ODOT hosts event to highlight bicycle access through work zones

ODOT hosts event to highlight bicycle access through work zones

A new type of "channelization device" ODOT plans to use this summer.(Photo: State of Oregon)

A new type of “channelization device” ODOT plans to use this summer.
(Photo: State of Oregon)

The Oregon Department of Transportation is hosting an interesting event. They’re asking people to ride a bicycle (or walk) through a work zone to see what it’s like first-hand.

The event happens tomorrow (May 18th) in front of ODOT’s headquarters in Salem where the agency has set up a temporary work zone to demonstrate how their crews are using new materials to ensure safe passage by people using feet and bikes. The event is part of the state’s Transportation Safety Month and it’s being done to help kickoff the summer road construction season.

“Have you ever ridden a bike through a work zone? Sound daunting? How does ODOT protect bicyclists and pedestrians in work zones?” reads an ODOT media advisory about the event. “Come find out! Bring your GoPros! Show the unusual perspective of riding through a work zone on two wheels.” (Love how they assume biking through a work zone is “unusual”.)

According to ODOT someone crashes in a work zone every 19 hours in Oregon (about 477 a year) and about seven people die in those crashes annually. Statistically, the most common cause of work zone crashes are people simply not paying attention and driving too fast for conditions.

To help make bicycling through work zones safer, this year ODOT will debut a new type of bicycle-specific safety product in work zones they call the “Bicycle Channelizing Device.” (We mentioned these briefly back in December in an article where we called out ODOT’s framing of biking and walking traffic in work zones as “problem children.”) The idea is to create a physically protected space for people to ride or walk (there are also “pedestrian channelization devices”) through construction zones.

Here’s more about these new devices from a backgrounder ODOT has created:

It is a lightweight plastic barrier system that guides cyclists along a pathway, keeping them from entering into active work areas or coming into contact with workers or equipment. Development of additional design standards and application details are currently underway. ODOT is expecting to use a bicycle channelizing device in a highway construction starting in June 2016.

It’s great to see ODOT doing an event like this. And even better that they are making bike-specific improvements part of their approach to work zones — which probably get more attention from the agency than any other safety topic.

Work zones and the lack of adequate detours through/around them is currently a hot topic in Portland advocacy circles. We’d love to see the Portland Bureau of Transportation host an event like this.

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

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