Last week I got one of those emails I dread: Proposed bike lanes could be in jeopardy because a business group is making a fuss about parking removal. Making matters worse was that the project in question was Oregon Department of Transportation’s Lombard Safety Project, which we know is giving major heartburn to the City of Portland Freight Committee.
To learn more I tracked down a letter (PDF) dated November 7th to ODOT from the Kenton Business Association. The letter confirmed my fears. “On behalf of the Kenton Business Association (KBA) and the more than 200 businesses we represent,” it read, “we urge you to reconsider elements of the Lombard Multimodal Safety Project… We believe the current design of this project presents a serious safety risk to cyclists, puts an undue burden on our vital small businesses, and will have a profoundly negative impact on our neighbors on this stretch of N Lombard.”
Oh no. Here we go again, I thought.
“We all agree right off the top that Lombard along this stretch has been a nightmare, and changes need to happen to slow the traffic down. We just have a lot of questions about implementation, some of which have been answered since the letter was drafted.”
— Maureen Bachmann, Kenton Business Association
After detailing their objections the KBA told ODOT they wanted the bike lanes removed from the project (to be replaced with signs directing bicycle users to nearby neighborhood greenways) and they wanted to keep the parking lane on the north side of Lombard.
As I began to work on a story I connected with Maureen Bachmann, owner of Kenton Antiques and president of the KBA. Thankfully, their tone has changed.
“We didn’t submit our issues with any intention of trying to stop the project,” Bachmann assured me via email, “but simply to outline the concerns we have as residents and business owners, many of whom are also bike commuters. We all agree right off the top that Lombard along this stretch has been a nightmare, and changes need to happen to slow the traffic down. We just have a lot of questions about implementation, some of which have been answered since the letter was drafted.”
One of the concerns Bachmann voiced in the letter was that the proposed bike lanes wouldn’t connect to any other bike lanes on Lombard. ODOT explained in a reply to the letter that — while it’s true they don’t connect to other bike lanes on Lombard — they will connect to existing bikeways on streets like Delaware and Woolsey. With the KBA’s urging, ODOT will also speed up timelines to complete existing bike lane gaps on Lombard.
Bachmann says their current position on the project is to push for loading zones and short-term parking spaces on side streets adjacent to Fang Pet & Garden Supply (at N Drummond) because, “It’s one of the few businesses along that stretch that does rely on car accessibility… is a flagship business for Kenton, and it would be a huge loss to this community if they needed to relocate.”
As for those bike lanes? While Bachmann and the KBA don’t think it’ll feel safe for most people to ride next to fast drivers and freight truck operators, they are no longer calling for them to be removed from the project. In fact, Bachmann says they’re advocating for the lanes to connect a few blocks east to newly installed bike lanes on North Denver. They also plan to turn their energy toward pushing for more bus transit along the Lombard corridor. “Decreasing traffic flow without increasing all alternative forms of transportation, especially bus routes is concerning,” Bachmann shared.
This change in tone from the KBA is rare and welcome. I think it has something to do with how ODOT handled the situation. In their response to the KBA, ODOT was understanding, yet firm. They gave evidence to back up their plans and made it clear the project would go forward as planned (PBOT could learn a lot from this!). It also helps that the KBA is led by someone like Bachmann who can see the bigger picture.
“We understand the project appears likely to proceed despite our objections,” she said. “We also don’t want our objections appearing anti-bike or anti-change as we all agree that the current traffic situation on Lombard is dangerous.”
ODOT will host an open house on this project Wednesday January 29th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at Portland Village School (7654 N Delaware). Learn more here.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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They just need to remove the Lombard/BYP 30B to freight traffic (other than local deliveries)
“One of the concerns Bachmann voiced in the letter was that the proposed bike lanes wouldn’t connect to any other bike lanes on Lombard.”
This is a big problem. Take for instance Water Ave then turns into Stark as you head north. Suddenly the bike lane disappears at MLK. The first time you ride it, you’re like, what just happened to the road I was using? I think for PBOT to send a road user into that sort of situation is really questionable.
“Little” details like this really irk me. If there’s a bike lane on a road, keep the lane going or provide a clear deviation before the issue becomes unsafe. Maybe someone is comfortable riding in the bike lane, but not sharing a lane with cars. If they follow a road with a bike lane, there is an expectation that the bike lane will be there for the length of the road.
Welcome to NoPo west of Interstate Avenue. N Central connects to nothing, N Princeton connects to nothing, PBOTs official stance on crossing the cut on Lombard is for cyclist to get on the sidewalk, N Bryant connects to N Willamette but N Bryant has no bike infrastructure so it frequently acts as through-way for congestion to try and avoid other congestion including heavy freight. N. Willamette randomly terminates at Ida and while Ida has a bike lane, the street has extreme congestion including two heavily used driveways for Fred Meyer and the intersection of Ida and Lombard features heavy congestion at all times of the day plus the most amount of illegal passes on the right of any part of Lombard, at least west of Interstate Ave.
PBOT has ignored the entire area for decades. Its bike network looks like an urban planner with the worlds worst attention span designed the whole thing. Luckily we are served by a TriMet bus that comes once every half an hour and takes an hour to get downtown!
And some of these “missed” connections in NoPo are also a legacy of the last minute crisis deals that PDoT (prePBoT) to get the Yellow Line MAX project past the “haters”…now that its 20 years later and the housing infill has started to happen, PBoT needs to go back and fill in these bike gaps…like in front of the old Interstate Bowling lanes, etc.
great coverage! I just wanted to mention that there are a few conversations about this street re-design playing out on the nextdoor app. If you live in lombard area or use the street for travel then you might choose to chime in. There is a lot of mis-information about traffic improvements in the threads and fear based comments about the sky falling due to parking removal etc…
Just curious, but are painted bike lanes really appropriate for Lombard? Are actual (not posted) local car speeds really below 30 mph? Wouldn’t protected lanes would be a better starting point for such a roadway?
ODOT does not do protected bike lanes, so I think paint is all we can expect from this project.
Please stop depicting the community as powerless recipients of ODOT’s (or PBOT’s) failed transportation policy. The entire point of active transportation organizing is to get ODOT and PBOT to do the things they have been unwilling to do.
I can’t imagine that ODOT would do anything as progressive as using evidence-based practices on their travel ways.
I’d estimate speeds at around 30-35 mph during rush hour and 40 -45 mph at non-peak times at the stretch of road we are talking about.
We often talk about how ODOT and other transportation agencies wrongly put level of service and throughput first in their assessment of projects they approve, but I think the source of the problem is that the throughput they care most about is money.
When the money is flowing to the contractors, they believe they are doing their jobs. When the money doesn’t flow, they try to find a project to get the money moving. Transportation and moving people around is a secondary consideration.
I saw that at PBOT when they were facing massive budget and personnel cuts in 2009-2012. They didn’t want to lay anyone off (who does?) and so they moved up several projects they would have normally delayed, just so they could retain most of their labor pool. Ultimately through attrition and creative accounting, they didn’t have to lay off anyone, but it got close.
Thank you! I didn’t even know about this project. I will definitely attend the neighborhood meeting next week.