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Portland Biz Journal editorial: “Bicycling serves as economic tool”

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

A reader just made me aware of a recent editorial in the Portland Business Journal that deserves wider attention.

Given the fact that there remain some powerful business interests who feel that Portland’s inevitable march toward better bike access on our roads is at odds with their bottom lines, the PBJ editorial board stood up and blew that idea out of the water. (This is especially great to see from the PBJ because when the Bike Plan for 2030 passed in February 2010, I called them out for a misleading poll.)

In a piece titled “Bicycling serves as economic tool” that appeared in the July 6th edition, the paper makes a compelling argument for why bikes are not only good for business, they’re key to Portland’s economic future. The article is behind a paywall, but a reader was nice enough to send me the hard copy so I can share more of it with you.

In the opening lines, the PBJ writes, “Portland’s often-mocked passion for bicycling is looking downright prescient. Now, the rest of the nation is starting to catch on.”

The piece mentions Portland’s thriving local bike making industry, “led by companies such as Zen Bicycle Fabrication and Ti Cycles.” It also recalls the the fake controversy that surrounded the passage of our Bike Plan for 2030 back in February 2010 (remember “sewer money for bike lanes” and the unfortunate reporting that led to many people feeling the City had committed to spending $613 million on bike lanes?):

“While many residents heaped scorn on Mayor Sam Adams and city officials for their ambitious 2030 bike plan a couple years back, bicycling is clearly the wave of the future, in Portland and elsewhere.”

Explaining that the health and environmental benefits are usually front-and-center around bicycling, the paper correctly points out that, “The economic impact is often overlooked.” In the article’s conclusion, the PBJ editorial board says “Building a bicycle-friendly infrastructure… must be part of any comprehensive transportation plan.”

They also point out the ridiculous fallacy spread by The Oregonian (and unfortunately perpetuated by leading mayoral candidate Charlie Hales), that spending on “bike routes” is leading Portland down a “road to ruin”. Here’s what the PBJ piece says about that:

“Many Portland roads in woeful condition, but funding for bicycle pathways constitutes just a tiny portion of Portland’s $177 million budget.”

And the last line is my favorite: “Portland’s emphasis on bicycling is a sound investment in the city’s future.”

It’s true. Given the foundation of our local bike industry, and the fact that with each passing year we are manufacturing more and more bikes and bike-related products here in Portland, it’s time that the local business lobby sees the economic side of this transportation debate. When we invest in bike-friendly streets, we save money (in health care, street maintenance costs, personal expenses (that are then spent locally) and so on). When we invest in bike-related business, we make money. That’s a win-win every politician and bureaucrat should get behind.