Screenshot from virtual BWNA meeting Monday night.
(Source: PBOT)

Since it was just Valentine’s Day, we need to have at least one love story on the front page. So here goes…

At a meeting of the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association (yes, that one) Monday night, the Portland Bureau of Transportation presented their latest plans for a new bike path along the south side of NE Skidmore Street adjacent to Wilshire Park. The project is part of their effort to establish a safe and convenient east-west neighborhood greenway on Mason-Skidmore and connect to a new crossing of NE 33rd Avenue.

The idea is to make a two-way bike lane next to the park that is protected from the rest of traffic by parked cars. The bike lanes would be five-feet wide and there would be an additional two-foot buffer to the parking spaces. To make room for this, PBOT would narrow the driving space to a 14-foot lane for both directions of car travel.

Monday night’s meeting was the first public showing of PBOT’s plans. I mention that because PBOT already reached out to neighborhood association leaders to ask what they felt about a traffic diverter at NE 36th or 37th to help make the street safer and reduce driving volumes. They rejected the idea and PBOT shelved that element of the plan before it was ever made public (really bugs me when the do that, but I understand they want to get a project done and not have it devolve into another controversy).

So last night, PBOT Project Manager Scott Cohen gave folks the rundown of the current design proposal. After reminding them that PBOT already pulled the diverter off the table,  Cohen also sought to reassure them about parking: “What we’ve done is tried to preserve all of the parking possible.”

To build the bike lane and improve visibility at crossings into the park, PBOT says they’ll eliminate about 20-25 parking spaces. That would still leave 40 spaces on this one side of Skidmore. The north side of the street would not have any parking removal at all (not to mention that people can park on every other street in the neighborhood).

Despite what to me seems like a reasonable compromise from PBOT (trust me, I’d personally prefer no parking on the south side and a very wide, protected space for bikers and walkers), I was surprised to hear people still complaining about a loss of parking and casting other aspersions on the city’s attempt to make the street safer.

Here’s a sampling of what Cohen heard from members of the neighborhood association:

First, the naysayers…

“So this is supposed to be a neighborhood park yet you’re talking about reducing parking spaces? That doesn’t sound very neighborhood friendly. And my other question is, when the kids are getting out of the car, they’re going to be opening the car door into the bike path. Now you really expect the kids to look behind them when there’s no rear-view mirror on that side of most cars. This seems dangerous to me.”

“We’ve narrowed it so basically one car can fit through… I don’t know why don’t we take advantage of the path that’s in the park? And do a bike-slash-walking path where there’s already a walking path just to make that [driving lane have] a little bit more space for everybody to be able to squeeze by each other because it feels really tight given the car volume.”

“I’m also concerned about the narrowing of lanes room for cars. Scott was saying they’ll have to negotiate to get by each other. And you know that that will slow them down, but it also increases the danger to people parking and opening doors… You know you open a door one way and you might hit a car, then open the door the other way, you might hit a bicycle.”

“If you looked at the comments on BikePortland, Jonathan’s website, there were a lot of people there that had problems with design.”

[In response to someone asking about better ADA access across Skidmore]: “Can we close off the crossings on [35th and 36th]? Right now there I know it’s a legal crossing, but there is no landing on the other side. And so I’m wondering if you could put up those little bars to keep people from crossing and direct them down to the one crossing and maybe put the money into more parking [and] we can have an improved pedestrian crossing, ADA access and have a better entry to the park.”

Thankfully, Cohen firmly rejected this suggestion of closing crosswalks into the park. He said from PBOT’s view parking is the “lowest [priority] use [of space] in this area.”

“On Saturdays and Sundays, they [Little League] have hundreds of people that come from all over for games and so, I know that [parking] may not be a priority for the program, but I think it is something from a neighborhood perspective that is important that we accommodate parking for park users.”

Don’t despair, there was actually solid support for the project from the neighborhood. Here’s what some folks said:

“I’m a little concerned about the priority for parking. And trust me I like parking when I have my car, but I don’t not care about Little League folks coming and needing parking during the summer, but the worst case scenario is they can park on side streets. So I just don’t know that we have to be concerned that everybody gets a parking spot right across the street from the park. And because those people aren’t necessarily in our neighborhood, it seems like as a neighborhood association, our priority is with those of us who live right around the park.”

“This could be a project that increase walkability and increase more sense of community. And from all the study and research that I’ve seen, we don’t do that by prioritizing people driving. And I feel like we’re missing an opportunity to create more space for people to move by creating a wider multi-use path. So instead of, you know, pedestrians having to navigate the same space, as people cycling on Skidmore, why not make a wider? I’d also like to see the diverter option back on the table. But otherwise, this is a nice compromise and I look forward to the improvement.”

“I believe street narrowing is going to help. I’m not really worried about someone having to park a block away to go to the park.”

[From a very young boy, maybe 7 years old!] “I would like to have this because I usually bike to school. When I bike to school I usually bike on like, where the bike lane is. So I am in favor because I like having a clear bike lane. I don’t want to be rushed when I’m biking.”

“I’m in favor of the proposal… When are we going to stop making cars a priority and make bikes the priority?”

Overall I didn’t hear anything at the meeting that would stop or delay the project. Kudos to PBOT’s Cohen for his deft handling of everyone’s comments. PBOT’s goal is to finish up the design and build the new bikeway this summer. Learn more at the project page.

Source link

Call Now Button