Welcome to the week.
Here are the most notable items our writers and readers came across in the past seven days…
Behind the NIMBY curtain: A must-read article from a NY Times housing reporter (who moderated a panel at YIMBYtown) that profiles a powerful activist in the no-growth stronghold of Mill Valley, California. This article helps explain why many Boomers who love progressive causes also hate the idea of new condos being built in their own neighborhoods.
Bereaved, not beaten: The New Yorker goes in-depth on the nonprofit Family for Safe Streets and its founder Amy Cohen to reveal how unspeakable tragedy can lead to influential advocacy.
Coffee and community: Learn more about Coffee Outside, a growing movement (with a strong Portland presence) that brings people together by bike to enjoy each other in an inclusive, non-competitive environment.
Plastic bike: Igus has created a bike that’s made entirely out of plastic which comes with a seductive lifetime promise of no maintenance or corrosion.
Toxic tires: “Almost 2,000 times more particle pollution is produced by tyre wear than is pumped out of the exhausts of modern cars,” reports The Guardian in news that we hope makes it to the desk of politicians eager to perpetuate car culture via freeway expansions and battery-powered autos.
Homelessness politics: The political dynamic in the race for California governor reminds me of the race between Rene Gonzalez and Jo Ann Hardesty and this article in The Atlantic does a great job laying out how a more centrist candidate hopes to use frustration with homelessness against a left-leaning incumbent.
Worse than the CRC: Notable to see the VP of conservative think tank Cascade Policy Institute making the case that the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project is headed for such a bad outcome that we’d be better off if the project died again.
Cheap transit, not cheap gas: While U.S. politicians scramble to reduce gas prices and provide relief for car drivers, the German government has created a $9.50 per month transit pass that allows everyone to use local and regional trains, buses and subways.
Read these books: Get to know the work of the late Dervla Murphy, a travel writer who completed many epic trips by bike, in this obituary marking her death at 90 years old.
Video of the Week: ‘Beyond the Binary’ is a new film from Shimano that introduces us to KC Cross, “a black, non-binary, queer athlete who has committed to love and acceptance – loving themselves and welcoming others to do the same.”
Thanks to everyone who sent in links!
There’s also new research connecting tires to 6PPD-Q, a chemical that is incredible toxic to fish. Tires are increasing linked to water pollution in addition to air pollution. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220302092649.htm and https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/12/03/tire-related-chemical-largely-responsible-for-adult-coho-salmon-deaths-in-urban-streams/)
When I read that study in 2020 I thought it would get a lot more attention and spur more action, especially in Northern California and the PNW. But everyone just shrugged, and I’m not sure why.
Because 95% of people drive cars. And even the environmental savior electric cars use rubber tires with the same amount of pollution.
That’s the 95% of daily commuters who are measured in the American Community Survey by the US Census. That percentage is much lower if you are measuring the whole population, particularly in NYC. Here in car-centric Greensboro NC, the most car-friendly city of America as measured by Wayz, that figure is closer 75% of all residents, as it excludes many of the elderly, most children under 16, many people convicted of driving offenses, many homeless and others who cannot afford to own a car, some of the handicapped and die-hard bus users, and the dozen Portland ex-pats here who try desperately to continue to support their car-free lifestyles…
The Nimby story is behind a paywall. Bummer.
The plastic bike is an abomination, on many levels. I’m reminded of an article in a Bridgestone bicycle catalog I recieved in 1994:
It is not behind a paywall for everyone. The NYT allows non-subscribing readers a certain number of free articles a month, once you’ve read your share they ask you to subscribe.
“That thing I see value in seems to want me to show I value it by paying for it. Bummer.”
Seriously, I think most folks can find a way to get to those stories in some way.
Either pay the $1/week to subscribe (and support more stories like that), or go through a library, or a school, or an cleared-cookies or incognito browser, etc.
It’s not that hard. Quality news isn’t free to produce. People need to eat.
Funny, I found the concept interesting. Glad someone is thinking outside the box and not sticking with “traditional” bike manufacturing. I could see where some people could use that kind of bike in a climate/situation where the traditional metal and oil bike doesn’t do well.
If it catches on it can only improve with time.
I love the “make it last” article you shared, thanks!
Plastic Bike: I won’t repeat the excellent cynical comments from the website, but I will add that even my Scotchbright plastic scouring pad needs replacing periodically, particularly when sand, salt, and grit are mixed in. Nice video though – is that Cologne in the background?
Dervla Murphy’s books are treasures! Please go seek any one of them out. She exemplified the idea that a bike will take you to new worlds. She and Neal Peart may be leading a tour together in the afterlife.
“NIMBY” is mostly an ageist slur conveniently lobbed at anyone the speaker seeks to marginalize, regardless of the issue at hand. Just like how “Karen” is now the progressive-approved substitute for calling a woman the B- or even C-word.
It’s sad to see people dehumanized by this language. Yet the small-minded are absolutely addicted to its use.
It’s easier to label someone a NIMBY and dismiss them than to actually empathize with their point of view and have a constructive conversation.
Sorry that their destructive behavior has earned them a title with negative connotation? Yes NIMBY and Karen is a label, but with good reason. It describes their actions and beliefs. Any one of us can hash over the reasons why they deserve these titles but its tiring over and over again so we use these labels, not because we are “small minded”.
Old people: own all the houses and won’t let anyone build anything
Other people: point this out in a critical way
Old people: Ageism!
Also, the Karen term transcends politics.
I agree. I didn’t open the article because it’s behind a paywall and I don’t want to provide the NYT with my email address. However, I’m curious if the following statement is in the article or is it an editorial slant/snark by BP? If the latter, that’s unfortunate. I no longer read The Mercury for this reason.
“This article helps explain why many Boomers who love progressive causes also hate the idea of new condos being built in their own neighborhoods.”
That’s my line Mark. What don’t you like about it?
I’m not a writer, but when I parse your statement I see not-so subtle sarcasm, emotion-laden labels, and generalizations: “many Boomers”, “who love progressive causes”, “also hate the idea”. I recognize you need to use words to get the clicks, but I’d prefer more straight-up reporting.
If you’re curious, I spill all here on my current politics. Note my closing comments (D from 1974–2021, who favored progressive causes). Based on what I’m currently reading, it seems that I’m not alone, even in Portland, OR.
That said, I know you’re getting ready to launch your site, so I certainly understand if you don’t take time to read my page now or even later.
Good luck on your rollout! I’m not going to lie. After 40 years in IT, I don’t miss the production go-lives. Too many sleepless nights and weekends to count.
You should read the article, or similar ones about the housing issues in California. The Sierra Club has opposed dense developments in the bay area, which seems to go against their principles of preserving wild places and nature in general. The self-serving interests of long-time homeowners seems to supersede their environmental concerns here. Opposing dense developments in desirable places leads to sprawling developments that destroy habitats in California.
Please re-read my posts. I was responding to Jonathan’s characterization (wording) of the article, not the content of the article. I live in Oregon, not California. I supported Oregon’s HB2001 and Portland’s Residential Infill Project (RIP). If you’re interested, you can read my public testimony on RIP.
Mark, if you want to comment on Jonah’s summary and assessment of an article, then please read the article first. I just did, and think his sentence is spot on. It features a homeowner who is a Sierra Club member, supports Amnesty International etc but has been fighting the construction of a condominium nearby for 20 years. Jonah’s description simply captures this juxtaposition accurately.
Stephan, please reread my earlier posts, particularly my last comment to Chris. It was not the content of the article, which I was able to finally read, but Jonathan’s choice of words.
I’m not a writer, but I think it would’ve been better to simply use the original Seattle Times story headline, which follows. I see that other publications who also reported the story chose to do that.
Twilight of the NIMBY
Suburban homeowners like Susan Kirsch are often blamed for worsening the nation’s housing crisis. That doesn’t mean she’s giving up her two-decade fight against 20 condos.
In his summary, Jonathan chose to use other words, which I think added another layer of meaning for BP readers to interpret.
The NYT headline was also shorter (31 words) than Jonathan’s 58 word summary. Of course, the amount of ink in an online publication doesn’t really matter like it did in the days of print journalism.
Finally, if you’re interested, here is my 2020 public testimony on Portland’s Residential Infill Project (RIP). Be forewarned, it’s a long read and includes some word salad.
Oops. My link didn’t resolve. This one should. https://www.portlandmaps.com/bps/testimony/item.cfm#search=Mark%20mcclure&itemID=83054
The article about Nimbyism in Marin leaves out a crucial issue. Those apartments they want to build are far from transit and far from commercial areas. The residents would most likely drive everywhere. There are places in Marin that can and should have more density, for example near the stations of the SMART train between Santa Rosa and San Rafael, or near the ferry terminal in Larkspur. But density needs to be balance with preserving open space.
“This housing isn’t perfect and therefore we should not many new units in a city whose median home price is $1.5 million” isn’t quite the argument you may think it is.
It is however a regular issue even in cities where the median home price is under $200,000. Housing projects and higher density are often built where land is cheapest rather than where the need is greatest and services already exist, including public transit. If poor people can only find affordable housing in outer suburbs that have no public transit nor community services, aren’t we simply condemning those new residents to continued cycles of poverty, crime, and gun violence?
It is hard to provide adequate public transit services when all you build is single family homes. In a lot of non-us cities, there is density right up to the city limits allowing for people living on the edges of urbanization to have world class public transport.
We should do anything that furthers housing affordability even if it isn’t perfect and ideal because otherwise we will never get anywhere.
I entirely agree with you. My community of Greensboro NC is a case in point – our misguided city council publicly prefers to build 17,000 units of SFR and only 5,000 units of MFR, to deal with our ongoing 22,000 unit housing shortage, on various greenfields where our city does not currently have transit, community services, nor even utilities. Never mind the sheer cost of building so many homes – it likely will never happen – the climate impact of so much new sprawl and more driving will alone likely kill our city, not to mention increased maintenance costs, need for more police, etc. Meanwhile our current bus service has just 11,000 users per day – that’s less than just the MAX Yellow Line in Portland – awful for a city of 300,000 with 7 colleges and universities.
How do you feel about tent cities near subway stations and community centers as DC and other cities have right now? It’s not ideal in terms of aesthetics and sanitation, but it does increase housing density and affordability, does it not?
ROH, you might want to take a peek at the reader comments in that NYT nimby article.
How can someone write an article about growth in CA w/o mentioning water or fire?
Lisa, I agree since Marin has a more fragile water supply than SF or East Bay which get their water from Hetch Hetchy. My point was that Marin is a very sprawled out, car dependent place except for a few areas. If they are going to increase housing they should do it in areas that are less car dependent
Marin is car dependent because it is a bunch of sprawled out single family homes. You are talking chicken and egg. It is really close to downtown SF, and if it had been allowed to grow organically instead of limited by zoning restrictions it would probably already have the infrastructure for public transit. California needs density everywhere, that’s why it’s so expensive to live there. There will always be somewhere “better” to put an apartment complex, but that shouldn’t stop them from building the housing that is desperately needed.
Worth noting: the bike infrastructure through Marin into downtown SF is pretty good, so denser housing could absolutely be used for bike commuters.
Let’s let the property owner and future residents decide that for themselves.
Restricting dense developments like the apartments in the cited article is a good way to destroy open space.
I agree, which is why I believe zoning decisions should be made locally by communities/neighborhoods, not controlled by the city or state.
HOA/city council leaders are almost always homeowners in that immediate area, which effectively makes these organizations a housing cartel. They own the supply and don’t allow any competitors. If the goal is absolute local control, then that control should be in the hands of the property owner. States are taking action because of the negative outcomes that these housing cartels create.
The toxicity of car tire particulates makes the stunts, drifting and burn outs of the fast car crowd that much more despicable.
2 minutes into the new BP format and I’m already missing the old one. Now BP looks like all the other crass commercial blogs. Sigh…
sorry you don’t like it David. Any more specific feedback? It will be an iterative process and it’s not done yet by any stretch. Here’s more https://bikeportland.org/2022/06/07/welcome-to-our-new-site-355781
I typically view your website on a Mac desktop, and right now I’m seeing a lot of boring empty white space, and quite frankly it makes me feel a bit claustrophobic, as if I’m just one of the unknown masses viewing this blog. Whereas the old site had definite graphic borders, and it made me feel that I was part of a smaller community of core bicycle advocates, the best in the country if not in the world. I know this is irrational, but the old site felt far more exciting, while this new site feels, well, bland…
I’ll have to try it on my cell phone sometime to see if the experience is significantly different or better, as I’m sure most of your audience is now phone based.
It would be interesting to see what portion of participation using various platforms (PC, Mac, cell phones, etc) has changed over time since 2005, and find out if you get what Squareman calls more thoughtful responses using different platforms. I’m sure your cookies would distinguish the different users. Measuring the quality of responses is really up to you.
Thanks David. There is more whitespace with this design and I hear your concerns. Whitespace can be really good when managed correctly and we’ll keep tweaking until it feels better. Keep in mind it might take some getting used to. I agree that we might also need more colored shading to narrow things down a bit. Thanks.
“iterative process” – Only a transportation geek or an engineer would even use that phrase correctly, as you have done.
Here’s something very specific: This light grey print is incredibly difficult to read. I wish people who design websites would beta test them with someone over 50.
How do tire particulates affect bicycles?
I think the point is that they affect the respiratory health of everyone that lives in an urban environment. It’s probably of greater concern for people recreating on roadways, such as cyclists. But there’s also the point that bicycles, being lighter vehicles with smaller tires, produce less tire wear related particulates. So if you are concerned with reducing particulate pollution to promote the respiratory health of the overall population, getting more people to convert from car based transportation to bicycle based transportation is not a bad place to start.