Tight squeeze: Cyclists, cars, and new development vie for space on Williams
  • Amanda Smith
  • Tight squeeze: Cyclists, cars, and new development vie for space on Williams
Where last we left off in the Mercury news section, the city's plan to rework North Williams to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians had been delayed, allowing more time for public input on changing the street that now sees 3,000 cyclists a day.

Well, that public input has come in these past two weeks at two major public meetings. BikePortland.org has an exhaustive write-up of last night's contentious meeting. Mayor Sam Adams also issued a statement welcoming the public comment on the plan this week, announcing Deborah Leopold Hutchins (an African-American woman who leads a women's bike group called Sistahs Weekend Cyclers) as the chair of the project's stakeholder committee.

There's a couple options on the table—spelled out here—including removing a parking lane or car travel lane to make more room for bikes.

But what the controversy comes down to, it seems, has less to do with the statistics surrounding bike use, excess parking, and underutilized car travel lanes and everything to do with change in the neighborhood. The city is treading very carefully because North Williams is a neighborhood that has every historic reason to be skeptical of new development plans: The Legacy Emanuel hospital expansion wiped out blocks of the neighborhood back in the sixties. And in just the past three years, condo projects and over a dozen new bike businesses have transformed the area.

So here's the question: Can the community discussion separate bike improvements on North Williams from other change in the area? Or are bikes inextricably linked to all the other demographic and developmental change along Williams?

And, of course, will all this public venting about change actually affect the city's plan? Or, once all the neighbors get the change issues off their chests, will the city revamp the street the way it originally planned?