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Friday Opinion: The bills I wish we were working on this session

Fri, 03/15/2019 - 08:52

Bicycle riders should be included in Oregon’s “Move Over Law.”
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

There are plenty of important bills down in Salem this session, but as you might have noticed in the list of bills we’re tracking — and despite a supermajority for Democrats — bicycling doesn’t seem like much a priority. (Not that bicycling is a partisan issue, but in general Democrats tend to be more receptive to it than Republicans.)

When arguably the biggest bike bill in the mix is one that merely clarifies an existing law that bike lanes don’t disappear in intersections, you know it’s another down year for cycling in Salem.

I can think of several reasons why the issue has lost urgency with lawmakers; but instead of lamenting the state of cycling in our politics, I want to share a few legal ideas I wish we were working on.

Bike tax repeal: The $15 tax on new bicycles that passed in the 2017 session is an embarrassment for our state. It was created as a tool to help make increases in automobile fees and taxes more politically palatable. It was also the product of lawmakers seeking to quiet constituents who constantly berate them with the tired “bicyclists don’t pay!” mantra. It makes no sense, it doesn’t raise a significant amount of revenue ($610,000 for the entire year, about half what was expected, while costing taxpayers $115,000 to administer), it discourages a behavior that should be promoted, and — newsflash! — it won’t shut up the haters. I heard there was some organizing from an independent lobbyist to work on a repeal, but I don’t think that effort got off the ground.

Idaho Stop: Allowing bicycle users to treat stop signs as yields is a sensible way to improve cycling. As we reported in January, the circus of enforcement at stop signs has been a perennial problem in Portland. We very nearly passed Idaho Stop in 2009 and it deserves another chance.

Move over for bike riders: Oregon should trash its existing bicycle passing law (which is ineffective, unknown, and therefore relatively pointless) and amend our much stronger Move Over Law to include bicycle riders, similar to a bill currently being discussed in Washington. The legislature recently expanded the Move Over Law to include drivers on the side of the road. Bicycle riders deserve the same respect.

Studded tire tax: This should be a no-brainer. Studded tires cause millions in damage to our roads each year and they’re not necessary for the vast majority of people who choose to use them. Washington’s legislature has taken up a $100 fee and eventual ban. Oregon should do the same.

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E-bike incentives: Oregon has rebate programs for electric cars and motorcycles. Those programs should include electric bikes.

Rise to new heights.

Photo Credit: Adam P. #RamHeavyDuty pic.twitter.com/zrHmGSajr3

— RamTrucks (@RamTrucks) March 14, 2019

Big truck tax: There’s growing awareness that the alarming rise in fatal collisions involving walkers can be partly attributed to the increased popularity of large personal trucks (like the obscene one above). These huge trucks with massive front ends are largely a product of automakers’ greed and selfish consumerism — not a need for cargo and utility. If a person doesn’t have a commercial/business license, we should tax the purchase of large trucks and SUVs and put the revenue in a Vision Zero Safety project fund.

Bicycle Safety Corridors: ODOT already has a “Safety Corridor” program. We should expand it and create “Bicycle Safety Corridors.” In more rural areas with popular bike routes, these stretches of road could come with increased fines for violations, more “Bikes on Roadway” signage, bicycle pullouts, more frequent sweeping/maintenance intervals, wider shoulders, and so on.

I love dreaming up new legislation. That’s the easy part! I know it takes a lot of work to turn them into laws.

Hopefully by the 2021 session cycling will be ready to emerge from the shadows and flex its muscles again as an issue worth fighting for at the State Capitol.

What do you think of my wish list? Any of these worth pursuing? What new cycling-related laws do you dream about?

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

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Jobs of the Week: Western Bikeworks

Fri, 03/15/2019 - 07:36

Two fresh job listings this week. Both from our partners at Western Bikeworks.

Learn more about each one via the links below…

–> Seasonal Part-Time Sales Associate – Western Bikeworks

–> Part-Time Service Writer – Western Bikeworks

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

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Here’s why Portland Parks will install stop signs on the Springwater

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 13:01

Westbound SE Harney Street. ODOT says stop signs are needed on the path because they’re worried vehicle users on streets like this will wait on railroad tracks for path users to cross.

When we learned the Portland Parks & Recreation bureau planned to install 10 new stop signs on a newly paved, half-mile section of the Springwater Corridor, several readers contacted us to express their frustration.

Illustration by ODOT Rail Division to explain their plans for the Springwater.

Stop signs for carfree path users (especially at very low-volume cross-streets) make for inefficient riding and decrease the utility of the trail. Not only that, but psychology and best practices tell us it’s actually less safe to install stop signs that will be ignored by users because people become desensitized to them. It would be much wiser to install caution or yield signs for path users and only require a full stop from the occasional cross-street user.

But that’s not how the Oregon Department of Transportation sees it. They required Portland Parks to install the stop signs as part of their Sellwood Gap project currently under construction.

In a project update from the Parks Bureau on March 7th, Parks’ Community Engagement Coordinator Ken Rumbaugh confirmed that the intersections of SE Umatilla, Harney, Marion, 9th, Linn, 11th, and 13th will become four-way stops (cross-streets currently have yields). Then he added, “In these instances, the cyclist(s) and/or pedestrian(s) will have the right of way.”

After a few days of emailing various staffers of ODOT’s Rail Division (who’s in charge of this area due to the extant railroad line adjacent to the path), I finally got an explanation of their rationale for requiring the stop signs.

ODOT Public Affairs Manager Shelley Snow they deferred to the Federal Highway Administration’s Rails With Trails – Lessons Learned report (PDF). I had emailed her examples of the Alta Planning Rural Design Guide and the AASHTO Bikeway Design Guide — both of which warn against using stop signs for path users. “The guides you mention are great when it comes to those more common types of intersections,” Snow replied. “But apparently trails/paths running right alongside rails are not that common.”

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This queue of vehicles can spill back across the tracks, putting drivers that obey the law and stop for trail users, in danger.
— ODOT

Snow said there are not design standards ODOT could refer to for this project, only the “lessons learned” from the FHWA. Based on ODOT’s analysis of that FHWA guidance, Snow says their primary concern is that people using cars (and other vehicles) on the cross-streets might end up waiting on the railroad tracks. Here’s how Snow put it:

“The key factor here is that without the stop signs where they are now, the traffic coming from the other direction could get stuck on the tracks waiting for the free flow of path users to go by. Thus, the stop signs were placed to stop the path users, decreasing the chance that road users are stopped on the tracks.”

And here it is put another way by ODOT Rail Crossing Safety Manager Rick Shankle,

“There are three different modes of transportation, on three different alignments, intersecting in one place. The train has the right-of way over the other users, and the motor vehicles must yield to pedestrian use on the trail. The STOP sign on the trail intersection with each of these streets, and the STOP signs on the streets essentially make each of these intersections a 4-way stop, and reduce the potential for motor vehicles to stop on the tracks while waiting for a pathway user to cross the street.”

Snow also provided me with a document titled Springwater Study that states,

“According to Oregon law, once a pedestrian sets foot in the crosswalk or multi use path, vehicles approaching from both directions must stop and remain stopped until the pedestrian exits the driver’s lane, plus half of an adjacent lane. In locations near railroad tracks this queue of vehicles can spill back across the tracks, putting drivers that obey the law and stop for trail users, in danger of collisions with trains using the railroad tracks. Not only is this a safety concern, but Oregon has long had a law in the vehicle code prohibiting a vehicle from stopping, standing, or parking on a grade crossing or otherwise interfering with rail operations.”

Snow said the City of Portland, Parks bureau, ODOT Active Transportation staff and railroad representatives all agreed on the design.

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

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Weekend Event Guide: PedPDX, Afghan Cycles, Dirty Circles, Kidical Mass, and more!

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 10:51

70s in the forecast!
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

It feels like spring has finally arrived and we can sense the bicycling buzz out there.

This week’s guide kicks off with three events tomorrow, including a bonus wonky one during your lunch hour.

Friday, March 15th

PBOT Lunch & Learn — Addressing Equity through Citywide Pedestrian Planning — 11:30 am at PSU Karl Miller Center (SW)
The product of two years of work, PBOT is proud to share their PedPDX Plan. This Lunch & Learn session (note new venue!) is a great way to get more intimate with its findings and recommendations. More info here.

Afghan Cycles Film Screening – 8:30 pm at Regal Fox Tower (SW)
This film is well-timed for Women’s Month as it chronicles the oppressive societal conditions Afghani women face for the simple act of riding their bicycles. More info here.

Dropout Bicycle Club Monthly Ride – 10:00 pm at Colonel Summers Park (SE)
The Dropout’s are one of the many fun-loving bike clubs that roam our streets. More info here.

Saturday, March 16th

Slow Poke Ride – 10:00 am at Wilshire Park (NE)
Join the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club for a 25 mile (or so) jaunt up to Kelley Point Park and then over to Madrona Hill Cafe near the Willamette bluffs. More info here.

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Kidical Mass at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade – 10:30 am at Sellwood Park (SE)
Join your local chapter of Kidical Mass to revel in the Irish spirit at this traditional parade. Don’t forget the green decorations on your bikes! More info here.

Sunday, March 17th

Dirty Circles – All day in Woodland, WA
The OBRA road racing season has begun! And what better way to kick things off than with a relatively nearby venue with a flat course that will help shed those cobwebs out of your legs and get you excited for competition once again? Race categories tailored for all fitness levels. More info here.

Luck of the Irish Ride – 12:30 pm at Vera Katz Statue on the Esplanade (SE)
Join experienced ride leader Tom Howe for a ride based on the classic 1948 movie “The Luck of the Irish” in which the main character has a life-changing encounter with a leprechaun at a magical waterfall. More info here.

Stay plugged into all the bike and transportation-related events around the region via our comprehensive event calendar.

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

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A dog, a crash, and now, recovery

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 09:35

Heading down NW Cornell Rd toward Skyline Blvd.
(Photos: Martin Stabler)

This story was written by Martin Stabler

Dog and bike collide. Aaron Edge doesn’t know if the dog is OK; he is definitely not OK. It was a bad bike crash.

(Photo by nurse at Legacy Emanuel Hospital.)

Aaron doesn’t remember much, but a dog, off leash, ran across Skyline Boulevard from the parking lot of the Skyline Restaurant and right into Aaron’s path. The restaurant is at the intersection of Skyline and Cornell Road. He was heading downhill on Skyline, going north. It’s a very common route for cyclists. He’s done it dozens of times.

He said, “I’m told the dog wasn’t in the middle of the road, it was running towards me so there wasn’t a way for me to avoid it.” In his first email to me he told me, “I’m meant to suffer, so it seems, not to actually die… one fractured vertebra (C-7), a broken scapula, two cracked ribs, two broken fingers and a gnarly, memory-reducing concussion. Life is not controllable. I’m at my home, healing, counting blessings, ignoring bad luck, regrouping, recovering.”

The accident happened on Feb 21st I first met Aaron at Western Bikeworks where he works part-time (you might recall when BikePortland featured his custom bikes back in 2015). One day I noticed a display of his photographs. As a photographer, I was curious, so we got to talking and he decided to subscribe to my Daily Sightings email (which included photos and a poem). Periodically he sent me photographs.

He knows his stuff when it comes to bikes and clothing and gear. He’s my go-to guy at Western when I need something for the bike. So when I got that first email it was a like a gut-punch. I replied, asking for details.

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He said it was hard for him to type because multiple sclerosis (MS) affects his hands and he’d broken two fingers in the crash. Instead, he sent an audio file with more details. “I totaled a bunch of bike parts,” including electronic shifters which are easier to use because of his MS. “Rear wheel is completely torn in half.” The steel frame is dented, but intact.

“I ride bikes a lot, and when it comes to crashes, it’s not a matter of if, but when, and you just have to be strong enough to get through them all.”

He was unconscious for 20 minutes. An ambulance brought him to Legacy Emanuel Hospital where he stayed for three days.

Aaron doesn’t remember being in the ER, but he was told he kept asking the staff, “Just let me die.” He told me, “That does sound like something I might say. It’s been a particularly hard winter on me, and this whole experience made it a little more tough.”

Aaron doesn’t remember much about his stay at Emanuel. He knows he had visitors, but can’t recall their visits.

He went on to say, “I ride bikes a lot, and when it comes to crashes, it’s not a matter of if, but when, and you just have to be strong enough to get through them all.”

A day after he sent the audio file he emailed to say, “I’m very depressed about all of this, not reaching out to friends and avoiding visits at this time. I’m just not in a good place. I’m scared for my health and thinking about the bills and bike part replacement is daunting.”

Alarm bells sounded in my head and I replied: “Make me a promise, OK? Promise me you won’t kill yourself. And promise me that if you are seriously thinking of suicide that you contact me or someone who can help.”

He said, “I’ll be OK.” I wanted to hear, “I promise,” but I settled for the “OK.”

Aaron at the scene of the crash.

A few days later I met him at his small studio apartment in the Pearl District. He lives alone and does not have a partner, but he has friends and a group of band-mates (he’s a musician). He showed me his broken bike, as well as three other bikes, then I helped him into my car, and we headed up into the West Hills to take pictures at the crash site.

En route he told me “Everyone who rides a lot has come across dogs or kids in their path… experienced riders know not to over-compensate or brake too hard. I’ve been riding long enough that I feel confident in my skills… I know to lean back on my bike so I don’t slide out, and go as straight as I can.”

Aaron’s had two major accidents in the past; the last one was in 2015 when he broke his back while mountain biking. “Once you’ve had a couple of crashes, it gets a little easier only because you know what to expect.”

But it’s difficult nonetheless. In another audio file he said, “It’s difficult to be in a tough headspace, to be alone, to choose to be alone, to already have chronic pain with the MS, and now broken bones, and not have a clear outlook on what lies ahead. The nerve trouble I have, and the stress, is heightened by the accident. There’s no way to work around that. And to not be active is pretty difficult.”

He’s just made a series of follow-up appointments with physicians and is looking for a PT. Because he doesn’t have a car, he needs all his providers to be within a mile of his apartment. On the drive back he said he doesn’t blame the dog owners — or the dog. I asked if he wanted to seek legal counsel or if he plans to pursue legal action. No. His focus, he said, is on healing — both mental and physical. “I hope I come out of the depression about this, because it’s a pretty significant part of the accident.”

He has not tried to contact the dog owners, nor have they contacted him. Aaron said there was a witness — a woman in a van behind him — but he doesn’t have her contact information. Were there police on the scene? He doesn’t know. “If I was told, I forgot in the fog of pain and drugs while in the hospital.”

I asked about what help he needed. “I have all the help that I need. As soon as I feel ready, I can reach out to friends.” (I learned later that he was having his band-mates over to listen to a new record.)

He doesn’t know how long he’ll be out of work, and understandably, is worried about finances. Hospital bills have begun arriving. (I just learned his band-mates have set a Go-Fund-Me
account: Worst Luck / Best Friends (for Aaron Edge.) What does he want from doing this story? “I want people to know my story. My crash reminds us to be more cautious, to just be mindful of the kinds of accidents that can happen on bicycles.”

As his story ripples through the cycling community, we are reminded, yet again, of the appalling randomness of such crashes. If we haven’t already, we’ll add dogs to our library of threats.

My own take on this is that Aaron does indeed want to share his story. His crash has had a profound effect on him and I think there is something about telling the story that contributes to healing. Telling is connecting. And connecting brings light into the darkness.

— Martin Stabler, martinstabler@gmail.com

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Thieves steal seven bikes from Block Bikes in St. Johns

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 11:14

Block Bikes owner Ben Helgren is on the lookout for seven bikes after being hit by thieves on Sunday night (3/10).

In a post on his Facebook page, Helgren said the theft happened after the shop celebrated its sixth anniversary over the weekend. “As a small local business, our margins aren’t as big as some of the other shops and this certainly makes a dent right as the season is starting,” he wrote.

The thieves grabbed seven, yet-to-be assembled Marin bikes from the shop’s storage trailer. Here are the models and sizes: Marin Muirwoods size XXL in Red/Gold/Green fade; Fairfax SC1 sizes XL and L in Black; Marin Four Corners sizes M and XL in Black; Marin Stinson ST7 size Med in Light Blue/tan.

Keep in mind the bikes hadn’t been built up yet, so it’s hard to know exactly how they’ll look when built — and it’s possible they might be resold as-is or for parts.

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Helgren has filed a police report and has sent video footage of the theft to the police. All seven bikes have also been listed (with serial numbers) on BikeIndex.org.

Please keep an eye out for these bikes. If you see one or know where they are, please contact the shop at (503) 819-6839 or bikeshop@blockbikespdx.com. You can also call PPB non-emergency at (503) 823-333 with tips or 911 if you see suspects in possession of the bikes.

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

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Protestors will stage “die-in” at ODOT headquarters today

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 10:40

Scene from a die-in event in 2015.
(Photo: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Less than 24 hours after hearing dozens of people share concerns about the Oregon Department of Transportation’s priorities and poor safety record, their Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer might get yet another reminder when he leaves work this afternoon.

Volunteers with Bike Loud PDX plan to stage a “die-in” and vigil for traffic victims starting at 4:30 pm today in front of the agency’s headquarters on 123 Northwest Flanders Street (event listing here). The event aims to draw attention to deaths on ODOT-controlled roads by drawing chalk-outlined bodies on the ground.

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Deaths on Oregon roads were up 9.4 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year. 467 people died last year and so far this year that number is up by 8 percent. “This ongoing tragedy too often flies under the radar,” reads a statement about the event. “The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) needs to make immediate policy changes to halt this ongoing epidemic.”

After giving brief presentations, people will “die” by laying on the ground while someone reads the names of recent victims. There will be 10 minutes of silence to recognize them and then someone will read a list of safety demands. Those demands include: adopting a statewide Vision Zero policy, the transfer of Lombard, 82nd, Barbur, Powell, and other ODOT roads to City of Portland’s jurisdiction, the requirement of side-guards on trucks, more traffic law enforcement, and more spending on “basic safety improvements.”

There will also be a large poster with the demands that will be signed by participants and delivered to ODOT’s Windsheimer.

This group held a similar event in 2015.

After the event there will be a group ride to the Lombard Multimodal Safety Project Open House. Check the Facebook event page to get involved and hear about the latest updates.

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

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ODOT’s I-5 widening project roundly rejected at first public hearing

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 09:59

ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer and City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly listened to two hours of testimony last night.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

At a public hearing held last night in the Oregon Convention Center, a wide array of Portlanders voiced detailed and passionate opposition to the I-5 Rose Quarter project.

“I don’t necessarily think fixing this poorly designed interchange on I-5 is a terrible idea. We’re not adding capacity at either end of it. We’re trying to clear up a bottleneck right?
— Chloe Eudaly, Commissioner of Transportation

From middle school students to veterans of freeway fights nearly five decades ago, their testimony exposed the myriad significant faults in this project.

People voiced concerns about the health of their children (and future children), the urgent need for investment to stem the carnage on ODOT’s deadly urban highways, the poor design of the freeway lids, the history of institutionalized racism in the original construction of I-5, fears of climate change, the lack of tolling as an option, the inadequacy of proposed bicycling infrastructure, an increase in toxic emissions mere yards away from Harriet Tubman Middle School, induced demand, ODOT’s willful obfuscation and dishonest marketing of the project, and more.

Outside of invited testimony, there were only a couple of people — out of 55 total speakers — who expressed support for the project. There was a large contingent of union reps and workers who think the project will alleviate congestion and provide good-paying jobs. However, several union workers expressed a desire to work with those opposed to the current iteration of the project in hopes of making it better (they really just need something big to build, who says it has to be a wider freeway?).

Aaron Brown with No More Freeways PDX was outside where he passed out materials and encouraged people to testify.

ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer and City of Portland Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly sat in the front of the room as panel after panel of concerned people tore into the project from a myriad of angles.

It was nothing short of a complete evisceration of ODOT’s talking points — at an event that was never on ODOT’s schedule and only happened after Commissioner Eudaly (under pressure from her constituents) requested it.

Many people mentioned how ODOT has failed to include key datasets in the Environmental Assessment (EA) that are needed to understand ODOT’s claims and assumptions about traffic volumes and emissions. After listening to two hours of testimony, Commissioner Eudaly (with ODOT’s Windsheimer sitting right next to her) told the crowd, “You have a right to have that data,” and “If it can’t be released in a timely fashion, I will ask for an extension to the comment period.” Windsheimer responded by saying the data would be made available “in the next day or two.”

With just 19 days left in the comment period, every day matters.

Asking the public to weigh in on such an important project with incomplete information is a “travesty, and it’s very disrespectful to our community,” Portlander Sarah Iannarone said in her testimony.

Iannarone also lamented how it seems we, as Portlanders, have “Lost our way” when it comes to leadership on transportation. Then, like many other people throughout the night, she appealed directly to Commissioner Eudaly. “I know that you have courage. I know you have vision. We will have your back if you stand with us on this.” “And to ODOT,” Iannarone concluded, “It’s just not going to happen. We’ll lie down on that highway before you ever build this.”

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In a lighter moment, St. Johns resident Paul Rippey stood up with his guitar and sang his clever “Induced Demand” tune while many people in the crowd joined him in the chorus: “And the thing we need to understand is, induced demand,” they sang. (We profiled Rippey and shared the lyrics to his song back in May.)

“Black lives matter, black students matter, and black lungs matter.”
— Bryan Chu, teacher at Tubman Middle School

The legacy of past freeway fights in Portland was also a strong thread last night. I counted at least three people who testified and were around and/or a part of stopping the Mt. Hood Freeway and other highway mega-projects of the past. Grant Sawyer from southeast Portland was one of them. He mentioned that during the Mt. Hood Freeway fight, activists and political leaders were able to get highway funds earmarked for the freeway project transferred to other, non-highway uses (like MAX light rail).

“Have you seen the icebergs? They’re melting. They’re melting quickly,” Sawyer said, as his voice rose in volume. “We don’t have time to screw around! To invest any money that enhances fossil fuel use is absolutely insane! Excuse my anger. But I’m pissed!”

His comments about funding prompted a response from Commissioner Eudaly, who said, “This isn’t a PBOT project, this is an ODOT project. This money is from the Highway Trust Fund. As much as I’d like to spend half a billion dollars elsewhere. It’s not my money, and it can only be spent on highways. We can’t take this money and spend it on Vision Zero city streets. It’s ODOT’s money to spend on ODOT’s highways.”

To which Sawyer replied, “That’s what the feds told us in 1975! But we did it!”

Its clear those who oppose this project see Eudaly as a potential ally who might be willing to join fellow Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty as the second City Council vote against the project. Eudaly has walked a fine line thus far, expressing support for the idea of relieving Rose Quarter congestion and a willingness to partner with ODOT to do it, while also sending signals that she remains uncomfortable with the current plans.

Many testifiers said ODOT should spend this money on deadly streets like 82nd instead of on I-5 where there is no record of deadly or serious injury crashes. During his comments, RJ Sheperd asked everyone to take a moment of silence for Juanita Francisco, the high school student who was hit and nearly killed on February 24th while trying to cross NE 82nd Avenue.

That moment stuck with Eudaly. In her closing remarks she thanked Sheperd for recognizing Francisco and then shared a personal story. “I’m someone who knows what it’s like to lose someone in a traffic crash,” she said. “To live with the knowledge that not only my father, but the two people he killed when he lost control of his vehicle, likely wouldn’t have died if that road had not been so poorly engineered. That is something I feel every time I hear about a serious injury or death on our streets.”

The urgency of the ever-present danger on ODOT-owned arterials was on the mind of northeast Portland resident Clint Culpepper. “If ODOT was truly concerned about safety, they’d spend this money on projects that would save lives tomorrow.”

Children will bear the brunt of decisions made today and many people stood up last night to defend their futures — including a few of the students themselves.

One young student read the definitions of environmental and social justice and then said, “I can see the freeway outside my building. I can also see the thick grey exhaust and that’s scary to think my friends and I are breathing that when we’re running around… If ODOT were to expand the freeway, that would be much worse.”

Bryan Chu teaches eighth graders at Tubman Middle School. He did not mince words in expressing deep concerns about new freeway lanes being built even closer to his classroom.
“PPS [Portland Public Schools] and the Oregon Department of Transportation seem to be highly efficient at perpetuating white supremacy, environmental racism, and placing profit over people and planet while claiming to have our best interests at heart,” Chu said. “But we know better.” Chu added that his students know they’re being lied to when they’re told the air is safe to breathe but see the $10 million HVAC filtration system that sits atop the school’s roof. “They understand we are a frontline community and we are always the ones made to pay the price for Portland’s progress,” he added. He then put a fine point on how he feels racism intersects with this project. “Black lives matter, black students matter, and black lungs matter.”

In her closing remarks, Commissioner Eudaly was measured in her tone. “I feel your desperation about climate change and about air pollution,” she said, before telling the crowd she has always tried to avoid living next to freeways, but, “It’s really hard to escape them.”

The commissioner then said she’d, “Throw Rian [Windsheimer of ODOT] a bone,” and laid out her most detailed comments on the project yet:

“I don’t necessarily think fixing this poorly designed interchange on I-5 is a terrible idea. We’re not adding capacity at either end of it. We’re trying to clear up a bottleneck right? I don’t think we can’t devote any resources to improvements like that. But I do believe we have to make it harder and harder for people to rely on their single-occupancy vehicles while increasing bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian infrastructure, and greatly improving our public transit system. That’s not to say I’m absolutely gung-ho about this. I’m just saying I don’t see it the same way that everyone sees it in this room.”

Then, after reiterating her belief that project funds can’t be switched to different projects, she ended with, “I’m not going to walk away from this conversation. And I hope none of you walk away. I’m convinced we can come up w something better that will better serve our whole community.”

——

Last night was amazing. There were many compelling and substantive comments made from a wide range of people. I recorded all of it (except for a minute or two) and will use them in future stories as needed. You can read more from the hearing in my live twitter thread here.

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

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Luscher Farm trail plan would create off-road riding opportunities in Lake Oswego

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 12:10

The 26-acre Brock property in Lake Oswego’s Luscher Farm Area, a picture perfect site for close-to-home trail riding.
(Photo: Chris Rotvik)

Story by former Northwest Trail Alliance President Chris Rotvik.

It’s 2020. Tucked away in a semi-wooded corner of the 148-acre Luscher Area in Lake Oswego is Farr Bike Park (just 10 miles south of Portland), with trails designed by local builder Chris Bernhardt. Riders, many of whom pedaled in on BMX bikes and dirt jumpers, drop in to one of four lines — beginner to black diamond — and punctuate each run with the fist-bumps and bonding that flow like trails in this segment of off-road cycling.

Luscher Farm Trail Plan Community Forum

March 21st, 6:00 to 8:00 pm at City of Lake Oswego Maintenance Center (17601 Pilkington Rd)

  • Trail plan website
  • Take the trail plan survey
  • Each line makes use of the seven acre site’s natural slope, so pedaling becomes secondary to extracting the maximum fun (and skill progression) from the in-built technical features. These features run the gamut from widely-spaced, gentle rollers and berms with optional bridge and log rides on the green line, to the black line’s five-foot jumps, wall rides, aggressive drops, and rock pitches among frequent, large rollers, tables, and berms.

    Soft-surface trails built with cycling in mind connect the bike park into Luscher’s larger multi-user network. At about two linear miles initially, that network is a rough match in distance to Gateway Green in east Portland, but rambles about on more than three times Gateway Green’s acreage. Riders of all ages — including many training for Oregon’s National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA)-affiliated race series for middle and high school students — hot lap their trail bikes on a circuit within the site’s easternmost Brock property, the most engaging in terms of terrain and user separation. Closer in to the amenities, families bike-stroll the trails alongside runners, walkers, and dogs.

    It’s all part of an inspired vision. Rewinding back to now, Ivan Anderholm, Lake Oswego’s director of parks and recreation, sees the Luscher Area trails as the first of a set of bike-friendly segments throughout the city, all easily connected via short jaunts on pavement into a sizable circuit, drawing out residents and drawing in employers.

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    Preliminary Farr Bike Park and Luscher Trails Concept, City of Lake Oswego.

    Everyone gains from this investment, particularly our kids. Captivated by — and often captives of — their digital devices, kids are becoming less and less interested in the outdoors. According to one study by Seattle Children’s Research Institute (and there are many more stating similar results), youth aged 10 to 16 spend just 13 minutes a day in outdoor activities. This lack of contact with the outdoors hurts their physical and mental health, sense of well-being, academic performance, and respect for the environment.

    We need to give them more urban recreation opportunities. Despite the rarity of suitable trails close to home, mountain biking and BMX have grown significantly in terms of participation nationwide — about 25 percent since 2007. Over the same period, traditional ball sports have declined as much as 38 percent. Now, mountain biking and BMX, taken together, matches soccer in popularity, ranks above softball and football, and lags only slightly behind basketball and baseball.

    Unfortunately, reminiscent of Portland’s tempestuous relationship with off-road cycling, there’s a “not in my farmyard” reaction taking place among a few folks who use the historic core of the parcel — a mid-century dairy occupying 15 percent of Luscher’s total acreage — for community farming. This historic core is untouched by the bike park and trail plans, and those plans are consistent with the Luscher Area Master Plan.

    Places like Luscher Farm are indeed precious, and are made even more so as they become more attractive to our children. Let’s share the harvest, instead of spoiling it.

    Come join me for the final plan reveal and add your voice (non-residents are welcome) on March 21st at 6:00. Details are on the City of Lake Oswego website; if nothing else, please take the online survey.

    — Chris Rotvik

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Family Biking: First impressions of the Surly Big Easy electric cargo bike

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 10:40

Pretty sure this is the first time I’ve smiled at the thought of carrying two kids and an extra bike up a hill.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

I’m borrowing a Surly Big Easy, the brand new e-assist version of my beloved Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike. It’s been with me for a week now and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it. I’ll keep it another week or two before giving it back to Surly and writing a full review.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Before my full review, I’d like to offer some quick first impressions. Even more importantly, do you have any Portland-specific tests I should make a point of running? I’m thinking of things like:

➤ Biking up to the Zoo carrying a kid?
➤ Time 100 laps around Ladd Circle in Turbo mode?
➤ Carry 200 doughnuts from VooDoo to VooDoo 2 and see if they’re still warm upon arrival?

What are your ideas?

E-assist
The Big Easy intro page and video are full of information on the bike so you can see it’s much more than just an off-white (or “tan cargo shorts”) version of my pink bike with a motor added. However, that motor — a Bosch Performance CX — with a PowerPack 500 battery is certainly one of the biggest differences. It’s amazingly powerful and I love that it kicks in immediately, not at half-a-mile-per-hour as do some older e-assists. I’ve been easing into using it and kept it on “Eco” mode (the lowest) the first couple days, which made the big, heavy bike feel like a regular bike. I thought this was sufficient for pedaling alongside my kids, but they pointed out I’ve always been the slowest of our trio (I had no idea!) and even Eco mode doesn’t make me fast enough. So now I’m in “Tour” mode, which feels like it’s pulling me along! Note: this is all pedal-assist, so I’m still pedaling and working. Beyond Tour mode is a fascinating mode called “eMTB” which I will play with at Powell Butte soon. And finally “Turbo” mode which allows me to propel the bike with two kids and a dog up big hills without stopping and while maintaining a calm conversation.

Kid accessories
As fun as the e-assist is, it’s not the most exciting part of this bike. The new Kid Corral (not in stores yet, but will be soon) consists of two comfy Deck Pads, a front Deck Bar for the front passenger, and sturdy back and side rails that can be attached in different positions. At 11 and nine years old it’s a little hard to accommodate both my kids in the Kid Corral, so this is something we’ll give extra attention to in the week ahead. I want to treat this bike like a real car-replacement for our family and go places far and hilly that we’d otherwise use the bus for, but I’m going to have to find a way to make my nine-year old feel more comfortable in the Kid Corral. And if you’re curious, the Kid Corral will fit all the Surly cargo bike decks: Big Easy, Big Dummy, and Big Fat Dummy.

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My add-ons
The bike came with stock accessories. The tires, 26” x 2.5” ExtraTerrestrials, are the widest I’ve ever had and I really like them! They feel grippy yet fast, even if I forget to put the assist on. I quickly added my Big Dummy’s Brooks B68s saddle, a basket so Pixie can ride along, two drink cages, two bells, and my after-market two-bike tow hitch. Surly makes a Big Dummy/Big Easy hitch for Surly trailers and while I don’t like pulling a trailer of stuff with my Big Dummy as I feel it’s long and heavy enough as it is, I can picture turning a Big Easy into a truck replacement by hauling around a Surly Bill Trailer.

Just for fun I hauled my Big Dummy around with the Big Easy:

And of course then I hauled the Big Easy around with the Big Dummy…which wasn’t as easy. I have a lot of stuff added to my Big Dummy (dynamo hub, fenders, basket, centerstand, etc etc) so it weighs more than the Big Easy, but the Big Easy carries its weight so differently that it’s taking some getting used to for me to lift it up curbs and tow it by bike.

Stay tuned for my full review and a photo gallery (from Jonathan!) of this bike.

Have you got a fun e-cargo bike test for me to run? Or do you have an e-bike and have any tips for me?

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

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Breadwinner Cycles has purchased Sugar Wheel Works

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 09:45

Ira Ryan (left), Jude Gerace, and Tony Pereira (note their shirts).
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

On the 10th anniversary of her Sugar Wheel Works company, Portlander Jude Gerace has decided to move on. But the good news for Portland’s bike industry is that Sugar has been bought by Breadwinner Cycles.

Later today, Breadwinner owners Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan will announce their plans to welcome Sugar’s existing employees, tools, and inventory into their space on 2323 North Williams Avenue. Jude will stay on as an advisor for three months to help with the transition.

“We were both very surprised. But as soon as we walked away, we were like, ‘yeah, we gotta’ do this!'”
— Tony Pereira, Breadwinner Cycles

In a recent interview with Tony, Ira, and Jude at Breadwinner’s shop, Jude said she’s been thinking of leaving the bike industry for several years in order to focus on her passion of helping small businesses grow. It’s something she knows a lot about. Sugar (which was Epic Wheel Works before industry giant Specialized threatened to sue over the name), began in a tiny space in southeast Portland. In the past decade, Jude has built the company into a nationally-recognized business that employs three people.

Judes sees selling her business to Breadwinner as a natural fit.

“I wanted my exit to have a triple-win. I really wanted my staff and customers to be taken care of, and I also wanted my business to feather into a business that had the same values and that could benefit from Sugar’s presence. The first people I thought of was Tony and Ira,” she shared. “I feel like when you start a business like Sugar you have a responsibility to your customers and community and staff and I take that very seriously.”

Tony and Ira launched Breadwinner in 2013, but each of them began working with Jude prior to that under their previous labels of Pereira Cycles and Ira Ryan Cycles.

When Jude asked them out to dinner late last year, they had no idea she would pop this question. “We were both very surprised,” Tony recalled. “But as soon as we walked away from Jude, we were like, ‘yeah, we gotta’ do this!'”.

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Breadwinner already points a lot of their customers to Sugar for wheelsets, and vice versa. Now all the wheelbuilding expertise and offerings will be in-house at Breadwinner. They plan to remodel their shop and Breadwinner Cafe space to include a retail storefront. The addition will allow Breadwinner to offer more services and it will reduce Sugar’s overhead expenses.

Breadwinner’s shop and cafe on N Williams Ave.

One of the factors that made this deal possible is that Sugar is in a strong financial position. “We’re taking on another successful business,” Tony explained. “It’ll be an instant revenue stream for us.” As for Breadwinner, the company sells about 100, high-end, complete bikes per year and has found a strong niche.

The move will also allow Breadwinner to flesh out its vision of being a hub of cycling industry activity. Next door to Breadwinner is Endurance PDX a bike-centric physical therapy and fitting specialist. They also sublet to Cascadia Suspension Works. And just across North Page Street is the shop of Ahearne Cycles, Igleheart Custom Frames and Forks, and Metroplis Cycles.

“Bringing in Sugar will be another opportunity to create more of a hive here,” Tony said.

This move illustrates not just how much these entrepreneurs have grown over the years, but how much Portland has changed along with them.

“We’re leading with our hearts. And I think that for us, standing here, working together and being stronger together… that’s pretty cool.”
— Jude Gerace, Sugar Wheel Works

“Our luck was being in Portland and starting our businesses when we did,” said Tony. “Portland has this vibrant bike thing going on, and I know we are all very proud of our place in that; but right now, you couldn’t start that over again. Think back 10 years ago when there was this bike-making boom. There were about 40 framebuilders in town and now there are just a handful of us.” Tony attributes some of that to a shift in the market, but the change is largely due to the steep rise in the cost of housing and shop space. When Jude started her business she paid just $185 per month for her space.

“Our businesses growing up is a good sign. We’ve survived, and we continue to grow, along with the city,” Tony said.

For Jude, she’s moving on the same way she moved in. By putting values in front of profits.

“We’re leading with our hearts. And I think that for us, standing here, working together and being stronger together… that’s pretty cool. And I think that’s the Portland thing. We’re willing to look outside of ourselves and our own individual success, and to see how we can make something happen.”

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

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ODOT’s marketing of I-5 Rose Quarter project sows distrust

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 05:57

ODOT says this should not be considered a large-scale expansion of the freeway.
(Graphic: ODOT I-5 Rose Quarter Environmental Assessment)

As you can see in the cross-sections above, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s I-5 Rose Quarter project would significantly widen Interstate 5 through Portland’s central city. And, if the project achieves ODOT’s goals for fewer crashes and faster speeds, it would also increase the number of people who drive through the corridor.

These seem like obvious facts. I can’t believe I even need to point them out. But with just 20 days left in the EA comment period, I’m afraid many people are being misled.

“It’s imprecise to say the Rose Quarter Plan will build more freeway lanes… Saying it builds more freeway lanes leaves the impression that there will be a large scale expansion of the freeway.”
— Don Hamilton, ODOT

ODOT says they can add approximately 3.2 miles of new driving lanes and shoulders to I-5 without actually widening the freeway. They also want us to believe that an estimated $250 million in new freeway facilities will not increase the number of drivers or create an incentive for more people to use the freeway. With no induced demand, coupled with a future full of high-tech cars and stronger emission regulations, ODOT says this project would actually contribute to a reduction in emissions.

What ODOT is pitching sounds too good to be true. Because it is.

ODOT knows freeways expansions and projects that increase driving capacity are controversial and politically dicey (especially in Portland). So they’ve come up with clever ways to blur reality. The trouble is, similar to how they hid images of wider freeways and lied about greenhouse gas emissions in the marketing of their failed Columbia River Crossing project, they are misleading the public with their I-5 Rose Quarter plans.

Believe what we say, not what you see

Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick represents the district this project runs through. He also sits on the powerful Joint Committee on Transportation. At a meeting with constituents Saturday morning, Portlander Kiel Johnson (who lives in Frederick’s district) asked him about the project. “He disagrees they are widening [the] freeway,” Johnson shared via Twitter. Asked to elaborate, Johnson wrote to us that Sen. Frederick said, “They are not adding two lanes but a series of on and off ramps.”

This graphic in ODOT’s EA does not reflect anything they are proposing.

Sen. Frederick works for the people, not ODOT. Yet his answer came directly from the agency’s talking points.

According to the project’s environmental assessment (EA), ODOT wants to add 4,300 feet of freeway lanes in the northbound and southbound directions (8,600 feet or 1.6 miles total). But they don’t call them new lanes. ODOT insists on the more benign terms “auxiliary lanes” or “ramp-to-ramp” lanes (they even show a graphic in the EA (at right) that shows a version of the lanes that does not match what they propose in the project). However, as you can see in a graphic shown on page 9 of the EA (below), the new northbound lanes are ramp-to-ramp-to-ramp-to-ramp-to-ramp. And in the southbound direction they are ramp-to-ramp-to-ramp-to-ramp.

Orange are proposed new lanes.

In addition to these new lanes, ODOT plans to widen the freeway by 48 more feet to make room for four, 12-foot wide shoulders on the inside and outside of the freeway in each direction for the same length as the new lanes.

Several months ago I wrote that this project was adding new freeway lanes. I got an email shortly after from ODOT Region 1 Public Information Officer Don Hamilton. “It’s imprecise to say the Rose Quarter Plan will build more freeway lanes,” he wrote. “It adds shoulders and auxiliary lanes (on-ramp to the next off-ramp)… But does not create additional through lanes and doesn’t widen the overall footprint of I-5. Saying it builds more freeway lanes leaves the impression that there will be a large scale expansion of the freeway.”

How can Hamilton say that?

Note how he said it doesn’t widen the overall “footprint”. As you can see in the lead graphic (from page 10 of the EA), ODOT has cleverly defined a very wide “footprint”. Then they propose to widen the freeway by over 24-feet, yet because it stays inside that pre-defined footprint, they can say the footprint doesn’t get larger.

Is that an honest explanation of the plans or willful obfuscation and spin?

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When ODOT says the project, “Does not create additional through lanes and doesn’t widen the overall footprint of I-5,” how do most people interpret that? We know what Sen. Frederick thinks.

At last week’s open house, I asked Hamilton how long a lane has to be before it goes from an auxiliary lane to just a standard freeway lane. I also shared my concern that ODOT is using words like this to make the project sound better.

“To manipulate the language a little bit?” Hamilton interjected, unsolicited. “Yes,” I said, “Is ODOT doing that?” He didn’t respond directly to that question (partly because he avoided it and partly because I didn’t force him to).

“I don’t have an answer to the question of when auxiliary lane becomes a through lane,” Hamilton said.

“Why not just call it a through lane?” I asked.

“Because it doesn’t go very far,” he replied.

“If you’re connecting two freeways [more than three-quarters of a mile from each other], that’s a lane,” I countered.

Then he pivoted. “We’ve got three interstates coming together in that stretch. It hasn’t been opened up in 50 years. We’re trying to give it a little more breathing room.”

The capacity question

Despite ODOT’s contention, this looks like a “large-scale expansion” to me.
(Image: ODOT)

ODOT is playing a similar game on whether or not the project will add capacity. On page 26 of the EA, ODOT states, “The Build Alternative would not create new capacity or add substantial capacity to the existing highway.”

The Build Alternative would not create new capacity or add substantial capacity to the existing highway.
— from the EA

The project was sold to state lawmakers as “congestion relief,” yet ODOT says it won’t increase capacity. How can those two things be true?

To believe ODOT we have to agree that it’s possible to relieve congestion and increase speeds through the corridor while not adding any additional trips.

I asked Hamilton about this at the open house last week.

“If the project is successful, speeds are faster and there are fewer crashes and less congestion, it seems to me all those things would lead to more trips through the corridor,” I said.

“Why?” Hamilton replied. “Couldn’t it be conceivable that you get the same amount of traffic going through, it’s just going a little faster?”

ODOT’s position (via Hamilton) assumes there’s a finite number of drivers.

I asked again: “If there are 24 hours per day and people can get through there faster, then there are more cars per day that get through right?”

“Is that an engineering or a philosophical question?” Hamilton replied (I’m not sure why it matters).

“Philosophy aside,” I continued, “If you make something easier, people will do it more. This project will make it easier to drive through that corridor, so wouldn’t that mean there will be more trips, and more capacity?”

“It will [add capacity] because the region will grow. I don’t think an auxiliary lane in this project will cause the region to grow,” Hamilton asserted.

According to Hamilton and ODOT, an expansion of the freeway in the central city will not lead to more driving trips. They say unrelated factors like development and population growth will create more trips. To say the presence of new freeway lanes won’t have an impact on the number of trips is disingenuous at best.

The EA’s silence on induced demand surprised many people. How could such an accepted phenomenon not be on ODOT’s radar? It appears that the agency and its staff are relying on guidance from the Federal Highway Administration.

To make the case for highway widening projects throughout Oregon, ODOT completed the Corridor Bottleneck Operations Study (CBOS) in 2013 (PDF). Page 3-23 of that study states,

“An important issue to examine and understand is the potential of these bottleneck improvements to create induced traffic… FHWA states that ‘induced travel is often misused to imply that increases in highway capacity are directly responsible for increases in traffic. In fact, the relationship between increases in highway capacity and traffic is very complex, which encompasses various traffic behavior responses, residential and business location decisions, and changes in regional population and economic growth’.

As you can see in their FAQ on “induced travel”, the FHWA simply doesn’t believe new freeway lanes lead to more capacity. That’s a very convenient point of view. It means DOTs can deflect questions and concerns about an increase in driving. And perhaps more importantly, it means their estimates and traffic models for other potentially controversial aspects of freeway projects — like greenhouse gas emissions — can be done without assuming additional driving trips.

These are just some of the ways ODOT’s marketing of this project makes me (and many others) very uncomfortable.

After ODOT presented the project to the City of Portland’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee on February 19th, committee member Evelyn Ferreira commented that, “I don’t know if you’re all familiar with the term gaslighting. That’s what this project feels like to me.”

Next up: What does the I-5 Rose Quarter project mean for cycling?

There’s a rally hosted by No More Freeways PDX at 4:00 pm today (3/12) prior to the ODOT public hearing at the Oregon Convention Center.

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

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The Monday Roundup: Speed-limiters in EU, ‘Porn Pedallers’, progress in Seattle, and more

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 12:27

This week’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by Ride Like A Girl Cycling, now offering a range of training rides and coaching services to get you ready for the season. Find them on Facebook too!

Here are the most noteworthy items we came across in the past seven days…

New policy crush: New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wants to “break the car culture” and move on from the Robert Moses era once and for all.

Peddling porn: After first stripping the club of its standing, British Cycling has now entered into talks with Porn Pedallers Cycling Club, which is sponsored by an adult entertainment firm.

$15 Billion for what?: There’s forward movement for a $15 billion transportation funding package in the Washington legislature (three times what Oregon passed in 2017) that uses a gas tax increase and new fees on carbon and developers to fund infrastructure. Unfortunately only 8 percent would be spent on multimodal projects while 41 percent would go to expanding and maintaining existing roads.

Tesla mess piles up: After two fatal crashes in Florida in a week, the federal government is taking a closer look Tesla’s “auto-pilot” feature.

Time to end the car pilot: An essay in The Guardian makes the case that our over-reliance on cars has been a “disastrous experiment” and calls on governments worldwide to phase them out in ten years.

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Awkwardly symbolic: A pro woman racer who was on a solo breakaway in a race in Belgium got too close to the back of the men’s field and was stopped by race organizers. It killed her momentum and she ended up finishing 74th.

Europe knows: A European Union consumer protection committee voted to support a new rule that would require carmakers to install speed-limiting devices in all new cars starting in 2022.

Women supporting each other: Looks like the proliferation of women-only cycling clubs is happening all over the country, including a “Women Bike” group in Philadelphia.

Hardesty opposes I-5 project: In an interview with the Portland Tribune, Portland City Councilor Jo Ann Hardesty says ODOT and PBOT’s Rose Quarter freeway expansion project is a loser and that we’d be better off spending the money on transit, walking, and biking infrastructure.

Dooring death: A woman was killed by a truck driver while bicycling in downtown San Francisco after she swerved to avoid someone who opened a car door in her path.

Progress in Seattle: Seattle had 14 fatalities in traffic last year, that’s less than half the amount they had in 2006. It’s also less than half of Portland’s 34 fatalities. What is SDOT doing that PBOT isn’t?

Telecommute over transit: Census figures show that for the first time ever the number of people who work from home is now larger than those who take public transit.

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

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Advocates say it’s a perfect time to invest in ‘Safe Routes to the Slough’

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 13:57

There are great places to ride on and beyond the Columbia Slough. Getting to them should be much easier.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

With Metro laying groundwork on two major funding initiatives, advocates with the 40-Mile Loop say the time is now to make a substantial investment in the paths, roads, and trails that get people to the Columbia Slough Watershed.

Retired Portland Parks & Recreation manager Jim Sjulin is shopping around a concept known as Safe Routes to the Slough. According to his five-page case statement (PDF) there are 27 parks, open spaces, and natural area properties in the 5,200 acres that make up the Columbia River Flood Plain — between Kelley Point Park at the tip of St. Johns to the Sandy River Delta near Troutdale.

The problem is, 95 percent of the 180,000 people who live in adjacent neighborhoods are effectively cut off from biking and walking to these areas due to a lack of infrastructure and/or the presence of dangerous roads and highways.

(Source: 40-Mile Loop Land Trust, Case Statement for Safe Routes to the Slough)

Think of trying to ride a bicycle to Kelley Point Park, Whitaker Ponds, or the Sandy River Delta. Now think of whether or not you’d do that with an eight-year-old or an eighty-year-old. Probably not, due to bikeway gaps and having to deal with major crossings like Columbia Blvd, Sandy Blvd, Airport Way, and so on.

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“Over the 20-mile length of the watershed,” reads the case statement, “now only two non-motorized access routes connecting upland residential areas to natural areas and parks in the floodplain: The Peninsula Crossing Trail and the I-205 Bike Path.”

(Source: 40-Mile Loop Land Trust, Case Statement for Safe Routes to the Slough)

The timing is good for 40-Mile Loop to present this concept because Metro is about to put a renewal of their parks and nature bond on the ballot this year. And next year, Metro will present the region with a major transportation infrastructure investment bond.

Sjulin says while most people think of trails, paths, bike lanes and roads as one integrated system for getting them from A-to-B, agencies are siloed into “recreation” and “transportation” projects. He sees Safe Routes to the Slough as an opportunity to combine these needs into one package.

For their part, Metro — who convinced voters to pass natural area bond measures in 1995 and 2006 and local-option levies in 2013 and 2016 — says they plan to spend less on acquiring properties this time around, and more on getting people to existing properties. That’s a perfect fit for the 40-Mile Loop’s idea. Another way this project fits with Metro’s goals is that the area surrounding the Columbia Slough watershed is home to some of the lowest-income and most racially diverse census tracts in the region.

Borrowing from language used in previous Metro bond measures, the 40-Mile Loop recommends making the Columbia Slough Watershed an official “target area” for investment.

If you think this is an effort worth supporting, consider emailing your thoughts to Metro via metrocouncil@oregonmetro.gov.

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

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30 ‘shared bicycle and pedestrian’ bus stations are coming to SE Division

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 11:07

TriMet’s latest design for 30 new bus stations coming to SE Division Street.
(Click for larger version)

TriMet is almost at the end of the design phase for the Division Transit Project, and once again they seek our input via an online open house launched this morning.

View from the bike lane entering the station.

This project is a $175 million investment that aims to significantly improve transit service. But this is a much more than just a transit project.

Statistically speaking, Southeast Division is one of the most dangerous and deadly streets in Portland. Five intersections on Division are ranked in the top 20 overall according to the transportation bureau’s high crash network analysis. Four of those five intersections will see major changes as part of TriMet’s project and/or PBOT’s related Outer Division Safety Project.

I’ll share the latest on PBOT’s work in a separate post. For now, let’s look at TriMet’s Shared Bicycle and Pedestrian station design (as shown above).

TriMet plans to build 72 new bus stations on Division in the 12 miles between SE 10th Avenue and the Cleveland Park & Ride in Gresham. 30 of those merit our close attention because they’re a new design that will put cycling traffic between a stopped bus and its passengers. TriMet has been working on this design since 2017 and now is one of our last chances to weigh in before construction starts later this year.

Back in October TriMet did a live demo of this design.

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Here are a few samples of how these new stations will be oriented in relation to the street (note the presence of protected cycling lanes (light green) and center medians):

And here’s the design concept again so you don’t have to scroll:

Compare that with the October 2017 design concept to get an idea of how TriMet’s thinking has evolved:

The Shared Bicycle and Pedestrian station design shows the bike lane narrowing to three feet as it enters the station area. There would be a four-foot wide concrete median on riders’ left side where bus passengers would load and unload. TriMet plans to install a “Bicycle Stop Sign” at the entry point. TriMet says their expectation is that bicycle riders should stop only when a bus is present.

Note that these new Shared Bicycle and Pedestrian stations will only be present east of 84th. The current plans show them at: SE 85th (westbound), SE 87th (eastbound), I-205/Division Max Station (both sides), 101st (both sides), 111th (westbound), 113th (eastbound), 116th (both sides), 122nd (both sides), 130th (both sides), 135th (westbound), 136th (eastbound), 142nd (both sides), 148th (both sides), 157th (both sides), 162nd (both sides), 168th (both sides), 174th (both sides), 182nd (both sides).

These new stations, the 60-foot long articulated buses that will service them, the faster transit operations in general, along with a significant amount of protected bike lanes, new crossings, and center medians (all planned by PBOT in a separate project), could have a major impact on Division.

Service of the new line is expected to open in 2022. Please check out TriMet’s online open house to help them improve this project.

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

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Jobs of the Week: Citybikes, Joe Bike, Castelli, Velotech

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 09:02

Five fresh job listings posted this week.

Learn more about each one via the links below…

–> Job: Mechanic – Joe Bike

–> Job: Mechanic / Customer Service – Citybikes Workers’ Cooperative

–> Job: Temporary Warehouse Worker – Castelli USA

–> Job: Shipping Specialist – Velotech

–> Job: eCommerce Marketing Manager – Velotech

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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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Weekend Event Guide: Dead Freeways, Broken & Coastal launch, a time trial, and more

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 13:42

Shawn Granton of Urban Adventure League shares tales of freeways past at his Dead Freeways Ride in 2010.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

It’s almost time to solidify your plans for the weekend. And, while Friday might be a doozy weather-wise, we might get into the 50s over the weekend.

Here’s our list of recommendations…

Sales!

We interrupt this guide to tell you about two big sales at two great local bike shops:

West End Bikes Anniversary Sale: Get 10-50% off everything at this amazing shop located at 1111 SW Harvey Milk Street.

River City Bicycles Anniversary Sale: It’s also celebration time at River City Bicycles. They’re celebrating 24 years in business with 10-50% off the entire store.

Friday, March 8th

Broken & Coastal Vol 4 Launch Party – 6:00 pm at Golden Pliers Bike Shop (N)
Broken & Coastal is an indy magazine that you have to see and feel to believe. If you love riding off-road and want to stoke your flame with beautiful words and pictures, you owe it to yourself to check this out. More info here.

Saturday, March 9th

Swap Meet – 11:00 to 2:00 pm at Backpedal Cycleworks (SE)
Roll over to Backpedal’s SE Harold Street location to browse, buy, sell and trade your used bikes and parts. No fee for sellers. More info here.

Stub Stewart Trail Work Party – 9:30 am at Stub Stewart State Park (Buxton)
Come out and help NW Trail Alliance dig, chop and smooth out trails to get them ready for prime riding season. No experience necessary. More info here.

Dead Freeways Ride – 11:00 am in Goose Hollow (SW)
Urban Adventure League is hosting this classic Portland experience ride that will take you behind the scenes of our local freeway and highway graveyard. Perfect timing for the weekend before the I-5 Rose Quarter project public hearing! More info here.

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Jack Frost Time Trial – 8:00 am at Vancouver Lake (WA)
Can you believe it? The OBRA road season starts Sunday with this traditional kickoff event. More info here.

Bike Shop Storytime – 11:00 am at Clever Cycles (SE)
Special guest this week is author and illustrator Alison Farrell. Grab the kiddos and head out for a ride with other families afterwards. And don’t forget to grill our family biking columnist Madi Carlson for her best tips and tricks. More info here.

Ride to Belmont Goats – 12:00 pm at Irving Park (NE)
Join Tom Howe for a ride to hang out with the Belmont Goats at their new home. The gates have been closed for three months, so I know you are all itching for some goat time! More info here.

Northeast Park Trek – 10:00 am at Wilshire Park (NE)
Ann Morrow from the Portland Wheelmen will lead this 20+-mile ride jaunt that caters to beginner and novice riders who want to learn more about cycling and experience riding with a group. More info here.

Stay plugged into all the bike and transportation-related events around the region via our comprehensive event calendar.

CORRECTION: We got the day for the Bike Shop Storytime wrong. It is on Sunday (not Saturday). Sorry for any confusion this caused.

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

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Wonk Night highlights widespread I-5 Rose Quarter project concerns

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 11:55

Great turnout!
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The idea behind Wonk Night is to go deeper into the issues, get questions answered, and connect with other people. Based on early reviews from last night’s event, it appears to have been a big success.

About 40 people braved a stormy evening and came together in the offices of Lancaster Engineering downtown to learn more about the I-5 Rose Quarter project’s environmental assessment (EA). We had drinks (thanks in part to an assist from The Street Trust!) and snacks (peanut M & Ms were a big hit) and plenty of copies of the relevant documents.

In the room was a healthy mix of Wonk Night regulars and new faces. There was a strong contingent of PSU planning students, a few agency staffers there on their own time, and activists and concerned citizens of all stripes. We had people like (poet) Alicia Cohen who’s just learning the ropes of activism, and veterans of freeway fighting like Jim Howell who was a key figure in stopping the Mt. Hood Freeway and founded Riverfront For People in 1969, the group that helped turn Harbor Drive into Waterfront Park.

Everyone in attendance expressed serious reservations about the project. Before we got started, I asked how many people in the room wanted to defeat it. All the hands went up.

Even with such strong sentiment in the air, the event wasn’t meant as an opposition rally. Our goal was to get smarter about the project and write better comments in response to the EA (the comment period ends April 1st).

Alicia Cohen shared her concerns about air quality.

At the outset, noted activist and Portland Planning Commissioner Chris Smith urged us to make sure comments point out what the EA could do better and what it’s missing. If the feds see enough holes in the EA, or if they sense overwhelming consternation in the community, they could tell ODOT to do more homework and/or take the much more rigorous step of completing an Environmental Impact Statement (which, interestingly, has never been done for the I-5 freeway because its construction predates existence of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process).

And then there’s politics. Currently, Portland City Council has endorsed the project because they assume it’s their only chance to make major changes to surface streets in the Rose Quarter. ODOT has sweetened their deal by trading support for a coveted Mixed-Use Multimodal Area designation for the central city (PDF) that will allow the City of Portland increase development density without having to account for increased auto congestion.

But Portland’s support for this freeway widening was decided on with a different city council.

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At last night’s event, Chris Smith was asked, “Could city council rescind their approval?” “Yes,” Smith replied, “That’s how Mt. Hood got stopped, the county rescinded their approval.” “Today we have one commissioner, [Jo Ann] Hardesy, outright opposed to this,” Smith continued. “And one who really wants to be, Eudaly, but doesn’t see the support to do anything yet. So we only have to turn one more vote to get something proactive out of city council.”

In another interesting exchange, economist, City Observatory founder, and No More Freeways PDX volunteer Joe Cortright was asked to compare the fight against this project with that of the Columbia River Crossing. Paul Jeffery said the CRC went down when activists worked with “strange bedfellows” in the Republican party of Washington state, who opposed the project on light rail and fiscal grounds. Jeffery worried that similar potential allies aren’t available this time around.

Cortright’s response was heartening:

“I think that’s actually the good news. With the CRC we were always told that if we didn’t move forward with it we were giving up the contribution Washington would make. And we were giving up the money the FTA [Federal Transit Administration] would give for light rail. And giving up money we were getting from the federal government. We were told we had to ‘honor the deal with our partners’. But in this case, the project is entirely within the control of the State of Oregon. The legislature has total autonomy over this money, and if it decided it wanted to use this money for anything else, it could. We do not lose anything if we take this money and use it for something else.

If in the 1970s we were smart and savvy enough to go the federal government and figure out a way to change the Interstate Highway System so that we could take the money and use it for what we wanted to, then today we ought to be able to go to Salem and say, ‘If we want to spend a half billion dollars, this is not what we want to spend it on’.”

On that note, I learned from local engineer Gwen Shaw last night that the City of Portland’s entire list of 1,200 Safe Routes to Schools projects are estimated to cost about $250 million — the same amount ODOT wants to spend to widen I-5 through the Rose Quarter (project cost estimate is $500 million total, which ODOT says is split about 50/50 between freeway and surface street changes).

After a spirited opening discussion, we decided to break into groups to focus on specific elements of the EA. The groups were: biking/walking/rolling infrastructure, transit impacts, omissions and alternatives, and air quality.

Groups assembled and spent about a half-hour going through the EA, comparing notes and sharing ideas. We then came back together to hear reports from each group.

Air Quality

Reported by PSU students Joshua Hetrick and Antonella Mancini

— A major focus is Harriet Tubman School, where ODOT’s plans will require putting a new freeway lane just yards from its property line. The group found a 2003 EPA study that put the school in the bottom 1 percent nationally for air quality. That’s before the freeway gets widened. EA comments will focus on asking ODOT to show more data for how the project will lower greenhouse gas emissions.

— There’s widespread skepticism in ODOT’s claim that their project will improve air quality (based on an assumption of free-flowing traffic from cleaner cars with higher mpg ratings in the future). Another focus of comments will be ODOT’s air quality measurement methods. The group said ODOT only took a reading for one day. They think more time is necessary.

— Cleaner Air Oregon and Eastside PDX Air Coalition should engage with this project.

— There’s a strong equity argument with the air quality concerns due to the well-documented fact that communities of color are most affected by diesel fumes.

— The lids. “Is the air quality going to be acceptable on those from day one? Are we building a plaza that can’t ever be somewhere you want to be because it’s dangerous to be there just by breathing?” The EA includes no analysis of air quality on the proposed lids that would be built over I-5.

– It’s difficult to talk about the results of the air quality findings without any information about how those results were derived.

Bike/walk/roll infrastructure

Reported by Jesse Lopez and Doug Klotz

— It seems like biking and walking infrastructure have simply “been inserted where it would fit” in order to still give drivers priority. “No consideration of making a quality experience for pedestrians or bicyclists.”

— It’s not clear how the Williams/Vancouver cycling movements will work. Big concerns about signal timing and how crossings might create delays and dangerous interactions.

– Broadway/Weidler doesn’t appear any safer for cycling and walking. “Intersections have large a radius, which is going to increase driving speeds. Slip lanes and increased turn lanes are dangerous for bicyclists.”

— Concerns that the project will not complete the 3,300 feet of sidewalk gaps in the area.

— Proposed Clackamas Bridge should be redesigned with a better connection to Broadway Bridge. Currently it goes too far out of direction.

— Removal of Flint bridge is a downgrade in cycling network. The Hancock/Dixon bridge won’t be as direct and will have a 9-10 percent grade.

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— One whopper in the EA is the acknowledgement that transit times will be slower if the project gets built. Around 84 seconds slower according to ODOT’s analysis. ODOT blames this reduction in service on the new bike-only signals and protected bike lanes that will constrain road capacity.

— The EA doesn’t consider taking the funding and using it for transit improvements. Transit can meet or exceed the benefits of this freeway.

— We should decommission the freeway itself and turn that into the transit right-of-way.

What’s missing

Reported by Rebecca Hamilton

— The EA never mentions the well-known phenomenon of induced demand.

— In Level-of-service analysis for surface streets, they don’t show their math for anything — especially for cycling will be impacted.

— In their modeling for the no-build alternative, they assume every project in the Regional Transportation Plan is built. Including the CRC (more on that later).

— The EA says ODOT explored transportation demand management (TDM) as a no-build alternative; but we have no information about what that consists of. TDM can be many things.

— The EA never discusses tolling. Joe Cortright called this a “huge failing”:

“Because tolling is, “reasonably foreseeable” (a NEPA term), the analysis needs to look at what the world looks like if we have tolls. But they didn’t do that, which his a a huge failing of the EA. Tolling should be an alternative in its own right. If you toll this stretch of road, you can solve nearly all the problems far cheaper and more effectively.”

— There’s nothing on how ODOT is going to deliver on promises they made to community impacted by the construction of I-5.

— The safety analysis is extremely lacking (“half-assed” was the term used).

— For more on missing data in the EA, see the recent letter No More Freeways sent to ODOT requesting more information (PDF).

I hope this summary is useful and that it helps inform your own comments. You can submit them here.

Don’t forget to stop by the ODOT open house tonight at Leftbank Annex (101 N Weidler). ODOT staff will be on hand to answer your questions and hear your concerns. The big public hearing is on March 12th at Oregon Convention Center. No More Freeways will host a rally beforehand.

Stay tuned for more coverage.

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

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Route Advisory: Columbia Slough Bike/Ped Bridge to close for 90 days

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 14:49

The bridge is on a popular cycling route.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)


A carfree bridge that connects north Portland neighborhoods to the Columbia Slough, Smith & Bybee Lakes, and many other destinations will close for 90 days starting March 25th.

The announcement was made today by the Bureau of Environmental Services. Here’s the official word:

The Inverness Force Main is an 11-mile pressure sewer that carries sewage from northeast Portland to the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plan. The 36-inch line splits into a 20-inch and a 30-inch pipe about two miles east of the plant. Both sections are suspended underneath the Columbia Slough Pedestrian Trail Bridge, which Environmental Services constructed. Repairs to the 30-inch pipe have been completed. Construction is about to begin to make repairs to the 20-inch pipe.

BIKE/PED TRAIL BRIDGE CLOSURE

The Columbia Slough Bike/Pedestrian Trail Bridge, located north of the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, will be closed to make the sewer pipe repairs beneath the bridge. The closure will be 90 days beginning March 25, 2019. The bridge should reopen by June 23, 2019.

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If you need more information about this closure, contact Debbie Caselton at 503-823-2831 or email Debbie.Caselton@portlandoregon.gov (include “Inverness 20” in your voicemail or in the subject line of your email).

BES suggests a detour that uses Columbia Blvd and Argyle Street to connect to N Denver Ave where you can connect to the Slough paths at Schmeer Road. I know North Portland Road (to the west) is tempting because it’s direct and very close; but it’s a very dangerous place to ride a bike. Unless you are very confident and skilled, I strongly suggest avoiding it.

See our route advisory page for other bike route closures in the Portland area.

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

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New section of Springwater will come with 10 new stop signs for path users

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 13:22

You can thank the ODOT Rail Division.

The Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau has started paving a new section of the Springwater Corridor path in Sellwood. This long-awaited project will close one of the last remaining gaps in this important regional path. It’s just a 0.4 mile section of the Springwater between SE Umatilla and 13th; but as any regional trail advocate will tell you, the sum impact is greater than its parts.

While it’s good to finally see progress on this segment of the “Sellwood Gap,” I was disappointed to find out that the City of Portland will install 10 stop signs along the new path. According to the official project plans, there will be stop signs (and associated stop bar striping) at the crossing of each roadway that intersects with the path: Umatilla, Harney, Marion, 9th, Linn, 11th, and 13th.

“Attempts to require path users to yield or stop at each cross-street promote noncompliance and confusion, and are not effective.”
— Alta Planning Rural Design Guide

According to a Parks spokesperson, the stop signs are mandated by the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Rail Division. They have some jurisdiction over the project because this section of the Springwater is adjacent to an extant railroad. The Oregon Pacific Railroad line is rarely used these days and travels at a very slow speed. It’s also worth noting there are no stop signs — only yield signs — where the cross-streets intersect with the path. (ODOT has now confirmed that stop signs will be added where roads cross the path.)

All these streets are very low-volume and there will be many more people using the path than using the roads.

Andrew Holtz lives near the new path and attended a recent meeting where Portland Parks staff shared a presentation about the project. He thinks erecting stop signs on the path is a terrible idea. “The dominant traffic will be trail users and they should have the right-of-way. I don’t think the stop signs will serve any purpose.” he said in an interview today. “The only people that cross those streets are a few homeowners. People using the trail will get used to never seeing cross-traffic and get into the habit of ignoring the stop signs — and that’s not a good habit!”

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Note the location of the stop sign.
(Source: Alta Planning Rural Design Guide)

Alta Planning, a national firm that designs paths and trails, echoes Holtz’s argument in their Rural Design Guide. In the section on Minor Street Crossings they write, “Attempts to require path users to yield or stop at each cross-street or driveway promote noncompliance and confusion, and are not effective.” As you can see in the graphic above, they recommend a stop sign on the cross-street, along with a crosswalk and clear sight lines to ensure safety.

The stop signs on the SE 17th Ave. path in Milwaukie were removed after lobbying from that city’s mayor.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

We’ve experienced this same issue in two very nearby locations in the past. In 2013 we reported on how the Portland Police Bureau was concerned with a lack of stop sign compliance from Springwater Path users at SE Spokane Street, just three blocks south of where this project will begin.

And just a few blocks southeast of this project, on the SE 17th Avenue path between Sellwood and Milwaukie, the City of Milwaukie was forced into the same situation. When that section of the path opened two years ago we lamented all the unnecessary stop signs. ODOT Rail engineers forced the City of Milwaukie to install them on the path — even where it crossed private residential driveways.

Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba didn’t think the signs were necessary and he eventually convinced ODOT to remove them. It remains to be seen whether anyone at the City of Portland will show as much courage as Gamba and question ODOT’s engineering.

After all, is this really about safety?

Does anyone think it makes sense to require bicycle riders to make a complete stop this often on a multi-use path where cross-traffic travels very slowly and is rarely present?

Would ODOT ever mandate stop signs like this on major driving corridor?

There must be a more sensible solution.

UPDATE, 3/7: Parks just sent out a project update that included a bit about the stop signs:

Automobile traffic will be required to come to a complete stop before crossing any point of the trail. At this point, for cyclist and pedestrian safety, there will also be STOP signs on the trail at all crossings. In these instances, the cyclist(s) and/or pedestrian(s) will have the right of way.

Interesting they wrote, “At this point.” Also of note that despite it being a 4-way stop intersection, Parks says path users will have right-of-way.

I’m still waiting for ODOT to answer some more specific questions. Will update when I hear more.

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

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