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Comment of the Week: How Portland’s housing crisis impacts cycling

Posted by on January 19th, 2018 at 2:36 pm

[Note: I know it’s been forever since we did a “Comment of the Week”. I hope to make it a more regular occurrence. You can help make that happen by flagging great comments for me, either via an email or text or smoke signal.]

Portland’s lack of housing and rising costs of what we do have is well-documented. The situation has vast impacts on many parts of our lives.

Of the 495 comments we had this week, the one that stood out to me most was related to this topic. It was actually a reply to another reader’s comment, so I guess we have two comments of the week. The comments come from the “Year in review” story we published from Joe Cortright.

It started from a regular commenter named “soren”. He wrote:

“The increase in driving in Portland is probably not only about lower fuel cost. The cost of housing and the lack of tenant protections is displacing many who walk, bike, or bus. Anecdotally, I know multiple people who previously lived a largely car-free lifestyle in the inner city who are now car-dependent because they were forced to move to the periphery or outside of Portland… As Portland increasingly becomes an exclusive playground for rentiers and the rich it will also increasingly become a car-centric city.”


[These comments educated me about the term “rentiers,” which refers to a person living on income from property or investments.]

And a reader named “Huey Lewis” shared a reply that added a very human element to soren’s comment:

“This is us. We had to move to outer SE to buy a place, all we could afford was east of 205. What was formerly a 2 mile ride to beer, pizza and Blazers with a friend is now closer to 8. Meeting someone on Alberta was maybe 3 miles. That same meeting is now a little over 9. A ride to Kelley Point park and home was 25, now that’s just over 40 round trip. It kinda sucks. More miles riding my bike is usually great. But not dark, rainy, miles surrounded by aggro drivers, crossing busy arterials and being crowded on side streets by people trying to beat the traffic.”

The idea that people with bike-oriented tendencies are moving further outside the central city and are therefore less able to enact those tendencies, isn’t new. In fact, TriMet has already blamed that same phenomenon on the decrease in transit ridership in Portland.

What to do about this? We need more housing and a more diverse range of housing choices of course — but we also need to make safe streets a standard feature of Portland life, instead of the special privilege of the few who can still live close-in.

Thanks for reading this week. I appreciate your support and your comments. Have a good weekend and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

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

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112 thoughts on “Comment of the Week: How Portland’s housing crisis impacts cycling”

  1. Avatar David Hampsten says:

    The concept behind highways, turnpikes, later railroads and mass transit, and now freeways is that they provide fast expressways to people living further out to get to work in the big cities. Yes, it induces sprawl, has been since at least Roman times, but it could just as easily apply to bicycling too.

    What any city needs is a network of completely grade-separated bikeways connecting its suburbs to its downtown core. Minneapolis does this very well using old railroad rights-of-way. Many European cities use old back streets that have been mostly closed off to through traffic, but some cities like Berlin and London, as well as cities in China, are building continuous bicycle viaducts that look like narrow versions of superhighways, complete with offramps.

    In Oregon, only Eugene ever made any real effort to build any such bikeway, with their Amazon bike path from the 1980s.

    1. Avatar Champs says:

      Minneapolis’ limited-access off-street system helps many classes of bicyclists but this is still the “freeway mentality” that made me more or less quit BP.

      Freeways are not the model to follow. In many places it’s simply not practical to leave the car at home, despite the fact that schools, parks, shops, and restaurants are nearby and connected by surface streets. Livable communities start with the neighborhood. This is low hanging fruit.

      Me, I’m the kind of person who likes a fifteen mile round trip. I’ve done it—many times much farther—all my life. It was niche then, it is niche now, and all the pancake-flat grades, motors, triple-armor barriers, and climate control in the world will never move that needle. There’s no need to cater to people like me because we’ll be doing it anyway.

      You can’t get around the fact that cycling long distances is prohibitive. Sane people need better options. For a group of three, TriMet isn’t even cost-competitive with decent event parking near Moda Center these days. Draw your own conclusions.

      1. Avatar Greg Spencer says:

        I was thinking lately along the same lines. Long bike commutes are for a small minority of people. In Northern Europe, they’ve been building bicycle highways in the last five years or so, but only because they’ve already completed their local neighborhood cycling networks.

        Portland hasn’t done this. Neighborhood bike trips here can be really unpleasant cause stores and services are on arterial streets that are hostile to cycling. Commercial strips need physically separated bike lanes to encourage grocery shopping by bike. Every school should have safe, bike-friendly connections to local housing. Portland cycling development needs to focus on these short, neighborhood trips. This is the low-hanging fruit, this is where we can achieve some modal shift.

        1. Avatar David Hampsten says:

          What we have found here in Greensboro is that long bike commutes are typically done by poor people who are usually either African-American or immigrants, more so than white professionals and students (of an race). For many African-Americans, they are often deprived of their driving licenses for “driving while black” or for failure to show up for court, so they become transit-dependent by default; but since transit doesn’t connect to living-wage jobs here, just to schools and retail, they have to bike or walk the remaining distance. For immigrants, getting a license and then buying a car is simply unaffordable, aside from the language and driving culture differences.

          Naturally, the long rides they have to take to work are on narrow hostile roads with no margin for error (think San Rafael or MLK in Portland), with few parallel options (Midwestern grids really don’t exist in the deep south) – where the retail typically is, as you say. In an ideal world, we would prioritize funding protected bikeways on these frequently underused overbuilt arterial streets, but this is North Carolina, so we prioritize spending over a billion dollars on a new freeway bypass (no joke). In consequence, our poor long-distance bicycle commuters, usually riding Walmart specials very slowly without lights against traffic, must use the narrow 5-foot sidewalks when they exist, and ride in very fast traffic when they don’t.

          Since Greensboro covers 139 square miles (compared to Portland’s 145), and transit covers less than half that area (mostly the east and center), typical bike commutes to the high-paying industrial jobs near our airport (Volvo & Kenilworth trucks, Procter & Gamble, Honda Aircraft, & various airplane repair shops) are 7-12 miles, while beyond the 5-mile limit frequently mentioned on this blog. During the hot sultry summers and in the cold of winters.

          And do folks move to housing near their jobs? Yes, if they are allowed to and can find somewhere affordable, but many housing complexes exclude anyone who is poor of any race, while the public housing tends to be well away from where jobs are. Go figure.

    2. Avatar dan says:

      The Springwater Corridor is like a bike freeway and its utility is substantially diminished these days due to safety concerns. Building more bike freeways seems like it would run into the same problem.

      1. Avatar BradWagon says:

        The Springwater Corridor is a Scenic Byway. Let’s save this convo for when there is a direct, right of way priority bike path running through the heart of a business district.

      2. Avatar Dan A says:

        The Hwy 26 path is a critical east-west connector. There is no practical alternative that I’m aware of.

  2. Avatar Jim Lee says:

    In my neighborhood, Woodstock-Mount Scott, old houses, affordable by normal people, are routinely destroyed so “developers” can build much more expensive dwellings that can be purchased only by couples with two high incomes.

    Average new housing here now is more than one-half million dollars.

    The City, and other tax-funded entities, make out like bandits by this practice, by reason of greatly increasing property taxes. Not to mention the effect of such policies on “homelessness.”

    “Vision Zero” and all the other “progressive” political claptrap pale in comparison to the effects of establishment political orthodoxy on the well-being of normal citizens.

    1. Avatar Nick Falbo says:

      I have no doubt that you are seeing homes demolished and replaced with big, more expensive McMansion versions, but even your so called “affordable” homes are out of reach by most Portlanders.

      The median income in Portland is around $57,000. At this income, someone can afford a home in the $250,000 to $275,000 range, depending on a lot of details about other debts and downpayments.

      The number of homes available for purchase today in your area in this range? TWO

      While people complain about “luxury housing” being built, single family homes are quickly turning into unaffordable luxuries.

    2. Avatar chris m says:

      Razing and rebuilding old houses is the effect of high prices not the cause. If you look around the listings, even old and relatively small houses probably in dire need of major work are going for 400-500k. If a middle class family bought the house 10 years ago it is of course still affordable to them because they got in at the right time. But you can’t preserve affordability simply by curbing demolition.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        You are correct. Prices would rise absent demolitions. Demolitions just make it happen more quickly, and with more disruption.

        Since the number of single family houses is not increasing at anything remotely approaching the rate of population increase, and there are no serious proposals to change that (RIP would hardly make a dent), it seems houses are destined to continue to increase in price. More families are going to be raising their kids in apartments, if they can find any that aren’t studios.

        Prices are going to rise; demolitions will make it happen faster.

        1. Avatar 9watts says:

          “…there are no serious proposals to change that”

          and of course any proposals would, naturally, focus on supply not demand, wouldn’t they?
          Some day perhaps we’ll learn that we can’t have it both ways: Embrace, celebrate, incentivize growth of all kinds, while simultaneously lamenting the well understood fallout due to that very growth: housing shortages, traffic, rising prices, displacement, and a general and increasing mismatch between services and the demand for them.

          1. Avatar Dan A says:

            Yup. Our WashCo commissioners’ biggest contributors are the housing developers. The developers build large new housing complexes where the farmland used to be, then demand that the commissioners widen the arterials and keep the speed limits high (45mph), which they are happy to do. I expect things to continue this way for a long time.

          2. Avatar Paul H. says:

            The depopulation of rural areas and the migration of Americans to the south and west are long-term demographic trends that local policies are unlikely to quell. People are coming to the west coast regardless of Portland’s “embrace” of growth. A supply-side focus is the only realistic response to demographics outside local control.

            1. Avatar 9watts says:

              “local policies are unlikely to quell”

              hard to know since what you are suggesting is counterfactual. As it stands, we not only don’t have policies to quell this; our policies actively incentivize, subsidize, exploit this demographic movement.

              I’d suggest that we could instead attempt to grapple with the implications of these trends and our role in them and probably devise better strategies that delivered more equitable outcomes.

              1. Avatar Paul H. says:

                I agree completely that the goal should be more equitable outcomes; I still think that the activities necessary for reaching those outcomes will be supply-side, not demand-side.

              2. Avatar 9watts says:

                You and (most) everyone else.

                The problem is that pursuing supply-side solutions is a fool’s errand. We simply can’t build our way out of the mess which our pursuit of growth bequeaths us.

            2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

              I, for one, completely agree, and this is why I am bitterly disappointed we are now out of the running for the new Amazon headquarters. We need jobs for those moving here!

        2. Avatar soren says:

          “RIP would hardly make a dent”

          The majority of the metro area’s housing deficit is for units that people earning <60% median family income can afford. RIP does virtually nothing to address this deficit and, even worse, subsidizes housing types that are not in short supply (e.g. housing for people earning well above 100% MFI).

          Given the city's historic and continuing legacy of using land-use to exclude low-income housing, I think it is essentially inevitable that inner Portland will become increasingly wealthy and increasingly car-centric.

  3. Avatar bikeninja says:

    If I was king, I would eliminate all full time residential parking from the streets within a certain distance of the city center to give an advantage to those who live car-free lifestyles to live close and encourage the auto-centric to live further out where street parking would be easily available. I would also freeze permits for any new driveways or garages within this zone so that method of getting around the rules would not be available except for such facilities already existing. This would also free up lots of new street width for bike lanes.

    1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

      On many streets, if one removed the parking lanes one could fit in actual housing. That might be interesting: A long thin multi-story multi-unit housing complex in the median of what was formerly an over-wide roadway.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        That will make skinny houses look rotund!

        1. Avatar q says:

          To say nothing of the confusion surrounding the word “median”. “Hi, we’re your new neighbors. We just moved into one of the median households. We never thought of ourselves as a median household, but we’re a median family now because our median house was much more affordable on our median income than the median house price for a house off the median.”

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            This joke was slightly below median.

      2. Avatar q says:

        That’s actually pretty intriguing. London has “mews housing” which as I understand started as small homes were built at the backs of large properties, where previously just stables and other outbuildings were. New developments have also been built from scratch designed with alleys and small rows of housing along them, behind the larger residential structures, with garden spaces in between the two.

        Parallel parking is about 7′ wide, so a street with parallel parking on both sides has 14′ available. 16′ is an entirely feasible width for rowhouses, and row houses have the difficulty of their long sides being windowless, which makes it challenging to get light into rooms and limits configurations. The housing you propose would be the opposite–the long sides (both of them) would be the ones that could always have windows, so you could get very pleasant units in 14′ wide or even less. And on many streets you could rob another couple feet from lane width or parking strip area.

        And it wouldn’t have to be in the median between vehicle travel lanes. You could put those together, then put the housing to one side, alongside one sidewalk.

        For that matter (although it differs from your idea) as a variation for some streets, you could have parking at ground level, and the units above.

    2. Avatar David Hampsten says:

      Given your scenario on parking permits, I can easily imagine two outcomes:

      1. A “gray” market for the buying and selling of parking permits outside of the official system. It could be an effective gauge as to how much, exactly, people value parking.

      2. A black market in forged permits for regular parking, much like the handicapped tags and loading permits that people already forge.

      In both cases, it will boil down to traffic law enforcement, which Portland is notorious for not prioritizing.

    3. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

      Thank goodness we don’t have a monarchy.

  4. Avatar SilkySlim says:

    One vote for closing the comments section on “Comment of the Week” posts (which I am excited to have back, and will dutifully contest for!).

    1. Avatar David Hampsten says:

      Alas, the author asked the fatal question, to which we are all responding:

      “What to do about this? We need more housing and a more diverse range of housing choices of course — but we also need to make safe streets a standard feature of Portland life, instead of the special privilege of the few who can still live close-in.”

    2. Avatar q says:

      Why close the comments on Comments of the Week? They’re chosen because they’re thought-provoking and involve important issues, so isn’t encouraging comment and discussion about them desirable?

      There’ve already been lots of good comments generated here in response to this Comment of the Week.

  5. Avatar dan de vriend says:

    I moved to Gresham last year from Cully, and actually for the most part find it pretty bike friendly. I take the MAX into City Center every day for work, and most major streets have bike lanes. The drivers are a bit more aggro, with the wider streets and higher speed limits, but my wife I lived (and biked) in Los Angeles so we are pretty tough. HOWEVER. The parking enforcement in regards to bike lanes in VERY different than in Portland proper. It takes days or sometimes weeks of complaining to the city before any action is taken against folks who store their cars in the bike lanes, and even then it is a toothless effort at best. Think signs that say “no parking” with no enforcement. Sometimes it’s not even the drivers fault, more that the bike lane is so poorly signaged it’s unclear whether it’s parking or not. They refuse to paint curbs yellow citing maintenance staffing levels, and paint the bare minimum of bike lane symbols on the lanes. It’ll be interesting to see if things change over years, I think it’s inevitable.

  6. Avatar Mossby Pomegranate says:

    Sorry but this comment really came off as “woe is me!”. Consider yourself fortunate. You were still able to buy house, and in city limits.

    1. Avatar Huey Lewis says:

      Well yeah man, woe is me. This is my life and I can woe if I want to. Ms. Lewis and I have spent most of our lives in the region and excluding a few moves for adventures, nearly our entire adult lives in this city. And we are lucky to get this place, no doubt, I don’t disagree. We had seriously starting thinking of Salem or heading north, maybe Olympia. I’m nervous for friends that didn’t have the foresight to buy when we were in our 20s and 30s or maybe weren’t financially ready or couldn’t have envisioned 2018 Portland in our wildest dreams. Are my renting friends gonna stick around? Some of these people I’ve known for years! I don’t want them to leave and I don’t think they want to either. At least not because they couldn’t afford life here. How shitty is that?

      But regarding the stuff I was woe’ing about…it really is a drag. If I get off work and someone says “Hey, let’s go up to Santa Cruz for tacos” That ride from work to St. Johns and then home? It’s long! It takes time. Real time. Life time. A person doesn’t (not this person anyway) have the free time after work to spend a few hours riding back and forth across the city. A guy has to do laundry, dishes, hang with his cat and ladies at home. When you miss out on stuff like this because you were forced out of the inner city neighborhoods you’ve lived in for years, now way out in outer SE, and all because you can’t afford ever escalating rents or home prices and the bidding wars that is now standard, it’s very aggravating.

      1. Avatar K Taylor says:

        People moved to Portland in droves because they wanted to live like you (and I) used to live here. Now that is absolutely impossible, so why are they still coming? I feel like I talk all the time to people who have just shown up here with no plan – no money, no job, no apartment – just assuming they’d work it out when they got here. It’s like there is a time warp and whatever news there is about Portland dates back to 2005. That place doesn’t exist anymore, and you’re not lucky — you got pushed out of your home. I for one am really sorry to hear it.

        1. Avatar Pete says:

          “so why are they still coming?”

          There are jobs there right now, and the city continues to spend money to attract them (despite Oregon not exactly being corporation-friendly). They call it “growth”, say it’s a good thing for everyone, and locales compete for it so they can make the aforementioned tax revenue and self-proliferate. I left Oregon in late 2008 when there were no jobs. I now have a downtown Portland company offering an attractive six-figure salary to compete with my (now) local silicon valley companies for my talent. (Lucky for you, I don’t like coffee or IPA… ;).

          Seriously though, it’s happening in cities all over the US. And “rentiers”… yes, Soren hit the nail squarely on the head. (And I do feel for you and the Lewis clan… I went through that same ‘change in quality of life’ back in 2008 and it was a readjustment for sure).

        2. Avatar joel says:

          im not sure how you mean used to live. i think we are still living this way today.

          im 37. when i was 18, and i wanted to go to a party it was an hour long ride across portland by bike, so i thought very carefully about going, and often the question was- can i spend the night, is it worth the long ride.

          Last week i went to a dinner and it was a 25 minute drive across portland in my car. with the group i was with it would have been an hour and a half by bike because of my partner and daughter. but probably my wife would not have been able to bike the distance.

          biking changes time. but im also not sure how i lived in the past. I really do wish people would drive slower. its 30 miles an hour all morning today on 40th and hawthorne. i kind of long for rush hour and uber and lyft drivers to calm traffic. ugg.

          and yes i grew up in sellwood. …..

      2. Avatar 9watts says:

        One thing missing from the comment of this week and ensuing conversation here is the realization that once you move it is inevitably going to be further from the places you used to patronize. The trick, surely, is to make friends at the new place and figure out ways to enjoy hanging out there.

        You wrote:
        “We had seriously starting thinking of Salem”
        as if this were an affront. Hundreds of thousands of people live in Salem.* Some even make a habit of going to places equivalent to the ones you lament being too far from, and some even bike! I bristle at this hierarchy (implied here but often stated) that ranks desirability of where you live on a single axis, with Paris at the top and, I don’t know, Douma** at the bottom. What this kind of thinking misses is that you can (many do) enjoy life wherever you are, and to view where you live through this glass-half-empty lens where we all lose because none of live in St. Germain-des-Pres is just ridiculous.

        *had you, we might have been neighbors….


        1. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

          I am glad you are noticing the subtle and pervasive snobbery in many of the comments.

          1. Avatar BradWagon says:

            What snobs, wanting to live where they can ride their bikes to good restaurants and entertainment. I love that stating the facts about what parts of the city are good and bad for cycling or have desirable businesses in them is now snobbery. I live in Beaverton and its a concrete wasteland and would completely empathize with someone lamenting having to leave SE to move out here just in general, but especially from a cycling perspective.

            1. Avatar 9watts says:

              “snobs, wanting to live where they can ride their bikes to good restaurants and entertainment.”

              In my experience, and I’ve lived in a lot of places—rural, urban, hot, cold, West Coast, Bay Area, the South, and in Europe—this mismatch is at least as much about the predisposition of the person-with-bike as it is about infrastructure or proximity. The latter of course help, but if we wait for or lament its absence I think it is going to take a lot longer to enjoy life than if we just bike, despite the less-than-perfect parameters.

              Love the one you’re with vs. Crying in my beer

              1. Avatar BradWagon says:

                Agree, I suppose my point was more to get us back to the initial comment regarding bike friendliness of a place and how that can be a driving factor of desirability for some. I would much rather see Beaverton transform as more folks like me desire the aspects that making Portland proper desirable, but I’m not gonna refer to those that lament it’s not already that way as being snobs like Middle of the Road seemed to twist your words to say. Maybe wanting quick access to the best restaurants is snobby(?)… but I’d rather make do and be bummed than just drive into town every Friday night and Sunday brunch like many.

              2. Avatar 9watts says:

                “Maybe wanting quick access to the best restaurants is snobby(?)”

                I think for me the tipping point is between wanting and feeling entitled to. Snob isn’t a word I actually use, but I do recognize a difference between someone who appreciates fine dining and makes the effort, and someone who comes across as deserving that.

              3. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

                Bradwagon, my comment was not directed at 9w, as much as it was at the original comment which in my opinion had an air of entitlement about it. The comment about Salem rankled me, also. Nobody deserves to live anywhere, just because they like a place.

            2. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

              I’d love to have a giant condo downtown with a great view and without any HOA fees, but I can’t afford that nor am I entitled to it. So we make trade-offs if we want to own something.

          2. Avatar 9watts says:

            Just to be clear, being priced out of your neighborhood is in my book the definition of injustice, and I don’t want anything I post here to be misconstrued as lack of compassion for those facing these challenges.
            My post was not about the crumminess of being forced to move, but about the idea that we already know in advance that no place I might end up moving to is going to measure up; in other words, that the unstable trends in the cost of housing are a useful or legitimate or accurate proxy for quality of life, or that we should feel sorry for ourselves according to the position along that single axis where our accommodations are located. Interesting people live on every block or street in this country. But if you feel sorry for yourself—and them—before you arrive you might have a harder time making friends with them, discovering the pleasures of your new zipcode.

      3. Avatar Bald One says:

        Life changes, you get older, and you have to adapt. I hope over time you are able to build a sense of community in your new neighborhood, get to find new pizza and beer establishments that are close to home and embrace and grow your local scene. If you work with your local community to this end, I expect you will enjoy it that much more.

        As Portland now becomes an actual city from the big town that we all fell in love with, and it is no longer feasible to live on the cheap in the old haunts that we used to enjoy, nor is it easy to get all the way across town for a quick social visit, each neighborhood will have to home-grow or attract those community gathering spaces that have value to the local residents and folks will have to make new friends and peers in their local spaces. Hopefully, the city will continue to focus on livability issues in transportation and streets – sidewalks, crosswalks, etc, that will encourage this.

        Last I checked, we still live in a capital driven society, and the housing market will remain mostly an open and free market, despite the relatively tiny efforts of our local governments to encourage building of “affordable” housing. I can’t imagine any realistic scenario where the actions of government can significantly alter the path of the housing market forces currently at work in Portland. Nobody is seriously going to try to stop the growth of the new high-wage software economy driving the current inner Portland scene, and hiring local is not something that these companies need to do or will ever be forced to do, and I expect cannot do to some extent. At some point, maybe this growth will slow, or the trends will lose favor with inner Portland. What do all the 20-somethings who move into an apartment at the east Burnside bridgehead do when they get older and want to have a family? Do they all move to East Portland in 10 years to buy a house? Or back to shrinking cities of the Eastern US and upper midwest? Perhaps if the software gigs dry up, and the young folks get older, all of those new apartments will suddenly be renting for cheap and can be taken over by artists and DIYers. Or, perhaps new centers of community will spring up in far flung corners of the metro area and cultivate their local scenes. Hopefully, they’ll serve a good slice and a nice pint.

        This city is no longer what I signed up for, either, but I can’t decide if that attitude comes from me getting old and crotchety, or from out of control change, development, and growth and the inability of local government to manage it. The day that there are so many other cyclists on the path in front of me that I have to ride 8 mph and stop for dozens of new bike signals, may the day I toss it in and hop on Tri-met. Hopefully we’ll have dedicated bike-only, high-speed, cross-town paths by then!

        1. Avatar billyjo says:

          I hope over time you are able to build a sense of community in your new neighborhood, get to find new pizza and beer establishments that are close to home and embrace and grow your local scene.


          This is where so much of the problem is. 10 years ago I moved into a close in home. I worked with my neighbors, I became a part of the community. I frequented local businesses and helped to grow my neighborhood. Now so many want to come here and buy their way in. So many of the communities were built by the people who are being shoved out.

          1. Avatar 9watts says:

            Another casualty of growth and spiraling housing prices. Both are anathema to community, putting down roots, etc.

        2. Avatar Adam says:

          I will let you all in on a secret. There are plenty of Midwest cities where you can get around by bike just fine and practically anyone with job can buy a house. Good coffee and IPA on tap. Just saying, if you haven’t considered it, take a road trip.

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            And St Luisia is an awesome show!

  7. Avatar Brent says:

    One of the bigger reasons we decided to remodel our small inner SE house instead of looking for a bigger house further out was a desire to keep my bike commute to downtown relatively short and safe.
    Our family was growing and two bedrooms wasn’t going to be enough in a couple years. It was a giant headache for almost a year, but I’m glad I still get to bike commute; something that wouldn’t have been possible if we bought a house further east or south.

  8. Avatar curly says:

    Yes, the ride to Portland can be a huff, the ride home even more arduous. Tri-Met plays an important role in my year round commute. Some days when you’re just beat there’s always a smiling face behind the wheel of of a bus to safely deliver you to your destination. With a bike and a bus pass you can get almost anywhere in the city as fast as you can driving. Well, almost:)
    Folks with modest incomes find east Portland still relatively affordable, and people are moving east. Unfortunately construction of all the funded bike facilities has been delayed another year or two. With some fortitude and caution, east Portland is probably the most ride-able area in the city next to N Portland. You just can’t bring your kids along…….

  9. Avatar rick says:

    Eliminate more car parking minimums. Rebuild West Burnside from east of Miller Road to 23rd.

  10. Avatar Todd Boulanger says:

    Yes, sadly Portland has grown too large to be really a “bike-centric” city anymore for young couples…now that housing is outside the 5 mile rational commute shed…so the only solution left are regional HCT (commuter rail/ BRTs with dedicated guideways) lines connecting bike friendly catchment areas around station hubs/ business centers…too bad Trimet’s MAX stuck with a 2 track mentality as it has well exceeded the time limit for functionality for long regional commutes without express trains…OR one can always moving to another city and start over (0r winning the lottery).

    1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

      Why is five miles a limit? It’s not so very hard to ride two or three times that distance and if one has physical limitations there’s always the e-bike alternative.

      Bikes can and often do replace cars. Too many of us think of them as merely replacing walking. The limits are largely in our minds and are fed by well-meaning people who stress the exceptions (injuries, illness, new cyclists) instead of the glorious reality of the possible. I find this to be irrational.

      1. Avatar X says:

        Five hundred hours per year commuting? That’s a lot.

        1. Avatar Pete says:

          I know people who live in the east bay area and work in silicon valley and have been sitting in painful three-to-four hour daily round trip traffic for decades. Many people. There’s actually no longer such concept as “rush hour” here… just “traffic.”

          1. Avatar X says:

            Could we agree that is a crazy way to spend so much of your life?

            1. Avatar Pete says:

              Yes, and the craziest are the rationalizations that go along with doing so.
              I have to drive because…

      2. Avatar chris m says:

        Even in bike-heavy places like the Netherlands, trips over 7 miles are heavily tilted toward cars. If you take a 10 mile trip almost anywhere in the Portland area, at least some of it is going to be on bad bike facilities. And driving’s going to be much faster.

        1. Avatar Paul H. says:

          I don’t disagree with the assessment about 10-mile rides. That’s my experience too.

          I will say, however, that — somehow, someway, and not by our own devising — we residents of Gladstone have the exception when it comes to commuting to downtown Portland. It’s about 12.5 miles to the city center, and the bike routes feel safe. You have to pick your trade-off: frequent stops on the Trolley Trail or a fairly steep climb and descent on River Rd. Nevertheless, the infrastructure is good either way.

          So count one 10-mile trip within the metro area as decent, even if it’s the result of someone else’s effort and dumb luck.

        2. Avatar BradWagon says:

          I think the underlying issue is that in Portland(America?) trips over .7 miles are heavily tilted towards cars…

          1. Avatar q says:

            I see your point there.

          2. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

            I would wager that is a major “driver” of obesity, also.

        3. Avatar q says:

          The related question (and I don’t know the answer) is, how often are trips over 7 miles needed in the Netherlands compared to here? A lot of neighborhoods and cities here are zoned so that jobs and many services aren’t anywhere near where people live. I’d guess that’s less true in at least the older (designed pre-car) neighborhoods and cities elsewhere. (Plus I’d guess most people’s threshold here for getting into a car is a lot less than 7 miles.)

      3. Avatar John Liu says:

        I agree, as e-bikes become more common and less expensive, the radius of practical bike commuting will grow. The constraining factor of “commute effort” will be less important.

        The factor of “commute time” will be more pertinent, but even a 10 mile e-bike ride is only about 40 minutes assuming 15 mph average speed (including stoplights, etc). That’s pretty reasonable. (I’m assuming e-bike assist remains limited to 20 mph, so that they can be safely used in bike lanes. E-bikes can be designed to go much faster, but at that point they are basically motorscooters.)

        There’s still the factor of “commute route”. For e-bikes to help as much as they potentially can, we need to greatly improve bike infrastructure outside of the city core.

        And we also need to greatly improve transit, because there’s that factor of “commute weather” . . . after all, few Portlanders commute by motorscooter, even though they require no physical effort and go much faster than bikes or e-bikes. 30 minutes riding in the cold rain is just not everyone’s cup of tea.

  11. Avatar Boris says:

    Another vote for ebikes to cut the travel time. Can help bridge the difference for some people.

  12. Lenny Anderson Lenny Anderson says:

    In ’92 we finally got around to looking for a house to buy. NW were we had put down roots (NWDA board, Trans. committee chair, Good Old Houses campaign) was already too expensive with only a few condos in our price range, so we looked on the east side where prices were already going up. Finally we found something on the far side of then 39th or “beyond the Pale” in those days. My three bus commute to Swan Island became four! Then I got my old beater 10 speed out and started biking to MAX, and the commute got much better. What’s the point of this.
    While we never were involved in Sunnyside neighborhood politics as much as NW, we had an impact with our expectations (safer biking, good transit, better schools) , retail needs (Natures vs. Food Front), and so on. As others joined us from NW, SW and closer in SE (and California!) where housing prices were climbing, the neighborhood began to change. There was the big push for bike lanes on Hawthorne for instance.
    We can see this repeating itself over and over, and now east county is “beyond the Pale” and change will come as more and more folks like Joe A. dig in and make it happen.
    But there is a limit, and the city is dead right to actively support dense housing along transit corridors and to push for “middle housing” in all of the City’s single family neighborhoods. I love SE Division…4 story apartments are so much better than parking lots! Change is the norm!

  13. Avatar JF says:

    The reality of the Portland metro area is that in the city’s core, biking is great. But once you leave it, good luck. You need to be suicidal to try to commute downtown from anyplace outside of the city core. And at the same time public transportation options evaporate the farther from downtown you live.

    We moved outside of Portland because we could not send our kids to crappy Portland public schools. And my 20 years of bike commuting came to an end. Oh well. My kids getting a good education is more important than me riding a bike.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      “You need to be suicidal to try to commute downtown from anyplace outside of the city core.”

      If you’ve been reading bikeportland comments you’d know there are all kinds of folks who commute every which way across the metro area. Short commutes, long commutes, easy commutes, difficult commutes, and commutes that you’d never believe anyone would tackle.

    2. Avatar John Liu says:

      Are you serious? I bike commute between Vancouver WA and NE Portland. One of my routes is almost entirely on greenways, good bike lanes, MUPs, and quiet side streets. There is another route than is more, um, challenging – but I don’t have to take it.

    3. Avatar RobotGirl says:

      The schools reason is exactly why we drive way too far every day… you either plan where you live based on schools (if possible- the people I know who live near ‘good’ schools have been there a long while and probably couldn’t buy in anymore today) or commute long distances. You can build infrastructure, increase awareness/normalcy of biking/alternative car-free transport, and increase cost/aggravation of driving, but if one still has a need to drive for a given reason, they’ll still do it regardless.

  14. Avatar Dan A says:

    My wife & I are able to telecommute about 40-50% of the time. If we were able to do that 100% of the time, I’d move out of the metro area completely.

    1. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

      I telecommute…I prefer to live in the urban core due to the amenities. Where would you move to and why?

      1. Avatar Dan A says:

        I’d move back to Corvallis. Slower speed limits, wide bike lanes and off-street paths all over the place, mountain biking on the edge of town, same distance to the beach and the mountains. My dad is 74 and rides all over town daily.

        Or maybe someplace else. Lots of neat places to live, if you aren’t worried about being near your work. Beaverton is not what I’d call a good place to retire.

        1. Avatar Matt S. says:

          Corvallis is a bike commuters dream! What a wonderful town.

        2. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

          I’m kind of doing that long term math in my head. This town has changed a lot since I moved here…and not in a direction I like. I feel very fortunate to have been able to buy (well, get a mortgage) a house in 2010 – which I could not afford to do now as a single income household.

          I can’t imagine how hard it is for people to move here now. But then again, if one is dead set on moving to an area because they want to, it’s their choice to negotiate how affordable or not something is for them. It would be nice to have everything we want at a price we can afford, but things seldom work that way.

    2. Avatar GlowBoy says:

      I telecommute about 80% of the time. And I did move. Neither my wife (who is Washington-born) nor I have regretted it for a second. Portland is a great city, but there are a lot of great places to live out there, including many that have a better income/cost-of-living ratio.

  15. Avatar Redhippie says:

    As much as I love this blog, the myopic perspective can often be frustrating. I am a long term Portland resident, bike commuter and one of those evil part-time rentier described above.

    For a long time, Portland has been undervalued as a real estate market and people have enjoyed being here for the opportunities that relatively cheap rent and property costs have afforded, especially downtown. Ask any of the refugees from California and the East Coast. In addition to the economic development the City has enjoyed in the past decade, the City has been normalizing their real estate prices relative to other Cities on the West Coast and catching up after a relative flat period of rental increases. We are still one of the cheapest markets compared to Seattle, SF, LA, Sacramento, Tacoma, etc.

    There certainly has been a lot of rental increases as a of late, but I would like to point out that rental rates are actually quite low compared to property values. A 3 bed, 1 bath in St. Louis or Kansas City might sell for $180K and rent for about $1500/month. Here in Portland, the same would sell for $400K and rent for about $2000. Part of the dialogue should be, “why are houses so expensive here?” compared to other locations. I would like to offer that for a new 2000′ house the building permits alone are about $80K and the property taxes would be at least $5k/year. So of that $400K house cost and $2K/month Rent, 20% is going strait to the County in Taxes. This is on top of federal and state taxes. Do you feel like, you are getting your 20% worth in bike infrastructure?

    There has also been another trend you should be aware of. A large number of rentals in Portland are strictly mom and pop affairs. Like me, many of them work full time jobs and a rental property represents an alternative to investing for college educations or retirements. All of the “renters protections” passed in the last few years have not only increased the cost associated with being a landlord, but also increased the labor necessary to manage and reduces the flexibility to deal with problematic tenants. The result of this is, many folks getting out of the business and either selling the large rental management corporations or to developers. Why deal with all the hassle for a 5% annual return on real estate (over 10 yrs) when the stock market is pretty easy to hit 10% annually with liquidity and no strings? In my Rental Management Group, selling out has been one of the most predominate discussions and a lot of people are selling out and buying properties elsewhere.

    Finally, Portland is going through a period of flux as the housing stock is transforming. The largest sector of construction as of late has been apartment buildings. In fact, so many apartments are coming on line now that rentals rates are actually in decline: Sure, people might not be able to have the luxury of a single family house a mile from the City Center, but they should be able to afford an apartment. It means a change in lifestyle, more Bromptons vs Surlys, more street cars vs autos, more chains vs locals, etc. What we are seeing is symptom of the growth of a City and not the evil machinations of Rentiers as they twirl their mustaches.

    1. Avatar Gary says:

      “Why deal with all the hassle for a 5% annual return on real estate (over 10 yrs).”

      C’mon now. A big part of the reason that hypothetical house cost 400k is because that’s just not true. The quickly inflating real estate values make relatively-low rents on expensive houses a feasible investment (if I can break even paying my PMI with rent, then the 10% annual increase in value is a fantastic investment).

      1. Avatar Adam says:

        Does the year 2008 ring a bell?

    2. Avatar soren says:

      “Why deal with all the hassle for a 5% annual return on real estate (over 10 yrs) when the stock market is pretty easy to hit 10% annually with liquidity and no strings?”

      I happen to believe that rental housing is more of a basic societal service than an “investment” for people with large amounts of disposable capital. Perhaps putting your investment capital into index funds might be a more decent thing to do than profiting from the anything goes unregulated misery and artificial scarcity of Portland’s rental “market”.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        >>> I happen to believe that rental housing is more of a basic societal service than an “investment” for people with large amounts of disposable capital. <<<

        I think this is true of many services necessary for life, including healthcare, food, and housing. The problem is that there are those who see only the investment opportunity, and that leads to all sorts of misaligned incentives.

        1. Avatar soren says:

          nice to agree so strongly with you, h, k.

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            It’s rare, but it does happen occasionally.

        2. Avatar Pete says:

          Bingo. We’ve industrialized food, optimized healthcare, and commoditized housing. There are no ‘zero sum games’, and trickle-down didn’t work the last time around. I also happen to agree with Soren on this one (believe it or not), and actually rent (at radically under-market rates) my ‘vacation’ home in Oregon to a local girl there who’s trying to run her own business (employing others).

          Sometimes ROI doesn’t have to be maximized.

      2. Avatar Adam says:

        Might you think differently if you spent your sunny Saturdays fishing other people’s hair out of shower drains?

        1. Avatar soren says:

          vanguard* index funds do not require you to abase yourself by handling the hair of the renting class.

          *client-owned nonprofit cooperative company

          1. Avatar Adam says:

            Exactly. An investor generally expects a greater ROI on active vs passive investment. It is not unreasonable to expect to profit from managing rental housing, it is work.

            BTW, I do not abase myself. I do my job.

            Best of luck with your ETF investing.

            1. Avatar soren says:

              imo, rentals should not be seen as an investment. after all, human beings live there.

              and my ETFs are held in retirement accounts. interestingly, my parents had the option of defined benefit pension plans but for strange reason i don’t. perhaps, if our society were less focused on financialization of human beings, i would still have the option to not “invest”.

              1. Avatar q says:

                Unfortunately, several City policies are encouraging using rentals (and housing in general) as investments to the detriment of home ownership and stable, long-term renting. As one example, five of the dozen or so dwellings closest to mine have recently been turned into short-term rentals. All these units used to be either owner-occupied, or long-term-renter-occupied. That’s a third of the housing closest to me turned into hotel rooms, and in a domino effect, the last two converted in part because the owners didn’t want to live next to the first ones. Several other houses have gone from owner-occupied to investor-owned rentals.

                I see Portland increasingly becoming a city of rentals except for very expensive houses or condos–a good place to own investment property, but not necessarily to be a renter, especially if you’re not a high-income, single person or couple without children.

              2. Avatar soren says:

                “a good place to own investment property, but not necessarily to be a renter”

                this is already our past and present, imo.

            2. Avatar Pete says:

              It is that expectation – of maximized ROI – that is the reason we’re in several situations. Real estate was never intended to be a vehicle for investment, it was intended to help normalize the housing of a growing employment base that ultimately shifted globally and changed the rules of the game (which are still ever-changing).

              So many factors come into play here. Demographics – for example, baby boomers who paid $30K for their California tract home saved to put their children through college, and now that Jr has graduated and started his own firm, Mom and Dad have a lot more funds to play with. Tax laws allowing a break from $500K basis worth of federal taxes for selling that home for $700K-$1M and moving elsewhere didn’t hurt either. The mobility of jobs (I work from home, serving a global base, for example), the shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, and the gentrification of many inner cities all play a role as well.

              That we’re disappointed with a recent 2.6% increase in GDP is beyond me…

              (And yes, I still clean someone else’s hair from the drain frequently… my wife’s).

              1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                Real estate has always been a vehicle of investment, and wanting to maximizing ROI is entirely rational. Like many of our endeavors, a group of people making the best decision for themselves does not always result in the best outcome overall.

  16. Avatar John Liu says:

    Many people have commented here about being forced out of close-in Portland due to the rising cost of housing.

    The areas of Portland that are being the most heavily redeveloped are among the areas where housing costs are rising the fastest. See the first map at this link:

    North Portland and close-in NE and SE are all seeing large increases in housing cost, and that is where the bulk of redevelopment is taking place. (Other than downtown and Pearl of course.) And those are the areas where lower-income families are being displaced from.

  17. Avatar Andy K says:

    This is a really interesting discussion, but how do we know that priced-out cyclists aren’t being replaced by cyclists?

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      Where’s Michael Andersen when you need him?! 😉

    2. Avatar GlowBoy says:

      By the increase in the number of cars on the road and the reduction of cycling rates, and the fact that residents of no-parking or low-parking apartment buildings are flooding the surrounding neighborhoods with cars.

      1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

        Sorry, above comment was directed towards Andy K’s question.

        1. Avatar Andy K says:

          Thanks for the response, Glowboy. Let me ask the question again: how do we know that priced-out cyclists who wanted or needed to cycle to work aren’t being replaced by cyclists who ride once a week or during nice weather only? Do we value daily cyclists more than weekly or monthly cyclists?

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            Even if “priced out cyclists” are replaced in equal number by other cyclists, as density increases, we are getting lots of new residents who choose to drive. We can see that clearly in the increased congestion and on-street parking pressure (which in can hinder sight lines and make it more difficult for PBOT to change its policy regarding parking at corners).

            Choose your narrative… but it is difficult to dispute that there are more cars around, and drivers (in aggregate) are behaving worse.

          2. Avatar soren says:

            “Do we value daily cyclists more than weekly or monthly cyclists?”

            A better way to ask this question: Do we value increased cycling mode share per capita?

            The city’s comprehensive plan, climate action plan, and bike plan all say, a resounding yes. Thus, I would argue that the city does want to increase the frequency of cycling for transportation on a per capita basis.

    3. John Liu John Liu says:

      They may well be. Cycling % is high (relatively speaking) in those close in areas. Just not the same cyclists . . .

    4. Avatar soren says:

      My comment was about people who walk/roll/transit and the demographic data there are fairly clear. According to census data non-car mode share is negatively correlated with income and other data shows that as income goes up so does VMT.

  18. Avatar David says:

    I’m new here. Let me add a different perspective. We moved to Portland (Hollywood neighborhood) last summer. I grew up in small town Wisconsin and my career has forced me to live in almost every region of the country. Most recently we were in the Bay Area of California, before that, Milwaukee, before that Charlotte, before that Cincinnati, the list goes on… I biked all of those areas, none are as nice as Portland.

    I’ve fallen in love with Portland harder and faster than any other region. Geographically Portland is in a great spot, close to mountains, the coast, and you have that amazing gorge. And, you guys built a beautiful, multilayered city in the middle of all these natural wonders. On my first ride on one of your bike boulevards I thought I died and went to heaven, mile after mile of quiet streets, the prettiest neighborhoods, interesting businesses, and those giant trees! This place is spectacular. At those quiet bike boulevard intersections where you paint the streets, wow, I can feel the love.

    My observation, after 20 years of nonstop travel (I’m an airline pilot) is that central Portland is one of the premier places to live in the United States. You can’t stop people from falling in love with this area. They’re going to keep coming. This place is going to fill up like California. I can only imagine how sad that is for a Portland native. Your city is going to keep on changing.

    Knowing the waves of people are coming, you can make decisions that ensure that this city remains a wonderful place to live. I think higher density housing is one obvious answer. Right behind my backyard fence they ripped down three homes and are replacing them with 36 new apartment units. The building doesn’t have car parking, only bike parking. Developers are putting up over 100 units within three blocks of our house with no on site parking. My neighbors hate it, but I’m happy. I want all those new neighbors to vote yes on bike infrastructure. And, I look forward to new businesses popping up nearby and increased public transit as our neighborhood adds density. Density done right makes the city more efficient and makes bikes more useful than cars.

    1. Avatar Gary says:

      Welcome David, thanks for the perspective. For me it’s a nice reminder of what I fell in love with 12 years ago, as sometimes it gets forgotten in the negativity.

      I will say one thing. Some of the things you mentioned as loving–interesting businesses, painted streets, in some case trees–are some of the things we are feeling pinched by the wave of development. I’m firmly in favor of smart densification, including large buildings in some laces and the “missing middle” (done in a conscious manner) in just about every other. On the other hand, I’l go ahead and make a gross stereotype (unrelated to your comment, btw): the folks moving into the 2800 sqft McMansion built over a demo’d 1910 cottage probably aren’t the ones painting the street, probably don’t run an interesting business, and their developer probably removed every tree. For me, that’s where I get bothered. I say rather let’s build an ADU or duplex every lot.

    2. Avatar soren says:

      as i recall, only a few percent of portland’s land is zoned for dense housing (multifamily housing with a FAR >2) and ~60% is zoned for single-family homes (housing that only upper income people can afford.

      where exactly are we supposed to build dense affordable housing?

      1. Avatar ps says:

        There isn’t going to be any, so no need to find anywhere to build it. The new tax law just crushed Low Income Housing Tax Credits, that was the most successful path to affordable rental housing units, ever. There has never been a widespread way to build affordable for purchase housing. Beyond that, the bills in this town are paid by income taxes and property taxes, you need high wage folks for big income tax receipts and you need those people to buy new houses with high property taxes. The city may restrict the size of a home in some neighborhoods and push for multiple homes on what was once a single lot, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that will do anything but have two expensive houses with no yard and increase the taxes by multiples. That $4 billion in unfunded pension liabilities ain’t going to pay for itself. The best hope for affordable housing in Portland is either a) a catastrophic seismic event that devastates the area and all of the folks of means and ability leave. or b) due to the schools and infrastructure sucking so bad people leave Portland for better managed cities and pricing decreases as a result. Of course a reasonable broad based sales tax (no not on groceries) would have a dramatic benefit to the finances and allow for more resources to solve this issues, but we all know how that discussion goes…

        1. Avatar soren says:

          “Beyond that, the bills in this town are paid by income taxes and property taxes”

          The city can and should tax businesses more than it does.

          And there is lots of room for income taxes to go up for those making more than 120% of median family income. There are also other sources of money. For example, the city can legally use fees for services/licensing/ to fund just about anything. I would love to see a sharply progressive “sales” tax on housing/land that recoups some of the capital gains of the house/land rich.

  19. Avatar mark smith says:

    And yet, some are crying about their “right” to view mount hood. In a city, in a populous city, in Oregon. I have said it before, planners need to be challenging developers. Someone wants to build a 3 story apt complex? Why not 6? Or 10? The price of apartments or housing will only go down with supply and..a guarantee 10 percent will be to those twice the poverty limits with families (sorry ski bums, you gotta share AKA roommates).

    It’s been done..but Portland is so nostalgic about the bad old days, they hold onto the dream of the 90’s.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      “The price of apartments or housing will only go down with supply ”

      That is an interesting hypothesis. Are you sure about that?

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