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First Look: Halsey-Weidler couplet in Gateway updated with protected bikeways and more

Posted by on June 5th, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Look what PBOT did!
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Southeast Foster Road fans are rejoicing today as their beloved retail strip now has dedicated bike lanes. But that’s not the only east Portland commercial area to get new bike access this month. The Portland Bureau of Transportation says they’re about 99% finished with the much-anticipated Halsey-Weidler Streetscape project.

This $5.5 million project is a partnership between PBOT and Prosper Portland that (similar to Foster), aims to use street design changes to improve safety and boost economic development. The city has made significant updates to Halsey and Weidler between 102nd and 112th. Changes include: curb extensions on every corner, new pavement on Halsey, improved street lighting, median refuge islands, three new crossings with rapid flash beacons, parking protected bicycle lanes, transit stop upgrades, new street trees, a “festival street”, a new public plaza, and more.

I spent about an hour so on the couplet yesterday to talk with folks and watch how the street is being used.

“People hate it,” said the manager of a liquor store near 103rd. “95% of our customers have asked me about it… Mostly they’re upset about the loss of parking. This is the main thoroughfare and they took out like 14 spots.” Upon further discussion, the man said he thinks the changes are, “A good idea,” but that’s just been implemented poorly. He didn’t elaborate on how he thinks it should have been designed; but he said he’s heard of two people (drivers) who have been hit as they stepped out of their cars in the new “floating” parking zone (which puts them in much closer proximity to passing drivers than parking at the curb).

Two people waiting for the bus were thrilled with the changes. I watched one man with a cast on his foot cross where PBOT just installed a curb extension and a median refuge island — essentially reducing the distance across by about 15 feet or so. “I wouldn’t have tried that before with my foot like this,” he said with a smile. “I’m not very fast these days.”

A woman behind the counter of Namaste Indian Market (which is wonderful by the way) had some concerns about parking loss. Her store is adjacent NE 103rd, the street PBOT converted from a parking lot/alleyway into a “festival street”. The idea is to make it more of a public plaza with one-way driving access that could be prohibited (via bollards) during events like farmer’s markets. She wasn’t sure what the plan was and didn’t understand the new bike lane and other changes to the street. Once I explained everything, she agreed it seemed like an improvement that would encourage people to visit the Gateway district and make the streets safer.

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Here are a few of my observations and images to illustrate:

– The transit island just west of 102nd is a marvel: It makes transit service and biking more efficient, there’s plenty of space for bus riders to get on-and-off, and makes for a nice, low-stress welcome to the couplet.


– From what I could see, the changes are working relatively well. People are still getting used to the new striping and lane configuration. And yes, there were several folks who parked in the new bike lane. Hopefully that subsides.


– PBOT really needs to do more to protect these new biking spaces. Whether it’s plastic wands, concrete curbs or both. And maybe “BIKES ONLY” pavement markings, more signage, and a few enforcement actions to drive awareness. If we’re going to call these “protected” bikeways, let’s be honest about it and give people what they deserve.


– Fortunately speeds on the couplet are relatively low, and the median islands and other changes will only make them slower. People on foot now feel more empowered to cross in more locations, which makes people in cars more cautious.

– Now that we have this great bike facility, we need places to park! I had to park to a sign pole because there were no staples in sight. That should never happen!

– One serious problem is how many drivers coming onto the couplet from a sidestreet block the new bike lane as they wait for a gap in traffic (see below). This is a tricky situation and I’m not sure what the solution is, other than signage and pavement markings. Of course if people were more competent and courteous in general — and if cars weren’t such large and awkward vehicles — this wouldn’t be a problem.


– The new Gateway Discovery Park at 106th and Halsey is fantastic! It’s a modern facility with wifi, places to hang out, and lots of cool amenities. And one of the best crossing treatments is right on the corner so it’s very welcoming.

Here’s a video of me riding the entire couplet (has been sped up 2X to save you time)…

But wait, there’s more…

Bike only signal on 102nd is a welcome touch…

Here’s the current status of the festival street/plaza at 103rd…

The problem with parking protected bike lanes is that you feel kind of scrunched between the cars and the curb. Also not wide enough for side-by-side, social cycling…

Another view of the crossing treatment at 106th/Gateway Park…

This is a median-protected crossing enhancement at the off-set intersection of Halsey and 108th…

Beyond the project boundary, we still have some work to do…

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

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Johnny Bye Carter
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Johnny Bye Carter

“If we’re going to call these “protected” bikeways, let’s be honest about it and give people what they deserve.”

It’s not a protected bikeway because most of it is just paint. It has a few protected areas, like the bus island and the intersections.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

“he said he’s heard of two people (drivers) who have been hit as they stepped out of their cars in the new “floating” parking zone (which puts them in much closer proximity to passing drivers than parking at the curb).”

If this helps make drivers scared that they’re going to be hit by a car then it’s a step in the right direction.

raktajino
Guest
raktajino

>>Hopefully if they start adding staples (please tell me that’s coming), some of those businesses might start seeing even more patrons.

Totally. My first thought was, “well then it’s good that they have more ways to safely get here now!”

SuWonda
Guest
SuWonda

I wonder why this design was implemented here but not on Foster. Seems like a very similar commercial area with a previous focus on cars with higher speeds. I understand different parts of the city need different solutions but we’ve got a real hodge podge of bicycle infrastructure throughout and it feels arbitrary and confusing at times why some designs are chosen.

Champs
Guest
Champs

I have to give that bike lane blocker a pass just for retrofitting that BMW 2002 with a pickup bed.

Sure wish we had transit islands on Vancouver and Williams!

Jason VH
Guest

I hope/ wish they add something on the other side of 205. If you’ve ever pedaled up Halsey from 82nd, you’ve enjoyed almost being hit by cars plenty.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

All this paint and concrete…and still no good way to head downtown except the crappy Halsey sidewalk.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Member

Rode them today! Such an improvement. I’m hopeful that someday they go all the way from 92nd to 122nd.

Checked in at the Outer Rim bike shop to chat with the employees about the new lanes. Said all employees were against the lanes and that Portland is too anti-car. I have a feeling though that that sentiment will change. I think it reflects an area that has not had any good bike infastructure for a long time. Passed by two older guys heading to dive bar and they both said they liked the changes.

Also that park is amazing! I didn’t know until today that there is a Food Fight grocery store on Halsey.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

As for reinforcing the bikeway space vs. the parking space/ buffer…how about RPMs (fort he dark winter) and the big old school half-moon turtles (super sized Botts dots) or euro hedge hogs? Stay away from the wands please, except in limited low speed areas.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Jonathan – please add a note to your great video..it looks like you purposely sped it up to make it easier to watch (thanks)…but this change also makes the traffic look like they are doing 50 or 60 mph! 😉

maccoinnich
Subscriber

This looks really good, and I look forward to riding it soon. Hopefully this sets the floor for the quality of new bicycle facilities.

I particularly like the floating bus islands. Unlike the design for the stations on Outer Division, this allows a bicycle rider to pass a stopped bus without creating a conflict between the bike rider and someone getting on or off the bus.

“PBOT really needs to do more to protect these new biking spaces. Whether it’s plastic wands, concrete curbs or both.”

The contract plans show flex posts in the painted buffer. From the photos it looks like the bases have been installed, but the posts themselves aren’t there yet. I’m not a big fan of flex posts, but they’re better than nothing.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

Not bad overall. Narrower lanes than it should have but maybe all they could arrange at this time.
The locations of the green paint seem opposite to me. It’s where it doesn’t need to be and not there in places where it should be. It’s used to indicate to people when driving that a cycle lane is there without protection. It should be at the intersections. It’s not necessary within a curb. The curb already indicates a cycle facility.
The parking protected lane looks good. There just needs to be the occasional concrete curb to keep people from parking in it.
But they’ll figure it out after awhile. It’s a good start. Now to connect it to the rest of the network.

JJJJ
Guest

Very first photo – where are the crosswalks?

All other photos: Would it kill them to plant a tree? Cheaper than the endless fields of concrete they love to build. IE: Right before the bus island. Plenty of room!

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

The big issue I have with this is that it isn’t a transportation project, it is an economic development project. Give it a few years and many of those businesses will be pushed out, the rents will be raised and Gateway will be a new hip area to hang out all night. I’m sure an olive oil shop, trendy bars and niche bakeries are coming soon. Maybe they will tear down the McDonalds and build one of those 6 story boxes that rent for $3,000 a month

stephanie
Guest
stephanie

i live and bike in this neighborhood. biking wise this is a major improvement. the cars are having a hard time adjusting and many people still park in the bike lane. this forces me on a bike to ride into halsey around them. car folks feel like they are going to get hit opening their doors and exiting into the lane on halsey (a valid concern). while people adjust to the change it has started to slow down the traffic which helps to make the area feel more pedestrian and less thoroughfare. everyone needs to be patient while we all figure out how to use the new amenities.

Adam
Guest
Adam

A family I used to know that lived on this street called it the “Halsey Hellway”, and I can see why.

I’m terrified even driving on this street, no joke. I sometimes hit up the Food Fight vegan store out on Halsey here, and there is do much aggressive driving. You slow down to make a 90 degree turn into the parking lot and some asshole is laying on the horn like you’re stopping their progress to the ER Dept for their wife to go into labor.

I’m glad to see these changes.

I agree with others though – it needs WAY more separation with plastic wands, and WAY more bike signage markings down on the pavement.

If drivers in places like downtown & Lloyd District where there are squillions of bikes couldn’t figure out not to park in a marked cycletrack, I don’t know on what planet PBOT expected suburban drivers who don’t even know what a bike looks like to do.

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

My experience is that these islands do a good job of limiting the speed at which one can safely cycle through. I do feel a tiny bit self conscious about using a wide lane on the moto side of the island- but it feels safer closer to the center of the road (better sight lines) than hugging the curb, and being funneled into dynamic and sketchy situations. Does anyone else experience this?

Clem
Guest
Clem

Nice to see the improvements. I just hope they get used a lot. I’m a daily rider, but I cringe when I see new bike infrastructure when there are hardly any cyclists using them, especially at rush hour when the reduced number of auto lanes are all backed up (NW Everett in the Northwest District is an example of this – the Cully platinum level separated bike lanes are also too little used). Fancy new infrastructure with few bikes is not the best way to win over skeptics. I think one problem, besides not enough cyclists, is that Portland’s highly improved bike facilities are scattered and not continuous enough to get you far with a feeling of safety.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Heh. Driveways. It’s nice they wanted to create “protected” intersections, but unless they are signalized, the risk of being hit from the right by drivers pulling all the way through to the forward edge of the islands—or as you encountered twice on one run—drivers blocking the bike lane while waiting for cross traffic to clear increases. And now there is no swerving around the nose of a car that you expected to stop prior to entering the bike lane. All you can do is stop, which likely makes the driver believe you are ceding your ROW to him and creates either a bad pattern of backwards ROW rules, or one of Portland’s famous “go-no-YOU-go” situations.

The only “fix” for this is to divert the bike lane to the right so that there is space for a car (but probably not a truck with a trailer as you encountered) to pull all the way past the bike lane to wait for cross traffic.

Also—and this is my absolute biggest beef with “protected” bike infra—the 2X-speed video looks like it varies between .5x and 1x the speed of my daily commute video. I realize you had a specific mission to video this segment and so were likely going slower than usual, but I will never feel accommodated as a bicyclist if—right next to a road designed to allow cars to travel at 25-30mph—the bike facility I am expected to use has a max “safe” design speed of 10. Not claiming I can maintain 30 like the real grown-ups, but I’d love to be able to do 15-20 without feeling like a daredevil or being reviled by all and sundry as a “scorcher”.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

This looks like a whole new set of hazards to me. Guess it’s not for me.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Ah, bike shops. Not generally a place for Nike advocate types. Generally full of basic Bros who feel invincible, no kids and generally are too cool for us soft folks who actually advocate with kids. Personally, bike shops days are numbered. Bikes are quickly becoming better made, need less maintenance and online is the way to go. So, I don’t care they hate on true infrastructure .

As for the gentrification thing….look low value, low slung homes aren’t the future. Does the city screw up and allow barely adequate housing supply (a four story when an 8 is actually needed)…#all the time. Does the city mess up and not reuqire 10 percent have required low income? Yep. Those are reall issues. Hey, WinCo can easily section. Off part of it’s parking lot for high density housing. But, since they live in the past, they won’t.

Gentrification is good. It is all about government making sure there is room for everyone. Not just rich whites.