Better Block’s ‘Project Pathway’ program now formally integrated into PSU curriculum



The plaza on SW 3rd (left) and Better Naito are Better Block’s biggest successes. (Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This story was written by Malia Knapp-Rossi, a Master of Urban and Regional Planning candidate at Portland State University and intern with Better Block PDX.

Better Block PDX is excited to announce that Portland State University’s Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) has adopted the Project Pathway program.

A total of fifteen projects have been shepherded through the Pathway since 2015, including four that will be built in the first phase of the City of Portland’s Central City in Motion plan.

As BikePortland shared back in February, the Pathway program empowers PSU students and the greater Portland community to collaborate on low cost, transportation projects to serve neighborhood needs. These D.I.Y urbanism projects are fully integrated into the academic curriculum. The next generation of engineers and planners develop detailed traffic plans, public participation events, and transportation performance measures in order to create a safe and effective implementation path.

Founded in 2006, the nationally-funded, interdisciplinary TREC seeks to elevate “collaborative research and education that provide a unique lens on transportation insight for vibrant communities.” The PSU Project Pathway curriculum and goals align closely with center’s mission. This partnership will help institutionalize, streamline, and increase the capacity of the program. For the past two years, this collaboration and the Better Block PDX intern position has been supported by PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS). Under the wing of the sustainability-focused center, the Pathway matured into a formal program with greater capacity to support more projects, students, and classes.

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Better Block announced the PSU partnership at an event last week.
(Photo: Better Block PDX)

Better Block PDX, a public spaces advocacy nonprofit, has spent the last four years working with Portland State University (PSU) students to develop design and implementation plans for community-driven transportation projects. In collaboration with PSU faculty, PSU’s ISS, graduate-level urban planning and engineering students, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, and community organizations—Better Block PDX created the annual PSU Project Pathway program.

The Pathway program provides a practicum experience for PSU students, increases capacity for community organizations, and has been successful at influencing policy and leading to permanent changes in Portland’s streetscape — most notably the Better Naito project. A total of fifteen projects have been shepherded through the Pathway since 2015, including four that will be built in the first phase of the City of Portland’s Central City in Motion plan that kicked off this past weekend.

Better Block has had an indelible mark on Portland’s most innovative transportation projects in recent years. Learn more about the history of the organization in their Project Milestones report below:

AllReportsFinalAGAIN

— Malia Knapp

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Where We Ride: You’ve probably ridden in Vanport, the former city wiped out by a flood 71 years ago today

Ever raced cyclocross, mountain, or road bikes at Portland International Raceway? Ever biked on the Columbia River Slough northwest of Kenton? Or maybe you’ve enjoyed the annual Winter Wonderland Light Show?

If you answered yes to any of those, you’ve ridden on the streets, across the yards, and around the borders of Vanport.

This bustling, working-class town was once Oregon’s second largest city. It was also a place where 40% of the residents were black. Tragically, Vanport was obliterated 71 years ago today when dikes that surrounded it gave way. 15 people died.

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What happened at Vanport is a painful part of Oregon’s racist history — and it remains relevant today as we continue to struggle with complicated web of race, housing, and sweeping demographic shifts. I still have a lot to learn about Vanport; but I can no longer ride there without thinking about its history. That land is so much more than just a cool place to ride bikes.

Here’s that map again:

(Oregon Historical Society)

Those two yellow dots mark where the images below were taken:

(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

And here’s a shot of the flood damage, with the yellow dots showing where I snapped those photos:

(Oregon Historical Society)

If you want to learn more Vanport, just Google it and start your journey. Also, check out the Vanport Mosaic Festival, going on now through June 5th.

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

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Company responds to YouTuber who (once again) easily cuts through bicycle lock

(Photo: Ottolock)

Back in December a YouTuber named LockPickingLawyer who specializes in defeating security products caused a stir when he posted a video that showed an Ottolock being easily cut with snips in just two seconds.

Ottolock is a Portland company that has found a strong niche with its relatively small and lightweight lock. The company has always acknowledged that it’s not meant as a primary theft deterrent and that it should only be used either in combination with a strong U-lock or for very short durations in low-crime areas.

Two months after that video (which got 1.2 million views) came out, Ottolock launched a new model with thicker construction. The Hexband was designed with “increased cut resistance” versus the original model, according to the company’s marketing materials. “Featuring added resistance to shearing tools such as snips and cable cutters,” they continued. “Getting through Ottolock Hexband requires serious effort or powered devices, making it a stronger quick-stop lock for bicyclists and other users with higher security requirements.”

Last Friday Lock Picking Lawyer released a video that tested the Hexband (watch it below). In the video — which has already received over one million views — it takes him a bit more strength and two hands, but he’s able to cut through it with relative ease.

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Ottolock responded to the video yesterday. Here’s what they posted via Instagram:

Ottolock use guidelines.

We wish to thank the many supporters of OTTOLOCK. As you may be aware, there are critics who may not understand the product’s intended use. We’ve been consistent in message, transparent in our learning, and we stand by our product design intent and use guidelines.

We take our responsibility to customers and product quality very seriously. We make premium compact locks for quick stops and we do not claim they are invincible. We’ve always recommended redundant locking with a quality U-lock for higher crime areas or long duration lock-ups.

We have spent a tremendous amount of our resources developing and testing this product to ensure that we meet the design intent and optimize trade-offs. OTTOLOCK HEXBAND is highly resistant to many modes of cutting or shimming, but can be vulnerable to specific forms of attack. We also strive to stand behind our product with exceptional customer service as many customers will confirm.

We’ve created a great product to fill the unmet need of a lightweight, portable solution for bicycle quick stops and other outdoor uses (registering for events, going to the restroom, grabbing a coffee or snack, bundling two or three bikes together on a group ride, and more). There is not a better compact and portable lock for these applications.

We appreciate the many thousands of customers and retailers who share this belief in our product and brand.

Thank you,
OTTO DesignWorks

So far (at least on Instagram), many of Ottolock’s fans say they’ll continue to support product. Fans of LockPickingLawyer are not being so kind.

Bicycle product expert and designer James Buckroyd (a contributor to BikePortland) tried to cut through the new Hexband lock and posted his review on May 11th. The verdict? “With a manual tool you need at 30mins and a lot of energy to get this one off… There is no doubt that adding one of these to you bike either wrapped around your saddle bag or using the holder will benefit you.”

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

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The Monday Roundup: Cheap gas, expensive life lessons, ‘woonerf’ life and more


Welcome to the week. Yes, I realize it’s Tuesday; but that doesn’t diminish our need to share the best stories from the past week. We cull the web and social medias so you don’t have you. Thanks to all the readers who flag stories for us.

Here’s what you need to know…

This week’s Roundup brought to you by Treo Bike Tours. Check out their all-inclusive bike vacations in eastern Oregon.

Bikes in flight: This is big: As of May 21st, American Airlines no longer charges a $150 oversized baggage fee for bicycles. Check Bicycling for an updated roundup of airline bike baggage fees.

Mending a bike and a human spirit: Street Roots’ executive director shared the story of her partly-stolen bike, the person who apologized for the deed, and the people who helped get it rolling again.

Encouraging fossil fuel use: Oregon State Senator Brian Boquist has floated the idea of cutting the gas tax from 34 to 18 cents as a way to offset increased energy costs that might result from the legislature’s “Clean Energy Jobs Bill”.

Quick demos work: Oh look, a bike lane project in a downtown area is non-controversial and will now be expanded because Seattle’s DOT approached with the tried-and-true ‘Better Block’ method.

Power to cite: Fascinated by this Washington D.C. bill that would allow people to issue parking tickets for some violations.

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State of the scooters: OPB delved into concerns from disability rights advocates about how PBOT is handling complaints about scooters and their users in pilot 2.0.

Right turn on red is evil: A San Francisco city councilperson has moved forward the possibility of banning right turns on red, citing the need to do something to move the needle on their march toward Vision Zero.

Law breakers: Latest episode of The War on Cars podcast takes on the heated topic of traffic laws and the behavior of bicycle riders (and includes a shout-out to our story on Idaho Stop).

Value of life lessons: Lance Armstrong says the lessons he’s learned going “from hero to zero” are so valuable he wouldn’t change a thing about the gargantuan doping scandal that now defines him.

Pack my bags: I want to visit New York City just to check out this exhibit about bicycling’s cultural impact currently on display at the Museum of the City of New York.

Video of the Week: Dream a little dream and learn what life is like on a Dutch “woonerf” street thanks to Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson who just returned from The Netherlands

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

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TriMet wants to build protected intersections at three locations in east Portland

Graphic of proposed design for SE Division and 162nd shown by TriMet this week.

Staff working on TriMet’s Division Transit Project dropped a bit of a bombshell at the end of an advisory committee meeting earlier this week: They plan to build protected intersections at SE 122nd, 148th, and 162nd.

Protected intersections are a big deal. They are considered the safest way to handle bicycle traffic at what’s typically considered the weakest link in a safe facility. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 43% of urban cycling fatalities occur at intersections.

“This design can reduce the likelihood of high-speed vehicle turns, improve sight lines, and dramatically reduce the distance and time during which people on bikes are exposed to conflicts.”
— National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) on protected intersections

TriMet has spent five years planning the $175 million Division Transit Project and is now just six months away from the start of construction. The main goal is to speed up and boost capacity of buses to help more people reap the benefits of reliable, affordable, carfree transportation. TriMet says the 15 miles of “enhanced service” between downtown Portland and Gresham will speed up travel times an average of 15-20%.

We’ve recently focused on how bicycle users would interact with the new station designs; but we hadn’t heard anything about protected intersections until Tuesday night.

The plans were shared during a presentation (PDF) to the joint meeting of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees. TriMet says the designs are still in development and they’re working with PBOT to further vet them and make changes if necessary.

Protected intersections were first fleshed out by Portland planner Nick Falbo (who now works for PBOT) in 2014. Since then, over a dozen U.S. have installed them; but Portland hasn’t. We hoped to see one on the West Burnside project (currently under construction), but because of the off-set nature of the intersection and other compromises made during the design process, it’s not a perfect example.

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(Before-and-after of a protected intersection in San Jose, CA. GIF made from images taken from NACTO website).

In their just-released design guide, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) writes that protected intersections are, “Physically separated crossings that provide a high degree of comfort and safety for people of all ages and abilities. This design can reduce the likelihood of high-speed vehicle turns, improve sight lines, and dramatically reduce the distance and time during which people on bikes are exposed to conflicts.”

TriMet Project Manager Jesse Stemmler told us they intend to use the treatment on Division because the typical way to handle left turns for bicycle riders — a “two-stage turn” with green queue boxes — won’t work given the traffic volumes and other operational issues at these intersections. “We instead needed to create a protected space that would still allow for right turns and bus through movement, while allowing for refuge space for people bicycling and walking, with signal phasing protection from right turning traffic (no right turn on red) for both.”

Here’s more from TriMet on their rationale for the design:

The protected intersection design would narrow roadway crossing distances and exposure time for people walking, and provide physical protection between the bike lane and the intersection. It would provide space for left-turning bicycles to queue outside of the motor vehicle travel lanes while making a two-stage turn. This will allow the signal to be operated with concurrent left and right turn phasing for motor vehicles, which will reduce delay for buses on Division by keeping them in the travel lane and allowing for queue jumps.

This would be a huge upgrade to these intersections. Let’s hope (and do what we can to make sure) they don’t get value-engineered or compromised out of the project.

Construction of the Division Transit Project is expected to start in November with service to begin in 2022. Learn more in our archives or at TriMet.org/Division

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

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Route advisory: River View Cemetery closed to bicycle riders this weekend

Stay out please.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

In case you forgot (we mentioned it back in March), the annual Memorial Day closure of River View Cemetery starts tomorrow (5/25) and runs through Monday (5/27).

This closure is done to maintain calm and order on the streets through the cemetery on their busiest weekend of the year.

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Please respect this closure. The cemetery is a private enterprise that graciously allows bicycle riders through its property because the optional routes are dangerous and highly stressful. Let’s not abuse this privilege and/or give the River View board of directors any reason to change their current policy.

Spread the word to friends and feel free to use the roads again starting on Tuesday (5/28). Thanks.

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

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Jobs of the Week: Otto’s Ski and MTB, Velotech, RecumbentPDX, Bike Clark County

Looking for a new place to spread you cycling wings? We’ve had four new job opportunities posted this week.

Learn more about each one via the links below…

–> Mountain Bike Mechanic – Otto’s Ski and Mountain Bike

–> E-Commerce Category Manager – Velotech

–> Full-time Mechanic Position – RecumbentPDX

–> Bike 101 Summer Camp Counselor – Bike Clark County

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For a complete list of available jobs, click here.

Be the first to know about new job opportunities by signing up for our daily Job Listings email or by following @BikePortland on Twitter.

These are paid listings. And they work! If you’d like to post a job on the Portland region’s “Best Local Blog” two years running, you can purchase a listing online for just $75. Learn more at our Job Listings page.

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

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He was worried about bike share’s impact on his business, now he profits from it

Evan Ross, owner of Cycle Portland bike shop, tours, and rentals on SW 2nd Avenue.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Evan Ross is a serial cycling entrepreneur who understands the local bike scene and how to create a viable business around it. That intuition served him well when the idea of cheap bike rentals available in seconds from a mobile app was first pondered in Portland.

“I started my business to get more people riding bikes. Biketown works toward that same goal, so it’s hard for me to be a hater.”
— Evan Ross, Cycle Portland

Ross founded his bike shop and tour business in 2008. That’s right around the time the City of Portland’s efforts to start a bike share program were heating up. Lucky for Ross he had a bit of time before any bike share system would hit the ground. Portland infamously stalled on the program several times before finally launching Biketown in 2016.

From the get-go, Ross knew it would impact his business. “I was scared; but I saw it coming and I had time to adapt my fleet,” he said during a chat with him outside his retail showroom on SW 2nd Avenue in Old Town yesterday. I’ve known Ross for years and can recall being a bit surprised when he didn’t share my enthusiasm for bike share. A dedicated bike advocate and former member of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, Ross wasn’t as excited about the idea as other advocates I knew.

“I knew my rental numbers would go down. That was always the threat with Biketown,” he shared.

And Ross was right. His revenue did go down. But he didn’t let that stop him from turning it into a positive.

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Earlier this week, Ross announced an official partnership with the City of Portland to lead “Biketown Tours”. “Using public bikeshare you’ll cruise the waterfront bike path, discover Portland’s past and present, and ease into city riding with our experienced guides in America’s bike capital,” reads the copy on his new BiketownTours.com website.

For Ross, the third time was indeed the charm. The tours come after two previous attempts to work with Biketown fizzled out. He first hoped to get the maintenance contract for the fleet, then he tried to position his shop as the official helmet and map supplier for Biketown users. Neither of those came to fruition, but Ross maintained a working relationship with bike share program staff. And he remained optimistic.

I asked Ross how he went from seeing Biketown as a threat, to embracing it as a partner. “I realized bike share companies are really good at supplying bikes, but not in curating routes and building a connection to the local community,” he said. “Then I had this epiphany when I realized I spend a lot of time maintaining my fleet, and if I can outsource the maintenance of the bikes, but still provide the tour, it would be a bit advantage to me. I’d save wear-and-tear on my bikes — and not have to store, fix, or buy them in the first place.”

And there were also philosophical reasons for the partnership. “I started my business to get more people riding bikes,” Ross said. “Biketown works toward that same goal, so it’s hard for me to be a hater.”

Biketown (which is operated by Motivate, Inc., a Lyft company) loves the tours because Cycle Portland’s guide staff acts as a concierge to their system. The guides helps riders with rental checkout (including how to push the buttons on the keypad so they respond), offer tips and advice on how to stay comfortable on the bike (saddle adjustment is key), and they educate new riders about safety and rules of the road.

The $20 tours last about an hour and depart from the plaza in front of Voodoo Donuts on SW 3rd Avenue and Burnside. Riders get a $5 discount on their Biketown rental when they sign up. Learn more at BiketownTours.com.

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

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Weekend Event Guide: Sandy Ridge, local architecture, burgers in Sellwood, and more

Join the Intro to Sandy Ridge ride and you’ll be flowing down the trails like this in no time.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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I feel like things are eerily quiet on the calendar this weekend. There are things to do, but my senses tell me this is the calm before the storm of Pedalpalooza which starts next Saturday (June 1st). But as I like to say, “Tis better to take one in hand then two in the bush,” (pretty sure that’s an old hunting maxim) so you should get out there now because you never know what will happen by next weekend.

Friday, May 24th

ABC Latinx Mechanix Night – 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Anando en Bicicletas y Caminando (NE)
Únase a nosotros para nuestras noches de mecánico voluntario para hispanohablantes. More info here.

Rat Patrol Ride – 8:00 pm at Irving Park (NE)
These warm nights are best spent on bikes with the wind in your hair and good people in your view. Join this “inclusive bunch of misfits” that call themselves a bike club and be ready to have fun. Note: 8pm is meetup time, ride rolls out at 9. More info here.

Saturday, May 25th

Biking About Architecture, NoPo Edition – 11:00 am at Arrow Coffeehouse (NE)
Roll around with a fun group and learn about interesting and quirky neighborhood architecture. More info here.

Sandy Ridge Intro Tour – 1:30 pm at Sandy Ridge MTB Trail System
A great opportunity to get your feet dirty on these popular “local” trails. NW Trail Alliance will lead the way toward the easiest trails and show you how to gain confidence to master them (and move onto more difficult ones!). More info here.

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Sunday, May 26th

Sauvie Shootout – 9:00 am at Ovation Coffee & Tea (NW)
Join the fastest, largest local training ride Portland has to offer. Route runs out to Sauvie Island via Highway 30 and returns via NW Newberry and Skyline. Get it! More info here.

Bike and Burger on the Eastside – 10:00 am at Gresham City Park (E)
Ride about 32 miles from Gresham to Sellwood via the Eastbank Esplanade for a stop at Killer Burger. Return on the Springwater. Ride is led by Portland Bicycling Club. More info here.

Kidical Mass PDX – 1:30 pm at Gabriel Park – (SW)
Join other families and kids for a group ride from Gabriel Park to Alpenrose Velodrome. Ample time for play and treat stops along the way. More info here.

Stay plugged into all the bike and transportation-related events around the region via our comprehensive event calendar.

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

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Elevated Green Loop path emerges from latest Broadway Corridor plans

Rendering of Green Loop path through Broadway Corridor site. Broadway Bridge in upper right.
(ZGF Architects)

The flyover lives.

New renderings and details for the Green Loop through the Broadway Corridor project site have been made available by architects working on the project. They include our most detailed view yet of how the path will navigate from the Parks Blocks, through the site, and up to the 30-foot high junction at NW Lovejoy and the Broadway Bridge.

After a general planning concept was adopted earlier this month, ZGF Architects has just submitted drawings for the site to the City Auditor’s Office in advance of a Design Commissioner meeting set for June 6th. ZGF has been working on the site plan with Portland’s development agency, Prosper Portland, since 2015.

The Green Loop — a project to create a carfree pathway around the central city — figures into this project because the alignment of the path goes right through it. The drawings released today offer us brand new details about how the Green Loop will be designed through the Broadway Corridor site — including an 83-foot long bridge that would go over NW Johnson Street.

Here’s a description from ZGF:

“The Green Loop will approach the USPS site from the south along the North Park Blocks, gradually climbing at the north end of the central open space to a bridge crossing of Johnson Street. North of Johnson, the Green Loop continues as an elevated bridge to the intersection of the Lovejoy and Broadway Bridge ramps. The ramp will be integrated with landscape and an active retail facility, providing a significant placemaking opportunity.”

The drawing below shows elevation (in pink) and dimensions (in black):

The green-and-pink striped lines are “bicycle and pedestrian access ways” which will help people access the Green Loop from surface streets:

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ZGF shared these images as examples of the design of the path and adjacent landscape:

In the “Bicycle Circulation” drawing below, note the NW Johnson neighborhood greenway and how the Green Loop connects directly to North Park Blocks:

The sketch below shows a view looking north at the future site. Note how the ramp would take you from NW 9th, through the site and onto the bridge:

Here’s what ZGF added to give context to the drawing above:

“The preferred concept brings the existing two-way Park Avenue north from Hoyt Street to Johnson Street, helping to connect the North Park Blocks to the Johnson Street Neighborhood Greenway… The street will have active ground floors of buildings at its western edge, with a pedestrian focused woonerf street serving one lane in each direction. At the east edge of the street, the Green Loop will transition from Park Avenue to the Park Block, where it will climb north and up over Johnson Street on a landscaped switchback ramp. The adjacent park block is intended to be open and flexible, to accommodate a wide range of programmed and informal community gathering and recreation.”

Prosper Portland expects the first phase of development for this site (which will be housing, with retail in phase two) to begin in 2021. The Portland Bureau of Transportation is currently doing a transportation impact study on the site which we hope to share once it’s ready.

To download the full ZGF presentation, click here.

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

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