Video: Bike-Thru 47th Avenue’s new protected bike lanes

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has quietly finished construction on a project that has completely rebuilt Northeast 47th Avenue and given it one of the city’s best bikeways. A half-mile section between Columbia and Cornfoot has gone from a crumbling, two-lane road with gravel shoulders and no bike lanes, to a shiny new street with fresh trees, bioswales, and a wide protected bike lane.

It’s a key part of closing gaps so that one day it will be easy and safe to get from the 42nd Avenue corridor/Cully Neighborhood and the Holman neighborhood greenway to the Portland Airport, I-205 path, and beyond.

But how does it work? Check out my latest Bike-Thru video to see my impressions.

Or scroll down for photos and some written notes about what I saw…

(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

— As I’ve expected for years since this project was announced, blockage of the bikeway by adjacent industrial businesses remains a problem. There are at least two or three repeat offenders whose trucks routinely block the bicycle traffic lane. PBOT needs to work on a new strategy to fix this.

— Maintenance looks to also be a problem with this protected bikeway (as with many others). There are several sections full of dirt and other debris. It’s too bad that we spend $7 million on a project and it looks terrible almost immediately.

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– The width and design overall is great! Despite nearby traffic going 40+ mph and much of it being large trucks, because I was physically separated I felt safe while using this new bikeway.

— We now have much-improved access to Whitaker Ponds Nature Park! This is a gem of a park and now it’s much easier to get to without a car. Highly recommend checking out the paths and trails and views of the pond. It’s a great place to escape into nature.

— This is a high-quality island of infrastructure surrounded by unsafe gaps. The Columbia/47th intersection is not for the faint of heart and I still consider Cornfoot Road a no-go zone on a bike. The connection to the Holman greenway/42nd is also bad. It has no biking space and an uphill, shared lane in the southbound direction. That’s too bad, because we won’t reach the potential of this excellent new protected bikeway until we fix those trouble spots. The good news is there are plans in the books for a new 42nd Avenue bridge and for a new path on Cornfoot. They can’t happen soon enough and hopefully the completion of 47th adds urgency to the plans.

— It’s too bad the protection doesn’t go all the way to NE Columbia. For some reason (project scope most likely), the project doesn’t start until a few hundred feet north of Columbia.

Have you ridden this yet? Take a look at the photos and the video and let us know what you think.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Bjorn
Bjorn
1 year ago

I rode part of this that was already completed on a weekend during the construction, I also found that neighboring industrial users were using the bike path as a parking lot. City could try some outreach, but at a certain point you’d probably only have to tow a couple of vehicles and the problem would be over.

Yex
Yex
1 year ago
Reply to  Bjorn

City doesn’t enforce much of anything anymore. Maybe they are all still working from home. I don’t even bother reporting this type of stuff, waste of time unfortunately.

JaredO
JaredO
1 year ago
Reply to  Yex

Who are you calling? Are you calling Street Maintenance? I’ve always found they’re super-responsive. (503) 823-1700

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  Bjorn

So where are the businesses supposed to put their garbage bins and park their vehicles now? I’m sorry, but the city never thinks this through enough or looks at it from a broader perspective. The fact that they don’t even have a viable plan to keep all of these new facilities free of leaves and other debris is very telling. New bike infrastructure on outer SE Powell is the same, as are many other so-called protected bike lanes throughout the city. At this time of year they fill up with leaves and even if there are city staff that care, no one at the city does anything about it.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  FDUP

Vehicles should be parked in a parking lot. If their existing footprint is too small for current use, they should consider a different location.

Brendan P
Brendan P
1 year ago
Reply to  FDUP

These businesses know for years in advance this stuff is happening. If my operations spill into the street people will call to get my stuff towed. As a business you can not like it but realize its easier for you to relocate or change practices than concrete sidewalks and curbs. Plus, you enjoyed the road the city built that allows your business to operate but get irked they built a sidewalk that others can use. Its all a wash and ultimately, the biz were getting a great deal by lax requirements for decades.

bjorn
bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Bjorn

I am also really disappointed to see any new design for a street in our city that includes those crosswalk closed signs. We need to ban their use, if a crosswalk isn’t safe change the street don’t ban walking.

EP
EP
1 year ago

Nice video. I pulled up this section of 47th on Google street view and it’s quite the change. Of course the pallet factory and welding/trailer repair junkshow have been the same for years and DGAF about this new path, which really just gives them a nicer driveway. Funny to see a bunch of people w/ yellow vests standing by the slough bridge in the 8/2019 street view before this all started.
https://www.google.com/maps/@45.5714156,-122.6142028,3a,75y,11.86h,82.24t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1skz8frbLW3RLRbRMyOi3WrA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

hamiramani
1 year ago

It’s remarkable that placemaking just doesn’t seem to be of interest in these projects. I feel that the sidewalk and bike lanes should at least be separated by using different colors, textures or something else. Separation using trees is good. It feels very unfair to those walking/rolling (is there anybody doing that there?) to be surrounded by people biking. The unkempt nature of the facilities makes for an uninviting space too. And, essentially allowing drivers to park there negates any benefits. Of course, the disconnectedness of this facility makes it useless to most people (unless PBOT does have plans for connections in the near future).

Thanks for the report and video on this.

maccoinnich
1 year ago
Reply to  hamiramani

I agree. Functionally, it’s obviously much better than what was there before, even with the issues identified in the video. But design wise… it very much feels like something where a civil engineer was the lead consultant (no offense to civil engineers! some of my best friends are civil engineers!). I feel like some more design input from a landscape architect / urban designer could have really helped here, and indeed on a lot of other PBOT capital projects.

Joe Adamski
Joe Adamski
1 year ago

much of this area is poorly served by transit, the 75 stop at Columbia/47th is as close as you get to the south end of the airport and Cornfoot.Employers like FedEx,UPS, the Air NG base, the plane painting place and a lot of smaller businesses. Totally car dependent. the nearest other transit is the Red Max at the east end of the airport. safe walking and bike access would certainly be of value.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Adamski

The question is, if you build it will they actually use it? Our transit system, like the one in NYC, is hub-oriented so it’s all focused on downtown, with very little peripheral service or access to various ‘remote’ destinations.
Your best option is to take the MAX to either Gateway or the Airport and be prepared to bike or walk from there, not exactly an appealing proposition during weekday business and/or commute hours.
Bike facilities like this don’t mean anything unless they are actually connected and maintained. Sorry for the pessimism but barring some real changes in city government maybe we can hope for that by the end of this century.

Joe Adamski
Joe Adamski
1 year ago
Reply to  FDUP

which came first, the chicken or the egg? If safe access is not available, few will ride or walk. if nobody is riding/walking dangerous routes, nobody needs it? When i worked on Columbia Blvd, I got off at 47th and walked east to my job at 54th. there were often workers who got off there, walked across to the 7-11 and waited for co-workers to pick them up. Asked about it,they said it was too unsafe to walk or ride 47th as well as Cornfoot. Cornfoot extends all the way to Alderwood near 80th,a mile and half of business corridor. Include the new Main Post Office among businesses. If you asked the Columbia Corridor Association about the number of workers along this stretch, you would find it sizeable. And certainly more than a few would welcome the ability to ride or walk, safely.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Adamski

I don’t doubt that; but in that case a facility like this would make a whole lot more sense the whole length of Cornfoot Rd. That road is narrow and full of semi trucks. Then connect them all up together, because as long as there are gaps in the network in the most difficult sections, the whole thing is essentially useless to cyclists. One LID and a few blocks at a time may seem like progress, but only if there is a concerted effort to make the network whole, otherwise the piecemeal approach just ends up providing the occasional dubious bike facility to nowhere that very few cyclists are going to use.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

It is an LID, so as much as you might complain about the local businesses blocking the driveways, keep in mind they largely paid for it, not the city, which is probably why the city isn’t trying to enforce the law very much there.

Steve C
Steve C
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Good point. So it was designed without this fact in mind? If the sidewalk is de facto overflow parking, why make bikes ride on the sidewalk?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve C

No one is making anyone ride on the sidewalk – it’s still legal to bike on the street – but the lack of slower bike users on the street is clearly encouraging car and truck drivers to go faster, not that they need much encouragement. It’s not a “separate but equal facility” intended to segregate all bike users from automotive traffic, particularly the faster and more fearless users, nor do I believe it was ever intended to be, but clearly JM and most of the readers of this blog think it was in fact intended for all bicyclists.

All driveways are intended for temporary ingress and egress of said properties, including when necessary temporary parking, particularly in an industrial zone, which this is. For those who are walking or bicycling slow, the vehicles in the video don’t seem to be fully blocking the pathway. If you are bicycling fast, why are you on a 6-foot wide sidewalk in the first place? Shouldn’t you be out in the street?

Steve C
Steve C
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Who are these slower bike users that would fined themselves out there on an island of billable sidewalk? That’s what I’m saying, build facilities that take into account intended use cases. Specifically they should have thought about the people who would be out there now and in the forceable future who are commuting or riding out to the airport or marine drive.

Sure I could ride in the road. Though I do feel that the general sentiment is that if a bike lane or separated adjacent path exists, cyclist should take it, unless it is obstructed or unsafe. If we’re going to spend all this money rebuilding the road, at least make it rational and useful. I get the “get in the bike lane!!” and dangerous aggressive driving more in those situations than ones where there is clearly no other option for bikes than the road/shoulder.

As for the trucks using the sidewalk as parking, I thought that was illegal per ORS 811.550
Places where stopping, standing and parking prohibited. (4)On a sidewalk. Exemptions under ORS 811.560 (Exemptions from prohibitions on stopping, standing or parking) (4) to (7), (11) and (12) are applicable to this subsection.

Note: (7,11, and 12) don’t seem to apply in this case.

The driveways don’t supersede the sidewalk, I can’t just park my car sticking out from my driveway blocking the sidewalk.

maccoinnich
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

It’s true that it’s an LID, but the property owners who paid into this LID were overwhelmingly government agencies such and Portland Parks and Recreation. Private property owners owners only paid for a small portion of this project.

Mark Nguyen
Mark Nguyen
1 year ago

“-As I’ve expected for years since this project was announced, blockage of the bikeway by adjacent industrial businesses remains a problem. There are at least two or three repeat offenders whose trucks routinely block the bicycle traffic lane. PBOT needs to work on a new strategy to fix this.

— Maintenance looks to also be a problem with this protected bikeway (as with many others). There are several sections full of dirt and other debris. It’s too bad that we spend $7 million on a project and it looks terrible almost immediately.”

Portland the city of no enforcement or services to taxpayers. Sad.

Safety alert. Jonathan mentioned visiting Whitaker Ponds. Cool
nature reserve but use caution as recent reports of criminal
activity there. In my opinion,
not safe for those with kids at this time.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago

Finally, because it won’t be maintained and still isn’t connected to anything useful at either end, very few people will use this facility, which will only justify the business owner’s complaints about it. IMO the city would be much better off spending this money to simply repave all of the so-called ‘neighborhood greenways’ that currently have sub-sub-standard pavement.

Ed Grimley
Ed Grimley
1 year ago

Protected bike lanes make me go mental with glee, I must say.

Steve C
Steve C
1 year ago

What is going on with this project? It seems so disjointed. More like a series of sidewalks and driveways that bikes are forced to ride on and across. If all bike lanes were like this, it would take hours to get anywhere in the city by bike.

Asher Atkinson
Asher Atkinson
1 year ago

Thanks for the coverage. I’ve ride this section numerous times each year. I agree it feels haphazard and isolated, but the bridge replacement to 42nd is slated to start this fall according to the project page: https://www.portland.gov/transportation/pbot-projects/ne-42nd-avenue-bridge-over-ne-lombard.

While I have my doubts on the bridge project timeline, assuming it happens within my lifetime, along with the improvements on Cornfoot, the completed puzzle should make more sense and I’ll certainly use this connection to the airport area and Marine Dr more often.

Whyat Lee
Whyat Lee
1 year ago

I ride this section frequently. It’s a good connector from northern NE neighborhoods and Cascade Station, Home Depot, or BikeTiresDirect. The biggest issue is the local businesses blocking the lane. This has been the case every time I’ve ridden it. There is always a truck blocking the lane at the pallet business. That stinks, but it’s still much better than what was there before.

JML
JML
1 year ago

Great video and walk(roll)-through of the design details! Excited to check out Whitaker Ponds one of these days.

Bill Stites
1 year ago

I rode this segment many times over the last several years and, while I haven’t ridden this yet, it looks like a huge improvement – notwithstanding all of the violations.

“… I still consider Cornfoot Road a no-go zone on a bike.”

I also rode Cornfoot, and agree that high vehicle speeds plus curves should be avoided.
However, I usually used the north sidewalk. With almost no pedestrians, it feels like a separated bikeway and is a very safe way to go. Of course, as a sidewalk, the pedestrian is king (supposed to be everywhere, right?!), so be ultra-courteous and pass in a friendly manner.
This applies to many places where the road is killer, but there’s a large underused sidewalk available – think SE Powell Blvd. 50’s-90’s, for example.

janowa
janowa
1 year ago

Rode it all today because I wanted to go from Velotech to Jefferson to see the closed street you reported. Yep, all the problems you and others mentioned are there. I rode it during a busy part of the day and felt it on Cornfoot and riding 42nd up to Holman with the disappearing bike lane on the uphill. Still –it’s WAY better than than before and I hope we get the connecting pieces soon.