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KATU spins new bike parking into ‘bikes vs. cars’ issue

Posted by on September 19th, 2008 at 3:01 pm

KATU-TV has a hot story; bikes
should pay to park!
(Screenshot from KATU-TV video).

I was afraid this might happen.

With today’s big rollout of the four new on-street bike parking corrals in downtown Portland, I wondered how the local media would handle the news.

KATU-TV is one of the first bits of coverage I’ve seen and it seems they’re setting the stage for another round of “bikes vs. cars.”

KATU’s headline was the first sign of trouble; Spots for cars sacrificed as demand grows for bicycle parking (emphasis mine).

The television version of the story opens with in-studio anchors who introduce the story like this:

“Sharing the road with bicyclists is certainly important here in Portland, and now the city wants drivers to share parking spots too.”

“We know how important these parking spaces really are, and now the city has come in and added a bunch of bike corrals…”
— KATU reporter Valerie Hurst

In a live report from the new corral in front of Powell’s, KATU’s Valerie Hurst opens with, “This has really turned out to be a very passionate issue for a lot of people.” She then continues with,

“We’ve been out here on all morning and there’s a lot of traffic…and we’ve noticed in the last couple hours trying to get a parking spot around here is really hard; as soon as one car goes in another car goes out. So we know how important these parking spaces really are, and now the city has come in and added a bunch of bike corrals…”

And then of course is the obligatory, “Some people we are talking to say bikes should pay a fee to park just like drivers do.”

KATU then interviews two people on the street. The first one is an elderly man who says cyclists should “pay for it like we do” and the other was someone introduced as a “cyclist who said she would consider paying”. The cyclist’s statement seemed odd and she said something like, “for it to cost very much it’d have be more than just a rack.” (maybe she was thinking about BikeStation type facilities).

Unfortunately, despite the racks teeming with bike parkers, KATU didn’t interview anyone who was pleased with them.

From that, KATU “did the math” and found that based on the $1.25 an hour it costs to park a car downtown, bikes would have to pay $1.72 per day (or .16 cents per hour). The reporter then said,

“It may not sound like much, but that adds up to about $10 a week per cyclist of lost revenue.”

The City of Portland told KATU that they’re not worried about the lost revenue and that cars are charged in part to pay for the vast amounts of damage they cause to the roads.

Back in the studio, the anchors say how they’re already being swamped with emails about the new bike parking. They then splash a graphic on the screen from an anonymous viewer who wrote in to say that he thinks bikes should not only pay to park but that they should have licenses as well because he/she is, “very tired of picking up the tab for rude, law-breaking bike riders” (not sure what that has to do with bike parking).

That graphic is followed by another by a woman who says if more people biked it would be good for the environment.

Also, in what has become expected form with types of stories is the all-important poll. Here’s the poll accompanying KATU’s story:

The online version of KATU’s story inexplicably links the new bike parking corrals with the recently installed bike boxes where, “Motorized vehicles are required to wait behind the green sections of pavement.”

Then a revealing, pre-emptive comment is left below the story by a KATU employee that’s directed at other commenters. He writes:

“Responders: As always, bikes and cars are a divisive topic. So a reminder: Keep it clean, no name calling, no flame wars. Offensive comments or comments that add nothing to the debate will be deleted. Thanks for taking the high road. – KATU.com”

No KATU, thank you for taking the high road!

Is our city really divided about the issue of whether or not bikes should pay to park downtown?

Maybe I’m overly sensitive to this sort of thing, but I can’t ignore how this story so blatantly frames all this in such an anti-bike, “us vs. them” way. It’s almost like they’re paving the way to controversy and hoping to ignite some flames.

Does anyone else get that feeling?

Watch and read the story at KATU.com.

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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K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

Jonathan, I think you\’re right on about this…

News Media fails again… 🙁

poser
Guest
poser

feeling? that isn\’t a feeling – that\’s a fact. how about how many more bikes you can park per street than cars? how about how the businesses around feel about it? interview a few cyclists about how much better the new parking makes their lives… anything.

Typical behavior from the bovines. who would be watching KATU anyway. KATU doesn\’t have to apeal to us, we\’re not they\’re demographic, and probably make up a negligible percentage of their viewership.

this is why I\’ve never owned a TV in 37 years.

matt picio
Guest

We\’re at war. We\’re at war with the anti-bike, anti-fun pro-status-quo minority. The battlefield is the majority of motorists who normally don\’t care – they just want to get where they\’re going with a minimum of fuss.

At stake are our right to the roads, our right to be treated as transportation equals, our right to choose our form of mobility and access a public resource.

And the main mouthpiece that speaks into the ear of the majority is heavily influenced by the anti-bike minority, for whatever reason.

Bikes are a legitimate form of transportation – the one with the lowest barrier of entry (other than walking), the most efficient in terms of energy, and the one with the least direct impact on the environment. Those who choose to use them for the most part pay far more into the road infrastructure than they use.

We\’re going to have to continue to fight for our right to the roads, because we\’re getting big enough now to inconvenience those who don\’t like us and have money to influence society\’s mouthpieces. 2009 is going to be the year on all levels – local, state, and federal; and we need to be ready.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”how about how many more bikes you can park per street than cars? how about how the businesses around feel about it? interview a few cyclists about how much better the new parking makes their lives\”

they actually do mention how many bikes fit (vs. how many cars fit) and they interview a business owner… but the power of produced piece like this is that it\’s all about the tone and the framing.

it\’s clear that KATU presents this in a way to encourage anger/controversy.

this new parking is a great thing for our city!

another classic irony of KATU\’s nightmare scenario of people not finding a place to park their cars fails to realize is that the more people riding bikes, the less are driving cars and therefore == more parking is available! i could go on and on… this story is soooo illustrative of so many cultural barriers biking faces in america.

Anon.
Guest
Anon.

Well that was depressing.

jeff
Guest
jeff

16 bikes per corral = 16 cars not downtown = 16 parking spots not filled (ok, 14, since the corral takes two). So this makes parking easier for cars?

Ron
Guest
Ron

Just a little note for perspective — on my daily commutes and frequent training rides, I have noticed a marked increase in drivers actively looking for bikes, and being extra careful around them (and thus me).

Still the occasional $%@*^ whom I believe purposefully tries to get as close as they can to me to scare me — but overall, I have noticed being happier and less stressed out when I reach my destination.

Drew
Guest
Drew

God I hate local news.

Val
Guest
Val

As Matt says, we are at war. We have been for years, but it is hard for many of us to see it. We have only begun to fight, and there is much more to come. In cities that truly want to reduce the impact of automotive traffic, parking places for cars are progressively removed to discourage driving into selected areas of the city. When an American municipal government has the will and the vision to try something like that, we will know that true progress is being made. Until then, these are mere skirmishes, important though they may be.

a.O
Guest

Unfortunately, Matt\’s right (#3) that there is a small, vocal anti-bike lunatic fringe that acts as though it\’s sensible policy to discourage people from biking and continue to encourage use of the single-occupancy vehicle as a reasonable transportation choice for most able-bodied people….And that the media seems to think their hate is news.

I\’ll pay for bike parking when drivers (including myself) are required to pay the true cost of driving by including the costs of pollution, carbon emissions, deaths and injuries, and oil war funding.

Ron
Guest
Ron

Jeff (#6): BINGO. Nicely done. Funny this didn\’t occur to them.

Whiney McWhinerson
Guest
Whiney McWhinerson

If 4% of downtown trips are really made by bicycle, you could argue that 4 of every 100 parking spots should be reserved for bicycles. As it is, cyclists have just been given 4 parking spots out of THOUSANDS.

Erik
Guest
Erik

They approach their job they same way that producers of reality TV do: they want to incite drama to keep us glued. They are not a news organization by any means.

noname
Guest
noname

The news is owned by a big national corporation. They are biased. Portland loves bike parking. Ask the retailers where the corals are.

Cøyøte
Guest
Cøyøte

Yo KATU, nobody \”has\” to drive. People choose to arrange their lives so that driving is more convenient.

The idea that someone \”has\” to drive is repugnant. It is like heroin addict saying he has to shoot up. No, he has just arranged his life and attitudes to continue his habit. Now he cannot see any other way to live.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Jonathan,

I\’d argue that your coverage of every \”bikes v. cars\” articles in the local media also tends to \”[present] this in a way to encourage anger/controversy.\” The comments in your coverage of these articles tends to be vehemently anti-car, and comments such as \”We\’re at war\” are not at all infrequent.

Do you think your coverage helps re-frame the debate? If so, how do account for your commenters, who for the most part seem to respond to these articles using the same bikes vs. cars paradigm (though obviously from the bike rather than car point of view)?

Bent Bloke
Guest
Bent Bloke

I hate those stupid polls. They don\’t mean anything. You can vote over and over.

Let\’s skew the results. Just go to http://www.katu.com/news/28663919.html and vote all you want. I just voted about 10 times, but it didn\’t change the ratio. Vote, vote often.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

from comment #15
\”I\’d argue that your coverage of every \”bikes v. cars\” articles in the local media also tends to \”[present] this in a way to encourage anger/controversy.\”

how so? I would like to hear more of how you arrive at that argument.

also, realize the irony of your statement. If the local media would not present things in that manner, I wouldn\’t have to cover it to begin with.

\”Do you think your coverage helps re-frame the debate?\”

I would like to think so, yes. In addition to my coverage I do a lot of interviews with the local media and I always present a candid and what I think to be a rational, even-keel tone to the issues (after all, I\’m a car driver too!).

\”If so, how do account for your commenters, who for the most part seem to respond to these articles using the same bikes vs. cars paradigm\”

I don\’t \”account\” for my commenters. Barring inappropriateness, I let people say what they want and I hope smart people realize that my stories and the comments are completely separate animals.

thanks for the feedback.

grasshopper
Guest
grasshopper

cyclist: nobody speaks for me – I am a demil activist, so by the way, I am NOT at war with anybody.

however, I will defend myself as needed. When I see road rage and hear other drivers in my office commenting on the amount of antagonism they encounter on the roads, I see a clear reason to defend myself as someone not riding something that has been put through numerous tests with crash dummies.

by the way, you\’re the first person to sign off as \”cyclist\”. interesting, considering that most people who make a point to come to bikeportland are assumed to be cyclists.

I\’m just saying, is all. thank you for listening.

Patrickz
Guest
Patrickz

Amen to all the commentary. And thanks, Jonathan. I guess the good ole\’ media folks just gotta have some beef, albeit mostly for excitement. All those IMPORTANT parking spaces..mon dieu!

Bent Bloke
Guest
Bent Bloke

I voted once more, and changed the percentages to 35/65 from 34/66! See, you can make a difference!

Dave
Guest

In addition to this article seeming pretty biased, it also seems really disjointed and bumpy – like they tried to put in a couple things that might sound kind of pro-bike, and the ending comment about Portland being rated one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US just seems weird, almost like a smirk.

I hate to look at anything as a war, because it usually results in a lot of name-calling and negativity. It\’s true that there is a push against cycling as a normal, accepted part of traffic in society from certain groups and individuals, but I think pushing back directly is not always the right thing to do.

To me, it seems like the City of Portland is largely on the side of wanting Portland to be a bike-friendly and bike-populated city. It seems to me that society in general is where the problem lies.

So, if society thinks people who ride bicycles are rude, disregardful of laws, arrogant, angry, etc – the best option is not to prove that the people saying so are just as rude, arrogant, disregardful of laws, etc – it\’s to do your best to not be rude, to follow applicable laws, to bike responsibly, etc.

Of course there will always be those people who will be anti-bike no matter what happens, but is there really much we can do about them? It seems to make sense to me to work hard at being kind and responsible commuters, push for pro-bike infrastructure and laws and for education (of bikers and motorists), and try not to get too worked up about the people who are continually angry about this issue.

grasshopper
Guest
grasshopper

oh dear, -sigh- if only voting worked for our elections like for KATU polls. la, dee, da!

Lee
Guest
Lee

\”…despite the racks teeming with bike parkers, KATU didn’t interview anyone who was pleased with them. …\”

Talk about bias. I was at Stumptown this morning while Channel 8 was out there.

I watched and listened as the reporter collared two cyclists and asked if she could interview them. Both thought the bike parking was cool.

If they chose not to run those pieces, it just reflects their agenda.

Hart
Guest
Hart

Corporate media is for car drivers.

ggw
Guest
ggw

This us vs. them b.s. is getting old. Why does the local media constantly try to start \”wars\” between cars and bikes?

brian
Guest
brian

Thanks for bringing this story up. Makes me glad I canceled the cable tv.

poser
Guest
poser

#25: because it sells

bookseller
Guest
bookseller

is the local media TRYING to get us all to turn into way bigger jerks than portlanders usually are? i mean, come on! 99% of the time, i have a great ride, and i look around, and everyone seems to be having a good day and enjoying the city and each other\’s company. just another instance of 90% of the pdx media disappointing me again.

if these guys really want to see a city that doesn\’t work for anybody, take a trip to LA.

jack
Guest
jack

just read the article that you linked to jonathan, and after reading it, and the first few comments i\’d say it comes off way less divisive then your title, story, and content of the commenters on this blog

no offense intended, i like the content on this site, read it regularly, and appreciate it, but you seem a bit like you are looking for a fight or setting up the regular haters on this sight with some ammo to get all frothy about

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Jonathan:

What brought on my comment was you ascribing a motive to KATU\’s story (i.e. \”hoping to ignite flames\”); I fully expect this story to ignite flames amongst your readership, which is why in this case I don\’t think you can divorce the comments from the article.

You also can learn a lot about how well you\’re communicating your message via your comments. I understand that you have no desire to further a \”cars vs. bikes\” culture, but your coverage of these stories seems to have the opposite affect on your readership. If the end result of your story is that you get people in the community thinking that this is an all out war, that cars are backwards, et al, then I\’d argue your message isn\’t getting across.

I guess ultimately I made my comment because I don\’t think your coverage of these stories is particularly helpful and doesn\’t do anything to reduce the amount of antagonism between bikers on this site (as represented by their comments) and drivers. You don\’t have to cover every bs story thrown out there by the likes of KATU and KPTV, and that doing so does nothing to help your cause. If you want your readership to understand bike issues through a different lens, you should make that new lens the focus.

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

BTW grasshopper: I\’ve posted under this name for over a year (though I\’m an infrequent poster) and I bike from Sellwood to downtown PDX every work day. And yes, I also own a car.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”just read the article that you linked to jonathan,\”

did you watch the video? the video is much different than reading the online version.

\”you seem a bit like you are looking for a fight or setting up the regular haters on this sight with some ammo to get all frothy about\”

I can see how my story might be perceived like that… but I feel like it\’s important to let people know how/why anti-bike perceptions are formed within the minds of many Portlanders who watch TV news.

no offense taken. i appreciate the feedback.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

comment #28..
\”If you want your readership to understand bike issues through a different lens, you should make that new lens the focus.\”

cyclist,

that\’s very interesting feedback. thanks.

I suppose one of the reasons I jump on this story is purely emotional.

We should be celebrating the fact that Portland is leading the way in America toward a more balanced transportation system. One that is much more equitable, safer, more efficient, healthy, environmentally sensitive, cheaper, etc… than driving alone in a car.

And what happens on the day when another major step is taken by PDOT to further this progress?…. a local TV station gets it completely wrong and fills their viewers\’ heads with ideas that it\’s all \”bikes vs. cars\” and trumpets about silly notions about lost revenue and how difficult it is for car drivers to not find a parking spot.

Come on. that\’s just silly and I find it simply too annoying and egregious to ignore.

That said. I hear your point and I will take it into consideration with future editorial decisions.

dan
Guest
dan

$2 a day to park a bike downtown? Assuming it was transferable like the car parking stickers (i.e., pay once, and you can park at any location throughout the day), I\’d have no problem with paying that. Arguably the city does lose revenue from getting rid of parking spots.

Of course, I\’d like to see covered parking if I was going to pay…and maybe some security cameras too.

a.O
Guest

Cyclist, I think you\’re confusing cause and effect. It\’s the mass media stories that create the cars v bikes mentality and Jonathan is merely reporting on them to a readership that consists of some people who are sensitized to the anti-bike fringe\’s efforts to restrict and prevent bicyclists from exercising their rights on the roadways.

sean
Guest
sean

I agree with Ron #7! yay!

Mark P
Guest
Mark P

According to City of Portland data there are 7,000 on-street parking spaces in the downtown area.

bikieboy
Guest
bikieboy

um, I\’m pretty sure PDOT put the corrals in locations where the adjacent business/es actually WANTS them. So, as much as this serves the needs of cyclists — not to mention pedestrians who no longer have their sidewalk space cramped by an overflow of bikes — it really responds to the desires of the small businesses in an area who see it as in their best interest, for whatever reason.

It isn\’t being foisted on anyone. And, I bet if you checked around at the various parking garages & lots downtown, you\’d find plenty of available auto parking spaces; they\’re just not so absolutely sweet as finding that on-street space right in front of one\’s destination.

The Lazy American Dream, no?

no one in particular
Guest
no one in particular

Mark P: You also need to count the Smart Parks which are owned by the city and charge the same as a parking meter (for the first four hours, after which they go up rapidly to discourage long-term parking).

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Too bad KATU took this line with their \’reporting\’. They could have interviewed the merchants next to the parking (who requested this parking change). This is usually what reporters do on this topic when parking changes are made.

They could have instead reported on Portland taking the lead nationally with quality bike parking.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

I know one of the reporters for KATU…he bike commutes and races…
I am about to contact him to see what he can do as a followup…

at least maybe he can verbally abuse his stupid coworker for her lack of professionalism..

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

KATU\’s math is correct but it is not what the current market charges for very secure bike parking in the US. (Not on street rack parking at least.) Too bad they did not do the research.

Bikelink.org locker operators typically charge 5 cents per hour (~$0.50/day)

Bikestation 24/7 membership ranges from $0.5/day to $1/day (annual vs. monthly membership + processing fee), many bikestations also allow for free valet parking during service hours.

European Radstation.de – generally $1 per hour

————————

It sounds more like car parking is too cheap if there is not enough on street turn over in these areas per the news report (85% rule).

Perhaps the car meter fee should be based on vehicle weight/ horsepower…these two issues along with studded tires has alot to do with the damage and maintenance to our city streets – along with miles driven.

Nathan
Guest
Nathan

I\’m just hoping that this can somehow result in another week of important \”Bike vs. Car\” front page stories instead of all the trivial other news. Who cares about the election or economic woes anyway?

Grey
Guest
Grey

Oh dear, I can\’t find space for my huge vehicle! Obviously it is the fault of those small vehicles over there! I will not, of course, think about how much harder it would be to find a space if those people had driven like I did because then I would be forced to recognize that the reason I have trouble finding space for my vehicle is that my vehicle takes up a hell of a lot of space.

Eileen
Guest
Eileen

I think free parking is the LEAST this city can do for people who make the sacrifice to ride their bikes every day. Geez. By riding their bikes, you relieve congestion, leave MORE parking spaces available AND reduce the level of pollution in our city. And I\’m sure that bike-commuting is not always fun or convenient, but a commitment that many have made from which we ALL will benefit. The bike parking should have a reverse meter that spews change at you when you are done.

I am so tired of the small-minded attitude of so many people who think only in terms of their own convenience and have zero ability to forecast.

This report is so obviously biased it is irresponsible.

brian mack
Guest
brian mack

Another case of \”biased liberal media?\” I think not. The KATU news group loses some journalistic integrity, in my opinion, for putting together a subjective news story.

John
Guest
John

Seed journalism. That\’s all it is. They\’re just seeding a small snippet into some kind of ongoing discussion that they hope viewers will follow up (tune in) on.

By spinning up a reaction to the story so that viewers won\’t fall asleep or change the channel. And there\’s only one reaction you can rely on inspiring consistently. Like they say, you can\’t please all of the people all of the time, but you can count on being able to make them all angry without much effort. It\’s dishonest, it\’s sleazy, but it sure is easy.

How to fight it? The only way I\’ve got is to be ignorant of the news bits when someone brings them up. (usually quoting the news verbatim!) Ask them to explain it. Half the time they can\’t explain it lucidly, they only know what they think while someone\’s telling it to them. The other half are good at remembering quotes from reporters and interviewees, but usually steering the conversation out of the story context is enough to flummox them. Questions are the key, they only have enough answers to fit into a ninety second news segment, and they\’ll run out quick!

Mike
Guest
Mike

What is missed in the story was the fact that on-street parking is often not for revenue generation. Instead, paid parking helps parking turn-over where there is a limited supply. It helps reduce people coming into downtown (like an employee of a business), parking for the entire day which prevents a customer from finding a parking space to patronize that business. I would be interested to see what the revenue numbers for parking are compared to the cost of the enforcement personnel costs.

Anyway, back on topic, when bike parking becomes as difficult as auto parking, then charge for it.

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

There are what, like five thousand on-street car parking spaces downtown, and like, forty bike parking spaces.

Another reason I don\’t ever watch KATU.

matt picio
Guest

cyclist (#16) – \”We\’re at war\” in my case at least is not \”bikes vs. cars\” but \”pro-bike vs. anti-bike\”. I believe in appropriate transport. Cars are to move long distances in short timespans. Not to drive 6 blocks for gum or a pack of cigarettes.

\”We\’re at war\” in my post (#3) means that there is a very vocal minority out there that wants to see bikes off the roads, wants to deny bikes access, wants to deny that bikes are vehicles. The more successful cycling programs are at getting people out on the roads, the harder they will fight to take bikes off the road. I\’m saying we\’re at war with these narrow-minded, exclusionary individuals and groups, and we are fighting with them in the court of public opinion. If they can convince enough people that its reasonable to take us off the road, then we could easily see a law that denies us the road.

It\’s not bikes vs. cars – I have no problem with 95% of the motorists out there. It\’s the guy that honks at me while passing because I delayed him 3 seconds, the woman who squeezes me at the roundabout, the kids that chuck cans at me out the window of the truck as they drive by. 150 cars will pass me on most days, and I have a problem with 3 of them. That\’s not bikes vs. cars, that\’s cyclists vs ignorance, inattentiveness, rage, or elitism. This story smacks of elitism – ignore the fact that there isn\’t enough bike parking downtown – car parking is MORE IMPORTANT. That\’s elitism. Parking decisions should be based on which mode has the greater unmet need. And as others pointed out, one of these corrals in many cases takes 14 cars off the street.

20,000 people live downtown. 82,750 people work downtown. There are 6,215 on-street parking spaces and 35,650 off-street parking spaces – that\’s 41,865 cars that can be accommodated. If bikes represent 4% of trips, then to be equitable, we should have 1,675 bike parking spaces.
(source: http://www.slcgov.com/transportation/DTP/pdf-ppt/portlandtrans.pdf)

paging Roger Geller – how many are currently downtown? (my source says 2,000 city-wide, but that pdf was created in 2006)

Bikes are a transportation minority, and it\’s difficult to get amenities funded because the majority either doesn\’t approve or doesn\’t understand the need.

\”We\’re at war\” means we need to be inclusive, and work for solutions that benefit the motorist majority *and* us, but not compromise our safety, nor our right to use the streets. We PAID for those streets, and as members of the public, we cooperatively OWN those streets.