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It’s too easy to park in Portland’s “protected” bike lanes

Posted by on April 23rd, 2021 at 11:05 am

If the Portland Bureau of Transportation is going to call something a protected bike lane, it should mean something.

(*Before I share this, I want folks to know that the biking in the Piedmont/Arbor Lodge neighborhoods is mostly really nice (by American standards). Compared to other parts of Portland where massive arterials dominate, there are no through streets and often no bike lanes at all, what I’m about to share is relatively small potatoes. But it’s still important.)

The other day while biking home from school with my 10-year-old son we encountered an egregious and illegal blockage of one of Portland’s marquee bike lanes. It happened on North Rosa Parks Way between North Interstate and I-5. On my way to pick up my son, I noticed two work trucks parked in the bike lane, with tires up on the concrete curb. On our way back about 25 minutes later, the trucks were still there.

I filmed my boy navigating around the blocked lanes because I wanted more people to know that this happens. And as you all know, it’s not just here. People park illegally in bike lanes all across the city far too often. You might think adding a concrete curb would keep people out and/or make it obvious that the lane is just as important as the other lanes on the street. But no.

We’ve posted about people parking in bike lanes for many years here on BikePortland. The fact that it still happens so often means that the City of Portland has not prioritized enough (planning, project, policy, or other) resources to prevent it from happening.

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If it’s so hard to fix, perhaps the protection should be more robust. A taller concrete curb or jersey-barrier-type wall would do the trick.

As for the trucks in this specific instance on Rosa Parks, after we posted this video to our Instagram page, several readers tagged 3 Mountains Plumbing. The company responded with a comment this morning:

“Oh my 😳, I’ll pass this along to our excavation manager ASAP to see if there are ways we can train and improve here in future. I know emergency sewer repairs often require the loading and unloading of our dump trucks in bike lanes, but I’m sure there were additional measures that should have been taken! Our team gets pretty serious with addressing customers needs, and our trucks can be quite big, and difficult to park! Please reach out directly with concerns to our office at 503-670-1342 if you see things like this in future, so that we can work to address them!”

There’s been a lot of construction on this section of Rosa Parks in the past year or so. Unfortunately a lot of these work crews think they have special privileges and they see the bike lane as an expendable space they can use without proper permit or permission. Perhaps it’s time for PBOT to address work crew parking with specific outreach/education/enforcement efforts. Maybe a partnership with Bureau of Development Services (the permitting bureau) to strengthen requirements and awareness around traffic safety protocols at work sites.

And we don’t want to hear about what number to call to file a complaint. We appreciate how responsive PBOT is to complaints; but our system must work better without relying on complaint-driven systems. Many people — especially those who’ve been wronged by authorities in the past and still harbor deep distrust of the government — don’t have the time or confidence to engage with city government. That means only certain types of people use the system and many others continue to be left behind.

We have a lot of bike lanes in Portland. If we add more robust physical protection they can achieve their full potential — and so can our 10-year-olds.

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

I wish PBOT did a better job of educating contractors on the Temporary Traffic Control Manual; particularly the bike and ped accommodation requirements. So many contractors block traffic without even getting a traffic control permit. Hopefully 3 Mountains Plumbing is serious about doing better and setting up a proper work zone when they need to park on the right of way for an emergency repair. The first step would be to have all their staff review this manual.

PdxPhoenix
Guest
PdxPhoenix

Hopefully he says…

Noah Brimhall
Guest
Noah Brimhall

I happened to drive by that area around the same time and noticed the bike lane blockage. Even more frustrating, there was a second blockage on the other side of Rosa Parks on the I-5 overpass at the exact same time. I absolutely think that PBOT and BDS need guidelines and education to work crews on safety protocols around work sites.

mark
Guest
mark

I don’t have time to complain to the city about each violation I see each day. I agree that the city needs to be more proactive to eliminate these types of violations.

one
Guest

The city probably won’t do anything anyways. But I bet 3 mountains plumbing will want to hear from you. (503) 470-4786 will get you to their answering service (Not a part of the company.) You’ll have to ask to get a call back from the company, to be able to share your request that they help keep everyone safe by following g parking laws/ and not block the lane.) I’m waiting for a call back right now. I didn’t have give my full name. You could also email them.

Fred
Guest
Fred

You’re missing the point, one: No one should have to call a company or the city or anyone to unblock a bike lane. No one should block a bike lane in the first place – just as no one should block a street for cars, trucks, or emergency vehicles.

Ted L.
Guest
Ted L.

Fred, I agree no one should be doing it in the first place but I get “one’s” approach. It does seem almost futile to ask the city to enforce it until we have a change in city government. Just saying no one should have to call the company or the city doesn’t make the problem go away. At lease one’s approach will keep 3 mountains plumbing from doing this again (I hope).

squareman
Subscriber

I sure wish bicycle riders would follow the laws. /s

So frustrating that they had cones along the edge of the lane to warn drivers(?). I’m sure all irony was lost on those guys.

Jonathan, kudos to your son for handling the situation like a boss, even calling back to you that there’s a second obstruction — I’d expect as much. Still, as seen in the poster frame on the video, it put him close to a high-speed SUV. I saw this on BP’s Facebook wall yesterday and reposted it to mine. One person replied with “This right here is why I only ride in Sunriver.” Portland is never getting people who are interested but concerned to ride if this is going to remain our de-facto normal.

Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

You seen them frikkin cones?

squareman
Subscriber

Sorry, it’s two days after first seeing your reply and I’m still trying to figure out what you were trying to ask or say.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes
squareman
Subscriber

LOL. Thanks for the clarification.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

There was a company working on a big project n N. Rosa Parks and N. Denver ish two winters ago. They had stuff parked in the bike lane and were blocking the sidewalk. Daily. For months. I called them in frequently and they got a few fines. The person at BDS (I think?) said they “were having trouble understanding what they need to do be compliant” lol. The fines are cheaper than properly accessing a work site and properly rerouting traffic.

Make it $10k for the first infraction and $25k for every other one. I promise they will stop doing this.

Matthew in PDX
Guest
Matthew in PDX

And if repeat offenders were barred from receiving city contracts, or had their business licenses revoked, that would hurt even more.

I recall reading about a city in the SF Bay area that refused a permit for a new Home Depot store because the existing one consistently broke city laws and just paid the fines (which they considered a cost of doing business).

Champs
Guest
Champs

Yet the better protected lanes are frequently full of debris or appropriated by camps. I can’t remember the last time I could use Multnomah under I5. Mice and men.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Champs, you are clearly being hyperbolic here. I ride on Multnomah under I-5 every day – often several times a day. The homeless guys are friendly and harmless – they usually wave when I ride by.

bikerider99
Guest
bikerider99

My favorite is when you are pedaling along in a bike lane next to traffic and all of a sudden there is a big orange sign completely blocking the bike lane with no where to go but into the lane. Sign says, “bikes in road”.

bikerider99
Guest
bikerider99

See this issue all the time, of course. The rider handled it very well. It is stressful – and should not have to be.

A protected bike lane can be nice, but the slippery slope of creating a space where only bikes can be is that pretty soon, we may find that’s the only place where bikes can be.

I think it’s important that car drivers learn to expect to see bikes in all lanes, not just in special places reserved only for bikes. Even if cars aren’t parked in the bike lane, we do find other obstructions which can require a re-routing.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Love this comment!

“the slippery slope of creating a space where only bikes can be is that pretty soon, we may find that’s the only place where bikes can be.”

This is why I don’t like protected lanes: I want the option to slip into the main travel lane when needed.

drs
Guest
drs

I try to call parking enforcement when I see issues like this. But more often than not, I have to call police non-emergency, and end up waiting 1/2 hour plus to get through. I don’t have the patience to wait around to get through to report illegal parking.

I feel like you are bending over backwards to not use the word, “enforcement,” in this post.

And of course, this issue is not just confined to the “protected” bike lanes. We have vehicles parking illegally all over the painted bike lanes as well. I was running an errand around 11 AM today and I noticed three different delivery vehicles (FedEx, Amazon and some other vehicle) that were parked in the SE Belmont St bike lane between SE 7th and SE 16th. I also see Uber/Lyft and food delivery vehicles blocking bike lanes around the City all the time.

I was biking on Naito next to a police cruiser earlier this week. The cops drove right by a tent and associated junk that were blocking a bike lane, as well as a junky looking van that appeared to be serving as a home to someone that was parked in the bike lane. Of course, the cops did nothing to cite the people that were blocking the bike lanes.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I feel like you are bending over backwards to not use the word, “enforcement,” in this post.

The problem is solely routed in the fact that PBOT refused to build actually protected bike lanes. These are at best semi-protected. You can see that the brodozer is parked on the “protection”. There is a reason you don’t see these same work trucks parked on the sidewalk. PBOT designed Rosa Parks to allow parking in the bike lane.

drs
Guest
drs

Eh, I see cars driving on the brand new shiny bike lane along Greeley that has a four foot tall concrete barrier separating it from the road. I see cars driving in parks and nature areas. I’ve seen cars on the totally separated facilities at the I-5/Marine drive interchange. You are never going to be able to build a facility that is accessible and reasonably wide for all ages/abilities bike users that is totally inaccessible to cars. At some point, you need law enforcement to keep out people who are willing to violate the law. The law violators are equally likely to be professionals, such as delivery drivers and contractors as they are to be homeless people.

Josie Wilms
Guest
Josie Wilms

It’s not the cop’s fault. They are not allowed by city policy to disturb the houseless in that situation. PBOT also cannot do anything to a vehicle if there is any evidence of habitation. This is not the case in other cities, but this is how Portland has opted to respond to the issue.

dan
Guest
dan

Somewhere or other I have a photo of a City of Portland work truck blocking the bike lane on NE Glisan, forcing bikes to mix with auto traffic. If the city can’t even get their own employees to respect these lanes, why would anyone else?

soren
Guest
soren

On my daily commute I continue to negotiate piles of sand/debris in bike lanes, construction blockages with no detour, traffic signals that do not detect bikes, and unbelievable amounts of pandemic road rage.

It feels like the 90s again.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

This is a universal problem nationwide and worldwide. And of course there’s double-parking in traffic lanes that upset car drivers too, blocked freeways, blocked sidewalks with temporary construction signs, etc etc.

The reality is that public right of way are part of the commons – we all have to share it, including the poorly-paid lawn care people, emergency personnel, commuters, recreational users, dogs out walking their humans, the cell towers and invisible signals, the water and sewer lines, trees, birds, the odd squirrel, and pretty much everyone else, so the idea that one particular group has total exclusive use to a 6-foot wide strip of asphalt lined with some striping is a bit, well, the term “white privilege” comes readily to mind…

Maria Lartz
Guest
Maria Lartz

Maybe not in North Carolina but lawn care people seem to make “bank” in Portland. I ended up mowing my lawn again after getting sticker shock at the price increases. Upgraded to an electric mower to reduce my carbon footprint. Plus riding my bike whenever possible.

drs
Guest
drs

I think the nuance that you are missing, David, is that Portland, and most other cities, require people that are blocking vehicle travel lanes that are designated lanes for motor vehicles to obtain permits if the blockage is more than fleeting. If an unpermitted and inadequately marked blockage occurs, the violators are subject to enforcement and fines. When a similar unpermitted blockage occurs on a bike lane, it is generally ignored or excused.

While I generally agree that public rights of way are common spaces that should be open to all reasonable uses – even those that may impede the flow of traffic in some instances, I don’t think that all blockages should be equally tolerated, and some regulation of public spaces is absolutely necessary.

Pat Franz
Guest
Pat Franz

They are probably unaware that if there is an injury due to their unsafe lane blockage, they will be liable. The crew working that day may or may not care, but the owners of the company should. I’ve had some success googling the company office and calling to talk about driver behavior. They often stop the BS when I mention liability. Reminding them their trucks have their name on it helps too.

Josie Wilms
Guest
Josie Wilms

Yes, I hate when the bike lanes are blocked. It seems almost futile to report these incidents to the PBOT. Unfortunately, the city of Portland is not a well functioning municipality at this time. They have forgotten the pragmatic part of “pragmatic progressivism” that was once the core ethos. It’s been supplanted by embracing anarchy and lack of enforcement of any type. The only way to get back to a more grounded city government that functions is to make your voice heard. Also, be sure to vote come election time. For now, contact the city departments and elected officials and tell them. The “status quo” of live and let live is not really working,

Fred
Guest
Fred

No, Josie. It’s the commission form of city gov’t that isn’t working. Everyone needs to vote for city charter reform so Portland can have a functional gov’t like other cities. It will lead to city agencies that function properly and keep bike lanes clear.

Maria Lartz
Guest
Maria Lartz

Well Fred I agree with Josie AND you. Definitely would vote for city charter reform especially if it could keep the darn bike lanes clear.

tom
Guest
tom

I encounter this often in the new protected lanes near NE 110 & glisan. The blockage that really bugs me is on the 205 path, just south of Crystal springs blvd…. homeless encampment covers over half of the path, small path past it is littered with broken glass. 🙁

qqq
Guest
qqq

A construction project was regularly blocking a main pedestrian and bike entrance to Willamette Park. PBOT told me they issued a permit for them to block the street, since it was a “dead end that doesn’t go anywhere”. They didn’t notice it was a main park entrance because it’s not a vehicle entrance. I did finally find someone at PBOT who was willing to issue fines to the contractor when they parked on the sidewalk at the park entrance, since their permit was for the street. So the contractor responded not by stopping to block the sidewalk, but by asking PBOT to expand their permit to allow parking on the sidewalk, which PBOT did. So then they blocked the sidewalk even more.

drs
Guest
drs

You should contact the PBOT pedestrian coordinator and/or the pedestrian advisory committee.