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SW Portland Week photo diary: Day 1

Posted by on February 10th, 2015 at 9:55 am

SW Portland Week - Day 1-4

Finding my way around southwest Portland.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post is part of our SW Portland Week.

Yesterday was an epic day to kick off our SW Portland Week coverage. Riding in the area is challenging enough in nice weather, throw in strong winds and sheets of rain and things get very interesting. Despite the storm, it didn’t keep us from exploring the area’s bikeways.

We’ll try to do a photo diary every day this week to share where we rode and what we saw. This is the first of the series.


Where I rode yesterday. 11 miles and about 1,000 feet of climbing. See route details on

I started off the day by riding to Baker & Spice Bakery at 6330 SW Capitol Hwy in Hillsdale. From downtown, I went south on SW Broadway then found my way onto SW Barbur. Given what a major connection Broadway/Barbur is, I was surprised the transition between the two (on SW Sheridan) isn’t more clear. Seems like we could use directional signage or markings.

(And yes, I realize that SW Terwilliger is a lower stress option in this case, but it also has more climbing and I’ve ridden it many times in the past. The whole point of this week is for us to learn the streets like locals.)


I took Barbur south all the way to Capitol Highway. In some ways, Barbur is a good example of the potential — and reality — that exists in southwest. Closer to downtown Portland (where the City Bureau of Transportation has jurisdiction), there are buffered bike lanes that were installed just over two years ago. Unfortunately, they don’t last long. As you head south, there are still bike lanes, but they’re just 5-feet of gravel-filled shoulder space next to other traffic that zooms by at 50 mph.

I saw a “45 MPH” speed limit sign next to a standard bike lane and five, high-speed standard lanes and thought to myself: That should never happen.

SW Portland Week - Day 1-1

A notorious stretch of Barbur south of Hamilton. Look at all that road space!

At the intersection of Barbur and Capitol Highway (which feels more like a freeway off-ramp than an intersection) the state’s first-ever green bike lane feels and looks a bit wimpy.

Barbur green bike lane

Looking back at the Barbur/Capitol Hwy off-ramp.

Just beyond that intersection lies one of the few places where the bike lane on Barbur completely disappears. I didn’t venture there yesterday (we’ll cover Barbur in a separate post later this week), but the photo below of the Newbury Bridge gets my heart racing just to look at it (note that half the shoulder in that photo is a narrow raised sidewalk)…

SW Portland Week - Day 1-2

Newbury Bridge: Where the bike lane ends.

When I headed west on Capitol Hwy, I encountered another one of SW Portland’s challenges: trees, dirt, and other debris in bike lanes. Because this area is so hilly and there are so many trees and greenery, during winter the bike lanes seem to be constantly full of streaming water, sticks, branches, leaves, and so on. Given how fast people drive on these roads, bicycle riders need every inch of the bike lane for their safety (both perceived and real). A winter bike lane maintenance schedule would be a good idea.

SW Portland Week - Day 1-3

This is actually a relatively clean spot. I had to swerve by a number of large branches and twigs.

As I approached the intersection with Terwilliger, I crossed over and headed south. I glanced over and saw a yellow caution sign: “Bike [symbol] In Lane.” It was directed at eastbound Capitol Hwy users. In the photo below, note the condition of the shoulder and the speed of the roadway… yikes!

SW Portland Week - Day 1-5

One thing I felt immediately while riding in SW Portland is that shared environments are the norm whenever you leave the main arterials. And dropped bike lanes happen frequently — whenever the road narrows and it becomes “too hard to fit” the bike lane. See the example below on SW Terwilliger just south of Chestnut…

SW Portland Week - Day 1-6

After a stop at the Burlingame Fred Meyer (a car-choked place that isn’t very inviting on a bicycle), I rolled up SW Bertha to the Hillsdale shopping center where I was greeted with the fine site of nice bike parking…

SW Portland Week - Day 1-7

SW Portland Week - Day 1-9

SW Portland Week - Day 1-8

After locking up I went to work at Baker & Spice, a great bakery with a strong local vibe that was bustling with business. I don’t think I’ll work there any more this week however because I don’t want to detract from the great face-to-face social/family/friend ambience the place has. (I always find working on laptops kills what bakeries and cafes should be all about — meeting people and having screen-free conversations.)

Speaking of meeting people, an acquaintance of mine, Jim Anderson, walked in while I was working and we chatted for several minutes. In case you missed it, check out the brief profile of him I shared yesterday.

For my route back to downtown Portland, I took Jim’s advice and headed up and over the hills instead of using the busier main streets. And I’m glad I did. I headed north on Sunset, then connected to Westwood and wound my way up (and I mean up!) to Fairmount. Then I descended on SW Vista which dropped me right off at W Burnside. It was a beautiful, peaceful, and relatively quick way to get back into town.

Stay tuned for more coverage from SW Portland. Coming up: A look at the area’s transportation habits by the numbers, an interview with local resident and Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, profiles of local bike shops, and more.

Join us Friday afternoon (2/13) for a BikePortland Get Together and social hour at the Lucky Labrador Public House in Multnomah Village (7675 SW Capitol Hwy) from 4:00 – 6:30pm.

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29 thoughts on “SW Portland Week photo diary: Day 1”

  1. Avatar jeffb says:

    Nice article, would love to see more like these.

    I’m always extra aware descending SW Vista as I’ve seen countless close calls with cars pulling out from or turning onto side streets; usually I’ll take SW Montgomery to descend the top half, then jump on Vista just uphill of the Vista bridge.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      I’m always intrigued by the chorus of folks who champion these steeper routes over Barbur. I grew up in SW (being driven around in cars and by Trimet through this exact area: Capitol Hwy, Multnomah Blvd, Dosch, Vista, Barbur, Bvt.-Hillsdale Hwy, etc.). The Barbur right of way was built to accommodate a train heading out of town, and it shows. Even though we (most of us) now have lots of gears on our bikes, the logic of using the straight, flat route into or out of town is inescapable, and I’d hate to lose sight of the fact that it is Barbur that needs attention. It is hard to see how we couldn’t get more bike bang for our transportation buck by fixing Barbur than any other way.

      1. Avatar wsbob says:

        Barbur for a long time to come, is likely to continue to be a road made very loud, with dirty air resulting from the road’s primary use as a fast highway for people traveling by motor vehicle in and out of Portland. Huge numbers of motor vehicles. Those are inescapable conditions for people riding their bikes alongside motor vehicle traffic on this road. No fixes to the road for biking is likely to change these conditions.

        Comparatively, the hill climbing routes in and out of Portland have relatively low motor vehicle use, especially if people riding divert off the main route, such as Montgomery rather than Vista. These routes are quiet, smell good. People that can’t, or don’t want to climb, aren’t going to like the hilly routes, because there’s no denying the extra effort involved, over a more moderate climb such as that on Barbur. I suppose people that don’t want to, or can’t climb, are stuck with the noxiousness of Barbur.

        My one lament about Terwilliger between Beav-Hillsdale and Downtown Portland is the amount of motor vehicle use on the road. I figure that use is largely due to the hospital complex on the hill, which there’s not likely very good work arounds for. This is a moderate climb route, which except for the excessive motor vehicle use, would be one of the city’s best for a fairly wide range of people biking. Nicely twisting road, beautiful views, fragrant forest settings along the way.

    2. Avatar Champs says:

      To me, upper Vista feels safer than Montgomery. You can have a buffer from uphill traffic passing you, or a buffer for you getting across, but not both.

      I guess you pick your poisons. Fortunately, not riding there at all is one of my options.

  2. Avatar peejay says:

    Wow. That looks like a lot of bike facilities designed by people who do not use them. Scary.

  3. Avatar Alexandra says:

    I ride (mostly) every day from North Portland (overlook) to SW PDX (Beaverton Hillsdale HW and 62nd), a commute I’ve done for the past 2.5 years. Its about 11 miles each way. I know Barbur gets a lot of knocks, but I appreciate how quick it is to get from downtown to SW swiftly; in fact, it’s usually my favorite part of my ride. I have tried riding on Terwiliger and also through the hills, neither of which I liked. I suppose I’m more of a city rider. For my entire ride, I essentially have bike lanes the whole way, which is quite impressive. That said, I would welcome any bike lane improvements which would, in turn, encourage more people to ride.

  4. Avatar Dave says:

    Funny how in an area with two universities and a community college plus plenty of well-credentialed residents NOBODY CAN READ A F***** SPEED LIMIT SIGN TO SAVE THEIR LIFE!

    1. Avatar Alan Love says:

      On my way home every night, that flashing “You’re speeding by this much” sign is rarely not flashing. But people on bikes are the scofflaws…

      1. Avatar davemess says:

        It’s pretty easy to make that sign flash on Terwiliger on a bike as well.

    2. Avatar Rick says:

      SW Multnomah Blvd and SW Vermont Street will soon get lower speed limits.

      1. Avatar soren says:

        Which will be ignored by many, if not, most.

        1. Avatar Barbara Stedman says:

          People will always go 10 miles above the speed limit, so a lower speed limit means they won’t follow it, but still go slower than before…

    3. Avatar invisiblebikes says:

      Its human nature/pack mentality… people driving cars feel safer when matching the speed of all the other people driving cars. then before they notice (because their always F’ing distracted) everyone driving is doing 10 mph over the speed limit, just like a heard of idiots!

      The nice thing is I’ve noticed some decent traffic enforcement on Barbur between Hamilton and Terwilliger by portland PD every couple weeks.

  5. Avatar Alan Love says:

    Bah! You ride right up to the main point of contention (Barbur, at the bridges) but don’t ride/document it? It would have taken 5 minutes to ride across them, flip around then head up Capital Hwy. Barbur isn’t that bad, except for those horrible points, and documenting them would illustrate the key choke point to decent-ish connection with Portland-Proper.

    To ODOT’s credit, the new flashing alert is a sign (ha!) that they are at least making a small attempt to rectify an 80 year old problem, and they have reduced dangerous passing in my experience. I’m more inclined to take the lane, and drivers are at least *slightly* less inclined to feel “their” lane is being taken away from them. It ain’t much, but it’s better than what was there before.

    1. Alan,

      I didn’t go further on Barbur because we’re doing a separate post focusing just on Barbur (and associated issues) later in the week.

  6. Avatar eric says:

    I grew up on a bike in SW. I have ridden damn near every street in the area.
    I remember as a kid (20 years ago) riding up Lancaster street, blind curves with no shoulder. We would ride extra fast on that road because we were always afraid a car would come up behind us from around a blind turn.

    It is not a good area for biking. Yeah you can make it work if you are a cyclist, but its not good for a leisure bike ride and I personally rarely seek out a ride in the area (I live in SE now).
    And average Joes who reside there are not going to be inclined to hop on a bike to play the “lets dodge cars” game. But I also get the feeling that most people(non bike owners) are perfectly happy with it like that.

  7. Avatar Scott says:

    Actually the Freddy’s is quite bike friendly, as long as you’re approaching it from the west side. The upper lot has thoughtfully placed, sheltered staples that make parking with a trailer a joy. They should be commended, not admonished. The same goes for the Safeway just up the road. Please, re-do your article!

  8. Avatar Vince says:

    Ah, yes. Bike lane maintenance. The city of Portland did better than ODOT with bike lane clean up after the cascade of branches and debris that followed the ice at the start of this winter. They only took a month or so to clear sections near Hillsdale. ODOT took six weeks to get the large branches off the bike lane on Scholls Ferry near OES. And we are talking branches that would have been a dismount for all but a world class CX rider

    1. Avatar Barbara Stedman says:

      In defense of PBOT I have to say that all that debris came down that day. It was an especially bad day. On Twrwilliger the bike lanes were fine in the morning and a mess by the time I biked home at 2:30. Terwilliger is usually swept within a few days. However, it is a typical hazard of biking in SW. On stormy days like yesterday bikelanes on Terwilliger and other sreets become raging rivers filled with tree branches, small rocks etc.

      1. Avatar rick says:

        It doesn’t help that many nearby adjacent property owners let the weeds grow rampant and kill trees

      2. Avatar Barbara Stedman says:

        Terwilliger was cleaned up this morning.

  9. Avatar abomb says:

    I grew up in Sellwood and every time I went for a ride I would always gravitate towards the SW hills. The terrain and scenery are much more enjoyable and interesting(for me) then the mainly flat grid pattern of SE. I then moved to N Portland and for most my rides I would always ride over the St Johns bridge to get to the westside. I have now lived on the westside for the last 16yrs and commute from the southwest end of Lake Oswego too right next door of Bob’s Red Mill via the Sellwood bridge. Once you figure out a good route through the side roads its a very enjoyable commute. A good portion of the ride is car free using the Tryon creek bike path and the Riverview cemetery. And the hills keep you in damn good shape.

    1. Avatar Rick says:

      There will likely be historic levels of pedestrian and bicycle traffic in both Sellwood and St. Johns twelve months from now once the Sellwood Bridge is completed.

      1. Avatar davemess says:

        Did you mean John’s Landing?

  10. Avatar don arambula says:

    Too bad you did not ride the reverse route. I commute daily up and back from Council Crest. I would love to see sharrows on Montgomery and Greenway.

  11. Avatar phreadi says:

    The freddy’s on barber I think actually has all it’s bike parking covered up by the parking lot elevators

  12. Avatar Andyc of Linnton says:

    I love these series’ from outside the core neighborhoods of Portland.

    And heck yeah!, an ODOT winter bike lane maintenance schedule is sorely needed, and in many spots necessary to travel (I’ve been on the fog line in a number of spots for over a couple weeks on Dirty 30 recently).
    Thanks for the coverage, can’t wait to read all the articles.

  13. Avatar Keith says:

    Enjoying your articles. This one and some of the others capture what it’s like to ride in SW – good facilities, which in many instances, are punctuated with sections that are poor to downright scary. In many ways, SW needs lots of small gap-filling improvements to make the system hospitable and safe at reasonable cost.

  14. Avatar Roger Avebeck says:

    Thanks for visiting our community! Please go beyond Hillsdale, there is much more to experience…

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