If the Portland Bureau of Transportation is going to call something a protected bike lane, it should mean something.
(*Before I share this, I want folks to know that the biking in the Piedmont/Arbor Lodge neighborhoods is mostly really nice (by American standards). Compared to other parts of Portland where massive arterials dominate, there are no through streets and often no bike lanes at all, what I’m about to share is relatively small potatoes. But it’s still important.)
The other day while biking home from school with my 10-year-old son we encountered an egregious and illegal blockage of one of Portland’s marquee bike lanes. It happened on North Rosa Parks Way between North Interstate and I-5. On my way to pick up my son, I noticed two work trucks parked in the bike lane, with tires up on the concrete curb. On our way back about 25 minutes later, the trucks were still there.
I filmed my boy navigating around the blocked lanes because I wanted more people to know that this happens. And as you all know, it’s not just here. People park illegally in bike lanes all across the city far too often. You might think adding a concrete curb would keep people out and/or make it obvious that the lane is just as important as the other lanes on the street. But no.
We’ve posted about people parking in bike lanes for many years here on BikePortland. The fact that it still happens so often means that the City of Portland has not prioritized enough (planning, project, policy, or other) resources to prevent it from happening.
If it’s so hard to fix, perhaps the protection should be more robust. A taller concrete curb or jersey-barrier-type wall would do the trick.
As for the trucks in this specific instance on Rosa Parks, after we posted this video to our Instagram page, several readers tagged 3 Mountains Plumbing. The company responded with a comment this morning:
“Oh my 😳, I’ll pass this along to our excavation manager ASAP to see if there are ways we can train and improve here in future. I know emergency sewer repairs often require the loading and unloading of our dump trucks in bike lanes, but I’m sure there were additional measures that should have been taken! Our team gets pretty serious with addressing customers needs, and our trucks can be quite big, and difficult to park! Please reach out directly with concerns to our office at 503-670-1342 if you see things like this in future, so that we can work to address them!”
There’s been a lot of construction on this section of Rosa Parks in the past year or so. Unfortunately a lot of these work crews think they have special privileges and they see the bike lane as an expendable space they can use without proper permit or permission. Perhaps it’s time for PBOT to address work crew parking with specific outreach/education/enforcement efforts. Maybe a partnership with Bureau of Development Services (the permitting bureau) to strengthen requirements and awareness around traffic safety protocols at work sites.
And we don’t want to hear about what number to call to file a complaint. We appreciate how responsive PBOT is to complaints; but our system must work better without relying on complaint-driven systems. Many people — especially those who’ve been wronged by authorities in the past and still harbor deep distrust of the government — don’t have the time or confidence to engage with city government. That means only certain types of people use the system and many others continue to be left behind.
We have a lot of bike lanes in Portland. If we add more robust physical protection they can achieve their full potential — and so can our 10-year-olds.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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