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A closer look at the ‘Better Broadway’ pop-up protected bikeway

Posted by on February 11th, 2016 at 11:47 am

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(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

For today only you can feel what it’s like to ride on Southwest Broadway without the threat of someone opening a car door into you, or someone parking in the bike-only lane, or someone squeezing you into parked cars. (Sorry I can’t promise you won’t be right-hooked before you get there.) That’s because a trio of “tactical urbanists” have come together to create a temporary protected bike lane between Salmon and Taylor, just outside the doors of the Hilton Hotel where a smart growth conference is taking place.

“Pop-up designs are such a good concept because they allow cities to use advocates to their advantage and get public buy-in.”
— Ken Snyder, PlaceMatters

For Ken Snyder with Denver-based PlaceMatters, a 10-year old “think tank for civic engagement,” this project was a chance to try pop-up placemaking in a new city. He conspired on the project with local planning consultant Nick Falbo of Alta Planning and Portland’s Better Block PDX. Snyder connected with Falbo after being inspired by his concept for “protected intersections” that’s sweeping the nation. This morning Snyder told me he was impressed with how the City of Portland not only sanctioned the project by helping with permits, but the transportation bureau even did media outreach. “I’ve never seen a city contact the press for us like that,” he said. “We had two TV crews here this morning.”

As with the Better Naito project last summer, the City of Portland embraces these projects because they allow activists to make tangible the things they themselves are too afraid to try. Or, as Snyder puts it. “Pop-up designs are such a good concept because they allow cities to use advocates to their advantage and get public buy-in.” Beyond the political implications of demonstrating what’s possible on our streets, this project has practical goals. (Come to think of it, maybe we should call this stuff “practical urbanism”.)

Planning visionary Nick Falbo said he’s eager to test how various materials work for “rapidly deploying bike lanes and cross-walks.” In use today is a roll of roofing tar paper that’s been painted green. The surface became slippery as rain fell this morning and we watched one man fall over as he tried to pedal up the road. Falbo and Snyder swung into action and pulled up some duct tape that proved to be the culprit. “To be able to roll this out quickly is very exciting,” said Falbo. “What we’re learning today could inform the summer season for Better Block.”

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Ken Snyder making some adjustments.

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Nick Falbo with Alta Planning + Design (left) talks with Ken Snyder.

While this temporary bikeway might seem like a one-off, there’s momentum on several fronts that could equal more permanent and more frequent projects like this in the future. Better Block has inked a big partnership with Portland State University to institutionalize their exciting methods, and the City of Portland is planning a multi-million dollar project for real protected bike lanes in the central city (the 10-cent gas tax proposal would set aside another $3 million for it).

And on another level, every time we actively re-imagine our public space it normalizes what at first seems impossible. It’s hard to imagine using an entire blockface of a downtown auto parking lane for a bikeway, until you actually see it with your own eyes.

Speaking of parking spaces, one of the requirements Snyder and Falbo agreed to for their permit was paying for the eight parking spaces on the block. They cost $12 a piece for the day. Add in the $300 in supplies and $300 for the permit and the entire project still comes in well below $1,000. That’s what I call practical urbanism.

That’s cheaper than city-hosted public meetings and surveys. And it’s much cheaper than the status quo.

Roll over and have a look while you can. And when the time comes to support the permanent protected bikeway on Broadway, remember the feeling.

If you’d like to get more involved with Better Block PDX, don’t miss their season kickoff party on Thursday, February 18th at 6pm..

UPDATE, 1:15 pm: It appears that organizers have now taken up the green tar paper due to continued rain and concerns over the slick surface.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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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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Buzz
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Buzz

Looks potentially slippery in the rain.

BeavertonRider
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BeavertonRider

Who knew that on-the-street parking was really storage units for cars?

I really want to be part of this biking community here in Portland, but the anti-car attitude really just kills it for me and really hurts the ability of this website to attract new followers, readers, and contributors. I’d be a willing $ contributor to this site if I was not continuously bombarded with messages that my car ownership and operation was a selfish act intended to hurt or harm others. Whether it’s bogus characterizations like the one I cited above or the many, many commenters who make car owners unwelcome here, it’s clear that someone like me who drives and also commutes by bike is not welcomed here.

And to simply characterize what I detect here as merely an anti-car attitude is really understating the environment here. It probably explains much of the perceived hostility in my comments here.

Can we please tone down the car and driver hate here? It is unreasonable, it doesn’t persuade other non-bikey folks, and, thusly, serves to push away those you need to realize your shared vision for comprehensive bike networks, safe bikeways, and safer streets.

David
Guest
David

I’m curious to see this in person tonight on my ride home if it’s still in place. This treatment is much needed on the entire length of SW Broadway though I fail to grasp why they needed to put this surface down for the entire length of the lane. Experience has demonstrated that if you clearly mark the lane at entry points (intersections) this will prevent cars from thinking they belong there.

Ironically enough the lack of bike lane markings in the “parking protected” section of SW Broadway just south of this stretch is likely why so many vehicles enjoy curbside parking at the expense of bicyclists.

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

Like the “Protected Bike Lane” sign. Good way to tell motorists what that green color on the pavement means. Education, education, education!

Adam
Subscriber

This is great! Looking forward to riding in it this afternoon! Keep up the great work, Alta, BetterBlock, Place Matters! I love that PBOT is so helpful here. It shows that they do really care about improving the situation on our streets. Hoping this becomes permanent soon!

Gena
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Gena

Here’s a video of the installation in action, from Alta Planning + Design’s FB page:
https://www.facebook.com/altaplanning/videos/10154008786649225/

m
Guest
m

http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/real-estate-daily/2016/02/pdc-gives-the-go-ahead-to-build-26m-parking-garage.html

Despite the utopian BS spouted by some, cars aren’t going anywhere. There will be more electric cars over time, but cars themselves will be the primary mode of transportation for the super majority of people in our lifetime. Vision zero needs to be attained with that inescapable reality in mind. Much better to be pro-bicycle than anti-car. The likelihood of getting sh*t actually done is much higher.

AJ_Bikes
Subscriber
AJ_Bikes

Still plenty of space there for on-street parking/loading/delivery areas next to the bike lane, instead of that third thru lane. Would also let you put a curb extension/island at the crosswalk to shorten the effective crossing distance for people walking!

Mark
Guest
Mark

I own and drive a car, but I don’t get all butt hurt when someone mentions that their overuse has destroyed our communities and is ruining the ecosystem.

AEG
Guest
AEG

Thanks for the design – I really like it. In the materials test vote I would say this plastic sheeting is not optimal. I rode in the rain this morning and its very slippery.

Hopeful
Guest

The best time to have built a cycle track from Hollywood District to PSU along Broadway would have been in 2009. The 2nd best time to build this would be 2016.