By Garlynn Woodsong | Chair, CNA LUTC
A few years ago, the city of Portland solicited feedback from the Concordia Neighborhood Association (CNA) about the 20s Bikeway project.
One of our responses was to request diverters at major streets in our neighborhood – such as Prescott and Killingsworth – to prevent cut-through car traffic from turning onto the narrow one-lane streets on which the 20s Bikeway is routed. That practice can stress out potential bicyclists on the route who may be interested in bicycling more, but are concerned for their safety.
But we were told the city would only install diverters on streets with higher than a certain amount of automobile traffic.
They then informed us they had changed their policies, and now they only installed diverters on streets with sufficiently high traffic volumes. They measured the traffic volumes in Concordia, and the single-lane streets of the 20s Bikeway project didn’t have enough cars to meet their new standard (for two-lane streets), so therefore they didn’t feel diverters were necessary.
I’ve told this story to folks around the city. In doing so, I’ve found a coalition of folks who also want to see physical diversions installed to protect our investment in the bicycle greenway system and keep it safe for bicyclists of all ages and abilities.
Together we developed a communitybased policy proposal called “Diversion on Bikeways as Urban Form.” The basic concept is that the urban form of bicycle greenways should include diverters to ensure that they are local-access-only for motor vehicles, while allowing bicycles to continue as through traffic.
The idea is the same as the existing urban form standard for sidewalks that includes wheelchair ramps where sidewalks meet street intersections, and for driveways that includes ramps and aprons where driveways meet streets.
This policy proposal is endorsed by CNA, the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, SE Uplift and BikeLoudPDX.
Those groups presented this policy proposal to Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) staff in December. We were told PBOT will take no further action until it fills its new greenways coordinator position.
Once this policy is adopted officially, it includes a strategy to deploy temporary installations initially to test each diverter location. It advises using kiosks to allow neighbors to provide feedback to PBOT, so temporary installations can be moved or adjusted, retested and perhaps moved and tested again, before being made permanent.
This sort of iterative public feedback loop is proposed as a more effective version of public engagement.
Traditionally, public engagement involves discussions in meeting rooms far from actual installation sites. Feedback thus received comes from people who haven’t yet interacted with the physical diversions in question as a part of their daily travels.
We look forward to working with the city to test this new policy to help encourage more bicycling in Portland – in a way that is respectful of and responsive to the concerns of neighbors and roadway users.
Garlynn Woodsong lives on 29th Avenue, serves on the CNA board and is an avid bicyclist. He also is a dad who is passionate about the city his son will inherit. He is the planning + development partner with Cascadia Partners LLC, a local urban planning firm. Contact him at LandUse@ ConcordiaPDX.org.