The Oregonian’s article “Road to Ruin,” seems to hold up the City’s commitment to bicycle transportation as the poster child for misguided spending. This could not be farther from the truth.
As per the Oregonian’s own PolitiFact check , Portland’s entire bikeway network and all monies spent on education and promotion have cost around what it would take to build a single mile of urban freeway.
In the early 1990s, we had less than one percent of people riding to work. Today, it’s around 6% to 8%. Around 18% of Portlanders ride at least some of the time (Service, Efforts, and Accomplishments Survey (SEA) from the City Auditor, 2008), as high as 29% in some neighborhoods.
Per the Oregonian editorial of 2/12/12 (Biking the Path to Urban Health), bicycle use continues to rise, with more than 18,000 daily trips across the downtown bridges, accounting for more than 17% of the vehicles (full report here.)
The City’s Safe Routes to School program, has increased bicycling and walking to school to 38% of school commute trips in 25 schools. The City’s Smart Trips, Women on Bikes, and Sunday Parkways Programs, are all making a big difference for a tiny fraction of what we spend on motor vehicle movement. Bonus: improved air quality and health, and the creation of a growing, thriving $100,000,000 bike industry providing 1500 local, green jobs.
Cities all over the world look to Portland for its approach to balanced transportation, which proves that modest investments in bicycling pay off big time. Rather than the road to ruin, I’d call it the path to prosperity and one of – if not the – best bang for buck investments in Portland’s transportation history.