Sure Portland's revered nationally as a bike paradise, but a lot of local advocates take a dim view of our progress in recent years. There's a common notion momentum here has slowed, and that other cities are rapidly advancing on us.
Maybe that's understandable. It's easier to improve on very little bike infrastructure than it is to make the leap from a good bike system to one that's world class. Portland's tackled most of the easy and intermediate stuff. Now, bicycle advocates say we need to approve, and fund, some landmark projects
So the Bicycle Transportation Alliance today has released a new "Blueprint for World-Class Bicycling" [PDF]—a wish list of 16 projects the organization will use as a guiding document in coming years. It's a collection of bikeways, separated cycle paths and trails likely to draw cheers from avid cyclists, but that could find a wary audience among motorists and business owners skeptical of Portland's love of the bicycle.
"We left no stone unturned in our search for the best ideas and the most transformational projects," the report says. "We envision raising our existing network to the next level to ensure that riders of all abilities, regardless of destination, have access to a safe place to ride."
The BTA classified its target projects by four larger groupings: better amenities on busy streets, new neighborhood greenways, building trails and fixing problematic stretches of road.
Some of the bigger proposals:
-constructing a new pedestrian/bike bridge over I-84, roughly lined up with NE 7th
-building the long-discussed North Portland Greenway, with a much-coveted route through Swan Island
-adding protected cycle tracks to N/NE Broadway and Weidler, which the BTA says would better connect cyclists with businesses in the corridor
-creating better bicycle amenities downtown, a suggestion which may run into resistance from Mayor Charlie Hales
I talked to the BTA's Gerik Kransky and Rob Sadowsky about the report last week. With community buy-in, they say most of these projects are achievable within three to five years (though the trails would take longer).
But there's a big conversation that would have to accompany much of that progress. Some projects—the North Portland Greenway, for instance—already have significant support. Others—I'm thinking about the Broadway/Weidler proposal—will have to build support, some of it from tough audiences. Business owners can be skittish about possibly losing on-street parking spaces to cycle tracks (though there is evidence to suggest they actually help business), and motorists are loath to lose traffic lanes.
There is also the question of funding, though Sadowsky believes many of these projects could be completed with money that already exists.
"We have to do our job winning the hearts and minds of people," he said.
What do you think of the BTA's list?
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