It might get faster down there.(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)
Despite a clear connection between speed and fatal and serious injury crashes, ten Oregon lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that would raise our state’s freeway speed limit to 75 miles per hour.
According to the text of House Bill 3094, it would increase the speed limit from 65 to 75 miles per hour on interstate highways (only for cars, large trucks and buses will stay at their current max of 55 mph). The bill also establishes a maximum speed limit of 65 miles per hour on state highways and limits the Department of Transportation’s authority to decrease freeway speed limits, except in work zones.
Currently, Oregon is one of just 13 states that have a 65 mph speed limit on interstate highways. 12 states have a 75 mph limit, three have set 80 as their top speed, and Texans are allowed to go 85.
I reached out to this bill’s sponsors (all 10 of which are Republican) to ask them their reason for supporting it and to ask whether or not they were concerned about its safety impacts. So far, only one of them has replied.
Rep. Mike Nearman from Dallas, Oregon responded via email. “The highways were designed for higher speeds,” he wrote in response to my first question, “And other large western states have higher speed limits.” As for safety, he wrote, “I am concerned about the safety impact of higher speeds. Any speed limit is a trade off between safety and efficiency.”
That efficiency argument was also used in 2011 when another Republican-led effort to raise highway speed limits was put forward in the Oregon Legislature. Back then, Hillsboro Senator Bruce Starr said, “By modernizing our speed limit we can increase the flow of traffic, lower commute times and fast track commerce through the state.”
Starr’s bill didn’t survive, but that doesn’t seem to have killed the idea.
Freeways have been getting faster for decades now. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, Congress mandated a 55 mph maximum speed in the 1970s, but the law was repealed in 1995.
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance hasn’t issued any formal comments on this bill, but Advocacy Director Gerik Kranksy said via Twitter that if the bill passed, it could increase the probability of fatalities on ODOT roads by 12 percent.
From where we sit, it’s interesting to see a state flirt with a commitment to Vision Zero and other life-saving measures, while we also consider increasing one key factor that leads to so many deaths.
We’ll find out how this new attempt goes later this week. HB 3094 is set for a public hearing in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development on April 3rd.
The post Oregon lawmakers try (again) to raise speed limits appeared first on BikePortland.org.
The cover of the new report.
Two Portland-based advocacy organizations have released Oregon’s first detailed proposal for a “Vision Zero” policy that they say could completely eliminate road deaths and serious injuries.
The two groups assembled the report with input from officials at various government agencies, including the City of Portland and Oregon Department of Transportation. It’s the first big component of a coordinated campaign by the two organizations, part of a national effort to spread the Vision Zero concept.
What’s inside? Maybe the most significant ingredient here is the five-page list of specific recommendations at the end. Here are nine particularly interesting selections from that list.
Present residents of the Portland Metropolitan region with a unifying vision of dramatically safer streets. Contrast with the cost of inaction – a road system that is the cause of death and serious injury for too many of our citizens.
This is maybe the single biggest promise of the Vision Zero philosophy. Though the concept that every traffic death is preventable seems hard for almost everyone to accept (at least at first), it’s also simple enough for anyone to understand and therefore to take seriously.
City Councils should adopt a clear unifying Vision Zero policy that sets a clear goal of reaching zero fatalities and serious injuries with specific dates and mid term goals. Model ordinance is attached as Appendix A.
“If it doesn’t have a target date and it doesn’t have a zero number, it isn’t a Vision Zero policy,” BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky said Monday.
Create a regional Families for Safe Streets program, which gathers victims of traffic crashes and families who have lost loved ones in crashes to advocate for street safety.
“I’ve never seen a campaign have so much influence over elected officials in such a sort time as Families for Safe Streets,” New York City advocate Paul Steely White said in a BikePortland interview last Friday, discussing the NYC version of this campaign.
Design assurances against racial profiling and targeting as it pertains to Vision Zero enforcement. Ensure that communities of color, police bureaus, and community leadership are included in the decision making and development of enforcement plans or policies.
Unlike the original Swedish approach that focuses almost entirely on road design, the U.S. approach to Vision Zero has usually emphasized law enforcement. This has met skepticism from people who observe that law enforcement penalties fall disproportionately on people with low incomes or people of color. The BTA/Oregon Walks policy tries to anticipate and mitigate this concern.
Prioritize improvements in areas that are lacking even the most basic infrastructure, with a specific focus on historically under-served communities. These areas lack basic pedestrian safety measures, such as proper street lighting, crosswalks, ADA accessible curb ramps and complete sidewalks. These areas must not be overlooked while other areas receive significant design improvements to already existing infrastructure.
So far we’ve never heard the city or any other organization propose a system that could offer clear guidance about how much time and money to spend on making the central city terrific and how much to spend on making the outer city more tolerable. This recommendation, though meaningful, doesn’t really clarify things.
“Equitable distribution of benefits is a big piece of Vision Zero and you can’t have a Vision Zero without that,” Oregon Walks Executive Director Noel Mickelberry said Tuesday. “I think you saw it in the street fee hearings. People were at those meetings saying ‘I don’t want to pay for crosswalks in East Portland. That’s not my neighborhood. Why is my money going to pay for that?’ That’s where people are getting killed and that’s where people are getting seriously injured.”
Establish construction and detour policies that prevent sidewalk and bike lane obstruction. Jurisdictions should amend building code to require developers to minimize sidewalk and bike lane closures both spatially and in duration, and to provide safe detours. Statements from Oregon Walks on sidewalk obstruction in the City of Portland are attached as Appendix C. The BTA has a guidance document available for review by agencies.
Despite the city’s stated policy that foot and bike traffic is generally a higher priority than car traffic, many detours in Portland don’t prioritize foot and bike safety or comfort over car traffic or parking. Different agencies, public and private, design different detours, and the city’s transportation department has never laid down rules for detour design.
Work with the OLCC’s Top 10 list of establishments linked to DUII arrests in conjunction with police bureaus and OLCC to improve enforcement and regulatory action against establishments that over-serve patrons. Research ways to improve the ability for patrons to travel home safely at locations where access is limited.
How much should Vision Zero address alcohol? Guest writer A.J. Zelada explored this question in a memorable guest post here last year. As we reported last year, the state tracks the drinking establishments that drunk drivers came from, and a handful of businesses show up on it year after year.
Work with the police department and government relations to gain legislative authority to use fixed speed cameras and other automated safety laws that does not require using scarce law enforcement resources and takes out subjective nature of enforcement by individual police oficers. Allow advance warnings to the public upon installment, so that people actually slow down. Design program to be revenue neutral and/or designate any net revenue for further investment in safety and not in general funds. Build on the results of automated enforcement programs to expand safety laws statewide, and thus a greater expectation of safe driving at any time.
The City of Portland is currently trying to get state permission to do this on its 10 high-crash corridors. This paragraph adds some detail about exactly how such programs might work.
Build an anti-speeding campaign that frames speeding in the same context as drunk driving. A visual campaign aimed at drivers, via signs on buildings, bus banners, billboards, that calls out speeding as a dangerous and irresponsible behavior. Use infographics that show the impact of speed on pedestrians survival rates. Stress the danger of what driving five mph over the posted speed limit can to do to a struck pedestrian.
This would certainly be a major change to social norms here in the U.S. But if any state could do it, maybe it’d be Oregon.
The report also appends a draft Vision Zero policy statement that cities, counties and other agencies can approve. (“We believe no one should die or be seriously injured on the City of_______’s road network and we can build a road network that is the safest network in the world.”) And it includes a sample pledge that residents, politicians or other leaders might be asked to sign, promising to do their personal part to improve safety. (It includes an amusingly Portland-specific touch: “I will not yield the right of way to another when doing so is not required and may be confusing or dangerous.”)
Sadowsky said on Monday that Clackamas County has already become the first county in the state to pass a Vision Zero policy at the commission level. At Sadowsky’s mention of that victory, Clackamas County Engineer Joe Marek, who wrote the policy, raised a fist and let out a whoop.
“If we can do it in Clackamas County, we can do it in any community in the state,” Sadowsky said. “It’s not rocket science. It’s explainable.”
The post Bike/walk advocates unveil plan for Oregon to zero out road deaths appeared first on BikePortland.org.
A local blogger speaking at today’s press conference.(Photo by Caesar Ursic)
Today we officially launched the Portland Bike Theft Task Force.
It’s been quite a journey to get to this point…
Regular BikePortlanders know we’ve been documenting this city’s bike theft problem for almost 10 years. Who remembers our May 2005 story, Bike theft: What should we do about it? Yes, we’ve been frustrated by this issue for nearly a decade now.
That’s why today felt so good. We actually took another big step toward doing something about it.
Back in October, following a meeting with Mayor Charlie Hales and Portland Police Bureau Chief Larry O’Dea, we decided enough is enough and began a concerted effort to raise the profile of the issue using the most powerful tool I could think of: this blog.
We started publishing the Bike Theft Chronicles to highlight the absurd, helpless, brazen, tragic, and outrageous stories we hear on almost a weekly basis. After meeting a Portland Police Bureau office who was just as frustrated as we were, we declared battle against bike theft.
Then we went offline and hosted a community summit that brought everyone to the table. That summit helped cement our partnership with the Police Bureau and ultimately led to creation of the Bike Theft Task Force.
At the press conference today, I stood on the steps of City Hall, feeling very proud to be a part of this effort, while I listened to Chief O’Dea say the following words (emphases mine):“I am challenging the community to come up with a plan that will reduce reported bike thefts by 50% in 5 years.” PPB Chief Larry O’Dea.(Photo: Portland Police Bureau)
“The level of frustration around this issue is at an all-time high. We’re hearing from the community and from our officers on the street that thieves are becoming more brazen by the day. City-issued bicycle racks have been sawed through with power tools and people are having bicycles taken right off their car racks and porches.
This cannot continue. Portland is a cycling city. Thousands of people depend on their bicycles every single day to get them to work, the store, school, and so on.
Today is the day we as a community get organized to address this problem head-on.
On that note, I am issuing a challenge: I am challenging the community to come up with a plan that will reduce reported bike thefts by 50% in 5 years.”
Here’s another excerpt from O’Dea’s remarks that are important to me:
“While the bureau will host the Task Force, I want to make it clear that this has been community-driven effort from the start and it will continue to be an equal partnership with the public.”
This isn’t the PPB’s task force. It’s our task force.
As for the challenge, standing on the steps with me today was an impressive show of force that gives me confidence we can meet it: Assistant Chief Bob Day, PPB Commander Sara Westbrook, Sgt. Mike Leasure, and Officers David Sanders and David Bryant from Central Precinct, PBOT Director Leah Treat, Danielle Booth from PBOT’s Active Transportation Division, Project 529 CEO J Allard, BikeIndex.org’s Co-owner Bryan Hance, and others.
The Core Team of the task force includes myself, Sanders, Bryant, Booth, Allard, and Hance. In the next month we will develop a plan to give us a clear strategy to tackle bike theft in Portland from all the angles. Broadly speaking, our effort will focus on prevention, enforcement, education, and collaboration. Don’t be fooled by today’s media coverage, our effort goes way beyond just another city website with a bunch of how-tos and tips. We have some awesome things up our sleeves and we can’t wait to work on them with you.
And I mean you.
As the Chief said, this is a community challenge and this is not your typical bureaucratic task force (I wouldn’t be on it if it was). Working with volunteers (like you!) who want to help fight bike theft is one of our top priorities.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us reach this point. I’ve spent nearly 10 years documenting this problem and I’m really looking forward to documenting the solutions.
Feel free to ask me questions in the comments. And stay tuned!
— For more on today’s press conference, check out all the local media coverage, photos from the PPB, a statement from Mayor Hales, the new Bike Theft Task Force page on the PPB website, and PBOT’s new page full of resources at tips at EndBikeTheft.org.
The post Bike Theft Task Force launched: Now let’s get to work! appeared first on BikePortland.org.
Qualcomm and Arup recently published a report on their vision for the future of connected cities. We spoke to Chris Luebkeman, Arup Fellow and Global Director of Foresight, Research and Innovation, and Qualcomm's Kiva Allgood to learn more.
The eight-minute elevated, driverless tram costs twice as much as the AirBus shuttle it replaced, which riders aren't happy about, but you wouldn't know it from the ridership numbers. The new connector service opened just over four months ago.
The community was long known as predominantly Greek and Italian, but tensions existed with the African-American community. As whites moved to the suburbs, they were replaced with a "poly-glot mix" without the tensions. Next challenge: gentrification.
National tables from the 2013 American Household Survey (AHS) are now public.
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The side-street bikeways are known in Portland as neighborhood greenways to capture their appeal as places to walk, jog, shoot hoops and so on. But the City of Portland’s project shows that six — inner SE Clinton, SE Lincoln near 53rd, NE Tillamook near Grant High School, SE 86th near Powell, inner Northwest Johnson and upper NW 24th — clearly fail national standards for auto counts on bike boulevards.
The national standard, created by Portland and other cities in the form of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, says “bicycle boulevards should be designed for motor vehicle volumes under 1,500 vehicles per day, with up to 3,000 vpd allowed in limited sections of a bicycle boulevard corridor.”
More than 10 percent of counts on the Clinton and Lincoln/Harrison greenways between 2006 and 2014 cross that red line, as well as about eight percent of counts on Tillamook.
Most of the Clinton and Lincoln/Harrison routes don’t even make it into the green zone. Less than half of their motor vehicle counts were below 1,500.(Maps and charts via Portland Bureau of Transportation. Click to enlarge.)
As for Northwest Portland’s small network of greenways, high-traffic stretches on 24th and on Johnson mean that 10 percent of counts in the entire quadrant exceed 3,000.
Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller presented the findings Monday at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit, noting that the system included points with “higher-than desired traffic volumes pretty much across the board.”The orange line, 1,000 motor vehicles per day, is Portland’s internal target maximum for auto trips on neighborhood greenways.
He described inner Southeast and Northwest as “a real problem area” for neighborhood greenways.
The study also found high traffic on much of the 130s neighborhood greenway, which hasn’t yet been built. Geller said those stretches are likely to get bike lanes instead.
The data also showed some clear bright spots. Every single auto count on the North Portland, Going, Holman and Salmon/Taylor greenways measured fewer than 1,500 motor vehicles per day. That’s thanks in some cases to traffic diverters that make the streets impassible to cut-through auto traffic while still allowing local car access.Probably the city’s most beautiful traffic diverter, the Holman Street pocket park allows through bike and foot traffic and lets people drive up to both sides of it, but blocks through car traffic.(Photo: City of Portland)
The city’s findings so far echo concerns from advocacy groups BikeLoudPDX and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance that Southeast Clinton Street in particular is a bikeway in name only and is failing to attract the new bike users necessary for the city to meet its auto reduction goals.
However, Monday’s findings also showed something else: despite those problems, Southeast Clinton Street near 26th Avenue has become as popular a place to bike (at least among the people who currently ride bicycles) as it is to drive.Summer bike counts at Clinton and 26th are some of the highest in the city, and have generally been rising.
That raises a different question: if many people are making do with the sub-par biking conditions on Clinton, is it more important for the city to spend its limited time, money and political capital expanding the greenway network elsewhere?
“Northwest and East Portland are not too happy right now for our greenways, and we could probably be doing better citywide,” Geller said Monday.The city’s recently hired active transportation manager Margi Bradway ordered up this analysis as a way to inform what she hopes will be a public conversation about the most important ways to improve the neighborhood greenway system.(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)
Another major safety issue isn’t addressed by these figures: traffic speed. Portland Active Transportation Division Manager Margi Bradway, who conceived the neighborhood greenway analysis project last fall, said data about auto speeds on neighborhood greenways will be ready for public release in a few days.
Geller said the full neighborhood greenways report might or might not include recommendations for action to Portland City Council. He wasn’t willing to commit Monday to a release date.
“We will have the report in the future,” Geller said. “It’s really complex and there’s a lot of issues to address.”
The post Weak links: City finds traffic hot spots on neighborhood greenway system appeared first on BikePortland.org.
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Pisgah Road near Gunners Lakes Mainline was a wrong turn that turned out right.(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)
Note: Welcome to the first in a series of posts sponsored by 21st Avenue Bicycles. They’ve stepped up help us share more adventure rides. Stay tuned all year as we explore the best backroads and bike-camping spots in Portland and beyond.
There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with finally doing a route that has been in the back of your mind for a few years.
That’s what I did on Sunday by finally connecting dirt roads from Scappoose to the Banks-Vernonia Trail (at Buxton trailhead). In all it was just under 80 miles, with 21 of them on beautiful, often rugged, and remote backroads that I’m still day-dreaming about. Here’s how it went down…Graphic from RideWithGPS. Get the GPS track and other details here.
Ever since I first hopped onto Bacona Road during the inaugural Bullshit 100 I’ve been wondering if I could ride logging roads all the way from the Banks-Vernonia Trail to Highway 30. With a bit of familiarity with the western portion, and a few explorations of Tupper Ranch Road (near Otto Miller) on the east side of this route, I felt pretty good about my chances of making the connection.
I didn’t do much planning at all for the ride. Thanks to RideWithGPS and my phone, I just woke up on Sunday, pulled up the map on my computer, created a route, made sure it was synced with my iPhone app (I use my phone as my GPS device ever since thieves stole my Garmin!), and set off. I know from my experiences in Columbia County that these areas are all owned by private timber companies. If you stay on the main (named) roads you can pretty much guarantee passage.
My loop started with 12 miles northbound on Highway 30 to Scappoose. I know “Dirty 30″ has a bad reputation (deservedly so), but on a Sunday morning it’s really not that bad; especially when you get north of the Sauvie Island Bridge. It’s a wide bike lane the entire way.Highway 30 entering Scappoose.
Just before reaching downtown Scappoose, I hung a left to catch Old Portland Road, then went left again on Dutch Canyon Road. This is where the loop turns westward and the ride really begins. Dutch Canyon is a popular road mostly because it’s how you reach the base of Otto Miller — a legendary local gravel climb. It’s also a favorite because it’s quiet and curvaceous and it clings to a small ridge that looks out over an idyllic valley of old, working farms.Caution.
You’ve only got about four miles on Dutch Canyon before you come to your first locked gate. Don’t be deterred by a “Private Property: Keep out” sign taped to the gate. I’m sure that was put there by local residents. Fact is, this land is owned by a private timber company and public access is allowed.
Just beyond that first gate, you are in for a treat. For a mile or so I couldn’t tell what was louder, the sound of gravel crushing under my tires or South Scappoose Creek, which was rushing along just a few feet from them. What a magical section of road! I was dwarfed by birch tree groves of red alder and water was trickling over rocks around every corner.
Then it was time to climb. Just 1.5 miles past the gate and that perfect double-track, the road leaves the comfort of the creek and turns skyward for a steep, four-mile, 1,500-foot climb. A climb like that would be hard enough of smooth pavement, but the road here is full of embedded rocks and loose gravel. To me, it leads to that exhilarating challenge of weight balance, a smooth pedal stroke, and aerobic capacity — everything I love about a good, dirt climb.Time to climb.
About five miles after the gate you come a junction with Pisgah Home Road. This is nearly the highest point of the ride at just about 2,000 feet above see level. I had lunch next to a vast clear-cut while looking west toward the coast range.Lunch spot. Notice the thick gravel. You really never know what conditions will be like in active logging areas. Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams over my shoulder.
After coming to Pisgah Home Road, the next 10 miles are full of descents that left me smiling to myself. I was having so much fun that a few miles into it I made a wrong turn. I veered right and headed downhill toward Gunners Lakes. Usually a two-mile mistake would be annoying, but turns out Gunners Lakes is something worth seeing. Imagine rolling up to a series of ponds interconnected by wide waterfalls and dotted with birch trees, ferns, and bright yellow skunk cabbage.Was having so much fun on the downhills… … I made a wrong turn (red line). Ponds above Gunners Lakes.
Getting back on track I headed southwest on Bacona Road and began the descent down to the Banks-Vernonia Trail. A highlight of this route is the 10-miles of screaming fast and fun descending from the highest point (2,100) to the B-V’s Buxton trailhead. This was the best gravel road descents I’ve done in years. I was absolutely loving my 40 mm WTB Nano tires and tubeless rims (thanks 21st Avenue Bicycles) as I leaned into corners and just let the bike float over everything while I pedaled a big gear and hung on to my drops for dear life.Skinny road tires not advised. The Coast Range (and so many more roads to explore) in the distance. The tree-lined Banks-Vernonia Trail is a nice transition from the backwoods into civilization.
After I rejoined civilization on the B-V Trail, I still had about 35 miles and one last big climb (Springville Road) to go. Besides dreaming of food and a drink when I got home, I used that time in the saddle to re-live those beautiful backroads and to start dreaming up the next adventure.
— Check out the route on RideWithGPS.com. And stay tuned for more adventure riding stories, including a closer look at my new Salsa Vaya. Built up with the expertise of the crew at 21st Avenue Bicycles, it’s the perfect bike for rides like this..
The post The Ride: Scappoose to the Banks-Vernonia Trail via logging roads appeared first on BikePortland.org.
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