If you see city construction crews tearing up the bike lane on SW Broadway through downtown, don’t fear. They are not removing the protected bike lanes so many riders depend on for their safety every day. The work is part of an expected project from the Portland Bureau of Transportation to install new loading zone platforms.
If you recall from our coverage back in late September, before the big Broadway bike lane kerfluffle, PBOT was talking to managers and operators of hotels along the street about how to mitigate safety concerns voiced by valet staff, guests, and road users. As early as March 2023, PBOT staff told hotel operators they could receive the same type of loading platform in front of their business that the city had already installed in front of Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The platforms raise the bike lane to sidewalk level, include green color for added visibility, and provide easier access to business entrances for people who park adjacent to the bike lane. The combination of the ramp, along with more robust signage and pavement markings increase awareness of the potential conflict zone for all users: valet staff, hotel guests, and bicycle riders.
PBOT announced on Monday they’ve begun construction on three new platforms. At a cost of about $90,000 each, they’ll be installed in front of the Benson (SW Oak), Heathman (SW Salmon), and Vance (SW Columbia) hotels. Each location should take about two weeks to build and you should expect a work zone environment as you cycle through. PBOT hopes to button up construction by mid-March. Final pavement markings won’t be done until spring because crews need dryer, warmer weather to install the materials.
In addition to building these platforms, PBOT said back in September they would release an evaluation of issues on SW Broadway and proposed upgrades that reflect the concerns from the public and business operators Commissioner Mingus Mapps and PBOT Director Millicent Williams used as justification for their planned changes. That evaluation would come with public outreach so a true, community-wide conversation could be had about how to improve SW Broadway. Three new signal upgrades at SW Oak, Taylor and Jefferson to separate bicycle through traffic from right-turning cars were also promised.
According to PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera, the evaluation report is ongoing. PBOT staff have prepared concepts and have presented them at the Central City in Motion Workin Group on October 18th (and the Downtown Neighborhood Association). The draft “hardening concept” shows concrete medians and protected corners throughout the corridor between NW Hoyt and SW Clay. Rivera says more public engagement is planned once they secure funding. As for the promised bike signals at Oak, Taylor and Jefferson, Rivera says two of them (Taylor and Jefferson) will be bundled with the upcoming SW 4th Avenue bikeway project slated to break ground this spring. PBOT still hasn’t found the funding to install the third signal (at SW Oak).