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City survey: Drive-alone trips up, biking down

Posted by on November 12th, 2009 at 9:55 am

In traffic on Grand Avenue-1.jpg

(Photo © J. Maus)

The City of Portland Auditor’s Office has released their annual Resident Survey and the results show that the number of respondents who drive-alone to work has increased while bike use fell one percent from last year.

The City received 3,194 responses to their survey. One of the questions was “What is the primary means to get to and from work?” Of the 2,004 people who work outside their home, here’s how the answers came back:

2009

  • 68% drive-alone
  • 7% carpool
  • 10% use bus, light rail, or streetcar
  • 5% walk
  • 7% bike

Compare that to the 2008 results:

  • 65% drive-alone
  • 8% carpool
  • 11% use bus, light rail, or streetcar
  • 4% walk
  • 8% bike

Cars still rule in Portland.

While it’s troubling to see this trend since last year, it’s a bit more encouraging to compare the numbers to 2005. Since then, biking has gone up 3 percent and drive-alone trips have gone down by 3 percent. Another encouraging result of this survey is that biking was way up in Central Northeast and North Portland.

In thinking about these results, it’s also worth noting who responded to the survey. Only 8% of respondents were 29 or younger and 65% were 45 or older. 60% were female. If you assume that a majority of people riding bicycles to work in Portland are male and younger than 29, than that put these results into perspective.

But still, with all the hype around bicycling in this town, can we possibly be satisfied that a whopping 75% of Portlanders in this survey get in a car to go to work (no matter what their age or gender)?

new bike lane on Naito

The view from the bike
lane on Naito Blvd.

It seems to us that this is further proof that the primary problem facing Portland transportation right now is the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips. Those trips clog the roads, exacerbate road deterioration, hurt the health of our air and water (not to mention our bodies), make the streets more dangerous for all of us, take up a disproportionate amount of public space for parking, and take a bite out of people’s pocketbooks in upkeep, gas, and other expenses.

In Copenhagen they have strongly prioritized bicycle traffic and they have made driving as expensive as it should be to reflect its true cost to the city. The result is a city where 37% of residents bike to work (and school) and 51% of them feel safe while doing so*.

Transportation choices are about competition. The quickest, most comfortable, and safest mode will always win — and in Portland, that mode is still the automobile.

It’s not enough to simply build more rail lines and bikeways, we must also begin to “see the bull” (as Mikael Colville-Andersen reminded us) and address the issue of car overuse head-on.

You can download a PDF of the report here (see page 28 for transportation results).

Copenhagen stats taken from City of Copenhagen 2008 Bicycle Account.

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

56 Comments
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    Leslie Carlson November 12, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I think we’re seeing a couple of things here. First, I would argue that the huge upswing in gas prices drove some people to bikes/transit/alternative modes in 2007. In 2008, those prices fell, which reduced the motivation somewhat. People respond to financial signals, and for gasoline, the signal to stop driving alone so much seems to be at about $3.75 a gallon.

    Second, and this is my opinion only, I would argue that the bike infrastructure, while friendly to the fairly confident biker who’s willing to brave traffic and weather, is still not friendly enough for people with families (try riding downtown with kids!) and older folks who might not be as confident.

    I think more protected bikeways are absolutely necessary to get otherwise cautious folks out of their cars and onto bikes, transit and walking.

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    Jackattak November 12, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Agree with Leslie. I think those numbers have a lot to do with the gas hike of 2008.

    Raise the price of gas and get cars off the road. It’s as simple as that.

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    t.a. barnhart November 12, 2009 at 10:09 am

    this is soooo far from scientific. it’s a self-selecting sample, about as hard to trust as anything. i didn’t even know it existed, and i try to pay attention to things around me. it’s nice the City makes these attempts to listen to the public, but this is not data: it’s hearsay. it’s as useful as looking out the window to get a forecast on the weather for the next month.

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    Vance Longwell November 12, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Jackattack – That should read, “Raise the price of gas and price poor people off the road.”

    Isn’t there a better solution to this problem that doesn’t involve further isolating America’s poor from class ascension?

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    nuovorecord November 12, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Good point, t.a. There’s a +/- factor of 1.7% given to the city totals (p.44), so I think that assuming we’re losing cycling mode share is a bit of a stretch.

    It’d be nice to see the data, segmented by age and other demographic factors.

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    Todd Boulanger November 12, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Also…given simple rounding of numbers…a one percent tick up or down between years should be of lttle concern. Long term trends are what is key.

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    Jackattak November 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Vance,

    Driving is a privilege, not a right. If it is not a privilege one can afford, that matters to me naught.

    I’m sorry if that is harsh. I have nothing against the destitute. I have a lot against driving.

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    Mark November 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Agree with the commentary that this is not a reliable survey even though it is presumably conducted in the same manner each year. However, look at the differences in total respondents from ’07 (12,783) to ’08 and ’09 (about 2,000). The bigger the sample, the more reliable the numbers.
    A nit on the increases from ’05 to ’09. It has not “gone up 3%”. It is an increase of 3 percentage points. The increase is far greater if stated as a percentage. In this case, nearly 60%.
    Another point. It’s more valuable to compare increases or decreases in ridership from neighborhoods where development patterns and bicycle infrastructure have been improved. (Previous year data are not in the PDF.) If we’re making progress or not in those places, we know if those improvements are working. It’s going to be a long time before deep east Multnomah County is going to get on a bike to go to work. That’s a sad truth.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 12, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Folks… commentary about the survey, margin of error, and it’s unscientific-ness aside… does anyone else think its a big deal that 75% of people who responded to this survey get in a car to go to work?

    maybe it’s just me. maybe it’s that i’m getting increasingly frustrated with the slow rate of change happening in this town around transportation. maybe i need to calm down a bit.

    I’m really looking forward to PBOT’s most recent bike counts and I fully expect those to show a big jump.

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    cyclist November 12, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Jonathan:

    I think it’s a shame that you’re grouping car poolers into the same group as people who drive alone. Car poolers are part of the overall transportation solution, getting frustrated at them only makes you seem extreme. If 75% of people used a car pool to get to work there’d be (at least) half the number of cars on the road… that would be a great thing, even if that meant that 75% of people still used a car to get to work.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 12, 2009 at 11:09 am

    cyclist,

    i agree with you that carpooling is cool… if you read the story i never say they’re in the same boat as drive-aloners… my point is that they’re getting into a car to get to work. that’s all.

    i’m not frustrated with them. i’m frustrated with a city that has a lot of bike-friendly rhetoric but is still not doing enough to discourage auto use.

    thanks for the feedback.

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    Peter Noone November 12, 2009 at 11:12 am

    @Jackattak/7

    You imply that transportation is a right, and I agree. Given the current state of our culture and infrastructure, one could argue that owning and driving a car is a right.

    In any case, the situation isn’t quite as simple as your comment would indicate, and spending too much time pissed off about how people get around town is unlikely to effect positive change.

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    peejay November 12, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Jonathan:

    yes, I am also frustrated with the slow rate of change, and agree with you that moral pleas will not have a measurable effect on the mode split.

    Vance:

    Driving costs a lot already, and the less well off are better served by having alternative ways to get where they need to go. Right now, we do a great disservice to the poor by providing an environment in which they have to drive everywhere. When the cost of driving includes more externalized costs, it’s a better thing for everybody, because the costs for the alternatives can go down.

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    Jackattak November 12, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Peter – 12

    You’re probably right; hopefully I’m not too pissed off about it (admittedly I am pissed, though).

    That all being said, I believe as a pedestrian I have a leg to stand on (a couple actually). I am vulnerable to a cager’s 4,000-lbs. of rolling steel fury as I am flesh and bone. Even my neighbors, the cyclists, are nulnerable (more-so really, since those poor people actually have to contend with the deathtraps on their own turf, whereas I have sidewalks).

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    Vance Longwell November 12, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Jonathan – Can you more clearly illustrate where your frustration(s) intersect reality? I can prove to you on paper that my lack of a personal automobile over the last couple of decades has left me destitute.

    You might argue that changing the underlying condition perpetuating what is obviously a symptom needs addressed, and upon this we agree. However, I need to eat today.

    When you enter in to activities meant to, no designed to, interfere with people’s transportation options, I understand why. What I can’t understand is why you are not there with me in the job interview explaining to my prospective employer why my lack of a car shouldn’t matter.

    That’s frustrating. Then when people have the attitude shared by Jackattack, I’m only more frustrated as this seems like somebody with their piece of the pie, just protecting it. Furthermore it’s this, “heaping on”, effect that’s quite tiresome. As I’m pushed further and further away from the tools I need to ascend the class structure the cost of my real goods skyrockets due to interference in transportation paradigms.

    That feels a lot like being trapped at the bottom, and being forcefully held there. All of which are simply my feelings, but these feelings do play a role when it comes time for us all to cooperate.

    If you can’t hear any of that just imagine it’s a woman or minority saying it, and try again.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 12, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Hi Vance,

    I hear you about your need for a car and after our meeting the other I understand where you’re coming from.

    As I’ve always stated on this site, this IS NOT about limiting options for anyone. if you need a car, than more power to you.

    The problem is many people DON’T actually need to drive… but they do because our culture accepts and encourages that.

    In my vision of a great city, the only single-occupancy vehicle trips would be made by people that truly have no other options or means to take any other mode. If that includes you, than go for it.

    hope i answered your question.

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    Vance Longwell November 12, 2009 at 11:43 am

    pee-jay #13 – Tx for being kool. I hear you. Altruistically, I’m on board. But you are talking about an incremental change in a major, and pervasive paradigm that actually does have way more benefits than drawbacks. At least in wholesale numbers that is.

    We could also be talking about working conditions. The amount of time we spend working could be spent utilizing slower transportation options. Slowing down the pace of the rat-race could significantly impact the environment positively; just by slowing the burn-rate.

    Again. I need to eat today.

    Now, add to that I have an opposing world-view and consume information accordingly, and I’m left skeptical of some of the things motivating all of this. That should read, “arbitrary”. Being at the bottom is bad, I’m here to tell you. Being at the bottom for no good reason is even worse. I’m not saying this is the case, but it’s hard to align myself with people whom I believe are busily upsetting the tools and things I need to eat and stay dry.

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    Erik Sandblom November 12, 2009 at 11:51 am

    One reason people choose to drive is that municipal regulations require minimum levels of car parking, or else you don’t get a building permit. That drives up the cost of construction and contributes to sprawl.

    The Montreal Gazette: There is no free parking

    It seems to me that removing this regulation is just as important as putting in bikeways etc.

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    Vance Longwell November 12, 2009 at 11:51 am

    #16 – You shed light on something I’ve constantly thought about, and constantly forget. Your language implies that we may, “ween”, ourselves off this petrol-dependence. This would be necessary in order to deconstruct the lifestyle you want to deconstruct but still maintain enough infrastructure to serve necessity.

    I’ve never bought this. There will be no tweaking this guy, it’s a crash/not crash situation. It’s that horribly conflated. Because of the 30 year onslaught transportation is teetering on the brink. Now, only a fool would parade this opinion as fact, but I daresay you should consider this.

    What you may intend to thoughtfully tweak and streamline, might not respond that way, and just crash altogether. Forget about carpools man, what if the fire-truck can’t make it to your house on a bike-path?

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    jami November 12, 2009 at 11:56 am

    I moved to be closer to work, so I’ve gone from bike to walk, which is also up this year. Much as I love biking, nothing’s cheaper and less hassle than commuting in the shoes on your feet. And, like biking, walking on residential streets has to be safer than driving on the freeway.

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    Vance Longwell November 12, 2009 at 11:58 am

    You know Jonathan I just had a small breakthrough I think. If I may, I think you want to curtail The ABUSE of driving a personal car, not curtail the USE of it. Is this accurate? Ah-so. Hmm.

    Aside: What’s the the, “than”, I see all the time now. Have I been doing the, “a lot”, v., “alot”, thing with that, all these years? Interchanging, “than”, and, “then”, how embarrassing.

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    zilfondel November 12, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    The only way we’re going to have significant change is by land-use. Portland’s density is half of that of urban Los Angeles. Seattle is 2-3x that of ours.

    Increased density – living closer to things – will make it easier to get around without a car. More people crammed together will make it harder to drive.

    Then we’ll see meaningful change. Most people will continue to drive without some sort of reason.

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    Peter Noone November 12, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    @Vance/21

    I didn’t quite follow your last sentence there about grammar, but if you’re referring to J. Maus’s last comment (#16), he used “than” incorrectly twice.

    I use the rule “if/then not if/than” to avoid this particular typo.

    Regarding curtailing behavior, I don’t think we should put ourselves in that position (except, say, with our children). Even if we’re “right” (which is rather hard to determine), that attitude is unlikely to effect the changes we seek.

    I’ve been turned off recently by both (willful?) ignorance and apparent self-righteousness. I think we all need to watch the us-vs-them mentality, especially when it’s buried in our assumptions about the way things are and the way they ought to be.

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    El Biciclero November 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    It is sad that 75% of Portland residents choose to (or think they have no choice but to) drive to work. It is even sadder that 68% drive alone to work. Driving alone is THE #1 most wasteful (of energy and environment, not necessarily of time) way to get around.

    “I think it’s a shame that you’re grouping car poolers into the same group as people who drive alone.” –cyclist

    I kind of agree with this. Even though car-poolers are driving, all you have to do to double your driving efficiency is take on one passenger. Triple it by taking two passengers with you. Carpooling is rather like mini-mass transit. Congestion-wise, carpooling might be better than biking–it potentially takes multiple cars off the road, without adding back bikes to the mix.

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    Brad November 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    It’s you Jonathan and 75% should surprise no one.
    The change that you seek is long term and will require a generation or more to achieve. The reality is that car culture is still dominant and the most active proponents of that culture are older, have greater political power, and will not change. The upside? Younger people coming into their own politically are less enthused about cars and more passionate about the environment and the greater good. Eventually, they will have the power to make the rapid change that you seek. For now, our elected officials are too afraid to anger that 75% and alternative transportation gets a few bones here and there to keep us in line. The problem is that Portland’s bike devotees gleefully accept these throwaway crumbs and then staunchly defend the politicians that provided them. It’s a no lose situation for them.

    True change takes a lot of time and patience. That change also has to be realistic. Portland will not be a Euro-styled bike paradise for another ten to twenty years if ever. If money is to be made, then the auto industry will adapt their products for the future and, I suspect, that leap in technology will rapidly outpace the evolution of bike culture. Perhaps, in a decade or two, we’ll see a 50/50 split (bikes maybe 15-20%) in mode share. Why only 50%, because Portland is often cold, windy, and wet and people always prefer comfort and convenience to suffering. See this through other’s eyes. Will the average future Portlander rather spend thirty minutes in a warm dry electric car with a hot cup of coffee and music or would they prefer a cold wet half hour or longer slog exposed to the elements and wary of train tracks, slippery leaves, and other road users? I’d put my money on comfort and also wager that people will happily pay for that comfort. If the cost of comfort and convenience becomes too much for that market to bear, then they will make a change.

    In addition, you work as a self-employed journalist. Make your own hours, blog from home, casual dress code, etc. The vast majority of people do not enjoy that life. They need to be at their workplace during strictly defined hours. They may have to look crisp and professional at all times. They may need to shuttle children to activities, care for elderly parents, or go to second jobs right afterwards. Cycling and mass transit may not be conducive to those things. Walk (or drive) a mile in another man’s shoes and don’t assume that your passion easily translates to everyone else’s life.

    Frustrated? Thought Copenhagen-on-the-Willamette would just happen once Sam Adams got elected? Believed human nature would change overnight because you think this is the right thing to do? Step out of the bubble.

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    GLV November 12, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    @18: One reason people choose to drive is that municipal regulations require minimum levels of car parking, or else you don’t get a building permit. That drives up the cost of construction and contributes to sprawl.

    That’s not always true: the City does not require any vehicle parking in the Central City (downtown, Lloyd, Pearl, Central Eastside, etc). Lenders, that’s another story…

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 12, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Brad,

    you make some great points and I agree with a lot of them.

    however, I have no idea why most of your comments have some tone of personal insult toward me. have we ever met in person?

    Also, just FYI, I work from an office about 4.5 miles from my house, I wear nice clothes and I shave and make sure I’m presentable everyday.

    And I’m not sure why you’d write “don’t assume that your passion easily translates to everyone else’s life.” I’ve never assumed that.

    as for the rate of change. i disagree that it has to take that long to change. It will only take that long if we all keep sitting back and taking the status quo. If more of us demanded change, now, it would happen much sooner. Incremental change (which is a phrase I’ve heard from people at PBOT and the BTA) is what we’ll get if that’s all we seek.

    thanks for the comment.

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    Lenny Anderson November 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Most area employers offer a huge incentive to their folks to drive alone to work…free parking. Downtown and Lloyd are the exception, not the rule.
    Meanwhile city water/sewer rate payers cover the cost of storm water overflows, the most toxic elements of which come from motor vehicles. Time for EPA to slap a $5/barrel fee on oil to cover the costs of air and water pollution projects around the country.

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    Scott E November 12, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Have to say what Vance said struck a chord with me regarding driving abuse vs. driving use. An excellent way of framing the issue!

    Also, for what it’s worth I didn’t think Brad’s comment sounded like a personal insult against you. For the most part sounded pretty matter-of-fact with the exception of perhaps stepping out of a bubble and inaccurate assumption of your lifestyle. Then again, it wasn’t directed at me. 🙂

    Anyway, love the site and keep up the good work!

    -Scott

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    Peter Smith November 12, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    i think there are plenty of ways make drivers start paying for the true cost of the damage they do to Portland every time they choose to drive. it seems like every other day there’s a new report out, usually about public health, and how cars are directly and indirectly costing us bazillions of dollars while inflicting great bodily harm, mostly on the most helpless — the children and elderly.

    lets start talking about recouping those costs, and then we can start talking about preventing these crimes in the first place — after all, nobody should have the right to pollute my air.

    a ‘quality of life tax’ also needs to be implemented, start with $25/year for every car registered in Portland — cars prevent walking and biking in comfort, so we need to recoup those hidden costs.

    then it goes up every year. a city-wide gas tax seems very plausible, too — this would start recouping costs on a per-mile basis from folks who drive — the more you drive, the more damage you do, so the more you should pay. simple.

    all of this, though, requires working outside of just the bike community. we gotta bring in the enviros, the economists, the true conservatives, the walk folks, the transit folks, the child advocacy groups, the victims rights groups, the social justice groups, etc.

    it’d be interesting to study how copenhagen and other towns ‘flipped’ thirty years ago. what were the dynamics? it sure as heck wasn’t global warming that got them all up in arms — so what was it? was it _just_ a quality of life issue — cars were just completely ruining things, and they were among the first to realize it? i actually think that’s very plausible — thus, we start with a quality of life tax. throw in some user fees – gas taxes. more user fees for extra damage to the quality of city life by tolling/decongestion charges. add a specific ‘health tax’ to pay for smog/asthma-related diseases caused by cars.

    we’ll get there.

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    Jackattak November 12, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Peter, I like the way you think. 🙂

    +1.

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    Peter Noone November 12, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    @Peter Smith/30

    “… these crimes … after all, nobody should have the right to pollute my air.”

    See, this is where you start to sound self-righteous, narrowly focused, and hypocritical. (Please note that I don’t mean this to be personally insulting; it’s only an interpretation.)

    You contribute to (air) pollution every time you use your computer, eat meat, drink beer, buy anything, go anywhere, … pretty much do anything.

    We can find an infinite number of “unnecessary”, inefficient, resource-consuming behaviors. I put “unnecessary” in quotes because who am I to say? Who are you to say?

    You attack one aspect of one aspect of modern life, and we’ve got our panties in a twist about all of the “stupid” things that other people, all the while ignoring our own “bad behavior.”

    I’m not sure what the negative focus on other people’s behavior is going to solve. You call someone a criminal for what they think of as normal behavior, and it’s likely they won’t hear any of the rest of what you have to say.

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    BURR November 12, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I know this is anecdotal, but I just talked to someone last night who said they had been commuting by bike until they got right-hooked in that bike lane on Naito and went back to driving alone.

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    Peter Smith November 12, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    See, this is where you start to sound self-righteous, narrowly focused, and hypocritical.

    the ‘self-righteous’ ad hominem attack is pretty common, and not anything that any of us who care about where we live should pay any attention to.

    i try not to be ‘narrowly focused’, but perhaps i am, if by ‘narrowly focused’ you mean ‘trying to stamp out all crimes against humanity in all their forms’.

    every one of us is a hypocrite at some level, but this too is jut another ‘argument’ that is not serious and should not have any attention paid to it.

    You contribute to (air) pollution every time you use your computer, eat meat, drink beer, buy anything, go anywhere, … pretty much do anything.

    yes, i know, and if i really cared about the environment i would just kill myself because that’s the best i could do for the environment. got it. but aside from advocating for the recreation of Jonestown in Portland, do you have anything constructive to say?

    We can find an infinite number of “unnecessary”, inefficient, resource-consuming behaviors. I put “unnecessary” in quotes because who am I to say? Who are you to say?

    this nihilistic vision is not to be taken seriously by people who claim to want to help diminish the suffering of real people.

    as to who gets to say, we all do. we have to figure this out together. ideally, corporations would not have more of a say than human beings, but that’s where we’re at right now. you don’t _have_ to participate if you don’t want to, but I want to — i don’t hate my niece — i think she deserves a chance at a decent life, so i’m going to fight for her. others will disagree with my prescriptions for ‘the promised land’, and that’s a good thing — together we’ll figure out what is the best way forward for all of us. and if we screw up, hopefully it’s undoable. nobody ever guaranteed any victory — never been, never will be. but i believe we have to try.

    You attack one aspect of one aspect of modern life, and we’ve got our panties in a twist about all of the “stupid” things that other people, all the while ignoring our own “bad behavior.”

    i don’t ignore my own bad behavior — i don’t think anybody should. but i’m not sure what that has to do with anything.

    I’m not sure what the negative focus on other people’s behavior is going to solve.

    the negative focus is to show them that i disapprove of their behavior. hopefully enough people agree with me, and we can force them, through kindness or by force of law if necessary, to stop behaving badly. it’s not rocket science.

    You call someone a criminal for what they think of as normal behavior, and it’s likely they won’t hear any of the rest of what you have to say.

    it’s true that we have to communicate with people effectively.

    sometimes i choose to say what i actually think instead of couching every comment i make in terms that will most readily be consumable by car people. that someone currently thinks it is ‘normal’ and not ‘criminal’ to drive their cars on a highway, through a poor neighborhood, is something i’m looking to change.

    there are myriad examples of things that were ‘normal’ that are now ‘criminal’, and it all started with people like me and you having the courage to stand up and say, ‘no — this is not right, this is criminal, this needs to stop, right now.’ slavery, war crimes, rape, you name it — all were once completely legal and even promoted by ‘upstanding people’ in the community (some still are, here, in the US) — but most have changed and are now seen as illegal and immoral, even if we haven’t been able to stamp them out completely, even if we haven’t been able to jail the guilty.

    slowly, but surely, the world is continuing to become an ever-so-slightly more civilized place, and it’s because people much braver than you or I are standing up to real tyranny, while all you and i have to do is show up to community meetings and voice our support for stronger restrictions on cars, criminal culpability for vehicular ‘accidents’ and other car crimes, and the like.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 12, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Vance wrote:

    You know Jonathan I just had a small breakthrough I think. If I may, I think you want to curtail The ABUSE of driving a personal car, not curtail the USE of it. Is this accurate? Ah-so. Hmm.”

    yes. as i’ve written many times on this site… it’s not care use that I’m concerned with it’s car abuse.

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    chelsea November 12, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    While not shocking, it is disgusting that so many people drive alone that much! Make driving more expensive and make other forms of transportation cheaper. Things will change pretty quick.

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    Peter Noone November 12, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    @Peter Smith/34

    Implying that I don’t care about where I live and play because I don’t precisely share your values is an ad hominem attack, too, is it not? Or, perhaps it’s another type of logical fallacy. Either way, I didn’t actually attack you; I only made a statement about how your words came across, even to someone that agrees with you to a significant extent.

    And, really, who is going to take you seriously when you say things like “crimes against humanity” when you’re talking about individuals driving around town? Driving a car is comparable to rape? You’re still sounding sanctimonious, and that’s not going to change anything.

    The point about hypocrisy is just that perhaps you shouldn’t be focused so much on other people’s behavior, given that you probably have a long way yet to perfection. Lead by example and all that. I don’t want to join your guilt-ridden, negative, and extremist sounding clique, even if I do agree with a lot of your points and perhaps have a similar vision of the way things could be.

    You said: “yes, i know, and if i really cared about the environment i would just kill myself because that’s the best i could do for the environment.” But that’s the opposite of what I’m trying to say. I’m trying to say that perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom. Perhaps we’ve gotten wrapped up in a particularly nasty perspective.

    I’ve had plenty of constructive things to say about all this, but I’m not sure what it has amounted to. In some ways, I feel that people have shit all over that effort because it wasn’t just right; it wasn’t good enough. I know that alienating people hasn’t accomplished a damn thing and never will. I know that quiet persistence has had some effect.

    So you disapprove of “car people’s” behavior? Well, some of them disapprove of many of “bike people’s” behavior. And you want to sort this out with some kind of popular vote (“hopefully enough people agree with me”)? Isn’t the general public now voting to drive cars? Doesn’t that make it right by your logic?

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    Donna November 12, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    I wonder the mortgage factor as well as unemployment might be coming into play here. I noticed an pretty big increase in bike commuters going downtown starting summer 2007 through fall 2008. Besides high fuel prices, this coincided with a period of time quite a few ARMs adjusted up with their monthly payments. It’s entirely possible some of the new bike commuters were trying to keep up with their higher house payments and tried biking to work as part of their solution.

    As quite a few people have simply stopped paying their mortgages and/or gone into foreclosure in the past year, they end up with extra money for other things. Those bike commuters might have decided to return to driving their car to work.

    The other thing that occurred to me is that of the people who have been put out of work in the last year, perhaps a disproportionate amount of them were bike commuters.

    There’s no way to really know, but those are some things to think about besides the cost of gas going down.

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    Lazy Spinner November 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Can anyone come up with a better idea than sin taxes? Last time I checked, taxes in Oregon had to be approved by politicians or by voter referendum. Good luck getting those votes!

    I think the economy had something to do with it also. Over the past year I have seen less bikes in my building. Coincidentally, people are also dressing a bit better. I suspect those fearing layoffs are “cleaning up” to look better to their older conservative bosses. In the same vein, are they driving in order to get to the office earlier and stay later to impress the boss? Maybe trying to avoid being “that weird bike guy”?

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    BURR November 12, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    It’s easy not to be that ‘weird bike guy’, just wear normal clothes when you’re riding your bike, instead of one of those ‘weird bike outfits’

    🙂

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    KWW November 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    If you keep insisting on comparison to the Copenhagen model, I must insist that you grade the entire city limits of Portland dead flat, and that you instantly increase the population density to that of Copenhagen, preferably with the women of Copenhagen!

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    Rico November 13, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Good luck raising the gas tax. After much debate and 16 years since the last increase, it’s being raised 6 cents a gallon at the state level. However, that was too unpalatable for some, so it’s being phased in 2 cents/gallon/year. Even this weak increase faced the wrath of a petition drive to refer it to the ballot. Luckily that one didn’t get enough signatures. Personally, I think Kulongoski should have started with a buck increase and get whittled down to a quarter instead of starting with a couple of cents. To many, free roads and cheap gas are unalienable rights and few politicians have the will to challenge them.

    PS Don’t forget that there is an amendment to the Oregon constitution that gas tax can only be used “exclusively for the construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, operation and use of public highways, roads, streets and roadside rest areas in this state”. So no cycle tracks or multi-use paths and doubtful that “improvement” can mean anything other than improvement for cars.

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    Jackattak November 13, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Rico,

    Look up what constitutes a highway in Oregon.

    Hint: Cycle tracks and multi-use paths count.

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    Todd November 13, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Great job this morning Jonathan, you represented the bike community fantastically.

    You hit the nail on the head in your article above also, as long as driving is comfortable, quick and easy and parking cheap the majority will not abandon it.

    The only way to encourage more biking is to make driving less attractive by increasing parking rates and building a more dense city with less parking and more people per square mile- just like the best biking cities in the world.

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    Afro Biker November 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Cramming people together with more urban density does not improve livability…whether they are driving cars or not. That lack of denisty is what has made Portland such a wonderful home to me for more than 30 years. Try going back east to place with high density and tell me if that’s what you want for Portland.

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    David Hembrow November 15, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I agree with Afro Biker. I don’t like such high density either. Luckily, density on that scale is not required for a high cycling rate.

    In fact, the highest cycling rate in the world is in Groningen, where 57% of all journeys are by bike. The city has a density only a little higher than Portland (2324 people per square km vs. 1655).

    Assen has 41% of all journeys by bike with a density half that of Portland’s – just 780 per square km, and has achieved this without a university and the resulting student population boosting cyclist numbers.

    Both these cities have cycling rates considerably higher than Copenhagen’s 37% of commuters and around 23% of all journeys and they’ve achieved it by building a considerably better standard of cycling facility which makes cycling far more attractive.

    It’s quite normal to see people cycling with their children in the very centres of Dutch cities, even with children who have only just learn to balance a two wheeler.

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    Meg November 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you KWW. I’m sure this comment is too far down / too old of an article for anyone to really see it, but:

    Look guys, it’s really simple — make it possible to get on a bike in your nice office clothes and get to work in spite of rain, huge hills, workout sweat and helmets, and yes, belligerence from car drivers, and a LOT more people will bike to work here. Get rid of all the terrain and you can start comparing us to Copenhagen. Get rid of all the rain and cold and ice, and you can start pointing fingers at people who won’t get on their bikes. Make it possible for older people and people with disabilities to use a bike without having to be totally in shape.

    Until then, much as it pains me to say it, yes, a car probably is a much more practical option for those 70% of drivers. Light rail or bus might be better than a car for many, but it also takes a lot longer than both bikes and cars.

    I really wish I had a bike option that didn’t involve an extra 20 minutes of prep work to get on a bunch of rain gear and take it off at the other end, in the winter. I wish I had an option that, under those same circumstances, didn’t mean I’d have to set up half my get-ready routine at work, or have it ruined by rain and sweat.

    We don’t though. It’s just how it works right now.

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    Erik Sandblom November 15, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Meg, “Get rid of all the terrain and you can start comparing us to Copenhagen. ”

    Well Århus in Denmark has the terrain and the bike mode share too, 20%. The hill between the ring road and the port is 2,7 km long and rises 80 metres, which equals a 3% grade. And Denmark is not known for its fine weather or balmy winters.

    http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Århus#Trafik

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    David Hembrow November 15, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Meg, it’s very easy to make excuses for people. I just compared the climate of Portland with the climate of Groningen.

    The average minimum in January in Portland is 33.7 F, vs 32.9 F in Groningen, so we’re talking about very similar temperatures.

    We had a very cold winter last year, and it was around -12 C ( 10 F ) for several days. It didn’t stop anyone cycling, but it did get the population excited about the possibility of an inter-city ice-skating competition. Sadly there was a thaw just before this could go ahead.

    Aarhus as mentioned by Erik Sandblom is somewhat further north and will be colder than here.

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    Brad November 16, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Have the Danes been brainwashed for the last century to believe that cars, comfort, and convenience are their God given rights as Danes? That’s the main issue to be tackled and that is what will take time to dismantle – the average American’s sense of entitlement to cars, comfort, and convenience.

    Those of us on this site are early adopters and the low hanging fruit. Assuming everyone else will be easily converted is folly. Barring a huge spike in gas prices or the imposition of heavy taxes on motor vehicles, it will take a generation to achieve a 15% or greater mode share for bikes.

    I don’t say this to be negative. I would like Portland’s bike advocates to deal with the subject in a more realistic manner. No one seems to be thinking outside of the box or just fawns over and assumes that whatever Copenhagen does will work here. In my opinion, Portland’s bike planning is rubbish. It fails to address vehicular cycling in favor of a lowest common denominator approach. As others have stated numerous times, the bike has to be on par with driving for both speed and ease of travel (high speed connectivity) for it to get meaningful numbers of people out of their cars. Bike boulevards running north/south, only on the eastside, and causing you to stop every other block are inefficient. Those still feed you onto busy high speed and car dominated streets to go east/west. Those are the roads that frighten “interested but concerned” not some 25 MPH stretch of tree lined neighborhood in the east 40’s.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 16, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Brad,

    I agree with you. Getting tough on car abuse is the thing missing from the American bike movement.

    We need a visionary leader/organization that can get tough on cars, without coming off as an anti-car extremist, but who can make the case that car use is out of control.

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    Todd November 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    David: Groningen and Assen must be wonderful places but you can’t compare them with Portland. Assen has 64,000 people. No journey can be much more than a few miles. Groningen’s population density is not slightly higher, it’s 30% higher. Portland has 12 times more people and covers almost five times more area. That’s a lot farther to bike. Portland is much more comparable to Amsterdam with the same population but density almost four times higher than here!

    I am completely in favor of building cycling facilities but at the same time you must make driving less attractive than it is currently. Other ways I forgot to mention besides limiting parking are raising the gas tax and discouraging younger people from driving by making driver education mandatory and expensive. I think this is how you do it in Holland right?

    Afro Biker: One million people are moving to Portland in the next 20 years. Where will they live? If we don’t build places for them to live in the inner city they’ll be forced to move to new neighborhoods on the outskirts where it’s much more difficult to bike to jobs and shops, increasing sprawl and encouraging more driving.

    Portland doesn’t need to become NYC, but even achieving Groningen’s density will bring people’s homes closer to their jobs and the extra customers will allow more shops and services to provide places for people to shop without driving. Smaller dwellings are also much more energy efficient than the large houses all over Portland. There are empty lots and surface parking all over Portland which are perfectly suited to building attractive and affordably priced housing and the shops to serve them.

    Portland will continue to change- but will it be more like sprawling, polluted Houston with hellish freeway commutes or Amsterdam with walkable, bikeable neighborhoods? Population density is the key either way.

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    Jack Mondragon November 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Bicycling has peaked. Don’t you cult bicyclists get it? It isn’t going to increase. Just like the CB (Citizens
    Band Radio) craze in the 1970’s bicycling is going to go nowhere. Just because you hobbyists believe that your fad will expand doesn’t make it so. I cannot believe the fanaticism you bicyclists in Portland have. 2010 will bring a real change in the political system and you will be ignored and be relegated to what you folks deserve, NOTHING. You guys have the mentality of model railroaders.

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    Peter Noone November 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    @Jack/53

    The current transportation (and economic) situation is much more a result of previous political eras (read: Bush years and prior) than it is a result of the past 10 months or so.

    Take a look again in a year or two or three and then it might be reasonable to start blaming Obama for everything.

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    Jim O'Horo November 17, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    @ Meg #47 has touched on an issue that’s very important to a lot of commuters who live farther out from center city – TIME. If the bike commute is from 10 or more miles out, it takes at least 1 hr. of riding time even for those physically able to do so. Add prep time and time to prepare/freshen up after arriving at the workplace and the value of the time far exceeds the cost of driving (even alone). Combining with public transit is physically easier but in my experience rarely saves much travel time.

    I recently rode from my home near Vancouver Mall to OHSU (with a brief stop at CCC along the way). It took me almost exactly 3 hrs. I’ve done the trip many times combining bike/bus/MAX, and it takes about 2-2 1/2 hrs w/o the side trip to CCC, so there’s virtually no time savings with combined bike/public transit. Until this situation improves, it’s going to be very difficult to induce people to give up their cars without a HUGE incentive.

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    Peter Smith November 18, 2009 at 1:16 am

    Implying that I don’t care about where I live and play…

    not sure how you could have gotten that from what i wrote.

    And, really, who is going to take you seriously when you say things like “crimes against humanity”

    lots of people. and more people every day. i bet there are thousands of people in each San Francisco and Portland who already agree with me and that statement in particular. in Copenhagen in a couple of weeks, we’re going to see thousands more folks who agree with me and that statement.

    Driving a car is comparable to rape?

    not sure where i said that. maybe you can point it out for me?

    You’re still sounding sanctimonious, and that’s not going to change anything.

    i hate PETA’s tactics, yet a lot of what they say makes perfect sense to me, so i eat veggie whenever i can, and i pay a lot more attention to animal rights because of what they’ve said, in all their a-holish selves. you know what they say when i tell them to stop acting like racists just to get some attention? they say, ‘FU, Peter Smith — you start treating animals fairly and then come talk to us.’

    you don’t have to like me, PETA, Al Gore, or anybody else, but you do have to make a decision about what type of person you want to be.

    i stopped giving money to PETA, but when animal rights issues come up, I’m on their side all the way (usually). i could go around killing bunnies just because i think PETA is ‘sanctimonious’, but i choose not to be evil.

    life is full of decisions.

    The point about hypocrisy is just that perhaps you shouldn’t be focused so much on other people’s behavior, given that you probably have a long way yet to perfection.

    i’m not so sure why i should stop focusing on other folks’ bad behavior just because i’m not perfect. i know this is a favorite attack on Al Gore and anyone who tries to do any good in the world, but i’m not sure why you think it makes any sense.

    I don’t want to join your guilt-ridden, negative, and extremist sounding clique, even if I do agree with a lot of your points and perhaps have a similar vision of the way things could be.

    there are myriad groups of people fighting for the same or similar things. i wish you luck in finding your own clique.

    But that’s the opposite of what I’m trying to say. I’m trying to say that perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom.

    i don’t believe i ever suggested it was. i think if you talk to most cyclist advocate types — especially folks as ‘extreme’ as me — you’ll find that we are overjoyed at the possibility of a car-free existence, and we dream and talk about that every chance we get. there are PR aspects to what we’re trying to do, of course, but i wouldn’t be overly concerned about being so ‘on message’ all the time — we have to be able to speak freely — plain speech, frank speech, that’s all. with love. in the spirit of self-criticism.

    In some ways, I feel that people have shit all over that effort because it wasn’t just right; it wasn’t good enough.

    not sure what you mean by this, but if you need a break, take a break — work on something else for a change, or work on nothing at all — get re-energized. if people don’t agree with you, then maybe you’re wrong. or maybe you need to work on your delivery. or maybe people have other problems. activism can be a brutally dispiriting proposition – that’s why it’s important to know what’s important, and to know your own limits. i’m with Emma Goldman — “If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution!” this stuff is supposed to be fun.

    So you disapprove of “car people’s” behavior?

    yes. often, but not always. some people have no choice. most people, in fact, have no choice. we need to change that.

    Well, some of them disapprove of many of “bike people’s” behavior. And you want to sort this out with some kind of popular vote (“hopefully enough people agree with me”)?

    yes — that’s one way to look at it. that’s what democracy is all about. do the will of the people, while protecting individual rights. nothing too radical.

    Isn’t the general public now voting to drive cars?

    no — the vast majority of the general public had no say in the matter — General Motors and crew did, however, and that’s why most people have no choice but to drive. we’re changing that, slowly but surely. Jonathan’s post is asking how we can go about changing that more quickly.

    If you keep insisting on comparison to the Copenhagen model, I must insist that you grade the entire city limits of Portland dead flat, and that you instantly increase the population density to that of Copenhagen, preferably with the women of Copenhagen!

    my guess is that flatness-vs-hills has little to do with it, and Mr. Hembrow has shown us how density is irrelevant.

    Good luck raising the gas tax.

    i would still like to see a city-based gas tax — i don’t know if it’s legally possible — i don’t see why not, though. can’t the city tell all city-based gas stations to start charging an extra five cents a gallon, and add five cents every year indefinitely until we decide to repeal it, which we won’t, of course? if gas stations don’t like it, they can move outside of the city — fine by me.

    the average American’s sense of entitlement to cars, comfort, and convenience

    do we feel entitled to comfort and convenience? i could go with that. but cars? not so much. if there is some other way to get around comfortably and conveniently, then cars won’t be missed at all.

    Barring a huge spike in gas prices or the imposition of heavy taxes on motor vehicles, it will take a generation to achieve a 15% or greater mode share for bikes.

    think i might agree that this could happen, but i’m still hopeful we’ll do better. 🙂

    i do think walk/bike/transit advocacy organizations should merge and create larger SUPER-advocacy groups that can really push change for livability, which means 1) beating cars into submission through new laws/taxes/etc., and 2) pushing big initiatives on land use, car-free days, etc. as Jane Jacobs said, you have to be big enough to matter.

    i think there are other reasons to be hopeful. as we get more folks out of cars, even if it’s just one percent a year, we start giving ourselves more of a chance at democracy. less time in cars is less time listening to people tell you how to think. more and better public spaces means more time to mix with fellow citizens and exchange ideas and discuss politics and organize.

    and there are other possible ‘transformative’ ideas that have already started to take hold (ciclovia) and others that will hopefully take hold (more women in key leadership positions; organizing for corporate harm reduction; etc.).

    i wouldn’t put it past us. culture can change on a dime. maybe it’s an event. maybe it’s a leader. who knows? maybe it’s Jonathan Maus??!! 😀

    Bike boulevards running north/south, only on the eastside, and causing you to stop every other block are inefficient.

    i’m definitely with the idea of ‘bicycle highways’. David Hembrow has shown us plenty of great facilities from the Netherlands, and we know Copenhagen is planning some. we even had a San Francisco supervisor pitch one, out of the blue, a year or two ago! maybe she just got caught up in the moment, but still, it was on her radar.

    Afro Biker: One million people are moving to Portland in the next 20 years. Where will they live? If we don’t build places for them to live in the inner city they’ll be forced to move to new neighborhoods on the outskirts where it’s much more difficult to bike to jobs and shops, increasing sprawl and encouraging more driving.

    i’m hoping this idea of ‘multi-centric’ cities continues to infiltrate our planning processes. i think people are going to continue to question the validity of skyscrapers and huge downtowns which stretch/burden/crush mass transit systems. we definitely have to do something about corporate control, though — they’ve got the regulatory apparatus at almost every level — that needs to change. and i agree, of course, with depaving parking lots and using them for something more…useful, whether buildings or housing or farms or whatever.

    Combining with public transit is physically easier but in my experience rarely saves much travel time.

    speaking of travel time, i know a lot of cities have started to two-way their one-way streets. i think it’s a great move. someone even mentioned that Portland was about to…do the opposite, i think? one-way some two-ways? in any case, two-waying streets generally helps bikers by slowing down auto traffic, making it less threatening — we should do more of it. if it also has the effect of slowing down auto traffic/throughput, then either ‘too bad’ or ‘awesome’. 🙂 we just have to be vocal and unified about our desires — do we want a city for cars, or for people?

    Until this situation improves, it’s going to be very difficult to induce people to give up their cars without a HUGE incentive.

    how about some wifi on our buses and trains? or, at least on the trains? that seems to be a pretty big incentive.

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