Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 1st, 2011 at 3:27 pm
(Photos © J. Maus)
A significant traffic safety project on Rosa Parks Way in North Portland has finally been completed. The funds for this project were awarded back in June 2006 and this was one of five "languishing projects" I reported on last year.
to ride in the gutter. See photos below
for how it looks now.
The project includes a variety of changes to Rosa Parks Way between N. Vancouver Avenue and N. Montana Avenue (just west of I-5, see map here). Along with adding bike lanes on this 1/2 mile stretch of road, the project also comes with a new bike-only traffic signal, three median islands to improve crossing safety, and three newly painted crosswalks (two of which are zebra-striped).
The new bikeways were completed thanks to citizen activists Shamus Lynsky and Shayna Rehberg who worked with PBOT bike coordinator Roger Geller to win a $1 million ODOT grant. The improved crossings came from Piedmont Neighborhood residents who have hounded PBOT for years to install a crossing treatment at N. Kerby to access the Peninsula Park Community Center and public swimming pool.
This project has special significance to me and my family as we live just a few houses off of Rosa Parks near I-5 and we ride on the street daily. Before I share photos and commentary, let me describe what the street was like prior to the changes.
Rosa Parks was previously a wide, four-lane (six if you count parking on both sides) street with high speeds (close to 40 mph on average I'd say - the posted limit is 35) and four freeway on-ramps. Crossing the street was stressful and tricky, and was made even worse with the freeway on-ramps. Over the I-5 overpass, there was zero shoulder room for bicycling which meant I always had to look over my shoulder to make sure a car wasn't about to run me (or my kids) down. This stretch of Rosa Parks is important because it connects residential neighborhoods with N Interstate Avenue, which has a major grocery store, gas station, MAX station, and other businesses.
With all that in mind, let's take a ride...
Starting from the western end at N. Vancouver, I immediately appreciated the changes. PBOT has re-striped the road to just one lane in each direction from Vancouver to Michigan (instead of two), a center turn lane (which act as a refuge and have made left-turns and crossings a bit easier), and six-foot bike lanes in each direction.
Bike lanes have their critics, but in this situation, I think they make a big difference. Instead of cowering in a shoulder near parked cars and being nervous about whether people in cars would see me or get angry at my presence in "their" lane, I can now rest easy in the legally and visually defined refuge of the bike lane.
Having just one lane for motor vehicles instead of two makes a huge difference and seems to have immediately slowed speeds down.
Continuing west at N. Kerby I came to the new crossing treatments. Since Kerby is an offset intersection, PBOT decided to put two crossings in right next to each other. Both have median islands and both are zebra-striped (as opposed to just one white line on the outside). My neighbors have been working to have these put in for years (thank you Deanne!) so it's very exciting to finally see them in action...
With the new crosswalk striping, the medians, and the bike lanes all creating a visual cue for people in cars, the result is much calmer traffic that makes crossing a lot easier and safer.
As I rode west toward N. Michigan (my street!), I was a bit disappointed at how the bike lane just drops, jogs to the right (curbside) and the road abruptly turns into two vehicle lanes in each direction. (UPDATE: PBOT says skip-striping will be added to help this transition, it just hasn't been completed yet.)
And here's another view of that transition (looking east from Michigan Ave)...
One of the things that caused delays with this project was that even though Rosa Parks is a PBOT-managed facility, because it travels over I-5, ODOT has sign-off authority on the on-ramp approaches and on the deck of the bridge overpass. (I suspect ODOT wasn't comfortable with losing a motor vehicle lane near their on-ramps.)
Even with two lanes eastbound on the I-5 overpass, the new bike lane makes a world of difference. I've been waiting for dedicated bike space on this overpass for years now...
And looking east...
On the west side of I-5, the new bike lanes meet up with existing ones a block prior to Interstate.
Now, let's head eastbound...
The most interesting part of this project is what PBOT designed for eastbound bike traffic just after Montana Ave. The new design directs bike traffic onto a newly widened sidewalk that is shared with foot traffic.
The bikeway/sidewalk stops at the I-5 on-ramp where a new bike signal has been installed. There's no need to push the signal button if you're on your bike thanks to sensors in the ground.
Just wait your turn and watch for the bike signal...
When bike turns green, roll into the crosswalk (the motor vehicle lane gets a large, bright, "No Turn on Red" sign). After you cross the on-ramp, you can choose to continue on the sidewalk, or roll into the new bike lane...
The changes at this intersection are likely to be confusing at the start. The woman below didn't see the new sidewalk/bike signal and remained in the roadway. It's still legal to be in the roadway (at least I suspect that it is, unless Oregon's sidepath law is applicable), but the lane doesn't have much room and it's a right-turn only freeway on-ramp, which makes it not the safest place for a bike to be.
Heading eastbound, the new bike lanes are a big help near the busy Peninsula Park Community Center. This used to be a place where I'd worry about getting rear-ended...
Overall, I feel this is a major improvement for traffic safety and bicycling on Rosa Parks. And there are even more changes are in the works. PBOT is eyeing another crossing treatment on Rosa Parks at N. Michigan Ave as part of the Going to the River project.
Have you ridden on Rosa Parks Way yet? What do you think?
UPDATE, 9/2 at 10:05 am: Please note that this project isn't completely done yet. There are still some refinements to the bikeway yet to come. Here's more from PBOT project manager Winston Sandino:
"There will be bike symbols; a skip line at Michigan where the one lane traffic becomes two lane, a crosswalk at the island in Rosa Parks/Montana/I-5 on ramp, stop bars, remove all the sticky stumps on the bridge, and extend a little piece of bike lane at the Vancouver/Rosa Parks intersection westbound."