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PBOT opts for zig-zag to connect new SE Foster bike lanes to 52nd

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

PBOT graphic of recommended bicycle connection between SE Foster and 52nd.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation will complete a new bikeway on SE 52nd Avenue later this year. They’ve also already green-lighted a redesign of SE Foster that will include new bike lanes in both directions. Unfortunately, at least in the short-term, there won’t likely be any bikeway available where these two major streets connect with one another.

Instead of removing on-street auto parking, PBOT will route the bikeway through a residential area.

For people bicycling westbound on Foster, PBOT will direct them to head north on SE 54th, then left on SE Rhone. That zig-zag will add about 250 feet of additional travel distance over a continuous bike lane on Foster. Here’s more from the draft Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan (PDF) released today (emphasis mine):

“In order to provide motorists adequate space to merge, the transition from four general travel lanes to three requires a minimum of 550 feet. In the eastbound direction this will take place between SE 52nd and 56th Avenues. Maintaining bike lanes in this stretch would therefore require the removal of on-street parking. Due to a lack of off-street parking for businesses in this area, relatively high parking usage in this segment, and concerns about parking spillover into adjacent residential areas, the recommendation is to not continue bike lanes directly to SE 52nd Avenue.”

When we first reported on this issue back in December, we shared that a 57% of respondents to a PBOT survey (both online and at public meetings) wanted the bike lanes on Foster to connect to 52nd. Foster-Powell resident Brett Holycross, who has followed this project closely, told us that he was disappointed in the design. “There is going to be a great new bike facility on Foster for 2 miles,” he shared, “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.”

Today, Holycross told us that the PBOT recommendation is, “A shame for an otherwise great project.”

PBOT did include a “future suboption” in the plan that would continue the bike lanes on Foster directly to 52nd. But they pointed out that — in order to do so and retain all the on-street auto parking — they’d be required to chop two feet off one of Foster’s sidewalks to make room for the bike lane. To make room for a bike lane on both sides of Foster between 54th and 52nd, they’d need to chop off two feet on both sidewalks. If the politics of that project could even ever get off the ground, PBOT estimates it would cost $250,000 – $750,000.

PBOT’s draft plan also explained how they could have made a direct connection for folks headed down 52nd and then east on Foster; but they’ve decided to compromise in that situation as well.

From the draft plan:

“A direct connection at SE 52nd Avenue would ideally include a left turn bike box at SE 52nd Avenue and Foster Road. Without a left turn box, cyclists would be required to merge across traffic between Powell Boulevard and Foster Road in order to use the left turn signal at SE 52nd Avenue and Foster Road. However, a box at this location would require relocating the curb and a utility pole, and would likely require right-of-way acquisition to maintain adequate pedestrian space.”

So instead, PBOT will recommend that people biking south on 52nd who want to head east on Foster, first cross Foster and then use SE Center Street one block south.

Read the full draft and learn more about the Foster Streetscape Plan here.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Brett Holycross was a member of the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee. That’s incorrect. He’s merely a nearby resident who has followed the project closely. We regret the error.