Taking back the streets

To make Collins View streets safe for bikers, Damian Miller and the student-run bike co-op stake a claim for a chunk of street fee money

By Caleb Diehl /// Editor-in-Chief

 During rush hour, on the stretch of Terwilliger Boulevard between Lewis & Clark and SW Taylor’s Ferry Road, an endless parade of cars blocks the left turn onto SW Primrose St, a vital conduit to campus. Four years ago, a former student working in the registrar’s office was making the turn when he was hit, and his body thrown through a van’s windshield.

Damian Miller, coordinator of instructional technology and program assessment and a bike advocate, learned of four or five such crashes. Over a month, he crafted a petition that could prevent further tragedies. By press time on Nov. 12, 47 people signed.

“It’s something we wanted for 20 years,” Miller said. “Now, the college can give it the political weight it needs.”

While the threat of another serious crash is ever-present, the struggle of Southwest bikers more commonly surfaces in daily trips to and from campus. Andrew Muhn (’17), an administrator and volunteer at LC’s bike co-op, sometimes waits more than 10 minutes to cross Terwilliger at Primrose, and feels unsafe without a continuous bike lane from campus to Market of Choice. “I’d love to see the school show support for commuters and the student body,” he said, “along with their support of the surrounding community.”

Key to the petition’s success is this support from college administrators. The petition was signed by Vice President, Secretary, and General Counsel David Ellis, but not President Barry Glassner. Even without Glassner, Miller thinks that Ellis’s signature will bring the weight of the college to bear on this citywide funding issue.

The question of who signed and who didn’t isn’t as important as the question of cost.

“The barrier is not policy, it’s money,” Miller said. “If the college was able to contribute money it would make these projects more likely.”

Miller’s greatest hope for funding is Portland’s new street fee tax. The brainchild of Commissioner Steve Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales, the street fee could raise up to $53 million a year for transportation projects. The money would come from a $12 tax on households, and a much higher rate for churches and businesses. The budget is airtight.

“There are some very intense negotiations going on right now,” Miller said. “There’s probably a 40 percent chance that our projects will actually be funded.”

Released on Nov. 7, the city’s list of proposed street fee projects includes plans for sidewalks, bike lanes and safety education for elementary school students. Some of the money is reserved for Southwest Portland, but the report is an outline. It sets aside $5 million for “Southwest in motion sidewalk priorities,” leaving petitions, letters and other input from the community to determine just which sidewalks get funding.

About a month ago, Miller and Sustainability Manager Amy Dvorak began crafting the petition based on their talks with residents of the Collins View neighborhood. “They’re frustrated with the speed and volume of traffic on Terwilliger,” Miller said. “Much of that traffic is college traffic, but we share concerns about sustainable transportation.” They submitted a letter on behalf on Collins View.

The petition will bolster the letter’s message with support from LC students, faculty and staff. Miller and the petition’s signatories want to make sure some $225,000 of street fee money goes to three projects essential to the safety of LC bikers in the Collins View neighborhood (exact cost is hard to come in early planning stages). The petition asks Commissioner Steve Novick and Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat to consider putting funds toward these improvements. If Miller’s project ideas are accepted, the city could begin work within a year.

Miller hopes to get about 100 signatures before submitting the petition midway through next week. He’s aided by student organizers like Muhn, who emailed the document to members of the bike co-op.

“These are all important projects that would make life as an LC student and resident of Collins View safer and easier,” Muhn said. “We live here. It should be our voices heard.”

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A biker’s fantasy of Collins View

A close look at the petition’s proposed bike and pedestrian improvements, and what it would take to make them a reality. Costs are estimated using past news reports and Portland’s tax rate for homeowners charged with replacing sidewalks.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.46.15 PM

Crosswalk and flashing light where SW Primrose crosses SW Terwilliger

Cost: About $35,000 for a rapid flash beacon, plus about $64,000 of sidewalk.

Instead of abandoning them to the mercy of infrequent lulls in rush hour traffic, a crosswalk would give bikers and pedestrians a fair turn. It would also extend the sidewalk two blocks down from the retail district.

Sidewalk and lighting along Terwilliger from Boones’ Ferry to the Law School

Cost: About $124,000

This stretch is the conduit to campus from anywhere to the North. The only ways around are lengthy detours through Tryon Creek State Park or alongside Greenview Cemetery. The quickest route has no dedicated bike lane, and inconsistent sidewalks.

Neighborhood greenway between LC and the retail blocks around Terwilliger and Taylor’s Ferry.

Cost: Unknown

Greenways are uninterrupted bike paths. The city has promised to dedicate SW Primrose as a greenway by 2030, but turning Terwilliger into a greenway as well would give bikers a heavily protected route from campus to Market of Choice.

Sign the Petition: https://docs.google.com/a/lclark.edu/forms/d/18w2m6r1Pf0K8g0s9wvktTzEtVC7EqdTMs6efHSVMhMc/viewform

5 Comments

  1. Hi there-

    A few clarifications. On your graphic, I think you may have inadvertently switched the callout boxes for the proposed neighborhood greenway vs. the Terwilliger/Primrose crossing improvements. With regard to the financing of the street fund, it is important to note that the Mayor, Commissioner Novick, and PBOT Director Leah Treat released a revised plan earlier this week which replaces the per-household fee with a progressive income tax.

    (1 of 5)

  2. In general, please remember that the proposals are designed to improve safety and accessibility in the neighborhood for people walking as well as biking. This is important to the neighbors, as well as a number of College constituencies. One of the really heartening things about this proposal is that it is the result of collaboration between the neighbors and those of us here at the college who care about sustainable transportation, and the relationship between the College, the neighborhood, and the city. If we can, working together, make it easier for folks to get to and from campus without a car, we can also improve the existing traffic burden in the neighborhood, and make both the parking and traffic situation better for folks who don’t have a reasonable alternative to driving.

    (2 of 5)

  3. With regard to the proposed neighborhood greenway – it would likely include both Primrose between Terwilliger and Boone’s Ferry, and Palatine Hill from Boone’s Ferry all the way up to campus. While a Primrose/Palatine Hill greenway is in the 2030 bike plan, that does not guarantee funding; it just means that the city has recognized that it’s something to plan for in the long term. What the neighborhood greenway designation would mean is that the city could prioritize these streets for safe and comfortable biking and walking. The most prominent likely change from a neighborhood greenway designation would be a four-way stop at Boone’s Ferry and Palatine Hill/Primrose.

  4. With regard to the proposed sidewalk along Terwilliger from Boone’s Ferry to the Law School, it is important to remember that alternatives are not just lengthier – they are also isolated. Beyond the basic pedestrian accessibility of campus, this measure is also an important complement to the College’s efforts to prevent (spam filter won’t let me use the common word for gender-based) assault and to take seriously the expanded reading of Title IX, that is re-shaping college campuses across the country.

    (4 of 5)

  5. Finally, if you have thoughts or observations about bike and pedestrian safety issues in the neighborhood, we have word from the neighborhood that in addition to signing the petition, it will be helpful to leave notes on the city’s comprehensive planning map. Here’s the URL:

    http://www.portlandmaps.com/bps/cpmapp2/

    Thanks, all, for your signatures on the petition.

    (5 of 5)

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