Crossing NE Killingsworth? It’ll soon be much easier

This busy intersection near a post office and food cart pod at NE Killingsworth and 7th will get a new median island crossing this summer.

After next summer, Northeast Killingsworth Street might have more median islands and crosswalks across a two-mile stretch than any other road in the city.

Starting this summer, the Portland Bureau of Transportation plans to build nine safer crossing treatments between NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and NE 42nd Ave (see below). That’s in addition to seven existing crossing treatments, bringing the total to 18 hardened or signalized crossings in the two-mile stretch. That’s about one place to cross every other block.

The impact on road users could be significant in terms traffic calming for drivers and stress-reducing potential for people on foot and on bikes.

According to the official project page, PBOT will construct crossings on NE Killingsworth at 7th, 22nd, 25th and 27th this summer. Crossings at 11th, 13th, 17th, 35th and Cesar Chavez will be constructed in the summer of 2025. Five of those locations will receive median islands. Curb extensions will be added to NE 17th and a “paint and post” crossing at NE 22nd will be upgraded to concrete islands.

The aim of the project is to slow down drivers and make it safer for people on foot, bikes — or anyone trying to cross. PBOT’s Vision Zero dashboard shows 16 crashes on this section of Killingsworth between 2014 and 2021. With this much new concrete on the relatively narrow neighborhood collector street, the projects should have a significant traffic calming effect.

PBOT also wants bring the corridor up to the crossing frequency guidelines set in their 2019 PedPDX citywide pedestrian plan.That plan set a standard for how often someone should find a crossing treatment in various parts of the city. This section of NE Killingsworth is classified in the Transportation System Plan (TSP) as a “major city walkway,” (the second most important walking designation, only below “pedestrian district”) which PBOT says should have a crossing at least every 800 feet (or every three blocks). According to PedPDX, only the segment between 27th and 33rd currently meets that standard.

One BikePortland reader who’s lived just off Killingsworth for 25 years shared with me via email, “As a local bicyclist I’m a little bit freaked out by this.” This person prefers to ride on Killingsworth (which is classified as a “local service bikeway,” the lowest possible priority) because it’s more direct than other nearby routes. He worries the new median islands and crossing treatments will make it less safe for cycling.

“I feel safe riding it because the street is so wide, so there’s lots of room for cars and bikes to avoid each other,” he wrote. “But these sorts of islands always seem to pinch the car traffic and the bike traffic together. I predict that this is going to make Killingsworth a lot harder for bicyclists and drivers to share.”

I have a hunch these additions to Killingsworth will make it better for all users — except people who like to speed and like to ignore other road users trying to cross in front of them.

The reader who shared their feelings on this project wondered if he was the only person who felt this way. I personally don’t ever bike on this section of Killingsworth because it just doesn’t feel safe (I’ll use the sidewalk instead). I general, I think the more concrete curbs in the road, the better. What about you?

PBOT plans to build four of the new crossings (7th, 22nd, 25th and 27th) this summer and finish the rest next summer. Check out the project website for more information.

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
20 days ago

I’m in agreement with you Jonathan, I’d opt to ride on the sidewalk or one of the adjacent greenways.

John V
John V
20 days ago

I don’t ride on Killingsworth. With a speed limit of 25 and cars usually going over that, I feel too much like an obstacle to get around and that just feels uncomfortable. Sometimes on roads with a limit of 20 (which is plenty), I’ll ride, like on Ainsworth. But even then, only for short distances because drivers there still feel entitled to the road and will pass you.

I guess it depends on where you’re going (ha) but Going is right there a few blocks south. I’m usually traveling a long-ish distance so the long stretch of Going is worth it.

I would like to be able to ride on Killingsworth, just as I’d like to ride on Ainsworth, Alberta, or Sandy, because they are the roads that have places I want to go. Going is nice but it’s empty. But I just don’t know how to make that happen without bike lanes (or a critical mass of riders just using the lane).

Dusty
Dusty
19 days ago
Reply to  John V

Alberta St. from NE 15th to NE 33rd should be Portland’s 1st major car-free street.

John V
John V
19 days ago
Reply to  Dusty

Absolutely! It would be so good. There is rarely enough parking there for all the cars anyway, you can assume you’ll have to park on a side street. So drivers could still get just as close as they are today.

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
20 days ago

I have trouble getting my head around the quote from the BP reader. Killingsworth is already super crowded and constricted — just wide enough for autos to go pretty fast, which, of course, they do and then some. There is lots of oncoming traffic much of the day, and I have not found it to be a comfortable street to pass bikes in a car. It’s a classic example of a place that can be a nice street for people or an efficient way to move a lot of traffic, but not both. Every time I’m over there I see sketchy street crossings by peds and pray to the kitty gods that nobody gets hit. The cars need to slow down.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
19 days ago
Reply to  Micah Prange

…and I have not found it to be a comfortable street to pass bikes in a car.

The “comfort” of people driving is the last thing I think about when riding my bike on a quick and efficient route. Many of the parallel neighborhood streets are not continuous so Killingsworth remains the only decent route option for those willing to increase the discomfort of some drivers.

Micah
Micah
19 days ago

I didn’t say (or intend to imply) that one should not ride Kworth — please do! I, also, DGAF about the comfort of drivers. But I do accept the reality that car drivers are part of the equation on a street like this one. I was responding to this part of the article:

“I feel safe riding it because the street is so wide, so there’s lots of room for cars and bikes to avoid each other,” he wrote. “But these sorts of islands always seem to pinch the car traffic and the bike traffic together. I predict that this is going to make Killingsworth a lot harder for bicyclists and drivers to share.”

My point was that reasonable observers, including those operating motor vehicles, will conclude that the street is not ‘so wide’ as to preclude user group conflict. As I stated in my comment, the ped-car conflict seems much more prominent than bike-car conflict in the status quo. I suspect that is because it’s already a difficult space for drivers and bikers to share, so many bicyclists avoid the street. I know that’s one reason I have more personal experience seeing Kworth from the seat of my automobile than my bicycle. OTOH, I have never driven my car down NE Going.

scott
scott
20 days ago

I am certainly for this project as I frequent places along that stretch. I live near the crosswalk on Prescott and 40th. I envy the treatment I see at newly built crosswalks across town. Prescott has turned into a drag race scene between the 37th s-curve and the 42nd traffic light. Plenty of illegal passing and speeding to make (or run) the light. Few cars are stored there due to the threat of being totaled overnight. With that lack of cars stored along Prescott and combined with its width, seems like the reader off Killingsworth’s east-west cycling dream road. PBOT, please do Prescott next.

Andrew S
Andrew S
19 days ago
Reply to  scott

Absolutely! I (and many others) often cross Prescott with my toddler to access Wilshire Park between 37th and 33rd, and sometimes between 37th and 42nd. What’s extra harrowing is that when crossing from the south between 37th and 33rd the eastbound lane is right up to the curb, putting pedestrians inches from speeding traffic (sometimes blindly because of trees/gardens on the street). This is presumably done to allow parking on the westbound lane, but there are only 1-2 cars ever parked here. Get rid of the parking, slow the traffic, and let families cross Prescott in peace.

Mitch
Mitch
13 days ago
Reply to  scott

Ugh, 37th and Prescott… I rode through that intersection once, going south and merging west onto Prescott. Awful design.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
20 days ago

I wouldn’t say Killingsworth is a great street to bike on but do agree that these traffic islands can create “choke points” or “squeeze points” where I feel more vulnerable when riding a bike. PBL’s are the way to go.

Matt Villers
Matt Villers
20 days ago

Personally 90% of my route planning revolves around “what are the busy streets I have to cross and where can I do that safely?”, and Killingsworth is one of the more awkward streets to find a good crossing for so I think this is pretty exciting.

As far as riding on Killingsworth, I gave it a shot once but at least for me it’s too fast and too high traffic so I opt for less stressful alternatives. Would be amazing if it was more rideable though especially with its connection to the soon-to-be-improved Willamette.

Jeff Mills
Jeff Mills
20 days ago

I live right off Killingsworth right in the middle of the section getting these treatments and can’t be happier that it’s happening. I walk on K’worth several times a week either for shopping or to a cafe or restaurant. About a month ago I put in a comment to PBOT that I often felt very unsafe walking there because so many drivers go so fast over the speed limit. In my walking over the years I’ve seen several occurences of evidence of cars leaving the road and entering parking strips. I never ride on K, I’ve seen too much.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
19 days ago

It really depends on how the on-street parking is situated related to the pedestrian islands – if PBOT can create a series of chicanes with the parking and islands rather than pinch points on Killingsworth, there’s a much better chance of getting through traffic to slow down a bit. Better still would be traffic circles, roundabouts, and diverters, but no doubt that will be part of the next phase.

Andrew S
Andrew S
19 days ago

Bike lanes on Killingsworth, please!!!

Improved pedestrian crossings on Killingsworth should include traffic calming, and should come with bike lanes along the route. Drivers exceeding the speed limit on a 25mph neighborhood collector is not an excuse to not have bike lanes. It is cause for traffic calming and enforcement (both automated and patrols) on this corridor. I honestly think this project should connect the bike lanes from 42nd all the way to Interstate. There are a lot of worthy destinations along this corridor that justify direct bike access (30th, Alberta Park/Vernon School, 16th, 7th, Jefferson High, PCC Cascade).

I ride in this area a lot, and often find myself riding at least a few blocks on Killingsworth to connect to where I’m trying to go, especially since a lot of the N-S crossings meet K-worth at a T and do not go directly through. If we’re already going to mitigate these crossings, why not go all-in and have bike lanes the whole way? There’s no good reason why there should be any question whether riding on a 25mph collector is safe.

I also really think that part of the decline in modeshare is a lack of direct, efficient, visible routes to actual destinations. The current design of these streets reinforces to drivers (and riders) that bikes are not welcome here, and definitely send a message that driving is the priority way to get around town. I’m not willing to give up bike access on Killingsworth and other collectors just because we’ve normalized irresponsible driving.

Zach
Zach
19 days ago

I cross Killingsworth everyday with my son and, for a low speed limit, two lane road, it’s much dicier than it needs to be. Looking forward to these changes!

Matt
Matt
19 days ago

“I feel safe riding it because the street is so wide, so there’s lots of room for cars and bikes to avoid each other,” he wrote. 

This reader can’t be describing NE Killingsworth between NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and NE 42nd Ave. This stretch could be described in many ways, but “so wide” isn’t one of them.

Just this past weekend, I was driving westbound on NE Killingsworth, at 25 MPH, when the lights at 20th turned yellow. Slowing to a stop, the light turned red, and suddenly the car behind me raced into the eastbound lane, charging through the intersection, and swerved back over to the westbound lane to continue down Killingsworth. Utter madness.

I was a “little bit freaked out by this.” I’m not sure we should be freaked out by median islands and crosswalks.

HL
HL
17 days ago
Reply to  Matt

I was hit by a car (while driving) on NE Killingsworth that did the exact same thing you describe. Except I had stopped to turn left/south, so they ran into me from the side….

My oldest goes to Vernon, so we’ve spent years crossing Killingsworth as pedestrians and/or bikers and I truly loathe the street – it’s so unsafe, and consistently so. I’m looking forward to this project in hopes it’ll make getting across it at multiple points less miserable!

Dusty
Dusty
19 days ago

I worked with the Vernon Neighborhood Association this last year to ask PBOT for traffic calming in Vernon on NE Killingsworth (NE 10th to NE 22nd), so I am thrilled PBOT is taking action to make this part of Portland a little more livable, if not less car-centric.

I would never ride down NE Killingsworth (or any other District Collector); the speed limit is 25 MPH (however cars blow this off, with 70% of traffic exceeding this at Alberta Park, for example) and there’s not even bike lanes on these parts of NE Killingsworth, much less protected bike lanes.

Andrew S
Andrew S
19 days ago
Reply to  Dusty

Thanks for championing the cause!

I respect your choice not to ride on Killingsworth, but I’ll encourage you to rephrase “I would never” with “I currently don’t, but here’s what I think could make the difference.” Streets like Killingsworth would be the most comfortable places to ride in most of the USA. The problem is cars, specifically parking and poor driver behavior. It sounds like you’re already working on addressing the issue (thanks!), but I really think we do more harm than good by swearing away riding on collectors altogether. We need to demand and show that bikes have a place here too.

Dusty
Dusty
19 days ago
Reply to  Andrew S

I don’t foresee NE Killingsworth having a bike lane in my lifetime, but if PBOT makes one (I think they’d have to remove all the parking) I’ll probably use it.

mark
mark
19 days ago

I felt the same way when they removed lanes on SE Hawthorne. It had been easy to take a lane on my bike, with motorists easily able to pass in the adjacent lane. Now I hate riding there, since it’s harder for impatient drivers to make a safe pass, and I feel pressured to ride at a higher effort than is comfortable for me.

It used to be a fast and direct route, now I’m forced to meander on indirect, poorly connected greenways.

Watts
Watts
16 days ago
Reply to  mark

now I’m forced to meander on indirect, poorly connected greenways.

But, according to PBOT, that’s good for climate change, somehow.

Champs
Champs
18 days ago

There is a tier of the very few routes I just won’t take, e.g. Burnside up to Skyline or most of Cornelius Pass Road.

The next level down is roads where you really need to be in the mood, like eastbound on inner E Burnside or Sandy. Killingsworth between Interstate and 42nd fits that bill.

As an outlier myself, it’s interesting that anyone considers it a route of choice. That is a niche within a niche within a niche. The greater good is getting more people to walk that street, maybe even for the people who do ride it.

Amit Zinman
17 days ago

It’s really one of the few projects I’ve seen that aims to calm fast streets rather than further slow already calm streets.
I’m all for this, but won’t say no to a nice bike lane 🙂

Ross
Ross
16 days ago

I try to cross this exact intersection all the time as a pedestrian. Cars don’t stop. There’s no markings at all. I’m so happy this is getting improved.