For the first time in over five years you can comfortably ride a bicycle through Ankeny Alley.
Prior to June of 2011 the short, one-block stretch of Southwest Ankeny between 2nd and 3rd avenues was a narrow street with auto parking on both sides. It wasn’t exactly a place you wanted to hang out and enjoy a meal, but if you were on a bike at least you could easily and safely pedal through it.
Then, when the City of Portland decided to ban cars from the block, they also essentially banned bicycle riding too. Instead of a true public plaza aimed at attracting everyone, they made a deal with the bars and restaurants on the street: You let us ban cars and we’ll give you a lot more space for your customers. Ankeny Alley was a huge improvement, especially if you wanted to sit down at one of the many tables and enjoy a beer or a box of famous Voodoo Doughnuts. If you wanted to pass through, you’d have to squeeze by on a narrow sidewalk (which is technically illegal in this section of downtown).
Here’s how it looked when it first opened in August 2011:
Now, as part of their effort to expand Ankeny Alley into a public plaza onto Southwest 3rd Avenue, the Bureau of Transportation has opened up the middle of the alley. This has been done to make the space feel and function more like a promenade and less like a string of private restaurant patios.
This is another example that PBOT’s street design policies are maturing. It’s all part of their new Livable Streets Strategy. In fact, PBOT is using Ankeny Alley and Plaza as the test-case for a new set of citywide rules that will govern public spaces. An interim version of those rules passed City Council (by a vote of 4-0 with Mayor Hales not present) on July 27th. The rules were modeled after existing policies used by Portland Parks & Recreation. And in case you were wondering, yes, bicycle riding is allowed in the plaza (just like it’s legal to ride a bicycle on a paved path in Portland parks).
Here’s the relevant passage from the adopted rules:
B. No person shall operate any motorized vehicle or motorized wheeled vehicle or motorized wheeled device in any pedestrian plaza, except designated vehicle areas, or by permit. The prohibitions of this Section do not apply to authorized service or emergency vehicles or to the following electric mobility devices used by persons who need assistance to be mobile, and used in accordance with all applicable pedestrian plaza and traffic rules:
1. “Electric assisted bicycle” as defined in ORS 801.258;
2. “Motorized wheelchair,” “Mobility scooter” or “Power chair” defined as an electric powered transportation device for one person in a seated position, with feet resting on floorboards or foot rests, and incapable of exceeding a speed of 20 mph; or
3. “Human or personal transporter system” defined as a self‐balancing, electric‐powered transportation device with two wheels, able to turn in place, and designed to transport one person in a standing position, with a top speed of 20 mph.
C. No person shall operate an electric mobility device in a pedestrian plaza in an unsafe manner or at a speed exceeding 15 mph, or, when pedestrians are present, at a speed exceeding 5 mph, or fail to yield the right‐of‐way to all pedestrians.
Keep in mind you aren’t allowed to ride through the promenade with reckless abandon — even if you yell “on your left!” Treat the area like you would a crosswalk where Oregon law dictates that you only ride at a walking speed (a.k.a. use extreme caution when other people are present).
Another interesting part of the new rules says that the plazas aren’t open 24 hours a day. They’re technically closed between 12:01 and 5:00 am each day; but an exception to that rule says it’s O.K. to bike or walk anytime day or night as long as you’re just passing through.
Since our last report PBOT added pavement markings to delineate a walking zone adjacent to the floating auto parking and they’ve also added several decorative planters.
It’s great to see the alley and plaza evolve. We expect more tweaks and additions to the plaza in the coming weeks.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
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