Streetfilms Portland Week: The High-Tech Bike Signal


Portland’s Innovative Bike Signal
A Clarence Eckerson Streetfilm
Running time: 1:37
Download: 5.91 MB

Portland’s Office of Transportation goes the extra mile to accommodate cyclists. Rex Burkholder, a local elected official and the founder of the the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, shows off a high-tech, creatively engineered traffic signal for cyclists. Whenever a cyclist rolls atop a painted icon on the pavement, the next phase of the traffic signal shuts down the entire intersection to cars allowing cyclists safe passage through this potentially hazardous intersection.

  • nomac

    I would love to watch these videos but don’t have Quick Time installed. Any chance you can post these to YouTube instead and embed them in your site? It would make it easier for everyone to watch these without having to download new software.

  • Clarence


    We are currently trying to get them Flash-based so more can watch. In the meantime, I will try to get some of them up on a YouTube account by end of week and have Aaron post an announcement when/if we get them up.

  • Lars

    This is absolutely incredible. There should be one of these at the end of every bridge entering and leaving Manhattan.

  • Mathperson

    Holey Smokes! We could use these here. Preferably at every intersection.

  • Greg Raisman

    The first time I saw a bike signal like the one that is now on the east end of the Steel Bridge was when my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Amsterdam. (She got a real taste for what she was in for as I stood to take photos of various signal progressions between the motor vehicle and bicycle signals).

    In Amsterdam, they had bicycle signals at major intersections of the bicycle network. It worked great — heck it’s Amsterdam.

    It was so much fun to bring Clarence around our city. Clarence captured and Rex explains the function of that signal very well. However, there was another signal being installed while he was here that I wish we could have captured for the film as well.

    The week after he left, the firt HAWK signal went live in our city. Check out for some commentary and background.

    While we’re early in test with it, it’s worked great the 5 times I’ve used it. It strikes me that it could become an important tool for providing low stress crossings when low-stress bike routes cross busy streets.

    The HAWK provides information to motorists on the busy street, while a bicycle signal and pedestrian signal provide information to people on the bike boulevard.

    I’ll comment more in the Bike Boulevards post, but this is one example of why providing effective bicycle boulevards may not be as inexpensive as might be imagined at first glance. The crossings of major roadways are very important and where significant parts of the cost comes in.

    Greg Raisman
    Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership
    Portland Office of Transportation

  • Clarence

    Now on YouTube!

    I have started posting all the Portland shorts to our StreetsBlog YouTube account for those having difficulty watching via our NYCSR site which requires (for now) Quicktime.

    Just go here:

    If that doesn’t work, just search the key word of StreetsBlog.

  • Mitch

    Thanks for putting this on YouTube; that’s a godsend for us Quicktime-challenged folks.

    Now that I’ve seen the video, I’m really impressed, and I can think of a few intersections in Madison where it might be useful, including one I pass through every day on my way home.

    But I do have a question about the icons that trigger the signals. Is there a magnetic loop underneath, or is Portland using something more exotic? If they are ordinary loops, do they work with high-tech bike frames? Magnetic detection would work fine for me,and my clunky rusty steel frame, but what about carbon fiber frames, or titanium or aluminum?
    Do they have to wait at the light until someone comes by on an old Schwinn?

  • Clarence

    I believe it is a magnetic loop. If you want, email me at and I can put you in touch with folks in Portland that will gladly answer your question.

    Madison, that is on my list of places to visit and bring the camera equipment next year.


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