Kids will take Safe Routes message to City Hall

Kidical Mass!-15.jpg
A politician’s worst nightmare.
Kidical Mass storming City Hall.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) plans to use their monthly “Kidical Mass” ride as way to send a clear message to City Council about their upcoming budget: Find more money for the city’s Safer Routes to Schools program.

Hoping it is seen as, “a show of force for the Portland City Council,” the BTA wants to bring attention to a 40% reduction in the Safe Routes program that’s currently being proposed by the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation. The 40% dip is the result of PBOT holding back “one-time” funds (given out from surpluses in the city’s General Fund) it has enjoyed over the past two years.

Safe Routes to Schools is a federally funded program and it comprises a major part of the BTA’s budget. The BTA — considered a national leader in the program — is under contract with the City of Portland (who gets the money from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)) to provide Safe Routes services and teach the curriculum to local schools.

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Adams, shown here at a
Walk and Bike to School
day event in 2006.

This August, the BTA will host the Safe Routes to School National Conference. How would it look to the rest of the country if Portland, nationally known for its Safe Routes program success, had to tell everyone at that conference that its program had been curtailed by 40%?

The BTA hopes that Mayor Adams keeps a promise he made during a recent speech to find the money for Safe Routes (although his staff has made it clear that there are no guarantees).

Mayor Adams will be under a lot of pressure to fund Safe Routes. Bike programs are popular enough on their own in Portland — add in the city’s stellar Safe Routes reputation and the cute kid factor, and suddenly you’re looking at a potentially sticky political situation.

It’s tough to say no to kids.

When I asked PBOT Director Sue Keil about how her budget would impact Safe Routes, she said that “one-time” funds should never be spent on programs. Rather, they should only be spent on projects (that don’t need ongoing money to support).

In a statement about the Kidical Mass/Safe Routes to City Hall event, the BTA wrote:

“This is the time to grow, not shrink, our city’s active transportation investments. Your help is needed to restore the program to prior years’ levels!”

Here are event details:

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