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Updated: 13 hours 54 min ago

A Labor Day treat: the lovely new bike-walk-run mural at the Doubletree

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 06:00
The new mural on the south side of Multnomah Street in the Lloyd District, one in a string of investments in the streetscape that have been made since the installation of a protected bike lane on the street.
(Photo: Craig Harlow)

Both Jonathan and I are out of town until tonight, so your regularly scheduled news roundup will be published on Tuesday this week.

For now, take a moment to celebrate a gift workers at the Doubletree Hotel gave the city last Thursday. It’s a beautiful celebration of Portlanders’ love of physical activity.

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BikePortland readers may remember the Doubletree as the Lloyd District establishment that volunteered to host one of the biggest off-street public bike parking areas in the city, and the one that once dumped an event vendor that illegally parked a truck in the Multnomah Street protected bike lane.

Now, reader Craig Harlow writes to note that the hotel added this mural to its windows on the south side if Multnomah along the protected lane, “giving a little life to what’s been a mostly dead wall for years.”

That’s work we can believe in. Happy holiday, Portland, and see you tomorrow.

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Comment of the Week: A little perspective on city rankings

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 14:31

Like best-guitarist-of-all-time rankings, best-bike-city rankings are mostly just for fun. But in a week when Portland reportedly got a serious demotion from the granddaddy of bike rankings, reader MaxD’s reaction probably spoke for a lot of us.

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Here it is:

I am going to ride across the WIllamette, down Front>Kittredge>30> Saltzman where I will ride through the lovely, cool Forest Park to Skyline, descend Germantown, back over the Willamette with views of Mt Hood and Mt St Helens, and home via Willamette Blvd enjoying views of the river and the west hills. I would not rather be riding in New York, Chicago, or Minneapolis, despite the ranking.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone. Jonathan and I are both out of town until Monday evening — see you Tuesday.

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Safety advocates win on Clinton: city installs barricades during Division detour

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 13:50
The city’s two new temporary barricades at 26th and Clinton created a visual cue that reduced detour traffic onto the SE Clinton Street bike boulevard.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Hours before a pair of protest rides were planned to start, the City of Portland on Friday used light barricades to reduce through auto traffic on Clinton Street during the remaining week of a detour for eastbound traffic on Division.

Portland Bureau of Environmental Services spokesman Joseph Annett circulated the revised detour plans in an email at 12:45 p.m. Friday.

“Woohoo!” Alex Reed, the organizer of a group of concerned Clinton Street users, wrote in an email to the group Friday afternoon. “We won our short-term goal.”

Reed’s group, which developed from a conversation on this site and held its first meeting last weekend, had drawn more than 20 riders to an earlier protest ride on Tuesday, attracting TV coverage. They followed up with an open letter asking for temporary diverters and a long-term change to city detour policies.

In a phone interview, Reed said a 4 pm ride on Clinton Friday afternoon would be changed from a protest to a celebration.

“We’re going to say ‘thank you PBOT’ and talk about the long-term goal of changing the city’s construction protocols for diversion to bikeways,” Reed said. “I’m imagining that we would ride up and down the section where it’s closed eastbound to autos to revel in how lovely it is, and then maybe go somewhere for ice cream.”

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The city had initially planned to direct all Division Street traffic onto Clinton during the two-week detour, which is required because of drainage and walking improvements to Division. Last week, the city changed that plan by installing electric signs that direct traffic to Powell at 11th Avenue. But the city had until today declined to install any infrastructure on the Clinton roadway itself.

Bike Loud PDX founder Alex Reed made
local TV headlines in his group’s
first-ever protest action.

Even without the detour, Clinton Street in the 10s, 20s and 30s has been carrying more than 3,000 motor vehicles per day, which is the maximum national standard for any stretch of bicycle boulevard. Some people who walk and bike on Clinton have been urging the city to install physical diverters that prevent through traffic on what’s intended to be an all-ages street.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance advocate Carl Larson, who has been communicating periodically with city officials since last year in an effort to increase attention to bikes during construction detours, credited the group Reed organized for helping focus the city’s attention.

“I think PBOT succumbed to our ongoing pressure to improve its work zones, coupled with excellent work on behalf of a new crop of activists,” Larson said. “We hope that the city will see that it would have been cheaper and less embarrassing to do this right the first time.”

A large group of riders set the pace on Clinton during a protest ride on Tuesday.
(Photo by Hart Noecker/Rebel Metropolis)

Gerald Fittipaldi, who joined Friday’s celebration ride, said the barriers “made an impact, too. There weren’t many cars on there.”

Doug Klotz, a longtime resident and Richmond Neighborhood Association leader who biked past the barriers at 5 p.m., called it a victory for street activism.

“You just need to have a bunch of people out making a bunch of noise,” he said.

For his part, Reed said that after this afternoon’s celebration ride, the agenda for the new advocacy group is to meet one week from Sunday at a location to be determined.

“We’ll probably decide on the name and a draft identity or mission statement kind of thing,” said Reed, who lives in the Foster-Powell area and bike-commutes downtown daily via Clinton. “And I would like us to start searching for the next action. … I’m hoping that the next action will be at an outlying or underserved area to show the group’s commitment to equity.”

If you’d like to connect to the group, contact Reed at bikeloudpdx@gmail.com or request to join its Google group.

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BTA throws weight behind five new greenways east of 205

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 10:34
BTA advocate Elizabeth Quiroz talks greenways at the BTA members meeting this month.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Fourth in a week-long series about the BTA’s five new advocacy campaigns.

Of the five new Bicycle Transportation Alliance advocacy campaigns we’re examining this week, the only one that’s almost certain to succeed is east of Interstate 205.

That’s because it represents official BTA backing for five new stretches of a relatively cheap, uncontroversial type of bikeway — neighborhood greenways, the low-traffic side streets that have sharrows, speed bumps, 20 mph limits, wayfinding and comfortable crossings of major streets — that are already enshrined in the city’s popular East Portland in Motion plan and already have the support of the extremely effective advocates at the East Portland Action Plan.

That’s not to say East Portland advocates aren’t glad to have the BTA’s help improving these 12 miles of streets.

“We’re just really pleased that it is on their top agenda,” EPAP Advocate Lore Wintergreen said in an interview.

Wintergreen, who managed the city’s Safe Routes to School program before becoming a full-time advocate for East Portland, said she’d been reminded of the importance of basic, safe bikeways east of I-205 when she’d been headed home via Northeast Halsey, a key east/west freeway crossing that has no bike lanes.

“In midday, so we’re talking about 3:30, I counted 15 bike riders,” she said. “And looking at the faces of those bike riders, they were diverse people.”

Five connections to the spine: I-205 The BTA’s map of its top-priority greenways for East Portland, marked in green.

All five greenways in the BTA’s and EPIM’s sights all plug into the I-205 path and therefore the TriMet Green MAX Line. Here are the descriptions, taken from the city’s East Portland in Motion document:

Parkrose: Connecting the 205 path and Gateway Green (between I-205 and I-84) to NE Sandy and 115th, including a new multi-use path on the south side of Fremont between 102nd and 112th.

Knott/Russell: Connecting NE Knott and 102nd to NE 162nd and Russell, past the University of Western States, Margaret Scott Elementary and the Summerplace assisted living community. This would include crossing improvements at 102nd, 122nd and 148th.

Woodland Park: Connecting NE 99th and Multnomah, near Gateway Transit Center, north-northeast through the currently auto-oriented commercial area to NE Tillamook and 108th, including two short protected bike lane connections and an offset crossing improvement at 102nd.

4M: One of the biggest missing pieces in East Portland infrastructure, this 4.2-mile greenway would run along Market, Mill, Millmain and Main from the I-205 path past David Douglas high school to the city limit just past SE 174th.

Holladay Oregon Pacific: This route weaves from Gateway Transit Center, past Winco, on the neighborhood streets south of Halsey east to the 130s Greenway and Holladay Park East. It’d include crossing improvements at Pacific and 102nd and Holladay and 122nd.

Thanks to years of advocacy from East Portlanders, the city seems to be strongly behind all these improvements: when the Portland Bureau of Transportation released a list of possible projects to be associated with its proposed street fee, these five were the top of the list.

Elizabeth Quiroz, the BTA’s lead staffer on this project, said this month that getting these projects done is mostly a matter of finding the money. She expects a wave of state support to greatly improve biking and walking along Southeast Powell; for the moment, these greenways are the counterpart to that work on the north side of East Portland.

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Quick take: BikePortland’s summary of the project A BTA illustration of a neighborhood greenway.

Where the idea came from: East Portland neighborhood advocates wrestled these routes into Portland’s 2010 bike plan, but they’ve been delayed by the city’s decision to slice funding for neighborhood greenways. Wintergreen, the city-paid advocate for East Portland investments, has coordinated volunteers and coalition partners including the BTA to get them funded.

What it might cost: Quiroz estimates the total cost at $2,290.000.

Obstacles: If Mayor Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick can find a third vote on Portland City Council for a street fee or similar revenue proposal that includes “safety” as well as “maintenance” improvements, these look like a shoo-in sometime in the next few years. If not, they’ll join the ongoing scramble for state and federal grants. But Wintergreen predicts that there’s a “100 percent” chance that these will all be complete within five years, one way or another.

How you could help: Contact Quiroz: 971-231-5686, elizabeth@btaoregon.org, or the EPAPbike Subcommittee.

Check back next week for the final post in our series about new advocacy campaigns.

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Jobs of the Week

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 08:01

Looking for your next professional adventure? Two opportunities were added to our Job Listings this week. Check them out via the links below…


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For a complete list of available jobs, click here. If you’d like more information about the BikePortland Job Listings, contact us, or visit the Job Listings page.

You can sign up for all the latest job listings via RSS, email, or by following us on Twitter.

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Magazine demotes Portland to nation’s #4 bike city

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 15:49
Traffic on Portland’s 122nd Avenue in June 2014.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Ouch.

Dirk VanderHart of the Portland Mercury broke the news this afternoon after checking his mailbox: in Bicycling magazine’s periodic ranking of the country’s best bike cities, Portland has tumbled from first to fourth since 2012.

It’s our lowest ranking in 20 years. Bicycling named Portland as the nation’s best bike city in 1999, 2001, 2006, 2008 and 2012. In 2010, when Minneapolis edged Portland into second place, Jonathan wrote that we “usually don’t make much out of the various rankings that come out, but Bicycling has been doing theirs for longer than anyone else and Portland’s #1 ranking has become a cornerstone of our reputation.”

Here’s the magazine’s new top 10, as reported by VanderHart:

1. New York
2. Chicago
3. Minneapolis
4. Portland
5. Washington
6. Boulder, Colo.
7. San Francisco
8. Seattle
9. Fort Collins, Colo.
10. Cambridge, Mass.

Here’s the previous Bicycling ranking, from 2012:

1. Portland
2. Minneapolis
3. Boulder, Colo.
4. Washington
5. Chicago
6. Madison
7. New York City
8. San Francisco
9. Eugene
10. Seattle

This year’s ranking hasn’t been published on Bicycling’s website yet.

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Among major U.S. cities, Portland is still a head above its closest competitor, Minneapolis, when it comes to the percentage of residents who bike to work. According to the U.S. Census, the bike-commute rate is about 6.1 percent in Portland, 4.5 percent in Minneapolis. In New York it’s 1 percent; in Chicago, 1.6 percent.

But as we wrote last month, that ratio is actually a pretty dumb way to compare one city to another, because it depends so completely on where a city’s borders happen to fall. If Portland suddenly de-annexed the area east of Interstate 205, its borders would shrink to the size of Minneapolis or Washington DC and its bike-commuting ratio would shoot up to 10 percent — but nothing would have changed for the better.

What the Census figure is good at is measuring whether any given city is changing year by year. Since 2009, Portland is not. (Neither, for the record, is Minneapolis.) Most other major U.S. cities have been.

Source: Census American Community Survey. Image by BikePortland.

So in some ways, an arbitrary and subjective ranking methodology like Bicycling’s is more appropriate than the Census method. And maybe that’s why people pay so much attention to it even though it’s mostly silly. Whatever you think of the merits of the ranking, expect to hear a lot about it from many news outlets — not to mention any friends you might have in New York, Chicago and Minneapolis — for the next few years.

Why did Portland’s biking progress stall — and more importantly, what will bring it back? Since this May, when we used the city’s decision to erase a mural declaring itself as “America’s Bicycle Capital” as a way to write about this problem, we’ve been hosting a community conversation about how Portland will return to the place we all know it can become: an example to the country and, eventually, to the whole world.

Stay tuned for the next installment in that series — and consider getting in touch to contribute your own thoughts, or adding them below. I’m michael@bikeportland.org, and Portland’s next No. 1 ranking is ahead of us.

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Get pumped: The 2014 Bike Commute Challenge kicks off next week

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:59
Hawthorne Bridge traffic in September 2013.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

With August’s heat lifting, we’re headed into one of the nicest times of year to be on a bicycle in Portland, and that means it’s time to convince your co-workers to give biking to work a shot.

The region’s annual Bike Commute Challenge is a free, friendly contest between workplaces, ad-hoc teams and/or your own performance the previous year to see whose commuters can bike the most or the farthest on their way to work in September.

If they’d like, participants can use bikes for only part of their trip. Routes can fall anywhere in the state or metro area, including Clark County on the Washington side of the Columbia.

The event is managed by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and funded in large part by the Metro regional government.

Last year, Intel and Nike employees mounted a fun rivalry dubbed (by Intel’s official Twitter feed) “Nerds vs. Jocks.” (The jocks won.)

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Like so many other things in the world of Portland biking, BCC participation grew rapidly until 2010 and peaked in 2011 with 12,063 participants. Participation has been down somewhat in the two years that have followed, but a whopping 10,555 people still took part in last year’s competition.

The BTA puts a lot of time into the challenge (not to mention securing free food and drink for the public afterparty, planned this year for Oct. 10), and in the last two years it’s raised thousands of dollars by soliciting donations during the sign-up or login process. But the contest is free; you can enter a $0 donation and still participate.

And in case there’s any doubt that this fun event works: I’m a BCC success story myself. Even though I had a two-day-a-week job at Mercy Corps, I almost never biked downtown until September 2011. It was challenge month that got me to finally realize (after more than a year of publishing a magazine about car-lite transportation and using a bike on almost every trip) that the Everett/Davis/Couch greenway was a much more pleasant route downtown than the spotty Glisan bike lane. For me, that discovery was what made the difference.

Fittingly enough, this year’s official competition starts on Labor Day, Sept. 1. Whether you head to work that day or the next, you can log in for the year right now. Have fun, everybody.

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Community demands change as SE Clinton remains in the spotlight

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:05
Bike Loud PDX founder Alex Reed made
local TV headlines in his group’s
first-ever protest action.

Traffic conditions on SE Clinton have created a perfect storm for concerned members of the community who are pushing to maintain the street’s status as a low-stress bicycle boulevard.

Three years ago, the Portland Bureau of Transportation was so eager to show that Clinton was a bicycle route that it became the first street in the city to receive special, bike-inspired signage. It was a marketing push PBOT called the Clinton Street Bike Boulevard Enhancement Project.

But those signs don’t seem to be doing much. Since then, Clinton has become a popular cut-through for drivers looking to avoid SE Division. Even before the City threatened to detour auto users onto Clinton during the recent paving project on Division, we had already reported about concerns and calls for more diverters to keep them away.

Thankfully, after community outcry the City reversed its detour plans. But the problem remains and now volunteer activists have taken to the street in hopes of strengthening their calls for change.

The group leading the charge is Bike Loud PDX, a new cadre of volunteer activists that has decided to focus on Clinton. Their first ride on Tuesday was a big success.

A large group of riders set the pace on Clinton during a protest ride on Tuesday.
(Photo by Hart Noecker/Rebel Metropolis)

According to a recap of the ride on the Rebel Metropolis blog, a group of a few dozen riders rode very slowly across the entire lane to set the pace and demonstrate the presence of bicycles on the street. “Motorized vehicles trying to use Clinton as a cut-thru became obvious,” wrote blog author Hart Noecker, “as many would impatiently and loudly turn off onto a side street, realizing they had no chance of passing the mass of riders.”

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The protest also attracted local TV news. A headline from KPTV read, Summer construction creates problems for SE cyclists. Below is an excerpt from the online story and the video segment that aired Tuesday night:

“Summer construction on SE Division is creating problems for cyclists who say their bike routes are being bombarded with drivers looking to cheat the detour…

To raise awareness about the issue, Reed and his fellow members of Bike Loud PDX organized a peaceful protest during rush hour traffic.

The group slowly peddled [sic] in front of drivers along SE Clinton, reminding them to stay off their greenway and stick to the suggested detour.”

KPTV – FOX 12

Bike Loud PDX founder Alex Reed says the protest rides will continue until the City of Portland installs temporary diverters to keep drivers away. Reed included a link to the media coverage in an email to a staffer in charge of the Division project and asked for fixes to the problems. Here’s the text of that email:

“BikeLoudPDX’s short-term request is that PBOT / BES put temporary diverters on Clinton near 26th during the construction. Our long-term request is that PBOT change construction protocols to limit motor vehicle diversion to bikeways during construction sufficiently so that those bikeways stay within PBOT motor vehicle volume standards for bikeways during the construction. We would like the protocols made public, with the changes highlighted or documented in some manner.

We will be protesting again on Friday if no changes are made before then.”

Reed tells BikePortland that he has not yet heard back from the City and tomorrow’s ride is going forward as planned.

Also tomorrow, another community activist has taken up the cause and planned a “Super Legal Ride.” Eric Iverson said his “blood started to boil” when he read about the City’s plans to detour drivers onto Clinton. “Because the city did this, and then say that they can’t put in diverters and make people follow detours,” he wrote to us via email this morning, “I wanted to make a ride that was a sort of slow-moving diverter.”

The purpose of Ivy’s Super Legal Ride is to “make drivers and the city aware that Clinton is a greenway not to be thought of as a thoroughfare or detour.” As for the “super legal” aspect, riders will be coming to a complete stop at each and every stop sign. Why? Here’s how Ivy explains it:

“I don’t think that drivers realize that “Idaho stopping” and multiple cyclists heading in the same direction stopping together and starting together, saves them time. Hence the part of the ride where every cyclist stops, foot down, one at a time, in a figure-8 around the neighboring blocks to Clinton and 26th.”

Ivy acknowledges that Bike Loud PDX’s ride (which was created after his) is probably more effective and he’s encouraging people to join that one instead of his.

Another response to this issue are the Clinton Street Social Rides led by Brian Sysfail. The next one is set for Friday, September 12th (details are on Facebook). Sysfail’s rides are decidedly laid-back; but they still have the same goal of reminding everyone that Clinton is a bike boulevard.

“We really have no leader/start of the ride, it’s more of game to ride from 12th to 39th and amass riders as we go,” he wrote on Facebook, “no agro bike jocks provoking people in cars. Please be positive and non-confrontational.”

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Weekend Event Guide: Cyclocross, scavenger hunt, protests, and more

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 09:09
Racers fly through the wooded trail section of the David Douglas Park cyclocross course in 2013.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to your menu of weekend rides and events, lovingly brought to you by our friends at Hopworks Urban Brewery.

With a bit of a cooling trend in store, this weekend should be just about perfect for bike riding. While it’s sort of a quiet week in terms of organized rides, I know a lot of people will be hitting the streets. And with the big Cycle Oregon week ride starting next weekend, you might notice a bunch of people pounding out last-minute miles to get themselves ready.

It’s also a holiday weekend with many people taking Monday off for Labor Day. Raise your hand if you’re going bikecamping! Strangely enough, I’ll actually be completely bike-free this weekend and I take my wife and three kids on our last summer hurrah — a road trip through the Gorge and down to the John Day River Valley.

And then there’s cyclocross season that kicks off Saturday just north of the river in Vancouver. Whatever your plans are, we hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, August 29th

Bike Loud PDX SE Clinton Protest Ride – 4:00 pm at SE 26th and Clinton
With a successful first ride under their belts, the upstart Bike Loud PDX crew plans a return to SE Clinton to protest the high volume of cars on what’s supposed to be a low-stress bicycle street. Join them and help make the voice for better biking heard at City Hall. More info here.

Super Legal Clinton Street Ride – 4:45 pm at SE 26th and Clinton
Another form of protest about conditions on SE Clinton street. At this ride, concerned members of the community plan to mass as many people on bikes as possible at the intersection of SE 26th and Clinton as possible. Then, every bike will come to a complete stop at the light, even if several arrive at the same time. More info here.

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Saturday, August 30th

JRod’s Revenge with Portland Velo – 9:00 am at Evergreen Office Park (22985 NW Evergreen Parkway)
Portland Velo cycling club’s Saturday ride is a fun 50-miler that loops up to Skyline Blvd and they rolls through some flats in Hillsboro south of Highway 26. If you aren’t familiar with Washington County routes and/or this excellent club, roll out and join them! More info here.

Grand Prix Ryan Trebon Race #1 – All day at David Douglas Park (1016 N Garrison Rd in Vancouver WA)
It’s here! Cyclocross season will start with a bang as racers compete at the first event in the six-race Grand Prix Ryan Trebon. David Douglas Park is a super-fun course that will let you know whether all your skills practice has actually worked. More info here.

Sunday, August 31st

Bike Scout Scavenger Hunt – 1:30 – 6:30 pm at Ex Novo Brewing (2326 N Flint)
Get your Troop together and join this fun exploration of Portland by bike. Each team will have to travel through the city and collect items at pre-determined stops, each of which will earn points. The final stop is Velo Cult where a end party awaits. This 2nd annual event is put together by bike fun expert Ayleen Crotty of Filmed By Bike fame. It’s guaranteed fun! More info here.

NW Trail Alliance Sunday Group Ride – 9:00 am at The Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park (2700 NE 82nd)
The NW Trail Alliance is headed to Growler’s Gulch (in Castle Rock, WA) for their weekly group ride. Meet up for carpools at The Lumberyard and expect to return around 6 pm. More info here.

— If we missed anything, feel free to let us know and/or give it a shout-out in the comments.

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Future off-road bike park Gateway Green acquired by City of Portland

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 16:13
Conceptual drawing of the off-road biking plans.

A key step toward making Gateway Green a reality was taken today when Portland City Council voted unanimously to authorize a land transfer from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Portland is now the official owner of the 25 acre property that’s slated to become what Portland Parks & Recreation referred to today as an “off-road biking facility.”

The City of Portland acquired the land from ODOT for $19,300, money they received from developers via System Development Charges (SDCs).

In a statement released today by PP&R, City Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz said,

“The location between I-205 and I-84 will boost Portland’s visibility as a world-class bike-friendly city, and is a tremendous use of the underutilized land… I admire how neighbors and cyclists have come together to see their vision for Gateway Green move forward… It will be an important addition to our infrastructure that enhances wildlife habitat and recreation for children, families and seniors.”

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And PP&R Director Mike Abbaté said the new park will fill some of the demand from Portlanders who have been clamoring for more off-road biking opportunities. “The Portland cycling community has long asked for more recreational opportunities across our system,” he said, “Gateway Green will provide a place where bicyclists of all ages can gather, develop their skills and enjoy the outdoors, all while increasing their physical health.”

Last month, Gateway Green won a $1 million grant through Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods program.

Linda Robinson, who along with developer Ted Gilbert, has been working toward this vision for over six years, said today was an exciting day and a “perfect example of how ‘patient persistence’ can pay off.”

— Learn more at GatewayGreenPDX.org.

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BTA looks to revive plan for protected bike lanes through downtown

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 15:53
Four possible routes for north-south protected bike lanes through downtown.
(Graphic: BikePortland)

Third in a week-long series about the BTA’s five new advocacy campaigns.

With almost every street project that isn’t happening in Portland, the city’s stated reason is that it doesn’t have the money. A long-discussed couplet of north/south protected bike lanes through downtown is the exception.

As we’ve been reporting, the city has enough money lined up, thanks to a $6.6 million Metro grant for downtown active transportation improvements that took years to secure. What’s still missing is political support.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance launched a campaign this month aimed at lining up that support among “civic, business and elected leaders.”

BTA Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky said that even though downtown is far and away the most popular destination for bike-commuting, it’s a yawning gap in the city’s network of low-stress bike routes.

Downtown Portland has managed to get about 11 percent of its downtown commute trips onto bikes even though its low-stress bike routes don’t currently connect to each other.

“You get into downtown and it’s gone — there’s nothing left,” Kransky said in an interview. “Though we’ve got the wide painted bike lanes on southwest Stark and Oak running east-west, we don’t have a corollary facility running north and south through the central city.”

“I think it’s an opportunity for us to make a big bold political statement about committing space on a major thoroughfare to bikes,” Kransky said.

Which major thoroughfares, exactly? That’s still an open question.

Routes still being decided BTA members at this month’s annual meeting voted for their favorite couplet.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

At the BTA’s members meeting this month, people who stopped by Kransky’s table had a chance to vote on their favorite route for a north/south couplet: 2nd/3rd, 4th/Broadway, 5th/6th or the park blocks (presumably 8th, 9th and/or Park).

Another possibility might be a bidirectional bike lane on only one of those streets, similar to the design Seattle is about to open on its 2nd Avenue downtown. About a third of the country’s 164 protected bike lanes are bidirectional, almost all of them on one-way streets.

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At the BTA meeting, a 4th/Broadway couplet was far and away the popular favorite, in part because Kransky was (as he put it) shamelessly arguing that it’s the ideal route, thanks to its connection to the existing protected lane on Broadway near Portland State University, the existing buffered lane on the west landing of the Broadway Bridge and potentially the N/NE Broadway protected lane that the BTA is also gathering support to build.

Meanwhile, a group of Old Town businesses has been urging the city to consider protected lanes on 2nd and 3rd Avenues to reduce speeding and car/pedestrian conflicts on those streets.

Kransky said one of his main concerns is that the city will use a paint-only design that doesn’t actually prevent motor vehicles from encroaching or parking on the bike lanes.

“You could imagine a world where you could create a paint buffer, a la Broadway at Portland State University, for pennies and then there’d be a lot of money for other stuff,” Kransky said. “There’s a lot of money there, and what we would like to make sure is that we get a truly world-class facility built. I would imagine we’re going to need most of that money if not more.”

On the other hand, Kransky said it’s reasonable for the city to dedicate some of its $6.6 million budget to planning and community outreach.

“One of the lessons that I learned from the failure of the 20s Bikeway conversation … was that the city didn’t necessarily have the right approach when it comes to community engagement,” Kransky said.

Quick take: BikePortland’s summary of the project 4th Avenue’s bicycle infrastructure: the same as its auto infrastructure.

Where the idea came from: Dan Bower, the former manager for the city’s active transportation division, was the longtime point person on this project, which has been seen as a complement to another project he spearheaded: a public bike sharing system. Bower left the city last spring, after securing funding for both projects. They’ve been on the city’s back burner since.

What it might cost: A bike lane that’s elevated from the roadway, as in Copenhagen or Indianapolis, might cost $16 million to $50 million for two miles (one mile north, one mile south). Planters or concrete curbs, as in Seattle or Vancouver BC, would cost less than a million, but more if dedicated bike signals were added.

Obstacles: If either Broadway or 6th is involved, downtown hotels are certain to be concerned about front-door access for taxis and customers. Last year, the Portland Business Alliance successfully opposed converting a general traffic lane to a bike lane on Southwest 12th Avenue, a street that rarely sees any congestion. For this project to work, the plan will need to address block-by-block design complications and also contain some antidote to the notion that the most valuable street is one that can carry and park as many cars as possible.

Finally, the Portland city council seems deeply reluctant to do anything that might improve biking — and thereby attract the ire of people who oppose biking improvements — until a new citywide transportation fee or tax is approved. “My read on the politics is the street fee has to come first,” Kransky said.

Likely tradeoffs: Either a parking lane or a general travel lane, maybe more, on any affected street. At least a few parking spaces would probably have to go away for the sake of improving visibility. If the lanes were to go on 5th/6th, the change would be simple — no car turns onto the transit mall — but might draw more opposition.

How you could help: The BTA isn’t really asking for much help on this campaign at this point. It’s circulated a petition in print but hasn’t yet posted an online version. “The most important thing would be standing up in support of cycle tracks, period,” Kransky said.

Check back each day this week for another post in our series about new advocacy campaigns.

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Fatal collision spurs new calls to complete the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:30
Ellen Dittebrandt.

The death this past Sunday of Ellen Dittebrandt, killed while bicycling on Interstate 84 west of Hood River, has stunned her large community of friends in the Gorge, many of whom are now focused on completing the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail in her memory.

Dittebrandt’s death also comes on the heels of a scary month in Oregon. Just last week we reported that there were four major rear-end collisions in the span of just one week.

This latest collision happened early Sunday morning. According to Oregon State Police investigators, Dittebrandt, a 52-year old volunteer firefighter (named Firefighter of the Year in 2010), artist and triathlete who lived in Mosier, was riding westbound in the shoulder of I-84. Friends say she was training for a triathlon and was riding from Rowena Crest to Crown Point and back.

As she approached the off-ramp to Viento State Park (near milepost 56), a 55-year-old northwest Portland man named John Allman hit her from behind with his pickup truck. The police say Allman was likely drowsy and that “driver fatigue has been identified as a contributing factor.” The Hood River County DA’s Office is now reviewing the case and will consider whether there was any criminal wrongdoing.

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Ellen Dittebrandt (center, in yellow) and friends in a photo taken in July.
(Photo courtesy Mark Frost)

As we first shared back in 2007, there’s a major effort to re-establish the Historic Columbia River Highway as a state trail, which would give people an option to riding the shoulders of I-84. While progress has been made — and the project was recently named a top priority by the Oregon Transportation Commission — two major gaps (totaling about 10 miles) remain.

“We’re late to the party but now there are a couple hundred people in this town that suddenly have a vested interest.”
— Mark Frost

Dittebrandt was riding through one of those gap when she was hit.

Mark Frost, a friend of Dittebrandt’s, has started a Facebook Group named Ellen Memorial Connector – Complete the Historic Columbia Gorge HWY. The group’s mission is to remember her by “enabling cyclists to ride the Columbia River Gorge safely.”

I spoke to Frost on the phone this morning. “I think for us,” he said, “We’re singularly focused to completing that trail.”

Frost described Dittebrandt as someone who had just recently taken up cycling and running and had lost 60 pounds in the last year. This year, he said, “She was like a steam train. She was out there every day. She was crossing things off her bucket list faster than any of us.” She had run her first marathon this summer and wanted to do a seven mile swim in the Columbia River. Frost said he warned her about how difficult that swim would be and how she shouldn’t do it without kayak support. So instead, she decided to do the Crest-to-Crest bike ride, a 120-mile out-and-back from Rowena to Crown Point.

“She headed out Sunday morning,” he recalled, “then jumped onto I-84 at Hood River, then six miles later near Viento… Well, you know what happened.”

Now Frost hopes he and others will come together to advocate on her behalf. The plan is to memorialize Dittebrandt by having the final link in the State Trail named after her. “We know it’s not going to happen overnight; but if we could move the date up just one year and save one more life it would be worth however much energy and money we could put into it.”

Scene from a memorial held last night at Mayer State Park.
(Photo by Clint Bogard)

Up until this point, the effort to restore the Historic Columbia River Highway rallied around the economic and tourism benefits that would come with a scenic road (much of it open only to biking and walking) that would connect many Gorge communities. Now with this tragedy, there’s an added element of urgency.

Jeannette Kloos is a retired Oregon Department of Transportation employee who is now President of the Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway, a group working with the State of Oregon to complete the project. “This tragedy,” Kloos wrote via email yesterday, “highlights the need to complete the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.”

Kloos estimates they need about $30 million to connect the path’s final two sections between Viento State Park and Hood River, and between Wyeth and Starvation Creek. Even with a high-level endorsement from the State of Oregon and a daunting financial figure, Kloos says grassroots advocacy is still important.

“The resolution from OTC [Oregon Transportation Commission] is excellent, but it didn’t have any dollars to go along with it. Advocates should continue to remind the OTC to act on that resolution and actually provide funding. We need to keep pushing.”

And that’s just what Frost and the many people in the Gorge who were touched by Dittebrandt’s life and art, plan on doing. “We’re late to the party but now there are a couple hundred people in this town that suddenly have a vested interest.”

— Join the Ellen Memorial Connector Facebook group to stay updated on their efforts.

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Arrest made in hit-and-run on SE 82nd in Clackamas County

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 19:09

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s office arrested a man today after a hit-and-run on SE 82nd just south of King Road (about 12 miles southeast of Portland).

Here’s the story so far from the CCSO:

On August 26, 2014 at approximately 3:00 p.m., Robert B. Hyer, age 30, was riding a bicycle in the bike lane southbound along SE 82nd Avenue. As the bicyclist began riding in front of the entry to a gas station on the west side of SE 82nd Avenue, a Ford pickup driven by Leodan Juarez Belton, age 49, from Clackamas, turned into the gas station and struck the bicyclist, knocking him to the ground.

Juarez Belton checked on the injured bicyclist, went into the gas station store and purchased ice, and then fled the scene in the pickup upon hearing sirens of emergency responders coming to the scene. A Clackamas Fire District #1 firefighter provided the suspect’s vehicle license plate information to a responding OSP trooper.

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The injured bicyclist was transported by ambulance to Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

OSP and CCSO responded to the registered owner’s home in the area of SE 157th and SE Sunnyside Road. Officers confirmed who was driving the vehicle but it wasn’t at the house. Officers started driving in the area looking for the pickup when an OSP sergeant found it abandoned in a parking lot at SE 147th Avenue and SE Sunnyside Road.

A approximately 4:15 p.m., a CCSO deputy spotted the suspect walking to his home and detained him. An OSP trooper investigating the incident subsequently arrested JUAREZ BELTON for Felony Hit & Run. He was lodged in the Clackamas County Jail.

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New activist group off to fast start: First protest ride is tonight – UPDATED

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 14:47
On Saturday at a brewpub in southeast, concerned citizens got down to the business of making Portland a better biking city.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Spurred into action by Portland’s Great Bike Stagnation and a growing realization that this town needs a bike advocacy shot-in-the-arm, a group calling itself BikeLoudPDX held its first ever meeting on Saturday.

Most people were simply fed up with the lack of high quality bicycle access in Portland and the lack of urgency to do anything about it. One man, a 62-year old named Eric (I didn’t get his last name) lives on the west side and said riding a bike through downtown Portland is so scary (“life-threatening” is the term he used) to him that he and his wife Martha (who’s 67 and has a chronic foot injury) drove to the meeting.

Another woman who recently moved here, said during a round of introductions that, “The more I bike in Portland, the less I like it. The shine has worn off.”

Alex Reed.

By all accounts, it was a huge success. About three dozen people crammed around tables at the Lucky Lab, each one of them eager to share their perspectives and get involved to make cycling better in Portland.

Instead of spending time talking about what’s wrong and what we should do about it, leader Alex Reed focused the meeting on actions. From the minute I got there and had a flyer for an upcoming ride shoved into my hand (by noted North Tabor-area bike activist Terry Dublinsky), till the last conversation I had, the room was full of positive, forward-looking energy.

With so many people, Reed decided to break everyone into three main groups: one to organize the group’s first ride/action, another to discuss the group’s mission, and another to focus on organizational structure (such as, how/if the group should become a 501-c3, remain all-volunteer, and so on).

As I looked around the room, I was happy to see a healthy mix of wily veterans (including BTA Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky) and newcomers. For several people, this was the first bike meeting they’d ever attended.

Here are a few more photos…

Ted Buehler (right) and Marsha Hancrow. Tools of the bike activism trade. <\/scr"+"ipt>"); //]]>-->
Hatham Al-Shabibi (pronounced Hay-thum) is the BTA’s new Communications Manager. He just moved here a week ago. Emily and Zane. Gerik Kransky, BTA (upper left), Carl Alviani (upper right), Scott Lieuellen (lower right) and Timur Ender (lower left).

Several themes emerged in the conversations I was part of (and overheard):

— There’s a feeling that any new efforts should work in symbiosis with the BTA; yet remain independent of them. One man, who was involved with Critical Mass in Chicago, said a successful activism group should “refuse to get sucked in” to the bureaucracy or existing power structure.

— The media was a big topic. People want to both focus on changing the dominant narrative in the local media and use new social media tools to organize activism more effectively. One person mentioned using the Internet group Anonymous as a model of powerful and influential “subversive” activism.

— Many people wanted to do more guerrilla actions, such as pop-up protected bike lanes and DIY crosswalks.

— Inclusiveness was another popular theme. Actions the group takes and its organizational structure should be inclusive of all types of people and geographic areas. (I noted out loud during the meeting that the case for inclusion came most strongly from two of the only five or so women that showed up.)

— The group also wanted to do more to encourage bicycling perspectives and representation at project meetings. On a similar note, they want to do more to respond immediately to infrastructure issues and problems as they arise (examples being SW Barbur road diet proposal, the narrow bike lane on Interstate, the ongoing issues of too many drivers on SE Clinton, and so on).

— As for how aggressive a new group should be, that question remains. There was a strong feeling that this group wanted to stop short of pushing the envelope too much, but some expressed that a certain amount of “loud and cranky” bike activists is just what Portland needs.

— While the actions this group takes will draw attention to gaps and safety issues, we also discussed the need to do more celebrating of the good things. Because Portland City Hall has no bicycling champion at the moment, there’s a lack of ribbon-cutting and commemorations to draw attention to major accomplishments (like the one millionth bike trip over the Hawthorne Bridge or the success of the NE Multnomah road diet project.)

— One key overall theme was that bicycling needs a strong voice in Portland. “The bike voice tends to get undermined in infrastructure discussions,” was how one person put it. On a similar note, the BTA’s Kransky said he showed up because he wants to create more bike advocacy capacity. “How we can build more power?” he asked the group.

Like I said above, this group is about action and the first ride is tonight (8/26). Reed has posted details of a Protest Ride on SE Clinton, “to highlight the importance of keeping motorized traffic volumes low on neighborhood greenways / bike boulevards.” The rides will meet at SE 26th and Clinton at 5:15 and 5:45. In addition to riding, people will hold up signs to encourage drivers to use SE Powell instead of Clinton (like PBOT now advises) as the detour during a major construction project on Division.

Reed and others are working toward a short-term goal of getting PBOT to try temporary diverters on Clinton to reduce the amount of driving trips on the street.

To get involved and/or keep tabs on this fledgling group, check out their Google Group or drop Reed an email at bikeloudpdx [at] gmail [dot] com.

UPDATE, 7:30 pm: Check out a recap and photos of the ride by Hart Noecker on Rebel Metropolis.

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First look at new, left-side buffered bike lanes on NW Everett

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 13:33
There’s a new, 10-foot wide bike lane on NW Everett (and as you can see not everyone knows it’s for bikes only).
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

PBOT has completed a lane “reorganization” project on NW Everett Street between NW 25th and I-405. As we reported back in May, this project is the result of two factors: An understanding by the bureau that the intersection of NW Everett and 16th is unsafe due to its history of right-hook collisions; and a repaving project that gave them a golden opportunity to do something about it.

Looking east from NW 23rd.

I spent about thirty minutes this morning taking a closer look at the new lane configuration. (As you read my observations and check out more photos, keep in mind that NW Everett is a one-way street that goes eastbound from the Nob Hill neighborhood all the way to the Willamette River. It has a gradual decline almost the entire way.)

The changes start at NW 24th, where PBOT has striped a mixing zone to encourage bicycle riders over to the left side of the street. Putting bikeways on the left is a new — yet increasingly used — tool by PBOT to help mitigate conflicts on the right side such as right-hook collisions and bus/bike conflicts. A street design update coming to N Williams later this summer will also feature a left-side bikeway.

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The new buffered bike lane on Everett starts at 23rd (new signs tell drivers in the left lane that they must turn left from Everett onto 23rd). Once on the new buffered bike lane, you notice the width right away. At seven-feet wide, the bike lane itself feels nice and wide. Then there’s a three-foot buffer. The 10 feet of width is needed, because, while PBOT removed one standard lane from the cross section, they have maintained auto parking lanes on both sides of the street. This means the new bikeway is in a door-zone — albeit a less dangerous one because it’s on the passenger side as opposed to the driver’s side.

There were only a few bikes on Everett while I was out there. Green stripes at intersections. As this person so perfectly demonstrated, left-hooks are a possibility, but they’re a lot less likely then right-hooks because drivers have better visibility on their left side.

The buffered treatment continues for several blocks, but it goes away approaching major intersections. At NW 21st, the buffer drops and PBOT has created a “mixing zone,” an environment where riders need to be prepared to share the lane with people turning left.

Mixing zone as you approach 21st.

At NW 19th, the bike lane narrows, the buffer goes away, and the street widens to accept an additional standard lane. Then, as Everett approaches the I-405 crossing, it disappears completely. PBOT has installed a sharrow just east of NW 14th to help transition into the different environment of the Pearl District.

Approaching 16th, there are two standard auto lanes (instead of one) and the buffer goes away. At 16th you can see where the old green bike box has been scraped away. The new bike lane is in the background. East of 16th, prepare to share. Welcome to downtown Portland!

Now that we’ve taken a photo tour, here are a few of my observations:

While the new bikeway is nice and wide, it feels under-designed. There is only scant use of green paint (a few skinny strips prior to intersections), there is no physical protection (like planters, curbs, or plastic wands) or striping of any kind in the buffer zone (like hash marks or yellow color like on NE Multnomah), there is only one bicycle symbol on each block face, and no overhead signs to remind people that the left lane is only for bicycling (something I’d love to start seeing here and elsewhere).

Fortunately, PBOT says they’re still assessing the new striping and some tweaks are still possible.

Oops. Oops again, but you can hardly blame them since it’s new and not very well marked as a bike lane.

With a lack of visual and/or physical cues that the left lane is for bicycling only, people use it for driving. Whether they’re swerving into the bike-only lane to avoid congestion, or to access a parking space, or simply because they’re oblivious of the legal standing that bike lanes have in Oregon — all those behaviors undermine the safe conditions we’re trying to create.

With cars backed up for 2-3 blocks, that bike lane becomes very tempting.

When PBOT did a similar treatment on SW Stark and Oak back in 2012 they also left the bike-only lanes under-designed. It took an outcry from the community for them to go back and add the green paint. With that addition, Stark and Oak are arguably the best bikeway in the central city.

Speaking of couplets… This new and improved bikeway on Everett (a one-way street eastbound) only makes it more unfortunate that we don’t have an westbound couplet on NW Flanders or Glisan. We had a golden opportunity on Flanders when former Mayor Sam Adams (then the transportation commissioner) proposed using the old Sauvie Island Bridge as a biking and walking-only bridge over I-405; but that plan was scrapped after it fell victim to mayoral politics. Today, the lack of safe bike crossings of I-405 north of Burnside remains a major gap in our network.

(UPDATE: A commenter below says a source at PBOT has informed him that they are planning a similar buffered bike lane on NW Glisan (a westbound complement to Everett) when that street is repaved. Great news!)

“This is a big improvement in my everyday cycling and I couldn’t be happier about it.”
— Brendan Ault, nearby resident who rides Everett daily

With the new cross-section having one standard lane, a similar situation will develop here as currently exists on Stark and Oak: When service vehicles like FedEx and garbage trucks double-park, the cars behind them back up. When that happens, people become impatient and they will tend to swerve over into the bike-only lane to get around the stopped traffic.

As for what the reaction from users has been so far, I’ve read nothing but positive responses. Reader Brendan Ault lives near Everett and 22nd, works downtown and wrote us yesterday to share that he “couldn’t be happier” about the new bike lane. “In the past,” he wrote, “I haven’t gone farther east on Everett than 19th because even with the stub of a bike lane leading up to the 405, as soon as I got over the bridge I got pushed into traffic on Everett without any chance to get over to Flanders and calmer traffic/sharrows. Now that the buffered left hand lane is in place, it is easy to cruise down Everett, across the 405 bridge and take a left onto Flanders, take that to Broadway and join the bike commuter trains there.”

Seth Hosmer, who lives in the southwest hills and owns a business in the Pearl District, also likes them. “With the new pavement and the nice bike lane,” he wrote to us via email. “It’s definitely a big improvement.”

But of course not everyone is thrilled about the change. John Blair, who lives in an apartment at Everett and 20th, was outside while I was taking photos this morning. “This is crazy!” he exclaimed. “It’s completely unsafe.” Blair said drivers in cars are backing up for blocks during peak hours, while the bike-only lane sits empty. “The other day, a TriMet bus was stopped behind other cars. Then it swung into the bike lane and almost took a cyclist out. He [the bus operator] had nowhere else to go!”

John Blair doesn’t think the new design works very well.

Blair said he heard that PBOT traffic engineers said the new lane configuration (from two standard lanes down to one) would not lead to more auto congestion. “How could he think that?!” Blair said incredulously, “Is he smoking crack? He obviously doesn’t live down here.”

If PBOT wanted to keep buses and cars from using the bike-only lane, he says “They should have put up a barrier.”

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What do you think about the new design? Share your comments below and make sure to tell PBOT your opinions via safe@portlandoregon.gov.

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As Congress drops Safe Routes to School, advocates ask Metro to step in

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 11:51
A Safe Routes to School ride in Portland in 2010. A new BTA campaign suggests tapping federal funding allocated to the Metro regional government to offer the program in suburban schools, too.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Second in a week-long series about the BTA’s five new advocacy campaigns.

Over the last two years, people trying to reverse the spectacular 40-year slide in the number of kids who bike and walk to school have come to a gradual realization: dedicated federal funding for the Safe Routes to School program is probably gone for good.

“Safe Routes,” as it’s often known for short, paid for in-school walking education workshops for 2nd and 3rd graders, biking education classes for 4th and 5th graders and safety infrastructure like crosswalks and traffic signals near elementary and middle schools.

“Safe Routes [to School] funding is gone, but the basis that was laid over the past 10 years prior to that has really helped show people how effective it can be.”
— Kari Schlosshauer, Pacific Northwest Regional Policy Manager for the Safe Routes National Partnership

But the 2012 federal transportation bill pulled dedicated funding, instead letting states and regions decide whether or not to continue the program using their federal allocations.

In Portland, the program has been so popular that the city and Portland Public Schools began paying for it in 2006 using their own money. This month, a coalition of advocates including the Bicycle Transportation Alliance launched a charge for Metro to use federal funds to do the same thing across the region.

“Safe Routes funding is gone, but the basis that was laid over the past 10 years prior to that has really helped show people how effective it can be,” said Kari Schlosshauer, Pacific Northwest Regional Policy Manager for the Safe Routes National Partnership. “It’s a great time for it. it seems like there’s a lot of desire from it around the region that I’ve seen.”

The strategy, in a nutshell, is to rally suburban families and school districts to convince the Metro regional government that every school deserves the programs that many Portland elementary schoolers already get.

“Gresham’s a great example of a community where there’s a groundswell of interest and support for Safe Routes to Schools among school district personnel, community members, partners,” BTA Deputy Director Stephanie Noll said in an interview. “Folks working in the schools are on board. The one thing that’s missing is funding.”

If it’s to be found, the BTA says that funding would come the place some of the federal money landed after Congress abandoned Safe Routes: in the Metro regional government’s regional flexible fund allocation.

The goal is for $2 million to $11 million every two years, out of a total regional flexible funding pot of $90 million to $120 million.

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BTA Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky said the organization hopes to secure that money without forfeiting any of the regional flexible funds that Metro already dedicates to active transportation.

“There’s plenty of room for a $2 to $11 million allocation to safer routes to schools for our kids all across the region without reducing the amount of money we are currently investing in bicycle, pedestrian and transit capital projects,” Krasky said.

Kransky said he sees Safe Routes as a way to build political support for active transportation — sort of nascent American version of the successful “Stop de Kindermoord” movement that kicked off the Dutch embrace of bicycle infrastructure in the 1970s.

And Noll noted that infrastructure around schools is often infrastructure the whole neighborhood can use to get around safely.

“They don’t just serve our schools,” she said. “They make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. But it really makes sense to start with our most vulnerable community members.”

Quick take: BikePortland’s summary of the project Safe Routes supporters at the BTA’s member meeting this month.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Where the idea comes from: The BTA coordinates Oregon’s Walk + Bike Network, a forum for interested parents, school officials and faculty and other advocates for better student transportation. The concept of metro-level funding developed from their conversations.

Obstacles: Advocates will need to win votes, probably some time in the next year, at JPACT, a Metro committee dominated by suburban politicians, and the regional Metro council.

Likely tradeoffs: Regional flexible funds are in stiff demand because they’re flexible. In the last few years, both TriMet and freight interests have grabbed some of them despite the comparatively small size of the funding stream. To get dedicated Safe Routes funding, it’ll probably need to be perceived not as “more stuff for the bike people” but as a way to support schools and education.

How you could help: Contact BTA Safe Routes to Schools advocate LeeAnne Ferguson: (503) 226-0676 x26 or leeanne@btaoregon.org. Sign the BTA’s petition to Metro. Attend the Safe Routes coalition meeting at 2 p.m. this Thursday, Aug. 28, at Woodstock Library.

Check back each day this week for another post in our series about new advocacy campaigns.

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Q&A: How Minnesota saves lives by spreading safety money thinly

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:43
Sue Groth, director of traffic, safety and technology
for the Minnesota Department of Transportation,
has been nationally recognized for overseeing rapid
drops in traffic fatalities.
(Photos: MnDOT)

Sue Groth’s job: use math and millions of dollars to stop injuries before they happen.

The team Groth leads at the Minnesota Department of Transportation has probably saved a few hundred lives over the last 10 years. In that time they’ve reinvented “highway safety” spending and seen traffic fatalities fall almost twice as fast as they have in Oregon and the rest of the country.

Groth is the plenary speaker at the Sept. 15 Oregon Transportation Summit hosted by OTREC at Portland State University. I caught her by phone last week to talk about MnDOT’s daring decision to give up some of the “gobs of money” it gets for highway safety and hand it to local agencies instead.

What’s the nature of your work on the safety movement called Vision Zero, also known as Toward Zero Deaths?
My state happened to be one of the first to adopt it. We have had a program for over 10 years now and have had some pretty good success. We don’t have to accept the fact that 400 people a year die on the roads in Minnesota, or 33,000 nationally.

“In the past, MnDOT would have just spent that money ourselves, because we have gobs of money to spend on safety. Now we would say, ‘No, we’re going to give that to the local level.’”
— Sue Groth, Vision Zero pioneer for MnDOT

400?
Oh, I’d better give you a precise number: 387. Minnesota’s had great success. One year we actually got down to 368.

(Editor’s note: 387, it turns out, is seven deaths per 100,000 Minnesotans, down 38 percent since 2002. The national rate is 11 per 100,000; Oregon’s rate is nine per 100,000. Both of those rates are down a little over 20 percent since 2002.)

Wow. Is it just that Swedish people are good drivers?
(laughs) No, it’s more than that. We’ve got good people but we’ve also got good laws and have really made this a priority. When we started this program and started to look at where these were happening, we realized that a lot of the crashes were happening on our local system.

The majority of our fatal and serious crashes happen in rural areas. But in rural areas you don’t have a particular type of intersection or curve that is deadly. These types of crashes tend to happen somewhat randomly. You might not have a “dead man’s curve.” But you could take this money and spread it over a lot of little intersections: lower-cost strategies like pavement markings and lights and signing.

In the past, MnDOT would have just spent that money ourselves, because we have gobs of money to spend on safety. Now we would say, ‘No, we’re going to give that to the local level.’

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Who is doing all the calculations you mention? State staff?
We used federal safety dollars and consulting staff to work with the county engineers. We wanted to make sure that the counties could embrace it. And it’s not just the infrastructure. Ninety-three percent of crashes include human error, something that a driver does wrong. You’ve got to address not only the roadway, but the human too.

My impression had been that in Sweden, where Vision Zero was developed, they assume people will always do dumb things, so they focus entirely on the roadway and don’t bother trying to educate users.
I think in the United States we still have a lot we can do with the human side. Thirty percent of our fatal crashes involve drunk driving. (Editor’s note: In Sweden the ratio is between 15 and 20 percent.)

The main knock I’ve heard against Vision Zero comes from street-safety advocates who think it’s just the latest buzzword, that we’re going to clap ourselves on the back and keep doing the same thing.
That’s interesting. To me, it is so not a buzzword. Because we are doing so much differently than we did 10 years ago that it’s incredible.

Why is safety such a powerful argument in the transportation world?
You can look at the sheer numbers of people and the economic cost. But that is nothing compared to anybody who’s ever lost somebody in a traffic death. It’s so personal and it’s so widespread. You never really get over it. That I think is very compelling for lawmakers and public policy people.

Cable median barriers in Minnesota.

When we wanted to start installing cable barrier along our highways there was big pushback from certain parts of our orgnaization, because it was a new thing that they weren’t already doing: When it got hit, we would have to go out and fix it. But today, some of our workers say “This is the best thing we’ve ever done. We used to be the people who used to sit out here and close the road for six hours while they did a reconstruction of a fatal crash. We no longer are responding to those calls, because we have eliminated our fatal crashes.”

We did a study – and this was a pretty good study – we figured we’d saved 80 lives since we started installing this. 80 lives! That’s a lot of people who are going home at night. We don’t even know what life would have been like without those 80 people. I think that’s pretty compelling.

Registration for next month’s Oregon Transportation Summit is now open. Groth’s address, which will be joined by Leah Treat of Portland and Troy Costales of the Oregon Department of Transportation, will begin the event.

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Advocates work to build retailers’ consensus around a big city investment in NE Broadway

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 15:05
A rendering of a possible new version of Northeast Broadway.
(Image by Owen Walz)

First in a week-long series about the BTA’s five new advocacy campaigns.

More than anything else in central Portland’s bike network, commercial corridors are the missing links.

Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, Mississippi, Alberta, Burnside, Fremont, NW 23rd, NE 28th: the neighborhood commercial districts that grew along Portland’s old streetcar lines have become the jewels in Portland’s crown — streets that make the city worth visiting, living in and caring about. They host a rapidly increasing share of local homes, and the businesses that line them — groceries, hardware, beer, music, shampoo — are the destinations for a huge share of the city’s trips.

But none of them has anything more comfortable to bike in than a door-zone bike lane, and many blocks have narrow, out-of-date sidewalks without much greenery.

This summer, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance has started a quiet campaign that is looking in an unexpected direction to create a better model: Northeast Broadway, from the Broadway Bridge all the way to Hollywood.

A call for better walking, too A man bikes on the Broadway sidewalk last week, presumably to avoid riding alongside traffic.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The BTA’s lead staffer on the campaign, advocate Carl Larson, said that though the BTA is trying to convene a conversation about how Broadway could be better and wants a high-quality bikeway like the one pictured above to be part of the conversation, it’s not wedded to a particular route or design.

Nor is a bikeway seen as the most important ingredient needed. Larson said what Broadway needs would be “part of a larger street treatment that improves, particularly, pedestrian movement up and down the street and across it.”

“We don’t have a set plan that we are trying to put in place,” Larson said. “We are truly trying to build consensus within the neighborhood and with businesses.”

To that end, BTA volunteer Chris DeLaney has been going door to door talking to businesses about what they want.

“Right now we’re hearing that crossing difficulty is a really serious concern and speeds are a real serious concern, and I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that lack of bike parking is a serious concern for many businesses on Broadway,” Larson said.

A route with potential At the BTA’s member meeting this month, staff advocate Carl Larson holds up a comparison of Broadway with the nearby Tillamook neighborhood greenway, showing what Tillamook can’t provide.

There’s no question that linking the dense, commercially rich Hollywood directly to the Rose Quarter area would be a huge boon for biking.

The roughly 2.5-mile route goes past numerous shops that households in the extremely bike-friendly neighborhoods nearby would, presumably, love to access by bike, but may not be because of the fast-moving traffic a foot or two away from the current bike lanes.

Larson said the best route might turn out to be along Broadway, Weidler or both. The exact eastern endpoint isn’t fixed, either.

But reducing the number of standard lanes on Broadway or Weidler in order to improve biking or walking access would make it much easier to cross the street and more pleasant to sit in a cafe alongside it, Larson said.

“By slowing down traffic it would make the businesses more visible,” he said.

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A new model for advocacy Underperforming? Plenty of cafe seating was available on Broadway on a warm evening last week.

Sending a volunteer to gather business advice early in the process of planning a bikeway is something neither the BTA or the city has tried before.

The BTA hasn’t been shy about saying that the tactic was missing during the recent effort to redesign Northeast and Southeast 28th, which was scotched after a few businesses vehemently opposed to parking removal mobilized neighboring shops against the city’s plan.

“Business leadership has to be there if it’s going to work,” BTA Director Rob Sadowsky said in an interview. “It’d be nice if the city had the funding or the talent to do that.”

Larson referred to the work as “just patient relationship and consensus-building.”

“We see this type of work as necessary to pull off something like what the city wanted to do on 28th,” Larson said.

“I don’t know if this will be our job forever, to be cuing things up for the city,” he continued. “But right now, there is not a real commercial cycle track in this town. … Hopefully after we have that, a commercial cycle track will be easier to envision.”

Quick take: BikePortland’s summary of the project Riding on Broadway today.

Where the idea comes from: Basically from the BTA itself, but they’re hoping more detailed requests will emerge from businesses.

What it might cost: Several million dollars for the treatment pictured at top.

Likely tradeoffs: Narrowing and/or reducing the number of standard lanes.

Obstacles: Sadowsky said he thinks that a plan like this would require, at the least, the official endorsement of the local business association. There’s also the matter of communicating to more Portlanders that making all-ages biking possible on a commercial street is fundamentally different than making it possible on a neighborhood greenway. “Even people on bikes sort of lack the imagination to see what it would be like,” Larson said.

How you could help: Contact Larson: carl@btaoregon.org or (503) 226-0676 x16. “Right now we’re really looking for people who have a stake in what happens on Broadway, who are connected to Broadway businesses or the neighborhood and have some energy or creative ideas about how the street could be better,” Larson said.

Check back each day this week for another post in our series about new advocacy campaigns.

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National org wants to know: What should we call this thing we do everyday?

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 13:39

People for Bikes, a national advocacy group funded by the bicycle industry, wants to change cycling in America by coming up with a new name for it. Specifically, the group wants help figuring out what to call everyday cycling in order to differentiate it from recreation and fitness riding.

Here’s the set-up from People for Bikes via an email they sent out today:

“Lots of people ride bikes for recreation, exercise and sport. But there’s another kind of bicycling that’s becoming more and more popular in communities across the country. It’s difficult to quantify, because folks call it a lot of different things. And it doesn’t have an official name…

Imagine you’re rolling out on your bike right from your garage—no spandex involved, you’re wearing normal, everyday clothes.

You’re heading somewhere you need to go—like work, a meeting, or the grocery store. This might be part of your daily routine, or maybe you’re in the mood to run errands or get from point A to point B by bike, because it’s gorgeous outside…

This trip isn’t about exercise. You’ve got a destination in mind, and the bike’s the way you get there…

Help us name it by taking this survey!”

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It’s worth noting that People for Bikes is the same group behind the Green Lane Project, a program that’s working to hasten the development of protected bike lanes across the country. They say they want to establish a new word for this specific type of cycling in order to, “quantify it, count the people who do it, and grow the movement.”

In an online survey, they offer four choices (they also allow you to fill in with whatever name you like). Here they are:

  • Everyday Biking
  • City Riding
  • Community Cycling
  • Functional Bicycling, or Funcycling

In my opinion, when it comes to language issues, I like to keep things simple and I try to avoid creating new labels whenever possible. When ideas like this come up, I also like to compare how it’s handled from a car-oriented perspective (I figure they’re a good model to emulate, giving the popularity and political dominance of driving). Does the AAA have separate terms for driving? I don’t think so. Do we differentiate between recreational driving trips and more serious, utilitarian driving trips? Nope.

One concern I have is that by slicing cycling up into its sub-parts, we’ll only make each group smaller and thus lessen the collective voice. We also might unintentionally create more divisions and cliques when what we need (in my opinion) to make major national progress for cycling is a large and unified voice pushing in (mostly) the same direction.

And who’s to say that a ride into work or to the store can’t also be recreation, fitness, and fun?!

Given those thoughts, I have used the term “everyday cycling” when I want to make it clear that I’m talking about people who aren’t suited up in lycra or riding for a workout.

What do you think?

Take the survey here.
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A community on bikes rallies against violence in the streets of north Portland

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 09:06
Samuel Thompson led calls for peace on the streets of the New Columbia neighborhood on Sunday.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“Occupy the streets! Until we get peace! Occupy the streets! Until we get peace!”

Reeling from a (yet another) violent summer where gang members have ruled the streets with guns, about 150 people joined the Take Back the Streets Ride in New Columbia on Sunday. Armed with bicycles and a powerful sense of unity, they stood up to their fears. As they pedaled, chanted and smiled, they started a new narrative about the public space outside their doorsteps and showed how bicycles can be an effective tool for grassroots, social change far beyond the central city.

Nearby resident Deborah Moore showed up with her two daughters, Imara, 11, and Nia, 6. “I just figured we need to be out here to represent,” she said. “We’re not going to fear our community. We’re here. We’re a viable community… We won’t be afraid to walk and bike.”

Deborah Moore and her daughters Imara (11) and Nia (6).

There’s a strong connection between bicycling and this nascent anti-violence movement.

The creators of the ride — De Marcus Preston, Jason Washington, and others — started riding for fun and exercise with a group of friends just this summer. When someone got a flat on one of those rides a few weeks ago, they stopped into the Community Cycling Center to get it fixed. It was their first experience with that shop, but it left a positive impression. Later, when they decided to step up and do something about the shootings in their neighborhood, they reached out to the CCC and a partnership was born.

The faces behind the ride (left to right): Zoe Piliafas, CCC Program Director; De Marcus Preston, ride co-founder; Jason Washington, ride co-founder; Sheena Llaoa, CCC Systems Builder and Community Activator.

For Washington and Preston, it’s hopefully just the first of many partnerships that will help them form a united front against the pull of gangs that leads to tragedy and young lives being wasted behind bars.

De Marcus Preston working the media.

A former gang member himself, Preston had been pulled over by police 78 times before his senior year in high school. Now Preston is a sports coach and community activist who helps young people see alternatives to the gang life. At Sunday’s ride he spoke to a TV reporter on camera, worked the megaphone at the front of the ride, and pulled a speaker in a cargo trailer behind his Trek mountain-bike. Stepping out into this leadership role is new for Preston, but it’s something he’s getting used to. “I’m used to keeping a low profile, especially when there are cameras around,” he said with a smile, after wrapping up an interview with KPTV, “But I’m going to step out of my box for this.”

Preston and many others in and around New Columbia have decided that it’s time to leave comfort zones and get active.

38-year Phil Clark showed up because his son is just entering high school and he wants him to be able to get there without worrying about the double-threat of gang and traffic violence. Clark, who doesn’t own a car, lives on the north side of Columbia Blvd, a high-speed, urban freeway where people often drive too fast. “That street is tough to cross,” he said. “There are no stoplights or anything.” He used to take TriMet, but he said he prefers his bicycle because it’s cheaper, more reliable, and it connects him to the neighborhood. “The more people that ride, the better.”

After rolling out from the CCC’s Bike Repair Hub at N Woolsey and Trenton, the group rode slowly through the streets of New Columbia. One of the ride leaders, Samuel Thompson, yelled into a megaphone and lead a series of chants. “If we’re out here on bikes,” he told the crowd, “We need to let people hear us!… What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!”

Here’s some video footage of the riding and chanting:

As the mass passed homes and apartments, people came out onto their porches and leaned out second-story windows to wave and yell their approval. After looping through New Columbia, the riders ended up at Columbia Park where informational booths, food, drinks, and, most importantly, shade awaited them.

Adrian (12) is ready to roll. David Harris (left) grew up in this neighborhood in the 1960s when it was called “The Villa.” <\/scr"+"ipt>"); //]]>-->
Jason Washington on the megaphone. Author Anthony Bryant (blue tank top) and his friend Emanuel Price. Justice Rajee with the Community Healing Initiative, a program of the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center. Samuel Thompson on the megaphone. One group rode with t-shirts depicting men who’ve died from gang violence. Ty Schwoeffermann.

Throughout the ride I saw a lot of conversations, handshakes, high-fives, and hugs. Just as leaders Washington and Preston hoped, they’ve started something much larger than a bike ride. Preston told me he’s already been contacted from activists in southeast Portland who want to do a similar event, and Washington said he hopes to use the ride as a platform for future organizing.

During the ride, I spotted Washington watching proudly as people on bikes streamed by, filling two entire city blocks. How does it feel to see this? I asked. “I’m so proud. So happy. It almost brings me to tears,” he replied. “I’m just happy so many people came out and shared this with us.”

Preston and Washington.

– To get involved and follow this initiative, stay tuned to our Front Page, check out the event on Facebook and/or follow future announcements from Community Cycling Center.

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