(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)
The Bureau of Transportation has made the closure of northbound access on N Wheeler Avenue permanent. The move comes after a temporary closure that was put into place back in August in order to prevent right-hook collisions.
The closure of Wheeler came after intense public pressure on PBOT to do something that would stop the frequent right-hooks occurring at this intersection. Former Mayor Sam Adams, who made a habit of saying safety was his top transportation priority, stepped in and made the decision that people in cars would no longer be able to turn right from Broadway onto Wheeler.
PBOT crews have now made Adams’ decision permanent by replacing temporary barricades with median islands, new striping and signage. As you can see in the photos, people on bikes can still easily make the right turn (via a cut-out in the median and a bike lane symbol to encourage it) but it’s clear that people in cars cannot.
While this new infrastructure is a welcome addition, it is a tiny improvement in an area rife with danger and many other traffic issues. Thankfully, there could be more changes coming that will further improve bicycling conditions (and safety of all users). PBOT has applied for a $1.5 million state grant for a project that will: install a new traffic signal at Wheeler; narrow the width of Broadway by removing one left turn lane and extended the sidewalks on the south side, close an existing “slip lane” offramp from I-5 east of Wheeler (that causes much of the crossing danger); install a “signalized pedestrian crossing”, and more. If awarded, money from that grant wouldn’t be in PBOT coffers until 2018. That’s a long time to wait, so hopefully we see improvements before then.
Stay tuned for more coverage of efforts to improve traffic safety in this area.