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The Monday Roundup: Scooter laws, ‘War on Cars’ pod, transit subsidy and more

Posted by on October 15th, 2018 at 11:08 am

Here are the most notable stories we came across last week:

Silver bullet: You’ve probably heard that electeds and policymakers from Oregon and Washington are eager to replace the I-5 bridge; but did you know there are early-stage talks to build a bullet train between Portland and Vancouver, BC?

Transit subsidy: Seattle is the latest west coast city to pass a local mandate requiring certain companies to allow employees to use pre-tax wages to pay for transit. Why they heck doesn’t Portland do this?!

Climate warning: The new climate change report from the IPCC is very serious and should not be passed over. The question now is: How should we change our existing plans/projects/policies given the dire warnings contained in the report?

Safe streets are the answer: LA-based writer Alissa Walker says the climate report should make it much easier for “climate mayors” to get tough on auto overuse and commit to safe streets.

The ‘War on Cars’ has begun: I could not think of better people (Sarah Goodyear, Aaron Naparstek and Doug Gordon) or a better place (New York City) for the new War on Cars podcast to come from. Give it a listen and prepare to be inspired and informed.

Bicycling makes you a better driver: A UK-based insurance company found that, among policyholders, people who frequently ride bikes make far fewer claims than those who don’t.

Driving ban in London: Another city has proclaimed its intention to prohibit driving in sections of its downtown core and reduce speed limits to 15 mph. London planners believe the policy is needed to create a world-class street scene and “future-proof” the city.

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Scooters, legally-speaking: The Bike League shared a breakdown of key bicycle-related laws and surmised how they might – or might not – relate to scooters.

Corporate mobility hooks another big fish: Scott Kubly (Lime), Caroline Samponaro (Lyft), Nelle Pierson (Jump), Paul Steely White (Bird), and now former US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx (Lyft). The trend of major transportation advocates/leaders moving from non-profit/public service into the corporate realm continues.

5,000 bikes recovered: Bike Index celebrated a major stolen bike recovery milestone by interviewing a woman whose bike was taken from a rack after someone cut through her u-lock.

Why nobody bikes in LA: Noted writer and activist Peter Flax spread blame in many directions — including hostile drivers and toothless professional advocates — in an essay about why he believes Los Angeles is the worst city for biking in America.

Tech is not your bro: “Don’t let techno-utopianism become a pretext for doing nothing.” Glad to see more people beginning to understand that our transportation problems won’t be solved by high-tech solutions alone.

E-bike pros and cons: Lifehacker shared a great explainer about e-bikes that could help you decide if they’re right for you (spoiler: after the deep dive, the reporter said she’s now a believer!).

Video of the Week: Former Portlander (sniff, sniff) Russ Roca of Path Less Pedaled returned this weekend and posted an entertaining vlog full of shop visits and other bikey adventures around north Portland:

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

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Hello, Kitty9wattsGlowBoyChris IX Recent comment authors
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9watts
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Bullet trains are a tantalizing piece of infrastructure, and trains that run regularly and on time are certainly a good thing and would be a big improvement on the sorry situation we have here, but we should be careful what we wish for. The Speed in High Speed is a Faustian Bargain. This would remove many of the current barriers to living even farther from where people work, leading to potentially much greater demand for longer distance travel.

As so often it would be good to read Ivan Illich closely before putting our eggs into this basket.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

RE Tech is not your bro: The article misses some key points. First, it’s unlikely people will own their own robot cars (and even more unlikely they’ll just circle the block while you’re at work). Second, it seems likely that at least some vehicles will act as a hybrid bus-taxi service, ferrying multiple people to similar destinations, much the way shared rides on Lyft do now.

Yes, the streets have finite capacity, but vehicles may get smaller, and their operation more efficient, so that will increase the number of vehicles getting around. And paying per ride will likely change the incentive structures in ways we don’t yet understand.

Personally, I think conventional transit (especially buses) is doomed.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

“major transportation advocates/leaders moving from non-profit/public service into the corporate realm continues”

This is just like all the other moves from high-ranking government positions to private industry, whether that be from the Pentagon to Lockheed Martin, Treasury to Goldman Sachs, etc. The government official parlays his or her influence on policy today for a fat payoff tomorrow.

If you wonder why cities and other governments seem to favor certain companies and industries so much, this is one reason why.

This sort of cashing-in should be prohibited by law. A higher-ranking government official should be prohibited from working for a company or industry that he or she was responsible for regulating, for some number of years after his departure from government service.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I think it is a grave mistake to plan for Portland to be the end of the line for a high speed rail link to Seattle and B.C. We would be better served to join with our neighbor to the south and plan for high speed rail that serves the entire west coast, but only fund the initial stage from B.C. to Portland. Stage two would run to Eugene and then on to Medford/Ashland, after which the link to the planned high speed rail in California can be made.

In that vein, the station in Portland really needs to be at the same location as where the current Amtrak trains stop. Otherwise, we’ll never get the rest of the state to use this link because so much time will be lost moving between stations on opposite sides of the river in the Portland urban center.

Champs
Guest
Champs

There are so many chances to ruin the Cascadia bullet train with disingenuous arguments that I fear it’s over before it begins. The overt opponents will note that flying is faster, while others will passive-aggressively argue for suburban stations that are cheaper to build with faster nominal travel time and more parking.

Either way they’re willfully missing the point: getting to your seat from anywhere in TriMet’s service area to Union Station is faster than a cab from IKEA to your flight.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Amazing! In the same round-up that lauds New York City, we see the dissing of Los Angeles. Do know that L.A. has had pretty much the same bike modal share as NYC for most of this decade. (There was a small drop-off in 2017 in L.A., but most years it’s been either the same as NYC or slightly ahead.)

Could it be that L.A. doesn’t have someone doing big press releases about putting cyclists on glorified sidewalks, so it can’t possibly be doing as well as someplace that is? Sad to say, this is similar to right-wing folks who simply cannot believe that tax increases can go along with economic growth and that tax cuts often lead to a worsening of the economy. They’ve decided how the world must work and facts no longer matter.

Doug G.
Guest

Thanks for the shout-out, Jonathan! We’re really excited for the podcast and hope people will check it out.

soren
Subscriber

How should we change our existing plans/projects/policies given the dire warnings contained in the report?

We have not even begun to address our climate crisis. In fact, global carbon emissions have gone up ~7% since the 2010 baseline used for the IPCC special report.

To mitigate ~3ºF in warming we would need to immediately committ to spending trillions of dollars on pervasive decarbonization. This would have to be a global project that emphasizes speed over cost (e.g. any feasible expense should be considered over delay-associated savings). In addition to decarbonization of energy, lifestyle changes are essential. Some of these would include immediate limits on driving, flying, deforestation, and consumption of meat and dairy. Even with these unprecedented interventions we would still need to rely on nuclear energy and untested carbon capture technology to prevent overshoot of ~3ºF.

if you think I exaggerate then please read what Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences (GISS) on whether we can avoid overshooting ~3ºF:

“IPCC has to use a few circumlocutions to avoid giving a direct answer to this question (for reasonable and understandable reasons). I’m not quite so constrained…

There are many issues related to the feasibility question of which physical climate-related issues are only one. The basic issue is that the effort to reduce emissions sufficiently to never get past 1.5ºC would require a global effort to decarbonize starting immediately that would dwarf current efforts or pledges. This seems unlikely (IMO).”

So my answer is… no.

I get that there is reluctance to say this publically – it sounds as if one is complicit in the impacts that will occur above 1.5ºC (~3ºF), but it seems to me that tractable challenges are more motivating than impossible (or extremely unfeasible) ones – I would be happy to be proven wrong on this though.”

David Hampsten
Guest

“Under the federal tax code, businesses are allowed to have workers allocate up to $260 per month from their paychecks to pay for commutes via transit, including bus, light rail, ferry, water taxi and van pool.” This has been around for decades. City of Portland employees have been benefiting from it for years, as well as other downtown and Lloyd District employers. This is old news.

Harald
Guest

David Hampsten
As for station locations, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Zurich all have their bullet stations outside of their central cities, usually at airports, to complement rather than compete with air travel.Recommended 0

Frankfurt, Zurich, and Brussels all have high-speed trains stop at their city centers. You are correct that Frankfurt has an additional high-speed train station at the airport; Zurich and Brussels do not.

Ed
Guest
Ed

Re: Bicycling makes you a better driver, it’s not just in safety. When gasoline prices spiked in 2008, a lot of the tips that were being offered for saving fuel when driving were things that become second nature to bicyclists–like accelerating near the bottom of a hill before reaching the low point and beginning the climb up the next one, accelerating slowly from a full stop, etc.. I don’t recall all of them now, but I do recall suggesting that people who needed to drive should get some feet-on riding experience to improve their awareness of energy use in movement.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Unfortunately, Canada is even less serious about train travel than the United States. The only place where they have upgraded passenger rail is to provide commuter rail service in major cities such as Toronto. They have garbage long distance trains.

Rebecca
Subscriber
Rebecca

Re: Seattle transit subsidy: Portland employers have the option to do this right now: https://trimet.org/employers/taxbreaks.htm

I’m not sure if any companies are *required* to offer it, but it’s there.

Kevin G
Guest
Kevin G

high-speed rail is totally off-the-shelf technology. There are no technical challenges. Just fiscal and political. European or Japanese manufacturers will happily sell their expertise and their best kit. But you’d need a new track right-of-way. That’s the big one. You can’t run high-speed rail on freight railroad-owned tracks designed and maintained for moderate speed. Arguably you can’t ever run regular passenger rail. If you’ve ever taken Amtrak anywhere you will doubtless have experienced sitting on a siding somewhere to let a lumbering freight train go by.