(Rendering: Nick Falbo, Alta Planning + Design)
Biking on a flat off-road path is terrific. But biking on many first-rate streets might be better.
That’s the argument made on Wednesday by reader Terry D-M, at least. In the midst of the heated discussion over whether the Portland Bureau of Transportation needs an equity and inclusion manager, Terry offered a comment that seemed a little off-topic at first but eventually circled directly on point.
The job of an equity manager, Terry argued, would be to help people such as the members of the city’s volunteer Bicycle Advisory Committee escape the involuntary blinders that he thinks caused them to neglect infrastructure outside the central city in favor of (in his view) expensive luxuries like the long-planned Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor between the Rose Quarter and NE 21st.
(Note: Terry refers in his comment to a BAC list of 13 top projects, including the Sullivan’s Gulch trail as one of the last few. That list was later shortened to focus on 10 projects that they were asking the city to prioritize. We shared the list of 10 here.)
The City Bicycle Advisory Committee recommended a list of 13 projects that should be the HIGHEST priority. Of these, it includes close to $27 MILLION of investments in North or NE in the 1.25 mile radius from Downtown between Sullivan’s Gulch and Swan Island, not including Bike Share. This includes Broadway-Wiedler, Sullivan’s Gulch phase one, the 7th avenue bridge and north Portland Greenway Trail to Swan Island.
There are NO projects recommended for all of SEUL (outside of that needed 7th street overpass, which is technically downtown). SEUL has close to one third of Portland’s entire population.
East Portland gets two projects, for a total of $8.5 million (the three M’s Greenway and 122nd). The west side gets $14.2 million (Flanders, Barbur Terwilliger, Capital), though I think $3 million for the Flanders greenway AND overpass is a little under estimated in cost.
But what is in there for SEUL? Nothing….no recommended investments for Montavilla, Lents, South Portland…In Fact, outside of the Three M’s and 122nd, the ONLY project east of 21st that made the list is the upper 70′s greenway which is MUCH less needed than access to PCC SE for our low income students. We do have some of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country.
I would think that spending $7.7 million on a fancy multi-use path from the waterfront that only reaches a little more than mile out…only until 21st as further east the ROW is owned by the railroad….when there are ALTERNATIVE ROUTES would be less important than improving bikeway access to school and neighborhoods. That money could build the 60′s, 70′s and 80th greenways AND connect Sellwood to Lents via the new ByBee MAX station with a south Portland bikeway. What I see is almost $8 million being prioritized for professional commuters and recreational cyclists going to their gentrified work and play places. In Central East and South Portland getting to school or Community College is DANGEROUS which could be significantly improved for a very reasonable investment. I would think that THIS work force development would be more important than being able to put on your spandex and do a quick ride to the waterfront from your Sullivan’s Gulch Condo on a new fancy path just for you and your professional neighbors. These routes I have just outlined have been endorsed by their Neighborhood associations, ALMOST completely…..I know, since I was the one who presented to some of these groups and got the endorsements for these needed projects.
This is why we need an EQUITY manager. Even those in the know, who are supposedly the best, trying to advise city council…did NOT take class issues into account when they ranked them. This group is DOWNTOWN CENTERED. Yes they have a great advocate from east Portland on the committee, but these choices obviously tell me they did not look at the city as a whole…they are mostly downtown focused professionals that made some high profile token additions for those in the outer districts.
THIS IS WHY THIS POSITION IS IMPORTANT.
Whatever you think about Sullivan’s Gulch, Terry makes some pretty solid points, both about planning and about the difficulty of equitable decision-making.
Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be mailing a $5 bill to Terry in thanks for this great one.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.