Updated: Open Letter to City Council on Barbur Boulevard

Update 10/7/13:

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance has an action alert urging folks to testify at City Council on Wednesday in support of the road diet.

Original Post 10/4/13:

My message today to City Council on the Barbur road diet:

Mayor Hales and members of City Council,

I’m writing to ask you to expedite consideration of the Barbur Boulevard “road diet”.

I relate to Barbur Boulevard on three levels: personally as a traveler, as a place with great potential and as an emblem for key policy choices that face the City under the Portland Plan.

My own travel needs and choices cause me to bicycle from the Barbur Transit Center to downtown Portland about once every two weeks. While much of the trip is an easy downhill glide, there are several harrowing sections and the two bridges between Terwilliger and Hamilton are by far the worst. While some drivers are courteous and change lanes to allow me use of the “shared roadway” sections, it’s all too common to have cars whiz past me only a few feet away, even though the adjacent lane is generally empty. As a “confident and enthused” person riding a bike I’m prepared to tolerate this on occasion, but I know that tapping the full potential for bicycle transportation in Portland will require us to make segments like this one – the major gateway into Southwest Portland – comfortable and convenient for people of varying abilities and confidence.

As liaison from the Planning and Sustainability Commission, I had the privilege to work with a group of dedicated residents and business owners in shaping the Barbur Concept Plan, our shared vision of how Barbur Boulevard can become a vibrant place where people live, work, shop and recreate while remaining a vital transportation corridor. But this vision cannot be achieved while Barbur is managed primarily as an overflow valve for I-5. Indeed, changing Barbur’s relationship to the freeway is essential to unlock the potential of the “crossroads” area at Barbur and Capitol. The proposed road diet would be a great first step in the series of changes needed to make Barbur a place that delivers on the Portland Plan “healthy connected city” promise.

ODOT is choosing to frame this as a trade-off against travel speed. I would suggest to you that differences in travel time (already challenged by other agencies and academic experts) are a rounding error in the much greater changes in travel patterns that the Portland Plan anticipates. Steep reductions in single-occupancy vehicle travel are expected and necessary to meet our aspirations for remaining a vibrant community in the context of global changes and challenges. Preserving a few seconds of travel time reduction today against unlocking future opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian travel is penny wise and pound foolish.

Unfortunately today’s planning tools are often constrained by the models in the Regional Transportation Plan which continue to forecast automobile traffic growth. Metro will not be integrating Climate Smart Communities policies into the RTP until the 2018 iteration of the plan. Until then, Portland must cast a skeptical eye and use more focused local tools to model performance of our transportation facilities.

I urge you to support early planning for the Barbur road diet and in the longer term pursue jurisdictional transfer of Barbur from an “orphan highway” to its future role as a vibrant city street. This choice is an important directional signal for how Portland will achieve its transportation goals under the Portland Plan.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

Chris Smith

48 Comments

48 Responses to Updated: Open Letter to City Council on Barbur Boulevard

  1. Alan Locklear
    October 4, 2013 at 11:49 am Link

    Reading Joseph Rose’s article about the road diet proposal this morning, I couldn’t help noticing that the headline writer at the Oralgroanian referred to bicyclists as “bikers”, ignoring the generally-accepted meaning of that term as referring to a particular type of motorcyclist. A clumsy attempt to prejudice their readers against bicyclists, do you suppose?

  2. Wells
    October 4, 2013 at 2:25 pm Link


    “The proposed road diet would be a great first step in the series of changes needed to make Barbur a place that delivers on the Portland Plan “healthy connected city” promise.”

    “support early planning for the Barbur road diet and in the long-term pursue jurisdictional transfer of Barbur, from an “orphan highway” to a future role as a vibrant city street, an important direction signal for Portland to achieve transportation goals of the Portland Plan.”

    Once in awhile, trust is fairly given. I’ll trust you on diet details, chris, as long as they meet my own higher than average standards. I’m not finished considering station designs for both LRT & BRT, but favoring BRT for Barbur because bus side-routes have additional potential. Just get on with station design…

  3. Ron Swaren
    October 4, 2013 at 6:50 pm Link

    Why not hang a bike path off the e. side of the Barbur viaduct.? Similar to the Steel Bridge ped and bike, cantilevered gizmo. Then forget this silly “road diet” thing, and also the new Portland minions you want moving here, who will only drive statewide inflation higher and contribute to big profits for out of state developers.

    • Chris Smith
      October 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm Link

      Ron, bike facilities are needed in both directions. Why undertake capital construction (which is sorely needed for sidewalk facilities elsewhere on Barbur) when paint would suffice here? ODOT’s case that the lane capacity is needed day-to-day has already been criticized from a variety of quarters.

  4. James
    October 4, 2013 at 7:47 pm Link

    As a Lewis & Clark alum who was frequently terrified cycling on Barbur and a friend of Henry Schmitd; I completely agree with you.

  5. James
    October 4, 2013 at 7:50 pm Link

    I forgot to link to the story about Henry Schmidt, but I’m sure most have already read it.
    http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2013/08/lake_oswego_woman_arrested_in.html

  6. Nick theoldurbanist
    October 4, 2013 at 7:56 pm Link

    Barbur needs sidewalks above all!

    God bless you Chris, you’re a brave man to bike down Barbur.

  7. Ron Swaren
    October 4, 2013 at 8:28 pm Link

    “Why undertake capital construction (which is sorely needed for sidewalk facilities elsewhere on Barbur) when paint would suffice here? ”

    Extremely disengenuous, Mr. Smith. I think what you really want is vaildation for your minority views on the Planning Commission.

    1.Why are sidewalks “sorely needed?” No one is walking there now. Maybe people don’t want to walk two miles along Barbur in the rain. Oh, I know, your Big Ideas for more density (meanwhile, driving prices higher all over the state) would, at some far future date, justify them.

    2. ODOT’s case that lane capacity is needed…. has been criticized from a number of quarters>” Sure I know. And the Sellwood “ready to fall in the river” Bridge was criticized from the same “quarters” and scrapped for a rusty replacement costing ten times as much as other MultCo. bridge rehabs. Including the awesome, 4 lane/wide sidewalks St. Johns Bridge. And perhaps the same quarters that demanded a 1.5 billion MAX Rail to the teeming metropolis (official population: 20,000+) of Milwaukie, OR. Despite the fact that an interurban rail line, only half a mile across the Willamette, had been previously bought for a few million.

    Unfortunately too late, actual science ( such as from the US Geological Survey) has scotched such claims, as propounded by MultCo Chair-seeking Deborah Kafoury, that local bridges are “ready to fall in the water.” However, the ‘spend it before you lose it’ contingent already has committed us to billions in spending we didn’t need, while jockeying at taxpayer expense for untold billions more.

    Your claim that ODOT is incorrect is just your little, Portland based opinion. And one which is largely invalidated by the experiential reality that Portland’s bicycle contingent prefers to dart into something dry when the winter weather comes.

    IMO, it’s time for you to go, before you contribute to more problems for Portlanders. Somebody ought to tell you, but I guess it is up to me.

    • Chris Smith
      October 5, 2013 at 4:21 am Link

      Saying we don’t need sidewalks on Barbur because no one walks there now is just silly. If for no other reason we need to give people better access to the bus stops along Barbur.

      Ron, I’m not going to respond to the ad hominem stuff. You’re welcome to urge the Mayor not to re-appoint me to Planning Commission. But this site is very up front about its perspective, and if you don’t share it, you’re welcome to participate elsewhere.

      • al m
        October 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm Link


        [Moderator: Completely invalid assertion that there is “no place to participate elsewhere” removed. You can start your own blog for free in an instant. You participate all over YouTube already. Go attract others to your cause – elsewhere. – Bob R.]

        • al m
          October 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm Link

          [Moderator: Rant about tyranny and a Nazi reference removed. Al has been daring us to prohibit him from posting on this blog for years, and now he finally gets his wish. You’re done here, Al. Congratulations, and thanks for the memories. Sorry that you couldn’t come around to having a civil conversation. You almost did just two days ago. Oh well. Farewell. – Bob R.]

  8. Ron Swaren
    October 5, 2013 at 7:35 am Link

    Well, don’t respond then. I am certainly NOT anti-bicycle, although your blog frequently levels that accusation at me. There is plenty of room in the ROW on Barbur to handle this need creatively. And because Barbur cuts through some steep terrain, traditionally it has been sparsely settled. Therefore having a bikeway, somewhere in the ROW that doesn’t require the restriction on travel lanes is a very accomodating solution. And in Portland we try to be accomodating. And an added path would be a socially, politically and legally simpler solution than changing the designation of a state highway.

    But it sounds like this solution, which I think would be obvious to most people as an elegant choice, wouldn’t fit what I now believe is your elemental agenda: to placate a portion of Portland’s population that is very inconsistent in their demands. Commissioner Kafoury did exactly this; and in spite of both expert warnings that the Sellwood bridge was still quite safe and functional, and the highest level scientific evaluation that the Portland area has little reason to fear a major earthquake (similar to the 1964 Alaskan quake) said Commissioner plunged ahead with scrapping a noted 20th C. designer’s work; provided no increase in capacity above what could have been done with the existing structure. burdened us with what will be a rusty eyesore, and saddled most Multnomah Co, residents with added yearly fees.

    I think it is time that Portlanders and the few who read this blog know that your agenda is similar; that there are unneeded costs, unannounced and onerous burdens in your agenda, and flat out silly demands that Portlanders travel choices—-on a year round basis—-meet some unrealistic standard. And apparently you want us to go to great lengths to justify it.

    So, if you continue in this vein, covertly sabotaging our quality of life, I think you ought to go. Maybe move to Chicago, if you like that sort of urban style of life.

    • Oregon Mamacita
      October 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm Link

      Ron provides an important counter-balance on this blog.
      There is an unannounced and burdensome agenda to control Portlander’s travel choices to meet some unrealistic standard.”

      Here’s proof, from Chris S. :”The steep reductions in single-occupancy vehicle travel are expected and necessary to meet our aspirations for remaining a vibrant community in the context of global changes and challenges. ”

      The general public does not know about the anti SOV agenda. We need an honest debate, not code words and jargon. The whole Comp Plan should be voted on by the people, IMHO.

      • Bob R.
        October 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm Link

        The particular reductions in lane capacity being discussed here (Barbur Blvd) are not part of the comp plan. Rather, they’re part of an effort to prevent further injuries and deaths to the pedestrians and cyclists forced to depart the bike lane to cross an outdated viaduct that doesn’t even meet current state codes.

        The proposal before city council is cost-effective, involving only paint and signs. Too often, cycling proponents are accused of wanting to spend too much on infrastructure for too few people. Here, in this case, the solution will save lives, and cost little, yet there is entrenched resistance from many quarters.

        This proves that the real #1 priority for ODOT is to move cars for the benefit of suburban commuters, rather than to promote safety.

      • Chris I
        October 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm Link

        So you don’t believe that we should revise our infrastructure in preparation for the effects of peak oil? Do you always invest all of your money in one fund? Where is the risk mitigation?

        • Oregon Mamacita
          October 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm Link

          You assume that cars will not improve, when they are improving in terms
          of pollution and energy efficiency. I do not believe (and I read a lot) that
          BPS and Metro have been clear about their anti SOV stance.
          In fact, I find Mr. Smith to be the most forthcoming about the anti-SOV agenda.

          If you put the proposition: “is it the role of regional government to influence our choice to own a car by deliberate congestion, reduced parking etc.” to a vote, most folks in Portland would answer “no.”

          “Nulti-modal strategies” – Chris S, why the jargon? You confuse the public with “multi-modal.” You need to be more clear: Metro wants to discourage people from using or even owning a family car. Say that to the public and see what happens. Use the term “car.”

          • Bob R.
            October 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm Link

            “You assume that cars will not improve, when they are improving in terms of pollution and energy efficiency”

            Cars are improving, yes (thanks in part to big government mandates), but in terms of carbon pollution and reliance on fossil fuels, it’s not nearly good enough. When the majority of cars are electric and run primarily on a grid supplied by solar/wind (or based on portable fuels generated using non-carbon energy sources), we can talk about the proper ratio of VMT per capita. But for gas-powered autos, there’s only so much efficiency to be gained. The laws of physics – Power to weight, the efficiency of combustion, etc. – matter more than a trifle.

            BPS and Metro have been clear about their anti SOV stance.

            There is no “anti-SOV” stance. Enacting policies that envision a different ratio of car travel is not anti-SOV, nor is enacting policies that encourage kids to have healthy meals at school and reduce sugary snacks “anti-food” or “anti-dessert”.

            And the current status quo is not the result of the free market or God-given edicts, it is largely the result of policies that favor auto-dependent development over cycling, walking, and transit. Favoring the status quo is every but as much about favoring government intervention in people’s lives as is favoring changing the ratio.

            If you put the proposition: “is it the role of regional government to influence our choice to own a car by deliberate congestion, reduced parking etc.” to a vote, most folks in Portland would answer “no.”

            You’re presenting it with a very high degree negative spin. A more neutral characterization might be:

            Is it the role of regional government to significantly reduce emphasis on travel by automobiles while increasing emphasis on travel by walking, bicycling, and transit?

            In any case, no candidate for Metro has ever sidestepped this issue, and no candidate for Portland Mayor hasn’t publicly campaigned on their take on transportation issues. There’s no big secret, and the public has plenty of say, not just via neighborhood groups and at public meetings, but at every election.

            Candidates in favor of the status quo and/or balancing things more toward cars, with a few notable exceptions, don’t do very well.

            You confuse the public with “multi-modal.”

            “Multi-Modal” is the correct, technical term. Saying “cars, transit, peds and bikes” many times over may be more accessible but it grows tiresome after awhile. But it’s not just transportation wonks who struggle with this, the LGBTQA community has been struggling this for awhile and with half the alphabet. :-)

            Metro wants to discourage people from using or even owning a family car.

            Simply untrue. Nobody is prevented from owning or using a car. However, the days of spending vast resources to subsidize/favor that mode over others are coming to an end.

            When the street network is as complete for bicycles and peds as it now is for automobiles, then we can talk about who’s getting or not getting a fair shake.

          • Oregon Mamacita
            October 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm Link

            In regard to my question about anti-SOV measures, Bob R. said it was a bad question because it was negative. But BobR, you are so busted.

            The problem with my question is that it is an invalid compound question used for rhetorical purposes. Your revised question is a total fail because it is compound. Also, please admit that
            your question is slanted too.

            And that is an issue I have with many BPS surveys- all slanted compound questions.

          • bjcefola
            October 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm Link

            The Oregon Values and Belief Survey was recently released. It has several questions that might be of interest to this group but only one that directly referenced driving.

            Respondents in the Portland Metro region overwhelmingly favor lifestyle changes specifically including driving less as a way of dealing with climate change.

          • bjcefola
            October 9, 2013 at 8:17 pm Link

            Here is the chart I meant to embed.

      • Chris Smith
        October 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm Link

        The SOV reduction strategies are an overt part of the adopted Portland Plan. Multi-modal strategies were strongly supported in the public input to the Portland Plan.

        • Oregon Mamacita
          October 9, 2013 at 10:16 pm Link

          If the Portland area -is so pro-denisty, anti-SOV explain:

          1. Hales campaign promise to consider parking minimums (kept)
          2. Clackamas County anti-light rail measures
          3. Tigard putting light rail and TOD on the ballot
          4. Damascus considers leaving Metro
          5. Transit use drops 4%
          6. Bike commuters stuck at 6% mode share
          7. Car sakes up all over the country- even around here

          I believe that there has been a .deliberate attempt to soft-peddle the
          anti-SOV agenda. Again, I like bikes but the anti-SOV stuff is over-bearing and frankly out of line. Metro is not the lifestyle police. I don’t need the BPS to tell me how to live. Steve Novick was not hired to lecture me on how cars effect my family budget.

          • Bob R.
            October 9, 2013 at 11:05 pm Link

            What are car sakes? Drinking while driving, even rice wine, is illegal. :-)

          • EngineerScotty
            October 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm Link

            I disappear for a few days (been doing some remodeling) and all heck breaks loose. :)

            At any rate, support for density is (obviously) not uniformly distributed throughout the metro region. Portlanders have generally been approving of what their city government has been up to, as have residents of Beaverton, Gresham, and Hillsboro (though the last of these still wants to build roads a’plenty). Tigard has asked for a vote on light rail (which I have no objection to, given the early stages of the SW Corridor). It’s mainly Clackamas and Clark Counties where we see the biggest objections to density.

            And unsurprisingly, the density-supporting areas are denser than the areas that object to it.

            At any rate, the street being considered for a road diet is one that lies entirely within the City of Portland. Of course, it is a state highway and under ODOT jurisdiction, but there is some question as to whether that should remain the case, given the nice six-lane freeway a couple blocks to the east. ODOT, and a few others, desire to have Barbur function as a “relief valve” to I-5–but other inbound freeways/expressways do not have similar parallel arterials that still function as highways–nobody would suggest that Hall Boulevard, or Cornell/Barnes, or Sandy, or Interstate, or MLK, or 17th/Milwaukie, or 82nd, or Borland ought to be engineered to move auto traffic expediently should an incident close the nearby freeway. Only Barbur (and perhaps Fourth Plain in Vancouver) still seem to have this expectation.

          • Jason McHuff
            October 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm Link

            It’s arguable that 82nd is engineered for “moving auto traffic expediently”. Though it is tighter than Barbur (e.g. no shoulders).

  9. Chris Smith
    October 5, 2013 at 5:17 pm Link

    Ron, if you told some other commenter to leave town, I’d kill the comment.

    You’re now directly violating site rules. Please be civil.

  10. Ron Swaren
    October 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm Link

    I’ve got a right to address someone in public service in terms that accomplish a goal. What’s wrong with suggesting a place for you that better suits your vision? In dealing with the public there is always a lot of backtalk.

    [Moderator: Telling people to move out of town has ALWAYS been prohibited on this blog, no matter whom. However, telling people to leave a private blog for violating clearly-stated rules is fine. Like asking a rude, intimidating drunk to leave a dinner party (by means other than self-driving). This is your final warning. – Bob R.]

  11. Ron Swaren
    October 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm Link

    There are a lot of things banned, including the numerous accusations towards me that your moderators just happen to let slip. You should know that everyone has a limit. But I will be making some complaints against you, Mr. Smith. It is a duty.

  12. Alex Reed
    October 7, 2013 at 5:19 am Link

    Hmm, given the above comments, it sounds like a good time for me to contact the Portland City commissioners and tell them how much I value Chris Smith on the Planning Commission!

  13. Dave
    October 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm Link

    Don’t many of the plans for light rail in the Southwest corridor call for it to go down Barbur? So for this proposal, we’re down to what, one lane on Barbur for cars?

    I agree that there are no great options since Terwilliger is less than ideal for commuting. Could the existing lanes be narrowed a bit more and make the sidewalk a bit wider (or removing the sidewalk just have it at road level for bike), thus turning it into a multi-use bike/ped lane? That stretch of Barbur is never going to be heavily used by walkers due to the distances involved. Most will ride their bike or take the bus.

    • Chris I
      October 8, 2013 at 8:36 am Link

      I think we have already covered on here than LRT would make more sense in a bored tunnel that includes a station at OHSU. Due to the ROW width and complicated terrain issues on Barbur, LRT with dedicated ROW there would likely cost just as much, and wouldn’t include OHSU. If BRT is selected, there is a strong probability that they would like some of that space on Barbur for a dedicated lane. Again, I’m not sure if they need it in the un-signalized stretch, as there is rarely congestion here.

  14. Adron Hall
    October 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm Link

    Chris – who can I contact to state my approval of your work and commend you on a job well done?

    Ron Swaren – So what or where do you post things YOU advocate for?

    …anyway, back to writing up my two cents on the Barbur Street post. As for ODOT roads I’m all for taking over the roads they currently “maintain” or “operate” since they’re so deadly. Any road that is so deadly, which Portland has proven as have most developed European nations, can be fixed with thoughtful changes around the design of said roadways just sits as an example that ODOT has misguided goals if *human life* is anywhere lower than the first position of priority. Obviously Barbur, 82nd an others have human life as a lower priority than auto throughput since it’s been proven their designs are faulty for safe operation of motor vehicles on these ODOT roadways.

    • Ron Swaren
      October 8, 2013 at 8:26 pm Link

      Why should I advocate for something in the first place?

  15. Allan
    October 8, 2013 at 6:36 am Link

    What about a reversible center lane? Could solve some if the whining about losing a lane

    • Dave
      October 8, 2013 at 8:47 am Link

      I like the reversible center lane idea. It’s a great compromise! I was up in Vancouver BC recently and that’s what they have on the Lions Gate Bridge. It works great. They have a series of lights over the center lane. Red X for wrong direction and a green arrow for the correction direction.

      • Jason McHuff
        October 10, 2013 at 9:14 pm Link

        They actually had one decades ago on Barbur for buses; I’m told they removed it due to crashes.

  16. Chris I
    October 8, 2013 at 8:33 am Link

    The problem with the debate on the Barbur diet is that the two sides aren’t talking about the same thing. Those advocating for a northbound lane reduction only intend for the reduction to occur in the section between Briar Place and Hamilton, where the two bridges are located, and where there are zero traffic signals. The group resisting the change are picturing a lane reduction all the way south, including the congested signalized intersections near Terwilleger. If the lane reduction is done in the un-signalized section, there will be no additional congestion. Northbound traffic will pass through the last northbound signal and then zipper merge before the bridge. This happens all over the city, and it works just fine (NE Glisan, SE Division, etc).

    And let’s be honest here, this is a few thousand dollars in paint we are talking about. ODOT is already resurfacing the bridges, so they need to just do a simple restripe for a few miles. If it creates carmageddon, we can always change it back. Is the opposition just afraid the we are correct?

  17. Brian Davis
    October 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm Link

    It’s fascinating to see the sheer amount of discussion that the Barbur issue has generated here and elsewhere, and the passionate views on it. That’s great–this is an important conversation to have. What we do with Barbur moving forward is a big decision.

    Chris, I’m glad you’re asking for a specific action here rather than a “traffic study” as the BTA and some other groups have asked. As someone who does these sorts of studies for a living, I’m here to tell you, I have no crystal ball. Planning horizon analyses are subjective, and the results can vary dramatically depending on the assumptions that you make, which are often little more than wild guesses. You point out some of the uncertainties in your letter regarding growth, etc. There are many other things that such a study would consider that we don’t know for sure (e.g., what will the headways of the self-driving cars be 20 years into the future?), and still others that the study would not consider but probably should (Peter Koonce loves to point to the fact that our planning models don’t consider the price of gas).

    We don’t need to study this ad nauseam–it’s simply a choice that we have to make regarding an overwhelmingly important public asset. The transportation system has shown itself to be a resilient thing, and the results of such a study would heavily depend on what we decided to do with the road in the first place. If Barbur remains the de facto freeway that it is today, it’s probably safe to assume that auto use on the road will continue to climb and few bikes will use the route. By contrast, if it becomes a multi-modal road with excellent (or merely above average) transit and bicycle accommodations, people will take advantage of those options and the lost auto capacity will be unneeded.

  18. Oregon Mamacita
    October 10, 2013 at 7:57 am Link

    “What are car sakes? Drinking while driving, even rice wine, is illegal. :-)”

    BobR- thanks for catching this. I meant “car margarita” and they are legal in Texas.

    Hooray for the drive through liquor store!

  19. Jason McHuff
    October 10, 2013 at 9:19 pm Link

    Has anyone considered a compromise of implementing it for now, but agreeing to future funding to widen the bridges if traffic congestion does become a problem?

    • Bob R.
      October 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm Link

      Why, what you describe there sounds like a genuine and reasonable compromise that takes into account the stated needs of multiple factions. That’s a contentious and dangerous thing! You’ve got my vote, nonetheless.

      • Ron Swaren
        October 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm Link

        I know, since I only went to college for two years, I may not be all that bright….but isn’t there part of a curriculum called “practicum?” Speaking from my direct vantage point on the Springwater Trail, and from talking with neighbors whom I would definitely put in the category of “liberal.” there are a lot of Real World difficulties with what apparently seem like obvious solutions to many here.

        I think there is, or at least should be, a category of practical applications called Unintended Consequences. Oh wait…. there is, at least in the Real World. For example at this week’s City Council I mentioned the fact that lately I had noticed a larger number of motor vehicle drivers swerving over the center line, as they go around things, including bicyclists. Therefore, more bikes on the road equals more dangerous swerving, because the aforementioned drivers apparently don’t feel they have the obligation to just slow down, until oncoming traffic has gone by.

        Is this the 2013 Portlandia version of the old “Geddoudadaway” mentality that roguish fourwheelers used to tout on Oregon roads. ( Some may not remember those bumperstickers). Hopefully I won’t lose my left arm someday to the new geddoudadaway Portland drivers!! Maybe other Portlanders know of various other Unintended Consequences that merit consideration in planning movement of bicyclists ( as well as other traffic). One common complaint here in SE Portland on the Springwater is very early morning shouting between individuals within cycling groups. Just another U.C.

        So, maybe government needs to figure out how to cut through the fog of planning, policy….. and real world results. What I see happening now is just more pressure towards complicated policies, that ultimately affect legal liability. Isn’t there a better approach?

        And please remember some folks tried to fake out Alexander the Great with that darned old Gordian Knot. He sure showed ’em.

        • EngineerScotty
          October 12, 2013 at 8:16 am Link

          Therefore, more bikes on the road equals more dangerous swerving, because the aforementioned drivers apparently don’t feel they have the obligation to just slow down, until oncoming traffic has gone by.

          So what should the solution be? Discouraging use of bicycles–and a return to the days of “roads are for cars and cars only, all others keep off”, or better enforcement of laws concerning potentially unsafe passing? I agree that more conflicts between motorists and bicyclists is a consequence (albeit not one unforeseen) of encouraging cycling, but I don’t see this is a problem (at least not on many streets; some highways probably ought to remain optimized for high-speed travel).

          “I own the road” attitudes ought to be unwelcome from any road user–two-wheel, four-wheel, zero-wheel, or more-wheel. (Or one or three, if your ride is a unicycle or a motorbike and a sidecar…)

          • Nathanael
            October 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm Link

            Bluntly, if you’re a competent driver in an urban setting, you have no problem cruising slowly behind a bicycle.

            It’s even easier in an electric car, which doesn’t have a high idle speed.

            As for highways, I like the idea of expressways, but in practice…. too many reckless drivers who cut people off. I think people should be required to pass a special test in order to drive on expressways.

        • Tony C.
          October 12, 2013 at 10:51 am Link

          It is rather amusing to hear the man who proposes putting vehicle traffic on Tacoma in a tunnel lecture others about “practicum”!

          • Ron Swaren
            October 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm Link

            My dear Tony C.

            1. Allegations that the Sellwood Bridge was ready to “fall in the river” have been contradicted by wiser heads than MultCo Krime Kommissioner Kafoury, to wit:
            1. USGS official report 1661f shows that frequency of any mega thrust earthquake in the Portland area is half of that in the far SW Oregon coastal area.
            2. Satisfactory condition of the wood pilings of the Sellwood bridge was verified by competent tradesmen and supervisors who were instructed to pull them out during the $300 million bridge replacement project. No significant deterioration was observed.
            3. Our local planners have had abundant experience at renovating several bridges over the Willamette with costs ranging from $13 million (Ross Island) to $22million ( Hawthorne) to $38 million (St. Johns). The St. Johns Br. in fact has double the capacity and greater length than our humble two lane Sellwood bridge. Do you realize that such a two lane bridge would NEVER have anywhere near the vehicle load that a four lane bridge (Ross Island, St Johns) would have, nor near that of a six lane bridge (Morrison). MultCo is also experienced in alleviating road deck loadings on their structures, as evidenced in the lighter weight MorrBr. deck.

            I calculated (using my humble journeyman carpenter math) that nearly 800 tons and counting of dead weight in excessive concrete could have been removed from the Sellwood structure in a proper rebuild. And the 99E off ramp of the Ross Island Br. shows that insufficent, concrete bridge approaches can be cost effectively replaced. Just part of a $12.5 million upgrade in 2001!!
            4. Now that SE Tacoma Street is on an early version of Road Diet ( down to two lanes and bicycles on an adjunct thoroughfare, namely my street) there is still no realistic way to limit the number of vehicles which use it and originate from other parts of Portland and the suburbs. Thus, traffic volume will constantly increase. Even more so when aforementioned suburban communities get their next urge to spur development (to thus increase the tax base for conservative governments). An express tunnel, with rebuilt bridge, would have been more affordable (and removed a lot of the through traffic) than this $3oo million waste.

            Yet this project was hurriedly pushed by Kounty Kommissioner Kafoury and the caterwauling bicycle contingent, who have also now mysteriously vanished from my residential street with the advent of rainy, fall weather, yet still seem to be omnipresent and omniscient when it comes to things urban. I shall keep that uppermost in mind should I be involved in any accident whilst crossing the ever busier and more congested SE Tacoma Street 2 blocks from home. And also 2 blocks from a PPS middle school. Tunnels, directly under roadways are a very common engineering feature. And certain local experts had also proposed ways to provide bicycle paths at remarkably low costs (think Steel Bridge–cost $10 m, part of the $30m Eastbank Esplanade)—certainly not $300 Million. (Final Cost not known)

            So laugh on, my good man. “Laughter is madness.”

  20. Ron Swaren
    October 12, 2013 at 11:32 am Link

    ““I own the road” attitudes ought to be unwelcome from any road user–two-wheel, four-wheel, zero-wheel, or more-wheel.

    And that would include people who use the roadways at night with no lights, correct? Or otherwise violate Oregon statutes on vehicle use. (see ORS Chapter 811; Rules of the Road)

    What mode tends to violate the most? Just asking.

    And please note that I did not say bicycles had legal liability if motor vehicles swerved around them, crossing the center line, endangering oncoming traffic (of all modes) and sending me to the hospital ( if I live) so that I resemble a certain, new Portland politician. And I agree we need better enforcement of laws protecting the innocent. We also need a replication of the Defensive Driving campaign of the 1960s and 1970s which brought about a sea change in vehicle operator attitudes.

    However, when a government enacts new laws it raises HUGE issues regarding traditional liability concepts. Whatever happened to stare decisis, anyway. (And don’t get me started on a recent SCOTUS ruling).

    My take: Portland pedestrians are now more frequently failing to exercise ‘due care’, e.g walking out into the street without looking either way. Is this the result of an attitude change and correlated with recent Portland ordinances related to pedestrians? More U.C. perhaps?

    But Mr. Scotty, I didn’t say that the Gordian Know could not be undone. In fact, I have quite a few ideas, having been involved in the fight against more Portland freeways—and a bicyclist of some experience. And as I told the Mayor and Council members, I also participate in the UN World Urban Forum and have a number of times extended an invitation here to the readers to do same, which you can do online, too, prior to each biennial session.http://www.unhabitat.org/categories.asp?catid=672 And now I am convinced that the general falderall and declension created by certain persons here in Oregon caused me to miss the 2012 UNWUF….in Naples, Italy!!! :(

    Yet, take heart….I do have some solutions to these quandaries. What price will I be given for my wisdom?

  21. Ron Swaren
    October 12, 2013 at 11:37 am Link

    “Gordian Knot” not “Gordian Know” (Jeez, keyboards these days!!)

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