The Classic - Cycle Oregon

A few things we’re looking forward to in 2018

Posted by on January 5th, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Sunday Parkways NW-46

Sunday Parkways will return to downtown this year — for the first time since 2011.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I looked back at 2017 and decided it’s probably best to start looking ahead.

Not everything about last year was bad. We (and by “we” I mean BikePortland and our community in general) had some triumphs and we learned a great deal about important issues; but it was not our best year.

Looking ahead however, we see plenty of reasons for optimism.

The four things below are infrastructure-related. And yes, I’m fully aware that a city’s transportation culture is defined by much more than roads and bridges. I’m thinking about those other issues as well, but I’ll save those thoughts for a different day.

Here’s my list…

Three New Carfree Bridges Are Moving Forward

A carfree bridge at NW Flanders is closer than you think (and so are two others).

Right now in Portland we have three new bridges that are moving toward construction and not one of them will be used for driving.

Crews have already begun preliminary surveying and engineering work on the Flander’s Crossing bridge over I-405 at NW Flanders Street. This crucial carfree link has been in plans for decades and it can’t come soon enough. It will connect the most dense residential areas of Portland and open up a low-stress transportation corridor between Waterfront Park and the NW 23rd shopping district. The City of Portland estimates there will be 9,100 bike trips over this bridge every day, making it the busiest span in our network. It’s expected to be open in 2020.

The Sullivan’s Crossing bridge over I-84 at 7th Avenue will be a game-changer. It will stitch together the central eastside and northeast Portland via the Lloyd Center. After finalized the alignment last month, PBOT is moving further into the design phase. With funding lined up and strong public support, design and planning for this bridge could wrap up this year.

And while it’s not as flashy, don’t forget about the new Gideon Street Bridge that will cross over the railroad tracks between SE Gideon and Brooklyn/16th. This is the bridge TriMet removed during Orange Line Construction in 2013. There are issues to work out with Union Pacific Railroad and the project goes in front of the Design Commission this month. TriMet says it will be open and ready for use by mid-2019.

Dockless Bike Share is Coming to Town

A Spin bike in Seattle. They might have to change the color if they launch in Portland.
(Photo: Spin)

You can only keep the biggest trend in bike share away from Portland for so long. Dockless bike share operated by private companies has become a global phenomenon. And while the bubble is bursting in places like China where entrepreneurs and investors have suffered from irrational exuberance, the top companies are doing well and the model works.

The City of Portland has stood firm with its Biketown system even as truly dockless systems have flourished in Seattle. But our 1,000 bike system is too small and the benefits of shared bikes aren’t available in many neighborhoods. A dockless system run by a private company (with permits from the City of Portland of course) could instantly increase bicycle access to places far from the city core like the Jade District, Gateway, St. Johns, and many others.

We’ve heard through the grapevine that Portland Bureau of Transportation staff have recently taken a trip to Seattle to research the dockless bikes. They’ll likely use that knowledge to craft a strategy that will open the door for them here in 2018.

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The Year of Protected Bike Lanes

Greeley protected bike lanes-8.jpg

Expect a lot more of this in 2018.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This is the riskiest prediction in the list because we’ve been waiting and hoping for more (and better!) protected bike lanes for many years. But everything is lined up for 2018 to be the year it finally happens.

PBOT is putting the finishing touches on a new internal design manual that will make it easier for city engineers to green-light and install curbs, bollards, and other methods of bikeway protection. For years now we’ve been painting generous buffer zones to existing bike lanes and that space is just waiting to be used. Any place you see paint-only bike lane buffers is likely to become physically protected in 2018: places like the North Larrabee overpass to the Broadway Bridge; North Vancouver Avenue south of Columbia Blvd; and the newly striped North Willamette Blvd (where we expect to see protection added not just in the newly reconfigured section but further north as well).

And those are just the existing bike lanes. PBOT’s Central City in Motion project still inches along painfully slow, but moving faster is the SW Naito project we covered yesterday. And then there’s Better Naito, which is such an easy win for Mayor Ted Wheeler that I’m surprised he hasn’t come out in advance of its return in May to make it permanent.

Portland’s lack of a high-quality, network of protected bikeways has become an embarrassment — not to mention a major public safety liability. We have the tools, the roadway space, the plans and the public support to do this.

Lower Residential Speed Limits

SE Division Takeover-5.jpg

A couple thousand of these signs (just slightly more official) will be installed soon.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

In case you forgot, the Oregon Legislature passed a law this past session that gives the City of Portland authority to reduce speed limits on over 3,000 miles of residential streets — that’s over 60 percent of all the streets in Portland — to 20 mph. This is a big deal that could become a crucial part of the cultural change we need to defend our streets against the motorized menace.

To get ready for a major rollout this spring, PBOT is putting togther a “20 is Plenty” marketing campaign. According to meeting minutes of their December 7th Vision Zero Task Force meeting, PBOT hired an advertising agency to craft an educational campaign “encouraging people to drive at safe speeds.” The company, Borders Perrin Norrander, ran focus groups and decided the best approach was to have a Portland celebrity share emotional stories, “of lives lost on Portland streets due to speeding, and highlighting that everybody is somebody.” PBOT also has about 2,000 new “20 MPH” signs and a list of locations to install them. They hope to finish that work by April of this year.

We’ll hear a lot more about the “20 is Plenty” campaign when PBOT makes a presentation to City Council on January 17th at 9:45 a.m.

A Sunday Parkways Downtown

Sunday Parkways NW 2011-40-39

You can judge how much a city prioritizes carfree streets by which streets they choose to make carfree.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This year will be the first since 2011 to have a Sunday Parkways route that goes downtown. PBOT has five events planned this year (starting May 21st 20th) and the Downtown/Green Loop edition is slated for July 22nd. They haven’t released the route yet, but with it being billed as a way to showcase the Green Loop project, it’s likely to cross the Broadway Bridge, go through the North Park Blocks and eventually make its way over the Willamette River and loop back up north via the central eastside. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the route on NE 12th Avenue as a way to highlight the alignment of the new Sullivan’s Crossing Bridge (although I think using NE Grand would be more fun!).

While it’s nice to explore neighborhoods, Sunday Parkways will only reach its potential when the route uses our major arterials and even sections of urban interstates. In my view, the point of the event is to inspire people to change behaviors and show them how livable our city can be when you experience it outside of a car. We’ll only have that kind of an impact on the broader population when we put the human-powered fun right in front of their faces.

What projects are you looking forward to this year?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Portland Century August 19th

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

45 Comments
  • Dan Kaufman January 5, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    Look forward to planning and improvements on Powell Boulevard towards it’s eventual transfer to the City of Portland. http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/369308-250950-city-to-get-control-of-powell-eventually

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    • rick January 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      but not the chopped-down street trees.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty January 5, 2018 at 2:49 pm

        #warontrees

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        • GlowBoy January 7, 2018 at 8:34 pm

          Better than a war on Christmas trees.

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      • David Hampsten January 5, 2018 at 3:42 pm

        Outer Powell, from I-205 to 175th, has street trees? I wasn’t aware of that.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty January 5, 2018 at 4:18 pm

          Not since ODOT arrived on the scene.

          #warontrees

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  • mran1984 January 5, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    It’s not a “protected” bike lane when the rider approaching me is on the phone and paying ZERO attention to what they are supposedly doing. Still no mtb in this crowded town either. Sure glad I have a car. You can’t ride a mtb without one and cycling for transportation is about as much fun as a condom. It may beat driving to work, but that’s it.

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    • Chris I January 5, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you for highlighting the public health crisis that distracted cyclists pose. The body count is truly immense.

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    • 9watts January 6, 2018 at 9:03 pm

      “Sure glad I have a car. You can’t ride a mtb without one”

      !

      I’ve been riding one with out a car for thirty years. I must be doing something wrong.

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      • abomb January 8, 2018 at 6:29 am

        Where do you ride your MTB since there is no good (legal)MTB trails in the Metro area? I’m guessing you don’t ride to Sandy Ridge, Post Canyon, or Blackrock.

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        • 9watts January 8, 2018 at 7:48 am

          Everywhere I need to go. Mind over matter 😉

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        • Chris January 8, 2018 at 12:56 pm

          Transit with bike racks will get you a mile from Sandy Ridge. Out of luck on the others though.

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  • Rebecca Hamilton January 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    I believe you meant “the Ned Flanders Crossing” over I-405 at NW Flanders Street.

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    • Momo January 8, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      Somebody needs to commission a statue of Ned Flanders to put on that bridge.

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  • rick January 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Multnomah County is updating their Road Capital Improvement Project plan !

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  • chasing backon January 5, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    May 21st is a monday not a sunday. I’d love to see a 2018 Sunday parkways list.

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    • Mark January 6, 2018 at 10:47 pm

      Yes, this appears to be an error in Jonathan’s post. Four of the events are actually from last year.

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  • David Hampsten January 5, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Any word on the Gateway Broadway/Weidler protected bike lanes?

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  • maxD January 5, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Does anyone know if a dockless bike share system would allow people under 18 years old to use it? I find that to be my biggest complaint/limitation with Biketown

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    • Phil Richman January 5, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      Agreed. I think a lot of systems around the country have an age limit of 16. My kid is old enough to drive, but too young to use the Biketown station next to her school.

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    • David Hampsten January 5, 2018 at 9:36 pm

      We had the LimeBike dockless system here in Greensboro since June. I see lots of young kids (under 16) using it as well as college students. Since the first ride is free, I’m not sure if kids are paying for subsequent rides or if they’ve managed to hack the system software for free rides every time.

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  • B. Carfree January 5, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Interesting to call plastic wands that can crash a bike but won’t be much noticed by the texting driver of a car as s/he blows over them “protection”. Add in the tendency of all too many traffic planners to make the bike lanes too narrow and I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect of seeing those wands go up all over. They also have a way of making it much more difficult to merge over for turns in a timely, safe manner. Kludge, to say the least.

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    • Kyle Banerjee January 6, 2018 at 6:32 am

      Exactly.

      Wands have a bigger effect on driver than paint, but they also take away a lot of ability from the cyclist to address a variety of situations which would normally require him or her to use that space. They also encourage drivers to push cyclists out of their consciousness altogether.

      On another note, while car free infrastructure is both important and welcome, it’s not progress if the practical effect is to convert a much larger number of areas to bike free zones. If the general population is convinced that cycling is not safe except when totally separated from cars, don’t be surprised when the only cyclists left are casual recreational cyclists who only ride in good weather during busy times on a handful of low speed paths.

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      • GlowBoy January 7, 2018 at 8:36 pm

        So you’re basically making a risk-compensation case against protected bike lanes? That’s the same thing the VC advocates did to us 20 years ago when we were getting standard bike lanes put in.

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    • Eric Leifsdad January 6, 2018 at 10:44 pm

      Curbs, so you have something to crash over? Slay Balls?

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    • GlowBoy January 7, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      We have a lot more wand-protected bike lanes in Minneapolis than Portland does, and I can tell you there is no epidemic of cars driving over them and hitting cyclists. There is also no epidemic of cars knocking them out, period, because unlike Portland, Minneapolis doesn’t put them on the inside of curves. Don’t provincially assume wands don’t work just because they’ve had their problems in Portland.

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  • Justin January 7, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Can this please be the year of covered bike lanes? I’m tired of getting rained on while riding to/from school and work. I don’t know why my suggestion keeps getting ignored. How much can it possibly cost to put a canopy over all the bike lanes in the city?

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  • Shoupian January 7, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    “But our 1,000 bike system is too small and the benefits of shared bikes aren’t available in many neighborhoods.” – Station density is crucial in making bikeshare successful. Which is why Biketown’s service area does not cover a lot of land. Outside of downtown, the Pearl and NW, most Portland’s neighborhoods are not dense enough to support the level of station density needed to make station bikeshare successful (sorry Portlanders, you can’t have low density neighborhoods and still want convenient transportation options). I am curious whether dockless bikeshare systems are subject to the same density constraint . Does anyone have any information on that?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty January 7, 2018 at 5:41 pm

      Does it follow that where the bikes are available, neighborhoods are sufficiently dense to support good transportation options, suggesting we focus our efforts to increase density on areas that would benefit more?

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      • David Hampsten January 7, 2018 at 6:32 pm

        Not necessarily. Here in Greensboro we have about the same urban area as Portland (139 sq mi vs 145 for Portland), but about half as many people (300,000 vs 630,000), so we have half the density – even our downtown looks suburban, though we do have 2 highly urban university campuses that are more like Eugene than PSU. Nevertheless, we do have dockless bike share with over 1,000 bikes, most of which are being used according to our local LimeBike rep. Between when the system started in June 2017 and October 30th, they recorded over 50,000 rides and nearly 20,000 unique users (over 6.5% of our population). According to city staff and the complaints they’ve received from property owners, the system is especially popular in poorer black neighborhoods where bike theft is more common and barriers to buying bikes is much higher (all of our 7 bike shops are in white neighborhoods.) Greensboro is 43% black, 40% white, most the rest being Latino, Asian, African, or foreign migrant workers.

        The city supports bike share in that they give LimeBike a municipal monopoly, but otherwise invest no money at all in it, not even staff time, so our tightwad city council is joyful they get bike share without paying a subsidy (unlike nearby Winston-Salem, Durham, Raleigh, and Charlotte, who have Portland-like bike share programs.)

        As an advocate, our bike share program makes my tasks much easier, as the obnoxiously bright lime-green bikes are everywhere, and our car-oriented city staff and elected officials can no longer deny that they see bikes all over their districts. They are now hearing from their constituents that more and better bike facilities are needed, including from highly-influential black church leaders here. And yes, even children are using them, especially after many of the newer bikes now have gears to go up our steep hills.

        Like Portland, much of our city lacks safe bike facilities and car traffic moves much too fast. However, unlike Portland, Greensboro now has money to fix things, adding 12 miles of new bike facilities in 2017 (over 20 lane miles), but adding them equally in all districts, including in both rich and poor areas, rather than just the rich white areas. Speed limits are being lowered on many streets, lane widths reduced to 10 feet maximum, and we got our first buffered bike lanes and green lanes in 2017. We expect to get even more miles of improvements in 2018.

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        • Eric Leifsdad January 7, 2018 at 10:08 pm

          PBOT considers 10ft to be a minimum lane width.

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          • David Hampsten January 8, 2018 at 1:09 am

            According to a city engineer here, the feds allow a minimum as narrow as 9 feet. The narrower a lane, the more likely drivers will drive at the posted speed limit on a multi-lane street.

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  • q January 7, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    I know “Jade District” was mentioned only in passing as an example of a potential beneficiary of a dockless bike share system, versus being discussed directly, but personally one thing I’d like to see in 2018 is some questioning about whether we should still be naming districts with names (or code names) associated with the races or nationalities of groups of people who may live or own businesses within the district.

    I’m all for Theater Districts, Produce Rows, Antique Rows, Arts Districts, Old Towns, etc. I’m not so sure we should label an area “Jade District” any more than we should have an “Ebony District” or “Rainbow District”.

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    • David Hampsten January 8, 2018 at 1:13 am

      Might not “jade” be a reflection of “pearl”, as a valuable material rather than as an ethnicity?

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      • q January 8, 2018 at 10:50 am

        I certainly can see the inspiration coming from “Pearl”, but there are dozens or hundreds of valuable materials, so the chances of coincidentally choosing the one with Asian associations is tiny. Plus, according to the background article posted below, Jade was chosen specifically because of that.

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    • John Liu January 8, 2018 at 8:42 am

      That should be up to the residents and businesses of that district.

      AFAIK, the name “Jade District” was picked by community and business groups in the area around 82nd.

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  • Brett January 8, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Also of note: The Foster Road Streetscape Project is actually scheduled for construction in April (https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/540950), just under 3 years since it was unanimously approved by City Council. The January update from PBOT (linked above) states that construction will take 6-7 months. So… maybe it will not be done this year, but it will begin. So excited to see this project!

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    • rick January 8, 2018 at 9:51 am

      I think it was delayed to coincide with the Foster road repave by around 90th Ave..

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  • rick January 8, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Have any businesses warmed-up to the SE Foster Road diet? I’m referring to the ones who have been against it.

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    • Brett January 8, 2018 at 11:23 am

      I can’t say for sure, but my guess is that those who were against it are still opposed. The timing for any meaningful input on this plan was a long time ago, so I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish at this point. My family has made a point to support the many businesses who are in favor of the project and have found other places to shop for those who have made their opposition apparent.

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    • 9watts January 8, 2018 at 11:27 am

      This would be a fascinating thing to try to track. My sense from how this has worked in other locations, other cities, other countries is that business owners who vehemently opposed this kind of thing, in many instances came around once it was implemented. The frustrating and mystifying thing to me is that PBOT and the business owners who get it already don’t make use of this track record, introduce these findings into their outreach efforts.

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