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Updated: 15 hours 34 min ago

City moves forward with neighborhood greenway projects in north, east Portland

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 12:33


*N Willamette greenway route on the left, HOP greenway route on the right.

While the Portland Bureau of Transportation looks to continue the positive trends of 2018 with projects on high crash streets, they haven’t forgotten about neighborhood greenways.

This week City Council approved $1.2 million in funding for a low-stress route between NE 128th and the Gateway Transit Center in east Portland. And late last month PBOT visited the Arbor Lodge neighborhood to pitch their proposal for a new neighborhood greenway on North Willamette Blvd between Interstate and Rosa Parks Way.

The east Portland project is known as the HOP Neighborhood Greenway because it uses Holladay, Oregon, and Pacific streets to give bicycle riders a more pleasant option than the fast and stressful arterials of Glisan and Halsey. The project will include the usual trimmings of a street where cycling and walking are prioritized over driving: sharrow markings, special signage, a 20 mph speed limit, fewer stop signs, more street trees, speed bumps, and so on.

In addition, PBOT says they plan to improve the crossing at the intersections of NE Pacific and 102nd and at NE Holladay and 122nd. There are also two sections of the HOP route that are currently “unimproved” (gravel) roads where PBOT has significant upgrades planned.

Here’s what’s coming to NE Oregon between 110th and 111th…

And on NE Holladay between 118th and 119th…

Construction on the HOP greenway is scheduled to start sometime this year.

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PBOT installed a diverter at the Willamette/Greeley intersection back in May.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Willamette Blvd in north Portland is already a de facto bikeway. Many people use it as an alternate to busy, stressful conditions on Interstate Ave and Rosa Parks. It’s also a nice shortcut if you’re riding between downtown and University Park/St. Johns. Unfortunately as the amount of drivers in this area has increased, many of them cut-through neighborhood streets in this area. You might recall this issue coming up in our stories about people who vandalized “20 is Plenty” signs on N Villard.

Cover of plan for Willamette Blvd created by PSU Masters students.

PBOT plans to thwart this disrespectful driving behavior through “traffic pattern changes that reduce the number of people cutting through.” Methods they plan to employ include speed bumps to slow drivers down and all the typical greenway features so people know to expect bicycle users on the route. Here’s more from PBOT:

“People using N Curtis, N Villard, N Atlantic, and N Willamette to avoid busier main streets has been increasing for several years. Community members have increasingly asked for solutions to the high volume of cars speeding down their typically quiet, calm streets. PBOT collected traffic data and found the speed and volume of people driving is impacting the local street network and creating unsafe conditions. The N Willamette Neighborhood Greenway project will create a new, low-stress bikeway on a key connection on the peninsula and improve residential streets by instituting traffic diversion and calming measures in key locations.”

The exact location and design of the diverters remains to be seen and is likely to be hotly debated. Given their past experiences with diverter proposals, PBOT felt the need to post a statement on the project website that might limit their options: “All changes will allow full access to homes for residents, visitors, and deliveries.”

The city can hit the ground running on this project in part because Willamette Blvd has already been the focus of plans by neighborhood advocates and a group of Portland State University urban planning students. North PDX Connected: A Community Based Active Transportation Plan for N Willamette Blvd (PDF) is the title of a project published in June 2018 that included many recommendations on how to improve the street.

Back in October we reported that the city has $68,000 already set-aside for this project.

PBOT plans to do outreach on this project in the coming weeks and months, then test potential changes in March. Final plans are due to be completed by this spring with construction in the summer of this year. See the official project page here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Showdown looms for major bike parking policy update

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 12:57

Hot off the presses.

Portland has adopted goals to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent (Climate Action Plan), make 70 percent of trips by something other than driving alone (Comprehensive Plan), and reach a 25 percent cycling usage rate (Transportation System Plan) by 2035.

To reach these goals we must have ample, accessible, and secure bicycle parking available citywide. And it was with these goals in mind that the City of Portland embarked on their Bicycle Parking Code Update project in 2016. Our existing code hasn’t had a wholesale update since 1996 when about 200,000 fewer people lived here and our official bicycle commute mode split was a measly 1.2 percent (it’s at around 7 percent today).

But the city’s proposals have run up against concerns from real estate developers and our local chamber of commerce. Companies and organizations that construct housing and office buildings worry they’ll lose money if they devote too much space to bicycle parking. Precious square footage in Portland’s hot real estate market can be put to more valuable use, they argue, as retail space or more housing units. The Portland Business Alliance echoes those concerns and says current bicycling rates are so low they don’t even merit the need for more bike parking.

“As for the cost of doing this…I’m equally interested in the cost of not doing this.”
— Chris Smith, Portland Planning and Sustainability Commissioner

At the heart of the code update is an increase in the number of long (employee) and short-term (visitor) spaces new buildings will be required to have. The new policy brings the minimum amount of spaces for a residential building to 1.5 per unit (up from 1) and 1 space per 1,800 square feet for office buildings in the central city (there are two geographic tiers based on different cycling mode split expectations).

Several proposals didn’t make it into the final draft of changes. A requirement for electrical outlets to charge e-bikes was passed over after staff realized it fit better in the building code instead of the zoning code and there’s also a chance it could be included in an upcoming city effort to improve EV charging. You can see a one-page summary of the proposed changes here (PDF).

The most contentious aspects of the city’s proposal have to do with “in-unit” requirements and affordable housing.

The current code allows developers to put all the required bike parking inside the dwelling unit. During their outreach process, PBOT learned that some builders would simply stick a cheap hook next to bed or in a crowded corner to meet the requirement. And some residents complained about losing their damage deposits after bringing wet, greasy bikes into rooms.

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Blue is what current code requires, red is new proposal.

With support from the 2030 Bike Plan, which recommended prohibiting in-unit residential bike parking altogether, PBOT initially proposed that none of the required, long-term parking could be provided within a unit. But according to the proposed draft, PBOT staff “heard loud and clear from the development community” that this policy was untenable. If developers are forced to use square footage outside units for bike parking they say they’ll lose money that could otherwise be earned from having more retail or residential space.

PBOT and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability conducted a “Bicycle Parking Spatial and Economic Study” (in a memo you can find on page 64 of this PDF) that found the proposed bike parking requirement scenarios could result in a decrease in net operating income of between 1 and 4 percent.

So they’ve come to a compromise. The current proposal states that 20 percent of the long-term parking can be providing inside dwelling units (if certain standards for quality and access are met). “This proposal moves toward the Bicycle Plan policy goal,” states the draft proposal, “while still responding to the concerns from the development community.”

Then affordable housing advocates and companies got wind of the proposal. They worried that the mandate for 80 percent of long-term parking to be outside the unit would result in fewer housing units being built and — because of the more stringent regulations they work under — could even jeopardize entire projects.

“While there’s a recognition of the need to provide affordable transportation options for residents, there were concerns on how to balance these objectives with the overwhelming need for affordable housing.”
— Liz Hormann, PBOT

PBOT project manager Liz Hormann presented the proposal at the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission meeting yesterday. “While there’s a recognition of the need to provide affordable transportation options for residents,” she said, “there were concerns on how to balance these objectives with the overwhelming need for affordable housing.”

PBOT has reacted to that need by carving out an exemption. The latest proposal says up to 50 percent of the spaces in an affordable housing development can be in-unit. And for sites with 10 units or less, all of the required long-term spaces can be inside the unit.

This backpedal has raised eyebrows of several PSC members. Commissioner Chris Smith sees a clear line between quality bike parking and our mode share goals. “It’s not sufficient to just build bikeways, we also have to have end-of-trip facilities,” he said during yesterday’s meeting. He called the current in-unit bike parking policy a “strange artifact of our code” that we should have axed in the 1990s. Smith thinks in-unit bike parking doesn’t encourage cycling and he wants city policy to strongly discourage developers from providing it. “What we’re doing is reducing our requirements by 20 percent and saying you only have to build 80 percent of what’s needed to reach our goals,” he said.

In response to PBOT economic analysis, Smith said, “As for the cost of doing this…I’m equally interested in the cost of not doing this.”

Comment on the Proposed Draft
  • Click the “Testify” button on the Map App
  • Send snail mail to Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission, Bicycle Parking Testimony, 1900 SW 4th Ave., Ste. 7100 Portland, OR 97201
  • Attend public hearing 1/22/19, 5:00 pm at 1900 SW 4th Ave., Suite 2500 (2nd Floor)

Official project website.

Smith also thinks an exemption for affordable housing is the wrong way to go. “I think what we’re doing there is just providing substandard bicycle parking for the households that need access to affordable transportation most. That’s the single thing in this proposal that troubles me the most.”

And he has support among the PSC. Three other commissioners echoed his concerns. PSC Chair Katherine Schultz said the affordable housing exemption is, “Curious and unfortunate.” “I get we’re trying to balance all these competing goals, but it absolutely seems of all places that’s where we need to accommodate bikes.”

Portland Business Alliance President and CEO Andrew Hoan disagrees. In a letter sent to PBOT and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly in October, he cited Portland’s recent cycling plateau. “While we agree more can be done to encourage this mode of transportation… imposing rigid requirements around rack design, placement and security are not an effective answer to the problem,” he wrote. Here’s more from Hoan’s letter:

“… ground floor bicycle parking requirements can cool nearby retail activity as they are now competing uses for limited ground floor space. Our other concern with this proposed update is with the level of detail in the code change, the square footage that it would needlessly consume in buildings, and specific requirements developers are being asked to adhere to. The current proposal would require portions of buildings be used for unused bicycle parking stalls that would be better utilized for needed housing and/or retail and associated employment. While we recognize that transportation costs are, on average, the second highest cost for households in our area, this proposal also has the potential to negatively impact affordable housing, assisted living and retail developments. Low-income communities are the most reliant on their personal vehicles; monthly mass transit passes are not affordable for many Portlanders. Housing and mixed use developers must have as much rentable or saleable space as possible in order to make their projects pencil out financially – if not, housing costs will increase and housing supply will not meet demand. At a time when our city is experiencing a housing emergency, this proposal seems to run counter to efforts to make living here more affordable.”

Schultz and the rest of the PSC is likely to hear more from developers and business interests when the Bike Parking Code Update is back in front of them for a public hearing on January 22nd.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Commish Eudaly’s office works with police to solve “deliberate act” of nails in Interstate Ave bike lanes

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 14:38

It’s taken years of complaints but it seems we’ve finally the attention of city officials on a recurring bike lane safety issue that might have a malicious origin.

The case of nails being strewn in the bike lane on North Interstate Avenue has gone unsolved for years. Now the police and a city commissioner are on the case.

We first reported about this in March 2017, but that wasn’t when the problem started. A quick search of Twitter posts shows that complaints go back to 2012. Someone tagged the Portland Bureau of Transportation with a complaint about it in September 2016 (who then forwarded it to the maintenance department).

In January 2018, the issue received its own Twitter account when @InterstateNails was born.

With several nail incidents at the end of last year, KATU-TV reporter (and daily bicycle rider) Reed Andrews gave the issue much-needed visibility.

After the most recent frustrating flare-up in flats, we heard from a staffer in PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s office. Margaux Weeke wanted us to know the issue was on their radar and that they’d reached out to PBOT and the Portland Police Bureau to ask about how/if it was being managed. “The problem isn’t falling on deaf ears,” Weeke promised.

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After the holiday break we got an update from Weeke. She said PPB officers had been cycling on Interstate to get a closer look at the two-mile stretch between Lloyd and Greeley where the nails most commonly appear. Weeke forwarded comments from the PPB about their findings. “At first we thought it was maybe construction debris,” they wrote, “but at this point it seems to be a deliberate act.”

Notes from the PPB investigation also say days and times the nails appear are random and that they’ve noted a variety of types including roofing and framing nails.

Their investigation into this issue is still in progress and hasn’t yielded major clues at this point.

While the problem still isn’t solved, it’s good to know that at least City Hall, the PPB, and PBOT are working together on this. We’ll keep you posted if they make any breakthroughs. In the meantime, please tag us on Twitter if you find any nails.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Family Biking: Join us for a new ‘Storytime’ event series

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 11:57

Storytime! 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month January-March.
(*Thank you to Liz Holladay from Clever Cycles for the bike-riding book illustration and to Leslie Hickey of Hoarfrost Press for the graphic lettering.)

I’m still chugging away at trying to pedal more throughout the winter in an attempt to keep my winter blahs at bay, but I’ve decided to supplement things with some indoor bike-related fun for the off-season. Enter Bike Shop Storytime.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Wearing our hats as Kidical Mass co-organizers, Sara Davidson and I will read bike-related stories (and probably some non-bike-related stories) selected for us by Katie Proctor, a veteran family biker, Kidical Mass co-founder, and owner of Books with Pictures, an inclusive comics shop.

This event is not just for existing and prospective family bikers (though of course my forever-goal is to get more families’ fannies on bike saddles) so if you know any toddlers (and kids of all ages) who like storytime, please send them over:

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Mondays January 14, January 28, February 11, February 25, March 11, March 25
In the Clever Cycles play area (900 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214)
BikePortland Calendar or Facebook event page

The storytime will be followed by a Q & A session about biking as a family. I’ll also have a small supply of the books we’ve read for sale (cash only) from Books with Pictures.

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And since I need to bring the books back to the comics shop after the event, there’s an optional bike ride, too! I’ll be taking the most family-friendly route between Clever Cycles and Books with Pictures (here’s the route) and will happily coordinate leading folks back to the bike shop after a quick visit.

Families interested in taking the bike ride, but without wheels of their own can show up a bit early to borrow a bike from Clever Cycles — there are a few bakfietsen (front-loading cargo bikes, like the one in the illustration) and longtails (rear space for kids) available to use.

I hope the event will continue past the slow season when we tend to hold few, if any, Kidical Mass bike rides, and we welcome any feedback in the comments about changing up the time or days to better accommodate more storytime fans. Thanks for reading.

* Thank you to Liz Holladay from Clever Cycles for the bike-riding book illustration and to Leslie Hickey of Hoarfrost Press for the graphic lettering.

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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Scooters back in the news: Bird in Salem and Portland as final report coming soon

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 11:44

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

If you’ve missed electric scooters in Portland, you’ll be happy to hear they’ll start popping up again soon. Sort of.

While we don’t have any dates for another deployment, scooters will be back in the news as the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation releases its full report on the four-month pilot program next week.

That’s good timing for officials in Salem who are getting lobbied hard by Bird, a major scooter company and one of the three who participated in the Portland pilot. Salem planners will have plenty of data and analysis to pore over as they consider scooter prospects in the capital.

A story published today in the Statesman Journal reports that Bird executives have already bent the ear of Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett and city staff are likely to meet with the company soon to get their full pitch. That same story mentions the Portland pilot and confirms that PBOT plans to release a full report on it next week. Given the existing survey data and PBOT’s general tone about scooters, my hunch is the report will provide even more momentum for a second deployment.

And if scooters do get the green light in Salem, imagine the impact that could have on the minds of state legislators. A successful and high-profile deployment around the capital might help lawmakers see beyond the automobile when it comes to transportation policy.

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Also next week, Forth Mobility (formerly Drive Oregon, a 501(c)(6) public nonprofit that advocates for electric vehicles of all types) will host a networking event where officials from PBOT and Bird will be featured speakers. A webpage selling tickets to the event says they plan to discuss the findings of the e-scooter pilot report and “what the future holds for e-scooters in Portland.”

If the future is anything like the past, scooters have a bright one in Portland.

Back in October, the City of Portland released a survey of scooter riders — 85 percent of whom said they’d be “extremely” or “very likely” to recommend them to a friend.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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PBOT says Greeley Ave bikeway will be built this summer

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 09:53

Auto users will get about 45 feet of space on Greeley. Bicycle users will get 12 feet. A concrete jersey barrier will separate them from each other.
(Graphic: PBOT)

At long last the construction of a new bikeway on North Greeley Avenue is imminent. At least we hope it is.

Project location.

At their meeting this week Portland City Council is poised to authorize a contract for the construction of the Greeley Multi-Use Path project. This change to a notoriously dangerous yet extremely vital link between the central city and north Portland was first slated to be completed in spring 2017. Then it was pushed back a year due to what the city’s transportation bureau said was a glitch in state contracting laws, only to be delayed once again last summer when PBOT says they ran out of time to get a quality bid.

Now PBOT says the $1.9 million project will go to construction this summer and will take about 4-6 months to build.

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Here’s an overhead view of the latest plans showing the lane configuration. The new two-way path is on the bottom:

95% design plans by PBOT.

As we’ve reported, the design will be a two-way physically protected path on the east side of Greeley that will connect with the existing path that connects to North Interstate Avenue on the south end. Northbound Greeley users won’t notice much change in their route (except for others coming toward them in the opposite direction); but southbound users will notice a big change. South of Going Street, the plans call for a new bike signal, signage, and pavement markings that will direct bicycle riders from the west side of Greeley, across the intersection to the east side where the new path will begin.

I’ve added a red arrow to the latest plans (which are at 95% design) to show the southbound cycling movement:


The path itself will vary between 11.5 to 12-feet wide. It will have a two-foot wide buffer filled with a concrete wall, a.k.a. jersey barrier.

It will be interesting to see how this new path works. For comparison, it will be a similar width as Better Naito, another protected, two-way facility. But unlike Naito, Greeley is a very loud and stressful street where auto and large truck drivers will be flying by at 45-50 mph. Downhill cycling speeds are also an “x” factor in how the new, two-way design will work. Even will these concerns however, it’s likely to be a significant improvement over the freeway on-ramp roulette we’ve been dealing with all these years.

Funds for its construction come from a $650,000 allocation from the city’s Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (the project was endorsed by the city’s Freight Advisory Committee), $600,000 in maintenance funds set-aside by City Council, and $600,000 from ODOT’s House Bill 2017.

In related news, a pending lawsuit accusing PBOT of negligence for cycling conditions on Greeley is moving forward. Lawyers for the plaintiff, Robert Smith, say they’re in the discovery and deposition phase of the case and they’ve received answers from their inquiries from the PBOT, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and Brandon Swiger (the man who hit Smith with his car in December 2017).

View full 95% design plans here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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TriMet says denial of tricycle as mobility device is supported by federal regulations

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 14:48

This three-wheeled handcycle isn’t allowed on MAX trains.

Last month we shared the story of activists who spoke out at a TriMet board meeting about their desire to take adult tricycles on light rail cars.

Current TriMet policy allows only two-wheeled bicycles on MAX. Portlander Serenity Ebert, one of the people who testified at the TriMet meeting, uses a trike as a mobility device and she’s pushing the agency to change its policy so that she and others can have the same access as other bicycle users.

Ebert has requested a formal exception based on her condition, but TriMet denied it on the grounds that she can use a walker instead of the trike in order to access MAX. As follow-up to our previous story, I asked TriMet if they would have allowed Ebert’s tricycle if she was unable to use her walker. Here’s the response from agency PIO Tim Becker:

“Any specific request would be need to be fully investigated on its own merit. That said, I can tell you that if Ms. Ebert was not able to use her walker, her request to use the tricycle as a mobility device would still be denied right now because that violates current policy. The Federal Transportation [sic] Administration currently uses tricycles (and bicycles) as a specific example of a ‘device not primarily designed to assist individuals with mobility impairments’.

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Becker then pointed me to the US Department of Transportation official guidance on the ADA and the definition of a wheelchair. “The definition does not include devices not intended for indoor use (e.g., golf carts or all-terrain vehicles),” reads the guidance, “or devices not primarily designed to assist individuals with mobility impairments (e.g., bicycles or tricycles).”

Asked how the community might persuade TriMet to change their stance on the issue, Becker said the agency is always reviewing plans and policies and remains open to feedback through avenues like their recently adopted Bike Plan. In general however, TriMet isn’t likely to budget on the tricycle issue. Even when plans come up for review, Becker said, “Historically, these reviews haven’t resulted in changes to allow larger devices largely due to space constraints, and the need for others to be able to safely move about the MAX train.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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The Monday Roundup: Chaos in utopia, a ‘bicycle beltway’, Oslo’s big move, and more

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 09:44

We haven’t done a roundup since before the holiday break. So let’s get going…

Netherlands bike lane problem: The Guardian reports on a chaotic mix of e-bikes and other types of micro-vehicles that are causing confusion and major safety issues in the legendary bikeways of Amsterdam. Buried in that story is a startling rise in e-biking deaths.

A “bicycle beltway”: I love how D.C. is talking about cycling in the same way they talk about driving. That’s how you change the status quo. And guess what? It’s inspired largely by the success of their bike share program.

End RTOR: More good things from D.C.: They plan to end right-turn-on-red at 100 intersections this year. The law that emerged in the 1970s as a gas-saving measure is falling out of favor because of dangers posed by right-turning drivers.

Power of bikes: The East Side Riders Bicycle Club is helping keep kids in Watts, California stay away from gangs and other bad stuff.

Don’t penalize, subsidize!: A large city in Italy plans to pay people to ride bikes and will even subsidize their purchase of a new bike. Take that all you supporters of Oregon’s absurd $15 bike tax!

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Hello, Oregon legislators. Anyone home?: A report from the state-appointed Global Warming Commission says greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise in Oregon primarily because people are driving too much.

Rep. Power gets it: Oregon House Rep. Karin Power who represents parts of southeast Portland and Clackamas County, shared an opinion in The Oregonian about the urgency of passing laws in 2019 that will limit the impacts of climate change.

Oslo ups the ante: “We’re doing this to give the streets back to the people,” says Oslo’s vice mayor for urban development in a NY Times report on their plan to remove all auto parking spaces from the city center.

Florida’s bad behavior: The “Panhandle State” is statistically the most dangerous place to ride bikes — and the local experts say it’s largely because of a traffic culture that only respects driving.

Portland is off-the-back: Our once-leading bicycle city is glaringly absent from the People for Bikes list of 10 best new bikeways of 2018.

We’re growing fast: Since 1990 the population of the Portland metro area has grown by 61 percent, or 929,000 people! See how that compares to other cities in this tweet from Michael Andersen.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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“The Car” movie has the scariest trailer I’ve ever seen

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 16:22

Movie poster from Universal Pictures.
Scroll down to watch the trailer.

“Evil has many forms, now it returns as, The Car.

A car possessed. Who knows what it wants? They all know nothing can stop… The Car.

There’s nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide. No way to stop, The Car.

What evil force drives, The Car?”

Happy Friday everyone! It’s good to be back in the swing of things after the holiday. I hope your new year is living up to the hype so far.

Before we part for the weekend, I want to share an amazing relic of our car-centric culture with you: The trailer for a 1977 movie called, The Car. I had never heard of this film until my brother sent me a link to the trailer (below). It’s an extraordinary relic of American car culture…

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Isn’t that amazing? Meant as a cheesy horror film, this thing gives me all sorts of chills — especially in today’s world of zombie-like distracted drivers and AVs.

I didn’t watch the entire film, but the Wikipedia page says one scene depicts the demonic Lincoln Continental Mark III taking out two innocent bicycle riders trying to pedal across a high bridge.

And yes, I’ve already sent it to our friends at The War On Cars Podcast.

Try not to have nightmares!

See you back here Monday morning.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Jobs of the Week: Castelli, Sellwood Cycle Repair, Community Cycling Center, Left Coast Bicycles Mobile Shop

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 15:35

We’ve had five great job opportunities posted since just before the holiday break. Get to ’em while they’re still fresh!

Learn more about each one via the links below…

–> Senior Graphic Designer – Castelli

–> Mechanic – Sellwood Cycle Repair

–> Retail Specialist – Community Cycling Center

–> Bike Mechanic – Community Cycling Center

–> Part Time Mechanic – Left Coast Bicycles Mobile Shop

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For a complete list of available jobs, click here.

Be the first to know about new job opportunities by signing up for our daily Job Listings email or by following @BikePortland on Twitter.

These are paid listings. And they work! If you’d like to post a job on the Portland region’s “Best Local Blog” two years running, you can purchase a listing online for just $75. Learn more at our Job Listings page.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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State Rep Rob Nosse says he supports Gideon Overcrossing at 14th Avenue

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 15:11

An Oregon state legislator wants to clarify his position on a controversial plan to build a bridge for bikers and walkers over rail tracks in southeast Portland.

TriMet concept drawing of the overcrossing. Koerner Camera Systems is in upper left.

After being informed by TriMet that they’d lose federal funding if the Gideon Overcrossing doesn’t get built on SE 14th as currently planned, Representative Rob Nosse says he supports that location — despite major concerns voiced by adjacent business owners.

As we’ve reported, Nosse wrote a letter to TriMet and the City of Portland on December 10th (PDF) asking them to consider moving the bridge to a different location. “I don’t think your planning is so far along that you could not consider an alternative,” Nosse wrote, after meeting with owners of Koerner Camera Systems, Sustainable Northwest Wood, and K&F Coffee. Nosse also felt that moving the bridge would be an “appropriate compromise” given the opposition.

Led by Michael Koerner of Koerner Camera Systems, businesses on 14th Avenue including Rapid Bind, Cascade Commercial Real Estate, and Dovydenas Winery, have organized against this project based on how they perceive the presence of a bridge — especially one that would cater solely to walkers and bikers — would impact public safety and access to their properties. Koerner has hired a land-use attorney who made a request for additional environmental review to the regional head of the Federal Transit Administration last month.

TriMet and PBOT both say no further study of the site is needed and they want to move forward. (A TriMet spokesperson told us today they’ve met with FTA officials and that, “the message was clear that no additional NEPA work is necessary and that we’d lose funding if we move the bridge.” Unfortunately, TriMet wasn’t able to provide documentation of that meeting.)

Rep. Nosse contacted BikePortland this morning after reading our story in the Southeast Examiner newspaper (where it was re-published with my permission). He was concerned I mischaracterized his position. Here’s what he shared in an email today:

“I wrote a letter to Tri-Met and PBOT asking if the pedestrian bridge could be moved to 16th street or even 8th street, thinking that this kind of compromise would help Mr. Koerner and his business and still allow for the bridge to be built.

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Since then, I have been informed by Tri-Met and PBOT that moving the bridge to a different location will result in the withholding of the money that the Federal Government is granting for the bridge project. In short, if we move the bridge there will be no money to build the bridge at all. If the choice is a bridge that utilizes 14th Avenue or no bridge at all, I would of course support the bridge being built at the 14th street location.

Hopefully it can be built/designed in a way that does not hurt Koerner Camera’s business.

Meanwhile, the Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition has written a letter (PDF) to PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly urging her to approve the project “as soon as possible.” They say the business owners’ concerns can be mitigated and that further delays risks losing out on $15 million in federal funding.

For his part, Koerner wants a formal public process to be re-opened. “Safety concerns are real,” he shared with me in an email today. “Bicycle, pedestrian, train, and vehicular transportation circumstances have changed at and around this location since the public review process occurred nearly a decade ago… The businesses along SE 14th and other interested stakeholders have raised concerns that should be examined in a public process, not bullied into silence by fear-mongering about federal funding.”

To hear from other business owners and learn more about this project, don’t miss the robust discussion in the comment section of our previous post.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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A planned and funded project could have prevented this morning’s fatal collision

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 12:04


*Existing conditions (left) and PBOT concept drawing of SW Salmon and Park with “X” marking approximate collision location. (Click to enlarge)

This morning someone died while walking across a street in downtown Portland. It’s the first traffic fatality of 2019.

A project approved by City Council in November might have prevented it.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, the collision happened just after 7:00 am this morning at the intersection of SW Salmon and Park, just across from Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the Park Blocks, in an area known as the center of our downtown theater and cultural district. “Based on preliminary information,” the police statement reads, “investigators believe the pedestrian was crossing Southwest Salmon Street in an unmarked crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle that was traveling on Southwest Salmon Street.” The man suffered major injuries and died shortly after at a nearby hospital.

This is a tragedy for our city; not just because we’ve lost another person to traffic violence, but because a project that’s already been planned, designed, and funded could very likely have prevented the death.

Streetview looking east on Salmon and Park with “X” where driver’s car was stopped after the collision.

In November, council approved the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Central City in Motion plan. That plan aims to improve downtown streets by making them safer and more efficient for all users. 18 projects were included in the plan, with eight of them slated for implementation in the first 1-5 years. PBOT has around $25 million already in place to start building them.

One of the projects slated for the first phase of construction is Project #8, a $3.7 million upgrade to the SW Salmon/Taylor couplet. Once the project is complete, PBOT says Salmon and Taylor between 14th and Naito Parkway will, “become key east/west bike routes for people of all ages and abilities” and will also include, “Pedestrian crossing improvements.”

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Raised intersection as depicted in the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide.

What’s often lost in debates about projects that include protected bike lanes is — especially in Portland — they rarely come with only cycling-related upgrades. In this case, the intersection where the man was hit and killed this morning is slated to be improved for everyone. The project comes with a new bus stop, a protected bike lane, extended curbs to decrease the crossing distance, and fewer on-street auto parking spaces to improve sightlines at the intersections (the space where that big red van is parked in the streetview image above would be a bicycle lane).

Perhaps most importantly in light of this morning’s tragedy, Project #8 will include a “tabled intersection.”

Right now only one crossing of Salmon at SW Park is striped with a crosswalk. Preliminary reports say this morning’s victim was using the side of the street that doesn’t have one. In Oregon we’re told that “every corner is a crosswalk,” and while existing statute might not be so clear (ORS 801.220 says, “Whenever marked crosswalks have been indicated, such crosswalks and no other shall be deemed lawful across such roadway at that intersection”), the onus for safety should always be on the person with most potential to do harm.

PBOT cross-section proposed for Project #8 in Central City in Motion plan.

As you can see in the concept drawing and cross-section above, PBOT plans to stripe all four crossings of this intersection with crosswalks and create a large speed table, a.k.a. a “tabled” or “raised” intersection. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), raised intersections, “reinforce slow speeds and encourage motorists to yield to pedestrians at the crosswalk.”

This morning’s death is a stark reminder that the current condition of our downtown streets is unacceptable. They are a ticking time bomb that we should treat with similar urgency. When streets are dominated by drivers and cars, drivers and cars will dominate. We can’t implement these Central City in Motion projects soon enough. And we need to plan even more of them. Portlanders deserve a safe and inviting downtown where driving is discouraged and demoted, and where a foot on pavement is more powerful than a foot on a gas pedal.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Cycle Oregon puts ‘Weekender’ event on hold

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 09:41


*Photos of 2017 Weekender event in McMinnville by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland

2019 C.O. Dates

Mark your calendars, and start training!

  • Kickoff Party – 1/30
  • Gravel – 5/17 ~ 5/19
  • Joyride – 6/22
  • Classic – 9/7 ~ 9/14

In its 32nd year of existence, the venerable Cycle Oregon is evolving once again. In recent years, the nonprofit known for its week-long “Classic” ride, has added women-only and gravel events to broaden its appeal and accessibility.

Now Cycle Oregon has decided to put their popular Weekender event on hold. Here’s what CO Executive Director Steve Schulz shared with us about it in an email this morning:

“WEEKENDER has been a Cycle Oregon staple since 2004, hosting the event for tens of thousands of cyclists over the years all throughout the Willamette Valley. Offering daily routes for every level of cyclist, it’s been home to every age group and ability, providing activities and amenities for both young and old, and it’s important to us to continue to offer an event for such a broad audience.

However, over the last number of years attendance of the WEEKENDER has decreased annually. Accordingly, Cycle Oregon has decided to re-examine the event and its operational model. We want to create a way to incorporate some of the ideas its long-time riders have provided, strengthen the event from all angles, and bring it back positioned for the next decade. The format of an all levels inclusive event won’t be changing; this is one of the finest parts of this Cycle Oregon offering and something we’re very proud of. We look forward to bringing WEEKENDER back to the Cycle Oregon line of events in the future.

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The Weekender is a great event that offers much of the appeal of the Classic ride but in a form that makes it more accessible to families and people who can’t block out a week in September and/or can’t afford the registration fee ($999). In 2015 we noted how it was one of the very few major organized bike rides where women outnumbered the men. Originally conceived as a family-oriented event, in past years it’s also become a perfect place to hang out for a few days with your riding buddies.

In other Cycle Oregon news, the big 2019 route unveiling and kickoff party is January 30th at the Portland Art Museum. The first 500 people in the door will get the honor of early registration and be entered into the drawing for a “Golden Ticket” — an all-access free pass to the 2019 Classic Ride.

And if you’re looking forward to Cycle Oregon’s Gravel or Joyride events, mark your calendars for May 17th-19th and June 22nd respectively. This year’s Classic will run from September 7th to 14th.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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City, state will team up for new bikeway and signal on Lombard

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 11:24

Latest concept drawing for new crossing of North Lombard at Fenwick/Concord. Note that “access control” likely refers to closing or narrowing driveways of adjacent properties.

The Concord Avenue neighborhood greenway has only one gap in its 2.4 mile route between Overlook Park and North Argyle Street in the Kenton neighborhood: the offset crossing of Lombard Street (a.k.a. Highway 30). But with a new agreement between the Oregon Department of Transportation (they own and manage Lombard) and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, that gap will soon be filled.

The two agencies recently hashed out an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) so that PBOT could do the work to build a new crossing that will link Concord on the south side of Lombard with Fenwick to the north. It’s a much-needed upgrade to an intersection isn’t as safe as it should be. Not only is this a designated neighborhood greenway route, but it’s a popular connector between two neighborhoods (Arbor Lodge and Kenton) and there’s a high school directly adjacent to it.

Streetview looking west on Lombard. Concord is on the left, the half-signal and Fenwick are in the background.

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The gap.

The existing crossing infrastructure — known as a pedestrian half-signal — is also not compliant with federal guidelines. A half-signal exists when there’s a standard traffic signal for the major road, but only stop signs for the minor roads. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) explicitly prohibits the use of half-signals due to safety concerns. Studies have shown that when someone actuates the traffic signal on the main road, drivers from the side-street think it’s an opportunity to turn and they don’t realize (or they don’t see) the people in the crosswalk. As of 2015, Portland had 47 such signals and because they’re not recommended by the MUTCD, we haven’t installed one since 1986.

PBOT plans to spend $2 million in Transportation System Development Charges to improve this crossing. In addition to the full signal upgrade they plan to add ADA improvements to the curbs and sidewalk, and create a new bike lane on Lombard. As you can see in the latest concept drawing, the plan is to stripe an unprotected, five-feet wide eastbound bike lane and create a westbound bike lane on the sidewalk for the short distance between Concord and the crossing at Fenwick.

As you can see in the cross-sections below, the bike lanes would be separated by a two-foot buffer. The space to add them would come from an existing planted median on the sidewalk and from narrowing one of the existing lanes:

(Graphic: ODOT)

Longtime readers will recall that we first mentioned an improvement at this crossing in 2010.

PBOT Communications Director John Brady said today that with the IGA with ODOT now signed, they can move onto final design work. It will be a few months yet until we get an estimated date of completion. Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Bike shop news roundup: New shop, new owners, and more break-ins

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 13:23

Tom Martin is the new ower of TomCat Bikes on SE Milwaukie in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

They say the only constant is change; and that’s certainly true for Portland bike shops.

In 2018 we saw several high-profile closures with 21st Avenue Bicycles, Velo Cult and all three Performance Bicycle locations closing their doors.

But the news wasn’t all bad: A new shop opened on Mt. Hood and Golden Pliers, that opened in June on North Skidmore at Interstate, has quickly become a favorite of many.

We’re sure to see more evolution in the local bike shop scene this year. Before we get too behind on this beat, I wanted to share a few news updates that have been accumulating in my notebook…

Tuite Bicycle Repair changes hands
Tommy Tuite opened Tuite Bicycle Repair in September 2015 and he recently decided to move on. Tommy and his family have moved out of the north Portland neighborhood served by his small — but very awesome! — shop. Tommy earned many loyal customers for his professional and caring work. It’s sad to see him go. The good news is that he’s moved to the east Portland neighborhood of Gateway and tells us there’s a good chance he will fire up another small bike shop closer to his new home once he gets settled and finds the right location. The Gateway area can definitely use another great bike shop. Good luck Tommy!

The North Tabor neighborhood has a new bike shop!
(Photo: Mount Tabor Cyclery on Instagram)

But wait, there’s more good news! Tommy has handed over the keys to the shop to Rachel Cameron, a professional mechanic and experienced racer who plans to keep it going. Stay tuned for more once she gets all moved in

New shop on E Burnside and 55th 
Mount Tabor Cyclery opened late last fall in the corner space of the shopping center on the south side of East Burnside and 55th. Owner Winona Ruth lives in the neighborhood and has worked as a bike mechanic for over 10 years. The shop opens at 7:00 am on weekdays for those of who commute or just like to get things done on the early-side.

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WTF Bikes is now TomCat Bikes
Tom “TomCat” Martin has taken over the shop formerly known as WTF Bikes. WTF opened in 2009 and its owner Tom Daly sold to Martin last fall. Martin is a bike industry and bike shop veteran (formerly of The e-Bike Store), but this is his first time running his own shop. During a visit in November, he told me the plan is to focus on service, entry-level commuter bikes, and rental for big events like Pedalpalooza and the Portland Winter Light Festival. Martin is also a Burning Man veteran, so if you need a “Playa bike,” TomCat is the place to go. Check out TomCatBikes.com.

Multiple break-ins at Gladys Bikes
Gladys owner Leah Benson had a roller-coaster end to 2018. After celebrating five years in business and re-upping her NE Alberta Street lease for another five, she was hit by thieves twice in one week. As she reported on Twitter, someone stole an e-bike off the showroom floor on Christmas Eve. Then they (or someone else?) returned two nights later and broke in through one of the shop’s main front windows. Fortunately they didn’t get any bikes on the second try, but it’s a big hit for a small shop during the slowest time of the season.

Neighborhood shops are a vital part of our local cycling ecosystem. Support yours today!

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Family Biking: Share your new bike stories!

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 16:37

New bikes don’t care about the weather!
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

I don’t observe Christmas myself, but I’m happy to celebrate it with other people. One of my favorite parts of this season seeing kids and adults on new (or new-to-them) bikes.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Our first few years in the Pacific Northwest were spent in a Seattle neighborhood called Green Lake. The neighborhood’s most prominent feature is a lake surrounded by a three-mile multi-use path. I loved walking or biking to the lake on Christmas Day to watch all the kids trying out their new bikes. Seeing kids on their first bike — and remembering what it felt like myself — never gets old.

Nowadays our bikes are more for transportation and not just for fun (though also for fun, of course!). And as such, in our family we tend to get new bike stuff as soon as we need it (without waiting for the holidays). This means I don’t personally have any new bikes to share photos of. But I’d love to hear your stories of exciting new holiday bikes and bike accessories.

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Hand-me-down bikes sometimes come with strings (or brothers) attached.

Have you seen any kids testing out new wheels over this holiday week? Did you gift your little one(s) the magic of a new bike? I hope to see many new pedalers in the coming weeks.

Happy holidays everyone!

UPDATE: Reader Tad Reeves just shared this great video and story via Twitter:

Our new bike story was early this year, as we got my daughter her first full-size bike – a 26.5 Trek Marlin, and took her to Whistler Mountain Bike Park to shred. The video footage speaks for itself. I don't think she's ever been as exhilarated. https://t.co/haxKCiSTsW

— Tad Reeves (@ScientologyDad) December 28, 2018

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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The Oregonian: Saudi government helped Fallon Smart’s killer flee the US

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 16:04

The Oregonian reported on Monday that the Saudi Arabian government was actively involved in helping Abdulrahman Noorah flee the United States and circumvent justice for his role in the death of 15-year old Fallon Smart.

Noorah is the man who drove recklessly down Southeast Hawthorne Blvd in August 2016 and struck Smart as she tried to cross at 43rd Avenue.

Almost immediately after we first reported on this horrific tragedy, many in the community predicted Noorah would evade authorities. He was in Portland on a student visa living off a monthly stipend paid for by the Saudi government. On June 12th, 2017 just before his scheduled trial, Noorah removed his GPS monitoring device and went missing. That wasn’t surprising to prosecutors or Smart’s family — both of whom considered Noorah a major flight risk. He would likely have still been in custody if the Saudi government hadn’t paid off $100,000 of his $1 million bail.

Here’s how Noorah’s escape went down, according to The Oregonian:

He [Noorah] received permission from his release supervisor, Deputy Kari Kolberg, to study at the community college’s Southeast 82nd Avenue campus on Saturday, June 10.

That afternoon, according to investigators, a GMC Yukon XL arrived outside Noorah’s home on Southeast Yamhill Street and picked him up.

GPS data from Noorah’s monitor bracelet shows he traveled east along Southeast Division Street until the SUV arrived at Portland Sand & Gravel on 106th Avenue, prosecutors said.

This past July, more than 13 months after Noorah first disappeared, the Saudi government contacted Homeland Security, the Marshals Service said. It informed the agency that he arrived back in the kingdom on June 17, 2017. That leaves seven days after Noorah cut off his monitor to the date of his return to his country that remain unaccounted for, Wahlstrom said. The Saudi government hasn’t answered U.S. questions about how Noorah made it back to the kingdom or provided additional details about him.

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Federal investigators at this time believe the Saudis issued Noorah a new passport, probably under a different name, to make the long journey home, according to the marshals. He would not have been able to clear customs or cross international borders without one, Wahlstrom said.

Based on their unsuccessful canvass of airports and commercial flights, federal law enforcement officials also believe Noorah most likely traveled on a private carrier, which have less rigorous oversight, according to Wahlstrom.

On June 13th 2017, just three days after The Oregonian has now confirmed Noorah was whisked back home on a private plane, Multnomah County District Attorney Shawn Overstreet downplayed the Saudi government’s ties to the case. Overstreet told BikePortland that the Saudi government wouldn’t help such a low-level character like Noorah. “They wouldn’t do that for this guy,” he said. Overstreet went so far as to say that if Noorah did return he’d get a very cold reception from his native country — and that he might even face jail time.

Of course back then the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were not involved in a major diplomatic row over the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In response to Smart’s death, the City of Portland updated the crossing at Hawthorne and 43rd with a concrete median and a striped crosswalk.

UPDATE 12/28/18: As reported by The Oregonian, US Senator Ron Wyden is demanding a response from the Trump Administration:

I’m demanding answers from the Trump administration on Saudi involvement in a manslaughter suspect’s escape from Portland. Saudi Arabia’s brazen actions in recent months show a clear disregard for the rule of law. https://t.co/u5g6IZDPBK

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) January 1, 2019

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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In push to save lives, Oregon Senator wants to lower DUI limit to .05

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 12:44

In 1983, Utah was the first state to lower the level of blood alcohol content that would qualify for a DUI arrest when they went from .10 to .08. Then Oregon followed suit.

Now we’re poised to follow Utah again as the second state to reduce the DUI limit even further to .05.

That’s the intention of a bill (PDF) that’s been introduced by Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, which is still in draft form until the legislative session formally begins next month.

A one-pager (PDF) released by Sen. Courtney’s office, says Senate Bill 7 follows a 2013 recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that all states adopt .05. The NTSB reports lowering BAC limits from .10 to .08 led to a 10.4% reduction in alcohol-related fatalities between 1982 and 2014. They also estimate a lowering to .05 would save 1,790 lives a year.

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Chart from the NTSB comparing impacts of BAC levels.

Below are the selling points of this legislation as per Sen. Courtney’s one-pager that’s making the rounds to safe streets advocates and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) staff (note, they were drafted before Utah passed their law):

• BAC limits have been changed before, and fairly recently. Oregon and Utah were the first states to move from a 0.10 to 0.08 in 1983, Delaware was the last state to adopt 0.08 in 2014.
• Many countries have enacted a .05 BAC limit, including Australia, most of the EU, Hong Kong, Israel, and South Africa.
• A 160-pound man would have to drink 4 alcoholic drinks an hour to reach a BAC of 0.08, verses 3/hour to reach 0.05.
• Drivers with a BAC of 0.05-0.79 are 7 times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers with no alcohol in their system.*
• According to the NTSB, lowering BAC limits from .10 to .08 reduced annual alcohol related fatalities by 10.4% nationwide. NTSB estimates a reduction from .08 to .05 would result in an 11.1% decline in fatal crashes.*
• Decreasing BAC limits does not reduce average alcohol consumption.*

In a phone interview with Sen. Courtney this morning, he said the growing distractions inside cars and the prevalence of alcoholism in his family influenced his thinking on the issue. “I’ve had alcoholism on both sides of my family, I fear it more than any other drug,” he said. “I don’t need any studies on this. I grew up with it. There’s this attitude you can drink and drive. You have no damn business behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking. I don’t want to hear it. If you drink, fine. But you better have plans to not drive. You better start walking. You better call an Uber or Lyft.”

The bill as currently written would make one simple amendment to ORS 813.010, changing every instance of “.08” to “.05”. Utah just passed a similar law that goes into effect December 30th.

Lowering Oregon’s BAC level has been a goal of ODOT for years. It’s currently listed as a “Tier 1” priority in the state’s Transportation Safety Action Plan (PDF). That plan reports impaired driving (alcohol and/or drugs) was a factor in 22 percent of all fatal and serious injury crashes in Oregon between 2009 and 2013. That equates to 625 fatalities and 1,087 serious injuries.

And yes, in Oregon bicycle riders can be arrested for DUI.

Lisa Taylor, an assistant legislative director in Sen. Courtney’s office, says they’re seeking public feedback on the bill. She can be reached at (503) 986-1604 or at lisa.taylor@oregonlegislature.gov.

Another place for feedback and debate about this bill will be the Governor’s Advisory Committee on DUII, whose mission is to, “… Generate public support for increased enforcement of state and local drunk-driving laws. Educate the public as to the dangers of driving while under the influence and its effects on life and property.” Their next meeting is on January 4th in Salem.

Sen. Courtney downplays the chances of the bill. “I’m a laughingstock for this. I doubt it will get a public hearing.” He said he expects major blowback from the restaurant and alcohol lobbyists. “That industry is going to fight this, because that’s how they make a living.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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TriMet, PBOT say no further federal study needed on Gideon Overcrossing project

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 11:18

“We disagree that a Supplemental EIS is needed.”
— Dylan Rivera, PBOT

TriMet and the City of Portland are refuting one of the central arguments being made by a business owner who wants to derail the Gideon Overcrossing project.

As we reported yesterday, several businesses on SE 14th are very concerned that the proposed bridge and elevators over light rail and Union Pacific Railroad tracks near Clinton Street Station will have a major negative impact on their ability to unload trucks and access loading zones and parking lots.

As designed, the structure that would land on SE 14th would use only existing public right-of-way, but it would constrain space currently used by truck operators to access businesses. There are also fears that what some consider a heavily industrial street will be too dangerous for the added volume of walkers and bikers that will use the new bridge.

One of those business owners, Michael Koerner of Koerner Camera Systems, is so upset with TriMet and the Portland Bureau of Transportation over how they’ve rolled out the project, he hired a land-use attorney to fight it. Koerner has several beefs with the project and the agencies behind it; but the central argument — as laid out in a letter from his lawyer to the regional head of the Federal Transit Administration — is that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) must be completed for the project. This federally regulated review would be a massive undertaking for TriMet and would delay a project that is close to breaking ground.

Koerner says he supports an overcrossing, but not at 14th right outside his business. He and his attorney Jennifer Bragar of Tomasi Salyer Martin say it should be built several blocks east at SE 16th Avenue — at the same location of the old crossing that was torn down in 2013. They say they’ve been blindsided by the location at 14th and that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) completed in 2010 for TriMet’s Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project never mentioned the new location.

In her letter to the FTA, Brager wrote: “The FEIS did not suggest that the bridge would be replaced in a location that differed from its original siting at SE 16th and Gideon.”

But that’s not accurate, say TriMet and PBOT officials.

TriMet Communications Manager Roberta Altstadt contacted us yesterday to say, “Claims were made that 14th Avenue was not considered in the FEIS. It was.” Altstadt supplied an excerpt from the PMLR Project FEIS (PDF). On page 2-12, it states:

“In addition, a pedestrian overcrossing of the UPRR tracks currently located west of SE 16th Avenue and SE Brooklyn Street would be removed. A new pedestrian overcrossing that would include ramps meeting ADA requirements would be constructed from SE 14th Avenue over the UPRR to the Clinton Station… the construction of this overpass would be deferred, but the project will still be designed to meet ADA requirements and includes the other station area access improvements described above.”

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View from Koerner Camera Systems looking out on SE 14th where the Gideon Overcrossing would be built. The big rig is right where the elevator and stairs would come down.
(Photo: Lisa Cicala)

Altstadt also reiterated that the initial scope of the project would have required the removal of the building currently occupied by K & F Coffee Roasters and that the current proposal has a lesser impact.

PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera also contacted us with a statement about the project. “We disagree that a Supplemental EIS is needed,” he wrote in an email yesterday.

Rivera said PBOT and TriMet are working together to reduce the project’s impact on loading and unloading activities. As for concerns from business owners that the project will introduce a major safety hazard to bicycle users and walkers, Rivera says, “This is a low-traffic street with low-speed vehicle traffic. We think bicycles, pedestrians and freight can be safely accommodated here, as they are in many other locations in Portland.”

Rivera added that they’re considering creating a new loading zone for Sustainable Northwest Wood, another business on 14th that requires large truck access. Currently, those trucks park in the middle of the street and unload with a forklift. Rivera says the trucks create a major safety hazard and that a new loading zone would improve sight lines for all users. The catch is, it would require removal of several on-street auto parking spaces.

To cement his case that 14th in this location is a very low-traffic street, Rivera supplied us with recent traffic counts. On December 12th, PBOT counted 320 total vehicles, including three large tractor trailers and 33 small and medium-sized trucks. The count was similar to previous counts PBOT has performed at this location in 2015 and 2016. For reference, PBOT’s standard for Neighborhood Greenways is fewer than 1,000 cars/trucks per day and their new “Shared Streets” standard is less than 500 cars/trucks per day.

In an email after our story was published, Koerner emphasized his concerns about safety. “The safety issue is paramount, the congestion which will be created with the structure in front of my office will cause additional safety concerns. Everyone on the street wants safety studies completed before the bridge is built.”

He also supplied us with several letters from people opposed to the project. One of them is Lisa Cicala, executive director of the Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA), a non-profit based in Koerner’s building. Cicala shared the image above and wrote, “Considering the industrial traffic on this road, it’s so important to take these safety concerns into serious consideration. If an injury can be prevented or a life saved because due diligence was done, it will be worth it.”

“Safety studies” are much different than a federally regulated SEIS done according to the National Environmental Protection Act review process. Perhaps Koerner and others would be satisfied with a compromise where TriMet and PBOT complete a safety plan/report and promise certain mitigations if/when safety hazards crop up? We’ll see.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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The post TriMet, PBOT say no further federal study needed on Gideon Overcrossing project appeared first on BikePortland.org.