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Bike Loud PDX, The Street Trust speak out on pandemic response

Posted by on April 17th, 2020 at 3:20 pm

“Pilot extended sidewalks using temporary materials along Civic Corridors, Pedestrian Districts, parks, grocery stores and other essential services.”
— Bike Loud PDX

Among the many things that have been paused with the COVID-19 outbreak is the glint of momentum for bicycling advocacy in Portland. At the start of 2020 it felt like we might actually become a cycling-focused town again. PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly had just assigned a top staffer to monitor the Bicycle Advisory Committee and local nonprofit Bike Loud PDX had matured into a stable and effective advocacy group.

Fresh off a successful effort to breathe life into the moribund 2030 Bike Plan, Bike Loud was starting to hit their stride. Fortunately the grassroots group (still with no paid staff) is alive and well.

Portland’s other cycling advocacy group, The Street Trust, is navigating “huge financial impacts” according to Executive Director Jillian Detweiler. But that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to be of service to the community.

On that note, both groups have something to say about making streets social distancing compliant.

Bike Loud PDX just released a list of actions they’d like to see the City of Portland take to respond to the pandemic. The asks come as PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly remains unsure about what to do (if anything) to adapt to the drastic shift in mode split and usage behaviors we’ve seen in the past month.

Below is Bike Loud’s full statement:

While we understand Commissioner Eudaly’s concerns about encouraging people to congregate in streets outside, it is undeniable that many people are biking, walking, and running on streets and sidewalks for transportation to essential services and recreation. Knowing that staying at home in this stage of the pandemic response is crucial, we think it is also important to keep those who must go outside safe and at the same time prepare for the next stage of the pandemic, when restrictions are eased.

We do want to emphasize that the situation is changing rapidly. These priorities that we have outlined may not be the priorities we have in a week from now, or even a few days depending on how things unfold. However, we are positive that Portland will emerge from this pandemic a stronger, more united community. We hope we can do our part.

What Bike Loud PDX is asking for right now:

That the Mayor and Commissioners secure funding through the [federal] CARES Act to make sure our partner organizations do not falter in this time of tremendous need.

That Commissioner Eudaly move forward with the contract negotiations for expanded Biketown bike share, including a wider service area and e-bikes.

That Mayor Wheeler work with the Portland Police Bureau Bike Theft Task Force to donate unclaimed bikes to The Street Trust, Community Cycling Center, Bikes for Humanity, and other local bike shops and community-based organizations to get bikes to people that need them.

That Commissioner Eudaly work with PBOT to move to low-cost pilots for East Portland in Motion (EPIM), Central City in Motion (CCIM), Southwest in Motion (SWIM), and Northwest in Motion (NWIM) projects using temporary materials, including paint, posts, and construction materials.

That Commissioner Eudaly to move forward with her proposed Greenways Project, which would include system-wide traffic-calming and diversion along our Neighborhood Greenways.

That Commissioner Eudaly and PBOT to pilot extended sidewalks using temporary materials along Civic Corridors [a Comprehensive Plan designation], Pedestrian Districts [a Comprehensive Plan designation], around parks, grocery stores and other essential services.

“Eliminate parking on one side of some key streets where people need to access groceries and take out, and delineating that space with paint or cones.”
— Jillian Detweiler, The Street Trust

The Street Trust’s Detweiler doesn’t have as formal of a plan.

In recent emails, she shared with me that from what she’s seen neighborhood greenway traffic volumes are so low people have naturally taken over the street. “I don’t think the City needs be out there yesterday or today with interventions to divert traffic when they are stretched thin,” she shared. Detweiler wants to focus on how best to transition to more normal times. “It’s going to take awhile for people who who have cars to get over the recent aversion to transit not to mention reduced transit service. If we do more to make walking and biking viable alternatives maybe all those trips will not be in cars and we can retain a piece of one of the few benefits to come from this crisis.”

As for what PBOT might do in the near-term, Detweiler said a good place to focus would be the Alphabet District in northwest where she’s heard about “pedestrian congestion”. “My priority for any City response is to eliminate parking on one side of some key streets where people need to access groceries and take out, and delineating that space with paint or cones. There may be some other high density blocks like SE Division where this would be helpful.”

Detweiler also said The Street Trust has dozens of bikes that aren’t being used and is is considering a donation to people who need them.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Doug HeckerAlex ReedinMiddle of the Road GuyDavid HampstenJohn Recent comment authors
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dwk
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dwk

You want Chloe to do something? Good luck with that.
It is hard to believe someone with such little experience in anything was elected to do anything.
Now that we have real problems it is time to elect serious people.
Blaming every problem on equity or whatever she can do to postpone doing nothing,
is such a complete failure to act….

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

I had to look up moribund.

David Hampsten
Guest

Dear Bike Loud PDX and Street Trust,

As long as the Covid-19 social distancing continues, PBOT will continue losing its revenue stream from Central City parking and from gas taxes. What programs and/or projects (with associated staff) are you proposing they cut for the coming fiscal year?

dwk
Guest
dwk

I think being a Covid denier is not all that productive right now. Your posts on this subject might be fine in whatever place you live and Oregon is not suffering that much BECAUSE we did the right thing…
37,000 people died in 4 weeks.. not the flu, not auto accidents, beyond all that about 10 times.
Stop minimizing it.

David Hampsten
Guest

From the April 16th 2020 PBOT BBAC (Zoom) meeting:

Budget Update – 30 minutes
• Chris Warner, PBOT Director
• PBOT has experienced an unprecedented drop in funding ($2.8 million dollars a month that we are not receiving from state highway fund)
• Parking revenues have fallen by $4 million
• Cumulative impact of $23.2 million dollar hit on PBOT’s budget if crisis continues through June
• PBOT Priorities:
i. Maintain existing workforce
ii. Targeted reductions that allow for reinvestment in the future
iii. Deliver equitable and accessible services
iv. Protect vulnerable populations
v. Achieve our climate action goals

• Use the rest of the reserves to balance the fiscal year, programmatic reductions (like furloughs, hiring freeze, COLA)
• Are there any plans to recoup revenue (delivery fees)? That remains to be seen.
• Are HB 2017 revenues also frozen? We are also assuming a reduction in these revenues and including them in the State Highway Funds.
• Existing funding streams cannot keep pace in inflation. New revenue opportunities: road-user charge, parking meter rate increase, ROW franchising to mobility companies (ROW is currently undervalued)
• ADA Curb Ramp Program involves a $120 million dollar investment from PBOT, with $63.1 million from the General Fund. Concerns that the General Fund will not be able to fund this, and PBOT may have to cover these charges
• PBOT will be under enormous pressure
• Has there been any mention of federal support for infrastructure given the crisis? Funding from federal government is directly related to COVID response, it does not replace lost revenue.
• A lot will depend on when the Stay at Home Orders will be lifted. There is a lot to learn.
• Are there any projects that will not happen now? We will still do some maintenance work, a lot of the projects rely on other funding like Gas Tax. Projects may be stretched out. We hope to keep people working, both at the bureau and through contracting with construction companies
• Any word on contracting out the Division Transit Project? The DTP is still moving forward, the construction company has been very responsive, no impact to the project schedule.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Your framing excludes the possibility of compensatory revenue increases. I think those are the best option currently, and certainly advocacy organizations should be pushing for them rather than helping choose losers in future cuts. Below you noted congestion pricing – probably the most practical idea. The Federal government making state and local budgets whole is still in the realm of possibility, though I admit the possibility is remote while Trump and McConnell remain in positions of power.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Eliminate parking when everybody is at home with their vehicles parked out front?

The city would never go for that.

People are used to storing 85 sq/ft of their personal property in public space and they don’t want to give it up.

David Hampsten
Guest

A few years ago I was on the interview panel for the PBOT director, representing ‘citizens’ on it. Our winning candidate turned us down, but he did suggest that we should price the parking as a tax-raising source if we ever had a deep recession – and here we are.

SF & Chicago are usually cited as having city-wide parking permit programs. Since the neighborhoods surrounding the central city already have such a program, I’m guessing Portland will simply extend the program city-wide as an ’emergency’.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

It’s all perfectly legal to do.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

The problem with Portland, and Portlanders, these days is that they’re waiting around for someone to tell them what to do. Take the lane, take the street, take the lead.

I keep wondering, when will the younger generation wake the fug up? If not now, probably never.

John
Guest
John

If “ ROW franchising to mobility companies (ROW is currently undervalued)” means what I think it does, good luck – cash burning profit remote “mobility companies” were in retreat before and the crisis will put the stake in most of them.

David Hampsten
Guest

Yes, I am curious about that too.

Currently the city charges utilities a fee for cutting into the city street for cables, sewers, water, fiber optics, and whatnot, something called a Utility License Fee or ULF, the funding of which is supposed to go to street maintenance, but in fact only 2.2% goes to PBOT, the rest to the general fund.

From what I’ve seen in other cities, parking is priced using a parking permit program, which PBOT currently does do in areas around downtown without parking meters.

But other possibilities exist too. Taxis, Uber, Lyft, Bird, Lime, FedEx, UPS, and any other business that rely on a “free” right of way to do business could be taxed for doing that business on our city streets, with us customers being indirectly billed as a consequence. Another possibility is to tax information (mobile) companies such as Verizon, AT&T, Cricket, Google, FaceBook, etc for sending and receiving signals to and from users, be they on bike, walking, and in their cars, for those signals that rely on a “free” public right of way to transit those signals, even if the cell towers are on private property. And of course there’s congestion pricing.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

It’s not often that I see Ms. Detweiler say something that I had mentioned previously but I think in this case it is true. A pandemic is the ultimate traffic calmer. Not the city, not VZ, and not the best of intentions. What Eudaly is doing seems more political to me or unaware of the situation as people have already taken over the greenways with all modes of transportation and have benefitted from the 50% less traffic overall. What a barrier can’t control is the few drivers who want to go at ludicrous speed and there sadly isn’t a cop or camera van there to document it. If the city really wanted to support all modes, the traffic enforcement would be the way to do so, not more signs. I’m really signed out. #signfatigue