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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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Construction begins next month on NW Newberry Rd

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 09:30

Beautiful, isn’t it?
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Next month will be two years since a landslide wiped away a big chunk of NW Newberry Road. Multnomah County closed the winding, mountain road to through traffic in January 2017 and it has since become even more popular than usual for cycling. Newberry is one of a handful of climbs that take riders from Highway 30 up and over the west hills. It’s a welcome respite from the loud and fast traffic on “Dirty 30.”

With the closure, Newberry has become a de facto carfree climb. That is, for those people who’ve ignored the closure signs and were willing to ride around the jersey barriers.

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Now things are about to change. The County announced this week that construction is set to begin soon and the road will be fixed and reopened by spring 2019.

According to the County, construction crews will start staging on the site in mid-January and will work Monday through Thursday from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. Construction should be done by the end of March and final paving is planned for May.

During the construction period, it would not be wise to attempt to ride Newberry. While many people have been riding through the closure up until now, with big trucks and workers on the site, we should now treat this like a hard closure. If you want to get up or down from the West Hills, I’d recommend NW McNamee Rd to the north and Germantown (which I never ride, and if I did it would only be on the weekends when there’s low traffic), Springville (very steep and unpaved!), or Saltzman (unpaved) to the north.

For more details, check the check the project website.

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

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PBOT unveils new designs, online survey for SW Multnomah/Garden Home project

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 14:47

Latest design from PBOT. Note the prohibition on driving via 69th on the right.

Unfortunately we posted our story on the City of Portland’s SW Multnomah/Garden Home intersection project one day too soon.

This morning PBOT sent over the latest concept designs, which show significant changes from the designs many of you are discussing over on yesterday’s post. They’ve also just released an online survey to formally capture feedback.

The two basic concepts we shared yesterday are still the ones under consideration; either a roundabout or a signalized configuration. But check out these new drawings before making up your mind. PBOT has supplied aerial and on-the-street views of each one.

And make sure to note that both designs show PBOT’s proposal would close off the southern section of SW 69th while maintaining access only for people on bikes and foot.

Roundabout:

Signalized:

Now, after you’ve read through the comments on yesterday’s post and thought about this for a bit, head on over to the online survey and tell PBOT what you think.

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

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City relents to neighborhood concerns, will stripe unprotected bike lanes on N Denver

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 13:08


*PBOT conceptual drawings from September showing the original design (on the left) and the modified one created after hearing concerns from some residents.

A project that initially proposed parking-protected bike lanes on North Denver Avenue will now get just standard bike lanes.

“The project can be delivered with standard bike lanes and curb-tight parking while leaving open the potential to switch to parking-protected bike lanes as part of a future project.
— Geren Shankar, PBOT project manager

That’s the decision made by the Portland Bureau of Transportation after tallying public feedback and responding to concerns in the neighborhood about how the bike lanes would impact their lives.

Back in March we shared the original plans for Denver between Lombard and Watts. The idea was use a planned repaving project as an opportunity to create an “all ages and abilities” bikeway that would connect the Arbor Lodge and Kenton neighborhoods. Instead of a bike lane next to moving traffic and parked cars, the proposal would have built curbside bike lanes protected from drivers by a parking lane (similar to what we have on Rosa Parks) The newly designed street would be much safer for all users and it was scheduled to be constructed this past summer.

But when the project got to the Kenton Neighborhood Association, PBOT received pushback and opted to delay the project a full year. In a meeting back in September to allay concerns, garner feedback, and consider other options, PBOT Project Manager Geren Shankar characterized the neighborhood opposition as: confusion over where to place trash cans, how the new design might impact driving, and complaints about inadequate public outreach. At that time the plan was to take a survey and get as much feedback as possible then tally the responses and make a decision.

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The choices were: A parking-protected bike lane or a standard bike lane. In a letter being sent to Kenton neighbors today, PBOT says their choice is a standard bike lane.

Here’s the text of the letter from PBOT’s Shankar:

“We initially proposed repaving N Denver Avenue this past summer with protected bike lanes, transit stops and crossing medians. We received positive support, but also heard some concerns about the proposed design and placed the project on hold to continue our outreach with the neighborhood. Outreach included a direct mailing, an online survey, a presentation at a meeting of the Kenton Neighborhood Association, and a public open house held on October 2, 2018.

While most of the Portlanders providing feedback on the project supported the original design, many residents still had concerns. In addition to reviewing the concerns about the design, we evaluated the possibility of signalized crossing improvements along the corridor but found that they were not warranted at this time. Our project team has determined that the project can be delivered with standard bike lanes and curb-tight parking while leaving open the potential to switch to parking-protected bike lanes as part of a future project. In the interest of moving forward with the needed paving maintenance in the summer of 2019, this is what we will do.”

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

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Business owner uses attorney and electeds to fight TriMet’s Gideon Overcrossing project

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 12:31

Early TriMet rendering of Gideon Overcrossing.

Neighborhood transportation advocates in southeast Portland are sounding the alarm about TriMet’s Gideon Overcrossing project. They say opposition from an adjacent business owner could shelve the project.

“It’s unfair to me. What it’s doing to my business would require me to move.”
— Michael Koerner, Koerner Camera

Michael Koerner, owner of Koerner Camera Systems on SE 14th and Taggart, hired a lawyer who sent a letter (PDF) to the regional head of the Federal Transit Administration on December 14th. The letter includes sharp criticisms of TriMet and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, questions the need of a bridge, and asks the FTA to require a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement before moving forward.

As we reported last June, this project would build a new crossing of the Orange Line MAX light rail and Union Pacific Railroad tracks near the busy Clinton Street transit station. It would be a much-needed replacement to the crossing at SE 16th and Brooklyn Street TriMet demolished during Orange Line construction in 2013.

The new bridge would go from SE 13th on the south side of the tracks to SE 14th on the north. In March 2018, TriMet said that location was “an attractive option for commuters” due to its proximity to the existing light rail station at Clinton St (which would be about 300 feet west of the new overcrossing). The location was also chosen to, “best link to the Powell pedestrian crossing serving the Brooklyn neighborhood to Hosford-Abernethy.”

TriMet plan drawing. (Koerner’s business is where the words “North Elevator Structure” appear in the upper middle).

TriMet began the design process this past spring and the new, $14 million bridge was supposed to start construction in the next few months.

14th Avenue looking south where the new elevator and stairway would land with Koerner Camera on the left.

But Michael Koerner doesn’t want the bridge on 14th Avenue. His camera rental business that supplies high-end equipment to the film and TV industry is directly adjacent to the tracks. As designed, the bridge needs to use existing public right-of-way currently used to access Koerner’s parking lot and loading zone. Koerner said his concerns about safety and business impacts have fallen on deaf ears at TriMet so he hired a land-use attorney to fight the project.

In a phone call this morning Koerner told me he doesn’t oppose the bridge project, he just doesn’t want it on 14th Avenue. In addition to his concerns that mixing trucks and forklifts with bicycle riders and walkers would be a safety hazard, Koerner said, “It’s unfair to me. What it’s doing to my business would require me to move.” Koerner isn’t the only business owner opposed to the project. Several others share his concerns and are actively engaged against it.

Koerner’s attorney Jennifer Bragar from the law firm of Tomasi Salyer Martin, wrote a letter on December 14th to the regional head of the FTA. In the letter she requests a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and poke holes in the plan and the integrity of TriMet and the City of Portland.

“I am respectfully asking that you consider moving the bridge to a different location either up further on 16th St. or even consider 8th or 9th instead.”
— Rob Nosse, Oregon House Representative

Koerner also has support from Oregon House Representative Rob Nosse. In a letter dated December 10th and addressed to PBOT Director Chris Warner and TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey, Nosse wrote that after talking with Koerner and other business owners on 14th Street, “I am respectfully asking that you consider moving the bridge to a different location either up further on 16th St. or even consider 8th or 9th instead.”

“I don’t think your planning is so far along that you could not consider an alternative,” Rep. Nosse continued, “And I think this would be an appropriate compromise.” According to Rep. Nosse, the planned alignment would make it difficult for these businesses to operate forklifts and access loading zones with large trucks. The alignment would also, “Potentially harm these very commuters your agencies are attempting to serve,” Rep. Nosse wrote.

“TriMet and the City of Portland have determined that the project cannot be built on another street.”
— Roberta Altstadt, TriMet

In her letter, Koerner’s lawyer Jennifer Bragar says an SEIS done in compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review process is required because TriMet and PBOT want to locate the new bridge at a different location than the old one. “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,” Bragar wrote, “nor that it would accommodate bicyclists as well as pedestrians.” She adds that while biking and walking projects are typically excluded from the EIS process, one is still needed because, “The proposed bridge will significantly affect the quality of the human environment by altering the physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment.”

Bragar also claims her client hasn’t been given adequate time to comment on the proposal. Furthermore, Bragar questions the necessity of the bridge altogether. Even if one is needed, she says her client wants it to go somewhere else. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

“… both Tri-Met and PBOT have failed to provide evidence that the proposal is actually necessary for pedestrians or bicyclists. Neither agency has provided evidence of accidents or injury to either pedestrians or bicyclists at this railroad crossing nor have they provided evidence that the proposed bridge will be useful to bicyclists or pedestrians. If Tri-Met and PBOT believe a pedestrian and bicycle bridge is necessary, the Gideon Overcrossing should be placed in a location that will result in greatest utility for pedestrians and bicyclists – specifically in the location of the previous access bridge at SE 16th and Gideon which supports connectivity between neighborhoods, or other alternative locations that have yet to be examined in an EIS.”

(Graphic: TriMet)

While Rep. Nosse and Michael Koerner want the bridge moved to a different location (and Koerner said he’s also got support from Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and several other business owners in the area), TriMet Communications Manager Roberta Altstadt told us this morning that’s just not possible. “TriMet and the City of Portland have determined that the project cannot be built on another street,” she wrote in an email. “However, the city and TriMet continue to look for ways to minimized or mitigate the impact on local businesses.”

Altstadt said the bridge can’t be built at any other location because the FTA funding is tied directly to safety issues at SE 11th and 12th, where long UPRR delays cause some people to cross unsafely and even to walk across stopped train cars. According to Altstadt, FTA guidelines stipulate that a bike/walk bridge must be located close enough to the original location of the safety hazard to “provide a convenient alternative.”Placing the bridge at 16th would not address the safety issue that is the basis for the FTA funding. The bridge at 16th would simply be too far away and require too much out of direction travel – particularly for pedestrians — to be a viable alternative,” Altstadt explained.

Altstadt says TriMet and the City of Portland analyzed several other locations and for various reasons, none of them could accommodate a bridge because there was either not enough room for the structure or the project would require condemnation of entire businesses.

While TriMet sounds resolute, neighborhood advocates are worried Koerner’s opposition could put the entire project in jeopardy.

Brooklyn resident John Karabaic posted his concerns on a local email list as a “call to action” to “save the bridge”. “There is a vocal business owner on the north side of the bridge who stands to lose about 11 feet of driveway space that’s currently in the public right-of-way,” Karabaic wrote, “While that may be inconvenient for them, I believe the benefits of this location far outweigh the slight inconvenience this business owner would incur.”

Karabaic said putting the bridge further east at 16th would make it about one-quarter mile from the 11th/12th crossing. “This is a long distance for someone who has trouble walking or is in a wheelchair,” he wrote. “It could make the difference in missing a bus or train.” Karabaic feels the proposed alignment is ideal because it lines up with an existing crossing of SE Powell Blvd used by a lot of people on bikes and on foot.

Drawing from Koerner’s attorney showing layout of proposed bridge and access to his property.

As for safety concerns, Karabaic says that claim is unfounded. He cites the nearby Rhine-Lafayette overpass and streets in the Central Eastside Industrial District — both of which interface with industrial businesses while posing no major safety hazards (at least statistically and in terms of popularity) to vulnerable road users.

Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood District (HAND) Chair Christopher Eykamp says he agrees with some of Koerner’s safety concerns. In an email this morning, Eykamp told us he’s drafting a letter from HAND to TriMet asking for help to mitigate potential hazards. “The truth is that no one really knows how much of a [safety] factor this will be in practice, and it is possible that if the danger is real, businesses will have to change their practices accordingly.”

Eykamp feels the well-documented safety costs of not building the bridge should be weighed against the potential costs to businesses: “And I really don’t see much of a contest.”

For his part, Koerner said he’s already invested about $30,000 fighting the project. His anger with TriMet over how the process has unfolded is palpable. He feels the agency is “ramming this down our throats.” “We’re screaming from the trees and they’re not listening,” he shared on the phone this morning. “They’ve deceived us on more than one occasion and I find this all ridiculous and self-serving. They had no intention of ever working with us.”

Eykamp acknowledges TriMet’s public process and other missteps around the Orange Line project have caused frustration among many in the neighborhood, but given the choices available, he feels the bridge should be built as planned. “I strongly support moving forward with the project, and I believe a majority of the HAND board does as well.”

UPDATE, 12/21: Don’t miss the latest post on this story with response from TriMet and PBOT.

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

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SW Multnomah/Garden Home project is an opportunity for a better bikeway

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 14:33


*Two concepts under consideration by PBOT

(UPDATE, 12/20: PBOT has just released new designs and the online survey. Check it out here.)

Big changes are coming to a crash-prone intersection in Southwest Portland thanks to a $2.1 million project co-sponsored by the transportation departments of Portland and Washington County.

The two agencies will split costs to update the intersection of SW Multnomah Boulevard, Garden Home Road and 69th Avenue. The goal of the project is to reduce crashes, improve sight distance, reduce vehicle delays and improve bicycling and walking conditions.

As you can see in the images, this is a non-standard intersection with tricky curves and turning movements that can be unpredictable because there are no median islands or diverters. A high volume of drivers (about 17,000 cars and trucks enter the intersection daily), lack of a signal, and at-grade parking lots owned by adjacent property owners add to the stress and potential for collisions.

In the ten years between 2006 to 2015 PBOT has recorded 33 crashes at this intersection. One of them was fatal, five of them included a bicycle rider and nearly half involved turning motor vehicles.

“I could save us all a bunch of money and just put up some stop signs.”.
— Eric Wilhelm, local resident

After an initial study into possible fixes, PBOT has come up with two concepts: a roundabout and a complete realignment that would include a traffic signal. Now they’re entering a public outreach phase where they hope to learn more from road users before adopting a final design.

BikePortland reader and SW Portland transportation activist Eric Wilhelm has been following this project closely. He’s eager to make this intersection better because he says it provides a direct and flat connection to about one-third of the area’s bikeway network. But from what he’s learned and seen so far, Eric is unimpressed with the approach. In an email today, Eric wrote that he’s concerned too much of the planning has focused on driving ease and access. “What really troubled me from the start,” he wrote, “is that PBOT seems to be focusing the outreach on how each of the two concepts will affect drivers… The two designs are both flawed by this car-centric approach.”

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*Naomi Fast (@_the_clearing) made this video of the intersection a few days ago.

Eric says at least one person at a recent neighborhood meeting complained about how possible turning restrictions would force them to drive out of their way to get home.

Project Open House

PBOT will host an open house for this project on January 17th. See the BikePortland Calendar for details.

In terms of which of the two designs he feels would work best, Eric says having a signal would make crossing easier. He worries that the roundabout wouldn’t do enough to slow drivers down — especially those headed westbound. The roundabout also looks like it might not have any dedicated space for cycling (for what it’s worth, the signal concept has only unprotected bike lanes shown at this point).

“I could save us all a bunch of money and just put up some stop signs,” Eric shared in jest.

With an entrance to the Fanno Creek Trail just a half-mile away, if we get this intersection right it could create a much-needed link in the sparse southwest Portland bike network.

To help get more people engaged, Eric is leaded the Westside Wet Wonk Ride tomorrow (12/20) at 5:30. Meet at Bar 3 (4444 SW Multnomah) if you’d like to join.

And save the date of January 17th on your calendar. That’s when PBOT will host an official open house for this project. It will be from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Garden Home Rec Center (7475 SW Oleson Rd). We’ll need lots of voices to help make this project as good as possible for cycling. Stay tuned for the online survey and if you live in the area watch for PBOT coming to the neighborhood and make sure to bend their ear with your thoughts and feedback.

Check out the official project page to sign up for updates and learn more.

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

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Proposed bill would clarify definition of bike lanes in Oregon

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 10:19

The legal protection doesn’t end where the striping does.

A local lawyer wants to amend an existing state law so that Oregon judges can no longer decide that a bicycle rider’s legal right-of-way disappears in an intersection.

“It is important to affirm and clarify the law so that the bad legal result does not occur again.”
— Ray Thomas, lawyer

It might seem obvious to you and I that people still have to yield to other road users in intersections even though there’s no lane striping; but on two occasions Oregon judges have disagreed. That’s two too many for Portland-based lawyer Ray Thomas.

In a case last fall, a Deschutes County Circuit Court judge in Bend said his reading of existing law gave him “no authority” to support the plaintiff’s claim that bike lanes continue through intersections. And in 2009 a Multnomah County judge made a similar ruling when he determined a bicycle rider had no legal protection in the bike lane because there was no paint in the intersection designating it as one.

Thomas, a well-known bicycle advocate and bike law expert with Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost (a BikePortland supporter), says those decisions are wrong and “out of left field.” Because the legal definition of a bicycle lane can be made by “official signs or or markings,” Thomas wrote in a 2015 article, the markings before and after the intersection are what create the legal presence of the lane.

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“While this lack of legal reasoning has no binding legal authority,” Thomas shared with BikePortland earlier this week, “it is nevertheless important to affirm and clarify the law so that the bad legal result does not occur again.”

To prevent another one of these unfortunate decisions, Thomas has proposed a bill for the 2019 Oregon legislative session that would clarify and strengthen the definition of a bicycle lane. Bicycle lanes in Oregon are defined in ORS 801.155 as, “… part of the highway, adjacent to the roadway, designated by official signs or markings for use by persons riding bicycles except as otherwise specifically provided by law.”

Current draft of LC 3354.

The proposed bill would add the following sentence to that definition: “Where the markings of a bicycle lane are interrupted by an intersections, the bicycle lane continues in and through the intersection.”

The bill is currently filed as LC 3354 (“LC” refers to Legislative Counsel, the office that writes bills for legislators) and Oregon House Rep. Rob Nosse has signed on as a sponsor. The bill was drafted with help and support from The Street Trust.

“We hope this law will pass through the legislature and become law before another legal judicial anomaly occurs to deny a bicycle rider their lawful right-of-way in the intersection,” Thomas says.

We hope so too.

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

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Oregon’s bike tax revenue is far below expectations, while admin overhead is going up

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 10:37

Customers at Universal Cycles on SE Ankeny are greeted with these signs at the checkout counter.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Through three quarters of its first year in existence, Oregon’s $15 bicycle excise tax has added $489,000 into state coffers. That’s a lot lower than state economists expected. Overhead costs are also more than expected and are likely to climb even higher as officials beef up filing enforcement efforts.

As OPB reported last week, officials from the Department of Revenue, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Legislative Revenue Office have been updating lawmakers on receipts from the slew of new taxes and fees included in the $5.3 billion transportation package passed in 2017. Among them was the infamous $15 tax that applies to every new bicycle valued at $200 or higher sold in Oregon.

The tax was pitched as a way to force bicycle riders to have some “skin in the game” when it comes to funding transportation infrastructure. It was seen by advocates (The Street Trust opposed the fee but supported the package it was integral to) as a part of the compromise needed to pass a bill with funding for Safe Routes to School and public transit, while raising fees and taxes on motor vehicle use. The tax was also seen as a way to answer some voters who — despite it being terrible and ineffective — have long dreamed of making “cyclists pay their way.”

We’ve railed against the bike tax from a policy perspective in the past. Why on earth would Oregon want to tax a form of transportation that adds such tremendous value to our roads and lives? Given cycling’s return-on-investment, it makes more sense to pay people to ride them than to tack on a clumsy tax.

Now it turns out the bike tax isn’t an efficient revenue tool either.

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(Chart: State of Oregon)

Back in September, an official from the Department of Revenue told members of the House Committee on Transportation that the bike tax had raised just $289,000 through its first six months. Of that, only $133,000 had been transferred to ODOT’s Connect Oregon grant program where it will be earmarked for path and trail projects outside of the highway right-of-way. (Yes, that’s right, the way the law was written, the money can’t be used for on-street bikeways.)

“At this point it’s pretty labor intensive.”
— Xann Culver, Oregon Department of Revenue on their efforts to collect the bike tax

Now state officials estimate the bike tax will likely bring in about $900,000 in its first two years. That’s less than half of the $2.1 million they told lawmakers it would bring in every two years. At another committee meeting last week, officials released a chart showing that future year estimates will be even lower. Instead of $2.8 million every biennium, they now expect just $1.1 million. And that’s before subtracting administrative costs. ODOT Economist Daniel Porter told lawmakers that in hindsight, their estimates for the bike tax were, “A real shot in the dark.” He blamed Oregon’s lack of sales tax data and a misunderstanding of the “seasonalities” of new bike sales.

Back in September, Department of Revenue staffer Xann Culver said they had less than 100 retailers filing the tax. Joint Committee on Transportation Co-Chair Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay) commented that the number of retailers seemed low. “Was there some sort of plan to increase that number to make sure everybody is paying their fair share?” she asked. “Yes,” the DOR staffer replied. She then explained how they plan to bump up filing enforcement efforts do more research on their list of 350 bicycle retailers to see which ones are selling taxable bicycles, and follow-up on tips from retailers about others shops who aren’t filing. The state also plans to hire an additional auditor in the coming months to “do more enforcement.” “At this point,” Culver said, “It’s pretty labor intensive.”

So, while the estimated revenue from the tax goes down, it appears as though the amount it takes to collect it will be going up.

For more on how the bike tax is doing, read the OPB article. And tune into OPB’s Think Out Loud show today at noon where I’ll be sharing my views as a guest.

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

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Oregon’s proposal to lift fourplex bans would be great for biking

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 08:57

Protected bike lanes aren’t the only reason so many people bike in Amsterdam.
(Photo: M. Andersen)

An earlier version of this post was published by the Sightline Institute. It’s by former BikePortland news editor Michael Andersen.

The fight to strike down apartment bans has arrived in Oregon’s legislature.

Would re-legalizing fourplexes everywhere be good for bicycle transportation? It very much would be.

On Friday, Willamette Week broke some news: Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek has been working on a bill that’d require all but the smallest Oregon cities in urban areas to re-legalize up to four homes per lot—a lower-cost housing option that was quite common in the early 20th century but was gradually banned from most parts of most cities.

BikePortland has had a lot to say about proposals like this one before (including the similar local reform that keeps getting better, thanks to public pressure as it works its way through Portland’s endless local process).

But now that this issue has hit the statewide radar, let’s gather the evidence around this question: Would re-legalizing fourplexes everywhere be good for bicycle transportation?

It very much would be.

As Elly Blue put it on BikePortland 11 years ago, proximity is key to our future. More than bike classes, more than courteous driving, more even than comfortable infrastructure, the number-one way to make bike transportation work for the life of an ordinary Oregonian is to make the trips we have to take shorter.

*Source: 2017 NHTS.

Making it legal — not mandatory, just legal — to build homes closer to each other is the way to do this.

Legalizing more housing creates more proximity twice.

First and most obviously, it creates proximity because it lets more people (and also more varieties of people) choose to live closer to current destinations like jobs, parks, schools, grocery stores, shops, parks, quality transit stops and (oh, yeah) their family and friends. Two weeks ago, an economic report on Portland’s fourplex re-legalization proposal estimated that 87 percent of the new, smaller and relatively cheaper homes built would go into the lower-density neighborhoods up to roughly 3.5 miles from the city center.

Those are the exact same neighborhoods we called out in a 2014: “maybe this is why you can’t afford to rent in the central city.”

These are also, of course, the Portland neighborhoods with the best bike infrastructure. We should be improving biking everywhere, but we can also make our existing investments go further by letting more people live near them.

The second reason re-legalizing duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes creates proximity is that simply by existing, homes help create more new things near them. TriMet can’t justify upgrading a bus line to frequent service until a lot of people live fairly close to it. New Seasons can’t justify opening a new grocery store — and Fred Meyer may not be able to justify keeping an existing grocery store open — unless there are a certain number of people living near it.

Every neighborhood coffee shop and dive bar in the city relies hugely on the people who live close enough to walk or bike there and back without hardly thinking about it.

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More homes => more people => more coffee shops and dive bars within biking distance => more biking.

You don’t have to take my word for it. It’s right there in the National Household Travel Survey:

*Data: 2017 NHTS. Chart: Michael Andersen.

This is the flip side of the phenomenon my colleague Margaret Morales recently observed about backyard cottages. She calculated that adding 7 more homes to each standard city block of 21 lots would reduce average driving per household on that block by about 1,000 miles per year.

(Or for more evidence in various contexts, you could look here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

One thing to notice about the chart above is that the difference in biking between 17,500 people per square mile (Portland’s Northwest 23rd Avenue, with lots of the old mid-scale housing that has since been mostly banned) and 27,500 (the south side of Portland’s downtown, with skyscrapers) is much less than the difference between 7,500 people per square mile (a lawn-and-driveway area like Beaumont-Wilshire) and 17,500 people per square mile.

In other words, if we want lots more biking, we don’t have to put towers everywhere (though that wouldn’t hurt, either). We just have to transition into cities with many buildings that are a few stories tall and attached to each other.

Hmm, sounds somehow familiar.

*Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: M. Andersen.

*Houten, Netherlands. Photo: Nicholas Oyler, City of Memphis.

*Medellín, Colombia. Photo: M. Andersen.

*Montreal, Canada. Photo: J. Maus

None of this is to say we shouldn’t also be building awesome protected bike lanes and off-street paths and traffic-calmed side streets. Cities in northern Europe, South America and southern China prove that the magic formula for lots of biking is to combine proximity with great streets.

After years of stagnation, Portland is finally doing more to improve its streets. The logical next step is to make it possible for more Portlanders to use them a little bit less.

— Michael Andersen: (503) 333-7824, @andersem on Twitter and michael@sightline.org.

 

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Family biking profile: New(ish) rider Kaylen Boroff and her toddler take to the streets

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 08:42

Kaylen and Casey are ready for the rain!
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

This week we’re going to share a profile of a local family biker.

Kaylen Boroff is relatively new to Portland and has embraced bicycling for transportation with her toddler son in tow.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Tell me a little about yourself and your family.

Hi! My name is Kaylen and my son Casey and love riding our bike! Casey will be two next month and he loves the adventure and freedom of being on a bike. I’m a social worker at the VA hospital and we use our bike to commute to work and daycare. We moved to Portland from Michigan in April and began riding upon our arrival! We live in inner SE PDX.

Kaylen’s bike is lightweight and sturdy…and she can carry it upstairs to (and fit it in) her apartment.

Tell me about your bike.

We have a Specialized Sirrus we got new from River City this spring. It is an awesome blue color with blue fenders, too. We have a child seat in the back (attached by frame, the Co-Pilot). The bike has a decent weight, but I’m still able to take it up the stairs to our apartment. I love the Co-Pilot seat for the durability, removable seat pad, reflectors, and high sides. It is a safe ride for both of us. We have a basket in front for all of our supplies — diapers, wipes and clothes for school and lunch for work.

Casey has a comfortable ride.

Is there something you wish you had known before you took your first pedal stroke as a family biker that would have made things easier?

I wish I’d of known how intense it can be. As we live in southeast, we see bikers everywhere getting to Clinton Street. It can be overwhelming at times weaving through everyone. I also wish I’d of know about the dreaded freight trains blocking the way home!

Tell me about a typical ride you take in Portland.

Typically we ride four miles a day (to the lower base of the tram and then home) Monday-Friday. We cross the Tilikum, which is always a lot of fun. With the time change Casey has especially loved seeing all the lights and colors. It’s a pretty flat ride, which is a huge plus with everything that is getting hauled. We take the tram up for the rest of our daily commute. Weather pending on weekends, we might ride along the water front for some nice views!

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Tell me about an especially memorable ride in Portland.

One day coming home from work we got caught in some pretty heavy, cold rain. We were mildly prepared, but were missing true rain gear at the time. I was nervous about how Casey would react with the rain coming down and no real cover. He ended up laughing the entire way back, which made me enjoy the ride even more! Another interesting time was a morning with fog; that coupled with darkness made going over Tilikum feel like you’re floating.

Kaylen and Casey make it look fun!

If there was one piece of bike infrastructure (street, intersection, bike rack, etc) you use regularly that you could change to improve your life, what would it be?

It would be awesome if there was some sort of pedestrian overpass near division and 11/12th streets for when the trains come during the morning and evening rush. That way traffic could still be moving! It would also save in people trying to go over the tracks when it stops.

Two week Rhine-Lafayette Overpass closure begins today

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 09:11

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re one of the many people who rely on the carfree overpass that connects the neighborhoods of Brooklyn to Creston-Kenilworth, a repair project might impact your trips.

TriMet crews are working to improve the durability of the elevators at the Rhine-Lafayette Overpass. Since the bridge opened in 2015, the elevator — which is a key feature for bicycle users — has had a spotty reliability record.

Here’s what TriMet announced this morning about the status of the project:

The two-week closure of the elevators at the Rhine-Lafayette Pedestrian Overpass in southeast Portland starts today, Monday, Dec. 17 through Friday, Jan. 4. The elevators will be closed throughout that time with the entire overpass (stairs and elevators) closed at times for safety reasons. When crews are not working—about 4 p.m. to 7 a.m.—the overpass and stairs will be open for use. This is part of an improvement project that began Nov. 26 to increase the reliability of the elevators. We appreciate the patience of those who use the overpass as we make the improvements.

For more information, check out the official project page at TriMet.org.

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

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A championship for Honsinger and a great Portland showing at Cyclocross Nationals

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 08:09

Clara Honsinger (Team S & M CX) after winning the U23 race at Cyclocross Nationals.
(Photo: USA Cycling)

I’ll cut right to the big news of the weekend from the Cyclocross National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky: Portland’s Clara Honsinger nabbed a national title!

After getting a great start, Honsinger (Team S & M CX) rode — and ran and slid — the treacherously muddy course to the win on Sunday in the Women’s Under-23 race. Even sweeter for Honsinger and the Sellwood-based Team S & M CX team was Sophie Russenberger getting the bronze medal. Beth Ann Orton, another member of the three-woman team, rode to a strong 13th place in the Women’s Elite race.

Honsinger’s win capped a tremendous season that saw this “kid from Oregon” emerge as a true star on the ‘cross circuit.

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Team S & M CX is owned and operated by Sellwood Cycle Repair owner Erik Tonkin. Tonkin, now retired from competitive racing, celebrated his shop’s 25th anniversary in 2017. Team S & M has been a mainstay on the local circuit for many years; but it’s been only in the last few seasons that Tonkin committed to an elite, all-women development program. With the support of sponsors, the work of Tonkin and his team manager and head mechanic Brenna Wrye-Simpson have paid off big time. Congratulations!

View this post on Instagram

I came to #cxnats to win. @iamjakewells and I had a fantastic battle today, it was insane but I made a couple mistakes in the last lap that cost me the jersey. THANK YOU so damn much to everyone that has supported me all these years, was out there today screaming and rooting for me and thanks for all the messages and texts, I am feeling the love.

The Monday Roundup: Convercycle, anti-speeding tech, a climate warning and more

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 07:30

Happy Monday everyone. Are you ready for the “atmospheric river” on tap to hit Portland tonight?

If things get crazy outside, at least you’ll have some great stories to read. Here are the most notable items we came across in the past seven days…

A walking tipping point? This NY Times opinion piece about how cities are finally coming to their senses after decades of building only for cars is positively heartwarming.

More highway cops in Oregon: Looks like state lawmakers might reach a big deal to rebuild the depleted Oregon State Police this coming session.

Anti-people planters: No one is taking credit for a mysterious row of empty concrete planters on SW 1st under the Morrison Bridge that appear to be aimed at preventing people from sleeping there.

Getting rid of highway relics: Saying private cars in cities will be the “cigarettes of the 21st century,” NY Mag has some advice for how New York should deal with the aging Brooklyn-Queens Expressway: Demolish it and move on.

Nifty rig: The new “Convercycle” is a bike that converts from standard urban commuter into long-tail cargo bike.

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Climate change warning: Outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown tells NPR that the threats from climate change are real and present and that most politicians are completely clueless about it.

Climate emergency: The mayor of London has declared an official emergency to battle climate change and is pressing other government officials for money and attention to deal with the issue.

Speed limiting tech: The EU is considering devices that would set the speed of cars to the posted limit and lobbyists for carmakers are fighting it.

Setback in Seattle: A judge has thrown up yet another roadblock on the path to closing the infamous “Missing Link” segment of the Burke-Gilman Trail, saying a recent study of the project didn’t do enough to analyze economic impacts.

Drinking and homicide: Utah wants to lower the legal BAC threshold to .05 instead of the national level of .08. The state also plans to introduce a new felony of “automobile homicide” if you drive recklessly while drunk.

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

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How Portlanders handled a wet, dark, stormy bike commute

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 15:04

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Tuesday afternoon was a doozy, weather-wise.

It’s not often I’ll opt out of a bike ride, but I hopped on light rail to make it to a meeting downtown. Why? The conditions were: dark, windy, wet, and cool (just cool enough to need a jacket, just warm enough to make you sweat in it). I can handle each of those variable by themselves, or even two or three of them at once. But when all those factors get together I look for non-biking options if I’m able.

I had a feeling a lot of you battled the deluge, so I posted a photo of a rider battling rain on our Instagram feed and asked our followers to share. I don’t take comfort in other people’s misery, but I have to admit I enjoyed reading all the comments that came in! In case you missed the post, here’s what people had to say:

swanny22Yeah, that was not particularly enjoyable.

icomeoutatnight I worked in it, however it was relatively not that bad. It could’ve rained more and it wasn’t even cold enough for gloves

stahnke_kong & a flat tire on top of it all!!

nwcanyoning 7 miles home from downtown was fun

The Little Things: Stripes on stop sign poles in Seattle

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:00

A stop sign in Seattle with white and red striping on the pole.
(Photos: Mike Dowd)

This post was written by reader Mike Dowd.

When I grew up in Seattle, stop signs had wood posts with red-and-white, candy cane-like stripes. Now they have metal poles, but they’re still striped. When I moved to Portland, I really missed them! It seemed dangerous without them.

When you approach an intersection in Seattle, the stripes immediately show you whether people entering the intersection from other directions must stop. In Portland, you have to look for the octagonal sign shape — not easy to see when you’re looking at the back of a sign across the intersection (maybe with a telephone or light pole in front of it), and almost impossible when looking at the narrow edge of a sign regulating cross traffic.

It’s critical for everyone — whether driving, riding, or walking — to know who must stop at an intersection. You don’t want to enter an intersection until you’re sure nobody is entering it from your left or right. You don’t want to make a left turn until you know whether an oncoming vehicle or bike is going to stop.

If you misread the intersection, and proceed thinking that crossing traffic has stop signs when it does not, you may cause a crash. If you don’t see others’ stop signs, and slow or stop thinking they don’t need to stop, you create confusion and delays. (Portland has become infamous for the “You go,” “No you go,” “No you go,” dance.)

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Easier to see from any direction.

Portland has a mish-mash of info added below stop signs: “All Way” signs at intersections with four stop signs, “Oncoming Traffic Does Not Stop”, “Traffic From Right Does Not Stop”, etc. But it’s not consistent, which itself creates danger. Those also only give information to people who do have a stop sign. If you don’t have a stop sign, there’s no sign telling you whether cross-traffic or oncoming traffic has stop signs.

The stripes also make stop signs much more visible for people approaching them, since the overall “sign” becomes effectively about eight feet tall instead of just a two-foot octagon.

Also, the stripes Seattle adds to metal stop sign posts are reflective, so all the various advantages of the stripes are magnified at night. In Portland, the backs and edges of stop signs are almost invisible at night.

I’d like to see the stripes added in Portland. I’m curious what others have seen in other places.

— Mike Dowd

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New diverters on Ankeny and Lincoln part of plan to keep drivers off side streets

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:46

New driving discouragers on SE Ankeny at 15th.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)


“Things have changed a lot since we did our neighborhood greenway assessment [in 2015]… There’s more traffic pressure.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT

Life is slowly but surely getting harder for people who drive in Portland. And that’s exactly what the Bureau of Transportation is aiming for. In the past week they’ve laid down median diverters that limit where we can drive. The goal is to encourage us to keep our cars off what are known as neighborhood greenways — streets where cycling is supposed to be the priority mode of travel.

But as Portland’s roads have become filled with too many drivers in recent years, PBOT has had to do more to defend greenways from an onslaught of traffic-dodgers staring into Waze and Google Map apps in an attempt to shave a few seconds off their trip. Unfortunately those apps often lead people onto (what should be quiet) side streets that have been engineered specifically to make cycling less stressful. To end this cycle of more drivers and more stressful conditions on side streets, PBOT has added new diverters at two locations: on SE Ankeny at 15th and SE 50th at Lincoln.

SE Ankeny and 15th

As it should be: Driver forced off, bicycle rider allowed to continue.

PBOT image shows what they’ll look like when finished.

As we reported in 2014, many drivers swoop onto Ankeny to avoid the traffic further west at the Burnside/Couch couplet. Thanks to activists with Bike Loud and Buckman neighborhood residents, PBOT agreed to install a temporary diverter at 15th. They made good on their promise in July 2016 by placing large concrete planters and yellow caution signs in the middle of the intersection. The treatment prevented people from driving straight through 15th, forcing westbound drivers to turn north (back to Burnside) and eastbound drivers south.

This week PBOT made those temporary diverters permanent by laying down concrete median islands. The new islands are easier on the eye and are intended to accomplish the same result. PBOT told us this morning that more signage and vertical elements are still to come. They include (but are not limited to): stop signs facing north and south, yellow warning signs that alert people to the presence of people biking through the intersection, yellow and black striped sign, and signage leading up to the intersection indicating that it’s not for through-traffic, only bicycle traffic.

SE Lincoln and 50th

PBOT’s final design (note the car parking space on northeast corner).

It’s been a year since the infamous open house where opposition to the Lincoln-Harrison neighborhood greenway project went absolutely off-the-rails. PBOT’s attempts to reduce the amount of driving on Lincoln were met with epic opposition. Ultimately PBOT won the day with a revised plan that came out in March.

One of the biggest sticking points was a diverter at 50th and Lincoln. PBOT had to do something because this intersection had the highest volume of drivers of anywhere on the greenway — 2,300 cars per day east west of 50th and 1,500 east of it. The city’s goal for greenways is under 1,000 cars per day.

They settled on a compromise design that would place diverters in the middle of 50th to prevent people from driving through the intersection and limit some turning movements.

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Work began this week to install the diverter. However, some activists are crying foul because PBOT has altered the design since it was last shown to the public.

The plan before PBOT made the tweak to add a parking space. Compare it to the image above.

On Tuesday, local resident Andrea Brown with the Safer Lincoln group emailed PBOT Capitol Project Manager Sheila Parrott. Brown was concerned that the new design, “Has created an unsafe jog in the bicycle flow in order to accommodate an extraneous parking space on the northeast corner.” Brown added that her group was aware that an adjacent neighbor had contacted PBOT to request a parking spot in front of their house (which has its own driveway).

Parrott wrote to Brown that, “Following resident input, we revised the plan to remove the on-street parking on the south side and provide a disabled parking space on the north side. Although this type of parking space is generally used by the person making the request for the space, it is not a personal space. Anyone displaying the disabled placard can use the space.”

Another transportation activist and local resident named Betsy Reese emailed PBOT with several concerns about the new design. One problem she mentioned was that it, “Forces westbound cyclists to veer to the left to get past a stopped car, then veer to the right to line up at the gap in the diverter.” Reese wanted the parking spot moved further east to avoid conflicts at the intersection.

A PBOT traffic engineer replied to Reese to say the current layout is only a prototype and they plan to monitor her concerns as part of the evaluation

A brand new greenway treatment

Conspicuity is the goal.

In other neighborhood greenway news, PBOT unveiled a new idea at the Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday night. Citing what he sees as, “more traffic pressure” on neighborhood greenways since PBOT’s assessment report was passed by council in August 2015, PBOT bicycle program manager Roger Geller said they’re considering a new approach. Geller shared a list of projects up for possible funding in 2019-2020 that included one described as, “An innovative attempt to highlight the visibility of bicycle priority on neighborhood greenways.” The idea is to double the frequency of sharrow markings, possibly add painted stop lines on side streets, and add other signage as needed.

Geller said he’s noticed that many people ride in the door-zone on neighborhood greenways — a sign of stress likely caused by fears of drivers coming from behind. Geller wants to make Portland greenways more “readable as a bikeway.” In addition to more sharrows and signage, he’d like couple that with an education program. The goal would be to make it more difficult for people in cars to pass bicycle users, which would hopefully discourage people from driving on greenways altogether.

UPDATE: Reader 9watts (who’s concerned about the width of the biking gaps being too wide) has sent us fresher photos of the Ankeny/15th diverters:

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

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