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Sullivan’s Gulch artists paint a safer street

Posted by on July 22nd, 2019 at 4:05 pm

A painted intersection. A safer intersection.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

When a busy street bisects your neighborhood and drivers make it unsafe, sometimes a paint brush is your best weapon.

When you’re admiring an intersection and one of the artists rides by on her bike.

Last week I came across one of Portland’s most beautiful intersections: Northeast 21st and Clackamas Street. I’m the type of person who thinks street infrastructure can be beautiful all by itself. Add unusual (for a street) colors and an artistic flair and I’ll stop to take photos and then Google it when I come home.

When I rolled up to this intersection on Thursday, I happened to meet one of the artists responsible for it. Eugenia Pardue is an artist and a Sullivan’s Gulch resident who’s lived a few blocks away for over 20 years. According to Pardue, this is the first “pedestrian priority corridor” (designated in the City’s PedPDX plan) in Portland to receive the artistic treatment. Pardue worked with Anya Drapkin and a crew of volunteers to complete the project.

The neighborhood paid for the project through a grant they won from PBOT’s Portland in the Streets program. It was one of 11 projects totaling $100,000 in grants awarded by PBOT citywide last year.

“Creating public art creates community!” Pardue wrote on her personal blog earlier this month. “Public art has been shown to increase pride in our surroundings, bringing people together, creating an identity, and reminding people that choose to drive through our neighborhood that we care deeply about the people that are walking across our streets.”

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As for the inspiration, Pardue said it came to her during a walk. “I was inspired by the gorgeous blooming camellias, and they became the center piece of the four corners of a safe crossing in the heart of the densest east side neighborhood in Portland.”

The painting is similar to intersection paintings we’ve covered here before; but it’s got added safety oomph thanks to its integration with crossing treatments and plastic delineator wands. The corners are essentially cheap, DIY-style curb extensions. They shorten the crossing distance while providing a visual cue to drivers to slow down for the narrowed street.

Bicycle rider avoids the painted bulb-outs and shares a lane with drivers.

One downside is that I saw several bicycle riders (21st is a popular north-south bikeway with a bridge over I-84 and connection to NE Tillamook and Broadway) forced into the middle of the lane into a shared environment with drivers at the intersection. PBOT likely expects most people to follow the 20s five blocks east on 26th or to take NE Multnomah through the Lloyd.

It was great to see this example of partnership between an artist, a neighborhood, and PBOT to make a street safer. Have you ridden or walked by this yet? What do you think?

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

9 Comments
  • Avatar
    John Lascurettes July 22, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    I saw this as it went in and loved it. The blue that was picked really stands out from behind a windshield, that alone (before the camellias went in) made the wanded bump outs quite effective. And the camellias give it a nice neighborhood personality.

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    John Lascurettes July 22, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    Regarding the bump outs interfering with riding (disclosure: I usually drive the 21st overpass and pedal the 12th overpass), riders should already be in more in the middle of the lane here. It’s a narrow lane (especially southbound) and between Wiedler and Multnomah, anything not in the middle of the lane is hugging the door zone. It always makes me nervous for other riders’ safety when I see them swerving in and out of the gaps in parked cars and hugging their doors elsewhere here. Pick a safe line and hold it.

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    AB July 22, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    These are a great way to cheaply retrofit older intersections where the curbs have huge radii because you don’t need to worry about digging up the pavement, modifying drainage, etc. Also if a city wants to do a lot of them on a tight budget and schedule, they can just use light beige colored paint for high contrast as has been done in NYC, or they can even open it up for the neighborhood kids to decorate, like a mural.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty July 22, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    I’ve seen similar street art in Seattle (with a similar shade of blue, no less), but done with the same thermoplastic material used for street markings, which I imagine endures better than paint. These look awesome, and I hope they still look awesome in 5 years.

    Yay artists! Yay neighborhoods! Yay PBOT!

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    Johnny Bye Carter July 23, 2019 at 8:49 am

    In theory this paint should never be trod upon and should last a long time. Much more life out of this paint than with the middle of intersections painted where car tires drive over it all day.

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      Angel York August 4, 2019 at 8:33 am

      Yes, this is what I’ve been saying for years. When you take the time to build community and paint an intersection, put bollards on it so cars can’t destroy it and so it lasts. Cars destroying the paint jobs is symbolic. “Everything is ephemeral” is how I’ve heard it described, but what I see is “cars destroy community”.

      Hopefully this can set a precedent and maybe next it will be protected full intersections.

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    Johnny Bye Carter July 23, 2019 at 9:04 am

    ” PBOT likely expects most people to follow the 20s five blocks east on 26th or to take NE Multnomah through the Lloyd.”

    Google shows no bike access on 26th, so I wouldn’t even consider it. If I were getting directions and needed to stick to bike streets I’d only have 16th/15th or 42nd. There are no other connecting bike streets on Google maps. It looks like the official Portland NE Bicycle map agrees with Google. 21st is a good place to cross the gulch. The problem is that the connections to it are horrible and yet very tempting.

    21st is a designated bike street 2 blocks south and 2 blocks north of Clackamas, so the city knows that people are going to bike through 21st and Clackamas. They don’t have a lot of other options if they want to go north and be away from tons of motor vehicles.

    The designated bike streets to cross the gulch in this area don’t connect to designated bike streets on the other sides. This problem could be easily solved with a few painted lanes and diverters to get cars off the roads. It won’t happen, because: cars.

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      coldbrewraktajino July 23, 2019 at 9:22 am

      The paper maps are dated 2014 and the 20s/30s n/s route went in more recently than that.

      There IS a lighted intersection with beg buttons at 26th, and signage/paint from Multnomah directs you towards Tillimook via that intersection. I lived in Kerns until this May and would get to the library via the 21st overpass, Multnomah, 26th, Tillamook. I never took 21st or Clackamas, but since I’m coming from further south and am a timid cyclist, it wasn’t a logical route for me.

      You can see the sharrows painting on 26th if you use Google’s satellite view. Yet Google directs me to cross on 28th, not 26th. Weird, because Portland’s online bike map does show the 26th bike path. Again, it went in more recently than the paper maps. I hope Portland updates their paper maps soon!

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    Mark smith July 23, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    You would think pbot would be touting stuff like this instead of people just happening upon it.

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