After years of encouragement from advocates and citizen activists, the City of Tigard says they plan to establish an official Bicycle Advisory Committee.
During a phone call, City of Tigard transportation project engineer Mike McCarthy told us the decision to form the committee comes as part of a larger effort. McCarthy said the Bike Advisory Committee will be a sub-committee of the newly formed Transportation Advisory Committee.
The City of Tigard has received a grant from Metro to help create a new bike map (City provides the data, Metro does the printing). According to McCarthy, they’re looking to pull together a group of citizens to help identify routes for that project and he expects those people to form the basis of the Bike Advisory Committee.
When asked for a specific date for the formation of the new committee, McCarthy said it would happen in the “next several months”.
In Portland, the Bicycle Advisory Committee is a crucial link between the City and citizens to make sure decisions are made in line with bike-friendly policies and goals. It is staffed by the Bureau of Transportation’s bike coordinator and regularly is asked to give its blessing to major infrastructure projects.
McCarthy first contacted BikePortland in response to our report last week about new city code amendments that removed a requirement for Tigard planners to install bike lanes and allowed them to put on-street motor vehicle on some downtown streets (where it wasn’t previously allowed).
McCarthy wrote via email that he felt there was “a lot of unfortunate misunderstanding about this issue.” Specifically, McCarthy wanted to clarify that no existing bike lanes would be removed and replaced with parking. He said all streets impacted by the new code already have parking, have low speed limits, and “function fairly well with cyclists and drivers sharing a common travel lane.”
About the code changes, McCarthy said they were made,
“so that these downtown streets would not be crammed into the same design standard box as the higher-speed collectors [a type of street classification] elsewhere in the city. The change allows the City to intelligently design each street on a case-by-case basis and do our best to make it function well for everyone.”
McCarthy said it was “ironic” that some people in the comments were up in arms about the decision because he sees the code changes as a way to give city planners and engineers the “design freedom to actually make these streets better for pedestrians and cyclists.”
Lest our story have folks think the City of Tigard doesn’t care about bike traffic, McCarthy shared a long list of bike-friendly projects and plans they’re working on. These include; a new downtown plan that will emphasize smaller blocks and lower-volume streets, extensions to the popular Fanno Creek Trail, new bike lanes and other safety improvements (coming next year) on State Hwy 99W in the Greenburg Road / Main Street area, a program to give out free bike lights to children in low-income families, a Neighborhood Trails study to identify trails that connect neighborhoods to shopping and transit, and more.
Hal Ballard, executive director of the 130-member Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition, told us today he welcomes the news of the new Bike Advisory Committee. He approached the city years ago, he says, but they weren’t interested. He said they considered it again in 2007, but quickly shelved the idea when the economy turned sour.
Ballard, who lives in the Bethany area, said bicycles are in sore need of a stronger voice in the City of Tigard. For him, the big issue is not trails, but connectivity: “If you live in Tigard, you can figure a way around, but if you don’t… well, I wouldn’t like to visit there.”
Ballard was a member of the Beaverton Bike Advisory Committee from 1995-2005 and says he might sit on the Tigard committee in an advisory role to help it get off the ground. What does Ballard think ought to be the top priority for the new committee? “We need to address bike traffic in the downtown area,” he said, “and the Highway 99 configuration; that’s what messes everything up in Tigard.”
If you are interested in being a member of the new Bike Advisory Committee in Tigard, contact Mike McCarthy at MikeM [at] tigard-or [dot] gov.