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The Monday Roundup: Smog-eating bikes, ‘clueless’ Boston mayor, bus-only lanes and more

Posted by on May 22nd, 2017 at 10:17 am

This week’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by The Pioneer Century. Coming up on June 3rd, this is a classic Oregon ride that should be on everyone’s list. Register online today!

Here are the best stories we came across last week…

Smog-eating bikes: We always hear that “bicycling improves air quality,” but this is something completely different.

Boston’s “Clueless” Mayor: Marty Walsh is taking heat from bicycle advocates in Boston because of comments he made radio show that included this zinger: “You can’t be running across the middle of the street. You’ve got to understand — cars are going to hit you.”

Media response: A Boston Globe op-ed columnist responded to Mayor Walsh’s comments with: “If you’re driving in a crowded city, it’s your job not to hit anybody.”

Activists response: Boston has a vibrant bike scene and activists there responded to the Mayor’s comments by placing comic cutouts in bike lanes.

The e-MTB takeover: An e-bike industry rep made the bold claim that battery-powered mountain bikes will soon outnumber those without power.

Sneaker subsidy: Free parking is evil. One form it takes is when people get free parking at work. Legislation in DC would require that employers who do this must offer to pay the equivalent amount in cash.

Bus lanes spreading: While Portland’s effort for bus-only lanes continues to bloom, the city of Baltimore has proposed a network of them.

Not a new idea: When people call this bus-only stuff a “war on cars,” help them remember that prioritizing mass transit over single-occupancy vehicles has been enshrined in American planning since the 1950s.


Slowly but surely: We need to move faster to upgrade bike access in America; but the gains we’ve made so far have already paid big dividends according to a new study of infrastructure in 10 cities (including Portland).

Biking while black: This is a good rundown of recent headlines and enforcement statistics that makes a compelling case that police unfairly target people of color when they are riding bicycles in certain neighborhoods.

Time Square (planning) tragedy: An account of the “not unusual” vehicular assault in Times Square from Streetsblog NYC.

Dooring death: We don’t hear about fatalities from dooring very often, but it unfortunately still happens.

Louisville boondoggle: Oh look, a state spent $2.4 billion (with a “b”) on new highways and all they got was a bunch of empty pavement.

Protection on the cheap: Don’t ever let a politician or agency staffer tell you protected bike lanes are too expensive. People for Bikes has a rundown of some quick-and-dirty options.

The power of one: One woman in Calgary was so convinced bicycles would change children’s lives that she set up shop in her kitchen, fixed up over 100 of them, and gave them to those in need.

In debt to a car: As home loan regulations have tightened, America’s debt has flowed to the wild west of auto loans — and it’s the people least able to afford that are driving around in debt.

Beastmode Mass: We need more sports stars like Marshawn Lynch. The NFL running-back led a huge bike parade through the streets of Oakland on Saturday.

“Close pass mats”: Police forces in the UK are embracing a novel way to educate themselves and the public about close-passing laws: Large mats with true-to-scale measurements.

Thanks to everyone who flagged articles this week.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dan A May 22, 2017 at 10:31 am

    “Protection on the cheap” story lists the Parked Cars option as ‘Protection Level: 5 out of 5’. Does anybody believe that?

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    • soren May 22, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      Not I.

      Car-protected bike lanes in Portland frequently offer no protection at all because there are no parked cars or large gaps in parking (this is especially true for Cully and Multnomah). Moreover, the design of car-protected bike lanes in Portland prioritizes maximization of free/cheap car storage over the safety of people on bikes crossing intersections.

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    • BradWagon May 22, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      Came to comment on that article as well. Disagree with the majority of those protection and durability ratings… For example they rate turtle bumps as better protection then a cast in place curb.

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  • Eric Leifsdad May 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Those smog filters are a great fit for e-bikes in the US if it gives riders cleaner air to breath. I think e-bikes are more likely to be used on smoggier routes and a little extra weight won’t matter.

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    • Eric Leifsdad May 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

      breathe, even

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  • bikeninja May 22, 2017 at 10:51 am

    The story on the poor getting more car loans is only part of the story. The Auto industry has kept itself afloat in the face of increasing unaffordability and a glut of inventory by pushing more and more ridiculous loans. They now offer 8 year cars loans and leases which rely on ridiculous resale values to pencil out. New car sales in the US have been dropping steadily since the begining of the year despite record cash incentives, and a giant avalanche of used cars coming off lease is heading down the slope to wreak havoc on the industry, and those trapped within its evil tentacles.

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  • John Lascurettes May 22, 2017 at 11:12 am

    My employer offers a parking subsidy (for which they get a full tax write-offs), a monthly transit pass, or a walking/biking stipend. They only get $20 of write-off for the stipend (thanks Blumenauer for at least that), but at least they are indeed putting money where the companies values are (or were, as we’re going through a buyout with a company from Austin). The disproportionate reward for driving for all parties is totally backwards though.

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    • John Lascurettes May 22, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Oh, and I’ve used that monthly stipend to justify keeping all kinds of bike gear in good condition. Still cheaper than a regular oil change on the car.

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    • BB May 22, 2017 at 11:27 am

      It’s interesting the priorities some companies choose. I work for a company in the heart of Seattle’s south lake union neighborhood – one of the busiest pieces of land in the pacific northwest for both foot traffic and car traffic thanks to poor urban planning. The company offers our car driving employees a free parking space, the equivalent cost of which would run about $300 a month. Those who use transit or bike to work are on their own – no stipend for a bus pass, no subsidy for bike maintenance, no bike parking inside or out on the street. The company is also managed by people who refuse to add a bicycle to a delivery fleet that only stays within seattle city limits, while at the same time they never leave their wealthy suburban enclaves for fear of the terrible traffic in the city.

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      • Dave May 22, 2017 at 11:52 am

        Wow, I’m familiar with downtown Seattle; your company’s policy is pretty crazy!

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        • BB May 22, 2017 at 1:10 pm

          It is! However it’s not a historically unusual approach and is indicative of American car culture in general, heavily influenced by failing policies of the last century that people in control refuse to let die. There are major large corporations that occupy the same area as the six person shop I work, and at 5 pm every road that leads to the freeway is gridlock to the point that there are traffic control cops hired just so people can drive their cars out of the corporate parking garages.

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          • Stephan May 22, 2017 at 4:14 pm

            I liked the two skeptical positions in the article. No 1: “But my business sense is that we really have to also understand what it means to have the District start to become more involved in the interaction between employer and employee.” No 2: “If somebody was offering $250 or whatever the benefit is, that would be fantastic. I also think there’s no such thing as a free lunch. It sounds too good to be true.” None of them are substantive points (Isn’t the current policy of subsidizing cars not a form of interacting between employers and employees? And the other remark is just a general platitude), but we’ll put them in the article nonetheless.

            I also found it amazing that the article does not bring up one obvious way to use the money: pay a higher rent to live closer to work! The current system works the opposite: it subsidizes living farer away from work and commuting in by car, and therefore encourages just that.

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        • GlowBoy May 22, 2017 at 10:55 pm

          Crazy but not even remotely unusual.

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  • dan May 22, 2017 at 11:25 am

    E-MTBs…outrageous. They should be restricted to motorbike trails. Next we’ll have people riding Segways on hiking trails because they help even out differences in fitness.

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    • Craig Giffen May 22, 2017 at 11:58 am

      I’m concerned both as a hiker and as a mountain biker. Once the barrier of entry becomes lower, the amount of trail poaching will increase too.

      Even on trails where mountain bikes are allowed, anyplace in the mountains that is accessible by motor is also completely trashed.

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      • GlowBoy May 22, 2017 at 10:54 pm

        Agreed. E-MTBs are going to get us all kicked off the trails unless we draw a really hard line that they are MOTORcycles, even when the motor has as little as 1hp of output. Funny how that guy had absolutely nothing to say about trail stewardship or what sort of trails would be suitable for e-MTBs. Maybe a few downhill areas, but that kind of horsepower is going to tear up the trails just like motorcycles do. You want to ride offroad with a motor? Then ride where other people with motors ride offroad, and stay off the nonmotorized trails.

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        • Alex May 31, 2017 at 11:20 am

          E-mtbs don’t tear trails up like motorcycle – it sounds like you haven’t ridden one. I am currently in Europe and they have become quite popular here. We rented some and rode them on trails – and I am fit enough (2 days prior we did 20 miles with over 5000ft of climbing on mtbs without motors). The ones that are popular here are all pedal assist and don’t “tear” trails up like a moto. They also don’t descend like a DH bike (we rode the Leogang park, including the world cup course, a few days prior on proper dh bikes). I am sure this will change as the tech shrinks.

          To be honest, I really didn’t enjoy riding the emtb downhill that much – and I much preferred the pedal uphill than to either the ebike or the lift assisted days in the park or shuttles (which I have done in a number of countries on quite a number of occassions). That being said, I get understand why people like it and I understood it more after I did it. I honestly would prefer to have some separation ebikes, mtbs and hikers – or limited shared usage. Just like I would prefer in FP.

          All in all, I would rather see ebikes gain in popularity and cars decrease in popularity. I would promote that every day. It’s cleaner, requires less infrastructure and is much more fun than driving a car. If we can build dirt trails for them to commute on, even better. We can figure it out.

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    • Jon May 22, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      Keep in mind the article references an industry rep that works for the main company that makes electric motorcycle drives (aka ebike). He was not a trail rider but a trials rider (jumping around obstacles like Danny MacAskill). This rep wants to see more electric motorcycles because that is his job. Luckily just because he wants it that does not mean it will come true. I do a lot of biking on trails and have only come across one person on an electric motorcycle on a non-motorized trail. I told the rider that that motorized vehicles were prohibited on the trail and continued on my way. I will never support motorized vehicles on non-motorized trails. We need to stop calling these things ebikes and call them what they are – electric motorcycles. There is no difference between an electric motorcycle and with pedals and putting a 500cc gas motor on a bicycle and calling it pedal assist. They are both motorized.

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      • Ebiker May 22, 2017 at 2:47 pm

        FYI. Bike-lane legal ebikes are not considered motor vehicles. ORS 814.405.
        That means 1 kW or less and 20 mph max. That is very very different from a 500cc gas motor.

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        • dan May 22, 2017 at 4:25 pm

          Looks like Class 3 ebikes can hit 28 mph while pedaling and are bike lane legal in OR? Like I’ve observed with ebikes on city streets, I anticipate that many users will be able to generate speed in excess of their abilities. It will be pretty awesome when someone is hooning one of those uphill and someone else is coming downhill fast on the same trail.

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          • Ebiker May 22, 2017 at 4:54 pm

            Looks like where? I don’t see anything about a “Class 3 ebike” or “28 mph” in ORS.

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        • SE Rider May 22, 2017 at 4:56 pm

          And road ebikes are different from off-road ebikes in that the surface the operate on can be damaged in different ways.

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      • SE Rider May 22, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        I guess it’s hard for a trials rider to imagine that some of us actually like pedaling uphill. Even on challenging terrain (something many places in Oregon still haven’t figured out).

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    • wsbob May 22, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      “E-MTBs …” dan

      Some of the downhill mountain bikers will probably love them; they won’t have to pedal back up the hill or shuttle for another run. I have no idea how many, but do expect some of the people out there with disabilities making biking very far, difficult, already have been using some form of e-bike to get off road.

      By the way, while a 500cc motorcycle engine isn’t huge, it’s not small either. Take off a zero: 50cc has been a more typically sized displacement for trail bikes. Honda and other companies sold a lot of them back in the day. Now? I don’t know, but 50 is plenty of power to get somewhere if top end and 0-60 mph isn’t the main priority.

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      • Brian May 22, 2017 at 4:14 pm

        Not likely. It’s still a 40+ lb bike that would require pedaling back up the hill with all of your gear. Additionally, how much abuse can a battery-powered mtb take? DH bikes take a beating.

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      • Kyle Banerjee May 23, 2017 at 10:01 am

        E-bikes are misnamed. They are properly mopeds even though that label is associated with internal combustion motors.

        Although a lot of talk is made of “assist,” even a weak e-bike produces more sustained power than all but the strongest riders. If we’re honest, most of the e-bike market seems aimed at people who don’t ride and don’t really want to rather than those who genuinely need assist or a gateway drug to full pedal power. While e-bikes may be a good powered form of person transport, electric MTB’s belong on courses rather than on trails with hikers.

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        • Trikeguy May 23, 2017 at 11:38 am

          Couldn’t agree more about calling 750W to 1kW an “assist”.

          OTOH – when I get older (maybe 60 – I turn 50 tomorrow) I might consider a 250W crank based assist for my commuter. The kind that can be set to only give a percentage of input power. Even 50% assist would flatten hills quite nicely 🙂

          The really pleasant route from where I live to downtown has a lot of climbing, and I’ve discovered during my illness and recovery that I really don’t enjoy the flatter route as much.

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  • Kyle Banerjee May 22, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Smog in some areas is a serious matter — I honestly believe exercise could be bad for you in some places. I am curious what the filter actually gets. For example, can it filter poisons as well as particulates?

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    • soren May 22, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Vehicle particulate and VOC emissions are almost certainly the single biggest health risk I face. It’s one of the many reasons I am unabashedly anti-low-occupancy vehicle.

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    • Pete May 22, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      I live in a smoggy area now and couldn’t argue that. There are times I cough up brown phlegm after riding home during a “spare the air” day. Particulate Matter (PM) is a serious issue that the freight industry continues to fight, especially as the EPA continues to tighten requirements (look up “epa tier 4 diesel”), and another problem with ULSD is it burns engines prematurely (if you drive a diesel, alternate or mix B5-B20 bio-fuels in with the ULSD you get from most pumps!). The hydrocarbons we test our cars for when we ‘smog test’ them are bad, too, but primarily because they damage the ozone layer. PMs are far worse on our lungs!

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  • BradWagon May 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm
  • Todd Boulanger May 22, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    As for dedicated Bus Lanes on the Hawthorne…there have been earlier suggestions for using the outside travel lanes for bike traffic only. In the peak bike months, I would (guess) expect that there would be greater demand and safety benefits (separation from peds) for bike access vs bus access. (I am assuming the proposal does not route every east west bus route on over the Hawthorne.)

    Perhaps we can share it: dedicated bus lanes (November to April) and dedicated bike lanes (May through October)? Then do the math and see what works…what do you say Multnomah County?

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    • Beeblebrox May 23, 2017 at 2:41 am

      This wouldn’t work because buses are unable to use the inner lanes on the Hawthorne bridge due to insufficient width and clearance issues. Buses must always be allowed on the outside lanes. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

      Personally, I don’t think the bike and ped issues across the Hawthorne are much of a “real” problem. A simple stripe down the middle would probably be sufficient. The only reason more width would be “needed” is so fast bike riders can pass slow ones. Having visited the Netherlands a couple times, I observed that they make no such provision. Everyone is expected to ride at a reasonable pace, and passing lanes are rarely provided. Portland bike riders just need to learn to slow down (just like drivers, truckers, motorcyclists, etc) and all get along.

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  • B. Carfree May 22, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    I haven’t kept up on dooring deaths and injuries in several years, but when I was paying attention Chicago had some data that indicated 23% of all cyclist deaths and injuries were from being doored and later the SF Bike Coalition said that being doored was the number one cause of injuries to cyclists that involved cars in SF. Dooring has always been a serious threat and will continue to be one as long as people ride in the door zone.

    Which bring me to the crux of the issue. Why are traffic engineers even allowed to put bike lanes in the door zone? Sure, one can ride past thousands of cars without being doored, but if one insists on riding in the door zone one will eventually win the door prize. I’ve had over a thousand doors open as I rode past, which is why I never ride in the door zone. If some idiotic traffic engineer put a bike lane in the door zone, I consider it to be a hazardous condition that allows me to legally ride outside the bike lane.

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    • Greg May 23, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Yes! I see a lot of riders hugging the right side up against the parked cars. Bike lanes really need that riders need to be at the far edge of the lane – away from the parked cars and their doors.

      And we should be doing a better job of tracking those stats…

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  • resopmok May 23, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Frankly I’m rather offended by the notion that I should carry around a device on my bike that cleans up after others’ pollution. Is it not enough that I’m riding a bike already? Maybe we could just modify tailpipes to blow the emissions into the interior of the vehicle instead, thereby reducing the overall number of drivers on the road. Alternatively, people could get serious about not continuing to destroy the planet.

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