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Bike Loud PDX wants to make Portland’s 2030 Bike Plan relevant again

Posted by on December 19th, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Time to show up for an old friend in need.

I’ll excuse you for not knowing that it’s almost the 10th anniversary of the City of Portland’s Bicycle Plan for 2030. For a plan adopted amid seemingly boundless optimism that a new era in transportation was imminent, its contents and visions and goals have tumbled from their pedestal like a highly-rated rookie prospect that never panned out.

We learned back in September that the Bureau of Transportation has completed just 59 of the 223 action items listed in the plan. Two weeks after PBOT’s five-year progress report (which came five years late) we learned that the rate of bike commuting in Portland has dropped to a 12-year low of 5.3%.

Halfway in, the Bike Plan’s goal of 25% of trips being made by bicycle by 2030 seems unattainable. Unless.

Unless someone steps in to do something about it. That’s where Portland’s capably scrappy, all-volunteer nonprofit Bike Loud PDX comes in.

“The bike plan is just one way to look at how PBOT is butting up against car culture and losing.”
— Catie Gould, Bike Loud PDX

The group, which celebrated their fifth anniversary in October, has been meeting weekly (on Saturdays no less!) since November to resurrect the plan and help PBOT achieve more of it. Bike Loud Co-Chair Catie Gould (who said PBOT’s five-year report “should be an alarm bell,”) is spearheading the effort. I asked her to share more about the campaign:

What spurred you to start these bike plan meetings?

When the 2030 Bike Plan report was presented at the Bicycle Advisory committee this fall it came as a big surprise to me. I had heard about this plan in passing, but thought it was functionally shelved. It was actually a really aggressive plan compared with what PBOT proposes now. The trouble is the lack of implementation. Unless something really big changes, it looks like we’ll only get a third of the original network done by 2030. Combined with the recent news that our transportation emissions are rising, it seemed like a key time to get a big conversation going around this. The questions we are asking are bigger than just the bike plan; it’s about what PBOT needs to be successful in achieving their adopted goals for reducing cars and emissions. The bike plan is just one way to look at how PBOT is butting up against car culture and losing. We started meeting weekly in early November and don’t have an end date planned yet.

What’s been happening at the meetings?

The meetings are like a study hall of sorts. People are working on multiple different tasks, and of course we have conversations around strategy. The report says repeatedly that the agency doesn’t have public or political support. So we’ve been thinking through a lot of communication – messages for council and the public, writing them down, and finding evidence to back up our points. Take this one point: PBOT doesn’t have political support. What does that mean? Is that the story city council believes? What does full support look like? Now we can take action: looking up previous votes and testimony, setting up meetings with city council, etc.

In the progress report, you have to read between the lines a bit to see how badly we’re failing. So we’re trying to present PBOT’s own data in a way that is clearer for people to understand. We’ve also been putting together a list of some of the biggest missed opportunities where Portland spent a lot of money on road reconstruction and ignored the plan. That’s the accountability piece that seems to be missing. Some other cities have passed legislation to essentially force DOT’s to upgrade streets per the plan, or trigger a report-back to city council. We’ve been looking into these quite a bit.

What’s your goal?

Things are still morphing as we go. We’re talking to a lot of people, both inside and outside PBOT, to gather feedback about what the solutions are. We are working our way up the chain-of-command and at the end we’ll have a list of things we need from them as an agency, and a list of things we can focus on as advocates. We’re hoping this will be collaborative, but we’ll be ready to run a campaign regardless of how those conversations go.

We have a few big opportunities to show city leadership that people really care about this — with the bike plan update coming to council and the budget process this spring.

It should be worrying to advocates of all stripes that Portland doesn’t follow through on its own plans, even ones that get unanimous support. We assume that some time in the future, city staff or council will follow up to make sure things get done. Now is that time.

If you want to help Catie and the rest of the Bike Louders boost the profile of the bike plan and hold our city accountable for its transportation goals, show up to one of these work sessions. The next meeting is Saturday, 12/21 from 12:00 to 2:00 pm at Rose City Book Pub (1329 NE Fremont St). Check out Bike Loud’s website to sign up for their emails list and stay connected.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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eawriste
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eawriste

According to the PBOT site, 7 miles of PBLs exist in Portland. I’m not sure if that is accurate, but yeah, platinum.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/407660

Over many, many years Portland slowly crept up to that number. SF has something like 20, NYC has about 120 give or take. Not unsurprisingly, the mode share has actually gone down in Portland.

The 2030 plan was exciting when it came out. But it’s important to recognize ignoring it was not inevitable. Wheeler, Hales, Adams. Portland somehow got all the duds. All the plans and fancy designs have meant nothing without a mayor who will actually build what matters: PBLs. It helps to have a well-funded and organized advocacy group, and a strong cycling culture, but Portland has not had a half-decent leader for a very long time. PBLs are what makes a city bike network practical and without someone who’s willing to take the hits, all the bike planning and painted lanes are fluff. So let’s get someone in who’ll actually build PBLs next year. Portland could easily double or triple its PBL network in a couple years. Let’s see what happens to the mode share then.

One
Guest

Bike Loud is so awesome. We are all lucky to have them and I’m grateful for the work that they do!

maxD
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maxD

this is so impressive! Thank you Bike Loud!

Eric H
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Eric H

Now if we could only get someone to make the ORCMP relevant at all. Or maybe even get it finished?

paikiala
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paikiala

e,

What’s the budget your two comparison cities have to implement their plans?
Just saying…

Fred
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Fred

When Catie says, “Take this one point: PBOT doesn’t have political support. What does that mean?”

I’ll take a crack at what it means:
– It means that the business community, represented by PBA, regularly pushes back against even the most minor improvement in cycling infrastructure (such as Better Naito).
– It means other community organizations, including certain neighborhood assns, also push back when diverters and other minor cycling improvements are proposed for *their* neighborhoods.
– It means that in a city with a strong tradition of citizen involvement – as in “citizens basically need to approve practically everything” – and a dysfunctional city gov’t structure (the ridiculous elected-commissioner system), the folks at PBOT who should be able to make things happen are having their heads spun around constantly and can’t get done the things they want to get done.

The default political culture in Portland is “I really believe strongly in cycling / sustainability / equity / etc. But I’m going to let someone else actually *DO* it. Let someone else cycle / behave sustainably / do the difficult things that bring actual results.”

It’s oh-so-easy to talk about what you want and put it in a plan. But it’s so much harder to make it actually happen.

The Dude
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The Dude

Unless they have a plan to somehow reverse the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf, it does not really matter what they do.

I wonder whether the good-hearted activists of Portland will ever realize that all the time spent attending committee meetings, commenting on plans, and holding signs was wasted? For people who decry climate change denial, they sure seem pretty uninformed about what has already happened and what is going to happen in the near future.

I’m not saying this to be negative. I’m trying to help people think realistically. If you want to survive — much less change society — you really ought to think a little bigger than arguing with entrenched bureaucracies about where to put a bike lane.

Keith
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Keith

I agree with David’s comments regarding implementation and PBOT. We’re a city that’s great at doing plans, but weak on commitment. As an advisory committee member for both the 1996 and 2010 bike plans and long-time PBAC member, I have been discouraged by the city’s slow and sometimes inefficient implementation.

The recently adopted SW In Motion Plan (SWIM) is a great example. Pretty good plan and project list, but it finishes with a 4-page implementation chapter that says little (other than noting potential funding sources) and commits to nothing. A number of us on the Stakeholder Working Group lobbied for a stronger implementation strategy, but PBOT apparently wants to simply wing it. I expect this “short-term” plan to take decades to complete.

To make matters worse, PBOT has an on-going habit of blowing perfect opportunities to provide ped/bike improvements as part of street and utility work. In SW, almost every street has ped/bike deficiencies, and digging up a street for a water line, repaving, etc. usually provide an opportunity to put the street back with modest ped/bike upgrades called for in the Transportation System Plan. Too often city crews simply put things back as they found it and never ask if it would be practical to include planned improvements as part of the project. Given the glacial progress being made, small incremental improvement opportunities like these are a big deal. But they often don’t get done, we wait another decade or more, and then the planned ped/bike improvements ultimately costs way more in the end.

Unfortunately, PBOT has never publicly shown a willingness to look itself in the mirror and ask how it could do better with available funding. It acts as though it’s doing a perfect job, it’s operating at maximum efficiency, there’s no room for improvement, and that more money is the only missing ingredient.

Toby Keith
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Toby Keith

“Enforcement is racist.” That sentiment is pretty heavily reinforced here. So don’t expect anything to improve in the former Rose City.