Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Summit off to an inspiring start

Posted by on April 5th, 2008 at 7:01 am

OR Bike Summit - Opening reception-4.jpg

Summit attendees gathered for an
inspiring set of speeches.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Oregon Bike Summit got officially underway last night with a healthy (and inspiring) dose of perspective.

Attendees gathered in the ball room Red Lion Hotel on the Columbia River (the I-5 bridge loomed in the background) and heard a speech by mountain biking advocate Hill Abell and a listened to a presentation by the City of Portland’s bicycle coordinator Roger Geller.

Abell is the President of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, which has transformed itself over the past decade or so into one of the most powerful advocates for biking in the country. IMBA works with their 85,000 members all over the world to educate people about sustainable trail building and to advocate for mountain bike access.

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IMBA’s Hill Abell.

Besides sharing information about their programs and letting us know that they have plans to open one of their new “IMBA Ride Centers” in Oakridge (south of Eugene) Abell stressed the importance of mountain biking as a “gateway” activity that brings people into cycling.

Abell acknowledged that some folks still don’t see how mountain biking fits into the larger context of the bicycle (as transportation) movement. He quieted that perspective by saying, “As far as we’re concerned, if you ride a bike, you’re a good person.”

Up next was PDOT’s Roger Geller.

Geller was in rare form. I’ve seen him talk numerous times in the past few months, but he brought something extra to the podium last night. His presentation was titled, “Bicycles are the low-hanging fruit,” and his basic premise was that bikes are a simple, cheap solution to many of our complex problems.

Reminiscent of Trek President John Burke’s presentation at the National Bike Summit two years ago, Geller led us through the problems we face as a nation — obesity, climate change, etc… — and than queried the crowd for what could be a solution. With an engaging mix of humor, passion, urgency and optimism, Geller made his case that bikes are the best return on our transportation investment dollar. Or, as he likes to put it, “bikes are a very cheap date.”

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Geller left the crowd buzzing.

After outlining Portland’s impressive successes, he illustrated that all the accomplishments have come via a miniscule investment and that, overall, Portland has done very little in the way of concrete engineering and infrastructure improvements specifically for bikes.

After demonstrating how much has been done with so little, he than laid out a new plan for bike funding over the next 15 years.

Geller’s big idea (and please realize this is not a new PDOT policy, it’s just food for thought)? To raise the money needed to make a significant leap in bicycle mode split (to 25% of all trips), he asks for just $18 per person per year for 15 years — a total of $350 million.

That investment would equate to $150 million for Portland and $20-40 million each for Oregon’s other major cities like Eugene, Salem and Corvallis.

To drive the point home, Geller said that $350 million is just .04% of Oregon’s annual budget, 1.3% of the state’s transportation budget, and that it would buy a mere 800 feet of the proposed $4.2 billion dollar Columbia River Crossing project.

But he warned, “It’s not just about building [infrastructure] for bikes, it’s about reigning in the automobile.” Geller admitted that we cannot achieve our bike-friendly future, without discouraging car use (either through policies or infrastructure).

The crowd securely in his corner, Geller pleaded that now it’s our job to convince decision makers (“those that hold the pursestrings”) that bikes are the low-hanging fruit and they should not think twice about picking them when it comes time to dole out funds.

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

  • bike4fun April 5, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Were there any candidates running for various offices in attendance for any of these presentations?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 5, 2008 at 8:47 am

    There are many politicians here… but the only one I\’ve seen so far that is actually currently running for an office is Chris Smith, who\’s running for City Commissioner seat and who is a major supporter of sensible transportation (bikes!).

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  • steve April 5, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Hill Abel said-

    “As far as we’re concerned, if you ride a bike, you’re a good person.”

    Anyone seen our current president riding his bike. I have. I have seen Tom Potter on one as well..

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  • Scott Mizée April 5, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Good Point Steve.

    Everyone wants to have an open mind until they encounter someone who has a different opinion than their own. Was your website really deleted? or is that what you typed into the link?

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  • Roger Geller April 5, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for your continuing and excellent coverage of the Summit.

    I want to clarify that I feel we have both done a lot and accomplished a lot. I truly believe that we have among the most talented and creative traffic and civil engineers in the country here in Portland and their good work is revealed throughout the town. We have done tremendous work with limited resources, and that is the point: that the resources have been very limited. When you\’re spending only 0.7% of PDOT\’s capital budget on bicycle infrastructure, as we did between 2000-2007, there\’s only so much you can build.

    Roger Geller

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  • Antonio Gramsci April 6, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Bike infrastructure, bike infrastructure, bike infrastructure…

    Every one of the recent highly publicized , grisly deaths of cyclists on Portland area streets and roads occurred on one of these pieces of \”bike infrastructure.\”

    My question is, where are the words ENFORCEMENT and EDUCATION? I searched with the \”find\” function in my browser and could not find any instances of them.

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  • Antonio Gramsci April 6, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    \”Reigning (sic) in auto use\”?

    I would settle for simply reining in auto MISUSE, Mr. Geller.

    Furthermore, I think it\’s dangerously misguided politically to prioritize \”reining in auto use,\” because it\’s highly controversial and open to subjective debate how much use is too much and who should get \”reined in.\” And no one wants to be identified as needing \”reining in\” and anyone so identified will fight it like hell.

    Whereas, no one self-identifies as a \”dangerous driver.\” No one will even attempt to argue in defense of any right to \”drive dangerously,\” and no one will defend \”dangerous drivers\” as a group.

    Therefore, politically, it would be far, far more effective to target DANGEROUS DRIVERS than simply DRIVERS, and would provide far more bang for the buck in protecting all road users and encouraging the peaceful and law abiding enjoyment of access to streets and roads for all road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 6, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    \”Every one of the recent highly publicized , grisly deaths of cyclists on Portland area streets and roads occurred on one of these pieces of \”bike infrastructure.\”

    The two recent deaths occurred in bike lanes — which are the only type of infrastructure bike planners in Portland have been able to afford for far too long.

    The infrastructure Geller wants goes far beyond the bike lane… I think he\’s advocating for the funds to do major bike improvements like bike-only bridges, bike boulevards, bike-only signals, traffic calming, etc…

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  • Pete April 7, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Coming across as passionate, Antonio makes a very good point. Enforcement starts with an educated and empathetic police force, and in turn they deserve the empathy of the bike community for their challenges to do much with little (budget, force, etc).

    Start with writing citations for motorists (and/or cyclists) causing dangerous situations by not properly using their turn signals (often because they\’re busy holding a phone)…

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  • Antonio Gramsci April 7, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Where I would start is with the reverse of the \”bike stings\” that PPB has been doing until recently: instead of stings cyclists in low speed residential areas like Ladd\’s Addition, let them do stings on motorists by undercover bike cops with radios — particularly in the most bike hostile parts of town, where motorists are least likely to respect the right of way of other modes of traffic.

    That is just me. But perhaps even more useful would be stings on motorists who fail to stop for pedestrians at intersections.

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  • Pete April 7, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Antonio: good start. The latter was successful in Hood River Heights after two peds were killed several years ago. Even tourists learned to slow to 25 and watch out for street crossers. (And they finally painted crosswalks, one with a flashing yellow). So far so good, anyway.

    Last week I watched two Beaverton motorcycle cops sting the lights at Cedar Hills and Walker, and in the process perform several stops for people driving dangerously in the adjacent strip mall.

    Enforcement works. The context of consequence is important, though. For example, red light runners T-bone other drivers and kill peds, so cameras are in place. Improper speed for circumstances is the cause of most accidents, so speeding ticket quotas are in place. People not signaling turns are just viewed as ignorant, though, not as deadly to cyclists.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 7, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    \”perhaps even more useful would be stings on motorists who fail to stop for pedestrians at intersections.\”


    I\’m not saying they couldn\’t do more of them, but you should know that the PPB does do stings against motorists. They have done bike lane stings and there is a well-established partnership between PDOT and the PPB to do crosswalk enforcement stings (there was an article on them in the Tribune recently).

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  • Antonio Gramsci April 7, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    That\’s good. I guess I should have said that they should \”do stings in proportion to the rate of serious injury and fatality collisions attributable to the mode they are targetting.\” That would mean, for example, that if motor vehicle operators are responsible for ten times more injuries and fatalities in Portland than cyclists and pedestrians, then for every Ladd\’s Addition bike sting there should be ten stings on motor vehicle operators. I would be curious to know if anyone has looked at what the numbers really are.

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