My View • With a plan - and funding - Portland can be a bicycling leader
Today, the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 returns to the City Council for approval.
The plan is an ambitious one - one in four trips in Portland will be made by bike in the next 20 years. And to accomplish this goal, which would put Portland among the top bicycling cities in the world, we're going to need to secure adequate funding. So it's important to recognize this: You only get funding - federal, state, private or otherwise - if you can show a solid plan. Show how the money will be invested, and show what the return on that investment is.
Already, we are taking action to ensure that the plan secures funding and gets built. Today's resolution establishes a finance task force that will report back to the City Council by the fall of 2010. It also requires benchmarking and a progress report back to the council in a year. To ensure the success of this effort, the task force will include not only business and neighborhood leaders, but will also include senior staff leadership from the Bureau of Transportation, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland Parks and Recreation and the Portland Development Commission.
In the meantime, we are finding ways to leverage infrastructure investments already in the works, projects that benefit pedestrians, as well as bike commuters. For example, the Gibbs Street Pedestrian Bridge ($11 million, already funded) provides critical neighborhood and pedestrian access between the Southwest Portland hills and the Willamette River. And this year, a new bicycle boulevard will be developed in East Portland that will provide a safe route for almost 2,500 children who attend four schools. Stretching nearly 50 blocks, it will provide a connection that includes the Springwater Trail, Bloomington Park, Ed Benedict Park and Powell Butte.
And to those who say, 'We can't afford to do this,' I say we can't afford not to. As the manager of our multibillion dollar transportation system during a time of declining funding, it's my job to make efficient use of what we already have. The most cost-effective way to do that is to shift trips from driving alone to walking, bicycling, and transit.
Since the first Bicycle Master Plan was adopted in 1996, bicycling has become part of Portland's fabric and identity. Ridership has grown exponentially, businesses are lining up for bike corrals, cycling industry companies are starting up and relocating here, and people tell us they moved here because they can ride their bike to work and their kids can walk or ride to school.
Dollar for dollar, investing in bike infrastructure makes economic sense. For less than 2 percent of our transportation budget since 1996, we have seen bicycle use grow from 1 percent to more than 6 percent of commute trips in the city. That's a good return on investment.
Even if you never plan to set foot on a bicycle, you benefit tremendously. Fewer drivers means fewer vehicles on the road, which equals less congestion and reduced pollution.
As transportation commissioner, I approach Portland's transportation system in service to our larger city goals: prosperity, sustainability, human health and well-being for all Portlanders. Bikes are not the whole answer. But they are an important piece of achieving those values.
If we are successful with this plan, our return on investments will be measured in the cleaner air we breathe, the healthier citizens we have, and the safer streets we travel. Portlanders will be able to meet their daily transportation needs more efficiently, saving car trips and saving money in the process. We will attract more tourists and businesses, and will keep more of our money circulating through our local economy. We will have freedom of movement and freedom from traffic congestion.
The Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 is a smart investment in the future of our city, and the future well-being of its residents.
Sam Adams is mayor of Portland and the city's transportation commissioner.