Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Learn what’s coming to N Williams Ave at final open house

Posted by on May 17th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Most of N. Williams Ave will be converted
into this cross-section.
(Graphics: Fat Pencil Studios)


This Saturday (5/19), PBOT will host the final open house for their North Williams Ave Traffic Operations Safety Project.

As we shared back in March, after 13 months of public process, a citizen committee finally made a decision last month about how to make the street safer. The open house will be the public’s first opportunity to see detailed maps and drawings of what we can expect to see once PBOT implements the changes.

Those changes — as recommended by the committee on a vote of 22-3 — include a left-side buffered bike lane for most of Williams between Weidler and Killingsworth, with the busiest section of the street (between Fremont and Skidmore) to get what PBOT refers to as, “a novel shared left hand travel lane treatment.” In that shared section, people on bikes and in cars will mix. People in cars will be required to turn left at the end of each block (or run into a concrete barrier), while people on bikes will be able to continue north.

Here’s a drawing of how it might look mid-block:

And here it is at an intersection (note the concrete barrier at northwest corner):

The committee has also urged PBOT to:

  • use “all available tools” to reduce the speed of traffic on Williams (there is talk of bringing it down to 20 mph);
  • improve the visibility of people at crosswalks by removing parking and adding curb extensions;
  • install new traffic signals at N. Cook and N. Stanton;
  • consider the relocation of TriMet bus stops;
  • embark on a project to honor the history of N. Williams Ave;
  • undertake a safety campaign;
  • “aggressively” pursue a neighborhood greenway on N. Rodney Ave as an alternative route for Williams;
  • evaluate all public participation efforts to, “determine who in a particular community is not being heard in the process;”
  • and develop an affordable housing strategy for N. Williams Ave.

That’s a tall order, and not all of these things will happen. At least not right away. PBOT says they’ve got about $370,000 to spend on this project and they hope to begin rolling out some of the changes this summer.

While there was a super-majority that voted in favor of the recommendations, some members still voiced major concerns about certain aspects of the plans.

Committee member Jerrell Waddell, a pastor at Life Change Christian Center, objected to a recommendation that through traffic be encouraged to use “more appropriate arterials.” In a footnote included in the final recommendation, Waddell is quoted as saying:

“Williams has been used as an arterial for more than 30 years. Demand has grown for vehicle traffic as well as bicycling, and overall use of the street should not dictate that we encourage traffic to use other streets.”

Wadell also voiced a strong opinion to the committee’s recommendation to honor the history of Willams Avenue through walking tours, photographs, and so on:

“Regarding honoring the history of Williams Avenue, I believe this decision to change the street is dishonoring the people who were historically engaged in commerce and who lived in this area, by creating a venue designed to be used by a particular population of younger, white professional people who bicycle.”

Committee member Paul Anthony from the Humboldt Neighborhood Association, voiced concerns with the recommendation to allow City of Portland traffic engineers to, “determine best design speed” for the street.

Anthony said that he doesn’t trust the City to lower speed limits to what the neighborhood wants:

“The Stakeholder Advisory Committee had heard a significant body of testimony to the effect that traffic engineers have not been honest brokers and have pursued an agenda radically at odds with the safety and livability of the community around North Williams… The speed limit on North Williams must be lowered to reflect the needs and realities of the schools, churches, social service agencies, businesses, and residents around the Avenue.”

You can download the final recommendation of the citizen’s advisory committee here (PDF)

At the open house, PBOT will have detailed design drawings and 3-D animations of the proposed plans. Attendees will also be able to speak with committee members and ask questions about the process and next steps.

Here are more details:

    Williams Ave Project Open House
    Saturday, May 19th
    1:00 – 4:00 pm (drop in any time)
    Immaculate Heart Church (2926 N Williams Ave.)
    *Licensed childcare, snacks and drinks will be provided

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  • CaptainKarma May 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Imagine this scenario with an impaired driver, alcohol and/or drugs, talking on a mobile phone.

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  • Kittens May 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I guess you just are never going to please everyone. That is why we have leaders.

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  • YoYossarian May 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Didn’t the city JUST decide the buffered bike lanes like they installed downtown were not working because cars simply used them as a lane anyway?

    Now they want more of the same and think adding a mix of bikes and cars in a novel and confusing traffic configuration is going to be a good idea?

    This sucks, this really sucks. C’mon Portland.

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  • Andrew N May 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Can’t wait to see that “novel” shared lane in action. Further proof that we deserve to have our Platinum status stripped from us as soon as possible. Yet another reminder that the City lacks the political will to allocate space on our streets in such a way that everyone (I’m thinking about kids and the elderly) can use them safely.

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  • Rol May 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Yeah the “novel” treatment makes me nervous too. Not only because cars are merging with bikes, but because, what novel are we gonna be stuck with… The Sound and the Fury? That’s a hard one.

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  • Rol May 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Seriously though, if you thought people were getting pissed before, with different modes just being on the same road, imagine how it’ll be when they’re sharing the same LANE. The “do nothing at all” option is starting to look pretty darn good right about now.

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  • Kerry May 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    If a car in the thru lane wants to get in the shared lane to turn or park, but it’s full of persons on bikes do they a) stop and hold up thru traffic, b) expect riders to yield or c) run us over? And may I assume any of those will come with yelling and profanities? Sounds super fun!

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    • John Lascurettes May 17, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Considering the cars can easily match the speed of cyclists, if a driver puts on their signal with enough warning, a trailing cyclist should allow the driver to merge into the lane. It’s the polite (if not compulsory) thing to do. Not that it will happen 100% of the time.

      Granted, drivers should not bully their way into the lane either. Not that that won’t happen ever either.

      Drivers could certainly pull a three right turns maneuver around the block (as one has to in many places in San Francisco and other cities that limit left turns). I doubt you’ll see this except hardly ever.

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  • Kerry May 17, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Alas my fellow riders often fail to yield to pedestrians. It seems doubtful that cars would get better treatment. Maybe itll all be peachy and I’m just expecting badness for no reason.

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  • Charley May 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Does everyone remember back when we were told that this wasn’t about race? Someone should let Mr. Waddell know: “I believe this decision to change the street is dishonoring the people who were historically engaged in commerce and who lived in this area, by creating a venue designed to be used by a particular population of younger, white professional people who bicycle.” Notice that he’s apparently not concerned for the safety (much less the honor) of the black people who ride bikes on that street and would stand to benefit from safety improvements just as well as white professionals. Unbelievable.

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    • JRB May 18, 2012 at 8:40 am

      I too was disappointed that Rev. Waddell apparently still believes that bicycles are only for young white professionals despite participating in this committee.

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      • Chris I May 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

        Ignorance is bliss.

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    • Jonathan Gordon May 18, 2012 at 11:32 am

      “Does everyone remember back when we were told that this wasn’t about race?”

      I have no idea what you’re talking about. This project has always been intimately linked with race, and for good reason. The Portland Mercury talked about it. So did The New York Times. So did The Atlantic. It was even the topic of conversation at the monthly Race Talks. Not to mention the many postings right here on BikePortland.

      I haven’t walked a mile in Mr. Waddell’s shoes, but I’ve tried really hard to understand his and the community’s perspective on this issue. To suggest that “he’s apparently not concerned for the safety (much less the honor) of the black people who ride bikes on that street” is by far the more “Unbelievable” statement.

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      • Charley May 18, 2012 at 4:58 pm

        Hi there, Donna Maxey said “No one’s trying to turn this into a racial issue.” Here’s a link to BikePortland’s original article containing this quote: http://bikeportland.org/2011/07/28/meeting-marks-turning-point-for-discussion-around-williams-project-56989

        Which gets to my main point: this whole negative reaction is really just garden variety NIMBYism, gussied up with the language of past injustices, in order to lend the criticism some weight. By bringing up acknowledged historical wrong-doing (by white citizens and by the City and its departments), the opponents insulate themselves from criticism.
        It’s like this. . .
        Cyclist: “I want a safer street.”
        Opponent: “Oh, so you’re a racist who wants to kick me out of my neighborhood?”
        It’s really hard to argue with that kind of statement! There’s little useful debate over the relative safety merits of one kind of street layout versus another, but lots of discussion about hurt feelings and past wrongdoings. Neither of which PBOT is capable of solving!

        To top it all off, we’ve got black people arguing that they don’t appreciate how the city left the street so unsafe all along, and then, when the city tries to fix it a bit, oppose the project. This is all just NIMBYism, specifically, I’d bet, that they don’t like seeing people bike up the street, or don’t want to lose parking. But of course, “don’t likes” are not as effective as calling the whole process racially unjust.

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  • matt w May 17, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Hmmm- having moving vehicles on just one side of me is plenty, but the proposed motor vehicle sandwich in which the cyclists become the meat is not appealing. Yucky sandwich.

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  • q`Tzal May 17, 2012 at 10:35 pm


    Regarding bicycles:
    “aggressively” pursue a neighborhood greenway on N. Rodney Ave as an alternative route for Williams;

    Regarding autos:

    Waddell is quoted as saying:

    “Williams has been used as an arterial for more than 30 years. Demand has grown for vehicle traffic as well as bicycling, and overall use of the street should not dictate that we encourage traffic to use other streets.”

    So it is ok to shove even consider shoving the cyclists off on to an inferior route because they are in your way but it is NOT ok to consider the rerouting of automobiles?
    Seperate but equal indeed.

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    • Jimmy P May 18, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Using the “that’s the way it’s always been” argument is a cop out. Seriously?

      If they lower the speed limit, add lights, and remove a lane, cars are going to choose other roads because Williams is going to be really slow for them.

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      • Chris I May 18, 2012 at 9:55 am

        These changes won’t discourage vehicles that live on or near Williams. It won’t be faster for them to go out of their way and find other routes. It will prevent drivers from using Williams/Vancouver as a way to bypass traffic on I-5. These are the most dangerous drivers in this corridor, as they are motivated by one thing: drive through as quickly as possible.

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  • Scott May 18, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Portland needs to stop messing around and commit to real bike lanes like those in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. They are wide enough to avoid dooring. They are seperated from the cars’ road surface by a curb, to prevent cars from using them. They work perfectly. A lot of time and money is spent on different solutions to the bike lane problem. It results in a lot of inconsistency around the city, making things more complicated for drivers and cyclists alike.

    Copenhagen had ZERO cyclist fatalities in 2011, with millions more bike trips.

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    • spare_wheel May 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

      i know that its popular to promote copenhagen as some sort of shangrila where every bike lane is separated and signalized. the reality is that many bike lanes in copenhagen are not fully separated. moreover, in copoenhagen cycletracks are often utilized on MAJOR ARTERIALS. in pdx we have recently removed bike lanes on major arterials (grand) with few complaints from the “cycletrack or bust” crowd.

      i strongly believe that something like the dutch woonerf model is far preferable to someday finding the funds to install a few thousand feet of copenhagen-style cycletrack. this city/state also badly needs dutch-style liability reform and mandatory penalties for bike “accidents”.

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    • BURR May 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      it is not solely the infrastructure for cyclists that makes Copenhagen safer for cyclists; culturally, Danish motorists are better educated and trained with respect to operating in proximity to cyclists. Even if we could replicate Copenhagen bicycle infrastructure overnight in Portland, there would still be more cyclist fatalities, because motorist education and training, and motoring culture in general in the US is so far behind that of Denmark.

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  • Eric May 18, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Can someone tell me why a PBOT should be concerned with developing an affordable housing strategy for N. Williams Ave? Shouldn’t PBOT be worried about oh I don’t know, maybe transportation? The affordability of housing in any area of the city is not a concern of the Bureau of Transportation.

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    • NF May 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Because housing and transportation are far more connected than most people realize. I’m sure PBOT won’t be leading any sort of affordability housing strategy, but it does make sense for all bureaus to be involved. Multi-bureau, coordinated efforts are seen as the way of the future for public investments.

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    • Steve B May 18, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Of course PBOT doesn’t do any housing, the recommendations were directed to the city, not just PBOT. We heard the need for affordable housing loud and clear from the public throughout the process, and the SAC responded with this recommendation.

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  • mike May 18, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I don’t think the dutch woonerf model is appropriate on major arterials. That’s the issue. In Amsterdam, where I lived for a time, the major arterials and the busiest business districts were handeld differently than other areas. The arterials had separate biked paths (though shared with motorbikes). These basically canibalize the sidewalk, and on street parking is not allowed in most of these arterials. In business areas such as parts of N Williams, these pathways either enter the street for a brief bit and then again canibalize the sidewalk in the sections where limited car parking is allowed.

    I think the first best solution is that we need to all agree to eliminate almost all on-street parking in arterials and business districts. (like 23rd for example). There isn’t enough on street parking anyhow, changing this part of the stree to bikeway makes the businesses BETTER by creating easy access from bikes, enourages those bikes and pushes the business community to build local parking garages for more dense parking they can profit from.

    It’s not even in the conversation it appears, but I believe this solution has been neglected inappropriately.

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  • Dan May 18, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Mr Anthony,
    Please, if you believe a limit lower than that determined by PBOT is in order to ensure neighborhood safety, let us know what that should be. I have no problem driving as slow as necessay (personally, I like the idea of a 30km/hr (~18mph)limit in many European cities) to keep it safe for all. My time, while valuable to me, is certainly of lower value than someone’s safety.

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  • Reza May 18, 2012 at 10:54 am

    So much for the left-hand cycle track option. Put me down for keeping the status quo if this left hand turn/bicycle lane hybrid is the best we can do for the most traveled north-south bike corridor in the city. Sigh…

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  • Champs May 18, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Leapfrogging with buses and other riders has never been a favorite activity of mine. Count me in the minority willing to at least try something new. If it gets bad, I’ll just turn to Interstate.

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  • Steve B May 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

    While I understand people’s concerns about the shared lane–and PBOT has them too–this configuration was the best way to get a lot of big improvements on Williams with the allotted budget.

    While there are lots of improvements for all road users in this new design, here is what people on bicycles can especially look forward to as far as significant improvements over the “status quo”

    1. No more riding in the door zone
    2. No more bus/bike conflict
    3. Wider bike lane with buffers
    4. Slower auto speeds

    The cycletrack option was attractive, but there were a number of constraints that made it unfeasible at this time. This new configuration does not preclude a future cycletrack down the line when there is more funding to do it right.

    I would encourage those who are unsatisfied with the design show up at the Open House and speak with staff and leave feedback to that effect. The new design should be implemented this summer, and that should provide the next good opportunity to evaluate how it is actually working.

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    • Reza May 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      In some ways this is a regression from what we have now. At least now, cyclists have a dedicated lane between Fremont and Skidmore. I foresee many situations where a queue of left hand turning cars will block the “bike” lane (perhaps waiting for pedestrians to cross) which will force bikes to merge into the right lane. Not that this doesn’t happen now with parallel parkers blocking the right-hand bike lane, but still… I do agree that the predominantly one-lane cross-section will do wonders to lower vehicle travel speeds.

      And this doesn’t completely end bike-bus conflicts. That #4 bus still has to turn left at Fremont, doesn’t it?

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      • are May 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm

        the dedicated lane from fremont the skidmore is the worst part of the existing configuration. i doubt it even conforms to AAHSTO/MUTCD requirements. rather than subject myself to that travesty, i assert the travel lane at least as far as shaver. not saying the left side plan is without its faults, but it would be difficult to come up with a plan that is “a regression from what we have now.”

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  • Nancy Pautsch May 18, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I’m all in favor of the 20 mph and not just for Williams! I returned from a business trip very late last night and needed to taxi home. I informed the taxi driver that he was exceeding the speed limit and was told, “I’m a professional driver. It says 25 but I can drive 30 without any problems and 35 where it is posted 30. You don’t need to worry. That’s how we do it.” As long as attitudes like this exist and we don’t have the enforcement, education, engineering and so on, this mindset will continue. You can only imaging the ensuing conversation for the rest of the trip……

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  • Fred Lifton May 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    This is my daily commute. I’m deeply skeptical about this, but I’m not a traffic engineer. Given that the current bike lane is so over-capacity during the summer that bike traffic inevitably spills into the RH car lane, cars and bikes are already sharing space. So maybe formalizing it will make it better. Maybe.

    And I think Waddell is essentially a “not in my neighborhood” racist.

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  • evan May 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I have to agree with the majority of these comments, and can only kick myself for not attending stakeholder meetings. As someone who rides Oak/ Stark regularly there are major problems with vehicles crossing the bike lane to park/ or “hovering” in the bike lane obviously confused about how to enter back in to the driving lane. It also seems like it may be harder to turn right off of Williams or enter the right lane in advance to turn. are you only supposed to leave the buffered lane when there is a dotted white stripe or anytime you want to access a business or residence in the right lane? Let’s do this one right!

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  • Matt May 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I ride this everyday day for my commute, maybe the city can install speed bumps through the most congested areas, drop the speed down to 20 mph (including cyclists), increase visibility for pedestrian crossing and put police officers out there from time to time to enforce bicycle and automobile speeds. Also, give tickets to cyclists that are not stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks. The city can make it known, “if you’re going to take Williams, it’s going to be a very slow throughway;” up until you get past Alberta St.

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  • Justin May 21, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I’m curious to see how a car can get into the first parking spot on the other side of the barrier. It would have to be in the right lane going through the intersection and then cross the left lane and back up quite a ways. They may have solved for this, but it looks awkward in the top rendering here.

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    • are May 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      i think they may be intending to put a bike corral in the space immediately behind the barrier

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