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

Posted by on April 19th, 2019 at 1:13 pm

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.

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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 jonathan@bikeportland.org

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39 Comments
  • Avatar
    bikeninja April 19, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Thumbs up, In my opinion there is no compelling reason for a motorist to continue across Skidmore on to the rest of Michigan. Those who do so are up to no good and will most likely pop up again at the 4 way stop at Mississippi and Fremont to torment legitimate travelers with there impatience after terrorizing the children pets and cyclists of lower Michigan.

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    Toby Keith April 19, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Good news. And while they are at it, let’s get rid of parking on Skidmore and add bike lanes between Interstate and MLK.

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      Chris I April 19, 2019 at 4:28 pm

      This would solve the visibility issues. Now that everyone drives 7ft tall SUVs, crossing busy streets with parking on both sides has become much more difficult.

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      paikiala April 19, 2019 at 4:52 pm

      I think you mean Michigan and MLK, since they already exist to the west.

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        Toby Keith April 20, 2019 at 7:59 am

        Ah right you are. It sure would make getting over to the Going greenway a lot less stressful.

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    Paul Frazier April 19, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Great news. Glad to hear they are doing a review on all of N Michigan. Trying to cross those streets really destroies the “low stress” part of the greenway. I’ve considered back tracking and just using Vancouver/Williams because the crossings are so sketchy.

    While it solves the crossing problem for cars (by not letting them cross) the amount of traffic on Skidmore makes it tricky to cross while on a bike to keep going on Michigan. Doing diverters on all these streets would help with the line of cars backing up traffic as well.

    I should call about Killingsworth too. That intersection is crazy trying to cross.

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    Ben G April 19, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    This is great news! I rode Michigan yesterday and had motorist either sitting behind me (rather intimidating) or gunning around me (to which I then re-passed as they waited at the stop sign). And thought “why aren’t there diverters like on Rosa Parks?”

    I guess Skidmore does not have the width of Rosa, so a perpendicular barricade is less of an option (maybe look at Going and 15th design??). The one issue I have with the above proposed design is I think drivers will get backed up trying to go right and stop sort of half turned. So then cyclist may not be able to pass the stopped traffic on the right and will either have to wait, pass on the left (sketchy) or jump onto the sidewalk (not ideal and inconsiderate).

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    oliver April 19, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    “many people use it as a cut-through to avoid backups on Interstate 5”

    I am deeply frustrated and angered on a daily basis by people who use N. Argyle, as a cut through to get from the freeway to Portsmouth and St. Johns. So I am not unsympathetic, just puzzled.

    Where do people come from, exactly, to use Michigan as a rat run to avoid backed up traffic on I-5, that they would be crossing Skidmore on Michigan?

    The Entrance to I-5 northbound at Broadway is almost two miles away and requires dealing with the chaos on Williams and/or a warren of side streets (and countless stop signs) in Boise to get there.

    Or is the suggestion that people are exiting 405N at Kerby, making a left onto Williams (when they can get a foot into traffic, and then another left onto Fremont, then crossing Mississippi before turning right onto Michigan, driving 2 miles on surface streets to re-join I-5 Northbound at Rosa Parks?

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      Chris I April 19, 2019 at 4:29 pm

      They do whatever Waze/Google Maps tells them to do.

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      • joeb
        joeb April 22, 2019 at 4:37 pm

        I call this mess the waze affect. I can tell that the freeway is backed up by the number of people whipping their cars through the neighborhood, rolling stop signs, trying to improve their position in traffic.

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      paikiala April 19, 2019 at 4:54 pm

      The cut through traffic from the freeway is north of Killingsworth where the freeway exists northbound. The traffic south of Skidmore is related to the business district on Mississippi.

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    mh April 19, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    Is no one else concerned that they’re proposing to use those gentle-to-paint-jobs plastic wands here? The life expectancy of the things is usually best measured in weeks, if not days.

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      mark April 19, 2019 at 3:40 pm

      That was my first thought as well. My second thought was that drivers are likely to just go around to the left of the wands so they can continue straight through.

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    Middle of the Road Guy April 19, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    This is good idea in theory but I think the end result will be even more frustrated, angry and impatient drivers. There is something about the psychology of being impeded that brings out a lot of anger.

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      Chris I April 19, 2019 at 4:30 pm

      And if we make them angry/frustrated enough, they will go away?

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        J_R April 19, 2019 at 5:33 pm

        No. They will not.

        The angry, frustrated motorists will simply become more aggressive and more dangerous. And, since there is no enforcement due to the fear that someone who is disadvantaged will be targeted and inequitably penalized, the dangerous conditions will be magnified. Vision Zero!

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          Steve Scarich April 20, 2019 at 7:19 am

          Over here in ‘little’ Bend, the 9th fastest growing city in the country, the problem is even worse. Formerly quiet neighborhoods are now raceways at certain hours. Bend is almost pathologically averse to building new roadways, so it will only get worse. I really don’t have a solution, but I agree that funneling drivers into fewer streets will only create more hostile motorists.

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            Toby Keith April 22, 2019 at 7:33 am

            The California scourge knows no boundaries.

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          Middle of the Road Guy April 21, 2019 at 8:19 am

          Exactly that.

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    Andrew Y April 19, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    I strongly think there needs to be pressure on Google to STOP pushing traffic through greenways. I sadly had to drive yesterday and Google Maps wanted to me to drive down N. Michigan to avoid N. Mississippi. If Google did not suggest these routes, many people would stop using them.

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      Ivan Boothe April 20, 2019 at 7:36 pm

      From other articles I’ve read on it, I believe Google’s position is that if it’s a street that’s legal to drive on, the map will consider it as an option. The only way to prevent it is to make it a street that doesn’t connect (diverters) or to use signs like one-way or “local traffic only” during certain hours of the day — maps will respect those restrictions.

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        mh April 20, 2019 at 9:02 pm

        And when Google learns that there is a diverter, they assume it diverts bikes exactly as it diverts cars.

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          Ivan Boothe April 21, 2019 at 9:23 pm

          Does it? In my experience the bike directions are right, but maybe that’s only after someone corrects them.

          For instance, here’s SE Clinton, with two diverters in place:

          https://goo.gl/maps/ixCqFhTU9h3Cenkp9

          If you switch to driving directions it moves you to Division or Brooklyn.

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            mh April 21, 2019 at 10:22 pm

            Very encouraging, because that’s one of two diverters that Google has repeatedly circled me around, and that I have repeatedly corrected them on. This is one time I like being proved wrong.

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              John Lascurettes April 22, 2019 at 7:41 am

              That’s not as bad as Google directing me to ride my bike across the Morrison bridge westbound on the street (illegal). I reported it many times over the years and finally gave up.

              I just checked, and they’re finally no longer giving those directions for bicycling instructions; however, now they avoid the Morrison Bridge’s MUP path altogether adding about a mile if you’re simply going from SE Morrison to SW Washington. So, Google has zero clue how to direct bicyclists to those routes. It’s a shame.

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    Doug Hecker April 19, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    This is laughable and a sign of things to come. People don’t want the freeways and they don’t want the PBOT created need to cut through. Someone is clearly living in a pipedream if they think that all of the traffic will somehow vanish.

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    Mike Quigley April 20, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Ten buck gas and rationing….anyone?

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      mh April 20, 2019 at 9:22 am

      $10 gas after an abrupt increase, and driver’s tests every five years. Or, no need to ration, just charge the full cost of the stuff, including all the military spending in gas-producing parts of the world, environmental costs, etc., etc.

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        Middle of the Road Guy April 21, 2019 at 8:21 am

        As long as we all know a lot of that cost will be pushed onto consumers in other ways.

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    Dave April 20, 2019 at 10:07 am

    PBOT’s next move should be to hire a hacker to permanently disable the Waze app. It’s darn near a terrorist weapon–how did this come to exist legitimately?

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    Edwin Reece April 20, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Maybe you should widen the freeways so drivers won’t be tempted to use neighborhood streets as a shortcut.

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      X April 22, 2019 at 6:35 pm

      Interstate originalist here. These roads were intended by my man Ike for long distance travel, movement of war material in case of a congessionally mandated conflict, and evacuation of cities at need. The system is clogged because we stuck too many on-ramps and exits in there. Blow up a bunch of ramps and give the remaining ones a statuatory half mile merge lane. Problem solved. Free flow of commerce from border to border.

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      X April 22, 2019 at 6:52 pm

      Outlet diverters such as the Michigan / Skidmore layout shown in the drawings are a half measure at best. C’mon PBOT, any stretch of more than 5 blocks needs a diagonal diverter such as the one on Rodney S. of Fremont to sort out people in cars making time through the neighborhood. Also see NE 16 / Tillamook. No Subarus going through that one. I’ve seen one m.v. cut through there and that was a motorcycle. Motorcycle riders have skin in the game. Don’t mind that, me.

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    Dave April 20, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Edwin Reece
    Maybe you should widen the freeways so drivers won’t be tempted to use neighborhood streets as a shortcut.Recommended 0

    Where has that worked yet?

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      Middle of the Road Guy April 21, 2019 at 8:22 am

      I’m curious if there are any studies which show the impacts on peripheral/neighborhood traffic as a result of capacity expansion. I mean, we accept that there is induced demand but is that demand made up of the people who were abandoning the highway for sidestreets?

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        Dave April 22, 2019 at 7:33 am

        I think it would depend on the layout of the city–it’s the misfortune of northeast Portland to have residential streets that parallel a sticky stretch of I5.

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    TakeTheLane April 22, 2019 at 9:43 am

    Is there no one else concerned that there are not stop signs on Skidmore at this intersection? I avoid it because the cars fly through there after coming over the overpass or accelerating aggressively after starting up from the stop sign at Mississippi eager to regain the momentum “that that pesky stop sign at Mississippi interrupted.”

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    maxD April 22, 2019 at 11:30 am

    Diverters here (and at Fialing, please) would be very helpful! Michigan/Skidmore is really horrible on a bike travelling along Michigan, and even worse on a bike or in a car traveling on Skidmore crossing Skidmore. In my experience, the most dangerous way through that intersection is walking on the sidewalk, especially walking westbound on the south side of Skidmore. The people in cars traveling north on Michigan are ruthless!

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    barn owl April 22, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    It is crazy to me that there are 4 way intersections that do not have any stop signs, such as at Failing and Missouri leading up to the pedestrian bridge over I-5. There are also a few like this off Salmon in the 40s. You assume you can go through if there’s no stop sign but so do cars coming down the other road. This is super dangerous

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