April 30, 2012

St. Johns Bridge – Portland, How About A Warning?

by Peter Herreid

During our stay in Portland, one day we had biked a nice tour of the NE bike boulevards, or “neighborhood greenways” as they are referred to locally, and wanted to cross the Willamette River to get to Forest Park. The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s bike map, which had till then faithfully served us, showed St. Johns Bridge as having a “multi-use path closed to motor vehicles.” Fortunate for us we thought, because it was the only bridge up and down the river for miles, so off we went. 

Approaching the bridge, the sidewalk didn’t exactly look like a multi-use path, but the road looked too dangerous to bike, so we stuck to the sidewalk. Now, you should know that heights make me nervous. I wasn’t sitting upright on my rented Dutch bike anymore. I was tucked low, nearly into a road cyclist’s racing position. 

Before the first tower, I was walking it up the sidewalk. Although the railing was high enough above my waist that it would take a conscious decision to jump over, it was not reassuringly high above my waist. Looking down to my right, through the bars of the bridge railing I could see warehouses, docks, and boats on the Willamette, all toy-like in the distance, yet all too real. To my left I couldn’t see much, but could feel the swoosh of each passing truck and then the heavy mist of rain droplets and road wash left in its wake. I couldn’t tell if or how far the passenger side mirrors were hanging over the sidewalk, but imagined them as baseball bats swinging through the air, just feet from my head.  

April 28, 2012

Biking to Portland's Markets

Bike to Portland State University’s campus on a Saturday and you'll find a bustling farmers' market. After buying a delicious lunch prepared by Verde Cocina, we sat down in the square within the market. As we ate and listened to live music, we watched Portlanders enjoying their version of a treasured Madison pastime - Saturday mornings at the Dane County Farmers’ Market on Capitol Square - that and some PSU students hula hooping in the grass and little kids imitating them.

Handmade corn tortillas
A short bike ride later, we arrived at the packed arts and crafts market which is held in a park along the Willamette River.

April 27, 2012

U-Fix-It Bike Station

Kerr Bikes

As I cruised along the riverfront heading to the Portland Saturday Market, the path was packed with cyclists and pedestrians enjoying the sunny afternoon. I was happy to spot a free, self-service bike repair station, because my bike seat needed to be raised a bit.

I liked that the station made the tools needed for basic repairs accessible to the passerby, as well as empowered cyclists to do it themselves. For the inexperienced mechanic, it can be easy to pass even the simplest repairs and adjustments to a trained professional, but then you'll never learn.

April 26, 2012

A Week with a WorkCycles Oma

After a week of riding around Portland on a WorkCycles Oma, my own Dutch bike felt quite strange when I rode it again. My De Vries offers all the features that a Dutch city bike should, but it lacks the ultra-smooth, luxurious feel of the WorkCycles.

April 25, 2012

Portland's Bicycle Boulevards, Where Bikes Take the Lane

By Peter Herreid

Portland’s local streets are a showcase of bicycle boulevards, streets “with low vehicle traffic volumes where the movement of bicycles is given priority” (Portland City Code). A bike boulevard is a shared street with no specific bike lanes or paths, yet is inviting to bicyclists because of a variety of design features:
·   Sharrows (shared lane markings) remind bicyclists and motorists that bicycle travel has priority, as well as invite bicyclists to ride down the middle of the lane and not hug a row of parked cars where they are at risk of being doored.  

·   Flipped stop signs give bike boulevards the right of way (meaning stop signs face cross streets).
·   Traffic diversions reduce vehicle volumes – a variety of means adapted to specific sites are used to block or divert vehicular traffic, yet the barriers let bikes through.

·    Traffic calming measures, including:
o   Speed bumps
o   Roundabouts 
o   Curb extensions or bulb outs
o   Tree plantings

·   Facilitation of crossing at busy intersections with curb extensions to narrow crossing distances and extended traffic medians to serve as refuge islands
·   Signs that identify a street as a bike boulevard
·   Wayfinding signs that list destinations in miles and minutes by bike

·   Plentiful bike parking, including on-street bike corrals

Portland has established a grid of bike boulevards overlaid on a traditional street grid with a total of 59 miles already built and 15 more miles in the works. From a planner’s perspective, an advantage of bike boulevards is that they do not require a radical renovation of existing streets. Not only are they cheaper than cycle tracks and off-street paths, but most bicyclists also prefer them to bike lanes on major roads. Bike boulevards can also retain much of their original car parking, which avoids a political obstacle to their implementation.  

Portland’s bike boulevards offer a tourist a chance to better get to know neighborhoods and view the well-landscaped lawns and gardens of Portland’s residential streets. They are also very popular with locals. According to Portland’s Bicycle Plan for 2030 (adopted in 2010):
Bicycle boulevards, in particular, have proven to attract high numbers of riders due to the level of comfort they provide, the mobility function they serve and their proximity to where people live and travel. Indeed, bicycle boulevards have become among the city’s most popular bikeways. 

The Portland Bureau of Transportation prefers the term “neighborhood greenways” for the city's bike boulevards, because Portland has been upgrading basic bike boulevards with stormwater treatment, tree plantings and greening of private residences, community programming, and artwork at intersections. Portland will also be lowering speed limits to 20 mph on neighborhood greenways. They have been described as “park-like,” because the benefits extend beyond better bicycle infrastructure to make streets more pleasant for jogging, walking, and socializing with neighbors.  

For more information on Portland’s bike boulevards, visit the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Neighborhood Greenways webpage, watch this Street Films video, and check out this bicycle boulevard planning and design guidebook

April 23, 2012

Madison Bike Life Visits West Coast Cousin

This week Madison Bike Life will be rolling out daily dispatches from our trip to Portland, Oregon.

A Portlander on the Eastbank Esplanade

Portland is the cool West Coast cousin that Madison bike enthusiasts, planners, and politicians go to visit and come back gushing about concepts that Portland has already implemented like a grid of bike boulevards, light rail, and an urban growth boundary. Although the Netherlands models a near cycling utopia, Portland's example demonstrates what is clearly feasible in the American context. Will Madison grow up to be more like Portland?

April 9, 2012

Featured Bike Ride Route: Paoli

The ride to Paoli has been described as "cliche" for Madison road cyclists, but its popularity is well-founded. Paoli deserves another look, because the Badger State Trail's completion in 2010 made it much more accessible to the broader cycling public.  No longer do you need to sweat a truck overtaking you at 55 mph on a narrow highway biking out to Paoli.  The completed rail trail frees you from the stress of traffic almost all of the way out there.
Although I had biked the Badger Trail many times, even taking it all the way to Illinois once, I had never stopped in Paoli or made it a destination itself. Paoli is a relatively flat, 30-mile round trip from Capitol Square, which is an approachable distance if you're getting into longer rides out of town. This rail-trail route is also easy to navigate. After taking the ride to Paoli and back, you may feel confident enough to visit destinations further along the rail trails, such as Mt. Horeb or New Glarus.
Badger Trail
On an unseasonably warm day, I recruited a friend to make the trip with me. I had on some touring gear: SPD clipless shoes, helmet, and bike shorts concealed by a knit skirt - though, these things weren't necessary for the trip. My friend, Abigail, was comfortable without wearing any bike-specific garb. Her Trek hybrid was a good match for my Fuji Touring as we pedaled along chatting.
Sayles Road
We got off the Badger Trail just before the paved section ends and took some low-traffic roads on rolling hills the final miles to Paoli. We saw several other cyclists enjoying the summer weather in March.
Once in Paoli, we stopped at the Creamery Cafe for ice tea and fresh baked goods. Along with a handful of places to grab a snack or refreshment, Paoli has a park next to the general store which has long served as a place to rest, picnic, and meet up, as well as begin and end a road bike loop.

Urban Terrain Bike Shoes