The Office of the City Auditor released its 23rd annual Community Survey today and the results reveal yet another sign that the amount of people riding bicycles in Portland has reached a stubborn plateau.
The survey asked Portland residents to gauge a number of different city functions, from the quality of tap water to the smoothness of streets in their neighborhood. 9,800 surveys were sent and the results were taken from the 3,352 valid surveys (or 36 percent) that the Auditor’s Office received back. According to the City Auditor, “The purpose of our community survey is to provide the public and policy makers with information regarding resident satisfaction with City services. We encourage Council and bureau managers to study differences in community perceptions included in the survey and to consider where improvements in services are needed.”
The two questions we look at most carefully in this survey ask residents what their primary mode of transportation is to work and for all trips. In this year’s survey, 7 percent of respondents said they use a bicycle as their primary mode for work trips. That number hasn’t budged since the question was first asked in 2010. Meanwhile, the number of people who said they drive alone to work went up three percentage points from last year to 64 percent. The only mode that saw a decrease was public transit. 12 percent said they took transit last year, compared to just 10 percent this year.
On a neighborhood level, inner northeast had the highest rate of bicycling to work with 14 percent. The lowest bike-to-work number was a meager 1 percent in east Portland.
When the survey asked about all trips (not just work trips), bicycling went down to just 4 percent of the total. Only 1 percent of southwest Portlanders and zero percent of east Portlanders surveyed said they use a bicycle as a primary mode for all trips. The drive alone number is the highest it’s been since 2010 at 70 percent.
This survey reflects what is becoming a commonly accepted phenomenon: That bicycling in Portland has stagnated. As we reported last month, U.S. Census data showed that biking in Portland has stalled for the fifth year in a row.
We’ve heard from PBOT sources that there is an effort underfoot at the agency to figure out what is causing this plateau and what can be done to get over it. We have some thoughts on that topic; but we’ll save them for a separate post.
Delve deeper into the latest City Auditor Community Survey here (PDF).
That’s because the facilities only cater towards confident cyclists. They don’t cater towards the old, the young, the cautious. I always wonder, if I had a family, and lived in northeast Portland, if I would bike with them. Having to bike on the bikelane on Broadway to access the bridge, would make me think twice about taking my four year old biking.
We need more facilities that cater towards people that are currently PETRIFIED of biking with car traffic. But I don’t really see that happening a lot. Even our bike boulevards are choked with car traffic using them to beat the lights on the major arterials (go check out SE Clinton & 39th if you don’t believe me).
I’m not surprised we have not gained more cyclists these past few years. Not really surprised at all.
“We need more facilities that cater towards people that are currently PETRIFIED of biking with car traffic. But I don’t really see that happening a lot. Even our bike boulevards are choked with car traffic using them to beat the lights on the major arterials (go check out SE Clinton & 39th if you don’t believe me). ”
Could not agree more. Our facilities cater to the bold. I’ve commuted for years and ride quickly, yet i find myself not riding the Green streets/ Bike blvd’s for the same reason. THEY’RE CHOKED W/ CUT THROUGH CAR TRAFFIC! we need far more traffic calming and safer facilites to bias the mode towards bikes on blvd’s, AND we need more protected infra on the larger arterials.
I was passed by a man last night on Naito doing well over 60 just north of the Steel bridge. That sort of behavior SCARES people off the roads permanently.
I agree that we have WAY too much cut-through traffic on the bike boulevards. We’ve installed a few diverters and other methods to deter drivers from using them as through routes, but frankly a lot of the diverters I ride through regularly (Clinton, Harrison/Lincoln, some in Laurelhurst) have been around since the last century.
And speaking of Clinton, what a NIGHTMARE that was with cut-through car traffic when I rode it the other day. Al those construction closures on Division have pushed a ton of car traffic onto Clinton. Not a pleasant place to ride these days with so many cars passing or attempting to pass, even in the downhill direction.
Well, you can thank the no-parking apartments for cluttering the streets
around Division. And things will only get worse as the small expensive aprtments multiply. Too bad that density was highjacked by greed and badly implemented. Enjoy.
This is NOT locals parking on the street that are backing up traffic on Clinton for a block and a half, two blocks. It’s commuters using Clinton in order to facilitate a left-hand turn at the light at 39th. It’s quicker to get onto Clinton to turn left, than it is to stay on Division and try and make a left at 39th.
That’s another can of worms though… how our outdated traffic signals with no protected turns effectively make it more appealing for motorists to speed down side streets instead to beat the light. SIGH.
Mamacita, it’s not the EXISTENCE of these apartments that is causing the problem. It is the CONSTRUCTION of these apartments.
The older bike boulevards will get better once retro-fitted to Neighborhood Greenway standards. Push PBOT to improve what we have along with building new greenways.
IMO, the main reason more people have chosen to drive is because it’s = convenient, fast, and becoming cheaper (see gas prices). If we want to increase mode share we need to do what the dutch did prior to spending billions of euros — make motoring increasingly a pain in the a**.
Moreover, I absolutely reject the idea that there is a large pool of people who are “petrified” of cycling. Most portlanders have bikes and have no problem riding them for leisure every now and again. IMO, the incessant promotion of “fear uncertainty and doubt” for ideological reasons is incredibly harmful.
Totally agree. When people live far from their job, have three kids to get ready for school, and it’s 40 degrees and dark and raining-is it any wonder that they drive to work? Then repeat this at the end of the work day with some errands thrown in to the mix.
The City of Portland’s OWN data says that there is a large pool of people in Portland that would love to bike, but don’t because safety is too much of a concern and they are too scared to ride with vehicular traffic. 60% is the number Roger Geller gave us at a presentation a few years’ back. I don’t know if it’s changed since then. Sixty percent of the entire population of Portland not biking because they are too scared of getting hit by a car is NOT an insignificant statistic.
I’m always curious if we can really trust this number. I would believe 60% don’t want to bike because they like to stay dry and warm in their car. But 60% don’t bike because they’re scared of our facilities? I think this is just the default answer for many who never have any intention of biking can shift the blame and feel good about themselves driving around town.
“…I would believe 60% don’t want to bike because they like to stay dry and warm in their car. But 60% don’t bike because they’re scared of our facilities?…” daveness
I don’t know about the percent number, but definitely think that a big reason many people won’t ride is because of lack of good infrastructure, or as you said, ‘facilities’, and because it’s definitely nice to be warm and dry in the car, protected from other cars, having really good lights instead of the puny bike lights, stereo, and so on.
With some exceptions depending on the type of trip in need of being made, or the commute, the comforts of a personal car is really nice. To weather the cold, the heat, the effort of biking and the danger of having to contend with motor vehicle traffic, exposed and exposed to that traffic as people that bike are, people have to really want to bike for that to happen.
Bob, I’ve let this slide for a while, but it’s daveMess. Not daveness.
Sorry man…no slight intended. I’ve corrected the m for n in past, and then forgot. Somehow, when I look at the m, I’ve mistaken it for n. Copy and paste shall have to be my friend more often.
There’s being scared of getting hit or having close-calls happen, and then there’s not wanting to deal with road harassment and a generally belligerent and threatening attitude that a lot of people have towards cyclists (especially beginning cyclists who aren’t the best bike handlers/aren’t in great shape and hold up traffic more, and generally aren’t well-versed in handling traffic and being confident and assertive). Getting screamed at from a passing car/called every name in the book, etc. for having the gall to get on a bike is a seriously demoralizing experience, and can really mess with your psyche.
I know that when I was getting back into a cycling I had a few really bad instances of road harassment in the first month or two and, combined with a few close-calls, found myself almost gaving up– it left that bad a taste in my mouth. You feel you’re trying to do something productive for yourself and for the environment/livability of the city, and to get screamed at/threatened/harassed for that is something that’s really hard to swallow, especially if you already have apprehensions. I don’t blame people for throwing in the towel, especially when you already have enough stress in your life dealing with day-to-day problems.
Geller made up those numbers.
Jennifer Dill’s study reported that 20% of the “strong and fearless*” and 39% of the “interested but concerned” strongly agreed that they were afraid of being hit by a motorist. These data simply do not make the case that the primary reason people are not cycling is due to petrifying fear. Moreover, a majority of the “interested but concerned” stated that they would be “comfortable or very comfortable” riding in a bike lane or on a road with no bike lane. Once again, the thesis that people are not biking due to petrifying fear does not hold up.
*imo, categorizing experienced cyclists as “fearless” is demeaning (and innacurate).
Stating outright that a City official lied about statistics is quite the allegation. I hope you can back that up.
Here you go:
I also think it’s ridiculous for you to accuse Geller of lying. Geller was always up front that his numbers were guesstimates.
A very high percentage of the people I know have a bicycle. And a small percentage of them use it. Here is a typical conversation with one of these “interested but concerned” types that has a bike with flat tires in the garage or basement:
Me: have you ever considered riding that to work?
Them: Oh, no. My commute is too far. It is almost 5 miles away.
Me: Oh, well in rush hour traffic, you would be surprised that it may only take you a few minutes longer than your car.
Them: Oh, but it rains way too much here.
Me: On those really wet days, I take the bus so I get it. Still, I am able to do it over half my work days.
Them: Well, I have to dress nice to work and I will be sweaty.
Me: Then change when you get to work.
Them: Well, you’re in shape and you can do it. You have to remember that.
Me: I used to be out of shape as well. Cycling well help.
Them: Well, is it really that safe?
Me: Statistically speaking, you are more likey to die in your car.
People will find excuses because they want to make getting to their job as easy as possible. And, right now it is getting in the car. And, I have not even added young kids into the equation.
Personally, while I do love to ride, if I did not grow an pretty severe aversion to commuting with a car (NE to Hillsboro can do that), I may still be using it to get to work.
I highly doubt the accuracy of this survey, on a small level work place survey the splits are more like 2% bike, 40% take public transit and the rest drive alone. Myself, I split between public transit and biking as do many of my fellow workers. FYI this is a downtown office of 50 people, and none of us are overly ambitious about how we get to and from work 🙂
Using your own workplace as an indicator of the city’s commute share overall is a major fallacy. Your workplace may be an outlier; mine is, too, as we have about 40% bike share, I would guess.
The Portland Business Alliance’s own surveys put bike modeshare at more like 11% for downtown commuters. http://bikeportland.org/2012/11/15/bike-commuting-at-11-in-latest-pba-downtown-commuter-census-80142
So I would treat the City’s numbers as pretty close to accurate, though I haven’t delved deeply into the methodology.
Yep. Portland wimped out on building a cycletrack on Foster, which it should have done test the potential in Portland for the increase in people riding that kind of infrastructure could invite.
It’s not just Portland that’s wimping out in this type infrastructural and perpetuating increasing motor vehicle traffic congestion. Keep tabs on planning in progress for a couple developments in the works in Beaverton:
Sunset Station north of Hwy 26 at Cedar Hills. Also, North and South Cooper Mtn out Scholls Ferry Rd between Roy Rodgers Rd and Grabhorn Rd. These developments will of course have the 5′-6′ wide bike lanes that are familiar around here, but at least at present, there’s no word of any kind of plan in the works that would take a bold step towards designing and building into these new developments, cycle tracks and pedestrian esplanades that could provide the function of an appealing, practical alternative to driving a car within the neighborhood.
IF by “wimping out” you mean “faced the facts that there wasn’t enough money to build one” than yes, by all means wimped out.
“IF by “wimping out” you mean “faced the facts that there wasn’t enough money to build one” than yes, by all means wimped out.” davemess
That’s not what I mean at all. I mean ‘wimped out’, in the sense that the idea of a cycle track on Foster seems to have been dismissed virtually out of hand, with little or no effort to find out how much it would cost to build or to find the money to build it.
No commitment to resolving long term travel mode conflicts or to redress deterioration of neighborhood livability due to excessive motor vehicle use.
Hard for me to equate “wimping out” with recommending a road diet. PBOT made a bold recommendation in this case that gets bike lanes where there were none before, and takes away auto lanes at the same time. As another commenter pointed out, money does not grow on trees and PBOT has nowhere near enough to build a cycle track here. Not anywhere close. The road diet is a bold first step.
And without removing parking, a Foster Rd cycle track would be a right hook nightmare! While I think there is this idea that is feels nice to be separated from traffic, it is just as important to be visible to it.
“Hard for me to equate “wimping out” with recommending a road diet. …” Unit
The city didn’t wimp out on a road diet. It wimped out by deciding not to build a cycle track. The subject of this bikeportland story, is that the percent of people riding, isn’t increasing. Maybe some people believe the kind of infrastructure improvement represented by a road diet and adding of bike lanes to a busy thoroughfare such as Foster Rd, will have Portland’s bike mode share rising again.
Maybe it will, and I hope it does, but the feeling I have, is that all the road diet/painted bike lanes are going to do, is make it easier for the people that are already riding, to use the road. Bike lanes are a great improvement over not having a bike specific place on the road at all to pull into when traffic is dicey, backed up behind a rider, etc, but for the type of person that would ride but are reluctant to bike because they don’t like riding alongside or amongst motor vehicles, Foster’s improvements likely won’t impress.
Sadly Bob, it’s going to be a LONG time before anyone who is afraid of riding near cars cycles in the city then. I mean it is the CITY, you have to expect that, and can’t expect a series of completely separated paths to be built right away.
From what I’m able to gather from articles about cycle tracks, people’s description of them, and photos of them in countries across the ocean, riding on one one is nothing like riding in a bike lane. Number one, they don’t put the rider directly next to motor vehicles whooshing by, 3′ away. Cycle tracks distance riders from motor vehicles, as better sidewalks do for pedestrians. Something faster than walking which is what a bike can do, but with the comfort and safety of walking, I think, is what many people that aren’t riding now, want and need.
People will ride the coming Foster Rd bike lanes, but I’m doubtful those bike lanes will bring in new riders of the slower, easy going type, for example: with kids on bikes and in bike trailers, older riders, riders less intent on a competitive level of conditioning.
Cities should be taking on basic cycle track infrastructure, that is…not cycle tracks everywhere, but on a number of key routes throughout the city…as a big project, like they do with other big projects that are critical to the growth and health of the city and the people living in it. Taking a look at new developments being planned in the metro area, for which travel challenges do not look to be sufficiently provided for, should be shaking people up, but instead there seems to be an alarming level of passivity over this happening.
Link to your other comment: http://bikeportland.org/2013/10/30/city-auditor-survey-shows-portlands-continued-cycling-stagnation-96367#comment-4477040
My reply is at the bottom (it didn’t link up right)
“That’s because the facilities only cater towards confident cyclists. They don’t cater towards the old, the young, the cautious.”
Why then have numerous posters on this site asked and asked and asked again for sharrows on the downtown streets? Or Hawthorne? Where is the bike lane on Sandy?
Instead we put them on the neighborhood greenways/bike blvds that do not need them.
Residential need sharrows as these are currently designed, but I look at them in the residential greenway setting as a “transitional safety stage.” Not only for wayfaring, but sharrows make a HUGE psychological difference with the interested but concerned crowd. As an example, an elderly woman from our neighborhood association used to only ride when she took the bus up to Saint John’s to ride with her friend on the Central-Houghton Greenway. She did not know that Davis was just down the street….I sent her a map and she rode to Lauralhurst. She found it just as safe except for the crossing of 47th of course. Without sharrows she would NOT have ridden it.
Once the greenways are PROPERLY traffic calmed and engineered to <500 vehicles per day through diversion these sharrows can be replaced with permanent signs…..hopefully ones that glow in the dark or at least are very reflective.
Terry, I am not against putting sharrows on low traffic streets. I just want them on streets that have more traffic as well. You would know as well as I would that SE Stark provides the most direct and flattest route to get from MLK to SE 60th. I find it the easiest street to get home durning non-rush hour (Stark is too narrow and too busy so Ankeny/Davis is faster.)
Why no sharrows?
I also worry if we just put them on the greenways, it simply tells motorist that don’t know any better that I am required to stay on that street.
I have a friend who wishes to cycle to work, and asked my help in picking a route. As I helped her figuring it out, I realized how many tricky parts there were, and how nervous I felt in having her ride this route. And she lives in inner NE, and works downtown! This town, viewed through the eyes of a bicycling novice, is still a scary place!
We have so much work to do that I’m shocked we are considered America’s bike city. Not shocked; depressed.
The fact that we are “America’s Bike City” speaks much more to the nation as a whole than it does to Portland.
Hear Hear. I think many forget how much better we have it hear than 95% of the country (granted that’s not a reason to rest on our laurels).
The problem I have is the way the survey is written… My wife and I have 1 car between us. She drives to work (in the suburbs with bad transit connections) while I bike or take transit everyday. We both use all 3 modes for non-commuting travel. But, the survey doesn’t give options for everyone in your household… just 1 person. Our way to handle it is whoever picks up the mail gets to answer with their thoughts. This year, the survey included my biking and transit… last year it was a single occupancy driver.
Voluntary response surveys like this aren’t valid. It’s too bad though, because a lot of people think they are and it can affect policy.
Fundamentally our bike plan is flawed. It is based upon a system of neighborhood greenways (shallow streets) and bike lanes. Nothing wrong with this approach, but keep in mind that no city in the world can demonstrate a mode split greater than 10% with this approach. Look it up. On the other hand, if we seriously want a bike mode split of 25% as aspired in the bike plan, we need a different approach; an approach that is based upon protected bikeways (cycle tracks)- the only proven infrastructure that can result in a 25% mode split (Copenhagen/Amsterdam…).
To move to the next level, we need to:
1. Attract the capable but cautious- those who will ride if provided safe infrastructure linked to destinations that they use on a daily basis.
2. Build from the inside out, rather than outside in. As hard as it may be, ridership will only be gained if we build more cycle track infrastructure in our our downtown and centers where density exists.
3. Do a better job of linking bike infrastructure to economic development. This is the bottom line for the business community and it will be needed to convince naysayers, especially those opposed to changing the status quo in the downtown and town centers.
We have had success with our current system and let’s improve it. However if we want more people on bikes, let’s embrace a more aggressive approach.
“Nothing wrong with this approach, but keep in mind that no city in the world can demonstrate a mode split greater than 10% with this approach.”
Nonsense. Multiple cities in Germany have mode share in the 15%-20% range and have systematically dismantled protected infrastructure while installing Fahrradstraßen and door zone free bike lanes.
A report on Munich’s removal of cycle tracks from a PBOT staffer who favors physical separation:
I have to disagree somewhat on #2. Sure – build from the “inside” out, but make sure you’ve got more than one centroid, and focus on the centers that are currently trailing the central city. You’ll pick up a lot more cyclists enabling daily non-commute trips near their homes, and you’ll increase mode share more rapidly if you provide a base level of service for the areas where there is little to no use because there are no facilties, rather than endlessly making the areas that have adequate infrastructure even nicer.
Cora, I agree with you from an equity standpoint. But, there’s an argument to be made that from an efficiency standpoint, we’re better off concentrating investment in complete networks around center(s) because that will allow people to make complete trips on good infrastructure rather than being shuttled from good to bad infrastructure in different parts of their trip. That will get us more bang for our cycling-infrastructure buck than piecemeal infrastructure scattered across the city (which is sort of what we have now… the greenways look connected but should really be regarded as a series of nice areas separated by major-street barriers).
I would argue that NO part of the city currently has “adequate” bike infrastructure to allow mainstream biking by a wide cross-section of people young and old. The neighborhood greenways are nice between major streets (at least unless there’s too much motor vehicle traffic, which is sadly common). But then at many major streets, there’s next to no help crossing the street. Oops, you just lost my mom and my (theoretical) 8-year-old kid on his own bike because crossing Division on 41st ave was stressful and not fun. Next time we’re driving….
I think we’re actually saying the same thing Alex. My main point was that focusing all investment on the Central City will actually net us less new ridership than building out complete networks (or at least as complete as the high ridership areas of inner Portland) around new centers (Gateway, Lents, St Johns, Hollywood, etc.). If we simultaneously focus on improving the inter-network connectivity (sullivan’s gulch trail for example) we’re going to have a good, equitable regional infrastructure.
Ha, we wrote our follow-up comments simultaneously. Yay, we agree!
Reading your comment again, I think we pretty agree. I just think the characterization of inner-Portland bike infrastructure as “adequate” is inaccurate (unless you mean “adequate” for non-risk-averse people aged 18-to-50). Improving bike infrastructure around a number of centers, with significant investment in areas with worse infrastructure such as East Portland and southwest Portland, is I think a very good plan. I just think infrastructure closer to downtown is not “adequate” and still needs improvement before it can be counted as an adequate network. Mostly improvement at trouble spots, but there are a lot of trouble spots, and downtown is one big (and important) trouble spot.
Yep! Ditto!! Could not say it any better…
For the most part you are right, except on the build from center out. This is currently much of the problem in Portland. ALL (for emphasis) the inner neighborhoods with current – at least decent access (from Powell To Fremont in as far as SE 20th combined with Downtown and NW) have a population that is less than the three main neighborhoods east of I-205 in SE and lower NE.
The numbers in Portland are stagnate because we keep adding and improving infrastructure to areas in the core that already have decent facilities while largely ignoring the middle and outer neighborhoods where all the people actually live. These improvements to the core are great and look good on a postcard to the tourists, but you’ll never get the numbers to increase with Downtown as a focus. Many of us that live East of 39th (and West of 82nd like myself) don’t ever really have to go downtown for anything. I can get everything I need on Hawthorn, Hollywood, Woodstock, Lents/Foster, Montavillia, East Port, Gateway/205…all of which are closer to my house than Downtown.
Do I ride downtown yes, but it’s not for work or shopping. it’s a rec ride. But when it comes to shopping, I’d rather spend my money and time close to home in the businesses of my neighbors and friends.
Continuing to develop downtown and numbers will remain flat.
Wait, downtown has decent facilities? Can you let me know where they are because in six years of working downtown I haven’t found any!! (Except Stark/Oak which is of very limited utility, and the Waterfront Path, which is only decent in the winter when there aren’t too many pedestrians).
I think the reason I’m lukewarm on Downtown bike infrastructure is that the average speed is 12.5 mph on Downtown streets, and the grid is so complete that going anywhere is never round-about. You end up taking the lane most of the time, and it’s fine to do that because the cars are traveling at a comparable speed to a bike.
There probably could be more streets that have treatments like Stark though…at minimal cost.
The new downtown plan has a “ring” build-out bisected by a few key streets proposed for bike connections. That should help, but I don’t think it should take priority over improving other center areas that have very little investment in bike/ped infrastructure.
Yeah, biking downtown is better without any infrastructure than biking e.g. in Gateway would be. But in my opinion, it’s still not good enough to appeal to most people. This is anecdotal, but – the second time I went with my partner down there on a bike, he crashed on streetcar tracks and separated his shoulder joint. One ER trip later, a year of recovery, it still hurts sometimes and he’s been back on his bike only a few times – once to downtown.
I think the concentration of jobs, recreational attractions, and increasingly, housing, downtown relative to other centers is a reason to weight bike investments there more heavily even though the streets there are already good enough for budget-conscious, motivated, non-risk-averse 18-to-50-year-olds like me to grit our teeth and deal with.
We need to work on long, connected, high quality routes that integrate. A good example is Burnside…the bike lanes drop off at 71st and enter a meandering low quality greenway land (not to mention the intersection with 82nd). Nice if you are not in a hurry, but terrible for commuters. Then, at 41st a straight shot and rapid greenway appears. That 1.75 mile gap between 41st and 71st prevents many commuters from making the trip. Then the connections in downtown after the Burnside Bridge completely collapse.
So, the “downtown needs a connected commuter bikeway grid” and the “we need to invest in the more highly populated outer districts” groups are both correct in this case. To move more of the “interested but concerned” into the “confident” group we need to complete “the gaps” since one dangerous gap can stop the whole trip for this demographic.
Terry – that assumes that every destination is Downtown. 90% of my bike trips (which are a lot of trips) are within my neighborhood (it is a pretty big one though) or less than a mile to the north of it. The other 10% are still in mid-county. In my 7 year tenure – the last 4 being car free, I’ve ridden my bike west of 39th twice. Not because of missing connections, but because other than for work (which will be in Gateway soon) I have no compulsory reason to go west of 39th.
BTW – I’ll actually start counting in the bike “mode split” now because I’ll be commuting by bike. Improving bike facilities in Kerns (where I currently work) didn’t accomplish that. Building a mixed use building with space for my office in Gateway did.
From Maus’ twitter stream:
“No city has bike ridership greater than 10% with sharrows and bike lanes. Protected bikeways = 40% ridership”
Munich has been decomissioning protected bikeways and installing bike lanes (and bike boulevards) for almost a decade. During this period it’s cycling mode share shot up from 6% to almost 20% (~50% in the central city). Other German cities have experienced the same dynamic. You’d think that “advocates” in PDX would pay some attention to the German cycling revolution.
Please be careful and don’t attribute words to me that I did not write. That was a retweet of someone else’s comments. Retweets from me do not mean I endorse the statement.. I am simply sharing a thought from someone else that I think others should know/would like to know.
Apologies, I should have attributed it to the original tweeter.
I don’t even see how you attributed it to Johnathan, just his stream. A retweet can often be seen as an endorsement, regardless of whether you want it to or not.
I strand corrected 20%. Still this is half of 40%. BTW the Wikipedia images of Munich show a lot protected bikeways. http://bit.ly/1cm5JVD
the cyclepath on goethestrasse near the train station was only a block long (and has been decommissioned).
The popular easy routes are maxed out with such small bike lanes. Unlike cars, bicycles have large differentials in speeds so passing lanes are necessary. Vancouver/Williams is dangerous at rush hour because it’s so crowded and no room to pass.
I take it as a point of pride whenever I drive downtown to try to park in or around the “America’s bike capital” mural on SW Ash.
Then to do my part to keep Portland “weird”, I eat a whole box of Voodoo Doughnuts.
While I agree with the sentiment from this forum that better infrastructure would increase the use of alternative transportation modes, I believe that asking people their PRIMARY mode of transportation doesn’t necessarily help us understand whether bicycling as a percent of total trips has increased. For example, this year I expect that fully 1/3 of my commutes to work will be by bicycle, which is higher than the proportion of bicycle commutes I’d have logged in 2010. So, even though my proportion of commutes by bicycle has increased I’d still say “drive alone” in response to this survey since this is the case 2/3 of the time. Have there been recent studies that have examined the relative growth/ decline of bicycling as a percent of total trips in Portland?
Good Point Brian. I think things like the Hawthorne Bridge Bike counter, bike sales, etc. are going to be more valuable in evaluating bike growth in the city.
30,000 less total Hawthorne trips this September than last September, likely because of the wetter than usual September this year. On track from probably 5,000 or 6,000 more this October than last October. Significant decrease during the winter months.
Weather is a huge factor in ridership levels and isn’t something that can really be addressed with infrastructure or education or any other policy based idea and comes down to personal choice and comfort.
I disagree with this. IMO the reason ridership drops off so much here in Portland (and other U.S. cities) during rainy/bad weather, is precisely because of our inadequate infrastructure. It’s not just because people are wimps.
It’s a matter of tolerance. People can only tolerate so many hardships before they change behavior. For most people, adding in rain/cold/wind/darkness into a bike ride that already has unsafe bike lanes, debris-filled roads, dangerous crossings, and so on — is simply the straw that breaks the camels back.
Places with high-quality bicycle infrastructure see much less dropoff during the rain and winter… Behold a busy street in Copenhagen…
Copenhagen is not a fair comparison, because its population density is nearly 5 times greater than that of Portland. The city has an area of 30 square miles, and Portland’s is nearly 150. Yet the populations are comparable in size.
It’s a lot easier to built high quality bike infrastructure when a city’s total area is much smaller.
What specifically is terrible about our infrastructure in the rain?
If you look at the daily counts you can actually tell which days it has rained, its especially clear in May-June and Sept-Oct. You can lose 20% of the bike trips in a day and its right back up after it dries out. Transient infrastructure problems or people don’t like getting wet?
Growing up in Oregon, we always used to brag about not wearing a rain jacket or using an umbrella. I used to think this was a badge of honor, but now realize it was because we didn’t actually spend time in the rain – I just ran from the house -> car -> building.
So, if you carry this old-time Oregonian habit forward, why would you purposely put yourself in the horrible weather of the NW?
Moving fast in the rain wearing cotton clothes and jeans = totally soaked
I should add that since then, somebody invented Gore-Tex. And I see fewer shorts & flip-flop wearing teenagers in the rain these days. As long as you dress appropriately, the rain in Oregon is pretty mild.
It takes knowledge and preparation to ride in the rain, so as not to be overly uncomfortable or get chilled. Add to that, riding in the rain is different for people depending on their conditioning and the kind of riding they’re doing. Those Danes in the picture above don’t look to be riding very fast, so they won’t be sweating much, dampening clothes, and the wind chill factor from moving through the air at faster speeds won’t enter into the situation. Hard to tell how cold it is. The girls in front are just wearing street wear sweaters, but most everyone else seems to have some kind of heavier jacket or parka.
Visualize a ‘ride in rain’ scene more typical to around the Portland Metro area: not a lot of other people around riding, so forget comfort in numbers…steady rain, dark, 40 degrees, maybe just a foot or two wide shoulder to ride on, or a 4′-5′ bike wide bike lane with bushels of pine needles on it (Millikan Way in Beaverton a couple days ago.), leaves, gravel, junk or who knows what, feeble street lighting. Car and truck traffic to deal with. Hm-m-m…what shall it be? 20-30 minute ride in that, on the bike to pick up some groceries, etc, or 10-12 minutes in the warm, dry Subaru?
Jonathan, I have never been to Copenhagen so I am asking this: Is it “acceptable” to show up at work there wet from the rain? Because I know the answer for me is no and think it is just about the same most people.
Also, isn’t the perception different in a place like Copenhagen when it comes to cycling? More people doing it means it is less “different.”
It’s acceptable at my job to show up “damp” from the rain. If it’s raining enough to get “wet” from, I wear rain gear (as I expect most Copenhageners do). I use a rain cape, so I don’t get too sweaty.
Also, I bet it would be acceptable at my job to show up “wet,” I’m just self-conscious about doing so.
Jonathan makes a good point above. One reason my commute rate is not more than 1/3 of the time is that there is debris in the lane, and it’s not very visible in the dark. In fact, I encountered large rocks that probably fell out of a dump truck in the bike lane on the way home today, these would have been dangerous in the dark as I wouldn’t have been able to see them in time to react. Additionally, I ride through Beaverton and my experience has been that drivers seem to watch more for cyclists in nice weather when there are more people riding, they are less aware of cyclists in the winter because they become accostomed to empty bike lanes. Showing up to work wet is also something I’m self conscious about, but if safety was improved I’d just pack dry clothes in a pannier.
While I agree it’s nice to have clear bike lanes, I have to ask: Do you ride with a light at night? If you’re riding such dark roads that you can’t see debris in the lane, perhaps it’s a good investment to get a decent front light?
Like I mentioned above, there is this awesome technology called “rain clothes” – ie jacket/pants.
For example: http://www.rei.com/category/4500008/q/Rain+Gear?version=V5
They even have inexpensive rubberized rain clothes that are 100% rain proof. You will sweat in them bicycling, tho.
We have some great neighborhood bike boulevards and some weak links. Speaking to the southeast, a big job to do is getting people to the Hawthorne and new TriMet bridges smoothly.
I recently moved closer to my kids’ school, because I am car-free. Imagine my surprise that just walking to school we encounter threats by cars in the 7-8 blocks we go. *I* don’t feel confident biking, why would my kids feel confident?
There’s nothing we can really do. I just have to drill into their heads that cars are very very very dangerous, and assume they just won’t stop or slow down.
As for commuting to work, I have had a busy year, so I go between bus or bike, but after this move, it will save me about 10-15 minutes a day to bike versus bus, so I’m re-committing to bike commutes.
Think of it as one does walking in New York City. While there’s a drop-off to an extent with some people taking taxis and others staying indoors, most New Yorkers don’t think twice about walking in the rain if they really have somewhere they need to be. They grab an umbrella and go. Why? Because the sidewalks are generally safe and most of city is very walkable.
The same applies to biking. People will ride in any weather if you make it safe.
The difference is that umbrellas are effective with pretty much any combination of shirt, jacket, pants, shoes, underwear, etc. You can’t stay dry and comfortable in a bike on heavy rain without purpose-built clothing. Most people don’t want to change clothes when they get to work – carrying a complete change of clothes, including shoes, is not a trivial feat, especially when carrying other gear.
A poncho and some chaps won’t do it in anything worse than a light drizzle.
This clearly isn’t an insurmountable problem, but it is nowhere remotely near as trivial as you imply.
I have to bring up myself as a counterpoint. I commute year-round and haven!’to brought a change of anything in years. I use a poncho (OK, rain cape) and no chaps. I wear dress boots so my socks stay dry ish. I deal with my legs getting wet below the knees and I doubt anyone at my job notices or cares.
Granted, my 4.5-mile-each-way commute is not the world’s longest, but neither is it tiny.
Yeah, rain capes are awesome! I hate rain pants and changing clothes and with a cape I don’t have to. It feels like a cozy tent. I waterproof all my shoes with a silicon spray and wear something on the bottom that dries easily (like wool), and this strategy keeps me stylish and pretty dry even in downpours.
I am not sure NYC is a good comparison either. 55% of people in NYC do not own a car so it is already ingrained in them they need to walk. Portland does not even make the top 50 of cities with the least amount of car ownership. It is just what most people do here.
I’m not sure how accurate that list really is. I grew up in Cleveland and car is definitely king there, yet it is in the top 50? I think cities with higher levels of poverty (where people just plain can’t afford cars) are misrepresented on that list. So in essence our prosperity in Portland is biting us in the butt?
That list was from the 2000 census. So it was a few years before we started to become the place to move to if you want to live car free.
But, 9watts has said something before that 18% of Multnoman County residents do not have cars so that would maybe make this list accurate.
“On a neighborhood level, inner northeast had the highest rate of bicycling to work with 14 percent. The lowest bike-to-work number was a meager 1 percent in east Portland.”
I think it is pretty simple if we want to get that number up. Let’s provide better bike facilities to East Portland. I think a lot of these inner SE and NE neighborhoods are about as tapped out and will only see small, continued growth.
…and if transit keeps shedding ridership then when will the community shift those funds to bikeways?
In addition to that and topography differences, I’m willing to bet the average commute distances for the majority of riders there are much less as well, though I couldn’t find any real figures in a cursory search. I’m in relatively mid / close in NE and I still have a 5 mile one way commute for a downtown job with at least one or two significant elevations to contend with.
the average trip distance is a little over a mile or about 2 km.
Imagine the bike infrastructure we’d have if all of Portland’s 650k residents were in an area the size of North Portland!
A better European comparison would be Oslo or Zagreb – similar city size and population. It would be interesting to hear how bike infrastructure works in European cities that are actually similar to Portland.
I wonder how much Barber has to do with the SW having the highest Bad and Very Bad scores on Safety for Pedestrians and Safety for Bicyclist on page 29.
It is symptomatic for the bad biking infrastructure in SW Portland. Portland might be a dexent bike city on the inner eastside, but it’s lousy in SW Portland.
From my experience encouraging friends/colleagues to bike, this is how I would distill the reasons why people don’t bike in Portland:
#2 PERCEIVED COMFORT + SAFETY
Depending on lots of factors (like where you live and your route to where you want to go), these can be total BS or not. It depends on the person. Don’t stop evangelizing – but don’t go overboard, either. Some people are not meant to cycle/live in cycle-unfriendly places.
Portland could add 5 cents to every gallon of gas sold in the city and use the money for active transportation and safety projects. The city of Cornelius raised money thru its own 2 cent local gas tax last year.
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure even local gas taxes fall under the Oregon constitutional requirement that they are user fees and must be applied to auto infrastructure. In the case of Cornelius, they use the local tax for asphalt overlays, street light maintenance, and other road maintenance.
Now – the allowed local utility fee for transportation (add on to your water/electric whatever bill) can be used for just about anything transportation related, including operations.
If biking and walking aren’t related enough to cars to apply the tax, then maybe the new car funds can replace some of the general funds that are used now for cars, shifting those general funds to active transportation.
The greenways/bike boulevards could become far more safe and amenable to newbie riders if the city would put up barricades to auto traffic on them every three blocks, thereby allowing service vehicles to enter but not permitting cars to take advantage of the stop-sign-free flow of these streets. And that shouldn’t cost too much.
Cheap barricades might cost $1k at each intersection, but would be ugly and possibly unsafe (bollards at Klickitat/23rd). A good diverter island is about $5k (see 18th at Failing or 17th at Shaver). Some cities in Europe have done things with alternating one-way streets with contraflow bike lanes. Signging and striping might cost $3,000 per block (SE 14th north of Bybee, or 22nd north of Sandy).
Of course I am a broken record in this case, but the most affordable option is to build a residential greenway INTERCONNECTED network (at least for the east side) like this one:
More information here: https://www.facebook.com/COPINGWithBikes/info
or just copingwithbikes.net
This half-mile integrated grid network would vastly increase the recreational, going to school or parks, and retail/commercial bike mode share for shorter trips between the river and I 205. Once these people are socialized to the shorter neighborhood rides, they will start commuting to work, acquire the wet weather gear and move from the “interested but concerned” to the “confident” group.
This can be integrated with Metro’s Active Transportation Plan once it is approved next year so at least in the initial build out of the “half mile grid-network” there can be as much neighborhood equity as possible.
We can also move on specific LONG commuter corridors. Each area of the city has different needs. East Portland in Motion will create a greenway network east of I 205, but without some sort of bikeway protection on corridors like 122nd or Division the mode share will never increase. I ride those lanes when I have to, but they are never pleasant and I am always in hyper alert mode.
It will also be interesting to see the results of SWIM (Southwest in Motion) as Southwest has a whole different sent of issues.
I think we got what we paid for. We probably have the bike infrastructure that Portland could afford, i.e. the low hanging fruit of painted bike lanes and neighborhood boulevards in the inner east side. If we want more people to bike we have to improve things in the low participation areas like SW Portland and E Portland. I live in SW and my husband and I both bike to work, but we do most of the rest by car. Why? Because the lack of sidewalks (not to speak of bikelanes) and the steep hills make it difficult to take our kids to their activities by bike, even if they are only 1 mile away. Or Barbur Blvd: it has already a very low participation of women. Can you imagine riding their with a child? No, completely out of question. But it shouldn’t be on a road within a city. A cycle track would make Barbur feasible even for kids.
The other thing is that humanbeings like convenience. Yes, I probably tout my bike commute as fun and healthy and that’s part of it. But in the end it’s more about the hassle of traffic and parking, the cost of parking and the huge cost savings of just owning one car that makes me bike. As long as we offer ample and cheap parking and optimize streets for car speed we won’t get people out of their cars. Copenhagen for example does not only have good bike infrastructure it also has lousy parking. All of downtown is a pedestrian zone. Many residential houses don’t come with on-site parking. If you have to circle several blocks to find a parking spot a few blocks away from your house and you have to do the same thing at the grocery store it just doesn’t make sense to drive. It is so much more convenient to bike from door to door.
I was just thinking about this parking issue last night as I was riding home. My wife and I live on NW 21st, and as I was riding through Old Town and The Pearl, traffic was insane. I was going up NW Couch, and actually got off my bike to walk because it was faster (I’m not big on trying to filter past all the car traffic on the right). But then I got past the freeway, and traffic was considerably lighter – the thought entered my mind, Old Town and The Pearl both have big public parking lots available, but Nob Hill (at least until you get past Lovejoy or so), and SW just across Burnside as well, only has street parking… guess what one big reason is that there are fewer cars? Fewer spots to put them in, more hassle for the people in them. This is the single biggest reason we never spent time in that neighborhood before we lived there, because it was always a major hassle to park. We never would have considered moving there, had we not sold our car.
I also completely agree with the first paragraph – Portland has basically done the absolute minimum it could do and still say it did something. That’s not a great way to get more people driving less, and it’s definitely not a way to make fewer people feel they need to own cars, it’s a way to make the people who are already not driving a lot feel a little more comfortable.
There’s a lot of talk in the media about how 85% of households still own at least one car, and how *therefore*, we see that Portlanders love cars and we should not spend anything on more bike stuff or transit. But that’s not the issue here at all. 85% of households own at least one car because our public transit is terribly inefficient and inconvenient, our roads are set up so that it is often extremely uncomfortable to ride a bike on them, and our culture is set up in such a way that we feel we have the *right* to drive recklessly and get away with it. In that setting, OF COURSE most people are going to own cars.
It’s not like the Dutch and Danish have some special blood that predisposes them to riding bicycles, it’s that all of those factors have been engineered by them to be the opposite there. And therefore you have more bicycle trips than car trips in Amsterdam, and a very small percentage of households owning cars in Copenhagen.
It’s not magic, you get the society you encourage (for the most part).
Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany have been actively (parking reduction,road diets, traffic calming, car-free/light zones) and passively (gas and vehicle taxes) discouraging single occupancy vehicle use for *DECADES*. The City of Portland and Metro not so much.
I think it’s a mistake to see infrastructure as the only variable in this equation. Portland would benefit greatly from a biking welcoming committee – or 1,000 of them. Consider getting people to ride more often by personally inviting them to join in: http://puddlecycle.com/getting-to-35-percent-in-four-years/
I respectfully disagree, Tom. All the welcoming and encouragement do very little if the direct experience of the people who are invited to ride is one of discomfort and fear. The best encouragement a new rider could ever get is the visible signs of proper infrastructure, and it should be blindingly obvious. Does the driving community go out and recruit new drivers? Hint: there is no “driving community”; the job is done by all those roads that go everywhere you’d ever need to go, and all that convenient parking that lines every street and surrounds every destination that it becomes so ubiquitous that we scarcely even see it anymore. Until cycling infrastructure takes up as much of our visual world that we cease to feel the need to comment on it, cycling will not get the mode share we all say we want.
Bob, that is EXACTLY what will hopefully happen on Foster! Lane reduction and addition of bike facilities (even if they are JUST bike lanes) does exactly that. Yes, some are not as happy that there won’t be cycle paths, but the improvements that were recommended are an incredible improvement from the current situation. (and yes the numbers were run one different cyletrack options (as far as I know) and the cost to move the curbs made the project out of financial reach. The option putting the bike lane between parked cars and curb wasn’t looked in to too much, as far as i could gather based on what the city presented (and I think this was the right call as Foster has a lot of intersections compared to other places that have this configuration like SW Broadway)).
I think the suggested changes on Foster will move the needle a little in bike participation. Yes it’s not a bold move, but I don’t think most on the committee were willing to have no improvements to hold out for a cycletrack.
The real impressive thing about the Foster road diet is that it will *forever* cap motor vehicle volumes at around 22,000 cars per day (currently, it’s at 24,000).
If we leave Foster alone and leave traffic flow to it’s own devices, it could easily climb up to 40,000 cars per day territory. In fact, some old traffic models from 15 years ago predicted that foster would be at 36,000 by now.
Thankfully, the old models were wrong, and thankfully we won’t let their vision of the future will not come to fruition. Foster will carry more than 22,000 trips in the future, but it will by by walking, bike, stroller, roller skates and skateboards.
Safety is the number one concern when you talk to families with children about cycling. So many people have stories about them or their loved getting hit by cars sometime in their life, and these emotional scars are re-opened every time you witness a motorist risk a cyclists life to save a few seconds of driving.
The Bike Boulevards are great except that they are being abused by cut-through traffic speeding around packs of cyclists or riding within a few feet of your rear wheel to make you speed up. Bike Lanes are very anti-social compared to the Bike Boulevards since its not as comfortable to ride tandem.
If we had more cyclists taking over the Bike Boulevards, meaning riding in the middle, we would have less cut-through traffic on them and they would be a safe place for children and elderly to ride.
Nobody seems to be discussing employment density. Look at Seattle with Amazon building a major employment destination. They employ 15,000 people in the city alone, many in their main tech HQ in/near downtown.
Imagine a 15,000 person employee in downtown Portland or inner eastside? That would equate to a lot of growth in transit, walking, and biking statistics as a modal-split.
It seems right now, employment “centers” in the city and metro area is reasonably dispersed, but I am lacking data. Our biggest employer in the city is OHSU, and they’re on a hill for the most part.
A 15,000 employee campus would equate to growth in transit, biking and walking wherever it lands. Putting it in downtown or the central eastside actually would accomplish less than putting it in Gateway, the Johnson Creek Industrial Area, or on East Columbia Blvd (where there is actually enough land to do it and better access to air freight).
“A 15,000 employee campus would equate to growth in transit, biking and walking wherever it lands. …” Cora Potter
In theory. Contrarily though, many people employed in big campuses such as those at Intel in Hillsboro, apparently use part of their high salaries to secure housing far beyond walking and biking distance from the campus, generally obliging them to drive to work.
Testifying to this fact are roads in the area that are increasingly congested, not with people on bikes, but with people in motor vehicles. The prevailing method of addressing this problem congestion, is through the widening of existing old two lane country roads to provide additional main travel lanes, along with standard 5′-6′ bike lanes directly alongside main travel lanes…but not a single centrally located bike-walk thoroughfare/cycle track, located away from the heavily motor vehicle traveled roads.
Sometime, during rush hour, go ride the bike lanes on 185th, Cornell or Walker road with the turmoil of all the motor vehicles whooshing by. See how wonderful that experience is, especially when it’s dark and raining.
People live far away from the Intel in Hillsboro because it’s lacking housing options and alternative transportation modes. Hillsboro is still sprawly regardless if it’s next to transit and has a New Urbanist community.
Fixing sprawl is a joke. Downtown needs to densify, we are missing out and I really do believe our “jobs sprawl” in the metro area contributes to poor modal-split numbers we’re seeing.
Why does a 15,000 employer company, such as Amazon, need access to freight trucks?
It’s a technology company. Evidence they don’t need freight access like you mention is Seattle.
Low-density employment centers in the city and metro area only increases sprawl. People want to live next to where they work.
(I haven’t read all the comments, posting my thoughts on the original post)
Though the commute mode may be “stuck” at 7%, ridership is going up according to bike counts.
Also, Roger Geller spoke at the PBOT Bicycle Brownbag a couple months ago and presented evidence that Portland is on track to meet its 2030 goal of 25%. I didn’t write down the numbers, but they seemed pretty solid to me.
Also, bicycle ridership goes up in leaps and spurts. 2008 with $4/gal gas brought a huge spike, and its been fairly level since then, but climbing slowly. See “Summer Bicycle Bridge Counts (page 5 or so) at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/448401
The biggest spurt, 2005 – 2008, was probably a result of Smart Trips. Other things, too, but Smart Trips started about then. So while bikeway construction lagged in those years, the city increased spending on marketing and education.
I’m the first person to say that Portland is slacking, and has the potential to increase bicycle ridership much faster that it currently is, and that there’s an economic reason for doing so. But I’ll also give credit that numbers are growing.
&, as usual, a reminder to ya’all that if you want to see Portland put a greater emphasis on bicycling, to increase bicycle use and development of bicycle infrastructure, make sure your elected officials know your desires.
Send them a nice letter. Let them know you care.
You can cite Jonathan’s data on the 7% commute mode share being stuck. Tell them you want cleaner air and a safer city. And if you know people that would like to bike, but can’t, tell council they need to get off their duffs and improve bike infrastructure so your friends can enjoy the health, cultural and economic benefits of bicycling.
Squeaky wheel gets the grease, folks.
With all due respect, what makes you think that there are folks out there
who want to cycle who aren’t already? Surely you know that people
tell pollsters things that make them feel good and look good in front of the pollster. People chronically under report things they feel uncomfortable with. Few folks want to tell the pollster- “hey I am too heavy to bike plus I like my car.”
Most grown-ups are not physically active and do not want to ride bikes.
I love bikes, but looking around my neighborhood I know I am the minority
amongst the grown ups.
“…Most grown-ups are not physically active and do not want to ride bikes. …” Oregon Mamacita
Other than looking around your neighborhood, I wonder how you’ve come to that conclusion. I don’t know that I’d be prepared to say ‘Most grownups are physically active’, but I think at least, many are. Perhaps at least 40-50 percent actively seek out some kind of physical activity, even if that activity isn’t biking. Ex: walking, hiking, skiing, dancing, swimming.
Increasing bike mode share is at least partly, simply a matter of creating a more appealing environment for biking. Without even shopping, some people go the big area malls just to walk free of motor vehicle traffic a mile or so inside that environment, but they won’t walk the same distance in their own neighborhood from their house to the store and back. That they would do that may be a clue that there’s something lacking about the walking environment in their neighborhood, which may also be the situation for conditions for biking in their neighborhood.
I agree: create better infrastructure = get more riders. But I think it’s possible to approach this from the other side and make a big difference: encourage more riders = get better infrastructure. It might take some effort, but it beats waiting around for the infrastructure to arrive.
IMO the big issue here is on-street parking. It is the bane if cycling, in so many ways. It forces cyclists to constantly watch out for being doored, and for cars pulling into/out of parking spots. It increases traffic, because of cars circling around looking for parking. It makes intersections blind, whenever theres a large car parked near the corner. And it encourages more people to drive, by offering free/subsidized door-to-door parking. Oh, and its an eyesore. Especially downtown, we should take out as much on street parking as possible, except for handicapped spaces.