Portland Gets a Cycle Track, and All That Comes With It

In Portland, Oregon, already one of America’s best cycling cities, a new amenity was unveiled this past weekend: a cycle track, or physically separated bike lane, near Portland State University. For several blocks, it provides a protected place for bikers to ride — by taking a lane from motor vehicle traffic and changing the place where cars are supposed to park.

But as Bike Portland‘s Jonathan Maus notes in a post on the unveiling ceremony, negative feedback is threatening to drown out positive reaction. It’s a scenario all too familiar to New Yorkers:

cycletrack_big.jpgPortland’s new (and first-ever) cycle track has been installed on SW Broadway near Portland State University. Photo © J. Maus.

[S]ome local TV reports…seem to want to turn this into the latest front in the battle of "cars vs. bikes." One report, by Anne Yeager on KGW-TV
seemed to actually encourage negative feedback when she said on their
6:00 newscast: "If you love the idea, that’s great — but if you don’t,
contact the mayor’s office."


On other local media websites, the comments are flying in. The majority of them that I’ve read are negative. There are all the usual concerns that bikes are getting a free ride, that cars are being
relegated to the margins, that the city is going insane, and so on.

The Oregonian’s coverage led to so many thoughtfully negative comments that reporter Joe Rose decided to post another story on his Hard Drive blog to stick up for the project. Rose dusted off the old “Green Dividend” study by Portland economist Joe Cortright (which shows that our region saves $2.6 billion annually because we drive fewer miles on average).

Even here on BikePortland, several commenters are staunchly opposed to the project.

To combat concerns and negative feedback, the City stresses that this is nothing more than an "experiment." I wonder though, what would happen if they heard more negative than positive feedback on their experiment? Is the City losing the PR battle on this one?

So what do you think? Are cycle tracks worth the backlash they sometimes inspire? Will they ever become common enough — as they are in many European cities — that they will be widely accepted, and respected, by users of all different modes? Or are you one of the people who opposes physically segregated bicycle facilities altogether?

More coverage of the cycle track can be found at Portland Transport, which hails it as the harbinger of "the second era of Portland bicycling infrastructure." Lots of interesting comments there as well.

A related post from the Streetsblog Network today: the FABB Blog links to a report that says local governments should do a better job of providing bicycle infrastructure to help prevent childhood obesity.

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