A Portland Plan Take on the Twenties Bikeway

There’s a great deal of controversy around the question of whether or not parking removal on NE/SE 28th Ave should be part of the solution for the 20s bikeway. At the moment PBOT is leaning toward not removing parking, which means no dedicated bikeway in this section of the project (roughly between Oregon and Stark Streets). The main bikeway would be on the much-lower-auto-traffic 30th Ave., complemented by sharrows and speed bumps on 28th.

There are two separate questions here:

1) How do we move people riding bikes through this corridor in a safe and comfortable way?

2) How do we provide access to people on bikes to the business district on 28th?

I would add that both those questions should be considered for the “interested but concerned” demographic, not just more confident riders. Generally I think the belief would be that sharing a lane with cars on 28th will not appeal to the “interested but concerned” folks.

To the first question, while out-of-direction travel is always something we’d prefer to avoid, I don’t think detouring to 30th is going to be considered a huge problem for through traffic (I realize not everyone will agree).

The question I think is interesting – and critical – is how we provide good access to our neighborhood business districts to people using bikes. And I’d like to look at what the Portland Plan – the strategic plan for our city – has to say about that.

I think the message is actually pretty clear. This is from the Vibrant Neighborhood Centers section of the Healthy Connected City strategy:

Policy H-18: Link neighborhood centers to each other, employment areas, the Central City and the broader region through a multi-modal transit system. Prioritize safe and attractive frequent transit service, bikeways and accessible pedestrian connections, including sidewalks.

Action 107: Transit and active transportation: Identify barriers to pedestrian and bicycle access to and within neighborhood centers, develop priorities for investment, and implement policy changes and funding to ensure hubs have safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle connections.

Now I would hasten to insert that 28th Ave is not a designated neighborhood center, although I suspect that before the Comp Plan is done, it will be somewhere on a hierarchy of smaller centers. But I think the spirit of the Portland Plan is clear – districts like 28th Ave should have good multi-modal access, including by bike. And I think any definition of good bicycle access must include the interested but concerned.

So my view is that against this Portland Plan yardstick, PBOT’s current proposal for 28th is not adequate, as it leaves 28th Ave businesses inaccessible to a large portion of the potential number of folks who could bike.

Can a facility that will appeal to the interested but concerned be created by taking out parking on one side of 28th? That’s going to be hotly debated!

But if the answer is no, or if the politics fail us, how could we meet the Portland Plan objectives? I’d suggest that at a minimum PBOT should have a plan for access from 30th to the businesses on 28th. Maybe this could look like designated (and improved) east-west bike streets every few blocks connecting 28th and 30th, perhaps with bike corrals at the 28th Ave end of the connections?

In fact, if we’re prioritizing access, the bikeway should probably be on 29th, not 30th, at least from Oregon to Couch or Burnside (unfortunately, 29th is not continuous south of Burnside).

I’d be interested in other ideas to provide indirect access.

Regardless of the bikeway design, PBOT must be held accountable to provide the access that the Portland Plan envisions. This tweet from Jonathan Maus sums it up nicely:

So far none of our vibrant little n’hood commercial districts has pleasant cycling access that appeals to 8-80 and all rider levels.

That is not the future that the Portland Plan paints!

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