Portlanders push for protection as PBOT pinches pennies

Unprotected bike lanes on N Vancouver Ave. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Many Portlanders are frustrated that the vast majority of bike lanes in our city lack a key safety feature: physical protection from drivers and their cars. Video of a recent collision on Northeast 21st Avenue was viewed by tens of thousands of people before it was taken down at the victim’s request. It showed a driver veer into the bike lane and strike a rider, sending them high into the air and flipping their body head-over-heels multiple times before landing on the sidewalk.

Those who saw the video witnessed the horrific consequences of relying only on paint and flexible plastic posts to separate bicycle riders from other road users. And despite potential for more injuries and deaths, the perception of danger that keeps the vast majority of Portlanders from riding bikes will persist until they see more serious separation from drivers.

We’ve made progress in the past 15 years, but not nearly enough to keep up with growing threats. As street culture has eroded to its lowest point ever and more people drive distracted and without respect for others, the need for hardened, physically-protected bike lanes has reached a fever pitch.

Serious pressure is mounting on the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to beef up bike lanes just as their budget is in its worst condition ever and its commissioner-in-charge is mounting a campaign for mayor.

Something’s got to give.

Bike lanes on North Rosa Parks, PBOT’s first-ever bike lane protected by a concrete curb.

A brief history of protected bike lanes in Portland

We first discussed protected bike lanes in 2007. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has experimented with them since 2008, and the first major one was built on Southwest Broadway in 2009. Almost from the start of when protected bike lanes became popular in the U.S., Portland had trouble building them. We used to hear that these new, more politically-fraught bike lane designs required strong support from the “bike community.” City Hall staff would hear bike advocates arguing over whether protection was even necessary (due to a “vehicular cycling” philosophy from riders who don’t like being boxed-in) and it gave them cold feet.

But like most new ideas, once Portland built a few of them and the sky didn’t fall, they became more-or-less a standard treatment. In 2011 we shared several projects that illustrated PBOT’s commitment to separating bike users from car users. Back then I hoped/expected that the debate was over and we’d start building every new bike lane with protection from the get-go.

In 2015, former PBOT Director Leah Treat wrote a memo to all staff that stated,

“Make protected bicycle lanes the preferred design on roadways where separation is called for. I am asking for this design standard for retrofits of existing roadways as well as to new construction. I want protected bikeways to be considered on every project where some type of separation is desired.”

We should have been on our way. But despite garnering national headlines for this new “policy” (which was never a policy, just an aspirational memo), it didn’t really turn out like we’d hoped. New projects were built without physical separation and we never saw a large campaign to retrofit old bike lanes with new protection.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, in 2016 BikePortland laid out all the reasons PBOT had for why they couldn’t do more. In a 75-page technical memo, PBOT Bike Planner Roger Geller summarized the top four challenges the city faced in building protected bike lanes: fire truck access issues; stormwater/runoff requirements; auto parking space buffer zone, and truck and bus turning radius requirements. (Recall the flex-post debacle on the NW Lovejoy ramp in 2012 and you’ll begin to see how space constraints influence PBOT’s decisions to keep bike lanes unprotected.)

Another reason was the lack of an official, internal engineering design guidebook for how to build protected bike lanes. PBOT didn’t have one of those until 2018 (and it wasn’t released publicly until 2021).

But the presence of excuses didn’t remove the need for protection.

12 years after Portland first started talking seriously about protection, PBOT installed their first concrete curb separated bike lanes (on North Rosa Parks Way in 2019). Now the treatment is all but standard on PBOT projects and they’ve even retrofitted a few existing, paint-only lanes with some level of protection like flex-posts, plastic “tuff-curbs”, large concrete planters, and so on.

But there are still miles of dangerous, unprotected bike lanes in Portland.

Unsanctioned concrete curbs and blocks on NE 21st that were later removed by PBOT. (Photo: Block Ops)

Advocates push for protection

“The bike lanes on this section of NE 21st are separated from head-on traffic only by plastic delineator wands,” the board of nonprofit BikeLoud PDX wrote in a letter to the PBOT director and safety staff this morning. “These plastic flex-posts are everywhere in Portland. Look for them the next time you cross a bridge — battered by drivers, and often missing where they’re most needed.”

The nightmarish collision on NE 21st spurred BikeLoud into action. Their letter references BikePortland’s 2016 review of the 21st Ave bike lane project where commenters warned that a head-on crash with a driver was likely and that fixed bollards were needed.

BikeLoud is demanding that PBOT install metal bollards or some type of physical protection not just on 21st Ave, but on any street where two-way or contra-flow bike lanes expose cyclists to head-on traffic. They also want PBOT to closely track where plastic flex-posts are frequently replaced and upgrade them with physical barriers. The letter also calls for physical protection to be used on all new bike lane projects.

The 21st Ave collision has also inspired a new group of tactical urbanists dubbed Block Ops PDX who have taken matters into their own hands with a mantra on their social media profile that reads, “Infrastructure by people for people.” On September 6th, they installed several concrete blocks in the buffer of the bike lane where the person was struck. Within hours, the group said on their X account, “another reckless driver struck one of the bollards.”

A few days later, PBOT crews removed the unsanctioned traffic features. “This attempt resulted in concrete blocks in the bike lanes and cost the bureau time and labor to remove and fix, taking away resources from other safety work that was planned this weekend,” PBOT wrote in an X post. They said the concrete blocks created a safety hazard and urged people to not make any further unauthorized changes to streets.

So far it appears Block Ops will continue their work. “We’ll strike again soon,” they posted this morning.

(UPDATE, 2:37 pm: PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera reached out via email to say, “Our engineers have conducted a site visit on NE 21st and are developing plans, but it’s too early to provide more details than that at this time. Safe to say that yes, this is on our radar and we are looking into it.)

PBOT: “We’d love to be able to provide more protection, but…”

All this pressure on PBOT and its Commissioner Mingus Mapps (who was forced to call a press conference after a record 13 people were kill in traffic crashes in July) comes at a time when the agency is fighting for its financial life. With inflation spiking material and construction prices, dwindling resources from a lack of parking and gas tax revenue, an unexpected demand for homelessness-related expenses, and a city budget that all but ices transportation out of the General Fund, it’s desperate times for PBOT.

PBOT Communications Director Hannah Schafer told BikePortland Monday that, “We’d love to go out and harden a lot of those bikeways where we have only plastic delineators, but we don’t have the money. We are looking at a $32 million cut, which is a third of our discretionary funding.”

Schafer contends that cost is the main issue, and that lack of roadway space is another, yet far less pressing, one. It was easy to hear the emotions and concern about the budget in Schafer’s voice. “There’s a lot of feelings of frustration that we can’t do the work that we know we need and want to do… We don’t like not being able to do what we know we need to do to make our city and our transportation system function.”

“Some of the way we talk about it and the way that BikeLoud talks about it might sound a little different,” Schafer continued. “But I really don’t think we’re that far apart.”

Funding to retrofit existing bike lanes with protection would come from PBOT’s General Transportation Revenue (GTR), a discretionary pot that has allowed their Quick Build program to flourish for years. That program funds small capital projects (usually under $500,000) and many of the bike lane projects you see around your neighborhood. And it’s GTR that’s on the chopping block as PBOT girds for very uncomfortable budget negotiations later this month.

“Until we find a way to right-size, the General Transportation Revenue and find more stable funding, we will never have the money to go out and do that (Quick Build type of) work,” Schafer said. If the funding problems aren’t ironed out, PBOT will only do projects that can be funded through larger, project-specific grants (like ones for the N Willamette, Better Naito, NE 47th, and 122nd Ave projects). “So in parts of town where we’re not doing that big project, they’re going to feel less and less served,” Schafer explained.

Detail of cost estimates from 2018 Protected Bicycle Lane Planning and Design Guide (PBOT)

Doing more with less

Since PBOT is low on cash, the natural next question is: How much money do they need?

In their 2018 Protected Bicycle Lane Planning and Design Guide (above), PBOT laid out detailed cost estimates for all the different levels of protection — from flex-posts, all the way up to concrete islands. The cost estimates in that guide are woefully outdated due to skyrocketing inflation on construction materials (which PBOT has told me has gone up 50% in less than three years), but the relative cost differences are still valid.

In general, on a per-mile basis, a bike lane with a full concrete median island costs PBOT about six times what it costs for them to use flex-posts. In 2018 dollars their report said it would cost $295 million to build 137 miles of concrete island protected bike lanes (not including traffic signal work) and just $52 million for flex-posts (an online inflation calculator says those figures are $355 million and $62 million in 2023). A traffic separator (some type of shorter, plastic curb) would be about half as expensive as a concrete island and three times the cost of flex-posts.

If PBOT’s budget gets hammered as much as some people fear, we’re not likely to see any retrofitting of existing bike lanes and we’ll only get new protected bike lanes as large, grant-funded projects get built. But if the budget can be stabilized, there’s a chance more protection can climb up the list of funding priorities.

Whatever the future holds, if advocates want more protected bike lanes, they’d be wise to think about two approaches: attach their pitches to PBOT’s Vision Zero Work Plan (which will have an update published later this year), and find opportunities to phase it in.

A good example of the phased-in approach is PBOT’s work on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. It started out as a five-lane road with paint-only, five-foot bike lanes. Then in 2013 they re-striped two miles of the road with a buffer at a cost of about $20,000. Five years later they returned again and added a concrete median (see photo). It took 10 years, but it happened.

“When we don’t have funding, we create the space and then upgrade as funding becomes available,” PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera told me via email this week. That might work well for PBOT, but increasingly, Portlanders might not be willing to wait that long for the basic service of safe travel.

Another advocacy avenue might be PBOT’s Vision Zero Plan. Despite it being battered by critics amid record deaths, the plan remains the city’s guiding document when it comes to safety-related transportation funding. At least that’s how Schafer sees it. “Vision Zero will continue to be the way that we guide our safety improvements. Using a Safe Systems approach with Vision Zero as the goal, will continue to be the way that we direct our work.”

If PBOT doesn’t figure out how to protect more bike lanes soon, the only zero they’ll reach is the number of people willing to risk cycling on Portland streets.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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David Hampsten
7 months ago

The main issue was that there were (and still are) too many “standards” and no actual agreement as to what is ideal. As I recall, curb-protected bike lane infrastructure wasn’t really a thing until 2014 or so anywhere in the USA, otherwise we would have asked for them in East Portland. Vancouver BC had planter protected bike lanes as long ago as 2005 which was sort-of imitated on East Multnomah near Lloyd Center, but everyone seemed to regard red-painted Dutch-style cycle tracks as the state-of-the-art infrastructure, with a surface a few inches above the street but below the sidewalk, which was sort of implemented on Cully/NE 57th and we thought we were getting on outer Powell, but ODOT switched to curb-protected at the last minute, which is probably just as well. And countless cities were adding buffered bike lanes, some with plastic candles, and calling them “protected”, even JM was touting them as such for quite some time.

I am impressed whenever I visit Charlotte or DC and see the miles of new curb-protected bike lanes, both one-way and two-way. Of course, what is really depressing is how few cities can afford to implement them AND have the will to do them. Too many cities are broke, and too many others aren’t willing to go beyond painted bike lanes and a few dumb sharrows.

But what is really missing are curb-protected intersections, which I saw all over Europe for years. Even Tuscaloosa Alabama has them. Totally ADA, yet every city keeps building curb ramps instead with the yellow dimples.

Fred
Fred
7 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Yep – even Atlanta has two-way protected cycle tracks. A lot of cities have better bike infra than Portland, in specific places.

Robert Rands
Robert Rands
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Atlanta has few protected cycletracks. Mostly, it has sidewalks that cyclists are forced onto. Decatur and Atlanta has been made more dangerous through these ill-devised designs. It is a failure. Arkwright, formerly one of the safest roads for cyclists, absolutely devastated by this nonsense…

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

which was sort-of imitated on East Multnomah near Lloyd Center,

Much of NE Multnomah was protected by flexiposts but most of them have since been obliterated by reckless cage drivers and weekend street drifting. NE Multnomah is a great example of how PBOT creates a crappy temporary facility with the promise to upgrade it but ultimately abandons it to rapid decay.

AL
AL
7 months ago

I’m hoping the charter reform new gov will swoop in and fix the budget issues somehow. My idea: a speed camera at 18th and E burnside. Just about everyone is going 30+ in a 20 so it should be enough to protect a few bike lanes

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  AL

I’m hoping the charter reform new gov will swoop in and fix the budget issues somehow.

The 12 new city councilors who will each be getting paid more than the 4 we have now, and will each require staff and office space, will have to figure out how to pay for all the remodeling and rework city hall is going to need to accommodate them before they go looking for general budget money to pay for PBOT capital projects catering to a small minority of Portlanders.

I think the most interesting word in your post is “somehow”. I would love for the swooping in to happen, but reality has a habit of intruding.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

45% of surveyed Portlanders say they would bicycle more if they felt safer doing so. (The actual number is probably higher, see link). The “small minority” is quite a bit larger than you seem to think:

https://bikeportland.org/2023/08/02/nearly-half-of-portlanders-would-bike-more-if-it-was-safer-and-cheaper-citywide-survey-says-377709

Watts
Watts
7 months ago

“45% of surveyed Portlanders say they would… ”

What people say they would do under a hypothetical set of circumstances doesn’t mean much.

The important question is what are people willing to give up in exchange for increasing spending on bicycle infrastructure?

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Fortunately we have some data to back up the hypothesis that protected/separated bike lanes increase ridership:

“Researchers visited each of the five participating cities — Austin, Texas; Chicago; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; and Washington, DC — and selected one to two protected bike lanes to study in each city. … Researchers found that bicycle ridership increased on all the new studied streets, with an average increase of 72 percent.” https://trec.pdx.edu/news/research-reveals-perceptions-safety-and-use-protected-bike-lanes

Watts
Watts
7 months ago

Then just cite that research, rather than some bogus survey.

It is actually pretty amazing that a single facility, some as short as three blocks, in each city would be enough to drive ridership higher. I don’t know where those new riders are in Portland; I rarely see cyclists on Naito (for example), and they don’t seem to show up in the stats. But they’re bound to turn up somewhere.

socially engineered
socially engineered
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The stats you’re looking for are in the link I already posted. The fact that you seem unwilling to read the research when it’s presented to you—or conceive of a reality beyond your own limited experience—is a problem for you, not for me.

“A measured increase was observed in ridership on all facilities after the installation of the protected cycling facilities, ranging from +21% to +171%.” https://nitc.trec.pdx.edu/research/project/583

Robert Rands
Robert Rands
7 months ago

The failure comes from basing designs on input from people that do not bike and, despite what they may say, likely, never will. Designs should be based on input from people that bike! The “small minority” that is claimed to be that, is, in fact, the large majority that ride. This twisting of words is why cycling infrastructure has failed so dramatically.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Robert Rands

Actually, I think it is better to base designs on what is proven to increase safety. FWIW, I have been getting around almost exclusively by bike and transit for nearly 20 years and I fully support protected bike lanes (and protected intersections) on all major streets.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Robert Rands

To elaborate, I support protected bike lanes on all major streets because I feel way more comfortable riding in one of those than I do “sharing the road” with distracted drivers of huge pickups and SUVs. And I’m not alone either:

“Studies from cities across North America show that adding protected bike lanes significantly increases bike ridership on those streets, with rates ranging from 21% to 171%.”

https://nacto.org/2016/07/20/high-quality-bike-facilities-increase-ridership-make-biking-safer/

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  AL

More councilors and their staff taking a salary that isn’t being taken today is going to make the budgets even tighter. The tax base isn’t going to magically get bigger because we passed charter reform. We should be looking at trimming inefficiencies from our local government if we want to see more spending that actually improves our lives.

cc_rider
cc_rider
7 months ago

PBOT has mastered finding $1000 solutions to $100 problems. The biggest cost for any traffic calming project in Portland is the endless working to make sure traffic calming doesnt slow motorists down or inconvenience them.

A few days later, PBOT crews removed the unsanctioned traffic features. “This attempt resulted in concrete blocks in the bike lanes and cost the bureau time and labor to remove and fix, taking away resources from other safety work that was planned this weekend,” PBOT wrote in an X post. They said the concrete blocks created a safety hazard and urged people to not make any further unauthorized changes to streets.

What an absolute pile of bullshit. Yes, I’m sure the crews working on clearing traffic debris would otherwise be engaged in safety projects (eyeroll). How about PBOT recognize that the community is upset and divert some of their crews that are dedicated to making roads faster and more dangerous to remove the posts and double down on safety infrastructure.

Just more gaslighting from a bureau that hates anyone not in a car. PBOT has abdicated its role in keeping us safe and its absolutely approrpirate to engage in tactical traffic calming.

As an aside, I hate when activists of any kind put their content mainly on Twitter. It’s locked down to the point where you can’t even see a single post because the garbage human being who bought it has locked it down where you need to have an account to see anything, and having an account opens you up to being spammed by the pedophiles and white supremacists that Musks champions.

To anyone from Block Ops PDX, do you have a Mastodon account?

maxD
maxD
7 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

COTW!

Serenity
Serenity
7 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Wasn’t Twitter pretty much always locked down to anyone who didn’t have an account?

Marty Ponnech
Marty Ponnech
7 months ago

The problem is there is ZERO appetite for additional taxes EVEN in Portland. We’ve passed LOTS of poorly designed taxes and even though the impact mostly falls on those of high income these taxes have been so poorly implement that most voters now realize gving more money to incompetents is not a good idea even if there are needed expenditures and it comes out of other’s pocketbooks.

Maybe we can get rid of some of the failed taxes and redirect the money to essential services and infrastructure like sweeping bike lanes and PBL’s! Let’s get rid of the failed PCEF, Homeless Tax and Preschoo tax and put it to use improving public safety and transportation.

Fred
Fred
7 months ago
Reply to  Marty Ponnech

You’ve made some good points here, Marty. You are wrong in saying that there is zero appetite for more taxes: there is plenty of appetite when other people are paying and you are paying little or none.

I would love for the thousands I’m paying in homeless-services tax to go to other causes, but the good people of Portland are generous with other people’s money, I guess. And look at what it’s getting us: we’re a magnet for homeless people from all over the country and businesses (whose leaders are paying the bulk of the taxes) are fleeing Multnomah County. I wish CoP and MultCo leaders would draw the straight line that connects these dots.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

As long as we continue to enshrine the right to vote, free of poll taxes or “tests”, there will always be both people who are able to vote for taxes that they don’t have to pay themselves, along with people who willingly vote to enact taxes knowing full well that those taxes ARE going to be paid (at least in part) by they themselves.

Accordingly, the trope about taxes being “other people’s money” simply amounts to either opposition to all taxes full-stop, or opposition to majoritarian democracy, or both.

David Hampsten
7 months ago
Reply to  Marty Ponnech

Penny-pinching Portland ponders pedal-pushing protection.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Marty Ponnech

Are there any “well designed taxes” that have ever been passed? Because I always hear people talk about “bad taxes”, but the people who do so don’t ever have any taxes they’re enthusiastic about (other than, as someone else pointed out, taxes that they believe are never going to make any dent in their own wallet).

David Hampsten
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

Yes, Portland passed one in the late 80s to repair city streets, more than enough money to do so, called the ULF (Utility License Fee). As utilities cut into the street, be they city agencies or corporations, each pays proportional fees that are then pooled together to periodically repave streets. The “tax” isn’t paid directly by Portlanders but rather through your cable bill, your power bill, and so on. It’s still generating lots of money every year.

Unfortunately, unlike gas taxes, the fee isn’t protected from city council’s sticky little fingers, and almost immediately they took out 20% for other city services; then it was this emergency and that one, 40%, then 80%, and now PBOT gets at most 3% and the other 97+% goes to police, fire, parks, and so on.

Arturo P
Arturo P
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

Curious, do you live in Multnomah County?

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

Would you count bond levies as taxes, because if so, the money PPS has used to remodel their high schools ahs been well-spent. It has absolutely transformed the learning environment and culture at Roosevelt, Grant, Franklin, McDaniel (formerly Madison), and Lincoln. And wait until you see the new Benson (opening fall 2024.)

Also: Multnomah County Library. And Metro park and greenspace acquisitions.

JeffS
JeffS
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

I do, IF, the earmarked funds don’t result in other money that would/could/should have been spent in these areas being redirected.

PS
PS
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

When the cost of building brand new modern schools would have been less than what they are spending to remodel antiquated facilities, I would argue that is not “well spent”. Further, the immediate need to upsize the bond to north of $1B from a bond that used the lowest cost estimates of $700MM due to the district gaming the system, isn’t the best use of funds and taxpayer trust.

dw
dw
7 months ago
Reply to  Marty Ponnech

Preschool for all is rolling out, albeit slowly, and is completely life changing for the families in the poorest parts of the city who are benefitting from it. I know because I work with their kids. It easy to dismiss it because it doesn’t benefit you right away but you can’t snap your fingers and make a program like that appear overnight.

Homeless tax and PCEF are absolute duds tho.

HJ
HJ
7 months ago
Reply to  Marty Ponnech

Problem is those aren’t hitting high income earners. $125k (where the biggest ones start) is middle class. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
Hit that mark, still be middle class, see crazy high taxes hit, then watch the news as they very publicly don’t get used.
Makes it kind of hard to have any appetite for new ones.
Not only that but the actual high income crowd is fleeing in droves because of the taxes. IIRC the total income of people who have left is over $1 billion. Even just crossing the county line over to Washington county saves them thousands per year. Add more taxes, more will leave. Portland has one of the highest tax rates in the country and we absolutely are not seeing the return on investment. If we were people would feel differently.
All the current taxes, a tax on new bike sales, meanwhile despite literally decades of begging the west hills are unsafe as ever but oh they’ve upgraded the bluff by UP to the tune of millions of dollars each time what a half dozen times now? I just want to be able to ride or walk to the nearest bus stop from my house without having to share a 45mph lane with cars. Last time Skyline came up as a topic for bike lanes the MAMILs shot it down. Because surely their experience while riding is what women and minorities experience. So yeah, not gonna vote for new taxes even though I do have sympathy for the budget problems. Maybe if the city weren’t dishing out so much in settlements for misconduct of various types we could afford nice things.

Serenity
Serenity
7 months ago
Reply to  HJ

. Portland has one of the highest tax rates in the country? Maybe… But still no sales tax.

VB
VB
7 months ago

I can understand where Block Ops is coming from. Instead of chastising their efforts, what if PBOT teamed up with them and other volunteers to expedite projects currently held up by low funding?

Fred
Fred
7 months ago

I dunno about this so-called need for separated bike infrastructure. I grew up in a part of the U.S. in a time when there was NO bike infrastructure of any kind. We were happy to have a shoulder to ride on, and we learned to ride with traffic.

Yes, I know this makes me a “vehicular cyclist,” but why can’t we grow more vehicular cyclists? This demand for constant protection is how we end up with a lot of crappy infrastructure, like the new Capitol Hwy bike-sidewalks that make you slow down and turn into the crosswalk at every cross street, or the many bike crosswalks (like B-H Hwy and Bertha) where PBOT wants you to turn right, stop, wait for traffic to stop, and then use the crosswalk TO GO STRAIGHT. What’s wrong with signaling, moving into the left lane, and pedaling like hell? Yes, I know that won’t work for eight-year-olds, but they would use the crosswalk anyway. This “protected” infrastructure turns everyone into an eight-year-old cyclist.

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Fred, I am so glad you asked. Here you go.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

John Forester definitely went off the deep end. But, in his defense, he did make invaluable contributions to cycling education, and empowered thousands of us to become more confident riders, and, in some cases, be able to ditch our cars altogether, about which I speak from personal experience.

Forester may have been a zealot, but an important truth that he did champion (albeit not always skillfully) was, new “cycling infrastructure” must not come at the expense of diminishing the rights and safety of current and experienced riders.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

must not come at the expense of diminishing the rights and safety of current and experienced riders.

Experienced riders are free to ride vehicularly in the general lane if they feel their “rights” are diminished by cycling infrastructure.
(Bonus points if they make vroom vrooom noises while doing so.)

JeffS
JeffS
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Not legally. Though I am aware that enforcement is nonexistent.

The practicality of this option also goes out the window on many streets once you remove a traffic lane to add your infrastructure.

But I’ll freely admit that my concerns are for my own safety, not in creating the perception of safety to get others onto bikes. Obviously a minority opinion in these parts.

John
John
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

If they pass you while they do it, it’s called rolling lycra.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  John

OMG that MAMIL RL’d me!

I’ve looked and looked for an electronic horn that allows uploading a sound file – I so want the Road Runner:

“Meep, Meep! Thpthtt!”

David Hampsten
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

I do in fact disagree with many of his ideas, but his book, Bicycle Transportation, is what got me into the field of bicycle planning and advocacy, as opposed to being just a city planner who bicycles.

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

That’s a great solution for when almost nobody does it. Vehicular cycling works so long as the number of cyclists is a rounding error. As soon as someone on a 3 speed city bike doing 10mph wants to ride down the middle of Williams, drivers are going to lose their minds.

Sure if we could magically get an overwhelming number of people doing it in a short time, it would be cool because it would enforce traffic calming, like large group rides taking over the streets. Make every street look like a busy intersection in Amsterdam.

But that’s not where we are. We’re trying to get more people to ride, and they’re not spandex wearing vehicular cyclists just waiting for a little encouragement to take the lane.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  John V

I am under the impression, based on recent reports, that those nunbers have in fact drastically declined back to something like 1990s levels, ie, exactly the “rounding error” range that you (rightly) deplore.

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

But what’s the point? I’m saying if a tiny number of people do it, it might work, but at least I’m not here all about getting a handful of enthusiasts to ride a bike, I want everyone to do it (who can), and that means making things comfortable for more than the people who are currently fit and brave enough to ride with traffic.

Aaron H
Aaron H
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

“Growing more vehicular cyclists” is precisely how you end up with a 1% or less modal share for cyclists, as we’ve had on average in this country these past few decades. We have to work with human nature, not against it. Providing a comprehensive network of protected cycle tracks and traffic-calmed streets with low car volumes and speeds works with human nature and makes your average person want to adopt cycling. Insisting that people ride on shoulders or “take the lane” on a 40 mph stroad goes against human nature, which is why most people don’t do it, and the only people left cycling are the lycra warriors and other strong and confident types. It’s little wonder that bikes are often thought of as toys for the rich (or ersatz cars for drunk drivers who lost their licenses) in this country instead of a utilitarian tool for daily use. Making cycling accessible to the 8-80 crowd through protected infrastructure doesn’t “turn everyone into an eight-year-old cyclist.” It turns everyone into exactly the age that they are, while they bike instead of drive.

Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Why can’t we grow more vehicular pedestrians? Why the constant protection when people can just walk in the big wide streets available to them?

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago

Yes, love it! AKA Frogger.

Serenity
Serenity
7 months ago

Porrtland is full of those! They’re the ones who step off the curb without even l0ooking, and the ones who wait until cross traffic has a green light to start crossing the street.

dw
dw
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

“Grow more vehicular cyclists”? This is the absolute worst take I’ve ever read in the comment section of this website. Get over yourself. Normal people drive because it feels – and is – much safer than playing in traffic on your bike. God, cycling NIMBYs like you who think getting around by bike should be some privilege reserved for only the most extreme and fearless people really are ruining it for the rest of us.

Daniel Reimer
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

why can’t we grow more vehicular cyclists?

Because everyone will opt to drive like most people do now.

In a lot of ways I agree with you. Separated bike infrastructure is car infrastructure, in the very least in the sense of “the only reason to have separated bike infra is because of the cars”. So get rid of cars and suddenly streets are safer. This is an approach most NA cities aren’t attempting instead focusing on creating separated infra as to not impact car throughput.

PBOT could have easily put a couple diverters on Capitol Hwy for only a few thousand dollars instead of multi-million dollar capital project. Or PBOT could have just made Capitol Hwy a one way (after all, they did make it a one way for a couple years when they did the project and the world didn’t end). But instead they opted to pour concrete and use up more of the right of way.

Is Capitol Hwy perfect? No, the zigs and zags are really annoying. But go a reasonable speed and its fine for what it is. The couple times I ridden it, I’ve seen people with kids riding it. Not once have I seen a kid on BH Hwy and I ride it a few times a week despite it being “protected”. That is worth some acknowledgement.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

get rid of cars and suddenly streets are safer

Cars are very dangerous, but also happen to be extremely useful.

Arturo P
Arturo P
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

True, but if you want to see dangerous look at the traffic violence levels in developing countries. Now that is dangerous!

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Arturo P

Traffic fatalities per 100,000 vehicles:

 Azerbaijan   10
 Panama   10
 Philippines   10.5
 Montenegro   10.7
 Georgia   11.5
 Jamaica   11.5
 Uzbekistan   11.5
 Russia   11.6
 Mauritius   12.2
 Mexico   12.3
 Turkey   12.3
 Chile   12.4
 Republic of Moldova   12.5
 Egypt   12.8
 United States   12.9
 Bangladesh   13.6
 Belarus   13.7
 Ukraine   13.7

https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241565684

Mary Vasquez
Mary Vasquez
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Why did you “cherry pick” the data? You did not include a single African county which has the highest death rate. For example, Burkina Faso has a rate of 30 road deaths/100,000 and there is more under reporting in developing nations as compared to the US or Europe.

There are large disparities in road traffic death rates between regions. The risk of dying as a result of a road traffic injury is highest in the African Region (26.6 per 100 000 population), and lowest in the European Region (9.3 per 100 000).[3]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate#:~:text=The%20risk%20of%20dying%20as,(9.3%20per%20100%20000).

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Mary Vasquez

The US is horrible when comparing to other wealthy countries, but we don’t even come close to places in the developing world.

Also, traffic fatalities per VMT is a much better data point to look at when comparing countries.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Mary Vasquez

You did not include a single African county

.
Ooops…my mistake. I forgot that Egypt and Mauritius are actually in North America and that the earth is flat.
.

Arturo P
Arturo P
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

You’re missing the point. Why didn’t you include Cameroon or the Central
African Republic in your list? Yeah we can push to do a lot better in the US but we can be simultaneously grateful for what we have.

And why do continue to allow personal insults Lisa (and then laugh)? Not cool.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Arturo P

My apologies, I’ve deleted the comment.

Daniel Reimer
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Because the US built out a car only transportation network and land use patterns that cemented the need for car ownership. Of course cars are useful in this scenario.

But you can still have the usefulness of cars while still having calmer and safer streets. Greenways for example “restrict” car access on a subset of streets, yet Portland is still able to have a complete car network. It’s this perpetual idea that we need to have unrestricted car access on every street that makes it difficult to have any street that is safe.

Guy
Guy
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

And conversely, it’s the perpetual psychology that you need to own a car in order to function as an independent adult that also mandates that every road be open to your car. Because why on earth would somebody invest a massive percentage of their yearly income on a piece of transportation equipment whose access to roadways was inconveniently restricted in any way? If nothing else, the automotive lobby that accompanies such a multi hundred billion dollar industry renders any such proposal a nonstarter.

HJ
HJ
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

No. Just no. I have a nice shiny silver medal from elite nationals in cycling hanging on my wall and I hate this. Have I spent a massive amount of my life as a vehicular cyclist? Oh yeah. Is the need to do that on 45mph roads a big part of why I don’t ride much any more? Absolutely. And I know scores of other bike racers, the strongest of the vehicular cyclist crowd, who say the same thing.
Traffic has gotten worse. It is more dangerous to do vehicular cycling than it used to be. Regardless, people shouldn’t have to have nerves of steel and legs of iron to be able to ride. And it’s worse if you’re not a white man.
Did I happily ride on Cornell to go catch a movie when I was 13? Yup. Would I ever let a kid do that now? Nope. The streets are quite simply more dangerous for cyclists than they used to be.

Serenity
Serenity
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

“When I was your age…” I don’t know what tone you’re going for here, Fred… but this is not a good look.

mc
mc
7 months ago

I only have 1 question for PBOT, what is the actual cost to install some sand filled traffic barriers that are often used around roadway construction sites?

I think that’s the least PBOT could do right now.

I hope this person that was hit on SE 21st and other people start asking some good lawyers about what how the city & PBOT are responsible for safe roads and if they’ve any lawsuit exposure.

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  mc

Oh yeah mc. Therein lies the most important question: “Where do we put this sand filled traffic barrier?” or rather “What is the most pragmatic solution to use what we have now to expand a separated network to get the best bang for our buck?”

Because if it costs $20-30 million dollars to build Broadway/Weidler from the bridge to 7th, it seems we should have different project priorities. TBH it’s very difficult to read that estimated budget above. But a parking protected bike lane is estimated (from PBOT) between $70k and 2.8 million per mile. It seems to be PBOT’s MO to wait decades until a capital project is fully funded to start construction, whereas interim designs are build across the country (and around the world) with temporary barriers at strategic places like as intersections (e.g., SE 21st), and paint. Broadway/Weidler needed cheap paint and parking protection decades ago, not several years in the future. It is that sort of thinking that is entirely alien to PBOT and the city council alike.

PBOT should not be relying on capital projects; it should be relying on temporary, cheap solutions.

Karstan
7 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

Yup! How much does a few truckloads of boulders cost? ODOT was certainly dumping them left and right like they were free/cheap a couple years ago. Strategically placed boulders as traffic calming, diverters, and protection from autos could make a huge difference on our streets.

SD
SD
7 months ago
Reply to  Karstan

“As part of a campaign to keep homeless campers off Oregon Department of Transportation property, the state agency has spent more than $1 million since 2013 on “rockscape landscaping”—in the common parlance, boulders—in at least six locations across Portland since 2013.”
https://www.wweek.com/news/city/2019/06/19/oregon-officials-deter-portland-homeless-campers-with-a-million-dollars-worth-of-boulders

maxD
maxD
7 months ago
Reply to  mc

Be careful what you ask for! PBOT is likely to put the barrier ACROSS the bike lane to prevent them from being used- that is much safer! Don’t believe me? Look at what PBOT is doing all over town to make crosswalks safer: they adding a little paint here and there, and then closing the rest. Even in the central city.

Jason Allen
Jason Allen
7 months ago

I totally agree that more protected bike lanes would be a great thing. But I do question the assertion that it’s the absence thereof that is keeping vast numbers of otherwise would be bikers in Portland off of their bike. I don’t know how you could know that. It doesn’t track with my own experience. Some people are bikers and they do it no matter what and other people are not. I have the general sense that it’s more fear of the general street ambiance, violence from other human beings and the unpredictability of what they will find out there that keep some from biking. But I question whether there are very many people that would specifically describe the lack of protected bike lanes as being their reason for not biking as much as they used to.

Jason Allen
Jason Allen
7 months ago

I agree. What you are saying all makes sense. I personally would like to see more bike paths completely away from where car travel is possible. Like a long the riverside from swan island up to St. John’s and over the railroad trestle there to the northwest side. I want to see new bike trails developed alongside train tracks rather than roadsides wherever possible.

I also would like to see more city funded high security bike parking enclosures, either staffed or unstaffed so that people would feel safe taking their bikes out and actually leaving them somewhere. I’d say that’s a major impediment that I hear everybody talking about. They just don’t feel like they can leave their bike on the street anywhere without taking a huge risk.

Matt Villers
Matt Villers
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason Allen

If anecdotal evidence helps, I’m someone who chooses to bike or not based on whether a safe route exists. If there’s no reasonable, safe route I’ll just give up and drive.

Safe in this context being either “physical separation from cars” or “quiet, low-speed streets w/ good traffic calming” (ex: neighborhood greenways).

For example, I don’t feel comfortable riding on N Williams/Vancouver and don’t use them (cars go too fast and too many conflict points), but I’ve actually started biking North way more since the improvements on NE 7th.

Maybe folks here would think I’m overly cautious? But I try to bike instead of drive when I can because it’s fun and makes me feel good. Riding high-stress routes is not fun and does not feel good.

Mark Wheeler
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason Allen

I know of 2 people in my 2 person household that “would specifically describe the lack of protected bike lanes as being their reason for not biking as much as they used to.” My wife almost got killed last week on the Clinton “bikeway” (@ approx SE 19th) by a car that blew a stop sign. Car driver did not roll through the stop sign, they blew through the intersection. Wife was on her way to work. At about 18 mph she had to lay her bike down & hit the pavement while the car drove forward through her path. If she had been a second ahead things would have been very different. She has a messed up ankle, lots of bruises, some sort of trauma, a damaged bike, has not ridden her bike since, & it sounds like it may be a long time before she’s up for it again. This is all after it took me many years to convince her that getting a bike & using it to go to work is a great idea… I realize a 2 person anecdote is not “vast numbers of otherwise would be bikers,” but our numbers may be adding up. Yes please to more separated & hardened infrastructure.

Let's Active
Let's Active
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Wheeler

Mark, I’m so sorry to hear about your wife. In our family, there is no way my wife and daughter will ride regularly until there are safer routes around the city. A friend of my wife’s recently took a terrible fall on the Lovejoy ramp (thanks, streetcar tracks), lost a bunch of teeth and has been in tremendous pain. My wife was a fair-weather rider to begin with, but she doesn’t want to get on her bike to go a short distance to downtown from NE right now. Yes, there are a lot of anecdotes here, but perhaps they add up to something more.

Mark Wheeler
7 months ago
Reply to  Let's Active

Thanks L.A.! I know of many similar experiences here among our wider circles. Maybe this convo is part of the solution.

HJ
HJ
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason Allen

I definitely think an absence of any bike infrastructure keeps people off the road. WashCo just added a gorgeous section of paint only buffered bike lane on a nasty stretch of Cornell near Cedar Mill Elementary. Took us about 30yrs to make it happen. Suddenly the volume of cyclists has exploded. Is it protected infrastructure? No. Is it life-changingly better than no infrastructure? Yes. Especially on a high-speed road. Doubly so since it finally creates a safer connection to one of the biggest housing developments in the area.
That said I agree with the skepticism over whether physically separated infrastructure really makes a difference in whether people will ride vs a simple paint only solution. Frankly I remain of the opinion that we need to be focusing on creating basic bike infrastructure, even if it’s paint only, to more places rather than constantly upgrading what already exists. The existing infrastructure will never be that useful if you can’t actually make it to/from your home in a halfway rational manner.

maxD
maxD
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason Allen

Jason,
I think the talk about protected vs non-protected bike lanes is a bit of a red herring. In my experience (decades of riding and LOTS of conversations with lots of people about biking in Portland) it is all the dangerous gaps that prevent people from riding. People generally have a preference for protected infrastructure, but they will use bike lanes and greenways IF they are clean, direct and well-connected to destinations and other bike routes. That is where PBOT repeatedly fails. Even when they make a protected bike segment, they neglect to make the safe, direct connections. To increase ridership, we need a really good, well-connected bike network first, and work on developing protections over time. PBOT should focus on the gaps, and connections and develop a true network.

ShadowsFolly
ShadowsFolly
7 months ago
Reply to  maxD

I live near the now burned out ex-K-Mart, near Sandy & 122nd, and I would never ever consider riding my bike to my work in downtown Portland because of the feeling of not being safe. It would also require riding when dark so even more of a no go.
What would it take for an old geezer like me to ride again? Protected bike lanes, with physical barriers (not plastic wands or barrels), that keeps me away from cars, buses, and trucks. Pushing me to side streets isn’t enough as I’m still exposed to those potential life changing a-holes that don’t give a rats-patut about me.
I know I’m in the minority, and maybe if I was a 20 something again I wouldn’t feel this way, but I am who I am.

John V
John V
7 months ago

This is just so infuriating.

Space is not an issue. If there is space for a buffered bike lane, there is space for concrete. The lines on the ground are supposed to represent places where you can’t drive. All the concrete does is make that a little more… concrete. It shouldn’t take any more space.

That said, I’m still underwhelmed by the pathetic solution they have for the curbs on Rosa Parks. Those are not curbs, they’re concrete speed bumps. A low clearance compact sedan can drive over them like they were entering a parking lot. They’re too short and too rounded. I assume this is related to their excuse about emergency vehicles. It’s probably a deliberate choice that they make them trivially drive-able. Thing is, why? What does that few extra feet get anyone? You already have the curb right there and a HUGE section of grass (maybe even a water garden) followed by a sidewalk. Why is the bike lane the one place emergency vehicles (and by extension, every vehicle that could crush you) need to be able to drive over?

As I suggested elsewhere, they could trivially solve this problem by just putting gaps in the barrier. It doesn’t have to be a constant water tight barrier. Imagine a wall of Jersey barriers, except only every three parts are actually there. Cars don’t come into bike lanes perpendicular to the lane, they come in from an angle, the barrier would do its job.

For that matter, they don’t need to protect every inch of the 137 miles of bike lanes, that is such a straw man. There are low hanging fruit, dangerous parts, curves, intersections, etc.

Also, why are they acting like they just can’t fathom any solution to these trivial problems? They should be able to figure it out. Places around the world have solved this. Someone with half a brain can think of solutions to all the excuses they’ve made.

I could rant for days on just this one concentrated piece of garbage from PBOT but it won’t do any good. They’re in excuse making mode and the only solution is for them all to be fired and have a cultural change, and I don’t know how that happens. Too much inertia.

PTB
PTB
7 months ago
Reply to  John V

Your exasperation on this subject matches mine. Particularly when you focus on your second to last paragraph and the fact that many other places have solved these problems already. The last few vacations I’ve been lucky enough to take have been to Canada, the UK and EU. What other cities do with *considerably less* road space makes PBOT look all the more pathetic. I just chalk this up to cultural differences (bigger than PBOT culture, I mean society at large culture) and I just don’t see how that ever changes in any meaningful way.

Mary Vasquez
Mary Vasquez
7 months ago
Reply to  John V

There is no money for PBL’s. It’s all going to PCEF, Preschool Tax, Homeless Tax, etc. There will be less. Those with $ are bailing out of Portland. Pretty soon there won’t be any “rich” people to tax.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Mary Vasquez

Pretty soon there won’t be any “rich” people to tax.

Housing prices in Portland would plummet if this were to happen.
Seems like a win-win to me.

HJ
HJ
7 months ago
Reply to  John V

Yes to the curves! Every curve with a bike lane has the paint worn off in short order. Fully agree we don’t need every inch protected as a priority, even just high stress points like curves would make a big difference.
As much hate as they get here I actually like the plastic bollards, they’re more than sufficient to prevent the curve creep from the vast majority of drivers and they’re fast and cheap to install. That’s a win in my book and more than sufficient until we have enough network coverage to make going back and upgrading with concrete infrastructure the logical choice.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago

It should be needless to point this out, but given that the preponderance of bike lanes have NEVER been “protected”, and there’s never been any significant *reduction* in their prevalence, either, then a “lack of protected bike lanes” is not CAUSING any new problems. But the claim is that, whatever the cause may be, at least HAVING such lanes can only help mitigate the problem.

I for one am sceptical about that, though. I acknowledge that they may help primarily with PERCEPTION of safety, which is nothing to belittle. But it would be important to develop a better understanding of causal factors before we could be very confident about how much it will help to actually mitigate any growing problems.

Again, I hate to be gratuitously contrarian, but if the goal here is to lure back the apparently lost (for the moment) population of erstwhile cyclists with “safer feeling” infrastructure, it’s also important that that tactic not result in adverse effects for those of us “vehicular cyclists” who, in some cases, have not owned cars in years.

Karstan
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

Why is it important not to have adverse affects for vehicular cyclists? Completely objectively, let’s be generous and say 2% of total trips in Portland are taken by vehicular cyclists on their bikes, just under half of the 4+% I believe PBOT measured at the last count. If our goal is 25% or greater trips by bike, we’re not going to get there by catering to those folks. Most people aren’t comfortable or capable of riding like that. Vehicular cycling doesn’t get us there.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Karstan

People who don’t own cars and rely entirely on cycling and walking have a lot more “skin in the game” of road safety and walkable/bikeable neighborhoods. Regardless how small a constituency they are numerically at the present time, I reckon they punch way above their weight politically on the relevant issues at stake. So it would be enormously foolhardy in the long term to alienate such a constituency.

And let me be clear. I see no necessary conflict between different categories of cyclists. Ideally, making bike infrastructure more inviting to more people can dramatically increase ridership, and increasing ridership is known to correlate strongly with improved safety for ALL riders. It can and should be a win-win for everybody. But building consensus and confidence in the likelihood of such a successful outcome is important and not to be taken for granted.

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

The research is already overwhelming. Here’s the evidence on various topics: safety, economic benefit, increase in modal share.

“If the goal here is to lure back the apparently lost (for the moment) population of erstwhile cyclists with “safer feeling” infrastructure, it’s also important that that tactic not result in adverse effects for those of us “vehicular cyclists” who, in some cases, have not owned cars in years.”

There is no evidence whatsoever that separated bike lanes result in adverse effects on “vehicular cyclists.” Please provide any research you find on the subject. Imagine someone arguing that building sidewalks might have an effect on the humber of potential runners.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

There is no evidence whatsoever that separated bike lanes result in adverse effects on “vehicular cyclists.”

I don’t know about who has researched this, but a negative impact is self-evident, and was reported by Fred and others above.

Building infrastructure (which cyclists are required to use) that can only be ridden slowly is an adverse impact for anyone who wants to ride faster (as many transportation and recreational riders do). Surely you don’t need research to tell you that, nor that some of PBOT’s newer designs can only be ridden at speeds many cyclists would find frustrating.

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

“I don’t know about who has researched this, but a negative impact is self-evident, and was reported by Fred and others above.”

You’re saying there’s no evidence for your opinion, but that opinion is self-evident. Ok.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

“You’re saying there’s no evidence for your opinion, but that opinion is self-evident. Ok”

Yes, I’m saying my statement is self-evident, which means it is obviously true. If you disagree, what kind of evidence would convince you that being forced to ride frustratingly slowly is an adverse effect?

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Here’s a good reference for the hierarchy of evidence. Every science-based area of study has something similar. In general, I tend to rely on more reliable, peer reviewed, information (e.g., meta-analyses, lit reviews, RCTs) to form how I gather info on a topic.

John
John
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Building infrastructure (which cyclists are required to use)

Even when not talking about economics you think small. Why on earth does it matter that “cyclists are required to use” the infrastructure? This is an arbitrary law that can be changed.

Yes, the exact current status quo seems hard to change if you only imagine you can change one variable at a time.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  John

“This is an arbitrary law that can be changed.”

Good. Let’s change it and then we can talk.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

My anecdotal experience has been that drivers are less likely to respect my right to be on the same roads if they think there’s a separate “bike path” nearby that I “should be on”.

HJ
HJ
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

Here’s the funny thing. When I was racing I would often opt for the more hazardous option because I thought the same thing. Oh, too fast for the other infrastructure. Marine Dr in the industrial area was a great example, I’d use the on street bike lane instead of the separated path. And I’d get seriously stressed out because you’re basically playing chicken with semis and well we’ve already had 1 family member killed by a semi while riding.
Then I stopped racing and got slow and fat. And started using that nice separated path. And suddenly loved riding that stretch. Then as I rode more, because it was less stressful, and I got faster again, I realized that there was absolutely zero reason that I ever needed to be in the bike lane in the road playing chicken with semis.
In fact I came to realize that a lot of my old competition had long ago figured this out and had stayed competing because they hadn’t had to deal with the stress while training that I had due to such silly notions.
All this to say I think stronger faster riders who ever utter a word saying nothing is better than something (and yes, I’ve committed that sin) have a blind spot the size of Texas and need to stop saying these things because all it does is cause harm. We can afford to lose the 5 riders in any given section of the city who ascribe to this nonsensical thinking. Because we’ll gain 10x that by catering to the rest of the world and even those 5 riders will eventually come back because they realize they were wrong.

X
X
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

–if I had a dollar for every time a person in a car told me to use the (invisible) bike lane I’d buy you all a beverage of your choice!

I don’t really like the bike lane experience but if there is one I’ll generally be in it, using the last eight inches on the traffic side because often bike lanes come with on-street MV parking and the closer in you ride, the more danger of getting chopped at intersections.

David Hampsten
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

When I was in Atlanta in July I saw lots of cyclists and other micromobility users (scooters, electric unicycles, and so on) on city streets that were broken up and with poor or nonexistent bike infrastructure. I also saw a lot of car congestion and frustrated drivers who couldn’t go over 30 mph no matter what – there was simply too many other cars in the way – plus a lot of police. Now, I’m not saying Atlanta is “just like Portland”, it’s not, the building scale is far larger, there’s an excellent subway (MARTA), it’s far hotter (and more humid) there, and it is the state capital of a state that is more than twice the population of Oregon. But the idea that you need great bike infrastructure to get high bike usage is bunk. I’ve been to many cities with great connected networks of barrier-protected bike lanes that still had low usage rates, and many other cities with awful infrastructure with good usage rates.

Charley
Charley
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

I’m a relatively vehicular cyclist, especially on my e-bike. I totally agree with your general sentiment: a lot of the recent 8-80 infrastructure is somewhere between useless, annoying, and outright unsafe for me.

*However*, I disagree with with your prescription to stop building it. I just ignore the infrastructure if it’s not going to be safe for me. Isn’t that kind of the point?

Overall, for those few riders who are relatively risk-tolerant like us, it is really just an inconvenience to just stay in the main lane. Yet for slower, more cautious riders, the infrastructure brings an incredible benefit!

I take the lane on SE Hawthorne (the protected lane has nearly killed or at least once) and on SE 43rd in Milwaukie (where my speed just seems absurdly fast for the new cycle track). None of this is a burden to me.

Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter
7 months ago

protected bike lane

You keep using that term. I do not think it means what you think it means.

dw
dw
7 months ago

Seems like budget woes are the biggest issue for PBOT right now. I’m sensing an air of austerity in the general public right now, which makes sense given how expensive rent and food and have gotten in the past few years. Seems really frivolous for the city to be painting green over potholed streets when most folks are paying taxes out the nose How can PBOT solve the budget problem without the city imposing additional taxes or being dependent on parking/gas tax revenue? Have any of the city council candidates talked about this? I am not asking to be smarmy, I am legitimately curious what kind of reform could solve the problem.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago

Mountable curbs (like the one shown in the photo) are not “protection”.

Neither, for that matter, are inverted flower pots filled with concrete or small yellow bricks.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

At places where I really feel the need for protection (the pedestrian “refuge” coming off the 224 path SB across the east side of the 224/212/122nd intersection) I want a jersey barrier or 2.

Nothing like sitting in there wondering if some impatient moron is going to miss the turn up the slip lane and come through the “refuge”

I saw the end result of an XPO driver taking the SB off 224 to WB on 212 slip lane too fast – he lost one of his triple trailers – rolled it over on 212.

It’s always fun to ride up the “protected” bike lane on BH Hwy and see all the snapped off wands (and in many cases have to ride over flattened ones). At the same time as they don’t stop cars from entering the bike lane they force my right wheel into too deep storm drain gratings – why are those set below street level again? And, of course the debris I have to ride over that never gets cleared out unless I stop and go back and clear it.

To PBOT – please do it right or not at all – bring the gratings to street level, sweep them and protect them with solid barriers. Otherwise a buffered lane is vastly preferable. Thank you – the Trikeguy.

SD
SD
7 months ago

I’ve always thought Mapps’ main deal was trying to be a savvy politician. But he has clearly not learned how to get things done in Portland. He should simply follow the lead of the Portland Police and stop doing the things that loud angry Portlanders want the most. Stop repairing car infrastructure and publicize that potholes and streets that have to be closed for safety reasons are due to Wheeler “defunding the PBOT.” Have PBOT employees tell people that it’s Carmen Rubio’s (or whoever else is going to challenge Mapps for mayor) fault. Send some of that dark money to People for Portland to rile up their mob of “Portland is burning” haters. Telling people they can’t have nice protected bike lanes isn’t going to get them anywhere.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  SD

Wait, you lost me on the last one: is the dark money FOR or AGAINST “nice … bike lanes”??

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
7 months ago

Where does the $1-2M/day of PBOT’s budget go? Why is it not possible to cut the expense of paving and painting the vast carway network? At least cut to only the level of service that drivers have paid for in-full, because they’ve been running our network into maintenance debt for decades. For example, diverters to put cut-through traffic back on major streets will drastically reduce VMT, or a bus lane road diet can reduce the wear on an aging curb lane while also providing more space to people on bikes. Every day that we keep one more lane-mile open to thru traffic and operate it at a loss, is going to cost us. Most people aren’t going to get out of their cars when all of their neighbors are close-passing your kid to take their own kids to school and then they double or triple park in front of the door.

Widening the road to put protected bikeways next to 4-5 car lanes is prohibitively expensive and so many historic or other constraints are in the way of those fantasy “complete streets” cross-sections that we will never see *that* network fully built. We can scrap together a network on existing pavement by closing passing lanes and rat-runs, like Amsterdam, or Paris, or Barcelona have done, or if that’s too aspirational, be like Jersey City: put some stuff in the street *and then* we can all talk about it.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago

PBOT’s funding woes are just the latest effect of a century of car-centric planning. Urban infrastructure with suburban density is fiscally unsustainable in the long term without subsidy, usually in the form of grants. And tying transportation revenue to the amount of miles driven and hours parked (rather than, say, a land value tax) creates a perverse incentive to reward more driving. The only way to dig ourselves out of this hole is to reduce dependence on the automobile, namely by creating walkable neighborhoods that are well-served by transit. Ending parking minimums was a good start, but the next step should be to allow much greater density and a mix of uses in all built-up neighborhoods.

https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/1/16/why-walkable-streets-are-more-economically-productive

PS
PS
7 months ago

So the question is, Portland is struggling to provide adequate services to the current number of residents as it stands now, so does an increase in density and population create sufficient tax revenue to provide better services to all residents or does the increase in density reduce the quality of life which has the consequence of having more people who contribute an outsized portion of tax revenue to leave?

Considering Multnomah county has already seen $1B walk out the door and condo prices are declining far faster than single family homes, and brand new apartment buildings are offering very attractive lease incentives, I don’t buy that the demand for denser housing is as robust as central planning types want us to believe.

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  PS

If you think the exorbitant prices for condos (as they used to be) were supply and demand based, I’ve got a bored ape NFT to sell you. Condos (and still houses to some degree) are expensive because of speculation. If condo prices are falling it should get people to actually move there.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago

but the next step should be to allow much greater density and a mix of uses in all built-up neighborhoods.

The ironic thing is that in many neighborhoods where there has been a marked increase in density, bike mode share has plummeted. For example the Richmond neighborhood has seen the rapid build out of many thousands of class “A” rental units but bike mode share has cratered relative to its 2014 peak.

Perhaps building more luxury apartments for rich transplants (who tend to drive SUVs) is not the panacea you oh-so-fervently believe in. Perhaps decarbonization of transportation will require society to fund and support systemic change rather than Randian fantasies of “build-baby-build” and trickle-down “filtering”.

80% of new supply this year will come from luxury developments, or what the real-estate industry calls “Class A” properties, said RealPage chief economist Greg Willett.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/aiming-at-wealthy-renters-developers-build-more-luxury-apartments-than-they-have-in-decades-11579084202

Robert Rands
Robert Rands
7 months ago

Protected lanes have been a disaster, as, first off, they are inferior, and, second, they are an attempt to marginalize cyclists by removing them from the roads. This has been a squandered moment as too many adhere to an extreme ideology that not only has failed, yet, has created greater antagonism to the point of backlash. The roads are less safe, protected lanes are inferior and a failure, and vehicular cycling will, eventually, get the respect it deserves. Pigeon-holing VC to one person and a book from 1977 is lame. Vehicular cycling is updated from then, even if it still “outside the law” from the fact that the government continues to fail cyclists, as do too many in the cycling community. Vehicular cyclists have abandoned the “cycling” organizations and now realize the con of “cycling infrastructure.” The government hasn’t done a thing to improve the roads for cyclists for decades~ with the biggest events widelanes and “take the lane” markings. Now, no longer available as ideologists base their ideas on theories rather than realities. What could have been the golden age of road design has been squandered and we have seen the results~ more accidents, injuries and deaths! Vehicular cycling~ Take the lane for safety!

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Robert Rands

Robert Rands:

they are an attempt to marginalize cyclists by removing them from the roads

So freaking many “BikeLoudPDX members:

Bike lanes/Neighborhood Greenways are car infrastructure

The paranoid strain of vehicular cycling ideology is alive and well even among so-called progressive cycling activists.

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  Robert Rands

This vehicular cycling nonsense has no place in the real world where people have families that they would like to bike with to daycare. Should the bike busses take the lane for safety?

I mean sure, if we make greenways actually car free then we do have a network of bike streets but that’s the same thing. If the bike bus takes the lane, what is your solution to prevent cars passing (as there is no way to safely pass a bike bus on a greenway)? Should every bike bus have a police escort?

Do you just envision a future where all the drivers just start respecting cyclists and never road rage or never lose attention and all that? It doesn’t seem likely.

Kyle Banerjee
7 months ago

When will it be time to admit the protection mantra hasn’t gotten us anywhere? Bike infrastructure has steadily improved, including sections that are fully protected, yet fewer people ride.

We repeat the Portland pattern of committing more resources the already overserved which will result in more heat attracting empty concrete such as the recent Better Naito project which is consistently empty even during rush hour in perfect weather. More attention for the areas with nothing currently accessible only to steely eyed cyclists such as Lombard around I-5 would be nice.

I’m not a fan of separation. Conflict points (i.e. every intersection) are the real threat, not getting hit directly from behind.

The separation makes it harder for drivers and cyclists to see each other and predict each others’ movements making hooks (the real threat) a bigger problem. It’s hard to for cyclists safely pass because everyone rides in the middle and getting to the vehicle lane is significantly harder (and sometimes not possible). Being sealed off is miserable when the lane is blocked by debris, ice, or whatever. Cars can’t pass if when the lane is blocked (e.g. someone turning) leading to all kinds of nutty side effects.

Frankly, what these lanes work best for is jogging — aside from the considerably more even surfaces, there are hardly any cyclists even in supposedly busy lanes like Rosa.

blumdrew
7 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

Bike infrastructure has steadily improved,

Sure, but it’s still barely there. 100% of my rides involve some amount of riding on a road with no mention or designation for cyclists. Functionally every origin-destination pair still has a ton of areas where it’s somewhere between uncomfortable and dangerous to ride a bike. That’s hardly the sign of a functional network.

Better Naito project which is consistently empty even during rush hour

Every single time I’ve ridden on Better Naito I’ve seen at least a few other people riding, and I ride it reasonably often (2x/week or so).

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I think our network is very functional. Plenty of room for improvement, but much better than folks here give credit for.

blumdrew
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s functional for me, a person who is extremely confident on a bike and has a detailed mental map of the local streets but I wouldn’t say that means it’s functional for a typical person. Would you call the 20s greenway a piece of functional infrastructure? I recall the first time that I though “oh I’ll just bike over the Morrison Bridge”, and literally not being able to find where the path was. Not really the sign of a functional piece of infrastructure.

Far too much of Portland’s bike network is fairly obviously an afterthought pasted onto a road network that still favors cars to an absurdist degree. The bike lane on Belmont is a clear example to me. It goes away the moment that it may interfere with having car parking (at 26th when Belmont/Morrison become one way couplets) and if you’re riding on it there is no clear indication that this is going to happen, or what you should do about it. Gaps like this just do not exist in the road network for cars.

Or how about the transition between Naito and Better Naito when you approach from the north heading under the Steel Bridge? Sure, you can cut over before the bridge to the two way part that starts right at the rail crossing, but if you don’t know this you’ll end up in a painted gutter forced to wait at a crossing (without really any indication as to what you were supposed to do).

Or how about trying to go north downtown anywhere west of the river? 2nd has a half assed protected lane (on the side of the road that makes turning onto the Burnside bridge far worse) for a tiny portion, 4th is horrible, 6th is always chaotic with minimal navigation, Park is okay but has bad crossings at every junction (plus horrible pavement), and 10th and 12th are basically useless as well – just riding in traffic.

If you want cycling to be an actually good choice for people, these gaps are extremely important to fix.

X
X
7 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Comment of the week

Kyle Banerjee
7 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

A few is generally accurate. Same can be said for other fancy infrastructure during rush on a good day which strikes me a waste. You’ll find significantly more cyclists at those times in the hills where there’s often no bike lane at all and cars are going much faster.

Infrastructure doesn’t keep most people from cycling. It’s distance, weather, discomfort, getting grimy, needing to transport someone/something, physical ability, etc. The anti-car attitude which acts an awful lot like MAGA isn’t a draw.

Concrete does nothing to help conflict points which are everywhere in crowded areas where everyone’s paths constantly cross. Regarding Naito, there are stoplights and signals everywhere — which everyone ignores. What keeps that place safe is it is barely used.

I’m curious where the people who don’t like paint ride? When paint stripes are added to busy roads, it works wonders for making vehicular movement more predictable. Who actually thinks that the recent stripes on Lombard don’t make it far more accessible and pleasant? Or that the same can’t be said of Interstate, Willamette, and every other place it’s been done?

blumdrew
7 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

which strikes me a waste

what do you mean by waste? I don’t really have the data on how frequently any of the “fancy” new stuff is used, but I wouldn’t call Better Naito a waste even if it never got used. It narrowed the roadway near Waterfront park, and in doing so made it a better park to go to. It makes it more accessible by foot by reducing the number of cars and distance to cross. But it also does get used – by me, and some others. And its success should be judged by how often its used relative to what was there before – and by that metric it’s an absolutely smashing success.

It’s still new, and suffers from poor location in terms of utility for most people traveling to/and from downtown. The bike lane from 5th to the Hawthorne Bridge heading east gets lots of ridership, and is fairly new (or improved) and is far more pleasant to ride on than it was before. A harder curb would be a welcome addition as well.

My anti-car attitude here is about personal safety – especially on high traffic routes. Drivers do not always (or even frequently) pay attention to their surroundings, and no amount of paint will save me from being run over. A curb that is high enough to deflect a car will in fact protect me from a bad driver, and that peace of mind matters. I feel more comfortable and less on edge while riding if I’m more confident that I won’t die because of someone else’s negligence.

Feeling safe on the road absolutely does keep people away from cycling. In my experience, it’s the most important factor for regular folks. Most of my friends are not ardent cyclists, and they generally are not willing to bike around town to the same extent I am. But I know that some of them did in my hometown (Madison, WI) and that they felt comfortable in no small part because the lions share of their trips could be made on dedicated paths, or protected cycletracks (in particular, the two-way protected path on University Ave and the Southwest path/Cap City trail for the curious).

I ride my bike in all sorts of conditions, for all sorts of reasons. I’ve ridden down the Coast Highway to San Francisco, and through the Coast Range to Cape Lookout, and on a countless number of fitness focused rides through the West Hills. On all of those rides, a painted lane would have been a welcome bit of help. But those are not the rides that matter in the context of the city of Portland and its infrastructure – at least not really. The focus of safe infrastructure is to encourage people – like many of my friends – who maybe have a bike, and would ride more often if they felt safe on the road. Protected infrastructure can offer that, though it still has to be well built and maintained to be what it can be.

Kyle Banerjee
7 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

what do you mean by waste? I don’t really have the data on how frequently any of the “fancy” new stuff is used, but I wouldn’t call Better Naito a waste even if it never got used. It narrowed the roadway near Waterfront park, and in doing so made it a better park to go to.

What could be green space is yet more barely utilized concrete collecting heat while messing with water absorption/drainage — making it a complete waste in my book.

If you ride much in a crowded city, you’ll cross paths with others. A certain percentage of those people are chemically altered, suffering mental health issues, etc. One out of a thousand (a volume you will encounter frequently) are in the top 0.1% worst drivers. This is inherent to being in the environment.

Concrete barriers don’t help with that. They might make people emotionally feel safer and encourage inattention, but everyone is still vulnerable to hooks and people pulling out on them at all the same conflict points.

In any case, when the weather is absolutely perfect, certain paths and roads fill with cyclists. But they disappear as soon as it gets hot/cold/windy/wet/dark/whatever. We’d see very different dynamics if concrete barriers were the issue.

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

One out of a thousand (a volume you will encounter frequently) are in the top 0.1% worst drivers.

Concrete barriers don’t help with that

Yes they do. It is blindingly obvious that they do. You’re being obtuse or dishonest here.

For that matter, paint and plastic wands DO help with that. People like to say the wands are “useless”. That’s obviously false. They won’t stop a car barreling out of control (concrete barriers can, btw), but they make it impossible to miss where the line you’re not supposed to cross is, which bad drivers have a habit of ignoring because it’s zero friction. Plastic wands help. Paint helps. Concrete helps the most as it can physically redirect a car.

This is such a joke. “Concrete” is so effective it’s even a metaphor for something real. Of course it helps.

SD
SD
7 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

Person with diabetes starts taking their medication once a week instead of once a month and their blood glucose doesn’t improve, while the complications continue to increase, as they would be expected to, over time.

“The medication is making everything worse!”

blumdrew
7 months ago

PBOTs cost estimations make very little sense to me, especially in terms of roadway width. Why does it cost different amounts to install different treatments depending on roadway width? Surely the amount of material required is the same, and the amount of labor to install the treatment is the same. Why is a 60 foot roadway 5x more expensive than a 40 foot roadway, but also 2x as expensive as a 66 foot roadway? Does it really make sense for treatment on a one way to be 10x more expensive than a two-way?

I feel like the table is more indicative of PBOTs failure to properly institutionalize building bike infrastructure than anything else. A well-run org would not be spending widely different amounts of money on the same treatments depending on roadway width. And if there are confounding factors (like grade, or alignment, or traffic volume) the table should be delineated that way. This kind of guide is worse than useless – its misleading.

Aaron K
Aaron K
7 months ago

Ironically, a photo of the NE 21st “Barrier-Protected” Bikeway is featured in the PBOT Portland Protected Bicycle Lane Planning and Design Guide as an example of how to protect bikeways correctly.

NE 21st Barrier-Protected Bikeway.jpg