The bike box lifestyle

New Bike Box SE Hawth - 7th-16.jpg

The bike box; a symbol of a family
un-friendly lifestyle?
(Photo © J. Maus)

In a stack of old notes on my desk, I came across a passage from an Oregonian article published a few months ago that I’ve been wanting to share.

The story, Our diversity myth: Portlanders live in a like-minded bubble, making it easier to get things done but harder for dissenting voices to be heard, is about how Americans are increasingly choosing to live in communities that reflect their existing lifestyles and values.

The result, wrote the Oregonian, is that it creates “islands of conservatism and liberalism that deepen the divides between the groups and the politicians they elect.”

In trying to illustrate the phenomenon as it exists here in Portland, the author of the story, Erin Hoover Barnett, brought up Portland’s bike boxes. She wrote:

“Portland’s like-mindedness means its leaders can often move forward quickly. After a rash of fatal bike accidents in the last year, it seemed that those huge green bike boxes appeared at intersections almost overnight…”

Barnett then introduced Tim Nashif, “a conservative” who lives in outer east Portland (a part of town notoriously lacking in bike infrastructure). Barnett wrote that, for Nashif,

“residents’ and leaders’ zeal for such issues as alternative transportation can make some — such as large families who can’t easily or safely travel by bike — feel out of step.”

Nashif told Barnett:

“It’s almost like they don’t take into consideration that there are other lifestyles that want to live in Portland besides theirs… Is Portland a place that recognizes what families need?”

I was struck by two things after reading this. First, it’s interesting how Barnett refers to “alternative transportation” as an “issue”. In my thinking, transportation (alternative or not) is a lot different than what people usually think of as classic issues. Like for instance, gun rights, homelessness, or abortion.

Kidical Mass!-21.jpg

Biking families.

Transportation is a thing that nearly everyone participates in on a daily basis. It’s not a choice you make or something you’re “for” or “against”. It just is.

The other thing I found interesting was Nashif’s comment on how the bike boxes represent some sort of “lifestyle” that belongs to a distinct part of Portland’s population. Somehow, he draws the conclusion that the City of Portland doesn’t realize what families need because the city is spending all their time installing bike boxes. Am I reading that right?

I just wanted to share this with you as an example of how bike policy and infrastructure is sometimes perceived outside the bike-bubble. To move further into the mainstream (assuming people like Nashif represent the mainstream), the bike movement needs to take these perceptions into consideration.

This ties into my concern that the term “bicycle boulevard” might make it tougher for them to gain broad community support in places that need them most — like outer east Portland, where biking is still a four-letter word.

What do you think?

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Dennis
Dennis
13 years ago

I believe the writer is missing the point of bicycle infrastructure.

Bike boxes are for drivers and cyclists alike. As a driver, the last thing that I want, is to hit a cyclist. The new infrastructure inconveniences me little, and is rather pleasing to the eye.

the other thing that motorists need to remember, at all times: How many cars would be in your way, if no one bicycled. How much would fuel prices go up, if everyone drove.

As a society, all alternatives need to be viewed, and weighed in a dynamic fashion. The immediate benefits are for cyclists, but the total benefits are for society as an entire organism.

If our little project, called “Civilization” is to survive, grow, and prosper, Transportation WILL have to be addressed. The era of the automobile is coming to a close, and those that embrace that fact will reap the rewards of being adaptable.

The Transportation system needs to embrace better urban planning, especially multi-modal systems, such as light rail, commuter rail, bicycles and pedestrians. The results show for themselves. a community that has reduced automobile use, has an overall improvement in the quality of life.

FauxPorteur
FauxPorteur
13 years ago

Ask a neighborhood if they want traffic calming devices installed on their streets, they say yes. Ask a neighborhood if they want traffic diverting devices/engineering on their streets, they say yes. Ask a neighborhood if they want low speed limits on their streets, they say yes. If you ask the same neighborhood if they want their street to become a “bike boulevard” and you might gets different response.

Michael
13 years ago

Jonathan, I think your “bike boulevard” example hits the target. All a bike boulevard really is is some traffic calming, some diversion, and some stop-sign reorientation. This is the sort of thing that residents cry out for on their streets ALL THE TIME, especially if lots of families are present. Bike boulevards should be the sort of thing that are CLAMORED for. And I’m not sure that they really are, because they’re perceived to be for the benefit of this small constituency of cyclists. Am I wrong? I think we might be missing out on a golden opportunity to point out how cycling and (ostensibly) cycling infrastructure benefits even non-cyclists.

zenmonkey
zenmonkey
13 years ago

Jonathan:
I think you are right about the fact that while many cyclists consider themselves as progressive “think-outside-the-box” types, we need to step outside the box–or in this case, bubble–to connect with people who already have projected how bad whatever it is we bubbleheads want to do actually is.

In other words, we need to meet people where THEY are and make them want to see the other side. We won’t get their support by standing and shouting from inside the bubble.

Uma

patrickz
patrickz
13 years ago

Jonathan,
your comments are right on. I could make a few sarcastic remarks on other “lifestyles” and the color of THEIR boxes, or whatever that conservative citizen is referring to, but I won’t. Public safety and ease of movement are a need, or a cause, but never an “issue”.

John Reinhold
John Reinhold
13 years ago

Of course, what about those of us who have families, who drive, and bike, and walk? I fail to see how some people divide it up so much, so much of an us vs. them.

How on earth is making streets safer for bicycles or pedestrians a bad thing? Ever? I mean – do people actually want someone to get hurt? How does this conflict with what “families need” in any way? And are not bicyclists members of someone’s family?

As a driver, I have never been inconvenienced by a piece of bicycle infrastructure. And I think that when I bicycle and use bike boxes with my wife, daughter, nephew, and friends – that we are indeed utilizing something that “families need”.

As a citizen activist in the Transportation arena, I work hard to make sure that all voices are heard and that there is good balance. The committees that I serve on have never once had to make a choice between “families” or “bicycles”. It just doesn’t work that way. No one ever sits down to make a plan, and with a maniacal laugh starts cutting people out of the picture. In reality we work each and every plan trying to figure out how to best serve everyone within the constraints we have. And I mean EVERYONE. In fact probably to a fault, it takes so long to make even a watered down plan that offends the fewest people possible. It makes it hard to be quick, or to have vision. But no one can complain they don’t get consideration.

Eileen
Eileen
13 years ago

I’ve been saying this for years. You aren’t open-minded if you are militant about your “open-mindedness” and won’t listen to or give credit to people with differing and un-popular viewpoints. And it is that very militance of the popular opinion that forces the un-popular opinions to become defensive, angry, covert and in reality, gain momentum. They feel justified when they feel persecuted.

Aaron
Aaron
13 years ago

He does make an excellent point that for many families, using a bike as a primary mode of transport is very much a pipe dream.

Jonathan posts a picture of a happy family on their new $2,500 Bakfiets — a beautiful sight, but one that’s sadly far from a financial possibility for a family living paycheck-to-paycheck in Gresham or Hillsboro.

If you can’t afford to live close-in, your job is 20 miles from your house, and you have to pick up/drop off the kids before and after work, the sad reality is that a bike-centric lifestyle isn’t feasible.

It’s time for someone to build a family bike for the masses: one that’s easy to maintain, built like a tank, hauls like a truck, and costs less than $500. Oh, and can it please fold up to fit on the MAX?

beth h
13 years ago

For the sake of a fuller argument, let’s take a look at it from another *possible* point of view.

While inner eastside Portland has, over the last 30 years, transformed from an assortment of down-at-heel neighborhoods with dilapidated hippie houses and tired lawns into an uber-chic urban enclave of the so-called “creative” class, neighborhoods east of 122nd Avenue have not really followed suit. Instead, they have become de facto dumping grounds for the poorer folks who used to live in inner eastside and who were forced out by higher rents and transformation of rentals into for-sale houses.

Choosing to ride a bike everywhere is easier when your home and your job are less than five or six miles apart. If you are one of the happy people who managed to find an affordable house in inner eastside Portland before the economy went south, well and good.

If not, and you live in East County, you will find that distances between home and most living-wage jobs are far greater. I know too many people who live in Gresham or Parkrose and must drive to Tigard or Beaverton to keep a job that pays enough for them to support their families.

Whether misconception or reality — it’s up to the beholder — there is a strong sense of class division between the folks who live in inner Portland and Everyone Else who doesn’t. The trend now is toward urban density, and like any fashionable trend it’s more expensive than the less-trendy alternatives.

Guess where the cheaper housing is these days? Gresham, Milwaukie and beyond. If your job isn’t in the same part of town where you live — and that is the case for MOST people in these places — then you will almost certainly HAVE to drive or take transit to get to and from work.

It may be that those of us who benefitted from being in the right place at the right time (and scored the then-affordable house in inner eastside Portland) don’t want to consider that we, too, are participants in this gentrification and the growing chasm of class difference that is affecting neighborhood relations more as the Portland metro area grows.

It may also be that this fellow wants to see more of what he interprets as a little equity — more transportation infrastructure developments for his part of the world, and perhaps more living-wage jobs closer to where he lives so he doesn’t have to spend an hour traveling each way between home and work. If that’s the case, I can’t say I blame him.

Paul in the 'Couv
Paul in the 'Couv
13 years ago

As an outsider, insider, all sider, I’d like to offer my own perspective. I’m a life long cyclist, a cycling transportation true believer, a bike commuter and a socially conservative Christian Catholic who lives in the ‘Couv. I may have the only bike to be seen on the streets of PDX with a McCain Palin sticker on the fender.

I agree the writer quoted above is not reacting reasonably to the actual issues. The best benefit of the doubt I can give to his statement is that ‘he’d rather have the city working to solve issues that impact his life, instead of worrying about cyclists.’

What is clear to me is that he has an us vs. them attitude. I can say honestly, I often perceive the same us vs. them attitude within the cycling community.

The truth is that cycling culture and the cycling movement in PDX are dominated by youth, and by far left social-political character. Nude bike rides, pedalpalooza and drunk zoobombers for example.

I am not here to be critical of youth or lifestyle or politics BUT…. If the bike transportation movement in PDX and nationwide is going to build on the toehold it has established, you need to reach beyond the current demographic, and especially you need to activate the mostly silent supporters out there who aren’t interested in what-ever-it-is-you’re-smoking. There are plenty of non-hipsters young and old who are just NOT into your scene.

Eventually, if you want true equity for cycling, those of you who are leaders in the BTA and other organizations need separate the cause from the more extremes of the bike culture scene and from far left politics.

The us vs. them isn’t just cars vs. bikes (on either side) it is also “normal” vs. “wierd” and Red vs. Blue. We will all be better served if cycling can separate itself more clearly from the far left and develops a very broad public image that includes people more similar to me.

Paul

John
John
13 years ago

You know, the elderly folks down the street just had a wheelchair ramp put in to their front door. I’m perfectly fit and don’t need any such thing, so why should they do that?

All those parking spaces on the street in that other city where I don’t live, I’ll never use even one what with not driving and all, so what use are they?

These people are wasting my time by throwing money away on things I’ll never need, much less use since I’ll probably only very rarely be on that specific patch of land. They should spend time and money making things I would use if I lived there instead of pandering to the resident’s needs.
Ouch!
Gah, that was painful. Do people really think this way? Or is the Oregonian dealing in satire? Poe’s law strikes again.

Peter
13 years ago

i remember reading that article the first time around – i thought it was not completely meaningless. reading again – same conclusion.

as for someone feeling isolated politically, welcome to my world, Tim. but you can either jump in and mix it up, or do nothing. this is america, after all – you’re generally still allowed to speak out, get involved politically, all that jazz.

Tim Nashif – ‘veteran political consultant.’ I think the oppressed Mr. Nashif knows how to mix it up.

as for terminology – yeah – ‘bike boulevards’ is a very narrow term that doesn’t do the concept justice. Karl Rove would never allow substandard language like that to be used to sell any idea, much less a great idea. that dude sold us smog with the Clear Skies Initiative. we’d do well to learn from his act. not sure if it would work as well when you don’t have to deceive people, though.

Nat
Nat
13 years ago

There’s an unfortunate correlation between low-income neighborhoods that need infrastructure improvements and residents that don’t care to advocate for or influence such improvements.

Alicia Crain
Alicia Crain
13 years ago

In the outreach and education I’ve done regarding Bike Boulevards, the term does garner some confusion, at first. Once I explain what one is, though, most folks nod their heads and say, “ok.” Sure, they might turn around and organize their friends and loved ones into an Anti-Bicycle Boulevard Brigade, but that’s their choice. I try to counteract that likelihood by helping people to understand and visualize that a Bicycle Boulevard is pretty much your everyday residential street with some treatments that range from low-impact (such as turning stop signs so traffic on perpendicular streets has to stop) to high-impact (such as chicanes that block motor traffic from proceeding through an intersection by making them turn one way or another, while bicycle and pedestrian traffic can continue on the BB). Some would be BB haters are usually turned into BB likers (maybe even lovers) once I tell them that it also increases the safety for them & their children & their pets on the street by slowing down motor traffic.

So, yes, the term “Bicycle Boulevard” could be polarizing. What we need to do as alternative transportation users is to make the effort educate our friends, coworkers, loved ones, enemies, frenemies, whathaveyou, on what is meant by that term. Likewise, people who only ever use an automobile to get around should also be making an effort to educate themselves about what other modes of transportation are out there and how infrastructure for those choices are under discussion or being implemented.

Choosing to live in Gresham when you work in Tigard is just your choice, so stop whining about it.

Max
Max
13 years ago

I’m a resident of SE Portland (~SE 82nd & just north of Springwater Corridor) and I have to say that it’s a little disheartening to see the city eager to redesign 7-corners in Ladd’s while I’m forced to push my son’s stroller in the street because there are no sidewalks.

Len
13 years ago

The fallacy in Mr. Nashif’s argument lies in the asymmetrical warfare that has gone on between right and left for generations, and has defined this country. The author Sam Harris, in his book “The End of Faith”, summed it up well: organized groups that do not espouse tolerance for all other groups cannot and should not be given equal time in a democratic process.

Although Mr. Nashif has stopped working to prohibit gay marriage and abortion in the community at large, he seems to have lowered his sights to more mundane issues. Why should he wonder that a lot of people still don’t want to be his neighbor?

justa
justa
13 years ago

I agree with that article (although, admittedly, I haven’t exactly racked my brains over it).

I think that our immediate focus on an issue that is, while relevant to us*, but not a key point of the article, might well be indicative of the points Ms. Barnett is making.

*us = the portland cycling community, (or dare I say, ‘a group of like-minded individuals?’)

paul
paul
13 years ago

I think that the Barnett is right to an extent. Our society tends to provide forums (pun intended) that amplify like-mindedness. Its simply easier (and much more pleasant), to spend one’s time with those with whom we feel most comfortable. I’m struck by how much of the discussion above deals with denying the validity of one of the disparate voices she cited, rather than her argument itself.

Lisa G.
Lisa G.
13 years ago

I saw Roger Geller’s Cycle Zone Analysis presentation at the Bicycle Brown Bag on Thursday. According to those maps the overall bikeability of East Portland is in the green category, which means it falls somewhere in the middle between best and worst, however, the ridership is in the red category which is the lowest.

Maybe Outer East Portlanders would feel like biking more if motorists would stop throwing stuff out their windows at cyclists on Burnside and cyclists would not ride the wrong way in a bike lane at night without lights. Those were the two most nightmarish things that occured fairly frequently, aside from constant piles of glass and debris in the bike lanes that were rarely swept during my former commutes to and from East Portland.

I think that area is a prime example of a place where education, bike route improvement and ehancements like signage and sharrows, etc. as well as more convenient and secure bike parking options might start to raise awareness and get more families feeling safe enough to bike to the grocery store, etc.

brettoo
brettoo
13 years ago

Beth’s right about the class issues here. Still, it’s a lot cheaper for working class families to own a bike than to operate a car, especially in an era of $3-$5/gal. gas. Bike infrastructure in coordination with reliable, frequent public transportation (Max, streetcars, buses) actually benefits it those families (many of whom, as Beth says, currently lack adequate access to such facilities), to the extent they make driving less frequent or even unnecessary. Changing our public subsidies, hidden and otherwise, from roads to public transportation and bike infrastructure in those areas would do much more to benefit the families Mr. Nashief purports to be so concerned about. I very much doubt you’d see this long time right-wing political operative advocating for the kind of public investment (and higher gas taxes) that would make it possible for suburban Portland-area residents to live without the expense of cars.

joe
joe
13 years ago

it is easy to get frustrated when reporters, like Barnett in this case say things like: Portland’s like-mindedness means its leaders can often move forward quickly. After a rash of fatal bike accidents in the last year, it seemed that those huge green bike boxes appeared at intersections almost overnight. There was no debate about whether bikes should be on the road in the first place. In this town, we’re way past that.

This paragraph is evidence of either a less than adequate job of reporting or a misrepresentation of the facts(huge?) of the matter. While there is no need to rehash the evolution of the, what, 7 or 8 bike boxes in town, it certainly did not happen overnight nor was it done without what felt like exhaustive input from many groups.

It is obvious that people cluster around professions and locations that are in accord to their views of the world. Sometimes, we all need to do a better job of playing devil’s advocate/conservative thinker to expand our horizons.

After living in many places, I am convinced that there really is no Red vs Blue – there are only shades of Purple.

Tom
Tom
13 years ago

I like your term “bike bubble” for the assumptions we automatically make about the universal righteousness of our preferred mode of transportation.

I am daily reminded by my wife of the opposite mindset – she is scared to death to try to commute anywhere in town on a bike, much less with our daughter on board.

To put it politely, the overwhelming perception by the vast majority of people in the Portland Metro area is that only death-defying superhuman hardcore riders will put ourselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to get around on a bike.

I heard this exact point of view from a very highly-placed PDOT person last week. Don’t go thinking that even in our lovely bike-friendly city, that the cycling mindset is a majority point of view.

Garth Bowden
13 years ago

This article is a cache of tired, flawed thinking and cherry picked data.

GreggB
GreggB
13 years ago

Paul in the ‘Couv,

Your final statement in #10 above brought home a good point; those who fear and resist change, and those who embrace it:
“…
The us vs. them isn’t just cars vs. bikes (on either side) it is also “normal” vs. “wierd” and Red vs. Blue. We will all be better served if cycling can separate itself more clearly from the far left and develops a very broad public image that includes people more similar to me.
…””

Sometimes, it’s not everyone who needs to change…it’s you. The changes we’re facing over the next few years are not your simplistic “…oh, let’s just start carrying cherry sodas, so we can draw in ‘that group’ now too…” The coming changes will so fundamentally touch your average American’s life, and lifestyle, that history will look upon them, as the changes our society underwent during the 60’s and 70’s. In order to succeed, we all need to change our reckless and greedy lifestyles. Yes, ALL of us need to change…though what I fear most, are those resistant to do what morally and socially necessary.

IMHO&E, those who consider themselves “normal” and “red”…the impression I get is your definition of people “more like you”…are the same folks who’ll (some close family included) effectively resist any major life/lifestyle change, at all costs:
1) A chain-smoker who, in the past few years, has fought-off a disfiguring bout of throat cancer, a year-later emergence of lung cancer, and is now losing an all-out attack throughout his body…yet chain-smokes to this day; he desperately clings to that anchor, denying an obvious cause to his deep downwards spiral, and insists on dragging his wife & mother of their four children (the youngest of which just turned 30) along for his gruesome, demoralizing, and devastatingly drawn-out descent.

2) A seemingly-endless stream of large (and clearly rarely if-ever truly utilized) pickups, often badged with McCain/Stalin stickers, flags, fliers and other related “red state” paraphernalia. When asked the last time these drivers actually utilized any utility from their carbon-belching beasts, they’ll consistently fail to pin-down even a vague idea. Yet, if you ask them why they have the pickup, it’s so they could haul things…while a surprising number of owners will, in nearly the same breath, say that they dont, because they’d scratch the bed of their precious beast…huh?

3) Folks who are quick to balk at high fuel costs, long commutes, busily cluttered roads, and rising product costs. Though, whom are also unwilling to change their lifestyles, plans, or reconsider long-term goals and profoundly-misguided and traitorously socially destructive political agendas… Only to instead spend their constructive times griping and bemoaning their woes, in rooms, committees, & meetings chock-full of similar-minded individuals. In a desperately vague, and hopelessly off-chance hope of effecting anything but a barely-marginal shift from the status-quo.

Disclaimer; my 1st, 2nd & 3rd vehicles were all mid-sized pickups, though once I realized the true absurdity of owning such a vehicle, for your average person, I’ve since steered towards smaller and simpler modes of transport…and living; a Mercedes Smart Car, a ZIPCar membership, a monthly TriMet pass, and a beloved muscle-powered two-wheeler that’s largely to blame for my current excellent fitness & health levels.

Further, not only have I gone from driving upwards of 15,000 miles/year…to just barely breaking the 800 mile-mark in the past 12 months…yet never sacrificing vacations to the beach, mountains, and eastern-Oregon areas this summer. I also recently moved from a 2,000sq-ft Troutdale home (w/ 2-car attached garage and a large yard), where I commuted towards the city’s core daily. To a ~750sq-ft downtown Portland condo (w/ basement storage area, and secured underground parking) that overlooks the city’s east-side, and beautiful morning sunrises.

Five years ago, an instant gut/knee-jerk reaction to a friends sentiments, of living in a downtown condo, were genuine thoughts, and a comment; “I doubt I’ll live like that, how could you even survive…where’s your real house? Where do you go during the weekends? How the hell can you get anywhere on a bike?” Now, I live about three blocks from their place, and have pedaled around 6,000 miles already this year. It’s amazing how a few changes will profoundly shift one’s perspective, if you’re open-minded enough.

With a growing rise of nationwide fuel & energy shortages, a burgeoning onset of gasoline waiting lines, and emerging geo-socio-political trends, the tides of our world are irreversibly changing at an ever-quickening pace. It’s time to acknowledge and embrace sensible yet profound individual behavioral changes, so that we can all thrive…or those that refuse to actualize the obvious risks of inaction and selective ignorance, are the ones who risk us all; in our humanely-vain and last-ditch efforts to free the stubbornly-ignorant from their knee-deep positions in the dissapearing shores.

A final thought for those of you in “The ‘Couv”, if your lifestyle is so viable and self-sustainable, then why bother even venturing over that narrow interstate border…make your own anti-Portland Culture…or should I say…’Couv Culture. Funny thing is; despite decades of attempts by others, the downtown Vancouver area is finally undergoing a true stage of revitalization…and it’s not the “normals” or the “reds” that are responsible for it…

May the best thrive!


A weird, lifetime-long, blue-Portlander, who’s darn-proud of his hometown’s past, current, and future paths.

beth h
13 years ago

Alicia (#14):

“Choosing to live in Gresham when you work in Tigard is just your choice, so stop whining about it.”

It is almost always NOT a choice for those whose jobs dried up/went overseas/businesses folded/etc. in the place where they live to have to drive an hour or more to find similarly gainful employment in a field they already know, without having to take a 2- to 4-dollar an hour cut in pay. I’ve been there and I know what it’s like.

If you don’t believe me, try it sometime, or at the very least take more of your “outreach and education” efforts to underserved outer eastside communities and listen to what people there have to tell you. I think you’ll find their stories illuminating.

GreggB
GreggB
13 years ago

Beth h,

I took a ~25% pay-cut, do I count? One job was being outsourced, and another dissapeared as the business folded…and I’m roughly 15 years into this career.

Though, in the end I:
1) Am still doing the same work (MacOS & Linux SysAdmin), in the same field, and have barely re-trained for the new position…and as a bonus, don’t have to even think about, let-alone stress-over, Microsoft’s junk software anymore these days.

2) Work fewer hours, and am no-longer perpetually on call (as I had been for the past 9.5 years).

3) Work for a smaller company which targets socio-enviro-economically responsible clients, in a role with tasks that actually “feel” truly fulfilling.

4) Bike ~10-15mins to the office & no longer commute ~20 miles…

5) Are surrounded by intelligent, progressive, and communicative peers, who have long-ago (ie: before my time here) adapted a communication strategy which I’ve tried to convince prior employers to consider for over a decade; a profound (near-deaf) hearing loss makes verbal communications extremely challenging & exhausting, yet this entire company communicates almost exclusively via IRC/chat and eMails – even when the guy is sitting 3 feet from you. To convey how important I consider sufficient communications; its something I would have considered a 30-40% pay-cut for, had I needed to, and had I also known of their deeply-ingrained internal communication strategies before my first day…

Ya wanna know a real clincher; after getting home from my 2nd day with this new employer, I received an OFFER for a position that would have amounted to only a ~6% cut in my original salary (ie: instead of 25% w/ whom I’m with now) – I didn’t consider it for more than about a half-second before declining…

In the end, it’s about learning to cope with multiple major medical ailments that’ll turn your life upside-down, and it’s more than being laid off, suffering through some merger or outsourcing of your roles, or some failed business model…all things I’ve dealt with (and in some cases still struggle with) myself. It’s about choices you’ve made, about your life, and your path and decisions you’ve made about how you prepare for your future. It’s about your standards, and the compromises you’ll consider, in your life, for the pursuit of your true happiness. If you want a change, or an improvement, stop bemoaning the past, or pointing fingers of blame…just change, it’s that simple…

John
John
13 years ago

without having to take a 2- to 4-dollar an hour cut in pay.

Math time!
$2/hr, about $4000 a year, something like $3000 after taxes. Divide by 250 working days/year, ~$12 a day. One hour each way, lets lowball and say the traffic’s horrible enough that it’s only 30 miles each way. Two gallons of gas a workday if you have a small, efficient car, leaving you gleaning the equivalent of $3ish/hour for your commuting troubles. Now that’s got to cover for all of your other car costs related to 250×60=15,000 miles a year of extra driving. $6/day (you bought the cheap gas), that’s $1,500/year, will that cover depreciation (or even interest on the loan?) on a new car or upkeep on an old fully depreciated car? A $4/hr pay gap would triple this remainder to $4000, which should get you at least even or maybe even ahead, if you drive a relatively cheap econobox two hours a day through 60 miles of (hell?) slow, heavy traffic.

And that’s being generous. I lowballed the tax, commute distance, highballed the fuel milage, and rounded in your favor every time. Two daily hours of honking stinky stress in exchange for roughly the same or slightly more take home pay, with everything in your favor. Change any of these significantly and it goes upside down. Is this a lifestyle that recognizes what families need?

Eileen
Eileen
13 years ago

I don’t think it is as easy to find the job and the housing in the same area as people think. Especially when you are living close to the edge financially. Affordable housing is hard to find and so is a decent job. Finding both in the same area is lucky. And there are tons of other factors to consider too. How about staying close to family so you can have a support network nearby? How about considering the schools?

I used to live closer to my job, but as my kids got to school age, I made very conscious decisions about where I want us to eventually end up because I wanted my kids to not have to endure upheaval once they started school. I hope to eventually be working in this area, but it doesn’t happen all at once just because I declare it so. I think once again we are seeing the judgmental out of touch attitude of people who HAVEN’T been there and DON’T know what it’s like to be trying to raise a family on a low to middle income.

I really appreciate Aaron’s comments and whole-heartedly agree. It’s time for the model-T bakfiets!

John Reinhold
John Reinhold
13 years ago

@Max #15:

The sidewalk issue again, huh? The fact is that Sidewalks are paid for by property owners. Not the city. So if you want sidewalks in a particular location, knock on their door and ask them to build/fund them. (I don’t necessarily 100% agree with that on a philosophical level – but it is the way it is)

This is not a zero sum game.

And if you want to talk about not having sidewalks, you should talk to SW residents. They have far more streets without sidewalks (due to geography, topography, and annexation politics). They have been trying to get sidewalks for decades, and when they do finally – the residents pay for them…

Every single part of the city and region could use some improvement.

John Reinhold
John Reinhold
13 years ago

It’s time for the model-T bakfiets

I second this.

🙂

matt picio
matt picio
13 years ago

Aaron (#8) – I don’t buy that argument. It’s a pipe dream because they don’t *want* to do it, not because they’re unable to. A family of four can easily start biking for under $500. Most families already have bikes for the kids, and many for the adults that are only ridden recreationally. Most of them already have rain gear. They don’t need Bakfiets or lycra super-wicking breathable, waterproof, smell-resistant self-washing clothing. They only need to decide they want to ride and do it. There are ways around the sweating problem, and there is a cheap or free alternative for almost every costly solution. People in general want convenience – over-simplified, you could say “people are lazy”. They make excuses because they think that biking is too much effort.

As for a $500 “family bike for the masses” – it can’t be done, unless it’s mass-produced in a foreign country by workers making less than minimum wage – and that assumes relatively cheap transport costs and little to no unsold inventory (i.e. high turnover). Assuming you can convince a large corporation to produce 1 million + bicycles to bring the cost that low, do you think it’s reasonable to exploit the labor and resources of a far-off third world country in order to get the sub-$500 bike? Nearly every one of these families owns one or more cars at an average upkeep of $5,600 per year per car. Heck, the gas costs alone would buy a Bakfiets.

People want convenience, they want “quick” and “now”, immediate gratification, “no pain” for their gain. (yes, this is a hugely broad generalization, but we’re talking about the notional “masses” here) There is no easy solution – every solution has a cost.

True, many people live 20+ miles from where they work, and out in the suburbs, stores and services many be 5+ miles away, and the kids may need to go to 2 different locations for sports, etc. We need to be looking for solutions to that so that they can walk and bike rather than drive – because barring a miracle, driving is increasingly becoming a pastime for the wealthy. The current decline is gas prices won’t last, and no one is seriously working towards alternatives to power the 250 million cars in America. It’s time to let go of the 2,600 square foot home and the 6,000 lb. SUV and start living less conveniently and more sustainably. The American Dream (TM) is the pipe dream, not using bikes as primary transport – the sooner the average person realizes that and makes changes to their lifestyle, the better off we’ll ALL be.

Beth, Eileen, Alicia – You’re all right to some extent. People choose where they live, and for most of them, they could live closer to work. Many, though (perhaps as much as 40%) don’t have that option, either because they’re living too close to the edge or because they’re having trouble selling a home in the current market.

But is that really true for all of them? I don’t think so. We’ve gotten used to space, gotten used to having “stuff”. One can easily get an apartment in Inner SE or NE for a reasonable amount of money, if one is willing to live in 1,200 square feet or less, rather than the 2,200 square foot average for most families. 50 years ago, such an arrangement was common, siblings shared rooms (sometimes even with their parents), and people made do with less space. We think it’s not an option, because we have too much stuff, and because an expectation (dare I say demand) for privacy exists. It’s harder now to maintain smaller spaces, either due to the need for storage space or due to the number of single parents (social services demands that parents provide certain amenities for their children, or custody can be shifted to the other parent or the state) in society today. We as a society need to start examining our beliefs and paradigms and adopting ones that fit the current reality and the direction everything is going in, rather than the culture of entitlement that we’ve spent the last 50 years building.

matt picio
matt picio
13 years ago

Wow. Nashif wants Portlanders to consider that “there are other lifestyles that want to live in Portland besides theirs”, yet he helped the state prevent the recognition of committed gay and lesbian relationships by imposing a religious definition of marriage (marriage as the state sees it is a civil contract, distinct from the religious and social construct of marriage).

As for the referenced book “The Big Sort”, I think author Bill Bishop draws the wrong conclusion – it’s not our prosperity that’s causing the clustering, it’s communication. Before 1976, the majority of the US population was still rural. They had one newspaper, a handful of radio stations and 1-2 TV stations. Many had no phone. You learned to live and interact with your neighbors because those were the only people you knew. Traditional “clubs” had higher membership because that was the only way to find like-minded individuals.

As we developed more effective and ultimately ubiquitous communication methods, club membership has dropped, people interact increaingly with the people with whom they share common interests and values, and in many cases move to be closer to the communities they’ve formed. The Internet has greatly accelerated this trend since the early 1990s.

And in regards to Erin Barnett’s Oregonian article itself, I think the general shift to the left of the City Club of Portland and similar urban organizations is due to the increasing recognition that the consumer-oriented society is not sustainable and that maintaining the current standard of living under the traditional “conservative” economic and political model is harder and harder every year.

mabsf
mabsf
13 years ago

To Aaron/post 8:
You forgot to add that the bike needs to be build by union-organized workers earning liveable wages…

Coyote
Coyote
13 years ago

Much of what is termed “bicycle infrastructure” is not that all. It is really modified car infrastructure intended to make the prioritization of public space to cars appear to be ethical, or at least palatable. Instead of bicycle boulevards we should be talking about public spaces rededicated to the real purpose of streets.

Afro Biker
Afro Biker
13 years ago

Has anyone here ever been disabled or had a disabled family member or loved one? I’d love to entirely give up motor vehicles but the fact is I care for my disabled father, so a “bike only” life style simply doesn’t cut it. Is it possible to love cycling and not be so self righteous and maybe, just maybe, realize that not everyone in a motor vehicle is your enemy?

I’m sure some snarky alterna-jerk person will insist I can throw crippled pops and his wheel chair into a bike trailer.

Here’s to keeping it weird. Peace.

Joe
Joe
13 years ago

My brother was in Portland with me over the past weekend, hes from the SF area, BUT
was shocked regarding a great bike culture
Portland has more so then SF in other words
more friendly to ride. That write up seems
rather lame.

Eileen
Eileen
13 years ago

Mabsf:
You’re right and that’s the catch-22. Hence back to the argument that it’s not necessarily attainable for all. Not right away. Unlike Mr. Nashif though, I don’t think that means we are alienating families by creating a bike-friendly community. But we do need to think about ways to make biking more friendly for families. This is why I am a proponent of separate facilities. I don’t care what anyone says, I’m not taking small kids into busy traffic. Not on a bakfiets, not in a trailer, not on their own bikes. And so for many families with younger children, bicycling remains recreational until safer bikeways exist.

Matt,
I do agree with you to some degree and I live pretty simply and am a big advocate of downsizing. My kids and I do have bikes but like I said above it’s mainly recreational for us at this point. It’s just not feasible to think I could run errands with them on bikes. And since I’m a single mom, I can’t really leave them at home to run errands either. We do use the bus and walk as much as we can, but a working mom doesn’t always have time for that.

I don’t know what else to say. I mean, I start to feel like I’m whining when I tell you why it doesn’t work for me. Sure, I COULD do more, but so could you all. If you really want fewer people to drive, why don’t you get out there and help these working families? Why don’t you find someone in your neighborhood with kids and offer your services? If you’re good with bikes, you could help provide maintenance. Go to a bike shop or help them check out used bikes if they feel intimidated or don’t know what they’re doing. You could run errands on your bike or babysit while they do that. We ARE a community are we not? Or is that too inconvenient and outside of your comfort zone? Uh-huh. Please don’t talk to me about making choices and wanting convenience. There is nothing convenient about my life.

I really don’t think there is anything helpful in the negative, judgmental attitude. If you want to see change, work to make it happen. If there’s people who aren’t doing it, instead of trying to guess the reasons and assume laziness or ill-will, maybe you could try to get to know them and become involved in helping them find solutions. I really doubt any working families would read the comments on here and feel supported or more inclined to become a cycling family.

Other Perspectives
Other Perspectives
13 years ago

I have an employee who was priced out of the North/NE Portland neighborhood she grew up in. Her landlord evicted her and her neighbor, spend a couple of weeks sprucing up the place, and now it goes for 3x the previous rent. There’s absolutely nothing she could afford and still support a teenager and a special needs toddler – even if she was able to give up her car. (not happening because of the toddler’s needs) Now that she is 15 miles from her entire support network (her extended family) – not to mention her job, life’s a heck of lot harder. Her own health is being affected now. I’m not sure whether she’d laugh at the suggestion that she chose to live this way, cry, or just lean over and strangle whoever would say that to her.

She’d be far more interested in green bike boxes if they meant she could afford to live near her family and her job.

I think it’s true that we’d all do well to at least consider how different life experiences shape perspectives that are different from own. Even the ones we find uncool, not hip, or boring.

Sarah Iannarone
Sarah Iannarone
13 years ago

The term “family” seems rather vague here. From the comments here, I think this may be less about “families” and more about “caregivers”– primarily a gendered issue. Research on caregiving suggests that this work is done without pay disproportionately by women in our society. Other research suggests that women make more stops in the course of their daily commutes because of their caregiving roles. Female caregivers are certainly marginalized (dare I say oppressed?) by Portland’s alternative transportation planning and development.

While I commend the choices made by the family to live “close-in”, to buy the Bakfiet rather than the Subaru, to and travel by bike, we need to acknowledge that there are people who lack these alternatives for whatever reason (socioeconomic, educational, physical, cultural) and address the needs of these folks in our transportation planning, too. It’s a matter of what values we’re prioritizing through our planning efforts and who it appears we’re developing alternative transportation for…

eileen
eileen
13 years ago

I’m not sure I’m ready to use the word “oppressed” but definitely not valued or respected except by other mothers. There is lots of info about how far behind the US is in considering the needs of families.

If you haven’t seen the motherhood manifesto you really should:

http://www.momsrising.org

there is also a neat video about some moms in Portland here:

http://www.activistas.us/activistas/2008/10/paid-family-lea.html

For some of us there are more pressing and immediate issues. Mother’s voices don’t get heard because for the most part, they are way too busy to self-advocate.

Coyote
Coyote
13 years ago

“The harm done by contemporary traffic is due to the monopoly of transport. The allure of speed has deceived the passenger into accepting the promises made by an industry that produces capital-intensive traffic. He is convinced that high-speed vehicles have allowed him to progress beyond the limited autonomy he enjoyed when moving under his own power. He has allowed planned transport to predominate over the alternative of labor intensive transit. Destruction of the physical environment is the least noxious effect of this concession. The far more bitter results are the multiplication of psychic frustration, the growing dis-utilities of continued production, and subjection to an inequitable transfer of power-all of which are manifestations of a distorted relationship between life-time and life-space. The passenger who agrees to live in a world monopolized by transport becomes a harassed, overburdened consumer of distances whose shape and length he can no longer control.”

Ivan Illich “Energy and Equity” 1974

I recommend reading the above book to all people examining traffic solutions. It is a pretty quick read (a couple of hours) and the full text is available online from several sites.

We are so absorbed into our current lifestyle it is difficult to see that it is not a bike bubble, it is a car bubble. The vast majority of the world does not drive, and up until WWII, that was also true in the West. But we still managed to do all of the things we do now, caregivers too. You gotta ask yourself what is PDX going to be like at $10/gal? Watching the financial markets for past 3 weeks should remind us all that the ca-ca can hit the fan very quickly, and governments only have illusion of control.

eileen
eileen
13 years ago

Right Coyote, but the whole world is different now. There were few enough cars on the street, that my mother, who grew up in what is now Lloyd Center, was able to ride her tricycle around the block by herself at age 4. There are more people and more cars now. I know it’s a difficult thing because the cars are making it unsafe and I guess that my point is just that trying to go back to the 40s won’t work. Pointing fingers at families who are doing the best they can won’t work. Finding out WHY more families don’t ride bikes and working to find solutions WILL work. I am telling you right now, for most people with young kids, riding a bike on the street doesn’t feel safe. You can hem and haw all you want about why we should just get over it, but all you are doing is hemming and hawing. What can the city of Portland do to help make it feel safer? Bike boxes? Not gonna cut it. Every time the subject of separate facilities is brought up on this board, this community pounces on it because they don’t want to be restricted to those areas. But at the same time, by NOT having enough separate facilities, there is a huge segment of potential riders being left out. I think MOST of the current ridership is doing it solo and so is not necessarily in touch with the needs of families – only thinking from the perspective of the healthy, non-disabled person without children. Whenever I have this conversation with other moms, they almost universally would like to ride bikes more but don’t feel safe and feel very nervous driving around bikes, but all have huge respect for people who do ride bikes. I’ve never met anyone who thought people shouldn’t be riding bicycles, but I would say, from moms I know, there are many who feel like it’s too hard right now. And I know there are those who do it, but I think they would be the first to admit it’s challenging and also, they are lucky to have their life situated in such a way as to make it possible. If I hear one more person say or imply that I’m just being lazy, I’m going to scream!

matt picio
matt picio
13 years ago

Eileen (#37) – are the two final paragraphs in response to my post as well? My comments are intended to speak about society in general, and shouldn’t be construed as speaking to your case in particular. I know nothing about your situation, how could I comment on your lifestyle specifically?

As for community, et. al. I agree with you completely, which is why I sit on a county committee, participate in 3 more as a member of the public, volunteer for 4 nonprofits, lead bike rides and camping trips, and a number of other civic, public, and bike activities.

As for “negative, judgemental attitude” – why is dissent considered “negative” – because it’s not what you believe? Our society does have problems, and we fix them by talking about them, brainstorming solutions, and taking actions to make the world a better place. I’m not sure how papering over the issues so as not to seem judgemental is helpful to the situation.

I do get to know individuals, and I treat them as individuals when I deal with them. When I talk about society valuing convenience and being lazy, I’m talking about the individual who gets in his SUV and drives 6 blocks to pick up cigarettes, and drives home, not the single mother who has to drive one child to a soccer game in Gresham and pick up the other from band practice in Milwaukie. I don’t believe in “one-size-fits-all”, I believe in the appropriate mode for the appropriate task.

Using the car once a month to go 6 blocks because you’re utterly wiped and using the car daily to go 6 blocks because you’re too lazy to walk are two different things. It’s the latter I decry, not the former.

Oh and in post #42 – “If I hear one more person say or imply that I’m just being lazy” Respectfully, it’s not all about you – I’m not making personal attacks, and you’re reading an awful lot into my post (and others) that isn’t there.

wsbob
wsbob
13 years ago

Out here in Beaverton, there’s an infrastructure situation that’s a case study of what Eileen’s talking about.

Beaverton has a couplet; Hall Blvd and Watson Ave, running roughly N-S for, I’m guessing, 2-3 miles total length. One one end, there’s a full service mall with about every basic need type of store you could ever want; groceries, electronics, athletic wear, cinema, fast food, etc.

A little past the other end, there’s an E-W street called Allen Ave with lots of low to middle income housing. In between, there’s a beautiful library situated right in the center of a huge park with expansive lawns and a fountain that draws big crowds of kids and parents. There’s lots more housing and amenities in between the two points including two bike shops; Bike Gallery and Performance.

These key couplet streets, Hall and Watson, do have bike lanes but they are not routes for the meek of heart. The traffic on these streets is fast and frenzied. I can’t imagine too many family types that would feel comfortable trailing their kids along on the bike lanes of these streets.

With bike/pedestrian infrastructure that offered a greater margin of separation between those modes of transportation and motor vehicle traffic, Beaverton would probably be generating hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands more bike trips along and between the various points along the Hall/Watson couplet than it does presently.

Also, it should be noted that with the exception of the library, bike parking anywhere along the couplet is minimal. Hundreds of bikes coming to shop, for example, at the Winco, would exhaust available bike parking in short order.

Bike infrastructure designed to serve only the more experienced, confident aggressive, solo riders, is not going to bring about the expanded use of bikes for transportation that many people dream of.

Evan
Evan
13 years ago

Bicycles are an alternative transportation choice, just like cars, buses, MAX, and your own two feet…one of many alternatives to choose from.
As long as we think of bicycles as “alternative,” we continue to view them in the same way as one might say “Alternative lifestyle,” which implies outside the norm.
Portland’s investment in bicycle infrastructure is simply an effort to bring the ability of one to use a bicycle for basic transportation closer to one’s ability to use a car.
Of course most people drive in this country, because for the last 75 years that is the only mode we have invested in. If this nation had a comprehensive transportation plan in place 75 years ago to ensure that people had mobility choices, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. And Portland might look like every other city in this country…or vice versa.

Eileen
Eileen
13 years ago

Matt, when I said negative and judgmental I was referring to the many comments of people who were basically saying that people who still “choose” to drive cars are lazy and apathetic. To me, any criticism that doesn’t contain something constructive and is looking to point fingers instead of find solutions is negative. I don’t think it’s always bad to be negative and I am guilty of it at times myself. I do try to not be judgmental in the sense that, if I haven’t walked in your shoes, I won’t try to second-guess your motivation. Atticus Finch taught me that in 7th grade and I’ve never forgotten it.

I guess I’ve strayed a bit from the original argument and I’m not agreeing with the guy who wrote the Oregonian article, because I agree that we need to be working towards a car-free society. BUT, I think the man had a good point that as we work towards a car-free society, the people advocating for better bikeways represent current ridership. To me it makes more sense to find out what we would need to get the potential riders to become regulars.

How often, when forums are held to make decisions, do the organizers make sure that moms and families will be represented? And what is done to help them get there? Don’t tell me that the meetings are public and anyone can come. If it’s held in the evening, I”m putting kids to bed. If it’s held during the day, I’m at work. If it’s at a convenient time, you’re going to be listening to my whining 4 year old. I’m not providing answers here, but I am strongly encouraging the powers that be to start thinking this way, and to be sure that as you are considering how to improve bikeways, ALL segments of the population are being listened to and considered, not just current ridership, which, as I previously stated, for the most part represents young, healthy, non-disabled, childless, single people. Hardly a cross-section.

Stochelo
Stochelo
13 years ago

The class issues need to be addressed by 1.) Statutory limits to the selling and renting price of property
2.)Limits to the right of employers to require car ownership for employment
3.) Public transit funding by increased gas taxation and progressively rising license tag fees on car registration much as Washington used to have. Funny how many “working class,” “just plain folks” who have some fucked up notion of cycling as “elitist” own motorhomes, boats, immorrally large $35K pickup trucks that are NOT work vehicles.

mmann
13 years ago

Just a couple thoughts to add to the discussion. I grew up in Gresham, and while I currently in Portland, I’m still in the “outer limits” (east of 82nd) and I bike commute 20 miles r.t. to work in east Gresham. The trip takes about 40 minutes each way. By car, it’s 20-30, depending on traffic. I agree with the comments made about eastside bike “infrastructure.” It wouldn’t take a lot – signage, striping, maybe a green box or two, and most of all, some regular street sweeping, to make the east side much more inviting to cyclists. East county has changed. As Beth h says, it’s where those pushed from the core can now afford to live. Not coincidentally, according to the PPD, 162nd & Burnside is now ground zero for Portland gang activity. But most people who live out here do so because it’s cheap and most have real jobs. Bikes can and should fit with that. Acknowledged -not everyone who lives there can ride to work, but more can that are currently driving. There is a small shift going on. This morning I saw 5 other cyclist in the first minutes of my commute, and that’s getting more common. 162nd is now a viable N-S bike route. I for one welcome the shift in east county from seeing bikes as some kind of elitist cultural icon, to seeing them as part of the solution to rising housing, transportation, and commodity expenses.
And on the subject of the affordability: my wife had to talk me out of buying a nice, early 80’s Japanese bike for this weekend – no room in the basement for any more bikes. The price? $50, and it would be reliable transportation for someone for years to come. I’m still amazed at what you can get for the price of a tank or two of gas.

Dennis
Dennis
13 years ago

GreggB,

Yes, Vancouver has problems. I know, that’s where I’ve lived for 34 years. It wasn’t always like this, with it’s strip malls, and sprawl. There are those of us that are really trying to improve the way we get around. I’ve been to meetings of the CRC’s project, and made statements against more lanes for cars, and demanded light rail access. I use my bike whenever possible. Things are improving, but primarily because living inside of Portland is outside of the budget of my family. It’s a vicious cycle that we face here, as there are so few paying jobs in vancouver, and no affordable housing inside of portland. At the moment, I have a very long commute, and drive a fuel efficient car. I’m working to change that, at a fevered pace. Having light rail in Vancouver would create a sea-change of thinking, even if most people in Vancouver don’t want to admit it. The City of Portland is creating a model, of how a civilized city can be made, provided that you can keep going, and create more in-depth improvements. Those of us that admire your creations in Vancouver, are working hard to make similar changes here. Not everyone in Vancouver is passionate about automobiles, so keep that in mind when you’re commenting. Some of us remember a time before sprawl, and rampant development.

matt picio
matt picio
13 years ago

Eileen (#46) – I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said in that post.

Speaking as an advocate, and one who participates in many of the “public” meetings, do you have any suggestions as to how to increase participation by those who have more constrained schedules? (especially single mothers)