Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 11th, 2007 at 10:08 am
From L to R: Dat Nguyen, Steve Upchurch,
Tomas Quinones, Steve Kirkendall, Kirsty Hall.
File photo: 5/10/07
Cyclists made their voices heard in front of the Mayor and four City Commissioners at the Community Budget Hearing last night.
A week or so ago, with funding for the Bike Master Plan hanging in the balance, this hearing was pegged as a major priority for the bike community. But once funding for the Plan was restored, it seemed like the wind left the sails.
Even though their wasn't as much energy for this event as initially planned, cyclists still had a very memorable presence and left a lasting impression on Mayor Potter and Commissioners Sten, Saltzmann, and Leonard.
They heard loud and clear that even though the bike community is grateful for the reinstatement of funding for the Master Plan, serious concerns remain about a lack of funding for key bicycle safety projects still not included in proposed budget (the Mayor only funded half the requested amount).
Before the hearing -- armed with a list of projects that still need funding -- the cyclists held a debriefing session and received guidance on how to testify from BTA lobbyist Scott Bricker.
Before the hearing got underway, I got the opportunity to talk with Mayor Potter. We had a good conversation. He made it clear that they funded the Bike Master Plan because they "found some money" and we agreed that both the bike community and his office learned important lessons from the situation.
I also brought up the ongoing issue of enforcement. I said their are serious concerns in the community and that we need to find a way to have both sides understand each other better. I told him about the challenging role I've tried to play in the equation (presenting both the cops and cyclists point-of-view), but that it is becoming increasingly difficult to explain the Traffic Division's practices. He definitely heard me and seemed concerned. With oversight of the Police Bureau, I hope the Mayor can help us move this issue forward.
I didn't want to take too much of his time, so I quickly mentioned my ride with Commissioner Leonard and that I'd love to have him join me for a ride some time. He said he's a "fair weather rider" and that he'll be traveling in the next few weeks, but that he'd try to make it happen.
On to the testimony.
Scott Bricker was first to the mic. He admitted to the Mayor and Commissioners that the BTA could have done a better job informing them about the bicycling issues,
"We have not done a good enough job telling our story. Bicycling is changing, transportation is changing. Cyclists are innovators, but we need new strategies to get the orange people (the interested but concerned that don't yet ride), and that’s where the Bike Master Plan comes in."
In addition to testifying, Bricker also got in some quality time with Mayor Potter:
Also testifying were first-timers Dat Nguyen, Tomas Quinones, and Steve Upchurch.
For Quinones, Portland is a far cry from his native town of Detroit Michigan. He moved to Portland two years ago and told the panel that while Portland is much better than Detroit there's still "room to grow."
Steve Upchurch just moved to Portland in February, and used his three minutes to share his concern for safe cycling,
"Some of the things that are not funded could be where the next bad accident occurs. I moved here for the incredible bikeability of this city and I want to see that continue."
A need to improve the safety of cycling was a recurring theme on the night. PDOT employee Kirsty Hall, who spearheads the city's Senior Cyclist Program left a great impression on the panel with her points about giving seniors more, and safer, access to the city using bicycles.
Dan Lerch-Walters, a citizen activist who does a lot of work with the Sullivan's Gulch neighborhood asked the panel to look toward the future and think about what Portland would look like without cars,
"Bicycle transportation is so important for our future...we are at a crossroads. We can’t plan the future by what we’ve seen in the past...in Mexico City they have a new program to encourage people to give driving in the city once a week. What would downtown Portland look like if we tried something like that?"
In the end, bicycle issues and cyclists made a big impact at the hearing. It was especially exciting to see people testify for the first time. It can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience, but everyone did an excellent job.
We can all play a part in educating City Hall about bicycle-related issues. Our elected officials need to hear the story of bicycles told by as many perspectives as possible. Next year I hope we all take a much more proactive role in the budget process.
If you'd like to offer your feedback on the budget, the Office of Management and Finance is accepting comments online until May 14th.Email This Post Possibly related posts