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East Portland and cycling’s “downtown culture”

Posted by on June 11th, 2013 at 11:34 am

SE 136th Press Conference-7

Oregon State Rep. Shemia Fagan.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think out Loud radio show hosted a conversation about “the future of bicycling” yesterday. The show was set up to discuss the recent release of reports by the City Club of Portland and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Leaders from both groups were in studio and the host also welcomed Oregon State Representative Shemia Fagan onto the show via telephone. Rep. Fagan — whose district stretches east from SE 122nd Ave through Clackamas County all the way to Highway 26 — was asked how she felt upon hearing about all the talk of bicycle funding and projects.

I think Fagan’s answers deserve a wider audience so I’ve shared the entire exchange below (you can also listen to the whole show here):

Think out Loud Host David Miller:

“When you hear people like Craig [Beebe, from City Club] and Rob [Sadowsky, from the BTA] talking about increasing bicycle-friendly infrastructure as a way to have pedestrians and cars and bikers all play well together, what goes through your mind?”

Rep. Fagan:

“There’s a lot of push-back in east Portland to the bicycle lanes because its not about the actual bicycle lanes as much as its about pushing back on a culture from downtown that they feel is being pushed on them out in east Portland.”
— Shemia Fagan, Oregon State Rep.

“A mix of things: First off, the vast majority of time bicycle projects and pedestrian projects are one in the same. If it’s safe for bicyclists it’s probably going to be safe for pedestrians. So, in one way I’m encouraged to hear about more [bike] projects. The only caution that I’m worried about is that a lot of these projects seem to start downtown and trickle out and bicycling is different in outer SE Portland. People are not for the most part bicycling all the way downtown to work. I did it back before I had a child, it took me about an hour and a half each way to get to work. Now that I have a son I’m not going to take what could be a one hour commute and turn it into a three hour commute every day. And so I think the concern is that the focus would be on building a culture downtown — and I understand that cyclists want to encourage a certain culture in Portland: A green, alternative transportation culture, you know naked bike ride, it’s kind-of a funky cool culture. But the fact is it’s not cool, and it’s not O.K., that a little girl [Morgan Cook] died because she didn’t have a safe place to cross the street in front of her house and that happened in Portland just a few months ago.”

David Miller:

“What do you hear from your constituents when you talk about their infrastructure needs or desires?”

Rep. Fagan:

“Sidewalks, sidewalks, sidewalks. I mean, I understand that there are certainly times where bicycle lanes and sidewalks can be in conjunction; but there’s a lot of these old streets out in east Portland that unless you’re going to make a project a lot more expensive and actually expand the size of the road, you either have room for a bike lane or sidewalks. And I think there’s a lot of push-back in east Portland to the bicycle lanes because its not about the actual bicycle lanes as much as its about pushing back on a culture from downtown that they feel is being pushed on them out in east Portland.

I mean, I don’t oppose any bicycle lanes in east Portland, but the fact is in east Portland the primary users of bicycle lanes are not kind of the urban person biking to work as an alternative means of transportation, it’s kids biking to school and in east Portland. Where we don’t have sidewalks you’ll often see people in motorized wheelchairs actually using bicycle lanes because they don’t have a sidewalk. So it’s either a bicycle lane, the middle of the street, or a gravel shoulder with giant muddy holes. So, I think that my constituents don’t oppose bicycle lanes. In fact when I’ve gone in to elementary schools a couple of times I’ve asked kids about proposed legislation, every time I’ve gone in kids have said, ‘Hey I want to be able to bike to school safely.’ So I don’t think there’s as much conflict between bicycle lanes and sidewalks as if it’s an either/or, I think folks in east Portland are reacting to a sense of a culture being pushed on them but the actual infrastructure is going to benefit people in east Portland because it’s going to be used primarily by children bicycling to school and to the park and to folks who are actually vulnerable going and waiting at the bus stop.

So I think it can be a positive thing as long as there’s a recognition that some of the infrastructure that works in downtown Portland is not the primary needs in east Portland.

What I’d like to see, as opposed to that money being spent starting in downtown Portland and filtering out, I’d like to see us start around schools. To the extent we can fund those first and foremost, and anything in addition above-and-beyond that certainly build in the infrastructure that the communities want; but I think safe routes to schools should be our top priority.”

I’m sharing this exchange because it’s rare to hear a politician who represents east Portland speak so candidly about bicycling. It’s important to hear Fagan’s perspective because it shows how bicycling is perceived outside the bubble. Her mention of work commutes, the naked ride, and a “certain culture” being “pushed” on east Portland residents really stood out to me.

Studies and surveys show that the majority of bicycle trips are not for work — but are rather for social reasons, running errands, or recreational in nature (a recent Metro survey put the split at 35% and 54% respectively). Despite that, I often hear bike-skeptical arguments based on the fact that person X or Y simply can’t bike to work and therefore improved bicycle access shouldn’t be a major priority. This tells me there’s too much focus from the city and from advocates on commuting and not enough about how bicycling is simply an extremely practical, fun and efficient way to get around.

And Fagan’s mention of culture was very timely given the recent (and ongoing) debate over whether or not celebratory bike events like the Naked Ride and Pedalpalooza actually turn off more people then they inspire. Her remarks also confirmed my hunches of past bike controversies where the focus of the public and media narrative is the big, bad bike lanes — but in reality the push-back is more about larger cultural differences.

What do you think?

— Listen and learn more about yesterday’s Think Out Loud show here.

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  • craig June 11, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I think Rep. Fagan expresses the perspective very effectively. As someone who lives on the fringe of the two regions discussed (~mall 205 area) there is a lot of overlap in the two styles (purposes) of riding as discussed. (I ride for pleasure, commute when I can, and for errands) My job takes me out (in my truck) to E. Portland often, and the non-motorized infrastructure is severely lacking. I appreciate her perspective and, as you appropriately mentioned, her candidness.

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    • Craig Harlow June 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      But I’m confused–and it would appear that Rep. Fagan is too–about her message:

      …but there’s a lot of these old streets out in east Portland that…you either have room for a bike lane or sidewalks.

      …and then…

      So I don’t think there’s as much conflict between bicycle lanes and sidewalks as if it’s an either/or.

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  • Steve B June 11, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I think we could all learn a lot from listening to Representative Fagan. I’m grateful for her leadership.

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    • Craig Harlow June 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      In particular, I would take a cue from her about “culture”.

      Isn’t it a damn shame that furthering of active transportation–whether in the central city or the suburbs–is being tragically conflated with some notion of “bike culture” that is to some people distasteful or alienating?

      Can we please achieve a separation of church and state in relation to “bike culture” and transportation strategy?

      I’m a car-free bike/walk commuter, using my bike for hauling kids, groceries, and dates, and I enjoy bike fun as much as the next bike nerd, but I don’t see any alignment between my own existence and that of the “bike culture” as it seems to be continuously celebrated here in Portland and elsewhere.

      I’m not talking about Pedalpalooza (which I don’t think is about culture) or naked this or that, I’m talking about the amount of front page devotion that’s given both here at BPO and in other outlets to all the various “in-crowd” activities that have diddly-squat to do with advocacy or activism related to active transportation.

      Advocacy and activism may not necessarily the core mission of BPO or any other outlet, and I get that. However, I’m trying to point up a possible conflict of interest.

      I’m not saying it’s not okay to write articles and blog posts adoring awesome stuff like tall bikes, jousting, bike polo, alley-cats, zoobomb, etc. (critical mass, where art thou?). Although I happen to think those things get along just fine without an MTV-like rah rah boost from would-be purveyors-of-cool.

      I am saying that it may be worth contemplating whether the goal of winning people over to active modes of transportation is helped or hindered when a significant proportion of public discourse goes toward elevating things that may say to outsiders, “this is our culture, this is how we are special, this is how you are NOT like us.”

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      • JRB June 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

        I am 100% with Rep. Fagan until she wanders off on the tangent of an alleged culture war impeding the acceptance of bicycling infrastructure in East Portland or anywhere elsewhere.

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        • longgone June 12, 2013 at 9:47 am

          With her choice of words, and emotionally charged, weeble-wobble don’t fall down perceptions, anything is possible.

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      • wsbob June 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

        “In particular, I would take a cue from her about “culture”. …” harlow

        Fagan perhaps goes about it in a roundabout way, but it seems she’s just saying basic walking and biking needs of people in outlying neighborhoods such as those in her district, may be overlooked in part due to the public’s attention excessively drawn to the trend fascinated kind of funky, cool culture that some people in neighborhoods closer to Downtown have produced.

        This, at the expense of attention not being more justly directed towards determining that every neighborhood, be it near to or far from Downtown, has safe, comfortable sidewalks and bike lanes leading from home to school, stores, church and so on.

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        • davemess June 12, 2013 at 10:28 am

          That’s what I took away from it. I think people are just seeing buzz words and pouncing without really reading context.

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          • longgone June 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

            I read it, AND I get it.. I will also call lame when I hear it.

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      • Chainwhipped June 12, 2013 at 10:45 am

        If we have to say “bike culture”, do we actually have one? Michael Colville-Andersen has repeatedly said that nobody in Copenhagen utters such phrases and they’re confused about the notion of “bike culture”.

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        • davemess June 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm

          Do they have handmade bike accessory shows?

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        • longgone June 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm

          Because the Euro’s never left the bicycle out of the equation as a mode of transportation. Unlike we Americans who (after WW2) chose to view it as only a toy.

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  • longgone June 11, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I believe Rep.Fagin needs to work on preconceived notions and stereo types of what bicycling culture truly is, and can be.

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    • jeff June 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      I believe Rep. Fagin appears to be listening to her constituents and what they tell her they want to see accomplished in their neighborhood…as any good politician should be doing. If they don’t want your “culture”, who are you to try to push it on them?

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      • longgone June 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm

        First off Jeff, I am not personalty trying to “push” or convert anyone to accept my “culture”.
        I will have you know that I am a living breathing byproduct of suburban “culture”, and I am certainly entitled to my views on what it is, how it could be better, and how it affects the whole community .
        I would ask you to re-read some of Rep. Fagin s remarks again,(as I am far too lazy to cut and paste them) so you will see their sieve like quality.
        Like it or not, the world is changing around the good people of East Portland.
        Americans suffering with poverty now live primarily in the suburbs, as opposed to the inner city’s of the past…..
        This is a fact and a trend that has no foreseeable turnaround any time soon.

        It might behoove East Portlander’s start dusting off their bikes hiding in the garage, and begin to see them in a different light. It is a suggestion, not cultural domination, Jeff.

        The most obvious irony of all this is that, the constituents she seems to care for the most, (children) have little voice, or knowledge in how her political neutrality or ability to bridge gaps with her community’s prejudices about bicycling’s benefits will impact their lives long after she leaves office.

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        • longgone June 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

          Here Jeff,… This stuff all reads like mealy mouth political wishy washy-ness.
          “I understand that cyclists want to encourage a certain culture in Portland: A green, alternative transportation culture, you know naked bike ride, it’s kind-of a funky cool culture.”
          then this…
          “But the fact is it’s not cool.” Rep Fagin.
          Then she goes on to use a childs death as some type of wedge?
          whats the deal?
          “Her mention of work commutes, the naked ride, and a “certain culture” being “pushed” on east Portland residents really stood out to me.” J.M.BP,org
          yeah,yeah yeah,… She commuted to work before her child, and now she doesn’t…
          So she has to pigeon hole bicycling/pedestrian infrastructure into a small box with a window that only sees WNBR and the like?

          Cmon, please tell me what I am missing here.

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          • davemess June 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm

            Long, how far east have you ever lived in Portland?
            I’m only at SE 75th myself and I know many in my neighborhood feel the same way as the rep. stated above. We don’t have sidewalks or curbs. A good percentage of our streets are unpaved for crying out loud! So yes, people in the neighborhood have issues with the fact that it feels like the city is cramming bike lanes down their throats when they have been asking for sidewalks and pavement for decade after decade.

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            • longgone June 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm

              Never once did I imply that any “one fit” solution for East Portland is an answer. Not once.
              Never once did I imply that your needs in your area should not reflect what you vote for.
              Never once did I say that Rep.Fagin does not share or reflect your opinions and values.
              I did however bring into question her “left handed compliments” of bicycling culture, and how her use of words and their perceived intent can effect, (and may very well) hinder discussion on changes that could be progressive.
              I am by the way, well aware of the streets of East Portland, you have my sympathy.
              North Portland forever,yo… Not like its all daisy’s and sunshine over here.

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              • davemess June 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm

                Well you did just have the mayor…..

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            • ScottB June 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm

              Your Daveness,
              Just don’t confuse local service streets that serve local homes to the collector and major city traffic streets most people drive on. The bigger ones are ones most portlander’s pay for. the small, local, and unimproved ones, by city code, are the responsibility of local owners to initially construct, and only then would the good citizens of all of portland maintain them. All those other completed local streets were built this way, by local residents or the developer.

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              • davemess June 11, 2013 at 9:03 pm

                The bigger ones are ones most portlander’s pay for. the small, local, and unimproved ones, by city code, are the responsibility of local owners to initially construct, and only then would the good citizens of all of portland maintain them. All those other completed local streets were built this way, by local residents or the developer.

                Most Portlanders?
                This is the same tired argument I’ve heard for years, mostly stemming from people in “historic” neighborhoods. Problem is there was no city code, when these areas weren’t actually part of the city. There is plenty of he said/she said over broken promises the city made to east and SE neighborhoods to convinced them to be incorporated. The city was plenty happy to broaden their tax base, and then have not done much in the way of improvement for these neighborhoods. Instead they cite this “code” and don’t seem to care much that the neighborhoods that need these improvements are the ones who can least afford them. Why one earth would these neighborhoods agree to incorporate and massively increase their tax burden (and upgrade their septic, etc), if there weren’t some things promised to them.

                I’d love to see the records dating back to the 1800s, so we could really see who paid for Broadway or Hawthorne.

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              • longgone June 12, 2013 at 8:15 am

                The Molalla and Kalapuya.

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              • davemess June 12, 2013 at 10:28 am

                Well played!

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  • Adam June 11, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I think she makes some super-valid points.

    I do think however, one thing she shies away from, is admitting that – honestly? – in many areas of east Portland, the roads are MORE than wide enough to be retrofitted to include BOTH a sidewalk, AND bikelanes, or actually, cycletracks.

    Most of the arterials I see & drive on out there feel like they are about the length of a football field in width. They are so wide, you can practically see the curvature of the earth from one side of the road to the other.

    I think the reason bikelanes get put in before sidewalks, is bike lanes involve paint and are relatively cheap, whereas sidewalks are EXPENSIVE.

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    • Craig Harlow June 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Hear hear. In fact, don’t painted bike lanes more than pay for themselves, with the resulting safety gains and associated long range cost savings? Good lord, is there a case to be made for painting in bike lanes in order to *fund* sidewalks? I’m only being partly facetious.

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    • Chris Anderson June 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Maybe we need a new type of infrastructure … sidewalks that can be painted on. If you take a 4 lane plus parking monstrosity and convert it to lots of walking only room, with a bike lane, and 2 lanes of traffic, with maybe one lane of parking, the walking lane can also serve as a bail-out lane for when a driver swerves into the bike lane…

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      • Barbara June 11, 2013 at 4:37 pm

        Actually, that’s something that has been done in SW Portland, an area of Portland, that’s equally riddled with lack of sidewalks, bikelanes and paved streets as E Portland. They paved and painted a wide pedestrian and bicylce MUP along SW Maplewood (close to Maplewood Elementary). You can get 80% of the safety of a raised sidewalk at the fraction of costs. I think Fagan’s main problem is that the city has potentially money for bikelanes (that are cheaper) but not for sidewalks. But these wide multi-use lanes could be a low-cost alternative.

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    • was carless June 12, 2013 at 9:33 am

      Most of the major arterial streets in E Portland (ie Stark, 82nd, 122nd, Sandy) are only 80′ wide (some are 90′, like Division, Powell), including sidewalks. Thats really not that wide.

      By comparison, SE Grand is ~80′, and SW Broadway is around 70′ (depends where you measure). Burnside through downtown is probably the widest street in the city @~107′ wide.

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  • Case June 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I listened to that TOL last night during its OPB repeat. I thought Rep. Fagan was quite correct in her interpretation of the East Portland situation. I had been house hunting above 82nd and was certainly turned off by the lack of sidewalks, and that was on 92nd, never mind further east. My wife and I thought, “What, do we have to walk the dog in the street?” That pretty much made us decide to buy closer in. I like having bike boulevards and sometimes even appreciate bike lanes, but if I lived in a neighborhood without sidewalks, the choice between bike lanes and sidewalks would be a no brainer.

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  • Case June 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Also, in my mind, sidewalks = neighborhoods.

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  • Bike Commuter June 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Rep. Fagin has many things correct. The future as envisioned by both the City Club report, BTA, and Metro is more regional connections and less Central City. Bike lanes are not the answer in most cases, low stress streets and reduced speeds are more important, and these need to connect to destinations that are local. We still need to have connections to other areas but those are less important for her region. Improving bicycling also improves pedestrian safety. We need to move to a true multi-modal approach. That means safe places to walk, to bicycle, and to drive.

    I would suggest that we work toward reclaiming the streets for all users. The opportunistic painting of bike lanes no longer works, we need more thought and planning, and well implemented plans to accomplish this.

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  • q`Tzal June 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Perhaps there is a different, and here blasphemous, way to look at this Sidewalks > Bike Lanes debate:
    With a complete sidewalk network it is easier to slow people down.
    By that I mean that given a option for short trips of walking or driving, where time spent is often equal, a safe and complete pedestrian system would win out for all but the most lazy because it is cheaper and more simple.

    Maybe we ought to be looking at walking as the “gateway drug” to greater social acceptance of cycling.
    Once it becomes socially normal to walk to a nearby destination rather than driving for everything bicycling becomes a more attractive option. Since walking has such a low cost of entry for individuals it is easier, with some infrastructure investments, to get people on foot first and then lusting for bicycles afterwards.

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    • BURR June 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      What I object to is that pedestrians and cyclists are left to fight over the table scraps – either funding dollars for infrastructure improvements or space in the right of way – only after motorists are fully provided for.

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      • q`Tzal June 11, 2013 at 4:00 pm

        100% agreed.

        The long struggle against car culture won’t be won by attacking infrastructure: we all benefit directly or indirectly from all road projects no matter how much they may not help bikes or peds directly.
        We won’t eliminate sprawl, and thus encourage smart cost effective urban planning, by denigrating those that live there: far too often the cost of living in a dense urban area prices out those who would benefit most.
        In that bicycling is regarded by the majority as “not a viable travel mode” we need to redirect our assault on the Motor Mindset by getting people out of cars on to anything else. Once out of the car people act differently and we can reasonably expect much better support for bike and pedestrian issues.

        Congestion and expensive parking downtown make transit and walking attractive as a socially mundane travel mode; for the less dense urban and suburban areas we may need to lead with the carrot (top notch pedestrian facilities) and not the stick.

        We need to be working on a Critical Mass, not of cyclists, but of average people that don’t think of themselves as car drivers first.

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  • Joseph E June 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    “I think the reason bikelanes get put in before sidewalks, is bike lanes involve paint and are relatively cheap, whereas sidewalks are EXPENSIVE.”

    Right. Many of the roadways are already wide enough for 2 lanes and 2 bike lanes, with only a stripe of paint needed to define the bike lane.

    You COULD just put in a strip of paint and letter that said “sidewalk”, but that isn’t considered acceptable for walking. Building new concrete sidewalks can cost $1 million per mile for both sides of the street.

    The cheap solution would be to NARROW the effective roadway to less than 16 feet, so that only 1 car could pass at one time, and lower speed limits to less than 15 mph on residential streets. They could then function as pedestrian spaces, with cars as visitors (even bikes would need to go slower than usual). This would take money was well, and to be done right it might also cost $1 million per mile, though in this case it would serve as a complete street for driving, walking and biking access to homes.

    For busy collector and arterial streets, separation of modes with sidewalks and bikeways is the only solution, and will cost at least $1 million per mile.

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  • capizzi June 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    I appreciate her emphasis on encouraging children to bike/walk. This will only happen if the commute to school is perceived of as safe by parents.
    There are other choices than sidewalks or bikelanes. Maus has just presented photos of euro multi-use paths, some of which are segregated from vehicular traffic. I live on an undeveloped street in SE PDX (no sidewalks and don’t want them), and I use the Springwater corridor to commute downtown because it is quiet and removed from vehicular exhaust particulates. Not all multi-use paths are as chaotic as the esplanade in summer.

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  • Brooke June 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you for posting this information, Jonathan. It definitely paints a larger picture of the bike/pedestrian community in Portland Metro.

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  • AMA June 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I think that this is basic common sense and that if advocacy groups are just now learning this and haven’t been tuning their messaging and advocating for projects that help bridge this gap, then they aren’t doing their jobs. Ditto for bike/ped planners with the City. If you need Shemia Fagan to teach you these lessons, you have not been paying attention.

    An “inner/outer alliance” COULD be incredibly effective at motivating really significant improvements in bike/ped safety, access, and mobility in our region.

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    • Chris Anderson June 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      I really like what these folks are doing in the inner Eastside. They’ve stated they aren’t working in the outer Eastside because they don’t have the experience of riding out there. But I think they’d be thrilled to work with folks further out who share a vision of connected neighborhood greenways.

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      • Terry D June 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm

        Yes we would like to work with east Portland, particularly when it comes to crossing 82nd and local circulation to the I 205 MUP. What we are trying to do is create a integrated 20 MPH half-mile greenway grid with an ADA compliant sidewalk on at least one side. Including a budget for gravel road paving or micro-park building to enhance livability in the outer neighborhoods that “time has forgotten about.” The goal is neighborhood equity, which means spending money in different ways in different neighborhoods for different needs….but all with a focus creating an integrated safety corridor network….With a particular focus on schools, parks and commercial zones. Many times the greenways line up with commuter routes, but safety is more important than directness when dealing with school and park access. is a little sparse still (we are a young group)and our programmer is doing pedalpalooza…), but there is more information including our map links and cost estimates on FB:

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  • lda June 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I know, from past experience, that having a sidewalk in front of your house means you’re responsible for upkeep; making sure it’s safe, tree roots aren’t pushing it up etc. You pay for the maintenance. I personally don’t have a problem with that. It’s worth it to me. I’m curious though, when a new sidewalk is installed in front of a house does the resident pay for that or are they only responsible for future upkeep?

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    • davemess June 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      I imagine they are exactly like street paving in Portland, and the homeowner is stuck with the bill (and a more expensive bill at that, as they have to use city-approved contractors, and can’t bid out the job).
      I think both are a travesty. We live in a city. Cities provide services for their citizens. It’s the cities responsibility to take car of it’s roads and walks.

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    • Garlynn Woodsong June 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      Yes, the property is responsible for new sidewalk installation; or indeed for new street installation if the street is currently unpaved and paving is desired.

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      • ScottB June 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm

        Usually only on local streets, though every developer must bring their frontage up to current standards when building new or reconstructing over a certain threshold.

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    • Terry D June 11, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      Yes, the individual property owner is responsible for the build out and maintenance, which is why the sidewalk network is so disconnected. Since then house were built when the area were unincorporated and were not required to put them in then.

      Recently, development charges have been able to be redirected to instead of just having a sidewalk in front of the infill that connects to nowhere, they can pool the money and in theory build whole blocks of sidewalk that actually goes somewhere…but I have not seen this work in practice yet in this city. As far as maintenance goes, our own sidewalks were first put in about a century ago. I have had to spend $1500 in the last decade replacing blocks….but the replacements will last another century or more most likely. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

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  • Oregon Mamacita June 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Jonathan, I respect you for posting this article. You are not afraid of opposing points of view.

    I love bikes, but I reject “bike evangelism.” People who do not believe that biking is morally superior to car ownership are sometimes silenced in PDX. We need a “grounded” approach to biking, and a recognition that what works downtown may not work in more rural Eastside neighborhoods. Also welcome; emphasis on schoolchildren.

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    • Craig Harlow June 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Right–focusing on the the beneficial outcomes–rather than idolizing the vehicle itself–may just get a new segment of the population to pay attention.

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      • q`Tzal June 11, 2013 at 4:13 pm

        I want PBOT to do a study of the cost per mile per passenger of road damage various types and weights of non commercial vehicles do to our public roads. It needs to show realistic construction costing for wide arterial roads, MUPs, small streets and sidewalks.
        They need to show how much damage a bicycle could cause in a worst case scenario; I don’t know; a 350lb rider on skinny tires on hot soft asphalt.

        Many people won’t be environmentally guilted in to a carfree lifestyle; show everyone it is feasible and much cheaper and the problem will solve itself.
        Heck, I took up a mostly carfree daily lifestyle mainly because I have a horrible history of junker cars. I had a Buick that broke down so often in the rural south that I called it the SS Minnow: about every 3 hours of driving I’d be stranded in the middle of nowhere.

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        • was carless June 12, 2013 at 11:07 am

          You know, its not really PBOT’s job to do research. Research is more the purview of universities and other organizations than the city’s street repair division.

          PSU has an entire department devoted to urban planning, where it is ranked in the top 10 in the US. As part of the planning department, they do research on transportation methods, and they get some very influential speakers to come, including Jarrett Walker from

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          • q`Tzal June 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

            You are seeing this study idea of mine as an urban planning level project; it most certainly is a roadway engineering project calling in to work deep numerical skills and clinical scientific analysis.
            For some reason, possibly poor PR on the part of the urban planning field, urban planning doesn’t strike me as the type of discipline geared towards empirical scientific research.

            The cost of our road systems, and who does pay for them, is as contentious and muddled as bike expert opinions on the best lube for a bike chain.
            The depth and comprehensiveness of study we need is on the same order of detail and thoroughness as the John Hopkins study from 1999 where the researcher bench tested bike chain efficiency varying tension and both sprocket sizes showed a peak efficiency of 98.6% bottoming out at 81%.

            Is this something that a private college’s urban planning department is up to or is this the sort of task that any Official Department of Transportation owes taxpayers so we and they know with certainty that funding is being invested wisely?

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    • My Magic Hat June 13, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      That’s the first smart comment I’ve seen you post. Agree 100%.

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  • Robert L. June 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    She brings up a few good points in the interview. That being said, when house hunting I found outer SE Portland to be a pretty prime location for a bike commuter. I found a nice little house, two houses away from the 205 path and just about a mile from the Springwater trail junction.

    No, my house doesn’t have a sidewalk, and I honestly don’t miss it.

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  • wsbob June 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Some really well designed, spacious multi-use paths is what it sounds as though Rep. Fagan is hearing the people in the district she represents, are feeling the need of. Nothing trendy or overly fancy, but just something for local use, people can walk, bike or take a wheelchair along without risk of being crashed into.

    Doing the planning and negotiating necessary to create something like that is a great idea.

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  • Champs June 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Ms. Fagan should understand that there is no monolithic “bike culture” that benefits from safe streets. Most people are just using bikes to get from A to B, wherever those end points happen to lay.

    For that matter, the connection between bike lanes and Pedalpalooza is as tenuous as between road lanes and street racing.

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    • longgone June 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Thank you, Champs.

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  • Paul Manson June 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I thought her points were spot on. We still have a strong commute model in our thinking (e.g. Commute to Work Month) and we still have a model of the city that is hub and spoke. Both are not as valid these days in my mind. Its even shifted for me personally as I started a family – what makes a trip is radically redefined and no longer seems as bike friendly.

    I do like her note about the culture. And while we can’t say there is a monolithic culture – there is a strong set of shared ideals around what bikes can and should do. And sometimes those ideal overreach reality – bikes won’t save the world – people will if they chose and it will be dependent on their own contexts. Its something I worry about in policy debates because bikes almost take on a panacea like quality – and that almost never ends well.

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    • davemess June 11, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Good points about the hub and spoke Paul. And one of the major reasons we lack many decent, efficient N-S bikeways on most of the east side.

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  • dwainedibbly June 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    A few good points, but she needs to understand that the “enemy”, from a neighborhood livability standpoint, isn’t the bikes, it’s the cars. She says that she doesn’t see bikes as a problem, but then she goes on to imply exactly that.

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    • Mamacita June 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Really? Cars are the enemy? Not crime and graffiti? IMHO, you did not listen to Ms. Fagan with the kind of open mind that Jonathan Maus did. The push back against putting scarce transport dollars towards biking is not about bikes- it is about one group feeling entitled to force major lifestyle changes on another group. You want to demonize this biker for also owning a car? Well, right back at ‘ya. I think that the more radical bikers have a real issue with civil liberties. US out of my uterus, PDX out of my garage.

      Mamacita: Please be careful with your tone and your words with other commenters. This is an important discussion and I don’t want to see it devolve and get personal. Stay nice and calm. Thanks. — Jonathan

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      • Chris I June 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm

        I think you are reading what you want to read in his comment. I believe he is implying that cars are the enemy because cars get the vast majority (90+%) of funding for infrastructure in this city.

        We shouldn’t be sucking money away from successful active transportation infrastructure in the central city to build infrastructure on the east side, we should be raising additional funding with new taxes. Children walking to David Douglas should be as safe as the ones walking to Grant.

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      • longgone June 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

        uhhh…. Pardon me Mamacita,
        I own a 50 year old car what turns high 9’s and low 10’s in the Quarter mile,… so what?
        Leave your “angry car defense” fueled by misaligned guilt at the door.
        And are you sure about Mr. Maus’ intent here? Did he whisper it to you?
        None of us want in your garage or your uterus, btw.

        longgone: Please be careful with your tone and your words with other commenters. This is an important discussion and I don’t want to see it devolve and get personal. Stay nice and calm. Thanks. — Jonathan

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        • longgone June 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

          …fire with fire, as they say..
          besides, I am calm and nice,… most of the time.

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      • Craig Harlow June 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

        Who exactly is trying to force a lifestyle change on anyone?

        Do you not favor making streets safer for all users and providing more travel option for everyone, especially those with limited mobility, funds, voices, and political influence?

        While better bike lanes are pretty good tools for achieving those goals, so are improved sidewalks and other walking paths, and more effective and accessible public transit, as well as the removal of massive public subsidies of auto parking, petroleum, and roadway construction.

        Please ignore anybody who is acting like a bike evangelist, turn away from them, and instead push your government to start prioritizing everyone’s health, safety, and mobility.

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    • longgone June 11, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      @ d-dibbly,…right one. pre-xactly. and amen.

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    • davemess June 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      I don’t think that’s what she is implying at all. She’s not talking about PDX putting in bike infrastructure for neighborhood livability, because many times that’s not what they’re doing. She is stating (and uses her own personal experience) that simply adding bike infrastructure pointed downtown is not that helpful to outer neighborhoods, where it would take a very long time for the average rider to get downtown. Thus she is stating that many times the city is too focused on funding projects focused on commuting, at the expense of neighborhood livability projects (ie. schools, sidewalks, etc.)

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  • Fred Lifton June 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    I can’t really fault Rep. Fagan too much for believing in the “bike culture” stereotypes. Those stereotypes are constantly advanced in the pages of the O, on talk radio, on local and network TV. They are further advanced by highly visible events like WNBR and Pedalpoolaza. (I’m not saying those things are bad, I’m saying they’re very visible.) Those stereotypes are very useful to the (mostly Conservative) opponents of active transportation because they create a wedge, an Us and a Them.

    I just wish like hell that the Rob Sadowsky’s of the world would be more proactive, even aggressive, in debunking those stereotypes for what they really are: useful fictions. I’m sure all of us ordinary, middle-aged folk who wear pants while cycling in East Portland would really welcome that.

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    • Chris I June 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      I laughed when she thought it was relevant to mention WNBR during a transportation discussion. She doesn’t really get what cycling commuting is about. I have been commuting from Hollywood out to Gresham regularly for the last five years. I have observed a significant increase in bike traffic east of I-205 along Burnside during this time. These people do not identify with Portland bike “culture”. They are just saving money and getting exercise. This is what bike lanes are about in outer-east Portland. They are worthy investments, because they save commuters, and the city money.

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      • Paul in the 'couve June 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm

        Right, you can count me in that category as well. But… there is a community in PDX and on this blog that promote “Bike Culture” that is specifically about being crazy, different, naked etc. It is not appealing and not helpful in promoting cycling to the wider population. Yes, I know that “bike culture” isn’t what commuting, or cycling or safe streets are all about. I recognize it is difficult for non-cycling people to make those distinctions however. When all 4 local news channels and the Empty O run stories on WNBR, and Pedalpalooza and WNBR are major stories on BikePortland, I can forgive people for not making the distinction between a particular subculture of bike enthusiasts and the universe of cyclists and advocacy of cycling transportation and safe streets.

        Frankly, many people commenting regularly here at BikePortland could do much better at making the same effort regarding people and distinctions. I regularly see comments generalizing and judging people based on what bike they ride and how they dress especially if they ride drop bars, or ride faster than most. A lot of people aren’t into lycra and drop bar bikes. Ok, fine, and you think they give a bad impression of cycling. Fine. But realize that just as much flamboyant, counter-cultural and especially naked and pornographic bicycle culture gives a bad impression of cycling to a great many people as well.

        I’m not saying “stop” all I am saying is 1) don’t be so hard on people that are trying to understand but don’t make distinctions that seem obvious to us 2) think about laying off criticizing one group of cyclists for how they dress and ride and what they enjoy 3) take a look at our own riding and behavior and seriously consider what I can evangelize for cycling in my own neighborhood and circle of contacts.

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      • Joseph E June 11, 2013 at 8:21 pm

        Hey, that’s my commute! But I take max east in the AM and ride west on Burnside or the Springwater in the PM.

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  • BURR June 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I don’t get why these people don’t get that there are people who bicycle for many different reasons, and there really isn’t one type of infrastructure that works best for everyone.

    We need to be planning and designing future bike infrastructure facilities with more than one type of cyclist in mind, which to me means multiple types of facilities to meet the needs of multiple types of cyclists.

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    • davemess June 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Burr, who are “these people”. I think the rep. would agree with you and answer that she is championing multiple groups (not just people looking to bike commute band forth towards downtown).

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      • BURR June 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm

        I’m thinking in general about the debate in many other threads on this and other blogs between the need for fully separated facilities for the ‘interested but concerned’ vs. on-road facilities of various types (bike lanes, sharrows, etc.) for more experienced riders.

        But Rep. Fagan does state that the city is accommodating downtown commuters at the expense of neighborhood cyclists. I would actually dispute this, as the City has spent much more time and effort lately on neighborhood greenways rather than on through arterial routes.

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        • davemess June 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm

          True, but where have the majority of those greenways been built?

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  • Garlynn Woodsong June 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    There aren’t easy answers to the problems in East Portland. Normally, sidewalks are installed by the developer in the beginning, when a neighborhood is created from bare earth. In East Portland, Multnomah County was asleep at the wheel when the area developed, and did not require the installation of sidewalks. Now that the area has been annexed by the City of Portland, no sidewalks exist as a historical legacy — and indeed, many streets are unpaved for the same reason. The City has a policy that new developments must install a sidewalk in front of their property, and commit to paying for the paving of the street out front when the time comes. However, the time rarely comes — whole unpaved streets only get paved when a majority of property owners along the street vote to tax themselves to pay for the cost of paving; this works out to something along the lines of $350-550 per month over the life of the bond (I forget the term, maybe 10 years). This is obviously unaffordable for most folks who bought on an unpaved street for the low housing costs to begin with.

    So, these votes to pave are extremely rare; and sidewalk networks are rarely completed by the piecemeal addition of them as the result of new property developments.

    In the 1990s, Earl Blumenauer and Charlie Hales pushed through a “Cheap and Skinny Streets Program” that went through and paved narrow streets with one travel lane, one parking lane and one or two sidewalks… I think Charlie may be considering a similar program as a part of a new street maintenance fee; certainly, that would be a good use of those funds. At this point in time, it would seem that the need to complete the sidewalk network should trump any issues of equity involved in having the City not pay for what was originally the property owner’s responsibility… we all benefit from complete sidewalk networks.

    But yeah, it’s not at all bike lanes vs. sidewalks. Bike lanes are easy; the occur wholly on City-owned property (streets), and can be accomplished with paint only. Sidewalks are complicated because of the private ownership issue.

    Off-street paths are a good solution where the corridor exists, but those opportunities are rare, and limited generally to areas adjacent to freeways, waterways and railroad right-of-ways. Good for regional connections, not so good for intra-neighborhood connectivity (i.e. kids going to/from school).

    And bike culture? As far as I can tell, that’s like the county fair. You go (to events) if you want to participate; otherwise, you don’t go. It’s just that simple. Nothing’s being pushed on anybody… certainly not yet. Now, if we want to discuss taxing parking spaces to pay for bicycle infrastructure, THAT might qualify as “pushing”…

    Just my $0.02…

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    • Doug Klotz June 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Sidewalks are almost always also in the city Right-of-Way. It’s just that many people (especially in areas like East Portland that don’t have sidewalks) don’t realize how far outside the edge of the asphalt the public Right-of-way actually extends. In many cases it’s 10-15 feet on either side. That said, sidewalks are more expensive than bike lanes, as they require a gravel base and forms to pour. And, now that BES is under Federal court order to reduce combined sewer runoff, BES feels they are required to construct expensive stormwater facilities to capture the “polluted runoff” (rubber sole crumbs?) from these sidewalks, enormously increasing the expense. At least if the sidewalk replaces roadway (narrowing the lanes), on the other hand, there is no new ‘impervious surface’, and the runoff is not polluted, either. On narrower ROWs, the sidewalk may need to go outside the existing roadway, so yes it’ll be new impervious surface. It sometimes seems that BES would rather more people are driving (and polluting the roadway and the streams) than actually put in sidewalks to reduce driving. I’d be glad to be proven wrong on that point!

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  • are June 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    “fagan” with an “a.” or you can just cut and paste.

    when she talks about a culture being pushed on her constituents, she is describing perceptions, apparently not her own.

    her bottom line is getting kids to schools safely on some combination of sidewalks and bike infrastructure. nothing objectionable there. it is certainly the case that what “works” closer to the urban core would not “work” in the same way farther out.

    it is the case that at least until recently, most of PBoT’s effort on bike infrastructure has been focused much farther in. so someone sitting out in the hundreds might feel justified in thinking this has not been about them.

    any planning to improve the situation should engage the local constituency from the beginning, not be brought in as an accomplished fact (as the french would say).

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    • longgone June 12, 2013 at 8:20 am

      …oops with an “a”. sorry.

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  • Dan June 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Two of her points stand out: those in East Portland feel (with some justification) that the rest of Portland could care less about them and that the best way to proceed would be to start at the schools and work out so we can get the kids safely to school.
    As recent example of the disconnect with the rest of Portland, the latest edition of Via (the monthly magazine of Portland AAA) had a cover article on East Portland. They “ventured out of the downtown core and RODE THE STREETCAR along SE Grand”. I live in Woodstock with many friends living further east, and I cringe every time I hear about yet ANOTHER project going in downtown, or an expansion of the neighborhood greenway system stretching all the way to Foster Powell. Many in East Portland feel they were snatched up by the City, taxed, and told THEY were responsible for improving their infrastructure up to Portland’s standards. When Portland required the removal of septic systems (common out here) and connection to the city sanitary system, the city provided an inexpensive loan to accomplish that; many would be happy to get sidewalks and paving if the same would be done for that.

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  • Cora Potter June 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I think the key thing Rep. Fagan is trying to hammer home is that East Portland needs local circulation and accessibility in the form of sidewalks and bike facilities. And, the problem is every time the planners show up, they frame the entire project around mobility and long distance travelmoving people out of East Portland to get them to the places “people” want to go – which aren’t actually the places East Portland residents want to go in their own neighborhoods.

    The way bike lanes are being implemented in East Portland (Foster Road is a good example of the focus being on bike commuting rather than business district short trips/circulation) aren’t addressing the real needs in East Portland. And it’s not just with bike lanes. The planners/engineers involved with the Streetcar System plan had a really hard time getting their heads around using streetcar for local circulation (what streetcars are good at) in East Portland and kept pushing “Rapid Streetcar” schemes with limited stops and the aim of getting people to the Central City as fast as possible.

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    • BURR June 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      “The way bike lanes are being implemented in East Portland (Foster Road is a good example of the focus being on bike commuting rather than business district short trips/circulation) aren’t addressing the real needs in East Portland.”

      I completely disagree. Bicycle infrastructure on arterials like Foster is not meant just to get people through the district and to downtown; but also, to give people living in the local neighborhood safe access to local destinations on arterials like Foster, which is the main commercial street in the neighborhood.

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    • wsbob June 11, 2013 at 11:33 pm

      I think Cora Potter has summarized Rep Fagan’s thoughts about needs expressed by people in her district, well. I believe Potter is in fact saying that residents’ expressed interest in type of transportation infrastructure, both bike and streetcar, that they would like for their neighborhoods, is that which would aid them primarily in getting around the neighborhood, rather than beeline them from their neighborhood to Downtown Portland.

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  • TOM June 11, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I agree with most of what Rep.
    Fagan had to say and am happy that she represents us out here. Hopes are that Hales will show us a little more love than Adams did.
    SE Main St. from 139th to 148th is flat and straight, the kids use it for a drag/testing strip. I tried to bring it up with Sam and got back an email (wish I’d saved it) to the effect that nobody has ever driven over 35MPH on Main and they have aerial surveillance to prove it. And if I wanted a speed bump… $800 , please. Essentially = Fu*k You, Go Away.

    Then they put that joke bike lane on Holgate …maybe somebody has used it, but I’ve never seen it.

    I don’t miss sidewalks, but a little attention in return for our property taxes would be nice.

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    • Joseph E June 11, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      I rode on that part of Holgate today. My co-worker lives right on there, and has to ride on Holgate for at least for a block or two to go anywhere.

      I believe they reason they put in the bike line (and changed the configuration from 4 to 3 lanes) was mainly to get rid of the drag-strip problem that you were complaining about on Main street. There really was no other use for all that space – you can’t do diagonal parking because the street parking is barely utilized (I saw only a handful of cars along there at 6 pm today).

      On the positive side, Mill Street between 139th and 148th is supposed to become a “neighborhood greenway” (formerly a “bike boulevard) with traffic calming and other improvements. I have riden this route to get home from Gresham to NE Portland (instead of Burnside), but the traffic is too fast, as you mentioned. At least that street may be getting some traffic calming, 1/4 mile south of Main.

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    • Terry D June 11, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Adams did a LOT for east Portland, it just has not trickled down yet. Funding streams take time. If it is local money for small projects it can be done fairly fast if needed but big projects in this self imposed “age of austerity” requires going through channels and applying for funds.

      This is ‘East Portland in Motion” which is a community based plan that had input from hundreds of east Portland residents that was funded and pushed through by Sam Adams.

      If completely built over the next five years, which the city has applied for full funding from multiple sources, this is the greenway network east Portland will have by 2018 (wish we could move faster than a snails pace…but that is the way money is allocated in this society).

      Currently the city has $27 million and is hoping for the full $38 million to invest over the next five years.

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      • longgone June 12, 2013 at 8:26 am

        Actually, it was when SA was on city council, and I was still living on the SE side that I fell in “super like” with the man, listening to him moderate discussions there. I think he did have a lot of solid ideas for the SE.

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  • Eastsider June 11, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    bikes vs. sidewalks is a FALSE CHOICE!!! building and maintaining our ever expanding system of roads/ sprawl/ businesses for motoring is hundreds of times more expensive every year and cost our society billions in externalized costs. the idea that the bicycle is a symbol of an urban elitist is bullshit. it represents the most efficient, economical and democratic form of transportation on the planet. with many american families now spending 1/3 of their income on buying/financing/insuring/fixing/parking/gassing their car(s), bicycles can absolutely be of great benefit to people of lower income. bicycles are NOT the enemy of sidewalks and don’t let politicians use that rhetoric!! its absurd. and as far as bicycle infrastructure spending being higher in downtown – thats not necessarily true. the actual “downtown” business district sucks for bicycling. however, the close-in neighborhoods have seen a lot of bicycle paint in the last decade. this is because thats where the density is. bicycle infrastructure in outer east portland, which is suburban density, is much more expensive per capita of the people is serves.

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    • davemess June 12, 2013 at 9:17 am

      How much time have you spent in east Portland? It can be pretty dense in spots. It’s not downtown, but many of it’s areas have high amounts of apartments, small lot houses, and condos. Happy Valley it is definitely not!

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      • Cora Potter June 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

        This frustrates me too Dave. East Portland has equal or greater housing density than inner NE Portland in most places – and more actual people on average per housing unit. There isn’t even a justification for calling East Portland a suburb based on the distance from the Central City. East Portland is not suburban – it’s urban.

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        • davemess June 12, 2013 at 10:30 am

          I have found that odd, even on this thread people are referring to East Portland as the suburbs (knowing many people in Portland this doesn’t particularly surprise me though). Can a city be it’s own suburb?!?!?!?!

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          • Cora Potter June 12, 2013 at 10:37 am

            I think it’s a method of cognitively thinking of East Portland as “that place” or “other” combined with assigning a single word descriptor that translates to “place I would not want to live”. It allows inner Portland folks to distance themselves from the revenue raiding they’ve participated in and assign blame for the current state of disinvestment in East Portland on “those people who live in the suburbs”.

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          • longgone June 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm

            I find it amazing in a city, (with some of the SHORTEST blocks I have ever seen!) that people who live in the 80s-120s think they are removed from “culture” less than 5- 8 miles away!
            I am going to assume that I may be one of the people you are speaking of here “davemess”,… so let me explain my view….
            Suburban culture is a mindset that was developed by politicians and bankers to romanticize a false sense of independence for people wishing to escape urban ties both socially and politically.
            It destroyed inner citys’, while ruining farmland as well.
            It is still trying to keep its ugly head above water.
            White flight,cars,lawns,lawnmowers,PTA,shopping malls, etc.. all contribute to a state of mind that allows people distance from many things they choose not to engage with,…. including their very own neighbors.

            Suburbia is a mindset…. It is a classic us vs.them cop-out.
            It is a cancer that has manifested in the heart of the now popular American “Cant Do” attitude.
            Certainly you must care about transportation choices or you wouldn’t be on this website.
            Certainly it has to be obvious that people living in your neighborhood would benefit greatly with options that quicken their movement, provide healthier living, and offer more choices than just owning a car.
            I lived at 82nd and Prescott for a long time, and rode to all points in every direction from there.
            I will ride my bike everyday no matter what Portland’s future holds,.. No matter what amount of infrastructure develops or not.
            But I will be sad for all people Portland, if elected officials are afraid to challenge the current mindset and accept the status quo, while impeding progress in areas that could be greatly enhanced.

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            • davemess June 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm

              Not exactly sure where this rant is going? You did above infer that you grew up in the suburbs (as did I), and then were comparing that to East Portland. I don’t think there is ANYONE that moved to east Portland to escape the “perils” of the big bad city (what you call the “suburban mindset). So yes, I disagree with people labeling east portland as the suburbs. Happy Valley, Hillsboro, Lake O, Vancouver. Those are the suburbs.

              And life is different when you live in the 120s. You can’t honestly tell me that you think the city has been fair in doling our services and infrastructure when comparing east portland to inner portland. And yes, the major economic differences between the two can be a HUGE gap in the “cultural” differences.

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              • Paul in the 'couve June 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm

                Thumbs up except for Civic pride requires me to insist Vancouver isn’t a “suburb” although I agree in some degree people use it like one…. Not to argue, just standing up for the first settlement in the Northwest.

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    • davemess June 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

      Not exactly a wasteland of population.

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  • Cora Potter June 12, 2013 at 9:02 am

    BURR – the problem isn’t having bike lanes on Foster. The problem is the engineers are listening to the bike commuters and placing their preferences ahead of the needs of local access users. The result is Foster is probably going to see a bike lane that doesn’t provide the feeling of safety or leisure for concerned users, doesn’t provide ease of access to neighborhood greenways, creates the same situation we currently have on Williams where buses frequently pulling across the bike lane, and is right against a single traffic lane that has to carry thousands of cars per hour. That type of bike lane really only serves daily commute riders that are interested in using Foster as a cut-through alternative to the Center greenway or the Springwater Trail to get downtown.

    In order to serve the local businesses along foster, you need a cycle track that provides local access for the long blocks and has safe approaches from the side streets – the bulk of the local users are actually traveling most of the way to Foster on side streets, not on Foster itself. I live on Holgate near Eastport Plaza. When I want to go to Bar Carlo, I don’t ride to Foster and then take Foster all the way to 65th. I take the Center greenway to 65th and then go to Foster. The streets I use to access Foster most frequently are 87th, Raymond to 79th or 72nd, or Center to points west of 72nd. The same holds true for areas South of Foster – you take 1 or 2 streets to the point on Foster you want to access.

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    • davemess June 12, 2013 at 9:21 am

      You bring up Williams (and I know there has been way too much discussion about it especially on this site), but even though you view it as focused on commuters (which I think it caters to for sure) there are many new bike-friendly or bike-oriented businesses going up on Williams (New Seasons, HUB, there’s a bike B&B, multiple bike shops, etc.). So to say that William’s is not also being used for access to neighborhood locations is just not true.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 12, 2013 at 9:29 am

        And I’ll add that we should be very careful to not start painting road users with big brushes and making generalizations about them based on what type of vehicle they use.

        This happened in an ugly way IMO during the Williams discussions. The idea that “those cyclists are just riding through OUR neighborhood” and vice versa “those motorists are just driving through OUR neighborhood.” When we start making those kind of statements/assumptions we are not at our best.

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      • Cora Potter June 12, 2013 at 9:33 am

        Dave – I don’t view the future Williams bike lanes as focused on commuters. The existing Williams bike lane configuration is focused on commuters and because of that it is creating conflicts with the needs of the local users (and the commuters because of the bus pull out issue). They’re fixing Williams. Why would we want to duplicate the broken version of Williams on Foster? That’s the direction the current proposed cross-sections are going.

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        • davemess June 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

          Foster and Williams are not exactly perfect matches though. Am I wrong that there are twice as many bus lines on Williams (4 & 44) as there are on Foster (only 14), right? Is there even the most liberal estimate that bike traffic on Foster will even be half of what is on Williams in the future?

          Many on here would argue that they aren’t really fixing Williams and it is going to be more confusing and dangerous than before. Personally I have always thought Williams was/is fine (and it’s current set up is a huge step up from current Foster). I know others strongly disagree with me.

          I get your argument and think it has merit (as far as concerned people not wanting to bike in a bike lane on Foster). I just look at Williams and I don’t think that has happened. Cycling has not be stunted, and the area is booming with new bike-centric businesses. I don’t know if this is possible on Foster, but you never know. It’s great to get different sides of these issues, thanks for contributing.

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      • Paul in the 'couve June 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

        Interesting point in this discussion. It sounds like we are really talking about the philosophy of streets vs. roads. Complete streets advocates have been talking about local, slow and businesses fronted on the right away for a while. Meanwhile much of the push for bike facilities on Williams in particular was oriented at moving traffic.

        I don’t suppose the tension between these ideas is going to go away, but also they aren’t mutually exclusive either because they are both about making streets safer, slower and less car dominated. I think two things are likely to happen eventually (and should happen).

        First is the more explicit recognition that reducing car domination really has to be associated with locating people, jobs and amenities closer together. As I’ve become more reliant on a bike while living in Vancouver, I’ve had to realize that means not taking some trips I used to take and finding alternatives closer to home OR living within what I have within reach. This will somewhat reduce the need for fast corridors.

        Second, we will get back to “Side street” development – another concept lost to auto-culture. I can think of dozens of small towns around the Northwest and particularly Eastern WA and MT where even before paved highways the town was laid out with the main road going along one side of downtown and the shopping streets perpendicular to that. You can also see this orientation with rail road tracks in some towns. In car culture, if cars can’t see it, it doesn’t exist and we have insisted businesses be on the main thorough fairs. As we move away from this I think we will have the businesses on the quieter local streets and the main transit through streets will be elsewhere and probably mostly perpendicular to the shopping streets.

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    • BURR June 12, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Not everyone rides the way you do, nor do they want to. Instead of selfishly promoting only the type of facility you would prefer, how about insisting that the city provide both types of facilities?

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      • Cora Potter June 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

        BURR – that is the point. The folks that want to ride fast into downtown are dominating and we’re not getting the type of bike facilities we need in East Portland because of it. I use myself as an example, because I live there and bike or walk for pretty much all trips within 2 miles of my home. The rest of the time I take transit and occasionally use car share.

        In the case of Foster they’re going to stripe a bike lane that accommodates the commuters and call that good for everyone- then move on and leave us for a decade or more with no investment that addresses the needs of folks that want to bike for local access. And, the projected number of users of that basic bike lane (with or without buffer) is really low.

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        • Nick Falbo June 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm

          Cora, I believe the bike lane proposal isn’t there out of any intentional goal to accomodate ‘commuters’ at the expense of local users. I believe it reflects A) the small toolkit of available tools and B) the lack of political will and $ to do the right design, rather than the easy design.

          You’ll be pleased to hear that the Bike Advisory Committee was clear last night that bike lanes were not enough for Foster Road. To get something better though, we’d need to convince the City that we’re worth it and convince the neighbors that it’s worth whatever delay a better design might bring.

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          • Cora Potter June 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm

            Nick, I’d like to believe you, but I think the intent is to grab onto any comment from a commute rider and use it to dismiss the comments of folks that want local access- it’s an familiarity heuristic issue. The engineers can’t think of or haven’t worked on examples of what is needed, so they default to what they know and look for public comment that supports that choice while discarding other comments into the “unfeasible/not worth exploring” pile.

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            • davemess June 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm

              It isn’t an either/or with commute and/or local access. They can coexist. As we discussed above I think Williams/Vancouver is a decent (albeit not perfect) example of this. People use the bike lane to get to local businesses on those streets. Adding bike lanes or buffered bike lanes to Foster is going to improve access to Bar Carlo or the Bob White, or even Lents town center for people on bikes. Yes it’s probably not going to accommodate everyone, but given the choices within the budget (I think we all agree that the attempt at a cycletrack was not good all around), the only other option is to do nothing?

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          • davemess June 12, 2013 at 4:34 pm

            Count me in the not a fan of delay camp. How many decades has it taken to get to the point of actually looking to put bike lanes in. And how many more would we have to wait to do it “right” as you say, in an environment of increasingly tight fiscal restraint?

            I guess I’m a little confused as to whether people have opposition to using Foster as more of a bike arterial (faster speeds, maybe less separation) if there were plans to increase other routes nearby that would cater to a more concerned crowd. I don’t think you’re going to be able to please everyone with just one road. And given that the process is finally moving, I am very much in favor of getting something done that will improve the road.

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        • BURR June 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm

          Uh, it’s already legal to ride on the sidewalk on SE Foster, what’s stopping you from doing that now? And it’s already a lot safer on the sidewalk than in the street, so if this was really about safety, an in-road bike facility would be the hands-down first choice.

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          • Cora Potter June 13, 2013 at 7:04 am

            It’s actually difficult to ride on the sidewalks at the points that are accessed most frequently because the businesses have put out 6-8 ft picnic tables on the sidewalk narrowing the area that’s open, especially where there are staple and paper boxes.

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            • BURR June 13, 2013 at 12:54 pm

              Well in that case the city shouldn’t be issuing permits for the tables, signs, etc. that clutter up the ROW. Let the businesses do that on their own property.

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      • davemess June 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm

        agree 100% Thanks for pointing that out Burr.

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      • davemess June 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

        Seems like we finally got the best of both worlds with the Sellwood bridge (as long as the build it as originally planned with 4 bike areas total).

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    • Chris I June 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      I think your blame for the “bike lanes not cycle tracks” decision is entirely misguided. Yes, there is a vocal minority that advocates for sharrows on arterials and bike lanes over cycle tracks, but the vast majority of “inner city” commuter cyclists prefer separated infrastructure. The issue is allocation of street space and funding. This is where you should be focusing. I would love for Foster to include cycle tracks, with proper intersection treatments (Foster is a great candidate for dutch-style roundabouts), but the city is not allocating enough funding to the project to accomplish this, and the Lents neighborhood will flip out if you take away all of the street parking.

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      • Cora Potter June 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm

        Guess what Chris I – the Lents neighborhood isn’t the source of every and all types of opposition to changes on Foster. A lot of us really don’t give a hoot about maintaining every last parking space, and are kinda miffed that preserving parking west of 72nd is being used as an excuse to jettison better bike solutions for the entire corridor, better crossing treatments and better transit stops. Are there spots where parking should be maintained – yes, particularly where it effects long standing businesses that have relied on auto traffic for decades and sell products that one really only can take home by auto. Are there spots where the parking can be reduced to provide a better balance between bikes/peds/autos etc. Definitely yes, and some of those spots are East of 82nd, and most folks in Lents would likely support that if it meant we get standard sidewalks, room for trees, bus shelters and street furniture, and bike facilities that integrate with the Ellis greenway and fix the gaps we have in our current set up and give people options for getting around our business district (rather than just focus on getting people to the 205 path). Nobody parks on Foster in the stretch between 80th and 87th right now because it really is a big gamble on whether you’ll come back to find your car intact. So, it’s really not a loss of parking anyway.

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        • Chris I June 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm

          I would be amazed if the majority of business owners along SE Foster would accept parking removal, primarily because this has been the position of 90% of the businesses in the city. The only exceptions have been in neighborhoods that already have high bike modal share, and Lents is not one of them. Perhaps you can do an informal poll of your businesses and give the results to PBOT to help influence their decision?

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          • davemess June 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm

            Note that the Lents section of the streetscape project is only about 1/4th. The rest is in Foster-Powell and Mt Scott-Arleta.

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            • Cora Potter June 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm

              If you’re going to split hairs, you forgot Creston Kenilworth – so technically the project splits up to about 1/8th Creston Kenilworth, 3/8ths Foster-Powell (they only get the North side of the street), 1/4 Mt. Scott-Arleta, and 1/4 Lents.

              That doesn’t make the Lents portion seem so diminutive, does it?

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        • Terry D June 14, 2013 at 8:43 am

          Cora, I have seen your interaction with issues here before and find your local comments very informative. This is the bikeway conductivity (greenways plus bike lane) system we came up with for the Fosterstreetscape and the surrounding greenways. We have had significant local input, but are interested in your opinion of our recommendations.


          Of course, it is taken from the large greenway grid network here:

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          • Cora Potter June 14, 2013 at 10:00 am

            Hi Terry,

            It looks very similar to some stuff I’ve been mulling around on Google Maps.


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      • BURR June 12, 2013 at 5:28 pm

        “…the vast majority of “inner city” commuter cyclists prefer separated infrastructure…”

        And you know this exactly how? Source please…

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    • Paul in the 'couve June 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      I’ll be very very happy when somewhere in the PDX area we build a street with this level of commitment to trying to build the best facility we can. The old “paint is cheaper” method is only going to take us so far, and up til now, Seattle looks likely to kick PDX but in taking it to the next level and putting $$ behind projects that truly transform a streetscape.

      With that I acknowledge that we are likely to learn from mistakes as we roll out such projects. This one in Indy probably has design flaws especially at intersections. BUT it is a huge step forward in doing something demanding and not just begging off because of power poles in the right-of-way.

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  • Cora Potter June 12, 2013 at 10:59 am

    There are twice as many named bus lines on Williams, but not twice as much service. The 4 has of frequent service, but the best it does is ramps up to 13 minute intervals during PM peak, with just a couple 10 minute intervals in the AM and PM peak – it’s pretty much 15 minutes at best for the duration of the day. The 14 is 15 minutes or better all day with a lot of 10 minute intervals and gets to 8-9 minute intervals . The 44 has some increase in service at the peak, but runs hourly mid day. I’d do the math, but I’d say there’s marginally more bus service on Williams, but nowhere near double.

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  • Evan June 12, 2013 at 11:26 am

    If kids (and their parents) don’t think it’s safe for kids to walk to school when they are young, chances are they won’t be walkers when they get older. Or cyclists. And the circle of reliance on the car continues.

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    • longgone June 12, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Thank you Evan !
      This speaks to the heart of the matter, plain and simple.

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  • Thomas June 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Lot’s of non-eastsiders have weighed in – but here my perspective as someone who actually lives on the Eastside (114th & burnside), commutes to work by bicycle (work is in beaverton, I ride to downtown…) and has a child. Burnside is the ONLY east-west route in and out of east portland. All other major arterials have too high of traffic volumes, no bicycle infrastructure and are generally hazardous for riders. My neighborhood (ventura park) has plenty of sidewalks, but if I want to take my son on a ride to anywhere other than the park, forget it. I’m not comfortable as a parent at taking a new rider onto the bikelanes on burnside nor can I take an inexperience rider to any other destination because there is 0 bicycle infrastructure. The neighborhoods are not designed to permit the easy flow of bicycle traffic from one neighborhood to the next – really its a mess. But much could be solved with paint – more could be done with more expensive options. Perhaps Rep. Fagan should talk to some of us that actually bike on the eastside and discuss what is and is not working.

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    • davemess June 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Great points Thomas. I think that highlights the need for more neighborhood greenways (like every 10 blocks or so), and supports the idea that yes we need different types of bike structure for different people and one size fits all will not work.

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      • Terry D June 14, 2013 at 8:27 am

        The “Ten block” greenway grid network is what we have come up with at If you look at the “Completed network” grid, the greenways and paths are in green….but require gravel road infill and path construction.

        To do the same thing in East-Portland the five year greenway build out of “East Portland in Motion” would need to be augmented with protected cycle-tracks on main arterials. The cul-de-sac nature and suburban style development creates a lot of dead ends that are not easily connected like they are in “Central Portland” as we call it, or “Inner East” as the city labels it. Once Built, The “East Portland in Motion” greenway plan will connect the disparate neighborhoods safely, but since we do not seem to want to properly fund our infrastructure it is going to take five years to do. The “three M’s” is supposed to be built this year that will connect the Lincoln-Harrison greenway with Gresham via Market-Main-Mill. That will create a lower volume east-west bikeway at least. I live near 70th and E Burnside, the bikelanes may be fast but they are not family friendly.

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  • jocko June 12, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Hey this is great! I live on Bush at around 122nd and I have to say that the neighborhood greenway is a total joke for Pedestrians. No sidewalks and you basically just have to trust that people are just not going to hit you while they try to hit 50mph between speed bumps. I do feel comfortable riding on these streets, but I am a fairly strong rider with many seasons under my backpack straps. For people just getting into riding I imagine these streets would be daunting.

    For my tax $$ I would like to see Neighborhood Greenways also have these features:

    -20% more speed bumps. People are literally hitting 50mph between the bumps at 120th and 117th on bush.

    -At least one side of the street with a continuous side walk.

    -More enforcement of the new 20mph rule.

    -Education for people who live on the route about driving around people on bikes.

    One final gripe! Try and get from 122nd to 82nd anywhere between Holgate and Division with a kid or baby in tow. You will for sure feel scared at at least one point.

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  • TOM June 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    a little OT ..
    they finished up a PED XING on 122 at the Midland Library about 2 months ago …GREAT !!! , but they never came back and activated the yellow flashing strobe lights. The control buttons just sit there wrapped in yellow tape.
    Anybody know when they are going to finish the job ??

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  • Dave June 13, 2013 at 7:18 am

    And none of these ideas will be worth a damn unless the city/county/state is willing to aggressively CONTROL THE BEHAVIOR OF MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATORS. Accommodating prey species better is futile without predator control.

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  • Matt June 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    I think Rep. Fagan’s comments nailed it on the head pretty well. Her comments could have come from Milwaukie, Gladstone, Oregon City or any number of areas on the outskirts of Portland (if their leaders were only as smart and articulate as she). I’m glad that she understans that what is safe for cyclists is also safe for other modes/road users. That is a point that seems to be missed by many reluctant leaders outside the Portland Bike Bubble.

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  • TOM June 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    a little OT ..
    they finished up a PED XING on 122 at the Midland Library about 2 months ago …GREAT !!! , but they never came back and activated the yellow flashing strobe lights. The control buttons just sit there wrapped in yellow tape.
    Anybody know when they are going to finish the job ??

    Since nobody knew the answer, I emailed PBOT and got an answer and an posting it with their approval:

    Hi there,
    The only thing we’ve been waiting on is for the electric utility to actually provide power to the beacons. This should be occurring this week. The City works with private utilities to try to expedite things such as this – but we do work on their timelines with their business processes. Sometimes this can present challenges and delays.
    I am expecting the pedestrian beacons to be operational this week – though I will let you know if PGE is indicating further delay. At this point they feel that everything should be ready to go.

    Thank you,

    Kyle Chisek
    Project Management | Portland Bureau of Transportation
    1120 SW Fifth Ave Rm 800 | Portland, OR 97204

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  • TOM June 25, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Once again, today I’m crossing Division on 205 MUP going South …I turn on the yellow beacon lights and proceed slowly , lane closest to me stops, next lane a guy in big Chevy starts to fly past and then slams on brakes at the last moment , rubber smoke everywhere. Even the automated voice that turns on when you hit the button says “ may not stop for pedestrians” ….that’s where we need automated cameras.

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