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Advisory committee to Novick: "Bring to bear all possible pressure on ODOT" to study Barbur Blvd

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 3rd, 2013 at 12:08 pm

"Unfortunately, ODOT has decided to prevent improvement of bicycle lanes on its segments of SW Barbur. More significantly, ODOT is basing its decision on a questionable analysis of conditions."

SW Barbur Blvd should have the same amount of bicycle traffic — more than 5,000 bicycle trips a day — as N. Vancouver Ave. But it doesn't, because of a "failure of design". That's the surprising analogy made by the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee in a letter (PDF) sent to Transportation Commissioner Novick yesterday.

The PBAC is urging Novick to, "bring to bear all possible pressure on ODOT" to get them to the table and conduct a transparent analysis of how traffic on Barbur would be impacted by a road diet.

This is the latest in a string of letters from stakeholders an action alerts from advocacy groups urging the Oregon Department of Transportation to participate in a traffic study so that the project can move forward with agreed-upon data.

The PBAC is a group of citizen volunteers that meets once a month in City Hall to weigh in on bicycle issues. They report to the Mayor and PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller is the staff participant on the committee. In the letter dated yesterday and signed by committee Chair Suzanne Veaudry Casaus and Vice-Chair Ian Stude, the PBAC laid out a powerful argument for ODOT action and they explained why frustration exists with how the agency has handled the issue thus far.

Here's how they lay out the N. Vancouver Ave. analogy:

North Vancouver Ave. is part of a very successful corridor street from a number of perspectives. Businesses are booming in the corridor, developers are creating many units of new housing and many people use the street to reach their destinations every day.

According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, North Vancouver carried more than 5,000 daily bicycle trips in 2012. While the citywide proportion of women riding bicycles is approximately 31%, more than 40% of the people riding on North Vancouver were women. This is a positive indicator of the appeal of North Vancouver for bicycling, as higher proportions of women riding bicycles generally means that people feel safe and comfortable on the street.

Those more than 5000 bicycle trips on North Vancouver in 2012 represent a 97% growth in bicycle trips on that street in the past five years and a 172% growth since 2006.

But the subject of this letter is not North Vancouver Ave. It's SW Barbur Boulevard.

There are many similarities between these two streets. Like North Vancouver, SW Barbur Boulevard is a principal bicycle corridor connecting residential neighborhoods to the Central City. Like North Vancouver, SW Barbur offers the flattest topography for bicycling in its area, making it an especially desirable route. Based on Metro's newly‐minted bicycle demand model, SW Barbur should be carrying a volume of bicycle trips similar to that on North Vancouver. But that’s where the similarity ends. In reality, bicycle volumes on SW Barbur are one‐eighth those on North Vancouver and they’ve been dropping since they peaked in 2008 at slightly less than 1000 daily trips. Only 20% of people riding bicycles on SW Barbur are women; well below the city average.

That SW Barbur does not achieve its potential to serve SW Portland as a bicycle route is principally a failure of design. The road is too fast. The bicycle lanes are unprotected. Most importantly, the bicycle lanes disappear at critical areas on the roadway, notably at the Vermont and Newbury bridge structures.

Also in the letter, the BAC points out that the portions of Barbur under PBOT control (immediately south of downtown Portland) have already been "improved" through road diets.

The BAC then details how they believe ODOT has played "fast and loose" with the traffic data in the Barbur corridor thus far:

Unfortunately, ODOT has decided to prevent improvement of bicycle lanes on its segments of SW Barbur. More significantly, ODOT is basing its decision on a questionable analysis of conditions.

ODOT’s analysis of a road diet on SW Barbur is flawed, and it is playing fast and loose with the data and information about this important corridor. This is confirmed by the SW Corridor Active Transportation Evaluation Report. Two analytic tools were used to analyze road diet conditions on SW Barbur. However, ODOT, in their 9/5/13 memo, bases their recommendations principally on the one tool (DTA) that uses non‐standard practices and faulty data. By selecting these results ODOT has purposely presented the most unfavorable outcomes to improving bicycle conditions on SW Barbur.

The SW Corridor Active Transportation Evaluation Report states that “no firm conclusions can be drawn about the amount of diversion resulting from possible additional delay due to the road diet. Additional analysis would be needed...”

The BAC is joining Oregon Walks, the City Club of Portland, and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in demanding that ODOT conducts a fresh, "impartial and transparent" analysis of the road diet. Then, says the BAC, "Should the analysis then support a road diet, we ask you to then actively work with ODOT to make that happen." (Here's more on the dispute behind the traffic analysis.)

"Why should we rely on faulty analysis and incorrect assumptions when safety is so clearly at stake?" reads the final line of the letter.

For their part, ODOT has explained many reasons they'd like to keep Barbur the way it is. They say it's a crucial alternate when adjacent I-5 gets backed up, that it's an emergency response and freight route, that some stakeholders in the region object to a road diet, that any lane reconfiguration would result in congestion, and so on.

Even with those reasons for inaction, I don't think we've ever seen to much public pressure brought to bear on ODOT. I've attended and followed the BAC for many years, and it's not common at all for them to use this type of language and/or get this proactive/involved on an issue. I think it speaks to the mounting frustration many people have with ODOT's stance around this proposal thus far.

— Download and read the letter yourself here.

— Follow our complete coverage of Barbur Blvd here.

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Comments
  • Steve B October 3, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Nice to see the BAC stepping up to the plate on this one!

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  • 9watts October 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    ODOT is not acting in good faith and everyone is starting to realize this. Good for everyone!

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  • 9watts October 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    ODOT's view of stakeholders seems not to include all (any?) of the groups who are now piling on. Also traffic capacity to them seems very one-dimensional: more is better; less is not acceptable, even though many smart folks have articulated how slower speeds &/or fewer lanes could have beneficial repercussions not just for those not stuck in cars but for them too.
    This are just two features of how stuck in the past their decision-making team seems to be.

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    • Will P October 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      I think that top brass in ODOT view themselves, Metro, and Trimet as the stakeholders. Those are the players in the .5 to 1.5bil in federal money that will be spent in that corridor in the next decade.

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      • 9watts October 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm

        You are probably right. But it is us--all of us--who pay taxes which fund all of this.
        I'll bet wsbob any sum he chooses that ODOT brass either doesn't know that ~1 in 6 Multnomah Co. households (most of whom I'm sure pay taxes) doesn't own a car, or has failed to draw some obvious conclusions from that fact, for how they choose to spend the money we all give them.

        If their recent handling of Barbur's future isn't an example of carhead I don't know what is.

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      • Todd Boulanger October 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm

        Though TRIMET's leadership may want to step back as a stakeholder and think...

        ...that they should do what best they can do to support bike access into the CBD from this area as it behooves them to generate more choice non motorized commuters (who will also use transit for some trips) and to also reduce the pressure on their system of cyclists filling their LRT carriages and bus tracks in order to bypass arterial black spots/ poor bikeway facilities.

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  • Chris I October 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    The O' picks up the story:
    http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2013/10/portland_bicycle_advocates_odo.html#incart_river_default

    Resist the urge to read the comments, but make sure you vote in the survey towards the bottom. We need to show ODOT that there is public support for this diet.

    Another interesting comment is the possible violation of the state Bike Bill. Even though it is just a resurfacing, and we would be likely to lose, is it worth bringing a lawsuit against ODOT just to put additional pressure on them? It's clear that they just want this issue to go away, and a court case will do a lot to put pressure on them.

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    • spare_wheel October 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm

      I also urge everyone to vote for Barbur improvements on the Oregonian web poll. You can be sure that opponents will pay attention to the results.

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    • Peter W October 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      The O article from Joseph Rose says:

      "Responding to the plan on Twitter, however, some automobile commuters who take Barbur say those lanes are definitely full during rush hour."

      He then goes on to quote the single twitter response he received in opposition (from a Vancouver resident):

      "Ridiculous," tweeted Aaron Hockley. "Barbur seems to already have far more auto demand than supply. Halving that capacity is a recipe for gridlock."

      Apparently "some" means "one"?

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      • Chris I October 3, 2013 at 2:49 pm

        I sincerely hope that Vancouver residents are not considered stakeholders by ODOT.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      Even though it is just a resurfacing, and we would be likely to lose, is it worth bringing a lawsuit against ODOT just to put additional pressure on them? It's clear that they just want this issue to go away, and a court case will do a lot to put pressure on them

      That would be pretty interesting. At this point, the BTA has looked at it and decided against pursuing legal action. But a group like Friends of Barbur or Lewis & Clark or someone else could file a suit I suppose. I don't know exactly what that would entail though.

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      • dwainedibbly October 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

        I'd call that an escalation which isn't yet called for. If political and public pressure can't get the job done, THEN it will be time for a suit.

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      • gumby October 3, 2013 at 10:17 pm

        It was a law suit that got the city of Portland to start building bike infastructure. Looks like maybe ODOT needs the same kick in the pants. It wasn't easy though, so like you said - only as a last resort.
        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rex-burkholder/portlands-bicycle-revolut_b_3861490.html

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    • wsbob October 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      "...bringing a lawsuit against ODOT..." Chris I

      Go ahead and share with us, what you believe would be a good, legitimate basis for a lawsuit against ODOT relative to Barbur Blvd.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Chris I October 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm

        Violation of the state bike bill? I'm not a lawyer, which is why I questioned the validity of the suit in my post. Are you a lawyer?

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        • wsbob October 3, 2013 at 6:57 pm

          If that's going to be the grounds for a lawsuit you envision, give us some details about how you believe ODOT's management of the state highway that is Barbur Blvd, is a violation of the state bike bill.

          I'm not a lawyer. Yourself and some other people commenting here, seem to think with some certainty that ODOT has broken the law with regards to its' management of Barbur Blvd. I'm wondering what solid grounds you and others here may have for that thinking.

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  • Hillsons October 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    'questionable analysis of conditions.' ..That must be a nice way of saying 'load of bs'

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • John V October 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Dear BikePortland, thank you for all the coverage on Barbur. I've ridden Barbur nearly every work day for years - across those damn bridges. A road diet makes perfect sense. So does lowering the speed limit. To the ODOT leadership that says nothing needs to be done to the bridges because there have no been any accidents in ten years, I say there have been plenty of close calls and near misses that have not been reported. It's a miracle no one has been hurt in these locations. Keep in mind, the majority of the bicyclists that ride this route are seasoned bicycle commuters who have learned what it takes to get down this road safely. So, don't point to the lack of accidents as proof that it is safe.

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  • Eastsider October 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Amanda Fritz tweeted this morning that she was annoyed by all of the emails she has received from constituents in support of the Barbur road diet. So much for public process. Maybe if we require more parking lots on Barbur she could support it.

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    • dan October 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Yeah, that Amanda Fritz tweet was kind of loopy. It suggests that 1) she has no idea of how to set up rules / filters in her e-mail and 2) she seemed to think that everyone after the first 25 people who contacted her about Barbur should have known that she had already received many e-mails on this topic and further emails would be superfluous.

      What with this and her hilarious attempt to cut an illegal back room deal to relocate the Right 2 Dream 2 camp to the Pearl District (which, BTW is a great idea), I kind of wonder what's going on with Amanda.

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      • Chris I October 3, 2013 at 3:44 pm

        We could tell her the road diet will improve access to the campsite under the Capitol Highway overpass.

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      • wsbob October 3, 2013 at 6:38 pm

        "... attempt to cut an illegal back room deal..." dan

        Off topic, but I read about this in the O. A bit of the city's legal rationale for making this move was detailed there. Sounds as though the move isn't necessarily illegal, though, Homer ?, the developer that's planning to put a new hotel on a site just north of the bridge, is apparently kind of ticked . One of R2D2's head honchos says homeless people love Fritz. Great quote about that in one of the recent O stories.

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    • wsbob October 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      "Amanda Fritz tweeted this morning that she was annoyed by all of the emails she has received from constituents in support of the Barbur road diet. ..." Eastsider

      In its story, the O published a screen shot of Fritz's tweet. Here's the text of that tweet:

      "The @BTAOregon sent me 464 nearly-identical emails in two days. I apologize to those awaiting replies on other topics, lost in the onslaught" fritz/twitter

      http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2013/10/portland_bicycle_advocates_odo.html

      BTA sends her 464 nearly-identical emails? Staff of BTA, if you've got any details on whether she says about the source and nature of those emails is true, post them please.

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      • 9watts October 3, 2013 at 10:35 pm

        "BTA sends her 464 nearly-identical emails?"

        Of course not.
        Those who took the BTA up on their suggestion (no doubt emailed to members) to send Fritz a message (probably with suggested text) would have been the senders. Were you imagining BTA staff hitting 'send' all day long?

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        • wsbob October 3, 2013 at 11:46 pm

          I asked, because I don't know the facts. Apparently, you don't either. Again...the tweet Fritz posted:

          "The @BTAOregon sent me 464 nearly-identical emails in two days. I apologize to those awaiting replies on other topics, lost in the onslaught" fritz/twitter

          One possible explanation, is that Fritz may have mis-spoke about who the sender(s) were, in her tweet. Another possible explanation, is that the BTA may have mass mailed Fritz with a form letter, or "suggested text", as you wrote, that individuals may have added a number of their own words and a signature to, plus possibly contact info, etc., or not, before handing it over to the BTA to send on. Fritz said the BTA sent the 464 emails...not individual people or groups from email addresses other than BTA's.

          It someone has the story, and the facts, on whether or not Fritz truly did get such a mailing from the BTA related to Barbur Blvd, let's hear it.

          It's fine for people to write their elected officials letters expressing their concerns about things...in their own words. That's something more people should be doing. If though, the letters sent are just going to essentially be a stack of the same form letter with a different signature attached to each one, it may be more constructive use of officials time to just put together a petition with hopefully, a long list of verifiable names attached to it.

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          • Daniel L October 4, 2013 at 8:44 am

            It wouldn't have taken long to find the facts.

            http://btaoregon.org/2013/10/action-alert-tell-city-hall-to-put-safety-first/

            is where the bta emails originated, yes it is basically a form letter but they were sent by individuals. Providing suggested text makes it easy for people to express their view when they otherwise may have remained quiet. Just because they didn't write it personally doesn't make it any less valid though.

            Also, it clearly got attention doing it this way. Petitions can often be more easily ignored unless they have significantly more signatures attached.

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            • wsbob October 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

              "It wouldn't have taken long to find the facts.

              http://btaoregon.org/2013/10/action-alert-tell-city-hall-to-put-safety-first/

              is where the bta emails originated, yes it is basically a form letter but they were sent by individuals. ..." Daniel L

              Daniel...I'm presuming you may be Daniel Larson, who has signed under 'Questions?', as an advocate at the bottom of the BTA Action Alert letter page. Thankyou for your effort to answer questions I've raised about emails in comments to this bikeportland story, about emails Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz remarked in a tweet, that she had received from the BTA.

              You say that individuals sent the letter, essentially a form letter...but I think you're saying as well, that the letters were in fact sent, or as you said, they 'originated' from the BTA's email address, even though the senders were obliged to include their email addresses on the action letter form.

              In other words, apparently what Fritz wrote in the tweet she posted, and that was published in the Oregonian, is essentially true. She got a slew of more than 400 letters, what she says were nearly identical letters...from the BTA. Hopefully, before clicking on 'Submit', additional comments individuals may have added in the forms' comment box, will have been of substance that was worth the addition to Fritz's workload, and the part they may have played in keeping other people waiting for some of her time.

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              • Daniel L October 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm

                FYI both of your assumptions are wrong.

                The BTA page has a mailto link that prefills an email with text in your own email client of choice. The emails when sent are sent from the email addresses of the individuals who chose to send them.

                I would suspect that many did in fact add their own comments to the emails. I do not know though.

                I will say again though that even though the text may have been prewritten it doesn't make the email any less important or less worthy of consideration than any other constituent email. An elected official shouldn't be implying that is an imposition for people to express their opinion.

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                • wsbob October 5, 2013 at 12:01 am

                  "FYI both of your assumptions are wrong. ..." Daniel L

                  Don't blame others for your failure in not having provided a clear answer the first time, about how your organization's advocacy form letter email system works.

                  "...An elected official shouldn't be implying that is an imposition for people to express their opinion." Daniel L

                  I read nothing in Fritz's tweet that implied the job of reading people's expressions of their opinion, was an imposition. Fritz's tweet rather clearly expressed it was the 400+ copies of the BTA's form letter segment of the emails received, that wasn't so great, rather than people expressing their opinion.

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  • dwainedibbly October 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I, for one, am really glad that Amanda Fritz wasn't handed Transportation when the Mayor divided up responsibilities!

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  • Smedley October 4, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I recently moved from N. Portland to right off of Barbur. I'm very experienced ridng my bike but I stopped riding to the Fred Meyer because the two bridges that force me to ride in the road.

    I noticed that the bridges have safety guard rails so cars don't fly off the short span if they happened to swerve off the road. I couldn't help but wonder, why don't bicyclists have guard rails to protect us? We are told those two bridges aren't "that bad", but it's just another example of protecting one type of commuter and not another.

    If we somehow could squeeze one lane that is at least as wide or wider than the Spring Water Corridor bike path the amout of riders from SW would triple or quadruple. While regular commuters would feel a sense of victory, it would encourage that person who has always wanted to "start riding" but doesn't feel safe.

    Basically I'm asking why do car commuters get safety rails, but we get fog lines for protection?

    Why when the city decides to place sharrows are they white? All bicycle & pedestrian road related information should have uniformity and be green. I've been told "White" saves money. I feel that the white doesn't really tell the driver anything other than "Watch Out" while green sharrows and boxes clearly state what you might encounter around you while driving.

    Could we at least place traffic bollards along Barbur?

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  • Kristen October 4, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Barbur Blvd isn't just for people in SW Portland looking to ride to the city center or to locally-- it's also the connector road for Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood to Portland. It would be easy to ride from Tigard to Portland if Barbur didn't suck so much.

    C'mon, ODOT, connect communities together with good facilities.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Joseph Rose October 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Peter W
    The O article from Joseph Rose says:
    "Responding to the plan on Twitter, however, some automobile commuters who take Barbur say those lanes are definitely full during rush hour."
    He then goes on to quote the single twitter response he received in opposition (from a Vancouver resident):
    "Ridiculous," tweeted Aaron Hockley. "Barbur seems to already have far more auto demand than supply. Halving that capacity is a recipe for gridlock."
    Apparently "some" means "one"?
    Recommended 5

    Tough crowd. Actually, I received three tweets and six emails in response the Twitter request. It was between quoting the one you cited and this one: https://twitter.com/CHold/status/385465291318099968

    Take care. Be safe.
    Joseph Rose

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  • JL October 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Has the state or local authority with jurisdiction over this roadway found, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • dan October 4, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Like everything else, it depends on your definitions. What's "safe"? What's a "reasonable rate of speed"?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Chris I October 4, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      A lot of people in the U.S. think that 30,000 dead people a year is "just the cost of doing business" when it comes to how we travel around this country. Everything has a certain level of subjectivity.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

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