[Bike share is coming to Portland! Scroll down for updates]
a funding request that includes the
Portland Bike Share project.
(Photo © J. Maus)
A request by the Portland Bureau of Transportation to fund a bike share project with $2 million from the federal government is up for a vote at City Council this morning.
(I’ll reset the issue below. Scroll down to see live updates.)
Along with bike share, the $9 million request includes two other active transportation projects as well as one freight project. As you’ve read on BikePortland in the last few days, the decision to include $2 million for bike share has proved unpopular with some people. Bike share itself is a project with a lot of support, but advocates for projects that were passed over in favor of bike share feel that PBOT made the wrong decision.
Yesterday I detailed the concerns from the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and Upstream Public Health. They are disappointed that funding bike share continues a long trend of geographic inequity when it comes to transportation spending. Those groups, along with neighborhood activists, feel that a plan for safety improvements on SW Barbur Boulevard — that has been in the planning books for over a decade — deserves the money before bike share.
The other project that was passed over in favor of bike share was a $1.25 million request to fund planning and design for the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor (note that advocates have dropped the “Trail” and replaced it with “Corridor” – good move!). Member of the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor Committee, Paul Manson, wrote a letter to Mayor Adams yesterday outlining his disagreement with PBOT’s request.
“… the proposed slate of projects… is leaving amazing opportunities off the table. For the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor Trail, funding is extremely difficult to come by as it is for all trails in the region…. We ask that the project selection be re-evaluated and updated to reflect how we can really achieve the goals of the Bicycle Master Plan and the vision of our city to create healthier communities, reduce our impact on the climate, and encourage new riders.”
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is strongly backing the bike share project. Feeling heat from usual allies for prioritizing it over the Barbur and Sullivan’s Gulch projects, the BTA posted their case for bike share on their blog yesterday.
Politically in Portland, a proposal needs just three out of five commissioners (which includes the Mayor) to pass. Right now, bike share has two strong yes votes. Mayor Adams is a big booster of the project and Commissioner Randy Leonard told me yesterday that, after seeing bike share in action in London last year, “he’s an enthusiastic yes vote.”
Commissioner Amanda Fritz has been very public about her opposition to the bike share funding request. She’d rather fund safety improvements on Barbur and she won’t vote for bike share until what she perceives as “dangerous” bicycling behavior downtown subsides.
The other two commissioners, Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman, haven’t shared their feelings on the issue yet. As a frequent bike rider himself, my hunch is that Fish is a yes vote. He also happens to be a close friend of Mia Birk, who happens to be CEO of Alta Planning + Design, the parent company of Alta Bicycle Share, which is one of the premier bike share operators in the country.
If Council approves the PBOT funding request today, it’s likely that Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation will also approve the list. However, there is a 30-day public comment period that will begin in September before the final decision is made.
See below for live updates from City Council…(also read me on Twitter).
Read updates from City Hall below… (Most recent at the bottom, also follow BikePortland on Twitter).
Mayor Adams introduces the proposal. Amazingly he didn’t even mention the term “bike share” when he listed them all. He called it a “new transportation option for Portlanders.” Adams talked about how difficult the choices are with this money, but maintained that because East Portland has more traffic “carnage” than SW Portland, he stands by his funding request. “We don’t have luxury of dealing with all dangerous places, we have the grim task of dealing with just the most dangerous places… It’s a tough trade-off.”
“I’ll be blunt. Over the years I have put more money into East Portland than into Southwest… That’s where the most carnage is… It’s not an easy decision, but I stand by it.”
On bike share, Adams said advocates have been asking him for it “the entire time I’ve been transportation commissioner.” He said he’s waited because he wanted to learn lessons from other cities. Adams cited successful programs in other cities and said bike share is “the cheapest form of public transit available.”
In closing, Adams opened up the debate by saying, “I’m not going to say list is perfect, I’m open to amendments.”
And Commissioner Nick Fish got the ball rolling quickly…
Commissioner Fish jumped right in with a proposed amendment to PBOT’s resolution. Saying that he feels the Sullivan’s Gulch project could be a “game changer” and that SW Barbur Blvd improvements are “equally, if not more compelling” than other projects on the list, he put forth a proposal for $750,000 for Barbur and $500,000 for Sullivan’s Gulch.
Fish’s proposal passed unanimously. “These aren’t maybe going to be funded,” said Mayor Adams, “We will identify sources of funding.”
The proposal commits the City to finding $1.25 in new funding and does not impact the existing proposal. Fish said the bike share project is a “unique opportunity” because the $2 million federal grant would leverage another $2 million in private funds needed for start-up costs to get the project up and running. “The fact that $2 [million] could become $4 [million] is compelling.”
Fish’s Barbur proposal would be used for improvements between 19th and 26th streets and would use a mix of ODOT grants, “project-cost savings” and “PBOT safey accounts” to pay for it. For Sullivan’s Gulch, Fish said it would go to design and construction “on existing right-of-way” (that’s key, because much of the corridor is held by Union Pacific Railroad, which hasn’t shown interest in working with the City on the project yet).
PBOT staff presented the project list. Interim Division Manager for Transportation Options, Dan Bower, presented on bike share. Bower showed the Streetfilms about the NiceRide bike share system in Minneapolis. Following the film, Bower (and other PBOT staff) faced a lot of questions from Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Amanda Fritz.
Saltzman asked about PBOT’s confidence in the expected $2 million match. Bower acknowledged that the actual match could vary, but that they are confident in the number. “What if you get just $500,000?” asked Saltzman, to which Bower replied that, while bike share is scalable, they’ve learned from other cities that it’s best to “go big or don’t go at all.” “It’s like a trapeze,” Bower said, drawing a comparing to how many kiosks are installed, “You won’t get on if you don’t think another one will come… We think $4 million will get Portland what it wants.”
Bower (and Adams) assured Saltzman that no City money would be used for the bike share project.
Commissioner Fritz then questioned PBOT staff. “My understanding was that the Sullivan’s Gulch project was preferred by the Bicycle Advisory Committee rather than bike share… So how did it leapfrog?” PBOT Planning Manager Paul Smith explained that the BAC wasn’t the only group whose input was weighed in making their decision.
Following up on concerns I shared yesterday, Fritz asked PBOT staff, “How will we educate riders that ride on sidewalks?” Adams interjected, “That’s an incredibly fair and useful question.” Adams said he and PBOT plan to come back to Council with a plan to address that concern in about three weeks.
Now the meeting moved on to public testimony…
Chris Smith, a very well-respected transportation activist, former City Council candidate and current City of Portland Planning Commissioner (speaking as personal opinion, not in an official capacity) expressed very strong support for bike share.
“I believe bike share will be transformational; not because it will increase bike mode share, increase health, boost tourism… but because I believe it’s a vital investment for the health of our Central City economy. To retain the position of our Central City in the region, we need to increase trips into it by about 50% in the next 20 years. That won’t happen with cars… Bike share is an easy way to pick up those easy trips.”
The tone of representatives from advocacy groups Upstream Public Health and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition seemed to have softened today. Far from demanding a swap of the bike share project for the SW Barbur project, they seemed pleased to support Commissioner Fish’s amendment.
Citizen activists who live in Southwest, however, weren’t as conciliatory.
Marianne Fitzgerald rolled out a large map of the city showing the 50 arterials that lack sidewalks. “We believe we need safety improvements… Sunday Parkways won’t even be held in our area because it’s so dangerous. We’ve been waiting for a long time,” she said.
Fitzgerald pointed out that the SW Barbur project would improve an area with a commercial node that includes a senior center, parks, bust stops, and many large stores. “We have all the ingredients of a 20 minute neighborhood except sidewalks and bike paths.”
Fitzgerald also expressed dismay that the bike share program has never been brought to the board of Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc. and that there haven’t been any public meetings about it.
Another Southwest Portland neighborhood activist (I didn’t get his name) echoed Fitzgerald’s comments. The man was concerned that Fish’s amendment included funding that might never materialize. “There is a historical precedent here,” he said, “We get many promises [in Southwest Portland], but very little actual funding… the funding sources aren’t concrete… This sounds like a repetition of 12 years ago.”
The proposal passed 4-1. See below for testimony from each commissioner prior to their votes…
Saltzman votes yes; but with caveats. Saltzman said he expects that the Request for Proposals (RFP) will include language specifically stating that no public funds will be used to operate the bike share system and that, “The entire operating cost will be provided by the private sector and will use private sector employees.” Saltzman said that he would “unequivocally” not support any public subsidies for bike share. He mentioned that Council heard today about a community mental health crisis in Portland and that, “To me, that’s more important that funding bike share operating costs.” “Also,” he added, “if they [those costs] aren’t being covered by user fees and sponsors, it tells me something is wrong with the business model.”
Leonard votes yes, saying he’s particularly impressed with how the project brings in private sector matches and how it creates jobs.
Fritz votes no. “I cannot support this.” She also said there is, “No new money” to fund Fish’s amendment. Fritz said we’ve got to start plugging away on the lack of sidewalks sometime or it will never happen. “As a reality check,” she said, “one mile of sidewalks on SW Capitol Hwy would cost $19 million.”
“This proposal prioritizes $2 million for a bike share program — which if it’s such a good idea I don’t know why the private sector hasn’t done it — rather than putting money into basic services… It makes me very uncomfortable to fund more active transportation options when I can’t get off the bus one stop earlier because there’s no sidewalk… There’s a lot to like in this proposal, but we have hundreds of millions of dollars of sidewalks and crossings needed and if we don’t start plugging away we are not going to have them funded in my lifetime.”
Fish votes yes. “In a perfect world we’ve have enough money to fund everything… but we don’t operate in a perfect world. My amendment would make a substantial down payment.” To thwart the equity concerns, Fish added that, “By my math [including the $1.25 in his proposal] 75% of these funds are being spent outside downtown.”
Adams votes yes. “It’s important that folks understand that these things [bike share] start in the most dense areas and then, with success, they can move further out. In our case, we have a significant concentration of low-income folks downtown and being able to provide them an ability to expand their mobility… I look forward to that… I also look forward to the opportunities on the Yellow MAX line Killingsworth stop near Portland Community College — which is a 15 minute walk and a three minute bike ride from the stop.”
That’s it for today folks. A momentous day for bike share believers that sets into motion a project that PBOT first showed interest in way back in February 2007. And let’s not forget that the project list also includes some major investments in bicycling and walking access improvements in East Portland (including neighborhood greenways, buffered bike lanes, and much more) and improved crossings of SE Foster.
From here, the project list will move to Metro where it’s likely to be adopted in December. In the meantime, PBOT will work on its Request For Proposals to find a suitable operator for the bike share system. The federal flexible funds won’t actually become available to the City until 2014, but Mayor Adams said today that, as per usual, Council could allocate money before that time to get a jumpstart on the projects.
when does it start?
I think the Council will vote in favor of the recommendation, but it could prove to be a pyrrhic win for Adams and the BTA.
I’m so glad this is being covered! Wish I could be there.
live feed here:
“The fact that $2 [million] could become $4 [million] is compelling.” -Nick Fish
What isn’t being disclosed are the potential unknown long-term costs associated with bike-share. The $2+$2=$4 million numbers are start-up costs only.
A similar experiment with bike-share occurred in Montreal, and the bike-share there ended up racking up $37 million in debt and asking for a govt. bail-out after it blew through the start-up funding.
Coincidentally, Portland-based Alta Planning has considered purchasing Bixi.
Likely, Alta would be high on the list of vendors to run a Portland-based bike-share.
If the funding is approved, what assurances should they (or any other vendor) be bound to in order to prevent the program from racking up huge debt that would ultimately burden the taxpayers in Portland? $37 million would go a long way into funding the Bike Master Plan, or pay for any number of necessary city services and infrastructure improvements.
Montreal sits under 10 inches of snow 7 months of the year. I am sure our city would generate thousands more trips per year.
Portland has rain 7 months of the year. ‘It’s January and raining…lets’s go check out some bike-share bikes and go for a ride in the rain!’ I’ve heard DC has some rather miserable winter and summer weather, but Alta Planning’s Mia Birk says the bike share program there is going great. Why is it doing well there? Who is riding the systems’ bikes at enough of a rate to keep the system doing well?
Two points within Portland and closer in areas it’s been suggested the bike share docks will be placed, are Downtown, and Hillsdale. Hillsdale is quite a climb from Downtown. Do supporters of bike share in Portland seriously consider that many people will ride bike share type bikes from Downtown to Hillsdale? How about between Downtown and Lewis and Clark College ( a little further away from Downtown, and of course, given the Portland Metro area’s terrain…more hills.
The lure of matching government funds has an irresistible appeal for some people. I get the impression it’s kind of seen by these people as ‘free’ money. Possibly some kind of weird rationale going on here, that it’s the ‘federal government, so…might as well go for it.
At any rate, this should be an interesting experiment…with any luck, more successful and frequently used than Trimets ‘bike and ride’ bike shelters.
Why are some Portlanders so scared of the rain? Having grown up in sunny California, I’m seriously baffled by it. It doesn’t bother me, and even on the rainiest of days there’s almost always a break in the downpour to go out and enjoy the city.
Unless you’re the Wicked Witch of the Northwest, rain ain’t gonna hurt you.
Probaly because it isn’t just the rain, it is water just above freezing coming from almost all directions while riding, in near freezing temperatures. The combination + work clothes turns many off, no matter how you cut it.
If gas were $5/gallon I would support this project, but there are way too many other ways this bike-friendly city can support biking with that cash.
You can watch the council meeting live over the web: http://www.portlandonline.com/index.cfm?c=28258
To put the numbers in comparison, and to support the idea that we need more funding rather than fighting over the crumbs, consider this:
The $6.6 million dollars being allocated to active transportation is only 0.183% of the money ODOT would like us to spend on the CRC ($3.6 billion) and 0.066% of the $10 billion that the economist Joe Cortright suggests the mega freeway project will actually cost.
ODOT is letting us fight over 1/10 of 1% of the cost of their mega freeway project. If we kill the CRC we could do 1000 active transportation projects (or build out the entire 2030 bike plan more than 10 times over).
Is there really a competitive process for awarding the bike share program, or is it potentially a backroom/sweetheart deal for Alta?
Even if the process IS competitive, what other locally-based outfits are there with the operational experience?
Thank you for covering this JM!
I think bike share will help be a game changer. I’ve had lots of friends go to PDX for a short vacation, I would love to tell them to just take the train and use bike share to get around. No need to even bother with their car.
Waiting to see how Minn and DC played out was smart. And if we wait any longer we are going to get left behind. This is the time for it.
Another useless, obstructionist no vote by Amanda Fritz. Remember which side of this she’s on when she’s up for reelection.
Well, she’s not on the side of “bike share” over other projects she thinks more useful. Which is fine. I love cycling but I am skeptical of bike sharing too. But her “irresponsible bicylists” comment was a stupid thing to say.
Cool. This rocks. Nice work, council.
Now, let’s all get on the bandwagon and make sure the improvements come to Barbur and other places as well.
Want council to know how you feel on this? Their contact info is at
& a suggestion — if you feel that there should be more funds allocated to Sullivan’s Gulch, Barbur Blvd AND Bike Share, make sure you tell that to your elected officials. This is regardless of your position on which of the items discussed today should be the #1 recipient of funding.
Let’s not split ourselves up, folks. A lot can happen between now and the Metro vote to derail any one of these projects.
Jonathan: The person whose name you missed was Jim McLaughlin, chair of the West Portland Park Neighborhood Association.
Bikeshare is long overdue in Portland.S
Safety projects in the ROW can be funded with gas tax dollars. It time ODOT stepped up to make state highways in the city safe…St Helens Rd, Barbur, Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, 82nd Avenue…or give the City money to do the job. RFFs need to go for things that the gas tax is prohibited from funding.
Re sidewalks in SW…I grew up there, hardly ever walked on a sidewalk, just down the middle of unpaved or semi-paved streets (w/ God’s own speed bumps). Part of the charm. Not to mention topography, like E. Portland much of SW was built up under county regs that required nothing but a septic tank. A SW area LID might be the way to go.
i’m with you. pedestrian/bike safety is ODOT’s responsibility. its motor vehicles that are creating the safety hazard to ped/bike so they can pay to mitigate the danger created by cars and trucks. the only reason for bike infrastructure and pedestrian safety measures in the first place is because of automobiles and trucks.
“we need to increase trips into it [CBD] by about 50% in the next 20 years.”
We do? Who says? Why?
That sounds like economic growth-ism to me. I’m for bikes but growth for growth’s sake has no future.
I’m all for riding/commuting, but this seems like a bad idea that could have political consequences down the road. locals with bikes certainly arent’ going to use it, so we’re looking at what? tourists? visitors to the area? how many are going to actually use the service between early November and late May?
“locals with bikes certainly arent’ going to use it…”
jeff — ever had a flat tire and needed to get somewhere in a hurry?
I was involved with a bike share system at the University of British Columbia in the 1990s, many of the users were regular riders. Flat tires, taking the bus that day, need a ride for a friend, don’t want to park your nice bike in the rain when running errands, etc.
I live in Washington DC, don’t have a car and I own a bike and I use the DC bikeshare all the time. If I only want to go one way, or i take the metro because its raining but it clears up I can ride home, I feel like walking but change my mind a mile from home. I LOVE the bike share! I didn’t think I would use it because I have my own bike but there is something magical about being able to pop it in its slot and its done I don’t have to get it home on bus if it rains or I get a flat, they Ride amazingly great (BIXI) I also go to Montreal often (BIXI heaven) and its a great way to find your way around the city because every station has a city bike map with all BIXI stations on it. It sure would have made my trip in Portland easier and more fun. Any time I walk by a BIXI station I know I can check the map and see where I need to be going. Ive walked around a lot in Portland the last few days and have not noticed one bike lane on a road in Portland that was separated from the traffic in its own right away (like 15th street in DC or all over Munich Germany) preventing misbehaving car drivers from parking or swerving into them (Stop funding car infrastructure until the car drivers behave and stop killing people, animals and the planet) Today Im going to get a bike map, but It seems that if the bikers had their own right of way between parked cars and side walk there would be no reason to ride on sidewalk. and why not ticket the bad eggs like they do car drivers?
Jim…I want to hear more about your route in DC. What kind of distance, and how long a ride is it? Is the terrain involve climbs, or is it flat? How far from your residence and work are the bike share docs?
I love the idea of bike share and so would my son Dustin, who was recently killed by a drunk hit and run driver on Division. However, I don’t see how it will safely work with the current conditions.
It is true that vehicle drivers are sometimes hostile to bicyclists; some drivers drive drunk and recklessly with no regard to anyone else, even other drivers; drivers get distracted (children in the back seat, emotions, etc); drivers deliberately distract themselves with cell phones and radios, etc; drivers sometimes simply don’t SEE the cyclist, through no fault of their own.
But I’ve been to the location on Division where my son was killed and have done a lot of driving in Portland this past week, and many of the cyclists I’ve seen have acted in irresponsible ways. Many ride on the wrong side of the street, they ignore lights and stop signs, they drive up next to vehicles on roads where there are no bike lanes instead of staying in order, they don’t have lights, they don’t use hand signals, etc.
I saw a group of 3 cyclists ride out of the intersection that my son was killed at and go directly into oncoming traffic without even slowing down. They came out of the intersection, crossed 2 lanes where there were no cars and then the multitude of vehicles in the other two lanes had to brake hard to avoid hitting them.
I am looking for solutions. I want no more deaths. This is a joint vehicle driver/bicycle driver issue and shouldn’t be us vs them or them vs us. Unfortunately, this is all new to me and I don’t know where to start looking for people who are looking for solutions. Any suggestions?
“I don’t know where to start looking for people who are looking for solutions. Any suggestions?”
I think you are correct that it is a joint problem and all parties (especially those who currently behave erratically or irresponsibly in traffic) must contribute to finding solutions. But the simple fact is–as has been mentioned on this blog hundreds of times–that irresponsibility, which may as you say be pretty evenly distributed across the transport modes, has to be appreciated in the context of the potential to cause harm. Most if not all of the serious accidents reported on here where someone one foot or on a bicycle is killed or maimed involve a car. And these statistics reported here don’t even include traffic deaths that don’t involve people on bicycles or on their feet. Cars and irresponsibility (inattention) don’t mix well and are in the view of many here the chief problem. This is not to excuse irresponsible behavior you and others have witnessed by people on bicycles, but simply to point out–again–that people get killed by cars/drivers, not by bicycles/riders.
If people were being killed by people on bicycles even 1% of the time as often as they are by people driving cars, we’d know about it.
Thanks for the comment and accept my regards for what must be a very difficult time.
You bring up some important points. I too have gotten frustrated with people who ride bicycles in an unpredictable and dangerous way and I am equally frustrated when people drive cars while distracted, drunk, and in ways that threaten others and create a stressful and dangerous street environment.
A lot of people in this town are working on solutions.
Much of the behavior you witnessed and describe in your comment is – in my opinion – a reaction to a system that is broken and tremendously unbalanced.
SE Division is place where cars are king and everything else must fend for themselves for survival along the margins.
To me, the solution is clear. We need to reset the paradigm to that streets are more balanced and so that people like Dustin can choose to use a bicycle and not put themselves in mortal danger by doing so.
With a system that is more balanced and that provides better access for bicycle traffic, it’s my feeling that more people will ride more responsibly.
(And the idea of all people on bicycles riding like saints is just a fallacy that will never happen — just like all people in cars will never be perfect. Rude scofflaw jerks are jerks and will always be that way, no matter what they operate).
What if speeds on Division were lower? What if there was a wider, and possibly physically separated bikeway? What if there were more and better crossings? I think we’d have fewer deaths and injuries if those things were true.
Unfortunately, Portland doesn’t have the political (and to some extent the public) will to challenge the car-centric paradigm in a meaningful way. We have the money, we have the knowledge, we have the need… All we need is the leadership — either from the community and/or from City Hall — to make it happen.
You have the opportunity to be a part of that community leadership. If there’s one truism in Portland transportation politics, it’s that the City reacts after lives have been lost. That’s how we got bike boxes, better crossings on Foster, the closure of a dangerous right turn on N. Greeley, and more.
Feel free to get in touch if you’d like. Perhaps we can chat in person sometime.
“Unfortunately, Portland doesn’t have the political (and to some extent the public) will to challenge the car-centric paradigm in a meaningful way. We have the money, we have the knowledge, we have the need… All we need is the leadership — either from the community and/or from City Hall — to make it happen.”
I think you’re right, Jonathan, about the lack of what you call public will to change things. But I think your efforts here and all the thoughtful people who contribute will eventually make it happen. And let’s not forget that 18% of Multnomah Co. households don’t have a car. No one’s reached out to them as far as I know. There’s no blog equivalent to yours for that demographic group. Could it happen; could it be done; could this group come to recognize itself in a manner that the folks who like and use bikes have through your efforts? I think so.
There’s undoubtedly some overlap between the two groups, but perhaps less than we realize.
Besides BikePortland itself and all the links it has over on the right (especially the ones under “Organizations”) you might want to look at:
Since one of the first hurdles opponents to bike infrastructure always bring up is funding, these might also be of interest:
Best wishes to you, Kristi Finney.
“… I saw a group of 3 cyclists ride out of the intersection that my son was killed at and go directly into oncoming traffic without even slowing down. They came out of the intersection, crossed 2 lanes where there were no cars and then the multitude of vehicles in the other two lanes had to brake hard to avoid hitting them. …” Kristi Finney
If I’m somewhat accurately visualizing what Kristi Finney is describing, what she saw occur was much more simple than, with all due respect to Maus and his efforts,
“…a reaction to a system that is broken and tremendously unbalanced. …” maus/bikeportland http://bikeportland.org/2011/08/17/bike-share-funding-at-city-council-live-updates-57794#comment-1924204
What Finney appears to have seen, were people on bikes whose actions were possibly the result of ignorance and/or lack of self discipline and respect for other road users. Unless maybe the ‘system’ Maus refers to as broken, is the system that educates the public in how to competently ride a bike in traffic, assuming it can be said that even the barest of traces of such a system even exists.
Amanda Fritz’s references, and the example Finney offers focus on exactly the kind of irresponsible use of the road by many people that ride bikes, a not atypical example that motor vehicle road users and pedestrians on street and sidewalk have been confronted with all too regularly. If the reaction to claims of this kind is to rationalize that ‘Motor vehicle drivers are doing it too.’, the possibility for much constructive change would seem to be very limited.
please. you read this site closely. you know full well that my reaction to this isn’t simply, “cars do it too”.
Allow me to add to my comment above … I do not think anyone, regardless of vehicle or quality of road infrastructure, should act unlawfully or dangerously.
“…please. you read this site closely. you know full well that my reaction to this isn’t simply, “cars do it too” …” maus/bikeportland
I’ll grant that you may not think so, but having countered so quickly in the same sentence with the bit about people that operate motor vehicles, it might easily have been interpreted by others that way. I think your clarification on that point was called for.
On some key levels, travel in traffic by bike is vastly different than the same by car. In response to concerns about lack of skills, knowledge and good in traffic practices on the part of people that ride bikes, as raised by Kristi Finney, Amanda Fritz and many other, I really can’t say I have any great ideas about how the riding public might be broadly initiated into competent riding on an across the board scale.
If riding a bike skillfully, safely and competently in traffic were as popular as having and using an I-pod or a smart-screen tablet, most people would have mastered and have been practicing those techniques, on their own because it’s such a cool thing to do, long ago.
So, bike-riding video simulator…great idea!
“… irresponsible use of the road by many people that ride bikes, a not atypical example that motor vehicle road users and pedestrians on street and sidewalk have been confronted with all too regularly.”
Wsbob, I’m not sure how much raw, contiguous time you spend walking around Portland, but my primary mode of transport is walking–I don’t own a car, a bike, nor do I take transit. I walk everywhere, and frequently traverse 5+ miles in a day. And to be honest, for every one person on a bike breaking traffic laws, I must see at least 10 drivers going well over speed limits, talking on their cells, eating while driving, drifting/turning/parking in bike lanes, rolling through stop signs, failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, honking and driving aggressively, turning and backing out without looking or using their mirrors, driving the wrong way on 1-way streets, cutting other cars off, running red lights and generally posing an existential danger to everyone in the immediate vicinity, if not themselves as well.
I’m sure it’s satisfying to pretend that the small number of people bicycling in Portland, and the even smaller number of those biking who break traffic laws, pose the same danger to other road users that the large number of people driving who break traffic laws, and the even larger number of people who drive in general do, but it’s neither honest nor factual to do so. For now, the most common form of transportation also happens to be the most dangerous, so the danger scales exponentially. Danger scales linearly only if all modes of transportation are equal. A person on a 50-lb, self-propelled bike treating the bike lane like his or her own Tour de France is in no way equal to someone in a two-ton auto-propelled machine taking up five times the space treating the road like his or her own Nascar speedway. Until bikes come equipped with Death Race 2000 style weaponry that will always be the case. Come on now.
There’s another aspect to this observation that some people riding bicycles are engaging in dangerous behavior. Most often this observation is voiced by someone in a car. I’ve made this point before, but some behavior or maneuver on a bicycle may look dangerous or risky to someone not familiar with that kind of riding or with riding a bike at all, but that doesn’t ipso facto mean that the observed behavior poses any special risk to others or even to the rider. It may reflect their skill level, their judgments about the risks involved, their ability to manage the less than ideal circumstances in which they find themselves.
I’m not a daredevil, and I’m not saying that some behaviors exhibited by folks on bikes aren’t reprehensible, just that some (many?) behaviors so identified might reveal more about the observer than about any objective threat posed by the action.
Part of why I think this is important to note is that injury statistics, however imperfect they may be, don’t bear out the sense that ‘all this dangerous behavior on the part of the cyclists’ is in fact dangerous. I bike (among other places) on Sandy, on 82nd, on Foster, on Barbur, on MLK, on Columbia Blvd, etc. and often with my daughter in a trailer. Some would probably consider that reckless – I don’t know, nor do I care much how others feel about it. My point is that our perceptions of what is or is not safe/reckless/dangerous have a lot to do with who we are and what WE are comfortable with, or could imagine ourselves doing = VERY SUBJECTIVE.
Agreed. I think a lot of modal bias is at work here. It’s hardly surprising that drivers, who make up the vast majority, will see the outliers–those biking and walking–and interpret them as engaging in unsafe behaviors. When you’re observing others through the windshield of your car, everything they do is going to be colored by your–literal–frame of reference. And of course that’s going to be an entirely incomplete perspective, given that when driving you only get ‘slices’ of the way the system actually operates which are thinner or thicker depending on how fast you are going.
Even Commish Fritz, presumably a story or two (or more?) up in her office looking through the window doesn’t see the whole picture. At street-level, stationary, the eye cannot help but take the whole picture in, if you’ll pardon the intellectualization, in a gestalt or holistic fashion.
Speaking of statistics and bike trailers, it’s funny (not funny) how many times I’ve seen people decry the danger of pulling kids in bike trailers, too, when the stats don’t bear it out. On Joseph Rose’s recent helmet ‘safety’ column, a commenter (your typical OLive reader) said that people who do so are “asking for it.” It seems insane to me that people see someone like you doing that and think, “they’re asking for it,” and not, you know, “maybe I should go slower while I pass them by, for safety’s sake.”
More modal bias, to be sure.
“There’s another aspect to this observation that some people riding bicycles are engaging in dangerous behavior. Most often this observation is voiced by someone in a car. …” 9watts
Just as I answered Joe’s question a bit earlier, the reason the observation of incompetent, careless, irresponsible use of the road by people on bikes is being voiced by people in cars, is likely because the vast majority of vehicles on the road…(bikes also being considered vehicles)…are cars and other motor vehicles. Include the voices of people walking on sidewalks, and trails, given that bikes can be ridden on many of those public ways as well.
“…some behavior or maneuver on a bicycle may look dangerous or risky to someone not familiar with that kind of riding or with riding a bike at all, but that doesn’t ipso facto mean that the observed behavior poses any special risk to others or even to the rider…” 9watts
There are people that are extremely skillful in handling a bike over almost any conceivable obstacle, that can thread the narrowest of routes anywhere, anyplace. Out in the sticks, somewhere the person on a bike is riding more or less by themselves, this can be a great thing. In traffic on any given thoroughfare or neighborhood street, where people, most of them in motor vehicles…are attempting to efficiently, orderly, safely and calmly keep the traffic rolling, the erratic, though possibly skilled riding habits of some of the people riding bikes in traffic isn’t helping to keep traffic flowing and tension down amongst road users.
It may not look like it at all times, but people as individual motor vehicle road users in traffic, are largely working with all the other people operating cars around them…as a unit, to keep the traffic moving without delays, accidents, injuries or death. People that ride bikes and that want to ride in traffic, need to fit into this system in a way that helps it all keep working as well as possible under the circumstances.
“…And to be honest, for every one person on a bike breaking traffic laws, I must see at least 10 drivers …” Joe C
The more likely reason you’re seeing this ratio, is because, with few exceptions in Portland, downtown and close in neighborhoods, there’s easily 10 times the number of people driving bikes on the road than their are people riding bikes. At best, Portland is reported to have a 20 percent mode share of people riding bikes ( I think that figure applies to the commute.).
Max speed on city roads: 25 MPH. It probably wouldn’t have saved Mr. Finney, as an (allegedly) drunk driver isn’t likely to obey ANY laws, but that would reduce some of the dangers. It would have an added benefit of getting us closer to the effective speeds for those pieces of head-worn styrofoam everyone is screaming about. If you are anti-25, you aren’t thinking about the children.
From 35 to 25 on a number of inner city thoroughfares would seem to be highly beneficial in a number of ways to people as residents and road users. At some, but certainly not all times of the day, there might be some lengthening of travel time with a lower speed limit. That slightly longer trip time would likely be well worth the gains to made by slower vehicle speeds.
Interesting side note: If you can, get a hold of the huge, full sheet Oil Can Henry’s ad supplement for Thursday’s O. Inside is a fun little multiple choice questionnaire. Check out the answer to the question about average speeds on highways in L.A. for two different years cited.
I think the OR DMV driver’s test should include an extensive section on bicycle safety, both driving with bicyclists, and biking with motorists. Also, I think they should make out-of-staters (like myself) re-take the whole test to get a new license when you move to Oregon. People who grew up in the suburbs of other states (like me) have no idea how to share the road because they have no experience with it. The only reason I have a clue is because I bought a bike and started riding.
I’m not 100% sure if it’s universally applied for all out-of-state drivers, but when I turned in my CA license for an Oregon license a few months back I was required to take a written examination at the DMV. So your suggestion may already be half-way to completion. Now we just need to convince the state to include some cycling related questions on that test!
In my opinion unexpected behavior is not dangerous, it actually increases safety. When people are concerned that they don’t know what is happening they take their foot off the gas pedal and pay more attention. Unpredictable behavior may be upsetting to some people, but I am not in any way convinced that it causes injury or death. Clearly no cyclist who acts in an unpredictable way kills a motorist, although they may in part cause their own injury or death. However I think that one reason why when we see increased ridership we see decreased rates of injury/death is in part due to the fact that cyclists being less predictable than cars causes motorists (who have much more of the ability to hurt road users) to slow down and pay more attention to everything that is going on in the roadway.