Thinking Big Thoughts: Bikes and Land UseNovember 2, 2009
As we get ready to make our recommendation on the Bicycle Master Plan next week, I’ve been thinking about what we can do in the Portland Plan to advance the objectives of the “Bicycle Plan for 2030”. Here are some of the connections between land use and cycling that I’m thinking about.
One of the proposed themes for the Portland Plan is creating additional 20-minute neighborhoods (neighborhoods where you can walk to all your essential needs within 20 minutes) and strengthening the ones we have. This would have the effect of creating destinations for people to cycle to, meeting their needs more easily by bike. Cycle-zone analysis (PDF file) by PBOT identified land use as one of the barriers to cycling in some areas of the City. Which areas need the most help?
One of our strongest potential tools for creating 20-minute neighborhoods is Streetcar, but we also know that if we’re not very careful rails create a challenging environment for bikes. If we do this right we can create vibrant main streets where bikes and Streetcars co-exist in blissful urban harmony (as in Amsterdam above), but we’re going to have to pay attention to the details.
Do we need a stronger alignment between Metro’s regional and town centers and the bicycle plan? Should all of the centers be bicycle districts in the plan? Do these centers, where significant and busy arterials often come together, need special treatments (cycle tracks?) to make cyclist comfortable? (The Crandall/Arambula testimony appears to point in this direction.)
I’m sure you’ve seen all those pictures of Amsterdam and Copenhagen with parked bikes stacked on what appears to be every inch of available space. While this may appear cute to us, those cities consider it a serious nuisance. It’s time for us to plan NOW for where we’re going to put all our bikes when 20%+ of our trips are by bike. The good news is that we have a lot of space around town, we just keep cars in it right now. I’m hoping that as part of the Portland Plan we can look at all kinds of vehicle parking, cars and bikes, and figure out how to allocate that space to the best effect, whether it’s on-street, in a Fred Meyer parking lot, a downtown parking garage, or in residential buildings. The current recommendation to adjust the bike parking ratio in apartments and condos is only an interim step to what I think needs to be a much deeper exploration of how to manage this transition.
How do we make sure these benefits are distributed fairly around the City? How do we bring great cycling to outer East Portland where the street grid tends to fragment, or SW Portland where topography makes cycling challenging? Will we need targeted encouragement to different demographic groups to help create ethnic and income-level equity?
What else can the Portland Plan do for cycling? What’s the magic that goes beyond the on-street facilities that makes districts like Alberta, Mississippi and Clinton such great environments for bikes? Can we figure it out and replicate it in the Portland Plan? What do you think?