North Greeley path progresses while neighborhood group says encampment has caused delay

Posted by on March 4th, 2021 at 4:52 pm

Nice new path south of Willamette Blvd.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The N Greeley bikeway project is tantalizingly close to being finished. About a week ago I rode a new section of the separated bike path that begins south of North Willamette Blvd. As you can see in the photos, it’s very nice.

Anticipation of this new connection between the popular Willamette Boulevard neighborhood greenway and the bike lanes on North Interstate Avenue, is high. It’s not often we get 1.5 miles of uninterrupted, physically protected bike lanes on a major north-south route that connects neighborhoods to the central city.

I’ve made a habit of checking progress. The newest section to be completed is a two-way path between Willamette and Emerson. Not only is it raised and separated by a curb, but there’s also a planter strip between automotive traffic. South of Emerson the bikeway transitions to the street level where it will be separated by a mix of concrete curbs and plastic wants until it meets up with the concrete barrier separated path at Going which was completed back in August.

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As I reported last year, this northern section of the project (between Willamette and Going) is strange because it’s not being built by PBOT. Since it’s being paid for and constructed by Adidas (whose headquarters are adjacent to it), it doesn’t have the process and transparency we get from a typical PBOT project. This isn’t necessarily problematic because the crews are contracted to build designs approved by PBOT engineers.

Recently however, several people have emailed us about information published by in the Overlook Neighborhood Association newsletter. Their spring edition (PDF) that came out last week features an article by Lee Kebler that stated,

“There is a pause on this project due to the homeless camps that occupy areas that are required for the cycle lane’s construction, specifically on the corner of Greeley and N Going Street. Construction cannot commence as long as there are biohazards in that area, a result of the homeless camps. The camps are a responsibility of PBOT and not an issue that adidas has the authority to address, so construction of the cycle lane will be stalled until PBOT decides if they will take action and when.”

To be clear, encampments are not the responsibility of PBOT. They are handled by the Office of Management and Finance and the One Point of Contact System. It is true there are a few people living on the hillside west of Greeley Avenue near Going, but they aren’t close to the road and don’t appear to be interfering with the construction site. I’ve reached out to PBOT, OMF and Kebler to learn more about what’s going on.

Kebler from the Overlook newsletter says he can’t confirm any details beyond what’s been published. Asked where he got the information about the delay, he said it came from an Adidas Corporate Affairs Manager Tom Hughes (who’s been the neighborhood liaison for the project). I’ve reached out to Hughes and hope to hear back soon.

Back in January, the Portland Mercury reported, “the Overlook Neighborhood Association has consistently used the threat of environmental hazards to protest the existence of Hazelnut Grove [an encampment further south on Greeley near Interstate] in their neighborhood. But the argument often cloaks a more deep-seated discomfort about people experiencing homelessness.”

Asked to confirm the Overlook newsletter story, PBOT spokesperson Hannah Schafer said, “We have had no contact from Adidas about any delays in the project nor have we heard anything from them about people living in the grass near Going.”

We’ve also heard back from Heather Hafer with the Office of Management and Finance (who oversees encampment responses). She said, “We have not been informed of any delays related to encampments.”

Stay tuned.

UPDATE, 9:40 am on 3/5: Adidas Corporate Affairs Director Tom Hughes said he’s the one who contacted the City of Portland with concerns about campers near N Going Ave. In a phone call this morning he said the contractors doing the work were going to delay the project because of the presence of trash and “needles” near the work site. “I put a call into the mayor’s office a few weeks ago and the next day it was cleaned up, and Turner [the construction contractor] went back to work… it looks like it’s almost done so we’re full steam ahead.”

When I told Hughes PBOT wasn’t aware of any contact with him, he said, “I’m not sure who you talked to but I’ve gone from Director Chris Warner all the way down. It was a one-call conversation and they said ‘We’ll get a team out there, we’ll clean it up.’ I sent him a map of where the issues were and literally within the next day they cleaned it up.”

UPDATE, 9:00 am on 3/8: I visited the site in question to help clarify if Hughes’ “cleaned up” meant trash was picked up or if the campers were moved to another location. Can confirm that the folks are still living next to the road near Going and it looks like it was strictly a trash removal mission. See photo below of view southbound from Greeley before Going:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Mark in NoPoNothing to see here, just needlesbikerider99maxDMatt Recent comment authors
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Aaron
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Honestly starting to think the Overlook Neighborhood Association is willing to blame literally anything on their unhoused neighbors.

Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

Well, the unhoused are easiest to blame for literally anything.

cmh89
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cmh89

Don’t you know they are so concerned about them!

Nothing to see here, just needles
Guest
Nothing to see here, just needles

The Overlook Neighborhood Association was right about used needles presenting a danger and wrong about the used needles delaying the bike path. Count me among those more worried about used needles than the spin of the neighborhood association.

Douglas Kelso
Guest
Douglas Kelso

I’m curious: do you know of any plans to create a protected bikeway on the west side of Willamette Boulevard? It seems like the segment from Killingsworth to University of Portland should be low-hanging fruit as bike paths go, and it would an easy connection to the new Greeley path.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

The “N Willamette Blvd Active Transportation Corridor” was funded through 2022-2024 Regional Flexible Funds. That may include a two-way protected bike lane on the west side of N Willamette, from N Rosa Parks Way to N Olin Ave.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

Very cool! Is there anything I can do to support the development of this path? Tons of people cycle on N. Willamette, both for commuting and leisure, and it would be awesome to have a safe path to PSU.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Oh wow, Overlook is getting a lot of bang for their buck. They are going to push out two homeless camps in six months at this rate!

Pete S
Guest
Pete S

What does “cleaned up” mean in the context of Tom Hughes quote? Does it mean the city picked up trash or that the area was swept of houseless people?

If the former, I find it mildly but unsurprisingly gross that some corporate executive can snap his fingers to have a public service performed that disproportionately benefits that corporation. If the latter, I find it absolutely disgusting that that “public service” is violently upending the lives of people who are so vulnerable.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

How exactly does building a bike path benefit this evil corporation?

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Hopefully it means that they housed the people that they displaced.

maxD
Guest
maxD

I commute to North Portland daily, and the Hazelnut Grove camp and the camps along Going have rendered the “protected” bike paths useless. People regularly drive personal vehicles up and down the path between Interstate and the camps off Greeley and Going. One dark rainy night in December, around 7:30, I encountered 3 (!) vehicles: 2 by Hazelnut Grove, and one cruising the Going MUP at about 30 mph. There is little room to get out of the way of a car coming at you on a path that is less than 10-feet wide. I do not appreciate the snide comment about the Overlook NA or the boosterism from Jonathan claiming that these projects are safe. The City is allowing dedicated bike/ped paths to be used driveways, and they are not wide enough for that. Being blinded by a car driving down a bike path directly at you is f-ing terrifying. this is a real danger. These paths are not safe, and the people camping who also drive are a serious conflict to safe biking.

HJ
Guest
HJ

I think the big problem here isn’t so much the infrastructure, so much as the jackasses driving on it. I’ve got a friend who’s had constant problems with the cars from the encampments on the Going MUP. She’s almost been hit several times. My question is why is this not being addressed? Maybe put in some wands to prevent them from driving on there? Would be easy enough.
In general this new trend of cars at every homeless encampment is becoming a real problem. It seems like there is a progression that is happening. Camp gets established, is the usual tents, etc. but mostly contained. Vehicles show up, it turns into a mud pit, there is a massive explosion of loose trash. I don’t know who these vehicles belong to, what the deal is with them, but they’re clearly a major problem.

Doug H
Guest
Doug H

I’ve literally called PBOT multiple time after dealing with someone pulling out and driving on it in front of me. There is a spot for a metal pole that would stop this from happening but PBOT has decided to not replace it or put it back in. This by far is the strangest parking set up in the city.

Drsdrs
Guest
Drsdrs

Couldn’t agree more. The infrastructure that is being built to link North Portland to the Central City along this corridor is great. But it is to absolutely no avail if people are going to be allowed to store and operate stolen and unregistered motor vehicles on the paths. How many millions of tax dollars are being flushed down the toilet as we allow people to wreck public spaces and infrastructure with impunity?

Matt
Guest
Matt

Jonathan is not being very honest about the true impact of the homeless camps on this area. I used to use Going to get on and off Swan Island, but dodging trash, vehicles, human waste, and drug needles was getting a little old. The final straw was threats of physical violence just for riding by “their turf”. I eventually gave up and started driving. Costs a few more bucks but I feel far less stressed than when I biked. I was getting to the point of dreading my ride just because of that area alone.

maxD
Guest
maxD

Matt, I agree. The Greeley path and the Going path are not safe because people camping along them drive vehicles down them. I don’t use these routes one my way home. They photograph well, and they look safer than the unprotected lane on Interstate, but that is not an honest representation. In addition to biking, I used to walk to Swan Island along Going. The cars and verbal threats have put an end to that- I am driving, too. The City is investing a lot into infrastructure but not maintaining it to keep it safe and open.

bikerider99
Guest
bikerider99

I rode this path over the weekend… not sure if this is an article about houseless or an article about the path for biking. I have comments regarding the cycling aspect of it.

One major complaint is the enormous “speed bump” or raised ped crossing – about a 12″ raised table over the path, with very steep up/down transition, in the middle of a downhill in front of the adidas complex. This raised speed table is currently unmarked, and rather difficult to make out in the all-asphalt configuration when you are going downhill. Might send you flying – not sure if it’s just pre-finish construction, but the project already has bikes routed into the off-street path, but it is still an active construction zone – very poor management of the work zone. This speed table for cyclists needs to be cut down to a safely raised height, or at least a bunch of warning signs put up. Adidas already has an elevated walkway over Greeley, here, so it seems questionable that they need to set up another street-crossing for peds under the raised bridge.

I disagree with the tendency to route the bike path off the street and into a chicane of shared purpose, slow-down, multi-multi purpose. These travel route bike paths tend to accumulate debris over time: stop signs for bikes only, picnic tables, news-boxes, flower planters, Trimet infrastructure, garbage bins, uber-pickup zones, utility infra, public art, delivery truck parking, a general gathering/staging place for many purposes, and all sorts of ad-hoc debris that do nothing for the cyclists but increase the danger of using the new bike path. Not to mention the road-debris, gravel, etc that now can never be swept up since it is off the street. And did I mention all of the physical sign-posts which will be bolted to the concrete in the middle of the path. I expect Adidas will use this path as place to drive their forktrucks, and stage construction or secutiry vehicles, as has been past practice.

If we are in a park, and we are looking for a nice bike park to casually stroll our bicycles around, these would be a great design, but this is a commute cooridor, and needs less treatment for cyclists as by-standers and recreational non-vehicles, and more focus on cycling as transportation. This project is hand-in-hand with the new truck route on Greeley, which prioritizes moving vehicles, so why do they push cyclists onto the sidewalk in a transportation project?