[This is sort of long so if you can attend the meeting on Friday please scroll down for time and location.]
This Friday the Oregon Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (OPBAC) will meet in Portland (see agenda and location below). One of the topics on the agenda is a proposed bicycle ban on metro area freeways. This proposal came out of nowhere and quickly earned disapproval from the BTA and super-lawyer Ray Thomas.
I’m concerned about this proposal because the proponents cite safety concerns but provide absolutely no evidence to back it up. I also realize that one segment they want to close (hwy 26 between the Zoo and Goose Hollow) is an important route for westside bike commuters into downtown and I vehemently oppose restricting bike access where no safe and viable alternative exists. But beyond that, I worry about the precedent that would be set if ODOT succeeds in banning bikes from roads just because of unfounded “safety concerns”.
And if you think ODOT is not capable of bad things, than you must have missed horribly unfair and unsafe decisions they made by completely excluding bike facilities on the St. Johns Bridge renovation. But whether you like ODOT or not, they control all the big federal money that trickles down to bike infrastructure so we need to work with them to establish an open and constructive dialogue based on respect and understanding. We need to work at educating them about bicycles one employee at a time.
I got started while down in Eugene for the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Summit where I met with a member of the OPBAC and several key ODOT bike people. I wanted to know who brought the proposal to the table and why they felt like they had the right to exclude bicycles from the road.
First off, it’s important to realize this proposal was brought to the table by people way down on the vast ODOT organizational flow-chart. ODOT’s bike facilities manager Sheila Lyons called it “more of a grassroots thing” and “not an offical proposal”. According to Michael Ronkin (ODOT’s bike and ped manager) this proposal was brought forth by ODOT’s Portland area district maintenance office.
So far, no one I’ve talked to seems to know the exact genesis of this proposal. One anonymous email I received said it emanated from State Police.
Sheila also expressed that the backers of the proposal might not quite understand how the Portland bike community works (that’s an understatement!). On that note, we agree that this whole episode can become a learning opportunity for both sides.
This is a great chance for the bike community to educate ODOT staffers who may not fully appreciate the role of and position of bicycles in the transportation mix. If this proposal concerns you or if you currently ride on highway 26 between the Zoo and Goose Hollow, I urge you to attend Friday’s meeting and let ODOT know where you stand.
Here are the meeting details:
Friday April 7
Lovejoy Room, Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Portland
Bike ban proposal 11:30
Public comment period 12:15-12:45.
The committee will try to hear at least 10 people with a max of 5 minutes each. I will be there with print outs of comments made on my previous post. I hope to see some of you there as well.
I fully expect that some sections in this proposed ban will fall off the table and that if any sections do make it through this process to a public hearing in June, they will be sections that we all agree on and that have gone through a proper public and data-gathering process. At least, that’s what I hope happens.
[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.]