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Meeting marks turning point for discussion around Williams project

Posted by on July 28th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Lee Moore, Chairman of the Housing Authority of Portland, was brought in by PBOT to facilitate the meeting.
(Photos © J. Maus)

PBOT hosted the second of two “brainstorming sessions” for their North Williams Traffic Safety Operations Project last night. As I reported last week, the agenda for the first meeting — to come up with ideas for a new outreach campaign to improve behavior on Williams — was scrapped when the conversation turned to the history of institutional racism and gentrification in the neighborhoods around the Williams corridor.

In the week since that meeting, these issues have gained wider attention. Oregon Public Broadcasting devoted part of its Think Out Loud radio show to the topic and just yesterday, Mayor Sam Adams weighed in with his thoughts. Here on BikePortland, comments have flowed in from a variety of perspectives.

“People are having the opportunity to be heard.”
— Donna Maxey

The simple fact that people have had the ability to weigh in and have their voices heard has helped to move the discussion forward and has helped soothe some of the anger.

With the discussion much more evolved, PBOT was prepared for the meeting last night. They did not come with a pre-set agenda and instead of the staff member and consultant who have led the project since January, a facilitator was brought in to direct the meeting.

The facilitator was Lee Moore, a noted African-American civic leader who was born in Vanport (a public housing development built for (mostly African-American) shipyard workers that was completely destroyed in a flood in 1948) and is now the Chairman of the Housing Authority of Portland.

“After last week, I was so disheartened; And I feel so positive about it today.”
— Michelle DePass

Others in the room last night (that weren’t at the first meeting) included a transportation policy adviser for Mayor Sam Adams, a representative from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, a reporter and photographer from The Oregonian, Community Cycling Center Executive Director Alison Graves, and author and CEO of Alta Planning and Design Mia Birk.

Moore was a brilliant choice by PBOT. He has experienced gentrification and displacement of communities both personally and in his role with the Housing Authority. With his warm, charismatic tone, he shared with the crowd last night that the conversation that has flared up around Williams wasn’t unique to North Portland — it has happened all over the city for decades.

“What I see happening here,” Moore said, “Is an opportunity to say, ‘We’re going to have bike paths, we need to be able to create alternative forms of transportation… but how do we do that in a way that keeps communities whole?… How do we do this in a way that is respectful, responsive to the needs of the community? How do we have this discussion so that all of our needs get met?'”

Moore made it clear, as did the letter from Adams, that larger issues of social justice and gentrification aren’t likely to be solved quickly or within the confines of this specific project process.

One of the announcements made last night is that PBOT has committed the resources to have a larger, public event about the community concerns. That event is likely to happen in September.

PBOT project manager Ellen Vanderslice also made it clear last night that the Williams project is moving forward (there’s a Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting next Tuesday (8/2). When one woman in the crowd wondered why the City wanted to make Williams better for bicycling — “What you did on Vancouver [widening the bike lane and removing one lane] is horrible,” she yelled, “Now you want to do it on Williams Avenue… Why can’t bikes ride on sidestreets?!” — Vanderslice stood up for the project.

“Williams is the only street that actually goes through and that doesn’t have a big hill on it… Bicyclists don’t want to tackle a big hill… Because it’s such an attractive connector and because inner northeast Portland has the highest bicycle ridership in the City, it’s actually become a different situation now. That’s what got the City interested in this project… We’re looking at Williams because we now have enough people riding on that there are some issues from a safety point of view.”

Further momentum for the project moving forward came from the same local residents who have shared concerns about the racial equity issues.

Donna Maxey, whose comment about the project I published yesterday (she said she found the comments “very interesting”), complimented PBOT for hitting pause on the project.

“I would like to compliment them that they were wise enough to stop the process and do this; and I think we’ll have a much better solution to the problem since we’re doing that… People are having the opportunity to be heard.”

Maxey also said that, “No one’s trying to turn this into a racial issue.”

That’s an important statement. While the specter of a racist history has risen around this project, it became clear last night that many people in the community feel the traffic problems — many of which revolve around a simple lack of respect for others — are paramount and that the City should not put a solution to them on hold.

Maxey also shared an idea on how to educate new residents and others who aren’t familiar with the history of Williams Avenue. The City could install signposts with a number to call that would have a pre-recorded, first-person account of something that happened at the location of the sign. “It provides a link to the past,” she said, “People don’t want, what used to be there life, to be forgotten.”

Deborah Leopold Hutchins

Deborah Leopold Hutchins, founder of the Sistahs Weekend Cyclers group and a member of the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee, was first to approach PBOT staff with concerns about a lack of representation by African-Americans.

“While [project consultant] Michelle [Poyourow] and Ellen [Vanderslice] tried their best at getting a diverse group and getting out to the community, they recognized they could have done better.”

Also appreciative of PBOT’s attention to her concerns, Leopold Hutchins made it clear she wants the project to move forward; albeit with more engagement from people in the community. She implored the crowd last night to bring friends and neighbors to future meetings and get more people involved in the process.

“We’re not going to stop this immediately,” Leopold Hutchins said, “we’ve got to move forward, that’s my opinion.”

Leopold Hutchins said she’d love to ride on Williams with her ‘Sistahs’ group, but that she avoids it because it’s unsafe. “Until we can get Williams safe,” she said, “we’re not going to ride on it. I think we need to move forward, we need to get the community involved and then we need to get this process resolved.”

The woman who first brought up racial concerns at the meeting last week, Michelle DePass, also had positive words for the City last night. DePass said she appreciates that the City “took a step back” and she urged planners to keep the concept of “development, or gentrification, without displacement” in mind.

“After last week, I was so disheartened,” she shared, “And I feel so positive about it today.”

DePass also brought up a theme that was repeated several times last night and also was in Mayor Adams’ letter; the idea that the process PBOT has taken on this project serve as a model for planning processes in the future.

“We have an opportunity to make a model of planning without displacement,” DePass said, “You don’t have to hurt anybody by the policies we adopt at the City level.”

While there was a lot of laughter and a feeling of positive appreciation last night, anger was still present.

One African-American woman told of a near-physical altercation she had with a woman on a bicycle that she felt was highly disrespectful and uncalled for. Another man said he’s concerned that more bicycling on Williams will just mean more rowdy people in bars. “We’re bringing Bohemia to northeast Portland,” he said. There were also several calls for a licensing or identification system for people on bicycles that could also come with a new bicycle user fee to pay for new infrastructure.

One young man felt economic justice was they key issue:

“We’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on bikes; every kid is not getting food at school, we’re laying off teachers… We all know that if certain people didn’t bike a lot that had a lot of power, we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all. They want to market Portland as a cool bike city; fine, but don’t do it on the backs of everyone else. We don’t have the money for all this B.S. We need to feed kids, educate kids, take care of people’s health care and take care of stuff that really matters.”

That comment exemplifies the wide-ranging and open discussion that was heard last night.

PBOT now seems poised — and has community backing — to continue both the social justice issues and the safety project. While the project process won’t ignore the history of the neighborhood (I think that’s impossible given everything we’ve been through), that history and the ongoing concerns about racism and gentrification will be given the larger forum they deserve. There is also talk about having two project committees, one for the social issues, the other for the street engineering and safety improvements discussion.

Anything can happen from here, but after last night it seems many people are feeling much better about this project. The issues that have been raised are complex and important, and racism is not territory PBOT usually wades into in their planning efforts. Lee Moore shared one reason why.

“One reason no one wants to talk about race is that diversity is messy,” said Moore in his closing remarks, “it’s a work in progress and something we never get done… and cyclists are another form of diversity.”

— For background on this project, browse BikePortland’s previous coverage.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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9watts
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9watts

Back and forth, give and take, lots of substantive conversation = all good. Let’s hope PBOT and everyone pulls this off and we all learn from it. Great reporting, Jonathan!

9watts
Guest
9watts

One also wonders how the prospect of much diminished automobile traffic volumes across the board in, say, ten years would change this conversation.
In other words if bikes are the future, not because of infrastructure priority or ideology or gentrification, but because of the end of cheap oil, what new alliances, what new thinking might emerge?

me
Guest
me

Traffic was never an issue in this area until gentrification.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

It’s clear from some of the comments you recorded that there is a lot of education needed in this neighborhood, so I suppose these meetings are a good thing.

– The side streets in this neighborhood are not a viable option. Bikes don’t like them for the same reasons that cars don’t like them.
– Physical altercations can and do happen between and within all modes of transit
– Money for bike improvements cannot be spent on schools. This is transportation money, not general funds.

fiets503
Guest
fiets503

North Rodney is a good side street alternative to Williams. However, it needs some improvements to at intersetions to be safer and I don’t think it will ever replace Williams.

Allan
Guest
Allan

Chris-

Points 1 and 3 are not ‘always’ true.

– The side streets in this neighborhood are not a viable option. Bikes don’t like them for the same reasons that cars don’t like them.
-> Rodney is slated to be a neighborhood greenway. Not all bicyclists are created equal and some folks don’t like riding in the door zone for miles. That being said, I would like to see Williams developed as a major city bikeway as is called for in the 2030 plan

– Money for bike improvements cannot be spent on schools. This is transportation money, not general funds.
-> If the city council wanted to, they could cut PBOT completely and spend it all on schools, police, you name it. “Transportation Funds” are movable, like it or not. I totally get it that building bicycle infrastructure reduces the total cost of the system, blah blah blah, but not everyone agrees with the budget prioritization

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

I ride my bike so I can afford to send my kid to school with his lunch 4 of 5 days a week. He attends the most underfunded K-8 in all of Portland. Lets not mince over unrelated issues here. Thanks Chris for pointing this out. In addition, I thought a Bohemian Utopia was what we were all aiming for!

justin
Guest
justin

“We’re bringing Bohemia to northeast Portland,”

Hmmm. Not quite the open minded thought process I was hoping for.

Perry Hunter
Guest
Perry Hunter

Nice catchphrase though…

are
Guest

i actually think this is a problem, and i said so at the very first SAC meeting. the commercial district is being developed not as a set of neighborhood services, but as a destination for people arriving from elsewhere to drink, drop their trash, and leave. this is the ugly fact of this particular species of gentrification.

but it has next to nothing at all to do with providing safe transportation through the area, and in fact it seems odd to hear people who are concerned about preserving their neighborhood objecting to reducing through traffic and onstreet parking.

sore bore
Guest
sore bore

I am a N. portlan resident who travels often to other points in town to enjoy, drink, linger, loiter if you will. This is a very silly NIMBY comment. PLEEASE.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

“We don’t have the money for all this B.S. We need to feed kids, educate kids, take care of people’s health care.”

Perhaps someone could explain the benefits of cycling to this young man and how bikes can do a lot of more for people’s health care and wallets than cars.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Thanks for the coverage, Jonathan.

It was a good meeting. I liked that Ellen responded well to the question of “Why Williams” with “it’s the only street that gets you to N/NE Portland without going up a huge hill.” This is something that nonbicyclists aren’t going to automatically know, but can probably appreciate once they learn it.

The meeting we well run, I’m optimistic for a positive outcome for all.

Ted Buehler

Charley
Guest
Charley

“No one’s trying to turn this into a racial issue.”- Donna Maxey, 7-28,2011

“What is causing the anger and resentment is that it’s only an issue of safety now that whites are the ones who are riding bicycles and walking on the streets.”- Donna Maxey, 7-20-2011

Actually, Ms. Maxey herself played a big part in turning this transportation safety discussion into a racial issue, and she shouldn’t be allowed to obscure her role in that. I’m happy to hear that she and some other community leaders are now mollified by the new approach. It’s just grating when they complained about improvements that would have helped black cyclists just as much as white cyclists. They put the city into a Catch-22: one woman complained that the safety issues should have been addressed 10 years ago, but was arguing against the current implementation. Should the city ever try to make safety improvements in minority neighborhoods, or leave them unpatrolled and unsafe?

My guess is that they had a rather normal aversion to change (like the Holgate bike lanes) and expressed it in the language of past injustices. They saw the open house, which was very pro-bike-lane, and realized that they’d lose a lane of car travel unless something really shook up the debate. I believe it’s a tactic to prevent losing automotive space.

rebar
Guest
rebar

+Actually, Ms. Maxey herself played a big part in turning this transportation safety discussion into a racial issue, and she shouldn’t be allowed to obscure her role in that.” – Charley

+100

single track
Guest
single track

+ 1- the lane is not a racial issue. leave it out of the gentrification debate!

Thomas Le Ngo
Guest

Charley, the language of past injustices was used because the City’s inadequate public engagement made it seem like they were doing the same thing that they’ve done over and over again in the past: screwing African Americans over.

It’s like a sheriff coming into your house and taking things away for “evidence.” Would you be so friendly to a new sheriff coming into your house and doing the same thing, even if they were trying to do the right thing?

The Stakeholder Advisory Committee was not fully representative of the community. Also, I was born and raised in outer SE Portland. Sure, I have asthma probably because I lived a block away from I-205, but my family was not redlined, denied loans, and forced to sell their house for below-market rates, like families in N/NE Portland.

I’m glad that Ellen and Michelle reevaluated the situation and allowed the community to be heard last night. I’m hopeful that the city can take a more proactive approach with larger issues of race and gentrification. That way, everyone can be on the same page when we do another safety project in the city.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Thomas,

The City was not “screwing African-Americans over” IMO. They had African-Americans on the SAC and have spoken to African-American groups in the n’hood about this project since Day One. Please don’t mischaracterize the situation. Could the City have done better? Of course. But I don’t think it’s productive for the community to get the idea that this was a situation where PBOT and a bunch of white people came in and forced something on a n’hood without asking them about it first — that’s far from what happened here.

Thomas Le Ngo
Guest

Jonathan, I didn’t mean to mischaracterize the situation, and I surely didn’t mean to offend anyone. I definitely don’t believe that anyone is being screwed over. What I’m saying is that it looked that way up until last night’s meeting, and I don’t think I’m mischaracterizing perceptions.

I know Debora is at least representing African Americans. However, I’ve heard that the initial group was not so representative.

I’m all for moving the project forward, and am heartened with what’s happened in the past 24 hours to make sure the community feels included.

Thanks for your diligent reporting! As someone last night said, diversity is messy. But dealing with diversity constructively makes us better individuals with more respect for one another.

eljefe
Guest
eljefe

This whole debate might progress a lot more smoothly if white people, and in particular those new to Portland, learned the history of the neighborhood and acknowledged that the city did in fact “screw African-Americans over” frequently and for decades and often under the auspices of a “planning process.” Pretending that we’re starting with a blank slate is stirring up a lot of anger, as it should.

Thomas Le Ngo
Guest

Clarification: I don’t believe people are being negatively affected by the Williams project. Nevertheless, the possibility for that to happen remains, which is why we need to be as inclusive as possible.

are
Guest

again, as on the previous thread, i would like to hear even one specific instance in which the city’s outreach here was inadequate. to allow these statements to stand impugns ellen vanderslice and michelle poyourow, each of whom worked very hard from the beginning to include the affected communities.

Charley
Guest
Charley

Right. They had an open house, they had community members on the SAC. . . what’s left, a vote?

How much more “say” could these few opponents really need before PBOT has to say “we understand that you’re opposed but sorry, you’re outnumbered by those who approve.”

It kind of comes down to whether we have a representative government or one in which every single thing gets an up or down plebiscite.

naess
Guest
naess

well… why didn’t they send out an ethnic/gender/class/whatever diverse group to discuss this project with each and every household in a twenty block radius of the site? why didn’t they ask for the opinion of the people living in outer s.e.? obviously there’s a lot more they “could” have done.

Jolly Dodger
Guest

The ‘ride a mile in my shoes’ seems to be the ticket @Ted…getting drivers to recognize a vehicles door can be dangerous, or even deadly should be a priority. More bike awareness education in the drivers manual?

Ted Buehler
Guest
Thomas Le Ngo
Guest

Some food for thought that my friend just shared with me:

“To salve the world’s wounds demands a response from the heart. There is a world of hurt out there and to heal the past requires apologies, reconciliation, reparation and forgiveness. A viable future isn’t possible until the past is faced objectively and communion is made with our errant history. I suspect that just about everyone owes an apology and merits one, but there are races, cultures, and people that are particularly deserving. The idea that we can’t apologize to the formerly enslaved and first peoples for past iniquities because we are not the ones who perpetuated the evil misses the point. By receiving sorrow, hearing admissions, allowing reparation, and participating in reconciliation, people and tribes whose ancestors were abused give new life to all of us in the world we share. Making amends is the beginning of the healing of the world. These spiritual deeds and acts of moral imagination lay the groundwork for the great work ahead.”
-Paul Hawken, in Blessed Unrest

Charley
Guest
Charley

That’s a fine sentiment, and one that surely has some practical application in the world in which we live. But I doubt the application is in reviewing and updating safety measures on neighborhood thoroughfares.

If this approach were the case in such workaday civic matters, PBOT should have apologized to and held sensitivity seminars with the local Native American community before proposing the bike lane. This is all really the land of their ancestors anyway.

Be careful to note that it’s not that I find symbolic apologies and events useless. It’s just that the city would grind to a halt if activists used everyday, mundane civic functions as opportunities to force an acknowledgement of past wrongs (with a full on meeting with the Mayor, extra meetings paid for by the taxpayer, and listening posts and what not). These events have their place, but if everything the city did was subject to this kind of emotional objection, nothing would ever get done.

Just think about this- much of the pre Civil-War infrastructure of the East was built by slave labor (canals, streets, tunnels, you name it). A real solution to this historic wrong would be to pay reparations to the descendants of black slaves, not to indefinitely delay every repaving project that covers each of these old streets with new asphalt.

Luckily, apologies for immeasurable wrongs is not part of PBOT’s job. They don’t have the moral authority or moral power to atone for these long running and pervasive injustices. Better simply to make the community better as best they can, following their narrow mandate to improve traffic flow and safety. Furthermore, the cyclists who stand to lose the most (our health or our lives) with the status quo, can’t make amends for these historic wrongs either. Those who have the most to gain are in fact those who live in this community (many of them people of color). The “safety” is for them, and Ms. Maxey and the others have done these citizens no help, as I see it.

PBOT included local, minority voices on the SAC. How could they have expected this wouldn’t be enough?

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

What a difference it makes when people feel like they’re being treated with just a little respect!

As a relative newcomer to Portland (13 months), I like Ms Maxey’s idea of signs with phone numbers to call to hear recordings explaining the history of different areas. Don’t limit them to just Williams (sounds like a good place to start, though), and put QR codes on them that would link to a City-sponsored web site about each location. Yes, QR codes & smartphones might seem like signs of gentrification, but by the time a project like this takes off, even more people will have them.

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

How ironic that we’re subjecting the black people of North Portland to the same treatment most drivers want to do to us; bulldoze us over.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Enouth with this, MOVE ON!!!!!!This is obviously not about bikes any more.

me
Guest
me

Mike, you are right its not about bike’s.

I think it is about people feeling pushed out of an area that they have lived in all of their lives. If you really want to know why people of color are so upset look up the history. How many Bar’s should be on one street?.

LGM
Guest
LGM

“PBOT project manager Ellen Vanderslice also made it clear last night that the Williams project is moving forward (there’s a Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting next Tuesday (8/2)”

So this whole community input/involvement/open forum hearing all sides thing is just some noble exercise? So me and other African-American and longtime residents of this community really could object all we want, but (as in times past), the decision is made? I’m a driver in the neighborhood, and I don’t want the lane removed. There are many others that feel as I do. Are our views valued? If this is truly the way the city and the supporters of this proposed change choose to handle this situation, then we can save everyone’s time and dispense with the merry-making. Those of us who oppose the idea can move on and organize ourselves around efforts that can really affect change. But please don’t insult my community with the continued charade.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“I’m a driver in the neighborhood, and I don’t want the lane removed.”
LGM – If as so many people feel there are so many cyclists on Williams and there’s growth in that direction, wouldn’t removing a lane from car use and giving it over to bikes potentially make more room for everyone? Is removing a lane from use by cars the plan? – I don’t know the specifics, and I also don’t know the traffic counts, or what is anticipated in terms of mode share shifts (if any) once the improvements, so-called, are completed.

I’ve heard that in some places people who identify as ‘drivers’ are reluctant to give up asphalt to a bike lane, but since we have your attention I’d like to know a little more about how this looks to you? Don’t more folks biking free up more lane miles for those still in cars? I realize there are some dynamic issues here, that we could imagine, or perhaps be facilitating an increase in total traffic by this change, but I’m not sure that is your concern.

LGM
Guest
LGM

Yes, the plan is to remove a lane from car use and take Willams Ave. to 1 lane (as I understand the plan). One particular trouble spot is all of the traffic that feeds onto Williams from the Fremont Bridge. Right now, even with two lanes, traffic backs up quite far on the Fremont Bridge as cars try to get to Williams and go North. It’s a NIGHTMARE now with 2 lanes, what in the world will it look like with only 1 lane on Williams Ave?! Right now cars go over 2-3 blocks south (towards Dawson park) because the street directly coming of the Fremont bridge is so full and traffic backs into Vancouver St. because cars can’t get onto Williams. (And this has been VERY dangerous as I have almost been in an accident several times right there by Wonder Bread).The fact of the matter is, there are a HECK of a lot of drivers that use this thoroughfare as well. It is fantasy to believe that these folks will “see the light” and give their cars to start biking. I literally don’t know one person who is planning now, or will plan in the future, to do this.

I know that it is quite hard for folks on this site to wrap their heads around the lack of support. As I said in response to the original article on this subject, there are some “uncomfortable” facts that people on this site may not be totally aware of (I’m an AA woman in my mid 40’s, so while these may seem like sweeping generalizations, i feel very comfortable making them with my years of first hand anecdotal experience). To state them briefly: 1) Its just a fact that biking is not big in the Black Community. There are certainly Black folks who bike, but it is not a huge part of the culture. We’re car folks – that’s kinda just the way it is. 2) The longtime residents of this community were NOT consulted when one lane on Vancouver was removed. We literally woke up one morning and a lane was gone. That has never sat well with us. 3) Given the history of the City and the historical residents of this community (African Americans like me and my family who have lived in and around this community since my
father came here in the late 1940’s) this feels like just another string of decisions that are made to acquiesce to the “majority” culture with no regard for the wishes of the long time community stakeholders. And getting the feedback from one group of Black folks who happen to bike by no means should be construed as a fair representation of the views of the AA community as a whole (but I think it’s totally awesome they are representing themselves!)

I hope this helps shed some light..

9watts
Guest
9watts

Well I do appreciate you explaining all that. And I’d hope that as some folks have suggested here we could figure out how to not keep making the same mistakes, or anticipate latent resentments by people and groups who’ve been shafted by various dominant groups for a very long time, and take steps to be especially inclusive.

Having said that, my concern is with the mid- to long-term when we won’t have cars to rely on for any of this. Insofar as we’re not willing to face this particular music, it really matters very little whether the affordability of gasoline ends in 2 years or 8 or 12 because it takes time to figure out how to get by without one – well.

With the traffic situation as you describe it, it sounds to me like there are simply too many cars trying to get onto Williams at certain times of the day. On the face of it taking a lane out of the (car) picture isn’t going to help those in cars who already are sick of queuing, but people adapt in all kinds of funny and surprising ways. Just as widening roads tends to encourage and lead to more driving on those roads, narrowing roads (temporarily or permanently) can lead in the other direction.

I happen to think the prudent strategy that holds the most promise for the short and medium term is to accommodate bikes at the expense of cars, not because people in cars should be punished, but simply because it would be myopic to spend money in ways that suggest the future of cars will look like the past.

Unfortunately this is not yet the chief inspiration for PBOT’s prioritization of bike lanes in certain corridors, but I am willing to bet lots of money that in our lifetimes it will become their chief rationale.

Jane Kyle
Guest
Jane Kyle

I live in NE and both ride and drive.

Cars backed up at rush hour coming off the Fremont Bridge long before there were bike lanes because the Wonder Bread intersection should have been rethought years ago.

Folks eastbound on NE Cook in cars have to contend with crossing heavy southbound traffic on Vancouver before darting across and then again with heavy northbound traffic on Williams before swinging left to go north either to stay on North Williams going north or to make that right hand turn onto NE Fremont to continue going east.

The intersection at NE Cook and N Williams is a horrible blind corner and cars come up very fast, some going straight north on Williams, and some braking in front of you to turn onto Cook and eventually the Fremont Bridge. Drivers hesitate. Traffic backs up. Folks detour through Legacy Emanuel or hang a right on Vancouver and a left on Fargo in order to get a better sight line making that left hand turn onto Williams.

If you thought that explanation was confusing, just try driving it!

Any plan that considers bike lane changes on N Williams should also consider a monumental rethink of the Fremont, Williams, Vancouver, Cook, Fremont Bridge access interchange from hell!

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

I agree with this. I use to live on Fargo right on the other side of MLK, and an very familiar with this exit off of the bridge. If it were a controlled intersection with a light, I think a lot more cars could get through.

But as it stands now, the line up, and one at a time can dark across Vancouver. Then they wait again at Williams, either to turn left, or go straight – and as you said sight lines can be poor and people make a very sudden turn right there.

For an off ramp from a major freeway bridge, it has been very poorly thought out.

I wonder if “forcing” all traffic taking the Kirby st. exit off of the bridge to take that loop around Emanuel over to Russel before they can turn onto Vancouver or Williams would help anything at all…

Allan
Guest
Allan

LGM-
Through a seperate process, the city is looking at the Cook Street/I-405 cut-through traffic and is seeking funding to install 3 traffic lights (@ Gantenbein, Williams, and Vancouver) to solve that problem. Hopefully that will happen soon, as the cut-through traffic is tremendous

Joe C
Guest
Joe C

“Its just a fact that biking is not big in the Black Community. There are certainly Black folks who bike, but it is not a huge part of the culture. We’re car folks – that’s kinda just the way it is.”

I’m sorry but I can’t agree with this. Americans of all types are “car folks,” but generally human beings will take the most convenient form of transportation. And wherever you go in the US today, that means autos. Moreover, urban areas with high concentrations of African-Americans, like CA’s big cities, Atlanta, etc., are particularly automobile-centric. So it’s no surprise it’s an underrepresented demographic. But 25-50 years from now, when cities are denser, more populous & more livable, and gas so expensive only the rich can afford it, will African-Americans still be “car folks”? Probably not. Like the rest of Americans, they will likely walk, bike, streetcar, light rail, bus, etc. because the infrastructure will be more conducive for doing so.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, in areas like Washington, D.C., bike ridership is on the rise among African-American women as conditions for riding become safer and more widespread. And I have a feeling that, as facilities in Portland improve, you’ll see more Portlanders of all cultures riding.

“And getting the feedback from one group of Black folks who happen to bike by no means should be construed as a fair representation of the views of the AA community as a whole”

Then neither should the outspoken opposition to bike lanes felt by some be construed as a fair representation of the same community as a whole, right? It is not a monolithic community, after all. If you polled all the white people in PDX, you’d conclude most of them were “car folks” and similarly decry the advocacy of the white biking minority. For you to wish to silence or minimize their voices only adds to the problem.

“The fact of the matter is, there are a HECK of a lot of drivers that use this thoroughfare as well. It is fantasy to believe that these folks will “see the light” and give their cars to start biking. I literally don’t know one person who is planning now, or will plan in the future, to do this.”

By changing the way lights on Williams operate, PBOT determined the street will still be able to handle the same amount of cars. In fact, it is only during rush-hour that it ever approaches capacity problems as it is now. Additionally, Williams is not a thoroughfare, it is a neighborhood collector, and as such should not accommodate the traffic levels it does now. Additionally the more bikes on Williams, the better the traffic flow on Williams–bikes take up on average 1/5th the space of a car. For every one person who gets on a bike, that’s one fewer car on the road for you and others who may need to drive to contend with.

As for your point about not knowing anyone who will give up their car to bike, what do you think all of the people who bike today did before there were adequate facilities? They probably drove before they “saw the light.” Biking is not something an infant does from birth. At some point a person makes a decision to do so, and by choosing they decline the other options open–including driving. And perhaps right now the thing that is keeping some from biking is precisely the fact that the facilities are not as safe and convenient as they could be.

And just because you do not personally know someone who is considering switching to a bike does not mean there aren’t people doing so. I don’t personally know anyone running for Mayor, but does that mean no one is running for Mayor? Besides, I know several people who have recently switched, or plan to do so, but I wouldn’t use that as reasons to oppose or support a major safety project in either case.

Sorry for the long post! Thanks for weighing in, LGM, and hope to see you at the next neighborhood meeting so you can let your voice be heard!

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Jonathan, I think it was inappropriate for you to publish a comment from the meeting in which the person said “We’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on bikes” without pointing out that the person was either incredibly misinformed or lying for the sake of his argument. The williams corridor is a tiny part of the bike network in portland and the city estimates that for the entire bike network that exists in portland they have spent no more than 60 million dollars, so this hundreds of millions of dollars on bikes argument that he is making is ridiculous, and you should have pointed that out in the story.

Alain
Guest
Alain

fiets503
North Rodney is a good side street alternative to Williams. However, it needs some improvements to at intersetions to be safer and I don’t think it will ever replace Williams.

I hear what you’re saying, but crossing Fremont on Rodney sucks when the traffic is bad, and it’s bad much of the time.

Alain
Guest
Alain

are
i actually think this is a problem, and i said so at the very first SAC meeting. the commercial district is being developed not as a set of neighborhood services, but as a destination for people arriving from elsewhere to drink, drop their trash, and leave. this is the ugly fact of this particular species of gentrification.

This is an excellent point, much of the development is trending toward restaurants and bars, or where services do exist they’ve been upscaled. It would be nice to see more useful places on Williams. I live on Williams but rarely visit the businesses on Williams. Not that I’m opposed to beer, but I don’t need 10 places to buy a pint within 4-6 blocks. Fortunately up near my place, there is more useful amenities, it’s further south that it seems less the case.

Nickey Robo
Guest

Yep, excellent point. Lest we forget that Boise-Elliot is, in fact, a “food desert.” From Fremont and Williams the only major grocery store within a mile is the Whole Foods on 15th, which is hardly an affordable option for most people.

I said it when the Bike Bar opened- there are too many bars on Williams. On that one block alone there are four (!) bars. And even the new housing (which was advertised as “bikecentric”) above the bike bar is far out of reach for most people- I attended an open house there and 1 bedrooms were, if I remember correctly, $1,100 a month, and 2 bedrooms were $1,500. It’s easy to see why someone could look at all the development on Williams and feel it was not meant for them.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“It’s easy to see why someone could look at all the development on Williams and feel it was not meant for them.”
And then there’s the much more knotty problem that dogs the Middle Class and perhaps other classes too (in the US). In the very interesting Oregonian articles about gentrification, and the drop in African Americans in census tracts in NE Portland, which someone linked to in this thread earlier, one of the people interviewed was excited that as a consequence of the development/reinvestment in her neighborhood the value of her house had gone up. At the same time everyone quoted in the article was lamenting that people were being priced out of the neighborhood. I don’t think we can have it both ways.
Personally I have no interest in the value of my house going up. I don’t intend to sell, and I’d rather pay lower property taxes. So why on earth would I want the value of my property to go up? Those who intend to sell their house some day aren’t thinking what is best for the stability of their neighborhood, but are out to make a buck. High turnover rates do not serve the neighborhood if we are hoping to keep those folks already there there. We have to make some choices here.
I’m no fan of the trend toward making neighborhoods destinations for folks to spend money. That may look good for the tax base, or service sector balance sheets, but if it comes at a cost to the neighborhood’s stability, no thank you.

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

“We’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on bikes; every kid is not getting food at school, we’re laying off teachers…

Dang. If only folks could get that angry and vocal about the I-5 expansion near the Lloyd Center… Or the I-5 expansion for the CRC…

Mia Birk
Guest

Nice summary Jonathan.

Allan
Guest
Allan

The ‘Eliot Oral Histories Project’ is trying to do something like that with the recordings of people’s stories of the area

Bill Stark
Guest
Bill Stark

All these “listening” meetings are just the PBOT gesturing / posturing. They’re going to move forward regardless of what anyone says.