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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 1331, Portland, OR 97204

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Tracking our progress: bicycling

This week we provide a snapshot of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) Active Transportation Division’s work in 2012. The next post will focus on our partnerships.

Portlanders who live in neighborhoods with safe and convenient bicycle facilities are more likely to choose the bicycle as an option for their daily trips. The Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 identifies the bicycle as a preferred mode to single occupancy vehicles for trips three miles and under. Biking to work, school, and to meet daily needs, improves air quality and cardiovascular health while decreasing the risk of obesity and heart disease. The Active Transportation Division’s coordinates the planning, outreach, funding and implementation of bicycle projects.

2012 Bicycle Projects
Bicycling is one of the most cost effective ways for Portland to manage its increasing travel demand.  Improvements to bike facilities and increasing bicycle network connectivity are two key ways to make biking more attractive to residents. 

Key to increasing the number of Portlanders bicycling is creating comfortable, direct routes for people less comfortable bicycling near automobiles. While Portland’s growing network of neighborhood greenways provide low-traffic, low-speed bike connections on local streets, destinations in many of our commercial and employment centers require bikeways on higher trafficked streets.

PBOT employs buffered bicycle lanes and separated bicycle lanes (also known as cycletracks) to provide a more protected and comfortable space for cyclists than a conventional bike lane. Portland now has 7.25 center line miles of these enhanced bike lanes with 2.3 center line miles of physically separated lanes. In 2012 projects PBOT added separated or buffered bikeways to NW 16th Avenue between NW Thurman and NW Lovejoy, NE Multnomah between 1st and 15th avenues: the eastbound lane of the Hawthorne Bridge viaduct, SW Barbur Boulevard between Caruthers and Sheridan, the northbound lane of the NE 12th Avenue Overcrossing between NE Irving Street and NE Lloyd Boulevard, and improvements to the SW Stark and Oak Green Lanes.

Some other the key bike projects that PBOT built in 2012 include:

  • The Going to the River project, a multi-modal and demand management project in North and Northeast Portland that expanded the active transportation network by 2.8 miles and connects to Swan Island, one of the region’s largest work force centers.
  • The 80’s neighborhood greenway, a low-stress, low-traffic route that parallels SE 82nd Ave from SE Flavel to SE Powell Blvd that connects directly to several parks, schools, and business districts.

Safe Routes to School
Finding opportunities for youth to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives looms as significant health and economic challenge for the country.  Portland is making significant strides towards “thriving, educated youth” as the Portland Plan calls for, by building a safe active transportation network and successfully encouraging students and their families to use it.  Last year's surveys of more than 2,000 parents at 50 schools showed that more than 43% of student trips to school are by walking and bicycling.  Walking trips make up 33% of student trips to school and bicycling accounts for over 10% of student trips - more than 10 times higher than the national average (1%).

American Community Survey
In 2011 (2012 data is not yet available), Portland’s bicycle commute modes share increased to 6.3% of the all commute trips in the city (see, Chart 1), up from 6% in 2010 and 1.8% in 2000.  The Portland Plan calls for bicycle trips to make up 25% of all commute trips by 2035. 

Chart of Portland ACS Commute Split Data

Portland Bicycle Count Report
Each year since the early 1990s, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has counted bicycle trips at various locations throughout the city. The majority of these counts have been conducted manually by volunteer counters and City staff standing at street corners and on bridges during the two-hour rush (“peak period”) counting bicycles that pass. In addition to the overall number of trips, PBOT also records the gender of each person and whether they are wearing a helmet.

Most counts are still conducted in this manner, though in the early 2000s PBOT added a number of 24-hour automated "hose" counts (pressure-sensitive pneumatic hoses) on some bridges and trails. These counts, while they do not record gender or helmet use, provide a more precise record of the ebb and flow of bicycle traffic over 24-hour periods. In August of 2012 Cycle Oregon donated to the City of Portland an automated 24-hour bicycle counter to the deck of the Hawthorne Bridge. This counter, known as a “bike barometer,” records bicycle activity every day and around the clock.

The 2012 count demonstrates a continuation of the two-decade upward trend of bicycle use in Portland. Of 150 locations that were counted in both 2011 and 2012 (including four of the bicycle-friendly Willamette River bridges and trails), 67 locations showed a decrease compared to 2011 while 79 locations showed an increase (and four locations showed no change).  Overall, bicycle use increased approximately three percent compared to 2011. The split of male to female cyclists also remained essentially steady since 2003, with 69 percent of cyclists identified as male. 

The table below compares the 2012 bike counts to both 2000-01 and 2011 count locations.

Non-bridge bike counts since 2000-01 and 2011

The complete 2012 Portland Bicycle Count Report can be found here.

See the 2012 recap of the Active Transportation Division’s safety work here.

Read the other progress in our 2012 recap series:
2012 Progress Report: Safety
2012 Progress Report: Partnerships