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The Monday Roundup: Bike shops are not essential, streets for people everywhere, Trump hates clean air, and more

Posted by on April 6th, 2020 at 10:20 am

Welcome to the week.

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

Portland’s “green dream” deferred: Curbed took a deep dive into Portland’s planning and transportation work and realized we’ve been resting on laurels for years and have not lived up to our proud legacy of change-making.

Bike shops should be closed: An experienced bike shop employee and former pro mountain biker makes the case that essential workers don’t need bikes, so deeming shops essential is not a risk we should take.

Quiet streets: By far the biggest story in our world this past week was all the calls for re-purposing street space away from driving and towards walking, biking and rolling. Here’s an idea for creating a network of “quiet streets” which are basically beefed-up neighborhood greenways that would work in dense urban areas.

Spreadsheet tracks street changes worldwide: University of North Carolina Researcher Tabitha Combs has created a database on all the cities around the globe that are changing street use policies in the name of social distancing and/or public health concerns.

SPONSORED: You can win great prizes and support a pump track in Wilsonville thanks to a grassroots fundraising effort by Willamette Valley Cyclists.

Even drivers think it makes sense: Not only does Car & Driver have a level-headed article about using street space for walkers and rollers, a poll at the bottom of their article shows that 75% of their readers think less space for driving is a good trade-off for space for walking.

The wrong rollback: In a bid to boost the economy, Trump will loosen auto fuel standards, a move that will permit cars to emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide than allowable under current regulations.

Thanks to Trump: Early research suggests airborne particles created by auto emissions (among other things) might be linked to higher COVID-19 rates because the virus spreads easier in the dirty air (and/or it strikes people with smog-related lung problems harder).


Open streets in Denver: The Mayor of Denver, Colorado said he’ll ban driving on four streets in order to create more space for people to get outdoors while maintaining a healthy distance from one another.

E-bikes now legal: In what’s being hailed as a big win for delivery workers, New York has finally legalized electric bikes statewide.

A few cones: Temporary bike lanes in New York City made with a few signs and orange cones show that it doesn’t take much to change how streets are used.

Too close for COVID: All over the globe people are realizing that crowded carfree spaces are not just unfair, they are also a public health hazard.

Empty streets, crowded paths: The co-founder of Zipcar wrote in the Boston Globe that due to overcrowded on paths and trails, “We could temporarily take back roads dedicated to cars, and rededicate it to people.”

Tying COVID to the climate: Chicago activist Courtney Cobbs says the change in transportation behaviors we’re seeing right now is a chance to, “transform our transportation system” in a way that makes our planet healthier for future generations.

From the front lines: New York City has the worst virus outbreak and the best transportation advocates. Transportation Alternatives shares a simple guide to how bicycling can help cities cope with COVID-19.

Less distraction: Finally some good news from the car industry: Designers of one of Honda’s new models have decided to go away from the touchscreen trend in order to minimize driver distraction.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and
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Hello, KittyGlowBoyXChris IGlenn II Recent comment authors
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Bravo Honda–touchscreens should be illegal in automobiles!


The bike shops non-essential author makes a single big mistake. She translates her experience with how many emt’s and fire responders are car-free, but totaly forgets that those are not the only critical employees. Even more critical ( in some ways) are the folks that still have to go to their jobs running water treatment plants, sewage plants, hardware factories and power plants ( yes they need hardware and parts to build ventilators etc.) In the more urban parts of the country many of these folks need to bike or use public transit. And in this time of Covid ,bikes are certainly the safer alternative to keep these other critical workers on the job. Sheltering at home is a no-go without water or electricity.


We are not going back to pre-Covid transportation when this is over but I’m not sure it will be for the better. Mass transit is going to be much less popular. Maybe people will bike more but I suspect we will just see more single occupancy cars since people are going to see that as the most virus proof. There is a good chance that pollution is reduced only because fewer people will have jobs. At some point the governments are going to run out of money and we won’t be able to get unemployment checks forever. Either people go back to work sometime soon or the entire world will start looking like Venezuela.


Regarding “Honda bucks industry trend”, this is great news…other than driver distraction, I worry that these screens vs. analogue gauges will not age well in the interim (10 to 20 years of road life) and make this era’s cars harder to keep going into the future affordably. [Think about how the “average” household appliance (large “white goods”) lifespans have shifted from 20 years average to 3 to 5 years before major repairs.] I love that fact that our Smart Car EVs (pre 2016) work fleet car gauges are 90% analog.

Glenn II
Glenn II

Liked the Curbed piece – it thought-provokingly provoked 3 thoughts in this particular skull:

1) I-5 didn’t divide the “Rose Quarter neighborhood,” it divided the Albina neighborhood. The “Rose Quarter” is an invented name for the development that included the Rose Garden (now Moda Center) and environs in 1993. It’s “aspirational” you could say – the developers wish it had any of the life or energy of a Latin Quarter or a French Quarter or any other actual place that isn’t a prefab bunch o’developer hogwash. It was mocked for those pretensions at the time, and rightly so. “Pearl District”: same. These are words from the lexicon of the gentrifiers, who won, and rewrote history.

2) Don’t forget the road salt. You used to be able to say proudly that the city shuts down during a snowstorm because we don’t use road salt, because we’re trying to protect the salmon, because of our great values. Used to. The noobs arriving with their cars and saying “WTF why don’t we use salt?” are starting to outnumber anybody who remembers why not.

3) “Tree canopy tracks very closely with income level.” What does that tell you? Plant some trees on your property and watch its value go up. Environmentalism is profitable. Same thing happens when a place is made walkable & bikeable, by the way.


…bike shops are not ‘essential’… This article started out as, ‘in America, bikes are mainly toys’ which is kind of true in some places, but then switched horses somewhere in the middle and became ‘lock the doors and let us wrench’ which is not the same at all.

I use bikes every day as part of almost everything I do except possibly sleeping. There have definitely been times that a bike shop kept me in business. Damn essential to me. That doesn’t mean we have to breathe on each other.

Here’s a simple minded argument for essential: Before, the national economy included a certain number of bike shops. Now, more people are finding more reasons to use bikes. Therefore, more bike shops. This says nothing about how they operate. All reasonable people are changing the way they do things.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty

RE: Portland’s “green dream” deferred

The idea that Portland is some sort of green mecca has never withstood scrutiny. Sure, there were some bold steps taken decades ago, championed by a generation scorned by many new residents, but since then… not much. In order to be disillusioned by our current timidity requires that you were falsely illusioned before.

There is no “Portland green dream”.