This past Friday afternoon, while many of you had already started your weekend, the Portland Bureau of Transportation released details on significant changes to their Northeast Skidmore Street Corridor Safety Project.
Instead of a protected bike lane from NE 33rd to 37th on Skidmore adjacent to the north side of Wilshire Park, the revised design will have a protected bike lane for just one and will have sharrows (shared-lane markings) the rest of the way. Here’s what happened…
There are neighborhood greenways on 32nd and 37th avenues; but there was a seven block, east-west gap between the two of them. In July of last year we shared how PBOT wanted to connect these greenways and create a safer bike crossing of the off-set intersection at 33rd (a major neighborhood collector). That project on 33rd led to discussions with people who live in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood about how best to create safe conditions on Skidmore between the new bike lanes on 33rd and the existing neighborhood greenways on 32nd and 37th.
In January we shared PBOT’s initial design concept for Skidmore. It included a two-way, 12-foot wide space for a bike lane between 33rd and 37th. It would be protected with plastic wands and would run curbside right next to Wilshire Park. People would still be able to park on both sides of the street and the existing driving space would be narrowed from 40 to 28-feet to slow people down. PBOT also planned to remove a handful of parking spaces to improve visibility at the intersections.
PBOT knew creating a dedicated bike lane next to a park and making this dramatic of a change to a neighborhood street would require some deft communications. So, in mid-February, they mailed postcards out to 1,000 residents and held a meeting with the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association. At that meeting, some folks gave PBOT an earful. “So this is supposed to be a neighborhood park yet you’re talking about reducing parking spaces? That doesn’t sound very neighborhood friendly,” one of them said. Others were worried about parking their cars away from the curb. “You open a door one way and you might hit a car, then open the door the other way, you might hit a bicycle.” (And if you read BikePortland comments, you’ll note that it was more than just neighborhood residents who had quibbles with the design.)
But the PBOT project manager handled the pushback with aplomb and it appeared the project would go on as planned. I hadn’t heard anything about it until Friday afternoon and assumed the design was finalized. I was wrong.
The new design will create a bike lane on Skidmore for just half a block, and there will no longer be a floating parking lane. The driving space on that one block between 33rd and 34th will remain the narrower 28-feet, but will expand to 40 feet east of 34th. PBOT will add a speed bump at 34th “to slow vehicles speeds before the transition from a shared street to the bike lanes.”
PBOT’s rationale for the change was that the shorter bike lane will allow their maintenance crews to get the striping done at the same time they do the repaving work on 33rd, thus ensuring the main thrust of the project — making it safer for bike riders to connect to the new crossing on 33rd — happens sooner rather than later. But PBOT also acknowledged that the pushback played a role (“community members had mixed reactions to the initial design”) and that doing less for a bikeway now could leave open the possibility for more later (“the updated design allows future projects to consider a range of options, including a shared street neighborhood greenway with full traffic calming improvements or a multi-use path along the park. Multiple options remain available for a future capital project”).
Interestingly, several of the “project goals” on the PBOT website have changed along with the new design.
In March, PBOT said the two-way bike path would eliminate conflicts with drivers on Skidmore. That sentence has been removed. They also removed passages about how the narrower road would reduce speeding and improve safety by narrowing the crossing distance for people on foot.
The new design is expected to be constructed sometime this summer.
PBOT’s parking protected bike lanes leave much to be desired, on a relatively quiet bike boulevard street like Skidmore they don’t seem to be the right tool for the job. These lanes elsewhere in the city are quickly filled with leaves and detritus, and they obscure visibility when fully parked up. I think there’s a time and place for them, but PBOT’s execution has me preferring buffered lanes and other traffic calming measures.
PBOT is a complete and utter joke. The outreach was absurd to start and then allowing some NIMBY’s to veto the project and instead doing a pointless, non-protected (the stupid little pieces of concrete do not equal protection.) for a block is just the most impotent thing I can think of from them.
We CANNOT allow land owners to decide how safe streets are. Prioritizing their ability to drive a block to the park over the safety of the thousands of people moving through that corridor every day just shows that PBOT doesn’t care about you, they don’t care about me, they don’t care about children crossing the street to get to and from the park. They literally only care about people in cars.
Can you tell me why “landowners” CANNOT participate in our democracy?
NIMBY “democracy”: privileged home loaners and landlords get to veto infrastructure that benefits the larger community without a democratic process.
Should “landowners” be stripped of their voting rights as well? It seems like that is what you are proposing. Democracy can be messy but it beats the alternative of authoritarian rule by those who think “they know best”.
Of course not. But after decades of democratically voting in politicians that create policy for safer streets and then seeing a few neighbors saying they don’t want it erodes any sort of trust in the system and policies they create.
I don’t think you understand how Neighborhood Associations work in Portland. They are open to ALL members of a neighborhood, have public meetings with minutes taken and available and do NOT have veto power on projects in a neigborhood. They are a way for neighbors to get together and discuss what is best for their own neighborhood and interact with the city on these issues. In my experience the city ignores individual voices nearly completely. It gives the most attention to nonprofits that have paid staff to form relationships and lobby city employees. City bureause seem to give a bit of attention to NA’s becuse their voice represents more than a single individual. Maybe join your NA and see what it’s about.
What voting rights are you talking about? In Oregon all registered voters in a local election have the opportunity to vote by mail. Neighborhood associations are tiny plutocratic clubs that should be abolished. If people want to create a club of 4-10 people that pretends to speak for an entire neighborhood they can do this without official recognition and city funding.
Neighborhood Associations are democratically run civic groups that are open to everyone*. You too can join the plutocracy! The gilded thrones the city provides are pretty comfy!
*Unlike those non-profits the city funds that actually consume real money and provide the Director class activists a nice salary.
They *may* be democratically-run tiny clubs (e.g. like a bridge club) while still being anti-democracy in that the voting public does not have inpur (e.g. a vote) into their de facto local government decisions. They also have a long history of racist and bigoted exclusion so, in practice, they are one of the primary mechanisms by which mostly-white well-off people hoarde power and gatekeep renters, POC, immigrants, and others with less “skin in the game” or without “roots”[property ownership] in the neighborhood.
What decisions are you talking about? If you had any experience at all with NAs you’d know they have very little power. They can write letters. But then so can you. You can also join them and get a taste of real power.
The idea that NAs run some shadow government is the stuff of pure conspiracy theory.
Here’s why you don’t like NAs: they are a vehicle for regular people to engage with their community, people you would rather be excluded from the civic discourse because you are afraid they will not be your political allies. Attacking NAs is like restricting polling hours in places that tend to vote against your party. It is exclusionary politics.
“pure conspiracy theory.”
Neighborhood associations have had the de facto ability to approve/veto zoing, land-use, and transportation infrastructure changes. They make these decisions based on input from a handful of individuals and without any general input from the voting public. In fact, the vast majority of neighborhood members don’t even know that they exist. If you were truly interested in democracy, you would support a mechanism for a direct vote on important “neighborhood” decisions. Perhaps with the new “districts” it will be time to finally dissolve NAs and hold district-wide elections on important local zoning, land-use, and transportation decisions.
“If you had any experience at all with NAs you’d know they have very little power…You can also join them and get a taste of real power…”
Which is it? Do NAs have “real power” or “very little power”? It can’t be both.
Wow, so “privileged home loaners and landlords” get some sort of veto? I own a house….nobody told me about my veto power. Now I’m mad!
Who should help balance the competing goals and tradeoffs inherent in street redesign if not the public?
Since when does the public equate only to property owners lol
Reminds me of the people who say “tax payers” when what everything else they says clearly means “land owners”. Sure, I’ll just bet that my corporate landlord is eating their property tax out of the goodness of their heart, not passing it on to me in the form of higher rent. Of course.
Also funny how tax increases get passed on to renters but never tax cuts.
Hi. I’m the co-chair of the Brooklyn Action Corps, the oldest recognized neighborhood association in the city, I believe.
While neighborhood associations have had justly-earned reputation for NIMBYism, racism, and a host of other small-minded idiocies that were exacerbated by undemocratically delegated political power to review land use decisions, I think you’ll find things have changed for the better.
Neighborhood associations have no role in land use decisions. We are no longer even notified of permits.
The BAC changed its bylaws to ensure that all neighbors, regardless of housing status, are welcome. We’ve actively recruited board members & committee members across all intersections of class and identity. Since we don’t have our own meeting space, we’ve allocated budget to ensure that folks can attend meetings regardless of bring able to buy a coffee or get a babysitter. We’ve kept all meetings hybrid and allocated interpreter budget so that folks can attend regardless of impairment or home situation.
In the last 6 months, we’ve grown our email newsletter list 25%, so 10% of the neighborhood gets our weekly news updates, in addition to the 100% who get our print newsletters that come out every 2 months and are hand delivered to every resident—housed and unhoused—by 70 volunteers.
We are a new kind of neighborhood association, designed to build community intersectionally among all our neighbors. You can see that in how we’re negotiating the Good Neighbor Agreement for the Gideon Temporary Alternative Shelter Site in Clinton Triangle: the residents are our neighbors, and the draft agreement looks after their well-being.
Under the new political reality where we have district representation, we understand that we will have even less power than the small amount moral force we currently possess. We’re working to make sure our neighbors know that building community is what we do, across all lines.
I am so tired of PBOT announcing things they have no intention of doing and then doing the bare minimum that they planned to do the whole time. Very similar to the 72nd avenue improvements that are years behind schedule and now plans have been whittled down to a fraction of what was initially promised. If you aren’t going to try and make our streets safer just say so and quit pretending to care.
This is good news, the proposed design is much more appropriately scaled and responsive to design conditions. I still think PBOT is missing the point. The dangerous part for people biking is crossing and travelling along 33rd. I think bike lanes on each side of the street is a safer choice, but this sort of works. IMO, the smarter move would have been concrete lane separators instead of plastic wands- people drive like idiots on NE 33rd. Skidmore east of 33rd is fine- the bike lanes are not likely to get much use, and if they are used, they still introduce an awkward/unsafe transition less than a block east of 33rd. This weird little 2-way lane will be hard to use travelling west.
In an alternate universe, PBOT cares about and understands pedestrians cyclists and park users (or the fact that there is park here!0 and create a design that supports them. Skidmore is overly wide, and the ped crossings from the north to the park are not great. A simple painting project could create pedestrian refuges (curb extensions, with our without the curbs using planters, or wands or something else). These would be at all N/S intersections on the north and south sides of Skidmore to control parking, maintain sightlines, and shorten crossing distances. In-between the ped refuges, change the parking to head-in parking facing the park. This supports people visiting the park for sports games and picnics. Hopefully, PP&R would be inspired to add some accessible entrances to the park from the neighborhood. If there is room, keep the parking on the north side of Skidmore. Whatever is left on Skidmore become a 2-way street with sharrows, but it is permanently narrowed and has great sightlines. Add a half signal at 33rd with bike lanes on each side of 33rd and you are ready for everyone!
I’m a little confused about your comments about 33rd Ave. There is already a signal at Mason & 33rd, and that is what will be used to cross to the two-way bikeway. Are you saying they should build another signal at 33rd & Skidmore, just to be able to have directional bike lanes on both sides? What a waste of money that would be to have two traffic signals one short block apart. A signal costs about $1 million to $2 million. Think of everything else we could buy for that kind of money.
There is an existing half signal, I am proposing they add a second half signal. A full signal might cost 1 million dollars, but I do not think a half signal is even half that (admittedly, it has been years since I have seen the cost for one, and they have fallen out of favor)
Lots of people not just NIMBY driver types weren’t big fans of this project. I know we don’t have much choice but to hope that PBOT actually wants to make this project better with a wider multi-use path. My hope is that PBOT puts a temporary diverter at 37th and Skidmore to reduce the cut-through traffic which the Alameda Bike Bus has to navigate regularly.
I agree that I’d rather see PBOT go all-in on a better solution than try to make everyone happy. The wider path you’re showing is better, but I’d just as soon have 12 more feet of park there. Is/was there an option to create a MUP that looks more like a extension of the park rather than on-street infrastructure? Would the BWNA and other concerned parties more easily get on board with more park vs new bike lane?
I’ll add that the key outcomes of the project should be to reduce vehicle speeds, reduce cut through traffic, and improve crossing safety. Given my experiences on this street, I feel like adding a bike lane or reducing parking should be secondary to those key outcomes, and not necessarily goals in and of themselves.
I don’t understand the parking complaint. Doesn’t driving to a neighborhood park pretty much defeat the purpose of, you know, giving people a place to recreate within walking distance?
Wilshire Park is not only a neighborhood resource. Its soccer field is in regular rotation by the Portland Youth Soccer Association- families from all over Portland drive there for games. I think there are also little league games there, too. When my daughter played, it was common to carpool, but people showed up with balls, pennys, nets, snacks, tents, chairs. A tiny minority rode bikes, which is a shame but it where we are. I found a ton of value in the youth sports community and I think it something the City should be supporting. PBOT is in willful denial about how Skidmore is used to serve the recreational programming of the park, and I find that frustrating and irresponsible and counterproductive. Skidmore is fairly tame street, there is no need to create separate, buffered space for bikes that causes a conflict point for park users unloading kids and gear- there original proposal was a demonstrably bad design.
Do you think there is a chance that people don’t bike because they don’t feel safe biking in Portland? Maybe the protected bike lane would have changed that. Also, if parking is so important does Skidmore have enough parking? Should we turn the dog park into a parking lot, so people have ample parking? I just don’t buy the ” we don’t need more parking but we can’t lose any”
Sam, here are my responses to your questions
Of course I think people don’t bike because they don’t feel safe. But I think safety should be judged by the route. Skidmore is and fells many time more safe than 33rd. The proposals to 33rd from PBOT are modest, and the proposal for Skidmore for are overdone. A good design would pour resources in a a strong, safe, simple connecting across/along 33rd.Parking is important on Skidmore because the park serves families across Portland. I think the needs of the park users, the neighbors walking to the park, and people biking east/west on Skidmore must all be considered together. PBOT’s design kept the parking, but cut the parking off from the park which is not good for people biking or people visiting the park. Moreover, they proposed the design in the name of narrowing the street and slowing traffic. I think there is more holistic solution. I have attached an example of a street where parallel parking was replaced with head-in parking. I live near here and will attest to its success at narrowing the road and making it safer to walk across or bike and drive on. But this proposal is not about adding parking. In addition to the switch to head-in, PBOT could make pedestrian refuges or curb extensions to “daylight” the crosswalks making it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross. They could paint the crosswalk which adds another cue for drivers to slow down. I will add a diagram to show what I meanI 100% do not support reducing the park in any way, especailly for a parking lot!
I feel like I asked PBOT about head in parking but I believe they had some reason not to do it. I think it’s a good idea and am open to it.
I couldn’t 2 images for some rason, this is the example of a street converted to head-in parking
By “not safe” do you mean afraid of dangerous people on drugs or severe mental illness? So much of that in Portland unfortunately. That is my main fear when riding with crazy drivers being #2.
This is another great example of “cars create the problems they are supposed to solve.” I’ve had kids in year round rec and club sports for close to 20 years in Portland.
PYSA and other groups could make more of an effort to limit travel distances, but why would they when everyone can and should just shut up and drive their kids everywhere? Why would they when parents just go along with it without question? It’s the same car culture that feels a tremendous sense of loss when a parking space is threatened that also organizes kids activities with the expectations that parents naturally should spend hours a week driving their kids to activities. It’s the same car culture that believes we can’t have more parks because we need more parking lots so that parents can drive their kids all over the city for non-competitive sports that would be just as fun playing against kids in their neighborhood.
Most parents live within 5 miles of practices and most games. They will drive because they drive to everything else, because there are not low stress straightforward routes, not because it is physically impossible to bike.
Many parents could bike their kids to games and practices, especially now with e-cargo bikes, if they felt there was a safe low stress route and they were more familiar with biking. At times, my kid has 4 practices a week and two games at 4 different locations (6 days a week). We bike 5 out of 6 of those days and most parents could do the same if they were more familiar with biking.
But instead of having urgency to take back what decades of terrible car-centered urban planning has taken away from us, we fret about the possibility of too much safe bike infrastructure and trivial inconveniences.
We’re going to burn this planet while wringing our hands about the possibility of someone having to park 3 blocks away from their kids tee ball game.
I agree to a certain extent: yes, lets expand our network and develop safe and direct places so people can more easily cycle. Yes, cars are a huge problem and should not accommodated everywhere. But where I get hung up with PBOT’s design is there stated need to narrow the street to make it safer (which I support) and their proposed solution of a 2-way cycletrack between the park and parallel parking (a solution that create conflicts between cyclists and park user in the lane, and cyclists and drivers at the point where cyclists have to merge across Skidmore). The head-in parking that i proposed, if used with pedestrian refuges, would not increase parking, it would likely decrease it. The point is to make a street that works better for the people using it: cyclists, people walking through the neighborhood, and people driving to the park.
Interesting idea, but since we don’t have any restrictions on monster trucks in the city, I would rather not mix children with child crushers.
Well, then the children better not use any other segment of any greenway in Portland! The rest of this greenway, and all of Portland’s greenway allow “child crushers”. That is why I think this level of protection is meaningless- it provides a disproportionate level of protection for a tiny distance and where it is not needed. crossing and travelling along 33rd needs protection, PBOT should put resources there. Skidmore needs to be slower and safer, I think making it narrower and easier to cross would work.
Yeah, it should be protected the whole way with a diverter. As PBOT is claiming this can be added. It could also be aded now, if they chose to. Green ways are totally failing our kids without diverters. Diverters don’t require a lot of resources.
Monster trucks are particularly dangerous when they are parking, due to blind spots. It’s a bad combination to have children on foot mixing with trucks parking. And to have trucks backing into the street, when they can’t see around each other.
If a monster truck parking lot is installed next to the park, it would be hard to get rid of.
Ohhhh, a whole half block bike lane? That’ll help big time! Thank you for preserving car parking at the expense of street safety. Platinum level!
“community members had mixed reactions to the initial design” means the neighborhood association stepped in and made their views known to PBOT engineers, who have the final veto on any PBOT project anyway. The squeaky wheel get the grease as usual – welcome to city government 101.
That, or PBOT has to seriously cut back on its budget, so are blaming residents for a decision they would have made anyway. The benefits of this project are dubious (is the street actually dangerous?), and the proposed solution is complete overkill. I’m hardly shocked that this one got cut.
PBOT shouldn’t just take away parking without giving something back to people who live on Skidmore. In exchange for taking out parking, they should depave one of the blocks. Otherwise, they should implement the “Tillamook protocol,” i.e., hold a listening session at the park and then do what they already planned to do despite what the local residents want.
Skidmore there is a fairly tranquil street and easy to bike on. 33rd is heavily used and a real challenge for biking. Might make sense for PBOT to focus on the 33rd aspect and thus the first block of Skidmore.
In fact, conditions on Skidmore are so mild that it’s not clear to me why it even matters if there’s a bike lane there.
I agree with this, but also have seen how difficult it is to add adequate bike infrastructure to “busy” streets. I think there is something to be said for protecting streets that are tranquil now. For example, NE 7th used to feel tranquil, now it is borderline car sewer at certain times of the day and PBOT couldn’t manage to protect this residential street despite having a lot of community support.
Adding oversized bike projects to quiet streets is no substitute for improving safety on busy streets.
On NE 7th, PBOT didn’t “fail to protect”, they “actively degraded”, so the comparison does not seem apt.
I agree, it would be great to improve safety on busy streets. However, for better or worse, PBOT has chosen to invest in a hidden network of greenways that are not sufficiently protected. As long as they are going with the green way approach, they should adequately protect the bicycle lanes to the level that they are safe for kids and seniors.
One of the nice things about greenways is there are no bike lanes, so you can take the whole street and it ride more freely. On the greenway network, I consider bike lanes and the like to be a last resort. I don’t know this section of Skidmore particularly well, but no one seems to be making a case that it was so dangerous that it required last resort measures.
In fact, everyone who knows the street seems to think it’s fine as-is. “Totally mellow”, “tranquil”, and “relatively quiet”, etc.
Is there a reason to think Skidmore will become a car sewer? It’s not a good driving commute route, because of the jog with no signals at heavily trafficked 33rd, because the inner Eastside has plenty of east-west driving routes (north-south are scarcer), and because it is too far from the major east-west routes in the area (unlike, say, Lincoln from Division).
Skidmore sees over 1600 cars a day which is a lot for a greenway or a neighborhood street. Shaver 1 block south sees 500 cars.
The light at Prescott and 33rd often backs up making Skidmore an attractive bypass. If vehicle traffic continues to increase as PBOT predicts, it could easily become a rush hour car sewer. The danger of a street isn’t necessarily reflected purely by volume of cars, but also by speed and driver expectations, which make cut-through traffic more dangerous. I’ve had a number of agressive close calls on NE Siskiyou from cars that use it as a bypass of Fremont. The traffic volumes on Siskiyou feel low most of the time, but it is not unusual once or twice a week to encounter someone who is dangerously speeding and/ or distracted. For an experienced adult bike rider who rides on busier streets, Skidmore is chill. For kids it is a very different story and level of risk.
If we are going to have a green-way network, we should really commit to the greenways. If we wait until everyone on Skidmore feels like it is busy, the neighbors on surrounding streets will fight any traffic reduction measures because they will be afraid that it will increase traffic on their streets.- Like they did for Alameda a few blocks away.
One of the main reasons our streets are so dangerous, is that we goldilocks every bike lane. PBOT clearly does not implement infrastructure changes from some master list that has everything perfectly prioritized to be built at the right moment. Everything is going to be too early or too late to some extent. When there is a chance to create a safer environment for multimodal transportation, we should embrace it.
John L, i agree – the protected bike lanes seemed an overbuild for the street. I haven’t seen any traffic (volume/speed) data for this part of Skidmore, but my impression is that adding a few relatively inexpensive speed bumps would make this a decent shared street.
I ride through there a lot. Skidmore is totally mellow. Really don’t see the need for spending a lot of money or political capital there
And got to laugh at the bike portland peanut gallery that jumps on the “evil landowners”. I own a house not far away, and guess what my voice counts too. It’s called democracy….