Study: Portland bicycle, pedestrian safety needs work on Forest Avenue

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PORTLAND — A study of one of the city’s most traveled streets says upgrades are needed to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Anyone who has tried to drive, bike or walk cross Forest Avenue at rush hour knows how difficult it can be.

In April 2011, the City Council created the Transforming Forest Avenue Public Advisory Committee, and in October, the committee held a public hearing to determine residents’ concerns about the road.

Many people spoke about the need for clearly marked bicycle lanes. Some suggested that if the lanes are added, there should also be enforcement of laws against bicyclists riding on sidewalks.

The current plan calls for improvements, such as bike lanes, to the street that would not impact vehicular traffic patterns.

“Residents living near Forest Avenue should not feel obligated to drive a car for short trips simply because walking or biking feels unsafe or uninviting,” the study said.

While a bicycle overpass over Forest Avenue from the Bayside Trail was initially considered, the committee is not recommending that and instead, is suggesting the city keep bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the same grade as vehicles “to emphasize its equal value.”

The plan also calls for improved traffic light synchronization for traffic flow through some of the busier intersections, including Woodfords Corner and Morrills Corner.

The committee also supported adding bump-outs of the sidewalks on Deering Avenue and Forest Avenue, rather than adding a second southbound lane at the busy Woodfords Corner intersection.

The report also recommends changing the width of vehicle lanes and painting lines so drivers are aware where the lanes are, which would provide places for buses to pick up and drop off riders and create more of a buffer between bicyclists and drivers.

The inside lanes would be 10 feet wide, the outside lanes would be 12 feet wide, to facilitate bus traffic without stopping vehicle traffic.

As part of the effort to increase pedestrian safety, the committee has recommended the city study whether it is possible to consolidate the number of curb cuts, where traffic goes in and out of parking lots and businesses along the road.

The committee has not recommended changes to the zoning framework, but has suggested the city limit front-yard parking whenever possible so drivers are not backing out onto Forest Avenue.

The plan now goes to the Planning Board for a review. Any implementation of the committee’s recommendations would go through the board and likely to the City Council before any changes are made.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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