Call City Hall for help? You'll be sorry.

When the car haters of the Portland "transportation" bureau take an interest in the street where you live, it's often a bad omen. Sometimes you'll see they've laid their little black hoses across the road for the cars to drive over. That counts the vehicles, or tells how fast they are going, or something. If the earnest 20-something-year-old bureaucrats decide there's a problem, and sometimes they're right about that, then they come up with a solution. 

That's where it usually goes bad. A lot of the time, the solution makes life miserable for everybody, especially those evil, evil people who still (gasp) drive a car, and it doesn't actually work to solve the problem.

We're at the solution stage now at the corner of Fremont and Alameda in northeast Portland. The many minions at City Hall have been aroused about that spot for quite a while now. They've got a point. It's hard to cross Fremont on foot there. Drivers on Fremont are hustling between miserably long lights at 33rd and 42nd, and they're not in much of a mood to slow down. Alameda is a popular bike route, but it's the pedestrians who seem to be the most scared to cross Fremont, and with good reason.

So what to do? The neighbors say that the problem is bad visibility. Cars, and especially vans and RVs, park too close to the intersection. The locals recommend establishing wide no-parking zones around that corner. But no, the City Hall arrogantsia won't even try that. Instead, they've put up Jo Ann's Magic Orange Barrels™, and now they're going to replace them with concrete ones. Along with new road blocks. Traffic on Fremont will be blocked from turning onto Alameda, and cars on Alameda in both directions will either be forced to turn right at Fremont, or maybe dead-ended entirely, I can't tell.

But the bike set will still get to do whatever they want at that corner, because hey, it's all about them. Always is.

The neighbors, who instigated the city's "improvement" project, now wish they hadn't. More than 30 of them showed up at a meeting a few months ago to object, but of course their complaints went in one ear and out the other. So now all the traffic that used to go through there will find its way onto the side streets to make the equivalent moves.

As far as I can tell, it's not turning cars or traffic on Alameda that are causing the hazard. It's cars on Fremont that won't stop. And nothing the city is doing will change that one bit.

What the corner of Fremont and Alameda really needs is a cop with a ticket book. If you can't get that, then a traffic light. And not one of those blinky-blinky pedestrian crossing lights. If you trust drivers to stop for those, you'd better make sure your life insurance is paid up. I'm talking a real light, all three colors, with pedestrian signals as well.

The city always resists the lights. They've got a million reasons why they can't be installed. I remember for years they refused to put one in on Hawthorne at 35th. For a while they wouldn't even paint a crosswalk there, because it would give a false sense of security. (I am not making that up.) That corner was dangerous as hell. Eventually they gave in and installed a real light, but only after an old guy was hit and killed just up the street a little ways.

Anyway, the Fremont flap has got people riled up enough that it's the front-page story in the neighborhood association newspaper this week:

But hey, haven't you heard? Neighborhood associations are the bad guys now. Junkies in tents and the bikeys are much more powerful constituencies. And so the homeowners can complain all they want. Those left turns are long gone, Alameda pretty much dead ends at Fremont, and the traffic is shifted to their side streets. 

Almost makes you want to become a Republican. Almost.


  1. They will learn to love their barrels. Yes they will. Freedom of movement is so old fashioned in the new world order.


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