Portland non-profit BikeLoud PDX plans to sue the Portland Bureau of Transportation for not building legally required cycling facilities when they did major road projects, a requirement outlined in ORS 365.514, a law known as the Oregon Bike Bill.
The bill was last tested in 1995 when the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (now The Street Trust) won a lawsuit against the City of Portland and forced PBOT to include bike lanes through the Rose Quarter.
Nearly 20 years later, another group of Portland advocates want the Bike Bill to have its day in court once again. BikeLoud PDX announced their plans at a meeting tonight. Scott Kocher, a lawyer with Forum Law Group who has won transportation-related lawsuits against PBOT in the past, will represent the non-profit.
“The suit seeks implementation of key improvements identified in the City’s Bicycle Plan where those improvements better serve current needs,” a BikeLoud press release states.
“Portland roads need safe facilities to reach our climate, community, equity, and safety goals for all road users.”
According to BikeLoud, there are “numerous locations where the city has failed since 1971 to provide safe and adequate places for people to ride and roll when streets were constructed, reconstructed or relocated.”
One of these locations – and a primary impetus for this lawsuit – is SE Hawthorne Blvd. Advocates wanted the city to include bike lanes in its Hawthorne ‘Pave and Paint’ project completed last year, but after a lot of back and forth, PBOT refused. Zach Katz, a former Portland resident and bike advocate who has since left the state, raised about $13,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to sue the city for its Hawthorne decision. That money will be used to fund BikeLoud’s suit, although they’ve decided to take on more than just Hawthorne.
BikeLoud volunteers say they have tried to petition the city to meet their needs in other ways without success. Because of these failed efforts, they’re turning to litigation.
“BikeLoud volunteers write letters, testify at hearings, meet with elected leaders, and take staff on policy rides because we are dedicated to serving people who are outside of cars who want to go places too,” the press release states. “We feel change is too slow coming when the need is so great.”
The plaintiffs-to-be are not looking for a financial settlement. They want the city to build the bike infrastructure they believe they’ve failed to provide in the past — or as close to it as possible.
This lawsuit has the potential to put BikeLoud in the spotlight in a new way, and members are ready for it. At a BikeLoud member meeting Wednesday night, the excitement was palpable through the Zoom screen. It’s clear members think this could provide the energy needed to reinvigorate biking in Portland.
“There’s a general feeling this city has lost some of its vision,” BikeLoud chair Kiel Johnson said at the meeting. “Bicycling doesn’t solve all the problems, but it does make things a little bit better. I think it’s a really important thing to advocate for.”
This is a breaking story and we’ll share more details soon.
Taylor has been BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org