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‘America’s Bicycle Capital’? A visitor is unimpressed – and worried for us

Posted by on May 5th, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Portland!
Truth or dare?
(Photo: Matt Haughey/Flickr)

It was a strong claim and a proud one — though, at the time, it hardly even seemed controversial.

But two years later, the Pedal Bike Tours mural that welcomes Portland visitors to “America’s Bicycle Capital” strikes one visitor as a sign of something else: the paralyzing complacency of a city that has ridden its bike-friendly reputation to nationwide fame, wave after wave of highly educated young people and, within a few years, surging central-city job growth.

The problem, as Vancouver BC-based writer Chris Bruntlett describes it in a piece published this afternoon, isn’t that Portland doesn’t like bikes any more. It’s that the city doesn’t seem to feel that being bike-friendly requires any “difficult decisions.”

Here’s a passage from Bruntlett’s essay for Spacing magazine, titled “Triumph and Tragedy in ‘America’s Bicycle Capital’“:

In the summer of 2012, Portland was so confident of its place in the world, that it declared itself America’s Bicycle Capital, boldly painting the phrase in 10-foot high letters on the side of a building downtown.

However, on my most recent trip to this cycling Mecca, I was told this bravado has had two adverse side affects. Firstly, it put a target on the city’s back, motivating more ambitious cities to work even harder. Secondly, it brought with it a sense of complacency; the dangerous notion that Portland had somehow reached a peak, and no more difficult decisions needed to be made. This stalemate is best represented by the strange fact that not one of their current mayor and council regularly cycle for transportation.

Before my visit, I had heard rumours that Portlanders were still debating the relative merits of protected bike lanes: this, while the rest of the world moves full steam ahead with their implementation. It was something I didn’t truly believe until I shared a photo of myself riding in a painted bike lane on social media.

Flanked by motor vehicles and frustrated my two children couldn’t comfortably come along for the ride, I pointed out that for all the hype about being “America’s Bicycle Capital”, Portland still didn’t have a single separated cycle track in their downtown core.

The tweet was met with a barrage of indignation: so-called advocates told me (and apparently my children) that protected bike lanes were an unnecessary indulgence. In their city, I was told, there is already safety in numbers, and drivers are largely passive and accommodating.

Nevertheless, the demographic I saw riding downtown certainly suggested to me that only the bold and the brave feel welcome there. Combine this with the fact that my kids were forced to walk several stretches on the sidewalk – the ultimate condemnation of any bike network – and it becomes abundantly clear, as Oregon Walks Board President Aaron Brown suggests: “There’s still work to be done to make riding a bicycle in Portland safe, convenient and accessible for folks ages eight to eighty.”


One thing Bruntlett doesn’t even mention here, as he laments the lack of comfortable, appealing protected bike lanes through our central city, is that our city council has actually already approved the funding that could be used to build such a system. It did so last September.

But that project has gone nowhere, and it’s not clear why. The man who shepherded it into passage, Active Transportation Manager Dan Bower, quit his job in March to become Executive Director of Portland Streetcar. In an interview last month, the city’s transportation director didn’t seem to be aware that the project exists.

I don’t think Bruntlett’s point here is that building appealing bike routes, or maintaining our national reputation as a bike capital, must always be the most important transportation priority of the city. Our city has plenty of serious transportation challenges. Chronically unsafe street crossings east of Interstate 205 are one. Housing supply in the urban core is another.

Copenhagen Day 2
A raised bikeway in Copenhagen, where auto dependence in the 1970s has successfully been reversed.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

But it just doesn’t make sense, in a city that describes itself as financially crippled by eroding pavement and a metro area that is trying to avoid choking on its future traffic, to stop trying to make bike transportation a popular choice for mainstream Portlanders (which it still isn’t). The city can and should add flashing, shouting crosswalk beacons on Northeast Glisan. They’ll save lives. But they’re not going to make East Portland a place where most people actually enjoy walking, and they’re not going to reduce the region’s expensive and continuing dependence on the automobile for the vast majority of trips.

The cheapest way to make our region substantially less auto-dependent would be to line a network of major streets with buffered or protected bike lanes that are comfortable for people of all ages and abilities to feel safe and comfortable riding in. That’s the fact that cities across the continent have noticed in the last few years, and that’s what it’d take for us to keep living up to our reputation.

If we don’t do this, bike tourists like Bruntlett won’t really suffer. They’ll just move on to greener pastures. The ones who pay the price will be us — the ordinary people of Portland.

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Comments
  • RH May 5, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    For the past year, I’ve done lots of cycling in downtown Portland and have gotten used to the cars, obstacles, MAX tracks, etc… on Sunday, I took a 15 mile trip down the Springwater Corridor for the first time. The unexpected level of relaxation and happiness I felt on this separated path was night and day. We’ve got to get some of these protected bike lines downtown!! New ridership will flourish!

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    • spare_wheel May 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      “Portlanders were still debating the relative merits of protected bike lanes: this, while the rest of the world moves full steam ahead with their implementation.”

      This is demonstrably false. In fact, the eruopean nation with the most explosive growth in cycling has been actively decommissioning protected bike lanes and emphasizing buffered/painted bike lanes and bike boulevards.

      http://janheine.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/bike-to-work-4-best-of-all-worlds-together/

      “flanked by motorvehicles”
      https://twitter.com/cbruntlett/status/457553586818256896

      Also false. This buffered bike lane is separated from one lane of traffic. IMO, the biggest issue is not buffered bike lanes vs protected lanes but the lack of connectivity and bike-specific signaling. As Jonathan pointed out the way cyclists are dumped into traffic from the Hawthorne bridge is pure fail. IMO, this shortocoming should be fixed first.

      “Nevertheless, the demographic I saw riding downtown certainly suggested to me that only the bold and the brave feel welcome there.”
      Yes…we don’t all ride city bikes in tight jeans but we are still transportation cyclists.

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      • spare_wheel May 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm

        and that was supposed to be an independent post.

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    • Carrie May 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Interesting observation RH — I had the same feeling last month. I am very comfortable sharing the road with cars, etc, with my kids on greenways or on roads with bike lanes, etc. Last month we rode from Sellwood to Montavilla, first taking city streets (greenways and bike lanes all the way) and it was fun and safe. But then on the way back we took the 205 and the Springwater MUPs and while the ride was longer, it was so much less stressfull. You just didn’t have to be on the lookout the whole time. It was an interesting contrast.

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    • El Biciclero May 5, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Repeal ORS 814.420 and I’m right there with you. New ridership might flourish, but “old” ridership will curse the day they were forced to ride everywhere on a glorified sidewalk. Also, there are differences between a trail like the Springwater, which runs along a creek/wetlands with very few intersections with driveways and cross streets, and what would be possible downtown, where there is a cross street every block.

      I mean, I completely agree with you about the relaxation and such–there are some newly-completed trails in my neighborhood and it is tremendously more relaxing to take the kid for a ride on the cargo bike when you’re not worried about merging into car traffic or getting right-hooked at every intersection or T-boned at every driveway. The only drawbacks are that it is required to pass (often frequent) pedestrians at no more than 5 – 10 mph, and trails usually wind along a more indirect route than streets–if I had to ride my entire commute slowly on meandering trails like that, I’d be back in the car every day.

      I look at protected/separated “bike paths” (at least in a city core) as the surface streets for bicycling, while the actual surface streets are the freeways. If “protected” cycle tracks/bike paths were to be built, I want a choice of where I ride, just like drivers of cars have (freeway/arterials vs. “back roads”). Now if some actual “bike highways”, that were 15 – 20 feet wide with no pedestrians–or with a separate walkway for pedestrians–were to be built between outlying areas and downtown, or to connect communities separated by more than, say, five miles, I’d be on that in a flash.

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    • Spiffy May 5, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      I’m quite the opposite… I like riding in downtown because the obstacles are predictable… on the Springwater I don’t know when a jogger is going to make a u-turn in front of me, or when somebody’s illegally long dog leash will become a tripwire… and I never get stuck behind 4 people walking abreast on a downtown street…

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  • grumpcyclist May 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    We should stop shopping at businesses downtown until all cars are banned in the central city. Let’s flex our economic muscle and show these people we mean business (pun intended)!

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    • nuovorecord May 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      …”all cars are banned…”

      When you’re willing to be realistic about how to make downtown Portland a better place for cycling, let us know. Because this isn’t realistic.

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      • 9watts May 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm

        It becomes realistic when enough people demand it; when we stop telling ourselves that it is unrealistic. Do you know how many people, how many organizations, said that opposing the CRC was unrealistic?

        I love people’s lists of what they think is unrealistic.
        * raising the gas tax
        * discouraging driving
        * vision zero
        * speaking truthfully about how those who don’t own cars currently subsidize those who do

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      • spare_wheel May 5, 2014 at 2:44 pm

        making the park blocks car free would be a good start to making downtown more livable. other 3 lane roads in dowtown pdx could also be road dieted.

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        • Bill Stites May 5, 2014 at 6:52 pm

          They could start by reversing the parking that was added several years ago, hugging the parks. Replace it with a buffered bike lane … easy.

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          • gutterbunny May 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

            Or just shut both sides down to cars.

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        • sean May 6, 2014 at 5:30 am

          http://greenbikeloop.weebly.com/#/

          Bike advocates must concentrate on this if we are to have a decent commute through downtown.

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      • Adron May 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm

        Also, there were a lot of people in Amsterdam and Copenhagen that said biking would never come back. That the automobile was the way ahead and into the future…

        …and they’ve not been able to regain even a sliver of power since they basically got chased out of town and the future got much more livable and better in those cities. Germany, Spain and other countries are now regularly just outright removing cars from city cores. As one should.

        …one day the US will wake up and get with the program. There are tons of places where an outright pedestrians/cycling/active transport only zone would work marvelously. Portland is one of those places.

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        • Beth May 5, 2014 at 6:12 pm

          I seriously doubt that the US will “wake up and get with the program” in my lifetime. There are too many corporate and political interests bound and determined to keep Americans hypnotized, lulled and even trapped into car-dependence because it suits their bottom line. I ride a bike because I can, but I don’t believe that any US city — INCLUDING Portland — will ever be able to overthrow the automotive industrial complex until we run out of oil.

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          • davemess May 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

            And even after we run out of oil, I’m sure we will keep trying to make alternative sources work to continue our car-centric lifestyle. People hate change (esp. change that will get them wet or make them actually have to do physical exertion).

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            • Dan May 6, 2014 at 2:48 pm

              Where I park my bike at work, there is an elevator that just goes up & down 2 flights of steps. I’m often amazed at the healthy looking people who take the elevator down 2 flights! It’s….AMAZING!

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  • Supercourse May 5, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    We got off on the wrong foot……..we never were what we thought we were. And still aren’t,but that’s us! Have a nice ride.

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  • Bill Walters May 5, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Davis and Madison, and maybe other small cities, always were more bikey *per capita*. For that reason, the “America’s capital” claim has always been dubious.

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    • Harald May 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      True, but those are college towns with a demographic that makes achieving a higher cycling mode share much easier.

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      • Bill Walters May 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm

        Oh, certainly. But really, it affirms that being a college town is not a bad route toward making a per-capita clam on bike “capitalship.”

        And it’s likely not just the young demographic, I bet. If a large university is in a small town, that means much of the street inventory has some pretty draconian parking regulations (and parking prices).

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  • Dave Hoch May 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    “The cheapest way to make our region substantially less auto-dependent would be to line a network of major streets with buffered or protected bike lanes that are comfortable for people of all ages and abilities to feel safe and comfortable riding in.”

    Exactly!!!!

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    • 9watts May 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      My reaction to that sentence was different.

      Here’s my rewrite: The cheapest way to make our region substantially less auto-dependent would be to discourage driving; stop subsidizing it; triple the languishing gas tax; reduce and enforce speed limits, highlight/promote/celebrate how a diversity of people who don’t own cars get around.

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    • Granpa May 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      Unfortunately that is also the strategy, to appropriate a network of major streets that Portland Streetcar has used, and thereby greatly diminished their value as bike routes.

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    • spare_wheel May 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      so why is this not working in vancouver, bc?
      they’ve added ~15 miles of separated bike lane and city-wide mode share (following completion of the separated bikeways) has hardly budged.
      nyc is another example.

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      • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 12:25 pm

        Actually, the studies NYCDOT has done on modeshare have shown ridership goes up demonstrably on stretches after implementation of separated infrastructure. For example, weekday bikeshare went up 56% on Columbus Ave post-separation:

        http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2011_columbus_assessment.pdf

        These kinds of results have been found by various communities large and small around the US:

        http://www.peopleforbikes.org/statistics/category/facilities-statistics

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        • spare_wheel May 6, 2014 at 2:25 pm

          Gezellig, I’m not interested in mode share on a particular stretch of road because it’s well established that these facilities funnel existing traffic.

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          • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 2:48 pm

            It’s quite unlikely that those separated stretches are *only* funneling existing bike traffic, though to the extent that that’s happening isn’t that the ultimate vote of approval for them that existing cyclists prefer them over alternatives?

            Even ignoring that point what’s likelier here is that the same Braess’s Paradox which has long applied to cars is applying to bikes and bike routes. That is to say that expanded, widened and less obstacle-having conduits funnel away some traffic from side alternate routes BUT also create their own new usage outright. And just like with cars, more outright usage is created the more these treatments become pervasive and interconnecting.

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            • spare_wheel May 6, 2014 at 3:45 pm

              i am not against separated infrastructure, i just don’t think it is a priority in downtown PDX. for example, the cycle track being built on sw multnomah looks terrific. i also supported a cycle track on foster (documented here on pbot). imo, downtown portland needs bridge transition facilities, signaled connections, and car-free or car-light streets more than it needs a few protected bike lanes. protected bike lanes make much more sense on arterials (sandy, 82nd, powell, 39th, mlk, grand etc) than in a downtown zone that is calmed to ~16 mph.

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              • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 8:12 pm

                Agreed the arterials could really use them so let’s get them on the arterials!

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                • spare_wheel May 7, 2014 at 8:01 am

                  the problem is not lack of desire but lack of funding. this is why i am frustrated with those who gripe about “paint on the road” when the alternative for many years to decades is nothing.

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      • Eli May 6, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        Because you’re citing stats for a massive metropolitan region, as if anyone ever suggested a few miles of downtown cycletrack would impact the complete region?

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  • Velograph May 5, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    And that mural sits above a large parking lot…

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    • Adron May 5, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Which really brings out the absurdity of the claim. Portland has a LONG way, which I’m sure almost all of us are working on, to clear that gap to a truly bicycle friendly city!

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  • Brad May 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I had an advertising professor in college that warned us, “Never fall in love with your own bullshit! Once you do, you will be creatively lost.”

    IMHO, that is where Portland is now. She did a few good bike things, created some slogans and mythology around those achievements, and then rested on her laurels. I know some bike advocates and PBOT will bristle at that but, there has been a lack of big bold ideas in recent years (yes, the economy hurt that process) and a fixation on endless fact finding studies, junkets, and assorted wonky esoterica. Better bike infrastructure in this city has taken a back seat to bike share and politically expedient plans to divert bikes to quiet neighborhood thoroughfares rather than build a truly world class network.

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    • jocko May 6, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      You got it right there Brad.

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  • Reza May 5, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    From the guy who said “For all the hype re: “America’s Cycling Capital”, Portland still doesn’t have a single protected bike lane downtown.”, clearly neglecting to mention Broadway, Moody or Multnomah? (if you include the Central City”.

    We have our issues but it’s not like we don’t recognize our shortcomings and realize that we must strive for better bike infrastructure. Let this guy worry about his own city and whether anyone can still afford to live there.

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    • dan May 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Haha, Vancouver certainly has their affordability problems, but they’ve been pretty successful with their biking infrastructure. They also have a very pleasant biking culture, with less bike/bike and bike/pedestrian conflict than I see here.

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    • Spiffy May 5, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      I don’t consider Moody a protected bike lane… it’s a bike path between a sidewalk and car parking…

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  • jonno May 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I’ve recently entertained thoughts similar to Mr. Bruntlett’s. While I get around just fine by bike nearly every day and have for many years, it dawns on me that my middle-NE-to-Downtown commute is about as good as it gets in the US of A, and sometimes it still kind of sucks.

    Stressful mixing zones, unprotected arterial crossings, speeding cut-through traffic, door-zone bike lanes and the disappointing Morrison bridge bike path conspire to make me sometimes go “meh” to all the PDX bikey hype. And now it seems like free street parking uber alles is the next unyielding roadblock to change.

    I’ll take what I can get and live with it, but seems like we could be doing so much better.

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  • V.Renwick May 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    I find it interesting that not one of the cyclist in his flicker link is wearing a helmet.

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    • dave May 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      a) wth are you talking about? Only flickr link I see has, in the very next photo, a cyclist in a helmet.
      b) who cares?

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      • V.Renwick May 5, 2014 at 4:57 pm

        a.The flickr link in the guys article:https://www.flickr.com/photos/92053778@N03/sets/72157644402080674/
        b. who cares? Well, I must have if I took the time to make the post. I had a skull fracture riding my bike unhelmeted and lost my memory for 2 1/2 years. Luckily, most of it came back.

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        • gutterbunny May 5, 2014 at 9:03 pm

          Honestly unless you recreated the incident with a helmet on and suffered no injury after that trial, can you safely say that a helmet might have prevented your injury.

          Even your helmet you so proudly wear now, has a disclaimer on it or in the instruction manual (that you probably didn’t read) that it can’t prevent all injuries. And since they are only designed to pass a test in which they are dropped from a height of 10 feet protecting the equivalent of a bowling ball to get their certifications, (no side impact tests, no front impact tests, no back helmet tests, just straight down to the top of it) I doubt a helmet would have prevented an injury that resulted in such memory loss.

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          • CaptainKarma May 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm

            Smoker’s logic.

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    • Spiffy May 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      I find it AWESOME…

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    • WAR May 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      Because little foam hats are dorky.

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      • Jane May 6, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        It’s too bad not everyone can be as cool as you.

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  • Alex May 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Not to mention, we have such limited single-track access from Portland – because “think of the children in FP”. We do not promote bicycle usage in Portland, we promote image. We would rather have people drive (and pollute) to use our natural resources than share them. Overall, Portland leans towards overly political decisions and less practical/realistic solutions. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t – but overall, in the end, it seems everyone gets much more frustrated than they should.

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  • Todd Hudson May 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    An unheard-of, revolutionary idea: Run electable and credible pro-cycling candidates for public office. It seems that in the last mayoral election, the more pro-cycling candidate went off the rails because he was a complete headcase. So now we have a mayor who was once rumored to be pictured near a bicycle.

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    • davemess May 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      If you are a single issue voter sure. The problem is that “bikeyness” of most candidates is not most voters’ main criteria for endorsement (and that includes many cyclists I’m sure.

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  • wsbob May 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Business from people traveling by motor vehicle is where the money is. From people traveling by bike, not very much.

    The city isn’t going to build something it doesn’t have a huge amount of support from the public to build. Roads to provide for enormous levels of motor vehicle use get built because that is the infrastructure most people support. While infrastructure such as light rail, trolley, WES and the tram get a lot of criticism for their various faults and weaknesses, they do get built, because people support that type of infrastructure. Even though that type of infrastructure is enormously expensive, and can’t pay for itself through user fees alone.

    If the city believed it had the support of the people to build a bikeway something like the Springwater, or the Eastside Westside esplanade, but instead, centrally located and routing east west from Downtown through neighborhoods out as far as 1-205, it would probably try build it. Quite likely, it would be as popular as the Springwater and the esplanades, hopefully more so. Very expensive to build. Portland could get the gold ring for building it. That is, if Portland residents in numbers that supported the aforementioned projects, really thought such a bikeway was where their money should be set to work.

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  • Mossby Pomegranate May 5, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    It’s funny how hard we take criticism when our Portland bike superiority is challenged…but he is spot on. This city has rested on it’s laurels and the sad lack of good bike friendly arterials crossing the city prove it. Congrats to the other cities who came out on top of us. And I’m sure Maus’ BP cycling elite will be offended at that too.

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    • davemess May 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      This is only true if one absolutely demands separated infrastructure (like this author). There are tens of thousands here who are still convinced Portland is a great place to bike in (despite a lack of infrastructure). It’s all perspective, and I can appreciate that someone riding with a 5 year old is going to have a very different perspective from a 22 year old college student.

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  • Lenny Anderson May 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Lots of billboards fall a bit short of the truth as does this one. That said, most of Portland is relatively flat with a complete street grid, so its an easy place to bike regardless of what the City does or does not do. Portland’s biking “revolution” has come from the streets up, and policy has been chasing it for years, but never with any real money!
    Portland has a long history of wanting to be “great,” of talking about being “great,” but rarely has it shown the daring or ponied up the money to actually be “great.” But that’s OK. Indeed, it may well be a virtue for those of us comfortable living in the world’s biggest small town, the poor (and still affordable) sister of West Coast cities.

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  • jeffrey utterback May 5, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Beth
    I seriously doubt that the US will “wake up and get with the program” in my lifetime. There are too many corporate and political interests bound and determined to keep Americans hypnotized, lulled and even trapped into car-dependence because it suits their bottom line. I ride a bike because I can, but I don’t believe that any US city — INCLUDING Portland — will ever be able to overthrow the automotive industrial complex until we run out of oil.
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  • jeffrey utterback May 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I emotionally agree with your statement, but I hope you are wrong, for my children’s sake, and society’s as well…..

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    • Aaronf May 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      It will be so sad watching people ride to work in self-driving solar-powered cars.
      :-(

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  • Paul May 5, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    I just spent a few days in DC and made 5 or 6 trips with their bike share and found it much easier riding there than even riding my own bike around Portland.

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    • davemess May 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      On the flip side, I used bike share in Minneapolis last year, and found there infrastructure to be at best equal to ours.

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      • GlowBoy May 8, 2014 at 12:40 pm

        I would agree that on the yardsticks we’ve been using to measure ourselves in Portland — miles of dedicated bike lanes and neighborhood greenways — Minneapolis/St.Paul are still lagging. But they are catching up, and will pass us if we don’t get off our laurels soon.

        However, MSP has other strengths that might be less valued here … and soundly beats PDX in terms of (1) off-street paths in the city like the Grand Rounds, Midtown Greenway, etc, (2) an extensive suburban off-street path system like we couldn’t even dream of here and (3) at least ten different mountain bike trail systems within the metro area, whereas Portland has … what? A single small system under development. I should also point out that semi-rural roads in Minnesota (including the Twin Cities’ outer suburbs) are a lot more likely to have shoulders than in Oregon. Oh, also: they have a functioning bike share system, and we still don’t.

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  • AndyC of Linnton May 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I’ve been thinking for a while that it wouldn’t be too hard to change the mural to read, “Welcome to America’s Bicycle Hype Capital.”

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  • noah May 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Like Reza said, we do have the SW Broadway cycle track downtown. And cars get away with standing or parking in it all the time. Many nights and weekends, there are cars parked both in the track and in the legitimate spaces on the edge of the track, in front of the same address. Quite a hairy situation for a cyclist passing through.

    I tried to rat on a couple of cycle track parkers this Sunday during the Park Blocks event, by calling the parking enforcement hotline at (503) 823-5195, as Jonathan advised us we could do in an article a couple years ago. I actually got a call back — which was nice — telling me they only do meter enforcement on Sundays.

    On Sundays, parking enforcement agents can’t have a car ticketed or towed for parking in the cycle track, even if they see the violation in the normal course of their rounds. You have to call the police non-emergency line, and hope a cop will drive over and do it!

    Parking also won’t do any enforcement at all outside of the downtown core on Sundays. In other words, the parking enforcement hotline is *completely useless* on Sundays, unless you truly care to report a meter violation downtown.

    It’s a pet peeve — and I’m sorry if I got off-topic here — but I find it all too emblematic of this gentrified Portland that is stripping down the *ethic* of bicycle transportation into the marketable *fashion* of bicycle transportation. And I think that phenomenon is tied up in cycling’s stagnation here.

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    • spare_wheel May 5, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      cars are allowed to park in the bike lane when they are dropping people off. the buses, drop-offs, kamikaze pedestrians are annoying but the most amusing thing was that facility was actually closed for a good part of a year and no one cared.

      talk about complete fail.

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      • noah May 5, 2014 at 9:40 pm

        That’s stopping, not standing or parking.

        Anyway, no one cared — according to what?

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        • spare_wheel May 6, 2014 at 9:59 am

          the fact that it was closed for a very long period of time without any uproar speaks for itself.

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  • TK May 5, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    When I was biking in Vancouver, BC, what struck me most about their biking infrastructure was the fact that their bike-friendly streets seemed to have full roadblocks for cars about every three blocks. This effectively made these streets completely impractical for cars, leaving the streets to the bikes (as was the intent). In Portland, every so often I’ll see an intersection blocked to cars, but it certainly doesn’t happen every few blocks and there are still plenty of cars on them. I found these “bike-only” streets to be far more effective than a separated track, and likely less expensive to implement. Here we paint the roads with a “sharrow” and call it good, then wonder why more people don’t bike. Perhaps this is what Bruntlett meant by saying that Portland didn’t want to make the tough choices, like the choice to make a road truly inconvenient for drivers so that it is more convenient for bikers.

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  • Keith May 5, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Totally agree with Bruntlett’s essay. We unfortunately lost our bicycling mojo years ago (assuming we ever had it).

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  • Tony May 5, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Portland is making progress (for an American city).. Sure, you can’t compare it to European nations that have made serious investments in cycling infrastructure, but for a city in car-centrist, car-dependent America, it’s doing a decent job. We could do better, but we aren’t going to be Amsterdam anytime soon. When I lived in The Netherlands I cycled daily and absolutely had zero desire to drive (or any need to really) because the cycling infrastructure was so amazing. When I moved back to Portland, I felt disappointing and almost depressed at the cycling infrastructure… but then I realized that for an American city, we are still years ahead of many. We have work to do, but we can’t compare ourselves to European nations, this is car-crazy America… at least we are making an attempt to implement cycling infrastructure and that’s worth something.

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  • GlowBoy May 5, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Yep, there’s been enough bikelash in the media the last few years that all the pols are scared to make bold decisions.

    Anything bike-friendly costing a bit of money, or remotely anti-car, happens and the media jump all over it. We’re not far from seeing a recurring “war on cars” meme similar to Fox’s “war on Christmas”. This isn’t happening just in Portland, but everywhere in this country. Hmm. Gee, I wonder why …

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    • wsbob May 6, 2014 at 1:17 am

      I’ve got a comment posted earlier in the day, in moderation, no real idea why. Here’s one line from that comment:

      “…The city isn’t going to build something it doesn’t have a huge amount of support from the public to build. …” wsbob http://bikeportland.org/2014/05/05/americas-bicycle-capital-a-visitor-is-unimpressed-and-worried-for-us-105503#comment-4811134

      That fairly sums up city hall in terms of it deciding whether or not to make “…bold decisions…” in favor of infrastructure for biking. Public support for much beyond painted bike lanes on existing street right of ways may be so low, that city leaders are hesitant to even think about creating really extraordinary bike infrastructure, let alone present ideas for that sort of thing publicly.

      Health of the economy is a supreme priority, or at least working towards it is, and in the U.S. including cities in the Metro area, so far, I suspect most people believe the motor vehicle rather than bicycles, continues to represent the best chance of obtaining that health.

      I’d like to see some truly visionary, positive transportation ideas based on bike travel, planned and publicly proposed by some city in the Metro area. That would create an opportunity for much broader discussion across the Metro area, of this way of helping to meet area travel needs locally. If Portland were to do something like that, it could probably get its ‘America’s Bicycle Capital’ name association back. Don’t hold your breath.

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  • Adam May 6, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I have to agree. Portland’s bike infrastructure is aging, and not keeping up with demand. I’ve biked in FARore amazing bike cities that don’t toot their own horns nearly amuch. Vancouver BC for starters!

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    • Dan May 7, 2014 at 6:51 am

      When did BC join America?

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  • riversiderider May 6, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I have to echo what Adam is saying. Vancouver BC is a far better city for cycling than Puddletown. We visited there for a long weekend last year, left our car at the B&B and rode the whole time.

    Portland is a great city for bikes but it could be much better.

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  • Paul May 6, 2014 at 8:50 am

    If Portland is proclaiming itself a leader, then it needs to push the envelope and lead. Come on, Portland, we need you to be out front! Seriously, you don’t have any sheltered bike lanes?

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  • maxadders May 6, 2014 at 10:23 am

    So many important things to fix before we worry about installing “protected bikeways” everywhere. The Amsterdam / Copenhagen worship is endless around these parts. We’re a different city, different government, different culture. One solution does not fit all.

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    • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      But the thing is no one is saying “one size fits all.” No one is saying to build protected bikeways on every neighborhood street.

      And sure, it’s a different place but human nature and the laws of physics are largely unwavering. People like convenient things. They like to feel safe, and get to places as unencumbered as possible. Protected infrastructure isn’t the only way to accomplish this on every street, but a network of key routes especially on busier thoroughfares is important. This is what people are pushing for.

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      • maxadders May 6, 2014 at 7:35 pm

        It was one of the points made about how we’re not doing things well enough.

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  • Ayleen May 6, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I love hearing from people who come from outside our bubble and take a critical look. But It’s important to note why Chris was here. Chris came to Portland because his film was one of 45 out of about 110 films to be accepted to Filmed by Bike, a festival of events and the best bike movies from around the world.

    An advanced culture is one that goes beyond the utilitarian uses of it’s genre, one that celebrates the creative, interesting aspects. Filmed by Bike is a symbol of Portland’s advanced bicycle culture. As the founder and director, I am extremely biased in this particular statement, but I will forever hold to my belief in this concept, far reaching, as it is, beyond bicycle culture.

    Portland is an advanced bike culture. I once interviewed riders from Amsterdam who could not comprehend why we made such a big deal about bikes. As much as “making a big deal about bikes” is a part of my daily life, I relish the day when they are such a part of our daily fabric that they are not something worth blogging about, commenting about, making a stink about.

    In the meantime, I think whether or not we have this or that piece of infrastructure matters not. What matters is our advanced comprehension of the roles bikes play in our lives and a deeper embracing of their commonplace position. Sure, we could benefit from certain infrastructure, but overall we’ve got increased awareness and participation. I’ll take that over infrastructure any day.

    Now, this is not to say that I don’t want a cycle track through downtown, oh I do. I just think to be worried for Portland is bit reactive. But helpful. We need constant reminders to not rest on our haunches – to stay alert and active, always getting better and doing more.

    And that’s why Filmed by Bike, which ended April 22, already has big ideas for next year.

    Thank you, Portland bike and film lovers, for all the enthusiasm over the years. We wouldn’t be where we are without your support.

    Next up: Bike Scout. August.

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  • Todd May 6, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Per city decision, the mural will be painted over on Thursday.

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  • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I say this as a Portland admirer but must admit that as another Portland outsider (but occasional visitor) I also don’t quite get the hype.

    I’ve also been really surprised by the vociferous adherence to the Vehicular Cycling Über Alles credo in some Portland cycling circles as opposed to other cities and I think it’s part of what’s ultimately holding Portland back in terms of mainstreaming biking.

    Let’s face it…6% is not bad by US standards but that’s quite a low bar. It’s certainly not something to rest on one’s laurels about. Especially in a city which claims to be aiming for 25% modeshare not long from now.

    Sure, VC/shared space is appropriate in many contexts (no one thinks every little residential street requires a cycletrack) but if you want to get to numbers like 25% + you’ve got to make biking so pervasively easy and no-brainer that it’s dumb not to bike as opposed to some “quirky thing for Those People” that 94% of people never even consider doing.

    The truth is, insistence on Pervasive VC or VC-lite (i.e. so-called “buffered” lanes, etc.) is actually quite ableist, and inherently exclusionary. Not everybody has (nor wants to test if they do have) the reflexes to bike vehicularly all the time—constantly looking over your shoulder, thinking 5 moves ahead about what that truck’s gonna do, rapidly swerving around a double-parked car into moving traffic, etc.

    Honestly, if we’re talking about non-college towns from what I’ve seen the city which can probably lay most claim to being America’s Bike Capital is currently NYC. Sure, it has plenty more to do, but unlike the Hyper-Democracy city council setups in, say, Portland or San Francisco things are more likely to just get done in NYC.

    *Want visual proof? In the past several years while places like Portland have dithered with a few little improvements here and there, this is the visual résumé of what NYC has been up to:

    http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/archives/67137

    *Want factual proof? When places like NYC and DC have studied the aftereffects of separated routes, they’ve found significant modeshare increases:

    –> Columbus Ave NYC: 56% increase in weekday bikeshare:

    (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2011_columbus_assessment.pdf)

    –> Pennsylvania Ave DC: “Bicycle volumes increased by approximately 200 percent after the bicycle facilities were installed. ”

    (http://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/DDOT_BicycleFacilityEvaluation_ExecSummary.pdf)

    Portland can get there but it needs to acknowledge that this requires radical changes in infrastructure policy if it ever truly wants to be a 25%/8-80/Vision Zero/Biking Capital/etc. place.

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    • Mike Owens May 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      PDX biking needs more gezellig!!

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    • spare_wheel May 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      “Vehicular Cycling Über Alles credo”

      Huh???

      i think the vast majority of people who cycle in Portland would love to see expansion of buffered/enhanced bike lanes and improvement of our pathetically neglected bike boulevards. Just because some of us do not drink copenhagenize tropical punch does not mean that we do not support bike infrastructure.

      “they’ve found significant modeshare increases”

      and once again, showing that mode share increases on or near a new bike facility is irrelevant. it’s only meaningful if it gets *more* people to start cycling. i should also point out that mode share in NYC and DC have also plateaued (despite the protected lanes). imo, increases in mode share in the usa have had more to do with the recession and gas prices than new infrastructure.

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      • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm

        “i think the vast majority of people who cycle in Portland would love to see expansion of buffered/enhanced bike lanes”

        Buffered bike lanes are effectively VC lite. Why? People who drive cars are regularly jerks, incompetent or just spaced out. Cars regularly encroach onto them while moving, stop on them, double-park on them, etc. As someone who regularly bikes on buffered lanes, it’s absolutely VC biking as far as I’m concerned. And I’m used to this stuff. Buffered bike lanes are not the stuff that convince most of the rest of the 94% to give up their cars.

        “Just because some of us do not drink copenhagenize tropical punch does not mean that we do not support bike infrastructure.”

        To be honest, I don’t prefer the Copenhagen flavor, either. :) Copenhagen is in general not up to best practices, and their lower modeshare (compared to basically any city in the Netherlands) is the result.

        “and once again, showing that mode share increases on or near a new bike facility is irrelevant. it’s only meaningful if it gets *more* people to start cycling.”

        And once again, do you really think that the dramatic modeshare increases (such as 200% seen on that DC stretch) are *only* due to funneling away existing bike traffic?

        And again, even to the extent that modeshare “funnels” away traffic it still *is* relevant in its own right in that it demonstrates the relative desirability of protected infrastructure.

        “i should also point out that mode share in NYC and DC have also plateaued (despite the protected lanes).”

        Where are you getting this info? That’s not what the stats are showing at all. For example, DC:

        http://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/05/16/solo-driving-drops-in-dc-as-transit-and-biking-soar/

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        • spare_wheel May 6, 2014 at 6:14 pm

          ” As someone who regularly bikes on buffered lanes, it’s absolutely VC biking as far as I’m concerned. And I’m used to this stuff. Buffered bike lanes are not the stuff that convince most of the rest of the 94% to give up their cars.”

          I flat out disagree. My timid “interested but concerned” partner loves buffered bike lanes on 25 mph Portland streets.

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          • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 8:07 pm

            I guess the proof in the pudding, though, is how many other people are like your partner. In other words how much modeshare-increasing power do paint-buffered vs. protected setups have. And which setup is safer both in perception and actual numbers.

            I think it’s a bit telling that as one of the early adopters of paint-buffered lanes, New York has already reached the point where it’s replacing a bunch of them because they have not been found to be satisfactory in terms of safety.

            Currently, NYCDOT is taking out the existing buffered lanes on at least 4 roads (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/about/current-projects.shtml) and its reasons why are exactly the kinds of things I’ve mentioned. From the reports on the 4 buffered -> protected projects, the findings for replacing buffered with protected lanes:

            *”Unskilled riders not comfortable using standard bike lanes”

            http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2013-06-vernon-qns-cb6.pdf

            *”Bike Lane and Buffer are not separated from traffic and frequently violated”

            *”Long pedestrian crossing distances”

            http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2013-10-second-ave-bicycle-upgrade-mn-cb6.pdf

            *”Bike lane is not separated from traffic and frequently violated”

            *”Commuter cycling increases of 20% in Citi Bike area. Additional safety measures warranted for increased volumes”

            *”Long pedestrian crossing distances”

            http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2014-03-lafayette-st-fourth-ave-mn-cb2.pdf

            *”Long pedestrian crossing distances”

            *”Bike Lane and Buffer are not separated from traffic and frequently violated”

            *”3 Year Before And After Crash Analysis on Parking-Protected Bike Paths/Change In Total Injuries

            1st Ave: – 11%
            2nd Ave: -2 %
            8th Ave: – 25%
            9th Ave: – 46%”

            http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2014-04-hudson-bicycle-path-mn-cb2.pdf

            I don’t think everything they’re proposing there (for example, the “mixing zones” and bike boxes at intersections) is wonderful but again it’s telling that after years of experience with these things people are ready to replace them with separated infrastructure:

            “How many of you are in favor of this bike lane?” CB 2 Transportation Committee chair Shirley Secunda asked the crowd, a majority of which raised their hands in favor.

            ““I think this is just great for guest safety, as well as our employees who travel in by bike,” testified Chris Holbrook, general manager of the Hyatt Union Square hotel.”

            http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/03/07/cb-2-panel-unanimously-supports-lafayette-4th-avenue-protected-bike-lane/

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    • spare_wheel May 6, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      “…the city which can probably lay most claim to being America’s Bike Capital is currently NYC.”

      Cycling mode share in NYC has been approximately 1% for years.

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      • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm

        Well, specifically, it’s bike-to-work modeshare in NYC that’s currently at 1%, an increase from 0.6% from 2007. (http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/09/23/census-nyc-crosses-1-threshold-for-regular-bike-only-commuters/).

        Another thing to point out is that Manhattan has enjoyed the majority of these new protected infra improvements, yet these citywide percentages take into account all the boroughs. The lack of protected infra+bikeshare (also another modeshare increaser) in most of the rest of NYC drags down the average, but it’s likely quite a bit higher in Manhattan where these changes have come to fruition. Of course, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and hopefully NYC will move to bring these improvements to more areas.

        I’m not sure if NYCDOT does borough-level modeshare analyses, but this is telling:

        “Trips by taxi, livery, and personal car were also replaced with bike-share: 21 percent of users said they have hopped on a Citi Bike instead of taking a car…while nine percent said they would have used their own bike.”

        http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/12/12/dot-citi-bikes-are-nearly-30-percent-of-bikes-on-road-in-bike-share-zone/

        That’s obviously indicative of overall modeshare growth.

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  • Hart Noecker May 6, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    “This stalemate is best represented by the strange fact that not one of their current mayor and council regularly cycle for transportation.”

    Yet there’s currently a Bike Walk Vote endorsed city council candidate that commutes by bike daily. Check him out: http://calebforcouncil.com/

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  • Ron G. May 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    This is why it’s so ironic that vehicular cycling has become a pariah concept to so many advocates, and here on BikePortland. While Portland had been a leader in infrastructure, it’s mostly just paint and encouragement. Ultimately, it has been up to riders to understand that they can use the same roads as cars with some level of safety, so long as we are willing to follow the rules of the road–rules which categorize our preferred mode as vehicles.

    It is unfortunate that some VC proponents have been such intransigent Forester acolytes that they would protest even innocuous improvements like bike lanes, because that’s led to wholesale dismissal of the entire concept. But the reality is that people who use bicycles as their main form of transportation are vehicular cyclists–no one enjoys a separated path or a protected (or even buffered) bike lane to every destination.

    So now we still have this type of fear: “Flanked by motor vehicles and frustrated my two children couldn’t comfortably come along for the ride”, which is an obstacle that will never be eliminated by infrastructure. Even In Copenhagen, there are plenty of unprotected routes where cyclists still have to know how to deal with cars.

    What VC proponents failed to anticipate was the increased awareness and acceptance which comes with numbers, and that numbers come with the perception of safety afforded by infrastructure. So, while we should embrace these projects as they bring more riders into the fold, we also need to be able to use the roads, as vehicles, where they don’t exist.

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    • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      >>But the reality is that people who use bicycles as their main form of transportation are vehicular cyclists–no one enjoys a separated path or a protected (or even buffered) bike lane to every destination.<>Even In Copenhagen, there are plenty of unprotected routes where cyclists still have to know how to deal with cars.<>What VC proponents failed to anticipate was the increased awareness and acceptance which comes with numbers, and that numbers come with the perception of safety afforded by infrastructure.<<

      Precisely. You don't persuade much of the rest of the unbiked 94% to switch over by telling them they just need to "be fit and able enough, assertively take the full lane, act like a car and hope for the best." It just doesn't work that way, and current low modeshare is the proof.

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    • El Biciclero May 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      “So, while we should embrace these projects as they bring more riders into the fold, we also need to be able to use the roads, as vehicles, where they don’t exist.”

      Some of us would also like to be able to use the roads where they do exist, which in Oregon is currently illegal. I have no interest in being forced to be a “fast pedestrian” when I can enjoy the same built-in efficiencies of the street network that motorists enjoy. I know, “but world-class infrastructure prioritizes bikes and actually makes bike travel more efficient!” Well, I’ll believe “world class” when I see it. All I tend to see here are “bike routes” that are circuitous, force two-stage lefts and extra stops for bicyclists, and many times force sharing a glorified sidewalk (MUP) with seemingly drunken pedestrians and their dogs. I would tend to feel safer in the street than on some of the examples of “protected” infrastructure I’ve seen.

      If you can’t make my bike trips more convenient instead of less, then I’m not going to want to use any such infrastructure–except in Oregon, I have to, at least legally.

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  • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    It doesn’t look like the forum allows me to delete/edit entries–when I posted the above comment it didn’t post correctly for some reason. Let me retry now:

    >>But the reality is that people who use bicycles as their main form of transportation are vehicular cyclists–no one enjoys a separated path or a protected (or even buffered) bike lane to every destination.<>Even In Copenhagen, there are plenty of unprotected routes where cyclists still have to know how to deal with cars.<>What VC proponents failed to anticipate was the increased awareness and acceptance which comes with numbers, and that numbers come with the perception of safety afforded by infrastructure.<<

    Precisely. You don't persuade much of the rest of the unbiked 94% to switch over by telling them they just need to "be fit and able enough, assertively take the full lane, act like a car and hope for the best." It just doesn't work that way, and current low modeshare is the proof.

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  • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Hmmm….forum is still not posting most of my post for some reason. Maybe third time’s the charm? Sorry for the inconvenience, but the forum doesn’t allow for previews/edits.

    Let’s try again:

    “But the reality is that people who use bicycles as their main form of transportation are vehicular cyclists–no one enjoys a separated path or a protected (or even buffered) bike lane to every destination.”

    Yeah, and I don’t think anyone is suggesting cycletracks on every street. Lots of minor streets can receive treatments that make them friendlier to bikes while still being shared space, for example Bike Streets, road diets, lowered speed limits, contraflow bike exceptions, etc. However, Portland and other US cities are not doing enough of this, either.

    Basically, the VC-As-Norm philosophy comes down to this–if you can’t (or won’t) bike vehicularly most of the time–even on busy roads where it’s comparatively dangerous–you aren’t fit to be biking. This “I got mine, stay out” mentality is inherently ableist and exclusivist. And is the stuff of single-digit numbers.

    It’s certainly not “Anyone-8-to-80″ thinking. To their great credit my 81-year old grandparents ride their bikes daily within the walled safety of their senior community, with its 4mph speed limit for cars on its little streets. However, they’d never dream of biking the half mile to the supermarket by them because doing so would require a combination of VC+conventional bike lane on a 45mph+ 6-lane + arterial. Are you kidding? Even I wouldn’t wanna do it. This is where the nominal infrastructure consistently lets people down.

    “Even In Copenhagen, there are plenty of unprotected routes where cyclists still have to know how to deal with cars.”

    Sure, and that goes back to my earlier point about not every street needing protected infrastructure. Though it is no coincidence that cities in the Netherlands–which has bought much more into the pervasive protection model than Denmark–have much higher modeshare than Denmark, even Copenhagen. In recent years, anxieties about safety in Copenhagen have actually caused a dip in bike modeshare and their comparatively subpar infrastructure (for example, unprotected intersections) is a primary culprit. These anxieties in the Netherlands are almost nonexistent because the infrastructure is demonstrably better.

    Also, in Copenhagen and Amsterdam these unprotected routes are only allowed in the kinds of streets whose car traffic and speed limits are so low that the risks to bikes are deemed acceptably negligible. As you mention about Foster, no one in Amsterdam would argue on a road like that that people should just “take the full lane.” In fact, by design code it wouldn’t be allowed–and rightly not.

    We should not confuse the success of VC on minor streets in places like the Netherlands (with its Bike Streets, contraflow exceptions, road diets, low speed limits, etc.) with VC Everywhere which is the current status quo in the US. It’s not working.

    “What VC proponents failed to anticipate was the increased awareness and acceptance which comes with numbers, and that numbers come with the perception of safety afforded by infrastructure.”

    Precisely. You don’t persuade much of the rest of the unbiked 94% to switch over by telling them they just need to “be fit and able enough, assertively take the full lane, act like a car and hope for the best.” It just doesn’t work that way, and current low modeshare is the proof.

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    • spare_wheel May 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      TL;DR.

      I look to Germany for inspiration, not the Netherlands. The Germans have managed to increase mode share in large cities from ~6% (sound familiar) to almost 20% by installing a comprehensive network of door zone free bike lanes and traffic calmed bike boulevards. In the USA we simply do not have the pre-existing mode share (~25% in Amsterdam), tax base, and community support that existed in Denmark and Holland prior to their massive build out of protected infrastructure in the 90s.

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      • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm

        It’s not that what Germany is doing is all bad, but what I’m saying is that’s aiming low. Why would we ever emulate policies that lead to such numbers when the country next door (demographically very similar in terms of global terms) is consistently much higher? It’s all about best practices to emulate.

        It’s also no coincidence that the German cities which exceed the German national norm with Dutch levels of modeshare (say, Munster) are the ones with the most pervasive and separated infrastructure networks.

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    • Ron G. May 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      As someone raised on the precepts of vehicular cycling, I’ve got to take issue with this:

      “Basically, the VC-As-Norm philosophy comes down to this–if you can’t (or won’t) bike vehicularly most of the time–even on busy roads where it’s comparatively dangerous–you aren’t fit to be biking. This “I got mine, stay out” mentality is inherently ableist and exclusivist.”

      To my reading of Effective Cycling (and it has been a few decades), it’s all about inclusion, about rejecting the idea that roads are for cars. Many of us who adopted these strategies did so in the fervent hope that others would join us, that we could normalize cycling as transportation.

      My father taught me to use the road as a vehicle operator long before I was a fit and able cyclist, so it always feels terribly ironic to me that now that I am relatively fast and confident in traffic, a status I achieved mostly by riding on the roads, I find myself being derided as exclusivist (which I’m not convinced is even a word).

      Now I’m teaching my 10-year-old daughter to ride the same way, and her 72-year-old grandparents continue to practice VC–the only choice they’ve got in the infrastructure-bereft environs of suburban Connecticut. That may not be 8 to 80, but it’s darn close.

      Sure, there have been some vociferous VC advocates who’ve adopted a dogmatic approach. However, there are many more of us who are open to new strategies. We just hope those strategies recognize that there will always be a need to use many of the same roads as cars.

      The Critical Mass slogan “We’re not blocking traffic, we are traffic!” is just a politicized version of Forester’s assertion that “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles”, and I don’t think anyone would accuse Critical Mass organizers of trying to exclude riders.

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      • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 4:06 pm

        I have no problem with VC events such as Critical Mass, and the ideals are in the right place. Plus, there’s the fun part!

        But my interest is in what is increasing safety and ridership citywide on a day-to-day basis. VC-centric infrastructure is not. That’s what I’m referring to, not an event such as Critical Mass.

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        • Ron G. May 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm

          Okay, let me condense. My point is that VC shouldn’t be the enemy of infrastructure, or vice-versa. A vehicular cyclist who doesn’t embrace (good, well-planned) infrastructure is short-sighted, while a cyclist who refuses to use any road without infrastructure is going to have a limited range–and probably a car with a bike rack on it. To reject VC is to agree with those who believe the roads are only safe for cars.

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          • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 4:34 pm

            Right, and that’s why I said the problem is VC-As-Norm in terms of infrastructure is the problem. Obviously, many roads are fine for shared-space implementations. But the laudable egalitarian ideals of VC fall short in terms of practicalities once we get to larger thoroughfares. It’s simply less safe to bike on them without separation for most people. This is behind the reluctance on the part of many people to try utilitarian biking.

            One solution is to redirect people to Bike Boulevards/Neighborhood Greenways and those are important but they cannot be the only solution, especially if your destination is actually on or along a thoroughfare.

            In addition, BBs/NGs are inherently less visible to the uninitiated. Many drivers on thoroughfares aren’t even aware they exist in a particular area, whereas cycletracks alongside an arterial are much more obvious.

            “Hey, look at that new thing, I could bike to Walgreens!”

            Sharrows/buffers/conventional lanes are generally white noise to drivers, as evidenced by how often they simply drive on top of them.

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  • Mike Owens May 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    We need a leader to “just say no” to businesses NYC style. There is NO other viable option of the magnitude required to change our city. It takes a visionary leader. It’s how PDX has gotten to where we are, sometimes for better or worse but it got done.

    Start with a single Bike Loop.

    I find the Parks block discussions to have a lot of merit. Though closing one direction entirely to cars would be an absolute game changer. Tying in to that section would flow logically when working to start creating the loop. This is not as complex a problem as we make it. We just need to have a leader with the guts to do it.

    Why are we spending all this time arguing a few blocks of 28th?? Absurd. We are too democratic for our own good I fear. Sometimes you need something like a parent to tell us although we all have opinions, they are not equal. The equation of risk/benefit sometimes trumps compromise for compromise sake.

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    • spare_wheel May 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm
    • Gezellig May 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      Absolutely! I admire that about NYC’s setup…it’s willing to try new things and get them done. Its rapid progress is even more impressive considering NYC counts as residents some of the most powerful potential NIMBYs in the world–politicians, celebrities, financial overlords, etc.–and of course they don’t just complain about the loss of mere parking spaces but the injustice of the loss of limo loading zones. It’s a rough life for them.

      For example, a protected bike lane in Brooklyn gave poor Senator Schumer a major sad since it went in front of his house. He fought it bitterly for years, but NYCDOT basically just gave him the finger and did it anyway:

      (http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/02/07/what-happens-when-senator-chuck-schumer-doesn%E2%80%99t-like-the-new-bike-lane/)

      Meanwhile in hyper-democracy cities like SF and Portland the mere threat of any average local NIMBY maybe disapproving of a new lane is often seemingly enough for the local DOT to go back to the drawing boards and ask pretty-please accept our new watered-down version.

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  • 007 May 7, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Crumbling pavement? This is just propaganda from those who don’t like the city spending money on bicycle infrastructure. Potholes? Where? I was just in Spokane where there are so many potholes I constantly had to swerve around them. Ever been pulled over in Portland for DUI because you were dodging potholes? Of course not. But my brother in Spokane has been.
    Our city government, PDOT, are all a bunch of chicken ****s afraid to do what is right and afraid of criticism from business. Where is the political will? The PDC will allow ugly, poorly designed, cheap-ass construction that doesn’t architecturally fit into neighborhoods. It is a travesty.
    We need voter-funded elections again so that we can vote out the incumbents and elect some Portlanders who won’t sell-out Portland. Portland is being ruined by cheap, suburban, greedy developers. It is as if the local governments and commissions say yes to any proposition from developers.
    We need to put voter-owned elections on the ballot again.

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      “Crumbling pavement? This is just propaganda from those who don’t like the city spending money on bicycle infrastructure.”

      word.

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  • chris May 9, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I doubt the modal share will ever increase significantly beyond 10 percent here. Cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam host a high modal share due to heavy use of both the carrot and the stick. Denmark specifically has a 180 percent sales tax on all new vehicles, not to mention higher gas taxes and parking fees. In addition to building a thorough and integrated bike infrustructure through the Copenhagen metro area, they’ve made it as much of a pain in the ass to drive as possible, essentially forcing the population to bike. However, these measures do have popular support there, which would not be the case here. Here in the U.S., any measure that increases the cost of driving is politically risky, and much of the population believes that bike infrastructure is a waste of money that panders to a minority of the population (which transportational cyclists indeed are). The priorities of bikeportland.com readers is not shared by the majority of the population, and i would go so far to say that much of the population opposes the cycling agenda. Therefore, Portland is not likely to replicate the success of Copenhagen or Amsterdam. There’s no political support for it.

    If some company develops a Car2Go style e-bikesharing system using GPS-locking technologies like Bitlock or Lock8 combined with pedal assist technologies like the FlyKly or Copenhagen wheel, that could bump up the percentage by a couple of points. I think that’s the only realistic possibility for the foreseeable future.

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    • 9watts May 10, 2014 at 6:24 am

      “I doubt the modal share will ever increase significantly beyond 10 percent here.”

      If you only look at what folks would prefer based on a snapshot of the present you might be right, but looking ahead things look dim for the automobile -
      http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights/overview/overview

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