Dozens of street safety advocates rallied at Powell Park on Tuesday to oppose the removal of the bike lanes on SE 26th Ave. at Powell Blvd. one of Portland’s most crash-prone intersections.
Earlier this month, the Street Trust launched a petition calling on city leaders, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and the Oregon Department of Transportation to take action to prevent the removal of the bike lanes on SE 26th. In less than a week, more than 1,000 supporters signed on, many of them pointing out the bike lanes’ critical role in making the intersection safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, students, and motorists.
This effort comes in response to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s demand that PBOT remove the bike lanes and bike boxes on SE 26th. In 2015, ODOT required the removal of these bike lanes as a condition for new crosswalk signals on Powell at SE 28th.
While the crossing at 28th is a welcome safety improvement, the Street Trust believes it does not warrant making travel on SE 26th less safe. SE 26th is the most direct route to a number of destinations, including Cleveland High School. Removal of the bike lanes appears imminent, though it is still unclear when exactly PBOT will carry out ODOT’s demand.
Jillian Detweiler, Executive Director of the Street Trust said, “It’s a Catch-22. The increasing traffic makes it more dangerous for cyclists, so they ride less and use their cars more.” The greenways are helping, but rarely do they get a cyclist completely from one destination to another. They need bike lanes and space on the busy thorough fares to feel safe. After all it is cyclists that are making a change for the better.
SE Powell Boulevard is a high-crash corridor, and its intersection with 26th Ave. is one of the most crash-prone in the city. Just three years ago, 22-year-old Alistair Corkett lost his leg after being struck by a pickup truck while riding his bike at the intersection.
The Street Trust believes the best way to prevent such tragedies is to slow down traffic and increase street safety facilities, including bike lanes.