Auditor’s survey: Bike safety improves, bike use at 7 percent citywide

A ride with the family-9

Portland residents judged bike safety
and many other livability issues
in the survey.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The City of Portland Auditor’s Office has released results of their 20th annual Community Survey. The survey was sent to 9,800 randomly selected households this past summer, and 3,663 valid surveys were returned.

The survey asks a range of questions about general community and livability. The purpose is to inform City Hall and city staffers about how people perceive their neighborhoods so the city can look to improve those perceptions through programs or policies. Of particular interest to us is how people rate the quality of roads and the safety of bicycling in their neighborhoods. This year, there were two new questions on the survey directly related to transportation mode.

Another interesting tool this survey can be used for is to get a sense of the equity issue because it asks every neighborhood coalition the same questions.

Here are the key takeaways from a livability and bicycling/transportation perspective:

  • Citywide, 87% of Portlanders “felt positive” about our city’s livability (Southwest was highest at 95% and East was lowest at 67%).
  • Residents say major street, peak hour traffic congestion is getting worse. In 2010, 22 percent felt good or very good about congestion on major streets, compared to 26 percent in 2006.
  • Fewer people are happy with “street smoothness” levels. In 2010, 52 percent of residents felt good or very good about street smoothness compared to 58 percent in 2006. This decline was even more pronounced in both the North and East coalitions, where each dropped 13 percentage points over the same five years (to 47 percent and 51 percent, respectively).
  • More people reported that speeding vehicles on neighborhood streets is a problem. Citywide, just 35 percent of residents felt good or very good about traffic speed on neighborhood streets, an 11 percentage point decrease from 2006. (Wonder if it’s related to cut-through traffic due to more congestion on major streets.)
  • When asked their “primary mode of transportation in the last seven days,” 62 percent of Portlanders say they drive alone to work. 12 percent take transit, 6 percent walk, and 7 percent go by bike.
  • When asked the same question about non-work trips, 66 percent said they drive a car, while 1 percent walk and 4 percent bike.
  • In terms of geographic split, East Portlanders had the highest percentage of work trips made by car at 77 percent, while Inner Northeast residents reporting the lowest with 50 percent.
  • A record number of residents – 50 percent – said they feel good or very good about bike safety. That’s up from 48 percent last year and the highest percentage on record. (Same thing for walking safety.)

It will be interesting to see how these percentages change as PBOT continues to build out its network of bike boulevards. They’re on pace for 15 new miles per year for the next three years and I’m sure we’ll see big jumps in perceptions of neighborhood bike safety and non-work mode split in the future.

You can download the complete report here (PDF).

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Steve Hoyt-McBeth
11 years ago

I would add that the City Auditor replaced the secondary commute mode choice with the “all trip” question.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)


Any idea why? I thought it was really valuable for surveys to ask same questions year after year. Why not keep the secondary question and add the non-trips question.

Also, it was a pretty great statistic to share with folks that “23% (or whatever) of Portlanders say they use a bicycle as their primary or secondary commute vehicle”. Now we can’t say that.

11 years ago

The Auditor’s Office link in the first paragraph seems to have an incorrect URL.

11 years ago

Regarding the methodology change, maybe ask Brian Stipak. From page 3 of the report:

We would like to give special thanks to Dr. Brian Stipak, Professor Emeritus, from Portland State University, for all his assistance in reviewing and making recommendations on improving the survey methodology.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Reply to  Elliot

thanks Elliot. I fixed the URL. Also, it gets confusing because the Auditor’s office also does the Service Efforts and Accomplishments Survey which also asks the primary/secondary question. Perhaps it will be asked in that survey. I’ll look into this.

Daniel Miles
Daniel Miles
11 years ago

Does anybody know why there’s such a big gap between this study’s claim that 7% of the city is biking and the Census’s claim that only 5.something% is biking? Is the counting/sampling method different? Is the sampling geography different?

11 years ago

Daniel #6:

My guess to the discrepancy is that the Census question asks how you got to work (during the week prior to the Census) and doesn’t ask about other trip purposes. The City’s survey asks about other trip purposes besides commute trips.

11 years ago

I doubt the numbers on the survey are correct. If only 1/3 of the surveys are returned, probably the ones returned are from people who do cycle and have a dog in the fight. The other 2/3 of the ballots that were not returned we don’t know the info from those people, they were probably not as many cyclists as the first 1/3

Steve B
11 years ago

7% bike vs. 12% transit? WOW!

It would be great to see this in the context of overall capital spending. I don’t think our investments are anywhere close to actual use. I know transit ridership is expected to increase over time, so the investment pays off. The question is, where is our ‘orange line’ mega-project for our bike network?