The Portland Bureau of Transportation just released a new video that aims to explain their overarching vision and how they’ll reach goals outlined in the 2035 Transportation System Plan. It’s an interesting look into how the agency thinks about key mobility issues — and more importantly — how PBOT thinks the issues should be framed to the general public.
Here are a few things in the eight minute video that caught my eyes:
– None of the actors in the opening scene represented bicycle users. There were several car drivers, a transit user, and a walker, but no bike rider. This continues the trend at PBOT of keeping cycling in the shadows due to fears of backlash and longstanding institutional anxiety about how cycling relates to racial equity and other social justice issues.
– Congestion — and annoyance with traffic by car drivers — is framed as the number one problem that needs to be fixed. (On the flipside, safety isn’t focused on much at all and the term “Vision Zero” is never used.)
– Driving was centered and people who mostly drive were the main target audience.
– The script took great pains to not be negative or critical about driving (see below).
– PBOT has upped their video game a lot in recent years. This is a quality production and could actually change minds if the right people see it.
As the video title suggests, the main idea PBOT wants people to get from our TSP is that they are focused on moving people instead of cars. The meat of the piece is a fun visual analysis of how many people can be moved in the various modes (right). What’s interesting to me about this segment is the road itself, which depicts an unprotected bike lane so narrow two people can’t ride side-by-side. (And yes I realize this is just a visual rendering and not meant to be accurate, but the dominance of cars going through a dense commercial district in what appears to be a vision of our future city, was a bit jarring.)
“We can’t build our way out of this,” the star of the video says. “So we started thinking, why do we have cars in the first place? To move people from one place to another… So what if we could move more people from one place to another more efficiently and safely, regardless of the way we do it?… We’ve been designing everything around cars for 70 years, no wonder that’s what we’re used to. What if we could design everything around people instead?”
What’ the TSP in a nutshell? That PBOT should use the right tool for the job. The video explains that for trips over three miles they’ll focus on rail and buses. For trips of less than three miles, bikes will rule. And for trips up to one mile, they’ll focus on walking.
When it comes to bikes, PBOT says, “We’re creating an all-ages and abilities network that makes cycling safer and more accessible — whether you’re eight years old, or 80.”
“What isn’t in the plan,” the narrator says, “Telling anyone they can’t drive. Sometimes we just have to.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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