A closer look at PBOT’s design for NE 7th and Tillamook

Detail of new plans for NE 7th Ave at Tillamook. (Source: PBOT)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation released their final striping plan for the redesign of Northeast Tillamook and 7th yesterday. For some reason, despite announcing the start of a project to remove the existing traffic circle on this offset intersection earlier this month, they hadn’t released the plans for what they’d put down in its place. In fact, it wasn’t until after we inquired about them yesterday that we learned the rendering would be published to their website.

My interest in these plans spiked when I heard about growing opposition from folks who don’t want the traffic circle removed and/or don’t think the City’s new plan will solve the issues. As I reported yesterday, those concerns have led to an unexpected meeting tonight where PBOT staff will explain their rationale for taking out a major traffic calming feature in order to calm traffic.

They’ll also likely get asked a lot of questions about this striping plan. Since posting it Tuesday afternoon I’ve seen numerous responses from relatively smart people who think it’s pretty bad. Let’s take a closer look…

(Source: PBOT)

First, a bit of background…

These changes are being done as part of the Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway project. The public process for that project was extremely problematic for the community and for PBOT. In 2018, City project managers and engineers presented a very innovative and bold plan to remake NE 7th Avenue into a world-class cycling-priority street. They received massive support from a lot of people who want biking to be safer in Portland and who were concerned that 7th was becoming a raceway with car users who’d be better suited using nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. But, shockingly, everyone seemed to forget what happened on North Williams Avenue about a decade prior.

Just like on Williams, after the process had started and plans had been circulated enough to get many folks excited, some Black residents spoke out and said they were left out of the picture. One person said the plans for 7th would “continue the whitewash of the neighborhood and result in more gentrification.” Some of them also didn’t like the idea of 7th Avenue becoming less convenient for drivers. After an embarrassing about-face and several more meetings, PBOT switched the alignment from 7th to 9th, much to the chagrin of many who felt like it was a very suboptimal plan B that lacked the direct, north-south connectivity that’s so vital for an effective network.

But PBOT didn’t give entirely on 7th. While the route will officially be on 9th, 7th will see changes as well.

Which brings us to the crucial intersection of NE 7th and NE Tillamook (one of Portland’s oldest bike boulevards established in 1999).

Looking north on 7th with traffic circle circled in red.

Currently, in addition to the aforementioned traffic circle and large tree planted in the middle of it, this intersection has only sharrows. The new plan would create buffered bike lanes in both directions. PBOT will build a protected intersection (similar to the one on W 19th and Burnside) with cross-bike markings at the southern part of the intersection. To get northbound 7th Ave bike riders across 7th and west on Tillamook, they’ll paint a left-turn pocket/box in the intersection where folks will reposition themselves onto a painted cross-bike.

The main gripe I’ve heard so far is that without the traffic circle or any other feature to slow drivers down, they’re likely to speed through all this new paint. That seems like a valid concern, especially if PBOT doesn’t put any plastic or concrete curbs or wands in the bike lane buffer zone (I’m not sure if they will or not). Others have said that if folks are waiting for a break in traffic at the left turn box, it will create a conflict with bike riders continuing north.

While the design is being widely panned, at least one person thinks it’s great. Stephen Judkins replied to us on Twitter this morning to say, “I don’t get the hate. Now that I’m riding with my kids a lot I am valuing separation over most other considerations. This intersection has always felt sketchy with car interactions, and having to stop once if I’m going north is a reasonable tradeoff.”

What do you think? Come to the meeting at 6:00 pm tonight (Weds, 9/14) at NE 7th and Tillamook if you’d like to learn more and share feedback with PBOT.


UPDATE: Don’t miss our full recap of Wednesday night’s meeting.

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jo
jo
16 days ago

Why the wacky bike lane stuff? To me, this makes the bike seem like a non-road user and more like a pedestrian.
Can’t stop signs be placed on 7th N bound and S bound?
A stop sign on 7th at Going would be pretty ideal too.

J_R
J_R
16 days ago

If I’m westbound on Tillamook (my usual use of this route), I will do the same maneuver I do today – turn right onto 7th (take the lane) and turn left at the next intersection. There’s no way I will shift to the separate, northbound bike lane for 60 feet to wait in the green left-turn box while worrying about whether the northbound motorist will see me, wait for me to turn left, or even care. Ill-conceived and dangerous design. Sorry.

foobike
foobike
16 days ago
Reply to  J_R

Exactly. I’ll keep taking the lane to negotiate this offset whether heading eastbound or westbound on Tillamook. Hope they leave the tree alone.

Dwk
Dwk
16 days ago
Reply to  J_R

Exactly. What a waste of money.

Adam
Adam
15 days ago
Reply to  J_R

Instead of removing one traffic circle and tree they could just add another to the south… further extending the benefits of the existing configuration. Maybe some additional traffic calming, curb extensions or even diverters as well.

JG
JG
15 days ago
Reply to  J_R

I’ll do the same, but maybe that’s a fine result. Confident cyclists get to keep using the street (as they are entitled to do), and less confident cyclists (kids on their way to Harriet Tubman, for example) get protected separated infrastructure. It would be a shame to spend all this money for just a “fine result” though.

Brandon
Brandon
16 days ago

Is this the actual finished designed? Where are the new tools they were talking about to slow traffic? I’m assuming all of those black crosswalk markings are raised, continuous sidewalks, and that’s what’s going to slow traffic here, right?

With the tree and circle gone, people are going to be driving faster than they already were (which is way too fast). I can’t imagine getting out of the lane only to cross back over it, without any signals or anything.

Watts
Watts
16 days ago
Reply to  Brandon

Sometimes PBOT’s plans can seem counterintuitive.

Paikiala
Paikiala
15 days ago
Reply to  Brandon

Speed bumps.

jo
jo
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

Speedbumps do not slow down all cars. They are more of a suggestion for drivers and an inconvenience for cyclists. Stop signs are clear, informative pieces of infrastructure that actually slow drivers down. If it’s about emergency vehicles, there are other stop signs on 7th further South. Emergency vehicles do not have to come to a complete stop at them either.

Steve C
Steve C
16 days ago

PBOT at it again, slowing and removing cyclists from the road. Yes, it would be safer if cyclists weren’t on the road and had to beg to cross as cars sped unimpeded up and down 7th. But it would also be dumb and car-centric design. Such a lazy solution to the danger posed by cars and unsafe drivers.

Basically the institutional version of drivers yelling “get back on the sidewalk!!”

Same thing goes for those “crosswalk closed” signs they throw up when the intersection is made unsafe by cars. They curtail pedestrian’s right of way rather than deal with the root issue of unsafe speed and behavior by drivers.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
16 days ago

Horrible design, looks like they are prioritizing car speed, and pushing bikes to the margins again. How about we make the current road closure on 7th permanent? Where it’s closed right now everyone can still access all the business on 7th, and traffic hasn’t even been backed up. Just people in a cars are no longer using it as a high speed cut through and that’s a good thing, mlk is literally 2 blocks away.

Randy
Randy
16 days ago

Wouldn’t it be cheaper and better– and safer for the majority of bike riders who are probably going to continue to use 7th as a better paved, better graded, non-Irving-park-slicing alternative to 9th– to just put a diverter next to the existing roundabout? I understand turning 7th into a full blown greenway was controversial, but does anyone really support having thousands of cars funnel through a residential neighborhood when MLK is better equipped to handle that volume and just one block away?

Paikiala
Paikiala
15 days ago
Reply to  Randy

The residents want access preserved.

Randy
Randy
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

Thanks for your response. I’m a resident and based on the tone of the conversation last night I think most people would take the trade off of a barrier that reduces traffic flow from outside the neighborhood. There’s obviously going to be a whole of opinions here, but 6,000+ cars a day on a residential street is just too much to be safe and destroys the neighborhood character of 7th.

Laura
Laura
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

You still get access is you live there! It’s called local access only

maxD
maxD
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

A few business owners want access preserved. Access can be provided without 7th being a thoroughfare to cars. Back in 2018, there were a few spcific concerns about access toa few discrete businesses- something that could have been addressed with thoughtful design. Instead, PBOT shit-canned the whole popular plan.

maxD
maxD
16 days ago

PBOT pushes bikes out of the road ind into a position of conflict with pedestrians. Is the sweet new tool that is better than a tree? No thanks!

Stephan
Stephan
16 days ago

Jonah, do you have information where the meeting will take place tonight? Thanks!

I tried to find that information on PBOT’s website, but with no success (it is also not clear to me whether this is part of Tillamook’s enhancement project II, https://www.portland.gov/transportation/pbot-projects/construction/ne-tillamook-neighborhood-greenway-enhancement-project).

And I agree with the other commenters, I don’t think this is a good solution. People will drive faster on this stretch, and the space for turns on NE 7th is not enough for multiple bike users.

joan
16 days ago

I just commented on another thread, but many folks may not know or remember that PBOT and BES removed a traffic island from NE 7th at Morris ten years ago, as part of building out the Klickitat greenway.

squareman
squareman
16 days ago
Reply to  joan

Correct, they did. This has given drivers extra space to gun it around southbound cyclists continuing south and who are already going close to 20 as they approach the circle at NE Graham Street. I’ve been punished passed so many times here.

maccoinnich
maccoinnich
16 days ago

After an embarrassing about-face and several more meetings, PBOT switched the alignment from 7th to 9th, much to the chagrin of many who felt like it was a very suboptimal plan B that lacked the direct, north-south connectivity that’s so vital for an effective network.

But PBOT didn’t give entirely on 7th. While the route will officially be on 9th, 7th will see changes as well.

As of the last set of plans I’ve seen (the 95% design set) the improvements on 9th are no longer happening either. The project is now mostly consists of: traffic calming on 7th via speed bumps; continuous bike lanes between on 7th between Weidler and Tillamook; a short section of bike lanes either side of NE Fremont St; and a few crossing improvements.

I think the bike lanes on NE 7th will make the connection from Tillamook to the new bridge better, but at this point it seems more like a “missing links” project than the new greenway that was promised.

maxD
maxD
15 days ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

9th was a red herring from the beginning. It never worked as greenway, PBOT only included it to appear to be offering options. Irving Park is a fatal flaw, plus the route is indirect and more hilly. 7th had a ton of support, PBOT just shot themselves in the foot with their incompetent outreach and response. Even after concerns from the African American community, PBOT could have found a design solution to providing reasonable access to the head start without maintaining 7th at a highspead shortcut around MLK.

Chris I
Chris I
15 days ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

9th was never a good option. Now we know that they tossed out 9th improvements as a way to kill anything on 7th. Great work, everyone.

SD
SD
16 days ago

I ride on NE 7th every week day. Driver behavior on this street is the worst on my usual 5 mile commute. The “must…pass…bicycle…” mentality is out of control. The tree circles have problems, but at least they make the street feel like a residential street. With the tree gone, cut-through drivers’ expectations of driving 35 mph in a 20 mph zone is going to get much worse.

CB
CB
15 days ago
Reply to  SD

I bike and drive on this section of NE 7th. Drivers certainly treat the speed bumps as barely even a recommendation. When I drive on this section of road I am almost always tailgated by another car wanting me to go faster than the 20 mph speed limit. When I give bicyclists space and wait behind them it gets even worse (cars behind me tailgating, honking, and I have even been passed by an aggressive driver while approaching the very tree circle at Tillamook!

Mark Bennett
Mark Bennett
16 days ago

The obvious problem here is that there is no speed abatement in the plan. PBOT has objected to the addition of stop signs on 7th because of some federal guidelines that specify that the cross street (Tillamook) has to have a volume of traffic near to the volume of 7th. This argument seems ridiculous, especially since PBOT acknowledges that 7th avenue has way more traffic than it was designed to carry. There are obvious safety issues at play here with Tillamook being a bike route. The removal of the circle will increase car speeds which are already nearing 30 mph. Seventh avenue speeds will probably exceed 35mph after removal of the circle. Just used the “planned” volumes for 7th avenue and the Federal guidelines would allow for the addition of stop signs. The unseen factor at play here is that PBOT doesn’t really intend to listen to any of the input. The public meetings are just for show.

Paikiala
Paikiala
15 days ago
Reply to  Mark Bennett

The warrant for stop signs is crashes that stop signs correct.

Chris I
Chris I
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

We need more crashes here!

Mark Linehan
Mark Linehan
16 days ago

If I read the design correctly, going northbound on 7th, bicyclists are expected to divert from the traffic lane into the buffered bike lane for a very short distance, cross the eastern leg of Tillamook, continue another short distance, and then return to the traffic lane on 7th.

This routing seems likely to get more bicycling accidents.

  1. While on the buffered lane, bicyclists will be out of the line-of-sight of cars, and thus more likely to be hit by right-turning cars when crossing Tillamook.
  2. Re-entry of northbound 7th from the buffered lane is an opportunity for car drivers to be surprised. Surprise leads to accidents.
  3. The buffered bike lane apparently crosses Tillamook separately from the car lane. Drivers turning to and from Tillamook will more likely look to the car lane than the buffered lane to check for other traffic. Another opportunity for surprises.

I would rather have those big round cement barrels on both sides of Tillamook to slow down cars entering and leaving the side street, remind everyone that there are bicyclists on the road, and leave the northbound cyclists in the traffic lane. After all, that’s where they will be on the rest of 7th.

Paikiala
Paikiala
15 days ago
Reply to  Mark Linehan

Two to four feet to the right to the right of the car lane is hardly out of the line of sight.

maxD
maxD
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

false.

SD
SD
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

A-pillars and tow mirrors

maxD
maxD
15 days ago
Reply to  Mark Linehan

I asked PBOT providing an alternative to this. shoving bikes to the side on such a narrow street makes it hard go west on TIllamook. THey recommend just taking the lane, which is ok and what I do now, BUT if they add a bike lane, I am required to use it by Oregon law, and cars will expect me to use it. This will lead to more conflicts. PBOT correctly responded that Portland does not enforce this law- in fact, they do enforce any traffic laws! However, they DID conceded that if I am injured taking the lane AS PBOT RECOMMENDS AND EXPECTS, I have all the legal liability, even if a driver is being reckless. PBOT did not address my biggest concern: driver expectations. Everyone at last night’s meeting, including all the PBOT staff, agreed that the root danger is too many drivers driving too fast. If there is a bike lane, many drivers will expect bikes to be in it and out of their way. Some will get angry and aggressive at bikes out of the bike lane. The proposed design DOES NOT WORK to increase safety for bikes, despite the NACTO-citing, mansplaining by PBOT. There was an end-of-meeting concession to provide sharrows in addition to the bike lane, please be on the lookout for that.

FDUP
FDUP
15 days ago
Reply to  maxD

^This.

Repeal ORS 814.420!

Paikiala
Paikiala
15 days ago

The city website for the project says speed bumps to slow traffic.

SD
SD
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

There may be evidence that speed bumps slow traffic overall. But they don’t slow it enough to make this a safe street for bikes and pedestrians. I am passed almost every day by cars that take bumps at full speed.

Mick O
Mick O
15 days ago
Reply to  SD

I’m assuming speed bumps this close-in will also have those delightful wide gaps to enable emergency vehicles to speed as well. Not the gaps that make sense for cyclists, you know, they’ll be the gaps that encourage drivers to weave left and right so one side of their car gets to ride smoothly.

Chris I
Chris I
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

With or without “emergency vehicle” cutouts?

Now that everyone drives SUVs, these cutout speed bumps effectively don’t exist. Go ride on 92nd north of Halsey to try it for yourself.

maxD
maxD
15 days ago
Reply to  Paikiala

“The city website for the project says speed bumps to slow traffic”

Can anyone provide a link to the City’s website for this project? I searched around and could not find it.

Randy
Randy
15 days ago

I went to last night’s meeting and there was overwhelming support to reduce the amount of car traffic on 7th (6,000+ per day on a residential street). Everyone recognized that the danger posed by the traffic circle was just a side effect of this overwhelming volume of cars.

Most people were for diverters so the road could revert back to local traffic only. The question now is whether PBOT will listen and solve the root of the safety problem on 7th?

SD
SD
15 days ago
Reply to  Randy

PBOT previously ignored the wishes of people who lived on 7th when people a few blocks over and people who did not even live close to the street decided that 7th should be like MLK.

Brandon
Brandon
15 days ago
Reply to  Randy

The people who live in and commute through neighborhoods know what is best for their neighborhood. Remember how Clinton st became such a cut through street for drivers until people put up makeshift barriers as diverters, until PBOT realized this was the best option to control traffic on the street and put in permanent barriers?

Portland used to be a great example of bold action to encourage alternative transportation. Now it’s a city that does the bare minimum to keep up appearances of this legacy. Most of the best improvements to our bike infrastructure has come from the people that use it and made changes themselves, not from PBOT.

Cyclops
Cyclops
15 days ago
Reply to  Randy

Was there any answer if the tree would be removed or that they would reconsider changing the intersection?

RC
RC
15 days ago
Reply to  Randy

The answer to that question is most likely no.

Laura
Laura
15 days ago

https://blumenauerforms.house.gov/forms/writeyourrep/
I sent an email to our district representative this morning expressing our neighborhoods concerns about the increased cars speeds and lack of additional real safety this plan includes. Please feel free to do the same, we are all passionate about keeping our neighborhood safe and family oriented!

Randy
Randy
15 days ago
Reply to  Laura

Thank you Laura! And will do!

Randy
Randy
15 days ago
Reply to  Laura

Just sent this message to our rep (it’s his bridge after all!)

Dear Congressman Blumenauer, 

I’m writing to express concern about proposed PBOT changes to 7th street, where I live. This street is unsafe in its current condition because it has 6,000+ daily vehicles on what is supposed to be a neighborhood road. This level of traffic is completely out of character with this tree-lined street of single family homes, including many children who normally can’t safely leave their front door because of rampant speeding. 

Last night the community met with PBOT to discuss the proposed removal of a traffic circle at 7th and Tillamook. Everyone agreed that removing the traffic circle would increase car speeds and vehicle volume. PBOT conceded that while its changes would make the intersection safer, it would do nothing to fix the underlying issue of extreme traffic levels on what is supposed to be a residential street.

There’s a general consensus that change need to be made on this part of 7th to fix the root of the problem. Right now is a unique opportunity for action because the incredible Blumenauer Bridge (thank you!) has opened, which 7th street provides the most direct access to, and there is a temporary street closure at 7th and Tillamook which has shown everyone how much better this street can be if it returns to the traffic levels it was designed to manage. 

I want to ask for your support as the neighbors try to get PBOT to fix the real problem on 7th– excessive car traffic. I also want to invite you to take a bike ride from Irving Park down 7th across your bridge so you can see the full potential of what a low-traffic 7th could do to connect some of Portland’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Best,
Randy

DW
DW
15 days ago

So apparently the “other tools” in PBOT’s toolbox are to widen and straighten the road so drivers can blast through with a cheeseburger in one hand and a phone in other while cyclists wait patiently for a gap large enough to make a left turn?

Traffic engineers are truly a different breed.

maxD
maxD
15 days ago
Reply to  DW

And after an hour and half of being told that their design doesn’t accomplish what everyone wants- a safer street for people walking and biking- PBOT said they are going ahead with the design as planned. They might add speed bumps, they might add sharrows. They will not address speed (except to increase it!), nor will they address the high traffic counts (except to increase them!).

FDUP
FDUP
15 days ago
Reply to  maxD

This is PBOT’s general MO, any time they request or receive input from the public, they acknowledge it with lip service, and then just go ahead and do what they want irrespective of the feedback they received. This is why I refuse to participate in their ‘advisory committees’ anymore; it’s simply a thankless waste of time/snow job.

Alex B.
Alex B.
15 days ago

Another problem with this design is that cars waiting to turn from Tillamook onto 7th will block the “crossbike” all the time. Cyclists will need to divert onto the car lane 7th to continue northbound in this circumstance (which I believe gives them legal justification to not use the bike facility and may remove liability if they’re hit by someone driving a car in the situation some other commenters mention).

Mark
Mark
15 days ago

I rode through this intersection every day for more than seven years commuting to work. And, I used it for recreational riding frequently after retiring. I always did what others do: take the lane, turn left when safe. And, I frequently ignored the traffic barrier, turning in front of it to go westbound, always a safer move than wasting time going around a barrier that is meant to slow cars. 7th is a relatively narrow street. Without serious impediments to driving, there will always be conflicts between bikes and car users. PBOT’s paint job will not change that.

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
15 days ago

My solution would have been to take out the large traffic circle, and install two, smaller diverters, one at each of the Tillamook entrances.
And a tree in each one.

(Actually, my Plan A would have been to “Clintonize” 7th from MLK to the new bridge. If you don’t want to drive MLK, take your chances on 15th.)

SD
SD
15 days ago

I honestly don’t get the bike chicanes. What purpose do they serve? What are the positives?

The negatives are obvious:
Right of way conflict between N bound bikes and turning cars.

  1. If a car is traveling N next to a bike does the bike have to stop in the chicane to let them turn right?
  2. If the car is 10 feet behind, does the bike have to stop in case the car isn’t paying attention but still has the right of way and could smash them or becomes angry the bike crossed the ROW without checking behind them first?
  3. Under normal circumstances, crossing this area on foot, one would look behind them for right turning cars. Are bikes expected to look behind them every time while navigating the chicane and looking both R and for oncoming left-turning traffic? The time to do this is much less on a bike than when walking. And pedestrians have established ROW that many drivers recognize.
  4. Do bikes have any ROW here. For all other Cross Bikes the answer has been NO. If you polled people on this question, you would not have agreement.
  5. If this is confusing for an adult on a bike, it will be 10 times more for a kid and 100 times more for a car driver.

A N bound bike and a bike turning left onto Tillamook.

  1. Does all bike traffic stop behind the Left turning bike? (yes, more than one bike at a time does happen)
  2. Do N bound bikes take the lane to go around a bike waiting to go left when there are cars going north or south?
  3. Do drivers courteously stop for bikes to turn left? Some will, some won’t and some will just go slow and get angry when the bike doesn’t just go already.
  4. Will drivers even know WTF a bike is doing stopped in the bike lane.

A North bound Bike turning right onto Tillamook and a L or R turning car onto Tillamook.

  1. Who has the right of way?
  2. Bikes now have to travel further into the lane because of the increased angle from the narrow chicane. Even worse for cargo bikes, and trailers that often have kids.

Cars in the cross walk.

  1. Cars will always roll up into this cross walk because they will have to to see N and S bound traffic on 7th.

Wet leaves in the chicane

  1. The leaves on 7th are some of the worst and they are there forever. Who will clean the fr*cking chicanes? PBOT has a horrible record on maintaining bike lanes. Why are they making something that will require even more maintenance that will be more difficult to clean? And that has to be navigated at an angle while braking?

It appears to be agreed on by everyone that the drivers on 7th are lacking in judgement. PBOT Chicanery is not going to confuse them into becoming mindful cautious drivers. This is an embarrassment.

Doug Klotz
Doug Klotz
11 days ago

I do not like the little green box where northbound cyclists are supposed to make a 90 degree turn and pull up facing across 7th to wait for car traffic. Greg Raisman even gave me a private lesson on using the one at SE 41st and Division, but I can’t do it! It’s too tight as turn for me to make, and it’s hard for me to look back over my shoulder for cars. (and I don’t even have a long cargo bike!) I guess, like others on here, I’ll take the lane and block car traffic while waiting to turn left. You’ve got to wonder if these traffic engineers actually ride a bike, to design something like this.