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First look: New protected bike lanes on NE Multnomah Street

First look at NE Multnomah project-4
What used to be a sad little bike lane on NE Multnomah is now a protected bike lane.
– More photos and video below –
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)


As we shared last month, the Bureau of Transportation has been working on their NE Multnomah Street Pilot Project through the Lloyd District. They’ve made some exciting progress and I finally got out there to see it this morning. I shot video and photos and here are my impressions…

This is an unprecedented project for Portland. PBOT has taken an ugly, 1970s-style, wide and forgotten street and they’ve reduced the number of standard lanes and introduced a protected bike lane. This is a big deal folks. Not just for the street design itself; but because of how this project came about. Instead of a nasty fight with real estate developers and other interests, PBOT was able to actually work in partnership with Lloyd District power brokers to make this happen.

After these same business interests flexed their muscle and squashed the NE Holladay project, PBOT was able to pivot from that contentious atmosphere and come away with a transformative project on a main street that is poised for serious growth and development. On NE Multnomah, bike access has gone from a narrow and seldom used bike lane to a much more appealing protected bike lane. Now, as the street grows up and becomes more vibrant, it will have quality bike access from the start.

PBOT is still not finished; but there’s enough on the ground to get a good sense of things. Let’s take a quick tour…

Here’s a (not so great) photo of the general cross-section (with a streetcar passing by on NE 7th)…

And another wide shot of the cross-section. Note the old, left-turn lane markings where a new median now stands…

Heading east from Grand Ave, you can see where the old bike lane stripe used to be (just to the left of my stem)…

One very cool feature are the Portland flag symbols PBOT crews have placed at the start of several intersections. Remember the “bike lane characters” PBOT used to create from leftover thermoplastic? These flags are done in that same spirit (they also appear on speed bumps on the N. Michigan Ave neighborhood greenway)…

Portland pride!

Continuing to head east (now at about 7th), you can see how much wider and more pleasant the bikeway is compared to its old self…

To deal with right-turning vehicles at intersections, PBOT has taken the “mixing zone” approach. After seeing much of this in New York City, I think it’s the right design. It’s not ideal; but given the much higher costs of other options (new transit stops on median islands, new bike-only signals, and so on), it’s not a bad way to go. Keep in mind that, because of all the features of this road diet (some yet to come), auto traffic should not be too high. The mixing zone will cause some stress for some; but I think it’s a good enough design to start with. Let’s see how it turns out…

Heading further east, here’s how the bikeway looks at Holladay Park…

Coming up to Lloyd Cinemas, note how PBOT has handled the bus stop. A sharrow denotes that people must share the space…

PBOT has also added “Bikes in Lane” signs along the route…

Here’s another perspective, looking west (toward downtown) at NE 7th Ave.

And it’s worth noting that PBOT intends to move these planters (re-used from the old transit mall downtown and currently on the sidewalk) over into the yellow-colored areas in order to create more physical separation and calm traffic…

To give you another look at what it’s like to ride, I shot the video below headed westbound from NE 15th all the way to Grand Ave…

PBOT is still working on this project. They are out there right now tweaking the signal timing to favor bikes. It also didn’t look like they’ve done much between MLK/Grand and the Rose Quarter Transit Center yet. I’ll get back out there when it’s done. But so far, I like what I see! And I especially appreciate how PBOT went back to the drawing board and improved the bike access after the initial designs were heavily criticized.

Now, we need to improve NE 7th (and make a bridge over I-84!) so we have an equally excellent north-south route. And of course, seeing this street evolve makes me wonder what other locations we can do similar things (Burnside Bridge comes to mind). Stay tuned.

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