Planning for People Over Cars in Downtown Oregon City

Since I am the Transportation Advisory Committee’s representative on the Downtown Oregon City Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Implementation Working Group, the City of Oregon City invited me to join this group on a tour of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Downtown Oregon City. In case you are unfamiliar with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, I recommend watching the below video.

Even though the working group knows we need to prioritize people over cars because there will not be enough space to park all the cars on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project site, I found it interesting that the first thing the tour guide showed us was where cars would be parked on the future site. The tour guide even shared a specific location for the interim on-site surface parking lot and an estimate on the number of cars that could be parked in this lot.

While I assumed the tour guide was referring to parked cars because most people in Oregon City drive, he only said “parking” so I asked the tour guide to clarify what type of parking and whether there would be parking for bikes. My assumption was correct that he was only referring to car parking when he said “parking”. Thankfully, he said there would also be parking for bikes because the City requires bike parking. However, he was unable to provide a specific location for bike parking and how many bikes could be parked.

According to the below diagram, car “parking supply at full build-out of the site is estimated at 1,150 spaces off-street, and 85 spaces on-street.” Even though the City requires bike parking, I could not find any diagram for bike parking. This shows me that the project vision prioritizes car parking. On a positive note, minimum car parking space requirements may be reduced by up to 50% because the site is part of the downtown parking district.

In addition to being excited to hear about the potential for a 50% reduction of car parking, I was excited to hear that City staff are considering whether to remove mandatory car parking minimums in the downtown parking district. While I am sure there will be internal and public resistance, City staff want to give developers the flexibility to decide whether or not to include car parking in their projects. City staff said the mandatory car parking minimums have prevented many downtown developments from being built because the projects could not pencil out. As the below map shows, there is an international movement to remove car parking minimums.

While I was not satisfied with the tour guide’s answers, I was told that we would discuss bike parking more at a later point in the planning process. Even though I am used to bike parking being an afterthought in Oregon City, I was still frustrated that I had to ask for “parking” to be clarified and request that bike parking be discussed. Do Dutch and Danish planners have to ask for this clarification or do their tour guides automatically specify which type of parking?

As you know, I will be presenting on a panel at the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) Conference in Portland on August 26 from 1:45-3:15pm (here is the agenda for August 26). Several Dutch and Danish planners that I have communicated with will be at this international conference, so I plan to ask them the above parking question.

Ray’s Behavior Change from 2009-2019

While I now get frustrated about having to clarify “parking” and request that bike parking be discussed, this shows how much I have changed over the past ten years. As I wrote about in this 2014 post and the below 2009 article shows, I used to advocate for cars by supporting the widening of North Carolina Highway 3 in Kannapolis. I said the below statement during my senior year at Northwest Cabarrus High School and just a semester before I started at UNC Charlotte. I was actually one of the few residents that supported the widening project. As this article shows, most people opposed the project because they wanted to maintain the rural character along this section of Highway 3. They felt widening Highway 3 would bring too much dense development and traffic congestion. Since I tell people that I was raised in a suburban area, it feels weird to see the articles described my home as being in a rural area.

Not everyone was opposed to the idea of a wider N.C. 3. Ray Atkinson lives about a mile off of the highway.
“I think it’s good to plan for growth,” Atkinson said. The N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis would benefit from the proposed improvements, he added.

Front Page_Hortizontal3

Kannapolis Citizen article from January 28, 2009

Translating My Kannapolis Experience to Oregon City

Even though most people on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Downtown Oregon City tour saw me as the bike advocate, I am curious how much their perception of and interaction with me would have changed if I shared my Kannapolis experience. In addition to advocating for cars in Kannapolis, I experienced the closure of Cannon Mills (aka Pillowtex) in 2003. I have followed the redevelopment of this closed mill site into the North Carolina Research Campus. The redevelopment has also included areas beyond the closed mill site in Downtown Kannapolis. This redevelopment had such a large impact on me that I studied it for my high school senior exit project in Fall 2008. The Willamette Falls Legacy Project and redevelopment of Downtown Oregon City reminds me of my work in Downtown Kannapolis.

High School Senior Project

Mrs. Andersen, who was my high school teacher and advisor for my senior exit project, and I looking at a 1950s map of Kannapolis, NC in Fall 2008.

Translating My Tigard Experience to Oregon City

I also see similarities between my work in Tigard and Oregon City. As this 2016 post shows, my PSU planning workshop team consulted for the City of Tigard and worked with State of Place to conduct a walkability study in the Tigard Triangle and Downtown Tigard. The Downtown Oregon City TDM Implementation Working Group plans to work with City staff to conduct a walkability and bikeability study in Downtown Oregon City. I plan to write a future blog post about this study after it launches.

Regional Planning for Electric-Assist Dockless Bikeshare and Scootershare

Since I believe most of the focus throughout the US to plan for electric-assist dockless bikeshare and scootershare has been on the largest cities, I feel the need to push for more regional planning. My employer, which is Clackamas Community College (CCC), has three campuses that are located in three suburban cities within the Portland region. While I am still surprised to be living car-free and working in America’s suburbia, this experience has provided me with a unique perspective on why regional transportation planning is crucial.

As the below map shows, Portland received responses from throughout the region to its 2018 e-scooter pilot user survey. Even though Portland’s e-scooter pilot was legally limited to Portland, I saw e-scooters as far south as Oregon City. I am not sure whether the companies or their customers were fined for parking scooters outside of Portland. While CCC and jurisdictions within Clackamas County are nervous about allowing e-scooters and e-bikes, is it feasible to ban e-scooters and e-bikes in Clackamas County when people will likely keep riding them south from Portland?

Portland Region Escooter Users Home Zip Code

Source: City of Portland’s February 1, 2019, E-Scooter Users Presentation at Portland State University https://www.slideshare.net/otrec/slideshelf

Through serving on the City of Oregon City’s Transportation Advisory Committee and Clackamas County’s Pedestrian/Bikeway Advisory Committee and talking with residents, I have learned that many Clackamas County residents are resistant to Portland-style transportation thinking and do not want anything to be planned. They believe planning will bring change to their desired small town and country lifestyles, so they have asked me and government staff to stop all planning efforts. Even though I tell residents that e-bikeshare and e-scootershare could reduce traffic congestion and demand for auto parking, which are their concerns, they keep telling me that they only want to widen roads and build more auto parking so they can get places faster by driving. They do not believe me when I tell them that e-bikeshare and e-scootershare have been proven in other places to reduce auto trips and increase non-auto trips.

Portland Scooter Traffic Congestion

Results from Portland’s 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report. Source: City of Portland.

I realize the residents that want to drive likely will not use e-bikeshare and e-scootershare. However, it has been challenging to convince them that other residents like me want to use these shared mobility services. People who want to keep driving will benefit from this because they likely will see reduced traffic congestion and demand for auto parking. As the below map shows, few people currently bike in Clackamas County, which is located south of Portland. This is a major reason why it is hard to convince auto-dependent residents that enough people will use shared mobility services in Clackamas County. I would like to show a similar map for scooter trips, but Portland only released scooter data for trips in Portland.

Ride Report Bike Stress Map Clackamas County

Source: Ride Report https://ride.report/portland

I experienced a similar public backlash when my employer, which was MetroBike, was hired by Montgomery County, MD to expand Capital Bikeshare into suburban areas. Since Capital Bikeshare uses stations and bikes cannot be locked within being docked at a station, Montgomery County could have asked MetroBike to stop the expansion. While some dockless bikeshare and scootershare companies have tried to encourage their customers to park in designated areas, the bikes and scooters are not required to be parked in these areas. This is the main reason why I believe dockless bikeshare and scootershare are coming to Clackamas County whether or not the residents want it. Even if Clackamas County requires the companies to remove their bikes and scooters, bikes and scooters will likely keep coming to Clackamas County until Portland forces the companies to leave the region.

As a planner and someone who wants more transportation choices, I want to be prepared for bikeshare and scootershare. While the public may believe it is not possible to plan for this, I believe it is possible as long as my partners are willing to keep working with me to create and implement a plan. Even though bikeshare and scootershare are quickly evolving, I have found this resource to be useful in my planning effort.

I have only been back in Oregon for eight months, but I am excited to share that I have quickly become a leader in the planning process to prepare the Portland region for bikeshare and scootershare. Since I want to make sure the planning process includes an equity lens and integrates smoothly with other transit services, my partners include TriMet (Portland region’s transit), Metro (Portland region’s MPO), several non-profit equity community groups, and several cities and counties. While Portland has been working with Ride Report to analyze its data, my suburban partners have been evaluating whether and how to include private companies in our planning process.

Portland plans to award permits and launch E-Scooter Pilot 2.0 for a year early this spring and expand Biketown (bikeshare) to include e-bikes this fall when it renews its contract with Motivate, which is owned by Lyft. Since Uber owns JUMP, which provides the bikes for Biketown, it should be interesting to see how Uber and Lyft work together run Biketown. I have never seen two competing companies run the same business together!

Portland Scooter

Next Steps from Portland’s 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report. Source: City of Portland.

Does bike lane legally continue through the intersection?

I usually write posts mostly from my viewpoint because I want my blog to be mostly from my viewpoint. I am making a rare exception with this post because I am not a legal expert and my last post happened to be about Bend. While I read BikePortland almost daily and many of their posts fascinate me, I chose to make a rare exception to write about this post because Jonathan Maus thoroughly researched the legal issue and it raises questions about what I experienced in Bend.

Before I read Jonathan’s post, I thought it was common sense that a bike lane legally continues through the intersection. I am shocked by Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Adler’s ruling.

Judge Adler ruled that he saw “no authority” to support the contention that bike lanes continue through intersections in Oregon.

While I have never had any personal legal issues while biking, do I need to start leaving the bike lane and using the travel lane when going through intersections in Oregon to prevent my legal rights from being lost? As comments below Jonathan’s post explain, I am not the only cyclist in Oregon asking this question.

I also found the below statement interesting. Even in bike-friendly Oregon, it is believed that people do not treat bike lanes like travel lanes. As someone who bikes daily in Oregon, I agree with this perspective. While neither type of lane physically (no paint) continues through the intersection, I have not seen anyone questioning whether the travel lane legally continues through the intersection. Why does the same not apply to the bike lane?

Prosecutor Andrew Steiner said many people today do not treat bike lanes like vehicle lanes, though they are.

Since I am a geographer, I would normally have started this post with where the bike lane is located in Bend. I felt readers needed the legal and culture details to fully understand the bike lane legal issue, so I postponed sharing the bike lane location. While the below Google Maps screenshot shows green lines for where the bike lanes continue through the intersection at NW Wall St and NW Olney Ave, the white bike lane paint does not actually continue through this intersection. The white bike lane paint stops where the intersection begins and restarts where the intersection ends. The same is true for the travel lanes.

Bend Intersection

Location of the bike lane legal issue in Bend, OR. Source: Google Maps

Portland had a similar legal issue

Unfortunately, Bend is not the only Oregon city to have experienced this legal issue. Portland had a similar legal issue in 2009. As this BikePortland post discussed, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Pro Tem Michael Zusman found that the collision did not occur “in the marked area comprising the bicycle lane.”

You are probably as confused as me after reading this post. Since I do not want to change how I bike through intersections in Oregon, I hope I can trust what Jonathan wrote in his 2018 post.

Let’s be clear: Even though the legal definition of a bicycle lane (ORS 801.155) doesn’t specifically address intersections, the legal protection of a bicycle lane absolutely does continue through an intersection even if the markings do not.

Jonathan’s viewpoint is shared by former Portland Police Bureau Captain Bryan Parman.

“We all know that lanes continue through an intersection, we just don’t lay down a bunch of criss-crossing lines because it would be confusing.” He also said, “It’s a poor ruling in an individual case but it doesn’t change the way we do business.”

Dockless Automobiles vs. Dockless Bikes

I’m following up on my last post, which discussed Capital Bikeshare and dockless bikeshare in the Washington, DC region. While I agree that dockless bikeshare companies should be held accountable to making sure their bikes are parked correctly, why aren’t dockless automobile companies being held to the same standard? Dockless automobiles have been parked illegally for decades. Where is the public outrage? Why is most of the public outrage focused on dockless bikes?

Here are several examples: