Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on January 11th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)
Since New Seasons Market announced they were coming to the Williams/Vancouver corridor in North Portland I’ve been hoping to catch up with CEO Lisa Sedlar to hear more about their plans for bike access and to get her vibe on transportation issues in the area. I met Sedlar at a meeting of the North Williams Traffic Safety Operations Project yesterday and we finally connected for a Q & A via phone this morning.
One of things I was most interested to hear her address is whether or not the high volume of bike traffic on Williams (and Vancouver) played into their decision. While she said they’ve been considering a store in this neighborhood since 2008 and that its designation as a “food desert” by Mayor Sam Adams put it on their radar, Sedlar said the presence of bike traffic “definitely” played into their decision.
“We see the hundreds of cyclists going up and down Williams every day and we could see that we could capture this traffic.”
Speaking of traffic, there are some underlying concerns that the new store will increase vehicle trips and further complicate an already stressful traffic environment. Sedlar said that’s not how she envisions it. “The idea of opening in an underserved area,” she said is “capturing the traffic that’s here now so people don’t have to leave the neighborhood to get groceries.”
Given the neighborhood discourse around the Williams project of late, I was pleased to find out that New Seasons’ Operations Manager Elizabeth Nardi lives in the Eliot neighborhood and has been attending project meetings as a resident for the past several months.
When it comes to specific traffic engineering changes, Sedlar offered a few bits of info and some perspectives.
Sedlar said they’ve already begun conversations with project developer Roger Collins (of Ivy Street Partners) and others about “strengthening” the existing traffic signals at Fremont and Williams “so they’re way more visible.” In addition, she mentioned creating a “left turn deceleration lane” on Williams and enhancing crosswalk visibility on all the intersections around the store.
As for her opinion on the proposed one-lane Williams option, Sedlar said, “Vancouver is one lane and that seems to work fine,” but she qualified that by adding, “I’m not the traffic expert.” Sedlar plans to stay involved with the planning process, which is still focused on setting guidelines and outcomes and hasn’t re-started design and engineering ideas since the public process rebooted back in August.
Above all else, when it comes to transportation issues, Sedlar wants to see vehicle speeds come down. “My strong opinion,” she said, “Is I’d like to see the traffic slowed down all along Williams because of potential for accidents with cyclists, pedestrians, buses and motor vehicle traffic.” She added that they’ll “do everything we can” to install new signage along the corridor telling vehicle operators to slow down and to expect the presence of bicycles.
Another major player in this discussion is Mr. Collins from Ivy Street Partners. According to Sedlar, he’s considering a mixed-use development on the south side of the same block New Seasons is building on. Sedlar says it would have small retail shops on the bottom and affordable-housing designated apartments on top.
Now let’s talk about bike access…
Sedlar says that, like their Hawthorne store, the new location will have more bike parking than car parking. They don’t know exactly how many bike spaces there will be (they’ve announced 60 car spots, plus an additional 12 on the street), but Sedlar said there’d be plenty. She also mentioned that they’ll make sure most of the bike parking is covered because, “Getting onto a wet bicycle seat isn’t a fun thing.”
It’s also not fun to get caught with a flat without a pump or show up to shop without a lock. But don’t fret, they’ll have you covered. Expect loaner U-locks, patch kits, and a tire pump at the new store (as well as basic bike necessities like tubes and lights for sale of course).
During our chat I told Sedlar how many people have large cargo bikes and it might be worth having a special “Family/Cargo Bike Parking” area set aside. She loved the idea and asked if I’d like to do a site walk-through with a PBOT parking staffer to flesh out some ideas. Another idea I ran by her was providing small gear lockers for people that show up by bike. I think providing space for rain gear, panniers, and other valuables people don’t like to leave attached to their bikes, is the next big thing for bike-friendly businesses. Sedlar agreed and I’m hopeful we see those innovative amenities in the new store.
Speaking of ideas and feedback, Sedlar and New Seasons have a good record of listening to neighborhoods. When they moved into the Hawthorne area in southeast Portland, Sedlar shared, initial plans called for a ramp to rooftop parking on SE 41st Avenue. However, after neighbors told them that street sees a lot of bike traffic, they changed the plans and put the ramp on SE 41st. “We flipped the whole configuration of the store based on feedback from the neighborhood.”
In the end, Sedlar wants BikePortland readers to remember that her company is “really thoughtful about what it means to ride your bike to the grocery store and that safety is our foremost concern.”
Tell New Seasons what you’d like to see in the design of their new store in the comments and stay tuned for updates.