First look: New protected bike lanes on NE 33rd and Skidmore

Looking northwest on NE 33rd where PBOT has installed a new, two-way bikeway between Mason (on the left) and Skidmore (upper right) along Wilshire Park. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Over the weekend I finally got a chance to take a closer look at the new protected bike crossing and bike lanes on the Mason-Skidmore Greenway. It’s a welcome addition that makes getting across Northeast 33rd much easier and helps make an important connection in the bike network.

To refresh your memory, the Portland Bureau of Transportation took advantage of a repaving project on NE 33rd over the summer (the same one that led to the big bike lane removal controversy about one mile north) to make improvements for bicycling. With an east-west neighborhood greenway route planned on NE Mason and Skidmore, PBOT needed to do something about the offset crossing of Mason where it dead-ends into Wilshire Park at 33rd and they wanted to create a stronger connection between existing greenways on 32nd and 37th. Their solution was to put two separate projects together and do the 33rd crossing and the Skidmore bike lanes at the same time.

For the crossing, PBOT has installed a mix of signal upgrades, colored bike lanes, and concrete medians and curbs to create a short section of two-way protected bike lanes on the east side of 33rd between Mason and Skidmore. PBOT then continued the two-way bike lanes one block on Skidmore to 34th, where they dump back into a shared-street environment via a sharrow marking.

PBOT still needs to install some sort of signal actuators for bike riders to cross 33rd, but otherwise the new infrastructure worked well during my short visit. It was intuitive and I felt relatively safe.

Riding westbound on Skidmore, the design requires you to merge across the road to enter the protected (via flexi-posts) bike lane. I can imagine that being stressful for some riders. Merging across a road to turn left isn’t a big deal, but at this location (which is essentially mid-block) where other road users aren’t expecting that behavior, it could be confusing and a bit more dangerous. Thankfully, PBOT has also added a speed bump on Skidmore just east of 33rd right where the bike lanes end.

The left turn from Skidmore onto 33rd is a bit of an adrenaline rush, since you’re suddenly going head-on against drivers on a relatively busy collector street (33rd is a major north-south artery in the car network).

On 33rd, I was happy to see that PBOT used full concrete medians instead of just “paint and post” (they must have known that with the heavy traffic on 33rd, they needed something more robust than just plastic). They fit the bike lanes on 33rd by taking space from what used to be infrequently used on-street car parking lanes.

This two-way, protected bike lane approach for off-set intersections has become a common design for PBOT throughout the city. We see similar designs on NE Going and 33rd, NE Killingsworth and 54th, E Burnside and 30th, and so on.

If you recall, the bike lanes on Skidmore were supposed to go all the way to 37th (a major north-south bikeway); but when some nearby residents complained about a loss of about 20-25 parking spaces next to the park, PBOT relented and opted for this compromised design. On their website, PBOT explained the change like this:

“Community members had mixed reactions to the initial design. The updated design allows future projects to consider a range of options, including a shared street neighborhood greenway with full traffic calming improvements or a multi-use path along the park. Multiple options remain available for a future capital project.”

We’ll have to hold them to that promise and see what the future holds.

Have you ridden this yet? What do you think?

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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Bjorn
Bjorn
3 months ago

The curb height medians are too mountable by drivers, look at the mid street ones on 57th by the buffalo coffee, the metal sign on the southern island was destroyed when a driver drove their car over the median at speed. The medians need to be bumper height at minimum so they stop the vehicle.

EEE
EEE
3 months ago

It was unusable in November/December due to all the leaves.

Going West I often will just do what I did previously, which is take the lane and make a left onto SB 33rd — this decision largely depends on the NB traffic which is readily visible through the park as you approach 33rd. The improvement does make this more difficult now as the SB lane is not as wide so you can’t really fit a car and a bike side-by-side like before (making it more difficult to pass everyone stopped at the light and make a right onto Mason).

If I do choose the WB bike lane, I still ride onto the 33rd sidewalk because there is no signal actuator for bikes at Mason and going almost head-on into traffic is not the most calming experience as you noted.

Going North-then-East I take the NB bike lane but just use the street going east, mostly because of the easier turning radius it provides going from 33rd to Skidmore. I suppose I shouldn’t do this because someone will eventually turn into me when turning right onto Skidmore.

Overall I consider it a small improvement. Its best feature is the new speed bump near 34th.

one
one
3 months ago
Reply to  EEE

Thanks PBOT for removing the leaves!

Jeff
Jeff
3 months ago

Anyone know why the new concrete curb ends long before the right turn eastbound from 33rd to Skidmore. At the turn it is only painted lines which doesn’t prevent corner cutting into the contraflow bike lane here. Why is it that we can install left turn calming curbs at intersections on arterials but not at locations like this?

Quint
Quint
3 months ago

Maybe it’s because there’s a bus stop there?

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

I’m guessing so that large box vans and delivery trucks and vehicles towing trailers can make the turn without blocking southbound traffic and potentially causing a wreck. I just ride through the park than in the road, it’s more fun that way.

John V
John V
3 months ago

Yeah, maybe when they have a way to trigger the signal by bike it will work better. As it is, it’s kind of a joke the way the entrance lines up with the greenway, but you can never cross from there because you have to go up on the sidewalk to push the button.

I cross here frequently taking my kid to the park in a cargo bike, and having to ride up on that sidewalk sucks.

Otherwise, for people who aren’t going to the park and don’t appreciate a ride though the gravel path, it’s a nice addition. I like that there is a regular size curb strongly encouraging oncoming traffic to stay out. Maybe this would be a good place for a piece of short Jersey barrier like Bjorn suggested, although I don’t think it needs it, of all the places we could improve safety.

Priscilla
Priscilla
3 months ago

Cool. Anything to get across NE 33rd in a better fashion is a good thing. 33rd has so much speeding on it that it’s almost always SUPER DICEY to cross. This is good, some speed enforcement on NE 33rd would make it even better,

Whyat Lee
Whyat Lee
3 months ago

I ride through here almost every day, and I’m in the camp that this is a super awkward interchange. I try really hard to not complain about new infrastructure, but here’s my take…. The path did get totally jammed with leaves during the fall making it hazardous, and now it’s filled with a lot of debris. If you’re riding west on Skidmore it is hazardous to have to cross two traffic lanes to enter the path on the south side of Skidmore. If a car turns the corner onto Skidmore and is going too fast you could be caught in their path of travel with few places to go. This new pattern of forcing bikes to cross two lanes of traffic to get to a path and then immediately forcing them to recross those two lanes of traffic is not a safe one. Long story short- if I’m travelling east and the lanes are clear, I’ll use them. Otherwise, I’m taking the lane, which on 33rd sucks.