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Planning effort seeks a ‘Re-Imagined’ North Lombard Street

Posted by on April 29th, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Lombard Ave-1

Residents have resorted to homemade signs
to make people slow down on Lombard.
Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Lombard Street in north and northeast Portland is one of those classic urban arterials that splits up neighborhoods and is entirely unwelcoming to anything but people in cars. Now a citizen-led planning effort, “Lombard Re-Imagined” is working to change that.

Lombard Re-Imagined is the work of Swift Planning Group, a team made up of six graduate students from Portland State University’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program. They’ve partnered up with the Kenton, Arbor Lodge, and Piedmont neighborhood associations to, “develop a vision for Lombard, focusing on how it can become a more walkable place with a unique identity that better serves the needs and wants of its neighbors.”

“There’s enough right-of-way for a mix of parking, bike lanes, and a buffer, for example.”
— Rebecca Hamilton, Swift Planning Group

Specifically, this project is focusing on a two-mile stretch of Lombard between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and N. Chataqua Blvd (map). Swift started the outreach process in February and they’ve been busy meeting with neighborhoods and garnering feedback on what it’s like to live, work and own a business on Lombard. They’ve also just released a community survey about the street that had nearly 800 responses. Below are some of the key findings:

  • 87% of respondents said it is unpleasant to walk along Lombard and 10% neither agreed nor disagreed.
  • 58% of respondents indicated that there is no distinct identity on Lombard St and 18% felt neutral about the issue.
  • Only 13% of respondents indicated they feel safe crossing Lombard.
  • 43% want bike facilities for their ideal future Lombard.

Here’s how folks answered the question: What would you like to see in the future on Lombard Street?

If you’re not familiar with it, Lombard is four standard vehicle lanes (no shoulder or bike lanes) and prone to high speeds. It’s also a designated freight route and a major east-west U.S. Highway route. While that fact has deterred ambitions of livable streets activists in the past, there might be more possible on Lombard than you think. According to a statement by Swift Planning Group, they’ve talked with ODOT and were, “pleasantly surprised.” “Many things assumed impossible (due to the over-dimensional freight corridor designation) like curb bump-outs, median islands, or even changes to the lane configurations are possible if done correctly,” they say, “There’s enough right-of-way for a mix of parking, bike lanes, and a buffer, for example.”

Here’s how the street looks near N. Albina:

Lombard Ave-3

Lombard Ave-4

I recently emailed a few questions to Swift’s Public Outreach Coordinator Rebecca Hamilton to learn more:

How have neighborhood residents responded to the idea of transforming Lombard?

“The response has been astonishing. We’ve had incredible turnout for our Walk-Alongs and coffee talks, and nearly 800 people have taken the online survey — totally above and beyond expectations. People have written in extremely detailed and thoughtful suggestions. The Piedmont Neighborhood Association sent over a stack of documents from a visioning workshop they held about the street several years ago. People care about their quality of life and issues with this street have been on the minds of North Portlanders for years. They want something better for their neighborhood.”

Has bicycling come up much in discussions of Lombard’s future?

“Yes it has. Although the public outreach indicates that people’s top concerns are with improving the safety and ambiance of the pedestrian experience and developing a stronger business district, we received quite a few requests for bicycle accommodations. It’s understandable since Lombard is one of the only direct routes through North Portland that will get you over I-5.

We also received feedback that expressly requested no bikes on Lombard, citing serious safety issues with vehicle speed, volume, and preserving the function of the street as an east-west thoroughfare.”

What other projects has Swift Planning Group been involved with?

“Swift Planning Group was formed for the specific purpose of working on Lombard Re-Imagined. This is our capstone project for the MURP degree program at PSU, so it will be our first and last project together. Unless this project goes so well that someone decides that they’d like to pay us all to keep working on this effort full time, in which case of course we will start a firm together and open up an office on Lombard next to King Burrito [a famous Mexican food joint].”

How can people get involved (even if they don’t live in the corridor)?

“We’re holding an Open House to present some of these ideas on May 7th, 5:30-8pm at the Kenton Masonic Lodge (8130 N Denver Ave) where we’ll be asking for feedback on several concepts that we’ve put together based on the public outreach. There are some big ones that we’ll be presenting, including several different ideas for street configurations, ped/bike crossings for I-5, safer on-street parking, and improved pedestrian crossings.

We’d love to see a strong turnout at the Open House so that we can talk to people in-person about starting a “Friends of Lombard” group dedicated to long-term stewardship of the street. Change is possible but it will require some organized, committed action on part of the community. It’s time to get that ball rolling and we want to hear from you — we’ll have cookies!”

Stay tuned for more on this exciting planning process. For more info on the May 7th open house, see the Facebook event page.

NOTE, 5/3 at 1:08 pm: I’ve changed the opening sentence of this story after several people said they found it offensive. I originally wrote, “If you haven’t heard much about Portland’s Lombard Street, that’s probably because it’s not a place people tend to hang out.” I was only trying to make a point from a transportation design perspective and meant no harm to folks who live on and around Lombard.

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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maxadders
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maxadders

I guess there was only so much inner NE left to gentrify. Had to look northward.

BURR
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BURR

The bimodal response to bike lanes/facilities (people either love them or hate them, i.e. they either want them or think cyclists shouldn’t be present, with very little middle-ground responses), is a common theme in survey results when arterial streets undergo these types of planning efforts (think SE Hawthorne, N. Williams, Sandy Blvd., etc., etc.).

The key is how the road agencies like PBOT and/or ODOT respond to these bimodal survey responses, and it isn’t always favorable to cyclist access and safety.

Jim
Guest
Jim

It would be interesting to see the racial breakdown of who responded to the survey. That would tell us which “community” is really speaking here.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Love the homemade speed limit reminder signs.

I think Lombard does have a distinct identity. Though it might not be an identity that people think positively about.

If you see folks speeding on Lombard, be sure to call the Portland Police nonemergency number and ask for increased enforcement of the speed limit. 823-3333.

I’d sure like to see Lombard redesigned as a state-of-the-art urban highway. 3 lanes of traffic, bike lanes, bulbouts, the whole business. The 4-lanes, no median, no turn lanes was phased out of highway design manuals at least 40 years ago because it performs poorly and has higher than crash rates than a 3 lane facility.

Ted Buehler

Bettie
Guest
Bettie

As someone who lives off Lombard and rides 150mi a wk. I have ridden down Lombard and will say that some will purposely try to hit you near the I-5 entryway. I also see a ton of semis and vehicles run the red light at Albina. I try to stay away from Lombard. I feel however, that these raging motorists should have their freedom to rage down at least one street in the neighborhood. Putting in a bike lane will just piss them off further. We cyclists already have Williamette, Rosa Parks, Ainsworth, and Vancouver to ride on. My only suggestion is to make a safer crosswalk at Albina next to the bus stop, and repave the street as it’s in terrible condition.

John Landolfe
Guest

I used to walk and bike this neighborhood fairly often. If memory serves, the sidewalks are really uneven and without ramps from the sidewalk to street in many sections, making biking on the sidewalks difficult at best. I can’t imaging what people in wheelchairs or scooters do.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

To solve the speed problem in lieu of law enforcement:
(1) A neighborhood gets together and purchases at least 2 photo radar units of the same quality as is used by police departments.
(2) install permanently in set locations on private property to cover public road
(3) have calibrated and certified by the same organizations that do so for the police
(4) set software so that no only do the 2 units report individual speeding incidents but calculate the speed in between as the 2 units are a fixed distance so a fixed time beaten indicates speeding in between radar stations.
(5) have all speed violations auto-post to a public blog/tumbler/twitter feed
(6) post signs warning that speeding violators are being monitored and that publicly taken photos violators will be posted on line.
(7) alert all local auto insurers that their low risk drivers are high risk with solid evidence to back up the claim
(8) sit back and let economics solve the problem

I was inspired by a report that the US government is doing an end run around wiretapping warrants by granting telecommunications companies immunity from prosecution for allowing the government unfettered access to otherwise private info.
Why should we play fair in the fight for public safety? Aim for the wallet and pocketbook.

AkAllerdice
Guest
AkAllerdice

Cool down the street. So much of Lombard has
lost its curb appeal, that which makes a welcoming access point.
wide side walks, good lighting, trash removable,
Tree canopy to shade and cool down street and pavement.
Landlords of unleaded spaces to refresh, and actively Perdue
A tenant. The problems with Lombard is it ODOT hwy 30
Distinction, and the width of crossing areas. Some places are on blind curves. Mediums, at extra wide locations could
Also help.
As for cyclists, being the first priority? No.

kittens
Guest
kittens

Forgive me for not toeing the party line, but I hope they don’t turn this into anything like the Interstate Ave redesign. I personally find that street annoying from a car, pedestrian AND cyclist perspective. Maybe it is the MAX, the many poorly timed stoplights or the reduced speed, but bottom line: it does not work!

Redhippie
Guest
Redhippie

Ok, lets hope that they do a comprehensive area study and not just focus on making Lombard pretty. Any slow down or calming on Lombard will directly affect the traffic levels and speed for the negative on Willamette Blvd.

I live on Willamette and ran an experiment the other day. I drove at the speed limit from St. Johns to Portland Road (I mean Roasa Parks) and had a line of traffic 8 or 9 deep tail gating behind me. Many cars gave up and pealed off heading back over to Lombard.

The point is that there is a lot of through traffic from I5 to Hillsboro via the St Johns bridge, and this commuter traffic will always be a source of speed and traffic problems. I would suggest the students focus their efforts on some sort of bypass. If this happens, Lombard will take care of itself. Any additional treatment will only increase the traffic on other, more bike friendly arterials.

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

The math doesn’t work. N Lombard from Chatauqua to MLK is mostly 50 ft curb to curb, except a short portion that is 56 ft. ODOT has already told PBOT they want 11 or 12 ft lanes. The peak hour volumes are 600-1200 cars per hour, so the safest configuration is a 3-lane section with some 4-lane segments at major crossings. If you went with 11 ft lanes, you have (50-33 = ) 17 feet left over, at best. That’s 8.5 ft for each side of the road so either parking or a buffered bike lane, but not both.
I love planning efforts that don’t include a traffic engineer on the team!

Carlos
Guest
Carlos

We just moved to the Piedmont neighborhood last summer. The neighborhood is pleasantly mixed (age, ethnicity, lifestyle) and everyone is friendly and takes pride in living here.

I don’t think lombard should be a street with bike lanes, but better walkability, more useful shopping and slower/calmer traffic would help a ton.

Making Lombard better is not an issue of race but livability for all.

Jake
Guest
Jake

@ Scott B: I’m on the project team and you’re right, it’s a 50-51 ft curb to curb width. So no, parking would not be possible with 6 ft bike lanes. If they were 5 ft bike lanes there could be 7-8 ft parking on one side of the street, as there is currently. We know 5-ft bike lanes would go against ODOT and PBOT design guidelines, but we’re interested to hear from those who bike/would bike on the street if that’s even worth considering. We also want to be very clear that bike lanes are merely something we’re asking the community about – our final recommendations will hinge on feedback we receive as well as our other research. There are many people with many different perspectives on the issue as you know. Thanks for the interest!

grimm
Guest
grimm

I live right near Lombard and don’t think bikes fit into it’s make up. I’d rather effort be put into making something like Bryant a first class East/West street rather than shoe horn it onto Lombard. Lombard needs some help though, it’s gross. I can see something akin to MLK’s dividers and trees being a good simple solution. But am liking the three lane ideas on here too.

PS Would someone buy The Barn and turn it into a tap room?

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

In all of this discussion, a gentle reminder that N Lombard is a State ‘owned’ bypass for US30. It is the designated ‘oversize’ route as N Columbia has several low clearance points that prevent it being used for oversize.
That designation will certainly flavor the discussion of what happens. I look forward to the day that those obstacles on Columbia are resolved ( the two I think of are the pedestrian bridge at George Middle school and the RR overpass near I-5. Those will be big,expensive projects to resolve.
ODOT is undergoing a bit of culture change regarding ‘alt’ transport, but all culture changes take time and attitude shift. So don’t hold your breath.

Blake
Guest
Blake

I live in Kenton, and appreciate the idea of making Lombard less of a highway and a bit more friendly, particularly for pedestrians/cyclists to cross it, but I’m not very interested in riding my bike on it, the same way I feel about Hawthorne for example. I would rather the bike routes north-south (e.g. clearing up bike access around the park on Delaware between Lombard & Rosa Parks, which is bad because it forces riding on the sidewalk with curbs and chains between bollards) and to St. Johns (although Lombard is a fine way to cross the railroad tracks, the connection between that connection and, e.g. the Terry n’hood greenway is difficult particularly when it’s nighttime).

Babs
Guest
Babs

ODOT could move Hwy 30 off of Lombard and onto Columbia if it could bring the condition of the road up to PBOT standards. That would be the real game changer.

Brendan Treacy
Guest
Brendan Treacy

Interesting historical perspective. The Arbor Lodge development plan from 1993. See page 14-18 for the visions they had back then. Sadly it looks like not many of them happened, though I do think there have been some real improvements made.

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/91459

Nate
Guest
Nate

I’m thrilled to see both the Swift Group and all the comments here. At the very least, it’s clear that Lombard is NOT working for the community as it currently stands.

I live 1 1/2 blocks off of Lombard. I don’t necessarily think we need bike lanes on Lombard – Dekum / Bryant / Willamette is a pretty good bikeway quite close to the south, similar to Going near Alberta – but strongly feel that it shouldn’t be as much of a speedway as it is. If I needed to go two blocks on Lombard, I should feel safe enough to take a lane to do so, as I would on Alberta or Hawthorne.

Hopefully all of you will show up on the 7th to express support for making Lombard a more accessible place in the ways that count!

lb
Guest
lb

As Lombard is a US Hwy and primary thoroughfare across the peninsula, unless there is a bypass considered to relieve the amount of traffic, side streets and other larger avenues such as Willamette and Rosa Parks will likely see a huge increase in the amount of traffic. Dispersal may work for some traffic issues, but in this case, I only foresee other neighborhoods and bike-friendly streets bearing the brunt of the redesign.

…though wider sidewalks with some kind of plant/tree barrier would be nice for those who ride the bus and get soaked by spray from cars driving on the poorly designed and paved roadway.

Audrey
Guest
Audrey

I live in Piedmont and have use Lombard to cross I-5 to get to the MAX station or Freddies, like a quarter-mile away. It is scary and really discourages biking for these short trips that should be a no-brainer. If I have to ride Lombard I use the sidewalk as much as I can, and pedal furiously and pray when I have to be on the road.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Is it realistic to ask Tri-Met to lose a few stops on N. Lombard? I lived in St. Johns for the last year, and as a vehicle driver, I witnessed multiple occasions where an aggressive driver would become impatient from following a bus that pulls over continuously and then floors the gas pedal and speeds passed it while pedestrians exiting the bus are attempting to cross the street. Could Tri-Met take out some of their less used bus stops?
Also, as a cyclist, I have ridden on N. Lombard once or twice and decided against it in the future. I think some streets should remain discouraging to cyclists. There is just too high of traffic volume on Lombard, and with Willamette and Rosa Parks so close by, I feel like we don’t need to include cyclists in this. Safer pedestrian crossings, getting aggressive drivers to slow down, and encouraging a few more businesses to go in are all good ideas. This sounds less like gentrification and more like letting Lombard reach it’s potential. Let’s keep this strip of Portland one of our few, almost-racially diverse neighborhoods.