After posting my first Salem report, BTA bike lobbyist Scott Bricker and I set off for two more meetings.
The first was with Representative Jeff Barker, a Democrat who represents Beaverton and Aloha. This meeting (as usual) would only last about 15 minutes and with three full bills to cover, Scott didn’t want to overwhelm Rep. Barker with information.
Since Rep. Barker is the Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Scott’s strategy was to discuss just one concept; the BTA’s vulnerable roadway user idea (which isn’t an official bill yet, but once it is it will likely go through that the Judiciary Committee). This is the bill that seeks to create a new crime for motorists that kill or severely injure a “vulnerable roadway user”.
Rep. Barker appreciated Scott’s approach to this bill because it seeks an emphasis on rehabilitation and diversion for offenders, rather than long prison terms. Barker is a retired cop, so he understands the high cost of locking people up.
Our next and final meeting was with Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappose). Sen. Johnson — who chairs the Transportation and Economic Development Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee — is the type of legislator I really love; a tough, straight shooter, with an open mind and a heart underneath a no-nonsense exterior.
Given Sen. Johnson’s place on the Ways and Means Committee (which deals with taxes and funding), Scott’s plan for this meeting was to talk in general about funding for alternative transportation modes and bicycle facilities.
Sen. Johnson implored us to not simply ask for money for bikes, but to have specific projects in mind, and hopefully “good projects” with demonstrated public support and “bang for the buck.”
While not a cyclist herself, Sen. Johnson is very excited about the burgeoning bicycle tourism efforts going on around the state. She spoke glowingly about a multi-use trail in Astoria that has helped re-vitalize their downtown and has become a cherished part of the community.
Sen. Johnson — who is Chair of the Brand Oregon board — is very keen on helping fund projects that have a strong tourism and/or economic development component.
Sen. Johnson also reminded us that as bicyclists we “have some fence-mending” to do and that she feels there are many legislators who have a bad image of cyclists. She specifically mentioned the “militancy” around Critical Mass as being something that only makes it more difficult for cyclists in Salem.
The topic of the negative impacts of Critical Mass is fodder for a separate post, but her comments and tone around this issue really put into perspective how much work the cycling community has to do to counter existing negative stereotypes.
It was very refreshing and interesting to hear Sen. Johnson’s perspective on bicycle advocacy and Scott and I both appreciated her honest and sage advice.
I learned a lot in just one day in Salem and I’m thinking of joining Scott on a monthly basis to follow the progress of bike bills and further my experience down there. I’ll end my report here for now, and keep further reflections on my trip for future posts.
Thanks again Scott for being such a great chaperone.
Note: If you have any general or specific questions about how things work in Salem, feel free to leave a comment and either myself or Scott Bricker will do our best to answer them.
i’m curious to read your coverage on “the impacts of Critical Mass”
Wow only 15 min. How can we “demonstrate” the enormity of the cycling constituency so as to gain greater access to “our” elected public servants. It seems our efforts toward this very point have been turned against us. Who is to blame: over-zealous cyclists, cops, media? Whoever, I know the majority of CMers don’t show up for a monthly bike ride with the intention of confrontation and arrest.
For an example listen to this excerpt from the KBOO bike show.
Another discussion about the San Fransisco CM was recorded for the podcast bikescape you can listen here.
Remember every time you are out there on a bike you a representative of all cyclists to the observation of motorists and pedestrians. I know this characterization is somewhat unfair since it doesn’t apply to motorists but it’s the reality.
hmmm, and if someone cuts you off and you bang on their car, they assume they did nothing wrong and you’re just an ass. drivers never think they’ve done wrong, so should we just be meek and cowed in order to improve our public image at the expense of our safety?
the best option i’ve found goes something like this: after damn near being hit by a car running a red light (i soooo had the green light) at nearly three times the downtown speed limit (which most drivers don’t even know is 15mph and which the cops don’t seem to obey or enforce), i set off in pursuit, and did the “roll down your window” at a light that he stopped at for whatever reason. as calmly as i could, with the adrenalin, i told him “damn it man, watch yourself. i don’t want to end up dead because you’re late to work.” he apologized and tried to defend himself, whatever…”don’t be sorry, man. just be careful”. maybe i could have said better things…but he listened to that more than “hey, !@#$!@##@!$”