Author Archives: Ted

823-SAFE success story — bike lane repainted on N Interstate

“Scissors zones” are a dangerous part of bike-car interactions, where everyone is traveling in the same general direction, but bikes and cars need to switch places relative to each other. It’s like the point on a scissors where the two parts meet, a diamond shaped zone that is the route of both parties. &, like a scissors, if used incorrectly it will slice you up.

Bikes are vulnerable in these areas for a couple reasons:
1) there’s no safe haven
2) if car drivers don’t notice you, or are tailgating another car, then change lanes suddenly, they can rear-end you or sideswipe you. At high speed.
3) With “exit” areas, like ramps and right turn lanes, bicyclists only know if cars are coming through if the use their turn signals. So if there’s heavy traffic, bicyclists always need to put their lives in the hands of drivers, hoping that if the driver is turning without a signal, they are paying enough attention not to hit the bicyclist.

There’s a sketchy fork in the road on N Interstate just south of Tillamook St., where a 1930s “freeway style exit” forks off to the right to Larabee Ave. Unlike most right turns, where the scissors zone is small, this one is 420′ long — more than two city blocks. Its a segment of road where the bike lane runs down the middle, with car lanes on either side, and cars are at liberty to cross back and forth.

When I went through there a couple weeks ago, the bike lane “skip lines” (dashed lines indicating a car can pass through the bike lane) were completely worn away. So bikes had to either ride in the designated lane but fend for themselves, since there were no markings to warn cars, or go in the right hand bike lane and try to merge back to the left at the gauntlet. Cars were driving in the middle of the bike lane — because they didn’t know it was there.

I took a photo and emailed it to SAFE@portlandoregon.gov — the City of Portland transportation safety hotline, where they encourage us to report safety concerns.

(to see photos at full size, click on the photo, and click to toggle from before to after)
photo

I rode through there again yesterday, and was pleased to see that the lines had been repainted, and bikes were taking the rightful direct path through the intersection, and cars were always respecting the bike lane.

20130801_InterstateAfter

So I took another photo and sent it in with a note of thanks.

Request — call “823-BUMP” for fractured pavement on N Michigan Ave.

Honest Abe is up to his eyeballs in this fracture outside the Emmanuel Temple

There’s been chatter at public meetings and on the AROW email list about rough pavement on N Michigan Ave between Webster and Killingsworth Streets.

It’s only 3 blocks long, but the concrete pavement has deep fissures that can trap a bicycle wheel if not carefully navigated. When correctly navigated, it’s still really really bumpy.

I was riding on the street last October and took this photo of a $5 bill deep in one of the fissures, to illustrate just how severe the problem was.

A month earlier I had reported a similar problem with fissures on NE Bryant St., and PBOT did a great job of patching them within a week or two. Same type of concrete surface, same type of cracks. See story and photo at http://www.activerightofway.org/p/823-safe-success-story-ne-bryant-fissures/

Want to help get this stretch of neighborhood greenway smoothed out? Here’s how you can help:


1) Background: Portland encourages us to report potholes:
Portland relies on citizen maintenance requests to prioritize road repair. They even have signs up all over town telling this to us. It’s an economical decision — it costs less to put up signs and request that the citizenry tell them where the potholes are than it does to send out crews to find them. So, it’s our civic duty to report them.

2) Theory: maintenance requests needed from several individuals:
At the Boise Neighborhood Meeting this month, I asked the Portland Police Officer at the meeting if they’d taken any action on a drug dealer that we had talked about at the previous meeting. He said that he had received about 50 complaints about this drug dealer, but they were all from one individual. He assured us that his office had a lot of drug dealers to deal with, and that if they were only getting calls from one individual, it didn’t really matter how many calls came in, it was going to stay pretty low on their priority list. So, no, they hadn’t done anything about it.

3) Action: make requests for repairs to Neighborhood Greenways
So, here’s how we can all work together to improve the bicycling environment here in Portland. If you’re riding on a Neighborhood Greenway and you see some pavement that needs a patch, call it in. And if it doesn’t get patched, then put out a request that your fellow riders also call it in, thus marching it up the priority level.

Here’s my proposal —

Ya’all call 823-BUMP or email safe@portlandoregon.gov and ask them “Hey, can you guys patch the cracks in N Michigan between Webster and Killingsworth?”

Give it a shot, we’ll see if it works.

Ted Buehler

Case study: Portland’s “Community Design Guidelines”

Portland is a leader in “New Urbanist” infill development, where buildings in the central city are built to appear and function similar to their 100+ year old neighbors.

The central document that guides new development is the “Community Design Guidelines.” They are detailed instructions on how to build suitable new buildings in much of the older parts of the city, including the Boise Neighborhood. The Guidelines are a 240 page document that outline how buildings should face streets, provide lively pedestrian spaces, favor bicycling, walking and transit, and achieve many other beneficial goals. Read them at http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?a=58822&c=34250 (Note that these are just “guidelines”, not “requirements”. — they have no legal standing. But, if a developer wants to be in the good graces of the City of Portland, they do well to follow them).

In 2009, Menashe Development proposed “The Albert” a 4-story, 200 foot long building on N Williams at Beech. The building would tower over everything else in he neighborhood, and be big and blocky.

The Boise Neighborhood Association’s Land Use Chair, Ellen Cusick, wrote and excellent appeal to the proposal. She showed how many other new buildings in town follow The Guidelines carefully, and create better streetscapes and living spaces than The Albert. Her document is here (June, 2009). 20120104_EllenAppeal LU 09-101831_final (Note — there’s an intermediate page here — you’ll need to click on the document name in the next screen to pull up the document).

Then, in July, 2009, Ellen and the BNA testified at the city’s hearing for the building. Their testimony is here. 20120104_EllenLU 09-101831 Testimony-2 (Thanks to Ellen for providing the documents)

But in August, 2009, the city soundly rejected almost all elements of the appeal. Their decision is here. Appeal_Rejection_2009_lu_09_101831_dzm_dec(aug26)_PDF (Thanks to Lupin for getting this document)

Ground was broken spring 2011, and now “The Albert” is nearly completed, looming over thei neighborhood, but providing dense urban living for Portlanders.

Now, Menashe Development is proposing a nearly identical building 3 blocks north, at Williams and Mason. Read their application here: http://www.portlandonline.com/bds/index.cfm?a=378057&c=47126 Once again, the neighborhood can comment and make requests, based on the Community Design Guidelines, or any other basis. We have about 6 weeks to come up with our response. Responses can be made collectively or individually.

Ted Buehler

Amtrak’s “Passenger Response Form”

Many businesses have “Customer Feedback Cards” that patrons can fill out. They’re used for commending good service, reporting poor service, requesting additional features, or just about anything. For instance, walking out of Fred Meyer’s on N Interstate customers are greeted with a mini-kiosk with paper forms asking for feedback.

Amtrak, alas, has none.

There’s no on-the-spot way for customers to provide feedback and comments, unless they dig out a snail mail or email address and send something in. Not at Portland Union Station, not on the Cascades trains, not on the long-distance trains. And I have been told outright by station staff that there is no way to make a comment.

This is unfortunate. There’s lots of things that Amtrak does sloppily. And there’s lots of improvements that could be made that would boost ridership. But unless management has a way to get suggestions from users, many good ideas go unproposed, and shoddy service continues.

For instance,
* Bike racks at stations are usually poor quality
* Signage to find stations, by car or bike, is often poor
* There are not enough bike hooks on Cascade trains
* There should be bike hooks in baggage cars of long-distance trains
* PA systems in stations are almost always unintelligible

If there were customer feedback cards at stations and people were encouraged to fill them out, then management could get some idea as to the magnitude of these problems.

Fortunately, there are other ways to contact Amtrak management.

1) The Amtrak website has a Contact us form. It’s easy to find, at the top of the page at www.amtrak.com. Now that smartphones are common, users can send suggestions in while they’re still fresh in their mind.

2) I came across an old carbon-copy “Passenger Response Form” on a train bulletin board. It’s from 1978, back before the serious budget cuts of the 1990s cut all Amtrak programs to zero. This is a really good, detailed customer feedback card. It gets all the specific info — where you boarded, where you’re detraining, the day of travel, the names of any staff, etc. If you’re just complaining about bike racks, most will be blank. But if you did have a more complex suggestion, this form asks all the right questions to give management a detailed report.

With the miracle of modern computing, anybody can now take this .jpg and print a couple out, then send them in to the address. Written comments can be easier to make. You could even do a “guerilla” customer feedback kiosk at your local Amtrak station, and collect the forms once a week and send them in…

Remember — the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Ted Buehler

Below — a “doubled up” form — print out on an 8.5 x 11 sheet, photocopy, and you’ll have a stack to distribute. Click on thumbnail for full-size version.

Portland wants you to report traffic and safety problems

Many folks are shy about calling in safety problems at the city. People skirt the same potholes on their bikes year after year, deal with blind corners while turning onto busy streets, and have trouble walking across streets to get to transit.

Even people that never leave home often have to deal with people speeding by their houses all day long.

Just a reminder — the city requests that we let them know what we want. Here’s a few screenshots from the Portland Bureau of Transportation.. They have a rotating slide show on the front page that illustrates the many ways they invite citizens to participate in maintaining and upgrading active transportation facilities.

Be a participant in your transportation system. Call or email your wishes today.

Ted Buehler

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