PORTLAND IS GETTING a major new bike route—and with barely a squeak of controversy.
Last Thursday, September 29, city council signed off, 4-0, in favor of the "50s Bikeway" plan to rework 4.3 miles of streets along 52nd and 53rd Avenues all the way from NE Thompson to SE Woodstock.
Nearly 40 people signed up to testify, but unlike most public debates about bike projects, almost all of the citizen criticism on the plan was markedly pro-bike.
Part of the reason for the plan's easy passage is its funding: The federal government is picking up the project's $1.5 million tab (via Metro's Regional Flexible Funding program), so the new bike route isn't putting any more strain on tight city and state coffers.
The route is part of Portland's Bike Plan for 2030, which lays out 370 miles of bike routes—mostly on low-traffic neighborhood streets—for the city to build over the next two decades. The goal of the plan, which is estimated to cost $600 million if fully built out, is to triple Portland's bike ridership.
The project is a key link between bike routes that run along the 50s streets but have long faced a gap between NE Thompson and SE Woodstock. By 2013, expect to see green bike boxes at major intersections along 52nd Avenue and bike "sharrows" painted on the pavement marking the route.
One would expect neighbors to raise a fuss about that lost parking (though the city's count shows the 447 parking spots along that stretch are only 20 percent utilized). But instead, the most controversial element of the bike route is a concrete diverter slated for SE 52nd and Division. Roughly 2,700 cars cross that intersection every day, making it a pinch point for bikers. The planned diverter would block northbound car (but not bike) traffic at the intersection—cutting traffic to 1,000 cars.
In the end, the plan worked in a compromise: If traffic jumps on neighboring small streets by more than 150 cars a day within eight months of the diverter's installation, the city promises to rip it out.