Maybe you've heard. Portland's transportation bureau is facing a $16 million budget sinkhole—and maybe can't pay for things like street and sidewalk repairs. Seizing on that lousy news, Commissioner Dan Saltzman this morning questioned whether one of Mayor Sam Adams' pet bike programs ought to be temporarily shelved: Sunday Parkways.

The debate came during a tentative contract vote for the company Portland will use to line up volunteers for the popular, (mostly) citywide event. Saltzman, balking at spending any city money to help pay for it, used the word "hiatus."

The city, facing an overall budget crisis, is already cutting its contributions to the program by two-thirds, officials said, hoping private donors will make up the difference and maybe even allow the event to expand to the Southwest hills for the first time. If donations can't make up the difference, the city would then consider cutting a few neighborhoods out of the event. The program is seen as a key way of spreading the bike/pedestrian gospel—and word about safety—to families and communities who may not have considered it.

At first that wasn't good enough for Saltzman, who said money ought to be spent not on enticements but on actual safety-improving infrastructure.

"I'm not prepared to commit that this is the highest and best use of transportation dollars," he said. "It might warrant a hiatus in the next fiscal year."

Saltzman voted for the contract (it was approved unanimously) only after receiving assurances that he could still kill funding for Sunday Parkways funding during the city's budget vote this spring. He also heard from bicycling advocates.

Carl Larson, a bicycle educator with Bicycle Transportation Alliance, told the council that "it's no coincidence that Sunday Parkways is a core mission of the bureau of transportation and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Our goal is to see that the streets are as safe and as accessible for walking and biking as possible."

Saltzman politely disagreed that Sunday Parkways was part of the city's "core mission," calling it a "fun event," but not as effective as paving streets or fixing dangerous intersections. But he also softened his tone.

"I may have spoke too strongly on hiatus," he said. "It may need to be scaled back to fewer events."

Adams, the city's transportation commissioner, dialing into the meeting via telephone, then accused Saltzman of making a "false choice." He said getting people on bikes and out into their neighborhoods—to the point where they "demand and suggest safety improvements and other improvements to their neighborhoods"—is one of the "lasting benefits of Sunday Parkways."

Of course, if the city can't line up enough help from outside groups, Saltzman may get his wish anyway.