The Oregon Department of Transportation has come up with the draft of its new Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan, and it has asked for further public comment. To me the plan is similar to the much-ballyhooed Paris climate accord in this respect: Lots of words but no action to bring about a particular result.
In the first place, why bundle cycling and walking in the same plan? Unless you are pushing your bike because it has a flat, walking and cycling are fundamentally different and mutually exclusive ways of locomotion. On designated paths, walkers interfere with cyclists, and cyclists are a risk to people moving on foot. That’s why cities usually prohibit bikes on busy sidewalks.
You may think it’s nice that the state would want to plan so people can get places on bikes and on foot. But you’d be disappointed, because as ODOT says in an invitation to an open house in Portland Monday night: “The plan does not address specific projects.”
Instead, it fills page after page with the windy language of the modern bureaucratic state. You get a taste from the opening of the “executive summary.” The plan, according to the introduction, “creates a policy foundation for the state, supporting decision-making for walking and biking investments, strategies, and program. … The walking and biking direction established in this plan helps bring about an interconnected, robust, efficient and safe transportation system for Oregon.”
No it doesn’t. It doesn’t create anything other than 82 pages of handsome photos, graphics and statements of the obvious (“Walking and biking are essential modes of travel,” for example) and self-evident goals, listed as safety, accessibility and connectivity, mobility and efficiency, community and economic vitality, equity, health, sustainability, strategic investment, coordination, cooperation and collaboration. Who could possibly want anything other than those?
Plans don’t write themselves, though a plan-making software program could have produced this one. In our government, plans like this require the work of any number of staffers and paid consultants, plus volunteers on assorted committees to advise and review. This costs money, effort and time, all of which could be better spent on real-world steps to improve the efficiency and safety of our walking paths, bikeways and roads. (hh)