Say your goodbyes to the big tree and traffic circle at NE 7th and Tillamook because the City of Portland is about to remove it.
The traffic circle is good at calming traffic, but it also reduces visibility and often creates unexpected behaviors when people cut it the wrong-way and/or don’t adhere to proper yielding etiquette.
Tillamook is also a popular east-west bike street and PBOT thinks removing the traffic circle from this offset jog with 7th will make the intersection less stressful. This project’s also means the area surrounding the intersection will be closed to car traffic for 4-6 weeks.
Below are two more views of what the 7th and Tillamook intersection looks like now today:
According to a map PBOT released with this project announcement Thursday, they will install a “two-way bicycle lane” on Tillamook one block east and west of this intersection. We aren’t clear if that’s just during the construction zone or exactly what this will look like, but we’ll report back when we learn more.
The changes at this intersection may seem small, but it’s important to have as little friction as possible on this north-south corridor. The city just spent $19 million on this bridge, so people need to be able to get there!
It will be interesting to see how people respond to the intersection being closed to car traffic. Tillamook is a greenway, which ostensibly means it should be very low-car already, but this closure will give people walking, biking and rolling a chance to see what navigating the area is like when they don’t have to avoid car traffic. (People on Twitter are already calling on PBOT to make it carfree permanently!)
Construction on this project will start on Tuesday and go until next month. Stay tuned for updates as the Blumenauer Bridge corridor continues to unfold.
Note: I’m well aware that some Portlanders (especially some who work for the City of Portland) think that I complain too much. I understand why folks think that, and I totally understand why. I’m also not ashamed of it. I think that’s part of the important role BikePortland plays in this community: To point out stuff that isn’t as good as it should be in hopes of making it better. Sometimes things just need to be said, even if it’s a downer. So here goes…
The very first time I rode across the new Blumenauer Bridge and went over the curb ramp transition from the bridge to the street on the southern end I was really disappointed when my bike and body went “kerplunk!” The bump is just too severe.
Here’s a video from a while back where I rode over the bump. You can hear it jostle my bike:
As soon as I rode it the first time I was shaking my head that we spent $14 million or so on this amazing new bridge, only to give it this dangerous and uncomfortable bump. That was several weeks ago, and I chose to not saying anything publicly because I didn’t want to rain on the big parade of excitement and enthusiasm. As soon as I did, there would have been (and likely will be now) a chorus of critics saying “those cyclists are such complainers!” or “that BikePortland guy is always mad at something” or “Come on, Jonathan that’s a tiny thing. Look at this great new bridge and be happy!”.
So I stayed silent.
Then last night I saw that someone I know hit the bump and had a really bad crash because of it (photo of aftermath at right). The person, a very experienced rider who knows the route and location well, had rented a Biketown and was headed north on 7th when they hit the bump and flew off their bike. They suffered lacerations on their ribcage and fingers and got pretty banged up. Luckily they had no serious injuries.
I should have spoken out sooner about this! I want everyone to know about this hazard.
Until it gets fixed by the city (they know about it and I assume a crew will address it soon), be extra careful as you approach the south side. The big bump is on the driveway as you go from the street to the bridge sidewalk/path. It’s more severe going northbound, but your speeds are likely a bit slower due to the incline. However it also requires attention going south.
And for anyone that has crashed on the bump, I’m sorry for not saying something sooner.
UPDATE, 1:21 pm: PBOT has announced they will fix the bump next week. See Tweet below…
The Earl Blumenauer Bridge is now open as a link from Portland’s Central Eastside to the Lloyd District via NE 7th Ave, much to the delight of people who walk, bike and roll in the central city. But there’s room for improvement on the streets surrounding the bridge if it’s to become a cohesive, easily accessible part of the active transportation network.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation has started work this week on two projects south of the new bridge that will add bike facilities to adjacent streets with the goal of making it more seamless to access the bridge via 7th Ave. This work will include changes to NE Couch as part of a Rose Lane project as well as a new bike connection on SE/NE 7th Ave to make it easier to cross Sandy at SE Stark, which is necessary in order to reach the bridge.
Learn more about both projects below…
NE Couch Street Rose Lane
PBOT will provide a bus-and-turn (BAT) lane on NE Couch Street between NE 12th and 6th avenues. The BAT lane will improve transit speed and reliability for bus riders on lines 12, 19, and 20.
In addition, PBOT will improve the bicycle connection to the Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge by extending the bike lane from 6th to 7th avenues. People biking will also be allowed to use BAT lane between NE 12th and 7th avenues.
The project also includes traffic signal controller upgrades to better coordinate between approximately 30 traffic signals on NE Couch Street, E Burnside Street, NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, and NE Grand Avenue.
This project also includes a general travel lane reallocation and one block of parking removal. The right travel lane will be reallocated between NE 6th and 12th avenues for the bus-and-turn lane. People driving will still be able to use the lane to make right turns at driveways and at intersections and to access on-street parking. Parking along the north side of NE Couch Street between NE 6th and 7th avenues will be removed.
These changes to Couch are very significant. As you can see in our lead image, the current conditions require bicycle riders to share the lane with car users. While it’s downhill and there’s often little speed differential, the experience is not welcoming to less confident riders. This project will extend the bike lane (which currently only goes east to 6th) by one block to connect to the new bridge. Also note how PBOT explicitly says bike riders can use the “Bus Only” lane.
Also worth noting is that this red Bus/Bike lane on Couch will connect to existing Rose Lanes on the MLK/Grand couplet.
NE/SE 7th Avenue Neighborhood Greenway Project
This Central City in Motion project will create a new, half-mile long north/south bike connection on NE/SE 7th Avenue between SE Washington Street and the new Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge. In addition, PBOT will install a new westbound bike lane on the north side of SE Washington Street.
Construction consists of speed bumps to calm vehicle traffic speeds and reflective wands at select intersections will discourage cut-through traffic.
Visibility and crossing safety will be improved by removing parking near intersections. In addition, parking will be removed on the north side of SE Washington between SE Sandy and 8th Avenue.
The project will result in improved safety for people walking and bicycling and a stronger connection between the Central Eastside and Lloyd neighborhoods.
If it’s unpleasant to bike to and from the new Blumenauer Bridge, people won’t be as inclined to use it, so it’s good PBOT is working to make it more accessible. Construction on these projects is expected to last through August – stay tuned for an update when the projects are complete.
Though people have been sneaking across it for a week (and thousands prematurely maneuvered it at the World Naked Bike Ride on Saturday night), yesterday was the first chance for folks to officially ring in the opening of the Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge, and though it was a searing hot day Sunday, hundreds of people gathered at a celebration to mark the debut of this long-awaited piece of infrastructure.
The sleek new bridge is named for Oregon Congressman Blumenauer, who has a long history of supporting biking in Portland and across the country, is founder of the Congressional Bike Caucus, and he’s known in Portland and on Capitol Hill for riding bikes and his signature bow ties. Blumenauer skipped the bowtie yesterday – it was too sweltering for such neckwear, although some attendees wore one in his honor and the City of Portland added them to bike lane characters nearby.
The gathering was a who’s-who of Portland politicians. In addition to the Congressman, four city commissioners were in attendance, as were Oregon Metro President Lynn Peterson, Metro Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzales, Metro Councilor-elect Ashton Simpson and several Oregon state representatives. During the opening ceremony speeches, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who leads the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), asked the hundreds of attendees to up their transportation advocacy and help make Portland the bike and pedestrian haven it has the potential to be.
“I know we need [better bike and pedestrian infrastructure], but I’ve got some colleagues that may need convincing,” Hardesty said. “I will be depending on you, because we need you. I can’t do it without you.”
After a very fond introduction, Hardesty welcomed Blumenauer to the podium with a kiss on the cheek. When the Congressman took to the mic, he waved away the crowd’s fanfare.
“It’s too hot for extended applause,” Blumenauer said. (Someone in the audience yelled “I love you!” in response.)
“When I biked over here this morning, I just was overcome,” Blumenauer said. He demonstrated toward his grandchildren, who were sitting in the front row, choking up as he elaborated on what his namesake bridge means to him and to the city.
“What we’re doing here today is celebrating their future,” he said.
Though Blumenauer was clearly honored by the bridge named in his honor, he emphasized that just because he now has a piece of infrastructure named after him doesn’t mean he’s done working. (“I’m not dead yet!” he said.) He urged Portland bike advocates to get aspirational about what this city can accomplish if people get serious about our cycling infrastructure.
“Let’s commit to getting two million bicycles out of garages and attics. Let’s take that goal for 25% bike mode share and make it a third,” Blumenauer said. “I’m looking forward to working with you to bring these things across the finish line, to build the coalition to expand our vision and to be the national leader for cycling. Burning calories rather than fossil fuels is what we do best here.”
This new crossing is part of why Time Magazine recently called Portland one of the world’s greatest places, and it is a lovely way to travel across Portland’s east side. A glance to the west through the bridge’s fence barrier will give you a beautiful view of downtown Portland, with the White Stag sign glittering in the horizon. A traveler who doesn’t bristle at heights can take a look at the freeway below the bridge and notice how gratifying it is to be above car traffic as part of the peloton representing what’s so special about Portland.
The celebration lasted all day long. Though the crowd trickled down after the opening ceremony as people sought air-conditioned shelter, the fact that so many people came out to party at a new bridge during a heat wave says a lot about how dedicated so many Portlanders are about making it better to bike and walk in this city.
The politicians who spoke at the ceremony were heartened by this, too.
“With this bridge and today’s celebration, we have a symbol of what’s right in Portland,” Hardesty said during her speech. “A project like this does not happen without people putting their hearts and souls into it.”
And Congressman Blumenauer is ready. This morning, standing atop roaring freeway traffic he said, “It’s safe, it’s secure and it’s going to make a big difference for our community. This is going to be the next addition to a great network of non-motorized transportation. It’s really a dream come true for me.”
In addition to the standard photo-ops, smiling dignitaries and obscenely-sized scissors, there will also be a festival with 50+ booths, vendors, music, and all types of fun. And since this is Portland, there are several rides planned to and from the festivities.
Here’s a roundup of what’s going on:
Biketown will offer a $20 ride credit for all trips within the boundary of NE Multnomah to SE Alder and 9th Ave to MLK.
The City of Portland is working with Kuto to give away 1,000 $50 gift cards to anyone that shows up to support local businesses. All you have to do is download their app here.
B on B on the BB – 8:00 am
The wonderful Breakfast on the Bridge folks will kick things off by offering free coffee, donuts and welcoming vibes to all who pass (and are smart enough to stop and pull over). B on B has been slinging caffeine and conversation on Portland bridges for 20 years now and what better way to celebrate this big milestone?! More info here.
AfroVillage Bike Ride – 10:00 am from Biketown Station on NW Broadway and Everett
This ride will begin with a short (walkable) tour of Old Town to highlight Black history and share a hopeful vision for unhoused Black Portlanders. The ride will end at the bridge for the dedication ceremony. More info here.
Milagro Plaza Block Party – 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on SE Stark and 6th
The Street Trust and Milagro Theater will host a get together with drinks and music and decorations to get your bike ready for a parade to the bridge.
Hassalo Plaza Block Party – 10:30 am to 3:00 pm Plaza at NE Hassalo and Eighth
Show up for coffee and snacks and get your bike decorated for a parade to the bridge for the opening ceremony. Then afterwards, come back to the plaza for a block party with a live jazz band and free bike repairs.
Aaron Appreciate Ride – 12:00 pm from south side of bridge
Friends of Aaron Proton Tarfman will meet and ride together to remember his life. Aaron was an ardent activist who wanted to live in a city free of cars. He would have been so excited to bike on this bridge! More info here.
Official Opening Ceremony – 12:00 to 12:30 pm at South Plaza
Hear remarks from Mr. Blumenauer himself, as well as PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty before they unveil the bronze plaque and cut the ribbon.
Bridge Architecture and Design Tour – 1:00 pm at North Plaza
If you are an urban planning and/or architecture nerd, you won’t want to miss this tour. Led by members of the design team, they’ll regale you with stories about the bridge design and its context in the urban setting.
Official PBOT Celebration Bike Ride – 1:30 to 3:30 at North Plaza
Learn everything you need to know about the future Green Loop on this 8-mile ride led by the City of Portland. More info here.
Depave Block Party – 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm at SE 7th and Sandy
As Taylor reported in her recap of the Complete Sandy Ride last week, Depave is planning a major green street project at the expansive SE Sandy/7th/Washington intersection. Come learn about what’s in store and take over your public space. There will be food, vendors, games, live music, and more. More info here.
Let us know if we missed anything and I’m happy to add it. And stay tuned for coverage from the opening.
As you read on Wednesday, the City of Portland is planning a big party on July 31st to celebrate the opening of a new carfree bridge over I-84 between the Lloyd and Central Eastside districts.
This is a huge deal and we’re psyched this will finally open. We know it will be a nice riding experience on the bridge, but we hope it spurs more and better connections on either end.
I happened to be near the south side of the where the bridge will land last night and snapped a few photos to give you a sense of where it looks today. It had been about seven months since I’d taken a good look at it.
Beyond the bridge itself, notice the improved spaces on the ends. On the south side there will be a new path to approach the bridge and a plaza with what appears to be a new water feature. On the north side, PBOT has extended the sidewalk into NE Lloyd Blvd and built a huge curb extension on the northwest corner. This will make it safer and easier to cross Lloyd.
Here are the rest of my photos from the south side (click to open gallery):
Here are the rest of my photos from the north side (click to open gallery):