Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 9th, 2021 at 9:56 am
“The driver – part of the contractor firm – was very unapologetic and suggested we should just go around him.”
We cover the problem of people parking cars in bike lanes so often that we’ve got a special category for it in our archives. Like right hooks and secure bike parking and debris-filled bike lanes — keeping people’s cars out of bikeways seems to be one of those nagging perennial problems that the Portland Bureau of Transportation has simply been unable and/or unwilling to solve.
It’s so common that I don’t amplify every time a reader shares an incident with me. I’ve reached a point doing this site where I try to pick my spots with how much and how often I elevate an issue so that folks don’t become desensitized to it.
But last week I got an email and a photo from reader Barbara (whom I’ve known for many years and consider a trustworthy source) that really bothered me and I feel like it’s worth sharing. Barbara lives and rides in southwest Portland near the Hillsdale shopping area along Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.
To their credit, PBOT has been making steady and exciting progress in this area in recent years, capped by the current project to build a section of the long-awaited Red Electric Trail. That’s why the story this reader told me was so disheartening.
Here’s what Barbara shared along with the photo (which she has also reported to PBOT’s “Safe” tracking system):
“[This guy was parking here] for the second time in two weeks! The trucks fill out the newly protected bike lane completely, so you have to walk around, into 40 mph rush-hour traffic on a high crash corridor. Ken [her partner] even called the police and they said they would swing by (not sure if the contractor was still there). And it’s not that they can’t park somewhere else nearby the construction site. The driver was very unapologetic and suggested we should just go around him. I think he was part of the contractor firm. Looked like a supervisor or something, sitting in the car taking notes.”
As you can see in the photo, Barbara’s husband is on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. Look closer and you’ll notice the truck in the photo is parked inside a protected bike-only lane. That’s why the man in the photo had to dismount, go into the highway lane, and then return to the safety of the bike lane. (In the background left of this photo you can see the new Red Electric Trail bridge.)
This is so infuriating! A person being paid to make our system better, is wantonly making it worse and doesn’t seem to care at all. This is such a breakdown in our culture and in the process PBOT has in how they interface with contractors. Work zones can and often do present very serious safety issues to bike riders and there has been lots of activism over the years to pressure PBOT to make them better. But stuff like this still happens.
Thankfully, PBOT is usually very responsive when folks go through the proper channels to alert them about issues. But whack-a-mole response isn’t enough. These issues need to be solved and prevented if we want to create a usable bike network.
As for this specific incident? I just heard an update from Barbara a few minutes ago. She said PBOT forwarded her concern to the Work Zone Safety team. “No word from them, but at least no further trucks parked there since then, either!”
PBOT says, “We take these issues seriously and, in this case, we were already aware of this incident had discussed the issue with our contractor to make sure it will not happen again.” They also want to remind everyone that the best way to report issues like this in the future is to use this form on their website or report a “work zone concern” via PDXReporter.org.