(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)
Could this finally be our chance to get a bit of an improvement to the biking environment on a key north Portland corridor? It might be, if the Portland Bureau of Transportation moves forward on a plan to widen the bike lanes on N. Willamette Blvd.
The move comes as city road crews embark on a major re-paving project that will rebuild 2.36 lane miles between N Portsmouth (near University of Portland) and N Woolsey (near Columbia Park). The project was announced last week and began on Monday.
Upon hearing about the paving project we asked if any lane re-striping was being considered. PBOT has a history of widening and re-striping bike lanes when roads are re-paved. Since striping has to be re-done anyways, these projects are a good opportunity to assess capacity needs and make needed changes.
In the case of Willamette Blvd, we were particularly interested because the current design of the street is outdated and dangerous for many road users.
Here’s how the street looks today:
Back in 2011, PBOT had money set-aside to improve bicycling access on Willamette. Currently, the bike lanes are 5 feet (northbound) and 4 1/2 feet wide (southbound) — measurements that are below PBOT’s current standard of 6 feet.
Willamette’s 40-foot cross-section currently devotes 30 1/2 feet to standard lanes and a parking lane. PBOT analysis had shown that the 7 1/2 foot parking lane (on the north side of the street) had “low utilization” and that there were lots of other places residents could park (including driveways and side-streets).
The plan was to create a “low-stress” bikeway by reconfiguring the lanes so that there would be more room for bicycling.
Unfortunately, when PBOT staff asked homeowners along the street what they thought of the plan to use the parking lane for a new bikeway, residents (surpise, surprise) scoffed. The plan was then shelved and nothing has been done since.
Earlier this week, PBOT media relations staffer Diane Dulken told us:
“There may be an adjustment to the width of the existing five foot bike lanes. We are exploring the possibility of expanding the five foot wide bike lanes to six feet by narrowing travel lanes to 10 feet wide from 11.”
Dulken also shared that University of Portland plans to make changes to a segment of the road at their main entrance (between N Haven and Fiske). Currently the bike lane drops in that location to make room for a bus stop and a right-turn lane. The plan is to “install a shared bus/bike lane and sharrows on that stretch,” says Dulken.
Plans to widen the bike lanes have not yet been finalized. Stay tuned for an update when we hear the decision.