Advocates hope new plan will spur improvements in Southwest

Cover of Bicycle Facilities Strategy to
Reach Platinum Status in Southwest Portland

A major effort to bring the quality of biking in Southwest Portland up to the standards of the rest of the city has finally landed on PDOT’s desk.

SWTrails — a subcommittee of the Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc. — has submitted a 65-page plan to PDOT titled, Bicycle Facilities Strategy to Reach Platinum Status in Southwest Portland.

According to Keith Liden, a citizen activist who spearheaded the effort and who also sits on PDOT’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (by day he’s a professional planner with Parsons Brinckerhoff), the plan is the culmination of a one-and-a-half year effort that included community rides, a formal route selection and evaluation process, and two public open houses.

Liden says the idea behind their effort (which I’ve covered previously here , here, and here) is to support PDOT’s Bicycle Master Plan Update process by giving them specific recommendations for improvements. He also says it’s meant to spark action from PDOT in an area that currently has little-to-no bike facilities; “We want to encourage the city to bring the same passion for bicycling, which has helped create a first class system in other areas of the city, to SW Portland,” says Liden.

Non-grid streets and lots of
hills (green areas) present challenges
to SW Portland’s bikeways.

But the lack of safe biking conditions in Southwest isn’t entirely due to lack of passion by PDOT. Circuitous, narrow, and hilly streets, are common in Southwest — not the type of terrain where standard bike facility treatments are easy to implement (Southwest Portland is rated at the bottom of PDOT’s new “Bikeway Quality Index”).

Another thing working against Southwest is a history of planning with only cars in mind. According to Liden, the area was planned in the 1960s and 70s when “the car was really king” and the result are roads that “encourage fast automobile speeds while providing little or no pedestrian and bicycle facilities.”

Liden hopes this plan will help PDOT transform the area;

“I feel that it is essential for the city to change the character of the area from auto routes to bicycle and pedestrian-friendly places that people will want to visit rather than an area to simply travel through.”

Roger Geller, PDOT’s bike coordinator (he’s also in charge of the bike master plan update) says Liden and SWTrails’ work on this report is “unprecedented”;

“They’ve done a lot of the groundwork that we’ve been doing in other parts of the city, so it gives us a great leg up in figuring out what we should be doing out there. I’m extremely appreciative of the work they’ve done.”

One of 40 “Immediate Actions” detailed in the plan.

SWTrails’ plan calls for an extensive network of bike boulevards (low traffic streets where bikes can ride comfortably and safely) and focuses on filling gaps in the current network. In addition to a list of priority projects, the plan details 40 “immediate actions” that should be “implemented as soon as possible”.

You can download a low-res version of the report here.

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14 years ago

Uphill shoulders are critical to the west hills. Cornell, Skyline, Germantown.

14 years ago

Bravo SW Trails!!!

Keith Liden
Keith Liden
14 years ago

Sorry about the fuzzy quality of the maps in the document. If you would like more legible versions, please feel free to e-mail me (, and I’ll send Figures 1 & 2 as a pdf. They also should be posted soon at

14 years ago

A while ago there was some talk about a cycle track on Barbour Blvd. Is that still in the cards?

Andrew H
Andrew H
14 years ago

Many thanks to Keith Liden, Don Baack and many others for working hard to find solutions and set priorities for SW.

I predict that as each roadblock is removed and each connection is made, we’ll see a surge in cycling in SW.

Of course, everything depends on cyclists making our voices heard at budget time… city, county, state… and to the new administration and Congress in DC.