Should bike boulevards be car-free?

Bicycle boulevards — which are adored by both PDOT and the BTA — are a major buzzword among bicycle transportation gurus nationwide.

First, let’s be clear on what they are. In Portland, bike boulevards are easily bike-able routes, marked by improved intersection crossings, wayfinding signage, traffic calming features and those little white circles on the pavement.

“The City of Portland needs to do the logical thing and ban motor vehicle traffic from bike boulevards.”

On their bike boulevard page, the BTA writes, “In talking to nearly 1,000 cyclists as part of our Blueprint for Better Biking study, we heard loud and clear that the number one concern of current and potential cyclists is biking around cars.”

I agree, bike Boulevards are great. They’re pleasurable and fast to ride on, they make navigating major intersections much easier, and you’re nearly always in the company of other cyclists.

They aren’t perfect though. Not yet.

[The promise of bike boulevards.]

The roads are often poorly maintained (it’s been proposed that bicycle boulevards be given maintenance priority over other neighborhood streets), the connections are not always seamless, and special bicycle crosswalk buttons, such as the new one at E 41st and Burnside, are sometimes accessible only after braving a pedal-deep puddle of moldy leaves.

Most problematic of all, car traffic can be heavier, and faster, than billed.

bike blvd. markings - NE 37th & Holman

[Bike boulevard markings]

One of the complaints about bicycle boulevards, like SE Clinton and SE Salmon, is that traffic speed increases when you “turn” stop signs away from a street. As soon as drivers catch on, the low-traffic street becomes less so, even with devices that prevent cars from turning onto the boulevards from major streets, such as at SE 39th and Clinton.

The City of Portland needs to do the logical thing and ban motor vehicle traffic from bike boulevards.

It would be ideal to ban all car-traffic, and this option should be offered to each block on bicycle boulevards (and elsewhere, for that matter). But we’re not there yet. Neighbors need access to their driveways, partygoers to their dinner parties, kids and workers to their carpools, kind old Mrs. G. to her TriMet Lift van.

“With a broader canvas, human-powered traffic can better learn to share the road.”

Some new infrastructure is needed to allow people car access to their houses, while eliminating through-traffic on bike boulevards. I suggest raised medians with bumps down the center of every cross-street — such as the one on SE 20th where it crosses Ankeny.

BTA Bike Boulevard Ride

These raised concrete bars sport reflectors, and have gaps cut into them for cyclists to pass through. These would prevent people from wanting to drive for more than one block down one of these streets, and would slow traffic on cross-streets as an added benefit. These can’t be expensive — and must be more effective than curb extensions, traffic circles, and the like.

These boulevards could also help us place a priority on pedestrians, and help us find ways to improve the engineering and culture of cyclist-pedestrian interactions. It’s unfair to squeeze people on foot and on bicycle into the narrowest margins at the edge of the public right-of-way, where we can only blame each other for being in each others’ way.

With a broader canvas, human-powered traffic can better learn to share the road.

Eugene, Berkeley, Palo Alto, Vancouver BC, and other bicycle-friendly cities have bike boulevard programs. We have a chance here to outshine them and set an example for the rest of the country — and the world. If nothing else, car-free boulevards in Portland will make low-car-traffic bike boulevards seem less radical.

Someday, car-free streets will be the norm. Now is the time to start setting the platinum standard.

Photo of author

Elly Blue (Columnist)

Elly Blue has been writing about bicycling and carfree issues for BikePortland.org since 2006. Find her at http://takingthelane.com

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ben
ben
17 years ago

“the connections are not always seamless, and special bicycle crosswalk buttons, such as the new one at E 41st and Burnside, are sometimes accessible only after braving a pedal-deep puddle of moldy leaves.”

THANK YOU!

adam
adam
17 years ago

great article.

I was biking in berkeley today and the boulevards are nice – but, not as good as the vision you have put forward.

maybe next time we should use some curse words?!?

Dabby
Dabby
17 years ago

I do not think any more effort should be put into seperating cars and bikes on city streets. It only leads to problems and animosity.
We should all learn to ride on the same road. This is how it should be.
This is how it is in other countries.
It works.
Why do so many cyclists have a “Seperation Syndrome”?
Go ride the esplanade.
Or ride in traffic.

Dabby
Dabby
17 years ago

Good article by the way…

Ethan
Ethan
17 years ago

Bike boulevards are a no-brainer. If they are on largely residential streets, it should be a win win. While I admit that hundreds of bikes traveling by my house would not be without problems (they could hit a kid too after all) the overall effect on safety and noise would be a large net improvement.

Dave
Dave
17 years ago

I’ve never had significant problems riding on clinton. Occasionally cars run stop signs from cross streets, but closing a boulevard to cars wouldn’t exactly discourage that behavior…

Besides, people have to learn to ride with traffic eventually, and what better place than the boulevards?

Aaron B. Hockley
17 years ago

So… “Share the road” isn’t realistic, eh?

Jeff
17 years ago

How about this… divide the road surface into two lanes: one lane for one-way motor traffic, and one lane for two-way bicycle traffic?

The only problem I see with this idea is that it will make parking very difficult. But, so does the idea of making bike boulevards “car free”.

clinton rider
clinton rider
17 years ago

Car-free bike boulevards is a nice idea, but not without significant costs, emergency access issues and other problems.

It seems to me that the problem is that while the City’s invested in bike-friendly improvements on streets like Clinton and Lincoln, they do a poor job of managing traffic on streets that should be more “motor vehicle friendly,” e.g. streets like Powell, Hawthorne and Division. They let buses stop in the lanes. Add to that more businesses on Division, and cars will find the path of less resistance.

The signal at 39th/Division often backs up to the signal at 34th. What person (bike, bus or car) wouldn’t cut over to Clinton? Same problems on 39th versus 42nd (south of Powell).

bjorn
bjorn
17 years ago

Making the boulevards (especially skidmore)nice and smooth instead of full of potholes is something I’d like to see more of. The streets also tend to be very poorly lit, resulting in less visiblity. I think cross traffic at intersections where there are no stop signs and poor visiblility due to hedges, trees or parked cars cause more of the negative car/bike interactions on the boulevards than cars which are traveling the same way as the cyclist.

We could also reduce the use of these streets as throughfares by dropping the speed limit to 20mph. I wouldn’t want to see 15, then we’d see bikes getting tickets for riding too fast.

bjorn

VR
VR
17 years ago

“The roads are often poorly maintained (it’s been proposed that bicycle boulevards be given maintenance priority over other neighborhood streets), the connections are not always seamless, and special bicycle crosswalk buttons, such as the new one at E 41st and Burnside, are sometimes accessible only after braving a pedal-deep puddle of moldy leaves.”

Oh come on. This is the fastest way to make people hate bicyclists.

Why not get rid of the Trees, then there would be no piles of leaves? Or why not get rid of all the other people? Then the roads would be clear for the bikes…

This is the most rediculus thing ever.

I support bikes. I ride. But we Bicyclists need to understand that we are the minority. Dream worlds don’t help anyone solve real problems.

I find that the more the bike community relies on things like this that annoy car drivers, the more car drivers hate bike riders and the more car drivers cut a little too close, or don’t yeild, or aggressively block bicycles.

Making things bike friendly is one thing. But telling the general public that you want to use tax dollars to make some roads bike-only is simply suicide…

You think all the tax paying car drivers like potholes? You think they like piles of weeds so high they can’t park on the curb or slide out when trying to go at intersections? You think they like having to take a 3 mile detour because of one annoyingly placed bike boulevard?

Use common sense here people. You are trying to get more people to LIKE bikes, not OPPOSE them.

I think that traffic calming devices, better signalling, improved signage, and maybe less parking at intersections (impedes visibility) are about as far as should be gone in Bike boulevards. Other things are just pricey and annoying to the general public.

I also ride motorcycles and I think that every time a motorcycle weaves through traffic or has loud exhausts – that it makes one more enemy of the two wheelers, an enemy who steers a two ton steel cage and votes on spending measures…

no one in particular
no one in particular
17 years ago

I use two bike boulevards quite often (Ankeny and Salmon) and really see no problem with them. I don’t think we really need all these extra steps just to keep a few more cars off. I think the prospect of being stuck behind a bicycle (since most people tend to ride in the middle of the street) is enough to dissuate most poeple.

In particular, I don’t mind the bikes-only median on 20th & Ankeny, but it would get extremely annoying if I had to dodge that every single block. Ew.

SKIDmark
SKIDmark
17 years ago

I think some of the shopping areas, most notably Hawthorne and Alberta, would benefit from being bike and pedestrian only, where there is a concentration of foot traffic, bikes, and retail shops.

I don’t think of us as a minority, when you combine us with pedestrians. People like to drive around and find that perfect parking space but the reality is that until they have a drive thru Fred Meyer you will have to at some point get out of your car and walk.

I think it could really work if in addition to the bike boulevard an auto parking structure was built maybe with a green space on top of it. I also think if you want to increase bike use there needs to be more bike racks, everywhere.

I parked my motorcycle 4 years ago, one of the reasons being that you are not allowed to lane split (or lane share). It takes away one of the biggest advantages of a motorcycle, its ability to go to the front of the intersection when the light is red. If some Far East cities you are required to this. Even the tiniest motorcycle can get out of an intersection faster than a car. As far as the loud exhaust issue goes, have you been passed up by a lowered Honda with a “fart can”?

Aaron
Aaron
17 years ago

Elly;
I appreciate this article. It is well written and I respect your opinion. I think that in some areas this would be useful, but I don’t support a barrier every couple of blocks. This would add up in cost and (as many responses reflect) would increase animosity from drivers. Given the huge amount of overflow traffic that I see on Clinton (it probably exists on Salmon and Lincoln) the best places to have these devices would be one or two between 12th and 21st aves. This would discourage drivers from using neighborhood streets as arterial feeders onto 11th/12th aves and choking them full of traffic.
Regarding Clinton rider who is more likely ‘Clinton Driver’ I can say that I’ve spoken to traffic engineers about bus stops which are out of the lane (a design that I’ve always suppported) and was told that as soon as a bus pulls out of a lane for a stop, the bus has long delays getting back into traffic because nobody wants to let them in. I understand this because it’s what causes me to take a lane on arterials, otherwise I get squeezed out. The goal of increasing the bikability of Portland is to reduce traffic. For those who don’t like traffic, think of what the rush hours would be like with 50,000 more cars crossing into downtown every day.

ben
ben
17 years ago

VR – do you ever ride through the NE 41st & burnside area? many of the streets out there are one big mucky stew/soup this time of year….and WAY easier to take a spill on. all Elly is suggesting is these streets get the same attention as some of the others when it comes to simple street cleaning…etc…
i don’t think thats a ridiculous request. especially considering the influx of number of riders that regularly use that crossing now.

i’ve noticed those wires on the ground just north of the intersection that measure frequency of traffic. does anyone know if they are measuring the recent increase in bike traffic?

Elly
Elly
17 years ago

We have thousands of miles of streets in Portland, many of them car-only (eg, the Freeway). A few miles, heck, even a few hundred miles, of dedicated bicycle streets would slow nobody down.

VR, one of the complaints I hear most about bicyclists is that they are sharing the road with cars, and that they ought to have their own places where they won’t be “in the way.” I guess you can’t please everyone.

As far as sharing the road goes — I love riding with traffic, but this is mostly for the adrenaline factor and the challenge. It’s a big intimidation factor for new riders, as the BTA study found. If we didn’t have to dodge cars for part of our daily commutes, well, I doubt anyone would complain about having a more mellow ride.

Bike boulevards are already among the best places to ride — by comparison with other options. If you compare them with an ideal street for bikes, though, they’ve got room for improvement. And they are the easiest streets to start with when we’re trying to figure out what the future will look like.

Actually, I don’t really get what’s controversial about converting some of these streets into car-free boulevards. If well-designed to accomodate cross-traffic, walkers, and emergency vehicles — and I can’t pretend to know the best way to do that — they would hurt nobody, slow nobody down, and be a considerable asset to bicyclists and the people living on those streets. They would be low-cost to design, and would more than pay for themselves over the years as wear-and-tear from bike traffic is minimal.

Seriously, what would be the harm?

Darrin
Darrin
17 years ago

One point that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the revenue generated by vehicle registration and gas purchases. Governments do not produce products for sell, they feed off of tax dollars (way too many), expecting them (to a broad extent) to set aside city streets for bikes only, is giving politicians far too much credit. Look how far our government will go to protect its oil interests, do you think they want to reduce the amount of gas (gas tax!$!) we buy. It is p.c. these days to promote alternative transportation but, how far are our “leaders” really willing to go for a form that doesn’t generate tax revenue? We can argue the lower cost of health care, although I doubt it adds up (in their minds anyway). If any of these guys/gals cared enough, we would have car free areas, more promotion (at a government level) of bicycles for commuting, electric cars at a realistic level and price, less urban sprawl and so on and so on. We are a still a car nation. The word is growing though, and we, as cyclists, are starting to be heard (in some places) but, we as a nation, still want our big cars and our government still wants its gas taxes.

Before anyone responds with full blame to our current administation, just remember it was Jimmy Carter’s “Carter Doctrine” that placed “protecting or country’s oil interests” into the white house’s “tool box of war reasons”.

lianagan
lianagan
17 years ago

Bike boulevards should at least be leafy-mess-free. I was one who had a chilly surprise just after dark on Saturday, November 4th after a day of downpour when I ploughed into the lake at the bike crossing button on the south side of Burnside at 41st and found my left leg suddenly plunged into two feet of water hidden under a pile of leaves. Residents of bike boulevards should be required to be responsible for the disposal of their own leaves and bag them instead of dumping them into the street. While skidding around in and out of wet piles of leaves may be fun for some cyclists it is also a real safety hazard.

Jeff
17 years ago

lianagan wrote:

Residents of bike boulevards should be required to be responsible for the disposal of their own leaves and bag them instead of dumping them into the street.

Leaves can fall on lawns AND streets, you know. It’s not the leaves that fall onto lawns that are the problem; it’s the leaves that fall onto the streets and that get pushed into the gutter that are the problem.

encephalopath
encephalopath
17 years ago

Elly,

You’re a trouble-maker…

I love you.

Pengo
Pengo
17 years ago

Oh! I know! TUNNELS! Hundreds of miles of underground tunnels. Like a SUBWAY but for BIKES! How friggin’ ideal would that be?

Seriously though, I agree with Dabby about the “separation syndrome” (“Whose streets? Our streets!”) that I’ve been seeing in a lot of cyclists. There are miles and miles of car free paths and truly low traffic streets, enough so that nervous riders can go out and build confidence before getting on the road with cars.

And how long do you think it would be before some organized angry citizen’s group would try to pass a regulation restricting bike traffic on all but these hypothetical boulevards? If cyclists did go ahead and invent a situation where they had a wider network of places to go where they weren’t “in the way”, (especially if it involves shutting existing roads to car traffic) then why shouldn’t they stay there, right? I love riding with cars, and this idea seems designed to raise pretty much everybody’s hackles. I can already feel the extra animosity directed at me as a cyclist if this sort of thing ever happened.

And hey, just because I disagree with this doesn’t mean I own a fleet of SUV’s. My only cars are my bikes, and I think that this is an amazing city for cycling…I’m just always surprised when other cyclists think that we as a group deserve to be catered to to nearly absurd extremes (see also the “police to end free bike-light program” thread of comments).

Oh…and one last thing. Elly; when you ask who this would harm, you already answered that question in acknowledging that emergency vehicles would be extremely difficult to accomodate in this situation. Hovercraft ambulances maybe?

mykle
mykle
17 years ago

here’s one way that bike boulevards could be sold as a positive to car drivers: combine bike traffic and bus traffic on one boulevard. (separate lanes, of course.) create alternative-transit corridors parallel to car corridors. it’ll reduce traffic on car streets due to buses stopping and going in congestion. and it’ll increase the speed of buses and bikes, as they get a car-free street. it’d also create an excellent new class of public space, and probably drive up property values …

the concrete barriers every block wouldn’t work ‘cuz they block buses, but you could acheive mostly the same effect with signage, paint and a bit of enforcement.

Coyote
Coyote
17 years ago

How are the leaves to be removed, if the city cannot drive a street sweeper down the street?

adam
adam
17 years ago

Pengo, you do not make much sense.

emergency vehicles? elly is not saying that we should rip up all roads. in fact, her solution is much more elegant than the expensive and pointless speed humps which the master planners put in…

Every city constituent deserves to be “catered to”. I think that is the basis for a representative democracy, right?

Cyclists do not deserve tickets for riding a certain kind of bike. They do not deserve to be tackled off of their bikes. They do not deserve tickets because they forgot their suit and tie in court.

enjoy riding in the rain, in the dark, among all of the cars, Pengo – just don’t get in the way of our boulevards.

Of course, I would offer to debate you on your silly arguments, but I know what people like you do. Run and lurk.

Michael
Michael
17 years ago

Sign:
————–
Bicycle
Boulevard

Bicycles Have
Right of Way

Speed Limit
20 MPH
————–

I have no problem sharing the road with traffic if the motorist are willing to share, too. A legally binding reminder every couple blocks would help educate those who don’t know or understand.

Michael
Michael
17 years ago

Regarding my last post, this is meant to be applicable to streets like SE Clinton where the usage as a bike boulevard is already fairly well established. Or, on other new routes that use similarly used through routes. I have no pressing interest in turning Division, Powell Blvd or any other motor thoroughfare into a bike boulevard. This may come about someday, but for now a separation of motor and cycle traffic is safer and saner for both modes.

Lyle Vallie
Lyle Vallie
17 years ago

I do the majority of my 15km commute on Vancouver’s Bike routes.

The majority of them have small roundabouts every intersection, and the ones that don’t have speed tables (humps) every 100m.

These traffic calming measures work well to keep the majority of auto traffic on the arterials. But the drivers who choose to drive the bike routes as a ‘shortcut’ will NOT be slowed down by a bump or chicane.

Daily I deal with people cutting the wrong way around a roundabout, or passing dangerously just to slam on the brakes before a speed table.

I’m not sure if more calming measures, or better education is the answer.

Whenever possible I try to ‘coach’ the motorists into waiting for a safe spot to pass, through use of lane positioning, and hand signals.

Either way, Your article has me intruiged.
Can someone provide a picture of these raised, bumped medians like the one at SE 20th and Ankeny?

Brad
Brad
17 years ago

Let’s be careful what we wish for in terms of bike only infrastructure. While sympathetic, it is ultimately a political decision and that could lead to “compromises” we don’t want like bike operator licenses(tax), license tags hanging from our bikes(tax), mandatory lighting systems (cost and weight), stepped up law enforcement targeting bikes doing “unsafe” things on shared roads, and other taxes similar to what car drivers pay (like a tire tax, tube tax?).

It would not surprise me if some local legislator also offered a “YES” vote for the “bike bill” if he could attach a rider banning fixies without hand brakes and requiring full stops at all times. (Because his political friends at the police station wanted that.)

I do not advocate being passive but we should realize that improvements such as this come with costs and unintended consequences.

BLDZR
17 years ago

While well written, and addressing a potentially helpful proposition (if, like all things, viewed in a practical and realistic way), I think that this piece and the accompanying comments are some of the most myopic things I’ve ever read. Really, people. The world, and the city of Portland, is bigger than your under-developed comfort level with automobile traffic. Any urban cyclist should be prepared to ride ALONG WITH AUTOMOBILE TRAFFIC. If you aren’t confident enough to share the road with the potentially absent-minded or occasionally malicious driver, then you should ride exclusively on bike paths, or walk. It is not the responsibility of city government to make sure you are comfortable at all times. It has bigger fish to fry.

I could understand an argument to make certain pedestrian-and-cyclist-heavy streets closed to automobiles on, say, Sundays only, but to have streets like this closed everyday would be a serious burden for local businesses, as well as the residents on those streets. Delivery companies already have restrictions on how, where, and when they can do their job. And your sense of entitlement is simply less important than these driver’s need to earn a living.

It’s an argument I’ve gotten in time and again. You have the right to get where you want to, by the means you want to (within reason). But you just don’t have the right to “not be bothered” by others. Not in the city.

Lenny Anderson
17 years ago

First off, Portland has few, if any “Bike Boulevards”…calling a beat up old Schwinn a “racing bike” doesn’t make it so. We have Bikeways, but they are poorly signed and not particularly well marked, especially for motorists. Many provide little at crossings of major arterials; Burnside & 41st is the exception, not the rule. They are covered with leaves and get no special attention from Bureau of Maintenance.
But banning cars is not the answer, rather we must make clear through signage and design that these streets are different and motorist must defer to bicyclists, skateboarders, joggers, etc. And really the best way to make a bikeway a Bikeway is for there to be lots of bicyclists riding down the middle of the street like we own it.

Doug
Doug
17 years ago

As a 5-day-a-week bike commuter I say it’s dangerous to make any roads bike-only. Think about how much less sympathy bicyclists will get when biking in the road if we have “special roads” for bicycles?

I think when bike lanes exists drivers expect bicyclists to be in them, and if bike-only roads exist it’ll be the same. Frankly, “I share the road” sounds a lot more hollow when we’re pushing to remove car traffic from certain routes.

Bill Larson
Bill Larson
17 years ago

BLDZR,
Youre basically saying that cyclists shouldnt expect any rights or consideration from local governments because we are too small and they are too large. That because cars have taken over our land and streets, they should continue to exist there without consideration to anyone else. That the roads shouldnt be taken away from drivers because they have more important things to do than the cyclists. If Im correct, bicycles are used for many of the exact same things automobiles are, but are better for our environment, better for our short-term health and less dangerous to the community on MANY levels. So, why dont we start weighing the costs and benifits of both modes of transportation and see which one is more sustainable to our continued existence and start giving them more consideration? Its not like cyclists are asking for the world, we are looking for some consideration to help get us away from “the potentially absent-minded or occasionally malicious driver”, as you put it. We are asking to be given “some” of the same considerations drivers have been offered since the beginning of time. Driving is not a right, its a privelege and to say roads and preference belong to autos is assuming something that was never intended. As has been said many times, roads were originally designed for bicycles. Since then bicycles have been pushed aside for the sake of “progress” and also because cars have made it dangerous for bikes to operate on streets like they once did. Its time to make some real “progress” and go back to where all citizens had a priority, not just those that operated something so potentially and historically dangerous they hampered the efforts of others.
We are citizens of this city whether we are cyclists, drivers, rollerskaters, whatever… As Adam wrote above, “Every city constituent deserves to be catered to. I think that is the basis for a representative democracy, right?” This city may be big with many things to weigh, but we as cyclists arent an insignificant eyesore that deserves no consideration, nor will we go away!
I do agree that cyclists will always have to share the road with automobiles for the most part. Im not against this either. I think cyclists DO need to expand their comfort level of driving next to cars, however, its hard to do that when bikes dont seem to be on the minds of drivers. So, if nothing else, I think there needs to be some “real” education to the public and a re-introduction to the idea that driving a vehicle is NOT a right and that each driver needs to take more care, more time, less anger and more consideration of things around them and the law every time they step behind that wheel. If they arent willing to do this, then they shouldnt be stepping in that vehicle. A car becomes a weapon under the wrong intentions. Its been proven too many times that there needs to be a bigger barrier to getting a license. There also needs to be bigger consequences when drivers muck up because the devastation of their mistakes is often great.
Too many cyclist are getting hurt these days and education on behalf of drivers and cyclists will go a long way. Steps to help make drivers more aware are needed! Steps to help cyclists follow the laws of the road to where they dont put themselves and others at risk are needed too. Its rather often I see someone riding their bike without a helmet against traffic on a very busy street going between sidewalk/road. These people dont typically fit the profile of an avid cyclist or well-developed commuter, but it does show the ignorance that is out there. We have people driving cars showing this same kind of ignorance and its shows we need more education!

Bill Larson
Bill Larson
17 years ago

having bike-only roads isnt saying cyclist give up their rights to use other roads. these bikeways are there to help increase flow and safety of cyclists. They are an alternative, not a replacement.
Saying cyclists dont belong on roadways with autos because we have one or two bike-only ways (hardly enough to get most cyclists where they need to be) is like saying drivers shouldnt be on streets and roadways because they have highways and freeways. Share the road is the campaign. safety is the issue.

Cate
Cate
17 years ago

The few comments above say my opinions really well. PDOT and the BTA are convinced that bike boulevards are the answer, but I’d rather have more streets where bikes belong safely on them.

For the past year, the City has been developing a plan for a SW Portland bike boulevard. The City decided that’s what SW needed without any input (that I know of) from SW bicyclists. Rather than consider any other options, especially considering the reality of SW road conditions, they were convinced a bike boulevard was the answer.

Why do bicyclists have to look at a bike map to find places to ride? Why isn’t bicycling incorporated into traffic flow in every street’s design? And why aren’t bicyclists and drivers conditioned to see that as normal?

People say that newbie bicyclists are scared of car traffic. Of course, they are. Drivers own the roads. Impose some restrictions (and penalties) on drivers and the roads will be safer. Separate roads is the answer for what?

The other thing I’d like to see is education for bicyclists for how to ride safely with cars. I made some really stupid mistakes the first year of bicycling and had too many close calls. Statistically, if I remember right, most collisions and close calls happen in the first year of bicycling. I suspect this is also when many bicyclists stop bicycling because it’s to dangerous.

There a number of commuter classes offered in town, but where are the classes in basic bike handling? Motorcyclists have to take them. Why aren’t new bicyclists getting the same guidance and support?

(Btw, this was kind of my reaction to the Shimano coasting system – if a bicyclist can’t figure out how to operate a manual 3-speed, how are they ever going to ride anywhere near cars? I really don’t think technical competence is what keeps people from riding a bike. Children can operate a 3-speed.)

Cate
Cate
17 years ago

When I said, the “comments above”, I meant those from BLDZR, Lenny, and Doug.

Bill Larson
Bill Larson
17 years ago

One last thing on this topic, I promise….
Driving is such a HUGE part of most peoples’ lives and yet problematic in so many ways. Why are our schools not teaching kids a couple years in advance of being able to drive a car, rights and responsibilities on the road? If kids had a couple years of learning about driving, transit, sharing roadways, etc there wouldnt be so much ignorance out there. We place so much importance on teaching other subjects, but this seems to be something that should be mandatory and a course that is studied over a couple year’s period of time to make sure it sinks in and everything can be learned.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
17 years ago

Bill,

Driving is a huge part of people’s lives because the major automakers have been using the power of propaganda on us since the invention of the automobile.

Reversing the damage from this is a huge challenge.

I think our deeply rooted car culture remains the biggest barrier to cycling in the U.S…and we have “The Big Three” automakers to thanks for that.

mykle
mykle
17 years ago

look, we already have bike-only roads. they’re called bike paths. and we already have car-only roads, called freeways. and we have roads in which these vehichles ride together, and we always will.

bikers must know how to mix with drivers, and vice-versa. but fundamentally, they are different kinds of traffic with different infrastructural needs. that’s why so many bike-forward european cities have much more extensive car-free bike routes than Portland does.

to advocate changing some car/bike streets to bike-only boulevards is not a massive change in strategy, nor is it sending a dangerous new set of “messages” — it’s just a refinement of our existing transit mixture that better reflects our transportation priorities.

Cate
Cate
17 years ago

“I think our deeply rooted car culture remains the biggest barrier to cycling in the U.S…and we have “The Big Three” automakers to thanks for that.” There are many, many other reasons for our car culture beyond “The Big Three”.

bjorn
bjorn
17 years ago

Buses can not easily be moved onto the bike boulevards in many cases because the bike boulevard streets are not built in a way to allow for vehicles that heavy to be driving on them many times per day. Regular heavy traffic requires more extensive work to compact the subgrade and a thicker layer of gravel etc… Some of the boulevards would disintegrate from that kind of use.

Bjorn

mykle
mykle
17 years ago

“Buses can not easily be moved onto the bike boulevards in many cases because the bike boulevard streets are not built in a way to allow for vehicles that heavy to be driving on them many times per day. Regular heavy traffic requires more extensive work to compact the subgrade and a thicker layer of gravel etc… ”

that might be true in some places. but i live on NE 27th, where the #9 bus runs, and i don’t see how it’s paved or built any differently from the other residental side streets in my neighborhood. (there might be an accellerated maintenance schedule for it, but not one i’ve noticed in 7 years. =) does tri-met rebuild streets when they put in new bus routes on them?

a system of combined bike/bus boulevards would probably not want to be laid out 100% on the existing bike boulevards or the existing bus lines. buses would move off of car arterials and onto the new arterials, which, to be most useful, should try to follow existing arterials, just a short walk away.

so for instance, clinton st. could be a good alternate arterial for division. 7th could be a good alternate arterial for NE MLK, etc. (better choices may exist, of course!)

these new arterials would require some upgrades: stop sign changes to grant right-of-way, signage, perhaps some speed bumps or other car discouragement, some striping, and more appropriate paving in some places. however, considering reduced car traffic on those streets, the long-term maintenance costs may in fact go down.

Matt Picio
17 years ago

“I think our deeply rooted car culture remains the biggest barrier to cycling in the U.S…and we have “The Big Three” automakers to thanks for that.” There are many, many other reasons for our car culture beyond “The Big Three”.

Not to mention the fact that it’s now “The Big Two” ever since Daimler Benz bought Chrysler, a fact typically overlooked by the major news media, and until recently by the unions as well.

(if you’re asking why that’s relevant, German-owned Daimler Chrysler makes distinctly different corporate decisions for it’s Chrysler unit in the US than the former Chrysler Motors made for itself)

Not directly relevant for cyclists, perhaps, but definitely relevant for anyone who deals with the automotive industry in any way, shape or form.

Rixtir
Rixtir
17 years ago

There’s no compelling reason that automobiles should have access to every street throughout the city, and conversely, no compelling reason that some sections of the city shouldn’t be automobile-free.

bnf
bnf
17 years ago

My personal desire for bike boulevards is that periodically along the route certain blocks on the boulevards would have dividers half way through that block. This would still allow car access for local residents and delivery but would prevent through traffic.

I’ve been dreaming of such a divider being placed in the block between 24th & Ankeny and 26th & Ankeny for years.

Perhaps something like the divider that is between the lanes on 20th at Ankeny could be utilized. This divider is effective at discouraging through traffic on Ankeny but can be driven over by emergency vehicles. There are two gaps in the divider where East and West bound bike traffic can pass unobstructed.

Eric
Eric
17 years ago

I want to put in my vote in favor of local auto traffic not just as an incidental & regrettable piece of the bike boulevard, but even as a constitutive component. I’m all for traffic calming features that discourage or prohibit auto through-traffic, but I think local auto traffic at appropriate rates of speed – suitably calmed – offers benefits that are often neglected. I think that “mixed-use” or “multi-modal” approaches might very well encourage a healthier & more useful diversity than bike monoculture. (Think Jane Jacobs!)

Safety
– The auto traffic & housing along bike boulevards mean more people who might assist me in an actual emergency. There’s comfort in numbers – beyond fellow bicyclists or pedestrians. No development fronts things like old train right-of-ways; instead, everything backs into it, and there’s little visibility. I would never bike alone along the Willamette section of the Springwater late at night – but I do bike alone on bike boulevards late at night. Even during the day on the Springwater between I-205 & Powell Butte I have felt vulnerable and have encountered pedestrian miscreants who harassed me by waving arms or stepping into my path. It is not difficult for me to imagine getting jumped there. I wish I could verify this with data, to see a comparison of crime rates on bike boulevards & the Springwater and other paths that prohibit motorized vehicles. (How do the Davis Greenbelts function by this standard? Is there enough visibility & constant bike/pedestrian traffic to discourage criminal malingerers?)
– As far as auto-bike collisions go, the discussions I’ve seen suggest the collisions occur on arterial streets with or without bike lanes, not on bike boulevards. That is to say, autos on bike boulevards might yet be a psychological barrier for some, but materially they pose a much lower safety hazard than autos on arterials. Is biking on a bike boulevard safer than a pedestrian crossing the street?

Efficient motion
– Nevertheless, sometimes there’s too much comfort in numbers. The absence of autos seems to encourage people to act imprudently. In my experience along the waterfront, Springwater, & on bridges, devoted bike/ped paths encourage bicyclists to fly & weave too quickly through groups of pedestrians, and encourage pedestrians to walk abreast in ranks or to walk inattentively, blocking the path for bicyclists. These devoted paths surely work best for leisurely bicycle cruising – for recreation – not for bicycle traveling, commuting, or exercise. For the efficient movement of people through space, modest local auto traffic seems to check impudent boldness and to facilitate orderly movement. Multi-modal diversity helps reinforce the idea that no one person “owns” the roadway, and encourages prudent sharing. (Though it’s unfortunately based on fear, the caution a car inspires in a bicyclist and the caution bicyclists inspire in a car driver might each be a desideratum for the overall good. What do you call this, realpolitik for the road? In any event, there’s a strange synergy there, I’m convinced.)

zach
zach
17 years ago

Wow, this is a pretty heated discussion. There are all kinds of reasons that

a> car-free bike boulevards would be really pleasant, and

b> that they would never work

which have nothing to do with the larger sociopolitical issues at play. It is clear that some, if not most, cyclists feel that there is too much auto traffic on the boulevards and that some drivers prefer them to other surface streets and arterials because of the lack of stop signs.

Wouldn’t elegantly-designed (maybe including planters or public art?) 21st & Ankeny style barriers every 5 or 10 blocks do the trick? They wouldn’t likey place much (if any) burden on drivers and emergency vehicles, but would unquestionably lead to a substantial reduction in through traffic.

Portland’s a big city, and even though it is a national leader in bike transportation, most folks here still drive. We are blessed with a largely responsive city government and an electorate of drivers who support pro-bike policies and infrastructure! Why would we want to look this gift horse in the mouth and support exclusivist positions that are likely to diminish our standing in the eyes of the 90+% of Portlanders who don’t regularly use their bikes for transportation?

John
John
17 years ago

I would put this idea up there with allowing bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs. Clearly bike centric, not well thought out dangerous to the bike community. If there are bike only roads, how long until bikes were “suggested” to be on bike only roads… (see the many riding out of the bike lane complaints.) The more our community pushes for our own special roads, then the greater the likelihood that we will be some day limited to those roads.

mykle
mykle
17 years ago

“If there are bike only roads, how long until bikes were “suggested” to be on bike only roads…”

as i said before: we already have some bike-only roads. the predicted onslaught of anti-bike oppression did not happen when bike-only roads started to appear, and i don’t see why it ever will.

mykle
mykle
17 years ago

“Why would we want to look this gift horse in the mouth and support exclusivist positions that are likely to diminish our standing in the eyes of the 90+% of Portlanders who don’t regularly use their bikes for transportation?”

if we ever want to make that 90% be more like 50% — if we want to change the transit paradigm, like some people talk about doing — then we need to change the percentages of infrastructure dedicated to bikes vs. cars. there is already a nationwide system of car-specific interstate highways, forbidden to bicycles. and some of us bicyclists are bitter about that … but let’s not project our bitterness upon car drivers and just assume they’ll be upset about some bike-only streets. everybody will be happier when they get where they’re going with less congestion and less pollution.

mykle
mykle
17 years ago

“I would put this idea up there with allowing bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs. Clearly bike centric, not well thought out and dangerous to the bike community”

stop-as-yield for bicyles has been the law across Idaho for over a decade, i’m told. if it’s so dangerous, i would expect to see some evidence by now …