Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 16th, 2011 at 1:26 pm
Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz plans to vote against a PBOT request for federal funds that includes a bike share system when it comes in front of Council tomorrow.
Since her winning campaign back in 2008, Fritz has championed "basic services for all 95 neighborhoods" as the pillar of her policy making. Given that, when it was reported yesterday that she would vote no on bike share, I wasn't completely surprised.
What I am surprised about is that the "basic services first" mantra isn't the only reason she objects to the bike share project.
In an email to a constituent who urged Fritz to support bike share, the Commissioner said she won't support it because she sees too much bad bicycling behavior already downtown and she's concerned bike share will just make it worse. In the email, she also accuses "the cycling community" of not doing enough to curb what she calls "dangerous behaviors."
See Commissioner Fritz's email below (emphasis mine)...
"... My choice is basic infrastructure to make streets safer for all, before a bike rental program to encourage people to cycle in an unsafe environment.
I may support a bike sharing program downtown when I see bike riders using downtown streets and sidewalks in a safe manner. Daily, I see cyclists in the Light rail and bus lanes in front of my office. I see cyclists riding on the sidewalks, endangering and harassing pedestrians. I see cyclists running red lights and making illegal turns off the bus mall. And these are presumably experienced cyclists. I believe a bike rental program downtown would only add to these unsafe behaviors. The behaviors are unsafe for cyclists as well as pedestrians and drivers. The cycling community seems to be doing little or nothing to educate riders or reduce these dangerous behaviors.
Until downtown streets and sidewalks are safe for all modes of users, I will not support using scarce transportation dollars for projects that would exacerbate problems rather than providing basic services that enhance safety for all modes."
When I emailed Fritz asking to share reasons for her opposition, she replied that, "I would rather spend $2 million on structural improvements for cyclists and pedestrians on Barbur, or elsewhere in neighborhoods outside of downtown." She also added the sentiment about bicycling behavior:
"I am also concerned about behavior I see every day downtown, with cyclists riding on the sidewalks, bus and light rail lanes. Since even cyclists who are experienced riding downtown endanger themselves and other users of the right-of-way, I can't support a program encouraging additional, occasional cyclists downtown without a proactive education campaign first."
Fritz hasn't shared details of a plan that would adequately educate people about how to operate bicycles in traffic and she hasn't provided any benchmark for how much good behavior she'd like to see before she'd feel comfortable spending money on bike projects downtown.
Perhaps she'll flesh out her objections during testimony at City Council tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for a full report.
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