$60,000,000 could build one mile of urban freeway in Portland. Or, it could build the country's best bikeway network, with over 300 miles of bike lanes and super safe bike boulevards.
That's what I learned this week at the open house for the city's 2009 Bike and Streetcar Plans, which is getting public comment on where the city should break ground first on new bike lanes and streetcar lines. But the city doesn't have this fabled $60,000,000 to build bikeways - well, not yet.
As I wrote about last week, while Portland is a platinum bike city, the transportation office spends a measly amount on bikes — from 2000 to 2007 the office spent only $2.7 million on bike improvements, a whopping .7 percent of its capital budget. But since we've become one of the top bike cities in the nation, the question is: what now? The 2009 bike master plan proposes building 325 miles of bike boulevards - which will make certain streets appealing for even new and nervous riders. The first tier of improvements are projected to cost $30 million. We've got $1 million from federal stimulus funds and maybe some of the office of transportation's tiny budget, but right now Portland planners are hoping to snag $50 million from the federal highway bill.
But what if that funding falls through and we don't wind up finding the cash to build the promised bike lanes? Oregon politicians have a back up plan: fatten up cyclists so they are too lazy and sugar-drugged to notice the absence new bike lanes. Everywhere, these days, officials are staging "friendly" events to fatten up Portland's 100% lean meat Spandexed cyclists. Beware.
This Saturday, Representative Michael Dembrow and Senator Jackie Dingfelder, who both represent North and Northeast Portland, are offering cyclists free bagels and donuts in Wilshire Park at 9:30 AM before they head out on a bike ride around the Cully neighborhood. Everyone KNOWS donuts are the fattiest food since the patty melt, with over 300 calories per delicious serving. Between mouthfuls of trans fats, will neighbors remember to bring up funding issues with Dembrow and Dindfelder? No. They will be too focused on trivial questions like sprinkles versus coconut.
The insidious fat train stops again on Tuesday in Pioneer Square, as the city celebrates Bike to Work day by doling out free high-carb breakfast treats to cyclists from 7:30-9AM. Mayor Adams might be there along with the regular commuters - after crashing his car, the mayor has vowed to live car free for a month even though he looks as awkward on a bike as John Kerry does with a gun.
At this rate of free fatty foods for cyclists, time that should be spent checking up on whether Portland has the money to follow through on its plans will instead be spent on the sofa, slipping deep into a sugar coma. A delicious sprinkle-laden sugar coma.