BTA seeks ideas, inspiration in series of summer trips

Next week, two BTA staffers and one “super-intern” will head South on a reconaissance mission to California. Their top-secret mission is to observe and glean ideas from other innovative and bike-friendly cities.

First, they’ll visit Davis to “see what Platinum looks and feels like”. Then they’ll continue south down to Berkeley to check out their approach to bicycle boulevards. The BTA is in the midst of a campaign to learn about and implement bicycle boulevards here in Portland.

Jessica Roberts will be one of the staffers on the trip:

“Our goal is to come back with lots of photos and ideas, and learn from the people on the front lines about what works for bicycle boulevards and where the challenges lie. We will be meeting with the city bicycle planners from Davis and Berkeley, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s director Leah Shahum will be joining us on our tour in Berkeley. We may also go on a ride in SF, time permitting.”

This trip is just one of several summer trips the BTA has planned.

In the next few months they have trips planned to Eugene (currently a “Silver” level bike friendly community), and then to Seattle and British Columbia.

Like their big visit to Amsterdam last winter, these research trips keep BTA staff on the cutting edge of bicycle facility and transportation planning theories and practices.

Watch the BTA Blog for reports from the road.

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16 years ago

I have been to Davis, Palo Alto and lived in Berkeley and Chico, two other very bike-friendly towns. None of them hold a candle to Portland.

I did some work in Davis just last year and from all the hype I was expecting great things . . . but Davis is really only noteworthy when compared with other cities in the same state. Visit Davis when school is out and you will see what I mean. I think it is worth noting that most of the communities in the state that are somewhat bike-centric are also known as college/university/towns. It’s as much about broke college kids as it is about bike lanes.

Berkeley’s extensive use of barricades to keep residential streets quiet/safe for peds and bikes (which btw dates from the 70s and is hardly worth a visit to see) is not really much different that what’s already been done here in a few places.

Suffice to say that a trip to California, of all places, to study bike infrastructure and innovation may not reveal much that is new from a Portland standpoint. What is always most remarkable to me about California municipal bike improvements is what is almost always missing on them (in your average CA city, not Davis), namely bicycles. I suspect this is as much about the BTA’s strategic goal to increase their scope/influence to the national level as it does with bringing ideas home to P-town . . . yet another reason to support groups that have their eye a bit more on the local ball, IMHO.

Geoff G.
Geoff G.
16 years ago

Whoo! Davis! I lived there for 3 years, it was a freakin’ bike paradise. Lots of green spaces linked by neat curvy bike trails all over town. The fantastic weather and the small size of the town make it super bikey, that and the bikey-ness was designed in in the first place. The whole town is all of like five miles across, and when it rains for one day in the winter, it’s sunny for the next two to make up for it. Yo, BTA, enjoy Cally! And don’t forget to hit the ASPCA thrift store on 3rd, scored an Allez there once for $10. Man, I miss Davis. Cheers, Geoff

Jessica Roberts
16 years ago

Davis has a 20% bicycle mode split (percentage of trips made by bicycle), compared to Portland, which is 1-5% (depending on how & when you measure). So yeah, I think it’s worth meeting with them to see what strategies they’ve used to achieve that level of ridership. I also know they’re dealing with really tough new political challenges, and I expect we’ll be able to learn a lot from how they’re interpreting the cause of those struggles and how they plan to move forward (even for a city whose official city logo features a bike!).

Berkeley has been planning and building a network of bicycle boulevards for longer than any other American city, as far as I know, and they have a very complete and intentional network of them connecting many parts of the city.

We want to see how their approach differs from Portland’s (and from the more innovative vision we’re developing for Portland’s future bicycle boulevards), and learn from their mistakes and challenges.

I’m particularly interested in how their big on-street markings are working. Likewise, our impression is that they have been unwilling or unable to do significant auto diversion compared to Portland, and we suspect that they won’t function as well without it.

When we meet with Heath (Berkeley’s Roger Geller) we can talk about qualitative and quantitative data on how well these streets are working for bikes (crash data, bike usage, average auto speed, auto volume, if/how all of those have changed over time, etc.). We have some ideas about what criteria we believe will help us evaluate approaches to creating great streets for bikes, and we’ll have the oppportunity to discuss those with Heath.

Likewise, in anticipation of potential challenges, we want to find out how they ‘marketed’ these boulevards, especially in the early stages, to bicyclists and to residents, and what they did to gain public acceptance. We’ll want to know how their design and public opposition/demand has changed over time, and if they feel they’re able to create more innovative designs over time.

We have a lot more questions about design, planning, implementation, funding strategies, policy, etc., but this is just a sense of what we’ll be thinking and talking about on this trip.

We’d be very glad to hear your thoughts and questions in advance as well, so we can bring back a good report.

Jessica Roberts
Metro-Area Advocate
Bicycle Transportation Alliance