October 5, 2022

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Neighborhoods assess 13th Avenue bikeway, MovingAhead

4 min read
The new bike signals on 13th Avenue's cross streets are creating dangerous conditions for cyclists, neighborhood leaders said. This signal is for northbound cyclists on High Street.

The new bike signals on 13th Avenue's cross streets are creating dangerous conditions for cyclists, neighborhood leaders said. This signal is for northbound cyclists on High Street.

Neighborhood transportation committees shared information at their monthly meeting. Jon Belcher from River Road assessed the five MovingAhead routes, and Southeast Neighbor Steve Abbott fears for bicyclists crossing 13th Avenue.

[00:00:14] Steve Abbott: I took a master’s in Planning focused on transportation issues, so I’ve been trying to put that to use as a volunteer and I’ve been on the Active Transportation Committee as a volunteer now for almost two years. My term is just about to expire. There are six of us who will either be terming out or are, will be re-upping. I’m not sure about the others, I’m going to be terming out. Pass the word if folks who would be interested in serving on a volunteer committee to give input to the transportation planning folks.

[00:00:45] I and others are concerned, particularly on High Street and Pearl Street, well, Pearl Street particularly, because it creates a different condition than it is everywhere else in the city. There’s a traffic light for the bikes. If you’re a biker, traveling down Pearl Street, everywhere else you go with the car lights, but that one has its own light. And if you’re not paying attention—and it’s difficult to see—you may not know. And I’ve observed this many times: Bikers zip on through, and it’s created an expectation for drivers that they can go ahead and turn left without being concerned with bikes, if you know what I mean, because bikes have a light. So I do think there’s a huge risk there for a ‘left hook’ collision, car to bike.

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[00:01:27] A lot of bikers, the spandex crowd pretty much, takes 12th Avenue, ’cause that’s kind of a bike thoroughfare anyway and you don’t have to wait for the signals. I have observed an awful lot of people ignoring the bike signal, so that’s a problem. They’ve tuned it a little bit, they fine-tuned it, they’ve put in a little software that allows the cameras that see the bikes and change the signal for the bikes. The software now sees the bikes coming from farther away. So hopefully the sequence is a little bit faster for bikes. And the more the students come back, bigger crowds that use 13th Avenue, it becomes less of a problem because if you’ve got a bunch of people ahead of you in the bikeway, then the light’s changing fairly frequently. But I think there’s a lot of risks around, still, especially awareness.

[00:02:14] Different bicyclists that are used to cruising through and never stopping, it doesn’t work for them. They don’t like it.

[00:02:21] People who are unsteady, occasional bike riders, cautious bike riders riding with their kids seem to really respond to it well. I’ve had people say, ‘I would never take my kids on 13th Avenue before. Now I do.’

[00:02:32] John Q: From River Road, Jon Belcher.

[00:02:35] Jon Belcher: I think the city lost a real asset when Andy Kading left to go to (Victoria) BC. He was the guru of tuning traffic signals. I don’t know if they’ve recouped that knowledge in a new employee or not.

[00:02:49] Steve Abbott: Yeah, he seems to be legendary in that group.

[00:02:52] …I would say my observation after a couple of years in the Active Transportation Committee is, the biggest weakness here, the City does a lot of projects that may have a lot of good effects, but it doesn’t do a very good job of communicating to the public. One of the weaknesses I see is that there’s, and this is always true with transportation engineers, engineers will tend to look for engineering solutions to every problem. And sometimes problems don’t have an engineering solution. Sometimes they have a marketing solution or a public awareness solution there. I think that’s overlooked.

[00:03:21] John Q: Jon Belcher sized up the five routes in the MovingAhead project.

[00:03:25] Jon Belcher: So there’s an awful lot of transportation, other things in there that are not so new. We are hoping that the MovingAhead process does prioritize River Road to be an EMX street and it be the first to be built because we’re hoping that there are a lot of improvements for biking things, such as signalized crossings, protected bikeways, et cetera. But it remains to be seen whether the plan moves forward.

[00:03:54] Steve Abbott: As far as I understand that, that is where the EMX prioritization is falling is River Road. And probably Coburg as well?

[00:04:02] Jon Belcher: Here’s my biased opinion. I think there are five routes. Um, Martin Luther King really isn’t even on the table because there’s no ‘there’ there. I mean, there’s housing, but there’s not much commercial to attract people. The route to LCC doesn’t work because all they need is buses to get to LCC. They don’t have a need in between so much. Highway 99 is primarily commercial without residential. And it would be a great way to redevelop that area in the future. But right now it’s a heavy lift and Coburg is on the other end of the spectrum. It is so built out and so heavily traveled. There’s no way you can stick an EMX line in there. And Coburg has been opposed to having EMX ever since it was proposed 10 years ago. If you could just create some roadway in the middle of Coburg Road, somehow, it would be my first choice, but you can’t. By default to some degree, I think River Road makes the most sense.

[00:05:04] John Q: Transportation is just one of several committees of the Neighborhood Leaders Council. For more, contact your neighborhood association.

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