Speeding is routine on more than half of Portland’s celebrated neighborhood greenway system, according to a yet-to-be-released city study.
Almost no neighborhood greenway in Portland’s network is free of stretches where numerous cars are speeding.
Three years after Portland received state permission to lower speed limits on its side-street bikeway network to 20 mph, numerous stretches of neighborhood greenways see substantial amounts of traffic moving at 26 mph and above.
The speeds measured above, compiled as part of a city-ordered study of the neighborhood greenway system, are 85th percentile speeds, which means that 15 percent of cars are moving faster and 85 percent are moving slower. Transportation engineers typically use this as their basic measure of the “natural” speed of traffic on a street.
Unlike with the traffic volume figures released by the city in March, almost no neighborhood greenway in Portland’s network is free of stretches where numerous cars are speeding. Streets where the 85th percentile speed exceeded 30 mph included SE Clinton Street just east of Cesar Chavez Boulevard; SE Harrison Street just east of 22nd; and N Wabash Avenue just south of Lombard.
Two of the stretches marked in red on the map above actually have bike lanes (SW Vermont Street near Hillsdale) or are expected to (SE 130th between Stark and Division), so they aren’t neighborhood greenways in the usual sense.
At 30 mph, the City of Portland says, someone who hits a person with their car will kill them about 50 percent of the time. At 20 mph, it says the chance of a fatality falls to 10 percent.
The city released its traffic volume findings in March but hasn’t released the speed findings, saying that they are best shared in the context of a written report that isn’t finished. BikePortland received the map above from biking advocate Terry Dublinski-Milton, who got a copy as part of his neighborhood advocacy work.
(Photo: Portland Bureau of Transportation)
The speed findings for neighborhood greenways come as Portland’s city council prepares to approve a pledge to eventually eliminate traffic deaths of people driving, walking and biking. Also today, the city is asking the Oregon Speed Zone Board to give the city more flexibility to lower speed limits on many streets and also testifying in a Salem hearing for House Bill 2621, which would let the city install 20 photo-radar speed cameras on 10 of its most dangerous arterials.
For the last decade or so, the city has relied on ever-closer speed bumps to control speeds on neighborhood greenways. However, advocates like Dublinski-Milton and others say that another measure would also have this effect: traffic diverters.
These barriers are traditionally intended to prevent cut-through auto traffic on the streets, making them feel essentially like urban park space: usable by cars but good for biking, sports and other outdoor activities. But it’s also possible that cut-through traffic tends to be inherently faster-moving than local traffic, so diverters could reduce speeds too.
Two weeks ago, in the wake of a neighborhood meeting to address a series of high-profile traffic collisions, Mayor Charlie Hales’ office announced a new program to install more experimental traffic diverters on neighborhood greenways. But so far neither the Mayor or PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick have announced where or when the experiment will take place.
The announcement came in response to increasingly loud consensus among biking advocates that the greenway system, which has been Portland’s most important investment in new bike infrastructure so far this decade, has been failing in key points.
The city has also tried to call more attention to its posted 20 mph limits by starting to post “neighborhood greenway” signs beneath them.
Correction 6/18: An earlier version of this post suggested that all neighborhood greenways have 20 mph speed limits. They typically do, with some possible exceptions.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.
Thanks for the report. There is a lot of speeding on SW Maplewood Road, SW 52nd, SW Canby, and SW 60th. Nearby Washington County has a 25 mph speed limit on their part of Canby.
EVERY neighborhood street needs diverters to slow traffic to humane speeds. I’d like to see a coordinated “how to” series on BP and overnight carpet bombing of 500 diverters all over Portland. That’d make our neighborhoods safe overnight.
If speeding is so common where are the cops, and why aren’t city budges flush with speeding ticket fines? Oh………..
Busy handing out tickets to scofflaws in Ladd’s Addition.
The city has also tried to call more attention to its posted 20 mph limits by starting to post “neighborhood greenway” signs beneath them.
Those tiny signs mean little to the average driver.
Why is PBOT unwilling to use FHWA MUTCD-compliant signs that indicate priority for people on bikes?
I worry that the effect of such signs would be to teach drivers that bikes can’t use the full lane where such signage is absent. I had a debate last week with someone who was adamant Oregon law only allowed cyclists to take the lane when the speed limit was under 25mph.
PS: I’m opposed to the above law.
I know this sounds crazy, but:
we need drones for traffic enforcement.
They would –
* Eliminate the inherent unfairness of speed traps – and their inefficiency.
* Implement a comprehensive grid of traffic enforcement with zone based priority.
* Scan for erratic driving in addition to speeding.
* Allow for human review of all driving infractions.
Admittedly, I shudder a bit at the ramifications of the above approach. But trying to use random, limited, expensive police enforcement of traffic laws seems like a bigger misuse of government power than just sticking drones in the air. It would allow us to shift our debate from enforcement to traffic policy itself.
When’s the next stop sign sting in Ladd’s?
Seriously, there have been dozens and dozens of nobodies hurt at those stop signs, so it’s really time for another NINE motorcycle cops to protect us from this scourge. Preferably they do it a week after a person on a bike is killed by a scofflaw driver, like they did the week after Brett was killed.
In my mind, if any of these streets are still used for through traffic then they have failed. These are not “Greenways”, they are side streets. Until they get comprehensive design and implementation to make them comfortable for the kind of activity they boast, they need to be called something else.
I agree, but who the hell cares if speed traps are unfair?
Drivers. I think a lot of negative response to tickets is the idea that “it’s unfair for me to get a ticket when all these other people are speeding and not getting tickets”.
Of course, it’s probably unlikely that many drivers would support enforcement drones…
“Speed trap” implies entrapment, which couldn’t be further from the reality. “Selective Enforcement” might be a better term.
“Speed trap” as I’ve heard the term used is exactly that. It’s a police officer positioning themselves so as to be invisible at the beginning of an area where the speed limit drops precipitously for no apparent reason, often with no warning right after a hill or blind corner. Tigard has a couple of these where the speed limit drops from 40 to 25 right at the bottom of a downhill around a corner, then goes back up to 40 a couple hundred feet later.
I was requested a few years back to design a speed sensitive landmine that could be set to a trigger speed so that driving under that speed would not set the mine off while exceeding that speed would cause the mine to explode and disable the vehicle. Since I’m not a munitions expert I confined my work to the triggering mechanism which was basically two photo sensors on a 1 meter stick and a microprocessor counting the time between the first trigger and the second trigger with a counter that would count the clock events between the two and trigger the mine if the preset count was not exceeded, with the actual mine about halfway between the sensors so that it would take out the engine when detonated.
I then told the guy that requested the design that a safer way to do this would be to put out a huge publicity campaign complete with demonstrations of what the mines would do to cars, then blow up a bunch of junk cars and leave them sitting around the areas with the worst problems with speeding, along with some dummy mines. IOW “leave the corpses behind as a warning”. No actual mines built or placed to endanger the public, just the suggestion that there were.
Then the whole thing was scrapped after they stiffed me on the development costs.
Not surprised by these findings at all, based on my personal experiences on Clinton. The city has the solution, we’re just waiting on them to implement it. Something needs to be done before more people are hurt or killed on our streets.
I find it dumbfoundingly dishonest that the map uses the same line to convey speed limit compliance and no data. Here’s a radical idea: if you don’t have data, then don’t put a thin green line on the street. The thin green line now means nothing.
I live on the greenway portion of SE Gladstone, and not only are we plagued by speeding and diverter violations, but we’ve been requesting enforcement for years. Nothing.
Until we see serious and recurring enforcement, focused on the mode of transportation that is doing the killing and intimidating, all this talk of Vision Zero is so much . . . I can’t write the words that come to mind.
Exactly. Those two things (“no data” and “under 20”) are very distinctly different things and really muddies up the info. I’d really like to know which greenways (typically with a 20mph limit) hold cars to that limit to ask how and why. Now I certainly can’t observe that myself based on this info map and wonder if the city can either.
PS: I wonder if there is any greenway that actually registered 85 percentile speeds of below 20mph. We can’t know, not from this map.
other than the thick green line?
Thick green line is 21-22 MPH. Thin green line is either “under 20” or “no data” – very different things. This is what people are talking about. And since many (most of the newer) greenways are 20 mph max, it doesn’t do us any good to conflate the “no data” data with the “under 20” data.
I am working on a program to eliminate the red tape involved in getting “temporary” encroachment permits on low traffic streets. With a few signatures and passing the hat around the neighborhood there is a city process that allows for extreme traffic calming and the creation of play and walk spaces on existing city streets. I think. Email jchris at gmail if you want to help me find out what we can do under existing city policy.
More details: https://twitter.com/jchris/status/609740284021227522
So, if I’m looking at your diagram correctly, you’re basically trying to make a chicane. I do love me a good chicane. What street is this on again?
I like the design and concept. I hope fastest path won’t defeat it.
Diverters diverters diverters. Cut-through traffic is a bad and growing problem on the east side as congestion gets steadily worse.
I’m affected by a local greenway but have an opposite problem. I’m on NE 52nd north of I-84 — the 50’s bikeway on 53rd has traffic calming but cut-through drivers know there is no calming on 52nd except for one oft-ignored stop sign, so they speed through to avoid the bikeway altogether. Diverters on the bikeway itself would only exacerbate the problem. The same problem exists on NE 54th which is an even narrower street with no signage at all.
So I feel that talking about diverters only on greenways is missing the point. Cut-through drivers are causing impacts everywhere, so diverters should not be limited just to greenways.
I agree. I testified at the Bureau of pPanning and Sustainability open house that the local service streets classification should have a bullet point added to its description in the Transportation System Plan: local service streets should have frequent diversion to discourage their use by cut through drivers.
I think with the encroachment policy I’m playing around with, we’ll be able to do almost as much as the city won’t do.
Encroachment policy? Tell us more!
Answering my own question: see here http://bikeportland.org/2015/06/12/city-engaged-battle-speeding-epidemic-144336#comment-6421274
Wow, there’s an idea. Diverters every three blocks or so on EVERY residential street. Keep cross traffic out of the neighborhoods altogether. Imagine if the only people driving on your street were those who lived there, or visiting.
What a beautiful vision!
Yep, in total agreement here for my street in the SE 50s (and pretty much everywhere else, in my experience)
52nd has gotten a lot worse since that Futsal place opened up. It sounds like we are neighbors.
Yeah, don’t get me started on Futsal… I’ve counted 80-100 cars an hour heading there at peak times, and their patrons are the worst offenders on the street. Plus they serve alcohol in the evenings. The management make noises that they care but in the end they placed a high-traffic business buried at the end of a narrow residential street against the protests of neighbors at the time.
I’m at the stop sign on Wasco and 52nd btw.
Unfortunately, signs are useless. Drivers just don’t look at or for them. And in this day of street legal tanks (translation: SUVs, huge trucks, and “mini” vans), speed bumps are just as useless. SUV and truck drivers, in particular, don’t slow down at all for speed bumps.
Enforcement and the like can only go so far. We live in a time when getting where you’re going as fast as possible with the fewest obstacles and interruptions is seen as necessary–and maybe even deserved. I think it’s one of the reasons that road rage is so prevalent.
What we need is a total change in mindset. As someone here said recently, is getting to your destination a few minutes later worth someone’s life?
I frequently hear the bottoms of speeding cars scraping as they fly over the speed bumps on NE Tillamook. People just don’t seem to give crap anymore.
And then they get upset when their mechanic tells them their suspension is shot at 120k miles.
I don’t get why speedbumps would be on the table at all. I was present with a small group when Roger Geller said they know speedbumps and roundabouts don’t slow down car drivers. (I’m pretty sure this was a side convo immediately after the PBOT/BikeLoudPDX meeting, not during the main meeting.)
Actually, 20 mph is not the limit on all the Greenways. SE Clinton has too much traffic (oh, the irony) to have that low of a limit so it is 25 with 20 at the roundabouts. You can verify by riding it and looking at the signs that say 25 except at the roundabouts where 20 is posted. I wish it was 20!
In addition, I saw this on Twitter this morning and would gladly support that here. (The equivalent of 50kmh is 31mph.) https://twitter.com/modacitylife/status/611230163427176448
And now that the story has been updated to say Greenways typically have a speed of 20mph I sound like an ass. I swear it said that they all do when I commented! 🙂
Hey, sorry, KYouell – I did make this change, because of your comment, but should have noted it at the bottom. I’ve done so now. Corrections are always encouraged. Thanks and sorry for making you feel like you sounded like an ass. (I don’t think you did.)
You can’t simply change the speed limit at a spot along a road. It has to be for a zone. And advisory speed can be posted (yellow sign), but that is not an enforceable speed limit. Furthermore, where are these 20 MPH limits you claim on Clinton at mini circles?
As for the claim that circles and other devices don’t slow traffic, studies don’t back that up. And it is lame to claim Geller said so if you can’t provide verification or if you weren’t involved in the conversation.
I’ll go out and take photos for you tomorrow. Sheesh.
The ableist slur was a nice toss-in too. I can’t remember who was there, or I would have said it in the first place.
traffic circles are not roundabouts.
Speed bumps do slow down people driving as do traffic circles (and roundabouts, too), just with different effectiveness. Traffic circles that deflect an auto users pathway reduce speeds within about 100 feet of the circle. the magnitude depends on the amount of deflection.
Speed bumps can be placed along a street, not just at intersections, so can be more effective at slowing speeds, based on the size of the bump and the frequency placed.
Portland could universally lower speed limits to 20 mph citywide and people would still drive too fast. This is what happens when traffic enforcement is few and far between.
So what can “we” do to get all (the state of Oregon) neighborhood streets posted 20 mph?
Change the statutory speed limit in a residence district to 20 mph.
ORS 811.111 d
There is also another way to post lower speeds under current law:
-Oregon Revised Statues (ORS) specify default speed limits on roadways in Oregon (ORS 811.111 d). These statutory speed limits can be set by the local road authority without permission from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).
-The statutory speed limit in a residence district (ORS 801.430) is 25 mph.
If the roadway is narrow the statutory speed limit is 15 mph.
-A narrow residential roadway is a roadway of less than 18 feet between intersections in a residence district (ORS 801.368).
-A roadway is the portion of the highway ordinarily used for vehicular travel (ORS 801.450).
-Portland’s standard parking lane width is eight feet.
-By strictly interpreting the definition of a roadway to not include any portion of the highway used for the storage of vehicles, nor any portion of the highway used for pedestrian travel, any street with a curb to curb width of 34 feet or less and parking on both sides has eighteen or less feet of space for vehicular travel and could be posted for 15 mph.
-Oregon law permits any local road authority to reduce by 5 mph the statutory speed when the highway is in a residence district, is shared with pedestrians and cyclists, has less than 2,000 vehicles per day, and the 85th percentile speed is below 30 mph (ORS 810.180.10). This would permit the local road authority to reduce the statutory 25 mph on a street wider than 34 feet in a residence district to 20 mph and on a narrow residential roadway to 10 mph.
Chicanes are needed instead of speed bumps which often have oil stains on them. I like the chicanes on SE Clinton.
Do them right and bikes get a straight line through while the cars have to do some heavy turning.
Better than the mini-roundabouts where I’ve seen more than one car go the short way to make a left.
Where are there chicanes on Clinton? I was only aware of circles and speed bumps, at least between 12th and 52nd. (Oh, and semi-diverters at Chavez)
This could be solved right now with a dozen mobile automated speed radar cameras. They would be moved to a different location on a randomized schedule. Fines could work something like this… first one is a warning. Second starts off at a low $20. Next is $40, then $80 and would cap at $320. Failure to pay results in vehicle seizure.
Living on N Houghton, it’s amazing how many times I hear cars fly over speed bumps at much faster than recommended speeds. And, the people I see do this typically have POS cars, so being brilliant enough to slow down probably never crosses their minds, which is probably one of the many reasons why these folks’ cars sound like they’re falling a part as they cruise down the street.
I’ve ridden on most of the greenways and have not particularly felt safe on most of them. I think NE Holman is the only greenway that I’ve never had any issues on, although I think that mostly has to do with the narrow width of the street and the pocket park.
However, I don’t really have much use for using Holman, even though I live right in that area. It doesn’t connect well to North Portland, so it’s not useful if I’m heading there, and it doesn’t make any sense to use it when heading South, so I pretty much only use it when heading East. And even then, it doesn’t connect to any direct North / South route to SE. Half the time I go to SE I end up taking transit, since the most direct routes are deadly and the “bike” routes are so serpentine, that it ends up taking 2 times as long as it should and I inevitably get lost.
I am surprised by the thin, green line on the graphic: “no data” and “20mph or slower” get the same figure to represent them? Am I misreading or is this deliberately misleading?
I ask as someone who lives on one of the stretches where I’m guessing there’s no data (NE Siskiyou), since I hear cars bottoming out daily (and nightly).
I’m regularly passed aggressively on NE Siskiyou – even when I’m going downhill and doing ~20mph on a road posted with that limit. Sad to see the data is missing – because I know for sure that 85% of the cars are not under 20mph. And when I drive on it at that speed (I live in the hood), and another car comes along, they are on my bumper.
Interesting. I ride Lincoln from 52nd until the jog into Harrison every weekday, and in the mornings, the stretch from 50th to 42nd (where the school is) is full of cars doing 25-30mph, in this 20mph zone. I usually ride at 20 to gauge, and every day I sit up to gesture a 2-0 with my hands at cars passing me at speed.
Out of curiosity, were they also checking bikes for speeding?
It’s pretty easy to get above 20 going downhill on some greenways.
yeah, that bottom one se 32nd that connects to crystal springs. no one drives 20 or under on crystal springs.
Crystal Springs is part of the 20’s, and I’m not sure the bumps are in yet.
I shared this, to all the SE Uplift Transportation chairs, so that the neighborhoods can start talking. If you look at the speed and volumes on Inner Clinton and Ankeny in particular, it shows that speed bumps do not work for many. Diversion, of some sort, is absolutely needed for a quality greenway. Let us work together, fast, and turn Clinton from 52nd to 12th into a showpiece of “How to modernize a Greenway!”
I also agree expanding the diversion program to other streets with similiar problems is a good idea.
The point is also to learn from this when constructing NEW greenways like the one I am showing off today with others based on 80th.
The Madlandia! Ride, leaves from Madison High promtply at 6pm today, and heads south to Cartlandia. We could build it from stratch with diversion every few blocks.
Check the Pedalpalooza calender for details.
Michael, I really like your “Charlie Brown” picture… Football kick right on top of the sharrow symbol!
The definition of a “safe street” should be “would kids play football in it.”
I really hated when my neighbors got new cars that weren’t falling apart. You’re playing half court hockey as goalie. You clear the ball, and it rolls 50 yards away. So now everyone is facing the same direction as you stand in the middle of the street with a net. I really liked the louder cars that didn’t sneak up on you and then honk (not even an angry honk, but very startling).
Thanks! Yeah, the moment I got that picture (back in 2012) was the moment I finally wrapped my head around the awesomeness of a good neighborhood greenway.
There is a new reporting website that is sending monthly reports to the City. If you encounter dangerous driving on a greenway, I recommend reporting it here: https://nearlykilled.me/
I love what you’re doing here, MaxD, and have thought about using your website to report…but then I wonder, what qualifies?
This is a real question. Was I nearly killed if a driver behaves aggressively near me? If they demonstrate what I think is a dangerous attitude by gunning their engine, roaring past me a little too closely, calling out remarks, cutting me off (but not in a specifically deadly fashion)?
I’ve puzzled over this quite a bit. When does my own cautious approach to bike riding shade over into actual “nearly killed me” territory? And when, on the other hand, does it blur into mere whining?
Would love to have your thoughts on this.
I’ve read other posts on his page and have assumed from that the “nearly killed me” part is an easy to remember name, not something to be taken literally when posting the near misses.
As part of Vision Zero, I would like to see our Chief of Police pledge to step up enforcement of speeding laws, with a Zero Tolerance approach on Greenways. That would incentivize speeders to stick to the other streets.
“At 30 mph, the City of Portland says, someone who hits a person with their car will kill them about 50 percent of the time. At 20 mph, it says the chance of a fatality falls to 10 percent.”
The human cost of high speeds is even worse: these figures omit (1) the greatly reduced chance of a collision occurring at all when speeds are lower, due to longer times to perceive and react and shorter stopping distances, and (2) the much worse survival rates for older people (age 65+) at a given impact speed. Ping me if you want the cite for the latter data and thank you Katie U.
references please. PBOT figures are based on OECD reports.
Diverters are not solutions. They are like kleenex for a cold. They make people feel better about themselves. You still have a cold.
Among other reasons people take side streets, it’s because they refuse to be victimized by bad traffic light timing. Count me among them. That’s an easy fix! I go through SE 26th and Powell daily, and I noticed the new timing makes the Powell green light shorter, which has the added benefit of making Powell less congested. Everybody wins!
Frankly, I think automobiles should be spread out thinner rather than corralled onto “arteries” and other dangerous “stroades” (look it up). When on my motorcycle I usually plan my recurring routes according to the least stop signs and traffic lights and speed nearest to 25-30-ish, and my bicycle routes are often one in the same. I don’t think that’s immoral or more dangerous for anyone than taking wide streets full of red lights and impatient SUV drivers on their cell phones.
the frequency of signals, along with regularity of that frequency, determines how well progression can be included. Often it can only be done for one direction of travel.
I’m willing to bet those are yellow signs, not white, right? Those are NOT speed limit signs, it is an advisory speed due to curvature, sight lines, or other roadway conditions. You can’t be ticketed for exceeding an advisory speed.