PBOT will delay Cully area paving project after residents ask for better bike lanes

Photo shows Current conditions on NE Killingsworth near NE 60th. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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.

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PBOT map of Fixing Our Streets projects with “smoother street” on Killingsworth circled.

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.”

A parking protected bike lane on inner SE Hawthorne.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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.

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!”

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Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
9 months ago

Wow! (Who would have thought this would have happened 3 years ago?!)

hamiramani
9 months ago

Glad to hear it…BUT why should this take 1-2 years? We know protected bike lanes is the safest option and there is plenty of room on that street. Let’s just get it done.

King Cully
King Cully
9 months ago
Reply to  hamiramani

PBOT bureaucrats milking the planning phase for their own benefit probably

Chris
Chris
9 months ago
Reply to  King Cully

Probably lack of money. This sounds like quite a change from the existing project and would need to be redesigned and reviewed.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Must be that the workers at PBOT have bake sales and hunt in the couch cushions for those project that PBOT (or a politician up for re-election) wants to do. /s
Funny there’s no limit for those projects. For a neighborhood, nah, we don’t have enough and if you make too many waves we’ll just cancel your project and take the money somewhere where the community will just accept what we give them.

Steve B
Steve B
9 months ago

Major shout out to Andando en Bici y Caminando and the Community Cycling Center for their advocacy on this project!!

ivan
ivan
9 months ago

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.”

Really glad to see this. I generally support Hardesty, but the dysfunctional process that happened with the Hawthorne project was really dispiriting. Sounds like she might have learned from that experience.

(No idea why PBOT needs 1-2 years to analyze whether they want to do something the neighborhood, Vision Zero, the bicycle plan and countless studies support as the right decision. With Hami on that.)

David S.
David S.
9 months ago

I don’t trust anything the Street Trust says after that silly letter they signed about banning vehicles from all major Portland arterials.

Andrew
Andrew
9 months ago
Reply to  David S.

Seems a bit overly reductive to me. I agree that was a silly thing for them to do, but that doesn’t mean everything they do from here on out should be dismissed out of hand

maxD
maxD
9 months ago

They did change the media. Instead of talking about how urgently we need to find safer places to shelter to protect them actually dying and living in truly substandard conditions, that narrative shifted to hyperbolic comparisons of the proposed shelter to concentration camps and internment camps. I disagree that that was helpful or effective.

Ryan
Ryan
9 months ago

It’s shocking to me that these organizations can’t see the sea change happening right in front of them. The change in the air is palpable yet these folks just want to continue to double down.

I have no hope for cycling in this city with advocates like this that are so determined to eschew any shred of credibility they might still have.

I just wanna ride my bike and not die and these organizations are not helping.

bjorn
bjorn
9 months ago

Hope these folks are also paying attention to the 72nd avenue project that is supposed to be built in a couple years. They are talking about eliminated the grade separated physically protected bike path and just tossing some wands down on the pavement. We should demand actually physically protected infrastructure, plastic wands are ugly, serve as a reminder to how dangerous unprotected lanes are and should be treated as what they are, total nonsense and a waste of money.

Catie Gould (Contributor)
Catie
9 months ago

Good on all the advocates here for pushing for this! Shame that upgrading to a protected bike lane might take ~2 years for additional public process. If that is the case for all bike lane conversions, its not a surprise why staff don’t already regularly do this.

James
James
9 months ago

Must be nice to have PBOT listen to you or do anything positive for your community

J_R
J_R
9 months ago

Remember that protected bike lanes are unswept bike lanes. Look at Beaverton Hillsdale Highway. Yes, it’s possible to sweep them using Portland’s mini-sweeper, but have you ever seen it in operation? I haven’t.