The City of Portland is well known for its awareness of all things environmental. While most cities in the U.S. have trash bins with just one hole in them, Portland’s boast three — one for trash, one for recyclables, and even one for composting. It’s even #2 on Grist’s 15 Green Cities, a list that ranks cities from all over the world on just how environmentally-friendly they are. In addition to an eco-conscious approach to urban planning, Portland continues to strive to reduce the amount of cars on the roads by encouraging people to take their bikes instead. The latest way to get more people on two wheels? Expanding bike lanes and making them safer by installing protected bike lanes on major downtown streets.
More Bike Lanes = More Riders
To give you an idea of what one of these looks like, it is a bike lane that shields cyclists from moving traffic through the use of barriers such as curbs, flexposts, planters, or a row of parked cars. These bike lanes also tend to be much wider than standard bike lanes and are frequently painted bright green to increase visibility. Traffic signals specifically for cyclists accompany these lanes increasing the number of cyclists that abide by them.
As part of Vision Zero’s initiative for an effective multi-modal transportation system that minimizes risk, all new bike lanes emerging in Portland must be created using the protected bike lane model by default. This means that all new bike lanes must be protected bike lanes unless an extenuating circumstance prevents it from being a possibility. In 1971, a bill was introduced known as the Bike Bill to require anyone proposing a transportation project without biking facilities to explain why those facilities would not be included. Approaching transportation planning in this way has led to Portland’s status as one of the bike-friendliest communities in the country.
Today, every initiative to improve Portland roads must take cycling into consideration. A recent study conducted by PSU’s Transportation Insight for Vibrant Communities titled Lessons from the Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S. concluded that the more protected people feel while riding a bike, the more likely they are to choose cycling as a method of transportation. In addition, those who would never previously have thought to commute by bike were more willing to try it, and in fact 10% of increased ridership consisted of people who would have otherwise taken another method of transportation to get from point A to point B.
The study also revealed that a full 24% of the increased ridership came from cyclists who previously took other routes to commute, meaning that when the protected lanes became available, they became the route of choice. Yet another fascinating effect: not one collision occurred through the duration of the study, which means the bike lanes really work!
Lessons took into account new bike lanes in five major U.S. cities: San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C. Austin and Portland, Oregon. In Portland, the new bike lane studied was recently installed on NE Multnomah Street. All across the board, within one year of installing these protected bike paths the number of riders increased 21% to as high as 171% in these major urban areas! Vox published an in-depth piece highlighting the success that the study measured, which proves that, if presented with the option of biking in a safe environment, more people will choose to bike, thus reducing the number of cars on the roads and easing congestion.
Benefits of Protected Bike Paths
Besides the obvious benefits of protected bike lanes like reducing car-on-bik
e collisions and congestion, these revolutionary lanes bring other positive vibes. For one, these lanes encourage people who would normally consider taking their car, or some other mode of transportation, to get out and bike. This not only reduces congestion, it reduces emissions and helps people include activity into our overly-sedentary lives. As the study also shows, protected bike lanes also increase the desirability of the neighborhoods that have them. Even people who do not bike and would not use the lanes benefit as they have a positive effect on business and property value.
Considering nearly 70% of millennials choose more than one method of transportation for their daily commute on any given week, it makes sense to work toward equalizing all transportation options so that each is as safe and accessible as the next. In essence, this is Vision Zero’s goal throughout Portland and every major city that implements the vision of “zero traffic deaths.”
Unfortunately, it would take unrealistic sums of money and time to transform the entire city into a bike haven, but at least it is headed in the right direction. For all your personal injury needs should you ever find yourself in the unpleasant situation of a bike-car collision in Portland, you can talk to Richard at RizkLaw by calling (503) 245-5677 for a free legal consultation