Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on March 21st, 2014 at 11:33 am
(Photos by J.Maus/BikePortland)
For years, as Portland has looked for ways to calm auto traffic in commercial districts like N Denver Avenue, SE Stark Street or NE 28th Avenue, the biggest tool in its shed — the speed bump — has been off limits.
“PBOT and Fire are in the middle of a conversation about the city’s emergency response network.”
— Diane Dulken, PBOT spokeswoman
The reason: Portland Fire and Rescue says major streets need to be flat and smooth enough for emergency trucks to rush down them, when necessary, without losing critical time when responding to emergencies.
But a new Fire and Rescue policy in the early stages of discussion would soften this rule by designating some major streets as being of secondary importance to emergency response routes. City officials say this might allow speed bumps on some such streets. But it’s not clear whether the decision by the city’s fire chief could be completed in time to affect the design of one street where the option might matter most: 28th Avenue.
“PBOT and Fire are in the middle of a conversation about the city’s emergency response network,” Portland Bureau of Transportation spokeswoman Diane Dulken wrote in an email Thursday. “As for 28th Avenue – it is way too soon to tell if traffic calming would be an option for any portion of that street.”
Rich Newlands, project manager for the ongoing 20s Bikeway project, said Tuesday that he’d seen a map indicating that 28th between NE Sandy and SE Stark might be one of the streets that could be allowed to get speed bumps under a revised fire bureau policy. If the city were in fact able to add speed bumps on 28th and/or 26th, that’d be important because it’s a way to improve the street for biking somewhat without removing auto parking.
“Speed bumps alone… won’t make the route comfortable enough for the interested but concerned.”
— Carl Larson, BTA
A professional biking advocate who’s following the 20s Bikeway project said he didn’t think that adding speed bumps would be enough to make 28th truly welcoming to most Portlanders if they wanted to ride a bicycle there.
“Speed bumps alone (absent extreme woonerf-style traffic calming AND traffic diversion) won’t make the route comfortable enough for the interested but concerned,” Bicycle Transportation Alliance Advocate Carl Larson wrote Thursday. “It’ll only improve things for bolder users. That’s not in keeping with the city’s goals.”
If the city were to install a traffic diverter on 28th, forcing auto traffic to turn east or west at some point, Larson said that might reduce traffic volumes on 28th enough to make most people willing to ride on the street. But he said the city has resisted such a big change.
“I pushed for calming and diversion and was flat-out denied,” Larson said. “PBOT does not seem interested in changing the road’s functional designation.”