Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 7th, 2017 at 12:03 pm
The City of Portland fined and publicly shamed two construction companies for blocking streets today. The companies went beyond the scope of their permits and were accused by the Bureau of Transportation of, “exacerbating rush hour traffic delays.”
While it’s nice to see PBOT get tough and defend public right-of-way like this, we’ve noticed this response differs considerably from how they deal with people illegally parking in bike lanes.
Here’s more on today’s announcement from PBOT via a news release:
“Last week, the Portland Bureau of Transportation fined two contractors who blocked the public right of way without a permit or in violation of a permit. The blockages exacerbated traffic congestion during the busy summer construction season. PBOT will continue to issue fines as needed to prevent unnecessary traffic congestion.
On Monday, July 31, Columbia Construction Service blocked a turn lane and a through lane just west of the Burnside Bridge, narrowing the street to one lane westbound during the morning rush hour. This closure caused extreme congestion, which delayed public transit service and other road users.
On Thursday, Aug. 3, PBOT ordered Turner Construction Co. to stop all work in the center lane of SW 12th Avenue, between SW Morrison and SW Alder. The company’s permit only allows the closure of the right lane.
After receiving complaints and photographic evidence, both companies were fined last week.”
Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman said he was “disappointed at the blatant disregard for the public,” and added that, “for a private construction company to block a lane during rush hour, delaying thousands of people and undermining our efforts to reduce traffic congestion is unacceptable. We will hold them accountable.”
According to The Oregonian, both companies were fined $500.
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Meanwhile, motor vehicle users continue to block bike lanes throughout the city with no such censure. One particular segment of the new 20s Bikeway just north of Sandy Blvd is often blocked. Yesterday our friends at Path Less Pedaled were just the latest to post a photo of this illegal behavior on social media:
— ThePathLessPedaled (@pathlesspedaled) August 7, 2017
When people park in bike lanes, it forces bicycle users into the adjacent lane. This can create a safety hazard and it can lead to tense interactions between bicycle and motor vehicle users. In addition, the inadequate designs that lead to the problem in the first place send a signal to the public that the City of Portland does not respect bicycle users to the same degree as automobile users. This is a problem in a city with adopted transportation policy that gives a higher priority to bicycle use than single-occupancy vehicle use.
The response from PBOT and the strong words from Commissioner Saltzman about these construction companies blocking the road provides a stark contrast to how Portland handles bike lane blockages.
We’ve been covering this issue since at least 2011 when we posted a series of articles about why people illegally park in bike lanes, how PBOT policy reacts to it, and what we as a city can do about the problem.
In Toronto the city responded by assigning a few police officers to a dedicated bike lane blockage patrol unit.
It’s great to see PBOT defend its right-of-way. Now let’s hope they stand up for all right-of-way with the same sense of indignation and urgency.
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