The Oregon Transportation Bill and What It Means For Families


A successful first ‘lobby night’ in Salem

This is a guest post by Shane MacRhodes, the former Safe Routes to School Program Manager for 4J. He now works as a stay-at-home parent, a League Cycling Instructor and an advocate in the For Every Kid Coalition.

Last night I took my three kids up to Portland to see the boring side of democracy in action. I kept them up way past their bedtime so they could sit next to me at the “Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization” as I advocated for a better transportation bill. We got there about 10 minutes after it started and had to sit in the overflow seating area and watch it projected on a screen. They lasted almost two hours of testimony playing cards and drawing before I had to break into screen time games around 7:30pm. After about a dozen bathroom or water runs it was finally our time to testify around 8 o’clock. This is basically what I said:

My name is Shane MacRhodes, this is my daughter Isadora, who is 8 years old, and my sons Gus and Ben who will be 7 in two weeks. We’re from Eugene and we’re here to ask for a better Transportation Bill 2017 that includes Safe Routes to School funding.

I am here with my family but I am also representing the 100’s of families who would like to be here but are actually getting their kids to bed on time. I’ll be paying for this on the late night drive home and tomorrow morning for sure.

As families who want to be able to walk and bike safely in our communities I ask that you work to create a bill that focuses more resources on better transportation options for everyone. One of the best ways to do this is to create a strong Safe Routes to School program in the bill simply by adopting the items already laid out in House Bill 3230. The way it is laid out now the transportation bill is not creating a true Safe Routes to School program that will get more families choosing healthy active transportation. To do that we need:

  • More than just infrastructure. To create the shift away from families driving their kids to school we need the essential education and encouragement programs that make up a SRTS program. Without them you only have 1/6 of the recipe for change. Granted it’s an important piece of the built environment but without the other parts you’re not really creating SRTS, you’re just fixing the infrastructure problems we’ve created in previous transportation bills.
  • More than a quarter mile. We’re not fixing the problem if we’re not looking at the whole system and addressing the issues that are within the whole ‘walk-shed’ for schools. The Oregon Department of Education funds 80% of transportation costs outside of 1 mile (for middle schools it is 1.5 miles) and districts pay the rest of that cost. We should be working to solve the safety issues within that one mile radius, not just .25 miles.
  • Prioritize and support Title One schools. We need to fix the problems where the needs are the greatest first. Equity is an important part of a strong Safe Routes to School program and Title One schools often have the most challenges with parent engagement, transportation, attendance, and academic achievement issues. Strong Safe Routes to School programs have been shown to help improve all of these issues.

On a typical morning my daughter rides the school bus (since we are 1.25 miles from the school), Ben rides his bike with me, and Gus walks with his mom to a different school. Other days we all bike. Some days it’s all bus or walk. We are lucky in that we live in an area that we have descent transportation options. However there are thousands of families in our community and around Oregon who aren’t as lucky as we are. For others getting to school is a challenge made of several barriers, many that we’ve built and paid for in previous transportation bills.  In our city we are lucky to have many people working to make Safe Routes a priority and we’ve seen the impact that a good solid program can have on encouraging and supporting more kids and families to walk and bike. However we aren’t going to make the kind of shift we need for healthier kids and better communities in our city or throughout Oregon until we fully fund a full Safe Routes to School program. If we continue to fund freeways and not fund a family-focused transportation system then we will not see the kind of change we need to see.

Finally, I wanted to make one final comment on the bike excise tax that is in this current bill.  There are more families choosing cargo bikes to be a car replacement. These cargo bikes can range from $1500 to $5000 (for e-assist). These families are helping to create safer and healthier communities and we need to be encouraging their transportation mode shift, not making it more expensive and difficult!  Also, some quality kids bikes can be as much as $500, the amount currently laid out in the bill for when the (sales) tax will kick in. I have three kids and the idea that the state would tax their bikes while I pay property taxes and taxes on the car that I rarely drive around town is ridiculous. We pay taxes equal to many people who drive much more than we do. We are paying more than our fare share and the idea that bikes aren’t paying their way is simply wrong.

We came here to ask that you work to make this bill a better one for families who want safe transportation options. Create a better SRTS part of the bill, prioritize safe streets for families, and don’t discourage cycling by charging a sales tax on a transportation option that is helping reduce negative impacts on our communities.

Cheesing it up in the Capitol


I did get the kids home super late but I think it was worth it. Representative Lively, who is the main sponsor of the Safe Routes to School Bill (HB3230) ran out after our testimony to thank us for coming up to Salem and though my kids didn’t speak I did see several Representative and Senators wave and smile at them. I think putting the (cute) faces of the people affected by their choices in front of them is important. 

 Please send your own written testimony this week so that the committee hears from more families on the need to fund a better SRTS program and to create a system that gives families better transportation options. And maybe attach a picture of your kid walking/biking in it too 🙂

Safe infrastructure and bike education are important. Let’s fund them!

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