Portlanders set out red cups to push for more protection while cycling

People are so desperate for protection they’ve placed red plastic cups between the lanes on Willamette Boulevard.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Paint is not protection.

That’s the message from people across America today who are taking part in the Red Cup Project. Inspired by the tragic death of Washington D.C. cycling advocate Dave Salovesh (@darsal), the red cups are a quick and cheap way to define space and show how relatively little effort it takes to create safer conditions for cycling.

“I want these cups to become planters, cement bollards — things that actually prevent people form swerving into bike lanes and force drivers to pay more attention.”
— Sam Balto, north Portland resident

North Portland residents Sam Balto and Reed Buterbaugh were out at on North Rosa Parks Way and Willamette Boulevard this morning with a jug of water and dozens of cups. They focused on two spots where people frequently drive their cars into bike lanes.

At the corner where those two streets converge, nearly every driver cuts into the bike lane (see photos below). As Balto and Andrews placed cups on the bike lane stripe, most people immediately slowed down and took the corner more cautiously to avoid running over them. But as you can see in our photos, the cups were often not enough.

As peoples’ car tires rolled over them, the crunching sound and water splattering onto the street made my hairs stand on end.

“There are people all over this country where mayors have pledged Vision Zero,” Balto said as he watched the tiny cups sacrifice their lives, “but they believe that paint is enough to protect people. It’s not.”

(*Encroaching into the bike lane like these drivers are doing is illegal, dangerous, and it creates unsafe habits. Please don’t do it.)

Asked what he wants the red cups to become in the future, Balto said, “I want these cups to become planters, cement bollards — things that actually prevent people form swerving into bike lanes and force drivers to pay more attention.”

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“PBOT believes they’ve improved North Willamette. They haven’t. They’re not done here. They need to properly protect this. This is just paint, and paint is not protection.”

Balto’s comments are supported by recent research showing that paint-only cycling lanes are inadequate and often encourage drivers to pass with less caution.

On North Rosa Parks Way, it’s been nearly a year since PBOT created new protected bike lanes. But they never finished the job. The vast majority of the bikeway is still unprotected. In June of last year, PBOT said neighbors had objected to having more white plastic posts installed. We learned last week that cement curbs are on the way and should be installed by this summer.

Similar red cup demonstrations are taking place today in New York City, Seattle, Michigan, Austin, Washington D.C., Boston, and many other cities. Follow the #RedCupProject hashtag on Twitter for all the action.

UPDATE, 1:17 pm: Just saw on-board video of the Rosa Parks/Willamette pinch-point from reader @harv_mushman (via Instagram):

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

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Sullivan’s Crossing Bridge will be named in honor of Congressman Earl Blumenauer

(Graphic: City of Portland, Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Yesterday evening Portland City Commissioner of Transportation Chloe Eudaly announced that the soon-to-be-built carfree bridge over Sullivan’s Gulch and I-84 will be named in honor of U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

“To have my name associated with that bridge will be a great honor.”
— Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Congressman

Currently known as the Sullivan’s Crossing Bridge, the $13 million project is slated to break ground this summer and be completed by the end of 2020.

Congressman Blumenauer is a transportation icon in the Portland region for the legacy he created as city commissioner-in-charge of transportation from 1987 to 1996. His vision for transportation — one that favors public transit, bicycling and walking over driving — has left an indelible mark on our city and his work continues to influence people, politics, and projects today. Rep. Blumenauer is by far the loudest and most effective voice for bicycling on Capitol Hill (he’s currently pushing a major overhaul to the tax code so it does more to encourage commuting by bike). He’s co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus and his legendary Traffic and Transportation Class at Portland State University has churned out well over 1,000 graduates.

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People who’ve taken that class include many of the planners, activists, elected officials (including Commissioner Eudaly) and policymakers who will take this bridge project over the finish line.

Asked this morning for his response to this major honor, Rep. Blumenauer said (via text message):

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly announcing the honor at an event last night.
(Photo: Commissioner Eudaly’s office)

“To have my name associated with that bridge will be a great honor. I have been agitating for and dreaming about that pedestrian bike crossing for decades. It makes so much sense to connect Lloyd District with that rapidly changing area on south side of the freeway.

It will add an important dimension to the walking and cycling experience, and be a powerful visual reminder of our commitment to transportation connectivity and the bike and pedestrian experience.”

Speaking about the bridge in a story published by the Willamette Week earlier this month, a Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesperson said, “It’s going to really be a postcard-worthy bridge that marks a key entrance to Portland. As people arrive in the city and either drive or take light rail, one of the first times they’ll see the downtown skyline, that view will be framed by the new, modern Sullivan’s Crossing bridge.”

Make that the Earl Blumenauer Bridge.

Actually, Commissioner Eudaly’s office says the official name is yet to be determined. What do you think it should be?

(Note: This story will be updated soon with a comment from Commissioner Eudaly.)

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

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TriMet’s new buses come with three-bike front racks

New bus with new racks today in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
(Photo: TriMet)

It’s taken 12 years, but TriMet has finally added capacity for three bikes to their buses. Well, some of them at least.

We learned today that the design of the agency’s five new electric buses allows them to use a three-bike front rack. The new rack made its debut an event in Pioneer Square today.

This is a big deal because the existing two-bike racks often fill up and there’s plenty of public demand for more room. And it was way back in 2007 that we first reported TriMet was interested in finding a three-bike rack that would work.

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The new rack is the “Trilogy” model made by Sportworks(the same company TriMet uses for other racks). According to them, the rack’s support arm will fit bicycles with wheel sizes from 20 to 29 inches. The trays can support bikes with a wheelbase of up to 44-inches and tires up to 3 inches wide.

Back then, the agency said the problem was that the added width of a third rack would make the turning radius of buses (a.k.a the “dynamic envelope”) too wide.

A source at TriMet said the key to making this work on the new buses is the nose design — which affects the turning radius. The length between the operator’s steering wheel and the forward edge of the two bike rack (while in use) is the same length as between the steering wheel on the electric bus and the front edge of the three-bike rack.

Just one of TriMet’s new buses is in operation (on Line 62 in Beaverton). A second one is due to be in service by the end of the month and the remaining three are still en route to Portland. It remains to be seen if the five additional electric buses will work with the new racks.

Hopefully TriMet can figure out how to fit these racks onto more buses in the future.

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

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With velodrome saved, track fans prep for big season

Time to hit the banked walls of Alpenrose!
(Photo: Leonard Johnson/HotFoot Photo)

It wasn’t until our community was faced with losing the Alpenrose Velodrome for good that many people realized just how much love exists for this facility.

We recently heard from Jim Graves of the Portland Velodrome Committee and Oregon Bicycle Racing Association Membership Director/Alpenrose Velodrome Director Jen Featheringill about what’s in store for 2019.

How to speak track

  • Keirin – A 6 lap race with riders starting from a standing start.
  • Point-a-Lap – First racer across the line every lap receives one point.
  • Snowball – Mass start race run over a set distance.
  • Points Race – A predetermined number of sprints occur at set intervals.
  • Scratch Race – All riders race for a set number of laps.

With that major scare now behind us, and with spring’s drier skies in front of us, the focus now is on using it. Local track racing organizers are eager to turn this renewed sense of gratitude for the velodrome into race participation and support in the coming season.

Graves said one big change this year is they’ve moved the popular Track Development Class for Beginners to Tuesday evenings. This was done so up-and-coming junior racers (many of whom would opt to race the Tuesday PIR series at Portland International Raceway) could compete in the weekly Alpenrose Cup Series which now takes place on Wednesdays.

If you’re track-curious and want to try Alpenrose for the first time, Tuesday nights are for you. The Track Development Class is a prerequisite to get you certified to compete. Because track bikes have fixed gears and Alpenrose has tricky banked walls, this isn’t a sport you just hop on and do (like cyclocross for instance). Tuesday track class ($20 for adults, $10 for juniors) will get you sorted with experienced instructors. The first class is April 30th and the series runs weekly through August 28th. You can’t ride your regular bike on the track, so they’ll provide a free bike if you need one. Show up at 5:30 to get signed in and set for the 6:00 pm start.

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OBRA’s Featheringill said they had a 30% increase in the number of racers/day last season and, “All of that starts with getting folks out to the beginner classes on Tuesdays so we can get new people hooked on the sport.”

Watching is fun too!
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re a woman/trans/femme/non-binary racer and interested in racing, local team BattleKat PDX recently raised enough funds to cover 150 race entries. (Contact them for more information.) On a related note, there’s a track clinic for W/T/F/NB racers this Sunday (4/28).

Another thing worth noting this year is the upgrade to the Thursday Night Track (TNT) series. Every Thursday night from May 5th through August 29th, there’s serious racing and every last Thursday of the month is a special Spectator Night with a BBQ and podium/prize ceremony.

With the Fast Twitch Friday series, there are events happening at Alpenrose four nights a week.

And I haven’t even mentioned the big weekend races like the Alpenrose 4-Day, the Black Cat Omnium, Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge, and more. For more information, see the full OBRA track schedule and check out the official Alpenrose Velodrome website.

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

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Two more reasons we need more dedicated cycling space in the central city

Streets like NW 10th are very intimidating to ride on — especially when you have a streetcar operator harassing you.

In the past week I’ve heard about two incidents that illustrate an often overlooked reason why we need more dedicated, protected bikeways in the central city.

“Then [the streetcar] got very close to me and was continuously honking and I realized it was directed at me.”
— Nate M.

For years, Portland bicycle riders have been forced to share the same roads with car, truck and transit operators. PBOT has timed the signals for around 12 mph, which keeps most people in check. But the shared environment only attracts a tiny percentage of people. To move the needle for ridership, we must give people a more comfortable place to ride. We recently passed a detailed blueprint, the Central City in Motion Plan, that should hasten development the protected network we desperately need. Now we need to implement it.

So far this year two people have been killed on central city streets where safety projects are already planned but have yet to be built.

In the past few days, readers have contacted me about two incidents where a transit operator behaved in an unsafe and rude manner toward a bicycle operator. In both cases, the bicycle user was left scared and confused. And in both cases, if the bicycle users had dedicated space to ride — or if there was a better route option nearby — they could have avoided the situation.

Below are the first-person accounts of what happened…

From reader Nate M.:

“Yesterday I left work on my bike getting in the lane of NW 10th Avenue (north of Burnside) in the middle of the tracks in front of no traffic as I have to turn right eventually on Hoyt. I cycle here as I do not want to cross the tracks multiple times in the 6 blocks I commute on 10th… The streetcar was picking up people at the Couch stop. The lane was clear so I got back on my bike clear of no traffic. The Streetcar was approaching behind me and was directly behind at the red traffic signal at NW 10th and Davis. I then proceeded to go at the green light and then the Street Car honked its horn. I was not sure what it was at. Then it got very close to me and was continuously honking and I realized it was directed at me, this was when I decided to go over the tracks left into the lane.

Nate might have opted for these planned protected bike lanes in the nearby Park Blocks.

I had no idea why I was being honked at and directed to move left by the streetcar? This is dangerous for me as a cyclist crossing the tracks in the first place. I was forced to move left, the streetcar drove by me… So after going left, I had to wait for traffic to go by to go right over the the tracks again for me to turn right on Hoyt. I was just confused and the streetcar added danger to my ride.

Nate figured he was doing something illegal by riding in the streetcar track lane. He wasn’t. Bicycle users are allowed to ride in streetcar lanes. He reported the incident to Portland Streetcar and they are following up with the driver.

There’s no project on NW 10th in the CCIM plan, but there is a project (#16) a few streets over that would create a protected bike lane couplet on NW Park and 8th. That might become Nate’s preferred route… if it ever gets built.

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I’ve ridden 12th a lot. It can be very stressful.

The next case came in today from Jessica S. She witnessed a scary situation involving a bike rider and bus operator on SE 12th between Stark and Ash:

Plans for 12th will give bicycle riders their own lane.

“A bike was traveling north in the right lane (there is no bike lane or extra space, so the cyclist was in the middle of the lane). The bus passed unsafely. Instead of occupying the whole left lane that was available to the bus, the bus only moved half way into the left lane, keeping the other half of the bus in the right lane. This means the bus was dangerously close to the cyclist as it passed. The bus then moved back into the right lane after barely passing the cyclist, keeping an unsafely close proximity to the cyclist.

The bus driver honked during this unnecessary and dangerous move, both startling the cyclist, leaving this cyclist to wonder if the driving thinks they are right in with this dangerous behavior.”

Jessica is worried about this bus operator’s behavior and has filed a report with TriMet.

On 12th Avenue, just like on 10th, there is no dedicated space for cycling. Thankfully, CCIM project #4 will change that. PBOT wants to reconfigure the existing roadway on 12th and create a wide, dedicated lane for bicycle users. If that design were in place today, this dangerous interaction would not have happened. Unfortunately, the is on the 6-10 year implementation list.

In the meantime, we can’t just hope that all transit operators will drive safely and with respect for others 100% of the time.

Incidents like these happen with much more frequency than most people realize. They are one reason why many people will never dare to try bicycling in Portland. If we want to reach our climate/planning/bicycling/vision zero goals, we must give people their own place to ride. And plans on shelves is not enough. We need to move more quickly and re-design our streets in a way that prevents these kind of interactions from happening in the first place.

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

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‘No More Deaths’ rally planned following recent fatality

A woman was killed on Friday afternoon while walking across NE Broadway. Local advocates have now planned a memorial event to highlight the inherent dangers at this section of Broadway and encourage the City of Portland to do more to mitigate them.

“We are devastated to hear about this tragedy and frustrated that this street is so dangerous for people that walk and cycle. We are coming together on Wednesday April 24 at 5:30PM to honor her memory,” reads a statement about the event from BikeLoudPDX, a grassroots, all-volunteer group that has successfully pushed for safer neighborhood greenways and traffic-calming diverters in the past.

The plan is to meet at the intersection on NE Broadway and Grand at 5:30 pm this Wednesday evening. There will be a moment of silence at 6:00 pm and then a group bike ride to City Hall.

Here’s more from BikeLoudPDX:

“As a city we uphold values that no one should die on our streets. In 2016 city council approved a Vision Zero resolution to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025, but we are already falling short of this goal. This is the 17th death on our streets this year.

NE Broadway ranks as the most dangerous corridor for biking and fifth for walking. 4 other people have been injured crossing this intersection since 2007.

Redoing this section of Broadway is part of planned safety updates in Central City in Motion, which was passed unanimously by City Council in November 2018. This project is on the 1-5 year implementation plan but there is no date scheduled for when any changes might come to this corridor.”

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BikeLoudPDX says there are several things that could be done quickly to make this street safer. They want a protected left turn sign from Grand to Broadway, a temporary narrowing of the street with construction materials, a protected bike lane, and a “leading pedestrian interval” (LPI, where walkers get green while drivers see red).

The Street Trust and Oregon Walks are also supportive of this event and are helping out.

As we reported over the weekend, an eyewitness to Friday’s fatal collision said the woman had the right-of-way prior to being run over by a “huge delivery truck” that was turning left, “and they didn’t even slow down.”

According to our fatality tracker, this was the 16th fatal traffic collision of 2019. There was yet another one yesterday, bringing the total to 17. That puts us five fatalities over our year-to-date total from 2018.

Get more details on Wednesday’s event on the BikePortland Calendar or Facebook.

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

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Police investigating fatal bicycle collision at NE Broadway and Grand

Image of the scene from Tom Cooney via Twitter.

Portland Police say someone has been hit and killed while biking in the area of NE Grand Avenue and Broadway.

We don’t have any details at this time other than the victim is a woman.

From a photo of the scene provided by reader Tom Cooney, the woman’s body came to rest on Broadway between Grand and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. This is a very unsafe place for vulnerable road users. The road design and land-use pattern at this location strongly prioritizes driving above everything else. Broadway is one-way (westbound) and has five lanes for drivers (four through lanes, one parking lane). There’s a narrow, unprotected bike lane on the right curb. On the block prior to Grand the bike lane moves away from the curb to allow for drivers to turn right (north).

This past November, City Council passed the Central City in Motion Plan. Project #18 — which is among the high priority projects slated for construction within 1-5 years — would create a protected bike lane on this section of NE Broadway.

PBOT rendering of Central City in Motion plan that would improve biking facility at same location where this woman was killed.

By our tally, this is the 16th fatal traffic collision so far this year and the second one that took the life of a bicycle rider.

If you have any information about this collision, please get in touch. We’ll update this post as we know more.

UPDATE: A ghost bike has been installed at the location:

(Photo: Ted Buehler/BikeLoudPDX)

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

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PBOT wants diverters on N Michigan to reduce crashes and cut-through drivers

PBOT sketch of diverters proposed for North Michigan at Skidmore.

The rising number of people using cars on our neighborhood streets has many negative impacts. Among them are more crashes caused by people who make dangerous moves out of frustration, selfishness, impatience, or all of the above. One way to combat this is to constrain the driving environment so people have fewer choices and are forced to make safer movements.

And that’s exactly what the Portland Bureau of Transportation wants to do on North Michigan Avenue at Skidmore.

Like many neighborhood greenways throughout Portland during peak hours, Michigan is no longer “low-stress and family friendly” during.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Residential development has skyrocketed in recent years in the Boise and Humboldt neighborhoods around the lower North Mississippi and Interstate avenue corridors. North Michigan runs north-south and despite its designation as a “low-stress, family-friendly” neighborhood greenway, many people use it as a cut-through to avoid backups on Interstate 5 (one block over). When these north-south cut-through drivers mix with east-west drivers backed up at the N Skidmore/Mississippi intersection (one block east), bad things happen. It creates dangerous conditions for people on foot, and for those using cars and bikes.

After hearing about this project from the Boise Neighborhood Newsletter earlier this week, I asked PBOT for some background.

PBOT staff confirmed with me in a phone interview today that someone noticed this problem and took the time to call it into PBOT’s traffic safety hotline (a.k.a. 823-SAFE). PBOT investigated to determine if any follow-up was needed. In this case, PBOT Project Manager Scott Cohen says city traffic engineers took a closer look at the intersection and found 11 crashes in the past four years, including six in 2016 (the latest year data is available). “It’s a growing problem,” Cohen said.

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Existing conditions.

The collisions happen when people are backed up on Skidmore and there’s limited visibility for north and southbound road users on North Michigan. People inch out into Skidmore, and then dart across, resulting in what PBOT calls, “angle crashes”. “To address that situation, our engineers want to get people to not continue across Skidmore,” Cohen said.

“We acknowledge there’s more traffic on Michigan than we think is ideal for a neighborhood greenway.”
— Dylan Rivera, PBOT

As you can see in the lead graphic, PBOT’s solution is to install diverters (with plastic poles and paint) that will prohibit auto users from crossing Michigan and force them to turn right onto Skidmore.

While the impetus for this project was to reduce crashes, it will also reduce the amount of drivers on Michigan.

PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said today, “We acknowledge there’s more traffic on Michigan than we think is ideal for a neighborhood greenway.”

Rivera and Cohen said PBOT wants to take a more comprehensive look at the entire Michigan corridor to find ways to limit auto use and create a low-stress cycling environment.

If you want to learn more about this project, or share your feedback with Scott Cohen, he’ll be at the Boise Neighborhood Association Land Use & Transportation meeting on Monday (4/22) at Q Center (4115 N Mississippi Ave) from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

(In related news, Cohen said the construction of concrete curbs for the unprotected bike lanes on North Rosa Parks Way should be completed this summer.)

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

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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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