These days when I see a headline about Portland and its phenomenal bike infrastructure, I sigh a little.
I know it’s great – I bike here every day.
Yet there are certainly a lot of not-so-great things about Portland’s bike scene, including the fact that we still don’t have bike share (though we are getting closer), we still can’t get the bike gender balance to include more than one-third women, and we still have quite a bit of incomplete infrastructure.
According to Bike Portland and Green Lane staff writer Michael Anderson, there’s actually a new policy in place so that:
“every time Portland road designers recommended a bike lane, they would need to make it a protected bike lane — or else explain why not.”
This policy, courtesy of a memo from Portland Bureau of Transportation director Leah Treat, is considered by Anderson to be the first policy like it in the U.S.
Treat acknowledges the difficulty this policy might pose ‘in the moment’:
“I know this will be challenging and not always achievable in the moment. In some cases we may not have sufficient funding; in other cases we may find the necessary trade-offs to be currently untenable.”
But protected bike lanes, Treat says, are a key way to get more people biking. And, according to the report on this survey, protected lanes are 7 times more effective than painted ones.
So what is a protected bike lane? Well, that’s where you might have to groan a little bit.
People for Bikes makes a great explanation of what a protected bike lane can be, and it generally can be a bike lane that is: a parking-protected bike lane; a bollard-protected bike lane; or a curb-protected bike lane.
What I’m hoping is that Portland doesn’t choose to believe that painted lanes with those flimsy red rubber ‘Grabber‘ or ‘Looper’ tubes are actually protected, as over time drivers tend to knock them down like bowling pins.
Overall, this is great news, though, as protected bike lanes bring more bicyclists out to bike. Let’s just hope Portland can find the bucks to make truly protected bike lanes such as the city’s Broadway parking-protected lane or the Cully curb-protected lane. (There’s a new proposed gas tax hike that could help.)
And of course, that other cities follow suit.