Dear PBOT: Stop Hiding People who Ride

With the recent decision to not add space for people rolling on scooters, bicycles, skateboards, and wheelchairs on Hawthorne at the insistence that there is plenty of space on adjacent Greenways, PBOT has cemented their position to hide away people who want to do right by their community and the planet. Instead of creating an inviting environment where those who ride are welcomed to shop and frequent businesses, PBOT has insisted that subsidized vehicle storage and car capacity takes priority.

PBOT has cited transit delay as the primary reason to avoid adding mobility lanes. However, that delay is not being caused by people riding scooters or skateboards. Transit delay is caused solely by vehicles. Instead of separated bus-only lanes along Hawthorne, the project team has prioritized a center left-turn lane and free car storage. By pitting transit advocates against people who want to see safer riding conditions, the agency allowed automobile supremacy off the hook.

While the Greenway network has provided a stepping stone for Portland's bicycling network, it is way past time hiding people who want to do the right thing. Lowering emissions, reducing air pollution, and improving the health and social fabric of their community should not be punished. We should not be shunned and put off onto residential streets that are indirect, confusing, and unsafe. PBOT must take a different approach: elevate those who want to ride the transit and ride a bike/scooter/unicycle.

The quickest way to do so is to provide fully separated protected bike lanes and bus-only lanes on every arterial, particularly on our most deadly streets. This approach can be extremely low-cost, using just paint, plastic wands, and temporary bus bulb-outs. Rolling out a complete protected bicycle and bus-only network across the city is the most clear indication of how we want to prioritize moving people over vehicles, address systemic racism, and tackle the climate crisis.

The entire PBOT transportation budget for the incoming year is $604 million. By comparison, our existing painted bicycling “network” (mostly sharrows), by my estimate comes in at less than $10M, and the entire “Rose Lanes” project has been built out for less than $2.5M (mostly from federal grants and Bloomberg foundation funds). It is a gross understatement that most of our budget goes to maintaining automobile supremacy, at the expense of people, and our planet.

If we are to ever have a shot of achieving our goals as a city, we must work tirelessly to elevate those who want to ride.