For PBOT, “neighborhood greenways” is more than just a new name

Rolling on NE Tillamook.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The City of Portland recently unveiled “neighborhood greenways” as a term to replace bike boulevards. At the monthly meeting of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee last night PBOT traffic safety staffer Greg Raisman showed up to explain more about their thinking behind the new name.

The main reason for the change is to better reflect what these projects are all about. PBOT realizes that by calling them “bike boulevards,” some Portlanders instantly bristle and come to project open houses armed for battle against them. PBOT hopes the new name won’t elicit such a negative reaction to the non-biking public.

“We envision that a Greenway hierarchy would serve a similar transportation planning framework as our general street classification system”
— Greg Raisman, PBOT

Our story about the name change showed a mixed reaction from readers. Several people were glad — saying it better reflects that the projects are about much more than just bikes. But many commenters were not happy with the name. Some said it was just marketing-speak, one person said it’s too “sneaky” and others thought it might lead to confusion and/or were skeptical it would work to alleviate the public’s misunderstanding of the projects.

But Greg Raisman from PBOT says the name change is about more than just semantics. While explaining the basic idea that “the name bike boulevard doesn’t capture the totality of what they do,” he also said it is in line with PBOT’s focus on livability:

“I’m also excited because it [the new name] puts the neighborhood front and center. Making our neighborhoods better, through the Portland Plan, we’re going to have a conversation about what that means.”

Riders on NE Klickitat know
what PBOT is talking about.

This conversation, according to Raisman, will move PBOT from merely talking about transportation to a more concerted focus on “placemaking and community building.” One way to do that is by making more green spaces on our streets. Raisman says PBOT is working with Friends of Trees to place new street trees along entire routes of new neighborhood greenway projects. On one project in the works, there’s an idea to extend a park completely across the existing street (NE Holman) and maintain a cut-through only for bikes.

And neighborhood greenways might be just the beginning. In an email about the greenway hierarchy effort, Raisman wrote that PBOT is working with staff from the Portland Plan to identify a hierarchy of greenways similar to what currently exists for streets:

“We envision that a Greenway hierarchy would serve a similar transportation planning framework as our general street classification system. So, there may be one type of Greenway defined for residential streets, one for commercial streets, and one for separated pathways. The concept could move us beyond the “complete street” and into the “complete transportation system”.

In addition to more street trees and integrating “pocket parks” into street designs, Raisman says they hope the Portland Plan includes policy framework to make other placemaking elements like art, decorative planters more common throughout the city.

Learn more about PBOT’s bike boulevard neighborhood greenway projects on their website.

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