OREGON'S MOST INFLUENTIAL bicycle advocacy group has quit a committee overseeing the design of a bike and pedestrian path for the new $4.2 billion Columbia River Crossing (CRC) I-5 bridge, after an intense meeting last week.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) worked with the bridge's Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee for three years and voiced fears last March that the planned under-bridge bike path will resemble a "dank, dark cave" without major investment in security and maintenance. BTA Advocate Manager Michelle Poyourow explains that her group is frustrated that CRC staff has still not made a firm commitment to maintenance and security standards for the bike path. The other 10 committee members voted in favor of the current path design last week, without a strong security and maintenance contract attached.

"The BTA was explicitly clear six months ago, three months ago, one month ago that we would not recommend anything without a firm commitment to maintenance and security," says Poyourow, who adds that it was galling to have the CRC staff schedule only 15 minutes for discussion on a topic her group views as a top priority. "What we really need are results and what we're getting is a deaf ear."

Poyourow wants the CRC to remove the name of the BTA from its website and list of partner agencies. The walk-off signals a serious change for the BTA, which took some heat from members for the perception that it had a wishy-washy stance on the project which they expect to increase car traffic.

CRC staffer Peter Ovington says the process is going well and chalks up much of Poyourow's disappointment with the design to miscommunication. "The majority of the group is comfortable with where the project is going," Ovington says.

Other participants on the committee seem to agree that BTA was within its right to quit the group, but say that the public process on the bridge has been productive.

"I've always felt like it's a sincere development process," says Seanette Corkill, a Bike Gallery employee who also sits on the committee and says the BTA will leave a void. "Their contribution has always been tremendous. From an urban planning design standpoint, from a policy standpoint, their contributions will be missed."

"The BTA's been burned before, so I'm glad they're taking a hard line," says Walter Valenta, a committee member and North Portland developer. "It was a very good and also intense meeting. The bridge has got to have 20 more of these, we've got to get down to the brass tacks."