Bike Master Plan Strategy, Broad or Deep?November 5, 2009
There are at least three different ideas for how to sequence the build-out of the next phase of Portland’s bicycle network:
- The plan Steering Committee (full disclosure – I am a member of the Steering Committee) has suggested a focus on first implementing a large expansion to the City’s Bicycle Boulevard network. These are low-traffic neighborhood streets where cars are infrequent and travel more slowly than on major streets. These boulevards are assisted with crossing treatments at major arterials.
- Supporters of the North Portland Greenway and Sullivan’s Gulch trails testified at the last hearing that off-street trails should be a higher priority.
- And most recently, the urban design folks at Crandall Arambula have suggested that a network of protected bikeways (aka cycle tracks for those of you familiar with the European examples) connecting key centers around the City are likely to lead to the highest rates of cycling. And they insist that these bikeways must enjoy physical separation (i.e., concrete), not just painted boundaries.
All three ideas are targeting the “interested but concerned” demographic of potential cyclists, which comprises as much as 60% of the population.
But the strategies are radically different. Bicycle Boulevards are dramatically less expensive to build, so for the same amount of dollars we could get potentially hundreds of miles of bicycle boulevard, one major trail or perhaps several tens of miles of protected bikeways on the street system.
The reality is that we will almost certainly do some of each, based on grabbing opportunities to leverage funding that may only be available for certain categories of projects.
But to the extent that we have funds for the network that are not linked to a specific facility type, are we better off building boulevards that could reach many cyclists, or separated facilities that would provide an experience that might be perceived as more comfortable on a limited set of corridors? Where should our emphasis be to attract the largest pool of potential new riders?
The Planning Commission will make its recommendation on November 10th, so weigh in now! You are welcome to discuss the issue here, and written comments are being accepted through November 8th at the PBOT site for the plan.