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Bike commute numbers ebb nationwide; in Portland, they’re flat

Posted by on September 25th, 2018 at 10:01 am

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

American bike commuting rates seem to have entered a post-recession skid in 2017. Here in Portland, meanwhile, they once again stayed about the same, according to Census estimates released this month.

About 6.3 percent of employed city residents got to work by bike in 2017, exactly the same estimate as in 2016.

About 27,000 fewer Americans reported daily bike-commuting routines last year compared to 2016, which was the second of two full years of low gas prices and the fifth year of rebounding suburbanization.

In Portland, the estimate was slightly more upbeat: about 6.3 percent of employed city residents got to work by bike in 2017, exactly the same estimate as in 2016.

In absolute terms, the estimated number of Portlanders who bike to work edged up by a statistically negligible 700 people, to 22,647.

New high for working at home, new low for driving alone

All charts: BikePortland. All data: 2017 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau.

Public transit (13 percent), walking (6 percent) and carpooling (9 percent) were also virtually unchanged in Portland from past years.

The good news: Driving alone hit a new all-time low estimate, at just below 57 percent of workers. Ten years before, in 2007, the figure was 64 percent.

At this rate, drive-alone commuters would become a minority in Portland starting in 2027.

The total number of car commutes in Portland keeps growing, sadly. But it could be worse. If Portlanders still drove solo at the rate they were before the recession, the streets would be carrying 24,000 more autos per workday. Instead, those workers are biking, walking, riding transit, or working at home — which hit a new all-time high last year at 9 percent of Portland’s workforce.

That mix of improving options may help explain why Portland’s auto ownership per capita has fallen. This month’s data showed the estimated percentage of Portland households that include more workers than automobiles hit another high in 2017: 24 percent, enough to account for about half the city’s net household growth since 2007. (No wonder there’s a continuing market for new homes without much auto parking.)

Nationally, the share of “low-car” households with workers is 13 percent.

The only big U.S. cities where biking probably rose were having major transit problems

Bike-commuting estimates, which are averages calculated from rolling surveys taken throughout the year, dipped noticeably last year in several leading U.S. bike cities, this month’s data revealed.

San Francisco reported a seven-year low of 3.1 percent biking; Oakland, a seven-year low of 1.8 percent; Seattle, a 10-year low of 2.8 percent.

(In Seattle’s defense, mass transit use hit a modern high of almost 23 percent.)

Minneapolis (3.9 percent), New Orleans (2.9 percent), Tucson (2.5 percent) and Chicago (1.7 percent) all continued statistical plateaus that may have dipped slightly over the last few years.

Showing upticks in biking were Washington, D.C. (5 percent), New York City (1.3 percent) and Philadelphia (2.6 percent). All three of those were all-time highs — but all three came amid significant subway issues that have driven transit commuting down faster than bike commuting in those places has risen.

Estimates for smaller cities are more volatile and less reliable, but this year’s trend in the nation’s college towns seems to be no better than in the cities. Eugene’s bike-commuting estimate was just 4 percent, down from the 7 to 9 percent range a few years ago. Madison and Missoula also posted 4 percent, their lowest in years. In Davis, Calif., the nation’s bikingest city, the 2017 estimate was 16 percent, down from a recent peak estimate of 25 percent in 2013.

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Is Portland’s next bike boom around the corner?

Bike traffic on N Williams in May 2016.

There are three caveats to include with any Census data, especially one-year estimates like these.

The first: these are just estimates. The figures listed are more likely to be true than any other figure is, but in every case the truth could be a bit higher or lower. That’s why what really matters is multi-year trends: sample that piles on sample that piles on sample.

Second: These ratios aren’t good ways to measure which cities are “best for biking,” because they fail to reflect the presence of other good options like mass transit and they’re ultimately based on arbitrary city limits. (The national advocacy nonprofit I used to write for, PeopleForBikes, recently came up with what I think is a much better system for comparing cities to each other, but it relies on data that won’t be out until December.)

Third: These ratios reflect the investments we were making a few years ago, not the ones we’re making now.

So for Portland, it’s worth thinking about what these numbers mean. After a surge and dip, local biking rates are about where they were nine years ago — despite a new 40-mile neighborhood greenway network, public bike share system, five awesome open-streets festivals every summer and thousands of new homes and jobs close to the city center.

Maybe all those things are part of why our rates haven’t fallen further, like those in some of our peer cities.

At the recent rate, Portland won’t reach its 30 percent target for drive-alone commuting until 2055 — 25 years behind schedule. With every tick and tock of climate news I see, my own sense of urgency to reach that goal gets sharper.

But personally, for once, I’m optimistic about the future of biking in Portland. From the new freeway-crossing bridges in Lloyd and inner Northwest to Gateway’s bikeway network, years of activism are about to bear fruit. The long-awaited downtown protected bike lane network project is finally here, and it has the potential to be game-changingly good. It’s funded; it’s mostly planned; it has no organized opposition.

If a good chunk of it is built, it’ll not only be a dramatic upgrade to biking in the part of our city where people most want to bike, not to mention the complementary modes of walking and transit. It’ll also be an inspiration to the whole region, introducing hundreds of thousands of people to quality bike infrastructure and giving them a reason to fight for their neighborhoods to have some, too.

The biggest risk at this point is that not enough people will tell the city that they’re excited about it — and block by block, street by street, the forces of stasis will chip away at its quality.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen. When the political rubber hits the road, Portland’s dedicated biking community is second to none.

— Michael Andersen: @andersem on Twitter and

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

  • PDXCyclist September 25, 2018 at 10:22 am

    I’m between the interested but concerned group and the “fearless.” Even a buffered lane makes me feel better. I don’t know if cycling deaths are increasing year over year, but the presence of instantaneous news and twitter has made me more aware of cycling deaths (as in, driver kills a cyclist) and made me more and more reluctant to do things by bike.

    Yes, i acknowledge it may be low statistically (chances of dying on a bike), but I also have an immediate family, parents, etc to take care of and take all that into consideration. The bus takes the same amount of time as the bike, but I *feel* safer. You can tell people like me statistics all day, but it’s not going to get me bike commuting 5x a week.

    I enjoy biking for exercise and continue to do it, but I don’t want every commute to be a gamble and for me to arrive at work stressed. FWIW I think Portland does a significantly better job with bike infrastructure/commuting options on the east side than it does in the SW area (and Washington County fails miserably).

    Portland and the suburbs will have to invest more in infrastructure if they want me to commute. I don’t know if this applies to other people; maybe I’m an outlier. I also think BP’s crowd skews towards “fearless.” Someone wrote something to the effect of “Better Naito is pointless I feel fine on Naito bike lanes” when Better Naito closed. Well I don’t and didn’t. I don’t want to be a vehicular cyclist.

    Better Naito was pivotal to me getting around downtown on my bike and feeling safe. Protected bike lanes are good for fearless riders too, but that’s not the target. Their target is people like me. Hopefully more of the dedicated BP readership/commenters consider this when upvoting/downvoting projects and giving feedback.

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    • Chris I September 25, 2018 at 10:45 am

      Driving deaths are up, as are walking deaths. I don’t know if we have great data on the rates of cycling deaths per VMT in the past few years.

      Even if it isn’t deadlier out on the roads, I think our bike commutes have become more stressful. Our roads are busier, people are increasingly taking side street routes, and generally driving more aggressively. Personally, I can’t wait for the next recession to hit. Hopefully gas prices go up, as well.

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      • Dave September 25, 2018 at 10:54 am

        Amen, sibling, it will be an awesome day when our gas prices jolt suddenly up to European levels and stay there!

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    • Dan A September 25, 2018 at 10:56 am

      What really concerns me is “driver kills cyclist, police shrug”. These stories are the norm.

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      • J_R September 25, 2018 at 4:12 pm

        Today’s Oregonian features a story about deer hunter killing a friend with a bow and arrow in a hunting accident and how he’s going to prison for a year. I wonder why the famous motorist explanation “but it was just an accident” didn’t work for him.

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    • turnips September 25, 2018 at 10:58 am

      I’m sympathetic. I find that other modes of transportation are much more stressful for me than biking, but that doesn’t mean that the situation couldn’t be dramatically improved.

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    • BradWagon September 25, 2018 at 11:59 am

      I believe this group your referring to is the “enthused and confident”. It was interesting reading that this group is what is likely behind the boom in cycling as the city has improved infrastructure.

      I agree about your assessment of BP readers (I myself am likely part of the fearless group, I have no problem riding Barbur Blvd and then what is technically 99w past the Ross Island slip lane all the way down onto Natio and largely just ignoring poor bike lanes the entire way). It is a tough balance to both promote cycling in the current conditions but also advocate current conditions aren’t good enough, which is where input like yours are so critical. Hopefully we can learn from needs of folks not represented here… I’ll still be out there showing people it’s possible to ride a bike nearly anywhere you need to go though…

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      • rick September 25, 2018 at 7:52 pm

        but do you prefer riding towards Burlingame and downtown on Barbur versus riding away from the city center ?

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        • BradWagon September 25, 2018 at 7:56 pm

          If I’m just trying to efficiently get into town then yes, go Multhnomah > Barber. Coming from Beaverton I usually go Vista or Zoo or even Cornell to get into west side of town.

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          • rick September 26, 2018 at 10:08 pm

            From SW Raab Road by Scholls Ferry to Vista ?

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        • BradWagon September 25, 2018 at 7:57 pm

          Oh and going out of town I’m more likely to do Terwiliger… but Barbur is doable.

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    • was carless September 28, 2018 at 8:49 am

      I’ve been bike commuting for over 25 years in Portland, and I have only had a single incident with collision with a car. And I was doing the typical bike ninja thing, so that could have been likely prevented.

      Anyways, I figure that my cardiovascular health is far more critical than the low risk of collision.

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  • Dan A September 25, 2018 at 10:51 am

    I always have to question how these rates are determined. When the chart says “Portlanders Most Common Commutes”, is it adding up every commute trip by mode? Or is it defining each road user by their most common mode? Many people travel to work by different modes depending on the day, or they travel by multiple modes, or they work from home.

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    • Michael Andersen September 25, 2018 at 11:05 am

      The question is something to the effect of “what was the most common way you got to work last week?” For multimodal trips, it asks people to categorize by the mode that moved them the most miles. (So in that sense these figures understate walking and biking somewhat.)

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      • David Hampsten September 25, 2018 at 11:39 am

        But it’s a survey, isn’t it? It’s a reflection on how a group of individuals chose to answer in each community. What you are seeing is not a census of everyone being counted, but a sample of that community. Given the increasingly unreliability of surveys in general in the US because of American’s increasing unwillingness to answer them (or answer them honestly), how reliable is the survey compared to say 1990? And Jon, you check that by comparing the survey margin for error between now and previous periods, such as 1990.

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        • Michael Andersen September 25, 2018 at 3:37 pm

          Yep, ACS samples keep getting worse due to the gradual breakdown of civilization and it’s a big problem.

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          • 9watts September 29, 2018 at 7:44 am

            “due to the gradual breakdown of civilization…”

            That’s pretty heavy.

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        • B. Carfree September 27, 2018 at 9:32 am

          You are required by law to fill out and return the ACS survey when it is sent to you. If you fail to do so, the Census will send workers out to cajole, annoy and even threaten you up to six times, so if someone gets off on wasting government funds, I guess they could do that. For all that process and the fact that the Census can have someone prosecuted for failing to fill out and return the survey, they haven’t had anyone prosecuted since the early ’70’s, so either it’s an idle threat or people really do return the surveys.

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          • David Hampsten September 27, 2018 at 4:24 pm

            The problem is not just whether people are filling in forms or not, a rate that has been on the decline for decades, but are they being honest about what they fill in?

            In the 90s I had no issues about answering surveys honestly and completely, be they from the government or from polling companies. But as data is increasingly breached, mined and trolled on the internet, my cynicism about surveys has only risen, including and especially those from various levels of government. Apparently this attitude has become a new normal, as overall response rates to the ACS and other surveys has continuously declined. And the lower the response rate in any jurisdiction, the higher the margin for error on the surveys. If the bike rate in Portland is 6.3% with a 0.7% margin of error, then the actual rate could be as low as 5.6% (a serious decline) or as high as 7.0% (a modest rise).

            And it’s not just surveys, voting rates are rapidly declining and more people are shunning obligatory jury duty (and many jurisdictions have stopped prosecuting jury duty violators.) At our last Council election in 2017 which all 9 members were up for re-election, we had just 14% turnout of registered voters (or 11% of those who were qualified to vote but not necessarily registered). For our sheriff election last May only 4% of those registered voted; the other 96% apparently couldn’t care less. Here in Greensboro NC at least, democracy is dead.

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      • Dan A September 25, 2018 at 12:33 pm

        I drive, bike, and work from home as my 3 modes, in assorted combinations throughout the week, and sometimes even drive/bike on a single given day. But this survey would only count me as one specific mode, which would be completely different depending on which week you asked me, but on a yearly average, I’m generally 40/30/30 percent for each.

        Now, I’m guessing that most people who drive will have that as their top or only mode of transportation every week, so it doesn’t change for them, but it still seems like it could be highly skewed for the rest of us. Like, was the question asked in January, or in July?

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        • Michael Andersen September 25, 2018 at 3:39 pm

          It was randomly distributed among the two, plus all the other months.

          I’m sure part of the reason Portland does well on these surveys is that we’re temperate year-round. Before the ACS did annual counts, the data was gathered from the Census long form in April, which probably depressed Portland’s results relative to most of the country because April is in the nicer half of months most places but probably in the worse half of months here.

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  • SilkySlim September 25, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Really appreciate this article and the analysis.

    It is particularly interesting to me to map commuter trends against our cities growth. I don’t have the stats to back it up, but a very solid hunch that average commute has grown in LENGTH, which I’m sure doesn’t help active transportation rates. Certainly true among my cohort, the folks that once rented quite central (I remember once thinking that a friend at 50th and Woodstock was was “out there”) now buying in the realm of 60th-120th.

    Another stat I can’t back up: I bet average commuter AGE has gone up. I bet active transportation skews younger for a whole slew of reasons (health, lack of kids being the top two).

    Last, I’m also oddly optimistic about things…. albeit in a kind of roundabout fashion. As solo driving gets worse and worse, people will eventually make the leap to alternatives. At first a trickle, then a stream, then hopefully that tipping point where it becomes a no-brainer (hopefully thanks to the infrastructure built in anticipation).

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    • Michael Andersen September 25, 2018 at 11:09 am

      I’m actually pretty sure the average distance has fallen, due to a fast-growing share of jobs in the core relative to the burbs. No question though that lots of people who lived close-in when it was cheap to, and biked for the same reason, have been priced out. Will richer people bike at the same rates? There’s not great evidence on this question, but biking for transportation doesn’t actually vary much by income after you get above $15k a year or so. (Lower than that, biking is way more common.)

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      • soren September 26, 2018 at 12:22 pm

        Census data shows that higher income people are the most likely demographic to “drive solo”:

        As I recall, this relationship only becomes more pronounced at even higher income levels.

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        • Michael Andersen September 26, 2018 at 2:00 pm

          That’s true, but the differences really aren’t very large once you get above the poverty line. Among Americans earning $15k-$25k annually, 74 percent drive alone. Among Americans earning $75k+, it’s 77 percent. (Your link is broken for me but I’m using table B08119 from the 2012-2016 ACS.)

          Richer people drive *more* than poorer people — they drive further, they take more car trips, and they take a lot more trips period. But once you earn enough money to own and use a car, most Americans do (which is a result of the cities and streets we’ve built, obviously).

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  • bikeninja September 25, 2018 at 11:21 am

    I agree that Portlands next bike boom is just around the corner. Turning the corner on the next economic cycle, an untenable debt bubble in the U.S. oil patch, a middle eastern situation that is not going our way, and a trade war that may last for a generation will change things more quickly than most people realize. These trends will not be kind to car ownership and we here in Portland are ready to show people a better way.

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    • GlowBoy September 25, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      I’d like to think you’re right, that energy prices will start going up again soon. But I hear increasing assertions from many sources that oil supplies will be strong for decades to come, even assuming some recently developed fields go offline due to easing of prices.

      If those folks are right, then the only thing that’s going to spike oil prices is if as a society we and our trading partners need to massively reduce conservation, and we voluntarily adopt stiff energy taxes.

      That’s what we should do, but it would take some multiple climate-related disasters, each more catastrophic than anything we’ve seen to date, before the American public will support it. I’m not holding my breath.

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      • bikeninja September 25, 2018 at 2:39 pm

        The assertions about oil discoveries are often misleading. For instance it sounds impressive when you hear of a new deep water field off Brazil with x billions of Barrels in it until you do the calculations and find that is only a 30 day supply for the world, and only a small amount at a time can be extracted. The important thing to look at is how much recoverable oil do we discover each year compared to how much we burn on A World Basis. The last year we discovered as much as we burn was 2006. In 2013 this number was down to 25% and this year it hit a dismal 11%. Most of the big legacy fields ( supergiants) where most of the worlds oil comes from are in steep decline ( Mexico used to be our 2nd biggest supplier and now they can no longer export) . The shale miracle has nearly run its course with high depletion rates for individual wells throwing the whole industry in to decline, as well as financial insolvency. The only countries with a bit of growth left in their oil production are Iraq, Iran and Russia ( notice the pattern) . See the recent NYT article on fracking to get a taste of the problems we face.

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        • Mike Quigley September 25, 2018 at 3:29 pm

          Plus, Trump seems to be gearing up to bomb Iran. He’s just itching for an excuse. Watch what that does to oil prices when Iran defends itself by bombing Saudi Arabia and Israel.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy September 25, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      We’ve heard the “sky is falling” for drivers story many times before – people still drive a lot.

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      • 9watts September 29, 2018 at 7:55 am

        More jeering from the sidelines.
        If you read what people are saying, are open to learning new facts, I think your takeaway could be more interesting, more nuanced. Just saying.

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  • TonyT
    TonyT September 25, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Until PBOT stops building boondoggles like the 20s bikeway, we’re not going to see much growth.

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    • rick September 25, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      What is a north / south project that the city / county should build next? I’m asking about one that isn’t on the table yet.

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      • Hello September 26, 2018 at 11:11 am

        It “On the table” but not guaranteed, but I’m MOST INTERESTED in the Lloyd to Woodlawn Greenway.

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    • Kittens September 26, 2018 at 2:31 am

      I don’t know. That new roundabout on Milwaukie at Mitchell is really paying dividends. Totally justified expenditure there. A+++ PBoT!

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      • X September 26, 2018 at 2:26 pm

        sarc.? Just asking.

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  • Greg Spencer September 25, 2018 at 11:57 am

    This is a terrific article backed up by loads of interesting data. I was encouraged by the glimmers of hope that you cite here — the falling share of single-passenger car commutes and the biking boost we can expect from infra projects that are just around the corner.

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  • Mark September 25, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    The city is making it more difficult for its own employees to bike commute. The portland building remodel does away with cubicles and is replacing them with a small open work space with no place to hang up riding gear except for a chair back. And very limited storage. Employees will get one half locker to store riding gear which doesn’t meet the needs of summer commuters much less all year riders. There is no way for wet clothing and bags to dry out. And it still rains here.

    One more thing to make commuting harder courtesy of city managers.

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    • GlowBoy September 25, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      That’s unfortunate that they haven’t figured out to give you a place to hang up stuff outside your workspace. But open workspaces are where everyone’s going for the foreseeable future, thanks to its much lower costs.

      At least until a few years hence, when employers figure out that open workspaces reduce productivity (inter-employee communication actually goes down, as studies have found) and remember that employees are more expensive than facilities. Unfortunately it’s going to be a few years before that realization hits home and the pendulum swings back.

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      • BrianC September 25, 2018 at 3:52 pm

        I kind of like open floor plans. (I’m paid by the hour though, so the less productive the client environment is, the more gross revenue for my contracting company…)

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    • Kittens September 26, 2018 at 2:34 am

      I find it hard to believe that there will not be extensive bike facilities integrated into the rebuild of the Portland Building. Perhaps not everyone will get a private storage area at their desk, but I am sure there will be showers, changing areas, lockers and secure parking somewhere common.

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    • X September 26, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      It’s supposed to be completed by 2020, so only about another year of inadequate facilities. Give or take.

      A person might think that the “City” was trying to tamp down bike rideshare at one of the most prolific bike commute factories in town. Hang in there, city workers of Portland.

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  • pdx2wheeler September 25, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    The benefits of integrating cycling into your activities of daily living far out-weight the associated risks of a sedentary lifestyle. So many are fearful because of the years of horror stories having been drilled into their heads. When in actuality it’s statistically one the safest modes of transportation. People are so focused on the here and now, they neglect the long-term damage they are doing to their bodies by embracing a sedentary lifestyle. Regardless of how you live your life your number could get called at any moment. Don’t let your life be dominated and control by your fears. A better life exists beyond the one being bought and sold as the ‘American Dream’. Ride on!

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  • Johnny Bye Carter September 25, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Taxi should be in with Carpool, and Motorcycle should be in with Drive Alone.

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  • Al September 25, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Nationally, we are way overdue for a shortening of the work week. A 10% workweek reduction from 40 to 36 hours would facilitate a four 9 hour day workweek. If this is still kept to a M-F schedule and employers work with their employees on which four days M-F they work, then this would translate to huge reductions in traffic across all metro areas. So many transportation projects currently in the planning stages could be pushed out years or even a decade. This translates to tangible savings and carbon reduction. The one “drawback” climate wise is that it would also likely grow the economy which would negate some of the carbon savings.

    The best part about this solution is how many problems it mitigates across society as a whole. Income inequality? Check. Traffic? Check. Unemployment? Check. Climate change? Check. State and local budge shortfalls? Check. Standard of living? Check. Slowing economy? Check. Employee productivity? Check.

    There’s just one problem. Nobody is talking about shortening the work week so it seems politically impossible. This is where I come in.

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  • Ted Buehler September 25, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    For the record, the bicycle commute mode share in Davis, CA has been steady at 14 – 16% for the last 18 years. The 2013 25% figure is some sort of a data collection glitch.

    Thanks for the well-discussed and presented data, Michael.

    Ted Buehler
    Reporting from Davis, CA

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    • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
      Michael Andersen (Contributor) September 25, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      Here are the one-year estimates for Davis from 2012-2017, in order:

      So not just a one-year glitch, anyway. But it’s a small town so super variable, and you certainly know Davis better than I do!

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      • B. Carfree September 26, 2018 at 1:04 am

        There’s a bit more going on than what’s shown. Davis had a long slump in ridership (never did fully recover) that began in the late ’80’s. In spite of building boatloads of separated infrastructure from the late-’80’s to now, people simply stopped cycling. In the earlier part of this century, a group of citizens mobilized to get the mojo back and largely succeeded in getting Davis back up to the 20% range, about a third of its former glory.

        However, in 2015 the city hired a bike coordinator of the “bikes are scary, wear a helmet and here’s a light ” school of advocacy. Since her hiring, the city’s bike modal share has taken a big hit. It’s not just a counting quirk, I’m down there regularly and the loss of cyclists these past few years is noticeable. The bike racks at the elementary schools, which were overflowing just a few years ago, are largely empty now.

        On the bright side, Davis’ former cyclists aren’t getting into cars. They are riding the bus. This is also consistent with the “scary, scary to cycle” messaging that is coming from the city. These are educated people fresh off an historic five-year drought. They know how evil car use is and don’t want to go down that road, but are being told that cycling is risky, so they are boarding buses. The local bus stops are crazy-busy.

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    • Ted Buehler September 26, 2018 at 11:57 am

      Interesting data, Michael and B Carfree

      I didn’t know about the elementary school downtick in recent years.

      I did know about the “bicycling is scary” bicycle coordinator, that takes groups out wearing neon. In the one place in the US that you *don’t* need neon anywhere to be safe. But the overall civic momentum of bicycling is much larger than negative publicity by the city’s bicycle coordinator.

      You can see bicycle mode share in Davis, Boulder and Eugene, 1980 – 2000 on page 10 here:
      Davis went from 28% to 14%. Though the city’s population increased during that time, and the # of people working out-of-town shot up. So number of people using bicycles didn’t go down very much. And the mode share for in-county workers (people who could realistically rise to work) stayed in the 20% range.

      I’ll check my sources about the “hump” in mode share. But I recall a couple years ago one person saying that internal surveys did not reflect the census’s reported uptick to 25%.

      Ted Buehler

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  • Mike Owens September 25, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    I have so many thoughts, hopefully I can make this short and clear.

    I had hoped that EVs would move us away from fossil fuels. But my calculations and news about how much the climate is heating faster than previously thought have changed my mind. There isn’t time for EVs to replace ICE. (Yes, cars also have many other issues when used for transportation). Instead, my only hope is that cities like Portland can do something bold, along with the e-transportation revolutions of e-bikes and e-scooters.

    The summer experiments and use of low-traffic steets for greenways has been important as a proof of concept, and to ease folks into the idea of cars being restricted.

    Now it is TIME TO CLOSE STREETS TO CARS. There are too many examples in other cities showing how the move increases the desirability, economy and livability along such areas.

    1. Greenways need many more diverters and “local traffic only signs”. Keep cars out unless someone lives there.
    2. Make the Sunday Parkways happen without cones/volunteers every day. Critical mass and 1. above are needed to solidify these routes as safest of all for kids. The greenways are already park to park. Allow some food/coffee trucks at the parks. Greenways are how neighborhoods get to the central loop. Neighborhoods get lots of say on what works best for their greenway.
    3. Connect the 40-mi loop with protected bike lanes. The PBOT 18 project bundles are not enough. It would take bold leadership, but remove parking along the most desired routes to make protected lanes for bike and scooter travel along this central asset. Double or triple the current budget with a carbon tax. Win-win.
    4. Build car drop-off/pickup spots at key access areas to car free shopping/entertainment streets that are also along the 40 mi loop. Encourage ride-sharing to downtown to these spots. Give tax incentives to builders to change surface lots into parking garages at key locations.
    5. Put the squeeze on the large employers to cut down on the thousands of Intel/Nike/Etc. folk driving solo out to these areas. Tie their tax benefits to % of employees using other methods. Their workforce is a major reason for the costs we all incur from gridlock on roads.

    We have studied enough. There is no impediment to the above except the will to do it. (which is a huge obstacle, but can be overcome with vision and bold leaders. )

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    • paikiala September 25, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      Because, you know, signs solve everything…
      ‘Local traffic only’ is not a legal everyday thing, and certainly not enforceable on public streets. It’s a warning for construction.

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      • Dan A September 25, 2018 at 5:15 pm

        It’s extremely difficult to close roads to cars, even temporarily. We have a 1/4 mile section of road in my neighborhood that is covered with hundreds of kids crossing back & forth during Halloween. I’m not kidding, this particular section of the neighborhood is SWARMING, so much so that it has drawn a lot of traffic from outside of our neighborhood. It has all of the hyper-decorated houses and the best candy. But, rather than park a few blocks away and walk to this area, most people choose to drive right down the center of it to look for parking in the middle of the crowd, and some parents even drive alongside their kids as they walk from house to house! It’s insanity.

        We’ve been trying to get permission to shut down this 1/4 mile segment of road in our neighborhood for 3 hours during Halloween before some kid in a costume gets killed. The County has a block party permit system in place, but is denying a permit in this instance because their arbitrary guidelines only allow block parties during daylight hours, which is “about safety of block party participants, as well as drivers”, per the coordinator. Um, right, somehow closing this street down with a couple of barricades and a police car is going to make this road more dangerous to the crowds people on foot and to the people in cars who won’t be able to plow through those crowds. As a bureaucrat you have to be very careful to keep common sense from interfering with your red tape.

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        • MO September 25, 2018 at 8:01 pm

          Very different issue from citywide policies to restrict autos along key corridors as part of an over-arching plan. Just like, any time this comes up the few businesses/homes impacted complain. But to be a better city, 1,000 odd opinions can’t drive the change. And note, this is not some hair-brained idea…just how it’s gone elsewhere. No need for PDX to reinvent the wheel.

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          • Dan A September 26, 2018 at 6:33 am

            That pretty much sums up what Portland is known for. “Inventing” things that have already been invented elsewhere. 🙂

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            • soren September 29, 2018 at 1:51 pm

              you forgot the lengthy and expensive “outreach” and “stakeholder processes” that results in these “invented things” being watered down to something nearly indistinguishable from the status quo.

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          • soren September 29, 2018 at 2:05 pm

            Portland’s stated goal in its comprehensive plan (TSP) is to “maintain acceptable levels of
            mobility and access for private automobile”.

            It’s doing a terrific job!

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      • Mike September 25, 2018 at 7:57 pm

        Paikiala has perhaps not traveled much, but when in Amsterdam traffic was restricted on many streets, neighborhood streets. “Legal” means there is a law. Laws get changed. By bold leaders.

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      • Julie Hammond September 26, 2018 at 11:09 am

        In Vancouver, BC (where I live part time) there are “Traffic Calmed” signs before you enter a neighbourhood / section of streets with significant diversions that make it very difficult to drive, and quite wonderful to bike. The bikeways through these areas, equivalent to Portland’s Greenways, have car traffic diverted every 4 blocks. My rides on these streets are very comfortable with, on average, 0 to 5 cars passing me on a 20 minute/4 km ride. Driving in these Traffic Calmed areas is slow and confusing on purpose: I once spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get to the front of a friend’s house to take her and her dog to the airport, a house that I could have biked to in half that time.

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        • B. Carfree September 27, 2018 at 10:12 am

          Even Lubbock, TX has something like this. They have made the sprawled city into a series of rectangles, 16X8 blocks (or some such). You can only exit the rectangle where you entered it, there’s no way to cut through unless you’re on foot or bike (small passages all over the place). They haven’t completely solved the arterial problem; you still have to cross these eight lane behemoths and, if you live outside the Beltline, you have to ride on one of them to cross over (under, actually) it. Still, it’s a reasonable starting point that could be made to work very well with a small amount of investment in some mid-arterial signals to allow cyclists to cross. Of course when I lived there I think I might have been the only person commuting on a bike, but I hear it has improved.

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    • Kittens September 26, 2018 at 3:17 am

      I think it just comes back to time. If it is faster for someone to drive to work alone, they will. We need a network of super-fast and efficient protected bike lanes on major arterials. Everything should be designed around time. Right now we are designing around trying to keep ”
      “stakeholders” happy and it is not working. A couple of small-minded small business owners ruined the 20s bikeway and now we all pay.

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      • 9watts September 29, 2018 at 8:01 am



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    • Greg Spencer September 26, 2018 at 9:07 am

      EVs don’t produce exhaust and that’s good for local air quality. But they don’t mitigate climate change, at least not in the US. American electricity originates 63% from fossil fuels (natural gas, coal and petroleum in order of importance). The rest is from nuclear (20%) and renewables (17%).

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      • was carless September 28, 2018 at 10:11 am

        In the Pacific NW, EVs have great per mile efficiency. Thats because the majority of our electricity comes from renewable sources. See this:

        Example Tesla Model S in Portland gets ~112 mpg:

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      • soren September 28, 2018 at 4:43 pm

        This is like saying that a Prius is the same as a Hummer H2.

        You can determine how much CO2e is saved by using an EV here:

        Moreover, many EV users charge their vehicles with renewables or renewable energy credits so the decreased CO2e emissions are much greater than this tool illustrates.

        The problem with EVs is not that they do not decrease CO2e emissions but that adoption of this technology is so slow that claims of a significant impact are a complete farce.

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        • 9watts September 29, 2018 at 8:08 am

          “The problem with EVs is not that they do not decrease CO2e emissions but that adoption of this technology is so slow that claims of a significant impact are a complete farce.”

          Oh there are plenty of problems with hanging our hat on the EV hook, Soren.

          The speed (technical feasibility not just consumer demand) is certainly part of it, but so are the materials, some of them rare, toxic, found in parts of the world it would be better not to be digging up, as well as the grid mix and our electricity production. You dismissed above concerns folks voiced about our grid being majority fossil fuel-powered, and that isn’t changing much, and any shift you might countenance toward electrifying our transportation system will need to be powered somehow. That extra supply is not going to magically appear out of wind or sunshine.
          The bottom line is that your EV dreams do not scale.mjust because a few people buy credits and plug their EVs into what they believe are renewable outlets in their garages, doesn’t tell us anything about whether 10x or 100x much less 10,000x that many could do so.

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          • soren September 29, 2018 at 1:46 pm

            I agree that EVs do not scale under current policy and associated projections. I also believe that our transition to renewable energy is similarly insufficient — even farcical. However, both of these “reforms” could be part of a systemic approach that could significantly mitigate ongoing ecocide.

            If science denial were not so pervasive, we could begin to have evidence-based discussions about what kind of steps our society should be taking to reduce the catastrophic warming that is already baked into our CO2e budget. I am committed to organizing and fighting for this kind of societal discussion but I also believe that we will almost certainly be “transitioning” to renewables long after we hit 450 ppm in 15 years or so. (When will change their name???)

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  • rick September 25, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    I think commuter rates could rise. There are two very important road reorganizations set to take place next year between east Beaverton and SW Portland. Lake Oswego will also start on the expensive Boones Ferry Road project in Lake Grove.

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    • PDXCyclist September 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm

      What are those? I’m not aware of them — can you attach the links? I’d love to read about it. Thanks!

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      • rick September 26, 2018 at 7:34 pm

        Bikeportland has reported on the SW Captial Highway project to go from SW Garden Home Road to SW Taylor’s Ferry Road (and the one for SW Huber to 49th to SW Kerr). They’ve also shown the “Western Ave CIP” project for Beaverton to go from 5th Street to Allen Blvd. The Lake Oswego project will be $32,000,000 for reasons that include that it is a “dig once” project that includes replacement and big overhauls of water, sewer, and other utility lines. The power lines will be put underground. They likely won’t be using the Washington County-style big utility boxes. The Boones Ferry project starts around February or March of next year and will take two years. Sadly, they won’t install any covered bus shelters.

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  • Asher Atkinson September 25, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    I wish we knew where the increased numbers of working from home come from. Is that category drawing down the other categories proportionally, or could most be drawn from those who were commuting by bike? And are those ‘working from home’ frequently utilizing cycling infrastructure?

    The flat biking numbers and the fact that driving always respond to changing economic conditions proves to me the loudest arguments these days are also the least effective. Rather than the heavy moralizing about fighting climate change and battling car culture, we’d be better off focusing on the financial benefits of reduced driving or ditching car ownership altogether. It is fascinating that people find ways to save by driving less during economic downturns, then give back that savings when circumstances improve. It shows most are half way there as rational economic actors. The missing half is understanding opportunity cost, but once that is understood, so is understanding just how costly driving can be for individuals.

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    • soren September 27, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      “heavy moralizing about fighting climate change”

      prediction: in a few decades you will be lambasting government for not doing enough.

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      • Asher Atkinson September 30, 2018 at 9:19 pm

        Thanks for proving my point. You know nothing about me as an individual, my position on climate change, and any personal actions I may take motivated by of my beliefs. Yet your comment implies that because I question using beliefs on climate change as a primary tactic to advance arguments for biking to work, that you can magically predict my position on other issues. It is this stereotyping, and the insistence that beliefs must come in packages, that turns me off, and I assume others.

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  • B. Carfree September 26, 2018 at 1:30 am

    I live in Eugene and have been studying our historic loss of cyclists for the past seven years. It’s an astounding loss from a peak of 10.8% in 2009 to a mere 4.4% in 2017. A best fit curve shows a modal share loss of 0.55% per year and extrapolates to zero cyclists in 2025! Had Eugene instead gained modal share at the same rate it lost it, it would now be the highest in the nation.

    See my earlier comment about official “bikes are scary” campaigns regarding Davis recent run of bad years. Messaging matters. Very few people who aren’t already addicted to cycling are going to do something if they think the prevailing notion is that it is dangerous. We’re not a nation of heroes, so thanking people for riding their bikes is actually counter-productive. Advocating for separated infrastructure sends the message that bikes cannot operate if cars are present even though anyone who rides will have to ride with cars much of the time.

    Other than looking at the messaging, why do I think this is the key factor? Well, Eugene does something called Sunday Streets, an open street event. There are two per year, one downtown and one in a neighborhood. Prior to doing the one in a neighborhood, city staff go door to door in an attempt to get people to try cycling. They claim they get 3% of the people contacted to ride. However, very shortly after this intense face-to-face messaging, the neighborhoods that have been targeted see large declines in ridership, as large as 40% on five-year-smoothed data (so it’s larger than that for individual years). Neighborhoods with large turnover of residents (near the UO) recover after a few years, but others don’t.

    By the way, the gas price hypothesis is BS. I looked at the annual gas price average for Eugene from 2009-17 and there is no relationship to the modal share of cycling. That makes sense when you think about it. Almost all of the cost of car use is up-front (purchase, annual insurance and annual maintenance). The per trip cost, gasoline, is quite small in comparison. Very few people are going to forgo a trip by car just to save a few dimes on gas purchases.

    I understand being upset by motorist behavior. However, if you are interested in having other people on bikes around you, perhaps it’s time to zip it rather than make it seem like every trip requires super-human skills. Or, everyone can keep calling for ever-more separated infrastructure that makes cycling less convenient and still has major intersection issues and you all can keep riding by yourselves. Just tonight I was at a transit meeting and the only other attendee who ever rides a bike was doing less riding now, and considering giving up altogether, because he is afraid. Nothing had happened, he was just internalizing the messaging he and his spouse have been receiving.

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    • pruss2ny September 26, 2018 at 6:33 am

      “city staff go door to door in an attempt to get people to try cycling. They claim they get 3% of the people contacted to ride. However, very shortly after this intense face-to-face messaging, the neighborhoods that have been targeted see large declines in ridership, as large as 40%”

      wait…what? do you have any thoughts about why this is?? perversely, do you think ridership would remain flat or even have grown had the city NOT tried intense face-to-face advocacy?

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      • B. Carfree September 27, 2018 at 12:31 am

        As I’ve mentioned in other posts, our city staff like to stress how dangerous cycling is. They do helmet demonstrations with watermelons. They do helmet and light give-aways (be safe, be seen, which does make you question whether people do see you) and helmet shaming. They tell everyone to dress up like a pylon. They justify any buffer placed on a bike lane or plastic wand put down as something really important to keep you separate from those “very dangerous” cars. Mind you, we’re not talking about streets with multiple lanes in each direction and cars going 50 mph; most of Eugene is one or two lanes in a given direction and speed limits of 30 mph or less.

        This scary messaging, combined with things like “breakfast at the bridges” where they literally thank you for heroically cycling, eventually convinces people that riding bikes is an heroically dangerous thing to do. I assume, with limited evidence, that most of us are actually cowards. (When I’ve been attacked I’ve mostly run (ridden) away rather than fight about it, so count me in with a yellow stripe on my black belt.) With a social message that riding is dangerous, people would feel stupid if they rode a bike and got hurt, especially when it is “experts” from the city who have relayed the message, so they take the “safe” way out and drive.

        Since the neighborhoods that are not targeted with the face-to-face messaging don’t appear to show the intense decline (I still have to more completely crunch the data, so perhaps there will be something that has escaped me thus far), I suspect we might have been able to decline less, but not to have grown, if we simply stopped doing the “programming”. Note that the one neighborhood that was targeted which has a large student population showed a recovery after a few years, which would be expected since university students generally only stay in the same place for 1-3 years.

        I think if our staff would stop beating their drum about what “wonderful” work they’re doing getting bikes separated from cars, and also start working on more meaningful things like removing door-zone issues, placing diverters, adjusting our signals and stop signs, placing “bikes may use full lane” signs where appropriate and other such things then we could have grown our modal share. The sales pitch for the two-way cycletracks they are about to build is the same “safety, must get bikes away from cars” message that I believe is doing so much damage. Worse still, they are using these projects as justification to not fix the problems with existing bike lanes on parallel streets (overly narrow, door zone, and such).

        Of course if we really want to get people onto bikes, we have to make riding more pleasant and driving less so. That will require us to both enforce the law and to change our approach to traffic engineering by throwing out those 1970’s inspired warrants and start making the traffic control devices work for humans, not for car throughput. Until then, it looks like a reasonable limit in an American city is going to be sub-20%, and in many locales half that. Interestingly, our elected officials are on board, at least if we take the policies they have passed at face value, but don’t have the courage (or maybe the tools) to force the traffic engineers into compliance with policy.

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        • pruss2ny September 27, 2018 at 6:27 am

          ok…fantastic and thx. i have noticed the drumbeat in bp that paints cars as maniacal death machines driven by sociopaths doesn’t exactly get me to use any of the 5 bikes in my garage. Had not thot of the impact of knocking that message door to door.

          i am an unabashed driver. apologies…my mode share sucks. there are those 5 bikes in my garage though, which i suspect is a shared lament: i’d wager that for as many bikes which are actively being used daily/weekly in eugene/pdx that there are 3x as many bikes sitting dormant in garages (no proof, just a bias). instead of the door-to-door fear campaign, does Eugene (or any city) offer any sort of neighborhood bike tune-up campaign? in manhattan, a knife sharpener will set his van up on a neighborhood block for the week, and magically the neighborhood will slowly bring their knives to him/her…does the city set up a tune-up spot across different neighborhoods to encourage people to tune up their bikes? seems like a much more positive message — pylon inducing clothing and safety messages can still be offered, but the primary motivation/subliminal message is to get the bikes functioning again.

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          • B. Carfree September 27, 2018 at 10:20 am

            The city does generally have someone on hand to do free inspections and tune-ups at their events, including Sunday Streets and Breakfast at the Bridges. Lately, it’s been done by a couple who recently opened a small bike shop downtown. (I do wish them luck; we’ve many more shops than we have gained over the past few years.)

            Eugene also has two hands-on shops where people can do their own work with help and guidance. One is on campus for students and the other is in the neighborhood next to downtown. Unfortunately, the private one is looking like it will shut down sometime soon. The owner is suffering from Parkinson’s and there just isn’t enough action to make things function.

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            • pruss2ny September 27, 2018 at 10:35 am

              got it…maybe a way for city to promote bike mode might be to spend a small amt of dough trying to advocate getting bikes in working order on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.

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    • Chris I September 26, 2018 at 8:22 am

      It seems you are missing the larger factors at play here. What has changed since 2009? Gas prices have dropped significantly, and the economy has recovered. You also have an aging population. UO tuition has increased massively in the past few decades. I think you are seeing the results of a demographic shift, combined with the basic economics of driving vs. cycling.

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      • B. Carfree September 26, 2018 at 11:50 pm

        If the issue was confined to university influences (student number, education cost) it would be expected to also show up in Corvallis, home of OSU. However, Corvallis is seeing its cycling modal share grow by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, it’s still not a large enough population to generate annual data, so it’s all five-year rolling averages and the Census hasn’t tallied those for 2017 yet. I will be surprised if it has taken a sudden dip since it’s been going up for years while Eugene’s has been going down for quite a while.

        As I noted, I looked into gas prices and there is no correlation with cycling in Eugene. In fact, annual average gas prices in Eugene have gone up and down rather cyclically; it hasn’t been a steady ride down. Could it be more complicated, say people responding to the first or second derivative of gas prices over time? I suppose I could do the math on that, but I’m not optimistic it will show much of anything. I was surprised by the non-correlation until I realized just how small a fraction of total car cost gas amounts to.

        Aging is an interesting notion. There are a lot of ways to skin that cat and I will definitely grab a knife and go at it. I appreciate the suggestion. That’s one that can even be looked at census-tract by census-tract while controlling for confounding factors (education, income, home value). I’m almost giddy at the prospect of rainy afternoon data crunching. It also gives me an excuse to compare what I find locally with other locations.

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    • rick September 26, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      I think a bad job was done with the I-5 bridge replacement over the Willamette in Eugene. They did not install an adjacent walk / bike path to the bridge.

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      • B. Carfree September 26, 2018 at 11:59 pm

        Wellllll, they took out the path that ran under I-5 and connected to Franklin on the south side of the road and replaced it with a bike causeway that connects to Franklin on the north side. They also placed a weird beg button to cross over and did a poor job of connecting the bike lane to this new path (kind of par for the course). It was a slight downgrade, imo.

        But you are correct that they didn’t give us anything that parallels I-5 in the general area of the (over-priced, unnecessary) bridge replacement. It would have been nice to have something to Lane Community College from the River Bike Paths. In fact, that would have been beyond nice and would have had me raving about how wonderful ODOT and the city were at getting things done. (Okay, maybe I would have raved, assuming they built it well and didn’t create a bunch of unnecessary intersection issues and such.)

        There was/is another ODOT project on I-5 that went on at Beltline. That got us a bike bridge to the Gateway Mall (and kind-of, sort-of to the hospital if you are clever) and then the next phase got the path extended to avoid most of the worst of the surface streets and also to connect to Costco and other employers/shopping. It’s still got a gap that won’t be fixed unless someone comes up with money to tunnel under or bridge over an off-ramp, but it’s easily a 7 out of 10, imo.

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    • Maddy September 26, 2018 at 9:10 pm

      2009 was in the middle of the recession. We never really recovered from the 2001 recession. What do you see when you correlate bicycling rates to economic fluctuations?

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      • B. Carfree September 26, 2018 at 11:38 pm

        I still have work to do in seeking out whether there is more in play besides the city’s “scary to cycle” messaging, including looking at whether any economic indicators correlate to our decline. However, there was a pretty steady, if slightly noisy, situation prior to 2009 of around 8%. One could toss 2009 out the window as an aberration and see the data as flat at around 8% until 2013, when it began to simply collapse.

        I do promise to check back in with a more complete analysis when it is done. I also appreciate the input regarding alternative hypotheses that can be looked into.

        Perhaps not coincidentally, 2012 is when Eugene put together its bike and pedestrian master plan under the guidance of separation-champion Mia Birk and it hired Reed Dunbar who is also all-in with “bikes are scary to ride unless it’s on separated facilities (and please ignore those intersection issues, just ride really, really slowly)”. No, he doesn’t say that, but he is all-in with implementing as much separation as he can, even in settings in which it is causing us major hazards.

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  • Kittens September 26, 2018 at 3:10 am

    My first thought on seeing the headline is that PBoT’s grand scheme to passively encourage active transportation modes though negligent disregard for our increasing density and attendant traffic is failing miserably. Never before have we seen this sort of traffic in Portland.

    We are stuck with horrible traffic problems and a half-a**ed bike network and almost no prioritization for bikes or transit. Congrats, dear leaders, Your inability to seriously commit to a future beyond SOVs has left us worse than if we had simply done nothing.

    I commute by bus on Foster, it is a mess now that they have knocked it down to one lane. I have seen the plans. Is this the best response PBoT can summon? Their answer is always the same in differing quantities: road diet, more ped crossings, slower speeds, more signals, new lighting and sidewalks. When they have completed this bizarre agenda of transforming most arterials into slow, congested parking lots overrun with dawdling tourists and twee millennials staring into their hands, it is going to be mighty hard to get around our city. We need real answers to real problems.

    There should be a lane for traffic, one for transit and one for bikes on all our major arterials. full stop. Greenways and Sunday Parkways are great for leisure and kids but it is time to take the next step and get serious here. Time is money. We need to create a system which is faster for bikes or we are just not going to grow modeshare. It is that simple.

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    • Anna G September 26, 2018 at 11:46 am

      I vote for this as comment of the week , its time for bike and transit to go mainstream, and not be consigned to experimental projects on certain streets. The greenways are for the most part a failure since they are not backed up by enough diverters and safe crossings at major intersections. In my 20+ years of commuting the biggest discouragement is the influx of new folks moving here who don’t seem to have any respect for other road users. Some sort of separation and better infrastructure would help, as enforcement is and probably will be nonexistent in my lifetime.

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    • rick September 26, 2018 at 7:39 pm

      Foster still needs a turn lane in our current mindset. I think the road diet for SW Captiol Highway by PCC (49th Ave) will be a great one next year. So much of it lacks a turn lane. I’d like parking-protected bicycle lanes.

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    • was carless September 30, 2018 at 10:42 pm

      I don’t think Portland has the right of way to dedicate that much roadway to separate uses.

      Compared to other major cities, streets here are very narrow. So unless you either want to knock down a few 10s of thousands of buildings for street widening, at a cost of likely a few dozen billion dollars, it won’t happen.

      The city could build underground or elevated transit or freeway structures. They will be expensive. Its either that or a multi-modal future.

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  • Joseph September 26, 2018 at 7:07 am

    Something that is always difficult to measure is the mode share of all trips, not just commutes. I live within the Biketown service district in a building without bike storage, so I’ve put off buying a bike in favor of using Biketown for many of my inner city trips. I mainly work from home but I also go out to Beaverton and Hillsboro to meet with clients. For those times I take Trimet. If you were to ask me how I get to work, I would probably say, “Work from home.” However, this does not capture the 3 days a week I’m riding the MAX out to the west side. Nor does it capture the 7 days a week I use a combination of bike and transit to meet with friends, run errands, and travel around the city. Of course, commute mode share is an important indicator of how the transportation system is faring, for some people (such as myself) it doesn’t quite capture certain behaviors.

    So, you might see that bike commute mode share is flatlining, but it doesn’t show the people who don’t commute by bike but do many other things by bike.

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    • was carless September 30, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      Yet the overall numbers for Trimet show flat ridership since about 2006 levels.

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  • Jim Labbe
    Jim Labbe September 26, 2018 at 8:25 am

    The chart above doesn’t seem to include mix mode commutes. I recall reading some 10 years ago somewhere that this category was growing the fastest, and taking the biggest bite out of “drive alone.” The growth the many different options since (including point-to point bike & car sharing) would seem to make mix-mode commutes even more feasible. Personally I often mix modes, with biking and transit both with point-to-point bike or car sharing being a common option). I am not sure how I would describe my primary mode anymore.

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    • Michael Andersen September 26, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      Yep – as I mentioned to Dan here, the Census categorizes mixed-mode trips based on which mode was used to travel the largest number of miles.

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    • soren September 27, 2018 at 6:47 pm

      i doubt a per trip statistic would be any more favorable — especially given the large increase in ride share use by people who at one time tended to use other transportation modes.

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  • Jim Labbe
    Jim Labbe September 26, 2018 at 8:27 am

    I see now my Joseph effectively just made the same comment.;)

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  • stephan September 26, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for the update! One comment: it would be nice to see modal share conditional on going (physically) to work. The above breakdown shows how Portlanders access work, which could include staying at home and working remotely. That is useful for understanding how (much) our roads are used.

    A slightly different question is whether Portlanders have changed their mode of commute if they go to work. I think we care about that as well because it tells us whether people drive every time they got to work, or whether they consider other transportation options when leaving the house. My hunch is that the share of people who drive alone if they go to work has remained the same over time and has not decreased.

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  • chris m September 26, 2018 at 10:01 am

    It is unfortunate that mode share has been roughly flat for the last 8 years. On the other hand, it is encouraging that cycling has not dropped really at all despite a pretty solid labor market (*ducks*, I understand there are tons of problems with the economy in 2018 but it is way better here than in 2010), and steady continued in-migration. This tells me we do not need to engineer mass unemployment or halt migration to work toward our sustainability goals. Of course we are all going to read ambiguous data to justify our own preconceptions so your mileage may vary on this point :).

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  • Jim Lee September 26, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Is it really true that we pay expensively salaried city staff to travel the country accepting awards for excelling at wonk metrics?

    Refer to the link on PeopleForBikes new “metric.” Must be great–they have had a Ph.D. on staff for two years!

    Why is it necessary to compare cities anyway? This is not a competition. Just do the job!

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    • Michael Andersen September 26, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      It was one thing that happened as part of a three-day conference that offered people advice and strategies for how to do as well as possible at their jobs.

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  • soren September 26, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    I suspect that the increase in “work at home” largely represents people who drive for ride-share and deliveries. If so, this is bad news for active transportation and transit.

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    • Dan A September 26, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      Maybe? Most of the people I know who work from home can do their work over the internet. We have people in my office who work from home anywhere from 1 to 5 days a week. Most people have at least 1 work from home day.

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      • soren September 28, 2018 at 4:49 pm

        i personally know an awful lot of people who drive or deliver as their main job. as i recall, something like 3% of the total workforce is employed by these transportation services now (versus close to zero in 2010).

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  • X September 26, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    “Dan A”

    It’s extremely difficult to close roads to cars. . .We’ve been trying to get permission to shut down this 1/4 mile segment of road in our neighborhood for 3 hours during Halloween. . .The County . . .is denying a permit . . .

    Well, civil disobedience. Save your kids.

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    • Dan A October 1, 2018 at 8:23 am

      If it was my street, sure. We close down our cul de sac all the time with little orange cones. But I don’t live on the street I’m referring to, and it would require some large barricades to keep people out. I stand out in the road with a lantern when cars go through on Halloween, to slow the drivers down and help people get across the road.

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  • pruss2ny September 27, 2018 at 10:02 am

    this tho….pointing out that the rise of uber/ride sharing has struck specifically at mode share typically carved out for walking/biking/public transit

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    • soren September 28, 2018 at 4:45 pm

      what really amazes me is how many active transportation advocates support ride share services even thought most studies suggest that they increase motorvehicle use at the expense of active and public transportation.

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      • pruss2ny September 28, 2018 at 9:35 pm

        think the holy civic grail is a blending of ride share/e scooter/bike share and public transpo all under one metro-pass…in theory allowing u max flex to get around without having your own car…fine, we get rid of 1 person 1 car to a degree, but are left with a constant lurking overcapacity of uber/lyft ride share drivers waiting for a fare.

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        • 9watts September 29, 2018 at 8:19 am

          That seems like a very expensive and bureaucratic approach to something that once upon a time—and today in other countries—is taken care of far more simply by the people themselves: just hop on your bike or lace up your shoes, eh? No need for leveraged buyouts and lithium batteries and city FTEs and corporate sponsors!

          #Ivan Illich

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          • soren September 30, 2018 at 9:53 am

            how do we convince a society that incredibly resistant to “just hopping on a bike” to do so?

            i view e-bikes as one tool that can be used to weaken this resistance.

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            • 9watts September 30, 2018 at 10:05 am

              “i view e-bikes as one tool that can be used to weaken this resistance.”

              That is a perfectly reasonable and familiar assumption.
              My concern is that because e-anything is not an unproblematic technology this approach could also take any number of other forms, head off in less salutary directions. The danger is that in our eagerness to join #nevercars we miss that there are myriad other ways to cause harm. All -bikes are not created equal.

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