They’re the best bike lanes in Portland that no almost no one has heard about.
Like so many intersections throughout our city, the crossing of North Columbia Boulevard near George Middle School in the St. Johns neighborhood is a ticking time bomb. It’s where teenager Bradley Fortner was struck and nearly killed by a driver while walking to school in 2016, and it’s the intersection that spurred Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives Tina Kotek to host a town hall three months ago.[Read more…]
For decades, people who live in a part of St. Johns north of Columbia Boulevard and west of Portland Road have hoped and prayed for street safety improvements. Cut off from nearby schools, markets and restaurants by an urban freeway where people drive large trucks and cars way too fast, residents of this part of our city have been ignored for a long time.
Now, thanks to a $1.5 million set-aside in the recently passed House Bill 2017, changes are finally coming.
Last night at Roosevelt High School the Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (who represents this area of north Portland) hosted an event to gather input about how to improve safety at the notorious intersection of Columbia and Midway.
“Now we have some money, so let’s make the best use of it.”
— Tina Kotek, state representative
“None of us who live in north Portland need to be reminded we have a lot of accidents out here,” Speaker Kotek said during her brief remarks, “And now we have some money, so let’s make the best use of it.”
Also speaking last night was a sixth grader from nearby George Middle School. “I’m worried my friends will get hurt because of fast trucks,” she said. And a leader of the PTA at Roosevelt High who lives north of Columbia referred to it as, “A neighborhood that’s completely isolated, like a little island.”
It’s been about 15 months since high school freshman Bradley Fortner was nearly killed while trying to walk across North Columbia Blvd on his way to his first day of school. He was hit by a pickup truck driver and spent a week in the ICU with swelling in his brain.
Fortner lives in a part of north Portland that is effectively walled off from George Middle School and Roosevelt High because of how dangerously people drive on Columbia Blvd. Prior to the collision, his family and neighbors said the road was so wide and so full of trucks and speeding drivers that they knew a tragedy like that was “inevitable”.
There’s a pedestrian overpass at this location, but it’s so unkempt and out of the way that most people opt not to use it.
North Portlanders are tired of waiting for the City or advocacy groups to save them from the deadly streets in their front yards. They’re taking matters into their own hands by elevating voices of vulnerable road users and demanding attention for their concerns.
Two events in the coming week — one from the Arbor Lodge and Overlook neighborhood associations and one from the St. Johns Neighborhood Association — will focus on dangerous streets where motor vehicle users cause daily environmental, safety and public health problems.
This Friday (10/20) a group of St. Johns residents calling themselves Citizens for a Safe and Attractive Fessenden/St Louis will hold a rally to demand that the Portland Bureau of Transportation follow through with promises. Fessenden/St.Louis is a neighborhood collector street between Columbia Boulevard (to the north) and Lombard (to the south). Residents PBOT to fully implement the St. Johns Truck Strategy Phase II project that was approved after a 17 month public process in 2013 (as part of the St. Johns Truck Strategy adopted by City Council in 2001).
About 75 people packed into the St. Johns Community Center on a rainy Monday night because they want the streets in front of their homes, schools and businesses to be safer and more humane.
The event, hosted by the St. Johns Neighborhood Association’s Safety and Livability Team, was scheduled before the death of a bicycle rider on the St. Johns Bridge late last month; but that tragedy has given even greater urgency to the concerns expressed last night.
Like many areas of Portland, St. Johns residents are fed-up with their streets being dominated by people who drive too fast and cut-through their neighborhoods to avoid congestion. Another issue on the minds of many last night was how their part of the city is hemmed in by large arterial streets managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation to prioritize freight traffic at the expense of everything else.
“Trucks drive fast past homes and crosswalks,” someone scrawled on a piece of paper that was turned in after the meeting. “And the road is too small for them… Residents don’t open their windows because of the fumes!”
The death of an innocent man on the St. Johns Bridge last weekend has spurred — and renewed — activism around transportation reform on many fronts.
Tired of freight trucks and reckless driving holding their streets hostage, on Monday the St. Johns Neighborhood Association will host a forum to delve deeper into the issues of traffic and transportation safety. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and representatives from the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation are slated to attend. Local residents passed out flyers for the event at last week’s protest ride; but SJNA Board Member and Chair of their Safety and Livability Team Travis Parker tells us the event was planned prior to the collision that killed Mitch York.
Despite pleas from the police to slow down due to the start of the school year, there has already been a major collision and a 15-year-old boy is clinging to life.
According to the Portland Police Bureau, the crash happened at around 7:45 am this morning at North Columbia Boulevard and Midway — right across the street from George Middle School. The Oregonian has confirmed that the boy is an incoming freshman at nearby Roosevelt High School and was headed to his first day of classes.
As you can see in the photos below, Columbia Blvd is a major industrial freight route with a wide, five-lane cross-section. And Midway is at an angled intersection. The street is so dangerous to cross and so close to a school that it has one of those walking bridges that goes up and over it (bridges that planners and engineers often see as symbolic of a failed street). The speed limit is 40 mph at this location. There’s a speed reader board a few tenths of a mile from the collision site which means that PBOT has been trying to slow speeds down in this area.
We had our first ever Get Together event in St. Johns tonight and I have to say — mission accomplished!
We had a nice turnout. Knowledge was shared. New connections were made. Beer, fries, tots, and burgers were consumed. All in all, a great way to kickoff this new series of events.
One thing I’m looking forward to with these events is riding in different neighborhoods. I haven’t ridden on N. Willamette Blvd. for a long time and, with a clear view of Mt. Hood, I picked a great night to head up there. (Unfortunately, my ride ended on a bad note when I encountered a major repaving project toward the northern end of the street. The city has torn up the middle of the roadway, leaving a very sharp curb to mount in order to stay in the shoulder/bike lane. Add the high speed of cars, buses, and lots of dust, and the idyllic N. Willamette experience on the bluff turns quickly unpleasant.)[Read more…]