Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 4th, 2009 at 2:00 pm
(Photos © J. Maus)
A few weeks ago, in the Rose Room in Portland’s City Hall, U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer hosted an invite-only, roundtable discussion about biking. Around the large conference table sat electeds (like Metro President David Bragdon) and representatives from a variety of local, regional, and statewide agencies, universities, non-profits, and businesses.
Besides hearing the latest bike news and ideas from the experts in his home district, Blumenauer’s main goal of the meeting was to share and hear feedback on three specific initiatives he’s working on.
The first is what Blumenauer calls a “visible achievement project.” This would be a high-visibility bike project that would be sort of a PR effort to get attention from Capitol Hill for bike infrastructure. The project Blumenauer seems to have settled on (I’ve also heard him mention it in speeches) is to put bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C.
As most of you know, Pennsylvania Ave. isn’t just another street. It’s probably the most historic and important street in America; it’s home to the White House, numerous federal office buildings, and it leads directly into the U.S. Capitol building.
Currently, the street is a nine-lane thoroughfare where motorcades, tourist buses, taxis, and high-falutin’ lobbyist types in town cars reign supreme. In a country largely built around the automobile, it’s no surprise that our most famous street caters to it almost exclusively.
Putting bike lanes on such a hallowed and historic street would be highly symbolic — but it will be no small task. Before bike lanes can get put in, reps from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Architect of the Capitol, and the local department of transportation will have to sign off.
Blumenauer has already been meeting with stakeholders, but so far there’s no solid progress to report.
The next priority Blumenauer shared is his desire to set a national goal for biking. The idea here is to set a reachable target for advocates (both inside and outside of government) to shoot for in the re-write of the new transportation bill.
Can we (the entire country) double bike mode share? Should we set a national VMT reduction goal? Should we strive to double our national inventory of bikeway miles? (PBOT bike coordinator Roger Geller’s idea was that each city tries to double the bike mode share they have now).
Blumenauer wants to set a specific goal that we can measure success (or failure) by, then promote the goal, capture America’s attention, and then build momentum toward achieving it.
The final national priority Blumenauer said he’s working on is to expand the Safe Routes to Schools program into high schools and the American workplace. Safe Routes was funded to the tune of over $600 million in the last transportation bill, but it is currently only focused on elementary schools. Blumenauer wants to expand the scope of the program into other areas.
The Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership is already backing a new bill that would triple funding for the program and take it into high schools.
Before the discussion ended, Blumenauer shared a few thoughts about the Obama administration. He said they have “a new vision” for transportation that includes looking at the “bigger picture stuff” like how infrastructure design impacts livability.
“I think there’s a growing interest,” Blumenauer said, “to practice the art of engineering, not just the science.”