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

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

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.

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.

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