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What bike questions should Portland political candidates answer?

Posted by on February 16th, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith ride-17
Talking politics.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

With a big local election coming up, two biking advocacy groups are getting ready to ask politicians where exactly they stand.

On Monday, political action committee Bike Walk Vote released the 2016 candidates’ questionnaire that it’ll use to hand out endorsements. Next week, the advocacy nonprofit Bicycle Transportation Alliance is hosting an evening event to write a platform, make a list of questions and start organizing a get-out-the-vote effort for people who care about good biking.

Here’s the seven-question Bike Walk Vote questionnaire:

1. How can the local jurisdictions work with ODOT to improve safety and accessibility for all road users and establish a clear process for facilitating the eventual handover of state controlled dangerous urban arterials to local jurisdictions?

2. If elected what are your plans to implement Vision Zero?

3. Protected bikes lanes are more effective in protecting vulnerable users than painted bike lanes. Similarly, there have been multiple community calls for diversion on greenways. If elected how will you address the call for increased physical protection and the addition to diverters on adjacent greenways?

4. Transportation costs are often more than 20% of a household’s budget, and many households are too poor to drive to meet all of their daily needs. Biking, walking, and transit are the most affordable transport solutions. Street fees, congestion pricing, reduced price transit passes, and demand-responsive parking rates are some of the proposed tools to manage auto congestion and raise needed funds locally for maintenance and safety improvements. What are your plans to reduce transportation costs for low income families?

5. Arterials need sidewalks for safe access to transit. Portland has significant gaps in this network which need tailored solutions in differing areas of Portland. Many of these gaps occur in neighborhoods that rely heavily on transit and require a significant amount of walking to reach nearby stops. What are your plans for sidewalk gaps, especially with regard to transit accessibility and equity in the outer neighborhoods?

6. Do you have any specific accomplishments improving biking, walking and transit in Oregon or other places?

7. What makes you a viable candidate?

And here’s the description of next week’s BTA event, which is Feb. 23 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the group’s office, 618 NW Glisan St., Suite 401:

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is elevating our involvement in elections for 2016 by launching a Bike the Vote 2016 effort.

We are developing a platform to share with candidates, a candidate questionnaire, and a get out the vote campaign. The first step is crafting a platform, highlighting bicyclists’ needs and priorities, that is compelling and easy to incorporate into candidates’ campaigns.

This is where YOU come in. Your experience and passion around bicycling and active transportation is needed to bring this together. We’d like your help in crafting the platform.

We invite you to attend a 90-minute interactive session with the BTA’s Executive Director on Tuesday, February 23rd from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at our office. Join us at 618 NW Glisan Street in Suite 401.

Snacks and beverages will be provided.

Last fall, the national Transit Center think tank held a panel in Portland to discuss their theory of what factors lead to transportation reform, based on the experience of six cities. They concluded, essentially, that it comes down to three factors, each influencing the next: a “civic vanguard” of active citizens; “city leadership,” starting with politicians who get a mandate to make transportation change a top priority; and “agency champions” in the bureaucracy, empowered by politicians to execute the changes a city needs even if a vocal minority of citizens object.

There’s not much question which of those links is weakest in Portland today. Fortunately, it’s also the one that active citizens can change.

The election is May 17.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

60 Comments
  • JeffS February 16, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Some of those questions just make me cringe. Is it really necessary to include that much leading intro before asking a question?

    —-

    How far from your home is your preferred grocery store? How do you normally transport yourself to and from that store?

    If you have children, what is their most used method for traveling to school? How far are their schools from your home?

    Here are the current portland mode share numbers. What would you like to see these numbers be in four years? Eight years? What policies, if any, would you want to implement to make this happen?

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    • Adam H. February 16, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      The intros are intended to give context to the upcoming question. As these are being asked by a biking and walking political action committee, all of the questions are framed from the lens of improving the situation for people walking and cycling. They are intended to gain insight into policies that an elected official might enact to work towards that goal, not to learn their personal preferences about transportation.

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      • dwk February 16, 2016 at 4:52 pm

        They are canned questions and they will get canned responses to them.
        The twitter questions are much more likely to get a real answer.

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      • JeffS February 17, 2016 at 10:22 am

        We’ll just disagree then.

        For me, personal choices are a lot more insightful, not that I expect these groups to ask them.

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    • wsbob February 17, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Seems to me that questions 1 and 4 are phrased in an overly complicated way that will make it difficult for candidates to offer a straight answer with substance.

      Question 3 touches on the subject of protected bike lanes, is one about which I’d be most interested in hearing answers to from candidates. I’d hope they could succinctly offer some sense of their familiarity with the different types of protected bike lanes…and what potential the city may have for the need of this type bike lane, present and future.

      I have serious doubts that there are many people in government in our area, that have a solid understanding of what protected bike lanes are, and how essential a component of area road and street systems such bike lanes could be. Maybe they don’t argue strongly for the creation of protected bike lanes, because they’re vague on exactly what such bike lanes are, and what their availability could mean to the community.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 16, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Here are a few responses to this story via Twitter:


    Doug Wicks:
    “when r u going 2 repave streets? how will u fund? how do you educate drivers (esp from burbs) re PDX bike rules, lanes, signs?”

    Jagur:
    “why do bars and taverns have parking lots?”

    Glenn Fee:
    “How often do you ride a bike, and for what uses?”

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  • Jim Lee February 16, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    On Thursday I’ll be interviewed by the teachers’ political action committee. They will get to know me and and my positions better in 15 minutes than any set of questions ever could reveal.

    I urge all fellow candidates not to respond to questionnaires. Usually they are cheap shots. Make interest groups speak with you directly.

    And we have been through Vision “Zero” on this site before: traffic incidents are governed by the statistics of infrequent events, which approximates an exponential decay approaching zero as an asymptote, which never can be reached. No step functions allowed.

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    • paikiala February 17, 2016 at 9:33 am

      So, give up hope and do nothing….

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  • David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC February 16, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    “There is a $1 Billion backlog in street and sidewalk maintenance in Portland, including major streets in poor or very poor condition.

    “The current very lean PBOT budget has all the fat already cut out of it, after 20 years of steady cuts and new directors every 2-3 years. What is left pays for staffing, debt, and operating programs like streetcar and bikeshare, with virtually nothing for bike infrastructure.

    “Given your predecessor’s inability to raise the extra $100 million needed annually to fix the problem long-term, what is going to be your response?

    “Do you plan on raising the needed revenue, and if so, how? Or do you plan on abandoning city streets and sidewalks to further decay, and if so, where exactly?”

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  • Ovid Boyd February 16, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    I think these questions don’t really dig at the candidates commitments. They can just reply with general vague answers. For instance:

    1. How can the local jurisdictions work with ODOT to improve safety and accessibility for all road users and establish a clear process for facilitating the eventual handover of state controlled dangerous urban arterials to local jurisdictions?

    Answer: “I will do my best to work across agencies and with community members to make our streets serve everyone.”

    There, answered, and we have no idea what the candidate thinks about it or intends to do.

    Better question:
    Is bringing ODOT controlled roads in Portland under local control a priority for you as mayor? If so, what exactly will you do to make that happen?

    I think most of them could be written better to force some sort of real answer.

    Also, the question I would like answered that I don’t see listed:
    Portland’s goal is to reach 25% bike modal share by 2030.
    What needs to make this major change come to fruition?
    How will you ensure the city is on track to meet that goal?
    If the city falls behind, what actions must be taken to bring us back on track?

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    • Terry D-M February 16, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      I would hope that the committee knows about any ambiguity and will code a non-answer in the appropriate way that reflects their lack of response. As BikeWalkVote is reforming after a long hiatus, it may take a few, weeks to get the website updated with anything recent I’m sure.

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      • Anne Hawley
        Anne Hawley February 17, 2016 at 10:07 am

        Wouldn’t it be cool if a candidate answered #3 or #4 with, “I’m not well-informed on this issue. Can we take a few minutes here to discuss it in more detail? Can you help me become better informed?”

        Wouldn’t it be cool if any candidate, anywhere, did that?

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    • David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC February 17, 2016 at 10:42 am

      It has been my experience that most candidates (I’ve met quite a few) have no idea what ODOT, PBOT, or numerous other acronyms stand for, or indeed what those agencies do and their relationship with Portland. If we can avoid jargon in our questions, and write at a 5th grade level, I think we’ll get a better response from candidates.

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      • Anne Hawley
        Anne Hawley February 17, 2016 at 10:49 am

        This is a valid point. And I don’t think that it’s necessarily a terrible thing that a candidate doesn’t know all the bureaucratic alphabet soup, either: after all, it means the candidate isn’t already an insider. Perhaps we’d get fresh perspectives and new ideas from an outsider.

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  • Terry D-M February 16, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    I am very interested in the answers to the protected bikeway infrastructure and greenway diversion.

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  • charlietso February 16, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    I don’t expect any politicians to be able to answer this question, but it’s something that has been on my mind for a while, and I am surprised that no one has asked this question. Biking has been a predominantly white, male, and higher income mode of transportation in Portland. How can we make biking more accessible , both geographically and culturally, for those (people of color, women, and low-income people) who currently don’t consider bicycling as an option?

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    • Lester Burnham February 17, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Oh boy…we just had to pull the race and sex cards again? It’s a HUMAN issue. We’re *all* at-risk users on a bicycle.

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      • Steve B. February 17, 2016 at 1:10 pm
        • BeavertonCommuter February 17, 2016 at 3:54 pm

          What privileges do I have as a white male riding a bike? Ive been curious about this since I started visiting this website.

          What barriers currently exist that impede women, blacks, etc from getting a bike and riding it? Are these barriers something that the government can/should attempt to relieve? How so?

          Seriously… These are asked in good faith. I don’t understand why people believe that white males have some sort of privilege riding bikes.

          Hope you can post this…

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          • Adam H. February 17, 2016 at 4:07 pm

            Here’s a perfect example of white privilege.

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            • BeavertonCommuter February 17, 2016 at 4:15 pm

              Adam, I dont understand… The person involved was black and the cops involved were white. How is this an example of white privilege? Cops stop whites who are walking and cycling…has happened to me even.

              I think you’ve cited an example of possible police misconduct, but white privilege? Maybe I don’t understand the concept of privilege being employed here.

              I am not trolling… I really want to understand because the white privilege thing seems to be wholly accepted here as not just present, but pervasive throughout all of American society.

              Thanks…

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              • Adam H. February 17, 2016 at 4:54 pm

                Police have been shown to use excessive force far more often when the perpetrator is dark-skinned vs. light-skinned. Had this man been white, he likely would have seen far less force used upon him.

                White privilege is not just a bike thing, it exists and extends into everything we do. There is not enough room in the comment section of BikePortland to explain how systemic racism and sexism has been a cornerstone of politics and privilege in this country, so I’ll let you do your own research on the matter. My suggestion would be to listen to people’s experiences as members of marginalized groups, as it is easy to allow our place of privilege cloud our views of the world.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 17, 2016 at 10:26 am

      For the record, it’s true that biking in Portland (as elsewhere in the US) is disproportionately male – 65 percent at last count. That’s a huge problem.

      But the median income of a Portland bike commuter is about the same as the median income for all workers, and according to the Oregon Household Travel Survey, people of color in the Portland metro area take just as large a percentage of their trips by bike as white people in the area.

      That doesn’t make this a bad question. Given the lower car ownership rates among people of color or low-income people, one would hope bike use would actually be higher in those groups.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • Adam H. February 17, 2016 at 10:38 am

        65% male is actually a lot closer to 50/50 than I was expecting. How does this compare to other US cities?

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    • patrick barber February 17, 2016 at 11:23 am

      This was my question too– in addition to improving the resilience of our transportation networks, what can the candidate do to make the transportation system more equitable and accessible to all?

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      • BeavertonCommuter February 17, 2016 at 4:05 pm

        Don’t we have to establish first that:

        There is a lack of accessibility; then that there is a role for the government to do something about it? It appears to me that we simply assume that a problem exists and then, if it does exist, we further assune that the government ought to do something about it.

        Maybe there is an accessibility problem, but how do we know? What are the signals we’re using to determine that an accessibility problem exists?

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    • Steve B. February 17, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Great question!

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  • bjorn February 16, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    Hey @Jules, why did you keep pushing for the CRC even after washington pulled out of funding it and the state treasurer warned you that the bonds shouldn’t be issued because the state probably would be unable to recoup the money through tolling?

    Hey @Ted did you ever kill a megaproject that would have led to massive increases in car traffic on surface streets near the I5 corridor by refusing to issue bonds that the state probably would be unable to recoup the cost of?

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    • paikiala February 17, 2016 at 9:36 am

      You may not have liked the proposed form of the CRC, but you can’t rationally defend that the current crossing is safe or equitable.

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      • Anne Hawley
        Anne Hawley February 17, 2016 at 10:15 am

        I don’t see any reason why a person couldn’t hold both of those positions. That’s how we get to better solutions.

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      • Chris I February 17, 2016 at 10:38 am

        Can you cite evidence that the current crossing is more dangerous than any other stretch of I-5? Also, please explain your equity statement. I’m not sure I understand how 16 general purpose freeway lanes (summing the existing I-5 and I-205 bridges) between Portland and Vancouver is not equitable.

        What about the Terwilliger curves? I’m certain that stretch of I-5 has a higher rate of crashes. Does that mean we should spend $2 billion to straighten it out by building a tunnel?

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        • Adam H. February 17, 2016 at 10:43 am

          It’s not equitable because there is no light rail over the Columbia and the bus service that is offered is far from adequate. An equitable bridge would have at least dedicated lanes for buses, and ideally light rail. The bike route over the Interstate Bridge(s) is substandard, as well.

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        • paikiala February 17, 2016 at 11:46 am

          An equitable bridge would provide safe passage for both pedestrians and cyclists. Light rail should be on another bridge.

          Have you driven over the I-5 bridge lately? 1 foot does not a safe shoulder make.

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          • Chris I February 17, 2016 at 4:03 pm

            I agree that the bridges will need to be replaced eventually. The CRC was a monster project that did much more than that. Simply replacing the bridges shouldn’t cost more than $1 billion.

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  • rachel b February 17, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Please address PBOT’s acquiescence to ODOT demands, agreeing to removal of the bike lanes on SE 26th “in the name of Vision Zero and safety”

    What role do you think freight/business interests (i.e. UPRR) played in this demand/decision?

    What real, practical recourse do neighbors in SE have in these grave quality of life and air issues?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Eric Leifsdad February 17, 2016 at 12:56 am

    It’s hard to feel safe on a bike when there’s such lax enforcement of traffic laws. Is Portland able to fund traffic enforcement with ticket revenue?

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    • paikiala February 17, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Portland only gets a minority of the final citation amount. Most goes to the state and the county court system. And the Legislature sets the citation amounts and how much judges can reduce them.

      Tripling the staffing of the traffic division may help.

      Revenue from citations is a slippery slope. Safety should be the main goal (getting drunks off the road, reducing speeding, etc.), so breaking even on staffing would be a secondary goal, and people frequently rebel against enforcement to make money.

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      • Eric Leifsdad February 17, 2016 at 11:08 am

        It seems to work well in Beaverton. Maybe Portland should write more tickets in Washington county.

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        • paikiala February 17, 2016 at 11:48 am

          New to the area? Beaverton has a municipal court. Portland is not allowed to have a court (quirk of history), and doesn’t want to pay for one anyway.

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          • Eric Leifsdad February 17, 2016 at 5:17 pm

            Just off boat. Haven’t gone to metro area legal system orientation yet. Interesting, “is not allowed” by what authority?

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      • Dan A February 18, 2016 at 6:45 am

        People are funny. They want enforcement for the things they are opposed to, but they don’t want to pay for additional police, and they don’t want the police to pay for themselves through ticketing.

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  • Slug February 17, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Both links go to the questionnaire.

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  • Granpa February 17, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Why are we asking them questions? shouldn’t they be asking us questions?
    Do they realize that cyclists get menaced (or assaulted) on the road frequently? Do they understand how counter intuitive some of the bike infrastructure is? Recent experience with local politicians demonstrates that they have no idea what cycling is like.

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley February 17, 2016 at 10:14 am

      Posing these questions might at least make them aware of a subject they should be asking questions about themselves.

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  • jered February 17, 2016 at 8:42 am

    “tell me about your plan to make Portland the best city for Mountain Biking in the USA.” – crickets.

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  • rick February 17, 2016 at 8:43 am

    When will the Willamette Shore Trolley become a trail?

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  • MaxD February 17, 2016 at 9:09 am

    “What is your vision for the City, what big goals will you work toward?” I asked Hales that at a house party-thing and he replied with promises of being a good manager and getting Portland’s financial house in order, blah blah blah -paternalistic crap. I know it is a vague question, but it is important for a mayor to at least lead toward something, a vision of our future that is exciting and people can support. Hales was so micro-focussed that he missed all the big picture stuff- losing momentum in bike transportation, not expanding renter’s rights, traffic violations blowing up because of little enforcement, rents skyrocketing, homelessness skyrocketing. He had no strategic leadership and focused too much on balancing books.

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley February 17, 2016 at 10:13 am

      Hales didn’t seem to have been micro-focused only on the budget spreadsheet, but on Not Being Sam Adams, or maybe on Erasing Sam Adams.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • rh February 17, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Simple Question. Numerous global studies show that the return on investment for bike infrastructure is extremely high. When will you start using taxpayer money to take advantage of this?

    http://bikeportland.org/2014/11/19/study-dollar-dollar-bike-infrastructure-pays-better-road-maintenance-113616

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  • paikiala February 17, 2016 at 9:43 am

    What are your plans to implement the 2030 Bike Plan?
    (do you even know what that is?)

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  • Brad February 17, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Why not ask hard, tangible questions instead of the usual vague policy stuff that can be “answered” with additional vague language?

    For example, “It’s 2018. Please describe in detail the safest and fastest way to commute from my home in Lents to my job in downtown via bicycle?”.

    “I’m a woman riding the Springwater Corridor to outer SE and the sun is starting to set. Am I safe on this path or should I take busy surface streets to avoid the homeless encampments along the trail?”

    “My child wishes to ride his bike to school at Rieke Elementary. Will there be a protected or separated path along Capitol Highway in the next two years so that I, as a parent, can feel safer about letting him do so?”.

    Don’t allow politicians to simply spout wonk speak! We’ve had too much of that and not enough real infrastructure and safety changes in recent years.

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  • Cory P February 17, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I would want to ask if they will put the parking of private vehicles in the right of way over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

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  • Jim Lee February 17, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Response to David Hampsten and Anne Hawley:

    Having spent an adult life doing theory in physics, I actually know things:

    The geometric mean of speed of pedestrians and motorists in cities is 10 miles/hour, so the speed of a motorist relative to the speed of a cyclist is the same as the speed of a cyclist relative to the speed of a pedestrian. It is the central fact for integrating cars, bikes, peds in cities. Bet you did not know that.

    A fixed-gear drive train can generate 30% more torque and power than a free-wheel drive train. Any theoretical physicist knows that is so because of the difference between a scleronomous holonomic constraint and a rheonomous holonomic constraint. Archibald Sharp knew this in 1896, but you probably do not have his book in your library.

    Why do you ride free-wheel chain-flipping bicycles with 27 more-or-less different speeds? Does it make you 27 times faster than me on my fixie? Have you calculated the torque characteristic of the human animal pedaling a bike? Not very smart, are you.

    I have been involved in doings of Portland’s City Council for four decades, so I know more about how our city works than you do. Let me tell you about my role in the Performing Arts Center fiasco in the 1980s sometime. I was right when everyone in the City was wrong, because I am a member of the Acoustical Society of America and have a very good theory of the acoustics of orchestras and concert halls.

    In general, candidates are smarter than voters–sometimes much smarter.

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    • paikiala February 17, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’ – William Shakespeare, As You Like It.

      Maybe look up the word hubris, while you’re at it.

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  • Dan A February 17, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    English-threaded or BB30?

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    • matt February 17, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Right-threaded Answer: Italian or French
      Left-threaded Answer: English
      Press’ Answer: PF30
      Centrist Answer: BB386EVO

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  • Mike February 23, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    The link for the BTA evening event mentioned here, “Transportation Alliance is hosting an evening event” points to the questionairre linked to here, ” Bike Walk Vote released the 2016 candidates’ questionnaire ”

    Is there an actual BTA evening event?

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