Every two years, the City Council goes through the exercise of deciding on what goals they'll adopt and then aligns their spending priorities to those goals. Sure, goals to increase active transportation have made the cut before, but not much has tangibly changed on the ground. Heck, in the 2015-2017 goals, the best we could do was to get a bullet-point mention to, "Promote multi-modal transportation options." This go round, we aimed to change that. While we did not get everything we would have wanted, this budget cycle realized a major milestone for us and the community with just about $1 Million slated for the development of greenways. Below is a timeline on how everything played out.
Here's what we did
This two year cycle presented us with the opportunity to get Bend's leadership to get serious about active transportation.
We put a call out to get folks to email Bend City Councilors about the need to make active transportation part of city's two year goals. We had a number of people heed the call. You can read more about it here.
We put out another call to action; this time asking people to come and speak to councilors in person. At the March 15th City Council meeting, a number of you who cared about a more bike-able and walkable Bend came speak during the public comment period of the session. After the meeting, we learned that your chorus of voices enabled City staffers to recommend a transportation package that included significant commitments to walking and biking especially in under-served corridors. That package came to be known as Option 3 or the 'blended approach.' Scroll through the powerpoint below for details. That blended approach option was provisionally adopted by Councilors in a 4 to 3 vote. While that was an encouraging vote, it felt like a tenuous win.
To demonstrate support for the 'blended approach' package, we started a petition drive we called 'Sign for Your Lane' which helped us gather almost 500 signatures and video testimony to present during May's budget committee meetings.
We presented those signatures and a map of signatory's locations in Bend along with a 5 minute video to the assembled budget committee on the 11th.
What did it net us?
After our presentation, we learned that committee members decided on and voted to enact a different transportation package; one which hadn't been publicly discussed. This new fourth option was not the one we'd lobbied for. It did not maintain funding for implementation of complete streets along NE 8th and Wilson Avenues. It also removed funding to make NW Galveston more pedestrian friendly. Those three projects still have funds allocated for important design work, but to see those elements removed stung. There will be new bike lanes and pedestrian crossings added along NE Purcell where it crosses the canal south of NE Empire Blvd. To be sure, that change along with new roundabouts in the same quadrant of Bend are much needed. However, what's most exciting for us is the fact neighborhood greenways will still receive $1 Million. (What's a greenway? Click here to learn more.)
This marks the first time the city has dedicated that much money to greenways and could signal a significant shift in the way our local policy makers think of transportation. It's something we'd hoped for but were afraid to think possible when we first started Bend Bikes. With your support (emails to councilors, video'd and live testimony, and signatures), a little bit of history was made.
Also included in the adopted package was shifting a significant portion of the $35 Million available towards designing both the proposed Empire Extension and a Murphy Road connector to NE 15th. (See the powerpoint above for details.) Bend Mayor Casey Roats came and spoke to us about these changes at a recent board meeting. A large portion of the Mayor's strategy behind negotiating the fourth option was to setup a potential 2019 transportation bond measure. His hope is that demonstrating progress on those two large east side roadways will encourage support for a possible bond. At his invitation, we plan on playing a role in the formation of the bond to ensure meaningful active transportation enhancements to city infrastructure.
A 2019 transportation bond could be a watershed remembered as the catalyst that helped change the dynamic in town in favor of active transportation. Stay tuned with how you can help ensure that it does.