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Monday, October 18, 2010

Don't stop to watch the wheels

The old way.

The corner of Broadway and Williams in Northeast Portland is a pretty hairy place. Interstate 5 passes underneath Broadway nearby. And there are all sorts of cars rushing westbound on Broadway (a one way street, "coupled" with Weidler one block south) to get onto the nearby freeway on-ramps in both directions, as well as going straight ahead to the Rose Quarter and the Broadway Bridge. Williams has become a major hipster bicycle route, and so numerous cross-bound cyclists are in the mix as well. It's hard to see this intersection ever becoming the multi-modal utopia that our politicians brag about.

The new streetcar tracks along that stretch of Broadway aren't likely to help with safety or traffic flow concerns, either. Once those tracks turn onto Broadway from Grand Avenue, they zig and zag across the two left lanes of traffic that up until now have been the sole province of cars and trucks, most of which are hurtling toward the Rose Quarter and southbound I-5. The left lanes both turn off Broadway southbound toward I-5, and the streetcar is going to go straight westbound from one of those lanes, across the turning vehicles, toward the bridge. Hard to see how there aren't going to be some frustrating moments, or worse, there.

For the cyclists on that stretch of Broadway, most of whom are going straight westbound toward the bridge, there's always been an awkward moment when the bike lane takes them out in between two lanes of traffic. All of that traffic is hellbound to make a right turn, get onto I-5, and fight their way to the 'Couv. That corner is one reason why a bike trip across the Broadway Bridge is rarely in our travel plans.

Now the city is trying to make things better with a new bicycle-only traffic signal governing westbound traffic at that corner. Apparently the I-5 northbound motorists now have to wait a while to make their right turn onto I-5 or Williams, to let the cyclists pass on toward the Broadway. And the bike lane will stay on the right curb, rather than mixing it up with cars on both sides.

It's a nice idea, and we hope it works. The kids over at Bike Portland have been following the first several days of the light, and the installation apparently still has a few kinks. It's not clear that the situation is going to be much safer, but at least now there are different dangers.

In any event, it's another little bit of bad news for the people in the cars: at least another 15 seconds, and possibly several minutes (depending on the traffic load), added to the commute. And once the pointless streetcar arrives with serious bad news for the cars going southbound on I-5, that freeway overpass, never pleasant, could get downright ugly. I-5 commuters may need a new route. Good luck with that.

Comments (13)

The Eastside streetcar will go down as one of the most ill-conceived of our many many ill-conceived transit projects.

As for bikes, I support efforts to create a bike network with good old-fashioned bike lanes. They're straightforward and all users know what they mean. We don't need bioswales, share-os or any other ridiculousness.

Just put them on streets which are already wide enough to accomodate them. Don't decimate street parking, and never ever take out a car lane for a bike lane. I think we can still create a great bike network following those simple rules.

One Friday evening, I drove out from outer SE to 9th and NW Lovejoy. Construction on SE Foster Road stopped traffic. Up to Powell then to 99E going north where the lanes have been gerrymandered for the light rail construction. North on Grand and then west on Broadway. More construction lanes changes, orange barrelled lane closure.

Finally get the the Broadway. . .maneuver around more construction cones, get ready to make a right onto Lovejoy and NOPE! have to wind through street closures in the Pearl after exiting onto Hoyt.

And we finally make to the Pearl Specialty store by 9:45 (ahem!) but I now suffer from PTSD every time I see construction orange.

I drive down Broadway every day to get onto I-5 North. I think the new arrangement will be an improvement. It's much better than having the bicycles cut over one lane of traffic hoping drivers will notice them and yield for them.

I concur fully with the above common sensical post by Snards.Yes, save money and lives, just paint lines and be aware of each other...

The rains will come and 7/8s of the bicyclists will grow up for a season or two. Eventually, they'll age out it. Have to as the mode is essentially confined to the effete and the pale.

If we could cancel the Portland (milwaukee) lightrail project, maybe we could use the massivie savings o build an up and over for the bikers, or a undy. The Portland (milwaukee) rail broject is mostly a new knick knack for glorifying the gates of downtown. If it continues to proceed as cityhall wishes, it will help push TriMet into undeniable financial insolvency.

There was one change to that intersection that you missed, Jack.

They've turned lane #3 from a bimodal straight through and right turn into a right turn only. This means there are now only two thru lanes at Williams. This is going to back up the traffic that wants to get past I-5, including all of the Pearl District hipsters. It makes no sense to me why they made this change other than it just being another attack on the commuting public.

I recently started working downtown again and really have to drive (15 minutes versus 45 minutes via Tri-Met...thanks for those cuts on the Fremont line) so I get to go through all of this every day. Even at 6:45am, its a pain to get through this intersection now.

Wait 'til the streetcar starts shucking and jiving through the two left lanes. You'll be turning left on Ninth and using the Steel Bridge. Good luck driving in Portland in the future. Earl the Pearl says you have to live like he does (if you call that living).

I wore bowties to work as a gag a few times. I guess that is living like him a bit.

What boggles my mind is why they went with a red/yellow/green signal for the bike lane. Why?

Second morning in a row as we waited to turn toward the onramp in the leftmost of the two "no turn on red" lanes, I watched four cars turn during the bike lane's green. It's like the drivers are looking for a green for the right-most lane, since the fifth car this morning actually stopped when the bike lane's signal went red. (Then, of course, turned once his actual signal went green.)

They should've used something like the MAX's yellow/white scheme. Just anything but a color combo that drivers are keyed to, because they're sure as hell not reading the signs all around the signals.

Glad you noticed the bike signal Jack. The more awareness for it the better... but what's with the "hipster bicycle route" reference? What exactly is that?

And for what it's worth.. BikePortland isn't run by "kids." I'm 35 and my business guy J.R. is 36 or so. I've got two kids and one on the way... I hardly feel like a "kid" and I'm certainly not a "hipster" (although I ride Williams every day).


If you're under 40, you're a kid to me.

Don't trust anyone under 40.

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