After fielding criticisms, ODOT adopts new biking and walking plan

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Cover of the new plan.
Cover of the new plan.

Oregon has a new statewide plan for bicycling and walking

A two-year planning process culminated at a meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission on May 19th when commissioners voted to adopt the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan (PDF).

The 80-page plan is one of four modal plans that set policy and strategy for the Oregon Department of Transportation. The old plan was adopted in 1995 and it was only a staff-level document. Now the plan is on the same internal level within ODOT as the state’s plans for rail, highway, and freight. “This raises the prominence and importance of biking and walking travel options with other modes and topics,” read a statement from ODOT last week. “Requiring explicit consideration and integration of biking and walking needs into transportation decisions across Oregon.”

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ODOT Bike/Ped Plan: State’s Safe Routes to School program gets only token support

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Gem of Oregon: Safe Routes to Schools

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) is mentioned 13 times in the Bicycle Pedestrian Plan. Five are simple references. This program is the star of Oregon’s bicycle and pedestrian evolution but it is but a token of support by ODOT.

SRTS was started by an annual 1 million federal dollars line item for each state and has had to be renewed each year until the Map 21 budget. The Feds stopped the program and said to the states: it is okay to take the SRTS support from other parcels of Fed active transportation money…14 states terminated SRTS. Admirably, Oregon continued support and it does so today. We do thank them. BUT.

SRTS is still a step child shunted in the attic. ODOT has this program in the Safety division. Sounds logical. Safety budget is 32 million. Sounds good. BUT.

Safe Routes to Schools should be the centerpiece of the Bicycle Pedestrian Plan. It is an intergeneration program. It brings two generations into Active Transportation. It teaches traffic from the perspective of the pedestrian and the vulnerable roadway user. It teaches that destinations can be within active transportation range. It converts short automobile trips of 1 to 3 miles into active transportation. It teaches daily exercise which reduces the numbers of sedentary-related obese kids. And this teaches that narcissistic automobile and bicycle behavior is bad.

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ODOT Bike/Ped Plan: Absent Health

The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan includes Health as its sixth goal. It is 1/2 page in the summary and barely 1 full page in the latest Draft (Feb 2016). Health is on the backburner; Active Transportation deserves better.

The Plan continues a lip service to integration of Health & Transportation . In 2014, an Oregon white paper on Health and Transportation initiated a discussion about Health but also included other states’ opinion of health as a factor in transportation. The Plan truncates those results of health to feel-good language:
promotion of biking/walking to improve air quality and to give opportunity for physical activity.

The Plan could declare populating ODOT directly with resources regarding Health. The heart of health & transportation is asking do we have the right people at the table making decisions? I would suggest the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan respond by including Health at every table as more than a memorandum of understanding.

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ODOT Bike/Ped Plan: No Teeth

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No Teeth

The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is a sprawling document of how we got here. The summary is a wonderful 10 page mix that will tell the world what we were thinking we want to be. As one digs into the body of the latest draft plan (Feb 2016), one is overwhelmed at the 85 pages of thoughts. It is a great History and a compulsive obsessive’s delight of detail in many arenas from the ADA to Zany acronyms. The contributors of the committee & staff members deserve a sincere thanks for this umbrella document.

I find it is missing teeth. It asks nothing of ODOT to execute these ideas. The language is tepid: “expand upon, communicate, identify, improve, seek opportunity.” Active verbs go missing.

Performance Measures are its weakest link. The Plan’s first goal is Safety and in particular the reduction of fatalities and serious injury (pgs35-38). It asks for a number of strategies: update the ODOT Highway Design Manual, determination of the level of separations needed for the roadway cross sections, illumination improvement, reduced pedestrian exposure time of crossing multi-lanes, using designs ‘where’ speed contributes to risk, study and examine guidance to address speed, exploring safety risk by sharing data, etc….I think you get the idea. My direct complaint is that ODOT’s implementation is not addressed.

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Concerns mount over draft of state’s bike plan

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buczek walking

SW Barbur and Capitol Highway is supposed to become a major urban center.
(Photo by M Andersen/BikePortland)

Staff from bike advocacy groups, from the Metro regional government and from the Portland office of the Oregon Department of Transportation are all pushing for significant changes to a document that will be the foundation of bicycle planning for the next quarter century.

Serious concerns are being expressed about ODOT’s draft of its next Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Among the points of contention: the plan doesn’t explicitly say that the state should be putting complete biking and walking facilities on highways like Southwest Barbur, Southeast Powell or Northeast Lombard.

That stands in contrast to the previous state plan, published in 1995, which describes such arterial highways as “potentially the most important element of a complete network of bikeways and walkways.”

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First look at ODOT’s draft of a new biking and walking plan

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Plan cover.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has released a draft of their new Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

This plan is the result of two and-a-half years of meetings and outreach and it’s the first time ODOT has updated its biking and walking plan since 1995 (an update to their design guide in 2011 notwithstanding). It’s a crucial document because the policies and strategies in this plan will set the framework for what ODOT decides to build going forward.

A coalition of transportation advocates that includes the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Oregon Walks, the Sustainable Transportation Council, the Oregon chapter of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and two members of the plan’s own advisory committee have already penned a letter to ODOT with their concerns about the plan.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the plan in the coming weeks. At first glance it appears to be a solid start, but could use some strenthening in order to make a real impact.

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Attend a virtual open house for ODOT’s Bike/Walk Plan update

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Screenshot of virual meeting page.

As we reported last month, the Oregon Department of Transportation is holding “listening sessions” throughout the state to gather input for a major update to their Bicycle and Pedestrian Modal Plan.

Unfortunately there are only five meetings total, just one in the Portland area, and they’re all held during business hours. If you want to share input but can’t make it to one of the meetings, ODOT has launched a website that lets you do so completely online.

ODOT says the Virtual Listening Meeting is the next best thing to showing up in person.

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ODOT announces ‘listening sessions’ for state Bike & Ped Mode Plan

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The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been working on their new Bicycle and Pedestrian Mode Plan for just over a year. Now they want to hear what Oregonians think.

ODOT has announced a series of five “listening sessions” around the state that are being billed as a way to “help inform policy development” of the plan.

Keep in mind that this effort isn’t merely an update to the existing statewide biking and walking plan. That plan was last updated in 1995 and it has almost zero political teeth. As a strictly “staff-level” plan, the outdated document is only a guide for ODOT employees that tells them general best practices when it comes to bicycle access issues. This new effort will create an entirely new plan, a “mode plan” that, once officially adopted, will be given the same institutional respect that their Highway Plan and Freight Plan currently enjoy.

Here’s more about the listening sessions via the official announcement:

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ODOT begins ‘Bicycle and Pedestrian Mode Plan’ update effort

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Legislator bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit-30

Riding on the Union St bridge in Salem.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced today that they’ve officially launched an effort to develop a new Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Mode Plan. The plan will be an update to the state’s “policy framework for bicycle and pedestrian modes” which was last updated in 1995.

While the plan’s design guide was updated in 2011, the policy portion of the plan is outdated. The current Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is also only a staff-level document; meaning it doesn’t have the power and influence of officially adopted plans like the Highway Plan or the Freight Plan. That is going to change with this update, says ODOT’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Program Manager Sheila Lyons. Once completed, the new plan will be adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission and will be “equal in stature” to the highway and freight plans.

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