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Willamette Blvd celebration planned as media and some neighors react predictably

Posted by on November 3rd, 2017 at 10:04 am

Should be striped in the next few weeks.

In case you missed it (it came as an update to a previous story), the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced a plan Tuesday to update lane striping on Willamette Boulevard in order to create more space for bicycling.

The additional space required for re-striping the street will require removing automobile parking on N Willamette from N Rosa Parks Way to N Woolsey Ave
— PBOT

After a paving project kicked off last month, a neighborhood group called Friends of Willamette Blvd seized the opportunity to re-stripe the street. They launched an online petition and encouraged people to email City Hall demanding better bike access between Rosa Parks and Woolsey (the boundaries of the paving project). The response was overwhelming (415 people in less than 24 hours) and it persuaded City Commissioner Dan Saltzman to direct the Portland Bureau of Transportation to re-stripe the street.

PBOT released their new plans for Willamette just four hours after we reported Commissioner Saltzman’s promise. Friends of Willamettee Blvd volunteer Kiel Johnson announced shortly after that they’re hosting a potluck on Saturday November 18th to celebrate.

The new design includes an 8-foot wide bike lane on the residential (north) side of the street and a 12-foot wide bike lane and shoulder (for walking and transit stops) on the bluff side. The new design has 15 feet of dedicated cycling space (including 3.5-feet in buffers) — that’s about 4.5-feet more than we have now. The total width of the street is 40-feet. PBOT is able to create larger bikeways and a shoulder without widening the street because they are repurposing 7.5-feet currently used for parking cars. The two standard lanes will also be 10-feet wide, slightly narrower than they are today.

(Many of you have wondered why there’s no physical separation in these plans. Good question. Part of it is because this is just a late add-on to the existing paving project and there was no formal process or budget to do a more high-quality bikeway. It’s possible PBOT will retrofit these new buffer zones (and many miles of them on other streets) with a new protected bike lane design they’re currently working on.)

While many are celebrating this much-needed improvement, as you might have expected, some people are not so thrilled.

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N Willamette Blvd bike lanes-9

Help is on the way my friend.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“Remember this: the people on the bluff are living in houses worth well over half a million dollars. They, and people like them, are the ones providing the lion’s share of taxes for bike lanes in the city. Maybe you should take their opinion into consideration.”
— Samuel Partridge, via a BikePortland comment

Samuel Partridge lives on Willamette. He left two comments on BikePortland this week expressing his concerns. He thinks the driving lanes are what need to be expanded. “Bike travel isn’t the problem on Willamette; it’s driving down that road that’s hell. I’ve done both, and currently I’d rather bike down that road than drive it.” He also suggested that when people buy a house they also have a right to on-street parking. “If you buy a house in an area with on-street parking,” he wrote, “you wouldn’t object to the city deciding you’re no longer allowed to park in front of your own house?”

Then Partridge shared that the houses owned by people on Willamette are “worth well over half a million dollars.” “They, and people like them,” he continued, “Are the ones providing the lion’s share of taxes for bike lanes in the city. Maybe you should take their opinion into consideration.”

And last night our local FOX affiliate station KPTV was the first to report on the project. Their story was so predictable it could have written itself. “Neighbors upset over losing parking,” reads their headline; but you can’t lose something you never owned.

A KPTV reporter talked to a resident who said they received letters about the project just this week and were informed it would be completed by mid-November. Here’s more from the story:

Ryan said she is upset because the project will eliminate street parking on the north side of Willamette Blvd, right in front of her home.

“The people who are for the bike lanes argue that we only use the bike lanes less than 20 percent of the time, however, that’s because we go to work, we go to school, we run errands, we don’t have cars to leave in front of our houses,” she said.

… neighbors like Ryan said they wish they knew sooner so they could have fought the plan.

It should be obvious, but it appears some people forget that they own their house and their lot, not the street in front of it. Streets are owned the public. We all pay taxes and we all have an equal say in how they are used.

And it’s worth remembering the history of this project.

In 2010 PBOT was prepared to make major changes to Willamette in order to improve bicycle safety. Before that project was ever made public, PBOT made a jaw-dropping move: They asked people who live on Willamette if they’d be willing to give up “their” parking spaces to make a safer bikeway. What do you think they said? When neighbors objected, PBOT backed down. Despite some minor improvements to the bikeway in 2014, bicycle users continued to risk their safety for another seven years because PBOT was afraid to upset a few dozen people who felt entitled to use the street to store their private property.

That’s why I don’t feel much sympathy for neighbors who claim they weren’t notified this time around.

Current conditions on Willamette north of Rosa Parks. Note the free storage of private cars in the lane on the right.

As we move forward with this project, remember that between Rosa Parks and Woolsey there are only about two dozen single-family homes that face Willamette. Every one of them has a driveway and/or is on a corner with access to a sidestreet. As someone who rides and drives that section of street several times a week at all hours of the day, I can say there’s very rarely more than two or three cars parked there.

But let’s not get into the habit of thinking we can use road space for mobility — instead of parking — only when parking is rare. We shouldn’t need justification. As our city grows and our streets don’t, space will always be at a premium. Parking private vehicles (especially for free) should be a very low priority. Use of our streets to park cars is not an identified goal in any major plan adopted by City Council.

As for the future of Willamette Blvd, this section is just one of many that needs attention. St. Johns and nearby neighborhoods are growing fast and Willamette Blvd is becoming a crucial link between downtown and the peninsula. We need a safer bikeway (and safer crossings) near University of Portland and we must fill in the bikeway gap that currently exists on Willamette between N. Alma and the St. Johns Bridge in the Cathedral Park neighborhood.

Hopefully we’ll see more outcomes like this project very soon. Stay tuned.

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

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bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I lived on a cul de sac in Salem a while back, and a few years after we had purchased our house the fire department decided the street and the cul de sac were not wide enough for fire trucks with cars parked ,so the city put up no parking signs and eliminated all street parking. Sorry Samual, but the temporary privilege of storing your belongings on public property can be revoked for any number of good reasons that serve the interests of the public.

mran1984
Guest

When Portland was a far better place to live parking was never an issue. ***deleted by moderator. Please be nicer mran. thanks. – jonathan*** and take the ugly apartments with you. Chicago and New York are full of people. Free parking? This state is fueled with property taxes. You have no issues with free camping. I would rather park a car on the street than ride through garbage while the stench of urine pollutes my experience as well. It’s not better.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Lots of people seem to have a sense of entitlement to public space which is really about the public good. There is nothing new about people needing to pay for their own parking as many people who live in busy areas know.

This is a case where not using public streets for storage can benefit drivers and cyclists alike. Make this area more cycle friendly, and more will take that option opening capacity for other drivers.

Less friendliness will only exacerbate the effect of natural chokepoints making it still less friendly adding more vehicles guaranteeing misery to all but the more dedicated cyclists.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

I own a house on Willamette*; it’s worth approximately half-a-million dollars. Thanks PBOT for using my “lions-share of taxes” to help make my primary method of transport slightly safer and more comfortable. Next let’s please continue it westward.

(*Not in the project area, but close. I park my less-preferred method of transport in my driveway.)

FauxPorteur
Guest
FauxPorteur

I ride this section at least 8 times a week. The current “parking lane” is so under utilized that I actually bike in it most of the time.

wsbob
Guest

“…It should be obvious, but it appears some people forget that they own their house and their lot, not the street in front of it. Streets are owned the public. We all pay taxes and we all have an equal say in how they are used. …” maus/bikeportland

Homeowners are the public…and as such, they do have ownership of the street in front of their house, in their neighborhood and throughout the city. For concerns associated with street functionality and neighborhood livability, they definitely are due some say in how the street in front of their house is used by the greater public.

In the particular situation existing on Willamette Blvd, personally, my thought is if loss of curb parking is the major issue homeowners are objecting to about this plan, I’d have to question whether that’s really the scale of issue they may currently feel it is. People being creatures of habit, they get used to something a certain, and then figure there’s no way they can do it any other way. Some years back in Beaverton on a comparatively lower traffic street, Lombard, some of the homeowner neighbors were upset about losing their curb parking. The city was receptive; gave some of them breaks and variances so they could create more parking space in their front yards. It’s not perfect, but now the street has a bike lane, which helps people riding, a lot, in contending with motor vehicle traffic on that street.

Been years since I’ve ridden Willamette Blvd. My impression then was the main issue was the mph posted speed, and motor vehicle traveled speed, was far too high. It’s a shame, because, right on the river, and Forest Park right across from it, that road is one of the city’s most scenic routes, and it seems like it would a great asset to have the functionality of the road brought to a level in which the opportunity for relaxing and safe biking and walking are one of its best features.

RH
Guest
RH

FYI, typo in the headline..”neighors”

rick
Guest
rick

glad to hear of new, more narrow car lanes

Cory P
Guest
Cory P

Wow! A rare example of public safety winning out over parking.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

One of your best headlines ever.

Mary
Guest
Mary

Thank you for covering this story and exciting development in my community. I wish your headline didn’t imply the same line of thinking that the Fox news coverage did – that “neighbors” are against this. How about adding the word, “some” in there?

Many of us who live in this area are VERY excited and grateful to the people in the community and leaders who made it happen.

A small number of people who are immediate neighbors will be negatively impacted in that they will lose their free street parking. They are frightened and stressed out and feeling like they didn’t have input is adding to their frustration. FWIW, I think it’s not helpful to say you ‘can’t lose something you never owned’ – this will in fact change the way that space is used and for some people, having free parking in front of their house (in addition to their driveways) is more important than all the other benefits. Denying their feelings of loss are legit isn’t helpful. That doesn’t mean we have to make policy based on those feelings. A larger number of people are upset by anything they see as taking away from autos and the ways that cities are going to have to change. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments needed, and it’s going to be hard for people. Especially since transit isn’t keeping up very well.

Well, anyway – this is one neighbor who is really looking forward to this, and to the celebration!

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

playing devil’s advocate here, but all the bike racks, bike corrals and biketown stations are also on public property. I wish the arguement was more along the lines of public good than “it’s not your space”

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Now if only they’d remove parking on Skidmore between Interstate and MLK.

Barry Cochran
Subscriber

I wonder how many of the homeowners on Willamette actually *paid* half-a-million for their homes when they bought them? I think about this when these “neighbors” fret about the fantasy that bike lanes instead of street parking will reduce their property values. Nothing in Portland has made property values go *down* for several years. At the very worst, their home values might skyrocket slightly more slowly. But I doubt even that will happen, at least not as a result of bike lanes.

Shoupian
Subscriber
Shoupian

“… currently I’d rather bike down that road than drive it” – Yes! That’s exactly how the streets in Portland supposed to function. To make bicycling more popular, people need to actually feel that bicycling is more convenient than driving.

“He also suggested that when people buy a house they also have a right to on-street parking.” – Not sure where he got that idea from. When you buy a property, you don’t also buy or own any right to store your private vehicle on public right-of-way. All the houses that front on Willamette Blvd have garages and long driveways. There is plenty of private space for private car store. You don’t own the curb space in front of your property, no matter how entitled you may feel.

“… neighbors like Ryan said they wish they knew sooner so they could have fought the plan.” – PBOT actually has a lot of discretion in how much public involvement a project needs. There is no rule that says you must hold x number of meetings or collect x number of comments before you can do street improvements. I wish PBOT can be bold and decisive more often and make our streets safer by and not be dragged down by reactionary naysayers. So many projects get delayed or compromised by unnecessary, lengthy public processes because homeowners don’t want to lose the on-street parking spaces that aren’t theirs to begin with.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

I am glad that PBoT had this plan [with expanded bike lanes] already prepared and could act promptly when the council member “blessed” this concept after a public request petition, BUT this does bring up an even more important process and liability question:

Now that the CoP has Complete Streets and Vision Zero policies through adoption my City Council…WHY would staff then attempt to implement a striping plan that would be judged as having a LOWER degree of traffic safety [for all modes]?…

Matthew in Portsmouth
Guest
Matthew in Portsmouth

I live near Willamette and regularly cycle along this stretch and occasionally drive along it. The on street parking between Woolsey and Rosa Parks is rarely utilized at any time of the day or night. As many have pointed out, all these homes have ample off-street parking. Paying higher or lower taxes doesn’t get you more or less in public services, if you were paying a resident parking fee, then we could talk.

I don’t like driving along Willamette because it is difficult to turn left into it from one of the side streets, and I prefer to do my commuting along main arterials, such as Lombard, to keep through traffic out of residential streets as much as possible.

Adding the additional bike lane space and narrowing the motor vehicle lane will add to the road diet that Willamette recently got when the speed limit was reduced from 35 to 30 mph. A narrower lane should encourage most drivers to slow down. In addition to it being a major bicycle route, Willamette has a lot of pedestrian traffic, so it is critical to make it as safe as possible for all road users.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Perhaps as a back-up plan…’someone’ may want to reach out to a local ADA accessibility advocacy group and get their “support” for this striping plan since it vastly improves pedestrian access to the west side transit stops…may be the COP / PBOT needs a letter threatening an ADA suit if the walking lane with a bike lane buffer (and no parking) is not constructed.

joeb
Guest
joeb

Freakin’ Aye. I guess I’m late to this party, but I have always thought it was a shame that this beautiful stretch of bluff overlooking the city was meant to be experienced at 35-45 MPH. I am more excited about the pedestrian facility than I am the improved bike lanes since that was not at all available before.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

This is a big step for PBoT, fully 8 out of 10.

That said, it’s certainly not the best they could have done. I get that this project will only involve striping, no concrete, and that the north side must have the ability for a bus to pull over to pick-up/discharge passengers without blocking the travel lane, so some parameters are fixed. However, within those fixed parameters I sure would have liked to see the buffer strips narrowed to a single foot with the extra width used in the bike lanes.

Buffers are slippery when wet, at least for cyclists. It seems unsafe to add more thermoplastic that doesn’t actually add to anyone’s safety but does add a hazard for cyclists in the name of cyclist safety. For those who want to ride further from the travel lane, they would still be able to whether the buffer is one foot or two feet, so there’s no loss for them.

Granted, this is a quibble at the margins. I only bring it up because it is indicative of PBoT’s attitude that bikes don’t need but five feet of space with slippery hazards on either edge, an attitude with which I disagree.

Stephan
Guest
Stephan

It will remain to be seen how PBOT follows through amidst protests by some neighbors. Until then I hold back my praise. And improving the bike lane is really just showing up for work — and that even needed some prodding. Protected bike lanes would really be required, and that is also the city’s default, at least on paper. http://peopleforbikes.org/blog/portland-is-first-u-s-city-to-make-protection-the-default-for-all-new-bike-lanes/

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

They’ll adjust and get over it. It’s inevitable that on street parking will be removed one way or another. Either repurposed as a specific mode travel lane or it will be another general travel lane.

It is too bad that it couldn’t have been made up to AAA standards but a future upgrade should be planned for now. The current paving could be designed in a way to make that easier and cheaper in the future. Also a timeline of when it will happen.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

One concern I have is that without on-street parking, delivery vehicles will block the bike lane, forcing riders out into the 30mph(!) vehicle travel lanes.

Takethelane
Guest
Takethelane

I think Barry Cochran missed the point on the half million dollar homes. The owners may have bought the home when it was affordable, but now the taxes are through the roof. I really wanted to buy my family home in the West Hills at one point, only to realize I could not even afford to own it even if they gave it to me for free. Their taxes alone were higher than my taxes, mortgage and insurance payments combined!

The eBike Store
Guest

without the physical barrier, this project feel like a continuation of ‘share the road’ more than ‘Vision Zero’. Isnt the goal to never have a bikeway next to an arterial without a physical divider? I seem to remember a crazy higher mortality rate for car-bike collisions at 35+ mph vs. 20mph-

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

Let’s get this paving and restriping done! Congrats neighbors for public use of public space!
Now let’s get busy building the N. Portland Willamette Greenway Trail from the Esplanade to Kelly Point Park!
Key sections: Around the Bluff, Basin Avenue on Swan Island, and last but not least converting the private Ash Grove Cement Road into a public right of way with a nice 14 foot wide BikePed facility on the River side!

Doper
Guest
Doper

Willamette used to have 3 or 4 car travel lanes about 20 years ago, right? I remember the “cold dead hands” resistance from the homeowners when car lanes were reduced and bike lanes added. This current minor resistance will pass. The street will be wonderful. I may let my kids ride alone on the new street.

SD
Guest
SD

Is “neighors” meant to be clever word play? As in those who neigh like a horse or who always say “no.”

Takethelane
Guest
Takethelane

I’m with Lenny. I’d really like to see the East Esplanade extended from the Steel Bridge at least to Cathedral Park in Saint Johns.
Has anyone notices the improvements on Greeley? Now they just need to build a sky bridge heading south over the on ramp from Going St. and a bike path on the west side of the trees going all the way to at least to Interstate Avenue. Perhaps some legislation similar to what the train companies used in their heyday to get their right of ways could be created. I am surprised that I have not heard of any deaths or serious injuries from cyclists trying to cross in front of the on ramp to I-5 from Greeley, yet. Talk about scary!

Emily Guise (Contributor)
Subscriber

So great to see Friends of Willamette seize the opportunity to finally get better bike lanes on this street! Of course I’d like to see actual protection, but this is absolutely a step in the right direction. Can’t wait to ride the new configuration!

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

The new striping on Willamette is nearing completion. It looks pretty good.