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North Portland rising: Arbor Lodge and Overlook residents ready to fight for safe streets

Posted by on October 26th, 2017 at 3:09 pm

At the N Greeley Traffic Safety Open House last night.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Something’s happening in north Portland. And it will have a profound impact on street safety for years to come.

People in all 11 neighborhoods that make up our city’s northern peninsula are sick and tired of living next to unsafe streets. And they’re coming together to do something about it.

Last night about 60 people crowded shoulder-to-shoulder inside Madrona Hill Cafe on the corner of Ainsworth and Greeley for a “traffic safety open house”. The meeting came five days after 50 people donned raincoats and rallied for safer streets at an unrelated event in St. Johns.

At the open house last night there were babies and kids and senior citizens and young professionals. And everyone had a story to tell. By the end of the night there were well over 100 post-it notes stuck to two large maps where people had written things like, “dog hit” “car hit” and “son cannot cross street w/ bike in the morning”. The event came after months of planning from a nascent group of volunteers from the Arbor Lodge and Overlook neighborhoods who are focused on traffic safety issues.

“Our goal is to get attention from the city.”
— Chris Jones, Arbor Lodge resident

Many of the leaders of the group first joined forces a year ago following a spate of fatal and serious injury collisions on nearby streets. With the pain from tragic collisions that took lives and forever altered others still fresh in their hearts, and armed with new complaints about increasing — and increasingly dangerous — auto use on many streets in the neighborhood, leaders like Katy Asher and Chris Jones want to have a larger and more powerful voice in City Hall.

“Everyone should feel safe using the roads,” Jones said, holding his baby in his arms, “Our goal is to get attention from the city.”

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50 people rallied last Friday for a safer N Fessenden.
(Photo: Jinnet Powel)

Last night’s event was held to gather feedback about traffic hot-spots and danger zones. It was also a chance to build a network of advocates to fix them. “Raise your hand if you’re interested in a longer-term commitment to represent north Portland on various city advisory committees,” Asher asked the crowd (several hands went up). Asher used last night as an opportunity to encourage her neighbors to take advantage of tools already available: free “Slow Down” yard signs from PBOT, the City’s 823-SAFE livability hotline, block party permits, intersection paintings, and so on.

Like so many other Portland neighborhoods, Arbor Lodge is dealing with the negative impacts of a startling rise in auto use. As population and congestion have grown, what used to be quiet neighborhood streets — like Villard, which came up a lot last night — are now popular cut-throughs used by drivers to save a few minutes on their commute. And streets that aren’t cut-throughs, like Greeley, Interstate, and Rosa Parks, are often so backed up that it’s hard to find a gap to cross safely.

This gathering was just one of several efforts happening simultaneously in north Portland. Last Friday about 50 St. Johns residents held a traffic safety rally on N Fessenden. They held signs, spoke into a megaphone, and stood in the street to make their voices heard. And as we shared this morning, another group is working to make North Willamette Blvd safer.

While it’s good to see these efforts take root, it would be even better if all these activists knew each other, pooled resources, and worked toward common goals.

Unlike other quadrants, north Portland lacks a go-to group for transportation-related issues. What if north Portland had a group that could stoke as much fear and respect in City Hall and PBOT as Southeast Uplift, SW Trails, the Central Eastside Industrial Council, or the East Portland Action Plan?

It all comes down to people showing up, working together, and getting loud. And I’m happy to see that north Portland is well on its way.

“We hope you’ll stay involved and make change happen,” Katy Asher said at the event last night. “Look around. We’re on to something.”

If you want to be a part of this effort, check out the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association website and stay tuned to the BP front page.

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

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24 Comments
  • Alex October 26, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Sorry I couldn’t make it to that meeting. I passed by and it looked like a great turn out. I will definitely be attending future events. So glad to see this happening.

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  • maxD October 26, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Is there a way to submit written comments? I could not attend (it was my daughter’s birthday!)

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  • bikeninja October 26, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I am not advocating, but predicting based on a study of history, that if something is not done quickly to improve the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, children and pets through increased enforcement or infrastructure, citizens will begin to take matters in to their own hands. We will see crowd sourced traffic calming, impromptu diverters and perhaps worse. People in these neighborhoods will not forever standby and let motoring scofflaws terrorize them just to save themselves a few minutes of travel time.

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  • Donna Cohen October 26, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    For more information and to keep up-to-date on the Fessenden / St Louis corridor traffic issues in St Johns, please join Citizens for a Safe and Attractive Fessenden / St Louis. https://bikeportland.org/2017/10/26/north-portland-rising-arbor-lodge-and-overlook-residents-ready-to-fight-for-safe-streets-249406

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  • Dave October 26, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Grainger sells a variety of speed bumps. I’m just saying’.

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    • brian October 27, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      My street had a big sinkhole open up and until the city comes and fills it in, it provides great traffic calming.

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    • paikiala October 29, 2017 at 10:25 am

      Illegally installed speed bumps cost real $ to remove that could be used for other work.

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  • Christopher October 26, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks much for posting this, Jonathan. It was great to see so many people out. We’re saving all the stories we got from people last night, both on the map, and on written sheets. To be clear, we don’t know precisely what to do with that information yet, but we want visibility from the city, so we’re going to be working on it.

    To anyone who wants to be involved in Arbor Lodge, or anywhere in North Portland, sign up to our google group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/team-lodge-traffic-safety . There are no leaders; we’re all volunteers who care about safety and community.

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  • Portlands Electric Bike Store
    Portlands Electric Bike Store October 26, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    There is a new ‘intelligent’ speed bump that only ‘activates’ when a certain speed has been exceeded. Would love to see these in use! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uwbf9UsLE_Y

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  • Portlands Electric Bike Store
    Portlands Electric Bike Store October 26, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    A better video of the intelligent speed bump. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fng6gCjl58

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  • rick October 27, 2017 at 6:39 am

    What about the work npGREENWAY has done for North Portland ?

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  • GlowBoy October 27, 2017 at 7:42 am

    I think you’re right, Jonathan, that many people are getting sick and tired of dangerous streets in their neighborhoods. In the past 15 years vehicles have become orders of magnitude safer for their occupants. It’s time to do the same with our streets.

    On the Monday roundup page, my comment about the bike lane “protest” in south Minneapolis is stuck in moderation, but it’s applicable here too because we find the same thing going on. A few vocal protesters against the new protected lanes on 26th/28th Streets got themselves a lot of publicity (actually, these were just 1-mile extensions of protected lanes we’ve already had for a year, and everyone knew were coming). But there are a lot of people in the neighborhood who support the new lanes, and don’t even ride bikes. These streets were previously a massive couplet 3-4 lanes in each direction: Imagine if the often-proposed West Burnside/Couch couplet had become reality, with 3-4 motor vehicle lanes each direction and no bike lanes. That’s what we had.

    Now it’s down to two lanes each way, plus nice protected bike lanes. These newly calmed streets aren’t just safer for cyclists, they are safer for *everyone*, especially those who walk in the neighborhood, and (again, contrary to the publicity) non-cyclists in the neighborhood support the change. Although this particular situation was a different street design than Willamette, the sentiment is the same:

    https://streets.mn/2017/10/16/26th-and-28th-street-changes-are-about-safety-for-all/

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  • Evan October 27, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Amsterdam children took to the streets in 1972 and saved the city from the automobile dystopia it was becoming:

    https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/amsterdam-children-fighting-cars-in-1972/

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    • bikeninja October 27, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Great article on the dutch kids fighting cars. I loved the photo with the overturned cars in the street with ” car free” spray painted on them. It just goes to show you that good things don’t just happen organically. They had to fight for what they have.

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  • paikiala October 27, 2017 at 9:27 am

    How many years in a row has PBOT asked for the restoration of the traffic calming program only to have it not get funding?
    Isn’t the St John’s neighborhood the one that tried to stop sewer reconstruction…just saying.

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  • James October 27, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I applaud you people. It’s about time we make our city streets safer

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  • pdx2wheeler October 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Lived on Atlantic Ave and Ainsworth, 1 block west of Greeley, for 12 years. The morning cut-through traffic got so bad I literally moved out of town. Was involved in a hit-and-run vehicular collision with one of them in front of my own home while taking my daughter to school, police did absolutely nothing despite having their plate number. The people cutting through had zero respect for the neighborhood and would be frequently smoking pot while driving, talking on cell phones, passing in a residential area, and racing from stop sign to stop sign just to beat the traffic jam on Greeley to turn right at Greeley and Killingsworth. I heard story after story of all the issues and action near Clinton. Wish it would have happened sooner in North Portland, but hopefully people coming together now will help. Good Luck!

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    • paikiala October 29, 2017 at 10:33 am

      current traffic on Willamette north of Killingsworth is about 830 daily trips (300N/530S) and 85th percentile speeds of 25-27 mph.
      The traffic calming was installed in 2006, long before the current greenway standards. PBOT has been looking at a revision project to make it easier for cyclists to go southbound from Willamette at Rosa Parks.

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      • Bald One October 30, 2017 at 11:51 am

        During the AM commute, nearly 100% of that traffic volume on Willamette is coming from cutters taking Villard from Rosa Parks, with an additional few % from illegal right turns being made at willamette onto willamette at the origin of Rosa Parks – where there are 3 “no right turn except bikes” signs posted. This illegal right turn is going to right hook a cyclist or hit a jogger some day soon – it’s a spot with a lot of moving parts at the cross walk, and many drivers taking an illegal right turn, there – feeling guilty and trying to do it fast and sneaky makes them less likely to be looking out for peds and bikers as they break the law.

        Villard is out of control, and the curvy section of Willamette from there south to Greeley is a real problem with so many cyclists and joggers using this route and cars acting like jerks – passing on the curves, racing over speed bumps, weaving into the on-coming lane, etc.

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  • Dave Roth October 31, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    I live on N. Peninsular Ave just north of Lombard. A small percentage of drivers using this nearly 100% residential stretch of Peninsular Ave between Columbia and Lombard drive at incredibly high speeds – without exaggeration, a handful each day going double the posted speed of 30mph. And this is for a short stretch of roadway between the signal at Lombard and N. Peninsular to the 4-way stop signed intersection at N. Willis and N. Peninsular.

    The traffic calming measures on this street consist of mild speed humps for a portion of the road near a school crossing and one crossing island at N. Terry Street. These have proven, at least anecdotally, to be completely ineffective in limiting egregious speeding behavior. In response to my request for additional traffic calming measures last year, PBOT responded that this was an emergency route/corridor that must be kept clear for emergency vehicles. When considering the % of emergency calls related to speed-related crashes, this policy is… ironic?

    In August of this summer, our cat was killed by a driver in front of our home. Two days later, a speeding, intoxicated driver with a suspended license, managed to crash into and total two parked cars on the road before coming to rest against a power pole, again in front of our home. According to our neighbor whose parked vehicle was totaled, this crash marked the third time their on-street parked car had been hit by a careless driver. When I spoke with the police who responded to the crash, I asked them what we as neighbors could do. Their response was to call 823-SAFE and file a report.

    And, just two weeks ago while doing yard work, my girlfriend and I watched as a neighbors’ cat was hit by a speeding driver who sped off after briefly pausing to see our horrified expressions.

    It’s a cliche and morbid thing to suggest, but will it take a human getting killed to see some enforcement action or infrastructure improvements that could address dangerous driving on this road, or other areas in North Portland?

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