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#BetterNaito demo kicks off two-week trial of multi-use path west of Waterfront Park

Posted by on May 22nd, 2015 at 8:47 am

Better Naito Set Up

(Photos: Greg Raisman)

Backed by a slightly bleary-eyed team of Portland State University engineering students, community volunteers and city staffers, local street redesign group Better Block PDX brought its latest city-approved demo to the easternmost lanes of Naito Parkway at 6 a.m. Friday.

The temporary treatment will convert the bike lane and rightmost mixed-traffic lane alongside Waterfront Park to a multi-use path for northbound bike traffic and for people walking.

It’s intended as a response to thick pedestrian spillover during the Rose Festival that starts this weekend, but will double as a way to test whether Naito would experience any traffic problems if the space were permanently dedicated to human use.

Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and Better Block have described it as a way to improve safety on Naito, reduce biking-walking conflicts in the park’s existing riverside path and to build on the legacy of Gov. Tom McCall, who in the early 1970s backed the plan to build the park in place of the former Harbor Drive expressway.


The Better Block installation team.

Both Jonathan and I happen to be out of town today, which is sort of killing us, but we’re eagerly watching photos come in over social media. Here are a few from during and after installation.

Got shots of your own? Share with the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram and we’ll get some more up.

Update 2 p.m.: Here are some more:

Oh hey guys! Check out these colorful #betterblockpdx volunteers who stopped by to give us a hand tonight for #betternaito.

A photo posted by Yelena Prusakova (@yesthatmountain) on

A cargo bike volunteer moves supplies along Naito Blvd. #betternaito #betterblockpdx

A photo posted by Yelena Prusakova (@yesthatmountain) on

Disclosure: My other day job is as a staff writer for Colorado-based advocacy group PeopleForBikes, which has become a lead sponsor of the BetterNaito project thanks to support from Clif Bar. I didn’t make any funding decisions but will be minimizing my own coverage of this on BikePortland to keep things as clean as possible. Expect more coverage once Jonathan is back in town next week!

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Amy Subach May 22, 2015 at 9:07 am

    We could still use some help to keep #BetterNaito going strong! If you like this project, and want to help out with the traffic counts, or maintenance, check out

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  • Adam H. May 22, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Looks great! Can’t wait to ride in it this afternoon!

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  • Robert L. May 22, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Cool! I only use Naito when fences are up on the waterfront. OK, to be honest I usually just go up to Second Ave to avoid all the BS. This looks interesting, I’ll check it out on my ride to work this morning.

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    • Champs May 22, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Don’t go telling everyone about 2nd! Seriously, don’t. Deaf ears.

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      • Robert L. May 22, 2015 at 4:07 pm

        ummm ….. I meant to say I take Naito in the morning, yeah. How about that Naito huh. Thanks, Better Naito. It was I nice pleasant ride along that Naito this morning. Seriously, I this would be fantastic if it were permanent.

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  • Eric May 22, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Rode it this morning. Was nice change from dodging bodies and ship pilons on the waterfront path. One transient dude was jay walking and almost got my Shimano 105 brifter in his kidney. Other than that, free sailing.

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  • Heather May 22, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Question: Where is the earliest I can access this coming from the South Waterfront? It looks like in the pictures I could hop out onto Naito just before the eastbound Hawthorne Bridge on-ramp, but I usually access Naito by the Salmon Street fountain.

    I’m excited to use this this afternoon. I missed it this morning in my haze. I also didn’t see any signs directing me towards it coming south from the lower deck of the steel bridge? Again, maybe it was just because of my lack of coffee.

    Either way, good work volunteers!

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    • Rob Chapman May 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Heather the taper starts down by the Hawthorne on-ramp and the temporary lane is in full effect at the Salmon Street fountain.

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  • shuppatsu May 22, 2015 at 9:42 am

    I’ll check it out today. I’ve been OK with Naito as-is. I feel pretty safe, and it’s fast moving. If I’m not in a hurry I tend to cruise Waterfront for the sights and sounds (and smells). I don’t think that would change.

    But, I don’t know what I don’t know. Many a time I’ve come in skeptical to some change or other, and been surprised by how much I like it. I guess that’s the point of these trials. What a great idea!

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    • Psyfalcon May 22, 2015 at 10:18 am

      I’ve always found the bike lane portions of Naito fine, but others, including people I’ve rode with on it, did not. The festival fences make it worse for anyone not willing to pass pedestrians by going into the car lane. I’ll do that, lots of people wont.

      Can this run through the gap? That is still a terrible spot.

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      • Reza May 22, 2015 at 1:31 pm

        Talk to ODOT Rail. They will require a million+ dollars for any improvements at the UPRR crossing.

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        • maccoinnich May 22, 2015 at 4:09 pm

          Is there any particular reason the city can’t just turn the outer two lanes into protected bike lanes as they go over the railroad tracks? Naito only has two general traffic lanes north of the Steel Bridge anyway, so I can’t see it having a major impact to drivers.

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          • Reza May 23, 2015 at 8:16 am

            This has come up during planning for the Flanders greenway crossing here. It’s not the impact to drivers that’s the driving concern, it’s the improvements to the signals that ODOT Rail will demand in order to allow any modifications there, which are more complicated than at first glance. Because the tracks cross the roadway at a skewed angle, the bike lanes would need to “bow out” to ensure that bicycles cross them at a perpendicular angle.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) May 22, 2015 at 3:05 pm

        Stay tuned. The current plan is to extend this north to Glisan – closing the Naito gap – during Fleet Week, the first few days of June and the last few days of this trial.

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        • Reza May 23, 2015 at 8:13 am

          What kind of engineering has been done for this pilot to avoid conflicts at the northbound Steel Bridge on ramp at Davis? And no, Glisan does not totally close the Naito gap. There is still that pesky rail crossing to the north (which is no coincidence).

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      • rick May 22, 2015 at 10:10 pm

        How great is Naito by Barbur?

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  • Adam H. May 22, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Get ready to dodge semi-trucks and parked Rose Festival cars…

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  • Ted Buehler May 22, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Nice work, Better Block and PBOT! Special props to folks that got up at 3:30am to do the installation.

    Hope to see it successful.

    Then made permanent.

    Blessed be the name of Tom McCall, let’s build the legacy!

    Ted Buehler

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  • ethan May 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I haven’t been over to that side lately, but I’ll have to check it out! Also, I just found one of my doppelgangers! For a while, I’ve known that somebody else looks pretty much just like me. Apparently many people have seen that guy in the blue shirt and thought he was me. And now that I see the picture the resemblance is amazing. I believe I have literally the exact same shirt and glasses. Plus, a very similar hair cut and beard. He looks more fit than me, however.

    Sorry for the tangent, I’m just blown away that I saw my doppelganger on BP!

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  • SD May 22, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Took this route on my commute home and it was great to see all of the people walking and many of them standing around in the area on Naito. Despite the signage, the groups of people didn’t seem to expect to see cyclists using part of this space. I ended up joining the cars, which was fine because they were traveling at a reasonable speed and not changing lanes. I am not complaining because I am happy to see people using the streets, but I wouldn’t expect to use this area for bike transit, even at relatively low speed, without having to merge with cars from time to time.

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  • Jason May 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    I ride that stretch of Naito every afternoon and was able to check it out yesterday. I was optimistic about such a progressive experiment, but my experience ended up being pretty much like SD said above. Huge packs of pedestrians spilling out of the festival, walking or standing in the bike portion of the shared lane, completely blocking it. We’re talking groups of maybe 20 or 30 people in multiple areas.

    I ended up needing to merge into the vehicle lane to “take” it, but car traffic was light and it was no problem (except that the barriers were a little goofy). While I’m perfectly comfortable taking that lane, I expect other riders not to be. I would also expect drivers to become frustrated when 1 lane is already shut down for bikes and stuff and then they still have to deal with bikes in the lane…

    I just think there probably needs to be better pedestrian management there, especially during peak festival times.

    I hear that 2nd is good though. 😃

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  • Old Town May 23, 2015 at 10:35 am

    FYI, the markings for bikes and peds are advisory, similar to the Hawthorne Bridge. If packs of 20-30 pedestrians walking on the #BetterNaito multi use path, it is functioning properly by creating a safe space for people! This path is not designed for one particular mode of transport, but rather a safe space for all people to access and enjoy RoseFest and our Waterfront. Please pedal slow & with patience if there are other people using and sharing the path. Enjoy!

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  • Terry May 23, 2015 at 11:43 am

    If pedestrians are spilling into the bike lane, perhaps green treatment for the bike lane would help?

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  • PDXTom May 23, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I ride Naito northbound daily as i did last night. Nice concept but had same experience as Jason and SD. Multiple choke points with pedestrian lines filling both lanes. Nice to see lots of folks out and about but at least on day #1, it did not really make things better. I was not in a particular rush, so did not jump out into the traffic lane as I have done in past years.

    And the electric carts that Festival staff used were being driven like they owned both lanes, with a distinct ‘get out of my way’ attitude.

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  • Tom Hardy May 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Took the new temporary section today for the second time. The majority of it was filled by peds with earphones texting. They were using the whole thing. was worse than before the extra room. Kudos for trying.

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  • Saul T. Scrapper May 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    If the #BetterNaito path is filled with people walking, then it has succeeded in creating a safe space for people to safely get to and enjoy the waterfront. Better Block did not create a cycle track here, it is a Multi Use Path. The first priority for this project is creating a safe space for all people by separating them from motor vehicles and then working out the ped & bike mode separation down the road based on user feedback.

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  • Alan 1.0 May 23, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    Disclosure: My other day job is as a staff writer for Colorado-based advocacy group PeopleForBikes, which has become a lead sponsor of the BetterNaito project thanks to support from Clif Bar. –Michael Anderson

    Oh, that explains their logo on the interpretive signs I saw on some city saw-horse type barriers. Pretty cool. Thanks, Clif Bar.

    I also saw the People For Bikes tent but it was inside the carnival grounds, and I was outside. I wondered what it was doing there; now I know. I wish it was outside the paywall somewhere, so they could actually talk to any and everyone who wandered by about what it is all about, and about this Naito project in particular.

    I enjoyed walking around but the weekend is not the best time to experience this demonstrated street revision. Unlike the Third Street Better Blocks PDX project, which had enough car and ped traffic on the weekend to give the demonstration some feel for how it would work out, this project has all car traffic blocked off of Naito from about Ankeny or Ash to south of Hawthorne, except for a single one-way southbound lane under the Morrison ramps. That meant there was no car traffic for the whole length of the Rose Festival carnival, and the line of orange pylons that marks off the new MUP lane on weekdays just looked lost and lonely in the middle of a vast, empty, open highway. While that open space was great to walk (and bike) down, as a pedestrian and also thinking how it would look as a driver, there wasn’t enough visual context to really give a good feel of how the MUP would work. Also, all of BBPDX’s plywood barricades had been set aside for the weekend, so that also left the MUP feeling undefined. This isn’t meant as a knock against BBPDX at all; I love the project. It’s just a note to anyone checking it out, and maybe to BBPDX designers, about my experience and how it didn’t give me the experience of the redesigned space that I’d hoped for.

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  • JMak00 May 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    Cheaper and easier idea along Naito on the riverfront…create a walking path or sidewalk along the curb there. But that would be too easy when you steal traffic lanes and take away people’s ability to freely drive.

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    • Dan May 26, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Stealing traffic lanes? Who are these lanes being stolen from and where have they gone to?

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  • tee May 25, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    It gets a “C” for effort. I like the idea of it, but it isn’t refined enough to work well when there are a decent number of pedestrians, a couple bikes, and Rose Festival golf carts. This is safer than the old system for pedestrians, at least. I doubt that runners can use it unfortunately. However, when I took it was unrideable, even with the expectation that it would be slow going. I got off my bike to walk and couldn’t even walk at a reasonable pace, because I couldn’t get through the lines of families walking 5 across. I have always been quite comfortable cruising in the bike lane on Naito, so while I initially liked the idea of it, it cuts off the only option for riders who want to use Naito and not have to ride less than 5 mph and dodge pedestrians and other bikes going too fast. It felt easier/safer to cut into the car lanes when there were 2 lanes, not just one.

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    • Emonbikes May 27, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Thank you for spelling out what i’ve been feeling! it might be safer for pedestrians but it has made my normal commute much harder and more dangerous. I whole heartedly agree that it feels more dangerous to move into the single car lane now and the barriers make that even harder. I will be trying to avoid the “better” Naito for the next two weeks.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 25, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Is this some sorta evil Canadian plot[…but a kindly one]? (The bike ped stencils look like they came from Stanley Park signs and not AASHTO/ MUTCD.)

    First the Canadians took over our comedy shows and TV news readers in the 70s and 80s…now this reforming of our streets to be safer. ‘Oh the gods’ with their cruel fate. What is left to protect of our American way from this slow take over!? Will we disappear from this continent?

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  • Brent May 26, 2015 at 8:42 am

    What’s the correct etiquette here? I rode Naito this morning to check it out. I dutifully stopped at red lights as instructed by the “Stop for Reds” taped onto the street. However two other people on bikes flew right past me through the red. This confusion is not new. Part of the reason I don’t ride Naito northbound is because it is usually much faster to take the waterfront path and not have to stop for red lights. Of course we stop for reds if there are pedestrians or others crossing the street. That’s obvious. It’s not so obvious if I should stop for the red in the morning when hardly anyone is crossing Naito.

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    • SilkySlim May 26, 2015 at 9:41 am

      Similar experience this morning. I basically did a quick stop-and-go when I hit the reds, which seemed in the spirit of things. Didn’t see a single pedestrian cross at any of them though, I probably could have just cruised the whole length of it.

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    • paula May 26, 2015 at 9:57 am

      It really said “reds”. I was part of the set up and it is suppose to be stop for peds. I wonder if someone altered it.

      As set up, the intention is that you can proceed through, yielding to pedestrians.

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      • paula May 26, 2015 at 9:58 am

        Suppose to be a question, “It really said “reds”?

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        • Brent May 27, 2015 at 9:10 am

          I double checked this morning. It says “Stop for Peds.” I must have misread it yesterday.

          Also, I didn’t stop at the red lights this morning. I felt like an outlaw.

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  • Paul Wilkins May 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    I hoofed it SB in the ped path this morning and, funny story, I didn’t stop for any of the ‘reds’. Outlaw life!

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    • Mike May 26, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      Your comment got me thinking… isn’t one of these weekends intended for this temporary path to have a 2-way cycle track? In that scenario, then it would be rather silly for bikers going SB to not have any lights, while NB riders might pause at the red lights. Wonder how that will play out. I am a pretty religious follower of traffic laws on my bike, even ones I hate, with the exception of stop signs in deserted neighborhoods I might occasionally do a slow roll through. So on Naito I always wait at lights, but with bikes going the other direction and not stopping, I’d be inclined to ride through.

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  • AG May 26, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I am a regular Naito commuter and am not enjoying the experience. The first day delivery trucks were blocking the lanes and other days people are crowding the whole lane. Barriers make it dicey trying to move into the auto lane to pass. Its great for pedestrians but its taking away a bike lane as well as a lane for cars.

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