Downgrade Portland's ranking as a Bicycle Friendly Community.
Downgrade Portland's ranking as a Bicycle Friendly Community.
We are asking the League of American Bicyclists to downgrade Portland’s ranking in their Bicycle Friendly Communities program.
Below are a number of ways that we, as people who want to ride bicycles in Portland, believe we have fallen short of the specific Attributes of a Bicycle Friendly Community (sometimes known as the “5 E’s”) outlined in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Communities program.
We are not bringing these issues to light to criticize people who drive or ride bicycles, nor indict specific people or organizations. We are outlining our concerns here because Portland should not be held up as an example for other cities to follow.
We hope that Portland, one day soon, will become a “Platinum” city, but our current status as a “Platinum” community is odds with the reality of our streets. If other communities follow our lead they too will end up constructing roads & policies that increase traffic conflict, risk, and stress.
We love our city. When we face the reality of the situation together we can move past failed policies and outdated street design and focus on what makes Portland great: safe neighborhoods, passionate people, and vibrant local businesses.
There are many instances when, even after someone dies while riding a bicycle, when the City puts the onus for safety on people who ride bicycles despite their having no legal obligation to yield to other people’s travel.
Warning signs targeting people choosing to ride a bicycle are readily applied, but rarely are people warned to drive safely through the installation of traffic signs.
Many streets are built using outdated design standards, or standards that do not adequately protect Portlanders in the context - volume and speed - of traffic on a particular street. Some of the few facilities “for bicycles” are not well maintained and often slow or restrict the travel of people on bicycles. Facilities on the street also frequently drop out or degrade at intersections, specifically where there are the most opportunities for conflict.
Many non-arterial streets have speed limits set at 30 MPH or above, which aren’t even enforced on a regular basis. Many streets with high speed traffic have no facilities for people on bicycles, at all.
The network of neighborhood greenways has been determined to be deficient in many ways, including being pockmarked with areas of high-speed, over-capacity traffic.
Traffic facilities do not connect well with transit hubs, and vice versa.
There is no convenient way to provide feedback about engineering of on-street facilities, and feedback is often spread across different City departments that do not actively coordinate.
The City continues to actively restrict off-road bicycle access.
Neighborhood greenways are not designed in a way to clearly illustrate their low-stress intent, nor is there a public campaign aimed to curb reckless behavior which degrades their practicality.
Public campaigns are often aimed at the victims of traffic violence, not the behaviors that cause crashes and fatalities.
No robust adult education program exists outside of diversion programs.
Sunday Parkways is a terrific, popular activity but it is chronically underfunded and is on a scant few weekends each year. The lack of a regular, perhaps weekly, program causes confusion on the part of people trying to drive around the event. Sunday Parkways routes are significantly constricted around motorways.
Tourism campaigns often over-sell the promise of a safe, comfortable experience, setting up visitors for a shock when they try to travel by bicycle in Portland.
There are no themed loop rides, as are suggested by the League of American Bicyclists, despite this being an easy activity that could be developed around our existing Neighborhood Greenways.
Portland continues to lack a public bike share system.
Traffic laws are regularly ignored in Portland. Basic laws governing safety - like the speed limit, prohibition of parking on sidewalks and in bike lanes, stopping for people in crosswalks and at stop signs - are rarely if ever enforced by the authorities
The City of Portland lacks effective tools for reporting dangerous behavior. The City’s official reporting app lacks a reporting category specifically for hazards or superfluous closures impacting bicycle traffic. The behavior of officers and dispatch operators discourages people who ride bikes from reporting traffic crashes.
Portland Police Bureau officers, as a matter of policy, do not report or cite people in motor vehicle crashes that result in minor injuries. However, PPB officers also stage enforcement stings on popular bicycle routes, targeting common behaviors that do not pose a significant safety risk, and pushing the action to local media which creates the appearance of a publicity stunt.
Our regional trail network, intended as a destination for families, is not consistently patrolled by law enforcement and many trails have history of violent, threatening, or illegal behavior.
Evaluation & Planning
Little progress has been made on the City’s Bicycle Master Plan. Responses to Portlanders’ concerns are recorded and acted upon inconsistently.
Traffic crashes are studied and some changes are implemented, but dangerous conflict points and chronically unsafe behavior is often ignored unless it causes a fatality or serious injury.
Data is not collected before and after enforcement actions to evaluate their long-term impacts.
City officials frequently adapt street designs to fit pro-motor vehicle, anti-bike opinions. Suggestions from pro-bicycle grassroots advocacy organizations and other community groups are not equally represented in street design. Compounding this disparity, the largest local bicycle advocacy organization has, as a matter of strategy, shifted away from actively working in Portland and rarely speaks out regarding potential changes to Portland’s streets. These forces create situations where the concerns of large groups of residents are subjugated to the whims of a small number of wealthy, well-connected interests.