Among the many projects funded this month by Portland voters is one we first covered in early 2013: a network of protected bike lanes in downtown Portland.
The new local gas tax will send a projected $2.8 million to the project, joining with $6 million in federal funds the project scored in 2013 and $600,000 in other local funds.
“… Cyclists coming across the bridges from the east side into downtown Portland feel like the infrastructure is not as intuitive, is not as comfortable.”
— Gabe Graff, PBOT project manager
$8.4 million is enough to make serious improvements to several central city streets. The money might go even further if it could be combined with money from the city’s environmental services bureau that could let protective curbs double as grassy bioswales that prevent polluted rainwater from running into sewers and rivers. (City bike planning coordinator Roger Geller alluded to that possibility this month.)
“Our central city, particularly our downtown, is transit-rich, pedestrian friendly, pretty easy to access by car,” city project manager Gabe Graff said Tuesday. But “cyclists coming across the bridges from the east side into downtown Portland feel like the infrastructure is not as intuitive, is not as comfortable.”
Graff said the city’s goal with this $8.4 million is to “preserve and enhance the pedestrian environment, preserve and enhance the transit access, at the same time that we fill in a more comfortable and protected bicycling network.”
Every north-south street between Broadway and 2nd Avenue has been discussed as a possible route for years.
Changes to Naito Boulevard, sidelined by the city council this month, seem like another possibility. Alternatively or in addition, it seems possible that one or two east-west streets might be improved. Alder, Taylor and Salmon have been discussed.
We wrote this month that in the four years since it opened a downtown protected bike lane network, citywide biking rates in Vancouver BC have doubled.
City: Outreach will start this summer with or without state funds
So, what’s the holdup?
We reported a year ago that the city had hired a project manager, Rick Browning, as a long-term consultant. As the city waited for the state to sign off on federal funds, it assigned Browning to a series of smaller projects, such as the new buffered bike lane on 3rd Avenue.
Then in February we reported that Browning had been fired by the city for undisclosed reasons.
Now the work seems to be moving forward again with a new project manager, Gabe Graff. Graff, who previously managed the city’s Safe Routes to School program (which includes both infrastructure and education), brought us up to speed on the project Tuesday with help from city spokesman John Brady.
The city can’t get money until it tells the state what it’s going to do. But the city says it can’t tell the state exactly what it’s going to do until the city has taken the time to talk to lots of interest groups about their needs.
Brady said the city’s plan is in “the last stage of ODOT review,” which is “finalizing” an intergovernmental agreement over the project’s scope of work.
“An IGA that said ‘We need to build a sidewalk on this street from here to here’ would be more straightforward; it’s a more traditional approach,” Graff said. “If there was an added complication to this project, it’s that the premise was that there were not preconceived projects per se. … We’ve always felt that building a high-quality multimodal transportation facility in the central city requires us to have this process requiring many stakeholders.”
In other words, the city can’t get money until it tells the state what it’s going to do. But the city says it can’t tell the state exactly what it’s going to do until the city has taken the time to talk to lots of interest groups about their needs.
And talk costs money.
Graff said the negotiation between city and state is “administrative” and not shaped by any particular policy concerns such as additional auto congestion. He added that the state has already designated downtown Portland as a “multimodal area,” so it agrees in principle with the idea of slowing cars down somewhat if necessary.
Graff spoke as if it’s likely that the state and city will come to a sufficiently flexible agreement soon. But if the state hasn’t approved the federal money that would be necessary to hire a planning consultant by “this summer,” Graff said, the city will begin its public outreach with “internal staff.”
Stakeholder group will create five-year project list
The next major step in the project, Brady said, is to convene a stakeholder committee to choose exactly which streets should be improved and in what order.
“The goal of the stakeholder process will be to organize the project into the following groups,” Brady said: “those we will fund with the [federal] grant, those we will fund with the $2.8 million in gas tax funds, those we’d hope to build in a five-year time frame but haven’t identified funding for, and those projects outside of the five-year time frame but that we’d like to pursue in the future.”
I asked Graff to describe the goals of the project as he saw it. He brought up another long-awaited bike project for the central city: a public bike sharing system.
“The project was conceived after we were contemplating having a bike-share system in the central city, and how could we make the central city more compatible for the types of riders we imagine using bike share: new cyclists, the interested but concerned, a broader cross-section of Portland,” Graff said.
Bike sharing, meanwhile, is currently on track to launch in mid-July, the city said last week. It said final station locations will be announced next week.
— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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I’d love to see something done with nw 13th. Its an awkward street to drive on, walk on, and cycle on. I use it frequently and have stopped to observe what happens on the street with the different modes tangled together. There are no sidewalks, parking for cars is a free for all, pedestrians are often times in the middle of the roadway, and its just generally a mess.
Closing 13th to cars entirely would be awesome, it would remove the primary part of what makes the street a mess. Removing some of the stop signs for bikes and peds on 13th would allow people to move through quicker if their destination isn’t on 13th. It connects with Johnson and Overton quite well, and it isn’t too tough to connect to the Broadway bridge either. Just my 2 cents.
This is a terrific idea and honestly a no-brainer. Anyone who walks that street during a busy time can see what a mess the allowance of cars has created.
I’ve always loved 13th, and used it often as an example of how streets that don’t have conventional sidewalks seem to be some of the most popular with pedestrians.
However, it is getting more crowded, and I could see changes being needed. Conventionalizing it could kill what’s good about it, so perhaps at least limiting cars could be the next step in its evolution.
Absolutely. We could do what many European cities do for pedestrianized streets: allow deliveries early in the morning before business hours, and ban vehicles the rest of the day using removable bollards. If needed, dedicated loading zones can be created by removing parking on the adjacent cross-street. 200 foot blocks mean the loading zone won’t be far from its destination.
It would be interesting to observe where the drivers of the cars go. One of my favorite coffee shops is on 13th and I’ll ride there almost daily and watch the goings on on the street. A weekday morning observation would be useful to see if most of the cars are driven by workers in the area or store patrons. The big question is how much of the foot traffic would be killed by removing parking because, lets face it, I’m sure a large portion of people shopping in the area drive in from places like Hillsboro or Troutdale. Closing it entirely would likely just shift parking to other streets, but the image of 13th bustling with non-motorized activity is attractive.
I’m still getting over pneumonia and I decided to drive the 7 blocks to the coffee shop I like since I felt like garbage, never again! It was an absolute nightmare.
I’m not sure why we seem to care so much more about the people who won’t drive to a business if they can’t park immediately in front of it than we do the people who don’t visit parts of town at all because of car-related traffic.
Removing parking almost always yields a net gain for businesses, especially areas as a whole. The business groups always fight it through because their “common sense” is wrong.
Pedestrianized streets are great in theory, but they only tend to work in areas of very high pedestrian traffic. Luckily I think NW 13th is one of those places. It’s in the middle of an area of very high employment and residential density, which is only getting denser. The street itself has a good mix of destination retail already there or coming soon (Keen, Filson, Design With Reach, etc) along with a large number of pubs, cafes and restaurants. Closing it to cars, at least between Davis and Lovejoy/Northrup, could make it an even more vibrant street.
Not feasible (at least entirely, in the near-term). The city just installed long-planned traffic lights on 13th at Everett and Glisan to allow for smoother crossings for vehicles. If made a bike/ped only street they become a big waste of money when a simpler flashing per crossing would have worked as well. Second and probably more important is that one of only two entrance/exits to the Brewery Blocks parking structure is mid-block on 13th. Closing it would bottle-neck the other one on 12th at commute times so that the whole area surrounding would likely gridlock. One solution could be closing only the streets they currently do for 1st Thurs. which I think is something like Hoyt to Lovejoy. Making it a non-contiguous street should lead to lower traffic volumes on the rest of 13th. As business acceptance rises and vehicle traffic drops, they can eventually probably move the zone south to Davis at least.
Not true about the lights. They were installed first and foremost to improve pedestrian crossings. Notice how there is a leading pedestrian interval where peds get a several second head start and cars only get 10 seconds or so of green time. Installing full signals as opposed to flashing beacons allows for better signal timing coordination with the signals at 12th and 14th. If the street was ever made car free, bikes could just as easily follow the conventional traffic signals.
A couple decades ago, NW 13th was an industrial street with freight train access to the loading docks of the large warehouse buildings along it. Cars and other modes could use the street, but it was unpaved in places, bumpy and rutted. Travel on the street was slow and careful.
When the train service was discontinued and the street was repaved, it set the stage for redevelopment. Cars could drive faster, but all modes still needed to ‘share’ the street. As retail development increased, the City added signalized intersections which made the street more focused on the free movement of cars. I think this was a big mistake.
I always walk in the street (not the loading docks, which seem to be part of the private realm) to claim the lane and keep car traffic honest and recognizing they don’t own this unique street.
This is great news! It has been a long time coming. I hope they consider converting Burnside to a 3-lane+bike lane (center turn lane)cross section as part of this work. Also, removing parking on the Park blocks and adding sharrows and enhanced crossings. Other than those 2, I currently use 3rd/4th and 11th/12th- both are really useful and mostly lacking in bike-specific infrastructure.
Please, PBOT, please do not put the bike share corrals on our sidewalks! That would be a long-term damper on creating livable streets!
4-3 road diets as a ‘free’ way to make room for bike lanes don’t work if turns are already banned at most intersections.
Allowing left turns at all of the intersections is one of the best reasons to do 4-3 diet on West Burnside. That and adding bike lanes.
Why do you want cars and trucks turning left off of Burnside?
They already do, legally or otherwise, which leads to 4 lanes of cars swerving back and forth from the river to 24th.
I think a left turn from a turn lane, with or without a signal, is safer than 3 rights, especially considering that one or more may be across a bike lane.
Sam Adams proposed this option back in 2011
Only went as far west as NW 15th…
The 3 lane (+ bikes) cross section could extend to 9th or Park
Glad to see this finally kicking off soon! Looking forward to leaving comments and attending open houses. 🙂
Fantastic to hear that this is finally (finally!) getting underway.
As far as additional funding, PBOT should really look at using Systems Development Charges for any identified projects that might be eligible. According to the City Budget Office, PBOT has a balance of $39 million in SDCs that they haven’t been able to spend due to a lack of matching funds. A lot of those SDCs are coming in from development projects in the Central City, so there is a strong nexus to using some of that money towards a Central City bikeway network.
Do you know what the “lack of matching funds” issue is (where they’d be coming from, why PBOT can’t go ahead without them, etc.)? That sounds like a lot of money sitting idle.
It *is* a lot of money sitting idle. The reasons the SDCs can’t be used without matching funds are a combination of what SDCs can be used for under Oregon law, and decisions made by City Council almost 10 years ago. You can read a fuller explanation here, starting at the bottom of page 3:
A very useful report. Thank you for finding the link.
Basically, Transportation SDC funds can only be used to fund “expansions in capacity”, but not maintenance or rebuilding of existing infrastructure, and even then, the project must be on a list of approved projects. The ratio of local match to SDC at PBOT is up to 40% SDC, and no less than 60% local match. However, “local match” sometimes includes state funds, such as on 136th.
To use the example of NW 13th discussed earlier, let’s assume the project called for rebuilding the street for $1 million (to make it simple), and also assume the street is 60 feet wide, and the project called for adding new raised 10′ sidewalks on both sides and repave the rest of the street. The SDC funds could only be used for the new sidewalks, as they “add capacity”, but not for the new pavement. If the new sidewalks cost $250,000, then SDC funds can be used for 40% of that, or $100,000. The other $150,000 needs to be match, while the remaining $750,000 needed to repave the street would come from other sources. So of the $1 mil project cost, only 10% would be SDC, and 90% would be match. Now replicate that citywide.
SW Broadway and SW 4th Avenue, between I-405 and Clay St are eligible for SDC funds thanks to PSU’s participation in the Innovation Quadrant TSDC Overlay… just sayin’.
Here’s a Bike Portland article about the overlay, written in 2011:
I’m curious as to how much money the overlay has raised to date, and whether we’re close to being able to fund the bike related projects identified.
…and this time Charlie Brown is going to kick that football.
Already, there is no shortage of plans in this city. What we are deficient in is action.
When the city installs sidewalks or rapid flash beacons these kinds of protracted stakeholder processes are avoided. It’s time for the city and PBOT to start treating cycling infrastructure like essential infrastructure. We need less outreach, less coddling of special interests, and more action.
The only “need” we should be seriously concerned with is the need for people to not get hurt or killed simply for going from one place to another. Every other need we can meet is just gravy. So come into the project telling interest groups “we are definitely going to install this protected cycleway, but we’re willing to accommodate your needs without compromising the goals of safety”.
one man’s coddling is another man’s ‘essential infrastructure’.
Who decides whose interests are “special” and whose are essential?
The last street design project I was involved in, the entire design changed drastically after involvement of biking, pedestrian and neighborhood groups–the three main groups affected by the project. The original design would have been worse for all three. Action without outreach would have been a disaster.
There was a ton of public outreach concerning sidewalks and RFB crossings in East Portland, which lead to the East Portland In Motion in 2012. PBOT did a great job on that, but it is only now that you see them implementing the improvements.
Outreach was a poor choice of words — I meant to criticize the stakeholder process that has been biased towards libertarian biznis owners and nimby neighborhood associations, IMO.
” nimby neighborhood associations, IMO.”
Yawn…Good thing Buckman Neighborhood Association won’t have any influence on this project, then.
Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Many times, those groups have positive impacts on the process, and often they’re the groups that start the process. They often do have huge stakes in what happens, too. I think it’s generally better to involve them from the onset, even if it slows the process down.
I certainly believe you’ve seen plenty of examples to support your view, but there are plenty of examples of positive efforts by businesses and neighbors also.
If they have a positive effect, aren’t they yimbys?
Although (now going way beyond your comment) saying “No” can be positive, and “Yes” negative, depending on the issue. Sometimes a neighborhood will oppose something, or just question aspects of it without opposing it, then in other people’s rush to cast them as “NIMBYs”, people overlook that they have valid points.
One huge problem with neighborhood associations is that City bureaus sometimes use them as an easy out for public notification. A project comes up that deserves widespread notice. The City sends an email to a neighborhood association chair, then crosses “public notification” off its list.
If the neighborhood association questions the project, or even just wants more widespread public notice, then it gets labeled NIMBY when the general public hears about it,even though it was sticking up for public notice.
Or, the NA takes a position and the City goes ahead based on that, and people outside a small circle of board members never hear about the project until it’s too late.
“Or, the NA takes a position and the City goes ahead based on that, and people outside a small circle of board members never hear about the project until it’s too late.”
Is that only a problem when a person doesn’t agree with the neighborhood association’s position? Sometimes, the NA chooses to support the progressive option, and it’s the outsiders that want to stop it from happening.
No, I’d say poor notification is a problem regardless of whether people end up agreeing or disagreeing with a NA position. And yes, sometime the NA does choose the progressive option, which is exactly what I and other people said in the prior comments. But if they took the progressive position and opponents (or others who later agreed with the decision) didn’t get good notice about the issue prior to the decision, that’s also wrong.
I’m mostly tired of people like Soren demonizing neighborhood associations when he lives in Buckman and has no experience with the ones on the west side. But I’m sure he’ll continue to grind his axe whenever it’s convenient.
I agree: the problem isn’t necessarily whether a neighborhood takes a progressive or a regressive position on any issue. It’s that the neighborhood associations are often the only people who are informed about city or private projects, and the opinions of the 10 people who turned up at the neighborhood association meeting are taken as representative of the whole neighborhood.
I got involved in my neighborhood association transportation committee last year. There are currently emails going back and forth between us and PBOT about a transportation project that is funded, and that will be built in the next year. There is next to nothing about it on the PBOT website, even though drawings exist.
Architects are required to present their buildings to neighborhood associations before submitting for Design Review. Depending on the level of review, the Design Review drawings are either never posted online or are only posted very close to the hearing date (by which time city staff have already made recommendations of approval or denial). People who aren’t involved in their neighborhood associations have no way to see the proposed designs without physically going to the Bureau of Development Services.
The neighborhood association system as the primary method of gathering feedback might have made sense in the 1970s, when it was created. In the era of the internet it makes a lot less sense.
maccoinnich–you said it perfectly. One example of mine (but I have many): Officials of a project in my neighborhood met with Neighborhood Association people outside my house, unbeknownst to me while I was inside. Soon afterward the project proposed condemning my house. My car was in the driveway while they met outside my house, but nobody thought to knock on my door and let me in on the discussion.
You nailed it with the comment that public notice needs to evolve from the 70s.
For a perfect example of what I was just describing, see this facebook post concerning bike lanes on SW/NW 2nd Ave in Old Town Chinatown:
Evidently the Neighborhood Association was given the opportunity to weigh in on this design, but the rest of us weren’t.
I have had many conversations with city staffers where it is clear that they assume the small number of generally wealthier people who participate in NAs speak for the neighborhood as a whole.
Or you could live in one of the 3,000 or so communities in America where everything is done behind closed doors, where there are no established neighborhood associations to review and question city decisions and actions. Here in Greensboro, only 12 people total showed up for the 3 public budget hearings (I was one), for a city of 288,000. None of the meeting notices were online, not even on the official city sites, just a short announcement in the local newspaper which most people don’t receive, and word-of-mouth to constituents of the 5 district reps.
Trust me when I, and others, say that the long stakeholder process in Portland works much better than the traditional quick DAD model of public input: The agency makes a Decision; they Announce the decision; then they Defend their decision from public outcry.
Then you’ve been talking to some bad employees.
NA’s are generally thought to be poor representatives of a neighborhood, since only a small percent of residents participate.
It can be horrible–I’ve had several cases where the City was discussing/negotiating with my own neighborhood association about things affecting my own properties, right down to my example about them planning to condemn my house without telling me.
When I was a neighborhood association president, I’d get calls from various City bureaus asking for my OK on things they were doing. They actually planned to proceed if I personally said “OK”. Not even the NA, but just me. When I’d tell them I wanted them to notify people who might be impacted, they said they just had, by contacting me, and of course if I wanted to knock on doors, I could. When I’d say that wasn’t my job, they seemed mystified.
I also think City bureaus play it intentionally. If they can get a NA association to OK something the City wants to do, they’ll stop public notification at that point, viewing the NA as representative of the public at large. If the NA objects, then they view the NA as not being representative.
If the city is REALLY going for Vision Zero they can do it for the cost of a few simple signs: NO CARS ALLOWED. Start by making some downtown streets bikes/peds only. Park would be a natural one. I’m sure there are a few others that would be a good fit.
Beyond that, what I’d like to see is one fewer car lane on every downtown street. Downtown streets are frightening, but if bikes get a full vehicle lane they’d feel a whole lot safer.
THAT’S how we’ll actually get to Vision Zero.
They should start with the North and South Park Blocks.
THIS. Park blocks are the obvious choice!
The way I’d do it would be to create a series of super blocks downtown centered on the Park blocks, similar to LA or Rotterdam, and most other European big cities outside of Amsterdam. Most streets would be blocked off from daytime traffic by cars; streets that are open would have narrow one-lane chicanes, to massively slow traffic. Certain streets would continue to remain open as usual to allow access to freeways, with bus routes re-routed accordingly.
From Burnside to Washington, I’d reduce Stark & Oak to one-lane chicanes (Ankeny already is), and close off the Park Blocks. Leave Alder and Washington “as is”, to connect 405 to Naito. From Alder to Taylor, make Morrison and Yamhill light-rail-only, but streets closed off to cars, as well as Park Blocks. Taylor & Salmon would remain “as is” for through car and bus traffic. The next superblock would be from Salmon to Clay, with Main, Madison, Jefferson, & Columbia reduced to one-lane chicanes, as would parts of the Park Blocks. Clay & Market would remain open, as links to the freeway and for streetcar on Market. The rest is already a superblock for PSU.
Downtown may be frightening, but most fatalities and serious injuries are occurring elsewhere, often on the high-speed high-crash 4-lane arterial roads in SW and East Portland. When the “Better 122nd Ave” will ever occur?
There have been fatalities at intersections downtown. Signalized protected bike lanes would prevent some of these. However, the biggest problem is that downtown is hell for the interested but concerned. My partner bikes all over Portland with me but getting her to bike downtown is nigh impossible.
Shame your partner isn’t as courageous as you! I just started dating a girl, hadn’t ridden a bike since she was a kid. Had a spare in my apartment that I rescued from a dumpster, took her for a few rides and she was hooked! She even helped with some upgrades on it. I live in NW and she’s always wanting to ride downtown just to explore!
I think people who ride dense traffic every day forget what it’s like for people who rarely do so.
For a bit of perspective, I rode in and out of downtown from Northeast five days a week for five years. Knew all the ins and outs, took the lane, kept up on a day to day basis with construction-related lane-closures and pinches – all of that.
Then I retired and had no more need to go downtown everyday – or at all. Within a couple of months, riding downtown started seeming daunting. Now it takes a SUPER incentive for me to do it.
So we are supposed to cater to the lowest common denominator? That’s just one more step towards idiocracy.
Who you callin’ LCD?
We should “cater” to the lowest-skilled group that we want riding. A lot of people who are skilled riders understand why less skilled riders are staying out of downtown and other areas–it feels scary and unsafe to them, and there are good reasons for feeling that way. Of course we should make things easier and safer for a far greater range of riders.
But you still need to make allowances for the faster and/or more confident riders, you can’t just force or expect them to use a facility designed for the lowest-skilled users.
Buzz–that depends on the facility, and how low the skills are of the lowest level it’s being designed for. Your “step towards idiocracy” view seems pessimistic. I’d rather have something that works for lots of people even if it may not be absolutely ideal for me.
no one is stopping a skilled rider from riding in the big lane. to my knowledge, no one has ever been successfully ticketed for violating the mandatory sidepath law in portland.
Right. If our goals are to get more people riding, then why should we cater to people who are already comfortable taking the lane? Instead, design for the person who is not comfortable sharing space with automobiles.
“Park would be a natural one.” – As someone who attended Portland State University for the past two years, I have to say I disagree that the Park Blocks would be pleasant to bike on simply by making them car free. Here’s why: There are fifteen – count em – FIFTEEN blocks with stop signs on the 3/4 of a mile stretch from SW Market to Burnside. Many of these crossings, such as the three lanes of heavy traffic along SW Market, are treacherous to cross both by bike and by foot. Do you have any idea how much it would cost to install traffic signals at most of these fifteen crossings? Several million dollars.
Every time the issue of making the Park Blocks car-free comes up, most Bike Portland readers love to scream in unison CAR FREE PARK BLOCKS. I beg you … Try biking along the Park Blocks from PSU to Burnside at 5pm. Even if the Park Blocks had zero cars on them, this route would be horrendous for bikes. Can you imagine if SE Clinton or NE Going had arterials crossing them every 250-ft for fifteen straight blocks, with a requirement to put your foot down until all car traffic came to a stop? OK, maybe some of the streets crossing SW Park aren’t quite arterials, but a lot of them like Market and Columbia have multiple lanes and heavy traffic volumes.
If you want to talk about a no brainer for a car free corridor, it’s 6th Ave (and 5th Ave). The signals are already in place at every single intersection. Not only that, but 6th Ave cuts through the heart of the City. Pioneer Square, stores like Macy’s, TJ Maxx, Rite Aid, Pot Belly and numerous other restaurants and office spaces are all along 6th Ave. And let’s not forget the Pioneer Place mall and the Apple store on 5th. Do the SW Park Blocks have destinations? Some, but nothing compared to 6th and 5th.
At 10 pm biking along 6th Ave is a dream. The green wave is almost as good as on 4th all the way from PSU to Union Station. At 5pm, on the other hand, it is sometimes faster to walk than to bike along 6th. I’m not kidding. Same goes for 4th, especially from SW College Street to Madison.
Making 6th car-free (or close to it, with diverters) would be a major boon for businesses in the area. The sad part is that the businesses can’t imagine this. There is hardly any on-street parking on 6th. If it became car-free people would flock to it on bikes.
So please, if you don’t regularly bike from PSU, don’t act like you know that a car-free Park Blocks would be the bike-friendly savior for downtown Portland. Moreover, many of the 28,000 students on the PSU campus have their classes and housing between 4th and Broadway. If they need to get to the Hawthorne Bridge, or any of the bridges, or Pioneer Square, using the Park Blocks is completely out of their way.
I am still amazed that 5th and 6th were the ONLY north-south streets not included as potential options for a bikeway in the 2035 Comp Plan. What’s needed is: 1) a protected bike lane on 4th, from College Street to at least Madison, but preferably to Burnside. 2) A car-free 5th and 6th for anyone heading to destinations in the heart of downtown, as well as for people heading to points west of 6th (a left turn off of 4th is not cool, but it works great off of 6th considering bikes are only allowed in the left lane). 3) A protected bike lane on Broadway so that the PSU community has a comfortable, direct shot from the Broadway Bridge all the way to campus.
Think this is asking too much? 4th and Broadway currently each have five lanes dedicated to cars (three cars lanes and two parking lanes each). Other cities are willing to stand firm against business owners and NIMBYs. In the end, those angry business owners are often the ones that gain the most as space is taken away from cars and given to bikes. If other cities can do it, including mild-mannered Seattle, the question remains: Why can’t Portland?
Gerald, Why not extend the Protected bike lane on 4th from SW Sheridan (or wherever it turns into Barbur) to NE Glisan? IMO, we need really long, simple and well-built bike cooridors to form the backbone of our system. Adding more discrete chunks with gaps at either end limits the potential.
We should, but Old Town Chinatown has already deemed 2nd Avenue as the preferred northbound route through the neighborhood. A shortsighted decision but I can understand the reason why given the extra width on 2nd to carve out a buffered bike lane.
I can agree with that. Good point.
The Park Blocks idea appeals to me, rather vaguely, because the Park Blocks are “nice.” Narrow, already quiet, lots of trees, etc. Also because they’re a contiguous couplet. On the other hand, 5th and 6th seem unappealing because they’re ugly, noisy and nasty, what with buses and trains AND cars.
I honestly never gave much thought to those unsignalized crossings. In light of them, your argument for 5th and 6th makes practical sense, but I still don’t love the idea of sharing a lane with buses. Buses have their own lane (as I recall) but they pass each other in the car lane a lot (also as I recall). Do I have that wrong?
I don’t recall seeing many buses in the care lane except to make left turns but I’m not there a lot either. There are at least two lanes worth of space for buses and trains, and the buses stop when trains are coming, right? So I think the buses mostly pass each other within the bus-and-train space.
The problem with the bus mall is that you can’t make any right turns.
Hence why we would also need a protected bike lane on 4th. Similarly, merging across multiple lanes to turn left off of 4th is not something we should accept. Which is why we need a car-free 6th. Also, whenever I’m biking on 6th and need to make a right turn I do a “Copenhagen right.” If 6th was made car-free, perhaps something could be done with the signaling on 6th to give bikes a green light and transit a red light so that bikes could effectively turn right. If 4th were a dream to bike on, though, anyone leaving a destination on 6th would head east to 4th rather than have to go up 6th to later make a right.
It’s not ideal, but I see huge benefits to getting cars off 6th. In addition to providing access to commercial destinations, it connects to the Broadway Bridge.
I’ve biked along 6th Ave approximately 100 times and I can’t ever recall seeing a bus in the car lane. There are two lanes that the buses and MAX play leapfrog in. It works quite well.
The 17 uses the car lane for a short stretch to take a left on Pine to get to Broadway. I’m not aware of any others but might be missing another one.
It’s much more common on 5th as buses need to take a left on Madison to get to the Hawthorne Bridge.
Don’t buses turn left from the mall to get to Harrison and Madison?
Completely disagree about the crossings; I’ve never had a problem and see no need for a bunch of new signals.
How else can we make bike infrastructure based on your personal preferences rather than based on what places that have high mode share do to make riding comfortable and convenient for a much wider range of people than currently ride in Portland? Should we put in some bike lanes on I-5 with stop signs at the exits?
Why not just flip the stop signs so drivers on the cross streets have to stop?
Because many of those streets are feeder routes to freeways and have greater priority in our network. This isn’t as simple as flipping a few stop signs on Clinton and Ankeny in streetcar suburb neighborhoods.
So what? They’re not on the motorway anymore, they’re in a highly-multimodal downtown. Force them to slow down.
If there are 15 crossings, why not eliminate all those that do not go to a freeway or allow light rail? I bet we could get it down to 6 for all modes, the other 9 for bike/peds only.
You have streetcar, bus, or MAX on 7 of the crossings (Market, Columbia, Jefferson, Salmon, Yamhill, Morrison, Washington). Clay isn’t going to be closed to cars. If you get cars off the mall then the Madison crossing would be gone, nowhere for autos to come from. Main is sometimes closed at Broadway off peak already, how many cars use it during peak? Alder goes to the Morrison bridge. Taylor leads to a 405 on ramp. Then Stark and Oak.
So you maybe cut out Madison, Main, Stark, and Oak. Main seems the least likely of those. Still need a bunch of signals.
And where is this bikeway feeding to the south? The pedestrian zone at PSU? Also, would the park blocks be better timed for two way travel than a two way facility on Broadway with separate phases for bikes and turning traffic?
Central Park is about 50 blocks long and has maybe 5 crossings. Park Blocks from Jackson to Burnside is about 20 blocks long and has 14 crossings. Maybe its a bogus comparison, since we’re not New York, but they get by with 1 crossing every 10 blocks, we have 7 crossings for every 10 blocks.
Wouldn’t it be neat if all modes were only allowed on Market/Clay, Salmon/Taylor, and Stark/Oak, and there were retractable bollards to allow only bikes, buses, and emergency vehicles at other crossings? Make the area between Jackson/Burnside and 10th/Broadway a limited-access “super block”.
Not well thought-out, I know, but what if?
I would support this. People driving can just stay on the motorway that goes around the Park Blocks anyway.
Retractable bollards would be a bigger hit to the limited downtown bike budget than traffic lights.
Good luck with a carfree 5th and 6th proposal. The transit mall was virtually carfree until it was redesigned for LRT. Remember? The street from a land use and pedestrian safety perspective was an abject failure.
With cars, could 5th and 6th be used for a protected facility? Absolutely, but it would be costly. The sidewalks would need to be narrowed and transit stops would have to be redesigned. Not likely. That is why these routes do not appear in any planning documents.
Long term, the best hope for 5th and 6th would be a subway for LRT and buses which will be needed (possibly as soon as the completion of the SW corridor LRT project). This would open up capacity for bicycles.
SW corridor light rail would interline with Green line trains, so it shouldn’t impact transit mall capacity. That was one of the stated advantages over BRT.
I rode on the newly laid Broadway Northbound this afternoon. With no cars parked along the entire length because of the project I could see all the way up the bridge ramp at Glisan from Burnside.
If they banned parking (and got rid of the curb bulbouts) it would be magnificent, and cost considerably less than multiple millions of dollars.
The curb extensions the city has been installing for years are a major impediment to new bike infrastructure, and primarily serve to preserve space for curbside parking and not much more.
They serve primarily to slow cars at turns, which I’d say they’ve worked quite well, as well as provide a shorter crossing distance for pedestrians.
I agree, with some forethought and better design, the curb extensions could not only serve their intended purpose, but also allow bikes and storm water to pass through, at a much lower cost, by making them islands.
trouble is…it’s expensive hardscape to install and remove, but it can be done…
Huh? Curb extensions *replace* on street parking. They reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians and increase their visibility at intersections.
I think what Buzz was saying was that the curb extensions make it much more expensive to do any future road projects (e.g. bus lanes, protected bike lanes) that would remove car parking. I agree the extensions have a pedestrian benefit but I feel like in some cases they have been put in without sufficient consideration for future flexibility. David H.’s suggestion above seems to me like a good idea to allow future protected bike lanes and better stormwater flow. Seems good enough for most streets but not for those with very-heavily-used bus lines that should be candidates for future bus lanes (e.g. Hawthorne).
Curb extensions also increase safety for bikes at cross streets by increasing visibility. Also, if they are extended, they can create space for large-canopied street trees, stormwater planters, and expanded furnishing areas that provide space for bike racks, cafe tables, etc. Expanded curb extensions have also been used for bus stops, allowing buses to stop in-lane. Curb extensions do not belong on every street, and they can create problems with bike lanes. However, they remain a very useful tool for palcemaking and creating more livable streets
Believe it when I see it…..
I know…maybe it will at least be another decade or two, after all the autocentric engineers have retired and I’m no longer pedaling regularly…
Anyway, from plans to construction in Portland is an endless process…
I ride on SW Broadway every morning and it’s nearly empty. Three lanes is way too much for that road, and it would great to convert the door-zone bike lane to fully curb/bioswale protected with protected intersections. For northbound, take a parking lane away from Park Av and create a curbside cycle track with bioswales, creating a couplet.
You could do the same on 3rd/4rd, as those streets are nearly empty as well. An east/west couplet coming off the Hawthorne Bridge on Main/Madison connecting to the Broadway/Park couplet would also be welcome. Hopefully this project will create a network that actually connects to other cycleways.
I totally agree. In fact pretty much every downtown street could go on a road diet without negative impacts. It’s about time we start giving the streets back to the people who own them.
Taking into account all of Gerald’s well-stated reasons to reconsider the Park Blocks, I would suggest Broadway and 6th as the preferred north/south couplet for this project.
The Green Loop will be the transformative process for the South Park Blocks, which is not to say the two projects should be completely compartmentalized, but I think they need to differentiated by the types of trips they aim to attract. A carfree or car-lite South Park Blocks should have a different vision than a multi-modal corridor in the central city.
It should probably go without saying that biking and walking in the context of our public parks (e.g. Waterfront Park) is not always compatible with our goals for walking and biking as modes of transportation. Thus the need for a Better Naito, right? Let’s not repeat the lesson we’ve already learned by saddling another linear park in the central city with serving as a primary transportation corridor.
Instead, let’s focus our efforts on delivering what is most lacking in the central city — a safe, attractive north/south corridor for the movement of bicycles that can serve as a central spine for the rest of the network in downtown.
I would not support a bikeway on the bus mall. Sharing the road with large buses and trains is not pleasant. But the primary reason is that right turns are banned on 6t, which limits access. I’d say, just ban cars on the bus mall (since they can’t seem to figure out how to stay out of the bus/MAX lanes), allow bikes, but don’t make that the designated bike route.
Most people riding 6th are headed toward a bridge and the prohibition on right turns would require very expensive mitigation (or a low-compliance detour). IMO, 3rd and 4th have the best connections to the bridges, are already heavily used by people cycling, and have room for protected bike lanes without expensive mitigation.
Another “plan” to segregate cyclists from cars. If cars are the real danger, why don’t we spend money on driver education? The Oregon Drivers liscense test has zero questions or information about bikes.
The cost to educate drivers would be significantly less and have a much greater impact.
I’m not against lane improvements, but if drivers are ignorant, I can’t hold them at fault.
As someone who lives, and works delivering on a bike downtown, these are the problems I see everyday:
1: Cars don’t know that bikes can take a lane or share it if it’s wide enough.
2. Cars don’t know to treat the side (left or right) bike lanes like a regular traffic lane. This pertains to making turns.
3. Cars yield the right of way, often creating a more dangerous situation for the cyclist.
The east side neighborhoods feel safer because they are. A greater amount of the population there rides bikes, and has that knowledge and mentality. Downtown, most of the drivers are from the ‘burbs, don’t ride bikes, and are ignorant.
This is a great idea. Unfortunately, the politics to support it aren’t currently there at the state level, while the politics to support protected bike lanes downtown are (sort of) here at the city level. That’s why protected bike lanes are currently planned but robust, ongoing driver education is currently not in any government plans.
Change at the state level is very important. BikeLoudPDX is starting to plan a mid-July ride on Salem. The first planning meeting is today at 6pm at Caldera Public House
6031 SE Stark St
6:00-8:00pm Wednesday, May 25th
Hope you can make it!
Driver education will only get you so far. People are still human and humans make mistakes, get distracted, etc. It’s better to design our infrastructure to be forgiving to these mistakes instead of relying entirely on education (and even enforcement to some extent). After all, all it takes is one bad driver to ruin your day.
I’m still in favor of physical improvements, but you have a great point. Once you get your license, it seems the system is happy to rely on word-of-mouth and chance to inform licensed drivers of changes to laws. It’s not just bike-related rules, it’s everything. Of course bike laws barely existed years ago, so those are a whole category that people who were licensed years ago don’t know. Adding questions to the current test makes sense, but that only affects new test takers.
It’s insane because the consequences are life-and-death. Obviously DMV has every driver’s contact info. Even if people aren’t retested, at least there could be some formal continuing ed, to update drivers on new rules, or rules that aren’t being followed.
If it was legal to ride in the lane at 10-15 mph then you would have a point. Unfortunately, it is illegal for someone to ride in a lane unless they are riding “normal speed of traffic”.
Downtown signals are timed for 15 mph.
If the lane is too narrow to share, cyclists have a right to the full lane regardless of their speed, and they also have the right of way over any overtaking vehicles, whose responsibility it is to pass safely and only when it is safe to do so. It is not the responsibility of the cyclist to get out of the way of faster overtaking traffic in this situation.
How do I effectively communicate this to the driver behind me who is honking and screaming his lungs out at me?
State of Oregon vs Potter set legal precedent so it is now illegal to ride in the lane if you are holding up car traffic:
>The court reasoned that because the text of the impeding traffic statute fails to exclude bicycles then it applies to all vehicles, including bicycles.
We are second class road users and, IMO, the only way we will achieve some semblance of legal equity is through civil disobedience.
Yes, but from the end of the same article:
Idaho recently added questions about bicycle laws to their car licensing exam. Oregon should be doing that, too.
it’s in the VZ action plan.
North-south improvements, please. And while we are at it, how about SW Main between Hawthorne Bridge and Broadway? For the number of people biking that stretch, it is remarkable that it is such a cluster.
Madison, too! The stretch leading up to the Hawthorn Bridge is likely the most conflict-ridden area of downtown. Extend the proposed cycle track in front of the new courthouse to Broadway.
This is a common problem many local agencies face when dealing with ODOT on Federal funds: They essentially require you to design most of the project before they will release the money to pay for the project to be designed.
Except the CRC. The Feds or ODOT paid $120 million for the design.
We need better approaches to downtown from all the bridges, but especially Hawthorne and Burnside. This should be a no brainer.
What ever became of this? Is this another idea that will be talked to death for years? I don’t see any reference to it on PBOT’s current street project either. Perhaps time for an update BikePortland?
The project is on PBOT’s website here:
The contract for the planning and development phase was awarded to CH2M Hill in January. I haven’t heard any updates since then.
The design phase was supposed to start this year.
yes I acknowledge that an update is looong overdue. This has been a strange process so far from PBOT. They are still planning and talking to stakeholders. More to come soon.