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

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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Browning, a graduate of the University of Oregon in Eugene, spent 15 years as a partner for Browning Shono Architects in Portland and while there also represented the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee on the advisory team for the city’s 1996 Bicycle Master Plan. (At the tail end of his time there, we covered his work on the bike oasis at Southeast Hawthorne and 36th.) He then spent several years at consulting firms Parson Brinckerhoff and DKA and more recently served as project director for a new state office building in Olympia.

Browning is also car-free in his personal life and no stranger to standing up for the interests of bike users. Last February, he contacted us to draw attention to a problem in which Amtrak was unable to predict whether its buses would be able to carry a bicycle.

Back in Portland, there will certainly be a lot of eyes on this project — many of them, presumably, supportive. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance has spent years preparing for this project, which it sees as an opportunity for a “world class” bike facility that could reboot local growth in bicycle use and demonstrate to more people how pleasant and attractive bicycle transportation on a first-rate facility can be.

Every north-south route between Broadway and 2nd Avenue has been discussed as a possible route, but where the conversation will lead is anyone’s guess.

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