I have some very good news. But first, let’s set the context…
The idea that the Portland Bureau of Transportation, spurred by a plan hatched from Commissioner Mingus Mapps’ office and carried out by their Director Millicent Williams, would roll back the design of a major downtown bike lane to a version that’s obviously less safe, just to appease downtown hotel and business owners, was justifiably shocking to many people.
Thankfully, they put the idea on pause after the plan was exposed to the public. But ever since PBOT’s initial, damage-control statement came out nine days ago, a part of their response remained unsettling.
In the official statement, sent out about 24 hours after our first story broke, PBOT wrote:
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.”
As many of you know, that last one, a return of the bike lane to its previous (door-zone, unprotected) configuration, was the controversial option PBOT Director Williams chose (with what she claimed was the approval of Commissioner Mingus Mapps). The fact that it remained on the table, irked many safety advocates. And when PBOT updated their project website that same day, many of us were concerned that option three was still there.
I’m happy to share that PBOT has updated the website and now that option is gone!
They’ve also added new language to the page that marks a significant shift in this entire episode.
PBOT and Director Williams say after hearing “significant community feedback” they are “actively moving forward” with making the Broadway bike lane much better for everyone.
They plan to install a host of previously planned and budgeted safety upgrades that they say were delayed in the last year. Those include: new valet loading platforms at three hotels (Vance, Benson, and Heathman) similar to the one already installed in front of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. PBOT says the platforms will reduce conflicts between hotel patrons and bicycle riders. And they’ll add three signal upgrades at SW Oak, Taylor, and Jefferson. The new signals will have separate phases so that right-turning drivers and bicycle riders will proceed at different times, thus reducing the risk of right-hooks.
PBOT says the new valet platforms could be installed this winter and the signals should be up-and-running by next year. Also, later this year PBOT will release a full project evaluation with proposed upgrades that the public can weigh in on.
This is great to hear and it’s clear now that instead of a worse Broadway we will get a better Broadway! PBOT and City Hall have heard loud and clear that they cannot play politics with our protected bike lanes.
Thanks to everyone who has contacted PBOT and City Hall offices about this — especially the dedicated and knowledgable volunteers at BikeLoud PDX. They mobilized testimony, planned events, and have been a tremendous resource to our community for the past week or so.