Will we build it? Revisiting the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 Hearing

Posted by Steve in Thoughts on December 27th, 2011 – 4 Comments

Local filmmaker Joe Biel has put out a new video with some highlights from 2010’s Portland Bicycle Plan Hearing & Rally.  It’s a great opportunity to revisit the prevailing positive energy in City Hall that day.  Underlying all the optimism was a sense of frustration that the city’s plan lacked the most critical component to a successful bikeway network: funding.

The fact that no money was attached to the plan didn’t prevent some folks from lambasting Mayor Adams and City Council for committing the city to a $600 million bikeway network.  On the advocacy side, the BTA’s Build it! campaign faded away, their last post on July 2010.  The BTA recently produced a one year review of the Bicycle Plan, calling for the city to increase its short term ambitions.

AROW and other allies held a series of thank you letter writing events to help put some wind beneath the wings of our city’s active transportation strategy.  Meanwhile, we heard behind the scenes that Mayor Adams was never, ever thanked for supporting bicycle improvements and that the Mayor gets a thousand calls a month opposing them.

Almost two years later, the word “bicycle” is now reviled as cuss word and a symbol of all things Portland in our state capitol, vital federal active transportation dollars are due to be slashed while locally PBOT is preparing for $16 million in cuts annually.  We are also in the middle of a handful of tight political races.  Thankfully the resurgent Bike Walk Vote PAC is set to ensure candidates are vetted on their commitments to active transportation.

Will 2012 bear fruit from the Bicycle Plan?   Can we fund it?  We may be asking the same questions for years to come.

  1. Steve says:

    These are just some quick musings inspired by watching the video in today’s context. There are many amazing, awesome things that happened since Feb 2010, including Cully Blvd (the city’s first real cycletracks) and next generation ‘Neighborhood Greenways’ with real bicycle priority like on NE Going & SE Spokane, Mayor Adams also created the Affordable Transportation Fund designating $500,000 per year to active transportation safety improvements. This year that funded the Lloyd District and Williams Avenue transportation safety projects.

    Please share your own thoughts and reflections from the video and the past 2 years of biycling momentum.

  2. kiel johnson says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing. Lots of familiar faces in that crowd. Pretty great to see all the bike advocates together like that. Certainly does not happen enough.

    • kiel johnson says:

      One of my big fears is that the growth of active transportation advocacy has become a fetter to it’s ability to be a united effective force. Over the past five years the number of people interested in bicycling has grown exponentially, which is a good thing, as have the number of people who are informed and have a voice about some issue. The phrase “we are all transportation planners now” seems fitting. But this group which was united two years ago seems rather divided now and possible less able to advance a common agenda. As we have gotten to know each other lines have been drawn in what was a growing and successful united movement. The lines can be slight, like over bike sharing, or buffered bike lanes vs cycle tracks, but they have made us a less effective force. It is no longer about “building it” but about building each of our particular infrastructure idea in our own certain way. I think the debates like we are having are inevitable as the movement gets more informed and engaged but what is unique is how technology has allowed us to have so many more of these debates so much faster. I think this has made them much more passionate and personal, which has not been helpful.

      What was once a clear and easily accessible movement is much more political and nuanced with different people on different sides and we all have an opinion about everyone else.

      I hope that soon we can all rally behind some sort of big easy project or idea that reminds us why we all started reading bikeportland, the AROW blog, Portland Transport, Streetblog, and whatever other blog you read and why we all decided to show up in front of city hall two years ago.

      • Steve says:

        I appreciate the sentiments behind this. I disagree that we are more fragmented, it feels that there is more energy behind collaboration and movement building to include new groups and new ideas than ever before. This kind of diversity is to be celebrated.

        What we have learned this year is that partnering with allies is no easy matter, and to expect folks who are your allies to simply fall in line with a position without questioning who is served by it is not a good practice in movement building. There are many places where we all can agree, and I’m with you in the hopes that we find more of that commonality as we move forward together.

        I would say the bike share debate was major. It was a test of Mayor Adams and the BTA’s commitment to their own stated goals of addressing equity. What we learned is that while organizations and city officials may really want to address equity issues, we are quick to put them aside when there is a prize to be had for a certain constituency or legacy of a particular interest.

        I saw this play out through the Williams Ave process, and I’m glad as far as that project is concerned, that it is heading in a more responsible direction than the bike share debacle.

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