Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Mission Triangle: Nearly Impossible for Bikes

The Bermuda Triangle at 12th, 13th, Mission, and the Pringle Parkway is one of the most difficult intersections in the city. Nothing about it is intuitive, direct, or especially safe. On the contrary, it is confusing and requires several unsafe movements.

The bike map shows a lovely blue network of bike lanes, but these work only for southbound traffic on 12th. Northbound traffic on 13th and connections westbound to the Pringle Parkway are very difficult.

Approaching the Mission street overpass, most bicyclists merge across the right turning on-ramp. Though the sign warns motorists to yield to bikes, many do not. This route takes bicyclists through an underpass.

The below grade crossing is dark and sometimes wet. The sight-lines are also not very good, and sometimes cars hug the curve too closely.

If you want to continue north, staying right in the bike lane is straightforward. But if you want to go westbound onto the Pringle Parkway, you face another difficult merge across right-turning traffic.

The shoulder is narrow here and sometimes overgrown with foliage. These tree limbs force you into the auto traffic lane.

Once you get to the light at 12th, you face the third difficult merge, this time to merge rightwards to the bike lane across two lanes of left-turning traffic.

Here's the view of the lanes looking backwards. You can see traffic coming off the Mission overpass, coming from the 13th street underpass, and the prospect of a left-hook as you merge right. A very difficult intersection.

The city has identified an alternative. Marked in purple, there's a network of multi-paths that go underneath the Mission street overpass and also loop up to connect to the Mission street bike lanes.

Here on 13th is a small sign that directs bicyclists onto the right. It's implied but not obvious to everyone that you should use a driveway curb cut to get up onto the sidewalk.

Once on the sidewalk and veering right, you encounter tall, dense shrubbery and trees. It's very isolated, with very few sightlines from houses or the street. There's a intersection, but no signage with directions for the junction. In the distance is a second intersection with some small signage.

Underneath the overpass is very dark and very isolated. It is too dark and too isolated for most bicyclists to feel safe, especially after dark.

After going under Mission street, the path emerges onto 13th again and reconnects to the sidewalk or the bike lane.

The final barrier is the entry to the 12th street promenade. The bike lane on 12th ends at Mill, and the signage directs bicyclists to the promenade. At the entry, railroad tracks and extremely coarse rocks offer the prospect of an involuntary dismount.

There are engineered plans to remedy the end of the promenade, but no funding source at present. Crossing 12th at Mill remains difficult for east-west movement and connections to campus. Students may use the pedestrian bridge, but it is private and not open to the public.

This triangle is a major bottleneck and barrier for bicyclists. Because of the park, the creeks, and the railroad, this is almost the only way to cross Mission in this part of town. The network of bike lanes and paths is incomplete, inadequately signed, and in many cases too isolated to be effective.

The situation here also prefigures what is likely to occur should a third-bridge be built over the Willamette to accommodate additional auto traffic. No matter how fine a set of bike lanes or paths are built, the network of on-ramps will disrupt neighborhoods, diminish sightlines, and create more barriers than it will cross.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hate this intersection. I come back from my Dad's store (on 13th) through this intersection (going north) and it is a mess!

Maybe this one qualifies as most dangerous in salem.

Great that you have covered this.