would figure so prominently in
Portland’s Bicycle Plan?
(Photo: Greg Raisman)
Benchmarks are important in order to know whether or not a plan is successful, especially when a plan — like the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 — has a 20-year horizon. That plan has a highly-publicized goal of 25% of all trips by bike by the year 2030. But what about near-term benchmarks, which can be useful to make sure a plan is headed in the right direction?
In their official comments on the plan, the BTA wrote, “We will not know if the City has succeeded or failed to complete this plan until the year 2030. This makes any corrective action impossible if the City is not following the plan.”
The BTA also suggested some benchmarks the City could adopt and include in the plan. Those benchmarks included “130 miles (of new bikeways) by 2013,” “Two Trails by 2020 (completion of Sullivan’s Gulch and North Willamette Greenway Trails)”, and my favorite, “20% (of all trips by bike) by 2015”.
In the final version of the Bicycle Plan released last week, the City ignored all of the BTA’s suggestions — but they didn’t ignore benchmarks completely.
In the final version of plan, the City expanded the “Bikeway network evaluation” section (5.5.2) by several pages, but they stopped short of any specific benchmarks of their own. Instead, they wrote that the plan simply, “recommends the further development of performance measures and benchmarks for bicycling.” They also included a lengthy description (with no actual numbers attached) of performance measures broken down into seven general themes.
I asked Bicycle Plan project manager Ellen Vanderslice why they stopped short of definitive performance measures. She said the idea needs more “consensus”. “We looked at some of the benchmarks that were proposed, but without a baseline it’s kind of hard to figure out how you’re going to do the benchmarking.” On that note, Vanderslice said coming up with more benchmarks is listed as one of the plan’s many Action Items (which have no dedicated funding or timeline for completion).
“The process is unfinished and I hesitated to slap down some things for the sake of having benchmarks when we hadn’t been through a thorough enough process.”
There are near-term benchmarks in our existing Bike Master Plan, Vanderslice pointed out, but they didn’t really have much teeth. “Benchmarks are great, but if you have them and don’t meet them so what?… There doesn’t seem to be anyone saying [about existing benchmarks], ‘oh my gosh!’ when you don’t meet them… That doesn’t exactly happen, so what do they really give you?”
However, instead of coming up with their own benchmarks, or adopting the BTA’s ideas, the City did choose to include two benchmarks in their Bicycle Plan from an unlikely source: The Charter of Brussels. Signed by Mayor Sam Adams during his visit to the Velo-City conference back in June, that charter commits the City to:
- At least 15 percent of all trips by bicycle by the year 2020
- Risk of a fatal bicycle crash reduced by 50 percent by the year 2020
Those might have come from an unlikely place, but a benchmark is a benchmark. So, the question now is, will we be at 15% mode split in 10 years? And if we aren’t, will anyone remind the City about their commitment?