(Photos © J. Maus)
Some of Portland’s best and brightest biking minds took to the streets of East Portland last night to get a first-hand look at existing conditions and learn what’s in store for the future.
The ride — led by City of Portland Bicycle Program Manager Roger Geller — took the place of the usual monthly meeting at City Hall of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee. East Portland was the focus because the area has risen to the top of the priority heap lately due to a combination of hard work by citizen and neighborhood activists, growing awareness of the equity issue in transportation circles, and the current political climate at City Hall.
The bikeway network east of I-205 has been largely left out of Portland’s world-renowned bike-friendliness. There are many factors to blame for that including; politics, a relatively small amount of bike usage, and vastly different development and land-use patterns compared to inner neighborhoods. Last night we experienced the consequences of those factors and learned about the opportunities to make things better.
The route was based on the “East Portland Active Transportation to Transit” project, which is currently a front-runner for over $3.3 million out of PBOT’s share of federal “regional flexible funds.”
The ride began at the Green Line MAX stop on SE Holgate near 92nd. With the controversy behind them now, PBOT is thinking that Holgate will play a vital role as a east-west bike corridor. There are already plans being discussed to extend the bikeway — which currently ends at 122nd — east to 136th. That extension would help bring bicycle traffic to key destinations like the planned neighborhood greenway on SE 129th/130th, Gilbert Heights Elementary School, and a city park.
Heading north from Holgate, we sampled the future route of a neighborhood greenway along SE 129th/130th that will be the low-stress, north-south alternate to SE 122nd. The route is already low-traffic and nice to ride on; but the major barriers are arterial crossings. Geller said they’re considering a signalized crossing on SE Powell, a potential and a two-way cycle-track (similar to NE 33rd and Going) to get across Division. The crossing of E Burnside poses perhaps the most difficult challenge due to the presence of the MAX line. Geller said some sort of two-way bikeway to connect to the existing “zebra” track crossing at SE 128th could be possible.
While it’s easy to envision a new bike boulevard on 129th/130th, getting west back to Gateway Transit Center proved to be quite a challenge. With no direct, connected street, we had to wind our way through neighborhood streets — several blocks of them being unpaved and full of rocks and potholes. (Geller said that those streets would be paved if money became available for the project.)
Another poor connection was experienced as the group tried to pass through the Gateway Transit Center and get on the I-205 multi-use path. It seems there isn’t really a smooth way to do it without passing through a parking lot and walking bikes through the transit center.
Once onto the 205 path, we rolled north. A group of us split off to sample some of the off-road trails in the parcel where the future Gateway Green bike park will be developed.
Riding through Gateway Green reminded me what a gem it’s going to be. I can already imagine it as a premier venue for all types of off-road riding as well as cyclocross and short-track mountain bike events.
The route then took us off the 205 path en route to the new cycle track on NE Cully Blvd. NE Prescott is the main connection to the new cycle track, and PBOT is already thinking about how to make improve it. Unfortunately, to make a good bikeway on Prescott, PBOT says parking removal would be required on both sides (west of 82nd). That could make the project much less politically feasible. Last night, Geller showed us the alternate route under consideration
Instead of accessing Cully directly from I-205 via Prescott, a route would be created on Skidmore. Bike traffic would be directed south on 81st to Skidmore and then over to Cully through quiet, neighborhood streets. While the route is lower-stress and wouldn’t require any parking removal, it presents its own challenges. Even Geller admits he forgot that Skidmore has several blocks where the road doesn’t go through except for a narrow dirt trail accessible only by people on bike and foot.
To make Skidmore the new connection to Cully, PBOT would have to vastly improve those connections, which wouldn’t be cheap, and might not be popular with nearby residents.
Geller said it’s too early to tell what PBOT would do for the I-205/Cully cycle track connection.
The ride ended at a pub on NE Alberta street after the group had sampled the Cully cycle track (no trash containers were in the way) and the N Going neighborhood greenway.
Hope you enjoyed this little tour of East Portland. Stay tuned for more bikeway developments from that neck of the woods.