Slide shown at Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, Tuesday March 14th.

“There’s nothing out there today for bikes on that street, and we are a city that cares deeply about bikes and wants to advance our goals around bicycle use, so we wanted to look at it.”

-Mike Serritella, PBOT

The jurisdictional transfer of 82nd Avenue from state to city hands last spring — and subsequent influx of funding for infrastructure changes — has opened up a world of new possibilities for the street. The Portland Bureau of Transportation released details on some of the initial draft designs for 82nd earlier this month, but none of the plans so far have been specific about the future of dedicated bike infrastructure on the street.

That changed at Tuesday night’s joint meeting of the Portland bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees where we got our first clue into what dedicated bike facilities on 82nd Ave could look like. According to PBOT planner Mike Serritella, they probably won’t look like the protected bike lanes of our dreams, but at least the conversation is happening.

Serritella briefed committee members on 82nd Ave planning efforts and the possibility of including dedicated bike lanes in the plans. In the past, the idea of bikeways has taken a backseat to talks about significant changes to the walking and transit infrastructure on 82nd. Given that, we were surprised to see Serritella’s presentation.

PBOT says they want to right the past wrongs on 82nd Ave. (Source: PBOT)

“I think if anyone travels on 82nd Ave regularly, they can attest that the status quo of what’s out there today has consistently prioritized cars and the movement of cars over people walking, biking and taking transit,” Serritella said. “It hasn’t historically been a huge part of the conversation and focus around 82nd Avenue which is focused primarily on pedestrian space and transit…but there’s nothing out there today for bikes on that street, and we are a city that cares deeply about bikes and wants to advance our goals around bicycle use, so we wanted to look at it.”

Serritella said PBOT has a limited amount of space to use on 82nd. Even though the street may seem wide, it’s comparatively more narrow (56-60 feet) than other arterials in east Portland, like 122nd Ave or SE Stark St.

“It’s a constrained corridor…so planning for the future of [82nd Ave] requires us to grapple with trade-offs, because there’s just simply not enough space for us to really adequately serve all the modes that are out there today,” Serritella said.

In looking at options for creating a designated space for cycling on 82nd Ave, Serritella indicated it became clear that there wasn’t going to be enough room to repurpose a full vehicle travel lane to create a continuous protected bike lane that would be comfortable for people to use. This would require all car, freight and transit traffic to share one lane in each direction, which Serritella said would have particularly negative impacts for people taking the 72 bus on 82nd Ave — the busiest bus in the TriMet system. Ultimately, PBOT has an interest in pursuing a bus rapid transit project on 82nd Ave similar to TriMet’s FX line on Division St, which would likely take priority over including bike facilities on the street.

“Our initial analysis [of the protected bike lane option] is that it would create roughly a 50% delay to transit users on the corridor, which has a major impact. In addition, there would be tens of thousands of diverted vehicles of all kind throughout the system,” he said. “So this isn’t an easy decision, but it’s something that makes us think that this type of treatment on 82nd Ave is not something we want to move forward with at this time.”

Serritella said that instead, PBOT is recommending broader bike network improvements rather than a continuous dedicated on-street facility. This might be something like a shared bike-bus lane on a stretch of 82nd, and potentially a sidewalk-level bike facility behind the curb on off-street sections of the corridor.

Carol Hasenberg, a BAC member who lives in east Portland, said she would prefer to see a bus rapid transit line on 82nd and a parallel neighborhood greenway nearby for people biking to use.

“I tend to want to separate bikes and cars as much as possible, like veins and arteries,” Hasenberg said.

This perspective reflects an important philosophical debate in the bike infrastructure world. Many people, including Portland Bike Coordinator Roger Geller, have lamented how many of Portland’s bikeways are hidden off of main streets. People who wanted PBOT to install a dedicated bike lane on Hawthorne Blvd, for instance, were not happy with the city’s reasoning that they could use parallel greenways instead. This could be a cause of contention on 82nd Ave as well.

Serritella said PBOT wants to build two parallel routes to 82nd that’s within a quarter mile of the corridor top to bottom. Right now, the 80s greenway running between 82nd and 92nd only runs south of I-84, but the funded 70s greenway is expected to be constructed this summer. Additionally, they plan to build “a series of frequent and evenly spaced bike-friendly crossings” all throughout the corridor for people traveling east-west across 82nd Ave.

This presentation was just the start of a conversation that will take place over the next year or so. Stay tuned for more updates as the discussion continues to play out.

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