SW Broadway cycletrack impressions

I’ve been curious about the cycletrack on SW Broadway since it opened a few weeks ago, and today I decided to go check it out on my way back from SE.

My impression of it was overall positive. It’s fairly clearly striped, and most of the left-turn boxes seem to be well-placed, although one of the first ones didn’t seem to line up properly with the road it was turning onto. It’s nice to be out of the flow of traffic a bit, especially going uphill like that, although as someone who’s accustomed to being in traffic I also found it kind of weird and disorienting.

However, the placement of signals isn’t ideal. The traffic signals are primarily over “in traffic”, where the cars are. It would be helpful to cyclists, who no longer have the cue of “oh, people next to me are stopping” (because there is an intervening row of parked cars) to have the signals moved closer to the cycletrack, or a new signal installed. Otherwise I predict some clueless red-light running. Though now that I think of it, maybe it doesn’t matter if you run the lights, since all the streets there dead-end into PSU campus. It’s very much like the situation on Evelyn in Mountain View, where the train tracks stop the streets from going through. U-turns or sloppy left turns are the primary danger on Evelyn, but Oregon is a prohibited-unless-permitted state for U-turns.

Although there isn’t noticeable signage warning pedestrians about the cycletrack, I did witness several pedestrians (on a quiet Sunday) clearly looking twice before stepping into it — luckily for me, and possibly for them as well. Still, I would feel more comfortable if the hatch-marked area and the sidewalk included a warning or two.

These are relatively minor quibbles, but I also have two major quibbles. The first was that a car was parked in the cycletrack. Just parked right there. This was also reported by some BikePortland commenters in the linked entry above. Clearly some people are missing the message. Enforcement would be good; possibly better would be having the special green striping throughout the cycletrack. I thought they had done this actually, and was surprised to find they hadn’t. It’s a special facility; why no special paint? This could also serve as the pedestrian warnings I feel would be useful, killing two birds with one stone. Green = bicycle = no parking and watch out.

The second major quibble I had is the beginning of the cycletrack. It starts at an intersection where the rightmost car traffic lane is right-turn only. The intersection has a green-painted bike lane and a bike box, as well as a sign I have become unfortunately familiar with whose meaning is “You’re about to turn across a bike lane, yield to cyclists”, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s really bad design to have through cyclists to the right of a right turn lane, especially right where a cycletrack starts so that most cyclists are almost certain to be going through and the area clearly has heavy bike traffic.

I have a feeling that I have a particular dislike for this configuration that doesn’t afflict PBOT’s bike facility designers, because this setup drives me nuts in two other locations I frequent: the approach to the Broadway bridge where Broadway crosses I-5, and the exit from the Hawthorne Bridge to city streets in SE Portland (actually an exit lane vs. a right-turn-only lane, but it’s the same basic problem). It may be because I’m accustomed to setups where the bike lane generally jogs to the left before the intersection, or where the bike lane is dotted to indicate that traffic should be mixing according to destination direction instead of by speed or vehicle type (vehicular cycling behavior). I just don’t believe that you can make cyclists safe in this situation by painting the road. Right hook situations are dangerous and in my experience are best managed by good merging behavior, not by paint and faith.

But aside from those major quibbles, this is an interesting facility and I look forward to seeing how it works and how it evolves.

I’m planning to send my written comments to PBOT through the PortlandOnline system, which took me a while to figure out how to do, but you can also call them at 503-823-CYCL.

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