Two of Portland’s transportation reform advocacy groups are ratcheting up their opposition to the City of Portland’s plans to tear down the Better Naito project at the end of next week.
“Better Naito is a critical link in the active transportation network and should remain installed year-round.”
— Bike Loud PDX
Nearing the end of its fourth year as a temporary reconfiguration of Naito Parkway, the project gives walkers and rollers much more room to operate on a crucial north-south link along Waterfront Park.
Both Bike Loud PDX — the grassroots, all-volunteer group that celebrated its fourth birthday this week — and the venerable Street Trust (formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance), have taken action to save the project.
Bike Loud Co-chairs Emily Guise and Catie Gould laid out the group’s argument in a letter (PDF) sent to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioners Chloe Eudaly, Nick Fish, Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman yesterday:
“Better Naito is a critical link in the active transportation network and should remain installed year-round… Spending time and resources each year to remove and re-install Better Naito is a poor use of our limited transportation funds. The $350,000 approved by City Council in 2017 gets chipped away at each year at the expense of maintenance or other projects. It is counter intuitive that at the same time we are seeking major investments to improve our active transportation network in the downtown core that we are spending funding to remove part of that network each fall…
By 2035, we are planning on 80% of commute trips to or from the district being made outside of Single Occupancy Vehicles (as adopted by the Central City 2035 Plan.) We will not be able to create these shifts in how Portlanders get around if we continue to remove the most popular Central City bike route each year.
BikeLoudPDX urges the City of Portland to keep Better Naito installed year round until a permanent design can be implemented… A year round installation would provide real data on winter usage and travel impacts to all modes that can be used to inform a decision on the permanent design.”
Bike Loud points to a 2017 PBOT traffic study that showed people were twice as likely to ride a bike on Better Naito than on the crowded Waterfront Park path. The city’s bike count also showed 3,000 – 4,000 bike trips per day on Naito at Ankeny and Salmon, “making it by far the most heavily used bicycle facility in the Central City,” Bike Loud notes.
And The Street Trust has announced a ride and rally this coming Tuesday (9/18) at 5:00 pm. Here’s the description:
“The Better Naito protected bikeway season will end September 22. Show your appreciation for this safe and convenient route! Meet up at 5 p.m. At 5:30 ride the length of the protected bikeway, then head over the Hawthorne Bridge to the Central City in Motion open house at OMSI where you can share your priorities for bike and pedestrian improvements with PBOT. Priorities like a permanent protected bikeway on SW Naito Parkway!”
When Better Naito was torn down last year, over 100 concerned Portlanders formed a human-protected bike lane to convey its importance.
This past May, Mayor Wheeler expressed his desire to permanently reconfigure Naito by commissioning a study on the potential design options and costs. The price tag came out to $4 million and the proposal has become project 17 of the Central City in Motion plan. Similar to the position of Bike Loud PDX this week, Better Block (the group that initiated the Better Naito concept in 2015) and other activists panned the study and said waiting for such a large project to materialize didn’t make sense when a good solution has already been tested.
At this point it’s unclear what the immediate future of Better Naito is. Current PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is new to the job of overseeing the bureau and isn’t prepared to comment on it yet. PBOT is unlikely to make such a major policy shift without cover from City Hall — especially as long as the Portland Business Alliance remains on record as being staunchly opposed to it.
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