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Weak links: City finds traffic hot spots on neighborhood greenway system

Posted by on March 31st, 2015 at 9:55 am

auto count map

The first numbers are rolling in from the first comprehensive analysis of the country’s first connected bicycle boulevard network, and they show some clear problem spots.

SE Clinton at 22nd.

The side-street bikeways are known in Portland as neighborhood greenways to capture their appeal as places to walk, jog, shoot hoops and so on. But the City of Portland’s project shows that six — inner SE Clinton, SE Lincoln near 53rd, NE Tillamook near Grant High School, SE 86th near Powell, inner Northwest Johnson and upper NW 24th — clearly fail national standards for auto counts on bike boulevards.

The national standard, created by Portland and other cities in the form of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, says “bicycle boulevards should be designed for motor vehicle volumes under 1,500 vehicles per day, with up to 3,000 vpd allowed in limited sections of a bicycle boulevard corridor.”

More than 10 percent of counts on the Clinton and Lincoln/Harrison greenways between 2006 and 2014 cross that red line, as well as about eight percent of counts on Tillamook.

Most of the Clinton and Lincoln/Harrison routes don’t even make it into the green zone. Less than half of their motor vehicle counts were below 1,500.

ng auto count percentages by greenway

(Maps and charts via Portland Bureau of Transportation. Click to enlarge.)

As for Northwest Portland’s small network of greenways, high-traffic stretches on 24th and on Johnson mean that 10 percent of counts in the entire quadrant exceed 3,000.

Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller presented the findings Monday at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit, noting that the system included points with “higher-than desired traffic volumes pretty much across the board.”

ng problems by quadrant

The orange line, 1,000 motor vehicles per day, is Portland’s internal target maximum for auto trips on neighborhood greenways.

He described inner Southeast and Northwest as “a real problem area” for neighborhood greenways.

The study also found high traffic on much of the 130s neighborhood greenway, which hasn’t yet been built. Geller said those stretches are likely to get bike lanes instead.

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The data also showed some clear bright spots. Every single auto count on the North Portland, Going, Holman and Salmon/Taylor greenways measured fewer than 1,500 motor vehicles per day. That’s thanks in some cases to traffic diverters that make the streets impassible to cut-through auto traffic while still allowing local car access.

holman pocket park

Probably the city’s most beautiful traffic diverter, the Holman Street pocket park allows through bike and foot traffic and lets people drive up to both sides of it, but blocks through car traffic.
(Photo: City of Portland)

The city’s findings so far echo concerns from advocacy groups BikeLoudPDX and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance that Southeast Clinton Street in particular is a bikeway in name only and is failing to attract the new bike users necessary for the city to meet its auto reduction goals.

However, Monday’s findings also showed something else: despite those problems, Southeast Clinton Street near 26th Avenue has become as popular a place to bike (at least among the people who currently ride bicycles) as it is to drive.

clinton bike traffic

Summer bike counts at Clinton and 26th are some of the highest in the city, and have generally been rising.

That raises a different question: if many people are making do with the sub-par biking conditions on Clinton, is it more important for the city to spend its limited time, money and political capital expanding the greenway network elsewhere?

“Northwest and East Portland are not too happy right now for our greenways, and we could probably be doing better citywide,” Geller said Monday.

margi bradway

The city’s recently hired active transportation manager Margi Bradway ordered up this analysis as a way to inform what she hopes will be a public conversation about the most important ways to improve the neighborhood greenway system.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Another major safety issue isn’t addressed by these figures: traffic speed. Portland Active Transportation Division Manager Margi Bradway, who conceived the neighborhood greenway analysis project last fall, said data about auto speeds on neighborhood greenways will be ready for public release in a few days.

Geller said the full neighborhood greenways report might or might not include recommendations for action to Portland City Council. He wasn’t willing to commit Monday to a release date.

“We will have the report in the future,” Geller said. “It’s really complex and there’s a lot of issues to address.”

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hat
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hat

If the diverter at Holman/13th includes a park, was it paid for through both PBOT and Parks? Perhaps this can be one way to get funding for this type of diverter sorely needed on Clinton, Ankeny etc.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Surely I am not alone in having repeated experiences with aggressive drivers on Clinton. However things are going there—despite it all—somebody is going to get hurt.

galavantista
Guest
galavantista

That raises a different question: if many people are making do with the sub-par biking conditions on Clinton, imagine how many more would be riding there with the simple addition of some traffic diversion?

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

The spot at SE 85th by the DMV is ridiculous. It’s mostly people using it as a cut-through from Powell to 82nd. If they put a diverter for westbound traffic at 85th or 83rd – it would still allow access to Eastport Plaza and stop a lot of the cut through.

Rick
Guest
Rick

SW needs more greenways.

Dave Hoch
Guest

glad we’ve got some tangible quantitative numbers to back the shit show on clinton. for the love of safe transportation, through some crowd-source-community-engaged diverters up and call it a day.

Justin Carinci
Guest
Justin Carinci

You touch on bike volumes and traffic speed a little bit here, but they do give a fuller picture. When Clinton has a lot of cars on it, it still feels safe if there are also a lot of bikes on it, because cyclists are comfortable setting the pace. Center never feels as safe, even if there aren’t as many cars as Clinton, because the ratio is out of whack. It’s not a bike boulevard, it’s a car street where you can bike in the parking lane. Few dare take the lane through the 70s. That’s “a bikeway in name only.”
People vote with their pedals, and bike volumes show that Clinton is a success, even while failing by national standards. I’d love to see Center and Woodward fail as well as inner Clinton, for all its problems.

Allison
Guest
Allison

There are no diverters along any of the NW bikeways mentioned. I think construction of a few well-placed diverters could go a long way in quieting those routes. And maybe if they do that they can then turn some of the stop signs–you can’t go more than two blocks without hitting a stop sign along most of those lengths (that’s why when going north, a lot of us take NW 25th because it’s faster and less frustrating).

Chris Anderson
Guest

Even the best Greenways (I’m looking at you Going) are still places where you rarely see children riding unaccompanied. And the adult chaperones look vigilant, not relaxed. Speed bumps before the stops signs on the cross streets would make a big difference.

invisiblebikes
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invisiblebikes

No matter how much or how little auto traffic is on a greenway they will never be safe until people (driving) are taught how to use them.
Just this morning me and my co worker (on separate greenways) were put in very dangerous situations because drivers don’t know how to react when they encounter sharrows or people on bikes on the greenways.

Unsafe passing, illegal speeds, not yielding right of way, aggressive driving… I experience this from about 90% of motorists I encounter on the greenways that I ride to and from work every day.

We need to add Diverters (where ever possible) signage instructing motorists of the laws and how to act on greenways, Speed limit signs, yield to cyclist signs and most importantly signs making it clear that these greenways are supposed to be safe, low speed, low auto traffic roads!

How are motorists supposed to know how to conduct themselves when the last time they were taught and/or tested was 15 to 30 years ago?!

Signs are a major part of the DMV driving code… lets start using them!

PdxMark
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PdxMark

invisiblebikes

Signs are a major part of the DMV driving code… lets start using them!

Interesting .. but what sign? It makes me think of a sign at/on some trails… showing who yields to whom among walkers, bikers, and.. well.. horsers…

Patrick
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Patrick

Bicycle riders need to be taught how to use the Greenways too–ride in the middle and keep out of the door zone. If cut-through traffic sees bikes in the road they are less likely to make the mistake of using the Greenway. Cyclists who weave in & out of parked cars and keep to the right leave the road looking vacant. Ride like you OWN THE GREENWAYS folks!

Dan
Guest
Dan

invisiblebikes
No matter how much or how little auto traffic is on a ROAD they will never be safe until people (driving) are taught how to use them….drivers don’t know how to react when they encounter people on bikes on the ROADS.

Fixed that.

Tyler
Guest

Lincoln between 52 and 39th is almost as much of a race track as Clinton, especially in the morning, with Tabor-ites rushing their kids to the elementary at 42nd. The traffic map above bears this out. I’d love to see the traffic reduced to almost nil on both of these routes. Diverters like those used at 39th/Clinton and Lincoln on the east end of this segment, combined with spurs at the traffic islands is the way to go. The city’s failure/refusal/inability to act will eventually result in a tragic situation.

Bald One
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Bald One

City needs to dedicate some resources to improve these high-use (inner Portland locations) greenways – make them as attractive to cyclists as possible. I realize that outer city areas need work, also, but focus should be where the most riders are – inner city bike collectors, bike arterials, high-use bike lane streets, MUPS and greenways. These count as existing infrastructure but need to be improved and finished – no resting on 1990’s built infrastructure as bike volumes have increased since then. City needs to think about improving and increasing bike capacity on some high-use existing infrastructure before they build new ones, or at least partly base these resource decisions on use/demand and not just on a map.

cpac
Guest
cpac

NW is totally in flux right now.

East-West routes:

The Raleigh bike boulevard is going away due to all the Conway development, to be replaced (I believe) by Petigrove.

The Overton bike boulevard is acceptable, but it will be interesting to see how it works with a Petigrove boulevard only a block away.

Marshall works well.

Johnson has problems at 13th and at 16th where it can be difficult to cross at rush hour. Making the 16th intersection a 4-way like Marshall would fix part of this. Same could be done at 13th.

Everett is good and I believe they are planning the same treatment for Glisan, but both would likely still feel very busy and unwelcoming–not greenway material.

The Flanders bridge is something we’re pushing hard for at the neighborhood association level, but the expense is going to be a major challenge.

North-South routes

24th is ok most of the time, but has too many stop signs to make it really appealing for N-S travel.

18th & 19th are, I suspect, the most heavily traveled N-S routes and they, for the most part, work well.

I personally like 10th and 11th as well, for their connections with Stark/Oak

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

Not sure how SE Gladstone (a greenway between SE 42nd and SE 52nd) doesn’t show up on that map. We get lots of west-bound cut-through traffic in the morning and more than a few cars bypassing the diverters so they can go east-bound.

And despite requesting enforcements for years, we’ve gotten nothing other than a token 15 minute enforcement 4 years (?) ago right after the diverters went in.

I seriously question Portland’s commitment to enforcement on Greenways. They install them, send out press releases, pat themselves on the back, and walk away.

Chris Anderson
Guest

How fast to do you ride Spiffy? If I get passed once at 20 mph on Going it’s an anomaly.

I’ve been thinking of upgrading to a faster e-assist so I can roll the speed limit on all neighborhood streets and passing is no longer an issue.

I’m also conscious of the slow riders and after reading this article I made a vow to myself to explore riding closer to 10 mph with my style and see where it gets me. I even dismounted for the crosswalk today and walked real slow making eye contact until drivers slowed (and prepared to backstep if necessary — almost never is).

Jim Chasse
Guest
Jim Chasse

Forgive me if I consider all the whining about speeds on Neighborhood Greenways a little uncalled for. My morning commute takes me down Division St. (the busiest street in Portland with 48,000 vehicle trips a day) through 2 of the top 5 high crash intersections in the city (122nd and 82nd) and it isn’t until I cruise onto Lincoln St. at 60th that my blood pressure drops 20 points. It’s a joy to finally get onto a Greenway! You’re able to hear the birds, enjoy the ride with a just few autos whizzing by at, say, 30 mph tops. I can deal with that. What I find sad is that I can choose any number of Greenways to ride from North, or inner SE to outer east Portland, but once I get east of 82nd Ave. my only options are E. Burnside or Division St. to get any further east. The city has done a great job of providing me with a low stress bike facility to ride in inner SE, NE, N, but continue to put east Portland on the back burner even though there are several projects funded (100’s, 150’s, and 130’s bikeways). This doesn’t include the 4M project (not funded) that would provide a bikeway from the Hawthorne bridgehead to Gresham.
While I agree speeds on the Greenways should be kept in check, it would also be nice to have a few more facilities in east Portland besides major arterials.

Pat Franz
Guest
Pat Franz

Drivers know a “greenway” means a quick cut through. As long as they go through for cars, people will use them as cut throughs.

The solution is obvious, and easy.

Andrew Lynch
Guest
Andrew Lynch

Ok, this is great. With data, PDX can make decisions and prioritize improvements. This is very similar to high-crash reports for intersections that allow for funding prioritization on measures to mitigate those conflicts.

Now it would be useful to see a crowd-sourced map of problem areas and see how that lines up with the data presented.

Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Guest

So has anybody discussed diverters yet? Cuz that’d probablyfix these issues ya know!!

[Yes, I’m being facetious!] 😉

Mary
Guest
Mary

I’ve commuted up and down Clinton between 12th and 34th for 11 years. The changes made to Division St from the Division Streetscape Project have diverted more vehicles onto Clinton. Now that Division has only one lane in each direction, it’s just easier and quicker to get through the neighborhood by driving on Clinton than it is on Division. It’s a shame that a project that was meant to “Increase safety, access, and visibility for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users” has created safety and access problems on the adjacent bike routes.

DZ
Guest
DZ

We can all help get traffic off the NGs if more people would take the lane/road and ride side by side. I feel like I am one of the few people I see doing this on Clinton. Yes, motorists get mad but they also get the point and will stay off that road. If you get into a confrontation just turn on the video camera on your phone, that really changes the dynamics.