Latest changes and more thoughts on the NE Multnomah project

Latest changes and more thoughts on the NE Multnomah project

The new NE Multnomah -16

New buffered bike lanes have been installed west of MLK Jr Blvd as part of the ongoing changes to NE Multnomah Street through the Lloyd District.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Bureau of Transportation has been busy since our last update on the NE Multnomah Street Pilot Project. In addition to sharing the latest changes on the street, I also want to address a few issues readers have brought to my attention.

The first thing I noticed this morning were the new plastic bollards — a.k.a. “traffic delineator wands” — PBOT has placed in the yellow buffer zone. These bollards help remind folks to not park in the bike lane (which is now curbside) or in the buffered area. The bollards also help give bicycle operators the perception that they are protected from auto traffic. I like that PBOT continues to experiment with plastic bollards because, as we’ve detailed in the past, they have had problems keeping them anchored to the ground in the past. I think we could do wonders to our bikeways all over town if we used these bollards more frequently.

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Another addition since my last report is green zebra striping in the bike lane at a few of the intersections. These are done to mark caution areas for people turning right over the bike lane and they are done to remind folks using the bike lane that it continues onto the next block.

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Speaking of green in the bike lane on Multnomah. I’m curious why PBOT isn’t using more of it. Given the new green paint applied on SW Stark and Oak, it seems we could send a consistent signal to road users that high traffic (or high value, network-wise) bike lanes are green. I’m also awaiting an answer from PBOT as to why/how the yellow color was chosen for the buffer area. Several of you have asked me, “What’s the yellow for?”. (I’ll update this story when I hear back.)

Another issue that has come up are the shared zones at bus stops.

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TriMet issued a press release about the project last month that stated:

“While buses serve stops, drivers and bike riders are expected to stop behind buses… TriMet asks motorists and bicyclists to watch for and comply with the flashing “Yield” light on the back of the bus as it pulls out.”

This makes it sound illegal to pass a bus when it’s servicing a stop. Last time I checked, it was legal to pass a stopped bus as long as the “Yield” light was not flashing.

UPDATE: TriMet Public Information Officer Roberta Altstadt just clarified that their statement was meant “as a recommendation, an important one for the safety of people on bikes.” “Generally, bike riders can safely pass on the left of a bus servicing a stop. However, in this specific location, where there is very limited space, it’s recommended that for safety reasons, bicyclists stop and wait for the bus to pull back into the travel lane before continuing safely into what becomes the buffered bike lane.”

Another word about sharrows and mixing zones on Multnomah: When the protected bike lane ends at intersections where motor vehicles turn right, remember to assert your position in the middle of the lane. Don’t be shy. If you ride to the right, near the gutter, you only increase your risk of right hooks.

Now, onto an area of the project — from MLK Jr Blvd west toward the Rose Quarter Transit Center — that wasn’t finished at all last time I was out there. PBOT has re-configured the roadway to make room for a wide bike lane and buffer.

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The buffer narrows considerably as the lane heads down toward the Rose Garden (and I noticed PBOT added small reflectors in the buffered area)…

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As you come to the I-5 overpass at NE 1st Ave., you can either leave the bike lane and turn left to go south through the Rose Quarter Transit Center, or do a two-stage left turn by using the bike box at NE Wheeler Ave.

Also at the intersection of NE 1st Ave. is a new housing development dubbed The Milano. Yes, it’s named after the famous Bianchi Milano city bike. With 90 on-site bike parking spaces (just 12 for cars) and a bike repair station, The Milano is a great example of bike-oriented development. Now with protected bike lanes in all directions right outside its doors, it might be the most bike-friendly residential development in Portland.

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View from Milano’s front door.

And there are still more changes to come. PBOT will be installing large potted plants inside the buffer zone and they’ve got a few on-street bike parking corrals to put in. Like I’ve been saying, this redesign of Multnomah is sort of a big deal for PBOT. And it’s also considered a pilot project, so your feedback (both here and to PBOT directly) is very important.

Learn more about this project via PBOT and past BikePortland coverage.

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