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Flyers by Woodward residents question ‘isolated’ diverter at 32nd and Clinton

Posted by on November 3rd, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Screenshot 2015-11-03 at 4.52.17 PM

A poster taped to some poles in the Richmond area.

In advance of Thursday’s city open house about a proposed traffic diverter at SE 32nd and Clinton, a set of flyers shows the nuance among people who are concerned about the current plan.

In short: even the people who are trying to organize opposition to this plan seem to be arguing for more diverters, not fewer.

The anonymous creator of these flyers is concerned that if a new traffic diverter is placed at 32nd, “hundreds of cars” currently using Clinton as a westbound neighborhood cut-through during rush hour will turn south at 32nd and then make the first right, which is Woodward Street.

This is reminiscent of a sentence that advocates for bike infrastructure hear frequently:

I support bike safety and ride a bike myself but (PROPOSED BIKEWAY IMPROVEMENT) is wrongheaded because (POSSIBLE PROBLEM FOR ME) so the real solution is (POLITICALLY OR FINANCIALLY IMPOSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE).

But if you look closely, that’s not quite what’s going on here.

First of all, it’s worth noting that this flyer doesn’t dispute the basic problem at hand: that Clinton Street has too much auto traffic to function as a comfortable all-ages bikeway. Based on the public comments the city has received, not many people in the area seem to disagree with this.

Second, it correctly observes that the current proposal “gives no crucial safety support to bicyclists on the busiest stretch of Clinton at 21st through 26th.” There’s a fairly good reason for this — TriMet’s No. 10 bus runs through those blocks — but it’s a true statement.

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Third, though some of its proposals are financially infeasible (more traffic signals on Division) or mistaken (the idea that more off-street parking would make it any less appealing to park for free on a commercial street) some are legitimate: the city’s plan doesn’t currently include more speed bumps on inner Clinton, for example. A westbound left-turn arrow at Division and Chavez doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility. And the emphasis on the fact that the proposed diverter at 32nd will be “isolated” is fair enough.

I’ve exchanged emails with one of the people behind this flyer, and though she’s requested anonymity because she’s uneasy about putting herself out personally in front of such a passionate issue, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to look for common ground here.

Finally, there’s one important fact here that this poster doesn’t acknowledge at all: when the city says this diverter at 32nd (and the similar one planned for 17th) will be temporary and experimental, that’s the truth. The city is, like everyone else, genuinely uncertain how traffic will react, and it seems to be totally open to changing the plan if things turn out badly.

That’s the whole point of the city’s Better Block-inspired approach: When we all agree that the status quo is a problem but we can’t all agree on the best solution, let’s not just stick with the status quo — let’s start trying viable solutions until we find one that works.

It’s a new way of thinking about city streets. If you ask me, it’s exciting. But it’ll only work if we’re all willing to listen to each other in good faith. Hopefully Portlanders on all sides of the Clinton Street issue will be able to do that.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I don’t read that poster as opposition to diversion, as much as an opposition to the particulars of the plan. Instead, I read it as wanting to keep “foreign” traffic out of the neighborhood as a whole, rather than just keeping it off Clinton (by diverting it to another neighborhood street).

Adam
Subscriber

Then install diverters every four blocks thoughout the entire neighborhood. Problem solved for everyone.

maxD
Guest
maxD

I think the flyer has some great points. Woodward should be as protected as Clinton from cut-through traffic, if not more, because of the schools there. Stop signs could be added on Woodward so traffic has to stop at every block. Division should be improved for buses. This may mean removing on-street parking and creating bus pull-ins. The left-turn signal at Cesar Chavez also seems like a good idea. Getting the bus off of Clinton should be a priority. Plus all of the diverters on Clinton. IMO, they should consider expanding the safety pilot project and include some measures on Division and Woodward when they install the diverters on Clinton

alankessler
Subscriber
alankessler

Several weeks ago, I corresponded with a person who I understand is associated with this group. This person wrote (among other things):

“Cars have to be discouraged from driving on Clinton in multiple places, so I think a better plan is to put one in every 5-10 blocks. Otherwise one street gets all the burden and it effectively made a major thoroughfare.”

I agree with much of what the SE 32nd neighbors want: a comprehensive diversion strategy that makes it unfeasible to use the neighborhood as a cut-through.

Bjorn
Subscriber
Bjorn

Vancouver BC uses a lot of diverters, and they work great in part because they stagger them randomly throughout neighborhoods and they use diagonal diverters that only allow either a right or a left turn when a motor vehicle reaches them. This means that it is very frustrating to attempt to cut through a neighborhood unless you really know what you are doing, which effectively keeps most of the traffic on the arteries.

fool
Subscriber

Seems like the “example” on tillamook at 16th is working pretty well too, in the “effectiveness” department.

Mark
Guest
Mark

The point is to discourage folks over time. The first few days? Sure…some cars on the worst possible cut through road… Woodward. After a few weeks, no problems.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

Is it even still happening? Isn’t the project in financial limbo (ie anywhere from tomorrow to 10 years from now).

rick
Guest
rick

I think Woodward needs the tree-planed-in-the-middle-of-the-street treatement like Clinton has in order to calm traffic on that street, too.

younggods
Guest
younggods

IMO a better solution than diverters everywhere would be for the city to purchase a fleet of mobile speed enforcement cameras and start issuing tickets. Start with a low $25 warning, then double fee for each ticket. Move the cameras to different trouble areas (but not the exact same location) at randomized times. Speeding will drop in no time.

Endo
Guest
Endo

If Clinton is supposed to be a bike boulevard it should be treated like a real bike boulevard,: no car traffic on Clinton, full stop. Anything else is stupid half measures. Cars kill, removing cars from Clinton would be doing the neighborhood a favor.

Doug Klotz
Subscriber

Isn’t diverters everywhere in the neighborhood the “Financially impossible alternative”?

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

A passive aggressive flyer that concern trolls for cyclist safety.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

The #10 bus needs to move over to Division street for those 5 blocks where it uses Clinton. Any utility pole on Division in the way of its turning radius can also be easily moved.

BeavertonRider
Guest
BeavertonRider

“But it’ll only work if we’re all willing to listen to each other in good faith. Hopefully Portlanders on all sides of the Clinton Street issue will be able to do that.”

I hope this can be the case. I’m not surprised that the person you spoke with expressed anxiety about being named. While “passion” certain understates the problem with unfair and untrue characterizations of opinions that don’t conform to the in-the-main opinions, she was being graceful, so good for her.

briandavispdx
Subscriber
briandavispdx

I think some of the language in the flyer–stating the diverter “would force all cars from Clinton onto 32nd Avenue,” and imploring a strategy where all cars are kept on Division/Powell–sets up a bit of a straw person, albeit a well-intentioned one.

The point of the diverters is precisely to keep the through-traffic on the arterials. Car volumes on Clinton are heavy because during congested conditions, it’s part of a quicker route between downtown and the southeastern outskirts than Division or Powell represents. If you divert at locations chosen to reduce/eliminate its utility as a cut-through route, your implicit goal is to ensure the quickest driving route remains on the arterials. Ideally, then, there’s less actual ‘diverting’ going on than merely ‘deterring.’

With the 32nd Avenue diverter, then, the goal isn’t to force all the cars that just turned onto Clinton to avoid the traffic jam on Division back onto Division, it’s to keep those cars from ever turning onto Clinton in the first place. So is that how it will play out? Or, would the default cut-through street simply become Woodward (or Brooklyn, etc.) with Clinton choked off? Though there are reasons to be optimistic about these prospects, these are questions worth asking, and answering, which is presumably the sort of thing the experimental nature of this project is aimed at addressing.

It sounds like most of you are keenly aware of this already, but I think it’s important to explicitly push back against the argument that one fewer car on Clinton means one more car on 32nd/Woodward. It does not, but if it did have an outsize impact on another local street, the solution would be more diversion, not less. If the people who are concerned about impacts to nearby local streets are genuine and open-minded, they should be winnable as allies.

oliver
Guest
oliver

Please excuse me if this has been covered before, but why is there no way to get from Powell wb onto Grand?

If you could exit Powell onto grand I think that it would take a lot of pressure off the neighborhood streets south of Division.

Carrie
Subscriber

I live on SE 19th, which is finally getting ‘converted’ into the greenway/bikeway that is on the master plan. I’ve been speaking with neighbors on SE 18th that have seen a significant increase in traffic (anecdotal) since the speed bumps have gone in on 19th. (there are no diverters anywhere in our stretch). So the resident’s concern is not unfounded. And I really think it all stems back to the glaring and obvious lack of enforcement of traffic laws in our neighborhoods — stopping at stop signs, going the speed limit, and passing dangerously. If the laws that are ALREADY WRITTEN were consistently and constantly enforced, I really do believe we would see a change in driving behavior in our neighborhoods.

soren
Guest
soren

“In short: even the people who are trying to organize opposition to this plan seem to be arguing for more diverters, not fewer.”

The authors of this letter did not call for more diverters. They called for speed bumps and improvements to Division and Powell. I think there is some wishful thinking going on here.

Aaron Smith
Guest
Aaron Smith

I think a big part of the problem is that PBOT caused this issue by training drivers to use Clinton during the long period of construction on Division. In the process, they also completely screwed up Division as a viable option to get from inner SE to 39th, Powell, and beyond by making it significantly more congested during periods of higher traffic. It now appears that the “solution” that PBOT is trying to put in place will only worsen the issue by pushing traffic onto streets even deeper into the neighborhood.

I think that enforcement, regardless of what you might think about it’s effectiveness, should be the first course of action. The police used to monitor the section of Clinton between 17th and 21st, but haven’t done so in quite some time. In the very least, having police monitor the greenway would reduce speeding, and could provide much needed insight into how much regulation is needed on Clinton. I would also point out that MANY cyclists ignore basic traffic laws, like not passing a school bus with lights flashing, slowing at stop signs, and thereby endanger people in much the same way cars do. The bike community needs to be respectful of the laws if they want support from the neighbors they are breezing past as they try to safely put their children on the school bus.

Some data for perspective: over the last 4 years there have been around 100 accidents OF ANY KIND on the stretch of Clinton between 12th and 39th. In that same period, according to daily volume, over 2 MILLION cars have traveled down that stretch of Clinton. When I look at numbers like that I question whether there’s really any problem at all.

This is not a matter of “not in my backyard”. The neighbors in the area want the issues with Division addressed before they complicate the matter with additional measures and potentially push the problem further into the neighborhood.

We need to work together to figure this out, rather than just pointing fingers at different groups with different interests and saying “they’re the problem, they’re the bad ones”. That attitude doesn’t accomplish anything and only serves to further divide people that should be working together. The entire neighborhood needs a solution, and it should address the needs of neighbors, cyclists, and drivers.

ED
Guest
ED

It’s interesting that the City moved the diverter from another street (29th?) up to 32nd, which has a T-intersection with Woodward just two blocks south and thus has fewer options for diverted traffic. Was the limited diversion options–to Woodward or Division–seen as a benefit of 32nd or a downside? The 17th diverter seems driven by a different mentality, that traffic should be diverted at intersections with through streets so that there are options to divert north and south, and to prevent traffic on the cross street (17th) from turning on to the bike boulevard.

I actually like many of the suggestions from the flyer to improve Division and Powell, but I think the City should go ahead with the temporary diverter at 32nd now and consider those options in the future. There’s no guarantee that car traffic on Clinton will divert over to Woodward, especially not 100% of vehicles, so let’s see the results before trying to engineer complementary parts of the solution.

GreenTrax
Guest
GreenTrax

Does anyone think it’s worth maybe trying something less drastic to start with, and then upping the game if it doesn’t work? I think the idea of multiple stop signs on Clinton could remove the convenience from the route, and cars might try to find other routes. I also think just enforcing the speed limit might scare a ton of cars away.

If those options don’t work, then take the next step to test the diverters.

Also, 32nd is basically a single lane street, so I’m not sure increasing the volume of cars there is safe or an improvement. I imagine there will be a line of irritable drivers waiting to go either left or right at 32nd, which will be backed up all the way from Division because of Pok Pok and the two crosswalks at that intersection. Those people will start pulling u-turns, honking, and generally making the situation worse.

seRider
Guest
seRider

If the purpose is to keep non-local commuters on the arterials and off Clinton and nearby residential streets, why not install a diverter that requires both west and eastbound Clinton car traffic to go north to Division rather than deeper into the neighborhood? How ’bout doing that on the soon to be one-way SE 34th Ave block where there is a signal at Division to help cars re-enter Division traffic?

Ted Buehler
Guest

Folks, if you care about this issue,

1) Attend the open house if you can. 7-9 pm tonight.
2) Invite your friends to the open house, whether you can attend or not.
3) If you or your friends are unable to attend, submit your comments to project director Rich Newlands at PBOT. Rich.Newlands@portlandoregon.gov

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/550243

If they receive strong support on this it will make sure the project moves forward quickly, and will indirectly bolster support for similar projects elsewhere in the city.

Ted Buehler