Autumn is upon us! As the summer temperatures start falling and the days continue getting shorter, here is your friendly reminder to keep or start spending time outside. Especially with the limitations of Covid-19, being able to maintain social distancing while also running, walking, or bicycling can be helpful to mental and physical well-being. Although all of us might not have easy access to parks or gyms right now, we do have access to some innovative use of our city streets. Eliot holds at least two major greenways (Tillamook and Rodney) and is adjacent to at least two more (Siskiyou and Going).
The Portland Bureau of Transportation, PBOT, launched a new initiative, Safe Streets, during Covid-19 that encourages Portlanders who are not in an automobile to stop limiting their usage to the sidewalk on some of our local roads. The goals of this program are as follows:
1) Facilitate access to more outdoor space
2) Enable walkers, runners, and bicycles to maintain social distance while using city streets and sidewalks (Also called Slow Streets)
3) Provide more options for businesses to allow social distance
Here is a written response to a couple of questions from PBOT’s Communications, John Brady:
MG: How does the city see Safe Streets? Successful? Not?
JB: So far, the Slow Streets program is helping keep traffic volumes and speeds low on the neighborhood greenway network. In addition, nearly 800 calls and emails to the city’s 823-SAFE line have been overwhelmingly positive with many people requesting additional or specific locations for Slow Street installations.
MG: Are there any plans to improve Rodney, Going, or Tillamook Greenways in the near future?
JB: NE Tillamook just completed a capital improvement project that improved crossings and reduced speeds along the neighborhood greenway from N Flint to NE 28th. We are in the planning stages for the next phase of the project from NE 28th to NE 62nd. NE Rodney and NE Going are not in line for construction projects in the near future.
Within the Eliot neighborhood, Northeast Rodney Avenue and Northeast Tillamook Street both fall under the Slow Streets program. Since the initiative kicked off earlier this year, I’ve enjoyed more space to run and bicycle without worrying about being limited to the space of a sidewalk. So, consider this an open invitation to all of our neighbors: I hope to see you getting some fresh air on the neighborhood greenways!
The Oregon Department of Transportation just decided to dissolve its community advisory committee (right before a meeting where about half the committee was going to resign) because they wanted to “ensure more input from Albina’s historic Black community”.
Not mentioned was the fact that the community advisory committee was given almost no power to make any changes to the project and was basically asked to be a rubber stamp on the project. The city of Portland and the Albina Vision Trust have both stepped back from the project, removing their support.
It feels like the internal politicians inside ODOT are trying desperately to keep this project moving in their desired direction. It also feels like community activists are very close to getting the project killed completely.
The Oregon Department Of Transportation’s (ODOT) plans to expand I-5 in our neighborhood are not moving at highway speeds. The reshaping of an asphalt landscape is slow. The big machinery that digs the dirt is quiet, the bureaucratic gears of planning and design are fully in motion, with three significant meetings occurring in the last few months.
First, the Oregon Transportation Committee (OTC) met on April 2nd to make a decision that had been delayed since December at Governor Brown’s request. At the end of the three-hour meeting, which was held on Zoom and live-streamed for the public on YouTube, the five-member board voted unanimously to move forward into a design phase on the I-5 Rose Quarter Project without completing an Environmental Impact Statement
In response to the forward motion set by the OTC, the project’s Executive Steering Committee (ESC) had its first Zoom meeting on May 22nd to set a framework by which to make future decisions about the project. The 16 members of the ESC were led by facilitator Dr. Steven Holt. Half of nearly two-hour-long meeting was dedicated to introductions. Dr. Holt asked each of the members to answer the question, “What does restorative justice mean to you?” The answers varied in detail but addressed similar themes. Marlon Holmes answered succinctly, “Calling on a community to address ills or wrongs committed against that community, and with the perpetrators addressing how those ills and wrongs have affected the community.”
A week later, on May 28th, the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) held its second meeting, also on Zoom. According to Megan Chanel, the Rose Quarter Project manager, the project design was approximately 15% completed and CAC would advise all further work. “Think of it as we’ve brought the sandbox, but we need your help in burying some sand helping us build the sandcastle,” Chanel said.
Christopher John O’Connor, one of 24 members on the committee, believed the metaphor to be overly optimistic and offered his own saying, “The house has been built, we know how many bathrooms there’s going to be, we know what the general layout is, we’re going to be discussing… what color to paint it.”
Another member of the committee, Liz Fouther-Branch, expressed frustration with the obtuse language used to describe components of the project. Fouther-Branch said, “We need to be able to go back to our communities and speak to them in plain English about what the benefits are, what the impacts are. Breaking down the transportation language into community language so that you can build that trust in community.”
The CAC will meet again on Tuesday, June 23, 5:30-7:30. The next ESC meeting has not yet been scheduled, but all meetings are open to the public and archived on ODOT’s Youtube page.
How I-5 was planned and built through Eliot in the 1950s and why we should not widen it
At a recent meeting, my Co-chair, Jimmy Wilson, asked me a pertinent question: “Where were white folks standing when Interstate-5 (I-5) was run through North Portland in the 1950’s?” I decided to dig through archives to find out, visiting the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) website and then spending a significant amount of time on the Oregonian’s historical archive (found through Multnomah County Library). I also tried to find some other local news sources like the Northwest Clarion but unless I go find someone with an extensive microfilm archive and dig through it manually I don’t think I would find anything.
In Northeast Portland, the intersection of Urban Renewal policies and Freeway Construction Policies combined to remove the heart of the Black community’s housing stock (over 800 units from the Eliot area alone) between 1955 and 1970. The Eliot and Lower Albina neighborhoods were decimated to make room for I-5, but even larger pieces were removed to make Memorial Coliseum and its parking lots. Later, Emanuel Hospital’s expansion dreams and the I-405 off-ramps removed even more of the community’s buildings and dislocated its people.
I was struck by the sheer pace of highway planning and construction during the late 1950’s through the Portland region. Planning or construction of all of the highways we now know within 5 miles of Eliot happened within 5 years. The roadway engineers had a seemingly limitless budget during those days, and they had tremendous power to reshape the city as well. They knew that highways became clogged with cars a few years after they were constructed through a process we now call “induced demand.” The highway engineers knew that I-84 (“the Banfield Freeway”) would soon become congested and had plans for a “Fremont Expressway” taking an east-west route through Northeast Portland and another “Mount Hood Freeway” taking an east-west route through Southeast Portland. Those routes will never be built, and from what I can tell, many of the existing highways should not have either. Uprisings over the removal of so many housing units prevented the later highways from being built, but not before Eliot and North Portland received the scar of I-5. These routes have served to increase the geographic footprint of our region and helped make everything more quickly accessible by car. In doing so, these highways have also increased the dependence on the car for transportation throughout our region, increased the average distance of trips and increased the basic cost of living of citizens of the Portland Metropolitan Region.
The Interstate System was funded through the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 which authorized $25 Billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway system over a supposedly 10-year period. In the act, a Highway Trust Fund was created that paid for 90% of highway construction costs. This meant that state highway engineers could dream up huge plans and only needed a 10% match from local governments to build highways. This amazing subsidy may have helped highway builders of the time become desensitized to the value of the buildings they were destroying in the name of “progress.”
I found that there were other options considered for the “Minnesota Freeway” that we now know as I-5 from I-405 to the Washington border. However, the main other option was the “Delaware Freeway,” a route more along N Greeley and N Delaware Avenues, one which would have removed slightly more houses and been slightly more expensive to construct. This option would still have taken the same path through the Eliot Neighborhood. The opposition to the Minnesota option was disorganized and didn’t coalesce around one specific alternative, which contributed to it being ignored. There was a bridge built at N. Ainsworth across the highway to mollify the principal of Ockley Green School, which would have had its district separated by the highway had that bridge not been built. To this day N. Ainsworth is one of the calmest places to cross I-5 in north Portland.
After this research, I thought to myself, okay, what about the section of highway that actually runs through Eliot? It turns out that this was a bit challenging to find out about because it was actually considered a part of the “East Bank Freeway” even though this stretch between I-84 and N. Russell Street was not along the river. This route may have been chosen by planners at the City of Portland signing off on plans prepared by the Oregon Department of Transportation. From the news of the day, it appears that the people living and working on the east side of the river were not substantially consulted in the process, even though hundreds of families would be displaced for the highway project. The first mention of this highway running through Eliot in The Oregonian was from January 1959, and in February and March there were some articles talking about the number of buildings to be torn down. At one point they were referred to as “Ancient Buildings.” By December, the right of way had been cleared. This is unbelievable to me: Less than 6 months from the first timely public mention of the highway going through this area to the mayor approving the demolition, and 12 months from the first mention of the highway to complete demolition. A cursory note of the design of the Broadway, Williams, Weidler, Flint and Vancouver overpasses was made, as was a note that 29 other streets would be “terminated” or turned into dead ends.
During the demolition process, salvagers would pay prices as low as $5 for the right to salvage parts out of houses that would be demolished for the East Bank Freeway Route. One hundred and eighty households with 400 people were displaced by one count; another count I read included 250 households. Is it possible that those with the power to demolish buildings might not have been particularly concerned with those they were displacing? To me, this is obviously the case. One article I read talked about the shocking record of non-litigation by homeowners on the route. Either property owners thought they were getting a fair deal by the Oregon Department of Transportation, or they had no leverage in the courts to make it worth the legal troubles.
With the power of hindsight, we do not have to repeat the mistakes of the past. ODOT is planning to widen I-5 underneath the 5-bridge intersection we now have around Broadway, Weidler, Vancouver, Williams and Flint Avenues. During the 1960s, there were a series of highway revolts across the country, resulting in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1959 governing roadway construction. As a result of this, the current proposal by ODOT to widen I-5 around the Broadway/Weidler Interchange, rebuild all of the roads that cross the highway, and provide some minor and questionably valuable “ community benefits” has been in the planning and engineering process for the past 10 years. During the time since the planning process started, the process of “approving” this project has been orchestrated in a way that no elected body has had a simple vote on whether they wanted to build this project or not. There have been several votes about what type of environmental review process to do, about whether we want to pass a huge transportation funding bill including this project, and about whether to approve buying land for the right of way of the project. However, no politicians have ever been asked to vote on whether to actually build this project.
The project is not particularly popular. Roughly 90% of the public comments about the project have been in opposition to building it, including the Eliot Neighborhood Association’s comments at every step of the way. The effects of highway construction are generally worst for those that live and spend their lives closest to the freeway. The local residents are subjected to detours, construction noise and pollution during the construction process. In addition, after project completion, the increased traffic on local streets and the highway will make quality of life for those living around the project worse. That increased traffic is all but guaranteed while widening highways. There is a nearly 1-to-1 relationship between the number of highway lane miles and traffic, whatever name you give to the lanes that you are building. If we look closer at what “local benefits” the project would have, we can see that just tweaking the street grid above the highway will have minor impacts at best. A new pedestrian crossing between Winning Way and NE Clackamas street was intended to be an asset, but highway planners have put such a curve in it that it will not shorten any journeys with its meandering path above a noisy highway. The Hancock-Dixon overpass will not substantially connect streets that are not served with the current Flint overpass we have now. Even the new “public spaces” created by the project will be small and triangular, possibly the site of camping since no accommodation for productive buildings on them is being made.
The only real change the project would make to the surrounding area would be widening the highway, a car-capacity increase that will barely change travel times through the area. It would also serve to put more cars into our local street network, which has led to renderings showing even wider streets through the area than we have now. This would increase road noise and reduce the value of land around the project area. Although trumpeted as a “traffic and safety project” it serves neither. Safety on other ODOT-managed streets is a much higher priority than in this corridor, which has not seen any deaths in a decade. Only congestion pricing has proved to improve traffic in urban environments, and we should be pursuing that sort of system instead of putting down more concrete.
Before this project started, drawings of how to reconstruct I-5 in a wider configuration with “minimal” impacts to traffic above were generated. This project has always been about a wider I-5 through the Broadway interchange, and everything else is just window dressing. It is not too late. Any benefits this project might have could be achieved at a much lower cost through other means. We can still stop this $800 million boondoggle, which is clearly a continuation of the shameful history of highway construction in Portland’s inner neighborhoods. It is not too late.
Residents on Eliot’s eastern edge have noticed the City recently installed “traffic calming devices (speed bumps)” on NE Seventh. This is a result of the Transportation Commissioner’s rejection of the designation of NE Seventh as a Neighborhood Greenway in favor of NE 9th, despite the fact that route is blocked by Irvington Park, where bike riding on park paths is prohibited, and the direct connection of 7th to the new bike bridge over I-84 by Lloyd Center. For those new to the area, Eliot has demanded traffic calming measures along Seventh for over 40 years due to the dangers presented to children accessing Irvington School, Tubman School and park, and Dishman Center. At that time (the 1980s), Eliot was home to a many minority families and lower income residents. Instead, the City put a higher priority on traffic calming measures on Irvington streets (15th and Knott) to benefit a predominately upper-class neighborhood. Much of the traffic on Seventh in Eliot is from Irvington. Nevertheless, I am glad the City has concluded that 40 years is long enough to delay desperately needed safety improvements for Eliot’s children, parents, and increasing number of seniors. So far, the bumps are doing little to slow SUVs, pickups, and landscape companies, but sedan drivers are taking notice and will hopefully slow the rest (although I still see people passing “too slow” drivers!). And, a word of caution, speeding between bumps and then breaking is the worst thing you can do for your car, so just slow to 20, or switch to MLK where speed limits are higher.
Climate change has been top of mind a lot for me recently. I used to think that individual consumption choices could help make a change, but recently I’ve adapted more of the mindset that we need to advocate for systemic changes that enable people to lead more sustainable lives and help make sustainable choices the default. Luckily, the city has been pushing for some land use and transportation policies recently that will help achieve more sustainable outcomes.
I’m personally excited about the Residential Infill Project. I will admit that it has flaws, but I think the positives far outweigh the negatives. At a high level, it ends the ban of building 2, 3, and 4 plexes in single family zoned lots. By allowing for the construction of higher density living arrangements, heating will be more efficient (less energy usage!), and transit, walking, and bicycling for daily errands become more viable (less fossil fuel consumption!). Another benefit is that the requirement for off-street parking is removed which will hopefully lead to more tree coverage as there will be fewer driveways and more space for trees. The city’s own analysis also showed that this proposal would decrease displacement in Eliot which is a huge win for the neighborhood.
Another policy proposal the city has recently put forth is the Rose Lane Project. The aim with this proposal is to get busses out of car traffic on the most utilized routes. By helping the bus move more quickly, we’ll be helping move people more quickly and we’ll make taking the bus a more viable alternative to driving for more people. The more people who choose taking the bus over driving leads to less emissions. This project will also benefit Eliot as some of the busses to be prioritized are the 6 on MLK and the 4/44 on Vancouver/Williams.
It’s an exciting time to be involved right now as a lot is changing and there are some projects that make me feel optimistic which can be hard to come by right now. If this kind of thing sounds interesting to you, we’d love for you to come to our Eliot Neighborhood Land Use and Transportation Committee meetings on the second Monday of the month at 7pm at St Philip the Deacon.
On a rainy Saturday in October 1966, Governor Mark Hatfield presided over a ceremony celebrating the completion of Interstate-5 through the state of Oregon. Construction of the Marquam Bridge had just finished, the final piece of a 308 mile stretch of a highway that cost $300 million and would prove its role as the economic artery of the state.
Fifty years later, the burden of I-5 has only grown in importance. In 2010, government officials began planning for a project to address safety issues on the freeway, especially around the intersections of I-5, I-405, and I-84. The confluence of these freeways had become a predictable bottleneck for an expanding population. Tasked with finding a solution, the Oregon Department of Transportation proposed a project to add auxiliary lanes to ramps exiting and entering the highway, reducing collisions for cars trying to make quick lane changes. In 2017, the Oregon legislature budgeted another $300 million to complete the updates.
Since then, the estimated cost of the “Rose Quarter Improvement Project” has ballooned to nearly $800 million, and public opposition has grown apace.
Aaron Brown, founder of No More Freeways, along with a coalition of neighborhood and city organizers, is pushing for the Oregon Transportation Commission to instruct ODOT to perform an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. Since the project got funding three years ago, Brown has been working against it as a labor of love. “This is how I’m choosing to spend my time when we have ten years to solve the climate apocalypse, right? Stopping a massive fossil fuel infrastructure in the backyard of Harriet Tubman middle school. It’s exhausting and pretty demoralizing at times and it’s pretty frustrating to see the ways which this project continues to churn forward.”
ODOT performed an Environmental Assessment (EA) in May 2019, which is required of any project that uses federal funds. “We certainly answered an awful lot of questions that you can see in there”, said Don Hamilton, spokesman for ODOT. “A lot of the cultural issues, air quality, noise issues, a lot of things are in there.” However, Brown and his cohort are asking for even more to be done.
An EIS is a more rigorous evaluation than an EA, and notably requires ODOT to look at a variety of alternatives to the stated plan.
“There are different options that are formally posed, usually five, but not always and one of those options is always the do nothing option,” said Hamilton. The ‘Do Nothing’ option is what opponents of the project are most interested in, but with so many government contracts on the line, it is unlikely.
Still, No More Freeways and other community organizations have made enough noise for government officials to take notice. Governor Kate Brown slowed the process last December when she asked the Oregon Transportation Commission to “table the decision on the environmental review path for a few months.”
An important cohort of voices has been the youth movement against the project from the environmental justice club at Harriet Tubman Middle School to the direct action of Sunrise PDX, the local chapter of a national youth organization focusing on stopping the climate crisis.
The students have stood on the bridge near their school in opposition, stood outside of ODOT offices in the rain, and have spoken many times before a variety of state and local governing bodies to add their opinions to the public record.
Students at Harriet Tubman are already affected by the current amount of traffic that passes dozens of feet from their classroom. The school has a multi-million dollar air filtration system that is tasked with cleaning the fine particulate matter exhausted by thousands of diesel trucks every day. Expanding the capacity of the interstate for even more trucks would spell greater health risks to their students and staff.
Opponents of the project have varying reasons for their objections, with overlapping interests.
For Aaron Brown, ODOT’s safety argument is misguided. He got his start as a transportation advocate as the Board President for Oregon Walks, a pedestrian advocacy organization. “Spent too much time speaking at traffic vigils after traffic fatalities and seeing all these vulnerable people died, because we couldn’t get money for an ODOT crosswalk,” said Brown. Meanwhile, Brown says the section of I-5 in question hasn’t seen a traffic fatality in over a decade.
A large amount of the finances for the project would be used to build caps over the freeway to reconnect parts of the community that were bisected by the original I-5 construction, which is a critical component of the design for the Albina Vision Trust, a community partner in the project. Don Hamilton admits this project will not repair the scars from the devastation in the last half-century but said the caps, “will help improve connections and rebuild and reconnect the two sides of I-5…” Hamilton paused, “…to a certain extent. We can’t fix the damage that was done in the past but we can help improve conditions and circumstances.” ODOT also plans to address this impact by contracting with minority-owned businesses.
However, the current plans for the highway caps would be unable to support the affordable housing and other large structures included in Albina Vision’s idea for the future of our neighborhood. Rukaiyah Adams, chair of Albina Vision, wrote to Governor Kate Brown, “The ground is special. It is a place where the racial inequity of urban renewal came, then came again, and again. Promises were made and broken. Black people and immigrants were displaced. Wealth was taken. The construction of I-5 was central to this unjust history and any future investment in the area should strive to repair the damage done.”
The criticisms of the project point in different directions, but all seem to overlap. Harriet Tubman students are not only concerned about air quality, but as a school where 60% of the students are non-white, the effect on their lungs is also a racial justice issue. One concern rolls into the other and together the project has little support in the neighborhood. Still, it continues on.
The ‘Rose Quarter Improvement Project’ is based in our backyard, but businesses from around the state have connections to the economic artery of our state and the west coast. They stand to benefit from their products moving via freight through our neighborhood efficiently. These large economic interests have made themselves clear to state legislators that approved funding for this project in 2017.
The future is unknown. With elections approaching for Mayor, City Council and Metro positions, the partnership ODOT needs from other government agencies could potentially look very different this time next year. The only thing that seems certain is it is a long road ahead.
Diesel particulates are a problem in the Eliot neighborhood. There are several organizations, both inside and outside of the neighborhood working to change legislation and business practices, including the Eliot Neighborhood Association’s eACT group and Portland Clean Air. While activists are working to limit pollution in the future, we need to reduce the impact of diesel particulates we currently face to the greatest extent possible. Because Portland Public Schools commissioned research into the air quality at Harriet Tubman, we have data on what sort of changes can make a difference in the air we breathe here in Eliot, especially indoors. Harriet Tubman Middle School relies on an $18 million air filtration system. Most Eliot neighbors aren’t in a position to spend millions of dollars on air filtration systems, but there are air filtering options available at a variety of price points.
Adding an additional filter or two to your home can make sense, but there are several factors to consider. Not all air filtration systems are capable of catching diesel particulates. Air filters are graded the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) scale, which runs from 1 to 20. MERV ratings are based on the size of the particles that can pass through the filter, with a filter with a rating of 1 stopping relatively large particles like pollen or spray paint dust and a filter with a rating of 20 stopping viruses and smoke particles. Filters rated MERV 16 or higher are typically needed to stop diesel particulates. MERV-rated filters may also be HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. HEPA filters must pass a test on their ability to stop particles the size of bacteria and paint pigments, corresponding roughly to a MERV rating of 16. That’s also about the size of the diesel particulates we’re trying to stop.
If you have an existing HVAC or furnace system with a built-in filter, make sure you replace filters regularly, as well as clean any prefilter system. They’ll help improve air quality, although they may not be entirely effective on diesel particulates. Many residential systems aren’t equipped to use filters with a MERV above 10, though some homeowners choose to use filters with higher MERV ratings with minimal issues.
Consider adding a portable air filter to your space. The most effective air filters, like the Coway AP1512HH Mighty and the Austin Air HealthMate HM400, range from $125 to $600. There are options at every price point, however: you can even build your own air filter with a box fan and two replacement filters. Popular Mechanics provides a tutorial at https://bit.ly/2Ldtmt1.
Limiting time spent outdoors can be helpful, especially for folks closer to the interstate. For those with health concerns, using a respirator mask (look for an N95 or a P2 rating) will limit exposure to diesel particulates while outside. Increasing the greenery within Eliot is one of the most effective options we have. In the PSU study on Harriet Tubman’s air quality, researchers recommended increasing vegetation around the school by 50 percent. (The full report is available as a PDF at https://bit.ly/2Y6gBG8.) A similar increase throughout the neighborhood could help reduce diesel particulates somewhat.
Plants can help mitigate pollution in the air, without the replacement costs that go along with filters. Trees are particularly helpful — and organizations like Friends of Trees make the process of planting trees simple. Certain plants are especially effective at filtering air indoors: during a NASA study on which plants filtered air most effectively, these plants removed the most particulates from the air.
Good news! Eliot residents have a new way to approach local adventures. Earlier this year, TriMet extended Bus Line 24 – Fremont to run between the East Side and North West Thurman Street. The 24- Fremont’s new route makes it the first TriMet bus route to cross the Fremont Bridge since the bridge opened in 1973. With the route extension, the Fremont bridge shuttles residents quickly across the river connecting them to nature, shops, restaurants, and Max lines.
Leaving from North Vancouver Avenue, bus riders can find themselves on the West Side of the river in just two stops. If you are looking to take advantage of Portland’s commitment to nature, a quick ride on the 24 Bus will land you within hiking distance of Lower Macleay Park or Leif Erikson Trail. If you instead would like to try one of our city’s other Spanish restaurants, Atuala, or a French Bakery, St. Honoré, you could also take Line 24. Finally, Line 24 provides access to additional services by connecting Legacy Health System’s Emanuel and Good Samaritan hospitals and the North West branch of the Multnomah County Library on NW Thurman Ave.
The 24 line extension provides an easy way to reduce car trips and support bus infrastructure. The next time you’d like to explore beyond Eliot’s boundaries, just jump on the 24 Bus for fast, inexpensive access to a different part of Portland. Line 24 runs every day of the week, from as early as 6:00 am to after 9:00 pm. You can check out the route and schedule at trimet.org.
It’s evening in Portland’s South Waterfront District, and Annie Rudwick is getting her kids loaded for the trip home from work and daycare. Many parents would see this as a job for something like a minivan. But Rudwick is helping her daughters – aged 1, 3 and 5 – onto the back of her electric-assist cargo bike. The e-boost gives her the power to easily carry a hundred pounds of kid. And because of Portland’s rush-hour congestion, she says her four mile trip each way is often quicker by bike.
“I didn’t want to have to bike and take a shower. I wanted something I could just commute in and get to work,” said Rudwick, the associate dean for finance and administration at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Dentistry. “The electric bike allows me to not have to exercise as much,” she added. “It really is just a mode oftransportation.”
Rudwick’s 12-foot-long bike-and-trailer combination is not the only vehicle that turns heads in the bike lanes. She’s part of a new trend that transportation experts are calling micromobility. It’s the idea that new technology – including smartphones and more efficient batteries – is sparking a big jump in small, nimble vehicles suited for increasingly crowded city streets.
“We’re seeing a lot more users in bike lanes – bicycles, electric scooters, electric bikes. I see people on kind of skateboard sort of conveyances,” said Jillian Detweiler, executive director of The Street Trust, formerly known as the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.
Most notable are those rental scooters that have been sprouting up in cities around the world. About 2,600 are now on the streets of Portland.
“I think people are just looking for different ways to get around,” said Chris Warner, director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. He added that the popularity of the scooters show that riders are finding them a fun and affordable way to make short trips. Those scooters themselves are evolving. Since June, two scooter companies have offered vehicles with seats and larger wheels. Warner said he tried one out and liked it. “You know, I found the seated one a little steadier,” he said, noting that it could attract riders who find the standing scooters intimidating.
A recent report from Deloitte, the international consulting firm, said the rapid growth of the scooter industry – at a pace faster than the early years of ride-hailing companies like Uber – has boosted business interest in micromobility. These vehicles “have the potential to better connect people with public transit, reduce reliance on private cars, and make the most of existing space by ‘right-sizing’ the vehicle, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the Deloitte reportsaid.
Nobody’s quite sure how far all this will go. For example, China is pumping out hundreds of thousands of low-speed electric cars that are typically about the size of golf carts. The Street Trust’s Detweiler said something like that could someday end up in Portland. “What we want to promote is using the right mode for the trip that you’re trying to take,” she said. Her trip to work, Detweiler added, is something she could readily make by bicycle. But maybe the “trip to the grocery store where I’m trying to get the 20% discount on a case of wine could be made a little two-seater electric car with a small cargo space in back.”
Sam Schwartz, a former New York City transportation commissioner, has long argued for reducing the use of single occupancy autos in dense cities. In his new book, “No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future,” Schwartz argues that the advent of autonomous vehicles could be either a boon or a bane for micromobility.
“Something’s got to give,” Schwartz said in a recent telephone interview. “You can’t have so many modes that move at different speeds.” Schwartz said he wants to see self-driving vehicles regulated, in order to spur the use of transit and low-speed autonomous vehicles in cities. What he doesn’t want to see are large, single-occupant autonomous vehicles that wind up pushing other users off the street. That’s something that could happen, he said, predicting that the tech-heavy automakers of the future “will be the most powerful industry on earth.”
Of course, there’s plenty to argue about besides the future of robot cars. Today, the proliferation of scooters is riling plenty of people who complain that riders are too apt to use them on sidewalks – or to park them in ways that interfere with pedestrians or cars. Cyclists using their own energy to pedal are also having to contend with a lot of vehicles in bike lanes that move in different ways and speeds.
Joe Kurmaskie, a longtime writer on bikes in Portland and executive director of the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition, started to say that the increasing diversity in the bike lanes has its good and bad points. “Well, bad is maybe not the right word,” he quickly added. “[It’s] more learning to share the limited space we’re given as cyclists.”
Warner, the Portland transportation director, said Portland still has a lot of capacity in its bike lanes and is well-positioned to be on the front lines of micromobility. The city has nearly 400 miles of bike routes and may expand its bike-share network next year to include electric bikes. That could attract potential riders who want the ease of e-bikes but don’t want to shell out the $1,500 to $4,000 cost of one. “We’re really open and hoping to encourage innovation and finding ways to get people around safely and sustainably,” Warner said.
Rudwick, who uses the electronic-assist cargo bike, said her daily commute gives her a glimpse of a city built around micromobility. “For me,” she said, “the system is so great.” Almost her entire ride is either in bike lanes or off-street paths. She gets free valet parking at the base of the tram up to OHSU, which means she doesn’t even have to lock her bike. In addition, OHSU gives Rudwick a $1.50-aday subsidy for cycling to work. More importantly, she avoids car parking fees that run at least $13 a day.
“You can buy a lot of e-bike with the cost savings there,” said her husband, Allan Rudwick, who has long been avid about the potential of electric bikes. “I’m really excited to see where this goes,” he said of the emerging micromobility revolution.
Annie Rudwick said she now finds that the days when she has to drive to work are the most hassle. But she conceded that her daughters sometime complain about cycling in the rain.
Environmental Services has completed replacing or repairing approximately 10,000 feet of public sewer pipes in the southern part of the Eliot Neighborhood. These pipes were deteriorating due to age or were undersized for the sewer and stormwater flows in this area.
The project also constructed eight green street planters on public streets in key locations. These green street planters will divert 1.9 million gallons of stormwater annually from the sewer system, helping reduce the possibility of overflows into the river, basement backups, and street flooding during periods of heavy rain.
These improvements will help protect public health, property and our environment by reducing the possibility of sewage releases into streets, homes and businesses.
This was a major sewer and stormwater management project and we thank you for your cooperation and patience during construction. To learn more about the project visit http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/Eliot. If you have any questions or comments about the project you may also contact Matt Gough, Community Outreach for City of Portland Environmental Services at (503) 823-5352 or Matthew.Gough@portlandoregon.gov.
In July or early August of this year, Environmental Services will complete a project to replace or repair approximately 10,000 feet of public sewer pipes in the southern part of the Eliot Neighborhood. These pipes are deteriorating due to age or are undersized for the sewer and stormwater flows in this area. The oldest pipe being replaced is 115 years old.
The project also includes constructing eight green street planters on public streets in key locations. These green street planters will divert 1.9 million gallons of stormwater annually from the sewer system, helping reduce the possibility of overflows into the river, basement backups, and street flooding during periods of heavy rains.
These improvements will help protect public health, property and our environment by reducing the possibility of sewage releases into streets, homes and businesses.
To accommodate public sewer construction North Vancouver Avenue between Russell and Hancock streets, the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services will continue to detour traffic away from the construction zone Monday through Friday from 9:15 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Travelers trying to reach a home or business in the closed area are allowed to drive past closure points, but should expect delays. The detour is expected to continue through May 2019.