New bikeway updates on NE/SE 7th build on greenway promise

Looking northwest.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has added a lot of new bike-specific infrastructure to Northeast and Southeast 7th Avenue in the past several months. On Tuesday, I went out to take a closer look at some of it.

7th Ave has long been a key north-south street in Portland’s bike network. Then its value skyrocketed when the Blumenauer Bridge opened along its alignment in summer 2022. Now PBOT is trying to make good on a promise to create a low-stress cycling experience on 7th that’s befitting of its designation as a neighborhood greenway and as laid out in the Central City in Motion plan.

Since we last checked-in on the 7th Ave Neighborhood Greenway back in December 2022, PBOT has striped new bike lanes on the five blocks between NE Tillamook and NE Weidler. They’ve also added a few speed bumps south of Tillamook. This is a busy commercial/industrial section of 7th that has long been a troubling gap. The new bike lanes are unprotected, but they come with a generous buffer space that someday (hopefully?!) PBOT will fill with some sort of protective curb or other treatment. They’ve also added green cross-bike markings to reinforce the bikeway through the intersections. It’s notable that PBOT swapped space previously used for free, on-street car storage in order to fit the new bike lanes. More photos below the jump…

These are straightforward bike lanes that are a welcome addition to this section of 7th. Hopefully PBOT can prevent people from parking in them and keep the new lanes clear of leaves and gravel through winter.

Moving further south, I spent a while observing the new crossing treatment on SE 7th at Stark. PBOT has installed a center median diverter using yellow plastic curbs and wands. They also left a large channel in the middle wide enough for bi-directional bike lanes to fit through the center. On each side of Stark the sharrows transition to green-colored bike lanes to signal to riders that they should be in the center of the street to cross. There’s also a green cross-bike through the entire intersection.

This design is meant to facilitate cycling traffic, make it easier to cross Stark, slow down drivers by reminding them this is a bikeway, and reduce the amount of cut-through traffic on 7th by forcing drivers to only turn right.

It’s a nice idea; but far too many drivers are making the dangerous and illegal decision to simply drive right through the gap in the center of the median. It’s clearly a bike lane (the color green should tell everyone that) and there are (way too small and low) “Right Turn Only” signs, but none of that stops the majority of car users who disobey the rules and drive on through.

PBOT Communications Director Hannah Schafer told BikePortland they’re aware of these behaviors and are, “working on a few avenues for improvements.” She said the project team had added temporary traffic control devices, “to help reinforce the operational changes.” Schafer might be referring to a traffic cone places in the middle of the gap; but she might not be aware that as of yesterday it was gone and only its base remained.

Schafer also added that PBOT are reaching out to the Portland Police Bureau to see if they can do “spot enforcement to re-affirm the changes.” “This has worked well at other locations when we see compliance issues,” Schafer shared. And a more permanent fix might be possible through a small PBOT project program known as Missing Links.

We’ve seen this pattern play out many times over the years: a new bikeway design is so anemic that many drivers ignore it, then PBOT throws out some cones or makeshift signs, and we hope for a permanent solution. It’s a frustrating dance that erodes confidence in PBOT’s work — and more importantly — leaves bike riders exposed to unnecessary risk. We must do better.

Thankfully, Schafer said PBOT doesn’t plan to wait the typical six months to collect data and see if the changes are (or aren’t) working. Because of the safety concerns, she says the project team has “elevated the timeline for this specific intersection.”

Related to the crossing at Stark is a new crosswalk and bike lane one block south on SE Washington. In order to facilitate westbound bike traffic onto 7th (from 12th and other points east), PBOT has turned the block of SE Washington between 8th and 7th/Sandy into eastbound only for car drivers and added a westbound bike lane. That new bike lane feeds into an enhanced crossing of 7th/Sandy where PBOT has added a green cross-bike and constructed a new center median island out of yellow plastic curbs and wands.

This intersection of SE Washington, 7th and Sandy is very wide. It also has five openings and a curve, and is at the base of a downhill slope. These elements make it dangerous for all users, especially bike riders who have to navigate onto the greenway from a busy section of 7th Ave en route to the new bridge. As you can see, PBOT and community partners have already reclaimed some of the space by adding cones and planters (even a small dumpster!) to calm traffic. These efforts have reduced driving space and sharpened turns to prevent speeding.

These are all small steps forward as we wait for better designs and protection that will encourage more people to ride and keep safe those who already do. And of course, the ultimate solution at this intersection is the one proposed by Depave that would prevent drivers from using 7th north of Washington and add concrete to separate and physically protect bicycle riders at the corners.

Until then, hopefully all this plastic and paint will do.

Have you ridden 7th lately? What about the Stark crossing? What has your experience been so far?

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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Colton
Colton
5 months ago

I ride this almost everyday during the week. The 7th and Stark intersection needs to be fixed ASAP. I see people driving through the gap every single time I ride this. Its almost to the point that I see the same cars doing it every morning. They used to have a metal A-frame sign that stated Right turn only that I would see dumped on the sidewalk nearby that I would go pick back up and put in the middle but it seems like its gone gone now

Freewheel
Freewheel
5 months ago
Reply to  Colton

I have the same experience as a near-daily morning commuter through this intersection. Lots of blatant disregard for the signage and design.

Todd/Boulanger
5 months ago

FYI: the ‘self watering’ barrier planters installed at 7th & Sandy look to be a Zilca Zebra product.

https://translineinc.com/products/bike_lane_separator/zicla-zebra-planter/  fSandy/7th

maxD
maxD
5 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

they add a lot of chaos to a large, unstructured space. These would be sweet planters in a more legible space or a space with a more intimate scale. I do not think these were a good choice for this location.

zuckerdog
zuckerdog
5 months ago
Reply to  maxD

As a member of Depave’s design team for their project along SE 7th between SE Stark and SE Sandy/Washington, I wanted to add a little more content regarding this project:

The SE 7th and Sandy Greenstreet project is a placemaking and transportation improvement project initially funded under the guise of a stormwater project by BES’s Percent for Green program.

The general premise of this project is how can we create better value from this under-utilized and under-performing section of the public commons (ie the public right-of-way). My basic MO for this project has been to “get out in front” of the powers to be (PBOT, BES, development of 737 SE Sandy…) and present a concept that doesn’t have a singular focus, such as stormwater treatment, bike/ped safety improvements, placemaking, tree canopy, etc, but rather provides a thoughtful design that is able to incorporate what’s best for the genus of the place for all.

Unlike the previous project I championed up the street at SE 9th and Sandy and Oak, a crucial aspect of improving the intersection at SE 7th, Washington, and Sandy is first understanding how to better address the safety of pedestrians and cyclist moving through this space.

Another challenge for placemaking at this site is the lack of activation. The City’s Street Plaza designation would afford additional flexibility in the design space. However the City is understandably resistant to provide this Street Plaza designation for this site without better and more consistent activation.

Over the past two summer’s Depave has hosted two incredible block parties at this site to help show the community the potential this site has. The project team has also been in contact with the adjacent property owner at 737 SE Sandy to better understand how the future development of the site and/or the current site layout could support our project vision. Conversations are on-going but it is my understanding that the current owner is generally supportive of the cul-de-sac concept. The clear take away for me, over the course of working on this project for the last 2 years is that coordinated improvements within the right-of-way and the adjacent property would be greater than the sum of the parts.

About the Zicla Planters:
The project team approached PBOT about what resources they could provide the project. We were hoping for some of those large concrete planters, but they offered us the Zicla Planters. While this Zicla product is grossly underwhelming to say the least, it is hard to look a gift horse in the mouth, so we made the most of them.

What’s in store for this project:
Short Term (next summer)
The project team is currently working with the BES and PBOT to depave an 8 to 16-foot wide section of pavement along the northeast portion of the roadway along SE 7th and create an “ephemeral” stormwater treatment facility. This depaving will impact the current intersection treatment at Stark and 7th and will necessitate a change in the current crossing design. Which based on the feedback and comments from this article, may be a good thing.

Long Term
The depave design team is currently refining the cul-de-sac design concept and is developing a cost estimate to implement this concept. With that number in hand, Depave will be spearheading an effort with our project partners to find additional funding for this project.

Cyclops
Cyclops
5 months ago
Reply to  zuckerdog

Thank you for this breakdown! I admire depaves work and am excited that y’all are having this conversation AND involved with the design with BES and PBOT. looking forward to updates on this spot. I ride through it regularly and while it’s an awkward space with loads of conflict, it does hold a bunch of potential. A Cul de sac design sounds awesome.

Daniel Reimer
5 months ago

The way I feel about the 7th greenway is the same as I feel about all the other central city greenways such as Flanders or Pettygrove. Woefully inadequate for the high density of busy streets to cross and the large amount of cars that are on it.

Matt
Matt
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Agreed. This NE segment of 7th is practically farcical as serious bike infrastructure. Then, the Stark rule appears to be regularly flouted by numerous auto users. It’s yet another example of the lick-of-paint, plastic bollard tendency from PBOT that leaves safety, security, and sense found wanting.

Ben
Ben
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Flanders would be massively improved if some signals were put in and/or some stop signs were turned 90 degrees to give Flanders priority. The lack of priority for cyclists on Greenways shows that the city isn’t really serious about making those routes practical

maxD
maxD
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben

agreed! Flanders COULD be so useful, but it pretty much sucks

Zaphod
5 months ago

I encountered a driver going through the two way bike only section near Stark as they were solidly looking down at their phone. I had to swerve to avoid a collision. That person gave zero f*#ks about anyone. It’s disheartening. So yeah #pbot we need hardscape to resolve driver’s bad behavior.

Pete S
Pete S
5 months ago

The obvious fix here is to replace the traffic cone and flex posts with concrete bollards. Of course PBOT will never do that for fear that scofflaw drivers might damage their cars.

Aaron
5 months ago
Reply to  Pete S

It’s wild to me that preventing people from damaging their car when breaking the law is prioritized above the safety of people who get around the safety on bikes.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

I think the issue is more about getting sued by people damaging their cars because of a design that departs from standard engineering practice than it is about the damage itself.

Reducing liability is not an entirely irrational goal for a city agency.

Damien
Damien
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Extend qualified immunity to traffic calming infrastructure/the city that builds it.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Damien

“Qualified immunity” refers to the idea that you can’t sue government officials personally for things they do as part of their job, so long a they’re acting reasonably. It does not protect the city itself from lawsuits.

I would be very surprised if PBOT engineers didn’t already have qualified immunity; but people still have the right to sue the city as an entity for actions it takes (and should be able to; it’s an important mechanism for ensuring accountability).

That’s why you can sue the city when a cop violates your rights, despite cops having qualified immunity. If the city could just say “nope, no lawsuits for us”, I am sure they would have already.

mark
mark
5 months ago

I saw the missing post the first time I used the 7th avenue crossing of Stark last week. Replace it with a stout, steel bollard and motorist compliance will increase to 100% instantly. No need for further study.

maxD
maxD
5 months ago

During the impromptu meeting about the tree in the intersection of 7th/Tillamook, there were many criticisms of PBOT’s plan to create an anomalous short section of bike lane that left the road and entered the protected pedestrian space (northbound). PBOT reassured everyone (they lied) that people cycling would not have to use this terrible design, and PBOT would add a sharrow marker to provide clear guidance that the travel lane is shared. With the striped bike lanes, the sharrow marker clearly reads as “bikes may use lane to turn left” symbol, but the implication that bikes are supposed to divert to the sidewalk has been restored.

The Washington/7th treatment is darkly symbolic. I got a chuckle out of it, but ultimately it makes me sad. It is a literal collection of trash and weeds at the bottom of the hill. It is so ugly and hostile looking that I assume it is intended as commentary on the sad state of civic design coming from PBOT. The tree is a dumpster never need to be repeated- that is a lay and unacceptable excuse of a design. The zebra planters are disorienting and wildly out of scale and chaotic. the design would be better without them. dismal.

Andrew S
Andrew S
5 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Absolutely loathe the little stretch of the bike lane that leaves the road. I 100% refuse to use it and will take the lane well before the intersection when heading north here, even if I intend to turn left on Tillamook. Also hate that the bike lane only goes to Tillamook. Why TF can’t we have a continuous bike lane that connects bike riders to Irving Park and Alberta St? Ya know, places where I want to ride a bike to.

Coming from NE to inner SE, I will almost always take 12th->Sandy->7th. I really want to like the Blumenauer Bridge route, but it’s just too much stopping. I feel way safer moving at traffic speed in the bike lane downhill on Sandy than having to frogger every other intersection on 7th. Don’t get me wrong, the Earl is great for connecting to the Burnside Bridge, but the route into inner SE is pretty cumbersome.

Matt Villers
Matt Villers
5 months ago

NE 7th is currently my most-used route, and I’ve really appreciated the upgrades as they come in. I find it relatively quiet and comfortable as a connection to Tillamook, Going, etc, and appreciate the presence of signals at busy intersections. People seem to be getting better about not parking in the bike lane as well.

I’ve mostly avoided using SE 7th to go further south than Ankeny because of the crazy Stark intersection, so seeing that get some attention is really nice as well. I’ll have to go check it out soon!

John A
John A
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt Villers

Funny enough, there is only one spot that I have never NOT seen a food delivery car parked in the bike lane on this route. Out front of Cafe Yumm next to the Max stop. It is a guarantee that you will have to take the lane there every time.

Matt Villers
Matt Villers
5 months ago
Reply to  John A

Oh yeah for sure, every time at that one spot. There’s parking across the street, but I guess it’s easier to block the bike lane than walk an extra 20ft.

They just roll up and turn on their hazards, as if some sort of emergency required them to avoid even the most trivial amount of walking to their destination.

Jim
Jim
5 months ago

Like a number of others, I’ve seen motor vehicles drive through the “barrier” at Stark St almost every time I have been there.

Resopmok
Resopmok
5 months ago

Even if this infrastructure were adequate I’m sad it doesn’t have a good northern connection past Tillamook, which only dumps you on to Rodney or Williams. 7th avenue bridge is nice to have, but increasing connectivity on both sides would make it great.

John K
John K
5 months ago

I’ve been taking 7th through this whole stretch on my commute for about a year.

I go northbound unreasonably early so Stark isn’t busy at all and that’s easy. I’m not sure how I’d go if it was a more humane time of day though. Getting to Tillamook on 7th since the new layout went in feels awkward to navigate with light traffic, so I take Schuyler to Williams instead of Tillamook. Plus, that early in the morning I’ve discovered it’s a lot nicer to pop through a stop sign at Grand and MLK than deal with the light at Tillamook.

Southbound in the afternoon, I’ve found that it’s a whole lot nicer to take Oak to 8th and go the wrong way for half a block to Sandy instead of dealing with Stark at 7th.

Crossing all of Stark all at once in the middle of a weekday and one block from a major intersection isn’t nice. Paint hasn’t improved the proximity of that intersection or traffic behaviors on Stark, and the plastic wands force me to compete for space with left turning drivers, so I prefer to go around. I can’t see that crossing working better than going around without properly blocking out driving through entirely, and adding a center island on Stark so it’s possible to cross one direction of Stark at a time.

Matt
Matt
5 months ago

7th southbound from the new bridge to Stark needs a lot of work. Big cars and trucks park right up to the corner meaning that every cross street you need to slow down almost to a stop even when there is no stop sign.

Yoko Chen
Yoko Chen
5 months ago

“Schafer also added that PBOT are reaching out to the Portland Police Bureau to see if they can do “spot enforcement to re-affirm the changes.” 

Hold on…..the POBT is actually supporting POLICE traffic enforcement????? (at least a little bit) What is happening here? Is this a small step towards common sense?

Travel Guy PDX
Travel Guy PDX
5 months ago
Reply to  Yoko Chen

Yeah this sure is a switch from the “police are bad and pick only on minorities” that we usually hear from PBOT and many in the bikeportland peanut gallery.

Trevor Longman
Trevor Longman
5 months ago

In my experience on this stretch of 7th, I’ve been really happy with the changes made. My only annoyance has been with the number of stop signs along the route between the Blumenauer Bridge and Sandy. I wish they’d give more priority to bikes at each intersection.

Quint
Quint
5 months ago
Reply to  Trevor Longman

Huh, I was actually going to comment that I appreciate that they recently flipped all the stop signs between Stark and Ankeny so that 7th Ave always gets the priority. It’s so much better now! Sure, Ankeny and Davis still have stop signs, but those are busier streets (Ankeny for bikes, Davis for trucks) so it makes some sense. And they did add marked crosswalks at both locations.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
5 months ago

I ride 7th by crossing the freeway at NE 12th and continuing on NE 7th.
SE 7th is a complete mess with multiple difficult intersections. It’s pathetic that PBOT marked the NE 12th street bridge as a “red”* connection but the ham-handed crossings across raging traffic on SE Sandy and SE Stark are “green”.
.
* PBOT clearly doesn’t want people to use the NE 12th bridge as was also made clear by the dozens of stencils painted on the roadway directing people to use Blumenauer.

Adam Pieniazek
5 months ago

This looks like something two drunk teenagers hobbled together with random crap that was laying around rather than something that a professional transportation department “built”.

TakeTheLane
TakeTheLane
5 months ago

I am opposed to using curbs “to protect” the bike lanes. I see them as obstacles to getting onto the roadway when necessary i.e. to merge with auto traffic to take a left turn or to avoid an obstacle in the bike lane, such as the wet leaves shown in the photos. Wet leaves can take a cyclist down in a heartbeat and it’s dangerous to hop a curb into traffic.

John V
John V
5 months ago
Reply to  TakeTheLane

I haven’t anywhere seen a curb that prevents a cyclist from leaving to make a left turn. Nor have I seen any places where the leaves were dangerous all across the bike lane. Certainly, there are leaves (and that should be fixed), but usually when there is a curb, it’s also a really wide bike lane and you can simply ride around the leaves.

Edit: Eh, I see some in the pictures where there are leaves. They need to fix it.

maxD
maxD
5 months ago

My impression of 7th is that they basically botched the design, and they continue to make terrible decisions. The absolute worst, unforgiveable design mistake is forcing bikes to make a of 90-degree right turn down the sidewalk to cross Lloyd at the north end of the Blum. Bridge- this was a brand new bridge FOR bikes, there should be a straight connection across the intersection- but PBOT chose to prioritize cars on 7th by providing them right and left turn lanes! The second worst mistake is the bike lane that inexplicably goes through a curb extension (bisecting a pedestrian safety feature with a bike traffic lane!). The third dumb thing was removing the tree instead of removing the groundcover and lower limbs and adding a center curb to force cars and bike to go around the tree on the right heading north. The 4th dumb thing they did was to sit on their hands during the pandemic while the bridge was being constructed and not establish a full greenway with diverters and turned stop signs from the south end of the bridge to Sandy- what were they thinking!? They still have a stop sign oat Davis and few more south of Ankeny- hardly a functional greenway. The 5th dumbest design failure is the odd collection of mismatched junk at 7th/Washington/Sandy.

However, for all of their incompetence and terrible decision-making, they have so far avoided making the worst, most unforgiveable design decision (although they have proposed it): bisecting Irving Park with a bike lane. Their is nothing stopping people from casually riding into or through a park, hopefully slowly and carefully. This is different- this is supposed to a significant n/s transportation route, and traffic does not belong in a park. I have disappointed by PBOT falling far short of their potential on this project, but the route and infra. on 7th is FAR better than compromising a great park for another mediocre bike route.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  maxD

I personally like 9th, but I agree with much of what you wrote here. It is clear that for some reason, PBOT wants to prioritize auto traffic on 7th north of Lloyd Center, despite MLK being so close, and they’re willing to cut mature trees and remove traffic calming to make it more driver-friendly. I wish I understood why.

I personally wish PBOT would focus on 11th/12th south of I-84, as I find it a much more pleasant place to bike than 7th, but I seem to have lost that argument.

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
5 months ago

With the budget shortfall that PBOT is facing, we will be lucky to get plastic bollards.

Elliot
Elliot
5 months ago

I regularly commute up/down NE 7th to Lloyd. Post tree removal (NE Tillamook) and new paint along NE 7th I’ve experienced more hostility from drivers specifically at intersections and poor lane conditions. The lanes have plenty of chunky parts, man hole covers, and everlasting debris. Specifically heading north on NE7th crossing Broadway and heading toward Irving park is rife with large pot holes, drivers turning into and out of Chipotle, les Schwab, parking spots etc.. I rarely see bikes use new pattern at NE Tillamook for a variety of reasons one main one lately is the large stand of water you have to ride through to use it… As is stands cars or rubbish bins in the bike lane heading north are a given and drivers waiting at traffic lights are impatient or oblivious to the green waiting box which hampers their ability to turn right on red. In the last few months I’ve experienced a lot of yelling from car windows about being in drivers way while I wait for a green light and I’ve had a few cars not look before turning right on red and just about take me out. As a commuter riding that route regularly for the last 3 years, I miss the old infrastructure as I experienced minimal animosity/close calls.