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Comment of the Week: The Four Types of Bikeways

Posted by on September 26th, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I-205 Path Ride - Pedalpalooza-30

Which type?
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Most BikePortlanders probably know the Four Types of Bicyclists, a concept sketched out by Portland’s bicycle planning coordinator, outed on this site eight years ago, and road-tested by a Portland State University professor in 2012.

But what if we turned this concept on its head and divided the bikeways of the world into four types, too?

That’s the intriguing idea from reader “Alan 1.0,” who speculated in a comment this morning that 60 percent of Portland bike routes work for “strong and fearless” bikers while about 1 percent of Portland bike routes work for just about everybody.

Here’s his comment:

This has me wondering about a scale for bike routes along the lines of Geller’s “Four Types of Cyclists.” It might go something like this for current Portland build-out (flipping the percentage of his last two categories):

1% – If they won’t ride this, they won’t ride anything.
7% – OK for most people with more than a few months under their wheels.
33% – Works for most “Enthused & Confident.”
60% – Works for the “Strong & Fearless.”

The route in this article seems to me to fall somewhere in the 33%, maybe nearing the 7% category. To dig into Geller’s 60% “Interested but Concerned” people category, Portland needs to massively increase the fraction of those upper two infrastructure brackets.

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That’s a clever new way to think about the issue.

Side note: Though we always prefer to end the week on a positive note, we’d be remiss not to give an honorable mention to two amazing comments in the conversation that followed our story on a panel about Portland’s recent biking plateau: this compelling personal take from Lisa Marie, who wrote that “denial is apparently a river in Portland” and this six-point theory and action plan from Mindful Cyclist.

— This post will most likely wrap things up for Jonathan and I this week. Thanks again to all of you for sharing our stories and being part of our comment threads. We’re already looking forward to Monday!

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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El BicicleroAlan 1.0WendPPeteJohn Liu Recent comment authors
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tacoma
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tacoma

Yes, you would be remiss not to mention these two amazing comments. Thank you for alerting us. I find it interesting how all three comments (from different viewpoints) share similar conceptual connections.

9watts
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9watts

Some folks are really putting a great deal of thought and effort into their comments. I continue to be very impressed. And the comment of the week carrot doesn’t hurt, I’m sure.

Dwaine Dibbly
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Dwaine Dibbly

I always pictured the “strong & fearless” riding where there was no bicycling infrastructure at all, but I do agree that this is a good way to think about our infrastructure.

Does the winner get a plaque, or a BikePortland pint glass, or a Voodoo Donut gift card, or something?

wsbob
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wsbob

There’s a need for way more bike routes of this description than there are now:

“1% – If they won’t ride this, they won’t ride anything.”

On The Road
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On The Road

Maybe it would be more cost effective, instead of trying to install bike infrastructure geared toward the lowest common denominator everywhere (which can’t be paid for anyway), to give people the skills they need to ride on streets.

Since there are all kinds of streets — arterials, neighborhood collectors, local streets — everyone should be able to find a street they are comfortable with. And if that street doesn’t take you where you are going, time to develop some skills to ride the streets that do.

WendP
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WendP

So, what do you do when the route type you were on suddenly changes to a different route type? I’m definitely one of the “interested but concerned” – I ride, but I’m definitely not a strong or fearless rider. I stick to sidewalks whenever possible, if I have to ride in traffic. I’ve timed my rides so I can go on the sidewalk while avoiding higher pedestrian-traffic hours, just so I can stay off the street. I’m getting better about using bike lanes even though sharing them with wide trucks and city buses scares the poop out of me. But then I’m riding down the bike lane on, say, Division, from 90th or so, heading into town. And then 60th comes along, and boom! No more bike lane. Back on the sidewalk I go. Especially when I know what sort of hell that is the 30s on Division is coming up.

I want to ride. I really do. I’m working on the skills, honest. But it’s hard to develop the skills when I’m having panic attacks riding down the one-lane road worried about the bus behind me, the van full of kids in front of me and wondering if door will suddenly open as I pass the pickup parked next to me.

Brian
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Brian

I would add another category:
Confident and fearless rider who is towing a little one.
I will ride pretty much any road at anytime, but this mindset changes when my five year old is in tow. When this is the case, my mind scrambles for options and some parts of the city sorta become off-limits. For example, last Summer I refused to bring him from our home on NE Davis to Washington Park to watch the weeknight road racing due to the need to ride through downtown. It absolutely sucks that what should be a fun part of the city to ride (the vibrant downtown area), is off-limits for us.

Clark in Vancouver
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Clark in Vancouver

The Capital Region Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan (this would be the capitol of British Columbia) has a nice classification system. From Class I to Class III.

It’s on page 8 of this document.
https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/regional-planning-pdf/pedestrian-amp-cycling-master-plan.pdf

spare_wheel
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spare_wheel

i know i am a broken record on this but i do not appreciate being labelled “fearless”. this language stereotypes experienced, confident, and/or strong riders as immature idiots who believe they are immortal. it’s part of a divisive and dishonest trend in bike advocacy where experienced cyclists, commuters, and/or sport cyclists are scapegoated as barriers to wide-spread adoption of transportation cycling. i may ride faster than you think is wise and i may bike in a manner that appears to be reckless but like many cyclists i am very much afraid when someone in a cage threatens my life. please stop dehumanizing me.

John Liu
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John Liu

What is a “1%” bike route? Can anyone describe what features, elements, design makes a route qualify as 1%? Also, can anyone name a couple routes in Portland that are 1%?

Jeff
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John Liu
Clarification: I mean, what makes a “if they won’t ride this, they won’t ride anything” route? My using the shorthand “1%” name wasn’t very clear.
Recommended 1

I’d suggest starting where you already observe the greatest variety of skill levels riding (say on a nice weekend.) I’d suggest the Eastbank Esplanade/Tom McCall, Springwater, and the Willamette Greenway (between S. Waterfront and Johns Landing. Common features of these routes: effectively no motorized parallel traffic, minimal motorized cross traffic, and minimal climbing.

lee
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lee

Educating new riders is great, but what about the kiddos who are commuting on their own bikes with parents? My 9 year old understands the basics, but when lanes suddenly end or traffic is too fast, etc – no amount of education on her part will help – physically she just might not be able to keep up/be safe (as is someone who isn’t in prime shape, elderly or disabled).
Having basic infrastructure in place not only brings in new adult riders, but a whole new generation of riders (and their families)..