Fixing Greenways (or Bike Boulevards?)

Ok, so it seems the names change, so I will kick off this blog entry with a definition of what a greenway is.

Neighborhood Greenways are residential streets with low volumes of auto traffic and low speeds where bicycles and pedestrians are given priority.

Here is some more information on the Multnomah County Site. I’ve posted a screenshot of the map on that page below.

2016-03-12_17-05-24

There’s also a useful video, produced a good while ago, that explains when the bike boulevards became neighborhood greenways.

The goals of these greenways are simple: (PBOT description on the left, my translation on the right)

  • Reduce auto cut-throughReduce dangerous cut-through¬†behavior unfamiliar with neighborhoods¬†endangering people in those neighborhoods.
  • Safer cycling and pedestrian connectionsInsure motorists don’t kill more pedestrians, cyclists, and those in their homes (not joking, motorists keep running into stationary builds with people inside), and generally create safer ways to get where we all are trying to go.
  • Reduce auto speedsbecause seriously, slow¬†down on neighborhood streets asshole. Whoops,¬†that was a little aggressive, you get the point.
  • Help people cross busier more dangerous streets –¬†Where streets are designed where motorists have killed people, improve the intersections and crossings to prevent motorists from killing more people.
  • Provide easier guides on the routeMake it easier to figure out where you’re going, even when you haven’t checked your google maps route. ¬†ūüėČ
  • Provide more “eyes on the street”I think this means more people biking and walking means safer streets, as the data proves, as motorists tend to chill out when lots of people are out and about keeping an eye on their bad behavior. Or it just means more people are¬†staring¬†at the street. I’m not 100% sure about this one.

Ok, so now we have a shared understanding of what a greenway is and generally where they are in the Portland city limits.

But where are we now? There are problems…

A few events have taken place in Portland that have led to some pretty serious problems on the greenways that need to be resolved sooner rather than later.

First Event: There have been thousands upon thousands of new residents that have moved to Portland. Hello to all of you that have moved here over the last decade, welcome to the city! That’s all fine and dandy, this has had profound changes on the city – for better or worse – and the one big change I’d like to point out is that this influx of people have led to more people on the streets. It isn’t just cars, but all modes, however the mode taking up the most street space by orders of magnitude that moves less people are — drum roll please — cars, you guessed it. Because of this there is increased traffic. This leads to more people trying to take shortcuts. Taking shortcuts leads me to the next big event…

Second Event: This app called Waze happened. It’s great for the motorist stuck in traffic, but it enables the stuck like a pig in a cage driver to use the road system in a way¬†it WAS NOT PLANNED TO BE USED. A motorist¬†is NOT supposed to be cutting through neighborhoods (at 20mph or 50mph for that matter) to get from one highway¬†or major arterial¬†to another. But this app enables exactly that. It’s made once pleasant and low traffic neighborhood streets (i.e. greenways and such) into traffic sewer bypasses and cut throughs.

Third Event: The economy improved, yay! Good for us, good for you, good all around. It’s a good thing when the economy is enabling us to feed, eat and clothe ourselves along with enjoying life! However there is a dark side to this, because about 49% of trips into downtown Portland are not made by¬†biking, walking, or¬†transit, but by a single person in a single car,¬†which creates a maddening and dangerous rush hour. Every single day the pollution¬†skyrockets and the air quality decreases dramatically because so many people want to drive, drive, drive. So they do, and hey, we’re America land of freedom and stuff so we subsidize the hell out of that and enable as many people as possible to drive… but, a lot of these now employed people are out there driving, using things like Waze, moving here for work, and generally being a motorist sucking up a bunch of space in their private car and dirtying up the air in spite of the other 51% of trips into and out of downtown that are not done in such a selfish way.

So that is¬†the root of our big issues. But now, how do we fix such issues? It’s actually super easy!

Solution #1: Diverters

Physical diverters direct auto traffic out of neighborhoods onto primary arterials where higher speeds and higher throughput of automobiles is possible. Instead of buzzing through neighborhoods for long trips automobiles are sent into the key automobile sewers like Highway 99 (MLK), Highway 26 (Powell), I-5, I-84, I-205 and other main drags like Hawthorne, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, and others.

These diverters do this and make neighborhoods better for those that live in the neighborhood. Diverters make the neighborhood safer for the children, the elderly, and all the rest of us just walking along the sidewalks, biking down the street, crossing to the local neighborhood coffee shop, or otherwise.

Implementing these is the key, there are some, but we’re in desperate need of many more. So many greenways have no diversion and easily fall prey to Waze and turning into a car sewer. Recently my wife and I stopped biking toward our destination and returned home because of the incessant¬†motorists passing (most safely, but some unsafely with unclear motive or going straight, turning, or whatever they’re doing). Many of the motorists were clearly confused about where they were going, how to return to the Interstate (Avenue or I-5) and were overall, clearly perturbed that they’d taken a cut through and ended up getting stuck and routed back toward the road they were¬†already on – stuck in rush hour traffic.

I learned two things, one is that rush hour is not a good time to ride¬†to a location for dinner or drinks¬†unless you’re a confident and fast rider (then you’re just always ahead of the motorists anyway) and two, the bicycle infrastructure leaves cyclists in a position prone to aggressive motorists and motorists are in a position that they’ve put themselves in – in traffic stuck. So in the future, I’d love to see some diverters to keep those aggressive, confused, and perturbed commuting motorists out of the neighborhoods. In the end, it’ll help the motorists and everybody in the neighborhood.

 

Solution #2: Bikeways, Cycle-tracks (Euro style), and the like need expanded dramatically.

The west side is perfect and can easily take on cycle-tracks and bike ways. But so can downtown Portland and the inner east side (re: river to about 20th should be easy to implement). So far though we’ve fallen short of what we can accomplish. To insure that the greenways can appropriately feed the city and people can bike to and from safely, the greenways need connected by cycle tracks and bikeways. Without we will not¬†be able to go much beyond what we have now. The 8 year olds to the 80 year olds won’t bike. Regardless of the stats, it is simply to scary on the roadways for the somewhat less confident riders.

To summarize, adding real cycle-tracks and bikeways to the major hubs we bike to, would enable the greenways to truly thrive. The planners know it, the stoned guy on the corner knows it, anybody that connects any kind of simple thoughts knows it! The question is, will we act on it as a city and get diverters put in place and get some real greenway connections into and out of the city core. The possibilities are numerous, the only action left is to implement.

Stockholm

Portland, Gateway to Copenhagen, Amsterdam…

…Gronningen, Greifswald, Lund, Assen,¬†M√ľnster, Utrecht,¬†V√§ster√•s,¬†Ferrara,¬†Malm√∂,¬†Link√∂ping,¬†Odense, Basel, Osaka, Bremen, Bologna, Oulu, Munich, Florence, Rotterdam, Berne,¬†T√ľbingen, Aarhus, Tokyo, Salzburg, Venice, Pardubice, York, Dresden, Basel, Ghent, Parma, Bern, Cambridge, Graz, Berlin, Strasbourg, Turku, Stockholm.

Stockholm

Stockholm

All cities that have 10%-55% biking mode share and it’s growing. They all have vibrant music scenes, from heavy metal to jazz to classical. They all have extensive art, museums and places of learning. They all have exceptional standards of living, and livability that’s off the charts. Continue reading →

Sprawling Milwaukie (South of Downtown Milwaukie)

Only 24% of Portlanders Want Suburbs, But 48% are Stuck Living There From Lack of Options!

Recently another article came out¬†via OregonLive, “Most metro-area residents live in suburbs, but wish they didn’t: study“, that actually reflects something interesting about our living style here in Portland. The¬†key measurement I’ve noted is that this article differentiates between town center neighborhood living versus suburban living. This is one of the biggest differentiators that often doesn’t come up between suburban and urban living. You see, town center living is dramatically more comparable to urban living versus suburban living.

Continue reading →

Meetings, Starting the Day and Trimet Bus #4

Overall, I have an odd day compared to many people. I don’t go to a specific office, nor location, but often to many different locations. I do this so that I can go to the people that I need to meet. I don’t use a car, that would make this style of life a rather unfortunate and morbid business. Not to say I haven’t experienced this lifestyle with a car, I have, and know it’s an unfortunate and morbid business because of that. In great luck and fortune I’ve been able to work my life into living and working this way. It’s a great benefit to myself and also a great benefit to those that I work with.

Today I had a number of places to go to throughout the city of Portland. One in the north eastern part of the city, one meeting in the south easy and one in downtown. Each of these meetings was business related, but also personal, for each of the people I’d be going to meet are friends. Again, one more thing to work towards in life, work and live in and around friends. It beats the hell out of working and living around mere acquaintances and enemies.

Another key to this day, each meeting was spaced perfectly. I wouldn’t need to hurry between each meeting so I could use a more relaxed and slower form of transportation. I decided it was going to be a transit only day. Usually, when there are a lot of meetings I use the fastest mode for city transportation, the bicycle. Yes, that’s right, and don’t even get me started, the bicycle is easily the fastest way to get around in any urban landscape. The automobile has to be one of the slowest (along with NYC buses). With that key bit of information ascertained I was off.

I started the day in north east Portland near Alberta street. Walking down the street on this cool brisk day my first ride was going to be the westward bound #72 Bus. The first meeting just a short 8 minute ride away at Coffee House Five at Albina and Killingsworth. The #72 is a great bus, usually arriving much more often than a freqent service bus (this by Trimet’s definition is every 15 minutes). Usually the #72, as with any non-dedicated right of way running transportation, gets bunched at times. Everything from traffic lights to people crossing the street throw a wrench in the scheduling, so the #72 is sometimes running in clumps of 5, 7 or some short variance between buses. Today was no exception. As I walked to the stop a bus drove by. But as I arrived at the stop another #72 arrived which I boarded.

Westward the bus rolled. The short distance was covered in not 8, but 7 minutes. Yes, I timed it because I tend to count everything. I strolled into Coffee House Five. Inside the regular chill crew was slinging the rounds. A cappuccino here and a macchiato there. It’s a consistent shop with a precocious vibe. Something that’s pleasant considering the onslaught of “San Francisco” vibe style coffee shops invading our Portland vibe these days. I enjoyed my cap and a standard boring bagel and cream cheese. After my meeting I walked across the street and waiting two minutes for the arrival of the south bound #4 heading into Portland.

The bus pulled up and she and I left for Portland.

Conversations Overheard

I pulled out my laptop, as I do, to write this blog entry and other material related to other things. While sitting in the raised rear seat by the back door of the bus a lady joined me. I went on with my typing and into the trip a ways she received a phone call. That phone call was rather interesting, and went something like this.

“Hello.”

… ¬†[the other person talking]

“Yes, funny thing, I’m on the bus and I dropped off the car to get detailed. It’s actually a lot easier to just leave the car¬†and take the bus into town, it only takes about 15 minutes.”

… [other person asking why she even brought the car down]

“Oh, I wanted to get it detailed. But usually I drive and then just park it somewhere to come into town. No really, it’s far easier than trying to park and figure out what is close to where I’m trying to go.”

… [other person realizes, yes, that this is obviously true, then says something about coming into town]

“Yeah, since it would take only 30 minutes to get into the city just take the bus.”

… [says something about the MAX]

“Oh yeah, that would actually be faster to get there [referring to Lloyd Center] and then you can just take the MAX or bus over to the city.”

… [says farewell, thanks and something else]

“See ya later.”

Then she turns to me and asks if Couch is closer to this or the next stop. I tell her the first stop we’re coming to is pretty close by one block. She then decides to get off there.

It just strikes me interesting when people make this realization, that there is little reason to drive into downtown Portland and that it is indeed, actually a bad idea. Just go to a park and ride or otherwise and do everybody and yourself a favor, leave the car outside of downtown.

Willamette Crossing

The bus went through downtown, turned onto the southern part of¬†the #4 route toward Gresham and left downtown via the Hawthorne Bridge. I looked south toward the new bridge construction for the transit, bike and pedestrian only bridge. It’s a gorgeous structure that will eventually be immensely useful. I can only imagine what the final through count on that bridge will be when the buses, light rail, cycle and pedestrians are rolling across it daily.

Onward up Division the bus rolled, I eventually got off near 50th, close to where my next meeting would be and decided I’d hang out at Stumptown for a few.¬†In I went and wrapped this blog entry up… ¬† happy transiting¬†all, regardless of your mode; feet, hull, wheel or wing.

Just Daily Portland Trips

A few weeks ago I took a trip around Portland and snagged some photos. I used a varying arrange of modes; streetcar, light rail, bus, bicycle and my own two feet. This is a pretty standard trip that could easily be told in pictures. Which is what I’ll do now, tell the small part of the day along with a respective picture. For all the pictures go here: http://photos.adron.me/Portland-Action/2014-Rolls-On-Up/Bikes-Buses-Streetcars-Car/

Here’s a shot of the streetcar traveling north up MLK. I always like to sit on the right hand side where the two seats face each other. That way I can easily see out the front of the streetcar as we’re rolling along.

Looking Out the Front of the Streetcar (Click for full size image)

Looking Out the Front of the Streetcar (Click for full size image)

I got off near Lloyd Center and snagged a few shots of the light rail trains coming by going east toward Gresham, Clackamas Town Center and the airport and in the other direction those coming into Portland.

Green Line bound for City Center (Click for full size image)

Green Line bound for City Center (Click for full size image)

As things go I saw a number of cyclists among the streets along with the proverbial onslaught of motorists driving their cars.

Cyclists and Motorists (Click for full size image)

Cyclists and Motorists (Click for full size image)

…and then something I see about 1 out of every 7 or 8 trips. Some dipshit motorists that have run into something. In this case someone obviously ran the light and hit the other motorists. Fortunately it appeared that nobody had gotten hurt but I only imagine, everytime I see this sickening situation, how many people might have been killed. In so many places a small negligent act that results in this outcome could have resulted in innocent people being killed. Everything day no less than 13 people, and sometimes as many as 15-20 people are killed by motorists while they simply walk down the street. Sure, one might say callously, that’s a lot number of 300 million people, but consider that this number is about 20-30x higher than in Europe. It really shows that we can indeed reduce these killings. Don’t even get me started on how many motorists other motorists kill, it’s an even higher number at 95-120 people per day and motorists maim another 400-1000 people per day.

Truly unacceptable.

Black Wrecked Car (Click for full size image)

Black Wrecked Car (Click for full size image)

The White Honda Smashed (Click for full size image)

The White Honda Smashed (Click for full size image)

…and more in the near future. Stay safe, think and happy travels. Cheers!