Exciting Bike Improvements Along the Springwater

Recently I got some great news about planned safety improvements along the Springwater Corridor, at an intersection very near my house in Portland. This fall, Clackamas County will be adding a bike signal—the county’s first!—to the intersection of Johnson Creek Boulevard and Bell Avenue.

The intersection presents a unique challenge, because the old rail line (and now the Springwater) cross the intersection diagonally. When I was a kid, it was common for car traffic to be stopped for minutes at a time for a passing train, before train service finally petered out. Ever since Johnson Creek Boulevard got an I-205 offramp in the early 90s, and the Springwater opened in 1996, both car and bike/ped traffic have been steadily increasing, and safety concerns along with it.

Despite being an extremely cautious cyclist, I’ve had close calls with motorists at this intersection on a few occasions. I’ve also witnessed many more close calls. Almost all of these have been from motorists making a right turn from northbound Bell Avenue onto eastbound Johnson Creek Boulevard (next to the building above), and failing to check the crosswalk before starting to make their turn.

But there are other safety issues as well. Springwater traffic climbs so high on nice summer weekends that sometimes there isn’t enough curb space for users that are trying to make the double-cross to navigate the intersection. A group of more than three bikes usually finds one person spilling over into the street. And during the couple of times the Hood to Coast race has come through the area, the curbs were even overflowing into the streets with participating runners.

Because I live nearby and have witnessed so many traffic snarls, I’ve been suggesting for several years how much could be improved by adding a diagonal bike signal at this location (drawing at left). Bike signals are extremely expensive infrastructure, though—$248,000 is one estimate I’ve seen thrown around. Given that Clackamas County is perpetually underfunded, does not generally prioritize bike/ped improvements, and residents are generally unwilling to chip in for the common good, I assumed my dream would never be realized.

Then again, there are instances where it just takes one injured person suing a cash-strapped government entity to make them suddenly find money or re-prioritize a safety hazard. Or perhaps sustainable transportation dynamo (and personal hero) Lynn Peterson had something to do with this before being called to the Governor’s office.

However it happened, I don’t care—I’ll take it! This is amazing news for our forgotten little neighborhood, and I can’t wait to return home and try out the first bike signal in Clackamas County.

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