Portland promotes urban cycling, but costs will be high
The eco-conscious city plans to build more than 680 miles of new bikeways in the coming two decades at a cost of $613 million.
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The 2030 Bike Plan projects an uptick of 400 percent. To do that, the city is trying to appeal to Portlanders who say they want to commute by bike but don't think it's safe enough.Skip to next paragraph
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Through years of surveys and public outreach, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has categorized 60 percent of residents as "interested but concerned" about bike commuting.
Where the 1996 plan emphasized bike lanes on busy streets, the 2030 plan proposes 314 miles of new separated bikeways and 256 miles of new bike boulevards with low automobile traffic that link to key destinations. It also calls for more bike parking and increased maintenance budgets.
The new plan offers a heavenly two-wheeled vision of Portland in 2030: "a clean, thriving city where bicycling is a main pillar of the transportation system and more than a quarter of all trips are made on bicycles."
It also quotes H.G. Wells: "Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia."
But one might think of George Orwell after visiting the city's official bike plan Web site, which encourages visitors to "click here to express your support."
Oppose the plan? Have legitimate concerns about it? Sorry. No link for you.
Since the public comment period opened in October, PBOT has received 202 comments. Only 17 have been "clearly against" the plan.
Still, given the city's shaky transportation budget and the fact that the so-called "Copenhagen on the Willamette" already is considered a world-class bicycling city, some wonder if the plan is even needed.
Charles wonders why, when technology and culture are changing at a rapid pace, Portland is planning 20 years into the future. He compared it to a business in 1980 committing to 20 years of IBM typewriter purchases, unaware that the computer revolution was on the horizon.
Near Charles's office in Raleigh Hills, Southwest Scholls Ferry Road turns treacherous once Washington County's bike lanes and wide shoulders stop at the Portland city limits.
Although a multimodal property tax such as the one supported by Washington County voters isn't in the bike plan, one city official says Portland is exploring the possibility of "something similar."
At the same time, Roger Geller, the city's bicycle transportation coordinator, says there will be several opportunities for future federal funding. When Congress undertakes the reauthorization of the surface transportation bill, for example, the city is expected to ask for $25 million for a citywide bicycle boulevard program.
More than $600 million for bicycle improvements "is definitely a big number and I appreciate that," Geller says. "But in transportation dollars, it goes a long way." By contrast, he says, "It would build only about 12 miles of urban freeway."