Published on December 13, 2008
Downtown Portland Could Be Friendlier for Bikes Levin Nock September 2008 Copyleft CC-BY v2.0 The Portland City Planning Department is revising the “Portland Plan” this year. The following ideas would make downtown Portland more friendly for bicyclists of various ages, abilities, and levels of risk- aversion. 1) Bike/ped-only street network A bike/ped-only network should cover all of downtown. This is a step beyond bike boulevards. Every third or fourth street, running N-S and running E-W, would be a bike-only street with wide pedestrian sidewalks. If a street is shared with the MAX or streetcar, then pedestrians could walk on the tracks, and the adjacent non-track lane would be for bikes. Deliveries by truck could be allowed in the early morning, and possibly by special permit. Some components of the grid might be bike boulevards, but a substantial portion of these streets would be car-free, during most of the day and evening. These streets would become meccas for sidewalk cafes with less traffic noise and air pollution, and retail spaces would generate more sales from passersby. The 60% of the Portland population that wants to bike more, but doesn’t feel safe now, would bike downtown. This idea would fit very well with the existing goals for a bike rental Velibe program, and large bike-parking facilities downtown. 2) Multiple-use PARK(ing) spaces The City should allow residents to lease on-street parking spaces on an annual basis, at the prevailing local price of parking. For instance, a restaurant could lease one or two on-street parking spaces to extend the seating area of a sidewalk café. A bicycle shop, or any shop that wants to provide convenient parking for 15 potential customers at low cost, could lease a parking space for a rack to hold 15 bikes. A retirement home could lease a few parking spaces along the sidewalk on the way to a park or grocery store, to hold benches for resting and
socializing, and maybe a potted tree or two. The city government could support a greenstreets program on a very small budget. In areas where parking is free, a percentage of spaces (perhaps starting with 10%) could be allotted for non-vehicular uses such as these, that provide a public or semi-private benefit. 3) Time-share car-bike cooperation The Sunday Parkways idea should be extended in time and space. In time, perhaps it could grow to once a month on Sundays, or once a week in some places. In space, there could be more locations. For instance, imagine if all 4 streets around Pioneer Courthouse Square were closed to motorized vehicles on one Sunday each month. People from all over the city could walk or bike on the Sunday Parkway, or take the MAX, to the square. The square would have a magical feeling, with no traffic noise or danger. This would help more and more residents and merchants experience how a space can feel transformed, when cars are removed, and the commercial space extends onto the pavement. This could also help generate more supporters for the ideas above, as more and more people appreciate the joys of urban spaces with less motorized traffic.
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