“Scissors zones” are a dangerous part of bike-car interactions, where everyone is traveling in the same general direction, but bikes and cars need to switch places relative to each other. It’s like the point on a scissors where the two parts meet, a diamond shaped zone that is the route of both parties. &, like a scissors, if used incorrectly it will slice you up.
Bikes are vulnerable in these areas for a couple reasons:
1) there’s no safe haven
2) if car drivers don’t notice you, or are tailgating another car, then change lanes suddenly, they can rear-end you or sideswipe you. At high speed.
3) With “exit” areas, like ramps and right turn lanes, bicyclists only know if cars are coming through if the use their turn signals. So if there’s heavy traffic, bicyclists always need to put their lives in the hands of drivers, hoping that if the driver is turning without a signal, they are paying enough attention not to hit the bicyclist.
There’s a sketchy fork in the road on N Interstate just south of Tillamook St., where a 1930s “freeway style exit” forks off to the right to Larabee Ave. Unlike most right turns, where the scissors zone is small, this one is 420′ long — more than two city blocks. Its a segment of road where the bike lane runs down the middle, with car lanes on either side, and cars are at liberty to cross back and forth.
When I went through there a couple weeks ago, the bike lane “skip lines” (dashed lines indicating a car can pass through the bike lane) were completely worn away. So bikes had to either ride in the designated lane but fend for themselves, since there were no markings to warn cars, or go in the right hand bike lane and try to merge back to the left at the gauntlet. Cars were driving in the middle of the bike lane — because they didn’t know it was there.
I took a photo and emailed it to SAFE@portlandoregon.gov — the City of Portland transportation safety hotline, where they encourage us to report safety concerns.
(to see photos at full size, click on the photo, and click to toggle from before to after)
I rode through there again yesterday, and was pleased to see that the lines had been repainted, and bikes were taking the rightful direct path through the intersection, and cars were always respecting the bike lane.
So I took another photo and sent it in with a note of thanks.