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Commissioner Novick: Economic argument will beat the ‘bike backlash’

Posted by on September 17th, 2013 at 11:30 am

“One of my goals in this job is to drive home just how expensive cars are… and just how much of a boon bikes are.”
— Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick

At an event held last night in OHSU’s Kohler Pavillion to mark the end of the first phase of the Green Lane Project, City Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick said the way to respond to the “bike backlash” in Portland is to appeal to people’s pocketbooks.

Novick, speaking in front of a packed room of national and local bike advocacy leaders and city staffers, said that new PBOT Director Leah Treat has likely been “shocked” to realize anti-bike sentiments exist in Portland. He then went on to share his preferred method of countering the backlash.

“In order to keep our momentum going,” Novick said, “We’re going to have to explain the benefits of bicycling and just how valuable these investments are.” A key component to Novick’s argument for bicycling is something he hasn’t wavered from since he was still a City Council candidate: how bicycling positively impacts public health and health care costs.

Here are more of Novick’s comments:

Commissioner Steve Novick at Green Lane Project event
Novick speaking at the Green Lane Project
event last night.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

“We have to talk more about people’s pocketbooks. One thing we need to talk more about is how much we’re saving on health care because people are riding bikes. And that’s something we’re all saving — not just the bicyclists — because most of us have insurance which means we’re a big insurance pool, which means that when anybody is healthier, we all save money. In fact, one of my suggestions to the BTA is they do a day when everybody wears a t-shirt that says on the back, ‘I’m reducing your health care premiums’ — because that’s a fact. That’s one message I think we really need to build on.

Another message is that if you’re one of those people who rides a bike, you’re saving a lot of money in your own pocketbook. That’s obvious to some, but to most people they assume what they spend on their cars is fixed. They don’t really think it actually can be reduced… If i drive my car less, I don’t have to buy a car as often, I don’t have to buy as much gas, I don’t have to spend as much on repairs. I wish is we still had home-economics and personal finance taught in schools where we can let people know: Well, you can spend 20 percent of your income on transportation, or you could be like I was when I lived in D.C. and spent 3 percent. It can be a choice. We’ve got to deliver that message ourselves again and again.

When I first got this job overseeing the transportation bureau, I did an event on pavement needs. I called our bureau of revenue and asked them how much Portland businesses, government, and people spend each year on car repair: $244 million a year. On gas? $600 million a year. When you look at that, the fact that we should be spending $85 million a year on street maintenance doesn’t seem so bad.

So that’s one of my goals in this job is to drive home just how expensive cars are, in terms of direct payments and just how much of a boon bikes are both in terms of direct transportation costs avoided and health care costs.”

Even though he’s yet to pull the trigger on a major, bicycle-related initiative, Novick seems to have the arguments well in-hand. And he’s also got the inspiration. Through a trip funded by the Green Lane Project earlier this year, Novick traveled to Copenhagen for a bicycle infrastructure and policy study tour. Speaking about that trip last night, he said it was, “Really, really inspiring.” Novick, who doesn’t ride a bike and was pulled around the streets in a pedicab, said he realized that despite what he’d heard about urban life in Copenhagen — where about 40% of residents go bike bike each day — “It wasn’t some toy city. It was a real city, where people do real things, and it all seemed entirely possible.”

“We’re not just going to let one loud voice stop a project that’s going to benefit thousands of people.”
— Scott Kubly, City of Chicago Deputy DOT Commissioner

One reason bigger things for bikes haven’t been possible in Portland in the past few years goes back to that “backlash” Novick referred to last night. Unfortunately we’ve had more than our fair share of bike-related controversies. Another speaker last night, Deputy Chicago DOT Commissioner Scott Kubly, had some words of advice for how Portland might push through the backlash and get more projects on the ground.

Chicago has made immense strides in building protected bikeways throughout their city in recent years, and Kubly said as a result some people have questioned the quality of their public process. They’re moving so fast, the thinking goes, how can they possibly be going through an adequate public process?

Scott Kubly of Chicago DOT.

Kubly said one reason they are moving forward so quickly is because they aren’t letting a vocal, anti-bike minority dominate the process. “You need to power through that ‘no’,” he told the crowd (which included top PBOT brass like Director Leah Treat, Active Transportation Division Manager Dan Bower, City Bike Coordinator Roger Geller, City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield, and others). Kubly said they take public feedback seriously, but in the end the city is working for what he feels is the “silent majority” who want the safety, livability, and other benefits that come with bicycling. As for the haters, Kubly said, “We’re going to listen to you, we’re going to hear you, but we’re not just going to let one loud voice stop a project that’s going to benefit thousands of people.”

Kubly said Chicago DOT has even been sued for placement of bike share rental stations. And one adjacent business owner has repeatedly smashed the monitor of the kiosk. Kubly is undeterred. “I’m a stubborn guy,” he said, “We’re just going to keep it there until he runs out of hammers. We’re not going to run out of glass.”

Maybe if Portland’s leaders show some of the confidence and resolve of Kubly, and mix in more of Novick’s reasonable arguments, we’ll finally get our groove back.

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  • spare_wheel September 17, 2013 at 11:45 am

    “said that new PBOT Director Leah Treat has likely been “shocked” to realize anti-bike sentiments exist in Portland”

    One of the reasons that there is less backlash in Chicago is that only 61% of the public drives to work. Cycling is less controversial when you have a public transport mode share of 27%.

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    • Beth September 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      We need to have a transit system where 27% mode share is feasible. Trimet needs to make some major changes in order to become a more viable part of a healthy multi-modal transportation system, including less punative approaches to fare enforcement, more affordable fares, and a restoration of greater trip frequencies and previously eliminated routes.

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    • Racer X September 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      …sounds like it is time to recalibrate the City’s plans for 25% bike mode share and push out the time line out to 2060…

      …unless PBoT and City Hall etc. starts shooting for the stars with a Bikeway Moonshot like NYC and CDOT have started to do (vs. picking up the remaining ground fruit).

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  • Eastsider September 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

    We are very fortunate to have a leader in city like Novick that really understands active transportation and how it can transform
    a city. I wouldn’t mind seeing him as mayor (or beyond) someday. Let’s just hope his voice is louder than the pro-suburbia mindset and indifference towards bikes from the likes of Amanda Fritz.

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  • Nick Falbo September 17, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I’ve been thinking about the bike backlash dynamics for a while and I wonder if our reliance on painted bike lanes are partly to blame.

    Most people (the Interested but Concerned) look at a painted bike lane and say to themselves “there is no way I’m going to ride on that.” Because that painted lane is clearly not for them, it must be a perk for someone else.

    If instead, we build well-designed cycle track facilities that most people could actually see themselves using, I don’t know think they’d view the new bikeways with as much frustration.

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    • paikikala September 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      Find PBOT the money. bike lanes, ~$900/Block (both sides); Add raised separator islands to the bike lanes for about $20,000 per block; One-way raised cycle track both sides, one block $50,000; Two-way raised cycle track, one side, one block $60,000; Yellow flashing beacon crossing, at least $40,000 each; Hybrid beacons start at $150,000 (red kind); full signals go for $250,000.

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  • A J Zelada September 17, 2013 at 11:55 am

    There is due diligence too. I heard Shadik-Khan from NYC talk about how contentious people were in Prospect Park, Brooklyn in their vocal presentation in the media being negative about installing bike lanes in front of their million + dollar brownstones. But she did -in depth -one by one- interviews-survey with each resident along the street and found 60+ percent in favor. And that is what convinced Bloomberg to follow thru despite the loud anti bike lane vocalize. Find the facts. z

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  • RJ September 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    One huge obstacle to getting things done in Portland has been the constant hand-wringing over potential traffic diversion from a road diet or a repurposed travel lane. You hear this at every level, from neighborhood associations to frontline city planning staff to elected officials. It is a huge deal on every corridor plan (see Williams, Foster, and Barbur today, or Sandy when it was studied ten years ago). The city even has policies about the allowable amount/percentage of traffic that can be diverted from a higher classified street to a lower classified street.

    Yet if you ask staff in cities like San Francisco or Chicago, “How do you deal with traffic diversion issues on projects like this?”, they kind of stare at you blankly. In those cities, every street has traffic on it. There’s no such thing as traffic diversion; it’s just accepted that cars go wherever the shortest travel time is, and it’s a dynamic system that depends on multiple routes and system redundancy. They see the standard street functional classification system (arterials, collector, etc.) as something of a traffic engineering relic that’s not particularly useful — and maybe even harmful — in vibrant urban settings.

    Not saying the experiences of larger metro areas are necessarily applicable here, but the contrast in approach to “diversion” is definitely interesting.

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  • Dwayne Dibbly September 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    I am starting to like this Novick guy. He seems to get it.

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  • nuovorecord September 17, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Novick has impressed me since I first became aware of him. Glad he’s on the City Council. Hopefully, he can re-ignite the idea of a transportation system charge. I think a small contribution by each household, dedicated towards bike and pedestrian improvements, can go a long way towards building the type of system that gets the “interested but concerned” out of their cars and on a bike.

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    • dan September 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Novick for mayor!

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  • Cold Worker September 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Portland needs to power through ‘no’ far more often. Williams Ave., I’m lookin’ at you….

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  • GlowBoy September 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I think one of the obstacles to greater mode share is a lot of people see cyclists around town and think “I can’t see myself that all the time. No matter what, there are always a lot of trips I’ll want to do by car. No way am I giving up my car.”

    And I think a lot of people either haven’t done the math on how much driving really costs them, or don’t believe they can save much money unless they get rid of their car completely, which for many is simply not an option.

    So I think Novick’s on the right path to cracking this all-or-nothing mentality by pointing out that less of the cost of car ownership is fixed than most people realize. In fact, when when you figure in not just fuel, but maintenance, depreciation and accelerated upgrades, most people are probably paying more in per-mile costs than in fixed per-month costs. Even with an older economy car, the per-mile cost is still going to be at least 25 to 35 cents per mile. That adds up fast.

    Personally, I’ve tried to radically reduce my own driving the last few months, and have mostly been using the car only to cart around the whole family (not all of whom are as gung-ho as I am). If it’s just me (either local errands or commuting to Beaverton) or me and my kid (within about a 4 mile radius, which is almost all such trips), I’ve been going by bike.

    And I’m saving a ton of money. Yes I could save additional money by ditching the car. But even with the car, the savings from simply driving it less, and leaving it parked more, are HUUUUGE.

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    • RH September 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Agreed. Once you cut back driving/ditch the car, you realize how much more liberating it is and it really does save a ‘stash of ca$h. Folks spend $100K every ten years on one car. That’s real money!

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  • GlowBoy September 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Oops, meant to say that people think “I can’t see myself doing that all the time. No matter what, there are always a lot of trips I’ll want to do by car. No way am I giving up my car.”

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  • Oregon Mamacita September 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    “Kubly said they take public feedback seriously, but in the end the city is working for what he feels is the “silent majority” who want the safety, livability, and other benefits that come with bicycling.”

    Allow me to translate: they don’t really listen to the public. They are postulating a silent majority, but they have no proof. There are some anti-democratic undertones in this debate, and some subtle demonization of the opposition. From God’s mouth to Kubly’s ear, so no need for
    neighbors to have a voice.

    As for Mr. Novick’s remarks- he has become a bike evangelist who sees
    bikes as solving obesity, pollution etc. Since when is he in charge of our overall lifestyles? The City of Portland needs to focus on basics, and not pretend to single-handedly solve all the worlds problems by trying to influence our lifestyles.

    Bikes are nice but they won’t save the world.

    BTW, when I read this blog I sometimes think of an old SNL skit about a dating service called “Lowered Expectations.” When you decide to go carless you can seriously cramp your earning capacity.

    Kubly & Novick think that their fellow Americans are dumb. I don’t respect that position- I think they guy driving a pick-up truck may be smarter than you think.

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    • davemess September 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      “BTW, when I read this blog I sometimes think of an old SNL skit about a dating service called “Lowered Expectations.” When you decide to go carless you can seriously cramp your earning capacity.”

      Or you may not cramp your earning capacity. I think there are very few on this site who are proponents of “bikes or nothing” for transportation options. Certainly it is more convenient to bike to work is certain areas of the city. That doesn’t mean that no one in east portland could potentially bike to work. Plenty of folks live within 3-5 miles of their work. Just because the city is trying to be a proponent of bikes doesn’t mean they are eliminating cars. It’s not 100% of one and 0% of the other.

      I think you’re putting words in Novick’s mouth, as he didn’t say that bikes will solve all problems.

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    • JRB September 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      Project much? Were you there? Did you ask why he thought they had a silent majority? Perhaps they have polling or other data to support this position, much like the Prospect Park example cited in the comments above. You don’t know, but yet feel free to speculating and are therefore guilty of the same thing you of which you accuse Kubly.

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      • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 8:23 am

        Kubly said they take public feedback seriously, but in the end the city is working for what he feels is the “silent majority” who want the safety, livability, and other benefits.

        I understood this statement to mean that Kubly “feels” there is a silent majority, i.e. he has no proof. Also, when he says that they take feedback seriously “but” he suggests that the feedback was largely negative. If he had proof, he would have presented it.

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        • JRB September 19, 2013 at 8:14 am

          It’s appears that you have an agenda to take down a peg those high falutin snobs who don’t understand the needs and desires of the salt of the earth common folks and are interpreting Kubly’s remarks, assuming they were accurately reported in the first place, through that lens. That’s confirmation bias. When people say, “I don’t care what they said, I know what they meant” I stop listening. The same for people who express outrage over something that is based solely on an assumption.

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    • mas September 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      I’m not sure his remarks need to be “translated” and I’m not sure your translation is the correct one. why do you find it hard to believe that they do take feedback seriously but do not want to be beholden to a vocal anti-bike minority?

      I understand the concern about anti-democratic undertones, and it is important to ensure everyone has the possibility to give voice to their opinions. That said, it is the job of electeds to make and implement policy, and inevitably some people are going to be unhappy with whatever policy decision is taken (in any field).

      It seems you are jumping to pretty big conclusions (“Kubly and Novick think americans are dumb”) based on not that much information. Unless you have strong evidence otherwise, it’s generally better to take what people say at face value.

      I do agree with you, though, bikes will not save the world. but better facilities for safe biking will be an improvement for the community as a whole. That’s pretty incontrovertible.

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      • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 8:29 am

        I favor bike improvements and bike safety as long as the benefits are shared city-wide. I disagree that everyone will benefit from biking in a meaningful way. It is not the only way to improve air quality for the disabled and seniors, for instance, and they don’t need the bike infrastructure.

        Novick is a smart guy, and far from shallow. But when he thinks that it’s the city’s business to tell construction workers how to live, because he knows better than the construction workers, I take issue with that. The backlash against bikes is part of a larger backlash against the Bloomberg’s Nanny City approach.

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        • davemess September 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm

          Everytime I hear the “seniors” argument against bikes I think back to when I was in Italy 3 years ago. I’m running down the sidewalk and come upon a woman who has to be 70+, cruising along on her “cruiser” on a street with no dedicated bike facilities.

          I’m not saying that every senior can bike, but it’s really disingenuous to just assume that all can’t and won’t.

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          • was carless September 18, 2013 at 11:44 pm

            I think that the seniors you see in other countries biking are the ones who’ve been cycling since they were kids. I don’t expect any older folks in the US to pick up cycling; it will be the current generation still doing it 40 years from now (2050′s).

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    • Alex Reed September 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      “trying to influence our lifestyles” – Doesn’t preserving a road system that prioritizes high speed movement by motor vehicles “influence our lifestyles” already? Seems to me there’s no way the government can AVOID influencing our lifestyles as long as it is in charge of the roads (and a bunch of other things, including zoning, parking requirements, taxes, etc.)

      So is what you are really saying that you are OK with the way our government is influencing our lifestyles now and don’t want anything to change from the status quo?

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      • Oregon Mamacita September 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm

        No, but I want full public participation from all classes. It’s the top-down, be quiet and listen to the enlightened ones, approach that is unfair. And getting rid of cars has unintended consequences. It also pre-supposes that cars will never improve.

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        • dan September 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm

          I don’t know that Novick is trying to take anyone’s car away, I think the point is really about whether it makes sense for single-occupant motor vehicles to be the primary constituency for which roads are built.

          We know from places like Southern California that improving infrastructure for cars just results in more cars — you can’t build enough roads to get rid of traffic jams, because traffic volume increases to meet road capacity. So, doesn’t it make more sense to invest in bike infrastructure that 1) has the potential to free up space on the road by converting some car commuters to bike commuters and 2) costs a fraction of motor vehicle infrastructure?

          I know there are some people that need to drive to work because the distances and / or transit connections are such that other modes just don’t work. But there’s also a critical mass of people working places like downtown that could readily switch to other modes, and my guess is that a majority of people would rather see roads that promote fewer cars in the downtown core, not more cars. (Assuming that it’s not possible to ban everyone’s car but mine, which of course would be the ideal situation ;-)

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        • Alex Reed September 18, 2013 at 10:39 am

          I don’t know where you get this idea that it’s only the upper classes that want to make it easier to get around PDX without a car. Census data shows that car-free households are in Portland disproportionately low-income. Making it more feasible, safe, and comfortable to travel around the metro area by foot, bike, or transit is fundamentally a pro-equity endeavor due to the high cost of auto transport.

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      • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 8:35 am

        The City is starting to actively talk about influencing how we live, eat, move as opposed to sticking to the basics. We are moving towards a
        nanny state. It’s one thing to say “let’s maintain the roads and improve safety and efficiency” and another thing to tell the residents “you are too fat and you should sell your car.”

        Like NYC, PDX has serious “mission creep.” The nonsense about food deserts is my favorite example.

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        • Paul in the 'couve September 18, 2013 at 11:29 am

          It’s also “another thing” to make it easier for people to be fat and unhealthy as well as poorer by city government that focuses on making parking free and abundant, stores buried in parking lots and sprawl.

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        • davemess September 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm

          So you’re arguing that food deserts don’t exist? Or just that the city shouldn’t get involved in trying to get better food access to EVERY neighborhood in the city?

          To me, food is about as basic as it comes.

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        • was carless September 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm

          A society and a city is all about people make compromises in order to live together peacefully. Every citizen in a city is, in effect, influencing everyone’s life just due to the basic economics, supply and demand, and usage of infrastructure.

          The government’s job is to best manage the influences everyone has on everyone else… like dealing with waste and sewage in a sanitary way. We don’t just dump buckets of crap in the street like the British used to do in the 17th century.

          “Influences” from the government also include:
          *laws
          *building codes
          *traffic rules
          *licensing

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    • Chris I September 18, 2013 at 6:48 am

      When you say that we “need to focus on the basics”, you advocate for the status quo. You advocate for a city where cars rule, and speed through our neighborhoods, making it unsafe for our children to walk. You advocate against projects that improve safety for all road users, because it will increase travel times. You advocate for several dozen deaths every year. You are the vocal minority, and we aren’t going to listen to you. Our city council is elected democratically, and they represent us. If you don’t like their views, you can run against them next round, on a pro-death platform. Good luck with that.

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      • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 8:39 am

        Nonsense, Chris. Utter nonsense that I support dangerous driving.
        You have no proof that I am the minority, you just say that because my arguments have some truth and unsettle you. The un-democratic approach should sink you. Time will tell. Now go lecture your plumber on how he should live.

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        • Chris I September 18, 2013 at 9:45 am

          Prove it. If you were in Novick’s position, what would you do to improve multi-modal safety in our city?

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          • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 11:56 am

            I would put sidewalks in deep SE before I put tax-payer funded bike share in front of Nordstrom’s, I think the plan for Division Street below 82nd looks good. I am not opposed to slowing traffic in some areas, Anything practical.

            Rather than mis-characterizing me as a homicidal driver of a giant SUV. you might want to think about the parts of my arguments that trouble you. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do think there are problems with bike evangelism. I say that as someone who bikes a lot.

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            • Chris I September 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm

              And I think you are mis-characterizing us as well. We (I can’t speak for all of us) aren’t trying to force people out of their cars. We are trying to provide safe options for everyone. Every street in our city should be safe for motor vehicle operators, cyclists, and pedestrians. I commute from Hollywood to Gresham, sometimes by car, and sometimes by bike. I have dozens of good options in my car, but only one or two safe options by bike.

              I mostly work with “WalMart shoppers”, and they think I’m bat$#!t crazy for riding my bike to work. I don’t want to force them to sell their cars. I want to work with the city to get safe routes so they have the option to ride to work. I have worked closely with my company to install covered bike racks, and install lockers for commuters, and we have roughly doubled the number of bike commuters in the past 5 years.

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              • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm

                I agree with you on the need for street safety for everyone, period.

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            • davemess September 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm

              Is the “tax-payer funded bike share”, just a loan from the city?

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  • Jeff September 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Oregon Mamacita
    Bikes are nice but they won’t save the world.

    Um… they will certainly help. Your car is hurting the world. Getting rid of it is an unmitigated good.

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    • Oregon Mamacita September 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      Yes, I’ll get rid of my car, which allows me to meet people outside of Portland and to support my family. I will become like you, oh superior one.
      BTW, stop eating any food that is trucked in.

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      • mas September 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm

        I agree with you Mamacita. Not everyone can get rid of their car.
        One key, I think, is to get people to understand that almost everyone can reduce the number of vehicle trips they “need” to take. The other key is to make bicycling (and other active transportation) a really safe and convenient alternative to driving a car.

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      • Hugh Johnson September 17, 2013 at 5:54 pm

        Or buying bikes, parts, and other bike gear that was trucked in.

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      • GlowBoy September 17, 2013 at 9:33 pm

        Huh? How is making a personal decision whether or not to bike instead of drive at all equivalent to deciding whether or not to eat food trucked in? We can debate all day whether hurtling oneself from stoplight to stoplight in a 4000 pound steel cage is an appropriate use of energy, road space and other resources; but I think almost all would agree using a fully loaded steel cage to transport food clearly IS an appropriate use. Binary, all-or-nothing thinking isn’t helpful to the discussion.

        Let me make this clear, Mamacita: NO ONE IS COMING TO TAKE YOUR CAR. There may be a handful of people on BikePortland who’d really like to see cars go away completely, but I think most of recognize that they’re not going to.

        The secret agenda of most of us is not to get rid of the automobile, but to level the playing field enough that cycling becomes a feasible choice for lots more people. Even here in “bike-friendly” Portland, it is far, far harder to get around here by bike than by car. If you’ve actually tried getting around by bike much, you’d quickly realize that.

        Right now most people are forced to drive, and it’s costing them a fortune. The average family spends $10,000 per year on their automobiles. The BikePortland agenda – making cycling easier and safer – isn’t about reducing people’s choices and incomes. It’s about expanding them.

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        • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm

          GlowBoy, I ride all the time and I use the sidewalks in some areas. Enough with the ad hominem attacks and mis-characterization of my arguments. Remember than anti-car vandals have been cutting motorcycle seats and smashing cars in SE, trying to take away choice, I guess. Enjoy your feelings of superiority, my dear.

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          • GlowBoy September 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

            OK, my mistake for inferring your level of cycling awareness from your rhetoric.

            Meanwhile, thanks for cherry-picking out a sentence or two from my post, failing to notice I’m striking a middle ground rather than one fully opposed to yours, and missing the bigger points: the anti-car extremism you cite is a small fringe even among Portland’s pro-bike crowd. There is no agenda to get everyone out of their cars. Riding instead of driving saves people money, and you don’t have to sell your car to get the benefits. And your food-trucked-in analogy was way off base. Talk about mischaracterization!

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  • Stuart M. September 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Hey, Oregon Mamacita, interesting link there between having a car and a high income, how much of that increased income goes toward car payments, maintenance, fuel and insurance? I guess you consider bicyclists losers. Well, maybe they are. They are losing weight/health problems and they are reducing their car costs. Gee, if you read the article, you’d understand all the benefits bicyclists give YOU. Things like less car trafiic to contend with, less wear and tear on the roads, lower health insurance rates for everyone, leaving those high income jobs to winners like you. You should say thank you next time you see a bicyclist.

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    • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 8:44 am

      I bike to work everyday, so I just gave myself a big hug. Again, I think the argument for bikes goes too far. It neglects the cost/problem of stolen bikes and also the fact that young people without insurance bang themselves up all the time. I am not anti-bike, I am just tired of what I think are short-sighted and simplistic anti-car positions.

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  • AndyC of Linnton September 17, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    I dunno. I applaud the guy in his efforts, but in order for me to get excited about anything that virtually anyone says in this city anymore, I have to kinda blur my eyes and make the one in 2013 anamorphosize itself in to a zero. Happy to be proven wrong.

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  • gutterbunnybikes September 17, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    I agree that there should be more focus on the monetary benefits of cycling. I’ve often though this part of the equation should be more of a focus.

    I did some rough numbers for another sites comments section recently using the AAA average car cost per year (I know it not perfect,but gotta start somewhere) and figured the choice to drive for the next forty years are going to cost you about one million dollars. if you were to take that money for a car (minus the bike maintenance costs) and get a 4% return (30 year AAA rated bonds anyone???).

    Considering the average income of people in Portland is around 50 k a year means that they’ll gross 2 million in 40 years at their job, it’s a giant ball of cash. If you managed to get 7% yearly interest you’d roughly double your 40 year gross income.

    Of course this depends on the person keeping a steady 50k income for 40 years (most likely not gunna happen), and cost of car ownership staying the same as well.

    Biking should be considered a green activity – as in cash. Perhaps we should frame the issue around the idea of it being “a one million dollar decision”. Because even if it wasn’t quite there yet, it will be soon. I’m sure a few people would listen with this kind of money on the line.

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    • Keith September 18, 2013 at 6:34 am

      I think that, regardless of profession, living a car-free lifestyle means retiring by age 50, if so desired.

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  • Chris Anderson September 18, 2013 at 5:49 am

    The problem with biking being marketed as responsible and economic is that that’s not a very good way to sell something. If it was you’d see more car / clothes / whatever ads about what a rational choice they are. Instead the ads are about how sexy you’ll look drinking beer in the back of a convertible in some setting where it’s the only car around. We’ll know everyday biking is really mainstream when it is being marketed as sexy and selfish.

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    • Oregon Mamacita September 18, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Interesting post. Biking is being marketed as a civic duty in an age of diminished expectations, and that does take the fun out of it.

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    • was carless September 18, 2013 at 11:54 pm

      The city really needs to market it better – and vocally. The way to market something is to offer a narrative that people can buy into, something personal and emotional. You cannot normally sell an idea or product because its logical. Most people respond to ads and ideas from a gut, thoughtless and emotional level.

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  • PC September 18, 2013 at 8:43 am

    “In fact, one of my suggestions to the BTA is they do a day when everybody wears a t-shirt that says on the back, ‘I’m reducing your health care premiums’.”

    Oh man, can we please not do that? I think this is well-intentioned and I get where Novick’s coming from. And I’ve worn some pro-cycling T-shirts in my day, some until they were so ratty they essentially dissolved in the wind like dandelions. (RIP, Microcosm’s “Put The Fun Between Your Legs” shirt). But I don’t think an activist T-shirt or bumper sticker has ever changed or even swayed a mind, and I think we’ve got to be especially sensitive to seeming paternalistic/enlightened. Because whether it’s bunk or not — and let the record show I consider it to be pretty damn bunk most of the time — the reality is that that’s a perception that’s out there, and one that we have to battle with. We go to bike war with the rhetorical army we have, not the rhetorical army we wish we had.

    “The problem with biking being marketed as responsible and economic is that that’s not a very good way to sell something. If it was you’d see more car / clothes / whatever ads about what a rational choice they are. Instead the ads are about how sexy you’ll look drinking beer in the back of a convertible in some setting where it’s the only car around. We’ll know everyday biking is really mainstream when it is being marketed as sexy and selfish.”

    Yeah, this. I think we can market bicycling as responsible and economically viable within a policy framework, certainly. But for cycling to catch on it’s got to win, or at least be a part of, a cultural argument as well. And a big part of that is going to be, yes, silly fucking marketing of bicycling, as objectionable as I may personally find it. I may think it’s a stupid ad, but take, for instance, Rapha’s “No Ordinary Night, No Ordinary Light” ad with the sexy Australian (looks to be) 20-year-old riding around in a swimsuit waxing rhapsodical about her bike. Like I said, I think it’s a bit dumb, but part of the progress we have to make advancing and normalizing bicycles will probably include marketing cycling with sexy ladies and fellas.

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    • dan September 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

      How about a day when everyone who usually bikes drives to work with a sign in the back window saying “Don’t you wish I rode my bike today?”

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      • PC September 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

        That I could get behind.

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    • GlowBoy September 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      Yeah, I don’t think the t-shirt thing is going to work either. We’ll just come off as self-righteous and it will backfire.

      People tend to resent others who do something that is perceived as more virtuous (doesn’t matter if it actually is more virtuous) than what they do. Human nature. When we start talking about the very real reductions in health care and transportation costs from cycling, it can trigger this reaction in people who stick to their cars. It’s still worth pursuing in public-policy discussions — and, yes, doing more to encourage behavior that costs society less — but we have to make sure not to do it in a way that portrays the people who can’t or won’t bike as inferior. They’re just citizens going about their business.

      Of course you’ll have the paranoiacs who scream “social engineering” and “elitism” that the gubmint would dare to encourage or discourage certain behaviors. (Reminds me of the “food police!” rants whenever we talk about merely requiring that the content of food be labeled). But we can’t let those extremists drown out reasoned debate.

      After all, we don’t pit the owners of stick-frame houses (much higher societal firefighting cost than brick houses) against the owners of stick-frame houses (much higher potential for collapse in earthquakes). We encourage reinforcement of new brick houses, without forcing owners of older ones to convert, and we encourage smoke alarms and escape ladders in wood houses. And somehow people who own different kinds of houses don’t end up resenting each other over it. We need a similar approach with transportation.

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      • was carless September 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm

        Maybe we need an Oregon PAC to collect money and run sexy bike ads like they have in Europe. Show hot old ladies on bikes or something.

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      • Oregon Mamacita September 19, 2013 at 1:31 pm

        ” Glowboy, it’s refreshing that you want to encourage biking without “portray(ing) the people who can’t or won’t bike as inferior.”

        But then you start up with the name-calling: “paranoiacs who scream “social engineering” and “elitism” that the gubmint would dare to encourage or discourage certain behaviors. ”

        ” But we can’t let those extremists drown out reasoned debate.” Well, calling your opponents extremists doesn’t lead to reasoned debate. If you are insinuating that I am a tea-partier, say so and I will give Jonathan something to censor because I don’t care for lies. Saying things with no factual predicate can be a lie.

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  • Joe Adamski September 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    One fact seldom mentioned is a dollar not spent on gasoline is more likely a dollar spent locally.
    One big concern I have is the equity piece..that the inner city gets the investments while the poorest who have been relocated to the outer fringes by gentrification now are forced to shoulder a larger piece of the economic burden due to limited transportation and fewer access opportunities

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  • was carless September 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Would still love to see some new “complete” bike infrastructure.

    What about those Copenhagen “cycle highways” that connect the suburbs all the way to the city center on well-marked cycle routes?

    Biking in the Portland area can be a real chore, and sometimes requires a GPS + map and a Ph.D in geography to navigate successfully.

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  • robin September 19, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Another example of how not to let single voices direct the conversation:

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/09/how-dc-set-3-bad-bike-lane-precedents-single-decision/6948/

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