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Portland Oregon bicycle news, events, culture, travel and opinion.
Updated: 5 weeks 6 days ago

First look: The City has finally bridged the the notorious Naito Gap

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 13:04
We waited nine years for this!
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The day has finally come: You can now ride your bike in legally-protected, cycling-only space between Davis and the Steel Bridge on Naito Parkway.

Nine years ago (nine!) I lamented this gap after the City of Portland celebrated a $10 million rehab of Naito. All that money and they couldn’t manage to stripe a few tenths of a mile to connect our waterfront bikeway! I wasn’t happy. Here’s what I wrote back then:

While I’m thrilled to see these new bike lanes, and it’s great to have an option off the crowded, multi-use waterfront path, PDOT and/or ODOT should put their heads together and find a way to connect this new bike lane with existing ones just north of the Steel Bridge.

This connection is imperative if the City wants to encourage cycling and it’s the type of thing that can add teeth to their claims of wanting to build a “world-class” bike-friendly city.

Once they close this gap, we’ll really have something to celebrate.

After riding the just-installed bikeway this morning I can finally say it’s time to celebrate. The design isn’t perfect and we’d still prefer physical protection — but this is a huge improvement (and the protection will come later).

As we reported last week, a repaving project helped the Bureau of Transportation finally get this project done. What we have now isn’t merely a narrow standard bike lane, it’s an entire lane that’s just as wide as the adjacent standard travel lane.

Check out the video below to see what it looks like from a bicycling point-of-view. (Keep in mind that the video is sped-up (for your viewing convenience) and there is a lot more auto traffic than usual because a train had just passed by.)

Dropout Ride – July

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And here are a few photos for closer inspection:

Southbound at the off-ramp for the Steel Bridge. Northbound crossing the on-ramp to the Steel Bridge (to the right) from Naito and NW Davis.

One question people have immediately asked is why there isn’t physical protection to separate car users from bicycle users. We haven’t got the official answer from PBOT yet, but recall that this bikeway was completed as part of a routine restriping that’s taking place after a repaving project. That means the budget and the outreach process is much more limited than if it were approached as a separate project on its own.

The right hook concerns we reported on last week will likely remain. At two locations (one in each direction) people driving on Naito have an option to take an off-ramp that crosses right over the new bikeway. For now these concerns are mitigated by a lot of green-colored paint and yellow caution signs. Given the width of the lanes the visibility of other road users is very high. This distance between users should decrease the chance of collisions.

It’s also worth noting that in addition to these new lanes through the gap, PBOT has widened and bufferized the bike lane on both sides of Naito from the Steel Bridge all the way north to NW 9th.

Looking north onto Naito from the top of the Broadway Bridge.

A few other thoughts:

– I’m still puzzled by PBOT’s reluctance to lay down more bike lane symbols in bike lanes. This is a citywide problem that leads to people driving and parking in bike lanes. With this project there’s only a few bike lane symbols the entire length of the restriping. I’d like to see them every 75 feet or so to really drive the point home that the lane is only for cycling — especially with the lack of physical protection.

– Even with this wide new lane, there’s unfortunately still no safe way to cross Naito (on foot or by bike). Many people make a risky dash across the street to connect from the popular Waterfront Park/Steel Bridge path to Flanders and Old Town. Having only one lane for driving vastly increases the crossing safety, but we must address this in a more comprehensive way someday.

– With people now used to the two-way bikeway “Better Naito” configuration to the south, the sudden one-way of this new section might be confusing. I can envision people dropping in from the Waterfront Park path at the Steel Bridge and going southbound (the wrong direction) in the northbound bike lane.

– Speaking of Better Naito, this improved bike lane should add to the political momentum to keep Better Naito beyond its demonstration phase. The quality of bike networks are only as good as their weakest link and to return Naito to its pre-Better Naito form would be a major step backwards.

Roll over and give it a try. We’d love to know what you think.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Long-term plan for central-city bikeways moves toward council approval

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 09:43
Future central-city bikeways in the city’s proposed Central City 2035 plan. Dark green lines are “major” city bikeways, light green are other city bikeways. Green shading indicates a “bicycle district.”
(source)

Some recent updates to a map of future bikeways in Portland’s central city have advocates talking.

The map of “city bikeways” and “major city bikeways” (the difference between the two is that on “major city bikeways,” biking is relatively more important compared to other modes) is the latest sign of which streets will be candidates for protected bike lanes in the $8.4 million Central City Multimodal Safety Project that’s supposed to begin public outreach this summer.

The central city bikeway map has been refined since we covered an earlier version of it in February, but it’s not yet finished. The current draft is the one being “proposed” by city staff, before approval by the Planning and Sustainability Commission or the City Council.

Feedback to the planning commission is due Aug. 9.

Among the notable details here:

• SW Alder Street, a useful connection between Northwest Portland and the Morrison Bridge, will be upgraded to a major city bikeway across Interstate 405, but only as far east as Broadway. Between Broadway and the river it would no longer be a designated bikeway.

• SW Washington Street would be upgraded to a major city bikeway between Broadway and I-405, so Alder/Washington would echo the existing Oak/Stark couplet closer to the river.

• SW Yamhill, where the westbound MAX tracks run, is no longer marked as a potential bikeway. Neither is Morrison, one block to its north, where the eastbound MAX tracks run. But Taylor, just south of Yamill, is now seen as a future bikeway. So is Salmon, the one-way eastbound street one block south of Taylor.

• As previously proposed, SW Jefferson and Columbia streets would become a major city bikeway couplet between SW 19th and Naito Parkway, making them major connections across Interstate 405 and almost to the Hawthorne Bridge.

• SW Harrison Street would be upgraded to major city bikeway as far west as the Park Blocks, creating a link between the South Waterfront (including Tilikum Crossing) and Portland State University.

• The city continues to pull back from the idea of Fourth Avenue, with its many garages, as a major northbound bike route through downtown. It’s no longer marked as a major city bikeway north of Madison.

• SW Second and Third avenues, both of which are getting bike lanes in the Old Town area already, are now a major city bikeway couplet between SW Market and NW Flanders. This sets up two future routes to bike north or east from the PSU area: the Park Blocks to the Broadway Bridge or Columbia/Second to the Morrison, Burnside and Steel bridges.

• East of the river, SE 11th and 12th Avenues have been upgraded to major city bikeways (a change that was “literally applauded” when city staffers mentioned it to the Bicycle Advisory Committee on Tuesday, according to Jessica Engelman of BikeLoudPDX). And the city now envisions a direct north-south biking-walking bridge across Interstate 84 at 7th Avenue rather than cutting the angle to 8th and then jogging back to 7th.

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--> ODOT approves “multimodal mixed-use area,” giving downtown permission to evolve away from cars More and more lanes: not a long-term solution for a downtown.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

This is essentially a way of locking in the idea that as new buildings arrive in the area, the city will simply let nearby auto congestion increase.

Another significant change for the central city, embedded in the proposed Central City 2035 plan, is the fact that downtown is becoming the first “multimodal mixed-use area” in the city of Portland. This is essentially a way of locking in the idea that as new buildings arrive in the area, the city will simply let nearby auto congestion increase.

In many other cities, developers are required to pay to increase the automotive capacity of nearby intersections, an expensive requirement that effectively shuts down new development in denser areas. In central Portland, this will only be necessary if the additional congestion causes a safety problem — for example, traffic won’t be allowed to back up all the way onto a freeway offramp.

Because the Oregon Department of Transportation controls several freeway intersections in the area, it had to sign off on the city’s proposal. It did.

“The concept is that if you have downtown and you have other modes — bike as well as ped as well as transit — and you have a mix of land uses that makes it possible to get around by those modes — that’s good, that’s something the State of Oregon supports,” said Lidwien Rahman, a principal planner for ODOT’s Portland regional office. “So you shouldn’t have to worry about vehicle mobility because you can get around at those other modes.”

Rahman said ODOT’s only condition for signing off was that the city vet this plan with interest groups such as its freight committee and the Portland Business Alliance, which it has.

“As long as everybody knows that this is the choice you’re making, it’s all good,” Rahman said.

In a somewhat related change, most of the central city will also be designated as a “bicycle district.” This is another concept from the city’s Bike Plan for 2030, defined as an area “with a dense concentration of commercial, cultural, institutional and/or recreational destinations
where the City intends to make bicycle travel more attractive than driving.”

Analysis from BikeLoud’s Engelman BikeLoudPDX co-chair Jessica Engelman, right, testifies at Portland City Council with Soren Impey in 2015.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

City transportation planners Mauricio LeClerc and Zef Wagner visited the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee Tuesday to discuss the changes.

Engelman, who is a co-chair of advocacy group BikeLoudPDX, was one of those who attended. Below are passages from her report about the meeting.

On the “bicycle district” designation:

Does this mean putting sharrows and “bikes may use full lane” signs on every street? Re-time the lights to be at more of a bicycle pace? Minimum bicycle parking requirements? etc. These are the types of specifics that need to be determined for “bicycle district” to actually mean anything.

On reaction from the advisory committee:

A few BAC members had comments regarding specific streets: one thought was that SW 4th would be a better major city bikeway than SW 2nd because it could serve as a couplet with Broadway. There was also a call to attention regarding the lack of bike connections on the west side of the Morrison Bridge (considered an important issue because the Hawthorne Bridge is already over capacity during rush hour). There was support from a few members for a city bikeway designation on NE Davis east of 7th. And the room literally applauded the major city bikeway designation on SE 11th and 12th (something BikeLoudPDX strongly recommended in our testimony).

On the Central City Multimodal Safety Project:

The multimodal project is for ALL of Central City, not just downtown, although there is an expectation that most of the funds will go there, but with public support, a project or two from Lloyd or Central Eastside may also be able to draw from that pot of money.

And on the effectiveness of BikeLoud’s testimony so far:

Fortunately they incorporated so much of what BikeLoudPDX requested last time that there’s not as much to testify on this time around, except to again highlight which specific projects we think should be a priority, re-recommend the few things we didn’t get in this draft, and maybe comment on a few streets’ MCB vs CB classifications.

Correction 1:40 pm: An earlier version of this post confused Yamhill, Taylor and Morrison at one point, and gave the wrong name for a “multimodal mixed-use area.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Oregonian: Mayor Hales plans complete removal of camps along Springwater path

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 08:10
“Mohawk Craig,” a resident of a Springwater Corridor camp, in January.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

“You can’t stay here any more.”

After months of telling park rangers and police to avoid issuing that order to people living in tents along the major Portland biking path, Willamette Week and The Oregonian are reporting that Mayor Charlie Hales plans to order a sweep of the length of the corridor within city of Portland boundaries (the eastern border is SE Jenne Rd/174th).

Here’s more from Hales in a video created by The Oregonian:

Dropout Ride – July

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Hales tells The Oregonian that, “The Springwater is going to have to be off limits. We’re going to try to accommodate homeless people in the short term here and there.” Pressure to remove people from the lands around the Springwater has built in the past year as business owners, other residents, and environmental advocates have raised concerns about the impacts of the camps.

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“Unfortunately, for people on the streets, our public parks are one of the only places left to go,” Street Roots editor Israel Bayer tells Willamette Week. “Until we have massive investments in affordable housing stock I don’t see the situation changing.”

Yesterday we excerpted a recent article on the local poverty news site Poor for a Minute. A modified version of that article also ran yesterday in Willamette Week, observing that the camp may have become the largest in the United States. Those articles also observed that camps of more than six people are forbidden under the urban camping policy brokered over the last year by Hales and his staff.

This major announcement comes as the camp on the Springwater has swelled significantly in recent months. This is due in part to an increase in police resources that have been spent to drive the camps outside of the downtown core.

Asked what will happen if people try to camp on the Springwater area to camp after the sweeps are completed (around August 1st), Hales told The Oregonian, “That’s the last resort. Criminalizing homelessness and sending people to jail because they’re camping in the wrong place is not our first, second or third choice.”

Read more in The Oregonian.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Discount ends tomorrow for the International Open Streets Summit in Portland

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 14:20
Northeast Portland Sunday Parkways, 2014.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The biggest conference about open-streets events (like Sunday Parkways) and tactical urbanism (like Better Block) is coming to Portland next month.

The International Open Streets Summit will bring many people who work to humanize street space to Portland State University from Thursday, Aug. 18 to Saturday, Aug. 20. The draft program includes speakers from Philadelphia; Dallas; Los Angeles; Missoula; Toronto; Cape Town, South Africa; and Santiago, Chile, among others.

The “tactical urbanism” thread is newly added to this conference, reflecting the fact that fast, flexible changes and demos on city streets are a growing trend among community groups and city governments alike. Mike Lydon, a planning consultant helping produce this conference, literally wrote the book on that subject.

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We reported last fall that Portland won its bid to host this year’s conference.

This is the event’s third year. The first was in Los Angeles in 2014 and last year’s was in Atlanta. (It drew about 125 people.) Portland’s Sunday Parkways program and Better Block PDX have both been national innovators in these areas, so it’s great for our city to show off the wealth of local expertise.

Early-bird registration is available until tomorrow; it’s $295 and includes off-site tours. Starting Saturday, the price goes up to $350 without tours or $375 with them. There’s also a service fee of $11 to $14. The fee includes lunch on Thursday through Saturday.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Pokemon Go is a boon for biking

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 12:19

Pokemon Go has gamified cycling. The new app that’s taking the world by storm also happens to be great to play by bike. As more and more people realize this, the game could do more to encourage biking — especially among young people — than decades of advocacy.

I haven’t tried it myself but I’ve been monitoring chatter about bikes on the internet long enough to know when something big has happened. And it has.

The game itself is really interesting. It uses a combination of your smartphone’s map and camera to “augment reality” by placing the game’s features right on the streets where you live, work, and play. When it first hit the news all the reports were about people playing it on foot. We then started hearing about people playing while driving (bad idea!). And now it appears that a bicycle is the secret Pokemon Go weapon.

Here’s Bicycling Magazine writer (and Portland resident) Caitlin Giddings explaining why bikes and Pokemon go so well together:

Not only has my bike allowed me to access Pokéstops more quickly—so it’s easy to stock up on Pokéballs and other items—but it’s also proved invaluable in hatching eggs. Eggs are items you can find at Pokéstops. To hatch them into Pokémon, you have to walk (or even better, ride) a certain distance—between two to 10 km, as measured by your phone’s accelerometer. Eggs won’t hatch if you’re traveling that distance in a car—so you essentially have to get outside and use your own body to get the job done. On foot, this can take a while because you have to leave the app open the entire time for your steps to count. But on a bike? I think you know where I’m going with this.

Although not really a cycling app, Pokémon Go is the first cycling-adjacent app I’ve ever given a damn about

Giddings has written a great primer about how to do Pokemon by bike.

Lifehacker also a post up about how to turn your bike into a “PokeBike.” The author of that piece said, “The first time I hopped on my PokéBike, I felt the same giddiness I had when I was a kid pretending to chase imaginary monsters in my neighborhood. I hope you get the same kind of joy out of yours.”

Making biking fun is one of the most powerful ways to get people riding.

Like $5 gasoline or the Naked Bike Ride, Pokemon Go has people who haven’t ridden in years suddenly dusting off their saddles and filling up the air in their tires to go for a spin.

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For the last day or so I’ve been watching the Pokemon bike Twitter stream

"Ashley we're going for a bike ride I need more Pokémon" pic.twitter.com/3Jxy0mh6OQ

— Amber Schneider (@aschneidie) July 14, 2016

Never thought I'd be spending an hour trying to fix my bike so I could catch Pokemon…

— noah mcmurrin (@Nmicky22) July 14, 2016

My grandparents are really mad bc I asked them to blow up my bike tires to go get Pokemon. Like last week you bitched bc I'm always inside?

— The Lioness (@Manda_IsNoJoke) July 14, 2016

My friend is trying to buy a bike to go Pokemon hunting

One week left to apply for two important city funding committees

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 14:41
The city’s bicycle advisory committee is different, but you get the idea.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Not everybody loved the local gas tax that Portland voters approved in May. But most Portlanders can probably agree that now that it exists, it ought to be spent as promised.

There’s a strong possibility that the tax might bring in more or less money than expected, or that the city might eventually consider changing the project list in ways that violate the implicit promise to voters that it made when it created the list.

If either of those things were to happen, the main watchdog institution will be a volunteer oversight committee that’s currently recruiting members.

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Given the amount of vitriol expressed by some opponents of the tax, it wouldn’t be surprising if many people interested in joining the oversight committee were opponents of the tax for one reason or another. Which is why the application deadline for the committee — this coming Tuesday — is something biking advocates might want to know about.

It requires a sixteen-hour commitment over two years: quarterly meetings of two hours each. Here’s the application. If you have questions, you can email irene.schwoeffermann@portlandoregon.gov.

Also Tuesday, the city will close applications for its general transportation budget advisory committee. This group meets monthly, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on third Thursdays, and in addition to giving some influence over staff who make budgetary decisions, it’s a way to become a more effective advocate by learning the nuts and bolts of where the city’s money is. If you’re interested in that position, you can apply for it here.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Thanks for voting us Best Local Blog!

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 14:36

The Willamette Week’s Best of Portland issue hit the streets today and if you turn to page 60 you’ll see something pretty cool: BikePortland has been voted Best Local Blog!

Thanks to everyone who voted for us!

We all put so much into this site that it feels really nice to be recognized and appreciated. And by “we” I don’t just mean Michael and I and our other contributors. I mean everyone in our community. Without your inspiring work as leaders, activists, creators, and so on, we wouldn’t have anything to report on. BikePortland has always been — and always will be — merely a reflection of this vibrant and inspiring community. Warts and all.

This month (July 29th) is our 11th anniversary of bringing you daily bike news. Can you believe it?

If you like what we do, please consider becoming a subscriber and/or donor.

Running this blog is my passion. I’m an activist and a journalist, not a businessman. And while we’ve managed to survive all these years it’s a constant struggle to make the financial end of things pencil out.

On a related note, BikePortland will be going through a major transition in the next couple of months. I’m not ready to lay it all out just yet, but you’ve been forewarned.

— Jonathan Maus – @jonathan_maus – (503) 706-8804

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Nike announces first Biketown branding campaign: Sneaker bikes

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 11:03

BMC Demo Day and Shop Ride

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Tucked into Nike’s exclusive $10 million bike share contract with the City of Portland is a clause that allows the company to put its considerable marketing prowess on display.

Nike has the right to place occasional “wraps” on 100 of the 1,000 Biketown bikes. This means they can change the color scheme of the usually bright orange machines in order to promote whatever they please. Today they announced their first wrap scheme.

Say hello to “sneaker bikes.”

When Biketown launches next week some of the bikes will echo the stylings of three historically significant Nike sneakers.

Here’s the announcement from Nike:

When the first verifiable bicycle made its debut in 1819, it was deemed a “running machine.” When the City of Portland Bike Share Program, BIKETOWN, launches July 19, this old moniker takes on new relevance, as 10% of the program’s bikes will feature a limited-edition bike-wrap design inspired by one of three beloved Nike sneakers: the Nike Air Max 95, Nike Air Trainer 1 and Nike Air Safari. And while only one of the silhouettes was explicitly designed for running, all were made to move.

The Air Trainer 1 and Air Safari, creations of the renowned Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, both released in 1987. The Air Trainer 1, famously worn by John McEnroe, redefined cross-training shoes, while the Air Safari has become a cult classic thanks to unmistakable print detailing on its toe and heel. Meanwhile, Sergio Lozano’s Air Max 95 broke new ground in 1995 with Nike’s first black midsole, forefoot air and its immediately recognizable gradient upper.

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They also released the three different colorways along with the video. Behold, sneakerheads!

It will be interesting to see how Nike’s march into Portland neighborhoods is accepted by locals. After all this is a town famous for its disdain of global corporate juggernauts. There’s already this one person on SE Taylor and Cesar Chavez Blvd. who’s making his/her feelings widely known with signs that say, “Don’t Brand my Block!” and “Urban Blight” with an upside-down Nike swoosh. Check out these photos sent in by a reader:

CORRECTION: This post originally used the old name of Cesar Chavez Blvd. We regret the error.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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City responds after bike share station locations spur complaints

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 10:01

Biketown station on North Mississippi and Skidmore where an on-street bike corral used to be.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Besides the bikes themselves, the stations are the most visible part of the Biketown bike share system that’s set to launch six days from today. And not surprisingly, as the bright orange stations are installed on streets and sidewalks throughout Portland, their presence has stoked anger and confusion.

We’ve already covered the confusion: People are locking their own bikes to the racks which are intended solely for Biketown bikes. That issue is likely to disappear once the Biketown bikes show up next week.

Then just as that story died down a bit, we heard concerns from readers via comments that the City of Portland has torn out existing bike parking corrals in front of businesses and replaced them with bike share stations. Also yesterday, I fielded a call from a southeast Portland resident who was angry when she woke up, looked outside her house and saw that the space where she used to park her car was now a row of 18 Biketown racks.

What’s going on? Here’s what the city says…

Portland now has four fewer bike parking corrals

The new station in front of Widmer on North Russell at Interstate has replaced a bike corral.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

We’ve confirmed that the Bureau of Transportation has removed four bike corrals in order to make room for Biketown stations. The locations are: North Mississippi and Skidmore (at Prost); North Russell and Interstate (at Widmer Brothers Pub); NW 21st and Johnson (at City Market); and NW Thurman and 24th (at Dragonfly Coffeehouse).

According to PBOT Communications Director John Brady the decision to remove the corrals was based on conversations with business owners and an analysis of demand at the corrals and availability of nearby bike parking options. “In removing the corrals, our overall goal was to balance the needs of all users,” Brady said via email yesterday. “We will continue to monitor the situation, and we will revisit our decision if we find that it is warranted by the demand for bike parking.” If one of the businesses wants more standard bike racks on the sidewalk, PBOT is ready and willing to install them (note the the removed corrals and the new bike share stations were located in the street, not on the sidewalk).

Brady went on to say that the city still has over 3,000 bike racks within the Biketown service area map and more than 6,000 bike racks citywide. And for people who feel like the city should have kept the corrals and added the bike share stations alongside them, Brady added, “It is important to note that the demand on the public right of way in each of these locations is high. Our challenge was to balance the need for good parking with the need for Biketown stations and car parking.”

Want more bike parking? Brady says there’s an email address for that: bikeparking@portlandoregon.gov.

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--> Welcome to the neighborhood, Biketown!

Image of residential Biketown station posted to Twitter by @twjpdx23. (The number is the city’s Biketown hotline).

We’ve also heard directly from one Portland resident who says she and her neighbors are not pleased (at all) with the bright orange bike racks in the street in front of their houses. KGW-TV ran a story this week about a similar complaint.

As you might guess, residents of inner Portland who have seen tremendous growth in nearby commercial districts and lots of infill development are already highly stressed when it comes to parking spaces. Now they’re waking up and seeing strange orange bike racks where they used to park their cars.

We asked Brady to respond to these concerns. He stressed that all 100 bike share stations are being installed in the public right-of-way “which is shared space.” When PBOT and their contractor, Motivate Inc., chose station locations Brady said their goal was to, “balance the needs of the different types of travelers who use this shared space.”

As for the claim that Anderson and her neighbors were never notified, Brady pointed to the extensive public process PBOT started last spring. “We received over 4,600 comments on the station locations between the online interactive map and five open houses. In addition, we presented at over 40 stakeholder meetings and events,” he said. And while he acknowledges PBOT did not notify individual households, he says they did email every neighborhood association, district coalition, and business association about the project’s open houses. “We then hand walked a postcard to every business along all the main street corridors on the east side of the river,” Brady continued, “along with NW 23rd and NW 21st. To further communicate with the public, we issued a news release about the station siting process and the open houses. As a result, the planning process received widespread media coverage.”

A station on SE 7th at Burnside that one of our readers says negatively impacts walking and wheelchair access space.
(Photo: David G.)

Despite PBOT’s defenses, these stations are likely to continue to be unloved and highly scrutinized by some Portlanders. We’ve also heard from people concerned about stations placed on sidewalks where the bikes are likely to impact the walking and rolling (for wheelchair uses) space.

In my opinion, this debate is reasonable, worthy and completely expected. Make no mistake about it: Biketown is a new transit system that’s being overlayed onto existing infrastructure. It represents major changes to our city on many levels — both physical and mental. Add to that its hi-viz orange color and Nike branding (remember that just 12 years ago Portland residents firebombed Starbucks when it moved into inner southeast) and we shouldn’t be surprised that these changes will be uncomfortable for some people.

The good news is that Portland isn’t the first city to experience these bike share growing pains. In fact where the 66th city to go through it. And the wisdom of experience tells us that usually the pains subside dramatically once the system is actually launched and we have that collective “a-ha!” moment as happy people start pedaling around on shared bikes.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Views from campers about the future of the tent city on Springwater path

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 08:56
The Springwater Corridor near SE 82nd.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

It’s been a week since someone living on the Springwater Corridor survived a gunshot and months since it became maybe the largest single tent camp — tent suburb? — in Oregon.

Consciously tolerated by the city government under an uneasy compromise brokered by Mayor Charlie Hales and his (now former) chief of staff Josh Alpert, the encampment has gotten more and more complicated as it’s become a more common place for people without a roof to look for refuge. It’s also gotten harder for people biking on the Springwater to ignore. With Alpert gone from the city as of July 1, the camp’s future is newly uncertain.

Thacher Schmid (who I should disclose is also a personal friend of mine) is a freelance reporter based in Portland, writing in this case for his own website. He rode his bike to the camp last week and spent a few hours talking to people there about their lives and the city’s efforts to reduce, manage and regulate homelessness.

We found the post full of surprising details and definitely worth a read.

Depending on how you define a “camp,” the bicycle trail and footpath area between SE 82nd Ave. and the Beggar’s Tick wildlife refuge at 111th Ave. is possibly the largest homeless camp in the city of Portland, perhaps even all of Oregon.

It promises enormous challenges for any police officers, park rangers, advocates, officials or neighbors who would try to “sweep,” relocate or re-house these hundreds of campers.

It also suggests that the geography of poverty is a crucial aspect of the situation: for all intents and purposes, in Summer 2016, along the Springwater Corridor, the place is the people and the people are the place.

The people, Schmid writes, have definitely been affecting the place.

Furniture, including heavy items like dressers, are set to within inches of the Springwater Corridor itself in some places, suggesting how much work campers have put into their homes. Soccer ball sized rocks delineate pathways filled with wood bark leading to shared campsites, and some tents are lovingly cared for, with immaculate gardens featuring five-foot sunflowers nearing bloom.

Among other people, Schmid interviews the camp’s “self-appointed spokesperson,” a “highly intelligent, 34-year-old, self-described ‘hipster’ and laid-off aerospace steelworker” who goes by “Crash Anarchy,” identifies their gender as “your answers may vary” and wears a Guy Fawkes mask during the interview.

“We’re going to get kicked out next week,” Crash said. “They will lock people up when they come.”

Tom Alvarado, a customer at Cartlandia and local who often bikes down the corridor at perhaps a slower rate than the constant stream of Spandex-clad flyers, is sure the Springwater situation is becoming more precarious. Alvarado says recently he’s had to stop and basically ask permission from campers to bike through crowds blocking the path. He’s seen piles of feces on the trail itself for the first time in the last few days.

“It’s crazy,” Alvarado says. “It’s apocalyptic down there. It sucks all around: it sucks to be homeless, but it sucks to be someone who pays rent and deals with it.”

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Several other people talk about how they landed there.

“It all started with a little vacation,” Blaga explained, sober as a judge and munching on a burrito. “It,” as in: car accident, lower back pain, lost job, waiting for an insurance settlement, car thefts, wallet stolen.

Schmid, who recently went deep into Hales and Alpert’s new policy for legalizing and regulating small tent camps in an article for the Northwest Examiner, asks people there what they think.

Asked about Alpert and Hales’ Safe Sleep policy, and the possibility that Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler will be less tolerant of camping, Crash said that would be “awful.”

“The only reason we don’t have to be afraid to fall asleep is because we have each other,” Crash said. “Shuffling people up and down the bike trail and giving them exclusions is not fixing the problem.”

Safe Sleep allows for a maximum of 8 structures or individuals in a single campsite, so Camplandia is certainly not allowed under Safe Sleep or any other city policies, past or future.

Schmid’s report about people living on the Springwater is the first on his new Medium site about local poverty, called “Poor for a Minute.” If the subject interests you, check it out.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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BTA will ask members to ratify name change at annual meeting

Tue, 07/12/2016 - 08:00
BTA head Rob Sadowsky at the member’s meeting in 2012.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland-based biking advocacy group that is transitioning into a biking-walking-transit advocacy group plans to unveil its proposed new name on Wednesday, Aug. 10.

It’ll happen at the organization’s annual members meeting, which will be 5:30 to 7:30 at Velo Cult Bike Shop, 1969 NE 42nd Avenue.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance Executive Director Rob Sadowsky said Monday that the organization’s board and staff will then ask members present for an up-or-down vote on the name proposal.

Because the BTA is a member-led nonprofit under Oregon law and section 501(c)3 of the federal tax code, the vote will be binding. State law requires two-thirds of members present to vote “yes.”

Sadowsky said he’s pretty confident that the new name will be approved.

“Those that show up create a quorum,” Sadowsky said. “If we can’t get 2/3 of people there excited about it, then what are we doing?”

The up-or-down vote will be binding. Sadowsky said the organization’s leaders are currently down to a “No. 1 choice” and a “No. 2 choice.”

Sadowsky said the organization’s leaders are currently down to a “No. 1 choice” and a “No. 2 choice,” both of which are available as corporate names in the state of Oregon. He said an intellectual property lawyer is currently working pro bono to make sure the names aren’t under trademark somewhere else.

Why not announce the name ahead of time, or conduct a mail-in vote? Sadowsky said it’s to make sure nobody squats on the relevant URLs and social media handles while the organization is waiting to see if members approve.

“The No. 1 name right now would cost us $2,000 to buy,” he said.

He also said the BTA “may have a new logo for the annual meeting, if it is done in time.” If not, he said, the new logo will be unveiled at the BTA’s Alice Awards fundraiser Sept. 24.

Also at the members’ meeting, the BTA will recognize people for its annual volunteer awards:

• Rookie Volunteer of the Year
• Under the Radar
• Advocacy Volunteer of the Year
• Scott Lieuallen Award
• Volunteer of the Year

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The BTA has some recent experience with brand transitions. Since 2014, it’s been using the name “Healthy Streets” and the URL ourhealthystreets.org to refer to “multimodal work that engage[s] partners in deep collaboration,” as Sadowsky put it in a February email. For example, the BTA’s Vision Zero traffic safety advocacy, the Active Transportation Summit event and the For Every Kid Coalition that has pushed for regional Safe Routes to School funding were all done under that sub-brand.

Once the name is changed, the BTA will also be wrapping more direct political work into its mission by forming a 501(c)4 organization, which is allowed to spend more money on political lobbying, and maybe subsequently a political action committee that could directly endorse candidates and raise money for them.

The BTA also plans to reorganize into a 501(c)3 arm, focused on education and organizing, and a 501(c)4 arm focused on political advocacy.

Sadowsky said there’s a possibility of merging with another existing PAC, but that he couldn’t legally discuss details because he’s employed by a c(3). That’s a good example of why the BTA wants to create a c(4), he said.

Terry Dublinski-Milton, a volunteer for Portland’s existing Bike Walk Vote PAC, wrote in an email “there is an ongoing conversation” about merging with the new BTA.

“No decision has been made at this time,” Dublinski-Milton said.

There are various other complications to having both a 501(c)3 arm, focused on education and organizing, and a 501(c)4 focused on political advocacy. For example, the BTA will need to recruit a separate board for each with no more than three shared members.

For the BTA’s existing (c)3, it isn’t currently planning to change its member-led structure that requires members to vote on board members, name changes and so forth.

Tomorrow, he said, BTA staff are traveling to Seattle to meet with the Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes, two organizations that merged in December. Today, Cascade Bicycle Club is the name of the group’s (c)3, with Washington Bikes as the name of the group’s (c)4.

Sadowsky added that they’ll also meet with Rob Johnson, the former executive director of the Seattle-based multimodal Transportation Choices Coalition 501(c)3 organization. Johnson was elected to city council last year.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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After 83 cars park in Mississippi Ave bike lanes, city issues 83 tickets

Mon, 07/11/2016 - 14:21
Somebody started it and many others decided to follow suit. Bad idea.
(Photo: Portland Bureau of Transportation parking enforcement)

When an urban neighborhood holds a beloved street festival, space becomes scarce — and less space-efficient transportation options become a much worse way to get there.

A single city parking enforcement officer almost certainly paid for his or her time at the Mississippi Street Fair Saturday, issuing 83 parking tickets for $80 each to cars parked in Mississippi’s bike lanes during the annual north Portland festival.

City code prohibits parking any vehicle “on or within a bicycle lane, path, or trail,” among other places.

The Mississippi Street Fair’s website warned that “parking enforcement will be out” and highlighted the paid parking lots at two nearby schools, with proceeds to benefit the schools. It also noted three temporary bike parking locations and transit access via the Yellow Line and TriMet’s frequent No. 4 bus line.

City spokeswoman Hannah Schafer said Monday, in response to our email query based on some Twitter chatter, that the city’s parking hotline (503-823-5195) had “received a service request at 12:22 p.m. on Saturday.”

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Schafer sent over some photos taken by the enforcement officer who responded to the call:

This definitely isn’t the first time a Portland bike lane has been illegally converted to parking, and it won’t be the last. The city’s complaint-driven parking hotline can often be frustratingly inconsistent or slow to respond.

But we’re willing to bet this’ll be the last time for at least 83 attendees of the Mississippi Street Fair.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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City has authority to impound privately-owned bikes parked at Biketown racks

Mon, 07/11/2016 - 13:42

This is how a Biketown station should look when it’s empty.
(Photo: Peter Koonce)

In case you haven’t heard: Don’t lock your bike to one of the orange Biketown racks. If you do the City might cut your lock and impound your bike. Why? Because those racks are only for Biketown bikes.

After docking stations were installed last week they were almost immediately used by people looking for a place to park their own bikes. The issue forced the City to post a relatively aggressive tweet that was picked up by the local media. After that dust-up we asked the city if there was any city code that specifically covered this issue. There is.

PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said they will continue to use social media and signage at the stations to educate people about the parking rules. “We don’t want to have to remove anyone’s bicycle!” he said. “Our hope is that with education and warnings we can reduce the incidents of people locking private bikes to Biketown racks.”

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But if the education doesn’t work, Rivera says the city will lean on ordinance number 16.70.330 of the Portland City Code. That ordinance — the same one that allows them to confiscate bicycles left in the same spot for over 72 hours — gives the city the right to immediately impound a bicycle if it, “obstructs or impedes… vehicular traffic.”

“In this case,” Rivera tells us, “the vehicle is a bicycle.”

The ordinance also gives the city the right to charge a fee for retrieval of impounded bicycles but Rivera says, “We do not plan to charge fines at this time.”

Even if your bike gets removed and confiscated by the city, you’ll very likely get it back. The ordinance requires the city to make “reasonable efforts” to find the owner and Rivera says they’d hold it for several weeks to give the owner time to claim it.

Biketown is set to launch with 100 stations and 1000 bikes on July 19th.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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First look: New path north of Sellwood Bridge is open

Thu, 07/07/2016 - 13:12

A very nice new path segment along the west bank of the Willamette River is finally ready to ride.

Created as part of Multnomah County’s Sellwood Bridge project, it connects the bridge to Willamette Park, a bit to the north. The path was supposed to open a few weeks ago, but construction work was delayed. (This is the same delay that led to an unprecedented last-minute route change for this year’s World Naked Bike Ride.)

Thanks to volunteer correspondent and longtime Multnomah County Bicycle Advisory Committee member Andrew Holtz, above is a thorough and nicely annotated video of the new path and its various spurs.

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For folks heading north from the Sellwood Bridge, the connection to Willamette Park leads to the rest of the Willamette Greenway Trail, the South Portland neighborhood, the South Waterfront and eventually downtown. So this path (assuming it remains open) will eliminate a long-lived and unpleasant detour onto SW Macadam.

One note to keep in mind: there’s a short segment that runs on SW Miles Place, a residential street that hasn’t been a major bikeway before, so people there may not be expecting to see bikes. Use it with caution.

You can read about other features of the new route on this two-page PDF created by the county.

Now if only they’d finish up work on that new bridge itself. Bike traffic will continue to use its north sidewalk only until late October. We hear the final bike signalization is going to be sweet.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Portland is finally closing the Naito Gap by converting a passing lane

Thu, 07/07/2016 - 06:53
This 1,500-foot stretch of NW Naito has been a barrier to biking between downtown and northwest Portland, but it’s about to change.
(Image: Google Street View)

After nine years of sometimes elaborate plans to connect NW Naito Parkway’s bike lanes north and south of the Steel Bridge, the city’s transportation bureau has found a way.

The secret: it’s removing an unnecessary passing lane in each direction between NW Davis and NW Ironside Terrace to create continuous bike lanes that will be, at their widest, 10 feet with a four-foot buffer.

In the northbound direction, this will mean converting the rightmost auto lane of Naito into a right-turn-only lane leading to the Steel Bridge:

“In the northbound direction, half the traffic is exiting Naito onto the Steel Bridge,” the city wrote in a memo circulated to northwest Portlanders Wednesday. “The provision of a right turn only lane will facilitate this. In the southbound direction, Naito is already one lane north of Ironside Terrace; with adjustments to the traffic signal timing at Everett, Davis and Couch the traffic should flow well.”

This is basically the same trick that the Oregon Department of Transportation realized it could use to close a different notorious bike lane gap on Southwest Barbur Boulevard. (By the way, stay tuned: we’ve been in correspondence with ODOT for weeks to get an update on that project.)

It’s happening now because the city just repaved the pockmarked pavement between NW Davis and 9th, which in its words “provided a ‘clean slate’ to restripe the roadway.”

The city says the redesign will have the added benefit of reducing excessive speeding here, presumably because the single lane will remove the temptation for anxious people to weave around other cars freeway-style in order to get to wait one or two spaces ahead at the next red light.

Though this stretch of Naito has a 30 mph speed limit, the “85th percentile speed” here is 38 mph southbound and 36 mph northbound. This is a standard way of measuring typical traffic speeds that means 15 percent of autos are moving faster than 38/36 mph.

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Closing the so-called “Naito Gap” was identified as a priority in the city’s 2010 bike plan and last year’s West Quadrant Plan. Northwest of this area, Naito and 9th sees an estimated 1,600 bike trips daily, a number that seems likely to increase with this new direct connection to the central city.

Here are some more details from the new cross-section, proceeding north:

And over the crucial railroad crossing, where the roadway narrows beneath the Steel Bridge. This is the site that has given the city so much grief as it has tried to get bike lanes to cross the tracks at safely obtuse angles, a difficult trick when there was minimal road space to play with:

and finally north of the Steel Bridge overpasses:

Converting the unnecessary passing lanes to wide bike lanes (which the city also did last year on NE 15th/16th in the Lloyd District, with no apparent ill effects) will also greatly improve the safety and comfort of walking across this part of Naito, because there’ll be no more “double threat” when a stopped car in one lane creates a blind spot for the second lane in the same direction. This is one of the major sources of death and injury for people walking.

It’s a major step toward reducing car dependence in northwest Portland.

There’s one possible tradeoff here: when a train is going through, Naito will have less room to store cars, which could cause a queue running south on Naito. But there’s only one significant crossing of Naito that might be blocked — the Steel Bridge onramp at Davis — and it shouldn’t be hard for people to keep their waiting cars far enough apart to keep that clear for people heading over the bridge. It’s notable that Union Pacific Railroad and the ODOT’s rail division have apparently signed off on this plan.

The queue will also actually have an upside for people driving: people planning to use Naito will get advance warning when the train is blocking their path in time to take a detour.

All in all, this looks like fantastic news for closing a gap we’ve been reporting on since Naito first got bike lanes in 2007. In the years since, the riverside north of the Steel Bridge and the north Pearl District further northwest have added thousands of new homes, all of which will now get a dramatically more comfortable biking option into downtown, the central east side and beyond.

This also sets up a greatly improved connection to Naito for the future Flanders Neighborhood Greenway, which will be made possible by the new Flanders Crossing Bridge that seems likely to be funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Connect Oregon program. That bridge would be due to open in 2019, creating the first modern, low-traffic bikeway between the Northwest District and the city’s riverside network of bike paths.

In other words, it’s a major step toward reducing car dependence in northwest Portland. And it’s supposed to happen in a matter of days — in time for northwest Portland to become one of North America’s best places to get around by bike sharing.

“A work order has been issued but we don’t have an exact date yet for when this will be done,” city spokeswoman Hannah Schafer said in an email Wednesday. “Rainy weather the next few days will likely slow down any striping projects.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Council pulls parking mandate after affordability advocates pile into hearing

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 16:20
Portland City Council: Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Charlie Hales, Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Five days after the city council seemed headed for a vote to mandate garages in larger transit-oriented apartment buildings in the Northwest District, it’s put the proposal on hold.

The decision came after opponents of mandatory parking organized a letter-writing campaign and then outnumbered supporters nearly three to one at the council’s Wednesday hearing.

“We’re going to keep coming up against these choices: do we want a city for people or a city for cars?” said one opponent of the mandate, Rachel Shadoan. “I want a city for people.”

She contrasted Portland with her childhood home of Oklahoma.

“My memories of Oklahoma are of endless driving and miles and miles of parking lots,” she said.

Council says permit changes might better block parking spillover

There were also dissenting voices Wednesday, as well as a general agreement that northwest Portland parking policy needs changes. Among the options discussed were higher street parking permit prices, a cap on the number of total permits issued, some sort of restriction on which buildings could be issued permits or a mandate that applied only to market-rate units.

“As long as parking is cheaper on the street than parking off street, people are going to park on the street.”
— Chris Rall

“As long as parking is cheaper on the street than parking off street, people are going to park on the street,” said Chris Rall, one of many who said parking minimums should be used only as a last resort after other measures are taken.

Four of the five council members seemed responsive to that combination of ideas. Only Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she supported parking minimums for new buildings in the district. But she withdrew that proposal without a vote after it became clear that no other commissioners were eager to endorse it.

“I’ve learned today that there’s a lot of tools at the disposal of NW that we haven’t really explored,” said Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “I don’t want to see this disappear into the ether. I think there’s a sense of urgency, at least in my mind, anyway. I think we owe people in NW one way or the other a decision very soon.”

“This hearing has caused each of us to think about this problem in new and different ways,” said Commissioner Nick Fish. “I love the suggestion that there may be a new and hybrid idea out there that’s worth exploring. I love the idea of looking for a different way of rationing and pricing.”

“Parking minimums are extremely problematic,” Commissioner Steve Novick said. “If you increase the cost of something, you increase the cost of something. There is no way that requiring parking to be built does not drive up the cost.”

Novick said it might be possible to use Northwest to “pilot” new parking permit policies.

Today, the city’s parking permit policy doesn’t cap the number of permits in a given zone. In Northwest Portland, that means a $60-per-year parking permit is sometimes referred to as a “hunting license.” Once it completes a planned expansion, Northwest District’s will have 4,700 spaces available to Zone M permit holders. The city has issued more than 9,000 Zone M parking permits.

As part of Wednesday’s action, the council agreed to make it legal to let institutions like Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital rent out their unused spaces during off-peak hours. That could free up “hundreds” of new parking stalls, a Legacy executive said.

Developer: each parking stall adds $50,000 to building cost Each bar represents one building; the vertical axis shows the number of units in each. Buildings marked in orange would have been illegal under the proposed new rule.
(Data: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Chart: BikePortland.)

As we reported Tuesday, city data show that most new buildings in the Northwest District over the last eight years that have at least 10 units are being built with more than they would have be required to under the proposed rules.

But a few projects, accounting for 23 percent of the area’s new housing supply over that period, have less. One large project, the Tess O’Brien Apartments that start pre-leasing 124 studios of about 330 square feet next week, has no on-site parking at all.

Some people, such as Northwest District resident Iain MacKenzie, said mandatory parking rules would block such niche projects that cater to lower and medium-income people, most of them without cars. MacKenzie, who covers the development industry on his site NextPortland.com, predicted that on-site parking would force developers to build projects with smaller numbers of higher-end units.

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The one developer who showed up to testify Wednesday said that if the rules were passed, his firm would simply stop building anything with more than 30 units in order to avoid building any new parking.

“The cost of the parking stalls — they’re around $50,000,” said Frank Stock, vice president at MDC Construction. “If you just do the simple math, that’s decades to recover that cost.”

Others testifying in opposition to the minimums included Sarah Iannarone, who finished third in May’s mayoral primary; Margot Black, an organizer of Portland Tenants United who was speaking for herself; and Tony Jordan of Portlanders for Parking Reform, who had worked for weeks to organize opposition to the proposal.

“Northwest Portland has a toolbox full of parking management strategies at its disposal,” Jordan said. “Expanded permit zones, new meters, the recommended shared parking that we’re asking for — and pretty soon we should have better permit programs available as well. So I think there’s much less risk right now in waiting to see how these more flexible and equitable policies play out and then adjust them to work better, rather than applying a policy that might not work very much and certainly would exacerbate the housing crisis.”

Resident: Garages are needed so children can live in Northwest 117 NW Trinity Place, built in 1912, is one of many Northwest District buildings with no on-site parking.

Most of the handful of people who testified Wednesday in support of mandatory parking said they share the civic goals of those on the other side.

“Of course we need more housing,” said Wendy Chung. “Of course we need less cars.”

But Chung predicted that 330-square-foot studios with no on-site parking would become filled with “single professionals.” If all new buildings were required to have on-site parking, she said, then more people with children or disabilities would be able to live in the area because those people, she said, need to own cars.

Chung noted that apartments in MacKenzie’s 89-year-old building, which has no on-site parking, are renting for several hundred dollars less than smaller apartments in the new Tess O’Brien building. She said she wished that new market-rate units like Tess O’Brien weren’t allowed in her neighborhood at all — only buildings that would offer below-market rents.

Many of those backing the mandate, including three members of the Northwest Parking Stakeholder Committee, emphasized that they were asking only to be treated like the rest of the city. In 2013, the city began requiring most buildings with 30 or more units to have parking, even if they’re next to a frequent transit line.

“I see the parking minimums as a little bit of a tourniquet to stop the intense bleeding,” said Karen Karllson, a member of the committee which had voted unanimously to back the plan with new minimums included.

“I don’t remember that kind of unanimity in our past discussions,” Commissioner Fritz noted.

Novick: Citywide permit option might come to council within months Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick.

Commissioner Fish, for his part, reminded the room Wednesday that the 2013 citywide mandate was “never meant to be the final product” and tweaks might be appropriate.

“We called it an interim solution,” he said. “We’re long overdue, actually, to take a look at it. … It appears to be creating incentives to smaller-scale development, which is quite contrary to our development plan.”

One possible solution before the city is to move on a proposal that a team at the Portland Bureau of Transportation spent most of last year developing: a new residential parking permit system that would enforce parking overnight, cap the total number of permits, and could charge more than $60 per year.

Commissioner Novick said Wednesday that he had been holding back the permit policy in order to do public outreach on its thorniest question: how to decide who gets to be first in line for the limited supply of street permits. He said he expected it to come to council “within the next few months.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Campaign seeks funds for an indoor park for skating, BMX & other bikes

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 12:33

Allison Waters, a Portland-based skateboarding lover, has unveiled a concept for a “family-friendly indoor skate park” within Portland city limits.

The current plan is for two days a week to be open to BMX and other bikes.

“We had all through the summer to skate and then it started to rain,” Melissa Clark says in the video for Waters’ Kickstarter campaign, which continues until next week, describing her three daughters’ falling in love with skateboarding. “We are shut down from November until — May? June?”

For $80, early Kickstarter backers can get a full year of standard membership, which includes a discount to the park sessions and shop and early access to events. For $600, they can get a full year of all-you-can-skate “unlimited” membership.

If it’s funded, Waters aims to open the park this fall, ideally in northeast Portland.

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Katie Proctor, a Portland mom who co-founded Kidical Mass PDX and who is supportive of Waters’ park plan, said in an email that the working plan is for bikes to be welcome in the future Stronger Skatepark on Wednesdays and Sundays.

The campaign has set an ambitious target of $25,000. But because this is a Kicksterter, none of the pledges will be claimed unless they actually succeed in raising the money. So if you’d spend $80 or $100 for a year of membership if this park did exist, there’s no reason not to pledge now and help make it happen.

Based on the video, it sounds as if Waters may have a backup business plan if this campaign doesn’t get all the way. But if they can get the $25,000 up front, that’d ensure high quality for the ramps they aim to build.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Editorial: Even if more garages were a good idea, they’re pointless without permits

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 10:56
The empty apartment garage at NE 12th and Ankeny.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

At the risk of overloading BikePortland with one subject (we’ll also be covering the outcome of this afternoon’s hearing about parking vs. housing in northwest Portland), one pretty simple fact seems to be getting lost in the city’s big transportation debate of the moment.

More or bigger parking garages will do nothing to reduce curbside parking unless people have some new reason to use them.

Right now, in Portland’s Northwest District, a parking space in a garage or lot costs about $1,800 per year. A city permit to hunt for space on the public curb costs $60 per year.

So what on earth is going to motivate anyone to park their car in the bigger garages that the city’s law would mandate? There’s only one answer: It would have to remain extremely annoying to find street parking in the Northwest District.

So if the only way this policy works is if the curbs of the Northwest District remain crowded, what is the point of mandatory garages in the first place?

The city is sitting on a proposal that would actually work Portland Bureau of Transportation planner Grant Morehead discusses parking policies with the city’s Centers and Corridors parking stakeholder committee in January 2015.
(Photos: M.Andersen and J.Maus/BikePortland)

Fortunately for people who need or want to use cars in the Northwest District, there is a possible city policy that could help solve this problem.

It’d be to change the city’s parking permit rules, either by making permits more expensive, by issuing fewer of them, or both.

Even more fortunately, a huge committee of relevant stakeholders spent most of last year developing such a policy. We’ve covered it extensively. The city council has discussed it favorably, with Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick leading the charge and seemingly winning most of his colleagues over without any votes being taken.

Under the recommendation passed by consensus of the volunteer committee, the city would give neighborhoods the right to create a new overnight parking permit system in their areas, approved by popular vote. They could work with city staff to set the price and number of permits available. The permits would apply only in residential zones and people who live in residential zones would have first crack at the permits, but neighborhoods could opt to sell them to people who live elsewhere.

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It’s not a perfect proposal — a simple change to make the permits transferable would let individuals set a fair price for street parking spaces rather than forcing neighborhoods to guess the right one in advance — but it would work.

Neighborhoods would basically get to self-regulate developers in their areas. If a development wasn’t building enough parking for its residents, developers would need to either attract car-free people, build sufficiently large garages, or buy street permits at a price set by the neighborhood.

That’s called a win-win.

What happened to letting neighborhoods self-regulate their parking? Nobody disagrees that space is valuable.
(Photos: M.Andersen and J.Maus/BikePortland)

The odd thing is that sometime in the last few months, the proposal has seemed to vanish. Friday afternoon, in an email exchange about the Northwest District policy, I asked Novick what had caused the delay and when permit reform was likely to return to council. He hasn’t replied since. I honestly have no idea what’s going on here.

Nobody likes the price to go up for something they use. So no matter what, some Portlanders will reach for every available scapegoat — developers, politicians, maybe even bicyclists somehow — to explain to themselves why more new or more expensive parking permits are unnecessary.

But the fact is that anyone who thinks about this issue for more than a minute at a time will realize that more garages are pointless without changing the permit rules, and that if you had different permit rules then developers would be building adequate garages without a mandate.

Mandating parking garages instead of reforming parking permits, as the city council is debating this afternoon, only reinforces the idea that developers or politicians or anyone else has the power to get someone to move into a garage when the public is already offering a cheaper option on the curb.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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As bike share stations hit the streets, 550 annual memberships are sold so far

Tue, 07/05/2016 - 20:27
An ordinary bike (OK, it’s my bike) parked at the future easternmost Biketown station, SE Chavez and Taylor.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The first publicly visible news of Portland’s long-awaited Biketown system has arrived.

Its vessel: 100 rows of simple, sturdy metal tongues painted fluorescent orange, each with an oversize eyelet through which bike share users will thread the system’s built-in U-locks.

These rows (“stations”) will be spread around the 8.1-square-mile service area that opens for business July 19. Twenty of them will have solar-powered pillars with digital screens (“kiosks”) that let you purchase a one-time ride or a daily or annual membership on site with your credit card.

The station map and service area. Click here for the zoomable online map and here for a PDF version that has more details.

People who’ve used bike sharing in other U.S. cities may be surprised to see that these stations are different from many: instead of the wheel-grabbing “smart docks” developed for the widely used B-Cycle and PBSC systems, Biketown is the continent’s biggest launch for “smart bikes” and (therefore) for what you might call dumb docks. They don’t require wiring or even moving parts. They’re just bolted into the pavement.

The fact that all the necessary electronics are on the bikes themselves is what’s supposed to make Portland’s system cheaper than most on a per-bike and per-station basis. Smart-bike systems from the same manufacturer are in use in Phoenix, Santa Monica, Tampa, Topeka, Boise, Orlando, Ottawa, and Hamilton.

The stations will continue arriving around town over the next two weeks, Biketown manager Dorothy Mitchell said Tuesday. Then just before launch, the 1,000 bikes will be distributed for the first time.

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For the moment, as the short promotional video below shows, the 1,000 bikes are stored together in an undisclosed location:

Mitchell said Tuesday that 550 annual members have registered via the Biketown website. That’s up from 428 on June 15. The first 1,000 who sign up before launch are receiving a free t-shirt and a special card identifying them as a “founding member.”

Seattle’s Pronto system had 1,154 members by the end of the month it launched, but its pricing model is very different.

Seattle’s Pronto system had 1,154 members by the end of the month it launched, October 2014, peaking at 3,186 a year later. Seattle has in the past projected that a 1,000-bike Pronto system would aim for 8,000 members to be healthy. But Pronto’s pricing model is very different than Biketown’s; among many differences, Seattle’s annual memberships cost $86 per year to Portland’s $144 (billed in $12 a month installments).

In any case, to succeed Biketown will need to do better as a business than the moderately troubled Pronto has so far. Motivate, the New York-based bike-share operator that has assumed all the risks and half the rewards of Biketown’s performance over the next three years, is counting on Portland’s advantages (flat terrain, no adult helmet law, a beginner-friendly pricing model, spillover bike parking, a bike-friendly culture, some of the nation’s best station density and a generally larger network of destinations) to make up for Portland’s challenges (lower density and lower transit commuting rates).

Some companies and institutions are likely to offer discounted or free memberships to their employees, students or members. Any memberships that result won’t start coming into the system for another month or two.

Considering that Tuesday was the second business day of the Biketown launch month, it’s anybody’s guess what’ll happen with memberships by the end of this month — especially as brightly colored objects continue to appear on 100 street corners around the city. Some of them will even take credit cards.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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First annual Pedalpalooza awards recognize the festival’s best

Tue, 07/05/2016 - 15:11
Dan S. with his creation, the democratically elected “best bike” of Pedalpalooza 2016. The jaw opens and the eye blinks.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland’s annual open-source bike festival ended Monday with a cookout picnic in Woodlawn Park, complete with a vertical flamethrower rigged atop a huge bike-towed grill and a dozen handmade awards for the best rides and riders of the year.

Gerald Fittipaldi, left, was named “Rookie of the Year.” He also enjoys hamburgers.

The awards had been chosen by an online ballot. The ballot, like the awards themselves, were created by volunteers for Shift, the nonprofit that organizes the festival each June.

The Best Bike award went to the Fuzzy Monster Bike ridden by Splob, also known as Dan. Dan said Monday that he lives in Oakland, Calif., but visits Portland a few months each year for family reasons and always tries to make sure it’s in June.

“It’ll be back,” he said of his amazing bike.

This year’s massive edition of Bowie vs. Prince, the final one of the series, was named the Most Epic ride of 2016.

Tour de Hives, a ride to various beehives, was named the Most Informative ride of the year.

The massive Thursday Night Ride was honored as the Most Inviting ride of the year for drawing riders of all backgrounds.

The Working Theatre Collective’s Bike Play (this year’s theme: Adventures in Bikesitting) took home a prize for Best Collaboration.

The Bikin’ Betties, who led all-ladies’ rides on Monday nights, won Best All-Gal Ride — one of several award categories created via the contest’s “Make Your Own Award” category.

The long beloved Dropout Bike Club won the award for being the Most Prepared.

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Scott Batchelar took home the prize for the Most Prolific Pedalpalooza participant of 2016. “He led more rides than I rode,” emcee Carl Larson said in respect.

Gerald Fittipaldi was honored as Rookie of the Year, with a special citation for his work on local bike advocacy.

Dave McHappywheel won for Best Costumed rider of the year.

Maria Schur, center, leaps up to receive her award for leading the wettest ride of the year.

Swim Across Portland (which visited public outdoor pools) won for the Wettest ride of the year.

The Magical Unicorn Ride won for Best Kids Ride.

Some winners received a copy of the ride leading tips comic by Shawn Granton.

Liuba Vevsali was named the Naked Endurance Champion.

Eric Iverson of Grilled by Bike was named the festival’s Bringer of Fun.

And Michelle Z, who weathered a health challenge to join three group rides, was honored as the Most Intrepid rider of the year.

At the close of the ceremony, Ken Southerland took time to recognize Larson, who he said had been a fixture in Portland biking since he spent two weeks on someone’s front porch in 2006 and then the next 10 years claiming he was only visiting for a short while. Larson is moving to New York State next month.

“This is going to leave a hole,” Southerland said, choking back tears and giving Larson a customized plaque.

Monday’s event closed with a round of cheerse and applause followed by, of course, a bike ride.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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