Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 1st, 2010 at 1:30 pm
(Photo: Peter Welte)
This week’s question comes from reader Kinya Hanada. Kinya touches on a question I’ve wondered myself for several years now. She loves riding on NE Ainsworth because it’s a “nice, direct route,” but wonders if there are any plans to make it more pleasant to bike on (emphasis mine).
“I was wondering if you know if there is anything planned for Ainsworth St., specifically on east of MLK. I like to ride there when I’m going to the NE side or to the Columbia river and it’s a nice direct route to take.
The only thing that detracts from the experience are the parked cars. There aren’t so many of them and the traffic is not too heavy most of the time, so it’s not super dangerous, but when I have to pass the parked cars and there’s a car approaching from behind, there isn’t enough room (or at least so it seems) for both car and I.
So, I either slow or stop to let the car go first or take the lane and make the car slow down. Either way is a bit inconvenient. I think every time I go through there that it would be so much better if the cars weren’t allowed to park there. It’s not as if there is shortage of parking in the area on the side streets. I think it would make a very nice bike corridor and encourage more people biking in the area if they made some changes there.”
Thanks for the question Kinyada. I live near Ainsworth, bike on it frequently, and I share your feelings about it. The street is seductively narrow and calm, but it’s sometimes uncomfortable to take the lane while a car pulls up right behind you. (Note that the speed limit on Ainsworth is 30 mph.)
The riding conditions on Ainsworth were brought into focus in November 2008 when a group of riders were passed too closely by a Portland Police officer in a patrol car and where then ticketed for impeding traffic. The tickets were ultimately dismissed and the incident led to a bike law police training video that was completed a year later.
What the street needs is a bit more breathing room for bikes and cars. That leaves two choices. Either remove the on-street parking or widen the street by cutting into the large median in the middle of the two lanes (it’s a couplet separated by a tree-lined park).
The on-street parking is an interesting issue. PBOT is loathe to get into parking removal battles, especially when many of the houses don’t have any other place to park. I think that moving people from A to B is a more important use of our public right-of-way than private vehicle storage, but parking removal is a very touchy subject and it’s unlikely the City would propose it just yet.
As for building some sort of bikeway into the median, I wouldn’t count on that either. It turns out that the wide and wonderful median is officially recognized as the Ainsworth Linear Arboretum (which celebrated its 5th anniversary last week). Chopping into that arboretum — with its sensitive roots from 60 different species of trees — to put a bikeway, is pretty much a non-starter.
Interestingly, Ainsworth is signed (see photo) and mapped as an official bike route. On a PBOT map of the “Recommended Bikeway Network,” Ainsworth is labeled as being slated for a “Future separated in-roadway” treatment, which could be either a standard bike lane, a buffered bike lane, or a cycle track. The 2030 Bike Plan makes no mention of a forthcoming project on Ainsworth and I haven’t heard of anything planned either.
Further making it not too likely that a bike facility is coming to Ainsworth any time soon, is the Holman Bike Boulevard project. Holman is just one block north and many people prefer it to Ainsworth already.
This is probably a longer answer than you were looking for, but I hope it answers your question and gives you some background on riding conditions on Ainsworth.