Video: Bike Thru North Greeley Avenue

The North Greeley Avenue bikeway project is just a few tiny tweaks away from being complete. Since our last visit back in May, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has finished the new protected path/bike lane on N Going Court to Going Street and has polished the main diagonal at Going that crosses riders from the west to east side of the street.

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I went out a few days ago to get a closer look at the key elements of this project. In the ‘Bike Thru’ video above you’ll hear my live narration and get a better sense of how the designs work. You’ll hear about the wonderful and wide green section through the Adidas campus, the unfortunate bump that is now marked with a big sign, the highs-and-lows of the bike signals/crossings, and more.

To refresh your memory, this project was done in two parts: There’s the southern section from Going Street to just north of Interstate Avenue, where PBOT built a two-way bike lane protected from other lanes by a concrete wall (made out of jersey barriers); and the northern section (paid for by sports apparel company Adidas) which goes from the Going St viaduct to N Willamette.

As I say in the video, I think this is a huge step forward for our bike network. This connects the “true north” Portland to the inner eastside with a protected facility. It isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it’s a huge improvement over the unprotected lanes we used to have.

Have you ridden it yet? I’d love to hear how it’s working for you. I’m especially curious what folks think about the crossings — both the main one and the one to the Going Ct ramp.

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

It feels negligent to not comment on the fact that the bollard to exclude cars has been missing since 2 days after it was installed, and the “protected” path between Going and Interstate is a HEAVILY used driveway. The southern 1/3 is less than 10 feet wide leaving zero space for people walking or biking when there is a car/truck/van driving on it.

That said, this is a timely piece for me. I just tried it out on Friday on my way home from work. I was heading north up Greeley then east on Going. I did exactly what you suspected riders would do. I got to the signal and did not see the sign instructing bikes to use the sidewalk (I think it is installed too far back. Since the whole project uses green paint for bike route wayfinding, it did not occur to me to use the pedestrian crosswalk or the narrow, 5-wide sidewalk. I did end up in no-mans-land and had to rejoin the bike route on the ramp down to Going. I disagree with Jonathan’s characterization of that ramp as a slow, quiet road. Friday I had a UPS truck blow by going scary fast.

I am disappointed in the way the video ends: JM finds a serious design deficiency which basically undermines the value of the whole system and literally says “that’s not ideal, its not a perfect design, but what are you going to do?” PBOT completely failed to make an important connection! This is an abject failure. If you stop on your bike at the crosswalk, the sign telling you to use the crosswalk is BEHIND YOU! The design of this brand new intersection is to use a crosswalk and skinny little sidewalk! Why not place the sign in the right location? Why not continue the protected lane up to Going? Why not demolish the wall of the sidewalk and add a new wall providing 12′ or more of space for people walking and biking across Going?

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

Aside from the launching pad he noted up by the bus stop, the new path worked really well going southbound this morning. The light detected me and changed right as I got to the awkward crossing at Going, so I was able to hold speed. I then encountered a septic truck completely blocking that path at the camp. I had to dismount and walk through the mud to get around it. We shouldn’t be allowing camps like this if they are going to use a narrow MUP as a service road. It is dangerous and really inconvenient at times.

Mark H Linehan
Mark H Linehan
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

As you can see in the video, the painted sharrow on northbound Greely at Going points straight ahead rather than bending to the right. Also, the crosswalk has white pedestrian stripes, not green cross-bike stripes. With these indications, it makes more sense for bicyclists to go straight rather than cross via the crosswalk and enter the sidewalk.

Ed
Ed
1 year ago

Definitely a step in the right direction. The portion between Willamette and Going is especially well done. You can almost imagine it connecting into a redone Willamette Blvd with a protected bike lane the entire length of the bluff to St. Johns. On the other end, the glaring weak spot in a real network connection is Interstate. The 5 ft (maybe?) bike lanes connecting into the Broadway Bridge would not be a place I’d recommend riding with your 10-year-old. Without buying right of way, the Interstate solution would be to close one of the existing auto lanes to cars and make it just for bikes/peds.

JG
JG
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed

You’re right about Interstate. I actually like it fairly well for commuting myself, but I’ve actively avoided it with our daughter in tow in our Burley. What is the better family-friendly alternative connection to the city center, the Rodney St. Greenway?

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  JG

skidmore to 7th is pretty good and will be the preferred route once the blumenaur bridge is installed.

drs
drs
1 year ago

Definitely some good design elements here. But it really seems to me that PBOT has created a nifty driveway for the Hazelnut Grove camp. If people are driving on the bike path, it is not a safe option. I used to regularly bike on Greeley (I just completely avoided the pathway in front of the camp. I know everyone hates unprotected bike lanes, but I don’t see the current situation as an upgrade). Now I’d rather use any other available option. I take intestate. I really don’t like it, with all the intersections and extra half mile of distance. But that’s what I do. Greeley is dead to me, unless I’m in a car.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago

I am really surprised at your acceptance of people driving on bike paths! When this project was being designed, I had a series of meetings with PBOT to try to get them address a few safety issues: 1) high speeds on Greeley (which resulted in a multiple fatality) – PBOT acknowledged speeds were over 55 but ignored. 2) No safe space for pedestrians -this is called an MUP but cannot accommodate peds- PBOT acknowledged but said maybe in a future phase. 3) existing path is too narrow (less than 10 feet, and is unsafe because it is a de facto driveway- PBOT said they would install a bollard but it was immediately removed. If Hazelnut Grove is going to be a location for permanent housing, then the City needs to step up and treat them like citizens: a driveway off Greeley, running water and electricity, parking and service space, etc. AS it is, PBOT is pitting citizens against each other by burying their head in the sand and pretending the conflict does not exist. I tried to use this path on a rainy night and encountered a van coming at me. Granted, they were going slow, but I was blinded by their headlights, there was not space to go around, I had to turn around and get tailed by a large van on a bike path- not OK! I was also verbally threatened by a person driving a pick-up down the going street MUP while I walked my dog. I honestly feared for my safety enough to call the police (who never showed up). This is supposed to be safe, all-ages space for people walking and riding bikes. Sharing it with people driving, dropping off donations, and servicing dumpsters and portable toilets is just not that. It is not safe, it is a conflict, and it is there by design. PBOT explicitly (as in, they told me this in plain language)designed Greeley this way to improve freight movement ans the number of unaddressed safety issues should make perfectly clear.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

I have to agree. Driving on a bike lane is just not acceptable, no matter how “chill” the driver.

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

High speeds on Greeley (which resulted in a multiple fatality) – PBOT acknowledged speeds were over 55 but ignored.

When I asked PBOT for the evidence that supported this road layout, they basically told me they just hoped the narrower lanes would slow people down.

Speeds are probably between 55-65 now. Which was the intention. PBOT always wanted to make Greeley faster at the behest of the freight industry, they just couldn’t acknowledge it. We’ve gotten the intended outcome of this project.

Ted G
Ted G
1 year ago

The word that seems to be missing here is “compromise.” Yes, bikers need to share that one section with those living at Hazelnut Grove, but I fail to see how that is “unacceptable.” Please remember that the northbound route has always utilized that bike path and I am unaware of any systemic safety problem for cyclists passing through over all these years.

There is a difference between uncomfortable and unsafe. The old southbound route where you had to look over your left shoulder at speeding cars and trucks and make a split second decision about when to cross the on ramp to I-5, I feel, was unsafe. Encountering a slow moving or parked car, to me, is indeed inconvenient but I do not how anyone can see it a dangerous.

I am very happy with the improvements on Greely and more than happy to share the pathway through Hazelnut Grove. If you are person bothered by the residents use of cars on the path I would suggest you stop and speak to someone who lives there so you can understand their situation. I see absolutely no reason for a “us or them” mentality. A compromise needed to be made in order to have a safer route to and from N. Portland on Greely while accommodating the residents at Hazelnut Grove and I am more than happy to make it.

drs
drs
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted G

I respectfully disagree. There are hundreds of miles of shared facilities in the city of Portland on which pedestrians and bicyclists compromise with people in cars, these are known colloquially as ‘streets.’ Streets are designed and built to standards that allow for two way vehicle and bicycle traffic to safely pass each other. Most streets are also designed with places in which people can safely store their motor vehicles. The path in the side of Greeley is not a street.

PBOT reengineered Greeley to make it so cyclists can’t use the roadway safely anymore. The compromise that they offered was a completely separated facility for bikes and pedestrians that would be free of cars. The facility was always designed to be substandard in width, even by PBOT and NACTO design standards, but it was going to be good enough, assuming that cars weren’t going to drive in it, of course.

I had no problem sharing the path with the people who are squatting on public land in Hazelnut Grove. If they want to live in close proximity to a Max line, so be it. But they don’t get to squat and claim rights to vehicle storage on public pathways. They need to store their cars in a place where it is legal.

Ted G
Ted G
1 year ago
Reply to  drs

Can you please help me make sense of these two sentences:

“PBOT reengineered Greeley to make it so cyclists can’t use the roadway safely anymore. The compromise that they offered was a completely separated facility for bikes and pedestrians that would be free of cars.”

I have no idea what a standard width facility is but when I ride along Greely I feel it”s good enough. Other comments here contradict your displeasure with what PBOT has done. For most it is a vast improvement. I realize it is not perfect but I am happy that they took the step to make this change.

In the end, I am just not bothered by the presence of the people living there or their cars.

drs
drs
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted G

As of two years ago, you could safely and legally travel northbound or southbound on Greeley on a bike using marked shoulder lanes without ever using the sidewalk in front of the camp. Yes, you had to cross on and off freeway ramps to do so. But it was possible, and I’m my opinion, it was safe. I did it every workday as part of my commute. When PBOT reconfigured the street, they removed both of the marked shoulders. Now because there are five foot tall Jersey barriers separating the bike facility from the street, the only option for cyclists is to ride in a vehicle traffic lane, mixing with 60mph traffic, or to ride on a two way cycle track, including a stretch of sidewalk that passes through a homeless camp that is used as a vehicle storage and maneuvering area.

Prior to the widening and redesign of the ramp that connects the sidewalk to the cycle track going north, it was very difficult for vehicles to drive north out of the camp. Most cars entered and exited the camp from interstate. Now that PBOT created a nice wide ramp to the north, and chose not to maintain the bollard that they installed, vehicles can drive right through from interstate all the way to going St.

PBOT is part of NACTO and has adopted NACTO design standards for bicycle and pedestrian facilities. NACTO recommends a minimum twelve foot wide facility for two way bike traffic. They also assume that there will be separated pedestrian facilities for these types of installations (think of the two way cycle track in South waterfront to get an idea of what PBOT and NACTO design standards look like). So, to create a two way bike lane in a place like Greeley that also provides pedestrian access, PBOT’s standards require at least seventeen feet of width. The facility on Greeley is twelve feet at its widest, goes down to ten feet for stretches, and it narrows down below ten feet at a couple points near hazelnut Grove. Yes, other substandard facilities exist in Portland, but PBOT should not be completely removing existing bike lanes to create new substandard facilities. Especially not when they choose to increase the width of the vehicle travel lanes at the same time. They could have had four eleven foot wide vehicle lanes and a wider cycle track that would accommodate pedestrians, and maybe a stray car now and then. But instead, they designed extra wide vehicle lanes and created a very narrow two way cycle track with no pedestrian space.

You don’t mind riding on substandard facilities? Great, me neither. I’ve repeatedly advocated for narrow, door zone bike lanes on arterial streets and have been told that the only options are 7 ft+ physically separated bike lanes, and that if we can’t have those, bike lanes aren’t an option. But on Greeley, a crappy two way bike facility is okay because freight dollars were used to fund the project.

Ted G
Ted G
1 year ago
Reply to  drs

If you are saying you preferred the old Greely to the new Greely I am going to guess you are in the minority. I am not sure what your concern is regarding the width. Time will tell but being that other trials of similar width seem to be functioning, I see no reason why there would be a problem with this one.

drs
drs
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted G

My problem with the width is that if use of this facility ever increases to a level that would justify its designation as a major city bikeway (which is the classification in the tsp), the narrow width will become an issue as slow uphill traffic and rapid downhill traffic conflict. It will be even worse as bikes are forced to queue at the constrictions near the camp. And that is just the bike traffic. Add in pedestrians and cars, and the facility will be a complete mess.

If usage rates remain dismally low, as they’ve always been, it doesn’t really matter. But if we are ever going to meet the bike mode share that is envisioned in city policy, this facility will be a major weak link in the system. I guess we have abandoned the vision of the 2030 bike plan. So we should just be happy when PBOT throws some crumbs to the bike community, right? The motor vehicle throughput on Greeley is 100 times the biker usage rate, so let’s keep enhancing the car facilities to the detriment of other modes…

So if you desired standard is ‘slightly better than the scariest bike lane in Portland,’ then yes, this facility has succeeded. But that’s about as far as I’ll go in my praise. PBOT aimed really low with this installation, but due to a lack of enforcement, it ended up being worse that it was originally planned to be.

Matti
Matti
1 year ago

As you pointed out, elements at the east side of the Going overpass are super awkward and underwealming especially compared to the design north of the Addidas campus. Hazardous in my opinion.

Mick O
Mick O
1 year ago

Prior to this summer, I’ve never felt I could handle the northbound hill, but one of the Pedalpalooza rides I was on took that way, so I gave it a shot and I was able to get on up. I was really proud of myself! I have now gone up a few times, and the only thing for me is that I have trouble triggering the sensor right before the diagonal jog back to the west side of Greeley. I see the spraypaint (at 12:07 of the video) where it looks like they want to put a sensor in, but nothing has been cut into the pavement? You seemed to trigger it by being 10feet back of where that paint suggests the sensor will go, so maybe that is my problem.

The other thing I will note: that car you noticed backing out at the beginning can’t fit in that driveway, so the people who use that car usually park out over the sidewalk which is annoying. Peds may have to dart into the bike lane to get around that parked car on occasion, so keep an eye out there.

In the article, you said, “The North Greeley Avenue bikeway project is just a few tiny tweaks away from being complete.” Does *PBOT* consider this complete or have you heard they are going to do anything more?

1kw
1kw
1 year ago

Having used this route going south on my commute for 6 months, it is nice to finally have it “complete”. My 2 main concerns are as it gets darker, the North auto traffic -opposite the jersey barriers -will blind you when pedalling south, and the green dots prior to that really don’t agree with my eyes, they are pretty distracting at speed. The bike signal sensor always worked great though.

Steve C
Steve C
1 year ago
Reply to  1kw

+1 on the optical effect of the adidas paint. Add in the lack of a center line to delineate up/down traffic, and it feels unpleasant and unnecessary.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve C

And it perfectly conceals the raised “launching pad” by the bus stop at Adidas. Someone is going to have a horrible crash here at some point.

Ted G
Ted G
1 year ago
Reply to  1kw

On a path like this cyclists are more likely to be “blinded” by ridiculously-bright bike lights that are pointed straight ahead rather than down at the ground.

JG
JG
1 year ago

I had no idea the sensor for heading northbound across Greeley was so far back. I admit, I usually run the light in both directions, though I’m usually commuting in fairly low traffic. I almost never get the signal to change as I’m rolling through.

The duration of the green for bike crossing seen in your video also is concerning–you’re barely across before the light turns back. I’d feel very nervous crossing there with a slower rider heading uphill.

Jason
Jason
1 year ago

What strikes me about this route is just how random the visual aids are. Green balls here, white stripes there. Where’s the coherence? This project perfectly embodies the the haphazard deployment of bike infrastructure by PBOT. This is just a jumbled mess.

Cameron
Cameron
1 year ago

I actually think the “launch pad” bump at the bus stop would be okay if it wasn’t for the “green balls” paint job: something about that pattern masks the contours of the road, making it hard to read the change in depth. It definitely strobes at higher speeds! We should be slowing down through mixed pedestrian zones anyway, so I don’t mind the concept of a slight speed bump through the bus stop zones — this one’s just hard to see the first few times through!

Nick
Nick
1 year ago
Reply to  Cameron

I was going to say the same thing. I find it slightly disorienting every time, especially at downhill speed. I appreciate creativity and experimentation, but this strobing ball pattern seems to be a failed experiment that should be changed.

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago

There’s the southern section from Going Street to just north of Interstate Avenue, where PBOT built a two-way bike lane protected from other lanes by a concrete wall (made out of jersey barriers);

I know that you tend to protect and hype projects you personally like, but this isn’t a bike lane. It’s a very narrow multi-use path for some of it and a plain ol narrow sidewalk for some of it.

David Hampsten
1 year ago

I wonder if all the barely marked loop detectors got the bike signal to change so readily rather than the pedestrian beg button? Maybe the bicycle loop detectors are designed to be extra-sensitive to change the light even before you get there?

LWR
LWR
1 year ago

This is my daily commute and the difference between the previous bike path that, going south, had to cross over a live lane of “45 mph” traffic coming up from Swan Island – TWICE – is practically indescribable. I haven’t been as lucky as you were in the video with the signals, usually having to wait considerably longer. It’s as good a spot as any for a quick breather heading up hill at least.

I definitely worry about someone hitting the launch pad for the first time at speed, it definitely caught me by surprise. The bike signals and crossing are great, but southbound drivers run the red at speed with alarming frequency, and northbound drivers turning down onto Going heading East ignore the no turn on red and also take that corner at speed often. Both are about as anxiety inducing as coming off the west end of the Broadway bridge and continuing down on to Broadway where people run the right turn only red.

mcl pedaler
mcl pedaler
1 year ago

A comment on signs (like the one directing cyclists to use the sidewalk):
It seems that traffic signs are placed to be viewed by people sitting in cars (could include recumbent riders and riders of bikes with upright bars). Many, if not most people, ride in a forward position, limiting somewhat the upper field of vision and therefore the usefulness of signs.
Has ODOT ever considered this with respect to bicycle riders?

mark
mark
1 year ago

With the car traffic on the bike path, which is totally unacceptable, the city continues to cede important bike transportation infrastructure to people experiencing houselessness. How many of our off-street paths are effectively useless for critical bike infrastructure because people are living on them?

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
1 year ago

I’ve ridden this path about 100 times–going back to when it was first under construction. While I’ve seen plenty of cars parked near Hazelnut Grove, last week was the first time I saw one moving. I started to slow down as the person was backing out of where they were parked and intended to stop to allow the car to clear out. Instead, the person driving stopped and waved me through. After a couple of friendly waves–all good.

Otherwise, the path is plenty wide (wider than Springwater? wider than Eastbank Esplanade? wider than Morrison Bridge?). Seems like it’ll work fine for an awfully long time. I sometimes get the sense that some of the people writing about it either have never ridden it or are just determined to eke as much darkness out of light as possible.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Smith

I am not trying to eke out any darkness. I have ridden it couple of dozen times and have encountered cars on the path at least 6 times, more if you count the cars driving down the MUP along Going. Of those times, I have had turn around 3 times because the route was completly blocked or it seemed unsafe (dark, rainy, head-on encounter with van). So why does this matter? PBOT misrepresented this from the start, and PBOT could have made something good and effective with little extra effort. This should be a route that is safe and comfortable for people running or walking to share with bikes, it should be car-free, it should be an all-ages and all-abilities facility. It is a failure when judged by those standards. The fact that handful of experienced commuters, apparently men, think it is fine or better, or good enough is irrelevant. PBOT has a responsiblity to create safe routes for various users. This project considered the desires of freight haulers and people driving and made improvements for them. PBOT gave lip service to people commuting by bikes. PBOT ignored vulnerable road users: people experiencing a disability, kids, people walking, etc. And they ignored them through poor design, ignoring well-known problems, refusing to do maintenance, and by poor design that supports well-documented speeding on the driving portion. This path may work for you, but it does not serve Portland well at all. Portland will never see increases in bike ridership if to can’t be bothered to build a bike facility without gaps/pinchpoints and dangerous elements in a an area where it has the space and the money.

And this is narrower than the springwater, but that should not be held up as a gold standard. The springwater routinely has conflicts between bikes and peds, bikes and dog walkers, fast bikes and slow bikes, etc. It is too narrow, and PP&R has acknowledged that. Look at the latest designs for the Willamette Greenway trail on the South Waterfront to for a path that accommodates people biking and walking.