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The Monday Roundup: Houston has a problem, old maps, scooter laws, and more

Posted by on September 10th, 2018 at 8:48 am


Welcome to another Monday in paradise.

This week’s Roundup is sponsored by Efficient Velo Tools: 40,000 users agree – the Safe Zone Helmet Mirror can’t be beat for riding safety. Support a Portland business and try a Safe Zone!

Here are the most noteworthy items that came across our desk in the past seven days…

Scooter safety: A widely-shared Washington Post story chronicles a major increase in ER visits from people riding scooters.

Scooter law: A law under consideration in California would lift the helmet requirement for scooter riders and treat the vehicles more like bicycles, legally-speaking.

Re-thinking helmets: “Give kids bikes, not helmets,” is the sub-headline for Bike Snob’s latest piece in Outside. He says helmet giveaways are an, “act of surrender.”

Scooter future: Here’s what Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino tweeted after he voted to expand that cities e-scooter program: “The future is here. Los Angeles must create citywide multimodal infrastructure to reduce traffic, link people to public transit, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Driving is a privilege: An Oregon man who has repeatedly broken speed limit laws in violation of terms of his probation after he killed someone with his car is finally going to prison for over a year. But guess what? He’ll still get his license back and could drive again.

Making up is easy to do: Peter Sagan, the world’s most popular road racer, exchanged gifts with the driver of a motorcycle who collided with him in a major 2015 race.

Advertise with BikePortland.

Safe routes for everyone: The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has published a new guide for how to work with students who have disabilities to make sure they can participate in walk and bike to school programs.

Minneapolis’ future: In their bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slash driving trips by 37 percent, Minneapolis has discovered the value of 20-minute neighborhoods.

War on speed: Seems every week we share a story about lower speed limits as a safe street remedy. This time it’s a city in New Zealand putting forward a major speed limit reduction plan after a spike in road deaths.

Chronicle of dangerous driving: Houston has the most deadly streets in America and the Houston Chronicle has a great series of stories into the breadth of the problem and what’s being done about it.

Here’s what we mean: Citylab has a great explainer on induced demand that we’ll (unfortunately) be linking to a lot in the future.

Old maps: Our friend Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious) found this very cool USGS historical map site where you can easily view old maps of any city with just a few clicks.

Video of the Week: This fun new video from Portland-based Chrome Industries feature pro skater John Cardiel shredding through town on a Biketown bike:

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

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62 Comments
  • Al September 10, 2018 at 8:58 am

    I think it’s important to distinguish between scooters which are human powered and e-scooters just as it is important to distinguish between bicycles which are human powered and e-bikes, most of which assist human power. All of the links which refer to “scooters” are actually about e-scooters.

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  • soren September 10, 2018 at 9:50 am

    “after he killed someone with his car is finally going to prison for over a year. But guess what? He’ll still get his license back and could drive again.”

    but i saw a biker run a stop sign!!!!1!!

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  • ChadwickF September 10, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Oh man. Thanks to you & Richard Masoner for the USGS historical topography map. That’s too cool.

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  • Dave September 10, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Houston sounds like it’d be a perfect place to experiment with temporarily legalizing car theft until the city’s drivers learn not to kill people.

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  • B. Carfree September 10, 2018 at 10:42 am

    The hullabaloo over scooter injuries is reminiscent of the helmet nannies who have made everyone believe that cycling is too dangerous to partake in. Looking at the injury numbers from San Diego, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Daily in America, 10,000 people are injured and another 110 are killed by cars. The San Diego hospital reported 0.5 scooter injuries per day in what was likely a big injury week. That would represent the car-caused daily injury rate for a population of 17,000 typical Americans. I get that a lower population is riding scooters than is getting into cars, but how much lower is it? If 10% of the population is hopping onto scooters, they’re looking safer than cars, at least in San Diego. If it’s only 1%, then cars win for safety if those injuries are of comparable severity (but they’re not).

    I will never understand how Americans can all have friends and family who have been seriously injured and killed in/by cars and yet they remain convinced beyond all reason and argument that cars are perfectly safe and all alternatives are “obviously” dangerous. We even have scare campaigns about riding buses (among all those dangerous people who dress differently than we do, don’t you know).

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    • bikeninja September 10, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      An illustration game I often play with people I know with regard to the relative safety of various activities is to ask them how many people they personally know (not heard about) that have died from something other than disease, medical error and old age ( in modern america) . Almost everyone I come across can name at least a half dozen that have died in car accidents, but almost none can name someone who has died cycling, scootering, skateboarding or other dreaded activity.

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      • Johnny Bye Carter September 10, 2018 at 2:21 pm

        That proves nothing. How many people did they know that biked a majority of the time instead of driving?

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        • ed September 10, 2018 at 4:06 pm

          Johnny your implication is a bit misleading. People who ride 100 + miles a week are involved in very few recorded bike “accidents” People who ride <100 miles a year form the largest group of dead and injured cyclists.

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          • Dan A September 10, 2018 at 4:55 pm

            Way different sample sizes.

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          • Andrew Kreps September 10, 2018 at 5:28 pm

            Cite your data source?

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    • John Lascurettes September 10, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      I will never understand how Americans can all have friends and family who have been seriously injured and killed in/by cars and yet they remain convinced beyond all reason and argument that cars are perfectly safe and all alternatives are “obviously” dangerous.

      Addicts rarely can see the problem until they’re no longer addicts (or at least seeking treatment).

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    • Alex Reedin September 10, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Yeah, the Washington Post article seemed way light on anything approaching an actual risk assessment. “No one was using e-scooters before; now, lots of people are, and there are injuries.” was the only content. I’m sure complete data is not available, but something is better than nothing. I think readers were badly served by what amounts to scaremongering in the absence of even an attempt at a risk comparison to other ways of getting around.

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      • soren September 10, 2018 at 12:51 pm

        the USAnian corporate media will always favor a narrative that favors emotion (e.g. more money) over evidence.

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      • encephalopath September 10, 2018 at 1:00 pm

        Yep…You might as well list the number of people who got injured in the year after buying a Samsung Galaxy 9. Look how dangerous those phones are.

        There are all sorts of ways to draw Venn Diagram circles. The overlap areas don’t necessarily tell you anything significant.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter September 10, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      It’s all about accessibility.

      Did we have these issues 15 years ago when these things were a super popular fad thanks to the Razor Scooter? They had an electric one in 2003. We’ve seen these around, mostly in gas form (same laws apply), for 15 years and they weren’t enough of a menace to further regulate.

      The issue now is that it’s not just limited to those who bought them as toys and grew tired of them after a month. Now they’re available to any adult. We have to wait until the general public grows tired of them before the numbers stabilize again.

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      • Andrew Kreps September 10, 2018 at 5:35 pm

        Well, here’s the thing. Back then a Razor e-scooter was $233-$323 (in 2018 dollars) to ride down your street, and today you can do that for $1.15. Also, those scooters were subject to at least two recalls. So it’s fair to say they weren’t well used (~246,000 sold at the time of the first recall). I’m not sure we could ever call those early Razor e-scooters “super popular”.

        https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2005/cpsc-razor-usa-announce-recall-of-electric-scooters

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      • Matt September 10, 2018 at 7:03 pm

        > available to any adult

        *any adult with a smartphone, and (I’m guessing) a credit card
        (I have the latter but not the former)

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        • GlowBoy September 11, 2018 at 7:57 am

          Lime has a equity program that allows people without credit cards or smartphones to pay for rentals at certain minimart chains. Not sure if it’s up and running in Portland yet, but I believe in Seattle you can pay for LimeBike rentals at any 7-11.

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    • JoshG September 10, 2018 at 2:41 pm

      Aren’t a majority of scooter injuries due to collisions with CARS?

      So once again scooters / bikes / pedestrians / ebikes are not inherently dangerous. It’s the CARS that are dangerous.

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      • GlowBoy September 11, 2018 at 8:03 am

        I would agree that cars are the primary danger to scooter riding. That said, I do have a beef with the fact that these scooters go 16-18 mph, which vastly less safe without a helmet than if they went a more sensible 12 mph.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty September 13, 2018 at 12:56 am

          And vastly less fun.

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  • soren September 10, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    helmet giveaways are an, “act of surrender.”

    i agree with this but would go further:

    * helmet requirements are an “act of surrender”.
    * arguing that bike helmets are important for traffic safety is an “act of surrender”.
    * criticizing or judging people who choose not to wear helmets is an “act of surrender”.

    note: i have absolutely no problem with people who *choose* to wear helmets. i strongly support personal choice when it comes to helmets.

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  • Chris Anderson September 10, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    I explain the helmet law to my kids as being motivated more by a desire to prevent loitering than to enhance safety. When I was a kid we all sat around in our friend’s driveways or the street on our bikes all day. Occasionally we’d do some riding, but it was a lot of just hanging out. No one would ever do that with a helmet on. So they effectively criminalized the way I played as a child…

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    • Johnny Bye Carter September 10, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      But it cut down on all the roaming juvenile bicycle gangs.

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      • Dan A September 10, 2018 at 6:37 pm

        I never realized my childhood friends and I were part of a roaming juvenile bicycle gang, but when I think back on it, that sounds about right. We rode around in packs all over my small town, looking for things to jump off of, or dirt lots to explore. I do think there’s been a significant reduction of similar groups these days, soooo….mission accomplished!

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  • Toby Keith September 10, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Geeze another cycling story with Peter Sagan’s smug mug.

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    • Dan A September 10, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      Are you the one person on earth who doesn’t like Sagan?

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  • q September 10, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Seems like the biggest effect of making helmets mandatory for scooters is to give people a quick way to judge scooter riders, so they can instantly label them criminals, which allows them to go straight to the conclusion that if they show no respect for the helmet law, they’ll also show no respect for any other laws or for anyone else’s safety.

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    • Dan A September 11, 2018 at 7:03 am

      I saw a mom & her little daughter sharing a BIRD without helmets, effectively breaking 3 laws at once! I thought it was cute.

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      • soren September 11, 2018 at 10:16 am

        3 laws only?
        i bet they did not signal their turns at least 100 feet in advance!

        (signaling turns on an e-scooter is legally required but unambiguously unsafe.)

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty September 13, 2018 at 12:59 am

          This could be easily fixed by modifying the scooter to have a turn indicator.

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  • 9watts September 10, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    The CityLab piece about induced demand is great. One could say lots more about the theory behind it. Though I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone still or ever paid attention to Randy O’Toole:

    “We know that every car on the road has someone in it who is going somewhere that is important to them,” O’Toole writes. “[I]ncreasing highway capacity leads to net economic benefits because it generates travel that wouldn’t have taken place otherwise.”

    Gag.

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    • q September 10, 2018 at 11:23 pm

      Under that theory, imagine the economic benefits of say, putting every business in one part of town, and every residence in another; assigning kids to the school that’s furthest away; closing half the gas stations; requiring all restaurant and banking transactions to be via drive-throughs…

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    • GlowBoy September 11, 2018 at 8:00 am

      Same stuff I’ve heard Mr. O’Toole spouting for 20 years.

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  • GlowBoy September 11, 2018 at 7:43 am

    With its proposed 2040 Plan, Minneapolis is putting together a great strategy for reducing carbon emissions and car dependence. Since we already have great bike facilities and transit, the next step is getting amenities built closer to people’s homes, and that means having enough density of housing to support that. As has been written about here before, under the Plan multi-unit development could again happen on arterials where apartments currently exist but aren’t allowed under today’s zoning (the exact same problem Portland has).

    But the more significant change would be the rezoning of the entire city – every single acre – to allow up to fourplexes. In a city where the majority of the population does not live in single family homes but the majority of the land is currently zoned for single-family homes, not one block would be zoned SFH-only anymore. That would probably cause fewer negative impacts to existing homeowners (whatever those might be) than the construction of large apartment buildings, but could do even more to alleviate the housing crisis. It’s a brilliant and revolutionary change, IMO.

    Reporting here from the front lines, I can tell you that the NIMBY opposition has rallied fiercely, as it has against efforts in other cities (notably Portland and Seattle, since I’m familiar with them) to create enough housing. Starting a couple months ago, bright red “Don’t bulldoze our neighborhoods! Stop the 2040 Plan! Developers win – neighborhoods lose!” have sprouted like May dandelions on lawns all over my part of town. Right now they significantly outnumber the blue and purple “End the Shortage – More Homes Now – Minneapolis 2040” signs like the one on my own lawn.

    Not that lawn signs in the posh parts of town are indicative of public opinion as a whole, but the 2040 Plan as currently conceived may be shaping up as a difficult battle. The opposition consistently raises the specter of quaint homes on side streets being leveled, with the remaining quaint homes towered over “Up”-style by high-rise apartment buildings – which is very far from what the plan actually calls for. Of course the irony of all of this is most of the bulldozing of existing homes is for single-family rebuilds, to house the same people that oppose duplexes and fourplexes. But that is what you can expect from a group disingenuously named “Minneapolis for Everyone”. At least the pro-urbanist group, “Neighbors for More Neighbors,” calls itself what it actually is.

    In last November’s election we threw out most of the entrenched city council in favor of a strongly progressive, pro-urbanist slate. Red-sign opposition notwithstanding, we’re on track to get what we voted for.

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    • GlowBoy September 11, 2018 at 7:50 am

      Although the above was mostly focused on development patterns (which are inherently tied up with transportation patterns), on the transportation front the opposition group resorts to similar disingenuous language, talking about a “war on cars”, blaming bike lanes for this summer’s traffic nightmares (which are entirely due to a major freeway reconstruction project that has dumped enormous car volumes onto neighborhood streets), and even (as in the linked article) absurdly claiming “they want to get rid of cars” when the actual goal is to reduce car trips by 37%, not 100%.

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      • 9watts September 11, 2018 at 8:42 am

        “when the actual goal is to reduce car trips by 37%, not 100%.”

        In the medium term, car trips will be eliminated (reduced by 100%).
        To emphasize this again, the period we find ourselves in doesn’t demand more efficiency—a cleverer way to use up the carbon—distribute it across more services. It demands that we leave it in the ground, not use it.

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        • soren September 11, 2018 at 10:26 am

          “medium term”

          we are poised to burn more fossil fuels than we have ever done each year for at least the next decade. i have complete faith in the ability of USAnians to keep on doing the worst possible thing as long as the people suffering largely live in the global south.

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        • GlowBoy September 12, 2018 at 9:05 am

          My point was about the opponents of change making the 2040 Plan seem far more extreme than it is to whip up hysteria, not whether or not a 37% reduction is enough.

          We’re all aware of your views on cars and climate change, and as a non-binary thinker I am saddened me that you see partial solutions as no solution at all. Belittling efforts to make significant reductions that fall short of your 100% goal makes the perfect the enemy of the good, and IMO just adds to the increasing polarization that is as a big a threat to our society as climate change itself.

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          • 9watts September 13, 2018 at 9:25 am

            “you see partial solutions as no solution at all. Belittling efforts to make significant reductions that fall short of your 100% goal makes the perfect the enemy of the good”

            If as I have come to believe we must phase out all fossil fuel burning today, or better yesterday, but because of the logistical hurdles we may agree that some sort of phaseout is ‘more realistic,’ then how much sense does it make to, for instance, be championing auto fuel economy standards that will have been fully implemented decades from now? Where is the acknowledgment that these goals (fastest possible exit from the world of fossil fuels & fuel economy boosts by 2040 or 2050 are antithetical?
            The new car someone is encouraged by such policies to buy today is something she or he might hope to amortize, get reasonable use out of over its expected lifetime, not learn in 24 or 72 months that it is a stranded asset, is worthless, can no longer be used in good conscience. These are tough choices, or should be appreciated as such. But instead we assiduously filter out any talk of tough choices, of tradeoffs, and instead focus all our attention, our ingenuity, our political capital on so-called solutions which merely solidify the existing technical and economic arrangements, drenched as they are in fossil fuels.

            My chief critique is that what you see as partial solutions are not actually conceived of as stepping stones to the eventual phaseout of fossil fuels at all. We used to (starting forty-five years ago) hear that energy efficiency was a stop gap measure, a stepping stone on the path toward renewables. We’ve now enjoyed almost a half century of energy efficiency, and our consumption of energy is higher than ever. Show me the results.
            Please explain to me how (a) leads to (b) leads to (c) leads to ….(z).

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    • 9watts September 11, 2018 at 8:37 am

      GlowBoy,

      It is important to not muddle things. Reducing carbon emissions is or should be an absolute thing: less this year than last year, in toto.
      Building more housing, even the kind/size/location you may favor, is moving in the opposite direction, will under almost all scenarios correspond to *increased* emissions.

      Density is a ratio…. In and of itself it solves nothing that demands absolute reductions, notwithstanding all the otherwise smart people who champion it.

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      • soren September 11, 2018 at 10:49 am

        ~40% of Oregon’s GHG emissions are due to transportation. providing housing that allows people to walk or roll to their destinations is one of the best ways to reduce this growing source of emissions.

        Moreover, a literature spanning multiple decades indicates that new high-density housing leads to overall lower lifetime emissions:

        A widely-cited and influential study:
        https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1876610216307810

        “The optimal number of stories are found to be in the range of 7-27, depending on population and building lifetime. ”

        And more recently:

        http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/01/03/1606035114.full

        “Here, we provide a global-scale analysis of future urban densities and associated energy use in the built environment under different urbanization scenarios…In developing regions, urban density tends to be the more critical factor in building energy use. Large-scale retrofitting of building stock later rather than sooner results in more energy savings by the middle of the century.”

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        • 9watts September 11, 2018 at 11:08 am

          Soren,
          You are making my point.
          “New high-density housing leads to lower lifetime emissions” is cute but irrelevant in our day.

          This is the mindset which embraces efficiency as the relevant framing, as producing outcomes that have meaning to us. In a world that has long since (forty years ago?) entered overshoot, building new housing of any variety without simultaneously reducing our numbers, our collective appetite, is worse than useless. Density is a dangerous, myopic fantasy without tracking the total, recognizing the absolute challenges we face.

          These studies which you are so eager to cite don’t reflect the fact that the world has moved on, the solutions we now need are completely different.

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          • soren September 11, 2018 at 6:25 pm

            if we were serious about addressing climate change there would be a wholesale retreat from suburban/exurban living.

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            • 9watts September 11, 2018 at 6:34 pm

              How do you know this?

              I have long wondered how this might go, and certainly don’t claim to know… But could see the opposite flight as equally plausible.

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              • soren September 11, 2018 at 8:34 pm

                imo, the costs of all that sprawling infrastructure are not sustainable.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 13, 2018 at 1:06 am

                When those costs become unsustainable, we’ll stop sustaining them.

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              • soren September 16, 2018 at 5:41 pm

                History is littered with societies that became unsustainable but it’s rare to have people advocate for societal suicide.

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          • GlowBoy September 12, 2018 at 9:27 am

            “Building new housing of any variety without simultaneously reducing our numbers, our collective appetite, is worse than useless.”

            And how do you propose to reduce our numbers, our collective appetite? Like most industrialized societies America is already reproducing below the replacement rate, and would have a declining population were it not for immigration. Stop immigration, then?

            Or are you envisioning something more … extreme? You’ve hinted a lot that you envision impacts from climate change that would somehow reduce vehicle use to zero. I’m not how exactly that would come to pass, nor (as far as I can recall) have you explicitly said. Are you picturing a climate so hostile that billions around the globe starve, drown, freeze or roast to death? Or wars over dwindling resources that kill off billions around the planet, including maybe a hundred million or more Americans, thus obviating the need for more housing?

            I, for one, do not gleefully predict this outcome, or oppose incremental solutions as mere delays in this inevitable future.

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            • 9watts September 13, 2018 at 8:58 am

              “And how do you propose to reduce our numbers, our collective appetite?”

              I’m not proposing a strategy but suggesting what looks ever more like an inevitability. It would be preferable to discuss strategies for soft landings, but even here folks have almost no appetite for this.

              “You’ve hinted a lot that you envision impacts from climate change that would somehow reduce vehicle use to zero. I’m not how exactly that would come to pass, nor (as far as I can recall) have you explicitly said.”

              Thanks for asking.
              I anticipate some combination of the following
              – a belated and therefore disorderly climate-motivated realization that continued fossil fuel consumption is untenable, suicidal, must be dialed back by means we, sitting here today, would probably consider drastic
              – resource constraints that manifest as price spikes and the positive feedback loops these engender
              – climate constraints including but not limited to food shortages, the spread of diseases into new areas.

              “Are you picturing a climate so hostile that billions around the globe starve, drown, freeze or roast to death? Or wars over dwindling resources that kill off billions around the planet, including maybe a hundred million or more Americans, thus obviating the need for more housing?”

              Your phrasing suggests not only that you consider this absurd, but that even being asked to consider the possibility is somehow impolite.

              “I, for one, do not gleefully predict this outcome”

              Not sure where you discer glee on my part. Resignation that we, collectively, would be so determined to rule out the possibility as to refuse to prepare for it would be more apt.

              “or oppose incremental solutions as mere delays in this inevitable future.”

              Pretty much everything I see being implemented and discussed looks to me like a variation on kicking the can down the road. Where are the serious discussions within PBOT about a post fossil fuel infrastructure due not to preference changes but to constraints? If there is even a 1% chance of this in next generation (and I think the chances are higher than that) shouldn’t we be thinking about this? The 2007 Peak Oil Task Force came close, but how much have we done with that uncommonly prudent document over the past eleven years?

              “Like most industrialized societies America is already reproducing below the replacement rate,”

              A very common misunderstanding. The US population is currently increasing at 0.7% per year. That may sound like not very much, or perhaps to you that sounds like a negative number, but in fact it corresponds to a doubling rate of 100 years.

              “and would have a declining population were it not for immigration. Stop immigration, then?”

              Immigration is definitely a factor when it comes to population growth, but these days it has become even more difficult to have an honest conversation about either than it was before 45 and his xenophobic shock troops took over.
              Much easier therefore not to talk about any of this, just advocate for feel good ratios like energy efficiency and density.

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        • 9watts September 11, 2018 at 11:11 am

          And it should be pointed out that that phrase ‘energy savings’ which you end on is a bit of jargon which doesn’t mean what many of us might assume. It doesn’t mean an absolute reduction in energy consumption, but a shift in efficiency which is a second order phenomenon with no bearing on our predicament.

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          • GlowBoy September 12, 2018 at 9:14 am

            Energy savings and improvements in efficiency “have no bearing on our predicament.”

            Again, looks like you see partial solutions as no solution at all.

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            • 9watts September 13, 2018 at 7:34 am

              I love partial solutions, incremental progress, chipping away at the problem.
              Energy efficiency has been sold to us as such a strategy, but in my twenty years of studying the subject I have come to the conclusion that on balance it is not moving us forward, but instead is a very effective way of habituating us to
              – thinking that the solution lies with replacing, upgrading, with no tradeoffs or cuts to our so-called standard of living;
              – the idea that (technical) experts will supply solutions to what are in fact complex social, cultural, technical, economic patterns and systems which have evolved over generations and that are not resolved with light bulbs or hybrids or EnergyStar refrigerators.

              Thes strategies, individually, seem like reasonable elements of something larger, but so far have not summed to a strategy which on balance has either curbed our total appetite for fossil fuels, nor, more importantly, has it kept pace with our understanding that what is required which is categorically different:
              Energy efficiency as a policy has no cards to play that are commensurate with the need to stop using fossil fuels, as opposed to spreading their consumption over more years.
              This is a fundamental, crucial, hard-to-overemphasize incommensurability.

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      • GlowBoy September 12, 2018 at 9:12 am

        Density isn’t just a meaningless ratio. As it increases, neighborhoods become more walkable and bikeable, putting services within reach for people who aren’t willing to bike six miles to get to them. It is not simply a matter that increasing density by a certain ratio means things are closer together by the same ratio. Increasing density creates a feedback loop that allows services to be even closer than that, because businesses like groceries, restaurants and shops suddenly find they can make money in locations they couldn’t before, and no longer need to have a big-box footprint to draw people in from miles around.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty September 13, 2018 at 1:11 am

          As density increases, neighborhoods also become more expensive, especially with today’s cost of building and the desire of developers to chase the most profitable segment of the market.

          This is probably not true where density was built in from the beginning, and the costs of construction were (much) lower, but it is true today in the contexts we’re discussing (Portland, Minneapolis).

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          • GlowBoy September 16, 2018 at 2:34 pm

            Correlation is not causation. The fact that density has increased in some neighborhoods as prices has gone up is not proof that increased density was the cause. Many Portland neighborhoods would be even MORE expensive if we hadn’t had new apartments going up. Simple microeconomics (reduced supply = higher prices) here.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty September 16, 2018 at 8:34 pm

              Simple microeconomics also show that if you only build apartments that are more expensive than average, average prices will increase, especially if it is done by replacing more affordable units.

              Density, per se, did not increase prices, but high priced construction and gourmet units did. To my knowledge, no one in recent Portland history has shown it is possible to build anything in highly desirable areas without increasing rents. It may not be a law of economics, but there few, if any, counterexamples.

              Your assertion about what would have happened with less construction is speculation, premised on the notion that demand would have remained constant, which is probably untrue.

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        • 9watts September 13, 2018 at 8:25 am

          “Increasing density creates a feedback loop”

          Yes. And I have never argued that density doesn’t deliver (social, economic, cultural) amenities, isn’t a grand thing at certain scales. What I’m suggesting, what I am arguing, is different. I’m disagreeing with those (in this case Soren or you) who like to suggest that density solves some carbon juggernaut or is a strategy for dealing with our total carbon emissions, with climate change. I emphatically do not believe this, and have stated why I don’t think this works out the way you suggest or imply.

          When it comes to carbon (or methane…), we either emit more next period than this period, or we emit less. Regrettably the stage of climate change we’ve now entered leaves us much less latitude, time, slack in these matters. The only thing that is deserving of praise when it comes to GHG emissions are strategies that unambiguously lead to net reductions. Density viewed through your build more housing, build up lens— the neighborhood scale—is not reducing anything climate relevant: it may be socially urgent, or aesthetically preferable, or economically wise, but it is not inculcating the reality of hard carbon limits any more than increasing the percentage of our municipal solid waste that is picked up at the curb as ‘recycling’ necessarily reduces the QUANTITY of waste that goes to the lnandfill (it hasn’t), or CAFE standards leading to TOTAL reductions in gasoline and diesel consumption (it hasn’t). All of these (density, recycling rates, mpg, energy efficiency) are ratios, and they not only don’t help us achieve the primary goal of LESS, they unfortunately also obscure that goal by making us believe the second order issues they do address have bearing on the first order goal (they have not).

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          • soren September 16, 2018 at 5:48 pm

            “I’m disagreeing with those (in this case Soren or you) who like to suggest that density solves some carbon juggernaut or is a strategy for dealing with our total carbon emissions”

            The only person who has suggested this is you. I view density and smaller land-use footprint as one thing we can do to *BEGIN* to reduce our CO2e*. Alone it is meaningless but then the same can be said for the many other steps we woulld need to take to move towards decarbonizing our societies.

            *Like lemmings we are still madly rushing towards the abyss.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 11, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Chrome Ad: Hey! don’t the cartoon forest creatures know there is a local burn ban!?

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