Imagine a Pedestrian and Bicycle Friendly Barbur Boulevard

This post was written by Keith Liden, a Southwest resident,  BTA member, and land-use planner. He is a long-time member of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee and is currently representing the BTA on ODOT’s Barbur Bridge Rehabilitation Project as part of our Project Advisory Council. (Photo by Roger Averbeck; diagram by Carl Larson.)

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently held an open house to get public comments regarding potential safety improvements for people walking and bicycling on the Newbury and Vermont bridges located on Barbur Boulevard between Capitol Highway and Terwilliger Boulevard — the bridges at which Barbur’s bike lanes end and people on bicycles are pushed out into high-speed traffic.

The safety improvements being proposed — wider sidewalk on the west side of the bridges — are good but not a long-term fix. At best, they would give uphill cyclists the option of riding on a still-narrow sidewalk.

Luckily, there might be a forward-thinking, inexpensive, long-term fix on the table. ODOT has indicated a willingness to consider a “road diet” for this portion of Barbur Boulevard to provide adequate space for pedestrians and cyclists on the bridges.  A road diet would involve reducing the current 4-lane cross section to 3 lanes.  This space could then be used to create:

  • Buffered bike lanes in both directions, and standard bike lanes on the bridges and provide a pedestrian walkway in the location of the existing northbound bike lane; or
  •  A multi-use pathway for pedestrians and cyclists on the east side of Barbur Boulevard (as illustrated).

This may be possible because a recent evaluation by ODOT indicates there is sufficient roadway capacity to accommodate today’s traffic demand with 3 travel lanes (2 southbound and 1 northbound).  ODOT traffic projections indicate that 1 lane northbound could create capacity problems during the morning peak (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) by 2035.  Although it was not evaluated, this study suggests there may be potential for a road diet north of Capitol Highway to Hamilton or Naito.

Barbur Boulevard has enormous potential to be a primary bicycle route between downtown and southwest Portland because it is the most direct route with a moderate grade.  Enhancing the existing bike lanes and providing bike lanes on the Newbury and Vermont bridges would remove the primary obstacles to bicycling on this important route.

It’s exciting to see ODOT taking a multi-modal approach to their roads and making safety for all users a top priority.

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Comments (6)

  1. Heidi W Permalink  | Dec 24, 2012 09:51am

    This is the most nerve wracking segment of my morning commute from Tigard to downtown. This would be an incredible improvement to the craziness that is Barbur Blvd!

  2. Ryan Permalink  | Dec 24, 2012 11:40am

    Who can we write to in support of this proposal?

    Would this be a part of the current work being done on the bridges or is it being considered as a future project?

    I used to ride Barbour to Lewis and Clark and this was by-far the worst part!

  3. Edward Lanton Permalink  | Dec 24, 2012 08:56pm

    I’d be very concerned about a two way bicycle lane given the speed differential between bicycles going uphill and downhill on much of Barbur.

  4. James C. Parsons Permalink  | Dec 24, 2012 11:54pm

    I’m not sure about which side this multi-direction bike lane is supposed to be on… If I read it right, it would be on the uphill (outbound from downtown) side. If so, I’d request that it be put on the inbound side. There is a lot less opportunity for a right hook (outbound cyclists) on the inbound side, due to the lack of roads that turn off to the right (inbound). Sure it means crossing the street somewhere, and again at the other end, but you’d have to do that anyway if this was done.

  5. Carl (BTA) Permalink  | Jan 14, 2013 02:55pm

    A road diet would provide opportunities for quite a few different solutions on Barbur. A bi-directional facility is only one of them. Most discussion of a bi-directional facility has assumed that it would be on the east side of the road so as to avoid the Capitol Hwy ramp. Signals and crosswalks at Hamilton and Miles could be used to transition between one-way and two-way facilities. That’s just one idea though. With a dozen-or-so feet to work with, it’s not the only answer. Edward is right that the speed differential is a concern and would require plenty of space. As with anything, there are pros and cons. We hope that ODOT engineers, perhaps with the help of PBOT, will draw up a few different potential solutions to consider.

  6. Kevin Wagoner Permalink  | Jan 14, 2013 04:54pm

    I really hope they do this. Barber is so dangerous to ride on. It was really open up the SW to have a safe and convient route to downtown. Is there anything I can do to help make this happen?