(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)
For the first time ever, with the passage a few minutes ago of Senate Bill 260, the Oregon Legislature has agreed to open up the state’s lottery-backed Multimodal Transportation Fund (a.k.a. ConnectOregon) to biking and walking projects. Even though it’s always been referred to as multimodal, the ConnectOregon program has funded only air, marine, rail, and public transit infrastructure improvements — everything but bicycling and walking.
A new state law signed Tuesday will let Oregon cities name narrow side streets where, for the first time in decades, people on foot won’t be required to yield the roadway to drivers.
“The law is the first of its kind in the nation,” Portland pedestrian coordinator April Bertlesen wrote in a celebratory email Wednesday.
The two bicycle helmet bills in the Oregon legislature made more waves in the media than in actual debate from lawmakers during a hearing held in Salem on Monday. The bills garnered media attention because they were an opportunity to pit the safety of our children (who could be against that?!) against bicycle advocates who feel mandatory helmet laws are not always what they’re cracked up to be.
At the hearing on Monday even the Senator behind SB 741 and 742, Chris Edwards, seemed a bit uncomfortable with all the attention they’ve gotten. Toward the end of the hearing he said, “This bill is getting a disproportionate amount of focus.”
A bill in the legislature seeks to amend the Oregon Constitution in order to use gas taxes and motor vehicle fees to pay for biking, walking, transit and other types of projects. Gas tax and vehicle fee revenues — a.k.a. the highway trust fund — accounts for over one-third of ODOT’s total annual revenue; but it can only be spent in state highway right-of-way.
House Joint Resolution 9, drafted by Representative Jules Bailey (D-Portland), would do what many insiders have long thought to be impossible: open up the list project types eligible for this huge pot of funding to non-auto modes.[Read more…]
“There are concerns that bicyclists don’t pay their fair share… This bill provides an avenue for those of us that support bike and pedestrian facilities to provide additional funding.”
— Sen. Jackie Dingfelder
Oregon lawmakers considered a bill yesterday that would allow Oregonians to make a voluntary donation to bicycle trail projects through their annual motor vehicle registration renewal. Senate Bill 756 didn’t get a vote, but it gave bike advocates and members of the Senate Committee on Business and Transportation a lot to think about it.
Senator Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland), the bill’s co-sponsor along with Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), told the committee that she’s, “Been concerned” over the years with legislators who have proposed various bicycle taxes and mandatory registration concepts. “That being said,” she testifed, “There are concerns that bicyclists don’t pay their fair share. I think we already do pay our fair share, and this bill provides an avenue for those of us that support bike and pedestrian facilities to provide additional funding.”[Read more…]
“These are people who are struggling and their livings are made by whether or not they can pick folks up… This is their life.”
— Sen. Larry George, the bill’s sponsor
The Oregon legislature made a strange move on Monday that is very likely to make Portland roads less safe for everyone. By a vote of 19-11, the Senate passed a bill that adds yet another exception to the state’s existing cell phone law. Senate Bill 294, sponsored by Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood), allows a taxicab driver to use a “mobile communication device”, a.k.a. cell phone, while driving.
This is despite widespread evidence that using a cell phone while driving is very dangerous.
SB 294’s sponsor, Sen. Larry George (yes that Senator) got all 14 of his fellow Republicans to join him in supporting the taxicab exemption. The five Democrats who voted in favor of the bill included; Lee Beyer, Chris Edwards, Betsy Johnson, Ernie Roblan, and Chip Shields.
State Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) is behind two bills this session that would strengthen Oregon’s helmet laws.
Sen. Edwards wants to raise the age limit for mandatory helmet use from 16 to 18 years of age (SB 742) and he wants to make helmet use mandatory for all ages when, “participating in an organized exhibition, competition or contest” (SB 741). Both bills are set for a hearing and possible vote in the Senate Business and Transportation Committee on March 25th.
According to Edwards’ Legislative Aide Holly Fifield, the concern over helmet use was brought to his attention during a meeting with a family last fall. “The family has a son who competes in skateboard competitions and that child has learned that there are benefits to not wearing a helmet [in competition],” wrote Fifield via email. Apparently judges in some skateboard competitions will award higher scores to people without helmets because the trick being performed is deemed to have a higher degree of risk. “So, if there were two athletes who performed the same trick successfully,” Fifield explained, “the judges would give a better score to the athlete who wasn’t wearing a helmet.” She said Sen. Edwards sees this as “a health concern.”
State legislators in Salem have tried time and time again to “start a conversation” about making Oregonians who ride bicycles pay for the pleasure of doing so. In recent memory we’ve had a draconian and ill-advised mandatory registration bill and just last week Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood) introduced yet another “bike tax.” Unfortunately, those bills only made people angry, and rightfully so, since they were punitive, discriminatory and not well thought out.
If legislators really want to start a conversation about bike-specific transportation funding (instead of simply throwing red meat to anti-bike constituents or serving their personal feelings of bicycling disrespect), they’d be better off 1) thinking up a policy idea that would actually work and 2) working with bike advocates before introducing the bill.
HB 2800, the bill that will give a green light (at least on the Oregon side) to the Columbia River Crossing I-5 freeway expansion project, will likely be voted on by the Oregon House when they convene at 11:00 am on Monday (2/25).
After years of what has felt like very slow progress, the project has flown through the legislative process this session. It’s clear that Governor Kitzhaber — who was opposed to massive highway expansion projects during his former stint as Governor, but for some reason this time around he’s become a champion of the largest freeway expansion in Oregon history — has seized the opportunity of having a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate.