Oregon has a new statewide plan for bicycling and walking
A two-year planning process culminated at a meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission on May 19th when commissioners voted to adopt the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan (PDF).
The 80-page plan is one of four modal plans that set policy and strategy for the Oregon Department of Transportation. The old plan was adopted in 1995 and it was only a staff-level document. Now the plan is on the same internal level within ODOT as the state’s plans for rail, highway, and freight. “This raises the prominence and importance of biking and walking travel options with other modes and topics,” read a statement from ODOT last week. “Requiring explicit consideration and integration of biking and walking needs into transportation decisions across Oregon.”
Just how “explicit” the plan is has been a major point of contention.
In February we reported on how many regional advocates, leaders, and even ODOT’s own staff thought the plan needed stronger words in order to be effective.
“The plan needs to be precise and explicit regarding the statutory and regulatory basis for statewide bicycle and pedestrian policy,” wrote ODOT’s Region 1 Planning Manager Jon Makler in a letter last December with comments on a draft of the plan.
The adopted plan has made many changes to its policy language — moving from passive statements to more direct ones. In the Equity section for example, it used to read, “Seek opportunities to Integrate equity criteria into decision making,” and now it reads, “Integrate equity criteria…”. A small but important difference.
Another example of how the plan improved thanks to feedback is in Policy 3.3. An earlier draft of the plan cited a state statute (ORS 366.215) that says anything that reduces “vehicle-carrying capacity for freight trucks” must be discussed and approved before going forward. Former Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee member AJ Zelada said the inclusion of that statute was proof the plan had “no teeth“. Thankfully ODOT listened and the final plan has removed all references to ORS 366.215.
ODOT didn’t do everything advocates asked for. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance and other groups wanted specific corridors and streets to be named in the plan (similar to how ODOT has outlined specific trucking corridors in the Oregon Freight Plan). ODOT says they’ll define the network in a separate process.
But overall the BTA is pleased with how it turned out. Their Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky — who had called draft versions “absurd” and “offensive” — had a much softer tone about it today. “ODOT did a good job incorporating public feedback on their draft plan,” he wrote in an email to BikePortland. “I’m most excited about their commitment to implementation, which appears to contain some of what we were asking for while the plan was being developed.”
Kransky says he’s happy with the direction ODOT is going, especially after the announcement of several new hires in the active transportation division.
But as with all plans and proclamations, the proof will be in pudding. Will it actually lead to real changes?
ODOT also says they’re currently working on an Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Implementation Work Program that will have more details on deliverables from the plan in the short, mid, and long-term.
“Several of the policies will immediately guide decision-making,” said ODOT’s Transportation Planning Unit Manager Amanda Pietz, “We will be taking the hard work people put into this plan and putting it into practice.”
Only time will tell.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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