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After outcry, Saltzman promises new plan for bikes on Willamette Blvd – UPDATED

Posted by on October 31st, 2017 at 10:34 am

In just one day last week over 415 Portlanders signed a petition calling for safer cycling conditions on North Willamette Boulevard. And Commissioner Dan Saltzman (who oversees the Bureau of Transportation) agrees with them.

As we reported on Thursday, the grassroots neighborhood group Friends of Willamette Blvd, had spent years cooking up their ideas to improve cycling access on this crucial link in the bike network. Then when PBOT suddenly started a paving project on one section of the street, they saw an opportunity and swung quickly into action. To their credit, PBOT will often update lane striping for better bicycle access when they do repaving projects. But it’s not a given, and often the new, more bike-friendly striping only happens as a result of either a sharp staffer or community memnber flags the opportunity.

After an overwhelmingly positive response to their petition last week, volunteer advocate Kiel Johnson with Friends of Willamette Blvd sent an email to Commissioner Saltzman on Friday. “The City has an immediate opportunity to improve the street for people who walk, take transit, and bicycle,” he wrote. “Now is the time to re-purpose the low-use on-street parking to improve safety, comfort, and access for people traveling actively.”

Johnson than listed the names of the 415 people who had signed the petition. He received a response from Saltzman less than four hours later.

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N Willamette Blvd bike lanes-5

Willamette Blvd in 2014. It has gotten very minor improvements since then, but it should be so much better than this.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“Thank you for flagging this issue for me and for sharing your concerns and your ideas for making Willamette better and safer for all,” the commissioner replied. “Our office has been hearing all year about the dangers to cyclists and other road users from the potholes on Willamette, but you are absolutely right that the timing of this repaving is a perfect opportunity to make the road safer, a street that better serves people walking, biking and taking transit and allows more Portlanders to enjoy its impressive views.”

“Thank you” is nice to hear; but proof of Saltzman’s sympathy and grasp of the issue will only be evident with changes that live up to his words. To that point, he added a hopeful comment. “I have already directed PBOT staff to implement a plan to meet these objectives. Staff will begin this work and will be in touch with you and adjacent neighbors early next week.”

We’re looking forward to seeing what PBOT comes up with.

The Friends group is hoping for buffered bike lanes on both sides and a large shoulder on the south side. When PBOT last approached a major bikeway update on Willamette they proposed shifting the standard lanes south to make room for a two-way bikeway on the north (residential) side. Both of those scenarios would require space currently used for parking cars. Even though the existing lane used for parking cars sees extremely low use and even though almost everyone who lives on that stretch of Willamette has a large driveway and/or a sidestreet they can park on, it remains to be seen whether PBOT will have the courage to repurpose the space.

UPDATE, 2:46 pm: PBOT has released the plans. Looks like they did it! The official striping plan is essentially the same as Friends of Willamette Blvd asked for:

Here’s more from the project website:

To improve the safety, accessibility, and comfort for people walking, taking transit and bicycling, PBOT will be re-striping N Willamette Blvd to include a shoulder area on the south (bluff) side of the street for transit access and pedestrian space (see image, below). The re-striping plan will also add a buffer area to the bike lanes on either side of the street. The additional space required for re-striping the street will require removing automobile parking on N Willamette from N Rosa Parks Blvd to N Woolsey Ave (see project map, below). Access to driveways, parking lots, and on-street parking on adjacent side streets will not be impacted by the changes. These changes are expected to occur after November, 10th 2017.

Schedule
Repaving will take place from late-October 2017 to mid-November 2017; restriping to follow repaving work.

— 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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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maxD
Guest
maxD

This is great news! I hope they take this opportunity to make some important NP Greenway connections! Heading north, the 2-way, on-street path could head down the Waud Bluff trail to the bridge over the rr tracks. Once over, the stairs could be replaced with a 2 new ramps, one going east on to Swan Island and one going west to continue around the base of bluff below UP all the way to Cathedral Park.

maxD
Guest
maxD

This seems like a great time to also revisit the St John’s Bridge! UP is expanding, St Johns is growing. There are nearly always pedestrians using the sidewalks now. People driving cars and trucks over the bridge continue to drive very fast, and use the second lane to pass and weave a,king the use of the sharrows by people who bike very sketchy. Riding on the sidewalk is not safe for people on bikes or people walking. The Population of North Portland is skyrocketing and the infrastructure is not keeping up with demand.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I think that to make this work, we must get many voices on board because there will no doubt be much push-back from the residents who will be losing their free storage spaces on the public right of way. PBOT will only have the courage to do this if they are more afraid of the cycling, walking, jogging, traffic-sanity sommunity than of the angry residents. This battle of public good over legacy free parking is going to have to happen all over town so we might as well make a stand now.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

When I park my bike, I am also storing it for free in the right-of-way.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Damn, amazing point. When the City needs that 8 sq ft of marginal curb strip space to accommodate the needs of our denizens, I’ll bravely sacrifice my free bike parking.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I only frequent stores where I can park inside. And I pay for bike parking at work.

dan
Guest
dan

At least put new paving all the way to the edge of the road, don’t leave a seam running down the bike lane!

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

I’ve always thought we should have a 2-way facility on the bluff side of the road. Obviously good pavement quality desired. Get rid of that unused parking already!

rick
Guest
rick

20 mph greenway.

Toadslick
Subscriber

I recently biked on Willamette with a friend to go to Cathedral Park, and the behavior of the drivers on that road was very scary and upsetting.

The worst moment was while we were waiting in the car lane to make a left turn from Willamette onto Bryant. Multiple large trucks and SUVs squeezed past us by swerving into the bike lane while yelling at us. One of them passed so closely that it caused my friend to yelp aloud.

Serious changes to this road can’t happen fast enough.

Travis
Guest
Travis

Right. Many recreational cyclists are feeling it daily in the dark and wet. It hasn’t gotten bad.

Stephan Lindner
Guest
Stephan Lindner

I have stopped biking on that road when biking into North Portland. Such a nie road, but alas, not safe.

Travis
Guest
Travis

That should have been recreational cyclists aren’t feeling it daily. I mean commuters on bikes are dealing with Willamette at its worst during rush hour in all weather and in the dark.

Also acknowledging that Willamette plays a huge role in accessing the west hills, Sauvie, etc

Travis
Guest
Travis

There was an injury car on car collision this morning on Willamette near Rosa Parks. Constantly, on neighborhood forums, drivers note they are afraid to slow/stop for pedestrians and cyclists on Willamette fearing they’ll be rear ended. Factoring the number of pedestrian collisions at UP, it should be apparent Willamette Blvd has a real and growing problem.

With the new Amazon facility opening up near Kelly Point Park, Adidas’ growing head count, increasing west side jobs, the infill boom we’re already seeing in St. Johns, and planned developments along the water in Cathedral park… the city needs to be real about driving patterns, public transit, and improved options for cyclists and pedestrians in our most north neighborhoods. A real mess is going to sneak-up on us.

h t
Guest
h t

That collision wasn’t the only travesty on that corner this a.m. The complete lack of traffic control for nbound traffic tearing it up through that corner into traffic and bikes swerving left to avoid emergency personnel, vehicles, and participants of the collision was another calamity waiting to happen. All while 4 PPB officers stood talking to one person involved in the crash. There wasn’t even a police car on the south side of the Rosa Parks Corner to warn travelers of the mess just outside of their line of vision.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Doesn’t fear of being rear ended increase with vehicle speed?
So if they drove posted minus 5 mph, wouldn’t that risk decrease, even if the fear did not?
Lastly, death by rear end collision is a rather uncommon thing, so are such fears even justified?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I have an employee who was rear ended two years ago and is still getting treatment for her back.

I’m with you on driving slower though. How do we convince people to drive under the speed limit? I go 15-20 in my neighborhood, and slower when it’s dark & rainy, and I have to admit it makes me a little uncomfortable picking up tailgaters.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Why oh why do citizen activists need to direct PBOT on common sense solutions/ actions. Its asinine that improvements for vision zero/ peds/ bikes were not on the forefront of this paving project. Someone is dropping the ball here, and this action by Mr Saltzman is merely saving face.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

What other city leader has made a concerted effort to significantly improve road safety according to best practices/research in Portland? Wheeler? Fritz? Portland hasn’t had a political leader on this issue for a very very long time.

Travis
Guest
Travis

On the flip side, citizen activists of sorts: those “adjacent neighbors”. And UP’s lack of leadership on the issue too.

From my experience Saltzman has been relatively approachable and responsive to North Portland traffic safety concerns. I’m not grading, but I do sorta fret losing his seat to someone more focused on other important issues pressing the city (housing, equity etc). Without naming names, some strong and disruptive (in a good way) candidates are or have suggested running. But their focus is not traffic issues: safety, equitable access, calming residential streets, prioritization/optimization for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit, taking Portland to the next level. For Portland’s style of council we need representation from folks experienced and focused on a variety of issues.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

I’m bummed to be losing Saltzman. He has been great for the city. However, we still have many areas of great conflict and unsafe infrastructure. Decisions like the ones mentioned in the article are a ‘no brainer’ and shouldn’t need cajoling to make it happen.

Barry Cochran
Guest

It would be nice to have a bike lane all the way down Willamette instead of stopping just past the cut. I regularly ride on Willamette but my spouse won’t ride to work at UP even though it’s a short distance because she doesn’t want to dodge cars with no bike lane. We can’t continue to prioritize giving a few people street parking in North Portland with the increase in population; we’ll look like Northwest in a couple of years.

Travis
Guest
Travis

For those newer to Portland: The Cut is the man-made rail road trench that essentially makes St. Johns and Cathedral Park islands. Inside of Columbia Blvd to the Willamette River, only three roads connect STJ and CP to the rest of Portland: Willamette Blvd, Lombard and Fessenden. No true residential streets connect.

Jennifer Vitello
Guest

I agree! Let’s not stop until all of Willamette has bike lanes and safe ped crossing.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Question: What year is it Portland? 1979 or even 1999? No, it is 2017.

..and the CoP (with Council approval) has set a 25% bike mode split and Vision Zero objectives, so WHY does the planners/ engineers of the paving section NOT rely on the Bike Element of the adopted 2016 TSP (see Willamette Blvd Bikeway) to judge when upcoming “planned paving” will provide an opportunity to fulfill Council directives and goals?

Versus what was described here…and having citizens to bring the topic up at the 12th hour? as “…often the new, more bike-friendly striping only happens as a result of … community memnber [sic] flags the opportunity.”

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/73307

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Exactly! the tools are in place and PBOT is NOT using them!

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Here’s another issue with 2-way bike lanes (adjacent, bi-directional lanes, or cycle tracks): 500 mega-What bike head lamps will blind on-coming cyclists and drivers in the evening and morning hours when it’s dark or nearly dark.

Since I don’t see Portland bikers ever restricting their use of super powerful head lamps (or just pointing them downwards or turning them down or off) when they are commuting on a two-way path, it’s hard to advocate for a long stretch of 2-way bike lane to be installed when two, separate, one-way lanes could be made, like on Willamette. Maybe for the summer months, only.

I support wider, better, (single direction) bike lanes on Willamette. Bollards are fine, as long as there remain sufficient room for passing other cyclists and joggers.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I too share your concern with the blinding AND over powered bike headlamps becoming all too common on the streets of Portland. (Riders please check these at the city gates…and use them only in the dark rural areas or suburbs.) They are almost as bad as many of the new car models…

Until then…I wish the Feds or the State would adopt many of the German Bike (StVZO) headlamp rules more typical of motor vehicles such as lamp light cutoff.

The German StVZO just updated their rules so the US consumers may start to see more of these features on the market…such as turn-signals etc., http://www.bike-eu.com/laws-regulations/nieuws/2017/3/germany-adopts-new-regulations-for-bicycles-and-e-bikes-10129378

Steve
Guest
Steve

I had the same issue commuting in the dark on the Springwater Corridor.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

If St Johns is to grow and require more people to move from there to the central city on a daily basis there are very few choices to increase transport volume. I5 North and Lombard are already gridlocked. Hwy 30 and the St Johns bridge are at capacity. The number of people that can be transported on Willamette by singe occupancy automobile is pitiful. The solution, a logical society, would arrive at is to make Greeley and Willamette a giant bike-only boulevard with separate lanes for e-bikes. It is that or we put our heads in the sand, and auto based traffic grinds to a crawl.

dan
Guest
dan

I love this vision! Let’s add a roof as well for year round comfort.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

PBOT was formed from 3 bureaus and numerous sections, from the old Department of Public Works, in the 1980s, as was BES. The Bureau of Maintenance (BOM) went to PBOT, but 30% of its budget comes from BES (mostly for sewer maintenance). After many reorganizations, PBOT “absorbed” these various bureaus, but obviously still doesn’t operate that way. Technically, all the groups in that repave and restripe a street operate within PBOT, but still are not communicating with each other, let alone work with one another. That was the case in 1987, still when I worked there 2000-2006, and apparently still today. PBOT’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is that whoever repaves a street, be it Maintenance or a hired contractor, must put the linework back the way they found it; any changes to striping must come later, when old striping is removed (“scratched off”) and new added afterwards. Very bureaucratic and inefficient, very PBOT.

Here in Greensboro NC (pop 288,000), the SOP is that whoever removes and replaces the pavement then chalk-marks the old lines, be it contractors or the city Department of Field Operations, but only GDOT has the machinery to put new striping in, so they design it and put it in. On any street where the posted limit is 35 mph or less, GDOT will put in 9-10 foot car lanes (to slow car traffic), 10-foot center turn lanes, and bike lanes when enough space is left over (at least 6-feet on each side; if there is more space, they’ll add buffered bike lanes.) There is a general policy to eliminate parking and/or car lanes on lower-traffic collector streets, after cursory public review (few people show up), filling the spaces with sometimes very wide bike lane buffers. On the faster streets (40+ mph) the city won’t add bike lanes (a set of battles we are still fighting, to get protected lanes on such streets.)

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

David, thanks for chiming in.

Scott Mizée
Guest

YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

thumbs up, now lets help them fight for it when the parking push-back happens.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Kudos to Friends of Willamette, everyone who signed the petition, and let’s not forget PBOT and Dan Saltzman. Comm Saltzman is not running for re-election and had no poltical need to listen to FoW, he did the right thing.

Dave Roth
Guest
Dave Roth

This is great news! As a resident of the area, a signee of the online petition, and a cyclist that regularly uses Willamette Blvd, I’m excited to hear that PBOT is making this simple and cost-effective measure to improve conditions for all road users.

That said, I am a little surprised that PBOT staff had not already identified this relatively straight-forward striping change simply as a matter of course for the repaving project.

Granted, removing on-street parking to increase cycling capacity/improve striping layouts can be a political challenge, but really – any and all repaving projects on the City’s capital improvement program/project list should be evaluated for these sorts of opportunities. They’re small wins that have a big impact.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

And these safety enhancements can be low cost if applied when streets are repaved…vs. being an independent project between paving cycles.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Crumb. They’re going to screw up my eveving commute. Unless they carry the cycle path all the way past Buchanan, so it’s easy to cut over to Edison, then I’ll have to figure how to cross Willamette at rush hour. Sigh.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Nevermind my comment. I overlooked the bike path on the residential side.

Scott Mizee
Guest

Todd Boulanger
Jonathan – I would love to throw another crazy (for now) dream ODoT bike facility on the students’ plate for the next project: how about a “protected bikeway” on the shoulder of 405…a stop light free ride from Mississippi to the Pearl District (Cook St to Glisan St)?…just sleep on it…think about it for a few days with a scotch and then think about it the next time you are driving this section.
Recommended 3

I think it is definitely an idea worth exploring, Todd.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Nice. Now lets hope they have the guts to stripe from Ida west…

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Why are they stopping at Woolsey? Why not take it all the way along the bluff to UP? I guess 1/2 way through the bluff they will shift everything back over to how it is now – about an 6-8′ shift in all lanes (@ Woolsey: bluff side bike lane will shift over 6′; residential-side bike lane will shift over 6′; car travel lanes will shift over 6′)? This seems like a 1/2 way effort….

It will be interesting to see how the 12′ combined non-car area on the bluff side gets used – now will it be filled with joggers, cars swerving around left-turning vehicles? And what will the joggers do at Woolsey – have to cross the street back to the residential side, or just keep running in the bike lane? Seems like they will need to add a zebra-stripe cross walk and perhaps an island at Woolsey, now.

JBone
Guest
JBone

Totally. I live in University Park and my family and I ride the bluff daily. Hate to bring negativity to what is hopefully the start of something good, but I have issue with the way this initiative has been rushed and incrementalized (sp?). Maybe it is the only way to pragmatically seize opportunity in this political climate, but it feels half-baked and destined to only confuse and polarize residents and users. While I get the notion of perfection being the enemy of good, I think the design could have been much better if there was more collective thought and buy-in; if you are going to do it, do it right the first time. Personally, I wish they would elevate the bikeway like they do in the great cycling cities of Europe (and Multnomah Blvd:)

Steve
Guest
Steve

Couldn’t agree more, they repaved that section either last year or the year prior, I forget, but they could easily enough restripe. And don’t forget the buses.

rick
Guest
rick

very glad to see more space dedicated to people who want to see the view while on a skateboard, wheelchair, roller blades, etc.

Travis
Guest
Travis

Obviously advocacy for Willamette is far from over. Just last year last at Portsmouth and Willamette, more parking was added without zero improvements for cyclists. The situation was actually made worse.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Yes, this additional block of added street parking inside the bike lane where UP built their new dorm was quite a surprising stab in the back. Getting door-ed there is now a big concern.

RH
Guest
RH

This is great news. Where I scratch me head is that this project is going forward very quickly. Many other projects seem to take years and have many meetings, etc…

Scott Mizée
Guest
Barry Cochran
Subscriber

The headlie could also read “Many neighbors excited to have safer biking on Willamette.” I’m one.

Scott Mizée
Guest
Scott Mizée
Guest

I was trying to reply to Barry. This is a map of the North Portland Neighborhoods that should be able to see the current Nextdoor discussion regarding this project.

Barry Cochran
Subscriber

That clarifies things. Thank you, Scott.

Phil Richman
Subscriber

Thank you Friends of Willamette, Dan Saltzman & PBOT! Let Portland be a Vision Zero leader, not a laggard!