The BTA advocates for a world class bike network because it will make our city safer, healthier, and more livable. That’s what drives our work every day — whether it’s pushing the city to fix an unsafe bike lane or fighting for state and federal dollars at ODOT to make biking and walking safer in Oregon’s suburban and rural communities.
Advocates pay attention to the amount of funding going toward bike projects because that number often reflects a community’s success in achieving the outcomes of health, safety, and livability on our streets. But numbers alone never tell the whole story.
The question of how much money is being spent on biking is a great one for sparking a debate in the news, but a bad one for making a point about Portland’s transportation priorities. Should Portland pave our streets, build bike lanes, and fill in potholes? Of course, we should be doing all those things. But none are more important than improving safety on our roads, reducing crashes and fatalities, and giving people affordable transportation choices.
In that context, we’re interested in Portland’s new system of tracking transportation spending by project, rather than mode. In an article published on Friday in the Daily Journal of Commerce, reporter Reed Jackson asked us why the new system will paint a more accurate picture of transportation investments than the old mode-specific system. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
PBOT’s change matches philosophies held by most independent bike organizations in Portland, according to Gerik Kransky, advocacy director for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. He said that transportation expenditures should benefit all road users. A green biking box, for example, provides three benefits, he said: certainty for where motorists can look for bicyclists, an advanced stop bar for pedestrians and a safe space for cyclists.
Now, PBOT shares individual project costs along with a list of the modes they will benefit. So, for an intersection project, for example, the bureau states its price and whether the project benefits drivers, pedestrians and/or bicyclists. Additionally, the bureau ranks projects according to safety level and cost-effectiveness.
No matter how the numbers are broken down, the fact is that we are spending only a fraction of our transportation dollars on biking and walking and we should be investing more. The best way to make our streets safer and save money in the long term is to encourage more people to walk and bike. We need to be putting that knowledge into practice when it comes to transportation spending.