We talk a lot about bikes here at THINK.urban not only because of our appreciation for the method of transportation, but also because of the apparent progress on bicycle facilities the United States, even here in Portland. While Portland was a pioneer in bicycle lanes and support for citizen cyclists in the city, it has been noted that there has been a stagnation in more innovative facilities, many of which are considered world class and commonplace in European cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Recently, however, several hopeful developments have come to light in what could be signs of the next wave of bicycle transportation progress.
Truly separated bicycle lanes in Portland, as opposed to the regular striped on-street lanes, are rare. Depending on the level of separation, these can either be separated by a larger stripe of paint, things like planters or bollards, or even be raised above the street level in a truly separate cycle track. A new design for NE Multnomah, as BikePortland.org reports, seems to plan for a combination of the first two and could serve as the new model for other streets also in the redesign process like SE Powell.
One of the most important concepts of these kinds of facilities is that they are “world class”. We call Portland progressive, but cycling is still only a major mode of transportation for less than 10% of the population. Depending on the source, Copenhagen and Amsterdam may have up to 50% of citizens regularly cycling to school, work, and recreational activities. In order to increase current numbers, it is commonly believed that safer, or more separated, facilities must be made. Many simply do not feel confident enough to ride next to traffic or on the street. With that sort of inhibitor to increasing the number of people on bikes, it also continues to make it a less visible, and therefore less safe mode of transit, which further continues the cycle. We would like to think that the constant pressure on the city for this next step in bicycle transportation is helping push along these types of projects. Indeed we too felt it best to go for world class in our GOOD Ideas for Cities presentation earlier in the year. With this sort of progress being made, I am hopeful and excited about the prospect of a better Portland, but it is also clear that a constant discussion on these elements is necessary to get these results.
For those of you interested in having your voice heard here in Portland and continuing the push for world class bicycle facilities, you might want to attend the BTA’s brown bag on building a world class network on Thursday, or check out the open house for SE Powell on Wednesday.