An Animated Foster Road – Visualizing the Streetscape Plan

FosterAnimationIt is sometimes difficult to communicate how great a  cycle track (also called a protected bike lane) could be on a street like Foster Road. A  regular bike lane is one option for a street redesign as part of the Foster Road Streetscape Plan, but I wonder if something better than a bike lane is more appropriate to serve our neighbors. If we’re going to spend the money to rework the street, lets put in a safe, comfortable protected bikeway that everyone in the neighborhood can feel safe using.

SE Portland animator and civic activist Spencer Boomhower created an interactive animation to help communicate the challenges of biking and driving on Foster Road, what a cycle track could look like on the street, and why it could be better for everyone.

Click through the animation below to learn about the bike lane proposal and see how a cycle track design might serve our neighborhoods better.

To view the animation, you may need to download the Unity Web Plugin first.

Interested in seeing a cycle track as a reality on Foster Road? Next week is another meeting of the Foster Road Streetscape Plan Advisory Committee:

The next Advisory Committee meeting for the project will be Wednesday September 25th from 6-8 pm at SE Works (79th & Foster). The meetings are open to the public and public testimony is welcome at the tail end of the meeting, usually around 7:45.

Update: YouTube Version

Because not everyone can run the special plugin to see the interactive presentation, Spencer has prepared a YouTube version for you to watch:


  1. Props to Spencer for creating this, I really like it, and it a powerful tool to show the possibilities!

  2. Tellingly, this animation does not include an intersection, which is where the cycletrack model breaks down. Bikes separated from the street by 12 feet and a row of parked cars can’t be seen by drivers, and are more likely to be right-hooked. Cyclists come into conflict with Pedestrians who stand in the bikeway or need to cross it. These shared sidewalk arrangements are problematic in cities like San Sebastian, where they make for stressful negotiations between pedestrians and cyclists. How will they be any less so in Portland, where both bikes and cars travel much, much faster?

    Another complaint: The animation shows cars parked along most of the street. Foster’s street parking barely used.

    My proposal: Eliminate street parking on Foster and install a full-width shared lane for bikes and buses. Then riders can see cars, drivers can see bikes, and no one gets run over walking out of NWIPA.

    • Thanks for the comments Ben. The issue of cycle tracks at intersections is a real one. A couple thoughts:

      – The cycle track shown here extends the sidewalk curb outward, so that the pedestrian area of the sidewalk is basically the same size as it is today. This should alleviate pressure for pedestrians to use the extra cycle track space.
      – The intersection problem can be solved. This link shows a variety of treatments to resolve visibility problems with cycle tracks.

      • Several of those solutions seem like good ones, but at this point I wouldn’t trust the city to implement any of them. My experience riding on Portland’s inconsistent, experimental, badly signed bicycle infrastructure has been harrowing. So far, I’m happiest with the green lanes on Oak and Stark, and least happy with that awful mess on SW Broadway.

        The best thing the city could do to improve safety on Foster is to lower the speed limit, but I won’t hold my breath.

    • Hi Ben,

      The intersection treatments of cycle tracks are really important, and you definitely can’t have a complete discussion about cycle tracks without talking about intersections. I wanted to do them in this simulation, but was limited by time constraints to just the cross-section comparisons — it took several weeks of work on my own time just to get this early version up and running. So that’s the only reason they’re not in there.

      And that’s part of why Nick made his very thorough post about intersections at the same time this simulation was posted, to make sure they weren’t overlooked.

  3. awesome animation! great job! love the part at the end where I can switch views and move the camera…

  4. I couldn’t agree with Ben more. This looks like a overblown solution to a non-existant problem and particularly dangerous for pedestrians.

    • Thanks Sarah. Right now this cycle track proposal is a long shot, and the design with regular bike lanes is far more likely to be adopted.

      If we get regular bike lanes on Foster, they will see a ton of use, no doubt about it. But I bet we will also see many people continue to ride on the sidewalk because the bike lanes are not safe enough. Most of my neighbors wouldn’t dare ride a bike on a narrow lane next to fast moving traffic. But they will consider riding on a path separated from cars. If we’re going to invest in Foster Road, I’d rather we put in a bikeway that all of our neighbors are willing to use.

    • Just to give personal testimony – I would not ride in a bike lane on Foster unless it were buffered by at least 3 feet on either side (from moving cars on the one and the hazard of people opening car doors into me on the other). Anything less than that and I’ll still be rising my bike on the sidewalk (carefully and courteously) like I do now.

      A well-engineered cycle track, now that would get me off the sidewalk.

      Sarah, why do you think it would be dangerous for pedestrians? Anecdotal evidence from NYC is that cycle tracks increase safety and comfort for pedestrians. This is assuming pedestrian refuge areas between the cycle track and the motor vehicle lanes at every intersection. That way, the cross section that pedestrians have to cross is broken up and easier to manage.

  5. I’m certainly not a transportation / urban architect, and I don’t know if there’s enough room for it, but one unique approach I’ve seen elsewhere is putting two dedicated bike lanes in the center of the street. Washington, DC did this on Pennsylvania Avenue. It takes some getting used to but it worked out pretty well. One of the added advantages is that it forces bicyclists to obey stop lights and not race through intersections.

    • The advisory committee actually looked at a similar design with center running bikeways at the last meeting. It raised many concerns from people about how left turning traffic would still function, and the City seemed unconvinced that it would work as well as normal bike lanes. I love the creative thinking though.

  6. I wouldn’t call this an “overblown solution to a non-existant problem”. I was hit while riding in a bike lane and have seen this very solution in action. They have cycle tracks in Paris and they work. It makes sense to remove cycle traffic from automotive traffic; it’s just too dangerous.

  7. I saw these in action when I was in Germany this summer. They work wonderfully, and they would be a great addition to Foster!

  8. I would personally rather see the limited pot of money we can spend spent on actual streetscaping and business development and not as a massive giveaway to the biking community. There are bike boulevards nearby in all directions, including Center and the one going from SE Woodstock to NE Freemont along 52nd. Harold also has speed bumps and is just a little south. It feels as if the bike community has taken the moral high ground and is taking away all possible routes around the city for the rest of us.

    • Sarah, by “the rest of us,” do you mean people who only drive to get everywhere and never walk or take transit and don’t worry about hitting cyclists while driving? Because if you belong to any of those other groups then cycle tracks would have benefits for you (shorter distance to cross motor vehicle lanes while crossing Foster, potentially to access transit; clear and physically separated area that pretty much all bikers will use unlike narrow door-zone bike lanes). Plus, a Foster Road with a cycle track would still be very driveable! I know I would drive on it frequently.

      I’m not willing to assume anymore that everyone in Portland except a tiny minority drives for every trip. It’s just not true. Walking, biking, and transit are all mainstream ways of getting around. We need to allow for safe travel by all of these modes on commercial strips like Foster where many destinations are present.

  9. Alex, what a silly and self centered thing to say. I walk, take bus and the max, and ride my bike. And I drive a car. Perhaps you shouldn’t falsely characterize people as a conversational leverage point. Really, it’s juvenile. The point I was making which seems to have gone over your head, is that there’s a ton of bike options very close to Foster. The city needs some roads for actual cars. Bike boulevards abound. Let’s not waste our one big shot of improving Foster by blowing it all on an extravagant giveaway to the bike community.

    • No one is going to let a proposal like this get in the way of the rest of the streetscape plan. The community has waited 10 years to see better sidewalks, improved lighting and safer crossings on Foster. Those have always been highest priority to implement when funding is available, and they will continue to be everyone’s top focus.

      But I want to make it clear that the bike lane + 3-lanes option is under serious consideration by the city and the committee. While there haven’t been any official votes or endorsed designs, I wouldn’t be surprised if the bike lanes do become a part of the final proposal for Foster Rd. The bike lanes seem to have broad support from the committee even outside of the “bike community” representatives. In the future Foster Road will still be designed for cars, but there is a very good chance it will be designed for neighbors riding bikes too.

    • Sarah, I’m sorry you were offended by what I said.

      However, I was merely responding to what you said. Could you explain what you meant by “It feels as if the bike community has taken the moral high ground and is taking away all possible routes around the city for the rest of us?” It seemed to me that you felt that a cycle track on Foster would have no benefits for a group you characterized as “the rest of us” which seemed to include yourself. Who, in your mind, is “the rest of us?”

    • Sarah, re: bike boulevards near Foster – there are a few E-W boulevards, that is true. There are no N-S boulevards between 42nd & 87th, though.

      The real problem, though, is that the boulevards don’t go to the destinations. Seems like every time I bike to a destination on Foster, I end up riding on the sidewalk for a few blocks because I forget where the destination is or because I need to access a signalized or pedestrian crossing of Foster.

      I like bike boulevards, I really do! I just don’t think they’re enough to get everyone who wants to bike where they want to go.

  10. Thanks so much for spending so much of your (own) time working on this animation!

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