‘Pocket park’ and cycle-track: A closer look at the NE Holman bike boulevard project

Posted by on May 5th, 2010 at 10:10 am

PBOT’s latest plans for a new, traffic calming park on NE Holman at 13th.

It’s not very often that City of Portland Bureau of Transportation staffers hear rapturous cheers during neighborhood meetings, but it happened last night when over 50 northeast Portland residents packed into the Concordia University library to learn more about the NE Holman Street bike boulevard project.

Holman Bike Boulevard Open House-2

Standing room only crowd.
(Photos © J. Maus)

This open house was a follow-up to an initial PBOT presentation about the project last month. Like they did at that first meeting, nearby residents expressed full support for the project. Cheers erupted from the standing-room only crowd when PBOT announced plans for two specific pieces of the project; the crossing of busy Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd. and plans for a “pocket park” at Holman and NE 13th.

The pocket park idea would be a first for Portland. The plan is to expand the footprint of an existing, tiny park (it’s about the size of a standard house lot, check it out on Google Maps) on the southwest corner of Holman and NE 13th (a park that nearby residents have recently turned into a community meeting place). PBOT wants to extend the park all the way across Holman while maintaining a 12-foot wide cut-through for biking and walking traffic. (see map graphic at top of story).

“What you’d end up with is a much larger community space that is also functioning as a traffic safety feature.”
— Greg Raisman, PBOT traffic safety expert

Greg Raisman, a traffic safety and bike boulevard expert on PBOT’s staff says, “What you’d end up with is a much larger community space that is also functioning as a traffic safety feature.”

PBOT has already met with the Bureau of Environmental Services to discuss the use of bioswales (that treat stormwater runoff) for much of the park’s landscaping. Many details still need to be worked out (who would be responsible for maintenance of the park is a big one), but Raisman says they’re committed to “getting to yes” and making it happen.

In addition to several cheers from the crowd, one nearby resident thanked PBOT profusely for their commitment to this park idea, saying “This opportunity is huge for us in the neighborhood. Thank you!”

Plans for crossing MLK at NE Holman.

In addition to the pocket park at 13th, the other marquee piece of the Holman bike boulevard project (that also elicited cheers) is the crossing of Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd.

Since Holman doesn’t continue straight across MLK, at the first open house PBOT proposed using Highland Avenue as the approach on the west side of the street. But after hearing feedback, they’ve now decided to use Holman (which is south of Highland) on both sides of crossing.

To make MLK safer to bike and walk across, PBOT will add a new signal and crosswalk and do a major lane reconfiguration to create space for a two-way cycle track on the west side of the street.

The new cycle track will run for about a half a block and will feature two, six-foot wide bike lanes physically separated from motor vehicle traffic via a two-foot wide jersey barrier. There will also be a five-foot wide planter strip and a six-foot sidewalk. Space for this will be created by the removal of the center turn lane and narrowing of other existing lanes.

Because a $250,000 traffic signal is needed (due to high speed and volume of car traffic on MLK), the construction of this crossing might be delayed until the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Other Holman Ave. project highlights include various combinations of curb extensions, bioswales, crosswalks, and median islands at crossings of NE 15th, 33rd, and 42nd. And, like all their bike boulevard projects, PBOT will also install new signage, sharrows, speed bumps, and wayfinding signs along the route.

Holman Bike Boulevard Open House-4

PBOT’s Greg Raisman explains the pocket park
to a woman who lives near it.

While there was overwhelming support for the project at the open house last night, there were also questions and concerns raised. The crowd — which was a diverse mix of ages, ethnicities and occupations — wondered about loss of on-street parking (no major parking removal is planned), whether or not the bumpy road surface would be improved (it won’t be — but Raisman said being a bike boulevard would raise the priority level of the street for future resurfacing and added, “We can either do everything you see in this proposal or we could re-surface just three blocks”), whether stop signs would be removed or added (yes and yes), and more.

To their credit, PBOT had excellent and candid answers to all the questions and even had a traffic engineer (Scott Batson) on hand who took notes and provided technical authority.

Funding for this project is already (mostly) secured and PBOT hopes to have it fully completed by July 2011.

PBOT is currently working on six other bike boulevard projects in addition to this one and they’re moving full-steam ahead. Last night Raisman told me the only thing that can slow them down is a lack of community support, so get involved and show up to a future open house in your neighborhood.

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Travis A. WittwernylaPaul Taymatt picioTony Fuentes Recent comment authors
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I was continually amazed how the answers to questions were almost always backed up by relevant research . . . lending a lot of credibility to the proposed solutions and heading off armchair traffic engineers at the pass.

The specter of the actual traffic engineer rattling off actual codes for various design standards had me laughing quietly in my chair. I haven’t seen that kind of memorization since the checkers at the original Price Club knew the SKU’s for a warehouse full of products.


will they be forbidding a left turn from northbound MLK onto westbound holman? a cyclist heading east on holman will have to cross to get into the cycletrack, and a motorist making that left is unlikely to be looking for that move.


Go Woodlawn!


Good news. As a Woodlawn resident I am always amazed how other more affluent parts of town seem to be able to score traffic calming features when we can’t. Here it feels like even the people responsible for the keeping us all safe from the cars just want to speed through the ‘hood as quickly as possible. There is still lots to do around here but this is a step in the right direction. Thanks for the coverage.

Camp Bike Fun

We are having a celebratory potluck at the pocket park at NE 13th and Holman Wednesday May 26th 5:45-7:15pm. Parks commissoner Nick Fish will be in attendance. See ya there. If it rains- it will meove to a nearby house.

Oh- See y’all at Sunday Parkways on May 16th!

Tony Fuentes

I would love to see some skate park elements worked into the expansion of Holman Park.

We have a lot of skate boarding youth in the area – white kids, black kids, Latino kids, you name it. Love to see them have a place in this overall vision for the greenway.

Steve B

When they announced approval of a diverter at 33rd, the room ERUPTED IN APPLAUSE.

A diverter lover’s dream, to say the least. Let’s bring pocket street parks and diverters to EVERY neighborhood!

matt picio

are (#2) – has it right on, motorists in that area are not going to be looking for that move, and the best course might be to extend the existing barrier to left turns from where it currently ends to beyond Holman.

Tony (#6) – the park expansion is only about 30′ wide and less than 1/2 block long. That’s not really enough to add skate park elements. Woodlawn Park, 5 blocks north, would be a better choice for that.

Tony Fuentes

@matt picio

Yeah but there is some money going to Holman Park NOW. I think even a little something for the skaters can be accomplished.

I agree that when there is money for improvements at Woodlawn, a bigger skate park should be part of the conversation.


You should see what the skate kids who live on Holman use now – they’d love anything more they can get. They’re usually in the middle of Holman, anyway.

Tony Fuentes


EXACTLY! I live in the area and bike NE Holman all the time.

I see a lot of kids on boards. In fact, I see a lot black kids on boards and I would love to see more.

They are using boards in this area now, why not incorporate them into the enhance of this area?

If we can leverage sewer money for bike boulevards, why not capture one more bird with that stone?

matt picio

Tony (#9) – Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to putting skate improvements in Holman, I’m just saying this isn’t going to add a lot of space. Holman’s a neighborhood park, I hope that the city is in dialog with the neighborhood about what *they* would like to see there – and if that’s skate facilities, by all means, there should be some.

I’m not that concerned about kids riding in the street – it’s a neighborhood street and the presence of kids slows traffic. Or at least it did – when I was growing up, kids were in the street all the time, so I consider that normal. Happy to see it in NoPo / Inner NE, wish it was true throughout all of Portland.

Paul Tay
Paul Tay

Thumbs…..up! Kudos to bioswales.


This is wonderful news on so many fronts, especially given the mayor’s budget announcements this morning. That our street project and pocket park expansion are receiving support in this time of service cuts to under-represented populations is nothing short of miraculous and speaks to the efforts of our neighbors who have shepherded this through. Thank you, everyone.

Traffic diverters are going to be truly helpful and will solve the needs of the kids with skateboards. I live next door to the park and slowing the cars which currently race down the street is the biggest concern.

Finally, as the Chair of the Portland Commission on Disabilities, I want us to make sure that we consider accessibility issues in our design: this would mean proper curb cuts (or no curbs at all, even better!), accessible paths and egress, and if we expand opportunities for play and socialization, with what will be limited funds, we will want to make sure that elderly people and people with mobility issues can feel as welcome and able to join us in the park as anyone else. Skate rails and jumps, etc. would kind of defeat that purpose–and I agree, Woodlawn Park is only a couple of blocks away and large enough to accommodate the needs of the kids who skate.

Travis A. Wittwer
Travis A. Wittwer

True, even a small one would be nice. I would e joy it and take my kids there for evenings. A sidewalk gets “boring” after awhile.