Published on January 31st, 2016 | by James Ayre


Portland Regularizes Protected Bike Lanes With New Policy

January 31st, 2016 by  

Originally published Bikocity.

The city of Portland, Oregon, made a big step towards the establishment of protected bike lanes as the norm late last year when it moved to require that road designers recommending bike lanes only do so with protected bike lanes. If recommending unprotected (conventional) bike lanes, road designers are now required to explain why, in detail — as per the city’s new policy.

The policy — which applies to all city-managed streets that see an average of more 3,000 pass-through daily — was actually announced internally all the way back in October, in a memo from the city’s Transportation Director Leah Treat.

portland flag

The new policy is seemingly the first of its kind in the whole of the US — though somewhat similar policies are in place in a couple of other cities/towns.

People for Bikes provides more:

In an interview Monday, Treat said this internal direction to her staff was just part of the initiative. The city is also preparing to consider a formal administrative rule that she said would require developers to provide protected bike lanes with new developments — much as they’ve long been required to provide sidewalks.

As with sidewalks, Treat’s team wants to create exceptions and alternatives to the rule (which isn’t finished and would require city council approval). On certain streets that aren’t expected to get continuous protected bike lanes soon, developers might instead be able to pay into a fund that could be used to build the bike network on other nearby streets.

…But in the end, it was up to city leaders like Treat to decide which challenges to ask those engineers to solve. And from now on in Portland, one of those assigned challenges will be protected bike lanes.

“I’m very, very interested in getting more people to adopt biking as their commute mode, as is the city,” Treat explained. “One of the largest barriers that we have to getting more people on bicycles is getting people feeling safe, and cycle tracks are the safest facility.”

Certainly true. The lack of safety that comes with riding a bike along the side of a busy road is a major barrier to increased bike use. So the strategy seems to be a good one, to my eyes.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Brian

    Great news. All cities should be required to have protected bike lanes, and Dutch style intersections. This would save many lives, and increase ridership dramatically. Studies have clearly shown that without protected bike lanes, people don’t ride their bikes due to safety concerns.

  • Freddy D

    Great news! IMHO. The whole concept of shared bike facilities, and in particular, sharrows, brings out a lot of emotion in people on both sides. The data shows that ridership increases and mode-shift (from autos to bikes / transit) increases are in the range of several hundred percent for protected, interconnected, well placed bikeways. Sharrows (shared facilities) on the other hand, have increases in ridership so small that they often can’t be measured.

  • eveee

    Yay! Thanks James, and thanks Portland. Protected bike lanes have so many benefits and make sense. Unprotected bike lanes in roadways makes as much sense as roads running on top of rail lines.
    I want the protection of a curb or barrier between me and cars. I also want a dedicated bike lane that is not occupied by pedestrians.
    Makes sense for everyone.
    We can all use all three at times. Best for the experience to be positive whatever transport we are using.

    • Frank

      OMG, like bikes are going to be treated like they are an important mode of transportation? Like they matter? Sooo cool. One thing though, if that path is a lane and a shoulder wide like some of the ones I was on in Florida, then I don’t mind if there are pedestrians on it, and you don’t need one on both sides of a street either. The barrier makes a huge difference.

      • eveee

        Yes. I posted a picture of a van skewered on a barrier between the street and bike lane. If that barrier wasn’t there and bikes were around it would have been disaster. From the street to sidewalk, I like street raised curb up, raised strip, curb down, bike lane, curb up, sidewalk. No pedestrians in the bike lane please, except at crossings. Too many bike lanes are ruined by pedestrians waking five and six abreast across bike lanes. That protects bikes and pedestrians while aiding movement for all three. The bike lane is just like a narrow street. The curb and sidewalk fits right in with existing pedestrian expectations and habits to keep them on sidewalks freeing the bike lane. The bike lane is on one side of the street because its two way.

        I have experienced these on U of Illinois campus. Its amazing that this sensible approach has not yet caught on. Car parking is on the street side where it belongs. No cars crossing bike lanes to get to parking, running over plastic barriers, or double parked in bike lanes. And there is almost no difference in street size unless the bike lane is wider than necessary. Even a two way bike lane need not be very wide.

        • Freddy D

          Or Ubers using the bike lane as a pick-up and drop-off zone!

          • eveee

            You got that right. With parking on the other side of the bike lane, its inevitable. The green painted bike lanes outside parking are a terrible system for everyone. The are really cities concession to bicycles without doing anything real or useful. I have personally seen those little plastic rods that are sometimes used to delineate bike lanes completely destroyed. That looks pretty ominous when your are riding a bike. Kind of like a reminder that you are in serious danger mixing with cars.
            Thats why I say, why don’t people think of it like cars sharing lanes with trains. You wouldn’t do that. Unprotected bike lanes sharing the street with cars makes about as much sense. A bicycle is not safe mixing with cars. You are vulnerable.

          • Frank

            If only you could take a pic, and upload it to the police department’s web site. Only problem is photoshop.

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