Four compensation junctions, four different processors

As a cyclist, these pesky intersections bother me.

Portland’s street grid system is pretty tidy (with a few glaring exceptions – I’m looking at you, Laurelhurst and Ladd’s Addition). But anyone who has traveled around the city will notice that there are places where the streets meet with a slight deviation, which means that you cannot go straight through an intersection to cross into a connecting street. This problem is most troublesome when a designated bike lane is offset by a busy street, which is fairly common in Portland. In these situations, someone riding a bike on the relaxed green road is suddenly made to react to car traffic at a complex intersection, which is uncomfortable and adds kinks to a smooth and easy ride.

As a cyclist, these pesky intersections bother me. Being a bike infrastructure student, he’s pretty cool. Planners take this street style hiccup as an opportunity to showcase their creative problem-solving skills, and as a result, we have some pretty weird bike traversal designs. Let’s look at a few particularly notable offset intersections.

SE Stark Street and 41st . Street

We looked at this particular crossover last year (and also made a video about it), so you can check it out for a more detailed explanation. But I wanted to discuss this design again because it makes a good comparison with some of the others on this list. Portland Bureau of Transportation planners chose a very unique design here, which includes temporary bike lanes in the middle of busy Stark Street to protect people cyclists on the 41st Greenway at this wide intersection.

These bike lanes are well visible to people driving Stark cars – even more so when paired with the bow-marks on the street – and they make it a breeze to make cycling only focus on car traffic coming from one direction at a time rather than constantly needing to look back and forth while Cross a wide intersection. There is still a small snag to a smooth ride on the 41st, but I have good experiences crossing at this junction compared to other places.

SE Stark St and 30th Ave

This intersection is offset enough that if people on bikes were required to use an arrow in the middle of 30th Street South Stark, it would result in an awkward crossing. Alternatively, a short two-way bike lane on the 30’s—which is to the left of auto traffic south of Stark and to the right north of Stark—makes the transition smooth. This isn’t a practical design for a wider crossover, but it works very well here to create a smooth transition in any direction.

Burnside and 30th Avenue

The way the PBOT has attempted to handle this offset intersection is very interesting (PBOT has used similar treatment in NE 33, Going, 33, Mason (in progress), NE 55th/54th, Killingsworth, SE 129th/130th, Division, and many more other sites). When crossing Burnside at 30, people cyclists are directed toward an elevated, two-way bike path that separates bicycle, pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic to avoid collisions. In my opinion, the problem with this design is that it’s too narrow to get to the elevated bike path from the north, and if someone else was riding a bike in reverse, I’d be afraid to run into it. This would be a good place for a solution similar to the one in Stark and 41, but since Burnside is a very busy street, I think it would be difficult to implement.

SE Belmont and 42nd Ave

Any attempt to solve the problems posed by intersection displacement for people who ride bicycles is better than none at all. This is exemplified by the Belmont and 42 intersection, where there is nothing to relieve the pain of crossing the wide intersection by bike. This stretch of Belmont is crowded with pedestrian traffic, and separate facilities for people walking and cycling would be beneficial. Instead, cyclists must choose between crossing at the pedestrian lane – which involves a narrow turn between fences on the sidewalk – before returning to the street or just crossing their fingers for people driving to see and stop at the pedestrian crossing.

There are no signage here, and compared to the rest of the crossings on this list, I’ve had the most negative experiences at this intersection. It’s a shame too, because the more pleasant Stark/41 intersection is just a few blocks north of this! I think PBOT could find an innovative solution here and make traveling through the Sunnyside neighborhood even nicer.

What do you think of these styling treatments? Do you have any ideas on how to improve bike crosshairs? Let us know – and stay tuned for a video looking at these streets.

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