We have tendency in Portland to think of transportation investment as a zero-sum game. Our local leaders and media like to split people up into nice, little, convenient groups so they can create narratives and a dichotomy that grabs attention.
One way that tendency often manifests itself is with the “paving/maintenance versus safety” debate. During the push for the Our Streets funding measure, the Portland Bureau of Transportation used percentages and pie charts to split these two priorities into categories. With such clear lines in the sand it’s no wonder that the community (and the media) latch on and start shouting about which one deserves more (I admit it, I’ve been guilty of doing this myself in the past).
It doesn’t have to be this way. The truth is, paving/maintenance projects can also be safety projects that improve bicycling and walking. And guess what? PBOT gets it.
I’ve come across three recent examples that illustrate what I’m talking about.
Back in May, PBOT repaved North Denver Avenue from Rosa Parks to Buffalo Street. When they re-striped the bike lane, they made it a foot wider and improved the pinch-point at intersections:
Between last winter and this spring, PBOT repaved North Killingsworth from 33rd to 53rd. When they put the striping back they added a buffered bike lane:
And just today, PBOT officially announced a project we told you about last month that will repave about a half-mile of NE 15th/16th Avenues in the Lloyd District. What will happen along with the repaving? Yep. You guessed it; a widening of the bicycling lanes, “to improve safety and comfort” for people on two (non-motorized) wheels.
repaving project in the Lloyd District this week.
While these bicycle access improvements are still just paint and not the true, physically protected bikeways many Portlanders are yearning for, at least PBOT is claiming space and moving in the right direction. And while PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick hasn’t made the public promise that all paving projects will be safety projects like I suggested last month, it looks like the most important audience for that message — PBOT planning and maintenance staff — are already doing it.
UPDATE: And it looks like even the Oregon Department of Transportation is getting into this act. Last summer they added buffered bike lanes as part of a major repaving project on McLoughlin Blvd (99E) in the Gladstone area (see photo below). And this isn’t the only project they are looking to improve bicycling on, “We’ll have buffered bike lanes on the N Denver Ave (99W) bridges over the Columbia Slough when that repaving is done this fall, and are looking into potential for similar improvements in combination with several other upcoming paving projects,” says Region 1 Transit and Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning.
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