On the podcast: The ‘invisible urbanism’ of traffic signals

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Portland’s traffic signal guru, Peter Koonce,
in our podcast studio.
(Photo J.Maus/BikePortland)

When you change something about a traffic signal, people don’t notice. They simply obey.

Well, mostly.

Maybe that’s why signals have quietly become one of the most important and unique ways that Portland has made itself a better place for walking, biking and driving cars at reasonable speeds rather than at noisy and unsafe ones.

In this month’s episode of the BikePortland podcast, Jonathan, producer Lillian Karabaic and I interview one of the wizards behind the curtain of Portland’s unusually safe streets: Peter Koonce.

Koonce, the division manager for Portland’s signals and street lighting division and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in municipal government, talked with us about all the tricks in the city’s signal system that you never even noticed. And as always, we close with a transportation tip of the month, Lily’s favorite tweets about TriMet and the uncannily appropriate song that Lily found for the subject of the show.


Curious about Portland’s amazing bike-friendly signals? Then don’t miss the PedalPalooza ride Koonce is leading next Monday to show them off.

Stay tuned for our next episode, when we’ll discuss the importance of bike fun with guest Carl Larson.

You can subscribe to our monthly podcast with Stitcher or iTunes, subscribe by RSS, sign up to get an email notification each time we upload a new episode, or just listen to it above using Libsyn.

Michael Andersen (Contributor)

Michael Andersen (Contributor)

Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.

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9 years ago

Awesome podcast – Peter Koonce is an excellent guest. I too was on the signals ride last year, and it was pretty sweet.

A few suggestions:
1) When you pose a question – stick with it until it’s actually answered (such as: “If you had unlimited signal budget, what would you do?”). Several times in the podcast you guys got sidetracked and didn’t answer the question. I was really looking forward to hearing the answer!

2) In the intro, I’m not a fan of doing the introduction one sentence at a time for each host. I think this is just too cutesy/gimmicky. My son’s elementary school does videos like this so “everybody gets to talk” — but they’re in elementary school. Instead I’d rather just have 1 person give most of the introduction, and maybe pass the baton to someone else — this is how the evening news works.

Other than that, I think this was a great podcast. Peter Koonce was an excellent guest. Maybe Roger Geller next time?

9 years ago

In case Peter reads the comments – NE Cully and Columbia need drastic intervention to improve bike/ped crossing and west-aimed cars making left turns onto Cully. button triggers for walkers and people on bike perhaps? road triggers for the cars? Although this would be a more convenient route for me, rush hour in the evening is so bad I go out of my way to avoid this intersection (I am on bike mostly, occasionally walk home the 3 miles) to get from work (near Airport) to home in NE Portland. If it is an ODOT road, perhaps you could let me know if this is being addressed somewhere.
Pat McManus