Lewis & Clark Joins BTA Call for a Safe Barbur Blvd

The Lewis & Clark Sustainability Council has joined the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) in calling for common-sense safety improvements on Barbur Blvd. The chair of the council, Law Professor Daniel Rohlf, has penned a powerful letter (PDF) to Jason Tell, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) manager for this region.

Photo: Lewis & Clark College
by caseorganic/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Rohlf’s letter points out how, “Lewis & Clark is directly impacted by the lack of safe bicycle access across the 99W Newbury & Vermont Street bridges.” Quoting the BTA message to ODOT, Rohlf calls for “a safe, separate, well-lit space for people walking and bicycling” on Barbur.

In anticipation of a common response from ODOT (that Barbur is an overflow route for I-5) Rohlf writes the following:

ODOT staff members have suggested that preserving high-speed motor vehicle lane capacity on Barbur is essential to allow it to function as a relief valve for I-5 during periods of peak congestion. We believe this thinking does not grasp the full problem. If major institutions like Lewis & Clark remain largely inaccessible except by motor vehicles, there will inevitably be more cars trying to use I-5 for intra-city commute trips, resulting in more days of peak congestion, and more disruption to long-distance trips on the interstate.

An informal group of Lewis & Clark commuters, including staff and students, have also sent Tell a letter. In it, they explain that Lewis & Clark’s admirable double-digit bicycle/pedestrian mode split (the percentage of trips to campus by bicycle or on foot) would likely be far higher were it not for the dangerous and inconvenient routes currently connecting the campus to downtown.

Referring specifically to the Vermont and Newbury St Bridges, they note, “Those of us who do use Barbur have, nearly to a person, experienced harrowing close calls crossing the bridges.”



Comments (3)

  1. Sarah Hagstrom Permalink  | Jan 16, 2013 05:30pm

    This is fantastic news. I ride a bike every single day on the stressful inner-city streets of San Francisco. I’d say I’m on the concerned end of the “bold and fearless” crowd here, but when I visited Portland last October and encountered these sections of Barbur where the already-insufficiently-wide bike lane just completely disappears without warning, forcing me and other cyclists to merge with 45-60mph *trucks*… I was completely dumbfounded, not to mention actually physically shaking with fear and also with anger at ODOT for putting me in this blatantly completely and utterly dangerous position. I actually dismounted my bike and walked it across the very skinny curb area while watching an old man do the same on the other side. I decided at that point that Portland is absolutely not all it’s cracked up to be as far as bike-friendliness is concerned, and it couldn’t have been clearer to me that ODOT doesn’t care a whit whether people on bikes live or die. A release valve for I-5? That’s not what city streets are for. What about a release valve for bike traffic that has very few reasonable options for getting through this corridor? It’s time for level-of-service standards to be applied *equally* to other modes of transport. Why is Portland allowing Seattle to lead the way in making these changes? But I digress…

  2. Peter W Permalink  | Jan 17, 2013 08:01am

    Oregon Walks has joined in the call for better facilities as well.

    In my opinion, ODOT would be crazy to say that saving a few minutes of car commuters’ time is more important than avoiding threats to the lives of people who walk or bike.

  3. Laura Miller Permalink  | Jan 17, 2013 09:48am

    The previous comment is precise: “sections of Barbur where the already-insufficiently-wide bike lane just completely disappears without warning, forcing me and other cyclists to merge with 45-60mph *trucks*…”. This is the only main bike commute route from many south and southwest neighborhhoods. It has bike lanes for much of it, but the extreme danger imposed when the lanes suddenly disappear is unconscionable. Motorists can be forced to slow down and be a little inconvenienced – it’s the price we pay to drive. Do we want another fatality on Barbur to force installation of safety measures or do we want to be proactive?