G R E E L E Y gauntlet (bike lane commute)

This Video attempts to document the poor cycling conditions where Greeley Avenue splits to the Interstate 5 Southbound on-ramp and the intersection of North Interstate Avenue.

Rather than write a completely new post about this subject, I have compiled commentary from a BikePortland post and the npGREENWAY flickr page below the video.

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commenter #1 says:

HEY! PDOT! FIX THIS INTERSECTION! As a car driver…I have say, merging a bike into 45+ mph traffic [STINKS.]
Posted 2 weeks ago.

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npGREENWAY says:

ditto. See discussion on BikePortland.org starting here:
Posted 2 weeks ago.

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commenter #2 says:

I’ve never ridden Greeley at rush hour. Can you merge left prior to this onramp? I do this all the time where Barbur splits onto Naito, but traffic there is a) heavy (which is easier to merge into IMO) and b) seldom moving above 40mph.
Posted 2 weeks ago.

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commenter #1 says:

Not really, without taking the full right lane and riding on the dotted line between the left and right lanes (even more unappealing since traffic in the right hand lane actually tends to be traveling faster than on the left, since people on the left are slowing preparing to brake at the light at interstate & greeley). I agree about heavy traffic tending to move more slowly and therefore being easier to merge into. There never seems to be quite enough traffic to cause stop-and-going here though.

  1. Scott Mizée
    March 15th, 2008 21:49

    […]This isn’t exactly a location for a bike box, but it reminds me, do you think we could lay down some green on the way up Greely heading south towards Interstate at the I-5 on ramp split? It is the worst part of my commute in the morning.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZd9WD8torM Right now, there is only a tiny yield to bikes sign. And 9 times out of 10, us bicyclists end up yielding to the 45+ mph automobiles. Has this intersection been discussed?

  2. Roger Geller
    March 15th, 2008 22:08

    I don’t believe there is a “Yield to Bikes” sign at this approach. I’m pretty sure the sign is for bikes to yield. The bike lane is designed to bring cyclists to a point where they stop and must yield to the very fast car traffic heading up the I-5 ramp. We designed that bike lane so cyclists would stop, turn back and look at the traffic, and then wait for a gap sufficient for a safe crossing.

  3. Scott Mizée
    March 15th, 2008 23:21

    Thanks for your response. Here is a photo of the intersection we are talking about:
    closeup of sign:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/npgreenway/2337081688/ The sign is in pictures. I don’t know if this is something I should have learned in studying for my driver’s license, but when I saw the bicycle and the yield symbol below it I made the presumption that larger vehicles were supposed to yield to bikes. Are you saying that the sign means the opposite of that? I of course yield to large trucks when I check over my shoulder and see them before heading across the large vehicle traffic lane, but I had always presumed that it was also their responsibility to yield to the more vulnerable road user. Personally, I don’t feel safe waiting at this spot between the concrete jersey barrier and high speed traffic. I’d much rather get over to the center island as soon as possible. Surely I’m not the only one who has thought this here?

  4. Metal Cowboy
    March 16th, 2008 00:22

    Scott and Roger – I live not far from this spot, and use it every day on my commute and find it to be the most uncomfortable moment of the ride – I also feel unsafe waiting in that space for a gap to safely shoot across. Often, I get the lane and get the run without having to stop because I don’t leave at high traffic volume times of day (benefit of working mostly from home) but that yield/bike sign is unclear to me as well. Though truth be told I always assume that when cars are coming that fast I will yield or become a stat. I’d love a better set up but I can’t think of what that would be – it’s OK when I’m pedaling at 10am but 8am is a ups truck nightmare.

  5. Roger Geller
    March 16th, 2008 00:40

    Scott and Metal Cowboy,
    That sign means that you, the bicyclist, must yield. You, the cyclist, are crossing a travel lane when you go from right to left. You must yield to the traffic whose lane you’re crossing.

  6. Refunk
    March 16th, 2008 00:59

    Scott M.,
    Pretty sure Roger’s correct. The sign’s size and graphic style (color scheme, element proportions) says, “bike,” or Multi-User Path, not automotive traffic. As for any motor vehicle being required by ORS (as opposed to common sense or courtesy) “to yield to the more vulnerable road user,” I wasn’t aware OR or WA used any such wording. If so, I’m sure the majority of cagers would consider it a responsibility to be self-interpreted, like those oft-ignored 36″ b & w signs with numerals on ’em found along every roadway… Man, you are right on about how wonderful it would be to see more cyclist “priority” signals in town–now there’s a project for funding. Wouldn’t these serve multiple safety functions, some of which could equal the effect of a bike box? But Bike Boxes are good. I can think of a few places in the ‘couve that could use ’em…

  7. Refunk
    March 16th, 2008 01:04

    Hmmm. I began writing the posting @ #25 before the Metal Cowboy (#23) & Roger (#24) posted their most recent. Postus Interruptus strikes again, sigh.

  8. Paul Souders
    March 16th, 2008 02:17

    Re: Greeley on-ramp (#19-22): I take the lane, traffic permitting, and merge two lanes left. I’ve seldom done so at this location however as it’s not on my commute. There is a similar crossing on my commute inbound on SW Barbur, where Barbur splits right to Naito. Bikes are intended to exit to the sidewalk, dismount, cross Naito in the crosswalk, then return to Barbur. I did this exactly once, the first time I rode this route (about 5 yrs. ago) and it was as stupid as it sounds. I ride that route 2-3 days/wk. + have never seen anyone else attempt the “recommended” crossing.

  9. Scott Mizée
    March 16th, 2008 05:51

    Roger, Joe, Paul, Mr. Refunk,and others, I agree that the size of the sign communicates that it is most likely not to be seen unless you are in/on a slow moving vehicle. Couldn’t we write on the sign something a little more straight forward like “Cyclists Must Yield to Automobiles”? The graphics are confusing. The dichotomy between the brutal reality of the situation in which cyclists find themselves and the message the sign is trying to communicate go against everything natural that our minds are trying to tell us. We are taught that we are vehicles and have a right to the lane, that we should merge with traffic when possible, etc, etc. Surely it is acceptable for traffic to stop at the bottom of this ramp for bikes as it is for them to stop at the traffic light on ramp meter at the top?!? I like the note that someone placed on my flickr photo “Hey, I’m just cruising along on my bike at 12mph. Oh wait.. holy crap, this bike lane ends and I have to get over. Wait, the traffic on my left, which I have to cross/merge into, is actually SPEEDING UP at 50+ mph to get onto this interstate highway onramp. And I have to cross it…” What would have to be done for us to get this intersection changed?

  10. Jim O’Horo
    March 16th, 2008 07:40

    The [bikes] yield sign at the I-5 on-ramp is really just a reinforcement of the right of way rules which already cover this situation. Traffic going straight in its lane (the on-ramp) has the right of way over traffic crossing the lane (bikes leaving the bike lane and crossing the on-ramp). Pretty straightforward when you think it through.

  11. Refunk
    March 16th, 2008 09:48

    Good Morning, Scott. Agree that the graphics on yer Greely sign could be better, or perhaps, more emphatic (yer set of three images @ #22 does a good job of illustrating your point). As for autos stopping for bikes at the bottom of the ramp, well, their last posted speed (let alone actual speed) has gotta be a factor. Personally, I treat intersections like this exactly like I do when cyclotouring through a stretch of Interstate highway (say, I-84 in the Gorge, or I-5 farther down the Willamette Valley). No way in Heck do I expect following traffic to slow down or stop for me as I cross an offramp entry from a high-speed roadway: if something’s coming, visible turn-signal or not, I assume it’s gonna cream me if I pull in front of it and wait at a point directly opposite from where I’ve chosen to cross on the shoulder. If the lane adjacent to the offramp is clear enough to permit a safe crossing distance/timewise, I proceed after waiting at the side or directly in a straight path if no following traffic is present. Yes, I consider myself “traffic,” but from a safety standpoint (trust no one) as well as a practical deference to the fact of following vehicles’ physics & legal operating speed in that segment of roadway, I do not feel inconvenienced at waiting any more than I would waiting to cross Burnside or 39th, etc. Other than a bike subway/underpass or the like, I cannot imagine what else PDOT could do there on Greely. Even a bicycle-activated signal would screw up that stretch of automotive traffic, most likely due to frequency of cycle usage. As for cycling on Interstate highways, yeah, I know, it’s not everyone’s cup of chai. I’ll tellya what, though: once ya get over the sound of semi-tractors roaring past, it certainly seems safer than any shared roadway in the city (eight foot shoulders, excellent line-of-sight, all intersections lit up, and so on). Not to ride a whole journey upon, just as needed. That Greely Interstate onramp is no different than situations encountered riding on OR-224 or SR-14 in Washington, both of which are [kinda] in the metro PDX area & see their share of bicycle traffic. Bike Boxes, Green Lanes–go, Portland!!

  12. Steve
    March 16th, 2008 09:53

    Scott, Roger, et al.,
    The crossing of Greely at the I-5 merge is the reason I now go out of my way and go over to Interstate and follow it south. Ironic that I feel safer going through an intersection (Greely and Interstate) where onecyclist lost his life and another was injured but the excessive driving speed along Greely just make it nerve racking. Along with HWY 30 two least favorite roads.

  13. Roger Geller
    March 16th, 2008 09:54

    It would not be acceptable to ask traffic moving at 45+ mph, heading to a freeway on-ramp and in their own lane, to stop to allow bicycle traffic to cross their lane. I think it would be extremely dangerous. I think the best design for this type of intersection would be to create some type of grade separation between cyclists and auto drivers via a bicycle ramp that flew up over the off-ramp. When we designed this bike lane we wanted to swing it way out to the right and then bring it back to the on-ramp so that cyclists would be behind the Jersey barrier and aligned at 90 degrees to the on-ramp while waiting for a gap in car traffic. Unfortunately, the lane just behind those barriers is owned by Union Pacific and there was really very little hope of negotiating with them–even if we could have afforded such a design.

  14. Refunk
    March 16th, 2008 10:00

    Yeah, like Wheeledpower says, the NPGreenway is the solution to Greely! And like Burr says, maybe PDOT could make over a lane on Hawthorne near the article’s bike box. People pre-emptively whine about this beforehand (all cagers, of course), but an excellent example is busy Fourth Plain Blvd in Vancouver which was restriped from two lanes each way down to one each way with a median turn-lane and some bike lane: traffic not only did not clog up, it became smoother (some of which was attributable to big trucks moving over onto Mill Plain). Some kinda change on Hawthorne would be nice.

  15. Scott Mizée
    March 16th, 2008 12:47

    […] Perhaps the thought of another stoplight here would help the [trucking companies] and others give […] the right of way along the Cement Road and we could avoid this nasty conundrum all together?
    Did I mention that there is already a light at the TOP of this onramp requiring EVERYONE to stop during high traffic times?

  16. Metal Cowboy
    March 16th, 2008 14:52

    […]After watchin Scott’s video I was NOT speaking of the on ramp to I-% where it splits to ramp or greeley to interstate near Brett’s ghost bike – though that is another hairy spot – but I treat it in this manner – I just watch with my mirror and wait to cross or come to a slower track stand position until it’s clear then cross over and keep going – sometimes when I feel fast and strong I take the lane and cross early – if the cars are far enough back – but the signage could be more clear – my biggest concern on the downhill coming from adidas is that merge over to the far right with the UPS trucks and everyone else coming up the hill at 45 miles per hour while i’m barreling down it. I don’t feel very safe slowing way down and waiting to cross over when there is traffic going very fast down the hill to my left. I do it almost everyday but a greenway would solve those issues – could I access the proposed greemnway from willamette blvd near greeley or will I need to backtrack to some spot to pick it up ( all pending we get a greenway someday.)

  17. Zaphod
    March 16th, 2008 15:41

    Two comments:
    1) Hurray to see delivery of some fresh green bike boxes. The data suggests that they will indeed increase safety at these locations. I think a secondary effect worth mentioning is an incremental improvement in legitimization of cyclists all over the city in motorist’s eyes. 2) Route finding. There’s a fair bit of dialog regarding the Interstate Greeley area. I submitted a letter to PDOT on a nearby intersection where the Knott onramp merges with Greeley and they promised to investigate. This is great and I anxiously await their response BUT I will say that all of those roads are really best avoided in my opinion. While I’m all for fairness in road and route access, I’m also for staying safe. While Greeley/Interstate may be the most direct, much safer alternates can be had for the small investment of sub five minutes. I am by no means a timid cyclist but cars & trucks blazing at 50+mph… I’ll stick to the urban grid. My point is that it’s worth it to architect your commute to be safe and enjoyable at the expense of a few minutes. That’s a few more minutes *riding* which is a good thing.

  18. Esther
    March 16th, 2008 16:44

    By suggesting that PDOT and ODOT make some changes at the Swan Island onramp to Greeley and the Greeley offramp to I-5, I am not saying that I unreasonably or unrealistically expect that every single road can be made bike-friendly, that I refuse to go out of my way for safety’s sake, or that I am not extra-cautious and yielding to cars and trucks for that reason. For instance, I doubt that Highway 30 could really be improved. So, living in St. Johns, pretty much my only safe and relatively pleasant option to get to work downtown or to the inner east side is to take Willamette to Greeley or Interstate, and my commute is already over 8 miles. Going to Vancouver/Williams adds another mile. Going over to Interstate (vs. taking Greeley) actually adds about a half mile, the lights on Interstate are poorly timed which adds even more time, and despite the higher speeds on Greeley I actually feel just as safe because the shoulder is wider than the narrow car & bike lanes on Interstate wedged in between the max and sidewalk, not to mention the spots where there is street front park–that is, I just about feel safer going down Greeley, EXCEPT at these two intersections. Yes the Greenway is the best long term long distance option, but in the meantime I don’t see why putting the ideas of a bike overpass, light(s), a bike box, etc. at those two intersections is such a bad thing. Practically every other interstate highway on-ramp has a light at the intersection. In fact I have a hard time thinking of any that DON’T!!! But usually it is because there is opposing car traffic, here the problem is that the only conflict is between cars and bikes, not cars and cars.

  19. Esther
    March 16th, 2008 17:00

    I would also like to note that Greeley is not only the most convenient route for and used by those of us coming from St. Johns (and Cathedral park), but also for people coming from all of University Park and Portsmouth, as well as the west end chunks of Kenton and Arbor Lodge. I think there is currently a big influx of people into North Portland who will want and use more accessible bike routes – like myself and my partner, two different neighbors on our block who also moved up here from SE and NE in the last year and also ride bikes, a bunch of my best friends who have moved to Arbor Lodge and Portsmouth, et al.

  20. Metal Cowboy
    March 16th, 2008 18:27

    I live on Willamette near greeley and Esther is not blowing smoke about it being a much used route to get to downtown. I find it safer than going over to interstate and down. Though it’s the higher speed route the hill where brett was killed and the lights and traffic along interstate is not as enjoyable – once you get past the on ramp that shoots up from swan island it’s actually a nice pedal along the railroad tracks followed by the somewhat confusing cross lane I-5 ramp, the next problem – and spot where ppb could make their budget in an afternoon would be handing out tickets to drivers who don’t use the roundabout at interstate and russell where Widmir is. there’s a ton of signage saying that the two right lanes are for turning only and that you need to go through the light go round and wait for the red light to proceed east on Russell – it burns me everytime I pedal through the green light wait at the red only to see cars using the right lanes to dodge their red light cross a double yellow and whip by me to make the green that I’ve been waiting for. I’ve sat there for a few moments and counted five out of ten cars doing this. There needs to be more signage – My wife got in an accident because of some jackdonkey pulling this nonsense. Roger has anyone complained about this because it’s repeatedly violated all day long.

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One Response to G R E E L E Y gauntlet (bike lane commute)

  1. Jason March 31, 2008 at 4:35 am #

    Great video…I can’t believe I was able to survive accident free all my commutes through that intersection.

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