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City Auditor’s Community Survey gauges bike safety, mode splits

Posted by on December 6th, 2011 at 11:16 am

Results of 2011 Auditor’s Community Survey.

The City of Portland Auditor’s Office released results of their 2011 Community Survey this morning. The survey gauged Portlanders feelings on a number of City services, from public safety and the quality of parks, to transportation.

In addition to qualitative questions about how safe people feel while bicycling, the survey also asked Portlanders how they get around.

According to the survey, 7% of Portland residents citywide used a bicycle as their primary vehicle to get to work “in the last week” (the same percentage as last year). That number was highest in inner Northeast where 14% of those surveyed bike to work. The area of town with the lowest percentage was East Portland, where just 3% of those surveyed said bike was their primary mode (that was up from 0% last year).

Here’s the full geographic bike commute mode split breakdown (2010 numbers in parentheses):

    Southwest – 4% (3%)
    NW Downtown – 4% (5%)
    North – 8% (7%)
    Inner Northeast – 14% (15%)
    Central Northeast – 6% (8%)
    Southeast – 10% (9%)
    East – 3% (0%)

Not surprisingly, residents in the East and Southwest areas had the highest drive alone rates at 72 and 73 percent respectively. Citywide, 63% of residents still drive alone to work, that’s up 1 percentage point from last year. For the first time ever, a neighborhood coalition area had less than 50% drive alone rate. The 2011 survey shows that the Northwest Downtown area has just 49% of its residents driving alone to work

When it comes to the “safety of bicyclists,” 49% of residents responded “Good” or “Very Good” while 22% said it is “Bad” or “Very Bad” (30% were “Neutral”). (These numbers are essentially unchanged from 2010.)

The survey was filled out by 3,857 randomly selected residents and the margin of error is ± 1.6 percent for the citywide numbers and ± 4.0 to ± 4.7 percent for the neighborhood numbers.

Interestingly, for a city that prides itself on public process and an engaged citizenry, the Auditor’s Office said, “Most residents we surveyed had not participated in a community project or public meeting during the last 12 months, and the majority of residents felt either neutral or negatively about their opportunities to influence government decisions.”

“Overall,” states the report’s summary, “most Portlanders love their city and their neighborhoods, but gave mixed ratings to many City services, and lower ratings to the overall job City government is doing.”

You can download the report via PDF here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • daisy December 6, 2011 at 11:22 am

    This is so interesting. I’d be interested to know how these neighborhood breakdowns compare to other neighborhoods in heavy-bike-commuting cities. Anyone know?

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  • Jessica Roberts December 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Jonathan, what would a participant be expected to respond to the question about how they got to work in the last week if they didn’t have a job? I’m wondering if/how changes in unemployment over the last year may have affected responses.

    Yet another reason that tracking modal choices just based on the commute trip alone is deeply flawed…I don’t blame the auditor’s office as presumably they wanted to come up with a metric that can compare to the Census Journey to Work figure. But still, we need to think beyond the work trip if we want to understand how people do get around, and affect how they could get around.

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    • Esther December 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      I agree, they take that issue in the bike counts reports (and that was the major factor behind the 2009 decrease despite the overall trend).

      If you look at they reports they do show not only ‘work trips but an ‘all trips’ category. Still see a solid 3% increase in bike trips in East Portland, which is where PBOT’s Smart Trips program was focussed last year. Also increase in walking trips to work. Overall 5% reduction in car trips in East Portland-wow!

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    • sorebore December 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      @ Jessica R… Your point on unemployment created the exact thought I had when I read….
      “most Portlanders love their city and their neighborhoods, but gave mixed ratings to many City services, and lower ratings to the overall job City government is doing.”
      … too busy worrying about other things perhaps.

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  • davemess December 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    What is considered “east”?

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    • John Lascurettes December 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      I assume it’s anything east of 82nd.

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    • jim December 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Good question. I know the address’s become east when you cross N Williams. So perhaps everything east of williams is east?

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      • davemess December 7, 2011 at 8:03 am

        that would be the entire SE and NE?

        East of 205 maybe?

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  • Joseph E December 6, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    It’s interesting that people in Portland report using bike to get to work, more than for other trips. Walking sees the reverse.

    In cities where everyone feels safe riding a bike, like may places in the Netherlands or Japan or Denmark, or new contenders like Barcelona, Spain, or Ferrara, Italy, the majority of bike trips are not trips to work. Instead, may people use bikes for 1/2 mile to 4 mile trips to go shopping, visit friends, etc.

    I think the survey results show that young, confident bike riders are doing okay in Portland, but the large majority of people still feel that riding a bike in town is not safe. We have a long way to go.

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    • NF December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      The commute trip is one of the most consistent, controllable trips of one’s day. It is the one trip you can really plan out in advance, which is particularly important for people getting into bicycling. Maybe in the future, when a consistent, low-stress network blankets our city, the other trips will catch up.

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  • SilkySlim December 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Where is the “run” category? While I doubt my favorite demo is worthy of a % yet, I am continually amazed at the number of people I see trotting/jogging/running to work every day (with backpacks or fanny packs carrying their wares).

    On these cold and wet winter days, running has so much more appeal than biking – I arrive just a bit later, and much warmer.

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    • Ben Guernsey December 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      Wouldn’t running, for the purpose of the city be the same as walking? Utilizing the same facilities, just at a more brisk pace. If we add a running category, how long till a unicycle category? 😉

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  • MossHops December 6, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    The geographic breakdown on the east side is a little weird to me. In the NE, we have inner-NE, central NE and then East. On the SE side we have Inner SE, then East. Shouldn’t there be a central SE as well?

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    • MossHops December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm

      Looking at the map of the areas makes the breakdown of “coalitions” even more suspect. Inner SE covers more land than the Inner NE and Central NE combined and probably also covers more population.

      This is a problem in that 1. If we measured just the inner SE, we would probably see higher commute rates than the inner NE and have a better story to tell as to the “success” of bicycling in Portland that would justify making bicycling more integral to our overall transportation plans. 2. It would probably point to the fact that we don’t need to focus bicycling infrastructure dollars at the Inner-SE if we want to improve commute share (even if I’d personally benefit from it).

      Even worse than the huge swath of assumed homogeneity that in the Inner-SE is the swath land representing “East Portland.” There is a lot of variation in that space, but this survey doesn’t help us understand it. I wish this survey was a bit more precise. If it were, it could illuminate much more.

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  • Jim Labbe December 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I’d like to see how the numbers have changed for people using bicycle as their secondary mode. If I recall reviewing the auditor’s reports in the past growing numbers of people were using bikes as a secondary mode and they were driving less even though their primary means of transportation remained the single occupant vehicle.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm


      If I recall, they no longer ask that question… which is too bad because I agree that it was interesting.

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    • Jessica Roberts December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      Yes, that was an incredibly valuable and interesting question that led to some mindblowing talking points about 30% of residents in inner SE using a bicycle at least sometimes to get to work. Now that looks like true cultural shift right there…

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  • Dan December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    I’m surprised they mentioned East Portland as an option; usually, it counts as “between us and Gresham”

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  • Don Bly December 6, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Does the higher precentage of west side car comuters reflect the limited safe roads, especially through the west hills. I do like the question of cycling as the secondry mode of transportation.

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