The Portland Bureau of Transportation is part of a massive effort to clear campers from the shoulders of Northeast 33rd Avenue between Columbia Blvd and Marine Drive. This is a very popular route for bicycling and there are bike lanes on both sides of the road.
We’ve fielded concerns from many people recently about how dozens of cars, trucks, RVs, and campsites have spilled over into the bike lanes. This is a relatively large street with high driving speeds, and people have to leave the bike lane to get around various hazards and obstructions.
Local news outlets starting covering this effort on Thursday and some people thought it might be related to a PBOT project to restripe bike lanes. We asked PBOT what was going on and here’s what we found out…
According to spokesperson Hannah Schafer, PBOT parking enforcement began towing RVs and other vehicles from the shoulders of NE 33rd Thursday morning. The impetus is two-fold: The location falls under Mayor Ted Wheeler’s emergency declaration that bans homeless people from living alongside major roads and highways; and an edict from the Port of Portland to clear the area.
The land adjacent to this section of 33rd is owned and managed by the Port and is part of the Portland Airport flight path. Schafer said the Port asked PBOT to clear the campers to avoid violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Safety concerns are another reason PBOT is towing vehicles. With all the people living out there, a lot of folks are crossing the road in areas where there are no crosswalks and car drivers don’t expect humans to be present. In July 2021 a man who is believed to have lived in the area was hit and killed while walking across 33rd.
Schafer also said that one week before they began towing vehicles, PBOT crews canvassed the area to talk with people and warn them about the towing operation. “Each impacted camper who was present was offered shelter,” Schafer shared with BikePortland.
Asked if a bike lane restriping project had anything to do with the clearing effort, Schafer said no.
This isn’t the first time the City of Portland has done a focused camp clearing at this location. In 2020 it was on a prioritized list of sites that crews addressed.
Read more about this on KGW.com.