Portland transportation bureau will redesign new bikeways on NW Overton

One problem with the new design? It’s too easy to ignore. (Photos: BikePortland)

Just over a month after they went in, bike-friendly changes to NW Overton between 9th and 10th avenues will undergo a significant redesign.

As we reported in late September, PBOT established a new neighborhood greenway route on Overton by adding bike lanes and converting this block to one-way only for drivers. In order to build the bike lanes, PBOT removed all auto parking on the south side of Overton and and several spaces on the north side. In total, about 12 parking spaces were reallocated.

According to Portland Bureau of Transportation Interim Director of Communications Hannah Schafer, the city now plans to redesign the project in response to “traffic operations and access challenges.” Schafer said the changes are a, “result of communication with area stakeholders and on-site evaluations.” She told BikePortland Wednesday they’ve received many reports of backups and have fielded concerns from first responders.

In addition to the new bike lanes, PBOT created a traffic diverter at the northeast corner of NW Overton and 9th (that was supposed) to prohibit westbound traffic from 9th onto Overton. Overton is an emergency response route that’s used by a nearby Portland Fire Bureau station to access Naito Parkway. We’ve learned their concerns about large fire trucks being able to make the turn onto Overton influenced the design (which makes it too easy for drivers to disobey the access ban) and has now helped convince PBOT to make changes.

Another issue is this project’s proximity to a railroad crossing. When trains block 9th and car drivers get backed up, it’s too easy and tempting for them to bail from 9th and drive westbound on Overton, despite four “Do Not Enter” signs.

From what I’ve learned, the biggest pushback to the new design was based on the loss of those 10 on-street parking spaces.

Note the change in parking spaces.

In 2019, when the project was in its public outreach phase as part of Northwest in Motion, PBOT’s plan to double bike use in the area, someone posted flyers on the street warning that the loss of parking would negatively impact nearby businesses and residents.

One tenant of the Encore, the ground-floor Ovation Coffee & Tea that opens onto Fields Park at the corner of Overton and 10th, was particularly opposed to the changes.

The owner of Ovation Coffee, Abdelkaddar Elhabbassi, emailed PBOT in January 2020 to express his concerns.

“We serve at least 400 customers per day, with the majority of the commuting here by car… How can you really expect 6 parking spots to accommodate all that?”

– Abdelkaddar Elhabbassi, Ovation Coffee & Tea
(Graphic: BikePortland)

“We already have the problem of customers complaining that they had to go to a different coffee shop because they couldn’t find any parking spots,” he wrote. “Why would they waste time in their routine and walk 2 blocks to get a drink, and then walk back when there is literally a [different] coffee shop right there??”

Elhabbassi told PBOT that the changes would be “absolutely devastating” to his business. Currently there’s only one small section of parking next to Ovation and customers share those spots with Encore residents, park visitors, and other businesses. “We serve at least 400 customers per day, with the majority of the commuting here by car… How can you really expect 6 parking spots to accommodate all that?” he shared in the email.

When PBOT announced the new greenway on September 16th, they made it clear that the materials used for this project were temporary and “can be easily moved or modified,” but it’s rare for changes to come just this quickly after an installation. PBOT said in that same announcement that they would collect traffic and parking data in spring 2023 and would share the results with the community if changes needed to be made.

Yesterday, PBOT’s Schafer said city engineers are still working on the new design and the details should be released within the next two weeks. She added that this is an example of a design that was created prior to the pandemic and that changes in work and driving habits demand a different solution. “We’ll be tweaking the design,” Schafer said. “But the intent is to still make it very bike-friendly.”

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FunFella13
FunFella13
3 months ago

That coffee shop is beneath a 10 story condo building and next to two buildings at least as big, how are 6 parking spots serving the majority of traffic?

SECommuter
SECommuter
3 months ago
Reply to  FunFella13

That’s just how car brains think. The is no rhyme or reason.

EP
EP
3 months ago
Reply to  FunFella13

It’s also *RIGHT* on the Fields park, so there’s a ton of foot traffic headed by, too. This location is great for a business that doesn’t need to rely on parking for it’s customers, and yet they complain…?

cc_rider
cc_rider
3 months ago
Reply to  FunFella13

It sounds like parking is vital to his business. He should work to find a way to rent a parking lot for his customers.

Bjorn
Bjorn
3 months ago
Reply to  FunFella13

Really makes you want to stand out front and try to talk people who arrive not by car into going to a different coffee shop.

David Hampsten
3 months ago

How about removing all the parking on the north side of Overton and creating a two-way bike lane even along the park, with bollards to keep cars out, and preserving all the car parking on the south side?

Melville
Melville
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

It’s a pretty narrow street, it would be hard to fit in a two-way bikeway in what used to be a parking lane. That’s only about 8 feet wide for two directions.

pigs
pigs
3 months ago

Who the hell drives to the Pearl area to get coffee?

Paul
Paul
3 months ago
Reply to  pigs

Exactly, it makes no sense to claim “I can’t draw enough walk in traffic to keep a coffee shop open in the Pearl” and yet claim regular customers “are driving into the Pearl to just to get my coffee.” If your coffee is that good you can develop foot traffic in the Pearl. If it’s not then open a drive through stand in a parking lot outside of downtown.

bbcc
bbcc
3 months ago

Ah yes, I am sure those 10 parking spaces were super useful to those hundreds of customers who chose to drive to the Pearl every day to get a coffee. Sounds very real and not made up at all

Social Engineer
Social Engineer
3 months ago
Reply to  bbcc

When you live in the suburbs and drive in every day to set up shop in one of the densest neighborhoods in the region, you just assume that all of your customers must do the same thing.

mm
mm
3 months ago
Reply to  bbcc

PBOT should convert 2 or 3 of the remaining parking spaces to 15-minute quick-stop spots. Caters to ‘to-go’ customers, who are likely the bulk of the ‘drive there’ business, but also calls the owner’s bluff, to find out whether the complaint is really that ‘I and my employees can no longer find all-day parking close by.’

EP
EP
3 months ago

Ugh. I wanted these changes for years when I bike commuted through there. Is PBOT really giving in to one business that may or may not be around forever?! Ovation has four locations, the Overton one has been there maybe 10 years? Changes like these need to happen to streets, and if it’s not the best spot for their business maybe it’s time to move. As hard as that may be, at what point does the long term greater good lose out over short term concerns? PBOT, please don’t water this down any more than it already is.

maccoinnich
3 months ago

The owners of Ovation seem to believe that customers are driving from all over the city to get their coffee, but also that their customers won’t choose to walk two extra blocks to specifically buy their coffee.

qqq
qqq
3 months ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

Perfect observation.

Also, by saying his customers would have to walk two blocks, he’s saying his customers could still find parking spaces only two blocks away. That’s an argument for removing the spaces, not keeping them.

If he then argued that no, parking is really tight in the Pearl so they might have to walk much further than two blocks–which from my experience is often true–that’s an acknowledgement that those space being removed really aren’t often available for his customers, anyway, so losing them shouldn’t affect his business nearly as much as he thinks.

There’s plenty of parking in the Pearl for a huge range of businesses. Ones whose survival depends on having parking available right at the business should really have their own parking lots.

ELI
ELI
3 months ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

I’ve been to Ovation’s other location in SW many times and I’ve never once driven there. I’m sure he does field complaints about parking but I suspect that “most” people do not in fact drive to get coffee there, but are already nearby. Though that amount of unnecessary driving certainly would explain traffic problems in Portland. But, those who walk or bike have nothing to complain about, so he doesn’t hear from those customers. I mean, almost every time I’ve gone to the SW location there’s some poorly parked and blocking the bike lane, but I’ve never complained to anyone at Ovation about it because… It’s not their responsibility.

Chris I
Chris I
3 months ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

Seems like this would be more appropriate as one of those drive-through barista type businesses. Bikini optional.

jo
jo
3 months ago

Why is a protected bike lane even “needed” there?

Ben
Ben
3 months ago
Reply to  jo

You might think it wouldn’t be since a large number of residents there don’t have cars compared to the rest of the city but there is always a lot of car traffic in NW/The Pearl. There are still a lot of residents who drive and a bunch of traffic is always coming off of 405. The protected parts on the greenways definitely improve things for cyclists I’d say.

jo
jo
3 months ago
Reply to  Ben

It has always seemed fine to me for riding. I have ridden on this street a bunch in the past and with the newly installed bike jail. I don’t see how a one block section between 9th and 10th with a bike lane makes this street suddenly any better than it was. But to each their own.

idlebytes
idlebytes
3 months ago
Reply to  jo

I think it’s mainly about the diversion of Westbound traffic since it’s a greenway.

PS
PS
3 months ago

Does the Sauvie Shootout still start from Ovation?

Ben
Ben
3 months ago

I guarantee you the majority of those 400 daily customers are not coming by car. Seriously, if you run a business in the NW district/The Pearl and you don’t realize that most trips to small businesses in that area are made on foot, you are probably too dumb to be running a business.

On parking, I live in the NW district and there are way too many residents here who are too attached to the on street parking. This area is one of the most walkable in the city and I really have no sympathy at all for people who insist on living here and driving. The huge number of cars here is really not justifiable, considering how dense it is, and the number of cars and the attachment to parking is the biggest reason it’s hard to bike here. The whole area should be made into a “residents cars only” zone honestly, that would probably solve the locals parking issues and it would greatly reduce traffic.

Changes like this that are just PBOT giving in to grumpy local businesses at the expense of good bike infrastructure make me mad. NW and the Pearl have such huge potential when it comes to bike-ability there’s no excuse for this.

Ben
Ben
3 months ago

Fair point. I wish the Fire Bureau would get some smaller trucks for streets like this. And I wish the freight companies wouldn’t run such long trains and cause train traffic jams all the time…

Chris
Chris
3 months ago

Did PBOT cite the pushback as one of the reasons for the redesign? Have they announced whether the redesign is adding back parking?

It looks like the coffee shops comments are from Jan 2020. It seems unlikely that the city would do a redesign that quickly based on business concerns especially if they were made before the project was implemented.

maxD
maxD
3 months ago

I hope they take this opportunity to create a proper safe and direct bike facility on Overton from 9th to 24th. Pettygrove was never a good choice for bike facilities.

In terms of the design- this is just the latest example of PBOT being unable to design or implement well anymore. That bureau needs a shake-up!

maxD
maxD
3 months ago

PBOT’s lame attempt is great example of sign overload! A simple big white arrow in the motor vehicle lane would have been more effective. ALso, they could moved the center divider south and had alarge striped area for the bike lane/emergency access.

I hope PBOT takes this opportunity to abandon the bike stuff on Pettygrove, and make Overton the bike route fro m9th to 24th. Our bike facilities need to be direct to be useful. Very telling that one coffee shop can send PBOT back tothe drawing borad, but a whole neighborhood coming out to protest a bad design (NE th) gets met with: “we are going to do it anyway, thanks for your input!”

Boyrd
Boyrd
3 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Disagree about sign overload. I’ve seen so many people ignore and go the wrong way through diverters that I really believe that multiple do not enter signs are really needed. That being said, people in cars will continue to ignore and disobey if they think they can get away with it. But I imagine that cops are slightly more likely to issue tickets for violations if the signage is clear and obvious.

cc_rider
cc_rider
3 months ago

Some stakeholders are more equal than others!

The Portland Bureau of Cars strikes again. #ZeroVision #SlowtheFlockDown #Please don’t go through here, its a greenway #Of course we aren’t going to make it hard to drive on a greenway, are you crazy?

Luke
Luke
3 months ago

PBOT/ODOT need to do a whole bunch more grade separation. There’s no excuse for having grade crossings in downtown. How upscale Pearlies deal with the traffic and train horns on a regular basis, I don’t know; the noise is offensive enough here in central Beaverton.

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

If indeed they row back on this street design, then PBOT is once again completely failing to move the Overton Window.

Stakeholders who are currently powerful will use that power to make sure that nothing changes that would make them lose their preferences or power. If PBOT caters to existing behavior, then behavior will not change. PBOT’s main tactic to reach its stated goals of changed transportation behavior seems to be magical thinking.

Backed up motor vehicles and lack of motor vehicle parking do not necessarily equal poor street design. They indicate that motor vehicles are not being catered to by the street design. PBOT claims to have motor vehicles at the bottom of their priority pyramid. Their policies almost constantly show the opposite, that motor vehicles are still being prioritized above other potential uses of road space.

Bike infrastructure around SE Hawthorne is supposedly good enough because cyclists can get to within a couple of blocks of a business destination using cycling infrastructure. (And then what? Walk presumably?). But PBOT still dedicates god-knows-how-many sq ft of road space to enable motor vehicle users to park right out front of their business destination and not have to walk more than a few feet. Of course there needs to be accommodation for people with mobility restrictions, but this is just used as rhetorical cover for the large numbers of able bodies motor drivers. I’d link to studies showing that businesses benefit from motor parking outside being replaced by other road users, but what is the point?

You all already know all this, sometimes I just get frustrated enough to write it out again.

Matt
Matt
3 months ago

I call baloney on the first responder thing. this always comes up whenever parking is taken away and replaced with empty space for bikes. How is putting parking back in going to make it better for first responders? And Portland is on a grid which means there are multiple points of access for any specific location.

Boyrd
Boyrd
3 months ago

And fire is generally the first responder at most medical emergency situations. Why are they showing up at cardiovascular distress calls in giant 60+ foot hook and ladder trucks? Get some sprinter vans!

Damien
Damien
3 months ago
Reply to  Boyrd

I’ve had two different immediate neighbors visited by PFB recently, neither for any apparent reason (emphasis on “apparent”, i.e., nothing that I could see – certainly no fires), but both times with the largest fire trucks I suspect the city has. Most recently two! I could envision responding to a non-fire medical emergency with a bug truck if it happened to be in the neighborhood, but I can’t logically extend that to two full-sized trucks…

cct
cct
3 months ago

in adition to the decades-long nationwide arguments over who gets to respond to 911 calls, municpal fights over WHAT to respond with are common; what kind of vehicle to use, who staffs it, where they and the vehicle go (many stations have no room for additional crews or vehicles) etc. i believe portland tried to introduce suburban-sized medvehicles a decade or so ago and it went nowhere. budgets and union gatekeeping usually are the big culprits as ‘final nails.’

so you end up with a full-on hook-and-ladder responding to mrs. glick’s insulin issues.

police departments in general lose this med call fight due to a lack of medical training beyond first aid, iirc.

Racer X
Racer X
3 months ago

Yes, I agree – that is it very troublesome that a professional transportation agency would not wait the standard 6 months (minimum) before studying the effectiveness/ any problems that a retrofit street design would create. A month is too short to really tell how a facility will function engineering wise for the long term. PBOT knows this. It’s just a knee jerk reaction and supports the that the agency is not fiscally prudent [in the minds of its detractors].

AND PBOT needs to ‘get on the stick’ and start adding fire friendly pneumatic bollards for access control…this tech has been around a long time (20+ years) and would make the street designers’ job easier and take one more project arrow out of the pro-car camp quiver.

EP
EP
3 months ago
Reply to  Racer X

Seriously, every time people say tech in cars will help save lives, they conveniently forget that it can benefit other parts of our world. There’s a lot of old/“low-tech” (compared to today) stuff that can work to augment existing streets and bike lanes. Like it’s 20-freakin-22 and PBOT can’t figure out a way to make a metal post(s)/gate/whatever rise up and down when a firetruck needs it to?! If only multiple other countries had figured this out and implemented it decades ago and proven to be effective…

Rachel
Rachel
3 months ago

Well I guess now I know not to go to Ovation Coffee

X
X
3 months ago

Portland bike* infrastructure is kind of like an April snow. It’s a curiosity and it slows things down for a bit but nobody worries too much about it because soon it will be gone.

dw
dw
3 months ago

This guy probably heard from like, 10 people that parking was hard, saw a dip in sales, and decided it was because the city repurposed the parking spots. On the other hand, he probably didn’t hear from the other 390 people who got there using a bike, transit, their own feet, or (shocker) understood that in a dense city you might have to park a few blocks away.

Carrie
Carrie
3 months ago

Do you know if PBOT has ever redesigned cycling infrastructure because cyclists/peds weren’t using it as planned? (Putting aside the rogue few of you who seem to always know better and almost deliberately not use cycling infrastructure :)). The only place I can think of that happening is SE 26th.

I just sent a friend a two paragraph text on how to ride to my house (which is on a greenway) because the North section of the routing is so messed up that nearly everyone who rides here regularly doesn’t use it and instead “shares the road” with the parked cars that PBOT wouldn’t remove (which is the route I’m sending my friend on — specifically directing her AWAY from the bike routing). Also part of the routing goes up/down a ridiculously steep hill. This infrastructure was all put in sometime in the past 5 years and AFAIK PBOT has never come out to observe and take data on how it’s actually being used (or not) and if any modifications should be made. None of it is on the annual summer bike counts even.

I’m sure it doesn’t get attention because there are no businesses to complain or enough cyclists to complain (I have :)) or something — but anyway I just needed to point out the difference in them jumping to change something because of driver behavior (to accommodate that behavior that doesn’t seem to be changing) but not considering the behavior of other users who also aren’t using their designs.

dw
dw
3 months ago
Reply to  Carrie

Sometimes PBOT’s treatments are very confusing. Almost weekly I have to ride up on the sidewalk and stop to figure out how I’m supposed to use an intersection.

Social Engineer
Social Engineer
3 months ago

Like Jonathan mentioned above, it seems like it was the rampant law-breaking by motorists that primarily led to the change, not just the repeated complaints of businesses who don’t support safer streets. The big issue in my mind is that the freight trains (like on SE 11th and Division) consistently block the crossings at NW 9th, Naito and other nearby crossings, leading impatient drivers to do risky (and illegal) maneuvers to avoid having to wait longer than 5 minutes for a stopped train.

I really with this city would start taking these inconsistent, yet frequent, delays into account when designing their road projects, and perhaps even begin working towards a long-term solution to grade separate trains in Portland. If it takes a 3-4 mile long tunnel from the BNSF or Albina yards to the Brooklyn yard (that perhaps Amtrak can also use), then maybe it’s worth it in the long run.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago

Yep – we badly need grade separation in Portland. The fact that the West Coast main line goes right thru downtown Portland and over the Steel Bridge and then out the other side is frankly ridiculous.

Melville
Melville
3 months ago

I agree, a train tunnel would be amazing. It would have to be really long, for sure, and would have to go under the river instead of using the Steel Bridge.

Ted Buehler
3 months ago

Just a reminder, folks, whenever you see some changes to infrastructure that you *like*, it is helpful to send a note to PBOT. They often get pushback whenever they implement changes, and positive feedback can help balance the pushback.
You can use safe@portlandoregon.gov, or any other electronic, verbal (503-823-SAFE) or postal system you might like.

Ted Buehler

mh
mh
3 months ago

Those directional spikes that let one safely drive over them in one direction but destroy tires in the other seem to be called for here.

Lemonhead
Lemonhead
3 months ago

the parking on overton was used to service residents and businesses in two large condo buildings on that street (encore and the pinnacle). it wasn’t just ovation that had issue with removing the parking- tons of residents and other local businesses had issue with it too. Just making sure ovation isn’t taking all the heat here. Also, I have personally seen an ambulance stuck on 9th when a train was crossing Naito that couldn’t make a left onto Overton, so I think the first responder issue is a real one. Everyone supports bike lanes, but there needs to be some balance. Thanks

Dan
Dan
2 months ago

So PBOT themselves say the changes are based on “reports of backups and concerns from first responders.” Yet you choose to vilify a local business over arguments they made two years ago which PBOT clearly ignored? m’kay.