Monday, June 10, 2013

Local op-ed :No Turning Back

On May 29, 2013 the City Club of Portland released the “No Turning Back” report, a comprehensive examination of biking in Portland. Among other claims, the report insists that “biking is essential to continued growth in Portland’s local economy and overall quality of life”. With the findings the com
mittee proposed a 4 percent excise tax on new bicycles sold in Oregon, proposing the money be put into bike safety programs, rather than building new bike lanes, greenways, and cycle tracks. The proposals encourage Portland to pursue funding bicycle infrastructure from outside sources, as long as it promotes bike safety. (City Club of Portland)
The recommendations made by the club are important as they suggest further improvements be made to the safety of biking, as well as the integration of bike transportation into future Portland plans. Portland should invest more in bicycle safety programs, but forcing people to pay tax on new bikes is not the way the program should be funded. Monies allocated on the sale of new items should be going to fund the use of the item over time. If the aim is to improve bike safety, money should be placed into making infrastructure safer for those using the bike, i.e. building new bike lanes, cycle tracks, greenways. Informing people on how to bikesafe is not enough to encourage them to bike. They must have more exposure, and have it be made more accessible
Promoting biking as a safe and practical means of transportation is not an easy task. Studies have suggested that multi-pronged strategies are most effective at creating change (promotional campaigns, along with changes in physical infrastructure) have the greatest effect in creating change in transportation habits (Ogilvie et al, 2007; Yang et al. 2010). Further studies relate concerns about traffic and lack of adequate and safe infrastructure as the major impediment to the use of bicycles. A  2003 study indicated one percent increase in the length of on street bicycle lanes was associated with a 3.1% increase in bicycle commuters (Dill and Carr 770). There is no doubt that the built environment plays a major role in peoples perception of bike safety. In survey conducted on bicyclists and percieved levels of service, bicyclists suggested “poor surface conditions tended to strongly affect the level of service; good surface conditions played a lesser role (Landis, Vattikuti, and Brannick 125).

As a someone new to biking, I argue that the lack of bike lanes, parkways, etc, kept me from biking for a long time. Most people are scared of biking because they are intimated to ride around vehicle traffic. If we want to more people to bike, there must improvements and expansions need to be made to make bikers feel comfortable. The more people who ride, the more likely their friends who were once reluctant to ride will join in.

de Nazelle, A. et al. (2011). Improving Health Through Policies That
Promote Active Travel: A Review of Evidence to Support Integrated
Health Impact Assessment. Environment International. 37. 766-777.

Landis, Bruce W., Venkat R. Vattikuti, and Michael T. Brannick. "Real-Time Human Perceptions Toward a Bicycle Level of Service." Transportation Research Record (1997): 119-25. Web.

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