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Washington County seeks input on ‘Neighborhood bikeway’ routes

Posted by on September 9th, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Washington County’s map in progress.

Bicycle boulevards, neighborhood greenways — whatever you call them, the low-traffic streets marked by sharrows and low-stress crossings are one of the best things about Portland’s bike network.

Now, Washington County is preparing a map of what it’s calling “neighborhood bikeways,” and looking for the public’s help. A new interactive map invites people to submit their preferred bike routes across the metro area’s west side to help inform planners about the best possible paths.

This is a challenging task in Portland’s suburbs. Most of our region’s surburban land was developed with the assumption that gridded streets are bad, because they allow people to improvise routes rather than navigating via big arterials. It’s only recently that more cities have realized that cul-de-sacs increase auto dependence by making bike and foot transportation less convenient.


Here’s how Washington County describes its “neighborhood bikeway goals”:

  • Shift biking and walking from being recreational only to a viable transportation option to get to most destinations.
  • Move us beyond designing bicycle facilities for the ‘spandex crowd’ to making bicycling safe and convenient for all ages and abilities.
  • Encourage biking and walking as a means of creating vibrant and healthy communities, regardless of age, gender, ability, ethnicity, or economic background.

Getting “at least 10 miles” of neighborhood greenways on the ground in Washington County by 2018 is one of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s top 16 priorities.

The county’s planning project is being paid for by a combination of county and federal funds.

Here in Portland, where the grid our grandparents built gives us a lot of potential routes to work with, planners have decided that great neighborhood greenways include speed humps every 350 feet, posted speed limits of 20 mph, daily traffic counts of 1,000 autos or fewer (sometimes enforced by traffic diverters), regular signage (including sharrows in the center of the roadway) and stop signs facing away from the bikeway unless necessary.

Washington County will be working to develop its own guidelines and planning process this fall, and it may conclude that suburbs need a different approach. You can follow their progress by subscribing to the bike and pedestrian information section of their website.

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Comments
  • Gerik September 9, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I’m thrilled to see this effort taking shape, one of the BTA’s top priorities. http://btaoregon.org/blueprint/#greenways

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) September 9, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks for noting this, Gerik — I’d intended to mention this but forgot. It’s worth hoisting into the post itself, so I just did.

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  • dwainedibbly September 9, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    It would be nice if they picked a name that is already in common usage. It would be less confusing for the average person who isn’t an infrastructure wonk.

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  • q`Tzal September 9, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Yeah WaCo! Flash only website, yipee!
    Completely un-useable on a mobile device (smartphone, iPhone, BlackBerry or any tablet) and increasingly un-useable on popular desktop browsers.

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    • q`Tzal September 9, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      The cheerful part was sarcasm.

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  • wsbob September 10, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Washington County will hopefully do much more than designate roads in their existing condition, on maps as bike boulevards and bike routes. People in the county particularly need at least a modest number of east-west through bike routes between Beaverton, Aloha and Hillsboro, and north-south through bike routes from Tualitan Valley Hwy north to Hwy 26 and across to the north side of Hwy 26.

    By ‘improved’, I mean continuous widened bike-able shoulders on roads, or even cycle tracks along roads that would not be re-engineered from their existing two-lane main travel lane configuration to support big increases in motor vehicle use. A couple examples of what I’m describing could be 170th, and also, Johnson and Alexander streets.

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  • Chris I September 10, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Wa Co should also look at areas where it may be possible to connect dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs with pedestrian paths. The lack of a grid out there is a huge problem for active transportation.

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    • Tim September 10, 2013 at 9:26 am

      The cul-de-sac do have connecting paths and the lack of grid funnels cars to major arterials leaving plenty of low volmue routes.

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      • Andrew Seger September 10, 2013 at 9:50 am

        There are lots of great paths through the cul-de-sacs. Often they’re quite narrow, frequently unkempt, and poorly lit. Hopefully some more lights, better signs, and perhaps a bit better tree trimming will help more people find them.

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        • wsbob September 10, 2013 at 11:54 am

          “There are lots of great paths through the cul-de-sacs. …” Andrew Seger

          Proceeding west on Johnson brings you to its terminus just short or Brookwood Pkwy, beyond which and still some distance from Hillsboro, is a long stretch of cul-de-sac style suburban housing. Paths through the cul-de-sacs that would more or less continue the Johnson St route would be great. If they’re there, information about exactly where they’re at would be helpful.

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          • Tim September 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm

            Johnson street ends because it runs into TV Highway that predates the grid. Zag over a block and you are good to go. Many of the streets in this area dead end due to Rock Creek where they didn’t fill in the wetland to create the grid.

            Maps and a since of exploration are all that is needed, and mayby some hedge trimmers and spray paint to make it easier for the next rider.

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            • wsbob September 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm

              “Johnson street ends because it runs into TV Highway that predates the grid. Zag over a block and you are good to go. Many of the streets in this area dead end due to Rock Creek where they didn’t fill in the wetland to create the grid. …” Tim

              Maybe the wetland is the reason for some of the cul-de-sacs between Brookwood Pkwy and Hillsboro. I’m not sure. I don’t recall streets dead ending at the wetland. Beyond Johnson, Drake, across and along Century and then to Bentley seems to be the next closest streets by which to proceed west. That runs into 32nd which requires more route changes to continue traveling west. 32nd is roughly to the north of and just west of the cemetery: still quite a ways from Hillsboro, all seemingly through the maze of suburban housing type grids. Getting over and onto Maple may be the next best street for proceeding west.

              Maybe other people with their minds on the favor-ability of Washington County’s roads for transportation biking don’t see this kind of circuitous route-finding to be a problem for that kind of riding. If so…fine. Seems to me that more of a straight through route away from the highway, and that uses Johnson as a key connecting segment of the route through Aloha and to Hillsboro, would be a good objective.

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              • bikesalot September 11, 2013 at 1:39 pm

                I use Johnson to Cornelius Pass Road going west. I give up at that point and go north to Baseline (or has it become Main at that point?). As Hillsboro is generally not my destination, I usually turn north again where Baseline pinches down into two lanes. I have never found a particularly direct route through from Johnson continuing west.

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      • Chris I September 13, 2013 at 7:12 am

        At most, I would say 40% of the dead-end streets in Wa Co have connecting pedestrian paths. I’m not sure what you are talking about. Just look at a Google satellite view of the area…

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  • Tim September 10, 2013 at 9:24 am

    The stated assumption that suburban streets are worse than urbane streets for cycle routes is not true and counterproductive to promoting cycling. Suburbs offer abundant quiet residential streets with numerous off street paths and auto-free connections. Walkways through to the next cul-de sac are common if you take the time to look. Between the residential streets, paths and connections, you can bike through the suburbs nearly entirely on pleasant low volume roads. The problem is the best routes and connections are secret and those who promote cycling keep saying they don’t exists and the suburbs are poor places for cycle transportation.

    Let’s tell people that cycling is a great way to get around.

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    • Terry D September 10, 2013 at 10:20 am

      The the west side needs to get together and properly sharrow and sign these routes at least if they are so direct and pleasant. We almost never take a “day trip” to the west side of the Tualatin mountains, even though we Ride north-south and east all the time throughout the region.

      Inevitably in Beaverton, Tigard or (points west), the residential routes dump you on a major street and you are trapped (it happened to us several times on Sunday as we ended up on the west side due to a Catio tour). We spend more time on our phones trying to find a more pleasant way to get places(it used to be metro’s map) because of the cul-de-sac nature of the neighborhoods then we do riding it seems sometimes. It reminds me of what I grew up in, but I was a teenager then and had time to investigate every little turn and swerve to find the safe escape from one neighborhood to another.

      From an urban tourism perspective, the westside has some nice day trip spots….but if you can not get to them safely or easily…hence, we generally stay east of the west hills.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Damian Miller September 10, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Just received word from WashCo staff that problem where mapped bikeways disappear as soon as completed has been resolved. So – anyone who got frustrated, please have another go!

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    • Michelle September 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

      Thanks for the feedback, Damian. The app has recently been updated with a new interface that allows you to add points. The points are intended for site-specific comments and placing comments on existing routes. – Michelle, Washington County Land Use & Transportation

      Recommended Thumb up 0

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