A funny thing happened on the way to the City of Portland’s Transportation System Plan update: The Bureau of Transportation proposed to downgrade their goal for the percentage of commute trips made by bicycle users from 25 to 15 percent.
Huh? Aren’t we a “Platinum” bike-friendly city? Shouldn’t we embrace this challenge and not cower away from it?
That “target mode share” is a key performance measure that helps city planners set priorities. The “25 percent by 2035” mantra has been a rallying principle for bike advocates since it was formally adopted as the goal for all bicycle trips (not just work trips) in the Bike Plan and subsequently in the Climate Action Plan. Drafters of the TSP update initially copy-pasted the number. Then the city’s Planning Commission asked PBOT to analyze a new “work from home” mode share target which had never been used before. This spurred a new analysis of the biking mode share targets and PBOT began to feel the 25 percent goal was unattainable and proposed the downgrade as a result of a new “evidenced-based approach” that would be more “realistic and achievable.”
But many bike policy insiders and advocates cringed at the idea. Regardless of the details and policy underpinnings, on the surface it seemed like a capitulation — especially for an agency that continues to struggle with complacency and stagnation.
We’re happy to report that they’ve reversed course and the 25 percent goal is back. That might be because PBOT’s own advisory committee opposed the change.