This morning the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners took action and removed language from the draft Sauvie Island transportation plan that sought to discourage “recreational bicycle activities.”
The draft plan was developed over the past 18 months by the County Planning Commission and a citizen’s advisory committee as an update to the Sauvie Island and Multnomah Channel Rural Area Plan and Transportation System Plan.
As the island has increased in popularity due to its aesthetic beauty and proximity to Portland, we suspected from the start that cycling might play a role in the planning process.
Andrew Holtz, a member of the County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, alerted us with major concerns that a reference to “recreational bicycle activities” had remained in the draft plan in spite of his committee calling it “unacceptable” and “discriminatory” and making repeated requests to have it removed.
The context here is that the island has relatively narrow roads with little to no shoulder. A lack of consideration and respect by some road users has resulted in ugly incidents in the past including assaults with a blow dart and pepper spray.
Fortunately, County Commissioner Jules Bailey and County Chair Deborah Kafoury opted to not give any space to that type of nonsense. They were aware of the language in the plan and agreed that it’s unfair to single out cycling in this context.
At their meeting today Bailey proposed an amendment that averted any opportunity someone might have to do something ridiculous like discourage cycling on the island or worse yet, charge a fee to people on bikes.
In policy 5.8 Bailey’s amendment added specific goals for how the island’s transportation should be managed in the next 20 years. Those goals are, “reducing vehicle miles travelled, minimizing carbon emissions, reducing conflict between travel modes, and improving the natural environment by minimizing stormwater runoff and facilitating wildlife movement.”
In policy 5.9 the amendment deleted the entire paragraph that read: “Support the use of bicycle transportation alternative to automotive use without encouraging purely recreational bicycle activities that may increase this level of vehicle conflict on roadways.”
Bailey’s amendment passed without debate, although Chair Kafoury did address how the issue galvanized the community:
“We have all received lots of public comment around this particular piece of the plan and wanted to ensure that it’s definitely our desire that we have not carved out one particular mode of transportation as the one to avoid, and that we want to encourage all modes of transportation — especially those that reduce our carbon footprint on the environment.”
Thanks to everyone who emailed Commissioner Bailey and Chair Kafoury. Singling out cycling in this context, and especially attaching the “recreational” label to it while driving trips receive no such scrutiny, is a very dangerous thing. I’m glad the County Board of Commissioners was able to send a strong message today that that type of language is not acceptable around here.
— The updated Sauvie Island Transportation System Plan also contains several projects that would improve cycling access including a new path on the west side of the island, wider paved shoulders on existing roads, and more. Learn about the plan on Multnomah County’s website and download a copy of the transportation chapter here (PDF).