The Monday Roundup: MTB miracle cure, Big Battery, killer culture, and more

Posted by on May 24th, 2021 at 9:34 am

Welcome to the week. Here are the most notable items BikePortland readers and editors came across in the past seven days…

Anti-bike AMS: Bicycle users in Amsterdam are protesting because of concerns that city planners are prioritizing pedestrians.

Mountain biking is the cure: Everything about this NY Times article about the renaissance of mountain biking in the U.S. makes me very happy except the fact that Portland has still not improved cycling access in Forest Park.

Get it right, journos! A major media authority in the U.K. has released a set of “road collision reporting guidelines” that instructs journalists to use “crash” not “accident” and ascribe agency in their reporting.

Support our supporters!

This week’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by Portland Cycling Worlds. Now you can wear your support of the World Championship bid with a cool new jersey!.

Rest day in peace, Robert: Robert Marchand, who held world records for riding well into his 100s, died in France at age 109.

America’s love affair with cars: The Biden Administration is just the latest Democrat in the White House to espouse their unrestrained love of cars and the auto industry. This time it comes in the form of electric vehicle boosterism.

Big Battery: And as we march down the EV road let’s keep our eyes wide open to the fact that current battery technology has its own environmental consequences.

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Monumental advocacy effort: America’s Bicycle Lobby stepped up big time to pressure the Federal Highway Administration to get with the program and revamp its main street design rulebook to reflect modern demands.

Killer culture: A contributor to Outside compares people who kill bike riders to mass shooters and says he feels safer rock climbing in Yosemite than cycling in his neighborhood.

Triumphant transit tips: Better technology is just one of things the U.S. government should invest much more in if we want mass transit to have a massive impact on our future.

House humans not cars: If you’re new here (or if you need a refresher), you should definitely read this primer on how parking minimums kill cities.

Freeways are over: Feels like we’ve reached some sort of collective moment when Governing magazine runs a piece about induced demand and the “common sense” that widening freeways is a terrible idea.

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

current battery technology has its own environmental consequences

Yes, indeed! And please let’s keep this in mind when promoting e-bikes. When an e-bike replaces a car, I consider that a good thing. When it replaces a human-powered bike, I consider that a bad thing.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

Generating electricity has environmental consequences also. Until our grid is entirely powered by renewables (which also has environmental consequences), in many cases generating electricity to power vehicles just transfers the point of emission release from the tailpipe to the power plant smokestack; in other cases instead of tailpipe emissions it generates nuclear waste or kills salmon. There are also a variety of other cascading impacts in addition to stack emissions caused by producing electricity using coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear or hydropower to generate electricity.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Actually, generating electricity to power vehicles doesn’t “just transfer” emissions from the tailpipe to the smokestack. EVs are several times more efficient than gas-powered vehicles, and power plants have more effective (non-CO2) emissions controls than automobiles. The net effect is that switching out an ICE vehicle to an EV substantially reduces emissions, even when you count the “cascading impacts – which also apply to the production of gasoline, by the way. It’s the amount of emissions that counts, not just the fact of their existence.

squareman
Subscriber

On top of that, even if the power plant charging the battery is a fossil-fueled plant, it’s easier to monitor the emissions from that one plant than the hundreds or thousands of cars still burning gasoline. Every time I’m near a busy street or a freeway, I see plenty of cars being driven that are clearly grossly outside of emissions standards.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

How about the efficiency of electrical transmission lines? A lot is lost along the way from the power plant to the point of use. Also, there are plenty of power plants that are out of compliance with emissions standards and/or haven’t upgraded their controls to current standards.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Yes, that’s one of those “cascading impacts” I mentioned. That’s taken into account in the analyses I’ve seen, and those incremental inefficiencies aren’t enough to overcome the fact that EVs are several *times* more efficient than ICE vehicles. And, as I mentioned, gasoline is subject to similar “cascading impacts”: it takes enormous amounts of petroleum to produce, refine and transport petroleum. All these analyses bashing on electric power tend to ignore these. Any guess who conducts those studies?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

And of course there’s the nuclear waste to deal with far into the future long after we and the human race are extinct, especially with all the nuclear power plants still here on the East Coast.

squareman
Subscriber

Nuclear waste is a far more contained pollutant than any fossil-fueled plant. It is by far the cleanest of all the on-demand power plants (except maybe hydro or geothermal – and hydro has its environmental problems). It has killed and damaged far fewer people and animals per KWh than any other coal-fired, diesel, or LNG-fueled plant.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

How often does an e-bike “replace” a human-powered bike? From what I can tell, most e-bike buyers weren’t avid cyclists to begin with, and their e-bike trips tend to replace more private-car, Uber and possibly transit trips than they do cycling trips that were being taken previously.

I don’t have an e-bike, but have been shopping, though I won’t likely buy one this year. In my case, yes an e-bike will replace some pedal-bike trips. But I will also bike quite a bit more, and drive less, as a result. In any event, arguing about the relative impact of e-bikes vs pedal bikes, in the face of the multiple-orders-of-magnitude-greater impact of cars, approaches absurdity, especially when BOTH can be used as tools to reduce car trips. Both-and, not either-or, folks.

squareman
Subscriber

I have on my likely-to-happen-one-day wish list: an electric pedal-assist (no throttle!) cargo bike with a cargo box large enough to handle both my dogs. This bike would mainly replace car trips – both those where I want to haul my dogs somewhere local and for those trips that I look at and think, “that’s just a little too far / too steep / too much to haul for me to consider riding.” Sure, it would also replace some all-human-powered bike trips ultimately, but it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. For me, it could potentially replace my heavy all-weather commuter (which I already look for excuses to leave hung up), but I’d still elect to pull out the far-weathered single speed for the pure joy of it and for exercise rides.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Funny – have had the exact opposite experience. Most e-bike owners I know where cyclists before and moved to e-bikes for commuting (including my wife). Honestly, I can’t think of one person I know who owns an e-bike that wasn’t riding a non-motorized bike before. Not happy about that, tho; I would really prefer to see more car drivers move to e-bikes.

Zach Katz
Guest
Zach Katz

That will only happen once all of their destinations–school, shopping, restaurants, friend’s houses—can be reached with paths like this (and Greenways that are nearly entirely car-free):comment image

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

For those of us in the half of America who live in apartments, 50-75 lbs bikes is a real huge issue, especially after accessories and loads are added in. Just lifting the damn thing over the doorstop is too much for many of us older people, let alone those long cargo bikes. Essentially you have to own or have secure access to a garage to own an e-bike. Until the weight comes down to 30 lbs or less for an e-commuter us poor weak folks won’t be able use and store such bikes even when we can afford them.

Jason
Guest
Jason

That’s a valid concern. I would be reluctant to advise someone even ride a bike, if they can’t lift the front wheel off the ground. Meaning, To enter my apartment, I need to lift the front wheel 8″ or so to get it into the doorway, but I don’t have to lift the whole bike over my head or anything. But again, if you lack the upper body strength to lift the bike at least somewhat off the ground, it’s probably not safe to be riding. I wonder what a human engineer (physical therapist) would say to that presumption?

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

There is cycling access in Forest Park at the west end of Thurman Street in Northwest. There are several other access points, but that one is really easy to find, get to and use. There are about 29 miles of Trails open to cyclists there and the rest of the park is quite pleasant for walking and non-bike activities. I like the route found on the OMTM web site called Deep Firelanes…what healthy way to spend a morning!

Brian
Guest
Brian

There may be about 29 miles open to cyclists, but they certainly aren’t “trails.” How many miles of that 29 are roads such as Saltzman and Leif?

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Hey Suburban, that’s a good route – especially on early morning starts 🙂

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

The lack of a dedicated single track traverse trail (similar to Wildwood) is my main issue with biking in FP. Firelanes are fine, but entirely too short. Leif is a joke for MTBing and CX/Gravel is fine but there are so many potential conflicts with hikers/runners that it usually underwhelms there too.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Would just like to clarify – A road is generally wide enough for a car to drive down, a trail is not. Most of the riding in Forest Park isn’t “trail”, it is dirt roads. There is about .5 miles of actual “trail” that is legal to bike on.

Most of the firelanes you can drive a car down. Leif Erickson/Saltzman/Springville, which constitutes the majority of those 29 miles, are definitely roads and not trail. You could probably fit 2 car lanes on those roads.

Bicycling Al
Guest
Bicycling Al

OK, everybody calm down about the “EV batteries are going to kill the world in a different way.”

Current battery technology is a gateway to the battery technology that will actually usher in all sorts of possibilities, including electrification of ALL vehicles, possibly even airplanes.

We don’t know what resources solid state batteries will consume yet, but they are bound to be better than releasing billions of years of fossil fuels into the atmosphere.

Just like vacuum tubes were a gateway to transistors and incandescent light bulbs were a gateway to LED’s, the current battery technology is still in the voltaic pile age but we are transitioning quite rapidly now. There was very little progress in this area for decades and then BOOM! Progress! just in the past 20 years!

Barely 30 years ago, we were talking about sub-micron transistors and you had to wait for your modem to finish with the squeaky noise to get your email. Now we are on the verge of sub-nanometer transistors and teenagers are carrying around super computers in their pockets which are constantly connected to a world information network.

Once solid state batteries take hold, they will unleash quite the development cycle. We don’t know what resources that will require yet but what we DO KNOW is that it will require far fewer resources than current lithium battery technology.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

We actually don’t know that solid state batteries will require fewer resources. The current state of the art in such batteries uses various forms of Lithium powder instead of liquid, so maybe a bit safer but no change in resource use. We must be careful not to extrapolate the gains in microprocessors with gains in other things. Computer chips are essentially manufactured using a fancy form of printing which has made its gains by just getting better at shrinking. Batteries are all about chemistry and material science which is a different ball game. For 40 years we have been trying to copy the materials( high temp metals) the Russians use in the Rocket engines we buy from them to power most Nasa and DOD launches. So far we have failed and it is not clear we will ever succeed. SpaceX had to give up on that type of engine also and chose a design without the need for such high tech materials. Cheap, clean, energy dense solid state batteries are probably 20 years in the future and always will be.

Bicycling Al
Guest
Bicycling Al

Sorry, but we DO KNOW that solid state batteries will require fewer resources because that’s what higher energy density means. You pack more charge into the same battery mass. This means that cars go further on the same amount of resources or it takes less battery to go the same distance.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

…except the fact that Portland has still not improved cycling access in Forest Park.

Meanwhile in Cleveland(!): https://www.freshwatercleveland.com/breaking-ground/PumpTrack052521.aspx

A quote from that article:

Meanwhile, Metroparks’ oldest mountain bike trail—and the first 2.5 miles of what is now 30 miles of connected mountain bike trails today across Northeast Ohio in Bedford, Mill Stream Run, Ohio & Erie Canal and West Creek reservations—will be extended to about five miles this year… The projects will be supported by Cleveland Metroparks Trails Fund that helps preserve, maintain and expand Cleveland Metroparks 300-plus mile trail network.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

“We’re an incredibly impoverished county within Ohio,” Ms. Sowers said. “When this trail system is finished, it will be the longest east of the Mississippi. It’s a chance to bring tourism dollars to rural Appalachia.”

Just about every city in North Carolina (and many in other surrounding states) have made exactly the same claim. Here in Greensboro NC, mountain biking is legal in all city and county parks and we have over 50 miles of maintained trails courtesy of the Piedmont Fat Tire Society and the city parks dept. Winston-Salem also has a great network, as does Durham, Asheville, Raleigh, and Charlotte. Such claims remind me of a Mark Twain essay about traveling in Europe in the mid-1800s – he had seen altogether 1.75 true crosses that Christ was crucified on, the equivalent of 7 complete skeletons of St. Paul, and so on – totally unverifiable claims that dumb journalists love to pass on.

And as everyone knows, mountain biking began in with penny-farthings in the 1870s in the Black Forest of Germany (or some such BS) and it grew from European cycle-cross racing in the 1960s using safer and more upright bikes. That’s where the guys in Marin got the idea, as well as the Ross and Cannondale guys in Pennsylvania, and another group in Massachusetts, and probably 100s of other places worldwide.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

I live in a place where bike access, both in paved trails (rails-to-trails) and mountain biking. And it does make a HUGE impact in rural areas that have seen other forms of income dry up. There have been pretty extensive studies on this, including one last year.

As to urban trails, again, I have extensive knowledge of those. While they don’t provide much economic boost directly, they do provide two long-term bonuses to a city. The first is the most obvious, trail access is traded for volunteer labor that saves the land manager (usually a parks department) money. The second is less obvious, in that it drives interest in parks and neighborhoods adjacent to parks. Which is why cities that have trails open to mountain bikes (which are almost always shared trails, hiker/biker) Which is why places that go whole hog into creating mountain bike access increase the amount of parkland in the city (see Duluth – Duluth Forest Preserve or Knoxville – Knoxville Urban Wilderness).

Dave
Guest
Dave

Hey, and never even mind “gravel” riding; just look at any pictures of European road racing from WWII into the 1980’s. Lief Erickson Drive is perfectly rideable on a 25 year or older road bike.

Caleb
Guest
Caleb

My three small gripes with the NYT article on MTBing:

1) Whether MTBing originated in Marin County, CA is not clear. Other places where people were doing things with bikes around the same time and possibly before include at least Montana (or Wyoming…I forget), England, and Japan.
2) Bikes with dropper posts don’t feature “seats that retract and expand”. The saddle simply moves up and down, while part of the post enters and exits another part of the post.
3) While Specialized manufactures bikes, simply saying they are “a bike manufacturer in Morgan Hill, Calif” is a bit misleading. Clearly manufacturing is not the article’s focus, so it’s not a detail I’d expect the author to care about, but the author could have instead said “a bike brand”.

My only big gripe is the article made no comment on the Walton Family Foundation and Walmart’s impact and interest in shaping Bentonville, AR to its own ends. Jacobin recently had an article on that for anyone curious: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/03/walmart-walton-family-foundation-bentonville-arkansas-company-town

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

Colorado, France…

Alain L.
Guest
Alain L.

Thanks for posting the link to the piece on AMS. One of the first things one experiences walking and cycling in AMS is the emphasis on designing bicycle paths/lanes the flow mostly uninterrupted. It allows one to move across the city quickly, on bike. Pedestrians are given a great deal of space in AMS, but there’s no hierarchy of users that assumes a pedestrian can step into the flow of cyclists. Not like in Portland. As a pedestrian in AMS, I’ve never felt at a disadvantage given such designs.