Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 17th, 2007 at 10:11 am
[*Updated: 7:25pm; 10/18, 8:28am]
new bike lanes will be.
Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams recently made a decision on how to deal with bicycle traffic when E. Burnside and Couch Streets are re-constructed for PDOT’s East Burnside/Couch Couplet Project.
According to PDOT, the project, “will serve as a catalyst for…redevelopment and business growth,” and the two streets, “will be realigned into a one-way couplet system, with eastbound traffic in three lanes on Burnside Street and westbound traffic in two lanes on Couch Street.”
Since the Burnside Bridge is an important connection for many bike commuters, a committee was formed to figure out the safest and easiest way to get bicyclists to the bridge. Of particular concern was access for commuters from the popular SE Ankeny bike boulevard.
In early September, the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) wrote a letter to Adams strongly recommending the Couch bike lane option.
Adams agreed with the PBAC’s recommendation and recently decided to remove seven car parking spaces and install a bike lane on the north side of Couch between SE 6th and MLK Blvd.
In addition to the bike lane, the BTA reports that the sidewalk on Couch will be narrowed from twelve to seven feet to provide space for loading zones and six car parking spots.
Other options that were considered included a physically separated bike lane (aka cycle-track) on Burnside and a bike/ped ramp from SE 3rd up to Burnside.
*For more on how bicycles will navigate this new street configuration, here’s what BTA Policy Advocate Emily Gardner says,
“A westbound cyclist traveling on SE Ankeny will turn north on SE 6th, cross over Burnside and turn left onto westbound NE Couch, where they can use the new bike lane on the north side of the street. The bike lane will dip back down to Burnside between NE 3rd and NE 4th, depending on how other developments continue in that vicinity. I do believe there will also be new signals at 6th and Burnside, 6th and Couch and 3rd and Couch where it drops down to join up to Burnside.”
Elicia Cardenas is Vice-Chair of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee and was a participant in the design committee for this project. I asked her about Adams’ decision…
Can you give us a bit of context for this project?
“With the redesign of Burnside/Couch into a couplet, the issue of getting cyclists from SE Ankeny to the bridge headed westbound became somewhat challenging. City staff had a commitment to improving that transition for bicyclists, but were challenged by topography and other issues.”
You mentioned the process wasn’t exactly pretty. What was the main opposition to the Couch bike lanes about?
“Parking removal. The small local businesses were adamantly opposed to the removal of any parking. Their concern is that their establishments are already on the edge of survival, and removing parking access to their shops would push them under.”
It was great to hear the BAC’s top choice was picked, what can you attribute that to?
“The process, while at times difficult, was inclusive of business owners and a small handful of bike and pedestrian representatives. I think that Commissioner Adams’ commitment to making Portland a Platinum level city, along with a genuine process with stakeholders allowed the safest, most reasonable option to be chosen. There were also budgetary concerns for some of the other options suggested.”
Anything else you want to add?
“While the process was difficult at times, I was encouraged by the majority of the business owners’ attitude to support safe and easy bridge access, and I was appreciative of how they really listened to the cyclist’s concerns about the other options presented (which included security issues, out of direction travel, and safety concerns). I am pleased that Commissioner Adams chose a compromise option that, while not perfect, balances the needs for safety and access for bikes with business owner’s and pedestrian concerns. “
PDOT is also working on how bicycles will get to the bridge from North and Northeast Portland. A cycle-track on MLK is one of the possibilities.
For more on the Eastside Burnside-Couch Couplet project, download a fact sheet from the PDC’s website.