A closer look at the reconfigured, painted, and calmed Lincoln-Harrison-30th intersection

Looking southeast across 30th from SE Harrison.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Over the weekend I was able to finally take a closer look at one of Portland’s most impressive displays of traffic calming on a neighborhood greenway: The reconfigured intersection of Southeast Lincoln-Harrison and 30th.

Lincoln-Harrison is a popular and vital east-west link in the bike network. It connects people to Mt. Tabor Park and is just 1,200 feet south of the bustling Hawthorne Blvd commercial district. In late summer of 2017 the Portland Bureau of Transportation embarked on an effort to further enhance it as a people-centered street. At the top of their list for things to address was the wide expanse of pavement where the greenway crosses 30th at an off-set angle.

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The intersection was too wide for bike riders, walkers, runners, families with strollers, people with mobility devices, and other vulnerable users to safely navigate. Its off-set configuration and wide turning radii also made it stressful to drive on. The design PBOT came up with took back much of the space away from drivers, limited how and where they could travel, added protected lanes for bike riders, plopped concrete planters to encourage safer driving, and effectively sharpen the turns to decrease car speeds.

For context, below is a before photo looking southeast from Harrison and the PBOT plan drawing showing how they cut it up:

A before/after report shared by PBOT in September 2019 showed that the enhancement was, “a significant success” when it came to lowering the volume of drivers on the greenway.

If Sunday’s traffic was a good representation, I’d use a stronger word than “significant”. As you can see in the above video and photos, the intersection was alive with people while I was there and far more of them were outside of cars rather than in them. Lots of walkers strolled casually through the crosswalks without skipping a beat in their conversations. At one point a group of teens came through and skateboarded in the newly-carfree sections. Speaking of which, a recent neighborhood project painted large swaths of the intersection with a fun array of colors and designs.

PBOT has a long legacy of traffic calming projects on neighborhood greenways. Watch for a story later this week on the three roundabouts they recently installed on NE 108th Avenue.

And this is why we need to calm car traffic on these streets!
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Andrea Brown
Andrea Brown
1 year ago

There was initially a lot of pushback on this diverter but the impact on Lincoln auto traffic was immediate and drastic. The mural was designed and painted by neighbors, but it’s understood that there will be additional opportunities for modification once each corner is made ADA compliant. De-paving the central area has been discussed, with more plantings and perhaps benches or other amenities. There is a great neighbor stakeholder group that are very involved in this, and I hope to see them spring into action once the corner construction is finished.

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago

PBOT has a long legacy of traffic calming projects on neighborhood greenways. Watch for a story later this week on the three roundabouts they recently installed on NE 108th Avenue.

PBOT has to be dragged kicking and screaming into even the mildest traffic calming measures on neighborhood greenways. Great to see some improvements in the wealthy central city though!

It is amusing though. If PBOT has to do traffic calming on ‘greenways’, doesn’t that just mean they did a terrible job of building the greenway in the first place? “We kinda sorta fixed our mistake” doesn’t sound quite so grand does it? This is a half-hearted attempt to fix the problems caused by their half-hearted ‘greenway’ designation and lack of safety infrastructure on ‘greenways’

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago

Author
Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
I’m pretty sure that traffic calming is part and parcel of making a neighborhood greenway. They’re like PB&J.

I think that’s true in most cities. Not in Portland though. From the ones I use, the N Central has one piece of traffic calming infrastructure that was added quite a bit after the greenway designation. 90% of N Central is not protected from motorists and is a major speeding cut through for folks going from Highway 30 to I-5 North. N Bryant has no traffic calming infrastructure on it through its length in N Portland. N Rodney I think has one or two blocks protected from motorists. I’m not sure how N Concord is doing these days but when I was commuting it was always jammed-pack full of motorists bypassing traffic on N Interstate. Hell, the section of N Willamette that you highlighted today was a complete cluster of speeding cut through traffic until property owners complained to the city and they finally used traffic diverters. They didn’t care when the motorists were just endangering pedestrians and cyclists.

A city that actually cared about restricting these roads would put traffic diverters every three or so blocks. The city just rolled out the beg barrels because even now, they are still completely unwilling to make it hard for motorists to speed down greenways.

PBOT started classifying streets by their intended type and function in 1977 and began traffic calming in the early 1980s.

Yikes! They’ve been at this for 40 years and have a disconnected, unsafe road system. I guess PBOT has a legacy of failure and traffic violence.

Champs
Champs
1 year ago
Reply to  cmh89

PBOT has to be dragged kicking and screaming

With the possible exception of PPB, you’re describing every city bureau. If it rots and festers that’s fine but if there’s one peep of dissatisfaction with a change, they go running for political cover. It’s no way to run a city.

ivan
ivan
1 year ago

I walk and bike through here often. I was impressed at the reconfiguration. Ultimately it’d be nice if some of that asphalt were actually removed, or less optimally more planters were added, but I realize PBOT was probably constrained by costs.

Now if they’d just do this kind of significant hardscaping on more places where these greenways cross major streets!

D2
D2
1 year ago

I kind of wish you could ride two abreast through that lane if you’re with someone, it’s just a bit too narrow for it, but I understand that making it much wider invites car traffic to use it.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago

This intersection configuration is also a legacy poster child for poorly managed land platting / street placement…back in the early 1900s (?).

It is a challenging layout to do anything affordably especially as the best options: “blow it up’ or close an intersection leg are likely impossible and expensive. [I wonder if a pair of mini circles was investigated as a design option?]

ivan
ivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Wasn’t it originally a trolley turning point? That’s the legacy of most of these wide intersections (not to mention a lot of the greenways themselves — there’s a reason they’re usually wider streets). If so I’m not sure it was “poorly managed” at the time.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  ivan

Exactly, Harrison was a streetcar route prior to WWII. The wider turning radii were needed for the railcars.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  ivan

Hi Ivan, thanks…yes, I can see that now…I usually catch that design type but the double curve threw me off.

Jim Chasse
Jim Chasse
1 year ago

This is the only Bikeway that transitions into east Portland. It ends at the I-205 path and with a quick jog will deliver you to the 4M project via the 205 MUP. It was my route from inner SE to Outer east Portland for years. The only LOW STRESS bikeway into outer east Portland. The hill on Tabor is a minor inconvenience compared with the Division route for me.
PBOT has budgeted $2.5 million for upgrading neighborhood Greenways in the inner city (east Portland doesn’t have any old Greenways, but the upgrades are appreciated. Ultimately the 4M project will take you out to the city limits. Unfortunately PBOT wouldn’t spend an extra $11 million improving the route from 162nd to the city limits to make it a true Greenway.

Brighton West
1 year ago

The city is about to make these improvements more permanent and less “plastic wandsy.” ADA ramps were requested and as part of the ADA project the city will be extending the actual curbs (instead of just painting the asphalt. And they will remove some pavement for planting space.

bjorn
bjorn
1 year ago

I wish BikePortland would stop referring to a couple plastic wands designed to bend out of the way without damaging a car as a “protected” lane. There is nothing protecting someone using that bike lane from being hit by a driver. The bigger question though is how is the city committing to cleaning those lanes since the one thing the wands do seem to protect from is the street sweeper. My guess is that over time those lanes will end up with garbage/leaves/etc in them and the city will clean them rarely if ever, that seems to be the case with other so called wand “protected” lanes around town.

Frank S.
Frank S.
1 year ago

Why do these traffic calming projects always end up making the intersections look more stressful and visually cluttered? Look around this city and all you see is confusing paint markings, and plastic wands (usually many broken).

bjorn
bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank S.

The city had a very nice design for the upgrade of 72nd north of prescott, but the project has taken forever to get built and now they are saying that there isn’t enough money to do the earlier plan that included a grade separated bikeway with trees, instead on portions they want to put down wands to create a wand separated 2 way bikeway on the existing pavement. Huge difference in the quality of the project but they already have all the positive comments on the original plan so I think it will probably just get built in this degraded form.

mh
mh
1 year ago

What saddens me about this is that the forest of wands almost obscures the represented image. Jonathan, could you see the “Bridge, City, Mountain” that the designer, Will Grimm, depicted and many of us painted?

Montavillain
Montavillain
1 year ago

Interesting.. when I went through last night 11/11 I think I remember all of the plastic wands being corralled in the SW corner of the intersection? Or maybe it was that they filled in the sw corner with plastic wands to prevent drive throughs? Either way seemed in progress still.

WestRiver
WestRiver
1 year ago
Reply to  Montavillain

I noticed that too last night. I ride through here everyday and have seen PBOT there on and off for the past week or so. A lot of new lines drawn too. Maybe they’re starting the ADA ramp extensions as Brighton mentioned…

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago

The reason this intersection is so wide is because the extra space was needed in the past when it was a streetcar route. The 1999 Hawthorne Blvd Plan called for narrowing this intersection with curbing and some combination of hardscape and landscaping, none of which has happened yet. The bargain-basement fix PBOT has provided is confusing and ugly regardless of the ‘street art’, so no thanks! Also, motor vehicles wear the speed bumps out at the tapered edge over time and they become even more unpleasant to bike over than they previously were, and the ‘city that works’ never fixes them. Finally, many of the greenway enhancement projects just push MV traffic further into the neighborhoods on other tertiary streets, which PBOT rarely mitigates. For example, as a result of this and other ‘improvements’ to the Lincoln-Harrison greenway, SE 25th, 26th and Stephens all see a much higher volume of MV traffic these days, and I’m sure it’s the same on different streets in other parts of the neighborhood.

The Grouch =)
The Grouch =)
1 year ago

Kudos on the functional redesign but the aesthetics are messy and ad-hoc compared to what other countries seem to pull off as a matter of course. I’m particularly annoyed by those plastic wands that never age well. Would love it if PDOT would spring for a team of landscape architects or similar professionals to come up with a coherent, effective, and visually pleasing set of materials and standards.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  The Grouch =)

they are just going to plead poverty and not do that.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago

It may be safer, but it sure is ugly. Kind of like wind turbines; beneficial, but our environment just gets uglier and uglier.

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
1 year ago

They started re-redoing it right after you took these photos, you should go back and have another look in a week or two.