Everybody wants safer streets — but you wouldn’t know that by reading local headlines or watching local news. That’s because the media often frames street safety issues as being something that only “the bicyclists” want.
That framing leads to more clicks and comments, but it’s not true. And it creates a road block to Portland’s progress.
A recent opinion piece from well-known driving advocate Terry Parker published in The Oregonian turned a critique of vision zero policy (something that’s not bike-centric at all) into a toxic, anti-bicycling screed. Responding to an article by Oregonian columnist Steve Duin (who doesn’t think Portland’s vision zero policies go far enough), Parker waded into his familiar territory of insulting “bicyclists” with falsehoods and making outlandish claims that “bicyclists don’t pay” and that redesigning roads to include access for all users is “social engineering.”
Coverage of the “Better Naito” project — that aimed to reconfigure Naito Parkway into a safer, more humane place with slower driving speeds and more room for walking and biking — was generally framed as a project for “bicyclists and pedestrians.” Let’s be clear: Better Naito is about a more livable and vibrant waterfront. When that street is finally tamed, everyone — business owners, nearby residents, employees, tourists, and all road users — will have a more pleasant experience, whether they’re going through or to the area.
And the most recent example was a story that framed the need for lower neighborhood speed limits as something that only “cyclists want.”
It’s a weird phenomenon. It probably happens because there are a lot of people in this town who care deeply about bicycling and they tend to be good at making their voices heard (this blog plays a big role in that). It also has something to do with the lazy “us versus them” narrative that’s so seductive to many editors and producers. If a story has a clear antagonist that is seen by the majority of the audience as an outsider or a threat to the status quo, it will get more editorial priority. That’s just how the news business works. Unfortunately here in Portland, “those bicyclists” are too often that antagonist.
The problem is, this framing not only relies on a clumsy label (what the heck is a “cyclist” anyway?) to attempt to define a diverse and multi-faceted community, it also fails to tell the true story.
The truth is, Portlanders from every corner of the city and from every racial and economic background are clamoring for safer streets. Grieving moms and dads and friends and sisters and brothers and grandmas and grandpas are bravely speaking out to shake us out of our stupor and prevent their deep sense of loss from happening to others.
Did you see the heartbreaking testimony at City Council last month from Fallon Smart’s mom Fawn Lengvenis? Fawn is not a “bicyclist”.
Did you read about Wendy Rattel, the employee at a local preschool who laments the city’s removal of an unsanctioned crosswalk because she’s afraid for the safety of the children in her care? Wendy is not a “bicyclist”.
Did you see the dozens of Arbor Lodge residents — young, old, rich, poor — who came out on a weeknight to hold a vigil for a man who was run over and killed by someone driving a car dangerously down their neighorhood street? None of them are “bicyclists”.
Or maybe you’ve seen one of the hundreds of city-issued and home made signs scattered all over the city that say things like, “Slow down,” “Kids playing,” and “Drive like your kids live here.” (The City of Portland tells us they’ve mailed out 710 of their road safety yard signs since 2006.) The people who erect these signs in their yards are not “bicyclists”.
Portland is changing fast and our streets are a very visible — and visceral — part of that change. We must have some extremely important and difficult discussions ahead if we want to create a city where everyone — not just people using cars — has access to the basic mobility and freedom our streets were intended to provide. Those conversations will be easier and more productive when we finally move beyond unhelpful labels and framing.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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I have a co-worker who calls us “Bikers” and “Bicyclers”. She just doesn’t understand why she should ever have to slow down her 2 ton machine with a sort of homicide named after it. Feels like we are “In the way”.
if you mean “vehicular” be aware that it applies to bicycles as well… it’s just not very common…
You are in the way: 1. Too slow. 2. Riding an unstable vehicle. 3. Poorly visible most of the time.
It’s amazing more riders don’t just fall down spontaneously from all that instability.
I have spent more than 30 years following slow moving Campers, Trailers, RV’s Boats, Motor Homes, Toy Haulers, Lifted trucks toodling up and down the coast, across every mountain pass, and most of the rivers in this state and a notable portion of the Pacific Northwest.
So you can take your “Too Slow” and your “In the way” and GTFO.
Funny, cyclist don’t have trouble seeing each other. Perhaps if you weren’t stuffed in a metal box peering out through fast food wrappers, big gulp cups and grease stained window glass you could see us and the other Karz better.
Yikes, I doubt you like it when ugly stereotypes are applied to you, why would you apply them to other people? Your comment was deeply disappointing.
Were you not disappointed by the comment he was replying to?
But here’s the thing: there are many other things “in the way” as well. Traffic signals, stop signs, pedestrians, school zones, construction, other cars—why single out bicyclists?
Because they’re having more fun, obviously. I often feel like people driving convertibles are the most miffed by my zipping past them in traffic on an electric bike because they spent extra to get the wind in their hair.
Wow, 3 likes? Raise your hand if you agree.
This is a debate between the past and the future. People who see Cyclists as the “opponent” still live in a mental world of post war suburban america where travel by car is everything, and walking is for a few unfortunates without an automobile. To them things like vision zero represent a changing world that they are not comfortable with, where people move around without the aid of huge oil powered machines. The growth of cycling has coincided with the vanguard of change in how we see living and moving in urban spaces. So as the symbols of this type of change,cyclists are seen as the opponent of keeping things like they were in the old days. We represent a convenient “other” to blame instead of accepting a changing world.
Penn & Teller did a fun episode about the myth of The Good Old Days on their show Bullshit!…
here’s the first one that popped up in Google…
I’m totally bummed out by all the anti-car sentiment. I look forward to driving my 550 up road burner every day.
my street recently exploded with those orange Vision Zero signs… there’s probably 2 on every block between Holgate and Powell… I know of one other cyclist on the street…
I don’t consider myself a cyclist… I mostly take transit and walk, but I do use a bike as a transportation tool sometimes… I also use a motorcycle and a car less frequently than other modes…
I buy way more shoes than I do tires…
pedestrian, transit rider, cyclist, and driverperson I want safer streets…
I agree with this entirely! Yes, we ride bikes — but most of us also walk, use Trimet and even use cars. There’s no sense in getting tribal about a particular mode of transport. We need to have a big-tent strategy that simply demands responsible, considerate road behavior and the need for streets that are safe enough for everybody — including children.
Look at the pictures below and the rest of them in the one-week Fallon Smart memorial article. Figure out how many are ‘cyclists’.
Jonathan’s article was focused on the ride, so you see a lot of cyclists. But the group at the memorial was large- certainly more than half.
(yes, I’m using my privilege of being able to place photos in comments)
Greg, you don’t know BikePortland very well do you? By the way, I agree with you!
Hey Lester, what are you referring to? Do bikeportland readers tend to be tribal? It’s true that I’m new to town and have just started reading this blog.
Hi Greg, Welcome to Portland!
Just FYI, I completely disagree with Lester’s continued insistence that there is some sort of group-think or tribal echo chamber that exists here on BikePortland. Yes, this is a blog specifically about bicycling and yes many people who read it tend to have similar general feelings about cycling (they love it!) and about the cure for what ails our transportation system and our city at large (bikes!).
But just because a lot of people here share a love of cycling, doesn’t mean that we are a homogenous group. Not by any stretch. And FWIW I am always eager to publish different perspectives in the comments and in posts… as long as that perspective is shared in a constructive and respectful way.
Thanks for reading. Hope to meet you out on the streets soon.
In the article you describe someone’s opinion as a “toxic screed”, knowing that most readers will uncritically nod in agreement and yet you claim there is no group think? Come on now.
Welcome, Greg. Bikeportland commenters tend to be opinionated, which is a good thing. Bikeportland readers tend to be well-educated on cycling and what’s going on in their community. It’s a really unique resource.
You can form your own opinion about commenters and about what it’s like to ride in town. Hit me up if you want pointers to some of the bike culture (for starters, pedalpalooza, TNR, #bikingtobeers).
Welcome, Greg! We argue a lot. Some of us agree with one another, now and then. Some of us disagree nearly all the time. It’s delightful! Come on over!
I disagree. We don’t argue that much.
I bike, bus, and walk all over and am wondering why I have only seen those bright orange PBOT VisionZero signs in SE?
Yeah, I’m not surprised. The mainstream news media is part of the automobile industrial complex. In fact a very important part of it.
They know that much of their market and profit stems from the social engineering that they did in the past which removed alternatives from road and street design.
Now that people are finding it not working for them and wanting another way they see the writing on the wall and are working to try and stop it.
And mainstream media continues to become more obsolete at least in traditional distribution as people have better access to altneratives. Oregonian stopped delivery several times a week, scales down paper, many are canceling cable for internet based alternatives, even Twitter is now live streaming sports….
I walk, because I don’t drive. (Do ride Tri-Met, though.) Safe streets (and street crossings) are for peds, too. We need more Springwater-type trails in thus town. We need speed limits that make sense and are enforced properly and correctly. Bike lanes, properly done, yes, by all means. But peds matter, too.
I shake my head when I watch YouTube and I see car ads before my clip rolls. (I do see Pedago Portkand ads quite often, though, filmed on Tillicum Crossing – don’t mind sitting thru 30 seconds of that!) Car ads make me cringe – expensive to get, maintain, insure, license – in this tough economy, bikes, walking, and public transit make sense.
The economy! I’ve been puzzling over this a lot lately. HOW are people affording all these brand, spankin’ new $60,000+ SUVs and trucks? Someone here mentioned (the last time I brought it up) that it’s been made way too easy to finance purchasing new cars/trucks, lately. I’m just flabbergasted at the number of people who either have 1) that kinda money lying around or (more likely), 2) are willing to assume such heavy, heavy debt (on top of mortgage, kids, college, etc.) for…a car. Or truck.
p.s…the proliferation of SUVs and luxury trucks just makes matters worse on the road. They foster and exacerbate the worst bad habits in humans on the road–inattention, sleepiness, carelessness, aggression (‘I’m bigger than you!’) a sense of power and impunity in general. All cars/trucks should be awkward and uncomfortable as hell to drive. Simple transportation–not living rooms on wheels.
Rachel, I think you nailed it when you said people are going into debt for these fancy cars. Last week, I listened to the sob story of a woman who recently went bankrupt and lost her house (!) and I was shocked to see she was driving a big, newish SUV. I hesitate to judge, though. I think the city could make alternative modes of transport more convenient and attractive.
Hi Greg–I know! That story… As a carless person who (when carred…a word I just made up) only ever thought of cars as something to get from point A to point B in—and who always only drove manual transmissions— I’ve never been able to understand the fever for the new, super duper expensive vehicle. There are so many nice, used cars! Perfectly good, thousands upon thousands of dollars cheaper! People discard them like kleenex.
I can appreciate the beauty of old cars, but it’s just not practical for everyone to have their own personal tank anymore. Was it ever? Completely with you on that last sentence! Our mass transit in Portland as is is positively repellent to most potential commuters–crowded, inconvenient, smelly, too often (in the case of MAX) unreliable. More buses! More routes! Higher frequency! Dedicated bus lanes! More MAX cars and runs! Yeah!
Conservatives claim that buses can’t be allowed to run on dedicated lanes of their own. That’s a form of streetcar service, they say, which supposedly requires a region wide vote in all three metro area counties for approval – and it must pass in all three. If anyone says no, it’s dead. Illegal. You can’t do that. They insist SW MAX must be approved in a region wide election. And if Tri-Met loses that one-shot vote, the project is permanently dead forever, it can’t be brought up again, and all future governmental decisions must be based on that. And no MAX or streetcar systems ever again thereafter. The conservatives have it wrong, but that is the case they’re making in Tigard right now. Separate bus lanes must have voter approval. Ridiculous, but that is where we are right now.
Ugh. 🙁 Thanks for the illumination, Mike, and good luck over there.
I’m so disappointed in the watered-down version of the Bus ‘Rapid’ Transit we’re gonna get on Powell (no, wait: Division!). I was all excited about the thought of dedicated bus lanes. Turns out it was all a dream.
No one rides the MAX, it’s too crowded!
psssst…those are smileys, Adam. 🙂 Is it just me or do they look like neutralies unless you get real close?…
Nah, they look like smiles to me. Btw, if you think MAX is dirty, try riding the ‘L’ in Chicago. Many trains have what’s called the “piss corner” because it is somewhat separated from the rest of the traincar, so people would use it as a bathroom. Coming from that, I find Portland public transport to be very clean.
I’ve had to get off the train (more than once) and go to another car because of the stench extending throughout two connected MAX cars. I’ve had to avoid seats with pee in them, and actually witnessed (oh, joy) a man pooping in a seat, once (you may ask “…how?” as my husband did. answer: low pants). There’s always some kind of schmutz or garbage on or around the seats on MAX. If Chicago’s “L” is worse, Chicagoans have my sympathy. But please don’t color MAX “clean,” dear Adam, cuz it’s most certainly not.
“More buses! More routes! Higher frequency! Dedicated bus lanes! More MAX cars and runs!”
I visited Portland in June and was amazed at the public transit. I’m sure there is room for improvement, but it is so much better than what we have here in my city in central New York. In fact, Portland transit in the 1960s and 70s, when I lived in SE Portland, was better than what we have.
“In fact, Portland transit in the 1960s and 70s, when I lived in SE Portland, was better than what we have.”
Interestingly, Portland transit in the ’60s and ’70s was better than what WE have now in Portland, Kathy! 🙂 Or so I’ve heard. Better in the ’90s, for sure.
And if you want to experience true ugh on a Portland bus commute, just take the 4 for a few days. And I’m (nevertheless) thankful for the buses.
A few years back I was threatened by a lady driving a BMW convertible. When I looked her up, I found that I had purchased her foreclosed home for 40% less than she paid for it.
Poor economic and life decisions go together – driving a car you can’t afford, buying a house you can’t afford and making poor transportation choices.
Related to all this–the whole idea that things like bike lanes just serve cyclists, crosswalks and sidewalks just serve pedestrians, etc. is false.
Bike lanes also serve drivers, because they provide a space for mostly-slower-moving cyclists to pedal separately from drivers. Crosswalks and sidewalks serve cyclists and especially drivers, because they provide clear, safe places for pedestrians, thus making it less likely pedestrians will be in conflict with cyclists and drivers. And so on.
If a business adds more parking spaces, no driver would claim the new spaces only benefit the people using them. They’d realize that the new spaces also free up spaces in the existing lot, and they’d be happy for it.
So people need to get over the idea that the separate modes are in a fight over the limited pot of money going to transportation improvements, and any money spent on one mode is useless to the others.
Last week I was riding on Skidmore, about 2 blocks east of the stop sign at Mississippi. A lifted pickup truck zoomed me causing oncoming traffic to slam on brakes. The driver cut in front of me and slammed on his brakes because there was a line of stopped cars. I rolled up along aside him and asked him why he would do such a dangerous thing? His answer “I am sick of being stuck behind you people”.
I am sure he failed to see the irony that he was stuck behind a bunch of people driving by themselves and that I quietly blocks away by the time he got through the intersection
I tend to think of the close-in Portland area, (Tacoma St to the Columbia river south-to-north \ Zoo to 122nd west-to-east) as a big park, a big playground… a place where I have explored so many nooks and crannies over the past 23 or so years. I tend to navigate by landmark instead of street name.
In this sense, I would rather not drive anywhere within Portland if I can help it. It’s just not as fun, or seems inefficient, or something. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Driving can be totally fun and efficient, I just choose basically everything else first if I can.
But enough about me. I know there are people who think, “crap i have to go to the store, and it’s 20 blocks away and I really don’t want to go but I am out of D batteries.” so they get in their car and try and complete that errand as fast as possible. They would just assume drive 35 – 40 down say, Hawthorne or Morrison. Anything to not be driving anymore.
I totally get it.
I just realized a few years ago that city living and fast driving just DO NOT mix. Too many people like me just moseying along…
We are all people and we are all brothers and sisters. As we slowly lose our identities as marketers keep putting us in boxes, this is all we are going to have left… the common bond of just existing. This needs to be nurtured more.
Slow down and smell the roses, catch the pokemon, ask me what I am listening to, wave to neighbors, 180 ollie that curb this time instead of just rolling off, carpool, stop for people at the Powell & 36th crosswalk and smile and wave at them. get after it…
The effects of mass car ownership are certainly corrosive, and extend well beyond those who buy them, but to everyone who doesn’t, as well.
“Freeloading kick-scooterists and their scoot lanes, that’s what’s wrong with Portland.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the most common mode to be using in Portland, or anywhere else in America, when one gets killed or maimed on the street is a motor vehicle. Truly safe streets would save far more motorist lives than those of anyone using any other mode.
Now as to whether or not people will accept driving safely as part of making the streets safe, that’s as yet a work in progress.
I think this is a really good point and one I’ve been thinking about as well. Of the 30+ traffic deaths this year so far in Portland, more than 20 died while driving a car. I was wondering whether this could be a way to get more acceptance for V0 from people driving their car.
It’s cause you never see those darn cyclist getting in the way on the car ads on TV. You know the ones,where good looking motorists zoom down empty streets in their shiny new automobiles while envious motorists look on and nod their approval with a smile. Why can’t the real world be like that? It’s those darn bikers, they were not in the commercial.
I don’t care if you ride a Segway backwards down the middle of rush hour traffic. Just PAY ATTENTION. Put down the phone or the joint or whatever and look around you. If you are NOT in a 5k lb mode of transport, then why get yourself squashed by one if you can help it? Wake up, ALL modes of getting from A to B. Pull your heads out. All of you.
The irony of safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists vs. cars debate is that the more pedestrians and cyclists on the streets the safer the streets are for everyone, including drivers.
It’s true that not just bicyclists want safer streets, but the key question is,
What do these people want?
I am not suggesting that political donations are the only way to have influence on elected officials. Money is not the only way to influence elections. Whatever you can bring to the table that will make safer streets a politically important issue and have an influence on the election matters.
The fact is that the route to safer streets goes through the Commissioner of Transportation’s office.
Interesting question. It makes one wonder what Media Analysts, Inc. expects from their $144,030 in combined contributions.
I am a lifelong bicycle commuter and I have taken the transportation class at PSU and I can attest that PBOT’s goal in limiting the number of lanes and otherwise “calming” more heavily used commercial and arterial streets is to limit automobile traffic into the city to encourage the use of alternate modes of transportation. This is in anticipation of increasing population growth and in deference to a philosophy that eschews more road building. Unfortunately, PBOT is managing the process very badly. Their efforts are pushing automobile traffic into the neighborhoods because, quite frankly, many people are unwilling or unable to abandon their cars and PBOT has no contingency plans for this fall out. Instead, PBOT is actually encouraging the use of residential streets to carry more traffic at higher speeds. A senior transportation engineer was quoted as stating that PBOT is pushing automobiles onto neighborhood streets in order to take the pressure off of the busy arterials. And so the question arises where do we want these automobiles–which are not going to disappear–to travel? Should they travel on arterials engineered for higher volumes and higher speeds, or down quiet residential streets with schools, homes and children playing? I think this might be where a lot of the backlash against these traffic calming initiatives comes from. And for anybody that has not actually lived on a residential street, as I do, on which PBOT is pushing 7-8000 vehicles a day, at documented speeds over 50 miles per hour, it would be disingenuous to try to affirm the social benefits of these traffic calming (call it what you will) efforts.
If PBOT’s squeezing car traffic onto arterials, it has to offer travelers an alternative that’s competitive with car travel. Shunting traffic onto residential streets makes the car problem even worse. It should get dedicated bus lanes and boost frequency — and install more rain shelters at bus stops among other things. Mass transit in Portland needs to up its game before it has mass appeal.
The dirty little secret of Portland is that the high capacity transit we do have, Max, has essentially been built as cheaply as possible, with many compromises that limit its ridership. Building rail in freeway medians and old freight rail rights-of-way is a hell of a lot cheaper than what they’re building in Seattle (for instance) but Link is a smashing success and is continuing to break ridership records because Sound Transit did the hard work of making a case for building high quality grade-separated rail that goes where people want to travel to and from.
Now, I don’t necessarily fault Portland for making this mistake in the ’80s when essentially no American city was building rail, but Portland continues to make the same mistakes (see the Orange Line alignment, for instance.)
That’s a good insight. And certainly explains why my family’s use of MAX has been so limited. We’re at NE 81st and Sandy, with the closest MAX stop being the Parkrose/Sumner station of the Red Line. It’s a 15 minute walk down Sandy (not a terribly long walk — but seems so because Sandy’s such an awful street to walk on). Enormous parking lot at the station, but the atmosphere is shite for people on foot. Nearest businesses are car repair place, a Quality Inn, a drive-in burger place — all with acres of car parking. So have to agree with you — at least here in the near suburbs, outer city, the MAX is far from handy.
LOL if 81st and Sandy is the “outer city”, try to imagine what it’s like living east of I-205. The city really doesn’t even care about it except as a source of tax revenue.
Good post, Butch. It sounds like PBOT is drinking the same kool-aid as Waze. They’re probably thrilled about Waze, actually. Infuriating.
I call BS.
Name the street.
I live on SE 52nd and Butch’s description lines up with what I experience on my street every day.
I lived right there by 52nd/Holgate for about 3 years and there are so many people cutting through side streets now it’s crazy…
now I’m 20 blocks east but it’s still a little crazy around my new major intersections…
SW Vermont sure has a lot of front doors a stone’s throw from the pavement.
When I was a child we were taught how to cross the street. Look both ways, etc. Are children taught any of that now or is all they learn PC drivel?
Children still learn this, but it doesn’t really help when drivers run them over while they are on the sidewalk or legally crossing the street with the right-of-way. Drivers are found to be at fault more than 50% of the time, even with implicit police bias in the reporting of pedestrian-vehicle crashes and the “dead men tell no tales” effect of post-accident reporting.
Drive safe out there. You are in control of your vehicle, and you are responsible for the things that you hit.
Still, can we find some things to put in the road that cost less than children, please?
I was a volunteer with my daughter’s 2nd grade class as they went on a walking field trip around their school to practice crossing streets safely. Here’s what kids are taught: look left/right/left, step out a little so you can peek around the (illegally) parked (too close to the intersection) car, look left/right/left again, then continue looking both ways as you cross. They are taught that they have the right of way but that drivers might not see them so never to assume that a driver will stop.
I don’t think victim-blaming by saying our pedestrians aren’t trained well enough is going to solve the problem. I think changing from driver’s licenses that are good for 8 years to ones that are good for 2 while requiring retesting based on any kind of infraction (non-moving you retake the written test, moving you retake written and behind the wheel tests) would be a lot more helpful.
I was with you until the end. Written tests are near-worthless for creating or maintaining safety.
Surely everyone knows that it’s illegal to exceed the speed limit; and that you must legally come to a full stop at every stop sign. The idea that knowing the ins and out of pedestrian law is going to prevent them from breaking it is highly optimistic.
Regardless of what jeff said (I think he’s right, BTW) I still think any “speed bumps” along the way to automatic license renewal after any kind of violation would be an improvement. If drivers knew that a ticket wouldn’t just mean paying a fine, but also would then require them to (pay for and) re-take the driver’s test (perhaps even on an accelerated schedule, e.g., within one year or risk suspension), it could have a positive effect.
Crossing the street in the Portland of now is a far different game than it was back when, PBB–even a short while ago. My head’s on a swivel any time I attempt it, and I’ll still have a car turn a corner and come up on me aggressively. You can be nimble as a mountain goat and cautious as Bambi’s mother and still wind up like…well, Bambi’s mother.
If you see a fresh skidmark on Sandy and 37th, that was my fault. I was walking in the crosswalk and three out of the four lanes were stopped for me. Silly, i know, but I took that as a sign that it was OK to cross… but, alas… 4th lane! Homey in the lowered Volvo was wondering what the hell everybody was stopping for as he apporached from about 100 yards away going around 35-40… and then maintained eye contact with me as he skidded at least 10 feet, to about 10 feet of my outstretched hand. My bad…
All kidding aside, that’s the thing, his eyes said, “what in the hell are you even doing here?”
And I was walking…
In a crosswalk…
With three stopped lanes of traffic…
In broad daylight…
and still almost got creamed.
And I expect this type of thing to happen instead of act surprised.
The below is not intended to be accusatory, or even to really suggest a change (at this point) – but!
I totally understand the reasons for it – but have you ever thought that perhaps BikePortland.org being named what it is contributes a tiny bit to this media framing? You do great work that includes a good bit of walking, transit, and land-use issues so I wonder if other media organizations get in a frame of mind that this is about “bikes” when they cover a story that you’ve also covered (and perhaps read/crib off of your great coverage)?
Anyway, maybe at a time when BikePortland is more truly self-sufficient financially and considering how to widen its reach, think about it! I feel like branding like Greater Greater Washington’s or Streetsblog’s is pretty effective.
Certainly, the majority of the blame lies with the Oregonian, TV and radio stations, and people’s own susceptibility to blaming “others.”
Hmm. That’s an interesting point, Alex. I vote for SCREEEEEEEED!
I like “The Screed Trust”
The other side of the questions are also important: “Who doesn’t want safe streets?” or more accurately “Who wants fast streets?” “Who expects their car to be the most effective and convenient means of transportation forever?”
The question I have been wondering lately is “Who lives in areas of Portland or in the suburbs and is not affected by or living near dangerous street conditions? City council/ Mayor? Oregonian editorial board? Local Portland media? ODOT?”
Every once and a while I have to remind myself that a lot of people drive into Portland every day then drive home without walking or biking in the city and have no idea what it feels like to live next to the streets where they drive.
“Who lives in areas of Portland or in the suburbs and is not affected by or living near dangerous street conditions?”
does such a person exist?
sure, there may be a single street or two… but once they go a few blocks it’s dangerous…
It is true that it isn’t just the “bicyclists” that want safe streets. I think everyone would want to be able to get where they are going in safety. It is also true that “cyclist”, or “driver”, or “pedestrian” are usually false labels because we might all use any means of transport at any given time. However, I think certain folks have an affinity—or at least empathy—for a particular mode that they would like the streets to be optimized for. Given the different affinities people might have, I think there are differing notions of what “safe” means, and of how we can make streets “safer”. There are those who would love to ride a unicycle down the middle of MLK while juggling flaming batons, texting, and drinking coffee with no fear of being run over by someone in a car. For this person, “safe” means those who are capable of doing the most harm have been restricted enough that the actual harm they could do is minimized. On the other extreme there are those who want to drive an SUV as fast as possible down any given street while texting, drinking coffee, and fiddling with the radio, confident that nothing will be “in the way”. For these folks, “safe” means you are protecting yourself and/or staying out of the way—those who are most vulnerable to being harmed have the biggest obligation to avoid “getting themselves run over”.
As long as we allow all the modes of transport we currently allow on our streets, it seems the answer is somewhere in the middle. If all streets allowed unicycle guy to have his way, other traffic would grind to a halt. If SUV guy has his way (well, he kind of does, currently…) then the streets become unbearably dangerous for everyone not in their own SUV.
So where is the middle, and how do we meet there?
The “middle” is a place where heavy vehicles are barely allowed on city streets and severely constricted/restricted to low speeds. Safe streets don’t have *any* high speed armored couches.
Besides, we already built a place where drivers don’t have to worry about crossing pedestrians, unicycles, etc. It’s the freeway. Maybe building one of those for bikes would be a step toward the middle. Meanwhile, close the surface streets to through traffic and we’ll be almost getting close to the middle.
“It’s the freeway. Maybe building one of those for bikes would be a step toward the middle.”
This has long been an aspect of “fairness” that has bugged me. We have unrestricted, multi-lane (for passing and capacity), 70-mph roadways for motor vehicles, on which there is nothing allowed but motor vehicles. Why do we not have these for bikes? Especially for “long-distance” (>8 mi.) commuting between suburbs/downtown. Those facilities that do exist are expected to be shared with pedestrians, and often have a reputation of being “dangerous” (e.g., Springwater).
… And the Springwater is not even close to grade-separated – there are more than a dozen stop signs and four traffic lights (timed for intersecting auto users’ convenience, not trail users’ convenience) between my house (100th & Foster) and the downtown end of the Springwater. Zero such things on the corresponding auto route – I-205 & I-84.
This, too. Even if there were a bike-only, multi-lane (i.e., more than one lane in each direction), “path”, there would likely be many intersections with either beg-button or auto-timed signals, or the ever mysterious crosswalks with mini-STOP signs for those who would use the crosswalk—with no corresponding traffic control (other than a painted crosswalk) for auto users on the cross street.
Why don’t our urban freeways have elevated, enclosed bikeways with a solar powered tailwind? Probably has something to do with the false notion that gas tax money can only be spent on gas-powered capacity. Also, lack of imagination, priorities, and/or sense of urgency.