This morning on the corner of Southwest Broadway and Harvey Milk, Portlanders gathered in support of protected bike lanes.
The event, hosted by all-volunteer nonprofit advocacy group BikeLoud PDX, comes just weeks after Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps and Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Millicent Williams planned to roll back the design of the protected bike lane on Broadway to a previous version that PBOT staff warned would be less safe.
With the fight to save the Broadway bike lane largely over, BikeLoud wants to raise awareness of the importance of protected bike lanes — for keeping people safe and for revitalizing downtown. BikeLoud volunteers held signs and passed out free coffee, donuts, and other snacks to passersby.
“We’re here to show people that are on this bike lane today that we support them,” BikeLoud Chair Nic Cota said in an address to the crowd. “And I know all city councilors say their number one issue is public safety. This is public safety, right? This is keeping the public safe.”
Downtown worker Ean Howe was thrilled to see the event. He was biking into work and stopped to fill up his coffee mug when I heard him say Broadway is his favorite bike lane. “This is one of the important bike lanes on my daily commute,” Howe said. “Whenever I make a turn into the beginning of a bike lane, I have a little rush of, ‘This is the place for me!'” There’s a bike lane right here for me to turn into. “
“I take this one to work every day… when I heard they were going to possibly close this bike lane, I just had a cussin’ fit and got on Reddit asking where I could voice my displeasure. I feel great about knowing that they’re not going to take away my favorite bike lane.”
Kristin Sweeney rode to the event from north Portland early this morning to show her support. “I ride this lane every Saturday with my kids on our cargo bike. It used to be really dangerous when the bike lane was right next to the traffic and now it feels a lot safer.”
Commissioner Mapps and Director Williams said the design change was necessary mostly because local business interests and hotel managers have voiced concerns about it. While we now know that at least one major hotel on Broadway strongly supports the current bike lane, it’s clear other influential business interests have had an influence on City Hall.
But BikeLoud’s leader Nic Cota, doesn’t see it as an either/or proposition. He believes quality, protected bike lanes are just what downtown Portland needs to create the type of environment that will help revitalize downtown. “It’s a win to have these in here for everybody. For the hotels, for the businesses… biking means business. I know a lot of people who come to downtown Portland knowing that this protected bike lane is hear and they may have not made that decision if it wasn’t… [Bike lanes like the one on Broadway] are the future of Portland, so let’s let’s get behind it. Let’s support it and let’s let’s show people what it means to use them and support people that rely on them.”