An article published today by the Portland-based magazine Oregon Business takes a look at a handful of local bike-commuting superstars who regularly pedal 20 to 40 miles each way to work and back.
Biking fans won’t find many surprises in the piece, though that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of interviewees like Kyle Carlson, a recent Friday Profile subject here at BikePortland who bikes 39 miles from Hillsboro to North Portland and back several times a week.
But one passage in the post is a little unfamiliar in Portland’s transportation conversation these days. It’s the simple but (for some reason) rarely discussed fact that if Portland doesn’t decrease the percentage of trips that happen by car, everybody who actually needs to get around by car or truck is going to be screwed.
From the piece’s interview with Jason Gast, a 48-mile-a-day Portland-to-Hillsboro bike commuter:
“Washington County is doing a lot to make lanes safer. But for a lot of folks they would be scared,” says Gast. He has done this commute for the past five years and noticed more cars on the road as well as more cyclists. Gast chooses to commute to work partly because he finds road traffic so frustrating. “The traffic situation in our area is not getting any better,” he says. “I can never see myself being a car commuter.”
Portland’s population is expected to grow by 280,000 in the next decade, creating a transportation headache for city planners. The Portland Bureau of Transportation is heading an initiative to create a network of biking and pedestrian trails in Portland city center and the central eastside to encourage people to commute by bike and public transit instead of driving.
Again, people already attuned to Portland transportation policy are not going to be gobsmacked by this revelation. Which is exactly why it’s so odd that “when biking is easy, it makes driving easier too” is so absent from our civic conversation.
I got home a few hours ago from a two-week vacation in Colombia (more on that in the next couple days) and it was as intense a reminder as I’ve had of the cost drivers face in cities that are rapidly adding residents but not investing in space-efficient transportation infrastructure like bike facilities and mass transit. Though many people in and around Portland seem open to the concept that if you hate congestion you should love bicycles, it’s not an idea we often hear from most local leaders. In fact, our region’s organized business advocates and some suburban politicians often seem fixated on the fantasy of perpetual automobile capacity. Hopefully some of those folks — or at least the generation that’s slowly moving in to succeed them — are reading Oregon Business.
Thanks for the tip to reader Todd B.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.