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Bike advocates as neo-cons and other media highlights

Posted by on February 2nd, 2010 at 11:22 am

“The bicycle soldiers of Portland are as giddy as a cabal of neo-cons plotting regime change in 2002, and with good reason. There is a good chance that this week the City Council will approve the 20-year bicycle master plan…”
— Letter to the Editor in The Oregonian

With just a few days before Portland City Council adopts the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030, it will be interesting to see how the local media tries to spin it.

Case in point: Respected columnist for The Oregonian, Anna Griffin, mentioned the plan in her column on Saturday. The piece took issue with Mayor Adams’ governing style and said he needs to “Toss Twitter and get back to the big picture for Portland” among other things. The Twitter bashing was strange enough, but here’s the paragraph that caught my eye (emphasis mine):

“…Despite the distractions of the first year, he’s waded into some important debates about Memorial Coliseum’s future, the city’s pollution problem and, coming just in time for next week’s annual State of the City address, the renewed and costly commitment Portlanders must make to become Bike City, U.S.A.

First, the plan does not commit the city to anything. It’s merely a plan — a framework for how we make future decisions about bicycling. Yes, there are implementation scenarios and dollar figures in the plan, but (unfortunately), they are not binding and they don’t force the city to spend anything on bikes.

The reality is, as the Willamette Week reported last week, PBOT has only found about $10 million to $14 million for the next five years to fund the plan and the task of finding more money has been banished to yet another stakeholder committee (which is good or bad news depending on how much faith you put in stakeholder committees).

And, even if the plan did commit the City to spending a lot on bicycle transportation infrastructure, it would be the smartest investment they could make; far less “costly” than business as usual (ask PBOT how their $500 million maintenance backlog is coming).

I have to think that unfortunate characterizations of the plan like that one from Ms. Griffin are what lead to Letters to the Editor like the one below from Mr. Cliff Mason from Northeast Portland (as published in today’s Oregonian):

The bicycle soldiers of Portland are as giddy as a cabal of neo-cons plotting regime change in 2002, and with good reason. There is a good chance that this week the City Council will approve the 20-year bicycle master plan under the flag of the Portland Transportation Bureau. The plan adds more than 700 miles of bike routes to Portland at a projected cost of $558 million.

The high cost is largely because of the extensive construction required to build separated in-road bike lanes: 372 miles at more than a million dollars per mile. Countless miles of traffic lanes and on-street parking are to be eliminated in the process…

CLIFF MASON
Northeast Portland

Bicycle soldiers! I love it.

Seriously though, people of Portland, despite what you might read, there is nothing to fear. Yes, people who care about biking are a strong and vocal bunch, but we’re not going to eat your babies. We’re just trying to encourage city officials to build our city in a way that gives everyone the most comfortable and efficient experience possible.

Stay tuned. This should be an interesting week.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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areJonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)old&slowbeth hAaronF Recent comment authors
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Jackattak
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Jackattak

I would imagine that those who actually read The Oregonian are reading it just to have their own thoughts regurgitated to them. In other words, I don’t think we’ll lose any traction from the bad press and hateful language.

Dave
Guest

To owners of restaurants, cafes, bars and grocery stores all over Portland – we WILL however, eat your food, drink your drinks, and earn you money, if we can get to your restaurants, cafes, bars and grocery stores conveniently and have somewhere to put our bikes when we get there. Believe me, we’re a hungry bunch! 🙂

Incidentally, the fact that we spend less on getting there sometimes means we have more to spend.

gregg woodlawn
Guest

“We’re just trying to encourage city officials to build our city in a way that gives everyone the most comfortable and efficient (AND CLEAN, HEALTHY, SUSTAINABLE, EQUITABLE) experience possible.”

…The BOREgonian has to write to its readers. I mean, this is the paper who endorsed George Bush- and most recently supported a NO vote on 66 and 67. What do you expect?

BUILT IT! (The bicycle Master Plan- not the 12 lane bridge)

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“The Twitter bashing was strange enough…” maus/bikeportland

Please continue to explain why you think so, which you neglected to do in your story above. Griffin, in her story, goes on in some detail explaining her thoughts about Adam’s use of oh-so-vogue communication technology, Twitter, and why, with examples, it might not be the greatest way for her to serve Portland residents. Let’s see what thoughts people reading the Oregonian are, according to Jack, ‘regurgitating’:

“…This reliance on less-traditional, higher-tech forms of public outreach is understandable. With yet another attempt at a recall hanging over his head, he’s going to want to control the message even more than most politicians. To limit the opportunities for questions about poor choices he made well before he became mayor. To slip into conversations about, say, whether the Columbia River Crossing will ever get built. News conferences can be dangerous.

But Adams’ roundabout way of talking to his public, while understandable, makes it difficult to truth-squad both his claims of success and his critics’ claims of inconsequence. …” Anna Griffin/Oregon

To the bike plan, Griffin devotes a half sentence in her story. Despite the words used: ‘commitment’ and ‘must’, it’s hardly approaches being an indictment of investing in the bike plan.

Finally, why does a weblog, whose editor in chief at times seems to aspire to a high level of journalistic integrity, repost from comments in response to Griffin’s Oregonian story, cheap, sensationalist off-the cuff remarks of this Cliff Mason?

His are hardly an example of the worst that visit the response sections of the Oregonians online version of the paper, but they’re also not what could be considered a serious, well substantiated counter to plans the city is making to invest in bike-pedestrian infrastructure.

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

My wife and I receive the Oregonian on weekends just for the A&E stuff and the classifieds. I’m all too happy to turn them down when they call and offer me free weekday delivery for 6 months because of the opinion shown here and the recommendation to vote no on 66 and 67, among other things.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Correction:

“…not be the greatest way for her him to serve Portland residents.

Whoop! Sorry Sam…wrong gender term.

KruckyBoy
Guest
KruckyBoy

You know, people are entitled to their opinions, and not everyone in Portland is 100% pro bike. I don’t see anything in the quotes above that even comes close to bordering on ‘hateful’ language. I like bike lanes. Lots of people don’t. I’m not sure that fact in and of itself is worthy of an article. Just my 2 cents.

are
Guest

the plan does indeed propose 385.72 miles of “separated in-road” facilities, at a cost of over $1 million per mile, and only 302.81 miles of shared facilities, at a cost of not quite $236k per mile. why not address the cost concern directly instead of talking about eating babies? let’s not let our enthusiasm blind us to some realities here.

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

thanks for the comments.

kruckyboy,

i realize people are entitled to their opinions. I did not write that this was “hateful” language. where’d that come from?

are,

like i said in the story, i realize the plan has dollar amounts for the facilities it proposes, but it does not mean the city is going to build everything once it’s adopted. I’m happy to address cost concerns….but that wasn’t the point of this post.

i’m not “blinded” to any realities here. remember folks, this is just one post, one stream of thought I wanted to share — it does not represent the entirety of my opinions on this topic.

wsbob,

again, like kruckyboy, you are making leaps with my words. I never said Griffin was making an “indictment” on bike investment.. i was merely pointing out that her tone came off to me in a certain way. As for Twitter… she clearly just doesn’t like Sam’s style — so why not just come out and say it instead of telling him to “toss twitter”? — a tool which many people find quite useful?

And Mr. Mason’s comments were not in a comment on an OregonLive.com post… It was a Letter to the Editor.

Thanks for all the feedback.

Evan
Guest
Evan

And how much did the City of Portland spend to build its entire road network “pre-bike”? A network that required a person to purchase a car in order to get anywhere? If you add the cost to each person to actually use a dedicated car-only network (roads, cars, insurance, gas, police, etc) investments in bike infrastructure look pretty darn good.

are
Guest

actually, and i acknowledge my earlier post did not make this clear, i was pointing out that the plan emphasizes separated facilities at the expense of cheaper, shared facilities.

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

Evan @ 10,
I’m pretty sure much of the road network was built for and shared by horses and bikes and streetcars before the motorcar came along.

But of course, you’re right, a lot of money was spent to tailor the road network to the demands of the car and to the exclusion of others,… and now a lot of money will have to be spent to reverse some of that.

If ever there were an argument to counter the thick-headed notion that gas tax pays for roads therefore it should only be spent for cars I think it’s that question of historical equity.

TM
Guest
TM

Cost per mile?
Let’s talk about that.
1. Cost of having one of the best mass transit systems in the US torn up to make way for more paved streets for cars
2. Cost of building said roads
3. Building said cars, their itinerant CO2 cost, maintenance, parts, etc…
4. Cost in pollution coming out tailpipe
5. Congestion, lost time, lost money, parking, and major stress due to being stuck in traffic
6. Loss of healthy lifestyle and exercise
7. Ongoing debilitating cost over-runs for road maintenance

Pros for bike lanes and infrastructure:
1. Cost less per mile, especially when compared to automobile roadways.
2. Promote healthier lifestyles. More exercise means *dramatically* better lifestyles for the average person.
3. 1 in 4 young adults in LA has significant lung lesions due to smog. 1 in 4! We really don’t want to repeat those hard lessons with our young.
4. Help reduce traffic congestion so that service companies that need to use trucks can be less intrusive and far more efficient. This would be a HUGE win for business. Hey Oregonian – that’s something you’ve completely missed.
5. Improved property values. Rail trails have proven this time and again.
6. Community space where people interact and again be sociable. People and good ideas are our most valuable resource.
7. Lets adjust dollar amounts to see what the equivalent money was spent on making the current infrastructure. Oh, right, then that would poke gaping holes in all their arguments and make the public question their agenda. Oops.
8. Cost *far* less to maintain than automobile roadways. Simple, verifiable, easy to prove physics. Less mass means less wear on pavement. Less wear means less maintenance and longer lifespan of said project. Even grade school children figure that cause and effect chain.
9. Car drivers are so out of touch with their surroundings that just a few inches of snow brought greater Portland to a grinding halt. Cyclists were busy just avoiding the guided and hapless missiles. Fortunately they were not *hittles*.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Maus…your statement:

“I never said Griffin was making an “indictment” on bike investment.. i was merely pointing out that her tone came off to me in a certain way.”

‘…came off to me in a certain way.’ That could mean…almost anything. You must be happy with that response or you wouldn’t have posted it. I’m sure you’re very busy, so perhaps that’s the best that those of us reading here can expect.

In the column you’ve referred to, I believe Griffin’s intent was to do more that simply say she personally didn’t like Adam’s style. In her column, Griffin reviews for readers, a little history on the way Adams has addressed the public in the past differs from the way he’s been addressing them more recently, relying on the Twitter medium for the control and brevity it allows the user.

I think what she may be saying, is that Adams is using Twitter to dodge situations that would allow critical examination of his performance, in public. And in doing so, he’s opening himself up to a risk of making bad, spontaneous promises, evidenced by an example Griffin provides in her story.

Many people may find Twitter quite useful, but it’s far from being something everyone has access to or even knows about.

Yes, I neglected to keep in mind, your explanation that Cliff Mason’s remarks about the bicycle plan were in the form of a letter to the editor rather than in a comment posted in response to Griffin’s column. I don’t think where his remarks were posted improves their quality or makes a better case for them having been posted here on bikeportland.

I would imagine that given the type of commenter Cliff Mason seems to be, he hardly needs a half sentence characterization of the bike plan from Griffin to get him write that stuff.

It’s a sad thing that our roadway network and urban planning have devolved to a point where use of motorized transportation is often compulsory. That this happened though, isn’t just the fault of contrary columnists or conservative types that don’t want to spend any money on bike-pedestrian infrastructure.

It’s due to no small extent…going back some decades in our recent history…to the general public having come to the conclusion that they didn’t want to walk or ride a bike anymore…that motor vehicles were the end-all in terms of transportation.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

Jonathan, while I agree that the Oregonian is completely out of touch in this city (and is paying the price in subscriptions) Ms. Griffins take on Adams is spot on. While your site was a complete suckup to this bike phoney, he is so ineffectual that Randy Leonard has assumed city leadership and Adams is content to twitter because his power has been usurped.

The support from Adams in the bike community has been so misplaced and the effect will be that the city may turn off the bike community with a change of leadership. This guy is so ineffective and so hamstrung because of his own personal decisions that his clout and “leadership” is so pathetic that he is accomplishing nothing and your support for him is not getting the bike community anywhere. The tide actually seems to be turning in this town and the cycling community is losing clout thanks to the “leadership” of Adams and the BTA.
You have been a big supporter of both and are part of the problem.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

BikePortland is to BTA/PBOT/Sam Adams as FoxNews is to the Republican Party. It claims to be “fair and balanced” journalism but is largely just a conduit for pro-bike advocacy groups and bike friendly bureaucrats to pontificate to their loyal supporters.

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

Hey, you guys stop being mean!
JMaus is Portland’s bicycle Jesus.

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

old&slow wrote:

“your site was a complete suckup to this bike phoney [Sam Adams]”

That’s not true. Can you back that up with actual evidence? Or stories? Or quotes I’ve made that would lead you to believe that?

you also wrote:

“You have been a big supporter of both [BTA and Mayor Adams] and are part of the problem.”

Again. I disagree with you. Do you have specific examples?

While I disagree with your assertions, I understand how my role can be confusing. I am trying to simultaneously do my part to help biking in Portland and be someone who reports on it’s power players and institutions.

It’s easy to throw around criticisms and do name-calling… but I challenge any of you to back of your assertions with examples from what you’ve read on this site. If you find some, I’ll be happy to discuss them one by one.

Come on folks, let’s not resort to the easy crutch of name-calling and negativity just because you’re frustrated with leadership of Mayor Adams and the BTA.

And Lazy Spinner, it’s funny you compare me to Fox News…. when the reality is that I’ve taken a fair bit of flack recently specifically for no longer being a “conduit for pro-bike advocacy groups and bike friendly bureaucrats.”

Thanks.

Meghan
Guest
Meghan

So, after reading Joseph Rose’s Oregonian article this AM (http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/02/portland_bike_plan_goes_before.html), I am stumped by the criticisms cited in the article.

Namely, the perennial naysayer John Charles (who gets way more press coverage than he should, IMO) “wonders why, when technology and culture are changing at a rapid pace, Portland is planning 20 years into the future. He compared it to a business in 1980 committing to 20 years of IBM typewriter purchases, unaware that the computer revolution was on the horizon.”

This is a totally bogus criticism. ODOT, PBOT, and every transportation planning organization in the U.S. has been planning, decades out, for future transportation needs when it comes to motorized (esp. highway) transportation.

So what the heck is wrong with imagining a less fossil-fuel dependent city, and then investing in something that could make it a reality? I guess my riding my bike to and from work every day just isn’t the sort of libertarian self-reliance John Charles wants to encourage.

I say let’s Build It.

Mark
Guest

There have been several comments regarding “separated bike facilities” being favored over shared facilities. The 2030 plan actually emphasizes shared facilities, or bike boulevards. While the plan recognizes that separated facilities should be built, and calls for a total of nearly 400 miles of them, the implementation plan calls for doing the easiest and least expensive first. Mr. Maus is correct that this plan obligates the city to no expenditures. The plan is hopeful that those funding sources can be secured, but there is no obligation to build even one more mile of anything outside what is already funded.

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) #18

“I challenge any of you to back of your assertions with examples from what you’ve read on this site.”

Here goes!

The headline “BTA votes no on PBOT’s proposed budget” has been demonstrated to be untrue in the comments section, as you seem to have conceded in the comments section.

http://bikeportland.org/2010/02/01/bta-votes-no-on-pbots-proposed-budget/

So why hasn’t the untrue headline been updated?

It should be updated to “BTA shows up late, fails to cast vote”

I suspect a shade of bias here in favor of the BTA!

You say:

“I’ve taken a fair bit of flack recently specifically for no longer being a “conduit for pro-bike advocacy groups and bike friendly bureaucrats.”

That flak is totally unwarrented!

Dave
Guest

@Jonathan Maus: people are always ready to find a scapegoat and to take quotes out of context or vague feelings about someone’s opinions and turn them into abuse, when things aren’t going the way they feel things should be going. Don’t let it get you too ruffled. I think overall you do an excellent job here at BikePortland, keep it up.

Joseph Rose
Guest
Joseph Rose

Hi, Jonathan and Bike Portland readers,

To paraphrase this post, The Oregonian isn’t going to eat your bicycles and bike lanes.

I think it’s important to point out that Anna Griffin is a columnist with an opinion and Mr. Mason is a reader who wrote a letter. This is part of the public discussion.

I hope you’re willing to have one of those concerning policy, budget and philosophy as the Bike Plan moves forward.

Interestingly, The Oregonian this morning ran a guest column by Mia Birk supporting the bike plan and I have written columns praising Bike Boulevards and other features of the plan in my column and blog.

Why doesn’t anyone mention that those things have also appeared in the newspaper?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to bike to work.

Cheers,

Joseph Rose
Commuting reporter
The Oregonian

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

AaronF,

Thanks for that example.. but I’m afraid that’s not bias. I reported that story and I might not have had all the facts. That happens some times, but it’s not bias and I did not write that story to “favor” anyone.

In fact, if you read the comments, some people are critical of how Michelle P. handled the situation. My story documents what I knew about that situation. yes, a commenter pointed out new information after I published my story, but that happens sometimes. As always, I will now consider how/if to edit the story and/or do a follow up.

Thanks. I appreciate your criticisms.

are
Guest

plus one to comment 20. this and the fact that the document mentions working with the police, prosecutors, and legislature to get rid of (or not enforce) the mandatory sidepath law are the two primary reasons i support the plan, though the “build it” cheerleading seems a bit mindless.

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

So you were just too lazy to correct your “published” headline?

Impressive!

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

AaronF,

You seem to be criticizing me for not being a better reporter. That’s fine… so on that note, wouldn’t you rather I take the time to investigate what happened with that budget vote, instead of just rely on a comment from a reader?

It’s easy to call me lazy and find holes in my work and I realize I have built up a high expectation over the years… Please remember what BikePortland is and remember who I am — that is, a bike advocate and journalist who learns on the job and works very hard to give you information on bike issues you cannot find anywhere else.

I am not perfect. I am not a journalistic robot. I do not obfuscate the truth to push an agenda. I do take my job and my role in the community very seriously and I make every effort to put out a quality product that I hope stands on its own.

Thanks.

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

That was sarcastic… but seriously, I think my argument has more merit than you grant it.

Typically you’re pretty good about correcting factual errors with updates, but not this time. Why is that?

See, I think this reveals some bias. Not much, but if you can’t admit that I suspect you’re not as open to criticism as you suggest you are.

I’m sure you will be afraid that you don’t agree with me, but that’s ok.

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

AaronF wrote:

“Typically you’re pretty good about correcting factual errors with updates, but not this time. Why is that?”

Aaron, I must not have made it clear, but according to what I know about that story, the BTA did vote No on the budget as the story suggests. Yes, there might be some important updates to that story and I plan to make them ASAP.

Also, I am not denying I have a bias. We all do. No journalist in the world is without it, so why even pretend? My job is to present the information as accurately as I can. If you think I get something wrong, you point it out and I respond to it.

Now, I’d love to get back to looking deeper into that story, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to work.

Thanks for the dialogue.

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

I eagerly await your findings!

beth h
Guest

I think I’m moving away from electoral politics and towards a more action-oriented way of effecting change. Here’s why:

1. Progressives may be thick in Multnomah County, but not all over the state. In fact, true progressives (NOT centrists) are still in the political moniroty all over this country. With few exceptions, my elected officials have not represented the majority of my views and interests in a very long time and I have no faith that they ever will. Sorry kids, but there just aren’t enough of us to move this country into a truly progressive space where real change can happen.

2. I ride a bike for transportation. People like me will never be in a majority — not even in bike-mad Portland.

3. Even most of the non-profit organizations that represent progressive causes have grown so large as to be unwieldy; and their very size hurts their ability to be truly effective (and I’m not just thinking of the BTA here).

I my very humble opinion, real change begins at home, in the neighborhoods, at church or synagogue, at the water-cooler, in your child’s classroom — at the most grass-roots level of daily living. That’s the level where electoral politics has little or no play, and the level at which face-to-face human relationship carries tremendous weight — and power — to improve our quality of life.

So I am living my life every day as deliberately and honestly and out loud as possible. Because I’ve come to believe that will make more a difference than any vote I have ever cast.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

Jonathan, I enjoy your website but I thought my comments were correct. I won’t spend the time to go back and find specific quotes, but it was really clear during the election and afterword that this site thought Adams was a savior for the bike community and I think you were bamboozled. He received a $1000 worth of downtown parking tickets during the election year and claimed he was a cyclist. He is totally ineffectual and doesn’t help cyclists in this town at all except he got your endorsement.

I wrote in a couple of articles at the time that you were in the tank and your support was going to hurt the bike community and i think I am right. The tide does seem to be turning against cyclists in this city and having Adams as a supposed “advocate” just hurts the efforts here as he is just an albatross now. I have nothing against him personally but he will never be effective as a mayor or bike supporter so you shouldn’t have cast your website as “a big supporter” of him and you did.

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

old&slow,

i guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

While yes, me (and this site) were very excited to have a Mayor that understands biking and transportation like Adams does, many things changed after he took office (a scandal will do that).

For the record, I never “endorsed” Mayor Adams not do I agree that it is accurate for myself or this site to be characterized as “a big supporter” of him.

are
Guest

plus one to comment 31. live out loud.