For over a week now, PortlandStreetcar’s repair of the non-slip surface on the bridge’s north sidewalk has forced all bike and pedestrian traffic onto the bridge’s narrow south sidewalk. With nearly 5,000 people biking across the bridge each day, this has created a dangerous situation.
For the BTA it is an unnecessarily dangerous situation. The Broadway Bridge, afterall, has four lanes. Why not devote one motor vehicle lane to carry the bike traffic that would normally be on the sidewalk? Luckily, when I called around to ask that question, I was put in touch with someone who was willing to entertain the idea. Jamie Jeffrey, the PBOT engineer in charge of this detour, was open to new ideas and, after a few days work, she was able to come up with a much better detour plan (Broadway Br Sidewalk-Lane Closure TCP) for phase two of this work: rehabbing the south sidewalk.
Starting Thursday, the south sidewalk will be closed to people walking and riding bikes. The original plan was to direct all traffic to the north sidewalk. For westbound bicyclists, that would have meant negotiating the streetcar tracks and complicated signal on the Broadway viaduct where NW Broadway and Lovejoy merge — not a pretty picture. PBOT and PortlandStreetcar had considered converting a motor vehicle lane to a cycletrack for this detour but had concerns about impacts on the east end of the bridge at the intersection of N Larrabee. They felt that “the right turn car/bike conflicts (created) at Larrabee (on the east end of the bridge) were far more significant than the narrow two-way bike/ped conditions, and were thus unacceptable.” We encouraged reconsideration of the lane-conversion plan and, with some brainstorming, Jamie came up with a plan with which all parties were comfortable.
The Southmost lane on the bridge deck will be coned off and is only to be used by eastbound bicyclists.
Motor vehicles turning right on Larrabee still pose a right-hook risk, so it’s important to slow down and take care at the east end of the bridge. Westbound bicyclists are reminded that all pedestrian traffic will be on the north sidewalk slowing down and exercising care is encouraged there as well.
It’s great when we can help make quick fixes happen but how do we ensure that last-minute fixes like these aren’t necessary in the first place? How do we create detour standards that rule out dangerous detours like the current Broadway Bridge arrangement or the current west side of the Sellwood Bridge? That’s a challenge we’re starting to tackle, but it’s a big one. For now, it’s nice to know that we now have a safe model for closing the south sidewalk on the Broadway Bridge (because it’ll probably have to be closed again sometime in the future) and that tomorrow should be the last day of sidewalk sharing insanity.
Many thanks to Todd Boulanger for helping provide solutions and Chris Smith for putting us in touch with the right people.