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Editorial: Portland’s golden opportunity to invest in downtown bike access

Posted by on January 15th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Ride-along SW Broadway-9-6
This is what bicycling is like
in much of downtown Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is prepping a $10.2 million list of active transportation projects they hope to get funded through a federal grant. According to sources at PBOT, conversations have already begun to focus all that money on a package of projects that would focus specifically on downtown bike access in the form of protected bike lanes and cycle tracks.

This is a golden opportunity we should not pass up.

The money is available through a pot of federal money doled out by Metro Council known as regional flexible funds. The amount of funding that will come to the City of Portland (for the 2016-18 cycle) is $14 million. As per a resolution passed by the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation in 2010, $10.2 million (or 75%) of that total must be spent on active transportation projects (the remaining $3.7 million will go to freight projects).

According to a January 7th memo from PBOT Active Transportation Division Manager Dan Bower, the City is working with the following set of criteria to decide which projects to fund:

  • Improving transportation safety
  • Maintaining transportation assets
  • Enhancing public health and livable communities
  • Supporting economic vitality

As I’ve shared on several occasions over the past few years, Portland has fallen woefully behind when it comes to quality bike access downtown. This is due to a lack of political will mixed with complicated funding dynamics (and yes, the two are closely related). When you look at the last several years of investments to improve bicycling conditions, PBOT has focused primarily on neighborhood greenways in north, northeast, and southeast Portland. Look downtown on the other hand and you see hardly any investment at all.

The only significant investments we’ve made downtown in the past few years are a protected bike lane on SW Broadway bordering Portland State University (about $50,000) and the newly widened and green-colored lanes on SW Stark and Oak (about $20,000). Both of those projects, combined with green bike boxes and a bike lane here and there, probably equals no more than $200,000 (or so) in total investment. In fact, there have not been any significant infrastructure projects downtown in recent memory where improved bike access was one of the primary components.

While the City’s recent investments to improve bike access in neighborhoods can be counted in tens of millions (a mix of PBOT revenue and grants from outside rouces, much of it in outer east Portland), the amount spent downtown — where many of those neighborhood bike trips end — has not kept pace.

One of PBOT’s stated goals with the neighborhood greenways was to get more people riding and thus “create a constituency” that would then demand — a.k.a. create political will for — higher-quality, low-stress bikeways that would take them out of their neighborhoods and directly to their destinations.

Everyone knows that in order to convince more people to try bicycling (an imperative if we are to reach our City Council adopted goals), PBOT must provide safer places to ride. Currently in downtown we have glaringly few places where the coveted “interested but concerned” demographic would feel safe. All of our main downtown bridges (Broadway, Steel, Burnside, Morrison and Hawthorne) lack adequate bike connections into downtown. Downtown itself is dominated by 4-5 foot bike lanes and streets without any dedicated bike space at all. On most streets (like SW 3rd and 4th) the only consideration PBOT has made for bicycling is to time traffic signals for biking speeds of 10-12 mph. For someone like me, sharing the road with people in cars at those speeds is fine. But for less experienced riders, or for people with young children in tow, it’s not pleasant.

In other words, the people we are trying to seduce into cycling have nowhere to ride downtown.

A few months ago at the barbershop, the topic of bicycling came up. The woman cutting my hair said she’d love to bike to work; but riding downtown seemed too scary. Her comment frustrated me because I know there are tens of thousands of people just like her.

To get people like her to ride, we have to step up our game. The next step in our evolution is to create a network of protected bike lanes similar to lanes popping up in New York City, Chicago, D.C., San Francisco, and many other cities. Also hovering over this opportunity is the forthcoming bike share system that will plop 740 bikes downtown. Bike share will have a much better chance at success if its customers can count on having a safe place to ride and people driving cars near them don’t have to worry about running into them.

PBOT’s budget is bleak and unstable. This $10.2 million dollars is a great chance to make up for lost time and finally invest downtown.

This is just the start of what should be a productive conversation about how — not if — we take the next step in making our city as competitive, accessible, and safe as it can be. I’m looking forward the discussion. Stay tuned.

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Comments
  • Andrew N January 15, 2013 at 11:01 am

    YES.

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  • Indy January 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Meh. Downtown is fine! I ride it all the time. I’m not really seeing how dedicated bikes lanes would solve much. The deaths that have occurred downtown are in right-hook environments, and you can’t have dedicated lanes at every bikeable intersection.

    The average speed downtown is bike accessible. Bikes are a “known culture” aspect of Portland’s downtown, versus car heavy-cities like L.A. and NY.

    How about more investment in serious pathways INTO downtown. Barbur is crucial, it’s not only SW Portland, it’s Tigard, parts of Beaverton, Sherwood. A serious swath of the metro population avoids biking because Barbur is scary as hell to ride down/up.

    Invest more into serious pathways into/from the city and more people will take biking as a commute seriously.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2013 at 11:34 am

      Indy,

      I agree there are other key corridors leading into downtown (like Barbur) that need attention too… But just because downtown is OK by your standards does not mean it’s acceptable. Bottom line is we need a network of streets downtown (not every single one necessarily) where people can count on a certain level of safety if they are on a bike.

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      • David January 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm

        “We can do better” needs to (continue to) be our rally cry.

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      • shirtsoff January 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

        I see the need for cycle tracks particularly on the streets where the street car and MAX trains operate. Those could be excellent places to create cycle specific infrastructure.

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        • VTRC January 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

          The streets with the streetcar were some of the best streets for riding on. Traffic wasn’t as intense, and they went mostly where I was going. But with the street car tracks on them I’d rather just hammer up 3rd or 4th.

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        • are January 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm

          one possibility would be to close those streets to motor traffic and dedicate the lane that is not burdened with rails to bikes only

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          • shirtsoff January 16, 2013 at 7:48 pm

            Ohhhh! I like that idea, Are.

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          • shirtsoff January 16, 2013 at 7:50 pm

            It certainly would make traveling northbound on the bus mall along 6th Ave more appealing. I’ve had numerous cars enter into the bus lanes to pass me on my bicycle which is absolutely silly given that the lights are timed so as to permit optimum traffic flow at a decent cycle speed.

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      • are January 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

        as you might expect, jonathan, i am with indy on this one. the two facilities you mention in the body of the article, the cycletrack at PSU and the buffered lanes on stark and oak, are almost purely symbolic, and the photo at the head of your article, heading south on broadway near the hotel district, illustrates a situation in which simply erasing the bike lane and putting down sharrows would be a huge improvement.

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        • are January 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

          where attention is actually needed is on the long diagonals and other arterials, and even on these a separated facility is probably not the best solution.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm

          jonathan, i am with indy on this one. the two facilities you mention in the body of the article, the cycletrack at PSU and the buffered lanes on stark and oak, are almost purely symbolic,

          Keep in mind, I mentioned them to illustrate a budget point, not to judge their quality or effectiveness as bikeways.

          and the photo at the head of your article, heading south on broadway near the hotel district, illustrates a situation in which simply erasing the bike lane and putting down sharrows would be a huge improvement.

          I’m not interested in creating more areas where people must share the lane with cars. Broadway has plenty of room to re-allocate space in such a way that we can have multiple types of bikeways. Sharrows on the standard lanes and a protected bike lane for those who don’t want to be that close to cars.

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          • Greg January 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm

            Given Oregon’s mandatory sidepath law, is it legal to have sharrows and a bike lane?
            I think it’s a great idea. Vehicular for the “strong and fearless” and protected for the rest of us.

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    • Craig Harlow January 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      I have one of those car-free families that bike with kids all over the city–my four are ages four to seventeen. Downtown is not one of the places we bike, except along the water front. People driving don’t often enough see, nor sometimes care, that people are on bikes in the roadway, smaller people less so.

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  • peejay January 15, 2013 at 11:27 am

    How will the Oregonian, the WW, and our various TV news outlets frame this as money stolen from more “necessary and worthy” projects like pothole filling paving, to cater to the “special interest” of the “bicycle lobby”?

    In advance, I award them points for persistence, if not creativity, and certainly not accuracy.

    Alternatively, we can come out in front of them, and change the terms of the debate. As traditional media becomes more and more irrelevant, I suppose our odds increase, but we are up against a lot of resources, and I don’t have a lot of faith in our new mayor to stick his neck out in the face of an inaccurate media narrative.

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    • 9watts January 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

      “Alternatively, we can come out in front of them, and change the terms of the debate.”
      Indeed.
      How is spending money to keep cars and their all too often inattentive drivers from running into or over us anything but defensive expenditures Beth Slovic notwithstanding, every dollar that I can think of that is spent making biking on a given stretch of roadway a little less dangerous (feeling) could be skipped if we didn’t have to contend with cars.

      They can’t have it both ways. Either they take their cars and leave us be or cough up the money (all of our money, let’s not forget) to make it a little less scary. And no whining about diverting funds either.

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  • El Biciclero January 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

    We need more bicycle “freeways”. Pedestrian-free would be preferable. I have to agree with those who say bike lanes downtown make little sense when the speed of traffic is already pretty much bike speed. All the addition of a bike lane does is legally force cyclists into the door zone and/or the right-hook zone. They do nothing but legally restrict freedom of movement for experienced cyclists and create a delusion/illusion of safety for inexperienced ones. So-called “cycle tracks”, without separate signal timing for different modes, and without right-on-red restrictions do little more than remove (driver’s-side only) dooring hazards, while further restricting bicyclist turning movements (and often restricting or preventing all movement, due to blockages by illegally-operating motor vehicles or other hazards around which there is no room to navigate), increasing intersection hazards and increasing conflicts with pedestrians. On low-speed downtown streets, visibility and position are key to safety; improper segregation and gutter-running make those things nearly impossible.

    Yes, it is possible to build separated facilities that “work”, but we apparently have a policy against it here in America. What we have ended up with in just about every single case of an attempted “cycle track” in a city core is a glorified sidewalk that just creates pedal-destrians. If that’s all we’re going for, then just widen the stupid sidewalks and be done. If we’re going for truly function separated infrastructure, then it’s going to take a lot more than paint.

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    • Joseph E January 15, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Have you been paying attention to what has happened in other US cities the last few years? Chicago just built a cycletrack thru downtown with separate bike signals and turn restrictions. Long Beach, CA built two separate one-way cycletracks with separate signals and left turn restrictions. New York has built many of these routes. They work, when the infrastructure is built right. It’s not hard (the Dutch and Danes and others have been doing it for decades), but it does take some money for new signals and political will to give space and priority to bikes.

      Examples: Chicago: http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/2012/12/chicago-loops-first-protected-bike-lane/
      Long Beach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_AhDntIp_M
      New York: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONS2ptAR4mo

      Portland could build cycletracks downtown on SW 4th and 3rd, Broadway, Madison, Main and Burnside (including the bridge), with separate bike and left or right turn signals, for just a few million dollars, based on costs in other cities. This would make a huge difference, and it would be safer, and importantly would FEEL much safer.

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      • spare_wheel January 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        “This would make a huge difference, and it would be safer.”

        Link please.

        Research in Denmark strongly suggests that the rinky dink cycle tracks built in North America (on the cheap) are anything but safe. Likewise, dutch cycling advocates are harshly critical of the kind of infrastructure on the cheap built in North America. Sharrows would make an immediate impact in downtown portland. Anyone who has ridden in downtown SF and Seattle knows that sharrows do, indeed, make a big difference.

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      • El Biciclero January 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm

        The only one of those examples I’ll give you credit for is the Chicago example. Long beach is just buffered bike lanes, and they conveniently edited out all footage of intersections, which are the key to safe separated infrastructure. I think you may have meant to provide a more recent NYC example, since the one actually linked to is from 2006 and is mostly “wouldn’t it be great if we could do this here”; all the footage of functional bikeways is from other countries.

        This is why I fudged and said “just about every single case”; it looks like in the entire U.S., there is one well-designed bit of inner-city separated bike infrastructure (OK, there are probably others, but they are pretty hard to find).

        I also have an issue with slapping down anything that is only going to make biking “feel” safer, without actually making it safer. That’s one plank in the separationist platform that I honestly don’t understand–we want to lure novice riders into getting run over? Isn’t it more important to reduce actual risk rather than just the perception of risk? I haven’t looked it up or anything, but it seems that more people in Portland have been run over while IN a bike lane than while outside of one, yet don’t bike lanes “feel” safer?

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        • Joseph E January 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm

          I’m sorry, I was at work at didn’t get good links. Long beach has not 1 but 2 bike signals at every single intersection, except at a couple of the biggest streets where the left turn lanes for cars is switched to the left of the bike lane. And the bike lanes are not just buffered, they have the parked cars along them, and there is a raised 6 inch curb in most of it (due to complications from California laws – it really wasn’t needed for the design). Here is another video that shows the signals and curbs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYKGkgC2uFo

          Here are a couple more from New York: http://www.streetfilms.org/floating-parking-bike-buffer-zones-in-separated-cycletracks/
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdHpjHxsALI
          I don’t know as much about New York. But I’ve ridden the streets in Long Beach before and after the lanes were put in, and it was a great improvement.

          Re safety, Canadian studies show separate bike facilities on busy streets are safer: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2011/02/02/ip.2010.028696.full

          Here is a review of the literature: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEcQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcalbike.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2FCycle-Track-Safety-Study-Literature-Review.pdf&ei=4kr2UNPRI6_vigKN1oH4Cw&usg=AFQjCNETw-wfZcx4jGj7uDDyRxtALC6r5A&sig2=NBmSUuU-Qj0XWAeyvP_LOw&bvm=bv.41018144,d.cGE

          But people won’t even ride bikes if they don’t feel safe. Separated bike facilities feel safer and get people to ride, which will be much better for their health than driving around in cars all day. The safety benefits for current bike riders are only a secondary benefit.

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          • spare_wheel January 16, 2013 at 7:25 am

            We discussed that canadian study at length here on bike portland. The major problem was that:

            1) they excluded intersections
            2) the “n” was so low that there was no statistically significant between cycle tracks and other infrastructure (also see 1)

            Several danish studies report that cycle tracks can be more dangerous than the old-fashioned bike lane when intersections are not treated with signalization or dutch style channelization (google Jensen et al).

            perhaps instead of spending most of our meager alt-transportation funding on another 500 meters of “experimental” disconnected cycle track we could use these funds to remove dangerous infrastructure (bike boxes) and improve facilities on arterials that feed into pdx.

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            • Joseph E January 16, 2013 at 8:34 am

              If anyone is interested in more data about this “debate”, you can read the extensive documentation at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segregated_cycle_facilities
              (It’s well researched)
              Note re: the Danish study that showed 10% increase in injuries and 20% increase in bike traffic: “Even though it appears from this study that cycle tracks decrease safety, from the perspective of an individual cyclist, claims Dr. Lon D. Roberts, the Copenhagen study shows that the “likelihood an individual bicyclist will experience an accident goes down as the number of bicycle riders go up”.[37] That is because cycle traffic increased in this study at a faster rate than the rate of accidents and injuries. ”

              I see that you don’t like bike lanes. But your dislike of current US infrastructure does not mean that properly build facilities, such as those in the Netherlands (which are much superior to those in Copenhagen, generally), are not safer as well as much more popular.

              What sort of “improvements” to arterials are you thinking of, otherwise? I don’t feel that sharrows and a 20 mph speed limit would help on a street like Broadway or Burnside. Would you let your 10 year old kid ride down 4th street by herself, even with the traffic lights timed for 12 mph and sharrows added to the right lane? I think 99% of people would not feel comfortable.

              Bike facilities need to be safe, but they also need to feel safe, or they will just push people back into cars. Looking at the tiny amount of bike traffic on most arterial streets in Portland, even those with slow traffic speeds, shows that most people are not comfortable sharing a lane with high auto traffic.

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              • spare_wheel January 16, 2013 at 11:16 am

                “I see that you don’t like bike lanes.
                Strawman. And a really hilarious one since I call for bike lanes in this very thread. IMO, bike lanes are the kind of infrastructure that we need to be building. Not 5 foot wide bike lanes but massive buffered lanes like the ones they installed in Berlin after they ripped out cycle tracks. This type of cheap and efficient infrastructure avoids many of the problems with poorly designed “cheap” cycle tracks. It also provides infrastructure that both slow-cautious and fast-enthusiastic cyclists can use. I am also very enthusiastic about building wide signalized cycle tracks on major arterials. Sandy, Powell, Division, Barbur, MLK/Grand, and Broadway/Wielder are the kind of busy streets that would benefit from cycle tracks. In europe there are an awful lot of bike lanes because these types of facilities work on less trafficked streets.

                “I don’t feel that sharrows and a 20 mph speed limit would help on a street like Broadway or Burnside.”
                Another strawman.

                “I think 99% of people would not feel comfortable.”
                I would like to propose a novel concept. PBOT could pend a little time and money on infrastructure that benefits cyclists who cycle *NOW*. I am sick and tired of taking the lane on SE 20th in the am and dealing with irate motorists. This is a major cycling route that has needed infrastructure and signage for a decade. Many of us who cycle for transportation *NOW* are not willing to wait 20 years for a AMS-style cycle path to magically drop from the heavens. We could radically transform portland’s streets with nothing more than a little more pain and a little willingness from “planners” and “advocates” to inconvenience motorists.

                “you can read the extensive documentation at: [wikipedia]”
                I prefer to read the original studies. and, if you were to do so, instead of relying on selective quotation you would realize that the authors normalized for traffic. when comparing cycle tracks with bike lanes cycle tracks were associated with an increase in accidents and injuries at *INTERSECTIONS*. as a result of these and other studies new cycle tracks in CPH are designed with features that mitigate conflict and poor visibility at *INTERSECTIONS*. this has been standard practice in the netherlands for a long time. i would have not have a problem with the safety of cycletracks in pdx if they were built to these standards. instead we get meandering sidewalks hidden behind a wall of “all important” parked cars.

                “Bike facilities need to be safe, but they also need to feel safe,”
                The bike lane near PSU felt safe to me. Having come close to being flattened by a truck at the terminus, the current facility does not feel safe to me. And the fact that PBOT built a cycletrack there instead of dealing with the hotel zone is a perfect example of “traffic planner” priorities.

                “but they also need to feel safe, or they will just push people back into cars.”
                imo, the only way we will push people out of cars is by making driving more inconvenient. (cycling in pdx is already convenient.)

                “Looking at the tiny amount of bike traffic on most arterial streets in Portland, even those with slow traffic speeds, shows that most people are not comfortable sharing a lane with high auto traffic.”
                I don’t think Cully, Moody, and PSU-Broadway are major arterials. If PBOT were run by planners from CPH we would have had facilities on Sandy, Broadway-Weidler, MLK-Grand, Barbur etc a long long time ago…

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                • spare_wheel January 16, 2013 at 11:18 am

                  pain = paint.

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              • are January 16, 2013 at 12:30 pm

                re “feeling” safe
                in the “before and after” video on the chicago link, at 00:41, a person identified as “carrie” says, quote, “it would be great to have other protected bike lanes in the loop to extend that zone of safety where you can just relax and be pretty sure that nothing terrible is going to happen to you.” this sounds good on the surface, but the problem is that what we seem to be talking about is not transportation in a crowded urban core but some kind of joyride. certainly the facilities should not increase the likelihood of crashes. but there is probably a rational limit to how far facilities can minimize the likelihood of crashes, and that limit is somewhere short of zero. along the way, you are talking about tradeoffs. not all of the tradeoffs are with motorists. some are with pedestrians, and some are with other cyclists. in the clip from dearborn, for example, i did not see anyone riding counterflow, though clearly it is a two-way cycletrack, and each direction looked rather narrow for taking at any significant speed.

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  • Andrew K January 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    This is one of those rare editorials where my response is, “yup, I 100% agree.”

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  • Hart Noecker January 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    What we truly ‘need’ downtown are streets totally and completely free of space-hogging cars.

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    • BURR January 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      They could actually start by making the Park Blocks car-free.

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      • Indy January 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm

        Talk about useless. Park blocks would still be stop/start given the car cross traffic. It only serves PSU and really isn’t a good pathway for much in the North Park Blocks. Lot better options here.

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  • Brad January 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Sharrows downtown and better corridors into town like Barbur and Sullivan’s Gulch. Tired of hearing about “interested but concerned”. We’ve had that phrase for years now. If they haven’t summoned the courage by now, they will never have it.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      Brad,

      You’re right… We’ve had that “phrase” for years now, the only problem is we haven’t actually done anything about it, which is why they haven’t “summoned the courage” yet.

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    • Andrew Seger January 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Yea but we haven’t done anything for the interested but concerned. They’re still concerned..and they’re probably right to be. Who looks at the SW Broadway bike lane and thinks, “Now that’s just what I needed in my life! Five feet and a constant adrenaline rush.”

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  • Reza January 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Bike lanes in Downtown are often times poorly planned and haphazard for cyclists. Case in point: 3rd Avenue south of Madison Street. That lane is awful and just sets up right-hook opportunities at 3rd and Clay Street that I have either been witness to or been part of myself. Luckily I have not seen anyone hit there but it’s only a matter of time.

    And don’t get me started on the Broadway hotel (door) zone bike lane. What a joke.

    So I take the lane.

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    • spare_wheel January 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      the unwillingness of pbot to use sharrows is a terrific example of how “planners” and “advocates” are often more concerned with “demonstrations” and “experiments” then actually helping existing cyclists get from point A to point B safely and efficiently.

      i am also still waiting for those bike lanes on hawthorne, SE 20th, and division…

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      • are January 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm

        on hawthorne and on southeast 20th sharrows would be more than sufficient. division also until it widens farther east.

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  • Reza January 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Bike lanes in Downtown CAN be useful on uphill stretches, so I will concede that point. Another useful investment would be to signalize every downtown intersection. Yes, probably more expensive than world-class separated bicycle infrastructure but perhaps more politically feasible?

    There are long stretches around the North and South Park Blocks where east-west streets can become like mini-speedways. Broadway also needs signals at every intersection between the Bridge and Oak Street. Signalizing those intersections would be an easy start and would help calm traffic so that no driver is going faster than comfortable bicycle speed.

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  • Steve B. January 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Yes! Let’s do this. All the more important to get important safety improvements done *before* all these interested but concerned folks hop on the new bike share.

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  • Joe January 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Rez, I hear ya ride downtown everyday and its crazy, Ive had ppl swing into parking spots right in front of me, doors swing open. red light runners. cars get away with almost anything. I take the lane, but some auto fokes get made and try to pass or just act wrong.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Does everyone realize that one reason bike investment has stalled in Portland is because of how quickly people who care about bicycling begin to argue with one another?

    Sharrows rule!
    No! We need cycle tracks!
    I’ll just take the lane!

    Politicians and policymakers hear this and their feeling is, “Geez, if the ‘bicycling community’ can’t even come together, than I’m not going to put my neck out for it.”

    I’m not saying that’s the right way for a politician to see it, nor do I believe the concept of a “bike community” is accurate or healthy … but I’m just pointing out what happens politically.

    IMO, we can help this problem by trying to stay supportive of each other and remember that it takes a full menu of options to create a truly bike-friendly city. Also, this is about not being selfish and understanding that your needs do not match the needs of everyone else.

    People don’t fit into the labels of “strong and fearless,” “interested but concerned,” and so on.

    My wife, for instance, has been biking around for years with our kids. She’s not “strong and fearless” and she’s not “interested but concerned.” She’s a strong rider, but she’s concerned about the lack of good, safe connections – especially downtown.

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    • Andrew K January 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      YES!! I could not agree with you more here. One skill we all lack at times is the ability to demonstrate empathy for solutions that may not pertain to us directly. Improving downtown is a perfect example. I ride downtown almost every day and I’m a pretty confident rider. I personally don’t need improvements downtown.

      However, once I take myself out of my own little world view I completely understand that a lot of people do! A huge amount of my co-workers will never bike to work because being on a bike mixed with cars scares the hell out of them.

      I also have to remember that even improvements I won’t personaly take advantage of have a way of resonating and impacting my life in other ways.

      I think the biggest challenge many active transporation lovers face is speaking in a unified voice to our policy makers. It’s hard for me to blame politicians and government agencies when we don’t get what we want considering the fact that they have “opinions” coming at them from all sides.

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      • A.K. January 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        You said this very well: “One skill we all lack at times is the ability to demonstrate empathy for solutions that may not pertain to us directly. Improving downtown is a perfect example. I ride downtown almost every day and I’m a pretty confident rider. I personally don’t need improvements downtown.”

        I might not feel like I need a lot of bike facilities, but that doesn’t mean others don’t need them and wouldn’t benefit from them.

        It’s interesting to experience cycling from other viewpoints. I ride 99% of the time on my racing bike, which is light and nimble. I ride clipless, and can go very fast. I feel confident in almost every situation I find myself in.

        However, when I ride my old 1980s Schwinn, I feel it puts me more in touch with how “interested & concerned” people must feel.

        It’s an old bike, and very heavy. It has normal flat pedals. I can’t go awfully fast on it, and I certainly can’t do bunny hops with it or other things I can do on my racing bike. I feel much more vulnerable on it, and I certainly appreciate bike facilities more when I ride it.

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    • Steve B. January 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      WELL SAID.

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    • Reza January 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it is hard to root for “separated” without knowing the details. I can speak for many cyclists when I say that even a Amsterdam-spec cycle track (with grade separation) could be detrimental to me if I am forced to use such a facility where I could get “trapped” or stuck behind a group of tourists using the surreys from Kerr Bikes, for example.

      I am all for giving people of various skills and experiences different ways to get around Downtown. I am not against the idea of separated, but I would need to see the specific design details of such a facility before I can be all-in on such an effort. I want the freedom by law to not have to use them if I don’t want to or feel they endanger my safety (like Downtown bike lanes/green bicycle boxes do today). In the end, I am just trying to get where I am going without too much delay or risk.

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    • Brad January 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      If we are not a homogenized community, then why do you expect us all to just enthusiastically approve whatever you, BTA, PBOT, or any other advocacy group deems a “good” solution? $10.2 million is not a lot of money so what is better: four blocks of Euro-style cycle track with bike signals, more run-of-the-mill bike lanes that do nothing to prevent right hooks and doorings, or sharrows announcing that the roads are for bikes too? Considering a lot of that cash will get eaten up in salaries, studies, focus groups, fact finding trips to Copenhagen, and other ancillary expenses besides turning dirt and building something, I’d rather we serve those already riding before convincing others to join the club.

      Yes, I am being exclusive. But I am also tired of hearing about grand plans that never materialize, seeing “game changing!” projects amount to a few blocks of safe riding in areas not many ride in to begin with or being an essentially useless machine that counts bicyclists on a single bridge. This blog and its friends in official bike circles are great at talking about biketopia but they never seem to get around to actually doing much about it. Meanwhile, those of us already riding are getting older and impatient while other cities like NYC or D.C., which you have documented very well, are making things happen. Mixed signals from a diverse population of riders are not causing any paralysis. Politicians and advocacy groups in Portland lack real vision and clout.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm

        Brad,

        I totally get your frustration. I feel it too.

        I never said I expect anyone to “just enthusiastically support” anything. I was simply trying to point out that the disagreements exist and they have an impact on the politics. I also do expect and hope that even if people disagree with something, they don’t feel it necessary to get mean and tear down other people’s desires in the process of fighting for their own.

        This blog and its friends in official bike circles are great at talking about biketopia but they never seem to get around to actually doing much about it.

        You should know that I have given many days of thought to who my “friends” are and how important it is for me to remain an independent voice.

        I share your frustration about advocacy and the glacial pace of change around here. That’s something that troubles me too. Should I play a larger role? Should we encourage a new advocacy group to rise up? Should we join the BTA and change them from within to a style that might achieve goals differently? What comes first, a push from the community or leadership from politicians?

        I don’t have all the answers but I assure you I do a lot more than simply “talking about biketopia” (wonder if you realize that it has become harder for me to maintain friendships among the people I cover specifically because I’ve dared to talk about how this place isn’t biketopia?)

        And you have a role in this too Brad. You have the ability to write letters and make your voice heard. Criticizing others for not doing enough is awfully easy to do. Putting yourself out there and getting your hands dirty is hard.

        Thanks for your comments.

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      • spare_wheel January 15, 2013 at 5:31 pm

        Are you actually suggesting that PBOT devote some attention and funding to cyclists who already cycle. Heresy!

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    • 9watts January 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      “IMO, we can help this problem by trying to stay supportive of each other and remember that it takes a full menu of options to create a truly bike-friendly city. Also, this is about not being selfish and understanding that your needs do not match the needs of everyone else.”

      Well said.

      So in the spirit of a full menu, how about we stop spending one more dime on car-only infrastructure? We have a number of statutes and goals on the books now that call for increased bike mode share. If we keep spending most of our money on car-only infrastructure (which is not the bike, and moreover which seems to be designed to encourage the one thing that makes biking scary to folks) how can we ever reach our goals, modest though they are? If we stop spending money on car-only infrastructure we’ll also send a clearer message about the value of biking-as-transport, and all the other options that we could then also fund better.

      I don’t say this because I’m a meany, or don’t like cars, or people who drive them. None of that is remotely true. I say that because ignoring the issues that cause some people to think we need to phase out our reliance on cars is insane.

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    • BURR January 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Jonathan, there are a lot of us who have already seen a lot of badly designed, unsafe bike infrastructure installed in Portland, which remains in place sometimes for decades even after the hazards have been identified, and have also seen all the major transportation agencies in the city and state (e.g. PBOT and ODOT) punt on installing bike facilities anytime it requires taking road space from motor vehicle travel or parking lanes, so we see no reason to support what will most likely just be an entirely new generation of badly designed, unsafe and restrictive bike infrastructure.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

        I hear you Burr, but I disagree with your characterization. Just because you’re not happy with what is out there today, you won’t support PBOT in the future?

        One of the reasons some of our bikeways are under-designed is because PBOT has not been able to tap into real money – capital improvement dollars – to do bike-centric projects. They have instead tried to use a tiny scrap of money here and there to cobble together things where/when they can (except for when the bikeway came as part of a major project like Cully Blvd or SW Moody).

        So, I hear your frustration, but I personally can’t be that pessimistic/cynical. If we all took your view, we’d essentially just give up. Let’s push PBOT to 1) go after this money and 2) design the bikeways the way they should.

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        • BURR January 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

          IMO, it’s about more than just money. It’s also about political will and savvy engineering design, both of which seem to be lacking in addition to adequate funding.

          And maybe if PBOT had actually kept their promises vis-a-vis use of sharrows on arterial streets, rather than relegating them to route markers on bike boulevards, I’d be a bit more optimistic.

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    • El Biciclero January 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      I’ll give you two reasons why bicyclists argue about what kind of infrastructure should be built:
      1) A track record by local transpo organizations for building sidewalks and calling them “cycle tracks”. In other words, “world class” is not the first thing that springs to mind when we picture what would actually be built given the way things have gone historically.

      2) ORS 814.420. I would not give 1/8th of a flying fig what kind of deathtrap gauntlet PBOT/ODOT/whoever decided to waste money on if I knew that I would not be forced by law to confine myself to it. “Good” infrastructure is that which a cyclist will choose to utilize regardless of legal constraints. In the presence of most “bike paths”, I’d rather deal with angry motorists than the headaches of using poorly-designed “infrastructure”.

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    • are January 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      in fairness, jonathan, your editorial says, let’s invest in more bike infrastructure downtown, and then it goes on to cite specific examples of what that should look like. so you are asking the monolithic bike “community” to subscribe to two principles. one, downtown rather than elsewhere, and two, separated facilities. and when the inevitable discussion breaks out over whether these two principles should control, you say the mainstream media is watching. if the problem is what the oregonian and KATU are telling idiots to believe, then the place to start is with their messaging. get the business league on board, etc. develop appealing memes for the media to latch onto. make a post-ironic after school special with carrie brownstein and fred armisen. but don’t be telling people who know how to operate a bicycle without going under the wheels of an SUV that they cannot say anything.

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  • Ian Stude January 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan, for highlighting this issue. Downtown Portland is an important and vital part of our city, and it deserves to be accessibly by bike in a way that is equal in comfort to the east side. With 100k jobs, 50k students, and a countless number of shopping, recreating, and visitor based trips, downtown is still a very important node of activity in our city. To see it so under-served for those who choose to ride a bike, even occasionally, is an injustice to both our reputation and our goals. Sure, there are some great features that have been introduced in the last few years, like the lanes on Stark and Oak, but there are still way too many weak links. This is exactly why ridership is higher in the surrounding neighborhoods, and thousands of people like your barber don’t feel compelled to include downtown in their personal list of bike-able destinations.
    I am hopeful that PBOT’s planned improvements and the introduction of bike share will lead to some remedy. But we are going to need even more than that. We need a concerted and focused effort to bring the PBA into the fold and see them commit to a shared vision for downtown that includes world-class bicycle facilities. We need advocates across the spectrum to support a vital downtown for people on bikes, even if it isn’t their #1 priority. We need architects, developers, and property managers to provide the kind of bicycle parking that accounts for nearly everyone owning a bike and most people using them on occasion. Most of all, we need political support from our elected officials so that our best and brightest minds at PBOT can bring these new designs to light without needing to worry so much about which influential constituents they might annoy or upset.
    If Portland is going to continue to the wear the crown of best bike city in the US, we need to invest in a downtown that is truly worthy of the title. It’s heavy lift, but with enough hands, I have every confidence that we can do this.

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    • Andrew K January 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      You bring up an excellent point about PBA. The PBA does not have to be the enemy of active transporation. In fact they could be our greatest ally if we spin the argument right.

      I think one very important “weapon” we can bring up with them is the cost of parking. Every time someone spends a dollar to park downtown it’s a dollar they aren’t spending in their store. This is especially true now that parking tickets have gone up. The bicycle eliminates that problem. Someone who comes downtown on a bike has more money to spend.

      From my understanding, the big fear the PBA always brings up is they fear their customers won’t be able to access their services. We all know bike infrastructure does not do that, but in addition to that argument we can also tell them bike infrastructure brings in customers with deeper pockets at the moment they are prepared to spend money.

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  • Spiffy January 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    people driving cars near them don’t have to worry about running into them.

    odd, when I’m driving I’m never worried about running into a person on a bicycle…

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    • JD January 15, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      And it’s my BIGGEST fear as a driver. I have nightmares about ending up bikeportland.com as the villain who hit or killed a bicyclist.

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      • spare_wheel January 16, 2013 at 7:35 am

        apparently your fear does not prevent you from motoring about. methinks the motorist doth protest too much.

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  • Nate January 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    How far does $10M get us toward turning the N&S Park Block streets to pedestrian and cyclist only thoroughfares? That is the type of ambitious project this should be allocated to. Plus, it is pretty practical, and would go a long way to making downtown more accessible to those ‘interested’ folks. Currently, there are no cross-core streets to go N/S, other than Broadway, which doesn’t do the trick for the cautious.

    Close it down, limit the number of crossings (as at Madison/Main) to fewer (all signalized), and then we’d have a place that anyone could ride, while still leaving 3rd, 4th, etc for the folks who don’t need the safety of a car-free zone (like Jonathan, Indy, and myself).

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  • CPAC January 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I agree downtown needs work, particularly if we want the bike share to be successful. The biggest thing is connectivity, which is sorely lacking with many of our “better” bike paths. I’d suggest the following four improvements:

    (1) a two-way cycle track on the East side of Naito, at least North past the steel bridge. Throw in a couple of better Naito crossing treatments, especially with Stark/Oak and with #4 below.

    (2) changing the signal timing of all downtown streets to be like SW 2nd

    (3) adding a N/S route up at the top of downtown (SW 13th?) with at least the wide bike likes like Oak/Stark, or (if feasible) a separated bikeway, and a good Burnside crossing.

    (4) adding a southern E/W route like Oak/Stark, somewhere between Jefferson and Market that links up with both N/S routes (Naito and (?)13th).

    We’d have a nice connected box for getting around downtown, and slower traffic to deal with inside the box.

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    • dwainedibbly January 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      Generally some good ideas, but Jefferson has 2 or 3 blocks that are pretty dang steep. Not sure a bikeway along there is going to be that useful for the “interested” or the casual bike share users. How about Taylor & Salmon instead?

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      • gl. January 16, 2013 at 5:22 pm

        yes yes yes! I used to use Jefferson but it was to steep. now I use Taylor even though I can’t keep up with traffic. a bike lane would make me feel a million times better on that street.

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  • Reza January 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    I sometimes call this the “Gift and the Curse” of the Downtown Street Grid. The gift is that with its high intersection density and short blocks, Downtown is eminently walkable, and it’s very easy to walk a mile or mile without feeling like you’ve traversed that distance.

    The curse is that there is there is no noticeable “hierarchy” of streets in Downtown that would allow a bicycle boulevard network to be built as cheaply as it has been on the Eastside. There is no distinguishing between “arterials”, “collectors” and local streets south of Burnside Street (except for Naito Parkway, the Park Blocks, and a few other streets on the periphery) and that means it requires expensive separated infrastructure to cultivate the kind of safe and comfortable environment that families and other vulnerable users have been able to utilize on the Eastside. Expensive because not only are you taking away auto capacity, but you are also installing dedicated bicycle signals at every intersection along a corridor, and there are a LOT of them.

    This would be require a total paradigm shift of thinking for PBOT, as they have mostly done the projects that are the “low-hanging fruit”, such as neighborhood greenways on low-traffic residential streets. I see the Downtown situation as analogous to the frustrations that people have with not having good quality bicycle infrastructure on commercial corridors like on Williams, Hawthorne, 28th, Sandy, etc. The same sort of issues with cost, political feasibility, loss of parking, etc. crop up in both cases.

    It will be interesting to see how the agency evolves in the next few years under Hales.

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  • Brian Davis January 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    This is a terrific article and I hope many eyeballs at PBOT find their way to it and take your advice.

    I’m leaving this comment from DC (in town for the Transportation Research Board meeting w/ many Portland Staters and other PDX folks). If they haven’t passed Portland as a bike city yet, it’s close (infrastructure-wise, at least…culturally, we still rule!). Here, I can take a bike-share bike down to Pennsylvania Avenue, where, on perhaps the nation’s most important and famous street, there’s a gorgeous two-way protected lane with bike-specific signals, bike specific turn lanes, and the whole ball of wax. And it’s hardly the only one…new lanes on L street and 15th Street help make for a network where many origins and destinations can be reached entirely on separated (or otherwise comfortable for 8-80 year olds) facilities.

    While Portland continues to do many of the little things–signal timing, bike parking, pavement quality, etc.–better than our counterparts (though still not perfectly), it’s hard to talk about Portland as the nation’s best bike city with a straight face when cities like DC and New York are giving cyclists dedicated space on their busiest and most important streets while we have not. I hope the time has come.

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  • CPAC January 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Nate
    How far does $10M get us toward turning the N&S Park Block streets to pedestrian and cyclist only thoroughfares? That is the type of ambitious project this should be allocated to.

    I like this idea too.

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    • dwainedibbly January 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      For a North/South route, the park blocks make a lot of sense, especially with PSU at one end, but you have to figure out how you bridge the gap between Director Park and the North Park Blocks. (Have I ever mentioned how much I’d love the City to condemn that unfinished hole in the ground behind Nordstrom’s to add another block to the Park Blocks? There might not be another chance to do something like that for a very, very long time.)

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  • Livellie January 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    More infrastructure downtown? No thanks. I find downtown to be a fairly safe place to ride. It’s controlled. It’s crowded. It’s slow moving. People are more alert and aware. Just stay clear of the crappy bike infrastructure that currently exists. At best, those green boxes, green lanes and bike lanes only provide an illusion of safety and at worse, they’re death traps.

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  • paul g. January 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Why the focus on downtown? On what basis do bicycle advocates think it is a more efficient and effective use of transportation dollars to improve access downtown (where, after all, we are soon going to have bike share; where much of downtown is pedestrian accessible and friendly; where many office workers have schedules and dress demands that preclude cycling)

    versus neighborhoods where many citizens use cars for short trips that could easily be replaced by bike/foot and where the conflicts between trucks, cars, bikes, and pedestrians are far less severe

    or for that matter versus bike corridors like Springwater which may pencil out to be very successful on a dollars invested / usage basis?

    The downtown centric approach sounds an awful lot like the way TriMet currently operates in a hub/spoke manner that has left many in the city underserved.

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    • dwainedibbly January 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      Don’t forget that there are people who actually live downtown (and not all of them are wealthy), and there are a LOT of workplaces there. Get more people to commute to work via bike & you free up road capacity for the people who can’t or won’t bike.

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  • wsbob January 15, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    “… A few months ago at the barbershop, the topic of bicycling came up. The woman cutting my hair said she’d love to bike to work; but riding downtown seemed too scary. …” maus/bikeportland

    No details reported here from the woman barber about what seems scary to her about riding downtown…what type of rider she considers herself to be…what type bike she rides, how often…what average speed she believes she could maintain on grades typical of Downtown streets.

    If Downtown Portland’s streets could be retrofitted within existing right of way to be inviting…less scary…to people not exceeding 10-12 mph on the flats, and slower on Downtown’s uphill grades, there may be some people of that type that might consider riding downtown.

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  • Jake January 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    love the topics that prompt lots of comments. glad to live in a city where people want the biking to be better. wish there were many more millions of dollars to make cycling in Portland safer and more accessible.

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  • Andyc of Linnton January 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Yes! Let’s hope some forward-thinking ideas go through, and whichever designs make the most sense.
    I’m pretty comfortable, personally, riding downtown, only because this is only how it’s been for years and years and years.
    There are some tricky situations to deal with, but let’s get going already and figure them out!
    I honestly believe some auto-free routes are in order. Both North-South and East-West.
    It’s time for downtown to have something world-class about it. Way past time.

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  • A January 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    I live downtown and ended up selling my bike because I’m too chicken to ride in traffic with cars. So I walk, take trimet instead. That’s an okay solution for me, but did want to agree with the point that biking downtown is scary for some of us.

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    • John Landolfe January 16, 2013 at 11:00 am

      Thanks speaking up. The bike community can have a bit of a machismo culture about fearless biking but your daily commute shouldn’t be a test of courage–it should be as relaxing an experience as strolling through a park.

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  • KAW January 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

    “All of our main downtown bridges (Broadway, Steel, Burnside, Morrison and Hawthorne) lack adequate bike connections into downtown.”

    I could not agree more, Jonathan. Using Roger Geller’s four types (in a different way than he intended) to describe my current weekday commute: starting in SE Portland I’m Strong and Fearless; nearing the river I switch to Enthused and Confident; but I sink quickly to Interested and Concerned as I get to the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge and begin the one to three-block process of transitioning south to get to work. This is much more of a barrier to me (female and over 40) than weather or traffic volume has been or will ever be. It’s those few minutes of my 6-mile trip that discourage me from commuting to downtown by bike as often as I would like.

    How about bike-only light signals (similar to the one at the Steel Bridge at N Interstate) to facilitate diagonal left turns at the base of several bike-busy bridges? Maybe design it so that pedestrians could also safely cross diagonally. I’m okay fending for myself on all but the largest and most congested of streets in the region, but I do resent being forced to daily make a series of dangerous maneuvers to simply turn left off of the busiest bike bridge in the state.

    All that said, I do want to take a moment to say I’m always amazed and thankful at how patient, kind, or just plain tolerant most drivers and bikers are in this town towards each other, and I’ve been grateful for years at the exploration, effort, and investment all of us have made and continue to make in biking infrastructure – wherever in the city it happens and whatever form it takes. It’s wonderful to have the luxury and opportunity to continue to work towards making it even better.

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  • seeshellbike January 16, 2013 at 9:57 am

    IMO the worst parts of riding downtown for me (an experienced rider) is all the tracks. PBOT has yet to come up with a plan and solutions to make riding around and across these safer. One bad fall could turn a novice off riding completely. If there are more protected bikeways but the issue of safety around tracks is not resolved then we have only addressed half the problem. Downtown routes needs to be safe, seamless and consistent to attract new and more riders. Riding thru downtown is the most stressful part of my commute, but unfortunately the most direct.

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  • Terry D January 16, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I am a confident rider that has been commuting through downtown since the 1990′s. That said, the downtown bikeway system is TERRIBLE. There should be facilities for everyone. There are some great ideas out there, but one that has not be mentioned or stressed enough is Morrison/Yamhill. It would be incredible easy to make them bikes only with one local bus. The few random spaces could be turned into parklets, and there can be local access in a few blocks where needed for certain businesses and loading zones. It could connect to the 20th avenue Greenway and the Morrison bridge easily. This is not enough however. We need a complete grid network.

    How about this map to start? It increases access to each bridge and creates routes for everyone. I have short explanations for each route. Something should also be done with 3rd/4th…maybe devote one lane to two way bike traffic?

    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=217379782128468346794.0004d3434ba2ff4beefbb&msa=0&ll=45.527757,-122.682009&spn=0.037641,0.08935

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  • John Landolfe January 16, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Jonathan, I fully agree with your assessment. We need to toss out this idea that transportation equity means focusing on the bubbles around where people live. Transportation means motion! People from the east side are traveling, in large numbers, downtown. If we look at the people who are interested in biking but not comfortable in traffic, and match them to where they work, I’m sure the largest concentration of these people work downtown.

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  • El Biciclero January 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    If I were to summarize my thoughts on this issue in a single phrase, it would be, “do it right or don’t do it.” Half-measures are usually worse than nothing.

    Of course, my definition of “right” might be different from somebody else’s, but to me it means two things: safe AND efficient. If I don’t have the option to go the speed of parallel auto traffic (within reason, usually not much more than 30mph on a downhill, 15-20 if it’s flat), then efficiency is harmed and I’d be better off in my car. If I am hidden from motorists’ view and must stop/yield at every intersection to avoid being run over, then safety and efficiency are reduced. If I must share a bikeway with pedestrians, both factors go down. If I must go far out of my way, or use multi-stage pedestrian maneuvers to perform the same movements that parallel auto traffic performs in a single fluid step, then efficiency is again reduced. You see what I mean. Of course there are situations where compromising efficiency for safety makes sense, but those situations should not be artificially imposed, as they seem to be with some designs.

    The ease and economy with which certain roadway improvements can be done “right” increases with the complexity of the type of improvement. Doing nothing, or adding signs or “sharrows” reminding drivers that “Bicycles allowed use of full lane” is the least complicated, easiest to do “right”. Bike lanes are pretty easy to do “right”, to the extent that Oregon law, which has been done “wrong”, allows. Separated/segregated infrastructure, such as “cycle tracks” is the most complicated and most difficult and expensive to do right, and so most often falls victim to “value engineering” that creates something that looks good on the surface, but is dangerous or not very functional in practice. Such attempts to build cheap separated infrastructure usually result in the worst of all possible worlds. “Cheap”, non-functional bike infrastructure has the side-effect of giving detractors shining examples to point to with comments such as “how much did they spend on that? And nobody even uses it!” (meaning, “we shouldn’t spend any money on ‘bike stuff’”). Or, “this is the kind of bike infrastructure we don’t need, because it’s just dangerous in addition to being slow” (interpreted as, “What a bunch of whiners! What do those holier-than-thou bike hippies want, anyway–bike lanes paved with gold? We shouldn’t spend one more dime on those ingrates!”).

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    • El Biciclero January 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      “…ease and economy with which certain roadway improvements can be done “right” increases with the complexity of the type of improvement.”

      Oops–should have said “…decrease with the complexity of the type of improvement.” Difficulty and cost increase with complexity.

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  • Joe January 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Have to be real ride savy riding downtown.

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  • Bc January 23, 2013 at 12:09 am

    I live,work and ride downtown, and I know that there’s plenty of room in our existing road network there for the kind of safe, inviting infrastructure I’ve ridden in in places like Copenhagen and Utrecht. What’s missing is the political will to challenge a few vested interests who might have to give up a few parking spaces so that thousands more people will bike instead of driving downtown. Safe infrastructure would bring more shoppers and activity downtown, as it has in other cities. But we need a concrete vision, not just a vague plea for better bikeways. Suppose a group of knowledgeable bike advocates drew up an ideal — i.e. not one compromised from the start — plan for downtown infrastructure, ran it by the public in public meetings, documented and quantified the many public benefits it would bring (less congestion, more retail activity, lower paving and maintenance costs, reduced carbon footprint and pollution, etc etc). And then, in the next few elections, we demand that every candidate for elected city leadership positions answer this question: do you or do you not commit to building the consensus Portland Downtown Bicycle Network by 2020? A single, tangible goal like that might help focus elections on these transportation / environmental issues and draw plenty of allies , like the coalition that gave us Max and waterfront park a generation ago. If elected officials wont support it, might some kind of bond issue referendum might even be possible?

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