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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 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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The post Two new traffic diverters installed on Ankeny and Mississippi appeared first on BikePortland.org.

The makeover continues: Speed bumps coming SE Clinton

The makeover continues: Speed bumps coming SE Clinton

Location of new speed bumps coming to Clinton Street.

Location of new speed bumps coming to Clinton Street.

In their ongoing effort to reclaim Southeast Clinton as a low-stress bikeway, the City of Portland will install new speed bumps this weekend.

According to sources at PBOT, the plan is to install five to seven new bumps that will be located between SE Cesar Chavez Blvd (39th) and SE 50th.







The bumps come nearly two years after people who use Clinton street began crying out for changes. A longtime bikeway, Clinton has seen a drastic increase in auto traffic in recent years. After a successful grassroots activism campaign led by BikeLoudPDX, the City of Portland launched a campaign of their own to tame the street. It included more enforcement, marketing and outreach, and most importantly, physical infrastructure that forces people in cars to divert onto other streets.

Speed bumps on a neighborhood greenway in north Portland.(Photo: J Maus/BikePortland)

Speed bumps on a neighborhood greenway in north Portland.
(Photo: J Maus/BikePortland)

PBOT’s traffic diverters at 17th and 32nd — along with a new lane configuration on 34th — are still being analyzed but they appear to be working. Many people who ride on the street say auto volumes are down and people are driving more slowly.

Each bump is estimated to cost around $1,000 to $1,500. Learn more about PBOT’s speed bump policy on their website.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Five months after Clinton diverters, most people who bike say it’s much improved

Five months after Clinton diverters, most people who bike say it’s much improved

inner diverter

A new diverter at SE 17th and Clinton, designed to reduce automotive through traffic on the major bike route. The other new diverter is at 32nd.
(Photos: M. Andersen/BikePortland)

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…

elizabeth williams

“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

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

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

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 thalen

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

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

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.”

tom kruger

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

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.





colleen mitchell

“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

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

Mary Allison had to hurry on, but first shared her take on Clinton post-diversion: “It’s great.”

matt radosevich

“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

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.”

larry smith

Larry Smith and Janna.

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.”

diverter 2

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 – michael@bikeportland.org

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A vision for traffic diverters at every neighborhood greenway crossing of a major street

A vision for traffic diverters at every neighborhood greenway crossing of a major street

greenways

Northeast Portland reimagined.
(Image: Terry Dublinski-Milton)

Let no one say that Terry Dublinski-Milton lacks vision.

The advocate for better neighborhood greenways — back in 2012, before he teamed up with BikeLoudPDX, the Southeast Uplift neighborhood coalition and other groups, he founded a niche greenway advocacy campaign called C.O.P.I.N.G. with Bikes — unveiled a map yesterday of what it’d look like if traffic diversion were required “at or near every greenway crossing of a neighborhood collector, corridor or civic corridor” in inner northeast Portland.

Neighborhood greenways are low-traffic, low-stress side streets, mostly developed in Vancouver BC and Portland, that have become the backbone of Portland’s biking network. The city has long used diverters to reduce auto traffic on a a street; last year it created formal guidlines for determining when to install a diverter to keep auto traffic on a neighborhood greenway below 2,000.

Dublinski-Milton — a man whose initials of “TDM” happen to stand for the concept of transportation demand management, “the application of strategies and policies to reduce travel demand, specifically that of single-occupancy private vehicles” — isn’t a fan of those guidelines. He feels they’ve given the city a rationale for not installing diverters when it could.







Mr. TDM(Photo: J Maus/BikePortland)

Mr. TDM
(Photo: J Maus/BikePortland)

Here’s how he explained the map on a Facebook post Thursday:

Key: Green=Greenways Yellow=Collector streets Purple=Neighborhood commercial corridors and Blue are the BIG corridors like Sandy or MLK.

The Solid green circles are built diverters or paths that act like ones. The open circles are diverters that would be built as part of the policy I was presenting on last night.

I am not only proud of my presentation….but look at the fucking cool map I made! It is only about a total of 100 diverters throughout the NE Coalition, but I think it would be a great start to building out a safe, and robust greenway system.

It’s a provocative concept for sure. Back in 2010, when the city started investing in neighborhood greenways in a big way, they were seen as the best way to start building the Bicycle Plan for 2030 because they were so noncontroversial. Once a greenway network was built, the theory went, there would be more people riding, and that would create the political support necessary to put protected bike lanes on major commercial streets, connecting the rest of the network.

Six years later, building out the neighborhood greenway network has stalled, though it could get a new boost of energy if next month’s gas tax passes. Recent bike counts suggest that (after several years’ delay) the greenway network may have finally started creating new bike users.

Dublinski-Milton definitely doesn’t oppose protected bike lanes on major commercial streets (which hasn’t made significant progress either) but he’s chosen to focus his activism on further improving the greenway network. If he could win supporters for that plan in city government and other institutions, that’d be an interesting and unexpected strategic shift for local bike advocacy — but not the first.

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

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Dueling petitions: NE 7th Avenue greenway supporters swamp 9th as council votes

Dueling petitions: NE 7th Avenue greenway supporters swamp 9th as council votes

7th 9th petitions

Take your pick.

The debate over the best route for a future NE 7th/9th neighborhood greenway is, for the moment, largely about appearances. But in this week’s battle for appearances, backers of a 7th Avenue route are definitely winning.

As we mentioned in Monday’s coverage of this issue, an anonymous supporter of a 9th Avenue route launched a petition on Sunday in which he or she suggested that a 7th Avenue route would send traffic spilling onto other small residential streets. As of this writing, it’s got 50 signatures.

Yesterday morning, resident Montse Shepherd started a competing petition in favor of a 7th Avenue route, itemizing 16 reasons for that route. 26 hours later, it’s drawn 368 signatures.

“To make routine bicycle commuting attractive for more people we need not just safe, but direct, fast, efficient, and smooth routes,” wrote Betsy Reese, a supporter of the 7th Avenue route. “I might meander along on NE 9th on a weekend ride, but a greenway on NE 7th is what would make commuting or running errands possible to routinely do by bicycle instead of by car.”

“As a father of 2 young children living on Brazee between MLK and 7th I strongly support this and see two important connected issues here: choosing a street for the north-south bike greenway and the second, more important, life-safety issue of the reduction of speed and volume of auto traffic on 7th,” wrote Collin Zimmerer-Mazza, another signer of the 7th Avenue petition.







Signatures have continued to trickle in for the 9th Avenue route too, though.

“While I recognize the need to improve the situation on 7th, I believe the proposal is well meaning but will create more problems,” wrote Eric Evans, who signed the 9th Avenue petition. “There is already significant cut-through traffic on at least NE 8th through NE 10th, with sometimes frightening speeds. Turning NE 7th into a dedicated bikeway will only worsen conditions on these neighborhood streets.”

“I don’t understand the 7th option,” wrote someone else who gave his name as Richard Nimby. “NE 9th is a win-win for everyone. The terrain is steeper on 9th, so that’s better for the cyclists’ health.”

The Portland City Council is scheduled to vote this afternoon on the first major decision related to this route: whether to designate 7th as the “planning-level” route south of Sumner Street, and 9th as the route north of Sumner.

Regardless of that vote, the city is a long way from actual implementation or funding of this project, so it could change. But today’s decisions — and this week’s petitions — will determine where public conversations about this project begin.

We’ll update this post when we learn what happens at council.

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

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NE 7th Avenue upgrades likelier, but diverter opponents are organizing too

NE 7th Avenue upgrades likelier, but diverter opponents are organizing too

close quarters on 7th

NE 7th Avenue is technically a local street, but it’s become heavily used by cars as an alternative to MLK.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Advocates for turning NE 7th Avenue into a low-stress neighborhood greenway scored a significant victory this month, but opponents of that change are pushing back.

The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission voted April 12 to shift the official designation of “major city bikeway” from 9th Avenue to 7th Avenue. That change that would line up with the possible 7th Avenue biking-walking bridge across Interstate 84. The 7th Avenue route would also save the city an estimated $1 million compared to 9th.

The downside is that making 7th Avenue comfortable to bike on, the way NE Going Street or SE Clinton Street are today, would probably require multiple traffic diverters on 7th. This would probably divert 7th Avenue auto traffic one block west to NE Martin Luther King Boulevard and, to a lesser extent, eight blocks east to 15th Avenue.

Screenshot 2016-03-15 at 4.56.48 PM

The streets between 7th and 15th wouldn’t be expected to see as much additional traffic because Irving Park and other irregularities break the street grid, and heavy east-west traffic on Fremont makes it difficult to cross in rush hour between 11th and 14th without lights or stop signs.

As we reported last month, neighborhood association officials and some other residents are strongly in favor of a 7th Avenue neighborhood greenway, in part because of the improved north-south biking connectivity and in part because 7th Avenue, officially designated to serve as a local street that gets traffic in the 1,000 to 3,000 range, currently carries something like 5,500 cars a day — including 400 northbound during the evening rush hour.

“My son is three,” said Nick Fox, a resident who said he drives regularly on 7th but would happily accept a diverter there for the sake of safety. “I’ve had people yell the F word at him. I’ve had people slam on their brakes as he crosses 7th. So he ended up stopping riding his bike for a while.”







Not all residents agree, though — in many cases, it seems, because they think the cars diverted from 7th would find ways to spill onto other streets despite the fractured grid.

“Closing NE 7th to traffic using diverters is irresponsible in this growing neighborhood,” wrote Estee Sigal on an online petition launched this week to oppose diverters on 7th Avenue and support a 9th Avenue route instead. “It will undoubtedly affect neighboring streets with increased traffic.”

Then there are the thousands of people who drive on 7th Avenue today — and also the unknown number of people who would choose to bike on 7th if it were improved for biking. Neither group is presumably aware of the possible changes.

Despite political challenges, 7th would be cheaper to build

7th traffic signal

The largest fiscal cost of neighborhood greenways is adding new traffic signals to cross busy streets. 7th Avenue already has them, like this one at Fremont.
(Image: Google Street View)

A “NE 7th/9th” neighborhood greenway is on the project list for safety improvements funded by the gas tax that arrives on Portlanders’ ballots this week. But the exact route is yet to be determined.

In favor of 9th Avenue is the direct connection to Irving Park and the fact that the park already functions as a natural diverter. But that route would require better pavement on 9th near Broadway, a new path through the park and new traffic signals or beacons to help cross Knott, Fremont, Prescott and Alberta.

7th Avenue is a straight north-south shot from Broadway to Sumner. It already has a four-way stop at Knott and signals at Fremont, Prescott and Alberta.

As of last month, the city’s rough project cost would be $1 million for a 7th Avenue greenway or $2 million for a greenway on 9th.

Another issue is that 7th Avenue is somewhat flatter:

Screenshot 2015-08-25 at 11.27.42 AM

than 9th:

Screenshot 2015-08-25 at 11.28.44 AM

Public testimony being accepted

Under the plan approved this month by the Planning and Sustainability Commission, the “major city bikeway” route on 7th heading north from the Lloyd District would jog at Sumner Street to 9th Avenue. It would then run north on 9th to connect to the existing east-west neighborhood greenway on Holman Street.

The PSC vote came despite a recommendation by city staff to retain 9th Avenue as the “major city bikeway” and designate 7th merely as a “city bikeway.” City spokesman Dylan Rivera said last week that the city had received “dozens” of comments on the subject, some in favor of 7th and some of 9th. Rivera didn’t fill requests to share the public input that supported 9th over 7th.

The Planning and Sustainability Commission’s April 12 vote is nonbinding on City Council, which will vote on this proposal among many others later this year as part of the city’s transportation system plan. (This won’t be part of the council vote on the citywide comprehensive plan, which will happen much sooner.)

Whatever happens at the city council, there’s still a possibility that a neighborhood greenway could run along either route. This planning-level decision is significant mostly because it would lend more rhetorical weight to whichever route gets the “major city bikeway” designation. Actual route decisions are a year or two away at the soonest.

To register thoughts on this issue, email cputestimony@portlandoregon.gov.

Update 4/27: Supporters of a 7th Avenue greenway have launched an online petition of their own.

Correction 11:45 pm: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said testimony on the issue would only be accepted until Wednesday.

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

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City launches web survey and open house for Ankeny diverter project

City launches web survey and open house for Ankeny diverter project

ankenylead

Detail of city plans for diversion at SE Ankeny and 15th. More detail here.

Portland’s mission to upgrade its first-generation bike boulevards into lower-stress neighborhood greenways is continuing.

With the trial diverters on Clinton Street’s neighborhood greenway in place working pretty well to control traffic volumes there, the city is now looking to reduce auto speeds and volumes on another important bikeway identified last year as being uncomfortable for people of all ages to bike on: Southeast Ankeny.

“As part of the proposed improvements, nine speedbumps will be installed, two speedbumps will be removed, a traffic diverter will be installed at 15th Avenue, and six stop signs will be re-oriented on Ash and Pine Streets,” the city says.

ankeny-map







We reported last month that the city was rebooting this project. It’ll be the first significant project for a new city engineer dedicated to small, flexible upgrades like this one.

The goal is to preserve car access to all points on Ankeny while preventing people from simply using Ankeny as a primary auto travel route during rush hour.

The city will discuss those proposals at an open house next week at Buckman Arts Focus Elementary School, 320 SE 16th Ave., from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27.

There’s also an online survey intended for people who either live or do business on Ankeny Street in the “project area” between 13th and 27th avenues. You can read more about the project on the city’s website.

Correction 2 pm: An earlier version of this post gave the wrong time for tonight’s open house.

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

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Troubled past, hopeful future for neighborhood greenways in northwest Portland

Troubled past, hopeful future for neighborhood greenways in northwest Portland

NW Portland Week - Day 1 ride-52.jpg

NW Raleigh was set-aside as a bike street by the City of Portland in 1999. Today it’s a neighborhood greenway in name only that has exceedingly high auto volumes and none of the safety features common in other parts of the city.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Part of NW Portland Week.

When you browse over to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s neighborhood greenways website and follow the links to the list of current projects you’ll see that northwest is the only one of the five quadrants that has this sad note next to it: “PBOT currently does not have any new neighborhood greenway projects in Northwest.”

It’s a stinging reminder that this part of the city, a place with so much cycling potential, still lacks one of Portland’s best tools for encouraging cycling by the “interested but concerned.”

When it comes to the state of neighborhood greenways in northwest Portland, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is that they’re nearly two decades old, in need of major upgrades, and are smack-dab in the middle of an auto-dominated and change-resistant part of town. The good news is that advocacy to change this dynamic is heating up, the City of Portland has acknowledged the problem, and they’re finally working to remedy the situation.

The history and context

greenways-nwmap-pbot

Neighborhood Greenway Map: City of Portland

There are six neighborhood greenways in northwest listed on the city’s official map: 24th, Johnson, Flanders, Overton, Marshall and Raleigh. Five of those were established in the late 1990s long before the idea of “neighborhood greenway” was even a twinkle in the eye of city planners. And NW Marshall became a bike street only in 2012 as part of a swap when the streetcar kicked the bike lane off of Lovejoy.

While these streets are listed on the map as such; they don’t really deserve the neighborhood greenway label. “Apart from a few sharrows (many of them faded), you’d never know they were neighborhood greenways,” wrote Northwest Portland resident Scott Kocher in an email to us last week. “This is greenway inflation. Someone put them on a map so we could say we have “X” miles of neighborhood greenways, but there’s no there there.”

I rode these streets yesterday and Kocher is right. It’s hard to tell you’re on a street where biking has priority:

NW Portland Week day 2-12.jpg

NW Marshall around 12th.
NW Portland Week day 2-13.jpg

NW Marshall west of I-405.
NW Portland Week day 2-37.jpg

NW Johnson and 16th.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation would use different language to say it, but they agree with Kocher. PBOT Bike Coordinator Roger Geller said in a presentation last year that the existing greenways in northwest are, “a real problem area.”

“The automobile volumes on Northwest neighborhood greenways are likely a contributing factor to the low number of bicycles and overall ridership in the area.”
— From PBOT Neighborhood Greenway Assessment Report (2015)

PBOT’s 2015 Neighborhood Greenway Assessment Report (PDF) also acknowledges the problem: “The automobile volumes on Northwest neighborhood greenways,” it reads, “are likely a contributing factor to the low number of bicycles and overall ridership in the area.”

Along with a lack of the typical features that make neighborhood greenways work in other parts of town like speed bumps, 20 mph speed limits, stop sign priority for bike riders, diverters, and crossing treatments, the problem with these streets is that they simply have too many people driving on them.

National guidelines for bicycle boulevards (another name for neighborhood greenways) say they should have 1,500 cars per day or less. According to PBOT’s report, all of the northwest Portland greenways have over 1,000 cars per day and more than two-thirds of them have over 1,500 cars per day. Greenways in every other quadrant have much lower auto volumes.

A lack of traffic diverters on northwest’s bike streets is likely to blame for the auto overuse. The only piece of traffic calming infrastructure in northwest’s entire neighborhood greenway network is at 10th and Marshall where PBOT installed a median and contraflow bike lane in 2012.

NW Portland Week day 2-9.jpg

The diverter at Marshall and 10th

To be fair to PBOT, back in the ’90s they didn’t have the understanding and data to analyze neighborhood greenways that they do now. Reza Farhoodi, a member of the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee and the co-chair of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association’s Planning and Transportation Committee says back then the city didn’t put much thought into where streets for cycling should go. “[They chose] whatever connected through. They didn’t put a whole lot of consideration into what the volumes and speeds would be.”

Thankfully things are changing. In the past year PBOT has made big strides in their neighborhood greenway program. After activists clamored for more diversion on inner SE Clinton Street PBOT responded with the assessment report and followed that up with significant infrastructure upgrades. The same future might be coming for northwest, but it won’t come easily.







The opportunities and challenges

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The always busy crossing of NW Johnson at 14th.

While northwest’s bike streets have huge biking upside, they also pose unique challenges.

NW Overton, the street many of our readers say is their preferred east-west route, is as an emergency response route. This means it’s unlikely PBOT will be able to add calming features like speed bumps or diverters. Because of that limitation, there’s momentum among neighborhood advocates and PBOT staff to move the greenway designation from Overton to Pettygrove.

Local resident and author of the Next Portland blog Iain Mackenzie said Pettygrove would be a natural fit for bikes because it has specific design standards that mandate wider sidewalks, less parking, larger trees, and so on. But this could take time because inner Pettygrove is awash in new development right now. “The sections that are complete are really pleasant,” Mackenzie says, “but the piecemeal nature of its development means it wont be finished for a few years.”

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View looking west on Pettygrove at 11th.
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Note this nice sidewalk and stormwater feature on Pettygrove.

Another issue in northwest is the lack of north-south bikeways. Of the six greenways on the city map today just one of them — NW 24th — runs north-south. Farhoodi, the neighborhood activist, says NW 9th should become a neighborhood greenway to provide a “backbone” for the existing east-west streets. “You could connect Naito, Overton, Marshall, Lovejoy, Johnson, and Hoyt.” He’d like to see a two-way path or cycle track on the east side of 9th.

It remains to be seen whether a plan like Farhoodi’s or even more modest changes likely to come from PBOT would be embraced or opposed by northwest neighborhoods. PBOT relies heavily on neighborhood support and endorsements to implement greenway projects. And unlike in other parts of town, greenways in northwest will go through both residential and commercial areas — which could make consensus even harder.

The future

greenways-recommendations-pbot

Help is on the way.
(Taken from PBOT’s Neighborhood Greenway Assessment Report)

The big news is that the wheels of change for northwest’s greenways are rolling. In their assessment report PBOT included “NW Greenways” as part of six neighborhood greenways that are “in need of operational improvements” to meet their guidelines.

“We will take a holistic approach in Northwest to figure out the strongest neighborhood network that we can deliver. As you like to say, ‘stay tuned…’”
— Greg Raisman, PBOT neighborhood greenways program manager

PBOT’s neighborhood greenway program manager Greg Raisman told us this week that three of those six projects are already underway (Clinton, Ankeny and NE Tillamook-Hancock). “We expect to address the NW Greenways… in the future and are currently seeking funding for these projects.”

Northwest’s neighborhood greenways also might get a boost thanks to the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission. Just yesterday the PSC voted to support a new “access and circulation study” for the Northwest District in the Transportation System Plan. That study will (among other things), “Consider street reconfigurations and improvements including pedestrian and bicycle safety and access, travel directions, travel lanes, traffic control, and transit mobility and circulation.”

If new plans make your eyes glaze over (I don’t blame you), consider this: PBOT has recently hired a new staffer specifically to deliver small capital improvement projects like the speed bumps, median islands, and diverters that make greenways tick. Her name is Sheila Parrot and she’s already working with neighborhoods in southeast Portland to upgrade SE Ankeny.

As to whether PBOT can deliver those type of infrastructure upgrades to its bike streets in northwest, here’s how Raisman responded when I asked him that question earlier this week. “These will all be important questions when we begin conversations with the neighborhoods. We will take a holistic approach in Northwest to figure out the strongest neighborhood network that we can deliver. As you like to say, ‘stay tuned…’”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Northeast Portlanders call enthusiastically for traffic diverters, greenway on 7th Avenue

Northeast Portlanders call enthusiastically for traffic diverters, greenway on 7th Avenue

close quarters on 7th

NE 7th Avenue is technically a local street, but it’s become
heavily used by cars as an alternative to MLK.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A roomful of inner Northeast Portland residents gave an “overwhelming” thumbs-up Monday night to a plan to eventually turn Northeast 7th Avenue into a low-traffic neighborhood greenway between Alberta and Broadway.

That’d vastly improve the bike network just west of Alameda Ridge, but require traffic diverters that would send thousands of vehicles a day to other nearby streets, probably Martin Luther King Boulevard and 15th Avenue.

“Pretty much every organization that’s weighed in has stated that 7th is the preferred greenway.”
— Steve Cole, president of Irvington Community Association

That was the summary of Zef Wagner, the city transportation planner who’d called Monday’s meeting at the St Philip the Deacon church.

Wagner asked for the meeting after the Irvington, Eliot and King neighborhood associations all sent letters to the city urging it not to de-designate 7th Avenue as a future bikeway.

If city voters pass a ten-cent gas tax in May, a “7th/9th bikeway” would be planned in the next four years, but the exact route is uncertain. Wagner said that at his recommendation, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick is already planning to recommend keeping 7th Avenue as a possible bike route south of Skidmore (in addition to 9th) and to use 9th Avenue north of Skidmore.

But after hearing one resident after another testify Monday that 7th Avenue was far overcrowded with cars and was in any case a much better bike route, Wagner said he might suggest that Novick retain 7th as a possible route north of Skidmore, too.

Screenshot 2016-03-15 at 4.56.48 PM

Thanks in part to a huge spike in northbound traffic during the evening rush hour, 7th Avenue currently carries about 5,500 cars a day, almost twice the city’s target for the “local street” that it technically is. During other hours, residents said, northbound traffic using it as an alternative to Martin Luther King Boulevard (which is three blocks east) often speeds up the street.

“We’ve had people miss the turnabout and drive down our sidewalk like they were still on the street, at 25 mph,” said Brooke Cabatic.

In the last few years, Jereme Grzybowski said, traffic “has grown tremendously, to a crisis level.”

“You get on 7th and you can fly,” he said. “You can go uninterrupted.”

“It’s a throughway,” said Jay Hoover, saying he was uncomfortable just going down his driveway on a bicycle.

“At every single interesection there’s been accidents and there’s children crossing the street,” said Montserrat Shepherd.

“My son is three,” said Nick Fox. “I’ve had people yell the F word at him. I’ve had people slam on their brakes as he crosses 7th. So he ended up stopping riding his bike for a while.”

Fox was one of several attendees who said he would eagerly support one or more traffic diverters on the street.

“I’m really happy to hear you talking about diversion on 7th,” Fox said. “I’d be happy when I drive, which I do most days a week, to go out of my way if it made it safer.”

That prompted a round of applause from many of the three dozen or so people present.





Steve Cole, president of the Irvington Community Association, said he didn’t understand why the city is considering 9th Avenue at all.

“Pretty much every organization that’s weighed in has stated that 7th is the preferred greenway,” Cole said. “If you were to turn 9th into a greenway, you’d still have a problem with traffic and pedestrians on 7th.”

Cole noted that a 7th Avenue greenway project also has the virtue of being much cheaper: about $1 million, compared to $2 million for 9th. That’s mostly because 7th Avenue already has stoplights at major streets.

Many residents were uneasy about which other streets traffic might divert to. But because of the many interruptions and jogs on the nearby street grid, Wagner pointed out, adding traffic diverters to 7th would probably push non-local car traffic west to Martin Luther King Boulevard or east to 15th.

Allan Rudwick pointed out that the city already has a plan in the works to upgrade the signals on MLK Boulevard. Wagner confirmed that this might increase the auto capacity of MLK, offsetting some of the delay caused by diverting several hundred cars from 7th during the evening rush hour.

“Adding several hundred cars to MLK during the pm peak hour would definitely cause problems,” Wagner said. “Are we willing to accept the backlash from people having to take MLK that don’t now?”

Another relevant issue: access to businesses. Wagner said he’d be interested to hear from the businesses around 7th and Knott.

Emily Guise, one of the co-chairs of BikeLoudPDX, also attended the meeting.

“I am really excited about this project,” she said. “Our group fully supports this. We think it would help with congestion, livability and affordability in general.”

Another resident, Andrew Neerman, said he too is enthusiastic about the potential for a 7th Avenue bikeway.

“This is a chance to do something that is really truly platinum and world-class,” he said.

Joseph Albert agreed.

“It’s not 7th vs 8th vs 9th vs MLK — we just have too many cars,” Albert said. “Making the corridor be an effective bicycle commuting corridor is going to reduce the number of cars.”

That comment led to applause, too.

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

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City reboots plan for SE Ankeny traffic diverter, preps for others

City reboots plan for SE Ankeny traffic diverter, preps for others

ankenylead

The corner of Southeast Ankeny at 15th. The Imago Dei church is on the left.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

After about a year on hold, proposed improvements to a much-used neighborhood greenway are back in action.

City project manager Sheila Parrott will meet March 10 with the Buckman Neighborhood Association to discuss the need for speed bumps and a new traffic diverter to reduce auto speeds and volumes in inner SE Ankeny Street.

“Much like Clinton, we kind of know we’re going to be looking at diversion, but there’s still a lot of conversation that needs to happen: where and what and how.”
— Margi Bradway, PBOT Active Transportation Division Manager

As we reported in late 2014, the city began discussing a diverter at Ankeny and 15th, near the Imago Dei church, after activist group BikeLoudPDX called for one and the Buckman Community Association tentatively backed them up.

Early last year, that plan was put on ice until after the city could complete a full study of traffic speeds and volumes on its 70-mile neighborhood greenway network. That study, which was unanimously endorsed by the city council, named Ankeny as one of the top six candidates for improvement.

Ankeny draws more than 2,000 autos per day on its innermost stretch, west of SE 7th Avenue. Between SE 28th and 15th, it’s common for autos to move at 26 to 30 mph. That’s 6 to 10 mph over the speed limit.

auto speeds

Observed traffic speeds on the city’s neighborhood greenway system.

The “Burnside Corridor Bikeway,” which runs on Ankeny, Couch, Davis and Everett, is the city’s third-most biked greenway, after Lincoln-Harrison and Clinton-Woodward.

On parts of the corridor, bike traffic outnumbers auto traffic. Ankeny carries 2,115 bike trips per day at 28th, the city says.

City hires new project manager to specialize in small projects like this

SE Clinton traffic diversion project-16The first draft of a trial traffic diverter at 32nd and Clinton.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Active Transportation Manager Margi Bradway said in an interview Monday that the Ankeny project will draw on last year’s process for improving Clinton Street, where two trial diverters are now in place.

“Much like Clinton, we kind of know we’re going to be looking at diversion, but there’s still a lot of conversation that needs to happen: where and what and how,” Bradway said. “This is the next one in line. And for each of these, we promised City Council that we would implement the recommended neighborhood greenway report, but we also promised city council that each neighborhood association would have an opportunity to weigh in on the design.”

Bradway said the “draft proposal” would add the diverter at 15th, but she added that its location and design is flexible — the goal is to reduce auto volumes and speeds one way or another.





Bradway added that she’s excited to welcome Parrott to her team. The city’s new project manager, who has a civil engineering degree, is a recent hire from Eureka, Calif., where she specialized in building the biking network.

In Portland, Parrott will work on relatively quick, low-cost biking and walking improvements that will be installed by in-house workers.

That’s in contrast to recent projects such as the Clinton Street improvements. To get that project done, Bradway needed to secure time and buy-in from people in another unit, the city’s “capital projects” team.

“We needed someone solely focused on these smaller projects to get them out the door, and our capital projects group is really busy,” Bradway explained.

Parrott will be part of the active transportation group and report to Bradway. In the 2016-2017 budget, the group is lined up for an allowance bump of at least $200,000 per year of installation dollars for improvements to streets like Ankeny.

According to Bradway, the installation cost of a single permanent diverter comes to about $30,000. “Diverters are pretty cheap,” she said.

If you’re interested in supporting this project and want to get involved, BikeLoud has already organized a “Safer Ankeny Subgroup” and is planning a meeting on the subject this Saturday at noon at the 28th/Ankeny food carts. (Or the Crema coffee shop in case of bad weather.)

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

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Correction 11 am: A previous version of this post inaccurately said speed bumps had already been installed on Clinton Street.

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