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Portland launches 100-mile ‘Slow Streets Safe Streets’ COVID-19 response effort

Posted by on April 28th, 2020 at 1:49 pm

More space on busy streets is part of a three-pronged strategy.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has revealed a plan to adapt our streets to the COVID-19 crisis.

“The new strategy will repurpose streets, including closing them to car traffic, to make it easier and safer for Portlanders to practice physical distancing as the city recovers,” reads a statement just released by PBOT by way of Commissioner Chloe Eudaly.

Here’s the full announcement:

“After weeks of bureau analysis and community outreach, the initiative maps how PBOT will reconfigure streets—including closing them to through car traffic—to support physical distancing, address increased movement, and support the City of Portland’s re-opening process.

“Right now, the best thing Portlanders can do for the health of our community is to continue to stay home to save lives. PBOT is carefully considering how transportation behavior has changed and how it needs to change, not just as we recover from this crisis, but to support a sustainable future,” said Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. “Our Slow Streets|Safe Streets Initiative will provide the space Portlanders need to move around our city safely, and improve how we share our right of way. I am proud of PBOT’s leadership on this issue. We have been responsive to community advocates and business concerns while balancing the vital need to prioritize public health and vulnerable Portlanders. Our streets belong to all of us, and these improvements will allow us to safely walk, bike, and roll through the city.”

PBOT is proposing a series of steps and measured improvements for neighborhood greenways, busy streets, and business districts. The bureau will focus its initial efforts on areas of the city with the most pressing safety needs.

These planned steps include:

1. Neighborhood Greenways: (quiet residential streets): During the public health emergency, neighborhood greenways have emerged as a critical space for Portlanders seeking to get out and about safely near their homes. The 100 miles of greenways throughout Portland are specifically designed to prioritize safety and comfort for people walking and biking. These streets have provided a safe space for Portlanders to walk, bike, and roll while maintaining physical distancing.

One of the first steps the bureau will take as part of the initiative will be to install temporary barricades, to either close certain streets to all but local traffic, or slow traffic where a full closure is not feasible. The bureau will also install signage to alert drivers to the presence and priority of people walking and biking on the greenways.

2. Busy Streets: Expand pedestrian space along streets that are narrow or missing sidewalks to improve safety. Provide more room for physical distancing at intersections with high foot traffic. Install pop-up walking and biking lanes to encourage local trips on foot or by bike.

3. Business districts: reserve space so customers can line up while maintaining appropriate physical distancing; create dedicated loading zones for pickup and delivery.

During the pandemic, Portland has experienced dramatic changes to the city’s transportation system.

There has been a significant decrease in traffic and congestion. Across the city, car trips have been down almost 50 percent. According to data from the traffic app Waze, the number of traffic jams has fallen by 88 percent. At the same time, incidents of speeding have risen almost a third since the start of the public health emergency.

Finally, more Portlanders have been using neighborhood streets—including the city’s network of neighborhood greenways—to exercise and get fresh air while practicing safe physical distancing.

“When we reach the point that we can re-open, we want to make sure our transportation system is ready,” said Director Chris Warner. “Portlanders have made great use of their neighborhood streets to walk, bike, and roll during the pandemic. We’ve designed the Slow Streets|Safe Streets initiative to make sure they can continue to do this safely as we get back closer to normal.”

In the coming weeks, PBOT will hold a series of digital meetings with community, business, and neighborhood groups to collect input on how our streets can best serve all Portlanders both during and after this public health crisis. If members of the public have suggestions for locations where street improvements could support safe physical distancing, please contact PBOT at 503-823-SAFE or email: active.transportation@Portlandoregon.gov. Planning and preparation is underway for these actions, and the Slow Streets|Safe Streets initiative will begin to launch immediately with additional phases timed to launch when the Governor’s Office and public health officials officially start the re-opening process.

PBOT and Commissioner Eudaly have been under intense pressure for weeks to make a move like this. Just one week ago Commissioner Eudaly told an Oregon Public Broadcasting radio show host: “I don’t think that right now while we’re under ‘Stay at Home stay safe’ orders, that encouraging people to leave their homes and making radical changes with the way streets are used, are the best use of our time and resources. And I’m also very concerned about public safety.”

A PBOT planner will share more details of their plans at a meeting of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee which is open to the public and will be held via Zoom tonight at 6:00 pm.

UPDATE, 4/29: Major update to this story just published includes details on timeline and implementation as well as a recap on the aforementioned committee meeting.

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

Wow! Very Exciting! Thanks PBOT for taking some initiative and proposing a change. Many thanks Jonathan for continuing to push on this issue. I’m convinced that your determination and persistence helped to keep this issue out front and forced PBOT to come up with something. Well done sir.

 
Guest
 

Thank you PBOT. It’s embarrassing how long it took for this, but I’ll give kudos where kudos is due.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Yes, finally. Lots of potential here and would be great to expand the neighborhood barricades beyond greenways.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

100 miles! That’s awesome.

Tony Rebensdorf
Guest
Tony Rebensdorf

Thanks to Jonathan for putting the pressure on City Hall, and kudos to Portland City hall for stepping up and meeting the needs of your city. Now lets hope Vancouver (WA!) is next.

Ben G
Guest
Ben G

This is great news.
People are already doing this quite a bit seems largely on what are already greenways, I’d love to see some barricades along Bryant and Going. Hopefully this will disperse people from recreating along popular corridors. And curious to see how neighborhoods receive such changes.

Nathan Hinkle
Guest
Nathan Hinkle

This looks great! I am looking forward to hearing details on how PBOT plans to roll this out. The planters in the greenways image look nice but I hope that won’t be an impediment to rapid deployment. The folding “oiler” barricades they use for special events are a lot faster to set up than planters, but also aren’t as permanent.

Alain L
Guest
Alain L

Nice work Eudaly, PBOT and to all who made it happen! Certainly a major step forward in creating safer streets in which to move about while not in an automobile. Happy to see Portland step up to follow other cities that have led the charge.

Raymondovich
Guest
Raymondovich

It is great to see design ideas for our region in addition to cars being the dominant form of travel are being seriously considered. There is also the fact that seniors are still the fastest growing part of the population. For many driving is no longer a choice. Often I ask myself could a person with a walker of a wheelchair handle this area? I just hope people remember how to stay safe as traffic gradually increases.

Maria
Guest
Maria

WOW! Yes!!! I’m especially excited about closing greenways to cars. Imagine if they never re-opened. It’s just a dream, but this idea that our streets are a shared outdoor space for use by humans over SUVs, is just thrilling!!!

axoplasm
Subscriber

hey finally some good news!

Jonathan K
Guest
Jonathan K

Chloe! Chloe! But seriously, I have been very impressed with the way Chloe Eudaly responds to community feedback. She doesn’t always get it the first time, but she listens to the community and often delivers with plans that most politicians wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. She’s got my vote.

And thanks to Jonathan (and everyone else) for keeping the pressure on!

Eli
Guest
Eli

Damn. I’d almost move down from Seattle for the next few months — where our city has repurposed 0 inches of downtown street space — or any busy streets — for social distancing.

(don’t worry, I’m not.)

ChadwickF
Guest
ChadwickF

Glad to finally see this. It will help us over the next year and a half or however long we will need to keep social distancing.

Holtz
Subscriber

Finally! I doubt it would have happened without ongoing calls for action from people around the city.

z
Guest
z

Okay… not bad! Better late than never!

Dave
Guest
Dave

What is the city really willing to.do to COERCE decent behavior out of drivers?

JIm Lee
Guest
JIm Lee

Get out there with the camera, JM, and document how this works out.

Nathan Hinkle
Guest
Nathan Hinkle

Jonathan, is there a source for the “100 miles” headline? I see in the quoted release it mentions 100 miles of greenways, but I don’t see anything in the press release and didn’t hear anything in the advisory committee meeting saying this would be deployed to all greenway locations or to any specific length of streets.

David Hampsten
Guest

When does early voting-by-mail begin for the Portland city council elections?

Bob
Guest
Bob

Permanent Parkways!

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Will we at least have specific streets selected before mail-in ballots are due, or is this just a last-minute pander by Eudaly?

I won’t be shocked if we get into June and PBOT announces “community input has lead us to the decision that SE Hawthorne, 39th, Burnside, etc are too busy to reduce vehicle lanes”.

mh
Subscriber

Hmmm… I guess there’s still a chance that Chloe will get my vote. I gave her money, but got angrier and angrier, and had decided to vote for Sam. Now I’m vacillating. If she puts in the bus-only lanes that we’re going to desperately need when this is finally over, she’s absolutely got it. She’d better move fast.

Chris
Guest
Chris

How absurd to talk about reductions in traffic when people are forced to stay at home and are out of work. When the economy opens back up this will meaningfully create worse traffic conditions which are already terrible. People will always use vehicles regardless of the motive power gas, electric or whatever and penalizing the majority to placate a minor minority of walkers and bikers is highly childish and irresponsible . Looking forward to her removal from office when get to vote soon!

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

I’ll believe it when I see it.

It’s been 4 weeks since she said she wasn’t doing it. I suspect it’ll be another couple weeks before they decide which streets to do it on. Then the governor will announce that restrictions will be lifted a couple weeks later and PBOT will want to abandon the entire thing citing a lack of need.

When streets are announced I’ll be pleasantly surprised if any popular auto-dominated streets are chosen rather than all on greenways.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Hopefully neighborhood residents will enjoy the temporary diverters so much, they will lobby to make them permanent!

X
Guest
X

cmh89 April 29, 2020 at 10:36 am
It’s amazing how great biking in this city could be Portland built real greenways instead of sharrows and speed bumps. That map looks amazing if you ignore the state of the roads that are green…

Also a few oddities like the complete break in the, uh, system along the I-84 / NE Sandy axis, as well as the scattered bits of things in SW. Transport, this is NOT.