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Mayor Hales will commute by bike to experience real-world conditions

Posted by on August 27th, 2015 at 10:56 am

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Hales riding on the Esplanade last year.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is most powerful elected official in a city that’s widely considered to be one of the country’s best for cycling. However, despite living just over four miles and a pleasant half-hour bike ride away from City Hall, Hales doesn’t commute by bike.

Sure, Hales is seen on a bike now and then; but those rides are organized events like Sunday Parkways. As anyone who has been in a bike parade or open streets event can tell you, that experience is much different than real-life, everyday, weekday rush-hour conditions.

With Portland in a biking funk there has been a growing chorus of whispers pressuring Hales to get on a bike and see what it’s like on Portland streets — without a police escort and cozy coterie.

I’m happy to report that Hales heard the whispers and has decided to ride his bike into work this coming Monday.

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Hales mentioned the ride at the end of yesterday’s City Council meeting after he led a 5-0 vote in support of the Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report.

To give you a sense of what’s on his mind, here’s how the Mayor led up to his mention of the ride:

“This year we’re in our worst year ever in gang violence. And yet despite that we’ve lost more Portlanders to traffic violence than we have to homicidal violence. That’s how serious this problem is for our fellow citizens who are at risk until we achieve vision zero. This is important work… so I’m going to start doing some commute rides… and try to take more of those kind of commutes with advocates who know the conditions on the ground.”

“While the mayor and Nancy [Hales] regularly ride on the weekends, it’s not the same as biking with workday traffic,”
— Sara Hottman, Mayor Hales office

We followed up with the Mayor’s office and staffer Sara Hottman confirmed the news: “While the mayor and Nancy [Hales] regularly ride on the weekends, it’s not the same as biking with workday traffic,” she said.

“The mayor liked the community members’ idea, so we shaped it into a chance to both easily talk to a variety of people about issues as well as commute to work by bike.”

Here’s the plan: On Monday, August 31st, the mayor will bike from his home in Eastmoreland to the K&F Clinton Street Coffeehouse at SE 26th and Clinton. He’ll arrive around 7:45 am and spend about an hour chatting with whoever shows up. Then he’ll ride into City Hall via Clinton.

Hottman, who’s organizing the ride, said they chose Clinton specifically because, “It’s a Neighborhood Greenway about which people frequently express concerns about the level and aggressiveness of auto traffic.”

With people aware of the pre-ride chat session, we’re a bit concerned that this ride will turn into a group thing with people smiling, riding side-by-side, taking photos, and so on. If it does it would defeat the entire purpose of the ride because people drive differently in those situations. Ideally Hales would ride by himself, not in a group and not even with an advocate by his side who might say things that could influence his perceptions.

Regardless, it’s great to see Hales engage with bicycling like this. It should be a good experience for him and hopefully turns into something he does much more regularly. This is Portland after all.

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Adam H.
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Adam H.

He’s going to have to ride home without the protection of a large group though.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

And?

Tyler
Guest

Yeah, seems if he wanted the ‘straight dope’ he’d ride just like everyone else -letting the woefully insufficient signage and feeble infrastructure guide him. I’d even go so far as to suggest some disguise – beard, wig, etc…so he could feel the real treatment from the motoring public without recognition.

KristenT
Guest
KristenT

I’ve found that just adding a helmet and sunglasses renders me unrecognizable to most people who know me.

Plus, most people see him in his work clothes (suit) and at official places (work), so seeing him riding a bike to work in regular biking gear (whatever that may be) should be sufficiently “out of context” that people won’t recognize him anyway. Especially if he’s all alone or riding with a staffer or advocate (only one), he’ll blend in with the rest of the cycling crowd.

jeff
Guest
jeff

you think the motoring public can ID him from the back of his head?

Pete
Guest
Pete

Is Portland’s mayor really that much of a celebrity?

I wish the mayor of our “bike-friendly” city would do this.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

the ride home via Clinton is worse than the morning due to slower bike speeds uphill and more car congestion on Division…

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

He’s going to ride for one sunny day and that will convince me that his #1 transportation priority isn’t still paving?

Half-assed pandering is pretty much the only thing Hales ever does.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Elect a building/streetcar lobbyist and what else should be expect?

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

To build more streetcars? Oh wait…

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

It’s supposed to rain on Monday.

chasing backon
Guest
chasing backon

I hope his ride is fantastic and shows the fun, ease and great feelings that come from a bicycle commute. I also hope he has great interactions at the coffee shop meetup with intelligent and articulate conversations demonstrating all the reasons why encouraging non auto transport is necessary right now.

That said, the cynic in me wonders if the mayor gets buzzed or almost right hooked by a typical distracted driver on their cell phone would the city see better traffic enforcement and facilities that encourage cycling? Hey, a daily cyclist can dream of better roadway safety.

Gary
Guest
Gary

Funny, my “hope” and “cynic” reactions were exactly the opposite of yours. Not that I generally want anyone to deal with the unpleasant or dangerous parts of riding, but I think he needs to experience it.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Things started changing in L.A. after a cab broke the mayor’s arm while the mayor was on a demo ride just like this. Anyone know a cabbie? (Just kidding, sort of.)

John Lascurettes
Guest

Call an Über.

RH
Guest
RH

I think this is great news. Who know’s, maybe it will light a spark and he starts to commute via bike more often.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

he wants to show off new bike! how awesome would it be if made this a weekly event?

ethan
Guest
ethan

Replace “weekly” with “daily” and it sounds good. The mayor’s office has a car if they absolutely need it to attend meetings outside of the city. Otherwise, he should put his money where his mouth is and commute by bike / bus / train every day.

I’d like the mayor to ride along with me toward my house during PM rush hour. I would even let him pick the route!

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

And he’ll get to go through the intersection of 26th and Powell on his way to Clinton.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

He definitely won’t be using 28th and Powell.

9watts
Guest
9watts

http://bikeportland.org/2011/12/09/an-interview-with-mayoral-candidate-charlie-hales-63153

What’s your ideal type urban bikeway facility?

“Separated is clearly my preference. Can we find the opportunity for that in every case? Of course not. But as someone who uses the Springwater a lot I have a strong preference for that when we have the opportunity.”

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

Now if only the higher-ups in ODOT would do the same. I ride Barbur over the dreaded bridges every day. Of course this didn’t occur to me until after the audit to suggest this, but it would have been great if those performing the “safety audit” a few weeks ago regarding conditions on Barbur would have actually thrown a leg over a bike and ridden the stretches in question. I saw them standing on the sidewalk, clipboards in hand, dutifully scribbling. That is NOT the same as merging into 50mph traffic as the bike lanes vanish.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

apparently they did ride it, and one of them rides it every day…

As I mentioned on the phone, ODOT recently conducted a Road Safety Audit on Barbur. The whole RSA team rode over these grates on a bike ride from Naito to the “Crossroads” (Capitol Highway/99W/I-5 interchange) and back… and the consultant leading the RSA bike commutes on Barbur daily.

http://bikeportland.org/2015/08/05/man-adds-warning-paint-sunken-grate-state-roads-agency-calls-vandalism-154842

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

I didn’t catch that part in the article. That’s actually rather enheartening (is that a word?)! Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

J_R
Guest
J_R

There’s a big difference between the Road Safety Audit team riding bikes and the ODOT leaders, region managers, etc. riding.

The rank-and-file work on individual projects and may make recommendations that are actually beneficial for bicyclists and pedestrians. The ODOT leaders are the ones who decide on whether any of the studies is even conducted and whether any of the recommendations is implemented.

The point is there are many cyclists among the workers at various agencies including ODOT, PBOT, etc., but very few among the managers or the elected officials.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

Hot dog that’s what I like to hear!

I hope he has a great ride but I also hope he sees what a mess Clinton has become and how it represents the need for traffic calming and better enforcement.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

Last year in May, I invited the mayor to join me on a bike ride. I live in his neighborhood and bike commute regularly. For all the same reasons that are now newsworthy, I felt it was important for this civic leader to know, first-hand, what the conditions on the ground were. The reply from his executive assistant respectfully declined my offer (for reasons that sound disingenuous). I think an experienced individual riding with the mayor would be a more honest experience than the anticipated circus surrounding a publicized event. Pointing out glass in the roadway, noting vehicle speed and close proximity, and experiencing “haters” first hand and being on an “A” game during a ride are things I fear the mayor will miss as he chit-chats with his entourage.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I agree that the Mayor needs to experience real commuting conditions, not the accompanied, publicized event. He needs to feel what it’s really like.

As just one example along his route, I’m hoping the Mayor gets to experience being slapped in the helmet by the branches protruding from street trees on the east side of 28th between Long and Gladstone as cars pass by him at 30 mph with 2 feet of clearance.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

and with the coming rain this weekend, likely the reappearance of the seasonally permanent bike lane puddle in this spot, also. I love this 20′ long, muddy and deep permanent mystery puddle you have to ride through as cars buzz your left elbow.

but, weather this week has been truly glorious for riding. hopefully a few showers doesn’t keep the mayor at home.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…are things I fear the mayor will miss as he chit-chats with his entourage.” Granpa

At least try to be a bit positive about Hale’s willingness to ride a commute. I’m curious what streets he’ll choose for a route, (aside from the already mentioned Clinton/26th mid-ride break point.). And how many times over how long a period he’ll do the commute.

Somewhat regularly riding various commute routes in the city could be a great way for officials to get a far better sense of how great is the need for improvements to the city’s biking infrastructure. And it looks and sounds as though the mayor may be in at least, good enough physical condition for that distance…so he’ll have enough energy to ride, and direct his attention to road conditions affecting biking along the route that could stand improvement.

bethh
Guest
bethh

I’ve often thought that drivers who are cited for unsafe driving around cyclists should be given the option to ride a bike in traffic for a month (or something) instead of being fined. There’s nothing like experiencing the road on a bike to make you more respectful/aware of the cyclists out there!

9watts
Guest
9watts

a fairly common but terrible idea. We should avoid any and all association between bicycling and penance.

davemess
Guest
davemess

It’s not penance, it’s a chance for them to experience something from someone else’s prospect (the whole “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”). The truth is that in America today (even Portland) a vast majority of the population just doesn’t know what it is like to ride a bike on city streets, which is very different from almost everyone who has experience riding in a car.

Maybe it could be offered as an add-on that reduces their sentence.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

But driver’s education by riding a bike, now that would make a difference. What if a cycling certification (via on-road test) would get you to the front of the line at the DMV, or even bypass it entirely?

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

This would be more politically feasible if you wrapped it into a package of “driver enhancements” that included taking a first-responders course as well.

A friend of mine is from Germany and they have to take a first responders course, as well as some VERY challenging driving tests, to get her license.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I just don’t understand why people who endanger others are allowed to continue having access to their weapon of choice. Convicted felons can’t have guns; convicted careless/reckless drivers shouldn’t be allowed to have cars.

I guess I’m not going to win any elections.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I’m still trying to get convicted drunk drivers’ cars taken away. I keep being told this is “not realistic”.

ethan
Guest
ethan

Ah, so this WILL just be a one-off photo op type thing like I imagined. Since this will give him the impression that riding this stretch is completely safe (due to the large number of riders), perhaps I should get into a car and buzz him a few times and yell at him to “get off the road” to make it more realistic for him.

If the mayor commuted by bike regularly, I bet we would have seen a much better connection on the east side of Tilikum.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I like that idea.

LC
Guest
LC

You’ll want to have a bag of fast food drivethru garbage or a half full coke bottle to huck at him for maximum realism.

ethan
Guest
ethan

Ah yes, and perhaps a few racial slurs as well. And if he doesn’t get out of my way, I could threaten to run him over. If he calls the police, perhaps I could actually run into him with a car.

I wonder if the police would dismiss this hypothetical case in the same manner they dismissed my actual case of this happening? I bet the mayor has special privileges with the police.

Mao
Guest
Mao

I’ve been riding for years and I’ve never had this happen to me. I live and spend time in North Portland (Kenton and St Johns areas), so I really, really want to know what areas this happens in. It’s not that I don’t believe it happens, but it seems like one of those situations where a small number of incidents are made to be a huge issue and thus scares off new bicyclists or protective parents.

Eric
Guest
Eric

This is going to be 4 miles of terror!
Gear up Hales! Be aggressive or be a victim. Arm yourself with 100dB horns, 2,000 lumen quick-strobing LED head lights (two of them), pepper spray, full face helmet and a video recording camera. Its war out there and only the strong will survive. We are praying for good fortune on your momentous journey. Gods speed.

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

I’m concerned that once he experiences the post-apocyptic hellscape that is cycling in Portland, he’s going to shut that while thing down.

AndyC of Linnton
Guest
AndyC of Linnton

Glad to hear. I am still waiting for the mayor and city hall to accept my offer to compete in the BTA September bike commute challenge. BRING IT!!! Let’s see what you guys got!
What do you all here think? Any one else up for contacting city hall and challenging them? Let’s do this!

ethan
Guest
ethan

Is there somewhere that people have to register for that, or is it just a statement of “I will be riding my bike in September” type thing?

Sorry, I’m pretty uninformed.

AndyC of Linnton
Guest
AndyC of Linnton

Yes Ethan. Through the BTA website.

http://bikecommutechallenge.com/
A little stuff to navigate, but that should get you going.

Mike Reams
Guest
Mike Reams

Where will he be locking up his bike during the day?

Mike Reams
Guest
Mike Reams

Also, lets make sure the police know his route if he is riding through Ladd’s Addition.

WAR
Guest
WAR

I bet you he will blow past that stop sign.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

sounds like the mayor’s got a little more street cred and bike experience than we are giving credit for. I’m sure he’ll be fine. Hopefully he doesn’t get completely dusted in the Hawthorne bridge Crit. I’m excited to see him on my route. I’ll be looking for him along the gutterways of SE 28th and SE 26th.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

From the photo it looks like he is REALLY having a good time

Dan
Guest
Dan

He’ll be fine, this is a Platinum city.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

When I read the headline I got all excited…
– expecting he was going to join the BTA Bike Commute Challenge and try to bike commute for a month…or

– possibly bike commute for a week and take different challenging routes through the City (vs. from his likely westside or inner east district / bike friendly home location) to City Hall such as from the east side east of 82nd Ave etc.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Jonathan’s post only includes part of Mayor Hale’s comments on starting to do some commute rides.

Between the ellipses in Jonathan’s quote is this statement:

““I’m going to start doing some commute rides because I went on the Policymakers’ Ride and some citizens said ‘Hey, you should do that more often.'”

First, I want to offer a big Thank You to the citizens that suggested he ride more often — nice work, being present, positive and encouraging, and now we have results.

Second, this is a message to ya’all — don’t be shy about reaching out to your elected officials or civil servants and inviting them to get out on their bicycles more often.

Ted Buehler

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

This is good news and hopefully he’ll bike more often. For those who are relatively new to Portland and/or biking, Charlie was fairly supportive of biking when he was the Transportation Commissioner in the early 2000s. At that time, the police were cracking down relentlessly on Critical Mass (back when that still existed here). In March 2001, Charlie rode incognito with us to assess the police response and was appalled by what he saw. He convinced the police to back off and allow the ride to proceed with little interference. It was a great win for bicycling, although it only lasted a couple of years (until after he left City Council). It’s a much longer story, but I think it’s inaccurate to characterize him as someone who only cares about streetcars and paving.

Mossby Pomegranate
Guest
Mossby Pomegranate

One little bike commute does not paint a clear picture of what many of all around this city have to endure.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Let’s hope he bikes up SW Broadway on his commute to City Hall!

A bunch of illegally parked trucks, an illegally parked bus, and half a dozen hotel visitors’ vehicles smack-bang in the middle of the bike lane making him swerve into traffic should be a delightful start to his Monday!

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

Let’s hope he’s reading these comments and getting fired up

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

I suppose we should be happy for at least one day, but seriously? He can’t commit to more than one day? Underwhelmed.

jeff
Guest
jeff

If Hales wants to ‘get real’ I’d be happy to escort him via bike around town on a January night during rush hour, in a downpour.

soren
Guest
soren

imo, that’s almost an ideal time to commute by bike. a sunny fall fri commute at 4:40 pm would be my choice to show hales how congested and unfriendly this city is to bike commuters.

Adron Hall
Guest

Seriously he should ride at least once a week so he can truly get a feel for the motoring masses. Until he’s been threatened/screamed at once or twice along with all the wonderfulness of the ride itself and the excellent other Portlanders out there…

…he’ll be short of the real experience.

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

The Mayor is in charge of a 3.71 billion dollar budget, he’s the chief elected official of the largest city in Oregon with more than 600,000 residents.

Yes, he should ride once in a while to experience it. And he should ride Max once in a while. And the bus. And he should sit in a high school classroom. And he should eat at a soup kitchen. And he should spend some time with the homeless. And he should try commuting up I-5.

The possibilities are endless!

But his job is managing a multibillion dollar enterprise, which is surely about a full time and a half. And he should get back and forth to the office as quickly and efficiently as possible. Spending 45 minutes on the frickin’ 19 bus from Eastmoreland? Are you kidding me?

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Spending 45 minutes on the frickin’ 19 bus from Eastmoreland? Are you kidding me?”

Nope. No one’s time is that valuable that they can’t experience how the rest of us live. The whole notion that ‘being in charge’ of lots of other people somehow means they float above the rest of us is a large part of the problem.
Charlie just went to visit the Pope, don’t forget. That took a lot longer than 45 minutes.

soren
Guest
soren

“Spending 45 minutes on the frickin’ 19 bus from Eastmoreland? Are you kidding me?”

Versus 30 minutes in the city-owned prius?

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

9watts, riding the bus once? Fine. The claims made here is that Charlie should ride the bus every day. Or bike every day. Or etc.

It’s not the notion that he’s “above” us, he’s managing an incredibly complex city. There are innumerable demands on his time. It’s pretty arrogant of one community to claim that the mayor needs to devote an hour or two a day to experiencing their special problem three times a week.