Vannah/Forest traffic signal

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Bridget Huber

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Aug 9, 2022, 4:10:44 PMAug 9
to Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Hi everyone: I'm newish to this list -- hello! I have a question about the Vannah and Forest Aves intersection. When I'm biking on Vannah, trying to cross Forest, I can't get a green light unless there is a car behind me. It's frustrating, especially at such a complicated intersection, and also because this is a route I take often while riding with a small child, when I'm least inclined to take risks. I'm wondering if anyone knows if this light is supposed to sense bikes and is malfunctioning? Maybe I'm just not positioning myself correctly (there's no indication on the pavement)? Or is it not designed to do this? (It seems like it should be since it's a bicycle boulevard.) If I want to talk to someone at the city about this, who would be the best to start with?

Thank you!

Bridget

Bridget Huber

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Aug 9, 2022, 4:47:00 PMAug 9
to Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Sorry -- the intersection in question is Forest Ave and Woodford St. Reposting corrected message below:

Hi everyone: I'm newish to this list -- hello! I have a question about the Woodford St and Forest Ave intersection. When I'm biking on Woodford with my back to Back Cove, trying to cross Forest, I can't get a green light unless there is a car behind me. It's frustrating, especially at such a complicated intersection, and also because this is a route I take often while riding with a small child, when I'm least inclined to take risks. I'm wondering if anyone knows if this light is supposed to sense bikes and is malfunctioning? Maybe I'm just not positioning myself correctly (there's no indication on the pavement)? Or is it not designed to do this?  If I want to talk to someone at the city about this, who would be the best to start with?

William Chabot

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Aug 9, 2022, 5:43:15 PMAug 9
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I'd love to know more about the "Bicycle Boulevard" markings on Woodford where they are putting in the new crossing by the funeral home.  I also cross this intersection often to get from the Deering High area to the Back Cove trail.  The lights seem to do their own thing, and I often just wait for Forest to clear and cross as quickly as possible.

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Will Chabot
Engineer
Haroldson-Blair, LLC.

John Brooking

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Aug 10, 2022, 9:19:47 PMAug 10
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It's so frustrating when the light doesn't seem to sense a bicyclist. I'm not familiar with that intersection, but I have a few general ideas. Are there visible sensor lines in the road? If so, putting your wheels directly over them can sometimes help. I'm told it can even help to lay your bike down on its side over them, but honestly, I feel foolish doing that, and frustrated that it would be necessary. It's also awkward if you've got panniers on (or a child with you). If the lines are buried, you can still try making sure your wheels are in one of the car tire tracks, where they most likely be.

But more of the newer sensors these days are overhead cameras instead of in-pavement magnetic sensors. If you see one of those, you can try to make sure you are where it is looking, and if you have a headlight, try shining it up at it. The latter has worked for me sometimes at other intersections, including, I'm pretty sure, the end of Sewall Street at Outer Congress.

Last resort, you can dismount and use the crosswalk.

I think the best starting contact with the city is the engineer, Jeremiah Bartlett.

John Brooking
Cyclist, Cycling Educator, Technologist


Corey Templeton

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Aug 11, 2022, 9:11:42 AMAug 11
to Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee
It sounds like enabling the overhead cameras to pick up cyclists should be the standard going forward. It certainly stinks that as a cyclist you just have to wait and see if the light will pick you up.

I recall off Route 1 in Falmouth they have some "To Request Green wait on [Bicycle Symbol]" signs which is a nice touch. Of course staying at the far right of the lane to trigger the light isn't always practical or safe but at least you know the light will pick you up. 

1.jpg

Note the symbol almost on top of a sewer grate (facepalm):

2.jpg

Bridget Huber

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Aug 11, 2022, 9:34:35 AMAug 11
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Thanks everyone for these suggestions, and for the commiseration. There's no bike symbol stencil there, unless I've somehow missed it, but maybe it's a camera sensor issue. At any rate, I'm going to contact Jeremiah Bartlett at the city to at least talk about it and make sure they're aware! Will report back if anything specific comes of it. 

--Bridget

Derek Pelletier

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Aug 15, 2022, 9:49:43 AMAug 15
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My regular route downtown from my home in Deering Center takes me through this area as well but I've switched to crossing Forest at Vannah/Saunders rather than on Woodford - it's a little more pleasant on a bike. That said, i've had the same issue with the overhead cameras not recognizing me as a "vehicle" waiting to cross. You can see the cameras when you look up above the traffic lights, I think they're spheres now. I used to contact Bruce Hyman to let him know that the cameras needed to be adjusted and the City was usually pretty responsive. I will say that it also took me trying to figure out where to position myself to catch the camera's attention - usually as close to the middle of the lane as possible to take the same space as a vehicle. Hopefully you have luck with Jeremiah, Bridget.
Re: the Bicycle Boulevard stencil on Woodford, I believe it's there to indicate the connection to the neighborhood byway (Glenwood Ave) as it crosses Woodford but I could definitely be wrong! Bicycle & Pedestrian Planning | Portland, ME - Official Website (portlandmaine.gov)   

John Brooking

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Aug 15, 2022, 8:49:45 PMAug 15
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There is a national standard pavement marking for informing bicyclists where to stop to trigger the light. We should encourage the city to use them.

image.png

Optional accompanying sign R10-22
image.png


John Brooking
Cyclist, Cycling Educator, Technologist

William Chabot

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Aug 16, 2022, 10:33:03 AMAug 16
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Does anyone know what the average waiting time should be if these lights are triggered correctly?

I have a stopwatch and come through there often enough to take some data if that would be helpful.  

John Brooking

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Aug 18, 2022, 6:17:54 PMAug 18
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I think "average" would have to be a measured study. Perhaps the engineers may have average times they "measured" in models.

I had the chance to learn a little about signal timings from our Westbrook engineer a few months ago. I still couldn't tell you exactly how to read a signal timing diagram, but the upshot is that they can be programmed pretty much any way you want, like a computer (which they kind of are these days), and usually the green time has multiple potential durations depending on the cross traffic detected. So there's a minimum time, maximum time, and maybe some times in between, but the average in practice will depend on actual conditions. In my limited understanding...

John Brooking
Cyclist, Cycling Educator, Technologist

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