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A Bike Plan media coverage roundup

Posted by on February 11th, 2010 at 10:00 am

“… While we support the objectives of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 that goes before the City Council today, adopting such a plan is far from enough.”
— Opinion from Portland Tribune

With the 2030 Bike Plan up for adoption at City Council this afternoon, there is a fresh crop of stories about it in the local media. Below are links and thoughts to how it’s being covered.

The Oregonian’s Joseph Rose must be breathing a sigh of relief this morning because the Portland Business Journal has successfully wrestled away his trophy for most misleading coverage of the plan so far. Their weekly “Business Pulse” survey asks: “Should the city of Portland spend $600M to build bike lanes?”

Not only is that question a highly inaccurate characterization of the contents of the plan (bike lanes are so 1996), but it misleads readers into thinking that the City of Portland is about to spend that much money on bikes (which they should know by now is far from the case).

Of course, when nearly every other media outlet has pretty much said the same thing, I suppose all the blame can’t fall on the PBJ’s editors. I’m not sure what bums me out more about this poll — the question itself, or the fact that everyone in the local bikeosphere is feverishly sharing the link and encouraging “yes” votes!

On other side of the bike plan coverage intelligence spectrum is an Opinion piece that appears in today’s Portland Tribune. The article, Bike plan needs more specifics, combines strong words of support for the plan with thoughtful criticisms. The article’s main criticism is that the plan lacks details for how it will impact the larger transportation ecosystem. Specifically, it challenges the plan’s authors to identify funding sources and to clarify how bikes might impact our regional economy and other transportation modes.

These are all valid and important questions and it’s great to see a local paper using its stump to constructively further the civic dialogue about this important issue.

Today’s Tribune also includes a guest article by Mayor Adams titled, City can’t afford not to invest in biking. In it, he echoes the feelings he shared about the plan in his recent State of the City address and further fleshes out his case for bikes.

And finally today comes an article in this week’s Portland Mercury by Sarah Mirk. In Gearing Up: How Will the City Fund its $600 Million Bike Plan?”, Mirk outlines how PBOT is already increasing it’s bike funding budget (compared to recent years), but that it’s still not nearly enough to reach the Bike Plan’s lofty visions. I think using “$600 Million Bike Plan” in the headline is a bit sensational, but the article itself is reasoned and full of interesting information.

It’s great to have so much coverage for the 2030 Bike Plan. I don’t think the City’s other master plans garner nearly as much attention. I just hope the scrutiny continues after the plan is adopted.

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  • Mark February 11, 2010 at 10:13 am

    I have fallen into the habit of emphasizing that the 2030 Plan is just that: a plan, a vision. I have taken pains to point out to others that it is not an appropriations bill or a budget request. But, in all honesty, we have to face the reality that the plan will be meaningless unless the city funds it. As part of that discussion, we need to be up front and overt about its costs. The Trib article helps move that discussion along, but so does all reporting that the Plan, if funded, has a price tag. As a taxpayer, I would gladly see portions of my taxes go toward funding the plan to the fullest.
    Regarding the PBJ poll. I first learned about it from a @bikeportland tweet. The URL was attached and has been attached on successive tweets. The power and reach of @bikeportland and bikeportland.org is no small thing. If no one should dignify the poll by participating, then there is no reason to publicize it.

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  • Joseph Rose February 11, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Trophy? What trophy?
    No one told me there would be trophies.
    Joseph Rose

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  • Todd Boulanger February 11, 2010 at 10:26 am

    The point that the bike plan does not get into specifics is likely a staff + leadership decision based on four reasons:
    – no dedicated funding source;
    – 20 year plans for any mode are notorious for their inflexibility to technological/ extra regional trends (think of all those 1960s era highways on the books in the 1980s/ oil shocks, etc.);
    – takes additional staff time and money for planning; and
    – bikeway facilities design and planning is a very dynamic field right now…new [to the US] facilities and other innovations and policy evolution may lock a community into either a facility mismatch (wrong location or design type) or setting a goal too low.

    Perhaps there really should have been a 2015 (or 2018) plan with more specifics instead – given the above?

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  • Joseph Rose February 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Good point. All ribbing aside, Mayor Adams did say last week that you can’t ask for money unless you have a plan (he, Roger Geller and Michelle P. of the BTA have also said as much in my “misleading coverage”). That’s a fact of running a big city looking at multi-modal solutions. Again, the $600 million price tag came from the city and only reflects the estimated cost of the plan being fully built.
    Joseph Rose
    The Oregonian

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  • Memo February 11, 2010 at 11:08 am

    wow Jonathan, now you are attacking people for asking a legitimate question…only now do I really appreciate the Orwell comment and now think it is justified…I am just to stunned…I felt let down…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) February 11, 2010 at 11:10 am

    hey Memo,

    who am I “attacking” and what is the “legitimate question”?

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  • Kt February 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Mr Rose, maybe you could write a follow-up article for the Oregonian to print with all this good information?

    You know, that the $600 million price tag only reflects the estimated cost of the plan being fully built, what the plan contains besides bike lanes, the fact that it’s $600 million over the next 20 years vs $500+ million for 10 miles of Max Green line over a couple of year, or $600 million over the next 20 years vs $600 million of all transportation projects over one year… .

    Little things like that. If you can get it on the front page again, above the fold, that would be great.


    Oregonian Subscriber (yes, I pay money to have it delivered to my house. I love the Living section.)

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  • Memo February 11, 2010 at 11:41 am

    The question and attack are very clear in your article.“Should the city of Portland spend $600M to build bike lanes?” is a legitimate question and is akin to you asking should the city increase programs to support bicycling. Since it is essential for journalists to ask questions, I am again shocked and hurt that attack someone for that!!!

    Your attack on the question was also presumptuous since PBJ only asked a question without any other surrounding information as per your link.

    This is not journalism, you are just writing gossip now.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) February 11, 2010 at 11:56 am


      I disagree. In my opinion, the question asked by the PBJ poll is not legitimate. The bike plan does not “spend $600M on bike lanes.”

      You call stories like this gossip and I appreciate your opinion. I think clarifying coverage of bike issues and sharing my opinion on that coverage is not gossip.

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  • Jackattak February 11, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Memo –

    I think the anger (at least from me) stems from the PBJ’s obviously disingenuous headline claim that the $600M will only be spent on “bike lanes”. To me, it reads like any of the other Oregonian’s anti-bike smear pieces.

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  • Jackattak February 11, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Memo –

    I think the anger (at least from me) stems from the PBJ’s obviously disingenuous headline claim that the $600M will only be spent on “bike lanes”. To me, it reads like any of the Oregonian’s anti-bike smear pieces.

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  • John Lascurettes February 11, 2010 at 11:54 am

    People also keep talking about the $600M figure as if it’s a lump all-or-nothing sum. It’s the total for individual projects to be carried out over 20 years. They all don’t get funded at once; some might not get funding at all (while others would).

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  • Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie February 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Joseph – a plan is not a vote/mandate for funding, though funds will need to materialize – I think that and your apples to oranges comparisions on the scope of the 20 yr plan vs max and car funding and the words hefty etc framing thea plan was where much of this misleading coverage started – I second KT’s question – where’s the front page follow up story about plans vs funding, etc.

    Let’s look at the question posed by the Biz journal – you can say they came up with this framework for the question on their own but my feeling is it all started with your article, headline and rolled out from there. The question is misleading, dummied down and simplified – but the question was asked so I answered –
    JM – I also first saw the bizjournal question from BP link, later from chris smith on a shift post – so if you didn’t want folks to go and look at the question and, like me, participate in the voting even though I didn’t agree with how the question was asked and what it asked even, I felt I needed to voice a positive for spending on bikes, but if you didn’t think the question legit then you shouldn’t have put it on the tweet.
    Memo – JM is voicing his opinion about the slant and framing of the question, not sure how that is gossip or Orwellian?
    One last thing – I don’t think anyone should be timid about funding things they believe will create a more livable community – especially when the price tag for bike infra is a bargain compared to … everything else – headlines should read bike plan to cost pennies on crc comparable dollars – I take issue with how the debate has been framed in the media, not if we should discuss funding and building different modes of transport. i will go toe to toe with anyone when defending the cost benefits, the need for, the bargain that bicycles play in our transportation future.

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  • jbiker February 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for your input Jonathan, but I’ve been following the Oregonian on bike related articles including the one you are referring as misleading.

    I have to conclude that the OR article was MORE balanced and accurate than BP.org.

    Historically, the Oregonian has been car biased, so I’m always suspicious of what comes out of the OR. But lately, Mr. Rose have impressively provided more balanced cycling news.

    Conversely, I’ve noticed that PB.org has increasingly become more pro-bike, inaccurate, and less balanced coupled that with sloppy reporting on your Monday roundup.

    I’ll still be a loyal PB follower, but I have now included the Oregonian to check your own reporting. But I get it, you are a bike guy, not a car guy, where as Rose is a car and bike guy.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) February 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

      Hi jbiker,

      thanks for your comment. I’m glad you’ve noticed Joe Rose’s reporting in The Oregonian. It is indeed often balanced and quite good. I have no issues with his reporting in general… but when I feel a specific article — especially one on the front page — needs to be clarified and called out, I’ll go ahead and do it.

      I too have been impressed with Rose’s coverage in The Oregonian. He’s doing a great job.

      The O and BP have vastly different missions. I usually do not provide the non-bike perspective on stories and issues because this site is about bikes… whereas The O serves a more diverse readership. And yes, I have perhaps been more pro-bike lately. This is a constant line I try to straddle… do I just present the news as is, or do I try to inject some of my own insights and bike-oriented perspective? Thanks for the input on how it is sounding to you.

      As for the Monday Roundup… I won’t speak to that because it’s written by Ms. Blue. However, I will say that’s meant as simply a quick rundown of interesting links.

      Thanks again for reading… and I’m glad you are reading both BP and The O. Between the two you should be very well informed about bike issues!

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  • Memo February 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm


    PBJ asked if the city should spend $600 million on bike lanes, and that is all they did on the page you linked. Now if they prefaced the question with something along the lines of as stated in the Bike Plan, that is one thing, but they did not. PBJ simply asked a question. Your inference of anything else is indeed an “opinion” (to use your description in the comment section).

    However you did not write this up as an opinion piece, nor did you lead the reader through your thinking. I view inferred opinion in such instances as gossip and labeled your piece as such.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) February 11, 2010 at 1:01 pm

      OK Memo, I hear you and I think (hope) we understand each other. We can agree to disagree on the PBJ thing. As for the “gossip” claim… I guess I assumed that by the tone of my writing it was obvious that the entire thing is just my opinion. Thanks again for the feedback.

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  • wsbob February 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    I don’t generally have occasion to read the PBJ, so I’m at odds to really know what the papers mindset is. Maybe I’m wrong in thinking so, but I would imagine the papers readers, who it stands to reason are many from the business community, to be fairly intelligent.

    With that in mind, looking at the journal’s survey question “Should the city of Portland spend $600M to build bike lanes?”, it’s difficult for me to believe the papers readers will be misled by this question into believing the city is going to spend that amount of money on bike lanes alone. I figure the readers either know, or upon reading the question, will be asking around to find out exactly what it is that the city contemplates spending bike plan dedicated money on, and that it won’t just be on ‘bike lanes’.

    That the PBJ would frame the survey question the way it did suggests that it may have a disposition towards bike infrastructure spending that doesn’t encourage the business community to support investment in bike infrastructure that the city contemplates making.

    In simpler terms; the PBJ likely considers spending money on Portland’s 2030 bike plan is bunk, and hopes its readers will follow suit by thinking the same.

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  • Jackattak February 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    None of that matters now, we won!

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  • Memo February 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm


    Thank you for your response. Indeed I am used to having opinion pieces and news pieces clearly differentiated so as not to rely on tone alone. That you rely on tone alone is noted.

    As for the other issue addressed in our exchange we can probably find further common ground on saying that charges of “misleading” and high degrees of “inaccuracy” are serious. While I won’t give my opinion of the PBJ question, the question posed could very well be interpretedas trying to gage the price point for an important aspect of bike infastructure. The circumstancial evidence favors this version just as much or more than your given interpretation. That said, I still believe your placing such a circumstancial interpretation in such a way as not not clearly distinguish it as opinion is more akin to gossip than what I expect out of a news outlet.

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  • Memo February 11, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Eep,the last sentence should replace the word circumstancial with superficial…apologies

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  • jim February 12, 2010 at 9:09 am

    where’s the money coming from?

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