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Explore the City By Bike (Safely) On Portland’s Greenways

Saturday, September 20, 2014



Photo credit: bigbill25 on Flickr. Creative Commons License. Image cropped. 

Portland is well known as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, for many reasons, but many would-be cyclists and bicycle commuters are still on the fence—rather than on their saddles—due to safety concerns and fears of riding in traffic.

Well, fear no more. Designated bike boulevards and greenways which prioritize cyclists and pedestrians over motorized traffic are being built all over town, thanks in large part to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Bicycle Plan for 2030.

Comfortable Biking

These mild-mannered tree-lined streets belie a cyclist’s superpower when it comes to both enjoyment and safety when getting around town by bike. Safer routes offer greater comfort and therefore more enjoyment while riding.

The plan is aimed at curbing automobile traffic in the city by creating safer neighborhood streets that favor bike riding. Improvements to these streets to support cycling include speed bumps, directional signs listing nearby destinations, strategic stop signs favoring pedestrians and bikes, and “sharrow” markings that indicate the presence of bicycle traffic and remind motorists to share the road.

Greenways also include often beautiful and functional street-side bioswales that help divert storm runoff that taxes the city’s sewer system. Busy street crossings are being retrofitted with extended pass-through medians, which alert drivers in cross traffic to the presence of pedestrians and bikes; many feature special flashing signals to demand drivers stop and allow safe passage.

Greenway routes already cover much of close-in Portland, as well as north, northwest, northeast and southeast of downtown. Over the next few years, PBOT plans to further expand the presence of neighborhood greenways throughout outer East Portland.

Connecting and Expanding Routes

One huge development PBOT has slated for fall 2015 is a 4.8-mile north-south boulevard on 130th Avenue, which will connect the Springwater Corridor Trail to the I-84 multiuse path. The Springwater Corridor Trail—one of the most popular paved trails in the city--forms the southern leg of the the 40 Mile Loop, providing miles of car-free riding in southeast Portland.  

Additional routes are planned east of 150th to connect outer east Portland in 2016.

Perhaps the most ambitious goal in the Bicycle Plan is the goal to increase the number of bike boulevards and greenways within one half mile of every Portland residence from just under 25 percent to 80 percent. Even now, in central and close-in neighborhood with high bicycle traffic, most residents have only to bike a couple of blocks before accessing a bikeway.

PBOT revenue contraints and the lack of local funding for neighborhood bike-boulevard construction have slowed greenway creation over the past couple of years, but federally funded greenways are still being added. With more than 70 percent of city streets running through residential neighborhoods, designating bike boulevards makes sense from a cycling friendly perspective.

PBOT offers free city maps with detailed greenway and bike path information online. You can also order printed maps from the website or pick one up at most major bike shops, REI, and BTA offices.

If you already know your way around and want to plan a trip across town, but don’t have a map, finding your way is a snap. Ride just a few blocks in nearly any direction and you’re sure to find a greenway, as indicated by the green directional street signs with a bicycle at the top, sharrows painted on the street or these artistic.

Perhaps the biggest tip-off you’ve rolled onto a bike boulevard are the number of smiling, happy, healthy people on bikes heading in the same direction.

Üma Kleppinger is a Portland-based copy writer and advocate for full-contact anti-bummer living. She is a recovering sesquipedalian who writes about life in the saddle and outdoor adventure. She is also the author of BikeYoga, a yoga program for cyclists. When not writing, she can be found riding and racing her mountain bike throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Home Page Photo Credit: frozenchipmunk via Compfight cc


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