In news that won’t surprise anyone that’s been following along closely, the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced at a city council meeting yesterday that their planned bike share expansion will include electric bikes and cover more parts of the city.
The Portland Art Museum says their $50 million expansion plans would create one of our city’s best public spaces — but it’s the existing public space they want to close that has put their project on shaky ground.
Portland City Council held its first hearing on PAM’s Rothko Pavillion project last week. At issue is whether or not the City should amend an existing public easement on SW Madison between Park and 10th that runs between the museum’s two main buildings. PAM’s new pavillion aims to connect the buildings with a new structure that would display art, host events, and serve as its main entrance. The public would be allowed to move through the new structure without buying a ticket; but access would be limited to museum hours (10:00 am to 5:00 pm Sunday through Wednesday and 10:00 to 8:00 pm Thursday and Friday) and people riding bicycles or walking dogs would be completely prohibited.
Portland’s next mayor is a Multnomah County commissioner turned state treasurer who embraced protected bike lanes and more neighborhood greenway traffic diverters from almost the start of his run for office.
Ted Wheeler was drawing 58 percent of Portland’s primary vote Tuesday night, easily defeating opponents Jules Bailey and Sarah Iannarone, among others.
Wheeler also set himself apart on transportation issues by endorsing a local gas tax to improve Portland streets on the day he announced his campaign — a position that rapidly became conventional wisdom among local politicians and won a narrow victory Tuesday night.
The day after she drew criticism for suggesting that biking should be deemphasized compared to transit in city planning, Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz went out of her way to put forth a different proposal.
It came Wednesday at the tail end of a report from Portland Streetcar Inc., the publicly chartered rail transit service that Fritz has become an enthusiastic supporter of. Discussion of one of Streetcar’s perennial problems — getting stuck behind cars, either in traffic or due to parking mishaps — seemed to prompt her to ask a question: do we really want cars to be able to use streetcar lanes at all?
And for that matter, she asked, do we really want cars to be able to use the major biking streets?
Saying that “not everybody can cycle,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz Tuesday urged the city to switch the order of its “green transportation hierarchy” to prioritize public transit above biking.
“Everybody can use the bus,” Fritz, who a city staffer mentioned was supported by written testimony from advocacy group Elders in Action, said at a council work session on the city’s new comprehensive plan. “And our transit system is not good.”
Fritz’s comments drew disagreement from her counterpart Steve Novick, who said the city’s plan already calls for big upgrades to transit and that “historically we’ve spent a hell of a lot more on things other than biking and walking.”
A flurry of end-of-year activity at Portland City Hall Wednesday led to changes in three different stories we’ve been tracking on BikePortland.
With Commissioner Amanda Fritz playing a key role in all three votes, the council agreed to delay changes to pedicab rules that would have required pedicab operators to hold driver’s licenses and have a year of continuous driving experience; to require a one-time “defensive driving” training for taxi, Lyft and Uber workers rather than retrainings every two years; and to allow small accessory dwelling units to be built near the edge of properties as long as they’re no larger than the garages that have long been allowed near property lines.
(Photos by M.Andersen/BikePortland)
Until this week, Portland seemed poised to eliminate one of the many ways it prioritizes housing for cars over housing for people.
For decades, there’s been exactly one way to build a 15-foot-tall structure up to the edge of most Portland property lines: put a car in it.
Want an accessory dwelling unit the same size as a garage? Sorry, that’ll have to be set back five feet from the property line, even if it has no windows or doors facing the property edge.
Bike sheds currently face the same restriction: unlike garages that were designed for cars, bike sheds must be at least five feet away from the property line in all single-family residential zones.
A few hours ago Portland City Council unanimously passed a resolution that reads, “No loss of life is acceptable on our city streets,” a phrase that’s part of the city’s larger goal of Vision Zero.
Bureau of Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick introduced the resolution by calling out naysayers: “I think there are people who assume it’s not possible, people might think accidents happen,” he said. “That is not true.”
Mayor Charlie Hales said the city’s official embrace of Vision Zero isn’t just a soundbite. “This is a serious commitment by the city to say ‘This is our goal and we meant it.'” However, despite requests from advocacy groups, the city did not amend the resolution to set a firm target date to achieve Vision Zero and they didn’t dedicate any specific funding to implement the new policy. (One amendment pursued by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance was passed. It requires the city to take specific steps to prevent racial profiling as new enforcement measures are rolled out.)
Three of America’s largest and most influential bicycle advocacy organizations are not happy with Portland’s decision to prohibit bicycle access at River View Natural Area.
International Mountain Bicycling Association President and US Executive Director Michael Van Abel, People for Bikes VP of Government Affairs Jenn Dice, and League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke all signed their names to a letter (PDF) dated March 18th that was sent to Mayor Charlie Hales and all four city commissioners.
Here’s the text of the letter (emphases mine):
We are writing to express our concern with the recent decision to prohibit bicycle use in the River View Natural Area. Any decision to exclude bicycles is disappointing to our organizations as we truly believe that bicycles are an amazing tool for progress. They provide efficient and cost effective transportation, a family friendly form of recreation, and in the case of off road bicycling, a valuable connection to the natural environment. Yet despite that passion we know that sometimes other priorities for funding or even land use take precedence and bicycles are not given priority. We can generally accept those decisions. However, when those decisions are made in an arbitrary and capricious manner that cuts off due process, we must object.
The City of Portland’s defensive legal move to ban mountain biking in Southwest Portland’s River View Natural Area is an unfair breach of trust with mountain bikers, according to The Oregonian’s editorial board.
“River View, where cycling has occurred for years, remained the best city option for serious, if limited, mountain bike trails,” the newspaper wrote in a scathing editorial published online Wednesday. “To that end, cyclists attended meetings, participated enthusiastically in the public process upon which Portland places so much emphasis and trusted the city to act in good faith. The city did not.”
The 2016 election cycle is revving up all over the country, Portland City Hall included.
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz surprised many local political pundits yesterday when she announced her plans to seek a third term. The announcement came the same day that the once-marginalized city council member won a 4-1 vote to dedicate 50 percent of surplus money over the next four years to “infrastructure maintenance and replacement” for roads, parks and emergency services.
The Oregonian reports that Fritz’s proposal will apply to “one-time funding identified during the annual budget process or excess money carried from one budget to the next.” It’s apparently intended as a sort of make-up call for the city’s infamous failure to follow through on a 1988 plan to dedicate 28 percent of utility license fees for transportation.
Opposing Fritz’s measure was her colleague Dan Saltzman, who said the council was “setting ourselves up to be criticized” by attempting to tie the hands of future councils.
Almost one year after Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz quietly destroyed hopes of new singletrack bicycling opportunities in Forest Park (at least in the short-term), off-road advocates plan to deliver a strong message to her at an upcoming budget hearing.
Their request? Find the money to fund a citywide mountain bike master plan that would address Forest Park trails and other cycling opportunities like family-friendly pump tracks in local parks.