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Updated: 16 hours 59 min ago

Recap of PBOT Director Leah Treat's first major speech

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:11
PBOT Director Leah Treat at the Sentinel Hotel today.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat hit mostly familiar notes today during her first major speech since taking over the agency last summer. Treat was hosted by the City Club of Portland and the event was included in the agenda of the annual Oregon Active Transportation Summit.

While she didn't make any major policy commitments or launch new initiatives that might have sent the crowd of local transportation advocates and insiders abuzz, Treat gave us a glimpse of her perspective and offered clues about where she might take us during her tenure. She laid out her justification for investing in better biking and walking access and touched on big issues like Vision Zero, bike share, Safe Routes to School, getting tougher on speed enforcement, equity and investment in east Portland, the City's efforts to pass a transportation fee, and more.

"Every death on our roadways is a failure of government, a failure of our community, and a failure we refuse to accept."
— Leah Treat

From the beginning of her speech to the end, it's clear that Treat is someone who is looking past the auto-dominated status quo. She called the removal of the Harbor Drive Freeway over 40 years ago (and its replacement as a public park) as, "an incredible statement about the importance of walking, biking and the human experience over the movement of vehicles." Treat is someone who doesn't believe the purpose of streets is just to facilitate driving and commerce, but that they are a play for "connecting us" and a "place to play."

The conversation about transportation, Treat said, should start with our values and a simple question: "What kind of city did we want for ourselves and our children?"

Currently Treat feels that Portland's streets are far too dangerous. In the line that has generated the most attention, Treat referred to traffic as a "growing public health crisis." Here's a snip from that part of her speech:

"We had 36 traffic fatalities in Portland in 2013. Last year, twice as many people died in traffic than in murders in our city. This is terrible. Who among you could look around this room today and pick out the 36 people you are willing to sacrifice to a traffic fatality? This can’t continue."

Treat devoted a large part of her speech to outlining her support of Vision Zero, which she defined as the belief that "every death on our roadways is a failure of government, a failure of our community, and a failure we refuse to accept." To put that belief into action, Treat said PBOT will make safety a top priority. "We will put it above methodologies like Level of Service."

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Going further, Treat connected Vision Zero to the importance of speed enforcement and the need for the use of fixed speed cameras. "Areas around schools, parks, hospitals, day cares, and nursing homes," she said, "should be speed free zones. When we see a technology that can help us reduce speeding by that much, our whole city should be ready to work together to place them on our streets."

Currently, PBOT has limited legal authority to use fixed speed cameras, but with support from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, we won't be surprised to see action on this issue in the 2015 Oregon Legislative session.

"If it’s safer for a kid to bike to their friend’s house to play, or a blind person to walk to the store, it’s actually safer to drive."
— Leah Treat

In addition to more red light cameras Treat said she would support a tax on alcohol that would be dedicated to traffic safety programs and infrastructure.

When it came to bike share, despite agonizing delays, Treat echoed City Commissioner Steve Novick's enthusiastic support for Portland's system. Treat say they're "on track to figure out a sustainable way to deliver it."

Bike share came up again during the Q & A session, and with Treat being forced to speak off-script, she had an interesting response. You could tell she was choosing words carefully about this sensitive topic.

The question asked about the funding model Portland has decided to take. That is, asking a private sponsor to step up and fund the up-front capital costs, instead of using city funds. Here's how Treat responded:

"To answer your comment about the funding for our bike share system. It is, um, very unusual.. and um, there's a part of me that, um... It's a public transit system and asking for a private sector company to take on full risk of a bike share system is I think, um, it's a question mark. They did it first in New York and we're trying to do it here. We haven't produced a sponsor in two years and so it's a question mark.

It's a transit system with huge capital outlays with huge benefits to our community. We'll see if this can be done. We're working diligently with Alta, we're very close to having a sponsor. But, I think, despite the heartache that we haven't been able to announce as we'd really hoped, the good news is that because bike share is becoming so accepted and mainstream there are new companies now launching all over, so I'm convinced there are several people working in garages and in factories developing the next bike share system so maybe we'll benefit from something that's going to get developed over the next year. I don't know. But it's an emerging, growing industry with a lot of change. And I think taking a pause on launching it is actually a good thing and the city can benefit from waiting because we need to do it right to be successful."

"Taking a pause" is an interesting way to describe PBOT's current take on the project. From her answer, it appears like PBOT has no plans to launch bike share any time soon.

Another notable moment in the Q & A came when a man asked Treat to explain if the City has any plans on how to tie active transportation projects to housing and land-use policy. At first she told the man she didn't really understand his question. Then the moderator from City Club helped her out by re-phrasing the question like this: "How does your work at PBOT intersect with land-use planning?"

Treat responded by saying, "Well, I am not a land-use planner. I will be very honest about it. My background is in finance and I have staff that works with BPS [the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability] and they are working on updating the TSP [Transportation System Plan]." She then explained how two large developments projects are impacted the conversation on the 20s Bikeway project (which is something she shared with me during an interview last week).

While it could have been a mental blip, this non-answer about two things — active transportation and land-use — that are so inextricably linked, definitely raised some eyebrows.

With many Portland transportation advocates waiting for a bold and clear vision forward, Treat's speech seemed to fall a bit short. In the brief pulse I took of various people who were there, it seemed folks were underwhelmed in general. But Treat did make it clear that she is eager to work with the community to have priorities bubble up from the grassroots.

"As your director, I'm capable of creating political will," She said in response to a question about having optimism for the future, "Change comes from the ground up and from communities asking for it... The people that show up are the vocal minority and without the groundswell of support, we can't do it alone."

— Download a PDF of Treat's entire speech here. City Club says they plan to release the full audio soon. If you were at the event today, we'd love to hear your thoughts..


The Ride: A north Portland loop that's perfect for the whole family

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 13:27
With half the mileage on paths completely separated from auto traffic, this nine mile north Portland/Columbia Slough loop could be the ultimate family ride.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you've been looking for a great loop ride in north Portland that's perfect for novice riders and families, I've got an exciting route to share.

Thanks to the completion of a new, 1.2 mile section of the Columbia Slough Trail back in January, it's now possible to ride a nine-mile loop with nearly half of the total mileage completely separated from auto traffic. Add about three miles of neighborhood greenways and over one mile of bike lanes and you've got a route where biking is both fun and safe for all ages.

Me and my three little ones (ages 3, 8, and 11) sampled this route on Saturday and it's easily one of the best family rides we've ever had. Scroll down as I take you along with us...

Map via

The route starts at Peninsula Park (,-122.654114&spn=0.309999,0.642014&sll=45.543408,-122.654422&sspn=0.310183,0.642014&t=h&hq=peninsula+park&z=11&iwloc=A) in the Piedmont Neighborhood and heads west on the nice, wide bike lanes of N Rosa Parks Way. In September 2011, PBOT put Rosa Parks on a "road diet" — which means they re-allocated space so there's less room for driving and more room for biking. From there, you head north on the Michigan Avenue neighborhood greenway and onto the Bryant Bridge. (Note: For the next three miles, you'll be guided along by big bike symbols — a.k.a. sharrows — in the street.)

Tucked away in a residential area, the Bryant Bridge is a gem. It provides a safe way across I-5 and it's connected to neighborhood greenways on both sides. As a bonus, local artists (Brian Borrello and Tiago DeJerk) have added colorful touches, including a recent installation of mirrors to help discourage people from dumping trash and vandalizing the path...

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Following the sharrows, you'll be directed over to N Dekum Ave, which is where you'll cross N Interstate. Since Interstate is a large street that crosses a neighborhood greenway, PBOT has installed a special traffic signal that changes quickly and easily for bike riders. Simply roll onto the little bike symbol with a line through it and the light will change quickly.

Eventually you'll head back to the Bryant Street neighborhood greenway, which you'll take west all the way to Wabash. On Bryant, you'll pass by the first of many parks along this route: Arbor Lodge Park. If you're ready for some fun and a little break, check out the fantastic playstructure known as Harper's Playground.

Continuing west your next turn is N Wabash. On Wabash (another neighborhood greenway) you'll head north toward Columbia Blvd. Just before Columbia, stop in at Trenton Park. It's a favorite of our family because it's never crowded and there's a spring-loaded-car-teeter-totter thingy that we really enjoy playing on.

Just north of Trenton Park Wabash dead-ends into the sidewalk/bike path on the south side of Columbia Blvd. This path is really great but I'm afraid most people don't even know about it. Over lightly rolling hills and a few railroad crossings, the path takes you about one mile west before you cross Columbia with a traffic signal. We got lucky on Saturday and had a long train cross right in front of us. My three-year-old was thrilled to watch the cars go by just a few feet away from us!

The little-known sidewalk/bike path adjacent to Columbia Blvd.

At Portsmouth Avenue you cross Columbia Blvd and hop onto the Columbia Slough Trail. This is the highlight of the trip. There are tons of fun places to park the bikes and explore on this path. We usually take a spur of the path that heads up a hill overlooking the water sanitation facility (don't worry, it doesn't smell). There's a rock sculpture to climb on and big grassy hills to kick a ball or practice off-road biking skills.

The girls kick a soccer ball while their brother (tiny red dot in background) explores the grassy hills on his balance bike. You know you're away from traffic when a three-year-old demands to bike by himself.

Once you get to the Columbia Slough, I recommend stopping at the water access just before the bridge. There are nice big stairs that make for a perfect spot to take a break, have a snack, watch for birds, and soak up the surroundings.

Once you cross the bridge, you turn right and head back toward the east on the Columbia Slough Trail. The pavement in this section of the path is in really bad shape. It's got some holes and lots of loose gravel. I like it because it has sort of an adventurous, rustic feel, but you should slow down and be ready for tricky spots — especially if you've got narrow tires.

A bit further east along the Slough you'll see Portland International Raceway. There's almost always some type of racing going on and you get a great vantage point from the path. On Saturday we watched bike racers speed around the track on aerodynamic time trial bikes.

When the slough path comes to N Denver Avenue, head right and merge onto Schmeer Road. Be careful, this is the only part of the ride where you will share the road with people driving cars and trucks. It's a very low-speed and low-volume area, but use caution. Also, keep in mind that this is the road where ODOT plans to prohibit auto use in the future when they create a new path from PIR to the slough.

Schmeer will take you under N Denver Avenue and lead you directly onto the newly paved portion of the Slough Trail. Enjoy views of the mountains, Portland Meadows race track, and lots of geese...

Freshly paved and painted path with Portland Meadows in the background.

The new segment of path ends at N Vancouver Avenue, where my two girls took full advantage of the nice seating area ODOT designed into the new bridge.

Just over the bridge we couldn't resist one final stop at Farragut Park, where a grassy knoll full of daisies and beautiful big trees made for the perfect rest stop.

On Vancouver, you'll have a bike lane all the way south to N Bryant, where you'll weave back through quiet neighborhood streets to Rosa Parks Way and eventually Peninsula Park.

The whole route has only about 200 feet of climbing and there are no significant hills. I mapped it out for your convenience at

Give this route a try next time you've got a few hours. It's really great. And it shows why it's so important to not just build good bike access into our infrastructure, but to connect it all together as well.


As a low-car generation rises, youth organizers step up transportation activism

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:42
Kelly Hansen of the Community Cycling Center, Nicole Johnson of OPAL, Camille Bales of Grant High School and Adriana Rangel of De La Salle High School at a panel on youth transportation advocacy Monday.
(Photo by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Few Portlanders rely more on low-car transportation than teens. And as many factors have made car use by young people dramatically less common, some are getting more sophisticated in advocating for better public transit, biking and walking.

A panel on the subject at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit Monday was enough to make city staffer Janis McDonald call herself "embarrassed" on the city's behalf that it isn't doing more to tap youth advocates' opinions and expertise.

"Here we are, planning the City of Portland, and we're not actually taking any ideas from the youth, who are going to use the things we build,"
— Janis McDonald, City of Portland

"Here we are, planning the City of Portland, and we're not actually taking any ideas from the youth, who are going to use the things we build," McDonald told the session, adding that she'd been deeply impressed by a recent trip to the Multnomah Youth Commission.

At the panel, two MYC members, both high school juniors, discussed their advocacy for YouthPass, the endangered program that gives free TriMet passes to most Portland Public Schools students during the school year.

Though she said "I really just bike everywhere" herself, Camille Bales of Grant High School said she focuses mostly on YouthPass because that's not an attractive option for everyone, especially at schools further out than Grant, which is on Northeast 36th at Tillamook.

"It costs more than a lot of people think," she said. "I don't like to wear a backpack while I ride, so I need a bike bag. I need maintenance for my bike. Also, I think learning how to ride, a lot of kids don't have that opportunity any more. ... Also, there's no bike lanes, and cars move really fast, so it's really scary."

Bales added that even Grant offers only 14 or 15 covered bike parking spaces, so students have to put up with wet seats if they ride during most of the school year.

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Adriana Rangel, of De La Salle High School, said many students don't know how to bike, and many others aren't encouraged to. But for De La Salle, a private college-prep Catholic school at N. Lombard and Interstate, most students are coming from so far away that bikes aren't a realistic option. Rangel said maybe three students arrive at the school by bicycle.

Next month, the MYC and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon are co-hosting a free, half-day Youth Summit on Transit Justice at David Douglas High School, focusing on YouthPass, how to preserve it for PPS students and expand the benefit to other districts.

Nicole Johnson, OPAL's youth organizer and another person on Monday's panel, was especially eloquent Monday in drawing on her experience growing up in Portland in the 00s to explain the importance of non-car transportation to young people:

This is important to youth, because they can't drive; even if you're 16 you have to pay for a car, you have to pay for insurance. If you don't have transportation, then you can't be actively involved in that community, in that environment.

During summer and after school, I walked home and I sat in my room and read. Because I really couldn't go anywhere else. My mom wouldn't allow me to ride in other folks' cars, because she didn't know if they had insurance. But that cut me off from being independent, from just learning my environment. In the beginning years, I was cut off from a lot of opportunities that I wanted to be involved in.

We don't want that. We want all of our youth to be successful, to reach their potential.

Cases like that were enough for McDonald, who said the city's new Safe Routes to School program for middle schools has been struggling to find adults willing to work with them. McDonald said Monday's panel had given her a new idea: "a focus group of middle schoolers."

Correction 9 pm: An earlier version of the photo caption misspelled Bales' name.


Get Legal: Doored? The law is on your side (but that might not be enough)

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:20
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you ever have the unfortunate luck of coming into conflict with another road user, it's always a pleasure to find out the law is in your favor.

Usually, conflicts on the road relate to the question of who has the right to the same space at the same time. Having someone open their car door into you — a.k.a. getting "doored" — falls into this category. Usually a motor vehicle operator fails to see a bicycle rider and opens a door so close to their path that a collision or near-miss occurs. While defensive riding can go a long way toward avoiding this sometimes painful encounter, sometimes there is just nothing a rider can do — everything happens too fast.

Fortunately, this is one of those areas where the law is on the side of the bicycle rider. Here's the relevant section of Oregon's Vehicle Code (remember bicycles are "vehicles" too) that prohibits opening the door of any vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so:

ORS 811.490: Improper opening or leaving open of vehicle door; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of improper opening or leaving open a vehicle door if the person does any of the following:

    (a) Opens any door of a vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and it can be done without interference with the movement of traffic, or with pedestrians and bicycles on sidewalks or shoulders.

    (b) Leaves a door open on the side of a vehicle available to traffic, or to pedestrians or bicycles on sidewalks or shoulders for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

(2) The offense described in this section, improper opening or leaving open a vehicle door, is a Class D traffic infraction.

The scheduled bail amount for a Class D Traffic Infraction is $110.00, and the fine is the same. Note that the law makes it illegal not only to open the door when it interferes with people trying to get by, but it is also illegal to leave the door open longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

One would think that the law is so clear-cut that disputes over who was at fault would never arise. Unfortunately that's not the case.

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From my experience investigating these cases, the motor vehicle driver is apologetic and completely willing to accept blame at the scene (in spite of the advice on many insurance identification cards which state, "do not accept fault for the accident"). But, by the time the motor vehicle operator thinks about it and talks to an insurance adjuster or attorney, their view of what happened suddenly changes.

The revised version goes something like this:

"I opened my car door with plenty of distance behind me for the approaching bicyclist to see it. If the bicyclist had been paying attention, he or she would have seen that my door was open and ridden around it. Since I only intended to have the door open long enough to get out of the car, the accident is mostly the fault of the bicyclist."

Believe it or not, this argument is enough to inject a note of comparative negligence on the part of the person operating a bicycle into the equation in most cases.

The percentage of comparative fault works out to a pro rata reduction in the amount of damages, so the effect is significant. Add the fact that most of the members of any jury will identify primarily with the motor vehicle operator, not the bicycle rider, and you have a recipe for disappointment. Remember, under Oregon's system of comparative fault, if a jury decides that the motor vehicle operator was partly at fault for opening the car door (less than 50%) but the person riding a bicycle was mostly at fault (more than 50%) for failing to pay close enough attention and to make a reasonable effort to avoid striking the open door, then the person riding the bicycle loses in court — even though the person operating the motor vehicle violated the vehicle code by his or her own admission.

I've found that in almost every car door collision case the person operating the motor vehicle is primarily at fault. However, it is essential in every case that the person riding the bicycle carefully remember and reconstruct the scene of the incident to demonstrate that there was not enough time to take necessary evasive action in order to avoid hitting the door. Usually, bicycle riders relate that things just happened too fast and there was simply not enough time to avoid the car door.

While it's nice to have the law on your side, you also need to be prepared to make your case to an insurance adjuster. Knowing, and being ready to present in advance, Oregon’s law and a mental reconstruction of how the collision happened will prepare you to make a successful insurance claim.

Ray Thomas
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

This article is part of our monthly legal series with Portland-based lawyer and bike law expert Ray Thomas of Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton. (Disclaimer: STC&N is a BikePortland advertiser and this article is part of a paid promotional partnership.)


Are parking permits a solution to neighborhood parking wars?

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:13
Auto parking on Southeast Division Street.
(Photo by M.Andersen)

As the city's transportation director says Portland should stop giving away so much of its on-street parking space for free, a local parking expert is floating one way to do it.

From the embattled 20s Bikeway to Foster's broken bike lanes to the chronic shortage of rental housing in low-car-friendly parts of town, residents' annoyance over the lack of on-street auto parking in central Portland is making it harder for the city to become bike-friendlier. At the Oregon Active Transportation Summit Monday, parking consultant Rick Williams said a paid parking permit program could be the solution — but there are a couple catches.

First, he said, the city should rewrite its rules to let neighborhoods charge more for local parking permits than the systems cost to enforce. Ideally, he said, the city should raise neighborhood parking permit prices from their current level ($60 a year, in the few places where permits are used) to whatever the market will bear.

Second, to make the first option palatable, the city would have to promise that neighborhoods would get to keep the money and put it into better transit, walking, biking, paving — whatever it wants — in its own area.

That'd be a big switch from the way Portland currently runs its paid parking policy. Today, permit programs are only allowed to charge enough to cover enforcement and administration. Williams said this makes the price of parking artificially low; building and maintaining a parking space in central Portland would cost hundreds of dollars per year.

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Even in areas where the city makes a profit from parking meters, such as downtown Portland, the city doesn't directly reinvest the money in the area; it redistributes it. Parking revenue accounts for almost a third of the city's general transportation budget, which the city then spends on projects like road repaving, bridge projects and so on.

Parking consultant Rick Williams.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The problem with this, Williams said, is that it undermines local support for parking districts.

"The public sector is going to have to agree that they're not the ones who are making money on parking," Williams said. "The city needs to make sure [neighborhoods] can keep the money."

Williams' concept didn't come out of the blue. It's the formula laid out by UCLA auto parking scholar Donald Shoup in his influential 2005 book The High Cost of Free Parking. But Williams said that though it's been used in commercial districts, it's never yet been put in place for a residential district in the United States.

Still, Williams said it's the logical answer to neighborhood complaints about crowded curbsides. That's the thinking behind the City of Portland's parking permit system, he said: it's designed to be something a neighborhood asks for, not something a city imposes against residents' will.

"The philosophy is that if things are bad enough, they'll come to you," he said.


County says Hawthorne Bridge bike lane speed bumps will be removed in 2015

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 13:24
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Multnomah County has confirmed that they plan to remove a set of bicycle speed bumps on SE Madison Avenue. The bumps were installed in November of last year with the goal of slowing people down as they transitioned from the bike lane onto a sidewalk near a TriMet bus stop (see larger photo below). However, despite these good intentions, the bumps were instantly panned as being ineffective and potentially dangerous in their own right.

The County's own Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizen Advisory Committee (BPCAC) voted unanimously to remove the thermoplastic strips at their meeting on November 13th. In the minutes of that meeting, the committee said that, "BPCAC members felt that while the raised bumps are not terrible, the bumps do not serve the intended desire of slowing down the speeding cyclists either." The BPCAC also pointed out that County engineering staff did no public process before installing the strips.

Ultimately, the County acknowledged that installing the bumps was a "mistake" and that they'd be removed. However, five months later and the bumps are still there. Several readers have asked us for an update, so we contacted County spokesperson Mike Pullen.

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Here's the latest from Pullen (emphasis mine):

After the speed humps were installed in 2013, Multnomah County Transportation staff wanted to observe how effective they were in slowing bicyclists as they enter the heavily used pedestrian area at the bus stop at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge. Transportation staff have observed a mix of responses by bicyclists to the speed humps. Some cyclists go over them at full speed, some cyclists slow down before riding over them, and some cyclists ride out of direction to avoid them.

Based on this mix of results, the County has decided to remove the speed humps as part of improvements that will be made at the bus stop area. These improvements are planned in 2015.

Here's how the speed strips look in context with the other lanes and the bus stop:

The 2015 project to improve the bus stop area will include extending the existing sidewalk bulb-out to provide more space to people waiting for, and stepping off of, the bus. Whether or not those design changes reduce bicycling speeds remains to be seen.


Teens arrested for throwing bricks at three men riding on NE Tillamook

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 13:07
Adrian Richardson was struck in the face with a brick.
(Photo by Henry Scholz)

The Portland Police Bureau arrested two teenagers for allegedly throwing bricks at three people who were bicycling in inner northeast Portland last night.

One of the victims, 26-year-old Adrian Richardson, was hit in the face and was taken to the hospital. Richardson is a serious local bike racer who works at Showers Pass.

Here's the official statement from the PPB:

On Sunday April 20, 2014, at 1:21 a.m., North Precinct officers responded to the area of Northeast 7th Avenue and Tillamook Street on the report that two males threw a brick at a bicyclist, striking him in the face.

The victim provided descriptions of the suspects for police and waited for medical personnel to respond to the scene.

Several officers arrived in the area and contacted the victim. Officers also located the suspects at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Knott Street and took them into custody. Two additional victims were located by police.

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Officers learned that the suspects threw broken pieces of brick at passing bicyclists, striking two of them. One victim, 26-year-old Adrian Richardson of Northeast Portland, was struck in the face, suffering injuries that required transportation to the hospital. Another victim, 52-year-old Jonathan Garris of Northeast Portland, was struck in one of his legs. A third victim, 27-year-old Peter Buri of North Portland, had a brick thrown at him by the suspects but was not hit.

The suspects, 15-year-old Marquise Murphy and 15-year-old Robert Hudgens, were charged with Assault in the Second Degree and Assault in the Third Degree. Both were lodged at the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Home (JDH). Their names are being released because the Assault in the Second Degree charge is a Measure 11.

Anyone with information about this assault is asked to contact Detective Jeff Sharp at (503) 823-9773 or

According to sources who know Richardson, the teens apparently threw the bricks because they were "bored." One of Richardson's friends, David Boerner, told us he's "stitched up but OK."

We'll update this story as we learn more.


The Monday Roundup: Stolen bike statistics, glowing road paint & more

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 07:30
A permanent parting?
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

This week's Monday Roundup is sponsored by Urban Office Renewal, now offering newly renovated bike-friendly office space at SW 9th and Oak.

Here are the bike links from around the world that caught our eyes this week:

Theft facts: Seven percent of bike theft victims never replace their bikes. That's one of eight depressing (and unusually interesting) factoids about bike theft.

Theft investigation: Seattle police dedicated months to investigating used-bike shop Bicycle Pull-Apart, concluding among other things that "more than half of the bikes bought by the shop between February 2013 and January 2014 were bought from convicted felons." Owner Eric Patchen said he "always followed the letter of the law."

Phosphorescent road markings: A "sort of amped-up version of what is found on many wristwatches" is being tested for glowing road striping in the Netherlands. Fans say it might make streetlights less necessary.

Borrowed ride: A Los Angeles triathlete placed second in a series after using peer-to-peer bike rental site Spinlister to rent a $9,000 bike for $50.

Femininity and bikes: "Wait, what does 'feminine' actually mean," and what does it have to do with biking? Portlander Elly Blue's tweet penorompted The Atlantic Cities to gather interesting answers from 22 women.

Mobile manufacturing: A a team of Taipei tinkerers have outfitted a bicycle with its own 3-D printer that can convert used bubble tea cups to flashing spoke lights.

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Law abiders: The fact that only 1 percent of Copenhageners bike through red lights is just the beginning of this very interesting exploration of the best-behaved bike city in the world.

Biking for dear life: If all 26 of Western Europe's capitals went Danish (26 percent of trips by bicycle) the healthier riders and lower emissions could prevent 10,000 deaths each year.

Dear drivers: British bike writer Carlton Reid has a very nice explanation, from a car driver's perspective, of why people often bike down the middle of the road.

Portlandizing Seattle: Seattle has officially ">scrapped its recent sharrows-on-big-streets bike plan in favor of one that combines neighborhood greenways on side streets with protected bike lanes on big ones.

Biking to Big Pink: New Relic's Chris McCraw takes a look from the inside at the bikey digs inside one of Portland's bike-friendliest tech firms.

"Cycling’s most infamous rider has been looking for work lately," writes Outside Magazine. Lance Armstrong is actually funny and self-deprecating in your video of the week, in which Mr. Asterisk sits down with a few thingies to show you how to change a tire.

If you come across a noteworthy bicycle story, send it in via email, Tweet @bikeportland, or whatever else and we'll consider adding it to next Monday's roundup.


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.


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.


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:
Our "Street Fee Proposal" story archive.


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.


'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


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.


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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--> Sunday, April 20th

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

— (@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.


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.