It’s been almost two years since we started reporting on the call by some Portlanders for traffic diverters on Clinton Street, one year since Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick approved them, and five months since two were installed.
So as the city prepares for similar diverters on Ankeny and considers them someday on Northeast 7th, we wondered: How are things going? I spent 90 minutes on Clinton Wednesday during the evening rush hour to ask passers-by what they thought.
Here’s what people said…
“I can’t say enough about how happy I am about the diverters,” said Elizabeth Williams, who’s been biking Clinton for three years. “I live just east of 39th. … I think they’re great.”
Mike Davis has been biking Clinton for about a year and a half. He says the diverters have “definitely” changed things.
“I would say it’s been a lot better,” he said.
Kate Weltner has been riding Clinton for three years and never felt there was a major traffic problem on Clinton before or after the diverters. She said she hadn’t noticed a major change, at least during rush hour.
“I’m actually kind of surprised when I get to them how often there is a car behind me,” she said.
Murph (she said she only goes by the one name) bikes more often in northeast Portland but has also been riding Clinton for about six months, since just before the diverters went in.
“I guess it’s slowing people down for sure,” she said. “You know, I haven’t really analyzed it.”
David Thelen has been riding Clinton for seven years. He said the diverters had “reduced the amount of traffic.” His only problem was wishing that the parked cars could be a little further from the 32nd Avenue diverter so it wouldn’t be so hard to squeeze through the space with a bike trailer.
Ben Blechman has been biking Clinton for eight years and saw “immediate” improvement after the diverters appeared.
“The last couple years had gotten really bad, and then they put these in,” he said.
Scott Watkins said he hadn’t noticed the increased comfort of biking on Clinton traffic until a co-worker mentioned it to him.
“Once I took notice, it was pretty clear pretty quickly,” he said. “Seems to be quite a bit nicer now.”
Tim Kruger and his daughter Eleanor live on Woodward. He thinks the diverters are a “terrible idea.”
“It does make the street marginally safer for bikes — marginally,” he said. “I don’t think it makes a huge difference.”
Kruger also asked me to write down that he feels that most problems between bikes and cars are caused by people biking, and that this is because he thinks most people who bike in Portland have never learned to drive.
“For those of us who actually do use cars, the loss of the one street that you could actually get through fairly quickly” was a major blow, Kruger said. Also, as someone who lives on Woodward, Kruger doesn’t like the fact that more people are now driving quickly past his house.
“I can tell you it definitely affects all the neighboring streets,” he said.
Tina Williams has been riding Clinton for five years and said the diverters have “made a huge impact as far as the traffic flow.”
“You feel safer,” she said. “It makes it so nice … less dust, less exhaust.”
She said she used to drive her car on Clinton to avoid Division, even though she felt bad about doing so.
“I’m a biker — that’s how I got the idea” to take Clinton, she said. Other people were doing the same, she realized. “The last two to three years it started getting progressively worse.”
When she drives today, Tina said, she takes Powell instead of Clinton or Division and is happy for the tradeoff.
“We love them,” said Colleen Mitchell. “They make a big difference … There’s still some jerks, but they’re great.”
Mitchell has been riding Clinton daily for a year now. She said that until the diverters went in, she was considering telling her children to stop biking on the street.
“It was getting really scary,” she said. Now, she’s comfortable biking there with five-year-old daughter Zoe in tow.
“She’s going to be on her tagalong soon because of the diverters,” Mitchell said.
Mark Seguela didn’t have time to stop for longer than it took to say “They’ll just go around them.” How often, I asked? “Often.”
Mary Allison had to hurry on, but first shared her take on Clinton post-diversion: “It’s great.”
“I haven’t really noticed too much of a difference, to be honest,” said Matt Radosevich. “But I haven’t really been paying attention.”
Kari Schlosshauer, one of the key organizers behind the successful pro-diverter effort, was one of those who walked past me.
“I think they’ve totally made a difference,” she said. “Definitely lower volumes of cars in sections … this section (near 23rd) is about the same, I’d say. I also think I’ve seen more kids on Clinton than before.”
The last person I talked to was Larry Smith, who lives on the corner just next to the new diverter at 32nd Avenue.
“It’s got some positives and negatives,” Smith said. “Traffic has gotta be down to at most a tenth. … You see people that go zoom around it, that’s one of the negatives.” (As we spoke, someone did so.)
I asked Smith if it was annoying to have to turn a few extra times when he wanted to drive to or from his house. Here’s how he replied:
“When I first moved here back in ’87, I came down here once a week to help someone who had been involved in a collision,” he said. “I kept a blanket up here. They would go into shock.”
Smith said he’s been visiting his house since 1969, when it belonged to his grandmother. Before the speed bumps and the first diverter at Chavez, Smith said, Clinton Street was a very different place.
“The average speed on Clinton was 48 mph,” he said of Clinton in the 1980s, recalling a community conversation at the time.
On balance, Smith said, he loves having the diverters, and would change them mostly just by adding more signs to warn people not to drive around them.
“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “Maybe they need more of them.”
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is also asking people what they think of the post-diverter Clinton Street in an online survey this month.
— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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