Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Next week’s ‘Better Broadway’ trial aims for better shopping environment

Posted by on May 6th, 2016 at 9:12 am

(Images: Broadway-Weidler Alliance)

Nine months ago, one of the city’s top experts on the Lloyd District predicted to us that any changes to inner Northeast Portland’s main east-west arterial were 10 years away.

“I think people need to realize that Broadway doesn’t know what they want to do yet,” said Rick Williams, the founding director of the Go Lloyd business association, in an interview. “Broadway is kind of where we were 10 years ago: in the planning phase.”

But if an on-street trial next week of improved crosswalks and a protected bike lane do well, the planning phase could move pretty quickly.

The design being tested by Better Block PDX from May 9-15 will add temporary crosswalk markings and traffic islands as well as in-street cafe seating on the north side of Broadway by removing one of the street’s two passing lanes and reversing the position of the parking lane and bike lane.


“There will be outdoor seating, music, activities, art, and more.”
— Broadway-Weidler Alliance

“There will be outdoor seating, music, activities, art, and more,” the Broadway-Weidler Alliance explained in a press release Wednesday. “It will be like a street fair but for an entire week. This project came about after asking ‘How can NE Broadway become a thriving retail destination?’ Neighbors and businesses then gathered together to put on this exciting project to show that we can turn a mean street into a main street where families can walk to meet their daily needs, share a meal, and support their local businesses.”

The Northeast Broadway Business Association will join the city, Better Block and the Broadway-Weidler Alliance at noon on Monday to show off the project to the media. Before that, at 10:15 am, AARP and Oregon Walks will co-lead a walking tour of the 0.8-mile project, which is expected to run from 7th Avenue to 24th Avenue.

A man bikes on the Broadway sidewalk, presumably to avoid riding alongside traffic.

Like the Better Naito trial happening across the river all summer and the Better Burnside Bridge trial planned for next month, the idea is to test whether the changes bring more foot traffic to Broadway storefronts and whether having one fewer passing lane on Broadway would cause any traffic backups.

Want to help set the trial up? Better Block is also inviting volunteers to deploy cones for the trial at 5:15 pm on Sunday.

Disclosure: My other employer, PeopleForBikes, put up some of the cash to support this demo as part of its National Protected Bike Lane Week. I wasn’t directly involved in that decision.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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  • B. Carfree May 6, 2016 at 9:35 am

    This sort of thing hits all my buttons. It’s temporary, which I don’t care for since if it is good, it goes away and if it is bad it does harm that may or may not be undone. (Do people who have a bad experience when expecting a good one really come back for more?) These ride-in-the-gutter hidden from view behind parked cars, where no one expects riders to be, amplify the intersection conflicts inherent in urban riding. What fraction of rider deaths over the past few years have been at intersections as opposed to overtaking traffic? Also, there is a tendency for motorists to park in such a way as to create a door zone in the gutter lane if at all possible (and it usually is).

    Lastly, how do you even do metrics on a one week demonstration? People will declare them wonderful if only because they represent change. Yes, we need change desperately, but I find these things a distraction from what is necessary: abundant zero-tolerance traffic law enforcement.

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    • Chris I May 6, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Ride in the gutter? Did you look at the diagram above?

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    • Gary B May 6, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      The point is to prove the concept can work. The main focus, I believe, is to show the motor vehicle interests that it’s ok to take away one lane. You seem to be hung up on whether it’s a great bike solution. Well, I for one think it will be quite nice, but frankly it doesn’t have to be perfect to prove its point. If it goes well, the permanent change can perhaps address some of your design concerns.

      Doing nothing because it might be good (?!) or not great is a really peculiar preference.

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    • Champs May 6, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      We need protected bike lanes because feelings.

      People have a pretty screwed-up sense of danger. We are perfect assessors of risk when it comes to the Idaho Stop, but OMG a passing vehicle is going to kill them (they’re only 5% of all incidents). Showing the data alternately trivializes their feelings or (20x) magnifies the perception of danger. If you don’t protect the lanes, people won’t ride in them, period.

      Millions of malleable young minds have had the fear of speed on the freeway beaten out of their heads by a driver’s ed teacher. For whatever reason we can’t talk about bikes the same way.

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      • Eric Leifsdad May 7, 2016 at 10:36 pm

        I’m not sure it’s even fear. Noise and dust are pretty unpleasant. How about all of these kids being toted around in minivans? Have you talked to their mothers about the usefulness of painted bike lanes?

        I agree that intersections are problems with parking-protected bike lanes and that separated infrastructure can be (and has thus far been) done very poorly in Portland. Strict speeding + stop sign enforcement are obvious wins if anybody in the city could wake up and smell the traffic. Priorities. If we saw PBOT consistently give bikers priority and convenience (instead of the cars-first minute-long red bike signals, 2-stage turns, yield/stop signs on the path at crossings, “slow down” signs, sidewalks labeled as bike infra, etc), would there be so many complaints about separated facilities?

        We need these demonstrations because our leaders didn’t get it done. It’s useful even if all it does is show that you can actually do something to create change with paint and cones instead of just re-painting the 4ft wide worn-off bike lanes in the same place again and again while nobody in the 11ft lanes would ever consider riding there when they could simply put some $2/gal gasoline in their 6.5ft wide $2000 car and merrily drive 11mph over the speed limit, drunk and without insurance or whatevs.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. May 6, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I’m looking forward to this. I’ve been to all the Better Block demos (starting with the 26th and Clinton one) and they do great work. Broadway is in dire need of a rework and this should provide some evidence that it could work. Really, all of Broadway needs to be fixed – from NE/N and into the Pearl and Downtown. My dream is to have a continuous protected cycleway from Hollywood to PSU!

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  • John Liu
    John Liu May 6, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Captions like “a man bikes on the sidewalk, presumably to avoid riding alongside traffic” bother me. Unless you interviewed the man, you don’t know why he was riding on the sidewalk. Maybe he was leaving a nearby business and it was more convenient to ride on the sidewalk for half a block before getting on the bike lane at the next intersection: that’s not uncommon. “Presumably” signals a statement that probably shouldn’t be made.

    Yes, some people do habitually ride on the sidewalk to avoid riding in the street. That doesn’t justify showing a photograph of a specific incident and presenting it as an example of that behavior.

    That said, I’m looking forward to this demonstration project. Broadway has more traffic lanes than it needs, is difficult for pedestrians to cross, cars drive too fast, and the retail business is hurt because shoppers and diners can’t fluidly move from shop to shop across the street. The risks from parked cars blocking turning drivers’ view of bikes could be reduced with islands that prevent parking within a couple car lengths of the cross walk, and those would help pedestrians as well, giving them a place to stand that isn’t in the midst of bike and car traffic.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) May 6, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      That’s a fair point, but in this case it seemed safe because I watched the guy cruise through the entire block. If he’d been facing against traffic it might have been different, but the bike lane was just on the other side of the parking lane.

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      • RushHourAlleycat May 9, 2016 at 1:45 pm

        Also, you used the word presumably to indicate this was an assumption. Seems journalistically okay to me.

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  • Aurelia Dalek May 6, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Does anyone know if people will be able to ride in the wrong direction, as they are on Naito today? (Can I ride East on Broadway?)

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    • John Liu
      John Liu May 6, 2016 at 11:14 am

      I hope so. Routing both West and East bound cyclists on Broadway would be convenient for commuters and good for the retail businesses.

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    • Allan Rudwick May 6, 2016 at 11:27 am

      that is not part of this demo but could be considered in a future version of street improvements

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    • Beeblebrox May 8, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      Generally speaking, two-way bikeways on one-way streets don’t work very well, because the reverse direction will tend to hit all red lights at the signals. They are also less safe at intersections, so they work better in contexts like Naito Parkway than a case like this with lots of intersections.

      There is some interest in decoupling Broadway and Weidler to make them two-way, in which case Broadway could become a more typical street with one lane in each direction, bike lanes in each direction, and parking on both sides. That would be a massive change, however, and very expensive, so I’m not sure how much traction that would get. You would also have to figure out where the transition point would be. It may be better to just work with what we have and make both Broadway and Weidler the best they can be as one-way streets.

      Of course, future planning is also complicated by the potential for streetcar service as well…word has it this corridor is on the shortlist for streetcar expansion.

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  • Mark May 6, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Baby steps. I live in the neighborhood and very much welcome this demonstration. Next up? Get rid of the one-way couplet design of NE Broadway and NE Weidler and we’ll be in better shape.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu May 6, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Broadway is three traffic lanes and two parking lanes, all Westbound, do there is enough space to fit this cycleway without seriously clogging car traffic. If the same width had to serve West and East bound traffic, then I’m sure this project would not be feasible.

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  • maccoinnich May 6, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    One of the nice things about this configuration is that it (presumably) eliminates the bus-bike leapfrogging problem that’s common on streets with bike lanes and bus service.

    In the longer term it would be great to see Broadway become a street where cycling, walking and transit are prioritized. One of the potential amendments to the TSP would add a streetcar extension to Hollywood Transit Center, via either Sandy or Broadway/Weidler. The existing streetcar lines have not done a great job of designing for cyclists (to put it mildly). This would be the opportunity to really do it right.

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    • ethan May 6, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      Agreed! However, as a resident of the far north part of NE, I’m selfishly hoping for a streetcar along MLK to be added first. However, I think both proposed lines would be great for transit / development purposes, as well as duplicating service in currently underserved areas.

      I think Broadway would offer the best transit potential, Sandy would offer the best development potential and MLK would provide the best service in an underserved, racially diverse area.

      I also think that a world class bikeway from downtown to outer Northeast via Broadway with a bridge over 205 that would comnect to gateway green and then another bridge connecting to outer Fremont (especially with the new addition of Fremont which would cross 148th would make for a better return than Sullivan’s Gulch trail.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu May 6, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    A streetcar line along Broadway to Hollywood and then out Sandy would make that whole area take off. Just need to space stops farther apart so that the streetcar moves briskly enough.

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    • maccoinnich May 6, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      The stop spacing on the eastside section is wider than it is on the westside section, and some of the stops in the Pearl and Downtown were recently closed on a permanent basis. I think they’ve learned their lesson about spacing the stops too closely.

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    • Beeblebrox May 8, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Agreed! That extension makes the most sense to me, and could definitely help the business district. Also you could just keep the streetcar on the left sides of Broadway and Weidler, out of the way of the bike lanes on the right sides.

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  • Ted Buehler May 6, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    A couple thoughts here.

    Go down there and try it out. Bring your friends.

    Patronize the local businesses. Tell them you ride a bike.

    Email Steve Novick and tell him what you think.

    Ted Buehler
    (I’m out of town, bummed I’m missing this).

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  • Mark smith May 7, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    I love how many protected bike lane opponents come out of the woodwork when these events happen. I always look to see if the same opponents ride with their children ins painted bike lanes.

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  • RushHourAlleycat May 7, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I think these demos need better equipment than construction style road cones.

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  • GlowBoy May 7, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    What Broadway also needs is better light timing. I don’t think most drivers even realize the speed limit is 20 mph on this wide one-way ribbon of asphalt, since the light seemed to be timed for around 30.

    Usually the biggest obstacle to sensible “green-wave” signal timing is on two-way streets, where it’s not mathematically possible. But Broadway is one-way here. C’mon PBOT, set the lights for 18 mph yesterday.

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    • Beeblebrox May 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Is it really a 20mph speed limit? I just checked street-view and couldn’t find any speed limit signs.

      Also, one barrier to signal timing is that there isn’t quite as much signal density as would be ideal. Downtown is easy, since there are signals every block. Broadway has some missing signals at 17th, 19th, and 22nd.

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      • GlowBoy May 9, 2016 at 6:53 pm

        Yes, it really is 20 mph. I lived in Portland for several years (beginning in NE) for several years before I noticed. Last I saw, which would have been a year ago, it was still 20mph.

        This just shows how little people – myself included – actually notice speed limit signs.

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        • RoseCity May 10, 2016 at 1:56 pm

          The speed limit on Broadway is 30 mph. There is a speed limit sign in front of Twisted. It may slow to 20 near Fred’s or Lloyd Center but it has been 30 mph from at least 24th to 15th for as long as I can remember. I grew up and still live in the area.

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  • Bingo May 9, 2016 at 5:05 am

    I thought NE Tillamook (3 block north) was the east-west bikeway route in this part of Inner NE? Why is there a focus on developing such a close parallel route instead of other (less served) areas?

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    • GlowBoy May 9, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      Because Broadway serves a commercial district, and because it would be a much faster route than Tillamook with all its stop signs.

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  • Eric May 11, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    THIS IS AWFUL! WORST IDEA EVER!! I work on NE Multnohma with a similar set up for the cars. Traffic is now a huge issue but the largest issue is emergency vehicles. I have watched numerous times ambulances unable to get by because.. just like the drawing above… it is impossible to pull over. Add to that backed up traffic because they eliminated a lane and I hope its not you they are trying to come help.

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    • Mark smith May 12, 2016 at 12:00 am

      Four lane one ways everywhere. It’s for the ambulances. And fire trucks.

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