So, yeah, dangerous infrastructure gets built in places that have good reputations for bicycle friendliness. On my recent trip to Portland, Oregon — a platinum level bicycle friendly community, according to the League of American Bicyclists — I saw infrastructure that violates the rules of safe movement or otherwise creates hazards worse than the street as is.
Let’s take a look at what happened at the intersection of NE Multnomah St. and NE17th Ave.
The first picture shows a bicyclist’s point of view traveling west on Multnomah in the door-zone bicycle lane (bad enough as it is). At the intersection with NE 17th, the door-zone lane becomes a protected lane. But it requires the bicyclist to turn right toward the new lane. Notice how far the motorist must encroach into the intersection to see on-coming traffic. Notice how little of the intersection the bicyclist can see just a second away from entering it.
The second picture shows a bicyclist making the turn and entering the protected lane. By law, he must use this facility so he must make this turn from a blind spot behind the parked cars.
The third picture shows a motorist’s point of view from NE 17th entering the intersection. Notice how the parked cars block the view of on-coming traffic, including bicyclists that would be hidden because they are required to use the door-zone lane.
I watched this intersection for several minutes and saw five bicyclists make the required maneuver. Notice that there is a slight downgrade leading to the intersection. All five hit this intersection doing 12 miles per hour or faster. Not one slowed down either approaching it or negotiating it.
There’s nothing difficult about bicycling on Multnomah. It would be a rather easy street to ride even for a novice with just a bit of traffic training.
What traffic problem does this infrastructure solve?
Answer: No problem existed on the original street that needed solving.
Take another look at the first picture. The safest way to drive a bicycle through this intersection (with no infrastructure present) would be to control the lane. The bicyclists would then be far enough left to see, and be seen by, traffic entering Multnomah from NE 17th.
How does something as dangerous as this get built?
Answer: At the request of participation advocates who believe that something is better than nothing and that we must accept the bad with the good to get something.