$1.2 billion extra for Portland people through bicycle plan

People in Portland, Oregon, were saving about $1.2b a year because of the city’s bike program, according to Roger Geller, Bicycle Co-ordinator in the city in the US.

Mr Geller said Portland proved that there was “safety in numbers”.  It was four times safer to ride now, despite the huge increase in riders on the road.

The city has 500km of bikes paths, which is being expanded to 1550 km. The future networks would have an emphasis on comfort and safety and the strategy was to attract the people who were not yet riding.

Portland can build 300km of bike infrastructure for the cost of one kilometre of freeway, he told a Bike Futures conference in Australia.

Portland’s reputation as the nation’s greenest city was regarded by many people as a sort of environmental hair-shirt and they claimed that Portlanders deprived themselves of prosperity in the name of saving the environment.

Sceptics viewed cycling, using public transport, housing density and urban growth boundaries as a kind of virtuous self-denial, well meaning but silly and uneconomic.

Critics saw the seeds of economic ruin and claimed that planning, policies and regulations that restricted use or access to resources impeded growth and lower household income.

Both the sceptics and the critics were wrong. Being green meant that Portlanders saved a bundle on cars and fuel and local residents had more money to spend on other things they value, which in turn stimulated the local economy.

Quoting figures from a report, Portland’s Green Dividend, Mr Geller said that the benefits showed in transport — just one of the areas where important policy choices had contributed to creating a distinctive Portland region.

Portland area residents travelled about 20 per cent fewer kilometres every day – 32.6 (20.3 miles) a day 2005 compared with 39 in the 33 most populous metro areas in the US.

And while Portland’s vehicle kilometres per person per day had been flat or declining after they peaked in 1996, in the other 33 big cities they had been increasing over the past decade.

The saving – 6.5km a day – might not seem like much but at the conservative estimate of 25¢/km to run a car the total saving in out of pocket savings in Portland worked out about $1.1 billion dollars per year or 1.5 per cent of all personal income earned in the region in 2005.

Other calculations on how people spent income – such as their homes, entertainment, dining out — showed that about $800m of the money Portlanders saved was spent in the region.

There also was the benefit to commuters of time saved, which commuters in surveys in Oregon estimated to be worth $15 an hour.  Portland residents spent 100 million fewer hours a year travelling – putting the economic value of time saved at $1.5 billion.

More than 60 per cent of metro Portland’s residents rated their transport system good or excellent, compared with only 35 per cent of Americans.

The Portland’s Green Dividend report was done for CEO’s for Cities by Joe Cortright, a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC who lives in Portland.  A copy of the report can be found at:


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