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.
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.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.