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After city balks at neighbors’ request for bike lane, 34th Ave resident goes public

Posted by on September 5th, 2014 at 12:43 pm

narrow passage

Riding on 34th between Clinton and Division.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

After nine months and 270 petition signatures, the people who live on SE 34th Avenue between Clinton and Division just can’t seem to persuade the city to remove five parking spots in front of their houses in order to add a bike lane.

“It’s not strictly a bicycle issue. It’s just traffic working more smoothly.”
— Mark Zahner

“We’re just framing the argument as safety on this block vs. parking spots,” said Mark Zahner, who lives at 34th and Clinton and has led the campaign. “We see there’s a lot of near misses, we’ve acknowledged the problem, we’ve got support from the neighbors. Where do we go from here?”

Starting last winter, Zahner collected 170 in-person signatures in support of his concept, which would convert the one-block stretch along a popular bike route to northbound-only for cars, with a northbound shared lane and a southbound bike-only lane. Last month, feeling that the city had brushed off his concerns and those of his neighbors, Zahner upped the ante with a 12-foot-long diagram of his plan on a sign in his front yard. He also launched an online version of his petition that has drawn 101 signatures in two weeks.

safety vs parking close

Though it’s unmarked with sharrows on this stretch, 34th is a popular bike route south of Laurelhurst Park thanks to the flat grade and the traffic signal across Division. But that traffic signal often fools cars and trucks headed eastbound on Division that it’s a good place to turn south.

Actually, 34th is four feet narrower than other nearby streets. Zahner says it’s just not wide enough to safely fit two parking lanes plus traffic in both directions.

narrow passage

Zahner with his own bicycle on the street in front of his house.

So Zahner, who works as an architect, drew up a plan that adds a few parking spaces on the east side of the street and removes parking on the west side, for a net loss of five spaces.

“It’s not strictly a bicycle issue,” Zahner said in an interview Thursday. “It’s just traffic working more smoothly so you aren’t brushing up against each other. … Basically it’s jammed there every day, and people get impatient.”

Last year, he persuaded nine of the 11 households on his street to support his bike lane plan. There’s since been some turnover among residents of the block, and Zahner hasn’t yet approached the new arrivals. Last fall, the Richmond Neighborhood Association sent a letter to Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick describing the “overwhelming traffic safety concerns of neighborhood residents” about 34th and asking the city to study possible solutions — but it stopped short of explicitly recommending parking removal, a hot issue in the area.

“Nobody wants to stick their neck out it seems politically and endorse removal of parking,” Zahner said.

He said that Portland Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller wouldn’t push the plan without an explicit endorsement from the neighborhood association.

“If PBOT does it on their own and they get somebody in the media saying ‘What are they doing removing parking?’ then they have someone to say ‘Well, the neighborhood association endorsed it,'” Zahner said. “And the neighborhood association doesn’t want to do that.”

An impromptu neighborhood discussion has also popped up on Zahner’s sign:

community discussion

“How is this existing road unsafe?” “Cars drive right down the middle right at oncoming vehicles.”

In February, the city sent traffic engineer Matthew Machado to discuss the issue with the neighborhood association. According to Zahner, Machado said the city couldn’t study the issue adequately until after construction work on Division Street was complete.

Zahner said he and others felt the transportation bureau was “attempting to appease us and we were very unsatisfied.”

He’s continuing to gather signatures and working with the new BikeLoudPDX advocacy group that has been trying to reduce heavy cut-through traffic on Clinton, which has for years carried twice as much traffic as the national standard for a bike boulevard.

Zahner said he’s also considering organizing a block party that would allow the neighbors to do  a one-day demonstration of a redesigned one-way street on 34th.

With so much discussion about traffic on Clinton Street right now, there’s certainly potential for change. We’ll continue to follow this issue as it develops.

(If you’d like to learn more about this issue and/or get involved with BikeLoudPDX, join them at a planning meeting this Sunday at 3:00 pm at Montavilla Park on NE 82nd and Glisan.)

safety vs parking wide

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Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Guest

This seems like such an easy fix, a no-brainer win I can’t even begin on the topic. But it seems after recent PR mess ups at city hall the leadership doesn’t want to endorse anything. But the city hall should damn well let people handle their neighborhood in an effective way. Let the local neighborhood chalk up something and put in place a temporary 30 day study and redesign (paint the street/put in planters, etc) to dilleneate how it would work.

…determine the metrics.

…measure the improvement.

This could all be done via citizens. City hall doesn’t need to monopolize all of the study work. Let citizens take it into their own hands if things aren’t getting done or the queue is too deep at PBOT.

It’s pretty obvious, a LOT of Portland still wants their bike amenities, we still want to move toward a less auto-dependent and lower auto-violence city. In the end, they’re our streets and if we’re trying to improve them then we ought to be able to do just that. Everything doesn’t have to come out of city hall/pbot/etc.

Daly
Guest

Way to go Mark!!

OnTheOtherHand
Guest
OnTheOtherHand

Removing parking will increase the functional roadway width, which typically increases car traffic and speeds.

The idea of giving bikes more space sounds nice, but there is serious potential for unintended consequences here. You might be trading annoyance for serious injuries. Especially if cars drive faster when given more space. Turning 34th into a one way could reduce traffic volume on this block, but more cars will use 35th and 33rd, and drive around the block more often (thereby increasing traffic volumes on Clinton even more).

Portland creates “skinny” streets by design – to slow cars down, thereby improving safety and making travel safer for walking and biking. The ‘conflicts’ are supposed to be there.

As for safety – there does not appear to be any evidence of a safety issue here. ODOT publishes the state crash database, and there have only been 2 in the last 5 years (Typical for the area, and less than some nearby parallel streets.)

https://gis.odot.state.or.us/transgis/

This seems like a suburban reaction to an urban ‘problem’. You have a developing area, adding density with limited parking and increasing traffic congestion. This makes people used to something different upset, understandably. However, the proposed solution is actually making it easier for cars in many ways and pushing the parking issues deeper toward Clinton. If that’s what the neighborhood wants – go for it! But if I lived, walked, biked, and drove in Clinton (as I did until ~2 years ago) I’m not sure I’d support the change. It seems like the City is right to ‘balk’ at this resident’s proposal, certainly before the neighborhood association chimes in.

How about just prohibiting left turns from westbound division to 34th?

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

33rd/34th is not the longest route but when I first moved to PDX it was one of the better N-S bike streets* in inner SE. Sadly, the bike dots are fading into oblivion just like PBOT’s active transport budget.

*while it may not have been a “full bike boulevard” it certainly had bike dots, speed bumps and green signs.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I’ve never been on it when it has had more than one effective lane. Anyone but 2 bikes passing ends up looking for a pullout, and there aren’t many.

I do agree its not a “safety” issue. The road is so narrow its very slow. More or less unusable in a car, except that because of the light people think its a good way to go. Its not.

My own proposal would be to make it one way and leave everything else the same. You might still need to remove one parking lane if you wanted counter flowing bikes to not have to stop to let cars pass though.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Here’s PBOT’s chance–an opening–to take away some on-street car parking. The neighbors are asking for it!
Why on earth don’t they see this as their chance to create a precedent so the next time some group objects (and you can bet they will) they can point to this one as an example of a mutually beneficial, open-and-shut, case? Because if they continue to dissemble, muddle through, these sorts of changes won’t come any easier.
Wake up, PBOT.

joel domreis
Guest
joel domreis

id rather have parking on both sides of the street. this makes me feel safer as a biker. also allowing turns slows down traffic on division. isnt slowing down traffic what we want? i would support making it walking biking only and no cars at all, but this does not sound good to me currently. This is my favorite intersection to bike through in portland and i use it 4-6 times a day.

There is probably no reason for people to park on the street anyway. the residents have converted their garages to work places, or housing for a reason. actually dont most people have garages in portland? why do they park in front of their house. just want everyone to think about this. my vote is for people parking on the street, and more clutter, because it is safer for children and for pedestrians.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Good strategy, using the big yard sign with graphic, to get the word around.

In the picture above, I can’t make out Zahner’s proposed changes to the street. I know though, from a narrow neighborhood street near where I live in Beaverton, that cars parked at the curb in jogged clusters of three or four together, can do a very effective job of so to speak, calming traffic.

Cars parked directly across the street from each other basically reduce travel width to passage for one car only. Jogging the parking clusters allows room for cars to pull over slightly to wait their turn while cars from the other direction pass through. During the day when people are at work, with fewer cars parked on the street, though still narrow, it usually allows some passage of cars from both directions at the same time.

Bikes being narrower than most motor vehicles, people riding them are at liberty to shoot the gap at the same time as a motor vehicle from the opposite direction, parked cars or not.

Chris Anderson
Guest

If the issue is auto through traffic, why not just make it diverted so cars can’t pass through that segment of 34th? A couple of concrete planters and a “No outlet except bicycles” sign shouldn’t cost much.

TheCowabungaDude
Guest
TheCowabungaDude

The City is totally dead-on about waiting until after construction to do a proper analysis. Keep pushing, Mark, but have patience. I think you and the City can come up with a bomb-proof plan when the timing is right.

jeff
Guest
jeff

Like I said last week, no one’s paying attention to the detour signs around Clinton/Division.

Albert
Guest
Albert

Mr. Zahner’s diagram includes a painted intersection at 34th and Clinton. What is the process for getting those approved? A few painted intersections on Clinton St. would help hammer home the concept to motorists that the street is a neighborhood greenway.

Adam Rogers
Guest
Adam Rogers

34th doesn’t need a bike lane.

it needs a diverter. it’s a bike greenway for heaven’s sakes.

all a bikelane will do is legitimize auto traffic on the street.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Portland Fire and Rescue might support removal of parking on one side for fire truck access. A 24-foot wide street is ideal for a contra-flow bike lane. At this location a northbound auto lane (10′) with sharrows, east side parking (8′-) and southbound bike only lane (6′) next to the curb would work well. One way streets can have higher speeds when the opposing traffic is removed, so traffic calming may be needed. This would be similar to 14th north of Bybee, or 22nd north of Sandy.