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The Monday Roundup

Posted by on January 24th, 2011 at 8:09 am

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Soul-crushing?
(Photo © J. Maus)

Is your commute making you crazy? If you’re doing it by car, then probably yes, according to this new study.

– As long as it keeps snowing, winter bicycling stays in the news. Some winter commuters have to deal with coworkers who think they’re crazy. Others just focus on being prepared. Some are overprepared. Others get creative.

Portland’s golden age of bicycling may be happening now, but it also flourished back in 1903. There was even a bicycle tax to fund infrastructure, until it was declared unconstitutional.

– In China, the city of Guangzhou is looking to Europe for guidance in retooling its transportation infrastructure to be accessible by bicycle in the country’s new age of automobiles.

– How many people ride a bike in your town? The science of bike counting is beginning to emerge from its infancy. Here’s an overview.

– In New York City, bike lane critics are officially going ballistic.

– Last week was the country’s first ever Youth Bike Summit. An attendee reports.

– A look at the environmental impacts of the mountain biking industry, from manufacturing to shipping to what keeps the lights on in corporate headquarters.

– Streetcars and bicycles are not always a match made in heaven. Here’s an inside look at the pitfalls and process of designing streets for bicycles and streetcars.

– In Paris, a tax or outright ban is being considered for SUVs and other fuel inefficient vehicles.

– Yes, there are still places in the world where nobody’s seen a tall bike before. The Bakersfield evening news reports

– Videos of the week: A “critical”…okay, hilarious look at the downsides of cycling. And a traffic engineer critiques the guidelines in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for managing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure…

The Manual: The Movie from Cantankerous Titles on Vimeo.

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24 Comments
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    Eric January 24, 2011 at 8:28 am

    For more on that 1890s and early 1900s bicycle history in Portland and around Oregon, see fortunaerota.wordpress.com.

    While the bike tax was declared unconstitutional in 1901, the licensing scheme that replaced it was not, and it remained on the books until 1913. It was, however, impractical, ineffective and unpopular.

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      Jackattak January 24, 2011 at 9:51 am

      I would absolutely support a bicycle tax if it went solely to newer, better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and provided more of it than the existing transportation tax. Right now we’re sharing those tax dollars with automobiles and there are clearly more of them than bikes/peds which makes them primary and bikes/peds an “afterthought”.

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    A.K. January 24, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Regarding news story number one, yes commuting by car certainly makes me feel very anxious. Over the years I have started actively disliking driving more and more (I’ve been driving for 11 years now, but have only owned a car for the last five). When I commute by bike, I don’t feel any of that.

    Traffic isn’t even that bad on the route I drive. At its best I don’t feel anything, but at its worst it stresses me out and I don’t like feeling that way.

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      aljee January 24, 2011 at 9:12 am

      i can relate to that. after not driving for a while and then getting behind the wheel, i feel like i am severely handicapped by lack of just being able to see. even backing out of the driveway seems so dangerous. it does seem a bit less stressful once you get out of the city if you are on a road trip or the like.

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        Jackattak January 24, 2011 at 10:16 am

        I got in a Zipcar this weekend for a little trip to Ikea and had a similar experience. I also got a feel for “the other side’s” take on cyclists in the roadway and pedestrians in the crosswalks. I am extremely cautious of vulnerable road users (obviously) and I still had a hard time seeing them. Gave me a better perspective of what’s going on while operating a motor vehicle, and the many, many, MANY blindspots and potential blindspots those poor saps choose to deal with.

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      Jackattak January 24, 2011 at 9:42 am

      My wife and I both gave up driving in early 2008. Before that we moved to Downtown Portland in early 2005 to get rid of our commute. After living in Downtown with a car (a pickup, actually) for three years, we ultimately decided we didn’t need it anymore and moved our pickup to a rurally-located family member’s house in SW Washington so we didn’t have the parking, insurance, and registration payments.

      For the past nearly three years we have been in utter and total bliss. We primarily walk and cycle, and of course use Trimet for the longer hauls when needed. For when we absolutely have to drive, we use Zipcar.

      I cannot express the positive energy that giving up the automobile has given us. From my apartment I can see the backlogged cars on many of the major highways and freeways going into and out of the city proper when I’m all ready home and happy as a clam. Commuting by car and literally watching hours of our lives pass by was just too much for the both of us. I’d rather spend that time with my family and friends, thank you very much.

      I simply cannot understand how people spend so much in their cars. I abhor driving not so much for the experience (I love the act of driving and am a big sports car fanatic) but for the other people driving. Most people simply cannot drive and take whatever fun can be had by driving away. It’s just not worth it. And that’s just the personal sanity part of it. Then there’s the money you save, the better impacts on the environment you’re promoting, etc.

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        A.K. January 24, 2011 at 10:01 am

        That is awesome. I really hope I can become partially carfree at some point in my life. I have a pretty serious girlfriend who does not really like to cycle, so having her give up a car seems like an uphill battle. However if we to “settle down together” and combine our assets, I think we could make it work with just one car between us. Her parents actually do that, as her dad has been a daily commuter cyclist for years and years now, and its something I am very jealous of!

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          A.K. January 24, 2011 at 10:02 am

          Er, that should read “However if we decide to “settle down together”.

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          Jackattak January 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

          It’s wayyyy easier than you might think. Only takes about two weeks to really adjust. If you plan everything out beforehand and get your Trimet routes to all the areas you frequently travel down, that’s a big help. If you have an Android phone there’s an awesome app called “PDXTrian” that does cycling, walking, and Trimet routes to anywhere in the city from anywhere in the city and that’s pretty righteous, too.
          We are planning on having a child in a few years so I’m guessing we’ll want our pickup back by then for emergencies. Otherwise, while you’re childless, being carless is terrific. I wouldn’t consider it if we had a child, though. Too many chances for a bona fide emergency.

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            A.K. January 24, 2011 at 11:28 am

            Yeah I’ve done short bike-only stints since owning a car, but the longest was two weeks at once, and it was during the summer which made it a bit easier!

            My main thing is that at my current job sometimes I have to run around while working on projects, picking up or dropping off parts from supplier, etc. It would probably be possible to replace all that with doing local shipping, but then that makes everything take a day or so longer, and time is of the essence sometimes.

            Perhaps at the next stage of my career I can take the plunge and give up the car. Certainly if my work was closer to downtown it would help. I work out by Airport Way, and during the winter, when it’s dark and rainy, it seems like about the worst place to ride, so I do most of my bike commuting April – October when it’s light out after work (I’m in the office most of the time until at least 6 and pretty frequently until 7).

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        wsbob January 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm

        “…we moved to Downtown Portland …” “…We primarily walk and cycle, and of course use Trimet for the longer hauls when needed. For when we absolutely have to drive, we use Zipcar. ” “… I abhor driving not so much for the experience (I love the act of driving and am a big sports car fanatic) but for the other people driving. ”

        “… From my apartment I can see the backlogged cars on many of the major highways and freeways going into and out of the city proper when I’m all ready home and happy as a clam. …”

        “… I simply cannot understand how people spend so much in their cars …” Jackattak

        Oh c’mon Jack. Are you thinking that all those people you see from your downtown apartment, backlogged on the highway in their cars, could find and be able to afford apartments in your neighborhood, or even in close-in neighborhoods outside of downtown? In your downtown apartment, you’re living a rather exclusive existence that many people can only dream about.

        If they could afford to live downtown, I expect that a lot of the people in their cars on the daily commute would really rather not be there, except for the simple reality of putting food on the table.

        And you’re earlier comment about the zipcar drive to Ikea: Good driving actually requires a high level of perception and experience. People that drive every day, in a vehicle they’re personally very familiar with, could well be far more reliably safe drivers than occasional drivers that don’t operate a motor vehicle except for the infrequent drive in an unfamiliar zipcar.

        I’m glad you and your wife have been able to devise a way not to have to drive every day to survive, but it doesn’t help those that do have to drive, to have others dismiss their situation so cavalierly. The need is still there to keep the energy focused on building outlying communities in ways that allow commuters that currently drive, to eventually have options allowing them to not have to drive.

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          Jackattak January 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

          But Bob I think you might have missed my whole point. We worked…HARD…for years to get here. We made up our minds that we were going to go carless and then acted on that and did what we had to do to get there. It’s simple planning, just like giving up smoking or drinking or whatever other vice you might want to add. You can do it. You just have to want to do it.

          I’m not sure where you’re getting the bit about living Downtown being so expensive. For one, we’re not giving away literally thousands a year to petrol and automobile expenses. That saves you right there. Our rent is just over a thousand for a beautiful 2-bedroom apartment on the 11th floor. That’s well under most people’s mortgages. Factor in our monthly pet rent and utilities (nat. gas, electric, water, sewer, and garbage) and it comes to another couple hundred. Call it $1,200 all-inclusive, and no car payment or car-related costs.

          Food at our Downtown Safeway on 10th & Columbia is no more expensive than the Safeway in Salmon Creek (Vancouver, WA) or the Beaverton Freddy’s.

          I think the “Downtown living is expensive” is a myth, personally.

          It all boils down to wanting to do it. Some people are happy with their lives the way they are (complacency/apathy). Others want something more.

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            wsbob January 24, 2011 at 11:24 pm

            “… We worked…HARD…for years to get here. …” Jackattak

            I don’t doubt you and you’re wife did work hard. Your earlier remarks though about not understanding why people are commuting by car, and so on, seem to imply that all or many of the people commuting by car on the crosstown and between town highways could unload their cars and move into town for the walk/bike/mass transit way of getting around.

            Is there enough room for all of them to give up their cars and live downtown or in a close in neighborhood? Could they do it without the benefit of years of hard work; move into town within the year?

            A study isn’t required to know that being trapped in a car on the highway for the day in/day out commute is frequently a maddening experience. On the other hand…it’s something people get used to. Which perpetuates the continuation of that societal construct that daily auto commutes are. Compounding the tenaciousness of this way of life, are the ever increasing features that make cars’ interiors more like a den at home; comfy seats, stereo, tv.

            If the condition for driving on the commute was that the only type of vehicle permitted for use was a standard vehicle; something new but similar in technology and comfort to a Model T: You can bet that people would start to get very interested in either moving closer to their job or taking mass transit.

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    John Russell (jr98664) January 24, 2011 at 9:14 am

    The ‘hilarious’ link is broken.
    It should actually be:
    http://ibikelondon.blogspot.com/2011/01/cycling-sucks.html

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    spare_wheel January 24, 2011 at 9:36 am

    “I’m sorry, but having a sport utility vehicle in a city makes no sense…sell it and buy a vehicle that’s compatible with city life.”

    Magnifique!

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    Elly Blue (Columnist) January 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Jackattak
    We are planning on having a child in a few years so I’m guessing we’ll want our pickup back by then for emergencies. Otherwise, while you’re childless, being carless is terrific. I wouldn’t consider it if we had a child, though. Too many chances for a bona fide emergency.

    Hey Jackattak, I have no clue what parents’ needs really are, but I trust this lady’s perspective and she says cars aren’t as necessary in a kid emergency as you might think:

    http://www.grist.org/article/2010-11-28-driving-a-car-doesnt-mean-being-in-control

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      Jackattak January 24, 2011 at 11:02 am

      Thanks for the read, Elly! We’ll keep it in mind. I probably would want that amount of control over my transportation needs if I had a child, though. Just a personal preference. 😉

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    Todd Boulanger January 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Per the Oregonian article on 1900s Cycling…

    …is there any precedent to seeking the re-establishment of a publicly funded facility or right of way paid for by a special tax on users (the Mult. County Bike Tax)? What was the public process when the City (or County) ‘closed’ bike access to these paths? Does the roadway space mentioned still exist on Southwest Macadam Avenue and in Woodlawn?
    (Was this Woodlawn path in the middle of the median or side of NE Ainsworth? – this roadway seems very 1900 parkway like, IMTO)

    And are there any PSU, REED or UofO students willing to research these questions?

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      Eric January 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      I’m still researching the decline of the path system. Here’s a brief from 1906 that suggests some of the answers: “On Milwaukie street, between Division and Beacon, the path has been torn up, and a man is slowly but surely continuing the work of destruction further south…And so the cycle paths that were built along streets in Portland are doomed, and will soon disappear altogether.” I have more here.

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    Jeff Ong January 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

    The usual charming comments over at Oregonlive… why do people become enraged and froth at the mouth at an article about the history of bicycling in Portland

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    ME 2 January 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I often get the “You ride year round?” question from friends and in laws, but not from my paternal family. Riding in the winter rains isn’t that impressive when you have a cousin with 15 plus years of riding in the snow and sub zero temps of Calgary, AB.

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    Jean January 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    “Riding in the winter rains isn’t that impressive when you have a cousin with 15 plus years of riding in the snow and sub zero temps of Calgary, AB.”

    How about -25 degrees C in Calgary? That’s where I am right now. No, I don’t claim to bike at all under those temperatures. Ice is a guarantee, not not snow.

    I appreciate Portland’s inspiration..but it’s too easy to become blinkered about Portland’s success while some other cities are busy upping their regular cycling volumes.

    It is also about who/how many people regularily promote their home cities as bike friendly.

    Do look north to Vancouver, BC. You will find out in 2012 with Velo-city Global conference… 🙂

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    Blair S. January 25, 2011 at 12:36 am

    I can’t seem to access the Guangzhou link, could you fix it?

    I am actually in Beijing now, and it’s so unfortunate how the Federal government has decided to prioritize automobiles over all other forms of transport – not that they aren’t spending any money on public transit or bicycle facilities, but it only takes one look at most street designs to see the philosophy at work.

    But, as in all other countries, different cities have different approaches.

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    Pete January 26, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    A.K.

    My main thing is that at my current job sometimes I have to run around while working on projects, picking up or dropping off parts from supplier, etc. It would probably be possible to replace all that with doing local shipping, but then that makes everything take a day or so longer, and time is of the essence sometimes.

    I recently took a new job with similar requirements (the auto stipend made me think bike commuting days were over). Having to run around to meetings wasn’t as bad as I thought because we often carpool to sales calls, and now that I’ve found a safe commute route I simply drive the bike into work and leave the car sitting there during the week.
    Unfortunately the next problem to solve is that many of my trips require flying out of town, and the San Jose airport is pathetically UN-friendly to cyclists. You PDXers have it GREAT!

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