A ride into the future with east Portland’s biking action committee

Walter Lersch and Elizabeth Quiroz on NE Weidler. A curb-protected bike lane couplet will arrive there next year.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland’s vast east side has huge potential for biking, and many millions of dollars in biking improvements are poised to drop on its streets.

It’s also gearing up for what could be a regional-destination bike recreation park in the form of Gateway Green.

But the little cadre of folks who’ve scored those victories are looking for new blood to set the area’s next goals. The East Portland Action Plan bike committee invited me to join them on a tour Tuesday night of some of the most promising biking projects about to happen on the east side.

The EPAP Bike Subcommittee met Tuesday outside the Muchas Gracias in Gateway.

“I know there’s riders out in east Portland, and we need people participating,” said Jim Chasse, an east Portlander for decades who started advocating for bike lanes before he started biking for transportation, simply because he heard that transportation improvements were possible and he was happy to get any improvements in his neighborhood at all. He’s since become a passionate daily rider. “It’s all coming together and it’s going to come together fast.”

Chasse said the 100s, 130s and 150s Neighborhood Greenways are all funded and may all be in construction simultaneously in the next two years. That’s in addition to the Market-Mill-Main-Millmain (or 4M) Neighborhood Greenway running east and west, which was just funded with local money as part of the city gas tax. Then there’s outer Powell Boulevard and outer Division Street — the first due for bike-lane improvements under a state project and the latter supposed to get better bike lanes as part of a TriMet express bus line project.

On Tuesday we rode a bit of another planned neighborhood greenway, the Tillamook-Holladay-Oregon-Pacific. It already includes some speed bumps and sharrows but isn’t yet upgraded to modern greenway status.

To me, the most exciting bit of this greenway plan is the newest to be added to it: a possible connection to NE Tillamook Street beneath I-205, replacing the Halsey’s awful I-205 overpass as the best way to get to the Gateway neighborhood from the west. The stretch in question, EPAP Bike members explained, could extend east from the Tillamook greenway that currently dead-ends at 92nd Avenue, then dip just below I-205 onto Oregon Department of Transportation land and loop around this hillside:

…which would let it plug right into the I-205 Multi-Use Path, immediately north of Gateway Transit Center.


Here’s a rough map of how the connection could work, with the I-205 path marked in purple and the new neighborhood greenway route in orange:

“When we get the access to 205, this is a regional center,” said Chasse, referring to the city’s plan for Gateway. The neighborhood is now served by three MAX lines and its vast parking lots are all zoned to become Lloyd District-style skyscrapers if only a developer would show interest. For the moment, the future skyscraper site was hosting this group of friends’ skateboard jump:

We also swung briefly by the East Portland Neighborhood Office to appreciate what Chasse described, with both humor and honesty, as some of the best bike parking in east Portland:

Next we headed up to the Halsey-Weidler couplet, which is slated to get protected bike lanes through east Portland’s only sidewalk-facing commercial district. It, too, has a long way to go, though you can see how development might happen gradually:

“It was difficult to bike in east Portland, said Linda Robinson, chair of the Gateway Green park plan and an EPAP Bike committee member. “But that’s changing. It’s getting ready to change.”

Chasse said he’s hoping to curtail his work on EPAP Bike this year to focus on home improvement projects, a new long-distance relationship and more. With so much money about to land in the area he thinks it’s an ideal time for new people to get involved and ride the momentum forward.

“We’re kind of in between right now,” he said. “We’ve got all the funding. We’ve got all our ducks lined up. … We need to know what to do next.”

Timo Forsberg of the Portland Bureau of Transportation compares bikeway routes with Linda Robinson of Gateway Green.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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