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60,000 free bike maps: A look at Transportation Options' survey results

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 28th, 2009 at 9:06 am

Behind the scenes at SmartTrips
The Options Division are
the ones who deliver the
SmartTrips packets to
your door by bike.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Transportation Options Division inside the Bureau of Transportation is a key piece of Portland's success as a sustainable city. "Options" (as it's known around here) is the marketing arm of the city's transportation program and there the ones you see at street fairs and hundreds of events throughout the year. Their mission is to provide information, resources and tools to encourage Portlanders to, "make good choices about how to get around."

One of their primary responsibilities is to send out bike maps and other bike information whenever someone requests it. When I moved to Portland in 2005 (totally unaware of the institutional support for biking in this city) I surfed the City website and found the Options page. Wanting to know how to get around by bike, I filled out a request for some free bike maps (now they have this handy online form).

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I was shocked, pleased, and amazed when a few days later, a package full of stickers, fridge magnets, maps, and brochures arrived. Tucked inside was a hand-written note thanking me for choosing to ride.

PDOT's new bandanna bike map
PBOT's bike map even comes on a bandanna.

According to Options staffer Jeff Smith, last year 2,439 people made a similar request. After sending out the goods, Options followed up with an online survey. This week, they released the results of the 753 people that responded to that survey. Here are a few highlights:

    -- 88% said that the information and maps they received were "very helpful".

    -- In 2008, the Options Divison sent out 60,000 bike maps and safe cycling guides.

    -- 23% of the 753 survey respondents "just moved to Portland area". Of those recent transplants, 33% of them said Portland's bike-friendliness was "a major factor" in their decision to move here (and another 29% said it was "a minor factor". Bike-friendliness was a factor in 62% of people's decisions to move here.)

    -- 71 survey respondents were just visiting Portland. Of those, 78% said Portland's bike-friendliness was a factor in their decision to visit.

I have long been curious how many new residents move here because of our biking reputation. I hear about it all the time, so it's interesting to see some actual numbers. It's also good that the City has at least a base level of statistical proof of how our bike-friendliness is turning into tourism dollars (53% of visitors surveyed said biking was a "major factor" in coming and they spent an average of four days here).

To view the complete survey results or if you want more information, get in touch with Jeff Smith at Transportation Options: jeff.smith@pdxtrans.org or (503) 823-7083.

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Comments
  • Lenny Anderson January 28, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Options should be at the center of PDOT's work...they help more people get around town without generating more motorized travel.

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  • dsaxena January 28, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Not to be a pedantic statistical party-pooper, but since the initial request for bike info and the follow-up survey are opt-inn the data only speaks for those who self-selected to take the survey and is not an accurate representation of Portlanders.

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  • Paul Tay January 28, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Schweet. Bandana map! Watch out PDX. Tulsa's takin' NOTES.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 28, 2009 at 9:48 am

    "...survey and is not an accurate representation of Portlanders."

    dsaxena,

    Just to clarify, I never said it was an accurate representation. I am just presenting the numbers for what they are.

    thanks.

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  • Jordan January 28, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Bring it on Tulsa! Can you imagine what great things cities will create if there was a friendly rivalry between cities over bicycle infrastructure. Like the Cold War only cooler. We could call it the Cooler War. Bicycle battle...go!

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  • Jr January 28, 2009 at 10:14 am

    These maps changed my life! I would say for certain that having them was what finally got me out of my car and onto my bike. I grew up in Portland and had tried many times throughout my life to commute by bike but always gave up because I wasn't comfortable with the routes I had chosen (of course I was choosing the same routes I would drive because they were familiar). I found if I could find a safe route to my destination on those maps I was more confident to ride. Now I drive my car about once a month and have been riding regularly for years. And best of all they were free! I pick them up for friends and coworkers hoping it will help them get in the saddle as well.

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  • Bob January 28, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Portland's Transportation Options folks have a great reputation in the planning/transportation world. Something as simple as including a personalized note with the information is an awesome encouragement to new riders. Keep up the good work!

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  • Skeptical January 28, 2009 at 10:18 am

    dsanexa is absolutely right. We're being constantly barraged with pretend statistics that represent or exaggerate the success of various programs. G W Bush used it to scare us into war in Iraq. The Oregon DOT is using make-believe statistics claiming the fuel economy is causing a signficant decline in gas tax revenues to inflict a whole new system on us to collect the same amount of revenue (at a substantial increase in administrative costs). And various parties are exaggerating the success of bicycle and pedestrian programs. (There are successes, but we need not exaggerate them!) The philosophy seems to be based on a common belief that if you say something often enough and loudly enough that it becomes true.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 28, 2009 at 10:22 am

    "We're being constantly barraged with pretend statistics that represent or exaggerate the success of various programs."

    I have presented results from a survey. That's it. I don't see how this is part of a "constant barrage". Also, these are not "pretend statistics". They are obviously not life-changing or vastly important in any major way... but they are real.

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  • ignatz January 28, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Add two more (starting March 1) moving there because of the bike friendliness.

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  • Bent Bloke January 28, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Oooh! Where can I get one of those bandanas? Didn't see it on they're order form. Any bike shops sell that?

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  • Jeff Smith, PBot Options January 28, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Let me try to clarify who was surveyed:

    During 2008, Options received 2,439 on-line requests for bike maps and information. These requests were separate from our annual SmartTrips outreach program, which contacts 20,000+ Portland households in a specific geographic area. The 2,439 requests came from all over the place: mostly Portland metro area, but also Oregon, the US, and international. We also had about 500 or so phone requests, but didn't survey these people.

    We contacted the on-line folks with an appeal to complete an on-line survey, and about 30% (753 total) responded by completing the survey. Definitely self-selecting, no question there. Still, the results are interesting and I think the survey was set up so as to allow for opportunities for negative as well as positive feedback.

    If you're *really* curious, you can follow this link and play with the test survey (should function the same as the real one):

    http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/survey-intro.zgi?p=WEB228NFGBF5TF

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  • Martha R January 28, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Lest you think that the PBOT staff are the only ones eligible to help introduce people to bicycling in Portland, you, too can be a part of it as a volunteer. I've volunteered as an "Options Ambassador" to help Timo and Janis lead bike rides and hand out information at street fairs and it's been a lot of fun. It's so gratifying to help others become more comfortable riding around town and to see it dawn on new riders that there are really great bike routes that are totally different from the great car routes. The rides are fun, too! The Options program is super!

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  • glenzedrine January 28, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Bike-friendliness was a big factor for me a year ago, but I agree that the statistics are fairly meaningless. Still, I sure like that bandana!

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  • Paul Tay January 28, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Jordan, #5, Tulsa already has beaten PDX with the infrastructure. Within City limits, Tulsa has OVER 1,500 miles of bike lanes. Biker Fox lives in Tulsa. We even have Fiker Box!

    No need for bike maps in Tulsa. But, parking could be much improved.

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  • April January 28, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Oh man! I want one of those bandanas!

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  • peejay January 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Ewwwww, I clicked on Mr Tay's links. More soap for the eyes, please.

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  • Paul Tay January 28, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Enjoy 'em, peejay! Suckaaaaaaaaaa! :-P

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  • janis January 28, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    As Martha said...being an Options Ambassador has its perks -- a small one being the bandana.

    Want to help lead guided walks or bike rides, or table at community events and share the love for alternative transportation? Feel free to email me if you want more information.

    Cheers, Janis
    janis.mcdonald@pdxtrans.org

    Adam likes to ride bikes.

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  • Boo Boo January 29, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Kind if interesting, but I would concur with desaxena #2, that these high percentages that Jonathan bolds in his story are of minor interest. They in no way have any statistical relevance nor do they even reflect the biking community at large (let alone the general population). They are simply results from a self-selecting group of people who chose to fill out an online survey. Kind of like the useless online T.V. station "polls". Don't read into these numbers, or make decisions based on them.

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  • Abbey January 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

    What's up with the statistics police? I've actually used the service and the maps are very useful and helpful. We're not talking about war or people suffering. We're just talking about friendly people trying to help others familiarize themselves with the local bike routes. You don't need a $20,000 scientific study with scientifically representative samples and control groups to answer the question "are these maps helpful?". Chill out!

    Also, I love that Bandanna! Where can I get one?

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  • Dan February 11, 2009 at 12:04 am

    please tell me where i can find one of those bandannas?

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