Welcome to the week!
This week’s Roundup is sponsored by Action LED Lights. If you’re ready for serious bike lights, Action can get you set up with excellent options from Gloworm, Gemini, and Magicshine.
Here are the most noteworthy items our writers and readers came across in the past seven days…
Bike buses on the rise: There’s so much to love about the boom in bike-to-school buses, but this piece is also notable for how it says some adults in San Francisco love to hop on the morning ride even without kids just because it’s safe and fun.
Some drivers just DGAF: This piece in the NYT jibes with my thinking about how the current anxieties and “fraying social norms” of American society play a huge role in the rise of dangerous driving and deaths on our roads.
Freeways are fossil fuel infrastructure: The Biden infrastructure package will be a colossal failure if we spend the money on more freeway capacity, says the NY Times in an article that makes excellent points about induced demand that mentions our homegrown anti-freeway movement.
Fewer drinks, fewer deaths: A new report from NHTSA says that traffic fatalities in Utah went down after that state passed a law to lower the BAC threshold from .08% to .05%. Oregon has proposed a similar law but it has failed to pass the legislature.
Which one are you?: I feel like this rundown of the three types of cycling advocates is pretty spot-on, don’t you?
Body image and cycling: Former BikePortland Podcast guests Marley Blonsky and (Oregon resident) Kailey Kornhauser were featured on OPB’s Oregon Field Guide show for their work on changing the narrative around what a “cyclist” is supposed to look like.
Drive less, save lives: David Zipper makes the case that switching trips from driving to other (safer) modes like transit should be a key part of our approach to Vision Zero.
Heavier e-cars: As we talk about the future of EVs, let’s not forget the impacts larger and heavier cars will have on our planet and lives.
In defense of open streets: Advocates in New York City are standing watch and ready to defend their open streets against political whims. Portlanders should take note.
“Jaywalking” laws suck: As if we needed more evidence that some laws focused on pedestrians are nothing more than tools for police to harass vulnerable people.
Thanks to everyone who sent us links this week!
Okay. I have a solution to the bigger trucks/bigger freeways crowd. Ten buck gas and rationing. With oil approaching $100/barrel, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope?
SUV/Truck culture is so deeply ingrained in some parts that they will cut nearly every household expense before they give up their gas-guzzlers. It would take years of prolonged high prices to see much movement in this space.
Years ago when gas went above $4/gallon there was some movement out of vehicles into public transit.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a viable/useful public transit in Portland anymore so doubt the price spikes will have much effect.
That is just not true. Coming from an area where the closest bus between me and my workplace was 2 miles away in my 3-mile commute, to a place where I can get a bus or MAX every 15 minutes about 10 minutes from my apartment to go the same distance, and where I have similar service to downtown and an Amtrak or Flixbus to the closest big city, Portland absolutely does have good transit. I won’t lie that it’s well-run (both frequency and coverage are kind of wanting), but the biggest problem is lack of housing and actually-good biking infrastructure. Portland likes to pretend it’s progressive about these things, but the NIMBYism here and resistance to reallocating streets to non-cars is on par with everywhere else.
So-called “progressive” YIMBYism is NIMBYism. YIMBYs in Portland lobby for $600,000+ luxury owned housing* and actively undermine non-market deeply-affordable rental housing. YIMBYs in their own way are just as opposed to diversity, equity, and density as NIMBYs.
I have become disinterested in “active transportation advocacy” largely due to the almost total overlap between supply-side market urbanism** and cycling advocacy groups.
* which coincidentally is the kind of “nice” housing that most YIMBY software developers (and other professionals) prefer to dense rental housing.
** housing voodoo economics where a $1,000,000 bungalow is in the same supply category/segment as a home for someone who earns $30,000/year.
I’ve long advocated for big petrol taxes to drive up the price at the pump, thereby forcing people to drive small cars. But no way in Hades that would ever happen here, with the evil GOP having a stranglehold on our government.
Haha, and which party is looking to eliminate the federal gas tax for the rest of the year??
RE Jaywalking laws: The person in question crossed against a red light. I’m not sure why laws prohibiting this “suck”. In fact, it seems pretty reasonable to me, especially on the sort of 4-lane urban road (like Powell) where the incident took place. We ask everyone else to respect signals — why should people be exempt when they are on foot?
If we eliminated every law that could possibly be used to harass someone, the first to go would be any sort of traffic law. I am not signing up for that; things are already crazy enough.
Here’s a shocking idea . . .
How about train the police to NOT harass people instead of repealing every inconveinant law out there?
I know, it’s rocket science people . . . rocket science.
I could not disagree more with this nihilistic stance. We desperately need additional laws to ensure that violent drivers adhere to their basic ethical responsibilities. For example, strict liability laws put the onus on drivers to avoid killing/maiming “law-breaking” pedestrians and these laws work very well indeed in nations with lower levels of cage homicide.
My stance couldn’t be further from nihilistic; I strongly support having a well-enforced set of traffic laws to reduce the danger to all road users (including drivers themselves). It is these laws, after all, that protect me when I ride (or would protect me if they we hadn’t abandoned traffic enforcement), as well as when I walk or drive.
All laws can be abused; the solution is to build in safeguards against abuse rather than scrapping laws.
Given the dearth of facts in this case, it’s not even clear the law was abused. I have the luxury of being able to withhold judgement on that question until all the facts are available, and I would encourage others to do the same.
The article quotes “Reinhold cross the street against a red-hand signal for pedestrian traffic”. That sounds a lot less than crossing against traffic although it also could mean crossing against a red light. I am all for personal responsibility of pedestrians but this looks to this retrogrouch like over aggressive tactics
Even if you ignore all the other reasons jaywalking laws suck, you can make a pretty good argument that they suck based on this single case.
The incident took place ALONG a four-lane road, but the guy wasn’t CROSSING that road, he was crossing a minor two-lane road along it that has the sidewalk paving continuing through it. Look at the google view and it’s obvious why he claimed he wasn’t jaywalking–it looks so unlike a street crossing that anyone could have made that mistake:
He wasn’t walking in front of any vehicles, he simply walked partway across the empty street (which doesn’t look like a street) stopped, and turned back, never leaving what looks like the sidewalk.
His infraction was so minor that when the first officer claimed it was “jaywalking”, his partner responded, “You shitting me, dude” (0:58 in the video).
If you want to get technical, don’t just listen to the victim’s assertion that he wasn’t jaywalking. Look at the opinion of the engineers who designed that “crossing”. At the end of each of the three marked crosswalks at that intersection, there are curb ramps with tactile warnings. But at this fourth “crossing” the sidewalk paving continues and there are NO tactile warnings. Based on their design decisions, the engineers viewed this as continuous sidewalk/pedestrian area. They designed it the same as a sidewalk with a driveway curb cut, where it’s impossible to jaywalk because the pedestrian has never entered a street. The engineers gave the victim every possible cue that he was NOT crossing a street.
There’s also several signs there stating “Private Property/No Trespassing/Customer Parking Only” that further identifies the area the victim “jaywalked” as being a sidewalk, not a street crossing.
This was a perfect example of Jonathan’s description of jaywalking laws as “tools for police to harass vulnerable people”.
This isn’t apparent in the article; where did you find that and the subsequent details about what happened? I don’t doubt you. I would agree the sidewalk appears to extend through the intersection, and whether or not the engineer’s intent was for pedestrians to stop at the signal for what appears to be a driveway, the intersection design is confusing and self-contradictory.
This is certainly a good argument for clarifying the intersection, and, depending on what happened (both at the incident and in their interaction the previous day), it may well be an argument that the police were harassing someone without reason.
It is not, however, in any way an argument for making jaywalking legal, or that prohibiting jaywalking “sucks”.
The video that the article links to shows it all happening.
I viewed Jonathan’s “jaywalking laws suck” as meaning that they suck because they’re so often used to harass people, especially when the harm caused by the “jaywalking” is so minimal. I didn’t view it as meaning they are not valid laws, or that they never should be enforced.
In this case, it looks like the harm caused by the “jaywalker” was nonexistant, and the one officer’s comment made it clear he didn’t think they had a cause to stop him. If he’d been wandering around in traffic creating a danger for people, I’d want there to be a law to discourage that.
On the other hand, “jaywalking” is the quintessential example of a law that virtually everyone breaks often (I don’t think it’s even legal to start across an intersection after the walk signal flashes, even if you can cross well before the signal changes, and it’s certainly illegal to cross against a light even at 3 AM when there are no vehicles in sight) and that would be crazy to enforce regularly, which is reason enough for me to agree jaywalking laws suck even for people in groups police don’t regularly harass.
I would be open to a rewrite of jaywalking laws to only apply in potentially dangerous situations, but I have no idea how to do that. Should I be equally open to rewriting stoplight laws to make them only apply and potentially dangerous situations?
I see a lot of benefit to clear and consistent traffic laws.
Yeah, that’s bizarre street design. Really cute micro street though, it almost looks like a Dutch woonerf or something. Of course it’s in California so you can’t walk there. If it were me, I would walk right through the signal too.
Exactly. What about the people who walk down the middle of McLoughlin during rush hour, at night, or even sit on the freeway median while cars whiz by then at 55 mph? Is any of this sane?
Very strange to see Mr. Maus linking to a thoroughly pro-EV piece:
If cycling aficionados genuinely cared about safer roads they would be advocating for lighter and safer EVs, not for their never-going-to-happen abolition. There is no reason that a low-occupancy EV should weigh more than ~1000 kgs and many should/could weigh less than 500 kgs. As the piece notes, the main reason that both ICE and EV cages weigh so much in the USA is that hyper-individualistic consumers use vehicle size as a way to communicate status (similar to the bulbous red pouch displays of the male frigate bird: https://www.audubon.org/news/hear-wild-way-magnificent-frigatebirds-attract-mates).
Average weight of an EV compared to an non-EV vehicle in the USA:
Using that graph and omitting the context from the link you cited is misleading at best, so I will provide it here for you:
“EVs are heavier than comparable combustion models; for example, Ford’s Mustang Mach-E weighs 500 pounds more than an Edge. But EVs have yet to appear in the heaviest vehicle categories, such as pickups and large SUVs, so, for now, their average curb weight is still slightly less overall.”
The fundamental reason EVs weigh more than ICE cars is that the overall mechanism to power them weights more. This will be a smaller issue as battery technologies continue to progress but that doesn’t change the reality that we currently live in.
As the piece noted, battery energy density and electric engine efficiency is increasing rapidly so your comment will be irrelevant in a few years.
It may, but that will do nothing for the millions of EVs on the road already. I prefer to have more concrete positive policy investments beyond techno-fetishism and banking on innovation from the auto industry. The fact is, auto manufacturers don’t really care about climate change, or EVs really. They care about maximizing profits, and battery research is quite expensive. It stands to reason that they will only improve battery technology insofar as it affects the bottom line.
And when I talk about concrete positive policy decisions, I mean things like electrifying rail (no batteries needed!), making ROW investments for passenger rail to compete with car/short plane trips and improving local connectivity for non-drivers via transit and bike infrastructure. All of those goals are things that I view as critical to reducing car dependence – which I think is a worthy goal even without climate change considerations. I want to live in a vibrant, human scaled city that doesn’t really on single occupancy vehicles as the only efficient means to get around.
Considering that I have repeatedly pointed out that consumption-based emissions and agriculture-based emissions are larger than that of low-occupancy vehicles, it’s fascinating that you seem to be claiming that I am arguing for “techno-fetishism and … innovation from the auto industry”. It’s profoundly unfortunate that many USAnians who care about ecocide avoid or downplay the largest sources of GHG emissions (because overconsumption and eating enormous quantities of animal products are essential aspects of this hyper-narcissistic culture).
Fig. 1 | GHG emissions from the food system in different sectors in 2015.Total GHG emissions (including CO2, CH4, N2O and F-gases) are expressed as CO2e calculated using the GWP100 values used in the IPCC AR5, with a value of 28 for CH4 and 265 for N2O.
“The largest contribution came from agriculture and land use/land-use change activities (71%), with the remaining were from supply chain activities: retail, transport, consumption, fuel production, waste management, industrial processes and packaging. Temporal trends and regional contributions of GHG emissions from the food system are also discussed.”
I completely agree. I would also add that bike portland commenters who poo poo battery-mediated electrification (effectively a pro ICE position) and large-scale battery storage (effectively a pro fracked gas peaker plant position) sound like they don’t care about global heating.
This cracks me up. No one here is more anti-SUV/Truck/minivan/(sedan) and pro-electrified mass transit than I. However, electrification of the vast majority of USAnian urban mass transit* will be greatly aided by the advances in battery technology that you dismiss as “techno-fetishism and banking on innovation from the auto industry”.
I would also add that the cognitive dissonance that bikes are somehow “essential” to decarbonization in the BP comments is not reality-based. Some of the most sustainable urban transportation systems have very low bike mode share and in some cases riding bikes is actively discouraged.
The tacit assumption among active transportation aficionados that the USA is even capable of Netherlands-style cycling mode share is dangerous given its built-environment and deeply regressive culture. Sure, it would be great if the USA or Portland could achieve 25% mode share but, let’s be realistic, the likelihood of this happening in the next 8 years is close to zero. Because I care more about reducing the unavoidable horror of ecocide more than my personal transportation preference, I am willing to accept that EV-based harm reduction is more possible than some subjectively “perfect mitigation” in the short/medium-term. EVs definitely have negative externalities but they can be rapidly adopted with little added infrastructure cost. (A large decrease in VMT is also desperately needed but in Portland even so-called active transportation advocates were silent when the city punted on congestion pricing corridors.)
*The USA is a deeply backwards (no modern train system in most areas) and regressive nation (absurd land/transportation-system costs)
Comment of the week: “ Sure, it would be great if the USA or Portland could achieve 25% mode share but, let’s be realistic, the likelihood of this happening in the next 8 years is close to zero.”
I think anyone paying attention to Portland bike issues for the past twenty years would be hard pressed to disagree.
I remember when this Friday cartoon was published, and it’s as spot on today as it was in 2010:
And in 2021 we discovered that our PBOT commissioner didn’t know it even existed. We also came to accept that we have completely ceded our off-street bike/walking infrastructure (and many painted bike lanes) to urban campers. We’ll be lucky if we can maintain current biking levels over the next few years. 25% modal share will never happen.
Over-consumption is absolutely a primary concern for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And industrial meat production is a big driver of climate change. Don’t really see how that is relevant to the specifics of EV adoption though.
I am advocating for people to drive much less, because I think cars make the city I live in less enjoyable. That includes EVs, they are still loud and space inefficient. If someone needs to buy a new car, I would hope they consider an EV – but I would prefer that they simply didn’t purchase a car at all. Large scale battery storage on the electric grid is a good tool to reduce dependence on baseline generation like gas and coal. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only one – other storage systems like pumped hydro, or cleaner baseline generation like nuclear I think are more important.
Those positions are not “effectively a pro ICE position” or “effectively a pro fracked gas peaker plant position”
And yes, the people who comment on a site called BikePortland like to Bike, and think it could be a tool to improve sustainability in our community. Not sure why that is coming as a surprise to you. I view biking as a great way to reduce car trips, and a great way to see region I live in.
I am of the opinion that EVs represent a minor upgrade to a ICE in terms of environmental impact, and I think you are too. We should probably both stop wasting each others time arguing endlessly in the comments of different articles about this.
Andrew, FWIW, I’ve learned from your back and forth with Soren. It has been a good hashing out of ideas, thank you! I know it takes a lot of time, but people read the comments.
It’s relevant because I never miss an opportunity to get on my soapbox when it comes to consumption and agriculture/land use. It’s also relevant because urban cycling advocates often behave as if increased cycling mode share is a holy grail of climate mitigation when, in a best case scenario, it would have a modest impact.
The “enjoyment” of the global 1% (e.g. the majority of Portlanders) is one of the primary drivers of hyperconsumption. I want global 1 percenters to sacrifice for the common good, not seek yet more “enjoyment”. If EVs are the most rapid path toward decarbonization in the USA, then I support them even though they may make the city less enjoyable for some of Portland’s 1 percenters.
Describing nuclear generation as cleaner than grid-scale battery storage is absurd and misses the point entirely. Virtually every component of current grid-scale battery storage is recyclable whereas current nuclear technology produces enormous amounts of unusable waste (coolant, shielding, and fuel). It also betrays a lack of understanding of the role of grid storage which is to buffer the intermittency of renewables (replacing fracked gas-fired peakers) so that the remaining 10-20% of non-renewable energy generation can be removed. Nuclear cannot be turned on and off rapidly and best functions as a replacement for base load plants (e.g. coal, diesel, oil) in areas where renewable energy is not feasible. Nuclear energy is reviled by the left and center and is being rapidly phased out* so is becoming a moot point.
I don’t share your opinion at all. I view electrification of transit, intercity transit, and light vehicles as the likeliest path forward for deep decarbonization of transportation in the USA**. This is why I object so strongly to anti-battery rhetoric that repeats some of the same disinformation used by pro-fossil fuel conservatives.
I think there is enormous resistance to electrification in the USA and I would not be surprised to see anti-electrification become a major part of USAnian culture wars (attempts to impede electrification by republicans once they control the legislative and/or executive branches are certain).
*Ironically, existing nuclear is being decommissioned early and replaced with fracked-gas and coal base load plants which is a huge step backwards when it comes to the climate crisis.
**In the USA electrification could perpetuate the current inequities in our transportation systems (but this would be a choice). Regions with more social cohesion and less dysfunction will likely rely on a more diverse and equitable mix of mitigation pathways but the USA is always and exception.
Spot on – I don’t think I could have said it better.
I would like to add that in nearly all urban centers in the US, they have seen a large increase in density over the past 20 years. This is important as it has driven urbanization – and those living patterns inherently use less land and resources, and have spurred tremendous reinvestment in our urban centers compared to the 50 years of suburban growth beforehand.
Even if all of these people in the ur an centers drive cars, they are usually driving shorter distances. Some choose to walk or bike, which is great. However, it’s the generation growing up in these urban neighborhoods who will have the biggest impact, not all of us idiots. In any case, the next generation will be too broke to buy cars, which are averaging what, $45,000 these days? I don’t even know anyone who can afford a new car these days, not even my company owner!!
Soren, the NYT had a video recently which powerfully presented the environmental costs of industrial agriculture.
It’s part of a series and supports what you are saying about carbon and ag. Plus, it takes your same POV that lefties are not keeping their eye on all the balls.
Total EV sales in the US were less than 500,000 last year (3% of the market), so “millions” is a bit generous. Single digit millions, I suppose. The Ford F150 pickup sold over 700,000 last year; significantly more than the entire EV market.
The EV market is a rounding error at this point.
I don’t disagree that it’s not a huge number or anything – but the number I saw was 1.3 million on the road right now. I suppose the plural is a bit generous there then 🙂
I would not be surprised to see the USA utterly fail at transportation electrification (as it has failed at intercity rail and public transit).
Conversely, auto manufacturers have a huge incentive to reduce the weight of an EV: the less weight, the higher the efficiency, and the longer range of the ev before you have to recharge it. Range is king. Nobody really wants an 82 mile Leaf. Everyone wants a 500 mile EV without paying for a $30k battery. Ergo, lighter and higher efficiency EVs are critical compared to a gas car. However, they are still going to manufacture SUV and pickup EVs. But at least they won’t coal roll you.
This is ‘murrica so I’m sure someone will rig a modified diesel generator onto the flat bed of their F150 lightning. 0-60 in 5 seconds and you can still roll coal on the libs!
For the record, I went almost ten years in Portland being carefree. I had to get a car because I started working in the burbs and got a job where traveling 100+ miles a day a few times a month was the norm, and you still had to go back to the office and put in another 6 hours.
Anyways, I digress. My wife and I got priced our of Portland and had to move to the burbs. Our 30-40 minute bike commute was replaced by a 1.5 hour bus ride. So we finally broke down and had to buy a car… Then two. Plus visiting family almost 100 miles away kind of requires it because let’s face it, this isn’t Europe.
5 years ago we purchased a used EV, and two years ago I bought a second used EV. So we finally ditched our gas guzzlers. And I have to say, yes they do weigh a bit more than the average gas car… but cars are basically going away. The big three won’t be manufacturing sedans or coupes anymore. It’s all trucks, SUVs and crossovers. They’re all huge. Half the trucks weigh more than 8,000 lbs. The average SUV or crossover probably weighs 4-5,000 lbs.
Sure, am EV will have a 1,000+ lb battery in its belly, but at least it’s carbon footpri t over it’s lifetime will be a fraction of a gas car.
And yes, we would all love it if we could give up cars and only ride electric trains and buses. But here’s the thing:. I’ve been waiting 20 years for an upgraded Amtrak Cascades and light rail to Vancouver (ok, make than 25 years). News flash: it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. We have until 2030 to go zero carbon. Waiting until the year 2100 before a third light rail line gets built, that no one uses, in one city in America, is not going to cancel global warming.
I’ve been a bike Portland reader for about 20 years. But let’s be realistic: Portland’s bike boom golden years cane and went. I’ve seen about 10 cyclists in the past two years. It’s dead.
I just bought a new to me e cargo bike. It’s amazing. I’m hopeful that ebikes will help drive a new era of biking around portland.
Ebikes open up a world for people who’d never view themselves as “bikers” or read this website.
I upgraded to a recycled/reused 62 kwh battery to avoid the temptation of buying a @#$%ing E-SUV in the future.
It’s horrible isn’t it. The war on cars has been won by Fordist corporations. Instead of cars that resemble lightweight throttle-on cargo bikes (e.g. a right-sized-EV) we get hulking designed-to-be-lethal monstrosities.
IMO, all cars should look like this but be ~50% lighter (composites) and have a 300 km+ range:
In our day of global warming and inequality, nobody should have even a tricycle — a walking stick is plenty, IMO. I scorn anyone who disagrees.
Regarding the three types of Cycling Advocate:
The widespread disappointment (at least, I saw it in the comments on BP) with Iannarone’s recent suggestion to close all of the arterials in Portland reminds me of this “three types” framework. Of course, many of us, the Relentlessly Critical Advocates, might have thought “well, why is it homeless people’s fault that cars are so dangerous???” That’s an extreme position, but it’s actually kinda logical, in a dorm-room-philosophy sense.
Iannarone, on the other hand, actually makes a living as an advocate for street safety, and as such, must work alongside government officials and elected officers. She’s got to be the “Strategic Advocate,” and work constructively within the bounds of legal and political reality… not pie in the sky idealism. More than the rest of us, shouldn’t she act and speak as part of the reality based community?
So it was disappointing or annoying to a lot of commenters because it doesn’t seem to fit the role that she holds in local transportation activism.
Good points and this is why Inarone has been ineffective in her role and has destroyed her credibility with any major player involved in transportation in the Portland Metro area. Extremism is not the way to make positive change.