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Opinion: Dispatch from SE Foster Road

Posted by on January 24th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

SE Foster Road-10

Seeing SE Foster for myself — from the safety of the sidewalk.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Over the long weekend I was summoned by the sun (and the need to break in a new bike) to do an exploratory ride. I hadn’t rambled down the Springwater beyond Sellwood for ages so I thought I’d go do “the loop” (north Portland to Springwater via the Esplanade then back north via I-205 path). As I rolled north on the path, one of the overcrossings (thanks TriMet!) allowed me to gaze down on SE Foster Road. Foster has been on my mind lately as a redesign that could include bikeways has recently floated up during the ongoing streetscape planning process. Without any set route in my mind, I decided to ride up Foster and get a first-hand feel for the street.

Eek. After being out there myself, I have a much better sense of what we’re up against. It wasn’t the first time I’d been on Foster; but it’s the first time I spent time to soak in the atmosphere and think about what could be.

Almost immediately I realized that riding on SE Foster is not an option, at least not for me (I have heard that some people aren’t afraid to try). Traffic is very fast, the road is wide (at least two lanes in each direction, and some portions have a wide center turn lane as well), and there is zero room in the shoulder.

SE Foster Road-1

Some people might think the sidewalk is a pleasant oasis. It’s not. Not next to a street like Foster when a huge cement truck can rumble by just inches away (that actually happened and it sort of spooked me).

I have some personal principles about not riding on the sidewalk and asserting my legal right to be in the road. But I swallowed my pride on that stance in about two seconds. Then I realized even the sidewalk on SE Foster is no picnic. It’s extremely narrow in spots. So narrow in fact that I saw two people chatting, walking side-by-side, and one of them actually had to step into the street to continue their conversation because a utility pole blocked his way (see below).

SE Foster Road-11

SE Foster Road-2

Then I stood for several minutes at the intersection of SE 82nd and Foster. The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the intersection, the massive volume of cars that go through it, and the horrible condition of the pavement. Then I noticed, despite how intimidating the place was for everyone outside of a car, there was actually quit a bit of street life. Almost everywhere I turned I saw people walking, riding bikes, or rolling along in a scooter.

SE Foster Road-8

SE Foster Road-7

SE Foster Road-6

SE Foster Road-4

This guy popped a killer wheelie!
SE Foster Road-3

Then it occurred to me how much potential the street has. Imagine the life that would spring forward if auto traffic was tamed and the overall streetscape was more humane? Foster has a lot going for it in the way of existing storefronts and (relatively) dense residential areas nearby. Even with the clamoring and obnoxious auto traffic that defines it, it’s easy to imagine Foster as a much different place. A place where people can meet, talk, and enjoy the public space that runs through the center of their neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, at the present time, it’s just a big, wide, high-speed thoroughfare where only motor vehicles are welcome. (*SE Foster is one of the most deadly corridors in the City and has been part of PBOT’s High Crash Corridor program since 2010.)

SE Foster Road-12

So much space, so much potential.

Luckily a lot of dedicated and smart people are working to help Foster reach that potential. Following a link from the excellent neighborhood blog, FosterUnited.org, I came across the Foster Lents Integration Partnership (FLIP) planning exercise by the Portland Development Commission. They’re holding an online Town Hall to garner feedback on how to invest in the Foster Corridor. If you care about this part of our city (and you should!), I hope you’ll consider getting involved in making it a vibrant and welcoming place.

— For more on some of the streetscape design options and the potential for creating bikeways on SE Foster, see our report from last month.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Nick Falbo
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Nick Falbo

Thanks for the writeup Jonathan. That stretch from the 205 Path to 82nd really has terrible conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, the worst of the worst.

Those are the most important blocks to get right as a part of the Streetscape Plan, but so far there is resistance from the Lents neighborhood representatives to consider lane removal on Foster as a way to see improvements for people on foot and on bikes.

pdxbikeworm
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pdxbikeworm

Thank you, Jonathan, for noticing the heavy pedestrian traffic at the Foster/82nd intersection. That amount of pedestrian traffic is true throughout the Lents area – one of the reasons I love living here. Another thing you will also notice about Foster are a lot of new start up businesses, particularly restaurants, but also a bike shop, a tango establishment, and a budding theater. Perfect for a bike clientele. Note, however, that there are a number of close by low traffic streets and bike boulevards. However, they aren’t well marked, and are following the standard east side grid, making it hard to maintain contact with the diagonal direction of Foster Road.

Timothy W
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Timothy W

Funny you posted this, I just happened to be looking through vintage Portland photos and was shocked by this one of Foster and 82nd:
http://vintageportland.wordpress.com/category/streets/foster-rd/

Mike Hernandez
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Mike Hernandez

Great piece Jonathon. We’re excited as new residents of the Foster neighborhood and hope to see some positive changes in the near future.

Mike Hernandez
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Mike Hernandez

I should say we can’t wait to be a part of the positive changes to come 😉

gutterbunny
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gutterbunny

The population density out here is just as great as that in NE (yeah I’m talking about you Mississippi and Alberta) before the gentification started. And honestly the potential for commercial developement of SE Foster far exceeds anything the above mentioned strips can do combined. It could easily rival or surpass Hawthorn even (both roughly 50 blocks), but Foster wins when one takes into account that most the East/West side streets that intersect Foster is zoned as residential and commercial for a block or two from the Foster intersection. And that unlike Hawthorn, Sellwood, Woodstock,Hollywood it’s got the room to add cycletrack to it, instead of just a few pathetic sharrows a few blocks away from the action.

Even though I live in the South Tabor neighbor hood I head down to Foster Rd. frequently. I often shop at the Freddies there, and often get a drink or a meal at one of the Resturants in the area occasionally hit the Lents Farmers Market . And though, in all honestly improvements on Division between 82nd and 50th (or at least to 60th) would benifit me more personally. I think for the sake of the city Foster is much more important. It’s impact on increasing ridership stats would be huge, and personally have a much bigger impact than a few improvements to existing infrastucture closer in (cough cough Mult. bulvd). It would boost commercial development which is already on the rise lately, potentially increase ridership on the Green line, and improve the general conditions of all of outter SE. And it would naturally tie into the up and coming bike highway greatly improving its potenrial too,

I really can’t think of a project recently that even comes close to what a Foster redo would give in the way of all around benifits. (Though I’ll admit Barber sucks and it needs some desperate help too).

Champs
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Champs

If there’s a stretch of road that’s actually safer on the sidewalk than on the street, I haven’t found it.

I’m not afraid to ride anywhere, but that’s because I don’t think people in cars are trying to kill me. I’ll take my chances being seen in the street over invisibility on the sidewalk.

But what do I know, I’ve only been hit by a car twice, both times on or coming out of a sidewalk.

Joe
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Joe

That jacket is awesome dude!

bike me
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bike me

Both Sandy and Foster can offer to bikes what they offer to motorists: a fast commute into and out of the heart of the city. We blew it with Sandy, let’s get it right with Foster.

gl.
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gl.

Coming from the east, Foster is the only straightaway that reaches the Fred Meyer on 82nd. Any other route is ridiculously complex and scattered. I don’t generally ride on sidewalks, either, but I am terrified to ride on Foster proper. Still, as you pointed out, the sidewalk is its own unnecessary gauntlet.

doug b
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doug b

If a redo of Foster is done right I think it could be a game-changer for Portland, so much potential.

K'Tesh
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K'Tesh

In looking at your photo with the ped walking in the street, the problem is obvious to me…. That bush that’s taking up the sidewalk ILLEGALLY and should be pruned into compliance (better still removed). I can’t make the complaint, because I don’t know exactly where it is. But if someone who does know where that is calls 823 SAFE and explains that this is putting people in danger, perhaps something can be done.

John Lascurettes
Guest

The telephone pole taking up half a narrow sidewalk is a common occurrence around Portland. See the sidewalks on the north side of NE Prescott between NE 37th and 42nd as another example.

Cora Potter
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Cora Potter

Nick, I think it’s important to include the reasons why folks in Lents are skeptical about the benefits of removing lanes- particularly if they’re only removed on the portions West of 87th. The first and main concern is the potential aggregate increase in travel time that would disproportionately effect people that live East of 82nd, who are generally less affluent and more diverse. The second is creating a situation where the first /last opportunity to pass occurs inside the Lents Town Center pedestrian district, which means a potential increase in aggressive driving and conflict points exactly where they should be the lowest.

These are legitimate concerns- and because the traffic counts and lack of parallel streets bring the actual utility or benefit if lane reduction into question in the first place, it is constructive and positive to insist that four lane options that focus on neck downs/curb extensions and alternative placement of bike facilities be considered.

Brett
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Brett

It seems like you stopped your Foster Road tour at 82nd (?)… which means you saw the most challenging part of Foster Road. Although I’d love to see some sort of a bike facility all the way from SE 50th to I-205, the stretch from 82nd to I-205 will be a difficult fit within the limited right-of-way. To the (North-) West of this intersection there is a wide right of way and huge sidewalks… great potential for a cycle track or separated bikeway. There is also a lot of parking space in this stretch of road which is largely underutilized and could potentially be reallocated to one side to create more space for non-motorist purposes. Thanks for taking a look at the area.

Terry D
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Terry D

Whatever the locally preferred alternative is for the Foster bikeway (and there REALLY needs to be one), a few conductivity issues should be worked out with the future greenway network in the area. This neighborhood could become one of the best bicycling areas of the city for very little cost once Foster is redone. Here is what it could look like (turn on the bicycling option and be warned, for some reason google chrome maps google maps look AWFUL).

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=217379782128468346794.0004d41f9d5fca0f14acb&msa=0&ll=45.488659,-122.593946&spn=0.038149,0.08935

Joe
Guest
Joe

JONATHAN – What’s the new bike? I’m shopping around and am curious what you the bikeportland dude is riding.

jd
Guest
jd

Thank you very much for seeing Foster’s potential and sharing the FLIP link!

Steve B
Guest

Great reporting Jonathan. Glad we’re taking the time to get Foster Rd right for all modes through the new FLIP process.

Rebecca Hamilton
Guest
Rebecca Hamilton

I’m as excited about the re-thinking of the Foster streetscape as I am about the Reptile Expo on January 26th. Can we get a close-up of that hot pink sign?

Dan V
Guest
Dan V

I know one of the issues facing the I-205 to 82nd stretch is its use as a route to get semis from I-205 to SE 82nd and into downtown via Foster. I agree the best option might be to continue the road diet all the way past I-205 to push that traffic onto Powell. I would think that the Lents Town Center would be better served by a reduction in traffic as well, making it more livable (at least to those people who live there, versus just driving through from Clackamas.

Justin Carinci
Guest

Thanks for the visit and the posts! My neighborhood, Foster-Powell, has the honor of being named for two roads that, as you learned, are virtually unbikeable. Of the two, Foster has the most promise, the most life, and is the more integrated into the neighborhoods.

jim
Guest
jim

It’s ironic how when you get to the neighborhoods where people are poor and rely on walking and biking that there isn’t infrastructure for either. The streets in the photo are in bad shape also thanks to Adams not taking care of them like he should have.
I look forward to your updates on this as it evolves. Safety is job #1

Meghan Humphreys
Guest
Meghan Humphreys

The next meeting about the Foster Streetscape Plan (which would address a lot of the issues raised in this article) is tomorrow — I’m serving as a (late-replacement) rep for the BTA on this project.

Here are the details: “The sixth Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting will be held Thursday, March 21at 6:00 PM at SE Works, 7916 SE Foster Road, Suite 104 (TriMet bus line 14, bus line 72, or bus line 10).”

The agenda for this meeting is online at: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/440625