What PBOT and its commissioner think about the medians on Southeast Division

Center medians on Southeast Division under construction in February 2022. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

With a protest against the center medians on Southeast Division planned for this Thursday, you might be curious what Portland Bureau of Transportation and Commissioner Mingus Mapps think about them. Fortunately, we don’t have to wonder, because just last month the agency was at City Council to make the case for adding even more center medians to this major east Portland arterial.

Most of the center medians on Division were completed one year ago as part of PBOT’s $11 million Outer Division Safety Project. That project (which was related but separate from TriMet’s $175 million Division Transit project) looked to tame auto traffic and reduce fatal and serious injury crashes for all road users. One of its key components was an almost continuous, center-running median between 80th and 148th avenues. PBOT calls this “access management” because the medians manage where drivers can access various destinations.

But to some folks, the medians are confusing and inconvenient and an illustration of everything that’s wrong with Portland government. They’ve spent months complaining about the medians, speaking to the media and voicing objections in City Council testimony. The protest on Thursday will be the climax of an impressive campaign that has included door-hangers, yard signs, signs on business windows up and down the corridor, and so on.

So when PBOT returned to council last month to accept a $2.4 million state grant to install the final two segments of the medians, it was an opportunity for Commissioner Mapps, PBOT staff, and other council members to let us know where they stand on what Mapps referred to as “some controversy.”

Let’s take each of the opposition’s main concerns — driver safety/inconvenience, loss of business, first responder access — and see where PBOT stands on it.

Commissioner Mapps introduced the ordinance by making the case for safety. “Here’s why this ordinance is important,” he started out. “In the last 12 years there have been eight traffic fatalities on Division in this project area, and in the last 12 years, these blocks have seen about 17 traffic crashes which have resulted in injuries.”

To underscore the urgent safety problems on Division, PBOT enlisted its chief traffic engineer, Wendy Cawley, to testify. She wasn’t messing around. It sounded to me like she spoke with force because she felt like she had to defend the project.

“When we applied for this grant, we looked at five years of crash data,” Cawley shared with Mapps, Mayor Wheeler, and the rest of council. “And what we saw on on this particular section of Division was that there were 16 fatal and serious injury crashes, 109 moderate and minor injury crashes, and 60 property damage crashes.”

“In 2016 alone,” Cawley continued, “five people died in traffic crashes on outer Division. With the installation of a raised concrete median we expect to reduce all crash types by 47%. Which means that we could expect a reduction or 91 fewer crashes and seven fewer fatal and serious injury crashes.”

(Video of driver crashing on bike lane curb shared at Portland City Council by Fatima Magomadova, January 11, 2023.)

By contrast, the people opposing the medians on Division have shared videos of a few drivers who’ve crashed on the bike lane curbs because they didn’t see them and/or were going to fast to avoid them (video above). They’ve also complained about how hard it is to make u-turns.

On September 2nd, someone posted to the Division Street Activists Facebook group asking members to share any fatalities or crashes on Division since the medians went in (there’s also a photo on that page of a man holding a sign that reads, “PBOT U Turns Kills”). So far, no has responded with evidence of either. As far as I can tell, there’ve been no fatal or serious injury crashes caused by the medians.

Some of the folks who oppose the medians claim businesses have lost customers. That could be true. Some people might get frustrated by having to drive several extra blocks and just give up on reaching their destination.

On the flip side however, PBOT’s Cawley says, given their data and research, they expect the reduction in crashes, deaths and injuries due to the medians (and other safety components of the project, which included a bus lane, a protected bike lane, and a lower speed limit) will save the community an estimated $25 million in economic impacts (based on the FHWA’s estimate that puts the cost of a lost life at $5-6 million).

“So not only will this project save lives and heartache for many families impacted by traffic violence on Division, it’ll reduce economic impacts from traffic crashes in east Portland,” Cawley said at the end of her testimony.

Based on what I heard at council last month, it appears PBOT is unwavering in their support of medians because they wholeheartedly believe the treatment will reduce crashes and save lives.

Another point of contention from folks who don’t like the medians is that they feel PBOT didn’t listen to their feedback. They might have a point. PBOT staff defended their robust public outreach process during the initial go-round of changes on Division. But at council last month, they acknowledged they could have done better, and have committed to doing things differently this time.

PBOT Division Project Manager Elizabeth Tillstrom was asked about community feedback concerns by Commissioner Rene Gonzalez. After explaining their public process, she said, “But we didn’t always hear back from from folks that were ultimately being impacted. And so I think this time around, we’re going to be especially sensitive, and make sure that we’re having those conversations with businesses and property owners… So not taking a lack of response from businesses as being supportive of the design.”

Tillstrom also said that they made adjustments to the median design at the very last minute (during construction) when they realized some businesses had freight needs PBOT didn’t account for.

It was clear that Commissioner Mapps is aware of the concerns about the median. He made a point to jump into the conversation to allay concerns about the lack of communication between PBOT and some business owners and residents. He called on everyone to do better.

“I do believe that if we work together, listen to each other, increase the trust that’s at the table — which frankly I think is some of the work that we need to do here — we can bring this project to fruition, which will dramatically reduce deaths on one of our busiest streets in the city,” Mapps said.

Then Commissioner Gonzalez, who’s in charge of the Portland Fire Bureau, peppered the PBOT project manager with questions about emergency response times. Tillstrom was ready.

“We engaged extensively with police and fire during the design,” she reassured Gonzalez. “So the final design is we have constructed mountable medians for emergency response.” Tillstrom said PBOT staff went so far as to ride in a fire truck to test out the configuration and make sure it worked.

After hammering out all those issues, Commissioner Mapps shared one final comment before council voted in support of the ordinance. “I have gone out to this neighborhood and met with folks who are affected both by previous safety improvements and who are potentially impacted by future safety improvements that we want to fund with this ordinance before us today,” he said.

Then Mapps mentioned the Roman Russian Market specifically. That’s the business owned by one of the most active critics of the median, Fatima Magomadova (who I quoted at length in my story earlier this month). “We are in dialogue with folks, especially at the Russian market,” Mapps said. “Trading ideas back-and-forth about how we can introduce some modifications in this space that makes sense for everybody while also supporting safety. These conversations are really are challenging, but we are in dialogue and we’re looking for solutions and will continue to approach this project and this work in that spirit.”

There’s a lot riding on this for Mapps, who hopes to Portland’s next mayor. He’s toeing the line between respecting the strong criticisms aimed at his bureau, while also defending his bureau’s values, principles and work product.

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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Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago

Looks like they are working as designed. If only every street could work so effectively to flip over vehicles being driven recklessly.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

It would be safer for everyone if errant vehicles were stopped more abruptly, rather than sent flying out of control. Might need some large barrels of sand and stuff that would get in the way of speeding oversized trucks coming to your rescue after a speeding oversized truck hits you because we were scared to put stuff in the way of speeding oversized trucks.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Eric Leifsdad

Maybe a giant circus net would help bring airborne vehicles gently to a stop.

dw
dw
8 months ago

This comment is for any anti-median folks who stumble upon this article. Maybe not the best forum to share these thoughts, but it’s the one I’ve got.

I’ve lived and worked on or near Division for more years than I can count. I truly do love how the entire street shows off the diversity of our city, all the way from 11th to Gresham. The stretch that got the medians is especially interesting.

I usually bike or take the bus, but sometimes I end up driving on Division. I do want to say this – I understand that it’s become less convenient since the project was finished. It’s kind of a pain to make u-turns, especially if you aren’t familiar with how to use the space in the intersection to do so. I also understand that it can feel a bit nerve-wracking to drive around all the new concrete, signs, and paint.

But I want to share some personal anecdotes of people I regularly encounter on Division. I think a lot about a young mother who used to have to wait for the bus on a junky street corner with no lighting, only inches away from speeding traffic. She now has a safe and (relatively) comfortable bus shelter and more frequent service to get her and her baby where they need to go. I also think of the polite middle schoolers, who had to either sprint across the street after getting off the bus, or add an extra .75-1 mile in order to get to a signalized crossing. They now have a crosswalk and median to take refuge in. The family with young children who now have a crosswalk to use when picking their kids up from school. The old man with the shopping cart who can now cross from his apartment building to the bus stop easily and safely. The way that traffic has slowed and calmed down – believe it or not. How much more comfortable and safe the bike lanes are compared to the old paint-only lanes.

It’s so disappointing to see businesses I used to frequent post “Rip out the medians” signs. I suppose I’ll take my dollars elsewhere.

The point I’m trying to make is that there are so many good things that have come from this project, but they aren’t getting any airtime. Every day, I am seeing members of my community benefit from the changes that PBOT & Trimet made.

was carless
was carless
8 months ago
Reply to  dw

Why did PBOT even add U-turns? U-turns are generally illegal in Oregon. Is this another Californiafication of Oregon?

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  was carless

If you install solid medians, you need to allow U-turns periodically, otherwise people cannot access businesses on the opposite side of the street.

Lee Zee
Lee Zee
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Yes, you can. Just need to think. Drive one block down, take a right, one block one more right, one block one more right, and one block back and take a left.

nic.cota
Nic
8 months ago
Reply to  Lee Zee

You must have grid brain where you think everyone and everything is a grid and is accommodated by one.

Not all of us (or all of Division) have the privilege.

Lee Zee
Lee Zee
8 months ago
Reply to  Nic

Okay. Ignore the grid part if that is too hard to conceptualize.

Daniel Reimer
8 months ago
Reply to  Lee Zee

A complete grid does not exist on Division that far east

Lee Zee
Lee Zee
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

My original comment was submitted to address the “challenging” aspect of a left hand turn.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Lee Zee

At least you now understand why U-turns are needed on Division.

Lee Zee
Lee Zee
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

I guess my point just not coming across clearly. I am not for or against U turns. I just emphasizing that with a little bit of thinking and planning you can access the left side of the street even without U turns.
Btw. I used quotation marks around “challenging” for a reason.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Lee Zee

You must not drive or bike this section of Division. In many sections of Division out here, a drive would have to deviate all the way south to Powell Blvd to perform the maneuver you describe. Not very good for pedestrians, cyclists, or the climate.

Tim
Tim
8 months ago
Reply to  Lee Zee

Except most ot the side streets end up being unpaved residential streets, a double whammy. Isn’t the city trying to get people off the residential side streets?,

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
8 months ago
Reply to  dw

You’re right, the mediums have helped.. thank you for pointing that out. I just wish it had more places to turn and some planters or trees. Aren’t trees supposed to also help with traffic calming?

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  FranciscoB

You’re right, the mediums have helped

I thought PBOT stopped consulting psychics decades ago.

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

*Median.. thank you for your service Mr. Spellcheck.

dw
dw
8 months ago
Reply to  FranciscoB

It was originally supposed to have trees, but there is a sewer main that runs under the middle of Division. They would have had to tear that up and move it in order to put trees in the medians. The best solution I can think of for more trees is to have some kind of incentive for property owners to convert parking lot space next to the sidewalk into trees.

Tim
Tim
8 months ago
Reply to  dw

Another aspect of poor design. It’s sad, very sad.

dw
dw
8 months ago

Also, is Fatima Magomadova a personal injury lawyer? The billboard above the Roman-Russian market seems to imply so. If she is, doesn’t that mean that she has a vested interest in continuing the carnage on East Portland stroads?

was carless
was carless
8 months ago

Why does American democracy always boil down to “business owners and property owners have more rights than anyone else” and “lets make sure to coddle to the demands of the elites” no matter what?

They literally don’t amd have never cared about climate change, traffic safety, multimodalism or anything else besides the end of their own nose.

sickening.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  was carless

They literally don’t amd have never cared about climate change, traffic safety, multimodalism or anything else besides the end of their own nose.

Yes, property and business owners are evil incarnate. Literally.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

More accurately, they are amoral and only work to maximize profit, and so will do things that are evil incarnate to get that profit. This is what capitalism is set up to do, it’s not a conspiracy or a cabal, and no person is consciously making evil decisions. It’s just the systemic result when you make a system that only values profit. It infects whatever other politics there are because money is power and maximizing money is the only goal.

BB
BB
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

Calling all business owners amoral and evil is so ridiculous and patronizing.
There are a lot of great small businesses in Portland that do a lot for the city and the neighborhoods they are in.
I know several business owners and profits are not their only value by any means.
You really do just get on here to criticize and rant.
You obviously do not work at a business that needs to make a profit to pay your salary.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  BB

Yeah sure there are nice businesses. But the systemic driver for how they operate ensures they will tend towards doing whatever it takes to make a profit. Amoral doesn’t mean bad, it means they have no morals. A bear is amoral.

People struggle with the idea of systemic biases / tendencies, so you’re not unique there. It’s why people get so defensive when the concept of systemic racism comes up in things like hiring. “Oh I’m not racist” bla bla bla. Oh businesses aren’t evil. They just have one thing in common and that’s the need to make profit and please shareholders. And so you get the hotel owners on Broadway influencing city council and getting bike lanes removed at the cost of human safety.

You obviously do not work at a business that needs to make a profit to pay your salary.

You too it would appear.

BB
BB
8 months ago
Reply to  BB

Bikeportland is a small business. You get to post and rant on a small business owned site.
Do you think J Maus is amoral and evil?

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  BB

They’re all run by individuals, and we’re all stuck living in it so some people will individually do good things. Again, it’s the systemic bias I’m talking about.

BB
BB
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

I am a liberal and don’t shy away from that label and not some Anti commie nut job, so I will ask you seriously what country on earth has a better system than capitalism.
Don’t give me Sweden or any Euro country, I have been to all of them, they are as capitalist as the US.
Just give me an example of a better system. Name one instead of coy ranting as you do?

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago
Reply to  BB

I have been to all of them

The majority of economic activity is controlled directly by the state in several scandinavian nations but from the brainwashed ‘murrican perspective this makes as purely capitalist as white snow. A ‘murrican tourist is uniquely able to ignore the brutal failings of ‘murrica despite visiting nations where these failings are obvious.

BB
BB
8 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Sweden would not even lock down during Covid because they did not want to disrupt commercial activity so there’s your answer Pierre, It doesn’t take a tourist to figure that out.
It appears John has no answer.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

More accurately, they are amoral and only work to maximize profit

Any large cross section of people could best be described as “amoral”.

For every property or business owner you can find that seeks to maximize profit, I can find you 10 who decidedly do not do that.

To cite one well known example (of literally millions I could choose from), Jonathan is a property owner, and does not seek to maximize his profit. I am another.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Jonathan is a property owner, and does not seek to maximize his profit. I am another.

Fine. When you sell, you can donate your capital gains to Oxfam.

It’s not so much that all homeloaners/homeowners are evil incarnate but that they look the other way and ignore the brutal inequity of dehumanizing housing speculation.

This is fundamentally immoral and anyone who owns a home is complicit:

comment image

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

It’s worse than looking the other way! People who own property and rent it to other people are making housing more expensive by taking a cut of the rent. I know you know it, I’m just adding on.

I know that we all live in this world and we all have to get by and pretty much anything we do for work is complicit. Some people mean well and maybe even do their best to do right by their tenants. But they’re all making a profit off of someone just living somewhere. That inherently makes renting more expensive.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

People who own property and rent it to other people are making housing more expensive by taking a cut of the rent. 

I’m a bit confused… how could I rent a place if no one is renting out their properties? Or is it just the profit you object to, and you expect people to do the work of maintaining their properties, finding tenants, etc. for free?

I’m just not sure what you have in mind.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

how could I rent a place if no one is renting out their properties?

And therein lies the problem.

I’m just not sure what you have in mind.

Anyone serious about housing would have some sort of either public housing or at the very least cooperative ownership in mind. The root of the problem is the profit (commodification) so yes, when people are expecting to be able to make a buck off of oh so generously letting someone use the land they own (and how is it that they came to own more land than they need to live? Another problem!), they’re making housing more expensive. Yes I understand we don’t have many good profit-free alternatives, and that is a problem.

BB
BB
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

You are a home owner. You have said so on this forum.
Why do you do something that you think should not be allowed or is this just performance art?
Its tiresome.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  BB

I, like the rest of the world, live in a world dominated by capitalism. As any socialist will point out, there is no ethical consumption in capitalism. If I want to live in Portland and have a family, there are very few actual alternatives to home ownership unless you want to live a very specific way. That’s not to say it’s not possible, but I would be putting myself and my family at the mercy of petty landlords who can really mess up my life. So I have to do things in the most ethical way I can. I could afford to get a mortgage on another house and rent it out, or make an ADU and do the same. I consider those unethical pursuits. So I don’t do it.

This isn’t a contradiction, nor is it even hard to understand. Many of the people on this very website talk about reducing the need for car ownership. I would prefer not to own a car, but the alternatives are bad and the infrastructure isn’t good enough to make that particularly easy. It’s possible, but it would be a lot better with better infrastructure. So I hold my nose, and do the thing that is against my principles and own a car.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

I have no problem with cooperative housing; in fact I strongly support the idea for those that want to go that route. Nor do I object to public housing for those that need it, though in practice it has not worked well here.

On your economics, I am confused. If people did not rent out their property to others, why would rents go down?

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

though in practice it has not worked well here.

In practice it has been deliberately de-funded and systematically dismantled here by anti-communist psychos.
In other places, yes, like the USSR, it worked extremely well. Public housing was some of the best most modern housing you could get at the time. Wonderful futuristic by today’s standards 15 minute cities. Public housing shouldn’t be for “those that need it” because everyone needs housing. It should be an option for anyone.

If people did not rent out their property to others, why would rents go down?

Your fallacy, most likely deliberately, is that you only imagine ever changing one single variable in isolation. Oh people don’t rent? How would rent go down? What a silly question. Literally right there in your first paragraph is the answer. Public housing, as well as cooperative ownership. The cost of housing in general would go down. That means private ownership as far as it exists, as well as better alternatives. But really, the root of the problem is leaving housing up to the “free market” at all.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

In other places, yes, like the USSR, it worked extremely well.

Sure, housing was great in the USSR. I have some indirect familial experience with that issue, but these links, the top ones in Google, sum it up better than I could.

TL;DR: Nope. No sale.

https://kommunalka.colgate.edu/cfm/essays.cfm?ClipID=376

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communal_apartment

https://www.quora.com/How-did-housing-work-in-the-Soviet-Union

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, and if I’m to post the oldest and/or worst examples of our marvelous private housing, it’s not going to look good either. The communal apartments you linked literally has a link to their successors. Yes, the first step out of literally the middle ages were a vast improvement but still look bad when you present a modern photograph of a still standing building. They were replaced with, and I quote, “This was then followed by Brezhnevkas which were built taller, had larger apartments, and came with heretofore unavailable amenities such as elevators, interior bathrooms, garbage disposals and central heating systems.”

No part of this is a strike against public housing. Especially when weighed against the fact that we still have houses today in the USA that look like those old communal apartments, run by slum lords who keep raising rents while the roof leaks. The free market is great!

Anyway, I’m not going to defend every aspect of the USSR. It had its problems. But what I actually presented was public housing that took people who were previously living in shacks and put them in real housing, which was then replaced by even better modern housing. Nothing about this comes anywhere near exploring the limits of what public housing could be if actually tried and not deliberately sabotaged by neo-(con/liberal)s. Just like the bike infrastructure we complain about here, the problem isn’t that bike infrastructure is hard, it’s that it doesn’t get funded.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

No part of this is a strike against public housing. 

I agree; it is a strike against Soviet housing (which you brought up as an example of public housing at its best).

I’m not asking you to defend the USSR, but you keep bringing it up as an example of socialism done right.

We simply disagree on whether that is a desirable model.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Watts:

you keep bringing [the USSR] up as an example of socialism done right.

John:

Anyway, I’m not going to defend every aspect of the USSR. It had its problems.

You’re blatantly putting words in my mouth. But if you think everything the USSR did was wrong, you’re just ignorant or dishonest. Just like I would say the USA has done plenty of good things along with the clear evil it has done (in addition to the stuff I think is evil but some people love). The public housing of the USSR is a good example of good public housing and the only thing people have to complain about it is it doesn’t look like multi million dollar luxury apartments in the USA. If you actually think for a second and consider what that accomplished that the free market couldn’t dream of, it’s an absolutely amazing achievement.

But we can stop the back and forth. I think it’s a good example of functioning public housing and proof that we don’t need the free market to house people well. You think if someone didn’t make a buck or got housed by the government, something is going wrong.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

I don’t think every single thing the Soviets did was wrong. But an awful lot of it was.

the only thing people have to complain about [Soviet housing] is it doesn’t look like multi million dollar luxury apartments in the USA

This is utterly, patently, completely false.

BB
BB
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The same logic that described business’s as evil…
He is an evil home owner by the way, pretending to be some kind of socialist that can’t name a socialist country he likes when challenged because his posts are mostly just nonsense.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  BB

I don’t answer your dumb gotcha question because it’s a nonsense question. Which futuristic utopia do you like, BB? Which one on Earth is your favorite futuristic utopia? Can’t name one? Guess it’s silly to try and make a futuristic utopia if you can’t name one that already exists.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago
Reply to  BB

Capitalist businesses that ruthlessly focus on their bottom line while minimizing any spending on workers tend to profit the most. This seems kinda evil to me.

Brandi
Brandi
8 months ago

There will be less crashes on Division because it is unnavigable.Drivers will choose other routes.The design is an expensive disaster.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
8 months ago
Reply to  Brandi

Or maybe they’ll decide to ride bikes or take transit? Either way, vulnerable road users win. So yes, take your toys and go play somewhere else.

And no, it’s not “unnavigable.” I drive it regularly. I get from Montavilla to Gresham. And then back to Montavilla. Without crashing or killing anyone. It works fine.
Sheesh.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

 I get from Montavilla to Gresham. And then back to Montavilla.

In other words you use the street like a channelized throughway (which it is now optimized for), and not to access the businesses and communities that live along it (which has become more difficult).

Those are very different use cases and experiences.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Nah, I also access businesses along Division, sometimes during the same trip to or from Gresham. I can access any business I want along Division. Right turn, left turn. I’m awesome that way. Contrary to the Median Alarmists, I haven’t seen a single business along Division that has been walled off from access. Does it take a little more thinking and an additional turn or two? Sometimes. But If you care about the survival of those businesses I assume you can handle that without freaking out or flipping your car. If someone can’t handle it, I would propose they shouldn’t be driving anyway. Using Division in its current configuration to access businesses isn’t rocket science. It’s pretty simple.

EP
EP
8 months ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

It is amazing how many Nextdoor anti-median threads/rants have people saying things along the lines of “all the zigs and zags make it hard for me to stay in the lane”, and “I can’t see all the curbs.” The truth of most of those statements is that they’re either driving too fast, driving distracted, a bad driver, too old to be operating a multi-ton machine, or all of the above.

SD
SD
8 months ago
Reply to  EP

NextDoor is a parade of people outing themselves as unfit to drive.

Nonya
Nonya
8 months ago

Did Division need some attention and safety improvements? Yes. But did they have to take it from a navigable street to something akin to a drunk driver training course? I have quit driving down it at all because of the number of close calls I have had wwhere other drivers were having obvious difficulty navigating the narrower squiggly lanes. People are too distracted behind the wheel and the obstacle course makes it worse. I think half the money should have been spent on traffic and vehicle code enforcement for the corridor and it would have seen equal improvement with less stress. Quit trying to build your way out of enforcement issues.

dw
dw
8 months ago
Reply to  Nonya

So are we gonna keep cops there 24/7? They might patrol it for a few months then crashes go right back up as soon as enforcement goes elsewhere. Stop trying to add more cops out of engineering issues.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Nonya

Even if every driver perfectly obeyed all traffic laws and never made a mistake, it wouldn’t have made Division safe. It is inherently unsafe. Adding the infrastructure moves towards it being inherently safer. Some kind of enforcement could also help.

Also how do you have close calls with other drivers driving the same direction? What are you doing that’s making this happen? The medians separate you from oncoming traffic so it’s not that. Sounds like you might be driving dangerously. Maybe we need tailgating enforcement.

Christopher of Portland
Christopher of Portland
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

I’m not trying to say I agree with everything in Nonya’s comment but the number of people who are incapable of keeping their vehicle in their lane is mind boggling. The gentle bends in some stretches of Division are too much for them to handle.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

Even if every driver perfectly obeyed all traffic laws and never made a mistake, it wouldn’t have made Division safe.

Why not? I think under these circumstances, it would be very safe. If everyone is doing exactly what they should be, where does the danger come from?

Tim
Tim
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

It is no safer now than before. Zero one or whatever it is called hasn’t worked. Traffic deaths have not gone down in the city, but have gone according to links shown in many social media sites.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
8 months ago
Reply to  Tim

Statistically, Division is safer post-construction than it was before. Fatal and injury crashes are down from the same time period before the medians. Of course Number of People Not Killed, and Number of People Not Injured is not Hard Data – it’s just an estimate and doesn’t make for good click-bait. But the medians and other treatments are proving effective at reducing crashes. The constant driver-caused carnage on Division made it one of the most dangerous places to drive in the Portland area. It’s less dangerous now. That inconveniences some people. I’m fine with that.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
8 months ago
Reply to  Nonya

The improvements on Division are saving lives. If they’re also causing less people – like you – to drive on Division, that saves lives as well.
Win-win.

Stephen
Stephen
8 months ago

Lake Oswego did something similar to this on Boones Ferry in the Lake Grove area. I drive down there sometimes because my job is out that way. Yes it’s a little more time to pull into some businesses but it seems really nice overall and definitely better for non-car users. Does anyone know how the community has reacted to that? The City seems proud of the project.

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
8 months ago

I whole heartedly agree that the mediums were a necessity but it’s ugly af and really needed more left turns access so people could handle their business. Where’s the trees and/or planters on these things? Why can’t outer east Portland have nice things?

Daniel Reimer
8 months ago
Reply to  FranciscoB

My understanding is that limiting left turns is an integral part of making Division safer. Trees would nice.

Tim
Tim
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Uturns are more dangerous than left turns, particularly where left turns are controlled with signals. Signals were an ignored option over u-turns.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
8 months ago
Reply to  FranciscoB

There’s a huge water main (aqueduct really) down the center of outer Division that can’t be moved, hence no trees (nor light rail) on the median. It was suggested they plant trees on the parking strip, but that was “too innovative” for Portland staff to consider – maybe in phase 4 when a traffic lane gets removed on a stroad diet?

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
8 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Then they could’ve put in some planters, or dirt with shrubs.. even wildflowers or weeds would be better than that cement that grows nothing.

Phase 4? First time I’ve heard of that.. I like it.

Max S (Wren)
Max S (Wren)
8 months ago
Reply to  FranciscoB

To what extent could we add planters and other niceties without interfering with emergency vehicles? What are their minimum requirements to clear them safely?

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
8 months ago
Reply to  Max S (Wren)

With miles and miles of empty lifeless concrete, I say as many niceties that will fit while leaving room for the fire trucks to hop over. It’s not something new, it’s been done before.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
8 months ago

One point I’d like to see included in these discussions is the money PBOT and PPB and the Fire Bureau (read: Tax Payers) is saving in the long run with this kind of infrastructure. Of course the #1 priority is to save lives. But crashes also costs all of us financially as well, and less crashes on Division means that money spent in road and infrastructure repairs and emergency response can be spent esewhere.

Randi J
Randi J
8 months ago

Is one effect of the continuous medians just speeding cars along (for more vehicular throughput) instead of creating an “urban village”? Seems the local businesses would be more supportive if the re-design had created more customers instead of just having them blow quickly by their shops in cars. We also all know that traffic speed enforcement has been virtually nonexistent along Division (and all of Portland).

X
X
8 months ago
Reply to  Randi J

I’m rarely on division outside SE 60th and so I don’t have much to say about the design. But, people walking and biking also have money and they’ve been shown to be good customers of local businesses. If the street is better for them maybe the business community will actually profit from it.

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
8 months ago
Reply to  X

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Tim
Tim
8 months ago

Much of this design was poorly thought out. It’s very bad for businesses. We like to get takeout at the vegan restaurant, Van Hahn, where there are traffic control stoplights, but to return home to go west, that stoplight prevents a left turn. That left turn could have been safely designed into the intersection, but $$$ was wasted in placing a barrier and no-left-turn signage. So the only options are to drive several blocks through unpaved residential streets and still having to make a left turn or to turn right onto Divsion for several blocks only to have to make an even more dangerous and very tight Uturn. It is tight because of the yellow post barrier along the bike lane. Division is a mess and very unfriendly to businesses and their customers. We would go to VanHanh more often, butwhy put up with this mess?

Doug Klotz
Doug Klotz
8 months ago
Reply to  Tim

Best I can tell from Street View, you could just go east on Division two blocks to 87th and make a U-turn, and then you’d be heading west on Division. Why would you be on unpaved streets?

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Klotz

I’ve seen people attempt that u-turn and fail, only to make a K, backing into traffic while the light has changed. It is a little tight, people try to avoid hitting the bike lane pole.

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Doug Klotz
Doug Klotz
8 months ago
Reply to  FranciscoB

It takes a little effort. One has to pull forward as far as the cutout in the median allows, before making a sharp u-turn. This also allows you to swing into the space of the cross-street, before swinging back into westbound lane. I have no trouble in my (old) full-size Chevy pickup. I suspect after a couple of tries, most people can make it without backing.

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
8 months ago
Reply to  Tim

I agree, it is a bit messy in that area for sure. Across the street from VanHanh, there was a restaurant called Thai Fresh that closed down recently and they attribute their closing mostly because of the changes on that part of Division street.. I’m gonna miss them.

Not sure why they didn’t make it possible to make a left turn via signal to head west from 84th place by VanHanh, but you could head south to Clinton and make your right on 82nd, then proceed left on Division and that should take you back home. I just feel bad for these struggling businesses, many who are just trying to stay afloat.

To be fair, it’s also not easy driving to businesses west of 60th on Division where parking has always been a headache on narrow residential streets. I tend to take the bus or ride my bike and avoid all that hassle. Driving is not fun in many parts of this city, not just Division.
Maybe when east Portland gets better representation in city hall, they’ll fix this mess.

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
8 months ago

I wonder if we are going about this backwards? Perhaps if business were levied for the lack of safety on the public right of ways, they’d start clamoring for improvements. I imagine a conversation like this, “Look, the road design you claim is necessary for your business kills 10 people a year. We’ll be happy to charge you $50 million a year to do nothing.”

Hyperbole aside, people tend to want improvements that come with obvious upsides.

Charley
Charley
8 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Keller

That’s a great way of illustrating the problem. It reminds me of the privatization of profit/socialization of risk paradigm that made the bailouts of the Great Recession so toxic.

1. An unsafe road design is in place.

2. People start businesses that rely, in part, on features of the road design.

3. Traffic fatalities and injuries are omnipresent, but generally affect people who don’t own these businesses.

4. The costs of the traffic violence are borne by the city and its residents at large, while the local business profits are concentrated among the owners.

5. Because any individual citizen is personally unlikely to experience a serious crash along this particular corridor, their motivation for safety improvements might be very limited. Any benefits from safety improvements would be quite diffused among the populations.

6. However, any business owner would be very attuned to their business conditions, and would be highly motivated to optimize those conditions for their own highly localized profit. Whether the effects are real or perceived, owners seem very likely to react to changes in local traffic patterns.

That’s a tough nut to crack, but it’s exactly why we have a representative democracy.