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City Club of Portland will embark on ‘comprehensive study’ of bicycling

Posted by on April 23rd, 2012 at 4:45 pm

The central question for study is the role bicycling should play in Portland’s overall transportation system.
— City Club of Portland, from the Comprehensive Study Charge

The City Club of Portland is embarking on a “comprehensive study” of bicycling.

For those of you not familiar with this organization, it’s a respected, local non-profit institution with 1,500 members and a history dating back nearly 100 years. Their primary mission is to “inform its members and the community in public matters.” They hold weekly forums at the elegant Governor Hotel downtown (this Wednesday they host, “A conversation with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.”)

In a nutshell, when City Club talks, many people in Portland listen: Especially elected officials, lobbyists, policymakers and other local power-brokers. Back in May of 2010, the release of a City Club report on Forest Park had a significant influence on the debate over whether or not to improve bicycling access in the park. (Note: Off road cycling advocates were not happy with how City Club framed the issue.)

Now they’ve announced a Bicycle Transportation Research Committee which will inform their forthcoming report: Bicycling in Portland: A Serious Look at Transportation Policy and Priorities. At this point they’re accepting applications to serve on the committee. Here’s more from their website:

City Club is currently accepting applications for this soon-to-be launched comprehensive research study committee.

While Portland enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the top bicycle-friendly cities in the nation, any plans to expand the city’s network of bikeways will no doubt require addressing a number of funding, public safety and community challenges. This study committee will be charged with examining what role bicycling should play in Portland’s overall transportation system, while also making recommendations to address these specific challenges.

According to the “study charge” document (PDF), their research will be aimed at understanding, “the role bicycling should play in Portland’s overall transportation system.” Other questions they intend to tackle include, “how the city should plan for, construct and pay for bicycle infrastructure, and how the city can safely integrate a growing population of cyclists with other user groups, once this role has been established.”

Here’s a list of “bicycling study objectives”:

  • Make a recommendation on the role bicycling should play in Portland’s transportation system, based on review of existing criteria, available studies, and witness testimony.
  • Based on the committee’s recommendation for the role bicycling should play in Portland’s transportation system, make further recommendations on the goals the city should set for bicycle ridership and the necessary improvements to reach those goals.
  • The committee must identify the level and sources of funding necessary to achieve the identified goals.
  • The committee is encouraged to make recommendations in related areas, including safety, governance, traffic enforcement, economic development, and community outreach.

A list of “critical questions and topic areas” includes:

  • What data exists to support the touted benefits of bicycling?
  • Is disproportionate use by certain segments of the population problematic, and how should the City address equity issues, real or perceived?
  • What impact does dedication of part of the public right-of-way to bicycles have on economic activity that relies on automobiles and trucks to move people and goods?

Even though some of the questions being asked at the outset leave me a bit concerned about the perspective they’re bringing to the table, the study charge shows City Club has already put a lot of thought into this. The report will likely come out right as a new mayor of Portland is settling into office. In addition, the transportation funding ideas they come up with will likely hit at a time when local, regional, and statewide discussions about this very issue are becoming very mature. All this being said, I hope this study committee gets it right. I for one will be watching this effort very closely.

Watch for the report 12 months after the committee is formed. Applications to be on the committee (which you can download as a .doc file here) are due May 4th.

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Comments
  • Chris Smith April 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    I would be very surprised if Jonathan is not interviewed by the study committee :-)

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      I hope they do interview me. I always love sharing my perspective and I think it’s important to talk with someone about this stuff that is 100% independent and can see things from many different viewpoints.

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  • Woodstock Cyclist April 23, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    I’m a City Club member and have taken part in research studies in the past. They typically emphasize putting together a diverse set of people and perspectives on each research committee, which can sometimes mean that their reports take a more measured approach than any more clearly pro- or anti-biking study or communications piece might. That may mean not all of the conclusions of this study will jibe completely with the interests of strong bicycling advocates. But their studies always add a lot to the conversation about any policy issue, so whatever comes out of it, hopefully it helps to counter some of the “bike lanes vs. potholes” crap the Oregonian and other media outlets push. (Did you see that that question was asked during the KATU mayoral debate? Ugh.)

    P.S., slight correction–City Club actually hosts weekly forums, not monthly. The Friday Forum is at the Governor Hotel, every week except for a few in August. It’s broadcast on OPB at 7pm on Fridays. In addition to that, they host a variety of other events and discussions, including the one with Geithner that you mention.

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    • matt picio April 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      “Should cyclists have a fundamental right of access to all of the public right-of-way?” sounds pretty anti-bike to me, since they’re not asking the same question about cars. Cyclists already have a fundamental right of access to all of the public ROW, excepting certain limited-access highways. When a research study is specifically required to address whether a fundamental right should exist, that seems to imply a certain amount of anti- whatever it happens to be. An unbiased research study would ask the same for other transportation modes, or ask how to best balance conflicting rights of access.

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      • 9watts April 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm

        “‘Should cyclists have a fundamental right of access to all of the public right-of-way?’ sounds pretty anti-bike to me.”

        Thanks, Matt for inspiring me to click on the link and read the whole document. That little quote is quite a smoking gun if you ask me. In fact on page five of the outline there were quite a few additional eye-opening statements that went beyond the excerpts Jonathan quoted.
        The focus on the (imputed?) negative dimensions & repercussions of bicycling to which they kept returning reminded me of Dr. Strangelove’s tics. I’ll quote a few of the bullets from p5:

        “ Who actually rides bikes?
        Do bikes provide Portlanders who cannot afford to drive an essential
        transportation option? Or is bicycling the lifestyle choice of people who can easily afford to drive?
        Is disproportionate use by certain segments of the population problematic, and how should the City address equity issues, real or perceived?”

        “Conflicts between automobiles, bicycles, and pedestrians are obvious in at least two areas: the definition and enforcement of the rules of the road, and safety.
         What rule or enforcement changes could improve safety, increase ridership, or make bicycling easier and more efficient?
         What effects on drivers and pedestrians are acceptable, and what effects would go too far?
         Should bicycle riders on the public right of way be required to have a license? To take a training class on the laws of sharing the road? Wear helmets and use other safety equipment?”

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  • spare_wheel April 23, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    “What data exists to support the touted benefits of bicycling?”

    “touted”

    Good grief.

    I have no more interest in the opinion of an exclusive private club than I do in the opinion of a political lobbying firm.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      yeah, that “touted” irked me too a bit. If I give them benefit of the doubt I’d say they’re just trying to be unbiased as possible… But saying that bicycling has the “touted” benefit of healthy communities, reducing GHG, and so on, is a bit silly. Let’s wait and see what they come up with. I hope they get it right because we need some high quality, rigorous, outside analysis of what’s going on in this city right now and City Club is in a good position to do it.

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    • Woodstock Cyclist April 23, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      Spare_wheel, I agree that ‘touted’ is problematic, and as a City Club member, if I were to serve on this committee I would want to call attention to why words like this matter. Again, though, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge. I’m not sure there is malicious intent there. The question could have been better stated, but I think what is meant is that they seek to find factual basis for the points we advocates make about biking. I don’t see that as harmful intent.

      With due respect, I’d also like to take issue with your assertion that City Club is an exclusive club. I think you may be confusing it with highly exclusive groups like the Arlington Club. City Club is open to everyone. Members join simply by paying dues, but almost all events are open to everyone. The ‘club’ in the name is a relic. It is more of a forum.

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      • spare_wheel April 24, 2012 at 6:58 am

        the fact that this organization charges “dues” and gives free memberships to “movers and shakers” (there are more incendiary terms) clearly limits the voices involved in debate. what bothers me about the city club is that it is often portrayed by our local (corporate-owned) media as some sort of unbiased wonkish think tank. i’ve followed the city club for over a decade and imo it often functions as a lobbying firm for its pro-business center-right constituency.

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        • Paul Manson April 24, 2012 at 8:29 am

          Take a look at the PDC report if you think it likes status quo. Or the form of government study. As a 23 year old recent college graduate they allowed me to have as much say on a series of studies as the retired lawyers and politicos. Careful painting with a broad brush.

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          • spare_wheel April 24, 2012 at 10:49 am

            “painting with a broad brush” is imo a rhetorical euphemism for “how dare you disagree with me”. i am not going to get involved in a reductio ad absurdum argument about individual positions. my opinion is based on repeated disagreements with the city club. i also think a perusal of who the city club invites to speak in our rainy city is instructive.

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      • 9watts June 4, 2012 at 10:04 am

        “Spare_wheel, I agree that ‘touted’ is problematic, and as a City Club member, if I were to serve on this committee I would want to call attention to why words like this matter. Again, though, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge. I’m not sure there is malicious intent there.”

        Woodstock Cyclist,

        I am inclined to agree with you that there was no ‘malicious intent,’ as you put it. But unwitting bias is quite evident and I am not sure which is worse.

        from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism:
        The “newer” (more hidden and less easily detectable) forms of racism—which can be considered as embedded in social processes and structures—are more difficult to explore as well as challenge. It has been suggested that, while in many countries overt and explicit racism has become increasingly taboo, even in those who display egalitarian explicit attitudes, an implicit or aversive racism is still maintained subconsciously.

        “The question could have been better stated, but I think what is meant is that they seek to find factual basis for the points we advocates make about biking. I don’t see that as harmful intent.”

        This is debatable. As Rol & Jonathan pointed out above, the benefits of bicycling are not hard to find or difficult to understand. But the tortured phrasing used by the City Club to frame the study gives their game away.

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    • 9watts April 23, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      I know…Not a good choice of words. But maybe the person or committee who wrote it don’t actually have any experience bicycling? It almost has that feel to it.
      That stumbling start aside, though, perhaps this could be a really useful effort, especially if they assemble a good committee.

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    • El Biciclero April 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

      I don’t have a problem with “touted” to describe the benefits of cycling. It doesn’t imply they are made up, it implies that they are what pro-cycling folks like to talk about. Now if they would have said “alleged”, or “purported”…

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      • matt picio April 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm

        “purported” is a far more neutral term.

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        • El Biciclero April 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm

          Regardless, I’m much more concerned about “wording” such as you pointed out earlier:

          “Should cyclists have a fundamental right of access to all of the public right-of-way?”

          and

          “Should bicycle riders on the public right of way be required to have a license? To take a training class on the laws of sharing the road? Wear helmets and use other safety equipment?”

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  • Chris I April 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    The phrasing of their objectives and topic areas doesn’t instill much confidence.

    When they investigate the effect that bike lanes have on commerce, will they factor in the alternative: single-occupancy-vehicle occupying even more space?

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  • wsbob April 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Some of the people having already commented to this story seem to be inclined to deduce from language in the study charge document, that the City Club has a predisposition against biking as transportation.

    If it does, or if a significant number of City Club members are so predisposed, and people want to talk about that here, fine…lets’s hear about that, but with more substance than what’s been presented so far in this story and comments.

    I’ve certainly wondered a lot about what role biking as practical travel will come to fill in the overall transportation system, in Portland, but also in Beaverton where I live, and other cities in the Metro area as well. The simple fact at present, is that people biking as practical transportation represent a very small minority of road users; certain heavily traveled commute routes such as Williams Ave, excepted.

    I have no particular idea what conclusions the City Club’s research committee will arrive at, but would hope the relatively small percentage of road users that bike would not lead it to somehow conclude that public funding for infrastructure supporting practical travel by bike should be minimized. Excessive reliance on motor vehicles for travel is increasingly strangling the ability to travel the roads.

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    • Chris Smith April 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      I have served on several City Club research committees (including chairing one) and the study process is scrupulously set up to objectively question everything. If the language is irksome because it doesn’t assume things that many of us very strongly believe to be true, that’s OK.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm

        Not sure I agree with that Chris. I hear you about the other committees you’ve sat on, but we all know that bicycling holds a particularly complicated and strange socio-political place here in Portland. Language frames how we think and it’s clear that whoever wrote this study charge sees the world primarily through an auto-first lens. I get their intentions and I respect City Club, but sometimes the afflictions of “car head” (as Alan Durning would call it) or “motordom” (as Gordon Price would call it) are so ingrained that people who have it aren’t even aware they do.

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        • Chris Smith April 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm

          I hear you on how pervasive “car head” is in our society. But I do have faith that the City Club process can overcome it.

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          • matt picio April 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

            I would have more faith if the City Club is transparent as to what steps they are taking to minimize “car-centric” thinking and influence as well as “bike-centric”.

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      • 9watts April 23, 2012 at 10:44 pm

        Here’s one suggested rewrite of their ‘critical questions and topic areas’ that doesn’t take such a dim view of bicycles:

        * As we can’t think of any reasons not to pursue increased bicycling mode share, how can continued growth be most easily supported?

        * Are there ways the City could encourage or accommodate a broader, more diverse population of people who bike?

        *As economic activity that relies on automobiles and trucks to move people and goods dwindles, how can bicycles take over a greater share of that responsibility?

        Same three highlights: benefits, equity, public right of way, but rather than grumbling because this is imagined to be a zero sum situation, how about allowing that the reasons for a steady shift in mode share toward bikes, not just in Portland but in most cities across the industrialized world, might be real, worth studying, and likely going away?

        This last rhetorical question in the list Jonathan quoted harkens back to the ill-conceived cardboard signs folks held up at Sam Adams’ Traffic Safety press conference: http://bikeportland.org/2011/06/29/mayor-talks-tough-on-enforcement-at-street-smart-campaign-kickoff-55682#comment-1878041

        * “What impact does dedication of part of the public right-of-way to bicycles have on economic activity that relies on automobiles and trucks to move people and goods?”
        Bicycles here are a stand in for frivolous, discretionary travel, whereas freight is serious business.

        But surely one person hauling freight by bike+ trailer or cargobike is one less person hauling freight in a pickup or SUV, or am I missing something?

        More and more of my friends are doing this very thing: performing jobs with a bicycle that were only recently assumed to ‘only be possible with a truck.’

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      • Elliot April 24, 2012 at 7:23 am

        Chris, thanks for sharing your experience and opinion on this.

        I’m skeptical of the “objective” explanation for the language in the announcement be, though. If they announced a study on the CRC, would they really write lines like “the touted economic impact of the project” or “purported freight and congestion issues”? I doubt it.

        Do you have any insight on how City Club chooses their study topics? Do simply try to focus on high-profile current issues? I’d like to know who proposed the idea of this study to the Club.

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      • wsbob April 25, 2012 at 1:02 am

        In many people’s comments here, there’s way to much angst and anticipation of doom and gloom, presuming without any solid reasons, what the mindset of the City Club people that conceived the ‘study charge’, might be, and over what conclusions the research group might come to once the study is concluded.

        Nobody has offered in comments to this bikeportland story, anything indicating that the City Club has a particular interest in seeing biking or support for biking in Portland reduced, or in using the study it intends to conduct…for that purpose.

        I don’t suppose there’s anything much stopping bikeportland or its readers that feel so inclined, from borrowing questions in the City Club’s “study charge” document, and conducting their own study. Comparison of conclusions could be interesting.

        Or, bikeportland could consider putting together its own, original study and questions.

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        • 9watts April 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

          “Nobody has offered in comments to this bikeportland story, anything indicating that the City Club has a particular interest…”

          Not true. Many of us were quite specific in citing chapter and verse of their outline, and doing a little content analysis along the way. The tone/bias/chip-on-shoulder is unmistakeable. What the to-be-constituted committee takes this is not entirely clear, and it is true, as many have acknowledged, that the folks who drafted the present outline aren’t the same ones who will conduct or write up the study, but as Chris Smith acknowledged yesterday it is unlikely that the committee could completely start over with a different framing of the subject. As such, things look decidedly inauspicious on a whole lot of fronts. I see no need to rehash those details that have already been mentioned.

          “I don’t suppose there’s anything much stopping bikeportland or its readers that feel so inclined, from borrowing questions in the City Club’s “study charge” document, and conducting their own study.”

          I suggested this very thing here yesterday. We agree, wsbob!

          But there really is no need to do another study. Bikeportland stands on its own I think as a refutation of most–no all–of the swipes at cycling made in the outline. The problems City Club seems to think deserve study are mostly not problems in any objective sense, but misgivings by people who suffer from an inability to concede that roads are NOT only for drivers, but walkers and cyclists too.

          For more on that see: http://daily.sightline.org/2007/04/19/car-head/

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          • wsbob April 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

            9watts …a number of people commenting certainly did excerpt and highlight various words and phrases from City Club’s study charge, interpreting those words and phrases to presume that the City Club is more or less opposed to public support and investment in bike infrastructure…but that was the extent of their effort to confirm their suspicion CC feels this way about biking as practical travel.

            There was no history of such a mindset presented, past or current quotes from members suggesting such a mindset orders CC’s regard for biking as practical travel.

            How many people reading bikeportland, are actually familiar with and understand what the word ‘touted’, means? Or if they didn’t understand it, bothered to look the definition up? I suspect, not a lot.

            Certainly, Maus didn’t bother to explain what he was inclined to think the word meant as used in one of the City Club’s study charge questions that was posted in this bikeportland story; aside from his expressed anxiety in thinking that the club’s use of the word must indicate it’s opposed to biking.

            Here’s the definition from the easy to use, free WordWeb dictionary app: ” Touted: 1) Advertise in strongly positive terms. “.

            Here’s the City Club study charge question as excerpted to this bikeportland story: ” What data exists to support the touted benefits of bicycling? ”

            Just for an example, let me kludge together a different, unfortunately more awkward sentence than CC’s, ‘ What data exists to support the benefits of bicycling as characterized by the strongly positive terms it’s been advertised with? ‘.

            I prefer the composition of City Club’s sentence, and think the question it poses is probably fair. Biking as an element of transportation infrastructure is generally the subject of very positive advertising. Many cities, Portland being a prime example, want to get on and ride the wave of trendy popularity and cache this type of infrastructure can provide, and have done exactly that, even though the actual infrastructure some of them build their rep on is sometimes rather lacking. Not quite as popular a subject with everyone, is that, when it comes down to questions of actual functionality of biking as practical transportation and the money required to provide the infrastructure: ‘Can biking as practical transportation in Portland be what’s it’s cracked up to be in typically strongly positive advertised terms ? ‘.

            Again, I think that’s a fair question. It’s a fair question that everyone in Portland, not just bike advocates and City Club people, should be asking. It’s the kind of question that needs to be asked in order to figure out where to go from where we’re at.

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            • 9watts April 25, 2012 at 11:32 am

              wsbob,
              Your rephrase ‘ What data exists to support the benefits of bicycling as characterized by the strongly positive terms it’s been advertised with? ‘ is in my humble opinion still beside the point, irrelevant, a real stretch.

              As others have pointed out, if one were really concerned about spending on transportation and it’s efficacy (in the Portland region) the CRC would be a much more logical place to start, not because some of us think it is a boondoggle, but because the premises on which the CRC project is based are obsolete, Cold War relics. The same cannot be said for bicycling, which is on the rise everywhere, even in places where no funding is directed toward bike-friendly infrastructure. That should tell us something.
              There’s really no need to engage in verbal gymnastics to try to rescue the thrust of the City Club’s undertaking. I take back my earlier conciliatory remarks about its prospects.

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              • wsbob April 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm

                Irrelevant to you and some other people, but not irrelevant it would seem, to many people in Portland hoping to see improvements made to the functionality of our road system.

                It doesn’t particularly pay to quibble about who’s biased this way, who’s biased that way, and on and on and on. Everyone has their own point of reference. You, 9watts, seem to have a bit of bias, as expressed in your comments. I’ve got a certain bias in my thoughts and ideas. Maus may consider himself “…transportation neutral…”; I think that’s a phrase he used yesterday…but he and many other people commenting to bikeportland and elsewhere seem to be no less biased in favor of bikes as transportation than City Club’s membership is biased towards its various interests.

                I don’t particularly see this to be a problem as long as the intent behind it isn’t malicious, and the level of bias isn’t allowed to take form in such a torrent of rhetoric that exchange of constructive ideas is derailed.

                Despite whatever inevitable bias members may have, the City Club asks intelligent questions, and goes about attempting to answer them in an intelligent manner. No doubt there will be plenty of opportunity for everyone here at bikeportland to say weigh in on the most minute point raised and conclusion drawn in the CC study.

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            • 9watts April 25, 2012 at 11:40 am

              “…interpreting those words and phrases to presume that the City Club is more or less opposed to public support and investment in bike infrastructure”

              Whoever wrote that study outline drank from the same cup as Beth Slovic. The main difference being that she had an editor who hyped the bias in the headline and pull quotes, whereas the City Club tried (not very hard) to obscure it.

              Jeremy Cohen said it better than I; read his post below.

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  • Isaac Harris April 23, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    While objectivity may be the goal, the language used presents a point of view that, at the moment, doesn’t seem objective. I wonder if it would be useful to ask the same question regarding roles for cars, or feet, or buses, or streetcars, or max trains etc.

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  • GlowBoy April 23, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    A better way to word the last question would have been, “What impact does dedication of part of the public right-of-way to bicycles have on economic activity and the movement of freight and goods?”

    This is more neutral wording that allows for the possibility that the impact might be POSITIVE. (Which it most likely is).

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  • noah April 23, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    “After a comprehensive study, we found that bicycling is really, really great.”

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  • Hart Noecker April 24, 2012 at 12:19 am

    “Make a recommendation on the role bicycling should play in Portland’s transportation system, based on …witness testimony.”

    Oh gawd, here we go….

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    • Chris I April 24, 2012 at 6:56 am

      I saw a cyclist run a red light once.

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      • Suburban April 24, 2012 at 8:34 am

        “Blow” a red light can also mean to disregard it, an go on through.

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  • Rol April 24, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Why are people wasting time studying bicycling? Is it a problem? We are all understandably nervous about another witch hunt because, for chrissakes, it’s not that complicated people. It’s riding a bike. So simple, it’s like riding a bike.

    Seems to me if you want to show what an intellectual bad-ass you are, and take “a serious look” at something, you could maybe take a look at what’s causing all the cancer, or what’s eating up ridiculous amounts of otherwise usable real estate, or what’s siphoning money out of the local & regional economy and sending it to BP to “mess” up (self-censorship) the entire Gulf of Mexico, or merely sending it to the oligarchy to purchase your government from you.

    “Any plans to expand the city’s network of” roads “will no doubt require addressing a number of funding, public safety and community challenges,” all of which are one or two orders of magnitude worse than anything pertaining to bicycling.

    “What data exists to support the touted” (and I mean TOUTED… like every 8 minutes on network TV) “benefits of” driving a car?

    Worthwhile questions for anyone who actually had some “nerve” (self-censorship again).

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  • 9watts April 24, 2012 at 7:06 am

    I have an idea. Those who have responded to this post so far–Rol, Hart Noecker, Woodstock Cyclist, Isaac Harris, Chris Smith, spare_wheel, Jonathan, Chris I, GlowBoy, and wsbob–let’s for our own study group, the Bicycle Transportation Roadblock Committee. We’ll take up the City Club’s challenge, but skip the fake, neutral, suspicious tone.

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    • Andrew K April 24, 2012 at 10:51 am

      This is a really good idea.

      What I would love to see is a dedicated group of cyclists (such as the people who often comment on this blog) get together and come up with several funding solutions to hand over to government officials.

      After all, that is probably the #1 issue we face (or at least the issue that is easiest to use as an excuse…) as to why we can’t have world class bike infrastructure.

      In my experience, those in government are typically not bad people. They are however overwhelmed and often go with whatever ideas are nicely packaged and handed to them.

      So let’s solve it, deliver it, and then push some nice PR around it!

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    • Nate Young April 25, 2012 at 11:45 am

      I’d like to join your committee IF I don’t make the cut for the CC comittee :)

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  • Andrew K April 24, 2012 at 7:47 am

    As someone who has attended several City Club events I can say with confidence that they do try to examine issues from all angles and in depth. I have a lot of respect for what they do and the open dialouge they often create.

    That being said, it really irks me that this issue even needs a “study”. The benefits of bicycling have been studied…over and over and over. The overwhelming positives around cost, health, happiness, etc. are well documented.

    So the question should no longer be, “is there a benefit?”. The question should really be, “why aren’t we doing anything about it?” Why are we not acting on what we know to be true? Why is there no political will? Those are the real questions.

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  • dwainedibbly April 24, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I hope that someone makes the point that every bike is one less car on the road. Aren’t there some stats showing bridge traffic has been flat when you just look at automobiles but has grown tremendously when you include bikes? With a group like this, most of whom I bet could never see themselves on bikes, it’s going to be important to explain how cycling creates societal good.

    All of the effort to appear “unbiased” makes me think that there is a real bias that someone is trying to hide. I love it when the 1% tries to decide what is best for the rest of us.

    (Sorry for not doing a good job at gathering my thoughts. I have the flu.)

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    • A.K. April 24, 2012 at 9:05 am

      I was going to mention the same thing. Hasn’t Jonathan posted a stat before that something like 95% of cyclists in Portland are also car owners?

      That means that a vast majority of cyclists you pass during the day are really, truly “one less car on the road”, one that could have been easily driven. Seems like a no-brainer benefit if we’re looking on how to reduce congestion…

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      • 9watts April 24, 2012 at 9:17 am

        A.K. I’m not quite following your math. By your logic those of us who don’t have a car to ‘fall back on’ are not displacing a car because we don’t own one?

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        • 9watts April 24, 2012 at 9:19 am

          The statistic you may be thinking of was the % of BTA members responding to a survey also owned cars. Elaine Brady mentioned that one in her interview with Jonathan.

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          • A.K. April 24, 2012 at 11:07 am

            Ah that’s it, thanks. I guess that number may not be representative of Portland as a whole then.

            My thinking is this: people who don’t own cars and only cycle have already made their choice. They don’t need to be won over. They are already saving space on the streets and not causing wear and tear.

            Clearly improved cycling facilities and a general friendly attitude of the motoring public would make life better for 100%-of-the-time cyclists as well as part time cyclists.

            But if we want to replace more and more cars on the road with cyclists at least part of the time, the benefits of cycling need to be framed in such a way that not only does it get people to leave their cars parked more often, but convinces the people who still drive that we are not enemies – we are just trying to get from point A to point B, and cycling has the by-product of more space for everyone else, reduced pollution, and wear+tear on the streets.

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        • El Biciclero April 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

          I think the point is that if someone owns a car, but rides a bike, they are literally leaving the car at home that day and keeping it off the road, right now. When someone who doesn’t own a car rides their bike right now, it is more likely one less pedestrian or one less transit rider. That is not to say that by not even owning a car you aren’t doing even better than someone who owns a car they don’t use much. You are indeed keeping a car off the road, but the trade-off from one day to the next isn’t as immediately apparent.

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          • matt picio April 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

            Even that simplifies matters. I’ve been car-free for 5 years, and depending on where I live and how far I need to go, I sometimes consolidate trips or omit them entirely. A cyclist with no car who takes fewer trips is even less traffic on the road.

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  • ScoBu April 24, 2012 at 8:17 am

    The phrasing of questions matter. Just look at any opinion poll. They may be trying to be objective and fair but the wording of the question sets the tone for the answers given. Just look at the third critical question above:

    “What impact does dedication of part of the public right-of-way to bicycles have on economic activity that relies on automobiles and trucks to move people and goods?”

    By the end of that question cycling is on its back foot and trying to gain equality in the conversation again. They might just as well have said, “How does cycling mess up the public right of way and economic activity that relies on automobiles and trucks to move people and goods?”

    I sure hope those who have faith in their history of committees are tight but seeing how these things are worded doesn’t give me much confidence.

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  • Chris Smith April 24, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Responding to a number of points:

    1) Yes, City Club is a private, dues-paying membership organization. It does volunteer-led research. It has clout ONLY because that research has consistently been perceived as objective.
    2) I’m not aware of the Club giving free memberships to any local leaders. I was just on the City budget advisory committee and saw the budget line for the Mayor’s membership :-)
    3) I’m not “on the inside” now at City Club, but in general the Club’s Board of Governors and Research Board are responsible for selecting topics and in the past have used surveys of members or local leaders to help in that selection.
    4) Unfortunately, the role of cycling is NOT a ‘settled question’ in our society. What we think is obvious is still counter-intuitive to many people. I see this study as a major opportunity to help drive a stronger community consensus.

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    • 9watts April 24, 2012 at 8:34 am

      “4) Unfortunately, the role of cycling is NOT a ‘settled question’ in our society. What we think is obvious is still counter-intuitive to many people.”

      That may be true, Chris, but proposing to ‘settle’ the question by recycling antagonistic zero-sum bike vs car logic doesn’t suggest the minds behind the City Club’s effort appreciate as you/we do that the reason it isn’t settled is because there is cultural resistance to the idea of expanded bike mode share, but that this is in fact a zero sum situation, a turf war, a black box, car pork vs bike pork, etc.

      I’m open to the possibility that it will turn out to be a great study and we’ll all learn from it, it will advance the conversation.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

    In thinking about this more overnight, I just want to add, again, that I think the wording and framing of this study charge is unfortunate. Despite what I believe to be a respectable organization with a well-earned reputation, City Club has started on the wrong foot here. And that concerns me.

    One big reason bicycling is “not a settled question” (as Chris Smith put it above) in Portland is because powerful and influential voices like The Oregonian, KATU (remember the “Bike lane to nowhere” silliness?), and other media and politicians, pundits, and so on… continue to frame the issue in a way that is inherently divisive and usually biased against bicycling.

    The issue we face in Portland is about transportation and mobility and road design. Does our system of roads currently serve everyone that needs to use them in the best way possible regardless of the vehicle they choose to use them with? No. This isn’t a bicycling issue, this is a road design, political will and traffic behavior/social issue.

    Embarking on a study with a charge described in this way is in some ways similar to trying “start a conversation” about bicycling by introducing a registration fee on all bikes (as a state legislator tried to do a few years back), trying to outlaw carrying kids on bikes (another sad idea from a state legislator), or asking the question, “Should cyclists pay a road tax?” (which Webvisions did). Each of those “conversation starters” did more harm to the issue than good.

    I feel like the language and framing of this Study Charge is auto-centric and sees bicycling as a problem that needs to be solved or dealt with.

    In a nutshell, I’m just trying to say that I feel conversations and studies will never get at the heart of the problem if they began with a mode-bias at the start. It’s time for the thinkers and policymakers in this town to take on the mode-neutral outlook that was adopted on this site many years ago (heck, even the Portland Police Bureau has made a good attempt to do it!).

    Perhaps the first thing the committee should do is re-write the study charge and scope.

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    • Chris Smith April 24, 2012 at 9:13 am

      I think it would be great if some of the first witnesses made a point of explaining the challenges with the language in the charge.

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    • Chris I April 24, 2012 at 10:21 am

      I will play devil’s advocate here a bit, but first I will state that I believe the following:
      1. Cycling saves the city money
      2. The city will save more money by building less auto infrastructure, and more bike infrastructure
      3. Cyclists pay their way via property taxes

      However, we as a cycling community need to recognize that there is a point of diminishing returns. There will always be a segment of the population that will choose to drive, and there will always be businesses that need trucks to function properly. We need to explain to our opponents that we don’t want to destroy auto and truck travel, we just want equal levels of access, and we want to save the city money and improve quality of life by increasing the number of bike commuters. At some point, the city will need to know if they are building too much bike infrastructure, but that time is not now, and it probably won’t happen in my lifetime.

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  • Woodstock Cyclist April 24, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Thanks, Jonathan. As a City Club member I concur with your assessment that there are aspects of this study charge that make me squirm, and I’m disappointed by that. I am not sure whether the study committee can rewrite its charge, but I would consider that suggestion if I were on the committee.

    Let me just make the point that City Club has always been what its members make of it, and I believe that City Club members, staff and board are sincere in their desire to hear from all viewpoints and broaden the perspectives represented in the conversation. It’s unfortunate that it has a reputation as an “elitist” or agenda-driven organization, because every conversation I’ve ever had with fellow members or staff about membership is quite the opposite. It’s always, “how can we get more members, particularly from groups that are not well represented in our membership?”, not “how can we exclude more people?”

    In its nearly 100 years of existence, there are undoubtedly times when City Club has been more exclusive or business-oriented or right-leaning. So has the City of Portland, like it or not. But there have also been times when City Club research has pushed the city to do some remarkably progressive things–like tearing out Harbor Drive.

    At the moment, after two years of membership, I have observed that if anything City Club’s membership is currently center-left, probably more to the center than I am personally. But I do believe quite strongly that City Club is a place where most members check their ideologies at the door and pursue honest dialogue and research-based advocacy. Does that mean bias is entirely avoided, or that as a City Club member I’m always happy with the results? Of course not. But I’m a member because I believe Portland is a city that can handle civil debate, a measured tone, and a steadfast pursuit of the truth.

    I’d be very worried about a city that did not have a space for such activities, or that rejected them out of hand as protecting some hidden agenda. (Which, by the way, is a charge often leveled a City Club by folks on the right, too.)

    Let’s see where this goes. Remember that City Club’s overall membership must debate and vote on the final report, and Minority Reports are common in research studies. If you’d like to have a part in that process, I urge you to join City Club and make your voice heard.

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    • spare_wheel April 24, 2012 at 11:00 am

      “I have observed that if anything City Club’s membership is currently center-left, probably more to the center than I am personally”

      I think we have very different views of what constitutes the “left”.

      “how can we get more members, particularly from groups that are not well represented in our membership”

      Stop charging a membership fee and pick a board of directors that has private citizens (preferably activists) who are not also past or present executives/executive-level administrators.

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      • Woodstock Cyclist April 24, 2012 at 11:25 am

        On the composition of the board, spare_wheel, you have a very fair point. But I think that’s changing. I’m glad that many recent additions are not corporate executives (though there is a place for a few of them, in my opinion); among the members of the Board are employees of the Portland Sustainability Institute, Metro, and the Oregon League of Minority Voters. The current President is Melody Rose, vice provost of academic programs and instruction at PSU and a noted scholar (and activist) of gender studies.

        In terms of the membership fee, some in City Club, including myself, believe the organization should change the way that it structures dues to be more progressive. Some membership fee is needed to pay the (very modest) salaries of City Club’s four or five staff members, and to cover the (more substantial) costs of putting on events. But a fee structure that was based on income or at least on employment sector (e.g., lower dues for nonprofit and government workers, higher for private sector, maybe no dues for students and younger members) would probably go a long way to broaden the membership of the organization.

        But now we’re getting into a different discussion than this post is intended to foster. I just felt that in the interests of a fair conversation I’d speak to your points.

        P.S.–We probably do have different views of where “left” lies, and that’s fine with me. It’s an entirely relative and subjective term. But in the spectrum of political positions of Portland, I’m sticking to my assertion that City Club is “center-left”, and that I am probably “left-center-left.” :-)

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  • Paul G April 24, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I’ve been involved in a number of these committees and have found them open to different viewpoints and always looking for help understanding complex issues. The reactions here are surprisingly defensive, in my opinion, particularly given Chris Smith and woodstock_cyclist’s accurate descriptions of the organization.

    As to the “touted” benefits, if the findings are so overwhelming in favor of the benefits, what’s the problem? It’s pretty obvious that there is political conflict over the level of resources to dedicate to various modes of transportation, so again I’m not sure why there is such concern. If bicycle infrastructure is so obviously efficient than the data will demonstrate this.

    Jonathan, I’m sure the CC committee will solicit your opinion, and you should do everything you can to help the committee collect appropriate facts and figures. Your reactions, though, belie your claim to be an independent voice on this subject. You’re an advocate, and an able one, but it’s a real stretch to claim you are a non-partisan observer. I think you’ll find the CC very responsive to help and guidance.

    spare_wheel, you need to learn a lot more about how civic organizations operate.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 24, 2012 at 11:45 am

      Your reactions, though, belie your claim to be an independent voice on this subject. You’re an advocate, and an able one, but it’s a real stretch to claim you are a non-partisan observer

      Paul,

      I disagree with you about that. I am an independent voice because BikePortland is privately funded (by advertisers who have no influence on how or what I write about) and I do not have an editor or any other person telling me what to say or how to say it. I work alone and the only feedback I use daily are from folks like you and other commenters. I believe that makes me much more independent than just about anyone else in the city when it comes to transportation matters.

      I also own a mini-van and have a family of 5. You will not find biased language used on this site in the past 4 years or so. Yes, I am an advocate for bicycles because they are awesome. I am also an advocate for transportation policy that makes sense. I do not see modes first and then issues second. I see the issues and then think of the solutions..I cannot help it if in an urban environment, by far the best solution in many cases is to encourage more people to use bicycles and transit and to discourage auto use.

      That’s not advocacy or partisanship, that’s just common sense that is lined up with facts.

      Thanks.

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      • 9watts April 24, 2012 at 11:54 am

        “That’s not advocacy or partisanship, that’s just common sense that is lined up with facts.”
        It also is what cities the world over are discovering, learning, and in some cases grudgingly admitting to. It is quite remarkable really how familiar the conversations, conflicts, statistics, joys, dangers, etc. of the recent mode share increase of bikes (to pick one way to frame this trend) are in places like Vienna (Austria) or hundreds of other cities.

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      • matt picio April 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm

        I think a big part of the problem is that we see either issues or modes first. I believe we should be seeing “people” first, “issues” second, and then work on solutions which use the appropriate modes based on resources and other factors. Too many proposed solutions focus on the mode or the problem why not focus on people (and our common desires for transport regardless of mode – access, short trip time, safety) and the underlying factors behind the issues?

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    • spare_wheel April 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      “spare_wheel, you need to learn a lot more about how civic organizations operate.”

      thanks for the condescension, but i already know that i prefer civic organizations that are more inclusive both in their membership and their board of directors.

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    • 9watts April 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Paul G: “It’s pretty obvious that there is political conflict over the level of resources to dedicate to various modes of transportation, so again I’m not sure why there is such concern.”

      Anyone purporting to study bicycling in Portland could

      (a) reify these stereotypes, take as their point of departure the oppositional framing, the notion that it is about potholes vs bike lanes, a zero-sum game of competing interests, or

      (b) as Jonathan does so well, problematize this unhelpful and frankly often destructive framing itself so as to transcend it and then explore how to encourage a better transportation culture/access/mode-split, etc. that reduces carnage & infrastructure costs, increases resilience and health….

      Other approaches are of course also conceivable.

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  • Lois April 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I considered applying to be part of the study committee, but it looks like it would cost me $190 in dues plus between 3 to 6 hours every week for meetings, research and writing. I was willing to possibly swing that until I read their Conflict of Interest questions which seemed like they were trying to determine ahead of time who was pro-bike and who was anti-bike which makes me wonder if they are trying to structure the study committee to reflect a pre-determined outcome. I think I’ll volunteer for something else instead.

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    • Chris Smith April 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      The City Club process will try very hard to filter out anyone who has a strong opinion either way.

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      • 9watts April 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

        Why would they want to do that?
        I think what makes bikeportland’s reader comments so interesting, so thought-provoking–to me at least–is precisely that many of those who post here have strong opinions.

        It isn’t as if the proposed research outline didn’t reflect some pretty strong opinions.

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      • PorterStout April 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

        Chris, I’m having trouble with this. Why does having a strong opinion automatically disqualify someone? If you’ve tried something and confirmed the benefits for yourself, is then trying to convey or enable those benefits for others a bad thing? The statement above is equating having a strong opinion with having a closed mind, which isn’t the same thing. E.g., I bicycle commute virtually every day of the year, and you bet I have a strong opinion about the value of bicycling. Does that automatically disqualify me to be on the panel? Then I have to ask, how many of the other people on the panel car commute? Obviously they have personal opinions about driving vs. bicycling. Doesn’t that disqualify them by the very same measure? To me people without opinions are like politicians with squeaky clean backgrounds, few and far between, and the most boring, uninformed people you’d ever want to meet.

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        • Chris Smith April 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm

          There are many ways to do this kind of thing. For example you could try to have a balanced set of folks from either side of an issue and get them to review the facts and try to reach consensus (that’s what many City SACs look like).

          But that’s not City Club’s model. City Club is more like picking a jury, they want folks who have an open mind and have not come to a conclusion. That generally means applying a filter sorting out folks who have a stated public opinion on an issue.

          Not saying one model is better than another, but City Club has a long history of using their model, and they are unlikely to change it for this study.

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  • GlowBoy April 24, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    My own view of City Club is that it probably is indeed center-left.

    But that doesn’t mean it won’t be biased against bicycles. Almost everyone who doesn’t ride a bike has built-in car-centric filters and biases that, in many cases, they aren’t even aware of.

    Filtering out those with strong opinions won’t necessarily offset these biases. And to me that is already showing in the very language being used to lay out the study objectives.

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  • Alexis April 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    After reading the article and all the comments, I’m still left with my main question: Didn’t PBOT already do much or most of this work in creating the 2030 Bike Plan? They’ve already laid out goals and paths to get there where bicycling is concerned and have probably (I haven’t read the whole plan) also laid out the reasoning behind choosing those goals.

    Depending on how the City Club process goes, their report might be supportive to that or to future bike plans, I guess, but it seems like a lot of work spent on not a heck of a lot of novel information, to me.

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  • Nate April 24, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    I am curious about two things: 1) Whether the “study” will be truly scientific, i.e., time and efficiency measurements with independent variables (like profits, employment, air-quality, or homelessness), e.g., measure the time it takes for an 10-ton 18-wheeler or UPS truck or determined blonde-haired Nordstrom-bound Dunthorpe soccer-mom to drive across town with a bike just riding along in the bike lane, and then again, measure the time its takes for the same trip without a bike JRA, and then correlate those data to reduced local earnings for freight companies or hair color/perfume/ear ring sales, or, will the conclusions and recommendations be based on interviews and anecdotes of “industry experts” (with predictable results like the City Clubs’ findings on MTBs in Forest Park), and 2) whether those hungry “gasoline tax” and “Tri-Met” revenue managers will be on hand to advise the City Club committee chairs that for every un-licensed/un-registered/un-lawful cyclist allowed to put excessive wear and tear on “our” concrete streets, there is either a measurable reduction in gas sales or fewer bus/rail tickets sold. Dammit, gas sales and Tri-Met ridership are down and will continue to drop if we don’t do something to stop these…(wait for it…big golfing fist with pinky ring pounding table) bicycles!

    sigh…

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  • 9watts April 25, 2012 at 9:09 am

    The City Club’s outline of their research project is worth reading in full. Section 2: ISSUES AND CHALLENGES in particular is revealing. There are five subheadings (which I’ve paraphrased below):

    - we have no money for this bike stuff
    - some folks don’t like bike lanes
    - cars vs bikes, scofflaw cyclists, it’s very dangerous out there
    - economic dev’t (City Club is unable to find anything to pin on bikes)
    - environmental impact – the section in full reads:

    “Portland’s Climate Action Plan and air quality goals are likely unachievable without a significant shift away from carbon-burning modes of transportation. Bicycles can be part of the answer, but in a world of scarce resources investments in bicycle infrastructure must be balanced against other goals such as an ambitious expansion of mass transit or widespread availability of charging stations for electric cars.”

    To paraphrase, ‘let’s not get carried away with the human powered modes; there are some fossil-fueled transport categories that really should get more of the $$ if we’re hoping to meet our climate goals.’

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  • dwainedibbly April 25, 2012 at 10:03 am

    A lot of the biases in this announcement will be disputed once Portland Bike Share is up and running successfully. (Yes, my bias is that it’s going to do very well.)

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  • Jeremy Cohen April 25, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I’m with Jonathan and others on this one. The research framing is essential in guiding the direction of the study–it is clearly anti-bike in a number of places.

    Many folks have already noted the section that asks “What impact does dedication of part of the public right-of-way to bicycles have on economic activity that relies on automobiles and trucks to move people and goods?” is under the heading about the “downsides to bicycling.”

    This is classic research bias–because the economic impact of dedicated space for cyclists is ASSUMED to be a “downside” it will be particularly difficult for the study to recognize that dedicating part of the ROW to cyclists may have a positive economic impact.

    I am a full-time, professional social-science researcher here in Portland, and if I approached my review board with that “research” question they would have some serious questions about my ability to work in my field. An actual research question would be: (No heading about downsides) What is the economic impact of designing ROW to accommodate all uses.

    I fear this report, even with the best intention, will only further the current climate of bike vs. car that rules in this town. The assumption at the very base of this study (that bikes need to be studied, as opposed, for instance, automobiles) tells me enough to be worried about the outcome.

    Can anyone here imaging the City Club taking on the same questions about automobiles? What are the touted positive effects of driving a car by yourself? What groups are disenfranchised by the reliance on automobile transit (including those displaced by freeway construction), Where will we secure funding for continued upkeep on roadways (including enforcement to limit dangerous activities, repair, replacement…) We don’t sponsor that study because it is ASSUMED that cars are needed, valuable and the city will always take care of the car drivers.

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  • kgb April 25, 2012 at 10:49 am

    This is a joke and the City Club just slipped another few notches down the ladder to irrelevance. If the City Club has such a balanced approach why has it produced this stinking pile of propaganda?

    “but in a world of scarce resources investments in bicycle infrastructure must be balanced against” Against what? How about a 5 billion dollar bridge. Yes in a world of scarce resources we wouldn’t want to put to much emphasis on the things that are most efficient and cost effective.

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  • Nate Young April 25, 2012 at 11:38 am

    When behavior comes into question, and particularly when behavior change would also require a new perspective, skepticism is pretty often present. As several people have pointed out, non-bike people generally have a bias they aren’t even aware of. The offending language listed above sounds like little more than that. They’ll never know it unless it is pointed out in neutral, respectful tones and venues, like their study group.

    I hear a lot of whining about the biased nature of the application/charge/process from CC, and even the group itself, but only a couple of people even considering applying to the group? I for one think that if even a few of you were more open to being proven wrong by the CC’s process by..oh…applying to the study group, chances of a good-for-bikes outcome might be better.

    I’ll be paying the ~$15/month (that’s just one growler refill!) to join the group in hopes that I might get on the study. Like it or not, this group has a big voice in what goes on in PDX, and I’d like to play a role in making sure they get this study right.

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    • JRB April 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      You must have missed the part where the application process is designed to weed out applicants who have strong opinions. Anybody who frequently reads and comments on Bike Portland is likely not able to meet the club’s “objectivity” test. If the club is refusing to consider anyone who regularly travels by bike, I hope they also refuse anyone who regularly travels by car. Otherwise their professed desire for “objectivity” is a sham.

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      • Chris Smith April 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm

        I made just that point to City Club staff, warning them of the pervasive risk of “car head” in selecting the committee members :-)

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        • Jeremy Cohen April 25, 2012 at 3:13 pm

          I don’t understand why potential members of the committee are asked about their use of a bicycle. This questionnaire was clearly developed specifically for this project–but it is unclear why it matters how applicants mode of transportation will be factored in. I think this furthers my notion that this whole study is unreasonably biased. If this is really about researching the best transportation policy/options, than the question would ask: please describe your transportation habits, including modes used and frequency of use.

          As it stands, I wonder if bike commuting disqualifies me–if nothing else, the question makes me wonder if that is going to be used against potential members. Unfortunately, that question is unneccesary and again implies that if you ride a bike for transportation you can’t possibly have an unbiased opinion–which I would assume does not work the other way. If you were to declare you did not operate a bicycle should you also be disqualified? We all have to get from place to place and how we do it does not nor should it imply a rigid perspective.

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        • spare_wheel April 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm

          in a majority-minority debate avoiding strong opinions (e.g. an opinion outside of the mainstream) biases the debate towards the majority. imo, this type of “overton window” phenomenon has had an incredibly pernicious effect on public discourse and government in the usa.

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  • kgb April 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Oh so when an obvious bias in a shoddily prepared document is pointed out that is “whining”. Got it, good to know.

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  • GlowBoy April 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Re: 9watts’ reading of the ISSUES AND CHALLENGES section, referenced above: if one of the subheadings is going in with an assumption that no economic development can be attributed to bikes, that’s disturbingly ignorant on their part.

    Portland’s unique urban vibe is increasingly making us a tourist destination (thanks, NYT! and Portlandia!), and our bike culture is a BIG part of that. Portland is increasingly creating lots of high-end bike apparel and equipment, much of which is sold outside Portland but brings dollars back here. Not to mention the less immediately noticed economic benefits of better citizen health, higher worker productivity and lower congestion.

    I should also point out that regional bike tourism is set to EXPLODE over the next 20 years, as the projects we’re working on meet up with Cycling Is The New Golf. We’re going to plug the infrastructure gaps in the Gorge, build two car-free routes to the coast, create an awesome camping loop as we hook the Crown-Zellerbach Trail up to the Banks-Vernonia, finish off a route to the Cascades with the Cazadero Trail, and hopefully get that bridge built in Wilsonville to connect ourselves with the rest of the Willamette Valley. A lot more people from all over the world are going to be coming HERE to tour, folks, and Portland will be the hub. The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades.

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  • jim April 25, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    I think there should be a comprehensive study of the city club.

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  • Edward Hershey April 25, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Such cynicism! Or is it paranoia? And I always touted Portland’s cyclists as fundamentally free-spirited, open-minded and optimistic.

    Seriously, this and other current studies (including those on the state of Forest Park, legislative redistricting, local air quality, and civics education in Portland Public Schools) have this much in common with such CIty Club events as Timothy Geithner’s appearance, and spirited debates by candidates for mayor of Portland and Attorney General of Oregon. In an era when rhetoric and volume too often substitute for logic and reflection and many news media start with a point of view, the City Club remains what it has been for four years short of a century — the place to look for a considered and unbiased examination of significant policy issues.

    I’m guessing that not every conclusion of the Bicycle Transportation Study will please every member of the cycling (or non-cycling) public any more than every word of the study charge has. But shouldn’t the very idea that an authoritative civic organization (that is sometimes accused of reflecting Portland’s progressive political climate but rarely criticized as reactionary) seeks to take a serious look at this issue please the cycling community?

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    • spare_wheel June 4, 2012 at 11:44 am

      “the place to look for a considered and unbiased examination of significant policy issues.”

      “that would initiate this study with no bias to any side”

      clearly the city club is the solution to our rancorous political system. i now believe we should just let the “experts” on the city club make all the hard decisions for us.

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  • flywater50 June 3, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Thought I would give this thread a few weeks to perk, and I must say it’s been worth it. Just like the bike community to freak out if anyone has the gall to want to study and gather data on what bike reality is. City Club NEVER has an agenda when initiating a study. I have seen committee members excused from committees because they didn’t disclose conflicts of interest. Their only interest is in research and analysis and they will talk to all sides in this matter.
    City Club is likely the ONLY organization that would initiate this study with no bias to any side and for you to sit back and parse the charge from your paranoia fueled positions is pathetic.
    And by the way, when City Club wrote the Forest Park report, mountain bikes were barely discussed, delaying expansion of single track was recommended but no other additional restrictions on bikes in the park were discussed.
    The “science” that was presented to support expanding single track is deeply flawed and non-supportive of the soils and hill structures in Portland so it is irrelevant.
    So don’t confuse the current discussion with any prior studies. They have nothing in common.

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    • 9watts June 4, 2012 at 9:06 am

      “City Club NEVER has an agenda when initiating a study. I have seen committee members excused from committees because they didn’t disclose conflicts of interest. Their only interest is in research and analysis and they will talk to all sides in this matter.”

      flywater50,
      I’m afraid that asserting impartiality does not make it so. The language in the City Club announcement linked to in this article does not evidence the neutral stance which you claim for the authors/the process. What you call a conflict of interest may or may not be the same thing some of us are concerned with. Bias, carhead, unselfconscious stereotyping of bicycling are all evident in that document, and a ‘conflict of interest’ filter wouldn’t pick up on this–& obviously didn’t.

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    • Jeremy Cohen June 4, 2012 at 9:40 am

      As a member of the social science research community I have to disagree with your notion that the City Club “Never has bias.” It is well understood that pure objectivity is a myth and current practice is to IDENTIFY your bias instead of pretending you have none. In this case the bias comes from the study questions themselves, but also from the selection criteria. IF you have to be member of the city club to participate in the study, then there is an inherent bias based on the type of people that are/are not in the city club to begin with. This is not to judge the city club members, but to recognize that we are all biased toward those domains we live within–which is to say we can not fully understand the complexities of other perspectives. This is exactly why there has been, and should continue to be, a strong push to get proportional representation in any public process. If the only people sitting at the table are primarily car commuters, they will only have their assumptions about bicycle commuting to inform their research. IF the city club was interested in a less biased study, they would try to get as many different voices to weigh in as possible.

      I can appreciate your enthusiasm for the work the City Club does to promote research based policy papers, and I also appreciate your concern that the bikeportland community is reactionary. However, that does not change the nature of bias.

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