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Guess who didn’t make list of America’s top 10 protected bikeways?

Posted by on December 4th, 2013 at 11:14 am

In the latest sign that Portland’s lead as America’s best cycling city is dwindling, we were completely left out of a list of the year’s top 10 protected bikeways published by People for Bikes yesterday.

People for Bikes (formerly known as Bikes Belong) is an industry-funded advocacy group that also runs the Green Lane Project, an effort to hasten the development of protected bikeways across the country. Portland was one of five cities selected to be part of that program when it launched in May 2012; but despite our long-held reputation as a bikeway innovator, we lag behind other cities when it comes to protected bikeways (loosely defined as bike lanes with some sort of protection from other lanes of traffic). According to a Green Lane Project inventory, Portland has managed to build just 3 miles of protected bikeways in the last four years.

Portland’s absence from the top 10 isn’t because our protected bikeway designs are bad, it’s because we didn’t even build any new ones in 2013. The one Portland project listed in the Green Lane Project’s inventory for 2013, SW Multnomah Blvd, has been delayed and is yet to be built.

As for the other cities who are moving forward faster than us on creating next-generation bikeways, here’s more from People for Bikes: (Note: The Top 10 blog post was written by Michael Andersen, who also happens to be BikePortland’s news editor.)

As the thermoplastic dries on this year’s round of terrific protected bike lane projects, we decided to scour the country for a comprehensive (and subjective) ranking of the best of the best. We talked to experts and advocates around the country, looked at technical photos and schemes and read the news reports to understand not just how these bike lanes were designed, but why. Though the word “complete” can be hard to define for something as malleable as a city street, every project on this page has been in some clear sense finished during this year.

And here’s the top 10 list:

    1) Dearborn Street, Chicago
    2) Indianapolis Cultural Trail
    3) Guadalupe Street, Austin
    4) Fell and Oak Streets, San Francisco
    5) Linden Avenue, Seattle
    6) First Avenue, New York City
    7) Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
    8) 10th Street, Atlanta
    9) Cherry Street, Seattle
    10) Overton Park Road, Memphis

Pretty striking to see all those other cities getting into the action while Portland isn’t even part of the story. There’s been a growing discussion around these parts about the Great Portland Cycling Stagnation and this seems like yet another clear sign that it’s real. What caused it? How do we move beyond it? These are just some of the questions we plan to cover in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

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  • PDX Dave December 4, 2013 at 11:23 am

    The sky is falling! Maybe PBOT is not doing a good job of marketing. Oh, I forgot the commenters slammed Leah Treat for saying that. I appreciate this blog and commenters, but I am getting tired of the negative slant.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 4, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Hi PDX Dave, thanks for the comment. if you know of positive bike news coming out of PBOT and/or about cycling in Portland in general that we haven’t already covered, please pass it on! I’m always eager to publish good news and real positive steps forward.

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      • davemess December 4, 2013 at 2:55 pm

        Most would view a lane reduction and addition of bike lanes on Division as progress (also possibly getting the same treatment on Foster). How about the increased width, now slightly buffered bike lanes on BHH that you just covered last week? What about the Protected lane on NE Multnomah by the Lloyd Center (I don’t really understand how that wouldn’t possibly qualify for this list)?

        I know BP has covered all these things, but I think they stand as counter argument to how we’re getting left in the dust compared to other cities. Interestingly I don’t see Minneapolis on that list (the other “Top Bike City” in the US). I wonder if they are up in arms about it as well?

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        • craig harlow December 4, 2013 at 6:32 pm

          daverness, the Multnomah treatments are, by intent, a collection of low-cost, partially-implemented treatments, meant to serve as a proof-of-concept for those treatments, with the city’s stated intent that after a year or so it would collect lessons learned from the pilot and install a fully-realized “world-class bikeway”, instead of the $200K temporary demo that exists today.

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          • davemess December 5, 2013 at 7:14 am

            Does that make them any less a separated bikeway? I just get annoyed with the hypercritical on this site, for whom NOTHING is good enough.

            Seems like the consistent narrative is: We want separated facilities, like those in the Netherlands so 8-80 year olds can ride! Well not THOSE type of separated facilities. They’re practically worse than not even having a bike lane!

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            • Craig Harlow December 5, 2013 at 10:05 am

              davemess, you’re right, Multnomah’s “pilot” status doesn’t make the facilities less separated. I just wouldn’t expect a half-implemented laboratory test to merit inclusion among “America’s Best”.

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  • Eric December 4, 2013 at 11:31 am

    I feel like the weird thing is that there doesn’t seem to even be consensus here if protected lanes are better or not. And it drives me crazy when good news is treated with contempt. Reducing lanes on Foster, that’s awesome. Is that not amazing progress compared to other places that keep widening roads?

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    • spare_wheel December 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Why can’t different types of infrastructure both be effective? For example, in Germany infrastructure predominantly focused on bike lanes and bike boulevards has increased mode share up to 300% in major cities (Munich: 6% to 17+%).

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    • wsbob December 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      “I feel like the weird thing is that there doesn’t seem to even be consensus here if protected lanes are better or not. …” Eric

      You say: “here”, meaning, where? In Portland? Amongst bikeportland’s readers that post comments? Or, something else on your mind, perhaps.

      What types of bike infrastructure is better than others, and of that infrastructure, what people will consider to be better than others, can depend on different things. I think many people, maybe a majority of the public, would likely consider cycle tracks and protected bike lanes to be vastly superior on some routes, to the standard practice type bike lanes that have been built in the metro area over the last 40 some years.

      That is…if to begin with, they had such bike infrastructure designs in mind, and were able to recognize that it could benefit them personally, in addition to the public. Working against this, would be if they think that only a small percentage of the public that uses bikes for transportation would particularly benefit from this type infrastructure.

      Champions of better bike infrastructure in the Portland metro area, and possible notation for it on top ten lists of achievement of that sort of thing, could gain by making some very positive PR efforts promoting the value to be had in dramatic advances beyond modest aspiration bike infrastructure that’s become standard practice.

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  • PDX Dave December 4, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Thanks for the reply. I will forward you info if I come across anything interesting. I do like the micro level focus that this blog has shown in the past, i.e. the improper repaving over 101 and Multnomah bike lane leaves. You saw action from the govt agencies responsible. If we are going to be “negative” I say we should focus on specifics and not generalities. I hope I am making sense.

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    • Erinne December 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      This is *specifically* about an article that was released yesterday, and how Portland was not included.

      And I’m sure you can find plenty of examples in the BP archives that discuss numerous specific ideas for protected bike lanes around the city that, for one reason or another, have not been built or have yet to be built.

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  • Paul in the 'couve December 4, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Seattle made the list TWICE! And they are just getting rolling… of course new Mayor so we’ll see in the next 12 months what happens to their momentum.

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    • PDX Dave December 4, 2013 at 11:58 am

      I have visited Seattle many times in the past year. Other than the bike lanes that connect to Green Lake along Ravenna, I have not seen any of their facilities used a great deal. Seattle is so hilly, that unless you are doing a shorter point to point ride you will most like encounter a hill steep enough to deter all but the most avid riders. Maybe when electro-assist goes mainstream they will be set up for a big increase in users.

      Seattle has many more revenue streams when compared to Portland. Parking meters are prevalent all over Seattle. Portland is just beginning to realize the revenue opportunities from charging for parking along public thoroughfares. The new parking program in Washington Park will raise $4 mil a year to be reinvested in the park. We need to work to find ways to raise revenue and have it directed to active transportation.

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      • Jane December 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm

        Hills have nothing to do with people not wanting to ride in Seattle. Everyone I know in Seattle who doesn’t ride cites one factor: Aggression and carelessness on the part of motorized vehicle operators. Hills and weather are of almost no concern, people just want to be able to get around safely.

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        • Todd Boulanger December 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm

          …and the City’s previously over sharrow focused network…just a lower quality network than Portland had until recently.

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        • Paul December 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm

          Well for me the hills in Seattle were a real put-off to biking when I lived there.

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          • Paul in the 'couve December 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm

            Once I actually started biking around Seattle, I found that most of my trips could be done relatively easily avoiding the worst hills and that once I started riding them, the ones I rode weren’t that bad. Plus, riding using bus racks for just the biggest up hills was always a great option.

            Long short, vast parts of Seattle aren’t that hilly, many short to moderate length trips don’t require hills.

            yes there are some Point A to Point B trips that require a big up /down or a huge diversion, but I find that is more of an excuse than a reason for not taking up cycling.

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        • davemess December 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm

          Jane, I think that is just the “safe” excuse that people always give to why they don’t ride. They know that it’s not a problem that will quickly be fixed in the future, so they throw it out there, when in fact laziness, weather, inconvenience, and even hills may in fact be the real reasons they aren’t riding. I lived in Seattle for 2.5 years and it is really hilly. Makes me question if the east side of Portland had that type of topography would we really have that much more ridership than Seattle does?

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          • Jane December 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm

            I don’t know.. I live and work in Seattle city limits and ride every day. Several of my coworkers do the same, as the increasingly absurd car traffic and failing transit make a little rain and some hills not as bad in comparison. All the hills have a less-steep side, even the big ones, you just have to follow the signed routes and lanes. Sure, hills are hard, for the first few weeks. Stick with it, it gets easier.

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        • spare_wheel December 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm

          I lived off 15th on the top of capitol hill for many years. When I talked to my neighbors about cycling the hill was the number one barrier mentioned.

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        • Evan Manvel December 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm

          The surveys done by the City and the polling done by Cascade Bicycle Club both have the hills as one of three top factors (safety, weather, hills) cited by people as to why they don’t ride more. Depending on the demographic, which is top changes, but the hills are a very real challenge for many people who want to ride. Some trips aren’t hilly; so it depends on where you live, work, shop, and play as to whether it’s a big factor.

          Seattle’s working hard on the safety, and then needs to work harder on the wayfinding and promotion efforts to get people up hills in less steep ways. It took me a month to find the right route that I could get up to my apartment without walking my bike for two blocks; think the difference between a 6% grade and an 8% grade makes all the difference.

          And Seattle’s bike mode share continues to increase, though we’re still significantly behind Portland (about 4.1% to 6.1% in commute share through ACS numbers), as Michael reported on previously. http://bikeportland.org/2013/09/19/census-portland-biking-stalls-for-fifth-year-while-other-cities-climb-94248

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      • Jeff Dubrule December 5, 2013 at 10:58 am

        Actually heard someone say: “I’ve biked up Capitol Hill so many times now that my legs don’t fit into skinny jeans anymore” #hipsterproblems

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    • Steve B December 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      They also just updated their Bike Plan, the old one calling for mostly sharrows and shared lanes was only about 5 years old. Their new plan is all about the separation. We have similar ambitions in our bike plan but have not funded much of the projects it calls far save for low hanging fruit like neighborhood greenways.

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  • Todd Hudson December 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Claiming “stagnation” is a gross exaggeration that gets used repeatedly here.

    2013 was also the year that this city had a $25 million budget shortfall. That hurt car, bike, and pedestrian projects alike.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      I disagree Todd. The ridership stats, the projects, the investments… All point to a leveling off — a.k.a. a stagnation — in Portland bicycling. And it’s not just me that is thinking about this. It’s a commonly held notion but not everyone is ready to talk about it publicly for fear of pricking the bubble.

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      • Todd Boulanger December 4, 2013 at 1:28 pm

        In the future…some bike historians may point to the Breedlove incident among others, as to when the City lost it’s short lived political momentum for platinum level bikeways…dating to 2007.

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      • Todd Hudson December 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm

        Stagnating means “inactivity”. I can think of several bike projects done this year.

        Does only Copenhagen-level bike infrastructure count?

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    • was carless December 4, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      Ridership gains are flat, which means stagnation. We are supposed to hit 25% modal share on bikes by 2025 or something, and are stuck at 6%. At this rate, even after 1 BILLION years, we will still be at 6% mode share!

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      • Mike December 5, 2013 at 5:56 pm

        The numbers I’ve heard quoted from “PDX’s Plan” are 25% by 2030, which is only 16 short years away. What was Portland’s share number from 1998?? That will give you some idea of what a joke the “Plan” is, given the current state of our government.

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        • Mike December 5, 2013 at 11:24 pm

          Finally found these numbers from the 2030 Plan… Looks like we’ve gone from a 2% share in 1996 to an 8% share in 2008, then back to a 6% share now. Even if we can recapture our original momentum, it’s not looking good for 25% unless the political will exists for fairly radical action.

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  • Jonathan R December 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I live in New York City and if it was only about the bicycling I would move to Portland in a heartbeat.

    Yeah, NYC made these people’s list, but I have spent years of my life not going on 1st Avenue between 72d and 125th, or anywhere on the Upper East Side near there. One bike lane does not a city of cyclists make.

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    • Ian December 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      I think it’s fair to say that the list is more of an indicator of degree of improvement over the year, rather than the overall total quality of infrastructure. Portland is still a good place for people who ride bikes (comparatively), but it’s not improving very much in comparison to other US cities.

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      • Paul in the 'couve December 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

        Actually this particular list ins’t about Cities or the whole cycling environment at all. It also isn’t about improvement or only facilities built within the past year.

        This is a list of “best” of a specific kind of cycling facility – “protected bikeways.” That is all. In portland there are I think 3 examples of this type of facility and they didn’t make the list. 2 made the list in Seattle.

        The Portland take on this is “are we losing our lead” as a biking city. A separate question entirely, but one upon which the article does have some bearing. When it comes to real dedicated cycling infrastructure in high traffic areas Portland has been consistently pulling it’s punches. In opportunity after opportunity for the past 3 years Portland has failed to find the political will to sacrifice the interests of cheap/free/plentiful parking and motor vehicle convenience. Multnomah Blvd was a consolation prize for business interests nixing what might have been a better facility and as you notice – it didn’t make the list.

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    • Jacob December 6, 2013 at 11:40 am

      In addition to the massive protected lane on 1st Ave (5.7 miles!), NYC has implemented protected lanes on large stretches of 2nd Ave (2.8 miles), 8th Ave (2.3 miles), 9th Ave/Columbus Ave (4.3 miles), Prospect Park West (1 mile), Kent Ave (1.6 miles), Allen/Pike St (1 mile) and several others, with plans for more to come. The city is moving forward with a network of protected lanes, as are Seattle, DC, and Chicago, and even Atlanta and Memphis. Point is, while other cities are diving headfirst into implementing protected bike lanes, Portland is still nervously dipping its toes in the water.

      http://www.atlantabike.org/2.5millionforbikeprojects
      http://bikepedmemphis.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/memphis-constructing-first-protected-bike-lane/

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  • PDX Dave December 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Davis, CA, now that is a city and university campus (UCD) that I envy. However, Davis is a small town that is separated from larger cities by many miles of farmland. Eugene is also also making good progress on their plan. They recently passed a property tax increase for roads and biking/pedestrian infrastructure improvements.

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  • PDX Dave December 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Maybe it is time for some public fundraising….

    $150,000 donated for bike corridor on 13th Avenue in honor of David Minor

    http://dailyemerald.com/2013/11/26/150000-donated-for-bike-corridor-on-13th-avenue-in-honor-of-david-minor/

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  • Adam H. December 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Isn’t funding being made available for downtown biking and walking improvements? Are protected bike lanes part of these improvements?

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    • PDX Dave December 4, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      I believe that to be the case. It might be useful for a “live” spreadsheet that tracks all projects and their various states. The SW Multnomah project came as a pleasant surprise to me. I had no idea that it would be that extensive.

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  • Champs December 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    BikePortland has rightfully pointed out that paint and concrete are the only solutions that ODOT and PBOT understand. It’s this thinking that gives us the CRC. What hasn’t been realized is that it’s adopted the same mentality.

    Paint doesn’t work. It’s a cliché tattoo sleeve that people either ignore or fail to comprehend. Speaking as a non-driver, it looks more like the former in the saddle, but the latter from my passenger seat.

    Concrete isn’t any better. Barriers and cycle tracks are what (other) people need to FEEL safe, but in my experience intersections are more dangerous, and never mind what it implies about the safety of feeder streets.

    Civil engineering needs civility. Harmonization, not segregation, should be the goal.

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    • was carless December 4, 2013 at 11:22 pm

      Actually, what really makes people safe on bikes are:

      1) being surrounded by other bikes
      2) slower car traffic and zero heavy truck traffic
      3) dedicated road space
      4) citizens who actually follow the law and don’t run red lights in their cars and wipe out cyclists

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  • Joe Adamski December 4, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Portland could rememdy its lack of showing by paying more attention to the routes that connect neighborhoods to work.. ie the cycletracks for Swan Island… with Daimlers new corporate HQ soon to be built, bringing another 1000 engineers and professional folks from other parts of Portland, as well as Portland Comm Colleges new job center on the island.. as well as everybody already working on SI, the ability to manuever around SI safely is in everybody’s interest. Oh… and the Cement Road, did I forget?

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    • Mossby Pomegranate December 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      You said it! And work on better ways for those of us on the east side to more efficiently and safely get to places like Swan Island and downtown.

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  • was carless December 4, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Just wanted to share an anecdote regarding separated cycle-paths. While I am a very experienced bicyclist (non-racer), and have biked on Oregon backroads and highways somewhat, am pretty fearless on your normal streets, I had a pretty terrible experience today which serves to remind me why many people do not bicycle-

    While biking up Milwaukie, I had two trucks consecutively pass by me with less than 6 inches to spare – one was a flatbed delivery truck (those short Volvo things)… the bed almost hit me, but I swerved out of the way when I realized he was way too close, and then a red pickup truck did the same thing, passing on my right (!). I haven’t had that close a call in about 2 years.

    Just to remind the vehicular cyclists: you will NOT reliably get the “concerned but interested” group on a bike without them feeling comfortable. Most normal people who do not know how awesome bicycling is will be quickly freaked out by near-death experiences. It has nothing to do with statistics – but stress levels.

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  • Ted Buehler December 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    I can’t get the photos to come up on Michael’s post — http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/the-10-best-protected-bike-lanes-of-2013 — so I can’t compare. But my question is this:

    If Portland would have built any separated facilities in 2013, would it have made the cut?

    The Cully cycletrack is pretty slick, I imagine it would make a list like this.

    Bu how about the NE Multnomah cycletrack? It’s not that great of a facility. Tons of right hook potential. Skinny as heck. Gets 100% covered with leaves in the autumn. Would it have made the top ten US list if it would have been put in in 2013?

    Just curious.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Gezellig December 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I’m an admirer/Portland-follower from afar (Bay Area). Since I’ve also lived in the Netherlands I know the dramatic modeshare-increasing power of pervasive protected cycletracks.

    A few months ago Bike Portland reported on the Think Dutch event (http://bikeportland.org/2013/09/05/dreaming-in-dutch-six-young-planners-visions-for-portland-93450) with some awesome proposed renderings. Just curious, how receptive are the local transportation authorities to these types of plans?

    The “Protected intersection” rendering (in the style of basically every Dutch intersection with cycletracks) is particularly exciting.

    For further info, more details on Dutch best practices for cycletrack intersections (http://youtu.be/FlApbxLz6pA).

    May Portland continue to innovate! (and/or copy the Dutch where appropriate—which is many places).

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  • Paula Grad December 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I wouldn’t feel bad, the bike lane in Atlanta is about 1/2 mile long at the most.

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  • Ted Buehler December 6, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Personally, I have a hard time getting excited about separated bike lanes.

    But on the other hand, riding and driving around Portland shows that there’s a huge amount of danger for bicyclists in the present circumstances.

    The way I see it, it’s pretty unlikely, given Portland and the rest of the US’s current infrastructure funding levels (for all city streets, bikes or not) to expect to rebuild many streets with cycletracks in the next 20 years.

    Vancouver BC did a great job of it, on the fly, quickly. But its just the downtown. And, they’re system doesn’t have the capacity to have a ton of bikes on it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it would jam up pretty fast if you had more than about 8 bicycles a minute on it in each direction. That’s only 480 per hour, or about 1000 in both directions. If you want more than 1000 people to be able to commute downtown in the average morning rush hour, you’ll need another set of cycletracks, or to rebuild them and take another lane away from cars.

    For comparison, Portland has about 20,000 people commuting by bike on the average summer day, and if half of those are going downtown, we’d need 10 cycletracks like the Vancouver ones to meet that objective.

    Or, folks commuting downtown now are reasonably comfortable in the existing mixed conditions — some bike lanes, but lots of playing fender tag with cars. Suppose most potential downtown commuters would require separated facilities — that the risks, challenges and skills needed to play fender tag in today’s downtown Portland is the primary limiting factor to drawing more commuters. Then, for every 1000 additional commuters, we’d need a 2 mile cycletrack system to get them properly distributed.

    This is doable, in theory, but it’s been over 5 years since Portland achieved its Platinum certification from the League of American Bicyclists, and there have been relatively few improvements in downtown. SW Broadway Cycletrack, NW Broadway pro-time bike lane, 10′ bike lanes on Oak and Stark, new sidewalk on the Morrison Bridge. And a handful of bike corrals. But, aside from that, downtown is the same as it was in 2008. Minus, of course, the decimation of the bike route network in The Pearl district by streetcar construction in 2010-2011.

    So, there hasn’t been the political will to add protected facilities downtown. While in the same time window, our sister city of Vancouver BC put in a 2 mile cycletrack system that stretches across the entire downtown, and provides excellent access from the bike boulevard system to the E and S/W.

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    • Ted Buehler December 6, 2013 at 1:00 am

      Generally, I figure Portland has the bike program dialed in — lots of bikes, lots of encouragement, mediocre facilities, with major bottlenecks and pinch points given priority for improvements.

      But, I drove around in with my housemate in his pickup truck tonight. He’s 100% bike savvy, but still, it scared me the way he whipped that thing round corners, changed lanes and turned without signalling. & it was a clear, dry night.

      I don’t know how many more of the potential future bicyclists will be willing to ride on our mediocre bike facilities. With a constant threat of being hit by average drivers.

      The one solution Portland could, and should be seeking, is to reduce the numbers of cars on the road, and reduce vehicle miles traveled. This could enable the next wave of bicyclists to take to the streets without having to build an extensive protected bikeway network first.

      But I see zero leadership for this at the city or Metro level.

      The downtown plan of 2012 calls for a 20% reduction in vehicle miles traveled in downtown Portland between 2005 and 2035.
      http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2012/10/keeping_downtown_portland_vibr.html
      So don’t count on our visionary leaders to try to reduce VMT between 2013 and 2025. It’s not in the plans. It’s not even an aspiration.

      Still, I think if we want to achieve 25% of folks on bikes, its going to be a lot easier, and a lot cheaper, to just make all possible small scale improvements to existing facilities, and fix other things like downtown parking and apartment building parking, than to try to build a network of protected cycletracks that can carry enough bicycle traffic to make a substantial increase in the number of people that commute by bike in Portland.

      Ted Buehler

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    • Daniel L December 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

      I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that we shouldn’t bother with building cycle tracks because if they are successful we’ll have to build more?

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      • Ted Buehler December 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        Daniel — I have mixed feelings about cycletracks.

        It seems unlikely to get the funding needed to build a network in the next ten years. And that that funding could be better used to put in 5x as many conventional bike lanes.

        But, sometimes I’m reminded (like last night in my housemate’s pickup truck) that bicyclists are really extremely vulnerable in this city.

        I’ve seen Vancouver BC’s protected bikeway network, but I haven’t getten a solid feel of NYC’s. Maybe I need to watch a few youtube clips of it to see what I think.

        Ted Buehler

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    • davemess December 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      What about the timing of the lights downtown? I have only lived here 3.5 years, were they timed similarly to that before 2008? If not, then I think that is an improvement for cyclists. Being able to comfortably mix in traffic when the lights are timed to 12 mph is nice (granted not for every rider).

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    • wsbob December 8, 2013 at 11:00 am

      “Personally, I have a hard time getting excited about separated bike lanes.

      But on the other hand, riding and driving around Portland shows that there’s a huge amount of danger for bicyclists in the present circumstances.

      The way I see it, it’s pretty unlikely, given Portland and the rest of the US’s current infrastructure funding levels (for all city streets, bikes or not) to expect to rebuild many streets with cycletracks in the next 20 years. …” Ted Buehler

      Protected bike lanes, or cycle tracks, don’t probably need to be everywhere, on most streets in a city, but they could be very beneficial, located on select streets connecting neighborhoods with each other, with places where people, work, shop, go to school, and so on. Joe Adamski’s comment here:

      http://bikeportland.org/2013/12/04/guess-who-didnt-make-list-of-americas-top-10-protected-bikeways-98091#comment-4481005 …hits right on that point in suggesting that ‘home to work’ cycling routes be prioritized for improvement. The accompanying benefit from doing this, is that it could go some distance towards rallying support for superior biking infrastructure, from working class people.

      Support from the public that’s lacking, for superior biking infrastructure is probably the biggest reason Portland and other cities in the metro area aren’t moving ahead with design and construction of cycle tracks and so forth. There’s not reports that for example, indicate anything approaching a majority of residents are asking that something as unconventional for the metro area, as a first class connecting cycle track, be built. Without broad public support, and the people’s willing commitment of their money to building it, there’s not going to be any bike infrastructure built that will get Portland back on the forefront of bike infrastructure development.

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  • Gezellig December 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Ted Buehler
    Still, I think if we want to achieve 25% of folks on bikes, its going to be a lot easier, and a lot cheaper, to just make all possible small scale improvements to existing facilities, and fix other things like downtown parking and apartment building parking, than to try to build a network of protected cycletracks that can carry enough bicycle traffic to make a substantial increase in the number of people that commute by bike in Portland.

    Small-scale improvements like those you mention to existing facilities are always good things, of course, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive to cycletracks.

    As for the 25% thing–worldwide there are very few communities that have reached 25% modeshare on bikes; most communities in the Netherlands and a handful in Denmark/Sweden and a few other places (like Beijing, though it’s been declining) being exceptions. And even in Copenhagen they’ve noticed their modeshare has decreased in recent years.

    Why? Despite Copenhagen’s marketing of itself as bike mecca they’re really quite behind the Dutch–Copenhagen’s infrastructure is not up to par in a lot of places (not enough protected cycletracks, the classically problematic unprotected “Copenhagen left” intersections as opposed to the protected Dutch ones, etc.) and increasing numbers of locals are reporting they feel less safe on bikes there. This despite lots of fixes to their existing facilities. This problem of declining modeshare does not exist in the Netherlands–it only grows. Why? Their infrastructure is pervasively superior to Denmark’s.

    The truth of the matter is that small-scale fixes like more bike parking help the people who’ve already decided to bike and may encourage a small percentage more of people to bike, but are not dramatic modeshare boosters.

    As for worries about crowded cycletracks, that’s a “good problem” we should be hoping for! And in all seriousness, having lived in the Netherlands I can almost never remember a cycletrack so crowded that it caused frustration or significant delays. I mean volume is surely something to consider when designing a cycletrack but it shouldn’t be the reason to *not* build one! :)

    A lot of Dutch cycletracks aren’t even that wide and they do just fine–it’s barely an issue. In fact, their cycletracks have enough capacity that even with all the bicycles there they *also* allow small mopeds and microcars on them (I actually think that’s one bad thing about Dutch policy and this is actually quite controversial there–they perennially debate about whether to change that). Portland cycletracks definitely wouldn’t allow those mopeds/microcars–so the Netherlands’ small issue with capacity due to those would be even less of an issue in Portland.

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  • Gezellig December 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    wsbob
    think many people, maybe a majority of the public, would likely consider cycle tracks and protected bike lanes to be vastly superior on some routes, to the standard practice type bike lanes that have been built in the metro area over the last 40 some years.
    That is…if to begin with, they had such bike infrastructure designs in mind, and were able to recognize that it could benefit them personally, in addition to the public. Working against this, would be if they think that only a small percentage of the public that uses bikes for transportation would particularly benefit from this type infrastructure.
    Champions of better bike infrastructure in the Portland metro area, and possible notation for it on top ten lists of achievement of that sort of thing, could gain by making some very positive PR efforts promoting the value to be had in dramatic advances beyond modest aspiration bike infrastructure that’s become standard practice.

    Absolutely. I think a lot of the general public is supportive of separated infrastructure once they’re made aware it’s even an option.

    The traditional way the Good News of cycletracks has spread I’m guessing has mostly been experiential. It’s probably no coincidence that the countries immediately neighboring places like the Netherlands and Denmark have been likelier to implement their own segregated facilities than those countries further away simply because of the greater daily interchange between their respective citizens (more Germans visit the Netherlands on a daily basis than do Spaniards).

    “Wait, our neighbors have this awesome thing, why can’t we?”

    This experiential aspect is still important, and to go micro I’d be willing to bet that people who live/travel near, say, the cycletrack on Cully Blvd in Portland are now statistically likelier to support separated facilities throughout the city due to the simple fact they can see the benefits.

    Short of flying everyone to Utrecht (or maybe even Manhattan now?) to experience a pervasive cycletrack network the other PR tool we have these days is YouTube/Vimeo/etc. It’s the second-best way to share the benefits of cycletracks in a very real, non-abstract way. For example, back to the Cully Blvd thing, I love the videos Jonathan Maus and others have put up on YouTube just simply riding through it because it proves that it can work in what in terms of spatial layout could pass for almost any postwar American suburban area, thus preempting the “well isn’t that nice for Europe but that’d never work here because America” naysaying.

    When possible, these types of videos should be played at any community hearing on bike-infra development and should be shared (via social media?) with the community as a whole.

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