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BTA asks: What advocacy topics do you want to talk about?

Posted by on July 28th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is planning several “Advocacy Forums” later this summer. The forums are being held so the BTA can garner feedback and input on a variety of issues. In advance of the first event in mid-August, the BTA just released a survey asking the community what topics they’d like to discuss.

When asked for more information about the forums, BTA Advocacy Manager Michelle Poyourow wrote via email that,

“These forums are a chance for BTA staff to discuss some perennial bike advocacy issues with our members. We can bring our informed perspective – what we know from the latest research and data, national and international best practices, political realities – and we want to hear from our members what their concerns and priorities are and what they’d like to see the BTA champion.”

Poyourow added that the forums are only meant for BTA members, “since, after all, that is who is funding this advocacy work.” She notes that if someone’s membership has expired, they’ll be able to renew it at the event.

In the survey, there are two questions. Here is the first:

1. From the list below, choose 3 topics you’d want to discuss at a BTA Advocacy Forum.

  • Bike taxes, bike registration and bicyclist licensing
  • Bikes + transit
  • Helmet laws
  • Police enforcement
  • Should bikes and cars be considered the same under the law?
  • What really makes roads safe for bicycling?
  • Other

The other question simply asks if you are a BTA member. Take the survey here.

The first BTA Advocacy Forum will be on August 15th at 3:00pm (I’ll update with location as soon as I find out). If you’d like to attend, RSVP to michelle [at] bta4bikes [dot] org.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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    Esta Nevando Aqui July 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Why does BTA still think people want to talk about bike taxes and bike licensing? Didn’t their membership and donations take a big enough hit when Rohde and Thomas publicly advocated for a bike tax? No? Well, I’m doing my part. Hope you are too.

    And note that “Other” can include, “WTF were you thinking when you decided to support the CRC?”

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    redhippie July 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I agree with Esta, I did not renew my membership after BTA endorsed the idea of bike registration as part of the last legislative session.. I’m in a cooling off period right now and might renew later on, but not if they keep advocating for measures that are counterproductive.

    My 2 cents.

    ps. Having recently been informed that my building is loosing its bike parking. Two other local garages have also stopped allowing free bike parking, so there is nothing else available but paying $360/year. Perhaps BTA should focus on these more mundane issues than playing “Mr. Smith goes to Washington”.

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    steve July 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Let’s hope they get a few thousand people checking the ‘other’ box.

    And a few thousand more answering “Are you a BTA member?” with- “Not any more!”

    That survey is loaded, is completely useless for soliciting real opinions, and is obviously geared to focus attention on the issues they wish to discuss.

    What a joke!

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    Dabby July 28, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    BT ehhhhh?

    I have waited for a long time for the BTA to actually become what we need them to be.

    But, still so far, they appear to be really just a lobbyist group, looking out for the interests of those who have the money to pay to have their interests looked after.

    And from their above list, it appears those interests involve making cycling a more difficult and less cost effective decision for those entering into it’s realm, and a more frustrating thing in general for those already committed cyclists.

    While I applaud the work done with school children, I believe very strongly
    that the last thing we need to be putting our pedaling faith into is the BTA.

    Unless of course the BTA has some sort of turn around, and starts pedaling the right direction…..

    Does this sound harsh?

    Well, I agree, it is harsh.

    But such is the reality when you put yourself in the position of appearing to represent such a strong willed group as Portland Cyclists.

    Suck it up, buttercup!

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    BURR July 28, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Repeal ORS 814.420, the mandatory bike lane and sidepath law!

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    N.I.K. July 28, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Let’s see… BTA says, “Forums are for BTA members.” BTA releases a survey suggesting topics they’re already concerned with, in some form or another, two of which would be met with an overwhelming “NO!” from the cycling community at large, while simultaneously, the BTA leaves no indication as to their stance as presented in the survey topics.

    Hands up, who’s panicking *just* enough to jump into the apparent thick of it and pay up for a new/renewed BTA membership?

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    peejay July 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I like this Esta character! Although I think it’s a new name for one of our regulars ;P

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    GLV July 28, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Yeah except Esta apparently hasn’t noticed it’s 105 outside 🙂

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    drizzle July 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I still think adding a few questions on the damn license test would be good and putting together a coalition to start enforcing laws that support bike riders rights in the court of law would be a worthy start. Here is another idea for a question, Do you think BTA needs a new Executive Director?

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    Michelle (BTA) July 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    If you’re not a BTA member, and you’re not interested in any of these topics, but you DO want to tell the BTA how you think we’re doing, we’re very interesting in hearing that.

    To that end, we’re putting a general survey out to the public within the next few weeks, asking for input, interests, concerns and feedback on many topics. Keep an eye out for it, we’d love to hear from you!

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    SteveG July 28, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Michelle (BTA) –

    Ever since I saw the recent “BTA wants commitments on security, maintenance if I-5 bridge design moves forward” article, I’ve been seriously considering re-canceling my membership.


    How about a survey of how BTA members feel about the organization’s position regarding the CRC? I (and apparently at least some of your current, past and potential members think you guys are still taking a far too accommodating position on the CRC project.

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    peejay July 28, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I was skeptical of the BTA for a long time, and then I heard that they were provisionally supporting the CRC, which confirmed my skepticism. Then I heard that they were changing their position on the bridge, so I joined (and told them exactly why I did). Once I realized that their weak tea opposition is virtually the same as their original provisional support, I let my membership lapse (and told them why again). I think there are a lot of others here who might share a similar relationship with the BTA, no?

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    BURR July 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    @ redhippie #2: property owners are required by city code to maintain a certain amount of long and short term bike parking. You should check and see if they will be in code violation if they remove the bike parking.

    Title 33 Chapter 266:

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    Joe Rowe July 28, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Other idea: Convert the BTA into a PAC.

    The SF Bike Coalition did this many years ago. All of the major needs of bikes and BTA are related to lobbying, which puts the BTA at risk for breaking IRS laws.

    ps:That is no survey. It is publicity. We are tired of it. The BTA and CLF have had a list of 700 people outraged at the CRC. The only email so far was thanks for sending a postcard, and donate to the BTA or CLF. zzzzzzz

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    steve July 28, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    The BTA is not concerned with listening to members, or following through on their mandates. The bulk of their funding is secured through grants and Govt dollars. They do not rely on members to pay the bills.

    The membership body is used to represent political backing and as leverage in lobbying, nothing else. It is glaringly obvious to many past and current members that the BTA is unresponsive and disinterested in our needs.

    Most ‘members’ sign up while making a large purchase at a bike shop. They are snared with the promise of a discount on the current purchase as well as any future business. Most later realize they purchase little gear after the initial big ticket sale and allow their membership to lapse.

    Several local shops actually pay their employees both to become members, as well as pay them a set amount for every new member they sign up. Quite the racket really. I seriously doubt the BTA would have more than a few hundred members were it not for collusion with several area bike shops.

    The whole thing is a joke and the members are the punch line. Tear up your BTA card, let the local shops know that you are onto this crap and let your representatives in Salem know that the BTA does not represent you, or our community.

    It is way past time for opportunists like Bricker and Poyourow to find some honest work. Throw the bums out!

    If anyone doubts my opinion, I encourage you to do some volunteer time with the BTA and form your own opinion. See if you can tolerate more than a few hours with these insincere folks, best of luck!

    As an aside, Michelle sure seems to sound a lot like Mr Justin from Webtrends. It must be hard to try and sound polite whilst oozing so much condescension, eh Michelle?

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    old&slow July 28, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    The BTA was a total failure in the last legislative session. They only exist because because of the discounts at the bike shops. They meant something at one time but Bricker is just a career “non profit” executive for profit and the organization needs to die and be replaced with a real bicycle advocacy group that exists to advocate for cyclists.

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    Anonymous July 29, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Remember a portion of the funds from the “Share the Road” license plates goes to the BTA as well as Cycle Oregon.

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    redhippie July 29, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Thanks BURR for the hieads up on the ordinance. The building in questions is the Jackson Tower at Broadway and Yamhill, and the last time I looked, they had no short term parking and their long term parking is partially blocked by cars.

    This is a great example of the type of resource the BTA should be.

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    Thom July 29, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Looks like lots of BTA detractors here, some with some valid points, and even a few who have shared those concerns with BTA. My question is, since BTA is so out of touch, what are you doing to lobby for your view of appropriate bike legislation? Is there an alternative to the BTA that better meets the needs of cyclists, as they are presented here? Not trying to be a jerk, but if you are not doing anything about a solution, you are not standing on any higher ground than they are.

    Other option is we are all satisfied with the current laws and infrastructure, so there is no need for any BTA type organization. Again, not trying to knock any of those who posted so far, just looking for constructive dialogue.

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    Aaron July 29, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I respect many of the people who work for the BTA including Michelle. But I also agree with the topics here. BTA has sat on the sidelines on important issues compromising the safety and legitimacy of the bike community. CRC and licensing are just a few cases. The St Johns bridge, secure bike parking, and separated paths are a few more. If BTA wants to play it safe than membership will continue to lull even in this city of thousands of cyclists. You need to take risks and stand up for the underdog to get our support.

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    Charlie July 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I think too many of you are forgetting the valuable work the BTA does outside of advocacy when you talk about “wasted membership dollars”.

    Not only does the BTA teach an award-winning bike safety curriculum to elementary school children in communities all over the state, get sidewalks and bike parking put in at schools, and host the Bike Commute Challenge- which created more than 2,000 new bike commuters *last year alone*, lead a traffic safety campaign that’s focused on , work with TriMet on increasing access for bicycles, but they’re also bringing in 500 people from across the country (and Canada and Europe) that are focused on increasing biking to school this August.

    There’s 18 employees at the BTA, and only three of them are involved in advocacy. The BTA is a many-fingered organization committed to opening roads and minds to cycling in many different ways. That’s why the BTA is not a PAC, thought it’s an interesting idea Joe Rowe.

    And people that long to see more “mundane” advocacy: Don’t forget that it was the BTA (and the lovely people at TriMet/the city) that was responsible just a few months ago for the Rose Quarter transit center finally being open to bicycles legally. This is something people long identified as a barrier and most thought it would be impossible to get.

    Finally, the BTA offers a FREE 5-hour training called “Becoming an Advocate in your Community” that is focused on how to identify an issue, form a campaign, and win through grassroots advocacy. Many commenters seem like a great fit for the training.

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    Matt Picio July 29, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    steve (#15) – A few comments:

    “the bulk of their funding … through grants and Govt dollars” – Not quite true. Less than half comes from government money – about $535k of $1.1m.

    “They do not rely on members to pay the bills” – what does that mean? The BTA’s management and general expenses in 2007 were $69,126. Memberships bring in at least $100k. They do indeed pay the bills in the strict sense – what they don’t pay are payroll and fundraising expenses.

    The BTA brought in about $10k in 2007 in merchandise sales, and about $556k in direct public support (i.e. memberships and donations). Much of those donations comes from members – they do indeed rely on members to pay the bills.

    “Most ‘members’ sign up…” – Wow, that’s incredibly condescending. Regardless of how they join, they made a decision to pay that money for membership. Regardless of whether they choose to excercise the rights of a member, they still are one, and have the ability to exercise those rights at any time. Most don’t.

    Saying “members” is like saying ‘American “citizens”‘ when referring to people who don’t vote. It makes a lot of assumptions.

    “glaringly obvious”, “racket”, “joke” – you’ve lost a lot of your potential readers on those. If you’re posting just to read your own words, ok – whatever. If you’re trying to get a message across, you’re alienating a lot of your potential audience.

    “If anyone doubts my opinion … do some volunteer time” – an excellent idea. I have done volunteer time with the BTA, and my experience is totally different. I may not agree with them much of the time (Michelle and I have very different views on a potential county project for example), but I have never doubted the passion or hardworking-ness of their staff. The BTA’s Form 990 (their financial filing with the IRS) is a publicly available document, everyone feel free to check the numbers for yourself.

    I do think there is room and a real need for a grass-roots organization to fill the gap between what the BTA is not able to do, and what it’s able but not willing to do. Someone’s got to form and lead that group. All of you naysayers and detractors out there, are you willing to put your money where you mouth is? Let’s hear some ideas, and willingness to do something to build another organization. If the BTA really sucks that bad, why just whine and moan about it? Why not make the group you want to see? If you need help with getting it off the ground, you can send an application to Umbrella for project status to get organized, or to incorporate on your own.

    Don’t just kvetch there, do something!

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    steve July 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Oh, how you have shamed me, Matt. Great job ignoring the other 20 negative comments.

    The “What are you doing about it argument” is both infantile and patronizing at the same time. Your audacity in presuming that no one but you is involved in these issues is laughable.

    If people did not use this forum to ‘kvetch’ all we would be left with are the BTA’s press releases delivered as if they were news.

    I would hope Jonathan might take notice of the huge slant in perception of the BTA by his readers and take a more critical tone in future pieces, as opposed to being a conduit for their advertising.

    I will again state- I seriously doubt the BTA would have more than a few hundred members were it not for collusion with several area bike shops.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    “I would hope Jonathan might take notice of the huge slant in perception of the BTA by his readers and take a more critical tone in future pieces, as opposed to being a conduit for their advertising.”


    can you share with me an example of me being a “conduit for their advertising”?

    and yes, I have definitely noticed the negative perception many readers have with the BTA.

    Oh and “Charlie”… you seem to know an awful lot about the BTA. would you happen to be a new employee?

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    redhippie July 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    An earlier comment asked what is the alternative to the BTA. I don’t think there really needs to be one. Admittedly, this is a Portland phenomenon but the City and (to a lesser extent) Tri-met are really the spearhead of the movement. I don’t think this is because they want to be progressive or cool. I think it is a practical approach to traffic engineering. Either we spend X hundred million $s on new roads and a bunch of on-going maintenance or spend a tenth of that developing bike infrastructure that takes cars off the road. Simple logic.

    Charlie’s earlier statement “Don’t forget that it was the BTA (and the lovely people at TriMet/the city) that was responsible just a few months ago for the Rose Quarter transit center finally being open to bicycles legally.” Seems like BTA is taking primary credit for the work designed and paid for by the City and TRI-Met. There was an obvious need, a number of near fatal close calls and the traffic engineers worked out a solutions. How many traffic planners or engineers work for the BTA and how much money did BTA contribute to make it happen?

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    steve July 29, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Look no further than the top of this thread for a fine example, Jonathan. I understand that this was just a quick blurb, but your readers seemed to have quite a few criticisms of the survey and upcoming forums. Seems like you could have asked some similar questions of Ms Poyourow, instead of simply posting what seems little more than a press release. Or whatev, your site man!

    As to constructive ideas- Can anyone think of a better location for the next anti-CRC rally/protest than the upcoming BTA advocacy forum?

    Seems like a fine avenue for generating some press interest, as well as educating BTA members on the BTA’s surprising support of a 12 lane bridge.

    Think of the awesome headlines!

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    Curt Dewees July 29, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Is the BTA perfect? No. This organization has grown a LOT in the past 17 or 18 years of its existence. Of course,it has suffered growing pains during these years, as have many organization that have grown so fast and become this well-established and successful.

    Regarding the rather uninformed comments on Scott Bricker and Michelle Poyourow: I feel compelled to point out that both Scott and Michelle are highly intelligent, good-hearted, and hard-working advocates for bicyclists and bicycling.

    Before Scott was a “nonprofit professional,” he would buy good-quality used bicycles, fix them up into working condition, and then re-sell them at cost to his friends, many of whom he talked into giving bicylcing a try. He worked for the Community Cycling Center before moving over the the BTA, and he is currently the BTA employee who has worked there the longest. Anyone who calls Scott Bricker a “opportunist” just doesn’t know him or understand the huge amount of work he has put in on behalf of cyclist not only here in Portland, but all over the state of Oregon.

    Although Michelle Poyourow hasn’t worked at the BTA as long as Scott has, she has definitely earned her stripes as an effective and well-spoken advocate for bicycling and bicyclists’ interests. She even gave up her car after starting her job at the BTA. To me, that’s true dedication.

    Scott and Michelle (if you’re reading this) I hope you will both continue to do the best work you possibly can, despite the criticism you’re absorbing here. I wish we had more people like you two working on bicyclist’s issues in our city and state!

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    Jeff Bernards July 29, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Wow! The BTA definitely has it’s detractors and some supporters. If the BTA wants some advice & direction they should open the forum to everyone, members and non-members. Politicians don’t exclude voters, at a public forum, who didn’t vote for them. If they want to get “everyone” on board to support the BTA’s bicycle goals, they should be given the opportunity to offer their opinion. Sounds like a City Club rule. Maybe the BTA will get some new members, based on the advice they took and the goals they accomplishments.
    I feel the BTA tries to tackle high profile projects,like moving the Sauvie Island bridge, for $1million when the city’s budget calls for spending only half that for all Bicycle spending in Portland. In an ideal world yes, in budget constrained times, you need to prioritize your requests with reality.
    I feel the BTA has lost touch with the average cyclists needs. I offered the BTA the “Get Lit” and “Protect Your World” programs that provided low cost bike lights and helmets. Both ideas were shunned. That would have given them a street presence, that they don’t have now. I tried to get some BTA employees to come out and see what an impact something as simple as a light or helmet makes towards bikes safety, nobody from BTA ever joined me. The young cyclists today are struggling and helping them to be safe, would have increased BTA’s image regarding safe cycling. Providing low cost lights and helmets would have increased your membership’s too, it would have been a win-win. The CCC took “Get Lit” and has several good donors keeping the program going.
    Instead of teaching Safe Routes to School, you should be pushing Bike Blvds then you wouldn’t need as much of the Safe routes program & everyone could use the routes created.
    Ride On & Good Luck BTA

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    coyote July 30, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Redhippie wrote: An earlier comment asked what is the alternative to the BTA. I don’t think there really needs to be one.

    I could not disagree more. Representative democracy’s biggest failing is that is susceptible to special interest lobbying. If you want to have a voice in the legislature to compete with corporate interests, you better have a vehicle beyond the power of an individual voice. I whole heartedly disagree with the BTA on many issues. It disgusts me that the BTA has identified cycling with progressive, nanny state, consumerist politics, but you have to have a voice in the legislature even if that voice make you sound like Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor.

    I would love to see another organization spring up that had a simple charter. Something along the lines of: We the members of the Political Hardball Urban Cyclists & Kermesse Union are formed for sole purpose of promoting cycling in urban areas as alternative to driving. We hold these truths to be self-evident:

    – When driving a motor vehicle not running over people is a good thing.

    – Not arresting people who run over people is a bad thing.

    – A public right-of-way is a public right-of-way. PHUCKU members are members of the public and we would like to use the public right-of-way without undue endangerment.

    Any other charter suggestions?

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    Joe Rowe August 4, 2009 at 1:09 am

    I just got my August version of the BTA newsletter, and there is no mention of work to stop the CRC.

    Nearly every lawmaker in Salem is supporting the CRC by being too afraid to speak out against it.

    This explains the word Alliance in the BTA, Bike Transportation Alliance, as in too many cozy connections maintain the silence.

    A L L I A N C E = S I L E N C E

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