Welcome to Monday! It feels great to be back in Portland and working at my desk after two weeks away.
Here are the most noteworthy items BikePortland readers and writers came across in the past seven days…
Protected bike lane research: A new study from Boston found massive positive impacts to bike usage rates due to the installation of a protected bike lane.
Primo deal from Amazon: The retail delivery juggernaut says it will pay employees of its new east coast headquarters $350 per month to ride a bike into the office.
Subsidize E-bikes now: Among the many amazing things about the current e-bike boom is that it’s happening without any significant government subsidy because lawmakers are so blinded by their inability to see past the car-based status quo.
Solar-powered bike: Love this cheap and clean solar solution created by a man in a city in India that will power a bicycle for up to 30 continuous miles.
Watch for bears: An experienced bikepacker was pulled from her tent and killed by a bear while sleeping on the Great Divide route in Montana.
Ride to bear arms: A man on a group bike ride in Houston pulled out a gun and shot a driver who alleged rammed into another bicycle rider on purpose.
Mobility for all: Portland’s Street Roots took a look at how electric Biketown works — and doesn’t — for people who don’t have a lot of money.
Not about a bike path: High Country News took a deep dive into the Yamhelas Westsider Trail in Yamhill County and ties its recent demise to “far right extremism” that includes backers of groups like Timber Unity and the Three Percenters.
Hawthorne controversy recap: The Oregonian covered the Hawthorne Pave & Paint debate and shared my comments about how it has left open wounds in the community.
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$350/month to bike to work at Amazon? Pretty generous, too bad their delivery drivers have to pee in bottles.
Some thoughts in regard to “Ride to bear arms”. Always use cameras, if you can demonstrate that use of firearms is indeed justified by attack with a deadly weapon (car), then you could use the Stand Your Ground laws. Check local municipalities for specific legal codes.
My first reaction to the story was, “that’s a bit of an escalation”. Then, as I thought about it, I decided that this could be justifiable. I don’t like the precedent that this sets, but if the law allows it, maybe road rage gun play is the next step? I’d sure like to make motorist think twice and imagine that every cyclist is ready to express their Second Amendment freedom. Still, I don’t like the escalation.
Oregon doesn’t have a Stand Your Ground statute, but that said, we also do not have a “duty to retreat”, so in a case like this, general self defense of you or another and protecting yourself from imminent harm would be a satisfactory defense. To paraphrase Mike Tyson, “Drivers have become way too comfortable messing with vulnerable road users and not getting shot for it”. I have thought all to often about how easy a pistol for concealed carry would fit well in a frame bag.
The first story I ever read about this was about an AZ cyclist who went with open carry, so all the overtaking motorists could see the piece on his hip.
The other option is from Boston, about a cyclist who decided a sign reading ‘Ex-wife got car’ was the best protection.
Read the article. The person driving the car first yelled at the cyclists and argued with them about whether or not they were allowed to be on the road. He then drove away and went out of sight. After a short time, he turned his vehicle around, drove back, and intentionally hit the woman with his car. At the time, she was on the sidewalk. He clearly and intentionally used his vehicle as a weapon with the intent to do bodily harm. The person with the gun shot to prevent the driver from continuing his rampage and hitting anyone else. I’m very anti gun, but I don’t see how you could characterize the behavior of the cyclist who shot the motorist as engaging in escalation. This was a clear and unambiguous case of self defense. Remember the guy in SE Stark that hit multiple people, attempted to hit others and then killed a woman with his car several months ago? Sometimes shooting truly is the only logical and correct course of action.
Not a gun fan or owner myself, but given the increasing hostility of drivers (armed with motor vehicles, which are deadly weapons) towards cyclists, especially the last year and a half, I’ve always been surprised more cyclists aren’t armed, and that there haven’t been more incidents like this.
I am Sad for the cyclist killed by the Grizzly, but I very much believe in the wise words of Naturalist, and Author Ed Abbey, “If people persist in trespassing upon the grizzlies’ territory, we must accept the fact that the grizzlies, from time to time, will harvest a few trespassers.”
The cyclist had been keeping food in her tent, which is like the #1 no-no for camping in bear country.
The bike lane paper is interesting. First, it seems entirely intuitive. And secondly, it does not appear to reflect our experience here in Portland, where upgrading facilities does not seem to boost ridership.
Some commenters have asserted that we’ll only see increased ridership when we have an entire protected network. If the dynamic seen in Boston is generalizable, it would suggest that an entire network is not necessary to see big increases in ridership.
So why is our experience here different? Perhaps everyone who wants to ride in Portland is already doing so (biking here is generally much better than biking in Boston, so Boston may have more “repressed demand,” to coin a phrase, and is thus more sensitive to upgraded infrastructure), and maybe improving facilities in Portland, while great for those who are currently on a bike, isn’t the key to further increases in ridership here.
You’re right about repressed demand in Boston, but it’s because there are no Greenways or traffic-calmed neighborhood streets to use as alternatives, so many people previously chose to just not ride at all.
In Portland, it’s not just about a protected network—it’s about a *visible* protected network with direct access to destinations. That’s the only thing that will truly increase ridership, and Portland barely has any of them. The Dutch have 50+ years of experience that proves this to be true:
“Our final thought about Portland’s Neighborhood Greenways is a cautionary one. With such a well-developed system of greenways spanning the City, many people on bikes choose to avoid major streets since there is frequently a Greenway within a few blocks. The success of Neighborhood Greenways in Portland has created a situation where there is less support for physically separated bike lanes along those main streets – many of which are lined with the businesses, restaurants and local shops that people on bikes want to get to. The Dutch experience is that while Greenways form an important role in the creation of a safe cycling network, they cannot exclusively form the entirety, or even the majority, of an effective cycling network. They must be used in combination with protected cycling lanes, multi-use paths and cycle tracks to build a complete network of AAA cycling infrastructure. Only when all of those tools are deployed with consideration towards constructing a complete network will cycling be seen as a safe, accessible and practical choice for a majority of residents in North America.” – https://beyondtheautomobile.com/2020/11/04/bicycle-streets-beyond-europe-portlands-neighborhood-greenways/
I’ve heard you say this on several occasions; it’s just there isn’t any evidence to support it, and what evidence we do have points in the opposite direction. When we build visible high-quality facilities, they don’t improve ridership. When they build a new facility in Boston, it does. We KNOW that piecemeal bike networks can help when the underlying demand is there. I’m arguing that there’s no evidence that much additional demand exists here, or that it’s holding out for the appearance of an idealized bike network.
Lack of evidence doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Maybe if we magically acquired a complete protected network a bunch of new folks would start riding. If I were making policy, I’d want to see some evidence of that before I made the investment on the theory that a it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. On a practical level, lack of response to new/improved facilities makes them harder to justify on grounds they’ll help move mode-share.
Holland is different than Portland in many important ways. That something worked there is not proof it would work here.
The error you’re making is assuming Portland has built “visible, high-quality facilities,” which is simply not true. A truly visible protected facility is one that would allow an inexperienced rider to feel comfortable cycling on an arterial, commercial street, and Portland has essentially only a *single mile or two* of these (on SW Broadway, NE Multnomah, Moody, outer NE Weidler, etc, which are barely retail destinations in the first place) out of its 4,000+ miles of streets!
It’s not just Boston. Biking in NYC , Paris, London, and many other cities is absolutely booming right now thanks to an increasing number of protected bike lanes on arterial, commercial streets. Unless there is something fundamentally different about Portlanders, all evidence suggests that this phenomenon—if you build it, they will come–is simply human nature. See more common misconceptions here: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/02/all-those-myths-and-excuses-in-one-post.html
There is something different about Portland: we have had a mostly adequate bike network in place for decades, and (historically at least) a significantly higher ridership to show for it.
As someone who has ridden here for many years, I can attest that facilities have vastly improved, while ridership has stagnated or fallen. Perhaps you’re right that the improvement in conditions just isn’t enough to unleash some hidden latent demand. Perhaps not. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure, because it is highly unlikely that we’re going to get the idealized bike network you claim is necessary in any meaningful timeframe.
If we want to encourage more folks to ride any time in the next few decades, we need to do so with the network we have now. I’m hoping for continued gradual improvement, but it should be crystal clear to everyone here that PBOT does not see cycling as the future, and at a leadership/commissioner level, doesn’t really care about us at all.
The Portland bike network is only adequate for those brave enough to bike amongst cars, which is a very small “enthused and confident” percentage of the population–about 7%, according to Portland’s Roger Geller . This figure roughly to Portland’s cycling mode share, which is not a coincidence.
This is why protected bike lanes are a key element of truly attractive, low-stress bike infrastructure. If you talk to people outside the “biking community,” you’ll find that latent demand is not some vague hypothetical–there are many, many people who are deeply afraid to bike, even on “low-stress” Greenways.
I agree that PBOT has abandoned cycling as their mission, but in my opinion, advocating for actually-good infrastructure will be infinitely more productive than encouraging people to bike where they don’t feel safe and comfortable doing so. Apple didn’t get the entire world hooked on smartphones virtually overnight by “encouraging” people to use smartphones; they built the best damn smartphone they could and people flocked to it like sheep. The Dutch didn’t obtain a 90%+ cycling mode share by building half-assed unprotected bike lanes and hoping for the best; they went all the way and it worked. Good design is the most powerful way to influence human behavior.
I like Roger, but his numbers/categories are basically made up for marketing/illustrative purposes.
The amount of rebuilding you want would take decades even if we started today. I agree with you that it would be better to have better facilities, but even with political support (which we don’t have), “completing the network” is just not realistic in the short or medium term. If your speculation about what it will take to increase ridership is right, then I’ll check back in in 2040 and see if we’re able to get some new folks riding. More realistically it will be 2060.
Also, you might want to check your 90%+ Dutch mode share claim. “36% of Dutch people listing the bicycle as their most frequent way of getting around on a typical day, as opposed to the car (45%) and public transport (11%).”
Your original claim was that “when we build visible, high-quality facilities, they don’t increase ridership.” I showed you why that was wrong, and now you’ve moved the goalposts and are saying “well, but it would take too long.”
To address this new point: Yes, we are very behind in the US, and we won’t get to 36% mode share overnight (note that in some cities, like Groningen, it is likely higher than the national average, although the true number does seem to be the subject of some debate).
But the solution is not to throw up our hands and give up; it’s to keep making progress so that future generations can reap the benefits of a Dutch-like cycling society, where kids can safely bike to school, elderly and people with disabilities can get around with full independence, air and noise pollution are dramatically reduced, etc.
Plus, it’s not like you don’t see benefits until the entire network is completed; as I’ve illustrated, even gradually adding protected bike infrastructure to key routes (Hawthorne, Burnside, Sandy) would make a massive difference, just like what happened in Paris last year: https://twitter.com/urbanthoughts11/status/1391709598969733126
Lastly, Roger’s numbers appear to have been obtained with a fairly substantial process, documented here: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/44597?a=237507. To say that they’re “basically made up” and provide zero evidence for that claim is pretty intellectually dishonest, IMO.
“Your original claim was that “when we build visible, high-quality facilities [in Portland], they don’t increase ridership.””
It still is my claim. The data shows a negative correlation between improving bike facilities and mode share in Portland. That’s just the facts.
That leads you to conclude that we could reverse that trend by doubling down on building. That leads me to conclude that there are more important factors at play than improved infrastructure. I can’t disprove your conclusion, but mine is more consistent with my long experience engaging with Portland’s bike culture, and is thus more convincing.
All that said, I like better bike facilities as much as you do.
PS: Regarding Roger’s categories: I know there has been subsequent work on this, but I was part of the community conversations where the seeds of Roger’s work were developed. We needed a way to market greater infrastructure investment to decision makers, and Roger was able to distill the ideas we were collectively trying to articulate into a coherent model. It was very much an invention, and your link says as much:
Again, the thing we disagree on is what “improved infrastructure” actually means, and my argument is based on the premise that the *only* infrastructure that matters in increasing ridership is all-ages protected bike lanes that directly connect to destinations, which PBOT has not been building, and which the Netherlands/NYC/London/Paris/Seville have (and have all seen increased mode shares as a result).
It sounds like you’re someone who feels comfortable biking with and alongside cars, and since PBOT has been upgrading infrastructure mostly to suit you–rather than eight-year old children, the elderly, and people like me, who would rather not bike with cars at all, even on Greenways–it’s not surprising that you feel that they’ve been improving infrastructure, and thus feel both confused about why more people aren’t biking, and comfortable drawing a conclusion that it can’t be the infrastructure and must be some other mystery thing.
That’s interesting about the reason the Four Types was developed. However, I still contend that Roger’s hunch was right.
If you’re interested, here’s some ink spilled on the topics of “Are the Dutch too far ahead to catch up?”
Is it too late to start providing for cyclists ? Are the Dutch “too far ahead” ?
“Go By Bike – Holland shows the way” – News just in from 1981
Plus, some more general articles on Dutch cycling success and its applicability in other places:
Cycling infrastructure is cheaper to build than not to build, part two
The Grid. The most important enabler of mass cycling, but a cycling concept which is often misunderstood.
This is the material that has greatly informed my beliefs on the subject, so if you’re genuinely open to changing your mind, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Zach’s trumpeting of NYC and London’s bicycle mode share while failing to mention that it is ~1.3% and ~2.4% respectively is also a little fact-challenged.
A simplistic “Build it and they will come” thesis also fails to acknowledge the multi-decade concerted effort to make cage parking, cage driving, and cage-ownership expensive, inconvenient, and, even, impossible in Dutch urban areas. Outside of those areas cage ownership predominates despite the presence of infrastructure that puts anything found in Northern ‘Murrica to shame. Perhaps it’s the relative convenience and cost of active transportation versus the inconvenience and punishingly high cost of cage ownership that has defeated cage culture in Dutch cities (and not the “building it” which came after mode share in Dutch cities recovered to the upper 20s).
I wonder, did the 80% increase occur during lockdown? They say that use went up significantly on the other ‘control’ streets as well. I agree with you about starting the numbers at a low base.
I think economists would refer to that as latent demand.
I can’t think of a single route in Portland that is complete enough to turn a non-rider into a rider. Portland has really mastered the “build low quality infrastructure everywhere” method of infrastructure improvement and as a result, there just isn’t that many places one can go and be safe for their whole route.
Portland has seen the motorist become more dangerous and hostile, traffic enforcement disappear, safety improvements lag and or simply not happen, and PBOTs bike infrastructure is just marginally better than it was 5 years ago.
I’ve been biking for my main form of transporation for around ten years and before the pandemic I was down to bike commuting just a couple of days a week, it’s just not worth the stress of dealing with Portlands god awful traffic infrastructure and the awful motorist who abuse it.
If PBOT gets its act together and refocuses on complete streets, you’ll see ridership climb again. Considering we have a transportation bureau that hates the idea of restricting motorists from greenways and has gone all in on the “bigger, faster streets are good for climate change” lie, I don’t see the trend changing any time soon.
comment of the week!
In my opinion, Portland does not reap rewards from investments in infrastructure because they do a very poor job of connecting high quality segments to the rest of network, or they leave dangerous gaps throughout the system. I don’t think we need a 100% complete and protected network to see increases in ridership, but I do think we need to address the myriad “holes” in the fabric of our bike network. I cannot get my wife or daughter to ride with more than a mile or so because there are scary gaps in the network that feel too dangerous to them, and I live in close-in North Portland. Every.Single. Direction. In my opinion, if Portland spent a year assiduously fixing every dangerous gap in the network, new or cautious riders would have a chance to become frequent riders.
Personally, I don’t like most of the infrastructure PBOT installs for cyclists, nor do I trust the motorists, so I ride my own alternate routes. It pains me every time PBOT ‘upgrades’ some secondary street I was riding on, or they spend a lot of money on an obscure route with bad pavement and hills that no one will ever use; because in the former case they almost always over-design, and I have to stop using the route, and in the latter, it’s simply a waste of taxpayer funds. The third case is the arterial streets, which are a combination of both under- and over-designed cyclist infrastructure, bad pavement, drainage grates, and irresponsible motorists; as much as I advocated for them in the past, I avoid them now like the plague (e.g. lower SE Hawthorne). Done right, it might be a different story.
“Ride to bear arms: A man on a group bike ride in Houston pulled out a gun and shot a driver who alleged rammed into another bicycle rider on purpose.”
I imagine we will see this soon in Portland given the deteriorating security conditions.
At the very least I’m going to start adding pepper spray to my bike accessories.
Instead of self driving cars I see a more useful and constructive application of A.I.in cyclist protection drones. Imagine a peaceful pedalpolooza ride with an armed drone following overhead. Then out of nowhere comes a lifted pickup spewing soot, driven by a crazed psycho. The pickup driver guns his engine and aims his dangerous machine at the innocent cyclists. The advanced A.I. In the drone analyzes the situation and neutralizes the crazed motorist with a well placed missle.
Ride to bear arms: A man on a group bike ride in Houston pulled out a gun and shot a driver who alleged rammed into another bicycle rider on purpose.
Give all the cyclists and the marked increase in crime and lack of an effective police force in Portland the NRA may find a lot of new members amongst the cycling community in Portland. I’m seriously thinking of getting a handgun permit.
Me too. I have always been against guns. Being a lifelong Portlander I really didn’t feel I needed one, I’ve changed my mind. Just the other day the park I ride by often had a major shooting on a Saturday afternoon. I unfortunately now feel the need to arm myself. 911 response times are just too slow. 🙁
If you’re going to get a gun, first learn to handle the darn thing. And get one with a hidden hammer (easy draw out of a pocket) and laser sight (easy aim, plus chances are when a bad guy sees the laser on him he’s likely to back off). And you don’t need a caliber larger than a .32.
You also don’t need more than 6 speeds. Discuss 🙂
Just took the Handgun 101 Class at the Clackamas Training Center for all of the reasons you just listed. It was a great way to go from no experience to knowing how to do things correctly, highly recommended, but there is a ton of demand as you can imagine.
Seeing the article about the Houston incident got me thinking, Due to the lack of a functioning police department in Portland I wonder if Pedalpaolloza should consider having armed security riders? Probably would be a good idea. Could ask for volunteers with firearms experience and training.
Has anyone on a Pedalpalooza ride ever been injured or killed by a driver, due to a lack of police presence?
Not sure. But the possibility of this is increasing as Portland becomes more and more of a lawless city 🙁 Criminals are now unencumbered by the concern of repercussions for their actions. Heck, even I drive over the speed limit now more than I used to. 🙁
This is the self-policing we have all wanted!
Yep, we’re moving back to the good old frontier days in Portland. Every woman, man, child and bicyclist for themselves. Gotta put my John Wayne swagger on when I’m out riding. 🙂
See also “Altamont – Rolling Stones” , etc…
What are the odds of getting killed by a car driver versus a grizzly?
Does the city of Portland pay its workers to bike commute too?
If you are forced to yield your right of way to another road user due to a non-gun threat of deadly force (almost every moment of biking/walking), are you a crime victim?
If electric car subsidies are really about the environment, why can’t bike, walk or transit commuters get the same amount of money?