First Look at new lanes and paths on Naito Parkway

Posted by on May 5th, 2022 at 11:02 am

(Mobile viewers, click through to see all images. Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The celebration to mark the opening of Better Naito is set for tomorrow (Friday) morning. But the party has already begun.

People on foot, on bikes, and all types of mobility devices have been using the new protected lanes since the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced the completion of the project late last month.

After spending a few hours observing the changes on Wednesday, I think there’s a lot to celebrate!

Friday’s ribbon-cutting comes almost seven years to the day from when we first posted that the design of Naito between the Hawthorne and Steel bridges was in need of a change. Thankfully, PBOT was fully on-board from the start, and while it’s take a long time and lots of activism to get here, the result is a triumph and I believe this project will have a profound impact on our city.

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As you can see in the photos and video (below) we now have a physically protected lane for cycling and low-impact vehicle users on Naito Parkway for well over a mile between SW Lincoln and NW Davis thanks to the completion of two separate (but connected) capital projects: Better Naito Forever (between Hawthorne Bridge and NW Davis) and the SW Naito Improvement Project (between SW Harrison and the Hawthorne Bridge).

In the video below, I make a loop from SW Jefferson to NW Davis and then back again, while slowing at key intersections so you can see the infrastructure. Also notice that I wait for all signals and they change relatively quickly as I arrive…

The new facility is a two-way lane separated from other road users via a small, concrete curb. It uses space that was previously a narrow bike lane and two general purpose lanes and it runs along the east side of Naito at the western edge of Waterfront Park. In addition to the lane reconfiguration and curb protection, PBOT has added dozens of concrete medians and steel bollards to fortify intersections, provide a place for people to wait for signals, and give low-impact vehicle users space to make turns.

And speaking of signals, PBOT went above and beyond with this project. This facility is the most Amsterdam-like experience we have in Portland because of the way the bike signals (imported from the Netherlands) ferry users across the entire project, giving them their own protected signal phase and a level of quality, priority, and respect that’s only felt in a few other spots around the city (like SW Moody in South Waterfront and the Tilikum Bridge).

(Mobile viewers, please click through to see all the images)

As I rode back and forth along Naito, I never had to push a “beg button” to make a signal change for me. The sensors are in the pavement and where necessary there are big “Wait Here for Green” markings to make it obvious. I was very pleased with the timing and felt like it was responsive and efficient. Signals are a very important part of this project! I know many people don’t obey them, but I’ve always said our behavior and compliance match our infrastructure. That is, crappy bike infrastructure leads to crappy behavior and low compliance; but the inverse should also be true.

Given what I’ve seen so far, I think compliance with signals and basic traffic laws will be a big problem for some people. Several car users either unknowingly or selfishly blocked intersections and crossings — especially where traffic was high near the Hawthorne Bridge ramp at Jefferson. The success of this facility will depend on people following signals and staying out of crossings, and in a society were many people feel compliance with laws is optional, that is a red flag we’ll be monitoring closely.

(Mobile viewers, please click through to see all the images)

On a brighter note, Amidst all this excitement about new infrastructure, we should not forget that this project has also forced car users to behave much better. Not only do drivers have much less room to operate (in a lane that’s narrower than the bike lane in some spots) but the speed has been reduced from 30 mph to just 20 mph. Think about that. 20 mph is the default speed for narrow, residential neighborhood greenways in Portland; and that’s the same speed for this major central city boulevard.

While everyone’s likely to call this a “bike lane” or “bike facility”, that moniker just doesn’t do it justice. While I was out there yesterday I saw all manner of people using this newly safe space along Waterfront Park. I love the scooter pavement marking PBOT has added in some spots to reinforce that e-scooter users are welcome.

Overall, the new Naito Parkway is pretty darn great. It raises the bar for high-quality cycling and low-impact vehicle infrastructure in Portland and vastly increases the value of the entire network because of how it connects to existing facilities. This is the type of high-profile, comprehensive, protected infrastructure we’ve been begging for for many years.

Bravo PBOT!

It’s been a long road to get here, but I think you’ll agree it’s been worth the wait.

Have you ridden it yet? We’d love to hear your impressions.

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fishyfish123
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fishyfish123

I took a ride down it a day or two ago. Before construction ripped it all up, I liked coming down from Barbur and going straight to Naito. Where is the best place to hop onto that Naito infrastructure if you’re coming down there? It wasn’t immediately obvious to me, but there was lots of new stuff to take in.

Overall I’m just happy Naito is open again, and this should be a big improvement IF, as you note, people follow the rules. The 35th avenue bike lane in SW Portland near Jackson Middle School still has cars parking in the bike lane during drop-off and pick-up times and recycling/trash bins left in the lane. Lots of car entitlement. Yes, there is always an adjustment period with new projects, but it just takes 10-20% of road users making dangerous decisions to make the bike infrastructure unsafe, especially during busy hours.

Champs
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Champs

I hope that bollard just south of Burnside—the bent one with the fire station in the background—isn’t a harbinger of things to come after it officially opens.

It probably is, though.

EP
Guest
EP

Yeah the first thing I thought was… “stealth bollards?!” They look nice, but black is the worst color. A reflective band or two at the top would help. In the video the bollards just about disappear under the bridge as your eyes adjust. It Won’t take too many dark, rainy late nights for those to get run down. But hey, it looks great, for now.

Mark Remy
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Mark Remy

This is fantastic!

Brandon
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Brandon

This is great! The bike infrastructure around the Tillikum bridge/OHSU is the best in the city and this is a continuation of that. I hope this type of design eventually takes over everywhere.

ChadwickF
Subscriber
ChadwickF

That’s my thought, too. Hope this can be sort of the default infrastructure everywhere, with tweaks as needed per project.

Todd/Boulanger
Guest

Looking over the photos: What does the “foot scooter” stencil denote vs the traditional bike stencil? A scooter only lane? Or now will there be a stencil for every new mode in P-town: hover board, Segway etc? (Does the MUTCD/ ODoT have this/ these stencils in their regulatory section?) 😉

mm
Guest
mm

I took this as a logical extension on the artistic license that crews have been applying to bike symbols for years – although presumably intentional in the design, this time.

Todd/Boulanger
Guest

A wonk/ geek design question for those in the project know:
WHY?, are there two different stencilling practices/ methodologies [white bike stencil vs white bike stencil in black circle] …on road bike lane vs pathway, different consultants / phase of implementation, different agency/ department?

AndyK
Guest
AndyK

The city has different legends and symbols for on-street vs off-street.
See P-435 and P-436

JR
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JR

I rode it yesterday from SW Lincoln to the Steel Bridge. It’s really wonderful. It would be so nice if the city was opening up one of these every year and filling in gaps. I agree that this facility actually feels like ones in Europe. I thought they would be a new connection between the on-street facility and the Steel Bridge lower deck, but I think one just has to use the park’s paved paths in the cherry trees area as before.

Steven Smith
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Steven Smith

If you continue on Naito under the Steel Bridge there’s a ramp that will bring you to Waterfront Park right near the lower deck of the Bridge. You don’t have to go into the park at all.

JP
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JP

Fantastic! A place for people walking, riding bikes, or driving cars — that’s a complete street.

Stephan Vertal
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Stephan Vertal

I was really impressed with the lane and signal design where the path leads on to the Hawthorne bridge and across towards the new courthouse building.

mm
Guest
mm

Yesterday I had only the second day back at work downtown in my employer’s slow, very gradual transition to a new hybrid work model. In my antebellum bike commuting, I typically came off the Hawthorne, danced around the busy bus lane/stop to hang a right on 1st, then headed uphill on Taylor. As I got towards the end of the bridge yesterday, I remembered that Bikeportland had mentioned the Naito project being open and briefly considered diverting onto the ramp down to the street. But in the second or two I had to consider it, my brain dismissed the idea, wondering how awkward the turn across Naito onto Taylor would be. Seeing these photos, I know now that that turn should be a breeze compared to anything that existed previously.

I haven’t ridden this yet, but this really does look like a game-changer for north-south travel along (and to!) the waterfront on multiple levels: for bikes, scooters, etc. along Naito, obviously, but also for pedestrians going north-south (how could there not have been a continuous sidewalk along Naito for all these years?), shorter and safer crossings of Naito, a more pleasant experience of the west edge of the park (buffered from motor vehicle traffic), and of course the value of the example of such a transformation, in such a heavily used area. Assuming the Rose Festival and other waterfront events ever get back to their pre-pandemic levels, a lot of people will experience/observe this facility up close.

Some random thoughts, from the photos and video:
* Interesting to see the near-side, bike-level signal heads (I know from personal experience that these are ubiquitous (for cars) in France, and likely in other Euro countries, as well?). Not clear from the video which conditions warranted them and whch did not.
* Related, there appeared to be some variation in how high the standard, far-side bike signal heads are mounted. Looks like at least some were mounted at typical auto heights, when there would seem to be no clearance reason to have them so high. What drove the height decisions?
* Jonathan mentioned “the way the bike signals … ferry users across the entire project, giving them their own protected signal phase” but I couldn’t tell from the timelapse video: is there still a solid red for north-south bikes throughout the red cycle for north-south autos? When riding ‘better Naito’ previously, it often felt kind of ridiculous to sit through a red when no pedestrian cross-traffic was present, given that no auto cross-traffic crossed the bike lanes.
* I’m a bit suspicious of the treatment for the non-green, asphalt ‘median’ at the blocks (more-or-less) between the Hawthorne and the Morrison. With the roll-over curb divider, it looks like it may be intended as a (unofficial, of course!) loading zone during waterfront events: roll over the curb, park against the divider curb in the unpainted zone, straddling the western third or so of the bike lanes, and, well, bikes can still get around the parked vehicle…

joan
Subscriber

I asked a few folks about intersections without bike-specific signals, and the consensus was that you should watch for pedestrians but you don’t need to stop if there isn’t a bike specific signal.

RipCityBassWorks
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RipCityBassWorks

Better Naito is a serious game changer for Portland bike infrastructure. I was particularly impressed with the new ease of getting on Jefferson Street from the bikeway.

TakeTheLane
Guest
TakeTheLane

By separating the bike path from the street so much makes it even more ripe for right hooks imho.
“I never even saw the cyclist until he ran into the side of my car.”
I have never hit anyone, but similar situations happens to me frequently, I’m afraid. e.g. Someone steps out of the shadow of a tree on a dark night toward the intersection that I am entering, or, when taking a left turn after the cars coming from the opposite direction clear, I begin to move when I notice a cyclist that was hidden behind the cars coming at me appear in the bike lane to the right and 20 ft back from the oncoming traffic (on a collision course with me).
My point is that the more we insulate the modes from each other, the more likely collisions are to occur. Why do you think more roundabouts are being installed at intersections? Because the increased possibility of collision makes people pay more attention and avoid collisions.
This is the reason I bike in the street on residential and business streets. I am easier to see and more vigilant, being so exposed. I even run in the street, facing traffic, on residential streets knowing drivers don’t expect something moving that fast on the sidewalks emptying into the intersection they are approaching.

bbcc
Guest
bbcc

Okay, John Forester. How would someone right hook you on Naito? It’s bordered by a park. The only thing you need to worry about hooking you is an angry goose

Linda Ginenthal
Guest
Linda Ginenthal

Love the biking possibilities, but the walking infrastructure addition is fantastic too. It was always puzzling to me that the west side of Waterfront Park didn’t have sidewalks. It forced people to walk in the narrow bike lane or only crowd the path at the water’s edge. Bravo for PBOT and mostly for the walkers, bikers and drivers who can stroll, ride, and navigate safely and car(e)free.

cdan
Guest
cdan

I commute the entirety of this every day, been awesome to see the progress. only three gripes:
1, the connection from moody is now the most obvious missing link up and down the whole downtown waterfront. there are several options, all of which have their issues. an easy fix would be to designate those two blocks of S harbor way as a greenway or replace parking on the east side with more bidirectional bike path and then be able to give it stop/yield priority at Montgomery.
2, NW naito is now very obviously a much lower quality road. it looks like it has enough space to swap the wide but unprotected lanes and parking, or remove parking for a bidirectional path on the west side continuing BNF and ideally bringing them up to sidewalk level.
3, the bike signals are mostly pretty dumb. feels like the lights at the steel bridge ramp and the hawthorne ramp are red 90% of the time, regardless of if there are any cars but will only turn green after bikes show up or people push the button. I and almost everyone else I’ve seen ignore it and treat both as a yield, which is pretty safe to do since both only have one place cars come from. Additionally, most people treat the red lights at pedestrian crossings as yields, which also basically works. not sure why PBOT seems to think pedestrian/pedestrian on wheels is a dangerous interaction requiring rigid signal control…
Overall, it’s awesome, I hope they do more elsewhere and continue to work on the details.

Asher Atkinson
Guest
Asher Atkinson

I rode the full length southbound on Saturday around 6pm. The intended transition to it when approaching from north of the Steel bridge is still a mystery to me and the available crossings are a bit awkward. But once on it the separation is nice. One quibble is that even with all the green paint it’s still effectively a loading zone for market vendors. It doesn’t bother me when use is low, but during summer when there are events it may be an issue. The improvements under and south of the Hawthorne bridge are welcomed for sure.

Ken
Guest
Ken

I would think the bike lane on the other side of Naito and then cross at Davis?

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I’ve been riding a lot lately with a friend who is training for a race and is not as involved in the general cycling scene in Portland, though she is a long-time cyclist. And we LOVED the better Naito, except for the same gripe we have all over Portland — all the bike infrastructure should be painted green *everywhere*. When we got to the South end of the new infrastructure (at Harrison), she had no idea that there was an MUP that continued on — I did because I ride through there regularly, but if it had been painted green she wouldn’t have even had to think about what to do next.

Same holds for car driver confusion — I almost drove my car into the buffered bike lane turning right onto NW 16th from NW Irving (I drive in NW probably once a year and am not at all familiar with the area, which I think is the driver our infrastructure should be designed for!). If the lane had been painted green it would have been very, very clear that it was a bike lane and not for me.

But I love better Naito 🙂