— Madi Carlson is our Family Biking columnist.
It’s been three years since I visited Vancouver, Canada (with my cargo bike via BoltBus) and while I was very impressed with the bike infrastructure back then — it’s even better now. The most notable new thing was a protected intersection.
I biked through the one at Quebec Street and 1st Avenue and it felt a lot like biking in the Netherlands.
We first crossed the well-marked, perpendicular bike path and had room to wait — protected by curbs — in front of stopped car traffic. Then a bright, cheery bike lane led us all the way through the intersection. The only thing missing was the mayhem of bikes everywhere and the rush of cycling cross-traffic racing through the end of the light cycle.
My children weren’t with me for this trip, but I was not without kid company. I was joined by a few friends including Lisa aka @spokesmama and her five and eight-year olds on their own bikes. During my last visit I carried my kids on my cargo bike through downtown Vancouver. We’ve also biked together (minimally) in downtown Portland and downtown Seattle. But it wasn’t the same as Vancouver. More protected bike lanes and protected intersections would make all the difference in the world for making downtown bicycling comfortable for my kids and me. Apparently a lot of people share my opinion because I’ve never tweeted a tweet with this much interest (granted most of the comments are two men arguing back and forth with each other).
Coincidentally, three years ago is also when BikePortland contributor Michael Andersen wrote about ideas on where Portland could use protected intersections, as put forth by the concept’s creator (and Portland resident) Nick Falbo.
Sadly, we haven’t implemented even one big downtown protected intersection since then. On the bright side, PBOT plans to build a partially protected intersection on West Burnside by the end of this summer.
➤ Elephant’s feet
In addition to the new-to-me protected intersection, I learned about elephant’s feet, the white squares on the sides of the green bike lane through the intersection. These squares let people know they are not required to dismount and walk their bikes through the intersection — which they would otherwise be required to do in a crosswalk, since biking on sidewalks is not legal in Vancouver. All bike paths that cross streets have these elephant’s feet, and all the ones I saw flanked green bike lanes, making them easy to see. These are similar to Portland’s crossbikes, but I found them to be less confusing to use.
What are your thoughts on protected intersections? Where could we use these in Portland?
Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.
Browse past Family Biking posts here.
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