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Bicycle Advocacy Volunteer Opportunity

Hey readers, just a heads up that Hands On Greater Portland is offering a TeamWorks volunteer program starting next week based on bicycle advocacy and education. This will be a really amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to learn about and contribute to the good work of improving and expanding bicycle transportation in the Portland area. You basically join a team of volunteers and work on a series of projects for about a month. At the end of the program I will be co-leading a bicycle policy and infrastructure tour for the TeamWorks members. There are still several spots available in the program and it starts next week, so sign up ASAP right here! For more info check out  Hands On’s program description below and follow the links for full details:

Love bikes? Enjoy doing good while meeting other community-minded individuals? Get involved in some great efforts to make bike transportation a fun, safe, and viable option for our whole community this month! Check out the Bike Fun & Two-Wheeled Advocacy team, Hands On Greater Portland’s new Fall TeamWorks series, kicking off this coming Wednesday, September 25th!

The Hands On TeamWorks program offers individuals the opportunity to volunteer in a team-based environment on a series of projects over 4-6 weeks, while delving into an issue area or neighborhood and getting to know other volunteers in the process. Join in as we help clean donated bikes for kids with the Community Cycling Center, don our superhero capes and ensure safe intersections at the SW Sunday Parkways, and roll up our sleeves to maintain hiking and biking trails on Powell Butte. We’ll also learn about how to stay dry as we head into fall thanks to PBOT’s all-weather cycling workshop, and listen to bike-themed stories as we lend a hand at “Live the Revolution!”, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance‘s awesome storytelling fundraiser, raising money for its Safe Routes to School program. And to wrap up the team, we’ll hop on our bikes for a fun and informative pedal tour of Portland’s bike-friendly infrastructure led by a local transportation planner. Each project will include discussion time and we’ll explore a variety of topics, resources and issues related to cycling and bicycle advocacy in the greater Portland area.

View the full schedule and sign up to join!

Questions? Email


“Going Dutch:” What Portland Can Learn from the World’s Cycling Capitol

It’s been something of a trend lately for Portland bike enthusiasts to travel to the Mecca of bicycling—the Netherlands—and come back full of energy and ideas for improving the bikeability and livability of our city. For the past three summers, Portland State University’s civil engineering program has offered a class exploring the Dutch civil infrastructure, and it’s hard not to be impressed by what they’ve built there. It turns out that when an entire country is three meters below sea level, its people develop quite the knack for civil engineering (as well as a particular sensitivity to rising sea levels!) that manifests in any number of cool ways.

Though there are a few examples of Dutch innovations that have found their way into Portland’s bicycle infrastructure, the process of importing this knowledge and adapting it to fit our city’s specific challenges is very much ongoing. To that end, the upstart Portland chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation will be hosting an event at Velocult at 6:00 PM this evening entitled “Going Dutch.” Jesse Boudart, the event’s organizer, describes the event as follows:

The goal is to examine existing places and envision their future in a gallery style. Furthermore, we vet the places’ opportunities, engineering considerations, and why we haven’t already created them. Portland has created unique spaces which have become widely recognized across America: Waterfront Park, Eastbank Esplanade, and an extensive bike network, to name a few. But, what’s next? How can we use the Dutch’s best practices and improve upon what the Dutch have already done?

Having been invited to contribute a poster to the event, I spent a decent chunk of time reliving memories and reviewing photos.  Though I was initially determined to find the perfect Portland location for some excruciatingly engineered red -asphalt bike roundabout or a gnarly 12-phase bike signal, with two years of hindsight I think my favorite place to bicycle in all of Holland was downtown Delft. The town square in the center of the old city (shown below) was a particularly magical urban place—a former parking lot, it’s now exclusively the domain of people on bikes and on foot, used for all sorts of events and gatherings and a source of civic pride.

This used to be a parking lot. (Photo by Kirk Paulsen)

This used to be a parking lot. (Photo by Kirk Paulsen)

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Portland did the same thing at about the same time, repurposing the block bounded by Yamhill, Morrison, Broadway, and Sixth, from a parking garage to a “living room.” But unlike its counterpart in Delft, the streets around Pioneer Square remain open and friendly to the automobile, and the bikability and livability of downtown suffers as a result. Whereas Delft’s downtown makes frequent use of retractable bollards to allow only transit, delivery, or emergency vehicles on many streets, and employs vegetation and public art to calm traffic on others, Portland remains giddily MUTCD-compliant with lane markings and smooth, wide roadways that just dare drivers to do their best Ricky Bobby impersonations.

Luckily, there seems to be a growing realization that we need to rethink our downtown road design, and I’d posit that Yamhill and Morrison Streets are a fantastic place to start. Close these roads to private vehicles, and you’ve got yourself a world class cycle track couplet at minimal cost with minimal difficulty.

Since Yamhill and Morrison are already transit-centric, they’re of limited utility to private vehicles and the two parking garages that take access to the stretch between Naito and I-405 can easily be accommodated with a bit of clever engineering. The small amount of vehicular traffic that currently uses these streets can be absorbed by the more auto-centric parallel streets. Deliveries can be accommodated using bollards that can be retracted for trucks overnight and setting aside space for delivery trucks on intersecting streets (or, ideally, converting as much delivery traffic as possible to bikes!). The cut-outs that are currently used for parking or loading are perfect spots for bike share docks. Further, connections to the newly bike-friendly Morrison Bridge—particularly westbound—could be made with little expense and add a ton of utility. A few sculptures and a few plants in strategic locations would make the car-free nature of the streets self-enforcing while making them two of downtown’s most beautiful roadways.

Though we remain America’s best city for bicycling, Portland has stagnated something fierce at a time when many other cities are recognizing the value of bike-friendliness, and making bold moves in support of biking and walking. With a promising new transportation director, a renewed vision by the BTA, and funding for downtown infrastructure potentially in the pipeline, there seems to be evidence that we’re awakening from our recent slumber. I hope that the “Going Dutch” event will add some energy and ideas to the conversation, and help raise the bar as our next wave of bike infrastructure is planned and built.


Image is (Not) Nothing

Note: Rebecca, the second of our new contributors, is in Beijing this summer on an internship with the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning and Design.

If you look at any brochure, map, or cycling resource guide published by Portland transportation or advocacy organizations, you are likely to be underwhelmed at the images of cyclists they contain.  That’s on purpose.  In America, where 50 years of car culture characterized cycling as either a pastime for small children or an extreme sport requiring electrolyte-replacement goo and an $8K road bike, cycling advocates are making a conscious effort to assert cycling as a safe, normal and economical part of the Average Jane’s day-to-day routine.  Part of that effort includes being selective about imagery – for example, choosing to portray a person in casual clothes using their bike to run a grocery errand as opposed to a person who falls more towards the Performance end of the spectrum.

This differs from what you see in Beijing, where cycling advocates stage expos that showcase luxury racing bikes alongside Ferrari dealerships and the Beijing City Government partners with UCI to present prestigious road races like the Tour of Beijing rather than “everyman” events like Sunday Parkways.  As millions of Chinese embrace cars as the status symbol signifying their membership in the emerging middle class, bicycles are largely seen as a reminder of a lifestyle that they are eager to leave behind.  By presenting bicycling as an elite sport or recreational pastime of the ultra-wealthy, advocates seek to distance cycling from the old stigma and re-frame it as something more desirable to the younger generations.  Imagery that might seem exclusive or elitist to mainstream Portland may be more appreciated in a culture that takes great pride in its recent economic success.  Likewise, promoting cycling as a cheap, commonplace way to get around Beijing probably wouldn’t inspire a lot of interest among its residents.

It’s one example that underscores an important point for local advocacy groups as they try to reach beyond the majority culture in Portland, as the Community Cycling Center noted in their CCC’s Understanding Barriers to Cycling (PDF) report.  Recognizing the values of minority and immigrant communities should be considered as important as addressing more tangible barriers (such as a lack of safe bike storage space), because the imagery and messages used to strike a positive chord with one group of people may not resonate with another.

Lombard Re-Imagined Open House on Tuesday, May 7th

For the last several months, I have been working with five other PSU Master of Urban and Regional Planning students (collectively known as Swift Planning Group) on an exciting project called Lombard Re-Imagined. We have been working with the Kenton Neighborhood Association and other surrounding neighborhoods to re-imagine the unpleasant, unsafe, auto-oriented stretch of Lombard Street from N Chautauqua Blvd to NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Our focus is on finding strategies and projects the neighborhood can advocate for that will result in a safer transportation system, a more pleasant walking environment, and neighborhood-friendly business development.

This corridor has a lot going for it (proximity to Kenton’s nice main street, a direct connection to St John’s, excellent transit service), but unfortunately the area has not received much attention or investment in the past and has become a barrier between neighborhoods. As an Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) facility (US 30 Bypass) and a designated over-dimensional freight route, many have feared that change is impossible, but as we have seen elsewhere (for example, just up the road in the St Johns area) ODOT is often willing to make needed changes to make streets safer and better. We have been working with both ODOT and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to understand what is possible to make the street work better for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. We are especially focused on improving the pedestrian environment, since that is what the street is most lacking right now.

After a great round of public outreach with the community over the last few months, we have a pretty good idea of the concerns and ideas people have for the area. We have also done a great deal of research and analysis and have developed a preliminary set of recommended strategies. In some cases, we are still looking at several alternative ways of tackling a problem. Now we want the public to see our ideas and weigh in, and the best way to do that is to attend our Open House on Tuesday, May 7th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm at the Kenton Masonic Lodge (8130 N Denver Ave) (For those who use Facebook, please RSVP at our event page). We will have posters showing off our ideas for the street and we will be asking you to give us your feedback, ideas, and advice for how to make Lombard a better place. This is an open house, so you can just show up anytime to check out our posters and talk with us about what you think. I hope that any readers who care about making our busy arterials more livable and multi-modal (always a big topic on this blog) will consider attending our open house and following our project moving forward.

For more information or to contact us:
Twitter: @LombardRImagine