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Portland, Ore. – Bicycle Boulevards

Bicycle Boulevards in Portland are a thing of beauty, safety, and tranquility. They are also wonderful streets to live on. Mia Birk, former manager of City of Portland's Bicycle Program (1993-99), and Mark Lear of the Portland Office of Transportation explain a few of the many strategies employed to keep thru traffic off the boulevards and to make the riders using them safe.


[intro music]

Mia Birk: [00:09] This is South East Lincoln that we’re standing on here and the South East Lincoln Bike Boulevard is… it’s really cool because it’s like a metaphor for all that we’ve done in Portland. In the ‘80’s South East Lincoln here was what we call a traffic collector, there was quite a bit of auto traffic on the street and it was a major thoroughfare. And in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s the city, really with pressure from neighbourhoods and citizens, turned this street as well as a number of other streets into what we call bicycle boulevards where we did traffic calming elements to make this street more liveable and slower traffic, reduced traffic and much more friendly for bicyclists and pedestrians. So let me tell you what we did to this street. At a couple of key points on this street at South East 39th, two blocks this way, and South East 20th, which is about almost a mile that way, we put in what we call traffic diverters and so traffic has to turn.


Mark Lear: [01:07] One of the biggest challenges to developing a bike boulevard is you can’t make it easy for cars to get onto the bike boulevard off of a busy street. If you fail to make those kinds of improvements, what will happen is you’ll have a lot more cars on the bike boulevard and we don’t want a lot of cars on our bike boulevards. So what we do at this location is only allow cars to come out off the local service street onto 39th but we don’t allow cars to come in from 39th onto Clinton. In this case this project has worked really well. It’s made it so bicyclists can pass through easily, but it keeps cars off, it actually acts as a good treatment and diverts cars that would otherwise be on this facility.


Mia Birk: [01:46] We also put in things that slow traffic down which includes the traffic circle that you can see over there, and speed bumps along the street to slow traffic down so that the speed of cars is pretty similar to the speed of cyclists, which creates a more comfortable environment for everyone. And then more recently we have put in signs and circles to identify the street as well as other bike boulevards as being part of this special bike boulevard network.


[music]

Mia Birk: [02:21] People were very concerned about diverting traffic off of a street, how are they going to get to their houses and it might cause traffic on other streets to go up. So, and this was… that happened here, there was a lot of fight, it was a difficult project and what happened as a result is also very similar to what happens in many other cities and that it’s so pleasant afterwards that property values go up, becomes a wonderful thoroughfare for people walking their dogs and jogging. It’s a very popular street for people bicycling, for people walking, for kids to be out and about and it’s just become this wonderful community street.

[music]

http://transcriptdivas.ca/transcription-canada/

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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