PBOT will partner with Bike Bus PDX on signage project

The bike bus en route to Glencoe Elementary School. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation wants to help the local bike bus movement maintain its momentum. The city will use a $50,000 grant from Metro to launch a pilot program to improve bike bus wayfinding and signage on the route and at stops for several schools. Bike buses are group rides to school that meet at one location and then pick students up along the way.

The grant is one of dozens of awards handed out by Metro as part of their Regional Travel Options program. This year’s allocation totaled nearly $9 million with projects funded throughout the region (stay tuned for stories on other interesting projects).

If you’ve been paying attention, this partnership should not come as a surprise. Back in June we reported that not only has PBOT Director Millicent Williams and City Traffic Engineer Wendy Cawley shown up to ride local bike buses, but the city itself is organizing them for its employees. We also talked about the need for route signage with leaders of the Abernethy Bike Bus last month.

According to a project description shared with Metro, PBOT Safe Routes to School program staff will partner with Bike Bus PDX to, “create a wayfinding strategy, criteria, and signage for bike and walk bus routes and stops.” Bike Bus PDX is a coalition of parents and advocates who organize biking and walking school buses at schools citywide. Their website lists 18 active buses.

While advocates have pushed for infrastructure changes to make bike bus routes safer — like more diverters to keep drivers off neighborhood streets — PBOT considers that a more long-term, higher-cost project. In the short-term, they can make the routes more visible so more people can participate.

Here’s more from a scope of work document PBOT shared with BikePortland:

More families and students will bike and walk to school if they feel safe, know which routes to take, and are able to join an organized group. PBOT SRTS staff often hears from established bike and walk bus participants that they continue to join because it is fun, and if something is fun, more people — especially kids — will do it.

The grant funds will be used to establish a working group of local bike bus leaders and PBOT staff. Design and pilot wayfinding prototypes for 3-5 schools (with a priority on Title 1 schools), and install new signage on routes and bike bus stops.

This is an exciting step for bike buses that could formalize and harden the concept, bringing it to more families and building even more momentum by the time schools are back in session in the fall. And don’t get hung up on the paltry $50,000 amount of this grant. The way these things work is that once a grant has been awarded, it can often pave the way for other funds and larger projects down the road.

I can’t wait to see what comes from this! PBOT expects to have the signage and wayfinding prototypes by spring 2025 and signage installed by June 2025. Stay tuned.

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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bjorn
bjorn
1 month ago

@jonathan, just curious about the quote that diverters weren’t on the table because of cost, does that mean that PBOT acknowledges that they would be a good idea for these routes and the only thing standing in the way of adding diverters to routes designated for bike buses is finding funds?

Wooster
Wooster
1 month ago
Reply to  bjorn

“Cost” doesn’t just mean “we don’t have the money.” It can also mean “these things come at a cost, so we don’t want to make them a default treatment.” There has been an idea out there that diverters should be installed willy-nilly, regardless of whether traffic volumes are already super-low or if they’re too high. The fact is, with limited resources, that means some other transportation safety improvement won’t happen.

Ma mine
Ma mine
1 month ago

If they would put bike lanes where bikes travel it would help. Stop putting bike lanes on busy streets like foster. All the bikes travel on streets north and south of foster. No bike wants to travel on a busy street. I’m all for improving the bike access just try to be an
Smart about the location of it. Don’t be stupid and put it on busy streets

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Ma mine

To be fair, bikes travel where it feels safe and convenient enough to travel. The fact that bikes aren’t on busy streets that don’t have bike lanes is likely because they don’t have bike lanes. I know if I could comfortably ride on Sandy for example, I would because a diagonal is often a shorter route. Or Ainsworth, the only flat, smooth route in the area. But no bike lane, so you get rage passed and honked at if you’re there.

Jim John
Jim John
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Gotta be fast to ride ainsworth bubz

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim John

Yep, and I do sometimes when I’m by myself. It really reveals how fast one can go when unimpeded by crumbling roads, speed bumps, and lights/stop signs at every other intersection. And with nice shade! It’s an ideal place to ride, but if it only had a bike lane I could take my family there.

Zaphod
27 days ago
Reply to  John V

People do get bent on Ainsworth and the dedicated Holman Street is so lumpy and pothole ridden that it feels to be an insult to those who choose not to drive. The new-ish speed bumps are 100% ignored as they have convenient slots rendering them both expensive and useless.

John V
John V
27 days ago
Reply to  Zaphod

No joke, I got a new bike so I could fit bigger tires to ride on Holman.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Ma mine

I don’t know anyone who likes to drive on busy streets, either. But they do because they’re the fastest routes, and they’re where the places they’re going to are.

That’s why they’re busy.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Ma mine

I like bike lanes on Foster. It’s direct, and it has businesses on it that I need to go through. There are plenty of slow, meandering Greenway alternatives.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

At first I was confused why signs would be needed on a bus-bike route, since a bus never gets lost. That is, you just follow the person in front of you and you won’t get lost.

So the *real* purpose of wayfinding signs must be to tell motorists to cool it and wait for the bikes – or avoid these streets altogether. Also the signs tell prospective bike-bus participants that they might find a bike-bus in this location, similar to the way a bus shelter and signs tell people they can expect a bus to come along, eventually, one day.

Carrie
Carrie
1 month ago

OK, here goes a “back in the day” post, but I remember when I moved to Portland 10+ years ago there were bike/walk bus gathering spots signs in spots along NE Going (?). My memory is fuzzy because I saw them when visiting friends who lived in that part of town and I was new and didn’t know exactly where I was. These were official PBOT signs too.

I’m saying this because I really, really, really want this to work. So I’m really curious as to why the prior efforts didn’t last, because they seemed to have institutional support then too. Knowing why this previous iteration died could be really helpful for longevity…. I’ve observed the really robust bike bus in my neighborhood die out over the past 5 years as the parents who organized and led it have moved on as their kids moved on and it makes me sad about institutionalized status quo.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
1 month ago

Sadly and unbelievably, it was about 30 years ago that the Tillamook Bikeway CAC was meeting regularly to guide that project; we spent a lot of time talking about signage. Vancouver BC set an example for us with robust signage that made clear that bikeways were for bikes/peds. But nothing came of it! Finally PBOT got up the nerve to put little “bike dots” on the route, later sharrows, but never to this day is there a sign that says “Tillamook Bikeway…yield to bikes!” Maybe working with the bike/bus folks will give PBOT a bit more backbone on signage.

Zaphod
27 days ago

The real value in this is to signal to motorists to drive with caution and at a safe speed. This is best done with thoughtful design but can also be done with this small investment if used properly. Frequent, colorful, attractive and unmissable way finding signage on the road surface and on poles is the least expensive way forward. With slightly more funds, various hardscape design elements could be deployed.