Bike Loud PDX volunteers look to bolster greenways with markings of their own

Posted by on July 28th, 2021 at 11:32 am

Bike Loud volunteer Paul Buchanan and one of the new markings on North Houghton.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A group of concerned Portlanders have taken it upon themselves to make neighborhood greenway routes more legible to more people.

“The sharrows just don’t cut it.”
— Nic Cota, Bike Loud PDX

Spurred by conversations at meetings of nonprofit bike activism group Bike Loud PDX, Nic Cota, Paul Buchanan, and Hami Ramani, have begun to lay down pavement markings that complement existing markings installed by the City of Portland. So far the trio have installed dozens of symbols on a three-mile stretch of greenway routes between North Interstate Ave in Kenton and the railroad cut in St. Johns.

Last week I bumped into Buchanan on North Houghton while he was checking out some of their work.

The goal of the DIY project (which doesn’t have an official name yet) is to boost the strength of the existing neighborhood greenway network. According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the goal of the 100-miles of existing greenways (formerly known as bicycle boulevards) is for them to be “low-traffic and low-speed streets where we give priority to people walking, bicycling, and rolling.”

But in the eyes of some people, the streets aren’t living up to that promise.

Advertisement

(Click for captions)

A greenway won’t reach its potential if people don’t know it’s there and don’t know who it’s meant to serve.

“We want to democratize greenways so they work the way they’re supposed to,” explained Buchanan. “The idea is to better define the space and decentralize the message that this space is only for bikes. Greenways are places people should be able to walk their dogs, ride scooters, and use mobility devices. Our goal is to show that greenways are meant to be shared spaces — lateral parks if you will — that can serve every body.”

“The purpose is to serve both as awareness that you’re entering or crossing a Greenway and as a sort of wayfinding.”
— Hami Ramani

The markings, which are cut into stencils and spray-chalked onto the ground, have been done in a green color that is similar to what PBOT uses to mark some bike lanes. According to Hami Ramani, they’ve installed the markings at every street that intersects with a greenway. “This was done to help those approaching the greenway understand that they were about to enter a place where folks will be walking, riding, playing, etc… The purpose is to serve both as awareness that you’re entering or crossing a Greenway and as a sort of wayfinding.”

PBOT has made attempts to improve wayfinding and awareness of greenways. Sharrow markings help point the way, but they can be too infrequent and hard to follow. Sharrows are also a biking-centric symbol that excludes many other types of users. Those green signs that list destinations also help, but there aren’t enough of them to rely on. And some greenways have special sign toppers, but those aren’t always used and are hard to see and understand for most people.

“The sharrows just don’t cut it,” Nic Cota shared with me this week. He said in the weeks they’ve spent installing the markings they observed all types of people using the streets — many of them not on a bicycle. By adding symbols of other types of users, Cota says their markings (which they refer to as glyphs), “Provide a sense of identity for all of these other users the current symbology leaves out. It formalizes the idea that these are greenways where people are prioritized and they are not just ‘bike boulevards’ for bike riders.”

All three of the people involved in this project say they are huge fans of PBOT’s greenway network and they just want to make it better. “Let’s improve them. Let’s make them safer. Let’s double down, triple down, quadruple down on them,” Cota said. “I truly believe the neighborhood greenways are our cities greatest asset to providing safe and effective infrastructure for vulnerable users throughout the city. Let’s build off what we have and what works.”

PBOT has a promising history of listening to feedback like this. It was Bike Loud’s activism that led to updates to the Clinton greenway and the 2015 Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report.

Cota, Buchanan, and Ramani hope their tactical urbanism is seen not as a nuisance or criticism, but as a cry for help. “Every neighbor was fully supportive as we were out implementing them,” Cota said. “Most folks want this. I think the next step is showing the city we need this.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

23
Leave a Reply

avatar
13 Comment threads
10 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
19 Comment authors
Andrew KrepsBiker XiConcernedCitizenPSnic.cota Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
MattGee
Guest
MattGee

I’ve run across a few of these symbols and wasn’t sure where they came from, but they were helpful in getting me back onto a greenway. Thank you, Bike Loud PDX!

hamiramani
Subscriber

Great to hear they helped you.

J Chris Anderson
Guest
J Chris Anderson

You know the white stop bars that accompany some stop signs? Greenway stop signs should all have those with 100% coverage. Additionally, there should be a green thermo plastic stripe on the inner edge of the stop bar. It could be dashed. this would delineate the entire area of the Greenway as though it is a green Lane. additionally, the raised thermoplastic would help remind drivers that they are entering a shared space. PBOT has heard this from me before.

Jack S.
Guest
Jack S.

Wow that is a really great idea. Could BikeLoud prototype this idea?????

hamiramani
Subscriber

I like the idea of stop bars in general; will bring it up with the group. Thanks for the suggestion, J Chris Anderson.

ConcernedCitizen
Guest
ConcernedCitizen

My local arterial 4 way stop doesn’t have a stop bar, leading to high speeds and roll throughs. Any advice on getting these added by the city? or is this a rogue type of operation?

nic.cota
Subscriber

Great idea! I’ve literally jotted your suggestion down for our next meeting. This is the kinda input we are looking for when we want to bring our case to the City

Steve Hash
Guest
Steve Hash

I saw these hooligans “tagging” the street in front of my home, couldn’t have been more pleased! Good Work y’all!

hamiramani
Subscriber

Haha. Thank you!

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Reminds me of the rouge pothole fillers from a few years back. PBOT cried about it.

PdxPhoenix
Guest
PdxPhoenix

Great & all, however shouldn’t everywhere be a place one can ride/walk/scoot/transport one’s self w/o fear of getting squwarshed under a car/truck/…?

Seems as if this is more like treating a symptom & not addressing the disease directly.

hamiramani
Subscriber

Absolutely, we need all streets to be safe for all folks. Our thought was to use our limited resources to highlight what can be done to improve the infra that’s already in place.

VS
Guest
VS

You’re right. We should completely re-engineer society such that we have no cars and no trucks. To do this we will only need to exceed the bike/ped mode share of inner Amsterdam throughout the state, entirely change how we distribute food and goods, how we work, how we deliver health care, etc.

Basically we just need to reorder society in every way from the ground up. What do you think should be the first step? Your right! Snark at the folks improving the markings on the greenways on their free time. Now what’s the second step?

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

This is fantastic.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

Oh boy! 25 years ago I was a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee for the Tillamook “Bikeway/Greenway/Bike Boulevard” or whatever. We spent several full evenings looking at the signage of comparable facilities in Vancouver BC and other progressive cities. We came up with a lot of ideas…which all fell on deaf ears at PBOT. In those days I knew by name most of the winter time riders on Tillamook…we had all been on the CAC!
About 10 years later PBOT announced new signage…something I called “bike dots”…basketball sized white circles every couple of blocks at best. Who knew? But nothing to tell a biker…”Hey this is your street!” or an auto butt…”Hey find another route!” Then came Sharrows…which were actually meant for regular streets that are used by bicyclists, not for Greenways or whatever they are called.
Glad someone is stepping up, but the whole story is pathetic.

On the other hand I rode the other day on the new section of my dear old “Tillamook Bike…whatever” between NE 32nd and 39th via Hancock and it was slick. New speed bumps, an upgraded and very responsive signal at 33rd and a very, very smooth freshly ground street!

Thanks PBOT! But why no signs? Are you ashamed? Afraid of offending motorists? My suggestion? “Warning to motorized traffic! You are entering a low/no car route…speed limited to 15 mph…do not pass bicyclists or other users of this facility!”

Ted Aja
Guest
Ted Aja

Good on ya. Yep, in Portland you are on your own. From marking the greenways to personal safety to cleaning up other’s garbage to recovering one’s stolen bike. It’s like the old Wild West! Yeehaaah!

one
Guest

I love Bike Loud!

Laura
Guest
Laura

I love seeing “direct action” activities to help with rules and wayfinding! Thanks for making up the slack for our public agencies.

SolarEclipse
Guest
SolarEclipse

Too bad that it’s spray-chalk because they’ll likely be gone at first rain or someone spraying with a hose.

nic.cota
Subscriber

Some of it is already wearing off sadly:( But it’s meant to be a temporary/test case for hopefully bigger and better (and more permanent) solutions. Its also pretty resilient compared to standard sidewalk chalk. Also double win: The chalk is safer for our rivers than standard spray-paint

PS
Guest
PS

With there being so many issues on the Greenways, it seems entirely plausible that we will need to create #tacticalurbanist groups who enforce the traffic control devices currently in place. Of course to be legitimate, they will need uniforms that identify themselves and likely will need to be paid for their services, but think about the benefit to everyone if people driving their cars recklessly through neighborhoods never knew when they may be caught by one of these, say, officers of the state, and punished for not caring about the collective. I know it sounds radical, but sure seems like it would be a big improvement over the hellscape we are currently living in. Of course, maybe being honked at on a Greenway for riding a bike and being stabbed in the middle of the day as an out of town visitor is just part of keeping things different and weird.

Biker Xi
Guest
Biker Xi

Yeah with the unraveling of civil society in Portland and a barely functioning city government we need to create a PDX bike posse. They could patrol the streets to protect those using non carbon generating forms of transportation.

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

❤️