Portland State University researcher Jennifer Dill is conducting a new study detailing where, why and how often Portlanders ride their bikes. The city is thinking it may be a useful planning tool in plotting the future of bike infrastructure in the city. So far 500 adults have been surveyed by phone and 56 percent of the riders said they wanted to bike more but didn’t because of “too much traffic.” Thirty-seven percent cited a lack of nearby bike lanes and trails as their barrier. Those with a network of quiet streets near their home were more likely to ride regularly.
Next Jennifer will have volunteers put GPS (Global Positioning System) units on their bicycles to track what routes are being used. Portland is already considered a bike friendly city but Dill thinks we can do even more.
Also on board is Roger Geller, the city’s bicycle coordinator for the Portland Office of Transportation. He is arguing to widen the city’s existing bike lanes from 5 feet to 6 1/2 feet for a bigger buffer zone or so that people can ride side by side. Secondly, he wants to incorporate cycle tracks, which is a curb or other device that separates the cyclist from traffic, commonly used in Europe.
There are obvious reasons why bicyclists would want to push for this, it's helpful to the environment, traffic and oil dependency. A bike infrastructure plan was started in 1996 but efforts were focused on bike lanes on major streets. The thought was that people wanted direct routes for things like commuting. As the recent survey shows, it turns out people want to ride on low-traffic residential roads. Very few riders are accomplished in a way that makes them comfortable riding in regular traffic. How many tragic biker stories have you heard on the news.
The idea now is to push for more cycle tracks and "bike boulevards" that feel safe for the average rider and to encourage more new bike riders. This will also move us toward a more integrated cycling infrastructure so that people have more options as far as places to go by bike.
According to Geller, the city’s spending on bike projects is rising but still accounts for less than 2 percent of PDOT’s capital budget. Even with this small percentage there are those who see this as a waste of time and money saying that the priorities should be in keeping the roads maintained. It seems some feel that widening the bike lanes with narrow the traffic lanes and that will just cause more congestion. But if those bike lanes are being used, won't there be less cars to contend with, and less road damage?
PLEASE CHECK OUT OUR NEW PODCAST ON THE HOMEPAGE OF OUR WEBSITE www.TonyandLibby.com