Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 10th, 2009 at 10:56 am
Temporary markings were painted back in June…
but now they’re gone and the plans are in flux.
Back in June we reported that the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation had put down preliminary pavement markings on the uphill portion of N. Mississippi Avenue (Google Map here). After a bit of investigation, we found out that they planned to adjust the existing lane configuration in order to create more space for uphill bike traffic.
But now plans are on hold because the Bureau of Transportation’s Maintenance Operations Group (formerly the Bureau of Maintenance), which manages a busy truck and equipment yard mid-way up the hill, says they have concerns.
The road is steep and has several sharp corners that constrain sight lines. The uphill direction is particularly dangerous for bike traffic because of the vast speed differential between a climbing biker and a speedy car. PBOT wanted to give a bit of breathing room for bike traffic.
The plan, as we reported back in June, was to narrow a painted center median that currently exists on the street and move the motor vehicle lanes over to make room for a new, 6 foot uphill bike lane (which would increase to 7 feet wide in corners).
The new bike lane showed no signs of progress through the summer. Then, when Portland was hit with several major snowstorms over the winter, the markings — which were only made with temporary spray paint — wore completely off.
A few weeks ago, BikePortland reader and North Portland resident Jessica Roberts emailed the Bureau of Transportation inquiring about the status of the new bike lane. Roberts, who is several months pregnant, rides the hill daily and wrote that, “my growing belly and I use this every day and I’d really love to have a little more definition between car space and bike space.”
The PBOT staffer working on the project is Jeff Smith. Smith says the project hasn’t materialized yet because the Maintenance Operations Group opposes the plans. “When they saw it laid out there,” Smith told me via telephone this week, “they were concerned about the safety of downhill cyclists.”
lane. The driveway to the maintenance yard
is in the background.
Since the plan would narrow the downhill (southbound) lane, Maintenance staff was worried that when their trucks had to slow to enter the yard, there wouldn’t be enough room for people on bikes to get by them. (Currently, there’s a full center turn lane solely for use by Maintenance trucks. The new plans would mean trucks would not have a full center lane and would therefore be in the traffic lane). Smith says they took this concern and came up with a revised design. But even after an attempt to revise the design, Smith says the Maintenance folks remain “leery” of the plans.
“They don’t like the idea of mixing bikes and trucks,” said Smith.
Smith estimates that about 350 people bike on the hill every day and he says he’ll continue to work internally to come to an agreement on the plans. As of Wednesday of this week, no decision had been made about how to move forward.
PBOT Director Sue Keil has been briefed about the project and she is expected to meet with Maintenance Operations Group staff to make a final decision by next week.
In the meantime, riders like Roberts will just have to wait, and hope people in cars and trucks give her plenty of room when they pass.