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

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.


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 –

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