Nobody should deny Bend has a war on cars. The city’s Climate Action Steering Committee — set up to reduce fossil fuel use in Bend — recently discussed how to deal with the perception that such a thing exists. Here’s a suggestion for the committee. The first step on the road to recovery can be admitting the truth. Read this aloud over and over until it sinks in: Yes, Bend has had a war on cars.
War may be too strong a word, but there has been an ongoing attack. And the city hasn’t been sneaky about it.
Look back over the city’s planning documents and actions; it’s easy to see a steady effort to undermine the car. One of the more remarkable was in 2014, when city planners wholeheartedly embraced the perks of congestion. Congestion, yes! — is a good way to sum it up.
In the plans for what is now called Bend Central District, city staff advocated lowering speeds and narrowing Third Street, writing fondly of congestion’s benefits. Planners wrote that congestion would enable drivers to better see businesses and access them. That’s one way of looking at it. Is that the way most people in Bend think of congestion?
The attacks continued. Much of it revolved around parking. If parking is too inconvenient, costly or frustrating, cars lose. And in Bend there has been plan after plan. There was a proposal to start charging for parking downtown. There have been changes for new businesses, homes and apartments to be able to open with less parking. The city has discussed permitted parking for neighborhoods.
Just recently the city’s committee aiming to plot out Bend’s transportation future — the transportation advisory committee — brainstormed the following ideas: More bikes, fewer cars. Prioritize bike/pedestrians. Reduce number of vehicles on the road.
Of course, the impetus does not all come from city government or city committees. Statewide transportation rules have an outright goal of reducing miles traveled. There are also very good reasons for people to use alternative transportation or to fire up electric vehicles. But it doesn’t do anybody any good to deny the city promotes an anti-car vision. And if there’s some value in changing the perception, then maybe we should start by changing the reality.