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Traffic diversion debate shifts to north Portland with open house tonight

Posted by on July 13th, 2015 at 11:49 am

Existing diverter on Rodney at Ivy prevents through auto traffic from all directions.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s ongoing struggle to tame motorized traffic on neighborhood streets will get a serious test tonight.

“While I agree the diagonal diverter is a good functional design for that context, success is still measured by public support as well. Unfortunately residents on Ivy have raised serious concerns…
— Rich Newlands, PBOT project manager

While the recent focus has been on SE Clinton street, where activists have finally pushed the Bureau of Transportation to address the issue, tonight the city is poised to consider the rare step of removing an existing diverter in favor of a new diverter design that is more palatable to local residents.

NE Rodney Avenue is just one block east of N Williams and it’s a popular north-south alternative for people on bikes and in cars. When PBOT updated Williams they turned Rodney into a neighborhood greenway. Unfortunately a lot of people who drive on Williams were using Rodney as a cut-through, which made for an unpleasant and unsafe cycling environment.

To help reduce cut-through auto traffic on Rodney PBOT installed a diagonal diverter at NE Ivy (map) that prohibits people from driving north-to-south and east-to-west. At first, people simply ignored the diverter and drove right through it. Now, with continued complaints from some residents PBOT is proposing a new design that would allow driving in the southbound direction and would completely open up travel in the east-west direction.

Detail of PBOT’s new proposal for Rodney and Ivy.
Click to enlarge


This change has spurred concerns from some people who see it as a step backwards for safety.

Alan Kessler emailed PBOT project manager Rich Newlands to voice his support for the existing diverter. Kessler shared Newlands’ response on the BikeLoudPDX email list:

“Thank you for your comments. While I agree the diagonal diverter is a good functional design for that context, success is still measured by public support as well. Unfortunately residents on Ivy have raised serious concerns (access impacts) with the Eliot Neighborhood Assoc, whose support we need, along with other neighborhood and business associations if we are going to make significant progress with implementing diversion on greenways. Please stay involved, and I hope you are able to attend Monday’s meeting.”

Another person active with BikeLoudPDX, Ted Buehler, is encouraging people to email Newlands with their feedback. Buehler think it’s, “imperative to keep motorized vehicles off the street as much as possible. And that the intersection should be protected from cut-through motor traffic in all for directions, not just one.”

To settle the issue, PBOT is hosting a Rodney Diverter Open House event tonight from 6:30 to 8:00 pm (with a presentation at 7:00) at St. Phillips Church (at NE Knott and Rodney). If Newlands doesn’t hear any objections to his new design, the existing diverter will be removed and PBOT will install the new traffic control scheme later this summer.

— Read more about neighborhood traffic diversion in our archives.

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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

  • Spiffy July 13, 2015 at 11:58 am

    the current design doesn’t prevent motorcycles from continuing through the diverter… the new design with it’s “except bicycles” would be more effective deterring ALL motor vehicle traffic, but not preventing it…

    currently cars can’t fit through… the new design allows for cars to fit through, thus is less effective…

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    • Granpa July 13, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Motorcycles are not the problem. Give me an example of a motorcycle rider hitting a bicyclist. If one hits the other they both get knocked down. The bicyclist will get hurt worse, but it is a no win encounter. Even if they go too fast, they are unlikely to buzz you close.

      That said, diverters installed to divert motorists only keep the honest people honest. I have seen them ignored by drivers at 13th & SE Spokane, and respected by motorcyclists who could easily turn into them.

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      • Spiffy July 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm

        as a motorcyclists I’d agree… (:

        the 12th/Tacoma diverter is the kind that doesn’t work because it’s so easy to drive over… there are no poles to prevent wide vehicles…

        I’m just trying to say that if you want a diverter to work it has to physically block the vehicle… the signs are nice for enforcement, but nobody obeys signs that merely inconvenience them…

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      • Eric July 14, 2015 at 9:06 am

        I don’t mind the distance as much as the noise and fumes.

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  • MaxD July 13, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I cannot attend this evening, but I would like to comment in support of east and west diversion. Does anyone a way to comment on-line?

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  • Stephen Gomez July 13, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Rich Newlands came to our Boise Neighborhood Association Land Use&Transportation committee meeting last month to present this draft design (Boise starts one block north of Rodney/Ivy at Fremont, so many in our community ride right through this intersection daily).

    We think this new proposal is inferior to the current east/west diverter and have stated so in our NA’s letter to Rich/PBOT (you can read the text at the bottom of this page: We want the current diverter made permanent.

    Our main concern is that removing the diverter at Rodney/Ivy will enable east-west traffic to jump around traffic tie-ups. These tie-ups are on Fremont west-bound in the morning and north-bound on Williams in the evening rush hour.

    Given the city council’s recent adoption of Vision Zero as well as Commissioner Novick’s blog post regarding the need for diversion this should be a good test of whether the city means what it says or just says stuff it doesn’t mean.

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  • Mick O July 13, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Vision Zero-Complaints-from-Motorists

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  • Adam H. July 13, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    If people are ignoring the diverters and driving over them, why would they be expected to obey a Do Not Enter sign?

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  • Adam July 13, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    After being passed on the left this morning on a quiet residential street near my home, with my arm out as a left-turn signal, traveling in the middle of my “lane” (no painted lanes where I am), maybe 30 feet from my turn… I’ve hopped off the fence and will no longer bike “quietly”.

    I will take the lane, the whole lane, and nothing but the lane when a bike lane is not present. I will not hug the curb-side of the bike lane. I will not move over so a car can pass.

    My bicycle is my only mode of personal transportation faster than my own two feet. It is not a hobby for me. It’s not just “fun”. I need it to find a job, get to work once I do, and everything in between. I can’t afford a car.

    Before having to rely on a bicycle for transportation, I thought bicyclists over-stepped their bounds and should not be on the road. I did not see the reality that for the majority of people in the world, a bicycle is it.

    I believe most people actually think advocacy for bicyclists & related infrastructure stems from a desire to protect “the Man”‘s exercise route. Perhaps that was my own ignorance, but I get the idea that the general owner/operator does not care if the people who can’t afford a car have a way to get to work safely.

    So, to the woman who nearly ran me over in my own neighborhood, who is almost certainly not reading this: Thanks. I needed that.

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    • 9watts July 13, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks, Adam, for that post.

      “I believe most people actually think advocacy for bicyclists & related infrastructure stems from a desire to protect ‘the Man’‘s exercise route.”

      This is a theme I’ve touched on repeatedly. I agree with you and think this is a real hurdle.

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    • Dan July 13, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      When I started reading BP, I felt the same way. My mind has been opened.

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  • J_R July 13, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I hate to see any diverter removed. If there are regular violators it’s time for some “enforcement action” like the PPB uses for the ill-placed, unwarranted stop signs at Ladd’s Addition. (Where I always stop.)

    I previously commuted on Williams and Vancouver regularly. I’ve never ridden that section of Rodney. Since Rodney doesn’t line up at Fremont, I wonder if Rodney really serves as a good through route.

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    • 9watts July 13, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      “If there are regular violators it’s time for some ‘enforcement action'”

      Hear, hear.

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    • Emily G July 14, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Rodney is an excellent through route, direct and not too hilly, even though it jogs at Alberta and Fremont and most of the stop signs aren’t flipped yet. I ride it regularly and it is as fast or faster than Williams, since Rodney doesn’t have stop lights.

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  • Tyler July 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    What’s wrong with the model at 39/Clinton? Can that not be reproduced on Rodney…?

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    • Ted Buehler July 13, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      Tyler — the 39/Clinton diverter only blocks traffic east-west.

      This location has cars using BOTH streets as cut-through streets.

      Rodney, as a north south route between downtown and N/NE.

      Ivy, as an east-west route between NE and downtown via the I-405 entrance/exit ramps at Vancouver and Cook.

      Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler July 13, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    The important take-home here is that whenever any changes are done to the transportation system, some folks will benefit, some will be negatively affected, and many will be unaffected.

    Often, it’s a small number of people negatively affected that try to make the case that they’re plight is unjust, and that everyone else should side with them. & since the negative affect is significant for them, they show up at meetings and try to get other parties to agree. NIMBYism, or “not in my back yard”

    But, what those who are negatively affected fail to realize is that the other people also have a sensible argument, and are also a sympathetic party. A mom bicycling with her kid, a dad riding home from work, are all positively affected by a traffic diverter, and it can make a significant quality of life improvement for a large number of people.

    Since the “Open House” is usually advertized to local residents, and not to the folks riding through the neighborhood on bicycles, the open house is usually attended best by nearby residents, and not by the other taxpayers who are in the neighborhood only a few minutes of the day as they pass through.

    To be effective in keeping this diverter, those people that bicycle through the neighborhood need to portray themselves also as sympathetic parties, who are directly affected, potentially, by removal of an existing barrier to commuter cars on a bicycling and walking street.

    This is kinda long and wonkish, if it makes sense, great, if it doesn’t, just come to the open house or email Rich and tell him “low traffic streets are important to my quality of life as a user of the transportation system. Please keep the existing diverter, as it prevents car cut-through traffic in all four directions (not just one).

    & don’t be shy about emailing if you can’t attend the open house. I can’t attend the presentation, because it is scheduled at the exact same time as my neighborhood meeting. May people have schedules that don’t allow them to show up at this location at this time, and you need to make sure your values and needs are heard by PBOT. Call or email today!

    Ted Buehler
    resident, Rodney St., 2 blocks north of Ivy.

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    • 9watts July 13, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Nicely put!

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    • intjonathan July 14, 2015 at 11:19 am

      I was a big fan of the diverter when it was first put up, but over time it’s just resulted in a lot of pissed-off drivers racing down Ivy right in front of my house. I wouldn’t mind keeping it if it was finished – more signage on the approach on Rodney, and speed bumps on Ivy to prevent racing out of the neighborhood.

      At this point I don’t mind it when people cut through with their cars. At least they go slowly and don’t rip down the street.

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    • paikiala July 14, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      PBOT has traditionally let those residents who suffer daily issues with traffic have the greatest voice about the solutions, since they also are most affected by the design choices.

      Neighborhood Greenways are a shift in that perspective.

      If it were people driving through your neighborhood to avoid a congested corridor, they would be labeled ‘cut-through’ drivers, and somehow looked down upon. However, if the road users are on a bicycle they are called ‘other taxpayers'(?) and seem to be worthy of similar voice in the impact of design outcomes?

      This is the critical point about which the success of the NG system may depend – to what extent diversion from one local street to another is acceptable and desirable and who gets to decide.

      The original NG volume standards promoted by PBOT were a higher standard (lower volume) than the national NACTO standard.
      Please participate in the discussion when the preliminary NG evaluation report is released.

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  • resopmok July 13, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Maybe I don’t ride Rodney regularly enough, or am not knowledgeable enough about this area, but I am wondering why there isn’t more and more frequent diversion on Rodney further south as well. Does all the extra car traffic really come from Cook St? For those that wish to avoid Williams from essentially Broadway, keeping as many cars off all of Rodney as possible would be a nice benefit.

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    • daisy July 13, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      A lot of the through-traffic is dumping off the Fremont Bridge.

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  • daisy July 13, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    I live a few blocks south of this diverter. I’m glad we have the diverter, but I’m also glad to hear Rich Newlands and PBOT listening to long-term residents and coming up with a solution that will work for more folks. Diverters don’t seem like a huge inconvenience for cars until you realize — as I did, talking to some of my neighbors at an open house last month — that this diverter is in a tricky location. It’s surrounded by three busy streets — Williams, Fremont, and MLK — so folks who live on the block right near the diverter have very few options now and are stuck going pretty far around. Some of these folks are older and can’t bike or walk.

    I’m not convinced Ivy will have huge cut-through problems. For example, if you’re driving west on Fremont to get to the Fremont Bridge, to take Ivy you’d have to turn left on MLK, then drive across Ivy, and then fight to turn right on Williams or go straight through New Seasons and turn left on Vancouver. Neither seems faster or easier than staying on Fremont.

    If you’re exiting off the Fremont Bridge and want to go east, you could take Ivy, but then you’d have to turn left onto MLK, a big hassle.

    I could be wrong, and we’ll see, but I’m open to this new approach if it significantly improves things for my neighbors without an increase in vehicle traffic or decrease in bike and pedestrian safety.

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    • Eric Leifsdad July 14, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Lots of people “can’t bike” and “need” to burn cheap gasoline to move their heavy vehicles between neighborhood parking spots. Granted, some of these people have physical mobility problems while the others are still developing. How much would this change with gas at a fair price of $16/gal? We have technology available to put the vast majority of drivers on whatever conveyance they require e.g. an electric tadpole box trike or velomobile. What we don’t have is the political will to address the big issues facing our children.

      I really hope the new design isn’t a setback for the car-oriented convenience of a few neighbors. The truth of the situation is that we can’t (cost-effectively) make it easier and more compelling for people to travel without cars unless we make it more difficult for people to travel with cars. We could build a fully connected network of level (elevated, with elevators of course) tubes exclusively for biking, but if this were a huge success, we would be left with a bunch of perfectly good streets below carrying nothing but freight. The far more cost-effective approach is to make it more difficult to drive and park while making it much easier to walk or bike. Also, seriously: $12/gal gas tax.

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    • Dan July 14, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      How far around? I mean, my bike commute is 4.5 miles longer currently than it would be if I took the most direct route.

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  • RM Hampel July 14, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Eric, we need to stop dreaming that cars are going to go away. They’re not. When the fuel to power becomes as green as the food cyclists put in their bodies as fuel, will you still hate the automobile and, by extension, the fools/villains who drive them?

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    • Eric Leifsdad July 14, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      $12/gal gas tax isn’t a dream, it’s what we’re paying indirectly and with interest instead of at the pump. Saying “cars aren’t going to go away” does nothing to address the ridiculous situation of people burning fossil fuels while driving 2 miles alone. As for green energy, sure good luck finding energy sources which can sustain such wastefulness. Cars are so incredibly wasteful, ruining our environment and economy, and we can’t even imagine using a small, low-speed, human-scale electric vehicle to run short errands powered by the sun? One electric car is made of 10 electric bikes. Will it haul 10 people and 20 kids? It will go 80mph, but does that make your 2 mile trip take 90s?

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    • Clark in Vancouver August 18, 2015 at 9:02 am

      Right. They’re not going to be uninvented. All we can do is use them appropriately in the future and not continue to force things to make them the only option (even when they don’t fit the task at hand.)
      Since they’re becoming stronger and quieter with faster acceleration, the problem is only going to get worse. It’s normal for people to not want to be hit by them. I know a friend who says that he used to cycle from Vancouver, BC all the way to Hope, BC on regular roads, now those same roads are dangerous and he can no longer cycle it. The only change is the amount of motor traffic and the invention of the SUV. (Motor vehicles are not the same device they once were a few decades ago.)
      Regardless of fuel type, all these factors that can make them unattractive will still be around. The space they take up, the danger to people not in them, the high cost of owning them, etc.
      There is also the equity issue if we don’t design our streets to include more options. Everyone who cannot drive for whatever reason. (There are places in the world where many people drive illegally because there are no other options and they can’t get a license.)

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 14, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks for all your comments so far. I just posted a recap of the open house Read it here.

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