Smith, Hales asked about bicycling goals at City Club debate

Smith, Hales asked about bicycling goals at City Club debate

Hales and Smith at City Club today.
(Image: Screen grab from live stream)

Mayoral candidates Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales shared their visions at a City Club debate at the Governor Hotel in Portland today. The debate was moderated by Tracy Barry of KGW-TV. Transportation came up several times during the debate, and one of Barry’s questions asked specifically about our bicycling goals.

Here’s the question she posed:

The current City Council has committed Portland to pursuing policies that will lead to 25% of all the trips within the city to be made by bicycles and 25% by public transportation by 2030. Is this a realistic goal? And what will you do in the next four years to advance it; especially in light of tight budgets that have curtailed mass transit and may actually pit bicyclists against motorists in the quest for infrastructure improvements?

Here’s how Smith answered:

“I hope it’s realistic. If we’re going to grow at 5,000 to 6,000 people a year, we just don’t have room for 5,000 to 6,000 cars a year, so we’ve got to figure out ways for people to move around the city that include cars, but aren’t limited to it.

I also… hope we won’t frame the debate as we have too often as bicycles vs. cars. The way I look at the future tea leaves, I see an aging community, I see retirees. We have more baby-boomers retiring that are not using primarily even cars or bikes. We need an age-friendly transportation system that works whether you’re 8 or 80.

Some ways we can do that: First, we need to plan our city for fewer* short trips (*pretty sure he misspoke and meant more short trips); second, we need look at a broad-based transportation [funding] package; third, we’ve got to be cost-conscious with streetcars, CRC’s [Columbia River Crossing project], etc..”

And here’s Hales’ response:

“Of course it’s not realistic. It’s ambitious, and it’s wonderful. And that’s why we are Portland and we are that national model.

When I left office there were 4,000 bike commuters a day coming to downtown Portland, now there are 16,000. That’s not realistic, so we need to keep being unrealistic in that way.

Now, we need to be good stewards of the transportation system that we have and put more money into basic maintenance, pave the streets, and show people that we are managing their money well, and that we’re not spending it all on bike lanes; but we need to keep building that city of the future even when we pave the cracks in the city that we have.”

Both of the candidates’ answers riffed off themes they’ve repeated throughout their campaigns. Unfortunately, neither candidate really addressed the question of how they’d advance the bicycling goal. I look forward to asking them myself, but I would have loved for them to share that with the broader audience that was watching this debate.

I think it’s also worth noting, that given all the issue the moderator could have asked about, she felt the Bike Plan for 2030 and how we’ll achieve our bicycling goals was worthy of time. That’s a good sign.

You can listen to full audio of the debate at PDXCityClub.org.

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