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

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.


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.

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

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