The City Club of Portland, a respected local civic institution founded in 1916, will release their comprehensive research study on bicycling in Portland on May 31st. On that same day, bicycling will be the subject of their Friday Forum speaking series (speaker TBD) which will be attended by Portland’s movers and shakers at the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland.
“With the release of City Club’s report on bicycle transportation in Portland,” says a description of the event on their website, “we’ll answer the question: ‘How should we improve our transportation system to optimize choice, efficiency and safety for all modes of transportation?'”
Depending on the timing and political climate, City Club research reports can have a big impact on how local issues are perceived. Recall back in June 2010, when a City Club report on Forest Park came out just a few months before the City released its recommendations on mountain bike access.
In their report, Bicycling in Portland: A Serious Look at Transportation Policy and Priorities, City Club says they’ll make specific recommendations for the role bicycling should play in Portland, including specific ridership and infrastructure goals, as well as ideas on how to achieve them.
The Bicycle Transportation Research Committee has taken this project very seriously. They’ve interviewed many local bike leaders and experts (and at least one blogger), they’ve studied documents, funding levels, budgets, and so on. I fully expect this report to be a substantive look at how Portland is doing and how we need to improve in the future.
When the City Club’s Bicycle Transportation Research Committee got to work on this project last April, we said that, “The report will likely come out right as a new mayor of Portland is settling into office. In addition, the transportation funding ideas they come up with will likely hit at a time when local, regional, and statewide discussions about this very issue are becoming very mature.” By the end of May that will certainly be the case. Mayor Hales will likely have selected a new Director of PBOT by that time, and as we saw earlier this week he appears to settling in with regards to transportation policy. Also, there is growing chatter among policy makers at the local, regional, and statewide levels that a new statewide transportation funding package is in the works.
Will the report be favorable to bicycling? I would be extremely surprised if it wasn’t. Bicycling makes sense for Portland. There is not debate about that. The only time bicycling seems controversial, or anything but a good thing for Portland’s future is when it’s maligned for pageviews or politics. When you take time to research and fully understand the transportation policy context and benefits of bicycling — like it appears City Club’s research committee has — there’s simply no way to have a negative outlook on it.
Another clue about what we can expect in this report came Wednesday night when I shared my views on bicycling in Portland as part of a City Club-hosted “Civic Salon.” Several members of the research committee were at that event, as were several other City Club members. We discussed many different bike-related topics and I shared all my crazy ideas, concerns, and hopes about where things stand. At the end of the event, someone from the committee said, “After hearing you speak tonight, I feel even better about our report.” Hopefully that means the report will echo my feelings of the moment: That Portland has a legacy to be proud of but we’ve let bad PR and politics get in the way of progress for far too long.
I don’t expect this City Club report to solve everything, but if my hunch is right it might help us regain some of our mojo.