Commissioners to bump up bike spending.
(Click to enlarge)
Now that City of Portland Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams’ has told the Willamette Week about his dissatisfaction with the amount of money PDOT spends on bikes, I thought I would share a bit of background on the issue.
(This is a bit wonky…you’ve been forewarned.)
Back in September of 2006, the City of Portland released their Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget for 2007-2011. At the request of Sam Adams, for the first time ever, the CIP was broken down into separate project categories for various modes of travel including; bikes, pedestrians, transit, and motor vehicles.
This breakdown was then reviewed and discussed by the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), a group that meets monthly to “advise City Council and all the bureaus on bicycle-related matters” (the City’s bicycle coordinator attends as a liaison between the committee and the City).
When the committee noted that PDOT’s CIP budget allocated only 1.6% of its funds to bicycle improvements, they wrote a letter to all five City Commissioners stating they were “very dissapointed” in that figure.
The letter noted that this 1.6% was the smallest amount of any mode in the city (the next smallest being pedestrian projects that garnered 16% of funds), and that “the lion’s share is earmarked for vehicle and freight improvements.”
Here’s a longer excerpt from the letter (download letter here (jpg)):
“The BAC understands the tremendous budgetary demands the city is under, however the BAC respectfully requests the City Commissioners to allocate more funding for bicycle improvements for several important reasons:
- The Bicycle Master Plan benchmark for 2006 is to have a 10% bicycle mode split for the Central City and a 6% mode split citywide. City funding should reflect a corresponding commitment to reach these objectives.
- Results from the 2005 Auditor’s Office survey show that bicycle mode splits for commuting in Portland were as high as 4.2% citywide and 9.1% in inner southeast neighborhoods. Again, the proportion of the budget dedicated to bicycle projects could be more commensurate with those percentages.
- Investment in bicycle facilities has paid handsome returns with exponential increases in bicycle use. The bicycle count information for these year shows that bicycle traffic on the downtown bridges increased 18% from the previous year.
- Bicycle improvements have been very effective giving people a realistic, convenient, and safe alternative to driving. Providing this choice is a fundamental elements of the State Transportation Planning Rule and the Portland Transportation System Plan.
- Improving bicycle facilities builds on our national and international reputation as a model city and moves us toward our gal of being the first large U.S. city to achieve Platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists.
We respectfully request that the percentage of PDOT’s CIP funding for bike projects be increased to reflect the goals of the City, local and state planning requirements, and documented trends in the use of bicycles for transportation.”
The letter was signed by committee Chair and Portland bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg. In a conversation this morning, Ginsberg said that while bike spending has “gradually improved” since the committee drafted this letter, he note’s “we’re still far behind” where we should be.
Ginsberg also points out that the spending issue should not be seen as an “us versus them” dichotomy. “Spending on bike improvements benefits all road users at a much higher return than tradition, motor vehicle-centric highway improvements. When you make biking safe, and more people choose to bike, it’s one less person adding to congestion…it makes the roads better for everyone.”
Download the letter here (jpeg).