This time last year, it looked as if Portland’s city council was about to grit its teeth and start addressing two problems that Mayor Charlie Hales rode into office pledging to fix: the twin facts that our roads are both consistently unsafe and disintegrating beneath us.
Now, as Portland’s leaders get ready to file back in from vacation, all available signs point to both of those cans being kicked further down the road.
Meanwhile, as BikePortland reader Alex wrote in a comment on Tuesday, bike trips through this town keep getting bumpier.
This seems like good news but being a “new” rider to Portland my first thought is ” we need another North/South greenway? What about improving the existing greenways? I could see the need for a greenway further east and I suppose there is the thought that a lower “stress” route then Vancouver needs to exist but I am not sure I agree with that either (especially after the improvements to Vancouver). I don’t know, my first impression of Portland biking is that there is a big push to boost our miles of greenways and some of the infrastructure while the roads crumble. Take Michigan as an example, yet another N/S route, you have the time and money spent to build the median buffer at Rosa Parks onto Michigan but Michigan is horrible to ride, the road is in horrible shape. We have a ped/bike bridge over I5 at Bryant st but again Bryant is horrible to ride. The list goes on and on… I find myself searching out the greenways and bike lanes that have roads that aren’t completely riddled with gaping cracks and falling apart and honestly, they are getting harder to find. We certainly won’t be a platinum city with roads in the condition they are now. I know I am getting off topic and this truly seems like a great win but I just look at all the other issues and the cities intent to add sharrows wherever they can to boost the amount of bike routes on the books while 60% of those routes are only suitable to ride if you are on a fat tire bike with full suspension.
Under Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick, the city is planning to start throwing large amounts of general-fund money into transportation for the first time in order to make some safety fixes and continue repaving (or at least resealing) 100 miles of streets next year. And thanks to advocacy from Transportation Director Leah Treat, we’re told, neighborhood greenways will be treated as streets that are important enough to be on the repaving list. (This echoes similar plans under Treat’s predecessor, Tom Miller.) So that’s something.
One of the less useful parts of last year’s big street fee fight was the idea that “safety” projects were code for “walking and biking stuff” while “maintenance” projects were code for “car stuff.” Though biking and walking advocates fought hard to prevent a street fee from going overwhelmingly toward new asphalt (that was the subject of a separate, also interesting, mini-thread this week) the fact is that maintenance projects can also be safety projects — and in any case, there wouldn’t be much biking if most of our roads don’t remain paved. After all, that’s why we paved them in the first place.
Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to Alex in thanks for this great one. Watch your email!
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.