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Foster Road re-design update: Open house recap and online survey

Posted by on December 16th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Detail of PBOT plans for bike lanes on Foster Rd.

It’s been almost two months since a committee of citizens approved PBOT’s plans to re-design SE Foster Road. If all goes according to plan, Foster will get a new bicycle-only travel lane between SE 56th and 90th and a host of other changes meant to improve safety and access.

At this stage we’re about 15 months into the planning process and PBOT is gaining last bits of support and making final design tweaks in advance of official adoption by City Council that will likely happen in January. Earlier this month, about 130 people attended an open house for the project. Area resident, urban planner, and Foster United blogger Nick Falbo said the plans enjoy “broad support” from adjacent neighborhoods. “The most frequent complaint against the recommendation from supporters.” he wrote, in an email to the Active Right of Way email list, ” is that the bikeway should be better.”

This is criticism that has also been evident in the comments from readers here on BikePortland. While many people hoped for more robust bicycle access — like a protected bikeway or cycle track — others feel the bike lane is a positive step in the right direction.

Falbo also reported back that there remain a few “key critics” who are not happy with the process. We touched on their issues in our report from the final stakeholder advisory committee meeting. In addition to criticisms that the committee was “too white, too young, too multimodal,” they also feel residents east of the project area will bear the burden of the slower driving times projected to come with the changes, while not benefiting from the safety and bike access improvements.

“In my opinion, the criticism does have some merit,” Falbo wrote in his email, “but not enough to hold or reject the plan. The process wasn’t perfect, but I can say without a doubt it has been the best public involvement the neighborhoods have ever seen. No project on Foster has had as much participation, attendance, awareness and attention as this has.”

To garner more public feedback on the proposed changes, PBOT has released an online survey. Among the questions asked is how best to connect the new bike lanes to SE 52nd. Currently, PBOT has the bike lanes ending around SE 56th and they are considering routing bicycle riders onto side streets due to a narrow cross-section on Foster that would require removal of on-street auto parking from one side of the street.

Here’s the PBOT graphic to illustrate the options (click to enlarge):

Weigh in with your opinions via the online survey.

With federal grant money in the bank, PBOT would likely begin construction of top priority elements of the Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan in 2014. Learn more by reading our past coverage and visit PBOT’s official project website.

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. Thank you.

  • Unit December 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    The cross-section between 52nd and 56th is the exact same width as that east of 56th. If both bike lanes and parking fit east of 56th, why would they not fit west of 56th? It seems like getting bike lanes to 52nd (in both directions) is pretty important.

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    • Carl December 17, 2013 at 10:26 am

      Agreed…and I hope you said as much in the survey.

      *NEW (totally unenforceable) RULE*
      No commenting until you’ve filled out the survey!

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      • Tim Davis December 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

        LOL–I like your NEW RULE, Carl! 🙂 Keep filling out the survey and putting the pressure on PBOT to actually (for once!) design a street for PEOPLE–and one that would benefit ALL users. Painting a little bike lane (in the trash/leaves zone) right next to near-highway-speed cars won’t ever raise the bike mode share above 4%. We need an entirely new design paradigm–and we might as well start now with this project.

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        • davemess December 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm

          Tim, the speed is highly likely to be reduced on Foster, both legally (like an actual change to it) and conveniently as the 3 lane configuration will limit passing opportunities.

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  • Nick Falbo December 16, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    The explanation we’ve been given is that area of influence of Powell/50th/52nd intersections extends far enough east that the transition to 3 lanes (and thus, bike lanes) cannot happen until 56th.

    Ultimately this is related to the fact that Powell is an ODOT facility, and that they get to prioritize their traffic flow needs over other city objectives.

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  • resopmok December 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Not to mention it would be a lot easier to turn left with the arrow from 52nd on to Foster than by crossing Foster and turning left on to Center with no arrow or other solution. And I don’t accept a Copenhagen left as a good option, since traffic can be heavy on 52nd, especially during rush hour. Did PBoT get too many complaints from the strip clubs on that corner that their customers wouldn’t have parking?

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    • davemess December 16, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      I’ve been saying this to anyone that listens the last 2 months, but have had not much luck getting a response. PBOT seems to think that left at Center will be a breeze (easier than just getting in the Foster left turn lane heading south on 52nd). I bike through that intersection every day and I just don’t see that to be true.

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  • Pliny December 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    PBOT can choose whichever of those westbound options they like, but it won’t affect riding behavior. There’s no way you’re going to get most cyclists to do a 5 block detour on a regular basis.

    The same thing’ll happen as if you had tried this with cars. They’ll cut through.

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  • dwainedibbly December 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    The “zig-zag option” between 52nd & 56th would also result in a greater distance traveled but the survey ignores that fact.

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  • Nick Falbo December 16, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    I wanted to add that the official cross section from 56th to 72nd shows a 7 foot buffered bike lane. It’s no cycle track, but paired with a single through lane in each direction and lowered speed limit, it’s going to be a pretty damn good bike lane.

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    • davemess December 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Nick, where did the buffering come from? I thought we had to remove parking to get even a little buffering?

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      • Nick Falbo December 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm

        It turns out there is a little wiggle room farther west. The first official recommendation showed 11 ft travel lanes with 6 ft bike lanes. They were convinced to lower that to 10 ft, to allow for the slightly wider bike lane.

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    • Arrogant Cyclist December 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      this has moved me from lukewarm to “approve”.

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  • Tim Davis December 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    I just filled out the survey and added LOTS of comments. Please, everyone, **fill out the survey** and help make SE Foster be designed for PEOPLE rather than for CARS! Our 1950s auto-centric mindset is destroying our cities and only promoting further sprawl.

    As Project for Public Spaces is always fond of saying, “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”

    Some more good references:

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    • 9watts December 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm


      “residents east of the project area will bear the burden of the slower driving times projected to come with the changes”

      Why is slowing driving times not a *goal*?
      Haven’t we learned yet that in places where this i*s* a goal, the benefits that flow from it are huge? I get so tired of the whining about the beleaguered folks in cars having to suffer another three minutes. For a century the rest of us have suffered so you can ride around on your magic carpets. Now we’re all paying the price. Enough already.

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      • paikikala December 17, 2013 at 9:52 am

        A good goal to me. Of course, the ‘projection’ likely assumes the same number, or more, drivers using Foster in the future, as most computer modelling does (but can’t account for cyclists well). The assumption will fail if some portion of motorists no longer use Foster, which I’m guessing is more likely.

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  • Craig Harlow December 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    My post-survey comments:

    Placing bike traffic directly alongside (unbuffered) fast moving auto traffic does not necessarily stand as an improvement for bicycles, unless auto speeds are reduced to 25 MPH.

    In the sections where on-street parking has been added on both sides of the street, better bike lane protection can be achieved by:

    – running the bike lanes side by side as a two-way cycle track, against the curb, on only one side of the street
    – separating the two-way cycle track from auto traffic by placing auto parking in between the cycle track and the auto lane
    – add a four-foot (minimum) buffer between the cycle track and auto parking

    This adds auto parking on only one side of the street (where currently there is none) while making the bike lanes vastly more attractive to riders who are uncomfortable riding side-by-side with auto traffic.

    By replacing one 10-foot lane of parking (in the current proposal), with a four-foot buffer, six feet of lane width can be reallocated, possibly to increase the proposed bike lane width to allow side-by-side riding or safer bicycle passing.

    Clearly there are additional considerations related to facilitating traffic turns across the auto parking + buffer + two-way cycle track.

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    • Tim Davis December 16, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      Wonderful post-survey comments, Craig!!!! Now we just need 100 more people to echo these ideas! 🙂

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    • Steven Hanlow December 16, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      I agree completely. With PBOT projecting very little side-street traffic leakage southward to Harold, the south side of Foster would be ideal. Although, when I brought up limiting the number of available turns off Foster available to auto traffic, the PBOT representative was very dismissive.

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    • Ty December 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

      While I have a different take on Craig’s first paragraph in that I feel it is never a good idea to put 4000lb vehicles next to 25lb bicycles no matter what the speed of the vehicles, I wholeheartedly endorse his suggestion about how to make it safe enough to get more than 4% of the population out there on Foster (myself included).

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    • Craig Harlow December 17, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks for the favorable replies.

      My kids’ mom lives right in that neighborhood, and when they ride along Foster there’s just no way they’ll abandon the relative safety of the sidewalk to ride right next to autos moving at actual speeds of 35 to 50 mph.

      In the city that Portland is, a merely nominal bike lane on a major roadway redesign is not only sub-par, it fails the test of strategically attracting more riders to bike instead of drive–those who would bike in such a new bike lane are likely already riding.

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      • davemess December 18, 2013 at 9:51 am

        I think that gets at the heart of the debate of whether all bike facilities should be gear towards all rider types or if it’s more prudent and okay to build some facilities focused on some types of riders and others for different types. Personally I think an arterial is meant to move people around a little bit more, and our neighborhood greenways (which this area is severely lacking, but that’s another argument) are/should be more focused on a calmer facility that will cater to a broader spectrum. I know others don’t agree with this idea though.

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  • Ted Buehler December 16, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    I took the survey, said I’d prefer that the bike lanes go all the way to 52nd.

    Want to see it happen, folks? Make sure your friends at PBOT know what you want it. Survey takes about 5 minutes.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Nick Falbo December 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

    One more thing. I’d hate for my comments that the plan shouldn’t be “on hold or rejected” to be interpreted as lack of concern for the criticism. This was a safety project first and foremost, and I think the recommendation the committee came up with was well reasoned and educated toward that goal.

    As we know, plans don’t instantly appear on the ground. They must go through a design, engineering and implementation process. The job of the committee will now become one of involving as many people, groups, communities and neighbors as possible to embrace and improve the changes to come.

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  • Justin December 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    The stair-step proposal to get people from Center to 52nd is pretty insulting, especially when the research shows each turn added to a bike trip makes the route significantly less appealing. In the map pictured above, a cyclist coming from Center Street would need to make _seven_ turns to go a few short blocks to 52nd northbound. (Or, worse, cross Foster twice.)
    Foster doesn’t have a parking shortage. There are very few stretches where there’s demand on both sides of the street. But one would think that actually being able to reach a destination by bike would please businesses.

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  • Brett Holycross December 19, 2013 at 7:53 am

    I’m pretty disappointed in PBOT’s “compromise” option rolled out at the meeting last night. It would route west-bound bike traffic through the neighborhood still, but it would happen at 54th and then connecting to Rhone, then westbound on Rhone to 52nd (the future 50’s Bikeway). So, it is less of a zig-zag, but it is still missing the point. There is going to be a great new bike facility on Foster for 2 miles, but because the city is afraid to take away some on street parking, they can’t make it the final 600 feet to what will be the main N-S bike connection in the area. Maybe this makes sense to some right now because the 50’s Bikeway is not yet constructed, but I think it will seem like an obvious problem once in place if it happens the the way I saw laid out last night. Most people on bikes are not going to follow the route through the neighborhood and will be taking the lane and/or sidewalk instead… neither of which are safe. By lessening the distance of this stair-step, it makes it less likely to be followed.

    The east-bound bike options remained the same… go south on 52nd to Center, or Francis… and good luck with that merge and left turn..

    Another note… the parking on the N side between 54th and 52nd… the businesses include An Xuyen Bakery, Foster Burger, (strip clubs), and the Carts on Foster… some of these may actually prefer bike traffic to auto parking in front of their businesses… just a guess.

    Overall it has been a great process and I understand there are compromises that need to be made… but I think there needs to be a better solution for this area than the one presented last night.

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    • davemess December 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      How many times can we keep telling them this is a bad idea (both directions, I agree the south to east option off 52nd is crazy)? I thought the point of the SAC and voting was to make them listen?

      Did they disclose the results of the polling they had done? (I had to work and missed the meeting)

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      • Brett Holycross December 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm

        They did disclose the results of the polling before unveiling of the “compromise option”. They used the split of opinions on Options A & B to justify an option blending them together. (see Jonathan’s recent post).

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        • Nick Falbo December 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm

          PBOT is deathly afraid of parking loss. They wouldn’t consider it in the areas where no one parks today, they certainly won’t want to do on the Foster Burger block which sees heavy use.

          The real shame is that Foster is wide enough to have it all – but PBOT is too cheap to pay for it.

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          • davemess December 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm

            Sad, that after all this they can’t complete the cycling route to 52nd. Seriously it’s two more blocks!!!!

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