Bike lanes re-route SW Broadway traffic flow

Bike lanes re-route SW Broadway traffic flow »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – Cyclists get a little more elbow room on Monday after the City of Portland opened a new cycling track downtown to keep them safer.

On Southwest Broadway, there are two lanes for vehicle traffic, parked cars in the third lane and the far right lane reserved for bicycles, shielded from moving cars by a line of parked cars.

Cycle tracks, which are common in Europe, keep cars and bikes from intermingling. With a wide row of parked cars and a buffer zone for swinging car doors, the cycle track hopes to attract a different kind of rider.

“People who ride in a cycle track, they’re a little slower and not as comfortable being near cars,” said Michelle Poyuourow, of the Bike Transportation Alliance. “And we know there are a lot of people who said they want to bike to work, but they’re not willing to do it next to cars.”

Cyclists said they feel better protected from traffic.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Laura Jones, a cyclist. “I feel safer on it.”

However, safety may be a faulty perception in some cases. Several studies in Europe have indicated cycle tracks can be more dangerous, especially at intersections.

With the path on the side, drivers may have trouble seeing the cyclist coming up the road when making a right-hand turn. The studies also found that crashes happened 12 times more often in cycle tracks than regular bike lanes.

“I think that’s a whole another problem to deal with,” said Jake Martinez, another cyclist. “I think in general any intersection is dangerous for right turns.”

The seven blocks chosen as the test stretch have almost no right turns, which is meant to get drivers and cyclists used to looking at each other and being aware.

“[It’s] safer, but still confusing,” said driver Carl Seo. “First time I saw a parking lot like this.”

Drivers would also have to remember not to park by the curb.

The new cycle track is a pilot program and runs from Clay to Jackson along Southwest Broadway at Portland State University’s campus. More cycle tracks are planned for the South Waterfront and Northeast Cully.