With a major renovation nearing completion on the historic arch bridge over the Willamette River that connects Oregon City and West Linn, people are wondering whether or not bicycle access on the span could be improved if sharrows were installed.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently installed the markings on the St. Johns Bridge. Upon learning about work being done on the Oregon City bridge, reader Jonathan Gordon emailed ODOT staff to request they consider a similar treatment.
“I find that cars are much less likely to honk/yell at me on the St. Johns Bridge now that they expect to share the road with me,” reads Gordon’s email to ODOT Community Affairs Coordinator Susan Hanson.
Like the St. Johns, the Oregon City bridge is owned and managed by ODOT. Both bridges also share the dubious distinction of having no bike lanes or other space on the main deck dedicated specifically to bicycling. Another similarity is that both bridges have sidewalks that are narrow and require sharp turning movements and barely enough room for sharing the space with other users. But there are also major differences. The St. Johns has four lanes (two in each direction) and is much wider and longer, leading to higher motor vehicle speeds. The Oregon City bridge is narrower and shorter, and speeds are slower. While the latter might seem better for bicycling, it also means that if people on bikes are taking the lane, people in cars wouldn’t be able to speed around them like the do on the St. Johns Bridge. (Perhaps the entire Oregon City bridge could be a no-passing zone?)
I too asked Susan Hanson about the possibility. She said they need to assess several things before they make a final decision. “We want to evaluate how they have worked on the St. Johns Bridge, especially because there are both similarities and differences in the two bridges,” she said. Hanson added that there are also some “traffic control decisions that are being finalized with the City of Oregon City that might have an impact on this potential” and that ODOT would need to discuss the issue with other jurisdictions around the bridge.
The Federal Highway Administration gave the official sanction to sharrows in 2009, stating that the markings indicate, “the appropriate bicyclist line of travel, and cues motorists to pass with sufficient clearance.”
At this point, Hanson says, “We are examining,” the sharrow possibility.
What do you think? If you have feedback about this you’d like ODOT to consider as they deliberate, please email Susan Hanson at Susan.C.Hanson@odot.state.or.us.