Buried inside 115 pages of analysis of Barbur Boulevard, a “safety audit” released Monday seems to have come up with something interesting: a pretty solid new idea for fixing the dangerous wooded section of Southwest Portland’s most important street.
It’s fairly simple. Instead of losing a northbound auto lane from Miles to Hamilton, one of Barbur’s two southbound auto lanes could peel off at Capitol Highway.
South of Capitol Highway — which is where 40 to 50 percent of southbound Barbur traffic exits anyway — the street could be restriped to add continuous bike lanes across a pair of narrow bridges, ending the current situation that pushes bikes and cars to merge into the same 45-mph lane.
Spencer Boomhower, the Portland-based video game animator and livable streets advocate who created the definitive videos about the case for letting people on bikes treat stop signs as yield signs and the insanities of the Columbia River Crossing freeway expansion, is at it again.
Boomhower’s foray into the business of urban planning visualization, Cupola Media, just teamed up with Massachusetts-based walkable-streets author and consultant Jeff Speck to create a series of simple looping Vine videos that illustrate one of the simplest principles of modern transportation planning: the fact that we can make a lot of big improvements to our streets using nothing but paint.
(Image: Google Street View)
The divided four-lane street that runs between the Holladay Park Plaza senior-housing skyscraper and the Lloyd Center Mall is about to get a lot easier to cross.
For most of the distance between Northeast Multnomah and Halsey streets, two of the four current general travel lanes on Northeast 15th/16th will be converted to massive five-foot-wide cross-hatched buffers. The bike lanes, meanwhile, will be widened from five feet to seven. Finally, a zebra crosswalk and median refuge will also be added between the Holladay Park Plaza tower, just east of 15th/16th, and the mall parking lot, just west.
The link is significant to the city’s biking network because the rapidly developing Lloyd District currently offers no low-stress biking connections between the Multnomah Street protected bike lane and the neighborhoods to the north, including the commercial district on Broadway and Weidler.
A few times each day on the wooded four-lane stretch of inner SW Barbur Boulevard, state data released last week suggest, someone decides to hit the gas and zoom through at an average 55 mph or more.
And about a dozen times each year, Barbur’s crash history suggests, someone on this part of Barbur loses control of their vehicle and hits something. Once or twice a year, someone dies.
Since narrowing the road in this stretch to one lane in each direction appears to make many fewer people choose to hit the gas, a redesign that would replace one of the northbound lanes with a bike lane and walking path in each direction could be seen as a perfect test case for Vision Zero. That’s the principle, endorsed by Portland’s transportation director, that safety is always a higher priority than convenience when it comes to road design.
Converting one northbound traffic lane on 1.9 miles of SW Barbur Boulevard to two protected bike lanes with sidewalks would apparently prevent unsafe weaving during off-peak hours without massive impacts to morning traffic.
That’s one conclusion from data released Friday that analyzed changes to people’s driving habits during construction work on Barbur this summer. A repaving project had temporarily closed one traffic lane in each direction.
A new city study shows the big payoff the city has quietly seen from a few uses of one of the least-understood tricks in traffic engineering: the 4-3 road diet.