Tabor path opens to rave reviews, but crossing concerns remain

    By all accounts (except the one where a nearby resident allegedly pulled a gun and threatened to use it on people riding skateboards), the new path into Mt. Tabor Park that opened this week has been a big success.

    It was a dream many years in the making that creates direct access for an entire neighborhood and connects to a key cycling route. I’ve heard multiple reports that the new path and crosswalk are already seeing a high volume of users.

    But as with many City of Portland projects, if we want to see this reach its full potential, we’ve got to get the details right. And one detail of this project — getting people across Southeast Division Street at 64th Avenue — isn’t right. As I reported last week, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has installed a painted crosswalk and a median island with plastic posts and curbs on the east side of the intersection. It helps, but given the behavior of drivers on Division, a more robust crossing treatment might be needed. (Parks also needs to improve the transition from the path to the crossing for southbound bike riders, but I’ll leave that for another post.)

    To help illustrate this issue, I’ve shared a message below that I received from a reader yesterday. It helps drive home the dangers people face while biking — not just due to infrastructure design but the related bad behaviors on our streets:

    “I used the crosswalk for the first time today at 64th and Division. I was on my bike traveling west in the bike lane on Division and was able to ride into the crosswalk and median from a complete stop in the bike lane. After that, a motorcycle and car failed to yield so I was stuck until they passed to get all of the way across. The driver of the car had that look, so I returned it with my middle finger.

    Continuing home, I made it to SE Powell Blvd [a half-mile south of Division] and while I’m always uneasy crossing those five lanes, I was even more shaken by the screeching of tires beside me as the driver of the aforementioned car pulled up and started to tell me that what I did was stupid. He said the “psycho tweakers” would have run me over and then I would be “crying about how unfair it was.” He wanted to educate me on how I was supposed to walk my bike through crosswalks but when I asked his source for that knowledge he just kept repeating the same lines about how I was being stupid and acting like all of the other entitled cyclists. Eventually I was able to point out that he was the one that went out of his way to chase me down.

    After another minute of him ranting and me refusing to apologize, he sped off I’m sure feeling like he got the last word and therefore won.

    The crosswalk I’m referring to is new and already very popular as it leads right up to Mt Tabor through a neighborhood. This route is much friendlier than riding on 60th but the crossing at Division is just a simple sign and the white crosswalk stripes, no flashing lights. I think it needs to have lights and include a cyclist on the sign since the average driver doesn’t seem to know bikes can use crosswalks at a walking pace and cars must yield. I run into this issue fairly often all over the city. How can we educate drivers and/or make this a better crosswalk for all users?

    This crossing is already very popular and it will only get more use with the coming summer months as it will serve as a main artery for pedestrians coming from the neighborhoods south of Mt Tabor. I encourage everyone to check out the new path. It’s honestly very nice and I love everything about it — except the crossing at Division.”

    Asked for more information about this crossing, PBOT said a flashing beacon is not in the plans. “Both roadway geometry and traffic conditions indicate a median island crossing treatment for this intersection. The crossings already on either side of SE 64th, at SE 59th and Division and SE 67th and Division, are both median island crossings,” PBOT Communications Director Hannah Schafer shared with BikePortland last week.

    PBOT is currently providing feedback to TriMet on a permanent design to come in the future as part of TriMet’s Powell-Division Safety and Access to Transit project. I’ve asked TriMet for more information and will update this post when I hear back.

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