City testing ‘rumble bars’ to prevent encroachment into NE Couch bike lane

City testing ‘rumble bars’ to prevent encroachment into NE Couch bike lane

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New rumble bars added to Couch bike lane approaching Burnside Bridge.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oh, if we could just get people to not drive in bike lanes. We’ve tried nearly everything (except for concrete barriers): First there was white paint, then blue paint, then green paint, then parked cars, then more white paint, then flexible plastic bollards, then solar-powered LED lights. And now Portland’s Bureau of Transportation is testing ‘rumble bars’.

The new bars have just been installed on the infamous s-curve on NE Couch as it approaches the east end of the Burnside Bridge. They’re about a foot wide, spaced a foot apart, and stand about one-inch high. PBOT has installed them only on the curved portion of the Couch bike lane — a segment of roadway that has raised bike safety concerns since the day it opened.

In April 2010 we reported how the curves encouraged people operating cars and buses to encroach dangerously into the bike lane. After a crash involving a bicycle rider, PBOT realized they’d made an error in the striping design and would work to fix it. After widening the bike lane and adding a buffer a month later, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance said the bike lane was still a safety risk. In 2013, PBOT installed solar-powered, LED lights inside reflectors that were embedded into the pavement. Those lights have since been torn out.

Fast forward to today’s new installation. “PBOT noticed that the outside buffer stripe had been worn away by people who were driving taking the corner too sharply,” said PBOT spokesman John Brady. “This gave us the opportunity to test a new rumble bar to give people who are driving an audible warning and vibration when they encroach into the bike lane.”


I stopped by today for a closer look. The new rumble bars are indeed quite loud. I know that because the majority of people who drove by them plowed right over them. For some reason people really like to shave the angle of the curve and not even a loud noise and vibration will stop them.

Here are some more photos:

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Brady says PBOT is also installing these new rumble bars on North Greeley and Interstate. That location also has a troubled past: It’s where post office worker Mike Cooley was struck and paralyzed by a hit-and-run driver as he rode home from work in 2013. PBOT is currently facing a $21 million lawsuit in that case.

Funding for the rumble strips came from PBOT’s Missing Links program, the same small pot of money ($50,000 – $100,000 per year) dedicated to bikeway improvements that funded the new flexible posts on SW 13th and Clay.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


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