“We’re definitely learning some lessons.”
— Scott Cohen, PBOT project manager
It’s been six weeks since the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) began grinding off pavement and laying down new lane striping as part of the North Rosa Parks Way project. Yet despite weeks of dry weather and no major controversy or pushback (at least that we’ve been able to confirm), the project is still not closed to being finished. Meanwhile, people who ride on the two-mile stretch between Martin Luther King Jr and Willamette boulevards are frustrated by incomplete striping and many people park their cars illegally in the new bike lanes.
At the end of May, PBOT posted an update that acknowledged the major elements of the project that remain: they haven’t even began on the sections from Delaware to Interstate and Williams to MLK; none of the promised, plastic delineator posts have been installed; no permanent “No Parking” signage has been added despite a major change in parking availability; many bits of pavement markings are incomplete; and a median island crossing at Villard has yet to be started on.
But here we are, nearly one month later, and there’s been little to no progress on those issues.
I realize there are many variables to street projects and I prefer to not chime in on a project until it’s 100 percent complete. But something feels odd about this one. Things are half-way done, as if crews just up-and-left for something else. Or worse, PBOT has hit a roadblock due to angry neighbors or some other bureaucratic hurdle. Also, the inconsistent striping exists without any caution or work-zone signs and people continue to park illegally in the newly marked bike lanes instead of the “floating” parking spots. Meanwhile, vulnerable road users are thrown into the mix and forced to adjust and survive.
Hoping to learn the latest, I jumped on a call today with PBOT Project Manager Scott Cohen and Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera. Here’s what I asked and what I learned:
➤ What’s the status of the median crossing at Villard?
The design isn’t finalized yet. Cohen plans to attend the Arbor Lodge neighborhood meeting tonight to give them one last chance to provide feedback. One of the proposed designs would limit turning option for cars users. “All diversion is controversial,” Cohen shared today. “And there’s definitely been some outspoken residents about which design should move forward.” Cohen has the insane Lincoln/Harrison neighborhood meeting seared into his memory and doesn’t want a repeat. “I want the neighborhood association to be looped in.” To help calm hearts and minds, Cohen has sent a letter to everyone who lives on Villard near Rosa Parks, “To make sure everyone feels included.” After tonight’s meeting Cohen said PBOT will be ready to move forward on the final design and construction of the median.
➤ Why are two huge sections of the street still untouched?
With some sections already repaved and restriped, it’s awkward for everyone to have two sections with the old configuration. Cohen says the reason for this is because these sections have newer pavement and the usual machine PBOT uses to grind off striping damages the surface. He doesn’t want to leave bumps (think of the bumps left on Broadway downhill toward Hoyt), so they decided to contract with a private company that uses a water-based method of striping removal. That work has been scheduled and Cohen said it should be done, “In weeks or months.”
➤ Where are the plastic delineator posts you promised us?
Cohen said nearby residents told PBOT they were worried rows of white, plastic wands would make Rosa Parks feel less like a neighborhood and more like a highway. The location of this project (in a neighborhood) is much different than the typical downtown or commercial contexts where PBOT usually installs plastic wands. “Generally, the protected bike lane is wanted,” Cohen explained today, “But the neighbors we heard from want something besides what we typically do [plastic wands].” Because of this feedback, PBOT sought and received additional funding to use something else as the protective material in the buffer zones. Cohen didn’t tell me what exactly it would be because they’re still getting feedback. There are some locations where PBOT is moving ahead with plastic posts ASAP: Where there’s new floating parking spots, they plan to install posts with parking signage on them. Those should be installed very soon.
➤ Why is some of the striping still not finished?
I didn’t get a clear answer for this from either Cohen or Rivera. Cohen said the City’s two striping crews (one for the east side and one for the west side) are very busy this time of year. Rivera added that, “Striping work is in high demand, they [crews] have a million demands on their time and they’re trying to address as much of that as possible.” Rivera added that even though the striping is different from block-to-block, riders should just follow what’s there.
➤ Where’s the bus island that’s supposed to be installed on southwest corner of Albina intersection?
PBOT has striped this location and created the space for a future island, but as you can see in the photo, bus operators still pull all the way over into the bike lane to service the stop on the corner. Cohen says the island hasn’t been installed yet because they’re still, “Working with TriMet on how best to move forward.” In the meantime, PBOT plans to test modular platforms (which he described are like “big LEGOs”) at two locations in the similarly designed bike lanes of SE Morrison. Cohen says they’ll analyze how those work and see if it’d make sense to use them on Rosa Parks. PBOT hasn’t done many floating bus islands, so they seem hesitant to pour expensive concrete before knowing for sure how bus operators and riders will use it.
➤ What are you doing to encourage better parking compliance?
People are slowly getting better at parking away from the curb and out of the new bike lanes, but illegal parking is still common. Cohen would have liked the new parking signage and posts to all be installed simultaneously with the new striping; but that didn’t happen. He’s aware that people are still not parking their cars correctly and says he’s been in touch with Portland Parks to do more education with Peninsula Park visitors. PBOT plans to put up more of the 8.5 x 11-inch flyers that explain how to park and they have also called Parking Enforcement out to do extra patrols. “I think when the delineators [posts] come with parking signs on them, that will alleviate the issue.” The new signs are in the Maintenance Operations work order queue but Cohen wasn’t able to give us exact timeline.
➤ Is the delayed roll-out of this project normal?
The short answer is No. Cohen admitted he’s learning lessons on-the-fly. Why? This project started as a repaving project and PBOT seized the opportunity to reconfigure the street and add the protected bike lane. It’s not a full-fledged capital project that would have set-aside engineering and planning funds, so it’s not being rolled-out with the usual budget or oversight. “This is a new endeavor for us to have new striping and signage over such a long corridor at once… it’s the first time we’ve done something of this magnitude that’s not a capital project… We bit off a big bite which is not typically what we do with a ‘missing links’ project [referring to a pot of money PBOT typically uses to fix small bikeway gaps] and we’re definitely learning some lessons,” Cohen explained. “Would I have preferred that everything [the parking signage and protective material] lined up right on top of the striping changes? Yes. But it didn’t play out that way.”
Rivera further added that what makes the Rosa Parks project different (and challenging) for PBOT is that it’s a “Very significant, big, safety improvement to the way the street is being used, and it’s being done in a very nimble way.” He also said parking-protected bike lanes are “relatively uncommon” for PBOT, especially in a residential neighborhood context. “There are only a couple other examples and they’re downtown or close-in. But here we are in a neighborhood in front of people’s homes on a key corridor miles from downtown, and we’re providing a really significant safety and comfort improvement for the bike facility without having to turn it into a 10-year, $6 million endeavor like a greenway project or something on that scale.”
In the end, Cohen (who lives in the neighborhood) and Rivera say they’re working as quickly as they can and the benefits will be worth the wait. “I understand peoples’ frustration. I would just let people know we are working on many levels as quickly as possible… hopefully next time we can do another safety project like this, the rollout will be smoother after this learning experience.”
Cohen will attend the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association meeting tonight to give an update on the project. Meeting details here.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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“PBOT sought and received additional funding to use something else as the protective material in the buffer zones. Cohen didn’t tell me what exactly it would be because they’re still getting feedback.”
Sought and received additional funding….
Before doing a study, before finalizing a plan, before sending out a fancy PDF! Without having to wait for the next cycle of road work! Without even knowing exactly what they would be spending it on! PBOT sought and received additional funding!
What a beautiful world I’ve woken up into! What a brave new reality! Please oh please let this be precedent. Never let them forget this moment.
The in-pavement sensors at Vancouver and Rosa Parks don’t seem to be working either, or the light cycles are all messed up. The wait is forever and it doesn’t matter which way I’m coming from or whether I’m in a car or on a bike. Frustrating.
YES!!! It’s driving me nuts. I’ve stopped using the light to cross Rosa at Vancouver and instead take my chances crossing at an unsignalized/ non-stop controlled intersection a few blocks west because the light-cycle wait is interminable.
Similarly, I don’t think the sensors at Tillamook and MLK (heading eastbound) have been working since that intersection was repaved. That’s been several months now. The blue light doesn’t illuminate anymore and other cyclists seem to have noticed too because somebody will usually head over and hit the pedestrian button.
They are horrible and about twice as long as the old cycle. additionally, the crosswalk button on the NW corner does not seem to work.
We’ve stopped riding that section of Rosa Parks, taking Delaware up to Dekum or so before heading over to Willamette. I don’t expect to come back even when it is finished: too many troublesome intersections.
I’ve seen cars parked on top of bike symbols, in front of No Parking signs, and in bike lanes far too narrow to appear to be a parking strip. It takes a lot more than possibly soggy and sun bleached 8.5×11 printouts to get people to not do it. It still happens on old bike lanes. It doesn’t help that the buffers resemble the narrow bike lanes on some of the roads around here.
The downside of too-wide bike lanes: drivers mistake them for parking lanes and the buffers for bike lanes, as you say.
Don’t you mean ‘international standard-width’ bike lanes?
This is also a big problem on SE Stark just east of 82nd. PBOT recently striped in a BUS/BIKE lane here, and I see people parked in it every day.
And you’ve called it in, yes?
What year is this? People call things on phones?
Yes, it seems that these are obvious violations that they should be ticketing for, or at least writing warnings. You don’t park within 10 feet of a bike lane stencil and not know it’s a bike lane. And if for some reason you don’t know then you get a costly lesson to pay attention to street markings.
“they have also called Parking Enforcement out to do extra patrols”
You mean that division run by the dude who used to handle Traffic enforcement? Sure, I’ll wait.
… Doot do doo-de-dooo. Thank you for holding. We appreciate your patience. Your call IS important to us…
Parking enforcement does use an automated system, but it is actually relatively effective in prompting parking enforcement to come, at least in my (NE) neighborhood. Unfortunately, you can only request enforcement on the line during “normal business hours,” which are unfortunately short (7a-5p on weekdays, 9:30-? weekends) and which have become shorter in recent months. Regardless, I would encourage people to use it when it is available to report parking in bike lanes.
From my experience parking enforcement will not follow up on a lone report unless the vehicle is severely blocking a through motor vehicle lane.
If you can get several people to report it then they seem to take action more frequently.
I’ve had very bad luck getting parking enforcement to ticket obvious daily repeat offenders. There were times they told me that they simply didn’t have the resources to ticket people for certain violations because they can’t spare the time it takes in court defending the ticket.
I was waiting for the bus at the corner of Rosa Parks and Alvina this morning. In 10 minutes, I lost count of how many cars moved into the green ‘bike lane’ for a right turn (there used to be a right turn lane there) and then counted at least 3 cars that turned right from the car lane but didn’t notice the bikes coming up on the right side in the bike lane (classic right hook scenarios). I’m concerned that removal of that right turn lane there may do more harm then good…at least I knew which cars were planning to turn right even if they weren’t signaling.
Right turn lane to the left of a go-straight lane? PBOT: Why the hell do you keep doing this?!?
Yes, I wish Jonathan had asked them this same question, wrt RP at Greely.
Something needs to be done quickly in the westbound block before I-5 to keep drivers out of the bike lane. Plastic delineators, new mystery solution or whatever. Afternoon auto traffic squeezing or taking over the bike lane at the freeway makes for a very uncomfortable ride.
Odd that they’re willing to risk scratching their cars by the passing bikes when usually car owners are super careful of their paint.
Have a little patience. This is a new experience for PBOT, saving money by doing new lines just after repaving a street, rather than waiting several years afterwards at great cost. Some of the delay is probably caused by hot weather – the plastic stuff doesn’t stick as well when temperatures rise above 80 degrees.
It’s not to be applied below 50°, and it should be in the early part of the day. But there’s no maximum temperature. It’s takes 425° to melt it to the road. I don’t think a 90° day is going to hurt it.
Is it me or is this just one huge embarrassing cluster?
That’s dismissive. In another comment, I mentioned a similar situation of PBOT announcing there were finally repaving more than 200′ of street, then without notice paving only 40′ and leaving, torpedoing the repaving even after they’d already done more than 500′ of sawcuts in preparation for paving removal that now isn’t going to happen.
PBOT also created several abrupt drainage berms directly where bikes and pedestrians travel, and even worse, covered them with sand so they’re invisible, then removed the cones and left them there waiting to create crashes.
PBOT also redirected all the stormwater OFF the street, AWAY from the storm drains, and off to the side where it will flood private property.
Is that also just me? Or should I say me and everyone else on the street?
Without any information, you’ve presumed motive, intent, or some other malfeasance. The most likely explanation is something was discovered after work began that needs to be addressed first. And not all ‘projects’ are designed. Some are ad-hoc by maintenance.
You describe an unimproved road, where berms were built and no curb directs storm water, and then lump all of PBOT together. Sort of like saying some drivers are bad, so all drivers are bad. What road?
Berms built in bike lanes, or on roadsides of center strip roadways?
Sand is used to reduce the tackiness of the uncovered edges of seal coat placed on old roads after new asphalt is applied.
No, you’re wrong. I did not presume anything. YOU presumed that I presumed. I said we were promised over 200′ of paving and ended up with 40′. I did not presume why it was stopped. I asked the project manager, who forwarded my email to someone else at PBOT, who did not answer why it the scope was changed, but confirmed there will be no more paving.
If something was “discovered after work began” he did not tell me.
The project was “designed”. It has been planned for over a year. It was not “ad hoc”.
Yes, it is a street without curbs, but why on earth do you then accuse me of “lump(ing) all of PBOT together”? I never said anything about my example being true of all of PBOT. The onsite crew on this project was excellent. I have praised PBOT in other comments, regularly.
The street is SW Miles St. east of Macadam.
The berms extend several feet into the travel lanes. The paving is not even two lanes wide for much of the road, and there are no sidewalks, so the berms are in the path of people walking and biking. There are no marked bike lanes. There are some ancient “sharrow” markings. The street is designated as a pedestrian route and bike route that connects SW to the Willamette Greenway Trail. It is well used by people walking and biking.
In regard to the sand, there was no seal coat applied to the existing road. I assume the sand was placed on the new asphalt to reduce its tackiness. I did not question the use of the sand. I pointed out it makes the new berms–which being new will surprise people using the street–almost invisible because the sand is exactly the same color as the existing paving on which the berms were built. At least cones were placed on the berms the first day, but those were removed, leaving the new berms and the thick, loose sand spread all over.
I also reported the berms to PBOT through the general phone line, asking to talk to someone who deals with biking and pedestrian issues, and was directed to a message box. I haven’t heard back yet, but that was only yesterday. The manager who responded incompletely to my first email has never answered most of my questions in that email, and hasn’t responded at all to my subsequent ones.
Do you have a phone or email contact I should use to contact someone at PBOT who deals with bike and pedestrian issues?
And I don’t think the irony is lost on people here that, when I describe a bad experience I had with PBOT, you respond with the same type of attitude that in large part created the problem I was describing.
PBOT seems erratic in its follow-through. In my own neighborhood, PBOT sent out flyers a week ago announcing the start of a total street repaving for a full block. A day later, it had made several hundred feet of sawcuts in preparation of pavement removal for the full block. A couple days later, after repaving only a few feet–maybe 20% of the project, the crew said they were done and left. The project manager confirmed to me the project has been abandoned, with no explanation. So PBOT torpedoed a project in mid-stream without notice to anyone.
As with the Rosa Parks project, the scheduling and decision making seems bizarre.
This project is an accident waiting to happen.
When people park illegally against the curb (in the bike lane), others come and park legally – which blocks the illegally parked folks from being able to leave. This leads the illegally parked folks to become angry and volatile.
Parking in the bike lanes. Folks are confused. The confusion causes drivers to act unpredictably. It is a matter of time – in my opinion a short amount of time – until someone is injured or killed due to the confusion.
What can be done now?
1. Paint the curbs red! It will clearly indicate to drivers that parking is not allowed and it will enable the city to being ticketing folks who park in the bike lanes.
2. Put temporary hay bales in the buffer zone between the parking or driving areas and the bike lanes so folks know that the bike lanes are for bikes.
The difficulty of how the Rosa Parks bike lane project is being rolled out is that it further demonstrates that cyclists do not have physical or legal space on Portland’s roads.
Portland does not use red for no parking zones. You’re thinking of some other city.
Yellow paint is expensive to annually maintain, so Portland defaults to signing.
Could it be painted just once, to help train people, then not refreshed?
Portland defaults to nothing. No paint, no signs.
Sure, paint will chip off, but so is all the thrermoplastic and that seems worse for the environment. Paint is cheap and quick. We could raise some money to buy the correct paint and do it ourselves.
I don’t know if it qualifies as “push-back,” but there was a lot of grumbling on Nextdoor regarding the changes. Of course, there is always a lot of grumbling on Nextdoor, so who knows?
Nextdoor is THE place people go to complain on the internet – GET OFF MY LAWN! It is like bikeportland for everything else people like to complain about (rim shot).
If there isn’t grumbling on Nextdoor, then it means that the world has come to an end.
“nearby residents told PBOT they were worried rows of white, plastic wands would make Rosa Parks feel less like a neighborhood and more like a highway”
That’s not the fault of the white wands, it’s the fault of a road that is wide enough to be a highway that people drive on like it IS a highway. Why do we even bother to listen to people’s input when it is so ridiculous? When new safety projects are introduced, it should be a default that it is done unless it can be demonstrated that it doesn’t address the intended problem. No more of this whining NIMBY “it will change the feel of my neighborhood” nonsense.
I disagree. I don’t fault anyone for not liking the look of countless wands. There are solutions that are a lot safer and more permanent than plastic pipes, and also that would look better, and even improve the street’s appearance. I hope that someday people will be ashamed that anyone ever thought plastic pipes were an appropriate way to protect people.
And if people are using the white wands’ appearance as a false arguing point, when what they really don’t like is space being used for bikes instead of cars, then doing something better than wands shuts them up, or at least forces them to admit what they really don’t like.
That is a totally fair point, and I thought PBOT itself was recognizing that they are not an ideal solution. I guess what I suspect is that the white wand thing is a total red herring and the real objection is is “they really don’t like is space being used for bikes instead of cars”. If they want to put a green curb between the bike lane and parking, I would be totally fine with that or anything else that creates a deterrent for parking in the bike lane. Paint obviously doesn’t work for that (see: N Lombard at N Exeter every Sunday when the Flea Market is operating)
I agree, the red herring explanation could be very likely. If it were a curb, or something else that provided protection and looked better, it would flush out the people using it as a red herring pretty quickly (along with solving things for anyone who legitimately didn’t like the wands, and being safer).
I think the argument is likely to be legit; taming a street is sometimes at odds with highly engineering it. A bit of chaos slows drivers, organizing things allows them to go faster. It’s totally understandable to want your street to look more like a neighborhood street than a freeway.
How would you suggest they make a road the width of Rosa Parks look like a neighborhood street?
I don’t, necessarily, only pointing out that the sentiment might be what it purports to be.
Boulevard treatment with tree-lined bike median and mini/compact-roundabouts (some bike only N-S), one lane each direction.
60 feet curb to curb = 8 parking, 11 travel, 22-foot median, 11 travel, 8 parking.
The white wands are also the fault of the budget. Ideally they’d have medians with greenery separating the bikes from the cars. But since this is being done on a repainting budget they can only manage to put in some wands.
In the future if this turns out the work well then they can spend the money they’ve been saving and do it right and do it complete.
Do you know how much it costs (your tax dollars) to maintain narrow medians with landscaping? protected bike lane islands are usually all concrete.
Probably why he wrote, “ideally”.
Plus, landscaped medians help manage stormwater, and can include trees (providing shade and cooling, improving appearance). Including landscaping on a bike lane project might increase support for it…
I’m sure they’re not cheap, and it may make sense to use money to create more miles of unlandscaped bike lanes, but in some instances (especially the “ideal” ones) the extra expense could be worth it.
Portland seems to be so amateur with everything lately. We are no longer a large town and need professionals that can handle complex tasks and goals
What’s your expertise in road maintenance, please.
Do we need to have “expertise” in road maintenance to lodge comments? Just saying – you sound a little defensive.
About a year ago, I stopped riding along Rosa Parks in favor of North Ainsworth, a decision I have not regretted. Nothing I’ve read about this project has tempted me to revisit that decision. N Ainsworth has a lot less motor vehicle traffic, fewer traffic signals and almost no road debris, I am not sure why it hasn’t been designated as a neighborhood greenway, but it might as well be.
The white wands are being installed today!