Tuesday, May 4, 2010

what were they thinking

the couch street portion of the burnside/couch couplet project is essentially completed, and there has already been some negative response from cyclists.

couch itself is now one-way west from 14th to MLK, with signals at every intersection timed to about 20 mph during peak hours. posted limit 25 mph. seven foot parking lanes on both sides, two eleven foot travel lanes, no striped bike lane until you get to 6th.

at MLK, the entry ramp onto the burnside bridge begins. an "s" curve of about 300 linear feet. there is a striped bike lane, five feet wide, and two travel lanes, each twelve feet wide. a hard turn to the left, followed almost immediately by a hard turn to the right onto the bridge.

over on the left as you cross MLK is a yellow diamond hazard sign showing the left turn, with an advisory speed reduction sign indicating 20 mph. nothing similar on the right.

a more sensible speed indication would be 15 mph, and a more sensible treatment would be not a striped bike lane but sharrows. a motorist in the right travel lane making the final right onto the bridge will tend to encroach into the striped bike lane, and a cyclist who allows herself to be relegated to the bike lane will inevitably get pinched in the corner.

what has already happened is that a cyclist or two has wiped out on the thermoplastic lane stripe itself. and in the course of responding to this apparently PBoT discovered that the line between the two travel lanes was mistakenly placed a couple of feet to the right of center, making the right travel lane too narrow (and exacerbating the problem at the right turn onto the bridge).

the present plan apparently is to widen the bike lane to six feet and create a four foot buffer. not sure where they are going to find room for all that. through most of the "s" curve the available pavement width is 29 or so feet. so presumably we are talking only about the final right turn onto the bridge.

again, getting rid of the sidepath and slowing motor traffic to 15 mph would have been a much better treatment. in my view.

early on, some of the negative commentary on bikeportland.org was to the effect that PBoT should have striped a bike lane on couch from 14th on down. and here i disagree. with eleven foot travel lanes and lights timed to 20 mph, a cyclist should have no difficulty taking the lane. again, maybe sharrows. (note: when the streetcar goes in, the design calls for dropping the north parking lane, which would then become a seven foot bike lane.)

aside: why they want to waste paint putting sharrows on these "next generation" bike boulevards is beyond me. these are not route markers, they are a device to alert cyclists and motorists that the lane is too narrow to share, and to indicate that a cyclist is likely to assert a position somewhat to the left of the door zone or the gutter. in other words, to discourage unsafe passing. if motor traffic on the bike boulevard is sufficiently calmed (or diverted), sharrows should not be necessary.

meanwhile, there are thoroughfares where this kind of marking is actually needed, such as couch, and instead we are given sidepaths at the critical junctures.

query whether this sidepath, couch from 6th onto the bridge, is mandatory per ORS 814.420(2). there was a public process, after all.

but incidentally. or not so incidentally.

in applying to ODoT for an exception from AAHSTO standards on lane widths on couch -- cross section 36 feet rather than 38 on a minor arterial -- PBoT indicated it would post the speed limit at 20 mph rather than 25 mph. among other things, they wanted to preserve the twelve foot sidewalk and planting strip to enhance walkability. no indication in the public documents whether the exception was granted (presumably yes), whether the exception was conditioned on the lower limit, or what the hell happened to the 20 mph limit.

1 comment:

  1. Wow.... great observations. Thanks for sharing.