Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Opinion: To make Portland safer, ODOT’s Rian Windsheimer must go

Posted by on February 19th, 2018 at 1:00 pm

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post is written by Kiel Johnson, owner of the Go By Bike bike valet in South Waterfront.

The Oregon Department of Transportation, under the leadership of Rian Windsheimer, is trying to remove a bike lane on SE 26th without providing any satisfying reasons as to why this is a good idea. This should alarm anyone who thinks that Portland should be safer for bikes and that our transportation system should be designed around evidence. From favoring auto capacity over transit, to spending $450 million to widen a freeway while many of the most dangerous streets that are under state control lack safe crossings, ODOT has repeatedly proven they are not acting in the best interests of the people of Portland. If ODOT is going to regain the trust of the community they serve, there needs to be a cultural change at ODOT that starts at the top. The director of ODOT who oversees Portland, Rian Windsheimer, must go.

With the same logic and determination as your Fox News-watching uncle who is still upset about Hillary Clinton’s emails, ODOT has repeatedly called for the removal of the SE 26th ave bike lane. Their original reasoning was that ODOT would only let Portland make another intersection safe if ODOT got to make 26th less safe. ODOT is happy to have a transportation network where bikes and pedestrians are secondary and do not have the same right to public right of way as someone in an automobile. While it normally takes months of outreach and neighborhood open houses to add a bike lane, zero community involvement is required to take one away. The only community participation is a letter the Street Trust created asking for the bike lanes to remain.


How did the city that once served as the national beacon in innovative transportation policy get to a point where we are reactively removing bike lanes with no justification? This is a question that I hope the elected officials who oversee ODOT think deeply about. The lack of vision and a culture that apparently does not value facts or community input ultimately falls with the director of ODOT in Portland, Rian Windsheimer.

We all love Portland because of its livability. Today one of the biggest local institutional obstacles to that is the reductionist and reactionary culture at ODOT. A culture that is willing to trade safety of intersections around like baseball cards. For Portland to become the city it can be, where livability is shared equally among all the people who live here, ODOT needs to change. Keep the bike lane on 26th and show Mr. Windsheimer the door.

If you want to show support for the SE 26th Avenue bike lane, come to rally on Tuesday (2/20) at 5:30 pm.

— Kiel Johnson, @go_by_bike on Twitter

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  • Jeff February 20, 2018 at 10:11 am

    They literally just installed an efficient bike only crossing at SE 28th, complete with traffic signals. As someone who lives and commutes through the area, I’m failing to see the reason for the outrage. At this point, why wouldn’t you choose to ride on 28th?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 20, 2018 at 10:34 am


      regardless of what’s available at 28th… People will still use bicycles on 26th. And when they do, it will be more dangerous without a bike lane.

      Also… 26th is listed as the officially recommended bike route on thousands of maps produced by Metro and PBOT. Newcomers will see that and ride on 26th near Powell. When the bike lane is gone, those people will be in not just physical danger — but they’ll have much less legal protection as well.

      Remember Martin Greenough? He was new to town and used an official city map to find his route home from work. That route had a missing bike lane. Not knowing the danger, Martin took the route anyways and he ended up being hit and killed in the precise spot where the bike lane had vanished.

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      • Jason H February 20, 2018 at 10:55 am

        Not even just the out of date printed maps, at the time of this post, Google maps ONLY has 26th as a designated bikeway, so assuming you are using that for active navigation, you will be directed to 26th, another reason this 1:1 give and take-away is just stupid. ODOT culture must have a coup. Replace all directors with demonstrated active transpo experts and advocates.

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      • Jeff February 20, 2018 at 10:56 am

        Disagree. I can no longer DRIVE on SE 28th (certainly an impedance as I live just off of 28th), but it’s too much to ask that bikers divert to this street now cleared of auto traffic (at least between Holgate and Gladstone)? There comes a point when complaining just to complain makes people tune out entirely. Should we not be encouraging bike traffic to move onto the neighborhood greenway streets? We see no problem with forcing auto traffic off of them.

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        • rh February 20, 2018 at 11:09 am

          “Should we not be encouraging bike traffic to move onto the neighborhood greenway streets?”
          Should we not be encouraging auto traffic to move onto the freeways and main arterial streets?” They have the option of going on pretty much any street they choose, whether it be a greenway, residential street, etc…

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        • Jason H February 20, 2018 at 11:13 am

          You first described it an “efficient bike only crossing” and now its an “impediment” for YOU to DRIVE? on streets “cleared of auto traffic” (falsely claimed, you just can’t cross Powell, all the rest of it is open to all traffic )Jeff, methinks your bias and agenda is showing!

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          • Jeff February 20, 2018 at 11:23 am

            Not false at all, you can certainly NOT drive north on 28th any longer from Holgate to Gladstone (the intersection that I live near). It’s you that’s uninformed.

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            • Dan A February 20, 2018 at 11:41 am

              This sounds like a major hardship, having to be diverted around two closed blocks in your car. But aren’t you asking people to now bike that extra distance?

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              • GlowBoy February 20, 2018 at 3:31 pm

                Comment deleted. I don’t appreciate your insulting tone GlowBoy. Please be nice to others. – Jonathan

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              • 9watts February 20, 2018 at 3:48 pm

                But Glowboy was saying exactly what Dan A was saying. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

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            • Jason H February 20, 2018 at 12:22 pm

              Uninformed? Hardly. You can drive those two blocks if headed southbound, thus correctly open to all vehicles (far, far from your hyperbole of “cleared of all cars”). It’s also 3 blocks (that are open to two way traffic on 28th) from the diverter at Powell, so what exactly are you upset about? and how do the bike lanes on 26th affect you from at least 5 blocks away and two streets over? Really sounds like you are just a car commuter with sour grapes that you have to go a street over for your northbound commute when the changes on 28th (and keeping the 26th bike lanes, you’re a Portlander, have you not learned to safely drive in proximity to cyclists by now?) make the neighborhood streets significantly safer. The one-way change between Gladstone and Holgate, which I assume is for traffic calming, must make your intersection a much safer environment for children and others to be outside, oh and your property values probably went up more too, you’re welcome.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 20, 2018 at 11:16 am

          You and I disagree on this issue Jeff. And that’s OK.

          First, you and I can still drive on 28th. We just can’t make all the turns we want to make. Also, diverting bicycle users is a much different thing than diverting auto users. Cars and bikes are very different animals and as such, require a very different engineering and policy approach. Bicycle users are much less tolerant of being diverted. Connectivity, efficiency, safety, and ease of access is absolutely crucial in creating a biking network that can complete with our driving network.

          There’s also the huge factor here that Portland as a city has adopted numerous plans that prioritize the use of bicycles over the use of cars. We must adhere to those plans when making these decisions. Why would we prioritize driving on a street where there’s so little room for all road users and where there’s been a history of crashes? Driving is the worst use of road space and the most dangerous way to use our roads. We should do everything we can to discourage it, while doing everything we can to encourage other uses.

          I have always been very much opposed to the idea of encouraging bike traffic to use sidestreets. That’s a horrible policy that goes in the opposite direction of our goals. We need more bike riders on main streets and neighborhood collectors. If we push them aside, we will not only degrade the network and discourage ridership, we will remove the urgency to improve main streets because the visible demand that happens when road users and city planners see people riding will go away.

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          • Patrick February 20, 2018 at 11:24 am

            What is wrong with people just walking their bikes on the sidewalk on 26th? They can just leave a little bit earlier to makeup for the little amount of extra time it will take. Problem solved. No money required to implement.

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            • Dan A February 20, 2018 at 11:42 am

              This post is missing the sarcasm tag, I hope.

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            • Ken S February 20, 2018 at 11:55 am

              Because that would send the message that if you don’t have a car ir choose to drive, you don’t matter and your inconvenience is trivial.

              The bicycle is the most efficient human powered vehicle in the world, allowing you to roll 15mph with same effort as walking 3mph.

              Whether intended or not, the implications of “just dismount and take the sidewalk and plan for the ride to take more time” is that if people on bikes want to safely reach their destinations, they should take a 5x time penalty on any unsafe secrion of road, and just deal with the time they lose out of their day.

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              • 9watts February 20, 2018 at 2:39 pm

                People driving should also be required to ‘put their foot down’ at stop signs;come to stop/ open door/ stick foot out/ tap on ground/ retract foot/ close door / advance through intersection.

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            • SafeStreetsPlease February 20, 2018 at 1:20 pm

              Last time I checked this is Portland and not Los Angeles. If we want to hit our environmental, clean air, and mode share targets we have to incentivize biking (and transit) more. Period.

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        • Shoupian February 20, 2018 at 12:27 pm

          If convenience of driving is that important to you (and it’s okay for you to have that preference) to maybe you should move to Happy Valley or other suburbs? Portland is not about making driving easier (it’s already very easy). That’s that not the future for our city. If you don’t like it, there are plenty of places that would cater to your preference.

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  • Shoupian February 20, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Jeff, your reasoning is fallacious. By your logic, every time a new road or expressway that gives motor vehicles better access, parallel streets that don’t provide the same mobility/convenience should be closed. To get more people to ride bikes and make it safer, we need to focus on building out a connected and safe network. Removing the bike lane on SE 26th goes directly against this goal.

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  • Glenn F February 20, 2018 at 11:30 am

    I usually go out of my way to ride on side streets. a few blocks extra here or there is really not a big issue and much less stressful and my enjoyable ride for myself. I would really like to see a bit more signage pointing me to these bikeways like 28th (although 28th is a hilly sob and the crappy super bumpy concrete need to go!)..I can’t tell you how many times i road the busier road only to find out there was a bikeway a few blocks away…

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  • David Hampsten February 20, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    14 posts about 26th and none about Rian. Curious.

    If you hate ODOT and who’s running it, then you had probably better blame your illustrious governor and state legislature, both controlled by an unusually conservative and reactionary Democratic Party, as only they can remove his appointment.

    Personally, I have no problem with ODOT, as they are a nice liberal progressive state DOT, as completely unlike over-funded NCDOT as you are ever likely to find. They have agreed to upgrade the bikeways and build sidewalks along outer Powell before they hand it over to PBOT.

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  • Ken S February 20, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    I agree with the sentiments about SE 28th.
    It’s too hilly and rough to be taken seriously as a cycling route.
    If I can’t ride it on my single speed, it’s too hilly and does not enable active transit for a majority of the population.

    Adding the fact that 28th and many other bike routes send people around and past the shopping and dining areas in the city, it looks like we’ve been thrown table scraps and we’re expected to be grateful.

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  • eawriste February 20, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    PBOT could easily solve this if Portland had some political oomph. Removing the parking on 26th and installing a physically protected two-way multi-use path on 26th (with signal separation) is what Cleveland HS students and the neighborhood deserves.

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    • Go By Bike
      Go By Bike February 20, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      Totally agree! It is insane that the first thought ODOT has is to remove the bike lane instead

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      • 9watts February 20, 2018 at 2:43 pm

        ODOT and insane seem to coexist quite happily.

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    • Dan A February 20, 2018 at 12:45 pm

      And a school speed zone.

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  • Allan Rudwick February 20, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Looking @ google maps it looks like you can no longer drive a car straight across Powell or turn left at 28th but cars are still allowed on 28th both north and south of the intersection.

    “I can no longer DRIVE on SE 28th” seems misleading

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    • 9watts February 20, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      but also revealing 😉

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  • B. Carfree February 20, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    It’s not just the person in charge of ODOT in PDX who needs to go. Down here in no-longer-bike-friendly Eugene ODOT removed an important piece of bike path as part of the many hundreds of millions of dollars project to build several new bridges for I-5 over the Willamette. It’s almost as though they were angry that they had to build a tiny bike bridge over the river as part of the freeway boondoggle and they were determined to make it a net-zero benefit to people on bikes.

    Everything ODOT touches turns to excrement. It’s time for a complete upper management replacement, imo. Actually, we could do with an ODOT time out of a couple of years. Just fire the entire upper three layers and start from scratch after a three year long hiring process. Sometimes less is more. Unfortunately, ODOT keeps giving us more things like road systems that lead to 57% increases in roadway deaths over a three year period.

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    • 9watts February 20, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      “Everything ODOT touches turns to excrement.”

      Unfortunately I have to agree with you. I’ve been waiting (and baiting ODOT here in the comments) for years to offer us something that will make me change my mind but so far no dice.

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  • GlowBoy February 20, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    So ODOT demanded that in exchange for a safe route across Powell at 28th, we have to give up the one at 26th, as if Oregon’s overall awful bike facilities should be a zero-sum game.

    When they finally cave in to our demands for safer facilities on Barbur, I wonder what will they ask us to give up in return? The bike lanes on Terwilliger? Beaverton-Hillsdale? Multnomah Blvd?

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  • Edward February 20, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    To play “Devil’s Advocate” I’m guessing ODOT thinks if they agree to a bike crossing, it delays traffic (i.e., cars on Powell). As such, they should only agree to one bike crossing car delay per … Some fixed distance. So it’s not there’s “no rationale” — it’s just a stupid car focus, emphasizing and prioritizing single occupancy motor vehicles over all other modes and to the detriment of all. (And yes, bikes will still ride 26th and now get to take the lane?)

    The super frustrating thing is how there’s so little political accountability. What’s the political recourse? Vote for a Republican governor instead of Gov. Brown next time around?

    I understand why PBOT originally agreed to this. Hindsight is 20/20, right? Remember when bike overpasses were thought to be the right thing?

    I’m dreaming of dedicated transit & biking lanes on Powell. But there’s nobody I can legitimately ask, right?

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  • Doug Klotz February 21, 2018 at 12:07 am

    As part of this “deal” ODOT also removed the striped, signed crosswalk and median island at 29th, by the McDonald’s. I guess they didn’t want two safe crossings in a row. They ground off the stripes, and ground off and removed the island as well. You can still cross there, it’s just much more dangerous. Peds and bikes lose in this ODOT fit of selfishness.

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    • Dan A February 21, 2018 at 11:23 am

      ODOT, going the extra mile to make life more difficult for people on foot!

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  • GlowBoy February 21, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Comment deleted. I don’t appreciate your insulting tone GlowBoy. Please be nice to others. – JonathanRecommended 0

    OK, I don’t remember exactly how I said what I said, but sorry if it came across as insulting. It did seem like what was being suggested was that detouring 2 blocks each way (on a hillier route, to boot) should not be a major burden for cyclists, but that detouring a block or two is a major burden for a driver.

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  • Michael Andersen February 22, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    26th is significantly flatter, and it’s no coincidence that the street with more things on it is flatter. The flatter streets are where the streetcars were installed, and therefore where the businesses and apartments were built. They’re the streets that have always been worth fighting for access to.

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  • nuovorecord March 13, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    So I’m late to this party, but I agree that ODOT needs fresh thinking in its leadership. While we’re cleaning house, Matt Garrett has also long surpassed his usefulness. ODOT has a long list of screw ups on his watch, SE 26th being only one of them.

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