The 26th Avenue bike lane removal saga appears to have reached a conclusion. At least for the time being.
The Street Trust just announced that their shuttle diplomacy between the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation has yielded a compromise that will allow a striped space for biking (not a bike lane, technically) to remain. Also as part of the agreement, ODOT is forcing PBOT to remove the bike boxes that currently exist on 26th on both sides of Powell Blvd.
Here’s the salient excerpt from The Street Trust as posted on their blog:
“Under the new plan, the bike lanes ODOT had ordered PBOT to remove will be restored following the repaving of SE 26th. While the bike lane itself will technically be reclassified as a shoulder, the bike lane striping will preserve the three-foot wide area for bikes. The new plan will also prohibit right turns on red from SE 26th and provide a leading pedestrian interval to protect people walking and rolling from right turn crashes.
This new plan acknowledges that, even with the new signalized intersection at SE 28th Avenue, bicyclists will continue to use SE 26th and deserve safe facilities to do so. Unfortunately, the new plan will not maintain the existing bike boxes on SE 26th at Powell Boulevard. This aspect of the plan is disappointing, and we’re reviewing our next steps on how to address it going forward.”
The technical difference between a “shoulder” (as defined in ORS 801.480) and a “bicycle lane” (defined in ORS 801.155) is significant. Not only will the white stripe of paint be narrower (four-inches wide instead of six), the lane won’t have legal standing as dedicated space for bicycle users. A shoulder is for, “use by pedestrians, for the accommodation of stopped vehicles, for emergency use” and a bicycle lane is, “for use by persons riding bicycles except as otherwise specifically provided by law.”
And the bike box issue is significant too. The Street Trust specifically asked PBOT to maintain them. But since the compromise included removing the bike lane designation, there’s no way to design/maintain a bike box that’s connected to merely a “shoulder”.
The Street Trust calls this a “momentous victory for safe streets”. “Together, we made it clear that proposals to remove facilities that make Portland safer,” they write. “Can and will be met with remarkable grassroots opposition.”
According to a letter from PBOT Director Leah Treat to ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer, ODOT presented the advocacy group with three options and this is the option that, “appears to have the most consensus among stakeholders.” It’s not clear who these “stakeholders” were as ODOT made no official public notice of their letter to The Street Trust and the other options that were considered haven’t been made public either. (I’ve asked for a copy of the letter from ODOT to The Street Trust and will update this story after I receive it. UPDATE: See below)
From the text of that letter it also appears as though ODOT has granted PBOT additional time to analyze traffic on 26th in order to justify better bike facilities. “In that spirit,” Treat writes. “Within the next twelve months, PBOT will conduct a complete assessment and draft a proposal for improved bike facilities at SE 26th.”
There’s a lot of technical wonkery to this story that we haven’t reported. Thankfully, through this negotiation shepherded by The Street Trust, we know have more details in writing from ODOT. Below are the four key letters that shine new light on this issue.
March 12th, 2018: The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler to ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer:
[pdf-embedder url=”https://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Revised-request-to-Review-SE-26th-requirement-2.pdf” title=”Revised request to Review SE 26th requirement-2″]
April 13th, 2018: ODOT’s response to The Street Trust with an additional technical memo from an ODOT engineer:
April 18th, 2018: The Street Trust’s letter to PBOT Director Leah Treat:
[pdf-embedder url=”https://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/SE-26th-Bike-Lanes-PBOT.pdf” title=”SE 26th Bike Lanes – PBOT”]
May 1st, 2018: PBOT Director Treat to ODOTs Windsheimer:
[pdf-embedder url=”https://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Treat-to-Windsheimer-RE-SE-26th-Ave-2018-05-01.pdf” title=”Treat to Windsheimer RE- SE 26th Ave 2018-05-01″]
This saga began in 2015 when ODOT made the removal of the bike lanes on 26th a condition of their approval for a new traffic signal on 28th which PBOT needed to complete the Twenties Bikeway project. PBOT wanted bikeways on both streets all along, but for reasons that ODOT still hasn’t clarified (other than to say they feel biking on 26th is simply too dangerous), they demanded that the bike lanes be removed. ODOT’s inexplicable behavior around this issue led to widespread condemnation from the community. The Street Trust held a rally during a snowstorm back in February, and two weeks ago SE Uplift, the coalition that represents 20 neighborhoods associations came out in opposition to the bike lane removal.
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