PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Cyclists in Northeast Portland are fighting the removal of a bike lane they say is crucial for safety and mobility in the city.
Cyclists blocked the Public Bureau of Transportation’s contractor on Northeast 33rd Avenue and Holman Street Wednesday morning as crews were in the process of scraping the bike lane paint off the street.
One of the white lines on the bike lane was already removed when cyclists arrived. But when PBOT crews tried to remove the rest, the cyclicts got in the way to stop them. The crews went home after PBOT officials said they wanted to de-escalate the situation.
Bikeloud PDX member Kiel Johnson said the bureau wants to “use our taxpayer money to remove a bike lane right now that has already gone in.”
“People whose lives are made safer by riding a bike are here to protest this removal and to make it so our streets are safe for them,” he said.
The agency says the bike lane was an “internal error” and should never have been put there in the first place. The lines were painted during a regularly scheduled repaving project, but the bureau says they didn’t do any public outreach or comment for the bike lane. This means they had to remove it after residents in the area pushed back due to disruption of street parking and accessibility according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Officials say it’s going to cost $25,000 to remove the bike lane after installing it during a $1.6 million repaving project on 33rd Avenue in the beginning of October.
It’s the second bike lane that was slated for removal, and comes just one month after plans to remove a bike lane on Broadway were made public — though the city decided to keep it.
Officials say the two removals are unrelated. However, cyclists are frustrated the agency is spending the money while facing a $32 million shortfall
“They’re saying to City Council they can’t do basic maintenance, they can’t maintain the roads, they’re going to have to lay off employees, but for some reason, they can spend extra money to actively remove infrastructure that’s already in place,” Hale said.
The lines span four blocks of Northeast 33rd Avenue. from Holman Street to Columbia Boulevard. Cyclists like Christopher Hale say the connection is important for their neighborhoods.
“We bike our kids exclusively to and from school. I bike to and from the hospital every single day,” Hale said. “We rely on safe biking infrastructure to make sure we get there without harm.”
Bike Portland first reported the removal plans after they were leaked by the PBOT staff. After KOIN 6 reached out to Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who is in charge of PBOT, the commissioner’s office says they have called for a pause in the removal until the agency determines the next steps.
PBOT admits the agency conducted no public engagement over the bike lane itself, and now says the process will be an important step for people who may be impacted by a project to work with the agency about their concerns.
But Hale said the bike lane was part of the bureau’s master plan for the area that passed two years ago with rounds of public engagement.