Lofty visions only have a chance to become real when a critical mass of people can see them.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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