Portland Is Right To Invest In Biking And Safe Streets

The BTA submitted the following letter to the Oregonian in response to Sunday’s front page article, Why can’t Portland repave its rutted roads?

The Sunday Oregonian‘s front-page article, Why can’t Portland repave its rutted roads?, takes a false stand against small investments in biking and juxtaposes them against multi-million dollar street improvements and maintenance to cry foul against the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s budget priorities.

To claim in the article and especially the headline that roads are not being paved because Portland is over-prioritizing biking is simply misleading. Where the article correctly stated that PBOT’s budget identified $900,000 for bike projects and $13 million for roads, it failed to inform readers that Portland spends more money on an order of magnitude on street repaving and maintenance than it does on bikes.

Bike projects receive less than 6% of transportation funds in Portland, and less than 2% of federal funds. Reading the Oregonian gives an impression of malfeasance in PBOT’s budget that is simply inaccurate.

Should we pave our streets? Yes, of course. Should we pretend that paving potholes is more important than reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities? No. Speed is a major contributing factor to the severity of crashes on our roadway. Injuries and fatalities should not be tolerated, and investments in traffic calming, bike lanes, and crosswalks are proven to reduce speed and increase safety.

In this context, Portland should invest more in biking and walking. It is the smartest transportation investment our city can make to increase safety, improve public health, and grow the economy. Portland’s investment in safe, convenient biking and walking infrastructure benefits everyone who lives here.

The more people ride bikes, and the more we build safe infrastructure for biking and walking, the safer our streets become for all road users. In fact, when it comes to a decrease in crashes and fatalities, automobile drivers benefit more than anyone since the majority of crashes involve cars.

More people are biking than ever before, and the demand for safe, healthy streets is loud and clear. Between 6% and 8% of Portlanders bike to work most of the time, and in some neighborhoods, as many as 29% of people bike at least some of the time. Yet the Feb. 26 article implies that even current spending on bikes, though less than 6% of the budget, is an overreach.

An article that truly sought to inform readers, rather than whip up readers’ anger at a perceived runaway government, would have gone through the $222 million budget and actually explained where the money goes. The BTA will continue to call on our leaders to embrace a vision of livability that will be incorporated into their funding and policy-making priorities for safe, healthy communities.

Rob Sadowsky
Executive Director
Bicycle Transportation Alliance

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Comments (1)

  1. Jeffrey Bernards Permalink  | Feb 28, 2012 10:55am

    I have several points here:
    Investing in Bikes has worked, Portland and Minneapolis have the lowest housing vacancy rates and are rated the top 2 bike cities in the country. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, people want to ride bikes and are willing to move to where it’s promoted.
    The studded tire issue wasn’t brought up in any of the 3 pieces written: Oregonian, Sam’s editorial or The BTA’s comments? Studded tires cut road life in 1/2, that’s a real number that is caused by only 10% of drivers. They can buy the stud-less snow tires and do just fine.
    Jeffrey Bernards
    Chief Petitioner
    Donate at: PreservingOregonRoads.com