Last night at Franklin High School, Portlanders got their first chance to kick the tires and test ride the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s update to the Bicycle Master Plan.
This plan, last updated in 1996, is important to Portland’s bike future for many reasons: it will set and inform policies related to how the City plans its transportation network, it will create points of leverage for advocates and citizens to hold the City accountable for their progress (or lack of it), it will identify and classify recommended bikeways, and it will encapsulate the City’s latest thinking on a variety of issues relating to bicycling (from enforcement to the economy).
Southeast residents got a chance to ask city bike planners questions, fill out comment cards, and soak up information from about 20 large posterboards that put the language of the plan into nice charts, photos and factoids.
The first board starting things off on a hopeful tone. It shared this vision for Portland in 2030:
“In 2030 Portland is a clean, thriving city where bicycling is a main pillar of the transportation system and more than a quarter of all trips are made by bicycles.”
I think we’ll achieve the first part of that way before 2030. The 25% mode share might take a bit longer. But overall, I like how PBOT is framing their efforts in terms of healthy, vibrant neighborhoods that are full of “Bicycles Everywhere!”.
Some of the boards had designated volunteers standing by to walk folks through the information or ask for specific feedback. Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves was asking folks what type of rider they were and then had them place a dot next to where they live. Traffic Division Lieutenant Bryan Parman was there to answer questions about enforcement policies.
PBOT bike parking manager Sarah Figliozzi had folks fill out bike parking comment cards — both where they’d like to see new parking installed, and what they think of existing facilities. Figliozzi told me they’ve got a lot of new on-street bike corrals planned for summer and she said the following locations will get corrals even sooner:
- St. Johns (finally!) near St. Johns Cinema and Anna Bananas Cafe at N Alta and Lombard.
- Alberta Street at NE 31st.
- Northwest Portland near Dragonfly Cafe at NW 24th and Thurman.
- In front of Widmer Brewing on N. Russell at N. Interstate.
My favorite part of the night was mining the boards closely for interesting bits and clues to things I hadn’t yet come across.
For instance, here are some drawings of large pavement markings that we’ll see on the upcoming bike boulevards (notice the size, up to 12-feet, much larger than the tiny little “dots” we have now):
And then there was this little gem of a sketch by PBOT bike planner Denver Igarta (“BMP” stands for Bike Master Plan):
I also noticed a detailed definition of a term that will make its debut in this update: “Bicycle Districts”. These would be areas (like the Pearl District) where “the intent is to make bicycling the vehicular mode of choice.”
Another board featured this funding statistic you can share around the water cooler with non-believers:
“For $60,000,000 you could build the country’s best bicycle network….OR….you could build approximately one mile of urban freeway.”
One of the most important bits of policy language in the entire plan will be policy 6.23. This is sort of the over-arching mission statement for bicycle transportation in Portland.
Here’s the existing version:
“Make the bicycle an integral part of daily life in Portland, especially for trips of less than five miles, by implementing a bikeway network, providing end of trip facilities, improving bicycle/transit integration, encouraging bicycle use and making bicycling safer.”
And here’s the new, more concise, proposed language:
“Create conditions to make bicycling more attractive than driving for trips of three miles or less.”
Overall, I think last night’s open house was a success. A diverse mix of residents showed up and many of them were engaged and filled out comment cards and/or talked with volunteers and city staffers.
One of them was Kenny Heggem. Kenny lives near Reed College and he was “really excited” for the open house. He filled out detailed comments about his desire for better bikeways on SE Woodstock, Harold, Reed, and Steele. He told me he never realized the amount of detailed thought that goes into creating our bikeway network and he loved that he, just an ordinary Joe Citizen, could come in and have a say: “It’s great that our city tries to include everyone in their decisions like this.”
Even with all the optimism a plan like this engenders, it’s still just a plan. The new policies, while exciting on paper, will have limited strength in forcing the hands of politicians and bureaucrats to do great things. Like I assume some of you are, I too am growing impatient of all the planning and talking and I want to see more action.
For over two years now, I’ve been hearing about how this or that policy “will be in the master plan update”. Finally we’re on the home stretch with this thing, and I’m excited.
Think of this plan as a playbook. When carfree superstar Gil Penalosa was in Portland over the summer, he mocked Portland for only being in the minor leagues. “Does Portland want to stay as champion of the little league of soccer across North America? Or, does Portland want to be champion of the World Cup?” he asked.
Now it’s all about the World Cup (or the Super Bowl if that’s easier to relate to), and to win it, we need a great game plan. The Bike Master Plan is that game plan, and once it’s done, all that will be left is to run onto the field and execute.
After this series of open houses, PBOT will release a draft plan for public comment in July. A Planning Commission hearing is tentatively set for for August 25th and it will likely be in front of City Council on October 21st. If all goes according to plan, all the new policy recommendations will be folded into the update of the all-important Transportation System Plan.
These open houses continue through May 18th, including another one tonight for East Portland (at David Douglas High). Check the full schedule and show up when it comes to your neighborhood.