Bikeways for Bottom Lines: The Portland experience
Not long ago, in the dark days of auto-only transportation planning, a property manager that urged the city to eliminate two auto lanes adjacent to its planned 650-apartment complex might have been judged completely insane.
But that’s exactly what just happened here in Portland—and the result is the city’s newest separated bikeway, backed by a coalition of nearby businesses in Portland’s job-rich Lloyd District that, for various reasons, saw green lanes as better for their bottom line than auto lanes. …
The reason was simple: Landlords decided that the financial advantages of converting the roads to bikeways outweighed the financial disadvantages of reducing auto capacity.
“Multnomah was an underutilized street,” said Wade Lange, vice president of property management for Langley Investment Properties, a real estate firm that does big business in the area. “I’d stand out there at 8:10 in the morning and I wouldn’t see a car east or west.” (Map here.)
All that empty pavement invited many drivers to hit the gas, blazing through the commercial district at 45 mph or more.
So Lange’s firm, which had blocked bike improvements on nearby Holladay Street as part of its work on a 650-unit apartment proposal and a major new convention center hotel, embraced the green lane plan on Multnomah, one block north.
“It’s about visibility – if you’re driving by at 35 mph in a car, with basically a tree barrier in front of any retail spaces that exist, you’re not going to stop,” said Lange. “But you slow the traffic down, you do the landscaping and you get more people walking on the streets, and suddenly the retail exists.”
For neighboring properties, that’s where the separated bike lanes came in: As a way to build a coalition that would support a traffic-calming project.
“It just becomes a more active street than it ever was before,” Lange said. “A place where pedestrians want to spend their time.”