NE 40th Bike LaneAs some of you may know it has been over a year since SDOT and the city council approved the Bicycle Master Plan. SDOT has done a great job and spent millions of dollars (via bridging the gap) to implement the plan. Recently SDOT released a progress report highlighting a lot of the work that they have already done, and plan to do over the next year.

Some of the highlights are 56 miles of new bicycle lanes and sharrows, 15 miles of signed bicycle routes, and most recently on-street bicycle parking.

As a daily bicyclist I see the benefits every day but at the same time I see things like this. On and off over the past months few months the bike lane that I use every day has been blocked by shipping containers. Now this isn’t the end of the world but to me it is still very symbolic of how bicyclist and bicycle facilities are view. They are seen as amenities, not essential infrastructure. With that attitude bicycling will not become more prevalent.

To add to the irony of all this, SDOT and the DPD are hosting a presentation, Bicycling: A Sustainable Choice by the director of Copenhagen’s DOT this Friday. Copenhagen is the standard barer of bicycling in Europe and makes Portland’s bicycle infrastructure look modest at best, not to mention how it makes ours look.

As an aside I’m a new contributor to STB. I’m currently working on a masters degree in transportation engineering at UW and I formerly blogged over at OrphanRoad.

14 Replies to “Not Quite There”

  1. Heh — I was a student at UW for years and saw this every other day as I biked home! But the problem here is much deeper than a poorly-designed bicycle lane. The problem is that this road, and the interchange it leads to, were originally designed and constructed to work one way (with vehicular through-traffic), then later re-configured to work another way (barred to through-vehicles, but with bicycles allowed through). Yet, the road was never fully reconstructed, or even redesigned with all uses under consideration.

    This seems to be typical of SDOT — take the infrastructure they have, and apply as many band-aids as needed to get it to work they way they want it to. And this not only applies to bike infrastructure, but to motor vehicular traffic as well — there are countless signalized intersections that work in ways non-conforming to the MUTCD* because SDOT added a left-turn signal here, banned a through-movement from this lane at this-and-such a time, etc.

    The problem isn’t just that SDOT needs to get serious about bikes (which it does), but that it needs to get serious about how infrastructure works in general. And to do that, it needs to spend more resources on design.

    *Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices

  2. Well SDOT needs to be serious about maintaining clean arterials, including the shoulders. There are still main roads with a fair amount of gravel in the bike lane, even after calls to SDOT.

    Plus I find sharrows on the oddest streets, where I as an experienced urban cyclist, would never venture anyway ( 45th through the U-district ). I also agree about the establishment of bike lanes that are then treated as a parking lane for large construction equipment and such , without any detour or facility for bypass. If its a travel lane ( whether bike or car) than it needs to be treated as such AND maintained as such…

    1. The same thing applies to sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Unfortunately transportation planners tend to treat biking and walking as an afterthought and casually block their routes in ways they would never block an active auto traffic lane.

    2. i live up on 47th in the u-district and thought the same about the 45th st sharrows. however, after thinking about it, i realized that they probably put them there because there are few roads crossing i-5. 50th is another one that is far from optimal.

      since i rarely have a reason to go to wallingford directly from my home, i admit i have little reason to find alternative routes. as such i usually take 45th which is easier than it looks: the traffic on it is soooo bad, it’s easy to keep up with (and pass) cars. i wouldn’t recommend it for “regular people” who aren’t bike obsessed, though.

  3. Bicycles aren’t necessary infrastructure. How about we convert all those banked right-of-way-now-bike-trails that USED to be interurban lines and make them light rail lines again? It would save money since many portions of the ROW are still intact. Maybe 100 bicyclists an hour or 2500 commuters an hour? What is more important to combat traffic and climate change? Heck, we could put a multi-purpose trail NEXT to the rail line to make people happy. Bicycles are cute and sound like a great idea for a large scale transportation option, but unless you force people at gun point, they’re not going to change. Not all the bike trails in the world would get me to bike from Downtown Edmonds to, say Shorline, Ballard, Seattle, etc.

    And looking at that picture, isn’t that bicyclist breaking the law? Looks like they’re going down a one way street in the wrong direction.

    1. Mike, there isn’t a battle between bike trails and light rail lines. If some people want to bike long distances, let them. While making themselves healthier, they are also eliminating a car from the road and pollution from the air. The cost to taxpayers is negligible.

      And run light rail down the interurban? I mean, I wouldn’t let a bike trail stop a major transit expansion either, but we already have a major N-S trunk that will connect Seattle to Everett one day.

      As for the bicyclist “breaking the law”… I think you missed the point of the picture. Which is that giant truck sitting in a bike lane’s path. Your disdain for bicyclists seems very emotional. I’m not sure why that is, but that’s not really the best mindset to have when we’d like a serious discussion about the regional transportation fabric and its alternatives.

  4. Bicycle infrastructure IS transportation infrastructure. Bike to Work Day 2008 brought out ~23,000 bicyclists in our region in one day. 2007 numbers on one day in Seattle (there are 2008 number which are higher but are not posted yet) is 2,200. Put all those bicyclists in cars or on buses and you’ll see a difference.

    I am a daily cyclist and it’s how I get to work. Good bike infrastructure helps get people out of cars. I started by combining bus/bike trips. Many people I know do the same, or use a train/bus combo. Bike infrastructure is inexpensive compared to driving and the impact it has on roadways. In fact, SDOT likes that bicyclists complain about road problems called in by bicyclists because it alerts them to upcoming problem areas for autos. We are a “first response” to dangerous situations in some cases! :-)

    Sure, I’m cute, but I’m also a regular road user who bikes 20 miles a day to get to/from work because it’s faster than taking a bus. We’ve got to stop looking at all bicyclists as having “just a hobby.” Many people have refused to get on a bike to go anywhere – and that’s the problem with poor bicycle infrastructure. But the more people who try it, and find it’s actually a viable alternative, will make the option safer. I rarely have a problem when bicycling and usually it’s a vehicle who endangers me that creates the unsafe situation.

  5. I should add that some of us over at the Cascade Bicycle Club are organizing a photo-report of poor infrastructure, focusing on Sharrow implementaion, that will go to SDOT in the near future.

  6. Copenhagen has a bike lane on nearly every street, and the traffic signals take bikes into account as well.

  7. When I first saw the sharrows on 45th in the U district my first thought was to spatter red paint blood stains on them. Who would take a freeway access street on a bike?

    1. Ha ha. I was actually one of the crews who helped install those sharrows by marking their position. We drove a truck with flashers and used it to shield us from traffic.

      There are only a few crossings in the area over/under I-5. You have the 40th/Burke Gilman Trail down the hill, 45th, and 50th.

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