Photojournal: Cycling Infrastructure in Portland, OR
It’s no secret that Portland leads the way for innovative bicycle infrastructure among US cities, but many cities still seem reluctant to take note of their successes. The above photographs were taken during a recent trip and begin to illustrate the prevalence of a deeply embedded cycling culture. The cost of such infrastructure is negligible and the dividends are endless.
A few notes:
- There are no gaps in designated bike routes, meaning that cyclists are not exposed out in the middle of a busy road after a mile or two of bike lanes or road demarcations. Continuity has been thoroughly designed.
- There is debate in Portland as to the value of their infamous green bike boxes. Whether or not the added safety is immediate, it does raise awareness and foster a culture of coexistence for motorists. There is immense value in this, as riding on a normal road feels much safer in Portland than other cities simply because one knows the motorist is much more likely to be courteous to cyclists. They’re used to it. Culture is important.
- Bike racks are more than niceties, they are vital for encouraging the average person to ride. I’d venture to guess there isn’t a single commercial block in Portland proper without bike parking of some type, and many have small shelters built to protect bikes from rain. Even better is the on-street bike parking that has become a desirable asset for local businesses, as so many more customers can be accommodated in a smaller space.
- The bike boulevard concept can’t be captured in a single photograph, but it is perhaps the greatest innovation to come out of Portland’s infrastructure. A bike boulevard is a road designed first and foremost for cyclists using a combination of traffic calming measures (low speed limits, shallow speed bumps, curb extensions, cyclist-only cut throughs) and markings (wayfinder signs, sharrows, lanes, brightly colored intersection markings). The end product is a marvelously peaceful bicycle route with the added benefit of quieter streets for those who live on them. This holistic street design can and should be replicated.
the seattle perspective:
i remember speaking to someone when we lived in seattle who was complaining about the waste of green paint and taxes when seattle added some green bike boxes.
there is a decent amount of bicycle parking in seattle, but it depends on where you are. we lived in west seattle and i more often than not ended up locking my bike to a street sign or tree.
the only ‘bike boulevard’ i know of in seattle is in alki, along the shore, which really only lasts a few blocks.
in many ways seattle might be ahead of most of the rest of the country, but it is still well behind portland…though seattle has better weather.
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