But wait, there’s more: NE Couch, 7th will get immediate Blumenauer Bridge-related bike upgrades

Can you spot the bicycle rider in this photo of NE Couch near 12th? The lane on the right is about to become (mostly) “Bus (and Bike) Only”. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Earl Blumenauer Bridge is now open as a link from Portland’s Central Eastside to the Lloyd District via NE 7th Ave, much to the delight of people who walk, bike and roll in the central city. But there’s room for improvement on the streets surrounding the bridge if it’s to become a cohesive, easily accessible part of the active transportation network.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has started work this week on two projects south of the new bridge that will add bike facilities to adjacent streets with the goal of making it more seamless to access the bridge via 7th Ave. This work will include changes to NE Couch as part of a Rose Lane project as well as a new bike connection on SE/NE 7th Ave to make it easier to cross Sandy at SE Stark, which is necessary in order to reach the bridge.

Learn more about both projects below…

NE Couch Street Rose Lane

NE Couch Rose Lane
(Source: PBOT)

PBOT will provide a bus-and-turn (BAT) lane on NE Couch Street between NE 12th and 6th avenues. The BAT lane will improve transit speed and reliability for bus riders on lines 12, 19, and 20.

In addition, PBOT will improve the bicycle connection to the Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge by extending the bike lane from 6th to 7th avenues. People biking will also be allowed to use BAT lane between NE 12th and 7th avenues. 

The project also includes traffic signal controller upgrades to better coordinate between approximately 30 traffic signals on NE Couch Street, E Burnside Street, NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, and NE Grand Avenue. 

This project also includes a general travel lane reallocation and one block of parking removal. The right travel lane will be reallocated between NE 6th and 12th avenues for the bus-and-turn lane. People driving will still be able to use the lane to make right turns at driveways and at intersections and to access on-street parking. Parking along the north side of NE Couch Street between NE 6th and 7th avenues will be removed. 

These changes to Couch are very significant. As you can see in our lead image, the current conditions require bicycle riders to share the lane with car users. While it’s downhill and there’s often little speed differential, the experience is not welcoming to less confident riders. This project will extend the bike lane (which currently only goes east to 6th) by one block to connect to the new bridge. Also note how PBOT explicitly says bike riders can use the “Bus Only” lane.

Also worth noting is that this red Bus/Bike lane on Couch will connect to existing Rose Lanes on the MLK/Grand couplet.

NE/SE 7th Avenue Neighborhood Greenway Project

Map of NE/SE 7th Avenue Neighborhood Greenway Improvements
(Source: PBOT)

This Central City in Motion project will create a new, half-mile long north/south bike connection on NE/SE 7th Avenue between SE Washington Street and the new Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge. In addition, PBOT will install a new westbound bike lane on the north side of SE Washington Street. 

Construction consists of speed bumps to calm vehicle traffic speeds and reflective wands at select intersections will discourage cut-through traffic. 

Visibility and crossing safety will be improved by removing parking near intersections. In addition, parking will be removed on the north side of SE Washington between SE Sandy and 8th Avenue.  

The project will result in improved safety for people walking and bicycling and a stronger connection between the Central Eastside and Lloyd neighborhoods. 

If it’s unpleasant to bike to and from the new Blumenauer Bridge, people won’t be as inclined to use it, so it’s good PBOT is working to make it more accessible. Construction on these projects is expected to last through August – stay tuned for an update when the projects are complete.

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ivan
ivan
9 days ago

I am happy to see this will fill the bike lane gap on Couch between 6th and 7th! It would be nice if the traffic signals across Couch and Burnside on 7th get coordinated to allow bikes to reasonably make it through both signals without waiting through an entire second cycle. Maybe they will.

The crossing at 7th and Stark looks like a lot of paint and very little protection. Not even push-to-cross flashing lights? And how does this square with the Green Loop that is going to be crossing at 6th?

The crossing at 7th and Sandy will continue to be a murderdome, paint or no paint. Biking north on 7th and trying to turn left across the wide street, to continue on 7th, is not going to be significantly improved. I’m not worried about the cars on Washington, I’m worried about the cars on Sandy!

Finally I hope as part of the upgrades to traffic signals and signage they will address the “no right turn on red” sign on NE Couch as it approaches NE MLK. Currently the sign is placed 90 degrees to the right of the lane at the back edge of the bike box, and there is NO sign on the traffic light itself. Drivers who don’t look hard to the right — or drivers from out of town and unfamiliar with bike boxes, which is pretty frequent this close to the freeway and the convention center — will pull into the bike box to look for an opening to turn right on red, because they never see the sign at all. Put the sign on the traffic light, where drivers are looking!

Boyd
Boyd
9 days ago
Reply to  ivan

I’ve never had an issue turning left at 7th and Sandy to stay on 7th northbound. But I generally take the lane early to get in position to make the left turn. Don’t know if I’ve ever done it right at rush hour, though. So maybe it’s worse at peak times.

I have more problems crossing Stark on 7th while continuing north. I feel like it’s really difficult to find a break in traffic. The natural time to cross would be when eastbound traffic on Stark is coming to a stop at 7th for a red light. But as soon as that happens, you get a bunch of turning westbound onto Stark from Sandy, and they are often moving really fast. And it’s tough coming from a dead stop going uphill to get enough speed to squeeze through when there is a small gap. I’ve almost gotten hit there a few times.

I agree on the need for additional no turn on red signs. I feel like there should be two or three at every intersection if you really want to get compliance. Probably need more enforcement, too. But that’s a whole different story.

I’ll be really interested to see if people actually follow the rules on the Couch rose lane during peak congestion. Couch already get’s backed up during rush hour with the two lane configuration. It’ll get more backed up with a single lane. I bet people will jump over to the bus lane out of frustration.

Chris I
Chris I
8 days ago
Reply to  Boyd

This was my concern as well. Stark is busy enough here that 7th needs a HAWK signal. The green paint isn’t going to be enough.

matchupancakes
matchupancakes
8 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

It’s busy enough that a Half Signal treatment is called for.

idlebytes
idlebytes
9 days ago

Well this is great I was worried it would take a while to see the next round of connections. The timing changes on Couch will be nice and I assume they’ll adjust the ones on 9th as well since that was the suggested route and they worked quite well.

Speaking of timing changes does anyone else find the ones on Hawthorne to be quite off? From the bridge to 7th you go at a casual rider speed but then down to twelfth you have to up it to catch the lights which isn’t hard cause of the slight downhill but if you’re stuck behind someone it’s easy to miss. I’ve been using the parking and bus lanes to pass since it’s pretty tight for two people especially if one is more of a novice rider. I’m sure that’s not the expected behavior and maybe they think passing is easy but I haven’t found it to be that way.

I hope to see some traffic counts in the next few months as well to see how well the changes are working.

Fred
Fred
8 days ago

This is why I love crossing the bridge to the east side and riding on all of these “improved” bike facilities – I’m like a tourist in a foreign land.

James N.
James N.
8 days ago

I’ve wondered about other improvements. I work at SE 7th and Lincoln. While riding to and from the Lloyd District I have been hit by a car. Both times were between Hawthorne and Belmont. If I understand this correctly, would it make more sense for me to skip 7th and ride up 12th instead?

maxD
maxD
8 days ago
Reply to  James N.

I worked at a few different office locations in the CEID since 2008 and I am a daily bike rider. In my experience, 7th is not safe unless you are willing to take the lane for a few blocks when the bike lane is encroached. That said, 11th/12th are worse. Being 2 lanes/each should give drivers enough space to pass a slower vehicle, but there are frequently drivers trying to go fast by driving around cars driving the speed limit and they can can be surprised by bikes (danger!). I ended up mostly using 6th as my north/south street. In the mornings, I would use MLK from Lloyd to Ankeny, but going home I would use Ankeny-3rd-Davis-sidewalk to Lloyd. Most of the rest was 6th. The next safest is 16th, but it is pretty hilly. If I have the time, I will take Lincolon over Tabor, then the 70’s to Almeda

Steve
Steve
8 days ago

It is ironic to me that Metro offices are located right in between the north end of the EB bridge and the VK Esplanade but the connection is am unbuffered, let alone protected, bike lane that crosses MLK and Grand. It is not for the faint of heart.

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
8 days ago

Heck yeah.

Steve
Steve
7 days ago

PBOT’s numerous one-way street couplets (Burnside/Couch, MLK/Grand, Broadway/Weidler, Hawthorne/Madison, Stark/Washington) should all be converted (returned?) to two-way traffic. It will reduce speeding and help local businesses. But of course it’s less convenient for drivers, which is why it will never happen.

ActualPractical
ActualPractical
5 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Was just thinking this on my ride today. I’d like to ask the “planners” if they’ve studied anything new about traffic, safety, or economic development in the past 20 years.