Greasing the Chain 

Will Mayor Adams' Bike Plan "Kickstart" Flop?

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BIKES GOT FIVE BIG CHEERS on Thursday, February 11. Portland City Council unanimously approved the 2030 Bike Plan, laying out 700 miles of bikeways to be built around the Rose City over the next 20 years.

The politicking behind funding the plan led to several surprises last week, including Mayor Sam Adams' announcement that his office will spearhead a $20 million "kickstart" fund for the plan.

"It shows our support for getting going with a bang," Adams told the crowd gathered in city council chambers. Next year's capital budget for bike projects is currently slated to be $7 million, about 5.5 percent of the city's capital transportation budget.

Although cycling advocates welcome the commitment to dig up cash for bikes, it's not clear yet whether the money Mayor Adams is eyeing even exists. His funding plan involves redirecting $2 million a year for the next 10 years within the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) budget, but BES Director Dean Marriott says Adams' office never consulted him on the idea.

Adams' idea seems simple. Construction contracts for BES projects have been cheaper than expected this past year because of the recession. Adams' office wants $2 million of those savings annually directed into building curb extensions and bioswales on bicycle boulevards. But Marriott says all project savings were supposed to go toward the long backlog of local infrastructure that needs fixing.

"He's the mayor, he can propose whatever he wants. But it's not like there's a bag of cash sitting around that those savings go into," says Marriott, adding that all discussion on the idea is pure speculation because Adams' office has not sat down with him.

Adams' staff says they will spell out the funding plan in detail by mid-March and are first working with the Bureau of Transportation.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) and grassroots cycling advocates put pressure on the council to commit to building the bike plan, whose ambitious map of multi-use paths, cycle tracks, and bicycle boulevards will cost $600 million over the next 20 years if fully built.

BTA advocate Michelle Poyourow (who led the bike "Build It" campaign before her last day at the BTA on Friday, February 12) described the kickstart fund as a "pleasant surprise."

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