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One week left to apply for two important city funding committees

One week left to apply for two important city funding committees

Bike Advisory Cmte Meeting-1.jpg

The city’s bicycle advisory committee is different, but you get the idea.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Not everybody loved the local gas tax that Portland voters approved in May. But most Portlanders can probably agree that now that it exists, it ought to be spent as promised.

There’s a strong possibility that the tax might bring in more or less money than expected, or that the city might eventually consider changing the project list in ways that violate the implicit promise to voters that it made when it created the list.

If either of those things were to happen, the main watchdog institution will be a volunteer oversight committee that’s currently recruiting members.







Given the amount of vitriol expressed by some opponents of the tax, it wouldn’t be surprising if many people interested in joining the oversight committee were opponents of the tax for one reason or another. Which is why the application deadline for the committee — this coming Tuesday — is something biking advocates might want to know about.

It requires a sixteen-hour commitment over two years: quarterly meetings of two hours each. Here’s the application. If you have questions, you can email irene.schwoeffermann@portlandoregon.gov.

Also Tuesday, the city will close applications for its general transportation budget advisory committee. This group meets monthly, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on third Thursdays, and in addition to giving some influence over staff who make budgetary decisions, it’s a way to become a more effective advocate by learning the nuts and bolts of where the city’s money is. If you’re interested in that position, you can apply for it here.

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

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City of Portland’s 823-SAFE hotline now offered online

City of Portland’s 823-SAFE hotline now offered online

traffic safety form

The new web form.
(PortlandOregon.gov)

There’s now a keyboard-ready alternative to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s excellent 823-SAFE hotline.

The city’s hotline has a great reputation among those in the know, who use it for things as diverse as a poorly timed traffic signal or a low-hanging branch. Even on issues that can’t be fixed immediately, a history of reports about a given location can alert city staffers to a bigger project worth tackling.

The phone hotline has been around for over a decade (at least), and many people also use the safe@portlandoregon.gov email version. Now the City of Portland offers a web-based version.

For some reason, you can’t use it without first creating an account on the city’s website (something the site prompts you to do). Fortunately, that process seems to have improved recently, too: today, for the first time in five years, I was able to easily change my password on the site.

Once you’ve successfully logged in, you need to re-enter your name, email address and phone number, and then describe the safety issue. You also have an option to upload photos.





The new site will supplement the PDX Reporter mobile app and the ORCycle mobile app, which is routed by the state transportation department to the relevant jurisdiction. And also the good old telephone — the hotline number remains the same.

823-SAFE is just one of the city’s various hotlines; others worth knowing about include those for street light outages, parking enforcement, damaged sidewalks, potholes and abandoned cars.

Ideally our city would have enough staff and funding to address all these relatively minor street safety and livability issues proactively; but until that happens, this crowd-sourcing approach is the best we can do.

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

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City has two years to make the case to save 26th Avenue bike lanes, it says

City has two years to make the case to save 26th Avenue bike lanes, it says

Protest on SE Powell-1.jpg

The bike lanes on SE 26th run in front of Cleveland High School and carry about 600 to 800 people daily.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Because 26th Avenue won’t be repaved for another year or two, the city will have time and data to try to persuade the Oregon Department of Transportation to reverse its decision.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation confirmed Thursday that it has agreed to remove the bike lanes from SE 26th Avenue near Powell in order to get the state’s approval for a new signal at 28th.

A city spokesman said that because 26th Avenue won’t be repaved for another year or two, the city will have time and data to try to persuade the Oregon Department of Transportation to reverse its decision. But an ODOT spokesman said the state can’t say what data it might or might not find persuasive.

The new biking-walking traffic signal to be added at 28th will help create a new segment of neighborhood greenway, which the city had hoped would serve as a lower-stress alternative to the flat, direct and uncomfortably narrow bike lanes on 26th.

But as we reported in August, the state and city have been arguing for months over whether the presence of a nearby neighborhood greenway is a reason to remove the bike lanes from 26th Avenue. ODOT has said that removing bike lanes from 26th Avenue would increase safety by making fewer people bike through what it says is a dangerous intersection.

Whether or not there are bike lanes on a city street wouldn’t usually be up to the state government. But new traffic signals on Powell, a state highway, are the state’s business — and ODOT agreed to the new signal at 28th and Powell only on the condition that the city promise to remove the 26th Avenue bike lanes.


On Thursday, city spokesman Dylan Rivera said that the city will be able to gather data during the window of time, which he described as “one to two years,” after the 28th Avenue signal is installed but before the 26th Avenue lanes are removed.

“PBOT believes our planners and engineers can make a strong case for keeping the bike lanes there,” Rivera said, acknowledging that the decision will ultimately be up to ODOT.

ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said Thursday that the city is welcome, one or two years from now, to try to persuade the state to change course.

“We can start discussing it again,” Hamilton said.

Last week, ODOT spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie said that if bike traffic on 26th exceeded city “projections,” the state would “revisit” its decision to require the bike lanes’ removal. But the projections she apparently referred to had considered a scenario in which there was no northbound bike lane on 26th.

Dinwiddie was out of the office Thursday and referred questions to Hamilton.

Hamilton said ODOT can’t speculate on what sort of data it might or might not find persuasive in two years.

“We don’t know what information it would raise,” he said.

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


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State and city fast-track closure of extra offramp near east end of Broadway Bridge

State and city fast-track closure of extra offramp near east end of Broadway Bridge

i-5lead

The extra “slip ramp” from
I-5 onto Broadway would close.

Here’s some good news about one of the most dangerous spots on one of Portland’s most popular bike routes.

The Oregon Department of Transportation and City of Portland are planning to break ground this spring on much-anticipated changes to the area where a southbound Interstate 5 offramp drops people fresh off the freeway into a slip lane that curves across the North Broadway bike lane.

This project had previously been scheduled to start next summer.

The changes planned will mean that when someone exits I-5 to head across the Broadway Bridge, instead of seeing this (a “slip lane” that is all but begging people to roll through it, right into a bike lane)…

Screenshot 2015-12-11 at 12.26.17 AM

…they’ll see something that looks more like this:

Screenshot 2015-12-11 at 12.28.25 AM


ODOT will close the existing slip lane and the exit will land further from the confusingly aligned intersections of Flint and Wheeler that have been the site of repeated bike-related collisions over the years.

According to Betsy Reese, a biking and walking advocate who previously owned the nearby Paramount Apartments and has continued to track the issue, the changes “should markedly reduce the chaotic cluster of crossing movements between motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians at this location.”

Here’s an ODOT graphic showing all the changes coming with this project…

broadway wheeler project elements

(Image: ODOT)

The good news continues. Thanks to increases in the number of people walking in the area (possibly related to new developments and economic activity nearby), Reese said the new pedestrian signal to be added between N. Ross and N. Wheeler (marked with a 6 in the ODOT graphic above) “will be a standard ‘Red-Amber-Green’ signal, just like the signals at Vancouver, Benton and Larrabee.”

Reese writes that this is an upgrade from earlier plans, which had called for a hybrid beacon that has only red and amber lights and goes dark when not in use.

As noted in the graphic above, the project will also add a new curb extension on the southeast corner of Broadway and Wheeler. This should calm traffic and make crossing easier.

This project is a major victory for Reese and other advocates who’ve spent years persuading the state and city that fast-moving traffic off the freeway should not be the top priority in this important corridor just outside downtown. Broadway has a long way to go before it’ll be the comfortable biking route from Hollywood to downtown that it’s destined to eventually become. But this is a significant step toward making that possible.

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


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Portland will require cab and Uber drivers to take Vision Zero safety training

Portland will require cab and Uber drivers to take Vision Zero safety training

Riding Portland's urban highways-8

Eyes on the street?
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

At their best, Lyft and Uber are better cab companies, one more piece of a system that enables low-car life.

At their worst, they’re a system for subsidizing an army of people driving around town with their eyes glued to GPS screens.

Portland’s new regulations of for-hire transportation companies, released last week, include an interesting change that’s supposed to target the problem: the city’s first mandatory safety training for drivers of taxis and “transportation network companies” like Uber or Lyft.

“There will be thousands of drivers from both the taxis and TNCs that will undergo this training,” city spokesman John Brady said in an email Wednesday. “We are forecasting that they will give over 3.6 million rides next year. So training them in the basic Vision Zero principles and specifically as they relate to people who walk and people who bike represents the chance to spread the Vision Zero message to a sector that is central to Portland’s transportation system.”

This intriguing detail was first reported by the Mercury. We asked Brady if there are any other details yet.

Not really. It’s not clear whether there will be a written or other test involved, or what exactly will be taught.

“At this time, we don’t have the set content for the Vision Zero training,” Brady said. “This will be defined once the regulations become permanent.”

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Per the new regulations, here’s a summary of the city’s current safety training rules for cab drivers:

Drivers must pass a City-administered knowledge and within 6 months of issuance of a driver’s permit, drivers must certify completion of City-approved driver safety and customer service training. Permits automatically revoked if not successfully completed within 6 months.

And here’s the new language agreed to by a city task force that was convened by Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick.

Drivers must successfully complete trainings administered and/or
approved by PBOT within 30 days in the following subject areas:

  • PFHT Code provisions and rule
  • Vision Zero principles of traffic safety
  • Portland-area attractions
  • Customer service

If this isn’t the first such set of rules in the country that specifically calls out Vision Zero (the concept of systematically finding and eliminating the public factors that contributed to every road death), it’s one of them. Earlier this year in San Francisco, a collision between an Uber driver and a person biking called attention to that city’s stricter safety training requirements for taxi drivers.

The new rules will also apply to pedicab operators.

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


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Full speed ahead: City’s new transportation dashboard tracks progress

Full speed ahead: City’s new transportation dashboard tracks progress

Last week at the Ann Niles Transportation Lecture, Los Angeles Transportation Director Seleta Reynolds said the overwhelming majority of her job is good management, not the clever policymaking that everybody usually wants to talk about.

Here at BikePortland, we’re guilty of talking a lot about clever (or not so clever) policymaking. But this year, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is also going through some operational changes that are worth knowing about.

Under Director Leah Treat, PBOT is working to be more precise and public about the status of its many projects. And a new tool on its website looks a lot like a gimmick but is actually a pretty good new way to keep track of everything the city is up to.

The tool is called the Portland Progress Dashboard. You can see a screenshot above.

By themselves, these dials are not very useful. But there’s a lot going on behind this scene.

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To learn more, I clicked on a dial that’s close to my heart: “Build a future where we can all grow and thrive.” It leads to a page explaining the little goals that have been grouped into this big goal:

grow and thrive

Still not very specific. But click on one of those subject areas and you get something much more useful:

Connect Portlanders to Economic Opportunities
B3.1 Transitioning Arterials to PBOT – Status: 1

Identify pre-requisites for PBOT to accept jurisdiction and responsibility for state highways and transition to urban arterials. Include estimated capital costs to bring up to City Standard and ongoing maintenance costs. Based on findings, prioritize list of transfers. Work with ODOT and State Legislature to identify funding to upgrade facilities prior to transfer.

B3.2 Greenways Wayfinding – Status: 2

Implement enhanced wayfinding and communication to increase the usefulness of neighborhood greenway connectors in improving access to nearby business districts. Explore smart phone app marketed to residents and visitors to assist in wayfinding. Build partnerships with small businesses to shape and implement.

B3.3 High Capacity Transit – Status: 3

Continue active participation and collaboration with Metro and TriMet to implement High Capacity Transit service along key corridors, including current Bus Rapid Transit project on Powell-Division.

B3.4 Access to Frequent Transit – Status: 3

Collaborate with TriMet to coordinate targeted PBOT street improvements with desired increases to bus frequency in order to make it safer and easier for more Portlanders to access frequent transit. Develop agreedupon investment plans along two routes.

B3.5 Complete the Loop – Status: 2

In 2015, complete the loop system for Portland Streetcar to support innercity short transit trips and encourage and support redevelopment and land use goals.

B3.6 Add 1 Streetcar – Status: 1

Expand the streetcar fleet by one more vehicle in 2015 to achieve service targets for performance and schedule.

B3.7 Streetcar Economic Impact – Status: 3

Strengthen analysis and documentation of Portland Streetcar’s impact on economic development by validating and monitoring measures over time and establishing formal reanalysis and new research opportunities.

Aha! There are a bunch of things the city is working on that I wasn’t aware of. The ratings range from 0 (not yet initiated) to 4 (completed) and their values, added up and averaged, are what influence the less-useful “dials” on the main dashboard site. There’s also a helpful chart on each page, showing PBOT’s relative progress on each sub-goal:

grow and thrive goals

Uh-oh! Kudos to PBOT for setting explicit goals around equity, presumably to be spearheaded by new equity and inclusion manager Zan Gibbs. Looks like she’s got her work cut out.

This sort of public tracking of everything an organization does requires significant effort. But we pay PBOT $326 million a year to do all this — it only makes sense that some of that money go toward understanding what we’re getting for it.


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State says there’s not enough proof that bike lanes boost safety, so 26th Ave lanes should go

State says there’s not enough proof that bike lanes boost safety, so 26th Ave lanes should go

26th powell bike box

The City of Portland wants to create a second, more comfortable crossing of Powell at 28th, but the state says it won’t allow one unless bike lanes and bike boxes at 26th (shown here) are removed.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Three weeks after being asked if it can cite any evidence supporting its claim that removing a bike lane can sometimes increase bike safety, the State of Oregon has come up empty.

Moreover, a state spokeswoman wrote in an email Tuesday that four studies cited by the City of Portland that document safety benefits of bike lanes are inadequate, though the state did not say in what way the studies fall short.

“More research needs to be done,” the Oregon Department of Transportation said in its statement.

Research notwithstanding, the Oregon Department of Transportation is continuing to deny the City of Portland’s request to install a new stoplight at 28th Avenue and Powell (which would let the city create a new north-south neighborhood greenway on 28th) unless the city agrees to first remove the narrow bike lanes from nearby 26th Avenue.

Those bike lanes, which cross Powell directly in front of Cleveland High School and connect to the major commercial node at 26th and Clinton, are currently used for about 600 to 800 cycling trips a day.

ODOT’s statement came one week after BikePortland asked if the state had any response to a letter about 26th Avenue, sent by Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller to the city’s bicycle advisory committee. In the letter, Geller had cited four studies showing, he said, that even a very narrow bike lane like the one on 26th Avenue tends to increase safety on the street.

“Research on this topic is not always conclusive and can even be conflicting. More research needs to be done.”
— Oregon Department of Transportation, on whether narrow bike lanes are safer than no bike lanes

According to the studies, even narrow bike lanes prompt people to bike further from the doors of parked cars and prompt people to give bike users more space when passing them in a car. According to a federally funded academic meta-analysis, bike lanes reduce crash rates on a street by 36 to 50 percent.

In an email Tuesday, ODOT said the idea that bad bike lanes are better than nothing was not a reasonable conclusion to draw from those studies, but didn’t say why Geller’s interpretation was inaccurate.

Also in that email, the state denied that the head of its engineering department had ever claimed, in an interview about the 26th Avenue bike lane, that there are “conflicting studies” about the phenomenon of “safety in numbers,” the frequently cited observation that increasing the number of bikes on a street or in a city tends to reduce the risk of biking.

Narrow bike lanes are better than nothing, city says

26th powell crowd in bike box

10 a.m. southbound bike traffic at 26th and Powell.

Aside from the question of evidence, the state’s fundamental argument is fairly simple: if you remove the 3.5-foot bike lanes from 26th Avenue and create a greenway crossing at 28th, most people will probably cross at 28th, which is safer than 26th because it will have fewer turning vehicles.

But if you do that without removing the bike lane from 26th, the state says, many people will keep biking on 26th.

The city, on the other hand, argues that people should be able to choose which street to bike on, and that many people are likely to bike on 26th Avenue (or at least to cross Powell there) whether or not there is a bike lane. Removing the bike lane, the city says, will make 26th Avenue more dangerous for no good reason.

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Here are the four studies Geller cited, showing (he said) that even narrow, substandard bike lanes like the ones on 26th Avenue are safer than a street with no bike lanes:

Evaluation of Shared-Use Facilities for Bicycles and Motor Vehicles,” Transportation Research Board, Record No. 1578, Harkey, D.L, Stewart, J.R., 1997 concluded that “bicycle lanes as narrow as 0.92 m (3 ft) provide sufficient space for motorists and bicyclists to interact safely. At the same time, a 1.22m (4-ft) wide bicycle lane tended to optimize operating conditions because there were very few differences in the measures of effectiveness when 1.22-m lanes were compared with wider lanes.”

Effect of Wide Curb Lane Conversions on Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Interactions,” Report prepared for the Florida Department of Transportation, William W. Hunter, John R. Feaganes, Highway Safety Research Center, University of North Carolina, April 2004; concluded that people bicycling and people driving positioned themselves more safely on a roadway with 11’ travel lanes and 3’ bicycle lanes than with just a 14’ travel lane.

National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 766 “Recommended Bicycle Lane Widths for Various Roadway Characteristics,” Transportation Research Board, 2014 provides a literature review that states the following:
“Bike lanes have a positive impact on safety when compared with unmarked roadways. Bahar et al. (2008) found that the presence of a bike lane reduces bicycle crashes by 36%. This finding is supported by other research.”
“Reynolds et al. (2009) examined the relationship between bicycle infrastructure and cyclist safety through a review of 23 papers from 1975 through 2009. When examining the studies related to roadway segments (rather than intersections), marked bike lanes and bike routes were found to reduce crash rates and injuries by about half when compared to unmodified roadways. The safety effectiveness of specific bicycle facility designs was not described by Reynolds et al.”

How Pavement Markings Influence Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Positioning: A Case Study in Cambridge, MA” Report prepared for City of Cambridge, MA, Ron Van Houten, Mount Saint Vincent University and Cara Seiderman, City of Cambridge, concluded bicycle lanes “encouraged cyclists to ride farther away from parked cars” helping to reduce the chances of being doored when compared to streets without bicycle lanes.

In an email Tuesday, ODOT spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie offered “ODOT’s response” to Geller’s citation of these studies. Here it is, in its entirety: “We don’t feel it’s fair to boil down many research studies into one black-and-white summary statement. It’s not that simple. Research on this topic is not always conclusive and can even be conflicting. More research needs to be done.”

State says engineering manager never claimed that reducing bike traffic can improve safety

students biking in crosswalk 26th powell

Some people who bike on 26th already don’t bother with the bike lanes.

Another issue raised by BikePortland’s Aug. 5 interview with several ODOT officials, including regional traffic engineering manager Sue D’Agnese, was what D’Agnese had meant when she said that there are “conflicting studies” about whether having more bikes at a location increases bike safety.

Because she said ODOT was motivated “only by safety” in pushing the city to remove the 26th Avenue bike lane, I’d asked her whether she had any evidence that removing the 26th Avenue bike lane would in fact improve safety. Even if most people began crossing at 28th, I said, the people still biking on 26th would see increased risk — if nothing else because there would be so few of them.

In the interview, D’Agnese responded that the “safety in numbers” trend was not always true.

“There’s conflicting studies in the transportation safety realm,” she said. “There’s also studies that when bike volumes are high, crash rate goes up. … It depends on the geometry and the site-specific conditions.”

At the time, I told D’Agnese that this was contrary to everything I’d heard about the subject as a reporter, so I would like to know where that information was coming from. On Aug. 18 I sent another email making the request more explicit.

In her email Tuesday, Dinwiddie (who wasn’t herself present at the first interview) wrote that ODOT believes my notes from the interview were inaccurate:

Unfortunately that’s not an accurate summary of what Sue said. She said: “Regardless of mode, generally more traffic results in a higher frequency (total number) of crashes due to the higher exposure. Therefore, an increase in bike traffic could result in an increase in the frequency of crashes. However, an increase in the frequency of bike crashes could occur at the same time there is an overall lower crash rate due to higher total traffic volumes.”

That’s a perfectly reasonable statement — to carry it to an extreme, of course there would be zero bike crashes if no one ever rode bikes — but it doesn’t have any bearing on how the state is balancing the potentially increased risk of biking on 26th Avenue against the safety benefits of a new signal at 28th. Also, it’s definitely not anything close to what D’Agnese said.

Assuming ODOT does not change course, the city’s staffers have not yet reached a decision about whether to scrap their request for a signal on 28th Avenue or to scrap the bike lane on 26th.

“Our intent is to keep our options open,” city project manager Rich Newlands wrote Tuesday. “We believe there are still creative solutions that will allow us to have both the new signal at 28th and retain the bike lanes on 26th.”


The post State says there’s not enough proof that bike lanes boost safety, so 26th Ave lanes should go appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Council vote today would allow more diverters on neighborhood greenways

Council vote today would allow more diverters on neighborhood greenways

A family ride from NoPo to Sellwood-18

A traffic diverter allowing biking and walking traffic but blocking auto traffic.
(Photos: J.Maus and M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Traffic diverters: back by popular demand.

“If people are telling us ‘I don’t feel comfortable riding a bike on this street,’ then the greenway is not performing its intended function.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT bicycle planning coordinator

At their weekly meeting in City Hall this morning morning, Portland’s city council is poised to adopt a set of guidelines sweeping away an internal barrier that had led the city to avoid using diverters in many situations where they would improve a neighborhood greenway.

Neighborhood greenways are Portland’s name for the side streets that use sharrow decals, speed humps, signs and stoplights to make them comfortable for biking and other outdoor activity.

Traffic diverters are facilities like the ones at Northeast Tillamook and 16th or Southeast Clinton and Chavez that block cars from driving through certain intersections.

Wednesday’s council vote would be one of the biggest steps Portland has ever taken to enshrine neighborhood greenways as a higher priority than other side streets — and to acknowledge that the city must not only build new greenways but also tend to problems on the ones it has already built.

ngs map

“More people are traveling on Portland’s streets,” the city’s transportation staff explains in a new report on neighborhood greenways. “Increased residential and commercial development is requiring new strategies for managing the neighborhood greenway system.”

The report and guidelines come in response to a year of sustained activism from pro-bike Portlanders for the city to use diverters more often. New diverters on Southeast Clinton have been the No. 1 issue for the upstart group BikeLoudPDX, and were one of the main requests in a rally that group organized at City Hall in June.

City officials say that message has been heard.

“People are saying ‘This is not comfortable, this is not safe,’” Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller said. “If people are telling us ‘I don’t feel comfortable riding a bike on this street,’ then the greenway is not performing its intended function.”

diverter not dirty word

A June rally by BikeLoudPDX included many calls for more diverters.

The guidelines proposed in the new Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report would essentially direct city planners and engineers to install a diverter on any part of a neighborhood greenway that sees more than 2,000 cars per day.

That means Southeast Clinton, Southeast Lincoln, Northwest Johnson, Northwest 24th and Southeast 130th would all get diverters to reduce non-local auto traffic.

In all, the report’s recommendations would trigger an estimated $1 million in improvements to a handful of the city’s existing neighborhood greenways, said city active transportation manager Margi Bradway, who has been the driving force behind the report.

According to the city’s study of traffic speeds and volumes throughout its network, new diverters and/or speed humps are needed on these existing routes:

• NE Alameda
• SE Ankeny
• SE Clinton-Woodward
• SE Lincoln-Harrison-Ladd
• NW Greenways, which includes short sections of several streets throughout inner Northwest
• NE Tillamook-Hancock

The city’s goal with speed humps would be to slow traffic until less than 15 percent of people are driving faster than the 20 mph speed limit on greenways.

The $1 million is unfunded. Bradway hopes that Wednesday’s council vote on the new guidelines (expected around 10 a.m.) will lay the groundwork for that cash being included in the city’s 2016-2017 budget.

Mayor Charlie Hales has already called for a new experimental diverter on Clinton to be built in the current fiscal year.

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Earlier this year, we shared two advance tidbits from this report: a map showing traffic speeds on neighborhood greenways and another showing traffic volumes.

Of those two, the city feels that traffic speeds represent the bigger problem. Though the city is aiming for 20 mph speeds on its greenways, traffic moves faster than that on 84 percent of the system.

auto speeds

Traffic volumes are a smaller-scale problem. Only 9 percent of the system sees traffic volumes above 2,000 cars per day. But those trouble spots are concentrated in inner Northwest and Southeast Portland.

auto volumes

Both maps above also show major problems on the 130s neighborhood greenway in East Portland. That’s because the greenway doesn’t exist yet. It’s already scheduled to get speed humps, and the data suggests that it might need one or more diverters, too.

Here’s a useful chart in the report that shows why traffic volumes matter so much to the biking experience: on a street like Clinton that carries 3,000 cars per day, about 21 cars will pass a bike during a 10-minute trip.

passed by a car times

In addition to the maximum of 2,000 cars per day, the report offers an “alternate guideline” that neighborhood greenways should never have more than 100 cars in a single direction over the course of an hour.

“The traffic volume during the rest of the day may be very low, but the significant increase in peak-period autos creates a high-stress environment for people biking during that time,” the report explains.

margi bradway

City active transportation manager Margi Bradway, left, kicked off the creation of today’s report and the new guidelines.

Understanding the significance of today’s report requires understanding a set of internal guidelines that few Portlanders have ever heard of.

It was created in the 1990s, when then-Transportation Commissioner Earl Blumenauer pioneered a program that let residents lobby the city to install diverters on their streets. The goal was simple: force car traffic to use arterial and collector streets instead.

But according to the rules written in those days, diverters couldn’t be used simply to swap large amounts of traffic from one local street to another.

If a proposed diverter on any local street would be expected to send a substantial number of cars per day to a different local street, the diverter couldn’t be built. The city saw no upside in merely moving the traffic problem around.

Today’s guidelines scrap that system. Even if a new diverter on a neighborhood greenway would send hundreds of cars onto other local streets, that would now be OK.

The new guidelines draw the line at 1,000 cars. Diverters still aren’t allowed to direct that many new cars to any single local street.

The rationale for the rule change is simple, Geller said: neighborhood greenways are more than just local streets.

“It may be a local street for automobile traffic,” he said. “But it’s an important street in the city’s classification system for bicycle transportation.”


The post Council vote today would allow more diverters on neighborhood greenways appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Council vote today would allow more diverters on neighborhood greenways

Council vote today would allow more diverters on neighborhood greenways

A family ride from NoPo to Sellwood-18

A traffic diverter allowing biking and walking traffic but blocking auto traffic.
(Photos: J.Maus and M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Traffic diverters: back by popular demand.

“If people are telling us ‘I don’t feel comfortable riding a bike on this street,’ then the greenway is not performing its intended function.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT bicycle planning coordinator

At their weekly meeting in City Hall this morning, Portland’s city council is poised to adopt a set of guidelines sweeping away an internal barrier that had led the city to avoid using diverters in many situations where they would improve a neighborhood greenway.

Neighborhood greenways are Portland’s name for the side streets that use sharrow decals, speed humps, signs and stoplights to make them comfortable for biking and other outdoor activity.

Traffic diverters are facilities like the ones at Northeast Tillamook and 16th or Southeast Clinton and Chavez that block cars from driving through certain intersections.

Wednesday’s council vote would be one of the biggest steps Portland has ever taken to enshrine neighborhood greenways as a higher priority than other side streets — and to acknowledge that the city must not only build new greenways but also tend to problems on the ones it has already built.

ngs map

“More people are traveling on Portland’s streets,” the city’s transportation staff explains in a new report on neighborhood greenways. “Increased residential and commercial development is requiring new strategies for managing the neighborhood greenway system.”

The report and guidelines come in response to a year of sustained activism from pro-bike Portlanders for the city to use diverters more often. New diverters on Southeast Clinton have been the No. 1 issue for the upstart group BikeLoudPDX, and were one of the main requests in a rally that group organized at City Hall in June.

City officials say that message has been heard.

“People are saying ‘This is not comfortable, this is not safe,’” Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller said. “If people are telling us ‘I don’t feel comfortable riding a bike on this street,’ then the greenway is not performing its intended function.”

diverter not dirty word

A June rally by BikeLoudPDX included many calls for more diverters.

The guidelines proposed in the new Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report would essentially direct city planners and engineers to install a diverter on any part of a neighborhood greenway that sees more than 2,000 cars per day.

That means Southeast Clinton, Southeast Lincoln, Northwest Johnson, Northwest 24th and Southeast 130th would all get diverters to reduce non-local auto traffic.

In all, the report’s recommendations would trigger an estimated $1 million in improvements to a handful of the city’s existing neighborhood greenways, said city active transportation manager Margi Bradway, who has been the driving force behind the report.

According to the city’s study of traffic speeds and volumes throughout its network, new diverters and/or speed humps are needed on these existing routes:

• NE Alameda
• SE Ankeny
• SE Clinton-Woodward
• SE Lincoln-Harrison-Ladd
• NW Greenways, which includes short sections of several streets throughout inner Northwest
• NE Tillamook-Hancock

The city’s goal with speed humps would be to slow traffic until less than 15 percent of people are driving faster than the 20 mph speed limit on greenways.

The $1 million is unfunded. Bradway hopes that Wednesday’s council vote on the new guidelines (expected around 10 a.m.) will lay the groundwork for that cash being included in the city’s 2016-2017 budget.

Mayor Charlie Hales has already called for a new experimental diverter on Clinton to be built in the current fiscal year.

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Earlier this year, we shared two advance tidbits from this report: a map showing traffic speeds on neighborhood greenways and another showing traffic volumes.

Of those two, the city feels that traffic speeds represent the bigger problem. Though the city is aiming for 20 mph speeds on its greenways, traffic moves faster than that on 84 percent of the system.

auto speeds

Traffic volumes are a smaller-scale problem. Only 9 percent of the system sees traffic volumes above 2,000 cars per day. But those trouble spots are concentrated in inner Northwest and Southeast Portland.

auto volumes

Both maps above also show major problems on the 130s neighborhood greenway in East Portland. That’s because the greenway doesn’t exist yet. It’s already scheduled to get speed humps, and the data suggests that it might need one or more diverters, too.

Here’s a useful chart in the report that shows why traffic volumes matter so much to the biking experience: on a street like Clinton that carries 3,000 cars per day, about 21 cars will pass a bike during a 10-minute trip.

passed by a car times

In addition to the maximum of 2,000 cars per day, the report offers an “alternate guideline” that neighborhood greenways should never have more than 100 cars in a single direction over the course of an hour.

“The traffic volume during the rest of the day may be very low, but the significant increase in peak-period autos creates a high-stress environment for people biking during that time,” the report explains.

margi bradway

City active transportation manager Margi Bradway, left, kicked off the creation of today’s report and the new guidelines.

Understanding the significance of today’s report requires understanding a set of internal guidelines that few Portlanders have ever heard of.

It was created in the 1990s, when then-Transportation Commissioner Earl Blumenauer pioneered a program that let residents lobby the city to install diverters on their streets. The goal was simple: force car traffic to use arterial and collector streets instead.

But according to the rules written in those days, diverters couldn’t be used simply to swap large amounts of traffic from one local street to another.

If a proposed diverter on any local street would be expected to send a substantial number of cars per day to a different local street, the diverter couldn’t be built. The city saw no upside in merely moving the traffic problem around.

Today’s guidelines scrap that system. Even if a new diverter on a neighborhood greenway would send hundreds of cars onto other local streets, that would now be OK.

The new guidelines draw the line at 1,000 cars. Diverters still aren’t allowed to direct so many new cars to any single local street that its traffic exceeds that level.

The rationale for the rule change is simple, Geller said: neighborhood greenways are more than just local streets.

“It may be a local street for automobile traffic,” he said. “But it’s an important street in the city’s classification system for bicycle transportation.”

Correction 3:20 pm: A previous version of this post misstated the maximum amount of auto traffic the new guidelines will allow on non-neighborhood-greenway local streets. They will allow post-diversion levels up to 1,000 cars per day, not up to 1,000 additional cars per day.


The post Council vote today would allow more diverters on neighborhood greenways appeared first on BikePortland.org.

City council will weigh new neighborhood greenway guidelines Wednesday

City council will weigh new neighborhood greenway guidelines Wednesday

clinton speed

Southeast Clinton Street.
(Photo:M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Some biking advocates are planning to wear green to Wednesday’s Portland City Council meeting to welcome the arrival of a long-awaited city study of Portland’s neighborhood greenways.

The study, first reported on BikePortland in November, has since evolved to include a new set of recommended guidelines for what makes a comfortable greenway. The guidelines would, in some ways, enshrine modern neighborhood greenways into city practices for the first time.

Over the last year, many Portlanders have warned that some neighborhood greenways — the theoretically low-traffic, low-stress side streets that form the backbone of the bike network in most of inner east Portland and a major component of its city’s planned network — are uncomfortable and unwelcoming to bike on because of high car traffic and speeds.

The city data gathered for this report essentially confirmed those warnings.

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Most notably, city staff are proposing a formal target of 1,000 motor vehicles per day on neighborhood greenways, with 1,500 acceptable and city action required for levels over 2,000 cars per day.

For crossings of major streets, the city is proposing a target of at least 50 opportunities to cross per hour on bike or foot, with at least 100 crossings ideal.

Both of these guidelines would represent changes over the current benchmarks. Look for a more in-depth exploration of the proposed guidelines in the next couple days.

Advocacy group BikeLoudPDX is organizing Portlanders to testify in support of the staff recommendations, which are being submitted to the city council for formal review. The group is inviting supporters of neighborhood greenways to show up at Portland City Hall, 1220 SW 5th Ave., at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

The council’s agenda calls for the report to be presented at 9:45 a.m. and last 30 minutes.


The post City council will weigh new neighborhood greenway guidelines Wednesday appeared first on BikePortland.org.