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Expert lays out road map to making cycling “irresistible”

Posted by on November 9th, 2007 at 10:57 am

John Pucher
(Photo: Rutgers)

Noted bicycle and pedestrian advocate, speaker, and Rutgers University Professor John Pucher has just written a new paper (to be published by the Oxford University journal Transport Reviews in July 2008) that might be the road map Portland takes to becoming a truly world-class bike city.

The paper, titled Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany (download PDF, 1MB), outlines the policies and practices those European cities have embraced that have allowed them to become places where going by bike is safe and convenient enough for everyone–not just the hearty and committed.

With Portland on the brink of a sea-change in the way our city plans for (and promotes) bicycle use, Pucher’s ideas and examples from leading European cities are timely. They’re also gaining notice by the leaders of Portland’s bicycle movement. Pucher recently spoke at Portland State University and he is highly respected by many local planners and engineers.

Pucher’s finding from Europe — especially their use of separated bike facilities — echo PDOT’s current bike infrastructure philosophies recently laid out in a white paper by City bike coordinator Roger Geller.

Here’s an excerpt from the abstract of Pucher’s paper:

“The key to achieving high levels of cycling appears to be the provision of separate cycling facilities along heavily traveled roads and at intersections, combined with traffic calming of most residential neighborhoods. Extensive cycling rights of way in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany are complemented by ample bike parking, full integration with public transport, comprehensive traffic education and training of both cyclists and motorists, and a wide range of promotional events intended to generate enthusiasm and wide public support for cycling.”

“Cycling conditions in most countries—including the UK and USA—are anything but safe, convenient, and attractive.”
–John Pucher

In the paper, Pucher has also noted that these European countries make driving expensive as well as inconvenient in central city areas. They do this through a host of taxes and restrictions on car ownership, use, and parking. Also noted are strict land use policies, developments that generate shorter, more bikeable trips.

Pucher then compares what he calls the “marginal status” of cycling in the UK and the USA.

Portland does get mentioned in the paper (see pages 31-32). Pucher writes that Portland “probably has the country’s most successful bicycling program.”

And for those of who who think we’ll never reach the status of these bike-centric countries, or that they’re somehow genetically predisposed to riding bikes, consider this statement from Pucher:

“Cycling levels plummeted in all three countries from about 1950 to 1975…It was only through a massive reversal in transport and urban planning policies in the mid 1970s that cycling was revived to its current successful state”

Are we on the brink of a “massive reversal” or will we continue to trudge along, making encouraging, yet tiny steps toward the future we want (and need)?

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I could not agree less about the use of separation for cycling.

    I thought that we were in the process of \”Sharing the Road\”, and separation, in anyway beyond multi use paths off roads and bike lanes, is a serious mistake, and about as far from \”Sharing the Road\” as possible.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) November 9, 2007 at 11:05 am


    Please understand this is not about an either/or solution!

    It is possible to have both separated and mixed facilities.

    Sharing the road is great and important and we continue to work on that… but the fact is that we must find ways to make cycling safer and more convenient for a much broader part of the population than our current bikeway system provides. It\’s all about the \”interested but concerned\”.

    and by the way, I just changed the title to put less emphasis on the separated facilities aspect.

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    DO November 9, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Also, Dabby, people who would never consider riding a bike in a mixed environment, and therefore do not ride now, will be welcomed to use the system.

    I spent some time riding in the Flanders region of Belgium last summer. Mothers, children, the elderly, people in business suits; they generally stuck to the [mostly] separated paths. Racer types (and there sure are a lot over there) often took the road. Drivers, apparently being used to the situation, didn\’t seem to mind. Granted, it helped that the speed limits were generally low enough that the faster cyclists were often held up by auto traffic, not vice-versa.

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    Kris November 9, 2007 at 11:26 am

    I echo Jonathan on this… None of the European countries mentioned in the study (nor any other ones for that matter) rely exclusively on separated bike facilities. It just wouldn\’t be practical nor feasible.

    But separated bike lanes (or cycle paths) along busy arterials – in the cities and even more so in the suburbs – does give more people the feeling that cycling is a safe option. As far as I can tell, it definitely gets more people riding their bikes, especially kids and the elderly.

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    Joe November 9, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Now only if i can not let the car-a-tudes
    effect me.. (aka think less of a cyclist)
    example: We ride instead of drive ,, hmm
    what a concept.. you must not have money if you arent a slave to the auto

    so biking is free and used by the open
    minded.. cars are ok, but whats inside
    them is the hang-up ( me people )

    ride safe in the wet. 🙂

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 11:52 am

    While I understand that not all facilities would be separated, and it does work well in European countries, I stand by my convictions.

    We are in Portland, once again, not Europe.

    We have multi use paths, that are off the roads.

    We have some bike lanes.

    We have a irritated driving public, that will worsen with the funding of cycle tracks, and other space grabbing ideas.

    We simply need to make the roads that we share safe for everyone to walk on, ride on, and drive on, together.

    Of course it is not about a full separation. I am a thinking man, and this much I know.

    My main point is:

    We need to focus on the reality of the situation.

    Our roads do not need to be rebuilt in order to accommodate cycling.

    Re-striped? Yes.

    Repaved in some areas? Yes.

    Rebuilt? No.

    Our public needs to be retrained long before our roads are rebuilt, which is part of what any even small amount of separation would entail.

    Thinking big and grand and European is all well.

    I am thinking Portland.

    And right now, in Portland, we have a big problem.

    Our ridership has grown beyond what we can manage.

    Before we need to move on in manners such as this, that are meant to encourage more cyclists to be on the road, we have to be able to protect the people already pedaling down them.

    At this point we are far from that.

    Many of the new riders we have now will soon be moving out of bike lanes, into traffic.

    I think the main focus here, above and beyond encouraging new ridership, is taking care of the people we already have on the road.

    I am sure you people can understand my point here.

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    Bjorn November 9, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    I\’d like to see some sort of improvement in bicycle facility on Sandy. By removing on street parking we could create separated bike facilities on the street. I normally ride sandy when I am heading towards downtown but I\’m less likely to ride it back up the hill as I keep up with traffic going down the hill but not coming back up. I\’ve had people ask me why I ride Sandy, the answer is an easy one, riding from home to downtown I save 2.5 miles by taking sandy and avoid lots of residential streets that have stop signs. It is easily 15+ minutes faster to go by sandy but many people don\’t feel comfortable because of the level of traffic, the traffic speed and inability of drivers to share the road with a bicyclist. People often pass at a very close distance rather than just moving over to the left lane even at times when few vehicles are using the road. Streets like this are ripe for the type of separated bike path discussed by Mr. Pucher in my opinion, especially in the uphill direction where the amount of time saved by riding the diagonal is even greater.

    Sandy could also benefit greatly from having the traffic lights in the hollywood area retimed for a slower rate of speed allowing cyclists to go through without stopping and slowing car traffic through this pedestrian corridor.


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    Nelson Muntz November 9, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Another \”pie-in-the-sky\” idea with no roots in pragmatic thinking. This is the United States of America and not Belgium, The Netherlands, or Denmark. Good luck finding politicians willing to raise taxes to build many miles of cycling-only infrastructure or create special punitive taxes on drivers. Europeans is used to this but Americans would rebel at the notion. Want to turn downtown Portland into a ghost town? Pass a congestion pricing / commuter tax / motor vehicle fee and watch businesses flee to the \’burbs.

    Portland does not have the subway network of London or Paris. It does not have centuries old narrow streets and neighborhoods like Amsterdam. It is an American city with wide boulevards and highways with neighborhoods planned around the automobile. Cars and trucks are not going away. They will be fueled by something other than gasoline but they will not disappear.

    Dabby is right. Sharing the road, educating both drivers and riders, and adjusting existing laws and road infrastructure to the benefit of cyclists makes more sense. It is a lower cost solution and more politically expedient. Specialized cyclist infrastructure? Secure bike parking, showers and changing facilities, better racks and hooks on Tri-Met are better options than separated lanes.

    Let\’s also be honest about why people don\’t ride. It isn\’t because they feel unsafe. I suspect it has more to do with eight months of wet cold weather in Portland and Americans love of comfort and convenience. (Nothing like a nice warm SUV with heated leather seats, surround sound stereo, and holders for that steaming double latte and scone purchased at the Starbuck\’s drive through window!)

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    Anon November 9, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    I\’d like to echo AO\’s thoughts here regarding the usage of the separated bikelanes. I feel like some of the European Utopia sentiments on this site have been off base at times. The system of separated roads doesn\’t make things perfect. In many circumstances I find it actually makes them more confusing. (I\’m personally more comfortable riding here in Portland than in Copenhagen)

    I\’ve spent many months cycling in the cities mentioned here, and I\’ve found that the cyclists who ride most similar to me (club riders, messengers, etc) ride the same way I ride: they ride in the street much of time, they pause at intersections and proceed through red lights when it\’s safe and makes sense, they pass and are passed by cars with few problems, they ride on whichever side of the road makes sense depending on traffic circumstances, etc.

    In short, they break the letter of the law often but they \”share the road\” effectively.

    But these cities DO have the cycling infrastructure that allows people who are not comfortable riding that way to stay separated and safe. Which brings cycling numbers up. Which gets drivers more comfortable with cyclists. Which (hopefully) allows more skilled riders to ride rationally. In the street.

    My fear about the direction is that Portland, still in the infancy of this change, will use the separated bikelanes as an excuse to be angry at the cyclists that choose not to use them (which doesn\’t seem to be much of an issue in Europe).

    So Dabby, even if they separate the roads, I\’ll still be in the street. But hopefully there will be fewer cars there with me.

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    Qwendolyn November 9, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    The thing to do is be smart about where you put things like \”separate cycling\” facilities.

    For example, they are probably a good idea on a street like Powell, or East Burnside, or Northeast 122nd Ave.

    Then, on residential streets, put in the bike boulevards.

    Find the juste milieu, as the french would say.

    Avoid the false dichotomy,

    and always always always look for the happy medium.

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I agree with the idea also that with a separation, of any manner ( even the suggestion of, as is what a bike lane is), comes the reality that we will not legally be allowed on the road along side the separation.

    This is plainly obvious with the Portland Police stance on leaving the bike lane.

    They, and I believe a ticket or two has been handed out for this, enforce the idea that if there is a bike lane on the road, you have to be riding in it.

    It takes a hazard to legally be riding outside any bike lane in the city of Portland. And while a hazard to one of us is one thing, convincing the police that it is, will be entirely another.

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    Cøyøte November 9, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Let\’s see, Jonathon posted the story at 10:57, and Dabby was shooting it down at 11:03. Nice, I am impressed that you took 6 minutes to read the 56 page report and thoughfully ponder the man\’s ideas. Or were you just being dogmatic?

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    Jason November 9, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Weighing in on the whole \”separate but equal\” thing…

    Although I welcome separate facilities in certain situations (think the I-205 or US-26 bike paths), separate facilities can also cause problems. First of all, they don\’t get the same type of maintenance or safety patrolling of streets.

    Second, by definition, the separation means that they go different places by different routes. This means that navigation or access to destinations can end up being a confusion, especially to inexperienced riders.

    To finish on a complete tangent (grin), I think the real difference between Portland and these European cities is the drivers: motorists here.

    Those of us who are killed by strangers are twice as likely to be killed via their automobile than by any other device. This attitude is completely reprehensible and disgusting, and as long as people like Mark Kroger feel it is acceptable to ignore this type of American violence, cycling is going to be in trouble.

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    Spencer November 9, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    1. Dabby, well articulated. We often get into this \”well Europe does it mentality\” with-out a clear understanding what history/social developments led to their current system. For example, Amsterdam is FLAT, has really small streets, densely packed urban area to maximize outlying agricultural areas.

    2. I think it is fine to look for other examples, but lets be innovative and come up with our own system. Lets not just jump on a planning bandwagon, but define it based upon our geographic, economic and cultural context. Ie. bike elevator in the west hills, covered bike thorough fares, bike freeways connecting the suburban areas to the downtown.

    3. Put things into perspective so the public understand the concept. For example separate bike lanes. We are not talking about separate bike lanes on the majority of streets, but rather creating a few high flow arterials to better regulate bicycle traffic and overall reduce the amount of traffic. This will result in faster transit times for both drivers and riders.

    4. At some point realize that bike behavior will need to become as regulated as car behavior. This will be driven by the number of bicycle riders and proximity to heavy concentrations of traffic. No riding on either side of the street.

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    Stripes November 9, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Nelson – #9

    Sure, the weather doesn\’t help, but you are incorrect in your asumption Portlanders feel safe on the roads, and would feel safe bicycling.

    The City of Portland\’s Office of Transportation\’s own survey data found that 60% of Portlanders who currently do not ride a bike, would ride a bicycle, if it were safe.

    In annual citywide surveys, concerns with traffic safety have consistently been rated highest by citizens, out of top neighborhood concerns.

    Over the last 10 years, 378 people died and 2,662 people were seriously injured in crashes involving a motor vehicle on Portland’s streets. Of the traffic fatalities, 40% were pedestrians and bicyclists.

    Making cycling safe is absolutely key to increasing cycling numbers and getting that 60% demographic of Portlanders who don\’t currently bicycle, but would like to, out there on a bike.

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    Logan 5 November 9, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks Nelson, #8, good points. I do think that people will gladly accept more bike or bike/ped only roads if it gets those users off of busier arterials. True, many roads are built for bikes but I think many of the roads that are currently designated as bike boulevards could easily have physically separated bike lanes of a 10 feet or so and still allow for auto movement.

    Most of the people I know who don\’t bike enjoy and understand the benefits that are reaped by having such a large contingent of bike riders. But they also want to be respected in their choice of their own mode of transportation. And that doesn\’t mean being forced to do 10MPH on a street built for 40.

    And another reason that people ride cars, and perhaps the biggest one for me, is that it allows many to live in areas not covered by mass transit or within biking distance to their work.

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    Steven J. November 9, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    There will always be a need for some integration of cars and Bicycles, especially in the more rural areas. Just getting to a \”boulevard for bikes\” will require some level of co-existence.

    from Gresham to Hillsboro, Vancouver to Wilsonville, Much like freeways for cars.
    Bikes will need separated arterials, based on the same logic and traffic patterns.

    3 east west passages are nearly already built.
    southern route could be Springwater Corridor from Gresham to Hawthorn Br.
    A path could also be placed along the Blue line of tri-met
    3rd (or North)could encompass marine drive from Troutdale to terminal 6 (kelly point park)
    Springwater would need work with not only it\’s surface, but areas around Johnson creek Blvd, and the connection to
    the Sellwood Br.
    Marine dr. would need attention near I-5.
    Tri-Met could also help out by allowing bikes & riders to ride the tunnel from Goose hollow to sunset )through the Mountain) for a reduced fare, yearly pass, or free. (they say they\’re green..but are they?)

    This leaves the North and south corridors to be connected, forming a grid
    for commuters to use, these need separation. Period..for the time being.

    In Europe..yes Europe, kids are raised from youngsters on & around bikes. Portland is at least a generation away from anything near this.

    lets see… education a generation away.
    Laws not being enforced by our pubic officials
    Salem refusing to curtail anything that even remotely resembles automobile drivers having to pay attention to the road.

    Yeah…give me separation.
    when I fudge a red, or roll through an intersection, I\’m not doing it because I feel superior.

    I\’m doing it to put distance between me and that soccer mom on a cell phone.

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    Qwendolyn November 9, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    One thing that just occured to me:

    Portland is not geographically isolated in the sense that it would not be unlikely to meet people who just moved here from elsewhere in the country.

    So that, culturally in Portland, you are always getting an infusion of car-centric-ness

    Whereas in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany if people move about within their own country they don\’t bring car-centric culture to bike-centric cities.

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 1:09 pm


    \”Let\’s see, Jonathon posted the story at 10:57, and Dabby was shooting it down at 11:03.\”

    This is not a new idea,(what is referenced in the article) to this site, or to any of us.

    Your idea of \”shooting something down\”, is my idea of creating \”a discussion through alternative thought process\”.

    It would be great if we were sheep, and just all agreed with everything.(insert sarcasm here)

    I prefer to have a few wolves around, and the ever protective sheepdogs, to keep everyone on top of things.

    That is how things work best.

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    BURR November 9, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    I\’m with Dabby on this, the US is not Europe, and unless there is a vast change in motorist attitude, one that PDOT and the city apparently have no interest in helping to bring about, judging by the lack of effective motorist reeducation programs, separated cycling facilities will mean banning cyclists from the roads and forcing them into segregated facilities that are demonstrably of substandard design.

    Also, since significant numbers of parking spaces continue to be added to the downtown core with every new residential or commercial highrise that is built, the number of motorists competing with cyclists for space on the roads is continuing to grow, not shrink. Where is the space for separated \’cycle tracks\’ going to be carved out of already congested downtown streets or the arterials leading into downtown like Broadway/Wiedler, Sandy, Burnside, Belmont, Hawthorne, Division, Powell or McGlothlin Boulevards???

    It\’s a wonderful fantasy, folks, but it\’s not going to happen here.

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    a.O November 9, 2007 at 1:17 pm


    How do you know the ideas are not new? Coyote already demonstrated that it was impossible for you to have actually read what is being proposed and why.

    And if you\’re interested in promoting discussion, you\’d have read his ideas, thought about the strengths and weaknesses, and posted a thoughtful analysis of them. Instead you just say, \”No. Bad idea. Won\’t work. Not necessary.\”

    You don\’t like what you think are the ideas because you don\’t like the \”separation\” idea. But you never read his argument, which is based on *actual data* by the way, for how separation has improved safety.

    That\’s not discussion. That\’s spouting the same dogma over and over again.

    Here\’s an example of something that promotes discussion:

    Before we need to move on in manners such as this, that are meant to encourage more cyclists to be on the road, we have to be able to protect the people already pedaling down them.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that it\’s possible to do both at the same time? And that reforms that encourage more people to bicycle will make the roads safer for everyone?

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    Cøyøte November 9, 2007 at 1:21 pm


    How do you know it is not a new idea unless you read the paper? Perhaps there is something that Professor Pucher discovered, or perhaps a different justification, or some original research, or perhaps a nuance of an idea that you have not thought of yet. Is that possible? Isn\’t that one of the purposes of academic research?

    Things work best when people use their brain before opening their mouth.

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    John R November 9, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    The greatest difference I\’ve noticed in cycling in Europe and the US is the level of respect given to other road users by motorists. When my wife and I rode our tandem for a month for 1200 miles across the south of France (on our own, not a supported tour), we were NEVER, not even once, cut off, intimidated, or honked at in anger or frustration. I distintly remember grinding up one particular a hill at about 3 mph on a narrow road with no place to pull off while a string of cars stacked up behind us. When each finally found a safe place to pass, the driver pulled over as far as he could, gave a quick toot! and blasted past. Most waved and shouted encouragement! Sounds just like Portland, huh? With that kind of respect for other road users, sharing is equally as good as separate facilities.

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    Todd Waddell November 9, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    First, Jonathan, thanks for passing along such a thorough presentation of the issues and alternatives.

    Second, to the separation issue, I would simply say, compare the death and injury statistics and then tell me that separation doesn\’t have significant benefits for increasing ridership.

    Further, I don\’t buy the argument that it is impossible or unrealistic to think that we can have such extensive separate facilities here. It won\’t happen tomorrow, but it can happen, especially in Portland.

    Third, is there anyway we can get the city council to approve priority use by cyclists (i.e. where bikes are \”given absolute traffic priority over cars\”) for Portland\’s bike boulevards?

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) November 9, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    It\’s very important to keep in mind that the way forward for Portland will include a myriad of solutions.

    And like Roger Geller has said, \”We will become a world-class bicycling city in an American context.\”

    I agree that we should not simply mimic these countries…but to ignore how they achieved success, and to be fearful of experimentation and innovation would be a big mistake.

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    Qwendolyn November 9, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    That paper is dated November 5th.

    Today is November 9th.

    For those not so quick at the maths, that means Dabby had over 4 days to read the paper.

    C\’mon. Give a guy the benefit of the doubt.

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    Elly November 9, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    I\’m not sure we have to embrace a grand theory of separated bike paths or Europeanness in order to make bike-only lanes work for us. Maybe if we talked about these in terms of concrete examples?

    For instance, they work okay on the Hawthorne and Broadway Bridges and the esplanade (they\’d all work better if separated from people walking). I could also see these working really well on streets like Powell, where there are relatively well-spaced high-traffic intersections, and where regular bike lanes or riding with car traffic would be way too scary to contemplate.

    They might be less effective on Foster or Sandy with all those complicated intersections, but maybe there\’s a solution there.

    On the one hand, I prefer to have everyone on the same roads, looking out for each other. But on the other, it is so much nicer to ride low-traffic streets.

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 1:49 pm


    I have not read the report. In fact, I probably am not going to for a while. I have a big reading list, \”stack\” already that I am behind on. I am sure when it is released in 2008, I will have a copy in print, and put it on the stack.

    Portland, sadly, will still not be in the position to apply new ideas to it\’s streets.

    I would like to know that our city is being responsible enough to fix the problems we have, before adding new ones, such as any combination of separating/sharing roads. (completely a oxymoron)

    While it may be possible, as you ask, to try to encourage more cyclists at the same time as making roads safer, it is obviously unsuccessful.

    It is also turning out to be deadly.

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    One last thing.
    You will notice I in no manner stated that I am against the ideas contained within this report, which I am gracious enough to admit not even reading.

    I did however state,and very clearly, that I am against the whole principal of a separation/shared concept.

    There is a distinct difference.

    I have been against this idea for a very long time, yet still discuss the possibilities, just maybe not in the matter that some of you would prefer.

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    McMeier November 9, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    As an aside, for anyone who may be interested, Professor Pucher recently gave a lecture at PSU\’s Center for Transportation Studies.

    Center for Transportation Studies Seminar

    The entire lecture, including the question and answer portion at the end, runs for about 1.5 hours. He addresses many of the same topics from his paper, quite enthusiastically, I might add.

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    McMeier November 9, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Looks like my link doesn\’t work. Here\’s the address, just in case:

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    10 dollars November 9, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    i have ten imaginary dollars for the next person who points out that portland is not in europe.

    real helpful, thank you.

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    Joe November 9, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Steven J.
    November 9th, 2007 12:53 17There will always be a need for some integration of cars and Bicycles, especially in the more rural areas. Just getting to a \”boulevard for bikes\” will require some level of co-existence.

    from Gresham to Hillsboro, Vancouver to Wilsonville, Much like freeways for cars.
    Bikes will need separated arterials, based on the same logic and traffic patterns.
    very well put.. this is really outside of the box thinking..

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    vespa November 9, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Dabby – I think your distinction is rather small. However, I respect your opinion. And your right to have one different than my own.

    Nevertheless, I fail to understand (and hence, would like to discuss) how anyone could be against separate facilities on major cycling thoroughfares that currently have a high level of automobile traffic. Whether it is by way of reference to Europe or a new original idea, transportation infrastructure change is a longterm planning exercise that involves changing the public\’s perception of transportation. Light rail, water taxies, street cars, walking, bicycles – whatever your alternative mode of transportation – all fit into, or will all fit into, the larger scheme of our transportation needs.

    Forty years ago, if you had said at a town meeting that a new rail line was going to go through downtown streets, and link together the communities of Hillsboro, Beaverton, Milwaukie, and Gresham, I\’m sure there would have been quite a bit of skepticism. Now that\’s such a system is built, there still is some skepticism. But the public\’s perception of transportation changed over time and the rail lines continue to be successful (much more success will follow when peak oil hits IMHO).

    Sure, placing barriers on current city streets in order to separate bicycles from cars is not going to happen. And doing so won\’t fix the current public debate about safety between cyclists and automobile drivers. But failing to look at dedicated cycling thoroughfares as a possible arrow in the transportation quiver is rather short-sided. Especially as future transportation needs change and cycling becomes a larger part of our region\’s transportation matrix.

    I don\’t think (although I have yet to read the article either), or highly doubt, that the author is promoting that the US change its infrastructure to be identical to Europe. Rather, my guess is that, as a cycling advocate, he is elaborating on the public perception of cycling in those countries as a serious mode of transportation, in an effort to argue that we in the US could learn a few lessons. Lessons that will be valuable in the future.

    That being said, I think there are several existing cycling arteries that could support a separate lane right now, and I think more people would commute by bicycle as a result. And IMHO, the riders using those arteries would be safer.

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    Zaphod November 9, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Adding separate infrastructure will increase ridership. As those new riders gain confidence, they will naturally broaden their route selection to include shared roads. This, in turn, will increase motorist awareness and the cycle (sorry ;^)) continues in a positive way.

    I fail to see a downside in having some routes be car free. Consider not Amsterdam or other European cities but Boulder, Colorado where an amazing and beautiful network of separated routes make for fast and pleasurable cross town routes. Many of these have specific underpasses over busy arterial streets so the cyclist flows past on a completely different plane. It\’s unbelievably cool.

    The existence of the Boulder network does not preclude riders from cycling on the surface streets as well. Motorists aren\’t honking and yelling, \”get on the path.\” It is an elegant solution that works with no downside from a functional point of view.

    The only difficulty in implementation is cost and the land use issues that face any capital improvement. Boulder is certainly a very affluent town. They didn\’t marginally invest here, they executed really well as the paths aren\’t just functional, they\’re beautiful with landscaping, art, furniture, higher end surface treatments and other upgrades.

    I\’m not suggesting that we go out and emulate Boulder, just using them as an example of what can happen in a place that\’s culturally similar enough to continue the dialog.

    All changes will happen over time so we can simply look to the past for appropriate data. Consider the Esplanade along the east side of the Willamete. This route is a commuter freeway and when my travels involve a destination below MLK, I usually opt for this safe and pleasant route. Do I get harassed by drivers if I take a surface street route? No.

    Even with our recent tragedies, lets not forget that PDX culture accepts bikes today and, this is particularly important, the culture of acceptance is increasing. The idea that our options will decrease seems incorrect. It just won\’t happen.

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    Donald November 9, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I work for a Belgian company and was just back at HQ for my first visit this summer.

    From what I saw, the suburbs of Brussels are no more or less bike friendly than PDX. The subway had great space for bikes, but I never saw any using it.

    I do feel we get Europe\’s models tossed up as a feel-good catch-all possible solutions a bit much. And it always feels like it\’s just too easy to say \”Let\’s do it like them!\”

    What works there may or may not work here. Heck, a bike solution that works in Rawlins Wyoming might or might not work in Portland.

    I\’m always much more happy when I feel a proposed solution is local-specific rather than just a cut/paste.

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    Mmann November 9, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    I\’m trying to keep an open mind here and remember the simplicity of the core issue.
    Is there a bike/car transportation problem in Portland? I think those of us who bike can certainly agree there is. Solutions? They have to exist. I\’m finding dabby\’s \”pragmatism\” just a little too pessimistic for my taste. Not unreasonable, just pessimistic. Millions of dollars WILL be spent on Portland\’s transportation infrastructure, the question is how. Sure it\’s a car-centric design, and it\’s not going to become Amsterdam. But bikes are going to be a bigger part of the picture and should be a bigger part of the budget. The reality is that in the core of the city, it makes more sense to use a bike or mass transit, if you just consider the cost of parking and gas, the air quality, and the time it takes to get from point A to point B (and park). Promoting bikes is promoting livibility. That\’s a draw for Portland and a win-win for us all. And for that reason alone I do not believe the doom-and-gloom scenario or businesses fleeing the core for the burbs. Especially not with gas prices continuing north.

    I also disagree that safety isn\’t an issue for drivers who are potential riders. It\’s not all about the comfort of an SUV. Comfort is relative, and if we were paying the true cost of gasoline (unsubsidized cost – estimated by some to be around $7.00/gallon) like they do in Europe, the dusty bike in the back of the garage starts to look a whole lot more \”comfortable\”. I think it\’s possible to make this city safer for cyclist, and in some situations that may mean have have to give up something – some parking spaces, some streets, whatever. If bikes become a bigger percentage of traffic, that makes sense – they should get a bigger percentage of the pavement.

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    Phil Hanson (aka Pedalphile) November 9, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Pucher\’s treatise shows us that there is a \”silver bullet\” solution for making bicycle transportation popular among the masses. It also shows us that the silver bullet is made of alloy consisting of many constituents. Now it\’s time for the movers and shakers to start thinking outside the buns, and to start implementing the best of these ideas while retaining enough flexibility to make changes when changes are warranted.

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    Mike Perrault November 9, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Dabby, you should skim through the article sooner rather than later. At least if you\’re interested in being a part of a working dialogue. In the article Pucher points out that as cycling populations increase, cycling safety also increases. Safety in numbers. Maybe Portland is reaching the oft-intoned Critical Mass? Maybe soon there will be enough cyclists that motorists understand how to react. Now, I think the time is over for cyclist bitching. We\’ve got to step it up as a community and ride responsibily, giving motorists nothing to bitch about. We lose credibility every time a cyclist blows through a stop sign or rides the wrong way down the street or pushes through pedestrians on the sidewalks.

    Read the article Dabby, it might be a bit too optimistic for your tastes, but maybe you\’ll be better informed as well. 🙂

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    I really have stated some very valid points as to why I feel separation, or especially a combination of shared/ separated bicycle travel, on our roadways is not a good idea for us here in Portland, at any time in the near future.

    One day, we may be ready for just that.

    But the amount of work that I see needs to be accomplished between now and then is huge.

    What is even more frustrating are the claims that people think we are at the point of being a \”Platinum Status\” city.
    This is a wonderful term for politicians and others to throw out there, making all seem rosy. (Oh the irony of that word \”Rosie\” recently)

    I see us as (though beyond most other American cities) just having discovered the wheel, and we are still dealing with the consequences of that, as is recently obvious.

    We are really going to have to dig deep, in order to even reach Clay status, in my opinion. (that was my play on words for the evening)

    I have the highest hopes that we work out our issues, issues that include but are certainly not limited to leadership, enforcement, public awareness, and an actual concern for everyone on our roadways, no matter what mode of transportation they may choose.

    Until then, our roads are really not safe enough to encourage more commuters, more families, or much of anyone else to venture into a bike lane, or multi use path, places that for years have been considered safe, but obviously are not.

    I am sorry that some do not want to hear
    what is very apparent to me.

    Maybe that is my place in life, the needed voice of dissent.

    Once again, I believe that we have started down the right track recently towards fixing what ails transportation in Portland, and I very much look forward to the day when I can agree that we have actually achieved the goals necessary to safely ride, walk, skate, or drive down or across a Portland city street.

    Thanks for your time, and ride safe.

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    Kristen November 9, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Steven and Bjorn have interesting ideas; cycling doesn\’t just stop at the city limits. A LOT of cycling is done in the suburbs, and frequently from the suburbs to downtown and vice versa.

    It would be nice if a plan for increasing cycling facilities didn\’t just stop cold at the city limits, or at the edge of the downtown core; it would be nice if such a plan was implemented METRO-WIDE– that means Washington County, Multnomah County, and Clackamas County.

    Besides contentious and pretentious posters, that\’s the only problem with this site.

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    a.O November 9, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    I really have stated some very valid points…

    Sorry Dabby, but that\’s not a fact, it\’s an opinion. And a conclusion. One I do not share.

    How about you do everyone a favor and read the damn document, then post more…

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Oh A.O.,

    You make me laugh, and you don\’t read very well apparently, for whether or not you share my opinion, or my conclusions that come from them, in the quote you picked, and in the rest of that comment, I did not say I stated a fact.

    I stated I made some very valid \”points\”.

    Which I have.

    Here is a fact for you…

    The saddest part of this is that I continue to let you get under my skin…..For that I apologize to the world.

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    John Beaston November 9, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Has there been any analysis of biking in Sunriver? Sure, it\’s a resort but the separated bike facilities over there seems to attract all types of riders.

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    beth h November 10, 2007 at 12:37 am

    Okay. Here\’s my hit on all this talk of How To Make Bicycling Safer In Portland:

    It\’s very likely not everyone\’s cup of tea, and it certainly doesn\’t make me seem like I\’m on the same page with everyone else, but it\’s my own opinion and too long to paste in here. (The responses are euqally interesting and thought-provoking…)

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    knappster November 10, 2007 at 1:46 am


    Thank you for expressing your opposition to the doctrine of \”separate but equal\” in traffic.

    On some days I agree with you, and on other days I\’m not so sure.  But I do know that there is a lot of institutional interest in tinkering with the infrastructure, because there are considerable vested interests involved in that approach.

    As I mentioned before, the best situation would be one in which there is actual community and a common understanding about sharing public space.  However, capitalism tilts the society toward technological and industrial solutions instead.

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    Badazzmofo November 10, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Driving needs to be made inconvenient, expensive and socially unacceptable. Tax the bejeesus out of the zombies and install carpool and buslanes throughout the city so that buses and carpoolers can move through traffic quickly. When I ride the bus it pisses me off that it gets stuck behind a bunch of zombie lemmings, one per vehicle. A-holes.

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    J November 10, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    For an individual with so much reading backlog, Dabby sure likes to post messages!

    Maybe I\’m slow, but wouldn\’t making many of the current bike routes into mainstay bike blvd\’s be enough to steer bike traffic from auto traffic -generally? I don\’t think making changes to Powell Blvd is relevent when we have perfect streets for mass bike use a block or two on either side.

    I don\’t see comparing Portland to Europe (is Portland a continent?) or it\’s cities is not fair if we want to see success here. We need to compare Portland to Portland.

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    Cøyøte November 11, 2007 at 8:25 am

    I found Pucher\’s paper pretty fluffy. I believe his audience\’s thinking is much less sophisticated than most of the posters here. There is no detailed description or analysis of separated facilities, legal issues, enforcement, education, or other engineering controls. The paper presents anecdotal information that Northern Europe has done this and that and they are cool.

    This above is not meant to be a harsh criticism. Getting this paper published in an mainstream traffic engineering journal can only do good things. Perhaps somewhere in the depths of Ohio a light will go on above a jaded traffic engineer. \”It\’s all traffic? Hmmm, never thought of that.\”

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    Stephen November 11, 2007 at 10:15 am

    One important conclusion drawn from Pucher and Buehler\’s article; current Dutch and Danish bicycle supremacy reflects 30+ years of concerted pro-bike advocacy. Portland can not expect to become a cycling Nirvana over night . Shifting the city from auto-centered to bike-centered will be a long, hard holistic planning process.

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    Alan November 11, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Somehow everyone equates \”separate bike lanes\” with \”Europe\”. That\’s ridiculous. Here are 3 places close to Portland where I have ridden on wonderful bike paths: Eugene, Seattle, Whistler (BC). Even Portland has *some* great (and extraordinarily) popular paths: check out the East Bank Esplanade.

    I think driver and *cyclist* education needs to be discussed more. In the last 2 weeks I have been trying to retrain my driving practice so that I actually look back over my right shoulder before making a right turn. I\’ve been relying on mirrors and memory for 35 years, so this is going to take some doing…

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    Joe November 11, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Anyone see the add on KATU about cyclists and drivers thats going to air
    11/12/07? looks kinda ugly for cyclists,
    hope its not a bashing against us…

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    Cøyøte November 11, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Stephen, just to add to your thought. Not only is it 30 years of effort. It is effort from mainstream policy makers, engineers, and politicians, not a fringe element \”micro-constituency\”. American public policy is intransigent. George W. or Hillary, it is the same. Just a different face on a slightly different group of special interests.

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    Andy B from Jersey November 11, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    It\’s very interesting to see so many of people on so many blogs talking about Prof Pucher\’s paper. He\’s my adviser here at Rutgers as I study Urban Planning focusing on Bike/Ped Planning. He\’ll be so excited to hear that he\’s the headliner in the bicycle blogesphere. I also just happen to be writing this about 50 feet from his office so I\’m not gonna\’ go into a lot of details about his paper (don\’t want to get myself into trouble) but I will say a couple of things from my own experience.

    Europe is definitely different from the US in road and street design. Shoulders are rarely found on roads besides freeways and travel lanes are much narrower than in the US or Canada. This makes separated bike-lane like facilities nearly mandatory on roads with high traffic speeds and volumes (but not necessarily those in cities with slow speeds). These are not multi-use paths but parallel facilities on the same right-of-way. On busy avenues and boulevards these facilities can be handy for the less daring and experienced. I was recently riding on the Avenues in Manhattan on my folding bike during the evening and since I couldn\’t go really fast, I felt very intimidated. This is from someone with 20 years of everyday (dare I say) hardcore riding experience. This is a situation where a separated, shielded but well designed bike-lane would make things much easier and honestly safer.

    I\’ve recently hung up my high-end racing bikes for my commuting and now ride my Brompton folder and an old Ross 3-speed townbike to get to school and to run errands. I tend to ride these bikes at a slow speeds (about 10mph average) because my distances are short and since I make the trips in normal office casual cloths I don\’t want to sweat (It ends up being much quicker than taking a change of cloths and a fast bike). My point is that since I\’ve given up blasting down the avenue to school (on most days at least) I feel MUCH MUCH more vulnerable to the cars, just like any beginner must feel. This is one of the points Pucher is trying to make about of having an entire quiver of roads treatments available to those designing cycling facilities.

    Trust me there are plenty of bad bicycle-lane and cycle-track designs in Europe as there are here in the US but the realization of their failures only came about by experimentation. New, better designs are now following. They might not be ideal for the cycling enthusiast who is used to riding in traffic but they can be a godsend for the average person just using a bike to get around town and to work. Don\’t forget that most people in Europe who ride bikes for transportation DO NOT consider themselves \”cyclists\” as we do. They wouldn\’t ride if there wasn\’t a place that seemed safe for them to do so. That is the population that designers need to target if we want the modal share numbers that people see in the northern European countries. It\’s not us!

    Oh yeah. If you want to see a country with a major car culture and some kickin\’ and always improving bicycle facilities, check our Germany. Their auto industry is a much larger percentage of their GDP than ours is here in the US and they\’ve managed to turn the corner. Germany was headed down the same road to \”cartastrophy\” that has befallen us here in the US but in the late 1960\’s ideas started to change just as they are starting to do so here. Mix in some $5 per gallon gasoline into American society and the bike will become a much more appealing option to even the staunchest opponents.

    Andy B from Jersey

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    Alicia August 12, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Pucher\’s research is such a breath of fresh air! I was very unhappy to find that separated bike lanes and and bike-only roads were not part of Portland Bicycle Master Plan when I went to the discussion forum last year. It is essential that bicyclists have physical barriers they can rely on to protect them from cars in congested areas. Until that happens we will not have a truly bike-friendly city. It will never feel really safe (or pleasant) for the general public to commute by bike without physically separated bike paths on busy roads. This may be lauded as the \”Best bike city in America\” but I commute by bike here and the reality is that I am still always scared/worried/stressed out when riding because, despite my care in choosing low car-traffic routes, I know that for some part of my commute I am going to have to hope that the drivers of the tons of hurtling steel with whom I must share a narrow path are paying attention and don\’t make a mistake because if they do make a mere swerve into my lane when talking on a cell phone or whatever I could easily be dead. I often commute with my three-year-old which makes me perhaps hyper-sensitive to this issue. Cars are noisy and stinky–riding near them is like smoking cigarettes. But when I am not in fear of them running me down at any moment, I can easily ignore the noise and smell. Pucher is right that biking should be \”irresistible\” and the corner-stone will be physical barriers or bike-only roads in congested areas. As it is, on many bike paths (the white line kind) you have cars to the left of you and cars to the right. Cars are passing you and cars are parked (and parking) beside you. Cars move in and out of the bike lanes to park. How hard can it possibly be to put the parked cars and car traffic to one side and put cyclists on the other? That way parked cars act as a barrier between the bikes and the moving cars and cars don\’t have to cross the bike lane to get in and out of their parking spot. This short film from the Street Film site makes the argument much better than I can:

    And thanks to everyone for the insights and different points of view!

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