It’s official: PBOT is no longer considering a roll back of Broadway bike lane!

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.

Old plan on the left. New plan on the right.

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.

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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nic.cota
7 months ago

2 huge takeaways:

1) BikePortland and Jonathan’s reporting have been critical to making sure Portlanders are safe from leaders who are willing to throw policies and community needs aside for political gain. Journalism at its finest! Great work.

2) Our city has so many dedicated and passionate people who still care very much about biking: contrary to our local elected officials and what the news chooses to put their camera on. This includes not just BikeLoud members, but other Broadway business owners, local leaders, and most importantly: staff at PBOT who risked their jobs to expose decision-making that goes against their own goals, policies, and commitments made to the people of Portland.

Thanks all for your hard work! Together we can keep this momentum going!

Frank
Frank
7 months ago

What’s truly unbelievable is how the staff/director/city/whoever thought that some concrete work adding a few platforms would be more expensive than ripping out the whole bike lane. I also wonder how much this whole episode illustrates the pull the hotel lobby has with the council and city overall.

Max S (Wren)
Max S (Wren)
7 months ago
Reply to  Frank

I don’t believe for a second that they considered the cost or anything beyond “what will make the hotels happy here?” for even a second.

Racer X
Racer X
7 months ago
Reply to  Frank

It may also be simple “budgetary” tricks…they may have funds for demolition / ‘repair’ of existing infrastructure in an existing budget versus new construction with funds that must be allocated anew. Thus one is more ‘expensive’ than the other option. Just a guess.

Pete S.
Pete S.
7 months ago

Bullying works!

Thanks for your reporting on this, Jonathan.

Michael
Michael
7 months ago
Reply to  Pete S.

I may or may not have sent a strongly worded email to Mr. Mapps letting him know that he was dead to me, that I regretted my vote for him in 2020, and that I looked forward to voting for his opponents next year. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Never say never, because who knows what could happen in the next 13 months, but this whole episode has really shattered any trust I had that he was faithfully trying to do the right thing, and all of the backtracking, mea culping, and firing won’t really erase the fact that he was willing to trade pedestrian and cyclist lives for endorsements and donations from the PMC. Definitely not Mayor material in my mind.

maxD
maxD
7 months ago
Reply to  Pete S.

Bullying (by Jim Marks and Mingus Mapps and other abusers of power and privilege) was working, but resistance successfully stopped it.

Dusty Reske
Dusty Reske
7 months ago
Reply to  Pete S.

Do you mean criticism from dissenters to the decision? People strongly expressing their opinions doesn’t seem like bullying, but maybe I misunderstand the term.

Andrew S
Andrew S
7 months ago

Great news! And thanks for the hard work keeping us all informed of the situation! There may never come an award for your reporting on this, but at least you got a shout-out from CityNerd. That’s gotta count for something…

MelK
MelK
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew S

As a huge fan of CityNerd, I thought it was great that he included not only coverage of the scandal, but the shoutout to JM and the link to BikePortland. Well deserved.

Matt
Matt
7 months ago
Reply to  MelK

The timing of CityNerd’s Portland video couldn’t have been more opportune.

He was able to savage the decision to dismantle the bike lane while praising Jonathan and BikePortland’s mission.

Great work by Jonathan, and lovely to see the well-deserved
praise.

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew S

Whoa thanks for mentioning this. I’m still somewhat shocked this topic has largely gone under the radar of local media.

maxD
maxD
7 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

earwriste- I have been thinking the same thing. Mapps/Williams felt enough pressure to reverse course, but most Portland media and the City Council just shrugged it off. I expect them to feel pretty emboldened by this. If they were just a tiny bit tactful or careful, they could have gotten away with this. I expect them to have better luck next time, unfortunately.

jakeco969
jakeco969
7 months ago

Well done Jonathan! Amazing reporting!!

Jack
Jack
7 months ago

yay!!!!!

Phillip Barron
Phillip Barron
7 months ago

They (Mapps and Williams) want this issue to go away before digging into their motivations reveals anything else.

Great job, Jonathan, for showing us all (especially the city) the power and significance of citizen journalism.

surly ogre
surly ogre
7 months ago

I truly wish the council could open their eyes and hearts to see how beautiful cities, like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Groningen, and Veenendaal, design their streets to manage bikeways, traffic calming and car access. More pedestrian and bicycle access leads to more spending, and more tourism. Portland is famous for bicycling. why is the Portland council doing so much to reject bicycling, modal share, and vision zero? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztpcWUqVpIg

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  surly ogre

“why is the Portland council doing so much to reject bicycling, modal share, and vision zero?”

It’s not so much that they’re rejecting it as they are failing to defend and build on the progress we’ve made.

And the reason they’re failing to do that is that Portlanders, by-and-large, see these as niche issues and mostly don’t care. There is a lot going on in the city right now, and bike lanes downtown just don’t capture the public’s attention like they used to.

If we want to accelerate progress, we need to get a critical mass of the public to demand it.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes – I cannot imagine – how this might have played out back in the snail mail newsletter days versus BikePortland digital media.

SO for all of those who will use the new Broadway facility once built …do not forget to send in your donations or other financial support to BikePortland etc.

MelK
MelK
7 months ago

Let’s tip our caps, celebrate our win for a few days, and prepare to get back to work to keep this momentum going.

dw
dw
7 months ago

Huge hats off to JM for the relentless reporting and the PBOT staff who spoke up. Strong institutions are held accountable from inside and outside, top to bottom.

Let’s hope this energy continues through the city hall shuffle next year.

Carrie
Carrie
7 months ago

Thank you so much for all of your reporting on this Jonathan.

I’ve been thinking about this whole big discussion, quick action, retraction, the funding, the optics, etc, etc as I send yet another email to PBOT asking why infrastructure (near a school) that was removed during some condo construction still has not been replaced 18 months later. This infrastructure includes striping, bollards preventing wrong-way driving, signage to indicate a contra-flow bike lane, etc. All on a SRTS.

Keviniano
Keviniano
7 months ago

It’s nice to see what local journalism and citizen engagement can do when needed, but man, what a terrible waste of everyone’s time this has been.

It’s been a while since I’ve ridden it, so I rode up SW Broadway yesterday to see what all the hubbub could be about. Takeaways were that

  • It’s a really nice, wide lane.
  • My travel wasn’t blocked once by delivery vehicles (though this was after 6p)
  • All that is needed is to elevate the path in front of the hotels to communicate to bike users that they’re in “pedestrian territory.”

Lo and behold, the elevated path was already planned and budgeted. None of this needed to happen at all.

Even though the moving of the bike lane has been walked back, I suppose it wasn’t a waste of time for Mapps and Williams, who were able to effectively signal their allegiances to a specific subset of the downtown Portland business owners. I can just imagine the conversation: “Well, at least you tried. No big deal. We know you’ll go to bat for us on a whole host of other things we want.”

David Kafrissen
David Kafrissen
7 months ago

Great job Jonathan. This was all because of you. I would watch my back around mapps and Williams.

Dusty Reske
Dusty Reske
7 months ago

Let’s not forget the PBOT whistleblowers, too. Their insider info. was crucial.

David Raboin
David Raboin
7 months ago

The arc of The Broadway Bike Lane Scandal story has restored my faith in the power of democracy and the free press. The story began as an outrageous middle of the night sneak attack on our local infrastructure but ended with an improvement to safety. We owe JM a huge thanks. Without the Bike Portland platform and the community JM built, we couldn’t have stopped Williams, Mapps, and the big dollar donors. Thank you.

In an era where local news outlets are reduced to social media click-bait bottom feeding, Bike Portland is an inspiration. This site is essentially a blog but it’s grown into an important part of our community. This is what we hoped the internet would become. Please consider subscribing.

Dusty Reske
Dusty Reske
7 months ago
Reply to  David Raboin

Let’s not forget the PBOT whistleblowers, too. Their insider info. was crucial.

maxD
maxD
7 months ago
Reply to  David Raboin

David Raboin,
I share your praise for bikeportland, but not for our local free press. This issue was ignored by the local free press and was not addressed by City Council. There is no acknowledgement by Mapps or Wheeler and zero accountability. This seems like a very near total failure of local free press and government, with bikeportland being the sole voice to spotlight this corruption. JM di an incredible job and deserves praise and credit, but this is basically being swept under the rug and the Mapps is getting away with terrible behavior and abuse of power.

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  maxD

MaxD I wouldn’t count the other small presses entirely out yet. From the few emails I’ve sent, two had stated they intended to write or reprint JM’s article(s). If that is still the case I could say I was “encouraged” that they are doing their research prior to publishing. As we know basing stories on heresy or social media can have unintended consequences. I would hope they corroborate the info they gather with sources independently. As JM stated, other FOIA reqs are in the works, so not quite done and dusted.

maxD
maxD
7 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

thanks! I hope you are right.

B
B
7 months ago

Almost..

valet platforms could be installed this winer

Keith
Keith
7 months ago

A revealing saga that shines a bright light on how dysfunctional our city government and bureaus have become. One could write a long essay about how this is completely inexcusable and unacceptable on so many levels.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Keith

Yeah, I’m reading all this from Europe, and it feels like a gut punch. I’m dizzy. I had no idea things were this incompetent. I can, off-the-top-of-my-head, tell you how most SWIM projects are funded. And I can’t hold a candle to Fitzgerald or Baack. I’m not up on CCIM, but jesus, for the two highest city employees in transpo to not realize Bway was funded from a Metro grant … The definition of corrupt is being dishonest to benefit oneself.

Jakob Bernardson
Jakob Bernardson
7 months ago

Where is Leah Treat when we need her?

Ross
Ross
7 months ago

They changed their position, and for that I give them credit. Our advocacy does make a difference.