Opinion: Better Naito has ended in the worst way

未分类 / 星期六, 九月 22nd, 2018

It’s gone. Ripped out last night — a full day before it was scheduled to be removed.

What’s one more day when we already got cheated out of a full week due to a conflict with a nearby bridge construction project?

It’s a lot.

Because there was zero prior warning, it looks like several people rode onto Naito this morning, assuming the lanes were still protected, only to realize they were fully exposed to other traffic.

Thousands will miss it.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“I had an extremely sketchy moment this morning when I hopped on Better Naito southbound, saw a car coming at me, and realized Better Naito was gone,” tweeted Dirk VanderHart this morning.

This morning at 10:03 am, the Portland Bureau of Transportation apologized for the early removal and acknowledged the mistake, saying it was, “due to an internal miscommunication.” They then sent flaggers to both ends to let people know about the “unexpected” closure.

This error could have led to someone being hurt or even killed. It adds salt into the wound PBOT has created by ripping this rug out from under us at the end of every summer.

It’s a wound that was already smarting even with the installation fully in tact.

Ever since it first went in on May 1st, the anemic, low-budget design made it too easy for people in cars to drive in it. In the past two weeks we’ve heard of three incidents where people drove inside the Better Naito lanes at night — twice narrowly missing a rider, and once crashing into one.

On the night of September 9th, Richard Birdmead had his bike-mounted video camera rolling when he captured someone driving a black car without headlights on coming right for him. Then it happened again 10 days later.


Still image from a video by Walker Devine, moments before he was hit while riding in Better Naito September 17th.

Devine’s bike.

Then on Monday night, 20-year-old southeast Portland resident Walker Devine was hit by someone driving in Better Naito. Luckily he escaped major injury, but his bike was snapped in half…

In an email this morning, Devine said it happened around 8:00 pm at SW Oak. Here’s his account:

“As I approached the intersection I noticed a car make a wide swing into the bike protected lane a block up from SW Harvey Milk/Stark onto the left northbound lane of Naito Parkway. I stopped at the intersection of Naito and Oak because I’ve encountered plenty of drivers doing this move before. There’s enough of a gap for drivers to swing back out onto the traffic lane of Naito. I signaled to them but by the time they were about 4 feet from the intersection I could tell they were not stopping. Then, if felt like they accelerated and hit me. I honestly thought it was an intentional hit and run.”

Devine said both people in the car were upset about what happened and helped him over to the curb. Witnesses called 911 and a police report was filled out. He went to the ER in an ambulance to get checked out and luckily only had some bruises and cuts. “My bike took the brunt of the attack, thank goodness,” he wrote. “I can’t believe that the bike wasn’t my leg every time I look at it.”

In a city that claims to have made Vision Zero it’s top transportation priority, we should never expose a group of road users to this much risk — especially when it comes from a city project intended to reduce it.

People risk their lives just to get the requisite political attention for projects like this to happen. Then they risk their lives because the project is so low-budget and value-engineered that it promotes unsafe behaviors. Then the project is abruptly removed without any warning or signage whatsoever, putting even more lives at risk.

This is madness. Better Naito should be a huge win for City Hall and PBOT. Instead, far too many riders dislike it (and who can blame them?) and many drivers see the few extra seconds delay it causes as an unspeakable infringement. In the end, the city has made it hard for even advocates of the project to hold their heads high.

We are in desperate need of transportation leadership in Portland. I’m optimistic that newly-named PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is up to the task. But right now, I’m disgusted by how Better Naito has been handled. We deserve better.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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