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At just $20,000, Ankeny Plaza is Portland’s cheapest “bridge” project ever

At just $20,000, Ankeny Plaza is Portland’s cheapest “bridge” project ever

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Cheap. Fast. Popular. Now let’s do another one.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s the cheapest bridge project ever completed in the Portland region. For just $20,000, the city’s Bureau of Transportation has changed the face of an iconic and historic part of town. And they’re sort of bragging about it, which is awesome.

At the ribbon-cutting event for Ankeny Plaza today, City Commissioner Steve Novick delighted in how his Bureau of Transportation has radically transformed the streets between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Old Town/Chinatown. “This is incredibly awesome,” he bubbled, before making a reference to Martha & The Vandellas’ classic tune, “Dancing in the Streets.”

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Commissioner Novick.

“We did a lot with a little bit of money,” Novick continued, after making a jab at Director Park (a Parks Bureau plaza project just a few blocks west) for being “expensive” by comparison.

PBOT Commissioner Leah Treat also showed confidence not only in Ankeny Plaza, but in what’s to come. “This represents a new chapter for open streets in Portland… and this is just the start,” she said.

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James Silviano, president of the Ankeny Alley Association, cuts the ribbon.

Two years ago, Southwest 3rd Avenue between Burnside and Ash was a wide expanse of road space where only people inside cars could go without feeling harassed. The cross-section was three wide standard vehicle lanes and on-street auto parking lanes on both sides. Then those merry souls from Better Block PDX got organized and staged a demonstration of what a public plaza here could look and feel like. Everyone loved it — including Mayor Charlie Hales and especially Commissioner Novick. Fast forward to last October when PBOT striped buffered bike lanes and then followed that up by the slow and steady build-out of the plaza as it stands today.

“Making it easier for people to explore the neighborhood with safer crossings and slower driver speeds… That is creating a bridge for both sides of the neighborhood.”
— Helen Ying, president of Old Town Chinatown Community Association.

Now instead of three lanes for driving on SW 3rd, there are two. Both on-street parking lanes remain, but the eastern-most one (near Voodoo Doughnuts) now floats in the intersection which has opened up 20,000 square feet of public plaza space. As we previously reported, the plaza has been remade with a walking zone, a new bike corral, a bike share station and cafe tables and chairs that are now along the edges (instead of in the middle) of the street to provide a promenade through Ankeny Alley. Additions in the last week have included dozens of large planter boxes filled with beautiful bushes and small trees from the Chinese Garden a few blocks north. PBOT says they also plan to use these planter boxes to create protection for the new bike lane on 2nd Avenue.

And we can expect more improvements to this area thanks to an $82,000 community livability grant from the Portland Development Commission that the Ankeny Alley Association plans to allocate for “long-term improvements.”

Taken all together — the new buffered lane on 3rd and the new Ankeny Plaza and promenade that connects to the nearly-completed protected bike lane on SW 2nd (more on that later) — we have formed a bridge that connects several of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods. Burnside, and to a lesser extent 2nd and 3rd Avenues, are the rivers in this analogy and they still require caution. But PBOT has slowed the current and has extended a helping hand for anyone who wants to cross.

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The view looking south from the other side of Burnside. (The truck belongs to workers who are renovating the Paris Theater.)
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Looking west from Ankeny Alley toward 3rd Avenue
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This is a transformation not only of a major downtown intersection; but of the politics that rule our intersections. What bike share has done to encourage and legitimize the use of bicycles, Ankeny Plaza will do to create urgency for more — and even better — street transformations in the future.

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Helen Ying is president of the Old Town Chinatown Community Association.

Speaking at the event today, Old Town Chinatown Community Association President Helen Ying said the changes to the streets are a key part to her group’s efforts to, “Make this neighborhood the best in the city.” One of the biggest obstacles to that has been what Ying refers to as, “The traffic patterns and Burnside Boulevard that has divided the north side of the neighborhood from the south side.”

“Making it easier for people to explore the neighborhood with safer crossings and slower driver speeds… That itself is creating a bridge for both sides of the neighborhood.”

From Better Block’s activism and the city’s official embrace of their vision, to the full-throated support and gratitude from neighborhood leaders and the execution of the plaza design itself, we can only hope this project is a template for many others to come.

Commissioner Novick put it best in his brief speech today when he said, “This is what Portlanders want from their government. They want us to implement great ideas, work with the community and implement them in the most cost-effective way possible. And here in Ankeny Plaza we’ve delivered. We’ve all, collectively, delivered.”

Check out PBOT’s new Portland in the Streets website where you can see all their livable streets initiatives.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Who’s mad and who’s glad about ‘Better Naito’?

Who’s mad and who’s glad about ‘Better Naito’?

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Naito Parkway on Thursday afternoon as seen looking north from the Morrison Bridge.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This weekend, the City of Portland plans to remove the temporary multi-use path from the eastern side of Naito Parkway so the space can be used by cars instead.

It slowed rush-hour northbound auto trips somewhat: by about 1.5 minutes in the morning and between 30 seconds and two minutes in the evening, according to an independent analysis requested by The Oregonian and published Friday. (That’s for someone traveling all the way from I-405 to NW Everett.)

On the other hand, the project vastly improved the experience of biking or walking on Naito, especially during the summer festivals in which Waterfront Park is fenced up to the edge of the curb. In past years, people typically spill into the bike lane, forcing bikes into the auto lane, and the waterfront path regularly becomes almost impassable by bike because so many people are walking there.

So for politicians, here’s the question: How do you weigh the benefits of depressurizing the waterfront path and increasing the appeal of biking and walking downtown against the costs of increasing delay for people driving?

In short: how much were people who drive ticked off by those additional minutes of delay?

Well, out of the 10,400 people who drive northbound on Naito on the average weekday, exactly 45 sent either a voicemail or an email to the city opposing the project’s congestion effects. Just for fun, let’s look at that on a chart:

did not complain

“I work in Portland Monday-Friday,” wrote Paula Beard. “I drive North on Naito Parkway to Davis, then to 8th and Glisan. My evening commute has not been impacted by the Northbound Naito lane closure, but my morning commute time is greatly increased. I timed it today—25 minutes from the time I merged to Naito on the South end to when I arrived at the Davis Street stoplight. Without the lane closure it is about 5-10 minutes.”

Now, obviously there were many people annoyed by the Naito change who didn’t take the time to contact the city about the plan. Feedback like this is a better indicator of how many people are passionate about a policy — potentially to the extent that it’d influence their vote.

But in that case, we also need to consider the number of people who sent emails or voicemails supporting the project’s biking and walking benefits. We don’t have good data on how many people bike or walk on Naito, unfortunately, but a total of 65 people contacted the city since Better Naito was installed to express support for the idea. So here’s another chart:

direct feedback

The city also got a handful of letters and voicemails from people discussing design issues with the temporary path, such as trucks parking there or confusion about where bikes should turn. Those aren’t counted in this analysis unless they also mentioned general support for or opposition to the general change.

To be fair, all but nine of those positive comments came over the last week, when some biking advocates organized a letter-writing campaign in anticipation of the project being removed. But of course that only happened because someone was motivated to take the time to organize a letter-writing campaign … and because 56 people apparently cared enough to join that campaign even before the trial was removed.

“I’ve heard rumors that Better Naito is being torn out this weekend,” wrote Evan Heidtmann in an email to the city Tuesday. “Why would this happen? It doesn’t make any sense to me. I enjoyed riding on Naito this summer and I don’t know of anyone who wants it to go back to the way it was. Our waterfront is one of the best things going and we need to make it a great place to be, not a giant sewer for people driving fast in their cars. Everyone has already figured out how to use the street in its new configuration. Changing it now will just lead to confusion, frustration, and increased dangers for everyone on the street.”

By contrast, most of the negative feedback arrived at the start of the project; only nine of the 45 negative comments arrived in the last week.

Here are 19 more examples of things people had to say to the city about Naito, released to BikePortland after a public-records request. We’re publishing positive and negative feedback in the same ratio that the city received: about 60 percent positive.

Subject: Better, Better Naito

Dear Mayor and City Council – I have been loving the Better Naito project and had no idea it wasn’t going to become permanent! If there is a jewel of downtown Portland, it is the waterfront. I have taken family and friends there from Ohio, California, Colorado, Iowa and of course Portland, and everyone loves it. Having the security to ride and walk along more safely has been a great improvement, especially when there are thousands of people at the many events there.

What other city would do this grand experiment with traffic control? I congratulate you for conducting experiments like this and risking the wrath of other commuters. The investigative work is essentially done, and now we need to take it to the next step and make it permanent.

I love that we live in a city that is so progressive and tries things like this. And I agree with people who say we can’t really pave our way out of our new traffic problems, so where we can, let’s continue facilitating active transportation so that it becomes part of our lives.


Rob Hertert

Subject: Commuting from SW to NE


Just some feedback about clogged arteries. I am sure your office is aware of the worsening of traffic conditions in the past few years. I live in NE Portland and work on SW Macadam, a 6 mile commute by car. Whether due to new residents or tourists, the traffic on I5 and 405 has ramped up considerably. It can take 45 minutes for me to get home in the worst of the traffic jams. Naito Parkway has been an alternative option for me to use when the freeways are at a standstill. The blocked easternmost lane has created yet another traffic log jam. I see drivers taking unnecessary risks. The other day I saw a van driving down the blocked lane. The pedestrian flow was in Waterfront Park with people crossing Naito at lights or marked crossing points. I did not see people using the blocked lane as a walking space. The lane was empty. This experiment in blocking a lane of a main artery seems frivolous and potentially dangerous.

I have lived in NE Portland since 1980, long before it became trendy, and love its walkability. However, I am increasingly concerned about the liveability of the city as a whole. We have had a huge influx of people without the transportation infrastructure to move them quickly.

Jan Volkin
NE Portland

Subject: Commuter Experience

Heya! I heard your soliciting feedback on the Naito bike route.

I am a 100% car commuter. I drive from North Portland into SW downtown for work, dropping my kids off at school and daycare on the way. I don’t have time to bike to work, regardless of how nice or big the bike is …

… And I *LOVE* the bike path. It doesn’t significantly impact my commute time, I see tons of cyclists using it every day, it helps keep the waterfront pedestrian path clear and safe, and I think it’s the right thing for out growing city!!

Regarding the folks who complain about traffic snarls: in my experience, the #1 jam is the Hawthorne bridge on ramp from Naito. Everything else moves at a pretty steady clip. Opening up the Naito bike line to vehicular traffic isn’t a solution to any of the traffic problems I’ve seen. At best it’s a short term solution to the same congestion, whereas a bike path can accommodate many, many more commuters!

I’m thinking about the continuous development in the north Pearl, the south waterfront, and the upcoming inner SE — all need access, and all are extremely bikeable. Let’s set the right precedence and make our city even more friendly to cyclists …

And I say this as a 100% downtown car commuter!

-Peat Bakke

Subject: Please keep BetterNaito!

I’ve followed the instructions on your website and tweeted my thanks for #BetterNaito, but tonight I’ve learned that there is a chance that we can keep it.

Please, please, please! This would be great for family biking. Just last week we had a biking family visiting from Seattle and it was wonderful to be able to get to the BoltBus stop easily from the Hawthorne Bridge and then use it to connect to the path to the Tillicum. Lots of visitors want to ride the Tillicum and BetterNaito was a great, low-stress way to get there on our cargo bikes.

For those of us that don’t venture over the river to the westside very often, it’s hard to find a low-stress way to get where we do need to go. This is so helpful. My bakfiets weighs 90 pounds before the kids get in it with all their gear, so we need a flat or downhill route to get where we are going. BetterNaito lets me ride at my speed (I average 4 mph) without inconveniencing people walking or people biking faster than that. And it’s so flat!

I’m looking forward to taking the kids to Jamison Square if you keep it. I hope you do.

Thank you,
Kathleen Youell

Subject: A Joy


Thought I’d take a moment to say how much this project means to me. Traveling between SE to NW Portland is made easier when I can stay on the East side of Naito. This makes getting on and off the bridge easier. I wish it would carry on through the winter. I typically take the Eastbank home after work in the summer but when winter rolls around it’s too dark and I take Naito. Riding South on the West side of Naito, I have to watch the parked cars since they may pull out or open doors without warning. Also, it can be stressful to get across Naito at the Salmon St fountain to get to the Hawthorne bridge.

Thank you for taking the time to read my message. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Be well,

Subject: Please make Better Naito permanent

I just heard that the opening of Better Naito to pedestrians/cyclists/skaters is coming to an end this Sunday. This lane has made life better for so many at so little a cost. Walking down on the shared path by the water is so much safer and more welcome for the elderly and families and tourists. Meanwhile faster moving thru-cyclists, runners and skaters have taken to Better Naito to move through more efficiently without disturbing their fellow Portlanders. It really has been marvelous. I drive through here too and I have not noticed any significant change in the driving time.

There is limited capacity and growing demand for human-powered movement in this area. Better Naito eases both problems elegantly and inexpensively. This is future thinking. Please make it permanent.

William Rausch

Subject: “better naito” is not better

Regarding “better naito.” It seems like a nice idea, but really, it is a mess.

Your website has too much positive spin and doesn’t speak realistically. Fact is, delays are more like 10 minutes – you cite 45 seconds to 1 minute. Try again. I take the route daily and know this for a fact. Your website states there is a sign alerting drivers ahead of time – barely noticeable. But again – the alternate route adds 10 minutes.

Your solution only help bikes/peds even though you say “more connected way for all Oregonians.” What about people who are trying to get to work DURING A REGULAR MORNING WHEN THERE IS NO FESTIVAL? It is a ridiculous concept to create a traffic jam and a mess of construction cones during these times. How did anyone think this was smart?

A better solution that would indeed benefit all Oregonians using downtown would be to erect the lanes during festival HOURS only. Simple, efficient, smart for all.


Subject: Better Naito
Hello Mayor and City Commissioners;

I am an internal medicine physician at OHSU and bike to the tram every day from my home in NE Portland. I am writing to express my sincere and heartfelt support for the Better Naito project. Although there are certainly other areas of the city which sorely need bike infrastructure attention, I have personally experienced how the conversion of Naito the last several months has benefited a huge number of Portlanders and visitors to our great city- bicyclists and pedestrians alike. I can’t help but smile every time I bike down Naito now. Seriously!

I appreciate the hard work you all do on a daily basis for Portland (despite the complaints and grumblings of many). This project is important for you to support and I feel that it (and other bike and pedestrian friendly projects across the city) enhance what is already such a great place to live.


Joe Hardman, MD

Subject: Make #BetterNaito permanent!

Hello City of Portland representatives,

Today I write you to make my appeal for keeping the #BetterNaito changes permanent. It has been absolutely wonderful to have this dedicated cycle and pedestrian path for the last few months. I ride my bike five days a week from Inner SE to Naito and NW 9th Ave and this segment is crucial for my commute.

It has been wonderful to have this alternative bike path available, especially in the summer time. There is no easy traffic-free way for me to make an efficient north/south commute from the Pearl to the Hawthorne bridge except on this path. The festivals that take place on the Esplanade during the summer months make riding near impossible with people who are leisurely trying to enjoy those festivals and the park. Similarly, riding on the East side Esplanade is also extremely difficult. There are many people enjoying this space in a leisurely way and it does not feel very safe for me or for them to use these paths for my bicycle commute where I am often riding very fast.

Having said that, I’ll leave you with a few more points for consideration

– The four permanent lanes of auto traffic on Naito have access to the road for 8760 hours a year. I’m sure traffic volume studies show that this road can certainly afford to permanent lose a lane. Let’s get real and give cyclists a piece of that 8760 hour pie.

– The distance we’re talking about is a mere 0.70 miles. In the grand scheme of trips via automobile on this road, that is like a drop of water in the ocean. For cycling commuters, that can be a much more significant percentage of their commute.

– I ride five days a week all year long. I see the volume of traffic every day on Naito during peak hours. Northbound traffic can certainly support the change. Congestion is not that bad.

– I’ve also ridden for the last eight years using the Esplanade. I can tell you having more cyclists on this pathway will NOT work. I’ve seen it from both perspectives – as a pedestrian trying to dodge cyclists and as a cyclist trying to go to and from work. If it were not for #BetterNaito, I would simply divert to another street (3rd Ave). Riding on the bike path on Naito now really sucks, as there are at least nine traffic lights that kill my trip.

– This would be a tremendous sign of support from the city about taking cycling seriously. You’ve already got some great momentum with Biketown, closing the Naito gap, Ankeny Plaza. Keep the transformations coming!

– I’m invested in my city and my community. I am a tax-paying homeowner in Portland that wants to see my city work for me

Thank you for your time,
Evan Reeves

From: Jared Lorz
Subject: You suck
I have had to walk on dirt sidewalks and unpaved dilapidated streets for 30 years because you bastards won’t improve southwest Portland. Screw downtown and your little initiatives.

Subject: Bike lanes vs cars. Naito Parkway and foster and holgate.

You guys are idiots. If you want people to come to the festivals, more parking for CARS and lanes for CARS are needed. I used to live in portland and now won’t come to any of your festivals nor will any of my friends of family because you have let the bicyclist take over the roads that we ALL pay for. And yes I still work in portland and still pay taxes there but have moved across the river to a state that is CAR friendly for commuters.

Jason Lind

Subject: Please Keep #BetterNaito!

Hello oh transportational powers that be!

I heard through Twitter that #BetterNaito is scheduled to end on 7/31. I think this a terrible idea and here is why:

1) BetterNaito has helped to reduce car/bike and bike/ped conflicts on Naito and the Waterfront Path.

2) We are all used to it already. I drive 60-70% and bike 30-40%, and Naito seems fine to me. I often have to visit hotels on the waterfront for my job, and I haven’t seen any unusual or commerce-ending congestion, just the typical rush hour stuff that passes if you just chill for a few minutes — as we all should.

3) We don’t want to backslide into a car-centric downtown. It doesn’t make sense to say Portland is committed to #VisionZero if we are going to take away something that creates bike/ped safety!

4) There isn’t another really good north-south bike path in downtown until 14th Ave.

5) There are so many upcoming events on the waterfront throughout the fall, winter, and spring — from Portland Marathon, to Jingle Bell Run, to Shamrock Run — it doesn’t make sense to make everyone unlearn BetterNaito when it’s just going to go back in again in the summer, and when we have so many downtown events that BetterNaito helps. Let’s keep our vibrant downtown a year-round vibrant downtown!

Please — make BetterNaito permanent and help make Portland, Oregon into the multimodal utopia we want to be.

Thank you!

Emee Pumarega
Business Owner
Car Driver



I’m writing to ask that you strongly consider keeping Better Naito permanently. I’ve worked downtown for over a decade & often bike commuted from Milwaukie to downtown on a daily basis. Although the frequency of my commute has lessened I still commute using the same route every other week and often ride downtown for errands or shopping (Powell’s Books!). Riding my bike on Naito has been way too frightening so the majority of the time I’ve used waterfront park to connect from Hawthorne bridge to the US Bancorp Tower. Riding the sidewalks with pedestrians, which has become more crowded over the years, is not ideal and poses its own dangers to cyclists, pedestrians, and the wildlife (I’ve personally witnessed a goose getting caught in wheels of a passing cyclist in waterfront sidewalk)! Additionally, at lunch time I often walk down waterfront park & experience from a pedestrian standpoint the stress of having cyclists passing, especially when large groups of people are congested in particular spots. Riding waterfront park during any event is almost impossible with limited access to reach the streets, fence obstructions, and vendor trucks/cars on sidewalk.

I had actually forgotten Better Naito was set up this year when I commuted into downtown one morning. How refreshing to be able to safely ride down Naito all the way to work (while shaving several minutes from commute time)!! I have since been able to enjoy Better Naito with my 8yo son, with groups of friends riding to events at Powell’s Books, and many other regular commutes to/from work. I have twice helped lost strangers find & ride Better Naito with me as a better way to reach Hawthorne Bridge or the Tillikum Crossing. Their response has always been “this is great!” and my reply is always “yes, it is!”

I do own & sometimes commute into downtown by car. There’s always the “change pains” as people get used to anything different but people adjust quickly & I’ve experienced little change in my car commute due to Better Naito. Additionally, I have other options in my car but I don’t have many other options on my bike!

Keep the positive change momentum going for our city & allow Better Naito to stay. Safe streets & spaces for PEOPLE (not just people in cars) is important to me.

Thank you.

~Kelly Williams

Subject: Better Naito

Dear Portland,
I want to throw my support behind better naito, the expanded bike lanes and pedestrian access has been awesome.

Let me start by saying I am not a Portland resident. I am a frequent (monthly visitor to Portland because I LOVE what an amazing city the people of Portland have created.

Why do I come every month and stay downtown and spend money?
Do you realize that in the last 25 years Portland has transformed into one of the most unique and amazing North American Cities?
1. I can take MAX from PDX to downtown and then get around on public transit
2. I can now get bikeshare, but before rent bikes and get all over most of the central city without any hassles
3. I can walk to a lot of areas of downtown easily and without hassle.

Do you realize how UNIQUE that is in north America? Only New York City and Chicago offer those same options.. possibly San Francisco, but they’re Californians.

Please keep on being amazing and keep Naito with less cars.. it is an obstacle for bikes and pedestrians to get to the waterfront and yes that bike lane is an awesome North-South route between bridges.

Thanks for being awesome and please stay that way! Keep or reinstate better Naito!

Mike Cipriano

Subject: Naito Parkway Lane Closure

Dear City of Portland Officials,

I am a 21 year resident of the City, having lived in SW Portland (close-in) for the first 9 years, and in the Alameda neighborhood for the past 11 years. When my wife and I were looking for a home in close-in NE to raise our children, we chose to live on bike way – we are proud supporters of shared transportation resources, and appreciate the relatively new bike/ped-only arrangement the City constructed next to the Madeleine School. For years, I commuted to work by bike whenever possible. Now, I work in SW Portland close to Lake Oswego, and must commute by car.

Due partially (perhaps mostly) to people moving to the Portland area, my evening commute has, rather quickly, worsened from about 40 minutes (1 1/2 years ago) to about 50-55 minutes today. I select my route depending on the day, but find that the Interstates have become unbearable, particularly when I-5 is backed up from Barbur Blvd to the Washington border. One of the routes I take is North on Naito Pkwy, crossing the river at the Steel Bridge. Unfortunately, the summer lane closure on Naito Blvd has created traffic congestion that has worsened commutes even more.

I have been an ardent supporter of the City, and have never complained. However, the Naito Pkwy lane closure does not make good sense to me. I have read through the Better Naito materials, but can’t understand why closing one lane to vehicle traffic solves the problems that the closure is intended to solve. A wonderful bike/ped facility already exists along the river bank, very close to Naito Pkwy. Why do we need two North-South bike paths so close to one another? My experience has been that the bike lane next to me is rarely used. I believe that this is a poor use of a valuable and important transportation resource.

I have witnessed many times pedestrians gingerly walking on the curb or in the painted bike lane during waterfront events. This is obviously a dangerous and unacceptable situation. But, the question is; why not move the barrier on the West side of the event venue farther to the East, creating a path in the park for pedestrians to safely travel to/from the event? Why does the event venue barrier have to abut the roadway? Bikes can continue to use the river side path. Further, the event venue can be reduced in size to accommodate a pedestrian path along side Naito Pkwy. A fence could even be erected to keep pedestrians from wandering into the roadway.

In light of the ever increasing gridlock around this City, closing important arterial streets to vehicle traffic should be avoided. In the case of the Naito Pkwy lane closure, a valuable and needed roadway is being blocked to address problems that could be addressed in other, more effective, ways. I request that the City reconsider this short-term and potentially, long term lane closure, and look at other options for addressing pedestrian and cyclist safety during summer events.

David Carter

Subject: Naito Pilot Feedback

I would like to provide feedback on the Naito pilot. While I respect and understand the concept of increasing the ease for bike commuters, it is not possible for all of us to bike to work. Even though I am a resident of Portland and Multnomah County, I need to drive to work due to job requirements (the ability to travel to meetings in Salem and other locations with little notice) as well as childcare restrictions/hours. The lane closure has nearly doubled my commute time and increased my carbon footprint notably. Alternative routes require me to backtrack and idle more than the commute I previously took via two open lanes on Naito.

I find it additionally frustrating that I have been run off the sidewalk twice and hit by one bicycle while jogging on the waterfront during the lunch hour in the past two weeks. Even with the loss of the lane and increased commute time to give the bicycles an alternative route, I do not see bikes using the lane when I do take Naito and I have not seen a decrease in bike traffic along the waterfront walkways.

Please consider what the convenience of even more bike lanes (there are already bike lanes on both sides of Naito and a bike/walkway through the park) is doing to hard working families who are already doing what they can within reason for the environment and attempts at reducing road time. I hear my shared frustrations regularly from coworkers and friends. – I beg you not to chase honest hard working people and families out of Portland.

Thank you for providing the opportunity to voice my concerns and frustrations as a Portland native, Multnomah County tax payer/homeowner, and participant in paying the increasing fuel tax.

Gail Hammer

Subject: Naito Parkway Improvements

Hi Commissioner Novick,

I am very excited to see the improvements made to Naito Parkway! Thank you and PBOT for your support on this project. I do think it is essential to make the Better Blocks project permanent as well, even if it is temporarily just paint and/or cones. I envision an easy to use bikeway for all ages starting from the S. Waterfront extending all the way to Naito and NW 17th. This would enable easy access from east of the Willamette to anywhere on the west, whether it be NW 21st/23rd, the Pearl, Downtown or the South Waterfront. Essentially, this would form the backbone of downtown’s protected bicycle network. Maybe this is your vision too. I’m excited for the many great things coming to Portland. Thanks for your leadership.

Alex Gerace

Subject: Stop the insanity!

Seriously……A group of PSU students come up with a concept plan which calls for the closing of ½ of one of our city’s major arterials. The arterial which allows drivers to bypass the city’s congested core. It is tested last summer during three weeks of generally lower traffic volume due to summer vacations and such. The “Better Naito Summary Report” indicates that north bound traffic is only affected by 45 seconds to 1 minutes with the heaviest delay between Clay and Main due to the merging traffic.

Well, I would like to share with someone my experience of yesterday and today since the closing of Northbound Naito. I work in the Koin Tower on Clay. I commute in my car via Barbour Blvd. I use Front/Naito and turn right onto Clay. Yesterday the traffic northbound was stopped and heavy just north of SW Sheridan at 8:02am. I was able to finally turn left onto Clay at 8:15am. 13 minutes. Today, same route, traffic stopped and heavy just south of SW Sheridan at 8:12. I turned left onto Clay at 8:27. 15 minutes. There is a very large amount of traffic now attempting to turn off of Naito onto Clay and the other westbound streets leading into the core area to apparently attempt to avoid the delay on Naito.

$1.5 in the Mayor’s budget to screw things up. Here is a concept. Spend the money on……wait for it……a sidewalk next to the roadway. Why have we always had grass right up to the curb? Don’t take the road away. Lose ten feet of the grass and make everyone happy.

I can appreciate the difficult job you folks at PDOT have trying to make everyone happy, while at the same time building and providing a system that functions well.
I am certain that your department is monitoring the situation. Please use my input as constructive criticism.

Neil Jaques
SW Portland Resident


Dear Mayor Hales and Commissioners Fish, Fritz, Novick, and Saltzman:

With only a week left before it is scheduled to be removed, Better Naito pilot project should be retained indefinitely. Further, I encourage you to find and allocate the funds to permanently transform as much of Naito Parkway as possible for safe use by non-motorized transportation modes (pedestrian, skateboard, roller skating, bicycling, etc).

Tom McCall Waterfront Park is emblematic of our City’s historic efforts to reclaim auto thoroughfares for non-motorized public use. Extending this into Naito Parkway today extends our commitment to Portland’s car-free future.

Making Better Naito permanent is also desirable for the following reasons:
• The existing multi-use path along the waterfront is increasingly overcrowded. An alternate pathway will prevent potentially dangerous collisions between pedestrians and more quickly moving skaters and cyclists.
• Naito Parkway eventually narrows to one-lane only 7/10 of mile further down the road; we’re not reducing congesting, only postponing it.
• This is a low-investment infrastructure project with immediate, high-visibility benefits.
• The economic impacts will undoubtedly be net positive for merchants on this street and connecting streets on the eastern edge of downtown. Very little freight passes through this corridor. • • Locals and tourists alike will enjoy Naito Parkway as a recreational promenade, which is far more lucrative for our city than a commuter thoroughfare.
• Our streets in the city center should be for people first, not cars. Single-occupancy vehicle driver preferences should no longer be prioritized in our city’s transportation decision-making.

This repurposing of Naito Parkways is in line with our Comprehensive and Climate Action Plans; please, let’s put our words into action.

Thank you for your service to our city and your consideration in the matter,
Sarah Iannarone

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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City weighs parking rule for NW that could block a fifth of new homes

City weighs parking rule for NW that could block a fifth of new homes

~1950 Pettygrove.

The Tess O’Brien Apartments on NW 19th and Pettygrove, built with no on-site parking, are the largest project that would have been illegal under a proposal going before city council tomorrow.
(Photo: Ted Timmons)

Portland’s City Council will meet Wednesday to consider a new mandatory parking requirement that, if it had existed for the last eight years, would have illegalized 23 percent of the new housing supply in northwest Portland during the period.

The Tess O’Brien Apartments, a 126-unit project that starts pre-leasing next week and will offer some of the cheapest new market-rate housing in northwest Portland, couldn’t have been built if they’d been required to have 42 on-site parking spaces, its developer said in an interview.

“Do the math,” Martin Kehoe of Portland LEEDS Living said Friday. “The apartments at the Tess O’Brien are between $1250 and $1400 a month. If we were required to build parking, you’d be between $1800 and $2000 a month. … It probably just wouldn’t have been built. And then what’s that going to do to the existing project that’s out there and has been built? It’s just going to drive the rents of those up.”

Kehoe said the Tess O’Brien units, which average 330 square feet, are intended for people who don’t own cars.

“We’ve got free bike parking rooms, you’re a block off the bus, you’re a block off streetcar, you’ve got access to Uber whenever you want it,” he said. “People who move into these apartments … they don’t have cars.”

The proposal up for debate on Wednesday would apply the same rule to the Northwest District, immediately west of Interstate 405, that applies in other neighborhoods outside the central city: buildings with 31 to 40 homes would need at least one parking space for every five units. Buildings with 41 to 50 homes would need one space for every four units. Buildings with 51 or more homes would need one space for every three units.

Mandatory parking minimums would have driven up the construction cost of 305 new homes built in northwest Portland since 2008.

Including the Tess O’Brien Apartments, those mandatory parking minimums would have driven up the construction cost of 305 new homes built in northwest Portland since 2008, city data show, potentially by enough to kill the five new buildings in question. That’s 23 percent of the 1,339 units that were added to northwest by buildings of 10 or more units.

For comparison’s sake, if those 305 new no-parking homes were in a single building, it would have been the sixth largest built in Portland since at least 2000. The largest new building in the Lloyd District, for example, added 337 units to the city’s housing supply.

But most new homes in northwest Portland are in buildings where developers opted to build more than the minimum amount of parking, usually much more, suggesting that new no-parking buildings are a niche market in the Northwest District.

‘We certainly should have the option of no parking’

nw portland new units

Buildings marked in orange would have been illegal under the proposed new rule.
(Data: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Chart: BikePortland.)

Portland rental vacancy rates have been below 5 percent since 2008. Last year, monthly rent in the average apartment rose $100, with hikes concentrated mostly in older units. In April, the local Barry Apartment Construction Report saw housing supply finally keeping up with demand (a trend confirmed by May Census figures) but still not increasing fast enough for a significant rise in vacancies.

Local home purchase prices, too, have been rising at the fastest rates in the nation.

“It won’t end until we have more balance between supply and demand in the housing market,” University of Oregon economist Tim Duy told The Oregonian last week.

“Demand is severely outpacing supply,” the news report said.

Margot Black, an organizer for the advocacy group Portland Tenants United speaking for herself, said in an interview Monday that she’d spoken with Portland Commissioner Steve Novick last week to oppose new parking minimums in northwest.

“Right now, we should not be doing anything that restricts supply and increases prices,” said Black. “We certainly should have the option of no parking if that means we could have more units at a lower price.”

Parking advisory committee: Every building brings more cars

2018 nw everett 1910 9-20

2018 NW Everett Street.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The proposal to bring parking minimums to the Northwest District comes from the volunteer Northwest Portland Parking Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

“At least half of our committee did not use to support parking minimums,” said Rick Michaelson, who chairs that committee and supports minimums. “We see that the transit system has not expanded rapidly.”

Michaelson said that even in the Footprint apartments, another 50-unit microapartment building in northwest, 16 units have signed up for street parking permits.

“We’re going to see a minimum of 30 percent even for these microapartments,” he said. “We think it’s a fairness issue. We think we need as many opportunities to get the system in balance and make sure that everybody contributes to the parking infrastructure.”

“9700 parking permits have been issued that are competing for the 4100 spaces.”
— Karen Karlsson, NW Portland Parking Stakeholder Advisory Committee

Michaelson predicted that city rates for street parking will go up, which will lead to more demand for off-street parking in the future. He also said a project similar to Tess O’Brien might have penciled out even with 42 on-site parking spaces.

“Some developers are choosing to have parking without affecting the bottom line,” he said.

Michaelson said his committee had discussed other ideas for affordability such as not counting below-market-rate units toward a building’s total, or exempting buildings that offer free TriMet passes to residents.

Karen Karlsson, who also serves on the committee, said her “bottom line” is that “9700 parking permits have been issued that are competing for the 4100 spaces.”

“We really need to find a way to help balance the supply and reduce the demand,” she said. “We need every tool that we can get.”

Council will hold hearing Wednesday and may vote

Portland City Council

Portland City Council: Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Charlie Hales, Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Commissioner Steve Novick said Friday that because he assumes “markets operate like markets,” requiring on-site parking in buildings in transit-oriented neighborhoods does tend to drive up housing costs by reducing the supply of new housing.

But Novick said he is considering support for a new parking minimum anyway, at least in the short term, because minimums already exist in most of the city.

“I generally am not excited about constructing lots of new parking,” Novick said. “I don’t think we should continue to build society around the car if we are going to take our climate goals seriously. [But] I am much more sympathetic when folks come from a neighborhood that has meters, has a permit system, has a fair amount of density, and say ‘Hey, we want to be treated the way other folks are treated.’”

The central city, which includes the Pearl District in inner northwest, doesn’t have parking minimums. As in northwest, developers there usually opt to include on-site parking as an amenity for residents who choose to pay extra for it.

Most of the buildings that define northwest Portland were built before the city’s first parking requirements.

But many older apartments and condos in northwest Portland, maybe even most of them, have zero on-site parking. That’s because most of the buildings that define northwest Portland were built before the city’s first parking requirements, which probably date to the 1950s.

In fact, one older apartment building in the district without on-site parking belongs to Michaelson’s real estate company.

For the second half of the 20th century, most new apartment and condo buildings in Portland had garages or parking lots attached. In 2000 the city council, led by then-Commissioner Charlie Hales, eliminated parking minimums for units close to frequent-service transit lines. Starting in 2008, as Portland’s rents began their recent climb, some developers began to secure loans for buildings without on-site parking.

In most of those buildings around Portland’s east side, half or more of households in the no-parking buildings owned at least one car. That meant parking spillover, which led to a backlash from some neighbors.

In 2013, Hales (newly elected as mayor) led approval of what he described as a stopgap measure to require parking at most new buildings of 30 units or more, even if they were within a block of a frequent transit line. But there was one exception: the Northwest District, which was already in the midst of a parking reform program.

Demand-based parking group organizing opposition to rule

park avenue west

Parking excavation beneath the future Park Avenue West tower downtown.

In the three years when many apartment buildings in Portland were being constructed without parking, from 2011 through 2013, average construction costs per apartment fell even though construction costs for other units didn’t.

Then, after parking minimums were reinstated for most transit-oriented buildings in 2013, average construction costs per apartment shot back up even though construction costs for other units didn’t.

Tony Jordan of the group PDX Shoupistas, which advocates for demand-based parking policy, found that the number of buildings going up in Portland with exactly 30 units — the maximum size a transit-oriented building can be in most of the city without triggering parking minimums — is apparently about to soar. There are currently 14 such buildings in development, he calculated last week.

According to city permit data obtained by BikePortland under state open records rules, that compares to eight such buildings over the last 15 years.

Jordan is organizing people to contact the city council Tuesday and/or testify on Wednesday to oppose new minimums.

“In times like this, proposals which curtail the supply of new housing and increase rents should be dead on arrival,” Jordan wrote Monday. “A vote for minimum parking requirements is a vote to make the housing crisis worse.”

Novick says citywide reform is an option, but not yet


New homes on Southeast Ankeny Street, built with an on-site garage.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

In an interview Friday, Joan Frederiksen of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability said the city staff does not see a “tradeoff” between space for parking and space for people.

“I wouldn’t use the word tradeoff,” she said. “I think it’s more about balancing. … With this project we are echoing the direction council provided back in 2013, finding that balance between parking and affordability.”

Matt Grumm, a senior policy manager for Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman, put things differently.

“There’s no doubt that these are tradeoffs,” he said. “Parking minimums potentially increase the cost of that housing.”

Grumm said his boss would “wait for the hearing” before deciding how to vote but suggested that maybe developers who opt to include below-market-rate units in their buildings should get a break on parking requirements.

“It’ll be interesting to see if that gets any traction,” he said.

In an email last week, Hales spokeswoman Sara Hottman said the mayor supports the proposal to “extend the City’s minimum parking requirements to the Northwest Plan district.”

There are two other votes on the council: Nick Fish, who proposed the 2013 parking minimums that were passed into code, and Amanda Fritz.

Both Novick and Frederiksen suggested that the city might consider amending its citywide parking minimums at some point in the future.

“Even if we wind up applying parking minimums in northwest next week, I’m really encouraged that I’ve been hearing people opposing parking minimums,” Novick said. “Once we have those new tools available, one option is to revisit the parking minimum requirements throughout the city.”

Novick didn’t respond to a question about when the council is likely to consider his proposal that would let neighborhoods create their own parking permit districts.

Eudaly: “We must start decreasing our reliance on the personal automobile”

NW Portland Week - Day 5-24.jpg

Parking outside the Clearing Cafe on NW Thurman.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Chloe Eudaly, who is running on a housing-affordability platform to replace Novick on the city council, said in an email Monday that she opposes new minimums:

Portland is going through growing pains right now and traffic congestion and parking are high on the list of concerns, but what’s even higher is housing affordability. So when we’re talking about a policy that would increase the cost of housing and decrease the number of units built, such as minimum parking standards for new multi-family developments, we need to consider our options and their impacts very carefully.

I respect the work of the NW Parking SAC, as an almost 20-year former resident of NW Portland I know what a headache parking has become in the area, but I don’t support their proposal of a blanket minimum parking standard for all new multi-dwelling developments of more than 30 units. Knowing that these spaces are likely to be underutilized in many developments and that we must start decreasing our reliance on the personal automobile, I believe we can and must come up with a more nuanced approach, especially in a neighborhood that is so central, dense, and transit-friendly (many NW residents live within 10 blocks of the street car, Max, AND a bus line).

Instead of requiring more parking space, Eudaly suggested requiring developers to offer bus passes, bike-share or car-share memberships, creating shared parking options, and raising on-street permit prices “to more closely reflect the actual cost of providing street parking.”

Other options she suggested included shared parking garages and a “live where you work” program. She, too, suggested a parking exemption for developers that include below-market-rate units.

Black, the tenants organizer, said Portland is facing a difficult transition away from a “small town” where most trips happen by car and most homes have private yards, driveways and “a picket fence.”

“It’s great if you got it, but it’s mathematically impossible for all of us to have it,” she said. “I see Portland really struggling to make this shift into a city from this small-town feel. … We need to shepherd Portland through that paradigm shift.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here.

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Portland will offer Biketown-branded cycles for people with disabilities

Portland will offer Biketown-branded cycles for people with disabilities

Adaptive Bike Clinic-20.jpg

Participants in the June 5 adaptive bike clinic where the city gathered suggestions for an accessibility program.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

After taking criticism from local accessibility advocates and from the transportation commissioner’s political challenger, Portland says it’ll fund a discounted rental program for handcycles and trikes.

It seems to be the first such program in the country, though city staff couldn’t say for sure.

The goal is to make it possible for more people with disabilities get access to bicycles, in the same way that most other people will have an option to use Biketown, the publicly backed bike sharing system that launches July 19.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act is a major consideration in other forms of public transit. TriMet dedicates 10 percent of its $344 million operations budget to running a scheduled shuttle service (called LIFT) for people with major mobility challenges, as required under the federal law. But it’s currently ambiguous whether bike sharing, a relatively new form of public transit, has comparable obligations.

Here’s the city’s description of its proposed accessibility program:

It focuses on medium length rental (1-3 hours) through existing bike rental businesses located on or in close proximity to non-motorized trails. PBOT would purchase the adaptive bicycles and work with participating bike rental shops to provide the service. PBOT is considering providing both hand bicycles and three wheeled bicycles.

Many aspects of the proposal are still vague, including what it’ll cost, where the cycles might be rented and whether people would need to pay for their use.

“Right now we’re thinking about the purchase of six adaptive bicycles,” said Steve Hoyt-McBeth, who oversees the city’s bike share program, in an interview Thursday.

Hoyt-McBeth said he based the city’s plan on conversations with people who attended the city-sponsored Adaptive Bike Clinic on June 5.

‘For exercise and recreation’

Adaptive Bike Clinic-27.jpg

Another participant at the adaptive bike clinic.

“The program was developed directly out of the interviews I did with about a dozen people who used a wheelchair and expressed an interest in some sort of bicycle rental program,” Hoyt-McBeth said. “They said they wanted something where they could have somebody there to assist them moving between their wheelchair and the bicycle; they wanted someplace to store their mobility device; they wanted to ride for exercise and recreation; and they did not want to ride in traffic.”

Though these cycles would be branded as Biketown, the program would be run by the city itself (Biketown is an independent contractor that works for the city). And the way the cycles are used would be different than the one Hoyt-McBeth has been keeping in mind for the rest of the Biketown system, which is optimized for short one-way rides of 45 minutes or fewer.

But in other ways, this program will be informed by a similar philosophy.

“Sometimes the issue is not whether you own the device or not, it’s whether you have access to it,” Hoyt-McBeth said.

Transporting adaptive cycles by car is a major challenge

Adaptive Bike Clinic-29.jpg

Richard Fletcher, 44, has spina bifida but had never tried riding a handcycle until this month’s Adaptive Bike Clinic.

For example, Hoyt-McBeth said, he talked to a couple people who already own handcycles but lack an easy way to get it to a place they’d like to ride for recreation.

“I’ve got to put it in my car, I’ve got to drive somewhere,” Hoyt-McBeth said. “If I’ve got a partner or a spouse or whatever, I may need to put their bike in the car too. … Logistically it was really tough to use it. The idea of having a service that is centrally located downtown right on a multi-use path … was compelling to them.”

Then there are people who have disabilities but haven’t been able to or didn’t want to spend $1,500 for an adaptive cycle.

“I’m sure there will be a number of people that we will provide a much more financially accessible way to use a handcycle,” Hoyt-McBeth said.

Hoyt-McBeth noted that different people have many different types of disability, and this plan will only serve some.

“It’s a very wide and diverse community, and we want to make sure that we fully understand that,” he said. “I’ve not done very many interviews with people who have balance issues.”

Novick pushed action after political pressure from Eudaly

Bike Share passage press conference-4.jpg

Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick at the 2015 announcement of the city’s bike share plans.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The city’s commitment was rolled out rapidly after an “early June” meeting between staffers for the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the office of Commissioner Steve Novick.

Novick is the only city council member currently up for election, facing bookseller-turned-politician Chloe Eudaly.

In a May 24 Facebook post (which her campaign sponsored to get in front of more people) Eudaly raised the issue of accessibility.

“It’s exciting to finally be getting a bike share program, but I was disappointed to find out that the program excludes people with mobility challenges,” she wrote. “How is a 1000 bike program without a single adapted bike equitable or inclusive?”

Sue Stahl, who serves on the Portland Commission on Disability and ran against Eudaly and Novick in the primary, had previously raised the issue during her own campaign.


Candidate Chloe Eudaly with her son Henry.
(Image: Eudaly campaign)

All three politicians have personal connections to the issue. Stahl uses a mobility device. So does Eudaly’s son Henry. Novick was born without a left hand or fibula bones in his legs; he struggled to pedal a bicycle in childhood and hasn’t tried since, though he’s occasionally ridden them as a passenger.

We asked the Portland Bureau of Transportation about the issue on May 24, then heard nothing for nine days. On June 2, city spokesman John Brady said the city was “talking to our peer cities and people in the disability community.”

We covered the issue that day, and The Oregonian did so June 6.

Around that time, Novick got directly involved.

“We’ve been researching what other states are doing for a while,” Hoyt-McBeth said. “It’s fair to say that the public conversation about this issue this spring triggered us to look harder at it.”

The city says the “pilot concept will be further developed with community stakeholders this summer and fall, with a planned pilot launch in spring 2017.”

Brady said the city isn’t doing this specifically to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We’re not doing this for legal reasons,” he said. “We’re doing it to make the system more accessible.”

Update: Eudaly put a new statement about the issue on her Facebook page. Here’s what she said in a short interview Friday:

Without putting a damper on what is a positive development, I remain concerned that 26 years after the ADA was passed, that we’re still not dealing with issues of access up front in our policymaking, planning, development. And that needs to end. … This should not have been the responsibility of individual citizens to take on. complying with the ADA and serving our whole community is the job of our elected officials and the people working for these bureaus.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Late returns push bookseller Chloe Eudaly toward runoff with Novick in November

Late returns push bookseller Chloe Eudaly toward runoff with Novick in November

chloe eudaly

Chloe Eudaly.
(Photo via Eudaly campaign)

Looks as if Portland’s sitting transportation commissioner will get to spend the next five months running against the candidate for whom he had nothing but praise Tuesday night.

Commissioner Steve Novick took 43 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, sending him toward a runoff with what many people (including him) seemed to assume would be the relatively well-funded architect Stuart Emmons.

But Chloe Eudaly, owner of the independent bookstore Reading Frenzy and a co-founder of the Independent Publishing Resource Center and the tenant-focused Facebook community The Shed, has spent the last 20 hours first eating into Emmons’s lead, then (at 7:30 pm Wednesday) zooming past him for a lead of almost 1,000 votes.

By that point, Eudaly had 14.8 percent of the vote to Emmons’s 14.2 percent. It was a thin margin, but there are probably fewer than 10,000 votes left to be cast for either candidate (assuming that the two continue to take about 30 percent of the vote between them). Eudaly’s gains over Emmons have been not just growing but accelerating with almost every new release of ballots, making the chances of an Emmons rebound seem slim.

Soon after the 7:30 results, Eudaly was claiming victory over Emmons on Twitter:

Eudaly, a first-time candidate, has spent $18,000 on her campaign so far. Emmons has spent about $116,000 and Novick about $312,000.

Novick’s big lead in the primary and his incumbent status put him in a strong position for the general election. But the November election also seems likely to have a much larger and different electorate, as Novick and Eudaly share the ballot with the national presidential race. It’s not entirely clear which local candidate that might help.

Eudaly has had a laser focus on housing affordability during the race so far, to the near exclusion of discussing transportation. Its only mention on her website seems to be an endorsement of “less driving” among several things she describes as necessary steps to environmental sustainability. With the mayoral election off the table, Portland’s remaining undecided council seat will probably take a high profile in the six months to November, pushing the candidates to take positions on many issues.

We’ll be eager to be part of that push.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Ted Wheeler is Portland’s next mayor; new local gas tax will improve streets

Ted Wheeler is Portland’s next mayor; new local gas tax will improve streets

Sunday Parkways September 2015-7.jpg

Ted Wheeler crosses Tilikum Crossing during Sunday Parkways in September 2015.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland

Portland’s next mayor is a Multnomah County commissioner turned state treasurer who embraced protected bike lanes and more neighborhood greenway traffic diverters from almost the start of his run for office.

Ted Wheeler was drawing 58 percent of Portland’s primary vote Tuesday night, easily defeating opponents Jules Bailey and Sarah Iannarone, among others.

Wheeler also set himself apart on transportation issues by endorsing a local gas tax to improve Portland streets on the day he announced his campaign — a position that rapidly became conventional wisdom among local politicians and won a narrow victory Tuesday night.

“Portland is unique,” Wheeler said in his victory speech. “Portland’s on the move. Portland’s best years are still ahead of it.”

Bailey drew 16 percent of the vote, Iannarone 10 percent. Bruce Broussard, who didn’t make it to any candidates’ forum we saw but distinguished himself on transportation issues by speaking out against a redesign of Foster Road intended to improve safety by replacing two passing lanes with a center turn lane and bike lanes, was in fourth place with 4 percent, followed (in descending order) by Sean Davis, David Schor and Patty Burkett.

Novick will head to runoff in November

novick brown others

Portland Transporation Commissioner Steve Novick, right, with Oregon Walks Executive Director Noel Mickelberry and gas tas campaign manager (and Oregon Walks board president) Aaron Brown.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The gas tax package, which included promised biking and walking improvements in every quadrant of the city as well as pavement repairs for various crumbling streets, was up by 4,268 votes as of 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, enough for 51.6 percent of the vote and enough for The Oregonian to call the race.

With 43 percent of the vote in his race, Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick looks to be headed to a runoff with either architect Stuart Emmons or bookseller Chloe Eudaly. Emmons was slightly ahead of Eudaly Tuesday night, with 15 percent of the vote to her 13 percent.

Novick has been a solidly pro-biking vote on the Portland City Council, though he’s never made it one of his signature issues. He’s also established himself as probably the most vocal progressive on parking policy, speaking in favor of demand-based pricing, and on housing infill, which he has called essential to affordability in the city.

Emmons and Eudaly haven’t gone out of their way to stake out positions on bicycling, though Emmons did send us a photo of himself biking the Eastbank Esplanade a few months ago. On his website, his only stated position on transportation is that “our streets need attention.” Eudaly has made housing affordability, especially for tenants, her signature issue. Whichever of them comes out ahead, expect more coverage of this race in the coming months.

“It looks to me like I’m probably going to a runoff in November against the Oregonian editorial board, which is fine,” Novick told attendees of his election-night party. The newspaper’s editorial board has been a particular foe of Novick’s, endorsing Emmons and being the only local significant media outlet to oppose the gas tax he championed.

Wheeler win could start to reshape City Hall this year

Safe Sound and Green press event-3.jpg

Then Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler at a
2008 event calling for new local transportation funding.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Wheeler’s election is likely to immediately reduce Mayor Charlie Hales’ influence on the city council as commissioners maneuver for good relationships with Wheeler. In Portland’s unusual system of government, the mayor’s only significant power over his other commissioners is the ability to assign them administrative power over the city’s various bureaus.

Last year, Wheeler reportedly told an Oregonian columnist that he wanted to take the city’s transportation bureau for himself. In a March interview with BikePortland, he described that as an “offhand comment” and that he wouldn’t make any such commitements.

Also at stake: the city council is approaching a series of crucial votes on its comprehensive plan this summer. The plan, which shapes the city’s zoning maps, pits advocates of infill and housing supply against people who oppose changes to Portland’s physical appearance.

Here’s how we summarized our 45-minute conversation with Wheeler last March:

• Like his opponents, he supports expansion of protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways. Though he backs the gas tax ballot issue, he thinks it won’t raise enough for those projects to make the investments he thinks are needed.

• Though the Portland Business Alliance, the regional chamber of commerce, announced its endorsement of Wheeler the day we spoke, Wheeler said he’s never discussed transportation policy with them. He said he does not agree with the notion (sometimes expressed by the PBA) that auto capacity should not be reduced on major arterials.

• He stepped back from a previously reported statement that as mayor he would take the transportation bureau; he said that was an “offhand conversation” and he’s made no decisions.

• His plan for transportation funding is to pass a gas tax in the short run, then get the 2017 state legislature to allocate more state and federal road taxes to cities like Portland. In the long run, he doesn’t think the city should let any of its pavement degrade, and thinks the city needs incremental steps to improve its credibility among voters.

• His first priority for all transportation investments is safety improvements east of 82nd Avenue. He doesn’t think all new transportation investment should happen there but he thinks East Portland should get the large majority to make up for decades of underinvestment.

• Though he supports increasing housing density by re-legalizing duplexes and garden apartments in residential zones, he thinks there’s some validity to the argument that new tall buildings can make nearby housing more expensive. He doesn’t see a tradeoff between “historic preservation,” which he values, and keeping housing affordable.

• Unlike his opponent Jules Bailey, Wheeler sees “training” as inadequate to addressing apparent racial profiling of people biking and walking by officers in the Portland Police Bureau. Deeper cultural change in the bureau is necessary, he said.

Other races

bob stacey

Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, up for election Tuesday but unopposed, paid early respects at the election night party for Steve Novick and the gas tax but said he had to get to a Richmond Neighborhood Association meeting.

Also Tuesday, Commissioner Amanda Fritz and incumbent Gov. Kate Brown won in anticipated landslides, Fritz with 70 percent of the city vote. Jessica Vega Pederson, who had a pro-biking record as state legislator, was elected to the Multnomah County Commission in an uncontested race in southeast Portland. Karin Power, who won a seat on Milwaukie’s city council two years ago on a pro-biking platform and has helped lead that city’s recent political embrace of biking, won an uncontested Democratic primary in the 41st legislative district.

Brown, a Democrat, will face Bud Pierce, a Republican legislator who has promised to “end gridlock once and for all” by adding lanes to every “major freeway.”

Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, a longtime bike commuter who is maybe the single most pro-bike politician in the region, was elected to a second four-year term to represent southeast Portland in the regional government. His colleague Sam Chase, who represents inner northeast, north and northwest Portland and took the lead on Metro’s recent work to approve mountain-biking trails on public land north of Forest Park, coasted to reelection with 77 percent against Colby Clipston.

In Bailey’s county commissioner district in inner southeast and west Portland, Sharon Meieran and Eric Zimmerman are headed to a runoff. The same is true for Lori Stegmann and Amanda Schroeder in Gresham and east county. (Expect BikePortland coverage of these county races, which will shape the future of the Burnside Bridge and Sauvie Island, in the months to come.)

Gas tax work could start in fall

treat bike

Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat with her official city vehicle, an e-bike, outside the gas tax election party.

The four-year, 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax will raise an estimated $16 million for each of the next four years, of which 44 percent would be earmarked for safety improvements to local streets — mostly improvements for walking and biking.

Among other things — including various sidewalk and crosswalk upgrades around the city — the project list includes new funding for protected bike lanes in downtown Portland; two neighborhood greenways connecting much of East Portland to the Gateway Transit Center; a neighborhood greenway on NE 7th and/or 9th Avenue in inner northeast Portland; a neighborhood greenway on NW/SW 20th Avenue connecting the Northwest District to Goose Hollow; and $2 million a year for biking and walking improvements near schools, which would be chosen in partnership with local school districts.

In an interview Tuesday night, Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat said that gas tax money will start to arrive in “late fall.” The city will then be able to start paving selected streets and to start planning the first round of safety improvements.

“We’re ready to get to work,” Treat said.

Correction 10 am: A previous version of this post got Ted Wheeler’s current job wrong. He’s the state treasurer. We regret the error; it was a long night.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Leaders consider driver re-licensing tests after Vision Zero ‘listening session’

Leaders consider driver re-licensing tests after Vision Zero ‘listening session’

ginger edwards

Ginger Edwards of the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association told the story of a young father who was paralyzed last month by a man who ran a red light on Rosa Parks Way.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

An impressive array of local officials heard from grieving relatives and others Monday in a “listening session” about the costs of traffic violence.

“We need to face the fact that quick, convenient personal auto travel in a city has unacceptable social costs.”
— Damian Miller, Friends of Barbur

Monday night’s panel at a Legacy Emanuel Medical Center conference room included Portland’s mayor, transportation commissioner, transportation director and chief of police; a Metro councilor; a state senator; and representatives of TriMet, the city fire bureau and state transportation department. Two dozen other local residents attended, telling stories about loss and calling for safety to be a higher priority than speed on city streets.

Ginger Edwards of the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association rose to tell the story of Brian Duncan, immediate past president of their neighborhood association, who one month ago was biking across Rosa Parks Way with his wife and two-year-old. Edwards said an “84-year-old driver” who was headed toward the sun ran a red light and collided with Duncan as his family watched, breaking Duncan’s neck and paralyzing him from the neck down.

“Brian was acting safely,” Edwards said. “The driver was not.”

Edwards said her association is organizing a bicycle Ride of Silence next week, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Arbor Lodge Park, to commemorate victims of unsafe streets.

Fixes are within reach, attendees say

jessica engleman

Jessica Engelman of BikeLoud PDX said what’s needed most on streets is “political capital.”

As other attendees spoke, some proposed possible solutions.

“Money helps a lot,” said Jessica Engelman of BikeLoudPDX. “But please stop hiding behind the money. There are so many things you can do without money.”

Engelman applauded the city’s choice to restripe Southeast Foster Road for safer pedestrian crossing by replacing two passing lanes with a center turn lane. She called for more restriping of four-lane streets such as Hawthorne Boulevard or outer Division Street.

“Money helps a lot, but please stop hiding behind the money. There are so many things you can do without money.”
— Jessica Engelman, BikeLoudPDX

“We need to face the fact that quick, convenient personal auto travel in a city has unacceptable social costs,” said Damian Miller of Friends of Barbur. “I would urge you to reconsider what it means to be a successful city. … Often times, successful cities are congested.”

Miller said he was disappointed that the state’s regional transportation manager, Rian Windsheimer, had chosen not to attend. In Windsheimer’s absence, Miller directed his remarks to ODOT’s regional policy and development manager Kelly Brooks, who came instead — and also to state Sen. Michael Dembrow.

Duane Anderson of AARP Oregon rose to point out that people over 65 represent 13 percent of Oregonians but 22 percent of traffic fatalities.

“The older population is more vulnerable to traffic accidents,” he said.

Keep evangelizing for safety, Novick says

steve novick

Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick.

For his part, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick acknowledged the need for change. He called on attendees to spread the word to their peers as well as to leaders.

“We need to hear from you, but your fellow citizens need to hear from you too,” he said.

Novick said that when he had attended a meeting of people who oppose the Foster Road redesign, he was grateful that people who live in the area and support the redesign had shown up, too. He urged attendees to step into conversations they overhear to talk about the importance of safety. And he also asked them to send emails to Oregonian editorial writer Erik Lukens, whose newspaper last month opposed a local gas tax on the grounds that 44 percent of its revenues would go to safety improvements.

“Tell him to get with the program or get the hell out of town,” Novick said.

Proposal for re-licensing tests draws interest

duane anderson

Duane Anderson of AARP Oregon said that seniors bear a disproportionate number of traffic deaths.

But of all the ideas floated Monday for improving streets, one new one seemed to catch the attention of politicians present: the fact that Oregon lets people renew their driver’s licenses without demonstrating that they still know the traffic laws.

“You could drive for 60, 70 years and never have new education. And things have changed a lot in 60 years.”
— Judge Steve Todd, Multnomah County Circuit Court

“You could drive for 60, 70 years and never have new education,” said Steve Todd, a traffic judge with Multnomah County Circuit Court. “And things have changed a lot in 60 years, I can tell you that.”

Steve Vitolo, a former Polk County deputy sheriff and ODOT safety official who now runs a company offering driver education for Oregonians convicted of traffic crimes, said it wouldn’t be hard for the state to tally up the handful of changes to the vehicle code each year and require people who have state driver’s licenses to complete an online quiz about them.

To renew a driver’s license after eight years, Vitolo said, you might have to prove that you’ve taken the quizzes at some point.

Mayor Charlie Hales called Vitolo’s suggestion “fascinating.” Sen. Dembrow agreed.

“I’m really intrigued by that and it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “I would be happy to work with the city on that.”

Novick was also interested.

“That’s the kind of interaction between citizens and their government that we should have,” he said.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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With Naito transformed, Better Block launches its biggest summer yet

With Naito transformed, Better Block launches its biggest summer yet

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You should start getting used to streets that look like this.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Is there a more Portland story than a group of “tactical urbanists” who go from putting up chairs and tables in parking spaces to partnering with the City of Portland on several major projects in less than three years? That’s the story of Better Block PDX, the all-volunteer group of aspiring engineers, transportation activists and urban planners who today kicked off the what they’re calling “the largest temporary street transformation in America.”

And that’s just one-third of their summer workload.

“The design is temporary, but the concept is permanent.”
— Gwen Shaw, Better Block PDX

After a very successful run last year the “Better Naito” project has returned. Working hand-in-hand with the Portland Bureau of Transportation and with a full endorsement from Commissioner Steve Novick’s office, Better Block has coned off the two eastern-most lanes of northbound Naito Parkway to create a temporary sidewalk and two-way bikeway. The new configuration will run through the end of July and it stretches nearly a mile from the Hawthorne Bridge to NW Davis. To help with ambience, the City announced today that this stretch of Naito now also has a 20 mph speed limit.

Lower speeds and more space to walk and bike makes a lot of sense for the organizations who put on large festivals inside Waterfront Park. 15,000 people per day attend the festivals during peak season. Rich Jarvis with the Rose Festival showed his support for the project at this morning’s press conference: “Just like nature abhors a vacuum, festivals abhor empty spaces,” he said. The same could be said for vibrant cities.

Not only is Better Naito building on momentum from last year but the concept got an unexpected boost when Portland Mayor Charlie Hales announced his budget yesterday. Making good on promises he’s made for two years now, Hales wants to spend $1.46 million for the “Naito Parkway Improvement Project.” Details still need to be ironed out but it’s generally accepted that the project will make Better Naito permanent. The funding is far from assured, but at least Mayor Hales has put a name and a dollar amount on the table.

Better Naito kickoff-7.jpg

Better Block gave PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick this sign because he’s been such an ardent supporter of these projects.
Better Naito kickoff-6.jpg

“Portland in the Streets” is a new initiative from PBOT. And look how the banner art imitates life…

Better Naito kickoff-10.jpg

Portland in the streets indeed.
Better Naito kickoff-11.jpg

Better Naito kickoff-4.jpg

Gwen Shaw worked on Better Naito last year as a Portland State University urban planning student. Now she works at Lancaster Engineering and remains a volunteer. In her speech she noted how projects like Better Naito bring new voices into the planning conversation and have a lasting impact on policy. “The design is temporary,” she said, “but the concept is permanent.”

Even though their work on Better Naito helped create the political space for Hales’ proposal, Novick’s staff and leaders of Better Block are keeping their distance for now. When I asked Better Block’s Ryan Hashagen about how Hales’ budget announcement impacts Better Naito he said only that, “Better Block’s role is to start a conversation about the best use of our public space.” And Commissioner Novick’s Chief of Staff Chris Warner said, “We just found out about his proposal on Friday. I think there’s still a lot of figuring out left to do.”

And there’s still a lot of work for Better Block to do. With two other projects this summer they don’t have time to play politics. Next Monday they’ll launch “Better Broadway” — a one-week demonstration of a fully-protected bikeway and new crossing treatments on inner northeast Broadway. Then in late June they’ll switch to Better Burnside to show how the bridge will work with a dedicated bikeway and bus lane. (Find out how you can help make these events happen at their website.)

It’s a very big bite from the apple for an all-volunteer organization with much bigger ideas than budgets — but that’s often how great things happen in Portland.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Very few poor people drive to work downtown

Very few poor people drive to work downtown

The Portland area has invested $4.8 billion in a regional public rail network, and currently spends $313 million a year to hold down ticket prices on the system.

Another several million dollars each year go toward expansions of the region’s biking network.

Despite that investment, at least one Portland city council member has been arguing in the lead-up to a hearing next month that the public should also be subsidizing downtown car trips.

His reasoning: some of the people who drive downtown are poor.

“If we’re charging for parking, we’re taking someone earning nine, ten an hour and we’re making that eight-something an hour.”
Commissioner Dan Saltzman

The issue is coming up as the city discusses possible rate changes for its parking meters and publicly financed Smart Park garages.

One of the questions that’s likely to come up during an upcoming City Hall discussion on Dec. 17: Should the city keep giving away its street parking after 7 p.m., even in areas where street parking consistently fills up at night with people visiting restaurants, theaters, clubs and bars?

In a work session last month, Commissioner Dan Saltzman argued that maybe nighttime meters should remain free in order to subsidize the car commutes of people who work downtown at night, such as janitors and dishwashers.

“It’s a subsidy for low-wage workers to have the meters stop at 7:00 pm, so why can’t we continue that?” Saltzman said. “If we’re charging for parking, we’re taking someone earning nine, ten an hour and we’re making that eight-something an hour.”

“Do you throw a big subsidy at everybody because some people might need it?”
Commissioner Steve Novick

Commissioner Steve Novick, who directly oversees the transportation bureau, disagreed.

“It’s a question of, do you throw a big subsidy at everybody because some people might need it?” Novick said.

A better option for holding down parking prices for nighttime commuters, Novick suggested, might be to create a low-price permit system for the Smart Park garages.

And if the money from a parking meter rate hike were spent on improving non-car transportation, that might come out to a win for low-income workers, both downtown and elsewhere.

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Novick and Saltzman’s disagreement raises a fair question. Is it a good idea for the government to subsidize a particular activity by poor people, even if it also subsidizes the same activity among rich and middle-income people?

Here’s one way to start answering the question: How many poor people actually drive downtown?

The best available data (which is, unfortunately, from 2006-2010) suggests that the central business district (south of Burnside, north of Jefferson) employs about 1,000 workers whose households make less than $15,000 a year. Of those, about 350 drive to work. That’s about 2 percent of the district’s drive-alone workforce.

Here’s a detailed version of the chart at the top of this post.

The stripes to the right represent higher-income households. Mouse over each stripe to see what income they represent, and approximately how many drive-alone commuters to the central business district make that much money. (For this chart, we looked at data for the central business district because it had by far the highest worker volumes and therefore the lowest margins of error. These margins of error are substantial, though, and these shouldn’t be interpreted as precise. You can see the source data here.)

Another 2,500 or so downtown commuters are in households that make $15,000 to $30,000 a year. About 700 of those people drive to work. That’s another 3 percent of the district’s drive alone workforce.

The remaining 95 percent of drive-alone commuters to Portland’s central business district make more than $30,000 — in most cases, much more. As the above chart shows, half of the district’s drive-alone workers are in households that bring in more than $100,000 a year.

Among those richest downtown workers, 59 percent drive alone to work. That compares to about 35 percent of the poorest downtown workers.


Hello subsidy.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

At the council’s Oct. 8 work session, Portland parking plan manager Judith Gray said there’s no question that higher parking prices are a disproportionate burden to the poorest people.

Then again, she added, a system that makes it hard to find a parking space also has a disproportionate burden on the poorest people.

People who are shift workers or low-wage earners, if they’re janitorial or working in restaurants, they have the least flexibility of all. If our system is not well managed, if it’s 99 percent full when they need to work, they don’t have an option. A lot of office workers or daytime workers other workers can be late. I worked in restaurants in Washington DC in the 80s. If you have to replace a daytime shift person, you’ve got to be on time. So a badly managed system is not an equity strategy for them.

Gray said she had an “open mind” for hearing ideas that could prevent poor people from being excessively hurt by parking costs.

Absent that, she suggested, the most broadly equitable strategy might involve the government charging what the market will bear for people who park cars on its land — and then “channeling the revenues to improve the system overall.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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With Blumenauer in his corner, Novick pressures ODOT for changes on Barbur

With Blumenauer in his corner, Novick pressures ODOT for changes on Barbur

southbound barbur street view

Almost half of southbound rush-hour traffic on Barbur turns right here. Converting the right lane to exit-only could boost driver safety on Barbur while making room for continuous bike lanes to the south.
(Image: Google Street View)

Consensus seems to be building around a new concept that could finally create continuous bike lanes on state-run Barbur Boulevard.

And now, support for changes to a notoriously dangerous section of Barbur have a new ally: U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

“I look forward to seeing these much needed and long awaited safety improvements in the very near future.”
— Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Congressman

In a letter Monday (PDF) to the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick made the case for converting a southbound lane of Barbur to an exit-only lane in order to free up road space just to the south to add buffered bike lanes across two narrow bridges.

If ODOT agrees, Novick wrote, he was “hopeful” that restriping could happen in 2016.

Novick sent his letter to ODOT Region 1 Manager Rian Windsheimer and attached a letter from Blumenauer. Blumenauer’s letter was addressed to ODOT Director Matt Garrett and cc’d to Karmen Fore, Governor Kate Brown’s transportation policy chief.

“This report makes it clear,” Blumenauer writes, referring to a recent safety audit conducted by ODOT. “Barbur Blvd needs significant safety investments, and there are actions that can be taken in the next few months to address some of the critical improvements that will save lives and are long-awaited by the community and my constituents.”

It’s rare for a congressman to weigh in on a local transportation issue, but as someone who used to hold Novick’s job as city transportation commissioner, Blumenauer is no stranger to these waters.

Last month, the ODOT-commissioned safety audit found that almost half of southbound traffic on Barbur already turns right at Capitol Highway. Officially converting the rightmost lane to a right-turn-only lane “should have minimal impacts,” said Novick, whose personal car commute to City Hall happens to run along Capitol Highway and Barbur.

“This lane removal could be as short as 2,900 feet, just long enough for people walking and biking to cross the two bridges safely,” Novick said.

The problem with the two bridges is that Barbur’s bike lanes disappear, forcing bike and car traffic to merge into the same 45 mph lane. It’s the only relatively flat bike route between Southwest Portland and the rest of the city.

Novick also, for the first time, endorsed a change to make Barbur safer to drive on and its bike lane more comfortable: narrowing the general travel lanes from 11.5 and 12.5 feet to 11 feet in order to add a two-foot buffer between bike and auto traffic throughout.

Based on conversations with constituents, advocates, neighbors and City staff, the City of Portland strongly supports 11-foot wide travel lanes throughout the corridor as well as a two-foot buffer for bike lanes. Numerous studies have highlighted the ability of narrow travel lanes to reduce motor vehicle speeds, and thereby improve safety.

That 11 feet is wider than the national minimum standard of 10 feet for lanes on a higher-speed urban arterial. TriMet buses and most trucks are 10.5 feet wide, mirror to mirror.

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And Blumenauer has Novick’s back 100 percent, saying in his letter that he supports the removal of one southbound lane and narrowing of existing lanes to make room for “protected bikeways.”

Unlike the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Novick didn’t call for physically protected bike lanes and sidewalks to be installed right away. But he did say that they’re an important longer-term goal: “Two-foot buffers will have an immediate safety benefit, but roadways like Barbur need protected bicycle facilities and sidewalks to encourage their full use.”

In his letter, Novick also offers a useful analogy from ODOT’s own playbook.

I believe removing the southbound lane over the Newbury and Vermont bridges is in the same spirit as the recent change ODOT made on the last mile of I-84 in which two lanes were dedicated toward I-5 south as opposed to I-5 north. This change had safety improvements and was generally not noticed by road users because it reflected the natural flow of traffic.

As someone who regularly drives on this mile of 84, I can certainly attest to loving this restriping — it makes it much easier for people driving west to avoid last-minute lane changes when I-84 meets I-5, which I’m sure reduces crash rates.

If a similar common-sense restriping could also add continuous bike lanes to Barbur, it’s hard to see what’s standing in the way of Novick’s proposed 2016 timeline — especially now that Blumenauer is pushing in the same direction.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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