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Support builds for walking and biking improvements on east side of Naito Parkway (updated)


busy walk path
Even where it isn’t blocked, Naito’s existing goatpath often spills over during festivals.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A week after Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick’s office called out Naito Parkway for failing to provide “a minimum level of safety for the traveling public” along Waterfront Park, other central-city institutions are weighing in.

Ian Stude, the transportation and parking services director at Portland State University, said he’d support either a change to the rules that govern festival fencing plans, requiring them to preserve access to the Naito goatpath, or a larger-scale change such as converting a northbound lane to a mixed-use walking-biking path.

“I think both of those options are better than what is going on today,” Stude said. “I’m in favor of anything that relieves some of the pressure.”

“It’s not wide enough now, and it’s not wide enough to meet our goal.”
— PSU transportation and parking director Ian Stude on Waterfront Park’s riverside path

Stude said Waterfront Park’s existing riverside path is “definitely too narrow” for the number of people who try to use it, especially during festival season. He recalled a tour of Portland’s famous park with international planning expert Gil Penalosa in 2008.

“That was his very first comment: it’s not wide enough,” Stude said. “It’s not wide enough now, and it’s not wide enough to meet our goal.”

Stude said Naito and Waterfront Park are common bike routes away from PSU, which is likely the city’s single largest biking destination but isn’t directly served by any northbound bicycling facilities.

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Bjorn Freeman-Benson, the vice president of engineering for fast-growing downtown software firm New Relic, said he too would like to see improvements to Naito.

“Our employees who come from the east side have good bicycle commutes across the bridges, but do find the situation to be more maze-like once they arrive downtown,” Freeman-Benson said in an email Tuesday. “There are a few good thoroughfares, such as the separate car and bike lanes on Oak and Stark, but the narrow lane on Naito remains a problem in the summer for those coming from the Hawthorne bridge north to the Pearl District.”

Then there’s Oregon Health and Science University, another major biking destination — the Go By Bike valet at the base of OHSU’s Portland Aerial Tram typically draws 200 bike commuters at this time of year. Last week, valet operator Kiel Johnson set up a whiteboard poll asking passers-by for their take on Naito and Waterfront Park:

The survey wasn’t exactly scientific, but the general attitude seemed clear enough.

Stude, the PSU transportation director, said his own top preference would be for some sort of design that physically separates people biking and walking while providing comfortable space for both. He said that’s clearly missing during summer festival season, though he thinks at other times of the year Waterfront Park works all right for the moment.

“A lot of days it’s probably fine,” Stude said. “But what’s there now won’t serve our aspirations for bike and walk trips in the future.”

Update 5/13: Oregon Health and Science University has also weighed in. “OHSU supports a street design that is safe for all commuters,” said Brett Dodson of OHSU Transportation and Parking. “It’s great that the mayor and others are exploring options.”

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