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Talking bikes in Multnomah Village

Posted by on March 4th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Get Together in Multnomah Village-6

Police Officer Robert Pickett (in jacket, left)
was one of about 50 who showed
up for our second monthly Get Together
event last night.
(Photos © J. Maus)

I think this “Get Together” idea just might have some legs. I honestly did not expect many people to show up, but I was very pleasantly surprised when about 50 people came out to the Lucky Lab in Multnomah Village last night just to talk bikes.

You don’t hear about it as much as inner southeast and other neighborhoods closer to the city, but there is clearly a big, pent-up demand and lots of energy for biking in outer southwest. The turnout last night — both in quantity of people and the quality of the conversations — was a testament to that.

There are many reasons why I’m excited about these events. One of them is simply to get me on a bike to ride in places I don’t usually go. Last night, on my way out to the event I rode on SW Terwilliger to Capitol Hwy (via a scenic loop on Cheltenham, thanks to a suggestion from ByCycle creator Wyatt Baldwin).

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Get Together in Multnomah Village-1

The bike lanes on Terwilliger
are non-existent in corners.

Riding on Terwiliger is quite an experience. The bike lane is narrow, cars are going very fast, and there are many sweeping turns. The first thing I noticed was that in those turns, the bike lane striping has completely worn off (and it’s the turns where you really need the paint). I’m sure this has a lot to do with studded tires and all the gravel put on the road during our nasty winter storms.

As I rode along, I wondered about the potential of this scenic and important connection between outer SW and downtown. There’s plenty of right-of-way room on the east side of the road (I was envious of walkers and joggers and their separated, safe space away from cars). Why not just get rid of the southbound bike lane, shift the motor vehicle lanes over, and then create a separated grade, bi-directional bikeway next to the walking path? If we could create a safe experience for bikes, Terwilliger could become a truly exception mobility corridor for all modes.

Get Together in Multnomah Village-9

Local racer Chris Streight
and PBOT’s Greg Raisman
trade ideas.

Eventually — after missing the turnoff to Multnomah Village and going a mile or two down Beaverton Hillsdale Highway (the bikeway route signs failed me) — I made it to the Lucky Lab.

For the first part of the evening, folks settled in with their food (great pizza!) and drinks. I tried to introduce as many people as possible to encourage making new connections and friends but folks hardly needed the help.

As I sized up the attendees (about half of which I recognized), I was really excited to see such a diverse group. The way these Get Together work is very informal. I basically see who shows and then give them a chance to hold the floor and tell everyone about what they’re into and/or what they’re working on.

Last night we had a great line-up — it just so happens that outer southwest Portland is home to a lot of smart and plugged in bike people.

Steve “Mr. Velodrome” Brown kicked things off with an update on his efforts to bring a velodrome to Portland. He shared with us the top locations (PIR, Gateway Green, and Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Department headquarters) and then shared his latest idea to work with Merritt Paulson and the push for major league soccer (I’ll have more on that later) as a way to get his velodrome built.

Then Brad Ross took the floor. Brad is the race director of the Cross Crusade and other events and he shared the latest about his upcoming “De Ronde van Oeste Portlandia” race (I’ll have details on this year’s edition soon). This is an underground race that climbs for 10,000 feet in and around the SW hills. Brad told us he wants expand on this idea and work with the City of Portland to officially sign and mark a series of recreational routes in the region. Brad has seen such route networks in Europe and thinks Portland is ripe for the idea. It just so happened that Mark Lear from Bureau of Transportation was also there last night. He had some feedback for Brad and encouraged him to get the idea into the Bicycle Master Plan update.

Get Together in Multnomah Village-5

Zach Horowitz, who lives in the neighborhood,
shared some information about
the CRC project (and no, he was not hassled
about the lane decision).

Zach Horowitz from the Columbia River Crossing project shared the latest about the the bike and pedestrian facilities coming to the bridge.

Bill Alsup shared a bit of info about his two passions — tango dancing and randonneuring. Bill said he and the many other tango lovers in Portland that also bike are planning a tango bike tour in June. He also introduced the crowd to Portland’s long-distance riding and randonneuring scene with info about upcoming events and a plug for the Oregon Randonneurs website.

Portland Police Officer (and Alice Award nominee!) Robert Pickett asked if anyone had gotten a ticket yet for turning right on the new Portland Mall downtown.

After Pickett answered a few questions from the crowd, PBOT’s Greg Raisman and Denver Igarta shared the latest thinking from the city about the future of the bikeway network in Southwest Portland. Igarta brought along a map where people could share their feedback on which routes work for them (and which ones don’t).

The last person to address the crowd last night was Andrew Holtz. Andrew is a member of the Multnomah County Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and he wanted to update us on the need for ideas and feedback on the Scholls Ferry Road re-design project that’s in the planning stages. Holtz said once Scholl’s Ferry is improved for bikes it will “make a big difference” and would let people ride safely between Sylvan and Raleigh Hills (next public meeting on this is April 9).

If that’s not a diverse line-up of bike talk, I don’t know what is.

Another important part of these events is for me to get a better feel for the local issues.

Get Together in Multnomah Village-11

Kim Isaacson says people in this
area have no choice but to
ride on big arterial streets.

I heard from many people about the need to re-paint bike lanes. Outer southwest has many windy roads and bike lanes get worn off much faster because cars cut the corners. I also heard several complaints about gravel still covering shoulders and bikeways in the area (especially on Beaverton Hillsdale Highway). We also talked a bit about how the bike shortcut through Riverview Cemetery is a “lifesaver” as one person put it (but tread lightly, it’s private property).

I learned about one particular challenge to riding in outer southwest from Kim Isaacson. Kim said that because the area lacks well-defined grid of streets, there are very few alternative routes (and if there are, there’s no signage that would tell someone about them). Therefore, he said, riders are forced to stay on major arterials. Kim said he thinks the solution to this is to make sure all the major streets have a bike facilities on them that are well-marked and connected from place to place.

The event last night was only two hours long, but I felt like we could have used much more time.

Before I left, Lewis and Clark college student Daniel Boyes introduced himself. Ian Stude, the head bike guy at Portland State University was standing nearby. Introducing these two and having them chat about ways that local colleges might coordinate efforts is precisely what this event is all about.

Thanks to everyone that came last night. I hope to keep in touch and return to Multnomah Village soon.

We’re already looking forward to next month’s event. I think we’ll head to East Portland. Stay tuned for location and date.

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22 Comments
  • beelnite March 4, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Can’t wait for you to hit the East Side Jonathan. I hope you might consider going beyond I-205.

    It’d be great to explore the attitudes of “outer” east side, but I can’t promise attendance like you see in other parts of Portland.

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  • patrickz March 4, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    “Riding on Terwiliger is quite an experience”.

    You bet it is, Jonathan. I have taken Terwilly many a time when going to Lake Oswego and beyond. Early AM on a weekend day, spring and summer, it can be a fine workout. Coming back down is also good bike control training.

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  • Paul S March 4, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I’m sorry I couldn’t make it. There are bike challenges in SW PDX but Kim correctly identifies that geography constrains solutions. OTOH this forces cyclists to ride vehicularly and I think that keeps relations between cars and bikes more civil than elsewhere in the city.

    I’m always amused at the “terra incognita” aspect of our neighborhood. The riding is more challenging but like many things, if you work harder for it the reward is sweeter.

    I’ve been commuting along T’williger daily for six years (for a while all the way to Lake O.) I prefer it to the eastside bike boulevards. I like to brag that my commute is a bike ride through the woods.

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  • A-dub March 4, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Really wanted to join the fun last night and represent SW but just couldn’t make it.

    I saw your twitter this morning talking about the Bycycle.org route and wondered what you thought.

    You missed my favorite part which is both the transition along Capitol Highway in Hillsdale where you have to merge with traffic or end up on B-H Highway and then the turn and climb at the intersection of 30th/Vermont/Capitol Highway.

    The first time I rode that stretch I was surprised that there wasn’t a bike lane going west and up a steep hill to boot!

    Glad to hear you had a good turnout and am pleased that you are putting these events together. Keep up the great work!

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  • Susan Otcenas March 4, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    “Why not just get rid of the southbound bike lane, shift the motor vehicle lanes over, and then create a separated grade, bi-directional bikeway next to the walking path? ”

    No thank you. Separated paths become gravel, garbage, glass and rubble strewn.

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  • SkidMark March 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    The bike lane is not “nonexistant” on corners, the painted line is just worn away.

    I’ve haven’t encountered anyone speeding on Terwilliger, so i don’t know what this complaint of “fast” cars is. Cars always go faster than bikes on an open road. 35 mph looks fast when you are going 15-20 mph, but it really isn’t.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    if there is no paint, than please explain to me how there is still a bike lane present.

    also, I did not say anyone was speeding. Bottom line is that the cars are going fast and most bikes are not.

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  • Andrew Holtz March 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Jonathan, thanks again for hosting a fun gathering… and the opportunity to let people know about Scholls Ferry planning.

    The project web site is http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/schollsferry/

    The next public meeting is scheduled for Sunday, April 19th 2009, 6:00pm to 8:00pm.
    Location to be announced later.

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  • Susan Otcenas March 4, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    “if there is no paint, than please explain to me how there is still a bike lane present.”

    Would this not be akin to an “unmarked crosswalk”? The absense of paint does not absolve the motorist of the responsibility to stop for the pedestrian.

    Likewise, worn away paint in the turns should not absolve the motorist of it’s responsibilities with respect to bike lanes. No?

    Just thinking out loud….

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  • Carl March 4, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Officer Pickett wasn’t the only Alice nominee discussed, here: River View Cemetery and Brad Ross have also been nominated for the honor.

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  • Coco March 4, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Skidmark, Susan et al. If we don’t need paint to delineate bike lanes in Portland, then I guess that means that there are bike lanes already on, ooh, let’s see… Sandy Boulevard? MLK? Grand Avenue? West Burnside? 39th Avenue? Columbia Blvd?…. I mean, the paint’s not there, but.. hey, no problem! They’re still bike lanes, right? Just, invisible bike lanes. Yeah. That’s a really great idea. 😉

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  • Brad Ross March 4, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I speed on Terwilliger all the time. It’s sweet on the motorcycle, and rarely patrolled.

    Jonathon, thanks for MCing, it was a good get together.

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  • SkidMark March 4, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    The bike lane is still there, the line just needs to be repainted. Of course we need paint to delineate a bike lane, that’s what makes it a bike lane. There are plenty of actual places in the city and in Washington County there are a “bike lane to nowhere” in other words the bike lane just ends, but this isn’t one of them. I was nitpicking, and apologize for any misunderstanding.

    “Cars are going very fast” is your exact quote. maybe we have different concepts of “very fast” but I have yet to be made uncomfortable by a car on Terwilliger. I take Terwilliger into the city from Aloha because I do not feel comfortable on Barbur Blvd. I think Barbur is much more of danger for bicyclists.

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  • Kim Isaacson March 4, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Thank you Jonathan for setting up this event for the cycling community! Too often we are just a passing pair of wheels sharing the same road, and it is good to sit, listen and discuss our common experiences as we ride in this part of the city.

    Because of unique topography, SW Portland has few direct links from one place to another. The hills and ravines don’t allow the uniform grid of streets that works so well to connect the flat eastern half of Portland. Instead, a few major arterial streets allow us to directly get beyond the immediate neighborhood, and we must share them with motorists. That is why I think that getting bike facilities on these streets is so important.

    A few years ago, I suggested to PDOT and the BTA that something needed to be used in additon to paint on winding streets such as Terwilliger, where tires of corner-cutting cars scrub the paint off the street at curves each winter. I think a few well-placed reflective buttons could help us, but I was told this would be hazardous to cyclists (more hazardous than a speeding car on your tail?). Could a test be done on a curve or two to see if: 1) the cars stay in their lane (as evidenced by more paint at the end of winter) and 2) if cyclists have problems with the buttons (or other tactile technique)? Seems like a low-cost, low-risk test to me.

    Lastly, if my memory serves me well, the asphalt path on the east side of Terwilliger was originally built in the ’70s using bike facility money and was signed as such. Occasionally, I continue to ride (uphill) on this multiuse path without any problems sharing with the many walkers and runners. The current bike lanes were constructed by PDOT about 12-15 years ago along with curbs and gutters. I generally prefer to ride the bike lanes, but the lack of lane paint on blind corners is sometimes scary.

    I hope other neighborhoods can have a get together and, vicariously through Bike Portland, we can compare notes about what is unique to each part of the city and what is common to us all.

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  • Lance P. March 4, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I hope that you don’t forget the densest neighborhood in the city, the inner NW (alphabet and pearl district).

    wink wink

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  • SkidMark March 4, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Take the lane in NW, the cars go slow enough.

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  • Kristin March 5, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Oh I’m SO HAPPY to hear about a redesign of Scholl’s Ferry. I live between Hillsdale and Raleigh Hills, and I have yet to find decent routes between here and Sylvan, Beaverton, or Tualatin. For me to get up to Sylvan I basically have to ride all the way to the top of Council Crest, which is ok when I want a work out, but not so great for commuting 🙂

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  • Andrew Holtz March 5, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Oops.

    There was a mix-up on the date for the next public meeting on the Scholls Ferry redesign project.

    The correct date is Thursday, April 9th from 6-8p. Location will be announced later.

    The project web site is http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/schollsferry/
    (The meeting info will be corrected on the web page soon.)

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  • Carrie March 5, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Darn it, wish I could have been there! After commuting on the East side for the last 6 years, I will be commuting to and from SW Portland starting next month. I’m nervous about my new commute and would have liked to hear what other SW commuters are saying.

    Thanks for this helpful post, JM.

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  • Jeff P March 5, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Sorry I missed it; I was going to but then did not. No real excuses. Thanks for the update. A few comments on routes:

    Terwilliger: overall, it is a nice ride with plenty of width for all. I ride it near daily [12+ years?]; been hit once on it by a car that swept into bike lane on a curve while I was riding next to her. I like to think that the OHSU doctors are just trying to keep busy by speeding and targeting victims. And yes, speed limit is 25 – it’s a linear park – hardly anyone does the limit [not even tri-met – who are a big reason the lanes disappear in curves].

    Sylvan: a neat route I take from the 5 road intersection [we all know the one] – take the off-shoot behind Parr Lumber; stay on it until you ride through the pedestrian gate [it says dead end but that is only for cars – the last houses on the road have a nice pedestrian bicycle gate there]. Turn left at the first intersection [a ‘T’]; ride to the next ‘T’ intersection and turn right – follow until you get to Canyon Road. you’ll be just below Sylvan and can take te bike lane/route to the overpass or the take the on-ramp and ride Hwy 26 to town. Works great!

    As for riding in the area – there are plenty of places. Just don’t get hung up on ‘too narrow’ and ‘dangerous speed’. Check a MAP [yeah those uncool pieces of paper] before you go and don’t try and rely on signs – there are too many of them anyway….nobody sees them and there are better ways.

    Glad you had a good meeting.

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  • Kt March 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I’ll preface this by saying I’m not as experienced a cyclists as some posters here.

    I’ve ridden Terwilliger a couple of times. I had zero problems. I felt the road width was great, the bike lane width was great, the cars weren’t overly speedy (try riding Hall or Durham or 99w sometime!), and if you hold your line when the bike lane paint disappears, the cars are not a problem. It’s not like the bike lane disappears, and everyone understands what to do.

    Riding DOWN Terwilliger is an adventure in keeping your eyes peeled at the incoming roads and driveways, and keeping your speeds manageable.

    JeffP (hiya!) @20, I agree 100%. It’s not like we’re out in some wasteland of dreaded suburbia or something. It just takes a little bit of advance planning sometimes. Big deal.

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  • Jebus March 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I live on Taylors Ferry RD and find it needs a bit of work on the entire thing. But I have only had one bad experience on it with a huge truck. Every other time people have been really nice and let me slip ahead of them to go through a light, or they stay behind me so they can safely make their right turn. Terwilliger is an amazing ride down the hill towards Lake O and one of my favorite rides period. Plus, Tryon is a great little park for my mtb when I am feeling up for it!

    Wish I could have made it to the get together, but I had to work!

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