Project will reduce driving space, add safer bikeways and crossings to SE 162nd Avenue

There’s no good reason a road through a residential neighborhood should be this wide.

Here’s something new: the Portland Bureau of Transportation is set to invest $1.6 million on an arterial in east Portland before it gets on their list of high crash streets.

The 162nd Avenue Safe Access to Transit project aims to tame a 1.6 mile section of the road between SE Powell Blvd and SE Alder St. The project will reconfigure lanes, reduce driving space from five lanes to three, shorten crossing distances with concrete medians, paint new crosswalks, improve transit stops, build new sidewalks, enhance street lighting, and add cycling-only lanes.

Proposed changes to SE Tibbets intersection.
(Click to enlarge)

Specifically, safer crossings with median islands and marked crosswalks are coming to the intersections of 162nd and Mill, Lincoln, and Tibbets (see graphic). New sidewalks are coming to the east side of 162nd just north of Taylor Street and on the north side of Main Street (just west of 162nd).

Currently, the average distance between marked crossings on this stretch of 162nd is 2,900 feet — that’s about 3.5 times more than 800-foot minimum spacing guideline recently adopted in PBOT’s Citywide Pedestrian Plan

As the name suggests, this project was triggered by a new bus line added by TriMet last year. Line 74 opened in March 2018 with service every half-hour between Powell and Airport Way, opening up a vital north-south mobility option. Nearly half the funding ($700,000) for changes needed to make it safer for people to get to the bus are coming from TriMet. (The remaining $900,000 came from the State of Oregon through the Keep Oregon Moving program.)



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“Right now it isn’t a high crash corridor. The purpose of this project is to make sure it doesn’t become one.”
— Kem Marks, Rosewood Initiative

Kem Marks is the Director of Transportation Equity at Rosewood Initiative, a, “place-based nonprofit that supports community-driven solutions for a healthier neighborhood.” He shared with us via email this morning why this project is so important. Beyond the planned safety upgrades, Marks said, “I see it as PBOT being proactive. Right now it isn’t a high crash corridor. The purpose of this project is to make sure it doesn’t become one.”

While it isn’t on PBOT’s naughty list yet, things are far from hunky-dory. Between 2007 and 2016, 11 people were injured while walking, 5 people were injured while biking, 8 people were seriously injured while in a motor vehicle, and 1 person died in a motor vehicle on this stretch of 162nd.

Marks sees more population growth in the area’s future and he fears without this project there will be more injuries and deaths.

How has the neighborhood reacted to plans to reduce driving lanes? Marks says he expects some pushback as the public outreach phase of the project kicks into high gear. “People who have lived here for decades and don’t like change are generally not going to be happy at first.” But Marks is confident the plans will be carried out as proposed because he and other community organizers have been hard at work for years laying a foundation of support to give PBOT confidence to carry them through.

Adding to the benefit of this project is how it will eventually connect to PBOT’s East Glisan Street Update project, which will include a similar road diet and bike/walk upgrades between I-205 and 162nd. (Stay tuned for an update on that and more east Portland news in the days to come.)

If you want to help ensure this project becomes a reality, and/or help make it even better, attend the open house on Monday, April 29th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at The Rosewood Initiative (16126 SE Stark Street). Child care and Spanish translation services will be provided.

PBOT expects to build this project in summer or fall of next year. Learn more at the project website.

For added context, see the before-and-after animation below I put together using PBOT graphics…

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Here’s how we make southwest Portland better for biking and walking

Marching orders.

If you care about making streets in southwest Portland better for biking and walking, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has just done you a huge favor.

Yesterday the bureau released the draft version of the Southwest in Motion (SWIM) plan. It’s an impressive, detailed, and easy-to-use blueprint for activism that should lead to projects on the ground in very short order (and help tee up larger projects in the future).

Modeled after similar planning documents for east and northwest Portland, the SWIM plan offers a prioritized list of projects, possible design treatments, and even identifies potential funding sources to actually get things built.

Below is a before-after of what we’ve got in southwest for biking and walking now and what PBOT has called for in this plan:

It doesn’t get as much attention as east Portland for how much it lags behind the central city in active transportation infrastructure, but if you’ve spent any time in southwest (like we did during our SW Portland Week coverage in 2015), its challenges and deficiencies for biking and walking are abundantly clear. A lack of continuous streets, hilly topography, and narrow roadways make mobility very daunting for anyone who’s not using a car.

According to U.S. Census data, 65% of southwest Portland residents drive alone to work. That’s 7 points higher than the citywide average. Another big difference from east Portland? Census tracts within the project area are also richer (median household income is $89,578 versus $61,118 citywide) and whiter (percent person of color is 15% versus 26.9% citywide).

With that bit of context, here’s why I’m excited about this plan…

Is it any good? And the “Falbo Factor”

“SWIM is a big step in the right direction.”
— Eric Wilhelm, Hillsdale resident

The PBOT project lead is one of their brightest new planners, Nick Falbo. Prior to being hired by PBOT, Falbo gained notoriety for creating protected intersections for bicycle users. While employed by Alta Planning + Design, Falbo created a nifty web tool that allowed us to experiment with Portland’s cycling mode share goal in an interesting new way.

While he’s still learning to balance the politics and public pressures that accompany groundbreaking new designs, this plan is a showcase of Falbo’s talents. I’ve seen a lot of PBOT plans over the years — and I often think they should do more building and less planning in general — but this SWIM draft is really great.

If you’re an independent activist, a neighborhood advocate, or a non-profit staffer, you now have an invaluable tool to push for changes. PBOT themselves makes this clear in the plan when they say, “Continued community advocacy for projects will be instrumental to the success of this plan… The project descriptions are designed to provide the critical information necessary for neighborhood advocacy of local priority projects. Effective advocacy with the bureau and with local elected officials will provide continued urgency to address the real infrastructure deficiencies of Southwest Portland.”

Eric Wilhelm is an active cycling activist, Hillsdale resident, and member of the Stakeholder Working Group. He wanted PBOT to go even further with road diets and transit priority lanes; but acknowledged in an email this morning that, Wilhelm feels that in addition to a focus on short-term implementation, the best part of the plan is how it tackles current gaps in the network. “We have so many places where the bike lane just ends on a street with fast and heavy traffic or there is no sidewalk to get to a transit stop,” he added.

What’s in it?

Coming soon to SW 45th.

The meat of the plan is a list of high-priority, short-term walking and biking projects. PBOT has separated them into “Top Tier” and “Second Tier”. The former are add-ons to existing routes and closing gaps, the latter are larger-scale projects that would expand the network and/or build connections to other major investments (like future SW Corridor light rail or Red Electric Trail).

PBOT has also highlighted key projects and innovative new design treatments (see below). These new designs are key because they remove excuses for PBOT to do nothing in the face of narrow streets or other challenging existing conditions.

The plan also outlines other city programs (like block parties, community plazas, and urban trails) that we can use as leverage to make changes happen.

My favorite part of the plan is when it looks into the future. PBOT points out that since 2010, almost all of the new work trips have been absorbed by modes other than driving. “Driving in Southwest has plateaued,” they write, “and the other travel options have picked up the slack.” There’s also a nifty chart that envisions that trend continuing into the future (below). The chart includes predictions that will impact transportation. In 2021, PBOT says, “Major innovations in electric micro-mobility technologies allows for wide-spread adoption. These new e-bikes allow a greater share of Southwest Portlanders to overcome barriers to cycling such as hilly terrain and longer distances.”

PBOT’s crystal ball

Design treatments

Advisory shoulders/bike lanes are common in Europe. PBOT wants to try them here.

PBOT has put some cool new treatments on the table in this plan.

Advisory shoulders (a.k.a. advisory bike lanes) have been talked about for years, but the city has yet to pull the trigger on them. These are used on slower, low-volume roads that are are “too narrow” for bike lanes. The idea is to create suggested shoulders that car drivers are allowed to venture into if necessary; but otherwise provide some safety and space for walkers and bikers. PBOT wants to find a good pilot street to test them prior to rolling them out citywide. A potential location for these is SW Fairmount or SW Hewett.

“Safer Shoulder” (below) is another new treatment in the plan. PBOT says they’d, “provide a separated place to walk on a roadway, out of the path of moving traffic.”

Notable projects

This plan calls out a bike lane gap on SW Terwilliger we profiled three years ago.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

This plan doesn’t just have aspirational project lists. There are several things that could be built quickly.

PBOT says they have funding allocated for protected bike lanes on SW 35th and SW 45th avenues. On 35th, they will remove a parking lane and center turn lane to make room for protected bike lanes that connect Jackson Middle School to SW Huber Street. On SW 45th, PBOT wants to remove a parking lane and stripe bike lanes from SW Pendleton to Nevada to connect the Hayhurst neighborhood to Gabriel Park.

Another project identified in this plan is a long-awaited fix for SW 6th Avenue as it crosses I-405 and enters the central city (below). PBOT says it’d cost just $15,000 re-stripe the existing lane as it approaches SW College Street to provide a more continuous bikeway and eventually tie it into a Central City in Motion project slated for SW Jackson.

This would be a much nicer welcome to downtown via SW 6th.

How about a neighborhood greenway on SW Montgomery from downtown to Fairmount? That’s project RP-26. It would add greenway treatments on Montgomery from SW Vista to Talbot to help make a safer connection between downtown and the popular Fairmount/Council Crest Park look.

During our “Gap Week” coverage in 2016 we singled out the dropped bike lane on SW Terwilliger near 7th. I was pleasantly surprised to see this address as project BP-20. Surely we can find $150,000 to do this!

While actionable projects are great, we also need big visions. At one of their open house events, PBOT shared a poster titled, “Major Projects for Future Study”. Among the exciting projects on the list was the “Southwest Cycle Superhighway” which would be a low-stress bikeway to be built as part of the SW Corridor light rail project (below).

Future cycle superhighway in purple.

How we gonna’ pay for all this?!

PBOT says the prospects for future funding are “promising, but uncertain.” But unlike others plans, PBOT doesn’t leave southwest hanging with no dedicated funding. They list $935,000 in a mix of one-time ($185,00 for bicycle lanes, $550,000 for crossing enhancements via Fixing Our Streets program) and annual ($200,000 through their existing “quick build network completion” program) funding. Other potential sources of funds PBOT calls out in the plan include: Federal “flexible funds”, Metro’s 2020 transportation investment bond measure, Transportation System Development Charges and a new Local Transportation Improvement Charge program.

Portlanders are tired of plans. We want to build things. Hopefully this plan helps us do that faster.

Let’s take PBOT’s hint and use it to our advantage. Here’s what you need to help:

Official SWIM project page.
Draft SWIM plan. (PDF)
Draft project list. (PDF)
Public feedback survey open until May 24th
– Stay tuned for City Council adoption date.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Capitol Galleria event will mark 10th birthday of Oregon Scenic Bikeways program

The idea was simple: Codify a network of Oregon’s best cycling routes into state law so that people could access a Cycle Oregon-like experience for free, any time.

It took about five years for the idea to materialize, with the first official public hearings in early 2008. The first one — the 135-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway — was designated in summer 2009 and today there are 17 of them scattered throughout the state.

The 1,253 miles of routes are vetted by a committee, signed, and promoted by the State of Oregon. In 2014, an independent study (commissioned by OPRD) found that people who ride Scenic Bikeways spent about $12.4 million at food, lodging and retail businesses along the routes.



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Our 17 Scenic Bikeways



The Bikeways program is a partnership between the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Travel Oregon, and Cycle Oregon (the nonprofit whose leaders spawned the idea in 2004). It’s the first and only program of its kind in the United States.

OPRD will commemorate its 10th birthday on May 3rd with a special event at the Capitol Galleria in Salem from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. The free event is open to the public and will feature cake, gifts, guest speakers and the unveiling of the brand-new scenic bikeways map.

Get inspired to ride and learn more about all 17 routes via Ride With GPS, on the official Oregon Scenic Bikeways page, or from Travel Oregon.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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TriMet launches new zero emission, wind-powered electric buses

Getting a charge at today’s launch event.
(Photos: TriMet)

TriMet and their partners launched five new all-electric buses at the Sunset Transit Center this morning. They claim to be the first transit agency in the nation to put fully wind-powered buses into regular service.

TriMet expects to have 10 electric buses on the road by summer of next year. The new rigs are part of the agency’s push to have a completely non-diesel fleet by 2040. And, with an assist from Portland General Electric, 100% of their power will be created from wind turbines.

At a press conference event today Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Transportation Policy Advisor Brendan Finn said, “One of the most daunting challenges we have in our society today is our changing climate and how we’re adapting to it. 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change are from the transportation sector; and that needs to change! Governor Brown’s administration has been laser-focused on reducing carbon emissions. Investing and expanding in transit is one of the cornerstones in the governor’s strategy, as is transportation electrification.”

Funding for four of the new buses came from a $3.4 million federal grant. PGE will own and maintain the charging equipment, a move that saved TriMet enough money to buy a fifth bus. TriMet says they’ll spend another $53 million to purchase another 80 electric buses over the next five-to-six years with funding from the State of Oregon’s Keep Oregon Moving Act.



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The first all-electric bus will start service tomorrow on Line 62 in Beaverton.

In addition to not spewing out an estimated 1.17 million tons of toxic CO2 emissions into our air, each new bus will save TriMet about $400,000 in annual fuel costs. They have a range of 80 miles per charge and can be re-charged in 30 minutes (with a fast charger) or four hours (on a standard charger).

Asked if they’d considered safety issues related to how quiet the new buses are, TriMet Media Relations and Communications Manager Roberta Altstadt told me, “We haven’t heard a concern about that and have done numerous road tests over the last several months.” Altstadt said the new buses are about 39 decibels while idling and are “much louder than a Prius”.

These new buses will only add to the momentum to dramatically improve bus service in Portland — a key part of our efforts to encourage less driving.

For more information, check out the official announcement from TriMet. And happy breathing!

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Former Obama transpo secretary will headline Oregon Active Transportation Summit

Charles Brown (L) and Anthony Foxx will deliver keynote speeches on April 25th.
(Photos: Brown, Rutgers University; Foxx, Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Active Transportation Summit will take place April 24th through the 26th at the Oregon Zoo. The annual conference is organized by The Street Trust and features a full slate of mobile workshops, plenary sessions, professional training, and networking opportunities.

Headlining the summit’s main day — Thursday, April 25th — will be a noted researcher and a Cabinet Secretary for former President Barack Obama.

Former Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx spent four years as Obama’s Transportation Secretary and as of last October works for Lyft as their chief policy officer. Foxx visited Portland in 2016 as part of the US Department of Transportation’s “Smart City” initiative.



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Charles Brown is a senior researcher at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) and adjunct professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. Mr. Brown will deliver the lunch keynote. In 2018 he was nominated for a “Streetsie Advocate of the Year” award by Streetsblog Los Angeles for his, “important work on the intersections of race and mobility.”

In a statement about the event, The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler said, “This year, many sessions address ways to achieve more equitable outcomes from our transportation system.”

Among the topics of Thursday’s breakout sessions are: Voices From Williams Avenue; Designing Safe Streets for Pedestrians of Color: The Intersection of Equity Engineering and Vision Zero; Inclusive Bike and Scooter Share; Creating Bike Networks; Let’s (Not) Talk About Congestion; and more.

After a day of interesting keynotes and sessions, The Street Trust will host a Pecha Kucha event at Rock Bottom Brewery. Unwind with friends old and new as you listen to a series of short and stimulating presentations on a variety of transportation-related presentations.

Register for the event and view the full schedule here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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County says NW Newberry Road could re-open in a few weeks

Crews install a manhole on NW Newberry Road on April 3rd.
(Photo: Multnomah County)

Multnomah County’s latest update on the NW Newberry Road repair project has good news for those of you who miss this popular route up to (or down from) Skyline Blvd.

The project is several months ahead of schedule and instead of waiting until summer, the road is now expected to reopen by later this month!

Here’s the latest word from the County:

The slide-damaged road section has been excavated, a rock basket retaining wall built, the road has been rebuilt and paved. Remaining work includes installation of guardrail on the outside curve of the road, lane striping and various final “punch list” items. The road is expected to reopen in mid to late April 2019. Multnomah County appreciates the public’s patience during this road closure.



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A major landslide in January 2017 caused about half of the road near the lower section to fall away. When it reopens in the next few weeks, the road will have drivers on it for the first time in over two years.

And keep in mind that starting July 8th, a project will close NW Cornelius Pass Road and will divert over 11,000 car and truck trips onto NW Newberry Road for an estimated 13 weeks.

My advice: Get on it as much as you can before July! See you out there.

For more information, see the official project website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Comments of the Week: Perspectives on more law enforcement

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

As our community continues to grapple with a spate of deadly and serious injury collisions, much of the discussion in the past few days has focused on enforcement.

It’s an important topic that deserves a productive debate.

Out of around 260 comments in this shortened week (I was out of town Monday-Tuesday), here are three that stood out:

Reader MTW had this to say in response to our story about North Fessenden:

“Even if I thought a city could “enforce” their way to road safety, Portland quite clearly can’t. We’re broke (currently proposing to close parks and community centers) and already under-staffed at PPB. Designing unsafe road conditions and then trying to use police man hours to ticket their way out of the problem is ineffective, wasteful and almost certainly inequitable.

The streets need to be re-designed in a way that forces compliance (with or without agents of the state being there to drive compliance rates.) Unfortunately, people will drive as fast as THEY feel safe and that high threshold for personal safety (particularly in an SUV) is incompatible with a safe and welcoming environment for VRUs [vulnerable roadway users].

2 people have died in 24 hours, treat this like the emergency it is. Until we can afford to re-engineer these streets properly (with concrete, diverters, re-painting, etc.,) break out the orange cones and take some lanes out. Tactical urbanism and traffic calming.”



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Scott Kocher added this comment to our story about Police Chief Outlaw’s calls for more enforcement:

“In the past PPB has not supported automated enforcement. A PPB Sergeant once told me we didn’t have enough officers but he opposed automated enforcement because it ‘lacks the human touch.’ I hope in the current climate we can free up officers so they’re not doing tasks a camera can do, placement can be reviewed for equity and safety need, fines can be graduated based on income as elsewhere, and revenue (if there is any) can go to infrastructure.”

And reader SD had an opinion about the PPB’s communications:

“One immediate improvement would be for all communications from the Portland Police and all other city agencies to stop “both-siding” their street safety message. Across the board, the data show that driver behavior contributes to pedestrian injury and fatality far more than that of pedestrians. Despite this, many people as well as many media outlets believe that the cause is distracted pedestrians. If there is any point to making a public statement like the one from Outlaw, it is to give drivers pause to consider if they are driving in a way that is more dangerous than it needs to be. When the PPB calls out pedestrian behavior, it is interpreted by many drivers to mean that their windshield-biased notion that it’s the victim’s fault is true. And, since they already consider their driving habits safe, regardless of whether they speed or drive while looking at their cell phones, this message just reinforces their idea that every thing they do is fine, because nothing bad has happened to them yet, or if it has it was just once or twice.

Statements like these show that very few in Portland government have taken the very first baby steps of understanding Vision Zero that include, at the least, making statements that target the most harmful factors in road safety.”

I’m grateful for these perspectives. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. And remember, I rely on you to nominate great comments by leaving a reply that includes “comment of the week” so I can more easily find them via search.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Portland Parks eyes closures as river levels rise

Willamette River Greenway path south of downtown Portland.
(Photo by pdxwheeler)

If your bicycling plans involve any paths, bikeways, or roads around the Willamette River, be on the lookout for water.

National Weather Service flood level chart for Willamette River in Portland.

A BikePortland reader sent in the photo above of the Willamette Greenway Trail south of the South Waterfront area this morning. “The trail has been getting progressively worse this week,” he said. “It’s starting to get fairly bad in a couple sections. In one of the pictures you can see a gentleman avoiding the water up on the rocks.”

Asked about the situation, a Portland Parks & Recreation spokesperson told us staff plan to visit the location today. Signs will be posted to warn users of flooded sections.

Earlier this week we heard from PP&R that they were considering a closure of the floating ramps section of the Eastbank Esplanade. The last time high water led to a closure of the Esplanade was 2011. Back then, we reached just over 17 feet as per official gauges.



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On Wednesday of this week the Willamette was at 13.2 feet. PP&R says they seriously consider closing the ramps at 13.5 feet (give or take a few inches). As of right now the National Weather Service shows the river at 15.7 feet. Since the water level is predicted to decrease substantially over the coming days, PPB says they don’t plan to take any action at this time.

According to the Willamette Week, water from other parts of the state are affecting Portland area rivers. The Corvallis area has seen major flooding and a state of emergency has been declared in 10 counties so far.

Whatever your weekend riding plans are, be aware that flooding could impact your route. If you are venture onto unpaved roads, be advised that mud could seriously alter your ability to roll.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Another person hit and killed while crossing North Fessenden

Crisis.

Another person has been killed by a driver while trying to walk across North Fessenden Street.

Commissioner Eudaly expedited installation of new speed limit signs last month.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

According to the Portland Police Bureau a woman was hit while crossing near North Polk Street at around 10:30 pm last night. The driver of a red sedan sped away and is still on the loose.

This brings the toll to two deaths and two serious injuries in the past 15 months.

Just over one month ago we reported that Fessenden was in crisis. Five days later, on March 1st, Portland Bureau of Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly stepped in. “This latest tragedy has shaken the community,” she wrote on Facebook, “and I understand why.”

Eudaly took action by expediting a change to the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph. She had city crews install the signs immediately. Speed reader boards have also popped up on the street.

But it’s clearly not enough.



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PBOT knows this. They’ve been harangued by local residents and activists like Donna Cohen, leader of the Citizens for a Safe and Attractive Fessenden/St Louis/Lombard Facebook page.

Cohen and others have clamored for long-promised safety upgrades like median islands, flashing beacons, curbs extensions, a new lane configuration, and more. PBOT’s St. Johns Truck Strategy Phase 2 project will deliver these upgrades; but it has taken what feels like an eternity to materialize. The plan itself was adopted by council in 2001. The grant for Phase 2 was accepted in 2010 and engineering and design recommendations were completed in 2013.

PBOT finally received FHWA approval to proceed with the $5 million project in October of last year and construction is finally underway.

From, St. Johns Transportation Concept Development Project, 2013 prepared by T-Y-Lin International for PBOT. North Polk is on the left.

For Cohen and other residents, it didn’t come soon enough. On her group’s Facebook page today, Cohen pointed out that PBOT’s plans call for a new median island and crossing on N Tioga Street — just one block from where the woman was killed last night (see graphic above). “If PBOT had not dragged their feet on this project this is what would be at Tioga now – a 16′-wide median island. You cannot go nearly as fast around a 16′ median island as on a narrow island or a straight-away.”

This is the third traffic fatality in Portland in less than 24 hours and the sixth in the past four days. So far this year 14 people have died on our roads, eight of them were walking.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Senate committee passes ‘Idaho Stop’ bill allowing bicycle riders to yield at stop signs

Some intersections in Oregon already allow bicycle riders to “slow-and-go”.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

10 years after it was last debated in the Oregon Legislature, a concept known as “Idaho Stop” has once again found its way into a bill. And it passed its first committee vote yesterday, just hours before a key legislative deadline.

Senate Bill 998 wasn’t on anyone’s radar before last week. Up until then it was just a vague placeholder bill without any detailed language and with no amendments. That changed when Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) drafted an amendment and brought it to the Senate Judiciary Committee during a public hearing for the bill on Monday.

The bill would allow a bicycle user to treat intersections with stop signs or red flashing signals as yields. In other words, as a bicycle user, you’d be able to roll through these intersections without stopping — but only when/if it was safe to do so.

Excerpt from -1 amendment to SB 998.

At Monday’s hearing, Committee Vice-Chair Sen. Prozanski said it’s merely a “re-do” of a bill he sponsored and passed as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives in 2003.

“This bill would follow a law out of Idaho that has been in place for over 35 years,” Prozanski said at the hearing.

“This is one of those situations where I believe, that’s what a lot of people do already with their bikes.”
— Senator Kim Thatcher, Judiciary Committee vice-chair

Only one person testified. A man who said he’s a work zone flagger told lawmakers he’s opposed because, “A lot of bicyclists go right on through” his work zones and he believes it’s a “safety risk”. “It’s bad enough we got boxes in Portland for bicyclists before the cars and they disrespect us,” the man said.

When the bill was brought back to committee for a vote yesterday, Senator Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) added an amendment clarifying that bicycle users must stop for flaggers.

Committee Vice-Chair Thatcher is in favor of the law. “Just like a few years ago when we told ODOT we wanted to raise speed limits in some areas,” she explained, before logging her “yes” vote, “People were already going those speeds. This is one of those situations where I believe, that’s what a lot of people do already with their bikes.” Sen. Thatcher pointed out that — unlike a car — human-powered vehicles are “really difficult to stop completely and then get going again.”

(Video below by Portlander Spencer Boomhower explains how Idaho Stop works)



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to help maintain and expand this vital community resource.



Senator Shemia Fagan (D-Portland) also voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Fagan shared that she understands the benefits of the bill because she used to commute to law school by bike. “Things that are in motion tend to stay in motion, things that are at rest tend to stay at rest,” she said. “Anything we can do to encourage people to get out of their cars and ride a bike is a good thing.”

Senator Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) was the sole “no” vote. After admitting he’s rolled through stop signs on his own bike, Bentz said he opposes the law because of concerns expressed by sheriffs in his district.

The bill passed committee 6-1. It will now move to the Senate floor for a vote.

Sen. Floyd Prozanski in 2011.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Reached on the phone this morning, Sen. Prozanski said he introduced the bill after a constituent contacted him late last month (Idaho Stop was also one of the bills I mentioned in an op-ed on March 15th). Since he had a placeholder bill to study violations, he was able to draft the language and move it to a vote very quickly. “At this point, I think it has a very good chance of passing the full Senate,” Prozanski said. Once it goes to the House Judiciary Committee, he plans to meet with members and find a sponsor.

Asked why he is such a fan of Idaho Stop, Prozanski recalled his 2003 discussions with the captain of the Boise Police Department. “He said it’s just much more seamless and it makes traffic flow more easily… It’s not as much of a hazard as coming to a complete stop and trying to start when you have other vehicles moving around you and you’re trying to get started and through an intersection with enough time,” he added.

Sen. Prozanski added that, “It seems to me we have enough safeguards in place to allow continual motion when right-of-way is clear.”

As for why the bill failed in 2003, Prozanski said it would have passed were it not for one senator (former Senator John Minnis) who simply didn’t like the bill and wouldn’t give it a vote.

When it was proposed again in 2009 by former House Rep. Jules Bailey — with the full backing of The Street Trust (then Bicycle Transportation Alliance) — the bill failed for several reasons: Irresponsible and biased coverage from The Oregonian and other outlets made it controversial; a high-profile firing of The Street Trust lobbyist in charge of the bill scared off some lawmakers; and some advocates blamed legislators who sought revenge against bicycle bills after being strongly criticized for their support of a mandatory bicycle registration bill.

The Street Trust isn’t working SB 998, but as OPB reported yesterday, they are supportive of it.

Idaho was the first state to adopt a statute like this. Arkansas just passed a version of the law last week.

For more background, peruse the 25 stories in our Idaho Stop Law archives.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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