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Protesters create human shield over 'Better Naito' bike lane removal

Protesters form a human shield Thursday to protest removal of a protected bike lane on Naito Parkway. (Photo: Reed Andrews/KATU News)

Dozens of people stood hand-in-hand along busy SW Naito Parkway Thursday evening to protest the removal of a protected bike lane in downtown Portland.

Better Naito was installed for the second time this April. Portland's Bureau of Transportation eliminated one northbound lane of auto traffic and created a two-way protected bike lane. A portion of stretch of Better Naito also provides a walking lane.

A 2016 study by PBOT found car commuters lost about 90 seconds of travel time, in part because of the reduction of one lane of auto traffic.

"Protected bike lanes have been proven to get people who were maybe on the fence about biking to feel a lot more comfortable and safe," Kiel Johnson, one of the protest organizers said.

PBOT says the bike lane is needed during the summer due to the festivals, fairs, and concerts that call Tom McCall Waterfront Park home during that time.

The city will remove the protected bike lanes Oct. 2, which sparked the protest Thursday's protest.

"It would love for it to be permanent," cyclist David Besley said.

A 2016 study by PBOT found car commuters lost about 90 seconds of travel bike, in part because of the reduction of one lane of auto traffic.

Some car drivers KATU News talked to said the bike lane wasn't necessary since the park - with its own protected walkways - is nearby.

"The waterfront is really designed for pedestrians and pedestrian enjoyment and tourism," Johnson said. "For people to sort of slowly enjoy the waterfront and it's not really a commuting route."

Michael Selby was on his lunch break Thursday afternoon during what may be Portland's last perfect weather day of the year.

He drives to work and says the Better Naito project hasn't created any problems for him.

"I don't mind it being down to one lane," he said. "I'd rather give the lane to the bikes."

There is one change he's noticed, and it's one that he appreciates. When he's on his lunch break walking along the waterfront, he doesn't have to worry about getting in the way of faster-moving bikes.

"It seems like there's less traffic and less run-ins," Selby said. "I know if I was a bicyclist I wouldn't want to be on here navigating tourists either."

PBOT says they have money to repave Naito Parkway and as a part of that project, could create a permanent, protected bike lane.

The city provided no timeline for when that project would be green-lit, or when any repaving will start.

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