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Repaving on E Burnside brings newly buffered bike lanes

Repaving on E Burnside brings newly buffered bike lanes

buffered burnside

Yes, this guy doesn’t seem to know he’s riding in the buffer rather than the lane. Bike stencils or cross hatches would help.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Here’s an example of the sort of incremental bike-lane improvement we can hopefully expect to see more of now that the city has $9 million more per year to repave roads.

This spring, the city refinished East Burnside Street with a smooth new coat of asphalt. And when they did, they converted the 1990s-style door-zone bike lane to a more comfortable buffered bike lane between Interstate 205 and approximately 90th Avenue.

It’s not a major improvement but it does extend what was already a buffered bike lane on Burnside’s bridge across I-205 by about a third of a mile. This is the most comfortable crossing of I-205 anywhere south of Marine Drive, so it’s nice to improve the comfort a bit further west.

Burnside’s bike lanes remain tantalizingly incomplete — there’s a maddeningly short gap right around 82nd, plus the big one between East 13th Avenue and East 68th — but thanks to the I-205 crossing, the lanes seem to get plenty of use. I had three strangers in my riding cohort at 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and passed someone coming the other way at 82nd.

Why the city didn’t add some plastic bollards to create a floating parking lane and a protected curbside bike lane on this short stretch? I’m not sure. It’d have required some parking removal near the intersections but the parking lane seems to be barely in use today. Garbage collection, sweeping and plowing might have been part of it.

Incremental changes like these are useful, but without political action they’ll never amount to a complete, comfortable biking network.

In any case, this is a good example of how “maintenance” work in a city with bike-friendly staff can improve biking here and there. And it’s also a good illustration of the fact that without political action, incremental changes like these will never amount to a complete, comfortable biking network. This was a nice way to carve a little bit more bike space out of what had been needlessly wide auto lanes, but the moment an actual tradeoff was required — better bike lanes or auto parking, a choice forced because the street narrows west of 90th — the status quo wins. On that stretch, parking remains, now sitting atop a beautiful new coat of asphalt.

Removing parking here would have had political costs in a city with many battles to fight. But it’s a good indication that Portland will never, ever achieve its transportation goals without some sort of change to the political game.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Gap Week: 82nd Avenue and Burnside

Gap Week: 82nd Avenue and Burnside


East Burnside’s extremely important bike lane vanishes right where an “interested but concerned” biker might want it most.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Part of Gap Week.

Every morning and afternoon on East Burnside at 82nd Avenue, 10 cars at a time queue up in what ought to be a great advertisement for finding some other way to get around the city.

People on bikes, meanwhile, squeeze past to their right. They’re riding one of the city’s very few continuous bikeways connecting inner and outer East Portland.

east portland connectivity

Well, almost continuous.

Network context

As we wrote in 2014, East Burnside probably offers one of the most unique biking experiences in the United States. The one-hour ride from 182nd, where its bike lane begins, to North Tabor and central Portland, connects a 1 percent biking neighborhood to a 20 percent biking neighborhood. The difference between East Burnside’s eastern and western ends is about the same as the difference between central Portland and Amsterdam.

Burnside has huge practical value in bringing those worlds together, and not only because it offers solid bike lanes from Mount Tabor to 182nd. Because the MAX Blue Line has left just one auto lane in each direction for most of its length, Burnside is also a remarkably calm and low-stress street to bike on by East Portland standards.

But before you even leave the relatively bike-friendly parts of Portland, there’s a two-block stretch were Burnside’s crucial bike lanes just vanish: the blocks on either side of 82nd Avenue.

Existing conditions

82nd overhead annotated

To make room for center turn lanes, the 35-foot-wide street eliminates its bike lanes.

On the west approach, this happens just as the street crosses the driveway of a busy gas station.

gas station

On the east approach, it happens as the street crosses a couple of curb cuts to an auto sales lot, both of which are actually fenced off:

curb cuts

On both sides of the street, the City of Portland has striped the through lanes a bit wider on the approach to the intersection. This creates a shoulder that’s wide enough for people biking to sidle past while traffic is stopped.

squeeze room

And for the most part that’s what people do — people like David Kelly, a bike-commuting teacher at Madison High School who recently relocated east of 82nd.

dave kelly

The thing this squeeze point is missing, of course, is anyone who might be biking on Burnside if they weren’t freaked out about crossing 82nd Avenue without bike lanes, which would indicate to people driving that it might be a place to watch out for someone on a bike.

According to the city’s bike counts, about 800 people a day bike on Burnside at 86th, just east of here. That compares to something like 8,000 motor vehicles per day on the same part of Burnside, based on an afternoon peak-hour count of 761 through vehicles.

Bikes get 0 percent of the road width to themselves here.

What the future holds

In a project that’s scheduled for construction next month, the Oregon Department of Transportation will install a new traffic signal set at this corner, replacing the current overhead wires with overhead masts and adding a left-turn signal phase onto 82nd from Burnside. And they’ll slightly upgrade the diagonal pedestrian ramps that are there today into diagonal pedestrian ramps with truncated domes that make them friendlier to people with visual disabilities.

Adding traditional bike lanes here would require one of two options:

Removing the left-turn lanes. The city doesn’t seem to have recent counts of how many people turn left here onto 82nd, but it seems to be at least one per signal cycle during the peak hour. If the turn lanes were removed, the bike lanes could be continuous but auto traffic would back up further on Burnside while people waited to turn left. Another option would be to bar left turns.

Widening the roadway a bit. All four corners of this intersection are parking lots. Buying a few feet of road space on one side of Burnside or the other would be enough to shift the sidewalk inward and put a narrow bike lane on each side of the street right up to 82nd. All that would have a cost in the six figures — but then again, so will the new traffic signal being installed next month.

Asked about this bike lane gap, the Portland Bureau of Transportation said that in ODOT’s current project, “funding was not available to extend bike lanes through the intersection.” ODOT didn’t answer questions by late Tuesday afternoon.

There might be other ways to call attention to people biking here, such as a green thermoplastic crossbike in the intersection. Kelly, the Madison High School teacher, said he wished there were a bike box that would give him a place to stand in front of cars while he waits for the light, rather than hanging out to the right of a potentially right-turning vehicle.

“They have them all over Southeast,” Kelly said Monday. “Why not here?”


If you want to share your thoughts about this gap with PBOT, contact them via For ODOT, which manages 82nd Avenue, use the Ask ODOT service.

And stay tuned for our next gap. And we’re still taking submissions from readers. Tag your gaps with #GapWeekPDX or drop us a line with the location.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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E Burnside project adds auto parking, leaves out bike lanes

E Burnside project adds auto parking, leaves out bike lanes

E Burnside lane redesign project-11

The new design on East Burnside requires westbound cars to enter the new turn lane while passing westbound bikes.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Saying that any removal of on-street parking during a redesign of East Burnside Street would have required more time and money than the city could afford, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is boosting on-street parking instead.

The East Burnside Transportation Safety Project between 14th and 32nd Avenues, part of the city’s high-crash corridor program, has converted one westbound lane west of 32nd into a center turn lane and converted the rush-hour-only lanes east of 32nd into permanent parking lanes.

For people who ride bicycles west on Burnside, one result is that space that often functioned as a de-facto bike lane — the curbside auto lane — has been eliminated.

Another factor: East of 32nd on Burnside, the city’s Bicycle Master Plan calls for “separated in-roadway” bike lanes to eventually be installed on Burnside east of 28th Avenue. Last weekend’s restriping makes the “pro-tem” (non-peak-hour) parking in that stretch permanent, meaning it’ll have to be removed again before bike lanes can be added.

The new plan also creates 15 new pro-tem and permanent curbside parking spaces between 14th and 30th.

burnside bike plan

Detail from city bike plan map. The dashed blue lines represent “separated in-roadway” bike lanes.
(Click for a very large PDF of the bike plan map.)

On the other hand, crossing Burnside north and south by bike or foot is likely to be safer and more pleasant.

PBOT touts big safety benefit

It’s worth noting that this is a fairly dangerous stretch of road. Between 2002 and 2012, this stretch of Burnside saw 346 reported traffic crashes. At least 14 people were injured walking across Burnside on this stretch, and one was killed:

ped crashes burnside

The city estimates that this project will reduce crashes by 30 percent by reducing lane changes, shortening crossing distances and slowing auto speeds. With longer estimated auto travel times and increased auto congestion, some drivers are likely to use Ankeny and Couch as cut-throughs. Both of those streets are popular bike routes. PBOT says they plan to make “Ankeny bikeway improvements” in spring 2015.

City: no room for new bike lanes

But why didn’t the city add bike lanes, as it usually does on safety-related road diets? Clay Veka, who managed the project for the city’s crash-reduction program, offered two reasons.

First, at current traffic volumes, traffic engineers calculated that removing an eastbound travel lane would have caused significant congestion. Here’s what they calculated traffic counts would look like, hour by hour, with only one standard travel lane in each direction plus a turn lane:

one lane traffic projection

Traffic counts in the red zone would represent stop-and-go traffic during the corresponding hours.

Second, assuming both eastbound lanes are needed, there’s no room for a bike lane on Burnside without removing at least one lane of auto parking. City officials decided “early in the public process,” Veka said, that this wouldn’t be possible without an extensive public process.

The city held open houses on these changes in spring and fall 2013.

“This is a safety project on a $120,000 budget with expected crash reduction of 30 percent,” Veka wrote in an email Friday, defending the decision to keep the high-crash corridor project quick and lean.

Veka also said the bike lanes wouldn’t be well connected to the rest of the city’s bikeway system.

“While there would be a good tie with the 20s bikeway, we didn’t have a tie-in to the east leg,” she wrote. “It was determined that we would move this project forward for the safety benefits and build it in such a way that wouldn’t preclude bike facilities in the future.”

What the new design looks like

Though Burnside is one of the city’s most important biking arteries east of 82nd Avenue, its bike lanes currently end at 68th Avenue before picking up again (in a couplet with Couch) west of Sandy. Burnside is, of course, a major commercial destination between Chavez and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Jonathan rode the redesigned Burnside yesterday afternoon and captured photos of the new configuration:

E Burnside lane redesign project-1

E Burnside lane redesign project-2

E Burnside lane redesign project-4

E Burnside lane redesign project-5

As you can see, it’s possible for cars to pass westbound bikes by entering the turn lane. Next spring, the city will add crossing islands at 18th, 22nd and 24th, making passing a bit harder but probably reducing auto travel speeds.

E Burnside lane redesign project-6

E Burnside lane redesign project-8

Terry Dublinski-Milton, a biking advocate who participated in the public process, suggested in an email that bike lanes on Burnside weren’t seen as essential with two neighborhood greenways so close by.

“There is Couch and Ankeny one block over,” he said. “What WAS on the table from the beginning, and is still in the ‘may be funded’ stage, is an eastbound diverter for Ankeny to cut down on the traffic from 12th east. PBOT is waffling on this and really needs to be pushed.”

Still, he added, Metro’s Active Transportation Plan calculates that turning East Burnside into a bike route would have the best benefit/cost ratio of any street on the east side when it came to increasing bike traffic.

According to 2012 Census estimates, of the 73,057 Census tracts in the United States, the tracts running along Burnside in this stretch rank 38th and 149th for bike commuting. West of 28th Avenue, an estimated 20 percent of residents bike to work, while 35 percent drive. Between 28th and Chavez, it’s about 14 percent who bike and 48 percent who drive.

The Census doesn’t track the number of people who bike to other destinations such as the stores, eateries, venues and homes that line Burnside.

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Neighborhood group will gather support for Burnside road diet near Mt. Tabor

Neighborhood group will gather support for Burnside road diet near Mt. Tabor

Renderings created with Streetmix by BikePortland (top) and Terry Dublinski (bottom).

A neighborhood transportation activist backed by the North Tabor Neighborhood Association is looking for volunteers to help him research the effects of adding buffered or parking-protected bike lanes on Burnside.

“If it gets high-quality bike lanes, Burnside is the street that has most uptick of single-occupancy [vehicles] moving to bikes.”
— Terry Dublinksi, co-chair of North Tabor Neighborhood Association transportation committee

“Burnside, in the Metro active transportation plan, is the high-end bicycle parkway connector between East Portland and downtown,” Terry Dublinski, co-chair of North Tabor’s transportation committee, said at a meeting Tuesday night. If it gets high-quality bike lanes, Dublinski said, “Burnside is the street that has most uptick of single-occupancy moving to bikes. Glisan has all those onramps, and Stark and Belmont are too steep.”

A recent city lunch-and-learn presentation on those Metro findings inspired Dublinski, who lives on Burnside, to start gathering local support for a general restriping of Burnside that he says would also calm traffic near Mount Tabor Middle School and greatly improve Burnside crossings for people heading to Mount Tabor on bike or foot.

In the short term, he’s already gotten tentative city support for new bike lanes between 71st and 68th avenue. But Dublinski also hopes to make the case for bike lanes west to 48th, replacing “pro-tem” parking lanes that are sometimes used for parking and sometimes for travel. In the long run, he hopes to find a way to reduce traffic at the intersection of 47th and Burnside so the lanes can continue west to 41st.

Dublinski says people rarely use the “pro-tem” auto parking today, in part because speeds on Burnside are so high and off-peak traffic volumes are relatively low.

“Most of the time, all four lanes are open, so people just speed down the mountain,” Dublinski said. He’s already gotten signatures from nine of 10 people on his own Burnside-facing block, saying they’d be willing to forfeit auto parking on Burnside in exchange for safety improvements, and hopes to gather more.

Dublinski also says narrowing the auto travel zone will lower the cost of a controlled crossing at 57th Avenue.

“Without a crossing at 57th, Mount Tabor middle School is currently too dangerous for school children to safely access,” Dublinski writes in a memo describing his proposal. “Mount Tabor Park is a regional asset that should have safe access from every direction.”

The North Tabor Neighborhood Association unanimously endorsed buffered bike lanes on Burnside as part of its response letter to the city’s comprehensive plan.

With their blessing, Dublinski is forming a new working group called CURBS (“Citizens United Rebuilding Burnside Safely”). Its first meeting is Thursday, April 17, 7 p.m. at Laurelhurst Cafe, 47th and Burnside. The first order of business, he says, will probably be to gather hard data on the current demand for auto parking.

“I’m going to ride up and down the street taking parking counts at random times of day — hopefully I can get some volunteers,” Dublinski said. “I’m also slowly going door to door and knocking on each of these doors, trying to get support.”

Here are a few more renderings by Dublinski of possibilities for an East Burnside redesign, prepared using

Dublinski knows it’d take money to make these changes. That’s why he wants to gather the supporting data now.

“We’ll have a plan in hand in a few years when they have to grind down Burnside and repave,” Dublinski said. “If they really want to prioritize it, we could get this done in 2016 or 2017.”

To contact Dublinski, write

Correction 3:30 pm: A previous version of this post incorrectly summarized the position of the Montavilla Neighborhood Association. That group endorsed the general principles of a North Tabor letter to the city without commenting on its “detailed recommendations” such as buffered bike lanes on Burnside.