After months of criticism, PBOT will modify center median on SE Division St

More striping and signage to prevent drivers from parking in the bike lane are coming. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“When you make a u-turn out there it doesn’t work. You run into the new curb, and it’s kind of terrifying when you have to put your car in reverse.”

– Dan Ryan, Portland city commissioner

The Portland Bureau of Transportation will make significant changes to the center median on Southeast Division in response to numerous complaints from people who live and own businesses along the corridor.

The Outer Division Multimodal Safety Project was mostly completed last fall, but a strong chorus of opposition has been building since before the concrete was even dry that the nearly continuous center median between 80th and 148th avenues has made driving too inconvenient and made businesses too inaccessible. One business owner in particular, Roman Russian Market owner Fatima Magomadova, has testified about her concerns to city council several times. Magomadova’s market is on SE 109th and Division.

This morning PBOT announced that they will make a break in the median to allow left turns onto 109th, right in front of Magomadova’s market.

PBOT installs center medians in large part to reduce the risk of crashes from drivers turning left from a large arterial onto a smaller street (or commercial driveway). This change will result in more turns and research shows it could increase the risk of crashes.

In addition to the median break at 109th, PBOT will do several other bits of what they refer to as, “corrective work” that includes: changes to make u-turns easier in some locations; more “No Parking” signs and stronger striping in the bike lanes; and more raised, reflective pavement markers to indicate where lanes shift in key areas.

The changes to allow easier u-turns are also in response to numerous complaints that there isn’t enough room to make them. Among those making complaints are City Commissioner Dan Ryan.

At a City Council meeting yesterday, Ryan sharply questioned PBOT Commissioner Mingus Mapps about the Division project (even though Mapps had very little to do with this project, since it was conceived and completed before he ran the transportation bureau). At the meeting, Ryan made comments about an unrelated project on 82nd Avenue when he turned to Mapps and said he wanted, “to make sure that we don’t repeat any mistakes that we made on Southeast Division.”

“We’ve heard consistent complaints about all the upgrades there,” Ryan said. “I’ve experienced it myself. They [people who oppose the medians] didn’t make up any stories. When you make a u-turn out there it doesn’t work. You run into the new curb, and it’s kind of terrifying when you have to put your car in reverse. The cars are coming down fast. So that’s a little terrifying. That doesn’t help the safety. I’m sure there’s been accidents out in that area because of this. And we spent a lot of money on that.”

Oddly, despite being extremely relevant to Ryan’s comments at council yesterday, PBOT Commissioner Mingus Mapps didn’t mention these changes.

It’s good to see that PBOT will add more “No Parking” signs to the bike lane, since that’s been a consistent problem since the changes went in.

News of these modifications to the Division project come on the same day an anti-median protest is planned in the parking lot of Magomadova’s business on 109th. PDX Real, the group who has led the organization of the event, has passed out signs that say, “Remove the medians, PBOT!” Whether or not this one change will be enough to satisfy them remains to be seen.

PBOT says work on these changes is scheduled to begin Monday, September 25th.

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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John
John
7 months ago

Somebody really needs to get Ryan a Student Driver sticker

D2
D2
7 months ago
Reply to  John

I think people saying the u turns are ill designed are correct. Even in my subcompact hatchback a full lock u turn just grazes the curb. So longer less nibble vehicles will definitely hit it. If one is doing the u turn during the protected left phase should have time to complete it, people that drive aggressively will likely try to push you to make your maneuver faster and less carefully.

For comparison it feels like that really tight circle bike infrastructure at Milwaukee and Mitchell or tight zig zags on Rosa Parks that do work but feel less comfortable especially on a bike with a long trail or large width.

Nick
Nick
7 months ago
Reply to  D2

I have a large station wagon and I have no trouble making u-turns on division. It does require prior planning to make sure you start as far to the right as possible (biggest circle), immediately go all the way to the left (not full lock but close). Perhaps it’s just too hard for people who grew up without doing u-turns.

John
John
7 months ago
Reply to  Nick

The other option is to pull forward before cranking it left so that the turn happens in the intersection and finishes before the concrete starts.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
7 months ago
Reply to  Nick

For what it’s worth, different automobiles have different turning radiuses, even across general genres and sizes of cars.

Imagine it like a road bike that feels “twitchy” vs a slacked out headtube enduro MTB that steers “slow”.

Wheelbase is a lot of it, on cars and bikes alike

carrythebanner
7 months ago

The cars are coming down fast.

Found the problem.

duck e.
duck e.
7 months ago
Reply to  carrythebanner

this one!

Kyle
Kyle
7 months ago

I am sort of agnostic about this change since I rarely drive there and it seems like the bike lanes will remain the same or be slightly improved if people actually listen to the no parking signs, but I would be quite interested to see some actual before/after crash data to see what impact it has had on safety. I suspect that there is a difference between what that data shows and what cranky businesses claim, and given the several other worrying decisions from Mapps’ PBOT lately it would be interesting to get a sense for how much decision making is actually just Mapps bootlicking to appease reactionary businesses.

Nick
Nick
7 months ago
Reply to  Kyle

Also not every crash is the same, for example a paint scrape and a pedestrian being hit with a fatality are both crashes but one is much worse.

I’d trade many many scrapes and bumps for saving someone’s life or preventing injury.

Kyle
Kyle
7 months ago
Reply to  Nick

I mean I wouldn’t really expect paint scrapes to show up in crash data (or if they did, I would expect them to show up much less than they actually occurred), just because I wouldn’t expect them to be reported much.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago

ITOTS from earlier post:

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.

.
✓ — the 70s bikeway
.
✓ — Division median removal

dw
dw
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

The seer has spoken

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Is the median being removed? I didn’t see that in the write-up.

Ujkl
Ujkl
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Part of it is being removed. Once that happens, others will surely demand additional removals…

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Ujkl

And by part of it you mean enough to allow one left turn, correct?

Max S (Wren)
Max S (Wren)
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Google has completely failed me, what does ITOTS mean?

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Max S (Wren)

An anonymous commentator on BP who seems to have inside knowledge.

dw
dw
7 months ago

I’m going to be dying of laughter when they put in a left turn and the Roman-Russian market still has a drop in business. I used to go there sometimes but stopped when they started plastering the building in signs decrying an attack on their store.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  dw

I also purchase my zakuskâ picantâ and rahat elsewhere now.

Arturo P
Arturo P
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Haven’t we learned that canceling people (or businesses) won’t get our community to a better place?

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Arturo P

It’s interesting how supporters of the capitalist “free”-market have transitioned form from “consumers should have choices” to “anyone who chooses to shop elsewhere is ‘cancelling’ the owner”.

Capitalism inevitably concentrates economic power and devolves into authoritarianism.

BB
BB
7 months ago
Reply to  Arturo P

Consumers can shop where they choose.
Its called the free market and if don’t feel like a business is worth shopping at, I won’t.
Do you think every business deserves customers by simply existing?
What does “canceling” even mean in this situation.
Every conservative that gets butthurt over something screams “cancel culture”.
I have never been in the market and I don’t plan on going ever.
Its my right as a consumer.
I have no idea what your comment even means?

Ben Waterhouse
Ben Waterhouse
7 months ago
Reply to  Arturo P

It worked on Foster.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Arturo P

So you don’t support the free market?

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
7 months ago
Reply to  dw

I’m going to be dying of laughter when they put in a left turn and the Roman-Russian market still has a drop in business. 

Why would you celebrate a negative outcome for a local business, especially one that provides groceries in what’s essentially a food desert?

This is the mean spirited attitude that rots so many threads here.

These are real people with real families to support, and many more real people with real families regard their business as an important resource.

dw
dw
7 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

Cool. And that real person is dumb because they are surprised at the fact that their business is down after going through a global pandemic and one of the most intense periods of inflation the US has seen recently. They lash out at the median because they seem blind to these facts. Also, their claims of business being down remain unsubstantiated. I want to see the numbers.

More likely, they just don’t like driving an extra block on the way to work in the morning. That’s fine but they should just say that.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

Businesses fail for a lot of reasons. In this case, they chose a campaign that is alienating a portion (I’m guessing an extremely small one) of their customers. They weren’t forced to do this.

Maybe you can start talking about the families of the people who have died on Division under its old design. I care more about them, personally.

Cathy Tuttle
7 months ago

Portland has a road violence crisis, particularly along streets like Division. Holy heck: 16 fatal and serious injury crashes, 109 moderate and minor injury crashes, and 60 property damage crashes along outer Division in the past 12 years.

I want business owners to make money. I want a healthy Portland. But if the only way businesses located along deadly arterials believe they can make money is by allowing streets next to them to continue to be sacrifice zones, they no longer should have a voice in whether or not safety improvements are built. A successful business plan should not include a death sentence for someone else in our community.

Arturo P
Arturo P
7 months ago

I’m not sure I agree with the median cuts but it is heartwarming to see that on occasion our city does do what it says and actually listen and attempt to support small businesses.

I think the main issue here is that it seems the project was primarily about getting buses and cars as fast a possible to inner Portland and downtown. If the focus was on making this area of Division more of an “urban village” instead of a thoroughfare (albeit a safer one) the response from the businesses would have been much different.

wortkisser
wortkisser
7 months ago

If Dan Ryan is going to assert the medians are causing crashes when vehicles make u-turns he should be asked to provide evidence. Where is the evidence, Dan?

squareman
squareman
7 months ago

“corrective work” that includes: changes to make u-turns easier in some locations; more “No Parking” signs and stronger striping in the bike lanes; 

“Stronger striping”? I’ll add that to the pile of other oxymorons, like “alternative facts.” Paint has never stopped a behemoth from killing a VRU.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  squareman

If you believed that, you’d never advocate for marked crosswalks.

squareman
squareman
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

As if most drivers at controlled intersections don’t partially or wholly block crosswalks when they stop. And by painting some and not others on neighborhood streets, it only encourages drivers to not yield or act aggressive to pedestrians at unmarked ones.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  squareman

Come on down to SE — most drivers here are pretty good about stopping for pedestrians on unmarked neighborhood street crossings.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

most drivers here are pretty good about stopping for pedestrians on unmarked neighborhood street crossings

Pure fantasy.

FranciscoB
FranciscoB
7 months ago

Modify the medians, don’t remove them.. to remove them is asinine.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  FranciscoB

That’s exactly what is happening.

Rick Jasperson
Rick Jasperson
7 months ago

Putting in a turn lane at 109th fixes the entire problem with Division. Thanks, PBOT! – Said no one in their right mind, ever.

EJ transportation
EJ transportation
7 months ago

The complaints about not being able to make U-turns sound like a skill issue tbh. I’ve made u turns on Division multiple times in a midsize SUV. Maybe it’s because I’m from California…

dw
dw
7 months ago

100% skill issue.

Patty Olson
Patty Olson
7 months ago

Division is the ugliest and dirtiest thoroughfare in metro Portland! Not to mention one of the most dangerous. U turns are dangerous, believe me I know. Thank goodness there are no bicyclists that use Division otherwise they would get hit when drivers make the u-turn. The medians are wide and filthy, nothing but concrete. Emergency vehicles have trouble maneuvering around them. It is shameful.

dw
dw
7 months ago
Reply to  Patty Olson

This is a bad take. I use Division almost every day on my bike and have never even come close to being hit by someone making u-turn. People making careless left turns? Yep. That’s one way the median makes it safer for bikes.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Patty Olson

Legal U-turns can only occur at intersections, when the left turn signal is activated. Not sure how this would be a risk to cyclists, as they wouldn’t be in the intersection at the time.

Yield left turns are a huge danger to cyclists, as many of us will tell you from personal experience. The new Division configuration greatly reduces these.

Matt S.
Matt S.
7 months ago

I work on 165th and Stark, I’ve driven Division a couple times and it’s completely miserable; people all around me speed out of frustration because the lights are not timed. To me it seems like a bunch of concrete, little to no trees, and an overwhelming number of signs. I get why people say it’s a disaster, the project doesn’t seem very coordinated.

For heaven sakes, the damn no turn left sign out front of my favorite restaurant is turned in the wrong direction and leaning far to one side. Bothers me every time I look at. Then you read about the u turns, then you actually drive it and you hit every single light along a 40 block stretch. It’ll take you close to half an hour to go from 162nd to 80th. I contemplate riding my bike but it still doesn’t feel safe.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

You can’t “time lights” on bi-directional roads like Division. Have you ever driven through Beaverton? It’s the same thing.

Matt S.
Matt S.
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Stark is bi-directional and it seems timed. If I had been driving Division for decades and then this is what they changed to, I’d be frustrated as well. I don’t think I would protest, I can understand why people are frustrated.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

Which section of Stark? Timed for eastbound traffic or westbound traffic? You can’t do both.

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/saferjourney1/library/countermeasures/13.htm

Matt S.
Matt S.
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

I believe you, I just wish the whole project was better: more trees in the median, actually protected bike lanes, easier access for businesses, timed lights for the buses and cars.

The bus stops seem to be way nicer and more pedestrian friendly. It feels safer in that regard.

Stephen Rice
Stephen Rice
7 months ago

When riding the #2 bus on outer Division I enjoy the efficiency. When driving, my main question about the concrete median islands is, how can they be modified to pose less of a danger when under snow? I have experienced slamming into a hidden median curb under snow in The Dalles in my little sedan, got hung up, had to call a tow truck. How on earth is a driver on Division, especially one new to the area, supposed to know about these islands? My co-workers commuting to Gresham last snowfall reported several wrecks on these. PBOT did not respond when I posed this question twice; I am glad we have their attention.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Rice

They could install wands, but drivers will just mow those down in a few weeks time.

centrist
centrist
7 months ago

This is what happens when idealist city planners at PBOT make life decisions for working class people living and working in East Portland.

Chris
Chris
7 months ago

If Dan can’t make the turn when visiting, what are those of us who live here supposed to be doing? I have an suv with one of the best in class turning radius but have learned how to do a u-turn by swerving a huge turn into oncoming traffic to get to my home with my work trailer. Hope he can do more to change the problems pbot created to make us “safer”