Thanks to Rebecca & Karl for pulling it together for some spontaneous video interviews. It was fun putting together the prototype of this parklet with other people’s detritus.
Thank you for taking the time to review the proposed Columbia River Crossing.
Since no one sitting on this independent review panel lives in Oregon, I wanted to share some thoughts about why this project is not consistent with our region’s values of smart growth, good planning, and sustainable forms of construction and transportation.
1) We already know that building capacity does not solve congestion. In fact, it invites more SOV use, which leads to more congestion. The only way to handle the current congestion is to promote and support alternative ways to get across the river. Such solution would include but not limited to bus rapid transit, light rail, good bike and pedestrian pathways, and a tiered tolling system that would reward commuters for traveling during non-peak hours.
2) Tearing down a good bridge to build a brand new one is an affront to our local culture. We do not throw things out in Portland, we reuse them whenever possible. If we want to build a new bridge, it should be to the benefit of local access, mass transit and active transportation, not for an interstate highway. If there are seismic issues with the current bridge, we should repair them. Nothing I’ve read indicates that a replacement is necessary.
3) There will be a negative impact on our region’s environmental and sustainability goals if the proposed 10-12 lane bridge is constructed. Affirmations from the CRC organization that reduced idling will somehow outweigh the overall carbon footprint of thousands of new SOV crossings a day is absolutely false. That sort of arithmetic error demonstrates the CRC organization’s poor grasp of the serious environmental costs this bridge would have on our region and our world.
4) The proposed bridge would not properly accommodate those who are walking and biking. Portland recently passed the Bike Master Plan for 2030, which commits the city to building a world-class bicycle network. The pathways of the proposed new CRC would be an improvement over the current network, but do not go far enough to allow the proper safety and enjoyment of those users who wish to experience the Columbia River Crossing by foot. We can do better.
5) We cannot afford this bridge, when there are other, higher-priority local projects that require necessary funding. Let’s fix the current bridge and move on to more important local projects.
There is absolutely no consensus on this bridge, and the the process for public input is severely lacking, if not appalling. There is no way this bridge can be built within the current framework for public input.
In Oregon, if we’re going to build something, we want to make sure it’s the right thing to do. The new bridge is not what we want, it’s as simple as that.
A video study with proposed solutions to repair one of the worst intersections in Portland, Oregon.
Thought I should share my experience today watching a fellow cyclist get CREAMED by a thrown open door on Williams, just south of Russel (outside of a retirement home I believe). If there was a car next to him, the rider would have most likely been another bicycle fatality. Thankfully, he was not seriously injured, and was wearing a helmet which may have saved his life. His bicycle is going to need about $500 worth of work. The kicker is that the driver had no insurance. But you figure, OK, when the police show up she’s going to at least get a ticket for that. Actually, since she wasn’t actually ‘driving’ (car was parked) and they couldn’t prove she was the driver (even though two of us witnessed the driver throw open the driver side front door), there is no crime and technically no one is at fault (this is all according to the PO).
It is very scary that there is such permissiveness to drive (or park) in Portland and not be held accountable for driving insuranceless — and ultimately, whoever these drivers hit are going to pay that price. If this rider was injured severely, he’d have to pay for it completely himself.
Granted, this woman did not mean to knock over the cyclist and was extremely upset about it. Her door couldn’t even close. She apparently had a fight with her passenger and threw the door open in haste. Not exactly safe parking behavior along a bike route. But when I put myself in the driver’s shoes, beyond my own care to look in the mirror to watch for cyclists, there are NO REMINDERS to drivers to watch for bikes approaching in the bike lane. Why is there no law that drives this point home loud and clear?
And through this experience, I think once again we have an infrastructural issue that leads to this perpetual conflict. Why on earth would we put a bike lane on one of the most highly traveled bike routes in Portland, alongside these parked cars? It makes bike lanes actually MORE DANGEROUS to ride in than simply taking the lane.
So, thanks for this opportunity to decompress and hopefully spark (or rehash) some conversation, particularly action items for dealing with Williams and all of our bike lanes that abut parking lanes. If my perception is wrong, I’d love to hear other views on this.
After moving to Portland last September, I’ve largely enjoyed my new city’s smart planning and general responsiveness to unsafe conditions.
I noticed, however, a few things unique to Portland that made intersections feel less safe:
- Lots of 2-way stops, even though 4-ways seem a safer bet
- Plenty of streets intersecting larger, arterial byways have very poor visibility of oncoming cross traffic. This is due to parked cars and other obstructions close to these intersections.
- Some streets seem to be unofficially designated “no bike zones” because of the speed and density of vehicular traffic (i.e. MLK, Burnside), which makes crossing them even more difficult.
There is the political (and social) will to make our streets safer where I live, but still much needs to be done. In places like Philadelphia and New York City, there is less (but growing) will to reimagine our intersections as safe, communal spaces. My sense from the initial reaction is the acceptance that visibility is important, but not every city is ready to give up parking at every corner. I’d like to challenge the notion that the convenience of parking a car should not endanger pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers.
Portland has a vague, largely unenforced law that prohibits cars that are 6ft or taller from parking within 50 ft of an intersection. This law is only enforced when someone complains, and on recent excursions to document intersections, I’ve been overwhelmed with how many vehicles were violating this law. Short of me creating a full-time, unpaid job for myself by reporting all of these cars — who’s drivers most likely don’t understand the law as it’s buried in city code — I see a need for Portland to go on a ‘parking diet’ and take an active role in prohibiting parking that makes it dangerous for cross traffic. I consider cross traffic any car, bicycle, or pedestrian attempting to cross a street where they do not have a physical barrier (i.e. stop sign or stop signal), to aid the lack of visibility.
The word I’ve gotten thus far, is that the city doesn’t want to lose the parking spaces, particularly on commercial strips like Alberta and Hawthorne. If the parking were removed, it would lead to more cruising for spots, which leads to more cars circling neighborhood blocks, spewing carbon monoxide and adding to a general sense of congestion.
Seattle, which arguably has a higher demand for on-street parking, has a citywide law that prohibits parking within 30 feet of all intersections. Similar laws are on the books across the country. One sense in Portland is that this poor visibility forces drivers to compensate by driving more cautiously. The idea is Mental Speed Bumps: less traffic control and more visual stimulation, lead to traffic calming.
I do appreciate that many side streets are kept calm and there is a culture of planning in Portland which makes every intersection a bit safer than your average city. But, I’m not sure I’m buying that mental speed bumps have a comprehensive impact on safer streets. In a time when more drivers are distracted by eating, cell phones, bad weather or lighting conditions, passengers and so forth, I’ve had enough close calls in this city to wonder just what works to make drivers more aware, drive slower, and perhaps, drive less.
I’ve created a mini-blog called INTERSECTION 911. A space to
- document intersections perceived to be dangerous
- connect perception to reality – back up with data whenever possible
- highlight successful intersection interventions in Portland and other cities
- understand the process – how Portland addresses problematic intersections
- create tools to help others advocate for changes in their cities
- pressure the city to investigate and address intersection concerns
There are other folks working on similar projects, for now I’m creating my own space to keep my information nuggets together. Eventually, it may make sense to contribute to Livable Streets. I also plan to take a free class at PSU on Transportation planning (thanks, Greg!) this Fall, and continue to build relationships with stakeholders. For now, I’m going to make parking near intersections my first concern and see what comes about. Let me know if you have any ideas!
Pardon the poor quality, 8 year old digital camera footage. Sometime soon, I hope to have one of those sweet handheld HD cameras.