Even in Portland, people who bike more than they drive are a pretty small minority.
What sets us apart, in fact, might actually be the percentage of Portlanders who drive while wishing they were on a bike.
In a comment beneath our post about a road diet on Burnside that probably improved safety at a cost to fast driving (but might have also made biking less convenient), reader Edwards shared some compelling thoughts from the perspective of someone who loves to bike but also needs, at least for the moment, to drive.
The majority of the driving public do so out of necessity, that is the bottom line. There will never ever be a reason to “switch” to bike commuting for them because the commute is far enough that riding a bike would just take to much time and create more problems (for them) than it solves!
The stats are still very clear that the car is by in large the fastest way to get anywhere in this city.
Case in point my wife and I live in Hillsdale and work in North Portland, we are off work at 5 PM and need to pick up our kids from school by 6 pm its an average 45 minute bike ride from my job and an hour and a half from her job.
That is just the getting home part, I should also mention that we have to be at work by 8:30 am and the bus doesn’t pick them up until 8:15 for school. It is just not feasible to ride to and from work as much as I would like to!
This is the simple fact that the majority of motorists have to live with. This is also why alternate transportation is a must. Options for people like us are limited and bike commuting is just not an option either is the bus because of the amount of time it takes.
On the other hand I ride a bike for almost everything else, I also ride a cargo bike for work. which puts me on the top 10% of motorists that are pro bike and infrastructure. Something you also need to realize is that more than half the motorists on the road within the city of Portland are in some way or another pro bike, that is a fact.
We live in a bubble compared to every single city in the US, we have a lot more bicycle infrastructure and a very high population of bicycle riders and bike-centric attitudes from our residents. because of this it takes time for the city to make decisions and changes and they are having the make the hard decisions of what stays and what goes… the truth is we do not have the available land/space to have these utopian bike friendly streets so they have to work with what they’ve got.
There has to be give and take, as a motorist I drive because I have to and I expect the city planners to do everything possible to make that drive as safe as possible (both for me and every other road user). If that means there will be streets that are designed for cars and not bikes, but they create or already have much safer bike options one block away on either side then this is a win for both sides.
Jonathan I have a challenge for you; I want You to walk in my shoes for one month! I guarantee it will change your perspective of what a typical Portland Motorist has to deal with, and I don’t think you’ll think less of cyclists in any way… you’ll just understand why the gorilla activist “thing” doesn’t work and why co-existence with motorists along with give and take will get us much farther in the long run.
Both Jonathan and reader 9watts were among those who posted thoughtful replies that are worth checking out, too.
As for the larger question, it seems to me that Edwards’ situation is a perfect example of the problem with the line that because most people drive, most people want to drive. As BP reader Brian Davis once told me, almost all of us pay rent or mortgage, too — that doesn’t mean we want to.
In other words, let’s all consider and respect our different interests and also keep trying to build the cities we really want.
Wrong. You choose to live in Hillsdale . You choose to have kids. Those choices have costs. If your morals are so easily corrupted, then don’t blame a cyclist for not wanting to suck down your tailpipe emissions.
Spelling corrected. Autoinccorect
I suppose most people won’t have kids so that they can keep riding. Maybe others wake up some morning in Hillsdale, decide “I want to ride my bike”, sell their car and move downtown.
On behalf of the “corrupt” folks out there, thffft.
You don’t know this person, and what you are saying is likely both false and disrespectful.
You have no idea what they did and did not have choices to do. There are any number of reasons, outside of informed personal choice, why someone might live in a given location or have children.
Not everyone can afford to live wherever they’d like, not everyone is free of obligations to others that govern where they might live, not everyone has or does not have children in the time, place and moment that they intended. Most people probably don’t have any of those 3 freedoms.
So get educated.
Testing, 1… 2…
This one disappeared too, sorry.
I dunno, if someone didn’t plan on those kids then maybe they needed some sex education themselves. But you are right, we don’t always have the freedom for sex ed & quality healthcare that covers birth control thus giving folks control over that time, place and moment conundrum.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. Tailpipes emit poison, bikes don’t.
Some folks have to drive. I do. I have a company truck, my job requires roughly 1000 lbs of personal tools to do (of course that’s just the stuff I pack, doesn’t include the fork lifts, and man lifts, cranes and other tools and equipment that get trucked in), I could be working in Olympia for a couple days then in Eugene. Can’t even really say I chose the work, I just took a job when I needed it and found I was good at it. As time went by and my skills increased, the pay got better and I’d be hard pressed to find anything much better.
And guess what? You and nearly everyone else benefits in one way or another from what I do, I build large buildings. Some I admit I don’t particularity care for – like big box retailers or fast food joints. And though I don’t typically shop at these stores, most people do – and I’m not one to judge them for it.
But I also build public service buildings, hospitals, and schools. I’ve modified chip plants, factories, an aerial arts studio, water treatment plants, I even installed the covered bike rack at Warner Pacific College. There were likely dozens to a hundred or more people like me that built the place where you work and live.
And when I’m not driving my work truck I ride a bike most the time and I even got a folding one for when I’m working out of town.
And to top it off there are tens of thousands in this town just like me. In fact construction is one of the largest employment sectors in this city and state.
Driving isn’t going to ever go away. To think that all transportation needs can be fulfilled by bicycle is simple minded and quite frankly naive at best. Even the biggest bike cities of Europe are around 40% bike mode share. What is the other 60%?
“To think that all transportation needs can be fulfilled by bicycle is simple minded and quite frankly naive at best.” Who said that all transportation needs can be fulfilled by bicycle? If there are people who actually think this then of course they are wrong, but this really looks like a straw man.
In many European cities, more than half of that remaining X% is not cars. E.g. in Copenhagen the mode share for commuting is 26% biking, 10% walking, 36% public transit, 28% cars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_share#Modal_split_of_journeys_to_work
Once you subtract walking and transit, still quite a few.
Remember though, removing 25% of the current cars from the road does more than remove 25% of the traffic. You could reduce stop and go traffic maybe 50%.
You could get to work faster, while we all pay less for expanding the roads.
Hear hear. I would LOVE for the American motorist to see a bike commuter as one less car that’s blocking them in traffic, let alone saving them money.
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the “closer to work” discussions above though. In my experience distance to work has never been a top factor that people have said prevents them from biking to work. Safety (or perception thereof) and inconvenience trump all the other excuses I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to get hit by a car and I don’t want to sweat… most people I’ve worked in offices with around here would have a 5-7 mile flat commute on mostly separated bike paths, and as I’ve illustrated above would even save themselves time. The bottom line is it continues to remain easier and cheap enough to drive, regardless of how frustrating and inefficient, and the average American continues to remain absolutely horrified of biking near cars.
My own wife drove 1.25 miles to work the first few years she lived with me, citing her fear of the main road as well as having 12-hour shifts and coming home in the dark. When we inherited a POS cruiser bike and her car was in the shop earlier this summer she gave it a try (on a back road), not being afraid of having her nice bike stolen. Lo and behold they have a ton of bike lockers that she discovered so she started riding her nice bike… now she complains it doesn’t give her much of a workout! At this point she’s up to 12 fellow bike commuters who saw that she could do it and gave it a try themselves – they recently requested more lockers. Seems straight out of Gladwell’s “Tipping Point”… the infrastructure around here certainly wasn’t what changed.
Your experience with people’s distance from work, appears to be far from representative of what’s likely the distance from work of many of the people on the major highways in the Metro area during commute hours. Highways, I-5, I-205, 217, and 99W for example. Unless the people stuck in the daily traffic jams on those roads are doing so for just a five to six mile trip from home to work.
Downtown to Vancouver looks to be about seven and half miles. To Downtown Beaverton, is six miles, but not very flat. Ask Glowboy, he loves to whine about the daily climb over the Sylvan hill. To Hillsboro, looks to be ten miles or more, although in theory, there’s the Max for those trips. From south of Portland on I-5 or I-205, it’s anyone’s guess how many on that daily commute route may have a five to six mile distance to travel.
I like your upbeat tone though, encouraging people to try biking to meet practical travel needs, especially if they have a nice, comfortable and safe route to ride where they need to go.
Downtown Portland to Downtown Beaverton is just under 7 miles by the shortest possible car route, but almost all the bikeable routes are 9-10 miles.
And as you mentioned, most people commuting over the West Hills are going further than that. Most westsiders commuting to Portland live further west and/or south from downtown Beaverton, and most Portlanders commuting to the westside live on the east side of the river and work west and/or north of downtown Beaverton. At 11-14 miles (depending on which whine-inducing route I choose) my ride is probably shorter than most Portland-Beaverton bike commutes.
“Downtown Portland to Downtown Beaverton is just under 7 miles by the shortest possible car route, but almost all the bikeable routes are 9-10 miles. …” GlowBoy
Plenty of people wouldn’t even consider biking where it involved climbing a big hill like the Sylvan. I think people can feel really good doing that kind of climb, but it’s definitely a workout. Actually, from Cedar Hills to West Slope, there’s a lot of housing within the Beaverton city limits, further up the hill from Downtown Beaverton, that may reduce the distance to around 5 miles.
Increases in services and infrastructure to those areas could be made that could better support biking and walking for travel by people with families. Still, as the area is presently developed, the hilly terrain poses a formidable obstacle to meeting practical travel needs by bike.
Doesn’t seem like many of the people living in the Metro area, on the major highways and freeways during rush hour, would want to commit to residing in and meeting most of their travel needs by bike, an area where the roads involved a lot of dramatic elevation changes. Too much exertion and too much time to do it.
I worked with a guy in Beaverton who lived not far away from the bike-friendly company (my client) he was a partner at. We did several rides together and he was a good cyclist with a nice bike. Ultimately it was the 18+% grade out of his driveway that kept him from the (mostly flat) daily commute. (And yes, I reminded him frequently that he could just walk up it… ;).
I think the ‘reply’ feature isn’t lining up the comments properly for some reason. I live in Silicon Valley now and people tend to live either <10 (flat) miles from their offices, or 20+ miles away in either direction (i.e. San Fran or Morgan Hill). Almost all offices here are equipped with showers, lockers, and many have locked indoor bike parking if not lockers or racks. Although many folks I've talked to have children they drop off at school in the morning, a majority in the nearby workforce are young male engineers who drive alone straight to work and back. In my own previous commute, if I left by car at the wrong time (5:30 PM) it's taken me up to 90 minutes to drive 9 miles(!).
Yes, Portland's demographic is different, and there are challenging hills (which I miss!!) as you mention. My point isn't that everyone should be biking to work, it's that the majority of excuses I've heard from people are without foundation. Hell, in both places I've lived I watch people drive a few blocks just to get dinner groceries on a daily basis! Nothing a backpack or bike with panniers couldn't solve without even breaking a sweat, and save the parking time to boot.
“…people drive a few blocks just to get dinner groceries on a daily basis! …” Pete
It’s interesting for me to consider reasons people would, instead of walking or biking, drive just three blocks, round trip of six blocks, to get few groceries for dinner, if that’s what you’re talking about.
At my local grocery store, I see plenty of people having huge amounts of groceries to take home to feed everyone in the house. Much is favorable about cargo bikes and bike trailers to meet that need, but if the family has a car, the car could be the more logical choice.
People are always trying to come up with instrumental explanations for the dumb things we do: have 30+ cubic foot refrigerators (people shop only once a month), drive to the corner grocery (people buy lots of stuff.
Habit is far more important a driver of all of this than any practical explanation. FWIW I can haul more bulky crap home with my bike trailer than any of my neighbors who have cars and SUVs could.
I do, however agree with your last sentence:
“but if the family has a car, the car could be the more logical choice.”
I think a lot more is involved, than habit, in people’s decisions to use a motor vehicle rather than a bike. Better community design though, could help to have bikes become a more practical means of moving big, heavy and awkward loads. Though this is back to community design and infrastructure there doesn’t seem to be much demand or market for, at least here in the Portland Metro area.
“community design and infrastructure”
we are always crowing for this, here, waiting; while in Italy, apparently, they just get on their bikes and go.
My goodness! The only thing I can agree with in this charge is that “choices have costs”. True enough, but who is to say that driving involves anyone’s morals being corrupted? You can play “quien es mas moral” until someone has to kill themselves to win (isn’t that how Capt. Kirk and Spock used to defeat berserk robots?). You choose to judge; that has a cost, too.
Bought anything made in China lately? Wearing textiles made in Bangladesh? Grow all your own food in your back yard? What?! You have a back yard? Hope you don’t have any pets. Do you really need all the space you are currently living in, or could your footprint be smaller? What company do you work for—are all their business practices completely “moral”? Where do you shop? Do those businesses operate in a completely “moral” fashion? How much of your income do you give away to worthy charities or those less resource-endowed than yourself? If you want to play “well, at least I don’t…”, then fine, but for everyone you hold up to your moral yard stick, somebody else has a longer yardstick they could hold up to you.
I also don’t see any “blaming” of cyclists for anything in the story comment, in fact dude rides a bike for things other than work, and rides a cargo bike for work—just doesn’t ride a bike to work.
Should have been a reply to anony mouse
I’ve always thought the SW quadrant of Portland is ridiculously underserved transit-and-bike-wise. I live in SE, and if I wanted to get to N Portland, it would be a hop on a line 75, or a MAX train up Interstate. SW Residents have none of that.
To get to Hillsdale, it’s going to involve riding on Barbur and Capital Highway. Or, Terwilliger, and Capital Highway.
Yes, both have bikelanes.
YET! Both are highly unpleasant and feel **horrifically** unsafe to the average citizen to bike on. I can’t imagine Joe Public *ever* wanting to bike on either.
Safer routes are essential for getting people out of their cars. Unfortunately, SW Portland has very few of them.
I get to Hillsdale without touching Barbur or Capitol.
It’s a beautiful, winding ride through forest with great views.
This is my route:
…As long as you have your fully suspended MTB for that last 3/4 mile. I’ve always taken this route all the way over to Capitol, then ridden up to Hillsdale (and then down to BHH to get back to Beaverton), but a couple months ago I thought, “Let’s see where the bike wayfinding signs take you…”. They direct the Hillsdale-bound cyclist to take Cheltenham to Dewitt, as you show in your route—over the narrowest, most chuck-holed, steepest, most gravel-strewn section of road I’ve been on since Pittock Dr. and upper Barnes Rd. by Pittock mansion, or possibly SW Upper Dr., which loops off of Montgomery and Patton. I was close-passed by a giant diesel pick-up on a blind corner and had to really keep my eyes glued on the surface so I could attempt to pick my way between the potholes while riding my brakes down the slightest of descents.
IMO, this is all fine if one is absolutely desperate to stay out of the bike lane on Capitol at all costs (or is looking for a little off-road action on the suggested full-suspension MTB), but represents yet another choice between a bike route that either sucks, or sucks—just pick the kind of suckiness you prefer. I happen to prefer the narrow, overgrown bike lane on Capitol between Terwilliger and Sunset because the time of day I ride it traffic is usually just about stopped, and there aren’t any intersections until you get to Cheltenham (excluding the private driveway to Hopewell House). I totally get why someone with time on their hands and shocks on their fork would want to take an absolutely horrendously paved route rather than a nice, smooth, even climb 1 foot away from the #54 bus, but why are those so often the only choices?
Terwilliger has a MULTIUSE PATH in addition to an OK (but not ideal) door zone free bike lane. I also don’t think the short stretch of capitol highway near hillsdale qualifies as horrific; but even if it did there are alternative routes, such as, SW Vermont.
odd, my comment seems to have disappeared…
is this thing working?
Not to pile on, but yes, living in Hilldale (houses cheaper there eh?) and working in North Portland is not a fixed thing like the sun, moon and stars. About those kids that board that 8:15 school bus that prevents you from riding your bike. Can they ride a bike to school and liberate themselves and you from that motor vehicle convenience? And I don’t know when it became a mandate that kids be chauffeured privately after school as you say you must do before 6pm everyday. Certainly there wasn’t that expectation so many years ago. Hundreds of SUVs clogging all the streets around schools every weekday and endangering their own and other kids. I really don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but so often peoples characterize choices as involuntary necessities. Fine, you live along way from where you work, you want to chauffeur your kids from school. Own up to these choices and don’t see them as thrust upon you. Yes it’s difficult to break out of such an auto dependent culture and all the attendant issues like living far from the workplace and kids not walking or riding to school as was done for generations. Sorry your choices put you in a bind; perhaps reconsider them.
Ed, as Jonathan puts it… Please do not make assumptions about me or label me.
My choices are all based around what is best for my family, and no, housing not cheaper in Hillsdale but the crime rate is about a tenth of the majority of metro Portland. And I get more bang for my buck… bigger house, more room, better lot size, no transients puking in my front yard… oh and No Bike Theft from my garage!
And no living here is not a “fixed thing” but choosing a good school district for my children’s education is, making sure they are being challenged and learning every day is my number 1 priority. Some folks may choose to take their chances in a lesser quality school district but I will not take that chance, I came from very close to poverty and didn’t finish school… luckily I learned from that and have made a very good choice to make sure my kids are well educated!
As for them “liberating themselves’ from the bus, no they can not ride their bikes to school, and there are many reasons for that, but for the sake of this discussion there is not a safe route to school for them, as a matter of fact there is only one road (Sunset hwy) for them to go to and from school and there is no bike lane, no shoulder and it is a windy extremely unsafe ride for just about anyone to ride. I wouldn’t dare subject myself and my very young children to such a dangerous pursuit! and another reason is my youngest is on training wheels still… so how fast and/or safe do you think he would ride to school?
“I don’t know when it became a mandate that kids be chauffeured privately after school”
That is really just a very ignorant statement. You obviously do not have kids and probably aren’t married. because in no way shape or form is it mandated that kids be chauffeured, specially here in Portland where 90% of parents try extremely hard not to drive their kids everywhere! I’ll set the facts straight for the sake of the readers here; kids are out at 3pm and that is the time the school bus would take them home… but I, like many parents now days work a full time job and my choices are either hire a nanny to meet them at the bus stop and watch them for a few hours till we get home (which is extremely expensive!) or they go to after school care (like I did when I was a kid) which we pay for as well and ends at 6pm or your charged a penalty and only once or twice then they won’t let your kids stay in after care if you consistently pick them up even 3 minutes late.
And since the soonest I can leave work is 5pm I have to make sure I leave on time to usually get there about 10 to 15 minutes before 6… yes traffic is a bear on capitol hwy even for cyclists and bus commuters which makes what should be a 15 minute drive about a 35 minute drive.
And lastly your last paragraph: “Fine, you live along way from where you work, you want to chauffeur your kids from school. Own up to these choices and don’t see them as thrust upon you. Yes it’s difficult to break out of such an auto dependent culture and all the attendant issues like living far from the workplace and kids not walking or riding to school as was done for generations. Sorry your choices put you in a bind; perhaps reconsider them.”
once again your labeling and making assumptions because your reading out of context. My reply was saying that we need to work harder on multi-use transportation options because the fact is there are many motorists commuting that will never make the choice to bike commute, but if we make it really attractive for those that can use alternative commuting options then it will be better for all of us.
My choices did not “put me in a bind” I have made very smart choices for my family, and my argument is that by assuming every driver has made a bad choice by living more than 5 miles from their job is absurd. And by alienating them for driving?… well your just shooting yourself in the foot with an Uzi!
I don’t blame you one bit for living there. I got my fill of the inner city a long time ago…for all the same reasons you mentioned.
There is an awfully righteous group here who live in their perfect little world where everything is just quick little bike ride away.
“…My reply was saying that we need to work harder on multi-use transportation options because the fact is there are many motorists commuting that will never make the choice to bike commute, but if we make it really attractive for those that can use alternative commuting options then it will be better for all of us. …” Edwards
Biking and walking infrastructure that’s actually attractive and enjoyable to use, seems to me to be essential to having more people support investing in its design and construction. Here in Portland, Portland State University’s kind of coincidental campus layout offers an example for comparison in the Park Blocks that do dual duty as a park and as a main university pedestrian avenue.
Compare the experience of walking there, to that of walking, still within the university campus, on the sidewalks just one block away, on Broadway, a major city street with a huge volume of motor vehicle traffic. Even biking on Broadway, even with its bike lanes, is a test of determination, resolve to accept risks, and an endurance of a harshness that many people simply will not willingly submit themselves to.
In communities here in Metro area, there’s good about adding bike lanes to roads, gradually, as communities go along their normal schedule of road maintenance. Still, results produced so far, seem far from having the quality that will enable a wider range of people to substitute biking or walking, for driving.
“that probably improved safety at a cost to fast driving (but might have actually made biking less convenient)”
How is decreased traffic lanes and increased signed crossing only “probably” improving safety?
How is biking on the section from 13th-32nd any different?
I’m just trying to figure out how you guys have jumped to the conclusion that this was a big conspiracy against bikes, when bike lanes were never really on the table.
There’s a learning point, with this particular topic. I do believe that there is a very large percentage of folks, that would opt out of driving. Driving isn’t fun anymore. Not just because of the traffic, but because of the stress, the costs, and the culture. However, the moment that a neighborhood becomes “bike friendly” the property values/rents triple. I’m not in any position to afford a $1200 a month studio closet on Mississippi. It’s going to have to get addressed, if you really want to drive the car-light numbers.
I used to work with a guy who said he’d love to bike but didn’t have time. He said he needed his car as a salesman. (I had to chuckle because we were both in sales for different divisions but my solution was to leave my car at work almost all the time).
Anyway one fall evening we’re leaving the parking lot and he rolls down the window and razzes me about the “Christmas tree” on the back of my bike (three lights; one steady, two with different blink rates). The next morning he tells me he saw me pull onto the expressway from a side street and completely disappear down the road while he sat in cycle after cycle of lights, knowing it was me because of the “Christmas tree.” Jokingly (I hope) he said he’d run me down next time he saw me. I told him I’d gladly wager I could beat him home if I was actually trying to sometime.
Some of us got into bike commuting because driving was so incredibly inconvenient. All depends on your sich. Meanwhile just keep telling yourself it’s necessary and keep those shoulders and bike lanes clear for the rest of us.
The flip side to this is my new job has me working either from home or frequent travel, so I no longer have to bike out of necessity. 🙁
I remember all too well the days when I had a child too young to be left alone. Before school daycare opened at 6:30 and I needed to be at work by 7 at pre-tram OHSU. I had to drive to make it work. I could have quit my job or looked for new work (which likely would have put me in the same boat, but in the evening instead of morning). It was difficult and frustrating and I felt as though every day was a terrible rush where I was always losing.
Thankfully, kids get older. Know get to bike as much as I’d like to, but I still have compassion for those stuck in that boat.
“Even in Portland, people who bike more than they drive are a pretty small minority.
What sets us apart, in fact, might actually be the percentage of Portlanders who drive while wishing they were on a bike. …” andersen/bikeportland
Portland isn’t unique in that respect. Across the entire U.S. people having to drive, even though many of them may prefer walking or biking instead, is the reality of survival for themselves and their family. Walking and
Many people have to drive, rather than walk or bike, even if they may at least some of the time, prefer the latter. That’s a simple fact, some people having the dream and desire for communities able to largely meet transportation needs without motor vehicle use, seem to find very difficult to come to grips with.
Community design that would eliminate the need for people having to be involved in this type of commute, would most likely necessarily be much different than those we have to today, in for example, the Metro area. Not just more roads with wider bike lanes, and cycle track systems. Very likely, communities having many tall residence towers clustered together within walking and biking distance from employment, etc, to provide housing for all the people currently making long distance commutes by car.
And continued short car trips as well, for many ill and disabled people in the population for whom active transportation just isn’t a realistic option.
“[C]ommunities having many tall residence towers clustered together within walking and biking distance from employment, etc, to provide housing for all the people currently making long distance commutes by car.”
Density does not actually require tall buildings. Manhattan was denser in 1910 than it is today. [http://www.vox.com/2014/9/23/6832975/manhattan-population-density] Building rowhouses, for example, is a great way to increase density without putting up a bunch of high-rises.
“And continued short car trips as well, for many ill and disabled people in the population for whom active transportation just isn’t a realistic option.”
And the best part is that if the ill, disabled, and elderly people who have to drive aren’t competing with a bunch of health, young people who choose to, their drive will be that much easier! Win-win!
“…Density does not actually require tall buildings. Manhattan was denser in 1910 than it is today. [http://www.vox.com/2014/9/23/6832975/manhattan-population-density] …” Karl Dickman
Whether housed in towers or row houses, enabling people to be within walking and biking distance of employment, services, etc, more or less obliges those things to be within a walking and biking radius from where they live.
One big explanation for a population density decline in Manhattan, from a 1910 peak, would likely be that people there, as has been the pattern across the country for many years, is that people sought to take residence outside the city. Desire for urban flight, which created great demand for suburbs. I think it’s generally acknowledged that suburbs of the U.S. form, are rarely, if at all built to support walking and biking of a utilitarian nature, to employment, services, etc, also within the suburb.
The phrase, ‘bedroom communities’, somebody coined, described the essential function of suburbs. For many years, not places to do anything much but sleep, between working, school, shopping, etc. Over past decades, and even continuing today, the U.S. has done a great job of designing and building communities that basically compel and coerce people to not walk or bike. Many people aren’t going to want to walk or bike where the experience of doing so is likely to be poor, any more than they’d like riding in a crummy, broken down, dangerous car one can’t be sure will safely make the trip.
I don’t argue that some people need to drive, at least part of the time. I know that some have long commutes, heavy loads, and other responsibilities. However, if these were the only factors, there would be many fewer cars on the road. Safety is definitely a factor in some cases, but in many cases it is simple convenience. There are many healthy people who do not have children at home, long commutes, or other issues, but who choose to drive everywhere they travel. For many people, it is simply a matter of convenience and personal preference.
Convenience is a social construct.
Many are under the impression that the car is more convenient but this may be due to the fact that they have no experience using a bicycle to get around. They might be surprised. I find the bike vastly more convenient than the car, largely though not only because it is what I am used to.
I wonder how many of the people driving cars on the road, typify the example you offer. During business hours out here in a big area that can be said, makes up Beaverton’s downtown, driving isn’t very convenient. It’s not fun, it’s a pain. During those hours, I don’t think many people driving are sitting there, stuck in stop and go traffic because driving is convenient. They’re driving because they have to.
England NEEDED to conquer China for tea..
I wonder where this idea comes from as well. I’ve seen this before of some people thinking that the desire to include cycling into our array of transportation choices is actually to force everyone to cycle for all trips. I’ve never heard any cycling advocate ever propose that. Whenever I’ve been in the Netherlands I was impressed that you can do most things by bike but there was always a way to do it by car as well. Nobody who must drive for some reason feels like they can’t.
It reminds me of the ’90s when sexual orientation was proposed to be included in anti-discrimination laws. Some interpreted that to mean that heterosexuals would be forced to have gay sex. (I’m not making this up.)
Maybe it’s just a side effect of having a competitive viewpoint on the world. The idea that everything is a competition. That the existence of more than one thing means that those things are competing and cannot simultaneously exist. That one of them must eventually dominate.
I think some people pick it up from the exact criticisms some are posting on here about the original comment that was in fact pretty well written/thought out and explained relatively reasonable (depending on your person of course) reasons for commuting by car.
Many on this site might view cycling as simply another piece of the transportation pie, but often there are a lot of car hate-type posts on this site.
I hate unnecessary low occupancy vehicle use, not motorists, not cars, and not people forced to use cars due to social inequity.
And who determines “necessary”?
I’ll use common sense to say that for 95% of people, it’s unnecessary to drive their kids less than a mile to school.
and for the people that live in neighborhoods with no sidewalks or even shoulders (which is most of Hillsdale)?
What I’m saying is, the kids can physically make that walk. It’s our job to make it safe for them. Infrastructure, safe routes to school, speed limit enforcement, car-free roads, crossing guards, bike trains, walking trains, etc, etc, etc. Get creative!
Or we can keep throwing out excuses. Could be that Hillsdale is one of the more challenging places to walk in the country. But look at the country overall and what you’ll see are lots and lots of flat places with sidewalks where kids are being driven a 1/4 mile to school. We can’t say, well, it’s not realistic for the 5%, so let’s give up on the 95%.
Absolutely, so let’s go after the people who actually control this (government, planners, developers, etc.) and not just attack the people who live there now, and really don’t have a lot of other options (besides moving).
Nice thought, but the demand still seems modest. Safe Routes to Schools, and Bike Train are good ideas, but they’re essentially band-aid remedies to infrastructure and community design that has allowed motor vehicle use to demolish good conditions for kids independently walking and biking.
Look at new, ground up neighborhood developments for any hint that their design has been conceived to be inviting, safe and enjoyable to walk rather than drive or ride in motor vehicles.
How much easier would it be to drive to your job sites if everyone who wanted to could get around some other way? Keeps reminding me of my favorite cycling shirt, from Seattle’s R&E Cycles about 20 years ago–the back had the slogan “One More Parking Space” on it.
Yeah, motorists have it so hard! They only get 90% of the road space and funding!
I’m rather surprised and disappointed with all the negative comments and criticisms directed at the author of this piece. There’s clearly not much sympathy for the non-purist among this audience.
In the days before marriage and children, I was one of those ride-everyday-regardless-of-weather commuters with a string on non-driving commute records measured in years. Marriage didn’t change that much. Arrival of children did some. We managed some pretty unique transportation patterns – I drove the kids to daycare or school; left the car; rode my bike to work; my wife did the reverse, riding her bike to use the car to bring the kids home.
Then my employer changed my work location – 13 miles instead of 6. I rode my bike some days and drove on others; sometimes I combined the two modes. I know plenty of you would have offered me two solutions: a new job or move. I did investigate new jobs, but no, I didn’t consider moving. That would require new schools for my kids and a new job for my wife. How many of you have done that?
My kids are older now and they bike or take the bus to school. I now work from home so my commute is non-existent. We ride our bikes plenty, but there was a considerable period when the car became really important for our family.
Being a purist is great, being sympathetic and exhibiting a bit more understanding is important to advance cycling for more of our community’s transportation solution.
Very well written. Good post!
Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” provides excellent historical examples of how sympathy for the status quo (also known as apathy) can lead to a societal tragedy of the commons. I for one am glad to see the defensive tone of some of these comments. Feeling guilt is, IMO, a healthy response to unnecessary low occupancy vehicle use.
“…sympathy for the status quo (also known as apathy)…” spare_wheel
Sympathy is not apathy, whether expressed in support of the status quo or anything else.
sympathy for the “status quo” (you left that bit out) can be a form of apathy. ecological collapse and mass extinction is happening *NOW*. burying our heads in the sand or wishing it weren’t so is not going to make it go away. those of you with children and grand children should think hard about what kind of future you are creating for your loved ones.
Read the comment of mine you responded to, again. I didn’t leave the “status quo” part out.
The number and size of Amsterdam and Copenhagen model biking communities where biking can realistically meet a far larger percentage of people’s travel needs, is very small compared to the number of communities in the U.S., or that of the world as a whole.
If in Portland, or the Metro area, a majority of the people living here decided one day they would like to switch from the drive for travel, model, to the bike for travel model, they realistically couldn’t, because infrastructure to support that mode of travel for a majority of the population, just isn’t there.
“Sympathy is not apathy, whether expressed in support of the status quo or anything else.”
If you imagine that sympathy and apathy can have targets, then one could have sympathy for one thing while not caring about another. It is possible that sympathy for the status quo, or more loosely, longing for things to stay the way they are, could result in apathy toward the problems the status quo is causing or perpetuating. It is easy to be blind to the big picture problems when they don’t appear to affect you directly day-to-day; lots of people complain about the price of gasoline while not even being aware (intentionally or unintentionally) of the much larger problems overconsumption of gasoline has caused and continues to cause. When sitting at the gas pump, impatiently checking the time, I’ll bet hardly anyone stops to think of the family of a Marine who drove over an IED while protecting oil supplies under the guise of “fighting terrorism”. Or the kid who has asthma because his family can only afford to live 16 feet from a freeway.
Car free for eight years, bike every day for three. Everything I hear about automobile dependency sounds like an excuse. People today are weak. We should not perpetuate that.
Traffic decreases 5% or so on roads after diets. Where does it go to? Which other roads are getting more traffic?
This doesn’t answer your question exactly, but it’s possible to decrease traffic on ALL roads, without it ‘going somewhere’.
Where did you get that stat?
Thanks for the spot light Michael, it makes me feel great that my comments might be thought provoking.
And I fully understand that there won’t be much sympathy for my take on a co-existence with motorists, and that my comments could be misconstrued as leaning towards motorists over more bike-able streets.
So just to clarify I am very Pro bike and I do participate in the pursuit for more bike-able streets, I just like to take a more positive and fair approach to changing motorist minds about us (cyclists) on the road.
heck that’s why I moved to Portland… to be near so many like minded people!
I’ve always thought that a car-free/car-light lifestyle is an entire lifestyle revolution. The bicycle revolution is not just about using the bicycle as transportation, but requires drastic lifestyle changes (especially here in the US) to make that feasible. I appreciate the situation that Edwards faces in his commuting life, but those are the choices he makes. He prioritizes a bigger house, a good school district, etc. I don’t judge him on those choices, but those choices result in the practical reality of lessening his ability to commute by bicycle. I choose to live in a small house, close-in SE to facilitate my bicycle transportation. He shouldn’t have to explain it to us, but the fact that he does, suggests there is some sense of guilt involved there or at least some wish that he could do it differently. The problem is that if you want to live the car-free/car-light lifestyle in this city, you are seriously limited in choice of housing and employment areas to make that feasible. Instead of casting judgment on this guy, we should work towards a wide network of cycling infrastructure in combination with effective public transit that would better enable him to do his commute without a personal car.
One more thought from the article, perhaps it’s not “most people drive because they want to drive” but “most people drive because they aren’t willing to make the changes and sacrifices that are necessary not to drive….”
I’ve made that argument many times, but really I kind of view them as one in the same anymore.
It seems that most everyone on earth is trying to optimize their life. For some that means really digging deep to architect a universe with minimal auto use. For others, it’s a blend of family, work decisions and a thousand other factors.
A key message that i’d like to promote is to simply think broadly on what is possible for your own world. Ask a real, “What if?” and ponder the possibilities. And if, after weighing things with an open mind, your choice involves a car some or even all of the time, if you’ve gone through this thought exercise then that decision is right for you.
It’s precisely the negative attitude and general hate thrown about in the comments section that makes a lot of BP.org’s more ardent followers hard to take seriously. There is a definite group of anti-car people here, and frankly you come across as a bit “crazy” or “out of touch”.
A lot of the posts are vilifying a man for where he works vs. lives and that he decided to have children. Good lord, NO! Not children…..geez people get a grip.
Your life choices are your life choices, and his are exactly that…HIS. I’d flat out argue that it just isn’t reality to ask that Portland become a car free Utopia that many of you think is possible. We’re still going to have people traveling from 30+ miles to work here. As a post last week indicated, Portland is leading the area in job growth.
Can PDX get better at alternative transportation? Yes. Does it all have to be bike? NO. I’d argue that more MAX type lines heading up into Vancouver or even down towards Salem would be a better at moving people. It would allow people to live where they want or currently are, but travel more efficiently.
For those of you who haven’t lived in colder climates, I’d be curious as to how many of you would bike year round if PDX had snowfall of 60-100″ a year? How many of you would bike year round if we had 3-4 months of temps with highs in the 20’s and lows in the single digits?
Fact is that the US has spent decades building it’s infrastructure to accommodate the automobile. It is going to take a several generations for the true multi-modal options to happen. PDX isn’t any different than most of the other major metro areas. I’d almost say we have it a bit easier with decent weather most of the year and no wildly varying seasons. Boston, New York, Minneapolis, those cities have seasons!
My post is a bit all over the place, but please before you criminalize some one for their choices, why don’t you just try to old cliché of “walking a mile in their shoes”.
“…It is going to take a several generations for the true multi-modal options to happen. …” Peter R.
Do people residing in the area, lets say more than thirty or forty percent of the population, even want community and road infrastructure design that would support that many people meeting their travel needs by walking or biking? There needs to be broad community support for this kind of design, if there’s to be a chance it ever will happen here.
“Do people residing in the area, lets say more than thirty or forty percent of the population, even want community and road infrastructure design that would support that many people meeting their travel needs by walking or biking? There needs to be broad community support for this kind of design, if there’s to be a chance it ever will happen here.”
What if the foundations on which our automobility-based society rests crumble? What if the *one* thing that makes our car culture possible can no longer be produced in quantity and at a price we can afford? If so, what does it matter what our friends and acquaintances want, would prefer? Part of the problem is that we are so used to getting our way, sending our military anywhere to secure more of our oil that for some reason is under their sand. One of these days these tricks won’t work anymore and then we’re going to wish we’d thought to diversify our infrastructure before it was too late.
Edwards has suggested something nuanced. Edwards has trespassed outside of the standard zealotry of the bikemind. We must buuuuuurn the witch!
Bicycling won’t meet all travel needs. There, I said it, and I mean it. But… I have been car-free since 1995 in a car-dependant suburb in North Texas where the majority of our transportation needs are met with biking, walking, or transit. Even in a car-dependant place like this it is still possible to live without a car. Just because you can’t use a bike doesn’t mean you have to use a car.
What percent of people residing in your neighborhood, let me arbitrarily suggest a two mile radius area, do you believe are currently, or could reasonably be meeting their travel needs as your family has been able to?
Single examples of travel needs being met without a car, within a given neighborhood, does not necessarily mean that a greater percent of people residing there could satisfactorily follow that example.
Realistically, about 50% could, but it would severely restrict their choices in groceries and schools.
This is where better community design could help improve the availability of such choices, but there may be limitations. At least for things like grocery stores, it seems to be a common characteristic of big suburban housing developments, that such basic needs are located much further distances away from the neighborhood, than people may reasonably be expected to walk or bike to get there.
I wouldn’t call such developments ‘deserts’, but in terms of their lack of availability of basic items like groceries within walking and biking distance from home, that’s what they are. The historical impact of the ‘supermarket’ on community functionality, having basically put small neighborhood markets out of business, is fairly well known.
Walking, a one mile distance is 20 minutes, by bike, easily half that. Still, the appeal of relaxing in the car, if traffic conditions allow that, to drive to the store rather than walk or bike, can be strong.
All this nitpicking of Edwards’ lifestyle and choices about living, working, having kids, where to send them to school – all of it – for me adds up to one of the most disgusting threads I’ve read in a long time. How dare Edwards not let his life everyone else’s completely revolve around cycling?!
“Easily corrupted”? Sheesh. Judge much? Sounds like something the Church Lady would have said. In fact, I see this as no different from past generations of Bible-banging goody-two-shoes who live to a specific moral code (which is fine, sometimes even laudable) and go around judging everyone else who doesn’t live up that specific moral code (which is not okay at all).
Shame on you. This is becoming one of the worst things about Portland.
Wow, I must be on the no fly list; last three or so comments “awaiting moderation”; at least one deleted. Is there a list of words to avoid? Or is it just me? I try to be civil…
There is an ever-shifting list of words to avoid lest you be sent to moderation limbo, El Biciclero. Not sure why you tripped them in this case. There were a couple false positives from you in our spam filter for some reason, so I’ve gone back and approved them.