Some of Portland’s brightest biking minds came together under perfect sunny skies Saturday. Their mission was two-fold: get to know one another better after years of Zoom meetings, and learn what it feels like to ride in the Cully neighborhood.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) plays an important role in how bike projects are envisioned and implemented. PBOT and other transportation agencies throughout the region bring plans to the committee monthly for input, and the group has become an important sounding board for debates and discussions about how to make bicycling better in Portland. The committee’s PBOT liaison, City Bike Coordinator Roger Geller, has led these rides for many years with a goal of fostering stronger relationships among members and getting real-life, first-hand experience with our bike network.
Saturday’s ride was about nine miles (see map at right). It rolled by several key locations where bike projects have been implemented recently or are planned in the near future with stops along the way for short conversations.
The group met at Sacajawea Park (NE 76th and Alberta) where they heard brief remarks from Indi Namkoong who works on transportation policy (funding, mostly) for Cully-based nonprofit Verde. Namkoong shared that, despite recent progress, just about 30% of Cully streets have sidewalks. She also said as street improvements come to the area, displacement is a big concern. “Poor people also deserve nice things,” she said, as she explained Verde’s efforts to keep people in the neighborhood.
The ride also welcome several folks who represented Cully’s own bike/walk advocacy group, Andando en Bicicletas y Caminando (ABC, which translates to “riding your bike and walking around”). They were joined by a translator from PBOT and were eager to know when key projects would be built — especially a new signal and crossing of NE Columbia at Cully and Alderwood (northwest of Cully Park). Geller said a project to build a new signal and two-way bike crossing is funded and PBOT is in the process of acquiring right-of-way.
Sacajawea Park was a good place to start because it gave folks a chance to talk about a big problem with the Alberta St. neighborhood greenway (the eastern extension of the Going St greenway). Currently the park creates a gap in the route because there’s no paved path through it. A locked gate at the end of a gravel block on the west side could be opened, but folks at the ride said a woman who lives there doesn’t want bike riders on the street. The only other option is through a nearby school; but if the school gate is closed, riders have go several blocks south to Prescott to reconnect to Alberta. Portland Parks and PBOT need to figure something out here.
Right now the hope is that PBOT wins a big federal grant focused on nearby 82nd Avenue they’ve recently applied for. That grant would fund a continuation of the greenway through new streets being built as part of a future private development. That will be helpful, but would still require a detour around the park. It seems like PBOT and Parks should work together and simply pave a more direct path through the park.
Leaving the park, the group rode south on the NE 72nd Ave parkway — a narrow residential street adjacent to a wide linear park known as the Roseway Parkway. This is a key link in the federally-funded 70s Bikeway project. An original plan was for a paved path through the middle of that park, but it was scrapped due to alleged budget problems and neighborhood opposition. Now the Cully Connector between Lombard and Sandy will include crossing improvements at the south end and a mix of two-way bike lanes and paths on the west side of the Parkway. Design is still being finalized and PBOT says construction will start next year.
After winding through neighborhood greenways to the shared street on NE Sacramento to see the location of the upcoming project through the Rose City Golf Course, we made our way north back to Killingsworth. That street’s door-zone, unprotected bike lanes no longer serve the growing neighborhood, so by the end of next year — thanks to a big advocacy push led in part by the aforementioned ABC — the current lanes are planned to be replaced by the parking-protected variety from NE 53rd to Cully.
As he stood inches from fast-moving drivers on Killingsworth, PBOT’s Geller said it’ll likely take another push to extend the new bike lanes further west to the existing greenway on 37th. But even without protected lanes west of 53rd on Killingsworth, the new ones will make a safer connection to NE Holman neighborhood greenway which connects at 55th.
After Killingsworth, we made a u-turn and headed to Cully Blvd to sample the elevated cycle track. This neighborhood workhorse was Portland’s first Euro-style cycle track when it was built in 2011. It’s in pretty good shape. We just need a lot more people to ride on it. On that note, I can now highly recommend a stop into La Oaxaqueña (4736 NE Cully Blvd), a small (but mighty!) Mexican grocery store with fresh tamales, pico de gallo, and lots of other wonderful things for the hungry biker.
After snacks were secured, we biked over to Wellington Park where conversations ensued.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next BAC bike ride. They’re a good chance to meet plugged-in people and learn about key bike projects citywide.