tends to get locked in for decades, and that it’s worth fighting for something better.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I thought Cully/57th was the first barrier-protected bike lane. Or is it a cycletrack? When was that section along Multnomah next to Lloyd Center put in, the one with potted plants?

Momo
Guest
Momo

I’m pretty sure both Cully and Multnomah happened well after the one on Broadway near PSU.

squareman
Subscriber

Yes. SW Broadway near PSU was the first parking-protected, separated bike lane. I remember Jonathan reporting that PBOT and PPB agreed that cyclists “wouldn’t be cited” if they weren’t comfortable using this new “experimental” project lane. It’s still there. I don’t know what the sidepath law enforcement there now is. NE Cully was Portland’s first true separated cycle track, purpose-built for the bicycles and no autos allowed. I still see garbage carts and sometimes parked cars blocking it from time to time, but not as often as I used to (people are learning). The planter zone buffered/separated lanes on Multnomah went in much later than both of those. I think they may have even gone in after SW Moody area on the west side of TIllikum put in some more dedicated cycle track path infrastructure.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

Um, big yawn? Just what we need, more uncleanable gutter bike lanes full of crappy pavement, wet slippery leaves and other debris!

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

What would you recommend?

I see this as a huge step forward. I feel like cleanliness is a different issue. We need more biking infrastructure. But we also need more bike lane street cleaners. Just because the lanes can get slippery does not mean that they should not happen.

Keith
Guest
Keith

As someone who dodged opening car doors and was once run off into the curb by a motorist diving for an on-street parking space, I’ve avoided the Broadway bike lane for years now. Broadway has never really needed 3 travel lanes – even at rush hour. The buffered bike lane near PSU is positively serene compared to the rest, and extending this type of treatment north will be a welcome change that should have occurred years ago. Better late than never.

drs
Guest
drs

This will be a great improvement. I’d prefer poured concrete dividers to separate the bike facility from cars, but wands and paint are better than nothing.

I wish PBOT would abandon the left hand alignment on the 4th Ave bike facility when they get around to building it in 2022.

Ed
Guest
Ed

Between Broadway, 4th, and Naito there is a lot of north-south improvements coming. Anything happening with east-west in downtown? Flanders? Anything else?

 
Guest
 

I wonder if there’s any chance PBOT could close Yamhill and Morrison to private cars entirely, making them public transit and bike only. They’d be a logical pair to try this out on.

And on the south edge of downtown Montgomery is extremely low-hanging fruit; the only blocks currently open to car traffic at all are between 4th and 5th, and 10th and 11th. Really don’t see why they couldn’t just close the former entirely, and the latter is low-traffic enough that I’m not concerned about changing it.

nic.cota
Subscriber

No kidding! I was right hooked just yesterday at the intersection with Washington St. Luckily I was defensive and had slowed down enough that only the tail end of the car caught my front wheel and I fell relatively soundly to the side at almost 0 mph. If it was most riders it could’ve been a lot worse… This is so overdue.

squareman
Subscriber

Seems like Broadway south of Burnside would have been a prime candidate for putting the bike lane on the left side the whole way (as long as it avoided the malarky that North Williams did with a different left-turning auto configuration depending on which block you are at). it’s mostly uphill, so cyclists are rarely going to be going faster than motor vehicles. And it would get rid of the hotel zone conflict. I don’t think that will ever get resolved well. Tourists are oblivious. Doormen don’t really care. And while some taxi companies do their best (radio cab), others do not, and Uber and Lyft drivers are the worst.

Steve B
Guest
Steve B

Great to see this improvement finally come to light!