Fourteen months after the first orange plastic barrels and a-frame signs were placed on neighborhood greenways throughout Portland, the bureau of transportation says it’s time to make them more permanent.
As we hinted at back in March, today PBOT announced they’ve received so much positive feedback to the program that they will install a total of 80 large concrete barricades at strategic locations citywide in order to fortify residential areas and change the behavior of drivers to make the streets less stressful for walkers and bikers. The city has already placed concrete planters and new yellow 15 mph “shared street” signs at several locations on SE Salmon (at 11th, 12th, 20th, and 30th), SE Ankeny (at 24th), SE Umatilla (at 13th) and SE 16th (at Morrison, Belmont and Stark).
“The infrastructure will help calm and slow traffic, especially as drivers turn onto neighborhood streets,” reads a PBOT statement.
The Slow Streets initiative was launched in May 2020 as Covid cases spiked and Portlanders headed to the streets in droves to walk, bike, roll and stroll. It began with signs and barrels at 100 locations and has grown to over 210 locations. The intent was great and the program had a positive impact, but the barrels and signs were too easily moved (by angry and/or errant drivers).
As these neighborhood streets continue to be used by non-drivers, PBOT has opened themselves up to public feedback. Today they said they’ve received over 2,000 comments about the program with, “strong support for the installations and their impacts on local streets.”
PBOT has also published a GIS map of all the slow streets installations.
Slow Streets is one part of PBOT’s Safe Streets initiative. Learn more about the program at Portland.gov.
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If anyone wants to check PBOT’s full news release you can see it here:
…and once again there is a gaping blank spot in East Portland.
North Portland is getting 8 of the 80 concrete barricades and keeping 2 of the 130 orange barricades.
On the bright side, the map indicates progress in addressing the disparities in East Portland, where the vast majority of planned new Greenway routes are depicted.
A fuller count reveals East Portland with 60 of the 80 concrete dividers, North Portland with 10, Northwest with 7, and Southwest with 3.
North Portland getting 12.5% of the concrete dividers seems fine, but I don’t understand why we get only 2 of the 130 remaining orange dividers.
The press release calls the 80 concrete dividers “an initial rollout.” The remaining temporary dividers are presumably the top candidates for a prospective expanded rollout.
If every temporary dividers is eventually made permanent, North Portland will have 7% of them (14 out of 210, including 2 more I initially overlooked).
Meanwhile, 50% of the city’s candidate sites for outdoor “Safe Rest Villages” for houseless people are in North Portland (37 out of 74).
There is no comparing to anything vs. NoPo. It’s almost like we should wave our flags and give up and gentrify so we can get some basic upgrades but that would also mean that we wouldn’t be in the hood any longer. Go figure. . It’s makes me chuckle when I see bike roundabouts and neat bike lane art. Folks in outer SE are lucky to get Ryan from Pbot street-cleaning to believe us when we tell him there is glass or nails in the bike lane. Dude literally sent his workers out to check on the spot I mentioned instead of just cleaning it. Yeah, NoPo does plenty fine.
FYI, “East Portland” typically relates to the area east of 82nd to Division and I-205 north of Division. The areas west of there are “NE” and “SE” respectively. East Portland is getting only 10 of the 80 concrete barriers (12.5%) in spite of having 30% of the city’s population and most of the city’s poverty and racial diversity, not to mention the vast majority of traffic and pedestrian deaths.
Thank you, David. This makes a big difference. For my understanding, when “East” is used in this way, what term is used for the area east of 82nd and south of Division?
East of 82nd, I see 12 permanent diverters north of Division and 6 to its south, which is obviously way fewer than I counted when just adding up the easterly quadrants.
EPCO, the 13 neighborhoods that make up East Portland, is east of a line along 82nd from the county line north to Division, the east along Division to I-205, then north along I-205 to the Columbia River, excluding Maywood Park. The eastern boundary is with Gresham, roughly along 185th, 162nd, & 175th. 29 square miles, almost exactly 20% of the city area, with over 30% of the city population = 195,000 residents. The area between EP and the Willamette south of I-84 is SE UpLift (or SE) with a similar population, the areas north are CNN and NECN.
Fortunately we aren’t to a point (yet), where the only thing that matters is the per capita deployment of resources. Thankfully, somebody, somewhere, still realizes there is more nuance necessary than, “we’re getting ignored, again, we only got 12.5% of the planters”. Of course no one that lives east of 82nd are the ones who drive 60mph down division, right?
I think there might be a disconnect between what different people mean by East Portland. I always used it interchangeably with “the east side” so anything on the east side of the river, possibly excepting “north Portland” on the east side but west of Williams. But may people use the term East Portland to mean east of 82nd or east of 205 and I think this is what Jd is talking about, possibly.
That’s very helpful, thank you.
I use ‘east county’ to refer to the areas neglected by the city past 82nd. I don’t think it’s totally correct because the neglect starts at 82nd and I think it’s been part of the city for a while, but I think the term does a pretty good job.
The cardinal directions aren’t very useful for describing investment in Portland. All of the sextants have some gentrified areas close-in that receive investment from the city and all have less white and less wealthy areas farther out that the city has all but abandoned. The way the city treats the residents of Arbor Lodge is very different than they treat the residents of deep Portsmouth but both are in North Portland.
There are some wealthy sections in East Portland too, for example in parts of Argay, Wilkes, Hazelwood near the golf course, and Pleasant Valley – it’s not all blighted. But people living east of 148th often have no idea if they are in Portland or Gresham even after 30+ years being in Portland – even the postal service is confused. Brentwood-Darlington, which starts at SE 50th, is equally neglected, as are parts of Madison South (north of I-84 and east of 62nd).
I wouldn’t describe most of it as blighted. It’s just lower income and therefore not a priority for the city to build infrastructure. Or at least hasn’t been. Now that Montavilla is a little too expensive the city is suddenly interested in the neighborhoods pass 82nd.
I think postal addresses go by the location of the branch office the mail goes through. Other than that, yeah, the PO is kind of in a sling. Among other things, a lot of hard working people are poorly served by management. When a route isn’t covered the people with clipboards are known to say “We need a body”.
Right and that area is the the only spot in east Portland that has these barriers. South of stark to foster has almost nothing and there is quite a bit of bike traffic down here and tons of high speed cut through traffic.
Yep, east of 205
PBOT still needs to get with the smartphone age and appreciate that every neighborhood street is a through street unless you do something about it. Guess what happens when you’re the one street around you that doesn’t have traffic calming…
Smartphones tend to guide people around these areas. But most traffic are people that regularly pass through, so they’ll know what’s what.
In any case, the traffic all goes somewhere and people live everywhere, I’m not sold on what amounts to trying to make gated communities of public streets for those privileged enough to be in select areas.
Also, putting impediments all around and publicizing ridiculously low limits that are only appropriate in some places will only train people to ignore them.
The street next to me just got speed bumps. All that traffic just moved onto my street and made it unbearable. This doesn’t change people’s behavior. It just shuffles them onto other people.
I think the theory is that if you make it better to bike (by removing traffic from greenways), then more people will bike and there will be less driving. Without less driving–on your street, on my street, on all the streets–then it will just suck for everybody forever.
The solution to this is to make it inconvenient to use any neighborhood street as a through street.
You were benefitting from someone else’s suffering before. Lets make it so no one suffers
Nothing will stop drivers from heading down these streets. Why is anybody cheering this non-event?
Someone referred to these planters as “diverters,” which they are not. PBOT has sort of hardened the suggestions at these intersections, by making it harder for people to just push the noticeable-thing-in-the-roadway aside. No traffic is being blocked, and some of these don’t even slow drivers down. And “advisory” 15mph signs? Those are just more suggestions, not speed limits, and will absolutely not be enforced.
This seems like a massive waste of resources for absolutely zero impact: 100 concrete planters that won’t do anything to slow traffic or discourage people from driving on the streets. 2 or 3 actual diverters at key intersections on greenways would do so much more the the entire slow streets program. When it was announced that PBOT was planning to make some of the slow streets installations permanent, I was under the impression that they would be putting in real diverters. This is a huge disappointment.
If PBOT is planning on bootstrapping these planters into real diverters over time, this could be a step in the right direction. But the current configurations of these installations do absolutely nothing.
At least in my neighborhood, I’ve noticed that the temporary barriers do divert traffic, when they are in place. We had big issues with grumpy neighbors moving them, so this is going to be a huge improvement. They may not work in all places, but they’ve been doing a great job for us.
That has not been my experience, and I’ve lived next to two streets that were recipients of slow streets signs and barrels in the last year and a half (SE salmon and n central). I initially spent a fair amount of energy putting the signs back to their designated locations after seeing them repeatedly pushed aside or run over. But seeing as people in cars just blew right past them and continued to use the streets as speedy cut throughways to avoid congested arterials, I stopped wasting my time.
I’m glad the signs make you feel good.
If the signs make someone “feel good” because they are working well in their neighborhood, I’m also glad for that.
I would suspect that any location where a slow street installation is located that is experiencing low traffic volumes is a place that would have experienced low traffic volumes anyway. The signs aren’t actually doing anything. The streets just naturally have low traffic volumes because of how the neighborhoods are laid out and where they are located. This is true of a lot of the greenways in the northeast. In those locations, the installations are more about the feelings of the users than they are about modifying the behavior of drivers (which they don’t really do, in my experience).
The places where improvements are actually needed are the greenways that are near commercial districts that run parallel to arterial streets that get heavily congested at peak travel times. In those locations, drivers go right past the signs and drive on the greenways as if they were a through street until and unless they actually encounter a real diverter. SE Salmon is pretty awful in that regard. It really needs a couple of full diverters between 34th and 12th. The slow street installations don’t help at all.
It’s great that the slow streets program has received so much positive feedback. I guess that’s an indication that the program should continue. But it frustrates me that these installations are being used in locations where real diversion is desperately needed. I feel like this is allowing PBOT to just continue to ignore serious problem spots that need to be addressed if the greenway system is going to used as an alternative to building needed bicycle facilities on arterial streets.
The only place I’ve seen this work is the full concrete diverter at NW 15th and Marshall (there’s a couple more on Flanders but I haven’t been around there in a while), however that’s only one street out of many. I was really frustrated when some of the full diverters in the NW in Motion plan were cut to partial. Hell, they had originally put in a full diverter at 20th and Raleigh using actual curbing then cut it back to allow NB traffic (which of course people enter the wrong way). This is what happens when you don’t have anyone in behavioral science involved in decisions. DOTs always put the burden on “personal responsibility” rather than take the time to plan environments that are self enforceable using traffic calming measures that physically limits speed.
Some folks in the local NA will tell you that the diverter at 20th and Raleigh is a reason PBOT shouldn’t be trusted and we shouldn’t have diverters elsewhere – I am likewise frustrated both by this silly take and that diverter scale back. I used to live at 20th and Pettygrove and when that diverter went in, it dramatically cut down on the noise (honking) and automobile conflicts at my intersection (because drivers can’t seem to manage a two-way stop), because one direction of traffic basically evaporated. It was quieter, calmer, and easier to cross the street, all because of a diverter two blocks away.
That diverter was a thing of beauty, I viewed it as PBOT finally getting things started in the right direction, nevermind the jumble of bike lanes and curbs at 20th & Thurman. At least it still lives on street view:
living on one of the temporary installations I’ve found it has helped. calm traffic. It may not reduce traffic, but my personal observation is slower traffic and folks thinking twice before turning. I like em. I’d love a concrete diverter/divider on alberta/michigan
The City with good intentions is at it again… how many portlanders are dying in neighborhood blocks? Very little. Whatever keeps those project managers busy I guess.
Exactly this. I sometimes see vehicles doing donuts right outside where I live, vehicles going really fast — sometimes busting 60.
In these neighborhood blocks, speeding is MUCH less common and I’ve never even seen truly crazy stuff despite walking in them every day. How much black rubber and racing do you encounter there?
Not that I don’t sometimes see people going way too fast in the blocks, but the issue is less by at least an order of magnitude. The attention and upgrades again go to those who already have it best.
In any case, this is the place where many think having cops around is a bad idea. Anyone who thinks you can simply legislate or engineer problems away is kidding themselves. It’s people that make or break things.
Oh PBOT, willing to do any thing but the right thing. I haven’t seen these beg barriers dissuade a single vehicle on N Central. I routinely have angry motorist tail gate me the whole length of the ‘greenway’ and it’s used as a speeding cut through for motorists to avoid Lombard.
But I’m sure a concrete beg barrier will be a total game changer. We wouldn’t want to inhibit motorist from using the greenways as a through street by just installing actual traffic diverters so I guess is the best our crappy transportation agency can do. Sad
I had not seen “beg barrier” until this post. Useful phrase, thank you.
This is a very positive development that will hopefully be the first step toward making neighborhood streets truly ‘local access only’ streets. Anecdotally, I’ve seen drivers have to significantly slow down to make turns at intersections with these planters. I even saw a driver try to pass a person on a bicycle only to confront the planter and have to wait their turn (gasp!!!); here’s the link to that video if interested: https://twitter.com/hamiramani/status/1420199448999731200?s=20.
I also like the placement of these planters. They are in front of the crosswalk which increases their visibility to drivers making turns and serves to visually narrow lanes at intersections. A good example of this is at SE Salmon and 20th; folks driving on 20th must now be aware of these planters even when driving through. Also, the planters are large enough to see from far away, again serving as a signal to drivers that an obstacle is present and to slow down.
Let’s hope more of these planters get installed after the initial phase. It’s important that more East Portland streets are included in the roll-out as well. PBOT ought to be already thinking about making these installations into permanent diverters; they hint at this in their emailed statement.
The onus is also on us and our neighbors to provide input about the planters and continue to pressure PBOT to calm and divert car traffic.
Isn’t that the type of interaction we are trying to eliminate. The motorist making a dangerous and unnecessary pass, getting stuck on the wrong side of the road, driving next to the cyclist and then having to yield to the cyclist is a symptom of poor design.
A less confident rider might have tried to yield to the motorist or been intimidated by the close pass. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable there and I’ve been riding for a decade and a half in traffic. Inexperienced riders or someone with children might not try and ride again because of that.
Edit* Additionally, I can’t see because the video ends but I’m guessing that motorist continued on straight through the intersection and either close-followed or eventually passed the cyclists up the road. The whole point of greenway is to eliminate motorists interactions with everyone else. I feel like your video just shows that the diverters don’t really work to make motorist act safer or discourage them from using greenways as through streets.
Please don’t call these things “diverters”. A real diverter would damage the vehicle whose driver ignored it.
I don’t think I called these diverters. These are meant to be traffic calming measures. I’m hoping diverters will be the next logical step.
****My apologies, I see now that you were probably referring to the cmh89.
Agreed! I should be more careful about adopting PBOTs incorrect labeling of their infrastructure.
I understand what you’re saying. The event I captured happened on the first or second day of the installation of these planters. There is definitely a learning curve with regard to driver education. This particular driver actually did continue straight but they were not tailgating (not saying their actions are excusable at all).
Drivers need to be educated; I know that takes time that we don’t really have. But I feel a driver realizing they can’t just pass someone on a bike is a good thing; they may be less inclined to pull a move like that next time.
Incidentally, I’ve been seeing lots of people riding their bikes on the right side of the street on Greenways. Seems that we need some bicyclist education too; folks really ought to ride where the sharrows are painted to stay out of door zones and so that we don’t send mixed signals to drivers who may not understand the rules and cultural mores.
Bad driving isn’t an education issue. It’s a culture issue and its a ‘not caring about what’s going on around you’ issue. The driver of the car almost certainly learned nothing from that encounter.
Regardless, the beg barrier isn’t enough to dissuade motorists from using ‘greenways’ as through streets. That falls squarely into not caring. We can’t rely on motorist to care, we need to build infrastructure that slows them down and in this case prevents them from using the road in a way that PBOT pretends it doesn’t want them too.
Agreed, except I think trying to put impediments everywhere does teach drivers things — namely that they should disregard them and that they shouldn’t care.
These signs and barriers have a lot more to do with political muscle — often advanced by people who are more motivated by optics and trying to make life difficult for drivers than by anything else. Since the subject of not caring was brought up, I’d observe that a group dominated by able bodied men doesn’t seem to care if they make life difficult for the elderly, disabled, and people who simply have far to go. Nor do they care about impeding emergency vehicle access — good thing there are no serious crimes, heart attacks, fires, etc which would make that important.
I don’t see the positive story in the video. Driver was operating safely, there was plenty of space for a safe pass, and the cyclist was going slowly. Then another cyclist who may not have felt like being stuck passes on the right. I’m guessing the motorist eventually applied more speed than they otherwise would have after they were uncorked.
That isn’t a safety improvement, a less patient motorist is likely to try a much more dangerous move to get around, and experiences like this can only diminish sympathy for cyclists and willingness to cooperate with reasonable restrictions.
I think that you make a good point about drivers becoming desensitized to driving around impediments in the road. If some concrete planters are used as full diverters (with small gaps that are just large enough for cars to get through) and other concrete planters are used just to create chicanes in the road, you will probably start seeing less compliance when drivers encounter the full diverters, because they will be used to just driving around them or through them.
I hope you can feel my eyeroll through the computer. I’m sure the extra minute or two diverters add to trips is major impediment for the elderly, disabled, and people who simply have far to go.
How about the elderly and disabled who have nowhere to exercise because our sidewalks are garbage and our streets are full of speeding cars? I promise, I see a lot more elderly people on N Willamette on the bluff walking and riding than I do on N Concord. They don’t seem to mind the diverters.
Haha is this NextDoor? EMS doesn’t use greenways to go far distances, they use arterials. Please, lets stay grounded in reality.
Can we please do better than using the excuse of elderly and disabled folks to argue for keeping our streets dangerous and inaccessible to those not in a car? Please?
The streets are public rights of way for anyone. Who is going to enforce who lives there or not?
This is great. I believe permanent barriers will add a sense of legitimacy to people wanting to bike or walk on the street and cut out some cut through traffic. Wish these would have been installed earlier, but obviously there has been some change in leadership over the past year. It’s not a perfect solution. But lets not let perfect be the enemy of good.
I’m mad that none of them are in the Woodstock, Brentwood-Darlington, or Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhoods. The program largely ignored those neighborhoods last year too, but people drive extra terribly on residential roads in these areas. I spend a lot of time on foot around all areas of Portland for work – these areas are the worst for close calls in residential areas inside of 82nd.
If all this does is make normies more accustomed to seeing hardscape in this style it will be a big win. Future diversion projects etc. will be less likely to raise hackles.
Converting temporary projects into permanent project without going through some process may endanger future innovative pilot projects, as it would be used as an example to support opposition.
But a bigger issue is that PBOT should also not be in the business of creating virtual gated communities for the rich. Its no doubt that those adjacent to the greenways would support restricting access near them, as we have seen traditionally in wealthy suburban neighborhoods various tactics to not only push vehicular traffic away from their neighborhoods (onto the poor ones) but also block those on foot and on bikes as well. Gated communities, creation of dead end roads that block pedestrians, conversion of public to private roads, fishbone road designs and other methods have all been used in the suburbs to block outsider pedestrians and people on bikes, not just cars.
If you think these tactics would not be used against people on bikes in Portland, then consider the example of the recent modification of SW Madison between Park Ave N/S. This was a key bike connection between the safe low-stress Park Blocks and the direct Madison connection to the Hawthorne bridge, now lost. Unlike other cases in which tables were placed in the roadway (like SE Clinton at 26th or SE Ankeny at 28th), there was no bike channel created in this installation, but instead local neighbors choose to create a bike diverter on a high use bike route. Note this bike diverter also devalues the controversial bike and pedestrian connection of SW 10th to Madison, which I believe was the true motivation. I think people are realizing that there is huge potential to leverage the recent urban version of the ‘locals only’ movement to creatively suppress bike traffic and make bike travel less efficient.
Have you ever been in a gated community? What are you talking about?
Uhh, that’s not what happens in practice.
Have you ever seen a traffic diverter?
If PBOT were genuinely interested in “safe streets” for vulnerable users those 80 barrels would have been used to create 40 full or half-diverters.