On Monday night, University Greenways (a group that advocates building a network of bike greenways---low-traffic roads that are typically a block or two away from larger arterials, updated to encourage biking and walking---the University District) hosted a presentation by Greg Raisman and Mark Lear, two Portland Bureau of Transportation employees who were key figures in developing the network of bike greenways and boulevards in Portland, the Pacific Northwest's twentysomething retirement paradise.

Image via Cascade Bicycle Club.

(Video of the event in its entirety can be found here.) City Council member Sally Bagshaw followed the planners' presentation with a brief reiteration of her support for greenway development.

Raisman and Lear's presentation touched on the systemwide benefits of improving bike infrastructure (and backed up those points with some compelling data)—namely, that cities with comprehensive bike path networks have far fewer traffic fatalities (including car fatalities) than cities without comprehensive  transportation planning. The data for Portland show a steady decline of fatal traffic accidents in all categories, and a huge drop in car fatalities—down from 37 car deaths in 1996 to 7 last year. (Raisman and Lear attribute the drop to less speeding and a slower car speeds overall.)

The Portlanders also emphasized the environmental benefits of greenways beyond the usual bike benefits—for example, the reforestation that can be folded into a greenway program helps to control stormwater, improve soil quality, expands habitat, and creates more general-use public green space.

The activists also broke down the process that Portland follows for planning and designing new greenways. It's an interesting model that involves lots of community involvement and input—in short, it's something that process-loving Seattle would take to swimmingly if given the opportunity and the correct circumstances.