The City Council's Transportation Committee punted on making a final decision pending the outcome of neighborhood meetings, one each for the Ocean and Washington Avenue projects, respectively. While Councilors Anton and Donoghue seem supportive, Councilor Leeman is clearly very opposed to removing on-street parking in her district.
However, TV news reporter Steve Minnick from Channel 8 reported that it was very difficult to find dissenting voices on Washington Avenue that day - "nobody parks on the street," was the common refrain, since virtually everyone who lives in the area has their own off-street parking.
I suspect that the neighborhood meetings won't turn out a lot of opposition - but it will be important for pedestrians and cyclists who support the bike network to turn out and voice their support. That means you! Watch this blog for an announcement soon.
The first meeting will address the Ocean Avenue bike lane project, between Woodfords and Lunts Corners (connecting Forest to Washington Avenue, passing Presumpscot School, Cheverus, and Payson Park along the way). This project opportunity cropped up because the street is scheduled to be paved anyhow later this summer, so the city will have to act within the next couple of months.
Washington Avenue is less pressing, since the city doesn't have the funding to do those bike lanes quite yet. I think there may be some opportunity to preserve some parking on Washington (especially near the street's churches, which are the only places where the street's parallel parking spots are ever utilized to any great extent) while also accommodating bike lanes and making the street safer to cross as a pedestrian. At last week's meeting, Councilor Leeman noted that the hazards of crossing Washington Avenue for the neighborhood's elderly and school kids was a much bigger issue than lack of parking. That's a piece of common ground we can work from, since bike lanes are also aimed at making Washington into a safer street.
Finally, the City is almost set to release construction bids for the summer's big bike infrastructure improvement: new bike lanes on Forest and Deering Avenues. The city is planning to stripe new bike lanes on Forest Avenue between Woodfords and Morrill's Corners, as well as on Deering Avenue between Deering Oaks Park and Woodford's Corner.
At the narrow intersections of Morrill's and Woodford's Corners, cyclists will be encouraged to "take the lane" - that is, ride in the middle of the lane - since traffic is relatively slow-moving in those locations, and many cyclists will want to change lanes in order to make turns. "Sharrow" stencils, like the one pictured above, will indicate bike routes through these locations.
The Forest Avenue project will create an on-street bike route that extends all the way from downtown Portland to the Westbrook town line, near Pride's Corner, via existing bike lanes in the Riverton neighborhood. We can expect this project to be finished sometime mid-August.