BikePortland

City Club of Portland will embark on ‘comprehensive study’ of bicycling


The central question for study is the role bicycling should play in Portland’s overall transportation system.
— City Club of Portland, from the Comprehensive Study Charge

The City Club of Portland is embarking on a “comprehensive study” of bicycling.

For those of you not familiar with this organization, it’s a respected, local non-profit institution with 1,500 members and a history dating back nearly 100 years. Their primary mission is to “inform its members and the community in public matters.” They hold weekly forums at the elegant Governor Hotel downtown (this Wednesday they host, “A conversation with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.”)

In a nutshell, when City Club talks, many people in Portland listen: Especially elected officials, lobbyists, policymakers and other local power-brokers. Back in May of 2010, the release of a City Club report on Forest Park had a significant influence on the debate over whether or not to improve bicycling access in the park. (Note: Off road cycling advocates were not happy with how City Club framed the issue.)

Now they’ve announced a Bicycle Transportation Research Committee which will inform their forthcoming report: Bicycling in Portland: A Serious Look at Transportation Policy and Priorities. At this point they’re accepting applications to serve on the committee. Here’s more from their website:

City Club is currently accepting applications for this soon-to-be launched comprehensive research study committee.

While Portland enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the top bicycle-friendly cities in the nation, any plans to expand the city’s network of bikeways will no doubt require addressing a number of funding, public safety and community challenges. This study committee will be charged with examining what role bicycling should play in Portland’s overall transportation system, while also making recommendations to address these specific challenges.

According to the “study charge” document (PDF), their research will be aimed at understanding, “the role bicycling should play in Portland’s overall transportation system.” Other questions they intend to tackle include, “how the city should plan for, construct and pay for bicycle infrastructure, and how the city can safely integrate a growing population of cyclists with other user groups, once this role has been established.”

Here’s a list of “bicycling study objectives”:

  • Make a recommendation on the role bicycling should play in Portland’s transportation system, based on review of existing criteria, available studies, and witness testimony.
  • Based on the committee’s recommendation for the role bicycling should play in Portland’s transportation system, make further recommendations on the goals the city should set for bicycle ridership and the necessary improvements to reach those goals.
  • The committee must identify the level and sources of funding necessary to achieve the identified goals.
  • The committee is encouraged to make recommendations in related areas, including safety, governance, traffic enforcement, economic development, and community outreach.

A list of “critical questions and topic areas” includes:

  • What data exists to support the touted benefits of bicycling?
  • Is disproportionate use by certain segments of the population problematic, and how should the City address equity issues, real or perceived?
  • What impact does dedication of part of the public right-of-way to bicycles have on economic activity that relies on automobiles and trucks to move people and goods?

Even though some of the questions being asked at the outset leave me a bit concerned about the perspective they’re bringing to the table, the study charge shows City Club has already put a lot of thought into this. The report will likely come out right as a new mayor of Portland is settling into office. In addition, the transportation funding ideas they come up with will likely hit at a time when local, regional, and statewide discussions about this very issue are becoming very mature. All this being said, I hope this study committee gets it right. I for one will be watching this effort very closely.

Watch for the report 12 months after the committee is formed. Applications to be on the committee (which you can download as a .doc file here) are due May 4th.

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