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With $1.5 million proposal for Naito, Mayor puts money where his mouth is

Posted by on May 2nd, 2016 at 3:10 pm

new bike lane on Naito

The existing bike lanes on Naito are outdated.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales released his final proposed budget this morning and it includes funding for a project we’ve been hoping to see materialize for several years: improved access for biking on Naito Parkway. $1.46 million to be exact. It was one of 14 infrastructure projects and over $42 million in new spending he’s put on the table.

Re-allocating roadway space on Naito is a much-needed step for Portland. Waterfront Park is too crowded to be used as a transportation corridor and Naito Parkway’s existing bike lanes are outdated and inadequate. And it’s not just bike advocates who’ve been talking about this.

Hales has talked about it several times. In August 2014 during a bike tour with fellow dignitaries he told me the Naito Parkway idea “is a slam dunk” and that it’d be “a very compelling project” that could be done, “fairly quickly.” “What if we just took that east lane on Naito and went ahead and made it into a bikeway?” he wondered out loud, “You know we really don’t need all those lanes.” Then, during his brief romance with biking to work before he dropped out of the mayoral race, Hales said making “Better Naito” permanent was “The next thing on our list.”

Speaking of Better Naito, a politician couldn’t ask for a better way to float a bold idea before putting real funding behind it. After a highly successful partnership with volunteer urbanist group Better Block PDX last year, the City of Portland has doubled down by bringing back the temporary biking and walking lane to Naito for three months this year. The “tactical urbanism” demonstration is the largest and longest-lasting project of its kind ever deployed.

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The future of Naito Parkway? (This is a design rendering of a bikeway in London).

The future of Naito Parkway? (This is a design rendering of a bikeway in London).

Better Naito pilot project-3.jpg

A “Better Naito” for sure.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)
Separated bike-walk lane on Naito-5

Jersey barriers created a protected bike lane on Naito during a construction project in 2009.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Redesigning Naito also makes sense from a planning and engineering standpoint. Its current configuration of two standard bike lanes and five auto lanes (including a parking lane) is an embarrassment for America’s most bike-friendly big city. When the Bureau of Transportation spent $10 million to repave Naito in 2007 the design was outdated and inadequate for cycling day it opened. Even PBOT’s longtime bicycle planning coordinator Roger Geller acknowledged (at a meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee in 2012) that, “By the time we implemented it [Naito paving project], we would have been ready for buffered bike lanes or cycle tracks.”

And going back in further, the City of Portland’s 2003 Waterfront Park Master Plan (link) called for several biking and walking improvements that have never materialized: a 10-15-foot path (“The Promenade”) that would wind through the park from the Hawthorne Bridge to NW Couch; and a new 6-8-foot wide sidewalk that would have run the full length of the park.

So far the technical details of this project still need to be ironed out. The Oregonian reported this morning that, “The proposed funding would provide for a permanent barrier in a configuration similar to the pilot program [Better Block], but the design is still in early stages.”

Perhaps as a starting point we could look at the design of one of London’s cycling superhighways we highlighted last year. And of course anything major improvement to bike access on Naito would have to include a fix for the notorious “Naito Gap” where the bike lane ends under the Steel Bridge. If we can fix that gap, we’d be tantalizingly close to connecting to the thousands of new residential and commercial units being built further north and the vast biking potential of the industrial area.

Imagine a safe and efficient bikeway from the Hawthorne Bridge to NW 26th Avenue.

With less than a year to cement his transportation legacy, Hales has put forward his most interesting bike project yet. If this proposal makes it through the budget process (not a foregone conclusion by any stretch) it would be the very first protected bike lane to be built during his tenure. And it’s far from a “slam dunk” unfortunately. Hales hasn’t made transportation projects a priority and his last budget is clearly focused on other pressing needs like affordable housing, homelessness, and police staffing. But at least we’ve got something on the table. We’re eager to see what happens next.

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

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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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lopAlex ReedinDavid Hampsten, now in Greensboro NCmaccoinnichAdam H. Recent comment authors
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Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

WOW!…I will have to read more after work. Way to Go Mayor Hales (and Better Block)!

paikiala
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paikiala

The London photo is closer to a $3M-$5M project. Better Naito needs several signals modified as well as those center islands that need to be trimmed back for large trucks to be able to make the turns onto northbound Naito.

reader
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reader

The usual suspects are having a field day with this in the comments of the Oregonian article.

pdxtex
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pdxtex

naito parkway is not hard to use. the pavement itself kind of sucks but other than that its pretty bike friendly. the biggest obstacles are or were, the easternmost section from overton to the steel bridge where the pavement is terrible but it looks like they are in the process of repaving as we speak and obviously the gap over the tracks and below the bridge. there’s just a lot of other construction happening right now and the hobo gauntlet underneath the burnside bridge can sometimes be tricky. but the bike lane is fine. don’t mess with it. want to add a more friendly environment down there? increase police foot patrol in waterfront park so pedestrians and normal Portlanders can use their space again…that’s it.

reader
Guest
reader

This will be much appreciated when Biketown floods the waterfront with riders who will learn there is precious little space for safe cycling downtown.

David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
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David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC

It is partly paid for by eliminating the PBOT “Out of the Mud” program, much of which was for building narrow asphalt roadways on existing gravel streets, such as on the HOP in East Portland, the 100s greenway, and various SW bike projects. Cut a million from bikes to pay for bike lanes on Naito. Not a particularly good bargain.

Pete
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Pete

Re: the first photo – you calls those bike lanes “outdated”? Wow, I’m jealous – you should see what we get to ride in!

dwk
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dwk

Barbur to Naito has to be addressed. It would be nice to get on the “protected” area before you get killed….

Dwaine Dibbly
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Dwaine Dibbly

Great idea, but I want to see the details. Will he allow camping on it?

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

OK, this is neato to improve the bike lanes we finally got only a few years ago, but could we also do something to fix the long stretches of Naito that have no bike lanes at all? Obviously the “gap” is the absolute highest priority, but there’s still an awful lot of Naito where it’s freaking scary to ride.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Obsolete when it opened — I think that describes everything Portland has built in the past decade. If only we had some way to travel into the future and see what a bikeway should look like. Try this: put a colander on your head and look at our 2030 mode-share goals with 25% of trips by bike and significant transit + walking. See a street with one bike per car on it. (Sometimes two cars but the second is often a carpool.) Families in box bikes/trikes, grannies, and hurried commuters are sharing the bike lane — how wide is it? What happens when everyone in the bike lane has to stop? How wide and how many car lanes do we need for those 1 or 2 cars? A third of the trips, so a third of the space?

Now, we have maybe a dozen years to build that. everywhere. as a connected network. Are we going to build it all twice because we poured concrete like it’s 1999 for the first one every time? Remember Not Everybody Can Ride a Bike All the Time. Also: “Freight!”

Oh, say a positive thing… Slowclap.gif for the easy overdue budget line item showpiece with obvious sauce.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Ok, this is great and all if we were doing it everywhere, but we’re not. We’ve invested a TON of money in making downtown Portland super nice (though, not for biking) and now Hales wants to spend more? Is that how we want our city to work, make the tourist areas great before we make other areas even OK?

There would be very low-budget ways to improve Naito in the short term that would leave at least $1mil for other priorities. Like, don’t move any curbs, just stripe a walking lane and a biking lane with planters between the lanes. And change the signal timing so people can walk across it without waiting for an eternity. It feels kind of crazy to be spending a good chunk of change on Naito when outer Foster doesn’t have sidewalks on either side of the road (and isn’t planned to in the near future), when people continue to die on outer Division on a regular basis, and lots of roads in the West Hills are still utter embarrassments too.

David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
Guest
David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC

A funding commitment by Hales can pretty easily be undone by the next Mayor. Depending upon the vote in May, his budget may be null-and-void by June. It’s happened before.

Carrie
Subscriber

On my ride Sunday I learned that there IS a protected intersection in the Metro region: River Road where it turns right onto Glen Echo in Oregon City. I’m actually not a big advocate of separated infrastructure, but that right turn with the big physical buffer was amazing! Jersey barriers on Naito would be a game changer.