November 13, 2010

Cars --> Bike Paths --> Greenways

Great new video up on StreetFilms about the work Portland has done to make city streets more bike friendly, and the work Portland is doing to move beyond bike paths and sharrows to a more holistic "greenway."

Design touches of note are the way city planners have used curb extensions and road medians to create stormwater treatments sites. The idea is to prevent rainwater--which carries oil residues and particles from brake pads, tires, etc--from draining directly into creeks and streams. Instead, a median has a planted bed flush with the asphalt surrounding it, and the curb border has strategic cuts to allow in the rainwater. A mix of hardy native plants able to withstand some heavy metals, and layers of soil, sand, and gravel filter the water as it re-enters aquifers and groundwater supplies--rather than flow directly into the local creek or stream. Depending on the watershed, aquifers will recharge streams, or streams will recharge aquifers, though usually there's some sort of dynamic equilibrium.

Now: I think Oakland should be taking notes. The residential blocks for lots of Oakland look similar to areas in the Portland video above, additionally, Oakland has a large population segment that would benefit from a reduction in automobile dependency. From a social justice point of view, biking would mitigate pollution, obesity, and the cost of transit and car ownership. Granted, much pollution comes from trucks and boats bound for the port, and from highways precariously close to dwellings, but still--a move in the right direction. The median project would be a great way to add more green into a chronically gray city. Medians also create pedestrian refuges, which would make MLK Blvd, Shattuck, and Telegraph much easier to cross.

Getting all of this going would require a robust bicycle education component to accompany any infrastructure improvements. K-12 collaboration with parents and city leaders, the works. More on that topic in a future post.

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