Ask BikePortland: Do I have to stop for red lights while riding on ‘Better Naito’?

Ask BikePortland: Do I have to stop for red lights while riding on ‘Better Naito’?

The cones and wide bike lane are temporary, the legal requirement to stop at lights is not.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The cones and wide bike lane are temporary, the legal requirement to stop at lights is not.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Ask BikePortland is a regular column. Browse the archives or drop us a line if you have a question you’d like us to answer.

Today’s question is about Better Naito, the temporary project that has created a two-way, 15-foot lane for biking and walking on Naito Parkway.

Reader Skip Winters lives in West Linn and commutes into northeast Portland (thanks to an electric bike he says). His favorite part of the ride is Naito Parkway, especially now with the generous amount of space and safety afforded by the new alignment. But he’s confused about the signals.

Here’s his question:

“I’m just a bit confused about the signage and the rules – and have in the past month seen all variations of how riders are handling it. Some folks cruise along ignoring the lights. Some full stop if they are red – causing a few near-collisions with bikes treating the intersection, red light or not, as ‘full-speed through traffic.’

Are we supposed to stop at red lights only if there are pedestrians? Is that why the “Stop for Peds” signs have been painted and placed on the cones?”

Adding to the confusion is there is at least one bike specific traffic light near the Morrison Street bridge. Should we infer that that’s the only light to pay attention to? In addition to watching for pedestrians?”







Thanks for asking this question Skip!

I’ve been riding this at least once a day and have seen (and felt) the confusion first-hand. As an aside, T-intersections where the bike lane continues have long been a pet-peeve of mine. Along with allowing “Idaho stops,” I think we should allow bicycle riders to carefully roll through T-intersections when it’s safe. But I digress, let’s get you some answers…

I asked PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera what’s up.

To the chagrin of you “full-speed” types, Rivera said — surprise! — everyone needs to stop for the red lights. “Those people are doing the wrong sort of cruising. If you want to get technical about it,” he added, “by the definitions of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the people on bicycles are part of the intersection (<30 feet from the Naito traffic signal) and therefore they should stop at the red light." And what about the "Stop for Peds" signs? Should people infer that it's cool to roll through if nobody is walking across the street? Nope. "That's the wrong inference," Rivera said. "If the light is red, you should stop." While laws are cut-and-dry, the signalization is confusing and it's one of the downsides of the Better Naito project. If you have feedback on this issue, please make sure to let the City know about it by emailing NaitoParkway@portlandoregon.gov.

CORRECTION: This post initially stated that the City’s response came from Signals, Lighting and ITS Division Manager Peter Koonce. I regret the error and any confusion it may have cause.

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

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