Build It! Bike fans rallied last year at City Council
  • Build It! Bike fans rallied last year at City Council
Time to break out the dairy-free, gluten-free birthday cake: Portland's very ambitious bike plan that aims to triple bike use by 2030 is now one year old.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation presented a one-year update (pdf) to city council today, looking back at how the plan has worked in the past year and where we're falling short.

In some ways, the city looks good: Since 1990, Portland has added more daily bike riders than transit riders, and our rate of kids walking and biking to school is way above national average (39 percent in Portland versus 12 percent nationally). A super cute, self-described soccer mom Suzanne Veaudry Casaus who bikes with two her kids on an X-tracycle turned up to today's hearing to thank the city for turning NE Going Street into a bikeway. "Last year, every time we crossed MLK, my children would chant, 'Another successful day! Of crossing MLK!'" said Veaudry Casaus. "They no longer chant, because the crossing is easy."

But where the rubber hits the road on the plan is funding—it's all well and good to aim for sky-high biking numbers in the city, but actually hitting the mark with mean spending some serious money. The current pace of construction will fall far short of the city's goals by 2030. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance recommends the city build 50 miles of new bike lanes and neighborhood greenways each year, more than double what it built this past year.

Since the bike plan debuted last year, the city has built 20 miles of bike lanes and neighborhood greenways (rehabed neighborhood streets that have slow car traffic) and funded another 40. But there's another 110 miles that are planned, but unfunded.

For another example, look at bike corrals. Those are the sets of 12 bike racks that businesses can request to replace two of their car parking spots. Businesses' demand for these corrals has exploded: In 2010, the city installed 21 new bike corrals, but there's about 70 that are requested... that makes the wait list for bike corrals two years long. The holdup comes from insufficient funding (the corrals cost $3,000 each) and staff, showing that Portland's not going to hit its ambitious goals—even if businesses and citizens are excited about biking—without more funding.


But the conversation around funding has been intensely controversial over the past year. Just peruse the mayor's voicemail to hear people sound off mightily about the mayor's plan to use $20 million in sewer funds to build bioswales on bikeways (as one citizen put it, "What's more important: bicycle paths or doodie in the river?").

At council today, the language around the so-called "sewer money for bike lanes" scheme was extremely delicate. That funding source is now: "coordination of stormwater management and neighborhood greenways." has a lengthy interview up with Adams that focuses on funding controversies, in which Adams notes, "You know, the benefits and costs of biking are obviously easy to misrepresent. So what looks expensive to some people, in reality is not. The benefits of biking are opaque from the visual eye, but significant when you are responsible for a transportation system."

Council unanimously accepted the one-year update.