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#WorkzoneFTW? City may require walking and biking routes around building sites

#WorkzoneFTW? City may require walking and biking routes around building sites

brian rod

A proposed city policy would require builders to look for a way around.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A proposed policy before the city council Wednesday would withhold city permits from builders that block sidewalks or bike lanes around their work sites without first considering reuse of parking and travel lanes.

The action comes after a months-long social media campaign from Oregon Walks and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, which evolved out of a years-long behind-the-scenes effort by the BTA.

The city’s draft policy stops short of saying that walking, biking or traveling by mobility device are always higher priorities in work zones than traveling by car. Instead, it says that walking and biking routes should only be blocked if no other option is “practicable.” Here’s some other relevant language:

A temporary pedestrian route should be given priority over other facilities. A temporary pedestrian route should be given priority over vehicular traffic except when resulting in excessive delay to transit, excessive congestion in violation of mobility standards, or a pedestrian route that is less safe.

When sidewalks must be closed, the policy seems to recommend merging bike and foot traffic in a bike lane or bike and car traffic in a general travel lane before restricting auto access to a travel lane.

Here’s the ordered list of contingencies for a sidewalk closure:

priority list

There’s no indication here of what a “multi-use path” needs to consist of, other than trying to prompt people walking and biking to share space. And for whatever reason, there’s no explicit mention of narrowing lanes in that list.

When bike lanes are affected, though, narrowing lanes does come up as an option. Here’s the contingency list for bike lane closures:

priority list for biking

In that list, there’s no discussion of repurposing a parking lane.

In their proposal to the city, Oregon Walks and the BTA had specified “on-street parking or additional vehicle lanes” as possible places to find the space for continuous walking and biking routes. (Their proposal was built on research by former BTA intern Ruben Montes.)

In separate clauses, the city’s proposed policy says that “pedestrians should be separated from motor vehicular traffic and cycles” and that “cyclists should be separated from motor vehicle traffic and pedestrians.”

Throughout the proposed city policy, the word “should” refers to actions builders would take under “normal conditions.” City transportation staff would interpret this standard. The transportation director would have the right to revoke a permit for a site that’s failing to comply with the new policy or with the traffic control plans that builders will have to provide in advance.

A few other significant sentences from the policy proposal:

• “Pedestrian detours should not last more than 3 days in Pedestrian Districts & Pedestrian Walkways, or 1 week on a local service street.”

• “Both sidewalks on a block should not be closed simultaneously.”

• “If the work zone affects an accessible and ADA compliant pedestrian route, the accessibility and ADA compliant features along a temporary route shall be provided in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”

Seattle adopted a similar set of rules for pedestrian access last year, but hasn’t yet assembled its policy for bike access. Here’s a useful chart by Seattle Bike Blog’s Tom Fucoloro that shows a recommended order in which street space could be repurposed if necessary for walking space:







Even if the various ambiguities here aren’t clarified, Portland’s proposed policy would represent a significant victory for walking and biking advocates. Until now, there’s been no single point of reference for work zone plans that the city’s various bureaus, most of which report to different city commissioners, can consult. The result has been a range of designs from the excellent to the impassable.

In March, Oregon Walks and the BTA launched a campaign they called “WorkzoneWTF,” urging people to share terrible work zone designs on Instagram and Twitter. A few examples:

But there have been good examples, too, which people sometimes labeled with the rearranged hashtag “WorkzoneFTW” — “for the win.”

Some people also shared examples from other cities:

Portland is growing up — that’s why most of these work zones are here, after all. As a city becomes denser and people don’t have to travel as far to reach things they need, traffic from walking (and, in some cases, biking) eventually reach the point where a sidewalk or bike lane closure will disrupt auto traffic with or without a plan. It’s good to see city leaders making efforts to force these conversations before the conflicts happen rather than afterward.

Thanks to Elliot Njus at The Oregonian for first reporting on Wednesday’s council action.

Update 6/29: The policy passed the city council unanimously.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Commissioner Fritz floats another idea: Car-free streets

Commissioner Fritz floats another idea: Car-free streets

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Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

The day after she drew criticism for suggesting that biking should be deemphasized compared to transit in city planning, Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz went out of her way to put forth a different proposal.

It came Wednesday at the tail end of a report from Portland Streetcar Inc., the publicly chartered rail transit service that Fritz has become an enthusiastic supporter of. Discussion of one of Streetcar’s perennial problems — getting stuck behind cars, either in traffic or due to parking mishaps — seemed to prompt her to ask a question: do we really want cars to be able to use streetcar lanes at all?

And for that matter, she asked, do we really want cars to be able to use the major biking streets?

Here’s how Fritz put it:

I had some comments yesterday about Williams. I think we should be looking at should there be streets that are primarily for cyclists and transit and local access for cars only? Are there other streets that are mostly for automobiles and transit? The more we can keep everybody safe while getting everybody where they need to go, I think that would be a better system, and we’ve already started doing that with the Tilikum Crossing being just for bikes peds and transit. Maybe there are other streets we could look at, or maybe there are other lanes that — yes, cars can go in the streetcar lane. But do we really want them to be? Yes, cars can go on a street that a lot of cyclists use, but do we really want them to?

Here’s the video:

Fritz reiterated her position later that day on Twitter.

To that, safe-streets advocate Steve Bozzone pointed out that her exact proposal — designating a street like Williams for “cyclists and transit and local access for cars” while having other streets be mostly for cars and transit — basically describes Portland’s road system today.

Based on her two rounds of comments this week, it seems as if Fritz had a viscerally unpleasant reaction to the experience of driving north on a dark, rainy Williams Avenue, trying to figure out its unusual weave of lanes for the first time, and then turning left across its bike lane without running into someone pedaling toward her from behind.





Most people would probably be stressed out in that situation, as she was. It sounds as if her comments have in part been her puzzling through different ways to prevent such moments of stress.

One solution, beloved by people around the world who never ride a bicycle for transportation, would be to completely ban bicycles from certain streets. But Fritz realizes that wouldn’t work; some people would disobey, and in any case it would discourage an activity that most Portlanders agree is a good idea in principle.

So she’s touching at the edges of another solution: banning cars from certain streets, something that works well in downtowns around the world. Fritz doesn’t quite embrace that, either. And it’s true that car-free streets have been able to succeed economically in the U.S. only in some pretty specific situations.

But she is coming down on one of the big truths about bike infrastructure, whether it be a car-free street, a truly traffic-calmed shared street or a fully protected bike lane: infrastructure that makes biking less stressful also makes driving less stressful. Whatever you think about Fritz’s other takes on bikes, it’s nice to hear someone saying that out loud.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Council sends gas tax to ballot behind wide range of supporters

Council sends gas tax to ballot behind wide range of supporters

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Marion Haynes with the Portland Business Alliance
offered conditional support.
(Photos from City Council live feed)

Advocates of a 10-cent local gas tax joined up to form quite a list of endorsers Wednesday for a midafternoon hearing at Portland City Council. Council heard a presentation and testimony about the idea ahead of adopting a resolution to send the tax to the ballot.

“I feel like a possum on I-5 during rush hour right now,” said Paul Romain, a lobbyist for Oregon gas retailers who was one of only two people to speak clearly against the measure.

Offering support was everyone from a freight advocate to a business advocate to an environmental justice advocate from East Portland to a frequent City Hall testifier who goes by the name of “Lightning.” While almost everyone seemed to like the idea, a close look at their testimony reveals mixed feelings that could offer clues to future debates.

“It’s not every day that we have a panel that has the diversity of views that have come in before us,” said Commissioner Nick Fish, who cast one of the council’s five unanimous votes in favor of sending the $16 million annual tax to Portland voters on the May 17 ballot.

“We want to make sure that vehicle road capacity is not impacted as a part of this.”
— Molly Haynes, Portland Business Alliance

Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick, whose office pulled the various interests to agree on this concept over the last year, was another of the five votes. He said the city estimated that 54 percent of the revenue would go toward projects mostly associated with road maintenance and 46 percent toward projects mostly associated with road safety.

Here’s the list of people who testified in favor Wednesday (as well as I’ve been able to assemble it):

Fiona Yau-Luu, Oregon Walks
Kari Schlosshauer, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
Kristi Finney-Dunn, Families for Safe Streets
Mychal Tetteh, Community Cycling Center
Marion Haynes, Portland Business Alliance
Andy Shaw, City Club of Portland
Leah Benson, Gladys Bikes
Rebecca Hamilton, Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Gerik Kransky, Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Chris Smith, Portland Planning Commission
Matthew Mičetić, Red Castle Games
Amy Subach, Vision Zero USA
Ophelia Miracle, Grant High School student
Vivian Satterfield, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
Corky Collier, Columbia Corridor Association
Chris Rall, Transportation for America
Ruthann Bennett, Professional and Technical Employees Local 17 (city workers)
Charles Johnson, Oregonians for Food and Shelter and Compassionate Wisdom
Chau Phan Mende, parent of student at Robert Gray Middle School
Kem Marks, East Portland resident
Hau Hagedorn, North Portland resident
Craig Rogers

Here’s a list of people who opposed it:

Paul Romain, Oregon Fuel Association
Terry Parker, Northeast Portland resident

Many of those who said they were in favor offered conditions. For example, Mychal Tetteh, executive director of the Community Cycling Center, was one of several who said he was taking the city at its word that it would spend the next four years working on a more progressive way to pay for streets.

The regressive nature of the mechanism adds to a long list of transportation fees and taxes and fails to protect our lower-income households from higher transportation costs, much less divides the revenue more fairly between residents and businesses. Thankfully, the projects listed in the proposal steer revenue to the areas of the city that have long been neglected and unsafe. However, these projects alone do not solve the existing structural challenges either in the way the Bureau of Transportation allocates existing funds or determines overall transportation policies. During the regressive nature of the temporary tax on gas, our support of this effort is conditioned on the city and PBOT’s commitment to identify and pursue less regressive future funding sources and an ongoing commitment to increase transportation improvements in our most dangerous neighborhoods.”


Collier, the freight lobbyist, sounded similar notes of support but added that $16 million a year is very little compared to the $100 million a year cost of fully preserving every street in the city, plus the unknown cost of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Collier noted that if Oregon’s 1919 gas tax had been adjusted for inflation, it would now be at 70 cents per gallon, not the 30 cents people pay today.

“We have a lot more expensive road system than we did in 1919, but we’re only spending half as much to maintain it. If we could get away with it, that would be something to be proud of, but we haven’t been getting away with it. It’s deteriorating and it’s going to cost us a lot more in the future. … This is just the beginning. This is a drop in the bucket for how much we’re going to have to come up with in the future. … A few years ago, a gas tax was an obvious good solution. But that was before the arts tax, the library bond, the school bond and a number of measures that have weighed more heavily on the poor.”

Haynes, of the Portland Business Alliance, said her group saw a lot to like about gas taxes:

“It’s user-based, it’s very low in its overhead, we appreciate the voter approval that the gas tax requires, and the gas tax couldn’t be diverted to other uses. So we know that it’s going to go to its intended purpose of the maintenance issues and the safety issues.”

Haynes also said that in addition to the deferred maintenance problems the group has focused on, “there are also pressing safety needs on the streets that need to be addressed.” But she said the group would only support improvements to those “pressing safety needs” on one condition.

“We want to make sure that vehicle road capacity is not impacted as a part of this,” she said. “We really think the focus needs to be on those critical safety improvements and also on the maintenance backlog.”

Haynes also seemed to call for future taxes or fees on people who don’t drive cars. “We would not like to see additional taxes and fees on this same user group during the period, recognizing that there may be others out there that aren’t contributing at this point,” she said.

Kristi Finney-Dunn testified on behalf of Oregon and Southwest Washington Families for Safe Streets, the advocacy group whose members have seen loved ones die or suffer life-changing injuries on streets. “It is imperative that measures be taken to improve safety on our streets as soon as possible,” she said. “We cannot stress enough the urgency that we feel on this matter … We don’t want any more people to qualify for our Families for Safe Streets group.”

romain

Paul Romain, a lobbyist for the Oregon
Fuels Association has killed past attempts
to raise road use fees, and he’s not
happy about this one either.

Romain, the fuel retail lobbyist, warned that “there will be a very broad coalition of people opposing this at the ballot.” (You might recall that it was Romain whose opposition tanked former Mayor Sam Adams’ “Safe Sound and Green” effort in 2008.)

“This is a bad idea,” he said, observing that some people will choose to fill up their cars at stations outside Portland’s borders. “We can go up a lot with the state gas tax, we just have a hard time with a local gas tax.”

Romain said his allies would mount a legal challenge to the text of the city’s ballot measure to reflect that (although the state constitution requires that it be spent on roads) the money might not be spent on the projects the city currently plans.

“Anybody in the audience who thinks those projects are sacrosanct is wrong,” Romain said. “They can be changed at any time.”

Asked by Fish and Mayor Charlie Hales what alternative measures his members would support, Romain mentioned the statewide gas tax and a proposal by Clackamas County to raise annual auto registration fees by $25 per year.

If this tax passes, we could have a very interesting summer here in Portland. Just as the City makes driving more expensive, Portlanders will see 1,000 bike share bikes hit the street. If both programs work as advertised, it could be a strong one-two punch from transportation reformers.

If you missed the hearing, you can watch it here.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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‘Fix Our Streets’ gas tax campaign prepares to launch Wednesday

‘Fix Our Streets’ gas tax campaign prepares to launch Wednesday

fix our streets

The new campaign logo.

After a long pause to gather its strategy and thoughts, Portland’s city council is expected to launch its latest plan Wednesday to raise money for the city’s streets.

The new concept, a public vote for a temporary local gas tax of 10 cents per gallon, comes endorsed by a 93-page report from the City Club of Portland and at least two mayoral candidates (Jules Bailey and Ted Wheeler) as the least bad way to slow the city’s deepening pavement problem while getting some high-priority safety improvements on the ground.

And in a new development, it looks as if some resources have been found for one of such a ballot issue’s biggest needs: an organized “yes” campaign.

If approved by voters on May 17, the tax would raise $16 million each of the next four years.

It’s not nearly enough to stop all the city’s roads from falling apart further; that’d require $50 million a year, according to the City Club. Nor is it enough to achieve the city’s “Vision Zero” to eliminate preventable traffic deaths.

But the campaign’s backers say it’s a start, one that would give the city a burst of new revenue that could address pressing problems like damaged pavement on Southeast Foster Road and Southwest 4th Avenue; missing sidewalks on Southwest Capitol Highway; car and bike traffic that mixes haphazardly downtown; and speeding traffic near schools like Lents Elementary and David Douglas High School.

Gas taxes are always a hard sell politically. But unlike other ways of raising money, a gas tax would let the city get some revenue out of people who use Portland’s streets without living here.

Because richer people tend to drive more than poorer people, backers say, a gas tax is also modestly progressive.


Finally, the gas tax proposal comes after a long and lasting drop in the actual price of gas.

In Oregon, the average gas price is down more than $1 since winter 2014. For context: It’s actually fallen by 10 cents, the amount of the proposed tax, in the last 10 days.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.45.18 AM

You can read the city’s full description of how it would spend the gas tax on this PDF that auto-downloads from its website.

In an interview Saturday, Fix Our Streets campaign manager Aaron Brown said he thinks the campaign will appeal to a wide number of local institutions.

“I don’t want to speak ahead of other organizations that wish to come out and make their own announcements about this, but I am optimistic that this is a proposal that a variety of organizations with different interests in Portland can and will get excited about,” Brown said.

Brown said he couldn’t yet share details about the funding of the Fix Our Streets campaign but that “we’ll have a full release about where the money’s coming from and that sort of stuff on Wednesday.”

Brown, who also serves as the president of the board of Oregon Walks, also said that to pass, the campaign will need a lot of volunteer support.

“This is it,” said Brown. “We’re going to vote on it, May 2016. Everyone who has ever sat around thinking about how great it would be that they had a chance to tell elected officials how they deeply care about road safety and maintenance and show that they care about investing in their infrastructure, should save May 17, 2016, as the day they need to get their ballots in, and should prepare to help out with the campaign.”

He hopes people will be able to show up to city council on Wednesday to support a council vote to refer the issue to the ballot.

“If you’re interested in providing electoral support for livable streets in Portland, we need you Wednesday at 2 o’clock,” Brown said.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Big day at City Hall affects pedicabs, taxi safety and backyard homes

Big day at City Hall affects pedicabs, taxi safety and backyard homes

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Commissioner Fritz.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A flurry of end-of-year activity at Portland City Hall Wednesday led to changes in three different stories we’ve been tracking on BikePortland.

With Commissioner Amanda Fritz playing a key role in all three votes, the council agreed to delay changes to pedicab rules that would have required pedicab operators to hold driver’s licenses and have a year of continuous driving experience; to require a one-time “defensive driving” training for taxi, Lyft and Uber workers rather than retrainings every two years; and to allow small accessory dwelling units to be built near the edge of properties as long as they’re no larger than the garages that have long been allowed near property lines.

“Worst of all is the appalling disregard in this ordinance for pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists.”
— Amanda Fritz

Fritz and her colleagues Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman had pushed on Nov. 24 to postpone the effective date of new pedicab rules until the pedicab industry could confer with city staff. An amendment to this effect by Fish was approved unanimously then, and was (the city said) reflected in the code approved today.

On taxi safety, Fritz and Fish cast votes against the new rules, with Fritz citing “appalling disregard in this ordinance for pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists injured” by drivers of Lyft, Uber and other so-called “transportation network companies.” The ordinance passed 3-2.

And on backyard homes, Fritz cast a lone vote against allowing garage-sized residences to be built without five-foot setbacks from property lines. She was outvoted 4-1.

Here’s what happened in a bit more detail:

Pedicabs
Filmed by Bike 08-29.jpg

No car required.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

As we reported Nov. 18, Portland’s effort to rewrite its code for “private for-hire transportation” was prompted by the illegal arrival of Uber last spring. It resulted in the city hastily rewriting its rules for pedicabs without notifying local operators that it was doing so.

Among the proposed rules: pedicab operators would have been required to hold driver’s licenses and have “at least one year’s worth of continuous driving experience in a United States jurisdiction” before certification as a pedicab driver.

Even city staffers overseeing the code rewrite didn’t seem to be aware that this was what the code said. In this exchange with Fritz from a Nov. 24 hearing, Novick advisor Bryan Hockaday said “we did not intend to have any changes” for pedicab companies before conceding that apparently changes had been made.

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Fritz, Fish and Saltzman persuaded the council to preserve the status quo for pedicabs and also for non-emergency medical transport companies, which are also covered but were not consulted about the rewrite.

Because of the difficulty of revising code on a tight deadline, the council left the proposed code language in place, but PBOT spokesman John Brady said in an email Wednesday that the council had included a clause saying that the new rules for pedicabs and NEMT companies didn’t apply.

Taxi, Lyft and Uber safety
Riding Portland's urban highways-8

One safety training and done.

As we reported Nov. 5, Portland’s new rules for taxis and transportation network companies require drivers to complete a “defensive driving” course. The city describes this requirement (which isn’t common on Uber or Lyft drivers around the country) as part of its Vision Zero effort.

But that provision will replace a stiffer one that currently applies to taxis.

“The problem is it’s a one-and-done training requirement, instead of the current mandate for taxi drivers to do a defensive driving course every two years,” Commissioner Fritz explained in an email Wednesday. “Also, the TNCs get to start driving then take the test in 30 days, despite testimony that more accidents happen when drivers are new.”

Fritz also took issue with the fact that the city requires only $50,000 of liability insurance coverage for TNC drivers when they are on their way to or from a job.

“I am baffled as to why any of you would consider your own life, or that of the person you love most in the entire world, to max out in value at $50,000, less than half of one year of our salaries,” said Fritz, whose husband was killed last year in a multi-vehicle collision on Interstate 5. The Mercury has the full text and video of her emotional address.

Fish voted with Fritz against the new rules. Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick voted for them but said he doesn’t think the $50,000 limit is acceptable but hopes to fight it in the state legislature instead of city council.

“Uber and Lyft have made it clear that if any jurisdiction tried to depart from this agreement, they intend to declare war,” Novick said. “If you’re going to pick a fight with a $50 billion company, you’re probably smart to look around for some allies. So I’m going to do that.”

Backyard homes

Sally Spear, right, lives in a backyard home in Northeast Portland with her daughter’s family.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

As we reported Nov. 20, Fritz is not a fan of a proposal to remove a five-foot setback that applies to small homes but not to garages of the same size.

City code has long allowed structures to be built in R-7, R-5 and R-2.5 zones that are no more than 15 feet tall at the peak and 10 feet tall by 24 feet wide on any wall close to a property line, as long as they are “garages” designed to hold a motor vehicle.

A code change discussed for most of this year proposed to remove that special status for car storage, allowing structures like backyard rec rooms or large bike sheds in similar buildings. Fritz said she supported those uses but not another scenario: if the home included a bedroom and a kitchen sink, thus qualifying it as a detached accessory dwelling unit.

Fritz said she’d asked the people at two recent community meetings about the measure and “by a 20-1 margin people do not, in general, support this. I have given both arguments for and arguments against, as I read them in my emails, and did not state my own preference, and it was quite stunning how many people are quite concerned about this. And I believe that it’s going to have backlash against accessory dwelling units.”

She predicted “an explosion of these built as Airbnbs.”

Mayor Charlie Hales, the only other council member to comment on the issue, said he was “sensitive to the concerns” raised by Fritz but said there was “such demand for this kind of housing in the city that we should try to make this work.” He, Fish, Saltzman and Novick all voted for it.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org


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As city council weighs bike share agreement, three of five votes look certain

As city council weighs bike share agreement, three of five votes look certain

Portland City Council

Portland’s city council: Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Charlie Hales, Dan Saltzman, Nick Fish.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

A half-hour city council hearing Wednesday on Portland’s proposed bike sharing system raised some questions but, seemingly, few serious concerns.

With a formal vote lined up next week, Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish, along with Mayor Charlie Hales, all spoke warmly about the proposal.

Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman didn’t seem to be raising major objections, though both asked pointed questions: Fritz about safety and Saltzman about money. Saltzman in particular seemed upbeat about the plan. Neither offered a closing comment Wednesday, leaving themselves plenty of room to back away from the deal if they decide to.

“It’s nice sometimes not to be first, and this time we’re going to be 65th.”
— City bike share project manager Steve Hoyt-McBeth

The hearing was significantly less contentious than previous council discussions about bike share, all of which have occurred in the glare of repeated editorials from The Oregonian urging the city not to create such a system. (The latest of those was published Monday.)

This time around, the council seemed less stressed about the concept.

“It’s nice sometimes not to be first, and this time we’re going to be 65th,” city bike share project manager Steve Hoyt-McBeth told the council.

Commissioner Fish, in particular, seemed to be strongly influenced by the success that bike sharing has had in other cities like San Francisco, New York and Chicago. He said he’d seen it in action on family trips around the country.

“Bike share is blowing up in those cities and everybody seems to be on a bike,” Fish said.

Like the other commissioners, Fish also praised the low-risk nature of the deal the city has set up. The city’s contractor, Motivate, will assume all downside risk for the first three years. The city says that even if the system flops and no private sponsors are found, it can scale back the system’s performance standards for the fourth and fifth years that would be required under the terms of a federal grant. That’d prevent any public operating subsidy of the system.

“There’s risk in everything we do,” Fish said. “It seems like this time there’s a modest risk.”

“There’s risk in everything we do. It seems like this time there’s a modest risk.”
— Commissioner Nick Fish on financing bike sharing systems

Novick, laying out the virtues of a bike share system, sounded similar notes. He said that though he hadn’t supported a public subsidy for a convention-center hotel, sending a $2 million federal grant to bike sharing seemed like a “reasonable investment” for a system that would both serve many locals and provide a service that tourists have come to expect.

Hales called the proposed 600-bike system a “Goldilocks” proposal: not to big, not too small, not too fast and not too slow.

“I hear from people saying ‘We’re way behind in Portland and that’s terrible!’” Hales said. “We’re behind, or ahead, or somewhere, because we started it.”

He said that other cities that have been embracing biking amenities are doing so because they’ve seen Portland’s success.

“That has set off a virtuous competition among cities to be green, livable,” he said. “What a problem to have, for cities to be competing with each other to do the right thing. … To those who are wringing their hands saying ‘we’re not a leader’: yes we are, and others are running in our same direction.”

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Commissioner Saltzman asked if the city would be opening itself up to lawsuits. City Active Transportation Manager Margi Bradway said the city’s contract with Motivate protects it from liability. This seemed to satisfy Saltzman on that issue.

“It’s a nice thing to have; it’s not an essential thing to have,” Saltzman said.

Commissioner Fritz raised two main areas of concern: whether bike-share users would be able to get helmets, and what the city’s plan was for keeping people from riding the bikes on downtown sidewalks, which is illegal.

“Downtown is a dangerous place to ride a bike safely,” Fritz said. She said she’d recently met an East Portland resident who told her he’d been biking in a downtown MAX lane, caught his wheel in one of the grooves and badly injured himself.

“Downtown is a dangerous place to ride a bike safely.”
— Commissioner Amanda Fritz on obstacles to good bike sharing

Hoyt-McBeth said the city’s proposed contract with Motivate includes a plan to test helmet vending machines, but that choices are limited because no reliable option seems to be on the market yet. In any case, he said, the system will promote helmet use through its membership channels, offer discounts for helmet purchases, give free helmets to low-income members and pursue partnerships with bike rental shops.

As for downtown sidewalk riding, Hoyt-McBeth said the city will find some way to add messages on the bikes or their docks that tell people not to ride on downtown sidewalks.

Meanwhile on Twitter, various people suggested another way to reduce sidewalk biking.

class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-cards="hidden" data-partner="tweetdeck">

@__P__J @go_by_bike @BikePortland @AmandaFritzRN Safe infrastructure. If you build it, they will use it.

— Nicholas Caleb (@ncaleb) September 16, 2015

A handful of other Portlanders came to testify in support of bike sharing, including a developer who said that commercial real estate tenants rarely ask about auto parking availability these days and are much likelier to ask about bike parking.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance Executive Director Rob Sadowsky spoke in favor, saying his organization would be happy to partner with the city to educate people on safe bike use.

BikeLoudPDX co-chair Ted Buehler said the system seemed small but that he looked forward to inviting visiting friends to use it.

“600 bikes isn’t really a lot to go around,” Buehler said. “Still, it’s a terrific start.”

The most skeptical testifier was Joe Walsh, an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. He echoed Fritz’s concerns about people biking on downtown sidewalks.

“Right now the police aren’t enforcing that,” Walsh said. “It’s the wild west.”

But even Walsh didn’t have a problem with the general idea of bike sharing.

“The program itself sounds really interesting,” he said. “They did it in New York. That’s kind of a good endorsement, because it is a very complex city.”


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Commissioners Fish and Fritz warm to income tax to pay for streets

Commissioners Fish and Fritz warm to income tax to pay for streets

council work session novick fritz hales fish

Portland’s city council speaks with staff Monday about the “Our Streets PDX” proposal.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Can Portland’s proposed transportation income tax count to three?

In the political tea leaves of Portland’s five-member city council, three is the magic number. And the tenor of Monday’s hearing on the city’s proposed tax suggested that consensus is building. But the vote seems likely to hinge on who would pay how much.

What Portlanders would pay

In their documents Monday, Portland Bureau of Transportation staff offered three scenarios for a fee structure based on a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. (That’s your income minus student loan interest, self-employment tax and health savings accounts, but not deductions such as mortgage interest.). Here’s what the per-month payment might look like for single tax filers, with the flattest tax on the left and the most progressive one on the right:

proposed tax levels single

And here are the corresponding scenarios for joint tax filers:

proposed tax levels joint

As The Oregonian reported Monday morning, these exemptions for low-income workers would ensure that 41 percent of Portlanders would owe nothing.

Meanwhile, a different tax would also be charged to every licensed business in the City of Portland. For the smallest businesses, fees would range from $2.50 per month for a freelance photographer to $12.50 a month for a small coffee shop to $15 a month for a tiny medical office.

For the largest businesses, fees would range from $20 a month for a large bank to $60 a month for a major software firm to $120 a month for a hospital or large hotel.

You can read about the proposed business rates here.

Any of the scenarios above would be projected to raise $40 million a year — assuming that 90 percent of businesses and 83 to 85 percent of residents who are supposed to pay the tax actually would. (The city’s $35-a-year arts tax, which is collected annually by April 15 as this tax would be, currently has a 71 percent compliance rate.)

What the commissioners said

Press Conference for Transpo Fee -1-2

Commissioner Steve Novick in April, discussing what was then proposed as a mostly flat fee rather than an income-based tax.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who had once been seen as the likelist to join Mayor Charlie Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick as a third vote for the plan, was the most vocally skeptical of the plan Monday, saying that couples who make more (but not a lot more) than $30,000 between them should be exempt from a tax.

“$30,000 doesn’t seem high enough to me” for the exemption for joint filers, Fritz said.

Fritz also questioned a $3 million line item that would help fund a biking-walking bridge across Interstate 405 at Flanders.

“We had an extensive conversation about this,” she said, referring to the abandoned 2008 proposal to relocate the Sauvie Island Bridge to this location and making clear that she continued to see it as a lower priority than safety improvements in more outlying neighborhoods.

Commissioner Nick Fish, for his part, asked if the city’s advisory committees had considered exempting businesses from the tax in their first year.

“We’ve seen a big jump in business licensees,” Fish said.

Willamette Week reported Monday that Fish has suggested splitting an upcoming council vote into two questions: first, whether a tax should be created; and second, whether it should be approved by voters.

“This change would allow him to back the reworked street fee without reneging on his promise not to bypass voters,” WW’s Aaron Mesh wrote.

One telling point in the work session came when Hales casually laid out a possible compromise over whether a tax or fee should go to voters.

“There seems to be consensus among the committees that a referral is not at this point necessary, but a sunset seems reasonable to me.”
— Mayor Charlie Hales on the need for voters to approve a transportation income tax.

“There seems to be consensus among the committees that a referral is not at this point necessary, but a sunset seems reasonable to me,” he said. After six years, he suggested, the city council “can renew it, reject it or refer it [to voters], based on what the council at that time wants to do.”

No commissioners responded one way or the other to that.

Hales also said he favors a relatively flat tax, one that would charge the highest-earning Portlanders no more than $50 a month and would raise rates for middle-income earners.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman, for his part, said relatively little during the work session, at one point asking politely which projects would be scaled back if other projects ran over budget. (PBOT Director Leah Treat promised to work this out.)

And Novick, the politician who’s devoted most of the last year to the proposal, said he’s glad the city was persuaded to abandon an earlier version of the fee that, like the many similar per-household fees around the state, charged rich and poor about the same.

“In May and June we brought a proposal to council that was mostly what everybody else does,” he said. “We now have street revenue proposals before us that do not represent what everybody else has done. And I think we in Portland agree that that’s often a good thing.”

After the work session, city staffers who have been taking direction from Novick and Hales to gather consensus around the fee congratulated one another on a job well done.

A public council hearing is set for Nov. 12, with a likely vote Nov. 19. If approved, the first payments would be due April 15, 2016.

Correction 11 pm: An earlier version of this post misstated the size of the city’s annual arts tax. Also, Commissioner Fish says it misquoted his statement that there had been an increase in business licensees; an earlier version of this post had quoted him as saying there had been an increase in business license fees.

The post Commissioners Fish and Fritz warm to income tax to pay for streets appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Sunday vigil set to honor and remember Steve Fritz

Sunday vigil set to honor and remember Steve Fritz

CRC Rally-104

Commissioner Amanda Fritz at an
anti-Columbia River Crossing
rally in 2009.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

All of Portland is hurting for Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s family this week.

Carpooling to his job in Salem, Steve Fritz was killed in a traffic collision Wednesday after a northbound pickup crossed the freeway barrier and collided with Fritz’s Nissan. The husband of the city council member died at the scene.

A vigil for Steve Fritz is planned this Sunday, Sept. 28, at 5 p.m. in Terry Schrunk Plaza, across the street from City Hall at 1221 SW 4th Avenue.

“We will have an open mic and will be collecting letters to be given to the family at a better time,” wrote Cameron Whitten, a local human rghts activist who got to know Fritz during Occupy Portland’s 2011 encampment and his subsequent hunger strike outside City Hall for housing justice, in an email. Whitten, who later supported Fritz’s reelection campaign, is among the organizers of Sunday’s event.

For her part, Commissioner Fritz wrote on Wednesday that her family would be suggesting charitable donations in lieu of flowers or cards:

Oregonian reporter Joseph Rose has a good report about the cable barriers, absent from this stretch of Interstate 5 but gradually being installed around the state, that might have prevented this collision. We wrote last month about the success of those cable barriers in Minnesota, installed as part of that state’s “Toward Zero Deaths” campaign to prevent traffic fatalities.

The Fritzes met 37 years ago — Steve was 17, Amanda 19 — while they were working at a Salvation Army children’s camp in New Jersey. As I first read on the Portland Mercury Wednesday, Amanda described her husband on her campaign’s site as “my soul-mate and the love-of-my-life.”

The Mercury was also among the outlets that shared the words of Steve and Amanda’s son Maxwell, who wrote this about his father on his successful college admission essay to Princeton University:

My father drives a car painted in zebra stripes. The inside is crammed full of stuffed animals, seat covers, and air fresheners devoted to his favorite animal. He even has the zebra edition of Zoobooks magazine prominently displayed in the back window. On weekends, he frequents a counterculture group that plays croquet using bowling balls hit with sledgehammers, has “nuclear family picnics” on the lawns of power plants, and launches pumpkins out of cannons. He also wakes up early every weekday, straightens his tie, and happily drives in that twelve year old Nissan Sentra to his work as a psychiatrist at the Oregon State Hospital.

He has a simplicity in the logic behind his decisions that makes many of the worries in my life seem silly. He painted his car because he was bored with it. He set up a stand along a marathon route offering runners free doughnuts and beer because he thought it would be entertaining. He constantly teaches me that even in the real world, being content is not contingent on adhering to the expectations of others.

I often wonder what my life will be like decades from now, but if it is anything like my father’s, I will know I did well. I expect many of the details will be different. I do not plan to become a doctor, turn vegetables into projectiles, or remodel my automobile into a work of art. However, if I follow his lead, I will be able to open my eyes on a Monday morning and smile about both the weekend in the past and the week ahead in the future.

Our hearts are with the Fritz family here at BikePortland, as in so many other Portland homes and workplaces.

The post Sunday vigil set to honor and remember Steve Fritz appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Council candidate Sharon Maxwell played role in Williams Ave re-design process

Council candidate Sharon Maxwell played role in Williams Ave re-design process

Sharon Maxwell at an open house for the
Williams Avenue Traffic Safety and Operations
Project in April 2011.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Sharon Maxwell, the latest challenger to Commissioner Nick Fish’s seat on Portland City Council, might be a familiar name to many BikePortland readers. Maxwell spoke up early and often during the public process to update the design of North Williams Avenue.

For those who don’t remember, the City of Portland’s North Williams Avenue Traffic Safety and Operations Project began as just another transportation project, but ended up as a citywide conversation on bicycling, race, and gentrification. The project became a case study for urban planners, garnered national media attention, and became the subject of academic research.

At the project’s first open house in April 2011 (just four months after it officially launched), at the urging of project staff, I interviewed Sharon Maxwell (who went by Maxwell-Hendricks at the time) to hear her perspectives and concerns about the proposed changes. As a Portland native who grew up and owned a business near Williams Avenue, Maxwell had a lot to say. At that time, she was opposed to major bike access improvements. She felt that the changes were being pushed by a “small percentage of bicyclists”, that the bike access would take up space needed to park cars for her church and local businesses, and that bike traffic should be routed over to Rodney Street instead.

At a subsequent meeting on the project a few months later, Maxwell once again voiced concerns. At that point, she began pushing the City to make the decision-making process more inclusive. During an address to the Stakeholder Advisory Committee she said, “I’m trying to paint the picture that we’re not against bicyclists, we’re not against change, but we as a community of color, we want to be involved in the change, we want to be participators in the change.” It was at that meeting, in June 2011, that the bureau of transportation announced they would delay any decisions on the project in order to address Maxwell’s (and other people’s) concerns.

I happened to record several minutes of Maxwell’s address to the committee and you can listen to it below:
Download audio file (WilliamsSAC_Hendricks.mp3)

When the topic of racism once again dominated a project meeting in July 2011, Maxwell was more blunt in her frustration about the biking and walking safety improvements that were on the table: “You say you want it ‘safe’ for everybody, how come it wasn’t safe 10 years ago?,” she asked. “That’s part of the whole racism thing… we wanted safe streets back then; but now that the bicyclists want to have safe streets than it’s all about the bicyclists getting safe streets.”

In her professional life, Maxwell is a carpenter and tradeswoman who owned her own contracting business. She is also active in the community and has developed youth job training programs. On her campaign website, Maxwell lays out her perspective on many issues, including why she deserves to be on City Council:

We can raise our level of shared community, wellness and cultural inclusiveness with all aspects of City services and citizen interactions so that all residents will benefit from true community support, cohesion and “belonging”. I want to do everything I can to help this happen.

Commissioner Fish’s term is up at the end of this year and the elections will be in May.

If you’d like to learn more about Maxwell, check out her official Facebook page and campaign website.

Council candidate Sharon Maxwell played role in Williams Ave re-design process

Council candidate Sharon Maxwell played role in Williams Ave re-design process

Sharon Maxwell at an open house for the
Williams Avenue Traffic Safety and Operations
Project in April 2011.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Sharon Maxwell, the latest challenger to Commissioner Nick Fish’s seat on Portland City Council, might be a familiar name to many BikePortland readers. Maxwell spoke up early and often during the public process to update the design of North Williams Avenue.

For those who don’t remember, the City of Portland’s North Williams Avenue Traffic Safety and Operations Project began as just another transportation project, but ended up as a citywide conversation on bicycling, race, and gentrification. The project became a case study for urban planners, garnered national media attention, and became the subject of academic research.

At the project’s first open house in April 2011 (just four months after it officially launched), at the urging of project staff, I interviewed Sharon Maxwell (who went by Maxwell-Hendricks at the time) to hear her perspectives and concerns about the proposed changes. As a Portland native who grew up and owned a business near Williams Avenue, Maxwell had a lot to say. At that time, she was opposed to major bike access improvements. She felt that the changes were being pushed by a “small percentage of bicyclists”, that the bike access would take up space needed to park cars for her church and local businesses, and that bike traffic should be routed over to Rodney Street instead.

At a subsequent meeting on the project a few months later, Maxwell once again voiced concerns. At that point, she began pushing the City to make the decision-making process more inclusive. During an address to the Stakeholder Advisory Committee she said, “I’m trying to paint the picture that we’re not against bicyclists, we’re not against change, but we as a community of color, we want to be involved in the change, we want to be participators in the change.” It was at that meeting, in June 2011, that the bureau of transportation announced they would delay any decisions on the project in order to address Maxwell’s (and other people’s) concerns.

I happened to record several minutes of Maxwell’s address to the committee and you can listen to it below:
Download audio file (WilliamsSAC_Hendricks.mp3)

When the topic of racism once again dominated a project meeting in July 2011, Maxwell was more blunt in her frustration about the biking and walking safety improvements that were on the table: “You say you want it ‘safe’ for everybody, how come it wasn’t safe 10 years ago?,” she asked. “That’s part of the whole racism thing… we wanted safe streets back then; but now that the bicyclists want to have safe streets than it’s all about the bicyclists getting safe streets.”

In her professional life, Maxwell is a carpenter and tradeswoman who owned her own contracting business. She is also active in the community and has developed youth job training programs. On her campaign website, Maxwell lays out her perspective on many issues, including why she deserves to be on City Council:

We can raise our level of shared community, wellness and cultural inclusiveness with all aspects of City services and citizen interactions so that all residents will benefit from true community support, cohesion and “belonging”. I want to do everything I can to help this happen.

Commissioner Fish’s term is up at the end of this year and the elections will be in May.

If you’d like to learn more about Maxwell, check out her official Facebook page and campaign website.