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PBOT installs SE Clinton Street bikeway ‘enhancements’

Posted by on May 16th, 2011 at 11:59 am

PBOT has begun installation of the new artistic elements on the SE Clinton bikeway.
-More photos below-
(All images by Paul Cone)

City of Portland crews have finally begun to install features of the Clinton Street Bike Boulevard Enhancement project.

Bureau of Transportation project manager Jeff Smith says all 70 of the street sign “toppers” and three “bike flags” (which are bikes cut in half and attached to a pole) have been installed and the two new bike corrals (at SE 21st and 25th) are set to go in any day now. Also still to come are 10 stainless steel “head badges” set to be installed on utility poles (they were redesigned, Smith says, so PGE crews could still climb over them during an emergency).

The project (more details here) focuses on adding bike-inspired, artistic elements to SE Clinton Street from 12th to 52nd. The idea is to brand the street as a bikeway. PBOT is spending about $38,000 on the project, which is a partnership with local artists and the Regional Arts and Culture Council.

PBOT first announced the project in March 2008, and I must say, I’m very happy to cross it off my list of languishing bike projects).

Have you noticed these new additions to the street? What do you think?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I haven’t ridden the street myself yet… I think I’ll wait until everything is in… But I wanted to add that I’ve been a vocal proponent of this type of thing ever since seeing it done so well in Vancouver BC.

    I think it’s key for PBOT to market/brand these bikeway streets as such. There are many reasons why these inexpensive improvements are needed.

    — They help spread awareness that the streets are recommended routes for bike traffic.

    — They remind all users that bikes are likely to be present.

    — They show official respect for bicycling and send a signal that our city not only encourages, but celebrates, bicycling.

    I hope this pilot project inspires PBOT to do similar treatments on other bike boulevards/n’hood greenways. I’d love to see local artists and n’hoods throughout the city partner with PBOT to bring these enhancements to their local bike boulevards.

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    • Dave May 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      That would be really great to see PBOT partner with and even pay local artists to design stuff like this for their own neighborhoods. That way, you would also kind of contribute to keeping the local “flavor” of the neighborhood (by having artists from that neighborhood design the stuff), support the neighborhood community financially, and mark the street as having an emphasis on bicycle transportation.

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  • 9watts May 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    This all looks great to me.
    Curious, though, that all the bikes, those cut in half and those in the stenciled bits are without brakes. The latter appear to be fixed gear steeds.
    Reminds me of going to a parochial school where the boys were not allowed to have long hair but Jesus was everywhere depicted with flowing blond locks.

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    • Spiffy May 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      coaster brakes, just like the sharrows and bike traffic lights…

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  • MeghanH May 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I go down this street every day I bike (including this AM) and have to admit I didn’t even notice anything! That’s sort of disconcerting to me, actually.

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  • laura May 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    saw the rainbow bike at 39th last night, and the sign topers at 45th today…made me smile!

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    • laura May 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      sign toppers…duh

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  • Leslie Carlson May 16, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I saw two of the bikes and the sign toppers yesterday, and talked to one of the city workers who’d just put them up. He seemed to enjoy the fact that I couldn’t stop smiling and looking up at them. It gave me another reason to love this city.

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  • Paul May 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I wouldn’t mind buying one of the sign toppers – nice piece of Portland bike art. Might even be a way to fund further bike themed routes!

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  • Spiffy May 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    looks like I’ll be heading to the Clinton St Pub this evening, to check out the new designs… um, yeah, that’s my excuse…

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  • Jeff Smith May 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    thanks to Paul Cone for all the great photos -! There are in fact 3 types of sign topper bikes (not just the road/fixie type, but a eurobike and a kid’s bike as well). Equal-opportunity sign toppers (well, except for recumbents & tandems & cargobikes & folders & ….)

    many thanks to project artists Matt Cartwright & Brian Borello for their diligent work on this, and to the Regional Arts & Culture Council for contributing to the funding of this project.

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  • shirtsoff May 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Are the tires on the street poles filled with something besides a tube and air? They must be or else they will look saggy in a few months. Does any one know what the contents are?

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  • Alex May 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    This is great! Now the next step would be to extend this program further along the same route to a nicely repaved Woodward St 😉

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  • Martha R May 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    I just noticed them on my ride in this morning and wondered if they had just been installed in the past few days or if I’ve been particularly spacey on my morning commutes lately. I would have been smiling about the improvements more if I hadn’t had this doubt…Thanks for the sanity check!

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  • Portlandia May 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    “Put a bike on it.”

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  • Rol May 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I guess it’s fine, but something in me always reacts negatively against using useful items as art. Vinyl records… guitars on a wall never to be played again… even cars, which I generally hate… but especially: “bikes as art.” That includes hanging a bike on your porch, turning bikes into sculptures, and this: cutting the fronts off and mounting them on poles like taxidermic hunting trophies of something vanquished and killed.

    I like art just fine, but art is the making of new things. A bike is already something. If you want a bicycle in your art, you could build it. Just sayin. But to take an existing bike and “recycle” it, in my opinion you have to really, cleverly, skillfully and dramatically repurpose or recontextualize it, make some other statement somehow, to make up for the laziness of using a pre-made idea, and to make up for the waste inherent in stripping a vital machine of its usefulness, which almost always renders it (for me) sad, pointless and dead. This includes bikes that are “broken” too, because of course there are people who know how to fix them, and if there is any possible use (as a bicycle) left in that bicycle, to me it’s always going to seem like a waste not to extract that utility from it. Waste is violence. Criminals “waste” each other too, i.e. convert each other to something else even though there’s still life left in them.

    If you want a bike in your art, try building a bike, smart-aleck! Or recycle some art into a bike, THEN I’ll be impressed. Nonetheless this is a public project, so the expectations of “ass-kicking awesome art” are automatically relaxed. (But then again, why should they be?)

    (These are my opinions, I feel compelled to add. Even though you should always be mentally thinking “in their opinion” any time anyone opens their mouth or fires up their typing fingers.)

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    • sabernar May 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      Wow, what a grumpypuss. Maybe the bikes were trashed. Just like using records as art – maybe they are scratched beyond their usefulness. I knew an artist that only used unplayable records in her art.

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      • Rol May 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm

        That’s what I hope. Also I’m not really that grumpy, it just seems sad somehow.

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    • beth h May 16, 2011 at 5:05 pm

      “…make up for the waste inherent in stripping a vital machine of its usefulness, which almost always renders it (for me) sad, pointless and dead. This includes bikes that are “broken” too, because of course there are people who know how to fix them, and if there is any possible use (as a bicycle) left in that bicycle, to me it’s always going to seem like a waste not to extract that utility from it…”


      My response:


      Yeah, I suppose someone could’ve saved these parts — a White Industries hub, a bike pump and a Campy seatpost — somehow, even with the rust and/or corrosion that originally rendered each of these parts useless. Past a certain point, though, restoring a bicycle part to real usefulness ceases to be time- and cost-effective; and that’s when recycling and remaking an object into art makes sense. That’s why, when I wanted some beautiful cups, I made some. And I use them regularly. Where’s the waste in that?

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      • Rol May 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm

        Those cups meet or exceed my standards! (haha) Nice.

        The parts you used were drawn from within what I would call a gray area of bicycle part entropy (!) where the parts could conceivably be salvaged, but not profitably. In other words, a range spanning from just above “totally useless and unsalvageable” all the way up to but not including “possible to salvage with sufficiently low labor and high payback as to sustain e.g. a bike shop.” A bike shop has to respond to larger economic forces like every other business. And it’s currently true that past a certain point, designing, producing, shipping and retailing a new part is cheaper than hiring the labor to salvage an existing one. That’s a quirk of a fossil-fuel-rich economy, where cheap energy makes it possible to mine the ore cheaply, run the machines cheaply, generate enough capital to hire engineers not-so-cheaply, ship things cheaply, etc. Some are betting that situation won’t last much longer. If things do change, at some point rising prices or scarcity or both will start to push the upper end of that gray area lower.

        Meanwhile an individual, say an artist or maybe just a tinkerer, isn’t necessarily subject to the same economic constraints as a bike shop. Maybe different ones… they have to have sufficient leisure time, energy, some tools, some knowledge, and of course some interest in it, to make use of the stuff in the gray area.

        Helluva tangent. Nobody cares, sorry!

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  • Albert May 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    The Clinton Street project won’t really be complete until the improved crossing is installed at 50th to make it easier to get across there during rush hour. I’ve heard that the 50th crossing improvement is tied to the 50s Bikeway Project, but that goes down 52nd and there’s already a painted crosswalk at 52nd. Does anyone know the current status of the 50th crossing improvement?

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  • Zaphod May 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I/my company would like to buy/invest in those sign toppers to support two wheeled transportation. Really cool!

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  • Andy May 17, 2011 at 7:48 am

    We watched these being installed in the rain on Sunday morning. It was such a delightful surprise and put huge smiles on our faces. And isn’t that one of the functions of bikes and art? Thank you, PBOT!

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  • Robert Watling May 17, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I use three different routes on my nightly commute to work. Davis/Everett, Clinton/Woodward, Gladstone/Center. 5.5 miles, five nights a week I like a little variety. I like Clinton/Woodward best and agree on the crossing at 50th and also the next one at BF Highschool. I use this route from 26th to 75th. I do wonder if the money couldn’t have been better spent though. It just seems a little frivolous to me. I also prefer the old street markings that gave some directional pointers at intersections. The “sharrows” don’t do that and the original and the newly designed signs are hard to see at night. Half of all my riding is at night. Thanks for the coverage though and greetings to all fellow riders.

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  • Dave Cary May 17, 2011 at 11:35 am

    At the risk of being called grumpy or overly negative, it occurs to me that it won’t be long before the vandals (admittedly a small number but with a big impact) will have these half-bikes looking more like a bike accident than bike art. Is that because it’s Southeast Portland or just Portland period?

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  • spare_wheel May 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    It will be interesting to see if these cosmetic changes actually decrease poaching by commuters.

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  • Michweek May 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Love it! I walked out and morning and there was a rainbow bike attached to a pool above my home!!! It was lovely, then when I returned home they had the crews putting the sign toppers up! Stopped and took photos, lots of smiles!!!

    I’d love to see this type of celebration occur all over town in each neighborhoods flavor!!!

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  • I call B.S. May 23, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Really, money is being spent on this? We live in a city where teachers are now expected to take pay cuts, lay offs are rampant, funding for major projects such as bridge replacement is scarce, and yet money is found for “bike art”? I’m an avid cyclist, but I don’t need sign toppers and other future sources of rust and targets of theft/vandalism to guide me through the streets of Portland. “Hey, we’re Portland. Put a bird on it!”

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    • Alan 1.0 May 23, 2011 at 11:30 am

      I call B.S.
      I’m an avid cyclist

      Yeah, yeah, and some of them are my best friends.

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  • bald one May 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I”d rather see surface condition improvement on SE Clinton between 21 and 39th – specifically the speed bumps (and in the up hill direction). How about a 12 inch wide bike gutter cuts through the speed bump and lets the cyclist cruise through (not over) the bump but keeps the rest of the bump intact for speeding cars? Us old guys got sore backs and going over speed bumps going up hill at the end of a long commute doesn’t help keep me out of my car and in the saddle for another year. More money for cycle-specific road surface improvements (smooth pavement) and for de-congesting the heaviest used cycle routes and less for other purposes.

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