County installs speed bumps to slow down riders on Hawthorne Bridge viaduct

County installs speed bumps to slow down riders on Hawthorne Bridge viaduct

New rumble strips Hawthorne Bridge-1

Five new bike speed bumps greet riders heading
onto the Hawthorne Bridge sidewalk.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Multnomah County has installed a series of speed bumps (a.k.a. rumble strips) on SE Madison Ave as it approaches the Hawthorne Bridge (westbound). The bumps are aimed at reducing bicycling speeds as riders transition from the on-street bike lane up a ramp to the shared sidewalk which also happens to be the location of a TriMet bus stop. This bike lane is slightly downhill and bike speeds are relatively high.

There are five bumps placed about two feet apart and they’re made up of thermoplastic strips about an eighth-of-an-inch think. That might not seem very high, but on a bicycle the bumps can definitely be felt — especially for riders with narrow tires. We’ve heard a lot of feedback so far that not only are the bumps jarring but many people swerve into the adjacent vehicle lane to avoid them.

According to Multnomah County spokesman Mike Pullen, the bumps were installed to “alert bicyclists that they are entering a shared space with pedestrians.” The county has also added the words ‘BIKES SLOW’ in the bike lane prior to the bumps, a new pavement marking on the sidewalk that includes the word ‘SLOW’, and markings warning bus passengers to ‘LOOK’ before stepping off the bus. There’s also a sign near the ramp reminding people on bikes to ‘Yield to Pedestrians’.

New rumble strips Hawthorne Bridge-7

New rumble strips Hawthorne Bridge-2

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How do people feel about the new bumps? They have some support from people who think bicycling speeds at this location are too high; but we’ve heard more concerns and complaints than support. Even people who agree speeds are an issue feel other methods should have been considered. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve heard (taken from Twitter and a local transportation activism email list):

Peter W.:

I commute on my trusty aluminum frame road bike and feel every last bump on the new rumble strip, so count me in as someone who swerves to avoid them; I think if they weren’t quite as bad I might slow down instead. I asked a friend and she tells me she hates them (and she added an unusual expletive to quantify the extent of her hatred).

Jonathan G.:

To me, it feels like, “….ew Y..ou … Bi..ker…s!” every time I read [sic] over them. And I’m noticing some folks on bikes swerving left out of the bike lane into traffic to avoid them and then swooping back right to catch the ramp, which seems like it could be dangerous.

Gina Z.:

I see quite a few people swerving around them… which puts them dangerously close to cars in many cases.

Tara G.:

I like the intent but they are too thick! Totally rattle the teeth and make me lose loose bits. 🙂

Tony J.:

I don’t think it’s an effective treatment for trying to improve cycling behavior. IMO it is kind of dangerous… I think there should be a “Stop Here When Bus Present” sign and line and some periodic enforcement.


I get where they’re coming from but it’s a pain in the ass. Literally.

Scott M:

rumble strips are a bad idea on cycling facilities. They have potential to cause more harm than good.

Hart N.:

They’re too thick for thin wheels. I get the point, but they’re a safety hazard in their current state.

Here’s a photo that shows a narrow tire going over one of the bumps…

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Clearly these bumps, which were installed just a few weeks ago, aren’t popular with many riders.

For their part, the county says they’ve received complaints about conflicts in this area. “Cyclists are often traveling at a high speed, as they start the downhill to the bridge,” says Pullen. “Pedestrians may be on the bridge for the first time, perhaps stepping off a bus to visit OMSI, and don’t expect a bicyclist to speed by them.”

The issue of people on bikes going too fast through a bus stop has been a concern of the county for many years. In fact, they installed similar bumps in 2003, only to remove them a few years later when they updated the pavement markings on the bridge sidewalk. Even back then the bumps were controversial and many people advocated for their removal.

A 2006 story in the PSU Vanguard published after the bumps had been removed noted some of the push back:

“‘Everyone hated the speed bumps,’ said [Elicia] Cardenas [former Vice-Chair of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee]. She said that no data was gathered on bike speed. ‘All they had was anecdotal evidence.'”

We asked Pullen if the county had any documented collisions at this location and he he said their bridge maintenance manager told him there has been “at least one collision” although Pullen didn’t have any details about when or how it happened.

According to a source who sits on the Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, some members of that committee see this and other recent changes on the bridge as interim solutions as the county grapples with the fact that bicycling makes up nearly 20% of the total bridge traffic.

On that note, Pullen says they’ve got another change coming next year: They plan to widen the existing sidewalk at the bus stop to create more space for everyone.

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