Reader comment: Opposition to urban cycling is class based

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 16th, 2011 at 10:46 am

"Wealthy people often tend to see cyclists as losers and indigents; after all, if cyclists could afford cars, they would drive them."
— Al from PA, BikePortland commenter

Last week we shared the news that several entities have spoken up in opposition to various motor vehicle restrictions being proposed as part of an effort to improve bike access in the Lloyd District.

In the wide-ranging discussion that followed in the comments, one reader, who goes by "Al from PA," brought up the issue of class and how it might factor into that opposition.

I wanted to share Al's comment with a wider audience:

Opposition of these sort to bike facilities seems at first completely irrational. We as urban cyclists know that bicycles provide a viable, even necessary alternative to personal motorized transport. Others resist this: why?

Of course some opposition is "financial." Developers see increased bike traffic as somehow devaluing their real estate investment. This too is, from our perspective, largely irrational: generally property values *increase* when neighborhoods and commercial areas become more bike friendly. So what's going on?

I would suggest that much opposition to urban cycling is class based.

A (small) part of traffic-1
(Photo © J. Maus)

It's no coincidence that the most developed systems of urban bicycle infrastructure are in areas where class distinctions are the least pronounced: Denmark, Holland, northern Germany, some areas in northern Italy. It's even true in the US: many college towns, as well as Portland, have less radical income and class disparity, and are relatively favorable to cycling; areas in the South, however, where race and class lines may be more starkly drawn, can be quite hostile to practical cycling.

Wealthy people often tend to see cyclists as losers and indigents; after all, if cyclists could afford cars, they would drive them (hence the positions, perhaps, of some developers and shop keepers). Poorer car-dependent people dislike cyclists either because they feel mistrust for people even lower on the class hierarchy, or they are frightened by people who disrespect class rules which hold that cyclists are a priori inferior: hence the constant rants about "elitist" cyclists. After all, if you're less wealthy and have to maintain a car, it's a huge financial drain: if these know-it-alls are right, your enormous sacrifice for your car(s) has been for nothing. That's irritating, to say the least.

Long story short (and sorry for the length of this post): it's not just about making cyclists feel more comfortable on the road. If we want more people to ride, and to make the city more bike friendly, perhaps we should start to think more directly about issues of class, and how to address them.

Do you think this is an issue that needs to be addressed? If so, how?

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  • Duncan Watson May 16, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I believe this is true, but it is likely to change as gas prices start making it harder and harder for more of us to maintain automotive transportation. There will always be the classist obstructionist but eventually then will become irrelevant.

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  • Roma May 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Personally, I reject this argument. In my opinion, most opposition to cycling is based on people thinking cyclists don't belong on the street in the way of their cars.

    Note to hippies: not every problem in this world is based on class, gender and/or race.

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    • Ely May 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

      But WHY do they think bikes don't belong? Because cars are somehow superior? That IS a class distinction.

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      • Mark May 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

        Because of instances like yesterday on the way to work through a residential-ish area, when a group of six to seven cyclists were riding in a group instead of single file, spread out across the lane (street is one lane of traffic going each way), going about 10mph in a 35mph zone with about six to seven cars behind me all being held up.

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        • sabernar May 16, 2011 at 11:33 am


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        • Howard !Q. Bikeman May 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm

          To be fair, it is technically a 1-35mph zone. I'm not aware of many local streets that have a minimum speed limit higher than 10mph.

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          • MIddle of the Road Guy May 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm

            And that's the point. It makes it even more inconsiderate and selfish.

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        • q`Tzal May 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

          That's just rude behavior and selfish use of a community resource.

          Most of the cyclists I've seen do thing skew towards the "bikes are toys/bikes aren't traffic" side of the political spectrum.
          As such, when blocking the road, they don't see it as a road but as their own personal recration area you've intruded upon.

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        • Spiffy May 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm

          perfectly legal on some roads... what road was it and what cross-streets?

          example, it would be perfectly legal on Division Street around the 30s/40s because there's not enough room to safely pass a cyclist therefore they can take up the entire lane and ride next to each other...

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          • Roma May 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

            While it may be 'perfectly legal', that doesn't make it any less frustrating for the people in faster modes of transportation who would like to at least drive the speed limit. The point isn't the legality, it's the impact it has on most motorists and their attitudes towards cyclists. I'm not saying it's wrong or right to ride down the middle of Division, but I am saying that if you do so you'll likely anger a number of motorists.

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          • MIddle of the Road Guy May 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm

            it's selfish and does not exactly build good-will, does it?

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          • Duncan May 17, 2011 at 8:41 am

            Spiffy thats my hood and if you think that someone cant pass you on that street you should get off your bike and walk. I bike it (and let people pass me) all the way through there all the time.

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          • DK May 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

            It's legal.

            Is it smart?

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        • single track May 17, 2011 at 7:48 am

          technically you should completely leave the lane when safe to pass these 6-7 scofflaws so their grouped status didn't do anything to your commute. be thankful that 6-7 cars weren't there so you didn't have to wait for 4 minutes at the next 4 way stop or light.

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        • Mark Kenseth May 17, 2011 at 10:47 am

          Now you know exactly how it feels to be a bicyclist or pedestrian most of the time. It's frustrating when roads, parking garages, parking lots and entire cities are only built for cars. It's not the bicyclist's fault, it's the car-biased infrastructure to blame. And we're all just stuck in the middle of it. Might as well try and enjoy the ride.

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    • craig May 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      I find it unreasonable to dismiss the basic tendency in all of our thinking, to constantly--if unconsciously--categorize the people we encounter through our daily existence. It's just what we do, though some of us may make a deliberate effort to bend our minds away from that tendency.

      And there is a significant portion of society that, without analysis or reason, identifies certain others in society as "liberal", "anti-establishment", "counter-culture", with a pejorative view. We encounter this kneejerk quasi-socio-political mentality wherever we may roam.

      All of us carry in our habits a certain kneejerk quasi-socio-political mentality, and for lots of folks that mentality manifests as an anti-bike spirit. Class, race, politics, religion, and any other core aspects of our social perspective are caught up in this.

      Or so it seems to me.

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    • noah May 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      "I reject this argument" is not a very good argument.

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  • michael bogoger May 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Al has a point in relation to urban areas, but farther afield here in the Pacific Northwest cyclists riding expensive bikes and wearing helmets and tights are seen as yuppie invaders.
    The argument against cyclists is often that they take up space paid for by tax paying motorists, which is pure irrationality.
    The most prominent marker of class in our society is the car. Several generations of marketing have made it so. The decision to ride rather than drive can't be framed in the same terms.

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    • SteveD May 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      I completely agree.

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    • craig May 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

      The most prominent marker of class in our society is the car.

      Sad but true.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 16, 2011 at 11:16 am

    I agree with some of what Al from PA writes (and I share some of the sentiment of Roma's comment as well).

    Riding a bike is definitely considered a lower class thing by some people (yes, even in Portland). And it's no surprise to me, given how we treat bicycling overall as a transportation mode. In many instances (both infrastructure and policy-related), bikes are not given the same respect and attention that cars are given. Therefore, it follows that people would see those who bike as second-class citizens who are not worthy of more respect.

    I think, once our bikeway network is more complete, and our policies follow suit, we'll see the class divisions erode.

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    • black dude on bicycle May 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Correct: The class divisions will erode away when the bike network is complete because the minorities that once lived in those areas won't be there anymore.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm

        How do you make a correlation between presence of bikeways and minorities? I don't buy that argument (although I know it's very popular and beloved by the local media) at all.

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        • eljefe May 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm

          Jonathan, you just highlighted an article in the Monday Roundup about bike routes raising property values. Property owners celebrate, low-income renters leave. That's gentrification. Besides, even if there is not a causal relationship (many other factors contributed to rising prices), there is a correlative one. Gentrification and displacement in North Portland have been at their peak during the same few years that bikes increased dramatically. This is why the people who potentially have the most to gain from biking (low-income, urban) often have such hostility to it. I notice that the voices of displaced people never seem to be heard here or elsewhere in the local media, but we ignore them at our own peril.

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 16, 2011 at 1:45 pm

            I understand how gentrification works. But I challenge people to go beyond the convenient analysis of bikeways = gentrification and get to the route of the problem. Gentrification is a deeply rooted cultural/societal issue; blaming part of it on the presence of improved access for the most affordable, equitable, community-building mode of transportation is nothing more than lazy scapegoating in my opinion.

            The problem isn't the presence of a bikeway, it's the presence of income inequalities. We should focus less on blaming bikeways and more on why those income inequalities exist.

            As for voices of the displaced. I don't cover social issues, so I'm not as likely to present those voices — however, I'd love to talk to someone who has been displaced and feels that the presence of bicycling is what caused it.

            Thanks for your comment. I realize this topic is challenging to discuss online.

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        • black dude on bicycle May 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

          What eljefe said sums up what I would say but in a much nicer way.

          Gentrification exists, it is real, and it has been status quo in Portland for quite some time (say 1950s-ish).

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          • Paul Johnson May 17, 2011 at 1:07 pm

            More like since it's founding. Can we just have a race riot to get rid of this pent up frustration and get along after that? Worked for Tulsa.

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          • noah May 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm

            ? Portland's neighborhoods were divested from starting in the '50s and through the '90s, like in most other American cities.

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    • Jeff May 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      I dunno -- here in Portland's close-in areas, the opposition I see to cyclists seems to be that cyclists are "smug, entitled hipsters." (They haven't seen me slogging along in my dorky rain pains and helmet cover.) The class discrimination at work here seems less based on "cyclists as indigents," and more as cyclists as members of the leisured, non-working class, skipping from cafe to cafe, reading graphic novels and buying organic vegan muffins. Many drivers seem to feel that their objective (going to work, dropping off the kids, getting groceries) is a serious one, and cyclists' objectives are frivolous. The tired old chestnut about cyclists "not paying their way" supports this mindset -- somehow we're getting away with something that drivers, having "grown up" and "accepted responsibility" cannot.

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      • ET May 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm

        I am totally with you on this.

        When talking to non-cyclist drivers (usually before they know that I ride) this often seems to be what I find underlying their surface complaints of: slowing traffic, being rude, displacing parking, etc.

        Most of these complaints can be applied to commuter car traffic as well, but we seem more tolerant/oblivious of others who are doing the same things we "must" do ourselves. Drivers impose stress on other drivers all the time, and it takes no thought for them to relate and know what that feels like and not carry a chip on their shoulder towards all drivers who are performing this "necessary" task. But when a driver gets cut off by a cyclist even once, it's being done to them by someone who's not obviously performing the same necessary task.

        This does not only apply to cyclists, think about a driver getting stuck behind a Harley cruising slowly or cut off by an exotic sports car... clearly these are all joyriders and not people trying to get somewhere!

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        • MIddle of the Road Guy May 16, 2011 at 10:06 pm

          congratulations on summing up the evolutionary psychology analysis of the situation.

          Hipsters biking around in the daytime is perceived as unemployed freeloaders with an entitlement complex. Sadly, it is not an inaccurate assessment many times.

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          • matt picio May 17, 2011 at 2:46 am

            Part of that is because all Americans have at least some degree of entitlement, and many if not most of us are unaware of it or choose to ignore it. A prime example are those who complain about "X" being "in their way". (insert whatever for "X" - cyclists, pedestrians, trucks, slower cyclists on the Hawthorne Bridge, etc.) 3/4 of the world's population moves at speeds slower than 20mph. This was the norm everywhere until 150 years ago. The ability to exceed 25mph is a privileged entitlement, and as a nation where 5% of the world's population uses 25% of the resources and produces 1/3 of the pollution, every one of us, including the so-called "lower class" is ridiculously entitled.

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  • Warren May 16, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Class/Race most definitely play a part in opposition to cycling infrastructure. I grew up in the south, and have witnessed much hostility to the idea of cycling for transportation (as opposed to recreation).

    For the African American population in cities like Orlando, Birmingham and New Orleans the bicycle most likely represents abject poverty or drug culture. The car is the most accessible cultural standard of personal responsibility and opulence.

    Many drivers see cycling as a threat to their cultural or lifestyle standards, i.e. individualism. Cycling may not be innately communal, but it is considerably less of an individual activity than driving.

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    • SteveD May 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      I wouldn't say that cyclists are always seen as lower class. It used to be when you rode a bike through north Portland on N Vancouver or Williams that people used to shout hostilities at you or throw things (not so much anymore). They were perceiving cyclists as rich people riding through their neighborhood.

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      • woogie May 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm

        Or it that just another sign of gentrification.

        It's not that the population is more accepting, it's that the population has been replaced by one that is more so.

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  • gumby May 16, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Class issues certainly play a role, but this argument is an oversimplification of a complex issue.

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  • Jack May 16, 2011 at 11:34 am

    With more teenagers reaching driving age during a time when it's so expensive to own/operate a car, I think (hope) the association between the car you own (if any) and your financial/social status will fade.

    The notion has lost all validity in the past decades anyway since a car no longer reflects what a person can afford so much as some bank's willingness to make a ton of interest off that person.

    It's so sad to see people living in crumbling, unmaintained apartments, yet driving $30k+ vehicles that appear to be washed often enough so as to appear shiny and clean even through the winter. Hopefully the offspring of those suffering from such poor lifestyle choices will recognize the problem and want better for themselves.

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    • Spiffy May 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      I read not long ago that fewer kids are getting their license right out of school... by choice...

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  • sabernar May 16, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I think another reason is that cylists can, as Mark stated above, can be huge douchebags. They think the world (and traffic) revolves around them. They are inconsiderate towards drivers and pedestrians alike. Of course not EVERYONE is like that, but even if 5% are (which seems low to me), then everyone gets painted with the same, broad brush.

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    • KJ May 16, 2011 at 11:45 am

      That is true for certain people no matter their mode of travel. A douchebag is a douchebag is a douchebag. Bicycle riding people really don't have a monopoly on that.

      I think we're just more sensitized to peds and drivers being selfish jerks because there are more of them and they are accepted forms of getting around.

      Cyclists are still working towards being a common acceptable form of travel and so we stick out in people's minds more. Hence the broad brush taring us all.

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      • KJ May 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm

        ugh, DE-sensitized... =)

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    • dan May 16, 2011 at 11:45 am

      While cyclists are certainly sometimes guilty of the behavior Sabernar describes, but that comment applies equally well to motorists:

      I think another reason is that motorists can, as Mark stated above, can be huge douchebags. They think the world (and traffic) revolves around them. They are inconsiderate towards cyclists and pedestrians alike. Of course not EVERYONE is like that, but even if 5% are (which seems low to me), then everyone gets painted with the same, broad brush.

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    • Over and Doubt May 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      True, sabernar, but equally true if you sub in "motorist" for "cyclist." So how come motorists don't so much get the broad-brush treatment based on their displayed lifestyle affiliation--WRX drivers or SUV drivers or Smart Car drivers, etc.? That seeming double standard may be what the class argument tries to address.

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      • Wendy May 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm

        Dunno about that. I listened to a rant about Prius drivers just the other day. From an outer Westside SUV driver, of course.

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        • MIddle of the Road Guy May 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm

          Plenty of rants about SUV drivers have occurred here.....have you leapt to their defense?

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  • huh May 16, 2011 at 11:45 am

    to me it is becoming more complex due to different factors. it is like opening a can of worms.

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  • Edie Spencer May 16, 2011 at 11:53 am

    The poster has a very good point. But here's one thing: Many people who can bike to work and services here in Portland Metro are seen as being part of feckless upper class. While people who are lower income feel forced to have a car - thus paying a sort of "poor tax"- in order to have the crap job you have have the car payment, insurance and gas.

    It's an interesting look at how class works here in Portland and around the United States.

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  • eli bishop May 16, 2011 at 11:57 am

    i see it go both ways: it's looked down on as being BOTH lower class and yuppie class. lose-lose.

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    • Mike May 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      Agreed. From what I read on other group sites: either the cyclist is an arrogant lycra clad cyclist taking up the entire lane or a bum carrying a trashbag of 150 cans hanging from their handlebars. One thing remains constant regardless of which type of rider - cyclists don't obey traffic laws and don't pay for road maintenance.

      Here is a link to a recent rant - Please note that this is another vulnerable group of road users that also likes to use the term "cager". It's offensive and ignorant, but also representative of sentiment towards cyclists.


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  • Clhrikes May 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Discussions of race/class are best approached with a 4-year degree in sociology/anthropology. I would LOVE to see an up-and-coming Soc-Anthro major take on the Bike Attitudes Behemoth. It would make a stunning Doctoral Thesis, and they would be excellent additions (as an expert witness) to any blogospheric discussions thereof.

    The only thing I can speak about is my own personal experience, and I'm increasingly tired of running into nothing but anecdotal evidence about American Society's Reaction to cycling. You can call me when you've got some survey results with an error margin of 5% or less. Anecdotally, I only see people talking about this in anecdotes. I would LOVE to see evidence to the contrary. Do resources like this exist? Who tracks Bikes in the polls? PAGING NATE SILVER.....

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    • Cora Potter May 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      Well, it would have to be a sociology major for a study of US/regional attitudes toward class and biking. A comparable study of European attitudes could be done by either a sociologist or anthropologist, and probably would net different outcomes. You would definitely need an anthropologist for any study or non-western bicycling culture.

      Anyhow, I have a four year degree in anthropology, and my inexpert opinion will tell you that this piece definitely rings true in East Portland, where the generalizations about class are pretty apparently real since the lack of development of the biking facilities makes the visible population of cyclists skew toward hardcore recreational cyclists and those who cycle within the neighborhood to participate in what are generally considered low-class occupations like gathering returnables. I think it's a lot easier to find the "exceptions" to the argument in inner Portland where the cycling facilities allow more inclusive use, because of the perceived sense of safety and social "coolness" factor.

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      • Clhrikes May 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm

        Ok, so I read your response and my first thought was that you may not have understood my comment completely. I know I do this all the time, read something and dash off a reply. I saw that since you are a student of Anthropology, your ideas about it as a field could be markedly different from non-students. My comment was about the need for quantifiable research on this topic, which you, as a student of anthropology, should have supported. What confuses me is that you first tried to redefine anthropology, (in a seemingly pedantic way - my interpretation), and you then went on to make an argument based on more anecdotal evidence.

        I'm not trying to be mean, but I'm not sure I understand why you left me a reply at all.

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        • Cora Potter May 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

          I think this is a common misconception about the social sciences, particularly anthropology. Social sciences are, by their very nature, highly dependent on qualitative research, none more so than anthropology. Sociology, to a much greater extent emphasizes quantitative analysis because it's a lot harder to be objectively qualitative about a culture that one personally participates in. And, while some quantitative methods are used in anthropological fields (much more prevalent in fields with hard data sets like archaeology and physical anthropology, less so in linguistics and social anthropology) there is a strong reliance on qualitative research, and if you really study anthropology, a great deal of your time is spent floundering among the history, theory and understanding of the human foibles of individual "founding fathers" of anthropology that give one the tools to know when and how to use quantitative vs. qualitative analysis, when to apply structuralism vs. relativism blah blah blah ugh yes it's pedantic. It actually gets quite ridiculous at points - almost a cult of personality in some cases. I personally prefer a Clifford Geertz style approach, but I'm also an Art Historian and his theory works well with that field.

          Anyhow- I thought the "inexpert" qualifier on my anecdote about East Portland made it clear. In no way would I ever expect to be able to adequately produce any sort of reasonable ethnographic analysis of East Portland - because, I'm immersed in that culture. So, all I can do is offer my anecdotes- my biased observations as a cultural insider (and count bikes).

          On the other hand, if you sent me to Lesotho to observe cultural attitudes toward bicycling, I could probably come up with a pretty objective qualitative analysis. And, I think I'd be infinitely more interested in what someone from Lesotho thinks about our cycling attitudes than what someone from North Portland thinks.

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          • Cora Potter May 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm

            Oh - and two rules of thumb with Anthropologists:

            1. Never, under any circumstances, confuse or equate anthropology with sociology. There's a reason why they are separate departments.

            2. Never suggest to an anthropologist that they join the CIA.

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  • Chris May 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    It’s just people stereotyping. Kind of like how many cyclists on this board paint every SUV driver as a lunatic. It’s not true, but when you get cut off by one SUV you tend to project that anger onto every other one, deserved or not.

    If we all just learned to hate individual people, and not an entire class of people, we’d be better off.

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  • 9watts May 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Edie, Eli, & Al are making similar and very good points.
    It isn't that biking is lower class per se, but that folks in the middle class, striving to fit in, to make it, to keep from slipping a rung or even two as measured by the symbols familiar to them, identify with cars and particular cars as evidence that they've achieved parity with those they seek to emulate. When others in their town, neighborhood, block who may have just as much money, i.e., who in their class-based worldview could have bought the car *they've* worked so many hours for and thought represented outwardly their belonging, bike instead this is seen as an affront. Their resentment may have to do with the realization that THE CAR doesn't fit as neatly into the one class scale they've invested in. Biking in a MIDDLE CLASS car culture by people who are not poor casts doubt on a lot of things. But this is about the middle class mostly. The rest care much less about what others think, drive, or how they appear in the eyes of others.
    It's great, really...and we thought it was about getting some place with little effort.

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  • Howard Q. Bikeman May 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I think the issue is less directly class than individuals' access to a percieved quality of life. For the broadest segment of our society, those who have and those who wish to have both see the road to prosperity defined by automobility. To suggest otherwise is subversive to those who have and derogatory to those who are seeking that cultural bar (car ownership, financial success, etc).

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  • PorterStout May 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I'm with gumby (geez I always wanted to say that) and a couple of others above. Attributing this solely (or even primarily) to class differences implies that if you picked a very homogenous town, say like a company town where everyone worked at the same place, that these frictions would no longer exist. Class differences are a subset of a much larger issue I would call "us vs. them." I don't care what conflict you care to name: this ethnic group vs. that one; straights vs. gays; Christians vs. Moslems; fans of this sports team vs. that one; cowboys vs. hippies; Democrats vs. Republicans; cyclists vs. drivers, and on and on; once someone gets identified as being on the "other" side all manner of civility is readily dismissed and sometimes to tragic or even heinous result (look at what former neighbors did to each other in Rwanda and Bosnia, etc.). It's so common that I think it's a fundamental part of being human, a result of our evolutionary competition for survival. You can see it on this website and others whenever someone sweeps all drivers or all cyclists into one stereotyped category. What can we do about it? Gandhi said Be the Change You Seek. One thing everyone can do is catch themselves before launching off into some universal tirade against some group they've identified as the "other." Or striking out at an individual whom they've sterotyped as being one of them. Change starts at home.

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  • 9watts May 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    For anyone curious to learn more about class in the US I highly recommend Paul Fussell's
    Class: A Guide Through the American Status System.

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  • q`Tzal May 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    This boils down to a pro and anti-change issue.

    It's little wonder that people that are anti-change are most often rich and those who are poor are pro- change.

    When you have everything to lose even the smallest change is terrifying; when you have nothing to lose overthrowing the government seems like a reasonable idea.

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    • Spiffy May 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm

      very true!

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  • Paul Souders May 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    "if these know-it-alls are right, your enormous sacrifice for your car(s) has been for nothing."

    This line astutely parses Al from PA's argument without recourse to class, race or any other label. It explains why so many people with my exact sociopolitical circumstance find my mode of transport "impossible." Impossible to do, or impossible to imagine doing?

    Besides, even rich white people have to pay $4+/gal for gas right now, and their cars probably cost more too. I think this every time I see a Lexus (or somesuch): "wow, the loan payment on that car could buy a bike a month. What a sucker." If I'm thinking it, Lexus Driver might be thinking it too, or at least suspect that I'm thinking it.

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    • Jack May 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm

      ""wow, the loan payment on that car could buy a bike a month. What a sucker." If I'm thinking it, Lexus Driver might be thinking it too, or at least suspect that I'm thinking it."

      Unforunately, I think you're way off here. I suspect to the Lexus driver, that monthly payment is really just a few hundred dollars. It's not the $40,000 it's going to cost in the long run. It's not the $20,000 in gas/insurance/maintenance on top of that. It's just a few hundred dollars that is accepted as a cost of living...every month.

      I'd bet there are very few non-cyclists who find themselves feeling envious of cyclists.

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  • Mindful Cyclist May 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    While cycling is far and away cheaper than driving, I think what people miss is how expensive it is to start being a full time cyclist. Let's face it--people are not going to simply just turn over the car keys, and just hop on a bike. I think it is a transition where people start to realize that it is easier getting around on bicycle than having a car.

    Let's just look at the start up costs for being a cyclist (pt or ft). A decent bicycle on craigslist is going to run someone at least $200. If it is under that, it will take at least that much in repairs to make it functional. Let's add some fenders to that since bacisacally no bike has them which will run you about $50 with installation. Oh, it rains here. Let's add another $100 for breathable, decent quality rain gear that you obviously got on sale for that price. A decent Krytonite lock will set someone back at least $35. That Planet Bike ecorack will cost around $25, and he will install that myself--gotta save somewhere. Oh, and the pannier to attache to it, maybe someone can find one for $65. Thankfully, this person is single and childless so no $450 Burley trailer necessary.

    So, on a budget, it is going to cost someone $475 to just get started to be a bicycle commuter. That is often a big chunk of change for someone just to fork over when he or she is maybe not ready to give up the car.

    So, yes, it is a bit about class. But, let's look at some of the barriers first to it and help people overcome some of those.

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy May 16, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      When I make my car payment, I realize I am paying for convenience and mobility. I can string together multiple tasks in one trip, have access to a far better paying job in the suburbs, and allows me to visit my far away, gorgeous places in Oregon.

      It's well worth it.

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      • Mindful Cyclist May 17, 2011 at 9:31 pm

        In all fairness, I own a 17 year old car that I have maintained and would have no problem hopping in right now and driving across the country. I also have a good paying job in the suburbs and have no problem taking public trans and/or biking to work. Depending on how late I am at work and how backed up the Sunset is, riding my bike is maybe another 10 minutes. And don't feel the need to go to the gym afterwards.

        It hardly has to be an either/or proposition.

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  • encephalopath May 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I say no.

    If cyclists were only depicted as loser outsiders, then class be the issue at play. But cyclists are also accused of being smug elitists with their fancy clothing and expensive 'crabon' equipment. It isn't one or the other... always both.

    Bicyclists are 'othered' in the same way that class and race are used, though. Lycra louts, scofflaw cyclists, hipster fixie lane splitters, Lance Armstrong wannabees are 'welfare queens' and 'strapping young bucks buying T-Bone steaks.' Just a label... a short hand pejorative to group together people you dislike.

    In both the loser and elitist models, cyclists are accused of being undeserving usurpers, taking something that doesn't belong to them. Dog whistles about universal healthcare, immigration, welfare, school funding do the same thing. These people over here are taking my money and to get something they don't deserve.

    This is about the majority, car drivers, losing their priveledged status, and they don't like it.

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  • kww May 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I think it is the flipside, there are definitely lower valued neighborhoods in Portland that are afraid that with the introduction of bike lanes, that their values will go even lower. How tragic, their myopia.

    Whereas, in upper class neighborhoods, these people look at the benefits of reduced congestion, traffic calming, etc...

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    • Rol May 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm


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      • Cora Potter May 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm

        Lol. I live on Holgate and I constantly think that someone should come in and make a documentary about the two Holgates.

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        • eli bishop May 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

          the two holgates?

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          • Cora Potter May 17, 2011 at 9:15 am

            Yes. Actually, East of 82nd, I'd wager there's even 3 Holgates, if not 4. Between 82nd and 92nd, there's a high concentration of younger, first time home owners mixed with one of the largest concentrations of Asian households in the city along with a scattering of empty-nesters and older urban singles (over age 40). East of I-205 the mix is more between the younger first time home buyers and more established working class households of larger families, both Latino and Caucasian, with a scattering of older urban singles (over age 40). And then, as you move even further east, it's mostly the mix of larger households and lower-income renters of a really broad range of backgrounds - extremely ethnically diverse.

            But if you generalize, it's pretty easy to say that there's a continuum of abilities to accept change, and that the further east you go on Holgate, the less accepting folks are.

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  • 9watts May 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    "I say no.

    If cyclists were only depicted as loser outsiders, then class be the issue at play. But cyclists are also accused of being smug elitists with their fancy clothing and expensive 'crabon' equipment. It isn't one or the other... always both."

    Class is more interesting and more complicated than your characterization of it. I see this as largely about the middle class interpretation of cyclists who they see as able to afford cars but who choose not to, or not to use and display them as they do--see above.

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  • beth h May 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    As long as we're looking at class, we need to also look at least a little bit at race, since non-whites tend to be less likely to CHOOSE to ride for transportation when a car is available to them.

    I'd LOVE to hear more from folks at the Community Cycling Center, who are doing a TON of research and advocacy around getting more low-income adults on bikes, and also wrestle with racial divides within the communities they serve.

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy May 16, 2011 at 10:29 pm

      That;s easy. Blacks view biking as the mode of poor people. Having a car shows a higher economic status - something very important in lower income demographic strata.

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      • 9watts May 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm

        "That;s easy. Blacks view biking as the mode of poor people. Having a car shows a higher economic status - something very important in lower income demographic strata."
        Thank you for your opinion. I'm not sure how helpful it is to paint all black people with the same stereotypical brush, though. Or poor people for that matter. Do you really think all poor people or all black people want the same thing, adhere to the same code, aspire to material possessions that are ranked on one scale?

        Let's try a thought experiment. I'm going to guess that 90% of bikeportland readers are white. For my purposes it isn't crucial whether this is an accurate guess. I'm also going to guess that a majority of bikeportland readers are not in the category you refer to as 'lower income demographic strata.'

        So, given those assumptions, do you think it is fair, accurate, useful to make broad brush statements about bikeportland readers? About their material aspirations, their class anxieties? Do you imagine that they all want the same thing, the same car, the same status?

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  • John Mulvey May 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    This boils down to a pro and anti-change issue.
    It's little wonder that people that are anti-change are most often rich and those who are poor are pro- change.
    When you have everything to lose even the smallest change is terrifying; when you have nothing to lose overthrowing the government seems like a reasonable idea.

    Good point. I'll add that there's also a certain overlay of result-oriented spin going on too. In other words, once someone recognizes themselves as a winner or loser under some public policy debate, they set to work crafting a class-based argument to help position themselves and their cause.

    If you're a low-income person who loves his/her car, then you define bikers as "those elitist yuppies." If you're a high-income person who wants to chase away bikers, you label them as "those dirtbags who are too lazy to afford a car."

    I was thinking about this issue back a few months when Jonathan posted a study about the economic distribution of bike riders. There was a certain pleasure among readers in seeing that it's not just the well-to-do who bike.

    What confused me then and now was the notion that this reality of large numbers of poorer riders ought to be publicized more, and that if we want to increase support for biking we ought to make the case that people of all income levels would use biking infrastructure if it was available.

    In our society, I think the reverse is true! That is, the perception that bikers are wealthy hobbyists probably helps get the policy changes we want more than it hurts. Making life easier for the poor is not generally a winning political message in this country.


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  • Cora Potter May 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I tend to think there's a 2-3 decade lag in recognition of what constitutes "status" among immigrant cultures and sub-cultures that are playing economic "catch-up" to a dominant culture.

    So, 2-3 decades ago, cars were the ultimate status symbol and conspicuous consumption was the dominant behaviour use to demonstrate class status.

    At some point, right around the end of the 80s/beginning of the 90s (right around when "workplace casual" and LL Bean became the big thing) excess and conspicuous consumption began to fall out of favor among the upper/upper middle classes, and there was a dialectic swing toward disguising wealth - having more occulted class indicators.

    As luck would have it, it was right around this time that immigrants and African Americans started to develop an entertainment/sports industry based elite class that self-identified strongly with conspicuous consumerism and automobile ownership as the ultimate status symbol, culminating with the H2 Hummer.

    There's been some re-adoption by celebrity culture, and I think we're starting to see a swing back - I don't know if they'll bring the car along as the ultimate status symbol though. There's already documentation of the trend that the UHB are still going for the bling, but opting for blingy bikes...

    And I could go on....

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    • Brad May 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      You see the same things on a world economy level as well. China and India are beginning to escape poverty and their middle classes can now afford consumers goods like cars, nice furnishings, designer clothing, LCD TVs, etc. Then Americans and Europeans start chiding them about consumption and the pollution it causes and that they shouldn't buy all of those things because its bad for the planet...

      Their reaction? Screw you! Thanks for the advice elitist Westerners that have had it good for a long time. Nice of you to tell us how we should live now that we have some money.

      Back in our town, someone works their tail off, saves their pennies and gets a used Kia only to be told by some Laurelhurst libs living in a $500,000 home and riding $5000 worth of carbon fiber that they are "killing the planet". It doesn't surprise me that the poor, the working class, and people of color dislike cyclists.

      Your post also reminded me of something I read a few months ago about the status value of cars and the disdain of public transit in African-American communities. The bus was referred to as the "loser cruiser" and a rapper opined that bus windows were large so that brothers couldn't hide from the mockery of whites all comfy in their cars. Why would these folks see bikes any differently? Bikes are just another form of transportation viewed with contempt by people that have "made it".

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy May 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      I totally disagree.

      It was the Escalade, not the Hummer.

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  • wsbob May 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Reading the remarks last week, of Al from PA, I wasn't sure there was much credence to them. Thinking about those comments again today because of this story, I'm fairly certain the idea that aversion to providing infrastructure for cycling exists because cyclists are perceived as lower or not a mainstream class is over-reaching.

    Comments in response to today's story, have cited a few examples of types of people cycling that probably are unwittingly lending themselves to occurrence of class bias towards cyclists.

    I'm inclined to think though, that more importantly than what color the cyclists are, or what they're wearing, what all of those examples have in common, is unskillful riding and use of the road.

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  • J- May 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I think there are certainly class issues at play, and mostly about the role that cars play vs. bikes as object of status. It is a matter of numbers, value and desire. The sad reality is that more people of all class levels aspire to car ownership of some level than they do to bike ownership. For those of higher classes, they may aspire to a nicer Porsche or Benz, but even a “high-end” bike would be instantly attainable for a few thousand dollars, so it represents little in the way of social status. Likewise, at the lower income end, owning a car would be a big deal in social mobility, but owning a bike is possible for less than $100, so it doesn’t represent any social status either. It really is a small subset of Portland (and even smaller in America) that has aspirational hopes for bike ownership. Those that do seek bike ownership as a sense of both identity and transportation are generally either very low income (where a bike could be their greatest asset), or fairly well-off creative class types (and lusting after $3,000 handmade bikes). For most people bikes are merely a tool for transportation or recreation, whereas cars are an object of social status. This is part of our social programming that is going to take a few generations (and some resource scarcity) to break.

    Even many of my friends that love bikes often talk about wanting sweet trucks and vans for outdoor adventures. The Dodge Sprinter CDI is pretty well regarded as the ultimate outdoor lifestyle platform. I myself am happy to build my transportation identity around my fleet of older cars and decently nice bikes.

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  • Steve B May 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    The primary reason I ride a bike to get around is affordability, and I presume I'm not alone. I think urban cycling suffers from image problems as both a poor person's transport and a rich person's privilege.

    The reality is that there is a broad spectrum of people using the bicycle to get around for varied reasons. With a challenging economy, raising oil prices and improving bike facilities, our goal should be to build a more diverse cycling populace that belongs to no one dominant group of people.

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  • random rider May 16, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I've posted before my thoughts as to why people more easily assign blame to bad drivers to the individual behind the wheel and conflate bad behavior by a single bicyclists to all riders in general. In general I think it's because it's easier to personalize the driver's experience (hey, I've rolled through a stop sign before too) whereas not as many adults can put themselves in the position of the cyclist. I believe the opposition to urban cycling is often similarly motivated.

    But, as others have said, there are a myriad of other reasons involved and class is likely but one of them.

    I know people who do recreational rides or even competitive racing quite frequently but don't think it's possible to be an everyday bike commuter and are indifferent to improving in-City infrastructure. What do you say to someone who will ride their $2,000 bike on a 75 mile ride on country roads but thinks bike boulevards/greenways or even sharrows are a waste of tax money?

    Maybe it all really is as simple as "I've got mine but I'm not willing to pay to help you get yours."

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    • beth h May 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      " Maybe it all really is as simple as 'I've got mine but I'm not willing to pay to help you get yours.' "
      Perhaps. But WHY aren't we willing to help others improve their standard of living? How much of it is race- or class-based, how much of it is greed and how much of it is simple laziness or entitlement?

      Gentrification is something we're willing to allow hackles to be raised over because it's far easier to discuss than Portland's historic -- and deliberately designed -- white majority, which has been in place and readily reinforced for over a hundred years. Elected officials and business leaders conspired against populations of color long before black families were being gentrified out of N/NE Portland.

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      • craig May 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm

        Naught to do with bikes, but a cool local indie film about the long history of institutional racism in the City of Portland: Birddog (1999)

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  • 9watts May 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    "For those of higher classes, they may aspire to a nicer Porsche or Benz, but even a “high-end” bike would be instantly attainable for a few thousand dollars, so it represents little in the way of social status."

    Nope. The folks who aspire to a Porsche are by and large Middle Class. They just happen to have more money. Money in itself says little about class values, about what is important to folks, how they act, what their anxieties about class are or if they have any. Believe it or not there are social classes in the US who don't aspire to shiny new cars--but we often conflate Middle Class values with everyone's values here.

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  • Peter Buck May 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I think the class issue is not related to socio-economic status but rather the class status of cars to bikes on the road itself. If the car has the paved lanes and the bike has the shoulder and the ditch, both drivers and cyclists naturally feel that cyclists are lower class because that's how they're treated from an infrastructure point of view. Cyclists get more respect when they have equivalent infrastructure. Drivers don't honk at me when I slowly and laboriously cross an intersection with a green box because society has granted me the right to be there and that status is respected.

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  • Jolly Dodger May 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    You guys have heard about the "scrapper bike" thing going on...? Blurring the line between impoverished and non-impoverished...thats really what we're all talking about here...

    ""if these know-it-alls are right, your enormous sacrifice for your car(s) has been for nothing."

    The urge to become a car addict begins young...and its hard to overcome. Most of those around us throughout our adolescense (as well as 8 out of ten commercials on television) tell us we're not complete people/citizens/individuals without an automobile.

    Dating in America is a car driven experiance (pardon the pun), and to highlight the disparity in western thinking, in China's old word culture in order to obtain permission to marry a daughter, a suitor must provide three things which roll; a watch, a sewing machine and a bicycle.

    In our monetary based system, even the knowledge of how to keep a very expensive bike rolling when money is tight is valuable. As a lifelong convert and advocate, all i can say is it takes a while to get there and sometimes like alcoholism, one can revert to old habits quite easily if allowed. Biking can be a hard lifestyle choice. The complexities of learning the city's grid, keeping your gear maintained and efficient, feeling safe in traffic and learning how to accomodate lifes necessites such as groceries and laundry can be quite daunting at first. To go "all in" as it were, is not something most "middle class" drivers find re-deemable.

    The rewards for their hard work doesn't seem apparent from behing the wheel, when bikers 'get to ride for free' is definately an issue that needs to be addressed. Choice in personal transport is just that, a choice...I like ever other converted motorist can tell you that getting past friend and families concerns/derision about this choice is just the first step.

    Every addiction begins with admission there is a problem. America is addicted to the automobile and needs an intervention.

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  • Rol May 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Suddenly it hit me that none of this matters. As a human being who is spiritually and philosophically equal to every other human being, regardless of the "class" of either person in the comparison, I will travel on Holladay St. or any other legally designated street, usually by bicycle, whenever I want/need to, in total disregard of anyone's ideas about me, and with full legal authority and "right of way" to use that facility that my economic activity helped build. If the powers-that-be want to prevent cars from queueing up behind me on the narrower sections, they can certainly stripe a bike lane or something. I'll use it. (Assuming it's going where I'm headed and isn't unsafe.)

    There is too much victim mentality here. Any perceived lack of safety has long been banished from my mind; you could do the same. Any ACTUAL lack of safety or manifest accident will come if it comes. Life is risky and might even involve some losses. Even an act of violence against me, will or will not occur, probably in complete defiance of the principles and expectations and "knowledge" and fears I carry around with me to try to explain and react to the world. So I don't know what more there is to think about. I will defend myself and my principles with my life if necessary. Thus far in my life, it has completely not been necessary. Everyone should keep a healthy attitude of AYHSMB and now if you'll excuse me, I have to get to the bank before it closes.

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    • craig May 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      ??? The discussion about Holladay is for a two-way cycle track. Neither you nor anyone else will be traveling both directions on Holladay "with full legal authority" anytime soon, unless people stop mistaking the notion of CIVIC ACTIVISM for a VICTIM MENTALITY.

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      • Rol May 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm

        As you can tell, I wasn't following the Holladay story. Frankly it's boring. Holladay neither originates nor arrives at anyplace useful. And it already provides pretty good access to all the places it does connect to. But if I do need to use it, then okay I stand corrected, I'll go eastbound on it only. Westbound I'll go some other way. Like always.

        Citizen activism is great, which is what I'm doing as well, by being out there, and never doubting my worthiness to be there, or acknowledging some d-bag's ideas to the contrary. The victim mentality I'm talking about is paying overmuch attention to why that d-bag, or any other, doesn't like you (or your transport mode) more than they do. I think I just got tuckered out reading these comments, everyone trying so hard to understand it. Hmmm, why are we the underdog, is it because of class issues, yes, no? Such thinking has a tendency to become entrenched; you can't be the underdog forever without, well, being the underdog forever. Far as I'm concerned, aforementioned d-bags can go ahead and lose sleep over why *I* don't like THEM more. Or vote for them, or patronize their businesses. That's activism too.

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        • 9watts May 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm

          "Hmmm, why are we the underdog, is it because of class issues, yes, no?"
          My take was different. I'm not the least bit interested in what you lament either. I feel sorry for Middle Class folks who are caught up in the mindset of having to prove they've arrived by owning, displaying, polishing their cars; wish they could get over it and have as much fun as I do on a bike.
          One of these days they're going to be on one anyway, so might as well try it now, I say.

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          • Rol May 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm

            Yeah I have that too. Everybody's sort of been tragically duped into supporting this system that really benefits a few capitalists at the top a lot more than it benefits the people & communities who buy into it. But what the hey, I'm doing my part, pushing pedals in rain and snow, providing a counter-example for them. And I'll certainly chat about it and offer tips when they ask, which is rare.

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        • are May 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm

          it happens that i also do not use holladay much, but it is not at all true that it neither originates nor arrives, etc. it arrives at 13th, which is a good connection by way of multnomah to 15th and points east. and if it were completed as proposed, it would originate at the steel bridge, which connects to somewhere, or so i have heard.

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        • craig May 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

          The proposal for Holladay fills a missing link between NE, SE, the waterfront, and downtown. As long as all the wonderful bikeway improvements are isolated and disconnected, we won't see siginificant increases in ridership.

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        • Rol May 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm

          Yeahbut, yabbut, Multnomah is already doing this job. I guess I'm not getting it.

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          • craig May 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm

            Sure, Multnomah seems obvious. It's there. It has a bike lane.

            But Multnomah doesn't currently as a connector, especially for newer/timid riders. Among the city's goals for these projects is to attract new riders and tip the balance of trips away from cars toward bikes.

            Multnomah just doesn't do it. Let me count the ways...

            . Multnomah is a bicycle dead-end at 21st Ave for riders traveling into and out of NE.

            . It provides nothing but a doorstep to peril for those trying to reach the SE 12th Avenue overcrossing.

            . Those that do use it have only a substandard narrow bike lane that brushes shoulders with impatient 4-lane auto traffic and a dense herd of frequently-stopping buses.

            . It features a steeper hillclimb from the Rose Quarter, versus the much more gradual ascent along Holladay.

            . Biking with your kids? Forget it. Multnomah is essentially an auto boulevard that's highly uncomfortable for bikes, compared to the opportunity for a 2-way cycle track on Holladay.

            Holladay would connect SE (at NE 11th Ave.) through the Lloyd District to North Portland (via Vancouver/Williams) coming from 12th all the way down to the Rose Quarter, and--as has lately been added to the scope--connection down to the top of the Esplanade at the Peace Park.

            Holladay is also already a low-traffic transit/pedestrian corridor due to the location of the MAX line and the position of the convention center in relation to hotels along Holladay including the DoubleTree at NE 9th.

            The Holladay project has the potential to largely bridge the gap for people on bikes, that today is the Lloyd District.

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  • Rol May 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    By the way, I still appreciate the fact that someone, anyone, is talking about class, but the place I'd really like to see it is e.g. the Oregonian or on TV.

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    • Rol May 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      Which I don't read/watch

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  • Andrew May 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    The relevant issue is how *the business class* views bicycles. In the vast majority of the US it's overwhelmingly negative, for fairly obvious reasons. Directing efforts toward educating that class on how they'd benefit economically would probably be helpful for getting bike infrastructure put in, and I'm sure a certain amount of that is done.

    However, certain businesses just aren't going to be persuaded it's in their direct economic interest to support cycling.

    The core issue this brings up is the fact that this class DOES dominate discussion. Their interests are paramount. The greater good for society in terms of health, equal access, environmental integrity and so on is appealed to only in this context; these are relative trivialities to be striven for, or at least given lip service to, rarely anything more, especially outside of inner Portland and a few other "progressive," wealthy cities in the US.

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  • dwainedibbly May 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Bike lanes = gentrification only because we aren't building bike lanes fast enough. You can't gentrify everywhere. There aren't enough of the gentry.

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  • marshmallow May 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    It's slow based. I hate slow, be it car, bicyclists, bus, tractor on a country road, whatever. America's got places to go, things to do, people to see. We can't be held up. Go go go! People can get from point to point be it scooter, motorcycle, or bicycle, if they'd just be quick enough and not demand more space to meander about. Would you want a roller blader in the bike lane that's going 5 mph when you're going 20 mph? Same reason cars hate cyclists. Do I hate scooters on freeways? Darn right, tootling along at 34 mph. Until the occasional souped up scooter comes along at 60 mph on the interstate, I'll hate scooters for all time! Down with them! If bicyclist can bother to learn how to pedal their bikes with gusto, they deserve the ditch! Steroids!!!!

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  • tonyt May 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    There CAN be that aspect, but I think it's nowhere near the level where it becomes the lead element.

    I think it's just mostly that people haven't had it (cycling in urban areas) and therefore they don't want it. People don't like change and bringing cycling back into public space amounts to change.

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  • Alan 1.0 May 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    MIddle of the Road Guy
    it's selfish and does not exactly build good-will, does it?

    Driving or riding defensively is inherently selfish and I have good will towards those who practice it.

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  • Paul Johnson May 17, 2011 at 3:06 am

    In Tulsa, which has more miles of completely seperated, motorist-free bicycle infrastructure of any city I've ever lived in (including Portland), the situation is more lack of creativity than anything. "We built this extensive bicycle network that spans the metro region, but nobody uses it except the Lance Armstrong types!"

    Things they left out: Bicycle lanes to deal with the first/last mile problem, since it's physically impossible to go more than a mile without being forced onto a major motorist thoroughfare with no bicycle-specific facilities and likely no pedestrian facilities whatsoever (and most people aren't up to taking the lane in traffic that rarely sees cyclists on the weekdays save for your die-hard spandex-clad testicular cancer survivor wannabes; myself included). They also forgot water stops. Tulsa is a HOT city. Tulsa gets hot weather like Portland gets rain, even in winter (I saw +85°/sunny and -30°/foot-of-snow-on-the-ground-and-still-snowing in the same 24-hour period last winter). And I can count the number of drinking fountains on Tulsa's cycleway network on my fingers, with one hand. And since he cycleways all were built after the "expressway" model in a style similar to the Springwater Corridor, nothing faces it, so you have to swim in above-mentioned major-street traffic-that-really-isn't-expecting-you if you want to pull out and buy water at the closest QuikTrip.

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  • noah May 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
    Gentrification is a deeply rooted cultural/societal issue; blaming part of it on the presence of improved access for the most affordable, equitable, community-building mode of transportation is nothing more than lazy scapegoating in my opinion.

    I think eljefe had two points. The minor one was that bike infrastructure improvements fuel the cycle of gentrification. The major one was that even if he is wrong about that minor one, it is true that people associate these improvements with gentrification. That's just a phenomenological observation about the way people think, just like Al's comment. We can reject people's thinking as lazy scapegoating, but we still have to live with its consequences.

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  • Harvey May 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Funny, the peletons of spandex clad folks riding up Umatilla on Saturday and Sunday, spend more on their bicycles and gear than most people spend on a solid used car. And you call the car drivers class-ists?!

    Class-ist? Please. Gentrified? Really? All the rich white hipsters moving in to North Portland over the last few years may have pushed out a lot of disadvantaged non-white hipster folks, but having lived in the only white house which is now on a now all white block, the white hipsters that moved in have a lot more bicycles and commute by bike a lot more than the folks of poverty and color that were pushed out. They all drove caddies and crown victorias, and would not be caught dead on anything with two wheels other than a pocketbike.

    I am all for more bicycle space, but burying the problem with the few cyclists that treat motorists with disrespect, and wrapping it in a paper called classism is ridiculous.

    There are bad apples in every barrel, douchebags in every nightclub, and assh*le cyclists in every bike lane (most of the asshole ones take the lane though, as sharing=waiting pervades in a city of 26 year old retirees).

    Portland, where 20somethings come to retire, ride bikes, and bitch about those that don't. Ahhh, the Rose City.

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  • earthquake May 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    yep. and because of gentrification in places like inner NE portland and other areas of the central city, a lot of poor folks have had to move so far away from their jobs that bike commuting isn't really a feasible option for them.

    privileged hipster kids on bikes displacing working class poor families...

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  • poncho May 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    opponents want to have it both ways... that cyclists are both poor and wealthy. but really the thing is with a bike you can live comfortably (appearing wealthy) without a lot of money (physically being poor) because you arent shoveling it into owning and operating a car.

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  • malka May 17, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    First of all, college towns are full of class conflict--between the "townies" and "elite" students. Secondly, I don't think the average motorist is under the impression that the average urban cyclist rides because he can't afford a car. He rides because he chooses to ride. Thirdly, if we extended the writer's logic, then cyclists would regard pedestrians as "losers" and "indigents" because they can't even afford a bike--which is, of course, utterly ridiculous.

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    • 9watts December 4, 2013 at 11:47 am

      Hardly. We all walk at some point during the day. Someone walking could easily be assumed to be on their way to/from their car. No threat there. But someone on a bike... now that is an affront!If he had a car why is he biking?!

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