Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick has responded to a volunteer advocate’s letter about the dangerous bicycling conditions on SW Barbur Blvd.
Last week we published a letter from Kiel Johnson, a man who has pushed for a road diet on Barbur through the grassroots Friends of Barbur group. The letter came after the Oregon Department of Transportation revealed results of their traffic study on the street that was conducted last fall during a construction project. While Novick had promised that PBOT would use the study to assess safety concerns, ODOT staff said safety wasn’t a priority of the study.
Commissioner Novick responded to Johnson via the email below (dated January 30th, emphases mine):
Thanks for your email following up on PBOT and ODOT’s exploration of possible safety improvements on SW Barbur Boulevard. I remain committed to using the valuable information gathered during construction to inform our work with ODOT, our elected leaders, the community, and other stakeholders to develop a path forward. I look forward to your continued participation in this process.
Last summer in advance of the construction work on the Vermont and Newberry Viaducts, ODOT and PBOT worked together to ensure that data collected during the construction project could help inform future safety work. This partnership included discussions regarding placement of counters and other data collection issues.
As you noted, traffic data from the construction projects provided real-life observations about the impacts of changing the cross section on SW Barbur. Specifically, the data help us understand the potential outcomes of having a single northbound motor vehicle lane reduction between SW Hamilton and SW Miles.
We have several years of data pointing to the safety problems in this section of Barbur. Under current conditions, the bike lanes disappear over the Vermont and Newberry viaducts, forcing bicycles to share a travel lane with motor vehicles. The safety problems are exacerbated by high travel speeds. Speed data collected near the bridges indicate that over 15% of drivers are traveling faster than 48mph. And of course, with nearly 19,000 daily vehicles traveling, these conditions are well outside of ideal conditions for a shared facility.
In addition to continuing to explore how to address the lack of bicycle infrastructure, I will be paying specific attention to how the data collected during the construction project can help us address excessive speeding in the corridor. Although additional analysis is needed, it is interesting that the initial data suggests that going to one lane in that segment significantly reduced vehicles traveling in excess of 55 miles per hour.
I share and applaud your commitment to resolving the safety problems on this roadway. As one of our high crash corridors, Barbur Boulevard is a priority for me and the entire bureau.
Commissioner Steve Novick
City of Portland, Oregon
And with that, it seems as though nearly everything is lined up for taking action on a redesign of Barbur. Everything, that is, except for the willingness of ODOT to allow it to happen.
Johnson told us via email today that he’s “very happy” with Novick’s response. “This is the first time I have heard a public official say that bikes and cars sharing a road over the bridges is not ideal. I hope the data used during the bridge construction can be used to find the solution.”
Stay tuned. See our past coverage of SW Barbur here.