Here’s how PBOT says they ‘dropped the ball’ on NE 33rd

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is scrambling to clean up a very messy situation on Northeast 33rd and a 25-year veteran of the bureau is taking full responsibility for having caused it.

Art Pearce is PBOT’s director of policy, planning and projects (he was also a finalist for director position that went to Millicent Williams back in July). Today, after yesterday’s direct action protest that prevented PBOT contractors from removing bike lanes, Pearce told me the entire unfortunate episode is all on him.

“This is an uncomfortable moment for me. This mistake happened under my watch,” he said during a 40-minute video call.

Before I asked him and PBOT Communications Director Hannah Schafer several questions about what happened, Pearce offered his take. He said his team took all the right steps in terms of identifying the bike lane project, finding funding, and getting it designed and queued for installation. But when it came to public outreach, they messed up.

“We really jeopardized trust with the residents along those four blocks,” Pearce said, “And in particular, in multi-generational households who feel as though this is being done to them with painful associations with other things we’ve done as a bureau over the years.”

Pearce was referring to previous projects such as the North Williams Avenue bike lane and the Lloyd-to-Woodlawn neighborhood greenway where longtime Black residents of north and northeast Portland strongly objected to PBOT plans.

“It does not indicate a shift of commitment for me or from the bureau towards cycling and the importance of cycling. There is no shift in terms of our policy approach, or our work toward those outcomes.”

In addition to not properly notifying residents about changing an on-street parking lane to a bike lane and the complex racial dynamic, Pearce mentioned another factor: a new four-plex built without on-street car parking was erected between the time the plans were conceived, to when the bike lanes were installed.

Pearce called the response to the bike lane from some residents of 33rd Ave “valid outrage” because, “there was no outreach other than a staff person scrambling around the morning the crew was out there to provide some level of notice that we were making this change.”

“This was a situation where we dropped the ball. And that’s mine to own, sadly.”

What about PBOT Director Millicent Williams? She’s been the source of anger among many in the community given her role in the SW Broadway bike lane scandal. Pearce and Schafer said they consulted Williams, but she was not directly involved. And since the project was in Pearce’s portfolio, the director is letting him handle the community fallout and response.

Relatedly, Schafer interjected that what happened on NE 33rd was completely disconnected from Broadway:

“I understand we have a very significant trust deficit right now. And that is largely because of what happened with Broadway; but I want to emphasize this was not related. And I know that that’s hard for people to see because of that trust deficit right now. But this is not related.”

– Hannah Schafer, PBOT Communications Director

Below is an edited Q & A from the rest of our conversation.

BikePortland: Was Commissioner Mapps’ office aware of the removal decision?

Art Pearce, PBOT: Not to my knowledge. We did not do a briefing with his office. I consulted with the director, and then, given the complete lack of notice, I felt like the best answer was to remove it and regroup rather than to simply try to retroactively do a level of involvement and consultation.

When did you realize that something was amiss on NE 33rd?

AP: When I heard the bike lanes went in. I was tracking the [project] list two years ago, in 2020.. But I had completely forgotten, candidly about them. I wasn’t tracking this as a specific thing that was happening.

There was a project manager that didn’t send the notification letters out. That person was was leaving the bureau and didn’t pass on the fact that they didn’t complete this activity. But that even if they did, it would have felt inadequate. I think even if they’d gotten a 30-day notice saying ‘We’re going to change your street,’ they probably wouldn’t have also felt consulted enough.

Hannah Schafer, PBOT: And we would have probably had a different type of storm.

The project management team realized [no notification took place] extremely last minute, and in an effort to course-correct, went and handed out in-person notifications as the striping was happening. So, a lot of internal errors led to this moment, unfortunately.

To be clear, you’re saying people never got notice of the bike lane at all, besides its recommendation in the Columbia/Lombard Plan?

AP: There was no direct communication around the decision to make this change to the street

HS: In a travel advisory for the paving project [sent out in August] we’d typically mention a major change like this bike lane, but we didn’t do that either.

Why did you determine that removal of the bike lane was the best course of action?

AP: Given some of the affected households, we felt like simply asking them to come to a meeting to tell them what we’ve already done — it didn’t feel like a very appropriate type of convening. And, bringing them into a big gymnasium [for a neighborhood meeting] with a whole bunch of people who are interested in seeing this from a system benefit, but maybe not as affected directly, it just felt like we were going to have a hard time creating the right kind of respectful convening to allow for their concerns to be addressed.

And so that’s what led us to say, ‘Alright, this is really painful, but we’re going to have to go back [and remove it] and then start a conversation going forward again.’

What about the communication around the removal? Was that done in a way you would have preferred?

AP: No. I think we were still living in a little bit of post-traumatic moment from the Broadway process and were like, ‘Oh my God, we’ve gotta go through it again.’ So we felt, let’s just remove this and then we’ll get to regroup.

Did anyone who lives on the street reach out to PBOT after the bike lanes went in?

AP: Yes. Even when the traffic engineer went out to mark the dimensions in advance of the striping, the concerned emails came into the general inbox.

So it was resident complaints that led to PBOT’s realization that there was insufficient outreach?

HS: No. It all happened at once. We were striping something that we hadn’t told people about, until like literally the day it was being striped… As soon as that striping went in, the weekend of October 7, we started getting emails.

There are a lot of internal lessons here that are going to be learned. This is a very big moment, and we are reviewing our internal processes. This is an embarrassing public mistake.

I also want to make a note about the costs. The whole 33rd project striping was $52,000. The cost to remove it would have been $25,000. So we are not talking about millions of dollars here. But we are calling it a costly mistake because we acknowledge that we need to be extremely fiscally responsible right now. And I acknowledge that people would say, ‘What is going on here?!’ but we want to own this and we want to make sure that we are following up internally and and making sure that these mistakes don’t happen again.

To be clear, if no one complained about the bike lane, would this removal still have been ordered just based on the lack of notice?

AP: No, I think we would have had some internal conversations about what happened. But no. It just happened to be, there’s also the specific character of this location as well. [“Character” is a reference to the racial dynamics at play with some concerned homeowners.]

You mentioned that residents had “valid outrage.” What about the protestors who showed up to stop the trucks? Do you feel their response was valid?

AP: Yes, absolutely. I think the same level of of outrage in response to a lack of consultation happened in both directions. And I think, from the sort of, either/or binary nature of the situation we found ourselves in [bike lane or no bike lane]. It’s a hard space to navigate your way out of.

What happens next in terms of public process?

AP: I haven’t had a chance to connect with the team about the exact approach, but the thought is that we will do direct engagement with affected neighbors first to better understand the trade-offs and the concerns — and then think about the specific remedies.

What just feels key right now is is careful, direct communication, acknowledging peoples’ concerns.

I’ve talked to [BikeLoud PDX Chair] Nic Cota and [BikeLoud Vice Chair] Kiel Johnson and they are very upset with me as well.

What we’re trying to figure out is, is there a non-binary solution that we can deploy? I’m hoping staff consultation with some of those affected parties can come up with some more subtle design solutions as the next step — rather than removing the bike lane and then talking about how to move forward — which was what we had been shifting to thinking about doing.

At this point, I’m hopeful that there is design solution that can address the concerns. That’s where I’m pinning some hope for the next step. And I don’t know necessarily what those might be, depending on what the specific concerns are, but we’ve got some work to do on the ground, quite literally, with those adjacent property owners to figure out what the answers might be.

[Pearce mentioned they might consider helping homeowners make changes on private property like wider driveways for parking.]

What we need is better understanding of the specifics of the hardships of these residents and then ask, ‘Are there ways to solve them?’ Or, are we willing to tell them that this is a change you need to accept.

We’re going to work to remedy this. It does not indicate a shift of commitment for me or from the bureau towards cycling and the importance of cycling. There is no shift in terms of our policy approach, or our work toward those outcomes, we just need to do better engagement.

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.

Thanks for reading.

BikePortland has served this community with independent community journalism since 2005. We rely on subscriptions from readers like you to survive. Your financial support is vital in keeping this valuable resource alive and well.

Please subscribe today to strengthen and expand our work.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

80 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Atreus
Atreus
8 months ago

PBOT keeps saying either “four blocks” or “two blocks” (both used in the same day!), but it’s really more accurately three longer 600-foot block-faces and one short 200-foot block-face, because the east side of 33rd Ave north of Liberty St is already no-parking with ramps connecting down to Lombard. Those houses from Rosa Parks Way to Liberty St also face the side streets, not 33rd Ave, and usually people prefer to park in front of their houses, so we can take them out of the “impacted” column.

So we’re left with three 600-foot block-faces: the west side from Dekum to Rosa Parks, the west side from Rosa Parks to Holman, and the east side from Rosa Parks to Holman. All three block-faces have 9 to 10 houses on them, and all except the recently-built 4-plex have driveways/garages available. The recently-built 4-plex chose not to provide on-site parking, and any smart developer building on a busy road like 33rd Ave would know not to rely on on-street parking being there long-term. If that’s how they were marketing their units, or if they included on-street parking in their pro forma, they made a big mistake and it’s no one’s fault but their own.

The 10 houses on the west side between Rosa Parks and Holman not only have driveways on 33rd Ave, they also have alley access behind their houses, giving them two places they can access their property and locate off-street parking. It’s also worth noting that a full 200 feet on the east side from Rosa Parks to Holman, in front of the businesses there, already has no parking allowed due to big driveways and the parking set-back for the pedestrian crossing at Holman, and they have a big parking lot, so there is no impact at all to the business.
Finally, the pedestrian crossing at Rosa Parks has had yellow curbs (no parking allowed) for about 100 feet in both directions, and the same is true of the Holman crossing, parking is already prohibited for 100 feet from the crossing. Both of them have been in place for a very long time. This means that many of the houses never had parking to begin with before this project.

All in all, we’re left with exactly 18 houses that have historically had on-street parking in front of their house that lost it with this project. Only 18 houses. All of which have off-street parking, many of which also have alley parking in addition to driveway parking. And the furthest they possibly would have to walk to a side street is 300 feet, if they happen to be in the middle of a block. 300 feet is only one and half of the short downtown blocks. This is not a hardship, it’s a minor inconvenience for 18 households who think they should be able to live in a major city and reliably store their personal property in the public right-of-way directly in front of their houses.

Should the inconvenience of a few outweigh the needs of the many?

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

Comment of the week? May. Thank you, you did the breakdown I wanted to see.

This SHOULD settle it. Nobody has a hardship. We’re taking a 300 foot walk for guests. Or maybe some of these places have like 4 cars. I’ve seen that, like you basically have multiple families or adults in one house, all expecting to have a car plus maybe a junk collectable, and use the garage as a bedroom. They’ll have cars parked across the sidewalk AND on the strip between the sidewalk and property.

I know some of this comes down to poverty. But I don’t know the answer, I agree you can’t expect to have 4 city provided parking spots right in front of your house no matter what the reason.

cc_rider
cc_rider
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

The whole thing shows just how disfunctional and broken PBOT is. They did tons of outreach, they just didn’t do the extra performative outreach right before they did the work?

This is yet another example of PBOT prioritizing parked cars over human lives. If home owners own and are entitled to the public space in front of their house, lets codify it into law instead of letting some homeowners have veto power over projects depending on their demographics.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Which homeowners have veto power, exactly? So many people are using this term incorrectly that it makes me wonder if y’all even know what it means.

Atreus
Atreus
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

This entire “controversy” happened because one homeowner complained about the bike lanes, and they would have been removed if not for activists blocking the de-striping machine. If that’s not giving homeowners veto power, I don’t know what is.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

 I don’t know what is.

I realize that.

qqq
qqq
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

Comment of the week.

The reason is that’s exactly what type of analysis that PBOT should be doing every time they propose removing parking. They should definitely have done it this time, especially before removing the bike lanes.

All the info is there, if people only take time to look on google or portlandmaps, or walk down the street. It takes some time (thanks!) but on the other hand, it’s a tiny amount of effort for PBOT to do in the context of spending tens of thousands of dollars or more on projects.

Plus your analysis (the fourplex’s lack of parking is its own fault, etc.) is perfect. It should be embarrassing for PBOT if it turns out people complaining have multiple off-street spaces or alley access, especially if PBOT removes the lanes before (or after!) noticing that.

Kori
Kori
8 months ago

Hey John. Great reporting, before and after the attempted removal. Long time donor, first time commenter, but I HAD to speak up after reading these comments. I really dislike seeing people here accuse the neighborhood of gluttonous excessive car ownership and even “the race card” (come on guys! Really?!?!)

If we take Art at his word that this was an honest mistake (and I am) then this was a really thorny situation. We all know that cycling is not some essentially white activity. But situations like this wedge black portlanders against bike infra in a way that is incredibly counterproductive & turns communities on one another that should have some sort of solidarity. In scenarios like this you just can’t win, but I personally would rather go back on a bike lane that had only existed for 3 weeks than risk this n’hood forever associating the era of urban freeways w/ bike lanes.

That all said, Art can’t JUST bring up the Broadway bike lane scandal and say he’s given the protestors enough context. Im not sure they would have shown up like they did, had the Broadway saga not gone down. Art swears that PBOT is not shifting away from its bike goals, but that’s just not the reality I’ve lived for the past year. When ppl show up to stand in front of a truck like this, they’re holding onto memories like the deaths of Sarah Pliner and Jeanie Diaz, which elicited very marginal safety changes. They are thinking about Mapps’ “culture change” speech, they are thinking about the attacks on NE 21st and the Rose Parade festival, and how PBOT does little to nothing or even spends resources REMOVING safety infrastructure put down by volunteers. They are thinking about Williams’ past with the IBR project, itself a top-down project reminiscent of the era of urban freeways.

There has been a long erosion of trust between vulnerable road users and PBOT that doesn’t start or end w/ Broadway or NE 33rd. I’m not even saying the bike lanes on 33rd have to stay! I appreciate the “non binary solution” approach, where we maybe make the affected neighbors whole somehow while keeping the lane. But if I were PBOT, or Mapps, or Williams for that matter, I would be making some positive gestures towards the bike community.

Atreus
Atreus
8 months ago
Reply to  Kori

You can’t dismiss “race” as an issue here. It appears to be the main reason this removal was attempted, because a Black homeowner complained to the city. The question I would ask you is, what about all the Black bicyclists out there who would benefit from this bike connection? Yes, they do exist, and they even organize giant bike rides once in a while. There is also ABC, a Hispanic/Latinx group that organizes around biking, mainly in the Cully area, just east of this neighborhood and connected to the Holman greenway. What about them, do their feelings matter less than this homeowner? We can’t pick and choose which BIPOC voices we talk to and listen to and value. This decision was rushed and inappropriate, pure and simple.

Kori
Kori
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. You’re correct on a lot of things here; and being right is half the battle. But we also have to win. I think that bike advocacy is only actionable when we build a progressive coalition, b/c our goals should align with theirs—climate, traffic safety, environmental justice etc.

You can tell me all those things in the bikePortland comments, but ultimately the ppl in these n’hoods will never see it. And whether it’s true or not, the residents will just see cycling as a “white” activity imposed at their expense by a central planning body. Solidarity has been eroded, our potential allies might vote against us in the future. Candidates who oppose biking AND racial justice seize on the division.

I really laid into PBOT during the broadway scandal b/c the optics were very clear—wealthy downtown business owners paid off the city to remove broadly supported bike lanes. Our opposition told a story, that power and money conspired to make the public less safe. We might agree that this situation is similar, but the vast majority of ppl do not. Homeowners ARE a privileged class in the US, but when you start trying to disentangle racial dynamics from homeownership, such as here, I feel it is an optical Lose/Lose situation.

Joann Hardesty said some kinda cringe things essentializing cyclists as white/drivers as non-white early on in her tenure at PBOT; the response wasn’t perfect but I think we called her in and came to a better understanding. And that was ultimately good for Bikes as well as broader progressive politics in this city.

cc_rider
cc_rider
8 months ago
Reply to  Kori

But situations like this wedge black portlanders against bike infra in a way that is incredibly counterproductive & turns communities on one another that should have some sort of solidarity. In scenarios like this you just can’t win, but I personally would rather go back on a bike lane that had only existed for 3 weeks than risk this n’hood forever associating the era of urban freeways w/ bike lanes.

Come on, this has nothing to do with I-5. This situations reminds me of the 7s greenway. These are just the same generic complaints we hear from every homeowner who feels entitled to the public property in front of their house. There is no amount of ‘communication’ that would make them okay with giving up the monopoly of that space.

PBOT just needs to codify it’s race-based system if that’s the system it wants to have. We should just have a Black Approval Board who determines where projects can go in historically Black neighborhoods before we do all the planning needed to build them. I’m not saying that in a sarcastic way, it just makes sense. If the “character” of the neighborhood is such that bike lanes are a no-go, we should just plan a route that goes through a neighborhood that doesn’t have that “character”. There are plenty of neighborhoods who would have been stoked to get $80k in infrastructure. Now its just wasted.

Road safety is not a social construct and it doesn’t have a memory. An unsafe road is unsafe regardless of how people feel about it or the history of the road and the people that live on it. Not building safe roads is a diservice to the people who will live there 50 years from now. Roads have stakeholders who don’t live on the street, don’t live in Portland, who don’t even live in Oregon. They are transitive by nature and letting street residents determine how safe a street is a losing strategy. But if PBOT wants to do that, be up front about it.

appreciate the “non binary solution” approach, where we maybe make the affected neighbors whole somehow while keeping the lane.

They are whole! Compensating people from the loss of space they don’t own but feel entitled to is a very dangerous road to go down. It would be PBOT acknowleding that people more or less own the space in front of their house and would set a precedent that would hamstring projects requiring parking removal for perpetuity.

There are huge swaths of the city that don’t have sidewalks but PBOT is thinking about paying to improve private property because they modified public property. We’ve reached peak insanity at the Bureau.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

PBOT just needs to codify it’s race-based system if that’s the system it wants to have.

I agree. It would be a lot easier for everyone if they just laid it all out.

Charley
Charley
8 months ago

As many of us remember from the N Williams bike lane saga, “racial dynamics” such as these can put PBOT in a Catch-22:

A. It would be clearly racist (in the Kendi framework meaning of the term) for PBOT to neglect Black neighborhoods, by failing to build safety improvements. Black Lives Matter, and clearly that should be true as regards traffic violence.

B. However, there will likely always be *someone* opposed to a given safety infrastructure, and PBOT must pay some attention to local feedback on projects. If Black residents in the project areas feel that there’s a disproportionate effect on them, and thus oppose a given safety measure, PBOT would be racist to ignore them and install the safety improvement.

C. Therefore PBOT is racist no matter what it does.

—————————————

This creates an incentive structure in which a PBOT manager can choose to be racist through neglect or through action. PBOT can choose to be tacitly, quietly, guilty of racist neglect, or *noisily, publicly accused of a racist policy*.

Most would rather choose neglect over the public spectacle of being called a racist! This incentive structure would push managers in the direction of leaving City streets less safe in Black neighborhoods.

In this case, it may only be a single household, but it should be no surprise that PBOT feels it necessary to spend tens of thousands of dollars to undo a safety improvement. This is yet another way in which the shameful racist history of the city, state, and country are reaching out through history to make life worse for us all.

—————————————

I hope Mr. Pearce’s plan of finding a non-binary response works for the residents and for the bike lane. I appreciate the candor with which he discussed the issue: it’s especially impressive in contrast to Mapps’ lies and evasion.

J Chris Anderson
J Chris Anderson
8 months ago

Art is good, he’s been doing good work for years, look in the archives here.

Leadership means taking ownership of the whole thing. If there’s a lack of focus or direction here it comes from the top. You should never single out someone down the tree on your watch.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago

Art is good, he’s been doing good work for years

More apologia for PBOT’s litany of failures..
.
Does 7% to 3% mean anything to you at all? Do you even ride for transportation?

Granpa
Granpa
8 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Does the term “hectoring scold” mean anything to you? (Adjective noun)

Charley
Charley
8 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

I think laying the blame for the decreasing bike commuting numbers on Mr. Pearce would be factually unsupported and logically weak.

There are huge cultural and economic changes afoot over the last decade, all during a time when PBOT continued to build bike safety projects. Those projects may not be the type or extent of project that you’d prefer, but it’s clear PBOT hasn’t abandoned bikes, even as the number of bike riders declined.

Maybe you’d argue that the projects have been so bad as to discourage riding? But that’d be a big stretch, too.

Allan
Allan
8 months ago

I really don’t like the decision to remove the bike lane without publicly apologizing and saying you’re going to remove it. That’s the part that really rubbed me the wrong way. Grinding down the pavement and repainting it later is worse than doing nothing, and there’s no acknowledgment of that.

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
8 months ago

Pretty hard to read through all of this when we are talking about parking. Isn’t parking removal celebrated by advocates? Didn’t I see a neighbor post that this had been in the works for 5 years? It is very clear that whoever these new residents are that they quickly found the ace of spades to get PBOT to pivot. I hope they share their methods.

EP
EP
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Hecker

Given “the specific character of this location”, it seems to be the race card that was played.

Zack
Zack
8 months ago

Dropping in to remind everyone that you’re not entitled to the car-sized area of street next to your curb, even if you own your house. Streets are public and using them to store private vehicles is robbery.

Jeff S
Jeff S
8 months ago

a new four-plex built without on-street car parking was erected…”
I think you meant to say OFF-street?

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Jeff S

Yep, thank you Jeff.

Atreus
Atreus
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff S

Interesting to cite that as an issue, when the housing regulatory relief package that just passed the Planning Commission specifically removes on-street parking impacts as a criteria for land use cases. In other words, a new building that goes in for any kind of land use review and doesn’t have off-street parking can no longer be required to even analyze, much less mitigate, for any impact they might have on on-street parking. The justification was that we no longer want to inhibit the production of housing by requiring off-street parking, and we don’t want them to then be forced to provide off-street parking to mitigate on-street parking impacts. So it doesn’t really make any policy sense to say that PBOT should hesitate to remove on-street parking for bike lanes because of a four-plex that chose not to build parking.

habitat
habitat
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

That, and if you consider that Middle Housing legislation allowed quadplexes in most places that used to be exclusive to single detached homes statewide, and Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities legislation pushes against minimum parking in transit-adjacent-ish communities statewide, a quadplex without off-street parking could occur almost anywhere. If that were seriously a PBOT criterion for bike lane elimination, that’s an awful lot of bike lanes at risk.

maccoinnich
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

1) The HRR package hasn’t passed the Planning Commission yet, although I do expect to with that section left as-proposed.

2) Parking impacts are not currently a factor in the approval process for the vast majority of new housing that is built. (i.e. parking is not considered as part of the design review process). Where the HRR would change things is the situations where a zone change is requested, which is uncommon but does happen. It would also affect Central City Master Plans, which is the process that’s about to start for the Lloyd Center redevelopment.

blumdrew
blumdrew
8 months ago

Newsflash to Art Pearce: if you remove bike lanes because of concerns over street parking that does in fact indicate a shift of commitment from the bureau on the importance of cycling. No occupancy vehicles (aka parked cars) are the lowest point on the modal hierarchy! What’s the point of having a planning policy like that if the bureau in charge of enacting it is categorically unwilling to do so?

Fred
Fred
8 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Comment of the week.

Jolly Dodger
Jolly Dodger
8 months ago

“There was a project manager that didn’t send the notification letters out. That person was was leaving the bureau and didn’t pass on the fact that they didn’t complete this activity.”

OK. At least it’s a “plausible” story. Not a good story – or redeemable one, but it’s a story. Not accepting responsibility for allowing that staffer to let it happen? I dunno….it all just seems like a flimsy excuse to me.

Kudos and heartfelt gratitude to Keil and the other protestors who took the necessary direct action to stop the removal. Hopefully there will be a positive outcome for everyone in the community – and the powers that be will keep closer tabs on their underlings during projects they’re supposed to be supervising.

Thanks, Jonathan for doing Pulitzer level reporting. You’re a gem.

Atreus
Atreus
8 months ago
Reply to  Jolly Dodger

I feel bad for whoever this mystery staff person is who is getting thrown under the bus like this. If Art Pearce is the man in charge, and taking ownership for this situation, he should own the fact that he makes the rules and has responsibility for this. To blame it on someone who isn’t even there anymore to defend himself is pretty crappy. Who knows what could have happened, maybe it was a miscommunication, unclear protocols, maybe he thought someone else was going to do it…we’ll probably never know his side of the story. But ultimately it’s Art’s responsibility to make sure things happen correctly, and maybe he needs to spend more time providing effective leadership to his staff than trying to remove bike lanes in secret to make a problem go away. Kudos to BikeLoud for making sure it didn’t happen and forcing this reckoning.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

Uhh, I think he obviously is owning it. He’s taking full responsibility. When asked how it happened, he simply explained it. I wanted to know, I’m glad he didn’t just say “I did it no further comment.”

Atreus
Atreus
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

I disagree, I think he’s trying to have it both ways. There’s no need to even mention the staffer. Art could have just said “we failed to send out notices” and fully owned it. Instead he’s saying “someone else messed up, but I own it and take responsibility, but just so you know, it was someone else who messed up.

Sven
Sven
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

You are assuming that this person isn’t imaginary.

Scott Mizée
8 months ago

Big thanks to Art and to you Jonathan for putting this out there. Art, I really appreciate the way you are handling this tough situation. I’m hopeful that the community will be able to move forward in a way where all parties feel heard and valued.

John V
John V
8 months ago

“a new four-plex built without on-street car parking was erected between the time the plans were conceived, to when the bike lanes were installed.”

Well this sounds relevant. According to Portland Maps, this is a condominium owned by an LLC (if I understand correctly). I was wondering if there might be some multi-unit property owner who complained, and wouldn’t be surprised if it was someone like this.

For what it’s worth, people living there would still be able to park on literally any of the other streets on that block. So we’re talking a couple houses away. But still, that’s something. To me, I would say don’t move into a house that doesn’t have parking and assume you’ll always be able to park in front of your house.

On the other hand, this interview sounds pretty convincing that they really feel like they messed up. Even given his explanation, I still don’t understand how the project actually moved forward. He said it was off his radar, but then who actually gave the go-ahead to build it?

John
John
8 months ago
Reply to  John V

There aren’t checks like this—Art would never have to give approval for a project this small to move forward.

Atreus
Atreus
8 months ago
Reply to  John

Seriously. It’s two blocks! Not every single tiny project goes up to upper management for a briefing, for good reason. It would slow everything down to even more of a crawl.

zuckerdog
zuckerdog
8 months ago

Mistakes are going to happen.
How one deals with a mistake usually provides good insight to one’s character/intent.

Now compare this interview with the recent interview with Mingus…

Atreus
Atreus
8 months ago

I would love to know what the specific hardship is involved with having to walk less than a block to the nearest side street for on-street parking. Is there someone with a disability? If so, why did they never request a disabled parking space? Even if they do need one, the ADA specifically only requires there be a space somewhere on the perimeter of the entire block in question, with an accessible path from the space to the home, so the space could still be located on a side street around the corner. Do they need the ability to load and unload people from the curb? Well, that’s perfectly legal to do in a bike lane. All PBOT would have to do is leave that part of the bike lane unprotected long-term (and this bike lane was just striping anyway).

If the complaint is just that they want parking in front of their house, well, I don’t know what to say other than welcome to living in a city. A lot of suburbs don’t even allow on-street parking. In many parts of Portland, parking is congested enough that no one expects to park right near their house. And on busy streets, lots of people don’t have parking because the space is used for bike lanes or car lanes or bus lanes. So is it even an impact, if it was never something that was a reasonable expectation to begin with, and it amounts to a slight inconvenience? People park all the time in giant parking lots at Fred Meyer and walk further from their car to the store than the residents on 33rd Ave would have to walk to their house. This is not a hardship.

It would be great if decisions were made based on an assessment of actual impacts, versus someone just saying “I don’t like it.” What is the hardship?

Rose
Rose
8 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

Thank you for noting the issue may be assessabilty related. I am in support of bike lanes and want to see this lane remain. I agree though, the family may think they need a parking spot right out front and someone may have needed to work with with them to find a solution. Keep in mind many people, especially elderly, find it very difficult to back out onto a busy street.

SeaTacgoride
SeaTacgoride
8 months ago

The best way to restore public confidence in PBOT would be for Millicent Williams to resign, TOMORROW!

SeaTacgoride
SeaTacgoride
8 months ago

Well, at least this shut down the popular narrative by many on the Bike Portland peanut gallery that this was Mapps’ doing. If Williams doesn’t resign over this and recent missteps Mingus needs to terminate her.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  SeaTacgoride

I don’t really think it shuts that down. If this guy can take one for the team, take all the blame for a mistake that frankly wasn’t his if his story is accurate, then why shouldn’t Williams, or Mapps? And why the knee jerk reaction? Could it be a new culture of immediately bucking to property owner demands?

I don’t think this cleaning exonerates Mapps like you seem to.

idlebytes
idlebytes
8 months ago

Even if they did public outreach the complaints wouldn’t have stopped the design. The decision to remove it because of the complaints of a few homeowners was the real mistake. We shouldn’t be wasting money removing safer infrastructure because someone forgot to send out a few letters. Removing it is an absolutely absurd response.

qqq
qqq
8 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

Yes, it’s the removal that’s so crazy–especially that it was done without any notice, at the same time PBOT was saying they don’t want to make that mistake again.

In all of this, I’d been trying to think of a situation where immediate removal would make sense. There is one–if something that went in was creating an immediate danger. For instance, if PBOT put up, say, SPEED LIMIT 60 MPH signs instead of 25 MPH.

Finding out that the compelling reason why PBOT felt they had to act immediately to remove the bike lanes was that it eliminated some on-street parking spaces–in front of houses that almost all have multiple off-street spaces no less–is nuts.

John V
John V
8 months ago
Reply to  qqq

I chuckled (in a not happy way) when he said that. Like, we’re still reeling from the Broadway debacle, so when we realized our mistake, we did exactly the same thing that happened at Broadway.

Pizzahead
Pizzahead
8 months ago

Now this is leadership PBOT, thank you.

Fred
Fred
8 months ago
Reply to  Pizzahead

No, it’s not- it’s 100%, Grade A cover-your-ass damage control.

Pizzahead
Pizzahead
8 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Or it is coming clean about your missteps and not continuing to make the same mistakes. What more would you want in this bad situation they’ve put themselves in?

qqq
qqq
8 months ago
Reply to  Pizzahead

What he said was OK, but they just DID make the same mistake–they decided to take the bike lanes out without any notice, right while they were saying they would be sure not to shortchange public notice.again.

Fred
Fred
8 months ago
Reply to  qqq

The thing that needs to STOP is PBOT responding to resident and business-owner complaints by REMOVING bike infrastructure.

Can you imagine them doing this for ANY other type of transportation need – cars, trucks, freight, rail, you name it. Only bikes get this kind of shoddy treatment.

A city that has committed to 25% bike mode-share by 2030 simply does NOT behave this way.

EP
EP
8 months ago
Reply to  Fred

It’s ridiculous how cars, trucks, freight and rail have gotten to take 99.9% of the pie, and bikes are left fighting for crumbs. And anytime bikes are thrown a crumb, all the other groups are up in arms about it.

No kind of transformative change will ever happen if this current PBOT response is allowed to become the norm.

Voline
Voline
8 months ago

Anyone want to do a public records request for any communications between Millicent Williams, Mingus Mapps, and the rest of the PBOT about 33rd Ave in the past few days?

Jim Knox
Jim Knox
8 months ago
Reply to  Voline

Jonathan, you should so do this! Records request please.

Fred
Fred
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Knox

I agree. I suspect you will find that Millicent Williams is once again responsible for the order to remove the bike lanes – just as with the Broadway scandal. But Art is being a good foot-soldier and is taking the blame this time.

John
John
8 months ago
Reply to  Fred

It actually was Art. But either way there won’t be a paper trail with or without a records request. That is the lesson learned from Broadway.

bjorn
bjorn
8 months ago

It is really too bad that Mapps and Williams lies over the last couple months make it impossible to believe any of this. Maybe it is true, but it could also and probably more likely is a load of horseshit.

Ireneo
Ireneo
8 months ago

I’d like to understand better what this means:

“Character” is a reference to the racial dynamics at play with some concerned homeowners.

Charley
Charley
8 months ago
Reply to  Ireneo

Try googling bikeportland N Williams.

Lots of good local history in Maus’ reporting from 2011 or so.

Patrick Cashman
Patrick Cashman
8 months ago

“the complex racial dynamic” is a personal opinion that bears no consideration in matters of public policy. Race is irrelevant, what matters is equal application of the law for all citizens without regard to backbirth concerns like race or skin color.

Patrick Cashman
Patrick Cashman
8 months ago

Only to racists.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
8 months ago

You ought to try living in a community sometime where “minorities” are in the majority and yet BIPOC-owned businesses receive not even 2% of city contracts, so you can get a better feel for systemic and institutional racism rather than the personal kind.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

You might think that is how it should be, but PBOT is an “anti-racist” organization and declares that prominently on it’s reports.

“Anti-racism” is a philosophy espoused by Ibram Kendi which says that it is racist not to evaluate every decision through a racial framework. If a decision doesn’t actively push back against racism then it is racist.

Marika S
Marika S
8 months ago

But there is good argument that this “Kendiesque” approach is actually itself racist and discriminatory. Kendi himself has weaponized charges of racism to deflect investigation into his financial mismanagement of funds at his center.

Kendi’s reductionist line of thinking runs squarely against enlightened principles — free inquiry, freedom of speech, a diversity of perspectives.
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/05/opinion/ibram-x-kendi-racism.html

https://www.campusreform.org/article/ibram-kendi-says-its-racist-to-scrutinize-his-failed-center-for-antiracist-research/24143

https://www.washingtonpost.com/books/2023/09/28/ibram-kendi-stamped-center-antiracist-research/

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Marika S

BTW, Marika, I’m a huge fan of Pamela Paul.

David Raboin
David Raboin
8 months ago

Biggest public policy failure of the 20th century: free parking on public right of ways.

JR
JR
8 months ago

I recall a story 15+ years ago by Mia Birk (former PBOT staffer and executive of Alta Planning and Design) about when PBOT repaved SE 7th Avenue through the Central Eastside, they installed bikes over a weekend (or something like that) without hardly any public outreach. I’ve used those bike lanes thousands of times over the last 20 years. I guess we’re lucky that someone stuck to their guts decades ago to enjoy what little we have today. Now it’s process over outcomes, despite an adopted Bicycle Master Plan. Why can’t PBOT just say sorry, steps were missed, but this is the outcome predicated on an adopted plan that had years of outreach?

Fred
Fred
8 months ago
Reply to  JR

I’m hoping a PRR will discover that Director Williams has a penchant for removing bike lanes, as she showed already in the Broadway scandal. She may have been smarter this time in giving her orders via telephone and putting nothing in writing, with Art as the fall guy.

SD
SD
8 months ago

BikePortland’s greatest contribution to humanity will be its chronicling of personal stories about the march of one million shrugs toward climate collapse, mass displacement and species-defining suffering.

Cyclekrieg
8 months ago

Jonathon, great reporting on this and Broadway.

But I also want to caution you to make a few discrete inquiries before an interview like this. Mr. Pearce lied a few times in this interview, and you didn’t catch it, maybe because road engineering isn’t your thing.

Lie #1“There was a project manager that didn’t send the notification letters out. That person was leaving the bureau and didn’t pass on the fact that they didn’t complete this activity.” A project like this would have a project management software task list and multiple team members with access to that database. Public notice requirements should and would be included in the database. What he is doing here is blaming something on a person who left so the rest of the department doesn’t look (as) bad. If PBOT has a project system so broken it can’t track items on calendar or a single person can “forget” to do something and there is no back-up, then PBOT should be dissolved immediately because they have less oversight than a high school student council.

Lie #2“The whole 33rd project striping was $52,000. The cost to remove it would have been $25,000. So we are not talking about millions of dollars here.” That is some super fine hair-splitting there and functionally false. Yes, the physical cost of painting lines might be $52,000 and now $25,000 to remove them, but what was the total cost of the project and the sunk cost in time/hours of staff for this project to do the required work for bike lanes? A striping & signage plan for bike lanes is significantly more involved than one for parking lanes. Where is the reflection of that extra time in this statement. Somehow, I don’t think the PBOT employees were paid in rainbows and unicorns.

There are other odd things he says, like “I haven’t had a chance to connect with the team about the exact approach, but the thought is that we will do direct engagement with affected neighbors first to better understand the trade-offs and the concerns.” What? BMPs for public engagement for transportation are pretty well known and used. (In fact, most states have requirements for pre-construction open houses, to eliminate this very issue. Why doesn’t PBOT have the same requirement?) Is Mr. Pearce claiming PBOT doesn’t have a written process it uses for public engagement already? I doubt it.

It feels like to me that he doesn’t want to say that he got whacked with the naughty stick from someone on high for what was a perceived slight to an “oppressed group”. Dude, it’s OK to say: “Look, I got a call from the Director of Diversity/Inclusion/Equity and now we have to rip bike lanes out as a perfunctory penance, even though it will do nothing to reduce the systemic issues plaguing this community.” Beside not throwing ex-employees under the bus or making PBOT look like a clown car, it would let everyone have the discussion that we should be having: is endangering the lives of segment of road users worth some butthurt of a few homeowners, regardless of what issues they face?

Again, this makes the point I keep trying to hammer home to bike advocates: Stop worrying about bike lanes and start advocating to change the typical sections for roads. If the typical section for this type of road would have been changed, that’s it folks, that is what you get.

John
John
8 months ago
Reply to  Cyclekrieg

You sound like somebody who might have experience within a state DOT or maybe a consultant/public employee who has worked only on large capital projects. It’s worth keeping in mind that paving projects with small stretches of striping changes at PBOT are done by extremely small siloed teams with almost no funding, and little in the way of redundancies/checklists like you mention in point #1 above. In this case the truth is worse than the lie.

Cyclekrieg
8 months ago
Reply to  John

I work at a mid-sized consulting engineering firm with just over 200 employees. My current project is a sewer/water/road redo in a town of 600. There are 4 other team members, only 2 of us are doing drawings. So, I’m used to doing projects in small teams. We use MS Teams and Outlook for project management. Its super simple.

joan
8 months ago

Trust deficit is right. I am generally someone who has been inclined to listen to and believe PBOT when they say they are trying to do better in conversations with Black neighbors, especially in historic Albina and nearby areas. And I think I’ve generally given PBOT the benefit of the doubt. But the Broadway bike lane debacle and the fact that Mapps seems to lie pretty casually, and Williams apparently lied too, makes me distrust official PBOT as a whole right now. Is Pearce being honest? Is he being a good foot soldier and covering for leadership? I have no idea, and I would only believe him if, for example, someone who I actually know who works for PBOT said to me privately, “Yes, that’s what went down.” But otherwise, nope. They really damaged their standing with a lot of folks. I don’t think I’ll believe anything Mapps says, and likely Williams and PBOT Communications folks by proxy, for a good long time. Forever? Way to burn more than a decade of good faith standing with me, PBOT.

Jim Labbe
8 months ago

Big kudos to Art Pearce for owning this and authentically- I believe- trying to find a solution to this. This precisely the honesty and responsibility we need in public life right now. Before folks pile on him, think about it. What comes next and how do we use this opportunity to get more responsive government in the future? Specifically how can we make sure we get more responses like this on NE 33rd and fewer of the kind of responses we got on SW Broadway fiasco? That means supporting good leadership when and where it happens… even and perhaps especially where it follows mistakes by that same leadership. Sure it is not the only thing we need. We need this to not happen again and we need new mechanisms that ensure far more transparency, accountability and meaningful participation in decision making to better align government and communities, I think we are more likely to get there if we have more of the corrective leadership Art Pearce has demonstrated in our City government.

bjorn
bjorn
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Labbe

Personally I think he is lying, but if he is telling the truth then he lacks competence and is not someone who should be leading these types of projects. His story is that on the heels of the Broadway scandal he unilaterally decided to try and stealth remove a bike lane and that he mentioned it to Williams but she wasn’t interested in being responsible for making the decision and they didn’t loop in the bureau head? That doesn’t make any sense, really the whole thing is just laughable.

Marika S
Marika S
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Labbe

Nah, he’s just taking the fall for Millicent Williams. She needs to go.

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
8 months ago

That’s a lot of money to spend on removing some lines of paint. Wow. Seems far too expensive.
Also, a few years ago bicyclists helped get guardrails removed from a section of the Historic Columbia River Hwy between the Stark Street Bridge and the Troutdale Bridge because ODOT didn’t follow proper procedure with regards to public notifications and giving people the opportunity to comment on their plan. I am very happy that bicyclists called out ODOT for that.
In this case, bicyclists are unhappy because PBOT realized they didn’t follow proper public notification procedure and decided to remove the striping; bicyclists now want a transportation agency to ignore their rules relating to public notification.
You can’t have it both ways. Either you want government agencies to follow proper public notification procedures or you don’t.
As someone who has biked all over Portland since before bike lanes even existed, I think that bicyclists will be just fine if these few blocks end up not having bike lanes. I have biked NE 33rd countless times since I was 8 years old — I’m 50 now and grew up in that area and lived there as an adult for much of my adult life — and have never had any problems.
If you are that scared to bike without these three blocks having bike lanes, then use other roads, ride up on the sidewalk or walk on the sidewalk, or take the bus – you can put your bike on the front of the bus.