‘No bicycles, no pedestrian accommodation’ on new I-5 bridge, says Betsy Johnson, Oregon governor candidate

“All of these accommodations to special user groups belie the fact that the bridge was designed to move traffic and freight.”
— Betsy Johnson, candidate for governor

(Photo: Betsy Johnson campaign)

“I would not only say no light rail. I’d say no bicycles, no pedestrian super-accommodation.”

That what Betsy Johnson, one of Oregon’s leading 2022 gubernatorial candidates and recipient of $1 million (so far) from Nike founder Phil Knight, told a radio show host when asked about her view on the Portland-to-Vancouver I-5 freeway expansion project.

Our past coverage of Johnson focused on her tenure as an influential member of the Oregon Legislature, a position she resigned from in December in order to run for governor. As a senator, she advocated for the Salmonberry Trail to connect the Portland area to the Oregon Coast via a bike trail.

Johnson, who’s running as an Independent after 20 years as a Democrat, hasn’t been a big key player in statewide transportation policy (except for the aviation department – Johnson is a pilot by training). As governor, however, that would have to change. One of the projects she’d be expected to take leadership on is the aforementioned Interstate Bridge Replacement Program (IBRP), a resurrection of the Columbia River Crossing project that crashed-and-burned in 2013 after tussle over light rail and funding in 2013.

Advertisement

For transit and bike activists, Johnson’s vision for the project isn’t very comforting.

A reader tipped us off about an interview on Larson’s show in February where she was asked what she thinks about the project.

Here’s the exchange:

Host:

“What would your position on a Columbia [River] Bridge be?”

Johnson:

“I would not only say no light rail. I’d say no bicycles, no pedestrian super-accommodation. That bridge is a major north-south piece of United States infrastructure. We’ve got to design this bridge properly, but all of these accommodations to special user groups belie the fact that the bridge was designed to move traffic and freight.”

Host:

“And it’s not doing it as well as it should be right now. And if they build a bridge, all of the proposals up to now have been to replace the bridge with three lanes north and south, the same size it is now. Would you say if we’re going to spend billions of dollars we should have a bridge that has more capability than the old bridge?”

Johnson:

“You’re damn right I would.”

Host:

“And it would be traffic capability. Not bike lanes and pedestrian lanes and light rail?”

Johnson:

“Correct.”

It’s clear that Johnson is trying to appeal to a certain group of voters with comments like this. What’s less clear is why she thinks her views carry any water whatsoever since thousands of people already rely on the bridge biking and walking path and there’s absolutely no chance the project gets built without facilities for walking, cycling, and transit.

We reached out to Johnson’s office for comment but have yet to hear back.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

113 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Maria
Maria
7 months ago

Well, I know who I won’t be voting for!
People on bikes, on foot and using transit, are not “special user groups” requesting super accommodation. Can we just all be referred to as “user groups”? Or start calling the personal vehicle users “polluting traffic congestion group”? Rebuilding the bridge to accommodate motor vehicle traffic without considering all bridge users is outlandish.

Serenity
Serenity
7 months ago
Reply to  Maria

Yeah, I think she really shot herself in the foot there.

Hippodamus
Hippodamus
7 months ago

I’m glad she’s getting these policy positions out now. I wish more politicians were transparent on their actual views. This statement alone let’s me know I won’t be supporting her.

Allan Rudwick
7 months ago

The host straight up lying about lane count, etc to get people riled up.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Rudwick

Lars is a liar. Always has been.

Traffic Engineer
Traffic Engineer
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Rudwick

No evidence that Lars is lying. It’s possible he thinks there will be 3 lanes each direction. Fact is, at this point, no one knows since the design hasn’t been agreed to. Lars knows as much about it as any of us: nothing.

Last time there were too may inputs into the design criteria (design by committee) and it turned out to be a shit show; impossible to make everyone happy so they gave up.

I do think that they will have bike and pedestrian lanes. Betsy is just pandering to Lars audience. Not a big deal – she will have little if any say in the bridge design.

Steve C
Steve C
7 months ago

Solid Costanza logic, “it’s not a lie, if you believe it”

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve C

Well, it’s not. If you believe it, it’s called “being wrong”.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago

She will have absolutely zero say in the bridge design.

idlebytes
idlebytes
7 months ago

This is a pretty strange take in a state that has at least said it needs to reduce its greenhouse emissions even if it’s not doing it or really even trying all that hard. Increasing the size of the bridge would also not go over well as it would only be useful if we increased the I5 on the Oregon side. I don’t think bulldozing thousands of Portland homes and businesses is a very popular suggestion here.

Also much like a tunnel you’re not likely to get federal approval if you’re not providing the same level of service as the current bridge. I assume she’s just trying to appeal to the type of people that listen to Lars and like many politicians is just saying whatever the audience wants to hear.

Luke
Luke
7 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

One thing I’ve learned about moving from “liberal” New Hampshire to “progressive” Oregon is that there are no actually liberal and progressive states in the U.S.

You cannot be liberal and progressive and be pro-car and pro-suburb, so that rules the whole country out.

Traffic Engineer
Traffic Engineer
7 months ago
Reply to  Luke

Had you gotten your wish, you’d still be in NH. Doubt you’d have moved to Oregon on a bike.
😉

oliver
oliver
7 months ago

Someone should invent a contraption of some sort one could pack one’s belongings into that could double as both storage and durable shipping unit.

You could stack them on trains or semi trucks, with a local delivery pick up and drop off service at either end. Call them idk, containers or something.

It’s a million dollar idea, I tell you.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
7 months ago

Covered wagon! Keeping it Real.

Luke
Luke
7 months ago

I drive way, way less here, and not at all for local trips or anything a bus or MAX can get me to. Nonetheless, the streetscape here is just as hostile to anyone not in a car, if not perhaps worse because stroads are way more common here.

Traffic Engineer
Traffic Engineer
7 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

Oregon is making fair progress in reducing GH emissions. There are hundreds of new windmills, many homes have solar on the roof, EVs are increasing, coal-fired power plants are being eliminated.

Agree that she is just appealing to Lars audience. Governor will have little say in the bridge design, and as a 3rd party she will not be likely to win. She should have run as a Dem.

soren
soren
7 months ago

Oregon is making fair progress in reducing GH emissions. There are hundreds of new windmills

Oregon is failing, not progressing.

Consumption-based emissions are rocketing upwards and production-based emissions have not met state goals. Oregon has also failed to meet its EV targets by a very large degree and both PGE and Pacific Power still burn coal to generate electricity for Oregon.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  soren

Let’s just admit we are not going to reverse Global Warming and start planning for a much hotter, drier future.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago

Not necessarily. Local news is saying that our April snow must also be due to climate change. Now I don’t know what to think.

X
X
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

It’s a La Niña, a cyclical weather pattern. Perhaps modified by climate change but not outrageous. Local news learned a new word after about 35 years so they’re using it three times.

I am not at all a cc denier but _weather_ is complex.

Michael Fisher
Michael Fisher
7 months ago
Reply to  soren

I agree Oregon is failing. One example of many is residents of the populated Willamette Valley outside of Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah Counties still need not get a car emission test when renewing their auto registration. Like it’s 1984!

9watts
9watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael Fisher

Those emissions tests only measure criteria pollutants, not CO2, not fuel consumption. In 1984 we were much more concerned with criteria pollutants. What is going to kill us is the burning of fossil fuels, not rural emissions of criteria pollutants.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
7 months ago

Funny, this morning on my walk I was thinking, why not build a Tillikum type bridge between Vancouver and Portland to be bus, train, bike, skateboard, walking, etc to be separate from the main freeway bridge. Seems to make much more sense and allows for more flexibility. Too bad Betsy didn’t suggest something similar.

Bobby U
Bobby U
7 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

That would be much more expensive. It would be a totally separate bridge after all. By putting transit and multi use path on the same bridge(s) as the freeway you can use the same piers to support multiple uses.

Nick
Nick
7 months ago
Reply to  Bobby U

Ever tried the 205 bike path? It’s not exactly nice, and people who are already nervous about biking just aren’t going to use it.

qqq
qqq
7 months ago

If anyone is still buying Nike stuff, this would be a good time to stop.

I just realized how jarring it is to see this Knight-sponsored candidate’s views juxtaposed with the Biketown logo that features the Nike swoosh.

Traffic Engineer
Traffic Engineer
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

I haven’t looked myself, but I’d find out what her views on the issues ACTUALLY ARE before getting mad at Knight/Nike.
Agreed?

qqq
qqq
7 months ago

No, I don’t agree. We just heard her views on this issue that’s important to me, and it’s so at odds with my thinking that that’s enough for me. She didn’t just do the standard “no light rail”, she made a point to bring in walking and biking too.

Some people have commented that she may not really believe what she said, and was saying it to score points with Larson and his listeners. In other words, she says things she doesn’t believe to convince people to support her. That’s even worse for me than what she did say.

I’m not mad at Knight or Nike. They can do what they want. And people who don’t like what they do can stop buying Nike stuff.

Knight regularly supports people and causes I don’t like. Nike itself has a decades-long record of bad behavior, and supporting or overlooking bad behavior of it’s sponsored athletes. Lance Armstrong, Alberto Salazar…Only a few days ago, Nike stated that Tiger Woods is an inspiration to us all. He’s the most famous impaired driver in the country, who’s never taken any resposibility for his out-of-control driving that could have killed anyone unlucky enough to be on the road (or near it) with him. Nike’s record with women athletes is incredibly horrible. Nike built its brand on hip urban marketing and used its earnings to build a gated suburban headquarters behind a berm.

I’d give both a break on this if this current support of this candidate seemed like an anomaly, but it’s not.

X
X
7 months ago

She said it in a policy interview with a journalist. Let her wear it.

bryan medley
bryan medley
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

pretty sure Phil Knight has nothing to do with Nike anymore, but there’s still other reasons not to support Nike!

lacorota
lacorota
7 months ago

Thanks for publishing this! When it comes time to cast my ballots, I can do so better informed. I agree with another comment. . . why refer to cyclists and pedestrians as “special user groups”? It segregates, and de-legitimizes anyone outside a motor vehicle. I’m a fan of the “complete streets” concept. When housing developers go into a region to subdivide a property and build a housing project, they are required (in some regions, anyway) to include sidewalks, street lights, and marked bicycle lanes. Otherwise, the street in front of the project is incomplete. That said, I’d assert the same applies for most transportation corridor developments where pedestrians and cyclists have such need. She’s pandering to those who despise any funding towards infrastructure for non-motorists. Unfortunately, I’ve spoken to many who deem pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users as failures because they don’t get around by motor vehicle. Until further notice, I’ll cast my vote elsewhere.

Matti
Matti
7 months ago
Reply to  lacorota

“Complete streets” should include green infrastructure (street trees, biofiltration planters, etc.). Beyond aesthetics, these elements help to slow vehicular speeds, reduce the urban heat island effect, and provide a more comfortable experience for non-vehicular street users.

Tina Ricks (Guest Author)
Tina in the Burbs
7 months ago

I’ve seen this attitude in so many contexts. At least it’s out loud and in the open. Important people, going important places, doing important things, are in cars. Public transit is for poor people and disabled people (and they’re not important). Bikes are for kids, students, homeless people, and weekend hobbyists (and they’re not worth spending money on). The end.

lacorota
lacorota
7 months ago

A close acquaintance asked me if I was on “hard times,” or wondered if I needed any financial assistance because I was frequently seen walking. Walking in foul weather sometimes, with all my rain gear on. Neighbors mentioned seeing me many miles from home. They felt “sorry” for me, older person, walking home in the dark, cold and rain, with a headlamp. I felt sorry for them when I walked by and waved as they were stuck in traffic a half-mile from home. It’s often a parking lot as far as I can see. Many looked fatigued and depressed, sitting there, waiting. Made me pause and consider who was the real loser.

One neighbor I hadn’t seen in a few months wondered if I’d lost my home. I was walking home from a grocery store 4 miles away. I had my groceries in my backpack, rain gear on, and headlamp on high beam. Nope, home is paid for, in good repair, and electricity still on. A-okay.

I assured everyone, I’m doing fine, but appreciate their concern for my non-motorized, well-being. Though I have a sight disability preventing me from driving, it’s equally a conscious choice. Before disability, I walked, cycled, or hopped on transit the same.

But somehow my social status was judged as compromised, mediocre perhaps, because I’m not driving a car. A nice car. Something must be “wrong.” We discussed it later and I told my acquaintance that in some countries it’s not unusual to see bank presidents, the mayor, physicians, and a common laborer sharing the same trains, busses, or cycling the same streets. And even chatting together with a beer. .

Fred
Fred
7 months ago
Reply to  lacorota

Comment of the month! It touches on a HUGE impediment to cycling and walking by many well-heeled people: the social stigma associated with being seen getting around in anything other than a shiny SUV or sedan.

A good friend who holds a high position in a local company once told colleagues in a meeting that she takes the bus to work. Another very senior colleague replied, “But isn’t that dangerous?!”

9watts
7 months ago
Reply to  lacorota

I agree in the Comment of the ___ vote.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  lacorota

yes great comment. but folks, please use the “comment of the week” phrase we asked for so we can actually be sure to find it. thanks.

Luke
Luke
7 months ago
Reply to  lacorota

That’s absolutely the way it is here. If you’re not driving, there must be “something wrong”. As if doing one of the most basic human activities–moving around in a non-motorized fashion–were some sign of trouble! What a sad country we live in!

Dan
Dan
7 months ago

hahahaha, as if SOV drivers aren’t the most catered to user group of all. Someone should point out to her that her grandchildren’s quality of life depends on us burning fewer fossil fuels.

RipCityBassWorks
RipCityBassWorks
7 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Oh, I guarantee she doesn’t care. Johnson already got hers and she doesn’t plan to be here when the situation really gets bad…

SD
SD
7 months ago

Her positions on transportation have always been horrible.

SD
SD
7 months ago
Reply to  SD

From Bike Portland 2008
“My view of this bridge is that we’ve got to move freight…isn’t it conceivable they [bikes and peds] would ride across the bridge on whatever kind of transit option is offered, rather than building separate accommodation that just drives the cost of this already unbelievably expensive structure up?”
–Sen. Betsy Johnson

Seth Alford
Seth Alford
7 months ago
Reply to  SD

I was going to post a note here to ask SD for a link to that article. I decided to find that link myself. Here’s it is. https://bikeportland.org/2008/02/22/oregon-senators-question-new-i-5-bridge-bike-and-ped-funding-6744

The links to the audio recordings no longer work. But Jonathan did provide transcripts of what was said in the article.

jonno
jonno
7 months ago

I was interested to hear what she had to say about Oregon’s most important issues. Now I’ve heard enough.

John D.
John D.
7 months ago

Taylor, not only is she involved in the aviation industry, she used her position in the legislature for her own personal profit. Look up her wheeling and dealing with the Scappoose Airport back in the mid-2000s.

ivan
ivan
7 months ago

Johnson seems to be trying to out-compete Drazen in right-wing “own the libs” rhetoric, and there’s no better way to do it in Oregon than demonizing those Portland bike hipsters.

It’s especially ridiculous because she’s (rightly) pro-abortion and voted in favor of things like business taxes to support public education, so she’s never going to get the support of Lars Larson listeners, but feints like this will ensure she’ll shed whatever moderate Dems to whom she might have initially appealed. She’ll end up with a significant but small percentage, Ross Perot-style.

Anyway, thanks for documenting whom the freight lobby’s candidate is!

Todd/Boulanger
7 months ago

Hmmm, has anyone communicated to Besty Johnson, the Oregon gubernatorial candidate what product her political sponsor Phil Knight makes and has made millions selling (hint Nike makes shoes). She does know that walking and cycling does wear out Nike shoes quicker than driving a car?! Perhaps this might make ‘Mr. Nike’ stop at the $1m in funding he has bestowed on her for this campaign.

https://democratherald.com/corvallis/news/election/phil-knights-money-says-best-chance-for-republicans-is-not-a-republican/article_32e45db0-b5f0-11ec-b139-e700901b82ca.html

Todd/Boulanger
7 months ago

Wow, I did not know we could advocate for “…bicycle and…pedestrian super-accommodation…”! Sign me up!!

Racer X
Racer X
7 months ago

She seems to be running for the ‘Gov’nor of cul-de-sac Clark County’ and its Washington hinterlands…or has Oregon taken in a bunch of MAGA refugees during COVID? [Or perhaps she is taking the page out of the Mel Brooks movie classic – Springtime for Hitler – …and will take an extreme position to ‘suck up’ as many donations as possible AND try to fail at getting elected so she can use the funds for some other ‘campaign’?! ]

Oh so Brilliant!, I hope Phil is happy.

bjorn
bjorn
7 months ago

This is not new for her, she has been arguing that someone using a bike for transportation should be forced onto transit since at least 2008. https://bikeportland.org/2008/02/22/oregon-senators-question-new-i-5-bridge-bike-and-ped-funding-6744

bjorn
bjorn
7 months ago
Reply to  bjorn

She also thinks that people should be allowed to use cell phones while driving, perhaps cab drivers should also be allowed to drink on the job… https://bikeportland.org/2013/03/22/oregon-senate-says-cab-drivers-should-be-exempt-from-cell-phone-law-84341

qqq
qqq
7 months ago

“We’ve got to design this bridge properly, but all of these accommodations to special user groups bely the fact that the bridge was designed to move traffic and freight.”

In other words, she’s saying that accommodating people walking and biking is at odds with (belies) the existing bridge’s design because the existing bridge was designed to move traffic and freight.

That makes zero sense.

First, biking and walking ARE traffic.

Second, the original design DOES accommodate biking and walking, albeit poorly.

Third, it’s irrelevant what the original bridge was designed to do. It was built in 1915–over 100 years ago–with a parallel bridge mimicking that design added in 1958–over 60 years ago. The new bridge should be designed for current and future needs, not the needs of decades ago. Her statement is as logical as someone in 1915 saying, “Let’s not build a bridge because that would belie the fact that there currently is no bridge”.

Fourth, accommodating biking and walking can be done with no negative impacts to moving vehicle traffic and freight. It’s not an either/or.

When we build new hospitals, libraries, stadiums, or anything else to replace ones that are decades old, nobody says “Let’s only accommodate what the old one–that’s so old we need to replace it–accommodated because accommodating new needs would belie the design of the old one we’re replacing” because that would be incredibly stupid.

Traffic Engineer
Traffic Engineer
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

It’s worse than you say in that last sentence/paragraph. The government REQUIRES owners of old homes to not modify them, much less tear them down, if they are designated as historical. They are forced to keep them the way they are.

Hippodamus
Hippodamus
7 months ago

Your comment is a bit misleading. There are only requirements on home actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are approximately 26,000 resources (not all homes) on the NHRP currently. Someone buying a home on the NRHP would or should be aware of that. The government doesn’t go around designating things, citizens have to do some pretty hard work to document why your house is very unique and there aren’t others like it. You wouldn’t wake up some day and accidentally find out you can’t change your shutters. A beautiful craftsman style home in Portland may be historic, but they are not uncommon, therefore don’t need protection.

That said, I do think some regulations preventing development on adjacent properties are absurd. Placing a bus stop within view of a historic building can require extensive documentation despite the entire street around that historic building being modern in every other sense.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Hippodamus

Not to mention that the owner can delist their property at will, so the program is entirely voluntary.

qqq
qqq
7 months ago

The bridge IS on the National Register of Historic Places–the highest or one of the highest national historic designations, but that’s not stopping anyone from talking about tearing it down.

Plus, even National Register properties are occasionally torn down, and often are altered–legally. There are guidelines and procedures for designing and approving alterations and additions, because they are expected and common. Changing the uses of historic properties is incredibly common.

Johnson’s “Let’s tear down the structure but not change the use” position doesn’t make any sense, in or out of any historic preservation discussion.

Damien
Damien
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

First, biking and walking ARE traffic.

First, biking and walking ARE traffic.

First, biking and walking ARE traffic.

Repetition for emphasis.

CDD
CDD
7 months ago

Strictly from the fed’s point of view, she is right. I5 needs to have a 50+ year reliable bridge to move Interstate traffic. Anything else costs more $$$ and won’t get approved. Now look west from the existing bridge – there’s a nice and old railroad bridge, 2 tracks! Appropriate more $$ for the railroads to fix or replace that bridge and force them in return to allow diesel (yes, gasp, diesel) EMU’s to cross it every 30 min between Vancouver Amtrak station (lots of parking there), and Union Station. There’s your ‘Couv MAX right there!

bjorn
bjorn
7 months ago
Reply to  CDD

Oregon law requires a bicycle facility on any new bridge, it can be even worse than what the I5 has now like the glenn jackson but you can’t just not allow bikes. People need to recognize this for what it is a call to repeal the bike bill entirely.

Todd/Boulanger
7 months ago
Reply to  CDD

My faded memory of the CRC era on this topic:
1) the state authorities did investigate the option of working with BNSF to reconstruct the 110 year old rail bridge (oldest bridge on the Columbia River) and even tried to get the US Coast Guard involved to ‘delist’ it…so as to simplify the river traffic etc. with a new rail bridge but the railroad was not interested…our 19th Century case law is very protective of “railroaders” rights, still.
2) the “extra rail” capacity that once existed for a ‘commuter rail’ type bi-city service – like during the 1998 grunion repair – is long gone….so not a real option vs Bi-State MAX.

Perhaps someone needs to talk to BNSF (Fort Worth)…they may now be open to financial aid to upgrade this legacy bridge (to accommodate higher speed rail and ‘more capacity’).

Jason McHuff
7 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Another issue is the multiple rail junctions in North Portland, but there are ideas to address that, and lots of government money has been spent on the railroad line to increase capacity for Amtrak Cascades and (in the Seattle area) Sounder commuter trains.

As for the bridge itself, my understanding is that it hasn’t really been looked at because it’s “outside the project scope” and those involved have a goal of building a big new bridge that they can attach their names to.

bjorn
bjorn
7 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I recall a big effort by the rail folks trying to get the bridge updated which would have cost less than what was spent planning CRC 1.0 and eliminated like 90% of bridge lifts but the funding went to planning CRC 1.0 and the alignment of the opening of the rail bridge has still not been improved.

Racer X
Racer X
7 months ago

This is such a diabolical strategy by Phil Knight (and the other ‘highway capacity haters’)!…for him to prop up a candidate so far right that even a Clark County politician* might feel uncomfortable with such a position thus killing the CRC2 and the car sprawl that many fear by acting in a reverse way.

*You remember those Clark politicians who fought CRC light rail going north by using the slogan
“No-Crime-Train-on-Main”. The current Mayor of Vancouver (and CTRAN board member) was one of those back in the 2000s…if my long term memory is not too foggy now.

Paul
Paul
7 months ago

Irony:
Originally the bridge carreid a Trolly and was heavily used by Bicycles.

RipCityBassWorks
RipCityBassWorks
7 months ago

I already wasn’t going to vote for Betsy Johnson to begin with. Hopefully this completely kills her campaign. Pretty obvious at this point that she is just a Trumper type trying to play the “but I registered as a Democrat!!!!” card.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
7 months ago

She’s just lobbing red meat for conservative voters. I would not take it too seriously at this point. She is pandering to the rural conservative voter with this.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
7 months ago

The echo chamber is loud today. Everyone dismissing Betsy’s campaign refusing to look in the mirror that her position probably reflects the views of a majority of likely VOTERS on a statewide level rather than our current crop of politicians who are much further to the left than her on transportation and climate change is foolish. I’d say most BP commenters are way out of touch with the statewide electorate as a whole even given the Democratic stronghold of Portland metro. Anyone dismissing Betsy’s campaign because of these comments is simply ignoring the political landscape right now.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

I think you’re totally wrong.

Step back a bit and look at what she said: That Oregon should spent a Billion dollars on a project that provides a connection between two of the biggest cities in the region and that the only people who should be able to use it are those inside cars (or buses, which I’ll assume Johnson would support, but that might be too generous). That’s not just out of step with a majority of Oregonians (last time I checked, walking and biking were loved by everyone!), it shows a complete ignorance of federal and state law which requires it to include non-car facilities. And for that matter, Oregon’s members of Congress would never even entertain Johnson’s position and if she was elected and stood by her position, the entire project would die once again.

maxD
maxD
7 months ago

Jonathan, I think and hope you are right that most Oregonians love biking, but I do not believe there are a majority who prioritize it. I fear that Fuzzy Blue Line may be correct that statewide electorate is looking for something much different. State, local and city governments have received a lot of tax funds and stimulus funds in the last few years, giving the appearance of them being awash in cash and options. However, our parks, streets, beaches are filled with trash. Drug abuse is ubiquitous. Sidewalks have been taken over by tent villages. Violence and gun deaths are continuing to break record, and a general sense of lawlessness pervades the state and city. Our leaders declare emergencies, but fail to take meaningful action. Things appear to be stagnating or getting worse. We lack a leader willing to articulate a clear vision. This situation is ripe for an authoritarian-type (think Giuliani when he became mayor of NYC) personality to sell simplistic ideas with swagger and promises and convince people to give them a try. I am hugely disappointed in Johnson, but I would not dismiss her. Remember how widely Trump was dismissed in 2016?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  maxD

I’m not saying we should dismiss Johnson. And I totally understand there are many Oregonians who might reflexively love what she said.

But we’ve seen this movie before: This is about framing and about “bike” being used as a political weapon in the culture wars.

I remain convinced that when framed correctly, cycling would poll at like 99%. I have always believed this and have not been convinced otherwise after years of being in these debates.

It’s all about how you ask the question and what context the question is being asked in. If you line 100 Oregonian up and ask if they like bicycling and/or bicycles in general, 99 of them would have a positive response to bikes. It’s only when people who are bad at their jobs frame cycling as a zero-sum thing or as something that takes something away from people that you get the opposition to it.

I like to look at Sunday Parkways. Everyone loves it. All types of people and political persuasions love being able to bike and walk in their neighborhoods. Because the framing and context is perfect and great.

The fact that your comment brings in all this other stuff that has zero to do with bicycling is a perfect example of this. People don’t hate or oppose cycling, they hate and oppose all that other stuff (violence, trash, guns, terrible politicians, and so on) and they simply attach that anger to “bicycling” and “cyclists” because those are very convenient punching bags.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago

I like to look at Sunday Parkways. Everyone loves it. All types of people and political persuasions love being able to bike and walk in their neighborhoods. Because the framing and context is perfect and great.

As you say, context is everything. As much as people love Sunday Parkways, I doubt there would be much support for making it permanently open and expanding it to a more useful network.

It’s popular because the context is nice weather, a special occasion, lots of other folks out and about. More akin to a street party than a transportation mode. And after a few hours, it’s over.

I believe that the number of voters for whom cycling on a new I-5 bridge is a voting issue is vanishingly small. No one here denouncing Johnson was going to vote for her anyway.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 months ago

I don’t like what Betsy said but I like what Kotek says less. The dream of a biking city like Amsterdam is much further away than it was a decade ago. It feels more like Brazil here now than the Netherlands. My kid is in the Netherlands and told me she doesn’t want to come because everything is so “convenient and easy and safe” there. If we want to be like the Netherlands, we don’t need more Kotek types in charge for the short term, because their reign has brought us Brazil instead. Fewer and fewer are comfortable with biking as the equity/woke crowd is bringing us all down level after level. Clean things up, enforce our existing laws, then lets talk the fun stuff like bike lanes.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

This is exactly the problem. If Kotek wins the primary, a lot of people sick of “the same old” from Oregon’s machine politicians will be looking for an alternative, so Johnson, who is definitely something different, may split the vote and let the Republican candidate win, or, with enough Republican support, even win outright.

I’m not a huge fan of Read, but he may be the best bet for keeping Johnson and those to her right out of the governor’s office.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Interstates are for cars. If people really want to walk/bike the 205 bridge is there. This should not be a priority. Why is no one ever using the Tillikum Crossing?

qqq
qqq
7 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I’m on the Tilikum a lot, and lots of people use it.

It doesn’t make any sense for you to say, “Interstates are for cars”, then say “If people really want to walk/bike the 205 bridge is there”. That bridge IS an Interstate bridge (your calling it the “205 bridge” should have been a clue to you). How can people walk or bike on it if it’s an Interstate Bridge and Interstates are for cars?

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

Do European countries put bike lanes on freeways? I don’t remember seeing this anywhere there.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

No one is using the Tillikum crossing? I hadn’t noticed that. I use it, and I’m never the only one there.

Maybe you mean no one drives on it?

maxD
maxD
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I rode over the Tillicum a couple of weeks ago before 9 on a chilly, drizzly weekday and the counter was over 300 bike riders already.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I mean I take a look every couple weeks and no one is on it. We have very little commute into the city core these days.

Jason McHuff
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

We need Multiple-choice “approval” voting so that we can have real competition in our elections. Plus citizen (tax dollar) funded campaigns.

Lisa Caballero (Asst. Editor / SW Correspondent)
Editor
Reply to  Elizabeth

Do you really think of bike lanes as “fun stuff?” Not as transportation infrastructure? The way cities become “convenient and easy and safe” is through density, public transportation and dedicating space for pedestrians and cyclists to travel safely.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 months ago

I think of them in the hierarchy of needs as frosting above basics like safety and sanitation. Right now my priorities are safety as top. I have never voted republican but the last two years are making me look sideways at “progressives.” We are tolerating in PDX what would NEVER be tolerated in Amsterdam. These things needs to be fixed as a priority. Your list of things– convenient, easy and safe- aren’t there anymore. I grew up here btw, and in my 5th decade. Portland has taken a horrible decline in livability.

Luke
Luke
7 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

As someone from what is essentially a distant suburb of Boston–Manchester, NH–who’s now lived in a suburb of Portland (Beaverton) for a bout a year and a half now, I just wonder what people think the ultimate cause of the decline is. Obviously, COVID will have had a negative impact, but it sounds like this has been a nearly decade long process.

Why do people think it’s happening?

Lisa Caballero (Asst. Editor / SW Correspondent)
Editor
Reply to  Elizabeth

Hi Elizabeth, I agree with your observations about Portland, but “convenient, easy and safe” were your daughter’s words, not mine.

I like to step back and look at the really big picture. The federal government has for decades been stoking inequality, favoring capital over labor, and dismantling the social safety net. Where do the consequences of those deliberate policies play out most visibly? In cities (although rural areas have their own version of suffering).

Is our city well-run? No, it’s got silos within silos. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. That’s why I’m in favor of charter reform.

maxD
maxD
7 months ago

I think we have a rich person problem in the country and state. Instead of taxing them having representatives of the people manage a safety net, we have allowed monopolies to be developed and created a system where a few ruthless people can become billionaires. These new ruling class oligarchs unilaterally make decisions about our media (FOx news, Twitter, Facebook, every newspaper) our universities- Phil Knight remade U of O in his image, creating a university that now supports a bloated sports program with unfairly high tuition, and they basically choose our politicians.

soren
soren
7 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Fixed it for you:

We have allowed generations of disproportionate property ownership and wealth accumulation to create a system where a ruthless and amoral class* can become millionaires and multimillionaires. This ruling class has captured government and twists laws, policies, government resources and, especially, taxation for their own benefit so that just about every aspect of our economy redistributes upwards to their class. They also carry water for oligarchs who protect the privileges of the ownership class in exchange for their political support.

*~40% of Portlanders but rapidly increasing as this city is fast becoming a city of and for the rich

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 months ago

Totally. I just also thinK American progressivism is too steeped in the “meeting needs” aspect and we just will never be able to meet all individual needs. My philosophy is let us do what is best for most. The delusional guy that kicked my tires yesterday in my parked car out of some sort of anger unbeknownst to me needs his broken brain fixed. This may or may not be possible, but letting him roam around in the name of some sort of freedom is not safe anyone nor is it meeting his needs.

X
X
7 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Well I thought Amsterdam was cool but that’s in spite of the bags of trash in the canals, dogshit melting out of the snow, and people selling sex out of picture windows. No place is perfect.

9watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

“Fewer and fewer are comfortable with biking as the equity/woke crowd is bringing us all down level after level.”

This is some weird fantasy.
Inequality, racism, a violent & punitive approach to justice – those are the fault of the equity/woke crowd?! The reason things for Middle Class people aren’t so rosy anymore is that the chickens are finally coming home to roost. Those chickens weren’t hatched by woke people but by our long-standing, privileged priorities that have been askew for, well, ever.

You (and anyone else) is free to think of bicycles as frosting, and we certainly have a regrettable history in this country of thinking of bicycling as something fit people do in their spare time, but it might be more interesting and productive (in 2022) to start thinking of bicycling as transportation. Plenty of people are still biking-for-transport. Maybe just not on your street. I don’t use the Tillikum because it doesn’t take me anywhere I need to go. I have never had a job downtown. My customers are mostly over here on the East side.

soren
soren
7 months ago
Reply to  9watts

The woke part is definitely fantasy because the majority of Portlanders are wealthy people or upwardly mobile college-educated people who aspire to wealth by exploiting disparities that cause redistribution upwards.

The cratering of transportation cycling, however, seems accurate to me. As someone who has continued to bike to work during the pandemic I see almost no one biking to work. It’s also my impression that school bike parking, grocery store bike parking, and bike parking at other businesses (none of which would be affected by the pandemic) remain a pale shell of the pre-pandemic era.

Wealthy people tend to be far more SUV/Truck/(car)-centric than the lower and lower-middle income people that Portland’s transition to very-high-cost of living city is displacing.

Realist
Realist
7 months ago

No way 99% would give positive response to bikes. Could not get 99% to agree on ANYTHING today.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
7 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Well said and a good example with Giuliani, Max. While Portland proper isn’t going to turn red anytime soon, I worry that the suburbs, Salem, and Bend could tilt things towards a populist espousing more cops, less crime, safer neighborhoods, pro-business, preserving home values, stop wasting tax dollars on lost causes, and 30 years of ineffective Democrat governors (not true but political speech is never fully truthful). At the end of the day, empathy tends to stop when it is your property and family being endangered – real or imagined.

Bikes? While important to us, most voters in our state do not care strongly about them either way. They have other issues front-of-mind. Jonathan is correct that state laws mandate bike and ped infrastructure be built alongside new development and road projects. That is why I do not worry about it since a governor cannot unilaterally scrub those from the design. Johnson is an opportunist politician. You don’t sit down with Lars Larson to reach monied white liberals in Laurelhurst and the West Hills.

carrythebanner
7 months ago

Hard pass.

Fred
Fred
7 months ago

Before I read this post, I was 98% certain I wasn’t going to vote for Betsy Johnson.

Now I’m 100% certain. Thanks, BP!

robwpdx
robwpdx
7 months ago

The I5-Columbia River Bridge design options are nearing completion.

They are laid out for public comment at https://www.interstatebridge.org/nextsteps

Her comments would indicate she has not followed the project, is just throwing red meat to Lars’ listeners, or both.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  robwpdx

keep in mind she made her comments in February, before the designs were as fleshed out as they are now.

dwk
dwk
7 months ago

Betsy Johnson is what happens when you elect people like Kate Brown and Ted Wheeler..
This is the blowback from incompetence.. She will most likely win.

cmh89
cmh89
7 months ago
Reply to  dwk

This is the blowback from incompetence.. She will most likely win.

She’s a spoiler candidate with very little support who is propped by American oligarchs. There’s not a snowballs chance in hell she wins. She is running because republicans are so detestable that they still can’t win statewide votes in Oregon, so the hope is she will siphon off enough votes from whoever the Dems run that a republican can win with <50% of the vote.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

If Kotek wins the primary, and enough people see her as part of our current problems, Johnson just might pull it off (or, if the Republicans stay united, let them win).

Realist
Realist
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Given the dismal record of the Dems for the past 20 or 30 years, the Rs could not do any worse. If the CITY were taken over by Rs, they might actually clean it up and make it livable again. Nah, Dems would not want that – they like rampant crime and homelessness so they can pass new restrictions on our freedoms and get big money for projects that never accomplish a damned thing. What’s that saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

dwk
dwk
7 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

I will put Phil Knight and Betsy ahead of Kotek who will be seen as Kate jr…
Dems need a complete shake up, how can you lose to Bozos is a real question?

Jason McHuff
7 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

We need Multiple-choice “approval” voting so that there are no “spoilers” and instead everyone runs on their own.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason McHuff

My fear is that I won’t approve of anyone running. Maybe we need a ballot that says “throw them all out and give me a new crop of candidates.”

Damien
Damien
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

My fear is that I won’t approve of anyone running. Maybe we need a ballot that says “throw them all out and give me a new crop of candidates.”

Taking your point, one of the potential beneficial side effects of a better voting system like Approval or even better still, STAR, is that without the spoiler effect, it’s less disincentivized for “good” candidates to run for fear that they’d vote split and harm the “bad” candidate in favor of the “worst” candidate (to be explicit, I’m calling the Democratic nominee the “bad” candidate and the Republican nominee the “worst” candidate – generally and pretty much always, with some very rare exceptions, which do not appear to include our next crop of likely gubernatorial candidates).

To echo an argument I’ve made regarding the Portland charter review, changing up the system won’t guarantee better results, but keeping the same system does prevent better results.

Realist
Realist
7 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

I hope you are correct that she siphons off votes from Dems, BUT she may also siphon off votes from Rs, depending on which one wins the primary, so she may cause the D to win. A conservative 3rd party candidate caused Dudley to lose to Kitzhaber in his last race. I have never understood how people can’t realize that a D or an R is going to win so might as well hold your nose and vote for which ever you like best in the general election. In the primary, sure, vote for someone who can’t win – no problem; just don’t do it in the general.

cmh89
cmh89
7 months ago
Reply to  Realist

I hope you are correct that she siphons off votes from Dems, BUT she may also siphon off votes from Rs, depending on which one wins the primary, so she may cause the D to win.

I actually think her siphoning off votes from republicans is probably the most likely outcome. I think there are conservatives in the Valley who are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the republicans open embrace of fascism and their focus on bullying trans children and their war on women.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
7 months ago

Betsey schmetsey. Climate catastrophe, disease, nuclear war, billions fleeing famine, the Big One, that 80-mile-wide comet heading our way…whew! Doesn’t matter whose in office. That bridge will never be built.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
7 months ago

Reading this article, I have no idea what her opinion is of having bike lanes and ped walkways. The headline is obviously designed to cast shade on Johnson, by omitting the word ‘super’ that she used in her statement. Then, the followup questions and answers were both confusing. My ‘impression’, nothing more, is that she is OK with the current level of access for bikes and peds, but not expanding it. I assume the writing is ambiguous to create the opposite impression. btw I have driven across this bridge probably 100-200 times and can never recall seeing a ped or cyclist. That doesn’t mean they don’t use it, but it seems to be nothing like the I-205 bridge, where I have seen thousands, including me dozens of times. Articles like this actually goad me to voting for Johnson, just to counter the obvious bias by the author. I know I know not a rational reaction.

X
X
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

From a large area of Portland, traveling to the most interesting part of Vancouver, the I-5 bridge is the only reasonable option for a person on a bike. That’s in spite of the convoluted approaches and the narrow walkways.

You’re assessing a bike route based on what’s visible through a windshield? I’ve ridden across that bridge several times and never saw you.

foobike
foobike
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

btw I have driven across this bridge probably 100-200 times and can never recall seeing a ped or cyclist

You know, it’s almost like there might be a cause-and-effect phenomenon going on here between woeful infrastructure for cyclists and peds on the I-5 bridge and low numbers of cyclists and peds on the I-5 bridge.

That doesn’t mean they don’t use it, but it seems to be nothing like the I-205 bridge, where I have seen thousands, including me dozens of times.

Our anecdotal data differ – I see about the same anemic cycling volumes on both bridges and much less foot traffic on the I-205 – and I do cross both dozens of times each year on bike.

It’s curious and sad that some here seem to be suggesting (and I have no doubt this Johnson character would agree) that the I-205 bridge is a “good enough” crossing for cyclists that we shouldn’t expect improvements that would make the I-5 crossing more accessible to cyclists and pedestrians.

*Curious* because it’s a good 8 miles or so East and not very convenient if you’re trying to get to more central Portland and Vancouver destinations, so I don’t know what the existence of one has to do with the need to provide better infrastructure for the other (especially given the time and money that’ll be invested into a new bridge there). Can you imagine if this was our suggestion to car users who want to see I-5 bridge improvements – just take the I-205 bridge, it’s got more lanes and is a perfectly good crossing.

*Sad* if this is what passes for good enough, because the I-205 crossing for cyclists is pretty miserable: the deafening traffic volumes and a steady flow of cars and trucks wizzing by on either side, the noxious exhaust fumes you’re swaddled in, not to mention the metal plates sticking up and broken glass and trash commonly on the path, ugh. I can only imagine how miserable it would be on foot being immersed in this environment for a much longer duration, no wonder I hardly ever see anyone crossing on foot.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
7 months ago
Reply to  foobike

I admit that I last lived in PDX in the late 90’s, so a different place back then. I crossed on Glenn Jackson many times and, no, it is not a particularly pleasant ride, but it got the job done and was safe. and, yes, it is a long walk for a ped.

Chris I
Chris I
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

Ah, yes. Voting out of spite. ***[Moderator: deleted last sentence]***

qqq
qqq
7 months ago

If light rail, biking and walking are NOT accommodated, or not accommodated well, it will be tremendously expensive to retrofit accommodation in later. So what’s built now really locks in what will be there in later decades. E-bikes barely existed a few years ago. In twenty years, there may be 100x more than now, and a real need to be able to cross the river on them. But it will be too late to accommodate them–at less than exorbitant cost–if they’re not accommodated in the design that’s built.

We already know what happens when people like Johnson decide, “Let’s accommodate the priorities of freight and vehicle travel in this new bridge/street/highway. Everything else is frosting.” The answer is the next generations have to spend fortunes retrofitting those projects for current needs. A HUGE percentage of public transportation budgets go to exactly that–trying to make projects from the past work for current needs by adding sidewalks, bike lanes, crossings, sound barriers, etc. It’s the bulk of what PBOT does–trying to retrofit functional needs into projects that failed to provide them because they that were built by people with Johnson’s attitude.