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Special report: How Portland stopped building neighborhood greenways

Posted by on February 28th, 2014 at 10:45 am

A family ride from NoPo to Sellwood-18
Portland’s construction of low-traffic, low-stress neighborhood streets for biking, walking and recreation has slowed to a crawl. What happened?
(Photos by J.Maus and M.Andersen/BikePortland)

If Portland has contributed any innovations of its own to the craft of designing great streets, it’s this two-word idea: neighborhood greenways.

A remix of ideas from Utrecht and Vancouver BC, these low-cost retrofits of low-traffic side streets — adding speed humps, sharrow markings, traffic diverters and signalized crossings of big arterials — have taken the national bike world by storm since Portland’s Greg Raisman and Mark Lear developed the concept in 2008 or so. In 2010, a citywide network of greenways became the first priority to emerge from Portland’s landmark 25-year bike plan.

The concept went viral.

Within a few years, Transport for London had flown a planner to camp out at Raisman’s house and learn about the system. Chicago is now planning to build a 40-mile greenway network by 2020. Los Angeles, Ithaca, Santa Monica and St. Louis are all planning their own greenways. Seattle may be the biggest fan of all: it has its own advocacy organization devoted entirely to the concept, with paid staff and 3,000 people on its mailing list.

Portland, meanwhile, has eliminated its dedicated funding for neighborhood greenways.

Planned greenways on SE 19th Avenue near Sellwood; NE 77th and Sacramento; and SE Mill, Market and Main between I-205 and 130th Avenue have all been put on ice. Improvements to older greenways like NE Tillamook, SE Salmon, SE Ankeny or SE Clinton are indefinitely postponed, too. This year, only a few miles of the grant-funded 50s Bikeway will add to the network.

Why? And what’s likely to happen next?

BAC bike ride-8

The city’s decision to nearly eliminate local funding for neighborhood greenway construction isn’t due to any conscious opposition in the Portland Bureau of Transportation. At every level, PBOT officials are proud of the program and eager for it to resume.

Instead, it’s a sign of just how severe PBOT’s revenue crunch is — and of the sacrifices the city has made in order to fulfil the $100 million commitments of former Mayor Sam Adams to the new Sellwood Bridge and Orange Line MAX, and also Mayor Charlie Hales’ $11.3-million promise to change PBOT’s image by paving — or in many cases, as it turned out, fog-sealing — 100 miles of city streets.

“The neighborhood greenways become the bus system for biking and walking. Our big commercial street projects are more akin to the light rail and streetcar projects.”
— Greg Raisman, PBOT traffic safety specialist

“With the launch of the bike plan, we had about about $1.3 million for bike stuff” each year, PBOT Active Transportation Manager Dan Bower said in an interview. “It wasn’t really a line item for neighborhood greenways, per se, but … because the implementation strategy was for greenways, it went to greenways.”

The strategy looked like this: low-cost neighborhood greenways would make biking more popular, and that popularity would then drive political support for a far more expensive protected bike lane network that would make biking the fastest and most comfortable way for Portlanders to make trips of 3 miles or less.

At $250,000 per mile — most of it going to new traffic signals that cross big streets — greenways are “a way to put a bunch of miles on the ground really quick and serve a lot of people,” Bower said. “It’s a great way to get more and more people out riding. it’s a base network.”

“In an American context, neighborhood greenways really make a lot of sense, because 70 percent of roads in America are residential,” Raisman said. “It’s like using the transit model for active transportation. The neighborhood greenways become the bus system for biking and walking. … Our big commercial street projects are more akin to the light rail and streetcar projects.”

The strategy seemed plausible. But it didn’t survive the city’s 2013 budget.

Source: Portland Bureau of Transportation.

As the city refocused PBOT’s priorities on shoring up a street maintenance backlog that the city’s auditor had warned was dangerously underfunded, its standing budget for biking and walking projects was halved, from about $2 million to about $1 million. Due to the size of that cut, Bower decided he had no choice but to eliminate all the “buckets” for new projects, including the biggest one: new greenways.

Bower said his department is trying to make the remaining million go as far as it can, including continued sidewalk work, new rapid-flash crossing beacons and local matches for federal grants, which are now the main funding source for new greenways.


“We’re using that million bucks to match the 20s Bikeway, the 50s Bikeway, the 100s, the 130s and the 150s — those are all funded in grants,” Bower said.

But Raisman and Bower said the city hasn’t steered every grant application toward greenways because, essentially, they’re hard to sell to grantors like Metro — not flashy and not perceived as transformative in the way a big project might be.

So what’s next for neighborhood greenways, and for the fate of the 2010 bike plan in general? Though the federally funded 20s, 50s, 100s, 130s and 150s greenways will keep rolling out until 2017, it’s not clear if or how PBOT will find the money to once again make greenways the focus of their effort to improve local biking.

The number of Portlanders using bikes for their commutes, seen as a useful indicator of bike transportation in general, leveled off in 2008 and hasn’t increased since. It’s not clear if or how that’s related to the city’s shift to prioritizing greenways, which are safer, more comfortable and more expensive than door-zone bike lanes but also tend to be less direct and may be less intuitive to new bikers.

Thursday was the third of three “town halls” at which Mayor Hales, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and PBOT Director Leah Treat heard from citizens about which projects should be included in the city’s new transportation spending package — a measure into which PBOT is piling more or less all of its hopes.

Platinum celebration at City Hall-62.jpg
Future neighborhood greenways team leaders Mark Lear,
left, and Greg Raisman, right, with former Bicycle
Transportation Alliance Director Scott Bricker in 2008.

You can register your own opinion about the city’s priorities by emailing the man running that campaign: Mark Lear, the co-creator of the neighborhood greenways concept, now reassigned to manage the revenue effort. He’s at mark.lear@portlandoregon.gov. The city also has an online survey that takes 10 minutes or so to complete.

Cathy Tuttle, executive director of Seattle Greenways, said in an interview Wednesday that Portland should be proud of its role in popularizing greenways, which she said aren’t so much a cheap way to build bikeways but a new way of thinking about what a city street can be.

“People love their parks, and we’re trying to get people to love their streets the same way,” Tuttle said. “Because they are just another big piece of canvas as far as I’m concerned.”

The real “missing piece” in Portland’s neighborhood greenway network, Tuttle said, is that its biggest advocates have come mostly from the city government, not from private citizens.

“It really does have to come from the community,” Tuttle said. “It can’t be something that comes from the government. Because once it does come from the government, people lose that sense of ownership. … To actually get that funding, we need to own them in that way.”

Fall leaves on SE Ankeny-6

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  • Oliver February 28, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I’ve noticed that many neighborhood greenways (specifically on the north side) feature concrete pavement that appears to be nearing the end of it’s useable life.

    Since they’ve been designated as NG’s, does that mean that they are dropped out of the normal resurfacing queue? (whatever that is, if such a thing exists)

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    • Greg Raisman February 28, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Oliver: The good news is that Neighborhood Greenways actually have a higher priority for maintenance. The segments you’re talking about are the most expensive to fix. So, as PBOT succeeds at securing more local funds, those expensive jobs become more possible. On a policy level though, the segments you’re most concerned about do have higher priority.

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      • AndyC of Linnton February 28, 2014 at 11:41 am

        That’s good to know. Here’s hoping that maintenance is forthcoming. Specifically with N.Bryant, I tried the route for a little bit. After a while I realised it was taking too long, and is uncomfortable because the roadway is in such detriment. I know it’s a slower neighborhood route, so I used it as not so much a fast route to where i needed to go, but a lower stress route with less traffic. It’s a great idea, and maybe I’ll use it again one day when it is complete.

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    • Buzz Aldrin February 28, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Well, they just finished repaving almost a mile of the SE Harrison Neighborhood Greenway from SE 26th to Ladd’s circle, which didn’t make a lot of sense to me because the pavement was already in pretty good shape and better than probably 90% of the rest of the NGs in the city.

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      • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:16 pm

        Harrison has not had the Neighborhood Greenway (NG) retrofits.

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        • Reza February 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm

          You say this, but there are a few NG elements on Lincoln-Harrison, like numerous speed humps, the semi-diverter at 20th and the full diverter at 39th. One thing I wish would happen here is a repaving to completely remove the traces of centerlines that you can still see on the pavement – back from the days when the street was a collector and a TriMet route.

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        • Stevie February 28, 2014 at 9:58 pm

          Harrison is a Neighborhood Greenway from 30th to Ladd’s circle.

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    • Bald One February 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      COP also recently completely repaved SE Gladstone from 26th Ave up for about 8 blocks – ripped up 4 inches of old blacktop and replaced with new – curb to curb. It was in perfectly good shape before the work (relative to the rest of the city roads), and so this was a surprise and still a mystery to me why it was done. Unfortunately, the very poorly designed traffic calming diverters in the middle of the street (tree circles) on this section were left intact and not modified. These are dangerous to cyclists and don’t actually slow traffic – the bike lane disappears as the travel lane goes around the tree island and cars don’t actually have to slow down – they can pass you at speed as they try to squeeze between the cyclist and the tree circle curb. They are not like the diverters on Ladd where the car actually has to slow down and can’t pass the biker in the process. And, the part of Gladstone that actually needs repair is from 26th to 24th – huge potholes and cracks – untouched. What a waste of money with no actual improvements.

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      • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:17 pm

        Gladstone resurfuacing is part of maintenance work. The bike lanes should be put back the way they were, which is all the way around the traffic circles.

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      • davemess February 28, 2014 at 4:27 pm

        I think the new pavement is definitely better. Though I agree that I don’t think it was totally needed (compared to other places).

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      • Charley February 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm

        Agree 100%. The lower section of the street looks like it’s about to fall completely apart, while the upper section looked fine. So. . . they repave the upper section???

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    • Martin Vandepas March 6, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Yeah NE Holman st between MLK and about 13th is difficult to ride due to all the cracks and potholes.

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  • Shane February 28, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Just to clarify- Portland might have coined a new term for it and taken it to another level but cities have been building quiet neighborhood streets that are good for biking for years. Some call them traffic calmed and some call them bike boulevards. Berkeley, Eugene, and several other cities calmed traffic on streets with diverters, bulb-outs, and speed humps then even highlighted them as “bike routes” back in the 70′s.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 28, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Definitely true, Shane. Thanks.

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    • Gezellig February 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      Hopefully Portland will also avoid the pitfalls of neglected/deferred maintenance as Berkeley has experienced with its Bike Boulevards over the decades. A lot of its crumbling “temporary” concrete barriers and faded paint lines appear to have been mostly untouched since installation in the 70s, though a few routes seem to have finally been improved recently.

      Good to read Greg Raisman’s comment about Portland’s Neighborhood Greenways receiving higher maintenance priority.

      Btw, just curious, assuming the funding comes up are there any plans to upgrade any of Portland’s Neighborhood Greenways to Bike Street standards? (prominent, continuous green bike striping and signage informing cars they are allowed as guests but that bikes have official priority).

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      • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        There are no planned advisory bike lanes at this time.

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        • Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm

          I never thought I’d beat you to a fact, paikikala, but I think I’ve got you here! There is one very small advisory bike lane project in the works. More news soon…

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    • Bald One February 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      And you have to love the new ped crossing bump outs on SE Clay from 11th – 99E. Not only did they leave the pavement surface in disrepair where they made the cuts in the biking areas, now your have no room to ride as cars try to pass on the left and pavement bump outs are on the right. This type of planning and design is really poor for a major bikeway like SE Clay. They completely removed the de facto bike lane from this heavily used cycling street – now we will have more conflicts between car and bike. Ped bumps could be halfway out in this area – would still be effective and not impact cycling so much.

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      • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:57 pm

        What’s a ped bump? curb extension? They only go up to 6 feet closer to the centerline – less than the 8 ft allocated for a parking space. Curb extensions decrease crossing distance for pedestrians. Clay is a BES project, and multi-modal does mean multi.

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        • Buzz Aldrin March 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

          Curb extensions suck. They are expensive hardscape that preserves curbside parking and create obstruction hazards for cyclists. Clay is a low-traffic street and there is no reason for them at all. If anything, they should be painted and not hardscaped.

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          • MaxD March 6, 2014 at 11:52 am

            Buzz,
            the curb extensions should not be creating obstructions for bicycles because they are only 6 feet into the 8 foot PARKING lane. Bikes should 3 or more feet outside of that (11-16 feet) off the curb in the TRAVEL lane. IF this curb extension is obstructing a bike, it is because the bike is in the wrong place.

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  • Evan Manvel February 28, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Great article – thanks.

    It angers me to no end that Portland scrapes by on $1 million a year for safe places for families to bike, while we’ve spent $180 million already on the polluting, non-functional CRC mega-highway – and some leaders are pushing to spend $4,000 million on it.

    Why can’t Portland have greenways? Because our elected officials are spending our money on other things.

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    • Todd Hudson February 28, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Portland didn’t spend $180 million on the CRC.

      If anything, the current situation is due to the illustrious Sam Adams, who left office with a $25 million budget hole.

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      • Evan Manvel February 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm

        My understanding is some of Portland’s bike boulevards were funded through federal funds, some through Metro funds, etc. And some of the CRC spending has been federal funds, some state funds.

        The overall point is we’re spending transportation funds on the wrong priorities. If our political leaders demanded ODOT fund actual safety projects, we’d have no problem finding the millions for neighborhood greenways — it might officially be state money, but applied to local projects.

        Many who look at the national and state priorities bemoan the dynamic and perverse incentives it sets up (“free federal money!”), and have called for the federal monies to devolve to the states, and some call for the state monies to be spent by localities.

        Focusing on $25 million in a landscape of billions (thousands of millions) is, in my mind, a distraction.

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  • spare_wheel February 28, 2014 at 11:41 am

    and then there is the de facto decommissioning of many bike boulevards. many of them still have the occasional fading circular bike symbol but the lack of updates has made them increasingly hard to detect or follow.

    http://www.dbarchitect.com/images/dynamic/article_slideshow_images/image//bike_blvd_portland_dinner_plate_symbol.jpg

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    • Nick Falbo February 28, 2014 at 11:52 am

      I thought those routes were all upgraded with shared lane markings. Are there old ‘dot’ routes that are being forgotten?

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      • Reza February 28, 2014 at 12:35 pm

        SE 34th is one…

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        • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:27 pm

          Sharrow are typically installed as part of upgrade to NG level. Most of the sharrows now in place were part of Federal ARRA funding as part of the recovery.

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          • Reza February 28, 2014 at 5:06 pm

            There are many bike boulevards with sharrows without being upgraded to NGs. All of the bike boulevards in NW, for example.

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      • spare_wheel February 28, 2014 at 12:37 pm

        Most routes with older bike plate signs have not been re-painted.

        example of bike plate on major bike route that was not sharrowed:
        http://goo.gl/maps/mqqon

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        • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:24 pm

          Portland’s aerial photos show sharrows – what section of the Tillamook bike boulevard?

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          • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:24 pm

            Clinton.

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            • spare_wheel March 1, 2014 at 11:22 am

              The image shows 33rd/34th.

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      • groovin101 February 28, 2014 at 2:16 pm

        NE Tillamook is another.

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        • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:24 pm

          Which segment – aerial photos show sharrows.

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  • Todd Hudson February 28, 2014 at 11:45 am

    This city’s finances are whack.

    Speaking of which, it’s almost time to pay the arts tax!

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    • Mossby Pomegranate March 1, 2014 at 7:50 am

      I’m not paying it! : )

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  • Chris I February 28, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Often overshadowed by the CRC debacle, the Sellwood Bridge project has seen little opposition from budget-hawks in Portland and in the region. They are spending about $200 million more than they need to to replace the aging Sellwood bridge. The westside interchange is over-designed, and the bike facilities are over-built. We do not need two 6 foot bike lanes on the desk and 12ft MUPs on each side. With the relatively low bike and pedestrian traffic (granted, it will increase once the crossing is improved), the 12ft MUPs on each side would be sufficient.

    If they had demolished the existing bridge in place, they could have built a replacement in 6-9 months. They wouldn’t have had to buy adjacent property and condemn housing, and if they had simplified the west side interchange, they could have done the whole thing for $100 million, saving PBOT millions.

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    • davemess February 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      6-9 months of NO access across the Sellwood, would have been a pretty hard pill for most in SE Portland to swallow.

      So we complain that cycling gets shortchanged all the time on new facilities, and with the Sellwood we get a truly Cadillac bike facility and people still complain, seems like the city can win (which we all already knew).

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    • Art Fuldodger February 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      chris, I don’t know but I’d speculate that the primary function of the 6′ bike lanes is having a breakdown lane on the bridge. So when someone stalls out the traffic can still move, slowly. Unless it’s a bus or truck.

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      • davemess February 28, 2014 at 3:06 pm

        Yes, but it also helps prevent the nightmare that has become the Hawthorne “MUP” from occurring. Separating out people who want to bike faster from pedestrians and others, is not a bad thing. Yes, it’s going to cost a bit more, but many believe it is worth it.

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  • Reza February 28, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Thank you for this article. Neighborhood greenways are deteriorating (both in pavement and service quality) throughout the city with little hope for reprieve. Clinton is example #1 of a bike boulevard that is broken.

    While that’s going on in the Eastside, there are still no true neighborhood greenways in Northwest. Flanders, Johnson, Marshall and Overton/Pettygrove all need improvements to make them as bike-friendly as the Eastside streets.

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    • rider February 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      It is really time to put diverters on Clinton to stop the through traffic. With all the construction on Division pushing cars to Clinton it has become an uncomfortable place to ride. No out at 39th and 21st would be ideal.

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    • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Glad you said bike boulevard because Clinton has not had a neighborhood greenway retrofit yet.
      Which NGs are broken?

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      • Reza February 28, 2014 at 5:12 pm

        Honestly, Clinton already has a few NG treatments such as speed humps for traffic calming and the diverters at 39th. It also has the “placemaking” features that Going has – sign toppers and other decorative elements. The line between mere bike boulevards and full neighborhood greenways isn’t black and white.

        Tillamook-Hancock also has diverters at 16th and 47th but is not a full NG. The section east of 33rd (on US Grant Place) has a lot of auto traffic and isn’t that comfortable of a facility either. Plus you have extremely skinny door zone bike lanes once you’re in Hollywood.

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      • MaxD March 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        Going to the RIver is broken! It is a great route that suffers from lack of diverters and a missed connection. The missed connection is between MLK and Interstate. I have tried to followed the tortured, inventive route PBOT came up with but I have never succeeded! Skidmore is a PAINFULLY obvious choice to connect from 7th to Interstate.

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  • don arambula February 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Neighborhood greenways are wonderful, however they do little to significantly increase bicycle mode split. It is not a mere coincidence that Portland’s bike ridership has not increased since the City has focused on their implementation. Rather than doubling down on more neighborhood greenways, the city needs to shift gears and build infrastructure that that will attract the ‘capable but cautious’- protected bikeways, end of story. To do this will require a integrated approach that links bike transportation and land use planning. Unless this occurs we will see meager gains in ridership and local business opposition to any meaningful bike concepts as recently demonstrated on 28th.

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    • spare_wheel February 28, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      i like the term “capable but cautious” to designate this demographic far more more than “interested but concerned”.

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    • Gezellig February 28, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Absolutely. Greenways/Bike Blvds. serve an important purpose, but they alone cannot be the only strategy. The decades-long experiment of Bike Blvds as main infrastructure strategy in places such as Berkeley has proven this.

      As I see it, the fundamental drawbacks of them as main strategy are:

      —> They’re not always the shortest route, especially in places like Portland and Berkeley where the quiet mostly residential streets they follow are primarily square gridded blocks whereas main arterials sometimes form diagonal routes (think Sandy) significantly decreasing some travel distances.

      —> They intentionally keep people away from busy commercial corridors, when these are actually often desirable destinations and even through-routes. This also surely has an impact on merchants’ sales.

      —> Because of their “tucked-away” nature, they’re often more or less unknown to many residents.

      This is also not mentioning the fact that in practice their signage, paint, infrastructure treatments are often lacking to the degree that cars still act as king.

      Even on well-sharrowed Bike Blvds I’ve definitely felt “stressed” with cars roaring behind you, aching to pass, giving nasty looks. Sure, I’m legally in the right, but it’s not pleasant. No wonder lots of the Interested But Concerned (or whatever you want to call that group) don’t tend to consider these as serious transportation options–to the extent they consider them at all.

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      • Daniel L February 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm

        Yep, one of the big issues I have with the reliance on greenways is that anyone who is not very familiar with the neighborhood will have no idea where the greenway is unless they carefully consult a bike map before heading out on their trip. Whereas they probably already know the arterials from driving/transit/walking in the area.

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        • Gezellig February 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm

          Exactly. They’re a cool and even fun “secret” for those in the know but by definition that’s not inviting huge jumps in modeshare.

          Another problem, btw, is the sheer frequency of stops in these areas as opposed to on arterials. Unless and until more states start getting Idaho-style stop laws this means you’re either faced with the choice of:

          1) technically breaking the law all the time by not fully stopping at stop signs (I–and I’m sure others here–have received a ticket for this even though no one else was around and it was a completely quiet residential street).

          or

          2) legally fully stopping at every. single. stop. sign. every. single. block. Which is of course a much bigger deal on a bike than a car, as anyone here surely knows.

          I think these kinds of things really discourage large numbers of people from considering them as actual transportation options.

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          • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm

            Have you actually used a Neighborhood Greenway? Or are you still confusing the old boulevards again? NGs have all the minor stop signs turned to favor the NG, unless there is a safety issue.

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            • Reza February 28, 2014 at 5:18 pm

              To do this, you also need an aggressive deployment of diverters, otherwise cut-through drivers realize that they turning the stop signs makes for a nice shortcut vs. using the nearby congested commercial corridor.

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              • Gezellig March 4, 2014 at 10:23 am

                Yes, exactly. My higher-level point was that from the perspective of residents casually interested in biking to get around these tucked-away routes tend to either have the problem of infrequent-enough stops + infrequent-enough diverters that cars can be tempted to treat them as thoroughfares or with more frequent stops the bike-stop problem.

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        • davemess February 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm

          But they are usually pretty easy to spot when you stumble upon them. The sharrows usually make it pretty obvious. If I’m going on a new route, I’ll usually continue on a greenway when I come upon the sharrows.

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      • Dan March 4, 2014 at 4:44 pm

        The greenways I’ve been on in Portland seem to be secondary to most of the streets they cross, and as a result have lots of stop signs, making them less pleasant to ride on than they could be.

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    • MaxD March 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Don,
      I think the City needs to focus on making the difficult connections in bike infrastructure. Many n’hood greenways are very pleasant to ride on, but include sketchy intersections, or lack connections. The same is true for the protected bikeways: many work fine, but they have gaps that the CIty if reticent to address because ____________(fill in blank with lame, politcal excuse)

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  • sean February 28, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    A passing car recently knocked off its side view mirror on my bike while I was riding on Michigan. Without clear sharrows and diverters, this street is worthless to ride on. We need divertors on Alberta and Killingsworth in order to call this a Greenway. I would trade all the speedbumps on going for just one diverter for Michigan. Here is the definition on the PBOT site.

    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/348902

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    • paikikala February 28, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      You get your wish then because PBOT installed a diverter at Rosa Parks.
      Alberta might be doable, like the one on 15th at Going, but Killingsworth is a non-starter. The local land use circulation needs are too great. Better to put something in a block or two off of K-worth.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    One thing that I don’t think we mentioned in the story is that PBOT’s vision for the N’hood Greenways program was that, by going into the n’hoods and attracting women and the 8-80 demographic to these low-stress facilities they would “build the constituency” needed to then push for protected bike lanes in commercial areas.

    I’m curious if people think that constituency has been activated by the greenways? 28th being a good example… Do you think people who started biking more thanks to n’hood greenways are making their voices heard and having an impact on the 28th discussion?

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    • Chris Anderson February 28, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      My family has been carfree in Portland for a year, and the greenways are our first choice for getting anywhere. Locations we can get to via low-stress routes get visited a lot more than closer places that are more stressful to visit. Eg I’d rather ride 8 miles to Oaks Park than 4 miles to Laurelhurst.

      But they do feel like a secret — it’s ridiculous that NE Killingsworth or Lombard are bright green on Google bike maps but Going, Klickitat etc are dotted. Maybe if PBOT can convince Google to map the greenways with thier own color that looks more inviting, awareness would rise.

      As great as Going is, some “cars are guests” signs might cut down on the occasional motorist intimidation.

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      • Chet March 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm

        I agree, the neighborhood routes are by far the best way to get around (for myself, as well, I wouldn’t want my small child to be competing with cars in the neighborhood as he gets older), and I wish more people utilized them. They do seem like a ‘secret’, with the Sunday Parkways events being a fantastic first step to introducing them to people who might otherwise feel that bike riding was unsafe. There is seemingly very little follow-through promotion of the bikeways as a tool aside from the various maps made available on the web, on paper, and my personal favorite, the waterproof handkerchief.

        I used to live on SE Stark near 30th and would watch from my kitchen during rush hour as bike after bike would get honked and flipped off at for justifiably swerving out into traffic to avoid parked cars on the narrow shoulder. I felt like I should post a sign that pointed out the nearly car free route just two blocks north — “You don’t have to live like this!” It’s like we have this incredible resource, this world-class alternate grid of bike access, in the ‘most bike friendly city in the US’ that only a portion of the population utilize. I understand that experienced riders should shave equal access to heavily traffic-ed streets but there are all the other riders that could benefit from the greenways and don’t belong on the major arteries making a dangerous situation worse for drivers and fellow cyclists.

        Unfortunately there were frequently accidents and close calls I witnessed on Stark, typically at night, and not always to fault of the drivers involved. If the bike riders I saw injured were not wearing helmets they could have been fatal.

        If the neighborhood bikeways were promoted correctly, as ’the best’ way to ride, I imagine it would help to increase funding for the greenways as more users would advocate for them. As well, cars might avoid bikeways as they would be jammed with bikers and not as fast as the current cut-throughs. Instead I see Portland planning pushing for bike lanes on Foster in my new neighborhood, which, is a good step for those who can handle it, however, not as safe or any faster than riding on a bikeway 1-2 blocks north or south. In my opinion it sends the wrong message.

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        • wsbob March 4, 2014 at 11:48 am

          “…bike after bike would get honked and flipped off at for justifiably swerving out into traffic to avoid parked cars on the narrow shoulder. …” Chet

          Swerving to avoid parked cars shouldn’t be necessary if people riding are looking ahead, to be prepared in advance with hand signals, to enter into traffic in the main lane. With less swerving on the part of people riding, there’d likely be less honking as well, from people driving that are startled by people on bikes swerving out in front of their motor vehicle.

          I haven’t personally ridden Portland’s east side bike boulevard’s and neighborhood greenways, but family relative, a woman, that lives over there, uses them regularly to commute to work. Says for her, they make a big difference in the commute to work being practical practical by bike. I haven’t asked, but I believe she would consider costs of bike boulevard’s and neighborhood greenways to be money well spent.

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      • Dan March 4, 2014 at 4:51 pm

        Google Map bike routes are updated by users. I’ve added tons of recommended cycling roads in Beaverton, based on my own experience.

        Incidentally, the solid green line means ‘bike path’ or ‘bike lane’. The dotted line means ‘bike friendly’, which is often times better.

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        • Dan March 4, 2014 at 5:00 pm

          Sorry, I may have misread. I think you were suggesting an entirely different color for greenways.

          I agree that the labeling of bike routes on Google Maps is not detailed enough. A bike lane on a 45mph street and the Banks-Vernonia trail are both given solid lines. They are NOT equitable.

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          • Chris Anderson March 4, 2014 at 5:18 pm

            Reading this post got me to try https://www.google.com/mapmaker — they list some of the Greenways as 25mph and anyone can correct it.

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    • Terry D March 2, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      We need to “Build Constituency for Greenways”

      C.O.P.I.N.G. with Bikes

      “Center of Portland Integrating Neighborhood Greenways with Bikes”

      https://www.facebook.com/COPINGWithBikes

      I spent over a year with a very small cadre of individuals working on building a Greenway Movement to create an interconnected system. The entire time it basically stayed a “One Man Operation.” We tried group rides, getting someone who can actually program, I commented wherever I could. We volunteered and advertised at Sunday Parkways, individuals SAID they would help…yet, on one wanted to take up the mantel with us.

      I still keep the maps and everything accessible to the public, but after a year of trying to organize, I gave up and joined the board of my Neighborhood Association.

      http://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/coping-with-bikes/maps.html

      North Tabor, where the 50′s is coming soon!

      Everyone said “Oh yes, great idea”…..but no one wanted to focus on it.

      In the three months since I have served as Transportation and Land use Co-Chair one of our accomplishments has been a comprehensive letter to the city planning department, unanimously approved by the board, which includes: half-mile greenway grid network, commuter buffered bike lanes on Burnside, MAX, School and Park greenway access in all directions. Admittedly we are a small neighborhood, but we are pushing the city to build a complete active transportation network as a prerequisite for future density.

      The NTNA will make sure, with SEUL support, that the northern end of the 60′s Greenway south of the gulch will get added to the TSP. The comprehensive letter has been very well received by other NA’s we presented it to and passed it around SEUL so other NA’s can replicate the concept This 60th street MAX to Tabor Northern Access is what we are pushing for which is NOT in the 2030 Bike Master Plan

      http://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/coping-with-bikes.h6m1cn2m/page.html#14/45.5088/-122.5917

      I got tired of trying to create a movement, so I worked to get imbedded in the system instead.

      If one person from each neighborhood replicated this, then the pressure would build to such an extent that funding will get prioritized again. Local activism is WHY the neighborhood Association system developed in the 1970′s We seem to have forgotten this.

      Terry D
      North Tabor Transportation and Land Use Co-chair

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    • Adron @ Transit Sleuth March 2, 2014 at 9:32 pm

      That’s a really good question. I see many people, but they’re often familiar faces pushing for improvements. So I’m not sure those that are using the NGs are coming out in force yet – for whatever reason. If they don’t think they need to or some other reason. I do get the feeling that there needs to be some actual organizing around these efforts to mobilize more of these people. One thing I do know, is that these people are there and do use the NGs, and more move here everyday.

      The key is getting them involved in the city & community actions to help push for more and better infrastructure. I get the notion a lot of transplants to Portland just feel what is here so far just magically appears.

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  • Dan Bower February 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Jonathan and Michael;
    Thanks for recognizing the issues here. Just to clarify a position earlier in the comments that you agreed to; we feel Neighborhood Greenways are indeed much more than traditional traffic calming projects as alluded to above. Also, PBOT’s “Vision” for Neighborhood Greenways extends well beyond simply growing bike mode share.

    Neighborhood Greenways can and should act as an organizing framework for community building, traffic calming, urban forestry initiatives and physical manifestations of Safe Routes to Schools. Neighborhood Greenways are intentionally multi-modal and often benefit the larger community through place making (Holman pocket park, for example).

    One can see this approach in action through how we manage crossing treatments, prioritize ADA ramp work, permit intersection repair projects, our partnership with Friends of Trees and our approach to maintaining low speeds and traffic volumes on these streets. It’s a great story and I think Ms. Tuttle correctly points out that it’s a story largely told by PBOT but not by the bike community. Join us!

    Dan Bower
    PBOT, Active Transportation

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks for the great notes, Dan.

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    • Ty March 3, 2014 at 9:56 am

      I am grateful for the efforts to make bicycling easier even if it is not the only goal of greenways. Thank you. Neighborhood greenways seem to me to be the best alternative in lieu of physical segregated bike paths, and this is what helped me to turn to cycling for commuting vs the auto.

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    • MaxD March 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      The Concord Greenway was originally built so cross traffic on Skidmore would have to stop. This worked great for bikes and the legions of kids walking to/from Beach school every day. Pissy NIMBY neighbors complained and got the stop sign switched to Concord so bikes and kids now take their chances in the crosswalk, and cars simply fly on by! Those speed bumps do nothing to impede luxury SUV’s! PBOT, at the time, said a 40-way stop was sought by many, but was vetoed because they have “compliance issues”! I would much prefer people slowing and rolling through a 4-way than pretending not to see the crosswalk full of kids and flying by.

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  • dwainedibbly February 28, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Comments:
    1. Let’s not forget that we’re getting a new bridge THAT WON”T CARRY CARS! That helps.

    2. Why isn’t Steve Novick doing more to get funding?

    3. When is the next mayoral election?

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  • q`Tzal February 28, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Level up spec to for neighborhood greenway to Woonerf as long as no one’s looking.

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  • Hart Noecker February 28, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    “…it’s not clear if or how PBOT will find the money to once again make greenways the focus of their effort to improve local biking.”

    Simple. Take the $80 Million dollars Charlie Hales wanted to give NIKE to build a parking garage and put it towards bike boulevards.

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  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin February 28, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    The Bike Boulevards / NG were one of the main things that sold us on moving to Portland out of any other city in the US. But it does seem like they are getting abused by a lot of cut through traffic now, which would prevent less experienced cyclists and especially children from using them.

    Signage is fairly cheap and the city could do a lot to keep cars of them with signs like “Local and Non-Motorized Traffic Only”.

    We, as individuals, can also help reclaim these sacred streets by taking the lane and encouraging other cyclists to do so as well when you see them riding in the door zone.

    I would like my kid to be able to confidently ride in the street without the fear of getting passed to closely by a car that should be driving on an adjacent arterial.

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  • Champs March 1, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Bicycle boulevards/neighborhood greenways/quiet street reserves are just about the only thing being done right in this city. It’s not always the pace I like, but it’s nice to be somewhere on the street where you don’t have to expect some jerk to breathe down your neck. That stuff works. The jury is still out on tracks and buffers.

    But why single out MAX and the Sellwood Bridge, when they’re projects that actually benefit active transportation? There are 10 or so bridge lanes for autos between the Hawthorne and (current) Sellwood Bridges, and one sketchy sidewalk. Streetcar, on the other hand, likes to grab bicycle wheels, injure riders, and impede bridge entrances. Then again, it’s slow enough to encourage just walking instead of wasting your time on a slow march down the line.

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  • Mossby Pomegranate March 1, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Many motorists are now using the bikeways as traffic short cuts. And the fact that many like to roll the stops crossing the bikeways makes them even more dangerous. No thanks I’ll take my chances in a gravel strewn bike lane.

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  • Kenny March 1, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    SE Harold St between 82nd and 52nd is a Safe Routes to School zone. There was some enhancements in the 90′s to calm excessive speeding. There was an option to add round abouts, sadly the committee rejected them. The speed bumps are wide apart, people speed less (I am sure) but now they often speed between these bumps that are far apart enough to allow it. I see it daily, cutting through Harold instead of Holgate or Woodstock, the streets are wide the bumps are low enough to even travel quickly over (I see that as often as speeding between them). Can we make this street into a proper Safe Routes Greenway? Add more and higher bumps? Add Sharrows or smaller bike lanes? A beacon crossing 52nd toward the park continuing on Harold?

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    • davemess March 2, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      Kenny, I agree that it would be nice to have more distinction and amenities on Harold. But have you had a lot of problems on the street? I ride it every single day and have had very few bad interactions. Traffic is usually pretty light, even during peak hours, and cars have given me a wide berth. The only issue I ever have is with leapfrogging buses.
      Granted I”m an experienced adult rider, and I might have a few more reservations with taking on a child down the street.
      I would support full greenway treatment, though I would also like to keep it with the minimal stop signs it has.

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  • Terry D March 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Nice Discussion, now let us implement it.

    http://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/coping-with-bikes.map-kd30zyrz/page.html#12/45.5046/-122.6211

    Find your neighborhood, go to your Neighborhood Association Meetings and get added to their Transportation and Land Use Committee’s. If there is not one, offer to start one.

    In our neighborhood, the outreach was all about safe crossings, sidewalk infill and bike safety. Work toward implementing your own greenway network using the 2030 Bike Plan as a starting point and “fill in the gaps” so all of your neighborhood schools and parks are connected and integrated with your neighbors. Go to neighborhood Transportation and NA meetings and learn their perspective, Then, once local consensus on routes is achieved mobilize to at a minimum get it added to the TSP.

    It is getting updated this year, so now is the time.

    Terry D
    North Tabor Transportation and Land Use Co-chair

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  • Baruch Atta March 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Just my two cents – AS A long time bikie – if it came down to a choice between streets and greenways – i prefer a meter on each side of a street dedicated to bikes – instead of a dedicated greenway for just bikes. I would rather ride on a safe street (with room for bikes out of the automobile traffic lane) rather than a path for just bikes. And I think the safe street option would be more economical.

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