Broad support for bike paths at state transportation tour stop in Tillamook

Screenshot from State of Oregon livestream video of Joint Committee on Transportation hearing held on June 18th in Tillamook.

There’s a lot of ink spilled over Oregon’s “urban-rural divide,” but a love of bicycling and its benefits is something that ties our state together.

Case in point: Nearly one-third of the people who testified at a public hearing hosted by state lawmakers Tuesday said they want more funding for bike paths. Safe places to bike and walk away from drivers and cars was the most popular issue by far. What’s notable is that the hearing didn’t happen in urban cycling hotspots like Portland or Bend or Corvallis. It happened in the city of Tillamook on the Oregon Coast.

This was the second stop on a 12-city tour of the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation to garner feedback on a possible 2025 transportation package.

As I watched the hearing online, it became clear that rural Oregonians place a very high priority on getting around without a car. 13 of the 30 people who shared testimony said they wanted either better bike paths or better transit. The Salmonberry Trail project in particular — an 86-mile rail-trail that would connect Banks in Washington County with the Oregon Coast — had more support than any project or issue at the hearing.

Rockaway Beach City Councilor Mary McGinnis was just one of six people who talked about the project. “I’m here to encourage you to fund the Salmonberry Trail,” McGinnis said. “When it’s finished, our children will be able to walk to school without having to walk the shoulder of Highway 101 with semi-trucks and people won’t have to get in their cars just to drive to the next business to eat lunch.”

For Libby Golden, the Tillamook County Coast Ambassador for the Salmonberry Trail Foundation, the project is personal. “My son is about to switch from Nehalem Elementary to the middle school in Rockaway,” she shared with committee members. “He’s also just learning how to ride his bike, but we don’t have places for this.”

Other people who spoke up for the Salmonberry Trail included: a man who lives in Manzanita and introduced himself as “an avid bicyclist for 40 years” but said he’s afraid to ride on Highway 101; a representative from the Tillamook Coast Visitors Association who asked the committee to imagine, “a future network of multi-use pathways where hikers and bikers can leave their cars in portland entirely and just access our area by foot or pedal”; and a former director of public works for the City of Wheeler.

Screenshot of ODOT press release.

And two other folks spoke up for a multi-use path between Tillamook and the towns of Netarts and Oceanside as an alternative to narrow and dangerous Highway 131.

But you wouldn’t know that lawmakers and the committee heard all this support for carfree path projects if you read ODOT’s press release about the event. That release was titled, “Coastal residents urge ODOT and lawmakers to ‘maintain what we have'”. “A common theme,” the statement reads, was, “The desire to better maintain the infrastructure we have in order to better connect our communities, support our economy, and keep all travelers safe.”

ODOT’s lead quote from the meeting shared in their press statement was from the owner of a trucking company who urged the state to invest in highways to relieve “bottlenecks” on Portland area freeways. That was despite this person being one of only two people who testified in support of more funding for freeway expansions.

And despite the fact that five people testified in support of better transit service and more funding for buses, ODOT included only one passing reference to transit in their recap statement.

I also noticed the way ODOT framed feedback about walking and bicycling was to point out how dangerous and unsafe it was. It’s too bad they didn’t share the overwhelming support for new paths that would open up human and earth-friendly ways of moving around coastal areas. Several people at the meeting shared a hopeful vision of what these paths would do for people and how they’d have a positive impact on coastal communities.

These 12 tour stops are important; not just for the feedback ODOT receives, but for the narratives that ODOT and lawmakers build from them. There is a clear political agenda going on with lawmakers, lobbyists, and agency staff. That’s fine and I’m aware of that reality. But ODOT needs to be careful and honest with their recaps of these events so that folks who don’t attend or watch the meetings get an accurate assessment of what was talked about.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Granpa
Granpa
16 days ago

Of course the trucking lobby skews ODOT’s interpretation of public sentiment. The weight of public opinion is measured at ODOT by Gross Vehicle Weight. Obviously truck’s opinions outweigh people’s opinions. Do the math.

mc
mc
16 days ago

Ah, the classic of battle what’s good for business v what’s good for people & other living beings.

Thank you Jonathon for calling this out.

What’s interesting about all of this is that the “CityNerd” did a recent video entitled ‘Stealth Urbanism’ of the Sunriver resort town in which he says “Suburbanites will flock to this town and like it.”

And not just like it, but spend a lot of money to be in a place w/o motor vehicles and walk & bike around.

CityNerd Youtube video – https://youtu.be/-b6w814wXvc?feature=shared