Bicyclists do not always stop at the two stop signs on Ladd Avenue at either end of Ladd Circle. Some continue pedaling into the tightly curved circle and into traffic.
Over the years, solutions to get bicyclists to stop at the signs and make the area safer have been batted around, such as increasing enforcement, structurally changing the curve, or mounting an education campaign.
Energy to tackle the issue has renewed recently. On Tuesday, June 28 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), Abernethy Elementary School parents, and other members of Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Development (HAND) will conduct a “pedestrian safety action” along Ladd Avenue.
Participants will wave Burma Shave-style signs to passing bicyclists and motorists reminding them of the state’s sidewalk laws. “Whenever you see a street corner, the direct routes to the other side of either street form legal crosswalks, whether or not there is paint on the ground or not,” says Carl Larson, the BTA’s Walk + Bike ambassador.
The BTA has been holding similar safety actions throughout the city at busy intersections in order to remind cyclists of crosswalk laws. That the action is happening at the same time HAND members are beginning to discuss safety issues at the intersection again, Larson says, is a coincidence.
“It’s a mutually beneficial situation,” Larson says.
The HAND board discussed the issue at its board meeting on June 21. Various solutions to the safety concerns have emerged, including asking the city to post yield signs and asking the Portland Police Bureau to step up enforcement of traffic violations.
“I keep hoping we can find a ‘middle way’ through this, but people seem fairly entrenched on theses issues,” says Linda Nettekoven, the HAND board’s vice chair.
Mia Birk is an Abernethy parent, bicycle advocate, as well as the city’s former bicycle coordinator. She has started a “yield to pedestrians” campaign to raise awareness of the issue. Part of the campaign will involve asking the city to post yield signs and make other signage changes.
“We are also hoping the City will make some changes to the signage and markings to reinforce this message,” Birk wrote in an email to numerous Abernethy parents (she did not respond to Neighborhood Notes’ call for comment). “We hope that these changes and outreach efforts will increase sensitivity to those on foot while continuing to embrace those on wheels.”
Jonathan Maus, bicycle advocate and editor of BikePortland.org, refers to Ladd Circle as an “infamous traffic circle,” and he thinks Ladd Circle will have to be structurally changed to make it safer.
“The solution is to change engineering. That’s pretty clear,” Maus says.
A 2007 memo from the Portland Bureau of Transportation says, “[PBOT] feels that more is needed to make Ladd Circle operate safety than just changing the STOP signs to YIELD.”
To structurally change lane sizes, reconstruct lane entries, and make other engineering changes could cost as much as $160,000.
Depending on how Tuesday’s action event goes, Birk and others may continue increasing awareness and holding such actions throughout the summer and into next school year.
Maus guesses that Birk’s involvement may mean that some changes will come to Ladd Circle this time around. He also calls HAND “one of the most powerful” neighborhood associations in Portland because it has a large number of involved, “very engaged” residents.
“They know how to turn the screws at City Hall, and they’ll make stuff happen,” he says. “If they have an issue that bothers them, the city pays a lot of attention.”
UPDATE 8/3/2011: "Neighbors, Bike and Pedestrian Advocates Creating Ladd Circle Survey"
By Amanda Waldroupe, NeighborhoodNotes.com