is among designs being seriously debated for
SE Powell east of I-205.
It’s looking as if the Oregon Department of Transportation might become one of the first state transportation agencies in the country to build a raised bike lane into an urban highway project.
It’s just a possibility and it’s still years away, but it’s the upshot of a meeting Monday in which several biking advocates urged the state to consider the design as part of its Outer Powell Safety Project.
David Hampsten of the East Portland Action Plan bike committee and the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee said in an email this week that he attended to urge ODOT “to consider modifying the planned 8-foot bike lanes into either raised cycle-tracks or adding barriers between the roadway and the bikeway users (bikes and mobility devices).”
“ODOT was very receptive of such modifications, and will do cost estimates, especially as PBOT may be able to use SDC funds to help build such facilities after 2016,” Hampsten said. “They are also redesigning the intersections to better accommodate bicyclists at 122nd, 148th, 162nd, & 174th, as all are (or will be) major bus stops as well, as well as the greenway crossings at 108th/110th, 129th/130th, and at 157th/158th.”
Hampsten’s support for a physically separated bike lane was joined by Elizabeth Quiroz, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s East Portland advocate and a member of the citizen advisory committee that met Monday.
“I got the sense that they were willing to look more into that,” Quiroz said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Cora Potter, another member of the citizen’s committee for the Outer Powell project who bikes to the meetings from her home in the Lents neighborhood, agreed.
“I think the general sentiment is to do some sort of treatment that separated the bike lane a little,” Potter said. “One of the major problems on Powell is people using the bike lane/shoulder for passing on the right.”
Potter said Hampsten in particular had suggested separating the bike lane with a “one to two-inch mountable curb,” like the ones the City of Portland has built on Northeast Cully Boulevard and Southeast Multnomah Boulevard. This would let buses and other motor vehicles roll into the bike lane if necessary (to pick up someone standing on the sidewalk, for example) while cuing people that their vehicle is leaving its main roadway.
Because the Outer Powell project seems likely to gradually rebuild much of the length of Powell between Interstate 205 and 174th Avenue, it presents a rare opportunity to cheaply build a curb-separated bike lane into what some residents hope will gradually develop into a significant commercial main street.
Alex Cousins, the project’s community engagement manager, said Thursday that much of the conversation about raised or protected bike lanes on Powell was “just educating people about what is possible.”
“For some folks, some of the newer or more different designs that you don’t see everywhere, it was just kind of a new idea,” Cousins said.
Much of the conversation at Monday’s meeting focused on five blocks of the project between SE 99th and 104th, alongside the Ed Benedict Skate Park, where the roadway is relatively narrow and more than a few feet of land acquisition might interfere with a nearby camper-trailer retail operation. On those blocks, project managers are discussing installing 12-foot-wide multi-use paths on each side of the street rather than separating the bikeway from the sidewalk.
Potter was particularly hopeful that ODOT might come up with a more comfortable design for biking through the intersection of 122nd and Powell.
“It’s, like, the most dangerous intersection in the city,” she said. She said there’s room and (thanks in part to the City of Portland’s new project on 122nd) money for “maybe doing something a lot better, maybe even a protected intersection treatment.”
At Saturday, Aug. 1, ODOT is planning a bike ride for people who use Powell to talk about possibilities for improving the street.
“We’re going to go out there and just ride the corridor with whoever wants to join us,” Cousins said. For details, email him: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.