Roundabout at SE Harold among ideas to make 122nd Ave a safe ‘civic corridor’

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“We are looking at a more significant change to the streets.”

– Bryan Poole, PBOT

A plan to update 122nd Ave in east Portland has taken a big step forward. After almost a year of collecting feedback, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has released the 122nd Ave draft project plan. It includes our first look at concepts for a roundabout and other significant changes that could finally tame this street.

122nd Ave is one of the most dangerous corridors in Portland for people walking, biking or taking transit. PBOT readily admits there are major safety concerns on the street: in the draft plan, they state “the wide roadway has inadequate infrastructure and its large intersections are among the most dangerous in the city. Significant changes are needed to save lives and reduce life-altering injuries.”

Right now, 122nd is on PBOT’s High Crash Network, and is generally unpleasant to walk or bike on. PBOT’s goal is that 122nd Ave would not only be a safe place for people walking and biking, but also that it would become a “civic corridor,” which the city defines as a street that is “attractive and safe for pedestrians while continuing to play a major role in the City’s transportation system.”

PBOT identified four recommendation categories in the plan:

Safety, which will involve “redesigning 122nd to achieve safe driving speeds, safe intersections and better separation between users” and include projects such as implementing more street lighting and pedestrian and bike crossing and improve speed management

Multimodal and Access Enhancements to “improve the areas where people walk, roll, bike and wait for transit” with projects like protected bike lanes, access management and increased Biketown stations

A map of heat-related deaths in Portland between June 28th and July 7th, 2021. (Source: PBOT)

Transit Performance and Experience to “ensure buses operate on time even during congested periods” with bus stop and access improvements and transit priority treatments to allow buses to move through car traffic

Develop 122nd Avenue as a Civic Corridor to “exemplify the benefits of green infrastructure and minimize urban heat island effects, while also being enjoyable places to live, work, and gather” by widening sidewalks, increasing tree canopy coverage and studying the potential for a bus rapid transit service on 122nd Ave

As we reported back in March, tree canopy coverage was a particularly important issue to survey respondents. Shade from trees is essential in pavement-heavy areas like the 122nd Avenue corridor. During last year’s heat wave, some parts of east Portland recorded temperatures of up to 124°F.

For the sake of this plan, PBOT has split the long corridor into three parts. Within the northernmost segment, which stretches from Marine Drive to San Rafael Street, PBOT has unveiled plans to make major changes near the Sandy Boulevard (Hwy 30) intersection.

Currently, there are two free-flowing slip lanes from 122nd south of Sandy that provide access to NE 121st. PBOT suggests closing off those lanes to create T-intersections. The concept shown in the draft plan also calls for new sidewalks and marked crossings.

Below is the current view of this intersection and PBOT’s conceptual design:

Another notable recommendation is in the southern segment of 122nd, where PBOT wants to reduce the space available to drivers.

We outlined PBOT’s potential design options for this southern stretch in a recent article, but the draft plan brings something new to the table: a roundabout at the intersection of 122nd and SE Harold made possible by a reduction in driving lanes.

“We are looking at a more significant change to the streets,” PBOT planner Bryan Poole said in a June 14 Bicycle Advisory Committee presentation. “Because the volumes are lower, we’re proposing doing a road diet here: reducing the number of vehicle lanes from five to three, providing space to really improve bike facilities and also adding trees along the corridor, which is something we heard a lot about.”

Here’s how it would look compared to current conditions:

PBOT’s design drawing shows how drivers would face a much more narrow roadway than they do now, which would dramatically reduce speeds and improve safety for everyone. Median islands and extended corners would slow drivers down as they enter the roundabout. The bike lanes are shown as being raised to sidewalk level and would cross adjacent to pedestrian crossings.

Roundabouts on major streets are extremely rare in Portland. Sharing this concept shows PBOT is willing to take bold steps to change how our streets are used and who will feel safe using them.

A list of “future plans” includes converting TriMet Line 73 to bus rapid transit (BRT) and establishing standards that would require raised and protected bike lanes for future developments.

The next step is for PBOT to find more money to implement these recommendations. You can help create urgency for that by sharing your feedback via the 122nd Ave Plan online survey. Find the full plan and learn more about the plan on PBOT’s website.

City aims to tame Sandy Blvd through central eastside with bikeway, safety updates

The striping work at Sandy and Ankeny has already begun. See the official project drawings below.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is making updates to SE Sandy Blvd between Burnside and Alder. Sandy is being repaved, so the city is grabbing the opportunity to tweak the striping and add other features they hope will make the street safer.

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Woman killed on NE Sandy Blvd is 20th traffic death while walking this year

Looking southwest on Sandy Blvd from NE 79th.

Something is wrong with Portland’s traffic safety efforts. While ostensibility dedicated to a Vision Zero Action Plan with a clear goal of zero traffic deaths by 2025, the fatality statistics are going in the wrong direction.

This morning just after 7:00 am, a woman was killed while walking across NE Sandy Blvd. It happened between NE 78th and 79th Avenues. The Portland Police Bureau hasn’t released details of the crash and is currently doing an investigation.

This woman was the 20th person to die while walking in 2017 — that’s the highest toll in over 20 years. The furthest back our immediately available data goes is 1996. That year 17 people died while walking.

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Another use for green? City adds bike refuges at SE Ankeny/Sandy/11th

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
bike in refuge ankeny

Looking southwest down SE Sandy Boulevard from Ankeny, Sandy and 11th.

One of Portland’s weirder intersections has a new splash of color.

As part of its repaving project on inner Southeast Ankeny — which has, for the record, greatly improved the ride between SE 11th and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard — the city has added some interesting and potentially useful new features to the six-way intersection of Ankeny, Sandy and 11th.

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City proposes $30,000 project to preserve on-street parking next to unused parking lot

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
overhead map annotated

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has proposed to narrow a sidewalk by four feet in order to make room both for bike lanes and for some of the free on-street parking spaces that currently serve Katie O’Brien’s bar at NE 28th Avenue and Sandy.
(Graphic: BikePortland)

There’s one section of 28th Avenue’s commercial strip, at the heart of the planned 20s Bikeway, where it’s not possible for bike traffic to divert onto a side street: the one block between Sandy Boulevard and Interstate 84.

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Movie spoof says Sandy Blvd is the “worst street ever”

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

A spoof movie trailer making the local Internet rounds today has transportation wonks crying with laughter. The trailer is for a film dubbed “Sandy Blvd.” and the premise is simple: “Sandy is the worst F#$%I* street ever!” If you watch the clip below at work, just be forewarned there is a lot of profanity.

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Why just bike lanes on outer Sandy Blvd? ODOT responds

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

“Our design standards still point to bike lanes for this particular project… After reviewing the data, a physically separated bicycle facility did not appear to be warranted.”
— Jilayne Jordan, ODOT Community Affairs

Our story last week about an Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) “safety project” on NE Sandy Blvd has gotten the agency’s attention. After being emailed by several readers who questioned the agency’s chosen design for handling bike access in the project, ODOT community affairs staff sent out a detailed, bulk email on Friday afternoon. The email explains why ODOT chose standard bike lanes on the busy freight route instead of something with more separation — like a cycle track or a buffered bike lane — as recommended by their own design guidelines.

As per the project, ODOT is widening a 1.1 mile stretch of Sandy to include a center turn lane as well as two, six-foot wide bike lanes. ODOT Region 1 Community Affairs Coordinator Jilayne Jordan says the new turn lane is intended to reduce rear-end and other collisions and serve as, “a refuge for vehicles turning left onto or off of the highway.”

The addition of bike lanes are a step forward from the gravel-strewn shoulders that exist there today. However, merely widening that shoulder and painting a stripe on it doesn’t seem like much in a $3.6 million project aimed at improving safety.

In their response, ODOT listed several reasons why they are moving forward with the bike lanes and not a more appealing bikeway.

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ODOT, Sandy Blvd, and the curse of outdated design manuals

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

“ODOT used the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan (1995) when designing this project, which does not… mention buffered bike lanes or cycle track and design criteria.”
— ODOT

It’s a shame that outdated engineering guidelines continue to prevent us from designing streets in a way that matches our goals — but that’s exactly what’s happening out on a segment of Sandy Blvd in east Portland.

Last month, we shared the news that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is spending $3.6 million to rebuild a one-mile segment of Sandy between NE 122nd and 141st Avenues. The US 30 Bypass (Sandy Blvd) Safety Project comes with standard, six-foot bike lanes. That might sound good, but this type of bike lane is nothing but a continuation of a status quo that is inadequate for bicycle riders and that doesn’t match up our our city and statewide transportation planning goals.

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ODOT project will add bike lanes to NE Sandy Blvd in east Portland

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

A one-mile stretch of NE Sandy Blvd will get
rebuilt with bike lanes and a new sidewalk thanks
to a $3.8 million ODOT project.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is set to stripe new bike lanes on a one-mile section of NE Sandy Blvd from NE 122nd Avenue to NE 141st in east Portland. Construction on the $3.865 million project begins this week.

Currently, Sandy has one standard vehicle lane in each direction, with unimproved shoulders on both sides. Cars park in the shoulders, which lack sidewalks or bike lanes and are full of gravel and potholes. The project will rebuild Sandy, making significant changes that include:

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Follow-up: No ‘Bikes in Roadway’ signage for Sandy Blvd

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Riding on NE Sandy Blvd-5-4

PBOT says ‘Bikes in Roadway’ signs
aren’t the right approach for Sandy.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Remember our story last week about NE Sandy Blvd? We shared the experience of riding on that large arterial street through the eyes of Esther Harlow.

Despite a lack of comfortable bike access, many people like Harlow prefer riding on Sandy Blvd because it’s a straight shot into the central city. While more significant bike access improvements on Sandy aren’t in the near-term pipeline, Harlow had an idea to improve bike access she felt would help the situation immediately.

To make the bike/car interactions a bit more pleasant, Harlow wants to have “Bikes on Roadway” signs installed. She made an official request to PBOT with her idea. Harlow heard back from a PBOT civil engineer and she shared the response with us. PBOT declined the request, but the engineer makes a reasonable case for his decision. The reply (below) might help others understand the thinking PBOT does before deciding whether or not to install signage (it’s also cool to see a government agency take someone’s request so seriously)…

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