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Comment of the Week: The car-free destiny of NW 13th Avenue

Comment of the Week: The car-free destiny of NW 13th Avenue

Sunday Parkways NW-39

Northwest 13th Avenue during Sunday Parkways, 2011.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Curb-protected bike lanes are cool and all, but they’ve got nothing on building-protected bike lanes.

That’s roughly the position from BikePortland reader Andrew, who added the first comment to Tuesday’s post about possible downtown protected bike lanes with a very different vision for one of Portland’s most unique streets: Northwest 13th Avenue.

Here’s what Andrew had to say:

I’d love to see something done with NW 13th. It’s an awkward street to drive on, walk on, and cycle on. I use it frequently and have stopped to observe what happens on the street with the different modes tangled together. There are no sidewalks, parking for cars is a free for all, pedestrians are often times in the middle of the roadway, and it’s just generally a mess.

Closing 13th to cars entirely would be awesome, it would remove the primary part of what makes the street a mess. Removing some of the stop signs for bikes and peds on 13th would allow people to move through quicker if their destination isn’t on 13th. It connects with Johnson and Overton quite well, and it isn’t too tough to connect to the Broadway bridge either. Just my 2 cents.







This led to an excellent discussion about whether and how this might work. (In particular, check out the “yes” case from maccoinnich and the “no” case from Jason H.) But Jonathan and I were happy to see the issue come up at all. One of the posts we never got to from this spring’s NW Portland Week was Jonathan’s opus, years a-brewing, about how wonderful a pedestrianized (or partially pedestrianized) 13th Avenue could become.

If I know the boss, Jonathan’s full thoughts on this issue are likely to see the light someday. For the moment, the old industrial loading docks that (as reader Matti pointed out) once opened onto freight train tracks will continue to push people walking into the middle of the street, claiming the space that will, we’d be willing to bet, eventually become theirs.

Yes, we pay for good comments. This regular feature is sponsored by readers who’ve become BikePortland subscribers to keep our site and our community strong. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to Andrew in thanks for this great addition. Watch your email!

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

The post Comment of the Week: The car-free destiny of NW 13th Avenue appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Postcard from Austin: curb extensions that don’t block bikes

Postcard from Austin: curb extensions that don’t block bikes

curb extension bumps 1000

A quick, cheap crosswalk enhancement on 3rd Street in Austin, Tex.
(Photos: M.Andersen)

Austin, where I spent a few days this week, is not yet a great city to bike in. But some of the ideas it’s developed in its bid to become one are useful, and here’s one.

Crosswalk curb extensions are great. By visually narrowing intersections, they slow traffic, prevent high-speed turns, and shorten distances for people crossing on foot.

But for future bike infrastructure, they’re a problem, especially in cities like Portland that have built a lot of them. They stop it from being cheap and easy to create parking-protected bike lanes by swapping curbside parking with a door-zone bike lane. When Portland installed curb extensions this year on Northwest Broadway, many people who’ve been hoping for a protected bike lane there groaned — it seemed like a strong sign that the city was giving up on that possibility.

(For its part, the Portland Bureau of Transportation says curb extensions won’t be extremely expensive to tear back out if Broadway is selected for improvements.)

In any case, Austin has started using a quick and dirty trick to create curb extensions: five-inch-high concrete domes, arranged to create a pedestrian refuge area.

curb extension bumps 2 1000

The original mold had a humble origin, Austin bikeway engineer Nathan Wilkes said.

“One of our public works managers bought salad bowls at the dollar store,” he said.

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They work. Stormwater flows easily around them. People biking can easily avoid them, assuming the placement is careful and the lighting is decent. They’re mountable, so a truck that really needs the space can drive over them, but big enough that people driving will usually avoid them. And (at least as the rules are being read in Austin) they don’t trigger a requirement for new building or stormwater permits, so they can be added quickly and cheaply.

They wouldn’t do well with snowplows. But in Austin (as in Portland) that’s very rarely a problem.

Seattle, another city that’s growing very fast and working hard to change its streets to match, has actually been using a similar trick with plastic posts and thermoplastic coating:

seattle curb extension post

Like Seattle’s flexible posts, Austin’s low bumps have a downside: they’re fragile.

broken curb extension bump

I’m told that Austin plans to address this by sinking bolts down the middle of the concrete domes, reinforcing the glue that is currently holding these in place.

Because installation is so simple and unobtrusive, these may also become Austin’s most common treatment for protecting bike lanes. City Transportation Planning and Policy Manager Art Pearce, who is also in Austin this week for a National Association of City Transportation Officials conference, mentioned that he was looking at 3rd Street for ideas about how people walking can be well-served by protected bike lanes. Sounds like a good idea.


The post Postcard from Austin: curb extensions that don’t block bikes appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Five new bike ideas from other places that Oregon could steal

Five new bike ideas from other places that Oregon could steal

Share the Road - North Plains

Time for Oregon to stop “Share the Road”? (This sign is on NW West Union in North Plains, a small city in Washington County.)
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Over the last week or so, a bunch of great ideas from other cities have been washing up on our digital shorelines. Let’s take a look at a few.

1) Delaware killed “Share the Road.”

(Images courtesy Bike Delaware)

The sentiment is great. The phrase is confusing. Delaware has officially killed it.

The classic case: when you come up behind a person on a bike while driving a car, should the person on the bike pull right to make way? Safety would say that this isn’t always a good idea. But to many drivers, “Share the road” says otherwise. “Bikes may use full lane” is completely clear.

Coordinating behind the scenes with state officials who had realized this, Bike Delaware fronted a campaign to eliminate the confusing phrase from new road signs. Maybe it’s time for Oregon to stop putting the phrase on tens of thousands of its best-selling specialty license plate.

What it’d take: Somebody prioritizing it and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance publicly validating their decision.

2) California and Massachusetts endorsed NACTO’s design guides.

(Image by NACTO)

The National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Street and Bikeway design guides, written with human-friendly streetscapes rather than automotive mobility in mind, is a city-oriented expansion pack for the bible of engineering, the AASHTO family of manuals.

It’s most useful in cities — The Dalles, with state Highway 30 running through its downtown, comes to mind — that want to be bike-friendly but lack in-house staff with expertise on modern pedestrian bumpouts, protected bike lanes and so on. On Thursday, after a years-long advocacy campaign by the California Bicycle Association, the conservative California Department of Transportation endorsed the guide, following Massachusetts and Washington’s DOTs. It’s not clear what’s holding Oregon back.

What it’d take: A legal review by ODOT and a decision by its executives.

3) The Indianapolis Pacers are sponsoring bike sharing.
Pacermates are performing

(Photo by Shih-Pei Chang)

The Simon Family, which owns the Pacers, got naming rights to a 250-bike sharing system in Indianapolis in exchange for an undisclosed donation and a pledge to fund ongoing operations. Wouldn’t it be perfect for the bike-friendly Trailblazers to sponsor all or part of Portland’s 750-bike system that will be great at bringing people, congestion-free, to their Rose Quarter stadium?

What it’d take: Money from the Blazers and a system they feel comfortable putting their name on.

4) DC is building its first curb-protected bike lane.

(Photo by Darren Buck)

These aren’t actually new, but cities around the country are bringing the trend back. These are much more expensive in the short run than paint or plastic posts, but they’re going to last much longer and they’re certainly better at keeping cars clear and people comfortable. Though they don’t work in every setting, curbs are great in many places (Beaverton, for example) for making bike lanes an actually pleasant experience for most people to ride in.

What it’d take: Money (about $50,000 per mile of curb) and city leaders willing to frame this as something that makes biking accessible to everyone.

5) Bikes are prescriptions in Boston.
Regular guy

(Photo by Alan Perryman)

The sneakiest thing about a muchcovered program that lets doctors “prescribe” bikeshare memberships to low-income Bostonians for $5 is that it seems to be nothing more than a brilliant marketing campaign for an existing public health program.

What it’d take: Money from public health sources and a medical provider that wants a bunch of free publicity.

City’s ‘Green Loop’ could be ‘Like Sunday Parkways everyday’

City’s ‘Green Loop’ could be ‘Like Sunday Parkways everyday’

Concept drawing of a new urban loop of public spaces, parks and bikeways as envisioned by the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability .


The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has released a bold new vision for a “Green Loop” that would circumnavigate Portland’s urban core with world-class bikeways, walkways and parks. Other names suggested include “Promenade Park”, “The Park Way”, “Urban Trail”, “The Central Path”, “The Way Around”, and “Compass Park”. According to a document released last month as part of their ongoing West Quadrant Plan (PDF), the BPS study fleshes out an idea that was first introduced in the Central City 2035 Concept Plan.

Map showing loop location in relation to
existing “active transportation infrastructure”.

A drawing of the south park blocks on page two of the study (seen above) is accompanied by the words, “Imagine… It could be like Sunday Parkways everyday.” It depicts a public space full of people, plants, and dedicated space for bicycling and walking.

In the document, the loop concept is described as, “A 10-mile linear public open space that will strengthen the Central City’s role as the ‘Center for Innovation and Exchange’ over the next 25 years.” It’s being seen as the public space analog to the existing — and more commercially-oriented — central city streetcar loop. The route would utilize the Broadway Bridge, the north and south Park Blocks, and the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail alignment (including the new bridge) through southwest Portland.

The six “key objectives” described in the concept plan include:

1) Improve Health
2) Connect Parks
3) Support Businesses
4) Increase Trails
5) Encourage Riding
6) Grow & Build Green

The concept document includes several tantalizing before/after images…

SW Salmon before (note the dedicated bicycling space in the upper right)…

SW Salmon after…

SW Caruthers (from Water to Naito) before…

SW Caruthers (from Water to Naito) after would “explore creation of Lombard like (in San Francisco) hill park…

And the very annoying Naito Gap near the Steel Bridge before…

And after…

As inspiration for the idea, the BPS document includes references to the British Columbia Parkway in Canada, the Rio de Salon in Madrid, and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

While the vision is exciting enough on its own, it’s also important to note that it could be done on a tight budget. “The concept is a relatively low-cost opportunity in the face of dwindling resources for major infrastructure systems such as regional transit or large open space acquisition and development projects,” reads the study. One reason the cost would be low is because the loop would use facilities and right-of-way that is already publicly owned.

While this is nothing more than a concept buried inside a concept plan, it’s the type of vision for public space and transportation that Portland is sorely lacking right now. My only questions are… Where do we sign up?! And when is the big rally?!

— If you’d like to learn more about this and/or get involved in making it a reality, read up on BPS’s West Quadrant Plan. They’re entering into the development phase of the process and there’s an open house scheduled for March 10th.

Reader proposes two-way ‘bike track’ on NW Johnson (video)

Reader proposes two-way ‘bike track’ on NW Johnson (video)

Here’s an interesting and persuasive idea that could turn Northwest Johnson into the most pleasant crossing of Interstate 405 between Northwest Portland and downtown.

It comes from reader Sean Pliska, who writes that until about a month ago, he “lived in NW for a couple years and used Johnson regularly.” The key idea of his plan is to made auto traffic one-way on Johnson between Northwest 13th and 17th Avenues … in alternating directions.

Opposing directions of one-way auto traffic would preserve access while diverting traffic to Glisan, Everett, Lovejoy and Northrup, Pliska says. The green stripe is a two-way bike track.
(Image: Pliska via YouTube)

Here’s Pliska’s description of his plan, as narrated in the video above:

Northwest Johnson has the potential to be a pedestrian-friendly, multimodal, livable street. It’s planned as a bike boulevard, and currently has no dedicated bike facilities.

Since Johnson’s unbroken through northwest and has access to I-405, it’s often used as a through street for auto traffic. Cross traffic at 14th and 16th often wait a long time and cross quickly. One solution to this problem would be to change the direction of traffic and add a two-way bike track.

Changing the direction of traffic to one way allows people in cars to access parking at REI, turn right, or continue on. On 16th, traffic from REI can easily merge onto 405. Through traffic would be diverted onto the Glisan-Everett couplet and Lovejoy and Northrup. Since the cycle track takes up an auto lane, parking is largely unaffected. The city could also extend the sidewalk into 14th, making it safer.

The city has already installed a diverter on Northwest Marshall, and while this is really helpful, it doesn’t address the need south of Marshall. This project would retain parking, increase traffic flow and create a safer environment for pedestrians and bikers.

Pliska, who says he is “by no means very informed, or trained in this sort of thing,” has also put together an interesting concept for “the minimum change on the Park Blocks that people on bicycles need to switch their route from Broadway to Park,” plus a vision for major north-south bike improvements to the Park Blocks.

He may not be a pro, but one of the best things about Portland is that sometimes it’s willing to listen to great ideas that don’t come from pros. Both of these are worth checking out.

Reader proposes two-way ‘bike track’ on NW Johnson (video)

Reader proposes two-way ‘bike track’ on NW Johnson (video)

Here’s an interesting and persuasive idea that could turn Northwest Johnson into the most pleasant crossing of Interstate 405 between Northwest Portland and downtown.

It comes from reader Sean Pliska, who writes that until about a month ago, he “lived in NW for a couple years and used Johnson regularly.” The key idea of his plan is to made auto traffic one-way on Johnson between Northwest 13th and 17th Avenues … in alternating directions.

Opposing directions of one-way auto traffic would preserve access while diverting traffic to Glisan, Everett, Lovejoy and Northrup, Pliska says. The green stripe is a two-way bike track.
(Image: Pliska via YouTube)

Here’s Pliska’s description of his plan, as narrated in the video above:

Northwest Johnson has the potential to be a pedestrian-friendly, multimodal, livable street. It’s planned as a bike boulevard, and currently has no dedicated bike facilities.

Since Johnson’s unbroken through northwest and has access to I-405, it’s often used as a through street for auto traffic. Cross traffic at 14th and 16th often wait a long time and cross quickly. One solution to this problem would be to change the direction of traffic and add a two-way bike track.

Changing the direction of traffic to one way allows people in cars to access parking at REI, turn right, or continue on. On 16th, traffic from REI can easily merge onto 405. Through traffic would be diverted onto the Glisan-Everett couplet and Lovejoy and Northrup. Since the cycle track takes up an auto lane, parking is largely unaffected. The city could also extend the sidewalk into 14th, making it safer.

The city has already installed a diverter on Northwest Marshall, and while this is really helpful, it doesn’t address the need south of Marshall. This project would retain parking, increase traffic flow and create a safer environment for pedestrians and bikers.

Pliska, who says he is “by no means very informed, or trained in this sort of thing,” has also put together an interesting concept for “the minimum change on the Park Blocks that people on bicycles need to switch their route from Broadway to Park,” plus a vision for major north-south bike improvements to the Park Blocks.

He may not be a pro, but one of the best things about Portland is that sometimes it’s willing to listen to great ideas that don’t come from pros. Both of these are worth checking out.

Dreaming in Dutch: Six young planners’ visions for Portland

Dreaming in Dutch: Six young planners’ visions for Portland

Going Dutch event crowd

Portland’s bike wonk crowd turned out in force.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Dozens of curious Portlanders visited bike-culture hub Velo Cult Wednesday night to pore over a series of ideas for how to transform our city in the way the Dutch people decided to start reshaping theirs forty years ago.

“Though we remain America’s best city for bicycling, Portland has stagnated something fierce at a time when many other cities are recognizing the value of bike-friendliness,” event contributor Brian Davis wrote yesterday in a preview for PortlandTransport.com. That perspective captured the attitude of many who attended.

“They’re working on the Central City Plan; they’re working on the Comp Plan,” said Arnoud Van Sisseren, a Portland Bureau of Transportation volunteer and a Dutch native himself. “If we have that vision, it should translate in all the plans. … I’m at PBOT; I see what’s happening. It’s not enough. It’s not enough.”

Others disagreed with some of the ideas put forward. Ethan Jewett, who lives near Ainsworth Street and gets around largely by bike, called a proposal to run a two-way cycle track and walkway down the middle of Ainsworth’s grassy median “hooey.”

“There’s a neighborhood greenway a block from there,” Jewett pointed out.

Jewett was one of many, though, who liked the sketch of a “bike highway” running along the hillside above Interstate 84.

“Cars get highways,” said Karla Kingsley, a transportation analyst for Kittelson and Associates who often gets around by bike. “I should, too.”

Here are the six visualizations shared last night. (NOTE: Click each of the “after” images for a link to the (very large) PDFs that were on display at the event last night. Each one includes a close-up of design details, a list of “What’s stopping us,” and examples of specific Portland locations where the treatment might work.)

“Bicycle highway,” before…

…and after.

“Parkway path,” before…

…and after.

“Downtown carfree streets” before…

…and after.

“People places,” before…

…and after.

“Carfree alley connection,” before…

…and after.

“Protected intersection,” before…

…and after.

Kirk Paulsen of Lancaster Engineering
and Peter Welte of Oregon Walks
and Bike Walk Vote.

The event was organized by Portland’s new chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation, a new group that includes people with an impressive variety of backgrounds: nonprofits, for-profits, schools and government. (The leaders include Jesse Boudart and Anais Malinge of Kittelson and Associates, Heather McCarey of the new Washington Park TMA, Evan Corey and Brie Becker of Nelson\Nygaard, Jeff Owen of TriMet and Adam Moore of Portland State University.) The group, which formed in April, seems to be full of energy and interesting ideas; you can follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Jonathan and I both attended this event and we’re excited to be seeing a debate emerge locally about what exactly the obstacles are to making changes like these in Portland. Stay tuned for more — we’re hoping to host a fascinating, well-informed exchange that emerged between a city staffer who attended and a couple of the event organizers.