Splendid Cycles

National Bike Summit: The health of the bike movement — and its future under Trump

Posted by on March 6th, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Bike Summit bike ride-8

Sunny — but with a few dark clouds.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Day one of the 2017 National Bike Summit is in the books. After a two-year hiatus, we decided to head back to D.C.

I was motivated to make the journey for several reasons. With the Trump era in full-swing, it seems like showing up for bikes in the nation’s capitol is more important than ever. Relatedly, I wanted to check the pulse of the national movement: If we do receive a major attack, will we be healthy enough to fend it off? Is it even possible to have a “we” anymore?

The first thing I noticed when I swung open the doors didn’t give me much confidence: The crowd assembled in the main ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel for the opening plenary looked small. Last time I attended (in 2014) there were over 700 advocates in the room. Today it looked like there was about half that.

And the Oregon delegation has dwindled at a similar rate. We used to have 20-25 Oregonians. This time there are just eight (including me).

Three members of the Oregon delegation are in this Instagram post below: The Street Trust Interim Executive Director Stephanie Noll (L), Sugar Wheel Works Owner Jude Geraci, and The Street Trust Communications Director Kate Walker.

While the Summit itself chugs along with friendly smiles, excellent networking opportunities, inspiring stories from laudable bike heroes and breakout sessions chock-full of wonky details — it feels like there’s something missing.

Maybe attendance is down due to the lack of major opportunities for biking at the federal level. A woefully dysfunctional Congress also probably tamps down enthusiasm. One of the main draws of the Summit is Wednesday’s “Lobby Day” on Capitol Hill. Perhaps many people think if there’s nothing to lobby for, there’s no reason to show up.


League of American Bicyclists Board Chair Karen Jenkins.

And the League itself is going through a bit of a rough patch. They just named a new interim executive director (veteran staffer Bill Nesper) after their latest leader (Alex Doty) stepped down unexpectedly after just 16 months on the job. Another troubling sign at the League is the shrinking size of their team. In 2014 they had 18 staffers. Today they have eight.

“The sad news is that we move from opportunity and being proactive, to defense. And that’s really hard.”
— Randy Neufeld, SRAM Cycling Fund Director

Then there’s the inter-movement split that appears to be happening between the League and what used to be one of their biggest partners, People for Bikes. For many years People for Bikes was a fixture at the summit. Their president, the charismatic insider Tim Blumenthal, has been a regular keynote speaker. In 2016 People for Bikes was the sole “Platinum” level sponsor of the summit.

But this year People for Bikes is nowhere to be seen. Nowhere in the agenda and nowhere on the list of sponsors.

It’s worth noting that People for Bikes recently launched a bicycle-friendly city ranking program — which puts them somewhat awkwardly into territory long-occupied by the League and their well-known Bicycle Friendly America program. A major funder of the League’s BFA program was Trek Bicycle Corporation. We can now confirm that Trek pulled its funding from the League and is now funding the People for Bikes program.

And what is People for Bikes doing for the first time this year — the first year they’re not at the League’s summit for over a decade? — they’re hosting a conference of their own: the Places for Bikes Conference this June in Wisconsin (which happens to be just 25 miles west of Trek’s headquarters in Waterloo).

Instead of growing together collaboratively like they had done for over a decade, it appears America’s two largest bike advocacy groups are going in separate directions — with one growing weaker, while the other grows stronger.

Is this good or bad for the national bike movement? Do we need just one strong and unified “voice for cycling in America”? Maybe not. I don’t know the answers to those questions. That’s one reason I’m here.

Speaking of growth, the League’s Board Chair Karen Jenkins announced tonight that she’s launched an effort to get “100,000 members in a decade”. That would be a 500 percent jump up from their current membership level of 20,000.

And in today’s political climate that type of growth could be very challenging.

One of the big questions I’m working on this week is: How will bicycling and bike advocacy change in the age of Trump?

I asked experienced policy strategist and Director of the SRAM Cycling Fund Randy Neufeld that question. You might not like his answer.

“The sad news is that we move from opportunity and being proactive, to defense,” he said. “And that’s really hard.”

Here’s more from Neufeld:

“There’s a lot of discussion about, do we spend a lot of energy defending the federal piece of active transportation funding when the state and local contribution is much bigger and much more significant? And I think — like transit — as much as we’d like to wean ourselves from the federal share [of funding], it’s still pretty damn important… I think we’re going to have to do defense. It’s also a fundraising opportunity for the movement. It’s an opportunity to reach out to new partners and create coalitions. But it does mean going into protection mode — as opposed to growing opportunites.”

We’ll very likely hear more about how cycling will fare in the Trump adminstration when Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer takes the stage for the big Summit keynote in the morning. Speaking of which, I need to get some sleep.

Stay tuned for more coverage from D.C.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.

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  • Chris Morfas March 6, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks for the report! The League is (and always has been) full of wonderful people, but it’s likely outlived its usefulness for the movement, perhaps by a century. Probably best for the industry to collaborate with a reformed alliance of state/metro/local groups. Federal-level work has been almost entirely defensive since 1991 or so when the Enhancements program was created, the major exception being the infusion of $$ for Safe Routes to School circa 2004 the campaign for which was spearheaded more by the late Congressman Oberstar and the late Deb Hubsmith than by the official movement organisations.

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    • Sue Knaup March 22, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      Name one successful movement that has only one organization leading it. Environment? Disabled? Animal rights? Civil rights? Gun rights? You won’t find one. And yet we watch as our bike industry, led by a handful of mega companies, has systematically devoured smaller bike companies and even bike shops, then turned it’s appetite on U.S. national bike advocacy groups, first through Bikes Belong and now People for Bikes. We should be cheering the League for being the last contender standing.

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  • Mark smith March 6, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Well, if poeple for bikes is sucking up to corporate donors, that explains why they ignored my email aimed squarely at sparing with government.

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  • Smokey Bear March 6, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Might check the salaries at the League – if they get paid. Did the workforce go down by half but the salaries went up by a factor of 2? I am not suggesting it happened that way, but might be something to check into.
    I would think that if it is perceived that Trump is hostile to bikes that contributions and activism by bikers would increase. Just like Obama did for fire-arms and their various organizations.
    Check with the Sierra Club, etc and see if their collections went up when Reagan or W were President.
    Ds own Portland – do what ever you want. I doubt Trump will have much impact. Was it nirvana for bikes when Obama was in office?

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    • Brian March 7, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Your logic might play out if the 2nd amendment included the “right to bear bikes” and there was a constant fear of the bike-taking boogeyman.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 1:07 pm

        _My_ copy of the Second Amendment, in my pocket-constitution (Hello, Kitty edition), contains just that language.

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        • Brian March 7, 2017 at 1:29 pm

          Sweet, can I get a copy?

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 1:42 pm

            When I’m your president, you’ll all get a copy. Kitty 2019!

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            • Brian March 7, 2017 at 4:49 pm

              In. Wait. What is your stance on weed?

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  • John Liu
    John Liu March 6, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    Realistically, the best thing the bike community can do is to vote Trump out of office in 2020. The largest group of eligible voters wasn’t those who voted for Trump and it wasn’t those who voted for Clinton. The largest group was the eligible voters who didn’t vote at all.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 11:10 am

      Trump’s chances in 2020 (if he makes it that long), will probably somewhat depend on who the Democrats pick to run against him. Choosing the single most demonized and polarizing Democratic figure in the nation probably wouldn’t be a good choice.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy March 7, 2017 at 1:37 pm

        Stubborn as donkeys.

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      • Doug March 8, 2017 at 11:59 am

        In my life time each party takes turns of 8 years or more (except once): Ike 2 terms, Kennedy/Johnson 2 terms, Nixon/Ford 2 terms, Carter 1 term, Regan/Bush 3 terms, Clinton 2 terms, Bush II 2 terms and Obama 2 terms.

        History says the SOB will get reelected. I’d like to see him naked in a cage. But that doesn’t change history. We get exactly the government we the ignorant deserve.

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        • Smokey Bear March 8, 2017 at 7:20 pm

          At least you admit it in that last sentence. Many are not so honest.

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    • Smokey Bear March 7, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Need to come up with a good candidate before you’ll be able to do that. Not just a good candidate, but good ideas. Both of those were lacking in the last election.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 12:52 pm

        Unfortunately, that applies to all but one candidate in the race, and he didn’t make it past his primary.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu March 7, 2017 at 1:01 pm

        If there are two candidates, and one has so-so ideas while the other has flat-out terrifying ideas, I know which one I will vote for.

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      • David Hampsten March 7, 2017 at 2:29 pm

        You are assuming that Trump will run in 2019/20 and that the Republicans will do nothing to have a viable candidate. I believe that the Trump appointment of Nikki Haley, the very popular moderate Republican governor of South Carolina, as the UN Ambassador, was specifically to get her to have some foreign policy experience for a run at the presidency. Keep in mind that both female prime ministers in the UK were both conservatives (Maggie Thatcher in the 80s & Theresa May now). My guess is that the first female president will be a moderate Republican and not a certain senator from Massachusetts.

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        • Smokey Bear March 7, 2017 at 6:58 pm

          I agree, it will not be Pocahontas.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm

            Very classy!

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  • David Hampsten March 7, 2017 at 12:52 am

    Let us know what you think of the protected bike lanes on Penn Ave. Personally I found them both slow (from signal timing) and scary (from cars making left-hand turns.) The long count-down timers for pedestrian signals were also rather trying when I visited DC last fall for a USDOT conference.

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    • Tim Potter March 16, 2017 at 7:25 am

      I love the center-running protected bike facilities. Everyone can clearly see people there, don’t have to worry about buses, taxis, delivery vehicles, private vehicles suddenly pulling over to the curb blocking bike lanes, dooring… what’s not to love?

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    • John Wetmore March 16, 2017 at 10:00 am

      I very much like the pedestrian countdowns starting with the Walk cycle. If I am approaching an intersection, I know if I need to walk a bit faster to make the light, or if I might as well slow down because I am definitely going to miss it.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 16, 2017 at 10:18 am

        The city has been removing or truncating the countdown on signals downtown (and perhaps elsewhere?) for whatever reason.

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      • wsbob March 16, 2017 at 11:49 am

        I notice your name is linked to site ‘pedestrians.org’. So you should know, or perhaps you’ve got knowledge or an opinion about setting out across a crosswalk after some seconds of the countdown has started. Apparently, some people are of the opinion that if a person doesn’t leave the curb when the ‘go’ cycle for them has started, they’re not supposed to commence crossing once the countdown has started. I think there’s about a two or three second interval between the ‘go’ and the countdown begin.

        I think the law says you’re not supposed to cross on a solid red light or signal. In other words, as long as the countdown is flashing red, you’re good to go, within reason. Obviously, people should have some sense that they can make it across the intersection at a normal walking speed, within whatever remaining seconds are yet on the countdown when they leave the curb; don’t want to be setting out from the curb when the countdown reads for example 8 seconds, when the person knows from prior experience, it takes 18 seconds to cross.

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        • El Biciclero March 16, 2017 at 2:06 pm

          Oregon law appears to defer to Section 4E of the 2009 MUTCD for its interpretation of the meaning of pedestrian signals:

          Section 4E.02 Meaning of Pedestrian Signal Head Indications

          01 Pedestrian signal head indications shall have the following meanings:

          A. A steady WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK) signal indication means that a pedestrian facing the signal indication is permitted to start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal indication, possibly in conflict with turning vehicles. The pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully within the intersection at the time that the WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK) signal indication is first shown.
          B. A flashing UPRAISED HAND (symbolizing DONT WALK) signal indication means that a pedestrian shall not start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal indication, but that any pedestrian who has already started to cross on a steady WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK) signal indication shall proceed to the far side of the traveled way of the street or highway, unless otherwise directed by a traffic control device to proceed only to the median of a divided highway or only to some other island or pedestrian refuge area.
          C. A steady UPRAISED HAND (symbolizing DONT WALK) signal indication means that a pedestrian shall not enter the roadway in the direction of the signal indication.
          D. A flashing WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK) signal indication has no meaning and shall not be used.

          So starting to cross after the flashing orange hand or countdown has begun is not permitted.

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          • wsbob March 17, 2017 at 10:23 am

            That excerpt you’re citing (perhaps in future, you could provide a link.), appears dated, because it makes no notice of countdown crosswalk signals. I’d be in favor of having the MUTCD specification for pedestrian crossing at crosswalk signals revised, if the current writing is interpreted to mean that people on foot aren’t allowed to start crossing once the countdown has started.

            Of course, much can depend on how many seconds the traffic signal engineers allow for a given crossing. Some signals may set for too short a time for a complete crossing, beginning after the crossing has started. I’m basing my thought about this, mainly on a crosswalk out here in Beaverton…Canyon Rd at 117th. It’s set for 22 seconds, I think. Countdown starts two or three seconds after the ‘walk’ symbol appears. Crossing at a normal walk, only takes 17 seconds…plenty of time to safely cross, after the countdown has started.

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            • El Biciclero March 17, 2017 at 5:25 pm

              I did provide a link. You have to follow the link and read a little further down in the actual document. Countdowns are only to be shown alongside the flashing orange hand. The flashing orange hand means “DON’T WALK”.

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              • wsbob March 19, 2017 at 12:12 am

                …sorry bic…missed catching on to how to find the specs in the doc you provided the link for, as to the question of the meaning together, of the countdown relative to the flashing hand.

                This is one specified procedure, the literal interpretation of which…if it is so interpreted by the police, the courts/judges, etc, I don’t think is reasonable, or fair to people using crosswalks…and it simply makes little sense to me, not to let people start crossing the street on the crosswalk signal, as long as they are confident they’re able to completely cross the street at a normal walk, on the remaining seconds on the countdown.

                From the time they first appeared, (my first and main experience with them is at intersection of 117th and Canyon Rd…mult-lane 70′ wide major thoroughfare.) it seemed to me that one of the great things about the crosswalk countdown, is that people using the crosswalk, finally, after so many years…literally…were provided with some visual idea of how long they had to cross the street.

                This is a great and very helpful innovation in crosswalk signal functionality, especially I think, for people inclined to be a little slower than the official ‘normal’ walking speed. Because some people obviously are slower in traveling on foot…or crutches…or wheelchairs…or just because, you know…maybe they’re creakier than others for some reason…the countdown can be set for a little more time than it takes to cross the street at a normal walk…so that everyone has enough time to cross.

                Obviously, able bodied people don’t need the extra crossing time provided in the countdown for less able bodied, or even disabled people. So as long as they have responsibly determined that there is enough remaining time on the countdown for them to enter the crosswalk and proceed entirely across at a normal walking speed, within the remaining countdown time, I feel they ought to reasonably be able to do so. On condition of taking the standard, obligatory precautions…watching for right turning vehicles, non stopping vehicles, etc, before entering the crosswalk.

                I’ll take my chances, and continue to cross after the crosswalk countdown has started, if I know, which I do, for intersections I’m familiar with…that I can make it across, normal walking speed, within the remaining countdown time. I take exception to the possible strict interpretation of the MUTCD specified procedure, or whatever, and think there’s good reason to question whether such an interpretation is valid or reasonable. If some officer wants to stop and talk with me about it, objecting to my crossing as I’ve described…I’m fine with that. I’m willing to discuss the various aspects of using this still relatively new traffic signal infrastructure.

                …almost didn’t check back with this discussion, to see if there were further responses. Thanks again for expanding further on your earlier comment….wsbob

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            • El Biciclero March 17, 2017 at 5:31 pm

              Also, if you read the standards for providing enough time to cross, they are atrocious in their restriction of pedestrian movement—especially where it talks about only giving peds enough time to get halfway across a street, then making them wait for another signal to finish crossing. Your examples are similar to what I have observed at several crossings I use either on foot or bike almost every day: 2-3 seconds of WALK, followed by 15 to 28 seconds of DON’T WALK. Even though I know it will only take me 5-10 seconds to cross, it is technically illegal for me to start crossing when I see a countdown of 20 seconds or more remaining.

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  • Mike Quigley March 7, 2017 at 5:17 am

    Trump’s plan to invest a trillion dollars in car infrastructure (a drop in the bucket) won’t happen. The best thing for bikes and transit is gridlocked, decaying roads and bridges. On the east coast it’s real right now. On the west coast the Big One in the Pacific Northwest and the Big One in California should reset the whole issue to zero.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 11:11 am

      It’s not like the earth will be scraped clean. Most of the roads will survive, even if many are damaged. I don’t expect a massive bike infrastructure build out post-earthquake.

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      • Pete March 12, 2017 at 8:27 pm

        It didn’t happen downtown after 1989, and it’s not happening for the many sections of roadway washed away winter after winter.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy March 7, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      I think it’s a trojan horse to get his name plastered on durable objects all over the country. It’s all the guy seems to care about.

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    • wsbob March 13, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      Modern roads made of concrete, especially asphalt, probably wouldn’t last the sands of time. Parts of Route 66 or even the old scenic Columbia Gorge Hwy, offer examples, I think. What about Roman roads? Never saw one firsthand. Made of stone, is my impression. Much more difficult for plants to grow and break up stone.

      Who knows, about the sitting president. Can a guy that builds huge hotels, and completes for cheap, the refurbishing of an ice rink in NYC, successfully restore a lot of the ‘in need of repair’ U.S. road, highway and bridge infrastructure? A lot of people want to think so. If he can make it pencil out, he might do it. Somehow, him being able to get labor cheap, might persuade him.

      Where in past, has the U.S. been able to get labor on the cheap? Raise your hands, China, Mexico, Japan, and a lot of European countries from where millions of people immigrated, and needing jobs, did great things for the U.S. and themselves.

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      • Smokey Bear March 13, 2017 at 3:38 pm

        It’s a good thing that he has experience watching the pennies on his projects. If he can save some taxpayer money that will be good.
        He can get all the cheap labor he wants from right here in the USA. Tighten up requirements for getting government assistance and there may be a few million willing to work for low wages.

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        • wsbob March 13, 2017 at 5:31 pm

          “…Tighten up requirements for getting government assistance and there may be a few million willing to work for low wages.” s bear

          I wonder if that would ever happen…the ‘willing to work for low wages’ part. There has always been people as immigrants from other countries, willing to work for less wages than U.S. citizens have been willing to work for.

          Blocking immigration, drying up the source of cheap labor in the U.S. sounds like it would drive up the bottom rung labor wage in this country. If the wage is good enough, and there are no other available jobs, people with very little money here in the U.S, might somehow work into the sitting pres’s plan to rebuild the U.S. infrastructure for cheap.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. March 7, 2017 at 9:14 am

    I have zero faith that anything will be done at the national level for cycling and believe it is not worth pursuing in Washington. We are in damage control as a nation and cycling is about the lowest thing on my mind in that regard. Congress is too busy stripping away our rights and health insurance to care about improving cycling.

    Advocacy can and should be at the local and state levels instead, where elected officials are far more receptive to it. This applies to pretty much everything else as well. Grassroots, local-focused advocacy seems far more likely to affect positive change than anything coming top down from the federal level.

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    • rick March 7, 2017 at 9:19 am

      How about caps over inner-city interstates? Removing inner-city freeways in the rust belt?

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    • Smokey Bear March 7, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      As JFK said: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
      You’re right in saying there is way too much dependency on government – particularly the federal government. Make change happen at the local level.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 12:42 pm

        However imperfect, government represents the collective effort of the people, and is the appropriate forum for solving problems that other organizations are ill suited for (security, infrastructure, social safety net, environmental protection, protection of liberties, etc.)

        Cycling infrastructure strikes me as a well suited for local/county/state level solutions, but falls well within even the most constrictive interpretation of the role of those levels of government.

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        • Smokey Bear March 7, 2017 at 7:00 pm

          Agree – bike stuff should mostly be local. If the state wants to use dollars they get from the feds for bike stuff, that’s probably OK.

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  • rick March 7, 2017 at 9:18 am

    The 2015 Supreme Court ruling on rails-to-trails was horrible.

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    • Smokey Bear March 7, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      What was the ruling?

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  • Mark smith March 7, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Oregon and Washington are going to have to pick up the slack on multimodal spending. Of course, I think bike thinking Oregonians truly realize their state is far more tied to the car/truck/semi than they realized.

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    • Smokey Bear March 7, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Well, since our food is delivered by trucks/semis, it is true that we are dependent on them. And most of us get to work by car, so yup, we need those also.

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      • Pete March 12, 2017 at 8:34 pm

        Yup, to heck with the fact that diesels put out 20% more particulate contaminants than gas engines, and most drivers now have to sit in longer and longer traffic delays due to this mindset we “have to” drive to work and that traffic is caused by someone else, so I’d venture to guess the costs of driving (and supportive infrastructure) far outweigh the costs of congestion mitigation, but the argument always frames active transportation as being “subsidized” instead. Lung cancer has experienced a dramatic increase in this country, even as smoking has declined, but who knows why? It’s a mystery!

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty March 12, 2017 at 10:21 pm

          Lung cancer rates and mortality in the US have been falling, across all groups.


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          • Pete March 13, 2017 at 9:49 am

            My bad. Lung cancer declines are largely attributed to cigarette smoking bans.

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        • wsbob March 13, 2017 at 12:38 am

          “…this mindset we “have to” drive to work…” pete

          Not everyone has that mindset, or the option of driving being their only realistically practical way they can get to work. Today, a whole lot of people do need to drive though. The freeways and highways are filled with them, traveling from city to city and back for work. With a seemingly ever growing population, absence of motor vehicle congestion on the city to city road travel system doesn’t to be something that’s going to be reduced any time soon.

          People do ride from city to city in the Willamette Valley, but due to the distance, most people aren’t going to be able to do that. Within cities, many people that aren’t riding to and from their jobs, could, and it’s always good to keep working for infrastructure that would make inner city bike trips, more practical and enjoyable.

          Might happen, but I have a hard time thinking that the sitting president, trump, could bring himself to seriously care about working to resolve some of the problem of motor vehicle related road congestion, by encouraging biking through the provision of much better biking infrastructure than currently exists.

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          • Pete March 16, 2017 at 10:38 pm

            I work mostly from home now, except on Thursdays when I drive to my office over 40 (highway) miles away, mid-morning after traffic subsides and I finish calls with our Grenoble, Barcelona, and NY offices. So yes, my rationale is that I have to drive, but believe me I’d love to be able to bike 50+ (by bike) hilly miles in less than two hours between meetings. Moving would be an expensive option easily overcome by taking a different job closer to home (at a likely pay raise even), but I love what we do and who I work with.

            It’s a reverse-commute on highway 680 where who knows how many thousands of people sit for 3+ hours each day driving from Pleasanton, Dublin, Tracy to their south bay jobs at Apple, Google, Cisco, Marvell, nVidia, and hundreds of other tech companies. When I drive back at 8, sometimes 9 PM there is still gridlock as far as the eye can see. Those people initially saved maybe $200-300K on the price of their homes years ago, but who knows at what costs to themselves and society.

            Meanwhile here in the south bay there are literally thousands of young, fit, intelligent people working in tech jobs anywhere from 2 to 15 miles from their homes, with wide, well-marked bike lanes (and a network of Class 1 trails), flat terrain, and mild, sunny weather almost all year around. Probably tens of thousands. Why they choose to drive boggles my mind. My favorite saying is that bike commuting is the best kept secret in silicon valley. When I moved here in ’09 and worked locally I had several times where coworkers half-jokingly told me they would run me off the road the next time they saw me catch up with and pass them, waiting through several cycles of expressway lights even though we left the office together a half-hour previous and they were just driving at 70 MPH down the highway to get there. Why most of my colleagues even drove into the office at rush hour just to dial into calls with people in other countries and states also boggled my mind.

            But that’s the thing about human minds… we rationalize. I firmly believe our most powerful skill is being able to swiftly and unconsciously justify our actions, especially as a collective. Call me crazy but I think it even got us near the top of the food chain. That someone “has” to do something is a thoroughly relative concept, especially with where we sit in Maslow’s hierarchy these days.

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            • wsbob March 17, 2017 at 10:08 am

              For a long time, the big american dream has been to have a quiet place far removed from the negative aspects of the city. Even so in NYC, where some of its commuter congestion problem is handled with a far larger capacity interurban rail system than the Portland area will likely be able to even dream about for who knows how long. Even with rail, a lot of people are spending a lot of time on their commute, everyday.

              More of a vertical city, might be able to counter some of the commuter congestion arising from excessive motor vehicle use, if people thought they could be happy living that way…but there are complications to that kind of community design and living, too.

              I would like to see just once, out here in Beaverton, or one some of the yet undeveloped land reserves surrounding Portland, people put their heads together and at least conceive a town in which in-town and some extra-town travel infrastructure is engineered strongly in support of travel by bike. Basically, I’m thinking of something, 20′ wide, 10′ for one lane in each direction, not usable with motor vehicles, and ideally, a 100′ or 50′ at least, distanced from parallel roads used with motor vehicles. Connecting points within a 5 mile radius township, and also connecting to as many surrounding towns or cities as realistically possible.

              It’s initially just an idea on paper. I don’t see what’s so scary about an idea on paper…but it seems that not many people are able to seriously wrap their minds on such an idea. Especially with dollars and cents entering into the picture.

              People can get very comfortable doing the same old thing, day after day, even if it’s something as life wasting as spending hours every day in freeway gridlock. As long as they can pay their bills and take care of their family. That’s number one priority. They’ll endure all kinds of arduous periods throughout the day, week, etc, as long as they can honor that priority. So time sitting in traffic is not really life wasting…it’s worth it. For an alternative to become a realistic option preferred by all these people stuck in daily motor vehicle congestion, alternatives have to be shown that they really are better than comfortably inching along in very comfortable motor vehicles on the freeway during rush hour.

              Cars today are so good…that’s actually a contributing problem to motor vehicle road use related congestion, I think. If cars were all open compartment, no side or back windows, hard seats, no heat or air conditioning…sitting in the daily stop and go traffic congestion might have a lot of reasonably fit people thinking that pedaling along on a bike might not be such a bad idea, even when the weather is a little rainy or hot. But the nation has to sell cars…that’s a big part of the economy…so we make them as comfortable as can be, as well as, as fast and exciting as they can be.

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  • 9watts March 7, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    “Do we need just one strong and unified ‘voice for cycling in America’? ”

    I certainly hope not. At times when it seemed (at least to me) that there was something like one voice it seemed rather tilted toward recreational rather than transportational cycling. My sense is that as long as we in the US don’t outgrow the culturally still rather firmly entrenched view of cycling as discretionary, recreational, we’re not going to stand a chance on any of the fronts we transportational/post auto folks may champion.

    biking in tough times (always these days since we put all our money toward either the military or debt service) is very hard to defend when those attacking it can paint it as discretionary, frivolous, rich people’s diversion.

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  • soren March 8, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I’m excited to see People for Bikes develop into a national organization.
    I also suspect that their city rating system will not rank Portland as a “platinum” city:


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  • LACyclist March 11, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    The current administration is a boon to cyclists and should be more bike friendly than the last. VP Pence is a cyclist and loves group rides too. Neither Obama or Bidden were into it. Focus needs to be on Pence. Some City bike organizations have invited Pence to their city to lead a future ride. Also the House of Representatives Whip, Kevin McCarthy of California is a major cyclist and has supported bike planning in his jurisdiction for many years. The future for cyclists is bright in DC, much more so than the last administration. You just got to know who to tap first in DC. And who knows, maybe when things settle down we may get a photo of Trump on a bicycle…On behalf of Trump: “Cycling is HUGE!”

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    • 9watts March 13, 2017 at 8:23 am

      “VP Pence is a cyclist and loves group rides too.”

      This doesn’t sound like a transportational cyclist to me. Group rides are great, but hardly what we need to be focusing on in a climate constrained world.

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    • Pete March 13, 2017 at 9:42 am
    • El Biciclero March 13, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      “Cycling is HUGE!”

      “I love bikes, bike people—beautiful, very special people. I have a great relationship with the bike people; they just need to respect our roads by staying off of them. We’ve given bicycles, the bike people—beautiful people—we’ve given them plenty of places—fantastic places, by the way, some of the best places—for riding their bikes. We have trails, parks—wonderful places. But there are those few—maybe not so few, but a few—I don’t know if they’re completely right in the head—who insist on riding their bikes where they don’t belong. Every time one of these sick individuals tries to pretend, I don’t know, what—like their bike is a car? Is that what they think? America is getting ripped. off. Big time, Big league. We’ve allowed these freeloaders to clog our roads for decades now, and guess what? Can you guess? Not one of them has paid a single penny—that’s right, folks, not a single penny—toward building any of the roads they think they can just hog up for free. Well, folks, that. ends. right. now.”*

      *Not an actual quote from DT.

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      • Smokey Bear March 13, 2017 at 5:11 pm

        Fake news.

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        • El Biciclero March 13, 2017 at 9:13 pm

          Hey, maybe I should do like *rump and just tweet unfounded allegations of wack-a-doo conspiracies and see if they show up on Breitbart as “news”. At least I’m expressly stating that my parody is parody.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty March 13, 2017 at 10:19 pm

            I mean seriously. The guy is our president. There is no evidence he tweets unfounded allegations that are then picked up by Breitbart. On the contrary, his wack-a-doo conspiracies seem to come from Breitbart.

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            • Adam
              Adam March 14, 2017 at 12:33 am

              Not my president.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty March 14, 2017 at 12:45 am

                Who is your president? Maybe this one is just a temporary stand in while your president is on vacation or something.

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            • El Biciclero March 14, 2017 at 2:59 pm

              “On the contrary, his wack-a-doo conspiracies seem to come from Breitbart.”


              …or maybe voda/vodka? One conspiracy theory deserves another…

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      • Pete March 16, 2017 at 10:44 pm

        Whoa! That is EXCELLENT!! Alec Baldwin, you have competition…

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    • markbikes March 13, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      Secretaries LaHood and Foxx were strong supporters of Complete Streets, Vision Zero, bike share, strong MPOs, and Environmental Justice. We should be thankful that Obama was never a vocal supporter of ours, because as was demonstrated repeatedly during his time office, anything he was for, Congressional Republicans were against.

      Trump has appointed a transportation secretary who is going to focus on mega projects. Even if a Republican did give a shit about biking the party line will forever be: bikes are nice things but there’s no federal role in funding bike-related projects.

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  • Smokey Bear March 13, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Donald Trump once owned a bike race, the Tour de Trump. It only lasted a few years, but at least he took the risk of putting the USA on the world cycling map.


    I’m not worried about how he will affect cycling – if he gets a significant chunk of the infrastructure bill he wants, I suspect states will spend some of it on bike lanes, etc. Will most be spent on car lanes? Yes, so what? More folks use car lanes than bike lanes.

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    • dwk March 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      Tell me all about he “infrastructure” bill he wants.
      You have no idea and either does he…
      What a joke, both of you.

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      • LACyclist March 13, 2017 at 10:57 pm

        OMG! It’s going to be HUGE! dwk.
        A fresh bicycle path running along the new Wall between the United States and Mexico. You will be able to cycle from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas and then up the coast of Texas over to New Orleans. What a great city NO is.

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        • Smokey Bear March 13, 2017 at 11:37 pm

          Actually, there probably will be an access road of some kind along the border (may be one already). This could actually be a good place to do some bike camping!

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          • Pete March 22, 2017 at 2:34 pm

            The drones will keep you awake at night.

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      • Smokey Bear March 13, 2017 at 11:42 pm

        All I know about it is what I read in the O. Said the administration had requested project proposals from all the states. Here’s a NYT article on it:


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  • John Wetmore March 16, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I didn’t attend the summit, but I did go along on the visits to Congress. My message was that we need to be vigilant to defend what we have from the highways-only crowd for the next few years. The staffer said one helpful thing we could do is give them a heads-up if attempts are made to sneak an anti-bike provision into an unrelated bill — it can sometimes be tough to catch a seemingly innocuous, but actually quite harmful, provision buried on page 831 of a 1,000 page bill.

    The budget that came out today has substantial cuts to transportation. The cuts seem to reflect a highways-only view of the world. I have never heard Trump say much about bicycling except when he said he would never get on a bike while criticizing Kerry for riding a bike.

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  • Jeff Potter March 17, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Any thoughts or insights — ideally based on facts or experience — about the topic of this article? Such as whether united cycling advocacy gives cyclists their best chance or does competition and maybe variety and diversity of approaches?

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    • El Biciclero March 18, 2017 at 11:33 am

      I did a G**gle search for “successful lobbying” and found a few things. The most interesting one was a BBC article from last January in which they spoke with a few representatives of the NRA. The NRA has some unique advantages in that they can use The Constitution as a rallying point—and who can argue against the constitution, right? They also have latched onto the symbolism of guns as representing freedom and independence, which unfortunately it appears the car marketers have already co-opted: cars = freedom, bikes = “war on cars” -> bikes = “war on freedom”. So that’s a bummer.

      Also very interesting was the last statement in the BBC article, by professor Brian Anse Patrick, who “is an expert on American gun culture and teaches courses in propaganda and communication”, according to the article. The role of media and propaganda cannot be ignored. In my opinion only, rather than coming at it from an underdog position, where we acknowledge that cars are essentially superior, “but hey, come on, you guys—bicyclists and pedestrians are people, too!”, we need to portray bicycling, walking, and transit as superior forms of patriotic transportation. Driving as the new smoking, and all that. Unfortunately again, with cheap gas and climate-change deniers going all the way up to the oval office now, that’s going to be another tough one.

      But more to your original question, one of the other aspects of the NRA’s success has apparently been the diversity of organizations that hew to the same values as the NRA, e.g., local/state gun organizations, etc. So it might appear that having more organizations all lobbying for the same kinds of things might be more effective than a single, large organization. In that sense, I would hate to see “pedestrian” organizations fighting with “bicycling” organizations over the proverbial scraps. Active transportation (bike/walk/transit) and transportation “safety” organizations seemingly need to find a way to support each other and rally around a few key items. But it really appears that when it comes to active transportation, we have an image problem to overcome, especially since many of the things active transportation lobbyists might argue for are dollars for infrastructure (as opposed to, e.g., new laws)—dollars which could easily be seen as taken out of the pockets of those who would otherwise want to build more freeways to enhance our “freedom”. Plus, despite high-profile proponents like David Byrne, Earl Blumenauer, et al., those who want to not use cars so much are still seen as poor, insignificant, or “DUII losers”. Also, having a car, or a nicer car, is still viewed by many as a symbol of success. The entrenchment of cars = identity has to be undone to a large enough extent before non-car transportation alternatives might be seen as reasonable. It might take until the next generation for that to happen.

      I didn’t really fully explore it, but what also looks like a great resource is OpenSecrets.org.

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  • Pete March 22, 2017 at 2:33 pm
  • Eugene Schmitz June 5, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    One hook that advocacy (bicycle) groups may have with T-rump would be that he doesn’t drink and has a real (negative) thing about drunk driving – – told one of his “apprentice” contestants, who was absent with leave because of a “personal matter”, that he would have fired her if he’d known she was going to court on a DUI charge. Traditionally, of course, how to deal with DUI is up to the individual state. But he may be willing to Tweet about how states need to get TOUGHER when it comes to drunk drivers. You never know; couldn’t hurt. 🙂

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    • Tim Potter June 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

      Brilliant point Eugene. Perhaps expand the request to “drugged” and “distracted driving” while we’re at it and that could potentially cut a majority of the fatalities of ALL road users not just us vulnerable road users.

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