(Image: Transport for London)
“What if we just took that east lane on Naito Parkway and went ahead and made it into a bikeway? You know we really don’t need all those lanes on Naito Parkway.”
— Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, August 2014
As many of you already now, yesterday London Mayor Boris Johnson got the green light to move forward with what some are calling his “flagship policy to revolutionise cycling” in that city: a veritable “bicycle superhighway” right through Central London.
Why can’t Portland do this?
The cost of the two-way physically separated bicycle space on one of London’s major streets is $71 million. The project is part of Transport for London’s $6 billion “Road Modernization Plan” and it’s just a part of the $240 million that plan will spend on bikeways.
And this is real money and real commitment. With plans drawn up (PDF here) and a completion date (May 2016) and everything! It’s a far cry from our 2030 Bike Plan which — despite being widely mischaracterized by our local media as a $600 million investment — committed zero dollars to the projects within it and contains no real blueprint for moving forward.
Back to the question: Why can’t Portland do this?
London has three key things Portland is seriously lacking at the moment: A unified vision for biking (the Transport for London plan), political leadership (Mayor Johnson has fought controversy to push this through), and most importantly, money (thanks to their congestion pricing program).
The other thing that strikes me about London’s plan is how much the concept drawings remind me of a Portland street where we could easily do a similar project. Take a look at the concept drawing again. Doesn’t it remind you of NW Naito Parkway along Waterfront Park?
Artist rendering of London cycle superhighway…
And NW Naito Parkway today…
We could totally do that!
And it’s not like the idea is a pipe-dream. Not at all.
For years now, people have been eyeing NW Naito for some type of separated cycling facility.
Just last August, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales used the idea to curry favor with a bike-oriented crowd. He rode the Naito bike lane on the Policymakers Ride. Then in a speech that followed, he said, “What if we just took that east lane on Naito Parkway and went ahead and made it into a bikeway? You know we really don’t need all those lanes on Naito Parkway.”
I followed up with him about this comment later that day and he doubled-down, saying, “The Naito Parkway idea to me is a slam dunk. That’s a very compelling project and something we could do fairly quickly.” Hales added that PBOT has planning money (via Metro) to look into the project, but I haven’t heard a peep about it since.
The other reason PBOT should built a real bikeway on Naito is that the Parks Bureau has made it pretty clear that the path along the river isn’t meant to be used as an efficient transportation facility. Their new signs encourage “fast” riders to use NW Naito, but the 5-6 foot standard bike lane next to high-speed drivers isn’t adequately safe or comfortable.
Now that the Street Fee debacle is
over on pause, and with this inspiration from London, perhaps it’s time for Hales to dust off those words and start putting them into action.
Speaking of inspiration, Ben Plowden, London’s Director of Surface Transport Strategy and Planning is coming to Portland two weeks from now. The BTA and Young Professionals in Transportation is hosting a ride with him on Thursday, February 19th.
I hope the ride rolls down Naito. And I hope Mayor Hales gets an invite.
– For more on this story, watch KGW News tonight at 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 pm.