PBOT won’t enforce bike lane parking on NE 33rd as it ‘cleans up’ removal mistake

Looking north on NE 33rd from the middle of NE Holman. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation says what transpired on Northeast 33rd was “an embarrassing public mistake” and they are in the process of cleaning it up.

Their planned removal of two blocks of bike lanes on 33rd was met with a direct action protest that prevented crews from completing the job. Then a PR debacle ensued.

I had a phone call today with the PBOT communications director and the high-level staffer who’s taking full blame for the situation (no, it was not PBOT Director Millicent Williams or Commissioner Mingus Mapps). I learned more about PBOT’s version for how it all went sideways. I’ll have that story up soon, but wanted to share something I just received a few minutes ago from someone who lives on NE 33rd where the bike lane was installed.

On Tuesday morning, residents along the two block stretch of 33rd between Holman and Dekum received a letter on their doorstep. It said, “beginning Wednesday, November 1… PBOT will deploy contractors to remove lane striping in this section and return this section to its original condition.”

Today, those same residents received another letter from PBOT. Below is the text of that letter (emphasis mine):

Dear Northeast Portland Neighbor,

I am writing to follow up on the recently installed bike lanes along NE 33rd Avenue. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) installed bike lanes on NE 33rd from NE Holman to NE Dekum streets at the beginning of October, effectively removing on-street parking for these two blocks. PBOT did not give adequate notices to the adjacent residents, and we immediately heard concerns from residents with hardships presented from removing the on-street parking.

PBOT continued to communicate with the concerned residents and ultimately decided to remove bike lane striping in this section and return it to its original condition with on-street parking. Contractors started to perform this work on November 1st. However, work was stopped when protesting in the streets made it unsafe to continue the work. At this time, there is no schedule for the removal of the bike lane striping to continue. We recommend not parking in the bike lanes, but at the same time we do not plan to issue tickets with fines.

We would like to take this time to continue our conversations with directly impacted residents to ensure access and safety needs are being met before we continue with any additional action. We are also having conversations with area cyclists that support the bike lanes. If you have a concern you would like to share with PBOT, please call, email, or set up a time for us to meet in person. We will continue engagement and notify the community before taking any further action.

An extant bike lane that won’t be legally treated like one, is a really awkward — and potentially dangerous — situation. It sets people up for verbal or even physical interactions on the street — in the form of both potential traffic collisions and potential disagreements between how the road should be used.

This situation underscores what a mess PBOT finds themselves in for the second time in the past month or so.

From what I heard from PBOT’s Policy, Planning & Projects Group Director Art Pearce today, the city is in a really awkward position too. “It’s an uncomfortable moment for me,” Pearce shared with BikePortland in a video call a few hours ago. “This mistake happened under my watch.” Pearce is taking full responsibility for what happened on 33rd. Now it’s his job to clean up the mess before it gets worse.

Stay tuned for a recap of that conversation. And be careful biking on 33rd Avenue until this all gets sorted out.

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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dw
dw
6 months ago

So it’ll be like every other bike lane in the city then?

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
6 months ago
Reply to  dw

Just about every commute I have to exit bike lanes multiple times to avoid illegal obstacles. The difference between 2023 and 2013 is night and day.
.

PS: The nimcompoop who leaves the very heavy metal garbage bins in the bike lane on NE 16th every single week is quite the jerk.

Andrew S
Andrew S
6 months ago

Ugh. That letter definitely reads “don’t be mad at PBOT for bungling this whole thing, get mad at those pesky cyclists!”

Letter should say “This project was planned for two years, but we somehow fumbled at the finish line and so some concerned citizens called us out on wanting to spend $25k to physically damage a recently improved roadway to actively reduce safety on this street.”

Framing the issue as the “hardships” of “directly impacted residents” vs “area cyclists” instead of actually taking ownership for the project is a cop out whether done intentionally or not. It’s an unconscious, car-brained way of continuing to paint people who ride bikes as others instead of the friends, neighbors, residents, and voters, that we are.

pierre_delecto
pierre_delecto
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew S

But I have it on good authority that Art is a really nice guy.
.
More seriously, the strategy of city staff cozying up to their “friends” in nonprofits to create a buffer that weakens the impact of valid grassroots anger at lack of progress is a hallmark of Portland’s dysfunction.
.
IMO, the moment a grassroots org becomes a 501c3 they cease to become relevant. Not to mention that 501c3 status requires the org to zealously obey THE LAW in such a manner that the action yesterday could strip BikeLoud of their oh-so-important non-profit status.

Brad Petersen
Brad Petersen
6 months ago

PBOT… you’re deep enough! Put down the shovel for goodness sake.

Pizzahead
Pizzahead
6 months ago

Step in the right direction. Let’s hope PBOT works with the neighbors and does the right thing.

blumdrew
6 months ago
Reply to  Pizzahead

What’s the right thing? Removing a planned bike lane? Why stop at NE 33rd, PBOT should remove all cycling infrastructure to allow for more street parking. The real problem with Portland is that there aren’t enough cars. If only the city dedicated more land and space to the use and storage of private cars, then we could be a real city. PBOT’s backwards policies deprive me of my God given right to live in a suburb and spend 2 hours a day driving. We should all look at how Los Angeles is planned, they almost got it right. Too bad they stopped just one lane short on all their freeways of solving congestion.

bjorn
bjorn
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I have come to believe this is Mapps plan, to wherever it is legal and really even if it isn’t just remove every greenway, every bike lane, I am waiting to see him start ripping out sidewalks rather than making them ADA compliant.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

The real problem with Portland is that there aren’t enough cars

Back in the day, we used to talk about organizing protests where cyclists would drive downtown during rush hour to show how much worse traffic would be if we didn’t ride bikes (never mind that many of us would have taken the bus if riding were impossible).

Now that bike riding has collapsed, I no longer believe cycling is a viable solution to congestion, except perhaps for a nibble along the margins. If we held that protest now, no one would even notice.

Fortunately for me, I still enjoy riding in Portland as much as I ever did, and I think conditions are better than ever.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Fortunately for me, I still enjoy riding in Portland as much as I ever did, and I think conditions are better than ever.

Apparently you ride routes where the obliteration of the safety in number effect and the increase in aggressive driving is not relevant. I have to admit that as someone who still has to ride in crappy bike lanes on arterials/collectors I am envious.

Charley
Charley
6 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

I’ve experienced this as a mixed bag:

– there have always been aggro drivers…

-… but their vehicles have gotten larger

– I don’t bother riding the semi-rural routes I used to ride because there’s more commuting traffic and it has gotten faster/angrier

– but PBOT has redone my main commuting routes and they’re way more comfortable now (SE Main is breeze, instead of a vehicular shoving match)

– on the other hand, camps block pathways, and some of the pavement around town is becoming so bad it’s a hazard unto itself (I’m looking at you, SE 21st at Fred Meyer)

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

I have to admit that as someone who still has to ride in crappy bike lanes on arterials/collectors I am envious.

I ride on a lot of crappy streets (I’ll ride almost anywhere in the city), but I’ve rarely had the problems with drivers that others report. I’m probably just lucky.

Pkjb
Pkjb
6 months ago

I’ve had cops tell me to my face that they will do nothing to ticket, tow, or enforce against people parked in bike lanes, even when they can clearly see violations directly in front of them. The non enforcement on 33rd will be no different than the citywide status quo.

Nathan
Nathan
6 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

Are they enforcing the urban campers with their RV’s in the bike path or throwing hazmat materials into the road i bike along?

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

I wonder if that’s because PBOT parking enforcement you know…enforces parking?

dw
dw
6 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

My favorite is cops who watch people run red lights or almost kill people walking and biking, then give me the “What’re you gonna do??” shrug. Idk man, your job????

blumdrew
6 months ago

This is frankly insulting stuff. Telling residents that they can just ignore the bike lanes is a mind-bogglingly bad decision. PBOT is blatantly ignoring city policy regarding mode hierarchy in decision making while simultaneously making the conditions on the roads for cyclists everywhere in the city. They are telling everyone who lives on a road with a bike lane that if you complain enough, we will let you park in it.

Stephen Gomez
Stephen Gomez
6 months ago

I ride that section a fair amount to cross over Columbia to get to Marine Drive and beyond. I reminded myself what the private parking driveway situation is along NE 33rd where the bike lane currently is striped by viewing Google Street View. As far as I can tell every single house along here as a driveway and most have garages too.

Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
6 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Gomez

Yes, I was wondering about this. I’m not familiar with this section so I wanted to know: how many houses/residents are impacted? How many of those houses have garages/driveways? How many parking spaces (counting garage and driveway) are there per residence? I would be curious, out of those residents, how many would say they now have inadequate parking. Do the neighbors say they lack parking for 10 vehicles? Or 100?

I’m curious to compare that volume with the number of cyclists who use that lane in a day.

I’m not saying that the higher number automatically “wins.” I prioritize the vulnerable road user safety over convenient auto parking, although if some residents suddenly lost all their parking (if they had no driveway and suddenly had no street parking either), I would understand their frustration.

I’m just curious to understand the magnitude of the complaints. How many cars are we talking about, how many dwelling units, what percentage of those residents are upset about the bike lane?

Just wondering about the basic data.

That said, stepping back from those details, there is a larger conversation that connects with the Broadway bike lane scandal: who are the streets for and who gets priority for street use and design? Are the streets primarily for the residents and businesses on a stretch? So if the neighbors or hotel owners call, they get it their way? The very local people who own property on the street….or do we take a broader perspective, looking at transportation goals overall? Or does life-and-death trump all of it, so that the safety of vulnerable road users gets priority?

I think PBOT needs some clarity of vision –and leadership. They can’t make everyone happy. And if they are going to make major changes every time a upset voices call them, it sounds like a ship without a rudder or captain, tossed on the sea by whatever wave is biggest at the moment.

blumdrew
6 months ago

from my count, there are 25 houses affected and all but maybe one of them have a dedicated off-street parking (though I think it may be 2 now that the fourplex is done?). It’s a fairly small stretch of road, and from what I can tell (based on my experience in the area and satellite images) there is a fair amount of street parking on directly adjacent blocks.

Becky Hawkins
Becky Hawkins
6 months ago

Good question about the data. Part of an email response I got from PBOT said, “If we had done the parking study and outreach like we should have, we would have learned months ago how some adjacent residents don’t have off-street parking and that others live in multigenerational households who need safe access to their homes.” I wish they used words like “hardship” and “safe access” in relation to what cyclists are asking for.

And yeah, the larger conversation is whether homeowners can control how the streets are used. If PBOT’s outreach finds that some people would hate to lose access to free car storage in front of their house, is that enough to veto the planned safety infrastructure that connects multiple neighborhoods?

Amit Zinman
6 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Gomez

You know that that doesn’t satisfy car people. What if they have people over? What if they want to throw a party? What if their garage is full of side projects? What if they have two different cars for different uses?
That’s why there’s never and cannot be enough car parking for people who will never consider alternatives.

Nathan
Nathan
6 months ago

Congrats bike activists you took away an ADA or grandma’s on street parking along NE 33rd!

I’m all for and active in cycling and bike commuting but politicking requires compromise and playing well with others. From my observations some of my biking peers on the road seem to believe that the city must unconditionally support every demand when it comes to biking infrastructure. Regardless of the expense and impact to others in the city.

blumdrew
6 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

If there was a marked ADA spot on the street, it did not exist in the October 2021 street view. I don’t know if there was or not, I haven’t seen anything indicating that there was. Also, every lot (with maybe one exception of a newly built fourplex) has offstreet parking available.

And the bike lane is already there, forcing it to remain in place is not taking anything away. Should the city unconditionally support all demands for bike infrastructure? No. But it certainly shouldn’t be removing things it plans on building, and it certainly shouldn’t be doing so based on complaints about car parking (according to the city’s own guidelines!)

Atreus
Atreus
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

There was no ADA spot there, because no one requested it, which likely means there was no one there that actually has a disability. Also, the ADA specifically says the city only has to provide an ADA space that is requested somewhere on the perimeter of the block in question, with an accessible path. So an ADA spot could be on the side street, connected to the house via a sidewalk. There has never been a requirement or expectation that people with mobility challenges have parking directly in front of their houses.

Nathan
Nathan
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Maybe I misunderstood but as I read the article the bike lane was just recently installed in error. PBOT is simply eliminating this mistake.

Seemingly per Maus himself complaints are coming from our “BIPoC” community in NE. So do Black voices not matter when not supporting every bike lane project we dream up?

Chris I
Chris I
6 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Is this satire?

Sarah Brice
Sarah Brice
6 months ago

I live close to here and I’m thankful to get an explanation for PBOTs logic for removing the lane— I was specifically curious if it had to do with ADA parking spaces (which I vaguely recall being there). It’s certainly an embarrassing and unfortunate mistake. It’s really tricky balancing the needs of our neighbors and creating new and necessary bike infrastructure.

On a related note: I’d love to see big $ and priority go towards replacing or improving the overpass on 33rd/Columbia to accommodate non-motorized users. That overpass is a glaring safety issue and makes any bike lanes that lead to it seem ~meh~ until that prob has been rectified.

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Brice

There wasn’t an ADA space on street that was removed though. PBOT bringing ADA into this is a lie, with the goal of using a fake ADA trump card so people say “ok that makes sense.”

idlebytes
idlebytes
6 months ago

PBOT did not give adequate notices to the adjacent residents, and we immediately heard concerns from residents with hardships presented from removing the on-street parking.

We’ve yet to see any description of the “hardships” they’ve experienced. This is absolutely ridiculous there are countless places around the city that are experiencing actual hardships like the lack of sidewalks, potholes, uncontrolled intersections, lack of crosswalks, roads that need paving (which this one received lucky them!), and high speeds. Sure though spend $25k to appease 10 homeowners.

Jeremiah
Jeremiah
6 months ago

“be careful biking on 33rd Avenue” is an understatement. It’s too bad this is A MAJOR N-S thoroughfare and one of the only contiguous stretches to connect to the Marine Drive Bikepath, a CRITICAL piece of infrastructure and a pillar of the 40 Mile Loop. What an embarassment.

SeaTacgoride
SeaTacgoride
6 months ago

Ahh…the no enforcement bureau (PBOT) continues to not enforce our laws. Not surprised.

Todd/ Boulanger
Todd/ Boulanger
6 months ago

Jonathan, this is an interesting dynamic for PBOT to go on record like this. (Not to say that no other city does not have an unspoken ‘administrative policy’ to NOT enforce car parking in marked bike lanes.)

Given the process track record on just this project, I wonder if the PBOT leadership got the approval from the city’s corporation council on this enforcement statement, as city policy for a marked bike lane along this corridor?

Perhaps you should contact the city’s ‘corp council’ and ask the question?

qqq
qqq
6 months ago

An extant bike lane that won’t be legally treated like one, is a really awkward — and potentially dangerous — situation. It sets people up for verbal or even physical interactions on the street — in the form of both potential traffic collisions and potential disagreements between how the road should be used.

That really does seem incredibly bad. I suppose the other laws–about right of way, etc.–still apply. So, for instance, a driver may park in the bike lane, but the bike lane still exists so that a driver can’t turn right at an intersection in front of a bike in the bike lane.

But it would be nice if PBOT had bothered to remind the neighbors that the bike lane DOES still exist legally (assuming it does) so they won’t think those other laws go out the window along with the no-parking-in-bike-lanes law.

Are bike riders still required to use the bike lane if it’s not obstructed? I assume so, but don’t have confidence in that.

A big one–is it LEGAL to park in the bike lane? It’s one thing to “recommend” not parking there, and to say “we do not plan to issue tickets with fines” but that doesn’t mean it’s legal to park there. What if there’s a crash and someone claims it was due to someone parking in the bike lane? I’d say that person broke the law. What would a court say? An insurance company?

It seems like PBOT is being cavalier with the legal situation–which means cavalier with safety, since different street users may have different opinions about what laws apply–especially when PBOT has no time frame for removing the lanes.

Amit Zinman
6 months ago

It is still unclear how these massive, long requested changes seem to be overturned rather quickly by just one person who somehow manages in time when PBOT doesn’t have the budget to fix its roads to spend lots of money to hire an outside contractor. Where are the advisory committees? City council? The commissioner?

Chopwatch
Chopwatch
6 months ago

Also, they haven’t been enforcing vagrancy RVs next to the park. It is in title 16 of city code that you can’t park an RV next to a park unless you have a permit. There is a vagrancy RV parked for days and weeks on SE 20th by Belmont by the Colonel Summers Park.

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
6 months ago

Is anybody being ticketed or fined for illegal parking anywhere in Portland? Every day, I observe motor vehicles (including large trucks and delivery vans) parked illegally: in marked “no parking” areas, blocking crosswalks, facing the wrong way, and sometimes just in the middle of the street. As a bicyclist and pedestrian, I know this behavior is dangerous. Indeed, illegally parked motor vehicles also make it hard for other motor vehicle drivers to maneuver safely in our city. This problem has gotten worse and worse, especially with car “share” and delivery vehicles but also with every sort of driver. It seems like a city desperate for income streams to support its bureaus and departments could figure out that enforcing parking regulations could improve safety, livability, and revenue.

Stephen Hinkle
Stephen Hinkle
5 months ago

I am not from Portland but I do think that sometimes ripping out the parking or putting in traffic patterns that people don’t know how to use can lead to unintended consequences.

While I do support the idea of public transit and climate change, people just don’t give up their cars overnight. Next of all, to make transit priority housing work, people need access to transit that can get them the places they want to go. Part of the problem is that that so much of the housing is priced to segregate people by income levels and this unfortunately leads to longer commutes for some and as the result some people must use their cars to go across town in some cases. The same with persons with disabilities who cannot walk or ride a bike well and some of these rely on car transit, ADA parking, and others.

Bikes and bike lanes do well when the commuting distance to work, school, shopping, and entertainment is short, the majority of people can cycle to destinations and have active lifestyles. However, it is important to take into account that there are cases in which switching to bicycles is not a feasable option for everyone.

Plus, a car phase out does not happen overnight. Sometimes tearing up parking can lead to other consequences such as people parking further away, parking on neighboring streets, or parking illegally. It can also make the public upset if there are many people who rely on their cars for commute, or don’t have enough off-street parking. Sometimes people have cars they have to pay off too. Cars also take time to sell or get traded in as well.