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New parks will improve bicycling in east Portland

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
New paths and maybe even a
pump track are coming to Beech Park.
(Graphic: Portland Parks)

The two new parks announced by the City of Portland last week will come with new bicycling opportunities for Portlanders — especially the estimated 1765 households that live near them

The proposed Beech Park (NE 126th and Beech) and Gateway Park & Plaza (NE 104th and Wasco) were pitched to the community by Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz as a way to enhance underserved areas. "In east Portland, two out of every five households do not have easy access to a City park," read a statement from Fritz. "That is in stark contrast to the rest of Portland where four out of every five households live within a half-mile of a park or natural area."

While residents of east Portland have fewer parks, they also have fewer safe places to ride bicycles away from road traffic. The great news is that both of these parks will provide places where people young and old can ride in a pleasant environment.
(more...)

State Rep secures $3.6 million in state funding for East Portland sidewalks

Monday, July 8th, 2013
SE 136th Press Conference-7
State Rep. Shemia Fagan at a pres
s conference in April.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

State Representative Shemia Fagan has delivered $3.6 million in state capital funds to build sidewalks and crosswalks in East Portland.

At a press conference back in April, Rep. Fagan announced her intentions to pursue this funding, which she saw as her duty following the tragic death of five-year-old Morgan Maynard-Cook on February 28th. Not only did Rep. Fagan believe the state had a duty to build the sidewalks in light of the grief experienced by Maynard-Cook's mother Connie Ruiz, she also did it to provide safer road conditions for the 2,000 students who attend schools in the area.

"All of these kids need a safe route to school," she said at that press conference, "And these families are not just Portlanders, they are Oregonians and we owe them as well."

Here's an excerpt from a statement put out by Fagan's office today: (more...)

East Portland and cycling's "downtown culture"

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
SE 136th Press Conference-7
Oregon State Rep. Shemia Fagan.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think out Loud radio show hosted a conversation about "the future of bicycling" yesterday. The show was set up to discuss the recent release of reports by the City Club of Portland and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Leaders from both groups were in studio and the host also welcomed Oregon State Representative Shemia Fagan onto the show via telephone. Rep. Fagan — whose district stretches east from SE 122nd Ave through Clackamas County all the way to Highway 26 — was asked how she felt upon hearing about all the talk of bicycle funding and projects.

I think Fagan's answers deserve a wider audience so I've shared the entire exchange below (you can also listen to the whole show here):

Think out Loud Host David Miller:

"When you hear people like Craig [Beebe, from City Club] and Rob [Sadowsky, from the BTA] talking about increasing bicycle-friendly infrastructure as a way to have pedestrians and cars and bikers all play well together, what goes through your mind?"

(more...)

Mayor Hales restores sidewalk funding for SE 136th Ave

Thursday, April 4th, 2013
SE 136th Press Conference-3
In a show of political force, six state lawmakers
joined Mayor Hales at a press event for
the SE 136th sidewalk project yesterday.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Standing on a dirt and gravel shoulder and squeezed between two parked cars, Mayor Charlie Hales announced yesterday morning that he intends to move forward with the sidewalk project on SE 136th Avenue.

Back in February, Bureau of Transportation Interim Director Toby Widmer said he needed more money for paving and he wanted to take the $1.2 million already set aside for the sidewalk to do more of it. That decision set off an outcry from the community. Even though PBOT is technically under the Mayor's purview and Widmer is his hand-picked director, Hales distanced himself from the decision almost immediately. Then, less than two weeks later Hales faced even greater pressure when five-year old Morgan Cook was tragically killed by someone driving on that same road just a few blocks away from where the sidewalk was planned. (more...)

East Portland fatality puts heat on City's paving priority - UPDATED

Friday, March 1st, 2013
Streetview of where a girl was struck and killed last night by someone driving a car as she tried to cross the street.

Mayor Hales and his interim PBOT Director Toby Widmer are on the hot seat this morning for their decision to make paving a higher priority than safety. The City's budget plan to "realign" $7.15 million in PBOT funds — $1.2 million of which would come from an already planned sidewalk project on SE 136th Ave — was immediately controversial when it was announced last week. And that was before last night when a five-year-old girl was tragically killed just blocks away from where that new sidewalk was slated to go.

"Repaving streets is absolutely important for this city, but let's not fix potholes at the expense of children's safety and accessibility for people with disabilities."
— Stephanie Routh, Oregon Walks

According to the Portland Police, around 7:00 pm last night Morgan Maynard-Cook was visiting a friend across the street from her home on SE 136th. She was on the east side of 136th. Her home is on the west side of the street at the corner of 136th and Harold (map). When ready to come home, she went to cross 136th after a northbound car slowed to let her cross. She then left the grasp of the person she was walking with, ran out and was struck by a 69-year old woman driving a car in the opposite lane. Maynard-Cook died on the way to the hospital.

There are no sidewalks on either side of 136th in this location. The posted speed limit is 35 mph (a speed that results in a fatality in 65% of collisions, whereas a speed of 20 mph comes with 0% chance of fatality).

This summer, PBOT was planning to build a sidewalk on the east side of 136th between SE Powell and Holgate, just 0.4 miles north of where Maynard-Cook was hit. While technically, the money PBOT — under the direction of Mayor Hales — is proposing to "realign" for paving would not have built a sidewalk in the location of this tragedy, last night's news will weigh heavily on Hales' mind as he ponders the budget. Especially since, according a police spokesman I spoke with this morning, Hales visited the scene last night just minutes after police arrived.

Not surprisingly, the mayor is already hearing from the public about the lack of sidewalks in this area.

KGW-TV's story last night mentioned that Maynard-Cook's mom, "said the neighborhood has no sidewalks, no crosswalks and lots of children trying to walk around in those conditions." (Incidentally, an ad before the KGW online video was for a new Honda that comes with SMS texting in the dashboard.)

Executive Director of Oregon Walks Stephanie Routh released a statement this morning that said, "Proposing to cut a long-awaited basic sidewalk project in Portland's poorest neighborhood and severely cutting funding for ADA access [another proposal from Hales/Widmer] is not in keeping with the city's stated commitment to equity... Repaving streets is absolutely important for this city, but let's not fix potholes at the expense of children's safety and accessibility for people with disabilities."

Former Mayor Sam Adams was not shy about saying his top transportation priority was safety. PBOT staffers had even started calling him "our traffic safety mayor." And Adams put money where his mouth is by allocating $16 million to sidewalks in east and southwest Portland. Mayor Hales, looking to differentiate himself from Adams (perhaps more for politics than policy), has made it clear paving is Job #1.

Paving and maintenance is important. But it must be funding in a very careful balance with system improvements that will make people safer. No one has ever died because of a pothole or a rough road. (UPDATE That's not true and it was a mistake to write it.)

Would a sidewalk have prevented last night's tragedy? Of course we can't say for sure. But as someone with three young children myself, I can say from experience that the presence of sidewalks and curbs matters. Curbs are an important physical feature that communicates something to kids even before they can speak. When my almost two-year-old comes to a curb, he knows a street with dangers lies ahead.

When I asked Mayor Hales about PBOT's proposal to "realign" this sidewalk money for paving, he distanced himself from the decision. "It's a bureau budget. It's just a starting point." Asked if the sidewalk funding cut would be adopted into the final budget, Hales said, "I'd say it's about 50/50."

After last night, I have no doubt those percentages have changed.

UPDATE 11:52 am: Statement from Mayor Hales just released:

"My heart goes out to the family of Morgan. As a parent, I can find no words that are sufficient to describe this horrible occurrence.

My thoughts also are with the Portland Police officers who responded last night. Each of them has family, too, and each is affected by such tragedies in different ways.

Safety throughout the city has to be our first priority. I have been at work fewer than 60 days, and so far the city of Portland has experienced eight automobile-related fatalities, four of which were pedestrian deaths.

There has been a lot of talk of late about paving streets, and about sidewalks and crosswalks throughout our city. There has been a lot of talk about the backlog of projects, and about how to pay for these core responsibilities. As always, public safety has to be our North Star, guiding all of our decisions in every part of the city.

We will work through these decisions together, as involved citizens, as elected officials, as city employees, as residents of Portland, and as people who are holding our families a little bit tighter today."

East Portland will receive $8 million for active transportation

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
BAC Bike Ride East Portland-9
Riding in east Portland
can only get better.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (and TriMet) is set to invest $8.2 million into sidewalks, neighborhood greenways and transit-safety related projects in East Portland. The funding comes from a $34 million "Regional Economic Opportunity Fund" created by a Metro committee last year.

In case you forgot, this $34 million is the result of a debate at Metro back in October about how best to spend federal "regional flexible funds." At the last go-round, advocates (including the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) fought hard to win a 75/25 split for active transportation projects. Advocates hoped to use that same allocation method for an additional $34 million Metro is awarding this time around. However, the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) voted instead to create a new "Regional Economic Opportunity Fund" (explained further here). (more...)

A closer look at bike projects coming soon to East Portland

Friday, October 14th, 2011
If all goes well, this will become
a more frequent sight in East Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus)

As we shared on Wednesday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is ready to roll on a set of projects that are likely to give a major jolt to the anemic active transportation network in East Portland.

The draft East Portland in Motion implementation strategy an impressive body of work that combines PBOT's strengths in bikeway engineering, a collaborative planning approach, and their commitment to fund projects that aren't car-centric. It's also noteworthy for the level of knowledge and engagement brought to the table by citizen groups like the East Portland Action Plan bike subcommittee (a.k.a. EPAPBike). (more...)

City ready to roll with projects to improve biking and walking in East Portland

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
Ellen Vanderslice of PBOT presented
the report at a meeting last night.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has released the public draft of their East Portland in Motion report, a five year strategy that sets a blueprint for improving biking and walking conditions in East Portland.

Work on the report has taken place over the past year through a variety of public meetings and surveys. The purpose, says a Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) statement, is to, "create a seamless network of accessible trails, sidewalks and bikeways that enable active transportation in the community." (more...)

City bike leaders get taste of current, future East Portland bikeways

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky maneuvers around an unpaved street in East Portland during a ride with the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee.
(Photos © J. Maus)

(more...)

City to break ground on 80s bike boulevard project next month

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Approximate route of new bike boulevard
coming to east Portland.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is close to the start of construction on a new "neighborhood greenway" that would parallel 82nd Avenue in northeast and southeast Portland. PBOT has put out a request for proposals to find a construction firm to start and the project is scheduled to begin next month.

The three-mile route would mostly use 86th and 87th Avenues and would stretch from NE Hassolo Street (near I-84) to SE Bush (south of Powell). The project is one of many neighborhood greenway projects PBOT is working on throughout the city (their plan is 15 miles of new neighborhood greenways (a.k.a. bike boulevards) each year through 2013).

To create a more comfortable and accessible route that parallels 82nd Avenue (an ODOT-controlled arterial), PBOT will use the familiar tools of speed bumps, curb extensions, sharrows, speed bumps, cycle-tracks, tree plantings, new signals, signage, and so on. (more...)

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