(Note: This project isn’t 100% complete. Please see update from PBOT at end of post.)
The Portland Bureau of Transportation celebrated the opening of their latest Rose Lane on SW Alder on Wednesday.
The Rose Lane initiative was launched in 2019 under former PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and its development has remained a priority under Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. The goal is to speed up buses to make them more competitive with driving and deliver better service to bus riders. When it launched, Eudaly said it was the most effective way to simultaneously address climate change and racial disparities with transportation infrastructure.
With the SW Alder project, PBOT’s work complements TriMet’s Line 15 route change that moved the eastbound bus from SW Salmon to Alder to reduce travel time and simplify the route. To keep buses moving faster, they’ve built two new bus platform extensions (at 10th and 6th) and have created a dedicated bus lane between 4th and 2nd as Alder approaches the Morrison Bridge. The project also includes new crosswalks and several new stations.
At an opening event yesterday, PBOT staff talked to passersby and handed out free ice cream at Firefighters Parks at the 18th/Alder/Burnside intersection.
As you can see in the video, PBOT Director said the project is a “win-win” for transit and bicycle users. On the project website, PBOT says the project creates a “comfortable”, “safer”, and “protected” bikeway. Unfortunately I didn’t see or experience much of that while biking through it yesterday. I didn’t see the protected bike lanes (that we expected as per our story in April) and I experienced a mish-mash of disconnected bikeway treatments. One block I was in a door-zone bike lane, then a bus/bike mixing zone, then I was surrounded by car users, then I was in a bus/bike only lane (that was being illegally used by drivers).
This is unfortunately what I’ve come to expect biking downtown. It doesn’t feel like something that would entice a more novice rider onto a bike. It’s not comfortable and it doesn’t feel like the scale of progress we so urgently need.
Rose Lanes are necessary because we have too many people using cars and they make our system unsafe and inefficient. So while relatively tiny upgrades to the transit system are a great thing that benefits all of us, if we want our streets to reach their full potential, we must do more to reduce service levels and access for car users. Incremental steps for “alternative transportation” while letting drivers run amok, is not progress. And it just doesn’t make sense to me why PBOT would do any project these days that doesn’t make significant and tangible upgrades to the bike network.
These projects often take a bit of time to settle in and perhaps PBOT has more to do. Based on my experience yesterday, I certainly hope so (see update below).
Take a look at the video and roll through it next time you’re downtown and let us know what you think.
UPDATE, July 1st: I should have checked in with PBOT before doing this video and post! Sorry about that. Below is more information about this project from their comms person Hannah Schafer.
This project was designed and scoped specifically to be a transit project, but we also improved some of the more critical bike connections including from the future 4th Avenue bike lane to the Morrison Bridge as well as extending the SW 2nd Avenue bike lane from Alder to Washington. Because of existing curb extensions at 5th and 6th, and the need for bus platforms at 6th and 10th, there just wasn’t space.
The project isn’t fully complete. We have items that still need to get done. The block from 4th to 3rd still has right turn arrow signage, but the project will actually be prohibiting that right turn. There are also some blocks in Goose Hollow that will be improved for bikes once some building construction is complete. Finally, we also have plans to add tuff curb but, like many things, tuff curb is currently on backorder so it may take a few weeks until that goes in.