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Mayor Hales rallies advocates to support his dream of a ‘Better Naito’

Posted by on July 26th, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Mayor Charlie Hales speaking at Salmon Street Fountain prior to a bike ride of Naito Parkway this morning. (Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Mayor Charlie Hales speaking at Salmon Street Fountain prior to a bike ride of Naito Parkway this morning.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland will take down the “Better Naito” project this Sunday night, whether it returns as a permanent bikeway and walkway someday is up to us. That was the message Mayor Charlie Hales gave a group of advocates, city staff, and agency representatives this morning.

This project has been a dream of Hales for almost two years.

“What if we just took that east lane on Naito and went ahead and made it into a bikeway?” he proclaimed while on a bike ride in August 2014. Then the nonprofit Better Block PDX made his wish a reality in 2015 when they installed “Better Naito” — a lane marked off by traffic cones and DIY signage that created dedicated space for biking and walking. That multi-week demonstration was so successful that the City of Portland brought it back for three months this year.

Better Naito kickoff-12.jpg

Should it stay or should it go?
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

While Portlanders pedaled and walked freely in their new safe zone on adjacent to Waterfront Park, Hales surprised everyone with an attempt last May to make it permanent. He requested $1.5 million for the project out of his budget — money that would have come from a controversial tax hike on businesses. That wasn’t the right strategy to fund Better Naito and the project went nowhere.

Now, with the window closing on his Mayoral tenure, Hales has a new plan to fund what could be the most important piece of his cycling legacy. The current Better Naito pilot project ends on July 31st (this Sunday). With that date near, Hales called a special meeting this morning to proudly announce that he remains fully supportive of making the Better Naito changes permanent.

After riding a Biketown bike share bike with several dozen advocates, city staff, and other agency representatives, Hales gathered the group at the new Ankeny Plaza and laid out his case for the $1.5 million project. He said as Portland grows quickly in the coming years we need to fit more people on our streets. Here’s how the mayor is making the case for Better Naito:

“Another reason we need to think about that evolution from 630,000 to 850,000 people… We have a very successful promenade in Waterfront Park. We have activities out there all summer long and we have a lot of people that commute through there on bike or on foot. There’s not enough space. We need a sidewalk on this side of Naito for pedestrians. We need a permanent bikeway where we now have a temporary bikeway. It’s for capacity reasons. That’s the agenda here: Where can we create additional, non-auto capacity in ways that work? To me, Better Naito is a sterling example of that. So we have this opportunity I hope this year to make that project permanent.

I’m glad we got to be here together with the temporary version of it and I look forward to all of us riding it as a permanent version.”

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Mayor Hales (right) riding a Biketown bike on Naito Parkway this morning. (Photo: City of Portland)

Mayor Hales (right) riding a Biketown bike on Naito Parkway this morning.
(Photo: City of Portland)

Hales and his team plan to hammer out details of a proposal in time for the request to be considered at the city’s fall budget monitoring process (known as the “BuMP”) in October. That’s when the city will take a look at how its collected tax revenue stacks up against existing expenses. Since the economy is strong, Hales thinks it’s a “pretty safe bet” there will be extra funds to invest back into the city.

This means that while there’s strong momentum for Better Naito, there’s still a political lift ahead. It might be worth noting that representatives from Commissioner Steve Novick and Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s office were on today’s ride. That’s three of five votes right there. But even if we assume those two are supportive, there’s no telling how the vote will go if/when it happens.

If you have opinions about the changes on Naito, email them to naitoparkway@portlandoregon.gov and send a copy to the five members of Council: mayorhales@portlandoregon.gov, nick@portlandoregon.gov, amanda@portlandoregon.gov, novick@portlandoregon.gov and dan@portlandoregon.gov.

The public debate has already begun. Here are a few selected tweet from the last few hours:

And Mayor Hales himself has already gone on the offensive. He posted a call for support of the project on his Facebook page today.

Regardless of feedback, the city says they plan to take down the existing cones at the end of Sunday. That means Naito will return to its previous alignment with two standard lanes, an unprotected bike lane, and no space for walking. PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said in an interview this morning that PBOT will collect data after Better Naito comes down in order to compare and contrast traffic volumes and travel times. Stay tuned for results of their analysis.

— 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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Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

So it’s still going to come down, but next time it should be permanent? (if there is a next time?)

Here’s part of what I wrote in support of it last night:

What about the lane “taken” from car drivers? It’s being given to humans who aren’t in a car. It’s a welcome mat on Portland’s front lawn. It’s simply delaying the lane reduction from occurring at the Steel Bridge and placing it at the Hawthorne Bridge. Somehow drivers manage just fine between the Steel Bridge and 9th Ave, which is about 7/10ths of a mile.

Adam
Subscriber

Too bad our weak-mayor system makes the Mayor’s “support” meaningless. Why wasn’t this proposal made last year? Or at the beginning of the summer? Why wait until the bike lane is removed to “work out a plan”? Why not just leave the temporary bike lane up while the plan is hashed out? Will the city again spend a year of public outreach that drains the project’s budget? This whole process screams of reactionary dysfunction.

That being said, I look forward to the permanent design (which I still say ditch the two-way design for a cycle track on each side of the street). This has been a long time coming, and while the opportunity to fast-track the project has come and went, we can at least settle for the slow-track.

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

This reminds me of charlie hales’ bike path to Astoria. Sounds good, no action

Peejay
Guest
Peejay

I urge everyone to get those emails out and make it so uncomfortable for the City Council to NOT get this done. You know that #BetterNaito gave you more than five minutes of easy riding. Please take five minutes out of your life and send an email!

Champs
Guest
Champs

Being “better” isn’t necessarily the same as being good. As much as I’ve ridden Better Naito lately, I won’t miss it. It’s still Naito, no matter how much you polish the thing.

Put a sidewalk on the east side of Naito. Create parallel bike routes nearby, and people who don’t like the “swift” 14MPH downtown pace can use the waterfront trail.

dwk
Guest
dwk

It should not be an “either/or”, although most of the time it is.
Naito worked with the bike lane (I ride it every day year around). If keeping it is easy and cheap, great, but there are more pressing bike issues than this, in this city.
Getting on Naito from Barbur/south is a nightmare. This should be fixed first.
The waterfront is well taken care of in the bike department compared to the rest of the city. Spend the money and political capital in East Portland.

Beeblebrox
Guest
Beeblebrox

If people push for this at Council the way they pushed for Clinton diversion, I think this can happen.

Social Engineer
Guest
Social Engineer

If I’m coming to downtown from NW on Naito, I will not cross the street twice if a two-way facility is built on the east side. That’s why I support separate one-way facilities; otherwise I’ll have to continue using the skinny southbound lane and deal with the merge at the Morrison Bridge ramps which can be terrifying. Those ramps need to be relocated or demolished soon.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

I read this with mixed feelings. Hales is right in stating that the road needs a redesign because waterfront is being used as what’s best described a as a fairground.

I am not comfortable with that decision being taken as a given.

The better naito trial is not what I would go with, but I rarely agree with anyone around here.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest
Kyle Banerjee

As someone who rides its entire length almost every day, I’m not a fan of Better Naito. When the fairs are going in the summer, it’s a a practical method of dealing with spillover crowds. However, I find it considerably less safe than the normal arrangement and strongly prefer the winter time configuration.

Under Better Naito, a substantial percentage of cyclists ignore the stoplights in both directions, especially those traveling along Naito. It blows my mind that I haven’t yet seen peds/cyclists get t-boned or speared at speed. Riders on this stretch seem particularly bad about meandering all about the path representing a threat to those traveling the opposite way and a hindrance to those who prefer to move along.

As a temporary measure when the waterfront is crowded, I can accept Better Naito is the best option. But definitely not the rest of the time — if any permanent measures are implemented, a redesign is called for. I’ll take riding by cars any day over that mess — far more predictable and less dangerous IMO.

Mark Smith
Guest
Mark Smith

Still putting bikes in the street with no barrier between people and cars. A step forward? I think not.

mran1984
Guest
mran1984

The current state of Naito is not better. I ride this stretch five days a week and I prefer sharing the road with auto traffic far more than your typical, oblivious, ear bud wearing, phone worshipping “person”. The pedestrian traffic does not function with any level of competence. Through in the mob mentality of Saturday Market and you have a mess. BTW, you folks still think Charlie was running the show…ha, funny stuff. If you are afraid to ride…take the bus.

John Liu
Subscriber

If Better Naito becomes permanent, it needs to be a BIKE way and not a WALK way.

Pedestrians have plenty of room to walk in the park. That’s what the park is for. Some festivals may have to move their fencing over by 15-20 feet to stop blocking pedestrians

i wear many hats
Guest
i wear many hats

Repurposing this Naito space is asinine. Naito is an arterial road. It has high car traffic volumes. I think more could be done to keep everyone happy if 15 feet of the park was carved out for bikes and pedestrians, leaving Naito in tact (with a jersey barrier running the length). Everyone would have safe spaces, and very little of the bike hate would come if traffic volumes remained the same.

Maxadders
Guest
Maxadders

As many others have pointed out: Better Naito is not better. I happily bike two blocks west and take the auto lane on 2nd. I feel like the only reason the bike advocates want this is because they see it as an easy victory. Too bad that it’s a victory that so few cyclists will find useful.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Well, Nick Fish doesn’t sound like much of a fan of Better Naito, judging by today’s City Council hearing discussions:

https://youtu.be/56BYjU8jrk0?t=2h12m30s

i wear many hats
Guest
i wear many hats

My wife and I used to commute on the waterfront for 8 months, then shift to crossing the Burnside bridge because the path gets so congested in the dry months. The Better Naito project shows that a west side path is necessary as well as the path on the bank. It can be done with creative striping on Naito, and with a path on the west side of the Park, without creating 1000’s of bike haters who use that road to drive to work on.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Cut the Naito by half. Traffic will find somewhere else or people will find another mode.