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The Monday Roundup: Transit troubles, radder RadWagon, commute crystal ball, and more

Posted by on May 26th, 2020 at 9:13 am

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

Love and a bicycle: A 15-year-old girl rode over 700 miles on a $20 bicycle to pick up her penniless and injured father and ride him back home to their village, prompting a call from the Cycling Federation of India.

Transit in trouble: Politico has an overview of how transit systems across the country are responding to the coronavirus. It doesn’t look good.

Scared to ride: A survey from Denver’s transit agency found that only 18% of respondents would feel safe riding buses and trains during a viral pandemic.

Welcome to cycling: So far it looks like cycling is refuge for much more than former transit riders, given the nationwide bike shortage we’re facing at the moment.

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Local bike boom: It’s tough to get service for your bicycle and/or find one to buy because local shops are so slammed with business.

Cars as refuge: I get a deeply unsettling feeling when I see how cars are becoming an even more central part of some people’s lives due to virus concerns.

Tread lightly: As urban planners consider sweeping changes to city streets they must do so by first addressing the pre-existing inequities that have made the pandemic deadlier for low-income and nonwhite residents says Los Angeles-based writer Alissa Walker.

London’s carfree zones: Portland has often looked to London for inspiration so it’s great to see that city will not only create 100% carfree streets they’ll also consider banning drivers on several popular bridges.

A revolution: “Mayors who once might have equivocated about balancing transportation needs are firmly declaring that streets that prioritize pedestrians and cyclists are not cute amenities, but necessities for a happy populace and a thriving economy,” writes our friend Doug Gordon (Brooklyn Spoke, War on Cars podcast) in his debut in The New Republic.

A radder RadWagon: The SUV of bikes, the RadWagon electric cargo bike, has gotten several major upgrades.

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Commute crystal ball: Another poll that shows people who bike to work are much happier about doing so than those who drive. Perhaps the post-pandemic era is a chance to give more people this option?

Eat in the streets (and parking lots): Portland is not the only city that’s considering formal rules for outdoor dining in parking lots and streets.

Bike un-friendly: Is Miami-Dade County the worst place in America to be a bicycle rider? Their virus-related responses like closing bike racks sure make it seem like that.

New voices: At the Intersections is a group of four women who describe their work as, “a new publication centering the narratives, experiences, and expertise of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in transportation and mobility.”

Dispatch from Oakland: Oakland’s “Slow Streets” are very similar to Portland’s, so this piece in Curbed is worth reading to understand how the “local access only” experiment is going.

Oakland expands to “Essential Places”: Read this blog post from Oakland’s DOT about how they’ve expanded their Slow Streets program to arterials in places without calm neighborhood streets and you can’t miss the similarities to east Portland. The question is: When will PBOT expand our “Safe Streets” program?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Bikeninja
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Bikeninja

Another question in addition to “how will americans commute when lockdown ends” will be,” where will Americans commute too when lockdown ends”. One of the big sources of job locations in Portland over the last 10 years have been start-up-style companies located in ” creative office space.” Well. you could not have designed an epidemiologically worse work location than a normal creative office. A close second is old fashioned downtown office buildings with workers packed on elevators. Will these get replaced by work at home, no commuting needed? Or will the next hot trend be to convert old crummy motels in to office space with people entering from the outside in to their own personal office space with a glassed in “rat run” down the center so bosses can prowl up and down and keep an eye on the workers. The of course could change housing and commute patterns with everyone moving to the hip “motel office” districts in Troutdale, Gresham and Tigard. One thing history teaches us is that significant events can change the direction history and we must not be afraid to ask the big questions.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I think it likely that American white-collar professional workers will be working from home more, but increasingly agree to give up certain basic civil liberties and allow their bosses to electronically monitor their movements, including work-hours video of personal spaces at home. Those who still have low-wage jobs in retail, hospitality and food services (a shrinking number) will have virtually unchanged working conditions, alas. And I can easily see that government will not only be one of the few highly-unionized workforces, but also still located in highly-centralized government buildings, as they must be constantly vigilant in saving the shrinking taxpayer dollars during the coming depression. I’ve no idea how the 25% unemployed are going to keep busy.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Bike shortage panic-buying: Even the distributors are having shortages of basic items like tubes, pumps, cheaper suspension forks, lower-end parts. But the higher-end parts and accessories (and bikes) are still in plentiful supply. As usual, most Americans think of bicycles as toys rather than as transportation – they get exactly what they pay for.

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

don’t low-end parts power utilitarian cycling? I don’t get this take.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

They don’t. The lower end parts are so low quality that they often fail with very little use. Also, they’re difficult to work with — which is why many bike shops refuse to work on them.

If you’re on a budget, your best bet by far is a good used bike. But people don’t realize it and buy brand new department store bikes. It’s simply not possible to put thousands of miles on those things — which you will do every year if you actually use them for transportation.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I find the downvote ratio on this post interesting.

How many of you who don’t like what I said actually put real miles (at least 4K/yr, but most likely significantly more — most people don’t live within a couple miles of where they need to be) on department store bikes or use cheapo parts for utility riding and have to maintain them?

I’ll go out on a limb and guess none.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

I think we have to define “lower-end”. I have found that for many parts lines (SRAM, Shimano) “higher-end” means “lighter”, but also “more fiddly” and “less durable”. I know I’ve found my Shimano Sora and Tiagra parts much more reliable than the Ultegra/105 (or whatever they’re marketing nowadays) counterparts. Also, if one wants to keep one’s 9-speed drive train, there aren’t many options for replacements, as most “higher-end” shifting components are 10-11 speed.

Now if we’re talking about “lower-end” being completely off-brand “imitation” parts, then it would seem that at best, those parts would not so much “power” utility cycling as help it limp along.

BikeRound
Guest
BikeRound

The RadWagon says on its website that “the new RadWagon will have even better hill-climbing performance and acceleration with its 80 Nm of torque.” This is the same type of thought process that convinces car buyers that having 400 horsepowers is somehow better than having 300 horsepowers. Given the dire need for exercise that most people have in our society, why would a more powerful engine be an improvement?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Well, it looks like they keep making it heavier, with more proprietary parts. The new version appears to be 4lbs heavier (probably due to terrible frame design and cost-cutting in fabrication). So they are boosting power on a heavier bike. I appreciate that they are getting cargo bikes to people on a budget, but I definitely wouldn’t want to be locked into a completely proprietary bike with (checks notes) 22″ wheels/tires…

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

The heavier the rider (or load), the more torque you need. And let’s face it, Americans are by-and-large pretty heavy. Plus there’s lots of hills.

X
Guest
X

Ha! Right outside I have a bike that has 350+ pound rider/cargo capacity, off-the-rack parts and tires, and it’s not going to need a new battery any time soon. No doubt I’ve got e-bike envy, but if it ain’t broke…
The radwagon may be the Model T of e-bikes, who knows? Personally I’d rather have a 250 watt assist that lasts all week than a thing meant to compete with cars.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Probably because it increases the accessibility of the bike by allowing greater assistance to the rider while still allowing the rider to exercise while climbing the hill? There are five levels of pedal assist available on the bike so you don’t even have to select the highest torque. Getting pedal assist doesn’t mean no exercise. If people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get on a bike without pedal assistance were able to ride this bike, they would be getting exercise they otherwise wouldn’t be getting.

BikeRound
Guest
BikeRound

In theory, all of that could happen, but it is very unlikely to. The type of person who feels that they are not able to get on a regular bike is not likely to make it part of their regular routine to put any effort into pedaling an ebike if they can get away with not pedaling at all (or pedaling minimally). It would also be possible to become fit and lose weight through the regular use of any one of the myriad of different fitness products that have been heavily marketed in the past few decades. I am sure if somebody did use the Urban Rebounder, the Ab Wheels, the P90X, the Iron Gym, the Valslide, the ThighMaster, or the Bow Flex for one hour every day, the positive results would be significant. In reality, the type of person who tends to buy these products uses it a few times, and then the equipment is forgotten and starts to gather dust in the basement. While marketing men dreamt up ever more creative ways to sell us useless exercise equipment, obesity has increased unrelentingly. At the same time, the Amish, who have never even heard of these fantastic products that were going to save us from our impending doom, and who only ride bicycles that do not even have pedals, stayed just as slim and fit as they always have been. The solution is not to waste yet more monies on more powerful ebikes, but to change our ways of thinking so that we do not view a bigger electric motor as some kind of positive development.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Unlikely on what basis? Do you have the actual statistics in front of you? You also seem to be mixing up product categories. The exercise products you mentioned are specifically for exercise, whereas the RadWagon is a means for transportation that also allows one to get exercise. It has a daily practical use. I’m sure there will be individual people who buy ebikes like the RadWagon and not use them, but I would like to see your assertion that most people who buy them won’t use them be backed up by actual facts. Oh, and included among “the type of person who feels that they are not able to get on a regular bike”? People who have disabilities that preclude them from riding normal bikes but could nonetheless benefit from ebikes. Or are they also in your too-lazy-to-exercise category? And no, I’m not proposing this as a solution to all disabilities. Just some of them. See, despite your apparent misconception, things can be solutions to some problems while not being the one and only solution that solves all of our problems. It’s not all or nothing.

And did you really just compare a pre-industrial society to ours? Of course the Amish are going to get more exercise in their day-to-day lives. Their lives involve a lot of manual labor. Ours don’t. We can and should critique this aspect of our society, and perhaps since this BikePortland, we can focus on transportation. Still, the problem involves a lot more nuance than you seem ready to contemplate. The problem is a car-centric society and its associated infrastructure that force a lot of us to forgo bike use, walking, and public transit use (which also involves more walking than with car use). Whatever qualms you might have with the RadWagon are laughably marginal to the real issue, which is bigger than any product. So what if the RadWagon has a more powerful motor now? This is a distraction. I agree with you that this one product is not the solution. Where I disagree with you is that I don’t think it’s the problem either.

Phil
Guest
Phil

I own a RadCity ebike. I didn’t buy it because I am “not able to get on a regular bike.” I bought it because my 25 mile round trip commute was too time consuming for me to bike it everyday, and I never felt like bike commuting on the days that I lift weights. Since buying the bike the number of days I bike to work has increased substantially. The time it takes me to bike to work is now only 15 minutes more than the time it would take me to drive. I always pedal, and sometimes ride with the assist off. Since November I’ve put over 1,100 miles on it (despite working from home for 2 months). I’m spending more minutes pedaling per week than I ever have before. My happiness has increased. My carbon footprint and gas bills have decreased.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

Torque and total power are different forces. Torque is where in the speed range top power is provided, not top speed/power. Not technical terms, but it’s “grunt” vs. top speed. From the specs it seems RadPower is saying the new model continues with a max 750W motor and increases the torque. This would mean top speed and top assist are the same, but more of the power would be delivered at slower speeds. Real world example; starting from a stop would be smoother and more stable as you would get up to the first 10-15mph faster so the bike would have less of that awkward, unwieldy low speed feel heavy/loaded bikes typically have.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

More is always the solution 🙂

Momo
Guest
Momo

If we really want a large percentage of the population riding bikes for most trips, we need to stop talking about it as a way to virtue-signal how much exercise you’re getting. Virtually nobody looks at a car and is like “but I wish I had to pedal.” E-bikes are great because they do give you exercise, but almost without you noticing it. It’s a low-impact workout that doesn’t make you sweaty or uncomfortable, and gets you where you need to go efficiently. That said, I would be fine if most people rode electric scooters as well. Recreational riding is just a very different thing that transportation riding for many people, and I think it’s totally understandable if people want to get exercise on the weekend with their normal bike, and zoom around to their jobs and schools on e-bikes or e-scooters.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I agree, mostly. 500W is plenty, and probably more than needed by most people. I would probably be okay with 250W when I finally get an e-bike, but will likely end up with 350 due to the limited number of options at that lower level. 750 is massive overkill IMO, but at least the RadWagon has a 20 mph assist limit.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

IMO, the higher torque and smaller wheels is a design to attract a wider selection of potential customers, especially women, as well as heavier more obese riders. The higher torque and 750w motor will also allow much higher speeds once the governor is disabled, which is apparently pretty easy to do, but with the same small disc rotors as regular pedal bikes. So my main concern, aside from the odd parts mix, would be these vehicles failing to stop in time at busy intersections, and the rear hub spokes breaking more often, as that’s where the drive is. And because it has a hub drive rather than a bottom-bracket mid drive, these will be used as throttle bikes rather than as pedal-assist bikes – basically as substandard motorcycles.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Throttle-bikes? Substandard motorcycle? Don’t be such a cynic!

The first 30 seconds or so of this promotional video show how it’s really intended to be ridden:

https://www.youtube.com/v=xaBR79YPOEY

The rider looks like he’s wearing a substandard motorcycle helmet.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

“Only 73lbs… surprisingly light for its size”

WTF?

It’s interesting how the video pretends to be a review, and the guy doing the “review” clearly doesn’t know how to ride bikes.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That seat-too-far-down-to-pedal is more commonly known as “motorcycle position”.

X
Guest
X

Absolutely. This rig needs big-rotor full hydraulic brakes, not a bigger motor.

Momo
Guest
Momo

In practice, throttle mode is pretty useless since it drains the battery so fast. These bikes have a very short range already on the higher end of pedal-assist, so the throttle would be lucky to last a single short commute. I have a similar e-bike (not RadPower, but nearly the same price and battery capacity), and the range they use for marketing is only possible on level 1 out of 5 of pedal-assist (which barely feels like any assist). On level 5, it maybe lasts 5 miles. So I don’t think throttle-only is likely to be a common thing except for short little sprints until battery technology improves significantly.

Phil
Guest
Phil

I have a RadCity and it will go at least 20 miles on level 5. On level 1 it maxes out at 50 watts, which will get you quite far on it’s 672 watt-hour battery.

Phil
Guest
Phil

The higher torque is in comparison to the older model of the RadWagon. Overall power from the motor is the same at 750w. Most likely the new RadWagon is not any faster than the old version. Both are factory limited to 20MPH, and you can easily change that, but I assume it is the same as the RadCity which cuts all assistance at 40KPH (24.8MPH).

Despite having a rear hub motor, the RadWagon still has 5 levels of pedal assist in addition to the throttle. Maybe I’m an outlier, but I always pedal my Rad bike (usually on assist level 2 or 3) and only use the throttle to help me get across an intersection or if I want to stretch my legs for a few seconds in the middle of my commute.

The idea that people who ride ebikes never pedal and treat them like substandard motorcycles seems silly to me. You can actually buy a motorcycle for less than many ebikes if that is what you really want.

X
Guest
X

Jyoti Kumari: I expect to hear more about this person. This story is making me cry.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

I’d love to see the Steel Bridge bus, bike and pedestrian only.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Especially the bottom deck!

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

You’ll have to Union Pacific about that – last I heard, they own that particular bridge.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I’m sure PBOT dictates who gets to drive on the upper deck.

Doug
Guest
Doug

ODOT leases the upper deck from the railroad, and sub-leases to TriMet. So only a couple of simple layers.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

In particular, the use of a new 22-inch wheel size concerns me. Not sure what the exact standard is that they’re using, and I’m aware that there’s a big gap between the common 20-inch/406mm and 24-inch/507mm standard, but that’s getting very proprietary to me. I realize most buyers of this bike will just order replacement wheels and tires from the manufacturer (as long as they keep providing them under this standard), but for me it would be a deal killer.

Angelo Dolce
Guest
Angelo Dolce

Car as Refuge or proof of existence?

I’ve since left Portland, but the Google/Rite Aid free tests (funded by government or by Google?) say you just need to be 18+ and able to get to a testing site. In fact, they only test motorists, and require you to give your data to Google (Verily). Even when they have sites close to downtown locations with higher incidence, they require you to stay in your car with the windows up, and reports are that they turn away anyone not in a car.

Similarly, I’ve heard most of the state food banks require you to stay in your car. These are less ambiguous – they’re largely on highways outside of town, so if you don’t have a car you can’t get there to begin with.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

It shouldn’t be shocking to anyone that the reaction to a public health crisis by most Americans is to just simply wear a car at all times.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Speaking as a front-line worker in the bike boom (I’m a mechanic/sales at a local bike shop), this shit is simply exhausting.

On the one hand, I’m super happy that so many people are suddenly interested in cycling. The more, the merrier, always.

But on the other hand, I’m just tired. The phone won’t stop ringing off the hook. The in-person lines are relentless. Emails are also nonstop.

I totally understand why everybody wants to buy a bike now, or fix up the cobweb-covered bike that’s been sitting in their garage for decades. I just wish y’all could have gotten into it without being more or less forced to by a pandemic. As they say, “your lack of planning does not constitute my emergency.”

So, please just be patient with your local bike shop staff. We’re doing the best we can. But bikes, bike parts, bike accessories, and bike shop employees are all in very limited supply. And thank you for reading my little rant.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Proprietary parts are only one problem. The Rad Wagon itself is cheap, but I have questions about what it will take in terms of maintenance to keep it going.

Even with the hub taking a lot of the strain off the tranny, the chain, RD, and cassette will probably only last a few thousand miles — especially if this is ridden in wet. How long will the motor last, maybe 10K? And even burly bike tires only last a few thousand miles. Changing flats on this bike won’t be fun — especially since the tubes are huge and no one will carry them. If used for serious transportation, these all these things are significant hassle and cost issues that will come up frequently. Probably get a couple years out of a battery with regular use. Storing and parking this will be awkward.

The big win with bikes in PDX is they move easily, particularly when there are traffic jams. However, they require a lot of maintenance per mile and you’re exposed to the elements — something that’s even worse with electrics.

In non pandemic times, I regularly see the same cyclists, some of them on electrics. The pattern I see with the electrics is they ride consistently for a couple to a few months and then disappear. There are exceptions, but not so many.

X
Guest
X

I guess we have to thank the early adopters who are out there breaking this stuff. 10K? That just says that either ebike builders are not serious people, or else they have divined that their buyers are not serious people. Imagine the reviews on any car that needed replacement of a major component after 10,000 miles.

I read some articles (‘expert opinion’) that suggest the front hub is not a good place to put a motor because of height above the ground and weight distribution. I’m wondering if the case is not different for a load carrying bike because the weight distribution is different, especially with a smaller front wheel. This would also leave the rear drive uncluttered and simplify a rear flat fix.

X
Guest
X

Those people waiting in line could take their dusty bikes down to a camp to get them sorted out. Of course it would be quite a dance for anybody to fix a bike, observing social distancing, while the owner has their hand on it at all times.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

The pair of stories about car-as-refuge and Miami-Dade county highlight the growing pandemic-fueled rift going on right now. Whether it’s conservative-liberal, young-old, or car-bike, it seems there is a lot of decision-making based on fear and ideology rather than sound principles of, I don’t know, science and/or justice. I could completely see a future in which those who continue or revert to driving absolutely everywhere are seen as patriotic citizens doing their part to protect themselves and their neighbors from the invisible menace, while those forced or who choose to use public transport or active transportation are the dirty low-lifes spreading disease like rats in the middle ages. Rather than encouraging active, “unprotected” transportation, governments will do all they can to discourage it in favor of the “safe” option: driving. All “True Patriots” will also do their part to put a stop to non-cocooned transport, and if a transit rider or bicyclist is harmed as a result, well, good riddance; that’s one less disease vector to worry about.

Somebody should start on the screenplay now, the script practically writes itself.