City reacts to the new cycle track

Broadway cycle track unveiling event-3
Mayor Adams said things like the
cycle track are why Portlanders drive
an average of 20% less than
people in other cities.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Yesterday, the City of Portland unveiled their first cycle track. At a press conference on the campus of Portland State University, Mayor Sam Adams was joined by PSU President Wim Weiwel and BTA leader Scott Bricker to sing each other’s — and the cycle track’s — praises.

The turnout at the press conference by the local media was amazing. I counted four TV station cameras and a bevy of local reporters. In Portland, re-configuring a downtown street to create space specifically for bicycle traffic is a big story (especially when that space was created by removing one lane previously used by motor vehicle traffic).

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At the unveiling, Mayor Adams — who biked up the cycle track from his office — spoke about Portland’s success in providing options for people to get out of their cars. He said the cycle track is yet another response to “concerns” Portlanders have about bike safety. “It’s about protection and providing more comfort” Adams explained.

PSU’s Wiewel said cycle tracks are common in his home city of Amsterdam. He also focused on their safety benefits, saying “They’re probably the reason I’m still alive”.

Scott Bricker with the BTA said a survey they did in 2005 revealed that “people like to have a virtually carfree experience” and that the cycle track “makes that possible”. Bricker lauded Adams’ leadership and vision in making the project happened, but also added that he and the BTA will continue to push City Hall to build more of them.

The Mayor’s Office has just published a video of the press conference that includes more from each speaker (and a brief clip of yours truly):

Portland Unveils Downtown Cycle Track from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

But on the other end of the spin cycle are some local TV reports that seem to want to turn this into the latest front in the battle of “cars vs. bikes”. One report, by Anne Yeager on KGW-TV seemed to actually encourage negative feedback when she said on their 6:00 newscast: “If you love the idea, that’s great — but if you don’t, contact the mayor’s office.”

Lots of attention from the local
media at yesterday’s unveiling.

On other local media websites, the comments are flying in. The majority of them that I’ve read are negative. There are all the usual concerns that bikes are getting a free ride, that cars are being relegated to the margins, that the city is going insane, and so on.

The Oregonian’s coverage led to so many thoughtfully negative comments that reporter Joe Rose decided to post another story on his Hard Drive blog to stick up for the project. Rose dusted off the old “Green Dividend” study by Portland economist Joe Cortright (which shows that our region saves $2.6 billion annually because we drive fewer miles on average).

Even here on BikePortland, several commenters are staunchly opposed to the project.

To combat concerns and negative feedback, the City stresses that this is nothing more than an “experiment”. I wonder though, what would happen if they heard more negative than positive feedback on their experiment? Is the City losing the PR battle on this one?

And where is PBOT Director Sue Keil amidst all of this high-profile transportation news? Yes, Portland has a Director of Transportation, although you’d be forgiven for not knowing her name. You’d think that as Portland makes these major changes to its roadways that the top transportation staffer would play a larger role.

What is your sense of how the new cycle track is being received in Portland?

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