More than 30 people squeezed into a small church on NE Knott Street last night to get the latest on the NE Rodney Neighborhood Greenway project. The Bureau of Transportation hosted the meeting with the specific intent of garnering feedback on one of the last pieces of the project that remains undecided: the design of a diverter at NE Ivy and Rodney.
While the diverter was PBOT’s focus, most of the comments I heard had more to do with a new crossing design at Fremont. As usual, conversations about both issues were about the balance of convenience for people when they drive and safety when people walk and bike.
As we reported yesterday, PBOT currently has a test diverter in place that prohibits driving north-south and east-west at the intersection (although neighbors say people drive through it frequently). While this diagonal diverter limits driving access in the neighborhood, it has been very effective in reducing auto volumes and creating the low-stress cycling environment PBOT aims for with neighborhood greenways.
PBOT data shows that the diverter has reduced cut-through traffic on NE Rodney south of Fremont by a whopping 31%.
PBOT Project Manager Rich Newlands told attendees of last night’s open house that the test diverter has had “Very noticeable benefits.” While he acknowledged driving access concerns, he urged people to “Remember the bigger picture of what we are trying to accomplish.”
Newlands was speaking directly to residents who feel they’ve been so inconvenienced by the diverter they circulated a petition to have it removed. That pushback led PBOT back to the drawing board where they created a new potential diverter design that would only prevent driving in the northbound direction (between Ivy and Fremont).
The new design would turn Rodney into a one-way (southbound) street between Fremont and Ivy (since most of the cut-through traffic is only in the northbound direction). In the southbound direction people on bikes and in cars would share a 10-foot lane and in the northbound direction there would be a new, parking-protected bike lane (6-feet wide with a 4-foot buffer). The other option on the table is to beef up and polish the existing diagonal diverter.
At this point there appears to be support for both options. And from my read of the meeting attendees last night, I didn’t sense major opposition to either of them. That’s a good sign. It shows that the neighborhood understands that some type of traffic diversion must happen. The question is, which option will PBOT move forward with?
We’ve heard strong support for the diagonal diverter from the Boise Neighborhood Association. The Chair of their Land Use & Transportation Committee Stephen Gomez said via an official letter to PBOT on July 10th that they want the existing diverter made permanent:
“We are aware some residents near the NE Rodney/Ivy intersection have stated they are inconvenienced by the temporary diverter, due to out-of-direction movement traveling by car. We believe this is an acceptable tradeoff to enhance the safety of all cyclists and pedestrians traveling along this corridor.
We believe the proposed design—converting Rodney from Fremont to Ivy to one-way southbound—is an inferior safety design, particularly as it relates to east-west movement on Ivy crossing Rodney.”
Newlands said he will take the stack of written comments they received last night back to PBOT for further analysis and then schedule another meeting with the neighborhood before making a final decision.
As for the crossing of Fremont, the design of that portion of the greenway might prove more contentious than the diverter.
At issue is how to facilitate safer biking and walking where Rodney crosses Fremont. Fremont is a relatively busy east-west street and the intersection is off-set, which makes for a tricky crossings. In order to make it safer, PBOT wants to create short bike lanes on each side of the street. That design will require the re-allocation of right-of-way from private car parking to bicycling — which homeowners are upset about.
Paula Kreps, who lives on Rodney just south of Fremont was very opposed to the loss of parking (which would be about 10 spaces total) on Fremont because she thinks it will lead to more parking in front of her house. “You’re moving more vehicles onto a street with already maximum capacity,” she said. When Newlands from PBOT said their data shows plenty of excess parking capacity on Rodney, another person from the crowd yelled, “Why don’t you come and live on my street?!”
Another woman (didn’t get her name) who lives directly adjacent to where the new bike lane would go told me she doesn’t like the idea of the new bike lane because it will mean she won’t be able to park her car on the street. She’s worried that it will be dangerous for bicycle riders if she has to pull out of her driveway onto Fremont. What about the safety benefits to people who ride bikes, I asked. To which she replied. “I only drive, so I guess I don’t want it for my own selfish reasons.”
After that exchange, another woman said that she supports the bike lanes and new crosswalks on Fremont. “I think diverting a few auto parking spots is a small price to pay for safety in our neighborhood.” That comment got a few “Hear hears!” and claps of support from the audience.
— Stay tuned for more coverage. Learn more about this project in our archives or on PBOT’s project page.