City plans two-way protected bike lane on NE 33rd and Skidmore

Existing conditions on NE 33rd at Mason. The new two-way bike lane would be on the right next to Wilshire Park.

The City of Portland wants to make it easier to bike, scoot and walk around Wilshire Park in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood. Two upcoming projects would add bike lanes to key stretches of NE 33rd and Skidmore, which would give people a safer way to cross a major north-south street, create a better connection to an existing neighborhood greenway, and allow people to avoid a gap in the network that requires sidewalk riding.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has plans for two separate but connected projects.

NE 33rd

Click to enlarge. (Source: PBOT)
(PBOT bike map with location of new bike lanes circled.)

The first project would create a better connection between NE Mason and Skidmore across 33rd. Mason and Skidmore are currently used as east-west bike routes through the area and are important options when the nearest neighborhood greenways on NE Klickitat and Going are too far away. Skidmore also intersects with NE 37th, a major north-south greenway.

The problem is 33rd — a very high-traffic street with no dedicated cycling space. The official city bike map (right) recommends that bicycle users roll up onto the sidewalk in Wilshire Park to make the connection.

PBOT wants to get bike riders onto the street. They plan to re-allocate space currently used as free car storage to create a two-way, physically-protected bike lane. To make it even safer for bike users, PBOT will add a user-activated signal to help folks get across 33rd. The design is similar to what PBOT did just a few blocks north in 2010 at NE Going and 33rd.

A PBOT rep told us the project will be installed later this summer as part of a paving project on 33rd.

NE Skidmore

A closely related project would change the layout of Skidmore between 33rd and 37th. This four-block stretch adjacent to Wilshire Park is 40-feet wide, has no lane striping and is used as a typical residential street with free car storage on both sides.

PBOT has released an initial proposal that would create 12-feet of dedicated cycling space. The idea is to continue the two-way bike lane from 33rd along the south side of Skidmore (but instead of a cement-curb buffer, this section would be a paint-only buffer). As you can see in the cross-section drawings from PBOT, their initial proposal would maintain four, seven-foot lanes for drivers — two for moving and two for parking.

Balto’s post on Nextdoor.

You might recall at the onset of the pandemic in April 2020, neighborhood resident and noted bike advocate Sam Balto created his own “extended sidewalk” on this stretch of Skidmore. Balto has spent years pushing his neighbors and PBOT to see the potential of this street.

In November 2020, Balto posted the message below to Nextdoor along with a photo of the street:

“Besides the 7 homes that have driveways on this stretch of Skidmore why do we need this road?? It’s 42 ft wide and a quarter mile long. Couldn’t it serve the public better besides being just another road??”

Many of the 627 comments expressed shock and confusion that anyone would care about changing this street.

But Balto’s campaign appears to have worked. A PBOT rep confirmed with me yesterday that while the above cross-section drawings are just an initial proposal, they plan to do something as part of an upcoming Fixing Our Streets project that’s scheduled for construction in 2024.

The Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association might have something to say about these changes. That group is coming off a difficult interaction with PBOT from a nearby traffic diverter project, so it’s hard to know how they’ll respond to these plans. I’ve reached out for comment and will update the story if/when I hear back.

CORRECTION, 4:21: I originally reported that these proposals had been presented at a BWNA meeting. That was incorrect. I regret the error and any confusion it caused

The greenway prevails: PBOT will install diverter on NE Fremont at Alameda

PBOT will finally fill in the outlines that have been on the ground since early this year. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
PBOT plans for NE Fremont and Alameda.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation will move forward with a pilot of a full median traffic diverter on Northeast Alameda at Fremont.

The move comes after months of back-and-forth with the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association after they voted against the idea back in March.

At issue is an effort to improve safety on Fremont, a neighborhood collector that has come under scrutiny by both neighborhood residents and PBOT for excessive driving speeds and crashes. Alameda rose to the top because it’s a major north-south bicycle greenway that has seen an increase in cars and cut-through traffic.

When PBOT proposed a full diverter at the intersection, some BWNA leaders and residents objected to it. They cited myriad reasons for their opposition and ultimately the BWNA board voted 7-4 against it. While some people thought the vote was binding, PBOT never saw it as such and continued to work toward a solution.

In April, the BWNA formed a sub-committee to come up with their own proposal. Leaders of that committee maintained that Alameda was wide enough for the car and bike traffic to co-exist and that, perhaps it shouldn’t be considered a greenway at all. PBOT wasn’t having it.

“Since [NE Alameda] functions as a neighborhood collector, the volume is higher than narrower local streets.  This begs the question – Why was Alameda selected and is it the widest street identified as a Greenway?” a BWNA leader emailed to PBOT Neighborhood Greenways Program Coordinator Scott Cohen.

“Despite your consistent suggestions, NE Alameda does not function as a collector, it functions as a cut-through route for people avoiding the collectors,” Cohen replied. He also made it clear he was tired of all the process-related back-and-forth. “Slow Streets [Program] staff has been connecting with the neighborhood about this intersection since April 2021 on a solution and delaying is not an option,” he wrote.

For the past three months, Cohen and PBOT have worked with BWNA to create a different design proposal at Alameda and Fremont. But in the end, PBOT decided their proposal that the neighborhood voted against in March achieved more of the goals of the project.

According to the project website that launched today, PBOT plans to install plastic curbs and posts on the centerline of Fremont with cut-outs so bicycle riders can pass through. Car users will be prevented from turning left from Alameda to Fremont or vice versa.

PBOT says the design will reduce crashes, create a safer crossing, and reduce car use on the Alameda bicycle greenway. They will consider this a pilot installation and will monitor street usage at 15 locations for one year to decide if the new diverter should be made permanent. They expect the work to be done on the estimated $10,000 project sometime this summer or early fall.

UPDATE, 7:50 am on 7/20: This post initially said that PBOT and the BWNA neighborhood association agreed on the diverter in the end. That was inaccurate. BWNA did not support PBOT’s ultimate decision to move forward with the diverter. I’ve edited the story to reflect this and regret the error.