Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on August 3rd, 2009 at 11:57 am
The Summer 2009 issue of Portland State University’s Metroscape magazine features a cover story titled, “Bike Wars: Hostile forces — drivers and riders — go wheel to wheel in the streets. Can’t we all just get along?”
The 17-year old magazine is published twice yearly by PSU’s Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies. The Bike Wars article was written by a freelancer named Kyle Cassidy. In it, he claims that as bike use has skyrocketed in Portland, so have feelings of tension between people in cars and on bikes.
Here’s an excerpt from Cassidy’s introduction:
“Portland boasts the nation’s highest percentage of workers who commute by bike — eight-times the national average — and much to the chagrin of many motorists, that number is growing.
… with the economy in the tank and gas prices soaring, more and more commuters are choosing the pedal over the pump, resulting in increased tension between bicyclists and motorists and dangerously
crowded roadways that are unequipped to manage the different modes of transportation.”
Not surprisingly, in this city with such a high bike I.Q. and a hyper-awareness of transportation issues, the article has created a bit of controversy.
“The most controversial article ever to appear in the magazine… It has received both praise for calling attention to a looming problem and disapproval for factual inaccuracy.”
— Craig Wollner, Editor-in-chief of Metroscape
The magazine’s editor, Craig Wollner noted that it has been, “The most controversial article ever to appear in the magazine… It has received both praise for calling attention to a looming problem and disapproval for factual inaccuracy.”
In order to try and stem the tide of controversy, Wollner withheld publishing the article online until a response could be written. When the Bike Wars article went online a few days ago, Wollner published alongside it a detailed, two-page “unbiased opinion” by noted bicycle researcher and PSU Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Jennifer Dill.
In her response, Dill writes that the article raises, “important questions about building facilities that will reduce conflicts and improve safety.” However, Dill says that Cassidy’s assertions that tensions are on the rise are based on “drawing conclusions from anecdotes of conflict recently appearing in the media.” Dill is referring to the infamous bike/car road rage media frenzy by The Oregonian in the summer of 2008 and by a few other road rage incidents from around the globe that caught the media’s attention.
In her response, Dill points out that between 1996 and 2007, bike traffic across Portland’s downtown bridges increased 400%, but that over the same time, bike crashes only went up by 20% (from 155 to 186). She writes:
“One potential reason for this relationship is that as more people bicycle, motorists become more aware and watch out more for bicycles. In addition, more motorists may be bicyclists themselves, making them more cautious when they drive.”
You can download Cassidy’s article (which, despite it’s unfortunate premise, is an interesting, in-depth look into Portland’s transportation infrastructure) and read Dill’s response here.