Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 7th, 2017 at 3:37 pm
If your understanding of Portland is only through Portlandia episodes or the glowing, brochure-like visions shared in magazines and conference presentations, you might think we ride everywhere on perfect paths while passersby wave at us benevolently.
As real as it may seem, that happens only my dreams (thanks Debbie Gibson).
The reality is often much different: Some Portlanders — even those who ostensibly “support biking” — will fight against safer streets. Usually the backlash is motivated by a loss (real or perceived) of driving convenience. Often it’s just about distrust in the City of Portland, a general fear of change, the feeling that “they” are gaining while “we” are losing, or all of the above.
We’ve got our eyes on two projects where opposition hasn’t yet boiled over, but is definitely starting to simmer.
Lincoln-Harrison Neighborhood Greenway (PBOT website)
As part of their renewed approach to “legacy greenways” (a.k.a. older bike boulevards that need to be updated to current standards) PBOT is spending arond $170,000 to tame auto traffic and improve the cycling environment on Lincoln-Harrison between Clay and 64th.
One way that’s proven to be effective at keeping cut-through traffic to a minimum is to install raised medians (diverters) at strategic locations. There are several diverters planned for this project, and it appears there’s growing unease about them among some people in the neighborhood.
Someone posted to the BikeLoud PDX email list last week that, “As with many bikeway improvements in the city that involve diversion of cars, there is always opposition from neighbors worried about their street and access to their houses. It’s clear that the improvements to the Lincoln/Harrison Greenway is also bringing out this opposition.” The man said a special meeting hosted by the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association on November 2nd was, “dominated by these neighbors.”
If a flyer being distributed in the neighborhod is any indication, it appears that much of the opposition is to the proposed diverter on Lincoln at SE 50th. An unknown source has framed the issue as PBOT purposely diverting more traffic onto adjacent streets and completely ignoring the safety benefits of reduced motor vehicle access (emphasis theirs):
“The City is ready to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to change our neighborhood forever. Why? Not for safer neighborhoods, not for better streets, not to reduce the impact of unmanaged growth — no, the City of Portland says it hopes to, ‘create a low-stress environment for people walking and biking.’
Join your neighbors in telling the City “Enough is enough!”
Tax dollars must be spent to solve real problems, not on unproven experiments with unintended consequences that erode our neighborhoods.”
Both sides of this issue are mobilizing behind the scenes and encouraging supporters to fill out PBOT’s online survey about the project and attend the first open house tomorrow (11/8) at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church (2408 SE 16th Ave).
Willamette Blvd Re-striping (PBOT website)
As we’ve been reporting, this project is pretty straightforward. PBOT seized an opportunity to improve a bikeway that’s been unsafe for many years.
But if you think PBOT can repurpose space currently used (albeit very sparingly) for on-street parking — and do it in relative lightning speed compared to standard operating procedure — in order to expand bicycle access and not hear from some number of disgruntled people, you must be new to this.
I’ve downplayed opposition to this project because there’s really no defensible argument against it (if there is I haven’t heard it). However, after I received an anonymous phone call from a very irate woman over the weekend, I don’t think any celebrations should happen until the paint has dried. About that call: I picked up the phone even though it was an unknown number (being accessible is part of my job) and a woman began screaming at me. She said all the classic things: “You people don’t even pay taxes! I’ve lived in my house for 62 years!” and so on. I listened and told her I pay taxes too and reminded her she owns a home and a yard, not the street. She eventually just hung-up, mid tirade.
I’ve also got people monitoring Nextdoor for discussion about the project and they tell me there’s been quite a few people upset about the plan (see image). Someone has also posted a petition titled: “Portland Residents against the removal of parking on Willamette Blvd between Rosa Parks Way and Woolsey Avenue”. People being upset on Nextdoor isn’t necessarily anything to worry about, but I’m not taking any chances.
Neither is Kiel Johnson. He’s the guy whose quick action in forming Friends of Willamette Blvd added fuel to a fire started by a group of neighborhood activists. He emailed supporters of the project on Sunday, urging them to contact PBOT Commissioner Dan Saltzman. That was after Johnson and a crew of concerned citizens went door-to-door on Willamette to discuss the project with residents and invite them to a celebratory potluck on November 18th.
Unless PBOT backpedals, the new striping should be in place by then. Whether it’s a celebration, will depend on who you ask.
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