The Portland Bureau of Transportation is moving forward on their plans to tame auto traffic on Southeast Clinton.
In a statement released today, the city clarified their intentions to install diverters and take other actions to improve cycling conditions and discourage people from driving on Clinton — a street set-aside as a low-stresss bicycling route that has seen traffic skyrocket as nearby Division Street has added housing and businesses.
As part of their Clinton Neighborhood Greenway Enhancement Project, here’s what PBOT has announced:
- Diverters at SE 17th and 32nd. These median islands will be installed on a trial basis and will prevent people from driving east-west, while allowing those on bicycles to continue through.
- SE 34th Avenue will be converted into a one-way northbound street for people biking and driving, with bicycle users being given a new “contra-flow” lane in the southbound direction.
- Clinton between SE 12th and Cesar Chavez Blvd (39th) will be signed for 20 mph speed limit if traffic is reduced to below 2,000 cars per day (it currently carries around 2,300 cars per day).
- Speed bumps will be installed east of Cesar Chavez Blvd.
- A public awareness campaign will start in the next few weeks. This effort will include signs to educate people about why diversion is necessary and raise awareness about how to drive courteously on Clinton.
- A citizen’s advisory commitee will be convened next spring to “assist in the evaluation of the trial period and recommend if modifications are needed for the project’s second phase.”
PBOT plans install the diverters by the first week of January (2016), using the next month or so for their public outreach plan. The diverters will remain for a six-month trial period. The speed bumps east of Cesar Chavez will be installed next spring in warmer weather.
The changes to 34th aren’t directly related to the problems on Clinton, but PBOT is jumping on this opportunity to improve the street. With a signal at nearby Division, 34th is a major north-south connector. It’s also very narrow and people who live there have urged PBOT for over a year now to remove a parking lane and add a bike lane.
This announcement will be welcome news for many people who bike on Clinton. The diverters were intially promised by fall but PBOT waited to move forward while they garnered support, public feedback, and political buy-in. PBOT got a big policy and political boost when City Council unanimously passed a report about neighborhood greenways back in August.
One key new policy adopted in that report: It puts the acceptable threshold for a “safe and functioning neighborhood greenway” at 1,500 cars per day or fewer, thus giving PBOT the leverage to make design changes until that traffic level is reached.
As for the public, there’s been little to no opposition to do something about the traffic on Clinton. The only disagreements have been about where to put diverters, how many to install, and whether or not the changes might lead to spillover traffic on other streets (PBOT says it won’t).
During a phone interview today, PBOT project manager Rich Newlands said the public awareness campaign will be key to this project. “This conversation has been focused around the neighborhood, but our audience in terms of what we’re trying to achive is very much outside the neighborhood.” Newlands was referring to traffic analysis that showed during rush hour over half of the auto traffic comes from outside the ZIP code.
PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said they’re also in talks with the Portland Police Bureau about special enforcement actions in the area once the medians are installed.
The issue of too many people using Clinton as a cut-through was first flagged as a concern by advocates and even PBOT’s own staff nearly five and-a-half years ago. After City Council passed the Division Streetscape Project in 2010, PBOT bicycle coordinator Roger Geller said, “We already want to do something on Clinton because the auto volumes are too high.” Also at that time the Bicycle Transportation Alliance foresaw the problem and got the city to insert a promise into that plan that they would address cut-through traffic on Clinton if and when it became a problem.
Geller and the BTA were right. And when the issue reached a boiling point in the past year, a new group of activists, BikeLoudPDX, grabbed the football and ran it into the endzone.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com