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Two new traffic diverters installed on Ankeny and Mississippi

Two new traffic diverters installed on Ankeny and Mississippi

Diverter at SE Ankeny and 15th-3.jpg

New traffic diverter on SE Ankeny at 15th.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

With two new traffic diverters installed in the past week, the City of Portland continues to fulfill its promise to defend the low-stress biking environment on neighborhood greenways.

People who ride or live near North Mississippi and Holman and Southeast Ankeny and 15th should notice fewer cars and lower speeds in their neighborhoods. That’s because of 8-10 large concrete drums filled with soil that are now spread diagonally across those intersections. The idea is to discourage people from driving on neighborhood streets that have been set aside as bike routes.

The new diverters also illustrate how the Bureau of Transportation is now able to move faster on small projects thanks to recent staffing and policy changes (a strong push from grassroots activists at BikeLoudPDX also played a key role). As we reported back in March, PBOT has a new engineer on staff to oversee projects with small budgets. These diverters cost around $5,000, an amount that would struggle for attention alongside much larger projects in PBOT’s capital projects program. With a new staffer these projects can move forward without a stop at the capital projects desk.

Here’s a closer look at the two new diverters…

Holman diverter a secondary measure

Diverter at N Holman and Mississippi-1.jpg

If you were hoping to drive up Mississippi to avoid the diverter at Rosa Parks I have some bad news for you.

The new diverter on North Holman and Mississippi isn’t on a neighborhood greenway; but it wouldn’t exist without one. It comes in response to people who were avoiding the North Michigan Neighborhood Greenway because of a diverter installed a few blocks away (on Rosa Parks and Michigan) in 2013. Too many people were driving north on Michigan (to avoid backups on Interstate 5) and then cutting over to Mississippi one block east to avoid the diverter at Rosa Parks. People who live on that one block of Mississippi weren’t happy.

This new diverter will now force people going east on Holman to turn south (right) onto Mississippi and go back to to Ainsworth. The large concrete drums will keep car users from passing through the intersection east-to-west and north-to-south. If all goes according to plan, people who use Michigan during the evening rush as a way to avoid traffic on Interstate 5 will decide it’s just not worth the hassle.

Diverter at N Holman and Mississippi-2.jpg

View looking north on Mississippi at Holman.
Diverter at N Holman and Mississippi-3.jpg

Looking southeast from the northwest corner of Holman and Mississippi.

One issue of note is that the current design doesn’t make it easy for bicycle users to pass through the median in any direction. PBOT needs to adjust the spacing of the concrete drums so that people can easily bicycle through. They’ve done a much better job at this over on Ankeny…

Ankeny diverter should tame traffic in growing neighborhood

Diverter at SE Ankeny and 15th-1.jpg

Inner Ankeny is very busy these days. And not just with cars and bikes. The area is booming with new housing and related commercial development in what could be a poster-child street for Portland’s growing pains.

The cycling situation on Ankeny is similar to that of SE Clinton Street. Both are legacy neighborhood greenways (built as “bicycle boulevards” in the late 1990s) and both are adjacent to quickly-growing commercial corridors (Burnside and Division respectively). PBOT identified six of these older greenways in their 2015 Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report. Clinton was first on the list for improvements and now it’s Ankeny’s turn. This new diverter is one of many changes coming to the street meant to bring it up to par with current standards.

The Ankeny/15th diverter is very similar to the one on Holman and Mississippi. Large, soil-filled concrete drums are aligned diagonally from the northwest corner to the southeast corner of the intersection. Unlike the Holman diverter, PBOT has made this one much easier for people to bike through. In addition to leaving an opening in the median they’ve also laid down pavement markings to make it obvious where you are expected to ride. While observing it this morning I noticed the opening was wide enough for a standard, two-seater bicycle trailer.

Diverter at SE Ankeny and 15th-2.jpg

Looking northwest from the southeast corner of Ankeny and 15th.
Diverter at SE Ankeny and 15th-4.jpg

Ample room to pass through.
Diverter at SE Ankeny and 15th-5.jpg

Use caution approaching these intersections. People in cars who are confronted with the median might not come to a complete stop and/or might suddenly accelerate into their turn, directly into oncoming traffic (as seen in this photo).
Diverter at SE Ankeny and 15th-7.jpg

This new diverter should help reduce auto use on Ankeny in both directions. This is great news because Ankeny is one of the most heavily-used bikeways in the city. In some stretches (near SE 28th), the street has more bike trips than car trips.

Another thing that comes with these diverters is a parking restriction on the northeast and southwest corners of the intersections. This was done to aid the auto turning movements, but it will also improve visibility for everyone who uses the sidewalk and street.

And a note of caution for all users of these intersections. People approaching from the east and west do not have stop signs — that goes for bicycle riders and auto drivers. And if you are driving or riding north-south, remember that bicycle riders coming from east and west are not required to stop.

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that each diverter costs around $50,000. That is incorrect. They cost $5,000. Sorry for any confusion.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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In defense of greenways, city bolsters traffic diversion in two north Portland locations

In defense of greenways, city bolsters traffic diversion in two north Portland locations


Try to drive through these concrete barrels filled with soil. I dare you!
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation seems to be slowly losing their aversion to diversion.

On my way into work today I rolled by two examples of new infrastructure that aims to prevent people from driving through a specific intersection. It’s all part of PBOT’s increased priority on “traffic diversion” in order to maintain a comfortable street environment in residential areas.

The first example I came across today was the intersection of North Mississippi and Holman. This location is just one block east of the Michigan Ave Neighborhood Greenway. Michigan is used as a cut-through to avoid traffic congestion on northbound Interstate 5 between Interstate and Rosa Parks Way. When initially implemented, that greenway had too many people using Michigan to access the Interstate 5 on-ramp at Rosa Parks Way (one block north of Holman) so PBOT installed a full median diverter at Michigan and Rosa Parks Way in October 2013.

But then many people — likely thanks to Waze — simply cut over on Holman one block east to Mississippi to continue northbound. Residents on that street were not happy so now PBOT will add another diverter at Holman. We haven’t seen the final designs but markings on the street today show a diverter that will force people to backtrack and turn south (right) at Missippi back to Ainsworth. The overall goal is to keep non-local traffic on collector streets like Ainsworth (east-west) and Albina (north-south).


Looking northwest across Holman on Mississippi.

PBOT has also beefed up diversion is on the North Rodney Neighborhood Greenway. Created as an alternative to North Williams, the Rodney greenway also had too much auto use when it was first implemented. To help prevent northbound cut-through traffic PBOT put up a diverter at Ivy (one block south of Fremont) in September 2014. Because the design was weak, many people simply drove their cars right over the diverter and it became clear that something more permanent and substantial was needed.


Looking southbound on Rodney at Ivy.

Not sure if PBOT meant to do this but there’s now a protected and raised diagonal crossing of Rodney at Ivy.

Now PBOT has finally sealed the deal by placing 14 large concrete barrels full of planting soil in the middle of the intersection. They’ve been placed in a diagonal from the northwest corner to the southeast corner of the intersection. Bike riders can squeeze through between them (hopefully it’s wide enough for all types) but there’s no way someone in a car could. While out there this morning I saw two people take advantage of the raised, protected walkway that now exists in the middle of the barrels. Not sure if PBOT meant to do this but it’s a cool feature.

It’s great to see the City of Portland get serious and stick up for neighborhood greenways. These quiet streets have been picked on by big bullies for too long it’s time to rise up and defend them.

Thanks to the readers who tipped us off about these projects. We rely on you as our eyes and ears so please drop us a text, tweet, or email if you come across anything interesting.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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On Michigan greenway, diverter reduces driving but biking boost is modest

On Michigan greenway, diverter reduces driving but biking boost is modest

Diverter at N Rosa Parks and Michigan -3

A full diverter was installed last October on
N Rosa Parks at Michigan.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

A new traffic diverter at North Michigan Avenue and Rosa Parks Way seems to be successfully preventing north-south car traffic from spilling onto Michigan from Interstate 5, recent city bike counts show.

That was the city’s intent when it agreed last year to install the diverter in order to hold down traffic on the neighborhood greenway there.

“From I guess Holman to Rosa Parks it has gotten a lot better,” said Noah Brimhall, a Piedmont neighborhood resident and an advocate for the diverter, in an interview Tuesday.

Before the diverter, people would use Michigan Ave as a cut-through when I-5 was backed up. A left turn here on Rosa Parks used to be an easy way for drivers to get onto the Interstate.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Since the diverter went in last fall, the city’s counts for auto traffic on Michigan south of Rosa Parks have fallen by an average of 25 percent from prior observations:

michigan diversion

Data: Portland Bureau of Transportation.

All eight traffic counts on Michigan showed a decline after the diverter went in. In the block immediately south of Rosa Parks, auto traffic dropped 45 percent.

Traffic even seemed to fall on nearby Mississippi Avenue — by 10 percent on average, suggesting that through traffic remained on the freeway or other routes rather than simply shifting one block further east.

mississippi diversion

Data: PBOT.

The drop in auto traffic, however, hasn’t yet led to a major surge in bike traffic on this neighborhood greenway, at least in absolute terms. The city’s north/south bike counts on Michigan increased from almost zero in 2011 to an average of 23 bikes in both directions during rush hour in 2014.

michigan bike counts

Data: PBOT.

By contrast, the relatively comfortable east/west freeway crossings on Rosa Parks and Ainsworth drew bidirectional rush-hour bike counts in the 80s, an apparent sign of heavy demand for comfortable bikeways on major arterial streets.

Paul Anthony, chair of the Humboldt Neighborhood Association south of Rosa Parks, said his organization strongly supports biking improvements such as the Michigan Greenway “for obvious reasons” including reduced car traffic to Portland Community College and the economic benefits to retailers along Killingsworth and Mississippi.

“Frankly,” he said in an interview Tuesday, the rush-hour bike counts on Michigan were “disappointing.”

Brimhall, the Piedmont neighborhood advocate, said most people heading north and south by bike simply take the nearby wide bike lanes on Vancouver and Williams.

Michigan neighborhood greenway-4

Noah Brimhall.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

“A lot of people in this neighborhood and North Portland in general just tend to gravitate toward that street,” he said. “The reason I go over on Michigan is to get to my son’s school.”

He thinks the crossing at Killingsworth has poor lines of sight, and that poor pavement on Michigan south of Killingsworth makes the neighborhood greenway “less welcoming.”

Anthony agreed.

“Michigan’s surface is very, very poor,” he said. “I have ridden on the bikeway once and I’m not going to do it again until it’s resurfaced. it was actively painful.”

Greg Raisman, traffic safety specialist for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, wrote in an email that Michigan functions “more as a feeder route” in the bike network than as a collector, and that bike traffic is likely to grow on Michigan over time as it has on other neighborhood greenways.

“When Ankeny and Lincoln/Harrison were first implemented, it took some time for people to learn about the improvements and adjust their routes to take advantage of them,” he wrote. “Today, these routes carry more than 200 bicycle trips an hour in peak. … Also, if we are successful with securing additional transportation revenue, there are some things we could do to further improve Michigan that would likely attract riders.”

Update 2:52 pm: The charts in an earlier version of this post expressed average traffic counts for one direction only. The new charts express average counts in both directions for each location, which we feel is more intuitive. The trends are unchanged.

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Full median diverter coming to N Rosa Parks Way on Michigan Ave greenway

Full median diverter coming to N Rosa Parks Way on Michigan Ave greenway

A full median diverter would allow people on bikes to pass through, but would prohibit left turns by drivers from northbound on Michigan onto Rosa Parks and the I-5 freeway one block to the west.

“This was the first time I’ve ridden down Michigan during rush hour and it doesn’t inspire me with confidence to do it again when I pick up my son from school.”
— Noah Brimhall, Piedmont resident

Two years ago, the Bureau of Transportation proposed a full median on N Rosa Parks Way to reduce the number of drivers from Washington who use the Michigan Avenue neighborhood greenway as a cut-through to avoid the daily gridlock on Interstate 5. The median would prevent people headed northbound from turning left from Michigan onto Rosa Parks, and then onto the I-5 on-ramp just one block west.

But when the plan went in front of the neighborhood, some people felt that — despite its potential to improve safety and its ability to decrease the amount of Washington residents who speed through the neighborhood — a full median would be too much of an inconvenience to their daily driving patterns. So PBOT decided to install a partial median. The median and crosswalk installed today does help make the crossing safer; but as we reported last month, it hasn’t done enough to deter “regional drivers” from using Michigan as a gridlock-free I-5.

In fact, bicycling conditions on the Michigan neighborhood greenway remain underwhelming despite the addition of crossing treatments, speed bumps, and 20 mph speed limit signs.

Michigan neighborhood greenway-5

Drivers who use Michigan Ave as a way to avoid I-5
backups will no longer be able to get back
on the freeway at Rosa Parks.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Noah Brimhall, a Piedmont neighborhood resident who’s been working with PBOT to improve Michigan, was recently yelled at by a man driving a truck while he rode on Michigan with his three-year-old son in a trailer behind him. Last week, Brimhall shared his experience with PBOT project manager Ross Swanson via email and asked Swanson if the City had made any progress on plans to tame traffic:

… As I was riding my bike home (with my 3-year-old son in our trailer behind me) at about 5:15pm along Michigan between Holman and Rosa Parks I heard an engine rev behind me. As I approached two cars waiting to turn left onto Rosa Parks, the man driving the truck behind me leaned out is window and yelled “You should ride on the sidewalk!”. I answered him firmly in the negative and we had a brief, but not very pleasant discussion about why I was allowed to ride on the street.

Overall, this incident reinforced my thought that this street isn’t currently a welcoming place to ride your bike during the afternoon rush hour. I don’t know that diverters or any other traffic calming would have prevented this incident, but I think that the diverters earlier on the greenway and bollards on Rosa Parks would have made it a lot less likely. Also, I should note that this was the first time I’ve ridden down Michigan during rush hour and it doesn’t inspire me with confidence to do it again when I pick up my son from school on Wednesday.

To Brimhall’s (and my) surprise, Swanson replied to say that PBOT has decided to install the full concrete median diverter that was originally proposed back in 2011 (as opposed to just plastic bollards and paint Swanson said they were considering as of last month).

PBOT is historically very concerned about full diversion because of their fears that people will simply drive on adjacent streets and residents will complain (like we saw in the robust debate about diversion on the 50s Bikeway project). But as Brimhall’s story shows, if the City creates high-quality streets were people on bikes are prioritized and people in cars are guests, than fewer people would drive to begin with.

As someone who lives just five houses north of this intersection, I look forward to seeing the full median. I won’t believe it until I see it; but I’m happy to hear PBOT has made the right decision.

Read more coverage of neighborhood greenways.

As promised, PBOT will beef up diversion on Michigan Ave neighborhood greenway

As promised, PBOT will beef up diversion on Michigan Ave neighborhood greenway

Michigan neighborhood greenway-2

PBOT project manager Ross Swanson (red shirt)
and Piedmont residents Justin Thompson (middle)
and Noah Brimhall discuss ideas to make Michigan Ave
work better.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Nearly two years ago, the Bureau of Transportation made a promise to residents of the Piedmont neighborhood: If a partial median at N. Rosa Parks Way and Michigan Avenue (map) doesn’t reduce cut-through traffic on the Michigan neighborhood greenway, they’ll beef it up. Yesterday, project manager Ross Swanson said he’d do just that.

Michigan is a unique case for PBOT. It’s the only major neighborhood greenway route in the city directly adjacent to an interstate highway. During the evening rush hour, “regional drivers” (which is, I think, PBOT’s politically correct way of saying Washington drivers) race up Michigan in an effort to bypass the daily gridlock on northbound I-5. The traffic and inconsiderate driving irks people who live on Michigan and the presence of so many cars flies in the face of the core mission of neighborhood greenways — to create conditions for low-stress bicycling.

When this project came up in the neighborhood back in July 2011, PBOT and some neighbors wanted to build a median that would prohibit people from turning left (west) off Michigan to access the I-5 on-ramp on Rosa Parks Way (see photo below). However, some residents felt that amount of diversion would be too much of an inconvenience to their driving habits. In the end, PBOT caved to those concerns; but promised to revisit the decision if the partial solution failed to solve the problem.

Michigan neighborhood greenway-6

Looking north on Michigan Ave at Rosa Parks Way. The I-5 on-ramp is just to the left. PBOT and some neighbors (including myself) wanted a full median here to discourage freeway cut-through traffic. That plan was scuttled out of fears that it would be an inconvenience to local drivers. Now the idea is back on the table.

Yesterday, Swanson showed PBOT traffic data that proves — despite the speed bumps, 20 mph signage, and the presence of sharrows — that many people are still cutting through Michigan and other neighborhood streets to avoid I-5 (according to a PBOT license plate study that shows an increase in Washington plates at many locations). This means PBOT has failed to adequately discourage “regional drivers” from hopping off the freeway to save a few minutes on their commute.

Michigan neighborhood greenway-4

Noah Brimhall.

Swanson acknowledged the problem yesterday during an on-site meeting organized by Piedmont resident Noah Brimhall. “Right now we’re not solving the cut-through problem,” Swanson said, “We want to make this neighborhood confusing to the regional driver.” He also shared that he gets frequent complaints of speeding from Michigan Avenue residents. “I’m ready to implement Phase 2. I feel like we have to live up to the commitment we made on Rosa Parks.”

While that’s good news for the neighborhood greenway, there’s still some work to be done. Brimhall, a nearby resident who has taken up the cause of making the Michigan greenway nicer for cycling, created a presentation for PBOT that outlines several proposals for how to divert traffic. Brimhall and other Piedmont neighbors concerned about the auto traffic on Michigan have continued to pressure PBOT to make further changes.

Yesterday, Swanson said he was prepared to make some immediate changes to the Rosa Parks/Michigan intersection. His plan was to immediately extend the existing median using plastic, “candlestick” bollards and paint as a temporary, low-cost measure. However, after analyzing the traffic data and hearing Brimhall’s ideas, Swanson says he’ll also consider other measures.

Slide from Brimhall’s presentation showing proposed diverter treatments on Ainsworth.

A street-level view of Brimhall’s proposal for northbound Michigan at Ainsworth.

Brimhall says the goal is to make people in cars feel like guests when traveling on Michigan. He thinks (and Swanson agrees) the diversion should happen further south at Killingsworth, before people ever get to Rosa Parks Way. Brimhall’s proposal includes diverters at Killingsworth, Missouri, and Ainsworth. The idea is to push I-5 bound drivers east to N Albina, which is a larger, “neighborhood collector” street.

Swanson was very open to Brimhall’s ideas and plans to run them by PBOT staff and return to the neighborhood soon to begin implementing further changes. “I think there’s something here. The issue is, how do we not impact the adjacent neighbors.”

Stay tuned.

If you have feedback on this project, email Ross Swanson at

Small but important changes make North Michigan a better bikeway

Small but important changes make North Michigan a better bikeway

Making Michigan better for bikes-5

When it comes to making neighborhood streets nicer for bicycling, sometimes little things can make a huge difference. N. Michigan Avenue is a good example. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) began to make Michigan an official part of their neighborhood greenway network just over one year ago. The improvements have come slowly and in phases; but recent changes have made a significant difference.

I ride Michigan twice a day from Rosa Parks Way to Fremont so I know it well. With just speed bumps and sharrows, I didn’t notice a huge difference in the bicycling environment. But with new crossing improvements and a host of stop sign changes, it’s starting to really shine and become the efficient and safe bikeway it needs to be.

First, let’s look at the new crossings. PBOT has added striped crosswalks, signage, curb extensions and median islands at several high-volume intersections. At Rosa Parks and Alberta, I noticed cross-traffic goes much slower and is more likely to stop to let me cross because of the new medians. They’ve also installed yellow warning signs to let people know they should expect human-powered cross-traffic ahead.

Making Michigan better for bikes-1

Looking west on Rosa Parks at Michigan.

Making Michigan better for bikes-6

The combination of striped crosswalks and concrete medians leads to slower speeds and more people who stop to let you cross.
Making Michigan better for bikes-4

Looking east toward Michigan from Alberta St.

Crossings on Michigan have also been improved thanks to new curb extensions and ADA curb ramps. The curb extensions not only shorten the crossing distance for people on foot, they also narrow the roadway to encourage slower speeds. The rebuilt corners with new ADA ramps not only help folks with mobility devices (and pushing strollers), they also prevent people from parking cars all the way up to the curb. One of the most overlooked safety issues in Portland is when people park cars all the way to the corner. This severely limits the ability to see oncoming cross-traffic. I’ve noticed much more “daylighting” of corners and easier crossings thanks to the new ramps.

Making Michigan better for bikes-11

The other big change I noticed recently are the stop signs. One of the best things about PBOT’s Going St. neighborhood greenway is how you can ride without stopping for what feels like miles. The only stops are for larger/busier streets. Michigan had several annoying stop signs — including two on downhills, which are particularly cumbersome for people on bikes. I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago when I rolled down and the stop signs were gone!

At Prescott and Michigan, PBOT added a new stop sign (for south/eastbound traffic), but had the great wisdom to include an “Except Right Turn” sign below it. Yes, this is a little bit of Idaho Stop in north Portland…

Making Michigan better for bikes-9

Not only are there fewer stops on Michigan, but PBOT has added stops to cross streets. In several instances, they’ve added stop signs to what were previously uncontrolled intersections. Now cross-traffic must stop, while it’s smooth sailing on Michigan.

Making Michigan better for bikes-3

This used to be an uncontrolled intersection (without any stop signs).

PBOT project manager Ross Swanson said, “Stopping side street traffic where it intersects with Michigan encourages active transportation and improves safety.”

Swanson added that the work happening on Michigan is using PBOT’s full “toolbox of street improvements.” He shared that once the project is done, they’ll have installed 27 speed bumps (21 are already in) and changed the stop sign configurations at 17 intersections between Fremont and Bryant.

Still to come on Michigan are more pavement markings, wayfinding signs, and “sign toppers” (similar to ones on SE Clinton and Going streets) to identify the corridor as a neighborhood greenway.

Michigan connects to PBOT’s growing network of neighborhood greenways and each improvement and connection makes the entire network stronger. This program has been funded with about $1 million per year that was set-aside by former Mayor Sam Adams. It remains to be seen whether that funding survives the current budget process.

Learn more about PBOT’s neighborhood greenway work on their website.


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