(Photos © J. Maus)
A new, 7-foot wide bike lane has been striped on NE 7th Avenue between NE Weidler and NE Oregon through the Lloyd District. The striping was installed last month and in some segments places bicycle traffic adjacent to newly laid streetcar tracks on one side and parked cars on the other.
“PBOT changed the striping plan.. It’s unclear to me who was consulted before changing the plan… We should do what we said we were going to do.”
— Chris Smith, Portland Streetcar Inc., board of directors
While a new bike lane might seem like good news, some insiders are miffed that plans to stripe 7th as a cycle track were not honored.
The striping comes as a surprise because space on NE 7th is supposed to be set aside for a future cycle track. The cycle track isn’t funded yet, but project staff and planners have designed the route with a cycle track in mind. Striping NE 7th with a bike lane sandwiched between streetcar tracks and parked cars was never in the plans.
Julie Gustafson with streetcar project contractor Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc. confirmed that their plans for NE 7th include parking removal, center platforms, and the moving of tracks further to the east in the street “specifically to allow for a potential future cycle track.”
A letter by Lloyd Transportation Management Association Executive Director Rick Williams dated June 22nd urges Mayor Sam Adams to keep the future cycle track in the plans. “A cycletrack design that includes a buffer between bikes and cars,” he wrote, “will greatly increase the safety of these areas.”
Chris Smith, a City of Portland Planning Commissioner who sits on the Portland Streetcar Inc. board of directors says as they were planning the segment of the streetcar alignment they heard loud and clear that putting “cyclists between parked cars and the rails was not desired.”
Smith said back in 2009 the streetcar project agreed to stripe the street in a “cycle track configuration” — with the bikeway along the curb and a more direct route (with removal of on-street parking).
But that isn’t what happened. “Sometime between then and now,” Smith shared via email yesterday, “PBOT changed the striping plan.” Smith says he was caught by surprise. “It’s unclear to me who was consulted before changing the plan… We should do what we said we were going to do.”
Smith feels that if PBOT wanted to change the striping plans, they should have done so only after consulting the community, the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), and the Lloyd Transportation Management Association (LTMA).
When I emailed the LTMA about the new striping, they made it clear they hadn’t been consulted by PBOT prior to the striping and the striping has not been formally discussed at the monthly BAC meetings.
Once the striping was installed, PBOT was notified by several parties. According to a source, PBOT Director Tom Miller had several phone meetings about it with the Lloyd TMA, Portland Streetcar Inc., and others. Now a new striping plan — which more closely resembles the “cycle track configuration” — has been drawn up and is likely to be taken to the Lloyd TMA and the BAC for feedback.
At this time, I haven’t heard back from City Hall or from PBOT about the situation and it’s unclear when or if the existing striping will be modified. I’ll keep you posted.
— For another look at the current bike lane configuration (between NE Holladay and Oregon), watch the video below taken by Northeast Portland resident Paul Manson on August 23rd (note the track-straddling SUV that encroaches into the bike lane at about the 12 second mark):