Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 25th, 2013 at 12:15 pm
As we reported yesterday, PBOT has just installed bike lanes on a short stretch of North Skidmore Street. They go from Michigan Ave to Maryland Ave (one block east of Interstate). When I went by yesterday morning they hadn't finished applying all the striping into the buffer zone, so I wanted to share some updated photos. I also wanted to address a few things that came up in the comments to yesterday's story.
First, here are a few more photos of the completed lanes...
In the comments of yesterday's story, many people expressed their desires for these lanes to go all the way east to NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Skidmore is a key east-west connection between the I-5 corridor area and destinations in northeast Portland. However, these new bike lanes end rather abruptly at Michigan, one block west of the Mississippi Street. Why? There are several reasons. First, this striping project is part of the Going to the River project. That project directs bicycle traffic from Swan Island to the Going Street neighborhood greenway via Michigan, so there's no money in the budget for doing anything beyond what those plans call for.
Another reason we're not likely to see bike lanes continue is that PBOT would say "there isn't room."
Note that this new bike lane is a whopping 11-feet wide (six feet for the lane, five for the buffer) on the I-5 overpass. The only reason PBOT could do this is because there is no designated auto parking lane on the bridge so they had ample width to work with. The actual roadway width doesn't change on either side of the bridge, but since PBOT allows auto parking, the usable portion of the road effectively narrows by about 8-10 feet.
One of the saddest things I see on our streets is when a bike lane is forced to turn because of auto parking. It's a clear sign of our misplaced priorities. We sacrifice the comfort of people bicycling in order to allow people to park cars (usually for free) on the street. See the photos below to see what I mean...
In addition to car parking spaces, the recent installation of curb extensions (a.k.a. "bulb outs" and often accompanied with planted bioswales) also limits PBOT's ability to build continuous and direct bike paths. This is an emerging issue throughout Portland. The City builds curb extensions because they improve crossing safety for walkers — but they also have a negative impact on the bikeway because they create pinch-points where people on bikes are effectively shoved out into the street to be even closer to motor vehicle traffic.
These new bike lanes on Skidmore are nice; but they also highlight some important issues for us to consider going forward. Will we reach our ridership and bikeway quality goals if we continue to allow bike lanes to abruptly vanish once off a specific route? Will bicycling ever appeal to a broader range of Portlanders if we continue to let the free storage of private vehicles take priority over safe and direct bicycle access?