PBOT, via blog comments, responds to “difficulties” of Williams project

PBOT, via blog comments, responds to “difficulties” of Williams project

Williams Avenue-1

Williams and it’s brand new, left-side bike lane has been a hot issue this week.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“I ride N Williams every day and am experiencing some difficulties myself.”
— Leah Treat, Director of PBOT

This week marked a very positive milestone for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT): They seem to be opening up a bit about joining the comment section here on BikePortland. I think this is a great development because it shows they understand the value of direct online engagement with their customers (us) and it could be a sign that they’re gaining confidence around the bicycling issue.

PBOT staff have been commenting on BikePortland ever since Day One. But in recent years, changes in media protocol coupled with a bit more critical tone toward the agency from this site, has scared some of them away (not to mention all the talk of stagnation might have sapped some staffers’ mojo).

However, I’m happy to report that in the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten our first comment ever from PBOT Director Leah Treat and an official statement from Diane Dulken, one of PBOT’s media relations staffers. Both of the comments are in response to our recent coverage of the Williams project.

Treat’s comment was unexpected — and unexpectedly candid. Here’s the comment she left last night:

“I ride N Williams every day and am experiencing some difficulties myself. There are some good questions posed here and I or my staff will post a response tomorrow.”

I think it’s a great sign that PBOT’s top staffer has shown this degree of candor on such a hot-button issue without hiding behind a spokesperson or politi-speak. It also shows that she respects other commenters — which is something I believe is key to hosting a productive online community. (And yes, I did confirm that Treat is the real author of that comment.)

Then, just a few minutes ago, Treat’s promise of a response panned out. Agency spokeswoman Diane Dulken left a statement in the comment section of our 10/17 story on concerns that traffic from Williams is spilling onto Rodney:

On behalf of PBOT, we want to say thanks so much for all of these comments. We really appreciate the feedback. It helps as we keep rolling out the new road design for North Williams.

The biggest thing we want to stress is that Williams is still an active construction zone – you know that, but it bears emphasis: there are still elements of the bike lane that we haven’t installed yet. Part of the issue is all of the rain we got this week. We need to wait for some dry weather to stripe and install other segments.

We’re also very aware that an expanded left hand bike lane is an unusual treatment in Portland. Whether folks are walking, biking or driving, it’s going to take some time getting used to. To help with that, we are conducting the “A Safer Place for Everyone” education campaign (you can check that out here: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/502852). We’re also passing out brochures and other info through the neighborhood and we plan to keep up education and outreach to help all travelers adjust to the new street design. For now, the biggest message is to please ride, drive and walk with care. We have to look out for each other out there.

A few other specifics: We plan to add signage on Broadway to make traffic patterns clearer, which should help reduce conflicts and confusion.

The issue with cars driving through the Rodney diverter is also on our radar and we’re discussing some possible solutions to that.

If you have addition comments, concerns or want to share some more info with us. please reach out to Dan Layden on our staff next week. He’s at a conference today, but will be back Monday. You can reach him by email at dan.layden@portlandoregon.gov or by phone 503.823.2804. Thanks again for engaging with us.

So there you have it: PBOT is listening — and responding — to your feedback and they’re engaged in these important issues. That’s nothing new actually, I’ve always found them to be highly attentive. But what is new, and encouraging to me, is that they’re engaging with you and I directly here on BikePortland.

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