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The Monday Roundup

Posted by on September 10th, 2012 at 9:31 am

From race car to handcycle.

My usual Monday Roundup columnist Will Vanlue is out on Cycle Oregon right now, so I’m stepping in to share some of the week’s best stories. Here we go…

- Urban traffic issues are often boiled down to a simplistic duality of either being too auto-centric or an all-out “war on cars”. The Greater Greater Washington blog posted a great explanation of why planning human-friendly cities isn’t anti-car, it’s simply “common sense”.

- Ever wondered why bike tires lose air so quickly while care tires don’t? Grist’s Ask Umbra column has the informative answer.

- You know how I love to critique and analyze media coverage… Well, in that same vein, Brooklyn Spoke does a masterful job breaking down how the sensational bike news coverage in New York City often doesn’t match reality (sound familiar?).

- As reported here in the past, Oregon has pioneered research into an alternative to the gas tax known as a vehicle miles traveled — or VMT — tax. The venerable Atlantic Cities blog takes a closer look at whether or not it’s a good idea.

- Fast Company featured a few photos of a nifty kids bike from Orbea (a Spanish company known for its high performance racing bikes) that grows as kids do.

- The Portland-made Kinn bike we profiled a few weeks ago has been dubbed “the iPhone of bikes” by Triple Pundit.

- And now there’s yet another round of statistics showing that people are driving less. Sightline reports that VMT in Oregon has dipped yet again and that “total vehicle travel on state roads and highways dipped to its lowest level since 1997.”

- The Paralympics in London were awesome this year. One of the many inspiring headlines is that former Formula One auto racer, Alex Zanardi, took home a gold medal in paracycling.

- With just 12 days before Portland’s new eastside streetcar line opens to the public, the Portland Mercury’s Sarah Mirk has a hilarious and must-read blog post that breaks down the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the end, she writes, “We’ve paid for it. We’ve built it. Maybe wondering whether the streetcar is a good or bad one is a moot point, since it’s already here. Let’s get out there and enjoy the damn thing like it just cost us $148 million!”.

- Metro, Portland’s metropolitan planning organization, reports that regional commuting stats show, despite planners’ aims to get people to move closer-in and have shorter commutes, long-range work trips from the suburbs into the city are still very common.

- Out in the eastern Oregon town of Madras, dozens of cows wondered onto the highway and 44 of them were killed when five big-rigs plowed right through them.

- Speaking of dangerous highways, Texas is pushing an 85 mph highway speed limit.

- In case you missed it, former BTA executive director and former volunteer Chair of the Bike Walk Vote PAC Evan Manvel has been hired by Seattle-based Cascade Bicycle Club to assume the role of Director of Policy, Planning and Government Affairs.

- Bicycling Magazine has published their picks for “Best Bike Shops” in America. Congrats to Sellwood Cycle Repair, River City Bicycles, Fat Tire Farm and Bike Gallery for making the list.

- A new report from The Netherlands shows that, even with their relaxed approach to helmet use, the rate of injuries to children while cycling is at an all-time low. Outspoken blogger, consultant, and anti-helmet guy Mikael Colville-Andersen is obviously pleased to share the news. He posted an English language translation of the report that opens with, “The debate about the safety of children on bicycles erupts frequently in the media. Usually it is implicitly assumed that children on bicycles are highly vulnerable. The figures indicate that this is not the case.”

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  • Zach September 10, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Not sure how they’ll reduce commuting from the suburbs without either turning Portland into San Francisco (which would suck, and even if it didn’t, it would take decades) or creating more good jobs in the suburbs… Massive numbers of people can’t simply “move closer in.” There’s nowhere for them to go, and others would just snap up their empty houses.

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    • Zach September 10, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Oh wait, San Francisco has even more commuting from the suburbs than Portland does. That idea’s out.

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    • q`Tzal September 10, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Apartments like on Blade Runner or the less dystopic looking Fifth Element.
      Get used to smaller living arrangements in cities or unemployment in the burbs.

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    • Spiffy September 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      I commute from Portland to one of the suburbs… I’d gladly trade jobs with somebody so neither of us had to commute…

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    • q`Tzal September 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      As for snapping up empty houses: see Detroit , LA or any other city geographically gutted by the loss of suburban dwellers who needed to move away or closer in to lower paying work.
      The cost of energy for transportation for our daily life has continually risen making suburban residences financially risky for even real estate vultures.
      So what has happened is unoccupied houses are simply stripped bare of value by any number of the local criminal element.

      A residence’s value is dictated by what it does for the owner that lives there. Any economic improvement great enough to retain those that would leave is likely to turn suburban areas urban.

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    • Pete September 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      People talk about commuting as if it’s entirely a bad thing. I for one don’t want to live where I work, and the businesses around where I work are happy that I commute there instead of keeping my money in my neighborhood. I’m not sure why so many believe the only low-impact answer to commuting is to make people live at/near the office – or to encourage them to cluster close-in in high-rises (the self-righteous answer to urban sprawl). Just because a majority of people choose car commuting – which most of the readership of this blog (myself included) sees as a poor alternative due to one impact or another – doesn’t mean there aren’t viable lower-impact alternatives to commuting itself (telecommute, 9/80 work weeks, car/van-pooling, rail, cycling, etc).

      I’ll take the suburbs, thanks.

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      • Chris I September 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm

        There’s nothing wrong with commuting; the problem is with long commutes. The fact that 45% of people from Gresham commute to Portland (a distance that averages 16 miles each way) is a bad thing. Even if you choose more eco-friendly modes, you are still using energy to move mass along the same route in repetitive cycles. Double the density of your city (fewer lawns, narrower streets, taller houses) and you can halve the average commute distance, which greatly reduces the energy (and time) required. Commuting adds no value to the economy. The money that 90% of the commuters spend on gas leaves our local economy. It is a bad thing.

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        • Brad September 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm

          Good luck with allowing developers to clear cut Forest Park, raze the lower income neighborhoods of North and East Portland, and creating a wall of condos along both banks of the Willamette to create your high rise, short commute “paradise”.

          Or, we could create high speed bike commuter routes from the dreaded ‘burbs so that sitting on a congested freeway seems silly by comparison. Nah, we should keep on painting lanes and designing bike boulevard signage for all the neighborhoods already close to town.

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          • Chris I September 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm

            I think you are missing my point. I think we both want quality bike routes. These are necessary regardless of commute distance. However, I also think we should be pushing to remove density restrictions, parking minimums, and many other zoning laws that inhibit dense development. Establish a city-wide market-based metered parking system, and use the money to pay for increased transit and bike infrastructure.

            Brownfield development is fine, but no green spaces should be built on. The low density suburbs you seem to enjoy so much have done more to destroy forests than any city ever could.

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  • Allan September 10, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Every person who stops commuting from the suburbs is just creating more space on the roads for someone else to take their place. Congestion is the main detriment and we simply don’t have enough of it

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  • Mike September 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Best Bike shop link = PPB notice?

    Also – why the cow story? Missing the connection between cycling and cows getting out of pasture.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 10, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Thanks for catching that Mike. Fixed that link. And I thought the cow story was amazing and weird… and it underscores the issue of how much carnage large trucks can — and do — do on Oregon’s rural highways.

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      • Pete September 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm

        Or the carnage that we do by buying things that get shipped in large trucks?

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm

          And your point is? Did I say we should get rid of large trucks? Also, if I could choose between a world without the stuff I get from large trucks — if it meant we wouldn’t need large trucks and all the bad stuff that comes with them — I would gladly do so.

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          • Zach September 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm

            I know you’re not at all suggesting getting rid of trucks, but I thought I’d still weigh in on the idea.

            That stuff = probably more than 70% of what we use or consume. And for long-haul routes, larger numbers of smaller trucks would burn up a lot more fuel.

            A semi tractor-trailer gets 6-8 mpg and can haul 80,000+ pounds of stuff, nearly twice that with double trailers.

            The largest size Sprinter gets 20 mpg and can haul 6,000 pounds of stuff. It’s not remotely close, even for many smaller loads.

            Freight trains are, of course, much more efficient even than large trucks – much more efficient than anything else smaller than ships, except maybe oil pipelines. But they don’t go everywhere, and they simply can’t get a particular item from point A to point B within anything approaching a reasonable time.

            The tractor-trailer combination is used universally for shipping because it is the cheapest and most efficient way to ship things. Big companies have armies of employees with MBAs in “operations” who spend all of their time trying to save every last penny.

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            • Zach September 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm

              Meaning, there’s no “if we didn’t need large trucks.” We need them.

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      • Mike September 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm

        Midnight in rural Oregon. I am guessing the cows did not have tail lights or helmets on (hipster cows). Probably no cow lane, so they were taking the lane.

        I could see the connection if this was a common occurrence, or even happened more than once, but that not being the case, I think it is a stretch.

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    • Spiffy September 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      I think the cow link shows that even multiple professional drivers in the same area still drive unsafely fast for conditions… how are we to expect better from normal automobile drivers?

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      • Mike September 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm

        What speed would be safe under those conditions – 25mph?
        Perhaps truckers shouldn’t drive at night?

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        • John Lascurettes September 11, 2012 at 1:32 pm

          I would forgive one truck hitting a whole herd of cows, but five of them? There’s something wrong there with the human behavior, not the cows.

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      • q`Tzal September 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

        As a trucker:
        The problem is that these signs are darn near everywhere west of the Mississippi River where there might be grazing lands not owned by a herd owner that the federal government allows them to graze their cattle on free of charge.
        Ignoring for a second the politics of that: usually these cattle are behind barbed wire fences and by usually I mean that in the 6 months I’ve been driving full time and the 5 years I drove a similar vehicle for the USAF in Nebraska (cattle country) I’ve only heard of this problem anecdotally. I’ve never actually seen it.
        Further, cattle in an active public road are supposed to be under some sort of control from ranch workers. Cattle are notoriously fearless of ANY vehicle and can’t be expected to share the road legally.

        Another road hazard that I’ve heard the same amount of warnings about is a spill of a tanker truck carrying food grade cooking oil; it looks just like water on approach but then you are done. As in expect to die … done.
        Large trucks like these are also quite top heavy and poorly maneuverable. Quite literally my corporate training and my local 4 week CDL training said it is safer to simply run over a deer than to rollover the trailer attempting to avoid it. The amount of inertia involved most often removes stopping as an option but turning at speed can be similarly dangerous.

        Both have actually happened but both are so infrequent as to chalk them up to freak aberrations of statistics. If you spend your whole life being terrified of UFOs abducting your car you will wreck in the school zone.

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  • Tom P. September 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Mike
    Best Bike shop link = PPB notice?
    Also – why the cow story? Missing the connection between cycling and cows getting out of pasture.

    Recommended 0

    One time while riding my bike in thru this area I was chased by a wild animal…In a panic I did crash.
    Though there was signs posted it was still a surprise and perhaps I was unprepared.
    Maybe we should require all wildlife to wear license plates from here on. :P

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Charles September 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Congrats also to Velo Cult erroneously listed as still in San Diego.

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  • Pat Franz September 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Just wanted to put in a plug for the article about congestion and planning in Washington, D.C. Well written, makes a good point, and the comments section was by and large a GREAT conversation. Well worth reading.

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