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Colville-Andersen: “Portland is completely overrated as a bike city”

Posted by on January 3rd, 2018 at 10:34 am

One of the most well-known bicycling and urban planning consultants in the world had harsh words for Portland after a visit over the holidays.

In an Instagram post yesterday, Mikael Colville-Andersen wrote that, “Portland is completely overrated as a bike city” and that “It is a car city that squeezed some bike facilities in. Almost reluctantly, it seems.”

Colville-Andersen was in Portland to visit family; but he couldn’t resist sharing what he saw while walking our streets. The lack of people on bikes in general is what seemed to stick with him most. “In the course of 6 days I counted 26 people on bikes and I was all over town. TWENTY-SIX. Even in half-ass bike cities like Oslo (cold, hilly) and the like you would see more,” he wrote.

Colville-Andersen is known for his Copenhagenize blog, which rose to prominence about 10 years ago for its documentation of the people and infrastructure of one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities. Colville-Andersen has since built his blog into an urban design and planning firm that has completed projects around the world. He has also recently launched a TV series called “Life-Sized City”.

In 2009, Colville-Andersen visited Portland as an emissary of the Danish Embassy. He spoke at an event where he shared the stage with then Mayor Sam Adams. At that event nine years ago, Colville-Andersen said it would only take Portland 5-10 years to achieve what it took Copenhagen 30 years to achieve in part because all the (planning and engineering) mistakes have been made and the case for bicycling is stronger now than it has ever been. He also pointed out that to do that it would take, “visionary political decision-making.”

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In 2011, the Copenhagenize Index of the world’s best cycling cities ranked Portland 11th — and we were the only U.S. city to make the list.

Here’s the full text of his Instagram post:

I know I’m not the first to say it but Portland is so completely overrated as a bike city. Strikes me each time I visit. The city in general is nice and I love hanging out there. But time and again I realise that Bike Hype has clouded the reality. If a city is bike friendly, bicycles are a fifth limb for the citizens. You see them everywhere and at all hours. Bikes are spotted in racks.

The first time I visited for work it was late October and I wondered where the bikes were. A gent from the City, Roger Geller, admitted that the modal share was counted in June, during bike month. Not fair data for year round. Sure, in the American context the city is a bit ahead of the curve. Bike corrals here and there. Cool bike parking facilities now and again. But then bike lanes in the door zone. What a facepalm. And painted green – but not through the intersections where it’s needed. “Bicycle Boulevards” that are a product of lazy planning to keep bikes off the main car-centric streets and the natural Desire Lines for all citizens. Fragments that suggest the city has thought about bikes but when you don’t see cyclists, it doesn’t mean much. It is a car city that squeezed some bike facilities in. Almost reluctantly, it seems.

Go to Portland for the transit. It’s a brilliant work in progress. But biketown? Don’t buy the hype. Development has plateaued. Go to Minneapolis. Montreal. San Francisco. Places that are at least trying.

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

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Esther
Guest
Esther

He…clearly did not spend a lot of time on Trimet.

Jason Skelton
Guest
Jason Skelton

Trimet could be better, but it is amazing for a city our size.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Trimet could be better, but it is amazing for AN AMERICAN city our size.

FIFY.

Rain Panther
Guest
Rain Panther

I’d say Trimet could also be described as completely overrated. Not enough North/South connections, not enough dedicated lanes, not enough rail. It’s too complicated to get to relatively far away destinations and too damn slow to get to the relatively close ones.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

What city would you say has a better system?

glennfee
Subscriber

For a city of a relatively similar size and age of transportation, Denver. They have a new, central rail hub and more lines extend much further into the suburbs (although, admittedly, their sprawl is more significant). Few of their lines rely upon surface streets, allowing them to move much more quickly.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

I dunno, the proof of usefulness for me is in people actually using it. For mode share to employment (admittedly an imperfect measure, but the only one with comparable data that I’m aware of), Denver metro area, ~6%. Portland metro area, ~8%. Both pretty steady for the past decade. Perhaps Denver’s will improve with more time for people to change their habits, move based on transit preferences and destinations, and transit-oriented development given the large rail expansion in the past decade. However, I’m not all that optimistic. With rail networks as spindly as Portland and Denver’s, the number of people with origins and destinations within reach of rail is always going to be low. My guess is that both cities would need a fast, frequent, not-stuck-in-traffic, ubiquitous bus network in order to really grow their transit mode shares.

maxD
Guest
maxD

Vancouver BC?

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

I carefully said “America” not “North America.” But “amazing” is still too strong. “In the top 20% for transit quality compared to U.S. metro areas of similar size” is I’m pretty sure true.

Citizeng
Guest
Citizeng

Also no overnight service. Busses ran on Sunday schedules on New Year’s Eve for crying out loud.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Just wait, TriMet is going to see a huge growth spurt. They are getting hundreds of millions of new dollars a year as a result of the transportation funding package. It is mostly going to expand bus service. New lines. Tighter headways, longer service hours and better equipment are all on the way.

Paul Johnson
Guest

TriMet would do well to have some form of orbital route instead of depending on the hub-and-spoke system.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Interesting that you mention it. TriMet’s current system was considered very innovative when rolled out in the 80s. It is loosely defined as a Grid system where transfers are common and less painful due to high frequency of service. You can see what a true hub system looked like here in Portland if you look at TriMet maps from the 70s. A total mess.

Paul Johnson
Guest

Then they got rid of the frequent service, so now you can’t really transfer unless it’s at a hub. So it’s like, the worst of both worlds now.

q
Guest
q

Even then, Portland should really be evaluated based on the whole metro area, not just the city itself. Add in Beaverton, Vancouver, etc. and the transportation system looks pathetic.

And for anyone thinking maybe that’s unfair to judge the city based on the metro area, remember that the City (government) has been responsible for creating some of the reasons why people move to Vancouver and elsewhere ringing Portland–land use policies, tax policies, shortcomings with public safety and schools…

Esther
Guest
Esther

The first three days he was here the entire city, then the side streets and bike lanes, were coated by ice and it was also the biggest stay-cozy-at-home holiday of the year and apparently staying downtown in the business district (while everyone was off work/school).

Esther
Guest
Esther

And according to his instagram the 2nd set of 6 days were spent on the Oregon coast in Yachats so….not exactly a fair representation of our biking rates in the biggest metropolitan city in Oregon.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Well, sure, but quite a lot of people live downtown. Not having almost any bike infrastructure there is a huge missed opportunity, and the City has showed very little urgency on fixing it. There are tons of quibbles to make with Mikael’s assessment, but overall it’s correct (and in fact too rosy – as you point out, our transit outside of downtown is dismal and has actually gotten worse in many places over the last decade due to bus frequency cuts.)

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

So I’m sure the roads were also clear of cars during his visit since everyone was staying home. Oh wait…

Irakli Gozalishvili
Guest
Irakli Gozalishvili

Evan Manvel
There’s a huge amount of work to be done, of course. Grading Portland against Europe, including places like Oslo, I imagine Portland’s effort on bicycling can look pretty half-hearted. The critique rings true in parts — yes, Portland is a car city with bikeways squeezed in.(Though the bicycle corral critique is wayyyy off – has he ever been another American city with more?)Overall, he gets a small sample of the city during the worst biking weather of the year, and casts large judgments based on it. That’s simply arrogance. He’s a blindfolded man touching an elephant and saying it’s all trunk. Of course, he could have spent his time on 82nd Avenue and said even worse things.His statement about bicycle boulevards shows his arrogance. People say they want to ride away from speeding traffic, in survey after survey.Maybe they’d prefer to bike on main streets with bikeways like those in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, but to criticize low-stress bike networks in the U.S. shows he’s out of touch with riding with kids or the many, many other people who like low-traffic routes.Glad he’s trying to hold our feet to the fire, but think he misfired.Recommended 17

Fact that they remained coated by ice is no excuse, if anything it’s a proof. I lived several years in Amsterdam which has much harsher winters, but by the time peope hop on bikes paths are cleared.

Velograph
Guest
Velograph

I don’t think you need to be a world class bike person to come to the same realizations. Our infrastructure is not growing in the way that it feels like it should be.

I understand the complexities of building transportation alternatives into an already existing grid. It’s not easy at all, but it doesn’t change the fact that this place isn’t as enjoyable to ride around as it did 10 years ago…

rh
Guest
rh

Yes, the cycling swagger is definitely gone. Seems to have started the decline when Sam Adams left office. Our ‘Platinum’ status needs to be downgraded.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That might be the best thing that could happen for our bike program. It could clarify thinking.

J_R
Guest
J_R

No. We still have the swagger. In fact, swagger has been our best bicycling feature/action. We’ve wrenched our arm out of joint patting ourselves on the back.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I agree. Portland’s swagger is its biggest handicap. Portland reminds me of Lance Armstrong – bold, boasting, aggressive, and once and for a long time widely viewed as a winner. Now in a state of denial. When will Portland be interviewed on Oprah? When will the revelations come out?

Paul Johnson
Guest

If the LAB’s ratings were any real measure, I don’t think Portland deserves a rating at all. And a big part of this is the local attitude. Portland drivers are nearly unmitigated jerks. Tulsa lacks the infrastructure Portland does, and what routes do exist tend to go over hills. I think the LAB giving Tulsa a bronze rating is a huge stretch.

But Tulsa’s a better city to ride in and it has everything to do with the level of respect people give each other.

Paul Johnson
Guest

I could see it being gold at this point, putting it on par with Tulsa, given that while Portland’s got the last mile covered for infrastructure, crosstown is awful. No bicycle superhighways, most of the paths are too narrow to actually have centerlines because putting one down would require them to be widened to accomodate two full bike lanes, NONE have sidewalks. Worse, a lot of the on-street infrastructure is low quality and encourages motorist abuse, with a population of motorists willing to deal it out.

It’s like Portland is the Mirror Universe version of Tulsa at this point. Same lane miles of bicycle infrastructure as Portland, but it’s almost entirely high quality cycleway or grade separated cycle superhighway, with all the major routes having sidewalks (joggers, families with kids, and cyclists of all ages and reasons all really enjoy this separation as well). There is exactly one major bike route that suddenly drops to a Portland style, narrow and unstriped, roughly paved “Springwater Corridor” type experience, and it’s literally the last few kilometers of the Riverparks East Trail south of the River Spirit Casino, and it’s only moderately busy north of the 96th Street bike bridge to Jenks (which, yes, also has sidewalks, and unlike the Tilikum Crossing, has bicycle facilities wide enough to safely pass). Sure, you have to take the primary position in the lane almost universally on the surface streets, but drivers are happy to let you if you’re predictable and signal. And we’re definitely moving forward (albeit slowly though picking up some momentum) on getting the last mile situation better handled.

It’s actually shocking to me that an oil city in a red state is on the cusp of just whipping Portland on bicycle accessibility. But hey, hows those TriMet headways and service hours these days?

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

It is interesting, isn’t it!
Even those nasty racist red-staters can do something constructive for cycling and cyclists, and they are kicking the crap outta our supposed progressive cycling paradise.

We’ve lost our eye on the ball folks. Perhaps its time to be more inclusive of some conflicting opinions.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Except when you go to Corvallis, which has the highest percentage in the country of people bike riding to work (in a city with a population of > 50,000).

Hazel
Guest
Hazel

I’ve lived here for 21 years. It used to be a great place to ride a bike, now I dread my commute every day. The city has put in all these bike boulevards at a huge cost but they don’t work if they’re dominated by speed traffic looking for a nice cut though street with no stop signs. And lowering speed limits all over doesn’t work if car drivers don’t care and there’s no enforcement or infrastructure in place to actually get people to drive 20 mph. I’m disappointed and ready to find somewhere new to live.

rick
Guest
rick

Which one street would you love a re-do? Does it involve land use zoning? SW Scholls Ferry Road by SW Patton Road ? Interstate Ave ?

maxD
Guest
maxD

Interstate! Willamette, Bike Lanes on Skidmore extended from Michigan to NE 7th, Greenway on SE 6th between Davis and Division, Peninsula Crossing trail connection to Columbia Slough trail, North Portland Greenway, Salmon Greenway between 12th and the Esplanade, Ankeny Crossing at Sandy, so many gaps!

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Close off Division to cars, except to get to local driveways. Express transit lines and bikways from Water Street to 176th, and on-street outdoor cafes and pocket parks from 80th to 176th. Ditto on 82nd, Clatsop to Airport Way.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

My feelings exactly. That’s a major reason for my moving east in 2015, that and being priced out.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Well said, Hazel. I all but stopped riding for two reasons: 1) A tremendous number of drivers–too too many–are so filled with a sense of impunity and up their own hinds now, and they make riding very dangerous, and 2) I can’t put my bike in my pocket, unfortunately, and I am unwilling to park it–even with three heavy duty, expensive locks–ANYWHERE in Portland, at this point. I don’t even want to park my car anywhere in Portland now, what with the huge problem with car theft, now, too.

Before moving out of the city a few months ago (best decision of our lives), I avoided even letting my bike be seen in our home. I avoided leaving anything of value out on our property, after several thefts (someone even dug up a plant and stole it, ffs!). I got a heavy duty mailbox and pounced on the mail as soon as I could. I immediately cleaned up/painted over tagging on our property–I gave up on the surrounding area when it just became too much. I called the non-emergency line when tweakers and huffers hung out at the empty rental next door, completely out of their minds. I talked to the neighbor about him and his friends making our block their insanely noisy modified car workshop/testing ground. I picked up garbage spilled all over the place each week after we put our cans out (incl. the dog shit regularly deposited by passersby). I reported abandoned (stolen) vehicles left with the windows open after being used to party. We lived, by the way, in the heart of one of the most highly hyped and praised (newly) expensive neighborhoods in Portland, right smack next to New Disney Division.

I really didn’t mean to go on like that when I started this post but this city really has become the opposite of livable at this point, and I just don’t understand why it’s not talked about more…so that we can actually DO something about it before it gets even worse. The idealization of Portland drives me bats. I guess most of us are such frogs in the proverbial pot of boiling water, we don’t see how awful it’s gotten. Plus, so many folks who move here are so starry-eyed and have so much personally invested in Portland, they are almost pathologically defensive when anyone dares to criticize their chosen Saviour.

Starting to take simple, comprehensive enforcement of existing laws seriously and drastically expanding/improving transit (incl. biting the bullet and creating dedicated bus lanes, stat) would be good steps in the right direction.

K Taylor
Guest
K Taylor

Hear, hear, rachel b! And Hazel! Portland is starting to reach Mad Max levels of neglect and laissez-faire. I moved out too, and am only worried I may not have moved far enough away to avoid Portland creep. Portland’s reputation as a great bike city rested on its relative lack of crowding and auto traffic. Almost all of the investment in bike infrastructure in the past 20 years has been dependent on sane, attentive, even deferential motorists, and not too many of them. Now that that’s out the window, Portland is no longer such a great place to bike.

Evan Manvel
Guest
Evan Manvel

There’s a huge amount of work to be done, of course. Grading Portland against Europe, including places like Oslo, I imagine Portland’s effort on bicycling can look pretty half-hearted. The critique rings true in parts — yes, Portland is a car city with bikeways squeezed in.

(Though the bicycle corral critique is wayyyy off – has he ever been another American city with more?)

Overall, he gets a small sample of the city during the worst biking weather of the year, and casts large judgments based on it. That’s simply arrogance. He’s a blindfolded man touching an elephant and saying it’s all trunk. Of course, he could have spent his time on 82nd Avenue and said even worse things.

His statement about bicycle boulevards shows his arrogance. People say they want to ride away from speeding traffic, in survey after survey.

Maybe they’d prefer to bike on main streets with bikeways like those in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, but to criticize low-stress bike networks in the U.S. shows he’s out of touch with riding with kids or the many, many other people who like low-traffic routes.

Glad he’s trying to hold our feet to the fire, but think he misfired.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and Colville-Andersen happens to be right based on some extremely biased evidence here. Portland City government has been moving at a snail’s pace on biking for the past decade, and the increase in auto traffic and the change of our driving culture to be more impatient and rude is working against the agonizingly slow infrastructure installations.

The bike boulevards you mention… I have two things to say about them.
1) Portland’s bike boulevards are generally not low-traffic enough to be comfortable to bike with kids on their own bikes at rush hour. Nor are the crossings of major streets high-quality enough, or the wayfinding good enough. And, the standards for new and improved infrastructure are still SO low. The City seems to be happy to install unprotected bike lanes on medium-traffic streets in East Portland and call them portions of new “bike boulevards” rather than do something better. The City has a “Bicycle Advisory Committee” that told them NOT to do diversion on Ladd despite motor vehicle traffic levels above the City’s already-too-loose standards. Bike boulevards are a fine concept, but the execution here is extraordinarily lackluster. A new bike boulevard in Yakima has 5 diverters in 1.7 miles. We had to fight like hell to even get two put in in 3 miles on Clinton St.

2) 99% of Americans have never seen a quality protected bike lane, and don’t even know such a thing exists in the world. Trying to explain the concept and what it would feel like in a sentence or two in a survey seems like asking too much.

maxD
Guest
maxD

Alex,
I totally agree! The Going Greenway is a great example: It is pretty safe between 7th and 33rd. However, connecting to the greenway from north Portland is a disaster of maze-like routing, unsignalized crossing (including the 4-lane MLK!). PBOT painted some buffered bike lanes along Skidmmore between Interstate and Michigan, but then they just stop! If the City simply extended these to NE 7th, people on bike could safely connect across busy arterials between greenways like Concord, Michigan, and Going and bike lanes on Interstate, Williams and Vancouver.

My point is that the City has added a bunch of miles of greenways to miles of bike lanes it had previously built, but it has neglected to make the tough connections. Those direct and safe connections are the most important part of creating a functional network!

Stephan
Guest
Stephan

MLK / Going is a great example of the city’s approach to creating bike infrastructure. Fit it in if possible, but do not inconvenience car drivers. However, the weakest link in a bike network determines its value, and while I do love Going from 7th onwards, that lack to safe connection at MLK just makes me sad. And I am sure readers here can enumerate plenty of other spots.
What I found interesting about Mikael’s post is that he does not look at the number of miles of bike infrastructure. He looks at the number of people biking. After all, that’s really what counts. If increasing bike infrastructure by a bunch of miles does not translate into higher bike ridership, then these improvements are not effective.

X
Guest
X

Yes!! Many diverters. Diverters should be an automatic feature of greenways, if that’s going to be our default bike street design. Speedbumps? Irrelevant. And put a “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” sign on the crossing street stop signs.

Brock Howell
Guest
Brock Howell

I think he has a strong point regarding the prioritization of installing neighborhood greenways instead of protected bike Lanes on arterials. Arterials have the destinations people want to bike to, are often the flattest & most direct routes, have the most car volumes, and also have the highest safety concerns. Any city that wants to dramatically change to be a bike-first rather than car-first city needs to reprioritize the right-of-way of arterial streets. Portland was extremely fortunate to have lots of linear parallel neighborhood streets over flat terrain and with small block sizes to make Greenways a decent biking alternative to arterials. But for truly transformative change, American cities must get more aggressive with arterials, like what Washington DC and Downtown Vancouver BC have done.

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

Yeah, our corrals are lacking. From the fact that they’re not designed for summer bike traffic, and that I have yet to see one with any motor vehicle protection (don’t say mountable curb) they don’t instill confidence or do much to encourage cycling here.

Also consider the following examples:

Tacoma, WA- Wow, look, using steel beams to protect people.
http://i.feedtacoma.com/photos/1-red-hot-bike-corral-finished.jpg

Los Angeles, CA- just like above with an artful twist.
comment image?format=1500w

Sacramento, CA- bollard all the things
comment image

North Cambridge, Mass- this parking is near a train station. Outside of the Portland Aerial Tram (which only has one destination), we don’t have anything approaching this.
comment image

San Francisco, CA- they took the time to make this one bright and noticeable.
http://blog.publicbikes.com/wp-content/uploads/600-duo-corral-grid.jpg

Even Dunwoody, GA seems to be well ahead of Portland on this front:
http://bikewalkdunwoody.org/2017/03/call-to-action-proposed-bike-parking/

I’d say we have a long way to go on the bike parking front alone.

Shoupian
Subscriber
Shoupian

I disagree. I think the mindset that it is only fair if we compare Portland with other American cities is exactly the kind of attitude that has stopped us from thinking bolder and bigger. Aside from a few large American cities (NYC, SF, DC, etc) bicycling as a mode of transportation is virtually unrealistic everywhere in the U.S. Also, I think looking at bicycling in the winter gives you much more of a realistic assessment about a city’s commitment to making it a safe and convenient mode of transportation. If it’s cold and rainy outside and you still find a lot of people riding their bikes instead of driving,that really says something about the greatness of bicycling in your city. And that cannot be achieved with the kind of infrastructure and the kind of political leadership we have right now.

9watts
Guest
9watts

And if PBOT were on the ball, they’d issue a press release or hold a press conference in which they did two things:

(a) respond to these criticisms and point out any errors,
(b) identify what, when, where the things that are obviously inadequate will be addressed.
… and if they were feeling really generous/transparent, explain how we got here.

John
Guest
John

They should have a press conference because somebody said mean things on Instagram? What is this, the federal government?

9watts
Guest
9watts

First off, Mikael isn’t just somebody, and neither is Jonathan.

Secondly, they have a division for Communication & Public Involvement, just one level down from Leah Treat. If they can’t be relied on to defend their record or admit shortcomings then what is the point of that office?

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Truth. Like it or not- like him or not- Mikael is an opinion-maker.

mran1984
Guest

Thanks for the gut busting laugh. His pathetic opinion means ABSOLUTELY ZERO to me. Maybe his “inspirational message” will turn people away from here too. It’s not better.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

It may not mean anything to you, but there are plenty of people to whom his opinions matter quite a bit.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Unfortunately, none of them have the title “City Commissioner.”

maccoinnich
Guest

This comment made me laugh out loud. Thank you.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Laugh all you want, it’s still true. Or maybe you can tell us why his opinion doesn’t matter on your TV show. Oh wait, he has one and you don’t? How about that.

q
Guest
q

I agree, and to expand on that, note that PBOT isn’t the only public body that influences bike transportation. Many of the paths are Parks’ responsibility. Planning has a huge influence through zoning and design review. And of course the Police with enforcement…

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

In fairness to PBOT (the typical target of my ire), they lack the political spine to upset people and be great because they are the manifestation of a political machine that seems to believe in the radical notion of beige. I think Ted Wheeler’s going to do a TED talk on that or something.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

He’s not wrong.

Portland’s bike friendliness is grossly overstated by city leadership. Our infrastructure is mostly non-existent and what does exist is confusing, inconsistent, and somehow always experimental (with us being the perennial lab rats, of course). The vast majority of what the city calls bikeways relies solely on painted arrows which do next to nothing for safety or comfort. Portland is 99% hype with a few crumbs thrown our way every so often.

And it’s not surprising seeing all the defensiveness here — Portlanders have a fear of outside opinions that contradict their own inflated sense of self-importance. Contradict anyone who claims Portland is great and prepare for a barrage of hatred thrown your way.

q
Guest
q

Yes, Portland (I’m thinking mainly government) spends too much time congratulating itself and doing PR about what a great job it’s doing. And then it starts believing its own PR, blinding it to its own mediocrity and then, as you say, getting defensive against criticism instead of listening to it.

Tim
Guest
Tim

“Mainly government” or possibly local government that reflects the local population?
But, yes we can be our own best/worst yes-men.

q
Guest
q

Yes, mainly government, but yes, good point–the local government does reflect the views of at least a sizeable segment of the population, and it’s also that population that elected the officials doing the self-congratulating.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Tell me about it. I hadn’t ridden in Portland until about a decade ago. I hoped to find something similar to the hype, but found just another car town with a few “look at me” type of features that really didn’t add much to the experience. I was roundly hated on for pointing this out, with the best reactions being from those who claimed that PDX was just beginning its journey and that it would reach 30% modal share in no time.

Unfortunately, I could see even then that the focus on only building what infra could be squeezed in without disrupting motorized travel and a complete aversion to traffic law enforcement meant that it wasn’t going to get any better.

Like Colville-Andersen, I hailed from a location that actually did have a significant percentage of its citizens doing most of their trips by bike. I spent many four-day weekends and some full weeks just visiting and would often see similar bike counts to what he experienced. Sometimes, I would walk ten miles and see but one or two bikes, and even those surprised me because the conditions are so horrid.

Portland has an image problem: it’s image of itself is not in alignment with reality. I don’t see that getting any better because motorists think seeing any bikes means there’s too many, and most Portlanders are motorists.

m
Guest
m

An alternative theory: Many people hate riding here October through April because it’s usually cold, dark, and raining.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

An alternative theory easily disproven by checking out the winter cycling statistics for Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, Trondheim, etc. They have winter weather and darkness ranging from considerably worse to far worse, and winter bike mode shares ranging from considerably better to far better.

9watts
Guest
9watts

+1

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Yep. I rode in Berlin all winter when I lived there…. because of protected bike lanes.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Yeah, but #WeAreNotAmsterdam! Everyone knows that the things that increase mode share over there are impossible given our longitude! It Simply Can’t Be Done ™!

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

but they don’t have attitudes that Americans seem to have.

Paul Johnson
Guest

Sure, if you discount the cities that are catching up or overtaking. Inola, Oklahoma just passed and is shovel ready on going to complete streets. They’re thinking ahead, and I’ll go ahead and let y’all fill in whatever stereotype you want about small town Oklahoma. Tulsa’s almost caught up on centerline miles of bicycle infrastructure, and starting to branch out into first/last mile to connect up what amount to bicycle superhighways already existing around the city.

What’s Portland done? Add a stupid bicycle roundabout to an otherwise T-intersection and reintroduced on-street dual-direction bike lanes. Break out the leisure suits and the disco records while you’re at it, guys!

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

But right there, all of your examples are European cities. It’s a different mindset. In my own office, I can easily see that the thinking is true – once the daylight shortens and the weather worsens, half of our regular bike riders head back to Trimet.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

OK, I was too lazy to look up all the Asian examples. Tokyo and Osaka have reasonably similar winters to Portland and way more people on bikes. http://www.cityclock.org/urban-cycling-mode-share/#.Wk1ZWVQ-dE4

If you want somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, wait a few years… Vancouver, BC has been quickly increasing its bike mode share for the past decade. It’s neck and neck with us now but I would guess it’ll be to ~10% by the early 2020s.

I think the “mindset” you mention is mostly a product of government policy, not mostly an inherent cultural difference. Right now, we have three main groups of people who bike to work: die-hards like me and probably you who either like biking enough or hate the alternatives enough to do it year-round, fair-weather bikers who are willing to deal with biking taking more time/effort than the alternatives because it’s nice being outside in the summer, and poor folks who bike because it’s hands-down the cheapest way to get the distance they want to go in the time they have. When you lose the “willing to take the extra time to bike because it’s a nice experience” bikers in the winter, it’s a big hit to mode share.

In cities with comfortable, convenient bike infrastructure, a dense built environment, and a lack of implicit subsidies and a presence of additional taxes for driving, you get a lot of additional people who bike because it’s just the fastest, cheapest, most convenient option for their trip. If it’s raining, they’d have to spend more time and money to go a different way. So they don’t, they still bike. In general.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I’d add that those places also have rudimentary traffic law enforcement, something sorely lacking in PDX (and America in general these days). If you’ve ever lived with strict traffic law enforcement, you’d never underestimate how much it adds to the cycling experience in terms of expectations of safety and enjoyment.

Julie Hammond
Guest
Julie Hammond

I moved to Vancouver, BC from Portland (where I lived since 2003) and I have been consistently impressed with the significant, ongoing changes I’ve seen in bike infrastructure over the last 2.5 years. While there are certainly flaws (big investments in already very good bike paths while other parts of the city go without), I have become so used to protected bike lanes that biking in Portland now feels absurdly dangerous. I’m still confused about why the sort of protected bike lanes we have up here are not in place in Portland–many of them are concrete barricades that are movable, but not permanent (google maps image here: https://goo.gl/maps/5pPKrBFwnQu) and seem like the sort of thing that would have been perfect for Willamette. Who needs two stripes of paint when you have a concrete barricade?!

There is also a robust network of neighbourhood bike paths here, much like Portland’s bike boulevards, but it seems that there has been more effort on what they call “traffic calming” and, in some instances, building separate protected bike lanes on neighbourhood streets (this mostly seems to be in place on the west side of the city).

For what it’s worth, I biked year round in Portland because it was easy and cheap and because TriMet did not meet my needs; in Vancouver I am much more of a fair weather cyclist because the bus/SkyTrain network is good. (And yeah, 50% of all trips in the city are made by non-motor vehicles, so something must be working.)

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

One thing that Vancouver has learned is that doing good design creates more supporters than doing a lousy design. Any change in a street will be controversial and will use up some political capitol but doing a good design will create more support and political capitol to more than make up for it. Doing a bad design will use up both political capitol that happens anyway as well as not creating much support.

This is what I think might be happening in Portland for example with the bicycle boulevards that aren’t effective enough at diversion. Drivers are opposed that they no longer dominate and now have to pay some attention but then with the diversion being so low or noneffective they’re not even good to cycle on. This means that they don’t have all the people who would be loving it and writing to city councillors to thank them. With a bicycle boulevard that’s up to AAA standards there would be the same numbers of people opposed but they would be countered by all those supporting it.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

This is a very good point. Every time this happens, it becomes another example of how “we tried, but nobody liked it, so what’s the point?” The accumulation of such examples makes further efforts more and more difficult.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

Right. What Vancouver did was first try a AAA route downtown. It was hugely controversial and hugely popular because what happened was it made so many people discover how great cycling really could be and that the answer lies in infrastructure. So while there rabid crazies ready to kill there were also thousands of new supporters. People from the “interested but concerned” segment of the population mostly. People who had wanted to cycle but hadn’t now started cycling. It was very tough but it set the city in a better direction and gave it confidence in that direction.
Now eight years after the first one, Vancouver has nine AAA bike routes. Some protected cycle lanes and some neighbouhood greenways with good diversion. Opposition to it has lessened a lot but it’s still around. After all that the political party that was in power when the first one went in has been re-elected twice.
So, there’s really no benefit to being timid about these things. Make some priorities, make some standards, make some plans, then build.

9watts
Guest
9watts

That is super fun, Clark, and thank you for reporting on this. One question. Why do you refer to them/are they called AAA? That evokes (at least for me) the American Automobile Association, no friend to cycling you can be sure. I’m sure that is not what you meant to invoke which is why I’m asking.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

In cycling infrastructure AAA stands for All Ages and Abilities. (I don’t know where or when the term started.) There are some principals to follow when designing cycling infrastructure.
http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/improving-our-cycling-network.aspx
http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/design-guidelines-for-all-ages-and-abilities-cycling-routes.pdf

BTW, the equivalent of the AAA here will actually come and help you with a flat tire on your bike. https://www.bcaa.com/blog/2017/membership-is-rewarding/fear-no-flat

9watts
Guest
9watts

“…the AAA here…”

Oh, you’re in THAT Vancouver. Ha.

We have one much closer, and so I assumed.

Well never mind.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Yeah… I totally missed that too. Who knew he was all the way up in Washington? I also thought he lived on N Vancouver.

soren
Guest
soren

Actually Vancouver’s bike mode share (trips to work) is higher than Portland’s. ~10% vs 6%.

http://council.vancouver.ca/20160504/documents/pspc2-presentation.pdf

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Sorry Alex, but if greater numbers of people in Portland than do already, wanted to ride despite the rain and cold and darkness, and motor vehicle traffic, they would. It’s not as though anything approaching a majority, or even a large minority of Portland residents are saying ‘If the city would just build some better bike lanes, I’d be happy to ride my bike in the cold, dark rain instead of driving my nice warm Toyota.’.

I think there are many factors that enter in to why in some European cities, more people than here, are willing to ride bikes and walk rather than drive or travel in motor vehicles. An ocean and an entire country away, it’s apparently very easy for some people to over-simplify the reasons for this out of desperation for an explanation. In many ways, the U.S. isn’t anything like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, and it doesn’t seem that many people here in the U.S. really wish for the kind of daily life people have in those cities.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“…if greater numbers of people … they would.”

“It’s not as though anything approaching a majority… are saying”

“I think …
“…it’s apparently very easy”

“…it doesn’t seem that many people here in the U.S. really wish for the kind of daily life people have in those cities.”

A whole lot of speculation right there. How do you know any of this?

People can’t wish for much less express that wish in a manner we can hear if they have no idea what life in those countries is like/what life could be like here. You are telling us what people are not wishing for, but without a shred of evidence. I have lived in Europe and been to many cities I’ve not lived in, and as a resident of this country I will say that most people I know here are in one way or another resigned to the fact that we in the US simply don’t have the will or the leadership or the priorities to actually pursue much less accomplish what those other countries have. It is disheartening and defeatist but I would never conclude as you have that there is no interest, no demand for something better. Or that the something better would not be embraced.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

You make a similar point often: not enough people want it, so we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do it. I think it was Steve Jobs who had the general philosophy that “people don’t know what they want until we give it to them”. Similarly, people go around believing they have some kind of freedom of choice, but really, we can only choose from among the choices presented—how can one choose something that isn’t on the menu? It is in the best interest of automakers, et al. To limit transportation choices to something like 1. Drive an awesome car on smooth, wide roads like a cool, normal person—and park for free when you get there, 2. Spend hours on second-rate, unreliable, dirty transit like a poor loser, or 3. Use some other “alternative”, like a weird hippie—and don’t be surprised when your preferred routes are impassible, your life is threatened regularly, and nobody does anything about it.

What if the choices were re-framed (marketed) as 1. Use convenient, clean, and affordable transit like an intelligent, community-minded person, 2. Walk or ride a bike along direct, quiet, safe routes like a fit, self-reliant, yet in-touch citizen or 3. Waste time and money sitting isolated in traffic on dirty, potholed “free”ways in your vastly over-priced SUV, so you can get to your job, pay exorbitant parking fees, and work for a couple hours each day just to make the payments on your depreciating “asset” like a fiscally irresponsible resource hog—not to mention taking the chance you’ll do something dumb in your distracted stupor and get a guaranteed hefty fine or have your depreciating asset confiscated.

What would people want then?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

People know they get one body in this life, yet many treat theirs very poorly. Humans are funny creatures like that.

I imagine many would still choose option three, unfortunately…

Paul Johnson
Guest

MSP and Montréal would like to sing you the song of their people.

rick
Guest
rick

Pour it on the city and county leaders !

rick
Guest
rick

Blame it on the metal-studded car tire damage. Band-aids.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I blame Amanda Fritz.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Maybe it’s the movies, maybe it’s the books
Maybe it’s the bullets, maybe it’s the real crooks
Maybe it’s the drugs, maybe it’s the parents
Maybe it’s the colors everybody’s wearin
Maybe it’s the President, maybe it’s the last one
Maybe it’s the one before that, what he done
Maybe it’s the high schools, maybe it’s the teachers
Maybe it’s the tattooed children in the bleachers
Maybe it’s the Bible, maybe it’s the lack
Maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s the crack
Maybe it’s the hairdos, maybe it’s the TV
Maybe it’s the cigarettes, maybe it’s the family
Maybe it’s the fast food, maybe it’s the news
Maybe it’s divorce, maybe it’s abuse
Maybe it’s the lawyers, maybe it’s the prisons
Maybe it’s the Senators, maybe it’s the system
Maybe it’s the fathers, maybe it’s the sons
Maybe it’s the sisters, maybe it’s the moms
Maybe it’s the radio, maybe it’s road rage
Maybe El Nino, or UV rays
Maybe it’s the army, maybe it’s the liquor
Maybe it’s the papers, maybe the militia
Maybe it’s the athletes, maybe it’s the ads
Maybe it’s the sports fans, maybe it’s a fad
Maybe it’s the magazines, maybe it’s the internet
Maybe it’s the lottery, maybe it’s the immigrants
Maybe it’s taxes, big business
Maybe it’s the KKK and the skinheads
Maybe it’s the communists, maybe it’s the Catholics
Maybe it’s the hippies, maybe it’s the addicts
Maybe it’s the art, maybe it’s the sex
Maybe it’s the homeless, maybe it’s the banks
Maybe it’s the clearcut, maybe it’s the ozone
Maybe it’s the chemicals, maybe it’s the car phones
Maybe it’s the fertilizer, maybe it’s the nose rings
Maybe it’s the end, but I know one thing.
If it were up to me, I’d take away the guns.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Do you think she, the PBA, and Marcie Houle have a monthly brunch meeting at that weird Mercedes showroom in downtown Portland to plot how to further stymie biking in Portland?

https://www.mercedesbenzportland.com/

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I don’t know how or why, but I keep reading it here, so I know it’s true.

Dan A
Subscriber
Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Honestly, I would be fine with Fritz’s proposed change re: bikes and transit. (Did it go anywhere? Is the Comp Plan adopted yet? Anyone know?) What bothers me to no end is that the Commissioners continue to allocate funding and political will in complete disregard of the pyramid, while thinking they are doing a great job on biking, walking, and transit.

Dan A
Subscriber
Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Don’t get me wrong, I think Fritz is deeply anti-biking, just as she is deeply anti-density and deeply pro-free-parking and easy-car-travel. I just think that the bike/transit mode flip proposal is the least worrisome example of these tendencies.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

I hear they give out an annual award that is far more coveted among the cognoscenti than the Alice B. Toeclips award. Past winners have included Police Capt. Uehara, the owner of SkiBowl, BARK!’s executive director, and Nick Christensen.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

I blame Portland’s culture of self-congratulation, an insistence on doing things “the Portland way” (read: free from “outside influence”), and defensiveness in the face of constructive criticism. You see this not just in bikes but in all forms of city government: reactionary policies intended to help people yet that ignore conventional wisdom and as a result actually hurt the people intending to help. Housing is a huge sufferer from this culture too: the disastrous renter relocation fee that actually resulted in higher rents, and the Mayor’s insistence on (and Eudaly’s approval of) paying for $350K “affordable” units. The complete lack of foresight in any city policies is mind-boggling.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

I’d be homeless right now if it wasn’t for the renters assistance and I’m not alone.

soren
Guest
soren

Hi Jeff, The relocation assistance fee ordinance is up for renewal in February and we need the testimony of people who have been helped by this law. At pdxtu.org you can find info on how to help us get this law extended and strengthened.

soren
Guest
soren

“the disastrous renter relocation fee that actually resulted in higher rents”

citation?

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

Funny how you always ask for citations yet you never seem to cite your own personal opinions. How about Eulasy’s own landlord admitting they raised her rent 9.7% because of the relo assistance? Funny how when a commissioner antagonistically introduces uncertainly into a rental market, that landlords react by raising rents while they can before who knows what happens.

https://www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2017/10/12/19386004/chloe-eudalys-landlord-admits-limiting-her-rent-increase-because-of-her-relocation-law

soren
Guest
soren

it’s spelled eudaly, not eulasy. just curious, clicky, are you male?

and i note that the only evidence you can provide is that the ordinance **LIMITED** commissioner eudaly’s rent increase?

the title of your link:

Chloe Eudaly’s Landlord Admits Limiting Her Rent Increase Because of Her Relocation Law

not too long ago double digit (50%, 60%, 70%) rent increases were common and now they are rare. imo, the relo assistance ordinance should have a lower rent increase cap and cover all tenants (currently about a fifth are not covered).

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The article quoted Eudaly as saying:

“However, the real issue is with landlords who haven’t historically been raising rents by nearly 10 percent, but are doing it now. It’s reactionary, and it’s exacerbating our rent crisis.”

That suggests that she, at least, thinks some landlords are increasing rents faster than they otherwise would have in response to the law.

I generally support the law, but would change my mind if the evidence suggests it is not meeting its goals.

soren
Guest
soren

In the piece Eudaly also states that the 9.7% increase was lower than her previous increases. The lack of data* is also, IMO, a consequence of long-term and continuing opposition to tenant rights at city hall.

*in general, the city of portland does not track who rents, where they rent, how many renters live in a unit, and whether those units are habitable or up to code.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

What’s clear is that the situation is not clear. Some tenants won, and some lost. Whether the overall effect was positive or negative probably depends on who won and lost, and by how much. If Eudaly saved on rent at the expense of people not earning 6 figures, that is not an obvious win.

We simply don’t have the data to know at this point, and maybe never will.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Sad but true, This is about more than just bikes. As a civilization we are like an alcoholic on his last bender. The liquor cabinet is empty, our liver is about shot, and we just lost our job, but we are gonna have that last drinking binge before we hit bottom and get some help. We can’t seem to put down the massive stream of fossil fuel energy that is fueling our auto madness. As we near the end of this 100 year binge with out liver about shot ( the environment/climate), and the liquor cabinet empty ( economicaly obtainable oil) we can’t help ourselves but have one last binge. We know it will end badly but we can only hope it ends soon, and we come back to our senses and move on to sane ways to travel the earth.

soren
Guest
soren

It feels like there are fewer people cycling to me. Bridge counts would provide some confirmation of this but the Hawthorne counter has been malfunctioning for many months. However, the mostly working Tilkum counter suggests a drop off in 2017 versus 2016 (switch to weekly and 1/01/2016-12/31/2017):

http://portland-tilikum-crossing.visio-tools.com/

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

My perception of declining numbers is the same.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Here is a scary thought. Maybe that is all the good people that there are. See the few cyclists, thats it ,everyone else doesn’t give a hoot about the Children, the Future of the Planet or anything else. They will drive until someone prys the steering wheel from their cold fingers, or until the gas runs out, no matter what.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

My personal guess is that we’re still just stagnating. The 2016/2017 Tilikum data could be easily attributed to reduced “New bridge-curious” travelers (the bridge only opened in October 2015, remember). Eventually, though, the impact of gentrification in inner Portland will outweigh the influx of disproportionately bike-friendly domestic in-migrants.

I do think the 7% number from the last ACS or the one two years ago was a fluke, though.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Your thesis is that there are a shrinking number of cyclists in inner Portland?

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

No, my thesis is that currently, an influx of disproportionately bikey wealthy in-migrants is counteracting an outflow of disproportionately bikey lower-middle-class, progressive/artsy/whatever longtime Portlanders. But eventually, there won’t be enough working-class longtime Portlanders so it’ll be less-bikey middle-class, upper-middle-class, and upper-class longtime Portlanders that are displaced, and the bikiness of in-migrants will decrease somewhat as you go ever further up the income scale.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I agree with most of that, except for the bit about “bikey”.

🙂

X
Guest
X

My thesis, fresh from the oven, is that the stressed-out mood prevailing on the streets is stomping any marginal improvement in conditions due to infrastructure investments. Result: bike commute share goes sideways, at best.

chris m
Guest
chris m

Median income is up roughly 20% since 2010, this number is way too big to be explained by high earning transplants, so some of the newly better off are surely home grown as well. Overall the region has become a lot richer and has a much tighter labor market so people value their time more. In a tighter labor market people are going to have a lot more incentive to travel further for work since higher wage options are more available, and generally more worth commuting to. I wonder if this is part of the change as well. If all the jobs pay $12 an hour there’s no reason to drive to across town when the closer job will do. When someone is offering you a big raise, driving seems worth it.

Ben
Guest
Ben

I think you’re correct about the Tilikum. Lots of commuters wanted it to work for them, but it puts you so far south of downtown that it’s pretty useless for anyone who doesn’t work at OHSU.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Yeah, plus the connection to points north is much slower, less scenic, and more stresstful than the path by OMSI, so even using the Tilikum as an occasional entertaining detour is not worth it. And the connection to PSU is low-quality, slow, and indirect (no bike facilities on the transit flyover of Naito), so the Tilikum’s potential for increasing PSU’s bike commute rate was squandered. So many missed opportunities.

q
Guest
q

Tilikum is also such a perfect and ironic example of Portland’s tendency to congratulate itself. And I’m not talking just about it’s being overrated.

It had a huge opening ceremony featuring a huge fireworks display. The display happened in the middle of an air-quality crisis here, when people were being advised to avoid even going outdoors. Fire crews were stretched thin on standby to respond to fires due to dangerously dry conditions. The City’s response was…fireworks?!?

When people questioned the wisdom of electively blowing up fireworks in the midst of a fire danger/air quality crisis, the City’s response was that people with those concerns may want to avoid attending the show.

This doesn’t even get into the irony of celebrating a “green” bridge–whose symbiosis with the river and its salmon and wildlife was constantly paraded about by the City–by exploding poisonous materials that land in the water.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

In my opinion, the west side approach to the Tilikum bridge is the best facility in the city. The east side could use some work though, but it does connect nicely to the Clinton bikeway. I’d use the Tilikum more if it wasn’t so damn steep compared to the Hawthorne.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

The grade change on the Tilikum is why I continue to use the Hawthorne (since either would work fine for my route).

Lo
Guest
Lo

Every time I’ve used the west side approach coming from downtown, it’s been horribly awkward – the 90 degree swivel you have to do, if waiting for the light, is awful. There isn’t room for more than one bike to wait facing the bridge, and if you stop in the bike lane, people fly by you on both sides. I much prefer the east side, since there’s actually room to wait

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

Yeah I agree that turn onto the bridge could use some more room. However, I find the path under the MAX viaduct, the crossing of SW Sheridan, and the cycle track along SW Moody to be very safe and comfortable. Why this city spies the build more facilities like that is beyond me.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

spies the build => doesn’t build

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

The Hawthorne counter has been broken for almost a year. I think it was fixed for maybe a week, then broke again. I’ve reported this using the PDX reporter app, however since I still have open items from 2015 (!) I don’t have much hope in getting a response. The perpetually broken Hawthorne counter is a perfect symbol of cycling’s decline in Portland.

James Bikington
Guest
James Bikington

Don’t forget gentrification. Rich people own more cars, want more luxury, less [temporary] inconvenience or looking “sweaty”, etc…

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Though anecdotal, your stereotype completely contradicts my experience with people in my inner SE neighborhood (and elsewhere).

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Yeah, inner Portland may increase its biking mode share as it gets richer due to only those rich people who like the amenities of inner Portland bothering to pay the prices of inner Portland. I am still sad, though, that some poor folks who used to live in inner Portland and use a bike as a way to live larger within a small income are being pushed to places where it’s much less practical and pleasant to bike a lot and live without a car.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Me too.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

Funny how as the city “get’s richer” as you say, none of the infrastructure seems to improve or get fixed. What is the city doing with all those extra tax revenues, and why as our tax base continues to swell every year is the city constantly making budget cuts?

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

The City’s not getting very much extra tax revenue. The main revenue source for the general fund is property tax, and due to Measure 50, property tax generally doesn’t increase with property value. The City is getting some extra revenue from Systems Development Charges for new development, but restrictive State rules on what those funds can be used for plus, in my guess, some bureaucratic bungling, has led to those funds piling up for years.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

There’s been lots of new development, assessed at its full value. That has to be generating something meaningful.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

As I pressed “Post” I did think about that point. That is true. But my guess is that most people think at first glance that City revenue would go up in proportion to the total income of all the people in the city, and I’m certain that Portland’s revenue has gone up by much less than that in the past decade.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

Sure, but it has certainly gone up, while our infrastructure has (admittedly anecdotally) been declining. Plus, didn’t the city rule that SDC’s can be used for cycling infrastructure? All I ever seen them used for is to “upgrade” traffic signals from hanging wire to steel masts. I’m willing to give PBOT maybe another year to figure out how to use the increase in revenue from HB2017, although my fear is that due to the fungibility of tax revenue, the “dedicated” bike funding becomes the sole source and all the previous funding sources get directed elsewhere, leading to a actual decline in cycling funding. Although word on the street is that Better Naito will be permanent this year and extended south to Lincoln. We shall see if that materializes. After 2018 if PBOT fails to deliver, they will officially be out of excuses.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

PBOT doesn’t get much property tax revenue anyway, ever. Most of its revenue is from gas taxes and parking fees. Drive less and PBOT’s revenue falls. On top of everything else, inflation eats into the value of what you get, so revenue has to keep rising faster than inflation. PBOT is a lot like Uber – both are dependent upon non-sustainable business models.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

PERS is one big portion of the answer. The police and firefighter retirement funds as well. The amount of unfunded liability faced in this state is horrifying – and there’s no good fix available. Sooner or later someone is going to need to actually attempt to deal with that crisis – unfortunately no one in state government seems to have the spine to do so.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

Hey, it’s fun to stereotype people who have money, huh?

Paul Johnson
Guest

Some of us got tired of waiting for Portland to even acknowledge it has problems, and moved away to cities that are willing to dust off what they have from the trash, fix it up, and make it better. So if my bike rolls across the counters again, it’ll probably be with a Tulsa city flag sticker on the fender and a City of Manhattan, Kansas license plate on the plate hanger.

q
Guest
q

This article’s timing is brilliant, just as I was checking on the status of a land use review for a project I testified about. It was a 77-unit residential project with a total of 17 long-term bike spaces, located in a small room next accessed by a path less than 4′ wide that runs past the garbage room. The project had gone all the way to the point of this final land use review with nobody among the owner, architect, or planning staff realizing and/or seeming to care that this is abysmal (let alone not code-compliant) especially for a project that also has no vehicle parking, is in an area with poor services (no grocery store) and has dwellings so small (micro-units of about 300 sf without even room for full kitchens) that there’s little room for bikes within units.

I’m sure everyone has similar examples of their own of similar bike-related shortcomings here.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Crazy. Hasn’t he seen our pyramid???

comment image

maxD
Guest
maxD

“It is a car city that squeezed some bike facilities in. Almost reluctantly, it seems.”

This resonates so much! A very apt and unfortunate description of PBOT. There are so many great individual stretches of bike infrastructure (lanes, greenways, etc) that are not becoming a transportation network because they have dangerous gaps or lack direct, simple and safe connections

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

That really describes most American cities, but the difference in Portland is that we set the bar even lower than that – who needs to squeeze bike infrastructure onto car-centric streets when you can just paint arrows on side streets?

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

All one needs to do is look at the local “environmentalists” fighting against mountain biking to understand the problem.

9watts
Guest
9watts

the problem?

I think the two have nothing in common but please explain your thinking.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

Having to drive 60 miles to a mountain biking facility rather than riding to one in town seems to go against the values of environmentalism.

9watts
Guest
9watts

False dichotomy.
No one HAS to drive to any recreational opportunity. It is a choice.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

Not really. People are going to want to participate in recreational activities, especially in a city like Portland that prides itself on access to nature and what not. If giving people options in town rather than far outside it will result in less driving, then pragmatically it makes sense to do so. The buses are unreliable and don’t go to the places people would mountain bike. Your proposal that people just not go mountain biking is a non-solution and is not practical. If people are driving outside of town to ride bikes, then figure out why and come up with a solution that cuts down on that driving. Solutions need to take into account people’s current behaviors rather than trying to dictate what they do.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Your proposal that people just not go mountain biking is a non-solution and is not practical.”

That was not my proposal. I was simply pushing back against the unimaginative and entitled and I might add rather familiar attitude that posits a right-to-certain-forms-of-recreation, to which I’ve reacted here before.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I absolutely do have a right to my preferred recreation! My efforts to increase coal rolling opportunities in the city have been continuously thwarted by a visionless and spineless city council.

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

No one has a right to mountain biking but that doesn’t mean people won’t do it. Isn’t it better to react to what people are actually doing instead of arguing that their expectations are unrealistic? Especially when the solutions are relatively easy and there’s already a team of volunteers ready to do the work?

I personally would like to see our society become less car-centric, so I believe that if people are driving somewhere then we should be looking into why they feel the need to drive and implement solutions that give them alternatives to driving.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“I personally would like to see our society become less car-centric, so I believe that if people are driving somewhere then we should be looking into why they feel the need to drive and implement solutions that give them alternatives to driving.”

Yes. I agree.

“No one has a right to mountain biking but that doesn’t mean people won’t do it.”

Above we weren’t I don’t think arguing about whether people will mountain bike, but whether using the argument they’ll do it anyway, and by car if necessary to strong arm city fathers into giving us our recreation locally was a valid argument. That to me is the definition of entitlement and when we are talking recreation (as opposed to transportation) I reject it categorically.

“Isn’t it better to react to what people are actually doing instead of arguing that their expectations are unrealistic?”

I guess we disagree about that.

“Especially when the solutions are relatively easy and there’s already a team of volunteers ready to do the work?”

I think having mountain biking options close in would be great and should be pursued; the obstructionists pilloried and the work should commence. But that to me is different than what I reacted to above: If you don’t then we’ll be forced to drive

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Portland doesn’t have to be a bike city either. But if it wants to be one, it needs to have local off-road biking.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Do you think people will actually ride their mountain bikes to access points if Forest Park becomes accessible? Thurman? — maybe? Highway 30 — probably not. I do a 20 mile loop on my cross bike from NE Portland to Saltzman via Willamette then east on Lief. I do it on my mtb sometimes. If I was planning on riding a trail network similar to Phil’s Trail system in Bend, I’d probably drive. The recreational mtber has a limit on how far they’ll ride to the trail head and I believe the proposed access points will be out of that range. We’ll have to have metered parking at the TH’s because there’ll be so many cars…

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

This is exactly true. The drive will be shorter, but the vision of everyone riding to the trails is pure fancy. If I am wrong, let’s not have parking at the trailheads.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

But, by takin away parking — doesn’t that negate equitable access for the hypothetical family of four traveling from Gresham?

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

It’s not unreasonable to ask the city to build cycling facilities leading to Forest Park if MTB trails get built. Also, MAX isn’t too far and all TriMet buses can fit bikes. It’s a lot easier to convince someone to take their mountain bike on the bus/train for a few miles rather than all the way to Mt Hood or whatever other location outside the city. Even if they drive, it’s still less miles and therefore less impact. Same goes for if some people ride or bus and some drive. I really don’t see any downside to adding mountain bike facilities to Forest Park.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

I would! I can’t speak for others, but I suppose it all depends on where you live. Hopefully there would be more access on the east side so people could just ride there. Also, I have ridden to phil’s from bend. It will not be a silver bullet, but it will cut down on car traffic.

SERider
Guest
SERider

But it’s not just forest park. The city should be providing solid off road riding opportunities in all quadrants of the city. Powell Butte, Gateway Green, Forest Park, and Riverview are no brainers to make this happen. Most of the city will be within a 4-5 mile ride of one of those parks.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Did my post say that everyone would start riding to the trailheads if they were 5 miles away instead of 50? Who are you responding to?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I thought you were insinuating that local mtb access would decrease the need to drive to trailheads.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Sure it would. More people would ride to where they ride, but obviously not everybody. And it would reduce the length of the trip (surely driving 10 miles is better than driving 100). And it would encourage more riding from kids. I rarely take my boys mountain biking, because it’s 2 hours in the car for a 1-hour ride on the trail, and it’s not worth it to them.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

OK, this discussion has gotten way too all-or-nothing. Of course plenty of people would ride to MTB trailheads if there were MTBing in town. No, a majority might still drive. But (let’s say) 60% is not 100%. Rather than eliminating parking (which, again, would be a result of binary thinking) to keep people from driving there, charge a couple dollars for parking.

And by the way, here in Minneapolis lots of people ride to MTB trailheads. Because we have lots of mountain biking in town. No, not everyone. Plenty of people still drive. But many don’t.
Question answered, and the answer is not binary.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Fascinating discussion – about driving to bike.

Here, it seems, it is ok to make fun of people driving to the gym, but not of people driving to the trails with their bike on a rack.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

If there was mountain biking in FP, I would not ride on Cornell, Skyline, or Thompson with my 9-year-old to get there. Go ahead and make fun of me.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I’m not going to make fun of you, you’re sensible Dan A. I think the majority of people who would choose to drive are also sensible people. There’s tens of thousands of people who mountain bike in Portland, but I imagine only a small fraction will actually ride to ride. These people are the individuals employed in the cycling industry: mechanics, sales rep, wheel builders, Chris King, etc. Sure, this is a generalized statement but the reason I hammer on the idea that people won’t ride to ride is the argument is often sold as this saving grace. That if we have local access, all of a sudden everyone will abandon their cars and no longer drive outside the city to recreate. Alas, we’ll be even a greener bike city!

I think local access will do nothing but increase our collective ecological footprint.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

It wouldn’t. We are already using it as recreational space. Thinking it would have much of an impact either way is kind of ignorance, tbh.

Matt
Guest
Matt

So is riding a bike on a city street if we are honest with ourselves. Nobody in this town has to ride a bike when you can walk, take transit, or (gasp) drive. Off-road riding, like any recreational opportunity, is just one more facet that makes a place attractive to live and visit. Denver, Salt Lake, Vancouver BC, Richmond, Chattanooga all have trail systems easily accessible without a car and those are just the towns that jump to mind. Why they get it and we don’t is just one more reason why it is a stretch to call Portland “bike friendly”.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Denver and Salt Lake have also built industries around attracting elite athletes to train at altitude. Their local outdoor athletic scene is very different than Portland’s.

Maybe if we build access to FP, they will come.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Queens NY has more singletrack than Portland.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

Yea – Portland hasn’t done that at all. I will be sure to let Adidas and Nike know.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Name one ultra marathoner or pro mountain biker sponsored by Adidas or Nike?

q
Guest
q

Actually, powerful as Nike and Adidas are, neither has been able to bring any distance runners to Portland to train at altitude, either. It’s hard to build a high-altitude training industry in a sea-level city.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

You are naming specific sports – and while none may mountain bikers as their dominant sport or running for that matter – that doesn’t mean they don’t mountain bike. Any athlete of any caliber I know does multiple sports.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Great, answered a question by googling the answers. Still, they don’t live or train in Portland. Maybe they would if training was more accessible locally. These are the folks I’d expect to ride 10 miles on their mtb to the trailhead, then ride an additional 30-40 on the trail network. One of the sponsored athletes lives in Flagstaff which is at altitude and probably runs 50 miles from his doorstep. Although, to make a point— you can do that here on Wildwood in Forest Park. Maybe that’s the key, switch from biking to running to get your trail fix…

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

Well, I have done ultra-endurance mountain bike events and have trained in Forest Park for them. The rate of elevation gain on the fire lanes is significant – it’s just not a real alternative to mountain biking. Also, I don’t need to be a pro-level ultra-endurance athlete to benefit from mountain biking or trail running in FP.

Also, thanks for telling me how I should exercise so I can get around the bs politics in this city. It’s condescending at best and being an outright jerk at worst. Wish there could be more of you.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Ask a silly question…

Matt
Guest
Matt

Oops, I accidentally “liked” your post before realizing you were being condescending. Maybe if we built access to FP we would see more kids enjoying the health benefits of bicycling instead of playing video games because their parents are justifiably too scared to let them play on the road. But that’s ok, they will never be world class athletes so why bother.

SERider
Guest
SERider

Matt, it has nothing to do with attracting “elite athletes”. Portland (like many cities in the west) bills and prides itself on being an “outdoors-y” city.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

Ha – yea – they will never be world class athletes, so why bother? Because exercising and being healthy is only for world class athletes. Also, since I have started spending more time in the woods mountain biking, my tendency to approach things with conservation in mind has increased by magnitudes.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

All I was saying is that places like Denver and Salt Lake have vibrant outdoor scenes, partly because of the topography. Portland does too, but you have to drive to it. Granting access to Forest Park for mountain bikers would be awesome, but it doesn’t compare to the other cities mentioned in previous threads. Forest Park is amazing for hikers and runners, and would be fine for mtbers considering the other options just an hour or two away… Albeit, FP would be perfect for some who didn’t want to drive super far or wanted to knock out an after work ride to keep in shape.

Also, I’m thinking about our city council and wondering if they use our trail systems in any manner. I know Mayor Wheeler is an active guy, but I don’t know about the rest of the commissioners.

Then I wonder about places like Denver, Salt Lake, Durango, Moab — they may have several members in government that are active on the trails. I imagine they are advocates who push for the community to have diverse local access to the trailheads (hiking, running, mtbing, climbing, etc.).

I wasn’t trying to be condescending earlier in my posts. I was trying to connect how vibrant outdoor scenes have vibrant local trail access. Then I proposed, does Portland have either?

9watts
Guest
9watts

“but you have to drive to it.”

Do we really have to parrot these silly misconceptions, these fossil fuel drenched entitlements?
No.one.has.to.drive.to.these.places.
It is perfectly OK to spend one’s time in other pursuits if the distance or difficulty of getting there without a car makes it out of reach. Let’s remember we’re not talking about someone who’s been priced out of a transit connected apartment near her job, and now has to commute to her job 20 miles across the metro area from and to a place that isn’t served by transit, we’re talking about recreation!

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

They’re not entitlements if you have to pay for it. It can be quite expensive to spend a weekend in Bend or Oakridge. However, carpooling cuts down on the costs.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“They’re not entitlements”
The way I was using the term – entitlement – was to suggest that people feel they deserve/are owed/are entitled to certain kinds of access, certain flavors of entertainment; and when those are not provided in the manner these people feel they are entitled to be then threats are made, threats such as ‘well then I’ll be forced to drive.’
Does that make sense? Isn’t that a proper use of the term?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I never said anything about forcing some to drive to recreate. I don’t know about you, but no one forces me to leave the city to go mountain biking. I feel lucky that the outdoors are so accessible from Portland.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“but you have to drive to it.” = your words.

Did I misunderstand something?

When I read that I think someone is complaining that things are not lining up as they should, something is amiss, and so to make everything right again they are forced to drive. The implication being that someone else is to blame for this driving.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I don’t think I came off as complaining. Actually, I have no problem with they way things are currently setup and feel very privileged to live in Oregon, specifically Portland.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I don’t know if you, specifically, were complaining or intended to come across that way, and I am happy to take your word for it that you were not. My point was not specific to you at all, but since you used that phrase I’m hung up on I thought it worth pointing out that it can reasonably be interpreted the way I have.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

This back and forth is a great example of why Portland is completely overrated as a bike city. Thanks for proving my point!

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Ride in town, its great, fun, exciting, and you get to see nature. Ride to where you ride!

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

Sure – I believe that cycling doesn’t do environmental damage (at the very least, in the context of the city) and that the conservationists/birders/hikers are willing to sacrifice the environment for their desire to have their own private city to hike in. This has a second impact of decreasing the rate of adoption of cycling as both a recreational activity and as transportation activity.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“the conservationists/birders/hikers are willing to sacrifice the environment ”

so many labels.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

I was using what the groups self-identify as.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I think this group of users would voluntarily shutoff their own access to keep mtbers out of FP. Meaning, they’d rather see no one use it than share.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

I agree – they are extremely aggressive and illogical.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

I also think it is highly representative of our NIMBY culture, which can also be seen the rest of the bike access and consistently putting them at the bottom of the food chain – below both walking and cars.

Tim
Guest
Tim

I agree that Portland is overrated as a bike friendly place. Portland’s self view and reputation appear to be based on limited comparisons to to far away places like Beaverton, Gresham and Vancouver (the one in Washington). It is not just the infrastructure, it is the attitude of the cyclists and drivers. In European cities, all kinds of people travel by bike in all kinds of weather and often without any cycling specific infrastructure. I think this is the comparison that Colville-Anderson is making.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

He’s right. Both the local governments and bike riders are to blame.

First, the local BOTs and parks departments keep trying to placate the bike interests, business concerns, and transportation industries by throwing a few bones to each in hopes of keeping them quiet for a little while. Claim “VICTORY!!!”, then rinse and repeat. I chuckle every time two blocks of paint or a half mile of MUP in a suburban park gets approved and BTA/Street Trust goes nuts heralding this “major shift in thinking for alternative transportation that we fought for!”. Meanwhile, several commuters get clipped, right hooked, or worse on a daily basis because nothing really changed.

Riders are to blame also. We are too easily satisfied with these infrastructure crumbs, slightly lowered neighborhood speed limits, or candidates that promise bikey things while posing on a bike only to cave to trucking companies and developers once in office. This is where BikePortland and advocacy groups really need to be tougher, IMHO. Hold electeds and bureaucrats accountable rather than celebrating their impotent “cred”. Critically examine infrastructure proposals and projects with an eye towards the true effectiveness of it. Does it create a better environment for thousands of daily commuters and create more commuters? Or is it simply millions spent for a handful of families to lazily pedal cruisers for a mile or so on a warm summer day…in Wilsonville? Does Sunday Parkways really get folks on bikes or is it merely a feel good event involving bikes?

I am of the opinion that the city/counties/Metro have failed to build a true network of bike “freeways” and safe routes that make cycling a viable and attractive alternative to auto use in all weather. They have also failed to protect what assets have been built like the Springwater Corridor to keep it user friendly. Based on personal experience, it is easier to ride around NYC or DC (including the ‘burbs) than the Portland area these days. Portland has lost its mojo but, we riders also have to stop living in the past while conditions stagnate and others pass us by. Demand better!

glennfee
Subscriber

Alex Reedin
I dunno, the proof of usefulness for me is in people actually using it. For mode share to employment (admittedly an imperfect measure, but the only one with comparable data that I’m aware of), Denver metro area, ~6%. Portland metro area, ~8%. Both pretty steady for the past decade. Perhaps Denver’s will improve with more time for people to change their habits, move based on transit preferences and destinations, and transit-oriented development given the large rail expansion in the past decade. However, I’m not all that optimistic. With rail networks as spindly as Portland and Denver’s, the number of people with origins and destinations within reach of rail is always going to be low. My guess is that both cities would need a fast, frequent, not-stuck-in-traffic, ubiquitous bus network in order to really grow their transit mode shares.Recommended 0

Fair assessment. Bus Rapid Transit, with dedicated lanes, needs to be a significant part of our transportation future.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Only if people want to ride it.

Paul Johnson
Guest

We used to have this, too! Remember the 91X Forest Grove Express, which ran with packed articulated buses running every 15 minutes from Forest Grove to Downtown Portland, making only six stops west of Sylvan? How about the 57 Forest Grove, running the same packed articulated buses once every 7 minutes all day and half that during rush hour peak direction, on a route people live and work on? They should have kept that when they opened the Blue Line. How about the 12 Tualatin/PDX line? It ran articulated buses from nearly Newberg to Portland International Airport on a similar frequency to the 57 line. I’m sure the eastside had better service even then, but the closure of the heavy hitting crosstown articulated bus lines did more to wreck a barebones but actually livable transit system on the westside than opening a Blue Line through nothing ever made up for.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

The peak of bike popularity was a decade ago. Most of those original riders have bought cars and moved. Any attempt to spin that into a criticism of gentrification, the economy, city policy or whatever else is only part of the story.

In my mind, the downfall of Portland cycling was/is the idea that cyclists need facilities. The result is:
– fearful riders
– angry motorists
– spending and planning rife with redundancy
** – I might also propose that the facilities we built could have made cycling more dangerous. Obviously we can’t know what the statistics would have been without the facilities, but the fact that most every cyclist dies in a bike lane should at least be raising concerns.

All riders develop preferred routes over time, but the more unwilling you are to venture off of a bike route, the more complicated every trip gets. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to consult a computer for directions to visit a new location. For example, say it’s 4200 SE Division… somewhere most anyone could find on their own.

I suspect some would use this as a call for more facilities. How much easier would the trip be for most though if we could simply ride with traffic on Division or Chavez?

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

That’s the whole point. Bike boulevards hardly count as bike facilities in the first place, and are confusing zigzagging routes that rely mostly on paint and good driver behavior. If Portland was serious about cycling, then there would be quality facilities on the same roads that cars and buses get to use – they’re busy streets for a reason as they’re the most direct and have most of the businesses people want to visit. Not creating space for cycling on these streets relegates cyclists to a lower class, as we’re effectively banned from the “main” streets.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

But Clicky, JeffS thinks that if Portlanders would just man up, huge numbers of people (well, men, in this testosterone-laden view), would find it perfectly comfortable and pleasant to mix with traffic on high-speed arterials with no bike infrastructure with their toddlers and groceries. How could you possibly disagree?

Spiffy
Subscriber

“The peak of bike popularity was a decade ago.”

I thought the peak was in the 70’s… but as a constantly repopulating planet the peak is all the time…

the demand for bicycles will only grow more in cities as we become too dense to allow large inefficient vehicles…

history easily provides a glimpse of this future… we’re a new country, built on free will with unlimited resources… we can resist only so long before the inevitable catches up and we’re forcing more restrictions on transportation in order to maintain a working society… those stuck with the “good old days” thinking are hindering the progress of those thinking ahead…

bikes have not yet peaked here in the US…

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

The bike boulevards are designed away from the car-centric streets for a good reason: safety. True, the system needs improvements. But calling them face palm-worthy is not exactly accurate. He does have a point about bike lanes across intersections, though. One of our problems are the NIMBYs who claim that we can’t have MAX or streetcar lines, insisting that freeways must be considered to be the only viable option on the argument that car-centric cities must always be so. Some say that driverless cars will make MAX/streetcar service obsolete in a few years. If the NIMBYs were to take off their goggles and look at what we have and what’s really possible, we actually might get things done. City government’s go slow at all times policy instead of a let’s do it aggressiveness doesn’t help.

q
Guest
q

I’ don’t think “NIMBYs” are the reason there’s not more MAX or streetcar service. The number of people living along those lines is a tiny percentage of the population–not enough to kill projects that had more general support.

The overwhelming number of people who oppose them are not “NIMBYs”, and they do not oppose them for “NIMBY” reasons, but rather for reasons such as believing that other options (and not just freeways) are more cost effective and flexible.

And if someone really did say, live next to where a light rail line was proposed, I’d have some sympathy for their concerns about noise, privacy, livability, etc. Calling them NIMBYs isn’t productive.

And many people who oppose MAX and/or streetcar expansions absolutely do NOT believe that “freeways must be considered to be the only viable option…”. The region could do just about everything on anyone’s wish list for cycling infrastructure (maybe even adding huge improvements to bus service for that matter) for a fraction of the cost of a new MAX line.

maxD
Guest
maxD

Mike, the bike boulevards are facepalm-worthy because they lack safe, direct connections to destinations and other pieces of bike infrastructure. Many of our greenways are disconnected and isolated and devolve into a contorted maze when a simple connection is needed.

Christopher
Guest

Didn’t you hear? All trails in Portland are now open to bikes. Go ride! Be polite. Smile.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Keep riding, we are harder to ignore if we actually use the trails that are in town.

HJ
Guest
HJ

I’ve been saying this for years. One only needs to look as far as our laws to see it. Safe passing law only applies at above 35mph. Wtf? Almost defeats the purpose. If that doesn’t convince a person we’re overrated take a peek at the west hills. For as much complaining as I’m always hearing about Eastside honestly it’s pretty good and mellow to ride in. When your life dictates that most of your riding is in the west hills, well, let’s just say neither good nor mellow are words that come to mind. And that’s despite literally decades of us flat out begging for even the smallest improvements.

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

Mikael’s critique is a broad summary of what my spouse and I often say about biking here, especially his disdain for our bread and butter – the bicycle boulevards/neighborhood greenways. I know he was just visiting and may not have seen the big picture but we have lived w/o owning a car in Portland for more than a decade, clocking thousands of miles every year commuting, doing pre-k runs, running
errands and generally using a bike as transport for all the daily needs you would expect of a family with two working parents and I can’t think of a more honest or accurate assement of the city’s biking environment. The proof is out there in the form
of all of our friends, neighbors, family and colleagues that seldom if ever hop on a bike for a grocery trip, doctor visit or school run. And why would they? Most of the comfortable infrastructure does not directly serve these destinations. Its easier and faster in most cases to drive. Some people are faulting him for saying that a few cold/icy days during the holiday season are not a good representation but I disagree, even in the middle of summer if it is outside of the am/pm commute times many of the bikeways are basically ghost towns and you can spend practically an hour on popular commercial streets and see only a handful of people on bikes.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I’m inclined to agree with almost everything you said above, but

“The proof is out there in the form of all of our friends, neighbors, family and colleagues that seldom if ever hop on a bike for a grocery trip, doctor visit or school run.”

I’m not sure all of that can be laid at the feet of PBOT. As Roger Geller once famously put it: “It is still too easy to drive in this town.” This is the US, where gas has been kept artificially cheap for more than a century. I’m not convinced that prioritizing bike infrastructure like some of us would like would accomplish what you see lacking.

chris m
Guest
chris m

Yeah I used to think my dad was crazy for saying gas should be $10 a gallon, but seeing as the externalities are probably at least double the sticker price for oil/gas, we ought to be paying in the range of $7-8 per gallon so he was closer to the mark than the market.

Matt Pennington
Guest
Matt Pennington

And when we start switching to electric vehicles and the price per mile drops even more what will be the excuse be? The majority just don’t want to bike.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

Evan Manvel
Overall, he gets a small sample of the city during the worst biking weather of the year, and casts large judgments based on it. That’s simply arrogance.

Would you feel differently if his comments were a result of a series of visits and not just one single visit? (Because they are a result of more than one visit)

Brent
Guest
Brent

For what it’s worth, I have two running theories about what’s happened:
1. The Commissioners and Mayor feel like they are spending all their political and actual capital on housing and density issues. They feel like they can’t rock the boat even more by sticking out their necks on big biking infrastructure changes. And they feel like they don’t have the extra money to fund it anyway.
2. Partly because of #1 but also due to a general lack of big-picture thinking and foresight, recent biking “improvements” have been rather lackluster and fail to illicit anything more than a temporary jump in biking. I think of the lost opportunities in the Tilikum bridge connections, the giant mess of competing transportation modes at the Clinton and 11th intersection that was never properly addressed, and the glacial pace of adding diverters to protect the greenways.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

I disagree; I don’t think that a single one of our current commissioners cares deeply about improving non-car modes of transportation, deeply enough to really consider making driving less convenient as a necessary cost in order to improve other modes of transportation. I think Eudaly really gets it, but all of her deep caring is currently, perfectly justifiably, wrapped up in the housing crisis. Everybody else ranges from actively opposed (Fritz) to “meh” (Fish, Saltzman) to “I’ll say whatever you want to hear as long as it involves no political or financial cost” (Wheeler).

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

What makes you think Eudaly “gets it”? Her issue is housing; transportation was something others projected onto her.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Her heartfelt, thoughtful
writing here: https ://bikeportland.org/2016/05/20/comment-of-the-week-candidate-eudaly-on-her-transportation-background-183976

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I hope you’re right; the evidence is lacking so far.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Agreed… but assume she DOES get it. What’s the point of her doing anything to push non-car transportation when the rest of Council is Wheeler, Saltzman, Fish, and Fritz?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

With a modest proposal and a compelling vision, there’s no reason to think a champion couldn’t prevail.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Yes, there is a reason a single champion couldn’t prevail on the current Council. No one else on Council has the life experience to understand why using a car less is appealing, practical, and fiscally sound for a large portion of the population if the City makes the investment to make it comfortable and convenient. Everyone else on Council lives in the West Hills and drives just about everywhere, all the time, and is enmeshed in social circles with the same transportation habits. There is no compelling vision that could be presented for them. In order for non-car transportation modes to get prioritized, two of those four need to be replaced by potential “Yes” votes.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Sorry, the above comment was overly bombastic and stereotype-filled, and I actually have no knowledge about the social or transportation habits of Council members. I still think everyone except Eudaly is a lost cause based on what I’ve seen and heard.

X
Guest
X

look up “modest proposal”

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Another reader of Mr. Swift?

Brent
Guest
Brent

I didn’t say they care about improving infrastructure. I agree that none of the current crop of local politicians has the drive to advance this issue alone. I think the mayor and commissioners are all generally playing a defensive political game right now. They feel forced to react to current housing crisis. The harsh reaction to their “solutions” is almost as bad as the criticism they received by not doing anything. Therefore, they feel like they have to keep their heads down on other issues.

A politician that has their own drive to tackle biking issues is rare. Portland has been blessed to have several of them over the years. But we haven’t had one since Sam Adams. However, politicians are usually quick to react to shifting political winds. If they feel like there is a strong push from the people to do something, they can usually figure out a way to react to it. (example: the housing crisis) (caveat: I’m not saying they will react well)

In summary, I believe there is hope for revitalizing this issue in city hall if the grassroots can increase the political wind to give the current crop of politicians some incentive and cover to act.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

I mostly agree with what you’re saying. I’m just a little pessimistic about the chances of real progress without any dedicated advocates on Council, even if there is a grassroots groundswell. I subscribe to the “selfish voter” theory of transportation politics – people mostly vote/advocate to fund the modes of transportation that they currently use, with only some shifts due to foresight or ideology. The best recent example I can think of for big moves forward for non-car transportation is Seattle, which has a far higher transit mode share than Portland (Portland’s higher bike mode share is offset by Seattle’s higher walking mode share).

I guess the counterexample is LA, which has similar non-car mode shares to Portland, if not a little worse. But I’d argue that LA is the exception. I think that LA’s air and urban environment just got to the breaking point, making the horribleness, pointlessness, and wastefulness of dedicating ever more space, priority, and money to car transportation obvious to a large portion of the population. I hope Portland doesn’t have to go there to change, but I also don’t see a different viable political path other than electing another Vera Katz or Earl Blumenauer.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

(Background: Both Seattle and LA passed huge funding measures for transit, biking, and walking infrastructure recently).

soren
Guest
soren

moves to the left were associated with copenhagen and amsterdam’s re-prioritization of active transportation in the 80s.

J_R
Guest
J_R

” Sooner or later someone is going to need to actually attempt to deal with that crisis – unfortunately no one in state government seems to have the spine to do so.”

Actually, the state legislature has been attempting to deal with that crisis for about twenty years. The greatest retirement benefits of public employees accrued to employees hired before 1996. The retirement benefits were scaled back substantially again for employees hired in 2003 and once again a few years later.

I was a PERS employee early in my career but went to the private sector where I made much more money. Don’t worry, I’m not getting a monthly check from PERS, but I can’t let the comment about not dealing with the problem go unchallenged.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Response was intended to Jeff’s complaint about PERS several posts up.

Joe Fortino
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Joe Fortino

still love you Portland even coming from CA and LV together we can make it better.
yes I have had hard times in Portland riding but love the culture 🙂

Joe Fortino
Guest
Joe Fortino

no place is perfect but I feel bike lifestyle has culture if you let it shine.. not everyone is going to get along.. sooo much diversity

Jim
Guest
Jim

Yes, yes, yes and yes. I found myself physically applauding as I read the article. I don’t know of the author, some people seem to dislike him, but what he says is spot on. I used to be protective of our city cycling system, but now I freely admit that it is garbage.

Our city government is not really trying. I understand that, they don’t want to anger people and risk their careers. But to pretend that we are a good cycling city, and that we are getting better, is insulting. And it is not because there is some magic to Amstersdam, Copenhagen, Minneapolis, London Walthamstow etc. There were fights in those places, there were choices made. We could copy and learn from all those progressions, but our city government chooses not to do much.

I am another of these annoying people who seem more and more common, who talk about the biking ten years ago, about how all our friends now drive everywhere, about how we can barely afford it here and would like to move away. There are so many of us that it is boring. Maybe we can be the characters on a new season of Portlandia.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

You’re right that other cities are making different choices. That said, as long as gas remains cheap and we glorify driving I’m not sure other (North American, at least) cities won’t end up plateauing at the same level as Portland.

Minneapolis has made great strides since I’ve lived here, with a bunch of awesome new protected (and snowplowed/deiced) bike lanes. But unlike conventional 5-7′ wide bike lanes, these have genuinely reduced car capacity in places, and some people are freaking out. The bikelash hasn’t reached Portland levels, but it’s definitely been building. We’re not far behind Portland in ridership, but as long as gas stays under $3/gal I think it’s likely we’ll end up at a similar plateau if the political consensus shifts against more bike improvements.

Neighboring St. Paul, being a bit more traditional, has about half the bike infrastructure of Minneapolis – and about half the ridership. But the City Council there has finally been standing up to the NIMBYs and the nobies, and doing projects anyway: Cleveland Street (which, like NE 28th, had business owners lining up in opposition to keep a handful of welfare-parking spaces, but unlike NE 28th got done). The massive Ford Site redevelopment plan got the green light. And they finished Jackson Street, the first of 5 major protected bikeways that will crisscross their downtown, otherwise a very dangerous neighborhood for cyclists.

In both cities in November, voters threw out their mayors and a bunch of traditional city councillors, electing a slate of new leadership that is more progressive and pro-urbanist. More change is coming. St. Paul may catch up with Minneapolis (and Portland). But again, I think we’ll level out in the 5-8% range unless we do something about cheap gasoline.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I’m not sure if we “glorify” driving, but people do seem to prefer it to the alternatives.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“I’m not sure if we ‘glorify’ driving…”

Google “car ads”.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

If you define “we” as people marketing cars, then I guess I agree. By that definition, we glorify just about everything that can be sold.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

This is the country that brought you EIGHT ‘the Fast & the Furious’ movies. And there are three more on the way!

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

No question Portland’s bike friendliness has a long way to go.

However, it is naive to ignore the fundamental differences between Portland and Copenhagen.

1. Copenhagen is a very small city, geographically, 34 sq mi vs Portland 145 sq mi. And what we think of as central Copenhagen is only about 2 miles across.
2. Taxes in Denmark are 2X to 3X higher than in the US, depending on the measure.
3. Prices for most things are higher in Denmark. Much higher (like 2X) for cars, fuel, parking. Other consumer goods are more expensive. The overall cost of living, housing, eating is higher.
4. Median household income is similar in Copenhagen and Portland, about $55K/yr.
5. Copenhagen is not only tiny, it is pretty much dead flat. At least the central part is.

Thus Copenhagen and Denmark generally has budget for much more extensive bike/ped infrastructure and transit (because, taxes) to cover a much smaller area, and after your bus/subway/train trip you’re probably only a several minute walk from your destination (because, short distances). Fewer people own/use/can afford cars (expensive, high taxes, similar income) and there is less reason to drive (short, flat, great transit).

For Portland to be Copenhagen, we would have to start by: shrink the city to just NW 23rd to NE/SE 30th; triple the budgets for PBOT, TriMet, etc; double everyone’s taxes to pay for this; increase prices by 10% to 100%; keep incomes the same. So now we have much shorter travel distances, money to build lots of transit and bike infrastructure, and way fewer people can afford and fuel cars even if they want to. And outside of our magically shrunken city, people commuting from Gresham, Vancouver, Tigard are somehow coming by train not car.

Yes, we could then become a great bike city by Copenhagen standards. But that’s not a realistic standard to measure Portland by. If you expect that to happen, you’ll be forever sad and puzzled.

Portland needs to become the best bike city that we can, subject to the realities of Portland, Oregon, USA. We’re never going to be Copenhagen. Sorry to burst that bubble. Let’s focus on doing what we can, rather than bemoaning what we can’t.

(Or, move to Copenhagen . . . I love that city, from what I’ve seen of it, and would love to live there. Have done some thinking about how . . . I confess . . . )

USbike
Guest
USbike

Maybe Mikael should have been less generalizing with his comparisons between Copenhagen and Portland. But the bike infrastructure and high bike modelshare doesn’t just stop outside of the 33 sq miles of what’s considered the city of Copenhagen. The vast network of transit and bikeways extends throughout much of the entire metropolitan area of Copenhagen which is more like 1,000 sq mi in size with 1.7 million people. The climate there is also hardly the most optimal for leisure cycling, with very short summers are also quite rainy and cloudy. Size/area doesn’t necessarily have to be a barrier to building a comprehensive network if there would be the political will to build it. Besides the very high quality bicycle infrastructure within Dutch cities and towns, the entire country of the Netherlands (16,000 sq mi) is also well connected with bicycle infrastructure of one form or another.

I think that comments about topography are often way too generalized. Yes, hills are harder to cycle up then a flat surface, all things being equal. Yes, most of Denmark and the Netherlands is very flat. But that doesn’t automatically mean cycling is so much easier there, because those two countries are also very windy much of the time especially along the coasts. I live in the SW Dutch province of Zeeland, and there is almost always a moderate to strong west wind coming from the North Sea. Commuting home entirely against a headwind of force 7-8 (32-46+ mph), or more, for 10 miles is neither easy nor enjoyable. Sometimes the gusts can be so strong that you are barely even going forward. I don’t think anybody is expecting that one day the entire 48 states will be covered with a dense network of bicycle infrastructure like as the Netherlands. And there doesn’t need to be a continuous bicycle path connecting Boston to San Diego. But that doesn’t mean cities and metropolitan centers cannot develop a good network of such infrastructure within.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

The conditions in Portland are so very different from Copenhagen. Topography and geography are only part of it. The economics and politics are big differences. Much of that isn’t in Portland’s control.

For example:
– The city cannot build more light rail lines without federal funding.
– The state controls many of the major roads and bridges.
– Commuters from neighboring cities/states will continue to arrive by car unless those cities/states and the state of Oregon take drastic action.
– The tax revenue of Portland is constrained by county, state, and federal laws and policy.

Finally, BP is an echo chamber, and we’d do w