Eugene’s Meanest Streets: Broadway meets Hilyard

I’d been holding off on this post because I had a question I wanted to ask the police, and I was waiting for a call back from the EPD traffic sergeant. I never got the call. But that’s OK. I won’t take it personally. I know they’ve been crazy-busy pulling over Cliff Harris.

So we’ll just go ahead. What we want to do is take a closer look at the intersection known as Hilyard meets Broadway. This is where a cyclist was brushed by an SUV in April, if you recall that post? Well, it’s time we officially enshrine this crossroads in our “Meanest Streets” Hall of Infamy.

I’m not a traffic engineer, but I do like shooting spit wads at those who are. And I do have some theories about the design of roadways:

  1. When cyclists can be seen using a variety of not-so-good methods to get from point A to point B, there’s probably an underlying problem.
  2. Traffic signs are like Band-Aids. If you see a lot of them, there’s probably an underlying problem.

Both of these symptoms are present at Hilyard and Broadway.

First, the traffic signs. Here is a 30-second musical interlude, showing some of the many signs that can be found at this intersection:

(I’m learning to use iMovie, so you guys are going to have to bear with me until the infatuation passes.) And you know, I love this song, which was a hit in 1971. But I just now learned that it was recorded by some group called the Five Man Electrical Band. (Who?)

Continuing on the topic of signs, here’s Hilyard about 100 yards north of the intersection proper:

Heavily signed pedestrian crossing by the new Morse federal courthouse in EugeneThe original plan for this crossing was to have a person standing on the side of the road here, shouting at every car that went by:

“HEY, WATCH OUT FOR THE FUCKING PEDESTRIANS!!!!”

The project was a little over budget, though, so we ended up with this instead. I’m thinking: If it’s necessary to erect six signs warning of a pedestrian crossing (and there’s actually a seventh just outside the frame of the photograph), that may be a “sign” this is a perilous place to be a pedestrian.

But let’s get back to Hilyard-and-Broadway itself. If you remember from the earlier post about the cyclist getting hit: The problem, when heading north on Hilyard, is that the bike lane ends and the road narrows. So what is a cyclist to do heading through the intersection?

I see three options:

Option A: You can stay “as far to the right as practicable” — or even more so:

Intersection of Hilyard and Broadway, Eugene, Oregon

Option B: You can use the crosswalk:

Intersection of Broadway and Hilyard, Eugene, Oregon

Option C: You can “take the lane“:

Map of intersection of Broadway and Hilyard, Eugene, Oregon

All three options have their pros and cons. Here’s a photo showing two cyclists, one using Option A, one using Option B:

Cyclists navigating Broadway and Hilyard in EugeneAnd just a few seconds later:

Two ways of approaching Broadway and Hilyard in EugeneFor the cyclist using the “stay right” method, the worst stretch of road is just north of the intersection. The cyclist using the sidewalk might seem in a better place. Of course, Option B has its own hazards:

Skateboarder and cyclist meet in the crosswalk at Broadway and Hilyard in Eugene… like a dude on a skateboard.

And we’ve already discussed the hazards of taking the lane. — i.e., getting hit by an angry motorist.

Frankly, I don’t have the energy right now to talk about the improvisations involved in heading south through this intersection, so we’ll leave it at that.

But what I wanted to ask the traffic sergeant was: Which method would he recommend? And if a cyclist were “taking the lane,” and the sergeant was in his cruiser right behind the cyclist, what would he do? Would he cite the cyclist? Or think it was OK?

If you ask me, I say, yes, it’s legal to take the lane through the whole intersection if you want. So, should an officer pull you over and start to cite you for that, tell the officer — politely, of course — that I said taking the lane here was OK. That should get you off the hook.

(UPDATE: I finally did talk to the traffic sergeant. His take is here.)

Finally, the point of the “Eugene’s Meanest Streets” series is not simply to point out places that are bad for riding a bike. There are lots of those — and probably should be in a society in which most people get around by automobile. To earn a “Meanest Streets” medallion, a particular street or intersection has to be a bad place to ride a bike and yet one that’s not easily avoided by a cyclist.

For now, if you are heading from the west side of campus to the Riverbank Trail, this intersection is likely on your route. It’s hard to believe this intersection was torn up and rebuilt a couple of years ago, with so little regard for a cyclist heading to the trail.

But — as with the reintroduction of endangered wolves in Idaho — we hope Broadway and Hilyard can someday be delisted.

That day may come when the Alder Street cycle track is finished later this summer. This project, just now getting under construction, will offer a new connection to the Riverbank Trail. One hopes that Alder Street, one block east of Hilyard, will be a far better way for a cyclist to get from the west-campus neighborhood to the Riverbank Trail.

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15 thoughts on “Eugene’s Meanest Streets: Broadway meets Hilyard

  1. I don’t particularly understand what the draw to that intersection/route is. You can roll down Onyx St if you need to access the river path from campus, or go down High St if you want to get into town, access the river path, or get over to Coburg Rd. There doesn’t seem to be any dramatic benefit to going through that way aside from dealing with irate motorists who treat that stretch as their idiot speedway (25mph? Of course…) to the next red light.

    That said, they can most certainly do better with that intersection and stretch. At the very least by lessening the ambiguity as to where the cyclist should be.

    1. I use it because it provides easy access to the Fifth Street Market. I use High Street sometimes but like the lack of signals/separation from traffic provided by the path.

    2. I don’t know. There’s always a lot of cyclist traffic there. Maybe people who work at the old hospital, as well?

      Agate is better, too — there are hardly any cars at all once you cross Broadway — but that’s even farther east than Onyx.

      I guess people just have their habits.

      I should probably say, I don’t think it’s really horrible navigating this intersection (of course, I’ve never been hit by a car there). It’s just surprising that they rebuilt this area a couple of years ago and weren’t able to do better. It’s not like this intersection was designed 30 years ago when hardly anybody was thinking about cyclists.

  2. This intersection is terrible. I can’t believe they installed that shared use path and didn’t provide easy access for cyclists. Why not just put a cutaway in the curb right after the intersection and mark the cyclist path across the intersection? They’ve got the cyclist signal in the road, why force them into the crosswalk?

    That mess of an intersection to accommodate EWEB trucks is even worse. It’s not bad for anyone who goes right and hops on the trail but it’s a pain if you continue on the path towards Fifth Street. I don’t know why they couldn’t have put a standard crossing for pedestrians/cyclists in there. I think trains roll through there far more often than EWEB trucks ever did. I noticed that they somewhat paved the area between the train signal arms (whatever those are called…) and the tracks. This makes it convenient for cyclists like me to to squeeze through there when a long freight train is rolling through. It doesn’t seem too safe though.

  3. And you didn’t even address southbound cycling at this intersection. Leaving the Riverbank Trail, popping onto Hilyard heading south, and then trying to get to the 13th and Kincaid / UO area — nightmare.

    Option A: Walk your bike.
    Option B: Somehow make the left turn onto Broadway, then ride on the sidewalk with pedestrians.
    Option C: Take the left turn lane, turn onto Broadway, then take the right lane and ride like a banshee for one block to get to the bike lane on Alder, and relative peace. Disgruntle the drivers behind you, who at least have the left lane all to themselves.

    1. Thanks, Jonesey. I ran out of steam before I could get to this part. I’ve never tried the banshee method here!

      I’d only add that a lot people also seem to have an Option D: stay on the path/sidewalk on the north side of Broadway as they head east against oncoming traffic, and then drift across Broadway to get onto Alder. No light at Alder/Broadway, but I see a lot of people cross there.

      Again, let’s hope the Alder project resolves a lot of this.

  4. I’m definitely sticking with being a pedestrian through there for now – but I only use that intersection to get to Cafe Yumm from the bike path, so it doesn’t feel that silly to just start walking a hundred feet early.

    It’s clearly a different kind of mean from West 11th or that crazy stretch up by Delta…it’s more of a sneaky passive aggressive kind of mean street, absent-mindedly stirring up trouble while pretending to be a friendly bike route.

  5. The design of this interesction and road lacked involvement from cyclists and pedestrians. The city, EWEB and the UO are now designing more car-oriented roads for the EWEB land and riverfront research park without cyclist and pedestrian involvement.

  6. There’s no excuse for this whole interchange to have been designed so badly in the early 2000’s. I’ve been complaining about this since it went in–I was excited at the time for an easier route from the university to the fifth street area and north downtown. If you try to cross from Hilyard to the path on the other side (legally) as a pedestrian, it takes TWO(!) light cycles, because of the separate light for the right-veering lanes diverging from broadway. If you ride through on Hilyard with no traffic behind you and trip the induction sensor, the light cycle is so short that the right-veering lanes get a red light right when you are crossing their path if you have had to start from a stop. Furthermore, the right veering light is timed such that there is a significant amount of time every cycle where their light is red and there is no possible conflicting traffic, resulting in motorists routinely going through the red light (it is ambiguous whether right on red applies for this intersection or not). This intersection is just overall incompetently designed, for cyclists, pedestrians, and even for motorists!

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