Support BikePortland

The Monday Roundup: Flight shaming, phone detection cams, bicycle insurance and more

Posted by on December 2nd, 2019 at 9:31 am


This week’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by WashCo Bikes, who reminds you to support their Adopt-a-Bike program as it ramps up to serve hundreds of kids and families in Washington County.


Welcome back from the holiday weekend. Hope you enjoyed a few slower news days (I certainly did).

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

Induced flight demand: Airports are fossil fuel infrastructure, so why do we continue to expand them? (This is very relevant to Portland since PDX wants to expand a road leading to a new parking garage.)

Helmet debate distractions: The League of American Bicyclists goes beyond the helmet-debating headlines to offer a breakdown of recent traffic safety recommendations made by the NTSB.

SUVs and the planet: The latest United Nations report on climate change directly calls out America’s epidemic of SUV driving and calls for policies that discourage the purchase and use of large, inefficient vehicles.

Big trucks suck (for most people): Calling them a “grotesque addiction” this automotive journalist says large trucks and their popularity in the market are irrational and unnecessary.

Advertisement

Caught on camera: Australia has rolled out special traffic cameras that aim to detect the use of phones and other distracting devices while driving.

What he said: Nationally recognized transit consultant (based in Portland) Jarrett Walker wants everyone to know that he doesn’t want to be called a “bus advocate”.

Bicycle coverage: Japan is experiencing a boom in cycling for fitness and many local governments are responding by requiring riders to have bicycle insurance.

Safer suburbs: The Washington Post dives into the growing awareness that suburban cities should also consider Vision Zero to tame dangerous streets and drivers.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

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

89 Comments
  • Avatar
    bikeninja December 2, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Our addiction to commercial air travel is even more ridiculous and harmful than our addiction to motorcars. At least the one can imagine that motor car transportation has some kind of future with electrification and renewable energy but commercial air travel is a creature of cheap fossil fuel. The latest round of airline failures ( mostly europe) and the cost cutting debacle at Boeing are sure signs that ,from an economic perspective, air travel for the masses is on its last legs. Why we are still dumping so much money in to air travel infrastructure makes no sense. One day these enormous airports with massive parking garages will be our civilizations equivalent to the statues on Easter Island.

    Recommended Thumb up 11

    • Avatar
      middle of the road guy December 2, 2019 at 11:42 am

      Hopefully I’ll get a few more cycling trips in Europe completed before that happens 🙂

      Recommended Thumb up 11

      • Avatar
        Huey Lewis December 3, 2019 at 4:49 pm

        Shhh! I mentioned a trip I was taking this spring and was thoroughly scolded for daring to travel to Europe! I see some of the scolders downthread. Maybe they missed your comment?

        Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Avatar
          9watts December 3, 2019 at 10:03 pm

          “and was thoroughly scolded for daring to travel to Europe!”

          No you were not.
          You were scolded for making a smug fuss over the responses to your disingenuous questions:

          “Should we not? How do we go if not by air?”

          https://bikeportland.org/2018/12/03/the-monday-roundup-oprahs-e-bike-californias-driving-problem-e-scooter-fatality-and-more-292690#comment-7003589

          Recommended Thumb up 5

          • Avatar
            Huey Lewis December 4, 2019 at 9:39 am

            There you are! The life of the Bike Portland Party!

            Recommended Thumb up 4

          • Avatar
            Huey Lewis December 4, 2019 at 9:56 am

            Yeah, and I was told not to go because I was killing the planet. It seemed like a scolding to me.

            It’s perfect and not at all surprising that you scan all these comments to comment on and you knew I was talking about you (amongst a couple others). Perfect. Go outside, log off for a while.

            Leave this comment up, JM? Am I being too mean to 9Watts?

            Recommended Thumb up 4

            • Avatar
              Middle of the Road Guy December 4, 2019 at 3:14 pm

              Have a lovely trip. Europe is a wonderful place to cycle and the mountains are big!

              Recommended Thumb up 2

            • Avatar
              turnips December 4, 2019 at 3:37 pm

              I’ve seen a lot of children (and a few adults) have a fit when they didn’t like an answer to their question. much less common is the person who goes out of their way to remind everybody of the tantrum they threw a year ago.

              Recommended Thumb up 4

              • Avatar
                turnips December 4, 2019 at 3:38 pm

                the nesting on this comment section is just so touchy…

                Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Avatar
                9watts December 4, 2019 at 4:18 pm

                Indeed. For years it was flawless, but now it tends to be very glitchy, often sorting multiple comments by one commenter under each other rather than where we tried to put them.

                Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Avatar
      soren December 2, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      “are sure signs that ,from an economic perspective, air travel for the masses is on its last legs.”

      Thanks for the lovely cognitive dissonance.

      Headed toward its sixth year of record passenger traffic growth, the [ Portland International Airport ] anticipates serving 19.9 million travelers in 2018.

      https://www.flypdx.com/Newsroom/At-Portland-International-Airport,-Busy-is-the-New-Normal

      U.S. airlines and foreign airlines serving the U.S. carried an all-time high of 1.0 billion systemwide (domestic and international) scheduled service passengers in 2018, 4.8 percent more than the previous record high of 965.4 million reached in 2017.

      https://www.bts.dot.gov/newsroom/2018-traffic-data-us-airlines-and-foreign-airlines-us-flights

      Recommended Thumb up 14

      • Avatar
        Pete December 2, 2019 at 3:15 pm

        Not to mention that cargo flights continue to rise with increasing global commerce.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Avatar
        bikeninja December 2, 2019 at 4:38 pm

        Air travel for the masses will not collapse because it is unpopular, but because the cost to provide it will no be covered by what people are able to pay. The revenue per air seat mile for airlines has been declining steadily for 20 or more years now, while costs for fuel, maintenance and planes has been increasing. The airlines have responded by packing more seats in and cutting out things like food and number of crew, plus trying to use a large portion of the luggage compartment for cargo. Margins have been so tight that they have had to move to planes with the new high bypass turbofans to get better gas mileage ( hence the Boeing 737 Max) but the airlines are too financially stretched to afford pilot training (simulator time) hence the demand from its customers that Boeing Make its new more fuel efficient version of the 737 not require any training leading to the debacle that will cost Boeing Millions if not Billions of dollars. Fuel costs will inevitably continue to rise and the airlines will run out of places to cut costs ( they are considering stand-up seating as an example). It is too late for them to raise prices significantly and scale the airline industry back to where it was when it only served business and the affluent.

        Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Avatar
      BikeRound December 2, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      I am not sure that I completely agree. Had the United States adopted a wholly different template for how its housing pattern is going to develop, say, in 1900, it would not be difficult to imagine a world in which automobiles would be seen not only as unnecessary but basically useless. Within our towns, we could walk, bike, or hop on the street car, the bus or the subway. If only a fraction of all of the hundreds of dollars per month that an average driver spends on his unhealthy habit of piloting around a large metal box were made available for collective use, our public transportation options could be superb. And to get from one town to the next, we could have commuter trains and high speed trains, just like China does.

      But to get from one continent to the next, the only only viable option is to fly. Given where we are now, we should have carbon pricing to allow the market to allocate limited resources–in this case, the privilege of emitting pollution–in the most efficient manner possible. I think at least for intercontinental travel, flying would still be something that people would be willing to pay for.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty December 2, 2019 at 1:21 pm

        >>> it would not be difficult to imagine a world in which automobiles would be seen not only as unnecessary but basically useless. <<<

        It's hard for me to imagine… there's not many places anywhere where this is true, and many of them had very different development patterns than the US. The one possible exception is the medieval cores of old European cities, but those generally only encompass a tiny portion of those cities, and do not represent a development pattern than many have sought to replicate or expand on.

        Tokyo and NYC are hugely dense places, and there is no sign that cars are considered "useless". Cumbersome, for sure, and a bit of a luxury, but there are still plenty of them around in both cities.

        Recommended Thumb up 6

        • Avatar
          BikeRound December 2, 2019 at 2:39 pm

          Imagine if we got rid of all of the cars in New York City, and spent just half of all monies that people currently spend on the total cost of owning and operating an automobile on public transportation. According to Streetsblog, there are approximately 2 million private vehicles registered to city residents in New York, and according to Nerdwallet, the average monthly car ownership costs are $706; that gives us a total of $8.4 billion a year to invest (note that in New York City this is probably a vast underestimate since parking and insurance costs are much higher in the city than the nationwide average).

          If we assume that bus operating costs in New York are about $200 an hour (which is actually quite a bit more than in other cities), then the $8.4 billion would buy us 42 million of hours of bus time. If our bus line is going to run 16 hours a day on 365 days a year, then our available 42 million hours could give us 7200 new bus lines that could criss-cross the city.

          But we haven’t even gotten to the most stupendous part yet: distances in New York City are small, so if we didn’t have private metal boxes blocking the way of our buses, everybody could get to where they wish to go much faster than currently. For example, the driving distance from Wall Street to Martin Luther King Boulevard in Manhattan is only 10 miles. An express bus going only an average of 40 mph would easily cover this distance in just 15 minutes. Even going from the southern tip of Staten Island to Bayside, Queens, is only 40 miles, which is a distance that a bus on an existing freeway could easily do in 40 minutes. As of right now, google maps estimates that driving the shorter distance to Jamaica, Queens, would take 1 hour and 30 minutes.

          I would argue that cars are worse than useless in New York City. They are actually the only thing that is stopping us from getting to where we wish to go in a reliable, relaxing and expeditious manner. Even in suburban New Jersey, where I live, while a car can certainly come in handy on the weekends or for trips that are not part of the regular daily routine, for most trips a car is not a necessity.

          Recommended Thumb up 9

          • Avatar
            9watts December 2, 2019 at 2:42 pm

            You would enjoy just about anything written by Ivan Illich.

            Recommended Thumb up 9

            • Avatar
              BikeRound December 3, 2019 at 6:40 am

              I am going to look into it.

              Recommended Thumb up 1

              • Avatar
                middle of the road guy December 3, 2019 at 9:45 am

                ” If only a fraction of all of the hundreds of dollars per month that an average driver spends … were made available for collective use”

                That sounds all well and good until it is your money. Collective use should mean collective contributions, no? Why stop with just drivers?

                Recommended Thumb up 5

              • Avatar
                turnips December 3, 2019 at 10:27 am

                “That sounds all well and good until it is your money. Collective use should mean collective contributions, no? Why stop with just drivers?”

                sign me up. I’ll gladly contribute.

                that said, there is utility in taxing a thing that we have decided we want less of and using the revenue to fund something we want more of. not saying that we’ve actually decided that yet, but if that time comes, it’s a good option. blunts objections to constraining personal freedom, too: you’re allowed to keep up your antisocial habit, but you’ll pay for it.

                Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Avatar
      Al December 2, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      Air travel is not in decline and it’s possible to make it entirely carbon free through the use of synthetic fuel. Air travel accounts for something like 5% of the world’s oil consumption and per passenger mileage is better than what you get in a single occupancy Prius.

      Jet fuel can be made from seawater, the input energy is sunlight and the catalyst is a genetically modified bacteria. This is not pie in the sky science. It has not only been proven a decade ago, but was scaling to production when crashing oil prices 5 years ago ended these projects as they are break even at something like $80 a barrel.

      Ironically, electric vehicles are good for the airlines because the drop in oil demand will translate into low oil prices going forward whereas we actually need high oil prices to get renewable fuels like I just described off the ground.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • Avatar
        bikeninja December 2, 2019 at 4:49 pm

        Ah! The classic chicken and egg mistake. Many people assume that once the technology has been developed that any old energy source will work. Instead it is the other way around for many things like commercial air travel, space travel and large air conditioned spaces. These things only became possible with the cheap , portable and dense energy provided by easy-to-get fossil fuel. Once this fuel becomes expensive, in terms of money or energy expended these “energy dependent technologies” are no longer economically viable. We will be lucky to scale up renewable energy enough to provide the basics of civilization and it is unlikely that it will provide enough energy for such frivolous uses as making synfuel so we can fly to Disney World.

        Recommended Thumb up 11

        • Avatar
          9watts December 2, 2019 at 5:44 pm

          Hear, hear.

          Recommended Thumb up 4

        • Avatar
          Al December 3, 2019 at 8:26 am

          You completely ignored the part where I wrote that synthetic fuels are commercially viable at $80 a barrel. For reference, the price of oil was over $100 between 2010 and 2014. Did airline travel disappear? Did civilization collapse? Did we have to revert to 18th century living?

          Why not subsidize synthetic fuels which will be a required part of drawing down carbon so that they’re an attractive alternative to fossil fuels at current prices ??? We’re beyond the point where emission cuts will work. We will need a technology that will actually remove carbon from the atmosphere. Synthetic fuel is that technology and I don’t know of a better way to deploy it than to have the airline industry jump on board because this can be used to scale it up.

          Recommended Thumb up 6

          • Avatar
            bikeninja December 3, 2019 at 9:31 am

            $80 , Oil produced from Hydrofracking is not even economically viable at $80 per barrel, which is why the shale oil companies have had negative gas flows at every oil price from $35 to $120 and any form of Synfuel is worse when all the costs are considered. The fact that our economy is subsidizing tight oil with billions in bad loans has created enough distortion in the energy markets let alone the economic chaos that will be unleashed when all these companies finally go bankrupt and take down many banks and pension funds with them. More subsidizing of fuel types to keep the plates spinning as opposed to facing up to our issues just kicks the can down the road. The only non carbon based fuel you could make from Sea Water would be hydrogen, but it is not energy dense enough for commercial air travel. Other schemes involve gathering up stray hydrocarbon molecules from the sea and forming them in to some kind of fuel, but such a fuel would still release co2 when burned. These are mostly schemes by grifters like Elon and the cold fusion crew and we can ill afford to subsidize such characters in the future.

            Recommended Thumb up 7

            • Avatar
              turnips December 3, 2019 at 11:09 am

              “More subsidizing of fuel types to keep the plates spinning as opposed to facing up to our issues just kicks the can down the road.”

              just wanted to draw attention to this combination of metaphors. plate spinning and can kicking. maybe a touch absurd, but I like it.

              Recommended Thumb up 3

            • Avatar
              Al December 3, 2019 at 1:46 pm

              ” any form of Synfuel is worse when all the costs are considered. ”

              This is the frustrating problem with discussions on the internet. You don’t care to pay attention to what I’m writing about so you assume that what I’m writing about is something something you heard about something something that some time. Then you form your argument based on your assumptions. I’ve given you enough information to differentiate what I wrote about from what you keep coming back to but you won’t have it. So we’re done here.

              For everyone else still following this thread, synthetic renewable fuels can be geared towards whatever application, gasoline, kerosene (jet fuel), whatever, are net energy positive in that they don’t require energy input from the grid because the input energy is light from the sun and are carbon neutral because they consume carbon out of the atmosphere to produce. Instead of every gallon of gasoline producing 20 pounds of CO2, this turns the equation in our favor and consumes 20 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere to produce a gallon of gasoline. Sure that carbon is released again when the fuel is used but this closes the loop on carbon. THAT’s a big deal! The secret sauce that made them possible over a decade ago is biocatalysis thanks to advancements in genetic engineering and proteomics.

              The largest project that I’m aware of involved this company called Joule Unlimited. All of these projects went belly up as the price of oil came crashing down.
              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joule_Unlimited

              The technology is there and proven in case we ever want to get serious about quickly making sectors of the economy, which don’t have paths to renewable energy like air travel, carbon neutral. It’s just a matter of political will.

              Recommended Thumb up 2

              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty December 3, 2019 at 2:07 pm

                At ~$80 per barrel equivalent, the military would be all over this for making jet fuel (and even ship fuel) at sea — that’s cheaper and safer than refueling at sea with big vulnerable tankers. I know they’re interested in the technology, but don’t seem to be using it. If they were, I’d expect the sector to be much more robust than you suggest it is.

                What’s missing in this picture?

                Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Avatar
            turnips December 3, 2019 at 10:12 am

            I wouldn’t assume that anybody ignored that part. rather, I would suggest there is reasonable cause to be skeptical of it.

            Recommended Thumb up 4

            • Avatar
              Al December 3, 2019 at 4:54 pm

              Skepticism needs to be stated so that it can be settled. That’s not what bikeninja did. bikeninja assumed I was writing about other fuels and then proceeded to have a discussion about those assumptions.

              Biocatalized fuel from seawater as the source of carbon and sunlight as the source of energy isn’t just settled science but was being scaled up for production. At some point this WILL replace fossil fuels because the cost of exploration, extraction, transportation and refining of fossil fuels continues to increase. Humanity slurped up all of the low cost oil and gas and we’re now in to the much higher cost stuff that’s not as ideal, hence increased refining costs and lower yields and deeper wells in deeper seas and such.

              The problem for the ecosystem is that we need a sharp drop in fossil fuel use NOW! Years ago actually. It’s a matter of political will that we’re not doing this. It has nothing to do with us not having a technical solution.

              Back to the original discussion, I don’t see air travel disappearing despite increasing fuel costs. In fact it saw a steady growth through some pretty crazy oil price swings in the last 2 decades. This means that demand for air travel is pretty inelastic. It also makes it ideal to quickly adopt a carbon free fuel source.

              Space tourism is another thing entirely and should be stopped in its tracks as soon as possible.

              Recommended Thumb up 1

              • Avatar
                bikeninja December 4, 2019 at 8:36 am

                Al, you seem to be using different synfuel sources at random. For carbon neutrality, you city the ability to make fuel by removing carbon from the air and thus when it is burned and goes back in to the air it creates a neutral carbon balance, but then the example link you site is a company that says they can make ( before they went out of business) synfuels from a combination of brackish water and algae. Then in your latest comment you move back to Seawater being the go-to source of Co2 for Synfuel production ( which would not be carbon neutral as it would move Co2 from where it was trapped in the Ocean back to the atmosphere. I am seeing neither consistency of your argument nor any real evidence that any of these things can be scaled to a useful size and deliver fuel at an economic cost. As my college astronomy professor used to say,” extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

                Recommended Thumb up 4

              • Avatar
                Al December 5, 2019 at 2:21 pm

                bikeninja: “you seem to be using different synfuel sources at random.”

                I’m not.

                bikeninja: “For carbon neutrality, you cite the ability to make fuel by removing carbon from the air and thus when it is burned and goes back in to the air it creates a neutral carbon balance, but then the example link you site is a company that says they can make ( before they went out of business) synfuels from a combination of brackish water and algae. Then in your latest comment you move back to Seawater being the go-to source of Co2 for Synfuel production ( which would not be carbon neutral as it would move Co2 from where it was trapped in the Ocean back to the atmosphere.”

                Oceans capture atmospheric carbon. It doesn’t matter if you remove the carbon from the air or the water. The natural process of diffusion will restore the air/water carbon ratio. Removing carbon from water is a lot easier as water naturally concentrates carbon for you and achieves the same effect as removing it directly from the atmosphere.

                bikeninja: “I am seeing neither consistency of your argument nor any real evidence that any of these things can be scaled to a useful size and deliver fuel at an economic cost. As my college astronomy professor used to say,” extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.””

                There’s nothing extraordinary about this science. I said this before and repeating this again makes me think that you don’t want to understand. Yet I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt…. again.

                This process uses a biological catalyst, that’s the secret ingredient here and why it wasn’t possible to do this before about a decade ago, meaning it reduces the energy required to drive the chemical reaction to convert seawater carbon (which came from the atmosphere) back into a petrochemical. The input energy is sunlight. There’s no magic here. It’s not a perpetual motion machine. You still need a large area to capture the sunlight but you are actually PRODUCING ENERGY in the form of gasoline, diesel, kerosene, whatever the target product is. By doing so, you’re making a closed loop carbon cycle where energy is harvested during production and released during consumption in your car, plane, ship.

                We already have an efficient way for automobiles to become near zero emissions via electric drive trains and batteries. We don’t have this option for flight. The energy density is not there and even with solid state batteries which will improve battery energy density considerably in the next decade, it’s still not feasible for commercial travel. Luckily, existing commercial air travel is actually quite efficient already and getting more so by the day but what it lacks is a carbon neutral fuel source. This is where what Joule Unlimited used to make comes in. We need to promote this technology because ships could also benefit from it and we will at some point in the future need to actually draw down carbon as well. This technology can do all of that but it needs to be scaled for wide adoption.

                Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Avatar
    matchupancakes December 2, 2019 at 10:43 am

    I’d encourage everyone to read Jarrett Walker’s article. It succinctly summarizes the limitations of single mode advocacy and centers the discussion as people-first with freedom of mobility choices.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

  • Avatar
    The Dude December 2, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Has anyone here driven in Australia? I have, and I can report that there are already speed cameras and red light cameras everywhere on the roads, even in rural areas. Those policies have created much safer road conditions (7.4 deaths per 100k vehicles vs 14.2 in the US. Source: Wikipedia). And it has the added benefit of not giving racist police officers an opportunity to use a traffic stop as an excuse to violate someone’s civil rights, something which is a huge problem in Portland. You just get notice of your rather large fine in the mail.

    They also use random roadside breath tests effectively to stop drunk driving. For example, the RBT checkpoints are set up at 8pm on a Friday night on major roads leading out of the entertainment district in central Sydney. This is a practice that the US Supreme Court has said is constitutional because of the extreme public risk of drunk driving.

    No doubt, the mobile phone-detecting cameras will now lower Australia’s roadway death rate even further below that of the US over the next few years.

    Only a short time driving in Australia (for example) will show you that there are simple, cost-effective ways to make Portland’s roads much safer. And only a brief reflection or bit of research will also show you that these solutions are never given serious consideration by policy-makers in Oregon. Why?

    Recommended Thumb up 23

  • Avatar
    X December 2, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Bicycle insurance for “several hundred” ¥ a month? That means, $10.00 / month, more or less, for liability coverage at a pretty high level. It’s cheap because the very sad and unfortunate event of a bike rider seriously injuring another person is rare.

    If this is possible in Japan it should be possible here. And, insurance should be built into rental bike and scooter rental rates here too. ¡Duh!

    Recommended Thumb up 8

  • Avatar
    middle of the road guy December 2, 2019 at 11:00 am

    I love the comment about needing a cowboy costume.

    It’s like those monster trucks are being marketed to guys who think they need to prepare for WW3.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • Avatar
      Chris I December 2, 2019 at 2:23 pm

      I think that is the primary market; but those guys can’t be helped. What concerns me are the normal-type guys buying them. My neighbor is a high school econ teacher, and I’ve never seen him do more than light yard work. He bought a brand new F150 last year, and I’ve seen him use it once for a dump run.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • Avatar
        middle of the road guy December 3, 2019 at 9:48 am

        I think they call those “pavement princesses”. The kind of truck that never gets it’s bed dirty.

        I just don’t get it. It’s a rare day when one needs a vehicle like that, and it is very easy to rent one.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Avatar
          turnips December 3, 2019 at 10:07 am

          one could say that for just about any automobile, though. it’s very rarely about choosing the best tool for the job.

          Recommended Thumb up 4

          • Avatar
            Middle of the Road Guy December 4, 2019 at 3:34 pm

            That is a good point. I will say I have filled my car to capacity far more times than I ever filled my old Cherokee (when I had one).

            Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          Johnny Bye Carter December 3, 2019 at 10:10 am

          We call them “garage princesses” because it looks like they’re never even allowed to get dusty. If you have a huge truck then it better have some dents on it.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Wylie December 2, 2019 at 11:07 am

    The truck problem is a thing even among cyclists. I think performative masculinity is a really big piece of the equation here and I was sad to see this idea only received a quick mention. I’d love to see surveys that compares willful adherence to masculine social norms with likelihood of owning a truck.

    It’s curious the writer also says he doesn’t want a “nanny state” but concedes that it is a reality that the trucks are contributing to the destruction of our environment and persuasive appeals have been useless. It would seem that in order to avert the destruction that we actually have to have a government that tells people “no, you cannot have a truck as a personal vehicle” along with other sweeping changes. And that wouldn’t be bad because we’d be saving ourselves from the abyss.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • Avatar
      B. Carfree December 2, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      My wife refers to the enormous pickups and SUVs that mostly men are now driving as codpieces.

      Recommended Thumb up 9

      • Avatar
        Johnny Bye Carter December 3, 2019 at 10:11 am

        I’m going to start using this term.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Avatar
    chris December 2, 2019 at 11:46 am

    This conception of SUVs is dated. SUVs have shrunk. The most popular SUV models, according to sales figures at goodcarbadcar dot net are the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CRV and the Nissan Rogue, in that order. They’re no bigger than sedans and their gas mileage is slightly worse, but comparable. Sales of full-size SUVs like Chevy Tahoes, the type that you saw everywhere on the streets 15 years ago, are actually very low in comparison. 124K RAV4s vs 26K Chevy Tahoes in Q3 of 2019. Those tiny Subaru Crosstreks that Portlanders love driving…those are SUVs too, and they’re smaller than a Toyota Camry.

    I own a Subaru Outback because I go mountain biking two days every weekend (weather permitting) and am getting into snowboarding, and it’s ideal for mountain conditions. Apparently you would have me either give up my favorite hobby and never leave the city, move out of the city, or take a Honda Fit to the mountains?

    That said, the most popular vehicle in the U.S. is the Ford F-series pickup truck. Those are indeed oversized and fuel-inefficient. If you want to go after a vehicle, go after that one.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty December 2, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      With snow tires, a Honda Fit is a pretty safe snow vehicle due to its lower mass and center of gravity; it could quite possibly get you everywhere you want to go. Put two bikes and a passenger inside, or more if you use a bike rack, and there’s certainly all your snowboarding gear in the back. I’ve had plenty of days of skiing with 4 adults in a Fit.

      Recommended Thumb up 11

      • Avatar
        chris December 2, 2019 at 12:50 pm

        Lol, well done!

        Yes, I’m sure it’s doable. I chose a Subaru because going to the mountains is the vehicle’s primary purpose, and I wanted to make it optimal for that environment, with all wheel drive, high ground clearance, etc. I do drive on a lot of fire roads, and the sedan that I previously had wasn’t ideal – was very easy to bottom out.

        Other than maybe one weekly grocery run, I don’t generally drive in the city. I commute by bike like the rest of you. This is a separate issue from SUVs, but I think this blog’s prescription that we completely abandon car ownership is based upon a model of a stereotypical urbanite who never leaves the city except by plane – or who wants to go to the coast and the mountains so rarely that they can rent when they need to. However, I don’t think it’s atypical for people to want to leave the city every single weekend, and who have gear-intensive hobbies that make car-ownership necessary.

        Car ownership is high because destinations in general are dispersed. We don’t have a pure hub and spoke model that makes cycling and transit convenient for every conceivable purpose.

        Recommended Thumb up 10

        • Avatar
          9watts December 2, 2019 at 2:00 pm

          “Car ownership is high because destinations in general are dispersed”

          Um. I’d counter that car ownership is high because gas and automobility in the US are massively subsidized, and alternatives have for generations been squeezed out, starved, pilloried.

          Recommended Thumb up 18

          • Avatar
            chris December 2, 2019 at 2:42 pm

            Maybe. Iceland has almost as many vehicles per capita despite fuel prices more than double ours. Yes, we could create more walkable town centers, make roads narrower, build more transit, increase fuel taxes, add more automated traffic enforcement, and do everything we could to be more like Europe, but in the end, most households will still own cars – maybe one instead of two. There remains a use case for them, even if they’re needed less frequently.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_vehicles_per_capita

            Recommended Thumb up 4

        • Avatar
          9watts December 2, 2019 at 2:07 pm

          Small SUVs are just an offset. In order to meet wussy CAFE requirements manufacturers have to produce relatively less wasteful models so they can still sell the morbidly obese ones. So you can think of the RAV4 as the shadow side of a Highlander, the Escape as the shadow of the Expedition.
          But pillorying SUVs is an obsolete pastime: rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is internal combustion tht is the problem, not the rate at which we burn the gasoline-that-must-remain-unburned in smaller or larger engines, drive shorter or longer distances on a gallon of it.

          Recommended Thumb up 5

        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty December 2, 2019 at 3:21 pm

          Not just “doable”, but easily doable. 5 adults plus camping gear for a week long hike through North Cascades in a Honda Fit (with no rack) was “doable”; 4 people and equipment summiting Mt Hood was easily doable. 4 adults and 4 bikes to Seattle for a weekend was “doable”. 3 adults with bikes to Crater Lake was easy, as is skiing at Mt Hood (or Idaho, or…) with 4 adults plus equipment and clothes for a week.

          You can do a lot if you try. The Fit is a great car, and on longer trips we often got ~45MPG, even fully loaded.

          Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Avatar
      GlowBoy December 2, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      The 5 most popular SUVs (RAV4, CRV, Rogue, Escape, Equinox) might be relatively efficient compact models, but the next 5 (Explorer, Highlander, Wrangler, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee) are a lot thirstier. I see an awful lot of larger Pilots, 4Runners, Traverses, Sorentos and Santa Fes running around too.

      While there are just as many SUVs on the road where I live as in Portland, fortunately there are a lot fewer pickups. It’s bad enough that a basic full-sized pickup is at least as heavy and thirsty as a midsized SUV, but the heavy-duty pickups that are so popular in Oregon often weigh in excess of a ton yet more, and (besides being a more grave danger to those around them) are exempt from EPA fuel economy ratings.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • Avatar
        chris December 2, 2019 at 1:04 pm

        I’d like to see a regional breakdown. Subarus seem to be overrepresented in the Pacific Northwest, and 3 of 4 of their SUV models (Crosstrek, Forester, Outback) all have the same mpg: 26-27 city, 33 highway. The Ascent is far less efficient (21 city, 27 highway), but I don’t see many of those.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Avatar
          Pete December 2, 2019 at 3:22 pm

          My buddy traded in a Forester XT for a big Dodge Ram diesel pickup, gets better gas mileage, and depreciates it as a business asset which he couldn’t do with his Suby. The “Hummer loophole” is still a thing.

          Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Avatar
      Johnny Bye Carter December 3, 2019 at 10:16 am

      “Apparently you would have me either give up my favorite hobby and never leave the city, move out of the city, or take a Honda Fit to the mountains?”

      I’m confused by this comment. Can you really think of no other way to exit a city besides driving there in a Subaru?

      Hilarious!

      Recommended Thumb up 8

      • Avatar
        Rainbike December 4, 2019 at 12:05 am

        Well, you could exit the city on a unicycle, but with a 50 lb backpack and maybe AT skis and boots and an ice axe it would be a long day to your trailhead in the mountains. So, I’m confused by your comment. Can you not recognize that some vehicles make this trip easier than others? You can keep the unicycle. I’m taking my big ass truck or a friend’s sport utility vehicle.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Avatar
      PS December 3, 2019 at 10:59 am

      Keep going mountain biking and driving your Subaru to get wherever it is you want to go, no need to apologize or feel guilty about it at all. I was just in Orange County for Thanksgiving and there is literally nothing anyone in the PNW can do to remotely impact what is considered “normal life” down there. Thousands of every iteration of every luxury vehicle with the biggest engines available all too happy to slurp $4.50 gas. There were literally hundreds of cars, parked three deep in the valet line at John Wayne airport yesterday. Oh, and before anyone jumps on the “its a bike infrastructure desert”down there too, they just built in 2013 a 16 mile segregated path from the north side of Laguna Beach to the mountains, in addition to two other MUPs that connect the beach to the mountains.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • Avatar
        9watts December 3, 2019 at 11:05 am

        “…no need to apologize or feel guilty about it at all….”

        Yes. That is exactly the attitude we need in these times.
        Après moi, le déluge

        Recommended Thumb up 7

        • Avatar
          PS December 3, 2019 at 12:50 pm

          Yes, I think it is what we need in these times, because there is literally no way to appease the computer based moral supremacists. That is particularly true when a guy looking to go for a mountain bike ride gets guilt tripped because he wants to use his Subaru to get where he wants to go, meanwhile there is a place a days drive south of here where there are many more people than here absolutely destroying any minuscule impact he may make by deciding to not partake in his hobby.

          Recommended Thumb up 3

          • Avatar
            9watts December 3, 2019 at 12:55 pm

            Moral relativism, now?
            I can’t wait for what you are serving for dessert.

            Recommended Thumb up 5

            • Avatar
              PS December 3, 2019 at 1:20 pm

              bitcoin?

              Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Avatar
    Jim Lee December 2, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    The Dude
    Has anyone here driven in Australia? I have, and I can report that there are already speed cameras and red light cameras everywhere on the roads, even in rural areas. Those policies have created much safer road conditions (7.4 deaths per 100k vehicles vs 14.2 in the US. Source: Wikipedia). And it has the added benefit of not giving racist police officers an opportunity to use a traffic stop as an excuse to violate someone’s civil rights, something which is a huge problem in Portland. You just get notice of your rather large fine in the mail.They also use random roadside breath tests effectively to stop drunk driving. For example, the RBT checkpoints are set up at 8pm on a Friday night on major roads leading out of the entertainment district in central Sydney. This is a practice that the US Supreme Court has said is constitutional because of the extreme public risk of drunk driving.No doubt, the mobile phone-detecting cameras will now lower Australia’s roadway death rate even further below that of the US over the next few years.Only a short time driving in Australia (for example) will show you that there are simple, cost-effective ways to make Portland’s roads much safer. And only a brief reflection or bit of research will also show you that these solutions are never given serious consideration by policy-makers in Oregon. Why?Recommended 3

    I lived in OZ decades ago.

    University of Sydney Medical School drew surgeons from around the world because:

    1. Fortified beer led to early organ destruction.
    2. Horrific road carnage provided many relatively young and viable organs for transplant.

    And then there was the bizarre “right of way” law…but that would require several thousand words to explain…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jim Lee December 2, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    124 RAV4s do much more damage than 26 TAHOES.

    One can argue that US mileage standards have made global warming worse by putting many more cars on the road.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Avatar
      Chris I December 2, 2019 at 2:29 pm

      One can argue anything.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Avatar
      Pete December 2, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      OK, I’ll bite. How do mileage standards increase the number of vehicles on the road? (And by “on the road” I assume you mean registered and not ‘at a given time’, as the latter is a function of people actually driving them).

      Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          Pete December 5, 2019 at 1:48 pm

          Yes, because the Internet is a source of truth and you can believe everything you read on it. I asked someone posting a statement how they claim to back it statistically or logically so I could learn from them. I didn’t ask for a lesson in volunteering more personal information to the world’s largest data company to build my digital twin with.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    q December 2, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    I knew a guy who did exactly what the truck article said. Instead of buying a truck, he made himself a cowboy outfit out of paper. It worked great, and gave him the same feeling as driving a truck. Unfortunately, the sheriff arrested him for rustling.

    Recommended Thumb up 17

    • Avatar
      Middle of the Road Guy December 2, 2019 at 1:36 pm

      That was horrible and brilliant at the same time.

      Recommended Thumb up 8

  • Avatar
    Dave December 2, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    As a suburb dwelling walker and cyclist, the best things we can do are–as cyclists–overindulge in lighting and visibility. We are in a golden age for great bike lighting–buy the best and most you can afford and don’t look back. As a pedestrian in a ‘burb that doesn’t give a damn whether walkers live or die, I trespass with relish, if there isn’t a sidewalk where I’m going I take the lawn, the flower beds, whatever it takes. I’ll plant my feet where the sidewalks ought to be and really don’t give a damn whose property I’m stepping in.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Avatar
      B. Carfree December 5, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Even when there is a sidewalk, the increase in cars/household and our national car entitlement syndrome mean that there is often a car parked such that it blocks the sidewalk. My tiny rude protest when that happens is to take the most destructive path possible through the yard of the sidewalk blocker. It’s petty and of the two-wrongs nature, but my inner child and outer old grouch kind of enjoy it anyway.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Avatar
        q December 5, 2019 at 12:33 pm

        Perfect timing for that comment. A couple days ago, I was walking on a sidewalk where a furniture store had filled the sidewalk in front of it with furniture for sale. I opened the door of the store and told the manager “You couldn’t have done a better job blocking the sidewalk if you’d tried”. He responded that the City had approved that display as long as he maintained access along their frontage for pedestrians, which he had because there was a parking area alongside the sidewalk people could walk through to get around the furniture.

        I told him the City would never have said that.Then I stepped onto his parking lot to get around the furniture on the sidewalk, and he told me I was trespassing and would have to leave his property immediately. I told him he’d just told me that was the City-approved route, and I couldn’t stay on the sidewalk because it was blocked. He then charged at me yelling, “You want a piece of me? Is that what you want, a f fight?” over and over. Another employee tried to get him to back away. I left to avoid a fight, and didn’t want my dog to bite him if he did attack.

        It was a going-out-of-business sale and I see why.

        A day in the life of a sidewalk user.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Avatar
    Jim Lee December 2, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Pete
    OK, I’ll bite. How do mileage standards increase the number of vehicles on the road? (And by “on the road” I assume you mean registered and not ‘at a given time’, as the latter is a function of people actually driving them).Recommended 0

    Drive farther on the same money spent for gas.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Avatar
      Pete December 5, 2019 at 1:52 pm

      Ah, OK, I get the logic now. Thank you for clarifying; it didn’t jump out at me.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Pete December 5, 2019 at 1:53 pm

      So really it would be increasing the VMT, yes?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson December 2, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    The Port of Portland, a state agency, should be working with ODOT and WSDOT to improve rail service between Eugene and Seattle (and Vancouver BC). A good place to start in our neck of the woods is a new rail bridge over the Columbia River that can accommodate both HS Rail and Commuter Rail. How about some 21st century infrastructure! I-5 is last century stuff.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • Avatar
      turnips December 2, 2019 at 6:08 pm

      well, you’re dealing with a state (WA) that just voted (by a safe margin) to kneecap transportation funding. might not hold up in court, but it doesn’t bode well for getting Clark County on board.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Avatar
      Johnny Bye Carter December 3, 2019 at 10:31 am

      We’ve had trains for two centuries and cars for one century. So how about some good old fashioned 19th century infrastructure!

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Avatar
        turnips December 4, 2019 at 12:40 pm

        a good point. some good old-fashioned railroads without all the modern flash would likely be far cheaper than the billions of dollars per mile that modern rail projects seem to cost in this country.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Avatar
    turnips December 2, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    chris
    Apparently you would have me either give up my favorite hobby and never leave the city, move out of the city, or take a Honda Fit to the mountains?Recommended 6

    pretty easy and pleasant to take public transit to the mountains. cheap, too. you can nap or read. be drunk or high. give your full attention to the people you’re traveling with. it’s nice.

    you have clearly decided that the convenience of operating your own (rather large) automobile outweighs the negative consequences to yourself and everyone else. that’s a fine decision to make, even if I would prefer that you choose differently. everybody makes decisions like that all the time. the relative importance of one’s own enjoyment and the wider ramifications of personal choices will be different for everybody. again, that’s fine.

    but just own it. don’t act like the only alternative to your choices is giving up all your fun and dooming yourself to austerity confined to the city. because that is not even close to reality, even if Subaru’s marketing department would like you to believe otherwise.

    Recommended Thumb up 21

    • Avatar
      Matt December 2, 2019 at 8:22 pm

      Comment of the week.

      Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Avatar
      middle of the road guy December 3, 2019 at 9:52 am

      The Slippery Slope of Moral Relativity.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Avatar
      turnips December 4, 2019 at 10:45 am

      maybe it’s time to move on, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

      my comment above is all about personal choice and responsibility, which have a lot of personal meaning and can have large positive or negative consequences on a small scale. what they don’t have, at least in isolation, is real global impact, which is really the point of the spate of articles we’ve seen lately calling out spiking SUV and truck emissions.

      I guess I’m wondering why any criticism of a clearly damaging market trend is met with such resistance. nobody’s coming for your beloved mountain getaway vehicle, even if some of us wouldn’t mind that. nobody’s saying you are personally responsible for this problem. instead, people are calling for systematic change in the hope of blunting global catastrophe.

      to respond with, “but I need to have my fun,” strikes me as both asinine and missing the point entirely. this isn’t about you. it isn’t about the automobile you personally choose to drive. think a little bigger. go ahead and keep making choices that work for you, because, really, it isn’t your weekend trips to indulge in an outdoor hobby that are the issue here.

      but please, don’t try to defend–or minimize the importance of–a very real and existential threat because you feel the need to justify your own behavior.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • Avatar
        9watts December 4, 2019 at 11:08 am

        = another comment of the week. So well phrased! Thank you, turnips.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Avatar
    Al December 3, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Hello, Kitty
    At ~$80 per barrel equivalent, the military would be all over this for making jet fuel (and even ship fuel) at sea — that’s cheaper and safer than refueling at sea with big vulnerable tankers. I know they’re interested in the technology, but don’t seem to be using it. If they were, I’d expect the sector to be much more robust than you suggest it is.What’s missing in this picture?Recommended 0

    What’s missing is that you need acres and acres of land to capture the sunlight. Think of the area photovoltaic solar farms need. Why would the military be in this business? You would still transport the resulting product the same exact way that regular fossil fuels are transported except that this can be produced closer to areas of consumption to reduce the energy required to transport it, unlike fossil fuels which can only be derived where deposits exist.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty December 3, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      The Navy would be interested if they can make the fuel at sea. They probably could, using their naval nuclear reactors in place of the large solar array.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Al December 3, 2019 at 4:37 pm

        But now you’re just converting one energy into another. That would be net energy negative.

        Biocatalyzed fuel from seawater and sunlight is itself an energy source and one that harvests carbon from the atmosphere. The way to make it viable is to stop fossil fuel subsidies and then tax them to offset their negative externalities. This would make this synthetic fuel commercially appealing and the very first industry which would gobble it up, would be the airline industry because they are price sensitive to fuel costs.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty December 3, 2019 at 9:24 pm

          Converting nuclear power in an already constructed reactor into carbon-neutral jet fuel that wouldn’t incur shipping costs seems like a huge win all around.

          I’m all about internalizing externalities, so you’re preaching to the choir on that one.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar