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Imagining an inner Powell that would actually solve the street’s problems

Imagining an inner Powell that would actually solve the street’s problems

powell vision

When more people use cars on a street, it becomes less and less efficient. When more people use mass transit, it becomes more and more efficient.
(Image: Nick Falbo)

The City of Portland and the State of Oregon both say they want to free more of their constituents from traffic congestion and to reduce planet-killing pollution.

There’s no mystery at all about what this would look like on inner Powell Boulevard. Everyone with some measure of power who has considered the issue knows the answer. But for some reason, the millions of public dollars spent talking about that possible answer have never resulted in a street-level picture of it.

That changed Monday when a Portland-based street designer, Nick Falbo, threw up a rough image of a Powell that would get more and more efficient as more people use it rather than less and less efficient.

Here’s the full before-and-after rendering Falbo shared on his Twitter feed:

powell double vision

Notice how both images feature the same number of cars.

Falbo’s day job is with Alta Planning + Design, but his Twitter feed is his own.







In March, project managers pulled the plug on short-term plans for a “rapid” bus line on inner Powell because they realized it wouldn’t actually be rapid. There was one basic reason: the Oregon Department of Transportation had silently vetoed the possibility of fully prioritizing bus traffic over car traffic with a dedicated lane, and no politicians in the state, city or regional government had tried to force them to do otherwise.

Would removing cars from two lanes of Powell in favor of buses (plus ambulances and, maybe, trucks) get a lot of people angry? Of course it would. Is it far easier and less stressful for an independent contractor like Falbo to throw up a nice-looking image and enjoy the cheers from like-minded folks on the Internet? Definitely.

But there’s a reason that people cheer for images like this one. Unlike any other traffic plan for inner Powell, including the status quo, it offers a way to actually solve the problems before us, rather than closing our eyes and hoping our grandchildren never ask us why we never got around to making those problems go away.

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

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

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

Protest on SE Powell-1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The post City has two years to make the case to save 26th Avenue bike lanes, it says appeared first on BikePortland.org.

What the heck is going on with the 26th Avenue bike lanes?

What the heck is going on with the 26th Avenue bike lanes?

26thbikelanesstreetview

SE 26th Avenue looking south toward Powell.

Is the City of Portland, newly anointed “Biketown”, really going to remove a bike lane because our state department of transportation said it would improve safety?

That story we reported yesterday has sparked outrage, confusion, and frustration — all completely reasonable reactions to the idea of removing a bike lane in order to make biking safer. While we work to clarify the details and get to the bottom of what’s really going on (weaving the different communications from city officials and state officials together into one coherent whole is proving more complicated than expected), I thought I’d share what two notable Portland bike advocates think about the idea.

“If we have a safety problem, why would you take the victims of that problem and force them to go to a different place?”
— Ray Thomas, lawyer and veteran bike advocate

I called lawyer Ray Thomas yesterday to ask him about the legal implications that might arise if the bike lanes were removed and someone riding a bike was subsequently hit and injured or killed. A lawsuit that settled in California just a few months ago ordered the City of Indian Wells to pay $5.8 million to a man’s family after he was killed while biking on a street where bike lanes were removed.

When it comes to the possibility of removing the bike lanes on SE 26th Avenue, Thomas said he was more curious about the political liabilities of the decision. Here are his comments:

“If we have a safety problem, why would you take the victims of that problem and force them to go to a different place? Why would you take an existing facility out on a corridor where people ride and force them into what is essentially a detour? It’s sort of like adding insult to injury. You’re punishing the victim. I’d rather see them spend money to improve the intersection or restrict traffic on 26th so it could be a pedestrian and bicycle non-motorized corridor.

This is a solution that doesn’t take into account the nature of the wrong, which is, that people are driving dangerously. A solution that sends the bicyclists on a detour, even with a nice signal, doesn’t make sense to me.

If someone was hit trying to follow the bike map on 26th that shows it as a bike route, or trying to follow the new the detour, then I could see it resulting in some liability; but mostly I see it as just a bad idea.”


The next person I talked to was the Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Rob Sadowsky. He said he and staffer Gerik Kransky met with ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer and ODOT’s Region 1 Public Policy and Community Affairs Manager Shelli Romero several months ago when the issue first bubbled up with a big rally at the site back in May. Sadowsky expressed some confusion about the removal of the bike lane because he has heard different things from ODOT and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). “I’m hearing different things from different people at both agencies,” he said.

“Over our dead bodies. I made that clear. We will look at legal options if necessary.”
— Rob Sadowsky, BTA

At issue (and we’ll be reported more on this later today) is the timeline. If ODOT got an agreement from PBOT to take out the 26th Avenue bike lane in exchange for putting in a signal across Powell at 28th, when would the bike lane on 26th get removed? Sadowsky said he’s asked PBOT to keep the bike lane as long as possible, well after any construction on the signal.

In general, Sadowsky said, “This is a really clear example of how ODOT’s priorities are very different than local prioriries. It’s the same battle we’re having on Barbur.”

So, what does the BTA plan to do if the bike lane gets ripped out? Sadowsky didn’t mince words:

“We went to ODOT, and we said, ‘Over our dead bodies.’ I made that clear. We will look at legal options if necessary.

We’re not going to let this bike lane go away. We believe very strongly that you need arterial and neighborhood greenway treatments at the same time. And they picked the wrong street. Our Board Member Leslie Carlson has kids at (adjacent) Cleveland High and my stepdaughter goes to Cleveland. We will look at every option we have including legal options. We also want to partner with PBOT and ODOT and use this as a case study to do more planning as a group. We see this as a sympton of other challenges around the way DOT policy and implemntaiton lines up around bicycle planning.”

Stay tuned. Michael is working on a story today that should clarify exactly where things stand with this bike lane.

UPDATE, 3:#9 pm: Here’s the latest update with clarifications from PBOT and ODOT about the future of the 26th Avenue bike lanes.

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


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What the heck is going on with the 26th Avenue bike lanes?

What the heck is going on with the 26th Avenue bike lanes?

26thbikelanesstreetview

SE 26th Avenue looking south toward Powell.

Is the City of Portland, newly anointed “Biketown”, really going to remove a bike lane because our state department of transportation said it would improve safety?

That story we reported yesterday has sparked outrage, confusion, and frustration — all completely reasonable reactions to the idea of removing a bike lane in order to make biking safer. While we work to clarify the details and get to the bottom of what’s really going on (weaving the different communications from city officials and state officials together into one coherent whole is proving more complicated than expected), I thought I’d share what two notable Portland bike advocates think about the idea.

“If we have a safety problem, why would you take the victims of that problem and force them to go to a different place?”
— Ray Thomas, lawyer and veteran bike advocate

I called lawyer Ray Thomas yesterday to ask him about the legal implications that might arise if the bike lanes were removed and someone riding a bike was subsequently hit and injured or killed. A lawsuit that settled in California just a few months ago ordered the City of Indian Wells to pay $5.8 million to a man’s family after he was killed while biking on a street where bike lanes were removed.

When it comes to the possibility of removing the bike lanes on SE 26th Avenue, Thomas said he was more curious about the political liabilities of the decision. Here are his comments:

“If we have a safety problem, why would you take the victims of that problem and force them to go to a different place? Why would you take an existing facility out on a corridor where people ride and force them into what is essentially a detour? It’s sort of like adding insult to injury. You’re punishing the victim. I’d rather see them spend money to improve the intersection or restrict traffic on 26th so it could be a pedestrian and bicycle non-motorized corridor.

This is a solution that doesn’t take into account the nature of the wrong, which is, that people are driving dangerously. A solution that sends the bicyclists on a detour, even with a nice signal, doesn’t make sense to me.

If someone was hit trying to follow the bike map on 26th that shows it as a bike route, or trying to follow the new the detour, then I could see it resulting in some liability; but mostly I see it as just a bad idea.”


The next person I talked to was the Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Rob Sadowsky. He said he and staffer Gerik Kransky met with ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer and ODOT’s Region 1 Public Policy and Community Affairs Manager Shelli Romero several months ago when the issue first bubbled up with a big rally at the site back in May. Sadowsky expressed some confusion about the removal of the bike lane because he has heard different things from ODOT and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). “I’m hearing different things from different people at both agencies,” he said.

“Over our dead bodies. I made that clear. We will look at legal options if necessary.”
— Rob Sadowsky, BTA

At issue (and we’ll be reported more on this later today) is the timeline. If ODOT got an agreement from PBOT to take out the 26th Avenue bike lane in exchange for putting in a signal across Powell at 28th, when would the bike lane on 26th get removed? Sadowsky said he’s asked PBOT to keep the bike lane as long as possible, well after any construction on the signal.

In general, Sadowsky said, “This is a really clear example of how ODOT’s priorities are very different than local prioriries. It’s the same battle we’re having on Barbur.”

So, what does the BTA plan to do if the bike lane gets ripped out? Sadowsky didn’t mince words:

“We went to ODOT, and we said, ‘Over our dead bodies.’ I made that clear. We will look at legal options if necessary.

We’re not going to let this bike lane go away. We believe very strongly that you need arterial and neighborhood greenway treatments at the same time. And they picked the wrong street. Our Board Member Leslie Carlson has kids at (adjacent) Cleveland High and my stepdaughter goes to Cleveland. We will look at every option we have including legal options. We also want to partner with PBOT and ODOT and use this as a case study to do more planning as a group. We see this as a sympton of other challenges around the way DOT policy and implemntaiton lines up around bicycle planning.”

Stay tuned. Michael is working on a story today that should clarify exactly where things stand with this bike lane.

UPDATE, 3:#9 pm: Here’s the latest update with clarifications from PBOT and ODOT about the future of the 26th Avenue bike lanes.

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


The post What the heck is going on with the 26th Avenue bike lanes? appeared first on BikePortland.org.

City gives in to state demand to remove bike lanes from SE 26th Avenue

City gives in to state demand to remove bike lanes from SE 26th Avenue

26th powell crowd in bike box

10 a.m. southbound bike traffic at 26th and Powell.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Two of southeast Portland’s most-ridden bike lanes are slated to be removed at the insistence of the state of Oregon.

The bike lanes on each side of Southeast 26th Avenue near Powell draw something like 600 to 800 people per day (even in winter) and run in front of Cleveland High School. They will be paved over sometime in the coming months and not replaced, the Oregon Department of Transportation said last week.

The decision comes five months after the city’s top biking expert said he thought it would reduce safety on the street.

The City of Portland’s decision to accept the change comes five months after its top biking expert publicly cited four studies showing, he said, that even a narrow bike lane like the one on 26th improves road safety compared to no bike lane.

ODOT spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie said Tuesday that removing the bike lane would improve safety by reducing the number of people biking through that intersection. Many, she predicted, will switch to using 28th Avenue when a new traffic signal and neighborhood greenway are installed there in the coming months. (28th avenue runs along the back of Cleveland High School, which is home to its largest bike parking area.)

Dinwiddie could not identify any evidence, beyond the state’s judgment, that this combination of changes would improve overall safety. She said she was trying to find the information but wasn’t sure when she might.

The change is necessary, Dinwiddie said, because “the intersection of SE Powell at SE 26th is already over capacity for the sheer number of users across all modes: bicyclists, pedestrians, vehicles and buses.”

Dinwiddie said Tuesday that she was unable to say what the “capacity” of the intersection is.

She said the state will “revisit” its decision if large numbers of people keep biking on 26th after the lane is removed and the nearby signal added.

26th Avenue has bike lanes, and is marked for having them in the city’s 2030 bike plan, because it is the flattest and most direct connection between several Southeast Portland commercial nodes. TriMet’s No. 10 bus also runs on 26th once every 30 minutes or so.

Decision follows major collisions, safety demonstrations
Powell protest ride-53.jpg

A May 11 protest of Powell Boulevard. The street is also U.S. 26, a state-run highway.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The state seems to be reacting in part to two high-profile collisions last year at SE 26th and Powell.

In one, a man in a truck turned left from 26th to Powell on a yellow light just as a man biked south through the intersection, also on a yellow light. The left-cross collision severed Alistair Corkett’s leg.

In the second incident, three weeks later, a man driving a Jeep ran a red light on Powell just as a man biked north across it. The collision broke Peter Anderson’s leg.


The incidents became a focus for continuing anger about Powell Boulevard from people who live nearby, who say that typical speeds on Powell exceed the 35 mph limit and that the state has refused measures, like narrower lanes, that would reduce those speeds. During the 10 years to 2013, the state-run road saw 381 traffic injuries and three fatalities on the 12 blocks of Powell surrounding Cleveland High School.

Aside from the point where they cross Powell, the 26th Avenue bike lanes don’t seem to show a particular bike safety problem.

Aside from the point where they cross Powell, the 26th Avenue bike lanes don’t seem to show a particular bike safety problem, though they are uncomfortably narrow and run in the door zone at some points. Out of 17 bike-related injuries between Holgate and Division in that period, eight were at the Powell intersection.

About 100 people joined a May 11 protest by legally walking and biking back and forth across Powell in a crosswalk near 26th Avenue during the evening rush hour. Two days later, two dozen people joined a die-in outside ODOT headquarters.

Hours after the second collision, on May 29, ODOT said it would add a new left-turn arrow phase to the signal at 26th Avenue, a change that lengthened the traffic signal cycle. This also lengthened the red light facing Powell.

Meanwhile, the state was reviewing an unrelated request from the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The city had asked for permission to add a new signal at 28th Avenue for the new neighborhood greenway that had been planned as part of the 20s Bikeway — designed to be a less direct but lower-stress alternative to 26th Avenue’s bike lanes.

The state agreed to allow a new biking/walking traffic signal, but on one unusual condition: that the city remove the bike lanes from 26th.

State says it will “revisit” decision if substantial bike traffic remains on 26th
students biking in crosswalk 26th powell

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

In an undated memo by the City of Portland, city staff projected that removing the northbound bike lane from 26th in order to widen the southbound bike lane there (which was another scenario discussed) would divert 90 percent of northbound bike traffic over to 28th.

That memo apparently inspired the state’s proposal to remove bike lanes from 26th Avenue completely. BikePortland received it in August after a public record request.

In an email last week, ODOT spokeswoman Dinwiddie wrote that if the bike lanes are removed from 26th Avenue but bike traffic falls less dramatically than the city expects, then ODOT “would be willing to revisit the agreement to remove bike lanes from SE 26th Avenue.”

“Encouraging bicyclists to use the new crossing at SE 28th Avenue or opt to use the travel lane on SE 26th Avenue will raise the visibility of the cyclist in the roadway as well as increase the likelihood they will be seen.”
— ODOT Spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie

“We recognize some cyclists will continue to use the intersection, which is perfectly legal,” Dinwiddie wrote. “Removing the bike lanes on SE 26th Avenue and encouraging bicyclists to use the new crossing at SE 28th Avenue or opt to use the travel lane on SE 26th Avenue will raise the visibility of the cyclist in the roadway as well as increase the likelihood they will be seen by bike and vehicles using other approaches at the intersection. … SE 28th Avenue crossing at Powell has fewer conflict points for bikes and pedestrians than a traditional signal and provides a safe and comfortable location for bike to cross. The City will be installing bicycle wayfinding signs on 26th to encourage bicyclists to cross at the safer location two blocks away rather than using the intersection at 26th and Powell where we have seen a number of serious bicycle crashes in the past year.”

Rich Newlands, the city’s project manager for the 20s Bikeway, confirmed on Dec. 23 that the state had approved the signal at 28th but said he couldn’t comment on the decisions surrounding 26th Avenue. Newlands referred questions about 26th Avenue to city spokesman John Brady, who couldn’t find time in the next two weeks to answer any questions about the city’s decision.

(Brady did send a text message Wednesday saying “we appreciate that there seems to be room to revisit the issue after the much needed signal at 28th is installed.”)

As a result, it’s currently unclear when the city expects to remove the bike lanes, or why it agreed to do so despite its policy to prioritize bike traffic over auto traffic, its designation of 26th Avenue as a future bikeway and the four studies that it had said showed that removing the bike lane would make the street more dangerous.

In August, the state said it feels those studies do not support such a conclusion, but declined to say why.

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


The post City gives in to state demand to remove bike lanes from SE 26th Avenue appeared first on BikePortland.org.

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

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

26th powell bike box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narrow bike lanes are better than nothing, city says

26th powell crowd in bike box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

students biking in crosswalk 26th powell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

State’s proposal to improve bike crossings of Powell: Remove bike lane from 26th

State’s proposal to improve bike crossings of Powell: Remove bike lane from 26th

26th powell bike box

About 600 to 800 people a day currently bike on 26th to cross Powell. The city wants to create a second, more comfortable crossing at 28th, but the state says it won’t allow one unless the lanes and bike boxes at 26th are removed.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is facing pressure from its counterparts at the Oregon Department of Transportation to do something it’s almost never done before: remove bike lanes from a street.

An ODOT official said she could not cite evidence other than the site-specific judgment of her engineering colleagues that removing the bike lane on SE 26th Avenue would improve overall road safety. But she said that because 26th is not as safe to bike on as 28th would be, it stands to reason that the bike lane on 26th should be removed in order to encourage people to cross at 28th.

Therefore, ODOT has agreed to approve the city’s request to add a new traffic signal at 28th and Powell only on the condition that the city remove the bike lane and bike box from 26th.

“There’s no doubt there’s going to be some out-of-direction travel for the bicyclists. We just think it’s safer.”
— Sue D’Agnese, ODOT regional traffic manager

“If you gave me a choice of crossing at 26th and crossing at 28th, I’d cross at 28th if there was a signal there,” said Shelli Romero, ODOT’s interim west area manager for the Portland region, in an interview last week. “We’ve got freight that go through there, we’ve got a high volume of cars that go there.”

Cleveland High School sits on the northeast corner of Powell and 26th, so if the bike lane were removed, anyone heading to the high school on a bike from the southwest would either have to cut east to 28th, cross the street and get back west toward 26th, or else would travel on 26th without the bike lane.

“There’s no doubt there’s going to be some out-of-direction travel for the bicyclists,” said Sue D’Agnese, ODOT’s regional traffic manager. “We just think it’s safer.”

Sub-standard bike lanes

door zone biking 26th

26th Avenue just south of Powell.

The bike lanes on 26th near Powell are unquestionably some of the worst in Portland. They get as narrow as 3 feet wide, or 3.5 feet in the northbound door zone just south of Powell. The national standard requires at least 4 feet for new bike lanes, or 5 feet in a door zone.

But that hasn’t stopped people from biking on 26th. Bike counts at 26th and Powell in February 2012 and June 2013 show that the 26th Avenue bike lanes are some of the most-ridden in southeast Portland, carrying between 60 and 80 bikes in the morning and evening peak hours. That suggests total daily bike traffic in the 600 to 800 range.

Except at the point where it crosses Powell, SE 26th Avenue isn’t actually very dangerous for people biking. Between Division and Holgate, 26th Avenue saw 17 bike-related injuries reported from 2004 to 2013 — eight of them at the crossing of Powell.

26th Avenue, a onetime streetcar route north of Powell, is flatter than 28th in the area and connects directly to more commercial destinations.

City and state agree that new crossing at 28th would boost safety

26th powell crowd in bike box

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

The proposed signal at 28th Avenue would be part of the city’s planned 20s Bikeway. In the city’s early plans for that bikeway, 26th and 28th would form a couplet, with 26th Avenue replacing its 3.5-foot-wide bike lanes with a single southbound buffered bike lane and with a separate neighborhood greenway at 28th. However, the city has since rejected that idea in favor of leaving the narrow 26th Avenue bike lanes as-is while also creating the neighborhood greenway on 28th.

“We’re moving them in a location where they don’t have to compete with left or right turns of cars.”
— Shelli Romero, ODOT interim area manager

The city’s original proposal to remove the northbound bike lane from 26th, though, had caught ODOT staffers’ attention. If removing the northbound lane at 26th would be expected to divert northbound bike traffic to 28th, wouldn’t removing both bike lanes from 26th be expected to divert even more bike traffic to 28th?

“It shifts an already over-capacity high-volume intersection — it shifts those users over to 28th,” said Romero. “We’re moving them in a location where they don’t have to compete with left or right turns of cars.”

Romero said the presence of the bike lanes and boxes have no impact on Powell traffic capacity or travel time, though a new signal at 28th would increase travel times a bit.

City and state officials said in interviews that they’ve been involved in a months-long negotiation, with the city angling to keep the 26th Avenue bike lanes in place and the state angling to have them removed.

Rich Newlands, the city’s project manager for the 20s Bikeway, called the long disagreement an “unfortunate situation.” Ultimately, because Powell is a state highway, ODOT holds authority over any signal changes there.

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Biking advocate: People will use both intersections, so both crossings should be safe

The corner of 26th and Powell drew heavy media attention in May when two separate collisions injured two men riding bicycles on 26th. One man’s leg was severed in a collision with a left-turning truck and the other man’s leg broken by an eastbound Jeep.

“You’re not going to stop that travel choice, so you end up putting people in danger.”
— Rob Sadowsky, Bicycle Transportation Alliance

The first incident led to a demonstration by many locals who urged ODOT to prioritize safety by redesigning Powell Boulevard to reduce unsafe driving. ODOT responded by saying it would add a left-turn arrow phase to the signal at 26th.

Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and stepfather of a Cleveland student, called ODOT’s position “kahooey.”

“26th and Powell being a major school that people are biking to, how are you going to get them there?” Sadowsky said. “You’re putting students at significant risk because now they have to travel from 28th to 26th either via the sidewalk or via Powell.”

“It forgets to look at both the macro and micro at the same time,” Sadowsky said. “You’re not going to stop that travel choice, so you end up putting people in danger despite their stated best intentions to make it safer. … If they have an alternative way to get people to Cleveland High School safely, then let’s see it.”

Plan follows logic of neighborhood greenway system, ODOT says

se portland bike plan

The city’s Bike Plan for 2030 calls for “separated in-road bikeways” (blue stripes) on 26th.

There’s no question that Romero and D’Agnese see themselves as arguing in the interest of bike safety by trying to make it less desirable to ride a bike on 26th Avenue.

“We support the city in their off-major road system, to keep bikes on lower-traffic roads,” D’Agnese said, referring to the city’s neighborhood greenway network. I replied that the bike plan approved by the city in 2010 includes both neighborhood greenways on side streets and separated bike lanes on major streets, including on 26th Avenue across Powell.

“I’m not up on the city’s latest plans,” she said.

I asked Romero and D’Agnese whether they had any evidence that removing a bike lane from 26th would improve overall safety, or whether the additional risk to people who would still bike on 26th without the bike lane might outweigh the safety benefits of shifting bikes to 28th.

D’Agnese replied that there are “conflicting studies in the transportation safety realm” and that some show that “when bike volumes are high, crash rate goes up.” Therefore, she said, it’s not necessarily true that people biking on 26th would be worse off without a bike lane.

“It depends on the geometry and the site-specific conditions,” she said. “I’m trusting the state traffic engineer.”

Road user: I’d rather have both crossings, but I’d use 28th

vinnie mey

26th Avenue bike commuter Vinnie Mey.

Finally, on Thursday morning I visited the site to get some photos of how people are using 26th Avenue right now. I asked one man biking past, nearby resident Vinnie Mey, what he’d like to see happen.

Mey, who bike-commutes to his job at Portland Teriyaki at 125th and Glisan, said he’d prefer to have both crossings. Given a choice of which to use, though, he said he’d rather ride 28th across Powell and up to Clinton — due in part to what he thinks is a bad bike crossing of Holgate at 26th.

“It’s dangerous,” Mey said. “There’s a time when all the lights are green. That’s when people get hit.”

Correction 8/14: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said this was the first time Portland has removed bike lanes without something else taking their place. It previously did so on NW Lovejoy west of 11th Avenue.


The post State’s proposal to improve bike crossings of Powell: Remove bike lane from 26th appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Coalition of legislators scores $17 million to rebuild 14 blocks of Outer Powell

Coalition of legislators scores $17 million to rebuild 14 blocks of Outer Powell

SE 136th Press Conference-7

State Rep. Shemia Fagan has stepped
up for safer streets in east Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s not the $25 million that would have been wrapped inside last month’s ill-fated bipartisan transportation bill, but Powell Boulevard is lined up for a long-awaited improvement.

The state-run road is lined up to get $17 million to add sidewalks, pedestrian-friendly crossings and bike lane upgrades — which, as we reported last month, could come in the form of protected bike lanes. Another $3 million pledged by the City of Portland Friday would bring the project’s funding to $20 million for the blocks between SE 122nd and 136th avenues.

The rebuild “will break ground in 2018,” according to Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Clackamas) a second-term legislator in a swing district who has been a dogged champion for better walking and biking in the area.

Joining Fagan in support for this funding was a chorus of other local legislators, including Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-East Portland), Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River), Sen. Rod Monroe (D-East Portland), Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-NE Portland), Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley/East Portland), and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland).

outer-powell-concept

A rendering of a recommended design for Outer Powell.
Today, the street lacks complete sidewalks.
(Source: Outer Powell Conceptual Design Plan)

As reported by Willamette Week, the upgrade will include one of the most dangerous intersections in the state: SE Powell and 122nd, the site of 220 reported injuries between 2004 and 2013, four of them of people biking. (Willamette Week said state officials call it the single most dangerous intersection in Oregon, but it’s not clear how they were counting; several intersections had more injuries in the decade.)

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FullResolution_Blueprint_ProtectedIntersection(1)

Four “key elements” of a protected intersection.
(Image: ProtectedIntersection.com)

Powell and 122nd also happens to be one of two intersections that were used by Portland resident Nick Falbo as a model for a groundbreaking video that itemized the characteristics of a “protected intersection” that could prevent most bike-car turning conflicts. That concept has since led to working models being approved in Austin, Davis, Salt Lake City and Boston. Last month, one member of the advisory committee for the state’s Outer Powell project told us she thought the design would be possible there.

In a comment on BikePortland last month, the Oregon Department of Transportation project manager for Powell said the current process “will not preclude” raised bike lanes as part of the plan.

Meanwhile the planning process that’ll determine how this and future money will be spent on Powell continues. The next meeting of the “decision committee” for Outer Powell is set for the fall. On Saturday, Aug. 1, project staff will lead a bike ride for people who use Powell to talk about possibilities for improving the street.

You can also submit a site-specific or general comment on the project website.

outer powell comment map

Correction 7/7: An earlier version of this post listed the wrong date for the next meeting of the Outer Powell decision committee.


The post Coalition of legislators scores $17 million to rebuild 14 blocks of Outer Powell appeared first on BikePortland.org.

State seems ‘very receptive’ to a raised bike lane on outer Powell, advocates say

State seems ‘very receptive’ to a raised bike lane on outer Powell, advocates say

Cully Blvd cycle track-3

A low mountable curb like the one on NE Cully
is among designs being seriously debated for
SE Powell east of I-205.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

It’s looking as if the Oregon Department of Transportation might become one of the first state transportation agencies in the country to build a raised bike lane into an urban highway project.

It’s just a possibility and it’s still years away, but it’s the upshot of a meeting Monday in which several biking advocates urged the state to consider the design as part of its Outer Powell Safety Project.

David Hampsten of the East Portland Action Plan bike committee and the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee said in an email this week that he attended to urge ODOT “to consider modifying the planned 8-foot bike lanes into either raised cycle-tracks or adding barriers between the roadway and the bikeway users (bikes and mobility devices).”

“ODOT was very receptive of such modifications, and will do cost estimates, especially as PBOT may be able to use SDC funds to help build such facilities after 2016,” Hampsten said. “They are also redesigning the intersections to better accommodate bicyclists at 122nd, 148th, 162nd, & 174th, as all are (or will be) major bus stops as well, as well as the greenway crossings at 108th/110th, 129th/130th, and at 157th/158th.”

Hampsten’s support for a physically separated bike lane was joined by Elizabeth Quiroz, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s East Portland advocate and a member of the citizen advisory committee that met Monday.

“I got the sense that they were willing to look more into that,” Quiroz said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

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Cora Potter, another member of the citizen’s committee for the Outer Powell project who bikes to the meetings from her home in the Lents neighborhood, agreed.

“I think the general sentiment is to do some sort of treatment that separated the bike lane a little,” Potter said. “One of the major problems on Powell is people using the bike lane/shoulder for passing on the right.”

The 2013 Outer Powell Conceptual Design Plan suggested buffered bike lanes for most of the stretch to be rebuilt, but people involved in the project said that plan seems flexible.

Potter said Hampsten in particular had suggested separating the bike lane with a “one to two-inch mountable curb,” like the ones the City of Portland has built on Northeast Cully Boulevard and Southeast Multnomah Boulevard. This would let buses and other motor vehicles roll into the bike lane if necessary (to pick up someone standing on the sidewalk, for example) while cuing people that their vehicle is leaving its main roadway.

Because the Outer Powell project seems likely to gradually rebuild much of the length of Powell between Interstate 205 and 174th Avenue, it presents a rare opportunity to cheaply build a curb-separated bike lane into what some residents hope will gradually develop into a significant commercial main street.

Alex Cousins, the project’s community engagement manager, said Thursday that much of the conversation about raised or protected bike lanes on Powell was “just educating people about what is possible.”

“For some folks, some of the newer or more different designs that you don’t see everywhere, it was just kind of a new idea,” Cousins said.

curtis trailers site

SE Powell at 100th outside Curtis Trailers.

Much of the conversation at Monday’s meeting focused on five blocks of the project between SE 99th and 104th, alongside the Ed Benedict Skate Park, where the roadway is relatively narrow and more than a few feet of land acquisition might interfere with a nearby camper-trailer retail operation. On those blocks, project managers are discussing installing 12-foot-wide multi-use paths on each side of the street rather than separating the bikeway from the sidewalk.

Potter was particularly hopeful that ODOT might come up with a more comfortable design for biking through the intersection of 122nd and Powell.

“It’s, like, the most dangerous intersection in the city,” she said. She said there’s room and (thanks in part to the City of Portland’s new project on 122nd) money for “maybe doing something a lot better, maybe even a protected intersection treatment.”

At Saturday, Aug. 1, ODOT is planning a bike ride for people who use Powell to talk about possibilities for improving the street.

“We’re going to go out there and just ride the corridor with whoever wants to join us,” Cousins said. For details, email him: info@outerpowellsafety.org.

You can also submit a site-specific or general comment on the project website.

outer powell comment map


The post State seems ‘very receptive’ to a raised bike lane on outer Powell, advocates say appeared first on BikePortland.org.

ODOT says new signals with left turn arrows coming to SE Powell next week

ODOT says new signals with left turn arrows coming to SE Powell next week

Protest on SE Powell-17.jpg

They heard you.
(Photo: J Maus/BikePortland_

As hundreds of people take to the streets in an expression of frustration about unsafe biking conditions in Portland, the Oregon Department of Transportation has just announced plans to install new left turn arrows at SE Powell and 26th Avenue — an intersection where two people have sustained serious injuries in collisions this month.

This announcement comes as a surprise and is very likely a response to the collision that happened at the intersection today and the resulting public pressure that has come from it. ODOT rep Shelli Romero told me back on May 11th at the protest event at Powell and 26th that they want to “redo this signal” but no one expected such a quick timeline.

“We all agree that there are fatals and serious injuries on this corridor that need to be addressed,” Romero said.

In a statement released today, ODOT now says they plan to upgrade the traffic signals with left turn arrows “in the next week.” Here’s more from ODOT:

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“The new signals will provide green left turn arrows for northbound and southbound traffic on Southeast 26th Avenue at Powell Boulevard. This improvement will prohibit left turns when bicycles and pedestrians are crossing the intersection and provide a dedicated left turning phase for vehicles turning left onto Southeast Powell.

The intersection was the site of two crashes in May involving bicycles and motor vehicles, both involving serious injuries. The upgraded signals will improve safety by reducing motor vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle crashes.”

These new signals are a short-term step while ODOT and the City of Portland work toward a longer-term, $3.8 million project that will bring a series of safety upgrades to Powell between 20th and 24th in 2017.


The post ODOT says new signals with left turn arrows coming to SE Powell next week appeared first on BikePortland.org.