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The Monday Roundup: Mapping every collision, handmade bikes and more

Posted by on April 7th, 2014 at 9:12 am

Are you on this map?
(Image by the You Are Here project.)

Here are the bike links from around the world that caught our eyes this week:

Mapping crashes: A team of MIT researchers has visualized every reported bike collision from 2010-2013 in Portland and a few other cities. I was surprised by how many happen on streets without marked bike facilities.

Handmade framebuilding: Atlantic Cities takes a deep dive into the ongoing golden age of handmade framebuilding, with Portland companies front and center.

Used bike market: Somebody’s finally done a study of the underappreciated but ubiquitous used bicycle market. About 7.5 million of us own them and they’re worth $2.4 billion combined.

Biker’s monologue: I don’t love everything about Buzzfeed’s 53 thoughts every cyclist in a city has, but some of them are pretty funny.

Free business tip: The tradition of “ghost bike” memorials is probably not a good platform for your viral marketing campaign.

Switching scripts: Rebel Metropolis has a funny best-of from the weekend’s #ReplaceBikeWithCar game on Twitter.

Housing demand: If you’re lucky enough to have a single-family home in a walkable neighborhood, you’re sitting on the hottest commodity in American real estate. Only half of Americans now say they’d prefer a large yard to a small one or to no yard.

Pricing parking: It was heartening to see PBOT Director Leah Treat tweet this roundup of recent studies showing the economic benefits of charging people money to park on public streets.

Recycled highways: “We’ve all heard about rails to trails. How about roads to trails?”

Texas biking: Texans are discovering that “Companies like Samsung and Google are looking at the bicycle facility infrastructure before they decide what city they’re going to locate in,” and it’s persuading their leaders to make big bike infrastructure investments.


Utility rider: When the mayor of New Zealand’s capital city arrived to a meeting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, nobody would have guessed she’d shown up on a bike. She usually does.

Competitive pedestrianism: In the 1870s and 1880s, “watching people walk was America’s favorite spectator sport.”

Car dependence: In our auto-centric cities, poor people who own cars are better off than poor people who don’t, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be making it easier for those who don’t.

Helmet study: I’d love to see someone fluent in both German and Science assess this study finding that the total social costs of bike helmets are 40 percent greater than the benefits.

Death toll: Just under three percent of all human deaths are now caused by motor vehicles.

Bike share benefits: A bill we covered last fall that would make bike sharing fees a tax-deductible commuter benefit has passed a key hurdle in the Senate.

Backup transit: New York’s Citi Bike just released the first trove of data on its usage patterns. I love how they show, among other things, that people jump on Citi Bikes every time the subway’s running late:

Bike share advocacy shift: New York City’s top bike advocate is publicly shifting from Citi Bike cheerleading to sharp criticism of Alta Bicycle Share, Citi Bike’s Portland-based management, on behalf of Citi Bike users.

Activated by honking: The Bicycle Story has a long, interesting Q&A with Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek, a onetime web usability expert who started seeing streets as an “interface design problem.”

If you come across a noteworthy bicycle story, send it in via email, Tweet @bikeportland, or whatever else and we’ll consider adding it to next Monday’s roundup.

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  • 9watts April 7, 2014 at 9:47 am

    “fluent in both German and Science assess this study ”
    Well, the study is interesting and pretty well designed I feel.

    Incidentally the paper to which the article in German refers is available online in English:
    http://www.wiwi.uni-muenster.de/ivm/materialien/forschen/Veroeffentlichungen/WP21.pdf

    The conclusion:*
    “Tallying up the social costs and benefits yields a net loss of 278 million Euro/yr. With a helmet law there would be fewer deaths and seriously injured cyclists, but higher expenditures for helmets, more heart attacks–among those who because of the helmet mandate had quit bicycling or bicycled less than before.”
    His parting suggestion. “Let’s instead consider improved infrastructure and an across-the-board 30 km/h speed limit within towns and cities.”

    The specific calculations (annual figures):
    (a)benefits:
    +570M Euro (reduced death and injury on the part of people biking)
    +123M Euro (mode switching (cars safer than unhelmeted biking))

    (b) costs:
    - 473M Euro (health costs from 4.5% of current bikers quitting)
    - 315M Euro (purchase costs of helmets)
    - 171M Euro (loss of comfort; messes with my hairdo, etc.)
    - 12M Euro (environmental costs from folks switching from bikes to cars & mass transit)

    *(my translation, before I realized the article was in English)

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    • dan April 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

      This is kind of like looking at fire insurance and determining it’s a net social negative because insurance companies take in more in premiums than they pay out in claims. That may be true, but I’ll continue to pay the premiums on my fire insurance, thank you very much.

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  • Chris I April 7, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Just say no to Buzzfeed.

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  • BellaBici April 7, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I was flat-out hit by a car riding on Williams. “I didn’t see you.” I called the Portland Police Department to report it, etc., and they wouldn’t even bother with it. Said it wasn’t an issue for them. Let the insurance companies deal with it.

    What should the two-wheeled wounded do to have their incidents recorded and their voice heard?

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    • scott April 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Be as obtuse as possible. Call the non-emergency and say something like, “Hello, I need a police officer at ______ as soon as possible. Both parties are currently present.” Then hang up. If cops have an option to be lazy, they will be lazy. Give them no option and they have to show up. Be prepared for them to resent you because you figured out how to make them do their job though.

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      • BellaBici April 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

        That’s what I’m finally learning. But, I wonder how many more people like me have been struck/injured and are not even recorded in any system.

        My incident (which by a fraction of a second would have been wholly worse) is not on any Portland statistical data in any department.

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        • BasementDweller April 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

          That’s too bad to hear in Portland. In Georgia, I was given the same treatment when somebody drove by and grabbed me by my backpack and pulled me for about 15 seconds down the road. I called the police and they shrugged it off. I had a license plate and they couldn’t have been less interested. OTOH time my girlfriend and I had success calling the police when someone was driving all over the road as a possible DUI on the same exact street. We were driving at that time. Two data points isn’t much for a trend, but the experience of calling as a motorist over potential harm vs as a cyclist when actually being menaced was eye opening.

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  • 9watts April 7, 2014 at 10:12 am

    ”Used bicycles contribute $2.4 billion to US market,” says new report

    Be careful suggesting that to readers of bikeportland. A surprising number of them have in the past insisted that all bikes and bike parts sold on Craigslist are fenced.

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  • JEFF BERNARDS April 7, 2014 at 11:54 am

    I heard if you smoke society saves money because smokers don’t live long enough to collect social security. Sure a few die young but it pencils out better for the rest of us. Same for helmets, maybe it pencils out (in some universe), but if your one of the ones injuried because you weren’t wearing a hlemet, you may view the economics of no helmet worthless. Not all of lifes choices should be based on dollars. To say it makes cents to have a few deaths or permenaet injuries for what the author describes as “loss of comfort” a main argument against the helmet, or the other excuse, “destroys your summer hairstyle.” Did I miss something, but what is the reason you helmetless people insist on not wearing a helmet? because these 2 excuses he cites seem pretty lame, just saying.

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    • q`Tzal April 7, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      I wonder if the cost savings to society for not restricting risky behavior still show as a gain of one factors in the cost of health insurance.

      Be it private policies or “single payer” national sytems like every other developed nation has there is common sense anecdotal evidence that suggests that it is in the interest of health care systems to discourage dangerous behavior.

      Of course I basing this belief on the fact that bean counters would quickly switch to whatever is most profitable. Considering that there are no mainstream health insurance policies for chain smoking skydivers I don’t feel to bad making this rash assumption.

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    • q`Tzal April 7, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      JEFF BERNARDS
      Did I miss something, but what is the reason you helmetless people insist on not wearing a helmet? because these 2 excuses he cites seem pretty lame, just saying.

      Murica!
      Freedom!

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      • Pete April 7, 2014 at 11:38 pm

        It’s funny, I grew up when wearing seatbelts was optional, and voters repealed mandatory seatbelt laws three times before the insurance lobbyists convinced the government to withhold federal funding for states without it. My Mom was adamantly against it, ticketed twice for not wearing one, and only begrudgingly wore one when driving with me because I either kept the car in park or told her I’d leave my helmets at home when I go biking or snowboarding (which she thought were crazy dangerous activities, ironically).

        If you ask current generations of Americans if they’d choose not to wear a seatbelt, I suspect the majority would say no because they prevent fatal injuries in an accident – probably the polar opposite of opinion 30 years ago.

        While I personally enjoy not being required to wear a helmet, I will say I’ve developed a biased opinion over time (and crashes). On Sunday I was pushing the limits of descent (damned Strava!) on a new race bike and lost traction in a banked switchback. Of course I managed to save the bike from most of the damage by using my body :), but I also whacked my head hard enough to split my helmet. I’ve had plenty of stitches and broken bones from riding hard, but I shudder to think what I could have put myself or family through with a head injury. It’s the first time I’ve ever split a helmet, and hopefully the last!

        It made me recall a time many years (OK decades) ago when I was riding home on a path and passed a woman riding with her young son who pointed to me and said I was “a stupid boy for not having my helmet on.”

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        • 9watts April 8, 2014 at 6:44 am

          As a US citizen I was in the habit of wearing my bike helmet and started wearing it while growing up in Germany, starting in 1986. Everyone looked at me/my helmet like I was retarded, even though my classmates who rode mopeds all wore helmets as a matter of course (and law). They saw a difference, which was not speed, primarily. I still wear a helmet 99% of the time when I bike, which is now in Portland.
          Having said that, I have come to see seatbelts and bike helmets as two different kinds of things; less analogous than I used to see them.

          Seatbelts and cars are a good fit. Cars by virtue of their speed and the exigencies of driving are incredibly dangerous, not only for those inside who might wear seatbelts, but as we now appreciate also for those outside who don’t have that option.

          Bike helmets, by contrast, seem like a good fit for bike racing, riding fast, and other–if you will–dangerous variations on the biking theme that place it alongside the car in some very general sense of being a statistically probable source of injury to the operator. But as we know from many studies and statistics, biking in countries where it is a common way to get around (some European countries come to mind) is dramatically less dangerous than it is in the US–and this includes the dramatically lower penchant for wearing a bike helmet by those folks. Given that comparison, the idea that everyone biking should wear a helmet and expect to benefit from it seems far less clear cut, unless we’re prepared to also suggest the wearing of helmets by pedestrians, stair climbers, showerers, etc.

          Looking at those countries I think we can fairly say that biking at moderate speed in traffic where those driving cars are paying attention to us on bikes (big caveat) is not inherently dangerous the way driving at high speed frequently is. And to the extent that this kind of biking still is dangerous, I think it is fair to say that a considerable source of the danger is not from biking itself but from those seatbelt wearing/or not wearing automobilists.

          Seatbelts are to protect the people whose mode choice and speed presents danger to self and others. Bike helmets for people who do *not* engage in fast tricky descents/race, or have to deal with distracted or aggressive automobilists seem like a far less clear cut case.

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          • Pete April 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm

            Excellent points, and along the same line my helmet may have protected me from a <20 MPH fall (like it was designed to), but there's no guarantee what an auto impact would do. I guess I have to slap myself on the wrist; personally I'm not a fan of the seatbelt/helmet comparison either, as it's often made by people ignorant of the extent of protection a (properly worn) bike helmet even offers… people who tend to believe most bike crashes involve cars (they don't), and who neglect all the other safety systems working together in cars (mostly borne of an insurance industry lobbying hard through the years to mitigate damage it's had to compensate for).

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    • Greg April 7, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      Wear a helmet in the shower – http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html

      Just saying ;)

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  • Buzz Aldrin April 7, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    based on that MIT map, it’s obvious we need to be doing a lot more to make our major arterial streets safer for multi-modal use.

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    • Chris I April 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      The cars are going too fast. More signalized intersections, or better yet, roundabouts. A roundabout every 1/4 mile or so will keep the speeds down.

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  • bike tourer April 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for the link to the Devils Slide Hwy to trail article. I biked this on a loaded tour last year, before the tunnel and trail opened. I was hoping they would keep the road for bikes/peds. Wonderful!
    However, the winding, narrow, heavy traffic, bad driver, approach on 101 from the north was the least safe stretch I biked from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. Check out the Google View.
    The highway folks need a bunch of stutter flashing bike caution signs and reduced speed limits to make it more safe, ASAP.
    Thanks again.

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  • Charley April 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    We see more crashes on those bike-facility streets because WAY WAY more cyclists are riding on those streets. To give an opposite example- Macadam is a very, very unfriendly street for riding, but there aren’t many crashes on it. That’s not because it’s somehow safer, but because very few people ride on it. There are going to be way more crashes on the safer streets because most of us usually ride on the safer streets. So that map is useful, but it has to go with another map that shows density of use.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) April 7, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      This is what I would have expected … but if you look at the tally, there are a bunch of streets high on the list that don’t have marked facilities: MLK, Grand, 6th, Lombard, Powell, Stark, 82nd. In any case, I agree that the rate per rider would be more useful. Rate per rider per mile better still, maybe.

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  • GlowBoy April 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Most of the top 10 streets for crashes lack bike facilities. Just goes to show that making a small selection of major streets safe for biking isn’t enough.

    I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that Broadway tops the list, despite having bike facilities. On SW Broadway the hotel-zone bike lane has had serious problems ever since it was put in, on NE through the Lloyd District you have a 20mph speed limit that is flagrantly violated ALL the time, with average vehicle speeds probably topping 30, and on NE in the Rose Quarter area we have very severe right-hook problems.

    I am a little surprised by 7th also being in the top 10. I ride that street all the time but haven’t had too many problems except the downhill southbound section approaching Morrison. Right hooks?

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  • Jedito April 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Michael Andersen (News Editor)
    …there are a bunch of streets high on the list that don’t have marked facilities: MLK, Grand, 6th, Lombard, Powell, Stark, 82nd.
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    My initial reaction is to wonder how many of these collisions are the result of people on bikes attempting to cross these streets, rather than travel down them.

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    • Buzz April 7, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      fair point, but at the deepest level the problem is the same either way…

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  • Pete April 7, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    I kinda take issue with the polarized article about walkable communities. They present “traditional suburbs” as being mutually exclusive of having public transportation, sidewalks, or even local markets/banks/libraries. I live in a `50′s suburb surrounded by wide bike lanes, many parks, a huge library, and shops and restaurants, and it is quite walkable for those choosing to do so. Of course I’ve also seen failed attempts at “new urbanism” where mixed-use buildings with parking out back to encourage walking couldn’t stay occupied.

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  • GlowBoy April 9, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    You have a good point Pete. Central Beaverton, near where I work for example, is fairly walkable, with has excellent transit and (mostly) decent bike connections, but of course that doesn’t speak for all of Beaverton let alone the westside. Some older suburbs are often not too bad in this respect, and I’ve seen this in some other metro areas too, though Beaverton is still one of the best burbs for biking and walking that I’ve seen anywhere.

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