Green Loop ride puts exciting vision into motion

Posted by on August 23rd, 2021 at 2:54 pm

(Photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Lofty visions only have a chance to become real when a critical mass of people can see them.

PBOT Planner Nick Falbo (left) and Friends of Green Loop Director Keith Jones.

On Saturday, the big idea of a six-mile linear park around Portland that was adopted as an update in the Central City 2035 plan in 2016 became much more real for the several dozen folks who showed up for the Green Loop Ride. Organized as part of Pedalpalooza by Bike Loud PDX, City of Portland, The Street Trust, and Friends of the Green Loop, the ride brought together two key experts who’ve already made progress in making parts of the loop a reality: Portland Bureau of Transportation Planner Nick Falbo and Friends of the Green Loop Executive Director Keith Jones. Falbo and Jones led the ride and shared insights at many stops along the route.

We started at the new Ankeny West food cart pod at West Burnside and Ankeny. Opened just last month, these carts were displaced for two years by the construction of the Ritz Carlton Hotel on SW Alder and 9th. Beyond the carts themselves and the cool street mural, the site is still pretty raw. The main entrance on Burnside is dirt and gravel, and the stairs leading up to the carts aren’t ADA accessible (they also need a ramp for bike wheels!). But Jones has big plans. He’s already working with PBOT to add a signal to Burnside to improve the crossing into the site from the North Park Blocks. Bike racks are coming soon as well. Jones said he also wants to utilize the curbside lane on Burnside as a bike-delivery drop-off/pick-up zone. If all goes according to plan it would be just one part of the Green Loop Greenway Freight Network concept Jones is shopping around.

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From Ankeny we made our way to the South Park Blocks through midtown on SW 9th, or what PBOT planner Falbo called one of “the skinniest streets in the city.” Because they’re only about 25-feet wide, Falbo says the city hasn’t figured out how to create a safe biking connection between the north and south Park Blocks. It should be noted that he got a rousing round of applause when he mentioned the option of simply making 9th carfree.

We stopped outside the Portland Art Museum in the South Park Blocks at the new street mural and carfree public plaza on SW Madison. PBOT is currently on a street painting spree, with murals and plazas popping up everywhere.

During a stop at the Portland State University Farmer’s Market we heard about the challenge of integrating the Green Loop with the freight access needs of vendors. From the Farmer’s Market we made our way down to the South Waterfront District via the protected bikeway under the S Harbor Drive viaduct and SW Moody.

After crossing the Tilikum Crossing Bridge we rode around yet another painted plaza on SE Caruthers. This time we rolled over painted piano keys while someone played real ones on a public piano in the middle of the carfree street. During a stop near OMSI we heard about the missed opportunity of getting a bike lane alongside the streetcar bridge that would have connected Grand/MLK to the Tilikum.

As we made our way onto SE 6th, Falbo explained that, “It will take a lot of imagination” to create a safe cycling route through the central eastside — given that its designation as an industrial sanctuary. Standing on yet another impressively scaled street mural outside Milagro Theater on 6th and SE Stark we heard Jones describe his idea for a “mural corridor” that would visually connect the Green Loop.

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Making our way north toward the Lloyd, we stopped at the Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge, which is unfortunately still gathering dust while PBOT waits for it to be slid across I-84 and into place. On the north side of the future bridge, we learned that one concept is to make NE 7th Avenue one-way for drivers and create a two-way protected bike lane on one-half of the street.

We couldn’t cross back via Broadway because the bridge was closed, but we stopped on NE Clackamas to hear about future possibilities of a new carfree bridge over I-5. There Clackamas crossing promised in the I-5 Rose Quarter project plans was meant to be the Green Loop Route, but the new Hybrid 3 cover compromise changes those plans. There’s some concern that the Green Loop route would now be on the Broadway/Weidler couplet. Jones said he’d prefer the Green Loop to use NE Holladay because he thinks it could be turned into a carfree street and it has an excellent connection to the Rose Quarter Transit Center.

Future location of NW Johnson Street.

Our last stop was the former US Post Office site in northwest. The currently empty building awaits demolition so it can be reborn as a new development with housing, shops, a big parking garage, and like we shared in 2019, an elevated bikeway that will be the Green Loop route. We stood in a driveway that will someday be a continuation of NW Johnson Street that will connect to Union Station. Much to our collective chagrins, it will be open to cars.

I came away from this ride with a new respect for the work of Keith Jones and Friends of the Green Loop. They’ve got a lot of irons in the fire and — even though the loop itself may take years to be complete — there are a lot of pieces that are moving forward today. And like all visions, the more of us who can see it and work on it, the faster it will become reality.

Get plugged into the Green Loop vision at PDXGreenLoop.org or contact via email at keith@pdxgreenloop.org.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

I remember attending several meetings downtown about creating a ring-strasse of public transit and bikeways around the downtown, similar to the parks in Frankfurt and other German cities have where the old city walls used to be, long before 2010, maybe 2002 or 2003. But I cannot recall the person who was pushing so hard for the concept, other than he was pushing pretty damn hard. The meetings were related to the streetcar and to capping I-405, I think.

Anybody know who I’m talking about? It wasn’t the people mentioned in the article.

Douglas Kelso
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Douglas Kelso

I’ve been wondering about SE 6th. There clearly are places where freight access is necessary. But there are also blocks that could be closed off to cars completely, or designed to allow very limited local access.

I’d love to see SE 6th get the NW Flanders treatment wherever possible: one-way segments, concrete diverters to discourage through traffic, and occasional pedestrian blocks where no auto access is needed. Try to push freight traffic to MLK/Grand and 7th, with E/W cross streets providing most of the freight access into the district. Get the strongest pedestrian/bike street possible on SE 6th from Everett to Division.

And then restripe Division from SE 6th to SE 8th to create a two-way protected bike lane between SE 6th and the railroad crossing.

Douglas Kelso
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Douglas Kelso

Also, using the single traffic lane on Holladay for the Green Loop makes a MUCH better route than the original proposal that used Clackamas. The freeway crossing is already there. It’s far easier to convert Holladay to a pedestrian street than Clackamas, and it’s a shorter (and therefore less expensive) route. It means the Green Loop would run through the Rose Quarter, cross Rose Quarter transit center, and directly serve the Convention Center.

Traffic shifts would be minimal. There is almost zero impact to adjacent businesses compared to Clackamas; the Convention Center would need to move or redesign one of its drop-off/pick-up zones, and two motels would each lose an “extra” driveway.

As a bonus, the Holladay route would allow for a pedestrian plaza (interrupted only by slow-moving MAX trains) between the Convention Center and the new Hyatt Regency that was built to serve it. That strikes me as a plus for the Convention Center.

Seems to me the Green Loop folks should just shift their focus to Holladay, regardless of what happens with the I-5 project.

Watts
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Watts

I’d vote for 11th & 12th; they are pretty, tree lined (though developers are working to solve that problem), have minimal stops, and could have an entire travel lane reserved for cycling. And if the train is blocking the way, they’re a lot closer to the pedestrian bridge than 6th is.

Philips
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Philips

Sorry I can not summon the energy to care about this.

There are nearly nightly shootings, downtown is covered in trash, insanity, drugs, racing and empty storefronts. The woke mob has won. It takes 30 min for 911 to answer a call. Police are quitting and sitting on their hands. Buy a gun folks, there is no one here to protect you.

August
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August

I went to this ride and I’m glad I did! It was really cool to get a guided tour through the city from Nick, Keith, and everyone involved in working on this big project. I especially was interested in Keith’s attention to locations like OMSI and the convention center which are big attractions! I think the Nike e-bikes + a comfy route through the city could be a game changer for visitors of those centers. I love the idea of people opting to use bike share to get around rather than Uber. I also can’t wait for the Blumenauer Bridge to open- it’s going to make getting through Lloyd so much easier.