Requests to Resolve Immediate Safety Concerns Along the New Streetcar Loop Alignment.

Posted by Amos in News on December 13th, 2010 – 7 Comments

The AROW Streetcar Safety Working Group met this Wednesday to identify and address areas along and near the new streetcar construction alignment in Northeast and Northwest Portland that pose a safety risk to people on bicycles (meeting minutes can be viewed in your browser here).  While a complete list of safety concerns have been drafted and will be shared in the near future, we find it necessary to identify a few key safety issues that we feel cause a great and immediate risk to bicycle riders and should be addressed and resolved at once.  The group believes that the city and streetcar project managers have the ability to instigate these changes immediately, even if the solution is a temporary one.

The following is an itemized list of concerns related to streetcar loop construction identified by the AROW  Streetcar Safety Working Group to be addressed immediately, along with our requests for action to be taken.

1. Increased potential for right-hook crashes. The group has identified the intersections of NE Broadway and N Larrabee Ave and N Broadway and N Williams Ave as dangerous areas for bicycle traffic due to the increased amount potential for right-hook conflict.

  • At NE Broadway and Larrabee Ave changes to signals and lane striping have greatly increased the potential for right-hook traffic by moving the bicycle lane from the left of the right-turn-only lane to the outside lane and causing westbound motor vehicle traffic from Broadway onto northbound Larrabee to turn right through the bicycle lane.
    • The large amount of bicycle traffic, especially during morning commute hours, coupled with the changes to traffic control has resulted in non-compliant motor vehicle movement, specifically, failure to yield right of way to through bicycle traffic when turning right from westbound Broadway onto northbound Larrabee.  Special enforcement of traffic compliance during this time by the Portland Police Bureau is needed.
    • Encroachment of the bicycle lane by vehicles turning right on a red light and lack of compliance by motor vehicles with the existing advances stop line put bicycle riders waiting for the signal in the westbound Broadway bicycle lane in danger.  A bike box should be installed at this corner.
  • At N Broadway and Williams facility changes have been made to reduce these conflicts, but special enforcement of traffic control compliance by the Portland Police Bureau should be made until vehicle operators learn the new controls and compliance becomes regular.

2. Unsigned/unmarked hazardous conditions on the Lovejoy ramp. New facility changes to the Lovejoy ramp for westbound bicycle traffic present a significant and immediate risk to riders.

  • Streetcar tracks in the left lane present a slip and wheel-entrapment risk to bicycle traffic exiting the bicycle lane to either avoid hazards or merge in preparation for a left turn at NW 9th Ave off of the ramp (see next point for risks associated with the existing jug-handle turn markings).  Warning signs indicating track placement and hazards should be placed immediately.
  • Current design encourages bicycle operators wanting to make a left turn at NW 9th from the westbound Lovejoy to use a jug-handle or Copenhagen left turn by turning right at NW 9th and placing themselves in the painted box to wait for the signal southbound at NW 9th.  Riders who are unaware of this setup will merge into the left lane while descending the ramp, too early to see this striping and and understand the encouraged maneuver.  Signage should be placed at the beginning of the ramp to alert bicycle riders of the jug-handle left turn maneuver at NW 9th.
  • Similar to the point above, bicycle riders are unaware that they are made to make a right turn onto NW 9th which diverts them onto NW Marshall until it is unsafe to do so, due to the steep grade and high travel speeds.  Signage should be placed on the ramp to alert bicycle riders of the sharp turn at the bottom.

3. Lack of way-finding to and around new Lovejoy couplet. New track installation and traffic control changes present bicycle riders with a wheel-entrapment and slip hazard when approaching Lovejoy from NW 10th Ave.

  • Way-finding signs should be placed to direct bicycle traffic through and around the new design as they approach Lovejoy from side Avenues.

4. Wheel-entrapment and slip hazard on new east-side rail installations.  New track installation on NE martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and NE Grand Avenues presents bicycle traffic with a risk of wheel-entrapment and slip.

  • Temporary signs warning of track hazard should be placed during construction at any point where new rail installation begins in the pavement.
  • Permanent signs warning of track hazard should be placed where bike routes cross the alignment, where the tracks change lanes, or where the tracks turn on or off of the street.

Due to the urgent nature of these requests, we ask that action be taken immediately, and follow-up or questions be directed to us in a timely manner.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if more information or follow-up is needed.

Thank you for your time and your prompt response,

Amos Hunter

Steve Bozzone

Ted Buehler

Alexis Grant

Alicia Crain

Active Right of Way Streetcar Safety Working Group

  1. peejay says:

    Any engineering solution that consists entirely of a warning sign is unacceptable. This points to a failure of infrastructure design, since the best design encourages (and anticipates) the most predictable behavior. It seems that most of your solutions are warning signs. While this may be the only possible solution at this time based on budget constraints, WHY WAS THE STREETCAR BUILT THIS WAY TO BEGIN WITH? Where was the consulting during the design phase? Or were considerations of tourists — the chief customers of the streetcar — so important that the needs of other road users not considered?

    • Amos says:

      Peejay, this list is for immediate resolve (if only temporary) of issues. Our complete list which we will share shortly will address design issues in a more comprehensive way.

    • Seth Alford says:


      A better question: Why was the streetcar built at all?

      Tracks are fundamentally hostile to bicyclists. Don’t think so? The City itself thinks that’s the case. Otherwise why post this sign on SW 11th:

      The OHSU study on bicycle commuters also called out tracks as a hazard: “Poor roadway surface conditions were a factor in 40 (21%) traumatic events and 10 (20%) serious traumatic events: tracks on the road, loose gravel, and steel plates were cited most often.”

      I remember SW 10th and SW 11th before the streetcar. It was much easier to ride then than it is now. The streetcar should not have been built. It should not be expanded. That includes the planned extension to Lake Oswego. Furthermore, the existing streetcar lines should be converted to trolley buses, and the existing tracks ripped out or paved over.

  2. Josh Gold says:

    I already crashed last week when my wheel caught in the new street car tracks on Martin Luther King. I’m glad the truck behind me was not following close, otherwise I may have been run over.

    I road MLK again today and used the far left lane to avoid the tracks. I’m not sure if that was best or if I should be using one of the middle lanes. But seeing as eventually I needed to turn left, I chose to ride in the far left lane. I hope that drivers will understand that I am taking the left lane to avoid the tracks.

  3. two-wheels says:

    The proper solution would be to educate cyclists on how to navigate over tracks (hint: the more of an angle between your wheel and the track, the better). Cyclists can not expect others to share the streets, or have things like bike lanes and bike boxes, then complain about streetcars. Learn how to approach rails on two wheels and then ride accordingly. Each and every person is responsible for their own ride — don’t expect someone else to resolve every issue for you, ride defensively.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your sharing your experience. Personal responsibility and experience are important factors in preventing crashes, but we firmly believe these things can be prevented at the design level.

      To be clear, we are not “complain[ing] about streetcars”, we are bringing our concerns to the city to demonstrate how things can be fixed to provide a safer environment for cyclists of all levels.

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