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Metro ‘Opt-In’ survey results show big interest in bicycling

Posted by on December 15th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Summer bike traffic-1

Survey says. Give us more!
(© BikePortland)

A Metro ‘Opt-In’ survey on active transportation shows that a majority of respondents from around the region feel it’s important to make greater investments in dedicated bicycle infrastructure. The survey, which was answered by 3,865 members of the Opt-In feedback panel, was to help inform in Metro’s first ever Active Transportation Plan they’ll begin to develop next year.

While the survey results show wide support for bicycling investments and bike usage, it’s important to keep in mind that the Opt-In Panel is a self-selected demographic and the results are not representative of the region’s population in general.

That being said, the survey does provide some interesting clues about mobility behavior and about what people want when it comes to transportation. Below are some highlights from the results (download the full report in PDF form here)…

When asked what “alternate forms” of transportation they had used in the past month, a whopping 53% of respondents from Multnomah County answered “Riding a bicycle.” In fact, over 90% of Multnomah County respondents said they’ve taken MAX, bus, walked, or ridden a bike at least once in the month prior.

The chart below shows all the answers (broken down by county)…

“Should the community invest in bicycling and walking paths,” the survey asked, “even though they are more expensive to build than regular sidewalks and bike paths?” A majority of respondents from all three counties (yes, even Clackamas County) said those investments were important…

What’s interesting about this Opt-In data is that Metro can break down results into a variety of subgroups including gender, income level, political affiliation, and so on.

When the survey asked for their level of interest in “biking more often for transportation” over 60% of respondents from all three counties answered “very” interested. The only subgroup that didn’t answer that question with a majority in the “very interested” camp were Republicans with only 37% showing enthusiasm.

When it comes to the barriers that keep people from biking (or from biking more often), over 60% in each county stated that auto traffic and speed were their top concerns. “Safety” was cited as a barrier by 27% of all respondents, with women significantly more likely than men to have said so (32% vs 23%).

The survey also polled for what types of infrastructure makes bicycling “safe, comfortable, and easy.” The top vote-getter was “Well-connected routes” with an average of 90% of respondents from all three counties saying it is either “very” or “somewhat” important. Here’s the full chart…

While the Opt-In panel doesn’t yet have the membership numbers or diverse demographics that make it statistically reliable or representative of our region, it is used by the same people who are likely going to set the Active Transportation Plan agenda once Metro gets it rolling. For that reason alone, these results are worth noting.

— Learn more at and delve deeper into the data by perusing the full report (PDF).

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

  • K'Tesh December 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Cool News! Now if we can only get some $$ to back the projects we need and want.

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  • Allan December 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    All this shows is that more politically active people are driving the bicycling revolution

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  • 9watts December 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    “Should the community invest in bicycling and walking paths,” the survey asked, “even though they are more expensive to build than regular sidewalks and bike paths?”

    I don’t understand this question. How are
    ‘bicycling and walking paths’ different from
    ‘regular sidewalks and bike paths’?

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  • jim December 15, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    What kind of a story is this? About a survey where they only surveyed “opt in” and there were a lot of people interested in cycling. This isnt much of a story

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  • Hart Noecker December 15, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Can we please stop calling bike/ped/rail “alternate forms of transportation”? C’mon. Stop using the language of your oppressor.

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    • chad December 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

      Totally agree. I’ve considered driving a car the “alternative” for several years now.

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      • Steve B December 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm

        Ha! I like to call it PASSIVE TRANSPORTATION

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  • meh December 16, 2011 at 9:53 am

    But opt in surveys are often misleading, in that only those who care about the issue will respond. They do not represent a valid cross section of the population and do not have a measurable margin of error.

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  • Ben December 16, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for the article Bike Portland!
    It is true that the Opt In feedback panel is not currently under-representative of more politically conservative residents, and those that live in the suburbs to name a few. However, the short term solution is responses are weighted for the members we do have.
    The long term solution? Join Opt In and invite your friends and family so you too can help shape the future of the region!

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  • PorterStout December 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    True, the survey probably mostly applies to people interested in cycling. For that segment of the population, here are some factors important to encouraging or enabling them to do so, according to a survey answered by 3000+ of them. Some future bicycling infrastructure decisions may be influenced by these results. I don’t see any problem with reporting this story, at least no more than another about a handful of merchants blocking construction of a bike lane in order to preserve a few parking spaces. It’s the noisy few who generally make things happen, for better or worse.

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  • woogie December 17, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Be careful of these opt-in surveys, the last one got us every second week garbage pickup.

    Remember 80% of the people surveyed loved the new composting program in Portland.

    But that was 80% positive on a response from only 32% of the people participating in the pilot program.

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