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The Monday Roundup: Micro-lanes, food courier life, flying free and more

Posted by on July 22nd, 2019 at 10:16 am

Here are the most noteworthy items we came across in the past seven days…

Life of a food courier: A NY Times journalist worked delivering food by bike in the Big Apple and lived to offer this fascinating report about it.

How to price: Last week Portland established a congestion pricing task force and now there’s a plan from Seattle that offers a blueprint for how to implement this sensitive policy in a way that both eases gridlock and the economic hit to people with lower incomes.

No rust or bust: Popular Mechanics puts a “rust-proof bike” to the test.

Seattle safety struggle: Our sister city to the north is not doing enough to tame drivers and their motorized beasts and the result is a rate of deaths and injuries going in the wrong direction.

Whose “micro-lane”? Noteworthy thoughts from a planner about how the micro-robot/AI industry has designs on using lanes currently used (almost) exclusively by bicycle riders.

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More on those robots: And Treehugger’s Lloyd Alter says the new demands on bike lanes could result in more advocacy to make them wider and better — and that would be a good thing.

Free parking (for scooters): Mr. Parking Reform Donald Shoup said in an interview with Bird one way to improve the e-scooter parking conundrum is to start charging more to park cars.

The truth behind the hate: The NYC-based Gothamist delves into the old question of why so many Americans express hate toward bicycle riders, and offers some solutions to shift that psychology.

Knew this would happen: As cars get more “smart” tech, many people just get dumber (and less safe) while using them.

No more fees: Hallelujah! Another major airline (Delta) has dropped automatic fees for bicycle bags.

Tweet of the Week:

Congratulations! You’re caught up. Thanks to everyone to sent in suggestions.

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

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55 Comments
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    mh July 22, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Jonathan, the link to the Shoup interview takes me to a blank screen.

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    bikeninja July 22, 2019 at 11:01 am

    I think the Tech Bro’s that are planning on putting food delivery robots in bike lanes have spent too much time driving around in Tesla’s and not enough time cycling in an actual bike lane. As we know bike lanes stop and start, don’t have access across the curb on many blocks, etc. The the guidance task to navigate the uncertain ( and poorly mapped) bike lane/sidewalk/road inter-relations would be greater hurdle than many think. Dudes, just wait till you have the flying delivery robots figured out, till then leave the lanes to the cyclists.

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      GlowBoy July 22, 2019 at 11:47 am

      “Micromobility Industries went so far as to re-name bicycle lanes: ‘Other wide vehicles will be joining the micro lane soon too and bikers/scooters riders will need to get around them too.'”

      Clearly they don’t even understand the whole point of bike lanes. It’s not to carve out a space for narrow vehicles in order to get more total vehicles onto a given amount of roadway. It’s to carve out a safe(r) space for vulnerable vehicle users. Forcing us to constantly leave this lane as it gets blocked by their narrow vehicles undermines the entire point of bike lanes. We need to stop this before it starts.

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        David Hampsten July 22, 2019 at 12:59 pm

        But robots are vulnerable users – they are like dogs, except they don’t take a crap on the sidewalk where children and uninhibited adults are riding their bikes and scooters.

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          Matt July 22, 2019 at 1:31 pm

          They do look vulnerable to being tipped over.

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            John Lascurettes July 22, 2019 at 3:36 pm

            I predict these will be covered in tags and band stickers (much like a bar bathroom) in no time at all.

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      GlowBoy July 22, 2019 at 11:54 am

      The linked article about Delta eliminating bicycle fees doesn’t mention whether bike cases over 62 linear inches (all 3 dimensions added together) still have to pay an oversize fee. Delta’s steep bike fee was in addition to the oversize fee, which would still apply to most luggage. What’s not clear is if bike boxes/cases now get the oversize fee waived (as do ski bags) or would still have to pay it.

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      GlowBoy July 22, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      About drivers who have smart tech on their cars being dumber in their driving: well, yeah. Risk compensation is pretty well understood at this point. The first important thing to understand is that it is not 100%: in other words, safety tech on cars (everything from seatbelts and radial tires, to ABS and stability control and improved crashworthiness a few years ago, to automated emergency braking today) have, on the whole, still improved safety. Yes, people’s behavior has gotten riskier as cars have gotten safer – but not to the same degree. It is many, many times safer to be a driver or passenger in a car today than it was when I started driving.

      Which brings me to the second point, and my biggest concern: the dangerous behavior is getting externalized to people not in vehicles. Faster driving, riskier driving, taller and more massive vehicles (the average passenger vehicle exceeds 4000 pounds again, after falling nearly to 3000 a couple decades ago), all of these are causing pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths to skyrocket.

      Of course it’s easier to blame vulnerable people for looking at their phone (while they are legally crossing the street with the right of way) or not dressing brightly enough. Apparently the more obvious cause is a little too hard to face.

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        9watts July 28, 2019 at 10:38 pm

        “the dangerous behavior is getting externalized to people not in vehicles”

        Spike in steering wheel, anyone?

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    Jon July 22, 2019 at 11:15 am

    It looks like Oregon is one of the top 10 LEAST regressive when it comes to taxes mainly because we don’t have a sales tax and mostly rely on income and property taxes. (https://itep.org/whopays/) Thus a congestion pricing scheme in Portland should be a no brainer. Lets get the tolls going ASAP! According to the article about Seattle congestion charges Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the country so tolls in the city might have more of an impact on the poor. Overall more tolls are great since it forces drivers to start paying for all the externalities created by driving cars.

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      Middle of the Road Guy July 22, 2019 at 11:33 am

      That’s assuming the funds raised by tolls/congestion pricing actually go towards the costs of the externalities.

      Do you really think they will? Or do you think they’ll simply go into the bureaucratic machine?

      We heard the same thing about the lottery proceeds and yet we still have very underfunded schools.

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        Jon July 22, 2019 at 11:43 am

        Ultimately if the fees reduce driving then the externalities will be reduced since there will be less air pollution, quicker travel, and fewer traffic deaths. I would much rather the tolls go directly toward mass transit but I realize that laws prevent that transfer but the extra money should allow the state to reduce the discretionary spending on car transportation and replace it with toll money. You are probably correct that the money will disappear into the bottomless pit that our state/city bureaucracy but at least driving is reduced.

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          Middle of the Road Guy July 22, 2019 at 12:29 pm

          The externalities may be reduced, but the fees are not paying for the externalities (as you stated). The very nature of externalities is that they are difficult to include in a transaction and they may impact third parties to different degrees. Like if I am not downwind of a smokestack, I’m not as directly impacted as someone who is.

          However, I think we tend to look at the most visible things first. Point source emissions are easy to go after. Mobile source are a little more difficult.

          Now, in an idealized world that concept (pay for externalities) would be extensible to other consumption streams. Like a carbon/climate fee based upon how far our goods are shipped to us and by what mode. E.g., this would not just be purely a concept applied to just individuals and their commuting, but to goods consumed by everyone (that have been shipped) as well.

          Lastly, I’d have zero issue with whatever revenues are raised being used for mitigating the externalities, though. Or to invest in climate adaptation strategies. As I have stated previously, I do not believe we are going to stop climate change so it would be a good policy to prepare for it.

          I’m not super sure about the who “Progressive” fee approach. People should have to equally shoulder their burden and if we don’t hold everyone accountable they will not change their behavior(s). This means that below income folks should not be getting a break.

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            Paul July 22, 2019 at 1:00 pm

            It still provides an incentive for everyone. Under this system, poor people just get money. They can choose to spend it on driving or tolls, or keep it.

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      soren July 22, 2019 at 12:03 pm

      Oregon has a Randian flat income tax that favors the wealthy at the expense of poorer folk.

      People who earn in excess of $8,700.00 pay 9%
      People who earn in excess of $125,000.00 pay 9.9%

      Oregon “progressive taxation” ribbon should be confiscated and burned.

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        GlowBoy July 22, 2019 at 12:07 pm

        Agreed, Oregon’s income tax may indeed have been progressive when median incomes were only 4 digits. But the failure of the brackets to keep up with inflation has rendered it essentially flat.

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        Jon July 22, 2019 at 12:17 pm

        Oregon’s taxes are not “progressive”, they are just less regressive than 40 of the 50 states. We are not good, we are just much better than our neighbor to the north. Let’s get the tolls going now instead of waiting until some Utopian perfectly fair tax scheme can be implemented first.

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          David Hampsten July 22, 2019 at 12:44 pm

          When I lived in Oregon, I’d typically pay $1,500 in income tax (I’m poor) and no sales tax. Now here in NC I pay around $300 income tax, but over $1,300 in sales taxes, including a 2% sales tax on food to pay for a $1 Billion freeway bypass. Go figure.

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      soren July 22, 2019 at 12:15 pm

      In the Gothamist piece Tara Goddard is quoted as disputing claims that people cycling pose increased risk to pedestrians because “about 2 percent of all pedestrian injuries involved people on bikes that year.”

      Given that bike mode share in NYC is about 1%, perhaps NYC pedestrians are correct to view people cycling as somewhat dangerous.

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        idlebytes July 22, 2019 at 12:49 pm

        The piece states they believe “cyclists pose a high, fatal risk to them”. The data supports that with 0.9% of fatalities being caused by cyclists in 2017 and 0% for 2015 and 2016. They do appear to have a greater chance of causing injury based on mode share around 3-3.5% for those years. It’d be interesting to see the differences in serious injuries too.

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          soren July 22, 2019 at 4:15 pm

          My post specifically quoted a sentence that focused on injuries and did not address fatalities at all. Moreover, Goddards claim that pedestrians are overly concerned about “death by bike” is dubious.

          On the other hand, it seems perfectly reasonable for pedestrians to be upset about aggressive cycling behavior due to a perception of injury risk.

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        David Hampsten July 22, 2019 at 12:52 pm

        Given such a low usage rate, I wonder, what percentage of NYC pedestrians have ever seen a bicyclist in motion, let alone breaking the law? Her in NC, our usage rate is even lower (0.23%) and I have in fact met people who have never “seen” a moving cyclist, not that they were ever looking for one. Now mention scooter users and every pedestrian (and most drivers) have seen those and has an opinion about them.

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        idlebytes July 22, 2019 at 12:52 pm

        Also worth noting is drivers have 27% of the mode share but were involved in 97% of the pedestrian injuries and 99-100% of the fatalities.

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          soren July 22, 2019 at 1:57 pm

          In no way was I disputing the overwhelming association of driving with traffic fatalities. The statistic on injuries caught my eye mostly because of Goddard’s earlier section on confirmation bias.

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        pruss2ny July 22, 2019 at 4:22 pm

        not a fan of anecdotal data, but the perception of bikes v cars by pedestrians in nyc is based on anecdotal, so…..

        while i’ve never been killed by a bike nor a car in nyc, I have had exponentially more close calls w/ bikes as a pedestrian…midblock stop signs in midtown are especially prone to bike/pedestrian interaction. also, fair to say most pedestrians don’t exactly follow law-abiding practices in nyc and jaywalking between 2 parked cars mid block typically gives you space to judge car traffic, but not enough time to really gauge if there is a bike shooting thru the gap…

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    GlowBoy July 22, 2019 at 11:41 am

    I’m not sure I see that the “rust-proof” bike in the PM article is that special. It’s got an aluminum frame, aluminum handlebar (often NOT the case on cruiser-type bikes), a belt drive and an internally geared hub. Except for the belt drive there are millions of bikes like this already on the streets of America. Even the article concedes that it still has lots of steel bolts that are rusting, and that the front brake is not rustproof (for a few bucks more the bike could have included a front hub brake – which I have on one of my bikes, and it works great in all conditions).

    For the record, I’ve now ridden through 4 Minnesota winters on a $700 mountain bike, exposing my bike to conditions that are at least as corrosive as storing a bike near the surf. My bike gets literally bathed in salty grime all winter, and I only wash it once in the spring. Of course the frame and handlebar are aluminum, which is probably the most important thing, and when I converted it to drop handlebars I went with full-length brake and shift cables. But I don’t have belt drive (or an IGH), because I like the versatility of a derailer drivetrain. If you really want to do ZERO maintenance on your bike go the former route; but personally, even as a lazy ride-hard-and-put-away-wet kind of guy I don’t find it a major inconvenience to lube the chain every few weeks and spend $12 to replace it once a year.

    I keep expecting things to go wrong from all this abuse, but they don’t. The only significant corrosion-related mechanical issue is that the adjustment knobs on my mechanical disc brakes are seized. Eventually I’ll replace them with the BB7S model, which has stainless internals. Also, the spokes (not stainless) on my cheap wheelset are starting to show some surface rust, though they still seem strong. Maybe I’ll drop $100 on a replacement set after my 5th winter. But other than that, everything’s been great. Derailer still shifts great, no bolts are frozen … basically the bike looks and rides like it’s almost new.

    So yes there are ways to make bikes – including maybe a bike you already own – highly weather-resistant, but it doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy this bike. In fact you may already have an inexpensive bike that will work fine in the weather. As Grant put it: Just Ride.

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      Middle of the Road Guy July 22, 2019 at 12:32 pm

      The TRP Spyre is nice and you can independently adjust each pad.

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        David Hampsten July 22, 2019 at 12:56 pm

        …as long as you carry a very long 3mm hex wrench in your tool pack, to reach the spoke-side adjustment knob through your spokes…

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          Middle of the Road Guy July 22, 2019 at 1:32 pm

          You mean you don’t?

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          Matt July 22, 2019 at 1:37 pm

          Actually, you can use the short 3 mm wrench found on most multi-tools on Spyres, using the wrench in the middle of the wheel, between the hub flanges. Spyres are better than BB7s in every way.

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            David Hampsten July 22, 2019 at 2:08 pm

            Personally I use TRP Spyre on the front and BB7s on the rear, both with Avid 160mm discs, on all my bikes. I find I get greater breaking power with BB7s, but alas they do warp the disc if I break too hard, unlike the TRPs. I use organic pads on both front & rear.

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      David Hampsten July 22, 2019 at 12:32 pm

      East Coast beach bikes have to deal with sand, grit, sea salt, and nasty industrial pollution (Acid Smog) which can do amazing damage even to cro-moly, let alone high-tensile steel – it’s pretty amazing when you see it;even bolts that are upside down and hidden get rusted. Upper Midwestern winter salt is a bit more refined, as is the sand and gravel they spray, and it isn’t in the air as a smog or as mist. And you don’t have the pollution (or not as much.)

      Aluminum can rust, or corrode rather, usually caused by ammonia from sweat dripping and reacting with the frame downtube and front derailleur. Not pretty.

      I am however astonished that you have a $700 bike without stainless steel spokes – even $300 bikes these days have them.

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      hotrodder July 22, 2019 at 7:29 pm

      Always keep a Huffy in your garage as a sacrificial anode and your aluminum bike will last much longer.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty July 22, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    RE Knew this would happen:

    Did it happen? The survey reports a correlation between high tech cars and cell phone use, but makes no attempt to show causality. Perhaps people with the means/desire to purchase cars with advanced safety features (i.e. expensive cars) also feel under pressure to be always present at their jobs, thus they use the phone more in the car? Perhaps they invest more in their car because they spend more time in them and thus are more likely to use their phone while driving? Hard to say what is going on.

    Correlation is not causation (unless you think there’s a connection between cheese consumption and bedsheet entanglement deaths https://i.imgur.com/pd7KpnX.png). Unless there’s more to it than what is written up in the chipper summary, this study does not show that as drivers get more assistive tech they also take more risks. They might, but we’ll need a different study to know for sure.

    Oh, and the data came from an online survey, so you know it’s solid.

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      Chris I July 22, 2019 at 6:23 pm

      I guess we’ll just have to wait for you to conduct the controlled lab tests before we can alter public policy.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty July 22, 2019 at 8:44 pm

        That sounds like a pain. An internet survey should be enough, as long as the results confirm what I already believe.

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          Middle of The Road Guy July 23, 2019 at 12:36 pm

          I like to take bias confirming internet surveys whilst wearing cargo shorts.

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      Asher Atkinson July 23, 2019 at 9:57 am

      An online survey received from 1,023 general market consumers, of which, only 29% reported owning a vehicle with these technologies, I’ll add. Furthermore, the technologies discussed – adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist – activate on highways at cruising speeds. Other technologies like blind spot monitoring, forward/backward collision warning and automatic braking are typically in the same package and provide more situational awareness to even the most attentive drivers in the urban environment where encounters with pedestrians and cyclist most frequently occur.

      Rather than drawing conclusions from an online survey, I’ll wait for real studies analyzing data that has become to come in now that significant numbers of vehicles with promising safety technology are on the roads.

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    bikeninja July 22, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    The the “snapshot” takeaway from this weeks roundup is that auto users are becoming dumber and more distracted, are causing deaths and injuries to themselves and others at an increasing rate and are too lazy to cook or get food themselves so they need robots to bring it to them, yet they are angry with the most virtuous and low impact citizens in town (cyclists).

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      El Biciclero July 22, 2019 at 3:32 pm

      Also, the businesses who manufacture cars and provide automated delivery services know these things as well, but are not worried about the impact (often literal) to their non-customers, which people are not their customers due either to opting out of consumption/convenience or not having the means to consume. These businesses are happy to create inconvenience and increased risk to the lowly in order to make more money from those you describe. And there is virtually no regulation in place to prevent such Machiavellian (is that the right word?) business practices.

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    Toby Keith July 22, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    There is already great scooter parking at the bottom of the Willamette river.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2019 at 3:17 pm

      FWIW I don’t think jokes like this are funny at all. People rely on these things for transportation and because u don’t like them u think it’s funny to joke abt destroying them? I don’t get it.

      There’s a lot of things about cars I hate, but I’d never even think about vandalizing one in any way.

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        Toby Keith July 22, 2019 at 4:16 pm

        Easy does it Jonathan. Nobody is advocating destruction of your beloved scooters. Just referencing the latest haul from the water front thats all. We are wound up pretty tight here.

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          Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2019 at 4:48 pm

          I hear you.

          words matter though. And this isn’t about “my beloved scooters”… This is about the general erosion of basic civility that often begins with memes and ideas (scooter hate being an example) repeated online so much that they become normalized. and yes, I’m pretty wound up about the state of our public discourse.

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            Toby Keith July 22, 2019 at 5:02 pm

            My apologies. It’s your blog and I understand.

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              Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2019 at 5:09 pm

              Thanks for having a good attitude. we all have things we are hyper-sensitive about huh? One of my is words people use to describe things in the transportation space.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty July 22, 2019 at 5:07 pm

            Toby Keith’s original comment didn’t strike me as encouragement to drown more scooters (which, much as I dislike them and the business models that spawned them, I occasionally ride because they’re actually kind of fun).

            That said, I agree with your take on the state of public discourse, which is one reason I often try to counter the “driver hate” and “car hate” so many commentors express in this august forum.

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              Middle of The Road Guy July 23, 2019 at 12:39 pm

              Your observation is one reason why I take the tack I do.

              I don’t think drivers are bad people. I don’t think cyclists are bad people either. But when I see a group of people who are routinely maligned, I’ll employ the same tactic to hopefully make people aware of what they are doing and hopefully illuminate them to their biases.
              Of course, the only people who are biased are those who don’t agree with me 🙂

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                9watts July 28, 2019 at 11:00 pm

                “a group of people who are routinely maligned…and hopefully illuminate them to their biases”

                You certainly have a penchant for inverting, of turning the tables. The problem I see with this approach is that the symmetry you (must) imagine is mostly not present.
                #falseequivalence

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              9watts July 28, 2019 at 10:55 pm

              “That said, I agree with your take on the state of public discourse, which is one reason I often try to counter the “driver hate” and “car hate” so many commentors express in this august forum.”

              These days the word hate is often used very casually, including here in the comments. Much that is critical of automobility is not, properly speaking, hate at all, but valid criticism.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty July 29, 2019 at 12:47 am

                And much of it is hate, not a critical observation of society.

                I agree that hate is used very loosely, especially by those who thrive on outrage.

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    Mark smith July 23, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    The whole “why do people in cars hate people on bikes” cracks me up. It is so obvious but nobody and power will say it.

    Driving , if we don’t stop the thought, immediately puts us in lizard brain mode. Why? Because we have overwhelming power. Even a Prius has the power to go faster than our ancestors ever imagined.

    Now, I know this because I drive a semi truck. And believe you me, I have lizard thoughts all the time. Especially if I am under the gun time wise. And I know that I am piloting an instrument of death.

    If we really confronted the fact that just driving a car makes us essentially part sociopathic, cars would be heavily regulated. Like guns. But they don’t say it so instead they write cute essays that mean nothing.

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    Vince October 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Free bikes on Delta? Someone needs to tell the gate agents at PDX. Just got back from. Trip, and despite the fact that the Delta website says that bikes are welcome, I still got hit by the fee. Spent hours getting bike to specified size and weight. Gate agents were downright rude to boot! On the other hand, TSA was great on the bike inspection . @delta @dal

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