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Lawmakers leave bikes out of transportation bill: BTA “disappointed”

Posted by on May 20th, 2009 at 2:26 pm

“This is not a very impressive step forward in terms of recognizing the role of bicycles in addressing our transportation needs.”
— Doug Parrow, head of BTA’s legislative committee

Salem lawmakers have published their much-anticipated amendments to Governor Kulongoski’s transportation package and the news for bikes is bad. Very bad.

When the bill was first introduced back in November, bike advocates saw some positive signs that funding for bike projects might finally get the increase it deserves. There was talk of an increase to Oregon’s Bike Bill to take it from from 1% to 1.5% of highway project funds that would be guaranteed for bike and ped improvements. Advocates also hoped for a new fund specifically dedicated to non-motorized transportation corridors.

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Unfortunately, neither of those things have survived. The 1.5% proposal is nowhere to be found. There is a new “Urban Trail Fund”, but BTA lobbyist Doug Parrow says that’s nothing to get excited about.

Speaking on the phone today Parrow didn’t hide his disappointment with lawmakers. What the BTA and Metro wanted, he said, was “a recognition that non-motorized corridors in urban areas are in fact a mode of transportation.” Their plan was to get a new fund created that would be filled by discretionary federal funds and transportation related funds from the state.

But what they got instead, according to Parrow is, “Basically, the legislature’s attempt to look like they’re doing something in response to our advocacy.”

Parrow explained that the new Urban Trail Fund would take Oregon Lottery dollars that were already going to State Parks, and that would have been spent on recreation trails, and directs some of the funds toward more transportation-oriented trails. But the actual language of the bill, and how it will work, has not left Parrow too hopeful.

Here’s the language from the bill:

“… Moneys in the fund are continuously appropriated to the State Parks and Recreation Department to develop and maintain recreation trails for nonmotorized vehicles and pedestrians that supplement or provide links to urban transportation corridors.”

That’s pretty weak language if you ask me, and Parrow seems to agree. He says the new Urban Trail Fund is, “Not a very impressive step forward in terms of recognizing the role of bicycles in addressing our transportation needs.”

A few minutes ago, the BTA published an action alert signed by executive director Scott Bricker that labels House Bill 2001 as “a highway bill, dominated by an $840 million list of road building projects.” It goes on to read:

“Meanwhile, it does not allocate any additional funds to non-motorized transportation, ignoring the fact that investing in bicycle and pedestrian corridors, trails and greenways would benefit local economies and reduce health care costs across Oregon… This is not the balanced and sustainable transportation future that Oregonians want.”

[And by the way, there’s no mention of a new I-5 bridge on that $840 million list.]

Now the BTA wants Oregonians to contact their representatives to tell them to restore balance to the package. They’re also urging folks to attend a special public hearing on the bill in Salem tomorrow.

As shocking as it is to realize that even in this great, “green” state of Oregon, bikes get no respect, it’s not exactly a huge surprise. Back in December we shared our concerns that the Governor didn’t really have bike funding on his radar. Also, an article last month in the Portland Mercury detailed several reasons why bike funding, and the BTA, were facing an “uphill pedal” this session. In that article, BTA executive director Scott Bricker said, “The Oregon legislature has not acknowledged that bicycling and walking are legitimate modes of transportation for our region.”

There’s still a chance things can change direction and more amendments are expected to come out. Stay tuned for more coverage as the bill moves forward.

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27 Comments
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    buzz May 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    This is very disappointing. I guess I will be sending another email to my reps.

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    Mike May 20, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I find it rather unfortunate that the BTA doesn’t have enough clout to truly represent us in Salem. I thought the purpose of the BTA is to act as our mouthpiece and advocate.

    If we are called upon to take the time to drive to Salem and state our cases in person, then what is the purpose? I realize there is strength in numbers, but I guess my point is having a representative from the BTA should be perceived as having 5,000 or so people there at the hearing.

    Yes, I realize they do many other things (Safe Routes for example), but I feel the advocacy part, especially this year has been rather weak.

    Perhaps I am overly sensative due to the recent happenings in Salem and what I perceived as a poor focus of resources.

    Thoughts? Am I wrong for feeling this way? Someone renew my faith, as oppose to cut me down or call me out.

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    DJ Hurricane May 20, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Are those of you who live in the bikey island of Portland yet beginning to understand these critical facts:

    1. BTA has approximately zero clout with the Oregon Legislative Assembly. It is politically irrelevant outside of Portland.

    2. Those so-called “progressive” Democrats you voted for have no intention of doing anything that is actually progressive. It’s all greenwashing. They say what you want to hear to get elected (just like Sam), and then they tow the middle line. If you can’t get 1.5% with a majority in both houses, when can you get it?

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    Matt Picio May 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Mike (#2) – The BTA rep is viewed as being paid to be there, which to a certain extent is true. State congresspeople put more value on the average joe, because the average joe doesn’t take the time to go to Salem and show up for these meetings. When a number of average joes, especially ones who don’t self-identify as cyclists go down and testify, and say they want safer neighborhoods, and need more bike & ped infrastructure, then they actually listen a bit – because every person who testifies means there’s probably 100 who are mad, but not enough to come down to Salem (but possibly mad enough to vote against them on the next ballot).

    They want to hear from the public – they want to know which way the political wind is blowing.

    Go on down, say something – or at least show your support. The wind *is* blowing, and change is in the wind – and we can all help the legislature see that.

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    BURR May 20, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    less funding = less cycle tracks and other bad cycling infrastructure

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    Rouleur May 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Well, maybe instead of issuing another action alert and asking us to contact our representatives, it’s time for the BTA to “call out the weasels” who are responsible for the current draft of this bill and start keeping report cards on how our representatives are voting on this and other bills, who is speaking up against it, who is filing amendments to make it more cyclist friendly, etc.

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    amos May 20, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    This responsibility cannot lie solely with the BTA. Sitting around and waiting for one group to solve all of our problems and then complaining when they don’t will never work.

    Please contact your Rep. and tell them how important this is to you.

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    yeah sprawl May 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I read the bill as posted from the BTA link. It looks like Oregon will be issuing bonds to pay for $192 million bypass highway 99W to Newberg, and $100 million for a new freeway from happy valley to hwy 26. The decision to fund these projects–at the expense of bike and low impact transportation projects–should have a lot of folks outraged.

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    Andrew Holtz May 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    It isn’t all about bikes. 1000 Friends of Oregon also issued an action alert today calling on people to contact legislators and go to Thursday’s hearing in Salem.

    The point is that putting all the additional funding into one mode is wasteful because it means people will use cars for short trips that they could have walked or biked… and the extra road and parking infrastructure costs us taxpayers a bundle.

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    A May 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    BTA should end their Salem presence immediately. If BTA were a paid lobbyist (which in som aspects they are aren’t they?), they would be fired.

    #6 has a good idea. Mug shots too. It would be a very useful educational piece.

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    revphil May 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    truly disappointing. who has got the phone bank?

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    Steven J May 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Is That Chain Oil I smell on Critical Mass’s chains?

    Bet we could clog up that single lane Trimet has been flaunting all month on 5th and 6th..and perfectly legal.

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    anonymous May 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    If a paid lobbyist can’t be effective, I’m not sure who can be in this political/economic climate.

    I am done with the BTA, LAB and other “advocacy” groups. I’d rather spend my limited time and resources being my own activist, simply by riding my bike, eschewing cars and as many products of the car culture as possible, and living a life that allows me to “drop out” rather than “buy in” to the consumerist mess we’ve brrn propping up for far too long.

    And hey — if there’s no money for bike infrastructure, then riding anywhere I want will be perfectly justified. Especially as long as bicycles are still “vehicles” under the law.

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    Lazy Spinner May 20, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    yeah sprawl (#8) – I’ll tell you who is outraged, about 10-20,000 people primarily residing in Portland. About 25-30% of them are not registered to vote and only about half of the registered ones actually bother to do so.

    Now unless I am representing inner Southeast or certain pockets of Northeast, I couldn’t care less about this outrage because it has little bearing on my ability to win elections. But if I am seen as “anti-car”, I have real problems.

    If I do happen to represent a bikey district, I still roll with the majority but I’ll throw bikes a few small bones (Hey! I support the idea of “Idaho stops” and I’ll ask the cops to stop writing bike tickets. Here’s a free bike light!) about thirty days before the election to keep you all in line.

    We are years away from having any real clout in Salem.

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    Joel Batterman May 20, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Folks, we’re talking one lobbyist for bikes, plus a few enviros, against a massive array of money, power and institutions pressing for as much new road construction as possible. Our victory has never been assured. I’m outraged by the package, but some of the criticism directed at the BTA here is pretty outrageous too. Our outrage is best channeled to contacting legislators, not savaging our own advocates.

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    TS May 21, 2009 at 2:07 am

    The BTA has done some great work in the past. This has been a disappointing year for them, but I’m not so quick to give up on them.

    Anonymous #13, please be careful with that kind of attitude and behavior. Some might misread your intentions, and I worry about promoting apathy among cyclists and inciting frustration among drivers. The result of such a path could very well be that bicycles are removed and NOT considered vehicles anymore, which would be a tremendous setback. Or maybe other transportation users, tired of cyclists not using infrastructure cooperatively, choose to impose restrictive licensing and registration requirements on cyclists.

    The gains we’ve won aren’t guaranteed, but for our collective continued efforts to maintain and improve public transportation policy. You or anyone else of course is/are not obligated to help that effort, but at least don’t work against it.

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    Anonymous May 21, 2009 at 6:20 am

    Firing your lobbyist in Salem earlier this year during the Idaho stop and license bikes like cars bills doesn’t sound like it’s the best way to run your organization.

    So I think the BTA has some internal issues to deal.

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    Dan Liu May 21, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Despite the big Democratic margins in the legislature this session, the key power brokers in the House and Senate transportation committees do not come from districts where biking has “arrived” in the same way as it has in Portland. Convincing Rick Metsger — who chairs the Senate Business & Transportation Committee — of the merits of spending on bike infrastructure would be tough: he has lived and breathed that committee for years, and his district’s (26: far-east multnomah, north clackamas co., and hood river co.) transportation needs are rural roads and highways. Farmers, loggers, and ski-resorts aren’t, shall we say, necessarily pro-bike, and in this year’s budget environment, are fighting for whatever they can get. The same story is true, I suspect, on the House Transportation Cmte., where Rep. Beyer’s district (Springfield) also as much less concern for bicyclists.

    To Larry (#14) especially: It’s interesting to note that only two (?) of our Portland-area representatives are on transportation committees (Bailey and Kahl, both freshman members, and Kahl is more focused on mass transit). The most liberal (or progressive, if you prefer that) and many bike-friendly reps have been working for years on other issues like health care, law enforcement/public safety, and natural resources, all of which have far greater statewide and union appeal. Bike infrastructure might be on their radar, and they might support it when bills come to the floor, but writing and amending bills happens exclusively in committee.

    Bills can theoretically go to *any* committee the House Speaker sees fit to assign them to. Given the current distribution of reps and committee assignments, bike infrastructure might have had a lot more success in the various environmental committees.

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    Matt Picio May 21, 2009 at 8:14 am

    TS (#16) – I generally agree with anonymous (#13), except I still have faith in the BTA and other advocacy groups and support them – I just don’t rely on them. I think it’s a good attitude. And no matter what, someone will misread your intentions, no matter how clearly spelled out they are.

    I can say one thing, however – if they remove bikes as vehicles, I will continue to ride in the road at every opportunity, and fight for my right to be there, regardless of the cost. We have a right to the roads, we have a right to use that public infrastructure that we all pay for, have paid for, and our families have paid for, back 3+ generations.

    Anon (#17) – the BTA is a membership organization, it will always have internal issues to deal with. No matter what they do, someone will be unhappy. As far as lobbying goes, we won’t know how successful they’ve been until the end of this legislative session.

    In any case, all of you BTA naysayers – can you do a better job? If you think so, form your own bike advocacy group. I’ll be first in line to join – the BTA shouldn’t be the only game in town, and we could use a less moderate player in the game. The BTA is mainstream now – the days of suing the city are past. That’s a good thing – they’re a respected voice in the dialog, viewed as moderate and responsible, and a key player at the planning table. What we need now is someone to stretch the envelope. Someone who’ll hold ODOT’s feet to the fire on the Oregon City Bridge, someone who will advocate for more change.

    If you’re that someone, step up. If you really want change, then either join the BTA and change them from within, or put together another group, and do your own thing.

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    Kt May 21, 2009 at 9:46 am

    This is disappointing, but not surprising.

    The BTA, despite their all-state message, focuses 99% of their efforts on the area within the Portland city limits.

    They forget that, once you get out into rural Oregon, people want different things. Bike and ped infrastructure isn’t as important out there, while good wide roads for moving farming implements are. Good shoulders are more important than bike boulevards and MUPs. Flood and erosion control trump the Idaho Stop law.

    If y’all want bikey funds to be included, find some way to pitch it to the 99% of the state outside of the City of Portland.

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    Anonymous May 21, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Did the membership vote on the firing of the lobbyist?

    Nope. It was a leadership decision.

    Plenty of people have recognized and stated that the BTA leadership are making these decisions without the input of the volunteers/members.

    Many of us have made efforts to refocus BTA but it really is about the leadership running the show.

    Much the same problem we have with elected representatives at the state house. They got our votes now they don’t have to listen to us.

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    Matt Picio May 21, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Anonymous (#21) – As I understand it, many members pushed for the BTA to take a more aggressive stance in Salem. Whether Karl Rhode was unable to provide that is a matter between Karl and Scott Bricker.

    The BTA leadership is set by the Board of Directors. Writing / talking to them is always an option.

    As for “Plenty of people have recognized… the BTA leadership are making these decisions without the input” – well, that’s patently untrue. Without the control, approval, or oversight of the membership, perhaps – but definitely not without the input. Members have called the BTA, written the BTA (I know this from speaking with staffers), and many on this site have provided the BTA with input in site comments. BTA staffers have acknowledged the comments on this very site, and in some cases, posted changes in BTA policy, like their position reversal on the CRC.

    If you want to complain about the BTA, fine. If you want to advocate change, or form your own organization, great! But the one thing you can’t honestly say is that the BTA isn’t listening, or that it’s ignoring its members. They’ve gotten the input of the volunteers/members. There are thousands of members, there is no possible way for the BTA to satisfy all of them.

    If the BTA really isn’t listening, we’ll know it soon enough, either through a board/staff shakeup or institutional irrelevance.

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    anonymous May 21, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Anon 13 here again.

    If I am paying for infrastructure with my taxes and the government decides to tell me that my bike no longer counts as a vehicle, I’ll either want my money back for all the years I didn’t own a car but still paid transportation taxes, or I’ll want to keep on riding and dare the (expletive deleted)s to run me off the road.

    I choose to ride a bike. I choose not to own a car. That already makes me a marked man in a society where speed, personal safety and personal convenience are everything. If I let advocacy grou0ps do all the work for me I may as well hang a target sign on my back. Instead, I think I’ll just ride my bike and let the BTA sort its own stuff out. They certainly don’t need my money to do so.

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    steve May 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Yup Matt, awesome retort you keep whipping out. Don’t like the President of the country? Start your own Government!

    Imagine, past and present members of an organization being so uppity as to complain about its current leadership. The audacity! Clearly they should shut up and start a new group. Brilliant, thanks for that insight. (again)

    This gem is nice too- “But the one thing you can’t honestly say is that the BTA isn’t listening, or that it’s ignoring its members.”

    Many people have said exactly that Matt. And your arrogance in assuming none of them are intimately involved with the organization is astounding. This is a small community. I am certain many of the posters who are critical of the BTA have strong, first hand experiences leading them to that critique.

    The board of the BTA is clearly representing interests other than that of the membership body. Have a gander at some of the names on that list.

    Scott Bricker needs to be removed from his position as soon as possible. Michelle too. Don’t believe me? Go spend some volunteer time with these folks. Introduce yourself to them at the next event they are prancing about. They are not our friends. If you wake up one day finding bikes no longer considered vehicles, the BTA will be there to tell you how it is really for the best.

    Then they will fire you!

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    steve May 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    If anyone needs another reason why Bricker needs to go, just check the title of this post. I would say it pretty much sums up the ineptitude of the current regime.

    “Lawmakers leave bikes out of transportation bill: BTA “disappointed”

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    Scott Bricker, BTA May 21, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    The BTA is partnering with a variety of environmental, health, and business organizations. We are all battling hard. We are here right now testifying in opposition to the bill as it stands. We are urging the joint committee to drastically change the bill.

    I encourage you strongly to directly contact your legislator to say that this bill is not acceptable.

    http://www.bta4bikes.org/btablog/2009/05/20/urgent-support-biking-walking-and-transit-in-hb-2001/

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    Dan Kaufman May 21, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Joel 15 and Matt 19, here, here!

    anonymous, Steve – your are good at stirring the pot but you have little relevance until you come out of the closet. As far as I know, you both are the same guy and also the same one who’s putting tacks out on the springwater.

    KT 20- The city of Portland is way more than 1% of the population of Oregon. Acres don’t vote.

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