As BikePortland.org reported over a month ago, the City of Portland is considering installing a new cycle track on SW 12th Avenue in downtown Portland. The BTA strongly supports the project, which is in the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 and could help create a more complete network of safe bicycle facilities in our urban core. SW 12th is one of the BTA’s priorities for new, safer bike facilities downtown, along with even more centrally located streets like the northbound SW 4th Ave.
The BTA is advocating for a cycle track on SW 12th Avenue, which currently has three standard auto lanes and two parking lanes.
Unfortunately, there is already strong opposition to the project and a loud voice asking that the city should look elsewhere when considering safer bike facilities. On April 12th, a group of business owners sent a letter opposing the project and asking for more analysis of the transportation environment before moving forward. Specifically, the letter lists a series of “impacts” that they perceive a new cycle track would create on automobile traffic in the area.
Their message is clear: they don’t want to see safer bike facilities on SW 12th.
On April 26th, the Portland Business Alliance sent their own letter opposing the project. This one went one step further, actually calling into question the existing bike facilities in downtown. Here is a choice quote from the letter;
Whether SW 12th Avenue would be a meaningful addition to the city’s bicycle network is a very legitimate question to still be evaluated. We urge the city to slow the process down and not move forward with a decision until a broader stakeholder conversation has been had and the proposal has been looked at through a more comprehensive planning process. With regard to the Stark and Oak bicycle buffer lanes and the Broadway Cycle Track, as well as any other demonstration program, we would like to see a follow-up process that includes an evaluation and a sunset-review date. While research and outreach was made on the existing bicycle buffer lanes and Cycle Track, we are concerned that the evaluation was left without a broader process of stakeholders to determine whether or not these demonstration projects should remain in place.
SW 12th is a critical north-south connector street through downtown Portland, serving businesses, shops, restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters, food cart pods, and offices. By investing in projects like buffered bike lanes, green bike boxes, and bike corrals (such as the one pictured above on SW Stark between 10th and 11th), the city has made it easier and safer for people to get to these destinations on bike. Portland’s innovation has inspired cities around the country to redesign their own urban streets to better serve people on all modes of transportation. Cycle tracks are a staple of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030, and they will make it even safer for people of all ages who want to ride bikes downtown.
As we learned during the process around the North Williams safety and operations project, an effective public process is one that transparent, empowering, and inclusive. As a matter of how we design and build transportation facilities in Portland, it makes sense to conduct a thorough review of the benefits and burdens the project will create. The BTA welcomes the opportunity to work with the city and local businesses through a comprehensive process. We feel confident that most of the concerns raised in the letters can be addressed.
The path forward for a new cycle track on SW 12th is not yet clear, but one thing is. Now is the time to make our voice heard. Now is the time, early in the discussion, to speak up in support of safe and accessible bike facilities.
Speak your voice: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know that you support a cycle track on SW 12th. While you’re at it, let him know that you would hate to see the removal of projects like our buffered bike lanes on SW Oak and SW Stark and the experimental cycle track on SW Broadway. In fact, we want to see improvements to these projects so that they work for both people riding a bicycle or a motor vehicle.
If we are going to build a transportation system that accommodates everyone from age 8 to 80 years old, we are going to have to build more cycle tracks. Lots more. If the City of Portland really wants to be a partner in the new Green Lane Project, they should listen to people who ride bikes when we make our request.