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Comment of the Week: SE Foster, the heart of Portland’s coming bike grid

Posted by on August 7th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

SE Foster Road-4

Not currently a spot for
low-stress rolls.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Southeast Foster Road feels a long way from the heart of Portland’s transportation conversation at the moment. But that’s not going to last long.

Next year, right in the middle of Portland’s mayoral election, Foster is scheduled to be the site of the city’s most ambitious road diet yet, a conversion of passing lanes to bike and turn lanes that’s widely expected to create auto spillover onto other streets even as it dramatically improves the safety of driving or crossing Foster, which is currently one of the city’s 10 high-crash corridors.

The new bike lanes will be nothing more than paint, but six-foot-wide or buffered. And in a comment beneath Tuesday’s story exploring how to divvy up Portland’s bike-infrastructure budgets, BikePortland reader Gutterbunnybikes made an interesting case that those bike lanes will be more important than you think.

Why? Because unlike almost every other bike lane in Portland, they’re going to run right through commercial districts.

Here’s Gutterbunnybikes’ answer to the question of whether Portland should prioritize coverage (a big, far-flung network) or ridership (a high-quality, heavily used network).

I think honestly think you can have both. It’s just that the thinking has to change on what the system as whole is and should be doing. If we actually started connecting commercial districts instead of skirting them, you get both. But Downtown is the only commercial district the city wants to connect to the bicycle grid.

You will dramatically increase ridership numbers and geographic influence if you plan right. Instead of half-assed 20’s and 50s projects – why were these routes not taken 10 blocks west which would have put the bicycle access in the heart of the main east side commercial districts instead of 10 blocks away from where everyone wants to get to in them?

A route through the teens would have given riders direct access from the heart of Alberta through LLoyd, central eastside, Division/Clinton then on down to Bybee/ Sellwood. A route through the 40’s would have connected the heart of Fremont to Hollywood, to Hawthorne, to Division/Powell, and Woodstock.

And you wait because Foster does connect commercial districts – once implemented it will be a game changer for future planning. Foster (coupled with Clinton and Tilikum) is going to be huge, once completed it’s roughly 5 miles of near complete (other than Clinton being two blocks off Division) commercial access for bicycles from 90th to over the bridge to Downtown.

As long as no one is willing to adequately connect all the commercial districts, all the projects which aren’t central city will fall short. And at some point, without better access from outside of central city even those projects will fail in that no one will be able to get to them.

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In a separate comment, Gutterbunnybikes replied to another reader who offered to bet $100 that Foster’s painted bike lanes will be “very low use,” perhaps similar to the ones along NE Broadway between 15th and 24th.

You’ll lose that bet.

Foster already sees a pretty good amount of bicycle traffic. I’d likely guess near the same numbers of some of the outer and mid east side greenways. Since most the street side parking (defacto bike lane) is usually vacant, the FOPO section really isn’t too bad to ride, and I’ve often done my own counts on the east of 82nd parts where bicycles on sidewalks usually outnumber or equal the number of pedestrian traffic (including people waiting at bus stops) through that stretch.

In my modest opinion, I suspect Foster is going to increase bike share overall more than the 50’s and 20’s greenway projects (combined even).

Whether Foster Road’s redesign leads to pitchforks, praise, or both, it seems likely to shape the next five years of road redesign decisions in Portland for good or bad. Whether or not biking actually improves much along the way is anybody’s guess, but at least we know what this Foster-area resident is putting money on.

Yes, this feature is back after a hiatus caused by a long string of busy weeks — and yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to Gutterbunnybikes in thanks for this one. Watch your email!

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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Alex
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Alex

All the more reason for PBOT to directly connect the Foster Rd bike lanes to the 52nd Ave bike lines, rather than skirt around the commercial district from 54th to 52nd.

Adam Herstein
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Adam Herstein

While these bike lanes should have been protected or raised instead of in the door zone, I am looking forward to this project getting started. Foster is not currently a very welcoming place to bike or walk and the streetscape project aims to change that.

Spiffy
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Spiffy

Foster isn’t getting a road diet, it’s getting reconfigured… they’re actually gaining a lane, and the width of the pavement isn’t changing…

and yes, there are already a lot of bikes on Foster… mostly on the wide sidewalks and not in the road…

Ryan Francesconi
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Ryan Francesconi

This would be sweet. This would provide a fast way to skip inner springwater and get out towards Powell Butte and Boring without wasting time and your life. All other routes are a compromise of either time or safety.

maccoinnich
Guest

I’m really looking forward to the Foster streetscape project, and hope it proves successful enough that the City uses it as a precedent for other streets. I like the greenway network for what it is, but dislike that it often seems to be in place of bike lanes on commercial streets, rather than in addition to them.

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

Gutterbunnybikes’ observation about connecting commercial districts, and his listing of those districts, makes what should be the City’s north-south bike infra plans so blindingly obvious it hurts.

Do we know why the City hasn’t planned that way? I mean, apart from The Holy Sacrament of On-Street Parking? Is there some conscious reason, like, I dunno, a well-founded belief that the biking public wouldn’t go from one business district to another, but only from home to a single business district?

Or do they continue routing greenways and other infra around commercial destinations because of a deep-seated belief that everyone is really just a Sunday Parkways leisure/recreation rider who never thought of quaxing, or what?

Chris I
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Chris I

Sweet wheelie, bro.

Beeblebrox
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Beeblebrox

This commenter seems to be unaware that we do have a “40s Bikeway.” It runs along 41st/42nd Ave and connects multiple commercial districts from Hollywood south to Hawthorne and Division. It even continues up to NE along 38th.

B. Carfree
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B. Carfree

Egads, more failed door-zone bike lanes. The plan is made worse by using a “buffer” to squeeze the bikes further into the door zone where there was actually adequate road width to keep most of the bike lane clear of it.

I’d rather have nothing than bike lanes in the door zone, since I won’t ride in that hazardous place, which puts me in the travel lane. Not surprisingly, this leads to a few angry motorists at times.

george
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george

in the neighborhood accidentally named after the most famous pedestrian of the 18th century, there should be more pedestrian things to do. http://18thcand19thc.blogspot.com/2014/08/foster-powell-celebrated-pedestrian.html

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

Lol I typed that one out and it sat in moderation for awhile.

Yeah, I’m (and was) aware of the the mis-mash of the 40s “path”. I use to be a cab driver and know this cities roads very well, and honestly I don’t think I can navigate it without a map or route sheet for more than a few blocks. It’s terrible. It’s not nearly as coherent as the say the 50s path and the crossings of the arterials are horrid. One of these days I expect to see a giant hunk of cheese in the street for my reward for finding the end of that one.

But that wasn’t really the focus of my comment. I was stating that I don’t think that you need to make the choice between increasing ridership and geographic exposure to infrastructure. If you plan it right by making routes that actually take people somewhere they want to go you get both – especially the further out you get.

What is missing from this conversation isn’t “where” people bike, or “how” they’re riding, or even their skill/comfort level. The thing people need to ask is “why”. and the answer is people ride bikes in a city to get places – be it work, school, or for shopping and entertainment.

For example living in South Tabor I’ve got access to many commercial districts that aren’t Downtown. In fact there is little to no reason for me to go Downtown because of this access to other districts. Most parts Portland that are east of 39th (Chavez – it’ll always be 39th to me) fall into this same situation. Out here by connecting commercial districts in a sane manner will give you both greater access and and greater ridership numbers because of the access – throughout the system. And the Foster project will do this pretty well. Though as noted by a few others – it’s a huge oversight not to extend it another 10 blocks to the Springwater Trail.

And I don’t really think the central city for the work commute holds much water either. Downtown only accounts for roughly 25% of the cities employment. If the infrastructure is being developed to increase commuter traffic where are the paths on N/NE Columbia and Killingsworth? , Sandy? 82nd? Industrial NW? Perhaps even better access on Swan Island?

And at what point does increases in development downtown stall out ridership numbers? Are we possibly there now? Is the fact the city has been so focused on Downtown a factor in the fairly stagnate numbers the last couple years? Developing infrastructure downtown will only get you so far without developing the rest of the city.

Andrew
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Andrew

Diagonal roads that break with the grid are pretty valuable, not just for bikes but for all modes. Getting from a to b is a lot quicker when you can cut across an otherwise uninterrupted grid.. thanks Pythagoras..
NE Sandy has similar value to the north.

Jeff ong
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Jeff ong

I’m thrilled about the Foster streetscape plan. I live in Foster-Powell, and it’s a huge pain to get to any Foster businesses currently. You have to figure out which cross-street will bisect the triangle just so. I will love just being able to ride straight down the road itself.

Captain Karma
Guest

I am fearful of the drunks leaving the bars on Foster, with only paint between them and me. Well, it’s better than nothing. I guess. We’ll see.

Terry D-M
Guest
Terry D-M

This project is why I have been so aggressive in getting public endorsements for the 60’s (crosses at 67th) and 80th Greenways. They will feed directly into Foster from the north and south. Combined with Center, Raymond and Ellis…..assuming all of these feeder greenways are built properly…i.e. with proper DIVERSION….then the core of inner SE will have a great network for pretty cheap.

oregon111
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oregon111

as congestion worsens (reducing driving lanes),

that will make inner portland even more unafordable for the kind of min wagers who ride bikes

have fun moving to rockwood