Over the last few months, the protected bike lane project on Portland's Multnomah Street has been quietly becoming more or less the transportation project of any city's dreams.
Perhaps surprisingly for the country's most bike-friendly large city, Portland hasn't been a national leader in creating protected bike lanes, adding just one such facility during their two-year stint with the Green Lane Project. (Another is on the way in 2014.)
But what a success this one project has been.
As recently as last May, it seemed like a bizarre choice when WalkScore.com tapped the office-buildings-and-parking lots Lloyd District, home to the half-mile Multnomah Street project, as the best neighborhood for biking in the country's bike-friendliest big city.
There was even a bit of local bike-culture folklore about the area's poor connectivity: "avoid the Lloyd," experienced Portland bikers have advised new riders for years.
Seven months later, it's looking as if the Bike Score folks were on to something. Here's what's has happened along Multnomah since the city converted two general travel lanes to parking- and post-protected bike lanes:
- Bike ridership on the new protected bike lanes jumped 15 percent in their first year.
- The new owners of the city's largest shopping mall began planning a redesign to replace a 50-year-old parking garage with a new "grand entrance" to the mall facing the redesigned Multnomah Street.
- The CEO of a major local landowner announced plans to redevelop 16 city blocks in the area, something that would fulfil the 80-year-old vision of the district's creator to create a "second downtown" on Portland's east side.
- The same developer announced that its first phase, a 657-apartment project now in construction, will include the largest bike parking project in North America: a 1,200-space system that far exceeds the city code requirements for bike parking.
Did a pair of protected bike lanes singlehandedly create all these investments? Of course not. But everyone in the neighborhood, including the developers betting tens of millions on the neighborhood's future, seems to agree that the key to maximizing the value of the Multnomah corridor is to create a pleasant environment for spending time on the street.
That's something something that Multnomah couldn't do when it was an underused four-lane automotive thoroughfare. But the protected bike lanes fixed that, improving local access while reducing auto speeds and buffering the sidewalks from moving traffic.
"Being on the crossroads of the Streetcar and the MAX line, we have bike traffic traveling down 7th and bike traffic traveling down Multnomah, and putting in a pedestrian street" through the middle of the development, architect Kyle Andersen said in an interview with BikePortland about the new project, called Hassalo on Eighth. "You can imagine bikes riding down that and people walking. It's just a hub of activity."
That was exactly the city's goal, Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera said in an interview Tuesday.
"We think making complete streets that make it safe for people to bike, walk or take transit enables this sort of development to occur," Rivera said. "And will hopefully promote more of this sort of development in the future."
The Green Lane Project is a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write firstname.lastname@example.org.