Tag Archives: portland

Bike Boxes explained

Portland bike box where cyclist had been killed

photo credit: bikeportland.org

At last week’s focus group input meeting, the term “bike boxes” came up during a discussion of intersection accommodations for bicycles. You’ll soon see them installed in Dallas as part of the Bike Plan along with cycletracks, bike lanes, and sharrows. Here’s a primer on how they work:

A Bike Box, or Advanced Stop Line (ASL) is a designated safe place at the front of an intersection so people on bikes queue up in front of car traffic. The National Association of City Transportation officials lists the benefits:

  • Increases visibility of bicyclists.
  • Reduces signal delay for bicyclists.
  • Facilitates bicyclist left turn positioning at intersections during red signal indication. This only applies to bike boxes that extend across the entire intersection.
  • Facilitates the transition from a right-side bike lane to a left-side bike lane during red signal indication. This only applies to bike boxes that extend across the entire intersection.
  • Helps prevent ‘right-hook’ conflicts with turning vehicles at the start of the green indication.
  • Provides priority for bicyclists at signalized bicycle boulevard crossings of major streets.
  • Groups bicyclists together to clear an intersection quickly, minimizing impediment to transit or other traffic.
  • Bicyclists can avoid breathing exhaust while queued at the signal.
  • Contributes to the perception of safety among users of the bicycle network.
  • Pedestrians benefit from reduced vehicle encroachment into the crosswalk.

Portland started deploying them in 2007 after two right-hook cyclist fatalities, as have other cities (New York, Austin, San Francisco). Researchers in Portland studied bike box response behavior and found that a majority of drivers were made more aware of bicyclists:

89 percent of motorists surveyed prefer the green-colored bike boxes to those that consist only of a white outline. Also, 43 percent of motorists surveyed feel the bike boxes make driving less convenient at the intersections, while 55 percent believe the bike boxes make drivers more aware of bicyclists generally.

Here’s a Streetsblog article showing installation of bike boxes in San Francisco; notice their boxes aren’t painted, but applied like stickers, and they feature a grippy surface to aid stopping.

If you want the full video experience, this Streetsblog film shows the Portland boxes in action.

Portland (Green) Bike Box! from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

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Meet Peter Koonce, Portland traffic engineer

Maybe this video is only interesting to transportation wonks (hand raised), but it’s too good not to post. This is Peter Koonce, Portland traffic engineer, discussing the limitations of the MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) – the guiding text of American road design.

Tasty quotes:

  • [Capacity] is one of those elements that they suggest widening the roadway as the solution, when in reality that may just be exacerbating the problem.
  • It’s ingrained in us as engineers that pedestrians may be an impediment as opposed to important users that we should prioritize.
  • At our downtown Portland streets, we’re progressing cars at 15-16mph.
  • If you’re walking most of the time, then when you get in your car you’ll be more respectful.
  • The easiest mode to serve is a pedestrian. Once the sidewalks are poured, you don’t have to repave. The sidewalks in my neighborhood are from 1907.

via Intersection911.org via BikePortland:

Peter Koonce, Portland traffic engineer riding a cargo bike


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The new model

As I fly towards the sixth most bike-friendly city in America, San Francisco, my eye catches a photo of happy, everyday cycle commuters on page 32 of The Economist.

If you’d like to read what conditions in Portland favored their rapid rise in bike-friendliness, I suggest you read this article. Of particular note:

1) limiting sprawl, so urban density increases, public transit is more efficient, and bike route design moves more people per mile. Denton has yet to stop sprawling, and we are spending tens of millions on expanding road infrastrucure while the urban core roads decay (nice sidewalk updates aside). Do we implement limits, as Portland did, or do we wait to hit the edges, like Plano? Either way, the end of sprawl will benefit the city immensely.

2) “keep Portland weird”. Yeah, we all know where they stole the slogan. But here’s the rub, Denton too is “weird” or “charming”, especially in contrast to the other DFW suburbs. Perhaps Denton’s unique character doesn’t need a slogan to reinforce it. “keep Denton beard” is funnier, at least.

3) Portland, San Fran, Boston are all “elite cities” that attract young, rich, and single. With the coming A-train, more and more residential density downtown, city intention to build bike infrastructure, creative gravity of music/NX35/art, Denton could be a new kind of model town, a hybrid Davis/Mini-Austin, perhaps in 10 years. Denton is a human-scale, walkable, bikeable, unique affordable town poised for some upgrades. Will that attract spendy elites? Maybe not, but younger families who own houses, have modest income, vote, pay taxes, and vocalize their preferences are a new, reshaping force in Denton. The Economist won’t write the Denton article until we’ve resiliently worked towards the new model for a decade. That and we stop sprawling one way or another.


Free Ice Cream for Bike Lane Workers

via BikePortland.org:

Icicle Tricycles kicked off a new Bike Business League program, “Free Ice Cream for Bike Lane Builders” by thanking the PBOT crew responsible for building the new cycle track on SW Broadway.

The cycle track is a bike lane separated from traffic with a buffer zone, which can include parked cars on the left side.  The project removed a lane of car traffic to accommodate the cycle track, and it’s brought quite a bit of attention to the phenomenon.  Notice the nice painted left-turn lane in the photo above.

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Portland Traffic Lane Widths

In our previous post about the Oak/Hickory proposed parking ban and bike lane striping, we discussed that the city would like to widen the automotive traffic lanes to 12′ wide, each.  I just noticed an article from BikePortland today in which a two-way cycle track would run alongside a one-way boulevard.  I noticed that the proposed traffic lanes will be 11′ for autos and streetcars.

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Fortworthology Goes To Portland

I’ve been to Portland quite a few times, and I really enjoy the transit variety there.  Buses, streetcars, MET train (free in downtown, has bike hooks), tons of bike lanes, and even bike lanes on bridges.  Portland has a “Last Thursday” art-walk in Portland which is now car free, after the city agreed to repeating street closures.  For a Texan, the experience can be pretty overwhelming, and the openness towards multi-modal transit and new urbanism contributes to Portland’s appeal to the creative class.  

There are so many things I enjoy about Portland that they’re hard for me to succinctly articulate.  Lucky for me, Fortworthology has already written a series of articles about Portland, and this one is about cycling in Portland.

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