The power of paint: Will new (and improved) green lanes on Stark/Oak work?

The power of paint: Will new (and improved) green lanes on Stark/Oak work?

Green lanes on SW Stark-14

The green paint on SW Stark and Oak bike lanes is all in. It’s impressive; but it’s only paint. Will it actually work?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As I mentioned recently, the Bureau of Transportation has made good on a promise to improve the bike lanes on SW Stark and Oak streets downtown. After realizing that many people in cars were illegally driving in the buffered bike lanes, they decided to fill the entire lanes with a new bright green paint. Not only have they added the new paint, they’ve actually widened the bike lane, at least it seems like they have.

The old buffered lanes were unpainted and they provided six feet of bike lane alongside a a two-foot buffer zone. PBOT has now gone in and painted the entire lane — including the buffer — making the lane a solid eight feet wide. That’s the largest bike lane width in the entire city and it almost looks as wide as the standard lane next to it.

Green lanes on SW Stark-1

Visually it looks fantastic and I’ve felt good riding on the welcoming carpet of green. Even without any physical separation it provides a clear signal that the green lane is special and, increasingly, I think people are beginning to equate green lanes with bike lanes. Unfortunately, it looks like — at least in some spots — the illegal driving still happens.

Here are a few photos taken from my fourth floor office yesterday…

Green lanes on SW Stark-12

Green lanes on SW Stark-11

Green lanes on SW Stark-9

Green lanes on SW Stark-8

Green lanes on SW Stark-7

Green lanes on SW Stark-5

Green lanes on SW Stark-6

Green lanes on SW Stark-4

Now, I should add that my block (between 3rd and 4th) has a lot of people who turn right on 3rd. Most of the violators I see are intending to merge over the green to turn right and they are just doing so way before they should. I have a strong hunch (based on some observation too) that in other places without such high volumes of right-turns the compliance is much higher.

Overall, this new green paint is a huge and wonderful improvement; but I still think we could do better. I’d love to see more signage making it clear that the green is a bike-only lane and that driving upon it will result in a fine. I also think we should be doing more to experiment with protection of some form (perhaps raised reflectors of some type).

This project could be a very interesting test of the power of paint. Can simply making a bike lane extra-wide and filling it with bright green paint be enough to create the illusion of protection and separation that PBOT has been unable to build into our downtown bikeways?

How have these newly painted lanes been treating you?

UPDATE: I want to just re-iterate that I feel these lanes are working very well in almost every other section except for this heavy right-turning area outside my office. I realize these photos above — when taken by themselves — make it look like the lanes aren’t working. But that’s not the case.

UPDATE 2: I just published some additional thoughts and photos about how well these new lanes are working.

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