Comment of the Week: The case for organized running advocacy in Portland

Posted by on April 10th, 2015 at 4:21 pm

I'm too clean-cut to be here in Portland with all these hippies. I think I should be in Kansas. Or maybe Salt Lake City.

Shared interests.
(Photo: Ed Yourdon)

Here on BikePortland, we love to switch focus around the many ways to enjoy bikes, from dirt-trails or the daily commute. And if you ask me, Jonathan’s inspired combination of sport, fun and policy is the special recipe that has made this site a viable business as well as a work of love for everyone involved.

So as reader Adam wrote this week, isn’t it time for someone to apply a similar approach to athleticism on foot?

Here’s what Adam wrote this afternoon beneath our post about the appeal of gravel paths to people running:

The idea of a running “lobby” came to me a few years’ back. I was biking on SE Salmon (a bike boulevard or neighborhood Greenway, or whatever you want to call it). Ahead of me was a group of maybe twelve runners, running in the road. Instead of being all “get onto the sidewalk!!!”, I instead thought about how many runners run on roads, and how their runs could benefit too from diverters, speed bumps, and other traffic calming measures.

… runners choose to run on roads instead of sidewalks for very practical reasons. Sidewalks are often eneven, with big slabs at odd angles causing a major tripping hazard. They often don’t gave curb cuts, meaning you have to jump up and down curbs every 200 feet – another tripping hazard. And they are often blocked by overgrown vegetation, huge recycling bins, people parking on them etc.

I would guess out of my social circle, maybe twelve of them bike, and 40 of them run.

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Portland is a biking town, but there’s no question that it’s a running town, too. And it certainly seems to want to become a great walking town — but the constant obstacle for walking advocates is that so few people tend to identify strongly as walking lovers. Maybe a more organized sense of foot-based athleticism would do our city good.

Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be mailing a $5 bill to Adam in thanks for this great one. Watch your email!

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Spiffy
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Spiffy

walking is my main mode of transport when not commuting to/from work (I take the bus)… I walk miles a day just going about my business without a vehicle…

being at a walking/biking pace is what made me see the world in a different light and helped me give up my dependence on driving… most of the things that seem unjust to me as a cyclist also seem unjust as a pedestrian… probably because the speed/power differential is similar… those things never seemed that way when I was a driver…

I’m always a walker… even if just to go to the bus stop, get my bike from the garage, or get my motorcycle from the driveway…

John Liu
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John Liu

I see the potential here. Cyclists can get a new bike lane, further left and out of the door zone, and runners can get the old bike lane and with all the opening doors. Or, cyclists can keep their current bike lanes, but those can be buffered from car traffic by the runner’s lane. I like it!

Ok, seriously now – anything that gets more Portlanders out of cars and out of doors and out of the doctor’s office is good. Cycling, running, skateboarding, even – tee hee! – speed walking. No, that was wrong of me.

9watts
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9watts

“Maybe a more organized sense of foot-based athleticism would do our city good.”

The parallel seems a little forced. Bikeportland, to its immense credit, is about all kinds of biking: transportational, recreational, competitive, health & fitness-motivated, environmentally-inspired, etc. But the piece of that big tent that gets the juices flowing—at least if we’re talking about bikeportland comments—seems to me to be the policy & transportation stuff.

While some people do use their feet to get places, to shop and commute, the focus of the article in question was running, which I feel has just about no overlap with the policy and transportation side of things.

In our Sisyphean effort to get some recognition from ODOT, law enforcement, juries, and those who don’t bike, I continue to think it is important that we communicate that what (some of us) use our bikes for is to accomplish those tasks for which (many) others use their cars. Running-as-akin-to-biking dilutes this message, returns us to the recreational phase bicycling in this country has had such trouble moving past—at least in the eyes of those listed above. Nothing wrong with recreation; it’s just not the dimension that at least to me seems the most interesting, challenging, exciting, and urgent.

A more organized foot-based mobility – yes, count me in.

Bjorn
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Bjorn

Runners should be thinking about getting organized as they are already starting to be the targets of so called “environmental” groups. For example there are several groups lobbying to ban trail running on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Mike Quiglery
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Mike Quiglery

I would say it’s just a matter of time before mountain bikers demand the right to ride the Pacific Crest Trail.

davemess
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davemess

Many already have.

canuck
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canuck

I rode sections south of Bend in the 90’s when Pacific Crest Mountain Bike Tours were in operation. Also did a tour on Mt Hood and down to Hood River.

bjorn
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bjorn

The ban of bikes on the trail actually was done improperly and a review is in process. Some parts of the PCT see very little use and are overgrown to the point that they are difficult to use. Honestly the current user base that opposes opening it up simply doesn’t have the manpower to maintain the trail. I don’t think that all parts of the PCT would be good for mountain biking, and some parts are currently ineligible because they are in wilderness areas, but some would work well for cycling and the trail as a whole would benefit from having additional volunteer help to maintain it.

naess
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naess

that’s funny, seeing as how many of the PCT heroes are basically fast packers, or trail runners with a tarp tied to their waist.

Mossby Pomegranate
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Mossby Pomegranate

Some runners are pretty good about wearing reflective gear in the dark…others not so much. Runners have ninjas in their group just like cyclists.

meh
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meh

Would just appreciate it if runners would stay out of the bike lanes and stay on the sidewalk as is required by Oregon law.

MaxD
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MaxD

I am frustrated at encountering joggers cruising down the bike lane on Interstate at rush hour. There is no northbound sidewalk here, so I can understand while they are there, but motorists drive fast up the hill and the 5-foot bike lane is way too narrow for comfortable passing IMO. Does anyone else encounter this? The solution seems like better facilities (a sidewalk for peds/joggers, a wider shared space, traffic enforcement). Any other ideas?

davemess
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davemess

As a cyclist and runner for decades, I have to admit I had never thought of this.
Frankly though, I just don’t see a need for a running “lobby”. The beauty of running is that you can do it almost anywhere. We have plenty of trails, MUPs, sidewalks, and quiet streets here. It is nowhere near the least hospitable environment for runners that I have been in (except maybe part of the SW of town, those can be pretty terrible with no sidewalks and often limited shoulders).
And despite the assertion that more runners run in the street, I have not found this to be true in my years of running (here and other places). I only run in the street if there is not a sidewalk or I’m doing some kind of fast interval.

As I stated in that original thread: I just don’t think runners have a huge bone to pick with anyone. They’re welcome on sidewalks, and not fighting for space against cars on the roads (as they always have the option of jumping back on the sidewalk). They also don’t have any trail access issues as they are always welcome on any trail that allows hiking.
I think 9watts makes a good point above.

Jeff
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Jeff

You hit a number of points I didn’t want to bring up, but you’re spot on. Runners are already near the top of the access hierarchy (if not AT the top as hikers will often move over for runners).

rainbike
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rainbike

There are some norms among hikers/backpackers about who has right-of-way and who should yield when meeting on trails. Hint: it has nothing to do with the elapsed time or your optimal training heart-rate. Trail runners should be aware of those norms before hitting the trails.

rick
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rick

Unless the pedestrian access and safety is great, how will people want to bike? Walking on narrow shoulders with a bike with a flat tire on a busy road isn’t pleasant.

HJ
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HJ

I’m all for a running lobby if they’ll teach runners to stop running in the bike lanes when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk right next to them. Dangerous, stupid and illegal.
Also as someone who runs regularly I really don’t get how imperfect sidewalks are such an issue? It’s called paying attention to where you’re going. Guess this is another problem born out of cell phone space cadet syndrome.

meh
Guest
meh

Saw a group of runners enjoying the sunrise the other day. Standing in the bike lane, taking flash photos with their phones, into the eyes of oncoming traffic.

What is it Ron White said….”You can’t fix stupid”

SilkySlim
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SilkySlim

Glad to explain. Let’s say you want to run 10 miles. At about 20 blocks per mile, that’s 200 intersections you must cross, each of which contains terrible sightlines from roadway to sidewalk.Think right hook potential is bad on a bike? Ha! Try threats coming from all directions, none of which can see you. Might sound like I’m exaggerating, but I can hardly think of a corner that doesn’t have some vegetation, parked cars, recycle bins, … Running in the roads is a safety move.

And I’m not even going into how are concrete hurts my joints worse than asphalt…

FWIW, I put in every effort to select running routes that are either completely car free (Springwater) or on roads lacking intersections (like SE 27th along the eastmoreland golf course). But you’ll rarely find me on a sidwalk unless it is truly the safest option.

meh
Guest
meh

Running in the bike lane before sunrise, without any reflective clothing, black is so slimming, is not safe.

Please point out any study that shows concrete sidewalks at ambient air temp of 42F are worse for you than asphalt at the same air temp.

Dimitrios
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Dimitrios

“Running in the bike lane before sunrise, without any reflective clothing, black is so slimming, is not safe.”

Neither is running with scissors. Are you having trouble addressing the intersection density/sightline argument?

I have a difficult time believing that there is any difference between asphalt and concrete running, but Slim has phrased the statement around their personal experience. It’s a waste of time to argue with someone’s perception of pain.

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Sure let me go grab it from the files. Oh shoot, I only have ones filed for 40 and 44 degrees – I can’t believe it!! This is so embarrassing!!

lynn
Guest
lynn

http://www.slowtwitch.com/Training/Running/Concrete_or_Asphalt__4793.html

Common knowledge that concrete is a harder surface than asphalt and, over distance, much harder on a runner’s joints and legs.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

It’s hard to be supportive of that group with that kind of behavior. And I’m often swinging out into the vehicle lane because of runners in bike lanes.

Paul Souders
Guest
Paul Souders

I don’t think running has a natural constituency in the same sense as riding bikes, for reasons well elucidated by 9watts and daveness.

I do think complaints about running in the bike lane miss the point. If it weren’t for cars, we wouldn’t need the bike lanes. I feel outrage when “they” block “my” bike lane, but on a MUP or quiet residential street, not so much. In those places we are all sharing. Sometimes good, sometimes not (don’t get me started on people running with wires coming out their ears)

But I think the point is, we should work (together! kumbaya!) to dethrone cars from the top of the transportation hierarchy.

My utopian notion is that cities are for people. If we built the streets around that belief, cars would yield to transit would yield to bikes would yield to feet.

sooooo…if a “runner’s lobby” or somesuch meant that I’d occasionally have to share the broad, carfree middle of Sandy Blvd. with a dozen runners, while passenger cars creep along at 20mph in a “protected” lane at a safe remove — I would be GREAT with that compromise.

lynn
Guest
lynn

The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) has been around since the 60’s at least. Advocacy is a part of what the club is about.

ED
Guest
ED

How many times on this website have people complained about how the public lumps all “bicyclists” together and castigates everyone on a bike because of the behavior of a few, such as the one guy that I saw one time running a stop sign or knocking over a pedestrian? And now here we go complaining about how all runners are self-absorbed idiots clogging the bike lanes to take pictures of the sunrise. And the complaints about runners who wear black before sunrise–haven’t we had conversations here about how ridiculous it would be to pass laws requiring cyclists to wear neon and reflective clothes? Please: there are some people that run and some people that bike and some people generally that do dumb things, or at least things that don’t seem to make sense to other people observing them.
I run a lot and occasionally bike. When I run–in the streets, sometimes in the bike lane–I am aware of my surroundings. Mentally and physically it is much easier to run in the streets to that you can avoid uneven sidewalks, narrow sidewalks, curbs every 200 feet, bad sightless at intersections, and yes, a seemingly softer surface. I try to run in parking lanes or on quiet side streets, facing traffic, to avoid conflicts with people on bikes or driving cars. Occasionally I run in bike lanes if that’s the only option, but I am scanning for bikes the whole time and ready to jump on the sidewalk or over to the parking lane when needed.
I’m with Adam’s original comment that more people in the streets, whether on foot or on bike, helps create people-friendly spaces and transportation options. So next time you see a runner in the street, just thank them for being a traffic diverter for you!

Dimitrios
Guest
Dimitrios

You need to compare the opinions of specific posters to have any ‘hypocrite’ argument. The fact that you read comments on here that aren’t consistent from story to story doesn’t really mean anything. There are opposing opinions and different stories bring out different commenters. I’m not saying you won’t find hypocrites, but you’ve essentially called the commenting section hypocritical. That doesn’t make any sense.

There is no “we”.

DS
Guest
DS

I both bike and run, and when running, I stay on sidewalks as much as possible. However, what often sends me running in roadways versus sidewalks is the tendency among people to regard sidewalks as magically safe and traffic free and therefore a place to remain oblivious. They stand around (often in groups), walk a meandering path (with or without leashed dogs), stop for no reason, start again for no reason, cross the sidewalk in any direction at all, block the way with their cars, bins, hoses, tools, toys, debris, tree limbs, etc. By contrast, roadways come with widely-understood rules and with the expectation that others will be moving along them in an orderly way. When running in the road, I absolutely yield to bikes and cars, and help myself do so by running on the *left* side of the road — actually the legal way to be a pedestrian in a roadway — which allows me to see and adjust to oncoming cars/bikes. I run on the sidewalk whenever possible, but long experience has taught me that sidewalks are perilous because they invite people to opt out of any and all norms of traffic.

9watts
Guest
9watts

That was a really interesting description. Made me think.

Reflecting on your post, I don’t actually think sidewalks are for running. Even the word suggests something much less preoccupied with fitness, much less etiquette for dealing with speed differentials.