Woodstocks 52nd Avenue traffic lanes to narrow, making way for bikes

by: Courtesy of Portland Department of Transportation PDOT’s planned new cross-section of S.E. 52nd north of Woodstock Boulevard, with the new bicycle lanes shown.

If the Portland City Council approves the 'N.E./S.E. 50s Bikeway Project' this summer, S.E. 52nd Avenue will get a makeover that will eliminate half of the on-street parking, and will provide pedestrians and bicyclists wider combined space than the traffic lanes for motor vehicles, next year.

That's the message presented at a June 29 open house held at the Our Lady of Sorrows gymnasium on June 29.

This 1.12 mile segment - from S.E. Woodstock Boulevard to S.E. Foster Road - is heavily used, and is important to cross-town cyclists, say advocates for the project, including the project's Citizens Advisory Committee member John Mulvey.

'As you know, the city has very aggressive goals to increase bicycle usage, where bicycling is in the city's transportation mix,' Mulvey told THE BEE at the open house.

'The key thing that has been proven with a lot of these projects,' said Mulvey, 'Is that if you make biking safer and more inviting for regular people - non-'bike-jocks' - more people tend to start using [the route]. The real key is getting to those people who would, if they perceived it as being safer, ride bicycles.'

Mulvey confided that encouraging bike transportation is important because it helps reduce air pollution. 'And, it provides a good 'bang for the buck' in the relative amount of money going to bike infrastructure versus building new highways.'

The 52nd Avenue project's process was started in 2010, Mulvey added. 'We have had many heated conversations about micro-pieces [of the project], primarily regarding [the treatment of] specific intersections. But we have had very few individuals who are philosophically opposed to the bikeway going through.'

Among the city staff at the open house was Rich Newlands of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. 'We're excited about this project, because it fills in a big 'missing link' in Portland's bikeway network. The east-west connections are really pretty good; but the north-south routes are much more difficult. This is a great opportunity to provide a bikeway.'

The project is valuable from a transportation planner's standpoint, Newlands explained, because, 'Clearly, a lot of people want to ride their bikes in Portland. We believe there are a lot more who will ride their bikes, as long as we have safe and convenient facilities for them.'

One of nearly two dozen exhibit posters examined by the some 120 open house visitors detailed the improvements in the 'Woodstock to Creston-Kenilworth' segment of the route, which clocks a daily average traffic volume of 11,200 to 13,500 vehicles traveling an average 35 to 37 mph, although the section is posted as a 30 mph zone.

The 'Recommended Improvements' to S.E. 52nd Avenue specifies two 6-foot-wide bicycle lanes, which requires the removal of on-street parking from the east side of the street - a loss of approximately 141 spaces. It also requires narrowing the vehicular travel lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet wide, a move that PDOT officials believe will 'help calm traffic speeds'.

If approved by the City Council, the four-month construction project is expected to begin in 2012.

For more information, visit the project's Internet website: www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm? and c=53345 .