Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Mayoral hopefuls asked: ‘Will building more bikeways be a priority for you?’

Posted by on April 26th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Active Transportation Debate at PSU-2

The candidates at a debate in February.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Three local media outlets — KPAM radio, KOIN TV, and the Portland Tribune newspaper — hosted a mayoral debate today. Among the questions asked by KOIN’s Mike Gianola was, “Will building more bikeways be a priority for you?”

Amazingly, for the city most often referred to as the best bicycling city in America, not one of the leading candidates for mayor grabbed the question by the horns and answered with a strong, “Yes!”. If you weren’t convinced yet that bicycling is a liability when it comes to swaying undecideds (who all the candidates are trying to sway right now) this exchange should seal the deal.

Instead of confidently answering that Portland needs to do more to build our lagging bike network and make bicycling a larger priority because it makes sense and we’ve already made huge strides for relative peanuts in investment — each candidate stuck to their now familiar responses they’ve pulled out whenever a bike-related question comes up.

“The real issue is, once again, the need to get back to basic maintenance.”
— Charlie Hales

Eileen Brady answered first. She called the fact that most people who ride bikes also have cars as “almost a dirty little secret” and then launched into a vein similar to what she shared in her interview with me last month about how “We need to build a balanced system.” When pressed by to actually answer the question, Brady invoked the Bike Plan for 2030 and said she’d focus on bike boulevards (which are already being highly prioritized by the City). “Much of it [the bike master plan] is very expensive,” she said, “the part that isn’t, the high value in this deal, is the bicycle boulevards… We can spend very few dollars and do several things with bike lanes.”

Jefferson Smith took the question next. He said, “I think the battle between bikes and cars is an interesting distraction, but not a very helpful, problem-solving thing to consider.” After admitting he doesn’t ride bikes as often as he’d like, he said it’s important to keep bikeway spending in perspective. “I don’t think bikes are our problem. The entire bike network in Portland is about $60 million, slightly more than one-third of what has been spent just lobbying and consulting on the Columbia River Crossing project.” He then went into his explanation that we should strive to build a transportation system that is “senior-friendly” and that works for “8-80 year olds.”

Charlie Hales managed to avoid directly answering the question too. He twisted it back to his campaign mantra of focusing more on maintenance. “The real issue is, once again, the need to get back to basic maintenance.” He said the City is currently “going backward” when it comes to keeping streets paved. Once we’ve sufficiently resurfaced all the streets “with the money we have,” went Hales’ response, then, “Yes, move on to continue building out choices for people for how they move around the city… but job one is basic maintenance.”

That last line by Hales is the closest either of the candidate got to actually answering the question. I think he was referring to bikeways when he said, “Yes… continue building out choices for people for how they move around the city.” But then again, I can’t be sure.

What this exchange confirms for me is that each candidate feels showing strong support for bicycling at this stage in the race is a political liability. That’s the dirty little secret in this town.

I happened to be listening to the debate at my computer when that question came up, so I switched on a recorder and caught the audio. You can listen to it below.

[audio:KOIN_debate.mp3|titles=KOIN/KPAM mayoral debate]

With ballots coming in the mail for some folks this weekend, it’s time to start deciding. I have a million thoughts about this race (as many of you who have asked me privately are aware) and I would love to know where more of you stand.

Please support BikePortland.

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

  • Rol April 26, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    It’s just numbers. How many people ride to work daily… is it 6%? These people are trying to get elected. Unless they’re very bad at math, they’re going to cater to the majority who don’t cycle and don’t care if Portland is a world-class bla-bla. But they also want to alienate as few people as possible (it is still Portland after all), hence the lack of any particularly fiery rhetoric.

    Now if polls were putting them all within 6% of each other, then maybe you’d start to see some innovative tactics like “reaching out to the bike bloc.” (Gag me with a spoon like totally.)

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    • MindfulCyclist April 26, 2012 at 11:34 pm

      Pretty much agreed. We still have an 8.5% unemployment rate here. I think lower water and sewer rates is going to resonate a heck of a lot more with the average Portlander than a need more bike lanes.

      Still, Brady and Hales are close in the latest poll so courting cyclists could happen if it does come down to the two in November which I think is highly likely.

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      • oliver April 27, 2012 at 9:47 am

        This is an issue that really puzzles me. Just as you have said (talking about) lower sewer and water rates resonates with voters. But we just finished the East side big pipe project, which despite being largest public works project in Portland history, costing 464 million dollars, was still only a piece of the overall upgrade of the sewer system. Compliance (or not) with federal water purity regulations, bull run, the local reservoirs, and any others I’ve likely forgotten are also big money items.

        It’s almost as if the voters have forgotten about the impact of these massive, necessary infrastructure projects on their water and sewer rates. Whoever gets elected will have nothing to say about the bills for those projects coming due, and they need to be paid for. To get distracted by talk about an issue that’s already been settled (or money already spent) is a waste of time.

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      • Paul Johnson April 27, 2012 at 11:55 am

        Putting people to work improving our transportation infrastructure reduces that rate (which is actually 15%, not the 8.5% U3 rate that only covers people drawing a check still), and gives us something that benefits us in the future.

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      • Cameron A. Pickerill-Trinitapoli May 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm

        Maybe I’m just nutty, but I think that it’s more that no one there is all that good at selling such an idea to the average portlander.

        You can sell dreams and inspiration to anyone, but you’ve gotta have dreams and inspiration to do it.

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    • SilkySlim April 27, 2012 at 7:19 am

      While their immediate priority is winning the election, their end goal is being mayor of America’s most progressive city (eat it, San Fran!). And that means prioritizing alternative transportation. And having an equity office. And composting. And everything else that is actually righteous and good, even if it has only been wholeheartedly adopted by a minority.

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      • matt picio April 27, 2012 at 7:30 am

        True, but that’s an asset for the administration, not the campaign. Typically the mayoral seat is a stepping stone for state or national positions, where a focus on Active Transportation and Sustainability is an asset – but a large chunk of Portland has no interest in subjects that are still considered by many to be “frivolous” or “something to do AFTER we get the streets fixed and people employed”.

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        • SilkySlim April 27, 2012 at 7:54 am

          I really fear that you are right. Let’s hope that whoever wins still has plans to elevate the city before making it a stepping stone for their career.

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          • Gregg April 27, 2012 at 9:16 am

            I’m voting for Jefferson Smith.

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      • Paul Johnson April 27, 2012 at 11:56 am

        I’m not convinced that Portland is the most progressive city in practice. Sure, it says one thing, but then falls back to doing nearly the opposite on an alarmingly regular basis. Tahlequah, this isn’t.

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    • Brian E April 27, 2012 at 8:08 am

      Is it truly 6% of voting Portland residents or is it 6% of road users? The percentage could be higher.

      As an example- I support bikes, I don’t live in Portland, but I go there often. It’s too far for me to ride my bike, so I have to drive my car. I can’t vote for Mayor, but I use your roads.

      I’ll bet that more votes come from that 6% than the other mode users. Based on the fact that bike trips are usually shorter, thus done by Portland residents. Versus car/MAX/Bus trips that are made by people who can come from outside of Portland.

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    • 9watts April 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

      “How many people ride to work daily… is it 6%? ”

      Yes, but 18% of Multnomah Co. households do/did not have a car. How are we going to pigeonhole them on the bikeways question? I don’t have the answer but think it is always important not to forget this demographic about which we know pretty much nothing.

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  • Albyn April 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Not voting for Eileen Brady… Like every answer I have ever heard her give to any question it is either vacuous, irrelevant or seriously wrong.

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    • 9watts April 27, 2012 at 8:15 am

      Yes to that.
      But more to the point of candidates going against the grain on transportation priorities, let’s not forget that someone visibly, unmistakeably opposed to the CRC (however symbolic the Mayor of Portland’s opposition might be in the larger scheme of things) may be our best chance of preventing the fiscal and environmental train wreck this caper represents. Since we don’t have the money to go through with the CRC, we should probably refer to ‘debts’ that we are less likely to have saddled ourselves with if Smith were to become our next Mayor.

      Smith could have, theoretically, said with the CRC off the table we’ll have far more latitude to spend/borrow money for actual transportation issues that residents of this town care about, but he no doubt had reasons not to push that hard on this.

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  • daisy April 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I am so not excited about any of these candidates. I think my order is this (as in, from least to most dislike):
    1. Smith
    2. Hales
    3. Brady

    The question, then, is this: Is vote for Smith a vote for Brady?

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    • MindfulCyclist April 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      “Is vote for Smith a vote for Brady?”

      I highly doubt it. Looking at the latest polls, Brady and Hales are neck and neck and Smith is about 10 percentage votes behind. And, none of them are near the 50.1% it would take to capture the election in May. There will be a run-off in May more than likely between Hales and Brady.

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      • Mindful Cyclist April 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm

        Excuse me. The run off will be in November. I knew I should have just gone to bed!!

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    • Evan Manvel April 27, 2012 at 8:46 am

      Short answer, you need not worry about strategic voting right now. As others note, there will almost certainly be a runoff in a 23-candidate field, as no one is polling above 28% (and 50%+1 is what you need to avoid a run off).

      So vote for your favorite candidate right now. All the polls also show there are a huge number of undecided voters, so there are lots of votes up for grabs.

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    • davemess April 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      I completely agree with your ranking. I was interested in Hales, but the WW piece a few weeks ago really turned me off (He’s basically the Mitt Romney of Portland).

      I like the idea of Smith fighting for the half of Portland (east Pdx) that gets almost no funding or interest.

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  • Jacque April 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I must be totally out of it… What’s wrong with saying that bike blvds are where the bang for the buck is? I think that is a VERY important skill to posess… focusing on where you can get the most out of limited resourses… and then focus there. Not on what’s popular, or fanciest.

    How do we define ‘bike way” now? Is it a separate bike only path? I’d sure like some more of those for cutting through long distances, faster and away from the stench of exhaust. But is a bike lane also a bikeway? Isn’t there still a debate raging as to whether bike lanes are even safe?

    I don’t understand why you need to be pro infrastructure to be pro bike. I’d much rather vote for someone willing to tackle the problem of cars killing people… and the way they have taken over our streets and compromised our neighborhoods. I’d like someone more focused on reducing speed limits, taking away free parking, reducing allowable parking lot space, making roads less hospitable to careless driving, prosecution of driving while distracted etc. stronger penalties for harming a person with a vehicle etc.

    I’d much rather know how these folks feel about accommodation of the single occupant vehicles that help to make life a mess out there. I’d like to know how far they are willing to go to make Portland’s neighborhoods people places and not parking lots and cut-threws. If we build a transportation system that is “senior-friendly” and that works for “8-80 year olds”, it might end up being just what we want… bikeways or no bikeways. I thought both Mr Smith and Ms Brady answered the question just fine… there are other things they are focused on. Also, I gotta admit… I LOVE unimproved roads. I wish I lived on one. I wish I had a neighborhood full of them. The last thing I want is more asphalt laid down over this good earth. I like Mr Smiths idea of dealing with the cullys roads by building narrow roads with wide on grade garden strips to take the runnoff. That’s a great compromise… AND lot’s more bang for the buck. That’s creative thinking. That’s improving the quality of life for more than just people with cars.

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    • Thomas Le Ngo April 27, 2012 at 10:27 am

      The problem with all you’re saying is that it’s based on the assumption that voters are rational people.

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    • are April 27, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      thank you, jacque, very well said

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  • Jacque April 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    …and for more than people with bikes for that matter.

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  • Sean G April 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I’d love nothing more than to hear a mayoral candidate who touted bicycle spending and planning. Even rational, insignificantly priced ideas like the 2030 plan. However, this dream candidate would never even be in serious contention.

    The fact of the matter is, even Jefferson Smith’s timid pro-bike stance is a political liability in Portland, especially with Portland media blatantly anti-bike. While we here on Bike Portland understand the amazing value of riding, the majority of Portlanders view bicycling as trivial at best, anti-american and anti-progress at worst. It’s just a numbers game, and you only have to look at the roads to see how small we really are.

    I think Smith is the most likely to do anything significant for bicycling in Portland (his slightly-pro-bike answers indicate that much) and I suspect it’ll be more than he’s letting on. Neither Hales nor Brady seem interested in bringing anything new to the table, rather focusing on their mantras of “pro jobs” or “better spending.” Both in political reality tend to be anti-bike positions, regardless of the job and spending benefits of increased bicycling.

    Get Smith elected, and work with him to promote bicycling in a savvy way that can appeal to those who aren’t already on board, then maybe in 2016 the mayoral candidates will be willing to admit they are pro-sharrow.

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  • Gabe April 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I did some canvassing for Hales and I had an interesting talk at one door with one of the coveted undecideds. He liked none of the candidates because he thought they were all “in dreamland” and he felt like bikes were too big of a focus in Portland politics. All three of the candidates are pandering to this sentiment, they don’t want to be labeled the “bike” candidate, which is understandable because face it we are the minority and we are experiencing a major backlash as a result of the Oregonian hate mongering campaign. The question then is which candidate is actually dedicated to improving the bike infrastructure. I personally feel Hales “gets it”, that he understands that the bicycle deserves a place in the transportation infrastructure, and that any road improvements under Hales would come along with bike improvements. I also think he is politically saavy enough to get things done in the office and that he genuinely wants to be mayor because he loves Portland and wants to make it better. Smith just comes off as too scatterbrained (Unfrozen Caveman Mayoral Candidate is what I cal him) and I get the feeling that being mayor is just a means to achieve higher office (Unfrozen Caveman Governor?) for him.

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  • Hot Rod April 26, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    All the answers were OK, but Eileen Brady made the most sense to me. There are only so many dollars to go around so you have to prioritize. Not understanding that is what produces disasters like Greece and your neighbor who had to foreclose on their house, and the USA which is now about $16 Trillion dollars in debt.

    Does anyone know the current annual expenditure on bike infrastructure by the city? What is the current annual city expenditure on car infrastructure?

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    • Chris I April 27, 2012 at 8:12 am

      Bike spending is less than 10%. The city will get the most bang for its buck if it focuses on bike improvements and maintenance only for cars. Every new bike rider saves the city money due to reduced wear on road surfaces and economic activity from money not spent on gasoline.

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    • Debt is a Tool April 27, 2012 at 8:24 am

      Unfortunately, none of the four systems you mentioned are in any way comprable – the US sovereign debt has nothing in common with the metaphorical neighbor’s mortgage, and neither really relates to Portland’s fiscal responsibilities.

      For the city of Portland (being relatively immortal), how much we spend doesn’t matter as much as what we stand to make. If it were possible to invest in some infrastructure project that had a positive return on every dollar spent (arguably, bike infrastructure falls into this category), then we absolutely should spend as far into the red as necessary to ensure the maximum return on our investment. Otherwise, our debt-aversion is causing us to turn down free money.

      Regrettably, it seems to me that’s exactly what will happen. The evidence indicates that major roadway spending is deep into diminishing returns and bikeway spending is far from. Maintaining the status quo – or worse, shifting spending away from bikes – is a failure to recognize future revenue, which means less money to spend on bikes, cars, and anything else we care about in the future.

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  • woogie April 27, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Hot Rod,
    Well said.
    No matter how much we like our bikes and want more infrastructure, you cannot boil down the election to a single issue. There are many more issues important to this city than bicycle infrastructure, and being a single issue voter is not going to improve the overall situation in this city.

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  • 9watts April 27, 2012 at 7:46 am

    The question I’d have liked (ha! not in 2012) would have been ‘How do you propose to deal as mayor with the prospect that single occupancy car commuting may become unaffordable or even socially unacceptable during your first term?
    Although fingering the car, I think this would have been a more mode-neutral framing of what at least to me amounts to the same set of issues, without explicitly invoking the (thanks, Beth Slovic & Oregonian) hot potato of bike infrastructure.
    Furthermore, as the Effective Cycling discussion here is showing, bike infrastructure expansion is actually one step removed from what we’d all I think like to see (more people riding bikes). Bike infrastructure expansion is certainly related to this goal, but given the politics I think perhaps there is more to be lost from papering over this difference (between one means: bike infrastructure; and the goal: more people riding bikes) than gained.

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    • jacque April 27, 2012 at 8:47 am

      That is a GREAT question for them to have to answer. ‘How do you propose to deal as mayor with the prospect that single occupancy car commuting may become unaffordable or even socially unacceptable during your first term?’
      Oh, please, more thinking like that. please please please That kind of question is reality based… and less likely to evoke emotional kneejerky pat answer pandering kinds of responses. Is that why “not in 2012”? Too reality based? Or is it because it’s too hard to think about.

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      • Mickey April 27, 2012 at 10:36 am

        SOMV commuters have been a problem for transportation planners for at least thirty years, DC metro found that the reason they couldn’t get rid of them was purely psychological, it was the only time during the day those people were alone.

        Global energy demand is calculated to double by midcentury and these candidates at some point are going to pitch us e-vehicles and energy efficiency because they are proven political ‘winners’. All of our environmental and transportation problems have simple solutions, the problem is that we don’t like them, and those solutions won’t get you elected.

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    • Hot Rod April 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      If single occupancy motor vehicles become unaffordable, the mayor will not have to do ANYTHING about it. The people will simply carpool/ride bicycles/take public transportation/drive electric vehicles, whatever it takes. The people will solve the problem with no additional help from the government.

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  • Dermorgen April 27, 2012 at 8:09 am

    As the car driver constituent these candidates are skewing their answers towards I at least can agree with their slant. I wouldn’t vote for someone who says that their “priority” is new bikeways. I want someone whose priorities are, at the very least, of a wider scope. I believe that’s why they talk about a balanced view point.

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  • Jon April 27, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Only Hales has any history as an advocate for non-automobile based transporation. He is also the only one that has delivered on that advocacy. If any of these candidates vocalizes a strong support for bicycles they will only succeed in placating a small minority while Infuriating the vast majority of citizens that think too much money is spent on bicycles. Anyone looking to hear a lot of support for bicycles in the current economic and political environment are going to be waiting a loooong time. I think Hales is our best hope for real progress on bicycle transportation in a tough budget environment.

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  • Evan Manvel April 27, 2012 at 8:43 am

    What I love about Smith’s answer is it reframes the debate.

    If we can invest in complete, safe biking and walking networks, that’s the end goal.

    But to talk about it the way Smith talks about it deflates the controversy (as well as reminding people of equity and some demographic trends that will transform our cities).

    Who can be against investments that work for 8 year olds? Or for 80 year olds? Picking on kids and seniors is just not cool, or compelling.

    The voters who are angry about bicycle investments have pretty clear stereotypes in their mind when they’re thinking about the “waste” of the city and who that money is “wasted” on. And it’s not kids and seniors.

    What I also like about the message is the messenger. Jefferson isn’t yet a frequent cyclist — he’s an East Portland resident who drives most places (particularly given his job has been in Salem, that’s understandable).

    That makes it easier for skeptics to listen to him, as they don’t think he has his own interests in mind, but rather the greater interests of the city. I’d love everyone to be a frequent cyclist. But right now, I think effective advocacy for walking and biking in the mayor’s office would be aided by Smith’s profile.

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    • Evan Manvel April 27, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Oh, and as a reminder/disclaimer – I co-chair Bike Walk Vote, which has endorsed Jefferson Smith.

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  • David Feldman April 27, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Living in Vancouver I don’t really have a dog in this fight–but it would seem to me like fixing potholes IS enhancing a cycling facility, no?

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    • 9watts April 27, 2012 at 8:49 am

      I’d have to disagree. Bikes don’t really need anything except fewer cars, or, barring that, cars that driver slower. Fixing potholes just lets cars go faster. A pothole isn’t much of a problem for someone on a bicycle (my opinion).

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      • Paul Souders April 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm

        And bike infrastructure pretty much never gets potholes in the first place. For example surfaces on rails to trails conversions have no-maintenace lifespans of decades, even in harsh climates like the midwest. To the extent that MUPs are engineered at all (erosion notwithstanding) is for the sake of the occasional maintenance or emergency vehicle.

        Chew on that for a minute: ONE pickup driving 10mph on a MUP does more damage than 1000s of bikes.

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  • Jim Lee April 27, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Check Michael Andersen’s post over at Portland Transport for a more comprehensive analysis:

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

    It’s interesting how people interpret this question. The candidates weren’t asked if they’d prioritize building bikeways over some other mode. They were simply asked if building bikeways would be a priority. The fact that they and many commenters hear heard the question as a bikes vs cars question is part of the problem we face.

    We need leaders who can talk about bicycling in a way that does not make it a zero-sum game. It’s not hard. The bottom line is that our system is not currently in balance and we need higher quality bikeways to bring it into balance.

    To me this isn’t about mode share stats… this is just common sense leadership. Making bicycling easier and more accessible to more Portlanders is probably the single best thing any leader can do to help fix many of the problems our city faces. The fact that no one is willing to go to bat for it and help frame bicycling in the positive light it should be framed in, is very unfortunate and is the crux of the problem we are facing here in Portland.

    What other thing would help Portland save money, get healthier, improve its quality of life, ease congestion, preserve our ailing transportation system, make people happier (scientifically proven), develop our local economy, make us more attractive to tourists and (the right kind of) businesses, and so on and so forth? Seriously. I am curious if any other single thing can do as much for Portland as bicycling can.

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    • 9watts April 27, 2012 at 9:43 am

      “I am curious if any other single thing can do as much for Portland as bicycling can.”
      How about 15 mph across the board speed limit? (Ivan Ilich’s idea from the seventies)

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      • Nathan April 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

        Ooh. People would be sooo upset!

        That would create some far-reaching change. -mind boggles-

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    • Paul Johnson April 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      Pedestrian infrastructure needs love, too. This whole debate about cars versus bicycles is vacuous and wrong, when equal access is a better way to frame it. We have folks walking in traffic on major routes like the Hawthorne Bridge, Willamette Greenway, Springwater Corridor and the Katz Esplanade, not to mention hundreds of miles of city streets, and people still act like the only thing we should care about are gasoline wheelchairs and their relation to bicycles.

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    • oskarbaanks April 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Within the narrowly gauged question is the trap that seals the perception.
      Be reminded of the sponsors of the forum in which it was asked.

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    • are April 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      “prior” does mean “before”

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  • Barbara April 27, 2012 at 10:15 am

    If they say we have to cover the basics that would mean for me to start putting in sidewalks and bikelanes to begin with. I live in SW Portland and it is a mess here. Too many major aterials like Capitol, Vermont, Barbur and Beaverton-hillsdale don’t have these basics. There are 4-5 car lanes and just a ditch for pedestrians, sometimes a bikelane. I talked to Charlie Hales about that in a personal conversation and he said he would like do have a more comprehensive approach to sidewalk infills instead of the scattershot we are doing right now. Vermont between 30th and 35th is a good example, where the city has delayed solving the bad situation here for years (street narrows to two car lanes and two ditches/ dirt patches for bikes and pedestrians). And bike boulevards don’t work in SW because of the hills and the lack of neighborhood streets going through. They might be a great solution for the Eastside but not here.

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    • davemess April 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      You speak the truth, exactly my sentiments from living in that area for a year. Car is king there, by a long shot!

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    • Paul Souders April 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      I’ve been in SW PDX for almost a decade. I agree with this assessment. It’s a great place to ride but daunting. I like to say “my commute is a bike ride in the woods.” I leave out the part where I have to share a highway…

      In flights of fancy I like to imagine a completely separated bike/hike system on the outer westside. Imagine multi-use paths running over the west hills, or parallel to Barbur, or from Hillsdale down to the river. Like the Tryon Creek path, but interconnected and stretching all over the westside. How awesome would that be?

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  • Spencer Boomhower April 27, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I liked Jeff Smith’s answer the best, though I might be biased because I’m pulling for him to win. What I like about Smith is that he approaches transportation problems with a thoughtful pragmatism. He asks essentially: what does it cost and what is it worth? With thinking like that, bicycles – the mechanical embodiment of common sense – tend to win out.

    My opinion of Smith is based partly on his position on the CRC, and it was his questioning of the CRC that first brought him to my attention. Take a look at the three candidates talking about the CRC in front of the AFL-CIO:

    Smith says:

    “I know what I’m supposed to say. And I know what’s riding on it. I really want to be Mayor, and I know that the way I’m about to answer this question may put this in jeopardy, but I also want you to know that when you ask me hard questions I’ll tell you what I think, and what I think is this: I see four income streams for this project, $450 million dollars from the State of Oregon that I don’t see 36 votes for a gas tax increase, nor do I see $450 million dollars in projects we want to cancel. I see $450 million dollars from the state of Washington and my friend in the State House says that’s fourth in their queue. I see one point blank billion dollars from a tea party congress I don’t think wants to give it to us, and I see our own treasurer saying the tolling math doesn’t work. I know I’m supposed to just say “Build Baby Build”. If I’m wrong, it won’t matter very much; the City Council has approved it. If I’m right, we need a plan B, and we need a plan B that prioritizes safety, and that prioritizes freight mobility, and that doesn’t – on the altar of Vancouver commuting (and I like Vancouver too) – get us a project that we just want to get done.”

    Note that Smith doesn’t pander to CRC opponents like me by claiming he can stop the project. He just lays out the way in which the facts don’t add up to a project that fits in with the region’s values, much less one that is able to secure funding.

    And he gives basically the same answer in front of every audience; there’s no tweaking the answers to play better to this or that interest group. That wins a lot of trust from me.

    By comparison, at that same forum Brady said:

    “We need to build that bridge, you guys! Lets build this bridge, lets not miss this opportunity, period.”

    And Hales said:

    ” I want that bridge built, I want the Sellwood bridge built. I have a record of actually getting projects done and not doing shelf studies, which is what we’ve done so far on this project. So lets find a version of that project that we can do, and get it going in the first year of my term.”

    I think Smith’s good sense in questioning the CRC can be expected to translate into support for the good sense that is bike infrastructure. Naturally I’d rather he just say, “We need to build those cycletracks, you guys!” But in the absence of anyone else saying that, I’ll settle for Smith getting elected and applying good sense to all sorts of transportation and livability issues.

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  • Scott April 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

    It’s really all just talking points and BS. Nothing will happen with any candidate ever that will effect a noticeable change in your life. The system could not cope with that type of tangible, fast action.

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  • BURR April 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Support for more bike infrastructure will never be a priority in a majority-rules world in which the false dichotomy of the bikes vs. cars debate has become as hyped and politically hyped charged by the right-wing media as it has in Portland.

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  • Dreamy April 27, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I like the 15mph citywide speed limit, though it would be hard to respect that on a bicycle. It is maybe mentioned elsewhere on BikePortland, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a toll to enter the city limits by automobile (as well as bridge tolls on all bridges)? I think this would immediately reduce SPVs, would increase property values in the city and would be some revenge on Clackamas County for basically reaping the benefits of our metropolis while refusing to ante up their share. Sort of off topic and not something politically sensible for a mayoral candidate to talk about, but if Portland voters are so upset about the roads not being maintained, maybe we need to start thinking about ways to generate revenue from ALL of the road users. Also none of the mayoral candidates are talking about turning the unimproved roads and alleys in the Reed and Woodstock area into a designated mountain biking course, maybe it could even cut through the huge and scenic “public” golf course over there!

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    • Barbara April 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Charlie Hales actually suggested to have Clackamas County residents pay a toll on the Sellwood Bridge because they didn’t want to participate in the funding. Mult Co residents would get a sticker because they have already paid.

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  • Jim Lee April 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    If MULTCO had accepted Bechtel’s $95 million offer to replace the Sellwood Bridge we would have had a fine and functional replacement years ago, not the $300 million fraud that ODOT/MULTCO have foisted upon us, CHARLIE.


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  • Jeremy Cohen April 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I am leaning pretty heavily toward Jeff Smith. What I like about him the most is that he is able to see the larger issues that underpin the specific topic that is brought before him. All that is simply to say, he is very, very smart, and I want the smartest, most innovative, outside the box thinker I can get as mayor.

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  • Joe April 28, 2012 at 8:18 am

    The idea of basic maintenance makes sense to me, since potholes and unimproved streets are not friendly to bicycling and walking. I would like to see us do more with less, like reallocating road space and low-cost cycle tracks. I just wish Hales and Brady had the guts or vision to speak past their seemingly cryptic message of “getting back to the basics” and point to where they can do more with less. Neither has really shown any vision in how we move forward. I’m going with Smith.

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  • CPJC April 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Considering biking’s interesting role in Portland’s economy and lifestyle and how it want to be a viable alternative for transit, perhaps BikePortland could cover mayoral candidates that are also ALTERNATIVES to the big media and big money sanctioned candidates.

    Scott Fernandez is touted as someone who could do a good job. I think readers of an alternative media outlet like BikePortland would be well served by information about alternative candidates.

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  • 007 May 5, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Charlie Hales is shamelessly pandering to the majority when he talks about basic maintenance such as paving streets. We bike the streets every day, do you hear us complaining about them? No. They aren’t that bad. In this day and age no city can afford to have pristine, newly paved streets. It would be a waste of precious taxpayer money. Think the streets are bad here? Ever live in the east side of Washington or Oregon? Now there you get huge, rim- (automobile) bending pot holes from the freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw. I also am voting for Jefferson Smith. I respect people with backbones.

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