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New path in Waterfront Park part of Naito’s emerging role in bike network

Posted by on May 31st, 2017 at 9:42 am

This new path is just one sign of Naito’s emerging significance in the downtown bikeway network.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

Sorry Portland Business Alliance, but the evolution of downtown streets will continue with or without your approval.

The business lobbying group (known around here as “the PBA”) that used to have considerable sway over downtown decision-making, made their opposition to the Better Naito project clear last week. And while the PBA might feel better when the temporary biking and walking-only lane gets removed in September, they’ll soon realize it’s just one of many moves the Portland Bureau of Transportation is making to update downtown streets. And those updates are all aimed at doing the same thing as Better Naito: create more space for biking so it becomes safer and more convenient for more people.

With Better Naito, a new (permanent) path to connect to the Steel Bridge, and several other recent developments, the future of Portland’s downtown bike network is taking shape and Naito Parkway plays a leading role.

Here’s how just a few parts of this emerging bike network figure into that future…

Naito getting even better

Another view of the new path looking northbound at NW Couch toward Davis.

A new bike path emerged in Waterfront Park last week. PBOT has installed a wide strip of black pavement in Waterfront Park near the Japanese American Historical Plaza. The path begins at NW Couch and ends one block later at Davis. As I alluded to on May 10th, the path is intended to serve as a safer way for northbound bicycle users to cross the tricky intersection of Davis, Naito and the onramp that leads up to the Steel Bridge. By taking bike traffic out of the curbside bike lane, PBOT can create a safer angle between right-turning auto users and northbound bike users at the intersection.

Where the path re-enters the roadway at the Davis on-ramp to the Steel Bridge.

The new path is part of a larger project that will include a new bike-only signal at this intersection and a new, two-way connection between Davis and the Steel Bridge. The signal is coming soon and will give bicycle users a separate signal phase to cross Davis at the Steel Bridge on-ramp without worrying about cross traffic. This signal is key because it will handle two-way bike traffic on Naito. PBOT plans to sign and mark the existing, 12-foot-wide Naito bike lane for north and southbound traffic from the paths in Waterfront Park at the west end of the Steel Bridge to Davis. This new bi-directional bikeway will feed directly into the Better Naito lane.

And Naito’s resurgence as a bikeway doesn’t end at the Steel Bridge. While PBOT recently added a buffer and plastic wands well north of the bridge, there are also plans to install more bike lanes as far north as 19th to accomodate new residential development.

Two Flanders crossings

A new crossing of Naito will connect the Steel Bridge to 2nd/3rd Avenues via Flanders.

The promise of the Flanders bikeway is well over a decade late. When the City of Portland created the West Burnside-Couch couplet without any bike-specific infrastructure, they made a deal with the then-Bicycle Transportation Alliance that they’d create a bike boulevard on Flanders Street from the Willamette to northwest Portland. Currently Flanders isn’t a part of the bike network because it dead-ends at I-405 and at Naito. But both of those gaps will be filled relatively soon.

The Flanders bridge over I-405 is funded and expected to be open by 2019. Adding to that good news is PBOT’s imminent intention to create a crossing of Naito for walkers and bicycle riders between the Steel Bridge/Waterfront Park path and Flanders in Old Town/Chinatown (directly in front of Oregon Department of Transportation Region 1 headquarters). A safer crossing between the Steel Bridge and Flanders would allow people on bikes to easily connect not only to Better Naito, but also to the bikeway couplet that already exists on 2nd and 3rd avenues.

$9 million in protected bike lanes coming soon

New bikeway on SW 2nd Avenue-4.jpg

More protected bike lanes similar to this one on SW 2nd Avenue, are coming soon.

Adding into this mix is PBOT’s Central City Multimodal Project. You might have forgotten about this project because it’s taking forever to roll out. It has now been well over four years since the city first began planning a network of protected bike lanes downtown. The good news is PBOT has amassed a war chest of $8.8 million to build them (thanks to a $6 million federal grant from Metro and $2.8 million from the new gas tax fund). We don’t know what streets will get the new protected lanes; but it’s safe to say that bicycle circulation on Naito will be impacted and improved by whatever goes in.

PBOT expects to start building these new bikeways next year.

The network effect

A quick sketch of a few existing and planned bikeways show how connected loops are slowly but surely forming.

A bikeway network follows this basic rule: every new connecting piece adds exponential value to the whole. And with each new piece, and every new rider who uses it, the public and political urgency to do even more rises too. This is the positive feedback loop that will finally move the needle for cycling in Portland.

When you stand back and look at all these ongoing projects, it’s reasonable to think that downtown is poised for a major explosion in bike use. (And let’s not forget the Biketown effect. The success of those orange bikes has created a new level of urgency among electeds and city staffers to make streets in the central city safer for cycling.)

Which brings us back to Better Naito. PBOT has promised stakeholders that the existing lane will be returned to its previous use (a standard lane and a bike lane) at the end of September. To make the politics work, PBOT will have to keep their promise and remove the big protected bike lane at that time no matter how successful the project is. But given Better Naito’s popularity and the fact that a high-quality bikeway in that location is imperative to future transportation plans, I would be shocked if PBOT didn’t find a way to make it permanent before spring 2018.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

69 Comments
  • bikeninja May 31, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Sorry PBA, the earth is not flat, spats and monocles are out of style and bikes rule the future of urban transportation

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 31, 2017 at 11:35 am

      My predictions for 2018: Suits fit, beards out, monocles in.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • Middle of the Road Guy May 31, 2017 at 11:44 am

        What about capris pants on dudes? Or was that out in 2016?

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Racer X May 31, 2017 at 2:29 pm

          …Man-pris: the new cycling pant trouser for office guys without chain guards…

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  • rick May 31, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Next step: AwesomeNaito from the Barbur split to the Hawthorne bridge !

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    • Ben May 31, 2017 at 10:12 am

      Or at least a way to transition from Naito to the Hawthorne and Tillicum bridges without a) backtracking to 2nd or b) riding through the crowds at Salmon Street Springs.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Awesome Naito May 31, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Yes! What about Awesome Naito from Barbur to Kittridge/Forest Park?

      If you want to see Awesome Naito, please email Commissioner Saltzman and PBOT your thanks for Better Naito and how to make it even better!

      Commissioner Saltzman: dan@portlandoregon.gov
      PBOT: NaitoParkway@portlandoregon.gov
      Twitter: #BetterNaito

      Recommended Thumb up 8

      • huh June 3, 2017 at 12:18 pm

        i did not know i wanted that. until now.
        thanks, eh.

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    • Kate June 1, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Yes!!!!!!! There are so many of us in south downtown riding those Naito sidewalks until we finally hit the waterfront path and then have to go over to Salmon Springs to pick up the bike lane or better Naito. It’s ok, but it can be tough negotiating peds and paddlers using that same east-side sidewalk. I wish we could, at the very least, expand this sidewalk to be a shared use path since that’s how it’s used today. Alas, utility poles are in the way and I’d imagine people would scream bloody murder if any trees were removed.

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  • Dwk May 31, 2017 at 10:01 am

    That “path” is a 100 foot long joke. I cannot believe you applaud this waste of money.

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    • Dave May 31, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      Pavement is laid in short sections. We are lucky–you should have been here 35 years ago. Many of us then would have pulled our own teeth for the bike infrastructure that exists now!

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    • Chris I May 31, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      Right hooks are no laughing matter.

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      • Dwk May 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

        It is still a right hook if you have ridden it.

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        • Josh Berezin May 31, 2017 at 2:55 pm

          “The signal is coming soon and will give bicycle users a separate signal phase to cross Davis at the Steel Bridge on-ramp without worrying about cross traffic.”

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        • Chris I June 1, 2017 at 6:39 am

          Reading must not be your strong suit.

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          • Dwk June 1, 2017 at 8:35 am

            I meant going north.
            It won’t matter, I cannot respond to your nasty comments.
            You somehow get a pass, I don’t.

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            • Chris I June 1, 2017 at 9:33 am

              Once the signal is in place, even when going north, you will have a separate signal cycle, making right-hooks nearly impossible. Read the article.

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              • Dwk June 1, 2017 at 12:41 pm

                I read the article, I ride it every day…
                It is a solution in need of a problem.
                You obviously don’t, but feel the need to always make your snarky point of view anyway.

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      • Dwk May 31, 2017 at 1:57 pm

        It is a ridiculous waste of money.
        The kind of useless project that just takes away from any meaning full improvements.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. May 31, 2017 at 10:04 am

    That short path along Naito is great, however what’s up with the right-angle transition? Bikes don’t turn at right angles.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2017 at 10:10 am

      that’s weird. my bike turns at right angles all the time. i just slow down, twist my arms a bit in the direction of the turn, and the wheels and bike follow ;-). (just messing with you. I hear your point.)

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    • Gary B May 31, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      Neither do cars. Fortunately, both are able to execute an arc between two legs of an angle.

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    • Stephen Keller June 1, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      At least it isn’t a hairpin.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 2, 2017 at 11:08 am

      I rode it yesterday. I doubt the turn will be an issue in practice.

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  • SilkySlim May 31, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I’m still kind of lost on how to use the new path… Going northbound (and wanting to turn left on Davis), I veer right onto the path, which brings my to the Davis intersection. Then the Naito lights turn red. Ok – time to cross into Old Town? Well, not really. Cars streaming out of NW are making their way onto the Steel Bridge ramp, turning left and blocking my way. It is like playing frogger to get across! Seems like they need a signal that gives bikes a few seconds preceding the greenlight for those on Davis.

    And as I leave work, the path only makes sense for merging onto the temporary Better Naito path.

    Am I missing something here?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2017 at 10:09 am

      the bike signal isn’t in yet. The path isn’t really ready for prime-time until the signal is installed and the new signage and pavement markings go in.

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      • SilkySlim May 31, 2017 at 10:14 am

        Ah! Thanks Jon (and Adam).

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. May 31, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Yeah, there is going to be a bike-specific signal at the end of the path. A bit irresponsible of PBOT to open this path before it’s complete imo.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2017 at 10:16 am

        but even without the signal, at least it separates and gives better visibility 5o northbound bicycle users from people driving right up onto the steel bridge (which has long been a location of right hooks.)

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. May 31, 2017 at 10:20 am

          The right hook potential is still there though, since you still have to cross Davis against the light.

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2017 at 10:24 am

            right hook potential will always be there. right hooks can’t be eradicated… they even have them in Copenhagen! the goal is to minimize the risk.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. May 31, 2017 at 10:20 am

    The right hook potential is still there though, since you still have to cross Davis against the light.

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    • Kyle Banerjee May 31, 2017 at 10:44 am

      There are multiple good options for getting onto Davis:

      1) Take the lane. Especially with Better Naito, it’s really easy to get into position

      2) Stop and cross as a ped. This isn’t a long light so you don’t have to wait long before you can reenter Davis with the Walk signal. This puts you in good position for the light on 1st.

      This area does not need more engineering. If they need to mess with something in that area, how about a better way over Steel Bridge? Options are take the lane which is often jammed with cars, take the upper deck walkway which has inadequate clearance for passing peds or cyclists, or take the lower deck which is a mess of peds and cyclists and involves multiple left turns across the same.

      I’d rather they spent the money elsewhere.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. May 31, 2017 at 10:56 am

        Or just ban cars from the Steel Bridge and make the upper deck transit-only. Problem solved.

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        • Kyle Banerjee May 31, 2017 at 11:18 am

          I know I can always count on you for a totally practical solution that will easily go through 🙂

          I’m sure those who rely on Glisan or 99W won’t mind…

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          • Middle of the Road Guy May 31, 2017 at 11:46 am

            Ever notice how his solutions are simply things he wants but couched in the context ofr being better for others?

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            • Kyle Banerjee May 31, 2017 at 1:32 pm

              He may be onto something.

              You know what they need to do? Convert one lane of both I-5 and I-405 for bike traffic in each direction. Faster cyclists will really get moving on the slopes, particularly when descending the Fremont Bridge so a single bidirectional lane isn’t a good idea.

              They could drop the speed limit on those highways to make crossing the entrance and exit ramps safer and cyclists could cross town much faster, more safely, and more conveniently than they do now. It might hоse a few thousand motorists, but that’s a small price to pay for the several minutes I’d save each way on my commute 🙂

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              • Middle of the Road Guy May 31, 2017 at 4:54 pm

                I’d ride a bike more around town if Breadwinner gave me a gravel bike.

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              • Stephen Keller June 1, 2017 at 1:02 pm

                Middle of the Road Guy writes: “I’d ride a bike more around town if Breadwinner gave me a gravel bike.”

                Ain’t that the truth! I about bit the pavement the other day due to pothole debris strewn all over a lane. 38mm tireds caught enough traction to stay upright, but l was at the “this is gonna hurt” stage of thought. That’ll teach me pick up speed going downhill.

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  • MaxD May 31, 2017 at 10:22 am

    With a new park center for Forest Park being planned at the intersection of Kittridge and Highway 30, this would be a great time to PBOT to connect the bike infrastructure from Naito to Kittridge so people riding bikes could more safely and easily access Forest Park and Highway 30. Without this connection, the implication remains that people should drive to Forest Park to take a hike- no parking lot will accommodate that!

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  • Kyle Banerjee May 31, 2017 at 10:36 am

    I ride this area 5 days a week. I’ve tried the path but find it absolutely usеless — the only thing it accomplishes is needlessly cover some of the little grass left with asphalt.

    There are definitely areas that needed the funds more than this.

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    • Nick Falbo May 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

      This path provides a critical two-way connection from the Steel Bridge into Old Town on Couch St.

      Today there is no formal connection, requiring bicyclists to travel on the crowded waterfront path, and cut through the Japanese American Historical Plaza on blocky paver squares.

      The finished path will connect bicyclists on a bike-only path, safely bring them across Davis, and connects them to destinations in downtown.

      This is a bigger-deal than anyone realizes.

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      • Kyle Banerjee May 31, 2017 at 12:30 pm

        How does a 100′ section literally 3′ from a barely used sidewalk accomplish that? This is nowhere near the crowded part of the waterfront nor does it connect to Steel.

        There may be other planned sections that bring benefit, but this is one of them. If you’re going over Steel, you need to leave Naito earlier if you’re taking the lower deck and whether you’re taking the lane or the upper deck, you’re better off on the road through the light.

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        • Nick Falbo May 31, 2017 at 2:06 pm

          As Jonathan noted, this connection isn’t yet open for public use. The bidirectional path will cross Davis with a protected signal, and continue up on the East side of Naito as a two-way bike lane. It will ramp up to the waterfront park using the driveway under the steel bride, providing relatively direct access to the lower deck of the steel bridge. Pretty ingenious.

          Check out a schematic map:

          https://twitter.com/nickfalbo/status/869985904085028864

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          • Kyle Banerjee May 31, 2017 at 4:24 pm

            I wouldn’t describe it that way.

            This adds an extra signal as well as distance so a small part of the least busy section of the waterfront can be skipped before joining the normal mess on the lower deck. Anyone dedicated to avoiding as much waterfront as possible can already continue through on Naito across Davis before turning right.

            Baking in a bidirectional design is not a positive thing in my book.

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          • Dan A June 1, 2017 at 11:11 am

            I don’t think I’m smart enough to understand. I currently commute eastward on Couch towards the Steel bridge. This takes me through 8 stop signs and 7 traffic lights over a matter of 15 blocks. When I finally get across Naito, I go to the waterfront path and head to the lower deck. Why would I want to cross Naito, turn left and wait for yet another traffic light so that I can take a longer route to the lower deck?

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            • Nick Falbo June 1, 2017 at 1:10 pm

              I think we will this become a well used route. I wouldn’t be surprised if it attracts riders to the Steel Bridge instead of the Broadway Bridge because of the improved connection.

              Navigating through the Japanese American Historical Plaza is awkward and rife with minor conflicts. The Waterfront park path is pretty chill on this segment much of the year, but forget about it during cherry blossom season or the peak of summer when it is heavily occupied by by people and dogs.

              Whether or not it’s worth sitting through one more signal may end up being a seasonal decision.

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              • Dan A June 1, 2017 at 1:18 pm

                Okay. I go through at 6am when it’s pretty empty.

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              • Kyle Banerjee June 1, 2017 at 1:53 pm

                I can’t see it attracting people to the Steel Bridge, definitely not from the Broadway Bridge. The whole problem with Steel is that it’s super slow going along the bottom no matter what. There are more dogs and people hanging out when it’s nice, but that short section is hardly slower than the narrow span and ramps up to the top.

                To get on the Broadway Bridge, you need to walk up the stairs if you’re on Naito. That doesn’t make sense as an alternative to Steel unless you plan to head out on Interstate, Weidler, or Williams and even that’s not great.

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  • B. Carfree May 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

    “A bikeway network follows this basic rule: every new connecting piece adds exponential value to the whole.” – JM

    I really have to disagree with this. Adding part of a bridge without reaching the other side doesn’t make the bridge exponentially more useful, it just allows those willing to swim part of the way to shorten the distance of the swim (with the sharks).

    At best, small additions to an incomplete network might improve additively until those final pieces finally get put in place. Those final ones will add tremendous overall value over what they would be alone.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 31, 2017 at 11:29 am

      did you see the word “connecting” in my sentence? The rule only applies when segments CONNECT to each other.. so your bridge analogy and “small incomplete additions” don’t apply that well.

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      • B. Carfree May 31, 2017 at 8:05 pm

        Connections to sections of poorly connected or even isolated parts of a planned but not yet in existence network are still not going to add exponentially to the situation.

        Like many bridges, this analogy bridge is being built in sections. Connecting middle sections doesn’t really cut it. Yes, they need to be connected at some point in order to finish the bridge, but folks will still have to do some swimming.

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  • Reed May 31, 2017 at 11:26 am

    That SW 2nd “protected” bike lane typically makes me feel like I’m in more peril than if I’m simply biking in the street. I tend to “give it another chance” once or twice a week on my way home, and then swear it off after dodging 1-2 near left hooks, several small flooded stretches that may or may not qualify as ponds, oblivious pedestrians zombie-walking down the middle of the lane, bikers salmoning, and rolling over a plethora of natural and unnatural detritus. And then of course I give it another shot because I like the idea of protected bike lanes so much. We have a long way to go.

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    • BrianC May 31, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Warning – Opinion…

      I’ve ridden that section on 2nd and I hate it with a burning passion. It’s what I call a “safety sucker” play. It sucks you in because you think it is “safe” only to realize too late it’s a disaster.

      This essentially makes every. single. intersection. a mandatory stop…
      – left hook danger from turning cars
      – Bikes behind, that may or may not obey traffic signals
      – A door zone

      I think it’s far safer to use 4th or 6th to get across town.

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      • Kyle Banerjee May 31, 2017 at 1:34 pm

        I agree with your assessment but 4th and 6th are hopelessly slow at peak times. Even though it adds distance, Naito is faster and certainly more fun.

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    • Mark May 31, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      I’ve tried it twice now, and have totally written it off for the same reasons that you mention. For my commute home, I take Stark to 2nd, then take the right lane to the Burnside Bridge.

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  • paikiala May 31, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Still seems very downtown-centric.

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    • maccoinnich May 31, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      To date downtown has been more or less ignored when it comes to bike infrastructure. The construction of a bikeway serving downtown is long overdue.

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  • Andrew Kreps May 31, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Yeah. I have issues on 2nd avenue every time I ride it in the bike lane. I once came within inches of being obliterated by a mid-block turn into a surface parking lot. The parked cars obscure people’s sight lines, not that they’re necessarily looking.

    The real problem is that these mid-block turns have NO INDICATION that you’re crossing a bike lane. Just a dashed line, that’s it. Every person I’ve spoken to about riding 2nd ave has either a near-hit or an actual collision to report.

    Cars don’t protect bikes from other cars, as it turns out.

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  • Buzz May 31, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    There actually are more bike facilities than you show on that map, SW 12th has bike lanes from PSU north.

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  • Jonathan Gordon May 31, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    When will we get that Flanders crossing over Naito? That’s been such an obvious missing link FOREVER! I am so excited to read that it’s even being discussed. The amount of times I’ve done that weird little jog around the concrete barrier and then down the grass to get to the path on the Esplanade. I’ve never known what the proper way is and as far as I can tell, there really isn’t one that doesn’t require you to go *way* out of the way.

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    • Social Engineer May 31, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      Well, it’s funded but the city is still negotiating with ODOT Rail on the specifics of the crossing. We should see public outreach for the Flanders greenway begin later this year.

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  • Adron Hall May 31, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    “Sorry Portland Business Alliance, but the evolution of downtown streets will continue with or without your approval.” Amen.

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  • Holtz May 31, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    I am so glad to hear about the signal coming to NW Davis & Naito. Just this morning I was almost hit there. After crossing Naito, I was waiting at the SW corner. I started to go when I got the walk signal when I was almost hit by a driver turning right from eastbound Davis to southbound Naito. Not surprisingly, he was angered that I yelled at him so he wouldn’t just roll over me. And a couple of bystanders also yelled at me to shut up. Oh, well. Again, happy to hear of signal improvements there.

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  • djstabe May 31, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Dang, I rode along Naito today and totally missed the new path at Steel. Will have to see if it helps.

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  • maccoinnich May 31, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    The project description for the repaving of Naito Parkway between I-405 and Jefferson, funded as part of the gas tax, includes this tantalizing section:

    “This project is examining the feasibility to include a 2-way separated bike path between SW Harrison and SW Clay Street on the east side. Additionally, the project is examining the feasibility of incorporating an on-street, 2-way bike facility between SW Clay and SW Jefferson; a full pedestrian signal at SW Jefferson with connections to the Park and a 2-way on-street bike lane connection north of Jefferson.”

    That would very nicely connect to the two-block path between SW Lincoln and Harrison, built as part of the Orange Line.

    https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/588969

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  • David June 9, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Rode by this morning and this path is now barricaded due to Fleet Week. Apparently because it looks like a road and has no bike markings it needs to be blocked off. Too bad because the on-road connection is a significantly worse angle.

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    • dwk June 9, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Cars parked the length of it.
      What a nice needed bike path…..

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  • X June 19, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    The new signal at SW Naito and Main is operating. It’s a beg button with a long delay (while cars sit idling anyway, typically). I’m sorry PBOT but no prizes for this one. This is one bit of infrastructure that needs to be torn out after week one. Bah.

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