Sellwood gets city’s first “next generation” bike boulevard

New “channelizing islands” at SE 7th and Spokane.
(Photo: Alaya Wyndham-Price)

On Saturday, the City of Portland hosted a party and bike ride on SE Spokane Street in Sellwood to celebrate the opening of a new bike boulevard. The project’s significance goes way beyond the speed bumps, “channelizers”, and other infrastructure changes and marks what the Bureau of Transportation calls the “next generation” of bike boulevards in Portland.

PBOT unveiled plans for the Spokane Bike Boulevard nearly a year ago and we took a closer look at how the project was shaping up earlier this month.

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There’s a lot riding on this boulevard for PBOT. Not only will they face the usual anti-bike sentiments from some (the Portland Mercury referred to comments about the project on a local TV station’s website as “the KATU Hillbilly Parade”), but they’ll have to meet expectations of those who ride on the existing bike boulevards.

Streets like Tillamook and Ankeny are technically bike boulevards according to PBOT, and they are nicer to ride on than the busy arterials they run adjacent too, but it’s not obvious to most people that they’re bike streets.

Adding pressure for success on this project (and others coming soon), are critics who feel that PBOT is focusing on these “backstreet solutions” at the expense of more separated bikeways like cycle tracks and off-street paths.

BikePortland intern Alaya Wyndham-Price rode the new bike boulevard over the weekend and says “the bike-centricity of it is palpable.” That’s a key litmus test for these new bike boulevards — Will they actually look and feel like a street made for bikes? Or will they be more subtle (and some say lacking) like the ones on NE Tillamook and SE Ankeny?

Here are a few more impressions from Alaya:

“When I rode on Spokane, it was a noticeable relief from the non-stop, often intimidating traffic of SE Tacoma and SE 13th. Sellwood to me is one of Portland’s hearts of traffic disobedience, and I don’t like navigating it by any mode. This alternative was sans stress, and still super convenient. I especially liked the bike parking on 13th right in the middle of everything, which made access to the businesses in the area easy. The boulevard was shared by a few cars and a few bikes, and felt calm, non-congested, and clearly marked in favor of bikes.”

PBOT is far from done with their big bike boulevard push. They’ve got 15 miles of bike boulevards planned and funded each year through 2013. This project cost the City an estimated $99,000 and a total of $800,000 is allocated through the 2010 Fiscal Year.

We’ll have a full report, more impressions, and detailed photos of this new bike boulevard after Christmas. For now, we’d love to hear from folks that have already ridden it. What did you think? How did this street feel (especially compared to existing bike boulevard streets)?

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