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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.

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Screenshot 2015-05-22 at 8.41.48 AM

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!

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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Amy Subach
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Amy Subach

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 betterblockpdx.org/volunteer
Thanks!

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

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

Robert L.
Guest
Robert L.

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.

Eric
Guest
Eric

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.

Heather
Guest
Heather

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!

shuppatsu
Guest
shuppatsu

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!

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

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

Ted Buehler
Guest

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

ethan
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ethan

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!

SD
Guest
SD

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.

Jason
Guest

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. 😃

Old Town
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Old Town

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!

Terry
Guest
Terry

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

PDXTom
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PDXTom

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.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

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.

Saul T. Scrapper
Guest
Saul T. Scrapper

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.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

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.

JMak00
Guest
JMak00

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.

tee
Guest
tee

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.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

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?

Brent
Guest
Brent

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.

Paul Wilkins
Guest
Paul Wilkins

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

AG
Guest
AG

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.