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SW 3rd Avenue is about to get downtown’s only buffered bike lane

SW 3rd Avenue is about to get downtown’s only buffered bike lane

SW 3rd at Oak

Earlier this year, bike markings unexpectedly appeared on 3rd Avenue. Now we know why.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)


Less than a year after a handful of businesses and volunteers hectored the city into letting them test a bike lane on SW Third Avenue in Old Town, one is about to be installed — probably next month.

“It was really interesting to have a coalition of the bar owners, the social service providers and the city working together collaboratively to refine the design.”
— Ryan Hashagen, chair of 3rd Avenue Stakeholder Advisory Group

The new right-side buffered bike lane will run from NW Davis south to the green bike lane on SW Stark, city officials and a neighborhood represntative said in a joint interview Tuesday.

It’ll be one of just three southbound bike lanes in downtown Portland, and the only bike lane in downtown to include a painted buffer.

In fact, Third Avenue’s new bike lane will have two buffers: a two-foot one on the left, between bike and car traffic, and a three-foot one on the right, to give room for car doors. Between the buffers, the bike lane itself will be mostly seven feet wide, narrowing to six feet at points where the parking lane widens to make room for a truck loading zone.

oak pine

Third Avenue’s new bike lane will have two buffers: a two-foot one on the left, between bike and car traffic, and a three-foot one on the right, to give room for car doors.
burnside corner

The city will also mark new crosswalks and add a left-turn box for people biking west from the Burnside Bridge and turning south onto Third.

As we reported in June, the plan was the unanimous recommendation of 3rd Avenue Stakeholder Advisory Group, which is part of the Old Town Chinatown Community Association.

“This started out as a discussion in the neighborhood about the entertainment district,” said Ryan Hashagen, chair of the advisory group and a volunteer for last October’s Better Block PDX demonstration on 3rd Avenue. “It became, quickly, a larger conversation about how to build livability, how to make it more enjoyable 24 hours a day. … It was really interesting to have a coalition of the bar owners, the social service providers and the city working together collaboratively to refine the design.”

In addition to the bike lanes, the city will mark new crosswalks and add a left-turn box for people biking west from the Burnside Bridge and turning south onto Third. Just north of the corner of Burnside and 3rd, the bike lane will disappear and become a mixing zone with right-turning traffic.

third avenue area map with bikeways

In addition to new crosswalks and other walking improvements, the proposal would create a wide new bike lane (marked here in orange) connecting to the existing ones on SW Stark and Oak (marked here in green).
(Image: BikePortland)

Bureau of Transportation project manager Rick Browning said that until earlier this week, the city was planning to install the new bike lane this weekend. But because rain is forecast, it’ll instead happen on the first dry weekend after Labor Day.

“Creating a more vibrant space for people of all stripes can create a more vibrant business environment,” said Hashagen, whose Portland Pedicabs business has an office in Old Town.

Hashagen’s view is shared by the community association’s chair and by many other business owners on the street, though not by the Portland Business Alliance, the regional chamber of commerce. Lisa Frisch, the PBA’s downtown retail development manager, told us in June that she believes there is zero connection between the number of traffic lanes on a street and the desire of people to spend time and money nearby.

Some compromises, but 100 percent consensus

voodoo doughnut

Third Avenue as it is today.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

In order to get 100 percent consensus, the stakeholder committee that included Frisch agreed on two lanes of auto traffic for the full length of the project despite 3rd Avenue’s low traffic counts south of Burnside. It also agreed to preserve every parking space on the street.

In combination, those two measures meant that the bike lanes won’t be able to offer any physical separation.

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Timur Ender, a transportation policy advisor to City Commissioner Steve Novick, said the new buffered lanes might lay the groundwork for other changes.

“This is just the first phase of improvements — if the community sees a need for further improvement, that can be a conversation down the road,” said Endur, who was also a volunteer on the Better Block project before he joined Novick’s team. “We can explore that as part of the central city multimodal plan.”

The Central City Multimodal Safety Project, currently gathering speed, is a $6.6 million effort widely expected to include downtown’s first protected bike lanes.

Ender said that PBOT engineers calculate that with 3rd Avenue’s traffic counts, there will be no additional delay for people driving on the street.

A new model for public outreach?

Better Block

Better than an open house? Or just less accurate?
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

In some ways, the 3rd Avenue project is being done with little public outreach. There’s been no city-led open house, no page on the city’s website. The city ignored a request from BikePortland, under the state’s open-records law, to make public a rendering of the street that was already being vetted with businesses and residents.

In other ways, though, it’s one of the most public bike projects the city has ever done.

“The Better Block pilot project has been an engagement to the entire city,” Hashagen argued. “The Oregonian reported on it. We had TV stations there. … The overwhelming reaction of the pilot project was ‘When is this going to be done? How quick can this be implemented?’”

The three-day pilot project, of course, was different. It eliminated on-street auto parking and two passing lanes to create a huge public plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut. It protected the bike lane with wooden planters. And it stopped several blocks further north.

“This isn’t the be-all end-all for Old Town Chinatown. This is one step among many that we intend to take.”
— Chad Stover, office of Mayor Charlie Hales

Ender said Hashagen and a city transportation staffer went door to door this summer to every storefront on Third Avenue, and that the city mailed a description to every business with a Third Avenue address.

“Every single one of the businesses that we went to was for the most part excited to see changes to the neighborhood,” Hashagen said.

Ender said a much smaller version of the plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut will be installed early in next year’s work season. Some details about its design are yet to be worked out between the Old Town Chinatown Community Association, the Ankeny Alley Association and the city.

Chad Stover, a project manager for Mayor Charlie Hales, said Tuesday that he thinks Old Town Chinatown will eventually want to create a “business improvement district” that would let businesses pool their money in exchange for control over further changes to the area.

“This isn’t the be-all end-all for Old Town Chinatown,” Stover said. “This is one step among many that we intend to take.”

Correction 10:25 pm: An earlier version of this post said this would be the first buffered bike lane downtown. The lanes on Stark and Oak were previously buffered and are now wide colored lanes. This’ll be the only buffered lane downtown.


The post SW 3rd Avenue is about to get downtown’s only buffered bike lane appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Old Town businesses and residents endorse buffered bike lane on 3rd Avenue

Old Town businesses and residents endorse buffered bike lane on 3rd Avenue

3rdavelead

Mystery of spray-painted bike lane now revealed. The proposal, which would also improve crosswalks across 3rd, aims to make the area more walkable.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Nine months after a three-day event that tested a single southbound lane of auto traffic on a few blocks of NW and SW 3rd Avenue, a group of stakeholders on the street has endorsed a middle ground: two lanes.

“It builds on a future expanded plaza for locals and visitors at Ankeny Alley that will become a regional destination.”
— Old Town Chinatown Community Association

The proposal endorsed unanimously this month by the 3rd Avenue Stakeholder Advisory Group would replace most of the rightmost travel lane with a buffered and possibly green-painted bike lane for six blocks from NE Davis to SE Stark.

That’s the word from Ryan Hashagen, chair of the advisory group, which is a subcommittee of the Old Town Chinatown Community Association. In a letter to the city delivered yesterday, the OTCTCA wrote that the proposals “stemmed from community demand for a safer, more walkable Old Town Chinatown for residents, visitors, locals and tourists. It builds on a future expanded plaza for locals and visitors at Ankeny Alley that will become a regional destination.”

voodoo doughnut

Third Avenue as it is today.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Sarah Stevenson, executive director of nonprofit Old Town housing provider Innovative Housing Inc., said the plan would preserve people’s ability to turn left onto Burnside from 3rd while making the neighborhood “less noisy, less traffic-y.”

“I think it’s a great plan, because there’s a little bit of something that makes everybody happy,” she said. “I have never seen a plan that has had the support of every Old Town Chinatown stakeholder, and this seems to have hit that sweet spot. It’s going to make everything safer, more pedestrian-friendly, more bike-friendly, which is good for everybody.”

third avenue area map with bikeways

In addition to new crosswalks and other walking improvements, the proposal would create a wide new bike lane (marked here in orange) connecting to the existing ones on SW Stark and Oak (marked here in green).
(Image: BikePortland)

For people who want to get to the area by bike, the proposed changes would create a new, relatively low-stress southbound route from the Steel Bridge area to the painted bike lanes on SW Stark and Oak streets, starting to build the first connected network of bike lanes in downtown Portland.

“We’re seeing a lot of pedestrian traffic down in this particular area and a lot of bike traffic,” said Chad Stover, a staffer for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales who has coordinated the project. “We want to make the flow of all traffic as smooth as possible and as safe as possible. … If you’re a pedestrian right now when you go across the street you can sometimes be taking your life in your hands because you have three lanes of traffic coming at you.”

“It’s very strange how many lanes there are,” said Lisa Frisch, downtown retail development manager for the Portland Business Alliance, a regional chamber of commerce. “It doesn’t make sense going from three into two into three into five.”

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Hashagen said a city transportation analysis concluded that two lanes on 3rd Avenue were enough to handle all of 3rd Avenue’s auto traffic with no additional delay, even during rush hour. The changes would also preserve parking on both sides of 3rd Avenue. (A plan endorsed last summer by a different group of retailers would have eliminated auto parking on 3rd Avenue in order to add in-street seating and planter-protected bike lanes.)

The Portland Business Alliance supports the plan because its members in the area do.

Frisch, who sits on the advisory subcommittee and who made the motion for the group to endorse the two-lane redesign, said that like Stover, Hashagan and many local business owners, she would love to see retail shops in Old Town Chinatown’s entertainment district “open during the day and not just at night.”

Frisch said she believes the number and nature of traffic lanes on a street has “zero impact” either way on whether people are more likely to shop or spend time in the area. But she said the PBA supports the plan because its members in the area do.

Helen Ying, chair of the community association, said she thinks walkable street design is one of various factors involved in retail health.

“I think by promoting safety and transportation, what we’re doing with 3rd Avenue is going to help with bringing foot traffic and bringing more people into the area, and that’s part of the revitalization plan,” said Ying.

Adequate on-street auto parking is also an important ingredient, Ying said, especially if the area wants to do without surface parking lots.

Ying alluded to discussions over the last two years about whether the wide roadway in front of Voodoo Doughnut and Ankeny Alley could eventually evolve into a “Times Square type” area.

“We’re not there yet, but I think this is helping to make steps closer to that,” Ying said. “I think the design with incremental improvements is really the way to go. It’s baby steps.”

ankeny alley rendering

An early rendering of a larger pedestrianized area on 3rd Avenue outside Voodoo Doughnut.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

Next week, a proposal to use bollards in the roadbed to pedestrianize some of the plaza at Ankeny and 3rd will go before Portland’s Historic Landmarks Commssion. According to the commission’s agenda, “Phase II (not yet designed) anticipates new paving, new curb lines, lighting, and other permanent site fixtures.”

The city has prepared a possible rendering of the possible 3rd Avenue redesign and presented it to the Old Town Chinatown Community Association, but said it won’t share the image with the broader public until more stakeholders had seen it.

“We don’t want to put anything out there in print that would overcommit or make it seem like things are firmer than they are,” city transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera said Monday. “We’re excited that the community’s excited.”

From here, the city plans to talk with more businesses on SW 3rd before developing the plans further. Stay tuned.

Correction 4:40 pm: An earlier version of this post reported that Hashagen said the proposed bike lane would be colored green. He says that is only one option being considered.


The post Old Town businesses and residents endorse buffered bike lane on 3rd Avenue appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end

Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end

ankeny alley rendering

Removable bollards would pedestrianize the road bed on 3rd Avenue outside Voodoo Doughnut.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

One of Portland’s top tourist attractions seems poised to become dramatically less car-oriented by the start of 2016.

An $80,850 grant last month from the Portland Development Commission to the Ankeny Alley Association will provide most of the money required to extend the sidewalk on Southwest 3rd Avenue in front of Voodoo Doughnut in Old Town, creating a plaza in place of an unusually wide traffic lane and substantially narrowing the road bed.

“Either we’ll get it done before summertime 2015 or we’ll postpone it to have the work done end of 2015,” Rob Cross, general manager of Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, said Monday.

PDC project manager Sarah Harpole called Cross’s faster timeline “optimistic.”

“The design is of their creation, I guess it’s fair to say, and it’ll be subject to whatever permits are deemed required by the city,” she said. “In particular I would say the Bureau of Transportation, since it’s their right of way.”

The news comes six months after a much-praised weekend demo project by Better Block PDX created such a plaza and also reduced 3rd Avenue from three travel lanes with auto parking and a loading zone to a single travel lane plus a protected bike lane and wider sidewalks between Northwest Davis and Southwest Ash.

voodoo doughnut

The current design of the potential plaza area.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)
3rd Avenue Better Block PDX

People enjoy a demonstration plaza on 3rd Avenue in October.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

“The idea of having this closed pedestrian way is something that’s been in a lot of prior master plans focusing on this area,” Harpole said. “The businesses themselves were the ones that brought it to fruition.”

Cross said the local businesses will share the costs of keeping the plaza clean.

We rely on financial support from readers like you.

It’s not yet clear how much of the space will end up being allocated to clearly public seating and how much will be treated as commercial seating, in design if not by the letter of the law.

“There might be some common seating, but more than likely they’ll just expand plaza seating from the businesses out to those spaces,” Cross predicted.

Here’s an overhead view of the Ankeny Alley Association’s proposal for the space, which clears a pedestrian channel through the current alley as well as moving more seating around the corner onto the widened 3rd Avenue sidewalk.

ankeny alley overhead

The dimensions of the proposed plaza depend on PBOT plans to restripe 3rd Avenue, which aren’t currently clear.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

Another open question: the fate of 3rd Avenue’s travel and parking lanes, including whether travel or parking lanes will be repurposed into bike facilities, wider sidewalks or anything else.

“Many people are hopeful that there will be continued funding or experimentation there, but no formal commitments are in place,” Harpole said.

In an interview Monday, mayoral project manager Chad Stover said Mayor Charlie Hales is “committed to working with the community in this area” to make 3rd Avenue a more pleasant place for both weekend evening and daytime commerce both north and south of Burnside.

“Just me personally, I think that two lanes is probably the right number to go all the way through,” Stover said. “It shouldn’t only be in the name of promoting a nighttime entertainment district, as we want a 24-hour neighborhood.”

Better Block

October’s demo converted one general travel lane on 3rd to a protected bike lane.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

One development shaking up the politics of Old Town is the semi-retirement of Howard Weiner, owner of the Cal Skate shop and the chair until this spring of the Old Town Community Association. Weiner has been a major advocate for continuing Old Town’s police-supervised street closure on weekend evenings.

“I believe the street closure on the weekends will continue as long as we have the number of folks coming down to party,” Weiner wrote this week. “In the end it is a matter of public safety … I believe the bars have to own this closure and find ways to make the area more appealing.”

Stover, the mayoral staffer, phrased things differently.

“I think there are some larger systemic changes that need to happen,” he said. “I don’t think anybody sees the street closure as a permanent solution to what’s going on in that area.”

Ryan Hashagen, owner of the Portland Pedals pedicab business, a member of the Old Town Hospitality Group and a volunteer with Better Block, predicted that more 3rd Avenue changes are on the way.

“We have made great recent progress and are on track for doing another Better Block this summer or spring,” Hashagen said. “Howard will be missed as he retires, but there is too much momentum and potential for success to stop this project and group.”

The post Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end

Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end

ankeny alley rendering

Removable bollards would pedestrianize the road bed on 3rd Avenue outside Voodoo Doughnut.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

One of Portland’s top tourist attractions seems poised to become dramatically less car-oriented by the start of 2016.

An $80,850 grant last month from the Portland Development Commission to the Ankeny Alley Association will provide most of the money required to extend the sidewalk on Southwest 3rd Avenue in front of Voodoo Doughnut in Old Town, creating a plaza in place of an unusually wide traffic lane and substantially narrowing the road bed.

“Either we’ll get it done before summertime 2015 or we’ll postpone it to have the work done end of 2015,” Rob Cross, general manager of Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, said Monday.

PDC project manager Sarah Harpole called Cross’s faster timeline “optimistic.”

“The design is of their creation, I guess it’s fair to say, and it’ll be subject to whatever permits are deemed required by the city,” she said. “In particular I would say the Bureau of Transportation, since it’s their right of way.”

The news comes six months after a much-praised weekend demo project by Better Block PDX created such a plaza and also reduced 3rd Avenue from three travel lanes with auto parking and a loading zone to a single travel lane plus a protected bike lane and wider sidewalks between Northwest Davis and Southwest Ash.

voodoo doughnut

The current design of the potential plaza area.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)
3rd Avenue Better Block PDX

People enjoy a demonstration plaza on 3rd Avenue in October.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

“The idea of having this closed pedestrian way is something that’s been in a lot of prior master plans focusing on this area,” Harpole said. “The businesses themselves were the ones that brought it to fruition.”

Cross said the local businesses will share the costs of keeping the plaza clean.

We rely on financial support from readers like you.

It’s not yet clear how much of the space will end up being allocated to clearly public seating and how much will be treated as commercial seating, in design if not by the letter of the law.

“There might be some common seating, but more than likely they’ll just expand plaza seating from the businesses out to those spaces,” Cross predicted.

Here’s an overhead view of the Ankeny Alley Association’s proposal for the space, which clears a pedestrian channel through the current alley as well as moving more seating around the corner onto the widened 3rd Avenue sidewalk.

ankeny alley overhead

The dimensions of the proposed plaza depend on PBOT plans to restripe 3rd Avenue, which aren’t currently clear.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

Another open question: the fate of 3rd Avenue’s travel and parking lanes, including whether travel or parking lanes will be repurposed into bike facilities, wider sidewalks or anything else.

“Many people are hopeful that there will be continued funding or experimentation there, but no formal commitments are in place,” Harpole said.

In an interview Monday, mayoral project manager Chad Stover said Mayor Charlie Hales is “committed to working with the community in this area” to make 3rd Avenue a more pleasant place for both weekend evening and daytime commerce both north and south of Burnside.

“Just me personally, I think that two lanes is probably the right number to go all the way through,” Stover said. “It shouldn’t only be in the name of promoting a nighttime entertainment district, as we want a 24-hour neighborhood.”

Better Block

October’s demo converted one general travel lane on 3rd to a protected bike lane.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

One development shaking up the politics of Old Town is the semi-retirement of Howard Weiner, owner of the Cal Skate shop and the chair until this spring of the Old Town Community Association. Weiner has been a major advocate for continuing Old Town’s police-supervised street closure on weekend evenings.

“I believe the street closure on the weekends will continue as long as we have the number of folks coming down to party,” Weiner wrote this week. “In the end it is a matter of public safety … I believe the bars have to own this closure and find ways to make the area more appealing.”

Stover, the mayoral staffer, phrased things differently.

“I think there are some larger systemic changes that need to happen,” he said. “I don’t think anybody sees the street closure as a permanent solution to what’s going on in that area.”

Ryan Hashagen, owner of Portland Pedicabs, a member of the Old Town Hospitality Group and a volunteer with Better Block, predicted that more 3rd Avenue changes are on the way.

“We have made great recent progress and are on track for doing another Better Block this summer or spring,” Hashagen said. “Howard will be missed as he retires, but there is too much momentum and potential for success to stop this project and group.”

The post Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end appeared first on BikePortland.org.

After success of 3rd Avenue demonstration in Old Town, real changes are coming

After success of 3rd Avenue demonstration in Old Town, real changes are coming

Better Block

A temporary crosswalk across 3rd Avenue, crossing one lane of mixed traffic and one protected bike lane, on Oct. 4.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

Two months after a three-day demo of a human-oriented 3rd Avenue captured many visitors’ imaginations, permanent changes are afoot.

The city is proposing to spend $10,000 next spring to add paint to 14 unmarked crosswalks on NW 2nd, 3rd and 4th between Burnside and Glisan. Several nearby properties have just changed hands. And Howard Weiner, chair of the Old Town Community Association, is working on plans that could bring much larger changes to the area.

“The crosswalks have been part of our vision plan for the last 10 years,” Weiner said Thursday. “We’re starting a one-year run of making changes that benefit the community on Third Avenue, and this was just a piece of that.”

old town crosswalks

A city proposal for new painted crosswalks north of Burnside in Old Town.
(Photo: Ryan Hashagen)

Ryan Hashagen of Portland Pedalworks, which operates pedicabs and other bike-and trike-based businesses out of the area, called both the crosswalks and the ongoing plans “great news” and credited city traffic engineer Rob Burchfield and demo organizers Better Block PDX for helping the neighborhood make long-desired changes.

Howard Weiner in Old Town-3

Howard Weiner.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Weiner said the neighborhood may create a second temporary demo, similar to October’s but modified here and there, in the spring.

“This time I’m trying to bring all the property owners to the table, so they already have the buy-in, and hopefully the second time around we can get it pretty close to what we want it to look like,” Weiner said.

The general goal of Weiner and some other neighborhood leaders is to both reallocate some of the space on Third Avenue between Everett and Ankeny for walking, sitting and biking, and to create a more continuous connection linking the popular Ankeny Alley and Voodoo Doughnut area with the storefronts north of Burnside.

One relatively simple change, Weiner said, might simply be to extend the street space overseen by the current Ankeny Alley Association around the corner to create a plaza in front of Voodoo.

“That has the mayor’s office excited,” Weiner said. “What it would take is property owners and business owners willing to take on financial responsibility for that space and activate that space.”

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-17

The October demo included hay bales in the street outside Voodoo Doughnut.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

That might be done by a vote of local property owners and business managers, who could agree to a local fee to be added to their property tax bills to pay for extra maintenance or programming of a plaza similar to those in Pioneer Courthouse Square or Director Park.

Weiner said changes to the streets might be paid for out of the neighborhood’s urban renewal funds, though there are also other options.

Meanwhile, a local developer has just put a big bet on the area. In late October, John and Janet Beardsley’s Fountain Village Development LLC bought three buildings on Northwest First and Second Avenue for $8 million.

A key factor in Old Town right now is the three-year closure of part of the entertainment district to cars on Friday and Saturday nights. These temporary police-supervised areas led to fewer police calls but a drop in business for the area’s nightclubs and restaurants. The city council agreed this fall to shrink the area but not eliminate it.

Weiner said Thursday that he supported the council’s approach, because it’s convinced business owners who depend on weekend patronage to participate in the Old Town Hospitality Group’s efforts to rethink the area.

“If we just let it go, the rubber band goes back to its original form, and we don’t want that,” he said.

The post After success of 3rd Avenue demonstration in Old Town, real changes are coming appeared first on BikePortland.org.

After 3-day demo, city council moves to ‘next phase’ of rethinking 3rd Avenue

After 3-day demo, city council moves to ‘next phase’ of rethinking 3rd Avenue

Sped-up version of a video of Northwest 3rd Avenue just after midnight on Sunday, Oct. 5.
(Original video: Better Block PDX)

The widely praised experiment that created a temporary protected bike lane and big new pedestrian areas on 3rd Avenue in Old Town this month seems to be reshaping the way the city sees the street.

“For the last 20 years, I’ve noticed the extraordinary width at that point on 3rd and I should have noticed an obvious use for all that space was ping pong tables,” Commissioner Steve Novick, who had enjoyed a game of table tennis during the demonstration, joked at a city council hearing on the subject Wednesday.

Better Block

Mayor Charlie Hales (left) plays ping-pong with another visitor to the Oct. 3-5 experiment creating a pedestrian plaza in front of Voodoo Doughnut on 3rd Avenue.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

Local business owners said that except for traffic backing up in the two blocks north of Burnside — something they thought could be solved by adding a one-block turn lane — it worked like a charm during both day and night.

“Cars slowed down,” said Dixie Tavern owner Dan Lenzen, who spent every night watching the demo on 3rd Avenue. “Police officers were able to interact with drivers. At the end of the night, people dispersed quicker. People were able to cross the street comfortably. It allowed for wider sidewalk access. It did everything that it was designed to do.”

img_9333

(Photo: Adron Hall)

“I think this has gone from management of a liability to an opportunity to take the visions this neighborhood has had for a long time from concept to reality.”
— Charlie Hales, mayor of Portland

img_9246

(Photo: Adron Hall)

After the experiment, Chris Lenahan of the nightclub Dirty, also at the corner of Couch and 3rd, pulled the trigger on something he’d been considering: remodeling his storefront to start food and drink service at 4 p.m.

“I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” Lenahan said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I took my drawings down to the city yesterday. … It’s still going to be a nightclub at nighttime but more of a pub spot during the day.”

Lenahan said he plans to pursue a “street seats” permit from the city that’d let him put tables and cafe seating in what’s currently the parking lane, in exchange for compensating the city for lost parking revenue. In the longer term, he hopes the city will permanently convert auto parking or travel lanes to pedestrianized or cafe space.

At Wednesday’s council hearing, Commissioner Nick Fish praised the experimental design, which was created by volunteer group Better Block PDX in collaboration with the Old Town Hospitality Group, Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Police Bureau.

“It reminded me of Times Square,” Fish said. “They turned it into a plaza right at the intersection where you had more traffic than any other place in the city … and it created a calming effect and a different experience. … I’m guessing when that was proposed there was a lot of opposition, but in the end it’s working.”

better-worse-block

Same location during the Better Block demonstration and back to its current state a few days later.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Lenzen said he and most other businesses had hoped the council would approve immediate changes and end the weekend evening street blockades that have reduced police calls in the area but reduced sales at some businesses by preventing all car and bike traffic on a few streets after 10 p.m. Instead, Mayor Charlie Hales advanced a plan on Wednesday that shrinks the blockaded area and introduces a provision that will allow for further real-time testing.

“We’re going to move into the experimental stages,” said Howard Weiner, chair of the Old Town Community Association of businesses and residents in the neighborhood. “We’re going to try different ways of closing the streets.”

Commander Bob Day of the Portland Police Bureau Central Precinct praised the existing street barricades Wednesday for having reduced police calls by blocking auto traffic completely, but said he invited further changes.

“I’m not married to this,” Day said of the existing barricade plan. “I’m always open to new ideas, and I know this plan allows that.”

Commissioner Amanda Fritz said Wednesday that “activating the street could make it a safer street … but as we know from Last Thursday it can create some other challenges that need to be addressed and paid for.”

Hales said the “next phase of this” is likely to involve the Portland Bureau of Transportation and “also brings up conversation about future capital projects.”

Lenzen said his plan is to push for part of $6.1 million that the city has lined up for protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements downtown. That money will come available in 2015 or 2016.

Better Block

(Photo: Greg Raisman)

Hales was particularly enthusiastic during Wednesday’s hearing about the possibilities for 3rd Avenue.

“I think this has gone from management of a liability to an opportunity to take the visions this neighborhood has had for a long time from concept to reality,” the mayor said. “I’m very excited about this, looking forward to next stage of the work and learning new things … I hope that you have my enthusiatic cooperation to continue experimentation and collaboration. … Great work. More to come.”

Update 10:30 pm: If you didn’t get to stop by the demo, check out this video by Adron Hall that features interviews with spectators and retail business owners nearby. It was played for the City Council Monday.

Editor Jonathan Maus contributed reporting.

The post After 3-day demo, city council moves to ‘next phase’ of rethinking 3rd Avenue appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Rave reviews roll in for temporary ‘Better Block’ on 3rd Ave

Rave reviews roll in for temporary ‘Better Block’ on 3rd Ave

3rd Avenue Better Block PDX

The temporary plaza in front of Ankeny Alley and Voodoo Doughnut was bustling with commerce and enjoyment for most of the weekend.
(Photos: Greg Raisman unless noted)

This weekend in downtown Portland’s slightly seedy north side, a citizen group temporarily converted two lanes of auto parking, a big expanse of empty pavement and two traditional travel lanes into a huge new pedestrian plaza, rows of street seats and ping-pong tables and a protected bike lane.

And it was, more or less, a huge hit.

“It’s a radical change that bellows a bold declaration: Welcome to the future of Portland,” wrote Oregonian reporter Jamie Hale in a short, glowing review.

“They want you to feel a kind of living-room atmosphere here,” explained KGW’s reporter Nina Mehlhaf.

Organizers hope the city will decide to make the changes, or something like them, permanent.

Old Town’s car-free weekend nights, intended to keep drunk and rowdy people safe from traffic, haven’t been popular with patrons or local businesses. Their trial period expires this month, and local businesses are pushing to replace it with a permanent design that will improve safety and atmosphere without requiring towed cars and heavy police presence.

With that in mind, Mayor Charlie Hales stopped by at least twice, once on Friday evening:

3rd Avenue Better Block PDX

And once over the weekend, when he picked up some ice cream…

Better Block

…and joined a game of ping-pong.

Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick came by for some ping-pong, too:

On Saturday, the Mayor tweeted his take:

Hundreds of ordinary Portlanders and visitors, meanwhile, stopped through the area for fun, commerce or relaxation.

When KPTV, the local Fox affiliate, posted a short news item about the three-day demo, one of their website’s commenters was nervous.

“Bike lanes? uh oh here come the haters,” Liona wrote.

But the haters didn’t show.

“Actually. this was neat,” the next comment read. “They have it by Voodoo Doughnuts. There were ping-pong tables set up and extra places to sit. Worked really well. Sounds like a good weekend idea for that area, I didn’t see any issues with drivers OR Bikes.”

The only truly negative media coverage seemed to come from KOIN, where reporter Lisa Balick described it as “confusing to many drivers” and “a good thing this is just for the weekend.”

But even on that site, the only web comment disagreed with Balick’s take:

This was an experiment and it sounds like the businesses in Old Town supported it. I stopped by today and the atmosphere was genuinely lovely–something I never would have said about that area before. There were people relaxing in the plaza and drawing chalk art and playing ping-pong.

But it made somebody late for lunch. Apparently, that’s enough to tip the scales for KOIN.

Portland Bureau of Transportation employee Greg Raisman spent 30 hours at the project on his own time Friday and Saturday, capturing some terrific photos of the scene:

Better Block

Better Block

Better Block

3rd Avenue Better Block PDX

3rd Avenue Better Block PDX

3rd Avenue Better Block PDX

Better Block

Better Block

3rd Ave Better Block

As Jonathan observed on Friday, the big new plaza in front of Voodoo was clearly the star of this show. When I stopped by around 7 p.m. Friday, families were continuing to enjoy the street space, which was scattered with hay bales loaned by Linnton Feed and Seed.

kids hay bales night

tourists hay bales night

The city’s top traffic engineer, Rob Burchfeld, was there on Friday afternoon, too, biking up and down 3rd with Raisman to assess how much traffic was backing up. (And during rush hour, it certainly was backing up to the north — usually for a little more than two blocks during a red-light cycle. In other hours, multi-block backups were rare, though cars were certainly moving slower.)

“This is the type of community-led effort and collaboration that makes Portland a dynamic place to live, work, and play.”
— Rob Burchfeld, city traffic engineer

The basic issue in the Friday afternoon traffic backup was that in the block just north of Burnside, where many people were trying to either make left turns to cross the Burnside Bridge or head south to the Morrison Bridge freeway onramp, one block-lane of traffic wasn’t enough space to store all the cars that showed up during each light cycle.

In an email to BikePortland Monday, Burchfeld wrote that “we haven’t fully debriefed on our observations of traffic flow, but our preliminary response is that temporary traffic control appeared to work O.K. and pretty much as we expected for a demonstration project.”

Promising a more detailed response soon, Burchfeld added that “We congratulate all of the businesses and community volunteers that contributed their time, effort, and resources to the event. This is the type of community-led effort and collaboration that makes Portland a dynamic place to live, work, and play.”

In an email to his fellow organizers in the wee hours of Monday morning, Dixie Tavern owner Dan Lenzen wrote:

Simply, thank you.
You’re amazing. Let’s make dreams happen.
Need your help at City council now to make the 3rd street Street Closure Ordinance sunset and allow US to drive what has been started by the community.
This belongs to you and needs to stay in your hands.
Letters to all commissioners, testimony in 2 weeks, it’s time to activate your voice.

Another enthusiastic advocate of the demo, local pedicab entrepreneur Ryan Hashagen of Portland Pedalworks, chimed in:

Let’s encourage council to replace the Entertainment District “Street Closure Ordinance” with a community inspired “Public Street Ordinance” to better describe the uses of public space in Old Town. …

It was really amazing to see how different 3rd operated last night once our experiment ended and to be reminded how much more dangerous it is with 3 lanes of vehicles racing each other, even on Sunday night! This weekend, 3rd Avenue really was a welcoming public space! I really loved how it was an opportunity for tourists, locals, Old Town residents, and neighbors to all enjoy the space together. Many of the visitors i met were surprised that this was not a regular use of 3rd Avenue!

Boris Kaganovich of Better Block PDX, who led a volunteer team that raised more than $5,000 to cover costs and put hundreds of person-hours toward design, construction, supervision, media relations and teardown, wrote that he “can’t wait to see what we do next!”

The sponsors included regional government Metro, the nonprofit America Walks, Dixie Tavern and architecture firm Ankrom Moisan.

Kaganovich set up an overhead camera to capture the whole three-day experiment from a third-floor window. That video is being processed now; look for an excerpt of it here on the site soon.

Still, of all the ideas, gripes and raves I heard this weekend about what’s surely Portland’s most unusual volunteer-led transportation project in years — and it seemed as if everyone I ran into around town this weekend wanted to talk about it — one of the reviews was my favorite.

It came from Kirk Paulsen and Erinne Goodell’s dog, Cordi. Paulsen, a traffic analyst for Lancaster Engineering, fixed a camera on his bike on Friday to capture Cordi’s reactions as she rode through the downtown streets toward the event. You can see the entire video here, which really drives home how calm Cordi is as she sits in her usual perch at the front of the bike. But the last couple minutes of her ride are as reliable a case as anything I’ve seen that this weekend’s project briefly changed a little piece of Portland in a truly fundamental way:

Correction 10/7: An earlier version of this post misstated the lender of the hay bales.

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First look: Better Block re-imagines 3rd Ave with protected bike lane, new crosswalk

First look: Better Block re-imagines 3rd Ave with protected bike lane, new crosswalk

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-8

There’s a new protected bike lane on 3rd Ave!
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Early this morning, Better Block PDX took the wraps off its largest project yet: They’ve transformed three blocks of 3rd Ave from Davis (in Old Town) to Ash (near Voodoo Doughnut) from a bloated, auto-centric thoroughfare into a a more humane street with a protected bike lane, on-street bike parking, a new crosswalk and ample plaza space for sitting and enjoying a doughnut or three.

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-14

As we’ve been reporting, Better Block volunteers have created a real-life demonstration of a major street redesign that’s being pushed for by Old Town retailers but that the City of Portland isn’t quite ready to pull the trigger on.

I went out this morning to take a look.

First, a big shout-out is due to all the Better Block volunteers. They’ve worked extremely hard to pull this off and they’ve got a tough few days ahead of them. Downtown is not an easy place to do this. They’re managing a relatively large area and they’ll have to contend with big — and sometimes rowdy — crowds tonight and Saturday night. I caught one of the volunteers, Timur Ender, in a rare moment of calm…

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-7

Despite the hard work, the excitement for this project
exudes from Better Block volunteers like Timur Ender.

While the design elements aren’t exactly what I’d call elegant (orange cones, astroturf, and plywood blocks to act as lane separators), the spaces are being used as intended. Even though I worry the construction-zone aesthetic might confuse and/or turn off some people, I think the point will get across nonetheless.

As far as usage, the one standard lane that remains was bumper-to-bumper during the morning rush, while the new protected bike lane was pretty sparsely used. That’s not too surprising given that 3rd Avenue isn’t on most bike riders’ radar (and when some riders see a bunch of cones and other stuff in the road they simply opt for another route).

Here are some views of the protected bike lane north of Burnside…

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-1

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-2

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-3

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-6

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-10

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-18

Looking north for Ankeny at the intersection of 3rd and Burnside.

And here’s how it looks south of Burnside…

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-11

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-16

It’s amazing what a few cones, hay bales, and barriers can do. Over near Voodoo Doughnut, where the street is extremely, unnecessarily wide with three full standard lanes and two parking lanes, Better Block has maintained just one standard lane. In place of the other space usually taken over by drivers and their parked cars, the street now has a large protected bike lane, public seating space on both sides, and a new crosswalk at SE Ankeny (directly in front of Voodoo).

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-13

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-15

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-20

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-21

Bike parking near Ash St. Saloon.
Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-22

A crosswalk and a seating plaza in front of Voodoo is a complete no-brainer.

This section of the street, in front of Voodoo, has such obvious potential for a redesign and this demonstration effectively makes the point. The temporary crosswalk was busy while I was there and Voodoo customers sat and enjoyed their pink-boxed treats in the morning sun in what would typically be a lane of traffic.

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-17

It’s easy to see why Voodoo Doughnut is pushing the city to redesign the Ankeny intersection.

I highly recommend heading downtown and spending some time on 3rd Avenue today and through the weekend. Better Block will be bringing out ping-pong tables, Oregon Walks is leading informational tours, and there are other activities planned.

In the end, this is all about imagining what’s possible. The ultimate success of this demonstration will be measured in how quickly we can make it permanent.

BetterBlockPDX.org.

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Volunteers prep for Friday’s three-day ‘Better Block’ demonstration on 3rd Ave

Volunteers prep for Friday’s three-day ‘Better Block’ demonstration on 3rd Ave

boris in hallway

Boris Kaganovich of Better Block PDX with a half-built planter in the rooms where he and other volunteers have been preparing for a “pop-up” plaza and protected bike lanes on 3rd Avenue.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Working every evening for two weeks in a warren of unfinished rooms three stories above Old Town, more than a dozen enthusiastic volunteers have almost finished building the street features that will remake 3rd Avenue for one weekend, starting Friday morning.

“We managed to clear every store in town out of kreg screws,” organizer Boris Kaganovich of Better Block PDX said Tuesday, taking stock of the group’s inventory so far as he walked through the building. “And three Home Depots’ worth of Astroturf.”

astroturf

Approximately 1.5 Home Depots’ worth of Astroturf.

The main tools in the plan: 150 handmade wooden planters that’ll carve out a protected bike lane on the west side of the street, sidewalk cafe space on both sides and a big pedestrian plaza in front of Voodoo Doughnut and Ankeny Alley.

110 planters

Site Plan Davis-Ankeny

A detailed draft site plan by Better Block. (Click for a PDF.)

Also on the wall of Better Block’s third floor command center is a whiteboard map of all the activities planned.

3rd ave whiteboard

The group plans to set up a ping-pong table and a set of giant dominoes (on loan from the Portland Bureau of Transportation). Several Old Town storefronts, including Voodoo, plan to set up in the space outside their doors, and Old Town employer Airbnb is planning to take over an entire block face with office furniture. (Or something like that. Kaganovich said the company hasn’t gone into detail about their concept.)

Under the terms of the demo, members of the public will be allowed to sit in any temporary seating along the street. Restaurants will also be able to offer food service but no oudoor alcohol.

Better Block’s prep work will continue Wednesday and Thursday nights and through the weekend, Kaganovich said. Volunteers are still needed for cutting strips of Astroturf, stapling them to the top of plywood planters and (starting at 7 a.m. Friday and continuing around the clock until Sunday evening) sitting in Old Town streets in order to fulfill the Portland Police Bureau’s request that a volunteer be on site at all times to help move the planters in case of an emergency.

Part of the reason volunteers are contributing hundreds of hours is on the hunch that the City of Portland might see this weekend’s “pop up” event as a model for future community-driven street experiments, as New York City began doing a few years ago.

“We’re also hoping that if this is a success, that the city will be more open to this kind of project in the future,” said Ben Chaney, a Better Block volunteer, as he fitted an impact driver into the screw on a half-assembled planter Tuesday night. “I think it’d be pretty awesome to see a ‘temporary street rejuvination permit.’”

boris kaganovich planters

Boris Kaganovich and Ben Chaney build planters Tuesday night.

As it is, the city is charging Better Block $1,500 for three days’ worth of lost parking revenue. To make room for the new amenities, the demo will temporarily remove parking from both sides of 3rd between Ash and Davis, as well as all but one general travel lane on the one-way street. Safety signage is costing the group another $2,000, the construction materials $5,000 to $6,000.

Better Block has found sponsors for the event’s costs: $3,000 from regional government Metro, $1,500 from the advocacy group America Walks, $1,000 from Dixie Tavern and $1,000 from architecture firm Ankrom Moisan, among others.

If you’d like to lend time, chip in money for the next such demo or otherwise find a way to help out, write BetterBlockPDX@gmail.com.

melissa kaganovich stencils

Melissa Kaganovich sorts through stencils that will be used to mark the temporary protected bike lanes.

Or just come by Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday to enjoy the new urban space and help imagine the ways it could be permanently improved.

“I’m just very excited that all of the various plans have come together in the last two weeks,” Chaney said Tuesday. “Everything’s really fallen into place.”

Correction 2 pm: A previous version of this post incorrectly described the planned bike lane.

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For one weekend, Old Town will test a huge plaza, bike lanes and cafes along 3rd Avenue

For one weekend, Old Town will test a huge plaza, bike lanes and cafes along 3rd Avenue

dan and boris

Dixie Tavern owner Dan Lenzen, right, with Boris Kaganovich of Better Block PDX.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Frustrated by city officials’ estimates that it’d take several years to even consider a major redesign of 3rd Avenue through Old Town, a group of neighborhood businesses is teaming up with a team of livable streets advocates to create their own three-day demo of what a better street could look like — two weeks from today.

Inspired in part by the “pop-up” street projects that have helped reshape New York City in the last five years, organizers say Old Town’s three-block project will be one of the country’s largest such projects ever.

It’ll use wooden planters in the street to create more than a thousand square feet of new pedestrianized space between NW Davis an SW Ash, a protected bike lane, a series of new sidewalk cafes, a marked crosswalk and a huge new public plaza in front of Voodoo Doughnut adjoining Old Town’s thriving Ankeny Alley.

The Portland Business Alliance and the city’s fire, police and transportation bureaus have all signed off on the plan, which will run from 7 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 3 until Sunday, Oct. 5.

“We’re starting to build planters this weekend,” said Boris Kaganovich, an organizer of the project for the group Better Block PDX, the volunteer group that has partnered with the Old Town Hospitality Association and Old Town Community Association to do the project. “I’ve built the first two prototypes. Now we’ve just got to build 150 more.”

3rd Ave Flyer (updated format)

A Better Block rendering and promotional flyer. (Click for a PDF.)

It’s by far the biggest undertaking to date by Better Block, the all-volunteer nonprofit group that last year created a spectacular PARK(ing) Day on Southwest Stark and a temporary “Popcorn Plaza” this spring on Southeast Clinton Street.

Dan Lenzen, owner of the Dixie Tavern and a leader in the hospitality association, said in an interview Thursday that the demo is going to be “awesome.”

“It seems to be a pivotal opportunity for many people — businesses, residents, tourists and visitors — to look to see what it could look like with this change, how it might be able to positively affect the neighborhood on a broader scale,” Lenzen said. “It could be the catalyst for us to look at 3rd and 2nd and 4th street management changes.”

Here’s what 3rd Avenue looked like yesterday at 4:45 p.m.:

old town street with bike

plaza area

Standing at 3rd and Couch Thursday with Lenzen and Dixie Tavern manager Jeff Hebert, Kaganovich said the weekend demo would be a way to explain the benefits of changing 3rd Avenue that’d be more memorable and intuitive than Photoshop visualizations.

“We’re going to say, here are real people sitting down enjoying it,” Kaganovich said. Hebert nodded approvingly.

“I like it,” he said.

Better Block recruited Nick Falbo of Alta Planning + Design and Adrienne Leverette and Yelena Prusakova of Fat Pencil Studio for pro bono planning support. Lenzen and Kaganovich are also recruiting businesses along 3rd to move tables and chairs into the street, where Kaganovich said businesses will be allowed to offer food service even though non-customers will also be allowed to sit there during the event.

“It’s going to be privately owned furniture, but public seating,” he said.

Site Plan Davis-Ankeny

A detailed draft site plan by Better Block. (Click for a PDF.)

Lenzen said he’ll be on site during the demo to organize any necessary changes.

“It’s flexible, that’s the beauty of this thing,” Lenzen said. “If it’s not working one way, let’s try another way. If we don’t have enough tables out one day, let’s get some more out the next day.”

Kaganovich agreed.

“Because it’s temporary, no one has any objections.”
— Boris Kaganovich, Better Block PDX

“Because it’s temporary, no one has any objections,” he said. “We have a chance to get a bunch of stuff wrong and we can fix it in another round.”

Kaganovich, whose own day job is as a communications engineer for TriMet, credited the city for being responsive and open to the idea once he and Better Block’s other organizers figured out which city employees they needed to talk to.

“What’s amazing about Portland is that more than anywhere in the U.S. right now, I think, you can basically pick up a phone and talk to any city staffer,” he said.

That’s turned out to be great news for the Old Town business group.

“They’ve been trying to get the city to do this for a really long time,” Kaganovich said. “And we said, hey, we can do this in a month and change. And everyone’s eyes got really wide. … We couldn’t say no, given that all the stars seemed to line up.”

Better Block’s core team is meeting today to discuss plans for recruiting volunteers and soliciting enough donations for the project, whose cost they estimate at $5,000 to $6,000. If you’d like to help make this project happen, you can donate online to support the effort or email Kaganovich, kaga0008@gmail.com, for details on how to volunteer.

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