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Portland Oregon bicycle news, events, culture, travel and opinion.
Updated: 11 hours 54 min ago

Activist and radio show host trashes Tilikum Crossing, calls it 'Auto-ban' bridge

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 14:08
Concept drawing of path on Tilikum bridge.
(Graphic: TriMet).

Rob Kremer, a talk-radio host and the Portlander behind a Republican-donor-funded movement to oppose "Portland creep" in Clackamas County, raised eyebrows on Friday afternoon when he said on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud radio program that TriMet's new Tilikum Crossing bridge is a "symbol of dysfunctional transportation priorities."

About 12 minutes into the program, Kremer shared his strong objections to the bridge because it won't allow access for private automobiles:

"I'm not quite sure about this name Tilikum. They say it means people, tribes and relatives — I think it means streetcars, buses and bicycles in Portland. They can call it Tilikum all they want but the real name of this bridge, by the people, will always be the 'Autoban' ... And it will always be a symbol of TriMet's, Metro's and Portland's dysfunctional transportation priorities.

To think we're building a bridge across the Willamette ... the first bridge in who knows how long, and not allowing cars to cross it is not only insane, but it's a symbol of dysfunction."

You can hear the exchange below (begins at about 12:46):

A couple minutes later, while challenging support for the bridge expressed by another guest (Bitch Media Online Editor Sarah Mirk, who said she doesn't own a car), Kremer claimed that the bridge is an example of "priorities completely out of whack" because "97% of the trips are by car."

He was off by about 911,000 trips per day. In fact, non-car modes carry 16 percent of Portland-area trips, according to a 2011 survey of 17,000 Oregon households.

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According to the Oregon Household Travel and Activity Survey, 9 percent of trips by Portland-area residents were on foot, 4 percent were by transit and 3 percent were by bike. That's a bit different than the ratio for commute trips, which account for about one in five trips Americans make; 19 percent of Portland-area commutes are by foot, bike or transit, according to the same estimates.

Inside Portland city limits, meanwhile, 28 percent of trips are by walking, biking or transit.

Kremer and his wife Mary, a 2010 state Senate candidate, own a house near the Willamette in Southwest Portland, but it's easy to see why he might be confused. Not every U.S. city has chosen to make walking, biking and transit so safe and convenient. Nationwide, their share of trips is only — well, actually it's 14 percent.

Until last year, Kremer was a political consultant who also served as treasurer of the Oregon Republican Party and director of the Oregon Transformation Project PAC, which drove an anti-land-regulation majority into power in Clackamas County in 2012. Kremer stepped down from those roles in early 2013 to focus on advocacy for charter schools.

It's easy to laugh at inaccurate grandstanding like this — he presumably remembered the ratio for biking and forgot that there are any other alternatives to driving everywhere — but I have to say: if I thought, even subconsciously, that after all of Portland's work to make things better for active transportation, 97 percent of trips were still happening by car, I'd be pretty upset, too.

Kremer, who would obviously be in a better mood if he read BikePortland more religiously, didn't respond to an emailed request for comment Friday afternoon.

Editor/publisher Jonathan Maus contributed to this story.

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Novick wants $1 million from general fund for beacons at 15 crosswalks

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 11:51
An active warning beacon in North Portland.
(Photo: City of Portland)

The City of Portland's general fund has a few million dollars to spare, and Commissioner Steve Novick is mounting an unusual campaign to spend some of it on safer street crossings.

In a city where you're twice as likely to die from traffic as from homicide, Novick and other backers say making roads safer is the most cost-effective way to improve public safety.

In an interview Friday, Novick called out a few police operations in particular as having lower returns on investment.

"Maintaining an excessive number of command staff isn't as essential to public safety as having safer intersections."
— Steve Novick, City Commissioner of Transportation

"To the extent that what they're doing is chasing down drug dealers who are just going to be replaced by other drug dealers, that's not a good use of public safety funds," he said. "I think investing in pedestrian safety is more valuable than maintaining the mounted patrol. ... Maintaining an excessive number of command staff isn't as essential to public safety as having safer intersections."

The plan would use $1 million in city general funds to add flashing beacons and/or median "refuge" islands to 15 crosswalks in outer East and Southwest Portland, such as this one at NE Glisan and 130th:

(Image: Google Street View) Locations of 15 crosswalks where the city is considering adding flashing beacons and pedestrian refuge islands.
(PDF version here)

In Portland, unlike in many cities, almost no general fund dollars (which in our case come mostly from property, business and utility taxes) go toward transportation. In the 2013 fiscal year, it was only 4 percent of the city's transportation budget (PDF), and most of that went to power streetlights.

Novick thinks there's a strong chance the council will be willing to change that this year.

"Certainly my colleagues have indicated that it's something they'd like to support," Novick said. "But there's $30 million of new requests chasing $6 million of money."

Oregon Walks President Aaron Brown said Wednesday that the crosswalks had been selected based on PBOT models that showed high demand for safe crossings of those streets.

Last year, 10 people died in Portland after cars or trucks hit them while they were walking. Seven of those people were hit east of Interstate 205. (Another two were killed in collisions with MAX trains.)

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Of the 15 crosswalks proposed for improvements, six would get pedestrian refuge islands and active-warning beacons. The other nine would get beacons only. Another $70,000 would go toward police crosswalk enforcements.

Gabe Graff, a traffic safety specialist for PBOT, said the beacons are useful on big streets for two main reasons: their elevated flashing lights make people in cars four times more likely to stop for a crosswalk, and they also reduce the chance that someone in a car will zip into a crosswalk without seeing a person behind a second car that has stopped for the crosswalk.

Portland's beacons also announce "CAUTION: VEHICLES MAY NOT STOP" twice in a stern male voice to people who use them. It's unpleasant but accurate.

"If there had been 11 pedestrian fatalities and all of them had happened in downtown Portland, it would be a much bigger deal. We would be hearing about it all the time."
— Aaron Brown, Oregon Walks

This effort is the latest sign that safe walking, especially in the city's outer neighborhoods, has political momentum at City Hall — which isn't so different, perhaps, from the days when people on bikes were dying more regularly in central Portland, and central-city bike improvements were a priority. The common thread: when people die, politicians react.

The question in both cases: are safety improvements enough to actually change the experience of getting around Portland?

Safety and comfort in a city are "complementary, they're not exclusive," Novick said. "People dying is pretty unpleasant too."

"We need to be having a long-term conversation about what our long-term objectives are in addition to the short-term," Graff said. "That's my opinion."

For Brown, adding the flashing beacons is also a matter of social justice.

"If there had been 11 pedestrian fatalities and all of them had happened in downtown Portland, it would be a much bigger deal," Brown said. "We would be hearing about it all the time."

You can Join Oregon Walks' campaign to support the crosswalk funding by signing their petition here and using the hashtag #15crosswalks on social media.

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Businesses and bikeways: City reveals more details about street fee plans

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 10:30
PBOT's Mark Lear laid out priorities for spending
revenue raised by a new street fee.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland is slowly leaking out more details of their plans to create a new fee to boost transportation investment. At a town hall meeting in North Portland last night, Mayor Charlie Hales, PBOT Director Leah Treat, and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick sat at a table in front of a small crowd to present, promote, and defend the idea.

We covered one of these same town halls back in February, but since then PBOT has sharpened their pitch and their plans into a much finer point. As we reported a few weeks ago, the fee on the table will be either $8 or $12 per household per month. But what about businesses? Up until this latest round of town halls, PBOT has kept details about how much business owners would pay under wraps. Also revealed last night was a clearer picture about where exactly the new revenue would be spent.

According to a presentation by PBOT's Mark Lear, the fee businesses pay would be based on an algorithm that calculates the number of trips their business generates times the square foot of the property. Here are three examples they shared:

  • A cafe that generates 1,144 monthly trips would pay $29 per month (at the $8 level) or $45 per month (at the $12 level).
  • A "sit down restaurant" that generates 5,281 monthly trips would pay $130 per month (at the $8 level) or $201 per month (at the $12 level).
  • A movie theater that generates 20,860 monthly trips would pay $344 per month (at the $8 level) or $534 per month (at the $12 level).

With households and businesses paying the new fee, PBOT estimates they'll be able to raise about $34 million or $53 million a year (at the $8 and $12 levels respectively).

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It will be interesting to see how local businesses react to the fee idea as more of them hear about it and PBOT gets closer to a final proposal. When we had this debate about a street fee for transportation back in 2007, it was ultimately a business lobbyist (representing gas stations and convenience stores) who killed the entire thing.

Another element of the fee we learned more about last night is how exactly PBOT would spend the money. Here's the chart showing how the money would be spent according to the three main buckets: "maintenance", "safety", and "other".

Note that at the $8 fee, more of the new revenue — 63% — would go toward maintenance and just 34% would go to safety. If the fee is $12, the maintenance percentage would drop to 53% and 44% would go to safety.

How exactly does PBOT define "maintenance" and "safety" expenditures. They revealed some of their thinking about that last night as well...

As you can see from the slide, maintenance investments would be primarily pavement preservation. However, it would also include things like traffic signals, street signs and street lights (all of which would improve street safety as well). In the "safety" category, PBOT says the projects could include investment in things like sidewalks, Safe Routes to School, protected bikeways, neighborhood greenways, High Crash Corridors program (speed reduction), crossing improvements, and so on. In the "other" category, which would potentially get just 3% of the new revenue, PBOT would fund things like frequent bus service and work with ODOT to hasten a transfer of state-owned arterials to local control (we'll have more to report on that later).

To further bolster support for the fees, PBOT is now sharing a list of specific project types they'd fund (over the next five years)...

30 to 60 signalized intersections rehabilitated, 60 to 115 intersections with safer crossings, 200 to 420 blocks of new sidewalks — these are all vast increases over what the agency is able to do with current revenues. One notable addition to that list is an investment that would allow PBOT to respond more quickly to their popular 823-SAFE citizen reporting system.

And while it wasn't shown on the slide (which is interesting to me, as I watch how careful PBOT is about bringing up bicycling in these discussions), Lear made a point in his presentation to mention how many new bikeways they'd build with the new revenue (again, these would be "delivered over five years"):

  • At the $8 level: 5 miles of protected bikeways and 15 miles of neighborhood greenways
  • At the $12 level: 7 miles of protected bikeways and 18-19 miles of neighborhood greenways

Lear stressed throughout his presentation that all the current numbers and spending priority categories are still preliminary and under discussion.

"Focusing on safety and maintenance is the right direction. But we'd like to see more focus on safety and we'd be much more excited if more than half of the money went into the safety category."
— Gerik Kransky, Bicycle Transportation Alliance

On that note, while last night's crowd was relatively sparse, some spirited questions and criticisms emerged during the Q & A session that followed the official presentations. One man repeatedly spoke up for cars, saying that the city would have plenty of money for roads if they hadn't spent so much on light rail and "bike paths". Another man offered an interesting idea: Would there be a way to use a different trip generation calculation that would enable PBOT to reduce the business fee if business owners encouraged people to walk, bike, or take transit?

Making the fee change depending on how people get around — in other words, encouraging modes that have a lower impact on the system — might seem like good policy; but it doesn't appear that PBOT is interested in going that direction. Novick said polling showed them that most Portlanders want the flat-fee system so that "everyone pays the same amount". And Lear, a veteran at PBOT who was former Mayor Adams' wingman on the 2007 street fee effort, said that they want to avoid any fights over who's paying. This type of flat fee, he said, is all about "Getting us out of the unproductive modal wars of the past."

I think Lear's onto something. You could feel those "wars" trying to surface last night. There was that one guy claiming a PBOT "war on cars", while another guy passionately explained how overuse of cars is the reason we're in this mess to begin with. "This proposal does nothing to reduce driving," he said, "I want to hear a much more ambitious proposal that will discourage driving and promote biking and walking. You're choosing a dangerous middle course."

The response by Commissioner Novick was that the safety investments will ultimately make biking and walking more attractive and therefore fewer people will drive.

But just how much of the money goes into the "safety" category is something that could be another future topic of debate. Gerik Kransky, advocacy director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), used last night's Town Hall to thank the Mayor and PBOT for their work on this initiative. "Focusing on safety and maintenance is the right direction," he said, "But we'd like to see more focus on safety and we'd be much more excited if more than half of the money went into the safety category."

From here, PBOT will host two more town halls and they'll work internally with the Needs and Funding Advisory Committee to continue to hammer out the final package they expect to be ready for City Council by next month. We strongly encourage folks to show up, learn more about what's being proposed, and share your feedback.

— PBOT's official site: OurStreetsPDX.com
Our "Street Fee Proposal" story archive.

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50s Bikeway: still alive, just moving slowly

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 08:11
One holdup after another, but still moving.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Maybe it's a mark of the eastward spread of low-car life that someone seems to ask us every few days when the 50s Bikeway is going to finally start construction.

The latest word from the city: early May. Hopefully.

"The contract prep has taken longer than expected," project manager Rich Newlands wrote in an email last week. "But we do now have the pre-con[struction] scheduled for 4/29. In theory, the notice to proceed will be issued that day and within a week the contractor will start. But, still contingent on the contractor being timely in submitting all the final pre-construction submittals."

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The 4.3-mile, $1.5 million route down Portland's middle east side, which was delayed last August due to higher than expected bids, was previously supposed to start construction in late March and wrap up by late July.

When finished, the route will stretch from the Alameda Ridge south to Woodstock Street along 53rd and 52nd avenues (PDF), connecting the Rose City Park, North Tabor, Mt. Tabor, South Tabor, Richmond, Creston-Kenilworth and Woodstock neighborhoods, which include 20,000 residents and 12 schools. North of Division, it'll be a neighborhood greenway marked with sharrows and directional signs; south of Division, a pair of 6-foot painted bike lanes on either side of the street.

Also, let's all take a deep breath for Newlands, who's simultaneously managing the red-hot 20s Bikeway debate and the active North Rodney neighborhood greenway planning. He could probably use the oxygen.

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'Can't you read?!': When one rider calls out another for rolling through a stop

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:48
Bike stop markings at North Broadway and Flint.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Is it out of line for one person on a bike to aggressively criticize another for pedaling through a stop sign in a safe situation?

That's the opinion of local writer and rider Diane Yee, who writes about biking and other subjects at her Tumblog Citymaus. Here's an excerpt of her story, posted Thursday:

there’s this one awkwardly, possibly misplaced stop sign in the middle of the hilly stretch of SE Salmon*. since I’m coming from uphill, i have a better view of the cross street, and there was no traffic as usual (small residential street, and four-way stop), so i just keep riding through the stop sign as usual…

except then a white guy in his 30’s wearing a helmet and sunglasses riding uphill the other way shocked me by yelling at me loudly, CAN YOU READ???...

yeah, cyclists are the only group of people who self-regulate themselves so well they’ll call out fellow cyclists for blowing through red lights, etc., because they don’t want to be one of those “SCOFFLAW CYCLISTS”, to keep up a good image in order to get more bike infrastructure. ...

PDX—not as bike-friendly as you’d think!

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Yee, who's pursuing a master's degree in urban planning from Portland State University, also mentions (accurately) that the rules of the road as we know them were written with cars in mind, not bikes, and that Idaho allows people on bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs with no apparent ill effects (unless you count the nation's fourth-highest statewide rate of bike commuting).

"This guy, does he insult people when they 'JAYWALK'?" she wrote. "If he drives, too, does he yell and honk at every driver who doesn't use turn signals?"

Yee also mentions the possible race/gender dynamic that may have motivated this bit of mobile mansplaining.

On the other hand, I don't know about her notion that people who ride bikes are the only ones who call each other out. I've been in plenty of cars where people, including me, have had angry words for fellow drivers. What's different about biking is that when one of us gets teed off while riding, the other person actually hears it.

Which in my book is a pretty big mark in biking's favor.

*The stop sign in question is quite notorious and has been the subject of quite a bit of coverage and debate here over the years. - Jonathan

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Jobs of the Week

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:39

The spring hiring boom continues here in America's bike industry mecca. Last week had had a record nine job listings and this week we've got eight. Whether you're a wonk or a wrench, we've got some great opportunities for you. Check out the latest jobs posted to our Job Listings via the links below...

For a complete list of available jobs, click here. If you'd like more information about the BikePortland Job Listings, contact us, or visit the Job Listings page.

You can sign up for all the latest job listings via RSS, email, or by following us on Twitter.

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Weekend Event Guide: Films, a 'Super Swap', bunnies, and more

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 14:29
Filmed By Bike returns to the Clinton Street Theater this weekend with the big New Belgium Street Party Saturday night.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to your menu of weekend rides and events, lovingly brought to you by our friends at Hopworks Urban Brewery.

We apologize for the downturn in the weather, but since when did real Portlanders care about a little bit of wetness falling from the sky? Just put on a rain jacket (or whatever your weatherproof attire preferences call for) and get out there. Or, if you really don't like the rain, we've got some indoor suggestions for you.

The big event of the weekend is definitely Filmed By Bike. This cycling film fest might have started as a small, homegrown affair, but it's now in its twelfth year and it has become a bona fide institution that draws attendees and films from around the country. (And its founder, Ayleen Crotty, was recently profiled in the Portland Tribune.)

Enough rambling from us, you have a weekend to plan. Hopefully our menu below has something to your liking...

Saturday, April 19th

Filmed By Bike - Opening Party - Starts at 4:00 pm and festival runs for four days at Clinton Street Theater (2522 SE Clinton St)

This is opening night for the 2014 Filmed By Bike film fest. If you love bikes and film, get your tickets and check out this beloved local event. It starts Saturday night with a big street party and three separate movie screenings. Then the fun continues through Tuesday night with a collection of bike films that has become the envy of the bike-loving world. The official website has tons of previews and other goodies to peruse. More info here.

Gorge Short Track Shootout - All day in Cascade Locks

Two race sessions in one day in an amazing location on the Columbia River. And it's mountain biking on single-track! Add in on-site camping, great race promoters with a friendly, welcoming vibe and this could be a awesome event. If you've got a mountain bike, get out there and have some fun. More info here.

Team Planet X USA Recruitment Ride - 10:00 am at Planet X HQ (57 NE Hancock)
Local company Planet X is looking for bike racers to join their "beginner-friendly" team. This ride will be an opportunity to meet the folks behind the team and find out if you'd like to fly their colors during the upcoming road, mountain, track and cyclocross seasons. The ride will be a casual, no-drop ride about 25-30 miles in length. Contact team captain Stewart Campbell with questions and more info at stewartcycling[at]yahoo[dot]com.

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Pioneer Century Training Ride with PWTC - 10:00 am at NE 96th and Sandy
Join the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club for a 30-mile jaunt aimed at getting ready for their signature ride this June - the Pioneer Century. This ride will roll to Panera Bakery on Hayden Island for a treat. More info here.

Super Swap - 11:00 am (early bird entry) or 12:00 pm (general admission) at Left Bank Annex (101 NE Weidler)

Big and awesome sale on premium bike brands. Choose from limited quantities of highly discounted gear from folks like Rapha, Chris King Precision Components, Chrome, The Athletic, Mad Alchemy, River City Bicycles, and many others. Pay $10 to get early-bird access at 11:00 am or get in free at noon. More info here.

Kidical Mass Bunnies and Peeps Parade - 1:00 pm at Overlook Park (N Fremont & Interstate)

(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Grab your bunny ears and any little tykes you can find for an Easter Sunday bike ride and egg hunt. The ride will start at Overlook Park, then ride just three miles north on the pleasant Concord neighborhood greenway to Arbor Lodge Park (which has an awesome play area), where the egg hunt will commence. You can't not have fun (kids included)! More info here.

Did we miss anything? Please drop us a line and let us know. Or feel free to promote your event in the comments below. And as always, thanks for reading and riding.

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Blumenauer will ride to celebrate new path along Marine Drive

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 13:22
Section of new path in Blue Lake Park adjacent to Marine Drive.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Congressman Earl Blumenauer will be in town next week to celebrate the opening of a new bicycling path along Marine Drive. The path curves for about one-half a mile through Metro's Blue Lake Regional Park. Blumenauer will be joined at the event by Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick on April 22nd (which is also, not coincidentally, Earth Day).

I've ridden the new path several times in the past few months en route to Troutdale (and points beyond) and I can say it's quite nice. Not only is it smooth and scenic, it's an oasis from the high-stress riding alongside fast auto traffic on NE Marine Drive. My photo at right is from January, but these days the path is even nicer as it winds through a grove of cherry blossoms and a carpet of gorgeously green grass.

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Here's more about the path:

At the junction of the Gresham-Fairview and Marine Drive trails, the new half-mile path takes pedestrians and bicyclists through a scenic portion of the park. The Blue Lake trail eventually will connect with sections of the 40-Mile Loop being developed by the cities of Fairview, Gresham and Portland and the Port of Portland...

When it’s done, the 40-Mile Loop will stretch from Kelley Point Park at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers to the Pacific Crest Trail in Cascade Locks – putting Oregon on the map with one of the nation’s premier trail.

This path is one of just several sections of the Marine Drive Bike Path that will allow you to ride east-west along the Columbia River without riding right next to fast-moving cars and trucks. It's a real gem of a path network, but unfortunately it's not fully completed yet. Hopefully getting Rep. Blumenauer out to see it first hand will spark his interest in taking the Marine Drive Path from good to great.

— Learn more about next Tuesday's event here.

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Auto traffic diversion still "on the table" for NE Rodney project

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 11:42
NE Rodney near Fremont.

Whenever we report on a new neighborhood greenway project, the discussion always turns to diversion. That is, how will the project promote or prevent a higher volume of driving on a street specifically set aside by the Bureau of Transportation to have "low traffic volume and speed where bicycles, pedestrians and neighbors are given priority."

Last week we shared PBOT's first swing at plans to turn NE Rodney into just that sort of street. And sure enough, many readers asked about diversion.

Reza wrote;

"Can we get some diversion please? Rodney near Russell gets a lot of car traffic from motorists going to Wonder or other nearby establishments continually circling the block for on-street parking."

Craig Harlow wrote;

"PBOT, please start installing diverters along ALL of the n'hood greenways."

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and Amy Subach wrote;

"Diverters are essential--not speed bumps--if you want to keep cars from blasting down the stop-sign reduced route. I think speed bumps are annoying and ineffective compared to diverters. And since there is never any speed enforcement on the greenways, we need to discourage cars from using them as alternates to major arterials."

Given what an obvious issue diversion is whenever these projects come up, I had my own hunches as to why PBOT doesn't talk about them at the outset of a project. First, they're controversial: Diverters not only force residents to change their behaviors, but they can also have the impact of moving traffic to another street, which almost always riles people up. Second, they're expensive: Compared to the cost of sharrows, signage, and a few speed bumps, median islands can jack up the price of an otherwise "affordable" project. And third, because of the first two reasons, any talk of diversion can turn a quiet little project into a potential controversy — something PBOT avoids like the plague.

More common for PBOT is to get a project on the ground, then wait and see how traffic patterns evolve. Then, if diversion is needed, they have the data and neighborhood support (a.k.a. political cover) to make it happen. This is how the scenario played out on my street, N. Michigan Ave. Because some neighbors protested a full median diverter at N Rosa Parks Way, PBOT backed away from it. But they promised to come back later and put it in if it was necessary after the other changes were made. It was. So they did. And now all is well and good.

But those are just my hunches, so I decided to ask PBOT directly to find out what they're thinking. Here's what Rodney project manager Rich Newlands shared with me (via email), when asked about diversion on Rodney:

Our conventional wisdom is:

  • Neighborhood Greenways work simply when speeds are near 20 mph and volumes below 1,000 cars/day. Diversion in other words is not an assumed pre-requsite to achieve those conditions.
  • We try to be very careful when using it because sometimes it only diverts traffic from one local street to another (our policy is that diversion is allowable only if it diverts non-local traffic to a higher classification street). It can be tricky to get it to work as intended.

On Rodney:

  • Diversion has always been a consideration and still is 'on the table'.
  • There is no traffic volume evidence that there is a significant cut-through traffic issue currently. Planned changes to N Williams may change that, but maybe/hopefully not. Our assumption going in in terms of travel pattern changes was focused on the impact of the new traffic signal at Cook- a semi-diverter is proposed on the east leg of Cook/Williams intersection to address this.
  • I did hear a number of comments at the open house that it's a concern (hope to have the results complied by the end of the week). However the concern was expressed more in reference to the need to retain some N/S stop signs as the answer.
  • What was shown at the open house was just a starting point for this dicussion. We have an internal meeting set up this week to discuss next steps and will be meeting with Eliot NA soon to discuss more. I suspect diversion will be one of the main issues we need to discuss further. We may also want to slow down and wait for the Williams changes to happen first in order to have a better handle on how that project relates to Rodney.

So now you know. Despite the absence of diverters in the plans they showed at the open house, PBOT might still install some diversion measures as part of this project. When/if it gets installed, and whether it comes from stop signs (which would be inconvenient for cycling) and/or from medians (which would be inconvenient for driving), remains to be seen.

Stay tuned.

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PBOT Director Leah Treat on pricing auto use, bike-only streets, and more

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:58
PBOT Director Leah Treat last summer.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Nine months into her position as the Director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Leah Treat appears to be finally ready to spread her wings. We've noted here at BikePortland that for someone in charge of one of America's marquee transportation systems, and someone who came to town with such fanfare, Treat has been relatively quiet in laying out any sort of vision for what she wants Portland streets to look like.

But now, finally, we have reason to believe that might be changing.

Next Tuesday (4/22), Treat is slated to speak at the Sentinel Hotel as part of a partnership between the City of Club of Portland and the Oregon Active Transportation Summit. With the title of her talk being, Portland Transportation: Today & Tomorrow, this event will likely be the first major policy speech of her tenure.

Given all this, we figured it was a good time to sit down for an interview to learn more about what she's been thinking and how her leadership might impact cycling and local street culture in general. Due to sickness (mine) and scheduling, we ended up chatting on the phone yesterday and we only had limited time. Even so, we covered some good ground and you can read our conversation below...

Have you been riding your bike into work?

Every day.

What's your route?

"I think PBOT has been through enough visioning over the last several years that we don't need to revisit that. We know what we value and what our business is."

I ride from northeast, the Sabin neighborhood to downtown. I go north up to Going then across to Vancouver. I feel safer being in the large group of cyclists on Vancouver and I think drivers are used to seeing cyclists there. Then I go through the Rose Quarter and hit the Steel Bridge to the Esplanade. I'm trying to take the safest route possible. I used to go across [SW] Broadway [through downtown]. I rode Broadway because I really liked to get a hill climb in the morning to get energized for my day; but I got clipped twice and had several near misses on right hooks so I moved away from using Broadway. I would use the green bike lane on Broadway… And even with all that green paint I got clipped twice which scared me and so I decided to go to the Esplanade because it seems safer.

From a bike facility perspective, what's the worst part of your daily route?

We need to work on the traffic signals at NE Holladay and Wheeler [at the Rose Quarter Transit Center] where the light rail station comes in. If you're not the fastest cyclist in the world, you can get trapped in that. And the pedestrians there are really trying to get to the train and aren't going to let a cyclist through. We're looking at signal timing in that area.

Seems like you've gained some important insight into our bikeways from your daily rides, does it concern you that no one on our current City Council rides a bike on a regular basis?

[PBOT Communications Director Dylan Rivera, who was also on the phone call, interjected: "Those guys are so busy. They're multi-modal. They work 14 and 16 hours days."]

I was doing some meetings with First Stop Portland and Nancy Hales [wife of Mayor Charlie Hales] rides her bike everyday from Sellwood. I was really impressed by that. Martha Pelligrino and Nills Tillstrom [staff in the Office of Government Relations] ride every day. And [Mayor Hales' Chief of Staff] Gail Shibley walks everyday. As for City Council members themselves? That's a good question. I would love to take them out on a ride.

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--> In an Oregonian interview in November, you said the stagnation is just a "marketing issue". If that's true, why do you think our bicycling numbers have leveled off?

[There was a relatively long pause before this answer.]

I'd answer that in a different way. If we want to get more people to ride, we have to provide safe facilities to do so. Focus on people who are the 'interested but concerned' group. They're the group we need to be targeting and their biggest barriers are safety. So we need to be installing infrastructure that makes people feel safe.

We are doing some great things: We're doing a cycle track on NE Multnomah, and SW Multnomah is currently under construction; buffered bike lanes on Williams; and when PMLR [TriMet's new Tilikum Crossing transit/bike/walk only bridge] opens up it will add several miles of great new facilities for biking.

I think we're doing the right things to grow our numbers; but I also believe we need to launch bike share.

In other cities it's increasing the number of people who ride bikes. It's also closing the gender gap, and we need to get more women out on the roads. The majority of our increase [in bicycle ridership] has been in the male population. Women need to feel safe. a lot of data shows that women are more likely to use a bike share bike than purchase one on their own for last-mile trips or errands around town or other things they would have relied on a car for because it's not as expensive, women don't know as much about maintenance, and so on.

Do you think women will feel safe riding in downtown Portland on a bike share bike?

I think so. I hope so. Those things [the bikes used for bike share] are tanks so it's really hard to be a crazy cyclist zipping through town on a bike share bike. They'll be on a pretty heavy piece of equipment. And downtown, it's not protected infrastructure; but from my experiences, Portland has a really great street system downtown for bicycling. And cars, despite my experiences on Broadway, cars are very respectful of bikes. Cars are used to other modes being there.

Bike share has gone through some major delays and although it appears PBOT has a funding partner, can you tell us why no announcement has been made?

No. No I can't talk about that. [laughs] I just can't.

Speaking of riding downtown, what's the latest on the $6 million project to improve bike access in the central city?

[Treat didn't seem aware of the project and Rivera interjected to say it's not on PBOT's radar or "imminent" at the moment.]

PBOT Director Leah Treat riding the Historic
Columbia River Highway in August 2013.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

We're focusing right now on the 20s network. We have a very small staff that's dedicated to this work. They only have so much bandwidth and we're putting that into those projects — the 50s [bikeway] and the 20s.

The 20s especially is probably one of the most controversial projects we've proposed in the last several years. It's highly controversial. This whole nine mile stretch has a 3/4 mile hang-up on it. I'm confident we'll get a solution and it'll be a really great bikeway; but the argument over parking is driving the conversation on that 3/4 mile of bikeway and hanging up the project. What I'm hoping we'll end up doing is focusing on the other 8 and 1/4 miles and get that installed while we work with the business community where parking is such a precious commodity.

Can you clarify what exactly the "hang-up" is on that 3/4 of a mile?

People are terrified that their businesses are going to shutter if they lose on-street parking. I don't agree with them but I understand their fear of change and their wanting to protect that space. It could very likely be that those spaces are being used by their employees. We don't know who's using that parking and why they're defending it so adamantly. The reaction is also coming from the two big developments nearby that have no or low auto parking. One of them has 400 units and the neighborhood is freaking out that they might not be able to park in front of their house so they're bringing that angst to the 20s Bikeway conversation. So I've been trying to focus the conversation on values and what we want our neighborhoods to look like. That type of development is what we want. Those 400 new units coming in are bringing 400 new customers to those businesses. if they're an economically viable business they'll profit even more from all those people near their shops and restaurants and they'll want to shop there because maybe they don't have car [to take them further away]. I don't know where we'll end up.

"I want to start talking about dedicating entire roadways to bikes and peds because it would solve lot of issues in the central eastside."

I've walked away from that conversation knowing how important parking is in that neighborhood and if we don't make compromises we should be metering that zone. It's [the parking is] obviously that valuable that we need to put a price on it. It's highly valuable public space that we're likely undervaluing.

Overall, I want to overhaul parking citywide, but we need to have a plan. If there's not a scarcity of parking it doesn't make sense to price it. It's very hard to make the business case to price parking where there's no scarcity. But where demand exceeds supply, we should have policy in place to allow us to properly value that right-of-way — residential parking permits, valet parking zones, congestion pricing, commercial loading zone permits, and so on. I think in order for us to have a credible conversation about parking we need to have plan developed and policies in place and our [pricing] algorithms figured out. We need to study that and we don't have anybody on staff that has that capacity right now. In the next year we will be producing that capacity.

I've been here 9 months and I'm still constantly surprised by the lack of priced parking and how much free parking storage we give away.

Another project you're working on is a two-year action plan. What's the latest on that effort?

We awarded the contract to [planning firm] Nelson/Nygaard a few weeks ago. We want to take a look at, what are actionable items from management down to staff. I think PBOT has been through enough visioning over the last several years that we don't need to revisit that. We know what we value and what our business is... Over the next two years, what are the time-specific deliverables we're going to commit to and be very public and transparent about it? And there will be stretch goals and we might not make all of them. But that's part of running a business, you re-evaluate and re-steer if you don't meet your goals.

It's about trying to deliver more transparency — people are dying to get it. They're asking us: What are you doing? How are you spending our money? Part of the final product will be a dashboard on our website where you can interact with our data and look at our progress.

You've been here nine months now. Are there certain bike projects you're dreaming about?

I'm sure someone has thought of this before, but I am really interested in dedicating specific roads to bicycles. You may have heard that I'm one of the Daniel Rose Fellows for the City of Portland. Our study area is the central eastside. One of the things I'd like to do and one of the outcomes of our plan for the central eastside is to dedicate a road to bicyclists and pedestrians and dedication another road to freight. That's one of the biggest issues over there — how all the modes interact. I want to start talking about dedicating entire roadways to bikes and peds because it would solve lot of issues in the central eastside. I don't know if it could be replicated elsewhere in the city; but that could be the pilot study area. Freight and business would be happy and users would be happy. We'll see what I can get away with.

You've got a big City Club speech coming up on Tuesday. Sort of your first major public speech. What can we expect to hear?

I'm going to talk about bike share. I'm a huge advocate of it. And I want to talk about Vision Zero and safety issues. There will be a little bit about talking to advocates about how to be effective within in a government structure. I will also deal with the issue of, how do we move forward when our conversation has devolved to fighting over eight-feet of lane width?

Any bike events you're particularly looking forward to this spring and summer?

Sunday Parkways. My favorite thing in the world is Sunday Parkways. Other than that, we get out as a family on the weekends. We bike pretty much everywhere. We just got my second son off of training wheels [her boys are ages seven and nine]. And the twins [five years old], they haven't grown up in Portland and had opportunity to ride in these great protected networks before so they're still on training wheels. I see all my neighbors with three-year-olds off training wheels! We just got the twins out of the cargo bikes.

Where do you ride on weekends?

We explore the parks and just hang out, and eat packed lunches. Taking four kids to a restaurant at those ages is a death wish. I'd much rather have them riding around and being active.

— Hear more from Treat at her speech on Tuesday (4/22). You can reserve a seat until this Friday.

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After host network failure, we're back from the dead

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 08:35
Our home page yesterday.

Just a quick note to say sorry for the site being down almost all of yesterday. We noticed the site stopped loading in the morning and it didn't return until the wee hours of last night.

Here's what happened: Our server host, Hostgator, experienced a network outage at one of their data centers that took down thousands of sites across the web (here are the latest details if you're so inclined). It was their problem, which meant we couldn't do anything but sit back, wait, and hope they could fix it quickly.

We've had our share of server issues over the past nine years; but things have stabilized a lot recently thanks to the help of our phenomenal system/server admin, Ryan Aslett. We have a dedicated server at Hostgator which we devote a fair amount of cash to each month, so we expect it to be reliable. While a tiny bit of downtime is just part of doing business on the web and is somewhat expected, an entire day is rare and quite disruptive.

Now we'll sort things out with Hostgator and make sure everything is where it should be now that the lights are back on.

Before we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, we thought you'd enjoy the fun tweets some of our friends shared yesterday as the hours of outage dragged on and on and on...

We took down @BikePortland just for shits and giggles. What's power worth if you're not going to have fun with it once in a while, right?

— Bike Lobby (@BicycleLobby) April 17, 2014

Putin swears: no russian troops responsible for @BikePortland occupation.

— radioactivity.fm (@radioactivityfm) April 17, 2014

@bikeportlandia @BikePortland i alphabetized my kombucha bottle collection

— Aaron Brown (@ambrown) April 16, 2014

I assume @BikePortland went down due to the collective anger from site commenters hearing The Oregonian won a Pulitzer for OpEds? #kidding!

— Matt Haughey (@mathowie) April 17, 2014

We appreciate all your emails about the outage and your recommendations for new hosting providers. And thanks for hanging in there and finding some humor in what was a very frustrating day.

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Does Oregon really need the NACTO guide?

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 08:08
The parking-protected bike lane near Portland
State University, from page 1-30 of ODOT's
Bicycle and Pedestrian Design Guide.

On Monday, we highlighted a few bike ideas from around the country that Oregon might imitate, but so far hasn't. One of them: formally endorsing the National Association of City Transportation Officials design guides.

But Jessica Horning, the transit and active transportation liaison for the Oregon Department of Transportation's Region 1 (which contains the Portland metro area) replied to our question about this with a fair argument: Oregon's in-house design guide is already really good.

Developed by practitioners in Portland and other cities around the country, the NACTO guides are a sort of professional Pinterest for human-friendly street designs such as protected bike lanes and traffic diverters. Images are well-annotated and informed by extensive research about safety and performance.

Washington, Massachusetts and California have all endorsed NACTO's guides. It's a big development for California in particular, where state regulators have until recently tried to prevent the construction of physically separated bikeways.

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But here's what Horning says about the situation here:

ODOT’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Design Guide was developed and adopted in 2011 – about the same time the NACTO Urban Bike Design Guide was being developed and published – and contains design guidance on many of the same design treatments that are covered in the NACTO guide. ODOT has formalized the guidance for the newer facility types in the NACTO and ODOT design guides (e.g. cycle tracks, raised bike lanes) into standards in our Highway Design Manual (Chapter 13). The ODOT guide also covers many rural/suburban design issues (e.g. rumble strips, chip sealing) that are not addressed by NACTO, but are vital for ODOT to keep in mind to facilitate pedestrian and bicycle access and safety in the non-urban areas we serve.

ODOT Transit and Active Transportation Liaison
Jessica Horning.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Here in Region 1, there are copies of the NACTO Urban Bikeway and Urban Street Design Guides available at my desk that staff regularly borrow for reference. We have hosted brown bag lunch presentations on the guides (in addition to our regular monthly Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals webinar series) to make sure staff are familiar with the subject matter and many of our staff have attended trainings that cover the NACTO guides. They are definitely valuable resources, and I can see the potential value in endorsing them. From a personal/practitioner viewpoint, however, I would prefer to identify any important guidance that is in lacking from our existing ODOT manuals and work to make revisions, rather than adding another two books onto our huge existing stack of advisory documents. It seems like things are a lot more likely to be implemented if they’re all in one place alongside all the other standards.

In a way, NACTO's design guides are the standardized tests of the bike/pedestrian planning world, but maybe Oregon is already among the gifted and talented. It'd be interesting to hear other perspectives on this.

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Time to get excited for the 2014 Disaster Relief Trials (watch new promo video)

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 08:41

The Disaster Relief Trials are back for the third year and we've got your first look at the new promo video. The video, created by Path Less Pedaled, is an inspirational look at the event that features interviews and outtakes from City of Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick, disaster experts, event organizer Ethan Jewett, and others.

Also new for the DRT this year is a partnership with Portland's family cargo biking event — Fiets of Parenthood. The addition of this family event will help round out the days activities and will make for an even larger and more interesting Cargo Bike Fair. All the action will take place on July 19th at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry during their Sustainable Transportation Expo.

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--> A competitor in the 2012 edition.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you're new to the DRT, the event is designed to simulate a supply run following a major earthquake. Participants (there's an open class and a citizen class) are given a dossier with several checkpoints that they must visit. At each checkpoint they must perform challenges that test both the rider and their bike set-up. Competitors use everything from longtails to bakfiets to standard bikes with cargo trails. The challenges will include a shallow water crossing, a one-meter high barrier, and a section of dirt road.

Here's more from the DRT website:

Riders on the DRT can expect to collect up to 100lbs of CARGO at checkpoints. The nature of the items can vary from small fragile items to large heavy items. The rider and platform’s ability to carry and secure a wide range of payloads, sometimes simultaneously, is a hallmark of the Disaster Relief Trials. Riders are encouraged to objectively assess their bike or trailer’s ability to carry a wide range of cargo, and plan/modify accordingly. Riders should bring appropriate lashing materials.

Registration hasn't opened yet, so stay tuned to @PortlandDRT on Twitter, Facebook, or DRTPDX.org for updates.

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Domino's Pizza now delivers by cargo trike in downtown Portland

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 01:04
Scott Kealer of Domino's Pizza on SW 4th Avenue
with his shop's new vehicle.
(Photo by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland's pedal-cargo delivery scene has hit a new milestone: even Domino's has bought a trike.

Cheap, fast and classy, cargo bikes and trikes have been in use for years from Old Town Pizza to Good Neighbor Pizzeria. Last fall, Scott Kealer did the math and decided his downtown Portland Domino's Pizza franchise should join their ranks.

"I've got a corporate name on the front of the door that says 'Domino's,' but it's really my pizza shop," said Kealer, owner of the local store on 4th Avenue near Portland State University.

"We've been kicking the idea around for a year or two," said Robert Ricker, the weekday manager. "Depending on who's pedaling, it can be faster than a car. … Maintenance has been low on it and it's really helped out in a pinch."

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"We've had a lot of people excited about it," said Dan Comey a delivery expert for the shop.

Kealer shopped around before settling on a new $700 trike from Bike Gallery. The rear storage compartment, designed for a moped, was another $100 or $150. It can hold up to six pizzas.

A few months ago, when one of the shop's delivery workers was using the trike for all his trips, it would make 14 to 15 deliveries in one of his shifts, about the same as a car. He's since started using a car for most trips, so the trike is now used as needed.

Unlike the delivery cars, which are owned by Kealer's delivery workers, Kealer's franchise owns and maintains the trike itself. Kealer saves $1.15 per delivery in compensation for his drivers, and people delivering by trike don't have to worry about crash liability, parking tickets or wear and tear on their own cars.

It's a similar calculation to the one made by the Portland Mercury when, last year, one of their delivery truck drivers successfully pitched them on a plan to switch to bike delivery on the inner west side.

"There's enough traffic in downtown Portland, and I put enough cars on the road when we're delivering pizzas," Kealer said. "If I can take one of them off the road, it's something."

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Census shows Hosford-Abernethy is Portland's bikingest neighborhood (updated)

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 15:49
The Tour de Ladd in 2008.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Update 4/17: City Clock has now updated its post using a revised methodology.

We don't usually devote much space to the endless lists ranking Portland among the best this or that for biking, and with good reason — most of them aren't worth much. One list that was published yesterday has some noteworthy tidbits, but wouldn't have been worth mentioning here if it hadn't hornswaggled us at first.

An article on cityclock.org titled "Top 10 cycling communities in America" (later changed to "Top 12 cycling areas") claimed that Census commute data showed central Eugene to be the best neighborhood in the country for biking, and that Portland's Hosford-Abernethy — Hawthorne to Powell, 29th to the Willamette, including Ladd's Addition — ranked 10th.

Both of these are very good places to ride bikes, and biking to work is more popular in those neighborhoods than elsewhere in each city. But beyond that, the methodology the site used doesn't really stand up.

According to an email from City Clock writer Justin Swan, who lives in Canada, he assembled the list by looking up the Census tracts with the most bike commuters in the cities that topped Bicycling Magazine's well-known and semi-arbitrary list. (One due to be updated any day now, by the way.)

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It was a worthwhile exercise as Census dives go, intended to check whether a few extremely bike-friendly neighborhoods have been "propping up the reputations" of the country's top cities. But it's not, by any standard we'd use at BikePortland, a list of the country's best neighborhoods for biking. Making matters worse, it's possible that Swan lumped taxi commutes in with bike commutes, dramatically inflating the supposed bike-commute rates for rich parts of Manhattan.

Here's what actually seems to be true: according to the Census' 2008-2012 American Community Survey, the Hosford-Abernethy area of inner Southeast Portland has the highest bike-commute rate in the City of Portland: about 20 percent. And central Eugene has an even higher-bike commute rate: about 30 percent.

Thanks to the several commenters (see below) who expressed skepticism of this ranking after I posted it late Monday afternoon. I should have looked deeper at this data before sharing it here. We try not to publish information that's unreliable, but when we err, corrections and rebuttals are always welcome.

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Judge dismisses Medford man's protest over citation for leaving bike lane

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 14:04
Still from police video of traffic stop.

A Medford man issued a citation last year for pedaling outside of a bike lane to avoid debris says a judge has sided with the officer who pulled him over, saying he should have steered his bike around the rocks and sticks without leaving the bike lane.

We reported on this incident in October, including a video of Dallas Smith's encounter with Ashland police officer Steve MacLennan.

"I get flats when I ride over there," Smith tells Ofc. MacLennan in the video, which was captured by the officer's dashboard camera. "I got two flats riding (unclear) last week."

"That doesn't cut it," Ofc. MacLennan replied. "These? No. You have broken glass, you have rocks, then okay. But you cannot be riding down the center line here, down the white line, into the traffic lane. This is not sufficient enough. This is not debris that's going to be causing a problem."

"The truck in front of me kind of went around you," Ofc. MacLennan went on. "Both of the cars that were in front of me went out and around you."

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Last week Smith, who was biking on Ashland's Main Street to his job with the University of Southern Oregon's IT department when he was pulled over, wrote with the latest:

The judge found me guilty of riding out of the bike lane. I showed the judge the debris I was avoiding and she said the bike lane is wide enough that I should be able to swerve around most objects in the bike lane and not have to leave it. I disagree with the ruling as the lane had rocks and sticks all over it from gravel driveways that go into the bike lane. The officer actually brought up the part about the public hearings stating that they had public hearings in 2011 to determine if they should create these new bike lanes. I asked the judge how a public hearing in 2011 could determine that a bike lane created in 2013 was safe. She said the the public hearings in 2011 were sufficient to satisfy that a public hearing had been held.

As Jonathan wrote last October, it's entirely true that in Oregon, as in some other states, the law requires people on bikes to use a bike lane if it's available. There's an exception for safety, but as Smith has found, that's open to interpretation.

Smith, who represented himself, received a fine of $110 for failure to use a bike lane.

(For more on 814.420, browse our archives.)

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Task force agrees: Make NE Multnomah protected bike lanes permanent

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 09:58
People parking cars in the bikeway is a major
issue that needs to be addressed in a
permanent design.
(Photo sent in by reader Brian M.)

The private task force that developed the NE Multnomah Street Pilot Project met last week and decided that Portland's marquee protected bikeway project should be a permanent fixture in the Lloyd District.

According to Lindsay Walker, head of the bicycle program for transportation management association Go Lloyd, "The stakeholders were all in agreement that we'd like to see the pilot project transition to something permanent."

The task force is made up of PBOT staff, Lloyd District real estate developers, representatives from the Lloyd Center Mall (who are planning a new "grand entrance" on Multnomah), the Rose Quarter/Portland Trail Blazers, the Portland Development Commission, and a citizen activist who works in the Lloyd.

Walker says that they spent most of the meeting discussing what's working, what's not (and how to fix the problems), and listening to feedback from adjacent property owners. While some significant "operational issues" remain (the biggest one being vehicles blocking the bikeway), there have been enough observed benefits of the new bikeway that it's not going anywhere.

These plastic wands will likely be
replaced in a permanent design.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Now it'll be up to a public process from PBOT to decide what design changes will make the bikeway work even better. Since it was installed about 16 months ago, the bikeway is already showing significant signs of wear and tear. Many of the plastic bollards have been run over, large concrete planters have been moved, the yellow paint in the buffer zone is faded, and so on. A permanent facility would need more separation provided by concrete (not just paint) in order to keep people from parking cars in the bikeway.

Craig Harlow, a citizen representative on the task force, told us he's "cautiously optimistic" about the future of NE Multnomah. "I'll be looking forward to plenty of future discussion about a possible 'world-class bikeway' design, as was heralded by PBOT staff when the pilot project was being planned."

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Harlow hopes that some of the upcoming discussion will include the topic of a new bicycling and walking bridge over I-84 on NE 7th Avenue. The time might be right to talk about that project, given the dramatic changes the Lloyd District has seen with the addition of the new streetcar line, this new bikeway on NE Multnomah, the current construction of the 657 unit Hassalo on Eighth project, and so on. "It’s all speculation," Harlow wrote via email about a new I-84 bridge, "but all very germane to the discussion of how a world-class remake of NE Multnomah will address the evolving and growing demand of low-car residents and other users of the Lloyd District in the future."

"Portland is now playing catch-up when it comes to implementing separated bikeways. We have a chance with this project to get back into the game."
— Craig Harlow, task force member

Another new wrinkle in this project is a Bureau of Environmental Services project that will include major sewer pipe work in the middle of NE Multnomah. Walker said the potential of that project puts any plans for Multnomah in "a bit of a holding pattern." If BES does indeed tear up Multnomah it could be an opportunity to build a new, high-quality bikeway from a clean slate. But on the other hand, it could delay any improvements indefinitely.

Regardless of a future BES project, Walker says in the immediate short-term we can expect to see the paint and plastic wands "spruced up or replaced since they already look much older than their age. In the longer-term, there seems to be support from property owners along the corridor to replace the plastic wands entirely — perhaps with more planter barriers the entire length of the street.

With its proximity to major commercial destinations, housing, transit, and hotels, NE Multnomah can retain its position as Portland's marquee protected bikeway; but to keep up with other leading cycling cities, it sorely needs a facelift. Or, as Harlow puts it, "With precedents already being set in many other US cities, Portland is now playing catch-up when it comes to implementing separated bikeways. We have a chance with this project to get back into the game."

— Browse our comprehensive archived coverage of this project.

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Five new bike ideas from other places that Oregon could steal

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 13:56
Time for Oregon to stop "Share the Road"? (This sign is on NW West Union in North Plains, a small city in Washington County.)
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Over the last week or so, a bunch of great ideas from other cities have been washing up on our digital shorelines. Let's take a look at a few.

1) Delaware killed "Share the Road." (Images courtesy Bike Delaware)

The sentiment is great. The phrase is confusing. Delaware has officially killed it.

The classic case: when you come up behind a person on a bike while driving a car, should the person on the bike pull right to make way? Safety would say that this isn't always a good idea. But to many drivers, "Share the road" says otherwise. "Bikes may use full lane" is completely clear.

Coordinating behind the scenes with state officials who had realized this, Bike Delaware fronted a campaign to eliminate the confusing phrase from new road signs. Maybe it's time for Oregon to stop putting the phrase on tens of thousands of its best-selling specialty license plate.

What it'd take: Somebody prioritizing it and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance publicly validating their decision.

2) California and Massachusetts endorsed NACTO's design guides. (Image by NACTO)

The National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Street and Bikeway design guides, written with human-friendly streetscapes rather than automotive mobility in mind, is a city-oriented expansion pack for the bible of engineering, the AASHTO family of manuals.

It's most useful in cities — The Dalles, with state Highway 30 running through its downtown, comes to mind — that want to be bike-friendly but lack in-house staff with expertise on modern pedestrian bumpouts, protected bike lanes and so on. On Thursday, after a years-long advocacy campaign by the California Bicycle Association, the conservative California Department of Transportation endorsed the guide, following Massachusetts and Washington's DOTs. It's not clear what's holding Oregon back.

What it'd take: A legal review by ODOT and a decision by its executives.

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--> 3) The Indianapolis Pacers are sponsoring bike sharing. (Photo by Shih-Pei Chang)

The Simon Family, which owns the Pacers, got naming rights to a 250-bike sharing system in Indianapolis in exchange for an undisclosed donation and a pledge to fund ongoing operations. Wouldn't it be perfect for the bike-friendly Trailblazers to sponsor all or part of Portland's 750-bike system that will be great at bringing people, congestion-free, to their Rose Quarter stadium?

What it'd take: Money from the Blazers and a system they feel comfortable putting their name on.

4) DC is building its first curb-protected bike lane. (Photo by Darren Buck)

These aren't actually new, but cities around the country are bringing the trend back. These are much more expensive in the short run than paint or plastic posts, but they're going to last much longer and they're certainly better at keeping cars clear and people comfortable. Though they don't work in every setting, curbs are great in many places (Beaverton, for example) for making bike lanes an actually pleasant experience for most people to ride in.

What it'd take: Money (about $50,000 per mile of curb) and city leaders willing to frame this as something that makes biking accessible to everyone.

5) Bikes are prescriptions in Boston. (Photo by Alan Perryman)

The sneakiest thing about a much-covered program that lets doctors "prescribe" bikeshare memberships to low-income Bostonians for $5 is that it seems to be nothing more than a brilliant marketing campaign for an existing public health program.

What it'd take: Money from public health sources and a medical provider that wants a bunch of free publicity.

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Bicycle 'Aid Stations' coming to Plaid Pantry stores

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 12:27
New window decal coming to Plaid Pantry stores.

Convenience store chain Plaid Pantry has announced their latest effort to become more appealing to customers who arrive by bike: Bicycle aid stations.

According to Administrative Manager Laura Sadowski, the new aid stations will be available at all 104 Oregon stores and will consist of a flat repair kit, basic bike tools, and a floor pump. The aid kit will be kept behind the counter, so you'll have to ask a store employee to use it. "As the weather is improving, I am seeing more bikes on the road," said Sadowski via email. "Not everyone is prepared for a flat or adequate nutrition and fluids, so we want to be there on (mostly) every corner to 'aid' them!"

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In addition to the aid kit, all stores will soon display a bright yellow "Aid Station" graphic at the main entrance.

Sadowski adds that this idea comes from Plaid Pantry Executive Vice President Jonathan Polonksy who's "an avid biker himself".

You might recall that in November 2012 we reported that new bike racks had been installed at 12 Plaid Pantry stores in the Portland area. Sadowski says that program is alive and well and they've continued to add more bike parking at stores throughout the state.

She also has a tip for bike riders in need: you can download the Plaid Pantry smartphone app (links here) to quickly find the location nearest you.

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With grant application, PBOT finally acknowledges 'safety issue' with streetcar tracks

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 09:15
Streetcar tracks have claimed many
victims over the years.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

After years of activism and untold amounts of carnage, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is finally making an attempt to address the dangers that streetcar tracks pose to people riding bicycles.

PBOT has filed a grant application with the Transportation Research Board that would give them $150,000 in funding to work with Portland Streetcar Inc. and Portland State University to identify best practices and improve the safety of cycling around streetcar tracks.

This is an issue we've covered for over seven years.

As late as last August we reported that PBOT Planning Manager Art Pearce (he was a streetcar project manager back then) said he didn't know of any internal effort to address the issue. And then in September we lamented that despite ongoing injuries there was still no substantial movement from PBOT to address the issue.

PBOT and PSI are well aware of the ongoing crashes caused by streetcar tracks in large part because of efforts by the volunteer non-profit group Active Right of Way. In December 2010 that group made a presentation to a table full of top PBOT and PSI staffers outlining several specific trouble spots and potential fixes. They also launched an online crash-reporting tool to track the number of incidents.

A meeting at PBOT headquarters in January 2011 included the head of Portland Streetcar Rick Gustafson, PBOT streetcar project managers, and activists from Active Right of Way. Yet years later, very little has changed.

Yet despite this activism and hundreds of falls, broken limbs, and bloodshed, PBOT and PSI have not taken serious steps to address the issues. Instead, they released a video aimed at educating people on how to ride around the tracks.

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This perspective that the issue was simply a matter of people riding more carefully was shared by former PBOT Director Tom Miller. Miller's lack of urgency about the issue likely had a lot to do with his experience riding in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, where there are a lot tracks and people manage to ride over and around them without problems.

But now there's a new director at PBOT (Leah Treat) and this grant application also comes out as Dan Bower, former head of PBOT's Active Transportation Division, transitions into his new role as Executive Director of Portland Streetcar. For what it's worth, Bower is a frequent bike rider who has first-hand experience on what it's like to navigate around tracks.

This grant application is the first time we've heard the City of Portland officially acknowledge that safety issues exist and that they will take some responsibility to mitigate it.

Here's a key line from the ordinance that will be heard at City Council this Wednesday:

"Analysis of crash history and community feedback indicate that there is a safety issue associated with people riding bicycles on or across streetcar tracks in Portland's central city."

We plan to look more closely at what type of safety solutions are being considered by the city. One source confirms that PSI has been testing a flange-filler in their maintenance yard. Flange fillers are placed in the groove of the tracks and are meant to depress only by the weight of a streetcar, while remaining flush at all other times. These devices have been around for many years (there's a discussion about them by a City of Portland employee in 1996 preserved online), but they have typically not been very durable. (see update below)

Stay tuned for more coverage on this issue. For background browse our rail track safety story archives.

UPDATE/CORRECTION, 12:58 pm: It turns out that we received bad information and PSI is not currently testing flange-fillers. We regret any confusion our story caused.

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