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Portland promotes urban cycling, but costs will be high

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Some ideas — licensing and registration fees for bicyclists, a citywide sales tax on new bikes and advertising in bike lanes — would target just cyclists. But a proposed "green transportation" bond would ask everyone to pay.

Even with the economy dragging, the bike plan is optimistic about property-tax increases because "Portland residents have repeatedly shown strong support for funding sustainable or green spaces initiatives."

With hope, some city officials point to Washington County. There, voters have repeatedly approved new property taxes to build 123 miles of bike lanes through the Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program. Of course, that 25-year-old road tax has always benefited more than one mode of commuting.

From the widening of Oleson Road to the Verboort roundabout, every improvement includes sidewalks for pedestrians and bike lanes (or at least wider shoulders) for cyclists. "Everyone chips in," says county spokeswoman Anne Madden, "and everyone benefits."

By 2012, the Washington County program's $555 million in property-tax revenue is expected to have completed 111 projects on what were narrow farming roads a century ago.

By contrast, the 2030 Portland Bike Plan for the most part calls for separate funding sources for two-wheeled commuters.

Portland's first Bicycle Master Plan was adopted in 1996. With only modest investment, the bicycle network has since doubled to more than 300 miles, and bike commuting has boomed.

Last fall, the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey data showed 6.4 percent of Portlanders reported bicycling to work in 2008, a big jump from 4 percent the year before.

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