Neighborhood association will vote on fate of PBOT traffic safety plan tonight

NE Alameda and Fremont in May 2019.

On December 21st, 2021 a 70-year-old woman named Vivian Phillips was hit by a driver and killed while trying to cross Northeast Fremont in the bustling commercial district of the Beaumont neighborhood.

Since then, traffic safety on Fremont has taken center state at neighborhood meetings and tonight the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association (BWNA) board is scheduled to vote on whether or not a new diverter at NE Alameda Street should be part of the solution.

Despite the recent death and clear public safety problems posed by traffic in this area, some residents worry a diverter would make it too hard to drive through the neighborhood.

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PBOT proposal for NE Fremont and Alameda.
PBOT slide shown at March 10th neighborhood meeting.

After discussing Fremont at their February meeting, BWNA invited Portland Bureau of Transportation staff to their meeting on March 10th. Among the many ideas to improve safety on the street, the one that has attracted most attention is PBOT’s proposal for a traffic diverter on Fremont at the NE Alameda intersection (adjacent to popular Tacovore restaurant, map link here). This is a very important intersection because Alameda Street (NE 37th Ave to the north) is the neighborhood greenway route through this area.

PBOT has already updated this intersection several times in the past to help it handle safe crossings of bicycle users and walkers. Since 2009 PBOT has installed painted crosswalks and crossbikes. And in 2020, the south side of Alameda was given the “slow streets” treatment with orange plastic barrels and “local traffic only” signage as per PBOT’s Safe Streets initiative.

Minutes from the February 7th BWNA meeting further describe the issues at Fremont and Alameda. “There have been incidents with bikes and vehicles which appear to be related to bikers yelling when vehicles don’t stop for them,” the minutes state. “Pedestrians in marked crosswalks have to wait for vehicles to stop – many just drive past and do not yield. Cones and barricades for Slow Street have had no impact and are typically moved to side of road.”

PBOT says it would be similar to this existing diverter at SE 20th and Ankeny.

To boost safety of this crossing further, PBOT wants to build a diverter similar to the one on SE 20th at Ankeny: a curb with posts in the middle that prevents car users from crossing Fremont from Alameda, or from turning left from Fremont onto Alameda from either direction. The curbs would have breaks in them for bicycle riders to pass through. Another proposal would be to replace orange barrels with concrete ones to further restrict and calm auto users. (Note: PBOT policy guidance says neighborhood greenways should have a maximum average of 1,000 cars per day and counts on Alameda show that it currently has about 2,000 cars per day.)

In the March-April BWNA newsletter, board member John Sandie wrote about concerns some residents have with the proposal:

“These potential restrictions prompted concerns by a number of residents who use this corner as a key pathway to go west on Fremont because left turns are not permitted at the stoplight adjacent to Beaumont Middle School.”

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One reason many drivers turn left onto Fremont from Alameda is that there is no left turn allowed onto Fremont from the busy intersection four blocks away at NE 41st adjacent to Beaumont Middle School.

It appears some folks in the neighborhood want to find a solution that will improve safety, while not inhibiting driver turning movements at this intersection. This is a very common refrain that has played out numerous times over the years. Everyone wants safer streets, but only if they can have them without any impacts to car driving.

On the other side of this debate are people who are desperate for safer streets and support PBOT’s proposal as a key step in the right direction.

On the table for a vote tonight is what PBOT says would be a pilot project. Before they put any diverter in the street, they would collect traffic data at 10 locations and share the data with residents and business owners. Then, after hearing feedback, they’d install the diverter with temporary materials (paint and plastic posts). They would then collect data for 6 months to see if it had the desired impact.

Due to the wide range of opinions about the proposal at the March 10th meeting, it was clear that the BWNA board was torn about whether or not to give PBOT the green light. As has become common practice, PBOT has told BWNA they will not proceed with the pilot project unless they get a supportive vote from the board. (See correction below for clarification.)

After giving everyone two weeks to think about the proposal, BWNA decided to have an emergency meeting tonight (3/28) to hold the final discussion and vote. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm and is open to the public. You can find the Zoom link here.

UPDATE, 8:45 pm: The Board voted 7-4 in opposition to the PBOT pilot at their meeting tonight. Full story tomorrow.

CORRECTION: As we shared in an update to this story, despite what neighborhood leaders thought or relayed to the public, PBOT says they never told the BWNA board a vote would be the deciding factor for the project. We erred by taking BWNA meeting minutes and statements at face value and I regret any confusion this caused. — Jonathan Maus, publisher.

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Tim Gillespie
Tim Gillespie
4 months ago

Jonathan-

Thanks for covering this issue and thanks for joining the meeting last night. As one of the 4 (out of 11) Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association Board members who voted in favor of the PBOT pilot, I’m disappointed that we won’t begin this evidence-gathering trial right away. We had over 70 people at the Zoom meeting (7 times more than our average attendance online) and have been running an email forum (that generated over 50 different people’s comments about the project), and the percentage of folks who expressed support and opposition to PBOT’s pilot in the forum was about the same as the board vote percentages. As you saw, there was lots of speculation about traffic being unsafely diverted to smaller neighborhood streets and concerns that this one mitigation doesn’t solve all the problems along that stretch of Fremont, but unfortunately not enough talk (in my opinion) about the more important long-range goals of creating a more bike- and pedestrian-centric city. I wish I would have been a more eloquent proponent for the proposal.

However, you should know that our Transportation Committee members (including two board members who voted yes and two who voted no on the proposal) are back to the drawing board already, letting PBOT know about the vote and working to help create a proposal that addresses some of the limitations of this first draft of the project. In other words, this isn’t over.

In light of others’ comments, I would also like to add a few words in defense of Neighborhood Associations. This is my second stint on the BWNA Board. I ultimately couldn’t sustain my involvement after a couple of years in the early 1980s because I had young kids and a demanding job as a public school teacher. Now I’m retired and have more time to devote–like the nearly 40 hours I spent in the last week on this issue. But that reveals the problem with NA diversity or lack thereof. I grant that I’m not representative –I’m white, old, and a homeowner. (Been in the same 1925 1500-square foot house for 42 years.) But my age and retirement and pension do give me more time and freedom to volunteer, a luxury many can’t afford. Even recognizing that, I’ve got to say that we at this NA have worked very hard to try to encourage neighbors here to join and to participate. We have a couple dozen volunteers who hand-deliver our bi-monthly newsletter to every doorstep of all 2600 residences in Beaumont-Wilshire, whether owner occupied or rentals (though it’s been hard to gain access to the apartment/condo high-rise, unfortunately), and we work to have a welcoming website and expanding email list. We have a New Neighbor Welcoming Project that makes contact with anyone who moves in with info about BWNA, free coupons from local businesses, and invitations to join us. We constantly entreat neighbors to consider participating on the board. We invite them to bring their own issues and projects. The couple of times neighbors have complained that we don’t look very inclusive in our make-up or projects, we’ve put full-court pressure on those folks to join the board. I’ll send out a message to all the forum participants on this traffic issue, telling them about our upcoming election. So to poach some language from another respondent on this thread, though we can’t claim to be a fully representative body, as a participative body that relies on volunteers, we’re sure trying to draw in people.

And I also feel compelled to say that we do a heck of a lot more than just put our nose into issues like PBOT proposals. We do see an important part of our function as being a conduit between neighbors and public agencies, but the scope of our work to improve our neighborhood’s livability is far wider. We’ve raised funds and used volunteers to add natural plantings and an updated kids’ area to Wilshire Park. We’ve written grants to support the Beaumont Middle School Family Resiliency Fund, offering grocery store gift cards and rental assistance to struggling families through the PTA and school counselors, and to support the Community Cycling Center’s program of distributing food and care kits by bike to families, mostly from the Latinex community in the Cully neighborhood next door to us. After an incident of racial harassment of an Asian American neighbor, we intervened on behalf of that victim and then collected and disseminated information on what to do and resources for those suffering or witnessing an incident of racial bias or harassment. We’ve published resources to share with people experiencing homelessness as well as resources for dealing with illegal RV camping. We’ve faced climate change issues by forming a link with Portland Clean Air and opposing the expansion of the Linnton oil terminal. We’ve tried to activate interest in Portland’s Neighborhood Emergency Team program, thinking about helping neighbors in the event of earthquake or heatwave or any other such disaster. We’ve mediated a dispute between neighbors and a local business. We sponsored a Red Cross blood drive during the pandemic-cause shortage. We have a Volunteer Group ready to pitch in for any neighbor who might need a helping hand with yardwork, window washing, or other such projects.

Anyway, I’m beginning to sound a little defensive here, perhaps, and I’ve gone on longer than I’d planned. But I do want folks skeptical of NAs to know that for all of their admitted limitations, they can be a venue for neighbors working together to make this a better city. You can help us be more inclusive by joining up.

Tim Gillespie
President, Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association

ED
ED
4 months ago

I’m struck by PBOT’s “common practice” that they will only move forward with traffic calming if the neighborhood association supports it. Sure, it’s a good idea to get input from people who are close to the situation but it hardly seems like the neighborhood association represents all of the people who use and are affected by the intersection. Surely there are better ways to do participatory planning while also interjecting actual facts and data and overall policy goals (ahem, vision zero) into traffic planning!

Quintin E. Jones
Quintin E. Jones
4 months ago
Reply to  ED

No they will be only proceed with traffic calming if there is a death or serious injury especially in areas they consider “privileged” and therefore not typically eligible for any improvements.

Brighton West
Brighton West
4 months ago
Reply to  ED

I totally agree. What percentage of Portlanders participate in their neighborhood association. I live in Richmond and less than 100 people (out of 10,000 residents) even Vite for the board.

There are many groups other than NAs that should have a seat at the table.

Chloe tried to change this with a code update, and the NAs showed up in force to put Mapps in office (with his pro-NA views.)

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Brighton West

There are many groups other than NAs that should have a seat at the table.

What’s stopping them? Other groups can invite PBOT to present, and can submit letters about the project. This is all that NAs can do. The only real power NAs have is the ability to muster political support (hence Eudaly’s defeat) and that’s only because they (generally) represent the views of the population.

If NAs didn’t enjoy broad popular support, they’d have nothing, and maybe Eudaly would still be commissioner.

Brighton West
Brighton West
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

So if Bike Loud submitted a letter and invited PBOT to their meeting, PBOT would give them the same power as the NAs? Clearly not.

I’ve found that many Portlanders don’t even know their neighborhood name much less that there is an association that “represents” them. Especially renters. (Eg, Richmond, Hand, Sabin are thought of as Hawthorne, Ladd’s and Alberta.)

I’d like to see Civic Life do a survey of NA boards and see how well they represent the city. My guess is they are more white, more men, fewer renters, older than the average resident…

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Brighton West

Yes, BikeLoud could have studied the issue and submitted a letter. Did they?

I don’t know how PBOT weighs public input, but my experience has been that occasionally a good idea from the public will penetrate the fog of participation theater, but generally PBOT structures things to get the result they want.

NAs are not representative bodies; they are participative. They reflect those who volunteer. Why don’t you volunteer with your NA, and get a taste of that sweet sweet power you think they have?

Quintin E. Jones
Quintin E. Jones
4 months ago
Reply to  Brighton West

Oh brother. Anyone can join their NA.

Bsychopath
Bsychopath
4 months ago
Reply to  Brighton West

Well, if they are more white and more men then they also more closely match the demographic of the average Portland bike commuter.

JaredO
JaredO
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

What’s stopping them?

Oh, maybe: work shifts during NA meetings, child care responsibilities, other life responsibilities, not knowing the meeting is happening or what’s on the agenda, having been to meetings and not felt welcome, overly technical and confusing presentations and language, language differences, cultural differences, group dynamics, power structures, inaccessible meeting based on one’s disabilities….

SO much.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  JaredO

The question “what’s stopping them” was about other groups writing a letter, but I’ll address your “it’s just too hard” comment anyway:

Those arguments would apply equally to a bowling league, BikeLoud membership, or any other event or activity that has regular meeting times. Sometimes in life you just need to show up if you want to participate, and not every person can do every thing. It doesn’t mean the system is corrupt. It’s just life.

JaredO
JaredO
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Not saying it’s corrupt. Saying it’s inequitable, and it’s contributed to the decisions that have favored richer white homeowners over others.

We have a moral responsibility to note who’s not in the room and to think of their needs, not just respond to whoever has the resources and privilege to show up.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  JaredO

As I wrote in my response to Jim below, maybe it would be helpful to shift to discussing ways of increasing involvement in the NA system, or perhaps designing a new system that had the same features the NA system strives for (transparency, inclusiveness, democratic control) that would allow more people to participate.

I strongly believe in the concept of expanding access by residents to the levers of power, and providing ways they can meaningfully voice their opinions; I’m more agnostic about exactly how that’s done. Imperfect as they are, NAs seem to work reasonably well, but I’d be open to alternatives.

How can we expand access to reach and include more people who might want to participate but currently can’t or don’t?

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago

It’s wild to me that the City of Portland has totally institutionalized the concept that land owners, especially ones in sufficiently wealthy neighborhoods should have control over and determine how safe the public right-of-way that runs adjacent to their property is.

To get to downtown or SE I have to ride through ten different NAs, the idea that some of them want safe roads and some of them want dangerous roads and I just have to deal with it as a road user is absurd, but hey, its the City of Portland. Dysfunction and failure is the norm.

Question: From the reading it looks like there is the option for a semi-diverter that would prohibit cross traffic but still invite a lot of right-turning traffic or the other option of a concrete beg barrel which isn’t a traffic diverter at all. Is it possible that PBOT could still install actual traffic diverters here or is that just an evidence-based design we wont see until we get regime change?

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

The City of Portland (the state, actually) has institutionalized the concept that residents, business owners, employees, and other stakeholders should have some modicum of voice over what happens in their neighborhood.

Except that in practice they haven’t; Neighborhood associations have very little power beyond their ability to rally public support, and PBOT will do what they will, regardless of what people want.

No one wants dangerous roads, but reasonable people may weigh different factors differently than you do in the complex decision-making space that involves road design. Sometimes in a democratic system, we have to work with people who we don’t fully agree with 100% on everything.

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The City of Portland (the state, actually) has institutionalized the concept that residents, business owners, employees, and other stakeholders should have some modicum of voice over what happens in their neighborhood.

Oh cool, I’ll just vote in the NA meeting tonight, because I have modicum of a voice over what happens here? Right?

No one wants dangerous roads, but reasonable people may weigh different factors differently than you do in the complex decision-making space that involves road design.

That’s just untrue. Lots of people want dangerous roads because dangerous roads are fast.

Sometimes in a democratic system, we have to work with people who we don’t fully agree with 100% on everything.

I’m not sure what that has to do with here. I have no idea if the NA will vote to approve it or not and I don’t really care. Just like my NA shouldn’t have say over how safe the streets in my neighborhood are, no NA should have a say. It’s absurd. We pay people to have degrees and accreditation to design safe streets and then we give property owners veto power over the public right-of-way.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

Oh cool, I’ll just vote in the NA meeting tonight, because I have modicum of a voice over what happens here? Right?

It’s not your neighborhood, so probably not. But I’ll bet they would have listened to you if you’d made a coherent argument.

That’s just untrue. Lots of people want dangerous roads because dangerous roads are fast.

It is true. Given the choice between fast and safe streets vs. fast and dangerous ones, fast and safe will win every time. Of course, the situation is never as simplistic as you paint it. The issue at play here is far more complex than “should the streets be safe or dangerous”; it’s about making tradeoffs between competing values, which is exactly the kind of question the public should be involved in.

In a democracy, everyone has a say. You, me, a neighborhood association, or another civic group that has an opinion. The NA invited PBOT to present the issue, listened to what other people had to say, and voiced an opinion. What did you do besides complain about other people getting involved?

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s not your neighborhood, so probably not. But I’ll bet they would have listened to you if you’d made a coherent argument

So you acknowledge that I don’t actually have a say right? Why should it matter if its “my neighborhood” or not. I’m a taxpaying citizen of Portland and deserve safe routes city-wide, not just in ‘my’ neighborhood

Given the choice between fast and safe streets vs. fast and dangerous ones, fast and safe will win every time

There is no such thing as “fast and safe” streets. Anyone who says there is uninformed or lying.

which is exactly the kind of question the public should be involved in.

Actually, the exact opposite is true. Road system design is complicated and it takes a lot of knowledge and data to fully understand a city road network and all of its intricate flows.

The public on the other hand generally has a myopic view of roads, generally only caring about their own access and preferences. That’s why suburbanites are more than happy to bulldoze inner-city neighborhoods to make bigger interstates. Even if the public cared about the transportation system as a whole, they don’t have the data or knowledge to understand how individual decisions about streets reverberate city wide.

Further, democracy is the tyranny of the majority. If we let the majority make all of our land-use decisions, we’d have no public transit system or bike lanes, and probably for the most part no sidewalks. There is a good reason that we aren’t a democracy, and its because democracies function terribly. Part of PBOTs mission is to look out for the minority of people.

In a democracy, everyone has a say. You, me, a neighborhood association, or another civic group that has an opinion. The NA invited PBOT to present the issue, listened to what other people had to say, and voiced an opinion. What did you do besides complain about other people getting involved?

I mean, your whole premise is absurd. I obviously don’t have a say. I could write PBOT an email but they aren’t going to care because they also buy into the concept of ‘my neighborhood and your neighborhood’ as you do.

The NA didn’t “invite” PBOT, PBOT went to the NA. The Neighborhood Association is not just so band of citizens as you like to misrepresent it. The neighborhood association was created by the city to act as a consent platform for decision making. The city considers NAs to be the group to outreach to check the ‘local approval’ checkbox.

Furthermore, it’s absurd that I should have to spend time advocating for currently existing “greenways” to be safe. PBOT set volume traffic guidelines for the greenway. PBOT knows that the traffic volume is double what it should be. Why in the hell should I have to beg them to follow their own guidelines? Why should they go to the NA and ask permission to run a pilot to implement traffic calming on a street that has double the traffic volume it should? We have evidence-based practices. PBOT should implement evidence-based practices in response to data that indicates that the current layout is not working.

The institutionalized idea that residents should have to harass the government into doing its job is asinine and toxic

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

So you acknowledge that I don’t actually have a say right?

Anyone can have a say (if they bother attend the meeting), but you only get to vote if you’re on the board. That’s how it works. You can contact PBOT and voice your opinion directly, as I do. They may ignore you, but that’s because we have elected officials who don’t value public input.

Look, I’m not trying to prove you wrong, I’m trying to show how you’re oversimplifying complex value judgments to construct a false binary of safety vs. no-safety. I find your views to be fundamentally anti-democratic, which is fine, but you can make your arguments without accusing people of lying or making hyperbolic caricatures about people you don’t know and have made no effort to talk to.

I’m not going to engage with you further on this thread.

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Anyone can have a say (if they bother attend the meeting), but you only get to vote if you’re on the board.

***[Moderator: Deleted sentence, too hot, personalizing the discussion. ]***
We both know that I have zero say on what happens here.

I’m trying to show how you’re oversimplifying complex value judgments to construct a false binary of safety vs. no-safety

***[Moderator: deleted phrase]*** you pretend systems don’t exist and we live in a pure society where we can’t use peoples or organizations statements, actions, or patterns to come to conclusions about their behavior and values.

I find your views to be fundamentally anti-democratic, which is fine, but you can make your arguments without accusing people of lying or making hyperbolic caricatures about people you don’t know and have made no effort to talk to.

Just to reiterate, there is no such thing as a ‘fast and safe’ road. ***[Moderator: Deleted last sentence, disrespectful]***

idlebytes
idlebytes
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

PBOT set volume traffic guidelines for the greenway. PBOT knows that the traffic volume is double what it should be. Why in the hell should I have to beg them to follow their own guidelines? Why should they go to the NA and ask permission to run a pilot to implement traffic calming on a street that has double the traffic volume it should?

This was the point I made about the Lincoln diverters when the neighborhood started protesting them. Especially the 50th one. Fortunately PBOT decided to mostly ignore them in that case. They made some concessions sure which is what should be done in this case instead of scrapping the whole thing if the NA votes against it.

I’m curious to know why the Tabor NA that voted against the 50th diverter was ignored but Beaumont-Wilshire gets to make the call in this case. Looks like cronyism to me.

Jim
Jim
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I’ve often really liked your comments, but I find the ones on this page to be disingenuous.
NAs do tend to be composed of home owners/older people/wealthier people. There is nothing explicitly barring others from joining, but many people pick up on subtle cues that it is not for them, are not comfortable with the kind of public speaking/schmoozing/being part of the in group that is entailed, don’t have the time and resources necessary. Your statement above is akin to saying “anybody can be president”.
PBOT will make decisions unilaterally at times, but does explicitly state that they will not move ahead here without NA support, so this gives a huge influence to the NA.
Not everyone wants less dangerous roads when there are trade offs involved. It seems blatant that many people want roads that are quicker for car users yet more dangerous for non-car users.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim

My comments might be disingenuous if I didn’t believe they were true. NA members are often (but hardly always) homeowners, but this is a reflection of who gets involved, and it might not be shocking that those willing to commit time and energy to improving a neighborhood tend to be those same people who know they’re going to be there a while. You need conjure no nefarious motives to explain the dynamics of the system.

I’ve attended meetings at many different NAs, and no one has ever even obliquely inquired about whether I owned or rented; it’s just not an issue*. It takes somewhere between little to no resources to get involved with your NA. Being a board member generally entails a minimal commitment of attending monthly meetings and involvement as a non-board member doesn’t even require that. This makes NAs lower barrier than almost any other organization or activity. Not everyone can be president, but anyone really can be involved with their NA. (*There are 95 different NAs in Portland, all different, some obviously working better than others, your mileage may vary.)

I find it highly ironic that activists take such a dim view of the one institution in Portland dedicated to giving some modicum of power to residents. I believe that many critics of the system don’t actually want to empower regular people who are not part of the “activist class”, and so the low barrier to entry is seen as a drawback. I don’t know if this describes you, but it definitely describes some folks here.

On some level, safety is important to everyone. It’s a question of how much and at what cost. Many people here (myself included) don’t want the Rose Quarter project, which is billed as improving safety. Some oppose enforcement of traffic laws which would improve safety in exchange for other costs.

In fact, if we look at our own revealed preferences, many of us do things that entail small or even large risk (riding a bike, for example, or driving to go hiking on dangerous undivided highways) because we value other things more than safety. If safety really were the most important thing, we’d never leave home.

So when I hear people argue about safety, it’s often (but not always) a proxy for other values, such as keeping cars off of “bike streets”. (I too have used safety arguments this way in my own advocacy, so I don’t begrudge people for doing it.) But when I hear arguments such as “neighborhood association people want dangerous roads”, it’s clearly political.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

those willing to commit time and energy to improving a neighborhood tend to be those same people who know they’re going to be there a while

Yeah…because unlike those filthy vagabond renters they have “roots in the neighborhood” and “skin in the game” (housing speculation $$$$).

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  soren

Not true — many renters are long term residents, and some do get involved in their neighborhoods. But many (not all) renters see their situation as temporary until they too can buy their own house, perhaps in a different neighborhood.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

So in order to participate renters should become property owners. Is this the “low barrier” you mentioned up-thread.

PS: A system where people can be members of more than one NA board because they own property in multiple neighborhoods is the epitome of democracy.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  soren

So in order to participate renters should become property owners.

No — to participate, renters should attend meetings. They should, you know, participate.

Many people could participate in multiple NAs: if you rent in one neighborhood and work in another, for example. The idea is to give people a voice over what happens in a particular geographic area. If you are a stakeholder in multiple areas, you can participate there. That doesn’t strike me as particularly unfair.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Are landlords allowed to run for the Oregon state house in multiple legislative districts because they own property in those districts? Should “Nick” Kristof be allowed to run for Governor simply because he owns property in Oregon? Should property owners get more votes than renters?

NAs are are self-selected clubs that do not follow the democratic process in OR (no ballots are mailed to residents) and are rife with examples of unequal representation, bullying, and racial/social bias. They should not receive a cent of tax payer funding.

Nothing is stopping “nextdoor” homeowners from setting up and funding their own civic club where they can complain about poor people, renters, apartment buildings, and parking without public funding.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  soren

Are landlords allowed to run for the Oregon state house in multiple legislative districts because they own property in those districts?

I can’t tell if this is a serious question, or you just don’t understand how neighborhood associations work. NAs don’t each get one vote in some legislative system; they usually focus on non-overlapping issues such as those listed in the pinned posting at the top of this page. So your comparison is nonsensical (which I suspect you know).

NAs are to an extent self-selected (only those who choose to participate do so), but they are required to adhere to open meetings laws and follow democratic processes. The community (at least those that elect to participate) chooses who is on the board.

This makes NAs more open and democratic than most other organizations (such as Inner SE Action or your hypothetical NextDoor civic club, who are free to choose who participates and can conduct their activity away from public view).

With 95 NAs around the city, I’d be shocked if you couldn’t find one where someone at some point misbehaved. General accusations, such as “someone out there is a bully” are probably true but also not useful.

Rather than tearing everyone down, I’d suggest you get involved with your NA and use your influence in a more positive way.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I’d suggest you get involved with your NA…

I’ve tried being involved in my neighborhood association but was thoroughly disgusted by overt anti-renter and anti-poor bias. I was also a neighborhood coalition board member representing a tenant union and was similarly disgusted with overt anti-renter and anti-poor bias. Some of this bias verged on bullying behavior by a particular member-speaker. Consistent with the broken accountability process in these spaces, this behavior was often “shushed” or ignored instead of being openly addressed.

I have zero interest in participating in a neighborhood association again. I would like to see this classist and racist institution, that has real power despite your equivocation, defunded.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  soren

I’m not surprised you report classism and anti-renter bias. Based on your comments here, you perceive that almost everywhere.

Jim
Jim
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

You argue in a reasonable way but again I disagree with most of it.

Yes, home owners may plan to be in their neighborhood for a while. They are luck to usually have that option, as I do now in my home. Many non homeowners would love the security to put down roots in their neighborhood, but don’t feel they can, due to uncertainty and financial insecurity. I’d love to still live and have roots in the inner SE neighborhoods I lived in decades ago. NA membership skews richer, we can debate why til the cows come home. It’s not nefarious, it’s just normal reality.

In my last neighborhood I tried to work on road projects with the NA. I started by seeking ideas and support of my neighbors. I have no interest some “activist class” that is separate from the “regular people”. That’s a false distinction. It was hard for me to attend NA meetings, I had to get out of work early every single time to attend. Another barrier that you seem blind to. People there were great. The NA liked my suggestion, but PBOT couldn’t find the time or money. However, lots of the chit chat at the NA meeting was about how long we’ve lived there, what part we lived in (there were richer and poorer areas), what work we do etc. As in many parts of life there was a large class subtext. People who couldn’t present well didn’t get much support. These are subtle dissuaders to joining, ie barriers.

My complaint with NAs is not about giving power to residents, it is that I don’t believe they are representative of the people who live, travel and recreate in the neighborhood. Funnily enough, I bet decisions against bike infrastructure often ARE representative of the general population, so in this regard at least NAs might be representative.

Of course safety is about trade-offs, to be “fully safe” we’d never get out of bed, etc etc. Is there politics in stating that many NAs and many Portlanders will not trade an extra 5 mins of their car commute in exchange for lessening the (quite small) chance of people dying on the streets? That seems pretty bland and obvious. I don’t intend to be political in it.

You’ve slung talk of the “activist class” and statements being “clearly political” I’m just trying to describe real world situations in pretty neutral terms.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Thank you, Jim, for addressing my comments head-on, and in an honest and engaging manner, rather than using them as a platform to attack.

You make two fundamental critiques: one, that NAs are not representative of the people who live in an area; and two, that meetings can provide a barrier to participation. To an extent, I agree with both.

Difficulty with meeting times doesn’t seem to be a problem particular to NAs, but would impact any activity that involves people meeting, and, for better or worse, it’s hard to imagine how to have any sort of association without meeting. My local business association meets at 7AM, and, well, I’m not doing that, so I don’t participate. That doesn’t mean they are somehow less legitimate, it just means they’ll have to get by without me, and I have to find other ways to contribute.

I agree that NA members are not representative of the full diversity of residents for “normal reality” reasons. This is a vexing issue to solve (is there any NA that is not always trying to recruit new members?), and it might be useful to pivot the conversation to ideas about how the system could be changed to make it work for more people. Are there ways of reaching out to a broader swath of residents and enticing them to get involved? If meetings are a barrier, is there a way to forgo them? Would it work better to have meetings at different days/times from month to month? Are there ways people can get involved without attending meetings?

Fundamentally, I support neighborhood associations because they provide the easiest way for “regular people” to meet their neighbors, learn how to engage the city, and get politically involved, working on issues that matter to them involving their local geography. I think NAs are a subversive concept, because they serve as a counterweight to traditional political power, and are a city-supported (even if barely supported) way of challenging the city. I want to see the system strengthened, and an important way of doing that is involving more people. To that end, I would be open to any reasonable proposals. I would also be open to ideas for replacing the system altogether, so long as what came next was more open, inclusive, and democratic, and truly devolved power more effectively.

PS The comments about “activist class” and “clearly political” were not directed at you, but at those who vilify neighborhood associations on very tenuous grounds, with the goal not of reforming and improving the system, but of tearing it down, and attacking NA participants based on stereotype as being motivated by animus and hatred because they don’t fully embrace the writer’s political views.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

rather than using them as a platform to attack

on very tenuous grounds

When a proponent of neighborhood associations dismisses the direct experiences of tenants and low-income people it only reinforces the exclusionary perception of these orgs, ATMO.

Do you want me to be more specific and name orgs and some illustrative situations? I’d be happy to do that.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  soren

Any thoughts on my question about how to either improve the NA system, or design one that better meets its goals of empowering ordinary residents to have a more meaningful voice in the city?

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim

“Subtle cues” is quite the euphemism for classism, xenophobia, and grossly unequal representation. The Potter commission documented all of this decades ago but the feckless city council is incapable of addressing this festering sore in Portland’s city politic.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  soren

Equal representation, unequal participation. What we see is exactly what we’d expect absent classism and xenophobia, so you’ll need to present a little evidence when you make your sweeping condemnations of some of the most civic minded volunteers in Portland.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Unequal participation due to bias and the lack of a democratic process according to Oregon law.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  soren

Which “Oregon law” are you referring to?

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The one where all constituents have the right to vote by mail-in-ballot.

Given that NAs are de facto empowered to make binding decision on code/policy then they should either follow Oregon electoral law or be removed from the city charter.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  soren

NAs are not so empowered and never have been. They are not government.

That said, if we gave them the power to make binding code and policy decisions, which I would be cautious about, I would probably support putting NA boards on the ballot, though I can think of a number of practical reasons why it would be problematic.

Quintin E. Jones
Quintin E. Jones
4 months ago

I ride my bike through that intersection all the time. The diverter won’t help. It’s not the turning cars that are the problem here. It’s the cars blasting down Fremont at high speed that is the issue. What we need is traffic enforcement for speeders on Fremont. But enforcement is anathema to the “woke PBOT” and city leaders such as Hardesty.

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
4 months ago

This is my gateway South also, and in addition to cars driving far too fast on Fremont, there’s also the lack of sightlines; it’s especially bad northbound when the restaurant is busy.

This intersection would be a perfect candidate for a beg button like the one on 33rd and Klickitat.

Bjorn
Bjorn
4 months ago

I disagree, I’ve had some very negative interactions with drivers who were using 37th/alameda as a thruway from the the dog park all the way back over to Sandy. The latest one involved a woman who began honking at me to get out of her way within the first block south of fremont. After she punish passed me I followed her all the way to the corner of 57th/Alameda/Sandy. She drove right past the local traffic only sign and had zero concern for vulnerable road users on Alameda. Removing these lengthy cut through drivers will have an outsized impact on traffic counts throughout the greenway, which from my understanding is seeing more than double the max number of drivers each day that the city targets for greenways.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago
Reply to  Bjorn

“Punish passed” is an excellent addition to the cycling lexicon.

igor
igor
4 months ago

I’ve used this intersection regularly. One challenge I found was that cars eastbound on Fremont are harder to see because they’re coming over the ridge, and if they’re speeding at the same time, it makes it difficult to judge when to cross.

What design tools do we have to control speed on a street that’s already one lane in each direction?

Watts
Watts
4 months ago

One reason many drivers turn left onto Fremont from Alameda is that there is no left turn allowed onto Fremont from the busy intersection four blocks away at NE 41st adjacent to Beaumont Middle School.

**Note that I don’t know this area, and am basing my comments on the description provided in the article.**

It sounds like part of the problem at this intersection is that it is suffering from side-effects of an intervention elsewhere. Perhaps addressing the root cause of the reason why so many drivers want to use this turn (by providing a safer way to turn left onto Fremont) will reduce volumes, making it easier to resolve the safety issue in a way that works for the community.

Just blocking turns at this intersection in isolation will only cause the problem to move elsewhere, likely involving more through-neighborhood driving.

Chris I
Chris I
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

This intersection is already “through-neighborhood” driving. Alameda is not a collector.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Right — because you can’t turn left onto Fremont from 41st, where the root of the problem is. Fix the issue there, and there will be fewer cars on Alameda.

Nathanial
Nathanial
4 months ago

As I’ve been told about bike riding a few times in the past — if the drivers really want to get there safely, why don’t they go to the next street over? It’s just a few blocks out of the way…

hamiramani
4 months ago

We will never make progress if PBOT and our city leaders continue to beg neighborhood associations for permission. This is performative democracy – a farce. There’s nothing democratic about a small number of relatively wealthy people deciding public safety issues for the collective.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  hamiramani

I highly doubt the neighborhood association is deciding anything for anyone, and they certainly aren’t “granting permission”. They will provide their opinion, which, in most cases, carries a-little-but-not-much weight with PBOT, same as any other civic organization that chooses to weigh in. People who over-dramatize the power of neighborhood associations reveal as much understanding of how things work as folks I know who truly believe bicyclists control PBOT.

That said, I do agree that PBOT’s public outreach has, over the last decade or so, become more and more “performative democracy” and it does feel a bit like a farce.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Once upon a time (20 yrs ago) I was talking with a Project Manager with a City bureau. I was telling how great this new-fangled internet would help him advertise the meetings he was supposed to have in the community to tell them about the City’s projects coming to their neighborhood to get feedback and how many more people would show up.
He said with a very serious face “why would I want a bunch of residents from the neighborhood at my meeting?” (I’m paraphrasing as I don’t remember exact sentence from so long ago.)
But the point I’m trying to make is the City at least for 20+ years has never been interested in Citizen input, it’s all dog-n-pony shows where the decisions have already been made ahead of time.
So the farce continues.

Quintin E. Jones
Quintin E. Jones
4 months ago
Reply to  hamiramani

Oh brother. PBOT doesn’t listen to anyone but themselves. This whole rich NA thing is a false narrative.

maxD
maxD
4 months ago

Alameda is super nice greenway with a few deficient intersections. I am glad to hear PBOT is looking at this one. I have had some close riding through this, but I think are some even sketchier intersections I hope they also address:
33rd: Cars drive scary fast on 33rd and are reluctant to stop, even for kids. 41st: the southbound traffic is downhill on a curve- some people drive way too fast. Siskyou and Stanton: uncontrolled intersections needs stop signs so the greenway can keep going.I have had people just rip right onto the greenway in front of me.

Quintin E. Jones
Quintin E. Jones
4 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Lots of kids have been hit on NE 33rd by Grant Park. PBOT has done only a few inexpensive improvements. They won’t do anything of substance until a child dies.

maxD
maxD
4 months ago

That sucks but does not surprise me. Pre-covid I would take this as longer/safer route to work on warm sunny days. I would occasionally catch up to elementary-aged kids trying to cross 33rd on their own. It was depressing to see drivers ripping past without a thought of stopping. I would dismount and nose bike out to “force” someone to stop, and when I had both lanes stopped I would invite the kids to cross. I totally agree that it is just a matter of time before a kid is killed here.

Chris I
Chris I
4 months ago

Easy/Best solution: Separate the signal phases for North/South traffic at 41st/Fremont. One cycle for combined East/West, one cycle for north, and one for south. Left turns are now allowed, and are significantly easier to perform.

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

That’s exactly how the lights are now. The problem is, if you allowed left turns from northbound 41, the traffic would back up to Sandy during rush hour. (There’s not enough room for a left turn lane.)

Chris I
Chris I
4 months ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

If southbound traffic had a red, why would left turning northbound traffic back up at all? They would have no obstructions to their protected left turn. They would move through the intersection just as fast as someone going straight (probably faster). Walk signals would be on a separate cycle.

J_R
J_R
4 months ago

Every driver wants exactly the same things: to drive as fast as they want past every other house and business with no delays to get to their destination and to park at the destination without cost.
Every homeowner wants the same things: to have everyone drive slowly past their house and never, never park in front of their house on “their” street.
Every business wants the same things: unlimited access to their front or back door for easy loading and unloading and all the street parking spaces within easy walking distance reserved exclusively for their customers.
If you can’t afford a car or choose not to use one, just go find some park and stay out of the way.
Easy, peasy.

Sigma
Sigma
4 months ago
Reply to  J_R

Can’t wait to hear what “every bicyclist wants.” Please enlighten us. These are all, obviously, completely distinct groups with no overlap whatsoever.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
4 months ago
Reply to  Sigma

According to what I’ve read on BP over the years, every bicyclist wants utterly smooth pavement citywide, traffic-free streets both in front on their home and at all places of business/employment/shopping and in between, every day is a sunny dry 70 degrees with light rain after midnight, all intersections “protected”, speed governors on all motor vehicles to no more than 20 mph, no car parking allowed on any city street, easy bike access to rural areas and/or mountain bike trails, competent transparent city government, strict traffic enforcement of car and delivery truck drivers, no visible homeless residents, free bike share and no need to lock bikes anywhere in a theft-free BIPOC community.

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Got a problem with that?

Damien
Damien
4 months ago
Reply to  J_R

This is, indeed, the problem with public sentiment: It’s childishly selfish and unsustainable. I remember an NA meeting in my old ‘hood where PBOT was putting on a presentation to make the case for NA greenways and the why, mentioning that one of the goals was to get SOV share down to 30%* and one of the folks in the audience piped up to say (paraphrasing from Before Times memory), “I totally agree with this, I think you should get folks out of their cars so long as I’m in that 30%.” I don’t remember if I literally facepalmed, but I hope I did and I hope it was audible. Probably not, though, I’m usually too polite in person.

But public sentiment is also the backbone of democracy, so, you know, we’re totally hosed.

* I don’t remember the exact percentage, but it was something like that.

dwk
dwk
4 months ago

“Our streets are for people first. Together, we have increased visibility at over 300 of our most dangerous street corners, authorized new street plazas for our small businesses and pedestrians, and taken concrete steps towards ensuring a pedestrian-friendly city.”

From the PBOT commissioners twitter feed 2 days ago.
The problems have been solved.

Jim
Jim
4 months ago

I cycle through here all the time, and never drive it, so obviously I would like as much diversion as possible. Other people will have different priorities. Some road users are A-holes. Many are not. There’s just a lot of people everywhere, we live in a city.

What I’d really really really like is for an end to PBOT’s deluded hypocracy. The Alameda greenway has far more traffic than PBOT’s rules allow greenways to have. Either physically stop some of this traffic, or change your greenway rules to reflect the road conditions you’re allowing, or de-list Alameda as a greenway. You CAN’T please everyone, you have to make choices instead of pretending. Sharrows/bike crossings/15mph signs/suggested diversions are not leadership, they are easily-ignored begging suggestions that allow you to pretend you’re taking “action” but not actually changing much of anything.

Some cities (eg Barcelona) implement bike plans over the objections of some residents, they just do it and stick to their beliefs. Some cities (many in the USA) build as many freeways as they can and are more honest about prioritizing single occupancy cars. They just do it too. Portland drives me crazy with its aspirational visions and narratives and waffle that goes hand-in-hand with muddled half measures (eg planning and building a 20s Ave bikeway, but winding it back and forth and making every damn intersection different to avoid stepping on drivers’ toes, so that it’s really no good for any type of road user.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Comment of the week, or the month.

Charley
Charley
4 months ago

There was a four fatality shooting a few houses down from me last year. I wouldn’t want PPB to have to beg permission from my neighborhood association to investigate the crime.

I think local input or local control is not inherently a totally bad thing. But PBOT going to a small subset of neighborhood residents to get approval for the details of a traffic safety plan seems hugely inefficient.
How many staff persons are involved?
How many hours did they spend to prepare for a meeting about this single intersection?
Is this why our city feels like it can only make g l a c i a l progress on the problems we face?

mark
mark
4 months ago

Sounds like they voted 4 in favor, 7 against.

Bob
Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  mark

The BWNA board rejected the proposal. Big neighborhood turnout. PBOT was approaching this as a bikeway congestion issue ~2000/day, pbot wants 1000/day. The turnout was for a safer Fremont/Alameda intersection, lower speeds on Fremont and a more comprehensive approach that would include a left turn northbound on 42nd and Fremont.

Will
Will
4 months ago
Reply to  Bob

How big of a turnout? Like actually representative of the neighborhood, or just a few more folks than normal?

X
X
4 months ago

PBOT diverter design seems focused on “gates” that keep high volume traffic out but the most problematic drivers know that once they jump the turnstile there’s a long run of unstopped pavement with just a few speeding bumps. Many of these people are driving where their phone says to go. If the navigation app shows that the line through a neighborhood involves three turns offline they won’t go there.

People who live in a neighborhood will know their best car route out of it. Emergency crews can use an app as well as anyone if they don’t already know the place (professional drivers excepting the biggest curmudgeons already know that the app often knows best). Retractable bollards or even breakaway barriers that an emergency vehicle can pop over would allow access if needed. Swinging fines might dissuade vandalism. Might, I said.

It seems to me that promotion of insurance plans which financially reward legal driving might be a market-based solution to the speeding problem. It’ll be damn hard to drive 40 on Fremont if every third driver is holding to 25.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago

Having the NA vote on safety improvements reminds me of the great slogan prior to marriage equality:

“Let me vote on your marriage.”

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Should the public have a voice on the Rose Quarter project? Or should there only be input on marriages you disapprove of?