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Portland installs first of 100 temporary diverters to tame traffic and create safer streets

Posted by on May 7th, 2020 at 10:57 am

A bicycle rider enjoys a just-calmed NW Flanders.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

PBOT contractor at work.

By the end of tomorrow, 100 sets of signs and barricades like the ones in the photo above will be standing in streets across Portland. This morning, a crew of private contractors working for the Portland Bureau of Transportation installed the temporary diverters on Northwest Flanders at 22nd.

At a press event to mark the occasion, PBOT Communications Director John Brady said their “Slow Streets Safe Streets” initiative is an effort to improve conditions on existing neighborhood greenways.

“Our [greenway] network has been working quite well, this is just an effort to make it safer,” he said. Brady also pointed out that, contrary to popular perception, no streets are being closed. “It’s really important to emphasize that we’re not closing the streets. We want to stop cut-through traffic,” he said. “If people need to get to a business, their homes, or if they have business on that street. Then they treat the street just like any other street.”

“It’s really important to emphasize that we’re not closing the streets.”
— John Brady, PBOT

This was good to hear and it relieved my concerns around some people’s misplaced freak-outs over “100 miles of streets closed to cars!”. This morning we watched several drivers of cars and even large trucks easily pass by the barricade.

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Installation at Flanders and 17th.

Placement of the diverters is another key part of this effort. So far it looks good. There are three barricades for each installation. Two of them are backed by large orange reflective barrels. One set is placed in the middle of the street. The other two are set back a few feet, in the shadow of the parking lane near the curb.

Each barricade has a unique location number.

You won’t see the barricades at the start of every block. PBOT has chosen strategic locations to create calmed corridors. This first installation at 22nd and Flanders for instance, was paired with another installation at 17th. So this is a five-block section.

As you can see in the images, the main sign in the middle of the street says, “Local Access Only”. Looks like PBOT has decided to place the green “Go Slow – Share the Street” next to the curb. I wonder if that’s a missed branding opportunity. Would have been stronger to place some sort of green campaign-specific sign on the main barricade to really emphasize what’s expected of people who enter the space.

To make help with maintenance and upkeep of the barriers, each one has a new sticker on it that says, “Report Maintenance” and includes an email, phone number and unique location number. This is super smart! It will also be useful not just for the contractor hired to maintain them, but also for volunteers who will watch over the barricades and keep them in good working order (nothing was said about this community volunteer effort today, but we expect to hear more about it soon).

Asked how long these treatments will be up, Brady said, “For the foreseeable future.” As for additional locations beyond the 100 already identified, Brady said they want to hear from the public and that a more formal outreach process will be announced shortly.

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We haven’t seen a detailed set of criteria as to how PBOT is making location selections, but Brady shared a few more insights into that this morning. He said they’re looking at places in the greenway network that need enhancement. NW Flanders is one of the oldest greenways in the city and only has bare-bones treatments (like sharrows) to designate it as such. Brady also mentioned they’ve chosen locations based on factors like: a high volume of cut-through traffic, existence of multi-family housing, and places that are far away from public parks.

So far the effort is estimated to cost under $100,000 and PBOT is using existing funds. That comes to about $1,000 per location.

Bike Loud PDX volunteer RJ Shepherd was at the launch event this morning. He said PBOT has been “very responsive” to his group’s calls for more diversion on greenways going back several years now. “We’re very thankful the commissioner took this step forward,” he said. Shepherd wants PBOT to do more pilot projects similar to this one because they can be deployed quickly and cheaply. He also said Bike Loud will be pushing PBOT to stay the course: “We still think there’s more to do. There’s a long way to go.”

To some degree, PBOT agrees with Shepherd. They have already hinted at the next phase that could include “hardening” these temporary treatments into permanent diverters. Then there’s the parallel effort to create space on main streets. PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said on Facebook recently that her office is actively considering plans to allow cafes and restaurants to place tables in streets to create space for dining. Lots more to come indeed.

Keep your eyes peeled for these in your neighborhood. PBOT seemed confident this morning that all 100 installations would be completed by tomorrow.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Hello, KittyjeffNathan Hinklek7tyJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) Recent comment authors
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Hello, Kitty
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Hello, Kitty

It will be interesting to see how these work out on streets used by TriMet (SE Ladd or Clinton, for example). If they transition into “hardening”, expect fierce push back unless there is a vigorous public process.

Matt
Guest
Matt

So it’s effectively a cone in the middle of the intersection that cars don’t even need to slow down to get around. A driver can see that the next block is open. If visually there were a line of these down the greenway, then I could see drivers avoiding the street. But this won’t really do anything except allow PBOT to check off some boxes and get props from national media for progressive streetscapes.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Remember folks this is the BEST Chloe can do. Signs and cones on streets that only need them because PBOT, under her leadership, steadfastly refuses to build actual greenways that actually restrict access to green modes of transporation.

This is pathetic. Vote anyone else by May 18th. Literally anyone else would be better.

Bill Stites
Subscriber

Seems like this project would be much more effective at achieving its goals if the sign locations were FULLY CLOSED TO VEHICULAR TRAFFIC IN BOTH DIRECTIONS – No in, No out.

Hear me out …

Local access for vehicles is provided by maintaining at least one inlet, that is, simply not sealing the other end of the block. Then people can drive into any given block from the back side to access homes/businesses.
Construction sites do this all the time, and there’s no traffic catastrophe – indeed, they typically seal both ends of a block. Even here, drivers manage to find alternate routes easily in our street grid.

PBOT acknowledges that traffic levels are down and will likely stay down for the foreseeable future. Even with a recent uptick in traffic [anecdotally, is what I’ve seen while cycling over the last few days], it’s unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels anytime soon.

This is all about prioritizing social distancing space for people. Having any people drive around these signs is counterproductive in that the citizens in the street are not truly safe … and if they don’t feel safe, they won’t be out in the travel lanes as freely as they should be. The decreased VMT means any inconvenience for remaining drivers is well worth it.
Conversion of travel lanes to people lanes is what’s needed, and the existing scenario won’t accomplish that safely.

What are the City’s priorities here? They say it’s giving more space to people – please show us.
The inclination to allow pass through traffic may be ingrained in PBOT DNA, and so the City Council may need to provide them a mandate.
And call them what they are – diverters, not street closures – and temporary for now.

No-pass-through is required for this entire project to work safely, and it should be wonderful for the average Portland citizen.
Think of the spontaneous block parties that could safely spring up behind such walls.

Jessica
Guest

I happily voted for Chloe and I ride year round and I don’t own a car. And I’d be happy to vote for her again.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I think Eudaly’s priority is pretty clear: give the activists a bone just before the election.

While I fully support temporarily closing the greenways, I have difficulty arguing it’s needed based on my lived experience. I just got back from a walk at least partly along a couple of greenways, on this beautiful spring day, and while plenty of people were around, I did not pass within 10 ft of any individual the entire time I was out, and I rarely had to step into or cross the street to avoid passing too close to someone. I haven’t witnessed crowds of pedestrians or cyclers on Ladd, Clinton, or other greenways in SE, and I’ll be genuinely surprised if they materialize, especially once the novelty of the closure has worn off.

There is a risk in this closure: If people don’t take to the streets in larger numbers, the need for longer term diversion will be undermined. We’re about to get the higher quality greenway network many of us have been advocating for, which should unlock the mythical 60% of riders who are waiting for conditions to be better to mount their steed and venture forth. But do any of you really believe they will?

The weather is beautiful, the days are getting longer, and flowers are in full bloom. What if we’ve built it and they don’t come?

Zach
Guest
Zach

> What if we’ve built it and they don’t come?

You need to actually *build* it first to find out. You can’t half-ass it.

Here are the “Principles for Bikeway Design” (3.2.2) laid out in the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030. These are the guidelines that will unlock the mythical 60%, as they have in other cities that have FULLY committed to them:

1. Safety: Bikeways should be designed and built to be free of hazards and minimize bicyclist conflict with other road users
2. Comfort: Bikeways should be easy to use; the complexity of intereaction between biycle and motor vehicle should be minimal.
3. Attractiveness: Good design and ‘sense of place’ should enhance the look and feel of the bicycling environment.
4. Direct routes: Bikeways should provide immediate proximity to the places residents want to go.
5. Cohesive system: A network of bikeways should provide seamless and connected access to a broad variety of destinations.

Building Dutch-quality infrastructure is how you unlock the 60%. Not putting a few barrels in front of glorified sharrows on routes that don’t go anywhere.

Zach
Guest
Zach

(This was a reply to Hello Kitty)

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Do we need to get the system perfect before we see any increases in riding? It seems to me that 60% must exist on some gradient. If we unleash even 10% now, that would be huge, and we may be able to leverage that to level up our infrastructure to get us closer to our 60% potential. If, on the other paw, growth is closer to 1%, well, that will be awkward.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

It’s not really built though. I agree that this is a bad look. PBOT is once again patting themselves on the back for doing a quarter of the minimum they should have done.

This project wont:

1. Limit cars on greenways

2. Make greenways safe to travel on.

3. Allow the greenways to baked into peoples normal, everyday lives.

Why would anyone change their routine based on some low-grade, ineffective “improvements”? I avoid “greenways” like N Willamette because I don’t want to get passed by cars and need to stop at every single intersection to cross a major arterial. I’m not going to take N Willamette during this project because it doesn’t solve any of those problems and I wont take it after.

Bob Weinstein Portland/Save Our Sidewalks
Guest
Bob Weinstein Portland/Save Our Sidewalks

I am a senior citizen living in NW, and while I don’t ride a bike anymore (those who do should be thankful!) I support changes- including with my tax support- to provide meaningful safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians as long as there is a substantive public process- unlike this program.

In my opinion, this is nothing but a re-election campaign ploy- being implemented with the usual lack of notice to- and input from- the general public (like her effort to eliminate neighborhood associations) and will have little effect on Portland streets, especially those with which I am familiar in Northwest.

Why? 1. Traffic is already significantly reduced, at least on most streets in NW Portland. In its press release for this new program, PBOT noted that overall vehicle traffic is down 50% in Portland. I suspect the reduction is much higher on neighborhood streets- at least in NW, while less so on the arterials.

I walk or run 3-10 miles almost every day throughout neighborhoods in NW and the Pearl as well as downtown. I was out for a run this morning in NW. Once again I encountered very few vehicles, e.g. one could look down most side streets from 24th from Savier to Westover and see no traffic for blocks on either side. I have seen nothing to suggest that PBOT bothered to collect pre-barrier vehicle data so that it can be objectively compared with post-barrier vehicle traffic data.

2. The barriers note that motor vehicles are allowed for local access, so that- if my understanding is correct- vehicles will be moving in the same space that pedestrians are also apparently being encouraged to use. If so, not smart- and not safe!

3. Who is going to enforce this? The police? Of course not- obviously not a great use of police resources. PBOT? Lol! Those drivers who don’t obey laws to stop at red lights, or at crosswalks (marked or unmarked) for pedestrians will figure this out and disregard if they feel like it.

4. According to the PBOT press release (serving a dual purpose as a Eudaly campaign ad), additional phases are “timed to launch when the Governor’s Office and public health officials officially start the re-opening process.” Since the latter will hopefully occur sooner rather than later, perhaps Eudaly and PBOT can disclose these additional “phases” now- they must exist at least in concept- rather than hiding them from the public.

Prediction: With absolutely no objective and meaningful data, Eudaly and PBOT- by election day- will declare this program to be a great success- much as they did with what they had billed as the next greatest transportation fad- aka shared e-scooters*.
********************************************************************************
*In some other jurisdictions like Miami and Atlanta, local governments have suspended shared scooter and bike operations for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency as they considered the riders to be possible disease vectors, since they are touching- and possibly coughing or sneezing on- handlebars. In Portland, while companies such as Lime have suspended operations ostensibly due to the virus pandemic, Spin and Razor are still around. Ridership has obviously plummeted, with just under 200 riders in the last week of March.

One medical expert recently said, “”If one must share these vehicles, wiping them down prior to use and washing one’s hands and using hand sanitizers after such use are the minimum one must do to reduce this disease’s risk. This may not eliminate the threat of becoming infected, but should decrease the risk.”

Despite requests to PBOT that they either suspend operations during the emergency or require sanitizing after each use, they have simply issued guidance to “encourage people to wash their hands thoroughly after riding a scooter.” They do not, of course, explain where a person might do that, with all the closed businesses, nor how a person- even if so inclined- could access the wash area without touching- and possibly contaminating- a number of surfaces.

maxD
Guest
maxD

hello, Kitty, “Do we need to get the system perfect before we see any increases in riding?”
Yes! Having a patchwork of nice segments of bike infrastructure separated by dangerous, indirect and/or uncomfortable segments is not useful and will limit increases in riding. It is of very limited usefulness to have a lovely, protected 8-block stretch of protected bike lane or greenway if if cannot get to it safely across arteries or it does not make a safe and direct connection to more decent bike routes.

maxD
Guest
maxD

That was supposed to next under Hello, Kitty! Anyway, my favorite example of this is the Going Greenway. This is a great, reasonably well-used greenway a few blocks from Alberta. It is also CLOSE to the Rodney Greenway, the Vancouver/Williams couplet, the Michigan Greenway, and the Concord Greenway. Connecting to those segment is critical to have a network that connects large numbers of riders and destinations. Unfortunately, the Going Greenway route has unprotected crossings at MLK, Williams, Vancouver, and Mississippi. Now, the truly disappointing part of this, from a failure to build a network perspective, is that Skidmore provides a safe, flat, direct route from Concord to 7th (or 9th) with existing traffic control/safe crossing at Interstate, I-5, Mississippi, Vancouver, Williams and MLK! In fact, they added buffered bike lanes from Interstate Ave to N Michigan. If they continued the buffered bike lanes along Skidmore to NE 7th or 9th (whichever becomes the greenway), all of the aforementioned bike segments and destinations become connected in a meaningful (safe and direct) way. It would take commitment to remove some parking, but if PBOT could do that here, and across the City to connect what we have across the freeways and arterials- then we would have a network, which is what I believe is what it will take to get new ridership

q
Guest
q

I’m not quite following you. You say, “no in, no out”. But you also say, “Local access for vehicles is provided by maintaining at least one inlet, that is, simply not sealing the other end of the block. Then people can drive into any given block from the back side to access homes/businesses.”

Those seem contradictory. Don’t people who live on a street, along with delivery vehicles, etc. need to be able to get in and out, so at least one end of the street needs to be open for them to enter and exit? And are you saying they should, or shouldn’t? Are you saying there should be one end open, but not both?

I’m not arguing, just not following.

q
Guest
q

Oops, meant as reply to Bill Stites above.

Adam
Guest
Adam

I like the second photo of the car driver just blatently driving through!

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Maybe blatantly accessing a local address?

Social Engineer
Guest
Social Engineer

Doubtful, since Flanders is a notorious cut-through for drivers too lazy to make the three left turns (Everett>15th>Glisan) as signed when coming off the SB I-405 off-ramp, so instead they just dart across three lanes of traffic and use Flanders if they’re trying to get to NW. The Flanders Greenway project can’t come soon enough.

Tom
Guest
Tom

The data is starting to roll in on just how dangerous the streets have become, even with lower traffic, and some lockdown states are now reporting higher total fatality counts for April vs April last year. Not just an increase in fatality rate, but higher total fatality counts even though trips are lower. But we should not need to show a pile of dead and injured bodies just get safer streets though. We only need to look at the speeding. Speeding by absolute count is now higher than before the pandemic, and its not the same degree of speeding as before. The rate of so called “super speeding” is being reported to be up to 87% higher than before, with reports that speeds are now 30% higher than before.

Avoiding other peds on narrow sidewalks means frequent road crossings that can’t always be at intersections. The combination of a big jump up in pedestrian road crossings plus a big jump in speeding, super speeding, and an increase total fatality counts is not the best combination. Driving a little more cautiously on certain streets is not a big deal.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Hello, Kitty
While I fully support temporarily closing the greenways, I have difficulty arguing it’s needed based on my lived experience. I just got back from a walk at least partly along a couple of greenways, on this beautiful spring day, and while plenty of people were around, I did not pass within 10 ft of any individual the entire time I was out, and I rarely had to step into or cross the street to avoid passing too close to someone. I haven’t witnessed crowds of pedestrians or cyclers on Ladd, Clinton, or other greenways in SE, and I’ll be genuinely surprised if they materialize, especially once the novelty of the closure has worn off.There is a risk in this closure: If people don’t take to the streets in larger numbers, the need for longer term diversion will be undermined. p>Recommended 9

My lived experience is that men don’t contract COVID-19. Because I don’t have it. Anecdotal evidence is not good debate material.

Regarding your risk assessment, I think you’re confused. This s a response to the *need to socially distance*. Nothing more. Fighting back against this because you personally have a better agenda is morally unsound. You have not basis to say that locals only access to greenways will harm future initiatives! Unless you have an alter ego running for an elected office, I think you should let your desires rest.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Bend update. After somewhat meager efforts at road closure, Bend has beefed up Safer Streets diverters. Yesterday, there was a sign about four times the size of the one in the picture for this article right in the middle of 6th St, the main N-S route on Bend Inner Eastside. Pretty effective at getting drivers’ attention. They now have to make significant slow-down and tricky turn to get around it for local travel. The route had become a 35 mph cut-through even though traffic is ridiculously light over here now.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Glad to see they’re using barricades that aren’t so easy to drive over.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

I’ve already heard two separate anecdotes of people angrily declaring they won’t be voting for Chloe Eudaly who cited this program as evidence of her “War on Cars” (their term).

Our society is truly ungovernable.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Slow streets will not be safe streets until it’s illegal for drivers to run over people.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

With current levels of enforcement, criminalizing unintentional acts would have little impact. We can’t even keep up with the things people do on purpose.

Fred
Guest
Fred

It’s kinda funny that the cyclist in the photograph seems to be detouring around the huge potholes in the street – and in fact that’s what I remember most about Flanders: the giant potholes that will flat your tires if you ride into them.

Funny that PBOT can close the streets but can’t maintain them – or maybe not so funny.

Nesting_Monkeys
Subscriber
Nesting_Monkeys

Fred
It’s kinda funny that the cyclist in the photograph seems to be detouring around the huge potholes in the street – and in fact that’s what I remember most about Flanders: the giant potholes that will flat your tires if you ride into them.Funny that PBOT can close the streets but can’t maintain them – or maybe not so funny.Recommended 0

I think the new Bike Tag is fun, but it would be much funnier if it was only pictures of pot holes. What I’m saying is, you can identify a street in Portland by a picture of it’s pot holes.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> This s a response to the *need to socially distance*. Nothing more. <<<

The need for more street to provide sufficient room for people to maintain physical distance from one another is a direct function of the number of people on the street. I haven’t seen more people out and about than can be accommodated by current conditions. If closing the streets brings more people out, then that’s a win. If it doesn’t, what’s the point?

>>> You have not basis to say that locals only access to greenways will harm future initiatives! <<<

Bike advocates (including myself) have argued that adding diversion to greenways would increase the number of people cycling. Now we can test that theory. If we're right, that will be helpful in arguing for more radical/permanent change. If we're not, our claims will be viewed more skeptically in the future.

I hope your immunity to covid endures!

X
Guest
X

Yes to that.

‘Sorry fellow human for your personal damage but the State of Oregon certified me as an operator of this big metal thing. Suck it up, and I hope the rest of your day is better’

q
Guest
q

Some parks and trails/paths are getting more crowded than usual. It will be great if the street changes work to give people good alternatives to going to those parks or trails to walk or bike, taking some pressure off those places. I think that may happen a bit in some areas (places where people live on or very close to the streets that have been changed, so it becomes more convenient to walk or bike there instead of going to a park or trail) but not others.

X
Guest
X

Zack:

…3. Attractiveness: Good design and ‘sense of place’ should enhance the look and feel of the bicycling environment…

e.g., the little frill on top of the NE Going St. signs. Warm. Fuzzy.

…5. Cohesive system: A network of bikeways should provide seamless and connected access to a broad variety of destinations…

🙂 🙂

6. (my addition) Pavement to a certain standard. Almost any standard. Ride NE Holman between about NE 8th to 15th and you’ll see what this is about.

Jason
Guest
Jason

>>>I haven’t seen more people out and about than can be accommodated by current conditions.<<>>If we’re not, our claims will be viewed more skeptically in the future.<<< Again, this is not being carried out specifically in reply to ongoing campaigns for "enlightened transportation". This is an ad-hoc response to a clinch situation. Earlier this month, our delightful resident lawyer Chris Thomas wrote a piece about the legal rights of pedestrians walking in the street. Because this is happening at a very noticeable rate. Just because you haven't seen it, doesn't mean it isn't real. The Earth is round, crop circles are fake, and pedestrians are out in droves.

https://bikeportland.org/2020/04/23/walking-in-the-street-to-maintain-a-safe-distance-its-against-the-law-313944

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I hope PBOT will collect some data about how many people this brings onto the street and demonstrate that the street closures made our collective lives better. If enough people say “this is great!”, the closures might outlive the crisis.

Jason
Guest
Jason

If they tabulate a delta after “locals only” is deployed, then that delta is only relative to the COVID-19 period, not historical numbers.Since people are stuck at home now, more people are already using their feet and bicycles to entertain themselves. Any measurement taken after the “locals only” impingement is deployed. And since this would only be a relative measure to the already whacky number, it doesn’t equate to anything that you are saying.

Try as you might to shoe horn this initiative narrow sense of street improvements, it just wont fit. The fact is, people need space right now. In the long run, the city streets need reform. Your desire to use this as a litmus for that long term reform is short sighted and naive.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Still can’t edit though…
“Any measurement taken after the “locals only” impingement is deployed.”
Meant to say, any measurements after impingement would be relatively meaningless.

BUT I CAN EDIT MY REPLIES?!!!

Jason
Guest
Jason

This statement turned out to be a hot mess.

It can be summed up simply by saying, “you are trying to prove a solution to a chronic issue by applying the result from addressing an acute condition”.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I’m probably just misunderstanding. Are you saying that there is nothing we can learn from this closure that might tell us whether extending them post-covid would be good policy?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The ability to downvote is going to be awesome!

k7ty
Subscriber
k7ty

This afternoon I rode the N Concord “greenway” after the new stuff was added. For the entirety between N Lombard and N Going, I counted 4 cars and zero peds or bikes. Yet N Willamette between N Interstate and Univ of Portland was an all-age throng of bikers, runners and walkers all trying to avoid each other with varying success as traffic zoomed along as usual with most vehicles above the speed limit. PBOT should be addressing the N Willamette situation.

Nathan Hinkle
Guest
Nathan Hinkle

Email safe@portlandoregon.gov and request they add some sort of calming or local traffic requirement for Willamette!

jeff
Guest
jeff

sorry, this is a joke. the barriers in my neighborhood were spray painted and tossed into an alley within 24 hours. Does Eudaly have nothing better to do during a pandemic than to put up ineffective barriers on streets which are experiencing less traffic anyway? How much did that all cost?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

So now the alley is closed to through traffic?