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How Can Portland Become More Bike-Friendly?


Bicycling sign in Old Town Portland

Bicycling sign in Old Town Portland

Rob Manning/OPB

Portland is already considered one of the best cities in the country for cycling. But activists and city officials agree that there’s more that can be done to make the city safer and more efficient for bikes. City leaders recently visited Copenhagen — where more than 50 percent of residents bike to work, compared to six percent in Portland — to see what they could learn about biking and pedestrian infrastructure in the Danish capitol.

Art Pearce, Portland Bureau of Transportation’s group manager for policy, planning and projects, was one of the leaders who went on the trip.

“We realize we need to learn from other cities,” Pearce says. “Copenhagen (is) really widely recognized as one of the best in the world for pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

Many roads in downtown Copenhagen feature 3-inch curbs that separate drivers from cyclists and cyclists from pedestrians — something Pearce hopes to see more of in Portland in the near future.

He says that while riding on protected lanes, “you really do feel more comfortable and more safe.”

Roberta Robles, a spokesperson for bike activist group BikeLoudPDX, has a different view on the decision to take a trip to Copenhagen for observation purposes.

She says the trip was unnecessary: “We have local people right here who know where the problem spots are.”

Robles says BikeLoudPDX wants the city to add more diverters to its streets. A diverter is a way of stopping cars from cutting through roads that are designed for bike traffic, known as “greenways” in Portland. Often, diverters are concrete barriers that bikes can pass between, but cars can’t.

“Diverters protect our greenway spaces,” Robles says. Right now, she says not enough is being done to keep cars from clogging those areas.

“They are still really unsafe to ride in,” she says. “There are drivers that go down greenways at 30 miles per hour.”

Pearce says that the Portland Bureau of Transportation has plans starting this summer to work on creating safer environments for pedestrians and cyclists. The city has $6 million it will dedicate to developments in the central city.

The trip to Copenhagen came at a time when bike activists are criticizing the city over recent cyclist deaths that they say are caused by unsafe streets.

“We need to do something,” Robles says. “People are dying and that’s what our direct action protests are about … is memorializing these traffic victims and hearing their stories.”

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