Over the past several weeks I have been working with city leaders from the business and freight communities as well as transportation officials at the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The topic of conversation is around some exciting new improvements to NW Broadway, including a proposal first identified by the city as a component of last year’s Pearl District Access and Circulation Plan. The planned project includes:
- Widen existing bicycle lane from 5′ to a 10’ buffered lane
- Widen travel lanes from 9.5’ to 11’
- Improve the turning radius at the Lovejoy-Broadway intersection.
In other words, by simply repainting the lanes on the ramp to match the lanes on NW Broadway from Hoyt to Burnside, we can dedicate more space to people on bicycles while providing wider travel lanes for cars and trucks. This project is small but important, and it serves as a fantastic example of the kind of collaboration we should strive for as we rebuild and maintain our transportation system.
We wanted to help make sure this was a winning idea, so one of the first things I did was speak with BTA Board Member Lanny Gower. Lanny works at Con-Way Freight and serves on the Oregon Trucking Association’s Policy Committee. He also rides his tandem bike to work everyday and is committed to safety on the roadway, regardless of how you travel. He helped us work “across the aisle,” so to speak, and engage with the right stakeholders to make sure that in addition to building a safer bike facility, this project benefits truck drivers who need to travel on this stretch of street.
Lanny’s help, and the support of other freight stakeholders allowed us to grow the understanding of, and support for, these improvements. Before we gave a presentation about the project to Portland’s Freight Advisory Committee on May 2nd, we engaged a handful of freight advocates who made it easier for us to come to a common understanding about the benefits of the project.
Today, even though there are certainly differing opinions about the value of this project, we should have the support we need to go forward and improve the street. In the community of Portlanders who are actively engaged on bicycle issues there is a consistent argument that we need/lack political leadership to make these types of improvements. Clearly political leaders have a role to play, but the argument that our fate lies in their hands is false. As people who ride bikes it is our job to become more savvy in our approach to building and wielding support for the issues we care about. It is our job to go out into our community and make it easy for elected leaders to say yes.
In the case of NW Broadway we are strongly in support of the wider, more comfortable, and safer bike lane. We also appreciate that our friends who drive trucks (including my uncle who is an owner-operator with Watkins Shepard) have a little more room to deliver goods downtown. When we can find opportunities to work together, even when the conversation is hard, we should be leading the way. I believe we call it the Oregon Way.