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…
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).
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.