New bike infrastructure!

Sometimes, a bike route I take a lot falls out of practice for me. Generally, it’s because I stop doing something that I have been doing, like when I graduated from school and stopped going to SW Portland as much, or when I stopped teaching Bike Club and thus stopped biking to various Portland elementary schools.

Bike routes come and go as life changes, I suppose, but one of my favorite things ever is to retrace a well-worn but neglected route and find new and exciting things along it. That’s what happened this weekend when I took a class up in St Johns about three blocks away from one of the places I used to teach Bike Club. I rode up a way I used to go very, very often, and found two new exciting things:

1. A way to turn left across N Greely

The first thing I noticed after the long Greely hill was a big orange sign indicating a “new traffic pattern ahead.” Curious, I proceeded up to N Killingsworth instead of turning left on the street before it like I usually do–and discovered that the new traffic pattern wasn’t for cars, it was for bikes: a left turn box.

killingsworth left turn box(check out the new buffered bike lane, too! If you look carefully, you can just barely see the green paint of the left turn box on the ground across the intersection.)

I guess since it’s an unprotected left on a busy street and there’s no particularly good place to wait for a break in the whizzing cars–I guess because of that they’ve put down a “box” which, by virtue of being green and painted, confers upon it the powers of keeping you safe while you wait. I didn’t actually use it, since at 8am on a Sunday there wasn’t any traffic to worry about; consequently, I’m not sure sure why a left turn box is much better than simply doing what I call “the cross-and-cross”–crossing the street twice, like a pedestrian, to make a two-part left turn. I’m not sure that this is a particularly groundbreaking piece of biking infrastructure. Regardless, it’s nice to see that someone was thinking about how to help cyclists safely turn left here.

2. A better bike boulevard

The next thing I noticed was on an old bike boulevard haunt of mine, N Central Street. This street goes by Roosevelt High School and the St Johns Community Center, and it’s also just a block away from James John Elementary School. Sadly, it also used to have some pretty heavy car traffic, making it one of those neighborhood greenways that’s safer in theory than in practice.

But this time, as I was biking along it, I came across this:

n central street(huh! Not a through street anymore!)

Heck yeah! One of the best ways to decrease car traffic on a street (according to my totally anecdotal personal research;) is to make it a street that doesn’t go through anymore. Cyclists and pedestrians still have unfettered access; for drivers the road suddenly becomes less appealing than the nearby arterials. Which hopefully means that it’s a street more in line with what it’s supposed to be: a safe place for all those kiddos and families going to school and the community center. Awesome!

So I was pretty psyched this weekend to find these two little presents from the keep-people-safe fairy. Especially since when I find stuff like this I also imagine that there are comparable improvements going on for many other roads that I don’t generally frequent. Way to go, Portland:)

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