BikePortland

Guest article: Challenging conditions test bike commuter ‘tolerance’


The article below was written by reader Paul Manson in response to my recent story on how construction at the E Burnside/12th/Sandy intersection is impacting the bicycling experience on SE Ankeny, a nearby bike boulevard street.

Paul is an environmental and sustainability consultant and also serves as a volunteer on the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail Committee and as an alternate citizen representative for Multnomah County on the Metro Policy Advisory Committee.


(Photo © J. Maus)

Your post on the increased traffic on SE Ankeny made me want to send a quick note. There is definitely an increase in traffic, but this issue is bigger than just Ankeny — all these small individual impacts on the quality of the ride add up to much more.

For me, it is just one more irritation in what marks the beginning of a dangerous and frustrating end to my commute to work. I ride from my house at 50th and Division to the Lloyd District, about four miles, everyday. Starting at 16th and Ankeny the commute gets dicey.

With construction on the Burnside Couplet, northbound 12th Avenue is has lost its right turn lane onto Burnside for cars turning east. So, it seems more people are turning off 12th to get up to Ankeny around construction. There is also traffic coming up Ankeny from closer in, I presume from MLK or Grand. There is also more traffic cutting across Ankeny at 16th, 15th and 14th as people try to get around the Sandy-Burnside mess.

“The little disruptions at the end of my commute are individually small, but from this tolerance perspective there comes a point when its too much for some riders.”

My ride is further complicated by the bottling plant at Couch and 12th. Their semi trucks try to back into the plant at rush hour and block all traffic on 12th. This backs up everything further south towards Pine (about six blocks). After the bottling plant on 12th is Benson High, where the bike lane becomes the de-facto loading zone for passengers.

After that is the terrible series of intersections at 12th and 11th at Lloyd Blvd (just over I-84). There a right turn is allowed with a green arrow and Trimet buses and cars swing right through the bike lane making the turn, even with cyclists waiting for a green to go straight. It’s crazy!

There is the oft-cited hierarchy of cyclists in Portland that has the fearless category, the interested but concerned, and so on. I’d suggest another way to understand cyclists: it’s about tolerance.

“I work with ecologists and we often frame species in terms of what they will tolerate in their habitat. I think the same can be said of cyclists, they will tolerate a certain mix and level of stresses before they give up.”

I work with ecologists and we often frame species in terms of what they will tolerate in their habitat. I think the same can be said of cyclists, they will tolerate a certain mix and level of stresses before they give up. A cyclist already has to tolerate certain stresses no matter what; things like safety, weather, and so on. But a rider also needs to tolerate the infrastructure.

I think many of us will put up with certain deficiencies, but from the tolerance perspective there comes a point when it simply becomes too much.

I tolerate most anything – and that’s me. But I worry about other cyclists where these risks and hazards are the final straw. One little thing is all it takes to reset their whole consideration for cycling.

When we make decisions about planning for construction projects and infrastructure in general, we need to remember to ask ourselves: Are we adding that final straw of challenge and risk that will make someone decide that they just can’t tolerate biking any longer?

— Connect with Paul Manson on Twitter via @paulonabike.

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