Monday, February 1, 2010

Ambitious bike plans in Portland, OR

20 years from now (2030), the movers and shakers in Portland want their citizens "to make more than 25 percent of their daily trips by bike."

That sounds okay to me. I'm a little suspicious of their motive... they want to make and keep Portland "the most bike-friendly city in the country." And of course, so they can pat themselves on the back for doing their part to fight global warming.

Story HERE.

The wrench-in-the-cogs, of course, is money.

They currently have about $1.5 million / year for bicycle improvements. It's estimated it would cost $600 million to fully implement "the plan." And about $5.9 million / year for ongoing costs.

Wow! That seems like a lot of money! (Unless you're looking at it from the Washington DC viewpoint. Less than a billion? Chump change!!)

$600 million is about $1000 per Portland resident. And $5.9 million is about $10 per.

I know Portland has bridges over the river, etc., etc., to deal with. And that could add up quickly. But I'm just contemplating what we could do in this area, if we had $600 million to throw at "bike friendliness." (ACHD's total budget is about $79 million / year.) We could have wide, smooth bike lanes on every collector and arterial road. We could have bike-lane ground loops to trigger green lights, at every signaled intersection. We could put money into an endowment fund for bicycle promotion and education... LOTS of it! And - after all that I bet we'd still have hundreds of millions left over!

And no matter how much money Portland has... they still have wide rivers with lots of old, crowded bridges. They have old, established neighborhoods on steep hills. And they have... rain! Unless they have more power over the climate than I'm giving 'em credit for, they'll have +-36 inches of rain per year, no matter how bike-friendly they are otherwise!

(Another notion. What is "bike-friendly"? From what I can gather as an outsider, Portland's cyclists are notorious for being snooty and confrontational with motorists. Does bike-friendly only go one way? Is there some money in that $600 million to make cyclists more friendly?)

What would it take for Boise residents to meet a "25% of daily trips threshold"?

Winter would be daunting. It takes a certain level of commitment to ride a bike when the weather is nasty. But 8 months of the year, I believe I can say with some level of confidence that the existing infrastructure could absorb that level of usage, with very few upgrades. Especially if you consider that all those folks would be out of their single-occupant vehicles.

However... a large percentage of Boise traffic is generated by "outsiders" - people who live outside the Boise city limits, or even outside Ada County. People who have to drive 15 or 20 miles to work every day are not going to eagerly abandon their cars and take up cycling. (A major reason why I've always lived relatively close to work!!) I don't know how that compares with the metro Portland area, but I've got to think they have that same issue, to some extent. The folks who drive in from Vancouver or McMinnville or Oregon City aren't gonna put their cars up on cinder blocks.

(This is somewhat of a "stream of consciousness" post. Sorry about that... just thinkin'...)

1 comment:

Michael Carpenter said...

As an example of Portland being "bike friendly" consider this. One Sunday in December, I was meeting someone in Portland. I hate to try and park my huge Idaho truck in Portland (I was boxed in once to the point that I could not get into my truck), so I took the train and bus.

The temps were in the 20's and the wind blowing about 30 mph. It was cold enough that several churches opened up as emergency homeless shelters. I stood at the bus stop for about 15 minutes and at the train stop for 30 minutes and I was frozen. It literally took me hours to warm up even though I was wearing a watch cap, gloves and had a heavy coat on.

In the 15 minutes I stood at the bus stop, I saw no less that 10 cyclists ride by. This on a Sunday night (about 8 p.m.) in the dark on one of the coldest days of 2009 in Portland.

As to conflicts, I would say that cyclists in Portland do ride somewhat aggressively. They "take the lane" more often than I've seen anywhere else. But, it is similar to my driving when I return to the San Francisco area after being gone for 15 years. When I first get there, I'm scared by the drivers around me, but I ratchet up my driving style and I fit in. I'm a pretty laid back cyclist and I would really have to ratchet it up in Portland. (As it is, I did most of my riding in my 4 month sentence in Oregon in the sleepy little town of Wilsonville and I must say that drivers were almost always on the look out for bikes. Well, except that one night that a Suburban tried to kill me.)