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The Monday Roundup

Posted by on November 12th, 2012 at 9:42 am

There were many interesting and important bike-related stories on the web this week. Below are the ones that caught my eye…

— After my time in New York City, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we build cities. In central Maine (of all places), there’s a development project in the works called Piscataquis Village that promises to be a “modern, rural micropolis.” There will be strict codes in place to make sure that walking and biking are the primary transportation method and cars will only be driven around the perimeter.

— In Copenhagen, our friend Mikael Colville-Andersen reports that their bike share system, “Bycyklen” is being shut down after 17 years in service.

— In other bike share news, London’s mayor says annual subscriptions to their system will double in order to raise money for improvements.


— Believe it or not, the NY Post blamed NYC DOT Commish Janette Sadik-Khan and her crazy bike lanes for the post-Sandy traffic mess.

— Speaking of people with a car-centric outlook. John Charles of the Cascade Policy Institute penned a stirring defense of driving. “Not only is there nothing intrinsically wrong with driving,” he wrote, “one easily could make a case that high levels of personal automobile use are indicators of an economically vibrant and socially dynamic region.” Charles also bashed the SW Moody project as a waste of money because it reduced auto lane capacity (he must not know about the huge I-5 freeway just a few yards away).

— Have you seen the DonkyBike yet? Looks durable and affordable.

— The headline of this story from Cleveland says it all: “Woman who drove on sidewalk to avoid stopping for Cleveland school bus must wear ‘idiot’ sign.” Seriously.

— If you haven’t heard, the cargo-bikes-as-disaster-recovery-tools thing has gone from sub-culture niche to a solid trend. Portland’s efforts have been well documented; but guess what’s getting some attention in the wake of superstorm Sandy?

— Sandy is also exposing a problem with how greenways/multi-use paths are managed. In NYC (and in Portland), many key paths in the bike network are overseen by the Parks department, which is problematic for facilities that are more like streets than parks.

— With Obama settling into a second term, Grid Chicago has some advice on where he should take transportation policy.

Gothamist reported this week that a stretch of the protected bike lane on Broadway in NYC (which you might have seen in my story/video) will be moved out of the protected area next to a public plaza due to so many conflicts with people walking.

— Comic journalist Bikeyface had a fantastic piece on the absurdity of the “cyclist” label.

— Local essayist, writer, publisher and carfree mama Sarah Gilbert penned a thoughtful letter to Portland mayor-elect Charlie Hales (whom she didn’t vote for), urging him to remember the importance of livable streets.

— The Times of London isn’t denying the onset of “Peak Car.” In fact, they say it’s time to embrace, “a future in which the inner cities are given over to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, and café culture replaces car culture.”

— Speaking of car culture, did you see the Victoria’s Secret model dressed as a bike?

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  • 9watts November 12, 2012 at 10:34 am

    The Cascade Policy folks are so tiresome.
    the biggest problem with Metro’s response to the survey is the agency’s worldview that driving is socially undesirable, so if we have less auto commuting, the region is automatically more “livable.”

    But I think we’re making headway. Asserting that Metro hates cars is a pretty desperate move, buddy.

    Increased driving is strongly correlated with higher incomes.

    But what is your point, Mr. Charles? are you trying to revive the creeps and weirdos bus-script?

    I think John Charles should also be required to stand at a busy intersection with the sign around his neck that Shena Hardin must wear.

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    • q`Tzal November 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      9watts
      Increased driving is strongly correlated with higher incomes.
      But what is your point, Mr. Charles? are you trying to revive the creeps and weirdos bus-script?

      No, he is trying to remind everyone that MONEY is the most important ingredient for success, happiness and genuine self worth.
      If you don’t have money you are NOTHING. We live in a free market economy baby so all that matters is that you extract as much monetary wealth from the system as fast as you can and damn the consequences.

      The fact that conspicuous consumption, profligate waste and unbridled exploitation of people and resources IS a key indicator of a vibrant CAPITALIST economy is dead right.
      It also points to the author’s lack of awareness of how resource starved our world has become as an exploding population tries to raise themselves to our unsustainable lifestyle.

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    • John Charles November 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      Judging by your response you must think there are a lot of factual errors in my essay. Go ahead and point them out and I’ll respond.

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      • Greg November 12, 2012 at 7:43 pm

        “..[T]he biggest problem with Metro’s response to the survey is the agency’s worldview that driving is socially undesirable, so if we have less auto commuting, the region is automatically more “livable.” Not only is there nothing intrinsically wrong with driving, one easily could make a case that high levels of personal automobile use are indicators of an economically vibrant and socially dynamic region.”

        I would argue that high levels of personal automobile use are socially undesirable. Excessive use of cars leads to environments I do not want to live in, such as car-only suburbs, strip malls, as well as vast shopping centers, surrounded by mostly empty parking.

        I think denser development that favors people, not personal vehicles, is more livable. It encourages exercise and community involvement in a way that automobile centered living simply can’t touch.

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        • John Charles November 13, 2012 at 10:45 pm

          OK, so you didn’t say I was factually wrong, you just have a personal preference for dense urban development. Fine, but a large segment of the population doesn’t share that view. And if you think urban centers are not auto-reliant, you should spend some time donw in the Utopian neighborhood known as South Waterfront, where we’re spending more than a billion dollars subsidizing light rail, the streetcar, and the tram. We counted every trip in and out during a typical weekday in 2010, from 6 am to 10 pm. 79% of passenger trips took place in a private motor vehicle. That’s why OHSU just got a 15-year extension for their 500-space surface parking lot that was supposed to be eliminated by 2013. They know that the SoWa district is auto dependent.

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          • 9watts November 14, 2012 at 10:45 am

            “And if you think urban centers are not auto-reliant…”

            Of course many of us are auto-reliant; incredibly so. But that I think is the point. This dependency is not only pervasive it is also waning. You are having trouble I think differentiating between the present moment (overwhelming reliance on autos), and trends observable here and in many other cities and countries (a weakening reliance on cars above all other modes, resistance to autodom, a love affair that has grown stale). Where some of us see glimmers of hope; the promise of a future less fettered by cars, you, apparently, see only frustrated carless single moms. Maybe you should get to know some people, families even, who happily live without cars, chose it, wouldn’t trade their life for one with a car if you paid them.

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      • 9watts November 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

        John,
        the economistic place from which you criticize these statistics doesn’t begin to capture the vibrancy, diversity, messiness, & nuance of real people’s lives. Why can’t you just allow the fact that on average we drive less per capita than we used to without imputing want, frustration, loss of earnings?

        “access to a private automobile is critical to improving the economic wellbeing of low-income households”

        Poppycock. The logic you apply here is akin to the SUV shopper, who thinks the streets are so dangerous that she too must invest in one, failing to see how this arms race, like all arms races, cannot be won. Additional cars are a very roundabout way to improving the economic wellbeing of poor people. The asymmetric distribution of jobs & housing is in no small part a result of our auto-centric land use patterns that your prescription does nothing to ameliorate.

        “Every trip has a purpose.”
        Most driving occurs as short trips, the kind that other modes can and often do substitute for quite handily and inexpensively. A car often is our habit, but it is in no way necessary or even salutary that many of us tend to favor it. We all know you folks at CPI hate transit with every fiber in your body, but why tar every non-auto mode with the same brush you have ready for buses and street cars?

        “one easily could make a case that high levels of personal automobile use are indicators of an economically vibrant and socially dynamic region.”

        One could more easily make the opposite case. The decision to spend $400 million to unjam the Rose Quarter is neither economically vibrant nor socially dynamic. It is anachronistic and asinine, a sure sign of our addiction.

        But most of this is really beside the point because your calculus that equates the good life with lots of cars and lots of driving for everyone is not long for this world. Cars are doomed for a dozen reasons: pedestrian safety, public health, energy availability, climate stability, energy economics, sprawl, ugliness, neighborhood livability. This is not unique to Portland. As you well know, cities and states the world over are grappling with the externalities that motordom has imposed on everyone for a century, and in the process are finding that banning them, slowing them down, incentivizing alternatives, congestion pricing are all worthwhile, & improve things for many groups, not just those stuck in cars.
        For that matter, younger folks in many countries including the US don’t seem to share your cars-first premise and are skipping driver’s licenses, car ownership, and the rest.

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        • John Charles November 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm

          Yes, I have a 19-year old stepson who doesn’t have a driver’s license and doesn’t really want to drive because he’d rather text while someone else is driving…but he’ll eventually grow up, or his friends will get tired of driving him around. He rides his bike a fair amount but that only works for about a 5-mile radius.

          Cars are here to stay, as are the suburbs. And if you want to help a low-income single mom who is transit dependent, help her get some private wheels. The evidence is pretty clear on that point. Check out Kerri Sullivan’s master’s thesis on that subject (published in a Harvard academic journal available on the web), or some of the work by Steve Raphael.

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          • 9watts November 14, 2012 at 9:19 am

            “Cars are here to stay, as are the suburbs.”

            As simple as that, eh?

            Oh, well. So much for getting to the bottom of our disagreements.

            And FWIW, I’m all for private wheels, just not the kind with the stinky motor attached :-)

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          • Gary Kavanagh November 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm

            The LA Times recently did an expose on auto dealerships preying on low income folks and charging absolutely insane interest rates. Sometimes reprocessing a car after someone couldn’t make payments several times, selling the same vehicle over and over, with high profits that have been attracting wall street investments. Is this your idea of freedom?

            Many people don’t drive because they cannot afford the increasing cost of it, and many do anyways despite the huge costs (which remain high despite subsidies) for their income because they are desperate for work often located far from where they can afford to live. And in doing so have enormous amounts of their household budget gobbled up by transportation costs, sometimes more than half in LA where I am writing from. At the height of the electric trolley era of Los Angeles, the trolleys were privately profitable when they didn’t compete with subsidized highways and roads, and the average percentage of household income devoted to transportation was dramatically smaller than it is now.

            Why so many pseudo libertarians rally behind or defend and apologize for governments mandating policies to push people into cars, and insolvency when cars are beyond their means, I will never grasp. Not to mention the fact that many Americans, because of age or disability, cannot drive whether they had a a car or not. We’ve provided quite well enough for all the cars, we need a balance, and where we are at with total auto domination of the urban landscape in the US, is not it.

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  • spare_wheel November 12, 2012 at 10:38 am

    “Money could be better spent on other bicycle initatives, they said.”

    I suspect that MC-A did not attempt a rebuttal because they were correct.

    In a similar vein, I believe that bike share in PDX is primarily a tourism/real estate development tool (like the street car). 4 million buys a substantial amount of new paint and signalling.

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  • Eric November 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

    The Bikeyface comic reminded me of the one thing I don’t like about our neighborhood greenways and the focus on them instead of major streets, it’s almost all just houses. I find it surprising that stores would not want to make it easier for more people to get there.

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    • John Lascurettes November 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      I loved “this comment on the bikeyface article:

      Here in Toronto, the government conducted a survey of merchants in a major shopping street. The merchants were asked what they believed was the percentage of their customers who were car drivers. They also conducted a survey of the customers to find out how many actually were car drivers.

      Anyone care to guess how that turned out?

      31% of the merchants believed that 0-20% of their customers were car drivers.

      44% of the merchants believed that 21-50% of their customers were car drivers.

      13% of the merchants believed that 51-75% of their customers were car drivers.

      13% of the merchants believed that 76-100% of their customers were car drivers.

      Everyone is, of course, now asking themselves “What was the actual percentage of car drivers?”

      Drum roll, please…

      The actual, factual reality was that 21% of their customers were car drivers!

      Source:

      http://www.cleanairpartnership.org/files/BikeLanes_Parking_Business_BloorWestVillage.pdf

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  • John Lascurettes November 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Damn. Fixing the link: http://bikeyface.com/2012/11/02/not-cyclists/#comment-3982

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  • wsbob November 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    “…ODOT data shows that for every new job created, we should expect to see another 15,500 vehicle miles travelled each year. If total auto use went up because vast numbers of new jobs were created, would that make the region less livable? …” john charles/cpi

    Yes…repeat…Yes: If total auto use were to increase by 15,500 vehicle miles traveled for every new job created, the resulting road congestion would most certainly make the region less livable. In fact, informal observations of increases in motor vehicle use in my area west of Beaverton, suggest that area livability has already, for a long time been experiencing dramatic declines in livability due to increased vehicle use.

    Motor vehicle traffic congestion and its accompanying inherent danger, excess fuel consumption and noise, is a substantial consequence of meeting travel needs of new job creation, primarily through motor vehicle transportation. Population increase travel needs cannot be met, relying on the expectation that people representing that increase will primarily be traveling by motor vehicle. There is not now, and there never will be sufficient square feet of roadway to handle the numbers of motor vehicles that would be necessary to move everyone by motor vehicle.

    Charles and his fellow CPI brainiacs don’t lack for intellectual ability, but they seem to consistently use that gift to contort reality into ideas that if realized, would sabotage much of the remaining livability the varied lands within the metro area are able to offer people residing within it.

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  • Andrew K November 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Wow, that Cascade Policy Institute article. Ummm…wow, I just don’t even know where to start.

    It’s one of those moments where someone next to you says something so stupid you are stunned into silence.

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  • John Charles November 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I’m sure you can start somewhere. I’ll be waiting.

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    • q`Tzal November 12, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      From the mentioned John Charles article
      And numerous studies have shown that access to a private automobile is critical to improving the economic wellbeing of low-income households, especially for those seeking employment. In fact, a growing number of progressive social service agencies (including at least one in Portland) are now running low-income car loan programs to help get poor people into private wheels. Should we discourage such programs because they cause transit use to drop?

      Throughout history the poor have situated themselves as far as was convenient from urban work centers. Some have had no choice but to live in company dormitories but as soon as they can they move out they do. Cost being the #1 concern people have had to weight the lower costs of distant land versus the cost of commuting. (funny words “commute” & “travel”: they both have their etymology in suffering)
      For most of the last century we have built a “system” of public transportation centered around three things that are quickly failing to exist: cheap fuel (I remember prices around 60¢/gallon in the 1980′s), cheap vehicles and vast open expanses of wilderness that are served well by the “iron horse”.
      Expensive fuel has driven suburban commuters in towards cities as +1 hour “super commuters” found their distant dwellings drowning them in debt. The 2005 gas prices spike may have even helped to start the foreclosure rolling as otherwise good credit risks abandoned distant houses made economically unfeasible in the face of skyrocketing gas prices.
      With China’s and India’s vast populations rising wealth the desire to live as the USA has lived is insatiable. Along with putting massive demand on a shrinking supply of oil it is doing the same for steel, aluminum, copper and most other materials for making automobiles. This has served to drive up prices more than simple inflation.

      So while we have the legacy of a transit system gutted of any convenient choice other than automobiles it is becoming increasingly untenable for those poor who need it most. The poor need options that don’t tie down what little money that have in what is a increasingly useless option.

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      • 9watts November 12, 2012 at 11:51 pm

        “… low-income car loan programs to help get poor people into private wheels. Should we discourage such programs because they cause transit use to drop? ”

        This is a big city with lots of interesting programs and ideas floating around. Some focus on an immediate need, so defined, and others take a longer view. I wasn’t aware of these car loan programs, but can’t say I am surprised someone came up with this. But it is still an end-of-pipe approach, one that I would not elevate to a policy prescription. I personally feel that it is also a short-sighted move since cars are not just a means to an end, but also often quite predictable money pits.

        Some of the lose-lose choices we sometimes find ourselves up against are traceable to bad policies; here I’d finger a century or so of auto-focused developments that have left some (many?) people with few options other than a car. Where Mr. Charles appears to see a vindication of the superiority of the auto (and/or the failure of mass transit) I see an obsolete and expensive system of subsidies (oil wars, tax-payer funded roads, free parking, etc.) that has managed to displace most once viable transportation alternatives through its voracious appetite for land, asphalt, and human life.

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  • Jim Labbe November 13, 2012 at 12:40 am

    John,

    One of the ways driving is socially and environmentally undesirable is the negative impact of driving in increasing urban stormwater pollution. Contrary to popular opinion, the major source of pollution in our urban creeks and rivers is not (or is no longer) industrial or municipal waste water pollution (thanks in part to a lot of good public policy). Rather urban stormwater run-off from roof tops, yards, and especially roads and parking lots is the major source of urban water pollution. As our cities grow it is an increasing share of total water pollution. Somewhere in the range of 60-80% of the volume of urban stormwater water comes from roads and parking lots and an even higher percentage of toxic pollutant loads- in from hydro-carbons and heavy metals- source to cars and trucks. So reducing the numbers of cars on the road helps reduce these sources of pollution the have a negative impact on our quality of life, human health, water-based recreation, and regional biodiversity.

    If all the people walking, biking, or using transit today were driving instead, our urban watersheds in this region would be worse off.

    On another note, I am not sure the data you pull from the Portland Auditor’s report tells the full the story. If I recall those data also indicate that people are increasingly mixing their transportation choices so that even those who continue to report driving as their primary mode choice are increasingly adding in secondary non-driving choices of biking, walking and using transit. So driving is declining more and the alternatives increasing more than the numbers you cite indicate. (Also… people don’t fall into driving and non-driving categories as much as the press portrays or advocates of particular modes would like to think).

    An important question becomes: if people did not have to drive but could bike, walk, or use transit more, would they? I think the data suggests that yes they would.

    Rather than advocating for or against specific mode choices, I would like to see the Cascade Policy Institute stick and little closer to its mission and tackle the hidden subsidies that favor particular modes: the subsidies too often escape public scrutiny. An example would be municipal parking requirements that force developers or businesses to provide more parking than even lenders and financiers demand, thereby forcing everyone pay for the parking (and thus driving) rather than the drivers that actually use them.

    Jim Labbe

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  • drew November 13, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I would suggest John work on calculating the true cost of driving. Add it to the cost of a gallon of gas, which is presently the same cost as brand name supermarket drinking water.
    Gas taxes come far short of paying for the road damage that cars create and the infrastructure they need. Tax breaks to oil companies cost everybody regardless of preferred transport mode.
    Wars to secure oil are costly. Obesity from the sedentary life that excess car use can cause will be the harbinger of a tsunami of diabetes that is just starting to engulf us. Toxic exhaust fumes cause asthma and cancer. John didn’t include these costs in comparing active or public transit to private car use. The traffic he is hoping for will reduce the value of all the real estate in its path. All that free parking isn’t free; its subsidized by all of us. Driving causes lots of funerals and injuries every day; so add that in too. I am sure there are many externalized costs I have not listed. Perhaps that would bring the cost of gas to $20/gallon? Then compare it to other transit modes.

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  • GlowBoy November 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    “one easily could make a case that high levels of obesity are indicators of an economically vibrant and socially dynamic region.”

    FTFY, John Charles.

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  • GlowBoy November 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    On another note, sad to see Koebenhavn’s bikeshare system being shut down. Yes the bikes were pretty crappy, and I wouldn’t want to spend an hour on one, but most of them worked and they got you where you going a lot faster than walking. I used them when I visited there in 2005, and thought they were a great tool for connecting the major sights of the city. Also way cheaper and less theft stress than renting a nicer private bike (which I also did).

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  • BURR November 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I’m pretty sure that’s Eben Weiss, aka BSNYC, on the extracycle with the Trek and Burley boxes on the back in two photos in the Atlantic story on Sandy disaster relief by bicycle.

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  • nuovorecord November 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    What I’ve never understood is why those of a libertarian bent are so set against choice and freedom when it comes to personal transportation. The subsidization of bicycling, walking and transit is framed as theft. Whereas the subsidization of automobiles is investment in the public good. We must have one – and only one – mode of transportation.

    I’ve got nothing against automobiles; I own a couple of them and use them when they’re the best tool for the job. But I live in a part of the region where I have a choice in how I get around. And I bet that those folks living in the suburbs would like to have more choices too, particularly those for whom an automobile is not a choice.

    Instead, our choices have been largely taken away. It is human nature to desire choice. And, as a myriad of research will confirm, it is good public policy in a variety of areas, to provide that choice. Cars are good, bikes are good, transit is good, walking is good…we need all of them. Sounds pretty libertarian to me.

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    • 9watts November 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      “The subsidization of bicycling, walking and transit is framed as theft. Whereas the subsidization of automobiles is investment in the public good.”

      You’ve seen this Andy Singer cartoon, then?
      http://tinyurl.com/aox3aak

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  • GlowBoy November 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, nuovorecord.

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  • 9watts November 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    John Charles:
    “…but he’ll eventually grow up, or his friends will get tired of driving him around.”

    ah, the familiar dose of paternalism.
    Bikes => children; cars => grown ups.

    “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.”

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