Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Not all neighborhoods feeling the bike love

Posted by on October 25th, 2005 at 9:11 am

If you ride around the Portland Metro area and the West hills out into Beaverton, you’ll notice a very wide range of bike-friendliness exists from one area to the next.

Inner Southeast has the most riders and bike facilities and infrastructure. At a recent session of the Transportation class I’m taking at PSU, a woman from Abernethy Elem. School said that so many kids/parents ride to school that they need to build a new bike rack! (Check out their crowded bike rack).

Southeast also has all the cool, experimental bike infrastructure and is home to the vast majority of the City’s bike advocates and activists (someone once told me that the last 3 heads of the BTA have lived in the same SE neighborhood!). However, as you head North and West to neighborhoods like Kenton, St. Johns, and Beaverton you see not only a lot less bikers, but also less bike infrastructure and attention given to existing facilities.

Judging from what I’ve heard, there is a growing feeling that some areas are definitely not feeling the love. A friend of mine from Hillsboro recently said, “if Portland is a bike oasis, Hillsboro is the desert!”. I also heard some emotional discussion about the lack of maintenance and facilities in North Portland during the Bike Safety Workshop I attended. Then, there was this comment to a recent post on this site:

“I doubt the west side would qualify for gold status any time soon. It’s too risky for bicyclists and too few people ride. There’s a lot the City could do, but so far they haven’t shown much interest. The focus historically has been on the east side. Granted there are more people on the east side and it’s easier to ride there, but the west side has still been neglected.

I don’t see any reason the west side shouldn’t be held to the same standards as the east side. There are other cities that have high rates of bicycle riding that have hills (in the US and Europe). The question is whether the City will decide to put more resources into making the west side a safe place to ride.”

I wonder what accounts for this discrepancy? I think it’s a mix of factors. The “squeaky wheel gets the grease” idea I’m sure plays a role. When the City sees an active bike community (like in SE) that shows up to meetings, bike events, makes phone calls and writes letters they of course will allocate more money and energy into that area.

But what if it’s a chicken/egg situation? If more facilities and attention were spread further out, would that help create more of a bike community? Or, does the community have to squeak before they get greased?

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  • Andy October 25, 2005 at 10:11 am

    Topography makes a big difference. There are fewer arterials so you get a lot of traffic on the same streets that (could) make good bike paths.

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  • Cate October 25, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    My questions for the City of Portland’s Office of Transportation:

    –How many bike boulevards are on the west side?
    –How many bike route pavement markers are on the west side (excluding downtown)?
    –How many green Bike Route signs are on the west side (excluding downtown)?
    –How many free neighborhood bicycling maps are available for the west side?
    –How many people working on bicycling issues live and ride on the west side (excluding downtown)?
    –Does the City rate streets for bicycling safety? For the most part, streets on the east side are safer for bicyclists than the west side.
    –How many miles of streets on the west side have no sidewalks, curbs, shoulders, or bike lanes?
    –Why aren’t streets without sidewalks, curbs, shoulders or bike lanes paved wide enough that bike lanes/shoulders would be added? Most of those streets have rights-of-way on each side that would provide plenty of space.
    –At what point will you challenge yourself to think beyond easy bicycling facilities on the east side?
    –At what point will increasing the relatively low number of bicyclists on the west side be a priority?

    Next time someone starts advocating that Portland should seek Platinum status, I’m going to point out the reality of bicycling on the west side. When I see the City making the same effort to support bicycling on the west side as they do on the east side, then I’ll be happy to consider that the city deserves Platinum status.

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  • John October 25, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    Beaverton is trying hard to improve bike facilities. The city has an active Bike Advisory Committee that has had some successes.
    Washington County is another story. Several years ago the WashcoBTA tried to get the county to approve a bicycle advisory committee similar to those in many other counties in the state. They refused using the rationale that concerned bicyclists could participate in any particular project without the overhead of a central committee. The result has been their patchwork and spotty implementation of state rules.

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  • Bill Nothstine October 25, 2005 at 10:08 pm

    I live in Beaverton and–maybe because I’ve only been a bicyclist in Oregon for a few years so I don’t have the same frame of reference as some of you–I’m amazed at the prevalence of bike lanes out here. I think that’s partly because of all the growth and development heading west in the last few years, which means more [re-]built roads.

    Of course, new developments mean new roads, but also new resident/drivers who don’t necessarily understand who they’re supposed to be sharing the road with. Getting from my house to the closest MAX station, up Lombard and across both Hwy 8 and Hwy 10, can be a hair curling experience.

    And bike racks are hard to find. Even the Beaverton 24-Hour Fitness was a little surprised when I pointed out they didn’t have bike racks! [Good lord–and they sponsor Lance Armstrong!]

    I haven’t done enough riding in SE to know what to make of the situation there.

    But anything that moves the process forward is good. Count me in.


    p.s. Hey, shout out to John from the Bike Advisory Committee–can we get together and talk sometime? My contact information is here:

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  • Dave October 25, 2005 at 10:53 pm

    I also have ridden on the west side (Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro) for many years. For most commutes I would say there are generally good routes with bike lanes, low-traffic roads, etc. However, almost every route has a few places where the bike lanes end for 1/4 mile. This is due to old farm-to-market roads being improved only next to new developments. Not a big deal for a confident rider, but I have heard people say they can’t bike to work because of one or two sections like that.

    You also need to realize that once you get outside of the downtown and “inner Portland” areas there are a lot more miles of streets that need to be improved.

    Personally my pet peeve in Hillsboro are roads like Cornell. Bike lanes, 4 traffic lanes, and a center turn lane. Posted at 45, many (most?) people driving 55. Not too bad for cycling on (although not a great esthetic experience), but try crossing Cornell as a cyclist, or heaven forbit, a pedestrian.

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  • Dave October 25, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    And don’t get me started on the lack of a Washington County (or Hillsboro or Tigard) Bicycle Advisory Committee. All of these jurisdictions have wasted tons of money on poorly designed, inconsistent, and unneeded bicycle facilities, while failing to address key issues. Much of this could have been prevented if they had input from actual cyclists.

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  • Bryan October 26, 2005 at 10:30 pm

    Many thanks to John for noting the successes of Beaverton and the Bike Advisory Committee in trying to make the west side better for cyclists. Recently, Beaverton was recertified by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community; though this hardly means that the area is completely top notch for the pedal-powered community, it does show that we are making strides and that all the hard work by the city and its people hasn’t gone unnoticed.

    Perhaps this would be the best discussion chain to advertise the next Beaverton Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting. It’ll be on Nov. 1 at 6pm, in the 3rd floor conference room of the Beaverton City Hall.

    These meetings are open to the public and we’d love to see and hear from you. Having fellow west-side bikers there grants the committee the chance to take in the concerns and suggestions from the local community, and allows us to pass your thoughts on to the higher-ups in the city government.

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  • Cate October 27, 2005 at 3:07 pm

    Update: The City has released an updated version of the SW Walking Map and it now includes bicycle routes. The map previously cost $5, but it is now free. Bravo!

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  • Jeff S. October 28, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    And, if you want a copy of said SW walk & bike map, you need only to leave your name & address and one will be delivered to your door by a uniformed employee of the federal government.

    call: 503.823.CYCL, press 2 for “maps & info”
    email: jeff.smith@pdxtrans.org

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