Time to Up Our Game Portland

Vancouver BC went from zero miles of cycle tracks just a few years ago, to dozens and dozens of miles. They now cover all of downtown.

Seattle is now building cycle tracks, bikeways, trails and bike lanes like mad. Almost like their light rail, it seems they’ve jumped into the game really late and realized they’re vital to maintaining and growing their urban core and holding onto people and businesses that drive the Seattle economy.

San Francisco, also now building cycle tracks and bike lanes all over the place. Again, a bit late in many ways but better late than never.

Meanwhile, the biking capital of the United States is in a holding pattern around taking real leaps forward in progress. Portland, Oregon is in desperate need to a true step forward. Yes, we have 6% of the entire metropolitan area cycling, we have almost 30-35% of all trips in the inner urban core taken by bicycle. But we have a host of problems because our bicycling is driven more out of a revolutionary culture of changing things for the better, increasing livability and sustainable living than any actual investment in infrastructure.

Portland’s cycling infrastructure, except for all of 2 or 3 streets, has shared roads. There is only two cycle tracks, one on Multnomah Avenue and one by PSU. Both are often parked on and blocked. When I say often, I mean 2-4 times per week. Often at the worst times, such as during rush hour. Multnomah Avenue is so poorly marked in one segment that it almost always has cars parked on it except on the clearest days. We also have a lot of bike lanes, which are pleasant enough for brave cyclists, but it doesn’t encourage those with children and many others to really mix with traffic out of fear and threats from motorists.

Portland is starting to fall behind.

On several of the bike lanes, such as near Chipotle where the streetcar turns one lady blatantly parked in the bike lane. When I asked if she knew it was a bike lane, I received a strident, dismissive and aggressive, “yeah I know that!” almost as if to say “screw off”. I stated, “well, you could get a ticket, even by me which would see you in court.” Maybe next time the more effective solution would be to bust a window and ride on. It seems like solutions like that would be better since nobody seems to really want to stand up and say what a warped, perverse, self-righteous entitlement motorists like this tend to have.

Portland is starting to fall behind.

All of this is truly frustrating. I’m however, far from depleted of energy, far form demotivated and if anything, this type of disrespectful obliviousness that endangers lives, shows disrespect toward one another’s fellow Portlanders just encourages me to do something about it. But one might ask, what the hell is the solution?

Well, I don’t have a billion dollars to give the city to build real cycle tracks. But I’d bet there is motivation to do something about it! There are others out there and I intend to begin rallying riders to get something done about it.

To summarize, I intend to see some cycle tracks get built in Portland sooner than later. I intend to make it a priority that we don’t end up with more dead and buried because motorists get their entitlement because “cyclists run red lights” and other such nefarious absurdities. Red herrings don’t save anybody’s lives, and it’s about time that we wrapped our heads around this issue and started taking some real action.

Portland is starting to fall behind. But solutions await.

What do we need? That’s simple, it’s absurdly simple.

  • The cycle tracks (the two of them) that exist now need real bollards, real separations. Not some petty separation that is covered up with a light dusting of leaves or debris. These separations can be at grade but would be best raised, when that can’t happen there should be physical obstacles to vehicles running across and into cyclists, pedestrians and others that traverse the sides of the roads. Already this year in Portland over a dozen people; children, young people in their early 20s and even elderly have all been killed by motorists. Some of the motorists were drunk, most were just driving along obliviously as happens far to often. None of these people however should have been killed. Almost all of the motorists have received no charges. Only two, apparently drunk individuals, have actually received charges. The fact that we could have prevented this from happening, arguably even prevented the drunk fools form killing people, is disheartening. Let’s get this fixed.
  • There needs to be cycle tracks implemented along every major corridor into the city. Bike boulevards are wonderful, but as arterials get congested with more auto traffic (from more cars traveling down arterials) the bike boulevards handle the run off of cars, making the street dangerous for residents and of course for cyclists. Simply, every existing boulevard should have a comparable route with a cycle track on it and there should be additional blockages to prevent speeding motorists from using these as secondary arterials. This isn’t even so much something for cyclists, as it is something to protect the schools, the residents and the children that live in these neighborhoods.
  • The cycle *highways* as some have called them are starting to form. These are a great stride forward, but not only a stride forward they are the way forward. The increase in business and activity along these corridors will continue to make malls and suburban development seem like the most absurdly idiotic thing that it is. So this, this one space, we are actually moving forward on. We however as a city could be expanding our efforts around this – cycle-tracks, or highways, as they’re sometimes called should be expanded to travel into every major corridor in the city. Cycle-tracks should funnel into them, bike lanes should funnel into them, and other routes should funnel into these prospective cycle havens. The prospects of increased business, activity, social gathering and community involvement increase dramatically with all of these corridors.

In the future I’ll add a few blogging bits about how to create better hubs of biking, transit, pedestrian and living areas in the city. Hopefully I’ll have a few ideas of how to prevent gentrification screwing over people too. So this is a start. We’ve still got a long way to go to make this city everything it should be. Join in the effort, I’ll see you there.

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