PBOT unveils “compromise option” for Foster bike lane connection to 52nd

Intersection of SE Foster and 54th. A new proposal by PBOT would route
bicycle riders north at this location to use neighborhood streets in order to connect to SE 52nd Ave.
(Google streetview)

At a meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Foster Road Streetscape Plan last night, the Portland Bureau of Transportation rolled out a new proposal for how to connect the new bike lanes planned for Foster Road to the future bikeway planed on SE 52nd Ave.

PBOT’s proposal for Foster Road — to re-allocate lane space and provide six-foot bike lanes — disappointed some who wanted a more robust bike facility, but it has been met with a strong majority of support. In results of a survey (both online and from an open house earlier this month) released today (PDF), PBOT reports that about 78% of 437 respondents said they are “very supportive” or “supportive” of the cross-section.

Only one aspect of the design proposal showed significant disagreement among survey takers: How to connect westbound bicycling traffic to SE 52nd Ave. 52nd is important because it will someday soon have a bike facility as part of the 50s Bikeway route. With the addition of bike lanes on SE Foster, connecting these two major corridors with a dedicated bikeway is a major opportunity. However, as we shared earlier this week, PBOT would have to remove three blocks of on-street auto parking in order to continue the planned westbound bike lane between SE 56th and 52nd. That’s a move they haven’t appeared eager to make.

Initially, they presented two options for how to route bike traffic. “Option A” would have people on bikes zig-zag north three blocks on neighborhood streets to connect with 52nd via SE Rhone. “Option B” would simply continue the Foster Road bike lanes and make a direct connection to 52nd.

Here’s the graphic showing the two options:

Click to enlarge.
(PBOT graphic)

When asked how they felt about the two options, 57% of survey respondents said they want the bike lane to continue, while just 35% chose the zig-zagging option. Here’s the chart from the survey results:

BikePortland reader Brett Holycross was at the SAC meeting last night and said PBOT proposed a new, “compromise option.” The new option keeps the bike lane for about half the remaining distance to 52nd, then routes it north on SE 54th (instead of 56th) up to Rhone to make the connection.

Here’s our graphic of how the new option would look (in green, it’s Option A with one less turn) in relation to the direct option (in red) :

“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.”
— Brett Holycross

Holycross shared that he’s “pretty disappointed” in the compromise option. “It is less of a zig-zag, but it is still missing the point,” he wrote in a comment this morning. “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.” Holycross also feels like most people on bikes won’t follow the suggested route along 54th anyways, so they’ll end up taking the lane and/or the sidewalk — both of which present negative safety and accessibility issues.

PBOT project manager on the Foster Road plans is Mauricio Leclerc. He’s well aware of what happens when you don’t provide a direct bicycling route. In a Portland Tribune article published today he said, “To get around by bike, you want as direct a route as you can. If you don’t do that, at some point bicyclists will do their own thing.” (Note: Leclerc was referring to bikeway designs in general, not the Foster project specifically.)

Another thing the compromise route will give up is easy bicycle access to several businesses between 54th and 52nd (including a bakery, a burger joint, some strip clubs, and food carts).

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

So far it appears that PBOT hasn’t made a final determination on this last major design question. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can browse the survey results and learn more about the Foster Streetscape Plan on the City’s website.

(As for how connect bike traffic from 52nd eastbound onto the new Foster Rd bike lanes, PBOT will encourage bicycle riders to go south of Foster then merge left onto Center to 56th. This can be seen in the PBOT graphic above.)

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