Driving downtown

Helpful information for driving in downtown Portland.

max.Jewett_webbCars share roads with MAX light rail trains and buses in downtown Portland.

Driving downtown can be tricky in any city. Here are some tips to help navigate Portland’s city center.

One-way & limited-turn streets

When driving in downtown and the Pearl District, you’ll notice the abundance of one-way streets. Watch the signs, and know that the one-way streets generally alternate directions.

West Burnside Street carries two-way traffic, but left turns are not generally permitted. If you need to get to the left of Burnside, plan to take two rights to get on the cross street going the desired direction.

Transit Mall

In downtown, buses, trains, cars and bikes all share the road on the Portland Transit Mall, which encompasses two one-way streets (Fifth Avenue running south, where most right turns are not permitted, and Sixth Avenue running north, where most left turns are not permitted).

Alternatives to the bus mall include Second and Fourth avenues (southbound) and Third Avenue and Broadway (northbound).

Sharing the road

Portland’s many bike lanes, moderate climate and gentle slopes all add up to a lot of bicyclists on the roads.

While sharing the road with cyclists is usually just a matter of common sense and attention to signs, here are some tips to help smooth the way:

  • Always watch for bikes. On streets without bike lanes, or when making left turns, cyclists may mix with cars in the main traffic lanes.
  • Yield to bikes at intersections with green “bike boxes.” Portland has 15 such intersections, designed to prevent collisions between cyclists using bike lanes and motorists making right turns. When the light is red, drivers must stop at the white line bordering the green box, which is reserved for bicyclists. It is not legal to turn right on a red light at these intersections. When preparing to turn right on a green light, motorists should yield to oncoming cyclists in the bike lane.
  • Be aware that the city is testing two other alternatives to traditional bike lanes downtown: the Portland State University Cycle Track demonstration project on Southwest Broadway from Clay to Jackson; and buffered bike lanes on Southwest Oak between Naito Parkway and Ninth Avenue and Southwest Harvey Milk Street between Naito and 13th. These roadways are clearly marked.

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