Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on April 16th, 2009 at 11:41 am
A community survey conducted by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability as part of their Central Portland Plan update had good news for supporters of bikeways and carfree streets.
The survey was made available at more than 60 community events and locations throughout the city during a two-month period between August and October 2008 (it was also available online). 2,500 people responded to the survey and told the city how they currently use Central Portland and “what steps and activities they envisioned for its future.”
(I like reading survey results — especially ones that aren’t targeted to an already bike-centric audience — for nuggets of information on how Portlanders feel about biking and bike-related issues.)
The survey asked six in-depth questions about everything from who comes to Central Portland, where they come from, how they rate city services in the downtown area, and more. Question five of the survey asked Portlanders to write in what they would like to see as the “Next bold steps” for Central Portland.
Respondents wrote in more than 2,100 different responses that were then grouped in 14 different categories. One of those categories was transportation (which, incidentally had more than twice the number of responses of the next closest category).
The Summary Report of the survey than listed 18 specific “bold steps” that received the most responses. Of the 18 listed, “build more affordable housing” was number one by a mile (with more than 100 responses), but look how the rest of the list played out:
- 2. Increase car-free streets and zones
3. Increase and improve bike lanes
8. Create bike only streets
Also mentioned in the top ten were “more transit options”, and expanded MAX and Streetcar service.
The Summary Report also re-printed five of the actual responses. Here’s one of them:
“The next bold step should be narrowing the automobile right-of-way and widening the pedestrian right-of-way, and creating a separate, 2-way bike lane on Broadway from NE Sandy to where it crosses I-405 in SW Portland….”
It was great to see bikeways and carfree streets come up so strongly in this survey. It seems more and more Portlanders realize that downtown will never reach its full potential unless policies are created to discourage automobile use.
The city has big plans to create more bikeways and transit options, but those plans will only have a limited impact until political leadership steps up and gets tough on cracking down car trips (or, until they are pressured by citizens and/or advocacy groups).
We need more carfree spaces downtown and we need more room for bicycle infrastructure. But, to create that space, car parking and auto lanes must be removed. Who will step up and put pressure on city leaders to make it happen? Or, which city leader will grasp the livable city reins and get the ball rolling?
All of this reminds me of last summer’s Towards Carfree Cities Conference. Below is a slide from the inspiring talk given by Gil Penalosa that lays out how Portland can move the needle from “thinking and saying, to doing.”:
Does Portland have the “guts”, the “doers” or the sense of urgency?
— You can download the survey here (1.0 MB PDF).