Naomi & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Sidewalk Closure

When I lived near downtown Portland, I used to take “running photos” & post them to my social media. They were of interesting architecture, people, trees, & other city things I saw while out jogging. Now I live about 10 miles west, in the suburbs. My running photos pretty much dried up.

Only so many photos of ducks you can take before it gets boring.

But earlier this year, on one of my regular run-commutes to pick up a couple things from the grocery store, I encountered this sign, marked E Z on the back, as in, “Sure it’s E Z not to block the sidewalk with this sign, but we did it anyway.”

Depicts a huge road work sign in the sidewalk, marked E Z on the back.

On the front it said, simply, “BUMP.” Still gives me the chills, because there was no bump. To this day I wonder if developers were having a joke about people bumping into their sign. The laugh’s on them though because I’ll never eat at any of their fast food joints after they treated people without cars in such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way.

Often I find these signs placed in the bike lane; either way, it’s a violation of engineering standards and/or THE LAW. Ever noticed one of these construction signs in your way while driving down the street? (That’s a trick question.)

Here’s a photo taken on same day as that E Z sign. This is what it looked like before Chick-fil-a decided to just fence off the whole sidewalk.

Decorative photo of a road with a vast parking lot
You’ve heard of the sea of plastic; this is a sea of cars—& two people on foot: “Uh, we’re trying to walk here.”

Below is the text of an email I wrote to the city, about this recent sidewalk closure & another one, affecting people on foot, bike, & any other “micro-mode” including wheelchairs. My goal in writing the city was to get a protected walkway on the sidewalk closure side of the stroad (that word refers to the vast acres of land used to create “suburban arterials”) so that people walking & biking don’t have to cross all those lanes of traffic & back. I wouldn’t say I was 100% expecting the city to say, “Oh sure, yes, that makes sense & we’ll fix that right away!” And in fact, that is not what they said. So since receiving the city’s response, I’ve been working on a response to the response. Five years worth of living without a car on these city/suburb stroads are pouring out into it.

Oh, an aside. Something interesting that young people new to civic work may not know: when you write to your city—which is good to do!—your emails can become subject to public disclosure. Sometimes identifying information is redacted—like university email addresses of students—but not always. City emails usually say something like the following: “This e-mail is a public record of the City of Beaverton and is subject to public disclosure unless exempt from disclosure under Oregon Public Records Law. This email is subject to the State Retention Schedule.”

Which is to say, writing to the city is not all that different from posting to Facebook.

Here are photos I took illustrating the two locations. If the first photo looks familiar, you may be recognizing it from this post. There’s at least a bike lane, though it’s next to 40mph motor vehicles. In the 2nd closure, there’s not even a bike lane:depicts sidewalk closure on 40mph street

Sidewalk closure forcing people to cross the street
Should I be surprised the new Chick-fil-a didn’t insist on making sure the sidewalk was useable past their new development? Nah; probably not. But the city didn’t step up much either.

Here’s my email:

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I’m taking time this holiday to write about some general transportation policy concerns, and specifically about a trend I’ve stumbled on at Beaverton development sites (photos attached). I hope you can answer some questions I have.

One Beaverton development, over near the THPRD bicycle & skate ramps popular with kids, not only created an unfriendly inconvenience on Bus line 67, they are putting commuters’ safety at risk. It looks like they worked with the infamous Bob Gunderson to block off entire micro modes while leaving the car mode pristine. But the fact is, safety for everyone seems compromised; as of Sunday there was evidence of a recent car crash at 158th at Blueridge. Worse, in the case of the 158th site, it’s all to build a driveway & more car parking, despite acres of often empty surface parking already in the area. I believe it is Brandt Hospitality who also removed a large grove of mature trees for their driveway, which is the opposite of climate action and overall creates a less hospitable place to live & actively travel. Brandt also appears to be building a wall along the property, of the sort that hinders active transportation. I can’t possibly share these companies’ values as such, so they (or whoever approved & is allowing this—I assume someone at a top rung) have lost my future business. I’d reconsider if I could be convinced this was merely a correctable problem of ignorance/lack of training versus an actual value.

Closer to City Hall on Bus line 20, notice that along the Cedar Hills development, there aren’t even bike lanes for people to walk in. Some people are just walking in the street rather than deal with crossing over & back again. I saw a pair of teenage girls doing just that.

Worldwide, road traffic is the leading cause of death of adolescents. “No child in this world who accesses any road should ever be subjected to an environment where they are not considered, an environment where they are not important…We need to make sure that our leaders know that our children and our youth need to become a priority, especially in policy making.” —Zoleka Mandela, Global Ambassador, Child Health Initiative

My Questions:

Does Beaverton have any policy or law requiring that the continuity of transportation links be maintained (equitably, aka walkways) by developer construction, or that speed limits be lowered and strictly enforced?

Any chance someone in Beaverton engineering or public works can install a pedestrian & bike way in the development construction zones for the remainder of these projects, using one of the car lanes if necessary? This seems like basic transportation protocol.

Can you also please let me know when the new Beaverton prioritization of active transportation might begin?

Since what I’m referring to is in draft form (page iii), does that mean it’s intended for sometime after the $21 million car parking is built? Or does the Mode Priorities Triangle not apply to people who live outside the arts center radius? If there’s a continued emphasis on driving cars outside the arts center district, then, quite disappointingly, Beaverton is not really prioritizing walking, biking & transit for the arts district. For reference, a bike ride from City Hall to the library is about 4 minutes. The bike route from my residence is a 15-20 minute ride to the library. I would use Cedar Hills, but don’t, because it has no bike lane. My point being, that creating a drive & park at the arts center, like Disneyland does, is not the same as prioritizing active modes in Beaverton. Likewise, biking is not being prioritized if the supply of short term bike parking being installed is inadequate, with nothing to accommodate cargo bikes.

The Beaverton Active Transportation Plan includes a target of 11% bike trips; to build for 1000 people to come to an area, 55 staple racks are required to invite a full 11% to bike there.

Thanks,
Naomi Fast

 

The city thanked me for my email, and gave the following response:

Naomi’s Question: Does Beaverton have any policy or law requiring that the continuity of transportation links be maintained (equitably, aka walkways) by developer construction, or that speed limits be lowered and strictly enforced?

City: The City’s practice is to follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)-FHWA standard which has been adopted by the State of Oregon.  Our practice is to not adjust speed limits for roadways that are a alongside construction sites except where the posted speed creates a significant safety issue.

Naomi’s Question: Any chance someone in Beaverton engineering or public works can install a pedestrian & bike way in the development construction zones for the remainder of these projects, using one of the car lanes if necessary? This seems like basic transportation protocol.

City: As described above, the city requires notification of the sidewalk closure per the MUTCD.  As of June 4th, city staff verified that the appropriate signage was in place at the referenced site (Chick Fil-A development along Cedar Hills Boulevard).  At this site, there is also an alternate path for pedestrian travel which is also marked with signage.

The development along 158th is a Washington County facility, and I have forwarded your concerns to Shelley Oylear at Washington County.

Naomi’s Question: Can you also please let me know when the new Beaverton prioritization of active transportation might begin?

City: The Beaverton Active Transportation Plan process included prioritizing active transportation type projects (bicycle and pedestrian).  Criteria was selected and a methodology was applied in order to identify our top ten pedestrian, bike and crossing improvements within the City of Beaverton. These projects are being considered as part of our Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).  More than half of the transportation projects included in our CIP (BeavertonCIP-FY2019-20—Draft-2) are active transportation projects (pedestrian, bike and crossing improvements).  With our available funding, we are currently able to complete one to two active transportation projects annually.  Construction of the Menlo Drive sidewalk and Beaverton Creek Shared Use Path are just two of the projects that have been completed so far this year.  The 2019 Council Priorities include continuing to expand our sidewalks, bike lanes and street light networks within the city.

The Patricia Reser Center for the Arts (PRCA) will install 11 bike racks (22 short- term bike parking spaces) and an additional 19 bike racks (38 long-term bike parking spaces). These are above and beyond our current requirements.  The requirement for short-term bike parking is one space per 10,000 sq. ft. which is a total of 5 short-term spaces. They are also required to provide a total of 8 long-term spaces.  In addition, there are currently more than 30 bike racks (60 bike parking spaces) within the one block radius of where the PRCA will be built.  The PCRA parking garage is being funded by the Beaverton Urban Redevelopment Agency (BURA).

Thank you for reaching out with your concerns. Please feel free to contact me if you have any follow-up questions on the information I’ve provided here.

***

See my next post for those followup questions. I’m playing around with post titles like, “Naomi’s Questions Two: Judgment Day” or “Beyond Beaverton” or maybe something nice like “Questions Two: A New Hope”

2 comments on “Naomi & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Sidewalk Closure

  1. How about “Questions II: Phantom Attack of the Return of the Revenge Strikes Back!”

    Seriously though, how profound is the disconnect here? [We don’t do anything unless there’s] “a significant safety issue,” they say, RIGHT AFTER YOU JUST DEMONSTRATED that there’s a significant safety issue. I dunno maybe human beings aren’t considered significant anymore. Kind of a “no lives matter,” type philosophy, as in the writings of the Marquis de Sade.

    Also, please note, all of this is for a Chik-Fil-A. “So it’ll all be worth it.” Once those outsiders are busy making money selling us heart disease 6 days out of 7, you’ll be so glad you risked your life trying to travel past the construction site!

    • Thank you for the validation, Oscar. On the bright side, requesting an active transportation safety improvement is a great way to stay humble! (In case all that waiting-to-walk at extra long traffic signals leaves one feeling too high & mighty.) And to think that the entire time I was writing about the sidewalks I was 2nd-guessing myself: “Wait a minute—isn’t this obvious? This can’t be unknown phenomena.”

      For a sequel title btw I also considered: “Questions II: Dawn of the Planet of the Bikes”

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