Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Portland Cyclists Rally for Bike Master Plan

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Report by Jonathan Maus of
PORTLAND, OR - Nearly 200 cyclists, well over twice the usual amount, joined city bike coordinator Roger Geller on his Bike Master Plan Ride last night. Riders of all stripes came out to show support for the embattled Master Plan, which Mayor Potter recently decided to cut from his proposed budget.
As expected, Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams, flanked by his policy analyst Roland Chlapowski and his Chief of Staff Tom Miller, made an appearance. During interviews with the various media outlets he said,

“I just think that this (the Bike Master Plan) is more important than some of the other items proposed in the Mayor’s proposed budget…It’s absolutely critical that we continue to be a leader in bike mobility and that comes by having a good plan…Bikes have never been more important to the mobility of this city. It’s an affordable way to get around; in some cases, it’s the most reliable way to get between two places; it’s good for your health; you burn fat instead of oil; and it’s good for the environment.

The Bike Master Plan allows us to develop a bike system, not just do it piecemeal, but develop a system…As transportation commissioner I have a responsibility to get people around the city safely and bikes are a key part of my strategy. I think you can argue that we don’t spend enough money on bikes, not that we need to cut back on our spending.”

After Adams’ remarks and brief words from Roger Geller, the ride began amid the chaotic cacophony of May Day Parade revelers, which passed by Terry Schrunk Plaza right as we rolled out. After a quick loop around the South Park Blocks, we made our way over the Willamette River (via the Hawthorne Bridge), up the Eastbank Esplanade, and onward through North Portland.

As we made our way to our destination (Kenton Park), we experienced a diverse array of bikeways and environments;
Bike Master Plan Ride #4

* We rode through the innovative, bike-only “scramble” signal near the Rose Garden Arena,
* worked the sometimes tricky connection from Weidler to N. Williams,
* enjoyed the serenity of residential streets near N. Ainsworth,
* got a first-hand look at the new bike/ped refuge medias at N. Portland and Willamette Blvd.,
* shared a narrow bike lane with fast-moving motorists on N. Willamette near the University of Portland,
* basked in the bucolic splendor and spring time aromas of the Peninsula Crossing Trail,
* pedaled over the bike/ped bridge over the Columbia Slough,
Bike Master Plan Ride #4
* rode next to nature along the Columbia Slough Trail while huge packs of lycra-clad racers careened through corners at Portland International Raceway,
* and finally, we passed by Paul Bunyan at the entrance to up-and-coming Kenton.

I talked to several people on the ride (unfortunately I can’t use the audio due to excessive wind noise), and they all expressed a deep concern about the Mayor’s decision to cut funding for the plan.

Dave Sohigian was there with his wife and two kids. They live in Lair Hill, just south of Portland and as a carfree family, the continued improvement of Portland’s bikeway network is very important to them. Another women I spoke to said she moved to Portland (from Ohio) in large part because of it’s bike-friendly reputation and she wants to see that continue.

Shamus Lynskey of St. Johns towed his young daughter along and said he has a vested interest in improving bikeway connections from that area to downtown. BTA volunteer Lee Hoffman lives in Tanasbourne and came out to show his support for the Master Plan.

Once at Kenton Park, we re-assembled, filled out comment forms had a Q and A session with Roger Geller. It was a constructive, informative discussion that brought up a wide range of topics; from the potential of a bike-only lane on the Hawthorne Bridge (Geller said bikes were 16% of the total trips last summer), to problems with the new bike/ped refuge island at N. Willamette and Portland.

It was inspiring to see both the large showing of support for the Bike Master Plan, and the high level of concern and engagement for improving the bikeway network.

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