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City gets push-back on 12th Ave bike access improvement plans

Posted by on April 28th, 2011 at 11:51 am

The City is trying to convince central eastside business interests that improving bike access on the NE 12th Avenue overpass won’t negatively impact freight truck access.
(Photo © J. Maus)

“Businesses… are concerned that our efforts on facilitating bike commutes have become a zero-sum game, where facilitating bikes equals restricting trucks and autos… Jobs are at stake here in the Central Eastside. We cannot afford to alienate the economic pillars of our community.”
— David Lorati, President of the Central Eastside Industrial Council

City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is facing opposition as it tries to improve bike access on the 12th Avenue overpass of I-84 in the Lloyd District. The Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC) has written a letter to PBOT expressing “serious concerns” about the project and has requested a one year delay in the planning process. And today, an opinion piece has been published in The Oregonian saying the project will “strangle freight access.”

The project has gotten enough heat that sources say the office of Mayor Sam Adams has now “taken an interest” and his transportation policy advisor is meeting with the CEIC today.

Last week, the CEIC president David Lorati fired off a letter to PBOT project manager Ellen Vanderslice saying, “local businesses still have very serious concerns about the design options being considered.”

Here’s another excerpt from that letter (PDF here) which gives you a clear sense of the CEIC’s perspective:

“Businesses… are seriously concerned that our efforts on facilitating bike commutes have become a zero-sum game, where facilitating bikes equals restricting trucks and autos.

Jobs are at stake here in the Central Eastside. We cannot afford to alienate the economic pillars of our community, whether intentional or not. They will not show up at yet another meeting and announce their dissatisfaction with our plans…they will quietly make plans to find a better place for their employees and vendors to conduct business. We simply can’t allow this to continue to happen.”

And today, former City Council candidate and former member of the Portland Small Business Advisory Council, Dave Lister, penned an opinion piece against the project in The Oregonian.

Lister wrote:

“… bicycle infrastructure and traffic changes on Interstate 84’s 12th Avenue overpass that could strangle freight access not only for Franz [Bakery] but for the entire central east side. Eleven hundred businesses — including old-time Portland institutions like Standard Dairy, Portland Bottling, Mesher Supply and Wink’s Hardware — and the 18,000 jobs they provide could be impacted.”

At issue is something we touched on after the project’s first open house in early March: how the bike access improvements might impact freight movement on NE 12th.

Currently on 12th, the bike lanes disappear as you ride over the overpass. In order to create better access for all users, PBOT wants to re-allocating space on the overpass to make room for a bicycle only lane (we detailed the options being considered here).

Aerial view of the overpass.

From early on in the project, Franz Bakery and Portland Bottling Co., expressed concerns that bike lanes would inhibit their ability to drive trucks on the overpass — a vital connection between I-84 and their factories. One rep from Franz Bakery I spoke with last month said about 400 trucks per day, some as long as 105 feet make the left turn (southbound) from NE Lloyd to NE 12th.

PBOT has been aware of these issues and has worked extensively with business owners and the CEIC to resolve them.

PBOT’s Vanderslice says they take the CEIC’s concerns seriously. In an email to BikePortland, she wrote:

“The City of Portland has a long history of supporting the Central Eastside Industrial District as an industrial sanctuary, and we surely wish to retain important inner city employers like Franz and Portland Bottling. I continue to believe that these directly-affected businesses are the most important Central Eastside stakeholders to satisfy…”

With proposed lane reconfigurations drawing concern, PBOT traffic engineers have turned their attention to improving how the traffic signals operate in the area.

“The key to gaining space on the 12th Avenue bridge,” Vanderslice says, “is the upgrade to the signals at each end.” PBOT’s assertion is that by making these signals work together they can reduce the number of vehicles at peak hours that end up waiting on the bridge to turn left (southbound and northbound).

With signals increasing vehicle throughput and decreasing vehicle storage on the overpass, Vanderslice says, “That would allow two left turn bays (north and south) to be fitted into one lane width.”

However, the CEIC and other business interests remain unconvinced by PBOT’s approach. Here’s more from the CEIC letter:

“While signal enhancements to increase throughput would be welcome, truck users remain unconvinced that reducing a lane will not severely restrict their movement on a major entrance and exit to the district.”

The CEIC says they’ll support the tweaks to traffic signals, but they also have requested that PBOT put a four-lane, (no bike lane) option back on the list of options. In addition, the CEIC was the entire process “to slow down for at least a year to give businesses ample time to contribute to effective outcomes.”

While PBOT and the Mayor’s Office continue to talk and resolve the CEIC’s concerns, engineers are moving forward with signal software upgrades. PBOT plans to implement signal timing changes and then evaluate how those alone impact vehicle throughput, speeds, and delays.

It remains a possibility that, if the CEIC and other business interests successfully argue against any new bike access improvements, signal changes might be the only outcome of this project.

Vanderslice remains optimistic that a compromise can be reached. “I am confident that we will arrive at a solution that improves bicyclists’ experience over the bridge without harming the needed truck movements.”

If all goes according to plan, PBOT will have an option ready to discuss publicly by the next meeting of their Stakeholders Advisory Committee meeting on May 19th. Stay tuned.

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Dave
Guest

What I want to know, is why do businesses need A YEAR to present what the feel is a workable solution? Seriously, they’re just trying to kill the whole thing by stalling it. I’m all for active collaboration, but it has to be collaboration and compromise, not just trying to put something off so long it never happens.

Lance P
Guest

As a advisor on the SAC, I would like to point out that all of the changes currently being discussed will be shot down if the cycling community doesn’t start calling and writing letters. Money talks… and in this case, it appears that Money is the only voice talking:(

Please update the article to include the following.

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is leading a process to improve bicycle operations on three Lloyd District corridors. Guests from PBOT’s project team will provide a brief overview of the three current Lloyd District Bikeway Improvement projects, and will answer commuters’ relevant questions in a guided Q&A. Brown-bag (snacks served) presentation by the Lloyd TMA’s Bike Committee for Lloyd District employees who commute by bike into the district. Check out the project website for more information. http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?a=339235&c=53906

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

Actually I kinda agree with the central eastside business owners. It really shouldn’t be a zero sum game for space. A sullivan’s gulch path could include I-84 overcrossings with no bike/truck conflict.

velvetackbar
Guest
velvetackbar

I ride this overpass every day. I am fine with just taking the lane, but it sure pisses off the truck drivers.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

The left hand turning trucks on 12th, they are going left on Multnomah, right on OR99, left on Broadway and right on Williams, to I-5?

Seems convoluted, why don’t they go west on Davis and right on OR-99? Or pickup OR-99 Further south if they’re coming from deep in the CEID.

BURR
Guest
BURR

the proposed options weren’t all that good anyway, so it’s probably time to just sit back and watch the city cave in on this one.

joeb
Guest
joeb

I take the lane and don’t slow anybody down as I sprint to the next red light.

Ed
Guest

I wrote a letter to PBOT in support of the bike lane installation. I ride the overpass every other day or more. I would feel much safer if they install a bike lane on each direction of the overpassing.

daisy
Guest
daisy

reduce speed to 10mph over the bridge with all four lanes intact. So simple.

todd
Guest
todd

as a business owner in the central eastside industrial district, we depend on truck access. the very idea that bikes in any way restrict truck access is absurd. cars on the other hand, take up virtually as much space on the road as trucks, often carrying no more than a bicycle does. space tight? gotta move stuff? restrict vehicles whose typical payload is less than 50% of vehicular weight, not bikes, which are even more space efficient than most trucks as freight movers.

everybody on a 4’x2′ bike is somebody not in a 15’x7′ car.

reminds me of the portland delegation to the netherlands, who, upon asking how freight interests conflicted with the priority given to bicycle traffic there, were told that there is no conflict because, well, how else would the truckers get to work so conveniently if not for the bike paths?

this is not an engineering problem. this is a culture clash. scratch a “freight interest” and find somebody who really just wants not to have to give up any space for their car.

Mork
Guest
Mork

Particularly since the streetcar steel has been occupying a large portion of Lloyd, I have been riding the southern sidewalk on Lloyd all the way from Grand to 12th. I cross the Banfield on the western walkway and then do a 2-stage left to head east on Irving. It’s slow and I’ve had a couple dirty looks from peds when I ding my bell and slowly pass them, but it is a workable solution for now. That said, I don’t like riding the sidewalk and I particularly don’t like feeling so unsafe that I feel like I NEED to ride the sidewalk.

The “do nothing” alternative that the CEIC is pushing is unacceptable. I will still be scared of taking the lane and so will many of the other less-confident cyclists that the city is attempting to encourage. Additionally, the request for a year-long wait is mere obfuscation. The CEIC wants the status quo and a year-long wait will likely eat up the meager project budget and they will get exactly that.

Who should we be writing and calling? Vanderslice? Adams?

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

“Franz Bakery … said about 400 trucks per day, some as long as 105 feet make the left turn (southbound) from NE Lloyd to NE 12th.”

I’m looking at the proposal, and the southbound configuration looks pretty much the same to me — one net auto/truck lane southbound. Yeah, there’s two lanes starting at the north end right now and that would narrow to one, but an 105-foot truck turning in there isn’t going to be sticking to one lane, anyway. Specious argument by the Good Bread folks.

OnTheRoad
Guest
OnTheRoad

Sounds like the tried-and-true Central Eastside Industrial Council “the sky is falling if we don’t get our way” tactic.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

facilitating bikes equals restricting trucks and autos

and we can say right back that the current configuration is facilitating trucks and autos while restricting bikes…

it doesn’t take a genius to know that a car/truck can much more easily go the 7 blocks east or west to another bridge to cross I-84… 7 blocks! this is a lot of fuss for 7 blocks… which they probably end up traveling once they cross the freeway any way since Lloyd Center takes up 10 blocks right in the middle of that… so really we’re talking about them having to go 2 blocks out of the way if they’re trying to continue North, and 14 blocks if they’re coming off the West-bound freeway…

closing the bridge to motor vehicle traffic completely would only put people a minute out of their way… that would be my solution, and greatly improve the environment around Holladay Park, Buckman Field, and Benson High… lower traffic, quieter streets, happier kids and park users…

I’d say a lane configuration change to only allow more room for bikes is a good compromise to that…

quit letting greedy corporations make decisions for the city that they know are good for the people…

Paul Manson
Guest

I am also an SAC member on this and the decision of the CEID to opt out of the SAC process at this point as we were approaching our final recommendation shows their lack of interest in finding any solution.

Yes there are challenges with the bridge. But the main cycle issue is not conflict with trucks, but conflict with peak hour commuters. Unfortunately, the I-84 exits that connect to the bridge are the only ones in Portland that ODOT allows triple-trailers to use. This is ridiculous itself.

Also, PBOT kindly already updated the timing on the lights this past month as offer to the trucking community. This improved wait times on the bridge for trucks. Now that the CEID has what it wants, it picks up the ball and goes homes.

Babygorilla
Guest
Babygorilla

Love the picture showing both bikes straddling the lane divider and, unless its a point of view illusion, encroaching on the left lane.

For what its worth, in my three or four years of pretty much daily commutes through that area during morning and evening rush, I never had any negative interactions with motorists. Heading into the city, I always took the left lane and waited patiently for my turn at the light and similar for heading back to Irving (taking the left lane to get to the left turn arrow at Benson). There was so much traffic and the signals were timed such that that moto speeds were not an issue and, accordingly, I never had an impatient motorists honk or swerve or felt threatened in any way.

Whyat
Guest
Whyat

I ride over this bridge almost every day. I don’t honestly see what the big deal is. It’s one of many places I have to take my time and be a little more cautious. If the CEID concerns are valid than I’m fine not getting some fancy dancy crossing. Sharing the road means bikes sharing too. Last I checked I can go a few blocks out of my way to get to my destination if I really need to.

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

Slow riders should just take the W-I-D-E sidewalk as on the hawthorne. Fast ones take the lane as the bridge is so short. Sometimes I take the lane on hawthorne if i’ve had my daily dose of steroids and can peddle 40 mph across.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I have a solution: since putting in bike lanes would eliminate jobs (claimed) then set up a ratio of jobs created per cycling death, and hold them to it. “Leaving the lanes you wanted intact has killed x number of cyclists, we expect to see x*y jobs in place at a living wage within the next 6 months or you lose those lanes to bikes.”

Or a tax could be instated to cover the expenses of cyclists injured because of a lack of lanes, or if cycling mode share fails to reach a reasonable goal through the area (33%?)

Or just flat out charge them an access fee for the excess road space they want and use the money to create bicycle infrastructure.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

The city should be courageous in the face of these fear mongering businesses and do what is right for the people who live here. I’m not sure who runs their shipping schedules but frankly they are costing themselves money if they are trying to move freight during peak traffic hours. At non peak hours, who cares how many lanes are on the bridge when they aren’t full anyway? Maybe instead of incessant whining, Franz and Co. should investigate ways to lower their shipping costs and/or find alternatives to gas burning, polluting trucks. Creativity is a far better use of time than filibustering tactics.

David
Guest
David

The sidewalks are really wide on both sides of the bridge. Why not just shared use paths on both sides? I use them as such.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

The obstacle to moving freight in the peak hours is too many commuters alone in their cars. This is true on Swan Island, on I-5 across the Columbia and in the Central Eastside. Making it safe to commute by bike is an important part of the solution. Its time the “freight community” embraced these facts of life.

jim
Guest
jim

How come you ride so close to the traffic lane when there is so much open room to your right. I can see that cars in the next lane need to swerve around you even though you are in the next lane?

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

jim
How come you ride so close to the traffic lane when there is so much open room to your right. I can see that cars in the next lane need to swerve around you even though you are in the next lane?

I can’t be specific to a situation you haven’t described fully but I can give some examples.

Firs the general principle of safe riding is to be predictable. Going in – and – out of the travel lane makes it hard for cars to predict where you will be next. So, if there is on street parking, even if the cars are a long ways apart the smart and safe thing for a cyclist to do is to ride in a straight line in the travel lane a safe distance from parked cars. I would say that is the primary reason you will see cyclists riding in the lane even when there is 6 feet of space to the right. But there are several other reasons for this practice.

Riding far to the right puts a cyclist outside of the visual area where motorists are looking and effective makes the cyclist invisible. This is especially a concern when there are cars entering or crossing the roadway at crossroads and driveways on the right. It is also a factor for oncoming traffic turning left, and for traffic from behind turning right. And when those drivers cause close calls, run us off the road or hit us it is always the same “I didn’t see you!” The reason for that is when we are driving cars we don’t look for objects traveling 15mph next to the curb – we look for big things in the main travel lane.

Riding far to the right takes away the room for the cyclist to maneuver because a cyclist can not count on it being safe to move to the left – unless we are already in the lane. By being to the left, we can always move to the right safely to avoid a hazard or let a car go by when it is safe to do so.

The far right side of the roadway is often – especially this time of year – full of debris and glass.

In congested areas like the Loyd district, being behind a bicycle is unlikely to cost a car or truck much time because there is always another stoplight. I can’t tell you how often I have a car impatiently pass me only for me to stay right behind them or even pass them over the net several blocks.

Harvey
Guest
Harvey

I am a business owner, and a cyclist that has been in the neighborhood of the bridge for more than 10 years.

I am baffled.

The sidewalks on that bridge are more than 8 feet wide with wheelchair ramps on each end. Why not paint a stripe down the middle of each sidewalk on the bridge and make a cycle lane on that sidewalk? It takes no more resources, allows for truck traffic to move along unimpeded (the Franz bakery is the largest bakery on the west coast people, they have a ton of triple trailers going all up and down the west making deliveries that keep a lot of people in Portland employed), and makes a nice separation for both riders and drivers. Remember, this area is an industrial sanctuary, aimed at keeping jobs and manufacturing capabilities close to the center of town.

The idea that businesses should suck it, and make more room when there is already plenty of space for everyone is absurd. Sometimes the holier-than-thou attitude that some Portland cyclists have really hurts the cause of cycling in this community. If we could all ride around on our bikes all day like summer break in elementary school, then perhaps I would agree, but most of the people on that bridge are going to generate commerce as employees or customers of businesses that pay people enough money to buy nice bicycles.

diondatta
Guest
diondatta

Oh, the fear mongering. I’m sure that 18,000 jobs will be “impacted” and businesses will spend billions to relocate if the city installs a bike lane across the bridge so that the CITIZENS of the city won’t get run-over by cars and trucks. Some people are against things just because they want to be contrary. the city government needs to just install it and see what happens. if it doesn’t work well, then change it. That’s what they do in Copenhagen.

are
Guest

can someone please quantify this eleven hundred business, eighteen thousand jobs thing? on their “about us” page, http://ceic.cc/about/, CEIC uses roughly these numbers to describe an area extending south all the way to powell. how many of these businesses are at all affected by the 12th avenue overpass? and among those who are (let’s say, north of maybe stark), how many actually use 105-foot, 40-ton triples? and among those, how many would actually have to cut jobs or substantially increase expenses if they had to take it down a notch? and/or how many would actually be benefited if we could move some of the private auto traffic through more quickly (or get rid of it)?

BURR
Guest
BURR

Once the eastside streetcar loop is completed the CEID will rapidly gentrify, and the new retail and service oriented businesses will rely a lot less on large tractor trailers for deliveries.

Smart businesses that rely heavily on trucking have already mostly relocated to other places in the city like the Columbia South Shore anyway.

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

Damn, I ate all three products this morning.