Looking back on our first year as The Street Trust

A year ago, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance became The Street Trust. The name change reflects a formal expansion of our mission to add walking and public transit to our advocacy for biking. Whether measured in dollars, partners, or smiles, 2017 demonstrated the power of cyclists, walkers, and transit riders united to transform our transportation choices.

Unprecedented Funding

We know from teaching kids bike safety over many years that too often kids face unsafe streets that either prevent them from walking and biking to school or put them at unnecessary risk to do so. That knowledge sealed our commitment several years ago to secure new sources of funding to build the sidewalks, crosswalks, and safe routes Oregon kids need to walk and roll to school.

To make it happen, we launched the For Every Kid campaign. With support from the Meyer Memorial Trust, the Bullitt Foundation, and nearly 90 coalition partners, we held town halls, packed legislative hearings, and sent thousands of postcards to build momentum for safe streets. Thanks to the efforts of tireless advocates and supporters, we made it clear to Oregon legislators that communities throughout the state — not just the Portland metro area — want Safe Routes to School and need the money to build them. In June, Milwaukie 10-year-old and Safe Routes advocate Trey Niggeman testified before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization: “I live just over a quarter-mile from school, and I can’t safely walk and bike there,” he told legislators. That has to change.

Our For Every Kid campaign achieved unprecedented success securing funding from the Oregon legislature. Oregon legislators passed a historic transportation funding package which includes a landmark investment in Safe Routes to School: $125 million over the next ten years. This is a big win for communities throughout the state.

All in all, the statewide transportation package dedicates a record $1.3 billion to transit service and infrastructure projects that make it safer and easier to get around by walking, rolling, and riding transit.

Record Participation

This year also saw significant progress for walking, bicycling, and transit through our encouragement and education programs. Our 2017 Bike More Challenge broke records, bringing together 12,445 participants who logged a total of more than 1.7 million miles. Among those who participated were 2,300 riders who committed to the Challenge for the first time.

Our 2017 Walk+Roll to School Day also saw record participation, with nearly 300 Oregon schools participating. We heard from teachers, parents, Safe Routes to School coordinators, and enthusiasts throughout the state about their Walk+Roll to School celebrations. We’re thrilled to see how this program inspires so many kids to travel to and from school by walking and bicycling.

Changing Lives

A key part of our work is giving kids the skills they need to get around safely on a bike with support from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Our educators and volunteers worked in 40 Portland schools this year to teach 5,716 kids the skills they need to walk and bike safely in their neighborhoods. Some of these kids had no prior experience with bicycling, while others simply lacked the knowledge and confidence to make it a part of their day-to-day life.

The impact of pedestrian and bicycle safety instruction can manifest in unexpected ways. Earlier this year, we taught bicycle safety to a young boy named Colsen. “He has been on a bike every day since bike safety,” his father Paul wrote, “He loves it so much.” One weekend, Colsen convinced his mother to join him on an impromptu bike ride to his grandparents’ house. When they arrived, Colsen found his grandmother unconscious and immediately called for help. It was a close call, but fortunately, Colsen’s grandmother recovered from this medical emergency, in no small part due to her grandson’s visit. “Without Colsen’s ability to ride a bike,” Paul wrote, “he probably would have been home playing a video game instead of begging his mother to go riding and ultimately saving a life.”

Each year, through our Jump Start program — which is funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) — we provide one community in Oregon with a fleet of 36 bicycles and helmets with which to inspire kids to develop a passion for bicycling. This year, our Jump Start fleet moved from Prineville to Seaside, where a new cohort of schoolchildren will build confidence on the saddle and experience first-hand the joys of riding a bike.

Headwinds

Proposals for taxes or registration fees on bikes have been floated in the Oregon legislature for years. The 2017 session was no exception. Teaming up with Oregon bicycle business leaders, we worked to kill a bike tax provision from the final version of the transportation funding package. However, while we succeeded in replacing the proposed 5% excise tax on all bikes with a lower, $15 tax which exempts bikes priced under $200, this is still a disappointing outcome.

In May, our hearts broke at the news of the hate-filled attack on a MAX train in Portland, where a self-described white nationalist stabbed three passengers, two of which lost their lives. These passengers courageously stepped in to defend two girls on the train from racist, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic harassment. As we reflect on this tragedy, we must come together in solidarity with all of our neighbors, particularly those targeted by racism, nationalism, and other forms of senseless hate, and ensure everyone feels safe using public transportation.

Our movement for safe streets is growing strong, but we still have a long way to go to get everyone on-board. Vision Zero can’t wait and transit and bike ridership in our region has hit a plateau. We must work to reverse transportation injustices in our community, invest in safe streets where they are needed most, stop dangerous driving behavior, and inspire more people to take action. We must expand our outreach, make investments more equitable, and rethink how we inspire others to embrace our mission.

The Year Ahead

There is a lot of work ahead of us. As the transportation package comes into effect, we’re remaining vigilant and working to hold the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), TriMet, and other agencies accountable to the public and to our shared goal of creating safer streets and expanding options for walking, biking, and riding transit. The Street Trust has a seat at the table for major policy discussions and critical transportation decisions, including congestion pricing, Central City in Motion, and TriMet’s H.B. 2017 Transit Advisory Committee.

We will work hard to keep our partners in the loop and represent the priorities and concerns of walkers, bicyclists, and transit riders. We will also work with broad and diverse communities with all of our coalitions and partners, including the Getting There Together Coalition. We hope to engage thousands of community members in setting an agenda for new transportation and housing affordability investments in the Portland region. We’ll also continue to deliver quality encouragement programs and strive to make this year’s Bike More Challenge the best one yet.

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished together during our first year as The Street Trust. We’re excited about the year ahead and look forward to the victories that have yet to be made. With your support, we’ll keep up the fight to make walking, bicycling, and transit safe and convenient for everyone. Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Support our work by becoming a Street Trust member today!

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