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PBOT wants diverters on N Michigan to reduce crashes and cut-through drivers

PBOT sketch of diverters proposed for North Michigan at Skidmore.

The rising number of people using cars on our neighborhood streets has many negative impacts. Among them are more crashes caused by people who make dangerous moves out of frustration, selfishness, impatience, or all of the above. One way to combat this is to constrain the driving environment so people have fewer choices and are forced to make safer movements.

And that’s exactly what the Portland Bureau of Transportation wants to do on North Michigan Avenue at Skidmore.

Like many neighborhood greenways throughout Portland during peak hours, Michigan is no longer “low-stress and family friendly” during.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Residential development has skyrocketed in recent years in the Boise and Humboldt neighborhoods around the lower North Mississippi and Interstate avenue corridors. North Michigan runs north-south and despite its designation as a “low-stress, family-friendly” neighborhood greenway, many people use it as a cut-through to avoid backups on Interstate 5 (one block over). When these north-south cut-through drivers mix with east-west drivers backed up at the N Skidmore/Mississippi intersection (one block east), bad things happen. It creates dangerous conditions for people on foot, and for those using cars and bikes.

After hearing about this project from the Boise Neighborhood Newsletter earlier this week, I asked PBOT for some background.

PBOT staff confirmed with me in a phone interview today that someone noticed this problem and took the time to call it into PBOT’s traffic safety hotline (a.k.a. 823-SAFE). PBOT investigated to determine if any follow-up was needed. In this case, PBOT Project Manager Scott Cohen says city traffic engineers took a closer look at the intersection and found 11 crashes in the past four years, including six in 2016 (the latest year data is available). “It’s a growing problem,” Cohen said.


Existing conditions.

The collisions happen when people are backed up on Skidmore and there’s limited visibility for north and southbound road users on North Michigan. People inch out into Skidmore, and then dart across, resulting in what PBOT calls, “angle crashes”. “To address that situation, our engineers want to get people to not continue across Skidmore,” Cohen said.

“We acknowledge there’s more traffic on Michigan than we think is ideal for a neighborhood greenway.”
— Dylan Rivera, PBOT

As you can see in the lead graphic, PBOT’s solution is to install diverters (with plastic poles and paint) that will prohibit auto users from crossing Michigan and force them to turn right onto Skidmore.

While the impetus for this project was to reduce crashes, it will also reduce the amount of drivers on Michigan.

PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said today, “We acknowledge there’s more traffic on Michigan than we think is ideal for a neighborhood greenway.”

Rivera and Cohen said PBOT wants to take a more comprehensive look at the entire Michigan corridor to find ways to limit auto use and create a low-stress cycling environment.

If you want to learn more about this project, or share your feedback with Scott Cohen, he’ll be at the Boise Neighborhood Association Land Use & Transportation meeting on Monday (4/22) at Q Center (4115 N Mississippi Ave) from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

(In related news, Cohen said the construction of concrete curbs for the unprotected bike lanes on North Rosa Parks Way should be completed this summer.)

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

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