Biking through downtown Portland’s network of social services

Cathy Tuttle and Bike Loud PDX Vice Chair Serenity Ebert talk with Heather Hilligoss, Rose Haven’s Program Director. (Photo: Taylor Griggs/BikePortland)

Most of the Bike Loud PDX Portland ‘policy rides’ Cathy Tuttle has led so far this year have focused specifically on bike or transportation policy. Last month, for instance, Tuttle recruited Portland Bureau of Transportation’s signals manager Peter Koonce to lead a tour of Central City traffic signals, and the month before, the Parking Reform Network’s Tony Jordan gave riders the lowdown on Portland parking policy.

This month, however, Tuttle went in a new direction and tackled a subject transportation activists aren’t always directly involved in: homelessness and social services. It’s not as cut and dry as a ride looking at bike signals, but Tuttle thought it was just as important to show bike advocates what’s going on in this sector of Portland life.

Tuttle told me she wanted to connect the themes of homelessness and access to social services with transportation advocacy or city planning generally because cities are made up of more than just inanimate physical infrastructure. The network of social services and people working together to help each other make up the fabric of downtown Portland just as much as bike lanes, the Streetcar and MAX rails do.

“People are part of the city,” Tuttle said.

Portland’s Old Town has been a favored place for people to set up camps because it’s a hub for resources that aren’t available in other parts of the city. This became especially pertinent during the pandemic, when many social service organizations around Portland had to restructure and couldn’t provide the same services as they used to. Over the last few years, unhoused people have formed communities in Old Town and become a part of the neighborhood. This has become a hot button issue for people across the ideological spectrum, with some people using the prevalence of tents downtown as a sign of Portland’s rapid decay – a thought process I don’t find conducive to progress and thoughtful city planning.

Bike Loud aims to make Portland accessible without a car, which means acknowledging there are many people in the city who don’t drive whose needs can be overlooked in favor of accommodating car drivers. This group of people includes many homeless people, who – like all of us – should be able to access things they need without traveling very far.

This is why it’s so painful for people when the city sweeps their camps and forces them to go elsewhere, cutting off access to services and a community they’ve grown familiar with.

Along with city-ordered encampment clean-ups, which have been revving up in Old Town in recent months, people living on the streets are subject to hostility from business and property owners. We rode past the unsanctioned bike racks erected on NW Broadway outside a building owned by Schnitzer Properties, which homeless advocates saw as hostile architecture intended to prevent people from setting up tents on the sidewalk (there isn’t demand for bike parking on that block). In contrast, PBOT’s new car-free plaza in Old Town, which we took a quick look at, provides a welcoming space for the public to enjoy. This is an example of how infrastructure can determine who is allowed to exist in a city – how public ‘public space’ really is.

At Rose Haven, an organization in the Northwest District a bit outside Old Town that serves women and children as a community center and day shelter, people who need some help getting around the city can get financial assistance for TriMet passes. They have a designated transportation assistance budget, which just shows how important transportation access is.

We spoke to people from Stone Soup and Sisters of the Road, both organizations that give people a chance to work in food service, which helps people with career training and allows for community connection. We also rode past service providers like Transition Projects, Blanchett House and a day storage facility, as well as P:ear, a program that offers homeless youth the very cool opportunity to learn professional skills including bike repair. Looking at all the programs that exist within about a 1.5 mile radius, I thought it was meaningful that all of them serve to fill some gap. People are in communication with one another, working together to ensure they’re able to serve the community the best they can.

“One organization can’t do it all,” said Lana Silsbe, the kitchen manager at Sisters of the Road. “We rely on everyone; we work together.”

Nowhere to park your bike at Pine Street Market? Help is on the way

A new market in downtown Portland without bike parking out front? The horror!(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)
A new market in downtown Portland without bike parking out front? Say it ain’t so!
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Our bike parking coverage is sponsored by Huntco.

Downtown Portland’s most interesting new meal spot could be described as an indoor food cart pod, or maybe a slightly upmarket food court.

But whatever you want to call Pine Street Market, one thing it’s clearly short of is bike parking.

A few weeks ago, when I met a friend there, I resorted to something I’ve never had to do since moving to Portland: locking my bike to the plumbing outside a nearby building.

This is such an odd situation in Portland, which usually excels at commercial bike parking above all else, that it’s been drawing attention:

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City proposes shifting future downtown bikeway from Alder to Taylor/Salmon

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
nw to se change with yamhill

The city has proposed to change the future bikeway that would be the fastest dedicated biking route from the Northwest District to the Central Eastside. (People would be able to choose between a longer jog south to Salmon or a shorter one to a lane of Yamhill shared with cars, presumably with diverters to hold down traffic.)

The city says there’s no room for future bike lanes on the most direct street between Northwest Portland’s fast-growing residential area and the Central Eastside’s fast-growing job district.

Instead, inner Southwest Alder Street is slated to become a “trafficway” offering automobile and truck connections to the Morrison Bridge and interstate highways.

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Portland celebrates holiday shopping with free parking in downtown garages

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outside target

Parking is always free for many shoppers.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The latest piece of Portland’s ongoing effort to get people to realize that there are places to park cars downtown other than curbs is to offer free parking in its six public garages.

Here’s the word from tourism promotion group Travel Portland:

On three Sundays in December 2015 (Dec. 6, 13 and 20), parking at downtown SmartPark lots is free. Customers who park at SmartPark garages can visit the customer service kiosk at Pioneer Place (lower level near the Gap) or Boys’ Fort (902 S.W. Morrison St.) or PDX Pop-Up Shops (438 N.W. Broadway and 341 N.W. Fifth Ave.) any time between noon and 5 p.m. to show their eligible SmartPark ticket and receive one $5 parking voucher to cover parking for the day.

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A backwards incentive in Portland, where bus rides cost more than parking spaces

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Bike-Bus leapfrog -1

We’ve made driving both cheap and convenient even though it causes a whole lot of problems.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Though lovers of bikes, transit and walking hate to admit it, driving a car is often the most convenient way to get around Portland. Until we start reconfiguring our roads to give more space to bicycling and dedicated transit lines, that will likely remain the case years into the future.

An odd thing about driving is that not only is it usually convenient; it’s also usually pretty cheap.

The question is, why are we also going out of our way to make driving so cheap?

At least, that’s the question asked Sunday by Tony Jordan, a member of the committee that’s currently advising the city on whether it should raise its downtown parking rates from $1.60 to $2 per hour.

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City hires project manager for high-profile downtown protected bike lane project

The project management gig that one local planning pro has referred to as the “job of the year” has been filled.

Rick Browning, an architect and urban designer with a long history in Portland, will start work May 28 on a federally funded project that’s widely expected to implement the first substantial protected bike lanes in downtown Portland — indeed, some of the only low-stress bike infrastructure in downtown, which has by far the city’s highest concentration of bike commuters.

The $6.6 million Central City Multimodal Safety Project might also look for ways to improve the awkward bike connections to bridges like the Burnside, Steel and Hawthorne or even crossings of Interstate 405 to the west.

As it has been in other U.S. cities over the last few years, the downtown protected bike lanes would be a companion project to a planned bike sharing system that the city continues to say will launch in 2016.

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After success of 3rd Avenue demonstration in Old Town, real changes are coming

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Better Block

A temporary crosswalk across 3rd Avenue, crossing one lane of mixed traffic and one protected bike lane, on Oct. 4.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

Two months after a three-day demo of a human-oriented 3rd Avenue captured many visitors’ imaginations, permanent changes are afoot.

The city is proposing to spend $10,000 next spring to add paint to 14 unmarked crosswalks on NW 2nd, 3rd and 4th between Burnside and Glisan. Several nearby properties have just changed hands. And Howard Weiner, chair of the Old Town Community Association, is working on plans that could bring much larger changes to the area.

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James Beard Market plans could be chance to fix Morrison Bridge bike access issues

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
beard market birdseye sketch

An indoor food market planned for the west side of the Morrison Bridge might bring the money needed to improve Portland’s newest and arguably most awkward downtown bridge landing.

At an open house and design forum on Saturday, Dec. 13, the public will get its first big chance to review and weigh in on the proposal to convert the little-used parking lots inside the bridge’s cloverleafs to a space inspired by Vancouver BC’s Granville Island or Copenhagen’s Torvehallerne. A local biking advocate, who identified the opportunity, is urging people who care about the area to join him in attending.

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