Guest Article: Another big idea: Make driving less convenient

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 10th, 2010 at 9:32 am

[The following article was written by new executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Rob Sadowsky.]

Another big idea

"To make a significant dent in bicycling mode share in Portland...we need to take significant steps to limiting the convenience of driving a car."

I was excited to read the various 'Big Ideas' submitted to BikePortland, even my favorite -- the giant slide down Mt. Hood. To make a significant dent in bicycling mode share in Portland, and in the region, we need not only big bold infrastructure ideas, but we need to take significant steps to limiting the convenience of driving a car.

There are many reasons why Copenhagen has made such great strides in reducing car travel and increasing use of bicycling, walking and transit. They have developed wonderful facilities for active transportation. However, that wasn’t enough. They went the extra step and directly went after the convenience of driving.

The diagonal streets of Ladd's Addition.
Not convenient for driving; but a
great place to live and bike.

Imagine the neighborhood where you wake up in the morning in a bit of a rush. You think about the choices you have to get to work and realize that the only way to make your meeting in time is to bicycle. You know that if you get in your car, you’ll have to go the long way around the neighborhood to get out and your parking options downtown are limited and very expensive. If you bicycle, you’ll be able to park right in front of the office or perhaps you’re one of the growing workers who have indoor parking inside your office.

Residents of the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood in Southeast Portland already know that a helter-skelter street design doesn’t make the neighborhood less attractive, it does the opposite. Folks crave the opportunity to move in. Property values are consistently higher than surrounding neighborhoods.

We don’t need to redesign all of our streets to go diagonally to make this happen. We just need to develop significant traffic calming tools and divert traffic toward major arteries. We can change the traffic timing of our lights to make bicycling faster than cars. We can add congestion pricing and parking to our already congested areas. Plus, we need to take fees earned off congestion pricing and reinvest it in neighborhood design and transit options for all.

Of course this will take a great deal of political will. The great thing about the idea is that this will comes not from just bicyclists but neighbors who will benefit from quieter, cleaner and kid friendly design.

-- Sadowsky is moving to Portland at the end of June and is set to officially take over at the BTA on July 1st. For more on his advocacy style, read this recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

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  • Dave June 10, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Rob: it's definitely time we started going about this whole idea of re-designing how our streets work from a less-bicycle-centric point of origin...

    that is, we need to start making it clear that re-designing how our transportation systems work makes our neighborhoods more enjoyable, makes our children safer, makes our public space actually public, saves people money, saves lives, and - as means to those ends - makes it easier and more convenient to ride a bike or walk than to hop in a car for many trips.

    Cars are great, but they should be used primarily for trips where they are actually really useful over and above walking or biking. Making it less convenient to drive will help to bring things back to that point.

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  • Matthew June 10, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Hear, hear!

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  • BURR June 10, 2010 at 9:51 am

    we'd better off making driving more expensive and we could start by ending subsidies for motorists and making them to pay the full price for gasoline at the pump, including all the 'external' costs like environmental restoration, foreign oil wars, etc.

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 9:55 am

    "We can change the traffic timing of our lights to make bicycling faster than cars."

    I applaud your commitment to rebalancing the streets in favor of modes that don't rely on fossil fuels, but one thing to think about is whether speed should be the goal or something more comprehensive? Convenience is often assumed to adhere to cars, but I find the advantages of biking for me are less about speed than about the ease with which I can get places, the minimal investment in time and money I have to make in my vehicle, the fact that I can put the bike on Trimet or carry it up a set of stairs.
    I guess what I am saying is that I already find biking way more convenient than a car, but the trick is to nudge others toward discovering this for themselves. Sometimes it requires not having a car ready at hand. How about a car-free day a month? Reducing the cultural and infrastructural advantages cars presently enjoy is an important area to focus on, however, and for me cheap parking for cars rises to the top of that list.

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  • Allan June 10, 2010 at 10:12 am

    In my opinion, people need to simply think about the total costs of their choices. owning and insuring a bike costs maybe 50$/year in depreciation if its a nice bike, whereas owning and insuring a car costs ~ 2000$/year (0 miles driven). Add to that the fact that every mile you drive costs you about $.33 whereas every mile you bike costs you about $.10.

    Plus the costs of parking if your employer doesn't provide it free (we need to remove this subsidy).

    On top of that, biking rewards you with better health worth roughly $.80-1.20/mile in reduced medical costs (which you probably don't benefit from). Reduced road maintenance (societal benefit) $.10/mile. Less gas (we need carbon taxes to reflect the true costs here).

    It is too bad that we aren't transferring the road maintenance costs and carbon costs on to individuals, but even so, biking is a huge win for the individual.

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  • Dave June 10, 2010 at 10:18 am

    @Allan: the problem with that, is that it's been shown over and over that people simply gravitate to what is most convenient, sometimes at their own personal disadvantage and harm.

    The same applies to how we eat. It's cheaper and healthier to do a lot of your own food production, but it's much less convenient than just buying everything prepackaged and frozen to be reheated in the microwave.

    Only a few people will start biking because it's cheaper or because of the health benefits.

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  • Fabo June 10, 2010 at 10:21 am

    "... and divert traffic toward major arteries."

    If we do this, we MUST provide excellent crossing infrastructure for bikes. Could you imagine crossing 39th & Clinton without the bike box and car diverter?

    If you want to see what this looks like, just head past 50th Ave in SE. The residential areas are super calm, without much cut through traffic because everyone is on Division, Powell, Holgate, Foster.

    But trying to cross these car-heavy streets is a disaster, and restricts the appeal and safety of cycling.

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  • Dave June 10, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I agree with Fabo - as it stands now, one of the biggest problems with biking in Portland is crossing the arterial streets.

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 10:27 am

    "people simply gravitate to what is most convenient"
    Yes/no/maybe. Convenience is a social construct. Habit is probably even more important. Using a car to go downtown wouldn't be convenient for me in part because it is not my habit. Then there's the issue of how cars intersect with social class, status, or one's economic circumstances. Once you've invested thousands of $ in your car, it may be less the convenience (however measured) but the simple fact that you've put your eggs in that basket. Most of the cost of owning and using a car is fixed, not variable. Riding a bike isn't yet fixed in everyone's mind as a marker of achievement in the same way as driving a car is. Lots of hurdles that go beyond this notion of convenience.

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  • KWW June 10, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Ladd's Addition was a planned community with architecturally pleasing houses. The surrounding neighborhoods not so much. It is not just the street layout that makes a neighborhood, though if Portland were to announce neighborhood with a ROW closed to through traffic, I would buy into it asap.

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  • Dave June 10, 2010 at 10:30 am

    @9Watts: yeah, very true.

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  • John Reinhold June 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Carrots work better than sticks.

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 11:02 am

    for donkeys, yes.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

    yes, carrots work better than sticks... but right now we have ZERO sticks. We need to balance the carrot/stick but we can't make any significant improvements for urban biking if we aren't willing to get out the sticks and spank a few sacred cows on the behind.

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  • BURR June 10, 2010 at 11:07 am

    if Portland were to announce neighborhood with a ROW closed to through traffic, I would buy into it asap.

    backwards thinking. cycling needs connectivity, and neighborhoods with ROW closed to through traffic don't provide that.

    They are also plenty common - in the cul-de-sac suburbs.

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  • Brian E June 10, 2010 at 11:10 am

    One small solution to shortening the pedestrian/bike commute would be to give priority to the walk signal at intersections. I have several on my route that are absolutely infuriating.

    I'm assuming this is the scenario, I pick routes that are less traveled. That results in less priority for me with pre-programmed traffic signals.

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Let's not forget the back-scratcher masquerading as a stick called 'drive less save more.'
    If the City is (we are) serious about this effort to get folks to drive less, or better yet phase out their reliance on cars, then we need to have hard targets and milestones and policies in place that stand a chance of ushering in the changes we know we need. Someone knows now how many gallons of gas are sold in Multnomah Co. Let's figure out how to work toward reducing that figure by 10% per year.
    The BP oil thing has got some folks rethinking their reliance on the stuff.

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  • GLV June 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

    There's an 800 pound gorilla in the room, and that's the weather. For me personally, I don't ride in the winter, because the combination of darkness, rush hour traffic, and wet roads makes me very uncomfortable on a bike. Even if driving were less convenient, I just don't see vast numbers of people giving up physical comfort during their commutes. Until we can do something to address that, this discussion seems quixotic. I think most people who are going to ride from November to March already do.

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  • jim June 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Just think how sad your familly would be if the fire truck, ambulance, police... have to take a longer route to get to your house. Dont mess with car traffic, stay with bikes.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 10, 2010 at 11:26 am


      emergency response times are a red herring. we can "mess with car traffic" a lot more than we do while not significantly decreasing response times. that issue is about a lack of will and innovation/imagination to find ways to deal with it.


      I think the impacts of weather/rain are often misunderstood. I think it's a facility issue and not a physical comfort issue. People don't like to ride in the rain because our inadequate facilities are even less attractive to ride on when they are wet, slippery and the skies are dark. If we had a real bike network with more connected and separated routes and safer crossings of arterials, the weather would be much less of a factor. Copenhagen, etc.. have similar weather as we do!

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  • Bob_M June 10, 2010 at 11:14 am

    carbon tax

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  • Allan June 10, 2010 at 11:15 am

    @jim - this is the case in suburban neighborhoods with winding cul-de-sacs now. they seem to be getting along just fine

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Let's not forget that the lights were reprogrammed on many of Portland's busier streets a few years back as part of a carbon offset deal whereby PGE's Boardman power plant that burns coal was given credits for upping the average speed of cars on these streets. That's right, for helping cars go faster/idling less(!) As crazy as that seems to some of us, this is the kind of policy we don't need.

    There's really no way to pursue these two goals simultaneously: increase efficiency of car-based infrastructure system-wide *and* get people out of their cars. We need to choose.

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  • Anonymous June 10, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I would be happy
    - if speed limits were enforced and lowered to 19.5 miles (harder to gage on the speedometer.
    - To keep drivers from using neighborhood streets a speedways, dead-end them for car in the middle of the neighborhood, but keep them open for bikes and emergency vehicles...

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  • christopher June 10, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I agree with making the city less dependent on cars, but I see the sole reliance on bikes as a privileged standpoint.
    Personally, I am privileged enough to be an able-bodied person who can physically ride a bike and someone who has the luxury of working close enough to work to commute.
    There are many folks I know that would love to be able to ride a bike and simply can't.
    Let's make sure to include all these folks in our "ideal vision" and put further emphasis on alternative transportationS (like public transit) so we can ALL benefit.

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  • Brian E June 10, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Commuting on cul-de-sac streets could be quicker, safer and easier if the house at the bottom of the sac was removed and a path was installed.

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  • Allan June 10, 2010 at 11:50 am

    most of the time the house doesn't need to be removed, a path next to the house could simply be built with an easement across their land

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  • jim June 10, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    J- I think emergency vehicles were able to move down Interste Ave a lot faster when it had 4 lanes. Now that it is "messed with" it is a nightmare during rush hour. Fire trucks are slower to get to their destination. I didn't see all of those drivers hop onto the max after it was built. It just made things more congested, more cars sitting stuck in trafic with their engines idling, geting 0 mpg...
    The aisland on Killingsworth and Concord that made it unmanueverable for fire trucks.
    What about making Concord into a one way street?(going outof the neighborhood) Don't you think that might affect how fast of a response you would get if the ambulance had to circle around that big area?
    Closing access to other streets....

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  • Michael M. June 10, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    It worries me when cycling advocates look only at the cycling infrastructure of a city like Copenhagen and think "Hey, we can do that here and then we'll increase bike mode share!" Copenhagen contracts out its bus and suburban rail systems to private companies that compete to provide that service. That helps keep public transit costs low while not compromising service. Here, Tri-Met keeps raising fares. Copenhagen's new subway system is driveless, like Vancouver's Sky Train, making the service extremely attractive for users and the city. When you don't have to pay drivers, you can provide high-frequency service cheaply. Here, Tri-Met keeps cutting frequency, especially of bus service (but also light rail), making public transit less and less attractive, especially in comparison to driving. The importance of public transit to Copenhagen's overall strategy of letting people get around speedily and affordably without a car can't be underestimated. Copenhagenize says there were 1,845,669 bikes transported on S-train in the city and environs in 2007, and as we've seen from pictures of the massive bike parking facilities at Copenhagen's Metro stations, many riders rarely even take their bikes onto the trains.

    All of this is developed and developing as Copenhagen makes driving less convenient, not before driving is made less convenient. We have a long way to go before our multi-modal options can begin to compare. And we face huge obstacles from all sorts of constituencies, not just those desperately clinging to their cars. We need more density to achieve what Copenhagen has, but moves in that direction brings the historic preservationists out in force. We need to prioritize public transit frequency, variety and travel times so that it competes favorably with the private auto, but moves in that direction lead to howls from the business community, motorists, and cyclists alike. (Witness the recent post here on BikePortland discussing lawsuits about streetcar tracks creating hazards for bicycle travel, or just search the archives to get an earful of the vitriol a big segment of our city's avid cycling community unleashes against bus drivers, Tri-Met, or public transit in general. Attitudes like that are considerably more marginalized in cities like Copenhagen than they are in Portland.)

    By all means, we need better cycling infrastructure too, but that's far from the only thing we need. We need a comprehensive strategy that eliminates the need for a car for as many Portland residents as possible. Some of that strategy will necessarily (but incidentally) make driving less convenient, which is fine. But focusing on a "need" to make driving less convenient is just going to alienate those who aren't inclined or able to get on a bike.

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    don't worry--in your description it is the cars that are keeping things bottled up. As folks switch to bikes, the emergency vehicles will get through a lot better. Besides, on the bigger streets the emergency vehicles have transponders that switch the lights in their favor. Like Jonathan said, this is mostly a red herring. Certainly not a valid reason to keep us from re-building our infrastructure to work without fossil fuels.

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  • BURR June 10, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    By the way, this is an incredibly stupid idea from a political perspective, no politician in their right mind is going to say that they want to make driving less convenient if they want to get reelected.

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  • jim June 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Transpoders are not going to do any good when Interstate Ave is backed up for 10 blocks, and they cant use concord.
    They said people will use max after it was built and they didnt, what makes you think those same people are going to jump on a bike?

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    "They said people will use max after it was built and they didnt, what makes you think those same people are going to jump on a bike?"
    (1) peak oil
    (2) climate change
    (3) policies that anticipate (1) and (2) and/or take Rob's suggestions to heart.
    I'm under no illusion that this kind of change will happen overnight but it will happen.
    No more cheap oil, no more free atmosphere; just wait...

    Besides, for many who now ride bikes as transport (under existing economic conditions and with an infrastructure highly favorable to cars) they probably wouldn't switch back to bikes. How can we be so sure that this wouldn't also hold for a substantial fraction of the rest of our fellow citizens?

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  • Joe June 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Interesting. but people r still car stuck,

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  • branden June 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    i'm not sure where you guys work/if you work, but no matter how inconvenient it is, getting to work by car is my only way right now.

    there is no way i could go to work all sweaty/wet/stinky/mussed up hair, go into the tiny bathroom stall and change into a suit and tie, and then proceed to meet with clients all day.

    so by making it less convenient for me to drive, you're just pissing me off.

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    branden -
    this is a dynamic problem if there ever was one. Of course there are also dozens, even hundreds of obstacles and valid reasons why *everybody* doesn't or couldn't switch to biking for all their transport needs--overnight. But that isn't the point. The point is that we can and must figure out how to transition in this direction. It will be easier for some than for others.
    The problem, though, is that we have folks who think that cars and oil are always going to be there.
    I'm more interested in working toward better infrastructure, a more level playing field, identifying obstacles, getting the conversation going about what is involved in either getting people to work over distances where bikes won't easily work, or finding alternatives that do, or coming to terms with the fact that _at some point_ we're probably all going to live closer to our work.
    How about covered bus stops with better accountability as far as running on time. I personally get angry when the every-half-hour Trimet bus whizzes by the stop five minutes *ahead* of schedule. That isn't something we should have to put up with if we're going to rely more heavily on buses (of course many already do).

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  • Andrew June 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I'm glad to hear the new director of the BTA taking this position. Driving needs to be made less convenient and the true costs of it need to be paid.

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  • Spiffy June 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    it's a great idea that will take a miracle...

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  • Jack June 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    I don't want to be too politically incorrect (alright, maybe I do) but I think we need the two or three oldest generations to die off before politicians can sell the idea of making driving less convenient.

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  • GLV June 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    The problem, though, is that we have folks who think that cars and oil are always going to be there.

    We also have people who think that cars are always going to run on oil-based fuels. But we are already beginning to move away from that. Once the effects of peak oil are really felt, that transition will accelerate. Don't underestimate human ingenuity.

    I stand by my earlier assertion that people will never abandon, en masse, the comfort and convenience of climate-controlled vehicles that don't require physical exertion to operate. Maybe in inner Portland they will to a certain extent, but across the country? Call me a skeptic but I don't see that happening.

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  • Jeff Bernards June 10, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    The only real inconvenience people understand is price & costs. Driving is subsidized, only when that ends and people pay the true price for fuel (oil spills) and roads, then will we see the alternatives as a more appealing choice. Blumenauer wants to Subsidize rail car construction. Instead of subsidizing rail car production, they should end the auto subsidies and allow transportation options to compete on a level playing field. The country can't afford to subsidize both sides of the transportation options.

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  • Allan June 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    If we just drop all subsidies, it would be better than what we have now, however, the historical subsidy will take a long time to wear off. we should be working to speed up that process.

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  • Brad June 10, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Think smaller. Too man people automatically think that building a bazillion dolars worth of new bike paths, bulldozing neighborhoods, and wholesale city redesigns are the answer.

    Fiscally it makes much more sense for the federal government to eliminate subsidies for employer provided parking and to require employer paid parking be reported as taxable income for individual workers. Coupled with rising gasoline prices as peak oil is realized, many people will begin to start using mass transit, bikes, shared vehicles as their true cost of commuting skyrockets. In many metro areas, $5.00+ gas and a $300+ monthly parking bills will create rapid behavior changes amongst the working and middle classes that comprise 80% of daily car traffic.

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  • beth h June 10, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I'm with # 39 and # 40 here.

    And I'm willing to go further. I'm willing to suggest that the enormous, tangled web of consumerism, convenience, overpopulation, laziness and overblown sense of privilege that the car-centric landscape (subsidized heavily by Big Oil, Big Auto and a host of other institutions) has helped grow and shape, is NOT something we can blithely "evolve" our way out of. We don't have that much time.

    It is something that will likely have to be brought crashing down by an economic and/or environmental crisis of such global proportions that people -- even here in "safe" Portland -- WILL actually die, and not necessarily of old age.

    I have grown impatient with the rate of change offered by the baby-steps-masked-as-Big-Ideas-thinking that political organizations are required to engage in.

    I have grown impatient with politics.

    And I am tired of trying to tell people that getting out of the car is simply "because bikes are fun".
    Getting out of the car --AND living a much more local, simpler. less consumerist-oriented life -- is about SAVING THE PLANET, and nothing less.

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  • Allan June 10, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    @Brad-43: I think the parking bills would be sizeable and transformative, however I think they would ultimately make gas cheaper (supply & demand). I agree that is a great idea, just want to check your math.

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  • Jake June 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    One thing is already working for us in this area: gas prices. That's a built-in inconvenience, and they're only going up.

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  • matt picio June 10, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Allan (#2) - The average cost of maintaining a car in Oregon is currently about $7,000 a year. $50 for a bike is probably a bit low - the year that I rode 6,000 miles, I spent over $100 in tires, tubes and brake pads. Still, even if you're really rough on your equipment and ride 10,000 miles in a year, a bike still will cost less than $500 a year, plus insurance (in my case, about $250 a year for my renter's insurance).

    John (#12) - Sometimes. The most effective strategy is both a carrot AND a stick (or perhaps a stick and 2 or more carrots?).

    Anonymous (#24) - Are you willing to have that standard enforced on bicycles as well?

    christopher (#25) - I don't think anyone is advocating a sole reliance on bikes. Remember, you're commenting on a story by the new Executive Director of the BTA, on a bike-focused blog - there will be some inherent bias there. The policies and methods that make the environment better for bikes and less convenient for cars also enhance walking and transit.

    jim (#28) - "fire trucks are slower" on Interstate. Do you have a source for that? There are parallel streets that are pretty quick, including I-5 (granted, access to and from I-5 is limited). As for Concord, why pick the most extreme example? If this hypothetical plan were implemented, it would never be planned in that fashion, for exactly the reason you state.

    BURR (#31) - It works, though, just not by calling it like it is. And certain jurisdictions in the east (cough, Chicago, cough) have "politicians for life" who are above the electorate so long as they don't do anything eggregiously stupid.

    jim (#32) - people *do* use MAX - Yellow line services 14,000 trips per weekday, and every time I ride it, it's at least half full.

    branden (#35) - bike does not necessarily mean sweaty. How far do you drive? A 10-mile commute can easily be made in an hour by bike without breaking a sweat on fair-weather days. 9watts comments in (#36) are valid, eventually we have to switch, might as well do it now under our terms before time and circumstances force us to do it anyway.

    Spiffy (#38) "Miracle" is shorthand for "effort and dedication". All it takes is a few handfuls of people to get out of their chair and get involved. We don't even need the BTA for that, though dedicated advocacy organizations help A LOT.

    GLV (#40) - MAY accelerate. We also are having a crisis of metals, especially the rare earths used for batteries and other hi-tech solutions. People won't abandon them willingly, but nature will force the issue within 25 years. The current path isn't just unsustainable, it's insurmountable. Technology and market-based solutions are not going to conquer this predicament.

    Jeff (#41) - And time and effort. There are a lot of people with money who are willing to spend it if it will save them from doing the work themselves, or taking the time to do it, or figuring out how to do it. (your own business capitalizes on that fact) Plenty of them are willing to pay whatever they have to in order to keep motoring, and to keep their privileged status. I agree with your remarks, though - stop the subsidies.

    Brad (#43) - Amen.

    beth (#44) - it's already happening, it started in 2005. The thing is, is that the collapse is not fast enough to be seen as such, and will be much more involved than many think. We won't have an apocalyptic scenario. We have an opportunity to move with history, or be run over by it.

    Allan (#45) - It might reduce the price of gas due to people driving less, but only if they drive less - which is the point. If that happens, then it's been successful. Also, even if it's not successful in reducing mileage, it will increase city parking revenues which can be used to continue to fund existing services.

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  • Brad June 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Gasoline will only get more expensive as the years go on. First, peak oil is a very real concept. Secondly, China and India will be competeing very hard for the finite supply of crude to fuel their economic ambitions and that will drive up oil prices. Lastly, the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is going to usher in a new era of regulation that will make offshore production more expensive. If taxpayers are going to be on the hook for the cleanup (and we will!) then populist anger towards Big Oil will cause even the GOP to allow new environmental and worker safety regulations to be implemented.

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  • Allan June 10, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    @47: there are 2 separate costs: 1 is the cost of owning & insuring the car/bike and the other is the cost of using it. The car costs 2000$ in depreciation (years based) and insurance to drive 0 miles. It also costs ~ 30-35 cents/mile to drive in maintenance, depreciation (mileage based), etc.

    I provided estimates for biking as well.

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  • wsbob June 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    I'm more inclined to John Reinhold #12 'carrot/stick' analogy as a means to less dependence on motor vehicle travel.

    More effort expended on enhancing the attractiveness and natural enjoyment of neighborhood walking and biking routes to nearby destinations would go further to draw people out of their cars than would making the streets more miserable to navigate a motor vehicle through.

    I think that many people that are physically able, really would like to walk or bike, but don't, simply because the route has been made so ugly and depressing through subservience to motor vehicle demands. Nothing ruins a good walking or biking route quite the way the presence a lot of fast moving motor vehicles in close proximity to the non-motorized travel infrastructure can.

    It would cost some money to buy the properties to blow them out, but removing some of the old cul-de-sacs could be enormously helpful in creating good, very enjoyable straight through routes for non-motorized travel modes.

    GLV #18...advances are being made in the development of bikes with shells that enclose the rider. The shelter they provide their riders with from wind chill and the rain could greatly counter the aversion some people experience associated with the weather and the winter season. For relatively flat, short trips, these vehicles could be a very attractive alternative to firing up the gas burner.

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  • 9watts June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    "Nothing ruins a good walking or biking route quite the way the presence a lot of fast moving motor vehicles in close proximity to the non-motorized travel infrastructure can."
    Good point. And since these are 'our streets' we're talking about it is hard to see how making it less convenient for those fast moving vehicles to move so fast wouldn't help advance this goal.

    Why not lots of carrots, lots of sticks, and lots of public discussion?

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  • velo June 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    @ #18 GLV: Regarding the weather. I just moved from Portland to Minneapolis last summer. Portland's winter isn't a real high bar once people commit. Some lights, some fenders, some good rain gear and it's not bad.

    I rode all winter in Minnesota and saw plenty of other folks doing it as well. The more people riding in winter the better, it raises the profile of bikes and makes people more aware of our presence on the streets.

    With the proper motivation people can make winter riding work. Stash some dress clothes at work, get the right gear for the ride and life is good. I don't mean to rage on GLV at all, but people need to reimagine what is possible on a bike.

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  • Trek 3900 June 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    I rarely go to Portland since I live in the burbs, but when I go, if I'm not taking MAX then I drive a car. MAX has a lot of drawbacks; speed is one.

    It is already very inconvenient to drive a car in Portland and has become considerably more inconvenient in the past 5- 10 years. With all the construction, dead ends, streets only for buses, etc it is not easy to get where you want to go. I've wasted 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get to a destination. Remove those obstructions and I would use less gas. Most people are going to drive a car until the price is too high - THAT will cause an economic depression (actually we already are in one, but that is another topic).

    We all pay plenty of taxes - if you pay rent, drive a car, or not, you are paying taxes. The infrastructure needs to be useful for all users.

    A few streets in residential-only areas for bicycles only would be OK. Can't deny businesses their customers.

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  • Stig10 June 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Ban cars when there's there's smog or high levels of ozone in the city as happens in the Summer when there's a calm wind. That would give people a shock and make them associate cars with congestion and pollution.

    Tax gas at the same rates as Europe where it's about 3x more expensive. $9-10 per gallon would change some people's driving habits I would expect.

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  • wsbob June 11, 2010 at 1:03 am

    9watts #51...I wonder if one fairly simple, yet not too intolerable thing that might be done to help dissuade some motor vehicle drivers from making unnecessary motor vehicle trips, would be be to reduce the speed limit on through neighborhood and through city streets, for example, 25mp reduced to 15mph, 35mph reduced to 25mph.

    With these drivers walking/biking route from their home to the grocery store, restaurant, cinema, school, church, made more pleasant and enjoyable, they might be more inclined to hoof it or pedal than hop in the box.

    Reduced speed limits have other applications too. Actually, it was during the Beaverton politician presentation just recently that Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington answered a question about how to reduce congestion on Hwy 217 by suggesting speed limits might be reduced on that road; one of the ideas being, I suppose, that this would lessen the effect of fast moving cars from the highway creating a backlog of cars at highway exit points.

    "...It is already very inconvenient to drive a car in Portland..." Trek 3900

    Actually, I'd agree with that, or at least that it's often not very pleasant to drive a car in Portland. Or in Beaverton for that matter. Modern cars are made to be very comfortable...good seats, stereo...warm, dry all the time, but still, drivers inevitably spend a lot of time just sitting there being mostly physically immobile, their cars inching along slowly behind other cars in traffic.

    Parking a car in downtown Portland costs a bunch of money, not to mention the hassle of parking on the street, or the unpleasantness of being in a parking garage to park the car if you're not rich enough to afford valet service.

    Many members of the public are far removed from walking or biking; age, physical conditioning or physical and psychological limitations. It would require creation of a very high level of less convenient driving conditions to convince these people to resort to non-motorized means of travel.

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  • Tony Columbo June 11, 2010 at 6:58 am

    What would really be great is making bicyclists pay their way.

    Fill er up

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  • matt picio June 11, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Allan (#49) - Right, I'm just quibbling with your numbers - I feel you've underestimated both. First off, depreciation is a curve, not a straight line - and in any case, depreciation isn't what the buyer pays, so it's value in terms of expense is questionable. For a new car, though, you're talking $2,200 - $5,000 per year just in car payments, plus another $750 - $2,000 in insurance costs, just for the car to sit. Operating costs are variable dependent on mileage.

    For a bicycle as primary transportation, you're going to ride 2,000 - 10,000 miles per year. Let's go with 4,000 miles as the average, which isn't ridiculous at all. At a minimum, you'll go through 2 tires ($50-$80), 1-2 sets of brake pads ($20-$40), and 2-4 tubes ($15-$30). That's $85-$150 minimum, and for most people throw in a cassette ($35) and a new chain ($25-30).

    But regardless of the numbers, the basic point holds - cars are at least 10x more expensive to operate than bikes for the average user.

    Tony (#56) - Then consider it great, because we already subsidize motorists. The majority of cyclists pay more than their way.

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  • 9watts June 11, 2010 at 8:47 am

    wsbob -

    I like the idea of reducing speed limits. In fact, Ivan Illich proposed a universal 15 mph speed limit almost forty years ago motivated by a similar goal.

    -here's some of Illich already digitized:

    Ivan Illich on Bicycles
    Ivan Illich was a man who thought a lot about people and the way we live in the world. On a recent train trip to Portland, I read Ran Prieur's interesting little zine Civilization Will Eat Itself. Ran's zine had a link to his website and one of the things I found there was an excerpt from Illich's Toward a History of Needs. Ran chose to call this excerpt Ivan Illich on Cars but I found the more interesting nuggets were actually about bicycles.

    Illich writes:


    "A century ago, the ball-bearing was invented. It reduced the coefficient of friction by a factor of a thousand. By applying a well-calibrated ball-bearing between two Neolithic millstones, a man could now grind in a day what took his ancestors a week. The ball-bearing also made possible the bicycle, allowing the wheel -- probably the last of the great Neolithic inventions -- finally to become useful for self-powered mobility.

    Man, unaided by any tool, gets around quite efficiently. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer in ten minutes by expending 0.75 calories. Man on his feet is thermodynamically more efficient than any motorized vehicle and most animals. For his weight, he performs more work in locomotion than rats or oxen, less than horses or sturgeon. At this rate of efficiency man settled the world and made its history. At this rate peasant societies spend less than 5 per cent and nomads less than 8 per cent of their respective social time budgets outside the home or the encampment.

    Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.

    The ball-bearing signaled a true crisis, a true political choice. It created an option between more freedom in equity and more speed. The bearing is an equally fundamental ingredient of two new types of locomotion, respectively symbolized by the bicycle and the car. The bicycle lifted man's auto-mobility into a new order, beyond which progress is theoretically not possible. In contrast, the accelerating individual capsule enabled societies to engage in a ritual of progressively paralyzing speed.

    Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap. With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems. In the bicycle system, engineered roads are necessary only at certain points of dense traffic, and people who live far from the surfaced path are not thereby automatically isolated as they would be if they depended on cars or trains. The bicycle has extended man's radius without shunting him onto roads he cannot walk. Where he cannot ride his bike, he can usually push it.

    The bicycle also uses little space. Eighteen bikes can be parked in the place of one car, thirty of them can move along in the space devoured by a single automobile. It takes three lanes of a given size to move 40,000 people across a bridge in one hour by using automated trains, four to move them on buses, twelve to move them in their cars, and only two lanes for them to pedal across on bicycles. Of all these vehicles, only the bicycle really allows people to go from door to door without walking. The cyclist can reach new destinations of his choice without his tool creating new locations from which he is barred.

    Bicycles let people move with greater speed without taking up significant amounts of scarce space, energy, or time. They can spend fewer hours on each mile and still travel more miles in a year. They can get the benefit of technological breakthroughs without putting undue claims on the schedules, energy, or space of others. They become masters of their own movements without blocking those of their fellows. Their new tool creates only those demands which it can also satisfy. Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. The use of the bicycle is self-limiting. It allows people to create a new relationship between their life-space and their life-time, between their territory and the pulse of their being, without destroying their inherited balance. The advantages of modern self-powered traffic are obvious, and ignored. That better traffic runs faster is asserted, but never proved. Before they ask people to pay for it, those who propose acceleration should try to display the evidence for their claim."

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  • Did I miss it? Again? June 11, 2010 at 10:14 am

    While I don't pay $14,000/yr in ownership costs of my vehicles, I am willing to pay the additional cost if it means I am home that much longer and not spending it commuting.

    The convenience of a 20 minute commute that is warm and dry vs a 1.5 hour commute that is cold and wet and involves a lot more forethought/planning is not something I can ignore. I imagine that most people feel this way (obviously not most B.P. reads, but it is a different demographic than most people).

    If the "big idea" is to inconvenience people who just want to go home and be with their families, well, be prepared for a fight and alot more animosity.

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  • resopmok June 11, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Seriously, this thing is going to have to be sold to the public if they're going to buy into it. That's how this country works. Marketing campaigns which outline the financial advantages of biking, public service messages from the government about how it saves the environment - but most importantly - how cool it makes you look and how your neighbors will envy you if you have one. Admittedly I haven't watched much TV over the last few years, but I seem to recall about 20% of all commercials are for cars, not bikes. You want bikes to become mainstream? Repackage it, commercialize it and sell it as new, the old fashioned American way..

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  • Did I miss it? Again? June 11, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Agreed. That will have to be one very convincing campaign.

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  • 9watts June 11, 2010 at 10:26 am

    #59 I think you did 'miss it again.'

    Convenience is a social construction. People understand it in terms of what they are used to, what feels right to them. If time is the unit in which you want to measure convenience, then so be it. But then you also have to include in your calculation the amount of time you have to work to pay to have the 'convenience' of that warm dry commute. Lots of good studies out there, again starting with Ivan Illich, that will show that the (overall) speed of the car commuter is no faster than the speed of neolithic man in terms of hours devoted to transport. The umpteen thousand dollars those with cars spend on their mobility are not just pieces of paper. They represent time spent working.
    Here's another useful link:

    "Illich claims that one fourth of an average American man’s waking hours (1600 hours/year) are spent in the car or paying for it (1974, p. 18) and this doesn’t include time spent watching car commercials. The average American drives 7,500 miles a year (which equals a 30 mile round trip commute 250 days of the year--here Illich’s figures seem quite low for four hours, has he included the entire population of America in this average?), so this comes to less than five miles for each hour devoted to the car, less than half the speed of a bicycle."

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  • Did I miss it? Again? June 11, 2010 at 1:22 pm


    So what your saying is that the half hour that I gain by driving home at night is a social construct. And the hour longer I stay at home in the morning is as well? Hmm. Interesting and irrelevent. I don't care if it is a construct of bunnies from outerspace that own all of the petroleum and automobile companies. Fact is, I get to be where I want (my home in this case) for an additional 1.5 hours each day.

    Illich can know this: I have 70% less commuting time thanks to an automobile. That time not spent commuting can be spent with my family, gardening or whatever else I choose.

    I work 40 hours a week regardless of whether I spend my money on gas or bike tires, so that argument holds no water with me.

    I think it's great that you spend time doing what you love (bike commuting), but I think it sucks that you are going to tell me that I should give up an hour and a half of my day, doing what I love, because a 26 year old book by a philosopher tells me this time is a social construct.

    Convenience is a social construct as much as personal taste is. What may be convenient to you may not be for me.

    So why is the big idea to inconvenience others rather than making it more convenient for cyclists?

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  • 9watts June 11, 2010 at 1:48 pm


    I'm not telling you to do anything. I am disagreeing with your method of accounting.

    FWIW, the time you are at home isn't the social construct; what is the social construct is your assertion that the commute time differential represents convenience to you when you haven't accounted for the hours of work that are dedicated to owning and maintaining the car that you need to achieve that 'convenience,' over and above the hours that would be required to own and maintain something cheaper (and 'slower', like a bike, or a trimet pass. The fact that this generally passes without comment points to the ways in which we naturalize car ownership, fail to question what is involved in making it possible, in generating the convenience it purports to offer.

    You should do what works for you.
    My point is that when making recommendations to others, discussing policy, criticizing others' misconceptions, we should strive to keep track of as much of the context as possible, do the full accounting, challenge ourselves to think beyond the familiar (e.g. Trek 3900 at #53).

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  • Did I miss it? Again? June 11, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    If we agree that the "method of accounting" is highly subjective to the needs and desires of the person doing the accounting (and it does appear that we agree), then who are you, or any of us to disagree with the method?

    Perhaps I should use a different word or term to describe the commute time differential? It could be my "Life bonus" of an additional 7% per day. Or my "bike commute penalty" or 7% per day. I guess it depends on perspective: do I gain time by auto -or- do I lose time by bike?

    My car cost less than most of my bikes, so it really only comes down to insurance and maintenance, which I have to pay for on both modes.
    6000 miles =
    Minimum of 6 Continental GP4's (cost more than my car tires and last only 2k miles vs 55k miles.)
    2 Ultegra cassettes and 2 ultegra chains (or $15 oil change twice a year.)
    Then I can invest in the tools to do my own maintenance (as with my car) or I can pay labor at $60 and hour.
    Fuel is a wash. 30 mpg is $3. I eat more in food if consistently riding that far (fast metabolism).

    Perhaps I need to ride cheaper bikes? Perhaps I need to slow my metabolism when I am riding?
    Perhaps I need a new accountant.

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  • Lisa June 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    This conversation reminds me of the ones between those who decide to procreate and those who decide to remain childfree.

    The latter will use all the arguments in the world (cost of raising offspring, loss of freedom, responsibility, adding to their carbon footprint, etc, etc) and those who want to procreate can agree with all of those arguments in the abstract but they "still want to have babies."

    To each their own. Same goes with the bike/car discussion going on here. Keep going until you are blue in the face Mr. 9watts but you aren't going to convince someone who wants to do what he wants to do for his own reasons having nothing to do with "social constructs."

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  • rigormrtis June 11, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I notice that most of the argument list the benefits of cycling and the costs of driving.

    Perhaps the full accounting should also list the benefits of driving.....and there are dozens.

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  • 9watts June 11, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    "but you aren't going to convince someone who wants to do what he wants to do for his own reasons"
    I'm not trying to. I don't see this forum as an opportunity for contributor x to persuade contributor y, but rather as an opportunity for all of us to explore a multiplicity of perspectives on a given issue. I know I appreciate many comments made here for a variety of reasons, only some of which have to do with 'my being convinced.' Change of the kind we're talking about doesn't happen in one conversation.

    And I'm confident that my epidermis can handle the back and forth.

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  • Lisa June 11, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Fair enough then.

    Just saying that pointing out how others should do X, Y or Z often runs into the concrete wall of MYOB. If someone wants to have babies, be a consumerist to the nth degree or commute in their car rather than their bike, all the back and forth "exploring a multiplicity of perspectives" in the world isn't going to amount to a hill of beans. People will do what they do.

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  • old&slow June 11, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Somebody needs to tell this new BTA guy to not go on the Lars Larson show like he did today. A complete waste of time, Lars and his brain dead audience hate cyclists and nothing is served by going on his show. Larson was contentious and the guy probably didn't know what he was getting into.
    Somebody should have warned him.

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  • 9watts June 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    "all the back and forth 'exploring a multiplicity of perspectives' isn't going to amount to a hill of beans. People will do what they do"

    I guess I have more faith in human beings to learn, adapt, solve emergent problems than you do. I see this as a dynamic set of interconnected problems. We all (well maybe except for Dick Cheney) have a(n admittedly varied) capacity to learn from our mistakes, discover new ways of doing things, we're eager to avoid social approbation. Otherwise, why bother? Why read any of this, much less contribute?

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  • Allan June 11, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I guess my perspective is more of if more people keep moving here and trying to drive, massive congestion will tip the scales more in the favor of other methods of getting from A-B.

    As long as we don't continue reckless subsidies for cars that is

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  • James Cleymore June 11, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I guess you will have your Utopia when you've made all of "Normal" people leave the Portland area. Your social(ist) experiment has been tried endlessly around Portland and has failed. Look at the Beaverton Round. If there's an example of Social(ist) engineering in Portland, the Round is it. What a success that has been, huh? These ideas will do nothing but fail, anger average taxpaying citizens and further cripple the Portland economy. Other than those issues, I think your ideas are real winners. By the way, if you all admmire Europe so much, why don't you live there? Seriously, it's so great, you could just move there and not have to reengineer anything.

    Good luck with your ideas, my $90,000 annual income and the taxes that go with it are leaving. That should make you temporarily happy, until a lot more of my type have left and YOU have to start paying for your social(ist) expreiments. I guess you'll have to get jobs that pay more than bike messengers. Good riddance Portland, you can have Sadowsky.

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  • Trek 3900 June 11, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    A few years ago I heard that one out of 6 jobs in the US was due to automobiles . Automobile manufacturing, distribution, sales, repair, maintenance, parts, highways, insurance, enforcement, licensing, providing fuel, etc, etc, adds up to a huge chunk of the economy. An economy that is, in case you haven't heard, going teats up as we speak - don't listen to the liar happy talk of the mainstream media and politicians - go to silverbearcafe.com or americanthinker.com and check out some other opinions.

    Given all of that, planning to make transportation more difficult, to make getting to downtown businesses more difficult is stupid at best.

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  • Trek 3900 June 11, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    A majority of Americans do not think Automobile use is a problem, they don't even think driving monster gas hogs is a problem. If they did there would be a LOT fewer monster gas hogs and more fuel efficient vehicles, including bicycles. Americans are in love with cars. I like them too even though I am a biker. I like both. I would not want to have to ride my bike on vacation to go backpacking in the Wind River Range since I'd only make it half way then my vacation would be over, and I'd have to hitchhike back. That would suck. Cars are convenient and useful. Love to cruise cross country listening to the stereo, watching the beautiful American countryside go by. I do it in a fuel efficient car - always have because it makes sense financially, and I have no children to haul around so don't need a monster gas hog.

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  • Trek 3900 June 11, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Be careful about proposing things that will harm the economy. Your job, food, heat, and your life depend on it not collapsing. It may already be too late, but no use to kill it intentionally:




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  • jim June 11, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    If you listened to the Lars Larson show today you would have found out what a bafoon this new BTA guy is. Its dangerous just to bring someone into a position like that when we know nothing about him.

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  • Kris Harris June 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    "To make a significant dent in bicycling mode share in Portland...we need to take significant steps to limiting the convenience of driving a car."

    Did you ever think that most of us don't agree with Mayor Pedophile and want driving to be MORE convenient in Portland? I cycle and I drive. I'm not a zealot and don't believe we should have our choices taken away by zealots. Are any of the zealots who favor this crap aware that the bottleneck on I-5 at the Columbia costs the ocal and national economy millions in lost productivity? Why should the rest of be subjected to the insanity of such a small minority as the zeealot bikers in PDX.

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  • Kate June 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    #59 Did I miss it? Again?,

    I see what you're saying. It takes me almost exactly twice as long to bike-commute to school as it does to car-commute. (That is, if I don't count the time it takes to find parking or to bike over to my friend's house to borrow a car in the first place.) However, the extra time I spend on the bike is NOT time I have to spend away from my family.

    I meet up with my partner when we're done with our school days, and we bike home together. Some of our best conversations occur on these rides, when we're both excited about being done for the day, but before we walk in the door and have to start thinking about making dinner and doing laundry and going to bed on time. What with all the time we have to spend studying at home, sometimes this bike ride is the most we see each other all day.

    I can't wait till we have kids and can listen to them chatter about what they did at school on our ride home together.

    Bike-commuting as a family lets us get our "life bonus," as you called it, as well as our environmental bonus, exercise bonus, and financial bonus. Maybe your family could give this a try?

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  • Kate June 11, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    #74 and 78,

    The best thing you can do to make driving more convenient is convince everyone else to leave their cars at home.

    MAX to Vancouver would do wonders to clear up that bottleneck on I-5. Having people park at the edge of Portland, where those huge freeways are, and bike/bus/MAX/streetcar/walk a few blocks into downtown would make it a much more pleasant experience to shop downtown. We could let delivery trucks in during set hours.

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  • 9watts June 11, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Kris at 78-
    not sure who the zealots are here. You and your car; Charleton Heston and his gun. You're worried about lost productivity from not enough driving? Just wait till there's no more cheap oil to fuel (or atmosphere to absorb) all that productivity. Who are you going to blame then for taking away your choices? Then--perhaps--biking will start to look more 'productive' to you. Jeez.

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  • Kris Harris June 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Kate #80, MAX is a complete waste of money and contrary to your statement, makes only a tiny dent in congestion throughout the entire metro area.

    The cost of the bottleneck is lost productivity of commercial vehicles, which all the cute choo choos in the world won't help.

    There are many of us who like our cars, enjoy are freedom and don't want to change. You live in a fantasy world if you think you can dictate commercial traffic to fit the whims of the zealot bike crowd. Once you graduate from Reed on mommy and daddy's dime, get a job and pay for this garbage you want us to pay for, Your tune will change if you have to toil like the rest of us.

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  • Kate June 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    #82 KH,

    Do you think the people cramming up I-5 with their cars are going somewhere besides between Vancouver and Portland for work? Do tell.

    The true cost of the bottleneck, actually, is the pollution it produces.

    Like your car all you want. I like my bike. Just be honest and know that you already have it your way and are fighting to oppress those less fortunate than you.

    [On a personal note, I finished graduate school four years ago. I paid my way through both college and grad school via merit scholarships and working 20-30 hours per week. I currently attend graduate professional school thanks to massive loans. I've held various jobs continuously since I turned 16 with the exception of the summer after I graduated from college and as of a month ago, when I lost my job. Thanks for your naive assumptions.]

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  • Kris Harris June 11, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Oh! Global Warming, Godzilla, Chupa Cabras, Easter Bunny and Santa are all coming. It's a load of crap. The US environment has not been this clean since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. There is no proof the air particulates have any effect on the climate. Wake up, Al Gore is a money grubbing liar whose stupidity is only surpassed by his believers. Global warming is a farce to line the pockets of GE management, Al Gore and all the President's men. Only a fool would buy that crap.

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  • Kris Harris June 11, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    @GLV #18, thank you. Your post made more sense than any I read through this entire post. Thank you for putting it so well.

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  • wsbob June 12, 2010 at 12:04 am

    "...If the "big idea" is to inconvenience people who just want to go home and be with their families, well, be prepared for a fight and alot more animosity." Did I miss it? Again? #59

    I consider that viewpoint to be exactly why 'sticks' (see comment #12), and the headline for this story, aren't such a good idea.

    DIMIA?...A cold and wet 1.5 work commute might be a hard sell for the average citizen, but what if routes to stores and businesses adjacent to the residential neighborhood were designed such that once having driven home from work, residents would find very appealing, a short walk or bike ride on them to those stores and businesses for things they need...instead of driving?

    It's the short car trips that may be contributing greatly to road congestion on main thoroughfares through, for example, Beaverton's split up downtown. A good number of this town's neighborhoods are close to downtown, but getting to it from them means traveling often dark, narrow, neighborhood streets, to eventually find oneself standing exposed to the huge, rushing thoroughfares, waiting for the crosswalk light to change(fortunately, Beav has them on many of its intersections) before being able to get to the store, or whatever.

    No easy remedy that would improve the experience of crossing the big thoroughfares, but the routes through neighborhoods that led up to them could certainly be improved. I like to envision neighborhood non-motorized travel being served by something a little like the South Park Blocks in Downtown Portland up through PSU.

    Make it appealing, even in rainy, cold Oregon weather, for ordinary non-hard core cycle commuters to drive directly home from work, then head out on their own two feet for a 5-10 minute relaxing walk or bike trip to the store for groceries, a bite to eat, movie, etc.

    9watts #58...that piece from Ivan Illich that you posted was good reading. I hope other people read it too.

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  • a portlander in holland June 12, 2010 at 12:04 am

    I am so glad someone is finally stating the obvious. In places like the Netherlands, where bicycling is a revered form of transportation, its not because people are so physically fit or into the environment, but because of practical realities that led to a de-emphasis on vehicular transport. As one of the most densely-populated countries in Europe, trying to preserve its limited farmland from urban sprawl, it just can't afford for every family to have 3.3 cars and drive absolutely everywhere around town. Cars are taxed heavily, petrol is expensive, parking is outrageous and hard to find.

    So as much as the Portland community is inspired by the Dutch bicycle culture, the reality is that it is based from need and practical constraints, not simply desire. Until some of those factors begin to affect the American lifestyle, I am doubtful for change.

    It would be nice for people to understand that we "need" more liveable cities for our own health and well-being, but the cynic in me remains skeptical of accomplishing that feat. Indeed, the flurry of responses reflecting American individualism (read: you can't tell me what to do, even if it might be better for society as a whole) is rampant. That remains the blockade to so many social reform issues in the States (health care reform, etc)-- that we can't put aside some infringements on our individualism for the benefit of society as a whole.

    In the end, Americans only understand things when it hits their wallets, so a rapid increase in gas prices is the best we can hope for to realize some impetus for change.

    (And PS to the naysayers on such high taxes on driving- the Netherlands is generally faring better than the US in the economic crisis, and with much better social benefits for its citizens, too.)

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  • Vance Longwell June 12, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Well, you all know what I was going to say. Kris, bwoobie, way ahead of me.

    Look, mankind spreading out and killing this planet to death is a foregone conclusion you'all simply can't seem to grasp. It's the type of conundrum that sends the mental-midgets in our midst straight to their churches. You get all crazy. It's tantamount to accepting the fact you are going to die. The problem is people, oodles of them, not cars, not oil, not planning, not any of it. It's babies. A country the size of Brazil is born every day. Long, long, before we run out of oil (hahahahahaha, yeah right.), or cut down the last tree, or blow-up the last mountain for coal, long before this we'll have eaten everything that isn't rock on the surface of this entire planet.

    The argument that it is better to be frugal is a good-one, there's no denying that. But austerity is a subjective thing, and as such, it's a fool's errand to attempt to enforce it in any way. Who the hell cares about a clean planet anyway, if one can't take a piss without filling out a form, seeking permission from the government, and conducting a salmon-impact study first?

    What really galls me is that the conditions which you'all rail against are artificially imposed upon us by corporate America. The fact cars still burn gas is due to car-makers, and the oil industry, having been partnered since the git. We should have long-since been 'on' something else, duh. I have personally witnessed, with my own eyeballs, the systematic suppression of electric cars for decades. The 'industry' doesn't want to go that way 'cause they're all afraid to take the first hit. Even now, they're just trickling them out, hoping the demand dries up. I'm an enthusiast, it's what I do. Don't damn the car 'cause they burn gas, that's virtually arbitrary. IMO you use that as a stick to beat the machina sprawling all over the the planet here. Yeah, cars spread us out, but that's arbitrary. There's space for it. You wanna talk diminishing resources, folks, how about 12 square feet to sleep on at night? That resource is disappearing at a rate far quicker than any natural resource.

    I take this real personal like. I am too poor for a car. I'm poor, arguably, because a bunch of folks moved here with better shit than I had to make some money. Now those same folks want to price me out of a car. Whatever the argument, and no matter who is right, a car is my ticket to a better life. Good, bad, ugly, it doesn't matter, bottom line, my annual income is provably larger if I have a car to drive. The worst part is that most of you drive, or could otherwise afford it. I'm just a white-guy, and I know that means I was born with original sin, what WAS I thinking, but what about brown people? Isn't the pervasive sentiment here that brown-folks are inherently/innately poor? So, isn't it a racist position then, to be all, "Screw the car, and those that drive them."?

    I don't understand this neo-Luddite, John and Laura Engles trip you'all are on. I see you with your dogs, smell your pachulie, see the chickens in your back-yards. I mean, what are YOU thinking living in a city? You're not going to get that 'natural' experience in a city, and I will arm myself and fight you to the death before I allow you to continue the attempt, in vain, to foist this quasi-religion on me. I've had it up to the gills with churches, yo.

    Government is not my daddy. Never had one, never will. The government is there to provide infrastructure, human services, and to afford us redress in court. Using it as a tool of authority to control behaviors, and whatnot, is a thing that will start a civil war in this country. I'll follow a few rules, like NOT killing you for endangering my dignity, self-respect, or any other thing I let go, day in and day out. Fine. I suppose getting plastered and driving around is probably bad too. But these are basic things. These are things that transcend class, ethnicity, gender, whatever, and contain common-sense, or common-knowledge. Using somebody else's tax-contribution to control certain details of people's lifestyle is angry-making. Because these things are things we don't have in common.

    Moreover, I think your fears are irrational, so does Kris too, it appears. Not only am I not willing to relinquish my freedom, I'm even less inclined to relinquish it because some church says I gotta. Eff you on that, six ways from Sunday.

    Forget making driving inconvenient. Let's make idiocy be inconvenient first.

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  • Kris Harris June 12, 2010 at 6:01 am

    @Kate - so ypu made your way through Reed. but didn't learn anything about life along the way. Stay in your fantasy world and enjoy your career as an Urban Planner or cashier at an adult video store.

    If you want all this stuff you psy for it. Don't point a gun at my head, take my money and tell me you know best.

    PS - MAX is so dangerous and so unprotected that it was featured on an episode of Gangland. The documentary outlined how gangs are usig the system to commit crimes on one side of town and escape unfettered to the other. Some Utopia there.

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  • Kris Harris June 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

    @Vance Shortwell, you are so cerebral and so superior. Your intelect has humbled me. I'm now on your side and will follow your commands. Please messiah, tell me how and what to think and I shall do so. Thanks for blessing me with your view of the world. I was lost until I read your posting. My car is going up for sale tis afternoon and I will be praying at the shrine of Whole Foods. Bless you for showing me the the light.

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  • beth h June 12, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Looks like we'll never get Americans to change their desires for more space, more freedom AND more secutiry all at once.

    Meanwhile, no one's talking very much about China and India where everyone is mad to own and drive cars and the skies blacken more every day and, well -- they outnumber us a gazillion to one.

    I think the only thing left -- if you believe the blowhards and naysayers here -- is to take those immortality tablets, slap on the environmental impermeability suits, and move to Mars.

    I've never seen a discussion turn so bleak so quickly.

    Accept that we're all going to die someday, that now is all we have, and that the thing to do is to figure out how to live as well as possible. Good luck.

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  • wsbob June 12, 2010 at 11:16 am

    "...Meanwhile, no one's talking very much about China and India where everyone is mad to own and drive cars and the skies blacken more every day and, well -- they outnumber us a gazillion to one. ..." beth h

    Amongst the U.S. public, how generally known might it be that the Chinese public is on this course to virtually duplicate the same stupid mistakes the U.S. has made with its own transportation system?

    Or that China is compounding the problem by damming the Yangtze River to create the world's largest man-made reservoir, enabling China's consuming population to grow at an even greater rate of speed than it already is?

    I've read though, that compared to the U.S., China is way ahead in terms of enabling its citizens personal mobility through the common use of electric bikes and scooters. Even if U.S. citizens were to continue to be generally resistant to the idea of getting about for short trips on their own power, if they could at least be persuaded to use a smaller vehicle, this alone could significantly confront the capacity, if not the congestion problems on U.S. roadways.

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  • wsbob June 12, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Correction: "...Amongst the U.S. public, how generally known might it be...known...

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  • jim June 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    where are we going to get electricity for electric bikes, scooters if we don't have coal or oil or dams? windfarms are not going to do it.

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  • Trek 3900 June 12, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Electric bikes might work for quite a few people, but probably not electric cars. I doubt there is enough transmission capability to plug in 150,000,000 cars each night, but there might be enough to plug in 150,000,000 bikes IF people will get rid of their monster TV's and other wasteful electric appliances.

    But, what fuel do you propose to use to produce that electricity?

    And then there is the problem of winter in most of the country. Bikes and ice, snow and 40 below don't mix too well. Not to mention the problem of getting a significant number of people to WANT to use an electric bike.

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  • Vance Longwell June 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Kris #90 - Yeah, I think you missed something man. I realize my hastily drafted comments on a bicycle blog at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning leave a little to be desired in the 'ol literacy department, but I was trying to agree with/support ya.

    My bad, I guess.

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  • Trek 3900 June 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    A winning lottery ticket will solve every problem I will ever have.

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  • wsbob June 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    where are we going to get electricity for electric bikes, scooters if we don't have coal or oil or dams? windfarms are not going to do it." jim #94

    Good question. I would think that one source would be from a reallocation of portions of energy currently expended to produce and run fuel burning motor vehicles...possible if the U.S. public's dependency on that mode of transportation could be reduced by various means, including better urban/rural planning and complimentary transportation infrastructure that offered people appealing, enjoyable, and healthy ways to meet a good portion of their travel needs without getting into a car and driving.

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  • wsbob June 12, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    "...Bikes and ice, snow and 40 below don't mix too well. ..." Trek 3900 #95

    Trikes. That extra wheel provides a level of stability that I think would allay a lot of the anxiety some people associate with balancing a bike. For short hops around town, a very small four wheel electric vehicle isn't much of a stretch. I've noticed that maintenance at Pioneer Square downtown Portland has taken to using one that's very interesting: 2 place, enclosed driving compartment, includes an enclosed van-like compartment behind seating compartment.

    Perfect grocery getter for people that don't want to be directly out in the rain and cold, muscling the trip on their own power.

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  • Red Five June 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Vance....dammit man...why don't YOU run for mayor? You make a whole more sense than these liberal-tards running the show now.

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  • ecohuman June 12, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    If bicycles are the "answer", why is air pollution about the same in Amsterdam as it is in Portland?

    Arguing about which mode of transport is best is like arguing over which deck shoes will enable you to stay on your feet longer on a sinking ship.

    The problem, dear readers, isn't cars--it's population growth and consumption. For this "livable city" you strive for to exist, the planetary ecology has to pay an enormous price. For all the urban density you crave, the city has to cast its net ever wider to source and consume enough resources to exist.

    In other words, you actually can't reduce consumption and ecological damage that much by living in the same highly urban, dense built environment that depends on massive resource consumption just to service the basic and ever growing) infrastructure.

    In other other words--you want your cake and to eat it too. You want bicycles made in Asia and Europe and all the resource extraction required to manufacture and ship them and maintain them--and to simultaneously be able to sit in a coffee shop on your laptop, blog, ride around on fossil-fuel-based roadways, and consume the same goods you do now (but in moderation, always in moderation).

    Better living through slightly different purchasing decisions isn't going to save the planet, or even do much to make the air cleaner.

    So--if you want that beautiful, livable, densely urban city of hundreds of thousands (and soon, millions) of people, get used to ecological disaster. Riding our bicycles to save the planet, to paraphrase George Carlin, is like screwing for virginity.

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  • jim June 12, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Vance for director of BTA

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  • wsbob June 12, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    "If bicycles are the "answer", why is air pollution about the same in Amsterdam as it is in Portland?..." ecohuman #101

    ecohuman, assuming that's so, what's your answer to why air pollution is about the same in Amsterdam as it is in Portland? Are you suggesting that Amsterdam residents that are riding their bikes instead of driving, should give up doing so because it's making no discernible difference in reduction of air pollution levels over their city?

    "...Riding our bicycles to save the planet..." ecohuman #101

    That's certainly a lot broader objective than I'd ever heard anybody claim, that was encouraging increased use of bikes for transportation.

    My impression is that what people are really after, increasingly, is being able to simply walk or bike 5-6 blocks back and forth to the store, school, etc, through an environment that's more supportive of those means of travel than the typical Foster Rd/Canyon Rd/Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy/Cedar Hills Blvd environment that's so prevalent today.

    Is the pedestrian/bike environment irrevocably fated to bear the character of a pseudo-war zone...as it so often does today...to keep from compromising the city's ability to source resources to supply its residents daily needs?

    "...You want bicycles made in Asia and ... ..." ecohuman #101

    Who is 'you'? That's certainly not me. Is that even the typical American consumer? Or, the typical American(to quote the illustrious Red Five #100) "liberal-tards". People want their stuff made in the U.S.; simple, beautiful, solid, practical, well made and long lasting bikes made...in the U.S. ...that cost $500-$1000 and aren't undercut in price by bike production in Asia and Europe.

    Considering U.S. extraordinary ability for innovation, that shouldn't be too much to expect. But then, considering that the U.S. automobile industry has for most of its lifespan, produced vehicles deliberately designed to be obsolete within about 10 years, maybe it is.

    Humanity has allowed the great invention that is the motor vehicle, become the indifferent parent of population growth. Humanity ravages the earth to produce and fuel these throwaway vehicles. No other transportation mode has enabled population growth as strongly and as uncontrollably as the motor vehicle has.

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  • ecohuman June 13, 2010 at 7:40 am

    No other transportation mode has enabled population growth as strongly and as uncontrollably as the motor vehicle has.

    Wrong, and that doesn't even make sense. India and China, the most populous countries on the planet, became so with extremely poor auto ownership. The most common urban transportation modes in both countries remains the bicycle and other human power transport.

    The US and Western Europe, the areas with the most auto ownership on the planet, have the lowest populations (and population growth) on the planet.

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  • Nostradamus June 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Don't worry about bikes and cars. Let people do what they want. The nation is bankrupt today and tomorrow will multiply that by 3. Our ship is sinking fast. Enjoy it while it's still afloat. Write you legislators and thank them for destroying a mighty nation and the world economy. It has taken decades, but they finally got 'er done.

    In 5 years people will not be able to afford bikes and food, much less cars.


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  • wsbob June 13, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    "No other transportation mode has enabled population growth as strongly and as uncontrollably as the motor vehicle has." wsbob #103

    "Wrong, and that doesn't even make sense. ...' ecohuman #104

    No, that's what I wrote...you copied and pasted correctly...and what I wrote makes sense to me.

    "...India and China, the most populous countries on the planet, became so with extremely poor auto ownership. ..." ecohuman #104

    And those countries became so in no small part, through the motor vehicle's extraordinary ability to deliver resources upon which human population expands.

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  • jim June 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    "Humanity ravages the earth to produce and fuel these throwaway vehicles"
    They are recycled, not thrown away. there are no cars in the landfills. That is after a great deal of miles, Many more miles than a bicycle when it is retired.

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  • Brad June 14, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Future American innovation? Where and when? I don't see very many American kids pursuing engineering degrees nor having the math and science acumen to even qualify for admission.

    But we do have a glut of business, urban planning, education, psychology, political science, theatre, and liberal arts majors doing a bang up job of serving us coffee and pastries each morning!

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  • wsbob June 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

    "...They are recycled, not thrown away. ..." jim #107

    The vast majority of them long before the period of service which the steel they're made from is capable of expires.

    Compared to bikes, motor vehicles put on more miles over the period of their service period, but with virtually no personal exertion expended on the part of their operators. This is part of the very problem that we're discussing.

    Motor vehicles ability to allow their operators effortless personal travel has resulted in nearly unmanageable road congestion, urban sprawl, and fossil fuel consumption that seems to know no boundaries.

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  • wsbob June 14, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Correction: "... Compared to bikes, motor vehicles put on more miles over the period of their service, but with virtually no personal exertion expended on the part of their operators.

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  • you_are_a_traffic_calming_device June 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    +1 for comments #60, #29, and #87.

    Daily car usage goes deeper, I feel, than the microcosm known as Portland that we all happily(?) live in.

    To meditate inwards about our city instead of outwards could be short-sighted.

    Remember that huge expanse of road infrastructure, specifically designed for cars, outside of the city?

    Regular long distance travel is a reality we all live with and I've always felt bicycle use and long-distance transit use has had a symbiotic relationship.

    If one must own a car to go long distances on a regular basis, why not use that vehicle within city limits?

    (I, for one, do not reason this way, but many do).

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  • MeghanH June 14, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Geez, what a nightmare discussion. Guess this is what happens when the Lars Larson crowd gets wind of a good idea...

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  • El Biciclero June 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    "where are we going to get electricity for electric bikes, scooters if we don't have coal or oil or dams? windfarms are not going to do it."

    I just saw Iron Man 2, (SPOILER ALERT!) and I think the Arc Reactor, powered by Tony Stark's newly invented element, holds a lot of promise!

    According to the film, it only takes about two days of tooling up a basement factory by adding a bunch of ductwork, then shining a laser into the middle of a triangular metal thingy. In Tony's own words, "that was easy!"

    We need to put Al Gore on this right away (maybe Ed Begley, Jr. could help him) and do whatever it takes to start synthesizing this new, unnamed element and using it to power reactors of all sizes (from personal, in-home versions to Mega-Nuclear-Plant-sized versions) to overcome this energy problem once and for all!

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  • jim June 14, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Thats the problem- too much science fiction- too many people not living in the real world

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  • jim June 14, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    There was something in the wind- it smelled rather rotten

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  • Nostradamus June 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Everyone in the US should be required to read the novel "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. It relates to some of this type of discussion. It's a difficult book to read because of the size: 1168 pages of closely spaced text - probably equal to about 2500 pages in a normal novel. It also is a tad slow at times. But it is applicable to todays politics.

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  • J.R. June 18, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Rob, if you are still reading these, here is another point about parking costs from Chris Smith:

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