Portlander Jeff Bernards, a well-known citizen activist who started the “Get Lit” free bike light program and who won a BTA Alice Award in 2006, has made major progress since we last checked in on his effort to ban studded tires in Oregon.
Bernards is chief petitioner on a forthcoming ballot measure and is the force behind the “Preserving Oregon Roads” campaign. Bernards told us this morning that he has filed with the Oregon Secretary of State and he expects to begin the initial signature-gathering process in the next few weeks. By mid-March, he and his team expect to begin the long road toward gathering the 80,000 signatures he’ll need to get a measure on the November 2012 ballot.
Bernards feels strongly that studded tires are simply not needed and that the extreme damage they cause to Oregon roads is an expense we can’t afford. “It’s pretty simple. We’re broke as a state and we can’t afford to spend millions repairing our vital infrastructure.”
“It’s pretty simple. We’re broke as a state and we can’t afford to spend millions repairing our vital infrastructure.”
— Jeff Bernards
The Oregon Department of Transportation estimates that studded tires cause about $75 million in road damage each year. Meanwhile, ODOT devotes about $11 million a year to fix that damage. In a budget where money for transportation (especially non-motorized) is extremely limited, it’s in all our best interests to spend it wisely.
Studded tires don’t only impact ODOT’s budget, they also have a major impact on the quality of our bikeways. How often have you crossed a big arterial street while riding your bike and felt the bumps and ruts they cause? How about those colored bike boxes and bike lane stripes being worn down prematurely?
Efforts to ban or tax studded tires have come up before in the state legislature, but so far every effort has failed. This session, another attempt is afoot. House Bill 2333 would prohibit use of studded tires in Oregon. Bernards is aware of that bill and says if it passes he’ll give up his petition effort; but he’s not holding his breath.
“History has shown that state legislators haven’t been able to pass a ban, or even a tax on studded tires. They’ve tried three or four times.”
To help with his petition efforts, Bernards has hired Portland-based signature-gathering consulting firm Democracy Resources. Bernards has also invested a significant amount of his own money into the effort.
Bernards says his effort is just as much about education the public about the issue as it is about the actual ban. “The truth that nobody really understands is that alternatives to studded tires actually perform just as well if not better in almost all conditions.”
“This is about protecting taxpayer dollars and a vital resource,” he says, “Our food comes down those roads, so it’s in our best interest to protect them.”