A Bikeway on Rodney?

Last night Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) held an open house for the “Rodney Bikeway Project” at Immaculate Heart Catholic Church community room. In summary, PBOT wants to make Rodney, from Broadway up to Killingsworth a “Bikeway”. The idea is to give bikers a calm and safe route up and down Rodney. It was a well-attended event.

Looking at the designs, there are three problems to be concerned about.

The ratio of available parking to residents in Eliot has been decreasing steadily for 10 years. Usually it comes from redevelopment of a single family home into a multi-unit dwelling. The same number of parking spaces on the street exists, but often a driveway is lost and there are more residents with cars on the same lot. It is a frustrating part of increasing density close-in. With the Bikeway project PBOT plans to completely remove somewhere between 5 and 15 parking spaces along Fremont. The reason is due to the offset street alignment of Rodney where it crosses Fremont.

Street Width
The width of Rodney for most blocks south of Stanton is very narrow. Realistically 2 cars cannot pass safely in the current configuration. This is especially true around Russell when the Matt Dishman Community Center, Wonder Ballroom, or Secret Society ballroom are hosting events. Placing more traffic on the street, whether it is in the form of bikes or cars will only make the problem worse. More importantly though, is safety. A significant factor for the bikeway is safety, yet this seems to be a step in the wrong direction.

Stop Signs
PBOT plans to turn all the stop signs with a stop on Rodney the other way. This means bikers will be able to travel from Hancock to Fremont with only a stop at Russell. It sounds great at first. However that also means vehicles can do the same thing. The current stop sign configuration makes it so automobile commuters don’t want to use Rodney, so they stay on Williams, Vancouver and MLK. With no stop signs it becomes an easy path for commuters to pass THROUGH our neighborhood bringing more cars into the remaining core of Eliot.

At the open house a neighbor expressed concern regarding changing the stop signs. The response is that PBOT will be implementing traffic control measures such as speed bumps to keep cars off Rodney. They said it has worked well for other Bikeway projects they have done. However how many other bikeways are 1 block away in both directions from a major thoroughfare? How many of those other projects added stoplights to those thoroughfares and at the same time reduced the traffic lanes from 2 to 1? The answer of course, is none.

The Rodney Bikeway project is being funded by the Williams Traffic Safety and Operations Project which will reduce a lane of traffic on Williams to make a wider bike lane with the intent of making it safer for cars, buses and bikes to exist at the same time. The idea of making Williams and Vancouver an ultra bike friendly route is a good one. However creating another designated bikeway just one block east seems a bit much.

Just for fun, guess which North-South street in Eliot Neighborhood is currently not considered a thoroughfare? There is only one in the entire neighborhood! If you guessed Rodney you are correct. The other streets that run North-South are 7th, MLK, Williams, Vancouver and Interstate. Even Flint which only runs halfway through, is the designated route to get to the Broadway Bridge. Do we really need one more?

The Rodney Bikeway proposal will bring more traffic into our neighborhood – both cars and bikes. It will convert our last quiet, sleepy North-South street in to a busy street congested with commuters trying to get through. Maybe it’s best to just leave Rodney alone.

For more information on the project, or to be added to the email list to receive updates contact: Rich Newlands, Project Manager, rich.newlands@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-7780.

This post is not necessarily the opinion or an official position of the Eliot Neighborhood Association.

11 thoughts on “A Bikeway on Rodney?

  1. Clint, you asked why Rodney isn’t great for kids right now. Well, there are a few reasons — I rode several blocks on Rodney with my kids yesterday, so it’s fresh in my mind.

    First, there are stop signs every two blocks. That makes sense for cars, but not so much for bikes. My 9 year takes a bit longer to stop and get going again, and that uses energy I’d rather he spent getting somewhere. If there’s a way PBOT can add diverters to make it impractical for cars and switch the stop signs, it’d be much better for bicyling.

    Rodney is also tough because of some intersection crossings, including at Russell and Fremont. Neighborhood greenways typically add crosswalks and beacons at these busier intersections to alert cars to bikes and and pedestrians. It makes crossing so much easier and safer.

    Fremont is particularly awkward because it’s a T intersection. Cars zip right by, pretending they can’t see you. It’s really tough on a bike since cars park on both sides of Fremont, which doesn’t leave you much room, and so you have to go up on the sidewalk on your bike or ride on Fremont. It’s only a short way, but I’d rather my kids not be riding on Fremont itself. The greenway plan has some interesting options for Fremont that should make it better for bikes and pedestrians.

    Clint, I’d really encourage you to bike up Rodney to Going and then go east on Going for a few blocks. The contrast between the two streets is notable — Going has the same or less vehicle traffic than Rodney, but lots of folks walking with strollers or pets and enjoying the neighborhood. The crossings are safer, and vehicles are much more cautious around bikes on Going. I think the greenway treatment would be better for all of us!


    1. JP,
      Thanks for the feedback and comments.

      The problem with eliminating the stop signs is that Rodney becomes an easy target for through traffic. If in addition you start adding diverters so it is “much better for bicycling” it becomes much worse for cars. Residents who live in Eliot and drive often use Rodney to get from their home onto Williams, MLK, Freemont or Broadway. It is already difficult depending on where you are and what direction you need to go. Diverters almost certainly will make it worse.

      Agreed, Russell is a difficult street to cross now whether on foot, bike or car. I walk through there almost every day and I know first-hand how difficult that can be, especially around evening rush hour and when there are events at Wonder Ballroom or Secret Society. Painted crosswalks along with curb extensions will help, but those things should be done regardless of whether Rodney is a bikeway. Though Freemont is a different challenge, making it a pedestrian and bike friendly intersection should probably happen anyway as well – but doing so without impacting the neighbors who live there.

      The difference between Rodney and Going is that Going is not sandwiched between 2 busy streets. For Rodney one block east is MLK and one block west is Williams. It would really only be fair to compare if Wygant did not exist, Alberta had a median through it (like MLK) and Prescott was a busy one way street (like Williams). The issue is not that Bikeways are bad, it is that the Eliot portion of Rodney is a bad choice for a Bikeway.

      I will make a point to bike up Rodney and east along Going – hopefully this weekend.


  2. While my opinion doesn’t differ from many of my neighbors, I’m leaving a comment to represent another voice of concern. I live on the NE corner of the intersection of Monroe and Rodney Streets. I have a home office which allows me to witness the changes in current traffic patterns and over the years (since 2001).
    As traffic has changed on No. Williams, cars FLY east on Monroe St. to turn N. on Rodney St. We need a four-way stop at Monroe and Rodney streets. Honestly, we always have! There have been many accidents on this corner which, will only increase with the current and increasing volume of traffic passing through the neighborhood. I got a little taste of what it would be to live on N. Williams or if Rodney were the main North-to-South corridor. About 2 weeks ago and accident occurred on Monroe and Williams which involved 8 cars, one of which ended up on the sidewalk after plowing into a tree. People are driving too fast, and there is too much congestion during high traffic times of the day.
    We need a stop sign east – west on Monroe St.
    Traffic needs to be calmed.
    I’m super excited about Rodney becoming a Bikeway!
    Increased safety needs to be a priority.


  3. I live a just a half-block away from Rodney, and I am thrilled about this neighborhood greenway! (That’s the official name, not bikeway.) North Williams will be great for folks who commute by bike, but it’s not a great place to ride your bike with your kids. My older son attends Boise-Eliot Humboldt School, and I’d like for him to ride his bike there. I wouldn’t want him to be on N. Williams on his bike unless I was right in front of him. This neighborhood greenway is completely different than a “bike highway” and will really enhance our neighborhood for residents and families. Have you biked along North and NE Going? They have traffic diverters (which I’d love to see on Rodney), which keeps the road open to local traffic but makes it more difficulty for through-traffic. PBOT has been very open to traffic diverters when other neighborhood greenways have requested them.

    I’m also concerned about folks who might use Rodney as a substitute for Williams or MLK to drive north. But welcoming more bikes and pedestrians into our neighborhood should make it less attractive to vehicles and better for those of us who live there.


    1. Greenway and Bikeway are both used. “Bikeway” is the better term because that is what it actually is. Further, the flyer sent to residents from the city was titled “N Rodney Bikeway Project”. Why is Rodney not a great place to ride a bike with kids now?


  4. Yes, what Alise said! Thank you, Clint. I’ll share your article with our neighbors who might not be aware of this.
    What is the time frame for PBOT decision?
    What are next steps to organize neighbors?
    Thanks again – Sharri on Ivy


    1. It sounds like PBOT may be willing to take a slow approach to this while they focus on Williams. The exact timing is not clear. Regardless, make sure neighbors are aware of the project. It is likely this will be a topic at a future neighborhood meeting. Watch for the agenda then attend, or ensure your opinion is known to the Board and “Land Use and Transportation Committee“. Also contact Rich Newlands to share your thoughts.


  5. ALSO, so many cars blow through east-west stop signs already and impatient traffic levels will only increase — a bikeway will create a false sense of security and, imo, greater danger.


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