Support BikePortland

Full median diverter coming to N Rosa Parks Way on Michigan Ave greenway

Posted by on July 9th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

A full median diverter would allow people on bikes to pass through, but would prohibit left turns by drivers from northbound on Michigan onto Rosa Parks and the I-5 freeway one block to the west.

“This was the first time I’ve ridden down Michigan during rush hour and it doesn’t inspire me with confidence to do it again when I pick up my son from school.”
— Noah Brimhall, Piedmont resident

Two years ago, the Bureau of Transportation proposed a full median on N Rosa Parks Way to reduce the number of drivers from Washington who use the Michigan Avenue neighborhood greenway as a cut-through to avoid the daily gridlock on Interstate 5. The median would prevent people headed northbound from turning left from Michigan onto Rosa Parks, and then onto the I-5 on-ramp just one block west.

But when the plan went in front of the neighborhood, some people felt that — despite its potential to improve safety and its ability to decrease the amount of Washington residents who speed through the neighborhood — a full median would be too much of an inconvenience to their daily driving patterns. So PBOT decided to install a partial median. The median and crosswalk installed today does help make the crossing safer; but as we reported last month, it hasn’t done enough to deter “regional drivers” from using Michigan as a gridlock-free I-5.

In fact, bicycling conditions on the Michigan neighborhood greenway remain underwhelming despite the addition of crossing treatments, speed bumps, and 20 mph speed limit signs.

Michigan neighborhood greenway-5

Drivers who use Michigan Ave as a way to avoid I-5
backups will no longer be able to get back
on the freeway at Rosa Parks.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Noah Brimhall, a Piedmont neighborhood resident who’s been working with PBOT to improve Michigan, was recently yelled at by a man driving a truck while he rode on Michigan with his three-year-old son in a trailer behind him. Last week, Brimhall shared his experience with PBOT project manager Ross Swanson via email and asked Swanson if the City had made any progress on plans to tame traffic:

… As I was riding my bike home (with my 3-year-old son in our trailer behind me) at about 5:15pm along Michigan between Holman and Rosa Parks I heard an engine rev behind me. As I approached two cars waiting to turn left onto Rosa Parks, the man driving the truck behind me leaned out is window and yelled “You should ride on the sidewalk!”. I answered him firmly in the negative and we had a brief, but not very pleasant discussion about why I was allowed to ride on the street.

Overall, this incident reinforced my thought that this street isn’t currently a welcoming place to ride your bike during the afternoon rush hour. I don’t know that diverters or any other traffic calming would have prevented this incident, but I think that the diverters earlier on the greenway and bollards on Rosa Parks would have made it a lot less likely. Also, I should note that this was the first time I’ve ridden down Michigan during rush hour and it doesn’t inspire me with confidence to do it again when I pick up my son from school on Wednesday.

To Brimhall’s (and my) surprise, Swanson replied to say that PBOT has decided to install the full concrete median diverter that was originally proposed back in 2011 (as opposed to just plastic bollards and paint Swanson said they were considering as of last month).

PBOT is historically very concerned about full diversion because of their fears that people will simply drive on adjacent streets and residents will complain (like we saw in the robust debate about diversion on the 50s Bikeway project). But as Brimhall’s story shows, if the City creates high-quality streets were people on bikes are prioritized and people in cars are guests, than fewer people would drive to begin with.

As someone who lives just five houses north of this intersection, I look forward to seeing the full median. I won’t believe it until I see it; but I’m happy to hear PBOT has made the right decision.

Read more coverage of neighborhood greenways.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

  • CaptainKarma July 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Imagine no Washington commuters…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paikikala July 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    What’s to prevent the commuters from using Missisippi to access Rosa Parks? Or Albina? Or Montana? Or Interstate? How far do we chase the problem, and is a neighborhood greenway project where we solve regional commute problems?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      The goal is to “chase” the problem to Albina… which is the appropriate street to use because it’s a larger street with a higher functional classification.

      As for “solving regional commute problems” on a n’hood greenway. I don’t know the answer to that.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brian July 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Will this allow cars to turn left onto Michigan from Rosa? Or, for that matter, to cross Rosa on Michigan?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Nope. We will no longer be able to turn north onto Michigan from eastbound Rosa Parks or south onto michigan from westbound Rosa Parks.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • lavie.lama July 9, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    The diagonal pass-through alignment on the diverter is a really clever design that I have not seen before. There are several others with straight cut throughs like this one in Sellwood that tons of people just drive right over.!q=sellwood&data=!1m8!1m3!1d3!2d-122.653065!3d45.465035!2m2!1f60.11!2f69.47!4f75!2m5!1e1!2m3!1sJuzvxhfA5x0VFv5q1PXGmw!2e0!7e11!4m11!1m10!4m8!1m3!1d178838!2d-122.654422!3d45.5434085!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!17b1&fid=5

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Spiffy July 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      as long as it’s not a problem with getting my trailer through there… usually diagonal means narrower, so we’ll have to see…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Allan July 9, 2013 at 5:06 pm

        I hope its big enough for a tandem to stop in the middle. That is a problem with some crossings

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Art Fuldodger July 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

          it’s shown in the diagram as the width of the 10’+ center turn lane, so yes, there’s room for a tandem, or a bike with a trailer.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Terry D July 11, 2013 at 8:35 am

            My bike with trailer is 13 feet long and it is not even a tandem, but point taken.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Paikikala July 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      I’ve seen a diagonal cut like that on the N Wabash greenway crossing Willis to N Hamlin.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Spiffy July 9, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    nobody has ever yelled at me to ride on the sidewalk, but my reply would be to yell at them to drive on the sidewalk…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Allan July 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      arguably you should tell them to drive on the freeway in this case

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Reza July 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate a good diverter, but what stops someone cutting through from making a quick U-turn immediately after turning right onto Rosa Parks from Michigan? I mean, sure, there may be signs saying it’s illegal, but will anybody pay attention to that? Will there be enforcement? It seems like people who are willing to cut through our neighborhoods to get home to Ridgefield maybe 5 minutes faster won’t respect the configuration.

    I think the median needs to be built all the way between I-5 and Albina.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • AndyC of Linnton July 10, 2013 at 9:45 am

    C’mon! It’s rush hour! All traffic laws-the little they are enforced in the first place- go right out the window during these times.
    I feel like a full diverter should be used here, and maybe when this fails to divert traffic, hope it will be implemented.

    I have a question: Why are the speed bumps used today those long, broad ones that most automobiles don’t need to slow for? I routinely see automobiles fly over these. Why not those old smaller ones? seems like you always had to actively slow for those.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • AndyC of Linnton July 11, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Read that wrong. Glad to see the full diverter going in. My question of the speed bumps still stands, but maybe that’s better placed on another thread.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • MaxD July 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I think this a great step forward toward improving cycling in North Portland and dealing with I-5 diversion. I hope PBOT will consider striping the automobile lane at 10.5′-11′ along Interstate in both directions from Killingsworth through the Rose Quarter. This is a major collector for a lot of North Portland’s growing bike community, and the route is choked with WA commuters. There are many stretches of this road with excess width that promote speeding, and a few dangerously narrow pinch points that appear without warning to cars/trucks/buses or bikes! A painted vehicle lane and maybe a “rumble strip” would go a long way toward corralling poor driving for a relatively small investment.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jim Labbe July 10, 2013 at 10:19 am

    I also live a few blocks from this intersection and supported a full median from the start. I certainly have not seen a slow down of the traffic on Michigan since the partial median went in. While it may cost more, I am glad that PBOT was able to do a trial period with the partial median and is coming back to get it right.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Paikikala July 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      Islands are to increase crossing opportunities at busy streets, not to slow down traffic. The city probably has speed data already.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Terry D July 11, 2013 at 8:33 am

        They do both. Center islands create pinch points that slows down traffic and also allows for an easier pedestrian crossing at the cross street. It is the difference on Burnside heading east for example of the traffic light at 32nd which drivers just speed on through when green versus the median island/ pinch point at 24th. Here the cars have to slow down to avoid the center island no matter whether the light at 28th is green or not.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Terry D July 11, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Full diversion should be standard on all greenways every half-mile or major arterial…..and increased in frequency until the greenway has less than 500 vehicles per day. Through the greenway outreach we have done at , we have heard over and over again that the biggest problem with the current system of greenways is aggressive driving, mostly by people who are trying to “save time” by cutting through the neighborhood.

    Most of the currently built greenways can be easily engineered to <500 vehicles per day, but the neighborhood associations and PBOT need to get over their fear of "inconvenience" as their local driving habits may have to change. When you have a grid-pattern of streets, creating bike friendly "dead ends" on every tenth street (every half mile) should not effect local habits very much. It becomes more difficult as the grid pattern collapses further out from the older city center.

    If you have to drive a few more blocks to get home because of a new diverter, maybe you should look at it this way: Your property value will go up more over time because of less traffic … the few extra minutes seems like a fair exchange for a safe street.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jessica Roberts
    Jessica Roberts October 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Has this project been cancelled? It’s been ages, and they haven’t done anything…some barriers have been stacked out there in the street for months, though.

    Recommended Thumb up 0