*Note: This article has been updated with new comments from Commissioner Eudaly. Scroll to bottom to read them.
“I’m not going to encourage anyone to leave their house unnecessarily.”
— Chloe Eudaly, Portland city commissioner
Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly says despite radical shifts in transportation needs and behaviors due to the coronavirus outbreak, she does not plan to make any temporary changes to our streets.
In a Twitter post Friday afternoon in response to our questions about the issue, the commissioner wrote, “We need to stay home, we need to flatten the curve, we need our emergency vehicles to have unobstructed routes, and now is not the time for hastily executed street changes.”
Just over two weeks ago we published an article by north Portlander Sam Balto who started a petition to limit driving access on neighborhood greenways in order to provide more safe social distancing space for people who need to go outside. Since then, several cities across the country and globe have taken action to reconfigure streets so people who aren’t inside cars have more space.
Today there’s a growing consensus among advocates and experts that this is precisely the time for street changes.
With more people working from home, avoiding transit, and looking to get fresh air for mental and physical health, sidewalks and street shoulders are bursting at the seams. Meanwhile, car traffic is at an all-time low and lanes usually crowded with drivers are sitting empty.
Commissioner Eudaly said on Friday she considered “expanding the right of way for increased public use” before Governor Kate Brown’s “stay home” order (PDF) was issued on March 23rd; but then changed her mind. “I’m not going to encourage anyone to leave their house unnecessarily,” she wrote Friday.
Regardless of the conditions of our streets, barring a much more stringent lockdown order, many Portlanders will continue to leave their homes. People need to get to the store, to work, they need fresh air, they need exercise. A lot of people will do those things without using their cars. And right now our street space is unnecessarily inequitable in how it’s divided up. That fact is likely part of the reason why the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau decided to manage their streets differently. Last week the agency closed roads to drivers in 10 popular parks in order to create more space for people.
Beyond simply providing for more — and safer — space for walkers and mobility device users, reducing the space used by drivers could also help stop a spike in reckless driving and speeding. If there’s one truism in transportation policy, it’s that given more space to drive, people will always use it to take more risks. On Friday, the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division issued a statement saying, “With fewer cars on the road we are noticing a serious escalation in dangerous driving behavior.”
While Eudaly doesn’t see the need for any changes, local and national experts disagree.
Gwen Shaw is an engineer at the Portland office of Toole Design. She was also one of the key leaders who organized the changes on Naito Parkway that led directly to Better Naito, a once-temporary project has since been funded and will soon be implemented by Commissioner Eudaly’s transportation bureau. Shaw will be a featured in a webinar this Thursday about “rebalancing streets for people” during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is the time to reset and reboot our transportation system…That means design, experiment and use cheap and quick tactical materials to close the gaps for the bicycle, transit and carpool lane networks.”
— Timothy Papandreou, Emerging Transport Advisors
“As we face unprecedented times right now,” Shaw shared with me recently, “there is more need than ever to do this.” “We’re hopeful that this webinar can be used widely by communities and agencies of all scales to provide safe places for all people to enjoy the outside world while maintaining safe physical distances.”
Timothy Papandreou spent seven years in various positions with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (including chief innovation officer and director of strategic planning and policy) before founding Emerging Transport Advisors in 2018.
In an article published Friday by Forbes, Papandreou said now is a major opportunity for cities to alter streetscapes. “This is the time to reset and reboot our transportation system and look at it from the lens of people, culture and our new reality. That means design, experiment and use cheap and quick tactical materials to close the gaps for the bicycle, transit and carpool lane networks,” he wrote. “Post-crisis when we start to recover, people will slowly come back. If you have these new networks and spaces in-place people will utilize them and new travel behaviors will stick.”
Instead of seizing an opportunity to change our streets for considerable short-term benefits that align directly with long-term planning goals, Eudaly will wait until movement restrictions are relaxed. In her tweets Friday she wrote that PBOT is prepping an online platform where people can share feedback about, “how we can better use our streets when the order is lifted.” “I hope to have some new changes ready to showcase and a blowout (if socially distanced) Sunday Parkways event for the first weekend we are free to roam.”
— Op-Ed: Let’s Build a Network of ‘Quiet Streets’ via Streetsblog
— City to test road closures, putting more space between pedestrians via Calgary Herald
— COVID19 Livable Streets Response Strategies, a Google Sheet tracking national/global street changes created by Michael Lydon, a principal at Street Plans.
UPDATE, 3/31: Commissioner Eudaly responded to this story on our Facebook page last night. Here’s what she said:
I’ve traveled around the city over the weekend: Woodlawn, Arbor Lodge, University Park, St Johns, Boise, Eliot, Old Town, West End, Burnside from the river past 23rd Ave, West Hills, Central East Side, and Kerns. I’ve also been by several city parks. Nowhere did I see “sidewalks and street shoulders… bursting at the seams.” Not even close. Please tell me where this is happening in Portland—a not terribly dense city dominated by single family homes, not residential high rises.
Besides encouraging people to stay home and flatten the curve, working to stave off a mass wave of evictions, foreclosures, bankruptcies and business closures, getting critical information out to the public, and preparing my bureaus for massive budget cuts, I’ve been focused on the most serious public health and safety threat on our streets—people living on them. We considered closing streets in Old Town for camping—it proved problematic for a variety of reasons—emergency vehicle access, as well as access for housed residents and businesses. Instead we are identifying city owned property for safe sleep sites.
Resources are stretched thin. People are freaked out. Like I said, it’s not the time for hastily planned street closures (closing streets in parks is not remotely comparable to closing residential streets) with no public engagement.
I am a fan of streets for people, reclaiming public space, and creating a more equitable transportation system. The fact that I have other more urgent priorities right now doesn’t change that. As we get a clearer picture of what this crisis could look like over the next few weeks it’s possible we’ll revisit the issue. But for now, I’m focused on the most vulnerable people in our community…
I’m really disappointed in this article. You’ve all seen the flack I take over a “lack of public engagement” when we spend months doing outreach to hundreds of people. How do you think this would go over? I know advocates are gonna advocate but for god’s sake, a little credit, a little understanding, and some sense of priorities would be great right now.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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As a long-term vocal supporter of Chloe’s, I respectfully disagree with her. I will be writing, as soon as a can wrench my laptop from my daughter’s hands.
Living in Seattle (where we have a similar lack of city leadership on opening up our unused street grid), our downtown is horrible to live in right now. I actually regret having moved here.
I’ve literally gone outside once in 2 weeks, since the sidewalks lack adequate space for social distancing — and the street folks aren’t exactly giving 6 feet of space. And, of course, downtown residents often don’t own cars — and we don’t have a connected network of bike infrastructure (like Vancouver BC) to go anywhere without one when public transit is effectively off-limits.
I haven’t seen a single emergency vehicle go by in days.
Riding around Vancouver BC is fantastic. We have lots of scenic paved trails (the longest seawall path in North America, much of it with separate bike and ped lanes), protected bikeways that connect the city center with the rest of the metro area, quiet neighborhood greenways throughout, and some incredible suburban climbs and descents near town. We also have lots of standard bike-lane roads, inexpensive and friendly shops, and more courteous drivers (the statistics speak for themselves).
It really is a glimpse of what Portland and Seattle could be like if … well, you know.
In case you’re interested in what Vancouver has to offer, if you’re ever allowed in again (and it might be a while!), check out these maps:
Yes! Vancouver BC is amazing.
I used to go down to Portland for weekend biking trips on “family-friendly” infrastructure.
I realized I’ve only hit Portland once in years – Vancouver is just so far ahead, it’s hard to justify going anywhere else (although it’s crazy-expensive, of course). Before the pandemic hit, I was actually going to rent a place there for the summer and just stay there (working remotely).
Now all distant fantasies.
I for one will be perfectly happy to “delay” my vote for Eudaly so long as she wants to be technically correct about the definition of “denied.”
While I also wish that the city would make the city safer for people riding bikes, as well as change things up during the pandemic, I’m still very glad to vote for Chloe this upcoming election. Her and JoAnne Hardesty at the best two city council members we’ve had in 10 years!
This is pretty disappointing. We desperately need safer more equitable streets & now we have a chance to try new things that could change behaviors long-term & we’re not taking it. Where did Portland’s vision & swagger go?
If not now, when? If not here, where?
In my opinion, Eudaly’s fears about sending the wrong signals (“encouraging” ppl outside) are misplaced. PBOT could set the tone with clear messaging that the changes are for safety & social distancing reasons — just like Portland Parks already has done.
Now, people not in cars are left crammed into margins while drivers get all the space & speed recklessly through our city.
I also don’t think this is all about Eudaly. She’s just the one at the top and she has a very hard job. I didn’t hear anything from The Street Trust or Bike Loud or Oregon Walks or any other advocacy groups pushing for this. And PBOT didn’t make a peep either. Then again, they don’t seem too innovative at all these days. Oh well!
Another thing I noticed is that just yesterday, on her personal FB page, Eudaly posted a link to a roundup of accessible trails near Portland and she mentioned how getting out in nature is so essential. That seems to contradict her reasoning here for not making roads more accessible and for not wanting to encourage people to go outside.
Good news is I don’t think this will be last time to encourage Eudaly and PBOT to do something on this. We have a long time before travel patterns are back to normal (if ever!). Let’s keep the pressure on!
Perfect observation about the disconnect between saying now’s not the time to make streets more walkable and bikeable, while telling people to go somewhere to walk on trails for their well-being.
I haven’t walked in my neighborhood park for several days now, because it’s much more crowded than the neighborhood streets. Luckily I have those quiet streets to walk on.
The City isn’t thinking through the whole issue of where people should walk, and its (and apparently her) focus on sending people out (probably via driving) to destinations to hike on trails is really bad. It’s crazy living next to a park and seeing people driving in, then all using the same parking lot, pay stations and restrooms, then walking with everyone else on the same trails–especially when the whole city has acres of near-empty streets right outside their homes.
A couple days ago, a signalized intersection near me was converted to blinking red. I though “What a great idea–works better for the lighter traffic, and no more need for everyone crossing to touch the walk signal button”. But it got converted back the next day, so apparently it wasn’t done as a virus response. But that’s one thing that seems like it could be done all over the city that would make walking easier, and minimize people’s need to cluster at corners waiting. There must be plenty of other things that could be done for people walking and biking that would be similarly easy to do.
Yes it is q. And several cities have done this or are already considering it. But not Portland. I’ve heard PBOT won’t do anything to beg buttons at this time.
Too bad. I think particularly of the South Waterfront, where you encounter half a dozen of them walking from the tram area to the Tilikum Crossing area. I guess the only thing worse would be if any of those people needing to hit those buttons worked at OHSU–oops.
The all red function you speak of is “all flash” mode…this has been used in Vancouver WA for 15+ years in the downtown in the late evening when foot traffic is often greater than car traffic…it works best in less complex intersections (one lane per direction) in city center areas. The other option is moving back to “fixed time” where the pedestrian has a dedicated portion of the signal cycle…vs. having to press the button to call for a “share” of the cycle.
This would be a great time to request for a traffic study…if there are more pedestrians or bikes on / crossing an arterial. 😉
The intersection I mentioned is an ODOT street, and cars normally far outnumber bikers and walkers, and almost all car traffic is north/south, so it wouldn’t make sense outside the current situation.
The big thing it showed me, though, is how little respect pedestrians get. In this case, pedestrians don’t even get the “fixed time” you mention–if you’re a driver, you get a green light every signal change automatically. If you’re walking, you NEVER get a green unless you hit the button. So to one day (when the signal apparently malfunctioned, and went to “all flash”) find that you could cross without waiting at all was shocking, and makes you realize what second-class citizens pedestrians are.
I also think that after this situation is over, people are going to resent having to touch a button (that literally goes for years or decades without cleaning) every time they want to cross the street.
Flashing all red is also the default mode when an error is detected.
Hey Chris Smith (or board PSU transpo grad students): Well…with the Mayor’ and Governor’s state of emergency…is there any mid century nuclear evacuation traffic control plan we can dust off and “gut and stuff” with new insight (alt modes)? Just thinking out loud…
Isn’t that her MO though? She’s great if you want a sound bite about equity or climate change or whatever, but she has wasted her time at the helm of PBOT.
She’s not going to get my vote again regardless of what happens between now and the election, and the reality is she will most likely lose to Sam Adams. She could have done something important with her last few months in office and instead she is protecting the status quo.
I have mixed feelings about making big changes in the middle of a catastrophe. I am loving the empty streets, walking and riding with less fear. But, the same argument about making big changes could be made about many issues: homelessness, rent control, income disparities, etc etc. If you make the changes during a crisis, there is no way to know the effects, until a year or so, and then you realize your actions were precipitious. It all depends on whose ‘ox is gored’. Taking advantage of a crisis just has a bad look. It is similar to what totalitarian governments have done in the past, claiming a crisis demanded the restriction of the public’s rights. And, we all know how that played out.
Why do you say that redistributing street space to create safer conditions is “taking advantage of a crisis”? I realize that safe mobility isn’t as important as keeping a roof over one’s head or taking emergency measures for first responders and essential workers, but IMO is it absolutely something that should be prioritized.
I think a lot of people just can’t see anything related to improving biking/walking (and making driving harder) as being anything other than a petty special interest that is a “nice to have” but is never a true need. I disagree with that in the strongest terms. If you think taking access away from drivers is a “big change” that would be a controversy, I have a feeling you’d feel the same way even if we weren’t in a pandemic. I also notice several people responding to this as being a “bad look”. For whom? Because a typically marginalized user group wants things to be better? Because we dare to put a hand out and ask for some help? “A bad look” to me is like saying, “now is not the time” and I hear “now is not the time” all the time in Portland when it comes to making streets better for vulnerable users.
And Steve, why are you talking about “restriction” of anyone’s rights? Do you realize that the way our streets are currently configured is extremely restrictive for many users — and even most users in some situations right now.
My ‘restricting rights’ comment, in fact my comment in general, was more about using a time of crisis as an opportunity to ‘solve a long existing problem’. There are lots of problems that might seem easier to solve now’ that just does not mean that it appropriate to do so. Only because, once we get back to normality, things will look much different. For example: rent control. There is lots of talk throughout the nation of freezing rents and/or banning evictions, even for non-payment. These are serious efforts. They might feel good now, but when the crisis is over and landlords cannot make mortgage payments because they have not collected all their rents, people will wonder if it was the right thing to have done. I admit, this is all a bit theoretical, and that was the basis of my comment. All that said, I live in Bend. Most roads are designed pretty well for cyclists, with bike lanes. They are not kept clean for months, but I stopped riding in town, because there are just too many cars on a marginal infrastructure and ubiquitous roundabouts (inherently bike unfriendly IMHO). I have to deal with people trying to drive to where they want, frustrated by too many cars, period. It is mostly a result of population growth. The only solution that I can see is more car lanes. That will never happen here. Real estate is too expensive and there is no political will. So, the City does the best it can with limited resources to widen bike lanes, slow down traffic designs, signage etc, but it only creates marginal gains. I used to commute in Portland from both Beaverton and from Taylor’s Ferry, and even 25 years ago, it was very ‘challenging’. I can only imagine how bad it is now. So, your problems are much different/bigger than ours.
It is absolutely necessary for people to leave their houses and get outside, and she should view it as her obligation to make sure that happens as safely as possible. It’s important for mental and physical health and there isn’t an epidemiologist on the planet who would say that people should be sheltering in their homes 24/7.
Clearly we need a chief innovation officer and director of strategic planning and policy.
Portland is more conservative than I thought, almost as bad as the Oregon state legislature.
Chloe is disappointing, on so many levels. I’ll be voting for her opponent in the upcoming election – I know someone else can do better. She has proven she cannot.
Agreed, I listened to her interview by Jefferson Smith a few weeks back and it was a really bad interview. He clearly is on the same page as her on a lot of issues but when he tried to ask her tough questions that required a more in depth answer, she reacted to him like a pissed off teenager and dodged the question. The bummer part is that we have to choose between her and Sam…
Don’t vote for either in the primary; Sam will likely make it through, and wouldn’t it be better to have a choice in November? I’ll likely support Mingus Mapps in May. I like the alliteration.
And I’m always appreciative of the artful application of alliteration.
I’m still with Chloe on the bus lane issue. We know she has guts. It could be she tested the water in her department, or with the mayor, and caught a chill. For whatever reason, she stopped the buck on her desk.
I hope nobody tapes down any beg buttons.
Guts? What PBOT project has Eudaly accomplished that has taken political courage?
She is ramrodding the Rose Lane thing, which is actually taking real estate away from SOV operation and storage. Gutsy move here in carland.
So far, as far as I know, the Rose Lanes project consists of a short segment downtown (where official-use only parking was removed, and essentially added auto capacity), and lines on a map that are not clearly defined.
I definitely support the concept, but we have a lot of plans (bike plan, climate plan, etc.) that I support that haven’t exactly been transformational.
Maybe after the crisis.
Chloe Eudaly was willing to stand by the map and be the face of dedicated bus lanes. Some people will vote against her becuse of that. I’m voting for her because of that.
Incrementalism is not her fault.
As Grandpa Kitty used to say: Never let a good crisis go to waste.
Dang… not intended to be nested.
It’s much funner to accuse others of doing that whilst doing it oneself.
I would have liked to have met “Grandpa Kitty”. 😉
The need for safe outdoor access is more than for just recreation. There are many people with progressive chronic disease that are under strict doctors order to have an exercise program. This is not just some small subset of the population. Most people die from just a few categories of progressive chronic diseases, almost all of which benefit profoundly from moderate exercise like biking and brisk walking. If you suddenly stop an existing exercise program, the health of many in this group will start to go downhill very fast, resulting in an increased burden on the health care system and a higher overall mortality rate. Not everyone has the money, space, or tolerant downstairs neighbors to setup an indoor exercise program. Outdoor exercise is absolutely critical for many of these people.
The lack of exercise together with a corresponding increase in sitting time (bad on its own), increase in stress/anxiety, combined with social isolation is almost a perfect storm to rapidly accelerate progression of chronic disease.
The hard data on the recent increased rate and degree of speeding is starting to roll in, and the resulting safety consequences need to be addressed. People need a safe space for doctor ordered exercise. By denying people a safe place to exercise and instead telling them to stay home all the time, she is condemning many people to an early death from preexisting conditions.
Well, at least she believes in induced demand.
On the contrary, I feel like now is the PERFECT time for street changes…
I think it’s important to think of people right now who HAVE to go out — to pick up food for their families at school sites, to get to essential service jobs, and the like. Now seems like it would be the perfect time to reallocate street space precisely for the safety and benefit of people who are out there doing hard work for others, who don’t have a choice about it, who have to dart across 5 lane stroads to make the bus for example, and would clearly benefit from safer and more balanced streets. What if we started with those streets?
Now is the time to clean them. There are no cars in any parking spots downtown.
Now would be a super time to bust out the pavement grinder and put a smoother surface on the 6 blocks of SW / NW 2nd Ave. that passes for a bike lane.
One thing this crisis has highlighted is how slow our government has worked in “non-crisis” times. Central City in Motion? Bike master plan? If these things had already been implemented you wouldn’t need to do this. We need a more efficient government that can deliver projects in a reasonable time line so when crisis like this occur we have safe places to get around in.
That would be nice huh?
I respectfully but stridently disagree with you on this one, Jonathan. Chloe is right to send out one and only one message: Stay. Home.
Portland political leadership united and spent day after day hammering on our fence-sitting governor to do the right thing — shut down the state, give an authoritative stay-at-home order, and get the most contagious and deadly pandemic of any of our lifetimes under control. After succeeding at that, she should walk it back a bit and add an asterisk? I wouldn’t if I were her. I would stick with one message, united with all other levels of government across the whole state. Stay. Home.
I have a different theory about the main reason Parks and Rec closed the parks to cars. It wasn’t because they want to rebalance anything. It’s because they want people to Stay Home, and being able to drive into a park made it too convenient to go there.
I also very much disagree with the appeal to authority when you called the quoted people in your article experts. They are definitely NOT experts. Not in the thing that really matters right now, which the quickest and most effective way to flatten the curve. They aren’t epidemiologists, they don’t (to my knowledge) have degrees in public health, and they probably haven’t studied epidemics or pandemics enough to say with any authority what will save the most lives in this really, really extreme situation we’re in.
I do think that in places where the density and built environment doesn’t allow folks to safely get out when they need to while maintaining the 6 feet, that needs to be fixed ASAP. There are probably a few places in town that are like that, but not many.
This whole situation is really unprecedented, there’s lots of room for reasonable people to disagree, and I reserve the right to change my own mind on this as things develop. But right now I think she’s doing great. There are so many lives on the line right now, so many more than the (nevertheless appalling) 50-ish people that are getting killed on Portland street every year.
Well said. Comment of the week?
I disagree – NOT the comment of the week.
People are much less likely to get the virus outdoors than indoors, and people will be much healthier overall if they get outside and bike, run, and walk. Yes, the gov’t is right to discourage or even ban all but essential driving trips. But getting outside should be encouraged, as long as you are not sick AND keep away from others.
People need exercise. Stay Home is deter people from going to their friends house or going shopping etc. From the start, and even in the hardest hit areas like Italy, public health officials have said its fine to exercise. It’s a mental and physical health issue.
The problem we have is that we have tons of people out walking, running and biking, while at the same time having motorist driving even faster and more aggressive than usual. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
This isn’t leadership, its the opposite.
The governor of Italy’s Lombardy region, one of the hardest hit areas in the coronavirus epidemic, signed a new order Saturday imposing even more stringent restrictions on residents.
The order, signed by Attilio Fontana and valid until at least Apr. 15, banned outdoor exercise and implemented temperature checks at supermarkets and pharmacies.
How am I supposed to walk to the grocery store on 39th? Or on Sandy Blvd, or Halsey Street? We have 3ft wide sidewalks on each side, and then 20ft of mostly empty street. I can’t just walk in the street to go around someone else on the sidewalk, because there are people driving between 20 and 50mph on said street. How do I get groceries while practicing safe social distancing? Are you an epidemiologist?
Thanks for the thoughtful comment Keviniano,
We can send all the messages we want. Or we can live in reality. The reality is: People will continue to leave their houses. Not only is that necessary for mental and physical health, it’s actually already encouraged by government edict when they make exceptions to walk dogs, exercise, and so on. Oh yeah, and many people still need to get to jobs, to grocery stores, to the post office, and so on.
And you assume that redistributing space on a few streets = encouragement from government to go have a big street party with all your friends. I don’t agree. It’s about messaging. Gov’t is equipped to take actions and do communications so that people understand the reason for those actions.
Your point about the sources in this story not being public health experts is taken. But public health experts don’t know anything about streets or mobility issues, so there’s that side of it too.
FWIW I agree with you we are in an “extreme” situation!
And I don’t understand your comment because you say you disagree with me, then you say, “in places where the density and built environment doesn’t allow folks to safely get out when they need to while maintaining the 6 feet, that needs to be fixed ASAP.” That’s exactly what I’m saying! We agree!
Why do folks assume I think we need a vast network of carfree streets crisscrossing the city? I have never ever promoted that idea. I’m just saying I think we should consider making some strategic moves to improve street access for vulnerable people because it would be a win-win-win and these extreme times call for such actions.
Also, I think the Commissioner is doing great too. I disagree with her on this and I’m just sharing my opinions. That’s what we do here. Thanks for listening.
“…I think we need a vast network of carfree streets crisscrossing the city…”
I agree that we agree that there places where changes are needed now to facilitate safe, necessary pedestrian. Yay!
My perception of a larger disagreement stems from the lack of specific examples of where you think change is needed, combined with giving space to quotes like “This is the time to reset and reboot our transportation system” that seem to advocate for exactly “a vast network of carfree streets crisscrossing the city.”
Moving on to a little constructive brainstorming, maybe there are some ways to crowdsource specific instances that need PBOT’s attention or some guerilla urbanism from neighbors. Maybe your new forum could be a venue for gathering that.
A little off-topic, but I want to let you know that I consider my comments to you to be part of an “inside the tent” conversation. I have complete respect and appreciation for your work. Stakes are high and emotions are frayed, so I don’t want my esteem to get lost in the mix. You’ve mentioned in other channels that you’re losing advertisers. I hope that folks who have the means can step in and become supporters!
So you disagree with me because I didn’t put specific examples in the article?
I’m not sure you fully understand what BikePortland is. This is a media organization. I am not leader of a bike advocacy nonprofit. I don’t make specific proposals (unless it’s rare op-ed situation). I write stories and sometimes I do so in a way that reflects my own biases and preferences for how I want the world to be.
And when I quote someone saying it’s time to “reboot our system” that could mean a very wide variety of things. When you assume you can pin “exactly” what it means by some other unrelated quote I made, you are doing some pretty perilous IMO.
I really appreciate your comments. Thank you! This is what BikePortland is all about: People challenging ideas so that all sides can learn and we end up with greater understanding (of each other, and the issue) at the end.
Thanks for your kind words about the site and the business behind it.
Jonathan, let’s assume for arguments’ sake that the City somehow finds enough money and political spine to block off a city-wide network of city streets for pedestrian and casual bicycle use, yet somehow has a standard design that still allows for local car connections to driveways and for emergency access, perhaps using Terry Dublinski-Milton-type diverters.
Firstly, given the 6-foot social isolation guidelines, I have some practical questions: Who is to implement these changes? Are PBOT maintenance staff supposed to wear heavy protective equipment as they work side-by-side with the machinery that they used before Covid-19? Or are they to hire at great cost some robots to do the same work as their poor employees? Or are you asking community volunteers to risk their health to implement the changes? Are you yourself willing to physically help out at the risk of possible infection from fellow workers?
Secondly, are you suggesting that PBOT ought to ignore all public input and use their emergency powers to implement the changes? Not consult with neighborhoods, emergency services, the Portland Business Association, and the BAC, but just go ahead and implement whatever they think best, with fiat?
Thanks David. It’s not as if PBOT crews are not doing anything right now. From what I hear, they’re responding to a LOT of broken signs and other street furniture that’s been hit by reckless drivers. Streets are a basic service. The City has a protocol to keep them working during the pandemic. Is it easy or desirable? Hell no. Is it irresponsible/impossible/dangerous for city crews to work during the pandemic? That’s not my area of expertise, but my hunch is that it can still be done safely.
Would I help out if PBOT made cones and barricades available? Yes. I would wash my hands, disinfect the materials, put them in my car or bike, place the materials at the pre-assigned location, then wash my hands.
And yes, I’m saying PBOT should consider an expedited process to try this out in certain places under an emergency-type action. We’ve done that before! PBOT did an emergency speed reduction on SE Division. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I’m amazed and saddened at how mentally held hostage so many people in this town are to disingenuous people (whether they be n’hood associations, fire bureau, PBA, committees, or whatever) who we all know will fight anything that disturbs the current balance of power on our public streets.
Striping over the parking lane to be a buffered bike lane and marking the outside driving lane as a parking lane, on a four lane+ with parking both sides street, could be done by one guy in a truck. The slow part is marking it out for the driver and putting up the no parking signs, which might take a few weeks done by one person in each direction. And it needs to be dry…
NE Sandy? 82nd? 122nd? Outer Foster?
IMO, I think they are looking for instant gratification rather than waiting a few weeks for a maintenance work order to be filled. And they want them on their local inner Portland street rather than a collector or arterial street. Just a hunch.
It’s not that I disagree with you because you didn’t put specific examples in the article. Rather, the lack of examples led me to develop my own story about your implied op-ed is.
I read this article as a pretty overt identification of a big failure by Comm. Eudaly and a strong call for a different and sweeping course of action. You didn’t write it as an op-ed, but I read it as one. My posts reflect that interpretation.
Now having had this exchange with you, if I were to write my first post again, I would do it differently and not under the assumption that you were advocating that “this is the time to reset and reboot our transportation system” etc etc.
I’ll be more careful about that in the future, but I don’t think I’m the only one to have this perception about your work. I’m not sure what the fix is, or even if one is needed. Maybe it just comes with the territory.
What you are saying is extremely dangerous. Many people are under strict orders from their doctor to maintain an ongoing exercise program. People who are exercising under a doctors advice should NOT stop without consulting with their doctor first. A personal physician is the only one who can weigh all the relative risks for an individual, not a politician who has no medical background. Your advice could get many people killed.
You are commenting in an activist-heavy blog. Everyone is an expert and the concept of “reasonable people” doesn’t apply…because everyone else is wrong.
I’m fully aware of where I’m commenting. I’m adding my voice because I think this conversation is important.
Responding with broad generalizations about a class of people being unreasonable doesn’t really add value. It comes off as condescending to me and dismissive of other people who genuinely care about this topic. You’re not helping when you do that. Please stop.
People can care all they want, that doesn’t make them reasonable. If anything, it makes them biased.
I also appreciate your measured comments.
There is very little traffic on the roads, either cars or bikes.
Reconfiguring roads right now is the lowest possible priority.
The virus will place city revenues under financial stress, while increasing costs, all while the city tries to fund assistance programs for small businesses and individuals.
Why should the city spend extra money to have PBOT reconfigure roads and then change them back again, to meet this non existent need?
How about that $$$ going to help small business who have closed and people who have lost their jobs?
Stop taking advantage of the crisis to push an agenda. Not the time.
Hi johnliu, since you made the same comment on our FB page, I’ll make the same reply:
John, many very smart people in cities around America and around the world disagree with you on this.
Putting up a few signs and barricades in strategic places would cost a few thousand dollars at most (including labor).
And I know it suits your argument, but calling this idea “expanding bike lanes” is pretty telling. This is about a more fair and safe distribution of public space in an affordable way that will allow more people to safely social distance outdoors while also slowing down drivers and reducing crashes.
Who would you expect to make those changes? I hear the folks at PBOT are just trying to keep the lights on, so to speak. Are their lives and health worth risking so we can reallocate space in the ROW based on clearly skewed data? We all know why there are no cars on the road now and it seems shady at best to move things right now. Let’s wait until the changes are based solely on policy and not on a pandemic “opportunity”.
Even if citizens and advocates were given the power to make temporary changes in the ROW, should we be risking their health? These are interesting times and we must all be careful.
Maybe, as a temporary measure, more fearless cyclists could use the roadway space (fewer cars) to free up bike lanes for the interested but concerned and/or pedestrians… And we can wait until things go back to “normal” for more substantial changes.
Easy, you send out a single PBOT worker in a truck with 100 traffic cones, and a closure sign. Sign goes up at every major intersection, and cones mark off the closure of the outside lane. Do this on Burnside, Sandy, 39th, Stark, etc, etc. When the cones run out, they go back to base and get more. They are still limiting contact, because they are working alone.
This is a bit of an oversimplification, but you get the idea.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been making it a point to claim the lane anyway – as a pedestrian – whenever I have to venture out for more supplies. Sometimes with a Mac wagon for grocery runs. For the most part this has been on relatively quiet neighborhood streets, but I haven’t run into any conflicts so far – cars go around me with a much wider berth than when I’m cycling. Nobody’s honked at me yet!
Yeah, I had NW Portland as one of the areas I had in mind where density is probably high enough to call for changes. Residential parts of downtown too. Any entrances to grocery stores that are on narrow arterials. Stuff like that.
My own neighborhood of Buckman doesn’t really need any treatment, at least not the part where I live. There aren’t that many people on the sidewalks, and almost all the sidewalks have grass strips that are serving as “pull-outs” when people need to pass one another.
How about just following through on projects that pbot has been stalling on? Hey PBOT – can we get that Greeley Ave project finished?
UPDATE, 3/31: Commissioner Eudaly responded to this story on our Facebook page last night. Here’s what she said:
She nailed it. Thanks Chloe for all your hard work!
Public engagement? It took about 13 years for the city to give permits to rebuild an existing, official, city-recognized trail on SW 25th Ave by SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.
I don’t understand Keviniano. In this comment you say the Commissioner “nailed it”, but in other comments you give examples of where streets should be changed.
I fully agree with her priorities, and I don’t think street closures is where she should be putting city resources right now.
The kind of thing I was imagining was removing the parking lane near the Trader Joe’s in NW Portland. Specific places with a convergence of density, cramped public space, and necessary trips. If TJ’s, the neighborhood association, and/or advocates asked PBOT to take action in these sort of situations, I think they would be very responsive.
(I don’t know if TJ’s actually needs that. Just an example.)
Keviniano, that’s just it. People have asked PBOT to take in action. Eudaly is saying no. And PBOT hasn’t done anything to adjust streets during the pandemic at all. You are making my point: The Commissioner could email PBOT Director and top staff right now to to put up a website with a “Street Change Request Form” on it. Store managers, neighborhood associations, nonprofits, and others, could submit detailed requests, they could be reviewed by PBOT planning/engineering staff (at their leisure) and then if legit, they could release a few traffic cones and barriers and instructions on how to create the change on the street. To make sure all is well, a PBOT crew could do a drive-by to make sure everything was up to snuff. This isn’t rocket science. It just has to be something PBOT and/or Eudaly think matters. Right now they simply don’t think it’s important. That’s fine! I think it is. And I’ll continue to discuss it and share my thoughts. As I hope you do. Thanks again.
LMAO she’s traveled all around, but I bet she was in car. I’ve been running for exercise throughout North Portland and spent a good deal of it running in the road to avoid walkers on the sidewalks. Some highlights include taking the lane on the St. Johns bridge as a runner because somehow SOVs need four lanes and pedestrians get about 4 feet.
I can’t wait to vote her out.
If my example scenario is actually happening (people have to crowd at the entrance and there aren’t options not to), AND businesses, neighbors, and/or NA’s are approaching PBOT AND they being given a flat “no way”, then I also disagree with that and would want PBOT to take quick action to prioritize public safety in those areas.
The picture I’m getting and what I sense Comm. Eudaly pushing against is that there are some folks who want broad changes so they don’t need to be inconvenienced. Like maybe closing streets so folks can go running without needing to slow down or “pull out” onto a grass strip when passing someone else. Or protesting about busy streets when there are longer, alternative routes that still allow social distancing. I don’t think that kind of stuff should be a priority right now, not by a mile.
Can you give examples of the cases where people have made requests and PBOT has refused to take action? I’d be curious to know. The details matter.
This is news to me and changes the conversation: https://www.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/2020/04/6-feet-of-social-distancing-not-nearly-enough-cdcs-recommendation-driving-some-experts-nuts.html
Talk of waiting until returning to “normal” (automobile traffic kills 40K and injure 2 million+ each year in the U.S.), or presupposing some kind of neutral position from which to enact change, should be viewed critically. We have every right to ‘advocate’, or ‘take opportunity’. The GOP, the right, and market-based thinkers are licking their chops right now, and they are taking every opportunity. This pandemic is in many ways about shared space (land and wildlife management). It is well within our rights to make certain demands about how this space, urban space, is to be accessed and utilized. Looking out my window, I see more people on bikes, and on the sidewalks than previously and during all times of day. People will go outside, and they are. Commissioner Eudaly indeed has much in front of her to contend with, and all of it having a different sense of priorities. And given limited resources, those most in need should be helped first. That being said, how we get around and inhabit our city is open to discussion and disagreement.
Partisan politics aside, the most conservative and influential body within any community are the traffic engineers employed by the city and state DOT, be it Portland, Boston, Houston, or Zap ND. Such bureaucrats make constant administrative decisions as to what gets implemented or not, and when things are done or delayed. Engineers tend to be apolitical, but they also tend to be more concerned about CARS, their throughput, and where to put them, than with moving PEOPLE safely (or more accurately, allowing individuals to move safely AND freely in whatever modes they choose to use).
One of the great aspects of this emergency is that those same very conservative engineers are now suddenly having to work from home and having to mix with the non-car-oriented community in a way that they rarely ever had to before. Will the experience make them be more open to other ways of thinking about how space could best be used? Will they stop blocking any and all progressive improvements suggested by their own planners? Or when things eventually return to “normal”, will they do the same old same old?
From an advocacy point of view, I’m eagerly looking forward to the post-Covid19 world – how will things change?
Yesterday while biking along sidestreets – not a collector by anyone’s definition – for exercise a car came racing up from behind and honked several times as the narrow street did not allow enough room to pass. At the next stop sign they zipped ahead 100 yards and parked in front of a home. No emergency, just entitlement. Now is the time to create a network of closed sidestreets for people using mobility devices, jogging, and cycling to do so safely with spatial distancing.
Well, at least you know where they live, now.
This is an interesting discussion. Ultimately, our transportation system belongs to us, not to Eudaly, so we should have a loud voice in how it operates. On the other hand, we may have a one-time chance to make necessary changes that would be far more difficult at other times.
I would ask proponents of moving forward now: how do we ensure the public has a voice in any decisions we make now?
And I would ask opponents: If not now, when?
One irony in all this–if an action to fight the pandemic is being considered, then people realize there’s also a long-term benefit to it afterwards, then that raises the issue of “taking advantage of the situation” and it becomes a reason why it shouldn’t be done, instead of a reason that it’s an even better thing to do.
I think you’re increasingly tone-deaf on this one. This is not the time to expend city resources on closing streets which, as you show in many other articles, are generally very low on traffic.
You say that “several cities worldwide” have made closures, but the average “closure” listed on the spreadsheet (outside Bogota which is an outlier) looks to be 1-3 miles as “pilots”. You list Portland Parks as a street closure for alternative transportation, but that’s misleading–their own statement says that this closure is meant to limit access and usage. It’s not about alternative transportation at all.
Pretty weak sauce. I’m with Eudaly on this one as well.
Hi Paul G. Yes it does appear that we disagree on this one. Really too bad you can’t express that with resorting to insults like “tone-deaf” and “weak sauce”. Thanks for the comment.
I’ve seen Maus drink strong sauce.