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Student Research

Bikeability and the Twenty-Minute Neighborhood: How Infrastructure and Destinations Influence Bicycle Accessibility

By Nathan McNeil, MURP graduate (
Year: 2009-2010

This paper explores a methodology for assessing a neighborhood’s bikeability based on its mix of infrastructure and destinations –essentially the 20-minute neighborhood for bicycles.

Background: Dense, well-connected neighborhoods where residents can access services, shopping, transit, restaurants and employment centers without the use of a car are often lauded as an important next step in urban and suburban development. These goals have come up in the aftermath of decades of federally-subsidized automobile and highway-centric planning that encouraged development of cheap land on the periphery of metropolitan areas, tore up existing urban streetcar systems, and disconnected urban neighborhoods with highway projects. Given that much of the current urban landscape was created for the automobile, it is no surprise that most people view the car as a necessity.

However, many places are now embracing the idea that auto-dependent cities are not sustainable from an environmental, economic and national-security standpoint. Efforts to recreate neighborhoods where residents can manage (and want to manage) without cars usually focus on providing transportation options, attracting a diversity of uses (including all essential uses) and attaining a certain threshold of population density within a limited space.

The area of outer east Portland provides an interesting case study of a community largely shaped by the automobile, but struggling to become increasingly urban and decreasingly auto-dependent. Among the goals expressed in the 2009 plan are to improve the area's land use mix by encourage mixed-use development and multi-use commercial areas, to increase the safety and accessibility of bicycling, and to improve connectivity.

This paper explores a methodology for assessing a neighborhood's bikeability based on its mix of infrastructure and destinations – essentially the 20-minute neighborhood for bicycles. The area of outer east Portland, an area east of 82nd Avenue with substantially lower bicycling rates than other Portland neighborhoods, is used as a case study and compared to an assessment of neighborhoods that are considered to be bike-friendly (downtown, inner-east and north Portland). The paper examines prior approaches to assessing bikeability, details a new method to measure bikeability, presents the findings, and explores what impact expected or potential transportation and land use changes might have on bikeability.

Research: The following questions guided the methodology, the sources used for the research, and the questions asked of the data:

What are the places to which people make trips? How often do they visit various types of destinations?

Where are the destinations actually located and how many of them are there?

How large an area can a cyclist cover? Given a starting point, how large an area will a cyclist be able and willing to cover?

How many essential destinations fall within this bicycle service area and how can we use this information to evaluate bikeability?

The focus of the study is on bicycle access and bikeability; however, walkability was also considered to provide a comparison. East Portland serves as the focus of the study, and neighborhoods in inner Portland (downtown, inner east and north Portland) are assessed to provide a comparison.

Findings: In both east Portland and inner Portland, people can get to more destinations and can meet more of their needs by bicycle than on foot.

East Portland has considerably fewer destinations per square mile. The correlation between destination density and bikeability is quite strong in both east and inner Portland.

Lack of access to grocery stores was the largest factor in decreasing bikeability scores in east Portland. Following grocery stores, lack of access to movie theaters, light rail stops, gyms, libraries, restaurants, and cafés all brought down bikeability scores considerably. However, policies that encourage carefully sited new stores or clusters could play an important role in increasing bikeability.

Conclusions: This study's methodology provides steps toward making an objective bikeability score – essentially asking if a place could be considered a 20-minute neighborhood. In its application, the process can be used to explore where planned (or hypothetical) infrastructure may be most helpful and which neighborhoods may not be receiving much added value from the planned improvements. The process can also be used to identify locations where certain kinds of destinations would be most helpful in promoting bikeability. This could be used to inform policies on developing or attracting certain types of destinations and businesses to specific locations or neighborhoods.

Click here for the full report

Bicycle Boulevard Planning & Design Guidebook

Lindsay Walker, MURP graduate
Mike Tresidder & Mia Birk, Alta Planning + Design
Year: 2008-2009

This report is intended to serve as a planning and conceptual design guide for planners, engineers, citizens, advocates, and decision makers who are considering bicycle boulevards in their community. Data for this guide was developed from literature review, case study interviews, and input from a panel of professional experts.

Resident Perceptions of Bike Boulevards: A SE Salmon Street Case Study

Mariah VanZerr, MURP graduate

This project surveyed residents along a Bicycle Boulevard in Portland (SE Salmon Street) to improve understanding of bicycle boulevard designation on existing residential neighborhoods. In particular, the research asked how do residents perceive Bicycle Boulevards in terms of their impacts on community attributes such as home values, sense of community, or quality of life?

Background: Very little is known about the impacts of bicycle boulevard designation on existing residential neighborhoods. For example, how do residents perceive Bicycle Boulevards in terms of their impacts on community attributes such as home values, sense of community, or quality of life? A better understanding of how communities react to bicycle boulevard designation is necessary to help planners successfully improve and expand the bicycle boulevard network within existing communities.

Research: To answer this question, a survey of residents along SE Salmon Street (a Bicycle Boulevard in Portland, Oregon) was conducted. Specific questions that framed the research include:

To what extent did the Bicycle Boulevard designation factor into peoples’ decision to move to SE Salmon Street Street?

Has living on a Bicycle Boulevard encouraged residents to bike more?, and

Do resident perceptions of the positive or negative impact of Bicycle Boulevards vary based on demographic information, length of time living on the street, or home-ownership status?

A total of 253 online survey links were distributed to every residence facing SE Salmon Street between SE 12th Ave and SE 35th Ave. A total of 78 responses were received, and the estimated  population response rate1 was 29 percent, which means we can be 95 percent confident (+/- 10 percent) that the survey results represent the total population of SE Salmon households in the study area.

Findings: The majority of respondents felt that the SE Salmon Bicycle Boulevard designation has had a positive impact on home values, quality of life, sense of community, noise, air quality, and convenience for bicyclists; a negative impact on convenience for drivers; and no impact on safety for children, convenience for pedestrians, and the amount of traffic collisions. Additional key findings include:

42 percent of respondents said living on a bicycle boulevard makes them more likely to bike

A significantly higher share of cyclists (84.4 percent) than non-cyclists (54.8 percent) considered the Bicycle Boulevard to have a positive impact on Quality of Life (P = .004)

57 percent of respondents perceived the Bicycle Boulevard as having a positive impact on home values. Interestingly, no statistically significant difference could be found between cyclists and non-cyclists (or any group) for this category, which means that a broad range of respondents (and not just cyclists) felt that the Bicycle Boulevard designation has had a positive impact on home values.

Conclusions: While the majority (48 percent) of comments could be categorized as positive towards the Bicycle Boulevard and bicyclists in general, another forty percent of the comments could be categorized as generally frustrated or openly hostile. Key recommendations to alleviate tensions between Bicycle Boulevard residents and cyclists include increasing traffic diversion measures, improving cyclist visibility at night, and providing clearer communication about Bicycle Boulevard purpose, traffic laws, and expected courteous behaviors in the communities they serve.

1 Some rental units may not have received surveys due to occasional multi-unit complexes having controlled access facilities. In total, it is estimated that approximately 15 dwellings may have been missed. This means that the estimated population of households on SE Salmon between SE 12th Ave and SE 35th Ave is approximately 268 households.

Click here for full report (formatted for submission to TRB 2010)

Bicycling as a Way of Life: A comparative case study of Bicycle Culture in Portland and Amsterdam.