Comment of the Week: The division on Division

I picked something qqq wrote as “Comment of the Week,” partly because qqq did my job for me with a nice summary of an informed discussion buried in the avalanche of comments to Jonathan’s Division Street median post.

The discussion hangs under Allan’s comment which qqq has nominated as “comment of the week.” I link to the other comments that qqq mentions, but want to add that maxD also had good insights.

This kind of discussion is what keeps BikePortland readers checking the comments. The participating commenters support active transportation, and their decades-long familiarity with PBOT projects combined with current thinking about urban planning give their conversation depth.

Here’s what qqq wrote:

… the Division project (and the comments) is generally polarized between people who dislike the median (mostly for being anti-business) and those who support it (mostly for safety).

In comes Allan, who from past comments strongly supports biking and walking, and understands transportation issues. He describes something that’s obvious—once he points it out—that the Division project adds a median similar to what was added to MLK around 1980, yet large sections of the MLK median were removed because it was seen as anti-business. He points out that that makes it more likely the concerns are valid that the Division median is anti-business.

His comment shows a possible way to move the discussion into something more productive than each side digging in.

He’s not saying (as I read it) that the median is certainly bad, he’s saying that the MLK median experience calls it into question. People who oppose the median deserve thoughtful answers of why the median makes sense on Division.

My view after reading his comment is that PBOT missed an opportunity to support Division businesses. But the reason isn’t that it catered too much to biking and walking advocates. It’s that (like Max S said) PBOT focused on making it work for commuters and through traffic at the expense of enhancing it as a community main street. PBOT might have had reasons for that, but (like Foot Patrol said) PBOT needs to be honest about that. That could diffuse the businesses-versus-bikes standoff that’s arisen, and maybe reduce future standoffs.

Finally, Allen knew about the MLK median history by doing tons of historical research (that he’s written about as I recall) to inform his understanding, which I really appreciate.

Thank you again qqq and the other participants of this thoughtful conversation! You can read what qqq wrote under the original post.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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Allan Rudwick
Allan
7 months ago

thx for the shout out and taking the discussion further!

maxD
maxD
7 months ago

Interesting follow-up story suggestion: interview the PBOT project manager about what drove their decisions and if a Main Street design approach was considered.

qqq
qqq
7 months ago
Reply to  maxD

I’d love to see that also. It’d be great to include asking why PBOT removed medians on MLK but added them on Division. Was it because business revitalization was a goal of one but not the other? Or are the medians different enough that they’re not really comparable? And what about Guy’s question below, regarding supporting neighborhood businesses so people have them without walking or biking distance from their homes?

Also, the project manager for the MLK project is still at PBOT–he also managed the Blumenauer Bridge project. It would be interesting to hear his views about MLK, whether or not it was part of a discussion of Division.

Max S (Wren)
Max S (Wren)
7 months ago

I’m mildly amused I made it into a comment of the week just idly pondering why PBOT may have taken a certain action.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago

Isn’t a big part of the basis for the “fifteen minute” (or “twenty minutes”, as Portland may have decided on) neighborhood the elimination of cut through traffic, and the assumption that people will mostly carry out their daily activities WITHIN their neighborhoods, largely avoiding the need for thoroughfares that slice up neighborhoods? Did PBOT honor that concept, or did they decide that Division was NOT meant to be a “neighborhood street” after all?