BikePortland.org

Dangerous parking on Highway 30 puts people’s lives at (even more) risk

A dangerous situation caused by just a few people who park their cars next to a Forest Park entrance.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Highway 30 is a crucial connection for bicycle riders between Portland, Sauvie Island, Forest Park, the West Hills, and beyond.

On a dry weekend it often feels like there are just as many people using bicycles on the road as there are people using cars and trucks. But it’s much more dangerous than it should be.

I could write thousands of words about how the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the Oregon Department of Transportation (all of whom share ownership/management of different sections) have completely failed to do their job to maintain and design this highway so that it provides an adequate level-of-service for all users.

But today, I want to focus on one specific issue: People who park cars in the shoulder, forcing bicycle riders into a scary merge.

There’s an entry point to Forest Park about a mile north of Linnton where the unpaved Newton and BPA Roads connect to the highway. Because there’s no dedicated space to park a car (it’s not even listed as official trailhead on the City’s Forest Park map), people who drive here simply park right in the shoulder. Their cars force people on bikes to merge into the adjacent lane where car and truck drivers typically go well over 45 mph. There’s a large turnout on the opposite side of the highway with ample space for parking cars — but people typically don’t use that because it requires a game of Frogger to access the trails.

I’ve personally had to deal with this situation myself many times. I’ve also hiked here and watched the scary situation unfold. If I drive here, I always park across the highway and risk the crossing on foot (because, duh, it’s selfish and dangerous to block the shoulder).

I recently posted this to Twitter and found out that other people share my concerns:

@queenleslie1982 – “Every time I ride Hwy 30 it’s a Zenlike experience of contemplating my own death.”

@absurdtriathlon – “Major conflict. Always sucks”

@clarbpdx – “Yes! This is always so terrifying to me.”

@alexawileymusic – “Yes don’t park there!”

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Keep in mind that this is a shoulder by definition (not a bike lane), so as per ORS 811.550 (2), it’s legal to park here (I confirmed it with Portland lawyer Charley Gee). Unfortunately — as is very often the case — ORS does not reflect obvious hazards that might occur to bicycle riders who often rely on shoulders as their travel lane. The law should be amended to include a requirement that there must be enough room for shoulder users on bicycles to safely pass without having to merge into other lanes.

This section of Highway 30 is owned and managed by ODOT. I asked them for comment on this story. While a spokesman said, “I can appreciate your concerns,” he also said no one at the agency had ever received any complaints about it. I asked if ODOT would be willing to make a “No Parking” zone at this location and the spokesman said he’d ask around and see if that’s possible (will update the post if/when I hear back).

I also contacted Portland Parks & Recreation about it. They too said it wasn’t on their radar. “My colleagues say they have not received any concerns from the community about safety at this trail access point,” a spokesman replied.

It’s not surprising to me at all that no one has formally complained about this yet. As bicycle riders, we put up with so many stressful things we’d never complete a ride if we always stopped to call or email when we saw a hazard. Even if someone did want to complain, they’d have no idea which agency is in charge.

Does this situation concern you? If so, please consider telling ODOT about it. If we want something to be done (I think a simple “No Parking” zone would fix it), the first step is to make sure it’s flagged internally.

To log your concern, use the ASK ODOT system online or call 1-888-275-6368 x4.

Thanks for caring.

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

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