In defense of greenways, city bolsters traffic diversion in two north Portland locations

Posted by on April 4th, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Try to drive through these concrete barrels filled with soil. I dare you!
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation seems to be slowly losing their aversion to diversion.

On my way into work today I rolled by two examples of new infrastructure that aims to prevent people from driving through a specific intersection. It’s all part of PBOT’s increased priority on “traffic diversion” in order to maintain a comfortable street environment in residential areas.

The first example I came across today was the intersection of North Mississippi and Holman. This location is just one block east of the Michigan Ave Neighborhood Greenway. Michigan is used as a cut-through to avoid traffic congestion on northbound Interstate 5 between Interstate and Rosa Parks Way. When initially implemented, that greenway had too many people using Michigan to access the Interstate 5 on-ramp at Rosa Parks Way (one block north of Holman) so PBOT installed a full median diverter at Michigan and Rosa Parks Way in October 2013.

But then many people — likely thanks to Waze — simply cut over on Holman one block east to Mississippi to continue northbound. Residents on that street were not happy so now PBOT will add another diverter at Holman. We haven’t seen the final designs but markings on the street today show a diverter that will force people to backtrack and turn south (right) at Missippi back to Ainsworth. The overall goal is to keep non-local traffic on collector streets like Ainsworth (east-west) and Albina (north-south).

Looking northwest across Holman on Mississippi.

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PBOT has also beefed up diversion is on the North Rodney Neighborhood Greenway. Created as an alternative to North Williams, the Rodney greenway also had too much auto use when it was first implemented. To help prevent northbound cut-through traffic PBOT put up a diverter at Ivy (one block south of Fremont) in September 2014. Because the design was weak, many people simply drove their cars right over the diverter and it became clear that something more permanent and substantial was needed.

Looking southbound on Rodney at Ivy.

Not sure if PBOT meant to do this but there’s now a protected and raised diagonal crossing of Rodney at Ivy.

Now PBOT has finally sealed the deal by placing 14 large concrete barrels full of planting soil in the middle of the intersection. They’ve been placed in a diagonal from the northwest corner to the southeast corner of the intersection. Bike riders can squeeze through between them (hopefully it’s wide enough for all types) but there’s no way someone in a car could. While out there this morning I saw two people take advantage of the raised, protected walkway that now exists in the middle of the barrels. Not sure if PBOT meant to do this but it’s a cool feature.

It’s great to see the City of Portland get serious and stick up for neighborhood greenways. These quiet streets have been picked on by big bullies for too long it’s time to rise up and defend them.

Thanks to the readers who tipped us off about these projects. We rely on you as our eyes and ears so please drop us a text, tweet, or email if you come across anything interesting.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

43 Comments
  • Avatar
    eawrist April 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Go PBOT. You’re on a roll!

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      Andrew N April 4, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      Pssst. Hey PBOT. NE 7th next, please.

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        Reid Parham April 4, 2016 at 3:06 pm

        NE 9th!

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. April 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    From the looks of those photos of Rodney, it appears that there is not enough room for someone to ride a bike through. Additionally, the signs seem to be blocking a good portion of the opening. Could just be the angle of the photo though. Can anyone confirm this?

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      Clint Culpepper April 4, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      There’s room, I rode through it on Saturday. You definitely can’t blow through it, possibly the idea.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. April 4, 2016 at 1:24 pm

        Good to know, thanks! I already have some trouble with the 32nd and Clinton diverter if there is someone parked in front of it, and this one looked even narrower than that. Still a bit puzzled at the decision to put the signs in the opening though.

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          Carter April 4, 2016 at 2:26 pm

          Aside from the narrowness of the 32nd & Clinton diverter, I also consistently see cars zig-zagging around it. I’m hoping that if/when the diverter becomes permanent both of these problems will be solved.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. April 4, 2016 at 2:33 pm

            I hope so too. A driver recently followed me through the diverter to scream death threats at me.

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              Clark in Vancouver April 4, 2016 at 6:45 pm

              That tends to happen whenever there’s a new road layout that in any way decreases auto dominance. It’ll die down after awhile.

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              Middle of the Road guy April 5, 2016 at 11:54 am

              Sounds like there is half of a story we are not hearing.

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            Paikiala April 4, 2016 at 5:47 pm

            They will not.

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          Ted Buehler April 8, 2016 at 12:53 am

          Adam wrote “Additionally, the signs seem to be blocking a good portion of the opening. ”

          The signs are part of the barrier.

          If any enterprising neighbors move the signs out of the way (as they’ve been doing for the last year), cars will be able to drive through again.

          And, the route through the planters is indeed pretty narrow. You need to swing pretty broadly to “s curve” through it if you’re pulling a trailer.

          I kinda like the barrels at Central Ave in St. Johns better, which have 4 or 5 passages through for bikes.

          But, I’m really glad this diverter is finally complete.

          Ted Buehler

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    bikeninja April 4, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    The forces of good strike another blow for justice, clean air and safe streets.

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    rick April 4, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Some help is needed on SW Maplewood Road, an old trolley line, with the cars parked on the pedestrian path.

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    Jack April 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    The diverter on Rodney is in my ‘hood. I’m hoping that, with the addition of these actual diverters, the excessive signage can be taken down eventually. In the mean time, I suspect PBOT wouldn’t raise too many objections about local residents adding some color to these pretty unsightly barriers. Anyone care to join me?

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    Bald One April 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    These are excellent. I spoke with city PBOT engineers about using this corner- to – corner diverter design several years ago, and they were against it then, so I am glad to see them coming around. It’s similar to what Berkeley, CA uses. I would like to see this design be a little bit more porous to bicycles. I don’t think they need a double layer of planters and the previous attempt of temporary street curbing to also remain intact on the street – a single line of concrete planters is good enough to keep the cars out, and should provide maximum access through the diverter for bikes and peds. I don’t like the city’s ideas to try to funnel all the cyclists through one opening – why not make it as open and passable to bikes as possible? Hopefully, the Holman treatment gets a little bit of a lighter touch than the Rodney.

    Neighbors will be able to plant and maintain the flowers in the planters, as I’m not so sure the city will be able to maintain them over the years -without some TLC, they will go to the weeds within 3 years.

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      Paikiala April 4, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      Have you visited N Central at Tyler?

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    Tom Hardy April 4, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    It’s about time that PBOT decided to use proper diverters. God Job!!
    Although a single row of planters would be adiquate except for the SUV’s running from enforcement.

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    Adam April 4, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Just for reference here’s an example from Eugene if diverters are considered during project planning rather than as a retrofit, although aren’t as flexible for future road changes. http://tinyurl.com/j52a82f

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      B. Carfree April 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      Eugene has a few of these, but has refused to put any in over the past twenty years or so. Since Eugene has zero law enforcement, many of these are simply driven over by motorists. The narrowness, angle change and lack of maintenance of the shrubbery (not shown on that google photo, but plants do grow) can make it problematic to ride through, especially with a trailer. The lack of signage alerting clueless motorists that cyclists proceeding straight have the right of way can make for interesting encounters.

      Diverters are great, but the very thing that makes them necessary, the relative barbarity of motorists, also makes them difficult to create in a way that doesn’t provide a barrier to cyclists who are riding something more substantial than a one-saddle upright bike.

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    rachel b April 4, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Waze = The Devil. Grrr!

    Hooray, diversions!

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    • Jim Labbe
      Jim Labbe April 4, 2016 at 9:38 pm

      Not sure we can blame waze for our over-accommodation of the automobile.

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        rachel b April 5, 2016 at 12:09 am

        But of course! It is but one of mine enemies. 😉

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    soren April 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    The Ankeny diverter open house is coming up soon (tentatively).
    Follow BikeLoudPDX on facebook or on our email list if you are interested in supporting this project.

    https://www.facebook.com/bikeloud

    https://groups.google.com/forum/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=footer#!forum/bikeloudpdx

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    Travis Fulton April 4, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    This is great, but damn that looks terrible. I wish there was a better looking design than concrete garbage cans with reflectors in the middle of the road. Are they going to plant anything in them? That could help.

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    Dwaine Dibbly April 4, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    The planters are solid but look cruddy. Time for a neighborhood painting party!

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    Brad Nelson April 4, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    I use Rodney a couple times a week and these are definitely a better barrier for motor vehicles. However, they do serve to showcase a few issues in these “solutions” that appear more patchwork than the application of best practices.

    1. Visibility: That reflective tape is just not enough. Similar issues on the island on Williams that modestly reflective. See also every small concert island in town.

    2. Which opening is for bikes? There is a low amount of intuitive wayfinding here. Want to make a left from Ivy onto Rodney, which way? Current diverters (see Michigan at Rosa Parks) are very clear.

    3. Signs are still moveable. Not easily, but they could be.

    4. Vehicles yield to southbound traffic. No warning for bikes that traffic forced to turn left from Rodney to Ivy are “supposed” to yield the right of way. We add “cross traffic does not stop” to many intersections for good reasons.

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    Laura April 4, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    yes,please!
    Clinton east of Chavez, Limcoln between Chavez and 60th!
    Before all the new units on SE 50th come online.

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    Adam April 4, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Love it love it.

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  • Jim Labbe
    Jim Labbe April 4, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    This Holman/Mississippi diversion is going to be a such welcome addition to the neighborhood.

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    Corey Burger April 4, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    I have to say – those diverters look like crap. No seriously, it is a big problem. You are trying to win over skeptical neighbourhoods and designing things that look like crap isn’t going to help. Portland badly needs to learn from Vancouver (BC) and may their diverters look a lot prettier (and more permanent).

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      bjorn April 4, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      Actually when I first went up to Vancouver and saw their diverters many of them were just ugly concrete jersey barriers. Over time they replaced these cheap barriers with permanent more attractive diverters. I think they did it that way so they could get them in quickly and so they could be moved if it was determined that they would be more effective if they were a block over etc. By installing somewhat movable not terribly attractive diverters Portland is actually following Vancouver BC’s lead, hopefully we follow them all the way to the more attractive permanent diverters.

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        Corey Burger April 6, 2016 at 11:10 pm

        There are some on the Seaside Greenway, but there is a crucial difference: the city told people about what it will look like and also made some of the worn permanent right away. So people saw that it can be pretty.

        Never underestimate how something attractive & that looks like it belongs can be accepted much faster.

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    Terry D-M April 5, 2016 at 9:28 am

    In the inner neighborhoods with a street grid pattern there should be Diversion as the default at EVERY arterial. Yet, we are building a “world class Bikeway” this year where for 4 milkes in NE there will be a greenway with NO DIVERSION from Multnomah to Lombard and in SE southbound for 2 miles from Oregon to Powell..

    We are constantly trying to catch up. Maybe we should try to build it right the first time?
    http://bikeloudpdx.org/index.php/The_20%27s:_A_Bikeway_in_Name_Only

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    JeffS(egundo) April 5, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Jonathan, one correction:

    “The overall goal is to keep non-local traffic on collector streets like Ainsworth (east-west) and Albina (north-south).”

    Ainsworth and Albina function as collectors, but in the City’s Transportation System Plan, they are classified as local service streets – the same as Michigan, Holman, Mississippi, etc. Rosa Parks/Killingsworth and Interstate Ave/Vancouver are the nearby collectors.

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    Todd Boulanger April 5, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Looks very 1990s Berkeley.

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      Todd Boulanger April 5, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      I personally like the planted galvanized livestock trough look.:-0

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    Corey Burger April 6, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    There are some on the Seaside Greenway, but there is a crucial difference: the city told people about what it will look like and also made some of the worn permanent right away. So people saw that it can be pretty.

    Never underestimate how something attractive & that looks like it belongs can be accepted much faster.

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    Ted Buehler April 8, 2016 at 12:57 am

    Thanks PBOT!

    If ya’all like to see PBOT doing this (as eawrist and at least 19 others do), send them some fan mail.

    Rodney Project Manager Rich Newlands
    rich.newlands@portlandoregon.gov

    Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller
    roger.geller@portlandoregon.gov

    PBOT Director Leah Treat
    leah.treat@portlandoregon.gov

    Ted Buehler

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    Adam April 18, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    The neighbors around NE Rodney and Ivy are planning to get together and put in plants and paint the diverters. I will send Jonathan an update photo once complete.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      That sounds great Adam! Please do let me know when this is done. I can easily swing by myself before or after work as it’s on my way home.

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