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Opinion: Better Naito has ended in the worst way

Posted by on September 21st, 2018 at 1:27 pm

It’s gone. Ripped out last night — a full day before it was scheduled to be removed.

What’s one more day when we already got cheated out of a full week due to a conflict with a nearby bridge construction project?

It’s a lot.

Because there was zero prior warning, it looks like several people rode onto Naito this morning, assuming the lanes were still protected, only to realize they were fully exposed to other traffic.

Thousands will miss it.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“I had an extremely sketchy moment this morning when I hopped on Better Naito southbound, saw a car coming at me, and realized Better Naito was gone,” tweeted Dirk VanderHart this morning.

This morning at 10:03 am, the Portland Bureau of Transportation apologized for the early removal and acknowledged the mistake, saying it was, “due to an internal miscommunication.” They then sent flaggers to both ends to let people know about the “unexpected” closure.

This error could have led to someone being hurt or even killed. It adds salt into the wound PBOT has created by ripping this rug out from under us at the end of every summer.

It’s a wound that was already smarting even with the installation fully intact.

Ever since it first went in on May 1st, the anemic, low-budget design made it too easy for people in cars to drive in it. In the past two weeks we’ve heard of three incidents where people drove inside the Better Naito lanes at night — twice narrowly missing a rider, and once crashing into one.

On the night of September 9th, Richard Bidmead had his bike-mounted video camera rolling when he captured someone driving a black car without headlights on coming right for him. Then it happened again 10 days later.

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Still image from a video by Walker Devine, moments before he was hit while riding in Better Naito September 17th.

Devine’s bike.

Then on Monday night, 20-year-old southeast Portland resident Walker Devine was hit by someone driving in Better Naito. Luckily he escaped major injury, but his bike was snapped in half…

In an email this morning, Devine said it happened around 8:00 pm at SW Oak. Here’s his account:

“As I approached the intersection I noticed a car make a wide swing into the bike protected lane a block up from SW Harvey Milk/Stark onto the left northbound lane of Naito Parkway. I stopped at the intersection of Naito and Oak because I’ve encountered plenty of drivers doing this move before. There’s enough of a gap for drivers to swing back out onto the traffic lane of Naito. I signaled to them but by the time they were about 4 feet from the intersection I could tell they were not stopping. Then, if felt like they accelerated and hit me. I honestly thought it was an intentional hit and run.”

Devine said both people in the car were upset about what happened and helped him over to the curb. Witnesses called 911 and a police report was filled out. He went to the ER in an ambulance to get checked out and luckily only had some bruises and cuts. “My bike took the brunt of the attack, thank goodness,” he wrote. “I can’t believe that the bike wasn’t my leg every time I look at it.”

In a city that claims to have made Vision Zero its top transportation priority, we should never expose a group of road users to this much risk — especially when it comes from a city project intended to reduce it.

People risk their lives just to get the requisite political attention for projects like this to happen. Then they risk their lives because the project is so low-budget and value-engineered that it promotes unsafe behaviors. Then the project is abruptly removed without any warning or signage whatsoever, putting even more lives at risk.

This is madness. Better Naito should be a huge win for City Hall and PBOT. Instead, far too many riders dislike it (and who can blame them?) and many drivers see the few extra seconds delay it causes as an unspeakable infringement. In the end, the city has made it hard for even advocates of the project to hold their heads high.

We are in desperate need of transportation leadership in Portland. I’m optimistic that newly-named PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is up to the task. But right now, I’m disgusted by how Better Naito has been handled. We deserve better.

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

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Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Insult to Injury – they also put up signs saying “no e-scooters” along the riverfront paths.

Brad Noren
Guest
Brad Noren

Oooh, signs. Like the ones that say “speed limit 20”, or “stop”, or “yield to pedestrians”, or “no camping”? I could go on and on and on…

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Cynical me says, “This is why we will not be re-installing so-called ‘Better Naito’ in the future. The confusion generated by switching lane usage has shown to be problematic for drivers and bicyclists alike. Safety concerns have grown to the point that the risks and inconvenience for drivers outweigh any minor benefits to the non-motoring population.”

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Not sure why PBOT didn’t use some sort of temporary diverter system to help everyone navigate Better Naito “better.”

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

The plan for permanent Better Naito involves removing multiple trees from Waterfront Park. This will kill the project outright. PBOT must know that the headlines will read “Bikers Want to Tear Out Trees for Bike Lanes”. Expect Eudaly to offer some excuse about not wanting to appease rich downtown people, despite the actual statistics showing downtown being far more mixed-income than the social justice crowd wants you to believe. I don’t have high hopes for a permanent Better Naito ever happening given our current leadership.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

It would be so simple to put jersey barriers across each intersection and leave the whole east half of the street to people walking and biking. You can even have the left turn lanes to bypass turning cars, so that’s a nice 2-3 lanes on the west side of the median for people to drive on both ways. Done and with no trees lost or new pavement necessary.

soren
Subscriber

We live in a city that is transitioning towards an exclusive community for the rich so it’s inevitable that Portland will become increasingly car-centric.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

::does not compute::

That kind of message will fall on deaf ears when people look around and actively see multimodal projects happening all around us. I could list them if needed.

soren
Subscriber

Bike mode share in Portland has dropped 13% since 2014 (7.2, 7.0, 6.3, 6.3) according to Census 1 year estimates.

dwk
Guest
dwk

People are lazy, gas is cheap…
‘Sharing” transportation (which is a joke) , like Uber, E-scooters and all the other venture capital funded disasters are contributing to the lower cycling numbers yet are constantly praised by comments here (like yours) and by this site in general.
Care to look in the mirror?

soren
Subscriber

my mirror shows someone who has always opposed capitalism. what does your mirror show?

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Capitalism does some wonderful things, as well. If you were not ideological opposed and had the ability to be objective, you might grasp that.

Que
Guest
Que

Capitalism at its current scale is a humanitarian disaster.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Is it? Can you point to an alternative that works better?

me
Guest

Capitalism- We cant have a few mega rich without have a TON of very poor

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That doesn’t follow. But again I ask for a better alternative.

Bennett Shane
Guest
Bennett Shane

haha dude I make 25k a year and I live on Naito.

RH
Guest
RH

Anyone have a ladder PBOT can borrow? They can use to reach the top shelf where the dusty Vision Zero book is currently resting.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Platinum!

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Oh…did they store it right on top of the 2030 Plan?

https://bikeportland.org/2010/02/12/friday-cartoon-dont-let-it-sit-29431

765 UNIT
Guest
765 UNIT

the majority of comments on twitter and various news stories about this today are mainly from motorists huzzahing the removal, and stating they want it to remain permanent. every year of this Better Naito “attempt” has become more dangerous for me to ride, personally. it seems to provide a troll chute for cars to play chicken with us, to shrug and go “aw shucks” when they force us into the curb. the city makes it too easy for vehciles of all sizes to enter the damn thing, and then we are stuck dealing with motorists’ pranky fallout.

i am sorry for Mr Devine’s loss of bike! glad he got out intact, and used an ambulance so as to be able to officially document this incident.

Ivan Boothe
Guest
Ivan Boothe

Welcome to the annual Portland event, Worse Naito.

Worse Naito, a project jointly sponsored by PBOT and the Portland Business Alliance, commences each fall after drivers injure and maim a sufficient number of bicyclists and pedestrians in a poorly-protected, temporarily-marked “safe zone” along the city’s flagship downtown park.

Worse Naito lasts each year until mid-spring, when PBOT temporarily suspends the program due to the sheer number of pedestrians and bicyclists who insist on walking in the street when periodic events are happening within the city’s flagship downtown park. The end of Worse Naito is often heralded with stern letters and warnings from PBA public relations flacks and a few select commuters interviewed by television news.

As soon as the summer event crowds disperse (and sometimes before they do) PBOT once again restarts the Worse Naito initiative. Ever improving, PBOT launched Worse Naito in 2018 more than a week early, including a special bonus day as a gift to the people of Portland.

Thank you for joining us at Worse Naito. We hope you make it down the street OK.

#WorseNaito

Shoupian
Subscriber
Shoupian

I am getting mixed signals from Commissioner Eudaly. She said before she supports active transportation, but her agency just removed a very popular safety improvement in downtown Portland ahead of schedule and unannounced. So I have some serious doubts about her commitment to improving the safety of walking and bicycling.

Tee
Guest
Tee

I doubt how much she truly cares or actually even knows about active transportation. She gave some lip service in her campaign to active transportation (re: she wants to bicycle more but can’t due to her family situation). However, the safety of vulnerable road users has always seemed like an afterthought behind housing for her. Vision Zero is an equity issue, but I don’t think she really gets that.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I’m not feeling the outrage, but I do think the annual in-out is a pointless waste of resources, and a poorly crafted compromise that benefits no-one, and only serves to up the ante for both advocates and opponents.

Better Naito is much better than Normal Naito, but I’d really like and us to figure out a Good Naito and make it permanent. (I see permanence as inevitable, I just hope it’s better than what we’ve been getting. Maybe with the next PBOT commissioner?)

And a special thanks to Dan and Chloe for their backbone, and setting up our annual disappointment, reminding us how much work we have yet to do.

emerson
Subscriber

Here, here

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

I’m sorry, what? “Internal miscommunication” is the best line they can come up with?

I have a very hard time believing that a mistake like this was simply someone putting the wrong date on a form. The work here was done proactively instead of delayed, a team of road workers must have gone out a night early to disassemble things and restripe. I’m guessing they’re paid hourly, and they must have an extensive scheduling system they use to coordinate work all across the city.

The timing of work like that would be crucial, and I’m sure road worker hours during time periods which skirt regular rush hours (say, the weekend that Better Naito’s removal was officially rescheduled to) are a pretty hot commodity. The fact that the removal was already rescheduled sets the stage here; PBOT would likely have had scheduled workers well in advance for the original removal date, and moving it earlier means they now would need to get hours from a very limited labor pool that’s probably already assigned to projects.

That leaves two possible ways this could have occurred – the first is gross incompetence, which is what PBOT is blaming here. If PBOT had accidentally closed a major car corridor during rush hour without warning anybody, OLive would be publishing an article listing anybody who could be at fault and their salaries in a few hours and the comments would all be calling for their heads.

The second is what seems more likely to me: someone figured they could save money and ease scheduling by getting the removal done ahead of time, and then framed it as an “internal miscommunication” because they thought it would save more face to mess up and apologize, versus letting commuters know that Better Naito was going to get removed even earlier (and accepting the backlash from the commuters who use it every day).

Frankly, I think someone at PBOT is lying.

i-765 UNIT
Guest
i-765 UNIT

FWIW, i rode thru it at approx 3am this morning–all was intact. i encountered 4 cop cars and a fire truck, lights blazing after they apprehended a “thief” who had tried to escape them by bike. i also encountered 3 streetcleaner trucks.
very eventful 3 block section!
but otherwise the wands were all still very present.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

In fact, their own blog post just prior to announcing the “accidental” early removal of Better Naito pretty much confirms that they needed to poach people this weekend to work on a different project: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/698399

So according to PBOT’s own post, they announced on the 20th (the day Better Naito gets “accidentally” removed early) that they would suddenly be closing SE 50th to complete that much overdue project this weekend. PBOT’s project page for SE 50th even says “PBOT is diverting most of its resources – both financial and staff – to complete the paving before the end of September at the latest”.

I’d understand it if needing to divert resources away from the Better Naito removal due to a higher-priority project meant that Better Naito got left in place for longer, and I’d also understand if it at least had been communicated about prior to making an emergency change. Instead, PBOT clearly made a really dangerous decision in order to meet other commitments, and then pretended like it was an accident.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

At least the 50th project isn’t currently diverting drivers onto the Lincoln greenway.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

The current commissioner Eudaly has been making some very poor decisions lately. After campaigning on transportation issues (bicycles) and homeless support issues, the only thing she has come up with has been buss tickets out of town or any bicycle improvements she has been able to squash.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I am also not surprised that this happened under Eudaly. She seems to have no ability to do the operations end of the job of commissioner and I am very disappointed that the Mayor felt that Transportation was a place where she would do less damage than she had at BDS and so he moved her there.

Tee
Guest
Tee

Moving her off of BDS was the best thing Wheeler’s done this entire time. However, putting her in charge of transportation was one of his less good ideas. Any reason she could not have been in charge of water bureau or only in charge of ONI (or whatever it’s called these days).

Resopmok
Guest
Resopmok

As i recall from many comments on this blog, it was speculated that she was moved to transportation not because she would do less harm there, but because it was more likely to kill her political career. That, and she needed to be moved from BDS.

Bert
Guest
Bert

If by “campaigning on transportation issues” you mean throwing a hissy fit at the 11th hour when she found out her disabled son wouldn’t be able to use Biketown, then sure. In fact, every thing Eudaly has campaigned for seems to be for her own personal gain masquerating as social justice nonsense. If you think Eudaly has any political agenda other than ruining everyone she believed has wronged her in the past, you’d be mistaken.

yarp
Guest
yarp

Despite the histrionic, hyperbolic post – he comments to defend Eudaly and PBOT. Have you no shame?

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Narp?

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Clicky Freewheel
Since when is a family making over $100,000/year considered rich? With the cost of living getting higher, a dual income of $100,000 doesn’t buy much nowadays.Recommended 1

$100 k yearly is very large money by anyone’s standards.

I never have had a family, live in a small shared house, ride TriMet and a nice fixie–on $10 K a year Social Security.

By the way , high dual incomes are a vast social problem, concentrating wealth as they inevitably do, and are the primary cause of “homelessness”.

Beth H
Guest

“By the way , high dual incomes are a vast social problem, concentrating wealth as they inevitably do, and are the primary cause of ‘homelessness’.”

I would suggest that high dual incomes would not be as necessary if everyone lived as simply as you do — or, in the case of cities like Portland, if everyone could AFFORD to live as simply as you do. There simply isn’t enough affordable housing stock left here for that to be possible, and there is little meaningful political will to remedy that problem. Unless you’ve lived here for a long time (say, 30+ years); have already managed to find truly stable housing (i.e., you bought a home before everything got stupid ten years ago; and you have a great job and/or a golden parachute), you’re stuck.
I, too live lightly, in a small, dilapidated house and without a car of my own. I ride a bike or take the bus everywhere.
And while you and I can appreciate the joy of living so lightly, not everyone aspires to that vision.
An awful lout of folks have been suckered by the idea that they can buy their way to happiness.
It’s hard to un-train a lifetime of consumerist conditioning, so that you learn to want and need less and be happy with it.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

This needs to be a reminder to us that no matter how much progress we have made ,the forces of darkness lurk in the shadows ready to take back what they think is theirs and return us to a time when cyclists knew their place. A time when those on two wheels cowered in the ditches and demanded nothing. They won’t easily accept that their time is over, and we must keep our guard up to stave off cheap shots like this.

rick
Guest
rick

Horrible

Scott Kocher
Guest

Luckily I noticed the cars before I swung from the Waterfront into the (non) Better Naito lane near NW Couch this morning, but it reminded me of one of the worst scares of my life. One beautiful sunny Sunday last summer I was with a small group enjoying the end of the day at Sunday Parkways. Not many folks were left and somehow we ended up being one block off the SP route without realizing it. One of the kids in our group was a few bike lengths ahead and went thru what none of us realized was cross traffic coming full speed through the next intersection. I can’t even begin to imagine.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Thank you for sharing my videos, Jonathan — I really appreciate you shining a light on this issue. Just a slight correction: My last name is “Bidmead.”

The story of the driver hitting someone in Better Naito is upsetting beyond all belief. I know exactly what this is like, and it’s horrifying. As an aside: It is an investment, but if anyone can afford it, please arm yourselves with a bike cam (I recommend Cycliq). They may not keep you safe, but the footage is invaluable in cases such as these, even if the camera breaks (it is auto-saved on a tiny SD card that will likely survive).

I agree with others saying that the temporary nature of Better Naito was/is a terrible idea. It has allowed for embarrassing low standards, and it has given credence to the view that protected bike lanes are “optional” rather than life-savingly necessary. It doesn’t surprise me that most people are celebrating its removal, given the implications of such wishy-washy messaging. “Vision Zero is a thing but only during summer with a weak illusion of safety that cars can still bulldoze and drive and park in until they get their lane back because their convenience matters more than your life.”

If such a signature plan like Better Naito can’t just be implemented as policy, I have no hope for any other streets with less popularity, support, and fanfare. So disillusioning.

Peter Hass
Guest
Peter Hass

I enjoyed using Better Naito while it was available…even with the need to dodge the occasional car driver using it! Maybe it’ll be back next year or maybe it won’t. Like the constantly moving tents around Portland, I see it as a very visible symbol of our city’s failings.

Adam Christopher Douglas
Guest
Adam Christopher Douglas

why is all this taking so long? PDX should have been a perfect bike city by now.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

“This error could have led to someone being hurt or even killed.”

Only if they’re as oblivious as motor vehicle drivers and not watching where they’re going.

But I appreciate you pointing out that the transportation mode doesn’t matter. It’s people that make these stupid mistakes. And it’s better when they do it on a bike so they don’t endanger others as much.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

“I noticed a car make a wide swing into the bike protected lane a block up from SW Harvey Milk/Stark onto the left northbound lane of Naito Parkway.”

This would be illegal even if Better Naito wasn’t there. But it’s something that’s rarely enforced and many people do it.