After months of speculation and back-and-forth at City Hall, the Portland Bureau of Transportation just announced they will stripe a bike lane on SW Main between 3rd and 4th avenues. This is the block where the Thompson Elk Fountain and statue had lived before it was removed following damage it sustained during protests. There was urgency to create a bike lane here because the current bike facility ends at 3rd, which would leave a short but significant gap from the projected bikeway couplet PBOT is building on 4th and on Broadway.
With limited road space and the presence of the Elk Statue, some people thought we’d have to choose between a beloved icon and much-needed bike lanes. Thankfully, City Hall has figured this out. Here’s an excerpt from PBOT’s statement:
“Interim striping on SW Main Street will extend bicycle facilities from SW Third Avenue to Broadway, closing another gap in Portland’s bike network, and improving access to Portland State University, Portland City Hall, and the South Park Blocks. The work on SW Main Street will support the return of the Thompson Elk Fountain and related streetscape improvements currently under exploration by the Portland Parks Foundation.”
The SW Main project was announced along with the great news that PBOT will begin construction of the $750,000 SW Broadway Bikeway Improvements project next week. As we shared back in April, this project will finally connect the bike route between the Broadway Bridge and Portland State University. The design will mimic what was already installed between Hoyt and Oak in late 2020.
To further improve Broadway, PBOT also announced today that the block of SW Main adjacent to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall will be permanently carfree and turned into a public plaza. This block had been routinely off-limits to cars at specific times and days, but this would be a full-time driving prohibition in order to, “create an outdoor public space for events and programming,” related to the cultural district.
Also of note is that PBOT says drivers will no longer be able to turn right from SW Main onto 4th. And between 4th and 6th, PBOT will reduce the number of driving lanes from two to one in order to make space for a bus and bike lane. Check graphics below for details:
It’s more good news about Portland’s transportation system! With the opening of Better Naito, the Blumenauer Bridge, and other many other projects, PBOT continues to change Portlanders’ relationships to our streets for the better. The new plaza on SW Main also helps fulfill a promise of PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to add more carfree streets downtown.
Learn more about the SW Broadway project on PBOT’s website.
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So much good news! It feels like the city is finally moving forward all at once on so many plans. It’s great to see.
This is fantastic news! Will bikes be allowed to use the car-free plaza when there are not events taking place?
Yes for sure. Bicycle access through this block will always be maintained… just like other carfree plazas. Obviously if there’s a big crowded event, I wouldn’t expect to get through on my bike and I would probably be ready to walk.
I wouldn’t just assume that bicycle access is a given. The way it works right now, there is no bike access on main west of Broadway whenever the gates are closed. And the gates are closed a lot! Even during hours when there aren’t any events going on.
Sorry if I haven’t been clear. There’s no reason to assume. Bike access WILL be maintained. There would be riots if they blocked biking here. The entire idea is to create a connected network. PBOT makes it clear in the graphic I just updated the story with that bike riders will be able to continue through to the park blocks.
That is great news. I just hope the frequency and duration that this segment is closed to bikes is greatly reduced going forward.
I’m over the moon with excitement to see that not only will the bike lane continue beyond third, but that an entire lane is being closed to cars (and I’m also happy that people will get the full size plinth and fountain in the middle of the road that they have apparently been demanding). When Commissioner Ryan announced that he wanted to walk back the original proposal that PBOT put out to restore the elk with a reduced plinth, I figured that meant that he was intending to axe the bike lane, or to route it onto the sidewalk, or through the park, or something silly like that. This was the obvious common sense solution all along, and I’m amazed that it is going to move forward.
✓ One less lane for SUV/personal-truck drivers
Anything that makes it annoying and/or difficult for SUV/personal-truck drivers is good infrastructure, by definition.
That bike lane looks kind of slim, I wonder if it’s wide enough for larger bikes/trikes/trailers, etc…
Hopefully that’s just a concept rendering. Seems like there is plenty of space to shift the standard lane over a bit to the left. My concern would be that if there weren’t bollards/planters/whatever on the left edge of the bike lane, drivers will treat the paint as black asphalt and continue to use the right side of the road as a driving lane.
I think it’s designed this way because the motor vehicle lane west of 3rd needs to line up with the through lane on the east side of 3rd. So the bike lane is somewhat modest (maybe 5’ with a 2’ buffer?) initially west of 3rd but then looks to widen out.
That is a thought that I had, too. I could easily see drivers getting confused that the right lane ends and trying to continue through on the bike lane, or just coming to a complete stop while blocking the bike lane while attempting to merge into the left lane to continue straight.
Great news…though looking at the roadway striping, its too bad that they will not change the roadway surface to deemphasize the car space and improve the park & non motorized / people space. (Otherwise it’s all too easy to ‘backslide’ and grind out the striping.) [Unless I am missing some major detail here.]
I agree. The more done to separate the vehicle lane from everything else, the better. I wouldn’t mind seeing a curb and/or a row of real bollards (not plastic wands) at the statue side of the vehicle lane. I’d like people to be able to walk or stop their bikes at the east and west sides of the statue without worrying about getting run over. If the vehicles were prevented from straying into the hashed areas, those areas could actually be usable, instead of being a big no-man’s land next to a fairly narrow bike lane.
Same thing for the hashed area south of the vehicle lane just east of the statue. That should all become sidewalk.
Hopefully the “additional permanent streetscape improvements” in the plan’s notes is anticipating doing those sorts of things.
People for Portland must be feeling like they rubbed the monkey’s paw
As I recall, it was the YIMBY bike lobby that helped unseat Eudaly so is there a big difference between a YIMBY and a NIMBY?
Your recollection is wrong and also I’m not sure what this has to do with my comment anyway.
The Randian “free” market ideology that People for Portland and P:NW share is equally anti-poor, according to my opinion.
I’m just glad the city is finally putting back the Elk. I rode across the Hawthorn Bridge into Downtown daily for more than ten years, taking Main to 5th and riding south toward work on Marquam Hill. I never had any issues negotiating this segment, though I would have certainly welcomed what’s being proposed here.
Hopefully the Elk can stand as a symbol for this city’s rebirth following the destructive and misguided riots, mass vandalism, and ridiculous “camping” allowed in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares, which, along with the badly mismanaged and economically ruinous pandemic response, turned Downtown into such an uninviting place for many people and businesses.
Here’s hoping city leaders can also find the spine to return Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln back to their proper places in the South Park Blocks.
The elk statue never should have been messed with by vandals the ONLY good that came out of what happened is the added bike lanes!
If only they’d also prevented right turns onto 6th.
Let’s hold faith that PBOT is working on eliminating auto and truck traffic from the TRANSIT mall, namely 5th and 6th aves. At which time, how easy would it be to convert the auto lanes to bike lanes?
Yeah, but even if they had signed a no right onto sixth, you know people would still do it, and you know PPB wouldn’t bother to enforce it.
This is great – I can’t decide which I like better, the design solution around the Elk statue or turning the Performing Arts block into ‘round the clock human space. One question – is there nothing proposed for Main between 6th & Broadway? This seems like a necessary and relatively easy fix given all the other design improvements to Main.
The striping plan for SW Main is here. The left lane becomes a left-turn-only lane for cars, while the right lane becomes a through / left-turn lane for bikes.
According to the striping plan you sent, the bike lane on Main heading towards Broadway is left-turn only, not straight or left; but PBOT says bikes can go straight, even on the plan, so why have arrows at all? Is this an error on the striping plan?
This is by far the absolutely worst part of my commute and I can’t wait to do it in the new, safer alignment!!!!
How does this work if you are on a bike and want to turn left on fifth? And please don’t tell me to use the crosswalk or do a ‘Copenhagen left”.
You don’t like Copenhagen Lefts? I like them and am happy to use them.