While riding around Portland this weekend (my first time seeing the city by bike), I came to one big conclusion: Seattle bikers are bad asses. Biking in Portland is so easy that there is hardly any excuse not to bike (before you get upset, I’m joking. Portland bikers are bad asses, too). The things Portland has done to make biking easy are incredible, but many of them are also simple. I’ll be writing about some of those features and how Seattle could perhaps learn from them in a short series this week. First up: Bike boulevards.
I was staying with friends in a house on NE Going St in the Alberta neighborhood. Going was recently turned into a bicycle boulevard, which PBOT bike coordinator Roger Geller called the “best bike boulevard in the city.” It changed my whole perspective on the potential of bicycle boulevards.
First, almost all of the stop signs were turned away from Going, meaning you can ride uninterrupted. All traffic on the smaller neighborhood streets yields to the bikes on Going. This makes the route very fast. At larger intersections, concrete barriers prevent vehicles other than bicycles from continuing straight through or turning onto Going. The result is a street with significantly more bicycles than motor vehicles (and more children safely playing right in the middle of street).
I was originally skeptical of whether Seattle could create good bicycle boulevards, since so few side streets continue uninterrupted. But Portland shows that interruptions can be dealt with and made easy and intuitive. For example, Portland installed a short two-way cycle track on 33rd where Going does not continue straight through (see photo above). Bikes turn from the boulevard to the cycle track, then cross straight from the track to continue on the boulevard. No riding a half block on a busier street necessary. Cars on 33rd are prohibited from turning onto Going. Here’s a video from Bike Portland showing how it works:
Making crossing improvements like these would make bike boulevards possible in areas where current arterial alternatives are slow or difficult to access. Bike boulevards are great for commuting, sure, but they also make inter-neighborhood trips much more appealing by bicycle. Those trips to the grocery store or your neighborhood taco truck are more appealing to try by bike if a street like this exists, especially if you are have children with you. I saw many more families riding on Going than you will see in a standard bike lane.
Dylan from Beacon BIKES! has an idea for what appears to be good route for a Beacon Hill boulevard (I have been meaning to give it a shot). As a biker who typically prefers neighborhood streets to arterials when possible, I used to think Seattle’s geography and wonky street layout were big impediments to creating good bike boulevards. But the more I think about them, the more places I can think of where they could work.
Anyone out there have a neighborhood bike route that, with a few touches, could be a good bike boulevard? Write about it in the comments.