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Exclusive: Adams’ budget will include “Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Fund”

Posted by on April 30th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

PSU Pres. Wim Wievel's first day-7.jpg

Adams has dedicated $500,000
for bikes in his budget.
(Photos © J. Maus)

In his forthcoming budget proposal (due out tomorrow), Mayor Sam Adams will include a dedicated funding source devoted to bicycle programs and projects that he calls the “Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Fund”.

In a phone call this afternoon, Mayor Adams told me the money will come from a portion of utility license fees. Last year Adams requested, and City Council approved, that a portion of those fees go toward the Bureau of Transportation (since PBOT is responsible for maintaining the right-of-way utility companies use to work on their wires, pipes, etc…).

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“Part of my job is to provide affordable, healthy travel options, and this dedicated fund will make sure that that is prioritized.”
— Mayor Adams

The total amount that PBOT is estimated to receive from that fee in the coming fiscal year is $1.8 million. In his budget, Adams says he proposes to set aside $500,000 of that specifically for bicycle programs and projects, creating what he says would be the city’s first-ever dedicated funding source specifically targeted to bikes.

Adams acknowledged that this has been a “brutal year for balancing the budget at PBOT” and that our city is “in the midst of a crisis that is impacting many households”, but he defends the bike funding as a way to “provide more Portlanders an affordable option for getting around the city.”

Adams also sees this idea as a way to respond to critics who say that bikes don’t pay their way. “Every Portlander who pays this utility tax, including people who bike,” he stressed, “would be paying for a portion of PBOT’s budget.”

bike rack at City Hall

In addition to this being more of a direct, “user-pays” system (unlike the Gas Tax or parking meters, which provides much of PBOT’s revenue, but that people who mostly bike don’t pay into as much), Adams told me his new bike fund would also help achieve one of his main transportation goals. “Part of my job is to provide affordable, healthy travel options, and this dedicated fund will make sure that that is prioritized.”

Adams also wants to increase the share of trips made by bike in Portland. He feels that more spending on bikeways will mean more people on bikes. “There’s a latent ridership out there,” he said, “that only needs a better bike infrastructure to get on a bike.”

$500,000 isn’t a lot of money (Adams called it “a down payment”) in transportation project terms or relative to PBOT’s total budget. But, if it’s spent wisely, it could help improve bikeway conditions.

For some perspective, PBOT’s current plans for 9.2 miles of bike boulevards (which consist of mild traffic calming measures, signs, and pavement markings) are estimated to cost $786,000. The new cycletrack on Broadway is estimated to cost $47,000.

And keep in mind, the Mayor’s budget will have to stand up to scrutiny of a public process and it will need to pass Council before it becomes a reality. During that process, this money could be stripped or allocated to other programs. On that note, Adams said, “I’ll need advocates and the community to turn out and say that this is an important and positive step for our city.”

But on the other hand, as a commenter below reminded me, who’s to say that the $500,000 couldn’t end up being more? In the midst of an economic crisis, doesn’t it make sense to invest in the most affordable transportation mode that also happens to have the highest return on investment?

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  • Rixtir April 30, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    What’s that on Adams’ head– a spelunking helmet?

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  • ¢¢_interested April 30, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    I’m interested to see how this whole budget deal turns out. What happened with Metro’s budget today?

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  • ¢¢_interested April 30, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    It will be interesting to see how this whole budget deal plays out.

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  • Krampus April 30, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Hey in this economy, $500k is greatly appreciated! My main concern is that it is spent wisely (ie no silly cycle tracks in the freaking Park Blocks!)

    Speaking of wise spending, anyone know when the Esplanade and Corridor will be linked up now that SK has given up their fight? It sure has been a while. I wonder what the pricetag on that project would run..

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  • Steve Durrant April 30, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Great news. Thanks mayor. Jonathan, you wrap your article with a comment that the funding could get stripped, it could also get larger with the right advocacy. Time for us all to step up and let the council and everyone they look to for leadership know that this down payment is very important perhaps especially in the current budget.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 30, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    That’s a great point Steve. I guess I’m just so conditioned to bikes fighting for scraps that it sometimes escapes me that bikes should actually find more funding.

    I wonder if the BTA will push for more? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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  • steve April 30, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Great, I wonder what they will piss this pittance away on.

    Everyone be sure to notice that this is not what Adams campaigned on. He is in fact now breaking several campaign promises he made to our ‘constituency’ and he even has the audacity to demand support while dangling the threat of this token being taken away.

    What a **deleted by moderator**!

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  • steve April 30, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Almost forgot-

    Amy Ruiz for mayor!!

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  • Michelle (BTA) April 30, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    This is great – it is far more funding than has been committed to bicycling infrastructure in a very long time. This will mean more bike boulevards, paths, signs, signals, connections, and all the other things that make it possible for more people to get around by bike.

    If you are happy to hear this news and support this investment – and if you’d like to see even more in the future – be sure to tell the city council. The budget may have your support, but unless it has their’s it may not pass!

    Ask them to support affordable transportation investments, and let them know how HAPPY you are to see this good start! (I emphasize “happy” because honey goes a lot farther than vinegar in this process. Be positive!)

    City council contact info is available here.

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  • Michelle (BTA) April 30, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    PS – Asking for more from the city’s budget doesn’t hurt and often helps, as long as you don’t dismiss and demean the offer that’s been made you! As someone who knows how much work went on at PBOT and in the Mayor’s office to find this money, I’d definitely encourage everyone to first be grateful and gracious…and THEN ask for more.

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  • TofuTodd April 30, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I don’t know whether to be fuming mad or ecstatic. If the mayor’s budget is $200M, I’d be fuming, if his budget is $20M, I’d be happy. What is his budget Jonathan? I need perspective. As you said, this gets us less than 5 miles of bike blvd which seems like crumbs. Maybe you should have grilled him as to why it was so little? What did cars get? After all, in a recession biking is the most cost effective transportation. You story covered the bike part of it very well, but I’m trying to figure out if this is good news or bad news.

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  • steve April 30, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    This also hardly seems like an exclusive. Barely qualifies as a press release even.

    More like an infomercial.

    Especially with the readily supplied chirping from Michelle. Why don’t you and Scott start asking for more money. What are we financing your leisure time for? Your words are galling and offensive Ms BTA.

    I hope you are charging Adams for the airtime, Jonathan.

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  • steve April 30, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    For the last time, campaign promises are being blatantly broken as we speak.

    Notice who is complaining and who is smiling and feeding it to you with a spoon.

    Meet your 2nd tier enemies folks. At least the carheads don’t sidle up as a friend..

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  • Paul Tay April 30, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Tulsa, OK: America’s newest Bronze Bike-Friendly City! EAT YER HEART OUT, PDX! 😛

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  • Lazy Spinner April 30, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    $500K?!! Chump change and 80% will go into the pockets of “consultants”,”alternative transportation surveys” or some other wonky crap rather than pavement or safety improvements. But Michelle from BTA is right – be thankful for a handful of shiny signs because that’s all we’re going to get. Signs telling tourists how far it is to Portland landmarks. Nothing the locals can use or really need.

    What a joke! The mayor and the BTA will see no more votes or donations from me to support their mutual ego stroking activities.

    Nice work in Salem also BTA! I feel so much safer now.

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  • driveslow April 30, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    This is great news.

    Dedicated resources for our most efficient form of transportation.

    Thanks Sam!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 30, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Tofutodd and others,

    I hear you. This is not my final story on this topic. I will be looking closer at the numbers in the coming days. I have a lot more questions to ask too. Stay tuned.

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  • BURR April 30, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    “There’s a latent ridership out there,” he said, “that only needs a better bike infrastructure to get on a bike.”

    Adams has been drinking the dutch-o-phile kool-aid while Portland builds it’s own bike scene without the city’s help, thank you very much.

    I guess he has to produce something to show for all those campaign promises, though.

    Based on what they are proposing, I say the less money the better.

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  • BURR April 30, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    “There’s a latent ridership out there,” he said, “that only needs a better bike infrastructure to get on a bike.”

    Adams has been drinking the dutch-o-phile kool-aid while Portland builds it’s own bike scene without the city’s help, thank you very much.

    I guess he has to produce something to show for all those campaign promises, though.

    Based on what they are proposing, I say the less money the better.

    Provide more bike parking and fund the transporation options program, but ‘engineering solutions’ no thanks!

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  • Jeff Bernards April 30, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    He’s throwing the bike community a bone. More people bike than watch soccer & baseball, yet he can find $100 million for that fiasco.
    (the total price is yet to be determined).
    I support Obam’s pledge to improve education, health care reform and have a energy & a climate change strategy. Bike boulevards help attain 3 of Obama’s goals. Soccer & baseball solve non of our pressing national or local issues. I love my bike boulevards in SE I hope N. & NE could enjoy these great investments in bike safety and use. Please stop Sam’s reckless & misappropriated spending priorities and support the Recall.

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  • chriswnw April 30, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    As long as they stick with bike boulevards, paths over bridges, MUPs and bike racks, I’m cool with it. But no cycle tracks! Well, they can build the Broadway one as a pilot project so we can see the results, which I predict to be negative. I hope people will notice.

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  • Paulo April 30, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    BURR: So what you’re implying is that you don’t want bike ridership to grow in Portland, correct?

    Terry Parker for mayor, yay.

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  • Matt Picio April 30, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    I appreciate the dedicated funding source, and I don’t mean to minimize the importance of that, but Jeff bernards is right. There are more cyclists than baseball fans. And frankly, PGE Park is still quite serviceable, why are we kicking the baseball team out of there? Why not build the soccer stadium somewhere else? For that matter (here comes the heresy), why not play soccer inside the Coliseum, and put that facility back in use?

    We’re in the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Despite that, we still need to spend money on art, sports, alternative transportation, etc. – but we need to do it SMARTER. Playing soccer in an indoor stadium won’t destory the sport (and they could always build the Coliseum a retractable roof – probably STILL cheaper than a new stadium)

    $500,000 for bikes is a good starting point, but that’s all it really is. There’s a lot more out there that needs to be done.

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  • Why are you whining? May 1, 2009 at 7:37 am

    To all you whiners:
    What are you doing to improve conditions for bicycling in Portland other than whine about every single thing that’s written here?

    Based on my observations you who do essentially nothing but whine are basically clueless about how government works and have about zero appreciation for how difficult it is to come up with a small sum of newly dedicated funding.

    I’ll bet you all complained when your Mommy’s gave you cookies instead of cake. If you don’t like what you see why don’t you get involved in some constructive way rather than just exercise your 10 precious little digits on the keyboard? Boo Hoo for you.

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  • bike militia May 1, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Good, but not exactly enough to make up for Adams’ 12-lane freeway..

    I really hope some money gets spent making the “bike boulevards” a little more serious – doing more to stop rush-hour drivers from using them as a short cut for instance.

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  • Matt Picio May 1, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Why are you whining? (#24) – Well, since I’m the most recent “whiner”, I’ll answer that: What am I doing to improve conditions?

    1. I serve as the Vice-Chair of the Multnomah County Bike/Ped Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
    2. I founded a Bike Camping nonprofit – http://www.cyclewild.org
    3. I co-founded Umbrella, which sponsored MCBF, the Pedalpalooza Kickoff Dance Party, the Sprockettes, Oregon Manifest, and other projects last year. I serve on the board of that organization.
    4. I co-organized portions of the Pinot Pedal to try to make the old Sauvie Island bridge into a bike/ped bridge over I-405.
    5. I field-checked the Clackamas County Bike Map, and provided input on its design.
    6. I served as Executive Director of Exchange Cycle Tours for 9 months.
    7. I’ve organized more than 2 dozen bike rides and 22 bike camping trips, for social, advocacy, and educational purposes.
    8. I’ve volunteered for Filmed by Bike, Harvest Century, Worst Day of the Year Ride, Portland Century, BTA, Alice Awards, and other bike events.
    9. I served on the Milwaukie Transportation System Plan Update in the Bike/Ped, Traffic, and Street Design working groups, and organized community rides to educate Milwaukians about bike issues.
    10. I represented and advised the BTA on the Airport Way Interchange Project, which is still ongoing.
    11. I serve on the Clinton Bike Boulevard Enhancement Project Advisory Committee.
    12. I helped Transportation Options plan a number of their Southeast Rides.
    13. I’ve contributed story ideas, photos and information to Bikeportland.org.
    14. Like you, when people start complaining, I ask them what they are actually *doing* to further biking, or their opinions.

    There’s a lot of commentors on this site who merely comment, but there’s a lot of others who actually *do* stuff too. Look at Jasun Wurster – he organized the Adams recall drive. You might not agree with him, but he’s *doing* something. Jeff Bernards, who was “whining” above, runs a bike helmet program, testifies before City Council on a number of issues, and writes and calls representatives, the Oregonian, commissioners, councilors, and anyone else who listens (or doesn’t listen). He also volunteers on a number of different projects. Peejay has done volunteer work, and shows up at pretty much every rally, and has been working against the CRC (the CRC will NOT help cyclists – it will make things worse).

    Don’t assume that the loudest and most prolific commentors are doing nothing – many of them are quite involved in their community.

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  • K'Tesh May 1, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I’m pleased by this news and optimistic that this will have a long lasting effect that improves the contitions that I find out on the roads of Portland today.

    Now, if only someone can get the bike eating storm drain on SE 4th and SE Division, and the one on SE 8th and SE Division replaced…

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  • Mike May 1, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Thank you for all of your dedication and hard work.
    While I have not whined on this post (yet),I am a whiner when it comes to the recent shortcomings of our BTA and joke of a mayor.
    To answer #24, my list of “doing” is pretty short: joining the recall Adams movement, the Anti-CRC movement, and previously donated lots of time and money to the BTA (up until they started losing direction, that is). If, or when, there is a way to prevent blowing $100M on baseball and soccer, I will join that too.

    We are still a way from actually having that $500k.

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  • Matt Picio May 1, 2009 at 11:27 am

    That’s a great point, Mike (#28) – There’s a lot of things that could still deep-six the $500k

    And thanks for the comment. The bike community has given me a LOT (including my current job and a previous one), and I feel it’s worth the effort.

    When I was out walking last night, (I live in inner SE) I noticed that nearly every house or apartment building had bikes on the porch, locked to a pole out front, in their garage, or their basement, and between 10 and 11pm I think I had 20 or more cyclists ride past me on various streets. It was awesome – Portland (or at least the inner neighborhoods) truly is the city that bikes. I’d love to see the other neighborhoods get the kind of ridership numbers that we have in Sunnyside and Buckman.

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  • BURR May 1, 2009 at 11:36 am

    For those of you that are complaining about whiners: I don’t trust Sam and I don’t trust the engineers at PDOT; my distrust comes from 12 years of reviewing all sorts of transporation projects and lots and lots of bike-specific projects as a member of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, half a dozen years on the Hawthorne Blvd. Transportation Plan Advisory Committee and a year or so on my neighborhood board.

    What I learned during that time is that transportation planning and engineering is almost all about moving more cars faster, and the first objective of almost all the so-called bike projects is to support the prime directive – move more cars faster by getting bikes out of the way of motorists, whether or not the infrastructure proposed is actually safe for cyclists or not. And of course I also learned that curb-side parking is sacred and has priority over cycling facilities.

    Cycle tracks are the perfect example of the PDOT mentality – they get cyclists out of the way of motorists, but they are not necessarily safer for cyclists, because there are still major problems at intersections, and intersections are the most common crash location.

    So I’m not going to just line up in lock-step for any old bike infrastructure the city proposes, every time they decide to throw us a bone.

    Anyway, most of these projects are meant to appease the real whiners – those folks who won’t be happy until Portland looks exactly like Amsterdam.

    Valid criticism is not whining, and there are plenty of good ideas out there that I don’t think PDOT is pursuing actively enough, like sharrows, or the North Portland Greenway Trail, while they focus on creating much more hazardous separated cycle paths in places where they aren’t needed and there are better solutions.

    As far as increasing ridership, that’s already happening by itself and I fully support PDOT’s encouragement efforts, such as the Transportation Options program, which has nothing at all to do with PDOT engineering.

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  • Paul Tay May 1, 2009 at 12:18 pm


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  • Mike May 1, 2009 at 1:42 pm


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  • Withheld May 1, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Are you all the same people that comment on the websites of the O, WWeek, and Tribune on bicycling issues? Because you sound that stupid. If you consider yourself a proponent of better bicycling conditions in Portland and you find yourself criticizing your local elected officials for committing dollars to your cause, you are by definition an idiot.

    Sorry to be harsh, but seriously- think about it and pull your head out. Never mind scandals, questions of how the dollars will be spent, the moronic self indulgent VC arguments, etc. The bottom line is it’s MORE money. That’s a GOOD thing. Get it?

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  • jim May 2, 2009 at 2:48 am

    500K should be just about enough to put some platnum coated bike racks in front of city hall

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  • Seth D. Alford May 2, 2009 at 8:06 am

    “Withheld” @33: no, more money spent on useless or dangerous projects like side paths (also known as cycle tracks, or class I bikeways) means less money available for things that are beneficial, like bike boulevards, widening the bridges on Barbur where the bike lane disappears, or fixing crash corner (aka the Beaverton-Hillsdale/Oleson/Scholls intersection.)

    It also means that when the useless or dangerous projects fail, and are reverted, or are unused, the anti-tax crowd will then scream, “no more tax money for any bike projects; they just get demolished, cause accidents, or are unused.”

    Re “self indulgent VC arguments:” money should go to support people who are actually riding bicycles, not the “latent ridership” who maybe might possibly ride, if only it didn’t rain, get dark, or cold. I suspect that projects which address VC needs are more cost effective than projects which try to transform latent into actual ridership. That’s due to VC-style projects resulting in more actual miles being ridden by bike, because vehicular cyclists put in more miles on a bike than the latents. No, I don’t have numbers to prove that. But it seems to me that if you are a latent rider, then you are not putting in too many miles per year.

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  • joey May 2, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    But Seth, what if I’m not fast, brave or young enough to be vehicular? Should I just take my Schwinn and go home. Shouldn’t we be encouraging more cycling and doesn’t that mean safer streets protected from crazy cars?

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  • carless in pdx May 2, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    This is awesome news, considering that they dropped the park blocks idea in favor of this, which could actually do some good. PSU has lots of cyclists, but Broadway is pretty scary for most people to ride near.

    All you naysayers need to remember that the majority of the budget goes to things like running the government, human services like Police and Fire, and stuff like that. Half a million bucks is a good start, but we’re also getting bike lanes on Morrison, a new ped bridge over I-5, and a Trimet (no car) bridge over the Willamette.

    While Portland may be building a “bike scene” (rolling eyes here…), we’re talking less than 2% of the city’s residents. To make a real-world dent in car addiction, we need to get normal people out of their cars and onto bikes too.

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  • Ethan May 2, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I think I am done with Sam. Next.

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  • are May 3, 2009 at 11:15 am

    re whining. I cannot give quite the resume that matt p. does, but I have been involved in bike advocacy for close to ten years, was a founding board member of an advocacy organization in another town, have trained as an LCI, volunteer several hours a week at the bikefarm, and am drafting legislation to be proposed in the next session that would create a fund for cyclists and pedestrians to collect from when they are struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. I do not think it is whining to participate in the discussion of what is or is not a mistake in infrastructure spending. until we get rid of the mandatory sidepath law and start educating police and prosecutors (and the public) about a cyclist’s right to be on the road, we should not be spending money on what amount to mandatory sidepaths for the occasional (dare I say “recreational”) rider.

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  • old&slow May 3, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    What a joke this is. I ride Broadway daily and this is the least worrisome part of the ride. A lot of right turns are gone , the traffic is less, it makes the least sense for a cyclopath. The Adams sycophants on here, including Maus, are just sucking this stuff up without even questioning why you would spend this kind of money here instead of the lower hotel part of Broadway where it is dangerous! This guy is rolling you for all it is worth. In between calls to Beau, Adams has done nothing for the cycling community at all except give lip service to stupid projects like this, He throws you people a few crumbs and you lap it up like he really cares about this community. The first comment was right, it probably is a spelunking helmut, he probably doesn’t have a cycling helmut because he never really rides a bike unless it is to fund raising activities.

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  • John Peterson May 3, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    I’m with the whiners, curmudgeons, naysayers, and skeptics on almost anything involving Sam Adams including his bike projects. Adams’ current priorities are spending large amounts (hundreds of millions of dollars) of our local tax payer money on dubious schemes like the proposed convention center hotel, new sports stadiums, and the 12 lane CRC. He is also willing to argue for a few hundred thousand for some high visibility (but little utility) bike projects. How about bike projects we really need (like safer routes in outer SE)? He is also endlessly parading around in a bike helmet. It’s time to look elsewhere for local leadership for bike issues and city issues in general. Recall Adams.

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  • In the news… « I Bike NY May 7, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    […] Stop” bill failed last month, but the good news is Portland is creating a “Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Fund” that provides a dedicated source of funding for bike projects. Clarence Eckerson’s film […]

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