Drivers navigate advisory bike lanes on NE 52nd Avenue. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland wants advisory bike lanes to play a larger role in our roadway design mix. This Thursday (12/1) they’ll host an online open house to answer questions and share information about recent and future installations. It’s a relatively sudden push to make the treatment more prominent after they’ve languished in design guidelines for several years.

(Source: PBOT)

Advisory bike lanes were first called for in the Portland Bike Plan for 2030 that was drafted in 2009. PBOT uses the treatment on streets with low to moderate car volumes where they want to create safer space for cycling, but don’t want to take the width required for standard bike lanes. The big difference between “advisory” and standard bike lanes is that people drive over the former, whereas it’s illegal to cross into the latter. The way they work is simple: When no bicycle riders are present, drivers can use the full width of the road (driving into the advisory bike lanes). When bicycle riders are present, drivers must yield to other drivers and only pass the bicycle rider when it is safe to do so.

It’s easy to understand why PBOT likes advisory bike lanes: They are very cheap and easy to install, studies show they improve safety outcomes, and they are a way to create space for biking and walking without asking drivers to give up anything in terms of access or parking. Imagine a relatively narrow, low-speed, low-volume residential street without sidewalks in east or southwest Portland. There’s not enough room to stripe bike lanes and two general purpose lanes, so PBOT can stripe advisory bike lanes that are only in effect if/when a walker or bike rider is present.

While the advantages seem obvious, it’s easy to see why some people don’t like them.

Graphic of PBOT presentation to Russell Neighborhood Association showing location of advisory bike lanes.

Since this is a new treatment that requires people to think and to share the road, they come with hefty skepticism.

In October, PBOT ran into opposition to a project on NE San Rafael Street in the Russell neighborhood of east Portland. The plan was to install advisory bike lanes as part of a repaving project between NE 111th and NE 148th. But that was before some residents pushed back. According to a project update email from PBOT sent October 20th, “PBOT staff heard concerns from residents, particularly around how the advisory bike lanes would work on NE San Rafael Street between NE 132nd and NE 148th avenues.” As a result of those concerns, PBOT has decided to back off plans for that particular stretch of road.

PBOT has told the Russell Neighborhood Association that they’ll do more evaluations of existing advisory bike lane project and then return in 2023 to re-open the conversation about NE San Rafael Street.

The city should have a lot of data to analyze since they installed advisory lanes in three locations this year. In addition to two sections of San Rafael, there are now advisory bike lanes on NE 43rd between Sandy and Tillamook and NE 52nd over I-84. We shared a closer look at both of those installations back in August.

To further air out concerns and questions about this nascent striping treatment, PBOT will host an online open house this Thursday from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Check out our calendar for the Zoom registration link and more details.

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