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PBOT removes Hawthorne memorial, responds to Clinton crosswalk controversy

PBOT removes Hawthorne memorial, responds to Clinton crosswalk controversy

The center turn lane on Hawthorne at 43rd is now available for driving on after PBOT removed a makeshift memorial last night.(Photo: PDX Transformation/Twitter)

The center turn lane on Hawthorne at 43rd is now available for driving on after PBOT removed a makeshift memorial last night.
(Photo: Paul Jeffery)

Last night under the cover of darkness City of Portland transportation bureau crews cleared out the cones, signs, candles, photos and flowers that had created a traffic calming memorial to Fallon Smart on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard.

The makeshift memorial in the center turn lane at the intersection of 43rd Avenue had grown from a few flowers on August 19th to a memorial so large that it closed Hawthorne’s center turn lane. In fact, closing the lane was a secondary and symbolic goal of the memorial — since it was that center lane that allowed Abdulrahman Noorah* to speed recklessly past another driver (who had stopped) just before he hit and killed the 15-year-old Smart.

Fallon Smart Memorial Ride-23.jpg

The memorial as it looked on August 26th.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“Citing liability concerns might sound like one of those legalistic things bureaucracies do to try and shift attention away from their own inaction. That’s not the case here.”
— John Brady, PBOT Communications Director

City crews removed the memorial despite pleas from local businesses and safe street activists who claimed that the memorial — and the unsanctioned crosswalk that complemented it — was having a significant safety impact due to people slowing down as they drove through.

PBOT took about a week longer than they expected to remove the memorial, a delay that had some Sunnyside Neighborhood Association members thinking that perhaps there was a chance it would stay (PBOT said they honored the family’s request for privacy and didn’t want anyone to know when it would be removed). PBOT says they’ve been in communication with Fallon Smart’s family and they waited until the family was able to remove some of the items before clearing the site.

Katherine White, an employee at an adjacent business, met with the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association Land Use and Transportation Committee this week to try and persuade PBOT to keep the memorial up. In a September 28th email to Mayor Charlie Hales, PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick, and the three other city commissioners, White wrote, “Since the unofficial crosswalk and memorial were put in, drivers are slowing down and paying attention to pedestrians and cyclists. The memorial is raising awareness about traffic safety and I think people are considering the cost of their impatience behind the wheel. This is good for everyone, not just the people in this community.”







“The memorial in the center lane is beautiful,” White continued, “it is being well cared for, and it is working – it is calming traffic. It is giving some meaning to this tragedy by creating safety that can save other lives.” White implored PBOT to maintain the memorial until the city is able to invest in permanent safety measures.

“How do we work with city government when the only actions they take are obstructive? This is my first round with the bureaucracy and I am disillusioned and angry – but not giving up.”
— Katherine White, program director at One With Heart

PBOT Communications Director John Brady told us this morning that PBOT has completed a proposal for permanent safety changes to the intersection and is trying to schedule a time to present it to the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association. “Whatever we do end up installing there permanently,” Brady shared with us, “it would be up to standard.”

By “up to standard,” Brady means it would be designed to the city’s engineering guidelines as opposed to the unsanctioned memorial that was created by local residents. PBOT also made it clear that they wanted to “restore the center turn lane,” and with their actions last night they have done that. The guerrilla crosswalk at 43rd has been left alone, which leads us to believe it’s likely to be made permanent.

Adding to the community confusion and frustration around this situation on Hawthorne is how the City has responded to a separate unsanctioned crosswalk at Southeast Clinton at 19th. A crosswalk installed there by activist group PDX Transformation at the request of parents of an adjacent preschool has been removed twice now. An employee of the preschool said the crosswalk is badly needed. Brady said the agency “understands and appreciates the concern for safety that these actions represent,” and that, “as a Vision Zero bureau, it is a concern we share.”

“Why do we keep taking these crosswalks out? Isn’t that a waste of money and time?,” Brady wrote to us via email last night. “These are understandable questions.”

Brady says the answer is simple: crosswalks installed by people in the community aren’t built to the proper engineering standards and as such expose the city to legal risk. “If we were to let one of these non-standard crosswalks stay permanently and a crash occurred at the location, the City would be potentially liable.”

Here’s more from Brady:

“Citing liability concerns might sound like one of those legalistic things bureaucracies do to try and shift attention away from their own inaction. That’s not the case here. In the past, PBOT has faced liability claims tied to the specific state of our infrastructure and whether it met the required standards. As a public agency that is committed to the prudent use of public funds, we have a duty to do what we can to avoid exposing the City to such liability claims. That is one of the reasons we have removed the crosswalks at SE Clinton and 19th.”

When Katherine White and the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association said they would volunteer to count traffic on Hawthorne, the city said that’s not feasible. PBOT Constituent Services Coordinator Cevero Gonzalez stated in an email to White yesterday that, “PBOT can only use data collected by authorized city employees, gathered using standard data collection protocols, and as a result cannot consider volunteer pedestrian or vehicle traffic counts submitted by interested but unaffiliated parties.” White took that as an insult and she was also upset because Gonzalez told her the memorial was removed on September 29th — making it clear he wasn’t up to speed on the issue. “While they [PBOT] may not know what is going on in this neighborhood, I do. It is my community,” she wrote.

White is “angry” at how PBOT has handled the situation on Hawthorne. “It seems like the best way, maybe the only way, to get PBOT to use our tax dollars to take action is to ask them not to do something,” she wrote in an email to us this morning. “How do we work with city government when the only actions they take are obstructive? This is my first round with the bureaucracy and I am disillusioned and angry – but not giving up. Whether or not the process moves forward with the community and city government cooperating and showing mutual respect is now in their hands. And they are not off to a good start.”

An anonymous “agent” with PDX Transformation, the group that takes credit for the crosswalks at 43rd and 19th, is also not satisfied with PBOT’s responses so far. “We appreciate the City needs to focus its resources on areas that present greater danger,” the agent wrote to us this morning. “That’s why we bought the materials and installed them (safely, with flaggers and cones) at no cost to the city.”

“We don’t understand how the tiny chance of a lawsuit at this location exceeds the chance of legal action over the many, many locations where PBOT has either failed to install, or failed to upkeep, paint or other infrastructure that is required for safety,” the statement from PDX Transformation continues. “The bureau could have been spending its budget on those locations instead, substantially reducing its exposure to civil suits. This is especially true where the City is knowingly operating in violation of the law, such as failing to mark with signs and paint all the locations that street parking is in violation of state law, all of which create visual impediment to safe use of intersections throughout the city…. That the City has not paid out huge sums yet for these violations is due to luck, more than anything.”

While clearly antagonistic and in disagreement with the guidelines and criteria PBOT uses to make crosswalk placement decisions, PDX Transformation also has a cooperative tone. They’re offering traffic calming services at no charge to the City of Portland. They want to re-install the crosswalk at 19th and other locations: “We offer to fund and install another crosswalk built to City standards in another part of town, such as East Portland.”

For now PBOT seems unlikely to sway from their adherence to a more traditional approach. In an email last night Brady reiterated what we reported on yesterday, saying an engineering analysis at Clinton and 19th performed in October 2015 found that the road doesn’t meet the city’s criteria for installing a marked crosswalk. Specically he said, there aren’t enough people crossing at that location and the average speed people drive cars is lower than what would warrant a marked crosswalk. “Of course if the traffic patterns were to change,” he wrote in a follow-up email this morning, “we would take another look based on our guidelines.”

Beyond this analysis Brady opened a new line of reasoning for PBOT’s actions on Clinton: “It is important for the community to understand,” he wrote, “that there are other, more dangerous intersections, including intersections near schools, where we need to focus our resources.”

*Abdulrahman Noorah, the man who hit and killed Fallon Smart, posted bail three weeks ago and is currently under house arrest with GPS monitoring by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office. His next appearance in court is scheduled for October 24th.

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

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Activists and PBOT spar over unsanctioned crosswalk in southeast Portland

Activists and PBOT spar over unsanctioned crosswalk in southeast Portland

Photo on left taken September 20th by @howrad via Twitter. Photo on the right is from this morning (taken by J. Maus/BikePortland).

Looking south across Clinton at 19th. Photo on left taken September 20th by @howrad via Twitter. Photo on the right is from this morning (taken by J. Maus/BikePortland).

An inner southeast Portland intersection is the latest front of a battle between transportation reform activists and the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

This time it’s about a crosswalk. The activists (and many nearby residents) think one’s needed, and PBOT thinks it isn’t.

White paint currently litters the area after PBOT crews blasted the unsanctioned crosswalk off the pavement.

White paint currently litters the area after PBOT crews blasted the unsanctioned crosswalk off the pavement.

On September 13th, operatives from the anonymous group PDX Transformation (read our past coverage of them here and here) laid down a crosswalk on SE Clinton Street at 19th. It was done using white tape. Volunteers with the group said they did it in response to a request from a parent who has a child at the adjacent preschool. PBOT removed the crosswalk on Thursday. Then later that same night, PDX Transformation went back out to the intersection and re-installed the crosswalk with white paint. (Agents of the group told us they used paint the second time specifically to make it harder for PBOT to remove.)

It’s important to note that SE 19th ends right into the New Day School, a preschool with about 70 students between the ages of two-and-a-half to five years old. New Day School Office Manager Wendy Rattel told me during my visit to the site today that when the unsanctioned crosswalk was first installed many parents got to school and we’re relieved and excited to see it. “Wow, this is so fantastic, they were telling me.”

Rattel had no idea the crosswalk was put in; but she too was happy about it. She said they’ve requested safety improvements here for many years.

“We have a lot of parents trying to cross Clinton with their children, and it’s unsafe,” she said.

Looking north at the preschool (orange building). The crosswalk used to be on the right.

Looking north at the preschool (orange building). The crosswalk used to be on the right. The white material on the lower left is paint chips that were blasted off earlier today.







Rattel said five years ago they made a formal request with PBOT for safety improvements. A city traffic analyst came out and performed some counts, but ultimately declined to take action because there wasn’t enough daily traffic to warrant a crosswalk. Rattel said the problems of speeding and dangerous driving still exists. While recently installed diverters a few blocks down have helped, many people still speed drive too fast down Clinton to avoid stops on Division (a larger street one block north).

For their part, PBOT gets a lot of citizen requests for crosswalks. So many in fact, they have a page on their website that lists the steps they follow to determine if one is necessary. As you can see in the “Crosswalk guidelines” graphic below, having an average daily traffic above 4,000 vehicles per day is a pre-requisite for crosswalk installation.

(Graphic: PBOT)

(Graphic: PBOT)

The city also says on their website that, “As a general rule, PBOT does not mark crosswalks on low-volume, two-lane streets,” because data shows that, “there is no safety benefit for crosswalk markings on this type of street.”

Perhaps that explains the city’s frustration with PDX Transformation at Clinton and 19th. According to Rattel, a city employee showed up two days ago and verbally berated a New Day School employee. “She yelled at one of our employees,” Rattel said, “Asking, ‘Where did it come from?’ and ‘Who did it?!’”.

PDX Transformation doesn’t appear to be done. In their minds, there’s no excuse for not having a crosswalk at this location. They even point to excellent sightlines and ADA curb-ramps on both sides of the street that create natural starting and ending points for the crosswalk.

Here’s what the group tweeted Friday night after re-installing the crosswalk PBOT just removed:

“It’s ridiculous to think a marked crosswalk is a hazard to anyone there,” an agent of PDX Transformation shared with us in a recent email.

We have also heard from a parent at the school who wants to remain anonymous. “The school community was thrilled with new crosswalk,” the person said, “and compliance from people driving/biking was suddenly very high when it hadn’t been before.”

Wendy Rattel, the school’s office manager who can see the intersection out of the window from her desk seems exasperated by the whole situation. “It’s dumb that they took it out,” Rattel said, “It wasn’t causing any harm. The city hasn’t listened to us, so now we just tell our parents to keep their kids safe.”

As I put away my camera and notebook, she offered one last comment. “Good luck with your story, we’d really like the crosswalk back.”

We’ve asked PBOT for a comment and will update this story when we hear back. Please read major update to this story here.

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

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The makeover continues: Speed bumps coming SE Clinton

The makeover continues: Speed bumps coming SE Clinton

Location of new speed bumps coming to Clinton Street.

Location of new speed bumps coming to Clinton Street.

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

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







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

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

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

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

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

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

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PBOT wants your opinion on Clinton Street diverters and Vision Zero

PBOT wants your opinion on Clinton Street diverters and Vision Zero

What do you think? Make sure to let the city know.

What do you think? Make sure to let the city know.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation wants your input on two very important issues: the Clinton Street traffic diverters and Vision Zero. They’ve released an online survey for each of them and we’d like to officially encourage you to take a few minutes and fill them out.

When PBOT installed traffic diverters on SE Clinton Street back in January you might have missed the fact that they were billed as only a temporary measure. In order to calm potential backlash and/or make the project less politically dicey, PBOT (smartly) did the project as an “evaluation.” Now they need to get public feedback to help inform whether or not the diverters should stay or go (or change).

survey-diveterclintonquestion

As we reported last week, many people who bike on Clinton say the diverters have helped a lot. Fewer people are driving on the street and in general, people who bike on it say it feels much more comfortable (citizen activist Josh Chernoff being a major exception). However you feel about the diverters, please let PBOT know. “The results will be used to determine if the diverters should be permanently installed,” says PBOT, “and where additional modifications for traffic calming (if any) are needed to achieve necessary traffic speed and volume results.”

~ Take the Clinton Neighborhood Greenway Evaluation Survey





Another area where PBOT wants your input is on their Vision Zero efforts. The city hosted its fourth Task Force meeting today and they’re starting to put together a draft plan that will be released at the end of August. PBOT safety staffer Clay Veka said at the meeting today that the main reason for the survey is to use people’s experiences and opinions in order to create more effective messaging and educational materials. Here the questions asked in the survey:

1. What do you think are the top three challenges to moving safely around Portland? (Select three)
2. Have you ever been seriously injured in a traffic crash in Portland?
3. Do you know someone who has been killed or seriously injured in a traffic crash in Portland?
4. When the person you know was killed or seriously injured, were they walking, biking or driving?
5. What main factor caused the crash?
6. Do you ever feel threatened by people driving when you’re walking in a crosswalk?
7. If a person driving kills a person walking in a crosswalk, how do you think they should be punished?
8. Do you support using automated cameras to ticket people who SPEED while driving?
9. Do you support using automated cameras to ticket people who RUN RED LIGHTS while driving?
10. What is Vision Zero?
11. Who do you think is in charge of keeping Portland’s streets safe for people traveling?

Please take a few minutes and let the city know what you think.

~ Take the Portland Vision Zero Survey

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

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

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

inner diverter

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

It’s been almost two years since we started reporting on the call by some Portlanders for traffic diverters on Clinton Street, one year since Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick approved them, and five months since two were installed.

So as the city prepares for similar diverters on Ankeny and considers them someday on Northeast 7th, we wondered: How are things going? I spent 90 minutes on Clinton Wednesday during the evening rush hour to ask passers-by what they thought.

Here’s what people said…

elizabeth williams

“I can’t say enough about how happy I am about the diverters,” said Elizabeth Williams, who’s been biking Clinton for three years. “I live just east of 39th. … I think they’re great.”

mike davis

Mike Davis has been biking Clinton for about a year and a half. He says the diverters have “definitely” changed things.

“I would say it’s been a lot better,” he said.

kate weltner

Kate Weltner has been riding Clinton for three years and never felt there was a major traffic problem on Clinton before or after the diverters. She said she hadn’t noticed a major change, at least during rush hour.

“I’m actually kind of surprised when I get to them how often there is a car behind me,” she said.

murph

Murph (she said she only goes by the one name) bikes more often in northeast Portland but has also been riding Clinton for about six months, since just before the diverters went in.

“I guess it’s slowing people down for sure,” she said. “You know, I haven’t really analyzed it.”

david thalen

David Thelen has been riding Clinton for seven years. He said the diverters had “reduced the amount of traffic.” His only problem was wishing that the parked cars could be a little further from the 32nd Avenue diverter so it wouldn’t be so hard to squeeze through the space with a bike trailer.

ben blechman

Ben Blechman has been biking Clinton for eight years and saw “immediate” improvement after the diverters appeared.

“The last couple years had gotten really bad, and then they put these in,” he said.

scott watkins

Scott Watkins said he hadn’t noticed the increased comfort of biking on Clinton traffic until a co-worker mentioned it to him.

“Once I took notice, it was pretty clear pretty quickly,” he said. “Seems to be quite a bit nicer now.”

tom kruger

Tim Kruger and his daughter Eleanor live on Woodward. He thinks the diverters are a “terrible idea.”

“It does make the street marginally safer for bikes — marginally,” he said. “I don’t think it makes a huge difference.”

Kruger also asked me to write down that he feels that most problems between bikes and cars are caused by people biking, and that this is because he thinks most people who bike in Portland have never learned to drive.

“For those of us who actually do use cars, the loss of the one street that you could actually get through fairly quickly” was a major blow, Kruger said. Also, as someone who lives on Woodward, Kruger doesn’t like the fact that more people are now driving quickly past his house.

“I can tell you it definitely affects all the neighboring streets,” he said.

tina williams

Tina Williams has been riding Clinton for five years and said the diverters have “made a huge impact as far as the traffic flow.”

“You feel safer,” she said. “It makes it so nice … less dust, less exhaust.”

She said she used to drive her car on Clinton to avoid Division, even though she felt bad about doing so.

“I’m a biker — that’s how I got the idea” to take Clinton, she said. Other people were doing the same, she realized. “The last two to three years it started getting progressively worse.”

When she drives today, Tina said, she takes Powell instead of Clinton or Division and is happy for the tradeoff.





colleen mitchell

“We love them,” said Colleen Mitchell. “They make a big difference … There’s still some jerks, but they’re great.”

Mitchell has been riding Clinton daily for a year now. She said that until the diverters went in, she was considering telling her children to stop biking on the street.

“It was getting really scary,” she said. Now, she’s comfortable biking there with five-year-old daughter Zoe in tow.

“She’s going to be on her tagalong soon because of the diverters,” Mitchell said.

mark seguela

Mark Seguela didn’t have time to stop for longer than it took to say “They’ll just go around them.” How often, I asked? “Often.”

mary allison

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

matt radosevich

“I haven’t really noticed too much of a difference, to be honest,” said Matt Radosevich. “But I haven’t really been paying attention.”

kari schlosshauer

Kari Schlosshauer, one of the key organizers behind the successful pro-diverter effort, was one of those who walked past me.

“I think they’ve totally made a difference,” she said. “Definitely lower volumes of cars in sections … this section (near 23rd) is about the same, I’d say. I also think I’ve seen more kids on Clinton than before.”

larry smith

Larry Smith and Janna.

The last person I talked to was Larry Smith, who lives on the corner just next to the new diverter at 32nd Avenue.

“It’s got some positives and negatives,” Smith said. “Traffic has gotta be down to at most a tenth. … You see people that go zoom around it, that’s one of the negatives.” (As we spoke, someone did so.)

I asked Smith if it was annoying to have to turn a few extra times when he wanted to drive to or from his house. Here’s how he replied:

“When I first moved here back in ’87, I came down here once a week to help someone who had been involved in a collision,” he said. “I kept a blanket up here. They would go into shock.”

Smith said he’s been visiting his house since 1969, when it belonged to his grandmother. Before the speed bumps and the first diverter at Chavez, Smith said, Clinton Street was a very different place.

“The average speed on Clinton was 48 mph,” he said of Clinton in the 1980s, recalling a community conversation at the time.

On balance, Smith said, he loves having the diverters, and would change them mostly just by adding more signs to warn people not to drive around them.

“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “Maybe they need more of them.”

diverter 2

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is also asking people what they think of the post-diverter Clinton Street in an online survey this month.

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

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Update: City extends new bike lane on SE 34th Avenue

Update: City extends new bike lane on SE 34th Avenue

divisionmarklead

Looking north on 34th toward Division.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland (top); Mark Zahner (bottom))

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has made an important update to a recent project on Southeast 34th Avenue.

One month ago, as part of a larger traffic diversion project, PBOT made a significant bicycle access improvement to 34th between Clinton and Division. They changed the narrow residential street from a standard two-way street with an auto parking lane on both sides into one-way only for drivers (northbound) and two-way for bike riders. To do this they put a new bike lane in the southbound direction (and removed all the auto parking on the west side of the street) and added sharrows in the northbound direction.

This is a change residents of the street were begging for.

When it finally happened, PBOT stopped just short (literally) of what those residents and many others hoped for. Instead of continuing the new configuration all the way to Division, they stopped about 50-feet south of Division in order to maintain driveway access for a restaurant. This design confused people who would turn onto 34th from Division only to see “Do Not Enter” signs after it was already too late. Some people would then try to make a u-turn and others would just continue on 34th, breaking the law and putting other road users in danger.

Now — thanks to attentive and flexible City of Portland staff, activists with Bike Loud PDX, and Mark Zahner, the man who lives on 34th and pushed PBOT to make these changes — PBOT has fixed this.





Here’s another before-and-after looking south on 34th from Division:

division-beforeafter

(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland (top); Mark Zahnger (bottom))

Zahner told us last month that PBOT had decided to make these changes. The way Zahner tells it, a PBOT project manager met with the owner of Sen Yai Noodles (Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame) and successfully ironed out some truck delivery issues. (Now instead of using 34th to make deliveries, trucks will use the driveway on Division.)

Not only does the new configuration improve the bikeway and overall safety, it also allows PBOT to add back two auto parking spaces to the southeast corner of the intersection adjacent to Anders Printing (a business that has supported Zahner’s efforts all along.)

The design is much clearer now that the bike lane is striped all the way to Division and PBOT has added more forceful and clear signage.

“Although drivers still speed down the street and go the wrong way,” Zahner shared with us via email this morning. “The street works much better and has become a more livable, pedestrian/bicycle street.”

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

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Police write 15 citations for illegal driving during Clinton enforcement action

Police write 15 citations for illegal driving during Clinton enforcement action

SE Clinton 2.10.16 1

Two users of Clinton Street during yesterday’s enforcement action.
(Photo: Felicity J. Mackay, Portland Bureau of Transportation)

All 15 of the citations written by the Portland Police Bureau during Wednesday’s traffic enforcement action on Southeast Clinton Street were given to people who failed to obey traffic laws while driving their cars.

The police were out in force to help Portlanders understand that Clinton is an important bikeway; a place where cycling should be able to happen in a low-stress environment. The bureau of transportation recently underscored this fact by installing diverters at 32nd and 17th in order to prevent people from driving on Clinton. In addition to writing tickets, the police gave out eight warnings to road users (two of them to people riding bikes without lights) and passed out pamphlets with safety information.





Here’s more from the City about what police saw:

“The stops were primarily for Failing to Obey a Traffic Control Device. Three charges were for Illegal U-Turn. All three of those were for people in vehicles who turned right at the SE 17th Street diverter, made a U-Turn and then retuned to make another right to continue along SE Clinton. The last contact of the day was at the SE Clinton and SE 17th diverter at approximately 11:00 p.m. when a person driving was arrested for DUII (.14 BAC).

These actions are a key part of the city’s approach to Vision Zero and they plan to keep it up next week. The police and PBOT will team up again on Wednesday (2/17) for a crosswalk-focused mission on Southeast 82nd. They’ll focus their efforts on two notoriously dangerous crossings at Division and Harrison. Both 82nd and Division are designated as High Crash Corridors. PBOT data shows there were 24 crashes involving people trying to walk across the street on or near 82nd and Division, two of them resulting in a fatality.

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

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Police and transportation bureaus team up for enforcement on SE Clinton tomorrow (2/10)

Police and transportation bureaus team up for enforcement on SE Clinton tomorrow (2/10)

SE Clinton traffic diversion project-6

Last month an officer jumped into harm’s way to
stop someone from driving the wrong way through
a recently installed semi-diverter on SE Clinton.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland will return to Southeast Clinton street for more traffic law enforcement tomorrow morning — one month after installing diverters aimed in calming down traffic. The last time they sent police officers to this area it was to deal with complaints about unsafe driving on what is supposed to be a neighborhood street that prioritizes cycling and walking.

They ended up pulling over 60 people and writing 35 citations for a variety of offenses. We heard several complaints from the community that the police officers assigned to the mission weren’t positioned in a way that allowed them to see the unsafe passing many people are concerned about. Now a lot has changed on Clinton since the Bureau of Transportation installed two new traffic diverters last month: one at SE 32nd and the other at 17th. While we’ve heard reports that biking conditions have improved on the street since the diverters went in, we have also heard that some people still drive dangerously through the diverter at 32nd, which is only a semi-diverter and leaves open the possibility of driving in a zig-zag through it.





This time around PBOT says the enforcement action is specifically intended as part of their effort to, “To project to enhance the Clinton Neighborhood Greenway and make it more inviting for people who are walking and biking.” “The Portland City Council has also made a commitment to protect and enhance the city’s neighborhood greenways,” reads a statement about the action in reference to the Neighborhood Greenway report adopted by Council in August. This enforcement is also part of the City’s dedication to Vision Zero.

Here’s another excerpt from PBOT’s statement:

During the enforcement action, the Portland Police Bureau will be on the lookout for violations that threaten the safety of people walking and biking. These violations include people driving who violate “do not enter- except bicycles” sign, illegal and unsafe U-turns, and people driving vehicles (including scooters and motorcycles) through the new diverters. Police will also monitor stop sign compliance on streets surrounding Clinton, including the SE Woodward and 32nd Avenue intersection.

Portland’s neighborhood greenways are where people of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to bicycle, walk and play. As such, neighborhood greenways need to maintain low motor vehicle volumes and speeds, provide protected crossings at major intersections, and create an environment that encourages people of all ages to travel actively. Between SE 12th Avenue and SE Cesar Chavez Boulevard, traffic volumes currently exceed the upper acceptable limit of 2,000 cars per day by 200 to 1,000 cars. Much of this traffic is believed to be non-local cut-through traffic that should be using either SE Division Street or SE Powell Boulevard.

Tomorrow’s enforcement action will happen on Clinton between SE 12th and 50th during the morning and evening rush hours (7-9:30 am and 3-6:30 pm).

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

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Checking in on the newly installed diverters on SE Clinton

Checking in on the newly installed diverters on SE Clinton

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They’re in (mostly).
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Over the weekend the City of Portland began their project to discourage people from driving on Southeast Clinton street and restore it as a true “neighborhood greenway” where bicycling is comfortable, safe, and prioritized.

There is now a new lane configuration on SE 34th (a north-south bikeway that feeds into Clinton), a semi-diverter at SE 32nd, and a full median diverter in place (but not finished) at SE 17th. After seeing reports about the diverters over the weekend, I rolled out this morning to get a closer look.

New bike lane and one-way configuration of Southeast 34th

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View north from Clinton toward Division. There used to be no striping and on-street parking on both sides of the street.
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Looking north just south of Division where bike lane begins. (Hi Timur!)
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Riding southbound on 34th just before Clinton.

More than two years after 34th Avenue resident Mark Zahner began collecting signatures and support from the neighborhood, PBOT has made his dream come true. While the City balked at first, the rising tide of discontent about biking conditions on Clinton seem to have raised this boat as well.

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Mark Zahner made it happen.

34th is between Division and Clinton and it’s a key north-south bikeway connector to Clinton Street. The trouble was, it was so narrow — with on-street parking on both sides — that riding on it was a gauntlet and it was impossible for two people to drive down it simultaneously in opposite directions without havoc ensuing. PBOT has now fixed that issue by turning it into one-way only northbound (away from Clinton) for drivers and two-way for people riding bikes. There’s a bike lane in the southbound direction and a shared lane (with sharrows) in the northbound direction. PBOT heroically re-allocated space previously used to store people’s cars in order to make room for the bike-only lane.

I walked the road with Zahner this morning. “I’m thrilled. I love it!” he said. Zahner said the new configuration has made “everything move better” on the street.

But Zahner and other volunteer activists with BikeLoudPDX, the upstart group whose on-street actions and City Hall letter-writing campaign spurred this project, say there are still some big issues to resolve. Instead of taking the bike lane all the way to Division and preventing people from turning down the one-way street, PBOT decided to not start the bike lane or the “Wrong Way” signage until 50-60 feet south of Division. This means people are still turning south, then getting confused and awkwardly turning around or just barrelling illegally down the street anyway.

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This person was trying to turn around after realizing too late the street was now closed to driving in southbound direction.
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Another victim of the poor design that leads you down a street that is suddenly closed.
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Why would PBOT do this? We’re still not sure, but it’s worth noting that a restaurant (Sen Yai Noodles) on the corner of Division and 34th (owned by non other than famed foodie Andy Ricker who you might recall from our parking story in November) has three new parking spaces accessible by a very long driveway on 34th. The bike lane begins where that driveway ends. Making matters worse, Zahner says delivery trucks park on the driveway and completely block the new bike lane.

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View south on 34th from Division (the Sen Yai Noodles driveway is on the lower right).
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Looking toward Division with the long driveway and parking lot of Sen Yai Noodles on the left.
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Three new parking spots accessed from driveway on 34th.
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Another view of the parking lot.
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People are driving over the sidewalk and off the curb into the bike lane in order to access the parking.

The good news is that PBOT is aware of these issues and they’re already working with activists to come up with a fix. Stay tuned.

Semi-diverter at SE 32nd

When I saw one local TV news station report “confusion” about the pair of semi-diverters installed at 32nd, I assumed it was just unfortunate framing. When I saw a second TV station also use the word “confusion” in their headline, I figured they might be onto something. Unfortunately, their headlines are warranted.

Any new traffic control design will take a while to get used to, but in this case PBOT has simply not deployed a very good design from the get-go.

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Only 21 percent of bike riders did what this guy is doing. That is, go through the diverter to the right as intended by the design.
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Only 21 percent of bike riders did what this guy is doing. That is, go through the diverter to the right as intended by the design.
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This guy is riding into oncoming traffic.
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This guy actually swerved away from the intended way through, only to turn into oncoming traffic.
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Not a shock that most people don’t want to ride this.
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This person drove around the diverter and is in the wrong lane.
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Driving around the diverter.
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Careful of oncoming traffic!

They’ve placed 10 large concrete drums (full of gravel) on each side of Clinton at 32nd. People driving eastbound are supposed to turn either right (south) or left (north). People driving westbound are supposed to either turn right (north) or left (south). People on bikes can continue straight through, and they’re supposed to stay to the right of the drums and pass through an opening on the curbside. The design in place right now however, does a very bad job of communicating proper behavior to both types of users.

Mark Zahner did an informal survey from 6:30 am to 9:00 am this morning. He marked down on paper what people did at the intersection. The results were not good:

  • 78 percent of bicycle riders (226 out of 289) veered left and went into the opposite lane of travel to get around the diverters instead of staying curbside.
  • 11 percent of automobile operators (15 out of 137) ignored “Do Not Enter” signs and drove around the diverters into the opposite lane of travel.

While I was out there, several people in cars drove around the diverters. Even people on bikes would ask, “Can I go through here?” And some of them even rolled up on the sidewalk just to be safe.

A Portland Police Officer showed up to monitor the situation and talk with a few of us on the corner. Even with her standing there and her car parked in plain sight, two people tried to drive illegally around the diverter. And to my happy amazement, Officer Pierce (I didn’t get her first name) jumped off the sidewalk into the street yelling, “Stop! Stop!” She made one guy put it in reverse while pointing at the “Do Not Enter” signs and yelling, “Didn’t you see the signs?!”. It was pretty awesome.

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“Hey stop! Stop!!” yelled Officer Pierce.
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“Didn’t you see the signs?!”
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Was great to have a police officer on hand — especially one like
Officer Pierce who knew the issue well and was sympathetic to
safety concerns.

Why are people not doing the right thing? For auto users, the signage isn’t crystal clear, and since this is just a semi-diverter, there’s nothing to physically prevent them from simply sneaking around the diverter. And for bicycle users, the pass-through opening to the right (near the curb) isn’t nearly wide enough. There’s also an unrelated sidewalk project with barricades and torn up pavement that makes the pass-through even less inviting. Another issue with the bikeway pass-through design is that on-street parking begins too soon. PBOT has only removed one space, so as you look at the pass-through you see a rear car bumper and you have to make a sharp turn to avoid it. There needs to be a lot more breathing room for the bike movement.

There’s a general consensus among BikeLoudPDX that the current design is bad. In fact they’ve already scheduled a meeting to discuss it and make some recommendation to PBOT (Sunday, 4pm on 1/17 at Dots Cafe on Clinton).

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PBOT Project Manager Rich Newlands talking with BikeLoudPDX volunteers Soren Impey (right) and Mark Zahner (left).

And PBOT is already well aware of the concerns. To their credit, project manager Rich Newlands was out there this morning talking to BikeLoudPDX volunteers. The fixes should be simple, but it’s a shame this design was ever left on the street. Even if this project is technically only temporary, first impressions matter and we deserve more well thought-out, safe, and intuitive street designs from the get-go. People should never be guinea pigs.

We look forward to reporting on some changes soon. PBOT said they’d re-assess the diverters this summer; but as activist Betsy Reese told me this morning: “There are some things that can’t wait six months.”

Median diverter at SE 17th

Crews were out this morning finishing up this one. This should work much better than 32nd because it will be a full diverter — meaning there will be a raised median island across all of Clinton forcing people to turn right. But unlike 32nd, these are just short little curbs that are easily rolled over by most cars.

While I was out there today, one of the PBOT work crew members recounted a story to Officer Pierce that an angry man yelled and threw things at them as he drove by this morning. And we just got an image (below) from reader Andrew K. who said a guy in a big truck plowed right over the still-wet concrete just as PBOT crews took a cover off of it…

17-ouch

PBOT might want to consider something more serious than a small curb.
(Photo: Andrew K.)
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This is how it’s supposed to work: Bikes go through, cars go away.
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Overall, it’s fantastic to finally see this happen. We’ve been covering the concerns about too many cars on Clinton for years now, and these diverters — once a few tweaks are ironed out — should help turn the street back into the neighborhood greenway it’s intended to be.

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A very deserving happy smile from Alex Reed, one of the founders of BikeLoudPDX.
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— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


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Police write 35 tickets on Clinton Street during 7.5-hour traffic enforcement

Police write 35 tickets on Clinton Street during 7.5-hour traffic enforcement

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Coexistence on Clinton.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A one-day enforcement of traffic laws on Clinton Street Tuesday handed out 35 citations and 25 warnings to people driving and biking on the major neighborhood greenway.

It’s the first time the Portland Police Bureau has engaged in an action described as being related to Vision Zero, the city’s policy that the public bears partial responsibility for every traffic death or serious injury.

Here’s the tally of offenses recorded by police during the two shifts, one in the morning (from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) and one in the afternoon and evening (from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.).

26 Fail to Obey Traffic Control Device
17 Equipment Violations
6 Driving Uninsured / Fail to Carry Proof of Insurance
6 Turning and Lane Violations
2 Driving While Suspended
1 Felony Warrant Arrest
1 Hit and Run investigated (west end of mission area – 12th and Main)
1 Speeding
2 No Seatbelt
1 Illegal U-turn
1 No License

A news release from the Portland Bureau of Transportation said that 45 of the stops were of people in cars, and 15 were of people on bikes. It didn’t break down the violations further.


There was also one citation or warning as part of investigating a hit and run that was reported at 12th and Main, near the west end of the targeted area.

Everyone stopped by police also received a “Vision Zero pamphlets with information about safe travel.”

This is a component of the city’s Clinton Neighborhood Greenway Enhancement Project, which is looking to improve safety and comfort on the important bikeway by adding speed bumps east of Chavez, two experimental traffic diverters west of Chavez and several other measures such as a recently installed set of signs.

“PBOT has also scheduled the installation of two traffic diverters on SE Clinton Street at SE 17th Avenue and 32nd Avenue,” the Portland Bureau of Transportation said in its news release about the enforcement. “Weather permitting, the diverters will be installed during the first week of January 2016.”

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


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