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Bikes left out of fuel reduction article

Posted by on March 7th, 2007 at 4:28 pm

For some reason, an Oregonian article published today about a Portland City Council resolution calling for 50% cut in fuel consumption by 2030 makes no mention of bicycles.

The article was written by Stephen Beaven and has quotes from Commissioner Sam Adams, who usually never misses a chance to relay the benefits of biking. As I read it, I kept waiting for him to mention bicycle use as the perfect way to cut Portland’s fuel consumption.

Gareth Parker memorial ride
[City Commissioner
Sam Adams.]

From the article:

“Commissioner Sam Adams said the future of fossil fuel requires a fresh approach.

“We need to find a new way to maintain the mobility of the city,” Adams said, “given that oil costs are going to go through the roof.””

At that point, I thought for sure the next sentence would mention bikes. I was wrong,

“Adams sees a bigger investment in mass transit to limit one-person car commuters. That could mean expanded streetcar lines, more marketing for car pools or more buses. It could also mean a freeway toll lane.”

The cycling snub did not go unnoticed on the Shift email list. Patrick Finley forwarded it with the comment,

“Will somebody tell Stephen and Sam about bicycles already!? Better than burning less oil is burning no oil at all.”

To which list subscriber Matt Picio replied:

“Sam, at least, is well aware of bicycles…The problem is that people believe that bikes get a much larger share of the pie, and at least right now, talking about increasing bike infrastructure just doesn’t resonate with the general public. If Sam really is trying to be Mayor, then good luck getting him to even mention bikes in non-bike-specific media.”

I’m not sure if this was a conscious political move by Adams, or if he just assumes that bike advocates are already so effective that they don’t need any more help (not true).

It’s also well-known that the business and freight communities in Portland are very influential and unfortunately, sometimes anti-bike.

Has bicycling in Portland become a divisive issue that Adams is trying to distance himself from publicly?

Nah. I’m just overreacting and it was a simple oversight, right?

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Comments
  • peejay March 7, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Why does the Oregonian hate bicycles? We’ve already heard that a number of its staff are avid bike commuters, so it must be the same sort of psychosis that affects most mainstream media: most reporters are liberals, but the overwhelming slant of the media is conservative. It doesn’t matter who works there – it’s who pays the bills. And the Oregonian is owned by a bunch of people who obviously don’t want to get out of their Mercedeses any time soon. Their employees have to toe the line if they want to keep their jobs.

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  • Evan Manvel, BTA March 7, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Just because it wasn’t in the article doesn’t mean Sam didn’t say it. It’d be nice to know if he said it, but…

    And the Oregonian doesn’t hate bicycles — far from it. Their editorial board published a big pro-bike Platinum editorial in 2005, and a pro-bike business editorial last year. They have many bike-friendly reporters and photographers, and get more bike coverage than most any other paper in the country.

    That said, there are times the reporters need to be reminded of the bike angle — even if we’re just 4% of the mode share right now, in some neighborhoods we’re over 10%.

    Send the reporters notes after they write articles.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 7, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Man, I have to say, and it pains me to do so: The Oregonian is a bad paper. It’s just not very good. I will forego discussion of the three big stories that demonstrate their failures to seize the headlines in Portland. But I will say that they cannot hold a candle to the Seattle Times … for coverage of Oregon. Sad.

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  • Randy March 7, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Oops. Maybe the O. needs a program to reward employee’s who go carless. An in-house consciousness raising might get more bikes in print. The o. is finally beginning to write about air pollution in Portland. Maybe soon they’ll discover the zero-emission transporters we love.

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  • Brian E. March 7, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    I came away with something totally different when I read the article. Cutting oil and natural gas was the goal mentioned. I latched onto “natural gas” because so much of it seems to be wasted heating public places like schools, offices, and homes. I’d like to know what the comparrison is between gas used in a car and natural gas used for heating (home and office). Personally, I’d guess natural gas is atleast 2X more per year, in reguards to dollars spent.

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  • Adam8 March 7, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    I’d say it’s more likely that Beaven simply left any quotes regarding bikes out of his article. This _IS_ the same guy who writes that horrible weekly transportation column right? He’s been consistently anti-bike and especially anti-messenger in that column. And I’m pretty sure he almost rolled over me in his SUV once. That guy’s a jerk.
    ~Adam

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  • Donald March 7, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    I’m not sure I understand the beef here: This was news, not editorial. The reporter was reporting the incidences of a public meeting.

    Do you want the reporter to invent a topic that wasn’t raised?

    Why hold the messenger reponsible?

    News and editorial are different departments and when you expect an editorial slant on your reporting, well, I guess you’ll get the press that you deserve.

    I think it’s folly expect affirmation in your local news. Expect a good diary of what’s being done and what’s being said. Mr. Beaven had no repsponsiblitly to mention bikes other than what may have been mentioned at the meeting. To expect otherwise is to expect a media that answers to the whim of any special interest.

    Growl all you want, but don’t expect the reporter to make things up.

    _DA

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  • Donald March 7, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    I’m not sure I understand the beef here: This was news, not editorial. The reporter was reporting the incidences of a public meeting.

    Do you want the reporter to invent a topic that wasn’t raised?

    Why hold the messenger reponsible?

    News and editorial are different departments and when you expect an editorial slant on your reporting, well, I guess you’ll get the press that you deserve.

    I think it’s folly expect affirmation in your local news. Expect a good diary of what’s being done and what’s being said. Mr. Beaven had no repsponsiblitly to mention bikes other than what may have been mentioned at the meeting. To expect otherwise is to expect a media that answers to the whim of any special interest.

    Growl all you want, but don’t expect the reporter to make things up.

    _DA

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  • nuovorecord March 7, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    What continues to frustrate me in the related discussions about Peak Oil and Climate Change is that no one in a high position of leadership has the cojones to suggest that maybe Americans need to (gasp!) change their own personal habits. There’s all this hope of biofuels and other alternative energy sources stepping in as a replacement for petroleum. But no one, save the bloggers, is really out there saying “We all need to use less energy, regardless of what kind, starting right now.” Ted K., for all the good work he’s done in this area, hasn’t really come out with this message, nor have any of the presidential candidates thus far.

    Bicycling has such great potential in this regard. Here in Portland, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is possible for changing people’s travel behavior. I know Sam is a huge advocate for bikes, but it would have been nice to have heard him deliver a strong message about the importance of everyone changing even one trip a week from a car to a bike or walking. That simple act alone would go a long way to reaching the 50 percent goal.

    I know that for some, it might be difficult to change one trip a week, but then again, it was hard to put a man on the moon. We’re only limited by our vision of what’s possible.

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  • Dabby March 7, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    It became very apparent to me why bicycles were not mentioned in this article partway through reading the above passages.
    Stephen Beaven does not like bikes!
    This has been very apparent in many of his articles, in a column which if I remember correctly is called the “Backseat”.
    I have responded to him about them with letters, which, I will admit, were personally answered by him, and with taste.
    He writes about commuter issues , and driving issues, and has in the past lamblasted messengers, and bicycles in general, on a regular basis.
    The last one I remember was ironically relating to the fact that he saw a female messenger riding , and actually “wearing” a helmet.
    In the beginning of his article, he stated that he wanted to stop her and thank her for being brave enough to wear a helmet, but felt she would be made fun of by other messengers for wearing one.
    Even a simple dig like that shows his attitude towards cycling, and sharing the space we have downtown.
    Is this really a person we want writing an article about fuel reduction anyway?
    And, is this someone we should even pay attention to in the first place?

    Whether Sam Adams mentioned it or not, Stephen certainly would conveinently leave it out of his article.

    I believe that good ole Stephen Beavin’ should be kicked in the back seat, and out of the already apparently corrupt Oregonian all together!

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  • Donald March 7, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Dabby,

    I will admit that the “Back Seat” section of the Oregonian rubs me the wrong way. I find its churlishness out of step with the seriousness of its topic.

    I gave up a great job in part because the commute from NoPo to LoOs was eating me alive and it always drove me crazy that precious inches of the daily news were being wasted on Beaven’s sophomoric rants. I would expect this in an “alternative weekly” but it always seemed to me to be out of place in a daily paper of record.

    That said, I stand by my assertion that in this situation Mr. Beaven was reporting the instance as it happened and to expect him to construct a convenient reality is misguided.

    I feel this is indicative of the error media outlets make when they ask individuals to be both columnists and reporters.

    The fight is not with the reporter or the conveyance. The battle rests elsewhere.

    _DA

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 7, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    nuovorecord is right!

    And Donald, nobody is suggesting a gratuitous partisan plug for bikes — much less that the reporter “invent” something. Jeez. All people are asking is that members of the media do their job and raise obvious questions. If old Beavis is only supposed to print the minutes of the meeting, then he is simply the group secretary and not a journalist. These people have a responsibility to consider issues such as this, especially in this town!

    The Oregonian sucks. It’s a second-rate paper. It doesn’t even get the scoops in its hometown — and it’s the ONLY daily — much less the rest of the state.

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  • Donald March 7, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    AO, thanks for the insight, but I’m sticking to my guns here. Nobody should expect advocacy from The Oregonian.

    I stand by my assertion: Mr Beaven was sent to record the happenings of a meeting. He shouldn’t be expected to add editorial content. If you want to diminish his work (and that of secretaries in general), then that’s on you. But he wasn’t sent there to editorilize. He was sent to report.

    If the reporting isn’t to your liking, then your argument isn’t with the reporter, it’s with the meeting and the people who attended it.

    Mr. Beaven is in an awkward position because his paper has assigned him the duty of being both reporter and commentator. I fault them for that.

    But I feel that when you say this paper “sucks” I could just as well say “lawyers suck and they are the reason health care in this country is beyond the reach of the common customer.”

    It might strike a chord, but it wouldn’t be true.

    It’s not the reporter’s job to raise the questions. It’s the editorial board’s job to do that. I’m smart enough to draw my own conclusions. When the reporters start drawing the conclusions on behalf of a described agenda, we call it something altogether different.

    _DA

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  • DK March 8, 2007 at 8:23 am

    Go Sam – go. Use your conservative alter ego on this one. But when you shake the money tree enough to get you into the mayors’ seat, come back to the side of the open-minded, clean riding bike brigade. Good job disguising your true feelings on the fossil fuel “scare”.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 8, 2007 at 9:14 am

    “It’s not the reporter’s job to raise the questions.”

    I must respectfully disagree here. That is well within the job descriptions of all reporters. There is a bright line distinction between raising questions and editorializing or drawing conclusions or advocating. Nobody is suggesting Beavis do the latter.

    I would go so far as to say that the idea that one can simply convey what happened at an event with complete objectivity and with no role, however small, for one’s personal identity and perspective on the world is nothing more than a fiction. This can be seen in something as simple as the individual nature of word choice. I think all serious scholars of journalism would agree with me.

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  • Coyote March 8, 2007 at 9:26 am

    J. Maus said: “Has bicycling in Portland become a divisive issue that Adams is trying to distance himself from publicly? ”

    Jonathon, it is your question and you are a journalist. Go ask him. Even a non response would bring some enlightenment.

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  • ridealot March 8, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Wow it is like the article goes out of it’s way not to mention walking and bike riding as possible solutions to transportation problems. Even while pointing out that lifestyle changes are going to be needed.

    Anyway, I really think it is media’s job to ask hard questions and get actual answers. Not just spew the crap stories they hear. I want thought provoking reporting not to be told what some politician thinks we want to hear.

    If a journalist does not understand the topic, or care to explore it,they should step away. At the very least Mr Beaven should have looked at what things are working in other cities around the world and asked about those topics.

    Does anybody really think the world would be better off if we could keep the current transportation system and power it 100% by corn?? When is this country going to start wake up and start questioning the car culture? Oil is one part of the car culture problem.

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  • Meghan March 8, 2007 at 10:12 am

    I sent an email to Mr. Beaven to let him know that bikes cut fossil fuel emissions, and that it was too bad our elected officials don’t give making bicycling safer more than lip service. I did get an email back from him shortly — and this is what he said:
    “Yes! Yes! They’ve got plans for encouraging more bike commuting! I promise.
    But in a story about a 60-some-page report, I can’t hit every topic. I’ll
    try to address that in the next back seat column.”

    So there you have it, from the reporter’s mouth…

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  • Brad March 8, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Cripes! Some of you are acting like second graders miffed over not getting a gold star from the teacher.

    The article mentions that the report lists eleven ideas for meeting the goal. Perhaps more bike use is mentioned in the report? In any event, the reporter (or his editor) likely chose to focus on the “sexier” big ticket items that will impact the most citizens. I seriously doubt some evil cabal of journalists sit around at the Big O cackling about their latest scheme to annoy cyclists. Then again, if we keep whining about every perceived slight real or imagined, we will be easily marginalized as nothing more than petty attention whores. ( I am also willing to bet that a good number of passionate bike activists probably don’t even bother to vote – just a feeling I get.)

    The city is moving in the right direction and is years ahead of other American metropolises. Let’s endeavor to keep improving it but in a pragmatic and realistic manner. And for God’s sake stop acting like scorned children because the word “bike” doesn’t appear in a freakin’ news article.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 8, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Thanks for the lecture, Brad. And for the speculation on why cycling was left out of the article. Is it OK with you if we continue discussing it?

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  • Brad March 8, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Sure. Until “The Man” mandates helmet usage and redundant brakes on fixies – it is still a free country.

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  • Cecil March 8, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    This is only slightly off-topic, but speaking of Oregonian articles about bicycles (of which there have actually been quite a few lately), there was a positive one on Monday re: Cleveland High School students who “bike pool” to school. I enjoyed it very much until I got to this part:

    “Making their way along Southeast Lincoln Street, past Division and over to Clinton, the group sets a leisurely pace. Riding with their hands in their pockets, they fill out an entire lane, prompting a car or two to maneuver around them.”

    I hope they were at least wearing helmets :-)

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  • Patrick March 8, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Reminds me of a recent article in the NY Times about a move to limit Pedicabs. You’d think in that city for sure they would want any alternative to burning fuel.

    I also find it weird that PDX wouldn’t mention bikes as an alternative.

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  • 'Jefe March 8, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    The Oregonian is listed as being a titanium (highest)level sponsor of the BTA.

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  • Macaroni March 8, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Post #1: cars of preference are Corvette and Porsche

    Publisher Fred Stickel, old fart, resents providing the “free” small lockup for bikes in the O’s garage.

    The O does not support BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge. An employee cannot even post anything about it in the building because the Oregonian does not allow posting of anything they do not a sponsor. Look for the Oregonian on the list of participating employers and you will not see them. Management couldn’t care less about bike commuting despite the fact that a lot of employees bike to work.

    The O does not provide employees with transit passes although most employees do not even live in Portland.

    The Portland Metro section of the paper is now about 1-1/2 pages whereas it used to be a whole section of its own. And the O has pathetic national coverage, no national reporters – everything is from the AP or some other news source – probably whichever is cheapest.

    Newspapers are struggling, but the O has really gone downhill.

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  • sheldon March 9, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Well, there is an alternative to ranting about the O’s coverage. Has anybody contacted the task force and see to what extent bicycling infrastructure is part of the plan to cut fuel use? I’d urge you to contact Michael Armstrong, who is co-ordinating the task force. He also happens to be a regular bike commuter.

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