First look: The City has finally bridged the the notorious Naito Gap

First look: The City has finally bridged the the notorious Naito Gap

New bikeway on Naito Parkway near Steel Bridge-13.jpg

We waited nine years for this!
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The day has finally come: You can now ride your bike in legally-protected, cycling-only space between Davis and the Steel Bridge on Naito Parkway.

Nine years ago (nine!) I lamented this gap after the City of Portland celebrated a $10 million rehab of Naito. All that money and they couldn’t manage to stripe a few tenths of a mile to connect our waterfront bikeway! I wasn’t happy. Here’s what I wrote back then:

While I’m thrilled to see these new bike lanes, and it’s great to have an option off the crowded, multi-use waterfront path, PDOT and/or ODOT should put their heads together and find a way to connect this new bike lane with existing ones just north of the Steel Bridge.

This connection is imperative if the City wants to encourage cycling and it’s the type of thing that can add teeth to their claims of wanting to build a “world-class” bike-friendly city.

Once they close this gap, we’ll really have something to celebrate.

After riding the just-installed bikeway this morning I can finally say it’s time to celebrate. The design isn’t perfect and we’d still prefer physical protection — but this is a huge improvement (and the protection will come later).

As we reported last week, a repaving project helped the Bureau of Transportation finally get this project done. What we have now isn’t merely a narrow standard bike lane, it’s an entire lane that’s just as wide as the adjacent standard travel lane.

Check out the video below to see what it looks like from a bicycling point-of-view. (Keep in mind that the video is sped-up (for your viewing convenience) and there is a lot more auto traffic than usual because a train had just passed by.)

Dropout Ride – July

And here are a few photos for closer inspection:

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Southbound at the off-ramp for the Steel Bridge.
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Northbound crossing the on-ramp to the Steel Bridge (to the right) from Naito and NW Davis.
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One question people have immediately asked is why there isn’t physical protection to separate car users from bicycle users. We haven’t got the official answer from PBOT yet, but recall that this bikeway was completed as part of a routine restriping that’s taking place after a repaving project. That means the budget and the outreach process is much more limited than if it were approached as a separate project on its own.

The right hook concerns we reported on last week will likely remain. At two locations (one in each direction) people driving on Naito have an option to take an off-ramp that crosses right over the new bikeway. For now these concerns are mitigated by a lot of green-colored paint and yellow caution signs. Given the width of the lanes the visibility of other road users is very high. This distance between users should decrease the chance of collisions.

It’s also worth noting that in addition to these new lanes through the gap, PBOT has widened and bufferized the bike lane on both sides of Naito from the Steel Bridge all the way north to NW 9th.

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Looking north onto Naito from the top of the Broadway Bridge.

A few other thoughts:

– I’m still puzzled by PBOT’s reluctance to lay down more bike lane symbols in bike lanes. This is a citywide problem that leads to people driving and parking in bike lanes. With this project there’s only a few bike lane symbols the entire length of the restriping. I’d like to see them every 75 feet or so to really drive the point home that the lane is only for cycling — especially with the lack of physical protection.

– Even with this wide new lane, there’s unfortunately still no safe way to cross Naito (on foot or by bike). Many people make a risky dash across the street to connect from the popular Waterfront Park/Steel Bridge path to Flanders and Old Town. Having only one lane for driving vastly increases the crossing safety, but we must address this in a more comprehensive way someday.

– With people now used to the two-way bikeway “Better Naito” configuration to the south, the sudden one-way of this new section might be confusing. I can envision people dropping in from the Waterfront Park path at the Steel Bridge and going southbound (the wrong direction) in the northbound bike lane.

– Speaking of Better Naito, this improved bike lane should add to the political momentum to keep Better Naito beyond its demonstration phase. The quality of bike networks are only as good as their weakest link and to return Naito to its pre-Better Naito form would be a major step backwards.

Roll over and give it a try. We’d love to know what you think.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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