Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 11th, 2009 at 8:31 am
bold proposals, but his colleagues
weren’t quite ready to get behind them.
(Photo © J. Maus)
Yesterday, the Portland Planning Commission voted 5-0 to endorse the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030. The unanimous vote is not surprising, but the important thing to note are their specific reommendations for the Plan that they’ll forward to City Council for official adoption in January.
In part due to testimony they heard at a public hearing for the plan back in October, the Commission put forth several recommendations along with their endorsement of the plan.
Planning Commissioner Chris Smith tried to push his colleagues into even more aggressive recommendations. He urged them to consider the Plan’s “25% of all trips by bike by 2030” as only an “interim target”. He wanted the Commission to “establish a goal to be in the top tier of world class cycling cities, with a bicycle mode share in excess of 40%.”
In addition, Smith wanted the Commission to adopt a significant increase in spending on cycling. In a memo he circulated to Commission members and spoke about at the hearing yesterday, Smith wrote that,
“City Council should immediately raise our level of investment comparable to the best practice in Europe, on the scale of $25-40 per capita per year [which would be $12 to 20 million per year], prioritizing investment in cycling above other modes as necessary to achieve this. Ultimately a level of funding slightly higher than this will be required to build out the projects envisioned by the Plan within a 20-year timeframe.”
Unfortunately, Smith’s proposal was a bit too bold for the Commission to sign on to. They did however sign on to several other specific recommendations (but none of them are as exciting as Smith’s!).
On strategy, the Commission responded to public testimony that questioned PBOT’s emphasis on bicycle boulevards in lieu of a similar focus on off-street trails and separated facilities (like cycle tracks) on main streets and in commercial areas.
The Commission said they agreed with PBOT that the “initial investments” should be made on bicycle boulevards in order to “bring a comfortable cycling experience to as wide a portion of Portland as possible.” But they added two specific recommendations to focus on trails and separated in-roadway bikeways like cycle tracks and buffered bike lanes:
- Fund project development of major off-street trail corridors in concert with Metro’s Intertwine effort so that these projects will be ready for implementation when construction funding becomes achievable in the future.
- Develop and implement a list of high priority pilot corridors for separated in-roadway bikeways that can be initially created with ‘software’ (paint, signal timing changes, plastic pylons) rather than ‘hardware’ (concrete, asphalt, new signals). Based on the results of these pilots, consider prioritizing permanent build-out of these corridors and construction of additional separated facilities.
Having the Commission prioritize a focus on separated bikeways like cycle tracks will make it easier (politically) for PBOT engineers and Mayor Adams to push forward on them (as I noted previously, they’re a bit tentative right now).
Another area the Commission addressed is the geographic equity of bikeway investments. They singled out “for early implementation” a study already identified in the Bicycle Plan that will look at “opportunities to increase access to bicycling in East Portland,” and a program to “develop culturally specific outreach and education.”
The Commission also recommended that bicycling take a page out of the streetcar and light rail playbook. Both of those modes have very effectively made the case that investment in rail lines will bring an increase in property values and development. Here’s how the Commission put it:
“Conduct research to comprehend the impact of cycling infrastructure and mode share on property values and make recommendations on the viability of value-capture funding methods (Local Improvement Districts, Tax-Increment Financing) along the lines of those used for Streetcar development.”
The idea is to create the same level of recognition around “bicycle-oriented development” among planners and policymakers that currently exists with “transit-oriented development.”
In other news, PBOT responded to Planning Commission with a host of changes they want to incorporate into the Final Draft of the Bicycle Plan. Among them was to eliminate the “tiers” label in their implementation strategy.
The tiers had become a source of confusion and concern from some. Trail advocates were disappointed that the two marquee projects — the North Portland Greenway and the Sullivan’s Gulch trails — were relegated to “Tier Two” status. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (and others) thought that “Tier One” was merely a status quo funding scenario and that once completed, it would be hard to muster support and excitement for something called “Tier Two”.
What PBOT staff has decided to do is to combine Tiers One and Two into the “80 percent strategy” and Tier Three will now be known as the “world-class strategy”. In addition, they’ll update the implementation recommendations to include a four-year “immediate strategy” that includes “project development of the signature trails as well as implementation of funded and likely funded projects.”
From here, the Portland Bicycle Plan will head to City Council for a hearing and possible adoption on January 20th.
(For more on Portland’s Bicycle Plan and the future of biking in our city, BikePortland will host a special evening with PBOT’s #1 bike guy Roger Geller on November 18th. Stay tuned to the Front Page for more details.)