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Portlanders disagree on bike infrastructure much less than you think

Posted by on February 18th, 2014 at 10:13 am

As we wrote when it came out two weeks ago, the City of Portland’s recent poll of public attitudes about its coming transportation package has many interesting details.

Here’s one: despite what you might have heard or assumed, Portlanders of almost every stripe support better bike infrastructure by huge margins.

Graphic by BikePortland. Source: January 2014 telephone poll by DHM Research. Click here for the bike-related numbers and here for the poll’s full 92-page demographic breakdown.

In all, 64 percent of all Portlanders surveyed said they’d be more likely to support a city transportation package that included protected bike lanes and/or off-street paths.

For comparison’s sake, the last time President Obama’s national approval rating was that high was the third week of his first term.

But what’s especially interesting about this data, released by the city’s pollster last week at our request, is how much consensus there is among Portlanders that the city should prioritize building more of the most advanced type of bike infrastructure.

As you can see, the only demographic group that really sticks out as a strong supporter of separated bikeways is adults under 35, with 78 percent support. Also particularly high is the support among people of color (73 percent), political independents (72 percent) and people who make less than $30,000 a year (72 percent).

Montgomery St Bike Garage at PSU

One of Portland State University’s bike parking garages, in 2010.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Take a grain of salt with some of these fine-tuned categories, especially race and income. The base margin of error in the 800-person survey was 3.5 percent, but it rises to high single digits for many of the narrower categories. Also, this poll seems to have been conducted only in English; 19 percent of Portlanders speak some other language at home. Latinos represented only 2 percent of respondents to this poll, even though 9 percent of Portlanders are Latino.

The language barrier is a pretty big shortcoming in the poll, especially for active transportation advocates, because non-English speakers tend to have lower incomes and the poll shows that lower-income people tend to be more supportive of measures like slowing auto traffic and improving biking, walking and public transit.

That said, of the demographic groups measured here, there’s only one that would actually be less likely to vote for a package if it included top-notch bike routes: Republicans (43 percent). Which, as all the other numbers show, are not a very numerous group around here.

The groups of Portlanders posting the narrowest majorities in support for biking are people who make $75,000 to $100,000 per year (55 percent), people who live east of Interstate 205 (58 percent) and people over age 55 (58 percent).

I’ll share another number for context: the last time President Obama’s approval rating was above 55 percent was five months into his first term.

What matters in a multifaceted issue like transportation, of course, isn’t just whether you support something but how much you support it. And it might be easy to assume that, for example, people who live west of Interstate 205 are far more likely to feel very intensely about good biking than those who live in East Portland.

Nope.

Above is a different question from the poll, one that basically tests for safer-biking superfans: the percentage of people in each group who rated safer bikeways in the top two categories of importance on a 1-7 scale.

As you can see, 37 percent of Portlanders put safer bike routes at or near the very top of their priority list.

The demographic differences, meanwhile, are basically the same: almost no matter what category of Portlander you look at, at least one third think “safer bike routes” is a top local transportation need. The one exception is Republicans, in which case it’s one in five.

This doesn’t mean Portlanders don’t value other transportation priorities like public transit, freeways, pothole repairs and crosswalks. They do, in some cases with substantial regional and demographic differences.

But last month’s poll shows beyond a doubt something that the city should remember in the coming months: Portlanders of almost every demographic care a lot about good bicycling.

OK, maybe that wasn’t actually so surprising after all.

The scientific telephone poll is over, but the city continues to gather information about residents’ information in a multilingual online poll.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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meh
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meh

The big negative with protected bike lanes is that drivers then start thinking that bikes should never be on the road. How many times do we now get told to get off the road, use the sidewalk etc.?

BIKELEPTIC
Guest

I find it interesting that the two lowest lines are in the republican and the nouveau-riche. (75k-100k) (I’m not saying there’s any correlation between the two.)

Peter Michaelson
Guest
Peter Michaelson

That nearly 80% number for the 18-34 age group is a very good sign for the future. If only I could live long enough to enjoy the results!

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

The Oregonian isn’t doing its job! This is really a call for them to pick up the slack. They could probably do a headline “Only 22% of Job Creators Prioritize Safe Bike Routes” by taking their editorial right of switching “Republican” with “Job Creator”.

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

Proud to be a member of the over-55 demographic who is 100% in favor of safer bike infrastructure. Of course, they didn’t ask me.

This is some encouraging data!

JerryW
Guest
JerryW

So, older, rich, white Republicans don’t favor bike infrastructure. Look also at viewers of right wing TV and talk radio, coincidence? 😉 Good article, let’s look to the future, not to the past!

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

They identified Republicans?

Today I learned there are Republicans in Portland.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Do the respondents understand what “separat[ing] people on bikes from cars and freight traffic” actually means? It’s not clear that this means protected bike lanes instead of funneling bicycles off of the streets and onto trails. Let’s test specifics like that first.

Joe
Guest
Joe

meh yes too true, I really don’t know if this poll is 100% correct.
its all about really sharing the road and autos not bullying other modes around. *** look at ” other ” hmmm

joel
Guest

“a city transportation package that included protected bike lanes.” or “better bike infrastructure” is likely something different than “safer bike routes that separated people riding bicycles from car and freight traffic” to many respondents to this survey. this survey question is just as easily framed as “do i want cyclists off the damn roads? hell yeah!” as anything else.

Joe
Guest
Joe

joel true when you have a major news paper bashing 2 wheel riders not a good thing. 🙁 also lotta local news stations almost do nothing to help.

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

These results mesh with all the qualitative data we have received over the past six months in our neighborhood surveys, visioning and outreach. People seem to understand also that safer bike routes mean slower streets and upgraded crossings that help evreyone.

Joe
Guest
Joe

you can create all the bike infra ya want but getting some drivers behind the wheel to understand driving is not the only mode is the biggest struggle.

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

Please describe the data you got from “visioning.” If you can point me to a neighborhood survey from BPS or another agency that you think is competent, let me know. The surveys I have seen have mostly been
sub-standard and their results so vague as to support anything. Part of my cynicism about city gov’t comes from what looks like “pretend” public input.

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

Don’t write off the Republicans. We got over 40% of Republicans who appear to understand that investing in bike infrastructure increases individual transportation choices and is the most cost-effective, fiscally responsible transportation investment we can make. We need to recruit them as our messengers!

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

No surprise the biggest split is on Democrats vs Republicans (though followed closely by age, which is heartening), but the D-vs-R split is not quite as big as I would have expected.

This is good news, and also highlights the bOregonian’s apparent anti-bike agenda.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

Good golly gosh! Another poll/survey/study that says bikes and the idea of bike lanes are popular and A-OK with the peeps of Portland. Until I see a real plan with real dollars and political clout behind it, this is just BikePortland article #45,622 to get folks all amped up about what about what might happen someday. How long are we going to study this? How many more trial balloons need to be launched? Quick, round up the council and some staffers for another two week fact finding trip to Copenhagen! This is all great stuff to put in the upcoming Master Bike Plan of 2060.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

This “scientific telephone poll” (Michael Anderson: subtle but funny) doesn’t tell the bicycle using community anything it doesn’t already know.

This poll is a public opinion positioning tool.
It does this by attempting to make the general public aware that their opinions are shared by others. It is easy in the presence of a minority of bombastic, ignorant hate filled demagogues to believe that you are the only person in the room that thinks sanely. No one wants to waste their energy or time arguing with someone so detached from reality so everyone nods and quietly agrees.
Only when everyone realizes that the raving demagogue is alone when will he be confronted.

Ted L
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Ted L

Thanks for covering this Michael. BikePortland needs to do more coverage of the PBOT budget process. Yes it is wonky but we need to do a better job of building a constituency of folks advocating for bike ped improvements in the City. Too few folks probably realize that PBOT has zeroed out City money for building new Neighborhood Greenways. They have some outside grants to build some, but they are not on track to build 15 miles of NG per year, so that they can realize their goal of having 85% of Portlanders within 1/2 mile of a NG in 5 years. More folks need to know about this and take action!

INSTEAD OF ONLINE OUTRAGE about by PBOT designers did and did not include adequate bike-ped improvements along high profile corridors like N Williams, SW Barbur, 28th, etc. WE NEED TO TURN FOLKS OUT TO UPCOMING COMMUNITY FORUMS ON THE BUDGET!!!

Please see more on this opportunity at ourstreetspdx.com

Thanks,

Ted