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Comment of the Week: The car-free destiny of NW 13th Avenue

Northwest 13th Avenue during Sunday Parkways, 2011.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Curb-protected bike lanes are cool and all, but they’ve got nothing on building-protected bike lanes.

That’s roughly the position from BikePortland reader Andrew, who added the first comment to Tuesday’s post about possible downtown protected bike lanes with a very different vision for one of Portland’s most unique streets: Northwest 13th Avenue.

Here’s what Andrew had to say:

I’d love to see something done with NW 13th. It’s 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 it’s 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 led to an excellent discussion about whether and how this might work. (In particular, check out the “yes” case from maccoinnich and the “no” case from Jason H.) But Jonathan and I were happy to see the issue come up at all. One of the posts we never got to from this spring’s NW Portland Week was Jonathan’s opus, years a-brewing, about how wonderful a pedestrianized (or partially pedestrianized) 13th Avenue could become.

If I know the boss, Jonathan’s full thoughts on this issue are likely to see the light someday. For the moment, the old industrial loading docks that (as reader Matti pointed out) once opened onto freight train tracks will continue to push people walking into the middle of the street, claiming the space that will, we’d be willing to bet, eventually become theirs.

Yes, we pay for good comments. This regular feature is sponsored by readers who’ve become BikePortland subscribers to keep our site and our community strong. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to Andrew in thanks for this great addition. Watch your email!

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –