Many locals have been wondering about the status of the City’s 50s Bikeway. I recently got an update from Rich Newlands, the PBOT project manager in charge of the project.
First a little background: Last year, the City Council approved a plan for a north-south bikeway to run along parts of 52nd and 53rd Avenues, from Woodstock in the South to Sandy in the North. I was a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee on the project, along with neighbors from all of the affected neighborhoods along the route, which gave me a close-up view of plenty of hot transpo planning action.
The final project involves a series of design treatments for various places along the route. In some places there won’t be much to see, but in areas with high traffic and potential for conflicts there will be more extensive work done. For most of our area, the improvements will consist of improved striping to separate cars and bikes better.
The project is an important piece of the City’s overall bike network, mainly because there are limited possibilities for north-south bike travel from our area of town. That’s partly because of Mount Tabor and some other geographic challenges just to the north of us, which tend to wall us off from points north. Because of that, the 50s Bikeway will really unlock the rest of town to Foster area bikers. Cyclists from east of 82nd will also benefit, because they’ll be travelling east-west on neighborhood greenways like Center or Woodward Streets, then connecting to the 50s Bikeway to head north.
So for people who live or work in very a large swath of SE, biking to Hawthorne or up into NE will become a whole lot easier and safer.
Another major reason why area neighborhood associations have been so anxious to see the project built is that the planned improvements benefit everyone, not just cyclists. The project includes improvements to crosswalks and sidewalks, improved curb ramps (a big deal for neighbors in wheelchairs), as well as treatments to discourage cut-through auto traffic on some of the neighborhood streets that weren’t designed to handle as many cars as they’re getting.
One of the most important of those local improvements is at the corner of Woodward and 52nd, in front of Franklin High School. Neighbors will recall that this corner was where two teenagers were hit on their way to school two years ago. With the closing of Marshall, most kids in the Foster area are attending Franklin, or will be someday.
That corner will feature a new signaled pedestrian crossing –a “Rapid Flash Beacon” similar to the one on Foster at 80th Avenue –plus some better curb extensions and signage.
The corner of Foster and 52nd is the one I’ve called the “wild west,” because of the various examples of reckless driving I’ve seen there over the years. Northbound drivers waiting to make a left turn onto Foster will often cut out of line to the left, cut through the Little Caesars parking lot and dash out onto Foster, westbound.
I’ve occasionally even seen northbound cars in the right lane of 52nd jump the curb and drive on the sidewalk, trying to make a right turn.
There’s also a very serious issue with cut-throughs on Francis Street in that same area. The scenario is: Someone’s driving westbound on Foster, and eventually wants to get southbound on 52nd. Seeing that up ahead at 52nd there’s a red light, they’ll veer left onto Francis, using it like a freeway offramp, and then make their left onto 52nd, thus avoiding the red light.
This is a small residential street where kids live, and most of the traffic on it is highway-speed cut-through traffic.
Unfortunately the 50s Bikeway won’t change much about the traffic dynamic at this corner. The places where the route crosses Foster –and Powell and Holgate as well –will see improved striping and better management of auto turn lanes and will undoubtedly result in improved safety for bikers, walkers and drivers. Hopefully the upcoming Foster Streetscape project will continue the progress on making this area safer for everyone.
The project is currently going through Design and Engineering, which means that the engineers are busy figuring out –to an almost microbial level –the details of how to implement it. The current expectation is that the City will accept bids from contractors this winter and the project will be built starting in the spring.
Obviously I’m a big supporter of the plan –with my main criticism being that it doesn’t do enough. But what do you think?