Critics Charge Transportation Bill Shortchanges Portland Cyclists & Pedestrians

A recent op-ed piece in The Oregonian raises significant questions about transportation funding and Portland’s streets. Its arguments – whether one agrees with them or not – bear consideration even in a time of tight budgets and, often, cutbacks.

The author, Stephanie Routh, executive director of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, argues that the transportation bill passed by Congress earlier this summer falls far short of what is needed to fund improvements to “Portland’s most dangerous streets.”
“Congress didn’t improve on the situation with its new federal funding bill, dramatically reducing dedicated funds for walking and biking safety improvements,” she writes. “The lack of relief for known safety problems may result in preventable deaths of people walking, biking, driving or taking transit for years to come.”
Routh goes on to list a number of sobering Oregon pedestrian accident and Portland bicycle accident statistics. Noting (she is citing ODOT figures here) that of the 400 Oregonians who died on our state’s roads in 2010 “pedestrians accounted for one in five of these traffic deaths.”
As a matter of public policy, the push-and-pull between cars on the one hand and bikes and pedestrians on the other has long been a regular feature of debates over transportation funding at both the national and the state level. Even here in Oregon, generally considered one of the most bicycle-friendly places in the country, there is often tension between advocates for various forms of transport when it comes time to decide how to divide up the public purse. As a Portland bicycle accident attorney, and a strong advocate for our city’s cycling community, it has always seemed obvious that a balance needs to be struck between the needs of everyone in our community.

Bikes and pedestrians alike play important roles in our life as a city. To their credit, most Portland drivers know this and support it. Just as it is up to all of us to ensure that negligent drivers are held to account, so it is also up to all of us as citizens to urge our elected representatives to spend public money in a manner that reflects Portland’s commitment to a healthy and safe lifestyle that accommodates all forms of transportation.

The Oregonian: Pedestrian Deaths: Federal transportation bill bypasses local safety concerns