Archive | Bikes

What Makes a Friendly Street?

PSU Transportation Seminar:

Impact of Route-Level Features on Decisions to Walk or Bike

Speaker: Joseph Broach, Portland State University
Topic: Impact of Route-Level Features on Decisions to Walk or Bike
When: Friday, October 31, 2014, 12-1 pm
Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204

Summary: Some travel routes attract people walking and cycling, while others may scare them away. What features of street environments are most important, and how do available routes affect decisions to bike or walk on a specific trip?

Research to date has focused on either large-scale areal measures like “miles of bike lane nearby” or else has considered only shortest path routes. Neither method is suited to capturing the impact of targeted route-level policies like neighborhood greenways. This session will present a new technique for measuring bike and walk accessibility along the most likely route for a given trip. The method is applied to travel data, and results provide new insight into the relationship between route quality and travel mode choice.

Requiem for a Greenway

It was after 6:30, so the bulk of the evening rush had come and gone. Clinton Street would be quiet, relaxing, exhilarating…like the olden days. Or so I thought.

Before I’d even ridden a block, I got the all-too familiar “Clinton Street Salute:” a car zipping around me too quickly and too closely. It presaged a glut of traffic the whole way, and along with it the nerve-racking claustrophobia that’s kept me away from Clinton since a group jaunt back in August.

Just a few years ago, the thought of going two whole months without setting tire upon Clinton Street would have been unfathomable to me. One of the best things about my job is that I get to travel throughout the city to look at roads and intersections, and Clinton has long been my superhighway to all points southeast. If you got there early enough, you could often go from Seven Corners all the way to Southeast 26th without seeing a single car. On my many ambles through the corridor I discovered the best cup of coffee in Southeast, the best corn muffins in the city, and the best hot buttered rum anywhere. I realize now that I developed something of a sentimental attachment to the street while riding eastbound all those mornings, mesmerized by constant stream of people cycling past me on their way downtown. Those sign-toppers really meant something back then.

Neighborhood Greenways, née Bicycle Boulevards, are among the most innovative of Portland’s contributions to bike infrastructure. Because Portland’s density is relatively low, and our city blocks are relatively small, we’ve got a decent number of streets that are naturally low-volume. By identifying some of those streets and making a few modest improvements to them, the city created a fairly robust network of comfortable bikeways, quickly and cheaply. Quintessential “low-hanging fruit.” These would never cut mustard as a substitute for high-quality bikeways along our busiest and best streets, but they could be an excellent complement to them. Certainly, they’d suffice in the interim while we built out all of that truly nice stuff.

While I savored those early morning rides along sleepy Clinton, change was happening quickly a block to the north on Division Street. As the recession eased and development picked up, Southeast Division began to densify as fast as any street in the City. Many hands were wrung regarding where everybody would park, but we forgot to think about where everybody would bike. All the while, car traffic on Clinton crept upward. When the Division Streetscape project hit, it was over. Though the project improved Division Street by adding curb extensions at the expense of automotive capacity, we forgot to plan for the impact to bicycling even though it was easy to see this coming. In the course of detouring cars around the construction, we introduced them to a route that they seem to be sticking with in lieu of a slower, narrow Division. The transformation of Clinton Street from a low-stress bikeway to a vehicular cycling boot camp is now complete.

When your bike plan consists of leveraging your low density and your growth plan is to densify, you run the risk of moving backward by standing still. We’ve seen that happen in real-time over the last few years on Clinton Street, and we’re starting to see it more and more clearly in the lagging indicators. The good news—in the case of Clinton, at least—is that the solution is easy and obvious: diverters. The traffic study to determine what to do and where to do it would be a cakewalk, and the cost of installing a few planters to do the trick would be minimal.

So what’s stopping us? My fear is that, with the 2030 bike plan now clearly relegated to “pipe dream” status, Portland lacks a vision for our identity as a bicycle city and how to move forward as such with determination. Bringing bicycling to the best streets is not happening nearly so quickly as we had hoped, which makes it that much more urgent to do what’s necessary to keep the greenways as a workable alternative in the interim. We must defend the fruits that we picked when they were low. We must, at the very least, not move backward.

A few planters could speak volumes. They’d definitely reduce them.

Does Metro’s Climate Smart Communities Plan Do Enough for Active Transportation?

I’ve been struggling for a week with how to write this post, and I’m grateful to Michael Andersen at BikePortland, who has covered many of the great things about Metro’s Climate Smart Communities plan.

That leaves me free to write to a counterpoint, questioning whether in fact it does enough for active transportation.

First, let’s talk a bit about the plan. It’s a response to a mandate from the Legislature to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation. Metro considered three alternatives when developing the plan:

A) Keep building in the pattern we have been

B) Build what’s in the RTP (Regional Transportation Plan)

C) Get more aggressive and develop new policies to reduce GHG

The draft plan in front of us for comment is essentially option B+. It’s what’s in today’s constrained RTP, plus about $5B in additional transit funding (for which we will need to find new funding sources).

The political logic for this is pretty straightforward. Rather than a big lift for new policies, let’s just amp up a bit what we’ve already got regional agreement on. That turns out to be sufficient to meet the state GHG goals (a 20%  reduction in transportation GHG contribution from the 2005 levels by 2035).

So what’s not to like? I would suggest there are at least two ways in which this plan is going to be challenging for active transportation, particularly in Portland.

1) The funding priority tilts heavily towards transit. The RTP already is much more aggressive about funding transit than it is about funding active transportation. The constrained plan only builds out a portion of the region’s active transportation plan, and Climate Smart Communities would give a $5B boost to transit while not adding to what’s planned for active transportation. The Commission that I serve on weighed in with a letter suggesting that fully funding the active transportation plan would yield more mobility per dollar and would have substantial health co-benefits.

2) It’s not very aggressive about reducing driving. The plan goal is a per-capita reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) from 19 miles daily to 17 miles by 2035. That’s just a smidge over a 10% reduction. In contrast, Portland’s 2009 Climate Action Plan (stay tuned for the 2014 update in a few months) shoots for a 30% reduction in per-capita VMT by 2030. Why is Metro’s VMT target important for Portland if we have a more aggressive plan? Because Metro is the keeper of the yardstick by which we measure regional travel. To take a current example, if we’re looking at whether we can take out an auto lane on Barbur Blvd, the planners have to look at Metro’s regional model to determine how much auto traffic is projected on the street. Portland’s goals are generic, they are not modeled street-by-street, so we have to use Metro’s numbers!

So please read the plan, and comment in any of these ways (via Metro). The comment deadline is October 30th.

  • Take a short survey online at makeagreatplace.org on transportation and land use policies and actions that can shape our communities.
  • To provide more in depth feedback, visit oregonmetro.gov/draftapproach to download and review the draft approach and implementation recommendations (Regional Framework Plan amendments, toolbox of possible actions and performance monitoring approach) and provide comments in one of the following ways:
  • Mail comments to Metro Planning, CSC Comment, 600 NE Grand Ave., Portland, OR 97232
  • Email comments to climatescenarios@oregonmetro.gov
  • Phone in comments to 503-797-1750 or TDD 503-797-1804
  • Testify at a Metro Council hearing on Oct. 30, 2014, at 600 NE Grand Ave., Portland, OR 97232 in the Council chamber

Oh… and whatever policy changes do get enacted won’t show up until the 2018 RTP. The old yardsticks are going to rule for a few more years.

 

 

KBOO Bike Show: Activism and Awareness

 Listen to the show (mp3, 20.1MB)

Alon and Tori talk with Shannon Galpin, humanitarian and woman’s rights activist to talk about her new memoir, Mountain to Mountain: A Journey of Adventure and Activism for the Women of Afghanistan, that tells the story of fighting for the lives of women in Afghanistan, one pedal stroke at a time.

In the second half, the topic shifts to the role of bikes in disaster preparedness.

KBOO Bike Show: Biking Past 50

 Listen to the show (mp3, 26.9MB)

Alon and Christopher talk with Ann Morrow, Jerry Smith and S. Brian Willson about the joys and challenges of riding past age fifty. Ann is the president of the Portland Wheelman Touring Club and is host of the cable TV show Cycology Today (viewed on NWbicyclesafetycouncil.org.) Jerry is also an active member of the touring club and for the past twenty years has joined them on many rides in the Pacific NW, as well as riding solo, and sometimes with his daughter, in Ireland Cuba, Puerto Rico, Greece, the Czech Republic, France and New Zealand. Vietnam veteran, author and peace activist S. Brian Willson has journeyed over 70,000 miles using a handcycle, including during his book tour along the West Coast. (http://www.brianwillson.com/)