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Street Trust will seek amendment to Oregon ‘Bike Bill’ on law’s 50th anniversary

Posted by on December 15th, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Lawmakers signing the Bike Bill in 1971.

When Oregon’s landmark “Bike Bill” passed in 1971, America was in the throes of a major bike boom. 50 years later a group of Portland bike advocates think our current cycling resurgence is the right time to update it

The nonprofit Street Trust has announced plans to seek an amendment to ORS 366.514. This law states “reasonable amounts” of the State Highway Fund must be spent by the Oregon Department of Transportation, “to provide footpaths and bicycle trails… wherever a highway, road or street is being constructed, reconstructed or relocated.” That “reasonable amount” is further defined as a minimum of 1% of the Highway Fund each fiscal year.

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“The intent of the Bike Bill is to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians in all road projects, but the vague statutory language gives the agency the discretion to determine reasonable amounts.”
— Hau Hagedorn, PSU masters candidate

This would be the second time The Street Trust takes aim at the bill. They (as Bicycle Transportation Alliance) sued the City of Portland in 1993 when construction plans for streets outside the Moda Center didn’t include bike lanes. The city argued it had met its obligation by spending 1% of project funds on biking and walking facilities. The Street Trust disagreed and won the lawsuit two years later. “The court concluded that the 1% figure is a floor, not a ceiling, for government spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects,” The Oregonian reported on March 11th 1995.

“This ruling says loud and clear that local governments have to consider everyone’s mobility needs when they build or rebuild roads,” said former Street Trust leader Karen Frost in a 1995 press release.

In an emailed newsletter today, Street Trust Co-director Tia Sherry wrote, “We are thrilled to be working on an update to the Oregon Bike Bill… Our amendment will aim to ensure that adequate sidewalks and bike lanes are included in every road or highway project in Oregon.” The amendment language has not been finalized, but the plan is to introduce a bill in the 2021 legislative session.

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(Source: Hagedorn, Policy Implications of ORS 366.514 – The Oregon Bike Bill)

Street Trust Co-director Greg Sutliff shared with me earlier this month that the decision to amend the bike bill was informed by the work of former Street Trust board member Hau Hagedorn. Hagedorn, who’s currently associate director of the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University and chair of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, wrote a paper titled, “Policy Implications of the Oregon Bike Bill” (PDF) as a capstone project in her pursuit of Masters of Public Administration at PSU.

Hau Hagedorn.
(Photo: TREC at PSU)

Hagedorn outlined several weaknesses of the law. She says ODOT uses loopholes to create substandard cycling facilities, isn’t spending nearly enough on biking and walking facilities to meet the state’s needs, and that there’s a lack of transparency and accountability in how the law is implemented.

“The intent of the Bike Bill is to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians in all road projects,” she writes, “but the vague statutory language gives the agency the discretion to determine reasonable amounts.” Hagedorn’s analysis of ODOT budgets revealed that in the past 30 years, ODOT has spent an average of just 1.1% of state highway funds on biking and walking infrastructure and did not meet the 1% requirement for eight of those years.

Hagedorn recommends boosting the legal funding requirement to 3%, removing vague language from the bill, creating clear design standards, and setting up an advisory board and performance metrics to make sure ODOT stays on course.

Sutliff with The Street Trust says the draft language of their proposed amendment will include all those recommendations. The proposal is currently in the office of State Senator Floyd Prozanski who plans to sponsor the bill. Prozanski is a long-time supporter of cycling issues. He was the chief sponsor of Oregon’s safe passing law for bicycle riders in 2007 and he successfully rolled the “Idaho Stop” law across the finish line in 2019.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

I wonder what happened to that sweet bike?

eawriste
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eawriste

“My recommendation is to increase the minimum to match rates of federal funds expenditures at approximately 3%.”
1. The recommendation is entirely based on matching federal funds expenditures, not any other variable. 3% is incredibly low given that 99% for cars has been the status quo for decades.

“ODOT does not regularly publish performance metrics related to
the Bike Bill. Providing an annual report on implementation of the Bike Bill would
increase transparency and accountability.”
2. Without any goals, performance metrics are useless. The Bike Bill must have specific, measurable and attainable goals, updated quarterly.

“ODOT’s codification of highway shoulders as a minimum design standard for
bicyclists on urban freeways is problematic.”
3. Design standards must be clear and include “physically separated infrastructure” or they are meaningless.

“The language regarding exceptions can be clarified by removing “other available ways”. The term is vague and broad. Especially in urban areas, ODOT can easily point to the local street network that parallels state highways to exempt the agency from providing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure on state highways.”
4. Remove language for exceptions entirely, and require ODOT to undergo an EIS and clearly designed community engagement and/or advisory board process.

bikeninja
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bikeninja

Was Tom MCall the man or what?

Roberta Robles
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Roberta Robles

Interesting. I wonder what the high dollar outlier years built in 1996 and 2007? All of this looks fantastic. This is absolutely the direction Street Trust should take. We cracked the State Highway fund for public transport, we backed ADA ramps, affordable housing. I hope we can get all of those same communities to get behind bikers for 10% not 3% of state funds. Go big or home!! Especially since bike growth has grown 30% we know we can hit even higher numbers of mode split. ❤️

bjorn
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bjorn

I find it a bit curious that they are going after such a heavy lift without clear leadership as they have neither an executive director nor a dedicated lobbyist. The legislative session starts in just over 3 weeks, time is short if they are going to move a bill like this. Opening the bicycle bill up could result in improvements but there is also the possibility that funding could become even less guaranteed than it is now and you can bet other groups will be lobbying heavily in that direction. Luckily the current makeup of the legislature makes me think it is unlikely that things would get much worse. On a related note the bike bill is also only as good as the enforcement and unfortunately the BTA/Street Trust ceded their status as watchdog when they decided not to sue ODOT over the lack of improvements to the St John’s bridge when it was overhauled.

FDUP
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FDUP

This would be great if the city +/- the state actually used the funds to build usable facilities; I see empty, unused relatively new bike infrastucture all over the city; there is a major disconnect somewhere, and ‘updating’ the ‘Bike Bill’ will probably not change that.

Scott F Kocher
Guest

Anyone know how Portland justified reconstructing inner SE Division, NW 23rd Ave south of Lovejoy, and constructed/reconstructed streets in the the Hoyt Yards development of the Pearl without bike facilities? What other streets has Portland constructed or reconstructed without pedestrian or bicycle facilities in the last 50 years?

Scott F Kocher
Guest

Thank you Hau Hagedorn and The Street Trust for your work on this!