Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 11th, 2012 at 10:42 am
“As for Vancouver, we’ll happily stand in the middle and attempt to provide a friendly environment for vehicles both motorized and pedal-powered. Sometimes being No. 1 isn’t all that great.”
— Editorial in The Columbian newspaper
The Columbian newspaper devoted an “In Our View” editorial to bike issues on Sunday. The title, We like bikes but aren’t crazy: Seeing what it takes to be Bike City U.S.A., we’re fully satisfied with local efforts, is what first caught my eye.
Then I read the piece and was disappointed that the largest news outlet in Clark County would take such an inaccurate and dismissive stance on the very important issue of road safety.
The editorial attempts to draw a distinction between the transportation investment priorities at the City of Vancouver versus the City of Portland. In doing so, the paper repeats a false claim (first made by The Oregonian, then repeated during the mayoral campaign by former candidate Eileen Brady) that Portland’s transportation bureau (PBOT) isn’t doing “any major street repaving until at least 2017.” The idea is to contrast this (meant to be shocking) statement with the fact that PBOT is spending $900,000 (gasp!) to create a safe roadway environment on over 13 miles of neighborhood streets.
Unfortunately, the claim about paving projects is simply not true.
For example, PBOT is currently paving two miles of NE Sandy Blvd. The cost of that project, according to PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson, is $4.7 million. That’s $2.35 million per mile to smooth Sandy Blvd — a street that happens to include nothing in the way of dedicated space for bicycles. PBOT is also working on a 5.7 mile project to grind down and repave NE Marine Drive.
The 2012-2013 PBOT budget contains $9 million for paving projects. To be clear once again, Mayor Sam Adams’ budget eliminated “contract paving” which is a specific type of project where a road is completely torn out and rebuilt.
After getting a major fact wrong just to spin their bike argument to their favor, The Columbian then tries to paint the picture that Clark County is “plenty friendly toward a bicycle culture that continues to grow rapidly.” What’s interesting is they make that claim — not on investments in projects or city policies that improve the safety of bicycling — but instead they base it on four feel-good community efforts to promote bicycling.
Then they wrote:
“Yet with that growth comes an inevitable conflict between people riding bikes and people driving cars. Several recent stories also have chronicled tragic results, including the death in late April of 11-year-old Benjamin Fulwiler following a collision with a C-Tran bus…
Some cyclists are quick to share stories of inattentive drivers who demonstrate little awareness while endangering riders, particularly when making turns at intersections. Some drivers are equally quick to share stories of careless bicyclists who ignore the rules of the road, particularly by failing to stop at stop signs…
It is unlikely that such conflict will be abated. But people on both sides of the issue must demonstrate a little understanding while at the same time demonstrating a little consideration. There are various health benefits and numerous economic benefits to hopping on a bike and eschewing a car. On the other hand, riding is not logistically or physically reasonable for everybody.”
Bringing the death of Ben Fulwiler into this really shows a clear lack of sensitivity and understanding by The Columbian. And “unlikely… such conflict will be abated”. Seriously? Tell that to the family and friends of Ben Fulwiler who plan to gather at the intersection where he died for a vigil and rally tomorrow.
If I lived in Vancouver and cared about bicycling, I’d be appalled that my largest local newspaper acknowledges multiple road tragedies and then states, “we’ll happy stand in the middle” when it comes to improving safety.
The last line in their editorial is, “Sometimes being No. 1 isn’t all that great.”
I disagree. If being number one means respecting human life and encouraging a healthy transportation choice, than we should all be clamoring for the top.