Wednesday, April 25, 2007
What would it take to make Portland (Oregon) the Amsterdam of America?
That is, with relation to bicycles?
This is a question recently asked by the Portland Office of Transportation, as a part of their update to the citywide Bicycle Master Plan.
What would it take for Portland to become the Amsterdam of America?
(Aside from the obvious: removing all of those pesky hills...?)
1) User fees for cars:
- Introduction of European-style gas taxes that raise the cost per gallon of gasoline to above $5.
- Congestion pricing in congested areas, following Ken Livingstone's London example, that allows bicycles free entrance but charges cars.
2) Creation of expanded bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. In areas of high congestion, remove the least-efficient use: automobiles. Use the additional space to provide facilities dedicated to bicycles, so they can zip by pedestrians and streetcars on their own paths.
- In Downtown Portland, for instance, this might mean taking a lane of 3-lane one-way streets and making it into a Class 1 bicycle facility. This bikeway would fit between the existing sidewalk and the parking lane.
- In neighborhood commercial districts, when over-crowding causes congestion, automobile traffic needs to be the first thing to go, and bicycle facilities should be the first thing installed to take its place.
- In the neighborhoods, this would mean the creation of bicycle routes where bikes can travel as far as possible, unhindered by vehicles. All stop signs on bicycle boulevards should be replaced by traffic circles. Stop lights should act like the one at 39th & SE Clinton, permitting bikes but stopping cars.
- Bicycle "freeways" like the Springwater Corridor should be built in as many places as possible: Sullivan's Gulch, the North Portland Waterfront, along the SE Portland RR ROW that extends from the river to Crystal Springs Gardens/Golf Course, etc.
3) Bicycle rental facilities should be widely dispersed throughout the city that provide bikes for little or no charge for those who need to use them for a quick trip.
4) Bicycle parking should be provided in mass quantities at popular destinations. There are already complaints about a shortage of bicycle parking opportunities in downtown Portland. This needs to be resolved ASAP, and bicycle parking lots need to be fitted into the infrastructure where demand requires them. Outside of the Amsterdam rail station, for instance, is a sea of hundreds of bikes, all locked up right next to one another. I've also seen stacked bicycle parking. Whatever it takes to fit the bikes into the real estate available.
5) Commuter rail systems need to bring people into the central city from neighboring cities, and provide plenty of room for secure bicycle parking at their stations, as well as plenty of room on board for bicycle hooks. Part of bicycle mobility is the ability to extend the range of your bicycle by hopping on a fast, efficient train to get to places slightly further afoot.
6) Development density within the city needs to increase, so that more people are living closer to more destinations, making the bicycle just inherently a more sensible option for making more trips.
7) Automobile parking needs to be regulated to make it just a little less easy to park everywhere for free. Charging for parking in most commercial districts would be a good start. Taxing every surface parking space would be another good start -- say, $5 per space per month? This would make people and businesses seriously consider exactly how many car parking spaces they really need and are willing to pay for.
8) The police need to encourage bicycling, not stifle it. Enforcement of traffic laws against bicyclists who are not causing injury to others should be the absolute lowest enforcement priority for the police force. In general, unless a bicyclist has caused an accident, there is no need to write them a ticket. Period.
9) Oregon should adopt an Idaho-styled Bicycle Code that allows bicycles to treat stops signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs.
10) Bicycling needs to be respected, encouraged and embraced.
- Elected officials and city employees should ride bicycles whenever possible.
- Perhaps a mandate for a certain percentage of city employees to ride their bikes to work, ala Mexico City, might be one good measure to consider.
- In all cases, encouraging bicycles should be the rule rather than the exception.