Portland is considered a mecca for America’s bicycling brain trust. Scores of top-tier cycling planners and researchers work in the central city every day. The campus of Portland State University and the City of Portland building is full of leaders in their respective fields who are often courted to speak on cycling-related topics at conferences across the nation and beyond.
That makes it improbable that progress on bicycling has stalled here, and even more improbable that an unpaid group of volunteers might be the ones who finally get it back on track.
Bike Loud PDX is the epitome of the grassroots. They have no paid staff, yet are dogged in their pursuit of better bike policies and projects. They’ve notched impressive victories since their successful campaign to make cycling safer on Southeast Clinton street in 2014. But their most impressive action yet is their campaign to get Portland to respect its bicycle master plan.
Passed 10 years ago today, the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 outlined lofty goals. While it flew through council with lofty rhetoric, it was an unfunded mandate that has felt invisible to all but the wonkiest insiders and city staffers.
Bike Loud’s report, Progress at PBOT, a Plan for 2030 is like an emergency flare for biking in Portland.
The group’s Co-Chair Catie Gould said while putting the report together, “It was quite clear to us, that as a system, we do not have the proper resources or processes in place to transform our streets in the ways that the 2030 Bike Plan envisioned.” “We are not asking for anything new or radical,” she continued, in an email to BikePortland Monday, “We simply want the Bureau of Transportation to be successful in its own adopted goals. While our leaders hearts are often in the right places, and some good initiatives are advancing, it is not nearly enough.”
What’s in the report?
Recommendations: Bike Loud wants an independent audit on project delivery times, a budget that aligns with adopted values and goals, a city ordinance that requires building to adopted plans whenever a street is restriped or reconstructed, more transparency and accountability around public processes, and the adoption of a new Neighborhood Greenway report that includes stronger policies around diversion.
Clear implementation goals: In the nine years since its adoption, the report says, only 26% of the necessary projects have been built. “With only 75 miles planned within the next 5 years, we estimate that by 2030 only 35% of the original network will be implemented. To complete the network that was originally recommended, PBOT would have to construct an additional 295 miles of bike facilities per five years, or 59 miles per year.”
PBOT must be more transparent around project selection: Bike Loud says one challenge is inconsistent choices by PBOT staff around which projects get built and how they get built. “Which projects will PBOT prioritize? Around transit? Most community complaints? Most politically palatable? Along the 2040 Growth concept? After someone is killed by the driver of a motor vehicle? The public deserves an honest conversation about these missed expectations. PBOT needs to align on how projects are selected and how we can get the fastest return on investments on our efforts.”
Up the greenway game: The report says the safety on neighborhood greenways has “degraded” with so many more people driving on them and that diverters have not kept up with that traffic increase. They call for an annual assessment to City Council, more by-the-book design decisions, and less project-by-project compromises.
Increase excitement: In a section on public buy-in, Bike Loud says PBOT needs to give people a more tangible sense of the potential benefits of projects. They recommend an annual carfree day where low-car/bike/walk features could be experienced first-hand.
Gould with Bike Loud says PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and PBOT Policy Projects and Planning Group Manager Art Pearce were given a copy of the report back in January. They are yet to hear any feedback but expect it to come very soon. “When we started putting this report together we expected a 2030 Bike Plan update would be going to city council this winter, but it still has not been scheduled.”
Come out to today’s event to help put cycling back on Portland’s political radar.
Bike Plan 10th Anniversary Rally
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm at City Hall on SW 4th Street
Facebook event page
Speeches, cupcakes, kazoos, clever signs, merriment, networking, etc…
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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