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First look: Portland’s new bike roundabout and two-way cycling lane on NE 21st Avenue

First look: Portland’s new bike roundabout and two-way cycling lane on NE 21st Avenue

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A circular bikeway interchange (or whatever you want to call it) is the centerpiece of several changes on the NE 21st bridge over Interstate 84.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Slowly but sure our city’s transportation bureau is creating more protected space for cycling. I took a closer look at the latest example of this on the Northeast 21st Avenue bridge over I-84 just east of the Lloyd District.

As we reported back in May, it’s one of the nine projects in the hopper citywide that feature physical separation between cycling and driving traffic.

“It’s now the most bicycle-friendly crossing of the Banfield in inner Portland.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT bicycle coordinator

PBOT has significantly changed the lane configuration on 21st between Multnomah and Pacific (at Sunshine Dairy) to include a paint-only buffered bike lane on the west side of the overpass and a two-way bikeway on the east side physically protected with flex-posts and rubber curbs. There are also bike-related additions to the north and south ends of the project in order to facilitate cycling connections to the Lloyd District (via the existing bikeway on Multnomah) and southeast neighborhoods (and eventually the 20s Bikeway).

The project is also the debut of Portland’s first-ever bicycle roundabout — a paint-only circular feature at the south end of the project that aims to improve safety at a four-way cycling junction.

To get the space needed for these additional non-motorized lanes, PBOT slightly narrowed the two standard vehicle lanes and removed a few auto parking spaces on each side of the bridge.

The changes in bike access now give southbound riders two options: A buffered bike lane if you are headed west after I-84, or a protected bike lane if you are headed east. For northbound riders, PBOT has painted a left-turn box in the northeast corner of the intersection at Multnomah and 21st in order to improve the westbound connection (toward Lloyd Center Mall destinations).

PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller said during an interview last week that the changes make 21st Avenue, “The most bicycle-friendly overcrossing of the Banfield in inner Portland” (which he also admitted isn’t saying much).

Let’s take a closer look at the southern end of the project.

As you approach northbound from the southern end at Sunshine Dairy and NE Pacific Street, you see the start of the bi-directional, green-colored bikeway. The curbs, buffer space, and delineator posts are welcome here because of heavy truck traffic in the area.

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As you get to the overpass, there’s a new ADA crosswalk and stop signs for motor vehicle users…

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Here’s a view looking south from I-84 toward the southern terminus of the project at Pacific:

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The roundabout feature is about 5-6 feet in diameter and has been creatively adorned with a flower theme…

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Here’s another view of the circle…

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And looking southbound…

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Our friend Jeff Johnson calls it a “community circle” and took this fun video of it yesterday:

A video posted by jeff johnson (@jeffjpdx) on

As you can see, the angles of entry to and around the circle for auto users (from northbound 21st) and bicycle users (from northbound 20th and southbound 21st) are not gradual or even possible to use perfectly. When I asked PBOT engineer Andrew Sullivan about this last week, he said that’s sort of by design. “I understand people aren’t going to ride it the way it’s intended to ride,” he said. “It’s really there to raise awareness to look out for other cyclists.” In other words, the circle is a tool to encourage caution and communicate an expectation to road users that people might be coming into it from different directions.

Once on the overpass, the two-way bike lane feels good. Keep in mind that this isn’t a high-volume bicycle corridor yet. This means you’ll usually have plenty of room to ride. It’s also worth noting that all these changes create a much more balanced cross-section, which leads to people driving more slowly and increases the safety of everyone.

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Notice the leaves building up as it approaches Multnomah. This is a problem PBOT needs to address. This many leaves degrades the quality of the facility…

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Here’s the two-way facility looking southbound from Multnomah…

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One very important aspect of this project is how it provides a much safer environment for young people who attend Da Vinci Arts Middle School which is just a few blocks southest of it. During both of my recent site visits I saw a lot of pre-teen kids biking by themselves (as in both photos above). It was so awesome to see them in a protected lane!

Notice how the kids in the image below are using the new, green-colored left-turn box in order to continue west on Multnomah…

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This project also comes with a new buffered lane on the west side of the overpass. This is the location where the PDX Transformation group installed unsanctioned cones due to the high rate of drivers who cut into the bike lane at the corner. Below is a shot of someone riding at the crux of that corner…

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While these changes are great to see, we still don’t gave continuous connections to other protected facilities on either end.

Here’s what you get if you continue north of Multnomah…

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And here’s what you get if you continue south of Pacific…

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After watching this during peak-hour traffic twice now, I think it’s a big improvement. Yes it’s strange and will take some getting used to, but overall it provides more dedicated space for cycling, it reduces driving speeds, and it improves important connections on either end.

And yes, people are already illegally parking inside the bike lane. When I rolled up yesterday, a water delivery truck was parked across both lanes, leading to this classic display of frustration…

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I suspect this type of behavior will go away once folks get used to the changes.

Speaking of which, it seems bicycle riders have mixed feelings so far.

A Jimmy Johns bike delivery guy who told me he rides this overpass 15 times a day said he likes the new protected bikeway because of how it allows him to connect more easily to neighborhoods east of 21st; but he doesn’t like the circle. He was worried about possible conflicts from bicycle riders not paying attention.

Yesterday a woman emailed us to express her disapproval. “The two-way thing is so awkward!,” she wrote.

Have you ridden through here yet? Tell us what you think.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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First Look: Portland’s new protected bike lane on 2nd Avenue

First Look: Portland’s new protected bike lane on 2nd Avenue

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Northeast Portlander resident Gregg Lavender is overjoyed to have a protected lane.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland is slowly but surely adding dedicated bicycle access to downtown streets. The latest new bikeway is 2nd Avenue where the Bureau of Transportation has installed a half-mile of protected bike lane from SW Washington to Everett.

PBOT’s Second Avenue Road Reconfiguration Project is part of the same fruitful collaboration with neighborhood leaders and the Old Town Chinatown Community Association that led to the buffered bike lane on 3rd Avenue and the new Ankeny Alley Plaza (not to mention 14 new crosswalks throughout Old Town).

The 2nd Avenue bikeway is the most ambitious physically protected bike lane downtown. The only other facility that comes close is the first protected bikeway we built on SW Broadway near Portland State University nearly seven years ago. Unlike the Broadway bikeway (a location chosen specifically for its lack of cross streets and potential conflicts), this one goes through several intersections and even a few mid-block driveways.

I spent just over an hour observing the facility and biking on it. Here’s what I saw…

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The pavement quality is very poor. There are potholes and cracks that could present a safety problem to some riders. There is also poor drainage. The puddles in these photos are after just a light rain. Imagine what this will look like in November.
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The cross-section: Bike lane curbside buffered from parked cars with plastic wands, then two standard lanes and another parking lane.
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This sign points the right way but unfortunately others have an arrow that points toward the curb, making it seem like you’re supposed to park curbside.
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It will take some educational efforts and some time for people to figure out where to park.
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Pretty good parking compliance just a week after it has gone in.
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Nearly all the dozen or so people I saw come up on the bike lane opted to use it (instead of remaining in the shared lanes).

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PBOT has used green liberally to mark the lane through intersections and to encourage two-stage right turns.
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View looking south from Ankeny.
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Looking north at Ankeny Alley intersection.
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At Burnside PBOT has created two lanes, one for through traffic and the other for right turns.
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New bike lane striping on Burnside at 2nd.
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Looking back at 2nd from Burnside.
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New crossbike to get across Burnside.
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The new bike lane improves walking safety by shortening the crossing distance.
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Left-hooks are one of the top concerns I’ve heard from users so far.
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Here’s what we see while driving.
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PBOT has very smartly prohibited parking at left-turn intersections to improve sightlines.
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Most people cut these corners too close in order to retain their speed. The good news is that PBOT says that concrete diverters are coming soon in these locations.

So far this new bike lane has drawn mixed reviews. I’ve talked to several bike messengers who really hate it. They happen to hang out every day at coffeeshops and bars on 2nd and 3rd so they ride these streets often. They’ve told me they don’t like being forced into a bike lane and they fear people won’t watch for left-hooks. Others are criticizing PBOT for not going far enough: They want full signalization and better physical separation.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Long-term plan for central-city bikeways moves toward council approval

Long-term plan for central-city bikeways moves toward council approval

downtown portland bikeway map

Future central-city bikeways in the city’s proposed Central City 2035 plan. Dark green lines are “major” city bikeways, light green are other city bikeways. Green shading indicates a “bicycle district.”

Some recent updates to a map of future bikeways in Portland’s central city have advocates talking.

The map of “city bikeways” and “major city bikeways” (the difference between the two is that on “major city bikeways,” biking is relatively more important compared to other modes) is the latest sign of which streets will be candidates for protected bike lanes in the $8.4 million Central City Multimodal Safety Project that’s supposed to begin public outreach this summer.

The central city bikeway map has been refined since we covered an earlier version of it in February, but it’s not yet finished. The current draft is the one being “proposed” by city staff, before approval by the Planning and Sustainability Commission or the City Council.

Feedback to the planning commission is due Aug. 9.

Among the notable details here:

• SW Alder Street, a useful connection between Northwest Portland and the Morrison Bridge, will be upgraded to a major city bikeway across Interstate 405, but only as far east as Broadway. Between Broadway and the river it would no longer be a designated bikeway.

• SW Washington Street would be upgraded to a major city bikeway between Broadway and I-405, so Alder/Washington would echo the existing Oak/Stark couplet closer to the river.

• SW Yamhill, where the westbound MAX tracks run, is no longer marked as a potential bikeway. Neither is Morrison, one block to its north, where the eastbound MAX tracks run. But Taylor, just south of Yamill, is now seen as a future bikeway. So is Salmon, the one-way eastbound street one block south of Taylor.

• As previously proposed, SW Jefferson and Columbia streets would become a major city bikeway couplet between SW 19th and Naito Parkway, making them major connections across Interstate 405 and almost to the Hawthorne Bridge.

• SW Harrison Street would be upgraded to major city bikeway as far west as the Park Blocks, creating a link between the South Waterfront (including Tilikum Crossing) and Portland State University.

• The city continues to pull back from the idea of Fourth Avenue, with its many garages, as a major northbound bike route through downtown. It’s no longer marked as a major city bikeway north of Madison.

• SW Second and Third avenues, both of which are getting bike lanes in the Old Town area already, are now a major city bikeway couplet between SW Market and NW Flanders. This sets up two future routes to bike north or east from the PSU area: the Park Blocks to the Broadway Bridge or Columbia/Second to the Morrison, Burnside and Steel bridges.

• East of the river, SE 11th and 12th Avenues have been upgraded to major city bikeways (a change that was “literally applauded” when city staffers mentioned it to the Bicycle Advisory Committee on Tuesday, according to Jessica Engelman of BikeLoudPDX). And the city now envisions a direct north-south biking-walking bridge across Interstate 84 at 7th Avenue rather than cutting the angle to 8th and then jogging back to 7th.

ODOT approves “multimodal mixed-use area,” giving downtown permission to evolve away from cars

Bike Advisory Committee rides downtown-8

More and more lanes: not a long-term solution for a downtown.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

This is essentially a way of locking in the idea that as new buildings arrive in the area, the city will simply let nearby auto congestion increase.

Another significant change for the central city, embedded in the proposed Central City 2035 plan, is the fact that downtown is becoming the first “multimodal mixed-use area” in the city of Portland. This is essentially a way of locking in the idea that as new buildings arrive in the area, the city will simply let nearby auto congestion increase.

In many other cities, developers are required to pay to increase the automotive capacity of nearby intersections, an expensive requirement that effectively shuts down new development in denser areas. In central Portland, this will only be necessary if the additional congestion causes a safety problem — for example, traffic won’t be allowed to back up all the way onto a freeway offramp.

Because the Oregon Department of Transportation controls several freeway intersections in the area, it had to sign off on the city’s proposal. It did.

“The concept is that if you have downtown and you have other modes — bike as well as ped as well as transit — and you have a mix of land uses that makes it possible to get around by those modes — that’s good, that’s something the State of Oregon supports,” said Lidwien Rahman, a principal planner for ODOT’s Portland regional office. “So you shouldn’t have to worry about vehicle mobility because you can get around at those other modes.”

Rahman said ODOT’s only condition for signing off was that the city vet this plan with interest groups such as its freight committee and the Portland Business Alliance, which it has.

“As long as everybody knows that this is the choice you’re making, it’s all good,” Rahman said.

In a somewhat related change, most of the central city will also be designated as a “bicycle district.” This is another concept from the city’s Bike Plan for 2030, defined as an area “with a dense concentration of commercial, cultural, institutional and/or recreational destinations
where the City intends to make bicycle travel more attractive than driving.”

Analysis from BikeLoud’s Engelman

impey engleman

BikeLoudPDX co-chair Jessica Engelman, right, testifies at Portland City Council with Soren Impey in 2015.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

City transportation planners Mauricio LeClerc and Zef Wagner visited the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee Tuesday to discuss the changes.

Engelman, who is a co-chair of advocacy group BikeLoudPDX, was one of those who attended. Below are passages from her report about the meeting.

On the “bicycle district” designation:

Does this mean putting sharrows and “bikes may use full lane” signs on every street? Re-time the lights to be at more of a bicycle pace? Minimum bicycle parking requirements? etc. These are the types of specifics that need to be determined for “bicycle district” to actually mean anything.

On reaction from the advisory committee:

A few BAC members had comments regarding specific streets: one thought was that SW 4th would be a better major city bikeway than SW 2nd because it could serve as a couplet with Broadway. There was also a call to attention regarding the lack of bike connections on the west side of the Morrison Bridge (considered an important issue because the Hawthorne Bridge is already over capacity during rush hour). There was support from a few members for a city bikeway designation on NE Davis east of 7th. And the room literally applauded the major city bikeway designation on SE 11th and 12th (something BikeLoudPDX strongly recommended in our testimony).

On the Central City Multimodal Safety Project:

The multimodal project is for ALL of Central City, not just downtown, although there is an expectation that most of the funds will go there, but with public support, a project or two from Lloyd or Central Eastside may also be able to draw from that pot of money.

And on the effectiveness of BikeLoud’s testimony so far:

Fortunately they incorporated so much of what BikeLoudPDX requested last time that there’s not as much to testify on this time around, except to again highlight which specific projects we think should be a priority, re-recommend the few things we didn’t get in this draft, and maybe comment on a few streets’ MCB vs CB classifications.

Correction 1:40 pm: An earlier version of this post confused Yamhill, Taylor and Morrison at one point, and gave the wrong name for a “multimodal mixed-use area.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Separation anxiety: Here’s why Portland isn’t building protected bikeways (yet)

Separation anxiety: Here’s why Portland isn’t building protected bikeways (yet)

Screenshot 2016-05-27 at 6.18.19 PM

Cross-section of one approach to protected bike
lanes on NE 47th Avenue.
(Image: City of Portland)

After almost 10 years of talking about building networks of physically separated bike lanes on busy streets, Portland seems more or less ready to move.

Theoretically, that is.

Various small projects are already in motion. A downtown network is funded and ready to start public planning. The next mayor won election making protected lanes part of his platform, especially for east Portland. Voters just ponied up enough money to start the work. This week, city staff were in Seattle talking nuts and bolts with peers there.

All of which means that a city memo about the various obstacles to protected bike lanes is revealing reading.

The 75-page “technical memo” by Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller and colleagues, posted to the city’s website this spring, is at once a trove of good ideas — almost all of it consists of diagrams showing how to fit buffered and protected bike lanes on streets of various widths and uses — and a tally of the hoops Portland requires a comfortable bike lane to jump through.

For example, there’s the 26 feet of open space requested by the Fire Bureau on any street adjacent to a building of at least three stories. That’s enough room for a 10-foot-wide fire truck with an eight-foot outrigger on each side, needed to provide stability for a ladder.

Could one or both of the outriggers straddle a curb or other obstacle that separates bike and auto traffic? Maybe. But it can’t straddle a parked car, which has prevented parking-protected bike lanes on narrow streets like Stark and Oak downtown.

Barriers to protection

Some of the issues cited in the PBOT memo:

  • Fire truck access
  • Stormwater/runoff requirements
  • Auto parking space buffer zone
  • Truck and bus turning radius requirements

Download the memo here

Another obstacle: stormwater. Rain that runs off city streets warms rivers and kills habitats there, so the federal and state governments require cities to add drainage swales and other features to reduce runoff on “projects that develop or redevelop over 500 square feet of impervious surface.” That gets expensive fast.

But as Geller’s memo notes, the city’s storm bureau cuts slack for walking projects like new curb extensions — it waives the requirement for better storm drainage in part because the city doesn’t want to create an “undue burden” on a walking project.

There’s no such waiver practice for biking projects, the memo says.

Another issue: the “step out” area the city generally provides next to a new parking space, for people who move from a parked car to a mobility device such as a wheelchair. As the memo notes, federal standards don’t actually require those extra three feet next to every parking space, only next to spaces set aside for people with disabilities. But Portland’s preference is to provide it on all on-street spaces, potentially reducing the space available for a curb-separated bikeway.

There are many other issues embedded in the diagrams, like turning radiuses for trucks, lane widths for buses and adequate separation between biking and walking traffic.

As we weigh these issues, let’s not forget the power and purpose of politics. With the right chemistry and leadership at City Hall a lot of these barriers could magically disappear, or be resolved in ways that accept or correct for the legitimate tradeoffs.

This memo is a useful reminder of how unfamiliar these designs remain for most city employees — and also of the fact that meaningful changes to Portland’s streets will require a sense of purpose not only within the city’s transportation bureau but the other bureaus, too. That means that ultimately, it’s up to the elected city council to decide if these new designs are worthwhile — and if they are, to tell the public’s employees that they need to take the time to work these issues out.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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City debuts new ‘Tuff Curb’ to create physical separation for bikeways

City debuts new ‘Tuff Curb’ to create physical separation for bikeways

City crews installed a new plastic curb at SW 13th and Clay today.(Photos: City of Portland)

City crews installed a new plastic curb at SW 13th and Clay today.
(Photos: City of Portland)

Hallelujah! At long last the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is using an actual curb to separate bike-only lanes from standard vehicle lanes.

For years PBOT has struggled to figure out how to cheaply and quickly add physical separation. They’ve tried using plastic wands but those rarely last more than a few days before they’re hit and ripped out by people who can’t control their cars. PBOT’s most recent attempt to help separate the bike lane from encroachment by motor vehicle operators came in the form of “rumble bars.” Those failed too.

With budgets not willing to spend money required for raised cycle tracks (like the ones on SW Moody Avenue or NE Cully Blvd), finding a quicker-and-cheaper method is really important. We will not reach our transportation, climate, and planning goals unless we create more physically-separated bikeways. It’s a must.

That’s why are very happy to see that PBOT is testing a new product called “Tuff Curb” to separate a bike lane on SW 13th just before Clay. As we reported when they installed plastic wands there back in January, most of them were ripped out within a week.

Their new installation looks really solid. It’s similar to what Multnomah County installed on the eastbound Hawthorne Bridge viaduct back in 2013.




Based on prices for similar products we found online, this project on 13th and Clay likely cost about $4,000 in materials. Here’s more about Tuff Curb from a product website:

Tuff Curb is a durable, high performance traffic separator curb… Integral coloration makes Tuff Curb highly visible and resistant to UV damage and fading. In addition, enhanced profile dimensional properties and 3M™ reflectors provide maximum visibility and traffic separation both day and night. Tuff Curb’s safety and durability has been tested by Texas Transportation Institute to 2009 MASH standards and is also federally approved.

This is an encouraging sign. Not just because the bikeway at 13th and Clay is now more comfortable to ride in, but because PBOT has taken the time and resources to figure this out once and for all. Using this new plastic curb product shows that Portland is treating bikeways with the level of seriousness they deserve.

If you’ve ridden by it, let us know what you think. It’ll be interesting to see if they use it anywhere else. And if it lasts more than a week.

Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Protected bike lane boom: Nine city projects will have physical separation

Protected bike lane boom: Nine city projects will have physical separation

Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat’s decision last year to make physical separation the default design for bike lane projects is starting to pay off.

Geller at the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Geller at the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller on Tuesday shared no less than nine projects, all approved and to some extent funded, that will scatter new, modern protected bike lanes into every quadrant of the city within two years.

None of them is a complete corridor treatment that runs longer than several blocks (though potentially larger projects in the central city and East Portland would be funded by the gas tax package that voters will decide on next week). And while they include some physical protection, they also include a lot of paint. Geller says that’s because the budget still isn’t where it needs to be. “We’re still operating on a budget that relies on shoestrings, hence a lot of color,” is how he put it last night.

But even so, if built, these projects will prove the city has taken a major step forward in its day-to-day process of planning incremental bike infrastructure improvements.

Geller presented the nine projects, along with several others that won’t include physical separation, to the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) Tuesday night. He also spoke with us by phone to briefly elaborate on each.

SE Morrison between MLK and Grand – construction this summer

The Morrison Bridge has a great bike facility that is almost impossible to reach, let alone find for the first time. With public bike share arriving in July, this proposal for a contraflow lane on SE Morrison Street would help people find their way to and from the bridge landing on Water Street. Both create a parking-protected westbound bike lane on this awkward stretch of road, a definite improvement for people looking to jump quickly between the Central Eastside and downtown. Geller floated two possible options to the BAC Tuesday night:

morrison contraflow 1

morrison contraflow 2

SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 35th-39th – construction late fall 2016

This is just a four-block stretch of a very important road, but Geller said upgrading it from a buffered bike lane to a post-protected one will demonstrate “the design that we want to continue with” as more parts of the roadway are repaved or reworked. Also note that PBOT is proposing a shared bike/walk lane because this section of the highway has no sidewalk. Asked about this last night he said the sight lines are good and he expects people to use the lane with courtesy. Here’s a basic before-and-after:

before after bh highway

NE 21st Avenue bridge – construction starts 2017

Today, this bridge is arguably the most comfortable crossing of Interstate 84 in inner Northeast, but that’s not saying much. A planned redesign would remove a few parking spaces on each side of the bridge, upgrade and extend the southbound bike lane with a buffer and upgrade the northbound bike lane into a bidirectional protected bike lane — meaning, yes, you will be able to cross the bridge southbound using whichever side of the bridge you want.

Here’s the proposed north landing of the bridge:

21st bridge north

And the proposed south landing:

20th bridge

Geller said the two-way bike lane on the east side of the bridge (the one that heads north today) will have some sort of vertical separation, possibly hard plastic posts.

“We’re going to put something in there,” Geller said. “We’re not yet sure what it will be, but it might be like the treatment on the Hawthorne Bridge. We’re looking at that.”

As for the interesting new “circular bikeway intersection” just beneath the Y of the southern landing, Geller said the center of the little roundabout “might be a painted element, it might be a raised element.” Whatever it is, it’ll be the first of its kind in Portland.

Also worth noting that the southern end of this project — the southbound curve on 20th — is where activists placed traffic cones to create protection for the bike lane back in March.

N Lombard at Pier Park – construction ends April 2017

This stretch of Lombard, a bit north of downtown St. Johns, is a useful connection to the parks and trails that meet at the tip of the St Johns peninsula. Geller said a series of restriped segments on Lombard and Burgard (which is what Lombard is briefly called when it jogs east to meet Columbia Boulevard) could combine to greatly improve access to Kelley Point Park, creating a bidirectional protected bikeway on the east side of the street that could potentially transition to a shared path.

lombard upgrades

This seems to be one of the less detailed plans so far, but Geller is right that there’s room to do something.

NE Halsey-Weidler in Gateway – construction 2017

We reported yesterday that the upgraded parking-and-curb-protected bike lanes in this commercial district, the only sidewalk-facing commercial strip in East Portland, will be among the best in the city. Geller uses that language, too. His plan for the area reveals some new details, including a bike-specific traffic signal phase at the busy 102nd Avenue intersection:

halsey weidler

Geller said this course change for Halsey-Weidler was a “direct result” of the memo Treat issued last fall, telling the city to assume that every new bike lane should be protected and only downgrade it to paint if necessary.

NE 47th, Columbia to Cornfoot – construction 2017

This project links one of the few crossings of Northeast Lombard Street with the Columbia Corridor industrial area and, intriguingly, Portland International Airport. It’s also a connection to Whitaker Ponds Nature Park, which sits just north of Columbia Boulevard.

The plan is to have sidewalk-level green bike lanes separated from auto traffic by a planting strip:

ne 47th

Nearby property owners, including the city parks bureau, are contributing to a voluntary local improvement district to pay for these changes to 47th. Unfortunately, the overpass that connects this stretch to 42nd Avenue and Northeast Portland’s residential neighborhoods is still pretty awful. This work won’t really pay off until that link can be closed.

NW Thurman and 20th – construction starts late 2017

Redevelopment of the huge Con-way site in Slabtown — haven’t heard much about the Slabtown neighborhood? you will — is leading to a complete developer-funded rebuild of two streets in northwest Portland. There’s more to see in the full plan, but here’s the most interesting section:

protected intersection thurman 20th

With the notable exception of the eight-lane freeway overhead, the design here is practically Dutch: raised bike lanes on 20th, protected intersections, raised crosswalks and even one block of a biking-walking street between 19th and 20th, beneath U.S. Highway 30. North of the freeway, a new bidirectional protected bike lane will connect west to 21st and 22nd avenues, which are proposed to get a new bike lane couplet.

Obviously this intersection won’t be truly human-friendly as long as the freeway is looming and roaring above. But for better or worse, Portland’s housing shortage has turned this into prime real estate anyway. That’s given the city a chance to make the space dramatically better for getting around without a car. At the BAC meeting last night Geller was frank about the lack of quality bike infrastructure in northwest: “We should see more biking in this area but we don’t, and I think that’s probably more of a failure of our facilities than anything.”

SW Bond Avenue – construction 2018

This will be a newly built street in the South Waterfront, running through the middle of the former shipyard between Moody Avenue and the Willamette River, connecting to the unfinished intersection on the west landing of Tilikum Crossing. When we got a look at the plans in September, we reported that as of that spring, the city was still preparing plans that showed a door-zone bike lane here.

No more. Thanks to the Treat memo issued in October, the city and the site’s developers changed course on Bond and are now planning a much more comfortable raised bike facility:

bond ave 2

“Director Treat said we’re going to start with a protected facility,” Geller told BAC members last night. “In the past we’d look at the standard treatment of bike lanes and try to work our way up to something better; but when you start with a protected bike lane and you’re directed to do that, you get different results.”

In the past, the city has rightly worried about whether sidewalk-level bike facilities invite conflicts between people walking and biking. But Geller said the solid green color installed on Moody Avenue last fall is working much better than the previous uncolored sidewalk-level bike lanes.

“This design that we have finally implemented on Moody is working really well for road users,” Geller said. “I think we also saw in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Separated Bike Lane Planning and design guide, they had some really good images that clearly showed a really strong visual separation. I think that also reinforced our experience.”

SW Burnside-Alder-19th-18th – construction TBD

We broke the news in February that the city was considering adding protected and buffered bike lanes, plus protected intersection elements, to this hectic triangle of pavement. Geller shared the rendering from local consultants Kittelson and Associates:

19th 18th burnside alder

You can read more about this project in February’s coverage. It’s great to see the protected intersection concept (which had also been floated in some pro bono work by local street designer Nick Falbo, who coined the “protected intersection” phase) continuing to move forward.

After Geller had gone through each of these projects, I asked him whether they represented a breakthrough for the city’s internal assumptions about protected bike lanes: for example, the fire department rules that prevented the lanes on Stark and Oak downtown from being parking-protected, or concerns about keeping them clear of snow or debris. (The Oregon Department of Transportation has floated that a few times as an obstacle to protected bike lanes.)

Not really, Geller said. Those obstacles aren’t any larger or smaller than they were before.

“The Fire Bureau wants 20 feet [minimum open roadway width] and that hasn’t really come up in these particular designs,” Geller said. “I think we’re going to have to continue to work out maintenance on these. We may need some new equipment.”

“The bureau is focused on problem-solving those issues as they come up,” added city spokeswoman Hannah Schafer.

Geller is, however, optimistic about new collaboration with the Bureau of Environmental Services, which is often looking for chances to add permeable rain gardens to city streets. Geller said a closer relationship with BES might let the city turn storm-runoff strips into protection between bike and car traffic.

“We recently did an in-house exercise with them and I think we’ve got some good opportunities to do some new techniques,” Geller said. “Certainly as we get into the central city project, that will come into play.”

PBOT has several other projects in the hopper that will improve bicycle access at key locations throughout the city. Stay tuned for a look at bikeway improvements coming to NE 37th and Prescott, NE 122nd and I-84, NE 16th near Sandy and SE 41st and Holgate.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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New plan would make East Portland’s Gateway district the bike-friendliest in the city

New plan would make East Portland’s Gateway district the bike-friendliest in the city

halsey bus stop

NE Halsey with a very nice bike lane and bus stop.
(Image: Portland Development Commission via Nick Falbo)

It looks as if the commercial district just east of Gateway Transit Center will have parking-protected bike lanes and bus stops by this time next year.

No other business district in the city has fully protected bike lanes; the closest is on Northeast Multnomah Street in the Lloyd District, but buses, bikes and cars there must still merge into “mixing zones” at intersections.

From the look of the renderings recently circulated week by the Portland Development Commission, Gateway’s bike lanes will also be marked with crossbikes at intersections.

The proposal applies to NE Halsey and Weidler streets between 102nd and 112th avenues. We wrote about the possibility of protected bike lanes back in December. Since then, the city has decided to move forward with them.

halsey no bus stop

The intersections at 103rd, 106th, 108th, 111th and 112th will also include “a mix of improved corner ramps, curb extensions, pedestrian-scaled street lighting, street trees, and marked crosswalks at rapid flashing beacon locations.”

Today, the area is Portland’s only sidewalk-facing commercial district east of Interstate 205. (It also happens to include outer Northeast’s only independent bike shop, the Outer Rim.) It’s quite auto-oriented today, and it would still be after this project: both major streets will still have two lanes of one-way auto traffic and a parking lane on each side, just as they do now. The main difference is that the lanes will be narrower (which will make them safer) and the bike lane will fall between the parking lane and the sidewalk.

Here’s the PDC’s description of the bike lanes planned in their project:

“The separated bike lanes will serve more than the cycling community in this area. The new bike lane design will facilitate shorter and more visible pedestrian crossings as well as more efficient transit stops.”
— Portland Development Commission

Although Separated Bike Lanes were not originally a part of the Halsey-Weidler Streetscape Vision, the Portland Bureau of Transportation sees this element as an opportunity to improve bike connections and bike and pedestrian safety, and to add to business district vitality. …

PBOT wants the Halsey-Weidler Commercial District to be accessible by people using all modes of transportation (car, bike, walking, and transit). The new separated bike lanes will help attract cyclists of all ages and abilities that have serious concerns for their safety when trying to ride in narrow bike lanes next to fast-moving traffic. However, the separated bike lanes will serve more than the cycling community in this area. The new bike lane design will facilitate shorter and more visible pedestrian crossings as well as more efficient transit stops. The bike lanes will be separated from moving traffic by vehicles occupying on-street parking spaces, and drivers will no longer have to cross the existing bike lane [while driving] to reach the on-street parking. Halsey-Weidler will become not only the most bike-friendly commercial district in the City, but also a pedestrian-friendly community main street that is comfortable and accessible to all users.

Here’s what the city says about timeline:

PBOT and PDC will continue to have conversations with business and property owners on Halsey-Weidler to address any site-specific concerns before the design is finalized in May. PBOT and PDC staff will be visiting business along the corridor during the week of May 2nd. Construction is expected to start in winter-spring 2017.

Only a handful of commercial districts, like Broadway in the central city, Kenton in North Portland and Stark Street in Montavilla, have striped bike lanes, let alone protected ones. But after years of pressure, the city seems to have found a newfound energy for adding protected bike lanes where possible. We’ll have more on this promising trend in the next day or two.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Vancouver BC doubles biking rates in four years, likely passing Portland

Vancouver BC doubles biking rates in four years, likely passing Portland

planters downtown

Hornby Street in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2013.
(Photos: M.Andersen)

Three years ago, I got back from a trip to ride Vancouver BC’s new downtown protected bike lane network and promised every BikePortland reader a Japadog if our northern neighbor didn’t see a “substantial increase” in biking over the following three years.

I’m relieved to inform all of you who read that post that I was right.

Less exciting is the fact that the long-funded downtown Portland protected bike lane network that led me to title that 2013 post “A preview of Portland?” has yet to even start its public outreach process here in the south.

In any case, an amazing slideshow of survey results presented to the Vancouver City Council on Wednesday are a rock-solid reminder that good bike infrastructure can have a spectacular payoff, even in a city that already has quite a bit of biking.

According to Vancouver’s annual transportation panel surveys, bike commuting is up to 10 percent of the resident working population as of 2015:

work trips

Vancouver’s 2014 bike-commuting estimate was 9 percent, up from 4 percent in 2011. According to the U.S. Census, Portland’s bike-commuting rate in 2014 was 7 percent.

There are a few technical apples-to-oranges type reasons that it’s not certain whether Vancouver’s bike-commuting rate is higher than Portland’s. But as we’ve written before, citywide bike-commuting rates aren’t actually very good at comparing cities with one another, because they depend so much on where the city limits happen to fall.

However, statistics like these are good at showing how cities change over time. And the pace of changes in Vancouverites’ transportation have been extraordinary.

cycling trips

distance driven

The Vancouver metro area has almost exactly the same population as Portland’s, 2.3 million. Like Portland, it spent much of the 20th century as a working-class port city and then began to see rapid job growth and migration with the urban economic boom that began around 1990.

As in Portland, that’s led to a prosperous economy compared to other North American cities but also to a deep and costly housing shortage.

So what has Vancouver been doing differently on transportation over the last few years, enabling it to add tens of thousands of new commutes but hardly any additional auto trips?

“If we want to get to the 10- or 20-percent mark, we’re going to need facilities.”
— Rob Wynen, Vancouver bicycle advisory committee, 2010

Among other things, it’s been taking heat.

Starting in 2010, soon after electing Mayor Gregor Robertson, the city began lacing a grid of protected bike lanes through its very dense downtown, displacing parking and passing lanes in an effort to open up a central city that was described as “the Bermuda triangle for cyclists.”

As of 2011, citywide biking rates were at approximately 4 percent — well below Portland, which hit 6 percent in 2008 and then plateaued.

“If we want to get to the 10- or 20-per-cent mark, we’re going to need facilities,” said Rob Wynen, vice chair of the city’s bicycle advisory committee.

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association was upset, warning that removing parking would kill business downtown.

“Some parts of our downtown are well serviced by off-street parking, but others aren’t, and losing even a little in the street has an impact,” said Charles Gauthier, DVBIA’s director.

Others disagreed.

“What I object to is the assumption that removing parking and putting in a cycle track is bad for business,” said Gordon Price, a former city councilor. “I’ve got studies which indicate it isn’t. What do you have?”

Price and his allies won the argument. By the time I visited in 2013, they’d built arguably the best connected downtown protected bike lane network in North America.

many bikes

three stoplights


downtown map

Then Vancouver kept going. In summer 2013 the council took a difficult vote, in the face of intense criticism from residents of a wealthy seaside neighborhood, to use traffic diverters to convert a busy arterial called Point Grey Road into a residential street and all-ages bikeway.

“Do we feel like this is going a bit too fast?” asked Duane Nickull, a former bicycle racer who lived in the Point Grey area and led opposition to the bikeway.

But Vancouver’s council voted for the change anyway, creating a spectacular, continuous new “Seaside Greenway” along English Bay and across the Burrard Bridge into the new downtown biking network.

Here’s what happened next:

burrard bridge biking

And along the way, another funny thing happened: the downtown business association completely changed its tune.

“It’s obvious that separated bike lanes [are] working in the downtown area.”
— Charles Gauthier, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, 2015

“It’s obvious that separated bike lanes [are] working in the downtown area and I don’t think any politician, regardless of what political party they’re with, would ever dare take them out,” Gauthier told a local radio station last May. “We’re seeing obviously a greater demographic of people of all ages and abilities in the separated bike lanes because they’re obviously more safe and providing more comfort. At the end of the day, we don’t want to tell employers that we’re not accommodating maybe a portion of their employees that are coming to work by bike, nor do we want to turn away customers that are making that decision.”

Steve Da Cruz, owner of The Parker restaurant just east of downtown, had loudly objected to removing parking spaces on his street to add a bike lane in 2013. By 2014, he was telling the media that business had actually gone up.

“We definitely have benefited from the increased usage of the bike lane,” Da Cruz told the local business journal.

As for Mayor Robertson, who has made biking a core part of his political identity, he was handily re-elected to his third term in 2014.

Does this mean that every protected bike lane project will boost retail sales? No, of course not. But Vancouver’s success in rapidly boosting biking to a rate we’ve probably never seen in a major modern North American city is an encouraging sign of the payoff that could be possible in Portland after just a few years’ worth of political courage.

Thanks to the Vancouver Sun for reporting the data.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Green Loop brainstorm: Five ideas for a park to ring central Portland

Green Loop brainstorm: Five ideas for a park to ring central Portland

alta green loop

Alta Planning/Greenworks envisions a green zigzag marking the path of a protected bike lane on N. Ramsay Way, just north of the Moda Center.

As Portland’s planning bureau talks about a future “Green Loop” biking and walking route around the central city, it’s just scored a burst of ideas from urban designers around the world.

A couple of the ideas even feature bikes.

Design Week Portland, an annual industry event taking place next month, has announced five finalists in its $20,000 challenge to propose ideas for public spaces along the route, ideally for the spots marked here in circles:

green loop key connections

One of the finalist concepts, pictured at the top of this post, came from the Portland-based firms Alta Planning and Greenworks. They came up with a very detailed design that we could imagine being a motif throughout a future Green Loop: a broken green zigzag across the pavement, clearly advertising the route and interacting with “parklet” planters that would separate bike and car traffic. It’s clearly reminiscent of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, one of the nation’s urban biking gems and a known inspiration for the Green Loop concept.

studio untitled green loop

Above is another striking design that would hang trees from a series of elevated railroad trestles. The Design Week description also mentions that the proposal includes a system of “rings of ownership”: “block-by-block partnerships between the city and private property owners.” Presumably people who attend the Design Week event next month will learn more.

It’s not clear how or whether biking would fit into this design. Maybe it wouldn’t, and maybe that’s OK. Looks like a cool place to walk.

swa group green loop

SWA Group of Sausalito, Calif., seems to imaging a corner similar to the one at corner of SE 7th and Sandy as a place for a triangular public plaza similar to those recently tested in Memphis and Chicago. This is a neat way to better use the extra space at this huge intersection, though we can’t help but wish the creators gave more than a moment’s thought to bicycling. Their concept for an “enriched street” seems to assume that bike and auto traffic just sort of takes care of itself.

bednar green loop

Peter Bednar of Prague offered what he called a “kit of parts” for low-cost street redesigns, including sharrows, big polka dots in the middle of intersections, and flowerpot planters to set off public plazas.

dhm green loop

By far the most expensive and dramatic vision comes from a pair of national firms, DHM Design and CH2m, which partnered with local architects Hennebery Eddy and Tad Savinar to propose a massive freeway-capping forested park across Interstate 84 between 7th and 8th avenues. Their plan calls for a paved path connection as well as a new public space that could become the anchor of a new set of “Park Blocks” for Portland’s Central Eastside. This resembles a plan in Hamburg, Germany to cap long stretches of Autobahn in green space.

The contest jury includes five out-of-town urban design experts, advised by a technical committee of locals. The contest’s lead sponsor is the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. The applicants will deliver full presentations of their proposals on Monday, April 18, 6 p.m. at Jimmy Mak’s Jazz Club; you can buy advance tickets here.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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City proposes shifting future downtown bikeway from Alder to Taylor/Salmon

City proposes shifting future downtown bikeway from Alder to Taylor/Salmon

nw to se change with yamhill

The city has proposed to change the future bikeway that would be the fastest dedicated biking route from the Northwest District to the Central Eastside. (People would be able to choose between a longer jog south to Salmon or a shorter one to a lane of Yamhill shared with cars, presumably with diverters to hold down traffic.)

The city says there’s no room for future bike lanes on the most direct street between Northwest Portland’s fast-growing residential area and the Central Eastside’s fast-growing job district.

Instead, inner Southwest Alder Street is slated to become a “trafficway” offering automobile and truck connections to the Morrison Bridge and interstate highways.

Alder might also get a bus line, the city says.

Today, Alder has a parking lane on each side and two lanes of mixed eastbound traffic. At many of its corners, traffic signal poles sit in the curb extensions, making it quite expensive to pull those extensions back to make room for bike lanes.

alder curb extensions

Alder east of SW 6th.

But as we mentioned in an article last week, Alder also offers a straight shot from the bikeways on Northwest 18th/19th to the underused bikeway on the Morrison Bridge:

alder to morrison

Alder between SW 2nd and 3rd, just before the Morrison Bridge.

Here’s a look at the central city biking network envisioned last year in the city’s West Quadrant Plan:


But Morrison Street, though it is marked here as a bikeway, “would have to be a shared street” for both cars and bikes, city spokesman John Brady said Friday.

Alder’s convenient link between the two neighborhoods — the Northwest teens and 20s have 1,000 new residential units in recent or upcoming development, and the Central Eastside has added hundreds of jobs in the last decade — has caught the attention of some biking advocates. Here’s Iain Mackenzie of NextPortland in a comment on last week’s post:

A bidirectional protected bike lane on Alder would be fantastic. It could change the Morrison Bridge MUP from being one of the least used crossings of the river into one of the most used. On the West side the City is already looking at ways to better connect the NW 18th and 19th bike lanes to SW Alder. On the East Side the City is planning a Morrison-Belmont bikeway couplet, including using the roadway under the viaducts and making SE Morrison between Grand and 12th one way in order to add a bike lane. All these projects together would not only connect Northwest to the Central Eastside, as mentioned above, but would also provide a great new connection from inner SE into Downtown.

All of which is by way of saying that it’s very odd that in the Transportation System Plan section of the draft Central City 2035 plan (published yesterday) it is proposed to remove the “City Bikeway” designation from SW Alder between 2nd and 12th.

We thought that was odd too, so we asked the city about it. Spokesman John Brady’s response was prompt and thorough. The answer is that the city is proposing to jog part of the future Alder bikeway three blocks further south.

On Alder in particular, lane capacity is needed to serve motor vehicle traffic leading up to the Morrison Bridge.”

That’d create a six-block gap between the Oak/Stark and Salmon/Taylor bike lane couplets. However, people would also have the option of shortening this route by sharing the lane with cars on the Morrison/Yamhill couplet. My emphasis added:

The proposed street classification updates for the downtown portion of Central City 2035 are in large part reflective of the concept maps that were included in the adopted West Quadrant Plan. Those concept maps attempted to outline a more clear set of emphasized modes for each street, recognizing that with narrow right-of-ways in the Central City, we will not always be able to emphasize all modes equally. At the same time, we made every effort to respect the intent of the Bicycle Plan for 2030 to create a comprehensive network of bikeways in the Central City.

The West Quadrant Plan shows Alder and Washington from the Morrison Bridge to Broadway as “Freight & Motor Vehicle” streets. On Alder in particular, lane capacity is needed to serve motor vehicle traffic leading up to the Morrison Bridge, and freight loading zones are needed to serve retail uses along the street. Though Alder is not shown as a Transitway on the Transit map in the West Quadrant Plan, there is interest in introducing bus service to Alder in the future. We have proposed switching the Transit Access Street designation from Salmon to Alder to reflect the City’s interest in switching bus service from Salmon to Alder so that Salmon can more easily serve a City Bikeway function. In short, the proposal is that from roughly SW 2nd Ave to SW 12th Ave, Alder and Washington would emphasize Freight, Motor Vehicle, and Transit modes. West of 12th Ave, it would primarily emphasize the Bicycle and Transit modes.

The Bicycle concept map from the West Quadrant Plan shows Morrison and Salmon as a main bikeway couplet connecting the Morrison Bridge to SW 20th, with Alder as well from 18th to 12th to provide the necessary connection from the NW 18th/19th couplet. When PBOT staff considered this map, we recognized that a three-block-wide couplet may not be intuitive for bicycle travel, so our proposed classifications in the Central City 2035 Discussion Draft show Salmon, Taylor, Yamhill, and Morrison as City Bikeways. These two couplets would provide different experiences and may serve different rider types, since Salmon/Taylor would most likely be separated bike lanes whereas along the light rail lines on Yamhill/Morrison it would have to be shared street facilities.

With two parking lanes and two travel lanes, Alder is wide enough for two auto travel lanes (one of which could be a dedicated bus lane), plus a parking/loading lane on one side and a one-direction protected bike lane on the other. Or it could become a one-lane street for auto traffic with two parking lanes and a narrow bidirectional protected bike lane.

Another option would be for the city to convert the single auto lanes on Morrison and Yamhill to wide bike laness, a sort of east-west car-free transit mall.

Another option would be for the city to convert the single standard lanes on Morrison and Yamhill to wide bike-only lanes, a sort of east-west carfree transit mall. With one exception on Yamhill and 6th, inner Southwest Morrison/Yamhill are the rare downtown streets that don’t have a single parking garage or other curb cut facing them.

But despite its policy to generally prioritize public transit over auto traffic and bike traffic over both, the city isn’t planning to do any of those things.

Another option would be to improve Yamhill and Morrison for biking by adding one or more traffic diverters. This would reduce the number of cars on them without making them fully car-free. Except for its general neighborhood greenway standards, which arguably would require those diverters, the city hasn’t yet made explicit plans to do that, either.

The city is, however, encouraging people to submit comments on its Transportation System Plan through the end of this month.

“The easiest way to comment is to email,” Brady wrote on Friday. “City staff at BPS and PBOT will review public comments and revise the document to create the Proposed Draft in May 2016.”

It’s worth mentioning that there’s good news for biking in the city’s latest plans too. We’ll cover some of those in an upcoming post.

Update 2/16: We’ve added another route, on Yamhill, to the map at the top of this post to reflect the possibility that traffic diverters might make it function as an all-ages bikeway through downtown.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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