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Here’s what you missed at the SW Naito project open house

Posted by on January 11th, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Screengrab from a video released by PBOT last night of the changes proposed on SW Naito.

In case it’s not obvious yet, we think the SW Naito project being cooked up by the Bureau of Transportation is going to be a huge deal. If it turns out well, it could be the southern leg of a dedicated, protected bikeway that runs from SW Lincoln to the Steel Bridge. That would make it one of the highest profile bikeways in Portland.

If you didn’t make it to the first open house last night, I want to make sure you saw all the materials that were presented.

Check the flyover video of the entire project that PBOT has released:

PBOT also unveiled three before-after images of key sections on the route and a detailed rendering of the “Hawthorne Bowl” area of Waterfront Park adjacent to SW Jefferson:

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I look forward to sharing more about this project in the months to come (notice I didn’t say years!).

If you were at the open house, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how the room felt and what you heard/overheard.

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

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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

  • David January 11, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    This looks to be a great project if done right. I managed to get the ear of a few people last night including the designers for the project and beyond letting them know that they should not compromise on the design as there need to be ample bike facilities I also communicated the shortcomings below.

    The south end of this project area is still very weak and as much as Harrison to the Hawthorne Bridge will be nice they don’t address how people will get to the facility from the south. The paving will begin on the south end where Kelly and Naito merge but there won’t be any improvements until you get to Harrison. This represents a missed opportunity to do something, anything, about the “merge” from Naito into the bike lane that comes into the roadway from Kelly. Also anyone who has gotten on the MUP at Lincoln can attest that the opening from the bike lane is narrow unless you’re stopping your bike to get in. Without several million additional dollars and likely cooperation from ODOT this won’t be solved but it can be improved with better signage, paint, and maybe even some wands to indicate to drivers of cars/trucks that there are cyclists and they need to be allowed to get to the bike lane.

    I’m really hoping they can find a way to improve those two spots (and maybe even find a way to create a buffered bike lane for the block south of Lincoln) so we don’t have to look for the SW Corridor project to fix the issue (it won’t) whenever that finally happens.

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    • stephan January 11, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      Sounds like SW Moody around the tram. Feels nice to ride on it but it remains a patchwirk design.
      One thing from that patch that has been irking me: there is no space for more than 2-3 bikes to wait at Tillikum crossing to cross Moody. If Naito is supposed to be a connection to downtown for lots of bike riders then there got to be space for them to wait before making turns onto streets leading to downtown areas.

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  • JeffS January 11, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    I heard several bike advocates who are more concerned about ideological stances, and attracting people who don’t ride than they are about the concerns and safety of those who currently do ride, and those they hope to convert to riders.

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  • William Henderson January 11, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    **Standing ovation**

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    • William Henderson January 11, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      One thing I want to call out explicitly: this project, assuming it gets done, is happening because it is politically popular. To me, this is everything. When was the last time a bike project was a political win in Portland?

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      • rick January 11, 2018 at 9:25 pm

        SW Capitol Highway project to the north of SW Taylor’s Ferry Road? Except the governors desk.

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  • Maria January 11, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Wow, this is really exciting! I feel like this will increase the credibility of cyclists in Portland as drivers will actually see how many of us there instead of “hiding” on greenways. Don’t get me wrong, I love greenways too.

    Anyway, I am grateful to Better Block PDX for creating the practice “Better Naito” experience, which I’m sure went a long way in legitimizing the idea to PBOT.

    Also, the video itself is pretty dang cool. My favorite part is toward the end when the flyover seems to biff a cyclist on the back of the helmet!

    Thanks to everyone involved!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 11, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks for the comment Maria. I love hearing your excitement! I’m soooo ready to be excited about bike infrastructure in this town.

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    • Kyle Banerjee January 12, 2018 at 6:38 am

      The flyover is a good way to present this and I believe this project will improve safety and flow for all major groups.

      I do not share your optimism that this will enhance the credibility of cyclists even if I expect it will be among the more heavily used sections of bike infrastructure.

      One of the major ideas that uniting riders and nonriders alike on this project is that cyclists don’t belong on the roads. I find it ironic that of all the places I’ve lived, Portland has the highest percentage of cyclists who buy into this notion. Strikes me as a great way to wind up with a situation where the only people cycling are a small core who rides everywhere and casual recreational cyclists who take short slow hops when the weather is good.

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      • chris m January 12, 2018 at 8:54 am

        A much bigger challenge is turning non-riders into occasional riders than turning occasional riders into regular riders. Once you start doing a few short hops in nice weather it becomes progressively easier to make a habit of it, then gear up for rain, etc.

        Also, a city with a lot of people traveling by bike will by definition have a lot of people who are not very fit/good at biking/not wanting to take long trips riding bikes. Even in the Netherlands (which has cyclists willing to bike a relatively long distance), 34% of trips up to 7.5 km are cycle trips, and only 15% between 7.5 km and 10 km. (old data, but I doubt it’s changed much).

        At these distances speed is just not that important… at 12 mph (a fairly slow pace even stopping some) you cover 4 miles in 20 minutes, vs. 16 minutes at 15 MPH. So while I like to ride fast on occasion I think it’s pretty clear that it’s more important to optimize infrastructure for safety over speed, given the reality of how short most bike trips will be.

        And at about 7 miles almost everyone will favor cars anyways I think, especially given the infrastructure at one end of a seven mile trip is likely to be pretty bad.

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        • Kyle Banerjee January 12, 2018 at 10:04 am

          For short distances, speed is irrelevant and slow but fully separated infrastructure works great. But cycling is relevant only when you can actually bike where you need to go.

          My personal experience with commuting, visiting people, activities, and just about everything about groceries and going out to local establishments is that distances are great enough that speed matters.

          I ride because it is faster, more fun, and I get exercise. All the same, I’d switch to driving if my only cycling option is to go at 10mph as it takes away every reason I cycle. If I’m going nowhere fast, I can at least spend it in my own private/pleasant environment.

          As far as attracting new riders go, I’ve done that for a number of people — including two (coworker and neighbor) who went from nonrider to over 20 miles one way commute. Doing that is all about showing people how they can just roll out the door, have fun, get where they want to be, and help them wrap their minds around drivers/weather/hills/mechanicals/sweat/whatever.

          If you demonize SUV and pickup drivers or anyone else, they won’t become cyclists. BTW, that neighbor I converted to a distance commuter drove a monster truck and took a lot of flak from his friends for it. If you want credibility around motorists you want riding, act like a normal human who wants to show them a good thing and help rather than an enemy who seeks to have them punished.

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          • soren January 16, 2018 at 9:25 am

            I want to see cycling mode share increase so I am OK with building infrastructure that upsets the 0.1% who cycle long distances at >15 mph. And the enormous increase in cycling mode share in Vancouver BC more than justifies this approach!

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      • Chris I January 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

        Have you ever met a side path that you liked?

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      • soren January 15, 2018 at 11:51 am

        “One of the major ideas that uniting riders and nonriders alike on this project is that cyclists don’t belong on the roads.”

        Exactly backwards. I believe that people walking and rolling have more of a right to roads than people driving.

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  • bikeninja January 11, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Thumbs up, something to be excited about, instead of mad or disappointed.

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  • HiHeyThereHello January 11, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    I wonder if it’d be at all possible to build the path around the Police Memorial and under the bridge, like this?

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  • SafeStreetsPlease January 11, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    More of this PBOT. MORE OF THIS!!!

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  • Eric Leifsdad January 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    The ramp onto the outer lane of the Hawthorne bridge is a big complication in the traffic flow and looks like a major cost to the construction and maintenance. Why not close it? Look at how much cost and conflict is eliminated by sending auto traffic around the block. Yes, it would cut car throughput “capacity” i.e. traffic. Do we believe in induced demand? Do we want more car traffic?

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    • Paul Cone January 11, 2018 at 8:36 pm

      They are going to put a signal there that works with one coming from Madison on to the bridge, so when the Madison signal is red, the ramp from Naito gets a green.

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    • maxD January 12, 2018 at 9:56 am

      Great idea Eric! When I was living in Vancouver BC they were removing the freeway-style ramps from their urban bridges. There was a lot of uproar about traffic grinding to a halt, etc- the usual. In fact, it had very little effect on traffic and greatly increased safety using less infrastructure!

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  • Bik January 11, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Wow, this is really exciting!…

    Also, the video itself is pretty dang cool. My favorite part is toward the end when the flyover seems to biff a cyclist on the back of the helmet!Thanks to everyone involved!

    Yup, you could almost hear the tonk!
    It was white knuckles for me when I see the approach, aiming direct into that cyclist’s head. Must have given him quite a scare; a virtual scare is still a scare, right?

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  • David Hampsten January 11, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Since I didn’t attend, living as I am 2,800 miles east, I can only read the website link to PBOT for the project.

    I hate to say anything negative but please note the ominous words “the project may include”, “the project is exploring” and “… are possible”, with no cost estimates and no firm funding. Even the construction dates are nebulous.

    I’ve never met a project that has explored anything yet, just people who do so.

    Good luck.

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    • Austin January 12, 2018 at 11:34 am

      If you really want to check out some fun stuff, look at PBOT’s facebook post about this project. Great reviews such as “Bike lanes are more important than people” and “How about actually repairing the car lanes full of pot holes??? Oh wait, I forgot the bicycle lobby is under the sheets with twinkle toes Ted Wheeler playing footsies. That explains everything.”

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  • stephan January 11, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    I assume there are no words from the Portland Business Alliance yet? They did stage an Anti-Better Nairobi campaign last summer. I would not be surprised to see some pushback from that side, and then we’ll see how strong PBOT’s commitment is.

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    • stephan January 11, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      Anti-Better Naito campaign. Darn auto-correction.

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  • rick January 11, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    Very good, but Naito to the south of I-405 needs a makeover.

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    • Momo January 12, 2018 at 2:56 pm

      That part belongs to ODOT. Makes it a lot harder to do anything.

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  • Clark in Vancouver January 11, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    This is really good. It’s nice to see it being planned. I do see a couple places it can be improved though. Here’s my critique.

    – Along part of it the cycling part and the walking part are at the same level and only delineated with paint. This is bad. People will just end up walking on the bike part. When people walk they need to feel something on their feet to know that they’re hitting the edge of their area. Even just having the walking part an inch or two higher would be enough. If there’s a reason it can’t the something tactile should be there. A raised curb or strip of lawn. (Also the crosswalk should be at the height of the sidewalk when it crosses the cycle path.)

    – At the intersections where motor vehicles turn in, the cycling path should curve inward so that the driver can more easily look to see if someone is coming. There is enough room here to have that happen. I see that there is a bit of inward curve but it’s not enough. Ideally it should be a car length in so when someone is driving they are at 90º to people cycling.

    Other than that it’s great! Hopefully the start of more in the future.

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    • Richard January 12, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      I’m beyond here for this 100% (SO EXCITED!), and I totally agree with what may seem nit-picky to some but totally legit for anyone taking the bike route to Tilikum. One would think simply painting the ground green would signal that it is a bike lane, but you’d be surprised how many people treat it like a green sidewalk. It’s impressive. Anyways, that small detail aside, these types of infra changes are what many expect from Portland, and I hope they happen more often. Love!

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  • Justin January 12, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Excited to see an even better Better Naito!

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  • TonyT
    TonyT January 12, 2018 at 9:15 am

    This is good. But I also think that our over-the-moon excitement about this shows us how poorly we are served and how little/none of our bike infrastructure is world-class.

    This stretch is 1.3 miles and we’re calling this a highway. In carland, this is a lane built for traffic preparing to take an exit ramp.

    So, yes, be happy about this, but demand so much more.

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  • Spiffy January 12, 2018 at 9:24 am

    please let’s get rid of that Hawthorne Bridge on-ramp…

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  • Spiffy January 12, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Portland’s first real protected bikeway! wow!

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  • Spiffy January 12, 2018 at 9:28 am

    agree with Clark in Vancouver, the cycling lanes should be an inch higher than the sidewalk, with a short slope transition… this will keep the peds on the sidewalk as the slope will steer them back to their area, and the cyclists, if caught up on the slope will likely fall into the cycle track and not into peds…

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    • Clark in Vancouver January 12, 2018 at 10:51 am

      Actually I think it should be the other way around. The cycle path should be lower than the sidewalk.

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      • John Liu January 12, 2018 at 11:22 am

        I would argue for bike path higher than ped path, because if a rider absent mindedly drifts from bike path to ped path, going down a 1″ lip is less likely to cause a crash than going up a 1″ lip. Of course if the lip is gradual, doesn’t matter. There’s possibly drainage issues to consider too.

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      • Kyle Banerjee January 12, 2018 at 12:44 pm

        If a dramatic color difference and surface that feels totally different doesn’t keep people in the right spot, different levels won’t do much except for people right on the line.

        Different levels is just asking to crash people out and there are legitimate reasons for why a cyclist might need to temporarily enter the ped path. A lower bike path is especially bad as it will undoubtedly cause freezing puddles in cold weather and collect debris all the time.

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        • Clark in Vancouver January 14, 2018 at 9:27 am

          Okay, so there’s all these different opinions on this. My opinion comes from experience though. There is some older infrastructure near where I am where the cycle path is higher than the walking path. It’s a bit scary to ride on because of the fear you’ll come off of it.
          There is one street where the cycle path is at the same level as the sidewalk. People often walk on the cycle path. It’s just the nature of people when they walk. There needs to be something tactile. Just some paint isn’t enough. It should look more like a road than a bit of painted sidewalk.
          Being lower isn’t a problem if it’s wide enough. You stay to the right except when passing. It’s no different than riding on the street next to the curb there.
          There needs to be a slight slope for drainage towards the drains.
          So my take on it does come from experience.
          Just having green paint through the length of it is not needed. It should only be used at crossings. It’ll just wear off over time and there may or may not be money to repaint it in the future.

          Anyway, it’s not too bad but it would be a lost opportunity to have it be a really good design.

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  • RH January 12, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Silly question…what is funding all these cycling improvements? Just wondering if the city now has an extra revenue stream for these kinds of projects. If so, maybe big changes like this will happen more frequently.

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    • Paul Cone January 12, 2018 at 10:46 am

      Did you forget all about the gas tax that was passed?

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      • RH January 12, 2018 at 12:12 pm

        Yes, I’ve heard of the gas tax and bike tax. I just didn’t think so much money would be generated this quickly to be able to build a project like this.

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        • Paul Cone January 12, 2018 at 12:53 pm

          I’m not sure of this specific instance, but generally if the government has money they plan on collecting it’s easy for them to borrow ahead against.

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          • Gary January 15, 2018 at 9:27 am

            That is the case here. Gas tax is used to issue bonds against.

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        • maccoinnich January 12, 2018 at 1:03 pm

          I think some of this project is funded by gas tax, but they’ve also allocated System Development Charges (SDCs) towards the project. These are fees that are paid for by developers, and in the last few years PBOT has been accumulating SDCs faster than they can spend them due to a lack of matching funds. There’s also some money from the state being allocated, I think.

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          • Momo January 12, 2018 at 2:57 pm

            Yes, there is an ODOT grant, Fixing Our Streets local gas tax, and SDCs all contributing to the project.

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  • BradWagon January 12, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Entrance to Hawthorne bridge needs to go.

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  • TerryI January 12, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Just a detail, but perhaps posts at intersections would be wise to prevent drunk, confused, or malicious drivers from turning onto the bike path and wiping out riders. Widening the bike path at each intersection would prevent the loss of riding space. We’ve had Portland cars drive onto bike paths before, and let’s not forget NYC.

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  • mark smith January 16, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Still, far too many lanes.

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