First look: City restripes bikeway at busy SW Bertha, Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway intersection

Posted by on September 27th, 2021 at 11:30 am

New bicycle crossing enhancement at the intersection of SW Bertha Blvd and Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. (photos: Lisa Caballero/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is making bold changes to the intersection of SW Bertha Blvd and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in an attempt to finally bring clarity to this tricky location. The area has seen many crashes over the years, and also a couple of modest attempts to improve its safety. But it remained a clunky, high-stress location for people on bicycles, and also for some drivers.

With a liberal dollop of white paint, and a re-configuration of the green—and with the forthcoming addition of bicycle “detection and advanced activated warning lights”—PBOT seeks to significantly improve the safety and comfort of bicycle riders going eastbound on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.

The intersection before improvements.

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A northbound Bertha driver sits at an incline before executing a left turn onto Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy.

The unsignalized intersection is difficult for both riders and drivers because of topography. A driver heading uphill on Bertha approaches the left turn onto Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy like a pilot making an instrument landing—you can’t see your target until you commit to reaching it. The photo at right shows an SUV waiting on Bertha below the Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy grade. At that distance and incline a driver in a sedan would not be able to see the dedicated lane into which they are turning. That poor sight line causes some drivers inexperienced with the intersection to wait unnecessarily for both directions of Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy to clear before executing their turn. This leads to a lot of horn-honking from the line of cars in back of them. Even for those familiar with the set-up, it’s not an easy maneuver.

Amid this stress, it unfortunately does not occur to some drivers to look for a cyclist to their left. This is what happened in a 2012 bicycle/car crash reported by BikePortland. (Take a peek at this ten-year-old article for a blast to the past, it mentions the Red Electric Trail as a low-stress alternative route and that “last we heard, funding and construction of the project are to start this year.”)

Before improvements, the extended conflict zone between eastbound bike lane and right-turns onto Bertha. (source: Google maps)

For eastbound bike riders, this intersection is a gauntlet toward the end of a long climb. As you can see in the “before” photo above, riders and right-turning drivers shared an extended conflict zone.

The new design installed just last Friday shortens the conflict zone by adding a large white chevroned buffer which serves to “rationalize” the right turn onto Bertha.

Driver mistakenly uses the buffer separating the right-turn lane and the bicycle lane as a turn lane.

By the next day, the roadblocks and cones were gone, and the intersection was open for use. Apparently the new configuration will take some getting used to for a few drivers. The driver in the photo above decided their sweet spot was on top of the buffer, with the right turn lane to their left. Subsequent drivers played follow-the-leader with this driver’s errant right-turn path. Fortunately, most drivers had no problem interpreting the markings.

I don’t know if plastic wands or curbs will be installed at a later date, and the “Bike crossing: SW Beaverton-Hillsdale & Bertha Blvd project” does not have a published plan on the Southwest in Motion Crossing Enhancements website. If buffer-driving continues to be a problem, PBOT should consider beefing-up the buffer with a curb.

This new design looks a lot safer, and a sensor and warning lights should make it even better. Do you commute along Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy? Have you ridden this? What’s your first take?

Lisa Caballero

— Lisa Caballero, lisacaballero853@gmail.com
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Bstedman
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Bstedman

Update: today a crew was putting in concrete curbs between the white poles on the north side (WB) of BH Hwy in this intersection, just like they did further west on BH Hwy a year or so ago. The construction crew said those would go in all the way to Dosch Rd/30th on both sides of the street. So that’s a good start. The “magic wands” they put in on the south side were always mowed down by car drivers within hours whenever they were put back up. So those concrete barriers will help.

Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
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Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)

Thank you for the update, Bstedman!

Jim Labbe
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Jim Labbe

Great coverage. Thank You!

J_R
Guest
J_R

I rode the B-H Highway on Saturday including going east through this intersection. I didn’t even notice the new striping through this intersection until I passed by it. I was too busy looking in my mirror and over my left shoulder for motorists coming from behind me. There were not any “traffic control changes ahead” signs to warn road users of the new markings.

As discussed above and illustrated in the photo above, the driver in the white SUV doesn’t understand where one is supposed to drive. I’ll be interested in seeing what the final configuration is, but I’m not convinced it will be safe for cyclists. Among other things, cyclists will be in deep shade during certain times of the day (such as in the photo above), making it easy for motorists to miss seeing cyclists who will “appear from nowhere.”

I fondly remember the era when, after putting up warning signs for a week, cops would pull motorists over when they blew through new stop signs or ignored new turn lanes. Alas, stop signs, traffic signals, speed limits, and crosswalks are simply suggestions.

BTW, ivy and various other vegetation have intruded into the bike lane, leaves and pine needles are beginning to build up. The B-H Highway will soon be really treacherous. Too bad we can’t afford to maintain what we have.

I hope this work out.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

You shouldn’t assume that they don’t understand where they should be driving; it is also possible that they just don’t care.

squareman
Subscriber

Yeah, until it’s an island or a curb, my observational experience is that drivers definitely do not care. Evidence: every single bike lane stripe worn down on the inside of a curve in a road.

EP
Guest
EP

The curbs in this town are covered in rubber. I’m amazed at the crash/tire/scratch marks on jersey barriers in turns. Until there’s physical protection/dividers, bikes are just the bumpers for cars.

Brian Lockyear
Guest
Brian Lockyear

I encounter this intersection frequently both in a car and on a bike, and from all directions. This morning I happened upon the new striping (in a car, east bound on BH Hwy and turning right onto Bertha) for the first time, before reading your article. The new striped area attempting to push cars left before turning right felt awkward, so much so that I think many drivers will cut across the white striped bubble.

It also makes me wonder how much drivers will assume that the bikes (directed away from and then back to the intersection but at a 90 degree angle) are required to stop before crossing the lanes. Before, on a bike, all players could tell that I was proceeding straight through that intersection and go around me appropriately. Now, it’s not so obvious.

On my return trip from Bertha turning west bound onto BH Hwy, I did not feel the flow had changed much.

Overall, I think it is going to force bikes to stop and then restart from a stop in an area where the cars are going to be cutting over the painting. Not at all sure that’s a win. Agree that the intersection is a big problem though! Perhaps this will help. Or perhaps the Red Electric Trail will magically happen and fix it all!

JeffP
Guest
JeffP

Good observations and exactly what I have witnessed passing through this newly striped area only twice yet.
Once of those times there was a bike. The car, while cutting through the striped zone, made the assumption the bike had turned and was taking Bertha; traffic was congested/slowed enough they figured it out without issue but certainly not ideal.
The propensity to try and reroute streets to force 90-degree intersections seems to lead to a greater propensity for folks to cut-the-corner; not sure why turning a car 90-degrees is so difficult.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Time to add some hardscape to that area.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Know anyone who has a bike trailer in the area and some spare logs or concrete blocks they can lay out in the painted no-mans land? Maybe a few bricks, some gravel, and other debris? Maybe an orange cone or two from some other nearby project? It’s not like anyone is supposed to park in those areas, right?

Bstedman
Subscriber
Bstedman

There are several orange barrel cones sitting in the bikelane just a few feet away because of the red electric bridge construction…

JeffP
Guest
JeffP

Was through this weekend – Saturday? – and the road crews where there installing rubber curbs and stand-up candles along the striped elements. Didn’t grab any photos but seemed they got word or at least were finishing the original install.

Nick
Guest
Nick

I ride this intersection about once weekly and I’m worried the new design will make things worse. At least with the old design, I was in drivers’ sightlines for people driving Beaverton_Hillsdale and for cars stopped on Bertha. Now it looks like bikes will be tucked a bit out of sight for Beaverton Hillsdale drivers and will be way off in the peripheral vision for Bertha drivers. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m skeptical.

Todd
Guest
Todd

Exactly right. I ride BHH into Hillsdale and on to downtown for my work commute. The old design kept the bicyclist intending to go straight on BHH into Hillsdale visible to northbound drivers intending to turn right from BHH onto Bertha. The new design forces the bicylist to make a short jog onto Bertha. Now it looks to the driver like the bike is turning right, so the driver will just keep going. Kapow. It seems way more dangerous now. PS: Around 5 Oct 2021 they added stanchions and some bumps, I guess to try to keep cyclists trying to stay alive from ignoring the new paint and keeping straight rather than making the faux turn onto Bertha.

Lance Boyle
Guest
Lance Boyle

I always go mental (with glee) when I see photos of streets where I regularly ride. Slowly but surely, bit by bit, this area is becoming more bike friendly. I’m (hopefully) looking forward to more bike friendly-ness when the City finishes the improvements currently underway for SW Capitol Hwy between Multnomah Village and the Barbur Worlds Food/Walgreens intersection.

rick
Guest
rick

So no barrier? BH needs to be repaved from the city limits at SW 65th Avenue to SW 45th Avenue.

 
Guest
 

Just signalize the intersection, with no turn on red allowed. Problem solved, conflicts removed, makes it better for everyone. We don’t need any more of this unintuitive striping that doesn’t do anything for safety. Coordinate the signal timing with the one just a few hundred feet to the east. Yet again PBOT ignores the common-sense solution in favor of overengineering.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I think that would create 3 – 1 block street lights for west bound traffic on BHH. I’m not averse to making motorists suffer, but that’s pretty obnoxious. Also, consider all of the idling. All those fumes on a busy rush hour for us cyclists to gasp up. No thank you. But I appreciate the intention of signalizing the intersection. In general that is a good way of reducing accidents.

&nbsp 
Guest
&nbsp 

I think we can mitigate the delay effects with appropriate synchronization of the signals. The intersection is so close to the one (about 300 ft) at Capitol and Beaverton-Hillsdale intersection that it could almost function as one signal.

Heading east, just have the new signal turn red a few seconds before the old one, and have it turn green a few seconds before the old one. Heading west I’m not worried about delays at all; the old signal only only turns red when someone walking is trying to cross. Heading north on Bertha Blvd, most traffic turns west (traffic going east uses Bertha Court), so wouldn’t hit the old signal.

Also oh no, I forgot the semicolon in my username!

JeffP
Guest
JeffP

Or have the signal turn via sensors in the bike lane – similar to the flashers on the Macadam viaducts. bicyclist trips sensor a block back, cars get the red signal until bike is past.

Jason
Guest
Jason

What’s the point of having three red lights if they all turn red simultaneously? Then maybe there should just be one in a key location?

 
Guest
 

Also oh no, I forgot the semicolon in my username!

the jig is up

ivan
Guest
ivan

Why was the dedicated one-car-length right-turn lane from Bertha left in place? Why not reconfigure it so that there’s one lane, at a 90-degree angle? That would have removed 33% of the car-bike conflicts right there!

Jason
Guest
Jason

Because there’s a traffic light about a block up (to the east) and having a dedicated turn lane gives some the opportunity to escape.

Bstedman
Subscriber
Bstedman

The right lane is also used as a bus lane (for buses going straight through to Hillsdale), so that they don’t have to get in line with cars waiting at the trafiic light. There is always quite the backup in the morning.

WestRiver
Subscriber
WestRiver

There needs to be a few Jersey barriers or at least some bollards protecting the buffer “island” and have them extend as far east as possible making the right-turn angle (eastbound BH to Bertha) much tighter for drivers. Paint alone won’t stop some drivers from cutting the island just like that white SUV.

 
Guest
 

I’m a big fan of Jersey barriers. There’s not ambiguity for what they mean to motorists. They provide protection without obscuring line of sight.

Bstedman
Subscriber
Bstedman

I think so far this is a catastrophe. We live nearby and I went out to take pictures for a SW Trails post on this. Turning right from BH Hwy to Bertha with a car is now very akward, I drove through there myself this morning and even knowing what to expect, it was a difficult turn. Not sure how trucks are supposed to do this. But that also means that most drivers ignore the paint and go right through the chevron part. In the course of two days we twice witnessed close calls when the first car slowly followed the striping and the second rushed right across the striping at high speed like they used to do before and the two almost hit each other. Imagine adding bicyclists to the mix! I also witnessed that when one driver went across the chevron, others followed behind like sheep. There is also no warning sign about the changed intersection, or any orange traffic barrels blcoking of the chevron. There are some sitting in the bikelane just before there and could be used much better in the intersection! Going the other way (Bertha to BH Hwy) I noticed that drivers came to a stop on top of the bikelane to be better able to see.
I’m also worried that drivers assume that people on bikes continue on Bertha or stop for cars. It was a scary intersection before and seem downright scary now.
I hope that PBOT will add concrete curbs and white poles (like further down on BH Hwy) in addition to the light. I vaguely remember hearing that at a SW Trails meeting, but waiting to get confirmation from PBOT.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

A mountable curb would solve the above issues. No one is going to drive over it at speed, and very large trucks could still make the turn, albeit at a very slow speed. I agree that the new setup is prone to confusion and crashes, but I think the answer is to beef it up, not go back to what we had before.

Jason
Guest
Jason

No one is going to drive over it at speed…

Mostly true, but don’t you remember the bumper sticker, “if yo don’t like my driving get off the sidewalk”? Do you remember the motorist who got stuck mid way on the 205 bike corridor? Motorists are like livestock, they stick themselves where they oughtn’t be and then when you get them unstuck, they do it again.

Todd
Guest
Todd

They added white poles and bumps around 5 Oct 2021, but the whole design is screwy, hiding bikes from drivers on BHH, forcing bikes to surrender all their momentum at the base of the hill. Terrible.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Hilarious.. the city that can’t pick up garbage also cannot manage any simple bike infrastructure without making it more unsafe… I rode this for years, before this cluster*ck, at least the cars would have to see you before they ran over you…. does anyone who designs this stuff actually ride a bike?

Jason
Guest
Jason

does anyone who designs this stuff actually ride a bike?

I’m guessing no, since any time a mayor rides a bike in this town it’s MSN news worthy. You really struck a chord on the “can’t pick up trash” as well. I would say that extends to clearing road shoulders, storm drains and wet leaves. It’s like they don’t own the roads, in their mind.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

If only all the ills in the world could be cured with some nice new paint!

Jill
Guest
Jill

Thanks for the update. Is this part of a larger project? It looks like a bridge is being constructed west of this intersection on the south side of BHH. I bike and drive this route everyday. The restriping does not feel safer as a cyclist. As a driver, it’s confusing.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

Yes this is being done in tandem with the Red Electric Trail bridge project AFAIK.

Bstedman
Subscriber
EP
Guest
EP

Ok, I’ve figured it out! The city needs to start using abandoned cars as barriers! Just paint them green, plop them in the chevron area, and we’re good to go. OR… crush them into those small cubes, and then use those as barriers! Oh how simple it could be, glad we’ve got this figured out!

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

This is how Last Thursday on Alberta became carfree. True story! https://bikeportland.org/2008/06/30/cars-create-temporarily-carfree-last-thursday-8079

EP
Guest
EP

Wow… 2008 doesn’t seem that far back, but suddenly it’s 2021…! Maybe it’s time for history to repeat itself?

qqq
Guest
qqq

It looks scary to me. Before, drivers waiting at that stop sign to head west could look left and see both cars and bikes approaching in the same glance. Now they’ll be looking at cars approaching and miss the bikes shooting out from the shadows way to their left.

Also, many people still think of green paint as a “bike box” where bikes stop, so they’ll see the green paint and think bikes will be stopping.

Also, as the photo shows (and others have said) drivers don’t know what the white hashed areas mean. There’s a long one on Barbur at Fred Meyer. The half of drivers who know what it means risk getting T-boned when they’re turning right by the half who think the hashed area is a right-turn lane.

Roger
Guest
Roger

All great points.

Almost funny that no one has commented on the yield triangles. Turn the corner and yield, great.

qqq
Guest
qqq

I didn’t even know those meant yield, meaning most people probably don’t.

That’s a good point–I was focused on how dangerous it is in regard to people turning onto BHH from Bertha. But drivers turning right from BHH onto Bertha are definitely not going to realize they should yield to bikes. It looks like the bikes are at a green box where they should stop and wait for turning cars to drive through before they cross the street. The fact that further west on BHH, the bike lane is also a pedestrian path reinforces the mistaken notion that the bike lane is a crosswalk, so cars don’t have to yield unless the bike is already in the crossing.

Dave
Guest
Dave

This is an tragedy waiting to happen. I drove through there on Saturday and I did the same thing the guy pictured above did. No signs of any change. Nothing. I didn’t know what to do. You can’t just paint some lines down overnight and assume everything is well. How about some cones or signs explaining what’s going. If there is an accident, I hope they sue to city for negligence.

Keith
Guest
Keith

I agree with many of the posted comments that this “improvement” will only trade one problem for another. While the previous arrangement was far from perfect, it was at least easy to determine the intended course of cyclists and motorists. Now, motorists will not be totally sure if cyclists intend to continue east on BH Hwy. or turn onto Bertha. The PBOT engineers need to understand that what may seem to make sense looking a plan drawing won’t necessarily make sense to users who encounter it on the ground.

The comments about cyclists now approaching outside of the focus of motorists turning left onto BH Hwy is a BIG concern. As a motorist, you’re focused about 30 degrees to the left on the oncoming EB traffic and looking for an opportunity to go left onto BH Hwy. Cyclists now coming into the intersection at a 90 degree angle won’t be on the radar. Too bad the PBOT repaving didn’t address the bike gap on Bertha between Vermont and BH Hwy. as part of (or instead of) this restriping. This intersection will continue to be as nasty as ever. Another case of 1 step forward and 1 step back. With so little money available for safety improvements, I hate to see it squandered like this yielding little to no benefit. Sigh…

Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
Subscriber

Lisa, Thanks for the photos and clear explanations. I hate this stretch of road, even in a car. If I hadn’t read this post, I would be totally confused by the new paint (one doesn’t usually get to study still photos of an intersection before driving through, in traffic, for the first time). When I first looked at the photos, I assumed, wrongly, that part of the change was to require bikers to stop in the green boxes before “crossing” because the green hash mark paint looks like a “bike cross walk” and the bike lane no longer goes straight with the normal traffic flow (to untrained eyes like mine)–I hate admitting my own stupidity here, but I think that means other drivers will also be confused, which would seem to inevitably create some scary bike/car scenarios. There seem to be many occasions of possible confusion, and a whole lot to see and process all at once. Motorists need to watch car and now-separated bike traffic, make sense of the new paint/configuration at the same time, during rush hour, and then add rain and poor visibility… Yikes. I get stressed just thinking about being anywhere near this intersection.

I don’t know how to fix this, but I think I would prefer to have stop lights with red/green turn arrows, to force taking turns and keep everyone safe…

Or hopefully that alternate route option: even better!

Vince
Guest
Vince

I tried riding through this intersection yesterday. As is noted in the other posts, the route now takes cyclists out of the line of sight of drivers, and then routes cyclists across the traffic flow of cars. What were the designers thinking?
A couple suggestions….
1. Next time, before an “improvement “ is made, PDOT ought to get some spray paint and a few riders. Mark proposed change, and see how it feels to use it. This improvement would not pass the comfort test.
2. When a change is made, SIGN IT. Even something as simple as “traffic change ahead.” No matter how you use a road, you should not have to figure out how an intersection works when you are in the middle of it.
3. Some thought needs to be given to maintaining infrastructure before adding new parts to it. I approached this intersection from the west. Whole sections of the wands were torn down, branches and blackberries hung over the route, cars were parked across the bike lane, and parts of the bike lane were blocked by signs from another construction project. Finally getting to this sketchy intersection was a relief….I got to leave BH.

qqq
Guest
qqq

So many people are mentioning the same thing about how westbound drivers turning right onto Bertha are going to expect westbound bikers to stop in the green box before crossing the traffic lane in the bike crosswalk that I’m wondering how this reconfiguration works legally. I’d love to see the opinion of one of the bike lawyers here.

Suppose a westbound drivers turns right onto Bertha and hits someone biking who’s in the bike crosswalk (or the bike hits the side of the car). The biker will say, “I was riding westbound and had the right of way and got hit.”

But the driver can say, “I was turning right, and the biker shot out in front of me into the lane”. The driver can even say, “I saw the white triangles and I’m one of the 1% of road users that know that those mean yield, and I certainly would have yielded if the biker had been in the road in front of me. But I was traveling in my lane, and the person biking legally had no right to shoot in front of me without giving me even a split second to react. They were going about 20 mph and weren’t even close to entering the lane to cross when I started my turn.”

The driver certainly sounds credible from a non-legal standpoint (since they interpreted the markings the same way so many people here are). But I think they may even have a credible legal argument that they wouldn’t be at fault hitting a biker unless the biker was already in front of them.

The fact that those green “bike crosswalks” aren’t really crosswalks legally (as I understand) may make the driver’s case even better.

Nick
Guest
Nick

I rode this today at 8am. It’s subjectively more dangerous and scarier than the pre-existing design for all the reasons cited by others. There may be a safety signal planned for the future, but for now it’s begging for a bad collision.