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Comment of the Week: ‘When I was broke, I barely rode my bike’

Posted by on January 29th, 2016 at 4:47 pm

I often wonder how many activists have ever really struggled with poverty or even personally know anyone who has.

We talk a lot about infrastructure at BikePortland, because it matters to people who bike. But it’s very far from the only thing that matters.

In a comment beneath Monday’s post about the driving habits of rich and poor people, BikePortland reader Ellie wrote about a time in her life when she was too poor to drive but when her life was too fragmented and unpredictable for her to bike.

Both the argument against gas taxes and increased parking fees use the added burden on poor people as a reason not to increase associated costs, but it is mostly a red herring, an excuse to avoid extra taxes and fees for higher income earners. However, bike activist and urban planning activists due similar things. I often wonder how many activists have ever really struggled with poverty or even personally know anyone who has. One of my biggest frustrations with a certain sort of bicyclist is that they seem to think that since they do not find public transit useful, it isn’t important.

When I was broke and living in SE Portland. I barely rode my bike, and I certainly didn’t use it regularly for transportation. I lived with roommates in the only place we could find that we could afford and was willing to rent to us with our limited, inconsistent incomes. Though we were living toward the outer edge of inner Southeast Portland, in one of the more bikeable parts of Portland, it didn’t matter. Though I tried finding work close to where I lived, I had limited work experience and skills. I took whatever jobs I could get. I was working as a waitress in Beaverton and picking up part time work walking dogs and tutoring where I could find it. I took public transit everywhere, because I couldn’t afford a car and biking was completely unrealistic when I could be traveling 30 or 40 miles a day and showing up sweaty or soaked by the rain could have gotten me written up for unprofessional appearance. I spent a lot of time on buses and the MAX, and any improvements in public transit coverage or frequency would have been appreciated. While this is my personal experience, I think it reflects the lives of a lot of other people as well. Instability in where you live and work is very common when you’re at a certain level of poor. People in these circumstances are not necessarily in a position where biking as transport is reasonable and infrastructure concerns take a backseat. There are more pressing issues like moving due to rent increasing again or hours getting cut at work.

I was lucky. I have since gotten a good job, where I have steady hours, and I don’t have to try to cobble together multiple part time jobs to make ends meet anymore. I have a stable income. If my group at work is between projects and I don’t have much to do, I don’t get sent home without pay like I did working at restaurants. I also make enough that I can choose to live close enough to work to comfortably bike everyday, and I know that if I need to I can also choose to take public transit. For me, biking is now a smart, economical transportation option, but that is very much the result of privilege. This is why poorer or underfunded communities do not always like the addition of bike lane to their communities, and why they are often seen as a part of gentrification.


This isn’t to say that I don’t agree that poor people drive less, or that we shouldn’t raise parking fees or add a gas tax because these things will hurt poor people. I just wish these conversations seemed to recognize the reality of what it can be like to be poor. Sometimes you live where you can find a place, and you work what jobs you can get. Sometimes this means spending hours on public transit because you are going across town between jobs. It can also mean that a car is the only practical way to get around because you need to be able to get places quickly or at odd hours, if you get called in. If people are really concerned about the poor, they should be lobbying for improvements to public transit and affordable housing.

I realized that this is a bit of a tangential rant from the original post, but I felt compelled to add something about what it is actually like to be poor in Portland. So many of the comments here seem to be about hypothetical poor people.

(Also check out Ellie’s follow-up exchange with another reader about the tradeoffs involved in regulating small businesses.)

Biking can be hugely useful for building a great city and a great transit system, and some of the issues Ellie mentions might be helped if biking were seen as more normal and mainstream. But biking will never be enough on its own. Great cities need mass transit, plentiful jobs, safe neighborhoods and a variety of housing options that all different kinds of people can afford.

And great cities also need people with opinions that they’re willing to share.

Yes, we pay for good comments. This regular feature is sponsored by readers who’ve become BikePortland subscribers to keep our site and our community strong. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to Ellie in thanks for this great addition. Watch your email!

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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

156 Comments
  • dwk January 29, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks, excellent commentary.

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  • Kyle January 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    There are some complex issues here, but the most people severely underestimate the costs of owning and operating a car. Likewise, people are not honest about why they choose not to bike — especially in an area like Portland where cycling is faster than driving even for long distances.

    Some people can’t bike for the reasons given in the article. And some people cannot meet the physical demands of cycling. But most people also are not honest about why they can’t bike. It is usually way more feasible than people believe, and you don’t need *any* cycling infrastructure to do it. I didn’t ride on bike paths or in bike lanes until I was 45 for the simple reason that there were none where I lived and frankly I still prefer to be on the road. We are traffic.

    Having said that, cars have their place and one thing missing from the discussion is that there is a serious “cars vs. bikes” vibe going on here — much more so than in rural towns where lifted 4 wheel drive pickups predominate. The word that needs to get out is that the best reason to support cycling is because you never intend to ride bike ever, but you’d like the other cars off the road so you can get where you’re going and park.

    We need to be realistic. Regardless of why people think they need to drive, there is simply not enough space for everyone to drive. There is simply not enough space, and the existing space is too expensive.

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    • Reginald January 30, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      K,
      I’d say there is plenty of “space” to drive. We’re doing it and have been doing it long before bikes made a dent in numbers of cars. It’s not always pleasant and easy, but you can drive if you want.

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    • Dave February 1, 2016 at 8:28 am

      Yes–remember that every bike on the road is one mark parking space wherever the cyclist is going.

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  • daisy January 29, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you, Ellie!

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  • Jeff S January 29, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Well said, and spot on. Thanks.

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  • Hello, Kitty January 29, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Well stated, and reflects my experience as well. I had a car when I was just “starting out”, which I frequently needed to get to work (when I had it), as my work tended to be on the outskirts of town, not really accessible by bike or bus.

    Most non-work transportation around the city was by bike.

    Now that I have more control over my situation, I have the luxury of riding to work daily, and the ability to ensure I retain that option. But it is a luxury that I know not everyone enjoys.

    I agree with Ellie’s conclusion that enhancing the transit system is one of the best ways to help people who are at the bottom of the ladder.

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    • soren January 29, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      H, K we agree 100% on this. (Is that a first?)

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      • Hello, Kitty January 30, 2016 at 12:02 am

        Yeah, maybe.

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  • B. Carfree January 29, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    I’ve been poor, really poor. At that time, I also lived well outside the transit range. What saved my bacon was the fact that I didn’t view riding a bike over 100 miles per day several days per week as an insurmountable hurdle, even when my job entailed up to thirteen hours of physical labor. Sure, I was younger then (in my forties), but arguments like one can’t ride because one might get sweaty or wet are just excuses. How much intellect does it take to figure out that one can bring a change of clothes in a water-proof bag along with the necessary items to get clean and dry?

    The physical challenge gets easier with every week. However, the lack of workable infrastructure and complete lack of traffic law enforcement were challenges that never went away. Even knowing that there exists a small percentage of people who simply cannot get around by bike, I would still opt to spend precious public dollars improving conditions for cycling over transit. In a better America, such a choice need not be made, but we’re not in that America (yet).

    I see these “think of the poor” postings similarly to the similar statements regarding “think of the children”. They are especially galling when the necessary funds to have a world-class cycling environment are pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of a fully built-out transit system. Let’s pick the low-hanging fruit first.

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    • lop January 29, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      >I didn’t view riding a bike over 100 miles per day several days per week as an insurmountable hurdle, even when my job entailed up to thirteen hours of physical labor.

      >Even knowing that there exists a small percentage of people who simply cannot get around by bike

      More than a small percentage of people would view several hundred miles of cycling and 13 hours per workday of physical labor as unrealistic. Assuming that was a typo and it’s closer to 50 miles a week, that’s still not a realistic option for quite a lot of people. Turn the bike into a moped and have dry weather and it can be.

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      • Tom Hardy January 30, 2016 at 7:35 pm

        I did 50 miles a day between Beaverton and Clackamas about 40 percent of the time for 13 years. I did not work 13 hour shifts but many hundreds of 10 hour shifts. I also was one of 5 that never missed work in ice storms. 50 men worked at the same place I worked. I learned to ride fast for long distances along side freeway traffic between Milwaukie and Clackamas. When I did not ride I started with a Subaru with over 100K miles on it. When I left that employer I drove a Mercedes with over 100K on it and it cost much less in maintenance.I destroyed 3 bikes during that time with no sick days.

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        • Tom Hardy January 30, 2016 at 7:39 pm

          By the way. This was before MAX. Bike took 55 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes. Car took 45 minutes via a different route.

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          • Tom Hardy January 30, 2016 at 7:56 pm

            One more thing. I was and still am an insulin dependent type 1 diabetic. Keeping my blood sugars under control was and is a 24/7 chore to keep everything working.

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          • Brian February 1, 2016 at 9:55 am

            You averaged more than 25mph?

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    • are January 29, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      while i agree with much of what you are saying, BC, and actually i have had similar experiences with poverty and biking long distances to get to very part time work in the heat of a midwestern summer . . .

      i think you could make these arguments without the disparaging tone. how much intellect, etc.

      nearly every discussion on these boards includes some kind of personal attack, and it really does not have to be that wey.

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    • dwk January 30, 2016 at 9:01 am

      You rode 100 miles several days a week? You then worked 13 hours physical labor? Did you ride uphill in a snowstorm both ways?

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      • Sigma January 30, 2016 at 7:48 pm

        Come on now, that’s only 2 hours at a sustained 25 mph, twice every day, interspersed with 13 hours of hard labor. That leaves 7 hours for sleep, every day! He’s not exaggerating, at all. Anybody could do that.

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        • Beth January 31, 2016 at 9:14 am

          In an odd sort of way, this thread smells eerily like dArwinism. In some future world where driving becomes impossible, the only ones ho will survive are those who can ride hundreds of miles without collapsing.

          I worked for too long in an industry populated by a surprisingly high number of people — nearly all men — who fairly drooled at the possibity of a future where only the fittest survived.

          Either every life is sacred, or some lives are more precious than others. You can’t have it both ways. Making roads safer for the strongest and fittest riders is NOT low-hanging fruit, but a Faustian bargain at best and a nightmare at worst.
          Making the roads safer for the slowest riders — kids and the elderly — isn’t low-hanging fruit, either. But it’s far more important than glorifying the fittest and strongest among us.

          When bicycling advocates are willing to change the tone of the discussion to truly advocate for the slowest riders in all phas of bicycle planning and housing affordability, then we’ll make real progress.

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          • 9watts January 31, 2016 at 9:42 am

            “In some future world where driving becomes impossible, the only ones ho will survive are those who can ride hundreds of miles without collapsing.”

            “Making the roads safer for the slowest riders — kids and the elderly — isn’t low-hanging fruit, either. But it’s far more important than glorifying the fittest and strongest among us.”

            In that future world, the dangers from automobiles to those not in automobiles will also have vanished.
            And FWIW, I don’t see how appreciating folks who find themselves sustaining long bicycle commutes in any way takes away from the pursuit of all-ages bike infrastructure.

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      • colton January 31, 2016 at 8:25 am

        When I hear that someone rides 100 miles A DAY to get to work, I instantly shut down and think nothing further than that I simply don’t relate to them, and vice-versa.

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        • 9watts January 31, 2016 at 8:28 am

          Huh.
          I think I want to get to know this guy, figure out his secrets, see if by hanging out with him for a while some of the sheen might rub off on me.

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    • Matt January 30, 2016 at 10:47 am

      And what are you supposed to do when you get sick or injured or old? No matter how hardcore of a cyclist you are there will come a time in your life when you can’t ride. Your body might be able to handle that kind of distance now but next year might be a different story entirely. For those who cannot drive, transit is the only option and should be #1 priority in transportation funding. This is my reality now and Trimet has been my lifeline this last year and a half.

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      • Reginald January 30, 2016 at 2:31 pm

        M,

        There are options to get to work besides biking, driving or transit. One option might be car pooling. Another might be riding a motorcycle or electric powered bike. You can take the lane on a motorcycle. ;)

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  • BeavertonRider January 30, 2016 at 2:22 am

    Im really disappointed by several of these comments. First, there are many cycling advocates, like soren, who, in good faith, are concerned about the often regressive nature of taxes. The concept of tax regressiveness animates nearly the entire taxation philosophy of the American Left. So does Ellie really believe that tax regressiveness is really a ploy by folks like Soren and the American Left to avoid taxing the rich anymore?

    Second, why are posters challenging the “intellect” of others? Why do some feel empowered to challenge the integrity and honesty of others simply because they disagree with them? Do those here who believe that others are just being “honest” or lack “intellect” think they are advancing in a positive way a bike culture? Why are such attitudes tolerated here?

    If we’re going to say that the “think of the poor” is really an empty platitude, then where is that same arrogant attitude in the multiple articles here about gentrification and the lack of affordable housing? Intellectual consistency and integrity are important concepts if we ever hope to have civil discourse, again.

    I hope this is posted.

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    • soren January 30, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks for that comment, BR.

      Being labeled as opposed to taxation of the wealthy because I criticized a regressive tax was unfair. I should also note that as someone whose family immigrated to the USA, I have not only experienced poverty, but extreme poverty.

      For the record, my “red herring” position on taxation:

      I favor a return to the ~80% top marginal rate of the great society era. I also favor taxation of land, wealth, and speculative activity (e.g. a Tobin tax).

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      • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 10:13 am

        s,

        It’s easy. You can walk your talk. Get a world map. Pick a country that has the characteristics you want. Buy a plane ticket to that country (unless you prefer to drive there). Move.

        Easy peasy.

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        • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 10:18 am

          Ha! You make it sound easy. If only.

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          • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 7:23 pm

            It is that easy. Buy a ticket and get on a plane. Get a job. Go to work.

            Many people come to this country in exactly that way each year. Those people are coming from the countries that some commenters claim are almost utopias. Why is it that they are coming here from countries claimed to be near-utopian to a country that is so horrible (as claimed by MANY commenters), and needs so much improvement? They come here from those near-utopias because they are not near-utopias as many on this website claim. YET, we have people on this website commenting on this story who propose making changes that will turn our country into one of the he ll holes that so many people are leaving.

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            • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 8:37 pm

              I can tell that you’ve never done this. I have. It’s not nearly so easy. Go get a residency visa for, say France, that lets you work. It’s probably really easy!

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  • Mike Quiglery January 30, 2016 at 6:34 am

    What happens when you’re working low wage job(s) and you get a flat tire, and, worse yet, it’s pouring rain? Think the boss will understand, provided you even make it to work that day? Reliable public transportation for those who have to be to work on time AND good biking infrastructure for those who can afford to dally are needed.

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    • 9watts January 30, 2016 at 8:28 am

      Seems like something worth exploring, asking those in this position how they handle it and what the repercussions were. From comments here it seems like it could go both ways, depending on the rider and the boss.

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      • Reginald January 30, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        If your commute is long and you get sweaty, you will want a shower if you are working in most offices. Once in a while being late for a flat should not be a big deal, but arriving stinky, sweaty, wet, may be a deal-breaker for many employers. If you are working construction or manual labor, then it may not be an issue.

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  • Mark smith January 30, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Should the gas tax be zero because we have poverty? Should all taxes be Zero because of poverty?

    Perhaps we have poverty because our taxes are so low.

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    • Reginald January 30, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Ms,
      Perhaps (I doubt it) but those who suggest maybe our taxes are too low should be required to include their ballpark annual income and how much they pay in taxes.

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      • Chris I January 30, 2016 at 8:28 pm

        Or not.

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        • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 9:53 pm

          If they are not honest, then, “not”.

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    • soren January 30, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Should we tax the poor more than the rich? Should we redistribute income upwards? Regressive taxes do this. There is absolutely no reason that consumption taxes cannot be progressive.

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      • Hello, Kitty January 30, 2016 at 5:42 pm

        With enough complexity, anything is possible.

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        • soren January 30, 2016 at 6:01 pm

          It’s weird how so many things that are possible in other developed nations are too difficult and complex for the USA.

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          • Hello, Kitty January 30, 2016 at 9:13 pm

            How do the Europeans manage to make their VAT progressive?

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            • BeavertonRider January 31, 2016 at 1:12 am

              I think we’re seeing another misuse of words here. This isn’t a personal attack, but an observation of language and economic lexicon.

              I wonder what Kitty means by “progressive” here? The VAT as applied in Europe is not progressive. The VAT is an attractive vehicle
              for fundamental tax reform, but the historical objection to the VAT-
              and a persuasive one – is that the European VAT is not progressive; it is
              built into the prices of all the goods bought by low-income families. Now, most Euro countries then apply an additional progressively stepped income tax on top of that. But the Euro VAT is not “progressive” in that the VAT varies by person.

              Also, when discussing progressivity, we ought to be examining the distribution of the tax burden. At the federal level, relative to income taxes, the poor are shielded while the income tax burden distribution across middle- and upper-income taxpayers is cruelly uneven.

              Lastly, there is economic efficiency. Worldwide we have seen that rates above 30% generate inefficiencies that far outweigh the limited revenue that they collect.

              We need to be clear in the language that we use, the concepts we leverage, and the assumptions we make when discussing taxes.

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            • 9watts January 31, 2016 at 7:34 am

              Where to begin?
              (overly simplified:)
              Less income inequality to begin with;
              Real social safety net;
              More multimodal transportation system;
              Much higher (progressive) taxation for everything;

              Then there’s this: http://ecologic.eu/1156

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              • Hello, Kitty January 31, 2016 at 10:15 am

                None of those make the VAT progressive (the topic of this thread) though they may compensate for its regressiveness a bit.

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                • 9watts January 31, 2016 at 10:34 am

                  Regressivity isn’t a thing unto itself. For it to cause concern you have to have income inequality that corresponds in this case to a meaningfully unequal burden from the (gas?) tax. (When did VAT sneak in here?)
                  Let’s imagine for a moment that poor people in Europe don’t drive cars. A hike in the gas tax wouldn’t be regressive under those (admittedly imaginary) circumstances.
                  My point was that in European countries I would suspect that the regressivity of any gas tax (increase) would already be much diminished due to that combination of factors. It isn’t so much that they compensate but that they – in combination – have already removed the basis for the tax’s ability to mete out regressive effects.

                  Europeans in countries with high gas taxes (on average, which I realize doesn’t help us directly with the question of regressivity) pay much, much less for fuel/yr than we in the US with puny, hardly-worth-the-name gas taxes.* This suggests to me a far less unequal-to-begin-with situation. In the absence of a good dataset (perhaps someone here can dig one up) I am going to assume that all the factors that give us pause here: lots of readily available fuel inefficient cars, long commutes to poorly paid jobs with no meaningful public transit options, poor people heavily reliant on cars, etc., don’t obtain in these countries, or to the extent that they are present, are to a far lesser degree.

                  *http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/gas-prices/

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                • Hello, Kitty January 31, 2016 at 12:55 pm

                  Let’s review. Soren wants consumption taxes that are progressive. I suggested that would require complexity. He replied that it works in Europe. Since VAT is the main European consumption tax, and I am not aware that it is progressive (nor are other consumption taxes there that I know about: alcohol, tobacco, gas, energy, etc.). I was asking for some explanation of what made these taxes progressive. That’s where the VAT came from.

                  Want a better system of transport in the US? Great! I do too!

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                • soren February 1, 2016 at 12:01 pm

                  By excluding consumption categories, by implementing sin and luxury taxes, and by additional taxation and/or redistribution.

                  I won’t reply further since I’m taking an extended vacation from the bike portland comments section (except for advocacy).

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              • Reginald January 31, 2016 at 5:50 pm

                9,
                There having major social unrest in Europe today. And several nations there are on the verge of bankruptcy. I’d be careful about wanting to emulate a failing system.

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                • mike February 1, 2016 at 9:22 am

                  And the USA is right up there with the European states on the “verge of bankruptcy.” We have our own failing system.

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          • Reginald January 31, 2016 at 6:20 pm

            s,
            So, if it’s so great in other nations, why don’t you move there? You know, right now Europe is accepting immigrants from all over the middle east, western asia, north africa, etc. Hop on a plane to Europe and tell them you are a refugee. Maybe even fly to Turkey and go over land/water to Germany or the country of your choice. It’ll be an adventure. Keep us posted on how it goes! :)

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      • BeavertonRider January 31, 2016 at 1:03 am

        Well, thats not how regressive taxation actually works. Regressive taxation is a concept and this concept does not redistribute anything anywhere. A regressive tax simply means that when levied, the tax rate decreases as the thing being taxed increases.

        Sure, regressivity is often misused here and elsewhere by those who want to soak the “rich” even more, but that misuse cannot and does not change the concept of a regressive tax.

        But, in the end, the regressive nature of a tax levy does not result in distribution or redistribution of anything at all.

        And you’re right, a consumption tax can be progressive. But why? What is the rationale that justifies taxing one person x for blue jeans, but then taxing a different person y for the same jeans? There is no fairness or equity in that formulation. It is completely arbitrary which means it is completely unfair.

        Is there an economic advantage to progressive taxes? I argue no because, no matter what, you always get less of what you tax. Those you intend to pay more by levying a different rate will always consume less. This is economic fact that will not be overturned by mere hope.

        The poor in this country are not taxed more than rich, by any measure whatsoever. That we continue this charade only prevents civil public discourse and the development and implementation of effective taxation policy.

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  • El Biciclero January 30, 2016 at 10:18 am

    The problem of far-flung, multiple, and/or temporary jobs (in different locations every day or every week) is a real challenge for those who can only find this type of work. I’ve worked as a “light industrial” temp in the past, and getting a job assignment at 7 am for a job that starts at 8 in an unfamiliar, faraway part of town (and perhaps requires one to carry or wear heavy gear), knowing you have to finish in time to get home and change to get to your restaurant evening shift makes using a bike—or even transit—very, very challenging. If a bike or bus is your only choice, and your travel time is further increased by being denied direct or frequent-service routes and having to figure out how to navigate in unfamiliar parts of town (i.e. study hard!), being unable to accurately estimate your travel time (and therefore unable to show up on time), you’re not in a very employable position.

    Imagine if transit service were more pervasive, frequent, and faster (due to prioritization over private vehicular travel) or if there were bike “express routes” (i.e., bike “superhighways”) that directly and intuitively (or at least well-markedly) connected major neighborhood centers and downtown (or even *gasp* suburbs!).

    We tend to have a societal expectation that “everyone” should have a car (as we tend to expect that “everyone” has a smartphone these days). But the only reason we have that expectation is because “everyone” knows that a car is the “best” (i.e., fastest) way to get around, expense be darned. Thus, we have expectations that “everyone” will be able to get from A to B in a certain amount of time, based on estimated car speeds, and employers feel free to place those time demands on workers because, “who doesn’t have a car”?

    However, the only reason a car is fastest is because we’ve built everything in such a way as to make it so. We could easily rearrange things so that trains were fastest, or buses were fastest, or even bikes or feet were fastest, but we don’t. We’ve made it so the cost of driving is more acceptable than the inconvenience of every other mode. Partly, that’s because we hide many of the costs of driving so people don’t realize they’re paying them, and partly it’s because we’ve de-prioritized every other mode so far that it’s nearly impossible to make them more convenient without disrupting the traveling privileges that motorists (and I am one a lot of times) enjoy.

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    • Hello, Kitty January 30, 2016 at 11:10 am

      The reason car travel is faster than bus is that it’s point-to-point, is available on demand, and doesn’t stop every block out two to pickup passengers. For the same reasons, biking is often faster, even though few of us could outrace a bus driving at 25MPH.

      Transit has a ways to go before it can compete with your car, and can never really do so outside the cores of some large cities. It’s an inherent limitation.

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      • 9watts January 30, 2016 at 11:52 am

        Correct.
        This incidentally is one of the main arguments of this excellent book:
        The Greening of Urban Transport: Planning for Walking and Cycling in Western Cities
        http://www.amazon.com/The-Greening-Urban-Transport-Planning/dp/1852930926

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      • El Biciclero January 31, 2016 at 9:45 am

        “Transit has a ways to go before it can compete with your car”

        Correct you are, but this quote kind of illustrates what I’m saying: why do we think of transit having to “compete with” or “come up to the same level” as a car? The only reason the car is the gold standard of convenience is because we’ve made it that way. What if freeways were reserved for buses only? What if you could catch a local within two blocks of your front door, transfer to an express headed to your destination area, then another local, a shuttle, or a bikeshare to get to your destination—and you knew there would be no more than a 5-minute wait anywhere? Then what if all those car drivers had to wind their way around surface streets only? Even with the stopping and transferring, I’ll bet a car would be slower.

        Not that we necessarily want to do this, but even I come down with a mild case of car-head once in a while when it comes to assuming that cars must retain their top-of-the-convenience-chain position, and everything else must “compete” with that fabricated reality.

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        • 9watts January 31, 2016 at 9:55 am

          Or, to continue El Biciclero’s riff… what if biking were given the red carpet treatment that cars now receive? Well designed, covered parking in convenient locations everywhere, direct routes all over the place, preferential signal timing… and people in cars had to figure it out at the margins, squeeze in wherever they could.
          I think that both financially and practically more plausible than building transit that could deliver that level of service, though if we kicked the car off the top of the priority list we’d probably have enough money to do a decent job of both.

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          • Reginald January 31, 2016 at 5:58 pm

            9 said: “….Well designed, covered parking in convenient locations everywhere, direct routes all over the place, preferential signal timing…”

            It is rare that I park in covered parking unless I am forced to park in a parking garage which is about 2 times per year. Those direct routes, are usually clogged with motorized vehicles, and I consider myself lucky if I pass 3 lights without having to stop at one.

            So, those things for the most part just do not exist for cars any more than they do for bikes. That’s just life in the urban environment.

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            • 9watts January 31, 2016 at 6:03 pm

              “So, those things for the most part just do not exist for cars any more than they do for bikes. That’s just life in the urban environment.”

              I’ll recommend Ivan Illich again (second time this week).
              The problem you are noting is not inherent to urban living but a direct consequence of over-reliance on the automobile. On a bike, my transportation choice does not impinge on your ability to get where you want to go. The self-limiting and externalizing tendencies you lament are a function of the automobile.
              http://ranprieur.com/readings/illichcars.html

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              • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 10:23 am

                Yes, your bike does impinge on my ability to get where I want to go. Bikes are a big hazard that motor vehicles must constantly try to avoid and most of the time bikers don’t help by making themselves visible, etc. It doesn’t bother me that this is so, it is just part of driving a motor vehicle. Just as when I bike, I must do what I can to avoid being a hazard.

                We’re all in it together. Stop car-hating. Face reality. Do your part. Cars and bikes are BOTH here to stay for the forseeable future.

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                • 9watts February 1, 2016 at 11:02 am

                  “Bikes are a big hazard that motor vehicles must constantly try to avoid”

                  Haha. Nice little bit of projection there.

                  “Cars and bikes are BOTH here to stay for the forseeable future.”

                  Because you (and the Oregonian Editorial Board) say so? They are not equivalent; their prospects strike me as very different. But we can agree to disagree.

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                • El Biciclero February 1, 2016 at 12:37 pm

                  “Bikes are a big hazard that motor vehicles must constantly try to avoid and most of the time bikers don’t help by making themselves visible, etc. It doesn’t bother me that this is so, it is just part of driving a motor vehicle. Just as when I bike, I must do what I can to avoid being a hazard.”

                  This is car-first thinking. Why not say,

                  “Cars are a big hazard that bicyclists must constantly try to avoid, and most of the time, drivers don’t help by slowing down, paying attention, yielding, using turn signals, etc. It bothers me a little that this is so, but it’s just part of riding a bike. Just as when I drive, I must do what I can to avoid killing people.”

                  It has been the intentional choice of society since about 1930 to make cars the supreme, most-honored, natural transportation mode—on the road, and in people’s minds—at the expense of all else. But it’s far from natural; rather, it’s one of the best marketing scams of all time.

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                • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 12:40 pm

                  Why not say both?

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                • 9watts February 1, 2016 at 12:57 pm

                  Because bikes (read people riding bikes) are not in fact any sort of hazard, in the sense that the reverse is true.
                  They may be annoying, something new (read additional) to watch out for so you don’t run over them, but that is hardly a hazard in the conventional use of that term.

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                • El Biciclero February 1, 2016 at 1:06 pm

                  “Why not say both?”

                  Hm. Why indeed. Even if we ignore what 9watts reminds us of (what is a “hazard”), why, when we only hear one side of the “hazard” meme, is it usually the “bike are a hazard” side? Why do crazies like me have to pipe up and offer the other perspective? Why does “common sense” not tell us all that the 4,000-lb smoke machine of death is the real hazard? Marketing.

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                • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 1:16 pm

                  We hear more about the car driver perspective because there are many more car drivers. When you hang out with cyclists, you tend to hear the opposite.

                  It’s more perspective than marketing.

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                • El Biciclero February 1, 2016 at 2:12 pm

                  “It’s more perspective than marketing.”

                  Exactly what the marketers want you to think…

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        • Hello, Kitty January 31, 2016 at 1:07 pm

          It’s not that everything “must” compete. Some things just work better in some situations than others. Choose what works for you.

          I would love to have the transit system you described, but I don’t see it as practical in the current situation. The Paris Metro comes the closest to the level of service you described (and only for certain areas at that), and I just don’t see that coming here anytime soon.

          Maybe I lack vision.

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          • El Biciclero January 31, 2016 at 1:49 pm

            Well, I’m kind of intentionally making an extreme example, but we can see what might have happened if we had poured the vast amount of resources used to accommodate cars and promote convenient auto travel into prioritizing some other mode. If roads were still narrow and made of mud, horses would have all the advantage. If roads were narrow and lightly constructed—but paved, bicycles would have an advantage. The car only rules because we demanded it and then built and legislated almost exclusively for it; there just isn’t enough demand to do anything else yet.

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            • Reginald January 31, 2016 at 6:01 pm

              EB,

              Yes, demand for good driving infrastructure is very high. And it makes sense IF it will keep the cars moving so they burn less fuel. But it’s all expensive – car infrastructure as well as bike infrastructure. Dollars do not grow on trees.

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              • El Biciclero February 1, 2016 at 2:06 pm

                “And it makes sense IF it will keep the cars moving so they burn less fuel.”

                But the fact remains that the best way to get your car to burn less fuel is not to drive it.

                Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “induced demand”. It is a result of pandering to desires for convenience by expanding the convenience. Making something even more convenient (or more affordable) causes more people to do that thing. Think online shopping or fast “food” drive-throughs…or adding lanes to a freeway. If the convenience of the activity suffers when too many people try to take advantage, the convenience is lost. The only ways to “keep the cars moving” are a) expand roadway space indefinitely, or b) remove some of the cars currently clogging the existing roadway space. Expanding road space indefinitely is literally impossible due to the need to have other things on the planet besides roads, and the only way to remove cars from the roads is to tell people to stay home, or share or use another transportation mode. The best way to get people to use another transportation mode is to make it as convenient as possible—but when compared to the abject uber-convenience of the royal treatment given private cars, it’s hard to be compelling. So it would seem, paradoxically enough, that the best way to improve the driving experience is to make it less convenient. I don’t necessarily like it any better than the next guy, since when I need to use my car, I like it to be quick and painless, but like smoking, or running a Ponzi scheme, you know it’s going to catch up with you eventually.

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            • Hello, Kitty January 31, 2016 at 6:07 pm

              The biggest problem I see with an intense transit system is recurring costs. I just don’t think it can work. That’s why I think we’re going to have a complete paradigm shift when the robot cars arrive. They will completely change the economics of what sort of “transit” system is possible; point-to-point, on demand service may well become feasible, and private car ownership may be reduced significantly.

              But until then… I expect incremental progress at best.

              It would be interesting to find a city somewhere that had made the investments you described. It may be instructive that no one has.

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          • Doug January 31, 2016 at 5:50 pm

            Somebody made a joke about the Car Show this weekend; Were there still car shows?

            There was a record 17.46 million cars sold last year, I think your vision is just fine

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            • Dan A February 2, 2016 at 10:24 am

              I wonder if one could estimate the number of cars that would have been sold without the significant amount of government subsidy involved….

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    • wsbob February 1, 2016 at 12:58 am

      For employment accessibility, motor vehicles offer versatility that bicycles can’t meet. If the work destination is a two or three mile trip, sure…with a little determination, many physically fit people could ride it. The longer the trip is, fewer are the people that would choose to ride rather than drive or travel by motor vehicle.

      Featured comment writer Ellie’s story isn’t extraordinary. Mass transit can eat up huge amounts of time for travel. Being prepared to work any job available to them regardless how far they have to travel to get it, is why one of the first things many people do, is budget their income to buy a car…any old car that’s reasonably reliable, so their travel ability is not compromised by the limitations of public transportation and bicycles.

      It’s something to envision a future of community and social planning in which all jobs are available within walking and biking distance from home, or by high quality mass transit, to all community members. Not saying it’s practical or desirable, but it is something to think about.

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      • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 10:23 am

        I agree home and work need to be in greater proximity. It surprises me how many progressive thinkers here are still focused on packing more people around the existing downtown, rather than creating new job hubs around the city.

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      • dwk February 1, 2016 at 11:40 am

        The 2 to 3 mile rule is now closer to 10 miles.
        Traffic is now so bad that most people can go closer to 10 miles in town faster on a bike than a car.

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      • El Biciclero February 1, 2016 at 1:27 pm

        “…so their travel ability is not compromised by the limitations of public transportation and bicycles.”

        If I could ride highway 26 from my earliest entrance opportunity all the way into town and back, I’ll tell you right now that at least on the way into town, my bike travel time would be pretty close to my car travel time. I have five/six stop lights at each end of my freeway run (total of 11 door-to-door; no STOP signs) when I drive to work. In between, the only thing slowing me down is other cars. If I ride, I have at least 25 signals (at least two of which will not detect me) and seven STOP signs (or places where I am re-entering the street from a driveway and must stop/yield), as well as a few places where I’m expected to share with pedestrians by slowing to their speed. I have to criss-cross back and forth across highway 26 three times to keep going straight, and I have to climb steeper hills than anywhere on my drive just to get around the parts of the freeway I can’t ride. None of these impediments are “limitations of bicycles”, they are obstacles placed in my way intentionally to favor driving. As though a 200-hp vehicle capable of 120 mph needs more help…

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        • El Biciclero February 1, 2016 at 2:41 pm

          Ok, I reviewed my video, and I actually have 12 signals and one stop sign on my drive to work. But I have 35 signals and 12 stop signs on my bike ride.

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          • Dan A February 2, 2016 at 10:29 am

            I’ve mentioned this before, but I have about 7 turns in my car to get to work, and about 43 turns on my bike.

            A direct cycling route would be 10.3 miles for me, but in order to make my commute safer, I travel 14.6 miles. This is not an issue in my car.

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            • Hello, Kitty February 2, 2016 at 10:35 am

              This may not apply to you, but many people who commute to work by car do so on very dangerous streets. Most don’t change their routes to find a safer way, but I think that is because people do not realize how dangerous driving is.

              If your commute takes you along a 2-lane rural highway, you have a very dangerous drive, and you may not have any alternatives. Freeways are also dangerous due to the high speeds involved.

              The difference may be that on a bike you perceive the danger, and act accordingly.

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              • Dan A February 2, 2016 at 1:15 pm

                When I commute by car, I am careful to avoid routes that may have bikes on them. I have heard that they are “big hazards”.

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        • Matt S. February 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm

          Yes, it may be faster to ride, but do you really want to do this 22 days out of a month. A typical work month. I sure wouldn’t…

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  • Matt January 30, 2016 at 11:06 am

    I’ve been in a similar situation. I worked in Vancouver, WA and live in NE Portland. I did work off of 42nd and Freemont, but had to leave the job because of deteriorating work conditions with my supervisor. It all happened very quick. I was in school, had a little bit of savings, but no car (because I know the cost of ownership). At that time, everything was manageable being car-less. I was able to ride to PCC for class with no problem, then jet straight over to work. Life was easy on the bike. But when I had to take a job in Vancouver out of desperation and quickly running out of savings–I found myself having to ride a 20 mile round trips times five days a week for 10 dollars an hour. I did like the work. A non-profit running gym activities for an after school program. Mind you, I was still a student. All of a sudden everything became very difficult. I was always exhausted from riding. I was frequently late, because of flat tires (I didn’t have a cheap tires either) and my school work suffered. I have to reinforce this statement: it is not fun riding your bike that type of milage when you have limited transportation options. I am thankful that I’m an able bodied capable of that distance, but I do not wish it upon anyone unless they truly want to do that type of milage. Oh, and I must add–I did frequently couple my ride with the Max, which softened the commute, but still a journey when it’s 33 degrees out and rainy. I worked at that job for three months and while I was there continuously looked for and interviewed with companies that paid substantially better. I did eventually pull myself out of the situation, but it was not easy and I had some support along the way.

    Basically, what I’m trying to convey with my perspective is: when you’re in a tough financial situation and out of necessity have to ride/transit long distances, **it takes a toll on you**. Life is unpredictable at times and with the city so spread out, you often have to take a job that is 10 miles from home. When this suddenly occurs, it can be a very difficult situation to navigate if you’r not adequately prepared.

    Bicycling and transit are wonderful, but unless people have access to livable wages, it all seems for naught…

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley January 30, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I was struggling to articulate my thoughts on B. Carfree’s comment, but really, you’ve said it best.

      Maybe year-round long-distance bike commuting is a possibility for “The Few, The Strong, The Marines” but even then, those who can handle it long-term constitute a TINY minority.

      And what price do we collectively pay when so many people are forced to spend all their energy, creativity, and time just getting to and from low-wage jobs? (Or even higher-wage “bulls**t jobs” as David Graeber calls what I did for most of my career?)

      Growing economic inequality is an enormous problem, bleeding the culture of of innovation and creativity. With automation advancing on every front, even the concept of “livable wages” is going out of reach, because work itself is fast disappearing.

      I’m in favor of a Universal Basic Income (worth a google, if you’re interested). Under such a scheme, a whole lot of people could live with just one paying job, or no paying jobs, and the problem of getting to and from work, so critical and draining today, would drop off sharply.

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      • 9watts January 30, 2016 at 1:44 pm

        I’m with you on the the dreadful state of affairs when it comes to inequality, the salutary nature of the basic income idea, and the risk of presuming that human powered long distance commutes are for everyone.
        But – I think your statement below would be an interesting research question:

        “Maybe year-round long-distance bike commuting is a possibility for ‘The Few, The Strong, The Marines’ but even then, those who can handle it long-term constitute a TINY minority.”

        For most of human history bipeds have exerted themselves rather more than we have come to think normal. By some measures they were also, generally, healthier than we in this country find ourselves today. Perhaps those two were related, or perhaps not. But in any case, I think that our general unfamiliarity with physical-activity-accompanying-our-daily-obligations may be clouding our ability to recognize something like serious bike commuting as a possibility, a thing, a doable activity for most of us.

        I’m mostly concerned that in the course of expressing compassion for poor people whose unforgiving schedules, low pay, and general stress levels are not always complemented by serious bike commutes we may be unwittingly throwing bicycling-as-transport out the window.

        I don’t currently have a commute, but I know from personal experience and from many others who currently do, that their* bike commutes (short and long) are among the most prized parts of their day. How many people would say that about the alternatives?

        * I’m fully aware that I and those people who make up my sample are not facing the kinds of challenges explored by Ellie and Matt here.

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        • Anne Hawley
          Anne Hawley January 30, 2016 at 3:50 pm

          As someone who took up bike commuting at the age of 54 (with zero athletic credentials of any kind, ever), I’m a rolling testament to the fact that it is, in some unexpected cases, quite possible. It was great for my health and well being. I loved it and never missed a day unless it was icy. What’s more, I like to think that I set an example, riding around on my Dutchie with my street clothes and gray hair and less-than-svelte body. I now know what it’s like to be kind of a tourist attraction!

          But the whole “could they?” question is marginal in relation to the “but will they?” part. So many obstacles – social, political, generational, economic, even geographical – have to be overturned before riding a bike or walking will be a desirable and convenient choice for more than a small minority. Short of some cataclysmic event, I just don’t see it happening except in slow, incremental steps.

          It’s worth pushing for. I don’t think it’ll happen without some kind of push. But there’s a huge “meanwhile” that we can’t equitably just wish away.

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          • rachel b January 31, 2016 at 5:21 pm

            Well said, Anne. And how you put it above– “Growing economic inequality is an enormous problem, bleeding the culture of of innovation and creativity. With automation advancing on every front, even the concept of “livable wages” is going out of reach, because work itself is fast disappearing.”

            The automating of everything and loss of work itself is something people don’t like to think about, and it’s happening now. There are so many things I seem to not like to think about these days…

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          • Lester Burnham February 1, 2016 at 7:50 am

            Poor people view bicycles as vehicles for the poor. As soon as they have access to a motor vehicle, riding a bike is not something on their radar. To those folks the car is freedom and access to more jobs. It’s easy for close minded progressives in this town to think everyone shares their view of the bicycle. It’s not the answer to everything for everyone.

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            • 9watts February 1, 2016 at 8:35 am

              You’re painting with two rather broad brushes there, Lester.

              Maybe our challenge is to get past both of those caricatures, discover the poor people who prefer biking and the progressives who are more open minded.
              Just think – there might even be poor, progressives who prefer biking!

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        • Pete January 31, 2016 at 1:19 pm

          “I don’t currently have a commute, but I know from personal experience and from many others who currently do, that their* bike commutes (short and long) are among the most prized parts of their day. How many people would say that about the alternatives?

          * I’m fully aware that I and those people who make up my sample are not facing the kinds of challenges explored by Ellie and Matt here.”

          All of this sums up my personal experience 100%. I travel and work from home, and on weekends try to hang on the wheels of my friends who boast about hoofing it a few hours a day outracing traffic, like I used to do. :)

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      • Reginald January 30, 2016 at 2:43 pm

        AH,

        Yes, automation to replace human power becomes cost-effective when minimum wage laws are put in place. Also, I wonder what effect our currently open borders, and resulting tidal wave of immigrants from all corners of our round world, have on our wages?

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        • Anne Hawley
          Anne Hawley January 30, 2016 at 3:41 pm

          I’m not willing to enter into an immigration debate here because the subject is too intertwined with racism. But it seems to me just rationally that even people willing to work for practically nothing will become irrelevant when we have robots that will work for actually nothing, 24 hours a day without breaks or sick leave or unions or even mistakes.

          Then we will all be irrelevant together, white and brown and black, recently-American or a few generations back, and the only question will be how will we live.

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          • BeavertonRider January 31, 2016 at 1:16 am

            Wow…this is incredible. Notice how the commenter here is attempting to constrain discussion about a topic by automatically casting one side as racist. This is unreal.

            Look, there’s nothing racist about limiting immigration. Nothing at all.

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            • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 10:25 am

              That statement can stand or fall on the details of how immigration is regulated.

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            • Anne Hawley
              Anne Hawley February 1, 2016 at 10:28 am

              “The commenter here” did nothing of the kind. I observed that the topic of immigration is entwined with the topic of racism. I didn’t call anyone a racist. I was careful in my wording not to do so.

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              • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 7:41 pm

                AH,

                Your observation is a false belief. As Ronald Reagan once said: “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.” Immigration is defined as “the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.” It’s a numbers game and has absolutely nothing to do with race or racism.

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                • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 10:27 pm

                  Absolutely. All that talk about Australia’s old immigration system being racist is just liberal hooey. Same with ours. Where do these people come up with these false beliefs?

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                • Dan A February 2, 2016 at 5:41 pm

                  Ronald Reagan isn’t the best guy to quote for truth or inspiration.

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          • Reginald January 31, 2016 at 6:12 pm

            AH,

            Actually, when you view my question rationally, you will notice that racism has nothing to do with it. It’s just math. Either immigration has an effect on our wages or it doesn’t and if it does what is that effect. (It does and it drives wages down.) Immigrants include all races. Citizens who must compete with, and whose wages are lowered by, those immigrants are also from all races. Add on those who lose their jobs completely because of immigration (or outsourcing of labor) and the net effect is very damaging.

            Your assumption that it has anything to do with racism is false, but that assumption is believed by the vast majority of those on the left, because they have never thought it through. It’s just a math question.

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            • are February 1, 2016 at 5:24 pm

              and a question of the artificiality of the borders of nation states

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            • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 5:30 pm

              I don’t accept that moderate levels of immigration depress wages. Do many mainstream economists claim it does?

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              • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 7:33 pm

                H,K,
                All of them do who are honest. Men did not accept that the world was round for a long time – but it was. And we do not have moderate levels of immigration. We have uncontrolled immigration. AND as a result of it we have tens of millions of Americans with no job and several times that number with crappy-paying or part-time or multiple jobs. And immigration has played a large role in creating this form of misery for Americans. It’s just math.

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              • Reginald February 2, 2016 at 2:08 pm

                H,K,
                All honest, unbiased economists accept the facts I stated. Men did not accept that the world was round for a long time – but it was. And we do not have moderate levels of immigration. We have uncontrolled immigration. AND as a result of it we have tens of millions of Americans with no job and several times that number with low-paying or part-time or multiple jobs; and tens of millions of those are collecting welfare because they will not work or cannot work – in many instances as a direct result of the fact that jobs they could do are being done by immigrants. It’s just math.

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              • Reginald February 2, 2016 at 7:31 pm

                HK,
                In response to your post below with links on immigration, etc.
                You can find an article on the internet to show your point on any topic, no matter how wrong your point happens to be. As the saying goes: Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

                My points are irrefutable and proven.

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                • 9watts February 2, 2016 at 8:50 pm

                  My points are irrefutable and proven.

                  My what big words you use, Grandmother!

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        • BeavertonRider January 31, 2016 at 1:21 am

          It’s kind of fascinating to watch both Democrats and Republicans say, on the one hand, that they want to protect American workers and then, on the other hand, seek to throw open the borders and allow in millions of unskilled and underskilled individuals. Then there’s the feigned surprise when wages for those without HS diplomas and without college degrees either cannot find work or are chronically underemployed.

          And then the minimum wage laws that compel employers to fire unskilled and skilled workers in order to replace them with higher-skilled workers…people are surprised. I mean, if you were a business owner, wold you want three under-skilled workers making $15/hr each getting 66% productivity or 2 skilled workers making $25/hr that are 90-100% productive? I mean, it’s simple economic thought here…but there are so many people who believe that if the government just says pay everyone at least x, that everyone below that x will not only remain employed, but make more than x.

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        • Pete January 31, 2016 at 1:13 pm

          I disagree that automation is a result of minimum wage laws, which themselves came to be a result of monetary inflation. Automation has proven to save companies money in the long run by reducing both OPEX and error, the latter of which is an unfortunate tendency of humans. As long as we continue this circle of accounting to shareholders for profit growth (on a quarterly basis), companies will continue to handsomely reward (in the short term) those with the skills to create ways of saving them money (in the long term).

          In my first job out of college I worked as a Field Apps Engineer for a machine vision company. I stood in the clean room of a big hard drive manufacturer and watched lines of mostly Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants inspect hard drives through microscopes. I watched a computer monitor that was aggregating and reporting the results in real time, and three batches showed up as “9%”, “11%”, and “7%”. I turned to the production manager and said, “That’s not too bad for defect rates, is it?” He said, “Those aren’t the defect rates, those are the yields!!”. I didn’t sleep well that night, struck with the thought that I’d be playing a direct role in putting almost all of those people out of their jobs there.

          I know this is not the forum, but immigration has played a significant role in the economic prosperity we’ve enjoyed as a country. Where I live, these are the people who mostly do the jobs that nobody else will. They once helped make California the 7th largest GDP in the world – just on agriculture alone. I know the original topic is basically that the poor take transit and that prosperity helps enable bicycle commuting, but here in California that’s not really the case. The transit is so disconnected that many of the poor buy and drive cars illegally, and yes, most of them are immigrants, so much so that a law was passed here allowing you to get a driver license without being a legal citizen. And yes, there are a huge number of poor people riding bicycles here, just as there are drug and alcohol addicts who’ve lost their means of income and ability to afford cars.

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          • Hello, Kitty February 1, 2016 at 10:20 am

            Automating drudgery is a clear victory for humanity.

            (I don’t think you were suggesting otherwise, but your post prompted that thought.)

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          • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 7:57 pm

            P,
            Automation to replace low-wage job holders will increase as a direct consequence of higher minimum wage laws. This will particularly be true for people who make products with a low profit margin such as fast-food. Many people who need the money very badly, and who are willing to work for low pay, may lose their jobs due to higher minimum wage laws. Here’s one story:

            http://www.businessinsider.com/momentum-machines-burger-robot-2014-8

            High-tech companies that make high profit margin products will automate in any event. Many of the jobs the machines do cannot be done as well, or perhaps at all, by humans, and certainly not at the speeds that the machines can. Totally different business model.

            Agricultural immigrant labor has contributed greatly to the economic demise of the USA, not to our prosperity. Because we allowed unlimited immigration to pick crops, tens of millions of Americans collect welfare and COST taxpayers far more than the benefits gained by cheap farm labor. Not only do they cost us in dollars but the societal costs (to them and to the rest of us) will likely prove fatal; that is if the debt we incur to pay them to sit on their rear ends does not prove fatal first. Of course, unlimited welfare is as much to blame for this as immigration.

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            • Pete February 2, 2016 at 8:29 am

              Immigration also applies to the hundreds of thousands of H1-B holders with Master’s and PhD’s that designed and built the computers and smartphones people are writing on this blog with – and ironically behind a good portion of the automation drive. Immigration has indeed driven growth in our cities and counties, as these people buy goods and services and increase the consumer base. Believe me, I’m not the guy waving the flag for it (actually I compete with it), as I frankly believe that our emphasis on growth in both companies and city governments has proven to be unsustainable. The fact remains, though, that immigration has fueled profits that fueled wealth increases for retirement fund holders. Sustainable? I personally don’t believe so, and that’s reflected in our schools and on our streets as well.

              Agriculture has been an automation target for decades, and research into prepared food hit pace during the space race. Much of what Americans eat comes from fields tended by GPS-guided robots that use sophisticated cameras to inspect and sort crop yields (I can introduce you to a guy with several patents on nut and rice inspection and sorting). If you have evidence that these technological pushes are directly related to the minimum wage laws, I’d love to see it (yes, I saw your link, and I know two of the Stanford brats over at Momentum).

              I suspect you and I agree more than disagree on the laws themselves, which are incredibly challenging to small businesses. I’ve sat in city council meetings as minimum wage debates rage on, linked with affordable housing and yes, safe bike routes for those who can’t afford car travel. The owner of my LBS testified that he supported and could manage an $11 wage, but at $15 he would have to lay off and maybe close his doors. Following him was a young lady who works at Wendy’s who said that the $15 minimum is necessary for her to support her five children.

              If you haven’t already, the article “A Long Game”, linked to in this week’s Monday roundup, is a good read about bay area problems (where I live). My city pretends to try to address affordable housing and livable streets, yet our main priority is just development, such as the thousands of units that were just built on a former hospital site down the street from me (none of them ‘affordable’ per se), and we basically handed over a critical Class I bike commuting path to the 49’ers when Levi’s Stadium was built. The article talks about high taxes, but when I moved from Oregon to silicon valley my income tax rate went down .5% and my salary went up 30%. Though I’m not a baby boomer, I’m definitely a beneficiary of Prop 13, as I would quickly sell my house and move probably to Washington state if my property taxes were anywhere near what they should be here, as I simply wouldn’t be able to afford to stay.

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              • Hello, Kitty February 2, 2016 at 10:31 am

                The H1-B program was intended to work as you describe — as a way of getting highly skilled, educated workers to flesh out the ranks of tech companies where no American could be found.

                That is not how it is used, however. Most H1-B visas are used to import low cost IT workers, who work for large outsourcing companies like Infosys. Wages are kept low because visa holders cannot change companies without losing their visa, so they are very restricted in their ability to negotiate the market rate salaries the program supposedly promises.

                So there probably are a few H1-B visa holders who do what you describe, but it is a small minority.

                NPR recently did a program on similar problems with the H1-A visas, which are used in agriculture.

                On one of your other points, Oregon has, I believe, the highest income tax rate in the country. This is compensated for, I suppose, by the lack of a sales tax, but it is not surprising that your tax rate fell (at least the one you pay on April 15) when you left Oregon.

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                • Reginald February 2, 2016 at 2:11 pm

                  Oregon also has high land costs and high property tax rates, and those somewhat counter the lack of a sales tax. Like you said our income tax is very high. Oregon is not a low tax state.

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                • Reginald February 2, 2016 at 7:39 pm

                  HK,

                  In response to your post below (no reply button):

                  I do not claim that welfare recipients are mostly immigrants. I suspect many are citizens who can’t get a job because an immigrant is working a job they’d like to have. AND this is the crux of the problem: that welfare recipient WOULD have that job if welfare wasn’t an option and if an immigrant did not take it first.

                  All people everywhere are immigrants or descendants of immigrants – even Native American ancestors immigrated here from Asia. But we have an economic system that requires rules to work properly and immigration (both legal and otherwise) is destroying that economic system.

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                • Hello, Kitty February 2, 2016 at 9:01 pm

                  Your assertions are simply not backed up by evidence.

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              • Reginald February 2, 2016 at 2:04 pm

                Your arguments are not backed up by the facts on the ground. I am all for allowing a very few extremely talented immigrants in our country to work at jobs that no other American can do. We’d be talking a few hundred per year on the outside. Also, immigrants who have successful businesses and want to expand those here, or build factories here, let them in. Otherwise, no immigration. Our nation is over crowded. We have a huge percentage of the population with low-paying jobs, no jobs, or working multiple jobs, and many tens of millions of other people taking handouts from the government because they cannot or will not work, in millions of cases because of immigration. Those are the facts on the ground and they are destroying this country.

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                • Hello, Kitty February 2, 2016 at 2:23 pm

                  It is true the vast majority of Americans are immigrants or descended from such. Therefore I agree that most people on welfare are immigrants or descended from them, and that immigrants and their descendants are responsible for any overcrowding we may be experiencing. Those facts on the ground are irrefutable.

                  It is also true that, for example, Steve Jobs’s father was an immigrant from Syria, who would have certainly been excluded under your “a few hundred at most” program. Elon Musk is also an immigrant. Who let these guys in?

                  I will add that your caricature of the lazy handout seeking immigrant is not borne out by any data, and completely contradicts my experience. The fact is that immigrants in general are some of the hardest working among us, and we’re lucky to have them.

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                • 9watts February 2, 2016 at 2:58 pm

                  http://www.ufw.org/toj_play/TOJNEW_12_JAL.html

                  TAKE OUR JOBS
                  “Farm workers are ready to welcome citizens and legal residents who wish to replace them in the field. We will use our knowledge and staff to help connect the unemployed with farm employers. Just fill out the form to the right and continue on to the request for job application.”

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    • Mark smith January 30, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      I’m regards to fatigue, that is a function of protein intake and sleep. Sounds like you were not getting much of either.

      When I was in commuting mode, protein intake was a major consideration. There is no free lunch when riding. Portland is not flat. There seems to always be a hill.

      I would never be car free in Portland without an e bike. Despite the e bike hater purists who have some idea that e bikes are banned from every sidewalk and mup.

      Check out naked juices protein booster with cocunut. Or…get used to a lot of peanut butter or…at the worst…a lot of red meat.

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      • Anne Hawley
        Anne Hawley January 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm

        I’ve found that fatigue is also a function of the passage of time. You can stave off loss of stamina to some extent, but realistically, for most people, it really does start to tail off after a certain age.

        My point is not to denigrate your protein suggestion. Plenty of protein definitely helps me go a bit further than I could on a high-carb intake…but NOT further than I could when I was ten years younger.

        (Also, plenty of protein is expensive. And I think plenty of sleep is a luxury that someone with three jobs and a weird long commutes has to forgo.)

        My point is that throughout a lifespan we move into and then gradually out of that prime-of-life state where feats of physical prowess are possible or even desirable. That stage is blessedly long, thanks to advances in medicine, sanitation, etc., but it’s neither endless, nor universal. There’s no steady-state “bicyclist now and forever.”

        In planning and talking about transportation, we must consider more than just prime-of-life users. Just as “the large font awaits us all” (as Conan O’Brien said), so the taxi, the bus, the wheelchair, the lift-van, the crutches, or even, yes, the private car, may await many of us at one time or another.

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        • Mark Smith January 30, 2016 at 8:02 pm

          I agree with all your points. I am getting ready to cross over 40 and to am noticing the slowing of recovery. I am getting ready to move back into a commute by bike. It won’t be easy…and will be tiring. I hate having to be reliant upon a car. Every day, every city makes us more dependent on them.

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          • Pete January 31, 2016 at 12:43 pm

            Youngster. ;)

            My favorite recovery blend (for those w/out nut allergies), just FYI: ~8 oz almond milk, ~8oz water (and crushed ice in summer), 3-4 tblsp peanut or almond butter, a few oz coconut milk (for fat & flavor), 3-4 scoops of chocolate-flavored Hammer Recoverite (whey protein, L-glutamine, chromium & magnesium), sprinkle in cinnamon and blend. I like the Hammer product because it’s sweetened with Stevia and not Aspartame like most, plus it has the highest L-glutamine content I’ve seen.

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            • El Biciclero January 31, 2016 at 1:56 pm

              A big glass of Ovaltine made with half coconut water and half skim milk.

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              • Matt S. February 2, 2016 at 11:51 am

                I do a few large scoops of Nancy’s yogurt, 2 giant scoops of fresh ground honey roasted peanut butter from New Seasons, splash of milk or two, raw cracked egg, couple scoops of Hersey’s cocoa powder, ripe banana, ice.

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        • rachel b January 31, 2016 at 5:24 pm

          An 11-hour nap. ;) Well said (again), Anne!

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      • El Biciclero January 31, 2016 at 1:41 pm

        Interestingly, there is some question about how much money one can save by riding instead of driving (or taking transit), when high-quality protein gets more expensive every day. being of a certain age, riding my 25-mile commute every day can wear out my legs in a hurry, regardless of how much protein I eat (sleep is a different challenge…), so I end up driving some days. I know I eat more on days I ride, and the cost of that is probably as much or more than I would pay for gas on those days—although it’s more of an “investment” than burning gas.

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        • Matt S. February 1, 2016 at 7:15 am

          I rode very intensively five years ago, close to 200-300 miles a week for about a year. It was fascinating to see the change occur in my body. However, my grocery bill was almost 600 dollars a month—for one person! I had to back off, just couldn’t afford the calories and wear on my bike…

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          • El Biciclero February 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm

            The equation is different if one can get rid of a car altogether. I find it funny how car owners (including myself) will just accept the fact of a $400 brake job or $1500 head gasket or clutch replacement, but if I tell someone I spend $30 on a new chain for my bike, they think that sounds expensive. If I tell someone I spend $60 for two new bike tires, eyes get wide and jaws drop—when you could barely get one crap car tire on sale for $60. I could replace—nay, upgrade—my bike for the cost of a few car repairs. I have no doubt I could save a lot of money if I got rid of my (long ago paid-for) car, even if I went out for a nice, high-protein, steak dinner a couple times a month.

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    • Pete January 31, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Ah yes, I was waiting for someone with this experience to weigh in on the realities of human energy management. Thanks Matt!

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  • longgone January 30, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks Elle. My life reflects yours in ways, and you have gotten to the core of what bugs me most with many of our fellow cyclists. I’m stuck with Trimetas we speak, for lacking a great place to service my bike. In fact, I’m on the bus right now! Wish I wasn’t, though…. Peace.

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  • Jason January 31, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Mike Quiglery
    What happens when you’re working low wage job(s) and you get a flat tire, and, worse yet, it’s pouring rain? Think the boss will understand, provided you even make it to work that day? Reliable public transportation for those who have to be to work on time AND good biking infrastructure for those who can afford to dally are needed.Recommended 5

    There are only two reasons I’m ever late to work. One: I got a flat (which probably happens three times a year). They know I ride a bike and they generally seem to be sort of empathetic to such situations. They’ll say, “oh, bummer. Glad you made it here.” On the other hand, I’ve been late EVERY TIME I decided to take trimet. Taking three routes pretty much insures that I’ll be missing at least one connection. So when I show up late on the bus they’re usually a little irate. They’ll say, “why the hell are you late? Why didn’t you ride your bike?” My response usually sounds like I’m lazy and didn’t want to ride, which is true.

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  • bjorn January 31, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I think I have read something similar before, it was a release from the Cascade Policy Institute suggesting we should defund transit and helpt he poor buy cars.

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  • Kyle February 1, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Anne Hawley
    …Maybe year-round long-distance bike commuting is a possibility for “The Few, The Strong, The Marines” but even then, those who can handle it long-term constitute a TINY minority….

    This is widely believed, but it’s simply not true until we’re talking truly long distances. It is true that not all people can bike even 2 miles, but most people could if they wanted.

    As far as getting cleaned up goes, you can wash up in a restroom in a few minutes — I had a 40+ mile RT commute for 10 years, and can look as professional as anyone else. You can’t do this with any hair or clothing style, but you can certainly do it with ones that everyone will find acceptable.

    Flat tires are also no big deal. Portland roads are the cleanest I’ve ever ridden so I get 2 or 3 flats a year compared to a couple a month on my old routes. They take 5 min to change if you know what you’re doing, probably triple that if you don’t. Either way, it’s no big deal — you should allow a little extra time to get in anyway. Carry latex gloves to wear during the change and your hands won’t be covered with grease.

    It costs a significant amount to ride a lot — when I used to commute over 10,000 miles per year on my bike, I spent hundreds on tires and chains alone plus I ate more. But it’s still way cheaper than driving. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being honest about operating, maintenance, depreciation, and insurance costs for a car.

    I love Portland, but I’d leave in a second if I lost my job — it’s just stupid expensive here. It’s good people are thinking about how to make it more livable for people with modest means. But people still need to be realistic and realize they can’t have it all. No amount of wishing can make it cheap to drive here for the simple reason that space is very limited and expensive.

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    • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      K,
      If you ride 20 miles to work at a fast pace then, if you are like me, you will be soaked in sweat when you arrive, with salt caked on your face, etc. You may be able to clean up to the point that you “look” professional; but most people would not feel very professional.

      You could ride an electric bike and do very little pedaling work and the 20 mile ride with no shower might be more manageable. Best plan is to have a shower facility at work.

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      • 9watts February 1, 2016 at 10:04 pm

        People the world over commute by human power and don’t take showers upon arrival. Have for centuries, millennia? Maybe your speed is implicated in this problem.

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        • Reginald February 2, 2016 at 2:17 pm

          In the US we like to “feel” clean, not just look clean. Very few Americans, who work in an office setting where they have to wear nice clothes, would be willing to commute 20 miles on a bike without a shower somewhere close to their work location. If there is a gym nearby a shower could be taken there, then ride over to your work location. Go ahead and commute as far as you want without a shower. Americans will not do it until they are forced to by poverty or lack of resources. We like to be clean.

          And, one more time, if you work at a manual labor job, then a 20 mile commute without a shower would probably be fine.

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        • Mossby Pomegranate February 2, 2016 at 5:55 pm

          Many people enjoy feeling fresh and clean before starting a day of work. Sorry if that bothers you.

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          • 9watts February 3, 2016 at 7:40 am

            It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. What bothers me is Reginald’s absolutist approach to everything. Kyle’s take on this subject just feels much more relaxed, familiar, and welcoming.

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  • 9watts February 1, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Another false equivalency.
    “But it’s all expensive – car infrastructure as well as bike infrastructure. Dollars do not grow on trees.”

    Bike infrastructure as we commonly understand it is 100% derivative, would have no justification, would make no sense, in the absence of the ubiquitous threatand and overwhelming presence of the auto. Bikes don’t need special infrastructure but for their second (third?) class status in a cars-first world where all the road width is already spoken for by the car interests.

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    • Reginald February 1, 2016 at 8:01 pm

      When you find a bikes-first world please give us directions to it.

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  • Kyle February 2, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Reginald
    In the US we like to “feel” clean, not just look clean. Very few Americans, who work in an office setting where they have to wear nice clothes, would be willing to commute 20 miles on a bike without a shower somewhere close to their work location.

    You can actually be clean and not just look clean. While a shower is optimal, it is not essential. With cold water, paper towels and soap in the restroom, you can sponge bath yourself pretty fast. Also, the shower doesn’t need to be specifically at work. If it’s even a mile or two away at a Y or health club, you can have a locker and shower and then bike the last section slowly though that will cost extra and take more time. I did that for awhile myself before switching to the sink method.

    Keep in mind this area is relatively cool in the mornings even during the hottest months. Most people wear WAY too much when they ride, and by simply wearing a single light wicking layer which is stashed so that work clothes can be put on, there is less messiness to begin with.

    Most people have less than 20 miles each way to go. For 10 miles each way, it’s very possible that a bike commute will be significantly faster even if you’re not pushing yourself. For long commutes, multimodal (i.e. MAX/Bus + bike) is a realistic and efficient option for most people. You hardly have to be an athlete to be faster than the Sunset or Banfield traffic.

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    • Reginald February 2, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      It is good if the sink method works for you, and you are to be commended for your dedication but very few American would even consider it.

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      • Dan A February 3, 2016 at 9:33 am

        Sweat is just one excuse, a layer in an onion full of reasons why a person wouldn’t bike to work. Peel it away and you’re sure to find another.

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        • Reginald February 4, 2016 at 9:19 pm

          Very true. For most, they aren’t hiding anything – they just don’t want to ride a bike to work – they prefer their cozy car – can’t blame them.

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      • El Biciclero February 3, 2016 at 10:03 am

        There are a lot of things Americans need to get over—most of all, ourselves. Your very point that “very few American[s] would even consider it” is a big part of the problem. We’re not even willing to try—and even if the average American is willing to “try” something like riding a bike to work, they will quit after the initial experience of slight discomfort because they don’t have the foresight to imagine that it gets better the more you practice and learn. We’ve been pandered to with convenience after unsustainable convenience to the point where if something isn’t on a silver platter, we don’t want it.

        Sweat only makes you “dirty” when it accumulates and dries on and attracts more dirt. If sweat is wiped off before it dries, such as with a small gym towel carried in a bike bag, it doesn’t make you as “dirty” as so many people think. One nerve-wracking presentation in a conference room will make you more sweat-dirty than a 10-mile ride to work.

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        • Matt S. February 3, 2016 at 11:25 am

          I think it’s cultural as well. And IMO, tethered to higher education. I grew up in Albany, OR. Plenty of open space, bike lanes, and point A to point B really is never that far apart from one another, but NO ONE rides a bike. There’s a saying that often goes, “look at that guy riding a DUII (dew-ee) bike.” However, 11 miles west, there’s Corvallis. Which is phenomenal for biking—third highest in the country for percentage of workers commuting to work via bicycle. Gold rated from League of American Bicyclists. Coincidentally, having highest rate of education per capital than anywhere else in the state. People have a different mindset. Bicycling, which we all know, is eco-friendly, healthy, and economical—this is the way people think in Corvallis. Albany, a symbol of being poor…

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          • Dan A February 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm

            From about 3rd grade on, my parents allowed me to ride anywhere I wanted to in Corvallis.

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          • El Biciclero February 3, 2016 at 12:25 pm

            Well, yes—beyond the sweat/discomfort/danger issues people imagine they will have, there are broader negative associations that will prevent people from trying or doing something. If riding a bike is associated in your mind with being “poor”, then you aren’t likely to do it. If it is a symbol of being well-educated, then you are more likely to do it, unless appearing well-educated is a marker for being a sell-out to your roots or makes you feel too nerdy and uncool…well, unless looking nerdy is hip and cool…unless being hip and cool is too phony, and you don’t want a bike to look like a phony affectation… I blame social media ;)

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        • Reginald February 4, 2016 at 9:27 pm

          I’ve commuted 14 miles to work before. It’s at best a pain in the butt – it’s not much fun just because of traffic, not to mention the rain and cold. It will NEVER be popular if people can afford to drive a car. Ain’t gonna happen unless they are forced to do it.

          On sweating, each person is different. When I ride 14 miles to work I’m going to shower, or else I will not do the ride. Now if I were working construction or manual labor that could be different. For you and a tiny minority, perhaps no shower is acceptable.

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  • Kyle February 3, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Reginald
    It is good if the sink method works for you, and you are to be commended for your dedication but very few American would even consider it.

    This is certainly true, but it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of things associated with cycling are much easier than people perceive.

    It’s kind of like people who drive a couple miles to go to a fast food restaurant because they don’t think they have time to make a meal at home or pack a lunch when the reality is it would be faster, healthier, and cheaper for them to whip something up themselves.

    A lot of people assume I have a thing against cars because I always take my bike. The reality is I love to drive and work on cars. However, driving in Portland sucks so much that I rarely use my car except for trips out of town.

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