Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

My opinion on The Oregonian’s front page bike plan article

Posted by on February 3rd, 2010 at 11:01 am

Today’s front page.

The Oregonian published a front page story today on the 2030 bike plan titled, Two-wheeled vision carries hefty price tag .

In my opinion, the article (which was also sold to the Associated Press and is being picked up nationwide) frames the plan as a massive expenditure that’s being shoved down the throat of Portlanders by Orwellian city officials with the full support of Mayor Adams.

Instead of helping to foster civil public discourse about a very important plan for our city’s future, I’m afraid this story will only serve to intensify the “bicyclist” versus “motorist” sensationalism that The Oregonian has admitted to “overplaying” in the past.

The article makes apples-to-oranges comparisons of the price of the completed bike plan ($613 million) to the $575 million MAX Green Line (which is funded by the federal government), and “all transportation projects in the metro area” ($630 million a year). Then, despite the fact that the plan does not commit the city to spending anything on bikeways, the article states that Mayor Sam Adams “doesn’t flinch at the estimated cost.”

Then the article, as per usual in the template of us vs. them stories, is this line: “Critics think the mayor and cycling advocates are dreaming…”

To act as the “critic,” the story quotes John Charles from the Cascade Policy Institute, a libertarian think tank well-known for their lack of support for bicycles as transportation. Charles told the paper, “They want to make bicycling more attractive than driving for all trips of three miles or less… Nothing they do is going to make that happen for most people.”

Charles is right about that. 25% of Portlanders is not “most people.” 25% is PBOT’s best guess as to the amount of people who are likely to start riding if there were more comfortable places to do so.

This is an important point: The bike plan is not about creating a city where you must bike. Live 10 miles from town and need to get to work? Go ahead and drive (although transit would be a good option). Need to pick up a couch from Macy’s downtown? Go ahead and drive. There is nothing wrong with using a car when you need to. The problem is that because the way our infrastructure and policies have been historically set up, too many people need to drive too often.

The Oregonian then references George Orwell (which is really a perfect reference if you’re trying to scare people about a big huge plan that will dictate how they live well into the future):

“…one might think of George Orwell after visiting the city’s official bike plan web site, which encourages visitors to “click here to express your support.”

Oppose the plan? Have legitimate concerns about it? Sorry. No link for you.”

The Oregonian would lead its readers to believe that because PBOT is guilty of being enthusiastic about the plan, they are somehow involved in a conspiracy to keep opposition quiet (the article did not mention the large-scale, two-year public outreach process that took the plan to nearly every neighborhood in the city).

Back to Mr. Charles from the Cascade Policy Institute:

“Still, given the city’s shaky transportation budget and the fact that the so-called “Copenhagen on the Willamette” already is considered a world-class bicycling city, some wonder if the plan is even needed.

Charles 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.”

Don’t need a plan? Excuse me Mr. Charles and Mr. Rose, but plans are simply how cities work. Portland has a Freight Action Plan, a Climate Action Plan, a Parks Action Plan, and so on. The thinking is, if you want to make educated decisions about the future, it helps to have a framework (a.k.a. plan) to guide you — and 20 years is standard length for these sorts of planning documents.

Like I repeated to an AM radio talk show host this morning who referred to the $613 million for the completed plan as “A big wad of money!,” the 2030 bike plan does not commit the city to any expenditures. As Mr. Rose points out in his story, it does mandate getting some people together to figure out how to pay for the bikeways (which seems like a reasonable thing to do). The plan also lays out detailed implementation strategies if and when funds become available.

The 1996 plan had a similarly expansive vision and called for 630 miles of bikeways. Despite that plan being adopted nearly 15 years ago, we’ve only got about 300 miles built (and they’ve spent only $60 million, about the cost of one mile of urban freeway). See? No hysteria needed.

Will the city spend money on bikeways in the future? Yes. Will they spend more money than they have in the past? Yes! Why? Because our city leaders — and I would bet a majority of Portland residents — understand that our current transportation system is not functioning as well as it should and encouraging more trips by bicycle is one way to fix it.

I welcome a public conversation about bike spending and about how we’re going to fix our transportation problems (crumbling roads, injury and death, emissions, congestion, etc…), but this “news” story from the paper of record in our great state feels like it was more about stirring up the old bicyclist versus motorist dichotomy than presenting the issue in an accurate way.

Whether you’re for or against the bike plan, I hope you all show up at City Hall tomorrow at 2:00pm.

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  • Zaphod February 3, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I’ll be at city hall serving up free coffee drinks until I run out. Look for my bike!

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  • Karl February 3, 2010 at 11:07 am

    That newspaper article was an inappropriate, highly-opinionated piece masquerading as factual news.

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  • Jessica Roberts February 3, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Any 20-year plan is going to carry a “hefty price tag.” What is the value of the Freight Master Plan, or the long-term transit infrastructure plan?

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  • nuovorecord February 3, 2010 at 11:16 am

    If there’s anything Owellian, it’s the creation of a society where humans are subordinate to machines.

    Good post, J.

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  • Esther February 3, 2010 at 11:17 am

    It disgusts me the way these writers use Orwell to compare the Bicycle Plan, effectively, to totalitarianism. To me, what is totalitarian is the idea that the government will plan for and fund a transportation network (and has for over the last half century) that effectively promotes only ONE mode of transportation (cars) as the only vehicle of cost efficiency, and independence. The bicycle Plan would help, not hinder, freedom and choice for constituents of Portland, in terms of how they structure their entire lives going about their daily business. It would not “hurt” individuals’ ability and choice to drive their car, but it WOULD help give them the choice to walk or ride a bike instead.

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  • Paul Tay February 3, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Bike-bashin’ sells papers. Bike-lovin’ DON’T. Do the math.

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  • Vance Longwell February 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

    BikePortland.org: “Kettle, this is pot, you’re black.”. Also:

    Apples and oranges you say? Well, what of the comparison of a bunch of Church of Green yuppies on their Sunday ride, to the commercial-transportation sector, and a mode that has a 93.4% majority? Your tweed-ride=the delivery of goods and service. Not.

    I keep fairly, ahem, close-tabs on this stuff. The first I heard of a unanimous, 5-0 council prelim was two hours AFTER it happened. Do you know why the O is coming out so hard on this? ‘Cause they weren’t in the loop, and are rightly suspicious as to why. Considering I responded to the same press-release they did, we’re all wondering why.

    Why is the Federal mandate to reduce VMT continuously played-down by this camp? That oh-so-mysterious (Not.) 25% number is a compliance figure. In order to qualify for certain Fed money, our city Dictators must show a 25% reduction in area VMT. Why do you keep referring to it as a goal?

    Clearly, I’ve sprung a leak. Clearly my chain has snapped. You, nor any one else, may regulate my bicycle. I possess the native ability to propel myself, and my bicycle augments this ability, period. You’d get the same fuss out of me trying to mandate that I wear clothes of a certain color at night, as a pedestrian, or that I use my shoes in compliance with same.

    This is angry making. You’ve changed the rhetoric here precisely none. While the other side of the issue scrambles for scraps of compromise. The BAC has enjoyed carte-blanche with the city for 5 years that I’ve been watching this stuff. Bicycle numbers are through the roof. Yet you want more.

    You don’t think that gives reasonable people pause?

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  • AaronF February 3, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I don’t know that Bike Bashing even sells any papers. Bike bashing reinforces the dominant paradigm, because The Oregonian is run by The Man, man!


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  • Coldswim February 3, 2010 at 11:27 am

    As a North Portland resident who doesn’t bike often at all (I’d say I ride around town ~10 trips total in a year) the most I got out of that article was the link to pledge my support for the bike plan.

    Even though I don’t ride my bicycle often I realize that more riders on the streets create safer streets, both in terms of less crime around the neighborhood and more awareness from motorists to other people around them. These improvements help bring more money into local businesses, make where we live a more desirable place, and create community. You don’t have to be a bike fanatic to see the benefits to our neighborhoods by adding bike infrastructure. It just requires you to think of community, how we interact, and can we leave a place better than how we found it, not just what’s happening between the four walls of your house.

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  • Duncan Idaho-Stop February 3, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Jonathon, I think the key phrase of what you wrote is “apples-to-oranges”. Joseph Rose compared $613 million to $630 million, instead of $613 million to $12.6 BILLION. That set the tone for the whole article, which lead into typical Cascade Policy Insanity, and gave the headline writer a hint that it’s a “hefty pricetag”.

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  • david....no the other one February 3, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I would agree that it appears in tone the article was written to sell to other outlets.
    Orwellian statements abounded, dreams may have been espoused, I hope I have some bike dreams that envolve clean streets, wide bike lanes,freshly painted stripes and free of pot holes.
    Unfortunately, it’s a plan, just a plan and doesn’t require any inplementation. We may not have needed to include as many miles of bike infrastructure if the 1996 plan had been fully implamented.
    Does this plan bring Portland to the table to discuss “what does a road, street, trail look like, what do all of us need.”

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  • Joseph Rose February 3, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Thanks for the thoughtful response to my article.
    Just one clarification on “Excuse me Mr. Charles and Mr. Rose, but plans are simply how cities work”: Nowhere in the article do I express my opinion about the plan. Indeed, in several places, I note the benefits of the plan, from Roger Geller’s illustration of how bike dollars stretch further than auto dollars to the honest discussion that will take place to fund the plan. That includes the idea of possibly starting bike registration fees.
    I understand that you support the plan and have put your name on the list of businesses pushing for its implementation, but I don’t have that convenience at The Oregonian. I’m expected to remain independent and balanced as I cover this issue. That shouldn’t be seen as bias, it’s simply an effort to tell all sides of the story.
    Later today, for example, my blog will feature a Q&A with Michelle Poyourow on the bike plan. I hope you have a chance to read it.

    All the best and safe riding.
    Joseph Rose
    The Oregonian

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  • Paul Tay February 3, 2010 at 11:38 am

    The O story got picked up by AP and will soon be flashed across the country?

    Congratulations, PDX bikers! This IS the MUTHAAAA of all bike plans destined to PISS off America, at least for the next few news cycles! PDX: America’s newest village IDIOT.

    I’m proud of ya, baby!

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  • Joseph Rose February 3, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Also, Esther, if you read the article, nowhere do I compare the bike plan to Orwell. I use Orwell as a juxtaposition to the H.G. Wells quote about cycle tracks and in reference to the city’s Bike Plan site, which offers a link to support the plan but none to oppose it. I guess someone could hit the “Clink here to support” link to voice concerns, but why not make it a “click here to comment on the plan” link?
    Joseph Rose
    The Oregonian

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  • Joseph Rose February 3, 2010 at 11:41 am

    The comparison was intended to put the price tag into perspective. Nothing else.

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  • Jackattak February 3, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Joseph # 12 –

    Since you’ve stepped in the ring, would you mind letting us know what your intentions were on comparing a 20-year plan’s budget with only one year of another plan’s budget?

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  • Marion Rice February 3, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Love the way you think Paul!

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  • West Cougar February 3, 2010 at 11:46 am

    In the short term articles like this are certainly frustrating. In the long term, cyclists have already won!

    Our country can’t afford the auto-centric solution. Government can’t afford to build and maintain it; citizens can’t afford to operate it. Bicycles are the lowest cost solution with the highest returns on investment.

    In the near term, it is horrible to see some much as one more dollar wasted on the motor-centric model, but for our children, the die is already cast.


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  • Jackattak February 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Was the Boregonian involved in the DDoS attack?

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  • Rob February 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Joseph # 12 –

    In your Q&A with Michelle, did you ask her to address any of the published rumors regarding her supposedly imminent resignation from the BTA?

    I’m wondering why the Mercury would float this story so close to the City Council vote on the master plan; the timing of it all is quite interesting.


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  • Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie February 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Joseph – Is your Q&A blog with Michelle also going to be picked up by the wire services and run around the country – When I was writing and editing for a daily paper what I strived to do was to put a balance of quotes and thoughts and ideas into the same article.

    My take is that you went to the cascade policy institue for most of the article, tossed in Orwell for the shock value – I know you’ve said it was to compare with H.G Wells- but I don’t buy it – and ran the 20 year plan number out there without comapring it to the total for one year of car infrastructure improvements/spending outlays. This one really missed for Joseph. It feels kind of desperate out there on the front page, a bit alarmist in its headline and unbalanced overall.

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  • Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie February 3, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I meant 20 year bike spending numbers stacked up with 20 year car infractructure spending.

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  • BURR February 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    business as usual for the Oregonian, trying to stay relevant in a world that no longer needs them

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  • cold worker February 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    so the not-even-locked-in number of $613m over 20 years is not even = one year of average metro transportation spending? i’m getting that right, yeah?

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  • Dave February 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    @Joseph Rose: Note also that you made no mention in your article of small facts, such as that while the money for the 20 year bike plan is slightly more than that of the cost for the MAX green line, the 20 year bike plan is not only for a combined 20 year plan, but for some 600 miles of bikeways, whereas the MAX green line cost was for about 10 miles of light rail. You don’t have to try to paint cycling infrastructure as way more expensive than it is in order to present a “balanced” point of view.

    You can explain away all you want, but I feel like you did a pretty good job of writing this article to imply and confirm what many of your readers already think, which is that bicycle infrastructure is expensive and unnecessary.

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  • Duncan February 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    My own feeling was that it was a pretty slanted Op-Ed masquarading as news. Should have been in the Metro Section.

    But long term, Oregonians will ignore the opinion of the The Oregonian, just as they did on measure 66 and 67…

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  • PD February 3, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    PDX: The Village Idiot indeed. When are we going to elect city leaders who can work on job creation, improving schools, and public saftey? All these greenie-centric planning efforts whether for bikes or streetcars get waaaaaay more bandwith and resources from city council ant the mayor than should be allowed.

    As someone who rides a bike AND has kids in Portland Public…believe me, I’d rather hear some bantering about how we’re going to spend $600 million to make kids 25% smarter instead of making these wet-dreams come true for Portland’s greenie elite.

    Portland is a very backward place, and NOT sustainable in any intellectual sense.

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  • PD February 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    This city isn’t making any more single-family neighborhoods. Honestly, we’re landlocked. There will be no more of these neighborhoods developed within our city limits. And if we don’t wake up and start telling the planners to stick it, we will gradually whittle away the ones we have.

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  • Stig3 February 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Prepare for more road rage courtesy of the O.

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  • Ryan February 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    1) Ha! Jonathan, nice job on spelling out the editorial nature of the entry (“MY OPINION ON…”). If only The Oregonian did the same…

    2) I respect that there is a real policy discussion to be had about how transportation dollars are allocated. However, the article in The Oregonian does a very poor job of putting the funding into context. There are the outright faulty comparisons that others have pointed out (funding for a 20 year plan to a single large infrastructure project and a year’s worth of Metro area transportation funding…while we’re into ill-suited comparison territory, it is interesting that the comparison that the bike plan would only be about 15% of the CRC wasn’t mentioned). I think this topic could be a very interesting piece if it was placed in the context of the overall transportation budget of the region and what the trends in funding and overall users per mode have been. I’d consider the article to be good journalism if it took this step and then asked Mr. Charles and the BTA to comment on the contextualized facts. Unfortunately, it falls far short of that.

    3) Bikeportland.org…I think you’re playing both sides of the funding issue. On one hand, the recent posts have talked about the need to fund the plan (“Why do I want the City to Build It?”). It is a little disingenuous to respond to critics of the price tag of the improvements in the plan with the argument that the plan doesn’t obligate the City to expend funds (see the boldface type in the article above). Technically that is true, but you can’t make that argument in one breath and call for people to put pressure on the City to fund it in the next (well, you can, but…).

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  • Stig3 February 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    ‘I’m expected to remain independent and balanced as I cover this issue.’-Joseph Rose

    Don’t you mean ‘fair and balanced’? We just love Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News here! /s

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  • rixtir February 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Joseph Rose, balanced?

    Good one.

    You may balance on your bike as you ride to your job at the O, Joseph, but that doesn’t make your piece “balanced.” Good on Jonathan for calling you on the BS you spewed this morning.

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  • peejay February 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I think this kind of bad writing is so common with newspapers today that the writer doesn’t even realize what’s wrong about it. Innumeracy – check! False equivalence – check! Failure to report the interests or credibility of quote sources – check! Defending a sensationalistic title by claiming “balance” deep within the story – check!

    Nice job, Mr Rose. You should be reporting on one other kind of transit mode: shipping. As in: “dear Oregonian, your ship has sailed!”

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  • Thom February 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    First off, I will admit I have not yet read the Oregonian article in question. That said, Jonathan, perhaps you could invite Mr. Rose to write a guest article explaining why he took the stance on this issue that he appears to have. In the past I have found his columns generally supportive of cycling, I would like to give him the chance to explain himself before we condemn him entirely.

    Just a thought.

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  • rixtir February 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Straight from Rose’s pen:

    “Still, given the city’s shaky transportation budget and the fact that the so-called “Copenhagen on the Willamette” already is considered a world-class bicycling city, some wonder if the plan is even needed. ”

    Portland, a world-class bicycling city?


    Another good one, Mr. Rose.

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  • John Kangas February 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Why not call them out on metrics?

    When that 20-year price estimate pops up, toss back a matching 20-year highway expense guess based off of last year’s numbers. Billions! And be sure to mention that’s only extrapolating from last year’s recession-limited budget, not projecting into the future, with growth, expansion, and inflation factored in like it is in the bike plan. Is there someone available with the capability to work that out before tomorrow’s rally at City Hall so we can hammer down the inevitable question news crews will be asking?

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  • N.I.K. February 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Since you’ve stepped in the ring, would you mind letting us know what your intentions were on comparing a 20-year plan’s budget with only one year of another plan’s budget?

    *Extremely* well-said, Jackattack. This comparison flies in the face of Mr. Rose’s claims to maintain independence and balance in this story. When you make an ill-founded comparison in figures like this, where it’s easily read as dollars-to-dollars but factually not nearly so straight-forward, you’re either being sloppy, or you’re being deliberate. Both smack of irresponsible journalism.

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  • Shamus February 3, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Mr. Rose,

    RE: your comment in #15 – I don’t think that, as written, the way the numbers are compared puts them in to proper perspective. They I read it (and I believer the tone of how it is written), it looks like you’re saying the cost is large, as large as the other large projects (a whole light rail project and all transportation spending for a year).

    If the point was, “While $600 + million sounds like a lot, it the total cost of the plan over 20 years, compared to $600 + million for all metro transportation expenditures in one year”. As written, it sounds like you’re saying the price tag of this plan just for bikes is equal to the cost of all transportation projects in the metro region combined. At least, that’s what I think readers are going to walk away with, given the tone of the article.

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  • rwl1776 February 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    A big ‘ouch’ for all the venomous shots Mia took in the comment section in todays Oregonian. Her Opinion piece was a nice read, but the comments are pretty over the top. No wonder VLongwell doesn’t work, he spends all day posting comments on every website it town!

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  • wsbob February 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I’m not sure what to make of the situation with Portland’s bike plan. Sounds like a good deal, and an urgently needed one. Motor vehicle based infrastructure reliance has to no small extent ruined basic transportation functionality (walking, biking, etc) of trips between neighborhood and retail centers in many cities, including the one I live in, Beaverton.

    For Portland, their bike plan works to reverse some of that destruction and make the city an easier, more pleasant place to get around without being forced to use a motor vehicle to do so.

    But despite the pressing need of moving towards having the city become an easier and more enjoyable place for people to get around without getting into their private cars, people of the state have it’s single major newspaper, and its ‘cycling columnist’ sensationalizing expense figures associated with a non-obligatory bike plan. Maybe this is all just a part of healthy discussion.

    If nothing else, this story and Rose’s story that it relates to moved me to seek information about who the Cascade Policy consists of. For some reason that’s not exactly clear, the Oregonian seems to often go to the CPI for statements about land use, transportation, and other Oregon and metro area related issues.

    The resume’s of CPI’s staff members(there’s a lot of them) are extraordinary; lots of education, lot of professional experience in all fields.

    So far, I’ve taken just a brief look at info on the groups website, but from that and remembering somewhat about the content of comments from the group that the O uses, I’m asking myself ‘What percent of Oregonians does this group really represent?’. Is the Oregonian newspaper using the group as a source because it believes the group accurately represents the views of many Oregonian residents?

    I’ve read a number of Joseph Rose’s stories and columns. It’s interesting that he would use the CPI as a source in the ‘two wheeled hefty price tag’ story. So, I wonder, was that his idea to use the group as a source for his story, or that of the papers editors?

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  • Joey February 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Joseph Rose is just jealous that his paper, blog and columns are not at bikeportland standards and don’t get nearly the number of visits. He’s whoring for clicks.

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  • Jackattak February 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    @ Thom #34 –

    You apparently missed where (when, rather) Mr. Rose stepped in here at BikePortland.org earlier (comments 12, 14, and 15).

    When we got around to asking him the big questions, he disappeared (for lack of a better phrase).

    Point being, he had his chance and left when things weren’t going his way.

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  • are February 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    mr. rose, while it is unfortunately true that PBoT has chosen to put only a “support” button on that particular page, there was a lengthy public comment period, and the final document actually reflects some of that input. i myself made comments during that process, mostly disagreeing with the emphasis on separated in-road facilities. not because of anything i said, the final plan pushes shared facilities during the first five year, most of which cost practically nothing. whether or not you want to admit it, the story you wrote panders to the anti-bike crowd. and the tone of the piece certainly does not belong in a “news” section.

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  • AaronF February 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    ‘I’m expected to remain independent and balanced as I cover this issue.’-Joseph Rose


    Your ivory tower is a Honey Bucket

    The real main diff between the Oregonian and Bike Portland (as far as bike coverage is concerned) is that Bike Portland has a much faster server. I don’t see how you could seriously claim less bias!

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  • rixtir February 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Instead of Rose’s deceptive comparison of the price of 20 years of bike spending vs. one year of all transportation spending, let’s put the proposal into its proper perspective.

    The city proposes to spend 4.8% of its transportation budget on bicycle infrastructure, and projects that this spending will yield a result of 25% of all trips being made by bike. That sounds like an extremely cost-effective investment to me. Is there any other transportation mode spending that yields an equal or better cost-benefit ratio?

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  • are February 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    re comment 40, cascadia is generally understood to be a libertarian “think tank.”

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  • BicycleDave February 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Establishment journalism has somehow come up with the notion that in order to be unbiased you must give equal weight to both sides of the story. Unfortunately when one side is as bat$3!+ insane as the Libertarian nutjobs of the Cascade Policy Institute this leads to a story biased toward untruth.

    The truth has no bias.

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  • peejay February 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I don’t even allow the O to put their free weekly paper at my doorstep. They do not speak for me, to me, or about me.

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  • chelsea February 3, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Good article Jonathan. Happily I get my news from other sources and avoid the O like the plague.

    #10 “Duncan Idaho-Stop”: Love the handle! Love it.

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  • Michael A. February 3, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I’m a part-time bike commuter, and I thought Rose’s article was mostly fair.

    I agree that the 1 yr/20 yr comparison is weird, but maybe reliable apples-to-apples figures weren’t available. It’s not as if Rose wasn’t transparent about his figures; we’ve all been able to multiply by 20 as we’ve had this discussion, haven’t we? Parallel numbers would have been ideal, but in a news story it’s more important that numbers be accurate than that every fact be arranged in perfect balance.

    I definitely support the bike plan, in part because it’ll save us all money in the long run. Nothing in Rose’s article suggested to me that I’m wrong about that.

    And I think Jonathan has a good point when he highlights the fact that this is a plan rather than a spending bill.

    In the end, I suspect the biggest effect of this article will be to help the pro-bike community understand just how steep a political battle is in front of us as we try to get cash behind the plan.

    Long story short: we’re all grownups here. We can handle this.

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  • Matt Picio February 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Michael (#50) – It’s not about transparency. Sure, we can do the math, but how many in the general public will bother to? They just see the number, and freak out. And Metal Cowboy’s comments earlier in the thread are right on the money – Joseph Rose’s “balanced” coverage on his blog won’t reach a fraction of the people that the original story does – just like most of the people reading this story will never get to either of our comments. First post gets the glory, and the story. That’s what people see, and that’s what many of them believe.

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  • wsbob February 3, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Michael A. Rose’s article is ‘fair’? Maybe, for those members of the public with time, inclination and ability to carefully read through the story, sorting out from his provoking headline and questionable ‘think tank’ source, the fairness in statements made in regards to the bike plan.

    For the rest of them, the result of the story may be not much more than that of a carefully crafted journalistic device designed to mislead and dupe the public into condemning a proposal which would gradually improve livability for Portland.

    I’d probably agree with you though, that people supporting improved urban livability through more, safer bike lanes and sidewalks will be able to confront with gusto, articles such as this one of Rose’s.

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  • N.I.K. February 3, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Matt Picio (as usual) says it dead-on. The people who are going to go ballistic at the 20-year figure are the same people who tend to nibble at pseudo-libertarian “user pays” bait while having little to no grasp of how roads are actually funded, the proportion of tax dollars dumped to the automotive industry to keep prices artificially low, and so on. Comparisons of figures requiring reader interpretation make for fine hot air vents and half-baked conclusions by means of shoddy interpretation. As presented, there’s too much room for that here.

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  • buzz February 3, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    As simple way to look at it is this: One year of “all transportation projects” is about equal to 20 years worth of this bike plan. So, this plan will total about 5% of all transportation projects. Currently, we have over 6% of people that commute daily on bikes.

    Using that math, it seems pretty dang fair. Yet, no mention of that in Rose’s article that I could find. Thanks for calling ’em out on this, Jonathon.

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  • Jackattak February 3, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    @ Jonathan and BikePortland –

    I believe I failed to thank you for bringing this to light. Thank you all so much.

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  • rixtir February 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Buzz, that 4.9% of the budget is projected to yield 25% of all trips being made by bike. That goes way, way beyond “pretty dang fair.” That is an outstanding cost-benefit ratio, one that I doubt is matched by any other transportation mode.

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  • middle of the road guy February 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    The Oregonian article is only incendiary to the hyper sensitive.

    I saw no histrionics about HG Wells being quoted.

    Bear in mind, this is an advocates web site….meaning objectivity from the community here is not always present.

    As a former transportation policy geek at the EPA, I thought this was a pretty objective piece.

    How someone thinks there will be instances of road rage as a result makes me think there is an overly honed persecution complex among some people.

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  • Matt Picio February 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Yeah, good going, Jonathan – and thanks for making it clear with the headline that this is an editorial piece. Excellent work.

    Also, I forgot to give kudos to Esther’s comment (#5) – as she said, what Orwellian is the fact that in effect our city, county, state, and nation have for decades effectively decreed that there shall be one authorized state form of transportation.

    Folks, tyranny, control, and oppression never start as a single act – like the frog in the pot, it’s all incremental, each change making perfect sense to the majority, until the sum total of such changes after decades becomes intolerable to decent people, and eventually, to the majority.

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  • buzz February 3, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Middle of the road guy: Jonathon made it crystal clear that this was an editorial. When something is on the front page of the regions main largest newspaper, I expect it to be objective.

    Now you are correct that this is an “activists website.” The name BikePortland suggests it and it is what someone would expect. Just like I would expect to go to Just Out’s blog and find stories that are glbt positive. But, the Oregonian is not one of those “specialty” news outlets like those.

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  • Jordan February 3, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I love the IBM typewriters comparison. Why should you invest in something that is completely reliant on one resource? Whether you drive a hybrid, bio-diesel, gasoline, electric vehicle, you need giant, oil-based roads to handle the wear, weight, and size of automobiles. Boo that dude.

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  • JR February 3, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    The tyranny of the past 60 years of government is indeed the development of communities that essentially require people to purchase and drive an automobile to meet their daily needs.

    Mr. Rose’s article, and the O-rag in general, can’t seem to get away from the libertarian doctrine of the Cascade Policy Institute.. perhaps because its the direction of the paper to become a mouthpiece for the Libertarian agenda. The only Orwellian thing about this article is the mixing of politics and news media to subtly instruct its readers how and what to think.

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  • Oh Word? February 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Was that really Joseph Rose?

    I don’t agree with the article but he showed some respect for BikePortland (and its commenters) by addressing some of the author’s issues.

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  • Elliot February 3, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    To Joseph Rose, if you’re still tracking this thread –

    Could you find anyone else other than John Charles at CPI to interview as a critic of the plan? I, and probably many other people, have read enough O articles to know this is guy you trot out whenever you need a quotable against any new progressive measure in the city. CPI can sit and snipe all it wants, but their views hardly commonplace in Portland and why you continue to give them an audience is beyond me. Did the leader of the grassroots movement against bike plan refuse to give an interview? No? Oh wait, that’s because there isn’t one. Why do you have manufacture the illusion of criticism when it hardly exists?

    Do you not see that the real story here is how many people support the bike plan? When was the last time hundreds of people showed up at a rally to cheer for a new highway plan? Oh right, never. Support this enthusiastic for a transportation plan has practically never happened before in Portland. And THAT is should be news!

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  • Patty February 3, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Muck-raking sells papers, even if there is no muck to rake. Nice job, Jonathan. Well done. This garbage is usually what reporters do. I’ve seen the way they twist facts to make sensation out of nothing – it’s misleading for the sake of sales. Ignorant people will continue to believe what they read, informed people will continue to write excellent editorials!

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  • notjenna February 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    To underscore the misunderstanding created by J. Rose’s apples to oranges budget comparison, consider this. While out on errands this evening I tuned into the reliably wacky Victoria Taft and heard her ranting about the “over a half-billion” dollar budget for the bike plan compared to the $630 million figure for MAX. And no, she didn’t explain the discrepancy.

    Being in Salem I wasn’t familiar with the particulars but thought “that can’t be right, got to be a willful hash of the facts.” Sure enough, got home, came here and got clear on it. One can be sure that her credulous listeners will “understand” her as making an apples to apples case about the folly of planning for smarter transportation options.

    So yeah, it’s clear to me that J. Rose’s piece has, at they very least, allowed the usual naysayers to use it as fuel for their anti-smart solutions rantings. At its best, it’s a poorly written account of what the bike plan actually is and its costs.

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  • […] story from OregonLive.com by clicking here. BikePortland.org has responded, which can be found by clicking here. SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Portland City Council to Vote on Bike Plan", url: […]

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  • rixtir February 3, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    For anybody who thinks the public isn’t swayed by lies, especially lies that are picked up and repeated, I have two words: “death panels”

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  • BURR February 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    J. Rose – don’t give this a-hole the time of day, he doesn’t deserve it. I guess this is the level you need to stoop to to keep your job in America these days. Sad and pathetic little man.

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  • Tonya February 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    I’m really disappointed in Joseph Rose. When he first started his blog at the O I thought he had a pretty balanced view of transportation in the city. Over the past few months he seems to have caved into the O’s culture of over-sensationalizing news to grasp at readership. Back to business as usual at the O. One less thing I’ll be reading there.

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  • kernel February 4, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Joe Rose is a sell out.
    Don’t talk to him.

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  • drew February 4, 2010 at 4:01 am

    Thanks for pointing this article out Jonathan.
    I don’t remember Mr Rose column as being misleading before, like this one. A real disappointment.
    I can think of a good story for the Oregonian to cover: How motorists are heavily subsidized by all taxpayers. Because it is news to most everybody, it would be a real scoop. The whole issue of “bikes should be paying their way” is preposterous in the face of how heavily subsidized driving is; and that’s just infrastructure. If we add in health costs like high city asthma rates, police/fire/ambulance costs; how about free parking in the public right-of-way? wars for oil? First apply a gas tax that pays for the actual cost of driving. Then ask citizens about taxing them as they bike/walk/skate on the public right of way.
    Cost of driving information is easily researched, and I hope Mr Rose looks into it since he says he wants to be impartial.

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  • Michael February 4, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Having not seen the budget numbers or the data from which they are derived, the question is begging: How does more bike traffic and less motor traffic drive up costs?

    Bikes are far less damaging to road surfaces. They require less infrastructure. More cyclists can safely be using a roadway in a given moment in time.

    So, WTF makes it cost more to support less?

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  • Joe R. February 4, 2010 at 7:09 am

    What’s most infuriating is Mr. Rose’s suggestion that Council support would be anything other than unanimous. This plan has been three years in the making, revised many times as it has been in the public forum before at the Planning Commission, and nearly every neighborhood or public planning process mentions this effort. The opportunities for public involvement and discourse have been significant.

    This article is just another attempt to create controversy that doesn’t exist.

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  • Kt February 4, 2010 at 9:10 am

    The O has an editorial from their editors in today’s paper talking about how much the city is going to waste on such expensive bikey improvements. Way to go, O, how about you and Mr Rose actually compare like things for once?

    Mr Rose, you didn’t compare apples to oranges, you compared apples to single orange– or coconut. $600+ million OVER 20 YEARS? That’s a whole other kettle of fish from $500+ million over one or two years for 10 miles of Max track (as others pointed out, paid for by federal funds not city or local funds). That’s even a whole ‘nother set of fruit (or vegetable) from one year’s spending on all other transpo projects.

    613 million divided by 20 years averages to about 30.65 million per year on bike projects. Seems to me that’s a pretty cheap investment, when compared to the other numbers brought up.

    I wish Mr Rose would actually live up to his statement that he is “independent and balanced”– this was a very unbalanced article, and it didn’t seem very independent– where was the other side of the story?

    Mr Rose, this should have stayed on your blog, where you aren’t required to be balanced, fair, or even factual.

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  • JE February 4, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Ok, who in the room did NOT already know that The Oregonian was a rag?

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  • Michael M. February 4, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Ryan (#30) said it best. The O’s article doesn’t even give enough context to the cost projections of this plan, in comparison to overall transportation costs. And, Jonathan, this is at least the second time you’ve defended the plan with the claim that it doesn’t commit the city to any spending, or anywhere near the plan’s total cost projections. Yet you, along with the BTA and other activists, are simultaneously engaging in a campaign to urge the city to fund the plan. So which is it? You apparently really want the plan funded — how can you then turn around and pooh-pooh others concerned about the cost by saying, effectively, ‘hey, don’t worry, the plan isn’t funded!’? Sounds plenty disingenous to me.

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  • […] false comparisons made by reporter Joseph Rose in the newspaper the day prior (as illuminated by BikePortland.org), the Editorial Board calls the Plan “expensive,” even though its entire potential cost […]

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  • wsbob February 4, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Does Mr. Rose get to choose which sources he uses or doesn’t use? I suspect that Oregonian columnist Joe Rose’s journalistic ‘independence and balance’ is conditional at that paper, upon his use of statements from the so called ‘think tank’ group, Cascade Policy Institute, in writing pieces such as his ‘two wheeled hefty price tag’ story.

    My sense is that CPI’s specialty seems to be policy before reason, or policy that defies reason;take a look at the groups website and draw your own conclusions. Despite that the Oregonian can’t seem to resist frequently using the group to zest up material it publishes with the polarizing effect of the CPI’s so called ‘policy’ statements.

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  • […] I will leave the heavy deconstruction to Sarah Mirk of The Portland Mercury and the ever-excellent BikePortland blog. For present purposes, I’m interested in the front-pager’s choice of spokesman for […]

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  • Hans J. February 8, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I think Fox News has infiltrated the Oregonian… is it “Fair and Balanced” or “Drama and Controversy” that sells an archaic paper?

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