PBOT, Commissioner Mapps issue statements on Broadway bike lane changes

The Broadway bike lane. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

24 hours after we shared the story that changes to the protected bike lane on NW/SW Broadway were imminent, the Portland Bureau of Transportation and their Commissioner Mingus Mapps have issued statements.

After hearing from several reliable sources close to PBOT that a plan had been hatched by Commissioner Mapps and PBOT Director Millicent Williams to revert the Broadway bikeway back to its 2018 configuration between NW Hoyt and SW Salmon, BikePortland immediately filed a public records request. I have also sent Mapps’ office six questions to learn more about his rationale for making these changes. I have yet to get a response to either of those inquiries.

However, since other media outlets asked PBOT for information about Broadway, Mapps policy advisory Adam Lyons sent us this general statement earlier today (while they work on replies to my questions):

“Commissioner Mapps is committed to traffic safety, especially concerning pedestrians and bicyclists. It is important to acknowledge that we had our first bicycle fatality of the year this morning in North Portland. My thoughts go out to the family and friends of the cyclist. Since being assigned PBOT in January of this year, Commissioner Mapps has been discussing proposals for improving transportation infrastructure with Director Williams, including critical corridors. These have been very preliminary, and we will continue to dialogue with PBOT and the community moving forward.”

And just a few minutes ago, PBOT issued a statement of their own:

Since installing an update to the bike lane on NW and SW Broadway last year, PBOT has heard mixed feedback from people biking and people who work, visit, and own properties along the downtown Broadway corridor. Recognizing the dissatisfaction among people who use the street on a daily basis, Director Williams asked PBOT staff to review and evaluate a series of potential changes to the bike lane on SW/NW Broadway between NW Hoyt and SW Clay streets. After receiving additional feedback from PBOT staff, Director Williams asked staff to prepare 1) a full project evaluation that considers all users, 2) proposals for upgrading or “hardening” portions of the existing bike lane in its current configuration and in a potential future state (similar to the proposed bike lane for the forthcoming SW Fourth Avenue project) and 3) a proposal for a modified bike lane that clears parking corners along the corridor and increases signage and paint, while also returning the bike lane to its 2018 configuration between NW Hoyt and SW Salmon streets. PBOT staff will be preparing these options, offering additional insights and engaging in public outreach in the coming months. Additional information will be available on the SW Broadway Bike Improvements Project website in the coming weeks.

I’m still very interested to learn more about what motivated the need to change the design on Broadway. I tend to hear a lot of feedback from bike riders, and I’ve never heard much about it. As for “mixed feedback,” and “dissatisfaction”? Well, every bikeway in Portland gets that! Bike riders regularly disagree about facility design.

It’s also nice to hear PBOT will do public outreach on this. Hopefully if/when any changes happen, they will result in a bike lane that works better everyone!

In other PBOT news, Deputy Director Tara Wasiak has announced her resignation. Her last day will be next Friday, September 29th. In an email on Monday, she said she wants to pursue other interests.

Stay tuned.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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surly ogre
surly ogre
8 months ago

Portland is world famous for our bicycle infrastructure and culture. Any commissioner who wants to remove any portion of it reminds me of Anthony Weiner. ick.

Joseph E
8 months ago

https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2023/09/portland-mayor-ted-wheeler-weighs-seizing-control-of-all-city-bureaus.html

Oregonian reports that Mayor Ted Wheeler is considering taking back control of all bureaus (including PBOT) during the transition period before the election.

Perhaps he is concerned that Mapps and other City Council members are using their positions to score political points rather than focusing on governing effectively?

BB
BB
8 months ago
Reply to  Joseph E

Ted Wheeler is now the voice of the people? Ted has been trying and failing to score political points for years now so perhaps he is just jealous?
Ted is seriously just trying to buff his image for his ex mayor career, he is probably getting very concerned about cashing in with his terrible record.
Mapps is just a Wheeler retread, we will and can do a lot better when this current crop is history.

Michael
Michael
8 months ago
Reply to  Joseph E

An interesting move, given Wheeler’s declination to seek reelection.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Michael

He doesn’t have to capitulate to the desires of the hotel owners in this case. He can do what he thinks is right here.

cct
cct
8 months ago
Reply to  Joseph E

Quite frankly, I think all of them are busy selling out whatever it takes to line up that cushy new job at monied interests once their asses are shown the door at City Hall. Zenith Energy, anyone?

At least Wheeler has family money and doesn’t look so desperate and craven.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago
Reply to  cct

“Zenith”

How much progress has this city government and its inhabitants actually made in reducing their direct and indirect use of fossil fuels?

Apparently Portland’s direct contributions to the climate crisis are on the backburner while “environmentalists” focus on some miniscule company whose business activity would be instantly replaced by mega-corporations if it were shut down. Meanwhile mega-corps continue to sell Portlanders fossil fuel and fossil fuel products with impunity. It’s deeply pathetic that 3 years after declaring a “climate emergency” most of Portland’s energy still comes from coal and oil.

@#$% the localism of the “climate movement”.

cct
cct
8 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

You, as usual, missed the point. Council made backroom deals w/ Zenith
https://www.streetroots.org/news/2023/08/23/newly-obtained-records-show-portland-officials-private-interactions-zenith-energy

Here and elsewhere they are doing the bidding of capital to get donors for election bids or new jobs, not what is best for “environmentalists” or anyone else.

aquaticko
aquaticko
8 months ago
Reply to  cct

They’re right, though. If Zenith were a weaker company, it could/would be snatched up by a larger competitor even less interested in local concerns and even more embedded in the global system of resource exploitation and environmental destruction for capital growth. I’m not saying back-room deals that keep petrochemicals flowing is ultimately in anyone’s interest, but keeping these private companies in any way content with being smaller at least presents the possibility of greater malleability to public good.

The whole system needs to go, ultimately, but I don’t anticipate much changing in my lifetime.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

The whole system needs to go, ultimately, but I don’t anticipate much changing in my lifetime.

Unless you are pretty old, I expect you’ll see a huge amount of change in this industry in the coming decade or two. We’re at the beginning of one of the most rapid energy transitions ever, and it will impact everyone.

Serenity
Serenity
8 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Yes. And what exactly do you propose?

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Joseph E

Most likely he wants to get everyone into the mindset of having a city manager. I wouldn’t read too much into it.

was carless
was carless
8 months ago
Reply to  Joseph E

Well, aren’t they?

ITOTS
ITOTS
8 months ago

At the behest of the Director, staff already evaluated more than a dozen options for Broadway (including the ones mentioned in this latest communique) and made recommendations, which she ignored. This statement is not a change of course, just playing for time.

These complaints about Broadway are also not new. What is new is the commissioner of transportation is running for mayor and the PBA (or whatever they call themselves) threatened to endorse and fund Mapps’ opponent if he didn’t go through with this.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of backsliding this Commissioner-Director combo is and will be bringing to transportation in Portland, folks. Director Williams in a matter of weeks has changed PBOT into an organization that is as reactionary and complaint-based as she and her boss are.

ITOTS
ITOTS
8 months ago
Reply to  ITOTS

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more disappointing news: Rose Lane removals, Division median removals, the 70s bikeway, Halsey Overcrossing, and Portland Freight Committee term limits.

EP
EP
8 months ago
Reply to  ITOTS

Say it ain’t so?! Are you an insider? I’ve been looking forward to improvements on the Halsey safe access to transit project for years.

JR
JR
8 months ago
Reply to  ITOTS

I’ve heard similar rumblings from my corner of the universe. Mapps is using the drug and homeless crisis as a ruse to backslide on PBOT policies. Can’t we have progressive transportation policy AND order on the streets? This isn’t that hard.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  ITOTS

I question the decision-making ability of convicted felon Millicent Williams.

https://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/2016/12/portland_transportation_bureau.html

Fred
Fred
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

A person who commits a felony is not incapable of making good decisions.

But we should all pay very close attention to what Williams does. Her first decision should be scrutinized in great detail – which I’m sure BP will be on top of (and is already on top of, if this B’way decision was going to be her first decision).

The fact that Williams’s #2 is leaving is probably bad news and shows that Williams is hard to work with. Stay tuned.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

I’m no fan of Millicent Williams, but I wish folks would stop harping on her felony conviction in contexts where it seems barely relevant.

Alex Bauman
Alex Bauman
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Signing forms and deciding funding priorities are some of the most important tasks of a department director. If she admits that she didn’t know what she was signing and made improper payments at the direction of a policymaker in the felony case, there is every reason to believe she is doing the same thing here.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Bauman

Exactly. You and I could have a felony, and we should be able to live it down after whatever the sentence is. We should be able to move on with our lives. A person like Williams shouldn’t be able to go back to doing the same exact thing she was doing when she was convicted in a position of power. People in positions of power like this do not have a right to be there, it’s a privilege and one you should lose once you’ve abused that power. She gets no benefit of the doubt from me, does not get another chance. She should go get a job doing something else.

cc_rider
cc_rider
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

If you cant receive security clearance, you probably shouldn’t be in charge of a major city bureau in one of the largest cities in the country.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Why do the directors of Portland bureaus need a security clearance?

I agree that if she needs one and can’t get one, she’s not qualified for the job.

cc_rider
cc_rider
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Because if the federal government or even bank thinks she untrustworthy, she probably shouldn’t be in a position where she can engage in corruption.

I’m assuming you are taking my statement too literally on purpose though.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Ha, no, I really thought you were saying she needed a clearance. I see now what you meant. One strike and you’re out.

Serenity
Serenity
8 months ago
Reply to  ITOTS

You imagimne PBOT was less complaint based before?

blumdrew
8 months ago

Thanks for the reporting on this Jonathan. I find it extremely frustrating that PBOT is describing the feedback on the Broadway project as “mixed”. It’s a clear safety upgrade for cyclists, and creates a better environment for walking along the street as well. Having one less car lane makes the corridor a more pleasant place.

Based on what I’ve seen online, the current facility on Broadway is generally considered to be pretty good (with some room for improvement still). Hard curbs/parking islands would definitely make the facility better, along with some ADA compliant hotel loading/unloading zones.

Floating “reverting the bike lane to 2018 configuration” is just insulting frankly. It was dangerous and bad! We don’t need a study to say that! Just read the justification for building the current design in the first place.

cc_rider
cc_rider
8 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

“Mixed” is a nonsense phrase in this case. I don’t like the Broadway design because it doesn’t go far enough to protect cyclists, not because the previous version was better.

PBOT can show us the data, or the emails from PBA telling Mingus to get rid of the bike lanes, which is really all they have.

Steve Cheseborough (Contributor)
Chezz
8 months ago

So why did the deputy quit? Over this? Or just unhappy with the new director?

surly ogre
surly ogre
8 months ago

I would certainly be ready to go if after being Interim PBOT Director for 6 months, my new boss of 2 months directed me and other PBOT staff to remove one of the few parking protected bike lanes in Portland after we recommended not to do that.
Oh, and while I was interim director, we installed ROSE lanes on Couch and SW Capitol Hwy (are these next on the chopping block?).
We received a freight plan that calls for more separated bike lanes, not fewer; it also calls for a cargo bike pilot program. Also, PCEF is giving rebates for 6,000 e-bikes over the next 5 years and we announced that a new bike crossing of Naito Parkway near Steel Bridge RR tracks is on the way. We closed the Oak Street slip lane at Burnside and we added 500 bikes to Biketown. We started the “Ride Every Wednesday” program and we put the bike boxes back at 26th & Powell.
I guess I was ready to go after doing so many good things and my new boss appears to be a bit of a dud.

Fred
Fred
8 months ago
Reply to  surly ogre

Comment of the week (but will certainly NOT be picked – too spicy and controversial).

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
8 months ago
Reply to  surly ogre

Or could it be that Tara Wasiak simply wants to work in another city, state or company that has far better pay and a much lower cost of living, an employer desperate to hire a female transportation director, to achieve gender diversity goals that nearly every employer has?

surly ogre
surly ogre
8 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

only a few places are better than Portland with a lower cost of living, higher wages, amazing bicycle infrastructure, access to transit, etc., but I appreciate that there is more than one possibility.
I know I have tolerated a lot in my job life, and decided to move to Portland when the right opportunity arose. 🙂

SD
SD
8 months ago

PBOT’s public outreach has never been their strong suit and usually comes in a few flavors; a) genuine interest in gaging potential backlash b) placating discontent while planning to ignore input, and c) selectively seeking out voices to support unpopular contentious positions. The majority of the time, the outcome negatively impacts safe, active transportation.

This will definitely be c) selectively seeking out voices to support unpopular contentious positions.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
8 months ago
Reply to  SD

D) Public open houses to show what is going to be implemented real soon (i.e. in 10-15 years) and to get feedback that will be recorded into the TSP update and soon forgotten.

E) Creating an “action plan” of projects that are already funded or “In-Motion” – i.e. SWIM, EPIMP, DIM, etc., including those funded by ODOT.

F) Creating an all-white “stakeholder advisory committee” of retirees who can meet mid-afternoons at 2 pm, changing tack midway to include BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices, then removing the funding later on for any serious projects.

G) (Very rare) Doing exactly what they are told to do, on time, and within budget, with someone like Sam Adams breathing down their necks (2011-13).

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Creating an all-white “stakeholder advisory committee” of retirees who can meet mid-afternoons at 2 pm, changing tack midway to include BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices, then removing the funding later on for any serious projects.

And then blaming mostly-white volunteer activists for their own institutional racism and classism.

PBOT is to Portland what ODOT is to Oregon.

cct
cct
8 months ago

I have also sent Mapps’ office six questions to learn more about his rationale for making these changes. I have yet to get a response to either of those inquiries.

Considering the fact that some activists have been waiting for months for various answers, i hope you are not holding your breath.

John
John
8 months ago

How does that old saying go? Lies, damn lies, and statements?

PDXTom
PDXTom
8 months ago

Appreciate your update. I also received a similar response from Commissioner Mapps’ office.

It is notable that your PBOT sources stated:

Last Thursday, Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Millicent Williams emailed a select group of PBOT staff with instructions to remove the parking-protected bike lane on a 16-block stretch of Broadway downtown between NW Hoyt and SW Salmon and replace it with a previous configuration that some insiders think would be less safe.

Yet Mapps’ staff communication to me states:
 

Thank you so much for reaching out. We have had a number of members of the public reaching out to express concerns about changes to the protected bike lanes on SW Broadway. Commissioner Mapps is absolutely committed to traffic safety, especially concerning pedestrians and bicyclists. It is important to note that there are no imminent changes planned for SW Broadway. Our office has received reports from several members of the nearby community expressing concerns about the current design, he then asked PBOT staff to look into this area and return with some potential options. This was one of those. At present, we have not been briefed on any plans that include changing the design of the bike lanes on SW Broadway.

It is important to acknowledge that we had our first bicycle fatality of the year this morning in North Portland. Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the cyclist. Since being assigned PBOT in January of this year, Commissioner Mapps has been discussing proposals for improving transportation infrastructure with Director Williams, including critical corridors. These have been very preliminary, and we will continue to dialogue with PBOT and the community moving forward.

Hope you filed a FOIA request for PBOT communications to see where the truth lies as it appears Mapps is now trying to distance himself from this.

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
8 months ago

The previous article about the de-safetying of Broadway for bicyclists noted PBOT was allegedly responding specifically to complaints from the Heathman Hotel management. This is another example of how Portland (and Oregon) government favors tourism over the well being of people who live and work here. Tourism as a main “industry” takes enormous tolls on local communities — it’s true from Vail to Hawai’i — even as locals get caught up in an economic system in which their livelihoods depend on relatively low-wage tourist industry jobs. These jobs do not provide the income needed to live in places where the “housing” goes to short-term tourist visits rather than long-term residences for members of the community. Locals also have to suffer the traffic and related pollution from ride-share cars toting tourists around the city (and illegally stopping in places that endanger bicyclists and pedestrians). Yes, the big hotels and fancy restaurants did well from tourism, but that’s a relatively small share of the population. Moreover, when your downtown depends on tourists and on office workers, and then there is pandemic in which tourists do not travel and office workers work from home, the downtown feels kind of dead. Rather than recognizing how the downtown of the pandemic years exposes the false promise of tourism as an economic engine, Portland leaders have blamed the people with the least power and resources for everything wrong with downtown. If the Heathman really believes that keeping bicyclists safe is too inconvenient for hotel guest drop off/pick up, that is not a reason to endanger bicyclists. I don’t think they are suddenly going to have more rooms rented per night because a bike lane became more amenable to someone checking in rather than to someone bicycling past.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

Portland isn’t even in the same realm as Hawaii or Vail when it comes to tourism as a percent of the labor force. From what I can find, Travel Portland states that we have roughly 33,000 jobs tied to our regional tourism industry, and the BLS notes an employment count of nearly 1.3 MILLION non-farm jobs in the Portland metro area.

Tourism jobs and dollars are a rounding error, and the city should be aware of that when they field complaints from local hotel owners. Excessive tourism is not a problem in Portland. Not even close.

https://www.travelportland.com/about-us/market-research-and-statistics/

https://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.or_portland_msa.htm

Amit Zinman
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

If Portland really wants to encourage tourism, they should make it into the biggest cycling and hiking and quirky establishments destination in the US.

A Christine Hoerner
A Christine Hoerner
8 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

Well said!

Matt
Matt
8 months ago

I’m just hung up on the lead photo–what is that rider even doing? They have neither foot on the pedals, with one foot almost on the road and the opposite knee up to their chest. And the brake levers are pointed slightly upwards.

Phil
Phil
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Maybe getting on or off the their bike?

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt

This is one of those “e-bikes” you see around town that don’t need to be pedaled to go 25mph. As to why someone would assume that strange riding position, I can’t say. Doesn’t seem like a great idea.

Darv Kennelon
Darv Kennelon
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Seems like a motorcycle to me.

Remember when bicycling came with health benefits?

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt

For that matter, why are the pedestrians in the foreground gathering in a green box/bike lane?

socially engineered
socially engineered
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The people in the photo appear to be standing on one of the curb extensions (“bump-outs” or “bulb-outs”) along the west side of SW Broadway. See additional photos here: https://bikeportland.org/2022/10/18/first-look-new-sw-broadway-bike-lanes-finally-complete-protection-puzzle-365535

The protected bike lane has to zigzag around these bump-outs, which were installed in 2015: https://bikeportland.org/2015/10/30/postcard-from-austin-curb-extensions-that-dont-block-bikes-167143

X
X
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt

That is probably an e bike. It might be a good idea to keep their feet on the pedals but perhaps they don’t feel the need.

Serenity
Serenity
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Pausing to consider something. Or posing.

9watts
9watts
8 months ago

bicycle fatality?

Heidi
Heidi
7 months ago
Reply to  9watts

Thank you for noticing that! I came here to ask what JM/BP knows about this incident and the person who died. According to the spreadsheet linked elsewhere on this site, the fatality occurred on N Portland Road somewhere near Marine Drive.

Heidi
Heidi
7 months ago
Reply to  Heidi

Whoops, there is an article. I didn’t see it in the Headlines, but it’s here: https://bikeportland.org/2023/09/19/bicycle-rider-hit-and-killed-on-north-portland-road-379516

Ed
Ed
8 months ago

PBOT always says that decisions are made based on policies rooted in safety, equity, and climate. If that is the case, we need to hold them accountable and get them to explain on the record how this decision advances any of those core principles.

qqq
qqq
8 months ago

It’s hard not to notice that this watering down of one of the City’s most visible bike lanes popped up as a priority for PBOT right after the high-visibility criticism of PBOT over the Division medians.

The Division complaints are that PBOT is skewed towards favoring bikes at the expense of businesses. The timing makes it look like PBOT wanted some high-visibility proof that that’s not true, so it used Broadway to show that. It was pretty painless to sacrifice some bike infrastructure downtown, and it had the added benefit of pleasing downtown property and business owners.

Otherwise, there was no real urgency to change Broadway back so quickly, given that any problems created by the bike lane were either minor, or solvable without wholesale changes.

I
I
8 months ago

Reminder that tomorrow is PBOT’s monthly Bureau and Budget Advisory Committee meeting. The public has a chance to provide comment directly to PBOT staff near the beginning of each meeting. The meeting starts at 4:00 pm. and can be joined remotely. Here is the link:

https://www.portland.gov/transportation/bbac/events/2023/9/21/pbot-bureau-budget-advisory-committee-september-meeting

If you have an opinion on this, make it known! They may be backing down with this one removal for now, but the very fact that they were willing to go full steam ahead with a costly lane removal in the middle of a budget crisis should tell you all you need to know about where these people stand philosophically.