A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Bikes in traffic: A reader’s challenge accepted

Written January 15th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

On Ninth, that’s the Geary Street signal in front of us. We want to go left after the signal.

When you’re on a bicycle, how best to keep going north on Highway 99E when you come to the big Y junction with Santiam Highway? It’s easier than I thought.

Bill Kapaun, a reader who saw my Jan. 8 video on highway bike lanes, suggested that for an encore I make a “video transition from 9th and Geary over to Pacific.”

“I’m not sure that can be done when there’s much traffic,” was my answer to his comment.

“That was my point,” he replied. “There are some areas that simply suck if you ride a bike.”

Thinking of the traffic lanes there, it does seem difficult to go from the Ninth Avenue leg of the Pacific Boulevard couplet over to the lanes that carry traffic to the northward continuation of Pacific.

So let’s see how it actually worked on Thursday, a nice sunny day and a great day for taking on a traffic challenge, starting on Ninth at the Periwinkle Plaza:

The bike lane on Ninth takes us safely across the Geary Street signal, which happens to be green. If we kept in that lane, it would take us east on Santiam Highway. But we want to go left, or north.

Turns out to be no problem, because by now the Geary Street signal has turned red for Ninth and stopped the flood of traffic that otherwise would be blocking the two lanes we have to cross.

There are one or two vehicles that made the right from Geary, but that’s all. We wait for those to pass, then stick out our left arm and switch from the far right bike lane to the bike lane that beckons across two traffic lanes to our left.

That’s all it takes, and we’re on our way. The signal that stops Ninth Avenue traffic at Geary Street makes this possible and, in this demonstration anyway, relatively easy and safe.

So yes, some parts of the Albany road system may suck when you’re on a bike, but Ninth and Geary is not that bad. (hh)

16 responses to “Bikes in traffic: A reader’s challenge accepted”

  1. Kathryn says:

    Simple ~ get off your bike and cross in a crosswalk.
    Another hazard – people on bicycles ARE NOT pedestrians.

    • George Pugh says:

      I thought as you do Kathryn and would have told the woman on a bicycle in crosswalk if she had stopped swearing at me long enough for me to enlighten her. But information on this blog sent me to the regulations and I found out, sure enough, I was wrong.

  2. John Allen says:

    This is a perfect example of why bikes don’t belong on major highways. Traffic driving the posted speed of 35 mph are only a couple of feet away from you, and at Geary where there is a turn-lane, those cars are on both sides of you. Bike lanes should only be on bike paths or on infrequently used side streets.

  3. Jacob Johannsen says:

    Bike lanes = white privilege.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      White privilege? So, exactly what is your “progressive” solution to the following?

      1 – Transportation for those who don’t want to be owned by a car. Or can’t afford to — a problem disproportionately affecting non-whites. Scheduled public transit for short distances, even in non-pandemic times, is problematic, expensive, and inefficient in smaller cities.

      2 – Safer ways for kids to learn self-reliance, getting to school and everywhere else without turning their parents into chauffeurs or becoming economic burdens. Probably a more acute need among non-whites.

      3 – A way for people to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives — without unnecessary formality, expense, and hard-to-achieve goals — for better health and fitness. Help avoid obesity, another disproportionately non-white issue. Help reduce public-health costs.

      4 – A way for people of all ages, races, and economic situations to de-stress, get out of their nasty little neighborhoods (non-white issue again), and explore the larger world. Something many people find fun and exhilarating.

      Of course bike “lanes” are a very imperfect first step in correcting the big mistake of American car dominance. A better fix comes from the virtuous circle beginning with bike lanes –> more bike use –> more off-road paths –> more bicyclists –> fewer car miles, etc. I have no illusion that this will go far in Albany. Corvallis is in better shape but still has a long way to go. Another need is for more connecting links across barriers like the Calapooia River and I-5. I haven’t looked carefully at Albany’s needs; Corvallis has some that are screaming for help, and some in-process.

      The “conservative” solution is really easy. Just assume that everyone wants to drive their own car everywhere all the time and follow the good old 1950’s through 1970’s traffic engineering model — all the lanes you need to move everyone as efficiently as possible to where they want to go. This fits well with late-1980’s through today’s unwalkable suburban cul-de-sac tracts with huge, elaborate, pretentious McMansions on small lots that “everyone” loves and aspires to own. “Conservative” in scare quotes because it’s very expensive.

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        You constantly generalize Conservatives in a way that simply doesn’t apply.. I guess you Socialists are all the same:);)

        • HowlingCicada says:

          You’re right, I should have attributed the horror show in my last paragraph to something other than “conservatives.”

          Did I describe the “traffic engineering model” fairly? Do traffic engineers tend to be more conservative vs “planning” types who favor bicycles, pedestrians, and car-restriction? I think the generalization is somewhat valid. Certainly, “planners” are accused of being on the left.

    • James Engel says:

      Mr. Johannsen, I don’t think a bike lane has any idea who may be traveling along it. Are you to imply that black’s can’t ride bicycles? White privilege indeed. It is a transportation privilege for anyone.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      There _is_ a point to be made, but it doesn’t fit into a five-word slogan. For a good introduction by a bicycle-advocacy group in Washington, DC, see:

      “””Most of the time, you and I can move through public space without fear of harassment or police violence because of the way we look. People of color do not have that privilege while walking, or biking, or driving, or running, or taking transit. When we, white people, demand safe places to bike and walk, but only talk about infrastructure, we are perpetuating an incomplete definition of safety.”””

      If the phrase “People of color do not have that privilege” bothers you, substitute “People of color have less of that privilege.”

  4. Steve Anderson says:

    Bicycle lanes of course are different widths depending on street allowances. So narrow bike lanes such as the one in your video don’t give much room for error. As you mentioned it’s fairly easy to navigate, but for the record I try to avoid these areas as much as possible as past “close calls” constantly remind me.

    Oregon state law requires that Bicyclists must always be passed safely. ORS 811.410(1)(a).  If a vehicle passing a bicyclist is traveling over 35 miles per hour, the overtaking vehicle must pass the bicyclist at a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the bicyclist if the bicyclist were to fall over into the lane of traffic.  ORS 811.065(1)(a).

    So in essence….if someone riding a bicycle in a narrow lane such as this blew a tire or hit a pothole they have a good chance of landing outside the bike lane.

    Cars routinely exceed 35mph through these areas which doesn’t help. In situations such as these I’m constantly looking in my mirror to keep watch on whats coming up behind me. And it’s been more than a few times vehicles are riding right on the white line of the bike lane.

    And those of use who also ride trikes (or a velomobile as I just acquired last fall) we try to avoid these areas completely and ride on mostly rural routes.

    BTW…In Corvallis there are a few areas where the bike lane in busy intersections is painted green which seems to help drivers to be a little more aware of the space for bicycles.l0

  5. Bill Kapaun says:

    Sorry for not responding sooner, but was without internet for a few days.
    That does look much easier. I guess I was so intimidated crossing those 2 lanes by assuming cars were still flying by.

    I would simply ride up to the light by Staples/O’Reilly’s and play pedestrian to get across Santiam. I still wish the Bottle Drop was on the opposite side of Santiam though.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      With a few hours to think about-

      I usually get the RED light at that intersection, so by the time I would need to cross, I still have a bunch of cars to clear. I guess I’ll have to slow down to a crawl and give them a few more seconds.

      I think it looks somewhat intimidating compared to most bike lanes.
      Thanks for the tip.

      BTW, you should have stopped at Rogers for some takeout-


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