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City Club works to make bike report recommendations a reality

City Club works to make bike report recommendations a reality

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Following an overwhelming vote of support from their membership, the City Club of Portland is wasting no time in getting to work on implementing the recommendations in their report on bicycling in Portland.

On June 13th, City Club members voted 254 to 31 in favor of the report which recommended that local elected leaders and policy makers make a much stronger commitment to cycling because it is, “an affordable and efficient means of transportation that is essential to continued growth in the local economy and overall quality of life for Portland residents.” The report recommended a stronger focus on bicycling in local and regional transportation plans, more physically separated bicycle infrastructure, more bicycle counters to help with data collection, more funding set-asides for bicycle infrastructure, a 4% excise tax on new bicycles, and more. (See all the recommendations here.)

Greg Wallinger, City Club’s research and policy director, said they’ve already begun to form an Advocacy Committee that will lobby to implement their recommendations. The committee will be chaired by Craig Beebe, who currently works as communications and development coordinator at 1000 Friends of Oregon, a non-profit that works on land-use issues. Beebe recently discussed the report as a guest on OPB’s Think Out Loud radio program.

Advocacy committees based on their reports are relatively new in City Club’s 96 year history but Wallinger says they’ve become a more central part of the organization in recent years.

In 2010, the City Club’s Forest Park Advocacy Committee achieved seven of 13 recommendations outlined in their Forest Park: A Call to Action report. They successfully pushed the City of Portland to hire a park ranger and conduct user surveys to inform policy and funding decisions. City Club reports have also impacted policy discussions around major issues at the state level like PERS reform and redistricting.

Wallinger says the Committee will report back about the success (or failure) of pushing through their bicycling recommendations in 12-18 months. If you’re interested in being part of the committee, they’re still accepting applications via their website.

City Club works to make bike report recommendations a reality

City Club works to make bike report recommendations a reality

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Following an overwhelming vote of support from their membership, the City Club of Portland is wasting no time in getting to work on implementing the recommendations in their report on bicycling in Portland.

On June 13th, City Club members voted 254 to 31 in favor of the report which recommended that local elected leaders and policy makers make a much stronger commitment to cycling because it is, “an affordable and efficient means of transportation that is essential to continued growth in the local economy and overall quality of life for Portland residents.” The report recommended a stronger focus on bicycling in local and regional transportation plans, more physically separated bicycle infrastructure, more bicycle counters to help with data collection, more funding set-asides for bicycle infrastructure, a 4% excise tax on new bicycles, and more. (See all the recommendations here.)

Greg Wallinger, City Club’s research and policy director, said they’ve already begun to form an Advocacy Committee that will lobby to implement their recommendations. The committee will be chaired by Craig Beebe, who currently works as communications and development coordinator at 1000 Friends of Oregon, a non-profit that works on land-use issues. Beebe recently discussed the report as a guest on OPB’s Think Out Loud radio program.

Advocacy committees based on their reports are relatively new in City Club’s 96 year history but Wallinger says they’ve become a more central part of the organization in recent years.

In 2010, the City Club’s Forest Park Advocacy Committee achieved seven of 13 recommendations outlined in their Forest Park: A Call to Action report. They successfully pushed the City of Portland to hire a park ranger and conduct user surveys to inform policy and funding decisions. City Club reports have also impacted policy discussions around major issues at the state level like PERS reform and redistricting.

Wallinger says the Committee will report back about the success (or failure) of pushing through their bicycling recommendations in 12-18 months. If you’re interested in being part of the committee, they’re still accepting applications via their website.

The vote is in: Over 80% of City Club membership supports bicycle research report

The vote is in: Over 80% of City Club membership supports bicycle research report

bike barometer

One of the recommendations
in the report is a 4% excise tax
on new bike sales that would fund
safety programs and more bike counters
throughout the city.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

BikePortland has learned that the City Club of Portland will announce tomorrow that their membership has officially voted to support their research report on bicycling. No Turning Back: A City Club Report on Bicycle Transportation in Portland is an 83-page report that delves deeply into the bicycle issue in Portland and tackles everything from politics to projects and funding. The report was released on May 29th and some of City Club’s estimated 1,500 members voted on it in person at a “Friday Forum” event on June 7th.

However, this is the first report that City Club opened up to a new process of online voting. In February of this year, City Club’s Board of Governor’s voted to amend the organization’s bylaws to allow online voting as a way to increase the number of members who vote. Given that the report strongly endorses bicycling and calls on the city to do more to advance it, there was some nervousness among local advocates that the electronic vote might be close and/or even reject the research.

In addition to strongly supporting more bicycle infrastructure and bike-friendly transportation policies, the report’s authors also proposed a 4% statewide excise tax on new bicycle sales in order to fund safety programs and buy new bicycle counters. Not surprisingly, that specific proposal has dominated the media coverage and public dialogue around the report. The report also included a minority report penned by two of the 12-member bicycle research committee who felt the official proposals should include mandatory licensing of bicycle riders and registration of bicycles. Both of those measures were shot down by the majority and only the majority report was subject to the online vote.

So now it’s official: We find ourselves with one of Portland’s most respected and oldest civic institutions (it was founded in 1916) with a well-researched, officially adopted report that debunks many anti-bicycling myths and a position that bicycling is “an affordable and efficient means of transportation that is essential to continued growth in the local economy and overall quality of life for Portland residents.” Now the question is: Will citizen activists, advocacy groups, politicians and other powerful local decision-makers take the report and use it as leverage to push farther, faster? Or will it sit on a shelf next to all of Portland’s other big bicycling plans and reports?

— Read more coverage of the report from BikePortland News Editor Michael Andersen and check out the web version of all the report’s recommendations here.

Three City Club ideas that aren’t about bike taxes

Three City Club ideas that aren’t about bike taxes

Cully Boulevard cycle track

A City Club committee found that separated cycle tracks connecting neighborhoods,
like this one on NE Cully Boulevard, should be the city’s priority for bike
infrastructure even if it means eliminating painted bike lanes on other streets.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

At its regular Friday Forum today at noon, the Portland City Club will hear from a panel of bike experts and vote on the big report about biking in Portland released Wednesday.

If you’ve only heard one thing about the report, it’s probably that it was the latest venue for a group of bike supporters to endorse a dedicated tax on retail bike sales.

But that was far from the only idea in the 83-page report. For example, here are three more interesting conclusions about how to improve biking in Portland from the report, which was a year in the making:

  • Separate routes (such as cycletracks or paths) and low-speed routes (such as bicycle boulevards) should be prioritized over alternatives, even if it means eliminating bicycle lanes on high-speed or high-capacity streetsPBOT should perform a city-wide audit of traffic corridors and intersections that are difficult and/or unsafe for bicycle riders and pedestrians.
  • PBOT should prioritize bicycle routes between neighborhoods over routes to downtown and the central city.  Broadly, bicycle infrastructure investments should move from opportunistic to strategic and emphasize connectivity and safety. 
  • PBOT should revise the Bicycle Advisory Committee selection criteria to reflect a greater diversity of economic and social backgrounds, professions and transportation preferences.

Whatever you think of these recommendations, wouldn’t it be cool if they were remembered as important parts of this landmark report — and maybe discussed today in addition to the also-important tax question?

Report reignites talk of bike excise tax – but advocates aren’t howling

Report reignites talk of bike excise tax – but advocates aren’t howling

North Portland Bikeworks new location-11-10

Would you like tax with that? Maybe you would, actually.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Today’s Portland City Club report that gave a big bear hug to biking also said buyers of new bikes should pay a special tax: 4 percent on each new bike purchase in Oregon, or $20 for a $500 bike.

The report recommended that the money — it’d be about $840,000 annually for the State of Oregon — go to programs that support and educate road users about bikes.

The city’s bicycle advocates aren’t exactly thrilled. But perhaps surprisingly, they aren’t gasping in horror, either.

“Generally speaking, the BTA is opposed to any new barrier between people and biking,” Bicycle Transportation Alliance advocacy director Gerik Kransky said today. “That being said, we’re open to the conversation. … It looks like their ideas about how to spend the money are pointed in the right direction.”

As close watchers of the local bike scene know, this nuance about a dedicated bike tax is nothing new. Back in 2010, we shared that bike-loving U.S. Rep. Earl Bluemenauer and Portland Bike Coordinator Roger Geller were both open to the concept, as was the BTA. Two years before that, we took a look at the Colorado Springs bike tax, which charges $4 for each adult-size bike and is quite popular in that bike-friendly city.

“$20 on a $500 bike is really not asking a lot to fund programs, like Safe Routes to School, that we feel are important.”
— Henry Leineweber, lead writer of City Club report

I asked Henry Leineweber, lead writer for the City Club’s thoughtful report, why the committee settled on recommending an excise tax.

“It was in our charge as a committee to look at and make funding recommendations,” said Leineweber, whose day job is covering the recycling industry as a journalist. “It would be irresponsible of us to say, ‘All these things are great, and someone else should pay for it.'”

Bike infrastructure, of course, saves taxpayers lots of money by reducing the need to expand auto infrastructure. But the $830,000 or so raised by this tax wouldn’t be enough to pay for much infrastructure anyway.

Instead, the City Club committee recommended that it go to bike education programs which currently depend on Congressional support.

“$20 on a $500 bike is really not asking a lot to fund programs, like Safe Routes to School, that we feel are important and need a dedicated source of funding that are not subject to political whims at the national level,” Leineweber said.

Kransky, the BTA’s advocate, said that his organization (which is partly funded by Safe Routes to School) might again endorse such a tax as long as it were part of a general conversation about smarter transportation funding — the sort that might charge everyone for the road, but would charge more for trips that cause either congestion or road damage.

“If you’re talking about raising money through a bike excise tax, then let’s have a full conversation about what a new transportation utility model would look like,” Kransky said. “What about a street maintenance fee? There’s lots of ideas out there.”

Phillip Ross, founder of Portland-based cargo bike builder Metrofiets, said Wednesday that although in general he’s happy to pay taxes, he worries that an Oregon tax on bikes would drive more people to order their bikes online from manufacturers abroad.

“There are so many hurdles in being cost-competitive in a market that is dominated by foreign manufacturers coming in,” Ross said. “At the end of the day, it’s still way cheaper to just get your bikes from China. … It’s not hurting our business that much, because we’re still able to be cost-competitive, albeit on the higher end, [but] people are price-conscious enough that that sort of thing can make a difference.”

Jesse Fairbank

River City Bicycles floor manager Jesse
Fairbank said a bike excise tax for education
would have both ups and downs.

Jesse Fairbank, floor manager at River City Bicycles, said he’d have mixed feelings about the proposal.

“Most of our customers who walk through the door, very very few of them are relying solely on a bicycle,” he said. “They’re paying money through other avenues. … Yet another tax on road users who aren’t putting wear and tear on the system is kind of a tough pill to swallow.”

But he said River City Bicycles, which is Portland’s largest single retail shop, strongly supports education and advocacy, too:

“If cycling can be improved in terms of the safety of it, if there’s better education, if people are more aware of other road users, if there’s more people out doing it — that’s more people coming in buying bikes.”

City Club research report strongly endorses bicycling

City Club research report strongly endorses bicycling

Read the report here.

After a year of research, a 12-member committee of the Portland City Club released a report today titled, No Turning Back: A City Club Report on Bicycle Transportation in Portland. The 83-page report tackled nearly every major bicycling issue that Portland faces: From quantifying just how many people are riding, to making recommendations on how to raise money to pay for bike-specific infrastructure. They also looked into many of the negative narratives around bicycling to determine if they had any merit (spoiler alert: they don’t).

And, just as I suspected when I shared an update on this project earlier this month, the report is extremely favorable to bicycling. Here’s an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

Your committee believes bicycling is an affordable and efficient means of transportation that is essential to continued growth in the local economy and overall quality of life for Portland residents.

In short, your committee finds that the right question is no longer “Should we promote bicycle use?” It is: “How should we structure our transportation system to optimize choice, efficiency and safety for all modes of transportation, including bicycling?”

To reach this conclusion the committee performed a rigorous analysis of many facets of bicycling in Portland. They also interviewed 28 people including representatives from law enforcement, elected office, neighborhood associations, private business owners, and more.

The one aspect of bicycling the report says needs improving is communication between PBOT and neighborhoods, stakeholders, and others that are impacted by bike-related projects. The report detailed the N Williams Avenue project as a prime example of PBOT’s shortcomings in the communications department. “This lack of due diligence,” reads the report, “has made some projects needlessly controversial or vulnerable to delay and cost overruns.” Other projects listed as examples were the SE Holgate buffered bike lanes and the proposed (then shelved) cycle track on SW 12th Ave.

Related to this issue, the report also found concern with the demographic makeup of bicycle use in Portland: “The current perception (justified or unjustified) of bicycling as benefiting an already privileged segment of the population cannot be ignored.” To improve demographics, one of City Club’s recommendations is to expand the membership of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee to include “Various communities of color, youth-advocate organizations, and neighborhood organizations, as well as the Portland Business Alliance, The Portland Freight Committee, Portland Public Schools, and other relevant stakeholders.”

In all of City Club’s research, they report finding no organized opposition to bicycle use in the city. However, they did identify a “latent, but pervasive, uneasiness among some residents that expanding bicycling opportunities will come at the expense of other modes of transportation.” They also noted much of anxiety that comes when people drive cars, isn’t based on an anti-bike grudge, rather it’s simply a fear of colliding with someone on a bike.

Are bikes bad for business? The report tackled that thorny issue with, “There is little evidence to substantiate this claim… Bicycling is not a detriment to local retail/business and may be positive in some areas or for some businesses.”

But don’t “bike projects” take money away from paving? The report found that the “complicated relationship” between road users is “exacerbated by local media stories depicting bicyclists and motorists perpetually at odds with one another.”

Accounts on television, online articles, and The Oregonian, focus on points of conflict (real or perceived). An Oregonian investigation on Portland’s seeming inability to fill potholes in city streets and maintain a basic level of road quality implies bicycle funding (as well as funding for transit projects, such as the Portland-Milwaukie light rail line), is to blame for this failure.

The reality of transportation funding in Portland, as well as in every other city, is significantly more complicated, but suffice it to say, this type of reporting presents a false dichotomy between automobile and bicycle transportation modes. Nevertheless, this perception has proven to be widespread.

The report even tackled the perpetual debate over who violates traffic laws most frequently. The committee was, “unable to procure any third-party data, beyond anecdotal observations, to support the perception that persons on bicycles violated traffic laws more frequently than motor vehicle operators.” When they asked a Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division officer about this during an interview, the officer said the bureau prioritizes enforcement of motor vehicle laws, “since those violations are potentially more dangerous.”

I must say, the insights from this committee are rather spot-on. Not only does the report debunk many myths, it also has an urgent tone that calls for more physically separated bikeways and improved mobility for people who use bikes. “It is time for the design and planning for bike infrastructure to move from opportunistic to strategic.”

The recommendation sure to get the most attention is the City Club’s proposal that the State should enact a 4% excise tax on new bicycle sales. The research committee would then use the revenue generated to pay for the creation of bike safety materials, bike safety programs at schools and community centers, and the purchase of more automated bicycle counters.

The excise tax idea isn’t new to many Portlanders. In fact, it has been supported in the past by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Metro, and even PBOT’s bicycle coordinator.

Two members of the committee issued a minority report. The authors of that report (which is included in the appendix of the main report) apparently disagreed with the majority over the funding issue. They feel strongly that all bicycle owners over the age of 21 should pay $30 a year for a license and that all bicycles should be registered. The majority strongly disagreed: “At this juncture, the mandatory licensing of bicyclists is unenforceable, unnecessary, and punitive, and that the costs associated with such a program would substantially outweigh the benefits.”

I highly recommend keeping this report on file. It’s got thorough analyses of many key issues, it is fully cited with studies and statistics to back up all its claims, and it has a great summary of charts and other educational resources. The committee even put together a detailed analysis of Hawthorne Bridge bike trips using weather data along with new data provided by the automated counter.

Now the question is: What impact (if any) will this report have in moving bicycling forward? I know many of you (as I am) are tired of proclamations, plans, and reports; but this one is different. City Club is a respected voice in Portland with a membership of very active, connected, and powerful people. Assuming their members vote to adopt the report (it would be quite scandalous if they don’t), this should only add to the strong momentum for bicycling in Portland right now. After years of stagnation thanks to communication mishaps, unfair media coverage, complacency and unfortunate politics, bicycling is set to come roaring back in Portland and this report is just the latest sign of its resurgence.

I would love to know what others think about the report and whether or not it will have an impact on local policy and decision making.

City Club will present the report on May 31st with a special “Bicycling in Portland” edition of their Friday Forum event. City Club members will vote on the report June 7th. If it’s supported by a majority of members, the findings will become the official position of the City Club of Portland.

No Turning Back: A City Club Report on Bicycle Transportation in Portland

City Club to release major report on bicycling May 31st

City Club to release major report on bicycling May 31st

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.

City Club of Portland announces ‘Civic Salon’ on The Future of Biking

City Club of Portland announces ‘Civic Salon’ on The Future of Biking

Screen grab of City Club website.

The City Club of Portland has just announced their next crop of ‘Civic Salons‘ and I’m excited to share that — along with news, sports, schools, books, and food — bicycling is among the topics they’ve chosen to focus on. Not only that, but guess who they asked to lead The Future of Biking discussion? That’s right: I hope you’ll consider joining me and other bike-curious Portlanders on May 15th for this event.

I’ve never attended a Civic Salon, but the basic idea is right up my alley: “Bring people together for great discussion and good food in intimate settings.” Here’s more from the City Club website:

Attend a salon where you’ll enjoy the listening, learning, and conversing that comes with a provocateur knowledgeable in a given topic. Enjoy food and wine while exploring topics that range from politics to art to education. Civic Salons are held in homes, businesses, restaurants, and other venues that offer a space conducive to conversation and the exchanging of ideas.

Other Salons on the schedule include: How Will We Get Our News? with Steve Bass, Oregon Public Broadcasting President; What’s in Store for Sports? with Meyer Freeman, Chief Operating Officer of the Oregon Sports Authority; The Future of Student Achievement with Liz Casson-Taylor, Principal at Beaumont Middle School; The Effects of the Digital Age on Books with Andrew Proctor, the Executive Director of Literary Arts; and The Future of Food with Feast with co-founder of Feast Portland Mike Thelin.

And here’s the blurb we put together for The Future of Biking discussion on May 15th:

National trends show that bicycling is becoming more inclusive as a wider variety of people adopt cycling as a mode of transportation. What changes can we expect Portland’s burgeoning bike industry to embrace as a result? What will the future of Portland’s streets look like as bicycling becomes even more of a force in our city and region?

I love talking about bikes, especially in this type of informal format. If you’ve ever been to one of our Get Togethers or Wonk Nights, you might have some idea of what to expect at the Civic Salon. The big difference (hopefully) will be a room full of new faces. Not that I don’t love all the regular bike wonks and scene-makers (you know who you are!); but I’m hoping a City Club sponsored event will bring out folks who have different perspectives and perceptions about bicycling. There are few things I like better than helping people gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of bicycling and what role it plays — and could play — in our city.

If you’d like to come, tickets must be purchased in advance. You can reserve them online or by calling 503-228-7231 x110. Price is $35 for City Club members and $45 for non-members.

    The Future of Biking
    May 15th at 6:30pm
    Host: Lucky Lab North Portland (1700 N Killingsworth)
    Event details here

City Club of Portland announces ‘Civic Salon’ on The Future of Biking

City Club of Portland announces ‘Civic Salon’ on The Future of Biking

Screen grab of City Club website.

The City Club of Portland has just announced their next crop of ‘Civic Salons‘ and I’m excited to share that — along with news, sports, schools, books, and food — bicycling is among the topics they’ve chosen to focus on. Not only that, but guess who they asked to lead The Future of Biking discussion? That’s right: I hope you’ll consider joining me and other bike-curious Portlanders on May 15th for this event.

I’ve never attended a Civic Salon, but the basic idea is right up my alley: “Bring people together for great discussion and good food in intimate settings.” Here’s more from the City Club website:

Attend a salon where you’ll enjoy the listening, learning, and conversing that comes with a provocateur knowledgeable in a given topic. Enjoy food and wine while exploring topics that range from politics to art to education. Civic Salons are held in homes, businesses, restaurants, and other venues that offer a space conducive to conversation and the exchanging of ideas.

Other Salons on the schedule include: How Will We Get Our News? with Steve Bass, Oregon Public Broadcasting President; What’s in Store for Sports? with Meyer Freeman, Chief Operating Officer of the Oregon Sports Authority; The Future of Student Achievement with Liz Casson-Taylor, Principal at Beaumont Middle School; The Effects of the Digital Age on Books with Andrew Proctor, the Executive Director of Literary Arts; and The Future of Food with Feast with co-founder of Feast Portland Mike Thelin.

And here’s the blurb we put together for The Future of Biking discussion on May 15th:

National trends show that bicycling is becoming more inclusive as a wider variety of people adopt cycling as a mode of transportation. What changes can we expect Portland’s burgeoning bike industry to embrace as a result? What will the future of Portland’s streets look like as bicycling becomes even more of a force in our city and region?

I love talking about bikes, especially in this type of informal format. If you’ve ever been to one of our Get Togethers or Wonk Nights, you might have some idea of what to expect at the Civic Salon. The big difference (hopefully) will be a room full of new faces. Not that I don’t love all the regular bike wonks and scene-makers (you know who you are!); but I’m hoping a City Club sponsored event will bring out folks who have different perspectives and perceptions about bicycling. There are few things I like better than helping people gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of bicycling and what role it plays — and could play — in our city.

If you’d like to come, tickets must be purchased in advance. You can reserve them online or by calling 503-228-7231 x110. Price is $35 for City Club members and $45 for non-members.

    The Future of Biking
    May 15th at 6:30pm
    Host: Lucky Lab North Portland (1700 N Killingsworth)
    Event details here

Sam Adams as leader of City Club: Good news for bicycling?

Sam Adams as leader of City Club: Good news for bicycling?

Adams sticking around policy debates.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Former mayor Sam Adams hasn’t taken much of a vacation after his four tumultuous years leading the city. Today the City Club of Portland named Adams their new executive director. He starts next week.

If you feel (as I do) that Sam Adams understands (and cares about) the issue of transportation — and specifically the role bicycles should play in a healthy transportation network — than this should be seen as good news.

City Club of Portland is a non-profit, member-supported organization that works to promote civic literacy (their motto is, “Good citizens are the riches of the city”). Governors and members of Congress speak at their “Friday Forums” luncheons, which are held in a large ballroom of a stuffy downtown hotel. By way of their history and membership base, City Club has significant political heft and respect among electeds and policymakers. They use that respect to elevate and take positions on important issues through the publication of policy and research papers.

I probably don’t have to remind some of you how influential (for better or for worse) their report on Forest Park was in changing the tone and political dynamics around the bike access debate back in 2010. Now they’re actively working on a comprehensive study of bicycling in Portland that’s due out this spring.

Sam Adams was known as a wonk who loved to sweat the details, type long blog posts, and debate finer points of policy. Combine that with his knowledge of city power dynamics and it’s easy to see him having a big impact on the issues City Club puts resources into. For example, could Adams encourage City Club to delve into the topic of finding new transportation revenue streams?

Portland Mercury News Editor Denis Theriault is thinking the same thing:

“I’ll be most interested, though, in how Adams might approach the group’s policy research arm. Years as the city’s chief executive never dulled his love for white papers and wonkiness—a bad thing, for some people. And good, sharp reports will let both Adams and City Club make a lot of noise.”

This town needs more noise-making. And with Adams, City Club has just added swagger, energy, and a lot of transportation policy knowledge to their team. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be listening carefully.

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