A developer has offered to pitch in $250,000 toward a significant upgrade to the bikeway and sidewalk on NW 14th between Kearney and Lovejoy.
The Portland Bureau of Development Services says Killian Pacific has proposed to set aside the money as one of several options to gain permission from the Design Commission to make their 78-unit Lovejoy Square project four stories higher. In a memo (PDF) filed last week, BDS wrote that the “NW 14th Street Improvements” could include: “traffic study, protected bike lane, bike box & Lovejoy signal, bike sharing station, storm water planter, sidewalk extensions on both east and west intersections, concrete sidewalks at Kearney to cleanly terminate the cobble stone area, and removing existing asphalt and concrete patches and restoring cobblestones along NW Kearney.”
A preliminary drawing of the proposed street upgrades done by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (above) shows the bike lane and sidewalk concept. By extending the curb 25-feet to the west, it would be a significant change to this block of 14th (which is one-way northbound). As we detailed during our NW Portland Week coverage last year, NW 14th is a key piece of the bike network that leaves much to be desired. The current cross-section has five lanes: a bike lane sandwiched between two standard vehicle lanes and two lanes used for auto parking. One block south (at the REI store) is a door-zone bike lane.
The Pearl District Neighborhood Association is in full support of the proposal. They voted 8-2 in favor of it at the December 19th meeting of their Planning and Transportation Committee. Here’s an excerpt from a letter they sent to BDS yesterday:
“As a gateway into the neighborhood from I-405 and an edge street with few stop-controlled intersections, NW 14th Avenue can often feel hostile for pedestrians crossing on foot and bicyclists riding along northbound. The current condition of the block in question is a vestige from the era where this location was primarily industrial in nature and when the Lovejoy viaduct touched down at NW 14th. The 16-foot wide right turn only lane on this block of 14th creates an excessively long crossing distance (50 feet) between curbs, which increases exposure to passing car traffic and detracts from the pedestrian experience which is highly uncharacteristic for this eminently walkable neighborhood. The setback crossing reduces the visibility of pedestrians waiting at the NE corner of 14th and Kearney, while the expanse of pavement encourages motorists to increase speeds and reduces safety for bicycle riders that are navigating the existing merge point.
The Pearl District is classified by the city as a “Pedestrian District” and a “Bicycle District” in the Transportation System Plan. Increasing pedestrian and bicycle safety along NW 14th Avenue is a major priority for the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, and the proposed concept would help meet these goals by better defining the corners of the intersections at Kearney and Lovejoy and creating a more intimate, pedestrian-scale environment that’s conducive to slower vehicular speeds and easier pedestrian crossings. In addition, it would eliminate the need for right turning motorists to merge across the bike lane by adding a new protected right turn signal and bicycle signal at 14th and Lovejoy. Furthermore, these streetscape improvements combined with new proposed retail spaces will help activate the street frontage along the east side of 14th.”
What makes this developer’s timing even better is that the Portland Bureau of Transportation has chosen NW 14th as a future protected bike lane couplet with NW 16th as part of the planning work for the Central City in Motion project. We’ve highlighted the NW 14th corridor and the Johnson-to-Kearney section in PBOT’s graphic below…
Having a developer pay for a protected bike lane would also be a win for PBOT Director Leah Treat. In 2015 she sent around an internal agency memo that protected bike lanes should be the default bikeway treatment. And, as reported by People for Bikes, PBOT is also working toward a more binding administrative rule that would require developers to pay for protected bike lanes with new buildings, similar to the current requirement for sidewalks. In November 2015 Treat told the Bicycle Advisory Committee that she was serious about the new design standard. “This is where we’re starting from,” she said, “so you in the private sector have to back me down from there and you have to convince me otherwise.”
While Killian Pacific’s proposal won’t be reviewed until a January 25th Design Commission work session, initial feedback from the City of Portland has been positive. In the BDS memo the “staff recommendation” states that the protected bike lane concept “would consitute a substantial public amenity.”
From here the developer will have a month to refine the concept with PBOT and come up with a more detailed plan and cost estimates. If you’d like to tell BDS how you feel about this, you can email comments to Planner Puja Bhutani at Puja.bhutani [at] portlandoregon.gov. You can also testify at the Design Commissioner hearing today (12/21 at 1900 SW 4th Avenue – 2nd Floor – Room 2500B) or at a follow-up hearing on January 25th.
(Thanks to Next Portland for the sleuthing on this one.)
(Note: This post didn’t initially make it clear that the concept drawing of the protected bikeway was created by PBOT. Sorry for the oversight and any confusion.)
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