Hank’s Dairy, Les Femmes, House of Sound, Fred Hampton’s Health Clinic — these are all important parts of the history of North Williams Avenue that have been all but erased today.
North Williams Avenue, Portland’s busiest biking street that’s full of new shops and housing, was once the heart of our city’s black community.
But due to the negative impacts of systemic racism, city policies that hurt people of color, and recent demographic shifts, Williams has changed dramatically. Some of that original culture still thrives, but it’s a shadow of its former self.
Now a public art project wants to help Portlanders remember what was lost and celebrate what exists today.
Five years ago today Portland resident Michelle DePass stood up at a meeting for a transportation project on North Williams Avenue and changed the course of local and national cycling politics forever:
“We have an issue of racism and of the history of this neighborhood,” DePass said. “Until we address that history and… the cultural differences we have in terms of respect, we are not going to move very far.”
Rodney Avenue, already a decent low-stress alternative to the Vancouver-Williams couplet, is lined up for an upgrade to full neighborhood greenway status.
At an open house next Wednesday evening, the Portland Bureau of Transportation will be asking people for their thoughts on the plans.
To make the route comfortable for all riders, the city will need to find good ways to help people navigate two jogs in the street grid, at NE Alberta and NE Fremont (pictured below).
As a courier for the Portland-based soup delivery service, Vanlue — a former BikePortland contributor and Bicycle Transportation Alliance communications manager, a talented photographer and one of the most courteous and mindfully upbeat biking advocates in town — spends many of his daytime hours traveling the city’s streets in an upright city bike with a trailer full of fresh soup.
Also with him: a smartphone camera he’s been using for months to share street design shortcomings on Twitter.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)
Now that construction of the North Williams Safety Project has nearly wrapped up, it’s time to address how specific parts the new design are working — and how they’re not.
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is fed up with the dangerous work zone conditions on Williams Avenue. Claiming that bicycle riders have been injured and put in danger due to misplaced construction materials and a poorly implemented traffic control plan, the Portland-based non-profit group penned a letter today to the Bureau of Transportation with a laundry list of demands to improve the situation.
While the BTA supports the city’s North Williams Avenue Safety Project and says they are excited to see the finished product, the letter (written by BTA Engagement Manager Carl Larson) points out several specific and ongoing safety concerns — some of which have led directly to injuries.
The new lane configuration is very different than the old one. And that seems to be causing some discomfort among those who use it.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)
“I ride N Williams every day and am experiencing some difficulties myself.”
— Leah Treat, Director of PBOT
This week marked a very positive milestone for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT): They seem to be opening up a bit about joining the comment section here on BikePortland. I think this is a great development because it shows they understand the value of direct online engagement with their customers (us) and it could be a sign that they’re gaining confidence around the bicycling issue.
yesterday with the subject line: “Lifeboat facility.”
Thanks to PBOT’s N Williams project, our mailbag has been pretty full lately.
Last week we shared some feedback we’ve received about how traffic back-ups on Williams are impacting users of NE Rodney — a street the city has tried to set aside as a lower-stress alternative.
And yesterday we received several more emails from people who are still trying to ride on Williams. Most of the emails have to do with concerns over how the project is being phased-in and the general confusion about where and how to navigate the newly striped bike lane — which is now on the left side of the road instead of the right.
For the city’s part, PBOT says they understand the concerns. Reached by phone this morning, agency spokeswoman Diane Dulken asked for patience. “It’s still an active construction site. We’re in an awkward phase of switching from right to left and we’re dodging the weather.”
change is already impacting traffic.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)
Yesterday I got two separate reader emails about the same issue just a few hours apart. Whenever that happens it gets my attention.
In this case, the issue is the increased amount of auto traffic diversion onto NE Rodney as a result of construction and lane configuration changes on Williams Avenue.
Most of you are well-aware by now that the Bureau of Transportation has finally begun construction on the North Williams Safety Project. With the redesign on Williams there is less space for driving and the backups of cars in the past week or so has been a lot worse that usual (and that’s saying something on a long-chaotic stretch of road).