Reader mailbag: Confusion reigns on Williams Ave while City urges patience

Reader mailbag: Confusion reigns on Williams Ave while City urges patience


Reader Ted Buehler sent in this photo
yesterday with the subject line: “Lifeboat facility.”

Thanks to PBOT’s N Williams project, our mailbag has been pretty full lately.

Last week we shared some feedback we’ve received about how traffic back-ups on Williams are impacting users of NE Rodney — a street the city has tried to set aside as a lower-stress alternative.

And yesterday we received several more emails from people who are still trying to ride on Williams. Most of the emails have to do with concerns over how the project is being phased-in and the general confusion about where and how to navigate the newly striped bike lane — which is now on the left side of the road instead of the right.

For the city’s part, PBOT says they understand the concerns. Reached by phone this morning, agency spokeswoman Diane Dulken asked for patience. “It’s still an active construction site. We’re in an awkward phase of switching from right to left and we’re dodging the weather.”

Active construction zone or not, the street is still open and people are riding it.* On that note, I’ve pasted five emails below (all received in the last 24 hours) in hopes some of you (including any PBOT staff that happen to be reading) can help these readers with support and tips on how to make it through…

From E.W.:

I am not sure if this is your daily route, but it seems a bit of a cluster at the moment and only 1/2 way thru the project. Sometimes it’s unclear which side to ride on or where there are mixing zones. Also, the transtion/mixing zone at Killingsworth appears to be worse than before as the left lane (to turn left) is always busier than the right. Any suggestions?

From D.D.:

So far I have had a negative reaction to what is going on on Williams and I have talked to coworkers who commute to NE and they have had similar experiences. A friend of mine said “I’m trying not to hate it just because it’s new, but man, I really hate it” and I think that sums things up pretty well.

Yesterday I was almost hit by somebody on Williams at Broadway because they realized that they were about to exit on to I-5 and they didn’t want to. A little while later (near New Seasons) I saw a girl get hit by a car and go down. A few bikers (myself included) stopped and made sure she was OK. Taking a right on to Going St. is also a royal pain now during rush hour. My coworkers have also noted that bus exhaust comes out the left side of the some buses and city buses are much louder when they are on your right.

I have tried Rodney as an alternative and didn’t like it (it’s slow due to stop signs, now there are a ton of cars, some are driving over the barrier, etc.). I think I might try Broadway to 15th tonight and see how that goes. I’ll try to keep an open mind but so far moving the bike lane to the left side has done nothing but make my ride home miserable.

Hoping things will get better soon.

From C.H.:

I think the concept for N Williams is great, I do. However, last night I rode home on my usual route and found that the old right side bike lane had been ground down before the left side bike lane was complete. Riders didn’t know if they should be passing on the right or left, or if the narrow extra lane on the far right was for passing. Honestly the whole set up is very confusing.

Its especially hard when the cones are half way into the bike lane and the lanes don’t line up across intersections.

I am not a new commuter, this is just a mess at the moment. How are we supposed to ride on Williams?

From M.D.:

N Williams is taking shape. The large bike lane is now at the west side of the ave. typically, I believe, cyclists are used to bike lanes being on the right side of the street, so slower bikers will ride to the right, while faster cyclists will pass on the left. The bike lane being on the right creates a tendency for slower cyclists to ride near the far left side of the bike lane. Are the passing cyclists supposed to pass on the right or should passing still occur on the left, even though this is hindered by the typical, slower bike traffic on the left?

From M.G.:

I rode home on N. Williams Ave. yesterday evening and was really confused by the re-routing. I did understand that changes were coming, but at several points along the route it was unclear what we were supposed to do, which maybe could have been helped by more signs. Also, if you want to make a right turn from the left hand bike lane, what is the best way to do that? If you want to pass a slower rider, should you still pass on the left or is it now better to pass on the right? Do you think you could get PBOT to provide an explanation of how the new route is supposed to work? That would be super helpful. Thanks so much for your great reporting, as always.

Dulken said project contractors have completed all the striping for the project, but there are still details that need to be finished up — many of them being weather-dependent. In the meantime, Dulken urges caution and reminds everyone to follow all the traffic controls.

“We understand people’s concerns and ask them to bear with us as we go thru this active construction phase.”

Please use the comments to share the latest conditions on Williams.

UPDATE, 5:35 pm: I just rode up Williams. The main re-striping is complete. The old right lane has been completely removed and the left lane is open for business. During rush hour, people in cars backed up all the way to Broadway and north to about New Seasons. The left side bike lane is open and easy to follow. Can’t wait so see how it all works out once it’s 100% complete.

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