Support BikePortland

Tour takes a closer look at East Portland’s bikeways

Posted by on July 9th, 2008 at 1:24 pm

A tour of East Portland-5.jpg

Bike lanes on high-speed arterials — like
this one on SE Powell — are the norm in outer
East Portland.
(Photos/video © J. Maus)

Last night, the City of Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee took a closer look at the bikeways of East Portland.

Led by city bike coordinator Roger Geller, the group met at the Gateway Transit Center (just southeast of I-205 and I-84) and rode a loop that took them east to 162nd Ave. and south to Powell Blvd.

Usually considered a neglected part of our heralded bike-friendliness, Geller told the group — which included committee members and TriMet’s bike guy Colin Maher — that East Portland actually has the most miles of “developed bikeways” and the highest ratio of miles of “bicycle facilities” of any area in the city.

A tour of East Portland-4.jpg

Ride leader Roger Geller at
NE 122nd and Burnside.

Of course, those “facilities” and “developed bikeways” are narrow bike lanes on high-speed, high-traffic arterial streets and on this ride, we sampled many of them.

One of them — on NE 162nd Ave — is the city’s newest bike lane. It’s a four-lane road which was recently re-paved. Using money from what’s known as their “Missing Links” program (funded at a modest $50,000 per year), PDOT reconfigured the auto traffic lanes and painted a bike lane.

While Geller admits that riding in a bike lane on a four-lane arterial is far from ideal, he says it’s better than nothing. “It won’t get the interested but concerned on a bike,” said Geller as we rode, “but it’s an immediate improvement, it’s a start… and you’ve got to start somewhere.”

As for how to make East Portland more bike-able, Geller says, “You can try to make the [bike] lanes wider, maybe try to get them off the street, bring them up to sidewalk level and make them cycletracks. You could also look to alternative routes, like bike boulevards.”

A tour of East Portland-3.jpg

Riding in the bike lane of E. Burnside between NE 122nd and 136th, we experienced what happens when a TriMet light rail line takes away traffic lanes. It was a tighter fit, but it also leads to lower traffic speeds and less traffic volume.

Curious about doing similar re-allocations of traffic lanes in other parts of the city (that don’t have a light rail line), I asked Geller how people responded to having traffic lanes removed (which is like blasphemy to old-school traffic engineers). “They dealt with it,” he said, “They figured it out.”

Geller says one of the ways they hope to improve conditions in East Portland is to create more bike boulevard routes through low traffic streets. We sampled one route under consideration — the “Market-Mill-Main” bike boulevard. It was a pleasant street that almost anyone would feel comfortable riding on.

A tour of East Portland-1.jpg

The future site of Gateway Green?
(View is looking south on I-205 bike path
with Halsey Blvd. in the distance.)

Toward the end of the ride, we made a stop at the potential “Gateway Green” site. This parcel of land between the junction of I-84 and I-205 is part of a vision by a local developer to create a bike park and sustainability demonstration area. Its potential as a riding area are very exciting.

Hear more from Roger Geller and get a bikes-eye view of riding in East Portland in the video below:

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

15
Leave a Reply

avatar
15 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
11 Comment authors
JameschrisjoebRoger GellerMaculsay Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
glen
Guest
glen

I ride from Gresham (202nd) into downtown or Northeast all the time. It\’s not really too bad. Most of Halsey east of 205 is pretty smooth riding even during peak traffic hours. Burnside along the tracks is all right, and I\’ve taken the mill-main route a few times, too. It\’s a longer ride, but during traffic I still think I can get downtown faster than a car.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

That’s my daily route, except I turn North on 162nd to get to Halsey. 162nd is not so nice. Between Glisan and Halsey is a screaming downhill bike lane that is kind of broken up and full of debris. There is no sidewalk so pedestrians use the bike lane to get to Max. Being surprised by a pedestrian at night at 30 mph is not good. Now I usually just take the car lane down. I expect sidewalks would be a Safe, Sound and Green Streets project.

I am really surprised at how little traffic is on Burnside. Other than a lot of glass, it is really quite a comfortable ride. No cars parked beside the bike lane works well. Cycle track on all other high traffic streets in East County? Hmmm. I actually like my route, but some of the ‘interested but concerned’ may not buy it. Like glen said, I don’t really notice the traffic on Halsey even though it is heavy. (sorry about all the cars parked in front of my building between 181st and 162th glen. That part sucks!!)

I often contemplate what East County would be like if Burnside were the originally proposed Mt Hood Freeway. Would it have eased the horrible traffic on Division and Powell? Then I realize Powell and Division are a mess because of I205 not because of a Max line on Burnside. I can’t imagine how obscene it would be to traverse East County if a freeway were through the middle of it. Ok, I’ve been reading about the CRC and digressed.

Mill, Main, Market is easy pickings for a bike boulevard. They are decent and already signed. Throw down some sharrows and it’s done.

Aaron
Guest

\”Of course, those “facilities” and “developed bikeways” are narrow bike lanes on high-speed, high-traffic arterial streets..\”
Very well said Jonathan. Roger was obviously doing some very savvy marketing (we love you Roger). But the vast majority of under confident cyclists who are currently riding on Clinton wouldn\’t feel comfortable beyond the highway. The main hindrance to making outer east Portland safer would be either to [as you said] take out a traffic lane, or eliminate the breaks in streets like Clinton, Yamhill, and Salmon. I know the latter is very difficult. Transportation alternatives did a study with a radar gun which found that speeds essentially double when you have two lanes in the same direction, vs. one lane each way.
That said, Mill/Market, and NE Shaver are two roads which are bike friendly for a long distance. They\’re both very comfortable.
We also desperately need a way of crossing the 205 highway north of Burnside.

Michael R
Guest
Michael R

My commute takes from from SE (39th and Holgate) to 181st and Sandy. Burnside east of 98th is pretty pleasant – much nicer ride than Division. The single lane for cars and the Max line makes for reasonable co-existence with cars. Glen\’s comments on Halsey are spot on, I prefer it to Burnside in the morning and cut over at 121st.

I hope they noticed all the broken glass – especially on Burnside.

It would be really great to have N/S routes that weren\’t the major four lane car routes. A significant problem is crossing the E/W (Glisan, Halsey …) without a light to control the traffic. Implementing lights like the one at 41st and Burnside would really work – say at 176th and Glisan.

Donna
Guest
Donna

I did a bike count for PDOT a couple of years ago at SE 122nd and E Burnside. Two hours observing cyclists at that intersection gave me some interesting insight into how the riding style differs in East County as compared to closer-in.

It seems to me that cycletracks would be most appealing to the majority of riders I saw that afternoon. I realize it\’s likely more expensive compared to bike lanes, but if the goal is to get more trips made by bike, I think that\’s the way to go.

joeb
Guest
joeb

Sorry, didn\’t mean to post as anonymous on #2.

I did a PDOT bike count at 122nd and E. Burnside last year. Riding style is noticeably different. Through commuters may ride the bike lane, but there are more sidewalk and wrong way riders that rely on crosswalk signals because four lanes and Max tracks can be impossible to cross. The conditions make it significantly more difficult to learn to ride the streets with confidence.

Mindy C
Guest
Mindy C

I live in Outer SE Portland, and am definitely one of those interested but cautious bicyclists. I\’ve taken a few trips around my neighborhood (162nd and Powell) and nearly been hit by cars.

Division in particular is a frightening commuting prospect.

As someone who sees the daily transportation habits of her neighbors, I would absolutely LOVE for someone to invest more resources in safer biking out here. Lots of kids and teens bike in the suburbs, for fun – not just commuting. Often times, I think those bike lanes might be putting them in harm\’s way.

Much Love, Mindy C

Bob
Guest
Bob

I definitely believe that Burnside has a lot of potential for a main bicycling arterial between Gresham and Portland. Because there is only one lane in each direction, it is a much safer and quieter ride than the other main east/west avenues. Having Max there allows cyclists to take their bikes on the train if they have bike trouble or if they only want to cycle one way (and take the Max back). The route could incorporate some historical markers as it follows the course of the Oregon Trail.

Finally, with the crime problems on eastside Max, setting up infrastructure to increase bike ridership on Burnside could reduce crime in this corridor. Think of the reduction in crime on the east side of the Willamette River after the Eastside Esplanade was fully utilized

Cruizer
Guest

What are cycletracks?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”What are cycletracks?\”

cycletracks are bikeways that are physically separated from all other modes of traffic.

they are common in places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. portland has a small one in Hollywood near the farmers market and Sandy Blvd.

Maculsay
Guest
Maculsay

I\’ve noticed the glass on Burnside also… with some downtime on my hands, wonder if it\’s \”allowed\” for me to go out there with a broom and a can (just need a burley or cart) and start cleaning this crap up myself. I\’ve done that around my neighborhood, and received tremendous neighborhood goodwill from the folks in the area.

Roger Geller
Guest
Roger Geller

Regarding glass and other debris in the bike lane. The best thing to do is give us here at PDOT a call. You can call the bicycle hotline (503.823.CYCL) or send an email from our web site (http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=34772; then look for \”Bike Route Need Maintenance?\” halfway down the page). We normally address such requests within 24 hours…

joeb
Guest
joeb

My bike came with Bontrager Race Lite hard case tires. I stick with them. My tires are full of glass and I have never had a flat. I ride through glass all day long with no worry. For utility cycling they are great. Glass is inevitable and I really didn\’t want to have to think about flats every day or every week. But Maculsay… I like it! This guy, Elden Clark, could provide a street sweep prototype that PDOT could check out to people to drag home after work. PDOT would recover the cost of a bamboo street sweep in about 3 hours.

chris
Guest
chris

please, no \”cycle tracks\”! i live out here, i ride out here, i now have a job further out northeast that i ride to. it\’s bad enough as it is and i can live with it. one PDOT bike count and a group ride (safety in numbers) one time through a small part of the area is not enough to think you know how to solve our traffic woes. the trick is to keep your eyes forward, stay to the shoulder, keep a hand on your brake levers at all times and ride frickin\’ fast!
i see two problems with these glorified side walks for bikes. i am an eternal pessimist, so bear with me…
1) the further away from downtown you go, the more people have to drive to get things done, so the further out one way or the other the more \”car-centric\” the community is. so the closer to i get to work (i.e. further out northeast) the more i notice people stop giving that extra little room when they pass, they stop bothering to signal before they turn right in front of you and they certainly aren\’t going to wait \”foooorrrreevvvveeerrr\” behind a bicycle at a red light or stop sign because, i mean, we\’re bicycles, it takes us like twenty minutes just to accelerate through the traffic control device! seriously! ultimately, if they aren\’t gonna give you the time of day in the lane, imagine what would happen if we put every bicycle out here on a sidewalk, we\’d have yahoos running in to pedestrians and cars thinking all bicycles belong on a sidewalk (as if they didn\’t think that way already) and end up being more agressive towards riders in the lane or on the shoulder and they\’d have a harder time seeing somebody on a sidewalk or predicting a rider is going to cross that street at the same time their car is turning right or left. i want to ride in the lane/shoulder and move fast, not on a sidewalk with childrens and doggies.
2)the above being said, the \”curious-but-concerned\” still won\’t ride a bike. plenty of people in my neighborhood ride bikes, but not to work and never to the grocery store (seven blocks away). they still all drive to work and errands, they still make my life miserable when i\’m trying to get places but when they get on their little hybrids for the ride around the block, oh man, don\’t mess with them!!!! but i digress… nothing you say or do will make these people ride a bike every where they go or at least for part of the trips. cars are fast and scary and kill everybody in the world every day! it takes a certain mentality (or mental-illness) to brave that world from a hunk of steel tubing and rubber every day with nothing but styrofoam on your head.
the \”cycle tracks\” idea sounds still very car-centric and is only serving to move bikes and people away from the cars, when we should be moving the cars away from bikes and people. imagine if there were no cars, imagine a society where the roads were free and clear for miles and nobody feared for their life or had any good reason to not ride a bike and stay fit and work their cardiovascular system on a daily basis. it doesn\’t take much, it certainly doesn\’t require a bunch of suits who work for the millions of motorists that line their pockets.

James
Guest
James

It would be nice to improve cycling in the outer Southeast but everything seems to be directed to east-west riding. My commute takes me north-south as I live near Powell Butte and work at the airport. My main route to work is via 122nd which has heavy traffic all of the time and has a real dicey bit as it goes under I-84, especially heading south. Despite the high traffic I haven\’t experienced a lot of trouble, just the occasional redneck/drunk who likes to yell idiotic things at bike riders. It would be nice to be able to ride on a quieter route away from all of the cars. I get tired of fretting wether or not the next car is going to turn left and cut me off or the next parked cars door is going to swing out just as I pass. Also, why are all of the manholes for the sewage system always in the middle of the bike lane???