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Portland Oregon bicycle news, events, culture, travel and opinion.
Updated: 16 weeks 4 days ago

Cycle Oregon announces first women’s-only ride and a coastal route for 2016

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 20:00
A scene of what day four will look like when riders go from Gold Beach to Brookings.
(Photo: Cycle Oregon)

At their annual route announcement party and gala at the Portland Art Museum tonight (and streaming live on the web) Cycle Oregon unveiled the route of their 2016 Week Ride that will take place from September 10th to 17th. Hundreds of people waited in the rain for a chance to get first crack at guaranteed early registration for the event. The 29th annual Cycle Oregon usually sells out quickly, so organizers of the ride gave the first 500 people at tonight’s event a spot on the list. Registration for everyone else begings tomorrow (2/4) at 12:00 pm.

Detail of ride flyer.

Where are they all going this year? Here’s the condensed version (taken from the ride brochure):

“The 29th annual Week Ride starts in Myrtle Creek and takes riders along rivers and railroads, through logging towns and coastal farms, to Gold Beach and back. Cyclists… will be heading to the southern Oregon coast. They’ll follow the Umpqua and Rogue rivers and Oregon’s stunning coastline as they journey over 400 miles through Myrtle Creek, Camas Valley, Bandon-by-the-Sea, Gold Beach, Indian Mary Park, and Glendale.”

For a ride that has criss-crossed nearly every road and town in the state of Oregon (and some in Idaho, Washington, and even California), going to the southern coast is a rarity. “It’s been over 20 years since we’ve visited the deep southern Oregon coast,” says Cycle Oregon Ride Director Steve Schulz, “And we couldn’t be more excited to showcase this area.”

A coastal route will also likely avoid any risk of a fire like the one that forced a re-route of their ride in eastern Oregon last year.

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Promo art for “Joyride” event.

In addition to the Week Ride route, Cycle Oregon also announced their first-ever women’s only ride. Dubbed “Joyride,” the June 11th event will be a one-day exploration of the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley with a base camp at the Stoller Family Estate vineyards. Check out the description of the event:

Grab your friends, daughters, sisters, and moms and escape to the countryside! Whether you’re a newbie or veteran rider, we hope you’ll join us for Cycle Oregon’s first annual one-day event celebrating women on bikes.
You can come just to ride or make a weekend out of it—riding, laughing, and relaxing as you relish in Oregon wine country. With three stunning routes and signature Cycle Oregon support, simply come ride your bike, kick back, and be pampered. Locally sourced rest stops and lunch with live entertainment, and temptation stations of wine, cheese, and chocolate will have you wishing you could take a Joyride everyday.

The family-friendly Weekend Ride (July 8-10th) will base out of Oregon State University campus in Corvallis and riders can choose from three different routes routes that explore the Willamette Valley while the little ones can opt to stay behind at popular bike camps.

Cost for the Week Ride is $985 per rider. It’s $199 per adult and $99 per child (age 7-17; kids 6 and under are free) for the Weekend Ride, and $100 for Joyride, the Women’s Ride. Any proceeds from Cycle Oregon’s events are directed to the Cycle Oregon Fund, which makes annual grants to projects throughout Oregon. Host communities also benefit from the ride when thousands of riders spend time and money while biking through. The communities hosting this year’s Week Ride will received more than $150,000 from the organization for their troubles.

BikePortland is an official media partner of Cycle Oregon this year. We’ll photograph and report from all their events. Stay tuned for a sneek peak at the southern coast route similar to the “5 Days in Eastern Oregon” project I did last year.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Detour done right: 21st and Belmont shows how construction zones should work

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 15:02
A contractor’s trailer blocked sidewalk and bike lane, so the city temporarily removed some parking to keep the routes open.
(Photos: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Three months ago, there were so many construction zones encroaching on walking and biking routes that a few Portlanders organized a walking tour of downtown’s worst offenders. So today we’re happy to take a moment to recognize a detour that the city has handled beautifully.

The city prioritized walking, biking, bus and freight access over free on-street parking spaces.

It’s at SE 21st and Belmont, where a big new apartment building is going up. Like on many of these projects, contractors have set up a fenced-in trailer along the sidewalk and curbside — in this case right in the path of the bike lane that runs up Belmont at this point.

But unlike on many projects, the city has worked with contractors to create a great detour for people walking and biking through this commercial district. A detour sign prompts people to the left, into one of the two parallel auto travel lanes:

The resulting design pushes cars fairly close to the left (north) side of Belmont, so the city temporarily removed a handful of parking spaces to ensure that wide auto traffic can keep flowing.

Essentially, the city prioritized walking, biking, bus and freight access over free on-street parking spaces.

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The design cleverly uses what would usually be the dashed line between two auto lanes to become the line between people walking and biking. At the east side of the detour, the city has added a new temporary stripe to guide people back into their usual lanes:

Here’s the view from the other direction, looking west:

You can see that (despite the man in the first photo on this post) the bike lane is eastbound as usual while the temporary walking lane is bidirectional, just like the sidewalk.

It’s great that the city is working to address these issues. City spokesman John Brady said Wednesday that this is a Bureau of Transportation joint.

One big reason different detours are so different in how they treat people using nearby streets is that different detours are designed by different city bureaus, and there’s no overarching citywide policy that has ever gotten every bureau to design its detours with care. With our neighbors in Seattle celebrating a new policy that specifies the rules for closing sidewalks in construction zones, we can hope and expect that this is a sign that Portland’s internal efforts are improving, too.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Victim of collision at notorious Greeley/I-5 intersection comes forward

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 14:22
The bike lane and the freeway on-ramp on North Greeley where a man was hit on January 27th.
(Photo: Google Streetview)

A recent collision on North Greeley where it crosses over an on-ramp for the Interstate 5 freeway has thrust concerns about that dangerous intersection back into the spotlight. It’s also a reminder that even when collisions don’t lead to serious injuries or even death they still take a significant toll on victims and the road designs that lead to them still deserve our attention.

“Now, just the thought of riding to work makes my heart pound. I feel nervous walking through crosswalks.”

This collision happened on January 27th. Luckily the man who was riding his bike was not seriously injured aside from “road rash and various contusions.” There wasn’t any media coverage and we only received scant information from the police about what happened. But since last week we’ve been contacted by the injured rider. He told us he wanted to stay anonymous because he’s still piecing everything together and dealing with unhelpful insurance claims adjusters (who seem more concerned with telling him to “pay more attention” than representing his interests).

The man, let’s call him Bob, said he’s having to pay out-of-pocket for his hospital stay. To make matters worse, the person who was driving is not admitting fault, so Bob will likely have to pay for a new bike as well — an expense he estimates at $1,000 to $2,000.

But replacing his equipment is the least of Bob’s worries. His “cycling confidence” has been shaken to the core. Here’s more from his email:

“But what I’m most broken up about is my cycling confidence. I have zero interest in riding anymore, let alone replacing my bike. My New Year’s resolution was to hit 5,000 miles. I registered for the Portland Century 10 months in advance. Mere weeks ago I was planning a long weekend tour of Astoria and the Oregon coast. Now, just the thought of riding to work makes my heart pound. I feel nervous walking through crosswalks. If I’m not actively doing something that occupies my immediate attention, my thoughts drift back to that morning: realizing in that moment that the car is not going to slow down, careening off the windshield, screaming “no, no, no” as I hit the pavement, my bike crumpled beside me — the bike that made me fall in love with cycling a year-and-a-half ago. I think about how surreal it all was, how I thought this could never happen to me.”

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Another view of this intersection taken during our Ride Along with Ali Reis.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I hate to publish things like this because I worry that it will scare some of you and that you might ride less because of it. But maybe this type of thing is what’s needed for us to do, in Bob’s words, “a re-examination of Greeley’s safety.”

We’ve mentioned this location several times in the past. In the southbound direction people are driving 45-50 mph and then speeding up even faster as they merge onto the I-5 on ramp. Meanwhile, there’s a designated bike lane to the right that directs riders to merge left across the freeway on-ramp in order to continue southbound toward Interstate Avenue. This is a completely unacceptable design for a bikeway — especially a route where the latest City of Portland counts show about 1,400 average daily bicycle trips.

Back in September when Mayor Charlie Hales was still considering re-election, he rode his bike from Kenton to City Hall. I was on the ride and hoped we would ride past this intersection so he could begin to share some of the urgency I feel it deserves. Unfortunately we didn’t take this route because one of his staffers felt it would be too dangerous.

Portland wants more people to ride bikes. Every major adopted city transportation plan and policy we have makes that crystal clear. But until we help people gain cycling confidence instead of lose it, we’ll never reach our goals.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Budget exercise causes alarm as Police Bureau proposes elimination of Traffic Division

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 10:55
Not going anywhere.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Local media coverage of the Portland Police Bureau’s 2016-2017 budget proposal has sent shockwaves through the community. But there’s no reason for alarm. Here’s what’s going on…

Back in November, Mayor Charlie Hales asked all bureau directors to cut 5 percent from their budgets. Despite the City enjoying “relative fiscal stability,” the Mayor said the cuts are necessary to address the affordable housing and homelessness crisis. This is how it goes every budget cycle: The Mayor issues “budget guidance,” then the directors send him proposals with that guidance in mind.

The police bureau’s budget has raised eyebrows because, in his budget that was made public yesterday (PDF here), Chief Larry O’Dea proposed the elimination of three speciality units that have a major impact on all our lives. One of those units, the Traffic Division, writes over 90 percent of all traffic citations and is responsible for keeping our streets safe and sane. The elimination of the Traffic Division would cut 44 positions and would save the City $4.3 million in the fiscal year.

Detail from police bureau budget proposal.

Here’s more from the police bureau’s budget request about the impact this cut would have (emphases mine):

The Traffic Division would be eliminated, including the photo radar and red light camera enforcement programs. Primary responsibility for traffic safety will be assumed by precinct patrol. The Canine and Emergency Management Unit will be transferred to other divisions within the bureau.

The elimination of this specialty unit will have several negative impacts on the bureau’s capabilities. The division performs focused, high-visibility and grant-funded traffic safety enforcement missions that would not otherwise be performed. The Traffic Division issues roughly 80,000 traffic citations each year, which is 94% of all Portland traffic citations, which would not otherwise be issued. Traffic officers are the primary responders to DUII cases, and their targeted missions interdict roughly 80% of DUII offenders that would not otherwise be stopped. Their familiarity with the complex on-scene process involved with DUII stops makes them substantially more efficient than most patrol officers. Roughly 4,700 additional hours of precinct officer time would be spent processing the 20% of remaining DUII cases. The major crash investigations team would become a detached assignment of officers assigned to regular duties in core functions. The sworn staff positions required to issue citations of the red light camera program and photo radar speed enforcement program would be eliminated and those programs discontinued and more than 38,000 annual citations would no longer be issued. Motorcycle officers would be dispersed to precinct patrol duties. Coordination and availability of their operation for dignitary protection and special events would be significantly reduced. Grant funding for traffic safety enforcement would no longer be available because it is predicated on the bureau having a dedicated traffic safety division. Because of the elimination of the focused patrol and enforcement provided by the Traffic Division, the impacts of cutting the division is anticipated to increase the number of traffic collisions, number of driving while impaired and/or distracted, and number of traffic accident fatalities. The bureau was already anticipating negative impacts on traffic safety resulting from the legalization of marijuana in the State of Oregon based on the State of Colorado’s experience with recreational marijuana legalization. In Colorado, in the first year that retail marijuana was legalized, there was a 32% increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths, and marijuana-related traffic deaths increased from 10% to 20% of all traffic deaths. There has already been one marijuana-related traffic death in Portland in 2016.

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The police bureau’s Bureau Advisory Committee said the negative impact of this and other services in the five percent cut package, “is too extreme especially to services provided to the community and vulnerable populations in the areas of domestic violence, traffic safety and school safety.”

“Because we’re already so lean, we don’t have any good places to cut anything.”
— Larry O’Dea, Portland Police Chief

The thought of eliminating the Traffic Division is very worrisome to say the least — especially as Portland gets serious about Vision Zero. But the good news is it’s just a thought. We can all but assure you it won’t be cut. This is all about process and a bit of politics.

When I saw the proposal I asked Police Chief Larry O’Dea (a former captain of the Traffic Division) to help us understand what’s going on.

“We are not anticipating any cuts,” he said. According to Chief O’Dea, his bureau is simply going through the budget exercise so the Mayor can see how a five percent cut will look. And at the police bureau, those cuts look so horrible they are very unlikely. “Because we’re already so lean, we don’t have any good places to cut anything,” O’Dea continued. “This cut would mean all our specialized functions short of gang enforcement.”

Not only does O’Dea say the police bureau will be spared any budget cuts, he says they’re anticipating gaining a few new positions. He mentioned needing more officers to meet their commitment to Vision Zero, restoring a night shift officer and bulking up their response to “marijuana-related driving.”

While Mayor Hales is sticking to his process and requiring all bureaus to take part in this budget cut proposal exercise, he has already hinted that core city functions like these police services won’t be on the chopping block. In his November memo, Hales said, “I will look to preserve core public safety functions… I will continue to ensure that City resources are allocated to programs that have a direct impact on the lives of our citizens and that we focus on maintaining our assets and infrastructure.”

This is all a good reminder to stay engaged with the budget process (it’s also reminder of how important the police budget is!). Stay tuned for public hearings on April 5th and 12th where you can share your feedback with the Mayor. The final budget adoption at City Council is set for June 9th. Learn more about how the City budget works at the Budget Office website.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Find your tribe: A list of Portland’s many Facebook bicycle groups

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 08:40
Find your thing, then find other people who like it too.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Tuesday was about as wonderful a day for Northwest winter biking as anyone could wish for, and that feels like a sign that the wet, wet winter of 2015-2016 has started rolling away.

(Punxsutawney Phil, for the record, thinks so too.)

While we start to think about spring, it’s a good time to start thinking about where to find good times on bikes. So let’s do something we’ve been wanting to get done for a while and share a list of all the local bike-related Facebook groups we know of.

This won’t be a complete directory, but we’re eager to get your additions in the comments.

Grilled by Bike Club – Each ride ends in a meal that was prepared on the way.

Move by Bike – Pay it forward by chipping in on a few of these, and you will probably get people to show up and move all your stuff to your new place for the cost of a good time plus food before and after.

Women Bike – For the 51 percent.

Ladies Let’s Ride – A weekly Sunday ride of 35-50 miles, plus mid-week rides and events in the summer.

PDX Cargo Bike Gang – Haul yeah.

Portland Bike Party – Colorful, upbeat roll through the streets once a month or so.

Portland Urban Bike (Thursday Night Ride) – A newer weekly tradition in the central city.

Zoobomb – The Sunday-night downhill cruise that can only exist in Portland.

Bike St Johns – A network up north.

Bike Milwaukie – One of the region’s most active.

BikeLoudPDX community – For folks who take their fun with a slice of action.

Slow Bikes for All – Not strictly a local group but heavy with Portlanders and with Portland biking values.

Dropout Bike Club – Rides monthly. Freak bikes encouraged; all bikes welcome.

Mujeres en Movimiento – Latinas juntas.

Andando en Bicicletas en Cully – Family rides organized at Hacienda CDC.

Midnight Mystery Ride – Where will it go? The route is new each month, but there will be music on the way, alcohol at the end, and hardly any cars in between.

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The Sprockettes – The incomparable women’s bike-dance brigade has graduated into offering a summer camp for girls.

Butts on Bikes – Low-pressure social rides, mostly on the west side.

Cross Crusade – The local racing series is all grown up these days.

Portland and Mt. Hood Fat Bikes – Helping you head for the hills since January 2016.

PDX Fat Bikers – Similar mission, different group, founded 2014.

PNW Bikepacking – A little rubber makes the great outdoors greater.

Carfree Portland – “People thriving in Portland without automobiles, and those who aspire to live carfree.”

River City Ride Partners – Find a buddy.

Bike PSU – Camaraderie, support, advocacy.

Sandy Ridge Trailhead Mountain Bikers – For when you’re missing the forest (or the trees).

Portland Bike Polo – The city’s true hometown sport. HQ: Alberta Park’s tennis courts.

Ten years ago, urban bike fun exploded in Portland around the digital tools of the time: listserv, a calendar and a wiki. Shift became the great bike-fun group of the 2000s. Today it lives on mostly through the annual Pedalpalooza festival it created. But though the traditions, the faces and the communication tools will keep changing, bike fun will always be with us. These days, Facebook is a pretty good place to see it blossom.

Speaking of which: Who’d we miss?

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Wednesday Video Roundup: Colombia’s last bike builder, drone downhill video, and more

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 08:29

Welcome to this week’s roundup!

Our first video (above) shows a cyclist who would be at home in Portland, given the number of fairy gardens spread around the city- and Mill Ends Park, of course. “Pothole gardening” is a pleasant form of protest combined with art.

Have you ever thought “I’d ride a recumbent, but only if it were front wheel drive”? The Kervelo (not Cervelo) is for you. It has some gearing in the front axle. Note there’s no footage of the bike navigating turns.

I have a soft spot for Colombia, but even those who don’t should enjoy this 4 minute (subtitled) video of Colombia’s last custom frame builder. We are spoiled- imagine having to scrounge to find books about designing bikes, even in a language you don’t understand- and having trouble getting bike-quality tubing.

Here’s a German Fred explaining the difference between Sufferfest and Zwift. Some people really enjoy Zwift- I don’t feel like it’s sufficiently advanced to be interesting.

Trek put out a video of freestyle mountain biker Cam McCaul jumping down some mountains (and wiping out). The terrain is very bare, which makes for a really interesting video. The music flows nicely too.

Bike tech blogger DCRainmaker shared video of a follow-me drone by Airdog. It’s neat to see how beautiful this footage is, considering there’s no human operator panning the drone.

Speaking of drone video, the terrain on this downhill video is about a “B”, but the videography and soundtrack makes it an A. It’s filmed with the ubiquitous DJI Phantom. I couldn’t figure out where they were, because it looked like Southern California but with cottonwoods (alder? poplar? something in that family). Turns out it’s Italy.

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Controversies of note

I don’t want to cover every controversial thing that occurs, but there are two worth covering this week.

First, Audi made a commercial that strongly implies cyclists (and Prius drivers) are vain and inferior to a new Audi car. Perhaps Audi needs to learn about “punching down“.

Second, ugh. Just like Greg LeMond has been saying, “motor doping” is offically now a thing. It’d be nice if UCI released photos or video showing the device, but Womens U23 (under-23) cyclocross rider Femke van den Driessche was been accused of using a motor, presumably hidden in the seatpost, to boost her power. She was caught after her rear wheel locked up on the final lap- not something that happens easily on a well-maintained bike. Like I said we don’t have information on the device, but here’s a video showing her (probably) using it in a previous race. You can read more at BikeHugger, or watch “What is ‘Mechanical Doping’?”.

Painful and outrageous videos

I’m putting these under a section header, so if you don’t want to see lawbreaking or bonebreaking, you’ve been warned.

First, this helmet camera vid shows a confusing intersection. The cycletrack is two-way, but the stripes disappear before the corner. Kudos to the at-fault cyclist for owning up to it, and it gives us all an interesting situation to dissect.

One of the Youtube accounts that has been doing “bait bike” pranks put an airbag under the seat of their bait bike. It doesn’t look very effective, aside from being a loud noise. The thief at 2:30 was entertaining. (warning: strong language and violent ‘prank’)

This week’s honorable mentions: Tour Down Under Stage 7, aka the “Rickshaw World Championships” (warning, colorful language), bikes and smoke bombs (huh?), Lars van der Haar talking about CX Worlds (I liked his comment on disc brakes), surfboard-equipped cyclists (are they are touring beaches? hard to tell), Peter Sagan checking out the Rio road course (it will be in the Olympics, the internet is aflutter that Sagan hasn’t shaved his legs yet), Nikebike got a short discussion on GCN! (they couldn’t figure out how to pronounce it), and finally yes, winter gear makes you less aerodynamic.

Inclusion criteria: If I’ve missed something, post it in the comments! I prefer videos published in the last week or so. Note if there’s a specific point in a long video that is worth highlighting. Also note if there is colorful language. When it gets to spring, I will delay videos containing pro racing spoilers.

– Ted Timmons, @tedder42

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Where should Biketown stations go? Open houses will open the question

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 15:23
A 2012 rendering of a hypothetical bike-sharing station
in downtown’s Director Park.
(Image: Motivate)

Portland has been accustomed to auto-parking/bike-lane tradeoffs for years. Now it’s about to encounter a new tradeoff: auto-parking/bike-share-station.

A round of five city open houses this spring will start the public conversation about where to put the stations for the bike sharing system Portland plans to launch by July. And though some locations are probably no-brainers (Director Park, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Urban Center Plaza, Jamison Square, Union Station, Holladay Park, Rose Quarter Transit Center, Little Big Burger on Mississippi…) others will be harder.

As we mentioned in yesterday’s post about Seattle’s bike share struggles, the ideal distance between bike share stations seems to be no more than five blocks, the more evenly spaced the better. Portland won’t be able to meet that standard in much of its area, but it’s a star to aim for where possible.

The city’s most recent map of a possible bike share service area, from before Nike’s sponsorship. The city says the service area is likely to expand at least a bit but it hasn’t yet offered details.

Fortunately, Portland has a lot of firsthand experience with the benefits of bike parking. Nearly every single one of the city’s 130+ bike parking corrals has been installed with support from neighboring retailers, and they’re so efficient (in terms of “customer wallets per square foot of parking space”) that some businesses even pay to jump to the front of the city’s queue.

Successful bike-share stations seem to have a similar effect; a 2013 survey of people in Washington D.C. business districts found that 66 percent of Capital Bikeshare users are on their way to spend money somewhere, overwhelmingly at businesses within a few blocks of a station.

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Putting bike-share stations near mass transit stations is important, too — probably for the sake of both bike sharing and transit. A 2014 study found that the two modes are complementary, and that a 10 percent increase in Capital Bikeshare ridership tends to happen alongside a 2.8 percent increase in Metro rail ridership.

Biketown’s “smart bike” system adds an interesting twist to all this: in a sense, when we talk about “stations” on Portland’s bike sharing system, we’re basically just talking about invisible columns of air around which the system has drawn a digital “geofence.” Park your Biketown ride anywhere inside the column (which will probably be about the size of a city block face) and a satellite will detect that you’re in the “station,” even if you’re not locked to one of the system’s specially branded racks.

The simple metal racks of Orlando’s Juice smart-bike sharing system will resemble Biketown’s.
(Photo: City of Orlando)

So if businesses or residents get upset about a particular station location, it could be tempting for the city to say “OK, we’ll just make it a completely virtual station.”

That could be a useful tool. One of the unique strengths of Biketown will be that its bikes will be able to spill into nearby bike staples and corrals as needed; no station will ever be completely full. And the chance to put a station where it “should” be with zero political pushback might be good.

The only reason Biketown will have physical stations at all is to make the system visible, memorable and special.

But here’s the potential downside of “smart bike” systems: Biketown is going to need to feel like a thing. The only reason Biketown will have physical stations at all is to make the system visible, memorable and special. When I’m Biketowning to the coffee shop, I don’t want to have to pull out my phone and open an app to figure out whether I can park on a certain block. I just want to see a station and lock up.

So for Biketown to serve the riders (and deliver the customers) that we all want it to, it’s going to need stations with a physical presence.

Here are the open houses where the city will start figuring out where to put them:

March 15th (Tuesday) – 5:30 – 7:30 pm, SE Portland location TBD
March 17th (Thursday) – Noon – 2:00 p.m., City Hall, Lovejoy Room, 1221 SW 4th Avenue
March 30th (Wednesday) – 5:00 – 7:00pm, Portland Building, 1120 SW 5th Avenue
April 5th, (Tuesday) – 6:00 – 8:00pm, NW Portland location TBD
April 7th (Thursday) – 5:30 – 7:30pm, Immaculate Heart Church, 2926 N Williams Avenue

The city also says it will launch an online map on March 9 asking people to submit station sites. (Some readers will remember that the city did the same thing a few years ago; you can see Portlanders’ answers at the bottom of this post.)

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Portland Water Bureau employees get new covered bike parking area

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 13:13
New bike parking at Interstate facility.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

As part of a $49 million renovation project at their Interstate Avenue facility, the City of Portland Water Bureau now offers its employees and visitors a covered bike parking facility.

The new parking area is covered and has 21 staple-style racks — that’s room for a minimum of 42 bicycles. From what I could see (peering over the gate from Interstate Avenue right where it joins with northbound Larrabee), the racks look well spaced. An employee I ran into who happens to be well-educated about bike racks, said he was concerned that standard hex bolts were used to fasten the racks to the ground, instead of anti-theft bolts. Here are a few more images:

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(Photo: Portland Water Bureau)(Photo: Portland Water Bureau)

A Water Bureau spokesperson says about 320 employees work in these buildings on Interstate, which houses the agency’s maintenance, construction, and operations facilities. During the Bike Commute Challenge last fall, the Water Bureau came in fifth place out of 56 agencies in their category. 52 employees logged a total of 725 commutes and rode a total of 7,833 miles. 21 employees notched a 100 percent bike commute rate during the challenge month.

In addition to the bike parking, this project also includes a solar array, an eco-roof, and many water and energy conservation measures.

Water Bureau employees also have areas inside the building where bicycles can be parked.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Activists (temporarily) take the swing out of TriMet’s swing gates

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 11:54
TriMet’s swing gates at SE 11th are working as intended again as of this morning.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The latest chapter in swing gate-gate wasn’t open for long.

Elle Steele tries to open
the gate for her and
her bike.

Ever since TriMet announced plans to install manual gates on the path that crosses their new Orange Line MAX in inner southeast Portland, people have not been pleased. The gates require users to pull them open and — in addition to the permanent barrier they cause in the path (they are closed whether a train is coming or not) — concerns have been raised that the gates would be difficult for people with disabilities and cumbersome bicycles to easily use.

Turns out those concerns were warranted. Videos we published last week show a man in a motorized wheelchair having significant difficulty opening one of the gates. In two other videos, women with large cargo bikes full of children are seen struggling to pull open the gates and get through.

On Sunday afternoon transportation activists decided to take matters into their own hands.

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It’s a really good time to ride your wheelchair or cargo bike thru the @trimet gates at SE 11th now.

— PDX Transformation (@PBOTrans) January 31, 2016

People working on behalf of PDX Transformation, the same secretive group that put out traffic cones to protect a bike lane back in December, propped open the gates on Sunday and then announced their action on Twitter. An anonymous representative from the group told us they used steel cable and ferrules to do the job. They made sure to not damage any TriMet property and the gates were re-opened shortly after by the transit agency.

Reached this morning, a TriMet official said: “We were aware of this… Having the gates propped open does not help with our data gathering. We ask that people not tamper with these safety devices.”

That data gathering is part of an ongoing analysis of the new gates being performed by TriMet to determine their effectiveness. Despite being told numerous times by official advisory groups that the gates would be problematic for the community, TriMet installed them anyways out of concern for path users’ safety. It remains to be seen if they’ll change course.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Here’s what’s going on at North Williams and Killingsworth

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 11:08
The new curb extension on northeast corner of Williams and Killingsworth.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The other day while biking home up North Williams Avenue I got a surprise. As I crossed Killingsworth, the usual cut-through I used to enjoy was gone. Instead of the bike lane leading me to a curbside channel with a median island buffer between me and people driving in the opposite direction, I had to ride head-on into traffic. I didn’t think much of it because it was an active construction site, but I wanted to find out what was going with this very busy intersection in the north/northeast Portland bike network.

Turns out the Portland Bureau of Transportation is building new sidewalks on Killingsworth from Commercial to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. At Williams they’ve built a large new curb extension on the northeast corner of the intersection. Once the project wraps up in April, bicycle riders will be directed in a straight line from the existing bike lanes on Williams to the outer edge of the curb extension. You’ll note that Williams is one-way northbound south of Killingsworth and one-way southbound for driving and two-way for biking north of Killingsworth.

Here are some photos to give you a better sense of the changes that are in store.

Here’s how the intersection looks now. (Notice the location of the concrete median to the left and the curbside bike lane.):

And here’s the plan drawing from PBOT:

PBOT spokesman John Brady says, “In this particular section of Williams and Killingsworth we decided this new layout was a better design for pedestrians and bicyclists. Bikers will be able to move in a straight line through the intersection. It also works better for pedestrians and it is easy to maintain as compared to the previous island.”

As of this morning, the curblines are poured but the project isn’t quite done. Here’s how it looks as you approach northbound from existing bike lanes on Williams. Notice how the old bike lane striping leads to the right. The new design will keep the bike lane straight and will head right where those orange plastic barrels are:

Are here are three southbound views:

These changes are part of phase two of the Killingsworth Streetscape Plan which was adopted by the City of Portland in 2003. It also includes new street trees, stormwater facilities and “pedestrian scale lights.” The final recommendations in that plan also included a request from PBOT to lower the existing speed limit (set by the Oregon Department of Transportation) from today’s 30 mph to 25 mph. So far that hasn’t happened. The project is expected to be completed by April of 2016.

Brady says later this summer PBOT will pave Killingsworth from Commercial to Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. With Killingsworth being a major commercial corridor with lots of destinations (including a high school, community college, restaurants, bars, markets, coffee places, a library, and so on) we wonder if there’s an opportunity to improve bike access on the street. Killingsworth, like most of Portland’s inner commercial corridors (Mississippi, Alberta, 28th), has two standard lanes and two parking lanes — but no dedicated bicycle access.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Comment of the Week: ‘When I was broke, I barely rode my bike’

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 16:47

I often wonder how many activists have ever really struggled with poverty or even personally know anyone who has.

We talk a lot about infrastructure at BikePortland, because it matters to people who bike. But it’s very far from the only thing that matters.

In a comment beneath Monday’s post about the driving habits of rich and poor people, BikePortland reader Ellie wrote about a time in her life when she was too poor to drive but when her life was too fragmented and unpredictable for her to bike.

Both the argument against gas taxes and increased parking fees use the added burden on poor people as a reason not to increase associated costs, but it is mostly a red herring, an excuse to avoid extra taxes and fees for higher income earners. However, bike activist and urban planning activists due similar things. I often wonder how many activists have ever really struggled with poverty or even personally know anyone who has. One of my biggest frustrations with a certain sort of bicyclist is that they seem to think that since they do not find public transit useful, it isn’t important.

When I was broke and living in SE Portland. I barely rode my bike, and I certainly didn’t use it regularly for transportation. I lived with roommates in the only place we could find that we could afford and was willing to rent to us with our limited, inconsistent incomes. Though we were living toward the outer edge of inner Southeast Portland, in one of the more bikeable parts of Portland, it didn’t matter. Though I tried finding work close to where I lived, I had limited work experience and skills. I took whatever jobs I could get. I was working as a waitress in Beaverton and picking up part time work walking dogs and tutoring where I could find it. I took public transit everywhere, because I couldn’t afford a car and biking was completely unrealistic when I could be traveling 30 or 40 miles a day and showing up sweaty or soaked by the rain could have gotten me written up for unprofessional appearance. I spent a lot of time on buses and the MAX, and any improvements in public transit coverage or frequency would have been appreciated. While this is my personal experience, I think it reflects the lives of a lot of other people as well. Instability in where you live and work is very common when you’re at a certain level of poor. People in these circumstances are not necessarily in a position where biking as transport is reasonable and infrastructure concerns take a backseat. There are more pressing issues like moving due to rent increasing again or hours getting cut at work.

I was lucky. I have since gotten a good job, where I have steady hours, and I don’t have to try to cobble together multiple part time jobs to make ends meet anymore. I have a stable income. If my group at work is between projects and I don’t have much to do, I don’t get sent home without pay like I did working at restaurants. I also make enough that I can choose to live close enough to work to comfortably bike everyday, and I know that if I need to I can also choose to take public transit. For me, biking is now a smart, economical transportation option, but that is very much the result of privilege. This is why poorer or underfunded communities do not always like the addition of bike lane to their communities, and why they are often seen as a part of gentrification.

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This isn’t to say that I don’t agree that poor people drive less, or that we shouldn’t raise parking fees or add a gas tax because these things will hurt poor people. I just wish these conversations seemed to recognize the reality of what it can be like to be poor. Sometimes you live where you can find a place, and you work what jobs you can get. Sometimes this means spending hours on public transit because you are going across town between jobs. It can also mean that a car is the only practical way to get around because you need to be able to get places quickly or at odd hours, if you get called in. If people are really concerned about the poor, they should be lobbying for improvements to public transit and affordable housing.

I realized that this is a bit of a tangential rant from the original post, but I felt compelled to add something about what it is actually like to be poor in Portland. So many of the comments here seem to be about hypothetical poor people.

(Also check out Ellie’s follow-up exchange with another reader about the tradeoffs involved in regulating small businesses.)

Biking can be hugely useful for building a great city and a great transit system, and some of the issues Ellie mentions might be helped if biking were seen as more normal and mainstream. But biking will never be enough on its own. Great cities need mass transit, plentiful jobs, safe neighborhoods and a variety of housing options that all different kinds of people can afford.

And great cities also need people with opinions that they’re willing to share.

Yes, we pay for good comments. This regular feature is sponsored by readers who’ve become BikePortland subscribers to keep our site and our community strong. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to Ellie in thanks for this great addition. Watch your email!

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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TriMet to add 200 covered bike parking spots to MAX system

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 15:16
Concept art for a new bike-and-ride facility at the Goose Hollow MAX station, due to open by the end of 2016.
(Images: TriMet)

Portland’s regional transit agency expects to add new locked “Bike and Ride” facilities this year to its Goose Hollow, Beaverton Creek and Orenco Station MAX stops, greatly increasing the west side’s capacity for bike-to-transit commuting.

It’s especially welcome news for MAX commuters through the crowded Robertson Tunnel between Portland and Washington County. Job and residential growth in Central Portland and urban Washington County have been leading to more and more people looking to reach those stations by bike.

At at least one of the facilities, there’s even room being set aside specifically for cargo bikes.

The Goose Hollow facility, pictured above, will include “about 50-60 bike parking spaces total, including both secure, enclosed facilities and covered bike parking spaces,” with construction starting later this year and finishing by the end of 2016.

Here’s a shot of the nearly complete Orenco Bike and Ride, which will offer “50 secure, enclosed bike parking spaces, a repair stand with tools, air pump, cargo bike parking area and outlets for e-bikes.”

“The facility is opening soon and we’ll announce a date shortly,” TriMet said Friday.

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The Beaverton Creek MAX station just south of Nike’s headquarters, meanwhile, is getting the biggest upgrade of the three.

“Initial concepts call for about 100 bike parking spaces, including both secure, enclosed facilities and covered bike parking spaces,” TriMet said. Spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said the current plan is for about half of those to be secure and half to be outdoors but covered.

That project, too, is supposed to start and finish in 2016.

At three cents per daytime hour parked and 1 cent per nighttime hour, the cost of using TriMet’s Bike and Rides comes out to about $6 per month for someone who parks a bike for 10 hours every weekday, or about $6 per month for someone who parks a bike for everything except 10 hours every weekday. (For people who are really into it, that’d be $12 a month to securely store two bikes at different bike & rides and use both of them for different legs of a daily commute.)

Storing a car for up to one day at a TriMet park & ride remains free.

The project at Orenco is assisted by a grant from Metro, with matching funds from TriMet. The projects at Goose Hollow and Beaverton Creek are assisted by an Oregon Department of Transportation Connect Oregon grant, with matching funds from both Washington County and TriMet.

If you’d like to influence the facilities or design of the Goose Hollow or Beaverton Creek areas, contact TriMet Active Transportation Planner Jeff Owen:

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Gap Week Roundup: Your gaps and what we learned

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 14:17
Map of our four gaps and a selection of reader submissions. Feel free to add your own.

What a week! In addition to all our regular news and feature stories we shined a light on bikeway gaps. Places where — for maddening and often inexplicable reasons — a perfectly fine bike lane vanishes for just a few short blocks.

Because if we want to fill these bikeway gaps we must first fill the knowledge gap.

Before I share your submissions and some thoughts on this topic, I want to say thanks to our business sponsors and subscribers. We need your continued financial support to keep doing this work. If you haven’t stepped up to subscribe or to become an advertising partner, please sign up (and join 200+ fellow readers!) or drop me a line today.

Now back to our programming…

The State of the GapsSW 3rd and Stark in downtown Portland.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

We learned quite a bit taking this closer look at bikeway gaps — not just about the specific locations we profiled, but about gaps in general.

As we discovered with the tragic death of Martin Greenough last month, many significant and dangerous gaps aren’t even reflected on official city and regional bike maps (in Greenough’s case, the gap he was hit in wasn’t even in ODOT’s inventory). This is a problem. These maps show continuous bikeways when in fact, on the ground, there are no bikeways. Metro is aware of this issue and has responded on one gap so far; but the City of Portland hasn’t responded to our requests for comment about it. Bike maps should reflect reality. Agencies need to be honest with road users so we can make informed — and safe — decisions.

Perhaps overlooking these gaps on maps is a byproduct of another thing we learned: Different types of riders experience gaps differently. Strong and confident riders can fly through a gap and never even know it’s a problem spot because it doesn’t impact their experience. But another person can bike through the same gap and feel their blood pressure rise. Others can be so scared of a gap they won’t even use the route at all.

Our story on a gap on SW Terwilliger had some people saying they hadn’t even noticed it. One reader, 2WheelBeamer, sent us a video showing how he was honked at in the gap mere minutes after our post went up!

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Your Gaps

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for: A selection of gaps as pointed out to us by you, our esteemed friends and readers. Most of them came from the excellent comment thread under our Gap Week introduction post last week. I strongly suggest all the city/county/regional agency staff bookmark or print out that page and use it for future planning reference.

We’ve also made a Google Map with our four gaps and the nine below. Feel free to add more gaps to help inform our future coverage.

From Alex Reed:

1) 87th & Flavel: Greenway ends, 1 block of unpaved road & short muddy path from the Springwater (Map)

2) Burnside gap in the Gresham-Fairview Trail is a real head-shaker.

From Amblyopia:

3) Woodstock bike lanes disappear for 1 block each direction @ SE 82nd, maps show continuous

“A long bike lane, punctuated by a short stretch of absolute terror.”
— Meghan Humphreys

From J.E.:

4) The most annoying, although not most dangerous, gap I’ve encountered is where the bike lanes drop off on SE 26th just south of Clinton to preserve a small number of parking spaces. The connection with the greenway is RIGHT THERE, but nope.

From Meghan Humphreys:

5) SE Woodstock, between SE 69th and 72nd. A long bike lane, punctuated by a short stretch of absolute terror.

From Chris I.:

6) NE 181st where it passes under I-84. The northbound bike lane on 181st ends at the freeway offramp, and cyclists are forced to cross two lanes of traffic that is turning onto the freeway onramp. The I-84 bike path also abruptly ends here, forcing cyclists who want to go north to either ride on the sidewalk, or attempt to turn left with the traffic exiting the freeway. Many drivers roll through the red light to turn south onto 181st, creating a major hazard.

From Social Engineer:

7) N Interstate around Rosa Parks. That has to be one of the most egregious in the entire city.

From Maccoinnich:

8) Ugh, NW 16th, where the bike lane disappears for 3 blocks between Johnson and Glisan to create an extra auto lane. What’s weird is that I can’t even work out why this happens. There no obvious reason why auto volumes along 16th would be higher south of Johnson than they are north of it. There is a right arrow marked for drivers turning onto Glisan, but it’s not even a dedicated turn lane.

From Ted Labbe:

9) NE 7th between Broadway and Weidler in front of FedEx Office. Bike lanes to the N and S but nothing in this 1 block section with busy traffic all around. And no good alternative route to cross the Lloyd District. This needs to be fixed ASAP.

Thanks again for all your feedback.

The big takeaway from this week is that there are simply way too many gaps in our bike network. To really do this topic justice we need to do Gap Year. On that note, we plan to keep writing about these gaps (and hopefully covering great work to close them by our friends at PBOT, Metro, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and so on) until there are no more left. It’s a big job, but we must create a safe and connected road system for bicycle users that is on par with what we offer people who drive, walk, and take transit.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Portland Auto Show entertains their customers with… Bikes!

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 09:50
Custom-built bike ramps at the Portland Auto Show.
(Photos: The Lumberyard Bike Park)

When the biking-est city in America hosts a big auto show, it should come as no surprise that bikes find their way into the mix. Such is the case with the Portland Auto Show, the big motoring to-do happening now through Sunday at the Oregon Convention Center — a location bordered by a streetcar line, a light rail line, and bike paths.

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Amid the bevy of attractions at this year’s show that includes a rock-climbing wall, celebrity appearances, and a “kid zone”; Portland’s indoor bike park The Lumberyard has set up shop. Or in their words, they’ve “invaded” the auto show.

The Lumberyard has erected several ramps and jumps and invited pro riders to come in and infiltrate this bastion of car culture.

Pros like Paddy Gross, Levi Weert, Jamie Goldman, Ben Hucke and Steven Bafus will be doing regular demos through the weekend and there’s even a little skills course where kids can test their bike handling.

These kids have a different idea of “getting behind the wheel”…

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Gap Week: Cully, Columbia and Alderwood to Portland Airport

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 08:51
Portland is already tantalizingly close to providing a really solid biking connection from Northeast Portland’s working-class Cully neighborhood to the airport area.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

This post is part of Gap Week, a special series made possible by our sponsors and subscribers.

Portland has a problem: like most U.S. cities, it’s been losing middle-wage jobs, especially the kind you can get without a fancy degree.

Many of the middle-wage, blue-collar jobs that remain are spread in industrial centers along the rivers with limited public transit access. And one of the most important clusters is one in Northeast Portland that many Portlanders know well: Portland International Airport.

Including airport and airline workers, groundskeepers and staff at on-site hotels and restaurants, the airport employs 10,000 people. (For comparison’s sake, downtown’s central business district – south of Burnside, north of Jefferson – contains about 45,000 jobs, mostly with white-collar duties.) That’s not to mention thousands of others who work on industrial-zoned lands nearby or at the big Cascade Station retail complex just to the east.

And as a recent city study shows, these jobs draw overwhelmingly on an area with virtually no north-south public transit service: East Portland.

Though the MAX Red Line runs to the airport terminal, its frequency peters off fast in the evenings. And there is no other bus service to the airport area, in part because the jobs there are so spread out that it’s hard to reach them on foot from a bus stop.

If only there were some type of ultra-low-cost personal vehicle that could help lower-income Portlanders reach the sorts of jobs that could make them middle-income Portlanders.

Network context

As we reported in 2014, there are several plans afoot to improve bike access to the airport from the south. But according to Zef Wagner, an associate planner with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, one stands out as achievable in the relatively near future: Cully-Columbia-Alderwood.

South of Killingsworth, Cully Boulevard has one of the city’s nicest bike lanes. It’s elevated and parking-protected, and it connects to various east-west bike routes including Killingsworth, which offers a rideable (though stressful) crossing of Interstate 205. The city recently recognized Cully’s importance by striping a new bike lane on Cully between Killingsworth and Portland Highway.

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North of the Columbia River Slough is another fairly good network, including Alderwood Road and Cornfoot Road, which plug into decent biking connections around the airport area.

For people on bikes, the big problem is the stretch of Cully and Alderwood between Portland Highway and Cornfoot, including about two blocks of Columbia Boulevard.

Existing conditions

The above photo is looking south down Cully from Portland Highway — note the decently wide curbside bike lanes connecting south across Killingsworth in the background.

But back up a bit and Cully’s bike lanes become narrow striped shoulders…

…which at points become unrideably narrow and torn-up shoulders across the entrances to several industrial yards:

In the background of the north-facing shot above, you can see the T intersection where Cully meets Columbia Boulevard. Columbia is a picture-perfect road-dieted street here: a fairly constant flow of traffic in one lane in each direction with a center turn lane. It’s safe and efficient to drive on, but nobody left room for bikes on Columbia.

Traffic moves at 35 to 40 mph; at one point on my visit I saw a pickup use the center turn lane to make a blind pass around a big truck it had been following. (For his trouble, the man driving the pickup got to proceed at the same 35 mph in front of the big truck instead of behind it.)

Street corners meet Columbia at shallow angles, making it hard to know who’s about to turn and inviting people to take the corners at speed.

Despite that, I was a little bit surprised to see three people biking on this two-block stretch of Columbia in the 15 minutes I was there at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Even with fast-moving trucks everywhere and no infrastructure, it’s such a useful connection that bold riders already use it.

The key street north of Columbia is a half-mile stretch of Alderwood that crosses two branches of the Columbia Slough and connects to Cornfoot. Here’s what the street looks like just north of Columbia (facing north):

Even the shoulders vanish as the road goes through a patch of woods:

But just north of those woods, Alderwood meets up with Cornfoot and gets a bike lane that goes all the way to the airport.

The missing link here is a four-fifths-of-a-mile stretch on these three streets that could connect the whole airport area to Northeast Portland’s neighborhoods:

What the future holds

More than any of the other gaps we’ve focused on this week, the solution to this problem is money.

Appealing, comfortable bike links here would require two new signalized crossings: Cully/Columbia and Alderwood/Columbia. (Cully currently has flashing yellow lights; Alderwood just has a stop sign.) All three streets would also require shoulder repairs and bikeways — ideally buffered or separated from traffic, given the speed and size of the autos here.

Fortunately, some of the money is already on the way, and the rest of the project is a decent candidate for more money.

City spokeswoman Hannah Schafer said in an email Tuesday that the Port of Portland (the public agency that runs the airport) has already received funding for a new signal at Alderwood and Columbia. Sidewalks and bike facilities on part of Columbia will be part of that project.

“There is strong interest at both the City and Port in finding funding for the other signal at Cully/Columbia, and one upcoming possibility is the next round of Regional Flexible Funds,” Schafer continued. “RFF projects must benefit Active Transportation and/or Freight—and this project would benefit both.”

“If both traffic signals were built, we would have bicycle facilities for that two-block segment,” Schafer said.

That leaves the stretches on Cully and Alderwood.

Alderwood has the best prospects: a $2.5 million multi-use path between Columbia and Cornfoot is project #40027 on the city’s proposed transportation system plan project list. It’s slated to be built in the next 10 years, but isn’t funded yet.

The battered stretch of Cully between Portland Highway and Columbia Way is a lower priority for the city. It’d cost $4 million and is also on the proposed TSP project list (it’s #40037), but not until after 2026.

These short connections are expensive. But again, they have a lot of payoff in affordable job access, which makes them good candidates for outside grants. If the city keeps these projects on its TSP list or accelerates the one on Alderwood — public testimony is being accepted until March 22 — Portland could get a vastly improved bike connection to its airport.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of Gap Week, where we’ll share readers’ submissions of their own worst bike lane gaps.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Traffic Advisory: One week nighttime closure coming for St. Johns Bridge

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 08:40
Life on the St. Johns Bridge sidewalk.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation is prepping for an inspection project on the St. Johns Bridge. The project will close the bridge at night for a week starting Monday, February 1st. Work is scheduled for completion by Saturday, February 6th.

The bridge will be closed to driving traffic from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am for the week; but ODOT will keep one sidewalk open at all times for bicycling and walking traffic.

As you can see in the photo below, the sidewalks on the St. Johns Bridge are quite narrow, so if you use it next week during closure hours, be prepared for close passes with other users. More info via ODOT website.

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New era for off-road cycling begins as master plan committee meets for first time

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 17:51
Committee members get down to work.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

That could be the motto for the City of Portland’s attempts to address the glaring lack of off-road cycling opportunities within city limits. But tonight the city took a big step forward on an unprecedented effort to solve that problem when the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability convened its first project advisory committee meeting for the Off Road Cycling Master Plan.

If all goes according to plan, 12 months from now Portland will have its first-ever citywide plan on not just how to provide bike access in parks but where it should be allowed. To be clear, this plan won’t put any lines on a map. BPS Project Manager Michelle Kunec-North made that clear at the outset of the meeting. “This plan alone doesn’t get something built. This will get us to a citywide understanding on where off-road cycling is appropriate and what type of facility is appropriate on that site.”

Make no mistake though, this plan will have the potential to be the guide for how Portland implements all future mountain bike trails — that means everything from singletrack, fire roads, pump tracks, skills parks, and so on.

Recent efforts to improve bike access in parks have been site-specific (Forest Park and River View Natural Area) and they’ve ended in controversy and hurt feelings on all sides. To leave those memories behind, this process is being developed by the planning bureau (not Parks & Recreation) with the help of private consultants hired to make sure the public process stays on track.

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Portland Mayor Charlie Hales asserted his interest in his issue when he made a $300,000 investment in the plan. Hales’ Chief of Staff Joshua Alpert was at tonight’s meeting to speak on the mayor’s behalf.

“We’re trying to incorporate an activity that the city hasn’t done a good job of recognizing as a real legitimate activity in the past,” Alpert said, acknowledging past processes that have left off-road riding advocates bruised and battered.

Slide from presentation by City of Portland.

In his remarks, Alpert struck a chord that was very supportive of cycling. “A lot of people who mountain bike are sick and tired of having to drive an hour to do this activity and as someone who’s environmentally conscious, it irks me that we’re forcing people to go out and drive for a sport they enjoy.” The key question the Mayor’s office says they hope this process answers how to balance bicycling with other park uses and city goals.

“A lot of people who mountain bike are sick and tired of having to drive an hour to do this activity and as someone who’s environmentally conscious, it irks me that we’re forcing people to go out and drive for a sport they enjoy.”
— Joshua Alpert, Mayor Charlie Hales’ office

It’s notable that the committee is made up of a strong majority of people who represent cycling-related interests. That fact was not lost on committee member Bob Sallinger, conservation director of Portland Audubon. At tonight’s meeting Sallinger pointed out that the committe is “pretty lopsided” and “biased.” He’s worried that people who represent bike advocacy groups and bike-related businesses are overrepresented.

“For example, the off-leash dog committee was full of dog advocates,” Sallinger pointed out, “And they didn’t feel it had an impact on natural resources and that’s the way the votes came out.”

In response, committee member Jocelyn Gaudi, who also happens to be marketing manager at a bicycle company, member of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and sits on the board of the Northwest Trail Alliance, said, “We’re multi-dimensional people. I need the forest to ride my mountain bike so I have a vested interest in maintaining it.”

Tonight’s meeting was light on debate and dialogue, but that’s sure to change in the months to come. What’s striking to me so far is that unlike past processes, this time better bike access is all but assumed from the start. It’s the cycling advocates leading the discussion, instead of scratching at the edges eager for any crumb other interests are willing to give up. Whether that leads to new and improved access within biking distance from downtown Portland remains to be seen.

For more info, see the official website.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Videos show difficulties navigating TriMet’s swing gates

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 12:56

A new video just released by veteran transportation reform advocate Doug Klotz (we profiled him back in November) shows that the new swing gates installed by TriMet along the Orange Line in inner southeast Portland pose a significant barrier to people in motorized wheelchairs.

In the video, Joe VenderVeer, a former chair of the Portland Commission on Disability, can be seen struggling to open the gate. After lots of trial-and-error, VanderVeer does get through — but only because of his amazing chair-driving skills and a dazzling reverse spin move.

Joe VanderVeer trying to use the gate.

TriMet’s swing gates have been roundly criticized by cycling and walking advocates because of how they unecessarily limit use of the path along the new Orange Line. TriMet says they are needed for safety (there is both a light rail and heavy rail line and it’s a no-horn “quiet zone”).

When we first reported on the gates back in July, TriMet heard a wave of opposition. The gates were then officially opposed by City’s pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees.

The bike advsiory committee was worried about “the operating difficulties they will impose on members of the traveling public” and the pedestrian committee said, “swing gates still create an unnecessarily difficult barrier for people using wheelchairs and other mobility devices. No one deserves that disadvantage when there are better ideas on the table.”

TriMet changed their plans in response to these objections; but they still moved forward with swing gates at SE 11th. To bolster their case for the gates, TriMet released a video of their own showing a wheelchair user easily getting through.

Klotz remains concerned for users like VanderVeer. It’s a concern he first raised last summer. People with limited hand movement to control their chairs, he said in a BikePortland comment on July 16th, “will not be able to use these gates.” Now he’s got the video to prove it.

We sent TriMet the video and asked for their response: “Now that the gate installation is complete, we are monitoring how they work. We appreciate users’ observations and feedback.” You can tell TriMet what you think via their comment page.

UPDATE: Here are two more videos that show local women trying to get through the gates with their loaded cargo bikes:

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Council sends gas tax to ballot behind wide range of supporters

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 10:42
Marion Haynes with the Portland Business Alliance
offered conditional support.
(Photos from City Council live feed)

Advocates of a 10-cent local gas tax joined up to form quite a list of endorsers Wednesday for a midafternoon hearing at Portland City Council. Council heard a presentation and testimony about the idea ahead of adopting a resolution to send the tax to the ballot.

“I feel like a possum on I-5 during rush hour right now,” said Paul Romain, a lobbyist for Oregon gas retailers who was one of only two people to speak clearly against the measure.

Offering support was everyone from a freight advocate to a business advocate to an environmental justice advocate from East Portland to a frequent City Hall testifier who goes by the name of “Lightning.” While almost everyone seemed to like the idea, a close look at their testimony reveals mixed feelings that could offer clues to future debates.

“It’s not every day that we have a panel that has the diversity of views that have come in before us,” said Commissioner Nick Fish, who cast one of the council’s five unanimous votes in favor of sending the $16 million annual tax to Portland voters on the May 17 ballot.

“We want to make sure that vehicle road capacity is not impacted as a part of this.”
— Molly Haynes, Portland Business Alliance

Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick, whose office pulled the various interests to agree on this concept over the last year, was another of the five votes. He said the city estimated that 54 percent of the revenue would go toward projects mostly associated with road maintenance and 46 percent toward projects mostly associated with road safety.

Here’s the list of people who testified in favor Wednesday (as well as I’ve been able to assemble it):

Fiona Yau-Luu, Oregon Walks
Kari Schlosshauer, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
Kristi Finney-Dunn, Families for Safe Streets
Mychal Tetteh, Community Cycling Center
Marion Haynes, Portland Business Alliance
Andy Shaw, City Club of Portland
Leah Benson, Gladys Bikes
Rebecca Hamilton, Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Gerik Kransky, Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Chris Smith, Portland Planning Commission
Matthew Mičetić, Red Castle Games
Amy Subach, Vision Zero USA
Ophelia Miracle, Grant High School student
Vivian Satterfield, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
Corky Collier, Columbia Corridor Association
Chris Rall, Transportation for America
Ruthann Bennett, Professional and Technical Employees Local 17 (city workers)
Charles Johnson, Oregonians for Food and Shelter and Compassionate Wisdom
Chau Phan Mende, parent of student at Robert Gray Middle School
Kem Marks, East Portland resident
Hau Hagedorn, North Portland resident
Craig Rogers

Here’s a list of people who opposed it:

Paul Romain, Oregon Fuel Association
Terry Parker, Northeast Portland resident

Many of those who said they were in favor offered conditions. For example, Mychal Tetteh, executive director of the Community Cycling Center, was one of several who said he was taking the city at its word that it would spend the next four years working on a more progressive way to pay for streets.

The regressive nature of the mechanism adds to a long list of transportation fees and taxes and fails to protect our lower-income households from higher transportation costs, much less divides the revenue more fairly between residents and businesses. Thankfully, the projects listed in the proposal steer revenue to the areas of the city that have long been neglected and unsafe. However, these projects alone do not solve the existing structural challenges either in the way the Bureau of Transportation allocates existing funds or determines overall transportation policies. During the regressive nature of the temporary tax on gas, our support of this effort is conditioned on the city and PBOT’s commitment to identify and pursue less regressive future funding sources and an ongoing commitment to increase transportation improvements in our most dangerous neighborhoods.”

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Collier, the freight lobbyist, sounded similar notes of support but added that $16 million a year is very little compared to the $100 million a year cost of fully preserving every street in the city, plus the unknown cost of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Collier noted that if Oregon’s 1919 gas tax had been adjusted for inflation, it would now be at 70 cents per gallon, not the 30 cents people pay today.

“We have a lot more expensive road system than we did in 1919, but we’re only spending half as much to maintain it. If we could get away with it, that would be something to be proud of, but we haven’t been getting away with it. It’s deteriorating and it’s going to cost us a lot more in the future. … This is just the beginning. This is a drop in the bucket for how much we’re going to have to come up with in the future. … A few years ago, a gas tax was an obvious good solution. But that was before the arts tax, the library bond, the school bond and a number of measures that have weighed more heavily on the poor.”

Haynes, of the Portland Business Alliance, said her group saw a lot to like about gas taxes:

“It’s user-based, it’s very low in its overhead, we appreciate the voter approval that the gas tax requires, and the gas tax couldn’t be diverted to other uses. So we know that it’s going to go to its intended purpose of the maintenance issues and the safety issues.”

Haynes also said that in addition to the deferred maintenance problems the group has focused on, “there are also pressing safety needs on the streets that need to be addressed.” But she said the group would only support improvements to those “pressing safety needs” on one condition.

“We want to make sure that vehicle road capacity is not impacted as a part of this,” she said. “We really think the focus needs to be on those critical safety improvements and also on the maintenance backlog.”

Haynes also seemed to call for future taxes or fees on people who don’t drive cars. “We would not like to see additional taxes and fees on this same user group during the period, recognizing that there may be others out there that aren’t contributing at this point,” she said.

Kristi Finney-Dunn testified on behalf of Oregon and Southwest Washington Families for Safe Streets, the advocacy group whose members have seen loved ones die or suffer life-changing injuries on streets. “It is imperative that measures be taken to improve safety on our streets as soon as possible,” she said. “We cannot stress enough the urgency that we feel on this matter … We don’t want any more people to qualify for our Families for Safe Streets group.”

Paul Romain, a lobbyist for the Oregon
Fuels Association has killed past attempts
to raise road use fees, and he’s not
happy about this one either.

Romain, the fuel retail lobbyist, warned that “there will be a very broad coalition of people opposing this at the ballot.” (You might recall that it was Romain whose opposition tanked former Mayor Sam Adams’ “Safe Sound and Green” effort in 2008.)

“This is a bad idea,” he said, observing that some people will choose to fill up their cars at stations outside Portland’s borders. “We can go up a lot with the state gas tax, we just have a hard time with a local gas tax.”

Romain said his allies would mount a legal challenge to the text of the city’s ballot measure to reflect that (although the state constitution requires that it be spent on roads) the money might not be spent on the projects the city currently plans.

“Anybody in the audience who thinks those projects are sacrosanct is wrong,” Romain said. “They can be changed at any time.”

Asked by Fish and Mayor Charlie Hales what alternative measures his members would support, Romain mentioned the statewide gas tax and a proposal by Clackamas County to raise annual auto registration fees by $25 per year.

If this tax passes, we could have a very interesting summer here in Portland. Just as the City makes driving more expensive, Portlanders will see 1,000 bike share bikes hit the street. If both programs work as advertised, it could be a strong one-two punch from transportation reformers.

If you missed the hearing, you can watch it here.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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The westbound path of the Broadway Bridge will be closed for a month

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 09:27
Get used to it.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s more bad news to report about your ride over the Broadway Bridge.

The bridge has been a construction zone since this past summer when Multnomah County embarked on a major repainting project. For months now, people have struggled with intermittent closures, extremely loud blasting noises from the construction work, and a very narrow lane.

Now the County says the path on the north side of the bridge (westbound) will be closed for up to a month so contractors can remove and paint the handrail. The closure started this past Monday (1/25).

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Here’s official word from Multnomah County:

The bridge’s south sidewalk will remain open while the north sidewalk is closed. Signs, traffic control devices, and flaggers will direct sidewalk users to crosswalks at each end of the bridge where the public can access the open sidewalk. Sidewalk users should be alert for two-way traffic on the south sidewalk during the closure. The Steel Bridge and Eastbank Esplanade are nearby alternate routes during the closure.

When the handrail on the north sidewalk has been repainted and reinstalled, the north sidewalk will reopen and the south sidewalk will close for several weeks while its handrail is removed and repainted.

No word yet on whether the County plans to repaint the southern path as well.

This project was initially scheduled to wrap up in March, but the latest news from the County is that it won’t be completed until April.

If you experience hazardous conditions during this project, here’s the County’s contact information.

The good news is that once this project is done, the bridge will look mighty fine. Have you noticed some of the sections that have already been finished? It looks great!

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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