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Safety advocates uneasy about striping bike lane across Steel Bridge onramp

Safety advocates uneasy about striping bike lane across Steel Bridge onramp

naito davis couch

New striping near the Steel Bridge at Naito will be done in the next few days.
(Image: Portland Bureau of Transportation)

Safety advocates are trying to balance enthusiasm for the city’s newly announced Naito bike lanes with concern over one key detail.

After nine years of delay, the plan to close the “Naito Gap” in the next few days drew joy from people like Reza Farhoodi, planning and transportation committee co-chair at the Pearl District Neighborhood Association and a member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. But Farhoodi said it would be a “terrible mistake” for the city not to use a right-turn arrow signal to protect bikes from right-turning autos as the bikes head north across the Steel Bridge onramp.

Today, Naito’s northbound bike lane ends immediately south of the onramp. It starts up again 1,500 feet to the northwest. As we reported yesterday, converting a passing lane to a wide buffered bike lane in each direction will create a major new bike route between northwest Portland, the Willamette River and downtown. It could easily carry 1,000 bikes a day within a few years.

But Naito’s onramp to the Steel Bridge at Davis carries 450 to 500 cars during the peak hour alone, all of them making a shallow-angle turn across a bike lane in which people will mostly be heading straight.

“Putting an unprotected right turn lane to the left of a bicycle lane is substandard practice and just puts cyclists at risk of right hook collisions,” Farhoodi said in an email Thursday morning. “There is a reason why practitioners almost never use this design.”

(Farhoodi, whose day job is with an active transportation planning firm that often competes for city contracts, softened his judgment somewhat in later emails, after continuing to learn about the situation — see below.)

A signal would at least triple project cost, city says

The high-traffic right-turn on N Broadway at Williams, installed in 2010, uses red arrows and a bike signal phase.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Each of the two northbound lanes on Naito already has its own hanging signal here, and the city’s plan would convert the rightmost lane to a right-turn-only lane. So why not create a bike-specific signal phase, like the one that prevents right hooks across the river at NE Williams and Broadway?

Portland Bureau of Transportation staff said Thursday that though delay from a new signal phase might risk causing southbound traffic to back up across the railroad tracks, the “major” obstacle to a protected signal phase here is money.

The Naito project, PBOT spokeswoman Hannah Schafer said, is funded through the bureau’s “Missing Links” program, which has an annual budget of $75,000. Most “Missing Links” projects cost $5,000 to $10,000; Shafer said restriping the newly repaved roadway will cost $15,000 (with Missing Links covering the full expense). A signal would bring the total cost to $45,000 or so in a “best case” scenario, she said.

The additional $30,000 would include “a bike signal and right turn only signal including all labor, materials, engineering, traffic control, and a structural analysis of the existing mast arm pole on the north side of the intersection,” she said.

“Missing Links never pays for signals,” PBOT project manager Scott Cohen said. “It just doesn’t happen.”

A mixing zone is possible but would have problems too

perceived intersection safety annotated

A 2013 study by Portland State University found that many people riding in protected bike lanes feel unsafe mixing with autos at turn lanes.
(Image: PeopleForBikes)

Portland Bureau of Transportation engineer Mark Haines argued that the striping proposed for Naito wouldn’t make the situation worse. He noted that there is an uphill grade to Naito at this point, making it less likely that people biking will overtake people in turning cars.

“I this case I think cyclists and drivers can work together at lower speeds,” he said. “And ultimately I think it’s the driver’s responsibility to yield.”

Though turning vehicles must always yield to vehicles that are moving straight, many Oregon drivers don’t realize that this applies to bike lanes, too. The city’s Naito plan calls for a zebra-striped green crossbike across the intersection, plus a new sign reminding people to yield to bikes before turning.

Another complication: this project is only happening at all because Naito has just been repaved north of Davis.

“We saw the fresh pavement, decided this was the moment,” Schafer said.







The new asphalt starts immediately north of the onramp — meaning that any striping changes next to or south of the onramp would require costly stripe removal work.

Despite that, Haines said the city considered a green bike box, a mixing zone that would prompt bikes and turning cars to negotiate their way into the same lane, or markings to move the bike lane to the left of the right-turn lane, like the one at Naito and Morrison.

But because any variety of mixing zone would be so busy with right-turning cars, Haines said, “that would be very unhelpful for some people too.”

If people feel the new bike crossing is unsafe, Haines said, they can choose to move into the center of a general travel lane with their bike and go straight across the intersection. (There’s an exemption for this situation in the Oregon law that requires people biking to use a bike lane if present.)

Haines also noted that thanks to the new right-turn lane, people biking will at least have more certainty that any car in the right lane is going to turn.

City and advocates hope for more funding soon

steel onramp

Looking north on Naito at Davis.
(Image: Google Street View)

Biking advocates said Thursday that though they understand the city’s position, they would like to see more changes as soon as possible. Here’s how Farhoodi put it later Thursday, after learning more about the city’s reasoning:

I trust the professional judgment of PBOT staff, but think that they will receive a lot of negative feedback about a design that many people perceive to be unsafe because it manufactures conflict. For me, my major concern is that this could give cyclists a false sense of security compared to a design that drops the bicycle lane in favor of a shared turning/bike lane for a short stretch. Neither of these are preferable to a protected turn signal, but that’s the reality of the funding situation right now.

But we’ve waited too long to close the Naito Gap to rethink it now, and there is also the “safety in numbers” argument that closing the gap will increase bicycle volumes on Naito as a result of improved connectivity. In any case, I sincerely hope that PBOT’s proposed design will be safe for all users, and that they will revisit this location soon when more funding is available, perhaps with the upcoming Central City Multimodal Safety Project.

Here’s Sarah Newsum, a spokeswoman for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance:

In a confusing intersection, such as the one at NW Davis and Naito, we will always advocate for physical separation and signal differentiation. Ideally coupled with a bike box and “No right turn on red” signs. We’d like to see this intersection mirror that of NE Broadway and N Williams, with a separate advanced signal for people riding bikes. Signs telling people driving to watch out for bikes do not provide the necessary clarity or safety for any road user. …

The striping plan isn’t necessarily making that intersection less safe than its current design, however, additional traffic on the street will bring a potential increase in conflicts.

And Ian Stude, chair of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, in response to a question about a red-turn arrow:

• Very excited to see this gap completed!
• Red turn arrow you suggest would provide some added protection for riders, but a red turn arrow does not prohibit a turn on red, so it would need to accompanied by a “no turn on red” designation as well.
• My suggestion for reducing potential right hook conflicts would be to use the space between Couch and Davis to create a merge point, moving the bike lane to the left of the turn lane prior to the intersection at Davis.

Schafer, Cohen and Haines said they expect the work to go ahead as planned in the next few days. They hope the street can be further improved in the future.

“We’ve actually been able to make some pretty big impacts for people,” Schafer said. “I think this is the first phase of what we hope to be additional improvements to come. … As always, we will be monitoring this area closely after the striping is complete. The safety of Portland’s road users is the bureau’s highest priority.”

“Maybe with the permanent Better Naito, if that ever gets budgeted again,” Haines added. “We’re hopeful that it will.”

Correction 12:35 pm: An earlier version of this post gave the wrong estimated cost for a combined restriping/signalization project.

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

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City weighs parking rule for NW that could block a fifth of new homes

City weighs parking rule for NW that could block a fifth of new homes

~1950 Pettygrove.

The Tess O’Brien Apartments on NW 19th and Pettygrove, built with no on-site parking, are the largest project that would have been illegal under a proposal going before city council tomorrow.
(Photo: Ted Timmons)

Portland’s City Council will meet Wednesday to consider a new mandatory parking requirement that, if it had existed for the last eight years, would have illegalized 23 percent of the new housing supply in northwest Portland during the period.

The Tess O’Brien Apartments, a 126-unit project that starts pre-leasing next week and will offer some of the cheapest new market-rate housing in northwest Portland, couldn’t have been built if they’d been required to have 42 on-site parking spaces, its developer said in an interview.

“Do the math,” Martin Kehoe of Portland LEEDS Living said Friday. “The apartments at the Tess O’Brien are between $1250 and $1400 a month. If we were required to build parking, you’d be between $1800 and $2000 a month. … It probably just wouldn’t have been built. And then what’s that going to do to the existing project that’s out there and has been built? It’s just going to drive the rents of those up.”

Kehoe said the Tess O’Brien units, which average 330 square feet, are intended for people who don’t own cars.

“We’ve got free bike parking rooms, you’re a block off the bus, you’re a block off streetcar, you’ve got access to Uber whenever you want it,” he said. “People who move into these apartments … they don’t have cars.”

The proposal up for debate on Wednesday would apply the same rule to the Northwest District, immediately west of Interstate 405, that applies in other neighborhoods outside the central city: buildings with 31 to 40 homes would need at least one parking space for every five units. Buildings with 41 to 50 homes would need one space for every four units. Buildings with 51 or more homes would need one space for every three units.

Mandatory parking minimums would have driven up the construction cost of 305 new homes built in northwest Portland since 2008.

Including the Tess O’Brien Apartments, those mandatory parking minimums would have driven up the construction cost of 305 new homes built in northwest Portland since 2008, city data show, potentially by enough to kill the five new buildings in question. That’s 23 percent of the 1,339 units that were added to northwest by buildings of 10 or more units.

For comparison’s sake, if those 305 new no-parking homes were in a single building, it would have been the sixth largest built in Portland since at least 2000. The largest new building in the Lloyd District, for example, added 337 units to the city’s housing supply.

But most new homes in northwest Portland are in buildings where developers opted to build more than the minimum amount of parking, usually much more, suggesting that new no-parking buildings are a niche market in the Northwest District.

‘We certainly should have the option of no parking’

nw portland new units

Buildings marked in orange would have been illegal under the proposed new rule.
(Data: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Chart: BikePortland.)

Portland rental vacancy rates have been below 5 percent since 2008. Last year, monthly rent in the average apartment rose $100, with hikes concentrated mostly in older units. In April, the local Barry Apartment Construction Report saw housing supply finally keeping up with demand (a trend confirmed by May Census figures) but still not increasing fast enough for a significant rise in vacancies.

Local home purchase prices, too, have been rising at the fastest rates in the nation.

“It won’t end until we have more balance between supply and demand in the housing market,” University of Oregon economist Tim Duy told The Oregonian last week.

“Demand is severely outpacing supply,” the news report said.

Margot Black, an organizer for the advocacy group Portland Tenants United speaking for herself, said in an interview Monday that she’d spoken with Portland Commissioner Steve Novick last week to oppose new parking minimums in northwest.

“Right now, we should not be doing anything that restricts supply and increases prices,” said Black. “We certainly should have the option of no parking if that means we could have more units at a lower price.”

Parking advisory committee: Every building brings more cars

2018 nw everett 1910 9-20

2018 NW Everett Street.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The proposal to bring parking minimums to the Northwest District comes from the volunteer Northwest Portland Parking Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

“At least half of our committee did not use to support parking minimums,” said Rick Michaelson, who chairs that committee and supports minimums. “We see that the transit system has not expanded rapidly.”

Michaelson said that even in the Footprint apartments, another 50-unit microapartment building in northwest, 16 units have signed up for street parking permits.

“We’re going to see a minimum of 30 percent even for these microapartments,” he said. “We think it’s a fairness issue. We think we need as many opportunities to get the system in balance and make sure that everybody contributes to the parking infrastructure.”

“9700 parking permits have been issued that are competing for the 4100 spaces.”
— Karen Karlsson, NW Portland Parking Stakeholder Advisory Committee

Michaelson predicted that city rates for street parking will go up, which will lead to more demand for off-street parking in the future. He also said a project similar to Tess O’Brien might have penciled out even with 42 on-site parking spaces.

“Some developers are choosing to have parking without affecting the bottom line,” he said.

Michaelson said his committee had discussed other ideas for affordability such as not counting below-market-rate units toward a building’s total, or exempting buildings that offer free TriMet passes to residents.

Karen Karlsson, who also serves on the committee, said her “bottom line” is that “9700 parking permits have been issued that are competing for the 4100 spaces.”

“We really need to find a way to help balance the supply and reduce the demand,” she said. “We need every tool that we can get.”







Council will hold hearing Wednesday and may vote

Portland City Council

Portland City Council: Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Charlie Hales, Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Commissioner Steve Novick said Friday that because he assumes “markets operate like markets,” requiring on-site parking in buildings in transit-oriented neighborhoods does tend to drive up housing costs by reducing the supply of new housing.

But Novick said he is considering support for a new parking minimum anyway, at least in the short term, because minimums already exist in most of the city.

“I generally am not excited about constructing lots of new parking,” Novick said. “I don’t think we should continue to build society around the car if we are going to take our climate goals seriously. [But] I am much more sympathetic when folks come from a neighborhood that has meters, has a permit system, has a fair amount of density, and say ‘Hey, we want to be treated the way other folks are treated.’”

The central city, which includes the Pearl District in inner northwest, doesn’t have parking minimums. As in northwest, developers there usually opt to include on-site parking as an amenity for residents who choose to pay extra for it.

Most of the buildings that define northwest Portland were built before the city’s first parking requirements.

But many older apartments and condos in northwest Portland, maybe even most of them, have zero on-site parking. That’s because most of the buildings that define northwest Portland were built before the city’s first parking requirements, which probably date to the 1950s.

In fact, one older apartment building in the district without on-site parking belongs to Michaelson’s real estate company.

For the second half of the 20th century, most new apartment and condo buildings in Portland had garages or parking lots attached. In 2000 the city council, led by then-Commissioner Charlie Hales, eliminated parking minimums for units close to frequent-service transit lines. Starting in 2008, as Portland’s rents began their recent climb, some developers began to secure loans for buildings without on-site parking.

In most of those buildings around Portland’s east side, half or more of households in the no-parking buildings owned at least one car. That meant parking spillover, which led to a backlash from some neighbors.

In 2013, Hales (newly elected as mayor) led approval of what he described as a stopgap measure to require parking at most new buildings of 30 units or more, even if they were within a block of a frequent transit line. But there was one exception: the Northwest District, which was already in the midst of a parking reform program.

Demand-based parking group organizing opposition to rule

park avenue west

Parking excavation beneath the future Park Avenue West tower downtown.
(Photo: GRI.com)

In the three years when many apartment buildings in Portland were being constructed without parking, from 2011 through 2013, average construction costs per apartment fell even though construction costs for other units didn’t.

Then, after parking minimums were reinstated for most transit-oriented buildings in 2013, average construction costs per apartment shot back up even though construction costs for other units didn’t.

Tony Jordan of the group PDX Shoupistas, which advocates for demand-based parking policy, found that the number of buildings going up in Portland with exactly 30 units — the maximum size a transit-oriented building can be in most of the city without triggering parking minimums — is apparently about to soar. There are currently 14 such buildings in development, he calculated last week.

According to city permit data obtained by BikePortland under state open records rules, that compares to eight such buildings over the last 15 years.

Jordan is organizing people to contact the city council Tuesday and/or testify on Wednesday to oppose new minimums.

“In times like this, proposals which curtail the supply of new housing and increase rents should be dead on arrival,” Jordan wrote Monday. “A vote for minimum parking requirements is a vote to make the housing crisis worse.”

Novick says citywide reform is an option, but not yet

housing+construction+ankeny

New homes on Southeast Ankeny Street, built with an on-site garage.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

In an interview Friday, Joan Frederiksen of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability said the city staff does not see a “tradeoff” between space for parking and space for people.

“I wouldn’t use the word tradeoff,” she said. “I think it’s more about balancing. … With this project we are echoing the direction council provided back in 2013, finding that balance between parking and affordability.”

Matt Grumm, a senior policy manager for Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman, put things differently.

“There’s no doubt that these are tradeoffs,” he said. “Parking minimums potentially increase the cost of that housing.”

Grumm said his boss would “wait for the hearing” before deciding how to vote but suggested that maybe developers who opt to include below-market-rate units in their buildings should get a break on parking requirements.

“It’ll be interesting to see if that gets any traction,” he said.

In an email last week, Hales spokeswoman Sara Hottman said the mayor supports the proposal to “extend the City’s minimum parking requirements to the Northwest Plan district.”

There are two other votes on the council: Nick Fish, who proposed the 2013 parking minimums that were passed into code, and Amanda Fritz.

Both Novick and Frederiksen suggested that the city might consider amending its citywide parking minimums at some point in the future.

“Even if we wind up applying parking minimums in northwest next week, I’m really encouraged that I’ve been hearing people opposing parking minimums,” Novick said. “Once we have those new tools available, one option is to revisit the parking minimum requirements throughout the city.”

Novick didn’t respond to a question about when the council is likely to consider his proposal that would let neighborhoods create their own parking permit districts.

Eudaly: “We must start decreasing our reliance on the personal automobile”

NW Portland Week - Day 5-24.jpg

Parking outside the Clearing Cafe on NW Thurman.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Chloe Eudaly, who is running on a housing-affordability platform to replace Novick on the city council, said in an email Monday that she opposes new minimums:

Portland is going through growing pains right now and traffic congestion and parking are high on the list of concerns, but what’s even higher is housing affordability. So when we’re talking about a policy that would increase the cost of housing and decrease the number of units built, such as minimum parking standards for new multi-family developments, we need to consider our options and their impacts very carefully.

I respect the work of the NW Parking SAC, as an almost 20-year former resident of NW Portland I know what a headache parking has become in the area, but I don’t support their proposal of a blanket minimum parking standard for all new multi-dwelling developments of more than 30 units. Knowing that these spaces are likely to be underutilized in many developments and that we must start decreasing our reliance on the personal automobile, I believe we can and must come up with a more nuanced approach, especially in a neighborhood that is so central, dense, and transit-friendly (many NW residents live within 10 blocks of the street car, Max, AND a bus line).

Instead of requiring more parking space, Eudaly suggested requiring developers to offer bus passes, bike-share or car-share memberships, creating shared parking options, and raising on-street permit prices “to more closely reflect the actual cost of providing street parking.”

Other options she suggested included shared parking garages and a “live where you work” program. She, too, suggested a parking exemption for developers that include below-market-rate units.

Black, the tenants organizer, said Portland is facing a difficult transition away from a “small town” where most trips happen by car and most homes have private yards, driveways and “a picket fence.”

“It’s great if you got it, but it’s mathematically impossible for all of us to have it,” she said. “I see Portland really struggling to make this shift into a city from this small-town feel. … We need to shepherd Portland through that paradigm shift.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org. The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here.

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State will likely fund Flanders Crossing of 405, spurring thousands of bike trips in NW

State will likely fund Flanders Crossing of 405, spurring thousands of bike trips in NW

flanders bridge span

The long-proposed span would connect downtown Portland and the Pearl District with the Northwest District.
(Photos: M. Andersen/BikePortland)

A new biking-walking bridge across Interstate 405 at Northwest Flanders has probably made the cut for funding, a state official said Wednesday.

The approximately 250-foot-long, 24-foot-wide bridge would become by far the most comfortable crossing of Interstate 405, an alternative to the existing crossings at Everett, Glisan and Couch. Paired with a proposed neighborhood greenway on Flanders from the Steel Bridge west to 24th Avenue, the span is expected to carry 9,100 trips per day.

That figure, which includes both biking and walking trips, is higher than the summertime bike counts across the Hawthorne Bridge and about five times the daily bike ridership so far on Tilikum Crossing.

X Section C-2

A possible cross-section for the 24-foot-wide bridge.
(Image: Portland Bureau of Transportation)

We wrote yesterday that the bridge would be an important connection for Biketown riders in part of the city that is about to become one of North America’s best-served neighborhoods for public bike sharing.

Barring unforseen events, construction of the new bridge could begin in April 2018 and finish by May 2019.

Final statewide committee scored bridge highly

pbotbridge2

The bridge would require new crossings of NW 16th and 15th avenues.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has pledged $3 million of its revenue from development fees for the crossing. It’s been looking to the state’s lottery-funded Connect Oregon program for the remaining $2.9 million.

In March, a committee of biking-walking experts from around the state ranked Flanders Crossing third of 22 such projects statewide. But in May, a Portland-area committee scored it more poorly, leaving its fate largely up to Connect Oregon’s final review committee, which met Tuesday to create a scoring of its own.

Oregon Department of Transportation staffer Scott Turnoy, the staffer managing Connect Oregon, said Wednesday that the final review committee had scored Flanders “in the top half” of projects and that it would likely make the cut for state funding.







“I was a bit surprised and very happy,” said Aaron Deas, a lobbyist for TriMet who represented transit interests on the final review committee, in a text message Wednesday. “What was surprising about the Flanders bridge was that there were no questions, even with the big price tag. But it did rank highly.”

The Oregon Transportation Commission must still make the final funding decision at its July 21 meeting. But barring an unexpected turn of events, that board is likely to defer to the Connect Oregon committee’s list.

Turnoy said he couldn’t release the final review committee’s full ranking yet and wouldn’t know until tomorrow when it’ll be made public. Also competing for funds are a fix for the Naito Gap in inner northwest Portland and trail segments in southwest Portland, Wilsonville, Milwaukie, Gresham and Tigard.

If it’s funded as expected by the Oregon Transportation Commission, Flanders Crossing will be Portland’s biggest payoff yet from a state law, unexpectedly won by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in 2013, that made biking and walking projects eligible for the Connect Oregon program.

Project drew endorsements from many nearby employers

coming office space

A nearby billboard for a new real estate development.

City transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera called the apparent success of the bridge a “game-changing boost” for biking in northwest Portland, which has been rapidly adding both jobs and homes.

“Every week we read another report of a tech company moving to the downtown area saying bike lanes, food carts and public transit service are a key reason they can attract talented people.”
— Dylan Rivera, Portland Bureau of Transportation

“Every week we read another report of a tech company moving to the downtown area saying bike lanes, food carts and public transit service are a key reason they can attract talented people,” Rivera said. “We think that’s a testament to the investment Portland has made over the decades to bike access.”

To support its application to Connect Oregon, which has a mandate to invest in non-automotive projects that grow the state’s economy, the city transportation bureau gathered letters of support from nearby employers like Vestas, Gerding Edlen and Airbnb.

The city also had to overcome comments from state staffers, who observed that the city has a backlog of transportation projects funded by the state and Metro but not yet on the ground. Those comments prompted a response letter from Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat, who said the city would be able to start work promptly on Flanders Crossing.

“We’d like to thank the statewide bike-ped committee for their deep understanding of the importance of key active transportation investments in Portland that can benefit the entire state,” Rivera said Wednesday. “This is a testament to the strong business support for bicycling in Portland and the importance of bike access to grow our economy in the coming decades.”

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

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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.

Thank you for helping us make NW Portland Week a success!

Thank you for helping us make NW Portland Week a success!

Get Together NW Portland Week-10.jpg

Some of the crowd at our Get Together on Friday.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

20 stories, hundreds of images and many new friends and discoveries made for a highly successful NW Portland Week. Thank you for reading and contributing (I think the comment threads were as interesting and valuable as our reporting). And a special thanks goes to our 250 subscribers. Their monthly payments are what make these special reporting projects possible.

So, what did we learn?

We learned that northwest Portland has more potential when it comes to bike access investments than any other part of the city. And if you think those investments would only target “the rich” you might want to read Michael’s excellent story that debunked that myth.

Spending a week on our bikes in northwest also made it clear that this part of our city is growing rapidly. At times it felt like I couldn’t bike more than a few blocks without seeing chain-link fences and construction equipment. New office, retail and residential buildings are popping up everywhere from the already-dense inner Pearl District to the former industrial lots out on NW Naito.

It’s imperative that we get this growth right. We did it right once before 100 years ago during the northwest’s first apartment boom and now we’re getting a second chance.







The bad news is that if too many of these new residents hop in their cars the streets won’t work for anyone. The good news is that after over 15 years of neglect the City of Portland is finally poised to invest in more bike-friendly streets throughout the quadrant. And there’s one marquee project — the new Flanders Bridge — that could really move the needle.

With new greenways and (hopefully) a new crossing of I-405 at Flanders, all the beautiful people who bike to and from northwest will be much safer and happier.

Speaking of being happy, we had a great time capping off the week at our Get Together on Friday. It was fun to meet readers who followed the coverage and wanted to talk with other northwest Portland riders. Thanks to Corsa Cafe and Western Bikeworks for hosting. Here are a few more photos from the event…

Get Together NW Portland Week-9.jpg

Joel Shapiro.
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Get Together NW Portland Week-6.jpg

Reader and subscriber Sugata Bhattacharya.
Get Together NW Portland Week-5.jpg

Jesse.
Get Together NW Portland Week-4.jpg

Get Together NW Portland Week-3.jpg

Ali Corbin.
Get Together NW Portland Week-2.jpg

Food catered by Corsa Cafe.
Get Together NW Portland Week-1.jpg

Mike commutes daily from Beaverton to his job in northwest.

And thanks again to all of you who read and contribute (both editorially and financially) to BikePortland. Our work is making a big impact and we can’t do it without your help.

Oh, and stay tuned… We’ve got one last story coming that we couldn’t quite finish up last week. A profile of Allan Classen, editor of the NW Examiner neighborhood newspaper.

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

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NW Portland’s best secret routes, hang-outs, and other cool things

NW Portland’s best secret routes, hang-outs, and other cool things

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NW Cornell road just below Upper Macleay Park.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Part of NW Portland Week.

How often do you just bike around the city and take the time to slow down and see everything? Not just traffic or street signs but everything. These special weeks when we focus on one part of the city give us the opportunity to let a place soak in. Over the past five days I’ve discovered lots of cool stuff about northwest Portland (I hope you have too!). I’ve found new shortcuts I never knew existed, made a few new friends, and have gained a much deeper understanding of this beautiful, historic, and thriving part of our city.

Now we’re left with notebooks full of tidbits and albums full of photos that don’t fit into their own stories. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth sharing here on the Front Page. Below are just some of the secret routes, places to grab a bite or a drink, and other fun surprises from this past week…

Station Way shortcut

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Looking south on Station Way toward Union Station
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The underbelly of the ramp on Broadway with Union Station to my left and the post office facility on the right.

On Tuesday I ran into a friend down near NW 9th and Lovejoy. Knowing it was NW Portland Week he told me about a cool shortcut to Union Station. If you go east on Marshall until it ends you’ll come to Station Way. If you head right it’ll take you under the Broadway Bridge/Lovejoy ramp and spit you out right at Union Station!

This is a helpful trick to know about — especially if there’s a train blocking your way at 9th and you want to get up onto the bridge to avoid it. The space under the bridge is actually kind of cool too, in a dark and scary forgotten-place kind of way.

Hot spots for hot (or cold) drinks and grub

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I liked Breken instantly because of its bike parking.
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Mio Seafood, NW 16th and Thurman.

It was amazing to see little flashes of new life in old and industrial areas. The hub around NW 16th and Thurman has several great destinations all within two blocks. There’s Olympic Provisions, the Steven Smith Teamaker tasting room, Breken (very nice coffee/breakfast and lunch spot with a bike corral out front!), and Mio Seafood.

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Inside the Clearing Cafe on Thurman.

This morning I met our friend and BikePortland contributor Ted Timmons at Clearing Cafe on upper Thurman (he must eat their breakfast burrito at least once a week). This is a great spot that gets crowded with trail runners, bikers, and local folks on the weekends. During the week it’s a nice quiet place to refresh.

Hmmm that’s Peculiarium

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You’ve probably passed The Peculiarium on Thurman (between 22nd and 23rd) a bunch of times without even noticing. You should stop next time and give it a closer look. It’s full of freaky (but true!) stuff, gag gifts, and assorted oddities. And if you do this on a family bike outing, you can treat the kids to some of the fun sweets and snacks they offer.

Northwest’s bicycle industrial complex

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Employees of Chris King Precision Components hard at work.

I wanted to do a bigger story on the bike industry in this quadrant but wasn’t able to put it together. I did manage however to swing by Portland’s biggest bike company, King Cycle Group. The folks behind Chris King Precision Components and Cielo Cycles have taken over a former coffee roasting factory with their growing workforce. King is world-renown for their headsets and hubs and is celebrating 40 years in business this year.

Northwest Portland is also home to the U.S. headquarters of premium bike fashion brand Rapha and Brompton, the world’s leading folding bike maker. A major parts distributor, Cyclone Bicycle Supply, also has their warehouse here and there are several great bike shops in northwest including: 21st Avenue Bicycles, Fat Tire Farm, Traction Works (a new suspension-tuning shop), Portland Bicycle Studio, Athletes Lounge, and Western Bikeworks.

Beautiful Irving Street

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Northwest is home to some gobsmackingly gorgeous old homes. On Wednesday I happened upon a block of Irving Street that stopped me in my tracks. Between NW 17th and 18th Irving gets really narrow and one side is lined with historic Victorians. Add in the massive trees and this block feels extremely civilized.

To top it off I saw this great old house with a bike rack and a classy e-bike parked out front.

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That great mural on the northern end of NW 23rd

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I can understand if you’ve never seen this 65-foot mural. It’s on an inhospitable stretch of 23rd between Thurman and Vaughn that’s pretty sketchy to bike — or even walk — on. And that’s why this mural is so interesting to me. It depicts a scene of idyllic street life based on adjacent streets.

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What makes this mural so interesting to me is how the painter has captured urban street life the way it’s meant to be. Carefree, fun, full of happy interactions with strangers and friends. But notice what the artist left out: cars. Then notice the reality that surrounds the mural: cars. The juxtaposition of the urban life we want versus the one we’ve allowed to consume us is striking.

A neighborhood and bikeway in the Forest

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On NW Aspen, Forest Park comes right to your door.







A lot of you north Portlanders know about the NE Holman neighborhood greenway. But did you know there’s another Holman in Portland? Holman Lane is a steep dirt road in Forest Park in the hills above northwest Portland. It’s one of my favorite ways to get into the dirt just a few miles from town.

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Just a few minutes from town (if you’ve got the legs).

To get there, ride up Thurman toward Forest Park. Just before you get to the busy trailhead where everyone parks, turn left on Aspen. Aspen is a gorgeous road on a ridge that has a nice view of the city on one side and the ferns and trees of Forest Park on the other. Take Aspen until it ends then go right and you’ll see the Forest Park gate. Stay on the dirt path and cross over the Wildwood Trail (no biking on it!). Holman takes you up (feels like straight up) to NW 53rd which you can take back into Portland via Cornell.

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It’s a city code violation if you don’t!

For some crazy reason the City has an ordinance that allows biking only in the uphill direction on Holman Lane. I’m sure it was done for “safety” reasons given how close this is to many homes and hikers; but bans like this are bad policy. It would be much better to “use caution when others are present” and enforce laws against unsafe behaviors rather than have a blanket ban on something that isn’t inherently unsafe. But I digress.

And then there’s Arnold

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Arnold in the jacket he loves. It’s made out of canvas so it doesn’t tear on tree branches when he sleeps.

On Tuesday I met a wonderful guy named Arnold. He was sitting on a bench on NW Pettygrove near 22nd watching a construction project. “It’s the kid in me,” he said as I stopped and smiled. “I love all the sounds. The hammering, the lifts, the cutting.”

Arnold moved to Portland from Ohio with his family in 1962. He grew up in Ladd’s Addition (which he remembers fondly), then worked as a delivery truck driver for 12 years. After getting divorced he said his wife took the kids and things went downhill after that. He lost his job, his mom was “lost to Alzheimer’s”, he had a run-in with the law and did some time in jail.

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Arnold was very proud of his stout kickstand.

Arnold has been camping (he’s not homeless, he said) on Portland’s streets for the past six years. His trusty old cruiser bike is loaded up with everything he needs. He can’t ride it anymore because of all the gear buckets attached to it. Years ago he walked and rode his bike from Portland to Seaside and Astoria then back. “Eight days,” he said, smiling wistfully, “That was the best time. Me and my bike. The downhills were life flying. I had so much fun.”

Today Arnold is taking life as it comes. He said he’s never logged onto the internet, has never owned a cell phone, doesn’t pay taxes, doesn’t vote, and doesn’t owe his wife any more child support. “I couldn’t be happier being out here,” he said.

For more of my photos from NW Portland, see the entire album on Flickr.

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

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Portland’s best model for population growth without catastrophe is right in front of us

Portland’s best model for population growth without catastrophe is right in front of us

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2018 NW Everett Street, built 1910.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Part of NW Portland Week.

Portland’s “huge population boom” and “explosive growth” have driven such a painful housing shortage that it’s not uncommon these days to hear Portlanders wish the city would stop creating so many jobs.

Since 2008, the city’s population growth rate has been about 9,000 net new residents per year, or 1.5 percent.

But when many of the buildings that continue to define northwest Portland were built, Portland’s population was growing by 7 percent every year for years on end. In the decade of the 1900s, the city that started at 90,000 residents added 11,679 new ones every year on average.

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Growth in percentage terms. 2010s are through 2014 only.
(Data: U.S. Census. Chart: BikePortland.)

How could it happen? With so many migrants pouring into the aftermath of northwest Portland’s hugely successful Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in 1905, how could the city have possibly kept housing costs low enough to keep wages manageable for the host of new employers popping up? How did the city avoid cultural collapse?

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Growth in number of additional residents. 2010s are through 2014 only.

Portland’s situation wasn’t unique. Seattle grew even faster in the same decade, and Los Angeles faster still. San Francisco’s similar boom came in the 1870s. For St. Louis it was the 1850s; for Philadelphia the 1860s; for Chicago the 1890s; for Detroit the 1910s.

How did cities survive population booms four or five times larger than Portland is going through today?

And why, somewhere around 1920, did U.S. cities never see population booms again — even in an age of deep geographic inequality that is watching smaller cities like Urbana, Illinois continue to shed jobs while some bigger ones, including Portland, add them hand over fist?

You can see the answer any time you ride a bike through northwest Portland. Growing cities built and built and built — because until 1920 or so, there were no laws that said you couldn’t.

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2110 NW Flanders, built 1908.
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1026 NW Flanders, built 1908.
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117 NW Trinity 1912117 NW Trinity, built 1912.
1730 nw couch 19081730 NW Couch, built 1908.

There’s no single image that explains Portland’s history at a glance better than Justin Palmer’s amazing Age of a City map, which color-codes almost every building on the Oregon side of the metro area by the decade of its construction.

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Paler = earlier.
(Image: Justin Palmer)

Zoom into northwest Portland and you can see the history, block by block, of how Portland survived its explosive 1900s:

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Portland approved its first zoning laws in 1918 and expanded them by popular vote in 1924, limiting basic construction to four stories and maximum height to 15 stories; it was approximately the same year that local streetcar usage started its long decline. In 1945, lawns and driveways became mandatory in most of the city as minimum lot sizes were set at 5,000 square feet for single-family zones; in 1959, duplexes and internal home divisions were banned from single-family zones.

Nobody seems to be sure when mandatory garages and other minimum parking requirements arrived; Tony Jordan of Portland Shoupistas said city staff told him it was probably the 1950s.







None of this is to say that Portland’s boom decades were a golden age. The city had as many or more problems then. And it is not to say that market-priced housing can ever address the separate and huge problem of poverty. It can’t.

But the 1900s are proof positive that market-priced housing, if there’s enough of it, can be perfectly capable of controlling housing costs for those of us who aren’t currently poor.

And today, spending time in the neighborhoods Portlanders built in the 1900s, like much of northwest Portland, doesn’t just mean seeing buildings that were needed to prevent spiraling rents or enable job growth. It means enjoying yourself. It means spending time in a place that is quite nice.

Last year, former Metro councilor and former northwest Portlander Robert Liberty wrote a love letter to Nob Hill called “My Illegal Neighborhood.”

Typical city zoning makes it illegal to build or operate a warehouse or a light industrial use next to homes and a grocery store. The separation of industrial and commercial uses from residential uses was the very foundation of zoning a century ago.

It is illegal in most cities to build apartment buildings without providing one or more parking spaces for every apartment. The same would be true of grocery stores or office buildings. The neighborhood’s grocery store has fewer than 20 parking spaces.

The street in my old neighborhood does not meet more current design requirements, because it is considered inappropriate to design a street so that car cannot pass each other at any time or location. The street is 27 feet wide, curb to curb. That includes parallel parking on both sides, leaving a travel lane about 12 feet wide. That violates the standards for a local road recommended by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

In most cities, you cannot operate a business out of your home if you have employees or customers arriving from other locations.

In too many places, it is effectively illegal to build subsidized housing for families of modest means. Even when it might be legal, local officials can interpret nebulous phrases like “preserve neighborhood character” or complex regulations in way that such housing is never approved.

A senior center, even though it is not a business, would be treated like a commercial use that cannot be allowed next to single family homes.

The elementary school would probably be illegal too because the school property would be too small to meet many states’ standards. The school is located on about 9.8 acres but many of those acres are occupied by a park open to the public at all times. The school, which has 685 students, would require a site of 11.85 acres in California, Texas and Connecticut, 15 acres in New Mexico and 18-20 acres in suburban Pennsylvania.

And then there is the absence of parking places; according to Virginia’s 2010 school design standards, the school should provide parking for all the staff, visitors and about a third of the students. (Apparently the legal driving age in Virginia is much younger than in Oregon.) …

Does that mean do away with all regulations? No. But it does mean that we need to stop assuming that everyone wants to, or can afford to, live in a big house on a big lot in a residential-only neighborhood. We shouldn’t be making it illegal to build the kind of neighborhoods, like mine, that are increasingly popular and in short supply.

Portland is in the middle of an election season in which no subject is hotter than the upward spiral of market-rate rents. The problem has the city in a constant roil. Policy wonks are scouring the planet for cities with tools that can prevent rapid population growth from becoming a disaster for market-rate housing.

Northwest Portlanders are lucky. The model everyone is searching for is their own history, and it’s standing right in front of them.

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

The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here. Our work is supported by subscribers. Please become one today..

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New Flanders Bridge or not, crossing I-405 is about to get easier

New Flanders Bridge or not, crossing I-405 is about to get easier

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NW Couch where it crosses I-405. Riding through here you must keep your head on a swivel and scoot quickly across three intersections (two of which have no traffic signal).
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Part of NW Portland Week.

Eight years ago, when former Mayor Sam Adams made his case to re-use the old Sauvie Island Bridge as a new crossing of I-405 at NW Flanders Street, one of his chief arguments was safety. Adams and Portland Bureau of Transportation staff convinced Portlanders that the nearby crossings at Burnside, Couch, Everett and Glisan, were inherently unsafe for bikers and walkers.

Here are the slides Adams used in a presentation he made to City Council in April 2008:

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When Adams scrapped his bridge plan, our hope of a safe (and iconic) crossing died; but the safety issues outlined in the slides above remain to this day.

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Merging on NW Everett approaching 14th.
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Glisan is dominated by cars and isn’t a very comfortable place to bike.

NW Glisan (one-way westbound) east of I-405 has no dedicated space for cycling and a freeway on-ramp encourages fast and dangerous right turns. NW Everett (one-way eastbound) has buffered bike lanes; but they unfortunately end as you approach I-405 and riders are forced to merge into traffic in a congested, shared environment. And Burnside? Well, nobody really rides on Burnside do they?







We’re hopeful that the Flanders Bridge project we reported about yesterday will get funded. But even if it doesn’t, at least one of the existing crossings is slated for changes that will improve safety and access for people on bikes and on foot.

On March 30th Portland City Council approved a $2 million grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation for the “Downtown I-405 Pedestrian Safety and Operational Improvements Project”. That means PBOT can start final design and get the improvements ready for construction (which is scheduled for 2018).

Changes are due at six intersections in the area of NW Couch, across I-405 to 16th and south to West Burnside. Official project map is below:

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Project map. The red dots are curb extension locations. The dark grey area in the middle is where a lane will be removed.

Today the Couch overcrossing of I-405 is confusing and stressful. There are freeway on-ramps and unsignalized crossings with multiple lanes of high-speed auto traffic that feel as though they’re coming from all directions. If you’re going westbound and want to continue on Couch, you’ve got to first get across NW 14th, then SW 14th — a freeway on-ramp, then SW 15th (another freeway ramp), then NW 16th, then you merge onto Couch with traffic from 16th. It’s a bewildering game of Frogger and the design clearly didn’t have walkers and bikers in mind (except for a nice contra-flow bike lane at 16th – thanks PBOT!).

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Looking east from 16th.

The new project will include: marked crosswalks, traffic signal upgrades, better lighting, auto parking space removal, the removal of a slip-lane on NW 16th, and more. The official project description says the new configuration will, “simplify the intersection at the end of the NE Couch Street/E Burnside Street off-ramp, which will result in more efficient operations through reduced congestion, queuing, and idling time for both local and freeway traffic. It will extend a critical link in the bike and pedestrian network of the central city, contributing to a more seamless multimodal transportation system.”

Here are the specific proposed design changes:

  • Upgrade traffic signal at NW 16th and Burnside
  • Remove the slip lane, construct corner extension, and install marked crosswalks at NW 15th Street and Burnside
  • Full signal replacement at NW 15th Street and Couch Street
  • Remove on street parking on NW 16th Street north of Couch Street to accommodate the modified lane configuration on southbound 16th Street.
  • Modify curb returns to reduce crossing width at select intersections and provide ADA ramps
  • Close connection to NW 16th Street from Couch

Stay tuned for opportunities to weigh in on the details. If we want to unlock the potential of northwest Portland we’ve got to make crossing I-405 as easy as possible.

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

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People on Bikes – NW Portland edition

People on Bikes – NW Portland edition

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(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Part of NW Portland Week.

Here’s what cycling — and the people who do it — look like in northwest Portland.

I have always believed that you can learn a lot about a city’s bike culture by taking a close look at who rides, where they ride, what they ride, and how they ride. That’s why this past week I’ve been lugging a big camera through the streets of northwest on a hunt for bicycle riders in their natural habitats.

I’ve broken this photo essay up into two parts. The first part shows people riding in a certain context on the street. With these images the point is to show what the bikeways are like in northwest and, more importantly, how they look while being used by people on bikes and in cars. As you look at these, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable riding in that environment. Try to notice if the person is in a bike lane or not and how it changes the feeling of the image. How does someone using a buffered bike lane change your perception of their experience versus someone using a standard bike lane, a sharrow, or just sharing a standard lane?

The second set of images stays in the tradition of past People on Bikes posts: It’s all about the rider. By freeze-framing on each person we can take a closer look at their bike set-up, their apparel choices, and so on.

Enjoy the photos and feel free to reference the image numbers in your comments.

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If you want to see more people who bike in northwest Portland stop by our Get Together tonight at the Corsa Cafe inside Western Bikeworks at NW 17th and Lovejoy. We’ll have free munchies and fairly priced drinks for you from 5-7:00pm. Hope to see you there!

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

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A lost scrap of NW Portland history: How a fortune cookie helped save Thurman Street

A lost scrap of NW Portland history: How a fortune cookie helped save Thurman Street

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Outside the Dragonfly Coffee House Thursday.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Part of NW Portland Week.

Thurman Street is the last neighborhood north where you can find the sort of stuff that, for a lot of people, make Portland Portland.

One block north of the Food Front Cooperative Grocery and the gluten-free bakery Dessert Labs, you hit the Holiday Inn Express. Then come the railroad tracks, warehouses, gravel distributors, floodplains and eventually just trees to the end of the earth, or at least to Scappoose.

Walking down Thurman Street itself is so rewarding that one of Portland’s most famous residents wrote a whole book about it. They keep a copy behind the reference desk at the branch library on NW 23rd and Thurman: Blue Moon over Thurman Street, published in 1993 by the novelist Ursula K. Le Guin and the photographer Roger Dorband.

blue moon

Le Guin (who’s now 86 and still lives off Thurman) recruited Dorband (then a Portlander, now based in Astoria) to walk Thurman with her in July 1985 and tell the stories of the street.

But the book, and Thurman Street itself, is all the more beautiful for a story that isn’t in it: Just like Division and Clinton streets in southeast Portland, it was supposed to be long gone by now. Thurman spent most of the 1970s scheduled to be purchased by the Oregon Department of Transportation and bulldozed to make way for what would have been Interstate 505, a 1.4-mile freeway spur that would have connected I-405 directly to St. Helens Road.

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Double dashed line: planned route of I-505 from 1966 Portland Comprehensive Development Plan.
(Image via Kernal Moses)

Why did Thurman survive long enough for Le Guin and Dorband to memorialize it, and for Portlanders to park their bikes in the corral outside the Dragonfly Coffee House today? In part because of the mostly forgotten actions of two women 37 years ago.

One of them was Connie McCready, the last Republican to serve as mayor of Portland. The other was Marjie Lundell, a northwest Portlander working as one of McCready’s assistants when she was a city commissioner in 1979.







Thanks to the defunct website of the late Portland planner and historian Ernie Bonner, which you can still browse on Archive.org, we tracked down Lundell and spoke with her by phone on Thursday. Here’s a lightly edited version of what happened, in Lundell’s words, when the decision to condemn the land along Thurman and Savier streets for Interstate 505 came before Portland City Council.

I think it’s one of the best stories ever in City Hall.

I was living in an apartment in Northwest: 23rd and Glisan. The highway department had been saying for years that they were going to build that freeway. Nobody was doing everything to improve property because everybody knew there was going to be a freeway there. It’s social engineering at its scariest.

Connie was a very interesting person to work with. She was a reporter herself, so fair and balanced reporting was absolutely required. But you could pitch.

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Connie McCready was an Oregonian
reporter turned city commissioner.
(Photo: City of Portland)

The council was split 3-1 in favor of the freeway, and Connie hadn’t announced a position. Lloyd Anderson was on the council; he was an engineer, and he was planning to vote yes. Connie really, really trusted his opinion.

It was the day of the vote, and they were to vote at 2 o’clock. And we would go out to lunch. So I just said, “Let’s take a tour of the Thurman-Vaughn corridor and have a look at the land you’re going to vote on.” So we drove Thurman. and Connie would say, “Oh look at that little Victorian house!” And I would go, “That would be part of the take.” And I had also arranged for lunch at a little Chinese restaurant in the industrial area. Because the idea was that we needed the freeway because it was so hard to get to the industrial area, and I wanted to show how easy it was to get there.

At lunch, I made my pitch the last time. And she said, “You know, everything you said makes sense to me, you may even be right, but Lloyd is going to vote yes.” So that was it.

Then the fortune cookies come, and Connie opens up this fortune cookie. And she looks up at me and says, “Oh my god, you are good.”

And I said, “What?”

She said “Look what it says!”

It said There is still time to choose an alternate path.

I didn’t have a thing to do with it. I just looked up and I said, “I tell you, it’s the right choice.”

When we got back to City Hall, it came in that Lloyd was going to change his vote to “no” on the freeway. She gave him the fortune cookie, and when he was explaining his vote he read it to the council.

It was a cliffhanger and people knew that she was the swing. When she announced her no vote, all the people from Northwest burst into applause.

If you go down to the Thurman-Vaughn corridor today and look east, it looks exactly like the architectural rendering back then said it would: apartment houses and little shops and people walking dogs. I eventually bought a house, and later I learned that the bank that my house sits on would have been the berm for the freeway going off into St. Helens.

But we stopped it.

A lot of the reporting we’ve done on northwest Portland this week has looked at ways the area is trying to reconnect the neighborhoods that were split by one fateful decision: the construction of Interstate 405. If it weren’t for the work of Portlanders like McCready and Lundell, among many others, we’d have a lot more problems to write about today.

Thanks for this post also go to Carl Larson, a longtime fan of NW Thurman who introduced me to Le Guin’s book, and to former Mayor Bud Clark, a northwest Portland resident who remembered part of the fortune cookie story and wrote to Bonner about it. Correction 4/17: An earlier version of this post omitted relevant details about Anderson’s vote, which also changed at the last minute.

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

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