Posted by Elly Blue (Columnist) on March 19th, 2007 at 9:15 am
Somewhere around 5% of trips in Portland are made by bicycle. And less than 1% of local transportation funding goes to bicycle infrastructure. Clearly bicycling is a mode of transportation that more than pays for itself.
Meanwhile, cyclists’ taxes subsidize freeway and arterial projects that we don’t use much and that actually impede our ability to get around on bikes. Ditto for road maintenance that we do little to contribute to the need for.
“As bicycling grows in popularity and acceptance, politicians and the public are seeing the wisdom in investing in bicycling infrastructure and incentives.”
So why are cyclists fighting each other over our disproportionately tiny slice of the pie? Two major new cycling initiatives are in the works which may involve public funds — an employee tax credit for reimbursed bike commuting expenses, and a downtown Portland Bikestation or even better a network of them. Some critics on this site decry the projects because they do not go far enough or help enough people.
I say, let’s think bigger than that. These initiatives are the least we can do, and we can and will do more, much more. As bicycling grows in popularity and acceptance, politicians and the public are seeing the wisdom in investing in bicycling infrastructure and incentives.
Still, we have a long way to go.
Two major local newspapers recently opined that we shouldn’t question spending 6 billion dollars for a highway bridge reconstruction — which they acknowledge will only push auto congestion southward into more populated areas. Meanwhile, every cent spent on bike lane striping and public transit (even the tram price tag pales by comparison) is vigorously questioned on local blogs and in the news.
If we want to make Portland a truly world-class bicycling city, we need to step up with constructive ideas and compelling reasons for bicyclists to be fairly represented in transportation spending and planning. Think about those 6 billion dollars proposed for the Columbia River Crossing. The money from the thwarted Mt. Hood Freeway paid for decades of projects that made Portland the place it is — a place where you can live, and live well, without a car.
We can all win here, but we have to pull together and dream big.