What does the Portland Business Alliance think about Better Naito; the city’s reconfiguration of Naito Parkway to include a two-way protected bike lane and sidewalk? It depends on who you ask. Or more precisely, it depends on which of their positions will face more public scrutiny.
The PBA, Portland’s most well-established business lobby group with over 1,800 member companies, has issued two official statements on Better Naito. One came in the form of an op-ed from PBA Board of Directors Chair Jim Mark published in the Portland Tribune on Tuesday; the other came from PBA President and CEO Sandra McDonough in the form of a letter dated May 9th and addressed to Portland Bureau of Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman. I obtained that letter (PDF) via a public records request along with 12 other emails sent to Saltzman’s office regarding Better Naito over the past month.
“We do not support its implementation generally and this summer in particular.”
— Sandra McDonough, PBA President & CEO
The differences in tone and substance between the two PBA statements is striking and illustrates why the organization is struggling to maintain relevance in our growing and changing city.
On Tuesday, Mark (CEO of Melvin Mark Companies, a commercial real estate firm) wrote an op-ed in the Portland Tribune titled, What happens when the ‘City that Works’ can’t get to work?. It was standard fare from an organization who still (in 2017!) thinks free-flowing auto access is the goal of a city that “works”. But while I was ready to cringe at the piece (given the PBA’s legacy of opposition to the City of Portland’s attempts to upgrade biking and walking access downtown), I came away thinking it was actually pretty soft on Better Naito. And in one key way, he (unintentionally perhaps?) even endorsed the need for less driving and more use of other modes.
Here’s an excerpt:
“… there are downsides when multiple construction projects happen at once. Top of that list is increased traffic congestion, and right now Portlanders are being squeezed to a breaking point. As more people and jobs are added to the city, congestion will increase unless there are shifts to other modes of travel. Portland has developed a well-deserved reputation as a multimodal city. With its light rail system, pioneering the return of urban streetcars, extensive network of bikeways and a well-known pedestrian friendly downtown, people far and wide come to learn from Portland’s experience.
But a vibrant economy and a high quality of life for all depend on an efficient multimodal transportation that works for all system users; that includes alternative modes of transportation as well as vehicles and freight trucks. It means everyone who uses the system must have a voice in how any proposed changes may — or may not — work for them, their businesses, families and employees. And it means it is imperative for the city to listen to everyone affected, including those who provide good jobs and keep the economy moving through vehicles and freight trucks.
That’s why the return of the “Better Naito” project, which has closed one northbound auto lane of Naito Boulevard for a bicycle and pedestrian path, is so puzzling — especially given the significant amount of construction activity and road closures in the central city this year. The traffic impacts are resulting in business delays and reports of complaints from employees.
Bicycling for example, is a great alternative, and one we support, that will work for some. However, it is a less realistic option for many including thousands of people for whom that is not an option because of proximity, health, parenting obligations or a host of other individual circumstances.
When implementing important changes to Portland’s transportation system, city leaders must take a more balanced approach and open up public input processes so the needs of individuals are met along with the city’s goals to keep Portland economically vibrant.”
Mark unfortunately equates “those who provide good jobs and keep the economy moving” with people who drive — which is insulting, makes no sense, and yet is a very a common way to insinuate that people who don’t use cars as being the opposite. (Also note that he wrongly assumes that only people in cars are the ones trying to “get to work.”) Despite his best attempt to not appear as if he is anti-bike, Mark can’t resist presenting auto and truck drivers as a separate class of people who are unfairly victimized when a street is significantly altered to improve access for bicycle users and walkers.
Overall though, Mark’s only major beef with the project seems to be that PBOT could have done more robust public outreach.
Then there’s Sandra McDonough’s letter. She didn’t mince words. She directly questioned PBOT’s values and said Better Naito is an example of decisions they’ve made, “that significantly impact the mobility of the many to benefit the few.” McDonough cited transportation surveys conducted by the PBA to make her case that most Portlanders are against better biking and walking infrastructure.
Here’s an excerpt:
When it comes to Better Naito, McDonough makes her position clear: “We do not support its implementation generally and this summer in particular.” “Naito is one glaring example,” she writes, “of projects that seem designed to inhibit mobility for the vast majority of system users.”
She writes that if PBOT wants to improve safety for festival-goers, they could just “close” the lane only during festivals or create an area in the park (not on Naito itself) for people to stand in line.
McDonough is a big fan of her own statistics, but only when they support her narrative. What about the traffic analysis gathered by The Oregonian last year that found the average, peak-hour increase in travel time for northbound Naito was less than two minutes? “It is inconsistent with what we hear from road users,” she wrote. Even the PBA’s own annual business census found that less than half of people who commute to downtown drive alone.
And while McDonough and Mark try to create an illusion of mass complaints about the project, the truth is much different. As we reported last summer, there was strikingly little opposition to Better Naito — even from people who drove on it.
And it’s those same “road users” that McDonough says are victimized by Better Naito because they aren’t “lucky enough” to live downtown or in the inner eastside and have no other choice than to drive: “It does nothing for the thousands of people for whom that is not an option because of proximity, health, parenting obligations, or a host of other individual circumstances.”
McDonough’s comments reveal clear blind-spots. Is she not aware of the high volume traffic that speeds through our city 24/7/365 on major freeways where only those lucky enough to own a car are allowed? Invoking health, income status, and land-use impacts to support driving and criticize a project that vastly improves cycling and walking is mind-boggling.
Fortunately, McDonough’s perspective on transportation isn’t shared by City Hall these days. In his response to McDonough, Commissioner Saltzman strongly supported not just Better Naito, but cycling in general:
“I don’t discount that delays on Naito have been exacerbated by the levels of road, transit and bridge work this season which have increased congestion throughout the Central City…
But I haven’t lost sight of the bigger picture and all the ways Portland has been a victim of its own success in terms of population growth, job growth and tourism. I understand the increased pressure to our roads and the funding challenges to accommodate that pressure. Balancing the growing demands on our transportation infrastructure is not easy and it is not a task that my office nor the staff at PBOT take lightly.
Looking at cities across the country facing similar challenges, it’s clear that there are no silver bullets. And while it might not always be apparent driving Naito at rush hour, Portland’s investments in active transportation are paying off tremendously. According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey, the growth in people biking to work in Portland is outpacing all other modes of transportation. Of the 54,673 new commuters we added from 2000-2014, biking accounted for the majority of those new commute trips. Of course, more people are driving to work as well but we must remember how much more congested our Central City would be if we had not laid this groundwork.
I also understand that it is the decades of public-private partnerships that have made our thriving downtown — with new industries, jobs, and residents — possible. In addition to your letter, we have heard from dozens of business on or near Naito who have expressed their overwhelming gratitude for what Better Naito provides them and their staff to make them feel safe commuting to/from work…”
Perhaps what we’re seeing with these competing statements from the PBA are cracks in their conservative armor. They’re likely feeling heat from the more progressive vision presented by the rising Business for a Better Portland — a group created in large part because the PBA is so out-of-touch.
And it’s worth noting that McDonough is on her way out the door. The Oregonian reported last month that she’ll leave the organization in August. “Portland is changing,” McDonough told The Oregonian, “so the PBA and its leadership will need to adapt.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out Sarah!
If you like Better Naito or dislike the current PBA policy, please add to the dozen emails the Commissioner’s Office has received:
I was scanning the story to see where Sarah Iannarone was mentioned.
“I don’t care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name right!”
PBA News Release: We don’t need this, only those darn newsboys, elevator operators and stable hands ride bikes to work, our members and the real workers of the city who are busy reading ticker tapes, selling magazine subscriptions and developing indoor shopping malls ride to work in horseless carriages.
I had no idea how out of touch the Portland Business Alliance is. Just wow. Our household doesn’t have a car. We are both hard working people blessed with great jobs. We ride bikes, one of us for 8 miles each way, because we care about combating climate change and personal health. It’s insulting the way they tried to create a class divide. There’s no place for that in Portland.
We tried it your way PBA, excess capacity for decades. It doesn’t work. It’s our turn now.
Like trickle down. Ok, you had your idea. When is it supposed to start working? This is the tax cut where it all starts working? This is the widening project that will finally blow it open to carefree motoring?
Great story. Funny this comes up today. I bike commuted from my office in SW Portland to a board meeting in NW Portland yesterday and it was great! The connection between better Naito and Tom McCall park makes the commute safe and fun. Cars have way fewer chances to kill me!
I love this version of it. More road diets, please.
PBA translated “Don’t you hate it when the commoners on the waterfront or the people who live in dirty Portland block your drive home to the burbs?”
What makes it twice as funny is that only people from the burbs go to festivals in waterfront park.
They are rather common though.
Yeah, I think we’d save everyone a lot of travel if the Rose Festival was just held in Gresham.
Take a minute to contact a PBA member organization and let them know PBA’s stances are not consistent with Portland values. Here’s the list: http://weblink.portlandalliance.com/external/wcpages/wcdirectory/Directory.aspx?action=catlist&adkeyword=categorylist
there’s only 1 bicycle business on the list…
How many would you expect? There is also only one grocer, one plumbing business, and one electrician.
you’re funny. Is this Noah’s Ark, minus the females?
Good idea. Look at the Board of Directors, too: http://portlandalliance.com/about/board-of-directors.html
Jeez, one of them is a VP at CH2MHill, which does transportation planning nationally, including for Portland. Doesn’t he know better? You’ve also got the Presidents or Vice Presidents or Directors of the Timbers, Cambia Health Solutions, the Trail Blazers, Nike (Biketown!), Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health System, Moda Health, OHSU, Travel Portland, University of Portland, and Portland State University. All these people know better! They’re certainly not serving Portland very well with those type of demands…
I mean, seriously. I’d be embarrassed if I were those people. Living in a world where the glaciers are disappearing, where our streets are getting overwhelmed with glacier-destroying emitters, where that overwhelming of cars cannot possibly be served by our roadways…Those people all know this and still they–as board members–are unable to make their voices heard resulting in their organization suggesting such claptrap. It’s embarrassing for them.
Of course, it’s also possible that they support the PBA’s position on bicycling. Horrors.
Jonathan, how about interviewing the PBA board? How about also interviewing the Business for Better Portland board. The contrast would be illuminating.
Hey PBOT, take heed from a bumper sticker I saw the other day,” There are no jobs on a dead planet”.
FYI, CH2M Hill is based out of Colorado, not Portland: http://www.google.com/finance?q=CH2M%20Hill&ei=mrgnWeCpO47Ae4mgqqAC
And yet they still manage to engage in plenty of mischief around these parts.
Yes, but it was founded in Corvallis.
Exactly, K Taylor. 🙂 And David: Steven Smith never claimed that CH2MHill was based in Portland. He correctly pointed out that they do a lot of transportation planning in Portland (and other cities).
I’m crafting a very respectful letter of thanks to Dan Saltzman right now! It will include numerous points regarding how important Better Naito is.
I’ll also mention some counterintuitive aspects of transportation planning, such as how prioritizing transportation in the correct order (walking then cycling then transit then freight and then, finally, private auto use) benefits ALL people, including those who have to drive. It’s been proven over and over by now, but it’s *still* not understood by 99% of the general population (and at least 95% of any given city’s elected officials).
Kaiser doesn’t believe in adults riding bicycles, only kids bicycling to school. Kids don’t bike to school on Naito. So their support for PBA and PBA’s criticism of Better Naito aren’t a contradiction.
From Kaiser’s web page, https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/group/thriving-communities/ , “That is why Kaiser Permanente is committed to creating Thriving Communities: safe routes for kids to walk or bicycle to school, neighborhood grocery stores stocked with fresh produce, parks and playgrounds that welcome families, and workplaces that promote wellness and physical activity.”
Does it occur to you that some of these people become involved to try and change the mentality from the inside out? It’s an old, established behemoth of an organization. It doesn’t turn on a dime and there are probably more conversations happening than you may guess. Maybe rather than attack, you can be a support that I showed up to the last PBA annual meeting on my bicycle.
I guess the most productive response would be to encourage your friends who work at these companies to join the PBA Transportation Committee. Any employee of the listed firms is eligible. Tell them to express their interest in joining the transportation committee here: http://portlandalliance.com/membership/committee-interest-form.html It’s where the sausage is made, and a little sunlight goes a long way.
Nicely done, Jonathan. I especially love it when you come out swinging.
“Mark can’t resist presenting auto and truck drivers as a separate class of people who are unfairly victimized.”
#45 is also fond of this kind of white-employed-males-as-victims garbage. Luckily I think most people see through this kind of peevish whining.
some kind of leadership
Ask PBOT for awesome Naito ! NaitoParkway@portlandoregon.gov
Downtown congestion would be mightily relieved if businesses would stop providing parking as a fringe benefit to employees. I have a colleague who has just scored a job downtown, his job is an office job (no work related car travel) but he’ll get free parking so he’ll drive to work. From a public policy perspective, it would be much better if the money given for parking (~$220 per month) were given instead to a transit pass ($100 for 30 days) or a gym membership plus bike parking ($40/month for 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport and free). Free parking is also available at Max stops so the transit pass option doesn’t necessarily mean no car use at all – drive to the Max and take the train the rest of the way.
Low cost parking is a significant part of the problem, if we are serious about discouraging white collar workers from driving into downtown and parking all day, the cost to do so has to increase.
Yes! There was an article recently (Monday Roundup?) about DC working to require the option of such an equivalent subsidy for non-drivers, in cash. Brilliant idea.
Parking Cash Out. Required statewide in California (for leased parking) since 1992 for employers with over 100 employees. Should be required in Oregon, or at least Portland, for at least medium and large employers.
It’s one of PDX Shoupistas’ six parking policy priorities for 2017.
While Parking Cash Out is often intermingled with the federal tax law (as mentioned below), it doesn’t have to be. Employers can offer it, and even if taxed, it’s worth a bunch ($220/month minus taxes, for example).
California’s experience found several things: it was a nice fringe benefit (employers heard lots of positive feedback from employees), it was easy to implement, and new employees took advantage of it more often than existing driver/parkers (loss aversion effect).
Giving driving trips marginal costs like parking can have significant effects (see: “Zero as a special price: The true value of free products”).
It’s driven from the federal level, and has always been terrible tax policy. All commuting incentives should be eliminated, to put everyone on an equal playing field. The parking subsidy has done so much damage to our cities over the past decades.
This is an enlightening read—thanks for this excellent reporting, Jonathan.
There’s an organization on the Westside—the Westside Economic Alliance—whose website lists quite a few members that are also PBA members (including Comcast, Nike, Providence, Synergy Resources Group, Umpqua Bank, Walmart, & more.). But one of WEC’s current featured publications is a 2014 Alta Planning branded PDF that ends with a link to more information at People For Bikes. I hope this means there’s an amity between business and bike lanes on the Westside. I also hope residents can look forward to a growing network of bike infrastructure coupled with more frequent bus service to key business campuses & shopping centers in Washington County. However, as this article examines, there can be a troubling discrepancy between an organization’s public front & their private agenda.
If companies want to signal their undivided public & private support of bikes as transportation, they should look to organizations like the Bike League. That’s just one place I check to see if a business is “bike friendly;” BikePortland.org’s list of sponsors is another.
This is the keystone of motor-first transportation architecture:
drivers == parents/adults; bicyclists == children.
Guess who knows best. Guess who knows “what’s good for you”. Guess who gets to make the rules. This stone needs to be pulled from the structure.
The other false equivalence I hate seeing in these rants-disguised-as-practical-viewpoints? Cars == freight. Hardly.
How can we dispel these two flawed notions?
“How can we dispel these two flawed notions?”
Thomas Kuhn (essentially) said you can’t; you have to wait for those who hold them to die.
Sometimes the convincing force is just time itself and the human toll it takes, Kuhn said, using a quote from Max Planck: “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
I’ve always liked and been depressed by that quote. Sigh – humans.
One way is to walk our talk. Those who call themselves “road users” should use roads. Relegating ourselves to insulated facilities reinforces the notion we don’t belong and severely limits where we can go.
I didn’t see cars being made equivalent to freight in the article — it just states freight is important. And it is. It takes a lot of stuff to service that many people and there needs to be effective ways t move it in. Not sure exactly what that has to do with Better Naito though. I don’t encounter many trucks on that stretch during any time of year.
“Relegating ourselves to insulated facilities reinforces the notion we don’t belong and severely limits where we can go.”
Your definition of “we” is severely limited.
To cyclists. Not sure how that qualifies as severely limited in the context of a cycling blog.
Your ‘we’, as you’ve defined over and over again, is people like you. Not all cyclists are like you. Most are not.
“I didn’t see cars being made equivalent to freight in the article…”
At no time are “vehicles” mentioned without pairing it with “freight trucks”. The latter quote implies that without “vehicles and freight trucks”, there would be no jobs and the economy would stop moving. People tend to agree that without freight movement, business would be severely hampered. So people also tend to agree that freight movement (assumed to by by trucks), should not be impeded. When “freight trucks” are lumped together with “vehicles”, it lends by association the same degree of importance to unimpeded movement of single-occupancy vehicles.
Granted, “we” tend to do the same thing when we say “bicyclists and pedestrians”. Everyone tends to agree that we must “think of the pedestrians” (because everyone is one at some point during the day), and we want people to consider bicyclists just as worthy of consideration.
Regarding using roads vs. “facilities”, I share your concern that increasing segregation of bicyclists into “protected” infrastructure will erode our perceived (or even actual) right to use all roadways. The law is already written to disallow use of the regular street if there is a “bicycle lane or path adjacent to or near the roadway”. In such locations, your right to use the street depends on whether the adjacent or near path has passed a hearing that determines its suitability for safe for use at “reasonable rates of speed”. To me, “reasonable” means the speed limit of the adjacent roadway, or 30 mph, whichever is lower. I would bet that to anyone involved in a public hearing to determine the fitness of a particular segregated facility would imagine that to be outrageously high, and would instead consider something more like 10 mph to be “reasonable”. The other exceptions to mandatory use are essentially moot in the context of “protected” bikeways, because being allowed to “safely move out of” the lane or path means nothing when you are blockaded into it.
On the roads vs facilities, I agree with your basic definitions — mine are virtually identical. Even when bikeways are clean and smooth, I frequently go into auto lanes for a variety of reasons — all of which are related to staying out of trouble. I have been stopped a few times for taking roads when a MUP or path was provided.
I find that calmly explaining I’m doing the most sensible thing works well. Expecting someone on thin 23mm slicks to ride a bike on something most people would complain about driving a car on is ridiculous as is expecting someone to set themselves up to be doored, hooked, or injured by some other threat.
Better Naito is somewhat interesting in that one of its side effects is to improve flow on the Steel Bridge. I’d love a better way to cross that. Bottom path is too crowded, upper path sometimes has peds (would be less of an issue if the guardrail weren’t there), and upper deck is so gummed up that the path is usually faster. But when the upper deck is not gummed up, the drivers are a little cranky despite the sign indicating cyclists on the bridge.
Is there a list of Portland bike friendly businesses that support inclusive streets.
Not sure. It might start with the adjacent businesses that ask for a bike parking corral.
Yes, thank you Alex. At some point they will have some kind of official “supporter” status for those of us who are only individuals and not businesses.
Expressing concerns about Better Naito hardly qualifies as anti cycling or anti environmental in my book.
Cars idling on the roads and limited to speeds that aren’t even fun to bike at dump all kinds of poisons and greenhouse gases in the air. Constantly seeking ways to get cyclists off roads and onto slow paths that can only be used for trivial distances doesn’t get more people pedaling as a way of getting around.
This year’s iteration of Naito is noticeably better than in the past. But I personally don’t care for it for a variety of reasons. Like many other pictures advocating Better Naito, the one for this story shows a cyclist under threat — even presuming low speeds, those two cyclists have about 1 second to avoid crashing head on. A huge percentage of peds and cyclists display zero judgment, and this behavior is not discouraged in any way. I see dangerous behavior on that segment pretty much every day.
Meanwhile, the waterfront becomes a jam packed and super noisy area rendering one of the few more open and peaceful areas of the city miserable to be in. But somehow, that’s considered a sign of making things more liveable.
“Expressing concerns about Better Naito hardly qualifies as anti cycling or anti environmental in my book.”
It depends no how well you couch your pitch. The quoted pencil neck didn’t manage to thread that needle; his article was a barely disguised, ill-conceived, zero sum rant against the small-minded conception he clearly holds of who people who bike are and what their contributions are to society and its goals.
I read the article — frankly I was expecting much worse.
In any case, it reflects the dominant sentiments I hear expressed. If the goal is to change that status quo, engagement that amounts to more than dismissing such views as backwards is necessary since that just keeps cyclists marginalized.
“If the goal is to change that status quo”
I can’t tell if you share that goal given your use of the subjunctive. Assuming you do, you might want to consider helping.
“more than dismissing such views as backwards”
Not only did you not dismiss them as backwards, you gave him a pass.
I think the issues he raises should be up for discussion and not dismissed out of hand.
And as far as helping goes, I believe identifying common ground that we can build on is far more useful than focusing enormous amounts of energy on a tiny number of high profile spots.
Insisting on total separation and special facilities reinforces backwards attitudes towards bikes among motorists and cyclists alike. Repeating over and over what’s wrong with the cycling environment and telling people how helpless they are rather than helping them learn how to be safe in what’s actually out there and discourages people from cycling while making it much more dangerous.
If you want more people to ride, you need to have an approach that doesn’t rely on people being totally like minded to begin with.
“If you want more people to ride, you need to have an approach that doesn’t rely on people being totally like minded to begin with.”
I agree with this statement. It would help if you did as well.
You must be joking.
I mix well with people regardless of how they feel about cyclists, including when they are expressing anti cycling attitudes. I suspect not many people here can honestly say that.
There would be no cycling in many areas if the attitudes that predominate here were common elsewhere. Traffic in most towns is faster than here, there is little or no infrastructure, and motorists less welcoming.
If you want people to ride, they need to know how to do it safely everywhere, not just in a tiny protected bubble.
“There would be no cycling in many areas if the attitudes that predominate here”
And what are those attitudes? Do you really think of those who comment here as monolithic?
“And what are those attitudes? Do you really think of those who comment here as monolithic?”
The last few years they have become much more monolithic. Much more militantly anti-car, anti-recreational cyclist, and anti-cyclist responsibility. And most people with a dissenting opinion (like Kyle’s) get shouted down, so they just leave.
“Much more militantly anti-car”
Hm. Given all that is going on around us I can well understand why people might militantly question the automatic boosterist cant that surrounds automobility.
“And most people with a dissenting opinion (like Kyle’s) get shouted down”
To reduce my disagreements (and I’ll only speak for myself) with Kyle to a matter of dissent/received opinion is completely untoward. I suspect I dissent with folks here more than many, including Kyle. I don’t object to Kyle’s stance toward the automobile; I object to a variety of other stances his comments evidence: black/white; zero-sum; absolutist, and sometimes ill-considered proclamations.
Which, incidentally, have at times received plenty of upvotes.
A lot of pie in the sky comments here about infrastructure are hilarious.
I am sitting here in Edinburgh, watching as a lot people are cycling around with zero cycling infrastructure, crazy car culture (I know Everthing is better in Europe, right)?
They seem to do a lot of cycling (a huge amount of bike delivery).
Most people who comment here apparently would not ride here.
As far as the mono culture goes, all my comments are moderated, so that is the tolerance for opposing views.
“anti-recreational cyclist” I’m not sure what that means, or what has been said that you think is anti-recreational cyclist. Can you clarify?
anti-rec cyclists = the continued bashing of spandex. The weekend warriors on the Springwater. The guy who ranted in a comment about what a waste of time and how terrible the Rhonde is, being a perfect example.
There is a strong implication here that recreation cycling isn’t “real cycling” and not what this blog is about. (This isn’t coming from Jonathan, but plays out in the comments).
I’ve long been a proponent of differentiating between discretionary, recreational cycling and transportational cycling, which, incidentally most of the politics and 95% of the comments here concern.
I don’t recall the Ronde bashing – that sounds pretty silly. And I’ll admit there are a few voluminous posters who look sideways at people in spandex, but I’m not sure there’s a clear majority or bent here….just the same few people posting over & over again. 9watts, why is this separation important to you? Do you think you’d be able to tell when I’m riding recreationally vs transportationally? I dress and ride the same way for both. I face the same risks. Though I admit I have fewer route choices when heading to work.
The separation is important to me because I see much of the US public (who may not read bikeportland) as being unaware of any sort of biking that is not either what kids do or what some wealthy white folks do for diversion. Given this ignorance, and the cultural history that has informed this view, I think it is incumbent upon us to highlight the extent to which there is another non-frivolous, not-outgrown kind of cycling that isn’t discretionary in all the senses in which biking might otherwise be viewed. Why is this important? Well when it comes to funding, to paying their fair share, to questions of how infrastructure should be shaped or altered.
Much of BP considers bikes themselves to be frivolous. How else to explain the constant snarking every time a new bike is presented on the blog?
I don’t think it’s a good tactic to divide us up into smaller and smaller groups. That’s exactly the kind of tactic ‘the opposition’ uses — split them up into bite-size groups so that each group doesn’t have enough power to get anything done. See: bike tax, singletrack in FP.
I’m not proposing to do that at all.
I’m suggesting that if we don’t, the (inaccurate and for our purposes problematic) identification of bikes with recreation could thwart certain easily enumerated campaigns that have bearing on those whose biking experience is for transportation.
Instead of doing as I suggest how do you propose to address the issue? Or do you disagree that it is an issue.
I don’t think you need to differentiate them so much. Most people start with recreational cycling, which leads to transportational cycling. Encouraging the first (which you don’t seem to place much value in) leads people towards the second, so why not try & stimulate interest in both at the same time?
I don’t think this blog is focused on transportational cycling as much as you think, BTW. Certainly nowhere near 95%. Here are the stories from the past week. Which of these stories are specifically for transportational cyclists?*
Gorge express bus service
Jobs of the week
Killingsworth bike lanes
Sequoia Merz bike
20mph speed limits
Westside bike share
*Spoiler: None of them
“Most people start with recreational cycling, which leads to transportational cycling. Encouraging the first (which you don’t seem to place much value in) leads people towards the second”
Maybe. Though I don’t see anything automatic about that progression. I’m sure it occurs like that, but I also know folks who never did anything recreational on a bike and took it up as adults so they could get around without having to rely on a car, bus, or friends.
You are correct recreational cycling is not a focus of mine because as I see it it doesn’t really need the kind of encouragement, care and feeding that transportational cycling does. Whether people cycle recreationally has little bearing (in my view) on how well we will manage to get around in future without recourse to cheap fossil fuels or an atmosphere that shrugs at absorbing more CO2.
“Certainly nowhere near 95%”
I was careful to say 95% of comments. I am well aware that Jonathan writes many stories that are not about transportational cycling at all, but I have noticed that the comments these stories generate are a vanishingly small fraction of those the articles that focus on everything else (= mostly what I’d classify as transportation-related) do. One can draw any number of conclusions from that asymmetry. All I’m saying is that the kind of cycling that relies on people biking to get somewhere seems to get the juices flowing here on bikeportland.
It seems to me that the stories with the most comments are, unfortunately, the ones where someone has been killed or injured by a someone driving a car. Those stories affect everyone. I don’t know how you could possibly quantify, or even take a wild stab at, what percentage of comments are transportationally vs recreationally related, much less suggest there is a 95% lean.
interesting comment by Jonathan that relates to this little conversation we were having about different subcategories of bikey folk. I wouldn’t have known or guessed this –
“racer-types are usually quite advocacy-averse in my experience.”
If this is really true, it would be interesting to hear the reasons why.
Speaking strictly for myself, I am mostly pro-advocacy when it comes to promoting change in roadway culture, holding people accountable for what they do in their cars, and allowing bicyclists access to direct routes that are not outright hostile to their presence due to crap driving that is ignored by law enforcement. I have a significant degree of hesitation when it comes to advocating for “protection” for bicyclists via physical barricades that ultimately serve to free drivers from responsibility while taking a degree of freedom away from bicyclists. I prefer not to give up freedom for “safety”—especially if that safety is only marginal, while the loss of freedom is substantial. It often seems that we won’t be happy until bicycling is just as miserable as driving in traffic.
“I think the issues he raises should be up for discussion and not dismissed out of hand.”
In principle, sure, but when he is not being constructive or playing with a full deck to begin with it is not clear that this is a useful strategy. Wspob is always suggesting we engage those screwball legislators who propose something nutty ‘to start a conversation’, or engage Bob Huckaby who was going to license bike riding folk. There are opportunities for exploring these issues and there are times when the tone and tenor of the initial communication indicate otherwise—or at least that is how I see it.
That’s because you don’t benefit from the changes. Everyone that walks the waterfront during festival season benefits from the safety and access improvements that this change makes.
And let’s get real here. The changes on Naito have been in place seasonally for the past few years. The only people to blame for idling cars are the drivers that choose to drive on Naito. You are falling for the classic fallacy that road expansion will ease congestion and reduce pollution. The reality is complex. Driving choices change rapidly, and induced demand fills new capacity. The only thing that will reduce pollution in the long run (aside from electric cars) is the reduction in the number of cars driving in the city.
I completely agree with Kyle. I’m very pro-cyclist and regularly bike commute from NE to downtown along the waterfront, but I also don’t like Better Naito. I don’t understand why the City removed a northbound motorized vehicle lane. It should have removed the parking on the west-side of the street. Or, it should have removed the median strip. (Also, are we supposed to stop at all of those traffic lights?) According to the table graph cited in the article, only 5% of commuters travel by bike and the vast majority of commuters rely on some form of motorized transit. If the vast majority of commuters rely on motorized vehicles; then it likely follows that the vast majority of commuters prefer efficient traffic lanes for motorized vehicles.
Perhaps it’s a lofty goal to make downtown commuting less convenient for cars. That goal is likely supported by most people who read this (excellent) blog. Personally, I think that’s a bit short-sighted with self-driving electric vehicles in our future. PBOT’s mission should be to develop safe and efficient transportation solutions for everyone, including the majority of commuters who rely on motorized vehicles and that 5% of us who commute by bike. There is no reason why Better Naito cannot be designed to accommodate both. In my opinion, it should be a funding priority for the PBOT as it is, perhaps, the most important thoroughfare in the City.
“self-driving electric vehicles in our future”
You might be wrong about that.
True; but I doubt it. Are we taking odds?
Where will the millions of self-driving cars be parked? Or serviced? That is a lot of land. Status quo.
It’s not status quo at all. The whole point is it takes a lot fewer cars.
Cars spend 95% of the time parked taking huge amounts of space. With self driving car share, you could theoretically decrease the number of cars by 90% and still have more availability of cars.
You could do almost the same thing with frequent bus service. If you have to share, what’s the difference? You don’t know who was in that car last. The only real difference would be that you might have to walk a bit to/from a bus stop, and you would be sharing with more people at once. Would it save more space?
You’re talking about an ideal, not a likely reality. Automated vehicles will only bring a glorious future of reduced congestion if everyone suddenly becomes a lot more into sharing — or if a leader with a vision imposes a whole lot of rules. Neither of those things seem likely to happen in modern America, and there will be people with lots of money working hard to ensure they don’t.
I see little evidence people are going to stop wanting to own their own vehicles. Americans’ reasons for owning cars – bigger cars than they need! – are incredibly tenuous. I know a guy who owns an SUV just so he never has to move his camping equipment out of it. He is not an outlier.
What I dread is a future with even more traffic moving at even faster speeds and tighter tolerances (this is what happened with planes, when GPS and automation were introduced), in a city terraformed to cater to their unimpeded movement. That means even more incentive to keep pedestrians and cyclists out of the way of the ‘important’ movement of vehicles.
I agree that if we replaced all the cars on the road with a coordinated system of vehicles everyone shared, it would improve matters over what we have now – but it wouldn’t do as much as just improving transit and reducing subsidies to motorists. And anyway, it’s just not going to happen. God is not going to come down in his machine and impose order. It’s just not going to happen.
Oops – didn’t mean to insist it’s not going to happen twice within a single paragraph. But while I’m here, just let me add – it’s not going to happen.
Autonomous cars will play more nicely with autonomous freight, and there’s too much money in autonomous freight for it not to happen.
Better Naito is not just for cyclists. The primary benefactors are pedestrians during festival season. What is your solution, if not Better Naito?
It either benefits Kyle, or it’s not a good idea.
I must have been drunk when I made comments critical of Better Naito. Obviously, temporarily converting a bike path into a wider bike path that people walk on is an incredibly good use of time and money 😉
Kyle, there is a pattern with your repeated criticism of changes that have been made to make newer cyclists feel more comfortable. Maybe you can point us towards something that helps the 8-80 crowd that you’re actually in support of? Something that doesn’t directly benefit you?
I favor designated greenways because they let cyclists and motorists alike know where to expect slower riders and calmer streets. I like greenboxes since they seem to guide both driver and cyclist behavior in crowded situations. I like paint at the sides of roads marking bike paths — I find they help drivers maintain sufficient clearance without the cyclist needing to resort to techniques to force them out. I think I may even like crossbikes because they remind drivers to look for cyclists in busy areas.
All of these things help newer riders both in the moment but they also help them prepare for environments that lack these features since they inevitably involve mixing.
Good answer, thank you.
Not put the festival fences so close to the road. The reason peds walk on Naito is there’s not enough space. Reserve 10′ for that, there are fewer conflicts and instances of unsafe crossing and passing, and the dough saved can make a permanent improvement in a place that matters instead of temporarily converting a perfectly good bike and auto lane into a MUP.
Better yet, not constantly run festivals that wreck what should be a nice park to visit.
Bike Portland is asking the wrong question, instead it’s pursuing an irrelevant agenda with the PBA.
Naito, downtown number streets and the Waterfront Park sidewalks are all well used North-South bike routes to be maintained, measured and improved.
Better Naito is the result of failed park and ped safety planning. Historical curb & street plans did not consider the popularity of Waterfront Park for events. The city makes money off Waterfront Park rental and is loathe to sacrifice land area it rents from the park on the East side of Naito.
The bike route and safe pedestrian routes should be carved from Waterfront Park with ped safety barriers.
The ped safety problem is where the focus should be. Peds at festivals routinely attempt to cross Naito, including with children, mid-block in traffic. The Better Naito bollards are an insufficient ped barrier.
The real discussion should be how the Naito bike raceway interacts with peds, many at festival time don’t understand Naito risks.
There is plenty of room for a paved bike path along the east edge of the park. The bike path would be naturally curb-protected. The festivals would only lose ten feet. Drivers would not lose a lane. Festival trucks would not block this path as they currently block the Better Naito bike lane. It would be a permanent path, not a seasonal path.
Perhaps it’s possible to ask more than one question at a time. My story isn’t about who/what is to blame for the bike/walk infra in this area or what a better design might be. This particular story is about the PBA and their position on Better Naito.
There are many more questions to pursue and we plan to pursue as many of them as we can. Thanks.
What the PBA thinks is irrelevant compared to what on foot, on pedals and alter-abled Portlanders experience. Bike Portland is more powerful with that focus. The councilors are more interested as well. Don’t defend, focus.
“We made a post and we rethought/allowed us to focus our strategy and now we are doing…”
Agreed but that ship sailed only about a decade ago when Naito was rebuilt, PBOT isnt going to tear it up again to fix a 10 year old infrastructure mistake. Clearly a sidewalk should have been built in the park but there are also trees right up to the curb line. The only place is in the street for a path. What really should be done is to rip out the median and relocate the northbound lanes there freeing up the space currently used by Better Naito to become permanent.
The “vast majority of system users” thing really catches her red-handed. Nice get, and nice reporting here.
Thanks for this, Jonathan. I was inspired to write a letter to Dan Saltzman and the Better Naito comment line. Here it is, in the hopes that it will encourage others.
I am writing to state my support and gratitude for the Better Naito temporary infrastructure program.
I am a managerial-level professional who works in downtown Portland and lives in North Portland. I am a parent. I take my daughter to school most days, before heading to work.
I travel to work via bike when possible, but also on the bus and the train. Thanks to our bikeshare program and things like Better Naito, my busy schedule and my parental responsibilities do not prevent me from being able to cycle to work on some days, and to have a pleasant, efficient experience doing so.
Better Naito has made a short but crucial part of my commute easier, faster, and more predictable. I love the festive vibe of the waterfront this time of year, but when I am on my way to work or I need to get going home, I really appreciate the clear route and smooth vehicle movement that Better Naito makes possible.
I am weary of hearing how Better Naito sacrifices the convenience of automobile drivers for the needs of “the few.” I am a driver, too, and a bus rider, and a train user. And a parent, and a busy professional, and an older person with my own health needs and requirements. I am not some footnote of outsider oddness on the city landscape. I am one of us. A “regular person” whose need to get to work safely and efficiently is as legitimate as someone who chooses to drive themselves to work in their car.
And when I choose to ride a bicycle, mine or Biketown’s, I appreciate the infrastructure that makes that choice more pleasant and efficient. When I choose to drive a car, I do so with the acceptance that I am going to spend a few more minutes than usual sitting and waiting in traffic, in my incredibly inefficient, oversized vehicle. These are reasonable tradeoffs that I am willing to make in order to create a more equitable transportation network for all Portlanders and those who visit us.
I have some things I’d like to see improved about Better Naito. I think it’d be easier and clearer to use if it were permanent (gonna dream big here!) and the conflict points were more clearly defined. By this I mean lane usage, rights of way at intersections, and so forth. Additionally, for this as well as all “protected” infrastructure in Portland, I would like to see true separated infrastructure with something stronger than plastic sticks. Jersey barriers, for example, like the ones that magically appear whenever a Navy ship is docked on the waterfront.
But overall I am so, so grateful that Portland is taking these steps, in a way that makes _more_ transportation options available to _more_ people. Regardlesss of what the freight lobby or the PBA think, designing Portland’s infrastructure to accommodate private automobiles will create a _less_ resilient transportation network, not a more resilient one. We’ve seen how our whole city can be shut down at rush hour because of a few inches of snow, or a daredevil driver on Swan Island, or a building fire on Interstate (just to offer some examples from the last six months). This is the mark of a network that needs _more_ flexibility, more choices, more ways to get around. With projects like Better Naito, the City is moving forward toward that goal, and I applaud that effort.
With much gratitude,
Fantastically well done. Thank you.
This is an excellent letter, thanks for sharing!
Greetings from Bellingham:
Having lived through Naito before and after the temporary buffers (I moved to Bellingham before the permanent setup was completed) I wish to thank you all for this project. It is a great benefit to everyone, especially those who are not yet comfortable riding in traffic.
Be that as it may, I also wish to comment about the PBA. Once upon a time, I was a member of the PBA.
I had a disturbing incident at the PBA that caused me to drop. I tried to attend an Information Technology meeting at the PBA. Mind you, I was a full dues paying member and my business was Internet consulting.
They threw me out of that meeting for no reason. All I was doing was listening. I did not pepper them with zillions of question; nor was I behaving like a papparazi; nor was I spewing any rants about anything. I was just politely and quietly listening. I had politely pointed out that I was a member a few times, but they insisted that I leave.
Based on this experience, I am not suprised.
I belong to Bellingham’s equivalent and I have had no problems whatsoever; in fact they let me attend meeting before I even signed up as a member.
PBA needs to have a nice look at themselves in the mirror.
You had been a member of what ?
email sent to
i am not surprised by the tone deafness of these people.
How many years have they spent sheltered from the reality of being
one of us “working class” types?
and how many of them have ridden NB Naito next to 18 wheelers and buses that somehow manage to always veer right so they can force us to ride in the gutter there, no less?
but, hey, we just have to keep reminding ourselves that we “are asking for it” since “we insist of being in the way” on their roads.
at least, that is what i was informed of, at volume, by a friendly passenger as the car they were in tried super hard to right hook me at the turnoff onto Steel Bridge.
oh, my heart.
that chick was so right, though.
i am willfully exposing my body to serious damage every time i go on the streets.
the definition of insanity is starting to be kinda applicable to me, in that case.
but i prefer to hold onto these words from Samuel Beckett:
“All of old. Nothing else ever.
Ever tried. Ever failed.
Fail again. Fail better.”
PBA has been and continues to remain an anachronistic dinosaur.
I only wish the City would take care of basic safety first, then spend money on new projects. There are streets all over town I won’t risk riding on any more because surface conditions are so dangerous. And then there’s all the self-congratulatory promotional hype. How many pot holes in bike lanes could have been filled with the money it cost to stick big green “Better Naito” sidewalk stickers all over downtown?