Taking lessons from Portland to world-class bicycling cities

The final two cities on my itinerary are among the best bicycling cities in the world. In Copenhagen, 33% of all trips are made by bicycle, and in Malmö it is also around 30%. In Portland, talk of reaching 25% by 2030 is still occasionally met with rolled eyes.

So imagine my surprise when I was invited by both cities (over the course of two weeks) to present Portland’s experience planning for bicycles. On my first full day in Copenhagen, I gave a presentation to the Traffic Department of the Municipality’s Technical and Environmental Administration. It was mid-week in Malmö when I gave a similar presentation to their Streets and Parks Department. Both audiences were engaged and seemed impressed with the rapid increase in bicycling for transportation in Portland. Still, there is (no doubt) much to learn. But thankfully, we can take lessons from cities like these that have already been around the block a few times (on two wheels).


About Denver Igarta

This blog was established to document my search for streets that my 5-year old can play near without my constant supervision. Where kids can live active lives and learn independence. My quest began when I was selected as an Urban and Regional Policy Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, for info: gmfus.org/cdp/fellowships. I am a multi-modal transportation planner for the City of Portland (OR), America's sustainable transportation capital. SHORT BIO/PROJECT DESCRIPTION Denver Igarta (October-November 2011), Urban Planner, City of Portland Bureau of Transportation Project: Livable Streets Where People Live: Fostering People-Friendly Streets by De-emphasizing Automobile Traffic in Residential Areas Cities: Munich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Malmö Denver Igarta is an urban planner with the Transportation Bureau of the City of Portland. He works on a broad range of transportation policy, street design initiatives and pedestrian, bicycle and freight planning efforts. He recently served as one of the principal authors of Portland's new bicycle plan. He is currently staffing two “active transportation” projects: a rails-with-trails project along the Banfield Freeway and a local street system plan for one of the state's most diverse neighborhoods. He performed his graduate studies at the University of Dortmund, Germany and the University of the Philippines and holds a Master of Science in Regional Development Planning. Portland is struggling to reverse generations of auto-oriented development patterns and make neighborhood streets more “livable” (people-friendly) by restoring their multimodal and placemaking functions. Mr. Igarta's research will evaluate how cities in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden have enacted policies to restore the multiple functions of public streets through traffic management, green infrastructure and giving priority to sustainable travel modes. He will meet with local practitioners, policymakers and civic leaders involved in transportation planning, traffic safety and neighborhood livability projects, street design, and implementation of multi-modal traffic policies. The ultimate aim of the study is to compile a set of best practices and policies implemented in European cities that have broadened the role of residential streets beyond automobile mobility. Additional focus will be given to understanding how acceptable policy tradeoffs are determined within city agencies and the level of public support for measures that restrict car movements, such as reduced speed zones, bicycle streets, shared spaces, residents-only streets and residential parking restrictions.
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3 Responses to Taking lessons from Portland to world-class bicycling cities

  1. Roger Geller says:

    What recommendations did they have for us?

    • There are too many to list here. But if I was to sum it up it would be…
      Lesson 1: separation – it is essential to build bikeway that serve EVERYONE.
      Lesson 2: make it the “smartest” choice – the top two reason Copenhageners cycle are it’s faster (55%) and it’s more convenient (33%). There is agreement in all the cities I visited that it hasn’t worked to only focus on the “push” factors (by forcing people out of their cars). You must employ “pull” factors by making other options more attractive.
      These two cities have have a long history of building cycle tracks as the foundation of their bikeway network – although Malmo has a high proportion of “green” (on- & off-street) routes as well. And, I’m sure they credit the philosophy of separation for their high mode shares. Still, I was surprised that there seemed to be general support for the 2030PBP approach to focus on serving all Portlanders by building bicycle blvds/nbhd greenways with the aim of introducing cycle tracks where possible along the way. But, it is important that improvements on side streets do not eliminate the possibility of improving the main streets in the future. Also, there was a lot of interest in our encouragement programs and efforts to integrate stormwater (green street) infrastructure. I’ll share more on Thursday!

  2. Tom Litster says:

    Good lessons.

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