Citing “safety” concerns, the Oregon Deparment of Transportation (ODOT) has proposed a ban on bicycles that would make it illegal for cyclists to ride on or next to certain sections of Metro area freeways.
This ban would prohibit bike access on existing bike routes including:
- The Highway 217 corridor from Beaverton to Lake Oswego.
- The freeway and shoulder of Highway 26 between the Oregon Zoo and Jefferson Street/Goose Hollow (the wide shoulders on this highway currently provide an important direct connection for cyclists to and from downtown).
To carry out this ban, ODOT wants to change the wording in an existing rule that governs the status of non-motorized vehicles on freeways. Here is a PDF of the existing rule with the proposed changes in underline and bold print and the language to be deleted in brackets. The proposed changes in the wording of this rule will be considered by the Oregon Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (OBPAC) at a meeting on April 7, 2006, at 10:00 a.m. in Portland City Hall. If they decide to proceed with the rule change, then a formal notice and public hearings will be scheduled, perhaps as early as late Summer 2006.
The man behind this proposed ban is Rolland Arney. The only thing I know about him is that he is listed as a “Senior Right-of-Way Agent” for ODOT. If you would like to send him your thoughts, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lawyer Ray Thomas says “Oregon’s bicycle leadership needs to step up in opposing this bad idea” and he’s leading the charge in opposition to this proposal. Here’s more from Ray taken from a 4-page statement he has just released (here is a PDF of his entire statement):
“Access to roads is the life blood of the freedom to ride where one wishes on a bicycle. Over the past two decades, bicyclists and pedestrians have been seen as an irritant by government officials who have reacted to legitimate concern about poorly designed and inadequate transportation facilities with attempts to prohibit user access instead of facility improvement.”
“ODOT’s consideration of a ban on bicycles on metro area freeways is legally unnecessary and a restriction on bicyclists’ legal rights.”
Apparently the impetus for all this came when ODOT was contacted by law enforcement officials who had received complaints from motorists. I want to find out more about ODOT’s reasoning and motivation for doing this and I will share the information when I do. Perhaps someone from ODOT is reading this and can tell us more (Michael Ronkin, are you out there?).
I really think ODOT should be working with the bike community to create more safe transportation corridors, instead of restricting our access without providing any alternatives. I am trying to give them the benefit of the doubt until more details surface, but given their track record I’m very skeptical.
Bicycle access to highways is essential when there is no other feasible alternative available. I hope this move by ODOT isn’t a harbinger of more bike access restrictions in the future. If they succeed in arguing that they’re doing this because of “safety concerns” than what’s to stop them from using the same logic on high-traffic city streets? If successful, this would set an ominous precedent for bicyclists rights to the road.
ODOT must start to realize that bicycles are a legitimate means of transportation that deserve the same respect and priority in our transportation system as semi-trucks and automobiles.
Stay tuned for more developments and make note of that April 7th meeting.