Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Adams makes decision on E. Burnside-Couch bike access

Posted by on October 17th, 2007 at 10:11 am

[*Updated: 7:25pm; 10/18, 8:28am]

Blue line shows where
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.”

Looking east on Burnside. (Image: Portland Development Commission (PDC))

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.”

PDC Diagram of couplet.

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.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • a.O October 17, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Sam for Mayor.

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  • nuovorecord October 17, 2007 at 11:25 am

    …and Chris Smith to take Sam\’s spot on the Council.

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  • Tony Pereira October 17, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Is there more info on how the couch and b-side will feed in and out of the bridge? I don\’t understand how a two block bike lane, two blocks from Ankeny, makes it easy to access the bridge from the bike boulevard.

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  • J-On-Bike October 17, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Lets not be a one-issue constituency when it comes to Sam Adams.

    I encourage everyone to read the bojack.org series on portland city debt. those issues matter and we need to ask our candidates how they feel about all issues – not just bicycle issues

    (see pdot justification – do we need more business growth along couch in the pearl? come on…) those are my taxpayer dollars that should go towards infrastructure or schools or…(or servicing debt that exists thanks to the tram and the condo developments and…)

    Personally, on a bikey note, i think that this couplet will make couch unrideable (more so than it is now). Right now it\’s awkward but relatively safe. But those are just my uninformed opinions – i ride it almost every day.

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  • J-On-Bike October 17, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    oops sorry – busy day at work.

    i see this couplet is east-side and not west side.

    don\’t ride there.

    still stand by my comments on not being a one-issue constituency….

    and rather put money towards crumbling infrastructure than \”business development…\”

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  • toddistic October 17, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    I saw an interesting video on streetfilms.org


    It talks about how one-way streets cause faster traffic instead of slower traffic.

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  • cla October 17, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Ditto on comment #3. Perhaps you could extend your line to show the route from ankeny westbound to the bridge westbound? Will there be bike lanes on 6th or a bike crossing light at 6th and Burnside?

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  • BURR October 17, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    this is a huge amount of out-of-direction travel for cyclists, almost double the more direct route of ankeny to sixth to burnside.

    I still think the whole idea of the burnside couplet is a misguided attempt by PDOT to hide a motor vehicle capacity enhancement project under the banner of community development.

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  • Spanky October 17, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    I can\’t see how the coiuplets, both east and west, will do much other than piss off the locals, and lead to havoc where Burnside and Couch and the bikelanes ahve to converge to cross the Burnside Bridge.
    I hope the city is paying a lot of attention to execution.

    I also think everyone here would do well to consider the fiscal responsibility angle of a lot that the city (not just Sam Adams) is proposing right now. this city is in a huge amount of debt. And the police and fire disability and retirement slops trough represents a huge unfunded liability of the city. And all of us, as taxpayers.

    Bojack.org is not the only place to learn about the tax and debt issues, but it is a start.

    No politicians should be trusted with money. Ever. Especially given the penchant Portland government leadership has shown for high profile money wasters like the aerial tram.

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  • zilfondel October 17, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    If you guys want Portland\’s alt transit & cycling environment to be improved, you had damn better accept that fact that you\’ll need politicians help on these issues.

    Unless you\’d like the feds shoving a couple more freeways down our throats ala the new $4 billion Columbia River Bridge?

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  • Ian Stude October 17, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    I think we need some more info in the posting! It would be helpful if it included more of the whole project scope (the link has no map) so that those unfamiliar with the street changes can take a wider focus when trying to evaluate its merits (and issues). For example, is westbound traffic on Couch (bound for downtown) forced left onto MLK then right onto Burnside? Can the same traffic proceed straight through the signal at MLK? Will westbound bike traffic also need to turn left onto MLK and right onto Burnside. What about 3rd ave? Will it have a ramp leading to the bridge (bike and ped only)?

    Considering the likely amount of traffic this will bring onto Couch and the hassle that is likely to come from asking cyclists to move from Ankeny to Couch then back to Burnside in order to utilize the bridge, I think it would make sense to designate NE Davis as an additional Bike Boulevard (with proper discouragement for motorists). Bikes could then cross MLK a block earlier in the traffic flow and utilize 3rd ave for access to bridge (if the ramp idea is still in play).

    Just some ideas.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 17, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    thanks for all the requests for more information. I will get more details and post a follow-up asap.

    of course if someone more in the know is reading this, perhaps they\’ll chime in directly…

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  • Emily Gardner October 17, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Greetings all,

    I happen to have some info in my brain on how the new couplet will look.

    The couplet will have E. Burnside eastbound, and NE Couch westbound and on to the bridge. I don\’t know exactly how high into the numbered streets the couplet will be in effect.

    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.

    Emily Gardner
    Bicycle Transportation Alliance
    Policy Advocate

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 17, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    thanks Emily! I\’ve added your wisdom to the post.

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  • Googler October 18, 2007 at 3:48 am

    Quick google search turns up this pdf from the PDC may 2007

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  • sam October 18, 2007 at 7:32 am

    I ride from 55th Ave down Couch(Ankeny is to far South) and over the Burnside bridge daily. This change will make life as a cyclist so much easier. I would be happy to see this happen.

    As far as businesses go, one way streets make it easier to cross the street. So if you do have to park across the street, it\’s easy to get where your going . Right now Burnside is a huge pain in the butt to cross. Seems one ways could actually help businesses by making it more pedestrian friendly.

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  • Elliot October 18, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Just as BURR mentioned, I\’m also concerned about additional out-of-direction travel that will result from the reconfiguration. But I\’m curious to see how the signalization will work out, because I think that will be the key to how expedient the detour is.

    As it currently exists, there are three lights before you can get on the bridge from Ankeny going westbound. Ankeny at Grand to turn right, Grand at Burnside to turn left, and then waiting at Burnside to cross MLK. Your wait depends on when you hit the cycle at Ankeny and Grand, but then it\’s a 15-30 seconds at Burnside and another 30 seconds at MLK. It will be interesting to see how it changes with the redesign.

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  • J-On-Bike October 18, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Looking at the updated pics…it doesn\’t look like an inviting street to ride on.

    I ride west-bound on broadway every day (to go downtown for work). And home again on Weidler.

    I would have to say that these two roads aren\’t safe pleasant rides for cyclists. Lots of road debris, high volume, weird right-turn arrangements onto I5 that require a lot of vigilence and awareness on the part of a cyclist.

    I look at these mockups – and they look a lot like the current eastside b\’way and weidler bike lanes.

    That\’s from the bikey perspective.

    Then there is the investment of my taxpaying dollar perspective that challenges the necessity of these \”business development\” schemes (which supposedly includes extension of the street-car – another expensive, infrastructure intensive, project whose operations can\’t pay for itself).

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  • 007 October 18, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    looks like a mess to me. bike lanes between lanes and parking as on NE Broadway.

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