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SKS makes our Get Togethers possible

Get Together brings SW Portland issues to the table

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 27th, 2011 at 9:08 am

SW Portland Get Together-19
Getting down to business.
- Full gallery -
(Photos © J. Maus)

Our 2011 Get Together season got off to a fantastic start last night. About 40 people who live and/or work in Southwest Portland gathered at Macadam's Bar and Grill to hear from advocates and experts, share their experiences, and to meet other fine folks they'd never stop and talk to on the hectic bikeways nearby.

SW Portland bikeways-2
A big reason for our Get Togethers is
to experience what it's like to ride in
different parts of the city.
Here's how we crossed Barbur.

On the ride out to the venue (which was about three miles south of City Hall on Macadam Blvd), J.R. and I got a snapshot of what it's like riding in Southwest. We made our way onto a crowded SW Barbur Blvd from downtown. As we got to SW Hamilton, I noticed a young woman on a bike waiting to cross in the crosswalk to go west — doing the same maneuver J.R. and I had already planned to do. Thing is, when crossing Barbur it's just easier and less stressful to use the crosswalk.

Once onto Hamilton, we skirted onto SW Corbett and took in a glorious view of the Willamette River and Mt. Hood on one side, and the river of cars on I-5 below us on the other. Coasting south down Corbett reminded me of another Southwest Portland riding staple; hills.

Once inside the venue, things got rolling rather quickly.

SW Portland Get Together-12
Ron Kroop from ODOT.

I bumped into Kevin Wagoner. He lives at Barbur and Terwiliger and commutes by bike to the Lloyd District every day. Kevin, like many other people I met last night, said his biggest concern is riding on Barbur. In Southwest Portland, where there are hilly roads that don't connect and no street grid to speak of, all traffic is funneled onto major arterials like Barbur — which makes the urgency to fix them that much greater.

Other faces in the crowd included Ed Jahn, the producer of one of my favorite shows, Oregon Field Guide (which airs on Oregon Public Broadcasting, whose offices are just up the road from the event). Deacon Tom Gornick from the the Blessing of the Bikes was also there.

As I usually do at Get Togethers, I scoped out the room and then called on people who I know are involved with relevant projects and policies.

SW Portland Get Together-20
SW Portland Get Together-17
A happy winner of a set of SKS fenders!

We heard from Owen Walz and Kiel Johnson, the duo behind the Friends of Barbur Facebook Group. Ron Kroop, ODOT District Manager of Operations and Maintenance for this area, also spoke (although I caught him off-guard by asking him to do so). Kroop shared ODOT's perspective on a number of projects in the area.

SW Portland Get Together-1
Check out our cool banner. Thanks SKS!

Richard Marantz, who sits on the Citizen's Advisory Committee for the Sellwood Bridge Project, gave us an update on that project. He said that recent cost-cutting measures wouldn't impact the bikeways and that, while final designs are yet to come, the current plans call for a six-foot bikeway on both sides of the bridge.

Uber-activist Don Baack gave us a rundown of many projects in the area and encouraged folks to get involved now with the Southwest Portland Active Transportation strategy. We also heard about Southwest Portland bike boulevard developments from Keith Liden (a member of the City's Bike Advisory Committee). Roger Averbeck gave us a preview of what's on tap for a project on Multnomah Blvd.

SW Portland Get Together-7
It's all about the conversations.

Also speaking up were John Landolfe representing bike commuters at OHSU and Rebecca Hamilton, who's working on creating "parklets" throughout Portland with her group, Rethinking the Right of Way.

After the mini-presentations by the many smart and engaged people in the room, I opened up the floor and asked for folks to share the big issues in Southwest Portland. Here is some of what was said:

  • There's a lack of a street network, so there are not adequate alternate routes off of major arterials.
  • People are not willing to wait 30 years for scheduled light rail and transit corridors to be built (they've been told bikeways will go in as part of future transit projects). Instead, there's a push to do the "little things" that can be done in the near-term.
  • Speaking of little things, myself and several others urged everyone to use the City's 823-SAFE and 823-CYCL hotlines to report nagging bikeway issues.
  • One person said the City has "a lack of passion out here." SW Portlanders feel like they get no respect from PBOT.

We covered a lot of ground last night and the energy level was high. The issues facing Southwest Portland won't be easy to solve, but the more informed and connected we are, the faster we can make it happen.

SW Portland Get Together-10
Don Baack (at right) from SW Trails,
shares news about his work.

I heard from several folks that great connections were made. City Pedestrian Advisory Committee member Rebecca Hamilton, for instance, got a chance to meet and talk with Ron Kroop from ODOT and now she's scheduled a ride-along with him to discuss potential crosswalk treatments on Barbur Blvd.

Jene-Paul Lemieux had never been to a Get Together before, and he had this to say:

"Wow. I can't imagine any other way to be in the same room with as many local, working bike infrastructure professionals (PBOT, ODOT) and experienced advocates at one time! The speakers all delivered the goods and did not shirk any questions asked...

My take-away conclusions: If enough people make a ruckus in the right place, things get done and, every little bit of input to the government organizations which build things and to positively present the cause to our neighbors, adds up."

Thanks to everyone who came out and thanks to SKS for the raffle goodies and sponsorship of all our 2011 Get Togethers. Browse more photos from the event in the photo gallery.

If you came out last night, feel free to share your take-aways and thoughts on the event below.

— If you gave us your email last night, we'll be sending you a follow-up with contact info of the speakers and some other helpful tidbits!

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Comments
  • Paul Souders January 27, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Thanks for the report. I'm sorry I missed it (committed to another community event last night -- when it rains it pours I guess). I've been riding in and from SW for eight years now & I love it despite the challenges. OK, some of the challenges (the hills) I positively love.

    I'm sure someone pointed this last night but for perspective: almost any route from SW (incl. suburbs) to downtown/inner E side will pass through one of three intersections: Barbur & Hamilton, Barbur & Terwilliger, Sunset & Capitol Hwy. And they're all lousy. Improving just those three intersections would be huge. That's how low the fruit is hanging out here.

    Can I get one of those helpful tidbit emails? paul@axoplasm.com

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  • wally January 27, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I am very sorry I had to miss this event. I had a "crisis" at work. These gatherings provide an invaluable public service. I will definitely try to attend in future.

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  • Emily January 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I agree with Paul's comment above. Improving those three intersections would be a big help. I feel the lack of bike lanes and sidewalks (or even any viable soft shoulder) on major east/west through-ways is a big problem. E.g. Multnomah Blvd, SW Vermont and Beaverton/Hillsdale-Capitol. As a foot and bike commuter who stays in the SW for work and taking my son to school, I am often the victim of aggressive driving and verbal taunts from motorists who do not like slowing or making space on SW Vermont.

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  • Wayne January 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Jonathan,
    Again, as I said leaving the event, thanks for hosting this get together out in SW, and for bringing some focus and illumination to the commuting challenges we face in this area.

    I learned a lot about the different initiatives and options being considered by the various groups and agencies involved. Don Baak was particularly informative, as was Roger.

    I appreciated the fact that Ron from ODOT attended, and explained what part of 99W/Barbur was under his jurisdiction, as the stretch from Hall all the way in via Naito Parkway to NW industrial area is my commute. I think there are a number of low-cost shorterm fixes, such as better signage and lighting, that could bring significant safety benefits to cyclists and pedestrians at certain problem areas along that route. Other sections will require some different solutions, like the bridge sections we discussed. You were going to post Ron's email address?

    I'm also glad Keith mentioned the transition section from SW5th to Barbur southbound, as that is the route I take going home after work. That intersection can be pretty scary during rush hour.

    All in all very worthwhile, great to chat with the guys from Friends of Barbur and get to hear some of the other local activists share their updates and perspectives. We're transportation-challenged in this part of the Metro area. It's going to take a lot of folks working together to focus on the progress we need to make for transportation alternatives to be implemented, and we can't wait 30 years for that to hapen.

    Wayne

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  • J.R. (Business Manager) January 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Thanks all who attended.
    Ron Kroop from ODOT can be found at:
    ronald.h.kroop(at)odot.state.or.us
    At the Get Together, Ron asked for public input on mid term solutions for the area.
    Other attendees are welcome to chime in here to solicit participation in their own projects and interests for improving active transportation for SW Portland. Keep in mind what Mr Liden suggested about avoiding working in silos so that agencies and interest groups leverage each others efforts.
    Readers may want to get involved with swtrails.org to help shape the region's future. They have done a lot of work thinking, documenting and prioritizing.

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  • Peter O. January 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Does anyone know how often Barbur gets swept? I've commuted from all over the place and Barbur seems to be consistently the cleanest road that I've experienced. Other cities such as Tigard and Beaverton have had to be constantly nagged to sweep major roads during the winter.

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    • C-Mac January 27, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      A lot. I ride daily on Barbur & Terwilliger, and have noticed the clean bike lanes myself. At least for the last 2 falling leaf seasons, the City of Portland folks have been working hard. I see the sweeper trucks at midnight on my ride home at least 1-2 times a week in Nov-Dec. They also come out very quickly after big storms.

      It eliminated one of my many excuses early on when friends got me started bike commuting: "waaaaah, there's too many wet leaves in the bike lane for me to ride a bike safely".

      C "Most well-lit bicyclist in Portland" Mac

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      • Machu Picchu January 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm

        To be specific: Barbur, from Tigard to the Naito split at the north end (State Hwy 99W) is maintained by ODOT, while Terwilliger is a city street and is maintained by the City of Portland.

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  • Carrie January 27, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you Jonathan! It was a very worth-while event and I learned a lot. It was nice to meet the faces behind "Friends of Barbur". I was hoping to meet other women who ride in the area though...

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    • Rebecca January 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      Hey Carrie,
      I'm so sorry that I missed you! I'd love to compare notes on the Barbur commute with you, so if you ever want to chat or e-mail, maybe we could get in touch.

      See you in the bike lane,
      Rebecca

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  • Seth Alford January 28, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I could only hear about 30% of what Ron Kroop had to say. Maybe it's because I'm getting old. Maybe bring a PA system next time?

    I commute through SW Portland from near Jesuit High School. So my priority is having a quick, safe route. Readers of my previous comments on bikeportland.org will know that I have some issues with MUPS. Those issues include people walking dogs on long leashes, limited site distances, inability to maintain a reasonable bicycling speed, and whenever BES or someone else needs a corridor to put in a sewer pipe or do some other environmental work, they choose the nearest MUP. The Fanno Creek trail is just now getting put back together for the 2nd time in the last few years because of BES's sewer pipe. It seems that BES thinking is that those darn bicyclists and walkers can just recreate somewhere else for a while.

    So I'm a little concerned that SW _Trails_ seems to be driving a MUP based solution to bicycle transportation in the area. I'd rather to see the money that would be spent on the bridges that Don Baack talked about go instead toward fixing the Beaverton-Hillsdale/Oleson/Scholls intersection. I consider that intersection the worst of my commute. The most "interesting" part of that is westbound BH to southwest-bound Scholls.

    My daily commute also includes Sunset & Capitol and Hamilton & Barbur. I don't perceive those as lousy as Paul Souders does, above. But, I think that's because I usually go straight through them. My perceptions might be different if I did a southbound Barbur to eastbound Hamilton vehicular left turn every day, across 2 lanes of fast moving motor vehicle traffic.

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    • Peter Buck February 4, 2011 at 7:48 am

      I second that comment regarding turning south on Scholls from west-bound Beaverton-Hillsdale. Besides the two-lane merge on Barbur to cross the Naito Parkway exit on the way into the city this is the most complex and dangerous part of my commute. Beaverton-Hillsdale could also do with some storm drain improvements. These are so deep the bike lane is effectively not useful in sections since it's necessary to move into the car lane if you are moving at a good clip.

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  • Seth Alford January 28, 2011 at 12:16 am

    One other thing. I too have been bothered by the broken street lights at Barbur and Capitol. The gentleman shown in picture 13 of Jonathan's slide show said that he had made multiple calls to the city about that. I had called, too. I looked for but did not see him at the end of the formal meeting so I could thank him for making those calls. Tonight was the first time I rode through that intersection after the lights were fixed. It was _much_ better.

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  • Some Dude January 28, 2011 at 11:26 am

    MUP, BES? Pardon my ignorance, but I'm probably not the only one that doesn't understand your acronyms.

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  • J.R. (Business Manager) January 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    mup = Multi Use Path.
    BES = Bureau of Environmental Services

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  • J. Hughart January 31, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I attended, and was pleased there was as much interest as there was on improvements for the cycling infrastructure in the SW. I commute solely in the SW and benefit by the city's more frequent sweeping of the bike lane on Terwilliger (btw Barbur & 6th) in the last couple winters, along with the sharrows on SW Westwood, and SW Cheltenham. I also forgot to sign the guest register, so if my email can be added to your list, that would be nice. thanks

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