Oregon Grows As Bike-Friendly State

Up the bike chart we go! Every year, the League of American Bicyclists releases a ranking of states’ friendliness to biking, and Oregon jumped from number five to number three in 2013. The rankings are released to give kudos for bike-ability strengths and provide suggestions for improvements, such as the need for better infrastructure.

“I think we have a growing culture in favor of active transportation, and that’s certainly to our advantage,” Sue Wolling of GEARs Advocacy says, and Eugene has a lot of opportunities to improve its biking infrastructure as it uses the roadwork bond measure. By making small improvements such as fixing sidewalks and striping in bike lanes when streets are repaved, she says, bicyclists and pedestrians will be safer and more likely to choose a healthier method of transportation that doesn’t add to traffic.

Oregon’s lowest point score was in the category of infrastructure and funding, where the state received two out of five points. “There’s no doubt that infrastructure funding has gotten progressively tighter,” Wolling says. “There have been some changes in federal laws and budgets are tight, and some of the sources that we used to be able to rely on to try to get grants for projects simply aren’t available any more.”

The state rankings are released with report cards that include feedback on how states can improve bike-ability. Oregon’s feedback includes the need to repeal too-complicated mandatory bike lane and side path laws, which mandate that cyclists ride in lanes and paths whenever available if a public hearing has been held to determine they are suitable for biking at reasonable speeds. The report also urges Oregon to work more on the implementation of “complete streets” that are usable for multiple modes of transportation.

Oregon’s report card says, “Since arterial and collector roads are the backbone of every transportation network, it is essential to provide adequate bicycle facilities along these roads.” Wolling says the opportunity to add bike lanes when the city repaves Willamette Street, a minor arterial, is “certainly a classic example of where we could make a huge step forward toward being bike-friendly and being people-friendly.” She says bike advocates need to show motorists and business owners that adding bike lanes isn’t an anti-car measure. “We need to try to work with them and help this become a win-win situation for everybody,” she says.

To see the full report card and rankings, go to http://wkly.ws/1gu.