Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Pearl District residents seek expansion of sidewalk bicycling ban

Posted by on October 2nd, 2012 at 3:29 pm

People ride on the sidewalks on
NW Lovejoy to avoid the new streetcar tracks.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Pearl District Neighborhood Association wants to expand the area in downtown Portland where bicycling on sidewalks is prohibited. Currently, bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks in the area defined by 13th, SW Jefferson, Naito Parkway, and NW Hoyt (map). The PDNA’s Planning, Design & Transportation Committee passed a motion at their meeting on August 21st to modify Portland City Code 16.70.320 to extend that boundary to the Willamette River and I-405.

The motion to expand the boundary was brought to the PDNA by Neilson Abeel, a 72-year-old Pearl District resident and former Board Member who has also been called the “unofficial mayor of the Pearl District.” According to one source, Abeel has been on “a bit of a campaign” to expand the bicycling prohibition because he had a run-in with someone riding on the sidewalk. The source who told me about this effort also noted that there are many older residents in the Pearl who feel that, as the neighborhood is getting busier, “there’s a feeling that the bikes sort of meander and doodle around and take them by surprise.”

Patty Gardner, Chair of the PDNA Planning, Transportation & Design Review committee, confirmed the plans with me today. According to meeting minutes of the August committee meeting, Abeel asked that the PDNA, “be the lead in supporting a change to extend the boundaries to match the Pearl.”

Gardner, who is well-known for her bicycle advocacy and says she’d probably be one of the first people ticketed if the change went into effect, said that while Abeels’ run-in with a sidewalk rider is “probably more emotional based,” the change would fit with the neighborhood’s over-arching goal to expand the code in order to fold the Pearl District into the Central City. It turns out that the NW Hoyt boundary also comes into play with other City services and policies (like garbage collection and police patrols). This is a throwback to the old days when, “everything north of Hoyt was dirt,” Gardner says. The way she sees it, “If you’re going to call us the ‘Central City’, the whole neighborhood should be in the central city.”

Riding on NW Lovejoy sidewalks.
NW Lovejoy biking conditions-14

This is just one reason why people avoid riding on Lovejoy these days.

It’s worth noting that there has been a sharp increase in sidewalk riding in the Pearl District recently due to the negative impacts to the bike network brought on by the eastside streetcar project. In order to run the streetcar on Lovejoy, Portland Streetcar Inc., removed the existing bike lane on Lovejoy. They also turned Lovejoy into a one-way street. Part of the deal for removing the bike lane on Lovejoy was to make NW Marshall (one block north) into a bike boulevard. However, that plan has failed because many people also now drive on Marshall, making it a dangerous and unpleasant place to ride. (PBOT is aware of the problems on Marshall and is working to fix them – see below.)

The combination of Lovejoy — which used to be a key bicycle route —and Marshall being no longer pleasant or safe to bicycle on, along with other changes in the Pearl due to the new streetcar, means more people are riding on the sidewalk simply to get where they need to go and/or avoid hazards.

Is it really wise to make it illegal to ride on the sidewalk while the roadways remain inhospitable to people on bikes? Especially when PBOT is trying to make the Pearl a bike-friendly district?

If this effort is to move forward, PBOT needs to speed up their efforts to improve conditions on NW Marshall and Lovejoy. On Marshall, Gardner told me today that PBOT is set to install a traffic diverter at NW 10th and Marshall that will prohibit left turns by motor vehicles. This should help cut down on some of the auto traffic. (If it doesn’t, Gardner says the PDNA will push PBOT to put another diverter at NW 15th.)

Gardner says the PDNA is in the early stages of trying to get the code changed. We’ll keep you posted.

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  • Psyfalcon October 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    So more people are now driving on Marshall than BEFORE it was turned into a Bike Boulevard?

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    • BURR October 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Marshall is now the most direct link w/o streetcar tracks between the Broadway Bridge and the Good Sam parking structures, and other new development along Marshall also contributes to rising traffic on the street.

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      • Bjorn October 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm

        Without a diverter it won’t change. When you ride on bicycle boulevards in Vancouver BC the first thing you notice is that there is very little car traffic and the reason is clearly that they use far more diverters. The second thing you notice is that most major intersections now have HAWK style signals to ease crossings.

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        • Andrew N October 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

          Maybe we should try and sell our “Platinum” status to Vancouver so we can fund a few more diverters? 😉

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        • Richard October 3, 2012 at 12:55 am

          The HAWK signals did not work in Vancouver. Pretty much all them are being converted to full traffic signals with bike/pedestrian buttons.

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          • Steve B. October 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm

            That’s odd, they worked for me.

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        • S October 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

          In my part of Vancouver, the bike boulevards don’t have diverters, and so they have much more traffic than any of the parallel non-bike boulevards.

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    • Reza October 2, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      It’s not the bike boulevard, it’s the one-way Lovejoy/Northrup couplet that’s causing impatient drivers to take the left at their first opportunity from 10th onto Marshall to continue west. The idea was that cars would use Northrup but without the diverter, this has failed badly. And with aggressive drivers cutting through the neighborhood, making reckless left turns onto Marshall without yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk, rolling through stop signs and intimidating pedestrians and bicycles, it’s a real safety hazard right now.

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      • rwl1776 October 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

        “rolling through stop signs”: with a majority of cyclists doing the EXACT same thing, the bikes are going to lose when an accident happens. Everyone using the roads should follow the same vehicle laws. Very simple!

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  • peejay October 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    A partial car ban in the Pearl would do a lot for the livability of the neighborhood. Just saying the obvious.

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    • Bike-Max-Bike October 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Isn’t this the truth. Would love to see some car-free streets in the Pearl.

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      • NF October 3, 2012 at 8:15 am

        Like Irving, between 10th & 12th?

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        • peejay October 3, 2012 at 10:18 am

          Also 13th, between Couch and Lovejoy.

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          • Wyatt Baldwin October 3, 2012 at 10:54 am

            And Couch from 13th down to at least 10th.

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    • Chucklehead October 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Or just ban the old people.

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  • Andrew Seger October 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    People riding on sidewalks is a strong indicator of lousy/nonexistent infrastructure. Lovejoy can still have bike facilities on it if we weren’t so scared of removing on street parking. Thanks for including that photo of the streetcar tracks.

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  • Rol October 2, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    They want to extend the boundary to the Willamette? So does that affect the multi-use path through Waterfront Park? Is that considered a “sidewalk”?

    “Meandering and doodling around” eh? That’s priceless. You know it’s gotta be true, too. If some of the meanderingest & doodlingest people around are saying that to you, you’ve really got problems.

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    • Ken October 3, 2012 at 11:43 am

      The Pearl ends at NW Broadway, then you’re in Old Town. I’m not sure that the Pearl’s request applies to Waterfront Park.

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  • Beth October 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I live at NW 12th & Marshall. I am carless, and bike for transportation and recreation. I practice safe angles near streetcar tracks and never ride on Lovejoy or on the sidewalk. I see no reason to do either. Let’s take responsibility for our own safety.

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    • Greg October 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      Indeed! Let’s preserve the status quo where only experts cycle and we make sure the non-experts only drive 🙂

      I mean if normal people wanted to be safe in Portland they wouldn’t be on a bike, right?

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    • Steve B. October 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      Let’s stop shaming victims of streetcar track crashes.

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  • CPAC October 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I have the same question about the MUP along the water, and the sidewalks along Naito after the Steel Bridge.

    Overall, I’m not sure I oppose a sidewalk ban. It certainly would put more pressure on the city to improve the cycling infrastructure in the Pearl.

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    • peejay October 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

      I say get the improvements first. Don’t give up something in exchange for a vague sense of a benefit in the future.

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  • Terry D October 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Build a proper interconnected bikeway network through the district FIRST, then there would be no reason for bikes to ride on the sidewalk. Marshal as a bikeway is a joke, but I know the city is working on it. The Pearl circulation plan also calls for bikeway facilities on Overton and Park I believe.

    At that point I would be all for it. Bikes should not be on sidewalks in heavily populated areas of the city. Where there is that much density, there should be proper on street facilities.

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  • matt picio October 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Agreed with the previous commenters, but I also agree with Neilson Abeel. With the density in the Pearl, and the number of pedestrians, it’s appropriate to extend the bike bans on sidewalks, and I support it. That said, I also support the following:

    1. Relocating the streetcar tracks so they aren’t right-positioned, and restoring bike facilities on Lovejoy.
    2. Increasing bike facilities in the Pearl
    3. Decreasing car access in the Pearl
    4. Removing the exemption to riding on sidewalk for security agencies and police unless actively pursuing a suspect
    4. Repealing ORS 814.410 (mandatory stay in bike lane)

    We need safe facilities for bicycles AND pedestrians. They only way to do that is to make the streets safe to ride and more convenient than the sidewalk.

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    • matt picio October 2, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Correction – that should say “ORS 814.420”, not “.410”

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    • Ken October 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Matt, Is it reasonable to ask to relocate streetcar tracks, that were just laid, at the cost of millions of dollars? Why not use that money to improve the bike infrastructure in the Pearl and perhaps elsewhere. I just don’t see it as a reasonable use of money, a scarce resource.

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  • daisy October 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Do sidewalk bans apply to kids? I imagine there are plenty of little ones who should be on the sidewalk since this is also a residential area.

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    • El Biciclero October 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      The current ordinance doesn’t specify any age qualifications for being banned from sidewalk riding in the defined area. “No person may…” Assuming minor children are persons.

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    • Carl October 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      If the city defines “bicycle” as the state does, the tiniest of kids bikes (the ones with 10 and 12″ wheels) are not, technically, “bicycles.” http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/801.150

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      • Barbara October 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm

        My 5-year old rides a 20″ bike (since she is 4), still I don’t think it would be safe for her to ride on the street.

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  • Dan October 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    I wonder if Abel has ever had a “run-in” with cars in that area. I know I’ve had my fair share, ha ha. On Marshall no less!

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  • Beth October 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    The redesigned Lovejoy ramp is one of the worst examples of infrastructure design in the city, and is a direct route to and from my job.
    (The touristy-toy Streetcar Project gets no love from me, either; but that’s another discussion.)
    I imagine it’s pretty tough to remove streetcar tracks once they’ve been installed. Still, as they are now (and as the photo above so clearly illustrates!) they’re simply too close to the bike lane for safety; and I will continue to ride the sidewalk down the ramp until someone pulls me over and tickets me.

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  • i ride my bike October 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Bikes dont belong on sidewalks especially anywhere with buildings built to the sidewalk line, I strongly support this

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    • rwl1776 October 3, 2012 at 10:30 am

      Someone is going to get doored, and not by a car but by someone exiting a building!

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  • was carless October 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Obviously, the solution is to ban walking in the Pearl District!

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  • dwainedibbly October 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Extend it south of Jefferson, too, all the way through PSU.

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    • peejay October 3, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Because we’re solving the most important problem first, aren’t we? Really, as long as there are people DYING in the streets, being killed by people driving cars, there is no place to even have this sidewalk bike ban discussion.

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      • Chucklehead October 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm

        Hey, people are getting killed in cars, too.

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  • Reza October 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    More news about Marshall…

    At the PDNA Planning Committee tonight, Patty Gardner informed the group that according to Mauricio LeClerc at PBOT, the City was looking to install a westbound contraflow cycle track on Marshall between 10th and 11th between the north curb and the eastbound parking lane along with the diverter, due to concerns about removing parking. When I suggested this solution to Mauricio several months ago, he said that it wouldn’t work because of concerns from the fire department about access through the block (whether there would be enough clearance along the narrowed eastbound travel lane). It sounds like this issue may have been resolved.

    As far as I know, this would be the first such application of this treatment in the city.

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  • Matthew Perry October 2, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Really. As a NW commuter, I can honestly say that riding down lovejoy (and through the pearl in general) is an incredibly safe experience compared to the rest of my commute. The drivers are courteous and friendly and taking the lane is never a problem.

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  • jim October 2, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Somebody was thinking with their but when they made Lovejoy into a one way street going away from the hospital.

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  • Spiffy October 3, 2012 at 7:51 am

    joggers startle me, can we ban those too? and yappy little dogs? and mobility scooters?

    if the city was as dense as people think then there wouldn’t be any room to ride on the sidewalk… there’s plenty of room to share… people run into poles and each other more than they’re running into bikes… the problem is perception… somebody riding a bike on the sidewalk is the same as a jogger to me…

    there aren’t tens of thousands of pedestrians being run down by bikes on sidewalks each year… the elephant in the room is way too smug…

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    • BURR October 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

      how about banning pedestrians from using ipods and cell phones?

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      • Chucklehead October 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

        cyclists would never support that, because they would have to do the same.

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      • Oliver October 4, 2012 at 11:16 am

        Agreed, and require them to complete a training course, and demonstrate an understanding of their responsibilities and protocols before using public infrastructure such as sidewalks.

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  • don arambula October 3, 2012 at 10:22 am

    One way couplets are a bad idea. a Broadway couplet was not warranted from a auto traffic perspective, rather it was a result of a ham-fisted streetcar design. Changing Lovejoy from a two-way to a one one street has created a host of problems, from reduced bike safety, increased out-of-direction traffic vmt, reduced drive-by auto exposure for Lovejoy facing businesses to reduced residential livability in the Pearl. While most progressive cities are going away from creating one way couplets, the city somehow thinks that these are are good idea- i.e. Broadway- Couch couplet. Before, the city starts exploring exotic solutions on Marshall and other streets maybe we should ask for returning Lovejoy to a its two-way configuration.

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    • i ride my bike October 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Its been reported in the NW Examiner that Safeway on Lovejoy experienced a 20% loss of business with just the PARTIAL implementation of the couplet, then in 2011 they extended it a block further west past Safeway, so it had to impact it even more. One way couplets are terrible, but this has to be one of the worst implementations Ive seen.

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  • Max D October 3, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Is there room to add a westbound lane with sharrows to Lovejoy? At 10th the bike lane would have cut across a right turn only lane, then merge with traffic after 10th, but this is basically what the bike lane does westbound off the Hawthorne.

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  • dan October 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I think if sidewalk bikers would bike at walking speed, or possibly a tiny bit faster than walking speed, they would find that people in the Pearl would be much less concerned about getting them off the sidewalk. As cyclists we’re always advocating for people to share the road and extend basic courtesy to us, but I feel we’re not always very good about doing those things ourselves.

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    • wsbob October 3, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      dan…excellent suggestion, and observation. I believe you’re the very first person commenting to this story having offered an idea that could help keep bikes ridden on sidewalks from being a hazard to people on foot, rather than arguing why bikes shouldn’t be prohibited from the Pearl’s sidewalks.

      Riding a bike on the sidewalk where pedestrians are present can work out if the speed people are biking is slow. Unfortunately, people riding bikes on the sidewalk at a speed faster than a normal walk…roughly 3 mph, while people on foot are present, occurs too frequently.

      Oregon’s law 814.410 ‘Unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk’ http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.410 …doesn’t particularly limit the speed bikes may travel when people on foot are present. Maybe the law should be revised so it does specify such a speed limit.

      Another sidewalk use issue can be bikes ridden without lights at night. Riding above a normal walking speed can make this issue worse.

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  • Barbara October 3, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I wonder if they have thought about some of the technical details of that. Will children be still allowed on the sidewalk or at what age would they forced on the street? That might not be an issue downtown, but there are more families and children living in the Pearl. I wouldn’t want to see 5-year olds on bikes or 3-year olds on balancing bikes being forced on the streets because of a bicycling ban. In Germany, kids under the age of 8 have to ride on the sidewalk and I think that’s a good guideline here, too.

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  • Adron Hall October 3, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I say just close off two blocks of the road near the brewery and Safeway to traffic except for pedestrians and bikes. Let the businesses put some lights across the way, park benches and tables, and have at it. The area could be huge for eating, drinking, and generally enjoying the outdoor areas there. Give about 4-5 foot clearance for the bikeway (even if altered a little to travel centrally through a public space and you’d have a pretty easy area to bike through + have for said activities.

    It’d beat the hell out of letting it be a “throughway” for non-Pearl Residents to all of a sudden try to skirt the primary arterials.

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  • Joe October 3, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    bicycling is not a crime.. cell phones and ipads users diffrent story.

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  • jd October 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    The expansion to the Willamette River (meaning no biking on the waterfront, or the sidewalks near Naito?) would be awful. Riding either direction on Naito past Davis is terrifying for this 15-year bike commuting vet, and 2nd is for the MAX. That means a huge detour for people trying to get further north close to the river.

    If I read the story correctly, Lovejoy isn’t covered by the PDNA vote, but I understand if you’re making a broader point that cyclists are making considered safety decisions when they decide to ride on sidewalks.

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  • Scott Batchelar October 4, 2012 at 12:53 am

    As a resident and regular rider in the Pearl District until there are MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS made to the Bike Network System in the Pearl District I will continue to use the sidewalks because it is at this time the only safe route.

    And as far as I am concerned MARSHALL is a JOKE and thats even with diverters in place.

    With my apartment complex being pretty much in the epicenter of the streetcar madness I really have no choice but to use the sidewalks if I want to get anyplace without having to deal with 2-4 track crossings within a 4 block radius of my apartment.

    At 11th & Northrup I have 2 tracks to cross at an extreme angle

    At 11th & Marshall I have to deal with Cars who should not be there at all.

    Not to mention 11th & Lovejoy – This is a fatality waiting to happen with another extreme angle crossing on both sides of Lovejoy and until the city does something to inprove the conditions – such as buffered lanes on 10th, 11th & 12th and a complete closing of Marshall to ALL Car traffic I don’t feel I have any choice but to use the sidewalks.

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  • Jay October 7, 2012 at 2:47 am

    Ban skateboards on the sidewalk too!

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