The Portland Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee's Priorities for 2023:
On our December 12, 2022 meeting the Portland Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee voted to adopt these Priorities for 2023.
We identified two Major priorities & a small host of supporting initiatives & policies.
Firstly, We believe above all, it is necessary to reinstate the position of Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator. This position would oversee and coordinate the effort to make Portland’s transportation infrastructure equitable and consistent for all; historically this has been a revenue positive position based on the salary structure and amount of grant monies obtained. Our proposal for this position can be found here. While existing city staff should be commended on their hard work in this area, we need to dedicate more resources to get results. Delays & continued dangerous traffic patterns cost lives, and delay transitioning to a more sustainable and equitable city.
Secondly, the City Council should advance the following policies that support safety for vulnerable road users:
Adopt the Vision Zero plan
Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) is currently undertaking a regional initiative to eliminate all road fatalities and will begin providing support for municipalities to adopt their own plan. A Vision Zero plan is a commitment by Portland to redesign our transportation network to eliminate fatalities and in doing so, opens up numerous opportunities for federal funding to accomplish these goals.
Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is an approach that promotes walking and bicycling to school through infrastructure improvements, enforcement, tools, safety education and incentives to encourage walking and bicycling to school. Children who walk or bike to school are healthier, focus better during the school day, and have a better sense of their local geography and community, all while reducing carbon emissions and. Nationally, 10%–14% of car trips during morning rush hour are for school travel. Sidewalks and streets that make up walking and cycling routes to schools should be prioritized for safety upgrades and traffic enforcement.
Other initiatives. Many of these initiatives could be said to be the job description for a Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator and are of very high priority on our list of things to advocate for. Others should be taken up by the Portland City Council.
Begin redesigning all Portland’s Arterial roads so that they can serve the needs of all users & not just those in cars and especially so that they don’t prevent anyone from using active modes of transportation.
Complete the redesign of Brighton Avenue Arterial Road, incorporating grade separated bike lanes & traffic calming throughout. A project which began in 2020, the redesign of the entirety of Brighton Ave has seemed to fall by the wayside. We request this project be resurrected as Brighton is a vital corridor in and out of Portland.
Implement the Franklin Street Plan, bringing the design up to current best practices regarding bicycle facilities. In 2015, a feasibility study was completed recommending Franklin Street return to a more traditional urban street. Unfortunately, this plan has been placed on the shelves and is due to be revisited to better connect the peninsula.
Restore Streets to two way travel, such as Park Avenue/Congress Street and High Street/State Street.
Begin planning for a multi modal corridor along outer Congress Street, from 295 to Westbrook and South Portland. This corridor is essential to travel in and out of the city and has significant segments with zero accommodations for bicyclists or pedestrians.
Implement the Better Bikeway Initiatives Pilot Project. In early 2022, the City performed extensive outreach to Portland bicyclists on locations they would like high-quality bicycling infrastructure implemented through the Better Bikeways Initiative project. Through these results, the city developed pilot projects to be implemented in Summer 2022, however, due to staffing & material constraints, these were not implemented. We urge Portland to prioritize implementing this pilot project in Summer 2023 so data and feedback can begin to be collected.
Sidewalk Snow Removal: Increase the capacity of the Parks, Recreation & Facilities Department so they can consistently clear the sidewalks and multi-use trails they are responsible for within 18 hours of snowfall. This is the same standard the city requires of residential abutters. Parks staff have shown a commitment to clearing Portland’s sidewalks as effectively as they can, however, equipment and staffing shortages cause the department to fall short of the time frame required of residential abutters. More information regarding our proposal can be found in this letter.
Close the gaps in the city’s sidewalk, multi use path and bike lane network. This could be a project led by a new Bicycle & Pedestrian coordinator. Some examples include:
The need for a continuous bike lane along York Street from downtown to the Casco Bay Bridge, eliminating sudden & dangerous uphill pinch points.
Connect the West Commercial Street path to downtown, or at least sign the beginning/end so it’s clear that it’s a multi-use path open to cyclists & what you should do while approaching downtown.
Address "sudden bicycle lane disappearance" in intersections.
Permanently close sections of streets to private automobiles, such as Baxter Boulevard from Vannah Avenue to Payson Park.
Support removing redundant I-295 exit ramps, such as those at Exit 5. These redundant ramps not only create high speed conflict areas between drivers and vulnerable road users, but also take up valuable land that could be utilized for other purposes.
Develop a plan to increase revenue from public parking & private parking lots, such as the plan we presented along with Livable Portland in April of 2022
Provide Bicycle & Pedestrian safety education in Portland Public Schools.
Implement short term experimental traffic calming measures. The committee is in support of temporary demonstrations, such as the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s “Imagine People Here” campaign, to test traffic calming mechanisms and improve safety and access for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Create a Technical Manual Standard for widening sidewalks and narrowing streets. Some streets appear to be excessively wide with very little of the available on-street parking being utilized, but too often the reason behind these streets not being narrowed is due to storm drainage. We request the city research and develop a standard for accommodating these storm drains, such as “reverse bump-outs” used in other cities.
Expand transit frequency & time of service. Infrequent service is one of the largest obstacles to participation in public transit for most people. Missing the bus can cause a person to lose their job with infrequent service, and takes an enormous amount of precise planning to use properly. With frequent enough service, a rider can just go to a bus stop & wait 5-10 minutes, without having to memorize an erratic schedule. Using public transit should be more reliable & less stressful than driving.
Consolidate regional transportation agencies. They don’t seem to be able to make changes or compromises efficiently in their current forms.
Reduce or eliminate fares for public transit, either system wide or on specific routes.
Expand the sidewalk network so it serves all METRO routes. Some bus routes, such as the 5 and 9A/9B, have segments of the route on the outskirts of the city that are lacking in pedestrian infrastructure and host bus stops that are no more than a private driveway or front yard. All transit users are pedestrians or bicyclists at some point in their trip, so we believe a sidewalk network along all METRO routes provides a safe and dignified public transit experience for all users.
Formalize & fund snow clearing at METRO Stops. Currently, METRO stops are shoveled by neighborhood volunteers through the Adopt-A-Stop program. Including METRO stops in the city’s sidewalk snow clearing plan ensures this important task gets done, and re-affirms the city’s commitment to an equitable transportation network.