Comment of the Week: Slow Skyline Boulevard down, don’t widen it

If drivers simply slowed down, riding on Skyline could always be this pleasant.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

We’re long overdue to put the spotlight on a great comment.

Our Comment of the Week goes to noted local activist and lawyer (and BikePortland supporter) Scott Kocher.

On Wednesday he shared insights about a road he knows very well: NW Skyline Blvd. His comment came on our story about Multnomah County’s online open house that seeks feedback on their 20 Year Road Plan. One project on that list would consider “augmenting shoulders” and possibly providing, “enhanced shoulder bikeways.”

Here’s Scott’s comment:

“I agree: slow Skyline down, don’t widen it. I met a surgeon once who lives on Skyline (and doesn’t bike) who commented to me that he figures Skyline must be “littered with dead bicyclists.” His phrase not mine, and I think it reflects a common misunderstanding. To my knowledge which goes back roughly 20 years, nobody has ever been killed cycling on Skyline. The VZ Crash Map (data from Portland to Newberry/McNamee) is consistent with that: No deaths and 4 injuries in 10 years. Nobody is texting except on the few straightaways because you’d drive off the road. Likewise if you’re driving drunk you won’t make it very far. There aren’t many intersections. The curves keep speeds much lower than on other thru routes in the area. The people who ride up there tend to be almost as fast as the vehicles (most of them, in most places), which means a relatively small speed differential. There’s poor separation but it’s a gradual approach, with more time to avoid a crash, and lesser injury if a driver did god forbid rear-end somebody. My only near miss up there in 18 years was a (near) left hook: driver coming the other way turning left into her driveway apparently didn’t see 4 riders wearing hi-viz with 500-lumen flashing daytime headlights. I’ve seen some very bad passes. I’ve seen the aftermath of roadway departure crashes. If left hooks, bad passes and roadway departures are the problem, wider shoulders won’t help. Wider shoulders might well encourage more speed, more cut-thru traffic, and more crashes.


If PBOT complied with the 20MPH Ordinance (Skyline is a non-arterial in a residence district) then people who want to drive fast would have to slow down, modestly increasing drive times and reducing cut-thru traffic off Hwy 30 and Hwy 26. People who live there would have a place to walk and jog and walk dogs without fear instead of being shut in. Everyone, including people who want to bike or e-bike, would receive the level of safety guaranteed to them by the the 20 MPH law and Ordinance. Which went into effect 14 months ago. How about it?”

What I like about Scott’s comment is that he uses a mix of data, direct personal experience, and calm reasoning to bolster his points. He also shares how current policy could impact the issue and paints a picture of what Skyline could be like if he got his wishes. Then Scott ends with a subtle call-to-action.

Thanks for the comment Scott.

But wait! There’s more! Here are a few other great comments that have come in recently:

— Don’t miss El Biciclero’s eloquent and though-provoking explanation of why we really don’t have any true “bikeways” in Portland.

— maxD shared several very strong points of concern about ODOT’s plans for lids over I-5 as part of their Rose Quarter project.

– Esther reminded us about the power of inclusive language.

Thank you for bucking the trend of not reading comments.

While it takes vigilance and dedication to the conversation, I believe our comment sections helps the community learn and grow together. It takes all of us working together to make them a helpful resource. Please do your part by: writing productive comments, flagging inappropriate ones (contact me directly), and nominating great ones by typing “comment of the week” as a reply.

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

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