A glimpse at Portland’s future — and better — bike network

A glimpse at Portland’s future — and better — bike network

Buffered bike lanes NE 15/16th

New buffered bike lanes on NE 15th and 16th in the Lloyd District connect the protected bike lane on NE Multnomah to NE Broadway (which had a protected bike lane last week).
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s infrastructure still has a long way to go before cycling appeals to as many people as walking, taking transit or driving; but it’s moving in the right direction.

The way to get there is not a mystery: We need more roadway space dedicated solely to cycling with lanes that are physically separated and protected from motorized traffic. And each segment of protected bikeway we add makes the entire network exponentially better.

With two Better Block projects running simultaneously last week I realized I could hit both of them on my way home. As I did the ride it occured to me that my route would be full of bikeways that are protected from cars and trucks in some form or another. In fact by the time I got home I’d spent the vast majority of my time on bike lanes or paths that are a step (or two) above the standard, door-zone bike lanes that dominate most cities, including Portland.

Our office is on SW 4th between Stark and Oak and I live up near Peninsula Park in the Piedmont neighborhood of north Portland. Below is the route I took with the little detour to check out the Better Broadway project (which is now over, sadly):

Purple lines are better-than-average bike lanes — either buffered or protected.

Purple lines are better-than-average bike lanes — either buffered or protected.

From my office I hopped on SW Stark, which is part of a key east-west cycling couplet with Oak. In 2009 the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) dedicated one of the two traffic lanes for cycling and then three years later painted the entire lane green. From Stark I connected to Naito Parkway which is in the midst of a three-month transformation where half of the northbound roadway space has been devoted to cycling and walking.

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From Naito I jumped up onto the multi-use path in Waterfront Park, across the Willamette on the lower-deck of the Steel Bridge, and up the ramps of the path to the bike-signal on the corner of NE Lloyd and Oregon. From there it was a quick jump through the bike-only lanes in the Rose Quarter Transit Center where I connected to the protected bike lane on NE Multnomah.

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I took the Multnomah bikeway to NE 16th where PBOT has recently added buffered bike lanes.

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Imagine how much better this would be with some of those Tuff Curbs PBOT just installed on SW 13th at Clay.

Once on Broadway I thoroughly enjoyed the citizen-backed transformation of the street. I biked with plenty of breathing room. On my left parked cars created a nice buffer from auto traffic and on my right I could window shop. It was so relaxing compared to how this stretch of Broadway normally feels. Not only was there more room for biking, the people who were using cars were going much slower than usual.

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As I continued west and the Better Broadway project ended I was back on the gauntlet of stressful riding in a door-zone bike lane on a fast arterial between NE 11th and Williams. Then on Williams I was once again able to ride on a street that had been dramatically reconfigured recently to have more space for cycling and slower automobiling speeds.

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North of Killingsworth I took quiet neighborhood streets to Rosa Parks Way. Rosa Parks still only has a standard, door-zone bike lane but it’s better than nothing, and that’s what it used to have.

It’s easy to pick apart these bike lanes and criticize their inadequacies. All of them have sections where the design has been compromised for myriad reasons. They all need some combination of more physical separation and width and they need to be seamlessly connected to each other with safe crossings, more signal priority, and so on. Most of us agree on that. But in this post I just wanted to give you a glimpse of what’s possible. As we add segments of protected bike lanes like Better Block did on Naito and Broadway, and we add it to the smart improvements PBOT has already made in key sections, it’s amazing how a complete and safe bike network suddenly emerges right before our eyes. The foundation has been built. We just need to keep building on it (and install a lot more of those Tuff Curbs) and we’ll find out that going from good to great is right within our grasp.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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