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Here’s what happened when Mayor Hales biked to work for the first time

Posted by on August 31st, 2015 at 4:39 pm

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Mayor Hales talks with Portland resident Kyle Rohr while at a traffic signal at SE Madison and Grand.(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales biked into work today. That should not be a headline; but it is.

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Sign on the door.

After over two years of being all but silent about cycling, Hales appears ready to start a new chapter in the Portland bike story. Heeding the requests of many people in this city who care deeply about cycling, Hales rode his Trek hybrid from his home in Eastmoreland to Clinton Coffeehouse on SE 26th and Clinton and then made his way to the Hawthorne Bridge and eventually City Hall.

It’s the first time he’s commuted by bike since he took office in January 2013.

When I walked in around 8:15 or so, the back room of the coffeehouse was buzzing. Hales, coffee mug firmly in hand, spoke to a table of two in the corner while about two dozen other people had side conversations. Portland Police Officer Cage Byrd, who has been assigned to act as a bicycle issue liaison to the community, was there. The mayor’s public safety policy advisor Chad Stover was there too. Stover has been instrumental in the SW 3rd project, which began as as effort to tame the streets of Old Town during late night club hours. KGW reporter Tim Gordon was also there (and he just filed this story).

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Mayor Hales is in the upper left.

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Hales talking with Chris Rall (L), Kyle Rohr, and Adam Herstein.

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Joan Childs.

I wanted to eavesdrop on a few conversations and hear what people shared with the mayor — and how we responded. As I made my way over to him, I ran into Chris Rall. Rall, 44, lives at SE 54th and Division and rides on SE Clinton with his young child to pre-school near OMSI. Rall said he showed up to tell the mayor what he thinks about riding conditions on Clinton. “It’s doable,” he shared with me, “But it could be better, especially between 21st and 11th.”

Joan Childs showed up to bend the mayor’s ear on a different topic: people who live on the street. Childs, 65, told me she moved to Portland four years ago from Manhattan in large part because she wanted to live in a place where she could walk, bike, and take transit. (Learn more about Childs in this recent New York Times profile.) She bought a step-through “Dutch bike” from Clever Cycles and had every intention of becoming a regular rider. But it didn’t work out that way. “I’ve only ridden it four times in the last four years,” she said. “I’m terrified to ride in the streets. I didn’t realize there would be all the cars and buses and trucks turning into me all over the place.”


Beyond her fears of riding in traffic, Joan said her bigger beef with the mayor right now is that, “Homelessness is out of control.” “I love this city,” she continued, “But what’s happening here with all the homeless people is unacceptable… What I’m hearing from everyone is that it’s gotten out of control.”

In case you haven’t seen the local news headlines recently, Joan isn’t alone. And it’s important for anyone who cares about cycling to understand that Mayor Hales is simultaneously juggling several urgent livability issues: The amount of people living on Portland’s streets, the troubling amount of shootings and gang violence, and the affordable housing/development/density issues are all demanding his attention.

And for the first 30 months of his administration, Hales made a strategic decision to not give cycling much attention at all. Kyle Rohr showed up this morning to ask him why. When I grabbed Rohr after his conversation with the mayor he said, “He [the mayor] wanted to stay quiet [about cycling] during the Street Fee stuff.” Rohr was referring to Hales’ and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick’s decision to focus on “paving and maintenance” as they pushed their “Our Streets” transportation infrastructure funding proposal.

Now with that political hot potato behind us, Hales has more leeway to publicly embrace cycling.

When it was time to get on our bikes and head downtown the group (which numbered about 7-8 people) headed west on Clinton. We then turned right on 21st, went through Ladd’s Addition then made our way onto SE Clay. From Clay we took 6th over to Main and then onto the Hawthorne Bridge.

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21st and Division.

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He looked pretty natural on the bike and wore a tie,
slacks, dress shirt, rain jacket and business casual shoes.

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He rode in the front and used turn signals.

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Crossing SE 7th Ave on Clay.

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Heading toward the Hawthorne Bridge on the viaduct.

The ride to the bridge was mostly smooth and uneventful. Then, about three-fourths of the way over the bridge span, our group — which was riding at a social pace — was passed by a man riding very fast. He yelled something at us as he went by and was clearly angry that we slowed him down. He also spit on the ground in front us after he passed.

I explained to the mayor that that type of interaction usually ellicits one of two responses: People either bemoan the horrible lack of courtesy displayed by some bicycle riders (a.k.a. “jerks”), or they bemoan the horrible state of our bikeways that are so narrow people can’t easily pass without incident.

After that unfortunate encounter we dropped down off the bridge into downtown and the notorious 2nd and Main intersection. We had a red light at 2nd and ride participant Josh Chernoff took the opportunity to explain the poor conditions to Mayor Hales. At 2nd and Main the bike lane abruptly ends, the pavement is broken-up and full of bumps, and there’s a bus stop that merges over the lane.

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Josh Chernoff explaining his concerns about 2nd and Main.

Ride Along with Stasia Honnold-23

Existing conditions on SE Main between 2nd and 3rd.

Hales didn’t need an explanation. He could feel how uncomfortable and stressful his cycling environment had suddenly become. “What can we do about this!?” he asked.

At SW 3rd, the mayor realized he needed to get over to City Hall. Behind him were the disconcerting dangers he’d just experienced and in front of him was the infamous pinch-point at the Elk Statue between Chapman and Lownsdale squares. Not surprisingly his instinct was to pull up onto a sidewalk and walk the rest of the way. Even with this short experience, I think the mayor now better understands why we need a protected bike lane network downtown.

Hoping to taking advantage of every possible minute of the mayor’s time, a few of us walked with him to City Hall.

Adam Herstein, a vocal bike activist on Twitter known for chiding Portland’s timidity around cycling infrastructure, seemed pleased with the outcome of the event. “It’s definitely a good start,” he said, after shaking the mayor’s hand.

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The start of a beautiful friendship?

Getting the mayor out on the streets on his bike is something many people have been clamoring for. And indeed, this morning’s event was a great sign of things to come. And Hales tells us this is only the beginning. He’d like to ride and experience conditions in other parts of the city.

As for whether these experiences will lead to tangible changes in policy or infrastructure, that’s hard to tell. But change starts with awareness and conversations.

For Kyle Rohr, who had several minutes of conversation with the mayor today, it all sounds great. “But,” he said, “I don’t know what I can trust.”

We’ll find out soon enough. Stay tuned.

— Correction: The original version of this story mentioned the intersection of SW 2nd and Madison. It should have been SW 2nd and Main. Sorry for the confusion.

NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

123 Comments
  • Tom Hardy August 31, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Good Article! It seems that the 8:15 time to the coffee shop was a bit after 7:30. With the weather change and riding from Washington square to get there by 7:30 I did not make it.

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  • Granpa August 31, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Good on him. I doubt that Mayor Hales got a full dose of the cycling experience either for the good parts or the bad parts, but he got a taste on a fresh cool morning, where areas that need improvement were evident. Now the conversations have begun………..

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  • Adam Herstein August 31, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I really enjoyed being able to share my thoughts and concerns about the state of biking in Portland face-to-face with Mayor Hales this morning! I’m glad he agreed to ride into work as this gave him a first-person perspective on the issues we’ve all been experiencing. He listened and genuinely seemed receptive to improving things, but there’s still the uphill battle of politics surrounding it. He even agreed with the need for more protected bike lanes!

    Hoping for more rides like this in the future.

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  • Scott Kocher August 31, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    This is terrific. Hopefully he has a good experience, and also will understand the range of experiences of people who ride to get around: without a group, in the dark, on an unfamiliar route, a bad route, a pothole or dangerous pass that could have been worse, etc.

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  • Rob Chapman August 31, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    After seeing Josh Chernoff’s harrowing videos I’m glad that he got to share his concerns directly with the Mayor.

    I wonder if Mayor Hales would be interested in the morning commute on N. Interstate sometime? Dump trucks and semis add excitement to the morning when they pass two feet away!

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  • Carrie August 31, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    The first thing I noticed was So Many Men. :(.

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    • WendP August 31, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      Hey, if the mayor wants to ride from SE 92nd into town sometime, he can give me a call. We can talk about whether to ride down Division, which has a great bike lane right up until it disappears, down Powell, which has no bike lane and some very righteous drivers, or Holgate, which has a bitch of a hill and no bike lane. This is the area where the possible future light rail or dedicated bus lane is supposed to go, so far with minimal accommodations for cyclists.

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      • Jeff ong August 31, 2015 at 8:19 pm

        Hey, Wendy — try cutting over to SE Center once you get across 82nd, and you can take that a good bit of the way to downtown. Woodward is also decent.

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    • BIKELEPTIC August 31, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      Were you there? It’s seems you’re just being reactive and complaining. How do you suggest a proactive solution to that statement? If you weren’t there you are part of the political inaction. I didnt go because I didnt want to spend my day off early morning with a publicity seeking windbag.

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      • Carrie September 1, 2015 at 8:33 pm

        I was not there because I was getting my children to school (via bike) before heading to work myself (nearby, but too late). And while many do not see the lack of women cyclists in these ride alongs and discussions as a concern, I do. I strongly support great infrastructure to get us from Point A to Point B (bike commuting), but I think it’s also important to think of the 2 mile radius riding that many of us do, getting kids places, to the store, and then heading to work. I wonder if there are not more women commuters because of the difficulty in the “ancillary” infrastructure. I have many questions and not a lot of answers, but it was glaringly obvious to me that the mayor was surrounded by male cyclists at this event and felt the need to point it out. Other readers may or may not find this significant, but I think it’s important for cycling critical mass.

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        • Lester Burnham September 2, 2015 at 7:51 am

          Why stop there then? We may as well ask why the mayor was surrounded by only white people.

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        • JeffTB September 2, 2015 at 9:28 am

          Carrie, please take this opportunity to put your perspective in an email, including your views on the lack of women on the ride (and why you think that is). Send it to the Mayor. He needs to hear it and now is the right time. Mayor Hales ear doesn’t need to bend only to the dudes.

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          • Lester Burnham September 3, 2015 at 6:37 am

            Yes. How are her needs different than all the other vulnerable road users? Would love to know.

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            • Caleb September 4, 2015 at 2:41 pm

              Not all vulnerable road users have children for which to care is one difference I can think of based upon her earlier comment.

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          • Carrie September 3, 2015 at 9:21 am

            Jeff — thanks for the push. I will do so.

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    • Lester Burnham September 1, 2015 at 7:57 am

      Gosh maybe it just worked out that way? Do you think there was some conspiracy to keep women out of the ride or something? Why didn’t you volunteer to ride with the Mayor? I don’t understand such a sexist comment over essentially nothing?

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      • Patrick Barber September 1, 2015 at 12:19 pm

        Noticing that the majority of people involved in an event are men is not a sexist comment. FYI.

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        • Lester Burnham September 1, 2015 at 1:14 pm

          Yeah…actually it would be if I asked why all the participants are women.

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    • Middle of the Road guy September 1, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Oddly enough, most of the customers at In Other Words Feminist Community Center are women.

      Sometimes it just works out that way.

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    • Deeebo September 1, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      You could have attended but then what would you complain on the internet about? OMG they’re white too. Disgusting :)

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      • are September 2, 2015 at 12:12 pm

        i want to be clear i am not asking jonathan or michael to step in to this, though it might be nice to have a safe space in which people are not always sniping at one another with these tired tropes.

        but i think carrie should get some support here for raising a valid concern. possibly inadvertently, this event was designed to attract a specific class of cyclists, which is disproportionately male. by default, infrastructure concerns that might have been raised by someone in carrie’s situation do not get heard.

        halley asks, in a rather aggressive tone, why doesn’t carrie offer a “proactive solution.” not sure the burden should be entirely on carrie to come forward with alternatives. on other threads this kind of thing would be called “blaming the victim.”

        and the snarky stuff about race, etc. is completely out of place. i self-identify as male and i have been a customer and supporter of in other words for years.

        if carrie is identifying a real problem, what the community does is help work with her to find solutions. if what she identifies is somehow not a real problem, explain why not in a civil tone.

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        • 9watts September 2, 2015 at 12:17 pm

          Nicely put, Mr. are.

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        • maccoinnich September 2, 2015 at 12:36 pm

          Serious question: what could have been done to make the event more attractive to women? The location where Hales stopped to talk to people, a cafe on a neighborhood greenway, seems like a pretty good location. The informal setting would have a low barrier to entry, and our neighborhood greenways come as close to gender parity as it gets in Portland.

          The time will be a barrier to many, particularly those with childcare needs, but it’s difficult to plan an event that’s a convenient time for everyone.

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        • Brian September 2, 2015 at 2:15 pm

          If the needs for women in cycling transportation are unique to them (I don’t deny that this is the case and would like to hear more about this from those on the Board who believe this to be the case), it would be great to see a Women’s Group form to address these unique issues. In the local mountain bike community something similar was done with great success. Now there are women-specific rides, women-specific mtb groups to join, etc.

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          • Carrie September 3, 2015 at 9:34 am

            Whew.

            I am a scientist, so I was just making a date observation. And if a goal is to get 25% of the commute trips to be by bike, then only having [mostly] men (& what the hell, white men) represented when the mayor does a bike commute is an example of a barrier to that goal.

            I don’t have all the solutions. And, I know the “women bike” groups are well meaning suggestions, but it’s still segregating. I think we should find it troubling that women are only drawn to cycling if you have special group rides. In my utopia, i see diverse commuters (and mtn bikers and roadies). And the photos from the event illustrate how far away we are. And if it makes some of you defensive and uncomfortable that I simply pointed it out, well then I guess I did something.

            Off to run several errands within a 2 mile radius on my bike…

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            • Brian September 3, 2015 at 11:07 am

              Agreed. But if the majority group (men) doesn’t understand the unique needs of the underrepresented group (women), then how they can advocate for those needs? This becomes especially important if the underrepresented group is not participating in the advocacy scene themselves for whatever reason(s). This is why I see the need for subcommittees that can articulate their specific needs to be incorporated into the larger group.

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            • Lester Burnham September 3, 2015 at 12:07 pm

              Would it have been better if the mayor had hand picked actors to represent a phony cross-section of “diversity” ? What is the barrier real or imagined that is keeping you from throwing a leg over a bike and riding wherever you please? What is it that you actually want?

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              • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 3, 2015 at 10:13 pm

                Lester,

                Please read are’s comment above. He says exactly what needed to be said.

                Please watch your tone. I want this space to be safe and welcoming for everyone and I find your tone and questioning of Carrie to be borderline grounds for deletion. Thanks.

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              • Alan 1.0 September 4, 2015 at 8:48 pm

                Women’s perspectives on the Waterfront Park altercations, like those by Anna G and tee under that article, bolster the case for that problem to be fixed. Hales should hear that they are being intimidated out of downtown Portland’s showpiece park by the situation there.

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            • wsbob September 4, 2015 at 11:49 am

              One of the things I found of interest in reading this story about Hales’s ride, based on what’s observable in the pictures, is the small number of people that found their way to ride along with him or be present at the coffee shop stop:

              “…When it was time to get on our bikes and head downtown the group (which numbered about 7-8 people) headed west on Clinton. …” bikeportland

              Given this, it’s not a surprise to me that there weren’t more women along. Although, there are two or three women to be seen in the pics. For whatever reason, it does seem like two or three of the men somehow got center stage in the pics.

              It’s likely a good thing that Hales’s ride wasn’t organized to draw dozens or hundreds of people along for the ride. Having done so would most likely have brought more women along, but it would seem that so many people on bikes grouped together would have drawn away from information Hales needs to gather first hand about the practical realities of commuting from home to work on a bike.

              More women willing to take to the road on a bike is a great thing for the health of communities. Why more women don’t ride or are active in making heard what they regard as important towards having street infrastructure for biking sufficiently meet their travel needs, doesn’t seem to be something anyone knows well the answers to.

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  • Vinny August 31, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    At least his fork is installed correctly and the helmet looks well fitted. That’s a better bike to work example than others have done in the past.

    It would be fun to have him and/or other leaders do something like this from different parts of the city. Maybe once a month do a “mayor does your daily commute” – be it bike, transit, walking, or carpooling.

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    • wsbob August 31, 2015 at 11:48 pm

      And the dude knows how to effectively hand signal for turns; up high, straight out so people behind and in front can clearly see it. Would that more people biking would model Hale’s arm, hand and finger position for their own hand signals…and consistently use them. Maus, great shot of him signaling.

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      • Dan September 1, 2015 at 9:03 am

        In the interest of fairness:

        http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/05/02/new-study-says-failure-to-use-turn-signals-is-a-leading-cause-of-car-accidents/

        “Research from the Society of Automotive Engineers says failure to use those turn signals results in more than twice the number of accidents that are caused by distracted driving.”

        “The study finds drivers across the country don’t use their turn signals nearly half of the time when changing lanes, and people fail to signal a quarter of the time when making a turn. In all, 750 billion times a year.”

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        • wsbob September 1, 2015 at 11:36 am

          Using bad to justify bad never helps matters much.

          Relatively speaking, especially at speeds at and below 30 mph, people not traveling within motor vehicles, are vulnerable road users. People signaling for turns while biking is accordingly very important. Way too many people biking don’t do so at all, or do so in ways that render ineffective, the signals displayed.

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          • Dan September 1, 2015 at 4:07 pm

            Sure.

            But drivers not signaling is more dangerous than cyclists not signaling, and should be an easy fix. You barely have to do anything to signal in a car – there is no excuse.

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      • El Biciclero September 4, 2015 at 10:24 am

        I like the “all fingers extended” method of signaling so it doesn’t look like I’m just pointing at some interesting thing. Sometimes, I’ll “flash” my turn signals by alternating between a fist and all fingers extended, or by rotating my hand 90 degrees back and forth. I imagine the hand rotation to be especially effective at night if I have light-colored or reflective gloves on—like a flasher, although I’ve never had anyone observe and report whether it really works like that.

        If everyone used and understood the arm-straight-out left and right turn signals, there would be much less “rendering ineffective” of those signals. The biggest problem is with the old-fashioned right turn signal not being upright enough, so it looks more like the rider is getting ready to punch the air in front of him/her. But then, you know my thoughts on right turn signals in general: they are rarely useful and often only invite unsafe overtaking-while-turning behavior by drivers.

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  • Josh Chernoff August 31, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Also my encounter with the ride was just happenstance when that jerk passed me on the right and then worked his way through the group ahead of me before I realized it was you guys. I didn’t participate in the group ride.

    Funny thing about that guy he was yelling “Who rides in the this kind of formation really!” As he was trying to pass on the right and as he was squeezing his way pass.

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    • Chris I September 1, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Sounds like he should be riding on the deck.

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  • Terry D-M August 31, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Kyle is absolutely correct when says that “he does not know what to trust.” Hales should put ACTUAL LOCAL dollars into bikeway modernization and expansion. …and prove he means it.

    Use any fall “bump” money in the budget for Greenway diversion treatments this year. Next year funnel enough money from the general fund to catch up on the greenway capital construction the climate action plan calls for. Then we can believe him.

    Until that happens….well, I will listen to Kyle.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 31, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Good….now ride and repeat!

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  • dan August 31, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Mayor Hales, I’m happy to see you out there on the bike commute. I hope that we see some infrastructure investment as a result. Remember every dollar spent on improving the bike commute goes a lot further than the same money spent on motor vehicle infrastructure.

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  • dan August 31, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    And my goodness, the NYT article about Joan Childs does not paint her in a good light. So happy that Portland can be her dream retirement community and the perfect location for her 10,000 square foot (!) new residence…so sorry that the “homeless problem” is preventing her from feeling quite at home. Perhaps she could use some of her (apparently abundant) funds to build a nice wall around her house.

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    • Hello, Kitty August 31, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      Why so judgemental?

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      • dan August 31, 2015 at 8:24 pm

        Dunno, just lucky I guess.

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      • soren September 1, 2015 at 8:45 am

        “The kitchen island is topped by a 5-by-10-foot slab of Carrera marble that Ms. Childs said is bigger than her first New York apartment.”

        yuck

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        • 9watts September 1, 2015 at 8:50 am

          Transparently Middle Class statement.
          how unfortunate.

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    • Carlsson August 31, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      “The 2,400-square-foot second-story loft is lined with 13-foot-high windows, custom-made to replicate 1930s steel-framed factory windows — albeit in double-paned glass and wood. ”

      Don’t confuse the entire SF including commercial space with her loft SF. Also don’t discount her concern about riding on the street with traffic. It’s not as easy to step out there at 65 as it is at 35.

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      • dan August 31, 2015 at 10:26 pm

        FTA: “Downstairs, an existing guest apartment was supplemented with a model-train room, bathroom, weight room and two-car garage, where they park their Mini. The other bay is used as an indoor dog run on rainy days.” Did the article say there’s still commercial space in the building?

        You’ll note I didn’t comment on her feedback on traffic, I’m a curmudgeon on that topic myself.

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    • wsbob September 1, 2015 at 12:14 am

      Seemed to me that the NYtimes article wrote of her admiringly enough. Her and her husband were great people to have had as NYC residents and professionals, and kind of seems good for Portland to have them as residents now. Did a real nice job converting and old retail building into a place to live, without making it an eyesore for the neighborhood…as some developers in town have done with their renovating. I like their style.

      Too bad she isn’t a bit more determined to muster up enough courage to brave at least some of Portland’s quieter streets, on her dutch bike. Sounds as though she’s got more than a little anxiety associated with city riding to overcome:

      “…“But I realized I’m terrified to ride in a city. So my bike sits in the garage and looks pretty as hell.” …”

      Maybe some day when the city’s transportation director heads out for work on her bike, she could swing by and draw Child and her bike out of the house for a little bike train to Downtown.

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    • Chris I September 1, 2015 at 8:26 am

      I was hesitant to criticize, but it’s hard to relate to someone who moves to a new city and then starts complaining about it. Did she visit first? Portland is not Amsterdam, and Portland has a lot of homeless people. It has always been this way.

      I wouldn’t move to New York and expect to find a cheap apartment, or a quick commute to work on an uncrowded subway train with no smelly people.

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      • Paul September 1, 2015 at 9:45 am

        I’m willing to bet you would complain. We’re humans after all ;)

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      • Hello, Kitty September 1, 2015 at 11:09 am

        How long do you need to live somewhere before you have earned the right to point out its flaws? How many people on this site would come in under your limit?

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      • wsbob September 1, 2015 at 11:25 am

        Childs seems to love Portland…just takes issue with riding on city streets…rather than Portland’s streets in particular. I can’t fault her for that, being aware that many people not having ridden city streets for years, let alone riding a bike at all, can barely stand the thought of riding a bike among motor vehicles.

        She has some admiration from me for haven given consideration to the idea of using her bike to do some getting around town. Sounds like she could use a little help overcoming anxiety over riding a bike in traffic, and if she and her husband were living out here in Beaverton, I’m sure there are a number of people in town, including myself, that would be more than happy to help her with that.

        Where it comes to the objective of moving forward towards creating better biking infrastructure…conceiving, designing, funding, building…it sounds as though she is very much the type of person it’s important to have as an ally.

        Really…though over the last 20-30 years, Portland and other cities in the valley including Beaverton have made significant advances in the enhancement of infrastructure supporting practical biking, the network if you can call it that, is mostly a lot of retrofit bits and pieces. As far as anything in the way of complete routes, infrastructure for biking today in our area tends to be harsh, definitely not for the feint of heart.

        I’m so glad to read that Hales decided to get on the bike to seriously take a look first hand at what improvements his city might make to help smooth out some of the harshness of riding a bike in Portland.

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  • John Liu August 31, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I’m glad the mayor took this ride. He didn’t have to, and many cities’ mayors wouldn’t have. I hope he takes more, but the important thing isn’t how many hours or miles he logs on his bike, but how much he thinks about what he’s seen and heard – and then, what city actions he sets in motion over the coming months and years. I’m hopeful.

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    • B. Carfree August 31, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      I mildly disagree about the relative importance of the mayor logging hours and miles on a bike versus his intake of what he saw and was told. I believe he will better understand what he is told and also the nature of riding in a city if he actually does a significant amount of riding. Cycling just doesn’t work well as a theoretical exercise. It’s hard to appreciate and internalize some things, like the danger of being doored, unless you have actually had car doors open at you (hopefully while you stay out of range).

      Then again, maybe I’m just a biased crotchety old man who disagrees with the newish cyclists who want everything segregated. At least I do want the kids to play on my (entirely metaphorical) lawn. :)

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  • Pete August 31, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    “He yelled something at us as he went by and was clearly angry that we slowed him down.”

    Take the lane and hold yourself at traffic pace, big guy, or STFU and be patient.

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  • maccoinnich August 31, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I’m glad to read that the Mayor got to experience first hand how lacking the bike network is in downtown. If Portland is ever going to be a truly world class city for cycling it needs to have a central city where getting around by bike is possible not just for the bravest cyclists, but for everyone.

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    • JeffTB September 2, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Platinum!

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  • PaulaF August 31, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Good write up. Hopefully Mayor Hales will continue to ride and, maybe, a little less entourage. I find riding solo to be a much different experience than when riding with a group of 5 or more. maybe that is just my experience.

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    • mh August 31, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Far more close passes when riding solo. We look so narrow, and mostly go in straight lines, ‘and there’s probably room, and I was taught to drive defensively and that little thing doesn’t look like it can hurt me…’

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  • Josh Chernoff August 31, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    I wonder if our mayor will not consider my petition for no passing on Greenways.
    https://www.change.org/p/steve-novick-charlie-hales-prohibit-automobiles-from-passing-on-portland-neighborhood-greenways

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    • Trek 3900 August 31, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      No way. Some cyclists may be riding at 5 mph. Why should you not be able to pass as long as you can do it safely? Just drive around them doing 10 or 15 mph. It’s easy.

      Glad to see the mayor riding a nice Trek bike. No, I’m not biased. Agree with those above who think that it would help to get quite a few more miles in before having a good feel for what needs to be done. One ride is not enough. And of course, what can be done with the money available may be far short of ideal.

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      • Alex Reed September 1, 2015 at 9:30 am

        What’s your plan for getting from today’s surfeit of aggressive passing on greenways to a world where all passing by cars of bikes on greenways is done safely, with plenty of space, and at 10-15 mph? Education? Exhortations by the Mayor?

        I think a blanket “cars do not pass bikes” rule is a far more practical way to get closer to a comfortable environment for kids, seniors, and timid people to bike on greenways. Much easier to enforce, too, than vague rules against aggressive driving.

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        • Hello, Kitty September 1, 2015 at 11:12 am

          It’s probably a personal preference, but I don’t like having a car slowly tailing me when I ride. Better to just let them pass and get them off my back. I’m not convinced that restricting passing would make cycling more enjoyable.

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          • Dan September 1, 2015 at 10:57 pm

            Hmm, I guess it depends on how fast you’re going. If you’re going 5mph, it’s probably weird to be followed by a car. But if you’re doing 15mph, I think it’s considerate of the driver to stay back, and block other weirdos who might want to pass unsafely, or harass you.

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            • El Biciclero September 7, 2015 at 3:28 pm

              “… block other weirdos…”

              Why wouldn’t somebody pass a car going 15 on a neighborhood greenway?

              [/rhetorical]

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      • Adam H. September 1, 2015 at 9:53 am

        If people are riding bikes too slowly for you, then perhaps you should be driving on Division or Powell.

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        • Trek 3900 September 1, 2015 at 11:16 pm

          I think all would agree that if a bike is going 5 mph that it is not unreasonable for a car to pass as long as it can be done safely. What is so difficult about that?

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  • Eric Leifsdad August 31, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Glad to see the mayor biking the commute. Did nobody take the lane past the elk to show how it’s done? Looking forward to the SW edition with the rest of the city council.

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    • HJ August 31, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      Right? I hope someone also pointed out to him that riding on sidewalks in downtown is illegal. Oops! :)

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      • Cory Poole September 1, 2015 at 8:38 am

        The article says he walked his bike on the sidewalk.

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    • wsbob August 31, 2015 at 11:40 pm

      A bit surprised that the mayor was put off by the squeeze at the elk, but then…considering his riding gear, I expect he likely wasn’t keen on the exertion involved in a brisk pace, say 15mph or faster, to more or less keep motor vehicle traffic at bay. Am kind of curious what the look-see mph pace of his small group was, on this uphill street and on the level second and third avenues.

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      • Pete September 1, 2015 at 8:11 am

        Someone tracked it on Strava, I’m sure… ;-)

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      • Eric Leifsdad September 2, 2015 at 9:26 am

        Who cares about the pace? If people wanted to get somewhere quickly, why would they drag such a wide and cumbersome vehicle into downtown? We should just put a steel bollard in the middle of the right lane on that block and have it as bike / motorcycle only.

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    • Chris I September 1, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Let’s get Fritz on a bike.

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      • Dan September 1, 2015 at 10:58 pm

        …or a rocket to Mars :)

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  • HJ August 31, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    Would love to see him ride solo. So different from riding in a group like that. Would also love to see him do a commute like mine. Cornell Rd. from Miller Rd into the pearl then out to the airport. That’s one that’ll really teach you about the state of cycling infrastructure.

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    • Dan September 1, 2015 at 8:55 am

      I’m a 30 mile per day commuter, and I won’t ride Cornell.

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  • Ted Buehler August 31, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    Good coverage, Jonathan. Good to see Mayor Hales out on a bike, looking comfortable, and talking with constituents.

    If you want to see more of it, consider sending him an email that says something like
    “Nice work, hope to see you out on your bike more often”.

    & maybe include things like
    “My commute has some problems, they can and should be fixed, want to ride with me and see what needs to be done?”
    or
    “You might consider riding alone once in a while, too, so you can experience some of the close calls that ordinary constituents encounter (but you won’t encounter in a group).”

    Contact info here:
    https://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/60975

    My theory is that if someone does something you like, even if its not everything you’ve hoped for, the best way to get them to do more of it is to say something nice about what they did, then invite them go one step further.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Gerald Fittipaldi September 1, 2015 at 12:20 am

      Thanks Ted. I just invited the mayor to take the BTA’s annual Bike Commute Challenge, which starts this Tuesday.

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  • David Lewis August 31, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    SE Madison & Grand??? My shop is at SE Madison & 2nd, so I’m pretty familiar with the neighborhood, and I’m not aware of anything other than a suicide crossing at that intersection.

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  • 9watts September 1, 2015 at 12:23 am

    Fun that he went on the ride, that so many interesting people showed up to chat and ride with him, and that you wrote such a nice article. Thanks!

    Portland Police Officer Cage Byrd
    His/her parents had a peculiar sense of humor.

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  • John Lascurettes September 1, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Can we get him to ride N Williams now since the city seems so proud of it, but it’s got people who drive and ride it all in a kerfuffle?

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  • Lulu September 1, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Did he ride home?

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  • paul g. September 1, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Very fair writeup, Jonathan, particularly appreciate this quote:

    “In case you haven’t seen the local news headlines recently, Joan isn’t alone. And it’s important for anyone who cares about cycling to understand that Mayor Hales is simultaneously juggling several urgent livability issues: The amount of people living on Portland’s streets, the troubling amount of shootings and gang violence, and the affordable housing/development/density issues are all demanding his attention.”

    That was the only point I was trying to make on the other thread. For a very busy chief executive, and one let’s be frank is no longer young, getting him to experience cycling one a month or so is a real accomplishment.

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    • 9watts September 1, 2015 at 7:57 am

      “For a very busy chief executive, and one let’s be frank is no longer young, getting him to experience cycling one a month or so is a real accomplishment.”

      In one sense it is, sure. But in another I bristle at the implication that cycling to work is such a specialized, burdensome, activity that we couldn’t possibly expect our chief to trouble himself with it. As if cycling were only for those of us with lots of time on our hands, nothing better to do.

      Remember this contest?
      Bike challenge: The nationwide German version of the Bike Commute Challenge not only focuses on getting elected officials to participate, it gets them to leave their personal car locked up and unused in the town square the whole month as proof of their commitment.
      http://www.stadtradeln.de/star.html

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      • B. Carfree September 1, 2015 at 5:07 pm

        Love!

        Budgets are priorities. Those Germans know they will have skin in the game, so they likely adjust their budgets accordingly, unlike what we have. I wonder if this is why so many German cities have abandoned separated bike facilities in favor of 2-meter+ bike lanes. Whatever the reason, it sure has led to a lot more cyclists in places like Munich.

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    • Ted Buehler September 1, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      “For a very busy chief executive… ”

      Looks like it’s only 7 minutes longer by bike than by car.

      At 5:15 pm, Tues Sept 1:
      21 minutes by car
      https://goo.gl/maps/45HZe
      vs
      28 minutes by bike
      https://goo.gl/maps/0WU2V

      For a busy chief executive, that’s quality time spent inspecting the city’s infrastructure, getting good exercise, smiling and chatting with constituents instead of being glassed in in car, and setting an example to others to help transition away from fossil fuels and their effect on global climate.

      Seems like a big payoff for just 7 minutes of a chief executive’s time.

      Ted Buehler

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      • 9watts September 1, 2015 at 10:45 pm

        Beautiful, Ted! Thank you!

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    • Dead Salmon September 1, 2015 at 11:26 pm

      PG,

      Many people in private industry ride to work who have real jobs with real responsibility and accountability (and are paying for the mayors wages and bloated benefit package); so no, getting the mayor to ride is not much of an accomplishment – he should be doing it on a daily basis or else he’s a hypocrite when he talks about the needs of cyclists. I suspect he’s signed on to the global warming hoax so he should rarely see the inside of a car.

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      • Eric Leifsdad September 2, 2015 at 9:32 am

        The “hoax” is that irreversible climate change will make us warmer, yeah?

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          • Dead Salmon September 2, 2015 at 4:50 pm

            Bottom line: if city government has formally signed on to the belief in global warming then they have forfeited their right to drive cars to work. Period. If they are pushing agendas to get the rest of us to stop using fossil fuels then they no longer have the right to use them either.

            No more Al Gore’s/Obolas who spout off about global warming then get in their gas guzzling jets and limos. They no longer have a right to do that. They must walk their talk or STFU.

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            • Dan September 2, 2015 at 7:23 pm

              All or nothing? Leave all of the trees or cut all of them down? Those are our only choices?

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              • Dead Salmon September 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm

                If the gubmint wants to tell people not to use fossil fuels, then they need to abide by the crap they are spewing. No more special treatment for the ruling class.

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                • Dan September 7, 2015 at 1:20 pm

                  Show me one quote where one of your government officials says ‘don’t use fossil fuels’ please. I’ve never seen that. My understanding is that they are saying ‘we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels’.

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            • 9watts September 2, 2015 at 8:37 pm

              “If they are pushing agendas to get the rest of us to stop using fossil fuels then they no longer have the right to use them either.”

              Whoa now. Unfortunately the City Council isn’t pushing anything along these lines. Were it but so. The Climate Action Plan is an attempt to take climate change seriously, but also use language and make demands that seem ‘reasonable.’ We don’t live in reasonable times, but this is how a city government works/can be expected to work.

              I agree with you in so far as (subjunctive) if City Council were doing as you say, ideally they would also find a way to take this edict seriously and shrink their own (city-government) fossil fuel dependence in lockstep. But in a policy sense we are nowhere near either coming to pass.

              “more Al Gore’s/Obolas who spout off about global warming then get in their gas guzzling jets and limos. They no longer have a right to do that. They must walk their talk or STFU.”

              Obolas? These inscrutable phrases. What do they signify?

              Consistency is a valuable asset, but regrettably not very well distributed.

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  • Dave September 1, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Homelessness in PDX is out of control because a free market in housing is out of control.

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    • John Liu September 1, 2015 at 8:38 am

      And because our weather is mild and the city and citizens tolerate homeless camps where few other cities would.

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    • Hello, Kitty September 1, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      If housing cost what it did 15 years ago, would we still have a homeless problem?

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      • dan September 1, 2015 at 9:03 pm

        Well, 15 years ago, there were homeless people in Portland…

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        • Hello, Kitty September 2, 2015 at 12:56 am

          Exactly.

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    • Dead Salmon September 1, 2015 at 11:34 pm

      Well, the free market may be out of control but:
      1) How much do you think artificially low interest rates (pushed by the Fed to stimulate an economy that is in fact in a depression worse than the 1930s) contributes to higher housing prices? You do remember 2008, yes?
      2) What effect do you think the tens of thousands of dollars of permits required to build a home have on the cost of housing?
      3) What effect do you think the urban growth boundary that limits availability of land for housing has on the price of housing?
      4) What effect do you think the bloated benefits and retirement packages of goobermint workers, and the resulting high property taxes has on the price of housing?

      AND, of the four items above, which are due to an out of control “market” and which are due to an out of control goobermint?

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      • maccoinnich September 1, 2015 at 11:39 pm

        Whenever somebody types “goobermint” I stop paying attention to what they’re saying.

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        • 9watts September 1, 2015 at 11:42 pm

          Me too.
          It is an odd affectation.

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        • Dead Salmon September 2, 2015 at 4:51 pm

          Sorry to hear of your extreme intolerance.

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      • dan September 2, 2015 at 10:23 am

        The UGB does have its problems, but the alternative seems to be Dallas-style sprawl and the loss of all our close-in rural communities — that doesn’t strike me as more appealing than the UGB.

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        • 9watts September 2, 2015 at 11:50 am

          “The UGB does have its problems, but the alternative seems to be Dallas-style sprawl and the loss of all our close-in rural communities”

          Really? Our imagination cannot surround more than two polar opposites? What about problematizing growth? Asking ourselves whether we must, always, incentivize and reward it? Just because 90% of commenters here treat this as exogenous doesn’t mean it is or must always be. Sooner or later every locale will have to figure out how to stop growing. That part is simple exponential math. Where it gets interesting is in answering the question of why we prefer to always kick this particular can down the road. Figuring it out with 4 million people in the metro area is hardly going to be easier than with 2 million, eh?

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          • dan September 2, 2015 at 2:25 pm

            I’m pretty sure that Dead Salmon’s viewpoint is that the UGB _does_ “problematize” growth.

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            • 9watts September 2, 2015 at 2:58 pm

              I can’t speak for Dead Salmon, but I think the UGB is flawed in one particular respect. Although it is a focusing tool for what we glibly call development in the present, it is and probably will remain an afterthought in the long run as long as our policies and money incentivize more people to move here. Density is only a ratio; it does nothing to stem the long run scourges of growth, the numerator.

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        • Opus the Poet September 3, 2015 at 7:15 pm

          Just FYI the DFW Metroplex has roughly the same area and population as the state of MA, if you count the lakes that divide up the Metromess as “area”.

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      • wsbob September 3, 2015 at 1:29 am

        “…3) What effect do you think the urban growth boundary that limits availability of land for housing has on the price of housing? …” dead salmon

        Are you suggesting that the UGB (urban growth boundary) is contributing in some significant degree to the rate of homelessness in Portland? Doesn’t sound like this has much to do with Mayor Hales’ ride to work on a bike.

        It seems that homelessness in Portland has cropped up in this discussion about Hales ride to work, because of former NYC resident, now Portland resident Joan Childs remarks about the social issue during the mayor’s coffee shop chat break having been quoted in this bikeportland story.

        Childs didn’t say that homelessness in Portland was among the reasons she was anxious about riding a bike in traffic. Though maybe for a lot of people it might be hoped would consider riding a bike on Portland streets…those yet to personally consider biking a viable alternative to practical travel by personal car…the idea of possibly having to encounter numerous homeless people along city streets, could be an additional thing that’s stalling increases in biking in Portland.

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  • Bald One September 1, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Anyone know how the mayor got home – did he ride alone? Get a lift?

    PS. Anyone else see the police motorcycle police officer staked out on the new Orange Line MUP (@ SE 8th and Division Pl) yesterday evening – perhaps it was officer Byrd? Surprised me (not at all) to see uniformed traffic enforcement in place for cyclists here, while autos are left alone.

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  • NC September 1, 2015 at 9:29 am

    So where’s the video of the Cat 6 racer on the bridge, I see Go Pros in those pictures.

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    • Ted Buehler September 1, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Yeah — from the captions the Go Pro equipped folks are Kyle Rohr and Josh Chertoff. Did either of you two have your Go Pro turned on?

      Ted Buehler

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  • reader September 1, 2015 at 9:53 am

    So, how is the mayor getting to work tomorrow?

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  • Brendan Treacy September 1, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for being there and covering this. I feel like your presence made the event 10 times more valuable since it means the mayor has a lot more accountability. It’s a small token gesture for him to do the ride, but one more step in right direction. Continuity of bike routes (or lack thereof) is a crucial thing to experience first hand.

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  • Deeebo September 1, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Nice job at the PR grab mayor. Now do it tomorrow and don’t tell anyone. Figure it out yourself without someone pointing out each turn and pothole for you, then you get real credit.

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  • Paul Cone September 2, 2015 at 10:23 am

    I asked Leah Treat about a month ago when 2nd & Main is going to get fixed. She said she wants it fixed, too, but with all the other work in the area this year it had to wait. It’s a very busy intersection and there will be a lot of traffic control, etc. to work out.

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  • Brad September 3, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Come to Kerns, Mr. Mayor! We can figure out how to get from NE Broadway to SE Ankeny without getting run over. :-)

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  • Andrew Kreps September 4, 2015 at 8:38 am

    I got verbally threatened by a man in a minivan right where Mayor Hales rode on Monday. Work faster, Charlie. Work faster.

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  • El Biciclero September 5, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Kudos to the mayor for actually getting out and riding a “real” trip by going to work. I have one caution when evaluating biking conditions and infrastructure by taking one or two rides: imagine every bit of fear, confusion, obstruction, inconvenience, etc. multiplied by 250 for every year of commuting someone might undertake.

    I have a concern that if riding a bike is a mere novelty done once or twice a year—like taking a hot-air balloon ride or something—the inconveniences, delays, detours, etc. that are experienced might tend to be viewed as almost exciting elements of adventure that can be “fun” for one ride; but they become grinding when experienced day in and day out. The flip side of “fun adventure” can also be that when something induces enough fear on one’s first/only ride, it can appear entirely acceptable and desirable to foist “safety” measures on cyclists, such as dismounting/walking, taking detours, shunting onto sidewalks to wait for a pedestrian signal, etc. While those measures might bring relief to a novice cyclist who just wants to stay out of the way of scary cars at any and all costs, they again become grinding day after day for more experienced riders—and serve as a reminder that rather than putting cyclist efficiency and convenience on par with driver efficiency and convenience, our leaders choose to treat cyclists as children and do everything to keep them out of the way of the grown-ups so they don’t get hurt by the people doing the real traveling in their cars.

    I’m not trying to make any accusations, but rather raise awareness that impressions made on one ride, and “solutions” that seem good after that one ride may not always be the best. We have to ask whether what we are asking cyclists to do in any give situation would be acceptable to drivers. If not, why not? What can be done differently to make conditions acceptable for travelers by all modes, instead of prioritizing auto travel and then figuring out how to wedge in other modes around the cars.

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