Portland is well-known for being a progressive, green city, as seen in shows such as Portlandia. It boasts several parks, responsible businesses and an excellent public transportation system. The trains and trams are regularly praised, and up to 15% of Portlanders use their bikes and the public trails daily.
However, the remaining 85%, mostly suburban-dwellers, rarely think of it as a primary transportation device. Curiously, many place importance on living near hiking and biking trails, but consider the latter to be the most dangerous type of transportation.
The city of Portland aims to triple its number of biking paths, but sees little point in doing so for only 15% of the population. How is it managing to convince the reluctant to join the masses of bikers?
The Officer of Transportation Direction, Catherine Ciarlo, highlights that bicycling is not particularly dangerous, and that related fatalities are decreasing every year. However, to put people at ease, several new bike lines are being given physical barriers to separate from car and truck lanes (where there used to be just a white line), which are proving to be popular with every type of biker. The biking boulevards also have the added benefit of generally being placed in greener and quieter areas, and are proving to be popular with all bikers. Other safety improvements include bicycle-specific traffic signals, colored separation lines, and “bike boxes” (green safety spaces in front of stoplights where bikers can be easily seen).
The initiative has gone further than infrastructure: an advertisement campaign has begun to raise interest in biking as a regular commuting option. Those who are open to the idea are given follow-up in the form of a personal mobility coach, who helps plan routes and addresses safety questions.
Bicyclists are also being given a “safe zone” with Portland’s Sunday Parkway Celebrations, where certain areas of the city are roped off and given free reign to walkers and bikers. The tradition has grown from once a year to several times a month and has moved to other cities.
In fact, other cities are thinking of adopting similar programs. Chicago is considering bike boulevards and Seattle is imitating certain biking traffic safety standards. Transportation directors are particularly impressed by the attention given to safety and the mixture of passive and proactive techniques to encourage biking. While Portland remains an exception in the United States, others are looking to follow its green example.
Read the complete report (source):
"More biking lessons from Portland"
Posted on SustainableCitiesCollective.com by Next American City writers - March 1, 2012