County says Hawthorne Bridge speed bumps a “mistake”

County says Hawthorne Bridge speed bumps a “mistake”

New rumble strips Hawthorne Bridge-11

Second thoughts about bump installation.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

A set of speed bumps in the bicycle lane of SE Madison Ave as it approaches the Hawthorne Bridge are likely to be removed. The bumps have garnered a lot of feedback — much of it negative — since they were installed a few weeks ago with the aim of slowing people down. We were surprised to learn that the County had installed them given the fact they were forced to remove a similar installation of speed bumps back in 2005.

Multnomah County has an advisory committee that meets once per month to discuss issues like this. However, we learned last week that the Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizen Advisory Committee was never briefed about the bumps before they went in. At their meeting last night, the bumps were on the top of the agenda and the County’s Engineering Services Manager Jon Henrichsen showed up to hear the committee’s concerns and try to explain why the decision was made to put them in.

“It was clearly a mistake. It’s not something we should have done.”
— Jon Henrichsen, Multnomah County Engineering Services Manager

According to Henrichsen, the bumps were installed by bridge maintenance crews and the project never went through the planning department. The staff at the bridge department apparently weren’t aware of the history of the issue and didn’t realize there would be push-back. Another issue at play came down to staffing: Henrichsen explained that County planners and much of the bridge department veterans more familiar with the history of this issue weren’t available for input because they are dedicated solely to the Sellwood Bridge Project.

In the end, Henrichsen said the decision to install the bumps, “Was clearly a mistake. It’s not something we should have done.”

Bike advisory committee members were in unanimous agreement that making a significant change to such a vital bicycle route without planning or citizen advocate input was a bad move. All but one of the members in attendance voted for the bumps to be removed.

The committee discussing the bumps last night.

Committee member Andrew Holtz remembered that the previous bumps “weren’t really doing anything” and said, “There wasn’t a compelling reason to change that previous decision, so let’s take them out.” Carl Larson, an advocate with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance who sits on the committee, said “They are at best a net zero for safety because people are avoiding them in away that’s really dangerous [by swerving into the adjacent lane]. I’d be up for recommending they be removed.”

As we reported last week, bridge maintenance staff felt compelled to install the bumps after receiving complaints about people riding too fast through a TriMet bus stop that’s bisected by the bike lane when it merges up onto the bridge sidewalk. While most people acknowledge that bike speeds are a problem in this location, the bumps are not considered to be the right solution.

A much better solution is what the County already plans to do this summer: Extend the existing sidewalk bulb-out to provide more space to people waiting for, and stepping off of, the bus (that design, however, is unlikely to reduce bicycling speeds).

Last night, the committee didn’t want to wait until summer and they passed a formal recommendation to the County to remove the bumps as soon as possible.

I asked Henrichsen after the meeting if he thinks the County will act on the recommendation. “I think there’s a reasonable chance they [the bumps] will come out.”

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