Featured Class Presentation: Broadway/Flint/Wheeler

Each year, I like to call out one outstanding presentation from the Traffic and Transportation Class.

This year I have to plead to some bias since I’ve been aware of this effort for some time. But it’s also not every project that’s already been submitted by the City to ODOT for funding.

There are also a LOT of people who have been involved in this effort, in both government and in the community, and the credit is clearly shared.

But presenter Betsy Reese has been watching the very dangerous intersection at Broadway/Flint/Wheeler for over a decade from her vantage point at the Paramount Apartments which she and her husband own. She’s been letting the City know how dangerous this location is on an ongoing basis.

PBOT attempted one fix a few years ago, creating a sidewalk peninsula in front of her building – it didn’t help. The bicycle right-hook risk continued, as did the parade of cars making unsafe cut-across movements to make the U-turn back to Broadway.

As the NE Quadrant project finally gave some direction to what will happen in the long term, PBOT (and the Mayor) acted and removed the right turn opportunity onto Wheeler.

But this doesn’t fix all the issues at the intersection and Betsy and her allies continue to advocate for stronger treatments, including signalization. Betsy’s class presentation (PDF, 10M) outlines all the issues, and the effort got a major boost mid-way through this semester’s class when PBOT submitted the project for an ODOT grant.

We’ll continue to track this and let you know when it’s time to send those letters and e-mails to ODOT to support the project during final selection later in 2013!

13 responses to “Featured Class Presentation: Broadway/Flint/Wheeler”

  1. I am curious how the removal of the slip u-turn ramp will impact Rose Quarter / Memorial Coliseum traffic.

    We use that ramp all the time when travelling to events, and we know the area. Taking it out is going to be hard on the people from places other than the central city who don’t know the area and are confused trying to get to their event…

    The families of kids in the state dance competition or people coming in from out of town for a concert or the people from Clark County coming to a Blazer or Winterhawks game – none of them really know how to get into parking lots at the Rose Quarter.

    So is the plan just to send them all down and around on to Interstate?

    Living and working in the Lloyd area has taught me that when there are big events going on at the any of the venues there – best to be very careful walking or cycling – because there are a ton of people from out of town who are lost, confused, and scared. They don’t see pedestrians or bikes…

  2. I commend Betsy for the amount of effort she has put in to this project. I am curious whether removing the u-turn will be a benefit or not. I see signalization and removing N Flint from the equation will do the most for this intersection

  3. Doesn’t city/county/state only make changes after a certain amount of citizens are killed?

    Just proves how little citizens actually count to the ‘entitled bureaucrats’

  4. I am curious how the removal of the slip u-turn ramp will impact Rose Quarter / Memorial Coliseum traffic.

    I believe the intent is to replace it with a right turn opportunity from the main part of the exit where it hits Broadway. The idea is not to eliminate the movement, but slow it down, so we don’t have so many cars hitting the danger point at Flint/Wheeler at high speed (and with limited visibility due to the curve).

  5. Ok I think the ‘slip ramp’ is the right turn off the freeway – that lane will still exist but it will be a much narrower radius of curvature for turning – so that folks have to stop at the light when coming off the freeway before turning right.

    the ‘u-turn’ we’re referring to doesn’t seem to me like it needs to be removed, but I’m not a traffic engineer

  6. The issue with the u-turn is that in the current location, people coming off the freeway merge across more lanes of traffic to get to it than is safe.

    The proposed alternative is the make the turn legal at the bottom of the ‘traffic island’, allowing a much longer distance for safely merging across lanes.

  7. Here is the script for the narration of the slide show.

    1. N Broadway/Flint/Wheeler has long been known as one of the most dangerous intersections in Portland for bicyclists.

    2. I’ve been advocating for change here since 1999. The city already had the traffic peninsula on the drawing board and it was built with bikeways funds in 2000.

    3. Since 2006, Jonathan Maus of bikeportland.org, bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups,

    4. And many neighbors, most notably Portland Water Bureau,

    5. have been calling for change.

    6. Small fixes have been

    7. made

    8. but crashes continue.

    9. Lack of agreement on 1-5 expansion near here has been given as the reason for lack of action on surrounding surface streets.

    10. But this past summer, we had the perfect storm: Three things took place

    11. First: ODOT, PBOT and area Stakeholders agreed on a plan for the freeway. They then voted unanimously to recommend that the safety-related changes to surface streets be done as soon as possible.

    12. Second: Many neighbors, advocacy groups, and others sent in written support and most sent representatives to a meeting On June 26th with State and City transportation officials to press for these changes.

    13. And third: A series of collisions sending bicyclists to hospitals in ambulances

    14. demonstrated the urgency

    15. of acting now to prevent a fatality.

    16. ODOT stepped right up and began in August the removal of the I-5 slip ramp.

    17. PBOT reconvened the advocacy group and neighbors

    18. and announced they would close Wheeler to right turns from Broadway, putting up the barricades almost immediately and amidst much controversy.

    19. Some media coverage was misleading, and many people saw the move as catering to scoff-law bicyclists at the expense of hardworking business people.

    20. Subsequent traffic stings seemed to confirm bikes were to blame. But to me, it appeared that police were there to target only bicyclists running the Flint stop sign, which was not the cause of a single one of the four injury crashes over the summer.

    21. Closing Wheeler was a significant safety improvement, but it is not enough.

    22. This is a complicated intersection.

    23. One: It is multi-legged, on a curve, and downhill, making it harder for drivers to see fast bikes overtaking them on their right. Two: With sweeping unobstructed views toward oncoming one-way traffic, stop-sign running from side streets by all modes is the norm. Three: The turnaround in the streetcar traffic island is the motivation for vehicles to dart across four lanes in violation of the lane establishment rule. And four: Bikes don’t have a good way to get back up Flint.

    24. The three most common collision scenarios involving bicycles are, first the most common one, the right hook at Wheeler,

    25. now prevented by the barricades prohibiting that turn.

    26. Second, a similar right hook, but at Flint

    27. The third scenario is the combination of drivers accelerating out from Wheeler or Flint looking only to their left upstream toward oncoming traffic and

    28. and flooring it when they get an opening to shoot across all four lanes to the turnaround

    29. striking wrong-way sidewalk cyclists coming fast

    30. from their

    31. right.

    32. Add to this, many bikes

    33. are riding the wrong way up Broadway

    34. to get back up Flint.

    35. A traffic signal is not just needed for bikes. Pedestrian crossings and conflicts are increasing.

    36. A signal will not just hold back cars so bikes and peds can go. It will also hold back bikes and peds so cars can go. All modes need this fix.

    37. I’m very happy to announce to you tonight that two days ago

    38. PBOT submitted a proposal for major funding.

    39. Although the barricades on Wheeler must stay until the full plan can be implemented in 10 years, some portions can be done now, independent of the freeway work.

    40. The U-turn-around in the streetcar island will be relocated to a location just ½ block west, at with Ross Ave. This, together with the removal of the 4th vehicle lane that led to that island turn-around, will give vehicles coming from Wheeler and Flint enough travel distance to merge across Broadway’s three lanes to the turnaround safely and legally.

    41. And the intersection will be signalized, including a way for bikes to get back up Flint.

  8. Some clarifications:

    I can see that my use of PBOT’s term “slip ramp” for both the I-5 right turn off-ramp and for the U-turnaround in the streetcar island has caused confusion. Chris’s comments appear to address the freeway off-ramp when he responds to John’s concern:

    “I am curious how the removal of the slip U-TURN ramp will impact Rose Quarter / Memorial Coliseum traffic.”

    To address John’s concern, I will clarify (see the script for slide 40 above) that the U-TURN ramp is not being eliminated, but moved just a half-block further downstream. I know that was not clear from the slides alone.

    In response to Allan:

    “the ‘u-turn’ we’re referring to doesn’t seem to me like it needs to be removed, but I’m not a traffic engineer”

    If you read the script for the slides 21 – 41 I think this is explained in quick overview, although I can give you more detail, just let me know.

    I would like to add here as a plea for your support for funding being granted for this project:

    1. PBOT’s Greg and Mauricio emphasized to me that this is just an initial conceptual proposal which is very short and that IF it gets funded, it will go through a public outreach process and changes and refinements are expected.

    2. Hopefully near neighbors, bike and pedestrian advocates, freight, transit, etc., will not derail this from happening here by being unable to come to agreement on key points. As I say in slide 36, All modes need this fix.

    3. One of the big selling points to ODOT on this is that it is not redundant nor counter to, but a subset of the eventual I-5 Broadway/Weidler Facility Plan. This means it is not something that will have to be undone or redone and therefore is not more money, just sooner money.

    4. Anyone who is opposed to widening I-5 need not be opposed to the ADOPTION of that plan. Please read the script for slides 9 – 11 above. Finally settling on a plan for I-5 has made it possible to get these safety changes done on the surrounding surface streets independent of the freeway work.

    5. I want to use this slide show to lobby the people who will be deciding on funding. This is my first PowerPoint and I did it on a 60-day free trial that doesn’t completely work on my computer, plus I am inexperienced with all the neat moving arrows, recording narration, etc. In it’s current state it has to be presented live. I would like to get the moving arrows (so I don’t have to be there to point and gesture), etc. onto the slides, record the narration and convert it so it can be put on Youtube. If any activists out there have these PowerPoint skills and would be willing to volunteer some time to help fix up my slide show and put it on Youtube, I would appreciate it so much.

    Thanks to all the people who care about this intersection.


  9. Something I’ve never really understood is why right hooks aren’t the cyclists fault? It doesn’t really make sense that bikes are allowed to pass vehicles on the right while traveling at a speed they can’t avoid hitting something. It seems like if they are going fast enough for a right hook to happen they should take the lane and go with the flow of other vehicles.

    If right hooks are the problem that this report indicates it would seem like that would be a way to reduce the risk in this area as well.

  10. Sadly, right hooks can and do occur at very low speeds.

    If at any point you are cycling past a vehicle that you believe to be going directly forward, and you are past the rear wheel but haven’t yet passed the front wheel, you are at risk for a right-hook collision.

  11. That’s like saying that bikes should always stop if there is a car to their left at every intersection. Perhaps we should just design our roadways so that bikes are in a different spot like a center-running 2-way bike lane.

    This spot is particularly bad because of high bike speeds and N Broadway turning at that spot

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