Trucking advocates say they’ve been squeezed by road diets, want to change Oregon bike lane law

A truck driver encroaches into the buffer zone of a bike lane on North Skidmore Ave. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

In recent years, the Oregon Department of Transportation has slowly but surely added buffer zones to create wider bike lanes on many road projects. In some cases, they’ve implemented road diets and narrowed the existing lanes to make more room for bike riders. These shifts represent progress from ODOT to build a system more accessible to walkers and bikers. They also follow a general consensus among safety and road design experts that wider driving lanes lead to higher speeds, that more space is needed to make cycling attractive to more people, and that lanes used for driving have historically been wider than necessary.

But for trucking industry representatives and other ODOT advisors, concerns about narrower lanes have been percolating for years. As we reported in September 2022, tensions between ODOT advisory groups that represent trucking and active transportation interests revolved largely around the lane width debate. For people who drive large freight trucks (and their advocates), every inch matters. They say their vehicles simply don’t fit on some Oregon lanes and drivers are forced to steer into the buffer zone of bike lanes to avoid oncoming traffic.

When they encroach into buffer zones, they not only risk striking a bicycle rider, they are also concerned about lawsuits if a crash happens.

Now trucking advocates want to change Oregon’s bike lane law to make driving on the buffered portion of a bike lane legal. They also want to add a definition of “buffer space” into the Oregon Vehicle Code. Two members of ODOT’s Mobility Advisory Committee (a group that focuses on how road projects impact freight routes), Oregon Trucking Association Government Relations Policy Advisor Mark Gibson and Associated General Contractors Board Member Walt Gamble, shared a presentation on the issue at a meeting of ODOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee on Tuesday.

Mark Gibson, Oregon Trucking Association

“A lot of this has to do with designated freight routes throughout the state,” Gibson said at the meeting. “Which unfortunately, today those freight routes go through the middle of a lot of urban areas and a lot of times there are no other options for trucks… That’s really what we’re trying to solve. There’s a great deal of stress, being a truck driver in an urban environment.”

And Gamble added, “We’re trying to provide safety for all users… We’re the ones delivering all the rock pavement concrete through all of these urban urban contexts. And that’s why we get so passionate about it, because for our drivers it’s very difficult for them to make that make that happen.” (Gamble also said later in the meeting that, “We’re all suffering from the road diet era.”)

To make his point, Gibson shared a slide that showed the width of a typical freight truck as 10 and-a-half feet wide (with side mirrors). “In an 11-foot lane, we have three inches on each side,” the slide stated. “Our margin of safety has clearly been reduced.”

Walt Gamble, Associated General Contractors

To trucking advocates, it’s an untenable situation to have Oregon’s urban design guidelines (adopted in 2020) call for 11-foot wide lanes, when truckers (and other vehicles like buses and box vans) need more than 11 feet to operate. Freight advocates in Oregon have long said they’re prefer to either have no bike traffic adjacent to trucks or have it physically separated with concrete, not a painted buffer. (“I think that’s good for everybody, but unfortunately funding doesn’t allow that to happen,” Gibson said at the meeting.)

Gibson and Gamble are members of a special ODOT advisory group subcommittee called the Travel Lane Widths Work Group, which formed in March 2023 and met monthly through November to tackle this issue. Also among the group’s members was the leader of automobile advocacy group AAA Oregon/Idaho, the ODOT Pedestrian and Bicycle Program manager, and a captain from the Oregon State Police. After seven months of meetings they sent a proposal for the ORS changes to the Oregon Department of Justice for Review. What Gibson and Gamble presented yesterday was what they hope is the final product that will now be forwarded to the Oregon Legislature for consideration in the upcoming short session.

Their proposal would change two existing statutes — ORS 811.370 (Failure to drive within a lane) and 814.430 (Improper use of lanes) — and add the new “buffered space” definition into the Oregon Vehicle Code.

The text highlighted in yellow below would be added to 811.370:

The text in yellow below would be added to 814.430:

The proposed definition of “buffer space” would be:

A buffer space means a neutral space between a bicycle lane and a motor vehicle lane delineated by two longitudinal stripes and is intended to be used for the circumstances described in ORS 811.370 (3), and in ORS 814.430 (2g).

In a public comment at the meeting, The Street Trust Executive Director Sarah Iannarone questioned the reasoning, intent and timing of the changes. “It is not clear to us what problem this proposed revision is seeking to address,” Iannarone said. “In our opinion, the above proposed change is superfluous and unnecessary.”

Iannarone pointed out that the statute as currently written says drives must stay in their designated lane only “as nearly as practicable” and that if drivers do need to leave their lane they are allowed to, as long as “the movement can be made with safety.” Iannarone said her organization would rather ODOT adopts the Safe Systems approach to inform policy changes. Iannarone made it clear The Street Trust does not support the proposed changes and wants the issue studied further.

It’s notable that this law change wouldn’t just apply to freight carriers. If this proposal succeeds, all motor vehicle operators will have clearer, legal right to encroach into buffer zones.

The legal standing of bike lane buffer zones have always been a bit squishy. Currently, the law is vague in terms of where a bike lane ends and its buffer zone begins — or whether a buffer zone is legally a bike lane or some other type of space. In my experience, drivers are much more likely to drive and/or park in a buffer zone than a bike lane and I’ve long been curious about whether or not they’re violating the bike lane law when they do so.

A source at the Portland Bureau of Transportation said they generally consider buffer zones to be part of the bike lane. But they also shared it’s accepted that larger vehicles will sometimes intrude into buffer zones on heavy traffic roads. However, the outside paint stripe is 8-inches wide, which designates it as a bike lane in the State of Oregon (as opposed to the four-inch wide stripe for a shoulder). Suffice it to say, the current law is vague and there appears to be no right answer.

The question now is, is the proposal from these trucking interests the best way to remedy the situation.

We’ll hear much about this in the coming weeks as a bill to change these laws should be filed by the time the session begins February 5th.

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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Nick
Nick
1 month ago

If your truck can’t fit in the lanes or you have a hard time controlling it, then the truck is too big for the city, or you’re a bad driver. I don’t see why we should water down the safety when we already have well documented cases of people being crushed and otherwise killed by freight traffic.

Maybe they should buy smaller trucks. God forbid you have to make a couple extra trips or hire another employee and cut into those sweet sweet corporate profits.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

Well I was getting ready to say about the same thing but you beat me. If the truck is too big, get a smaller truck!

The thing that bugs me is there is no logical end to this. Do they expect to be able to get their oversized freight trucks onto every road in the city? If not, maybe some of the designated freight routes should not be designated freight routes.

There has to be some compromise. If it’s true that there is only one way into the one place where big semi trucks need to get to, maybe it’s just not safe to put a bike lane there. Fair enough I guess. But the places where that’s true need to be really limited. Highway 30 for example (out towards Sauvie) should have a wide buffer and I don’t think there is any alternative trucking route. Or 33rd between North Portland and Marine Drive, which I think is a freight route – is there no alternative freight route? Because we need SOME way to get out there safely by bike.

Either way though, this law change needs to be opposed, because it just makes the lanes straight up useless. Waters down the whole thing. Or potentially has no impact as Iannarone seems to imply.

blumdrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

Couldn’t agree more. If we were to widen our lanes to be all 12, or 13 feet how long would it be until the width of trucks creeped up to match?

PTB
PTB
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

I’ve probably said this, or something like it, somewhere else here on BP recently, so I’ll keep this short. Last year I was really lucky and got to do more international travel than I usually do in a year. When traveling to other cities, non-North American cities, it’s impossible to ignore how little space is given to autos/trucks/big trucks in very old, very big and very dense places. But somehow stuff gets done. Buildings get built, goods get shipped, store shelves get stocked. And the guys (usually, don’t bust me on this) that do all that work, they don’t commute to the job site in Mega Pickups, don’t drive semis hauling 53′ containers (*this* should absolutely be prohibited within city limits), etc. Work still happens and the vehicles used to help get work done are properly sized for their environment.

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

Or slow down! The slower one drives, the more control they have.

Scott
Scott
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

How about we ban trucks from delivering any bikes or parts from manufacting on down . I bet you think milk magically appears in stores too. Maybe you should learn how to pay attention while riding a bike?

Caleb
Caleb
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott

Wow. Did you even read Nick’s comment? Nothing Nick said suggests items come out of thin air or that cyclists need not exercise any responsibility in their travels.

Paul H
Paul H
30 days ago
Reply to  Nick

Are narrower dump trucks available for purchase?

SD
SD
1 month ago

“I think that’s good for everybody, but unfortunately funding doesn’t allow that to happen,” Gibson said at the meeting

Says the truck activists that fight against funding pedestrian and biking infrastructure.

Driving a vehicle that is too large for an urban environment through an urban environment should be stressful. Activities that could kill someone if not done properly should be taken seriously. The way to reduce that stress is to improve the safety of the vehicles. Freight activists typically fight against spending money on making vehicles safer or right-sized.

Scott
Scott
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

Why don’t pedestrian and cyclist find those improvements,maybe a miles traveled bike tax ?

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott

People who bike, walk, take transit, or drive exclusively for transportation and people who use multiple modes of transportation do fund our entire transportation system. This funding includes infrastructure called “bike lanes,” “cross walks” and “side walks,” which are built more to keep people who can not drive safely from killing people than to benefit people outside of cars, who are already lawfully entitled to use these roads.

It is interesting that you don’t understand how roads and infrastructure are paid for and you classify people as pedestrians and cyclists as if those are actually different types of humans.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago

Great picture. It shows how there is plenty of space, but the driver just doesn’t care.

Vans
Vans
1 month ago

And just how far away from the centerline did that truck have to drive to encroach that much on the buffer?

This is what they are fighting for, sheer, unfettered encroachment so they can decrease their liability and put us in our place according to them.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

I had the same thought: there’s no reason that driver can’t position the truck in the center of the lane.

Andrew S
Andrew S
1 month ago

Couple of issues with how this is being framed by OTA:

“Our margin of safety has clearly been reduced.”

Disagree. Not margin of safety, but margin for error. Margin of safety and margin for error are not one and the same. Margin of safety would be more applicable to lengthening a runaway truck ramp to account for variability. If trucking operators and vehicles are prone to error enough that the 6-12 inch reduction means the difference between a safe and unsafe, then I think the problem is not with the lane width. As written, the buffer zone IS your safety margin. Not a good justification for changing the rule in question.

Also, I firmly believe that those traffic designs that make vehicle operators (trucks or POVs) LESS comfortable make streets MORE safe. Safety is improved when drivers have to think, assess, slow down, negotiate with another, and generally pay attention to what they’re doing. All of these things feel uncomfortable, but on balance make our city streets are safer despite the smaller margin for error. What makes us less safe are wide lanes, high speeds, and designs that put people’s brains on cruise control.

There’s a great deal of stress, being a truck driver in an urban environment.

Agree with the sentiment, but I hope the opportunity was taken to stress that wouldn’t it be much less stressful if there were fewer cars on the road? This is not a case for softening the buffer zone rules, but a case for reducing POVs on the road by improving other modes.

Phiets
Phiets
1 month ago

I wonder if Mark and the Oregon Trucking Association have considered partnering with B-Linepdx.com for a last-mile delivery solution? That sort of collaboration could help keep trucks off streets where they are less effective, save on fuel costs, reduce exposure to lawsuits, lane conflict and decrease freight traffic throughout the city.

Vans
Vans
1 month ago
Reply to  Phiets

No way they give up the last mile, its the one that closes the deal and probably pays the most when all is said and done.

Aaron
1 month ago
Reply to  Vans

Then they should use some of that money to buy smaller trucks to keep getting those deals in the locations where they’re admitting their current trucks are too big to fit safely. Or they can choose to let that money go to another company who has smaller trucks and focus their business elsewhere.

Two very reasonable options that don’t involve putting the citizens of Portland in danger when they’re trying to get around their city. It’s not our responsibility to make sure their business is profitable, but it is definitely their responsibility to operate their business safely.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron

“Won’t somebody think of the shareholders??!!”

In all seriousness, if your business is so dependent on maximizing profits and share price, at the detriment of public safety, that doesn’t sound like a business model worth supporting.

Scott
Scott
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron

Maybe you as the minority road user should stay on the bikepaths if can’t pay attention to your surroundings.

Sky
Sky
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott

Studies have shown that about 60% of car drivers break the law. 15% of bike riders break the law when on the road and that number goes down to 6% when on bike infrastructure.

So your comment isn’t based in reality and is instead influenced by big oil propaganda.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott

Maybe trucks as the minority road users should stay on the truck routes if can’t pay attention to your surroundings.

Aaron
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott

I don’t believe I said anything about paying attention to my surroundings, but I did respond to the proposal to allow trucks to encroach into the designated bike part of the roadway.

Do you think freight trucks represent the majority of vehicles on the road in Portland? I can assure you that they are way outnumbered by single occupancy vehicles which have no problem fitting in our lanes without going into the bike lane’s safety buffer.

Maybe as a minority road user the freight trucks should stay on the highways if they can’t pay attention to their surroundings.

TheCat
TheCat
1 month ago

A freight truck in Japan looks like this.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  TheCat

Probably because a street in Japan looks like this:

comment image

Steven
Steven
30 days ago
Reply to  Watts

So all we have to do is shrink our streets, and the trucks will follow suit? Great, let’s get started then.

Watts
Watts
29 days ago
Reply to  Steven

Excellent. Where do we begin?

alex
alex
1 month ago

We have separate speed limits for trucks and car traffic on our interstate highway system, seems like something similar would make sense for the urban freight network. For example on a 25 mph street the truck speed limit would be 20 mph. If the margin for error on narrower roads is as small as they claim, we should be reducing speeds across the network to improve safety regardless of how the law treats buffer zones.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago

No matter what, there will be poor behavior. Take a look at people driving down Vancouver south of Alberta. They are consistently in the buffer between the bike lane and the travel lane.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago

You mean they are closer to the Middle of the Road, Guy? 😉

Kidding aside, I’ve definitely seen that too. I make a conscious effort to squeeze closer to the parked cars on the left when I drive down Vancouver for that reason. Then I notice the car ahead and the car behind leaving a 2′ gap to their left and wonder if they even realize how that feels to the bikers they pass…which they likely don’t.

dw
dw
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

I notice lots of driver giving more space to parked cars than they do bikes on greenways a lot too.

Greatdane
Greatdane
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Yep, this is totally true. Drivers know that hitting the parked cars on one side will do more damage to their car than hitting a bicycle, so…

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Greatdane

And all us non-drivers know that people who do drive cars are psychopaths who would think nothing of killing another person…

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Boy I walked into that one 🙂

And I drive closer to the cars instead of the bike lane as well, I think there is just a natural inclination to have a buffer.

Steven
Steven
30 days ago

Yes, and the last thing we want is to encourage that behavior by making it legal.

Danny
Danny
1 month ago

I’m skeptical that we need to change existing law, which appears to me to leave adequate room for flexibility when a larger vehicle truly must encroach on a bike lane or buffer zone. But this whole issue seems to me a bit of a tempest in a teapot when there are trucks and e-commerce delivery vehicles routinely (and illegally) encroaching on and blocking bike lanes and buffer zones all over the city. I had to veer around a huge semi completely blocking the bike lane on a busy road on my ride to work this morning. Zero enforcement as far as I can tell.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Danny

I couldn’t agree more. Cars and trucks of all types routinely swerve into the bike lanes, whenever they feel they need the room, and there are no negative consequences for the drivers.

I hope legislators kill this bill on arrival and focus on more important matters.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago

I’m having a hard time giving the trucking people any credibilty, based just on the third presentation slide.

It shows a diagram of a truck front with “Overall width, (weird comma) with mirrors is, (weird comma) typically, (weird comma) 10’6″ wide”. Then it says “We have a 10’6″ overall width truck, (weird comma) in a 11′ lane”.

Then it quotes a federal regulation (citing it in a weird, nonstandard way) that defines “overall width” as being “exclusive of…outside rearview mirrors”.

Since the federal code defines “overall width” completely differently than how they’re using it, there’s no reason to cite it, other than (as best as I can tell) to make their slide show look more official.

My experience is that people who quote regulations when it’s not necessary do so to intimidate laypeople to accept their arguments–“Ooh, this involves transportation codes, which these people know and I don’t, so I’ll look foolish if I try to comment”.

My impression is that this slide show was put together by people who really don’t know the regulations well themselves, but want to look like they do to discourage questioning or debate.

Beth
Beth
1 month ago

Maximum allowable truck width in Oregon is 8.5′ (ORS 818.080). Oversize trucks have different rules. The presenters claimed their width is actually 10.5′ because they have outrigger side view mirrors.

The laws are fine as they are. These lobbyists for the trucking and construction industries want to avoid successful lawsuits against them when they kill or cause life-changing injuries. It’s money over lives. Their money, our lives.

Road diets save lives.

AE
AE
1 month ago

‘There are too many birds in the sky and for the safety of air travel we’ll have to reduce and control their populations and, from now on, airplanes will carry Gatling guns to abate them in mid-flight.’

Freight’s freight
Freight’s freight
1 month ago

When will ODOT stop creating committees heavily biased toward dangerous road users who profit at the expense of taxpayers and human safety?

Given the enormous expense of serving freight (requiring expensive heavy construction and frequent repairs), when will freight start paying its own freight?

When will we pass a bill to end freight subsidies and reduce truck size, weight and speed and increase freight taxes to stop subsidizing the profits of trucking companies and the big box corporations they deliver to?

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
1 month ago

Amen!

I routinely observe heavy trucks on Lombard at St. Johns treat the two-way s-curve at that intersection as a single one-way lane. Think Mario Andretti. Utterly unacceptable for a neighborhood where people walk.

If the freight businesses are held accountable, they will adjust this sort of behavior to something reasonable. The road diets and related laws help, but we need to do more on the liability front. Right now freight puts a priority on throughput because they can. If the insurance and legal landscape around driving were to put the spotlight on safety and driver responsibility, I reckon things might change fairly quickly.

Stph

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Keller

What would such a “spotlight” look like? Don’t insurance companies already have a very strong incentive to work with companies to reduce potential liability from their drivers? What do you actually want to see happen that isn’t?

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

At the risk of straining a metaphor, I will think of driving as an “industry.” In that light, I want to see traffic crashes treated as unacceptable outcomes that halt “production” (driving) in an area until root causes have been rigorously identified and corrected. I want involved drivers to be benched until they have completed proper training and proven their suitability to operate these vehicles. I want to see regular and rigorous driver certification and vehicles that require proof of that certification before they will start. I want to see trips planned and those plans adhered to on a regular basis with reported accountability. I want to see road travel achieve a safety record similar to that of commercial air travel. Yes this would be expensive and inconvenient. Yes it would be disruptive. No other legitimate industry in this country operates with a 40,000 per year death toll and gets to call it “the cost of doing business.” Legitimate businesses don’t get to measure their error by deaths per unit produced (deaths per total miles travelled). We would never accept such a metric in construction or manufacturing (i.e. deaths per widget made). We should not accept it in the “driving” industry.

That said, of course, no one wants to live in this sort of draconian landscape, so we just keep on wringing hands and hoping something will change.

Stph

Watts
Watts
30 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Keller

What you want would require the wholesale rearrangement of society, or the widespread adoption of automated vehicles.

So, one way or the other, change may be on the horizon.

rick
rick
1 month ago

What advocate has complained about the street buffet on SW Western Ave in Beaverton? Most of it has had a diet and it now has cycle tracks and an unmarked mid-block crossing at SW Arctic Drive. I haven’t seen one crash on the street since it was finished last year.

Jonno
Jonno
1 month ago

I love this game.

“A lot of this has to do with designated bike routes throughout the state,” Gibson said at the meeting. “Which unfortunately, today those freight routes go through the middle of a lot of urban areas and a lot of times there are no other options for bikes… That’s really what we’re trying to solve. There’s a great deal of stress, being a bike rider in an urban environment.”

qqq
qqq
1 month ago

The 8′-6″ truck width shown in the trucking group’s presentation is the maximum width allowed. Many cities restrict trucks to less than federal maximums.

Also, they claim a 3″ “margin of safety” in an 11′ wide lane, given mirrors projecting 1′ out each side of the maximum-width truck. That’s actually 1′-3″ to from the widest truck body to each side of the lane if the truck drives in the center of it. What it means is that there’s significant room in an 11′ wide lane for a truck to move to the right before any part of the truck other than the mirror breaks the plane of the buffer zone.

Are truckers currently being cited for “mirrors breaking the vertical plane of the buffer zone”? I feel like the trucking group is exaggerating the safety issue.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

Many cities restrict trucks to less than federal maximums.

Do any American cities restrict vehicle width to less than the standard 8.5ft?

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

I don’t know. I’m guessing width isn’t seen as an issue nearly as much as weight or length. It raises some interesting questions. If they don’t restrict width, do they have lanes that are 11′ wide or less? Are they having safety problems if they do?

And does Portland currently have lanes 11′ wide or less? If so, are there safety problems due to truck widths? Do truckers avoid them? Are the trucking people attempting this change at bike lane buffers because they really need the space, or just because they think they can?

If this change passes, will truckers choose lanes next to bike lane buffers over other 11′-wide lanes because of the extra “safety factor”? And what if Oregon said, sure, we’ll change the law this way, on condition that truckers agree not to use 11′ wide lanes EXCEPT when there’s an adjacent buffer zone available? I could see the truck groups saying, “NO! It’s perfectly safe for us to drive in 11′ wide lanes, because even our widest trucks are only 8.5′ wide, giving us a 1.25′ safety factor on each side!”

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

And does Portland currently have lanes 11′ wide or less? If so, are there safety problems due to truck widths?

We do, and I’m not sure about trucks, but I know TriMet frequently complains about “mirror strikes” which seems like the same issue.

As far as I can tell, this bill changes very little in practice, as vehicles already can incur into the buffer zone when avoiding a road hazard, and trucks and buses routinely overhang buffer and center yellow lines and no one seems to care (well, I don’t like it, but there’s nothing I can do about it).

The bill would allow an incursion into a buffer zone only “when safe”, so if someone gets hurt the law won’t be protective. I’m not sure what it changes from current conditions.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

I agree. That’s why I wonder why the trucking groups are pushing for it.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

It’s probably a trade group reflecting complaints from its members when looking for something to keep busy during a slow season.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

There are large swaths of West Virginia, including most urban areas, where the total road width from edge to edge (or curb to curb in some cases, curbs are rare in WV) is less than 15 feet, even on many “county” roads. Car drivers often have to pull off to let other cars pass. Most cities there have designated and signed “truck routes” that guarantee a standard roadway width that truckers there are careful to follow – periodically when I would visit, I’d see out-of-state trucks stuck in the middle of an intersection because they misjudged the street width. I also noted that local delivery companies preferred narrower delivery trucks, that fire trucks were generally narrower, and that the huge coal companies there had large fleets of tall but narrow-bodied dump trucks. The interstates and major highways however meet national standards on width.

SD
SD
1 month ago

This whole process demonstrates how problematic it is for paid freight lobbyists to have this level of access to ODOT and ODOT’s uncritical endorsement of harmful legislation. I hope legislators will start to realize that the stink of ODOT corruption sticks to them and will be harder and harder to wash off.

Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

I say this as a experienced transportation planner (street design) and as someone who used to drive large dump trucks for construction projects*…

The Freight Industry and the Complete Streets / Bike folks really should be on the same page versus fighting. Complete and modern streets with traffic calming benefit BOTH groups in their missions: safer streets that allow their constituents / employees / goods to get to their designation safely and within an expected timetable.

THE PROBLEM is that many agencies, jurisdictions and my industry (traffic engineers/ planners) only look at “half” of the solution: (1) fixing the road segments (making multiple very narrow lanes) often without a center turn lane and missing (2) focusing on the making the intersections more frequent and perform better (single lane roundabouts) so that its does not need multiple lanes serving either stopped cars or empty streets as the platoons of cars had passed. Additionally, using Charlie Zeeger’s thresholds – the safe operating function of an arterial should be set by how well it handles the crossing of vulnerable roadway users AND as much its intersections (with roundabouts) can handle safely and then the surplus volume handled on adjoining upgraded arterial(s) (and or on rails or relocated land use).

PLANNING
We also need regional plans to get as much long/ regional distance freight back onto rails (land use) and minimize the shift to overscale multi-axel trucks making local downtown/ main street deliveries too.

VEHICLE DESIGN CHOICES
The freight folks (and the same for fire departments) need to select vehicles that conform to urban street environments versus making the urban environment fit their vehicle selection. Back in the 1940s to 1960s there was a larger selection of delivery trucks with cab over engine (COE) configurations versus now, which often are only made by the Japanese firms.

*Yes, 11 FT lanes are nerve wracking and stressful unless the truck (and bus) operator is driving well below most arterial speed limits and they must have very good and well adjusted mirrors on all sides of the truck**. [**Remembering back to 2008 per Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek, RIP.]

https://bikeportland.org/2008/01/22/citation-decisions-released-on-sparling-jarolimek-cases-6423

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

From the PBOT Traffic Design Manual Vol 1, June 2022, Page 38 of 153
https://www.portland.gov/transportation/engineering/documents/pbot-traffic-design-manual-volume-1-permanent-traffic-control/download

2.2.1 LANE WIDTHS:

The City of Portland’s preferred lane width is 10 feet on roadways with lane markings. Lane widths of less than 10 feet must be approved by the City Traffic Engineer with a Design Exception. Lane widths wider than 10 feet may be necessary on:

• Roadways with high freight classification or freight volumes.

• ODOT roadways.

• Roadways where the geometry does not accommodate the design vehicle.

• Transit-only lanes.

Lane widths wider than 10 feet may be desired for other reasons, including:

• Safety and operational reasons, such as accommodation for freight and transit vehicles, particularly within horizontal curves.

• Geometric roadway features, including intersection alignment, median islands, curb extensions, traffic calming devices or other physical devices in or near the roadway.

• Utilization of the full roadway width, in cases where the roadway width is not a limiting factor.

• Shared lanes for motor vehicles and bikes.

(The manual goes on to say that transit-designated streets ought to have 11-foot wide lanes.)

Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

DW: thanks for the link and for sharing more details than I had time to add

dw
dw
1 month ago

Bit late to the punch on this one it seems. This comment section has some… interesting takes.

Truck drivers are working class people who – for better or worse – make our whole society possible. If they have a concern, we should be listening with open ears. Should ODOT be showing so much favoritism toward the trucking lobby? No. Are a lot of truckers and folks in the trucking industry super reactionary and “car-brained”? You betcha. But most are good folks just trying to make a living and we should absolutely seek to build bridges, not alienate them.

Ya’ll need to take a deep breath and come back down to planet Portland. I sure do love a cute lil’ Euro cabover as much as the next guy, but you have to realize it’s not realistic to expect companies and owner-operators to replace every truck in their fleet. I don’t think that cargo bikes are the solution either. Not the sole solution anyway.

The rhetoric about being “victims in the road diet era” is pretty goofy. But I don’t think the law change is really some vast, anti-bike conspiracy. More a response to a bunch of truckers complaining to an organization meant to represent their interests. Todd Boulanger made an excellent point about how the focus should be on improving flow at intersections rather than preserving the number of lanes.

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

Like many of these discussions, it isn’t about cyclists vs truckers or even cyclists vs drivers. This is about industry profits vs people just trying to live their lives and get around safely. The profits that pay for Gibson and Gamble and an exclusive seat at the transportation table. The industry that doesn’t want to be liable for their employees killing people if the industry gives them unsafe equipment to operate or forces them to work in unsafe conditions.

blumdrew
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

Is the trucking lobby representing labor interests, or are they representing managerial interests? I would suspect the latter, and if we go down a silly hypothetical rabbit hole of narrower streets -> narrower trucks with less capacity, that would arguably benefit truck drivers over truck company owners, as more drivers would need to be employed to move the same amount of freight.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

This is not truck drivers vs safety of people. That’s the wrong framing (their framing) that you’re buying into. This is profit motive vs. safety. Nobody is trying to do anything about the truck drivers themselves. Their trucks are too big to drive safely on city streets. Obviously every truck can’t be replaced today, but trucks don’t last forever and they need to start using smaller trucks to fit the reality of driving them around in an urban environment. That’s just the way it is.

Now how that happens, I don’t know. I think in the mean time, they’re just going to have to drive slower and more carefully. Also they already have the safety buffer they want. Nobody is under any fire here, but we need to start mandating (who? I don’t know, not my expertise) that new trucks going forward need to be narrower to conform to driving around in an urban environment.

Beth
Beth
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

The 8.5′ freight track width is working just fine. The mirrors need to be redesigned, raised, removed, whatever. It’s the mirrors.

Watts
Watts
30 days ago
Reply to  Beth

I also think it is important that truck drivers have good side/rear visibility, so mirrors seem pretty important.

qqq
qqq
30 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes. It makes me think it’s a good idea the width limit excludes mirrors. If it included them, trucks would have the fewest and smallest mirrors legally possible, to avoid cutting down on freight capacity.

Paul H
Paul H
30 days ago
Reply to  Beth

Legally, you can remove the mirrors in the US (even though e.g., Daimler has developed mirrorless freight trucks that use cameras and HUDs to replace them)

Paul H
Paul H
30 days ago
Reply to  Paul H

ahem — you *can’t* remove mirrors

Watts
Watts
30 days ago
Reply to  Paul H

Great, now you tell me. How am I supposed to get my mirrors back on?!?

qqq
qqq
27 days ago
Reply to  Paul H

Even though it’s not legal, I think I could see myself doing it.

Beth
Beth
27 days ago
Reply to  Beth

Clarification: I don’t mean remove existing mirrors on personal vehicles, which is illegal. I mean redesign freight trucks with high-tech alternatives so outrigger mirrors can safely be removed.

My point: it’s the mirrors.

Watts
Watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Beth
Sky
Sky
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

The real solution is to make trucks smaller. That’s how the rest of the world does it.

Mark smith
Mark smith
1 month ago

This means war. How many truck drivers have gruesomely died at the hands of a bicyclist? I think that number would zero.
And now they want to take away the measly paint, and a few wands?

I drive a truck . It’s just a matter of running day cabs and a 36/24 door trailer. Any driver that is halfway decent and easily get around any area.

What is going on here? Is that trucking company? Don’t wanna hire drivers and then want to put two large trailers on those drivers because it saves money. This is all about money and this has nothing to do with Safety.

As a truck driver, I am appalled at this notion. Take the fight to the enemy. No more talk. Vote them off. Find a way.

BethH
1 month ago

OTA came up with One Good Idea: concrete dividers between bike lane and motor vehicle lane.
That there isn’t enough money to do this reflects how little bicycling and walking matter in the overall traffic picture. If those mattered more, we’d see better and more bike-ped infrastructure.
Likewise, getting truck drivers to “slow down” reveals larger social issues around driving that would need to be addressed in a longer game around driving habits in the US. Those social issues are reinforced by the Interstate Highway system, and so much would have to be changed for our driving behaviors to change. It would take generations of political will that just isn’t there, and won’t be until driving a car is made expensive and inconvenient (the it is in some other Western countries).

That’s a long game most people aren’t prepared to play.

Chris Overton
Chris Overton
1 month ago

Many truck manufacturers build trucks for old European countries and cities that have very restricted lane widths. So, rather than give these special interests hard caught gains in safety they should adopt best practices and build smaller footprint trucks designed for safety of all. This is a play for profit, not what’s best for all.

guy berliner
guy berliner
1 month ago

Gee, it’s almost as if trucks don’t belong in dense cities, where they’re wholly unnecessary and detrimental anyways, and instead, cities should be encouraging all other more appropriate modes of short haul freight movement, including cargo bikes, and prohibiting large warehouses within urban cores altogether, except in specially designated peripheral areas.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  guy berliner

prohibiting large warehouses within urban cores altogether

The logical consequence of that would be more trucks driving around, maybe some of them the smaller ones that can be driven by a teen who just got their license.

blumdrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

More smaller trucks, sure. That’s something I can live with. But it’s unlikely that the specter of a teen who just got their license driving something that requires a CDL is on the table.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Those large delivery vans can be driven by someone who’s never driven a mile beyond what was needed to get their permit. I know such a driver hired to drive such a vehicle, and I am sure he was much much cheaper than an experienced truck driver.

Luckily, the kid was so scared that he couldn’t do much damage.

Personally, I’d rather have fewer, more professional drivers on the road, but the question is somewhat academic as Portland isn’t going to ban trucks or warehouses.

Watts
Watts
30 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Correction: I should have said “license” instead of “permit”.

Steven
Steven
30 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I guess it’s impossible to regulate delivery vehicles differently, or raise the driving age, or build more comprehensive local (and publicly owned) freight rail. Yessir, only the size of trucks can ever change. What a pickle!

Watts
Watts
30 days ago
Reply to  Steven

Nothing is impossible, but somethings are more likely than others.

Guy
Guy
27 days ago
Reply to  Watts

There’s a roughly one hundred percent chance that human civilization as we know does not survive, absent drastic changes that preclude any continued reliance on fossil fuels for transportation as we use them now. But there’s at least a modest chance that we take that problem seriously enough to make the “improbable” changes you are protesting.

Watts
Watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Guy

There’s a roughly one hundred percent chance that human civilization as we know does not survive, absent drastic changes that preclude any continued reliance on fossil fuels for transportation as we use them now. 

I pretty much agree. Fortunately, we’re shifting away from fossil fuels for transportation more rapidly than anyone thought possible just a few years ago. I’d put continued rapid progress squarely on the “very likely” end of the spectrum.

PS I’m not protesting anything, just pointing out that changing something like truck licensing requirements (or banning larger trucks in the city) would take a lot of political energy, of which we have approximately zero at the moment.

guy
guy
26 days ago
Reply to  Watts

One of the problems is that we assume unwisely that we can make a few narrow, technical, “hardware” changes in details like our propulsion systems, but otherwise leave all the “software” systems (eg, laws and regulations around land use) unchanged. But the reality is, all the technical changes in the world are not going to be enough alone, because we have to do more than reach “net zero”. We actually have to reach “net drawdown”.

prioritarian
prioritarian
26 days ago
Reply to  guy

a few narrow, technical, “hardware” changes

Ending the use of fossil fuel combustion for grid energy and transportation is a technical change and this makes it even more immoral that so many on the right and “left”* resist this technically simple societal change.

but otherwise leave all the “software” systems (eg, laws and regulations around land use)

Very glad to see that you also see dairy and meat as a luxury good, at best! Animal agriculture (including “organic/biodynamic/regenerative”) alone is enough to push us over 2 C, if current trends continue.

* this is largely restricted to the merikan left which echoes some the same conspiratorial thought processes as the merkin right when it comes to grid-scale battery storage and electric vehicles

guy
guy
25 days ago
Reply to  prioritarian

All I can say is, I am wary of “trolley car” solutions to problems, in which someone immaculately coiffed and groomed in a suit and tie calmly and soberly explains to me that, actually, this bottle of coconut oil here, or that bottle of canola oil there, that was transported on the back of a massive, currently fossil-fuel-powered logistical train from halfway around the world, actually really does have a lower carbon footprint than that stick of butter in your fridge, churned in a dairy down the street, from milk from a cow who grazed a field close enough you could ride your bike to it!

Watts
Watts
25 days ago
Reply to  guy

“Propulsion systems” are not details; they are a hugely important aspect of the way we consume energy (in particular fossil fuels) in the transportation sector.

Hopefully we’ll learn from why adoption is progressing so quickly, and apply those lessons to other consumer sectors. It seems nearly universal that people who drive electric cars say they will never go back to a gas-powered car. What would it take to make transit that good?

Guy
Guy
25 days ago
Reply to  Watts

None of that is any mystery. Just watch any content from the excellent YT channels “CityNerd” or “Not Just Bikes”. The answer is having destinations for people to conveniently reach that they want to go to, ie, “transit oriented development”. Once again, a “software” not a “hardware” problem.

Beth
Beth
1 month ago
Reply to  guy berliner

The 13th Century walled part of Siena, Italy is pedestrian only. It is 260 acres of thriving restaurants, wine bars, coffee shops, bakeries, grocery stores, apartments, urban palaces, a cathedral, churches, City Hall, neighborhood community centers, and twice a year, a horse race. Freight trucks are not allowed. They do just fine with small delivery trucks.

Ryan
Ryan
30 days ago
Reply to  Beth

Don’t forget the finish to one of bike racings greatest new races Strada Bianca!

Guy
Guy
25 days ago
Reply to  guy berliner

One problem I’ve noticed is that individuals in our society are lacking in compassion, not only for others, but even for their future SELVES, who are after all different people than the ones they are right NOW.

A few years ago, for example, I injured myself lifting a big bag of garden compost. I soon learned that my future self the next day was going to be someone almost unrecognizable to my self of a few days earlier, unable to ride my bike for several weeks, and hobbling and limping slowly and painfully across the street in a manner more typical of a little old man with forty more years on this Earth than I had yet lived.

And I can’t tell you all how grateful I was at that moment that I had a neighborhood grocery store to buy fresh food at, within easy walking distance, even for someone like me in my new and painfully diminished circumstances. A store that our neighborhood at this very moment is struggling to save from eviction in the wake of many post pandemic challenges, perhaps to be replaced by yet another faceless warehouse that does NOTHING for our neighborhood.

Granpa
Granpa
1 month ago

Between lobbying for wider lanes, higher speed limits and wider radius corners at intersections, the trucking/ freight industry advocates against safety. ODOT and PBOT carry freight’s water and Oregon’s legislators are beholden to freight for their lobbyists’ filling the campaign finance trough. Freight owns the OTC. It will take a Herculean effort to overcome the inertia Freight has imposed on all aspects of the transportation decision making process

Guy
Guy
25 days ago
Reply to  Granpa

It’s exactly the same story when it comes to freight trains vs passenger trains. The FRA says passenger trains are supposed to take priority when they share the same rails with freight. In reality, the major freight carriers completely evade compliance with the rules by building two or more miles long trains. “Sure, we’ll yield to the next passenger train that comes along. As soon as we get to a siding that’s long enough. But ahh, shucks, turns out there aren’t any! At least not till clear all the way to our next destination railyard!” Coincidence? I think not.

This is exactly the same problem MLK was talking about, when he said, “We must rapidly transition from a thing-based society to a human-based society”, where we prioritize the survival needs of even the humblest people, over increased profits for the already rich and powerful.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 month ago

All the more reason to instal real physically protected bike lanes so trucks are unable to drive over the painted buffer

Sky
Sky
1 month ago

As someone who drives a truck for work, the real issue is that the vehicles are way to big. They aren’t meant for cities.

Japan has no problem using tiny trucks, so maybe we should start doing that.

JustBecause
30 days ago

The buffer zone was already in place when the law to safely pass a biker is to slow down and have four feet of clearance… It’s just now painted on the road…

Steven
Steven
29 days ago

Fire departments, with their oversized, heavy engines, have often opposed traffic calming and road diets as well. Former fire chief Myers did at least publicly endorse “pedestrian enhancements” and “safe, walkable streets” on a NACTO webinar several years ago. It would be interesting to know what (if anything) the Fire Bureau is actually doing to make that happen, such as by purchasing smaller and more maneuverable vehicles.

Guy
Guy
25 days ago
Reply to  Steven

In the fire department’s case, it revolves around a weird turf war that (unionized) firefighters have with (often nonunion) paramedics. Firefighters insist on emergency protocols that give them priority response to calls that could routinely be handled by an ambulance only and don’t require a giant fire truck. But instead, of course, they should just unionize the bloody paramedics alongside the firefighters into a single bloody emergency responders union, problem solved! Go figure.

Steven
Steven
11 days ago
Reply to  Guy

In that case the fire truck itself could still be smaller. European city centers need to have a way to put out fires too, they just don’t do it with needlessly oversized vehicles.

Hunny Bee
Hunny Bee
28 days ago

Increased expenses for moving goods around the nation equals higher prices for those goods. With apparently a majority of voters currently planning to vote for Donald Trump in large part due to the inflation experienced over the past three years, the last thing we need to do right now is make hauling goods around the nation more expensive. Because one of the last things Trump and the Republican Party will ever care about is providing public money to improve infrastructure for biking and to support alternative energies.
Many trucking companies are smaller outfits that have a few trucks. Many truckers own their trucks and are independent contractors. Saying they should just get rid of their current trucks and buy smaller trucks, which would be a huge cost upfront and result in smaller profits for them due to being able to haul less per trip, is not a realistic possibility. It would probably drive many of those smaller trucking companies and independent truckers out of business.

Steven
Steven
28 days ago
Reply to  Hunny Bee

I’m sure removing protection for bicyclists in a blue state will totally swing the national election results, great point. Meanwhile traffic deaths continue to climb from excessive speeds and oversized vehicles, but I guess that’s just the price we pay for not angering conservatives too much. Ah well!

Steven
Steven
28 days ago
Reply to  Hunny Bee

Traffic deaths continue to climb as a result of excessive speeding and oversized vehicles, but I guess we shouldn’t do anything about it or we’d risk upsetting conservatives (in an already blue state). “Nice bike lane ya got there – would be a shame if anything was to happen to it”!

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
28 days ago
Reply to  Steven

I’m not worried about conservatives. They’re gonna vote Republican. No stopping that. It’s centrists and even liberals I’m worried about. Did I ever say that I’m for removing protections for bikers? Nope. But a lot of people on this website’s comments seem to think that small businesses are just flush with cash and that’s not the case. Look at restaurants around Oregon, many closed for a week of snow and ice and they’re clamoring for a government bailout, saying they may go out of business because they were shut for a week or less. Thinking that small trucking companies and independent truckers can just buy new, smaller trucks at any time is not realistic. Not without taxpayer support.

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
28 days ago
Reply to  Hunny Bee

More than 97% of trucking companies in the US have 20 or fewer trucks. 10-15% of truckers are independent contractors. The average net profit margin of a trucking company averages between 2.5% and 6%. It’s not big business that will suffer if forced to ditch their “large” trucks and switch to smaller trucks. It’s small businesses and, ultimately, all of us when consumer prices increase and our taxes increase, too, to pay for subsidies for truck companies and independent truckers to make the switch. I don’t think that’s ever realistically going to happen. I also don’t think what the trucking industry is asking for here is necessary.

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
28 days ago
Reply to  Hunny Bee

91% of the trucking industry comprises small companies with no more than six trucks.

qqq
qqq
28 days ago
Reply to  Hunnybee

I wonder what those small companies think about the Oregon Trucking Association bringing attention to truck size by trying to push through regulatory changes that don’t seem like they’ll help truckers, because the changes don’t seem to be necessary.

And, on top of that, I wonder what they think of the strategy of trying to push those unnecessary changes through by arguing that typically-sized trucks aren’t safe to drive in 11′ wide lanes, which is not at all unusually narrow in the city.

Atreus
Atreus
26 days ago

Since by their own admission trucks are only 8.5 feet wide, they should have no problem staying within a 10 or 11 foot travel lane. It’s only the mirrors that stick out a foot more on each side, and as far as I know it’s totally permissible already for mirrors to encroach into the airspace above a bike lane buffer. So this really isn’t solving any real issue, and is instead trying to give them permission to actually drive their wheels in the buffer, which is unsafe and unnecessary.