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28th Avenue business owners give chilly reception to city bikeway proposal

Posted by on February 20th, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Attendees of a meeting Wednesday at Coalition Brewing
to discuss the 28th Avenue commercial district of
the planned 20s Bikeway.
(Photos by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

For the most vocal business owners along 28th Avenue’s commercial strip, the mystery seems to be: why can’t people on bikes just take 30th instead?

At the city’s first meeting with businesses on the subject Wednesday, Portland Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller made a data-rich argument that business owners don’t want to push bikes two blocks away from their storefronts.

Instead, he argued, the city’s lead proposal for the street would give them a chance to be “the most bike-friendly business district in the most bike-friendly city in America” while increasing the flow of people past their storefronts as more Portlanders shift from cars to bicycles for commercial errands.

“If 28th were any other district, we wouldn’t even be here,” Geller said. “We’re talking about 28th because people want to get to 28th.”

Improving biking on the street, he said, would be the way to increase the flow of customers to those businesses without as much need for new parking space, which is free in the neighborhood to residents and visitors alike — and increasingly scarce.

The tradeoff, he said: biking on the street can’t be improved without removing some of the auto parking and delivery spaces, something many of the business owners feel is essential to their operations.

One shared lane and one buffered bike lane is probably the most bike-friendly option the city will accept between I-84 and Stark, Project Manager Rich Newlands said last week.

“I’m afraid,” said Scott Mapes, owner of La Buca Cafe. “I’m just eking by, trying to pay my employees, pay myself.”

Bill Crane, owner of Holmans Bar and Grill, seemed particularly upset. He said he feels the city wants to perform an experiment on the district that he and his business would suffer from if it goes awry.

“Your paycheck still comes, and mine goes away,” he told Geller.

The meeting wasn’t a pillorying, and though many who were there seemed skeptical that increasing bike traffic would substitute for the lost car parking, some also said they personally supported biking and appreciate customers on bikes. John Taboada of Navarre Restaurant said he’d lived in Portland for 20 years without even owning a car. Alison Weaver, owner of Meadowlark Preschool, noted that she still doesn’t.

But Weaver said she’s unusual: at a house beside hers, two residents share three cars. Parents who patronize her preschool often drop off their children by bicycle in the summer, she said, but they drive there in the winter.

“I’m so supportive in so many ways of what you’re talking about,” another business owner told Geller, before adding that her business was too small to take big risks. It seemed to be a common sentiment.

Portland Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller speaks to 28th Avenue business owners Wednesday.

Geller floated the idea that the city could make the changes temporary.

“We could try it for just 18 months,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, we could go back. It’s not that big of a deal.”

One person in the audience replied that businesses wouldn’t last 18 months if things go badly.

Several attendees of the meeting said 30th Avenue — which the city plans to improve into a neighborhood greenway no matter what — would be a better place to ride a bicycle in any case.

Geller replied that this was true “if you just care about people moving.” But, he said, bikers want to reach businesses on the commercial strip — and store owners “want people riding slowly past your business with the ability to stop.”

Whether or not it improves 28th Avenue for biking, the city plans to also create a low-stress detour on 29th and 30th Avenues.

Also representing the city at the meeting were project manager Rich Newlands and his boss, capital program manager Dan Layden. Both struck a noticeably different tone than Geller. Layden said several times that the city’s proposal was only one option and that improving only 30th Avenue was also on the table.

“We want this to be a partnership,” Newlands told business owners as the meeting wrapped up. “We are just saying this is an idea. We are not saying, ‘This is what we want to do, and we’re trying to sell you on it.'”

Update 5:50 pm: At the end of the meeting, Geller asked attendees to fill out slips of paper indicating their support for the city’s proposal. He characterized “yes” as being in favor of the city’s proposal, “maybe” as wanting more information and “no” as “no way, no how, I’m done.” The results, Newlands writes in an email, were 10 “nos,” 5 “maybes” and two “yeses.”

More info on the 20s Bikeway Project:
Past coverage on BikePortland
PBOT’s official project page

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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David
Guest
David

Boycott 28th?

Criss Cross Crusade
Guest
Criss Cross Crusade

Geez, they don’t really make a convincing argument for opening a restaurant.

Ian
Guest
Ian

I haven’t been to a single business on that street that I wasn’t specifically intent on visiting. I don’t even know what fills most of that space. I’d be a lot more inclined to do so if I could take my time on that road, but it’s hard to notice any businesses on 28th when you’re trying to stay ahead of cranky auto traffic.

Criss Cross Crusade
Guest
Criss Cross Crusade

Holman’s has a parking lot.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

We are not saying, ‘This is what we want to do, and we’re trying to sell you on it.’

North America’s #1 Cycling City ®.

Phil Kulak
Guest
Phil Kulak

30th? Really? That’s their suggestion? 30th doesn’t even cross the freeway. It’s useless.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I know the City wants to sound neutral, but someone needs to “sell” ideas like this if they’re going to get widespread support. Is the City providing the businesses awesome infographics about the research showing retail businesses boomed on case study streets in NYC after protected bikeways were installed? How about the BTA?

sean
Guest
sean

A couplet on 28th and 29th between Burnside and Glisan would increase overall parking and have room for a buffered bike lane both ways.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Impractical but fun plan: put bikeways on 30th, and zone it commercial. When the businesses who stay on 28th see how much more successful all the new places on 30th are, a healthy portion of karma will be served.

Criss Cross Crusade
Guest
Criss Cross Crusade

pretty sure they all think that all of the cars parked out front are all frequenting their establishment, instead of the reality which is that each business really has 1-2 spots in front of them and everybody’s parking 2-3 blocks away anyway.

scott
Guest
scott

That street can use all the help that it can get.

Also, La Buca isn’t going to suffer from anything because it already suffers from a boring menu and a lack of flavor.

peejay
Guest
peejay

In reality, these people need to see hard data about bicycle-related effects on businesses, but also need to be gently coaxed out of their preconceptions. Do they really know what percent of car traffic on 28th has ever spent money on the street? What percent of the parked cars? How much per car per hour? Then do the same for bikes and foot traffic.

Criss Cross Crusade
Guest
Criss Cross Crusade

the parked cars and awnings and trees pretty much block the places from view north of Burnside.

AMA
Guest
AMA

I live close enough to 28th that driving would be really silly, but far enough away that walking is a little bit of a hassle. I would be MUCH more likely to cruise up 28th to grab a drink or a bite to eat if 28th was a nicer place to bike. I’m talking 5-10 extra trips per year at least. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

don arambula
Guest
don arambula

Vancouver-Williams Deja Vu. When will the city learn that transportation planning a bike facility without seriously considering land use is not acceptable? The ‘Portland Way’ of silo planning by PBOT and PBS need to end. We deserve better.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

This is an argument for retaining the traffic lanes and parking and bike-car mixing on 28th, but signal-timing, speed-bumping, curb-bumping-out, crosswalk-narrowing, through-traffic-diverting, and otherwise calming – and sharrowing – the heck out of it, until prevailing car speed is 15 mph. When the street becomes that slow, drivers who simply want to get from north to south will learn to take 20th or 39th. 28th will be for purely local traffic and fine for bikes and cars alike.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

PBOT: while you are busy “selling” this to the businesses in the area, feel free to take the paint truck out and slap down a few of the nice, big super sharrows, please!!

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

I am afraid that it’s going to take the City doing one of these projects and showing that those businesses do better before any of the business owners on other streets get on board with this type of change.

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

While Wednesday’s meeting focused on the 28th Ave businesses, there is another group of stakeholders that might be considered – the students who bike commute to da Vinci Arts Middle School. My kids ride from NE Alberta to da Vinci every day, rain or shine (along with a steady stream of their friends.) Establishing a bikeway on 30th will not divert those bike riders from 28th. Maybe I’ll ask my 8th grader to do a survey of how many students use 28th each morning…

Huey Lewis
Guest
Huey Lewis

How far off am I in thinking that a handful of business owners here (or any street) shouldn’t have *much* input on road configurations. PBOT’s mission is to move people safely, not the bottom line of the restaurants and bars on this street.

I’m not a business owner so I don’t know the stresses they do but I don’t think their worries about profits should keep 28th from being a safe street for me/everyone to bike and walk down.

pdx2wheeler
Guest
pdx2wheeler

I think we’re watching an exercise of what’s the call “The Backfire Effect”. The more you attempt to alter someone’s deeply held beliefs, with facts, the more you typically just reinforce that person’s original opinions… Honestly, we are all probably guilty of this to some degree because of our deeply held beliefs that bicycles are so awesome, and we don’t want to hear anything otherwise.

http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/06/10/the-backfire-effect/

Cold Worker
Guest
Cold Worker

“One person in the audience replied that businesses wouldn’t last 18 months if things go badly.”

YOU ARE KILLING ME! HILARIOUS!

BIKELEPTIC
Guest

Could you let us know what 2 were yes votes? That we can just patronize those two businesses and let the other ones drown in their misery. Obviously that’s what they want. No business since they want to divert all customers 2 blocks away. How asinine. We’re human beings, not winter gravel to be swept aside into the gutter and eventually sucked up maybe by Easter. As someone who lived in the Buckman neighborhood 2 blocks away from E Burn & 28th for almost 5 years – that’s a busy, growing district, and to just say “Oh well, let’s just take a huge amount of TRAFFIC and divert it two blocks away because we don’t want to deal with it and we’d rather have the daily near accidents and the sh*tshow that is the nightmare of everyday Restaurant Row.” That’s why they’re barely scraping by in their restaurants and not city planners or civil engineers.

My suggestion. Let them do what they do – run a small biz. And PDOT needs to grow some and make some decisions without asking gelato makers, baby clothiers and alcoholics their opinions.

Christopher Sanderson
Guest

What about my business, and convenience that 28th offers to me? I am not wiggling over to 30th to get from SE to NE Portland.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

When I was in the Navy, the Naval District Commander,tired of hassles sailors were getting in San Diego, cancelled all shore leave one payday. San Diego took notice. Especially the businesses.
There are 5 bike corrals between Glisan and Stark. What if they were taken out of service one weekend?

Mele Sax-Barnett
Guest
Mele Sax-Barnett

This makes me really sad — I live in the neighborhood, own one car we’re in the process of selling (because we hardly use it), and bike on 28th almost every day. I usually walk to the businesses there.

Moreover, having bicycles cross Burnside at 30th would be a death trap without putting in a HAWK signal or similar treatment, which costs ~$250k — way more expensive than re-striping 28t).

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

‘”I’m afraid,” said Scott Mapes, owner of La Buca Cafe. “I’m just eking by, trying to pay my employees, pay myself.”‘

So its not working, so you’re going to keep doing the same thing? If the food is good enough, people will walk several blocks to get there. I’ve done it myself.

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

Why can’t cars just use 30th? It’s just two blocks away and additional stop signs generally help to improve motorized vehicle safety.

Frizzle
Guest
Frizzle

Question: I ride 28th everyday, but go the opposite direction, across 84 up to the bike route Tillamook (I live & work on Sandy but have to detour around it as riding straight up Sandy seems like a death wish)— the road immediately above 84 is great- two big giant bike lanes, but then they end & you are left to go through a VERY tight twisty turn with parked cars pushing you into traffic…
This really bothers me & seems problematic of an overall problem PDX has where bike lanes sometimes tend to end randomly & put the bikers in traffic & at risk.
Just curious if these is at all be considered during this? I know it says the plan only goes to 84

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

It appears to me that PBOT should consider downplaying the “bike project” aspect of this. What they are doing is simply updating the street design. This is a street design update project, not a “bikeway project”. By having Geller do the dog-and-pony show and presenting this as a “bike project” and detailing the “tradeoffs” (a word with negative connotations), they are setting themselves up for pushback.

I’d love to see them go into these type of meetings with a bit more firm strategy and strength about what they would like to do.

I’ll play Geller (or better yet, a different staffer who doesn’t have such a bike-specific title)

“The City wants to — and needs to — update the design of this street in order to have it better serve existing users and to prepare for the mix of users we foresee in the future. The original design was implemented at a time when there weren’t many people riding bicycles. In recent years, 28th has become a very high-volume bike route and therefore as the city’s transportation agency, we must respond to that change by making the street more accessible for bicycling. If you have questions or feedback, please let us know and we’ll do our best to respond.”

It’s all in how you frame the problem/solution.

Bruce Gola
Guest
Bruce Gola

Unfortunately Portland is becoming more full of cars than ever. My observation is that less and less people are biking and more people are driving in Portland.We need dedicated bike roads without cars to make it safe. Otherwise riding your bike in Portland is just too Dangerous.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Emotion is far more powerful than data. Hence this outcome.

Justin
Guest
Justin

This approach to implementing bike infrastructure is ridiculous. The city can’t make any changes without getting approval from:

1) local business owners, who always freak out about parking;
2) freight lobbies, who always freak out about any slowdown in transport time;
3) car users, who always freak out about both of the above (parking and transport time).

Oh, and if there’s time, maybe we’ll listen to bikers?

PBOT bends over backward creating plans for “sorta ok” infrastructure changes, that are never seen as the compromises they are by the interest groups above, ultimately leading to a watered down change or no change at all.

It goes without saying that approaching infrastructure in this way will make biking stagnate in Portland. Oh, wait, biking is ALREADY stagnating in Portland….

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

This is a prime example of people acting out of emotion rather than reason. Data show that people riding bikes spend more money overall at local business than people who drive cars. It’s easy to see why – it’s much easier to stop at a business on a bike than looking for car parking in a parking-scarce area. Plus, you can see more places from the saddle than the car seat.

Jayson
Guest
Jayson

The City caves on everything. In an effort to appease everyone, we get mediocre.

I ***used*** to go to Holmans. I’ll scratch that off my list.

Adam
Guest
Adam

“Why can’t bicyclists just take 30th?”

Geez. Perhaps because, you know, there’s no way to cross:

1)Broadway/Weidler
2) I-84
3) Sandy
4) Glisan
5) Burnside
6) Stark

without:

a) killing ourselves by crossing at an unprotected intersection with high-speed, high-volume traffic
b) waiting several minutes at every intersection due to high stop-gap times for crossing unprotected
c) developing teleportation skills to cross the fictional magical bike-crossing that apparently exists for bicyclists at 30th across the I-84 chasm.

I think every business owner should go drive on 30th for the next month, and see how much THEY like crossing six major intersections with no light, waiting up to several minutes at every single intersection to cross at peak commute times, and, of course, figuring out how to levitate their vehicle across I-84 at 30th, since last time I checked, there was no road there!

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

While not ideal… what about sharrows both directions.. take the lane, slow the traffic, leave the parking on both sides? Is that much different from sharrows on one side of the street?

howard draper
Guest
howard draper

What Would JSK Do?

Adam
Guest
Adam

How many parking spaces is the City looking to lose exactly by removing one side of curbside parking?

Jeremy Cohen
Guest
Jeremy Cohen

I am disappointed at the business owner response to this plan. I am not a traffic engineer, but as a customer of lots of local businesses, I can say I have NEVER made a shopping decision based on the availability of parking. If I want to eat somewhere, I eat there. If a shop has something I need, I go there. How does a business owner not understand that the more slowly the public passes their door, the more likely they are to get noticed? My wife has a booth we take to craft shows, and I have solid data that we sell more of our wares when we are located in a busier (which means slower walking shoppers) area. I ride 28th everyday–super early with two kids on my bike (school drop off)–between stark and Ankeny and I can tell you it is the most stressful 4 blocks of my 7 mile ride. Isn’t it just as likely that instead of barely paying bills, this street change will have those owners raking it in? Fear is no place to make decisions from and the city should do what makes sense for the whole city.

paikikala
Guest
paikikala

PBOT can change the posted speed on any street that has at least 50% business uses in 600 ft on one side, or 100% in 300 ft on both sides, to a 20 mph business zone without asking permission from ODOT. ORS 801.170 defines a ‘Business District’ and 811.105 lists statutory speed limits.

WAR
Guest
WAR

Sure, If they don’t want the improvements…

…We’ll take money for the 50s project as well as the Foster project.

Close in people don’t even ride.

Thank You.

Tigue
Guest
Tigue

The pitch SHOULD NOT be about bikes. It needs to be about the local business’s on 28th and the challenges that THEY face.

And the challenges that they have is competition from NW 23rd, Mississippi Ave, Alberta, Belmont, Hawthorne, Sellwood and others. So the pitch should be that this is a unique opportunity to trump those other commercial districts by offering the most unique dining and shopping streetscape experience.

Collectively if they endorse a plan that creates a unique street vibe it will be a differentiation from other similar areas. And apparently some of them are “struggling” so this is a perfect opportunity for them to change the game. And the beauty is that they don’t have to pay a dime to do it.

BURR
Guest
BURR

The city can build this on 28th or not, and plenty of cyclists will still use the street, it’s a public street with multiple benefits for cyclists whether there is any cycling-specific infrastructure or not.

Bruce
Guest
Bruce

I live just off of 28th, and very frequently walk or bike to many establishments there, including, formerly, La Buca and Holmans.

I would love to know what other businesses voted “No”, so that I can stop patronizing their establishments.

I know Tapalaya gives Happy Hour all night on a certain night to anyone who bikes in. I’ll assume they were a “Yes” vote…?

davemess
Guest
davemess

Doesn’t Holman’s have it’s own parking lot????

Adam
Guest
Adam

I wonder how many of the businesses aren’t anti-bike per se, but rather just thought that the *specific* plans PBOT are proposing are awful.

I would like to see one lane of parking removed, and a bike-lane each direction striped.

One cycletrack heading northbound, and no facilities whatsoever heading southbound (I don’t count a painted sharrow as a “facility”, I’m sorry) for cyclists is nuts, not to mention inequitable.

Curt Ailes
Guest
Curt Ailes

The argument that 18 months will sink a business is bunk anyway. I guess if I were a business owner, I would be a LITTLE skeptic simply because changes like this rock the boat.

But entire street closures last 18 months and businesses that are worth a hoot stay open because people will find a way to go there, if the business is worth going to.

A short experiment time would affect the bottom line very little, even if the experiment turned out to be an utter failure.

The city should go forward with the changes on 28th, with a shorter trial period simply to show business owners of the potential benefits.

Lola
Guest
Lola

As a patron of the NE 28th corridor business between NE & SE 28th Avenue, I wanted to express my concern regarding the 20’s bikeway project.

First and to be noted, I am a proponent of bicycle commuting and the benefit it has on our environment as well as the sustainable livability in our community. I have always been “pro cyclist” in this regard and although I work from a home office now, I have commuted to work by bicycle in past jobs. However, I have to object to the 20’s Bikeway Project in the vicinity between NE Sandy and SE Stark streets. The logic and reasoning being that there are a multitude of small, locally owned businesses along this corridor that depend on parking for their businesses to thrive. Their customer demographic is dependent upon auto parking. Taking parking away along this corridor could cost the business owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. You can’t possibly argue that you will take your families to these businesses on your bike to have dinner, lunch, etc. You will not be doing that and they will see a substantial decrease in their sales with the result being closure of business. How is this not obvious?

This said and for example, if you were to take away street parking on Hawthorne, Belmont or the 23rd area, those businesses would be crushed. Parking is already an issue for those neighborhoods as it is in the corridor on 28th Avenue. I believe it’s easy to see that if you take away parking in this corridor, most of the businesses would severely suffer and likely go out of business leaving a baron wasteland of “for rent” properties in it’s wake. The domino effect would then incur and you would increase the un-employment rate in Portland to an all time low for the service industry employees as well as those that are employed by the small, retail shops in the corridor. These are people’s livelihoods we are talking about. People with families to support.

I implore you to look at the larger picture of our city in this instance and find an alternative solution for the North to South bikeway. Is it really worth having hundreds of people lose their jobs and loyal, small Portland businesses go down because the cyclists can’t veer a few blocks off to get to their destination? I have always been okay with taking the bike lanes through neighborhoods to get to my destination. Why is this such an issue for other commuters? It doesn’t seem logical OR the ethical choice for our city. We are a community built on the premise that we support small businesses but this project is not supporting that ideology and will be detrimental to them if the bikeway project goes through in this area.

Lola
Guest
Lola

Additionally, I don’t believe any of these businesses are “anti-bike”. The issue is their main customer demographic. They want to keep all their customers happy whether they are cyclists or “auto” customers. It just so happens they have a major demographic of people who do not go by bike. There’s got to be some reasoning here and the business owners are not the “bad” guys. They are just trying to stay in business for YOU. The people who go to their establishments. Are any of you on this blog small business owners on 28th? Anywhere else? I would guess not from the communication here. I am not either but I see both sides of the issue. Some things are not black and white so you have to consider all the perspectives.