Portland’s newest and smallest street is also carfree

Carfree Couch Court. Because it just makes sense, that’s why.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

To improve circulation of vehicle traffic through a very fast-growing part of the central city, the Portland Bureau of Transportation decided to expand the road network. With two new lanes, people can now travel on a new road between NE 3rd Avenue and Couch Street.

Typically we’d be skeptical — possibly outraged — if PBOT added new lane-miles in the urban core; but in this case it’s fine because the new street is carfree. It’s the most efficient and humane way to utilize this important space adjacent to three new buildings that tower over the east end of the Burnside Bridge and have a combined 300 residential units and over 100,000 square feet of office and retail space.

Couch Court is only 130-feet long. It consists of a 14-foot wide, two-way bikeway and new sidewalks. As we reported a year ago, Couch Court was initially planned as a standard street where auto use would be allowed. Thankfully that plan was scrapped. It was likely determined by PBOT that squishing large and toxic vehicles on this short stretch wasn’t necessary. More importantly it would have been unsafe because of how the street intersects the existing raised bikeway on the infamous Couch Curve between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and westbound Burnside Bridge.

I got my first look at it yesterday. It seems to work well, except for the fact that a large truck had parked right at the access point from 3rd Avenue. As for design elements, it’s pretty straightforward. I really like the angle of the mountable curbs used throughout. One thing to watch for is whether or not this becomes a popular plaza — where people on foot wander into the bikeway. My advice is to slow down while passing through and ring your bell to let folks know you’re approaching.

Here are a few more images:

Come on man! Don’t park there!


Rolling east approaching the Couch curve.

Where the new street intersects with raised bikeway on Couch.

Rolling west toward 3rd Avenue.

PBOT needs to add anti-parking signs and pavement markings to prevent this.

Couch Court is a nice addition to the bikeway network in this area; but it’s potential won’t be realized until there are more safe and convenient places to ride nearby (currently the Central Eastside industrial area, the MLK/Grand couplet and I-84 limit accessibility and make this a very high-stress place for bicycle users).

Do you ride in this area? Have you found this new stretch of bikeway useful?

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

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