Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Protestors make show of force against ODOT’s ‘unnecessary’ removal of 26th Avenue bike lanes

Posted by on February 21st, 2018 at 11:45 am

(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

About two dozen people stood on the corners of SE 26th Avenue and Powell Boulevard last night to protest plans to remove a pair of bike lanes. As big, wet snowflakes fell, people rang horns and bike bells and held signs high that read, “No backpedaling on our safety,” “It’s always biking season,” “Keep your hands off our bike lane” and “Vision Zero now”.

“Why are we getting rid of bike lanes? We should be improving them and getting more.”
— JJ Heldmann, mother of Cleveland High School student

As we reported yesterday, despite the fact that Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman (who oversees transportation) does not think removal of the lanes will improve safety, the Oregon Department of Transportation is forcing the Portland Bureau of Transportation to take them out. (Note that ODOT has no jurisdiction over 26th. PBOT owns and manages that road. ODOT only has leverage here because of an agreement the two agencies signed in 2016.)

Last night’s rally was organized by The Street Trust and marked a significant ratcheting up of their action around this issue. The organization’s top policy staffer Gerik Kransky and their Executive Director Jillian Detweiler were among the attendees.

In an interview, Detweiler said she’s spoken to ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer — yet she still hasn’t heard a clear justification for removing the bike lanes. “He expressed concern for bike safety,” she said, “But his plan seems to be to force people to 28th and that’s just not realistic. Bikes have a right to be here. Bikes will be here. And bikes need to be as safe as they can be when they are here.”

Detweiler says removing the bike lanes is “Completely unnecessary” and she worries once they’re gone drivers will only go faster. “And drivers won’t be looking for bikes,” she added. “These are meager bike lanes for sure, but they at least provide the bikes some space.”

Advertisement

Tom Durkin.

ODOT says they are making conditions safer because the lack of bike lanes will encourage more people to use a new, safer crossing two blocks east at 28th. But that’s not adequate, Detweiler says, “Greenways are great between places, but ultimately they are rarely where your destination is, and people have to be safe when they arrive at their destination. A high school could not be a more important destination.”

Southeast Portland resident JJ Heldmann showed up to the rally because she has a son who attends nearby Cleveland High School, which is directly adjacent to the bike lanes. Feldman’s son currently bikes to school, but she says he won’t use 28th because it’s too far out of the way (they live on 21st). “This intersection is scary,” she told me last night. “Why are we getting rid of bike lanes? We should be improving them and getting more.”

Tom Durkin lives in the area and he and his family have used the bike lanes since they were installed in the 1980s. His son graduated from Cleveland High and rode his bike on them everyday. Durkin is worried that if the lanes come out, people will still use them. “This is a traditional bike route and people know it’s here. For them to take away this infrastructure is unconscionable.” “I think people will continue to ride on the road here,” he continued, “And it will be unsafe.”

30-year-old Mt. Tabor area resident Andew Demarrias agreed with Durkin. “If they take it out I don’t think it will stop bike use, it’ll just make it more dangerous,” he said. “It sounds like flawed logic. They make the assumption that removing things will push people to other places. But really, this is the most convenient thoroughfare. People aren’t going to stop using it. You’ve really got to make both of them safe.”

So far no date has been announced for the removal. As for next steps, The Street Trust’s Detweiler says, “I’m hopeful we can get the plans revised.”

Here are a few more photos from the event:

That’s River City Bicycles owner David Guettler in white and former Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chair Jerry Zelada on his left.

Dan and Lucas Kaufman.

For more on this story, see our archives. And stay tuned, we’ve got more reporting on this coming soon.

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

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.

BikePortland needs your support.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

53
Leave a Reply

avatar
19 Comment threads
34 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
29 Comment authors
Bike/Ped Planner9wattsDavid Lewisrachel bHello, Kitty Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
9watts
Subscriber

As a thought experiment let’s ponder ODOT removing auto access, say, on Hawthorne Blvd.* Then let’s imagine auto-ists having to stand in the snow demanding it back.

#Car head.

* of course cars can and do drive down every one of the adjacent streets without risk, something that can’t be said for bikes trying to head South across Powell, so the parallel isn’t perfect.

rick
Guest
rick

amazing that ODOT does this to people

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Interesting argument from ODOT. It parses as: We’re going to claim to make things safer by making a marginally safe street more dangerous so that people will choose a different route that doesn’t include this street.

To purposely make a street more dangerous in hopes of removing all cyclists is both awful and doomed to failure. There will always be some people who will ride on any given stretch, especially when their destination is on that road, so all ODOT is really doing is purposely increasing the risk to people who ride.

They could at least come right out and say that. Many of us will still disagree with what they are doing, but it would open the door to a mutually respectful conversation. ODOT’s approach is a lot like the Republicans in Congress who make stuff up because their actual agenda (tax cuts for the wealthy and tearing up the safety net for everyone else) is a losing platform. ODOT realizes that their windshield perspective approach is a political loser, so they won’t come clean and be honest.

BB
Guest
BB

Take the lane and own it. Mandatory sidepath is a joke.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Name two organizations that go by their initials. Both display anachronistic attitudes and defiance to wisdom, logic and compassion that end up getting many people injured and killed each year. Thats right folks, survey says, ODOT and NRA.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Can anyone post the full ODoT analysis on line…I am just curious what other design / operational options (other than full removal or “no action”) have been studied and can be taken. Hopefully a FOIA request does not need to be done…

Have any other configurations been studied?:
– removal of 1 bike lane (use the extra space to improve the predominate bikeway flow) with traffic calming on the the shared remaining lane (if appropriate per safety);
– removal of the dedicated turn lanes (using the space to widen the bike lanes) and add turn restrictions [sign no right turn on red and no left turns]; and
– etc…

Johnny
Guest
Johnny

Any feel for The Street Trust doing a lawsuit regarding the bike lane removal? Could be an item for a GoFundMe campaign. The lanes may be subpar, but any removal of bike infrastructure without a challenge could embolden the departments involved to repeat the process in the future.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Perhaps it is time that bike and pedestrian advocates [and other supporters for local control] work through the legislature to change the [outdated] ORS giving ODOT less authority over city streets…the law could be written to just allow this for the largest cities, etc.

Cities in Washington State have greater authority over the operations of their arterials than similar sized cities in Oregon.

Catie
Guest
Catie

This is jurisdictionally confusing. We (PBOT) owns 26th Avenue. ODOT owns the signal. I am unsure how ODOT is forcing us to do this other than a handshake agreement that was made when we requested another stoplight to be installed for the greenway.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

I wish people would stop showing up to these events dressed like bike dorks. It’s much easier to “other” a group and therefore dismiss their point of view when they’re wearing specialized costumes. People will be more sympathetic to your cause if you look more like regular people. We need more people wearing normal clothes, no helmets, no hi-viz, etc. More parents with kids couldn’t hurt too.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

I am a dork and did not show up at all. But then my perspective is frequent views through the window of a #10 bus.

maxD
Guest
maxD

Is there anything stopping PBOT from removing the bike lane and painting sharrows? or removing the bike lanes, but adding diverters for motorized traffic a couple of blocks north and south of Powell? Or making it right turn only (except bicycles) from 26th to Powell both north and south bound? If PBOT wanted to create a safe route to bike here, it seems like they have some tools to use, even if ODOT takes away the bike lane.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

First off, thank you to the people who went out yesterday and protested, and thanks to Jonathan for covering it.

Second, I have several questions:

1. Is it just my imagination, or was big truck traffic restricted on SE 26th until only recent years? It seems to me that when we moved just off SE 26th in 2005, there was a negligible amount of big truck traffic–next to nothing. The street was much calmer in general, of course. Fewer drivers, less congestion.

2. How did UPRR get approval to move major operations to the Brooklyn Yard (in the middle of several neighborhoods, w/ poor freeway access), from the Albina Yard (in an industrial area under I405, with good freeway access)? That whole thing seemed to happen overnight, and with no neighborhood input. I would love to see some investigative reporting on that whole deal.

3. Were rules (if there were any) relaxed re: big trucks on SE 26th after the UPRR operations move, in order to facilitate the needs of the railroad (over the needs of the neighborhood)?

4. Is ODOT now using a situation they fostered and abetted (in service of UPRR and the freight industry) to argue SE 26th is now not safe for cyclists?

5. Is that crazy-making? (Yes)

The history of this really matters to me. I’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation for the community-bomb move of UPRR main operations from Albina Yard to Brooklyn Yard–a move that delivered countless ills and a whole lotta diesel exhaust into the laps of neighbors in the tightly clustered Hosford-Abernethy, Richmond, Eastmoreland, Woodstock, Sellwood and Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The big trucks don’t even fit in the lanes on SE 26th. They don’t fit on many of the neighborhood streets they’re swarming, trying to get to freeways from poorly situated Brooklyn Yard. It’s no wonder UPRR (and ODOT) want to make more room for the trucks, as they’ve allowed them to proliferate on the street unhindered for years now. I dread thinking of how many more trucks SE 26th will be expected to accommodate after the removal of bike lanes. I sincerely doubt that more street parking will be opened up, or that traffic calming will be introduced. They want a freightway. At least, that’s what it looks like.

SE 26th wasn’t always like it is now, as exemplified by the original 20s bikeway plan which stipulated SE 26th as the bikeway through Hosford/Richmond. The heavy, constant traffic is a relatively recent phenomenon, exacerbated by the development of SE Division and the proliferation of restaurants and bars there.

Bald One seems to be up on a lot of this, but I sure would appreciate some information of more investigation into it all. I think it matters–esp. as ODOT seems to have helped foster a situation they’re now calling “too dangerous” for cyclists, and is insisting on having the bike lanes removed.

cam
Subscriber

Even though sharrows are restricted to greenways, a few yellow diamond signs saying “Bicycles may use whole lane” would be useful on 26th.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

PBOT has all the power to close 26th any length it wants to biking/walking. PBOT only has to remove bike lanes. Who is saying it can’t just close the whole road?

Roberta Robles
Guest
Roberta Robles

Really great to Street Trust out on the street protesting. I would also caution against moving freight traffic back to the Albina Yard. The North Albina yard is close to neighborhoods already overburdened by transportation pollution and is near the Rose Quarter Freeway Widening saga. The saga we are protesting as red herring for more money to go to local improvements instead expensive freeways. Sadly I went to the democratic open house with Tina Kotek, Lewi Frederick and Tanya Sanchez at PCC a week or so back and our representatives seemed to throw their hands in the air and not shake the boat at the state level to really question why the democrats in power are still funding ODOT with barrels of concrete loaded power over our local streets. In sum don’t be bicycling NIMBYs and move the problem somewhere else. Let’s go after ODOT. THANK YOU STREET TRUST we need your leadership !!!

maxD
Guest
maxD

PBOT is also closing a bike lane on N Greelely between Going and Interstate. They will replace it with protected MUP that is, unfortunately, too narrow (10′), terminates on a path used as a driveway, and widens the lanes on Greeley to promote even higher speeds (!). I know it looks like ODOT is forcing the bike lane removal on 26th, but PBOT seems complicit. If they wanted to create safer streets that work for everyone, they would be narrowing the lanes and reducing the speed limit on Greeley, widening the MUP, adding bollards to keep personal vehicles off the existing MUP, and keeping the southbound bike lane so people riding bike have the option of taking a direct, fast route.

David Lewis
Guest
David Lewis

Until almost exactly a year ago, I lived a block away (I left town to work for a bicycle company in another state) near the Ship Ahoy.

I found the whole mess absurd. A buddy lost his leg here, which prompted action, but what action?

Not that anybody cares – they don’t! – but of all places Portland should be doing this kind of thing right. Screwing up this kind of project says a lot.

Bike/Ped Planner
Guest
Bike/Ped Planner

I’m not local, so I don’t know the conditions, but it looks like the current configuration is minimal widths for all lanes; ~9.5′ travel, <5' bike, and, ~7' parking. That is usually a recipe for garbage infrastructure that doesn't benefit the bicyclist.

Sticking a cyclist in a narrow space between parked and moving cars does nothing to improve safety. In fact it can be demonstrated to be worse than a shared roadway. So why is there so much pressure to keep this lousy design? I find it ironic that the advocates would be so vocal to keep this, while also decrying poor design when even a buffered bike lane is proposed, because it isn't a "protected" bike lane.

I'm not trolling, but unless I'm missing something, this is a head-scratcher.