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Three City Club ideas that aren’t about bike taxes

Posted by on May 31st, 2013 at 8:56 am

Cully Boulevard cycle track

A City Club committee found that separated cycle tracks connecting neighborhoods,
like this one on NE Cully Boulevard, should be the city’s priority for bike
infrastructure even if it means eliminating painted bike lanes on other streets.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

At its regular Friday Forum today at noon, the Portland City Club will hear from a panel of bike experts and vote on the big report about biking in Portland released Wednesday.

If you’ve only heard one thing about the report, it’s probably that it was the latest venue for a group of bike supporters to endorse a dedicated tax on retail bike sales.

But that was far from the only idea in the 83-page report. For example, here are three more interesting conclusions about how to improve biking in Portland from the report, which was a year in the making:

  • Separate routes (such as cycletracks or paths) and low-speed routes (such as bicycle boulevards) should be prioritized over alternatives, even if it means eliminating bicycle lanes on high-speed or high-capacity streetsPBOT should perform a city-wide audit of traffic corridors and intersections that are difficult and/or unsafe for bicycle riders and pedestrians.
  • PBOT should prioritize bicycle routes between neighborhoods over routes to downtown and the central city.  Broadly, bicycle infrastructure investments should move from opportunistic to strategic and emphasize connectivity and safety. 
  • PBOT should revise the Bicycle Advisory Committee selection criteria to reflect a greater diversity of economic and social backgrounds, professions and transportation preferences.

Whatever you think of these recommendations, wouldn’t it be cool if they were remembered as important parts of this landmark report — and maybe discussed today in addition to the also-important tax question?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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9watts
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9watts

“separated cycle tracks connecting neighborhoods should be the city’s priority for bike infrastructure even if it means eliminating painted bike lanes on other streets.”

“curb cuts should be the city’s priority for pedestrian infrastructure even if it means eliminating crosswalks on other streets.”

Why zero sum?!
I want to like this report, appreciate the positive things it manages to say about biking, but can’t get over the perplexing way they qualify, hedge, muddle, just about every topic.

Nick Falbo
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Nick Falbo

I’m having a hard time understanding how a cycle track on one street could lead to the elimination of a bike lane on another. Those two facilities are functionally compatible, and generally a street with a bike lane is a candidate for a cycle track.

The concept that Paths or Neighborhood Greenways can serve as a viable alternative to busy streets is a currently accepted practice, although I think the *elimination* of existing bike lanes would be very unlikely.

eli
Guest

Yes! Separate me from cars. They’d simply do not care for the rules and they are extremely dangerous. Not to mention the emotions that transpire when my lowly bike prevents them from speeding or running lights… Not to mention right turns in the bike lane…

Just remove us from their world as I don’t want to breathe their fumes anyway. How hard can it be to put some concrete pillars here and there to create bike entry only streets?

Spiffy
Guest

I don’t consider NE Cully to be a separated cycle track because a painted line and easy sloping curb doesn’t keep cars out of it…

do we even have one in Portland? the new one in Lloyd is almost separated, but the planters have huge gaps between them… the one near PSU is also just paint…

FauxPorteur
Guest
FauxPorteur

How would these cyclepaths work on the intersection-dense roads we have here in short-block grid-city Portland? The cyclepath design I’m familiar with would make it hard/hazardous for cyclists to turn left, cars to turn right (think right hook on steroids and 5hr Energy(tm)) . Its basically installing a cycling only sidewalk. It is currently very dangerous to cycle on a sidewalk, not because of the sidewalk itself, but because of intersections.

These things look great in photos and artist renderings, and give something for advocates to rally behind, but they are not smart for intersection rich roadways.

They can be great as ways for people to get between the suburbs and an urban core, and offset from high speed/high volume roads with few intersections, but if they plan on putting them on roads such as Alberta, Hawthorne, Cesar Chavez, Lombard, etc, it would be an expensive nightmare.

An article that breaks it down well:

http://janheine.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/bike-to-work-4-best-of-all-worlds-together/

Jan is very scientific, he’s not against separated bike paths, he just shows that its better to put them where it makes scientific sense rather than where it looks good.

9watts
Guest
9watts

It would seem so easy to put out a report that superficially is very much like this one from the City Club, but that omits all the weird qualifiers, the kicks to the gut, the abrupt reversals, the statements that make you scratch your head in puzzlement; that suggest that, deep down, the authors were concerned that the topic they found themselves working on needed to somehow be ‘balanced,’ that all the good news they kept encountering needed to be reined in with some cautionary language lest the report come across as too celebratory.

Bicycling is wonderful, makes you feel good, is cheap, healthy, fun, & is on the rise. There is basically nothing about bicycling, about the prospect of a small or large increase in people’s reliance on bicycles, that is not to like. Just look at those people in Jonathan’s wonderful photo essays about Copenhagen! Now let’s figure out how to get out of the way of that trend.

Garlynn Woodsong
Guest
Garlynn Woodsong

Uh… how about, separated cycle tracks should be the city’s priority, even if it means the elimination of some on-street parking..!!!

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

Jonathan helped advise this committee so its not surprise that they came out in favor of cycletracks versus bike lanes. I’ve always believed that some proponents of cycletracks are strongly opposed to bike lanes all together. No single form of infrastructure should be preferred always. IMO, the “copenhagenista” anti-bike lane position is incredibly polarizing.

The really ironic thing is that there is no physical separation between cyclists or motorists on most cycletracks in CPH. A tiny curb or ramp does nothing to “protect” cyclists. The right hooks and drunk drivers that slaughter cyclists in in PDX would continue to do the same on copenhagen-style infrastructure in the USA. What completely bizarre about the cycle track debate in PDX is that proponents want to build facilities that were long ago rejected as inferior in Denmark and Holland. The use of cars to separate cyclists from traffic was long ago discarded as inferior in Holland and has been widely criticized in Germany and Denmark.

Moreover, the incredible growth of cycling in Germany argues that “buffered” door zone free bike lanes can be just as effective a tool for increasing mode share as cycle tracks. Which would you rather have? A km of poorly connected cycle track or dozens of miles of well-connected buffered bike lanes?

Cycling mode share in Munich during a period of time in which separated infrastructure was removed and replaced with bike lanes:

Munich 1996: 6% mode share
Munich 2011: 17.4% mode share

As FauxPorter noted above, Jan Heine does a terrific job of arguing for an infrastructure vision that allows for a context-specific spectrum of separation:

http://janheine.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/bike-to-work-4-best-of-all-worlds-together/

LoveDoctor
Guest
LoveDoctor

I think part of Jonathan’s post was also meant to highlight how the general media latched on to one or two paragraphs of the 83 pages. Every single headline from every outlet (aside from bikeportland) read something akin to “City Club endorses bike tax”, with just a peripheral mention of the other 82.5 pages. Interesting how the media would prefer to stir controversy and glue eyes to screens/generate page views by bring up, yet again, how people on bikes don’t pay into infrastructure funding.

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

As far as cycle-tracks versus buffered bike lanes goes, it really depends on the corridor and whether there are frequent driveways and how much retail access is needed. Cycle-tracks are expensive and can be limited in capacity once built, bikelanes can always be widened cheaply over time with further parking elimination or lane reductions if bike capacity needs increase. We do need an INTEGRATED network of commuter corridors that are either wide buffered lanes, or protected cycle-tracks.

As far as focusing on residential greenways and inter-neighborhood conductivity, that is exactly what our growing group is trying to do. Our 20 MPH Half-mile neighborhood greenway grid network is significantly more connected and aggressive than the Masterplan including school and park access.

https://www.facebook.com/COPINGWithBikes

Our conceptual maps are here including cost estimates for the worst crossings:

http://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/coping-with-bikes/maps.html

COPINGwithBikes.org is in production and we are having our third group ride on Sunday at 2pm..go to FB for details.

AndyC of Linnton
Guest
AndyC of Linnton

Well, yes, I hope these recommendations are discussed, in addition to the tax part. I am really hopeful (but not delusional) that if City Club is discussing bicycling for transportation in a serious way, and the previous revelation that ODOT is becoming less “highway-centric”, we MAY be moving in to a new era, or at least have some better biking facilities in the city.
I would take a cycle track on highway 30 over my crappy detritus-ridden shoulder. Maybe the West side of Willamette Ave it would work as well? I think they would be a little more dangerous than a bike lane in most intersection heavy areas, but you know what? I’ve never ridden one so I have no idea.

Actually, thinking of a cycle track on Highway 30…Yes! please!

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

I’ve not finished the report yet, but was curious how many of the committee members (‘your committee’, City Club) are also members of the BTA, or other local bike advocacy groups? Since BAC member diversity was a highlight of needed changes, I’ve not seen full disclosure yet on committee member affiliation. Why is it important, do you ask? Seems to me that a proposed tax to go toward education being a significant recommendation, and the BTA being the primary, if not sole, PBOT contractor providing ped/bike safety education to K-8 schools in Portland, that the BTA (or other such service providers) becomes a secondary benefactor of such a tax (after PBOT, of course). Not that there’s any significant profit involved, but, for the sake of full disclosure….

BURR
Guest
BURR

The great fallacy in the City Club report is the same fallacy PBOT makes when selecting and designing bicycle infrastructure: catering to the lowest common denominator, newbie cyclists, otherwise known as the ‘interested but concerned’.

There is already a large and growing population of experienced cyclists in Portland and the numbers of experienced cyclists will continue to rise as more newcomers take up cycling and over time gain the necessary experience to feel more comfortable in a wider variety of cycling environments.

The proper response is not to expound the virtues of one type of facility over all others – the ‘zero sum game’ referred to above; but rather, to develop multiple types of infrastructure for cyclists that respond to the needs of cyclists of all skill levels. In other words, this is Portland, not Copenhagen or Amsterdam. American cities are designed differently than European cities and American attitudes are different than European attitudes. There may be some take-aways from Europe’s ‘great cycling cities’ that we can use, but the system most likely to work and be implemented in the U.S. is not a direct copy of Copenhagen or Amsterdam’s system, but rather, some sort of hybrid system.

This means you don’t necessarily want to chose separated cycle tracks over striped bike lanes or even sharrows; it means you provide some of everything for everyone. And it certainly doesn’t mean making our arterial streets even less cyclist-friendly than they already are by removing the few existing striped bike lanes (at least from areas where they do not introduce additional hazards for cyclists, like right hooks or doorings), in favor of cycle tracks on ‘alternate routes’. Rather, it should mean improving the existing infrastructure to reduce the hazards, AND adding additional infrastructure to the network.

Also, one very important thing this report seems to overlook, at least based on the reviews I’ve read, is that many Portland streets, particularly in the inner parts of the city, are width-constrained and separated cycle tracks can only be added at the expense of existing vehicle travel or parking lanes.

Finally, Portland will only truly be a cyclist-friendly, Platinum-worthy city when ALL local streets, residential and arterial alike, are safe for and accessible to cyclists of all skill levels.

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

IMO one thing that is clearly missing from the recommendations of the report is planning and building bicycle routes that in addition to being connected are _direct_ and _convenient_. For example, under these recommendations the bicycle lane on SW Broadway between the future buffered lane and PSU could be decommissioned in favor of funneling bicycles over to a cycle track along the park blocks. While this would certainly be a pleasant ride and probably safer, it would be unnecessarily circuitous. Makes me think of this post from copenhagenize:

http://www.copenhagenize.com/2013/01/a-short-history-of-traffic-engineering.html

Thomas
Guest
Thomas

I posted this yesterday in Jonathans article about Cycletracks… seems like from reading the above comments that many are in agreement about the hazards of parallel paths… we need a public design charet with many designs proposed and discussed around the city.

With the City Club proposing more Cycletracks here in Portland, I think there needs to be a good deal of discussion about design. Jonathan linked to an article recently where the author was steadfastly against cycle tracks and I have to agree with most of his points. Removing bikes from the sightlines of normal traffic, where driveway and right turns have to cross the track – is more of a safety hazard than it solves. Plus the right of way costs within the city to add space for cycle tracks is extremely expensive. I like the idea mentioned above for center way tracks – that might work better in many situations in Portland than bike lanes or side tracks. What we need are a portfolio of design standards that work for the many modes that designers can apply on a site by site basis. Frankly – I hate making copenhagen lefts – I want to make a left like any other vehicle… but I’ve been biking for over 20years and am comfortable in traffic.

FauxPorteur
Guest
FauxPorteur

It seems like too much discussion is about separated cyclepath vs buffered bike lanes. The third (and most valuable to me, IMHO) approach of bicycle infrastructure is the bike boulevard/neighborhood greenway. If properly implemented, they actually allow you get someone safely and quickly. Today I rode from NE 9th and Ainsworth to 8th and East Burnside on NE 9th Avenue. 9th avenue is an extremely low-auto traffic road and with very minimal changes (flip some stop signs, add some bike crossings over a couple busier streets, perhaps a buffered bike lane through Lloyd, and a bike/per bridge over 84 and it would be “world class”. If the cyclepath mafia had their way we would fight to have a cyclepath running the length of MLK or 15th that would never happen due to costs and politics, and would be dangerous anyways.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Making side streets into bike boulevards is great, and helps cyclists get from point A to point B, but these are not commercial streets and there is nothing much happening there. That is intrinsically true – how do you suppose they became designated as bike boulevards to begin with? If you want to go grocery shopping, visit restaurants, buy things, and otherwise go about your daily life, you have to be able to ride on commercial streets, especially on the busy ones.

Making separated cycletracks is also great, and helps cyclists who are unwilling or unable to ride on the regular streets, but there is nowhere near enough money and in many places not enough roadway width. Even if the City Council and PBOT committed to cycletracks, over the next decade we just might manage to build twenty miles of them for the entire city.

For the time being, and for decades to come, if you are a Portland cyclist who wants to make riding your transportation for all your daily business, you will have to ride on the same city streets that exist today. If you believe that bikes and their riders are a transportation mode equal to cars, you should resist being forced off those streets into segregated facilities.

Some may say they are pushing us off the streets for our own good, because riding in a painted bike lane can never be safe. That is patronizing and untrue. I ride every day on Portland’s streets, as do many cyclists, and we do so in reasonable safety. Look up the fatality statistics for cycling in Portland: you’ll see it is not a death defying act.

Yes, the roads can and should be safer for cyclists, and there are many ways to do that. Bike lanes, bike signals, speed limitation, traffic calming, driver education, driver (and cyclist) enforcement. One of the most important is to fill those roads with bikes, because drivers are more aware of and respectful toward a mass of cyclists than toward one isolated rider. You don’t do that by banishing bikes to a few miles of cycle tracks and various minor back streets.

NO BIKE SEGREGATION!

Edward Hershey
Guest

Call this a “weird qualifier” if you like, but encouraging cyclists to compete with trucks, buses and heavy auto traffic on major thoroughfares when safer alternatives are available would be the height of irresponsibility. Nowhere does the report suggest barring cyclists from any surface street but it seems to me that bicycling advocates who feel the need to stake a claim to roadway equality by eschewing separation where it is both preferable and feasible are handing the pols a ready-made copout when they refuse to invest in good, safe infrastructure.

It is a lot easier — and much much cheaper —to paint a white line or a green box than to create the sort of improvements the City Club report endorses.

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

I’m amused by the frequent reference to Portland’s narrow streets that can’t be widened. So 1000-year old European cities have wider streets, or ones that can easily be widened?? No, they have many even narrower streets. They just have different priorities. They’re not afraid to take auto lanes away.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Crumbs. Tasty crumbs, but still crumbs.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

I just don’t get this either/or mindset in regards to cycle tracks. Separated cycle tracks make sense in certain areas. Cully is not one of them and HOW that track was done is awful. I would never use Cully as an example of success. The portion shown in the pic is fine, but so much of it has constant zig zagging at every intersection which to me feels like it was designed by someone who doesn’t actually ride. My visibility, both what I can see and how well I can be seen is compromised, and my ability to maintain a constant and predictable speed is reduced. It is a very expensive track which is best suited for bikes-as-meandering-entertainment.

When riding on Cully, what comes to mind is, “this is a really far out section of road, let’s make an expensive showcase. If it fails it won’t really matter.”