City plans two-way protected bike lane on NE 33rd and Skidmore

Existing conditions on NE 33rd at Mason. The new two-way bike lane would be on the right next to Wilshire Park.

The City of Portland wants to make it easier to bike, scoot and walk around Wilshire Park in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood. Two upcoming projects would add bike lanes to key stretches of NE 33rd and Skidmore, which would give people a safer way to cross a major north-south street, create a better connection to an existing neighborhood greenway, and allow people to avoid a gap in the network that requires sidewalk riding.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has plans for two separate but connected projects.

NE 33rd

Click to enlarge. (Source: PBOT)
(PBOT bike map with location of new bike lanes circled.)

The first project would create a better connection between NE Mason and Skidmore across 33rd. Mason and Skidmore are currently used as east-west bike routes through the area and are important options when the nearest neighborhood greenways on NE Klickitat and Going are too far away. Skidmore also intersects with NE 37th, a major north-south greenway.

The problem is 33rd — a very high-traffic street with no dedicated cycling space. The official city bike map (right) recommends that bicycle users roll up onto the sidewalk in Wilshire Park to make the connection.

PBOT wants to get bike riders onto the street. They plan to re-allocate space currently used as free car storage to create a two-way, physically-protected bike lane. To make it even safer for bike users, PBOT will add a user-activated signal to help folks get across 33rd. The design is similar to what PBOT did just a few blocks north in 2010 at NE Going and 33rd.

A PBOT rep told us the project will be installed later this summer as part of a paving project on 33rd.

NE Skidmore

A closely related project would change the layout of Skidmore between 33rd and 37th. This four-block stretch adjacent to Wilshire Park is 40-feet wide, has no lane striping and is used as a typical residential street with free car storage on both sides.

PBOT has released an initial proposal that would create 12-feet of dedicated cycling space. The idea is to continue the two-way bike lane from 33rd along the south side of Skidmore (but instead of a cement-curb buffer, this section would be a paint-only buffer). As you can see in the cross-section drawings from PBOT, their initial proposal would maintain four, seven-foot lanes for drivers — two for moving and two for parking.

Balto’s post on Nextdoor.

You might recall at the onset of the pandemic in April 2020, neighborhood resident and noted bike advocate Sam Balto created his own “extended sidewalk” on this stretch of Skidmore. Balto has spent years pushing his neighbors and PBOT to see the potential of this street.

In November 2020, Balto posted the message below to Nextdoor along with a photo of the street:

“Besides the 7 homes that have driveways on this stretch of Skidmore why do we need this road?? It’s 42 ft wide and a quarter mile long. Couldn’t it serve the public better besides being just another road??”

Many of the 627 comments expressed shock and confusion that anyone would care about changing this street.

But Balto’s campaign appears to have worked. A PBOT rep confirmed with me yesterday that while the above cross-section drawings are just an initial proposal, they plan to do something as part of an upcoming Fixing Our Streets project that’s scheduled for construction in 2024.

The Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association might have something to say about these changes. That group is coming off a difficult interaction with PBOT from a nearby traffic diverter project, so it’s hard to know how they’ll respond to these plans. I’ve reached out for comment and will update the story if/when I hear back.


CORRECTION, 4:21: I originally reported that these proposals had been presented at a BWNA meeting. That was incorrect. I regret the error and any confusion it caused

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maxD
maxD
1 month ago

This is such a wimpy move! PBOT shold remove parking and add a protected lane on each side of 33rd from AT EAST Going to Alameda to make a meaningful connection.

Also, fix 37th/Prescott first!

Also, 33rd/Going is a sidewalk

Let’s Active
Let’s Active
1 month ago
Reply to  maxD

Respectfully disagree, maxD. I love these improvements though they may not be earth-shaking. I’m cool with the parking around the park. A lot of families want to drive over to enjoy the shade, softball diamonds and excellent playground? Fantastic! It’s a super park and a bit of traffic calming on Skidmore will go a long way.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  maxD

33rd/Going is a cycle track. The sidewalk is next to it.

X
X
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

I profoundly dislike that thing. The two-way design means that east bound riders have to post up at the crossing looking back over their shoulder for a break in traffic and then make a 0 radius turn when they get it.

It would have been much better, cheaper, and taken less concrete to have riders in each direction cross straight ahead, swing left into a protected lane, and then finish with a right turn to continue on Going St.

When it snows NE 33rd Ave. gets plowed because it’s a bus route. If there’s any amount of snow it goes onto the two-way track, blocking it and leaving it covered in debris when the snow melts. Any maintenance of the cycle track is strictly volunteer.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  X

I agree your idea is better for bikes than what they did.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago

This is good, but they should also do something for 33rd between Skidmore east of 33rd and Skidmore west of 33rd to the north.

Toadslick
1 month ago

I think I finally understand the long-term strategy. When the entire city is blanketed in experimental, unpredictable traffic patterns, drivers will be forced to slow down because nobody will know what to expect.

Sure, like Going and 33rd, it may appear that the burden of puzzle-solving largely falls on people walking and biking, while cars are allowed to continue at high speed, impeded by little more than legally-meaningless “crossbikes”, but that’s just the 4D chess required to implement this visionary strategy citywide.

X
X
1 month ago
Reply to  Toadslick

“…cars are allowed to continue at high speed…”

Many car drivers on 33rd and 42nd take every opportunity to exceed 25 mph. I can only estimate but some folks are hitting at least 40.

Sam Balto (Contributor)
Sam
1 month ago

I think this is going to end up being a great project and I appreciate pbot effort to improve safety. My biggest concern is that the 2 way bike lane on Skidmore isn’t wide enough. Lots of people walk on Skidmore in the street and they will use the bike lane because there is no sidewalk on the south side of Skidmore. Make it wider and also add a pedestrian area.

Josh Mahar
Josh Mahar
1 month ago
Reply to  Sam

I almost wonder if massively reducing cut-through traffic and putting in some traffic calming elements to make it a true neighborhood greenway (speed humps, some big planters, some street art) might be a better option than trying to segregate modes. What is your take on that Sam?

Sam Balto (Contributor)
Sam
1 month ago
Reply to  Josh Mahar

It is absolutely worth considering.

I would also like to see a street design with parking on the north side of Skidmore is removed & those 7ft go to a pedestrian area. Would be nice to see the neighborhood and PBoT prioritize open space for physical activity versus car storage.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Sam

I’m not familiar with the area, but based on looking at google views it seems like your idea of removing parking on the north side of Skidmore makes sense. It looks like every house between 33rd and 37th has off-street parking (even looks like at least two spaces) plus every house is on a corner lot, so has frontage on a side street for on-street parking (except the one on 33rd where it looks like there’s no on-street parking). And of course there would still be parking across the street on Skidmore.

Plus, at least at the time the google aerial view was taken, there are hardly any cars parked on Skidmore or any of the perpendicular streets north of it.

In other words, if the parking on the north side of Skidmore were removed, the residents would still have far more on- and off-street parking than typical in much of Portland.

The possibility of lining the north side of Skidmore with street trees would also open up, along with more space for walking (or use some of the 7′ gained for bike and/or walking space on the south).

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.5538083,-122.6283406,249m/data=!3m1!1e3

Josh Mahar
Josh Mahar
1 month ago

This is going to be fabulous!

But PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t change the signal timing. The best part about crossing here is that the vehicle light turns red immediately when you hit the button. The only place I feel like I’m prioritized as a person walking or biking.

Let’s Active
Let’s Active
1 month ago
Reply to  Josh Mahar

Totally agree, Josh. That signal is a birthday gift as it currently operates.

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
1 month ago
Reply to  Let’s Active

It’s the most satisfyingly generous beg button I’ve ever encountered. I try to use it for good, not evil, but I have had days….

ivan
ivan
1 month ago

They should chicane the sh*t out of Skidmore or make it a one-lane one-way. Give 70% of the space to walkers and riders.

(I don’t necessarily disagree with having vehicle parking near the park, but the point is the street shouldn’t be any kind of through-traffic route for cars.)

Sam Balto (Contributor)
Sam
1 month ago
Reply to  ivan

I agree completely.

Josh Mahar
Josh Mahar
1 month ago
Reply to  ivan

I haven’t studied the traffic patterns, but anecdotally, it seems like preventing an eastbound turn from 33rd to Skidmore, and potentially preventing a southbound turn from Skidmore to 33rd, could do a lot to minimize cut-through traffic. It seems like the traffic impact would be minimal, simply requiring vehicles to use the light at Prescott just a block away.

Ernest Fitzgerald
Ernest Fitzgerald
1 month ago

Providing protected bike lanes is all well and good, but calling a street “Skid-more” gives drivers a subliminal license to drive recklessly. I propose that they change the street’s name to “Skidless,” which would do more to rectify any potential hazards than any physical bike lane improvements.

1kw
1kw
1 month ago

Its funny how stuff like this gets fastracked to be built in neighborhoods where there’s not a <$600k home within a 1/4 mile radius, (and many worth triple that 1/8mile). Can't we pour some more curbs on the bike lanes in outer east, put in a couple sidewalks in some of those neighborhoods with this money. Most of the people in this neighborhood could afford to paint there own crosswalk I'd bet and are connected enough to not be prosecuted to it.

EEE
EEE
1 month ago

I expect I wouldn’t take a 33-37 cycle track east-bound when there is any significant volume of cars parked along the park — just too many people, especially kids, milling about loading and unloading, now through a new dedicated bike track. As it is now, you can ride pretty swift EB because of the decent downhill grade and large sightlines, even while cars are all lined up for parties or baseball games. With the redesign I expect I’ll take the lane anyway to avoid the pedestrian interaction, but would also need to go slower due to the smaller sightlines and tighter car movements.

The 33rd north-south track would be nice though.

Can we finally get some stop signs at 38th and 40th in either (or both) the North-South or East-West directions? I don’t mind if it stops east-west traffic, though i would expect north-south would make more sense.

Also need an insta-beg-button at 42nd and Skidmore similar to the one at 33rd & Mason. Drivers along 42nd completely ignore the 25mph speed limit.

Sam Balto (Contributor)
Sam
1 month ago
Reply to  EEE

I agree that I will probably use the road instead of the bike path unless PBOT makes the bike path wider. Lots of people walking will end up using the bike path which I am completely fine with but I hope PBOT adds more space so people biking and people walking aren’t so close.

Josh
Josh
1 month ago

One thing I’ve noticed about this section of Skidmore is its tendency to ice over, being on the south side of a lot of tall trees.

Bjorn
Bjorn
1 month ago

Anyone know why the bike beg buttons at 33rd and klickitat have been disabled? I thought maybe it was part of the city trying to move away from bike beg buttons, but it just forces cyclists to have to climb up onto the sidewalk to hit the pedestrian ones and now seeing them say they will be install new bike beg buttons here the deactivation of the other ones seems all the more odd.