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

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
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