First Look: NE Couch bus/bike only ‘Rose Lane’ (Video)

The red paint is still fresh on NE Couch where the Portland Bureau of Transportation has installed their latest ‘Rose Lane’. It’s all part of their ongoing effort to speed up bus service and re-allocate road space away from drivers and toward bike and bus riders.

PBOT’s Rose Lane project began in 2019 and the Couch project is one of 20 routes in PBOT’s vision. The new lane, which allows car users to enter only to turn right, goes from 12th to 6th and connects to an existing bike lane that delivers riders onto the Burnside Bridge. It also provides a great connection to NE 7th Avenue just a few blocks south from the new Blumenauer Bridge.

Unlike other Rose Lanes, PBOT’s red carpet on Couch has been rolled out for bike riders too. Bicycling is explicitly allowed in this red lane. If that sounds scary to you, keep in mind that this section of Couch is downhill (and one-way), so it’s relatively easy for bike riders to maintain the same speed as bus operators. I rode it today at a relaxed pace and it felt totally safe.

And yes, I saw several people driving right over the ‘Bus Bike Only’ markings (photos below). It’s frustrating to see people do this despite very obvious signs and markings simply to save a few seconds and create unsafe roads for others, but compliance is (hopefully!) likely to improve once folks have time to adjust to the new configuration. The only way this is likely to fully stop is if PBOT installs automated enforcement cameras. (Until we get better behaved drivers, the only consolation is that if you are involved in an incident with someone driving where they’re not supposed to, the law would be on your side in a legal case.)

But let’s not dwell on this aspect of the project. The new lane is very exciting!

In addition to more space for busing and bicycling, it helps create an even stronger connection to the new Blumenauer Bridge. Just hop on 12th, roll down to 7th, hang a right and a few pedal strokes later you’re in the Lloyd. And you’ll get their even easier thanks to signal timing by PBOT that gives a “green wave” from 12th all the way down.

PBOT says people who use the 12, 19 or 20 bus lines will notice a nice time savings and more reliable service from these changes. Prior to Covid, the city’s analysis showed that the bus lines in this corridor suffered from 251 hours of delay each day. With the changes, riders will save up to 13 hours a year in travel time.

Prior to the changes, Couch was four lanes wide — two travel lanes and two parking lanes. The new cross section has one less through travel lane. Judging from what I saw out there on Tuesday, the decrease in driving space is upsetting a lot of people. While I was observing traffic, the queue was backed up much further than usual. PBOT and Commissioner Hardesty are going to get an earful from some drivers. But bus operators and bike riders? They are likely to give her an earful of praise as the new open lane is less stressful and much more efficient.

One last thing: Some folks have asked what it’s like sharing a lane with bus operators. It felt fine to me. Since it’s downhill and most TriMet drivers are chill and professional, there’s not much of a speed differential. While I was filming there was a bus behind me and it was no big deal.

And did I mention this makes a perfect connection to the new Blumenauer Bridge? Don’t miss our video and check out a few more photos below…

Have you ridden this yet? What are your impressions so far?

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bbcc
bbcc
1 month ago

I’m so happy about this. I don’t think I’ll bike it much since it’s not too well connected to bike infrastructure further east, but as a frequent 20 rider I’m over the moon. Hopefully they install the rose lane on E burnside soon — that’ll matter more to me as a cyclist since I have to use that bike lane to cross the Burnside bridge going west and it absolutely sucks right now.

Ultimate dream is they keep going & extend this all the way up Sandy. Please?

Brandon
Brandon
1 month ago

I love this, thanks PBOT! Also, you would think the shame drivers would feel using the red lane to get ahead of everyone else following the rules would prevent them from doing it but I guess not.

pigs
pigs
1 month ago

Are bicycle riders normally not suppose to be in the bus lane? I’m confused where I am suppose to be when riding down something like 6th ave downtown.

It looks a bit awkward and potential dangerous that they preserved parking on the side of the bus lanes. Nothing is more unpredictable then a car looking for a parking space.

Coming from the east side, it seems like it would be a little hard to get to in the current bike network unless you are coming from the north on 7th or 12th.

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
1 month ago
Reply to  pigs

The 5th/6th areas downtown are an anomaly- as a bike rider, you’re supposed to share that super narrow single lane of traffic on your bike. I can’t say I never ride the freer, clearer bus lanes but if I do I’m very mindful of oncoming trains and the tracks themselves. Those lanes were originally designed to be car-free, but lobbying killed that possibility, which is sad.

So, it’s another thing where you have to keep an eye out since every area of town is a bit different. 5th and 6th, no bike lane, no bus lane share(Yes, 2nd and 3rd are now options but those didn’t get built until about a decade after the bus mall). Hawthorne? Separated cycle track. Couch? Share the bus lane. Outer Division? Some oddball on/off street ramps but watch out for the curbs designed to knock you straight into traffic.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago

I note that there is on-street car parking to the right of the shared lane, on the inside of it, so legally cars can use they lane, is that not so? If PBOT had really intended for cars to not use the lane, why would they allow parking along it?

maccoinnich
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Ideally the parking would be a protected bike lane, but that would require spending a lot of money on removing / reconstructing curb extensions, bus stops and stormwater planters that were built only a little over a decade ago.

ivan
ivan
1 month ago

I think it’s a big improvement. I think it sets the stage for even more improvements:

  • extending the bus lane to MLK (there are like 3 businesses total that front the north side of Couch from 6th to MLK)
  • building hardened lane dividers (those rubberized plastic lane-divider things) extending out into the intersection of Couch and Grand, physically preventing right-turning cars from cutting through the bike lane and into the bus lane on Grand
  • making it WAY more obvious that cars cannot turn right on red at Couch and Grand
  • putting in separators (even those crappy candlestick wands) on the raised bike lane on Couch as it curves onto the Burnside bridge, because delivery and ride-sharing drivers still park there constantly
  • painting the bike lane green from 7th (where it now starts) around the curve onto the Burnside bridge
  • doing the whole thing on Burnside, in reverse, up to 12th!

Even with all of those ideas, though, this is a big step in the right direction.

soren
soren
1 month ago

Anything that takes space away from SUV/truck drivers is a good thing. This is pretty much my only criterion when it comes to transportation projects these days.

DW
DW
1 month ago

This is really great, and even better to see it done so soon. If I have to share a lane, I’d rather share it with trained professional drivers. Could they possibly add some plastic wands in a few places to deter car drivers from using the lane?

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
1 month ago

Nice, I rode this daily for many years, as it was the only nearby sane Sandy crossing and put you right in line for the Burnside bridge bike lane after the couplet was installed. This looks like a huge improvement, I’ll put it on my list to ride often!

Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

Thanks PBoT for allowing bike access…though it will be interesting to see how the bus frequency meshes with bike frequency…all of our “Rose Lanes” in Honolulu allow bike access with [likely] higher bus frequency but have much lower bike frequency …I know that historically – similar bus + bike shared lanes in France (Boulevard St Germain, Paris) were 16 feet wide so buses/ bikes could leap frog past each other as needed…plus had raised concrete curb protection
https://www.google.com/maps/@21.3225902,-157.8781574,19z?hl=en&authuser=0

FDUP
FDUP
1 month ago

They should have been doing this two or three decades ago…