The Portland Bureau of Transportation had a section of Northeast Killingsworth on their list of streets to receive a new type of “microsurfacing” treatment that would make it smoother and last longer. The plan was to put the lane striping back the same way it is today: seven lanes across with two standard lanes, a center turn lane, two buffered bike lanes and two auto parking lanes.
But when some people who live in the Cully neighborhood got wind of the plan they wanted more. They wanted more protection from car users while biking and they wanted that protection to be more than just paint.
On Monday, leaders and members of Community Cycling Center (CCC) and Andando en Bici y Caminando (ABC, formerly Andandao en Bicicletas en Cully), a group that advocates for active transportation in the Cully area, sent a letter to PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and PBOT Director Chris Warner.
“As frequent active street users of Northeast Killingsworth, we cannot accept buffered bike lanes in our community when protected bike lanes are an option,” they wrote.
The CCC and ABC have partnered on advocacy projects and programs since 2012. Since then, ABC has established themselves as a formidable voice in the community and has partnered with PBOT on a number of initiatives, including the recent installation of secure bike parking spaces at the Hacienda CDC housing complex.
As the number of bicycle riders and walkers has grown in Cully, so too has the awareness that car-centric street designs create dangerous conditions that prevent more people from doing it safely.
According to CCC Programs Director William Francis, a close partner with ABC, PBOT presented information about the project on Killingsworth to community members last month. As City Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller explained the plans for a smoother street between NE 60th and U.S. Highway 30/Lombard/Portland Hwy, people were disappointed to learn that PBOT’s plan was to simply replace the existing lane striping.
“Members were able to see all the potential bike lane designs,” Francis shared with BikePortland. “The current plan for Killingsworth is essentially repainting lines, and doesn’t include some of the more protective designs that caught ABC members’ attention at the presentation… ABC members do not feel Killingsworth is a safe street as it is, and they would like to see something more protective going in on that street that all ABC members use frequently, both as pedestrians and as cyclists.”
In their letter, the group asked PBOT to slow down the project in order to “meaningfully engage with the community on how our street can be reconfigured to make it safer for all of us.”
The letter states that ABC members want PBOT to consider a parking-protected bike lane design that would place the lanes curbside and use a mix of auto parking spaces and curbs to separate bike and car users.
This morning PBOT Interim Communications Director Hannah Schafer told us they’re “excited” by the neighborhood interest in the project. She added that a policy shift in emergency routes has opened the door for “a new opportunity on NE Killingsworth.”
“We’re going to revisit the bike lane design with the community through a public involvement process that will delay the project by a year or two,” Schafer added.
Schafer also said that while the project was initially scoped as a microsurfacing project, they’ve received the green light from Commissioner Hardesty to “see where the community leads us.”
This situation has similarities to PBOT’s Hawthorne Paint and Pave project which started as a simple repaving but, after PBOT heard interest from the community to consider more substantive striping changes, they opened up the process to consider a protected bike lane. PBOT ultimately opted against bike lanes, citing negative impacts on equity factors as one of the reasons for their decision due to an estimated delay in transit times.
This time around, community advocates say a protected bike lane would be improve the lives of BIPOC and lower-income residents. “We are particularly interested in how our protected bike lane would advanced transportation equity in our community by making more people feel safe to ride a bike on Killingsworth,” they say in the letter
In addition to the CCC, ABC has Bike Loud PDX (who’s helping the group navigate PBOT) and The Street Trust squarely in their corner.
— Julie (@juleezworld) February 12, 2022
On a group bike ride led by The Street Trust on February 12th, people had just left Hacienda CDC on the corner of NE Killingsworth and Cully when someone failed to control their car and crashed it right up onto the sidewalk where they’d been standing (see above Tweet). The driver damaged the Biketown station where riders had just rented bikes for the ride.
Dangerous drivers and their aftermath are common at this intersection. In 2014 a man died from injuries sustained by a driver running into him while he walked across Killingsworth. And in 2017 a 51-year-old man who was biking across the intersection was seriously injured in a collision by a driver.
In a recent article posted by The Oregon Way, The Street Trust Executive Director Sarah Iannarone referenced that harrowing February 12th crash and wrote,
“PBOT is currently rushing through a paving project on that street which would leave that community with minimal protection from crashes just like the one we witnessed. Instead, project managers need to slow down and meaningfully engage residents to achieve the highest standard of protection for this already marginalized community – protection that could have possibly stopped that car this past Saturday from making it onto the sidewalk at all.”
Schafer from PBOT cautioned that since the project wasn’t scoped for major changes, they have only a limited budget. “But it’s actually a really nice situation to be in,” she shared. “A community that wants to talk about bike lanes and making them work for them. Sounds good to us!”