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Kaiser Permanente works to close connectivity gap through North Portland campus

Posted by on November 19th, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Kaiser Permanente sidewalk

That’s all fine and good unless there’s no other way to get from A to B.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

An annoying gap in the North Portland bikeway network is on a path to being fixed.

The problem has to do with how people on bicycles travel between I-5 and N Interstate Avenue on N Failing Street. The Failing Street Pedestrian Bridge over I-5 is a crucial link that connects two neighborhoods (Humboldt/Mississpi and Overlook), many commercial destinations, and two major north-south neighborhood greenways (Michigan and Concord).

Unfortunately, smack dab in the middle of all that is a large Kaiser Permanente campus that houses several large buildings and surface parking lots. Making matters worse is the MAX light-rail line that makes it impossible to continue south on Interstate from Failing. Because of these constraints, most people opt to ride on a wide sidewalk through Kaiser property.

Kaiser sidewalk 2

Another view of the sidewalk where Kaiser has prohibited bicycling.

That option was never ideal, but it didn’t seem like such a terrible thing until this past January, when KP staff put up signs and painted large yellow letters on the ground that read “No Bicycles on Sidewalk.” The sidewalk is only about 8 1/2 feet wide, and it’s outside a medical office so it’s easy to see why employees don’t want people cycling on it (and yes, they can legally do this because it’s on private land).

But even so, as soon as those warnings went in we started getting emails from readers who were disappointed and confused.

“I rode to the Kaiser Interstate campus this morning with my kids,” one woman wrote to us via email. She continued:

“Imagine my surprise when I found “No bicycles on the sidewalk” stenciled in yellow paint at regular intervals along the sidewalk. Now, I understand that whoever directed this was acting in the interest of making the sidewalk feel safer for pedestrians. However, it’s also pretty clear that they have no idea how to make their campus more accessible for cyclists – you know, people who are trying to “thrive”. There’s a disconnect somewhere in there.”

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We got several emails like that. People weren’t mad at KP; but they were perturbed that they were simply left to their own devices without a real solution for navigating through the campus. The other thing our readers mentioned was how this lack of bike access didn’t jibe with KP’s public face. Not only are they the presenting sponsor of the City of Portland’s Sunday Parkways events, they have also invested heavily in their “Thrive” advertising campaign that puts bicycling front and center (ironically, their TV ad shows a lot of people riding on sidewalks).

kppeople

L to R: Daniel Field, Matt Justiniano,
Greg Raisman, Molly Haynes.

Thankfully, the messages finally made their way to the right people within KP. Last month the organization’s Director of Community Health, Molly Haynes, coordinated a site visit with KP and PBOT staff to learn more about the issue and map out possible solutions.

Yesterday evening I bundled up and joined Haynes, KP Facilities Manager Matt Justiniano, KP External Affairs Director Dan Field, and PBOT active transportation and safety staffer Greg Raisman for a outdoor meeting at the campus. (It’s worth noting that both Haynes and Field were on the Policymakers Ride this past August.)

We looked at the situation from many angles and considered several different options.

While many people use the sidewalk just east of the KP Center for Health Research, others prefer a bumpy route on a gravel driveway that dumps (via a curb) onto the northeast corner of the parking lot. There’s also a large unpaved right-of-way on the eastern edge of the parking lot that seems like an ideal spot for a new bike path. For most of the meeting we assumed that was the top option. We also considered cutting a new path through the grassy median at the north side of the parking lot and striping a bike lane east-west through the parking lot to connect to the sidewalk.

kp-dirty

Looking southwest from Failing bridge.
kp-dirt2

A desire line through a dirt road and into the parking lot. This area
will be leveled and improved with a curb ramp.

In the end, the group decided to move forward on the following option*:

  • Smooth out and level the dirt path at the northeast section of the parking lot.
  • Cut a new curb ramp into the parking lot.
  • Install sharrows on a path through the parking lot.
  • The route for the sharrows would go on a wide street in the lot (continuation of N Montana) and connect directly to Overlook Drive, which will connect people to a signalized intersection at Interstate, where you could continue north/south or connect to the Concord neighborhood greenway.

In the very basic map below, I’ve colored the new route in bright blue,the neighborhood greenways in green, and the sidewalk in red:

kpmap

And this is the wide road in the parking lot that will likely be marked with sharrows in each direction:

kp-montana

The KP staff are supportive of this approach and they’re working on a construction estimate. We haven’t heard any confirmations about when the work would be done or how/if it will be funded, but we’ll keep you posted. Raisman had a great idea to kick off the improvements with a neighborhood bike ride this spring.

Thanks to KP for stepping up to address this issue. Stay tuned for further developments!

*Note that KP hasn’t officially committed to anything. This is just a proposal under consideration that had support from the people who showed up yesterday.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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jeg
Guest
jeg

I get that hospitals are often only accessible by car, but I feel like Kaiser really creates a scar to the neighborhood with so much parking anyway. I wish those lots could be reutilized for mixed use. That would be a real concession to the bikers. The lots are an eyesore in the way of my ability to “thrive” in my community, Kaiser.

Liz
Guest
Liz

I hope having the route go through the eastern side of the parking lot, just onto the pavement from the dirt path you mentioned, is also considered. There is only parking on one side of the lane, and much less traffic there than the Montana Extension option.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

If you are headed north or to Swan Island, just go up Montana to Shaver, and cross Interstate at that signal to get to Concord. My old route to Swan Island was on Failing to Interstate, up the bike lane to Going, left at the signal…always being very careful crossing the MAX tracks, and then down the Going Street sidewalk. The old 70’s Concord Bridge drove me nuts.

Chris Smith
Guest

I’m delighted to see this. I get most of my health care at this campus and generally access it from Skidmore to N. Montana and hit these obstacles.

mh
Guest
mh

Thank you, Jonathan, for getting involved. I’ve been poking and prodding at this in several directions for months, and never found anyone willing and with the authority to do anything about it.

Peter R.
Guest

I’m the first to firmly believe that bikes don’t belong on sidewalks anyways. However, there needs to be suitable other options such as bike lanes, MUPs, safe streets, etc. At least Kaiser is trying to do something about it.

Peejay
Guest
Peejay

Why a sharrow on such a wide street? Can’t they find a way to separate bike traffic?

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

Separately from what may be instituted on Kaiser property, was there any discussion of installing wayfinding signs directing people (both directions) between the Failing bridge and the crossing at Shaver?

It’s ironic that at every OTHER intersection within several blocks in either direction along Interstate there is a signalized or signed/painted crosswalk, and only at the Failing intersection–the natural outlet from the bike/ped bridge–is there no crossing.

Joe
Guest
Joe

watch for peds ;-P

Ed Birnbaum
Guest
Ed Birnbaum

I’m a Respiratory Therapist working for Kaiser since ’83. I usually bike to work and used to work on that campus. Now at Sunnyside. Glad to see our management’s trying to work this out. We do get support for bike commuting. There are some great bike lockers in a parking garage on the Interstate campus and in 1 garage here at Sunnyside, as well as lots of staple-type things to lock up to all around, and I get a locker for my clothes and shower at work. They have asked for and actually responded to input from cycling employees about what we needed. Thanks for letting us all know about this, Jonathan and keep us posted on developments. I can add my $0.02 as an employee, if that would help.

Zaphod
Guest

I utilize this route frequently. I’d be curious about what the high water mark is for parking utilization. If there’s excess parking then there’s opportunity to repurpose.

That said, these improvements are a good thing and really shouldn’t be expensive. Thank you KP… this will influence my health care purchase decision.

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Thanks, KP. Interesting that this happened during Open Season. 🙂 (No, I don’t actually think it was planned that way.)

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

As a Kaiser user who accesses their buildings from the Failing Pedestrian Bridge, there needs to be a logical way to ride from the ped bridge, to their main buildings. All that’s necessary is some curb cuts and short paved sections through the parking lot landscaping. Finally it sounds like they’re doing this! Unfortunate that the first response was to put up “no bikes” signs rather than try to figure out how to accommodate bikes.

Sarah Brice
Guest
Sarah Brice

Wonderful! I have sent messages to Kaiser about this! I’m so glad this is being addresses. I visited this Kaiser by bike twice since August and both times was saddened by the opportunity they were missing to add good bike connectivity to their campus.

mh
Guest
mh

I’m very curious how Greg Raisman got involved, since none of this is public ROW. Did someone at Kaiser wisely ask for help?

oliver
Guest
oliver

Not having a curb cut out in exactly this spot, has always struck me as one of those “why hasn’t anyone thought of this yet” things.

Nice to see it happening.

rick
Guest
rick

Interstate Ave needs an overhaul. Who uses the Max line at 3:00 AM? No one. It needs that leveled, well-engineered buses brought in, and cycle tracks or bike lanes. and sidewalks along with crosswalks.

mh
Guest
mh

Is that Policymaker Ride by invitation only?

Liz
Guest
Liz

Over the past week, those “No bicycles on sidewalk” sidewalk stencils were edited and it now reads “Walk bicycles on sidewalk” – what a difference the message is with changing one word.

https://instagram.com/p/9EXMGilnyH/

mh
Subscriber

And now that I don’t have to ride on the sidewalk, I don’t know how long it would have taken for me to notice the correction. (Probably until another injury or surgery forced me from my bike.) Happy to see them processing this better lately.