Small but important changes make North Michigan a better bikeway

Small but important changes make North Michigan a better bikeway

Making Michigan better for bikes-5

When it comes to making neighborhood streets nicer for bicycling, sometimes little things can make a huge difference. N. Michigan Avenue is a good example. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) began to make Michigan an official part of their neighborhood greenway network just over one year ago. The improvements have come slowly and in phases; but recent changes have made a significant difference.

I ride Michigan twice a day from Rosa Parks Way to Fremont so I know it well. With just speed bumps and sharrows, I didn’t notice a huge difference in the bicycling environment. But with new crossing improvements and a host of stop sign changes, it’s starting to really shine and become the efficient and safe bikeway it needs to be.

First, let’s look at the new crossings. PBOT has added striped crosswalks, signage, curb extensions and median islands at several high-volume intersections. At Rosa Parks and Alberta, I noticed cross-traffic goes much slower and is more likely to stop to let me cross because of the new medians. They’ve also installed yellow warning signs to let people know they should expect human-powered cross-traffic ahead.

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Looking west on Rosa Parks at Michigan.

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The combination of striped crosswalks and concrete medians leads to slower speeds and more people who stop to let you cross.
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Looking east toward Michigan from Alberta St.

Crossings on Michigan have also been improved thanks to new curb extensions and ADA curb ramps. The curb extensions not only shorten the crossing distance for people on foot, they also narrow the roadway to encourage slower speeds. The rebuilt corners with new ADA ramps not only help folks with mobility devices (and pushing strollers), they also prevent people from parking cars all the way up to the curb. One of the most overlooked safety issues in Portland is when people park cars all the way to the corner. This severely limits the ability to see oncoming cross-traffic. I’ve noticed much more “daylighting” of corners and easier crossings thanks to the new ramps.

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The other big change I noticed recently are the stop signs. One of the best things about PBOT’s Going St. neighborhood greenway is how you can ride without stopping for what feels like miles. The only stops are for larger/busier streets. Michigan had several annoying stop signs — including two on downhills, which are particularly cumbersome for people on bikes. I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago when I rolled down and the stop signs were gone!

At Prescott and Michigan, PBOT added a new stop sign (for south/eastbound traffic), but had the great wisdom to include an “Except Right Turn” sign below it. Yes, this is a little bit of Idaho Stop in north Portland…

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Not only are there fewer stops on Michigan, but PBOT has added stops to cross streets. In several instances, they’ve added stop signs to what were previously uncontrolled intersections. Now cross-traffic must stop, while it’s smooth sailing on Michigan.

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This used to be an uncontrolled intersection (without any stop signs).

PBOT project manager Ross Swanson said, “Stopping side street traffic where it intersects with Michigan encourages active transportation and improves safety.”

Swanson added that the work happening on Michigan is using PBOT’s full “toolbox of street improvements.” He shared that once the project is done, they’ll have installed 27 speed bumps (21 are already in) and changed the stop sign configurations at 17 intersections between Fremont and Bryant.

Still to come on Michigan are more pavement markings, wayfinding signs, and “sign toppers” (similar to ones on SE Clinton and Going streets) to identify the corridor as a neighborhood greenway.

Michigan connects to PBOT’s growing network of neighborhood greenways and each improvement and connection makes the entire network stronger. This program has been funded with about $1 million per year that was set-aside by former Mayor Sam Adams. It remains to be seen whether that funding survives the current budget process.

Learn more about PBOT’s neighborhood greenway work on their website.

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