City counts reveal data behind Portland’s precipitous drop in cycling

More bike infrastructure has not always led to more bike riders. This is the new bike/bus lane on SW Main at 4th in downtown Portland. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
Cover of the report.

It’s no secret that bicycle ridership in Portland has decreased in recent years; but just how much was anyone’s guess. Thankfully the Portland Bureau of Transportation just released their first bicycle count report since 2014.

The good news is we now have more data to help us understand cycling trends in the city. The bad news is, based on PBOT’s 2022 counts, biking in Portland has dropped back to levels not seen since 2006. “That a decline is occurring in both numbers of people bicycling and in mode split is undeniable. Why it is happening is difficult to determine,” states the report.

To get their numbers, PBOT relied on a tried-and-true method they’ve used for about three decades: an army of volunteers with clipboards who count every bicycle rider they see at hundreds of locations citywide over a two-hour period. They then extrapolate those counts to come up with a daily traffic number. In addition to these 105 volunteer counts (at 234 locations), PBOT used automated counts from fixed pneumatic hoses at 74 locations. The final ingredient are commute-to-work survey data collected by the U.S. Census.

Instead of sharing a raw number from their 2022 count, PBOT has decided to compare the data of three, four-year time periods: 2013 to 2016, 2016 to 2019, and 2019 to 2022. Those three periods take us from our plateau (0.5% increase), the beginning of the downward decline (10% decrease citywide), and then the cliff of the final period when PBOT says bicycling dropped by 34.9% between 2019 and 2022.

To put a finer point on the decline since 2019, just nine years ago (in 2013) PBOT says there were 3,478 people riding bikes in the central city. During the counts last summer, there were just 1,122 people on bikes — a 45.9% drop. Across 184 count locations, PBOT tallied 17,579 people biking in 2022, a 37% drop from the 27,782 counted at the same locations in 2019.

According to the Census, Portland’s bike-to-work percentage plummeted to just 2.8% in 2021 — down by almost half from the 5.4% in 2020 and well off our nation-leading peak of 7.2% in 2014. That Census number has long been criticized because it focuses only on the work trip and the lack of trust in the Census more broadly in recent years makes its data even more suspect. But it remains an important tally because of its longevity and its influence on federal funding and policy decisions.

While this news is deflating, at least we’re not alone. All other big U.S. cities have seen similar declines. And even at 2.8% we’re still tops.

The Census numbers also mirror Portland’s own counts, which have shown a steady decline since 2014. So far, PBOT says they have no idea why this is happening.

In the report, PBOT details how they’ve continued to build out the city’s bikeway network (77 of it miles since 2014), the majority of which were either neighborhood greenways, protected bike lanes or off-street paths. Here’s PBOT making their case that the biking drop isn’t because of bad infrastructure:

“It is easy to argue that Portland’s bikeway network is of higher quality and reaches into more parts of the city than in 2014- 2015 when bicycle commute mode split and the number of people biking to work peaked. Despite these efforts, bicycle use—as reflected in both commute data and the city’s annual counts— has continued to drop. The pandemic can explain much of the recent, precipitous drop in biking, but it does not explain the downward trend before 2020.”

The report also breaks the counts down by geographic area, gender, and helmet use.

Not surprising, the area with the lowest average number of riders was east of I-205 and the area with the highest average was southeast Portland. That lack of ridership in east Portland is a huge problem for PBOT — especially since they’ve spent many millions in recent years installing new bike infrastructure. The lack of people using the bikeways just fuels the anti-bike fires and the sooner we get folks on two wheels the better (which is why I’m convinced the answer is to drop 1,000 or so new Biketown bikes east of I-205).

Perhaps building on the case that public safety concerns are top-of-mind for many people when it comes their choice to ride a bike, the counts revealed the first significant drop in 13 years in the number of riders who were identified as women. Just 28% of bike riders counted citywide were identified as women, down from the usual 31-32%. Volunteers counted the fewest riders marked down as women, 18%, and the lowest rate of helmet use, 56%, in east Portland.

To build back Portland’s once-vaunted base of bike riders will take time and a concentrated effort to change the narrative (and the reality) about safety. As I shared yesterday in our annual accounting of traffic deaths, the vulnerability felt by all bike riders when it comes to their personal safety can easily trump any good news about new infrastructure. Things like incentives and public events to build community were at the foundation of Portland’s rise as a cycling capitol and we’d be smart to keep those going as well.

One interesting thing I noticed recently in looking at traffic fatality data is that when more people biked in Portland, a lot fewer people died. Just 20 people died while using Portland roads in 2008 when our bicycling rates made a massive leap. And the recent rise in traffic fatalities began in 2014, the same year Portland’s bicycling rates began to fall.


Learn more about PBOT’s bike counts on their website and download a PDF of the 2022 Bike Count Report here.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Dave
Dave
1 year ago

I still commute to work by bike most days as I’ve done for 11 years now. From Hillsdale to Lloyd District and back; roughly 15 miles round trip. Route to work includes Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy, Barbur Blvd, Naito Pkwy, either Tom McCall Park to Steel Bridge or Hawthorn Bridge to SE 7th/NE 12th. Ride home includes Blumenauer Bridge, SW Jefferson, SW Broadway, and Terwilliger (past OHSU). In the last five years it’s become -much- more dangerous. Days where I -don’t- have to make a defensive/evasive move to avoid a motor vehicle collision are the exception. Also, ironically, the segregated bike lanes on Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy, Naito, SW Broadway, and elsewhere have made the commute MORE dangerous as these lanes fill up with gravel, broken glass and plastic, chunks of metal, and other debris that compromises traction, causes punctures, and which PBOT does not clean/remove for months, if ever. Many of these segregated lanes have problematic crossings and/or merges. One particularly worth mentioning is the new and “improved” intersection of Bertha Blvd and Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy which is extremely dangerous and much worse than it used to be. In summary: The three things that will either stop me from commuting by bike or will kill or disable me (which will stop me from commuting by bike): 1) Motorists that present a hazard 2) Debris-filled segregated bike lanes 3) Dangerous merges and/or crossings.

Seth Alford
Seth Alford
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave

I used to bicycle commute downtown, over some of the same route you describe, before retiring in 2018. I agree the Bertha and BH intersection is worse. In 10+ years of going through that intersection, many days of the week, before the current redesign, I did experience the occasional near right hook. The total was maybe half a dozen times over the course of those 10+ years.

I only have ridden that way once since the redesign. And had a near right hook that one time.

Yes, “1” versus “half a dozen” is merely anecdote, and not data. But your experience, and mine, are indicative of a problem.

dw
dw
1 year ago

There’s a couple factors that are hard to quantify but I think are contributing.
1) A lot of people have moved here from car-dependent places and brought that lifestyle with them. The number one complaint I hear from transplants is “how hard it is for drivers” here. They come for the good urbanism but still want to drive for half mile trips.
2) The complete lack of enforcement. The streets are insane these days. On my ride to work this morning I saw 6(!) people run red lights, one of them almost hit me.

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  dw

I think this is an under-talked about point. Portland is a city that has boomed in population in the last 20 years – about 100k (~17%) between 2000 and 2020. While some of us (me) moved from places where biking was already ingrained, I imagine most folks did not. Culture plays a big role in cycling, and people don’t often change their ways as adults. Even if Portland had/has a reputation for bike friendliness, how many of the transplants saw that as a reason to pick it up?

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Portland’s population has shrunk ~2% over the past several years. It’s conceivable that this trend will continue.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 year ago
Reply to  dw

I’m probably in the minority but I came from a car dependent place. I purposely moved to Portland because of the bike scene and so I could live car free. Only recently have I started to consider buying a car again because of how dangerous it has gotten out there. I too see cars running red lights several times on my commute to work now. Like full-on look left, then right, and then gun the red light straight trough the intersection. Other times up to 4 or 5 cars still proceed through once the light has turned red, that I now wait and look both ways once I get the green. Left turn lights are only a suggestion now. Stop signs, even crossing greenways have become 15 mph zones. It’s horrible out there and the cops don’t even give a f*ck.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

The harder PBOT makes it to drive in Portland, the more motorists will take liberties on the road.

Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago
Reply to  FDUP

Huh? Did you bike here 10 and 20 years ago?

Now if you had added the role that PPB / judicial system has had in reinforcing poor driver behavior by permissively letting the streets ‘go traffic feral’ then you would have a stronger point.

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  FDUP

Do you have any relevant stats to back this up? Has PBOT even made it materially harder to drive? And what are you even trying to say, that it’s pointless to make it harder to drive and we should acquiesce to motorists most basic urges?

Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Its drivers that let good cars run red lights…

America Grau
America Grau
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Same here. I haven’t touched my bike for over a year and I bought a car, which I had never owned in my life before… I’ll sell it soon because I am moving away. It’s crazy. You guys here in the US need to fix the roots cause: press your legislators to have a jail system that helps people, rather than misstreate them so much they become traumatized individuals in society. Keeping people out of jail and turning cities into an open jail/psych ward is not the way to go. Sending legislators to Norway to learn about it, and coming back to only change the name of inmates is not going to do it… https://www.huffpost.com/entry/oregon-prison-system-legal-assistant_n_62604225e4b08393e1bfdd7f

Brendan
Brendan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

I moved out of Portland proper due to petty/property crime that was annoying.
I work from home more often.
Now I bike for fun, not to get to work.

So I wouldn’t get counted.

soren
soren
1 year ago

I have a lot more to say about this but, at the very least, I hope this puts to rest the idea that there was a “pandemic bike boom” or an “e-bike boom”. As someone who commuted ~6 times a week in 2020, 2021, and 2022 the cratering of transportation cycling was no surprise to me. And as I’ve stated many times, the safety in numbers effect has largely disappeared and this has very likely contributed to the dramatic increase in reckless and/or aggressive driver behavior around people cycling (pandemic and societal dysfunction stresses are also likely contributing factors).

2022 data for Williams:

comment image

In considering data going back to 2006, and excluding locations where 2022 was the only data point, the 2022 count was the lowest recorded at 126 locations (56%)

EEE
EEE
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

Any financial numbers to back-up the absence of booms? People like to be surrounded by pretty things, but it doesn’t mean they’ll actually use them or change their habits.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  EEE

My $0.02 is that I never get counted b/c I don’t ride anywhere I’m likely to be counted, and I’ll bet I’m not alone.

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

I think there are a lot of factors going on here leading to the drop, but I will say it feels like drivers have only gotten more hostile over time. That plus bigger trucks and SUVs is a bad combination. I’ve been yelled at and honked at when legally using Portland’s bike facilities. I can’t imagine that a less confident/less bike obsessed rider than me would feel very comfortable riding considering that. Many people, even in Portland, feel that the streets are for cars and if you are riding on them as a cyclist you are a pest or criminal who is “obstructing traffic” and shouldn’t be there. Many seem to think you deserve to be abused.

Also, land use matters a lot. It’s really no wonder that East Portland has low ridership still despite investment, when a large portion of it is very sprawling and unwalkable. If there are few destinations to bike to, there are going to be few riders. That doesn’t mean the bike infrastructure isn’t worth it, I think it is regardless, but our land use patterns are going to have to change. I’d like to see an effort to build dense public housing in central parts of the burbs and the city proper

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben

The harder PBOT makes it to drive in Portland, the more motorists will take liberties on the road.

Matt S.
Matt S.
1 year ago
Reply to  FDUP

I have to say I’m ashamed of myself. I moved here in 2008 without a car, I rode everywhere for six years. Then my job necessitated me getting a car. I’ve been driving every since. I’ve tried to ride my bike a few times but I just don’t feel safe like I did back then. And people are right, I follow the rules, but you can pretty much do anything in the car and not get pulled over. I’m not even close to being afraid of being stopped.

Helen
Helen
1 year ago
Reply to  FDUP

Does “take liberties” mean “try to run over cyclists”?

Mike
Mike
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben

There needs to be common sense car control. Universal background checks and governors that top the speed at 15 mph. Who needs to drive over 15 mph? Car free zones need to be established as well.

nuovorecord
nuovorecord
1 year ago

Can’t say this is surprising. I would guess the decline is primarily among the “Interested, but Concerned” group of would-be cyclists. Homeless camps taking over bikeways, lack of police enforcement of driving laws, general diminishment of how we treat each other…it all adds up. I can only speak for myself, but these are the main reasons why I gave up cycling. I’m not willing to become a statistic. Nor are a lot of others, so it would seem.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  nuovorecord

Agreed. Here are some of the reasons I have noticed among people I know:

  1. people driving crazy in cars- speeding, running lights, u-turns, stopping in lanes/bike lanes, distracted, probably drunk/high,
  2. no accountability for people driving (no plates, no enforcement, busted up cars),
  3. no cops around and a huge distrust of cops (plus a stigma of asking a cop for help),
  4. lots and lots of open drug use +super high/unpredictable people +drug paraphenelia everywhere (fear of needle pokes/inhaling fentanyl),
  5. trash everywhere and poor/reduced maintenance- bike lanes, MUP, and transit mall are trashed
  6. public spaces being occupied- Penisnula Crossing Trail, Springwater, Marien Drive- peopel are being threatened- not very many people have a tolerance for that
  7. fewer eyes on the street during covid
  8. sketchy transit: scary behavior, violent incidents, trash and smoking on trains and transit stops= no bike+transit trips
  9. fewer people on the roads=easier to drive
  10. work from home
  11. parking amnesty- no tickets
  12. safety concerns re covid- a lot ambiguous information at the start of covid about catching the virus/being in public- biking went to about zero during the first year or so when there was some bad information/conflicting info about susceptability and mask usage outdoors
  13. crime is rampant- bike theft there are no safe places to leave a a bike, even well-locked
  14. crime is rampant- violent crimes: shooting, armed robberies are way up. People are less safe on a bike.
  15. streets not maintained: camps not removed from bike lanes, street lights not repaired, bike wands not replaced when driven over. In the past year, things have changed and lot of things are cleaner/functional again, but trust is broken
  16. PBOT is implementing bad designs (Greeley, 7th/TIllamook, Blumenaur, etc) and accepting bad construction: see puddles and bumps on Naito

I am sure there are a ton more, but these are things I have heard form people in my orbit- I am sure there are more. My point is that it is not anyone thing, PBOT deserves plenty of blame but certainly not all of it.

Todd McAllister
Todd McAllister
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

Amazingly spot-on answer. Two of us back on bikes, one for the first time and one me after a year and a half. My bike was stolen while locked in front of a busy store at 11am in a place crime has decimated: Hayden Island- no hope of recovery or response. That same target now has armed guards but won’t allow bikes in the store and quote, “…not here to stop crime, we’re here to stop violence…” so can’t won’t interfere with what might look like bike theft etc. Just went on a couple shake down rides on the 205 path Columbia River then south: Encampments filled with bicycle parts, random heaps of trash blocking the path, general disrepair and hazards are plenty.
Our once clean, safe and friendly city… Depressing to be closer to it like biking or walking. And basically an apocalyptic zombie-horror survival feel to biking through Portland these days. Passed: mirror visor single wheel sit down electric zipping by, blacked out 26r blacked out rider again hidden behind face covering, helmet and sunglasses… furtive glances at our bikes from eyes behind carts mounded with trash… Then through a surprising bit of well kept sculpted greenery then back into Last of Us… Keeping the faith but hopefully sooner rather than later we realize the difference between someone whose problem is challenges to opportunity, like housing, and those choosing an anti-social, often villainous, often specific drug dependent lifecycles, most always involving the assemblage of increasing amounts of someone else’s property or outright trash hoarding. Not having or choosing a home in the traditional sense is the least of the things we need to attend to with a person in mental crisis or who has taken the path of crime and drugs. And focusing, improperly, the wrong resources exacerbates it and perhaps for some of the same reasons we have lost sight of why maintaining a healthy environment for cyclists in particular is important, of having a safe, clean place of access and functional minimalism.

JPriddy
1 year ago

“Our once clean, safe and friendly city” says it all. I started noticing the change years ago. So many people who were not born here (sorry, but truly, Oregonians were noted for abiding by the law once upon a time) and drive and behave as if in battle… which is what it’s become.

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

I think some of these are a bit overblown. If you are afraid to go outside because of “inhaling fentanyl” you are being foolish. It’s certainly a scary drug (as all opiods can be), but you are at no risk of bodily harm just being outside.

The general state of disrepair the city seems to be in is certainly concerning as well, but “crime is up” doesn’t really tell a very useful story. Crime statistics are misleading in the best of times, and most of the violent crime surge in Portland is sequestered into the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. If you are not in Old Town or far East Portland, the violent crime risk “surge” has probably barely affected you. In terms of biking, the risk is still 99% because of reckless motor vehicles – not “crime” (well reckless driving is criminal behavior too, but you know what I mean).

I have no doubt that people have these concerns though – I just think the biggest change for cycling in Portland is the danger on the street from bigger, faster, more audacious automobiles.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Iagree that second fentanyl or catching covid while biking outdoors is extremely low risk, but I have these concerns from educated people who once biked and don’t bike now. The culture of fear that developed during covid is a a terrible thing, and there are enough anecdotes and piles of trash to reinforce it. I think this will be hard for Portland to overcome.

City lover
City lover
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

***Portion of comment deleted. Please make your point without making personal digs. Thanks. – Jonathan *** I live in Kerns, adjacent to the Central East Side, 84 and Burnside. We are absolutely heavily impacted by crime. The inner NE and SE are plagued nightly by gunshots, drag racing, theft, camps, general urban chaos. Bus stops are smashed along lower Burnside, Stark, Sandy and Morrison and Belmont EVERY DAY. And I say this as a former urban planner (and a bike/led planner at that). Last summer my kid and friends biked all over the city to summer practice, to the movies, to Sellwood, to all their different houses. They crossed Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, Powell. This summer it just feels like too much of a dice roll, and honestly, I am relieved that she will have a drivers license. This is a kid who biked up Mt Tabor regularly, up to Forest Park regularly. People who can’t see how we are all affected by the state of the city have blinders on.

was carless
was carless
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

People don’t look at statistics when they judge whether it’s safe or not to travel to someplace or on their motive transportation.

The thought process is more like, I saw the news that last weekend three people were shot in downtown Portland, therefore I will never travel to downtown Portland ever again.

I rode to Max last week to work for about the fifth time in a year, and when I told my co-workers it looked like I was suicidal. They pointed out that back in 2016 or so there were two people who were beheaded on the Max train by an assailant.

To this day nobody in my office will ride the bus or the max because of that (they also personally knew when the people who was killed).

Portland has a disadvantage that most of the cyclists and TriMet riders are choice writers, and are not forced into doing so. And due to safety concerns, most people will not bicycle or ride trimet.

was carless
was carless
6 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Yep this pretty much sums it up. 100% agree.

Most of my friends and neighbors absolutely refuse to travel downtown at all now.

Vincent Dawans
Vincent Dawans
1 year ago
Reply to  nuovorecord

That would be me. I still bike but stay much closer to home. I don’t feel safe biking into areas I don’t know as much as I did before nor along the Muli-use trails. I used to do it for recreation, doing big loops with my e-bike, and now I feel it’s just like not really worth it, part is the perceived (possibly not real) danger (mostly bad driving behavior), part is not wanting to see the look of things which I find depressing and don’t really want to see for recreational purpose. So I stay closer to where I live, which then also means more walking and less biking. It’s small changes but then add this to more people working from home and that could be enough for explain these numbers.

was carless
was carless
6 months ago
Reply to  nuovorecord

Does anyone remember how many people would be walking, jogging and riding the “loop” around the waterfront? Even in winter 10 years ago there were more people than today.

I biked over the tilikum bridge the other day, and was cyclist #522 going home.

Didn’t they used to get 1,000+?

At least the Hawthorne is getting riders back!

Zach Katz
Zach Katz
1 year ago
Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  Zach Katz

I would guess that many, many planners and managers at PBOT know about this! But even if PBOT staff were all in favor, the sentiment of local political leaders and voters almost certainly doesn’t match that level of enthusiasm, much less the enthusiasm required to make the expensive and politically dicey choices necessary to implement such a grid.

From my perspective, it’s a bug of democracy: good but unpopular ideas will have relatively little sway. At least, that’s true as long as those ideas are as exposed to the pressures of local media, partisan interest, and organized voters as our local bike infrastructure is.

Zach Katz
Zach Katz
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

Given the way most PBOT staff/project managers talk about bike infrastructure, I don’t really know if that’s true. It seems to me that a lot of them think they know about Dutch urban planning/CROW, but only have a very superficial understanding of it. Of course, I’m sure there are some exceptions, but I think there’s probably a huge educational gap even among the most progressive planners at PBOT.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  Zach Katz

Maybe so. Yet, even if every PBOT staffer had a very deep understanding of Dutch urban transportation planning, that wouldn’t mean they’d have the political backing or funds to build it! You could transplant Copenhagen’s entire bike/planning bureau here and it’s not like we’d see the changes that you and I both desire. Even if they found the money for it somewhere, local voter backlash would probably stop the process.

Zach Katz
Zach Katz
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

I disagree. I think that if most staff had a deeper understanding of Dutch transportation planning, they would frame bike infrastructure projects in a better, more productive way—and framing deeply affects political support / funds.

Don Courtney
Don Courtney
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

Dutch cities have densities 3-10 times the Portland area—why don’t people on this blog acknowledge how this impacts modal share?

Zach Katz
Zach Katz
1 year ago
Reply to  Don Courtney

The belief that the Dutch live in remarkably highly densely populated cities is just a myth. Assen, where we live, has just 780 people per square km. That’s not only significantly less dense than New York, but also less dense than relatively spread out American cities such as Portland (1655 people per square km).

http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/02/population-density-vs-cycling-rate-for.html

Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago
Reply to  Zach Katz

A new slant on the saying …
……”let them eat CROW!”

Psmith
Psmith
1 year ago

“Drive-alone trips to work declined by 20 percentage points over last 30 years.”

There, I fixed the headline.

This data should be celebrated, not a cause for concern.

squareman
squareman
1 year ago
Reply to  Psmith

I think you missed the part where it mentions that VRU deaths used to drop in proportion to an increase in VMD and in increase of ridership, but now it’s on a relative meteoric rise given that ridership numbers have dropped off a cliff. That is no cause for celebration. Even if the proportion of “drive to work alone” trips have dropped over 30 years, the ones left driving are killing more vulnerable users per capita with their driving.

Greatdane
Greatdane
1 year ago

I’m a female who still bikes, and has biked WAY more than ever in the last year (almost 1500 miles already this year). I’m curious when the counts are done. I used to be much more regular about my biking, but since COVID my work schedule has changed quite a bit. I still commute to work, but only ~3 days a week now, and not always during normal commuting hours. I ride a lot more recreationally and to appointments and stores etc, than I used to, but which also tends to be not commuting times.

Having said that, it’s pretty clear I’m in the minority in this regard when I’m out riding. I see way fewer people out on bikes no matter where or when I go, and considerably fewer female riders in particular, so these numbers don’t surprise me at all. Anyone I know who wasn’t a super confident cyclist rides less these days than they used to.

Being a regular biker all around Portland for 15 years now, here’s my 2 cents on why biking has declined so much in the past few years…

-Lots of people driving combined with complete lack of traffic enforcement resulting in erratic, unpredictable, and dangerous driving behavior. The number of close calls I’ve had in the past month alone is more than I had for years at a time pre-2019ish.

-Terrible conditions* of the roads *see the cracked crappy pavement of many greenway routes

-Terrible conditions* of the MUPs *see tents and trash on or blocking paths in numerous places. Most of my female friends in particular refuse to ride on these paths at this point, even where there aren’t tents because of perception

-New/improved/existing infrastructure that is nice but often doesn’t make enough connections to other infrastructure resulting in stressful situations many cyclists I know aren’t comfortable in (mostly due to point 1 above at this point)

I agree, it’s going to take a pretty concerted effort to turn things around. The infrastructure (including enforcement) will need improvements to actually support cycling/pedestrian safety. The safest infrastructure in the world won’t make any difference though if perceptions developed over the past few years are aren’t also changed.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
1 year ago
Reply to  Greatdane

I absolutely agree. I live near the 205 MUP and it was a major resource for me. A great many of my recreational rides incorporated it as a way to get to the Springwater, Marine Drive, Gateway Green, etc. It was also an ideal way to lengthen my commute on a nice morning or evening.

After years of watching conditions decline and telling myself that the city will eventually get a handle on it– just file one more “campsite report” into the black hole that they call PDX Reporter– they instead stopped sweeping camps all together. And I pretty much gave up. We’ve normalized this, we’ve encouraged it, even celebrated it: the surrender of public property, a major bike thoroughfare, to abusers who are chopping down trees, starting fires, driving automobiles on the path, etc.

And that’s had a hugely negative effect on my cycling. I’m tired of feeling unsafe. And when I’m not feeling unsafe– let’s face it– the situation out there is depressing and frustrating. I’ve spent the last two years actively avoiding it, taking what I consider to be inconvenient or vehicularly dangerous alternative routes. It’s crimped my yearly milage because I no longer feel motivated to do a quick loop down to Gladstone or huff up Powell Butte to watch the sun set. I still do that stuff, of course, but not nearly as often and never without pepper spray and my head on a swivel.

It’s colored my perception of Portland. Never before this year have I seriously considered leaving, and that’s pretty remarkable to me. Been here almost 20 years, too. It would be rough but the direction we’re headed in takes a mental toll on everyone, even those who refuse to admit it.

Romy G
Romy G
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

I nominate this for Comment of the Week!

Greatdane
Greatdane
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

The situation on the 205 MUP is incredibly frustrating, disheartening and just plain sad. For everyone- those who are living there, on the MUP or nearby in homes – and those who wish to use what was once a pretty darn nice public resource. I still use it when I want a decent city loop, a longer ride home, or when it feels better than traffic. It is certainly a downer from the joy of a ride though. I don’t feel unsafe, but I do ride away feeling depressed.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  Greatdane

agreed! I use to ride Greeley, Going, Peninsula crossing and the path on Swan Island- those are all super sketchy and regularly have cars driving on them. It was not that long ago when a car on a bike path was such a rare event that it was on the news and became a featured story on BikePortland- now it rare to NOT encounter a car on path

Eastsider
Eastsider
1 year ago
Reply to  Greatdane

The occupation of campers on 205 MUP and Springwater Corridor is inexcusable. Imagine if campers occupied I-84 or any street that cars drive on – they would be removed immediately. Biking is still viewed as an optional recreational activity by city and regional leaders – not as a serious mode of transportation.

Rod B
Rod B
1 year ago
Reply to  Greatdane

I’ve lived in Portland for 40 years and have commuted by bike for 30 years. I’d always been proud of my city, but have never been so down on Portland as now. I’d been to Amsterdam and Copenhagen (yes, I drank the Kool-Aid), and was convinced that Portland – if any American city – was headed in the right direction. I still commute by bike to downtown, but just twice a week now – gone is the sense of joy and optimism of being part of a movement. Portland was never very cosmopolitan, but at least we had a lively and safe downtown and quirky characters and places like Satyricon and the Pine Street Theater. Now, downtown and the central eastside are just sad (so much of this is self-imposed by our fellow Portlanders – why the heck do people keep vandalizing and smashing the windows of our small neighborhood businesses?). Our society in Portland is too broken to have great public places that are nice to spend time. I’ve lost my Portland optimism and now wonder about moving to a nice place like old town Camas or Astoria.
Nowadays, my family likes to go up to Washington for a pleasant stroll or ride on an MUP (no longer Portland so much). The waterfront paths in Vancouver and Washougal along the Columbia are very nice and keep getting better.

Matt S.
Matt S.
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

I actually have an appointment with a therapist tomorrow at 4pm to talk about my anxiety of raising a family in Portland. I’ve been here since 2008, only the last couple years have I wanted to move. My wife just got a job in Hillsboro, we talk about moving all the time. We just got our childcare all figured out after a year long battle of waitlists, honestly, this is what’s holding us back, to have to do all that over again, ahhh.

Jen
Jen
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt S.

Make the move to Hillsboro. Going on 7 years and my car has not been broken into once. Plenty of places to ride. But no, I don’t commute on a bike. Mainly because I work all over western Oregon. The good jobs are not downtown, and that’s a big reason why bike commutes are down. That, and Portland has become a trash-filled and dangerous city.

MarkM
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

Your closing paragraph strikes home. I’ve been an enthusiastic Portland cheerleader for almost 40 years. My receipts are the many thousands of street-level photos I’ve taken on long walks in the Portland metro region. Three years ago, to help counter the “Portland is dying” narrative, I even embarked on a positive Portland photos past and present project. How’s that for alliteration 🙂

All that said, my wife and I are now going through a “Do we stay or do we go?” decision process. A ‘go’ decision will likely lead us to move out of Multnomah County. We know from recent news and census reports that we’re not alone.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to find Portland-positive scenes to snap when and where I can. Active and public transportation sights are still one of my favorite themes, along with quirky, housing, etc.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  MarkM

My favorite street when I lived in Portland was San Rafael between 148th and 162nd, a nice tree-lined curved street in a 1970s retirement development. Check it out. There’s also nearby the DC-8 crash site on a gravel section of NE 157th south of Glisan, unmarked; peacock topiary on the 205 path near Holgate; and a pig topiary on 143rd or 144th north of Halsey.

I left Portland and Oregon in December 2015 after living in 3 different parts of the city over an 18 year period, and I only regret I didn’t move out sooner. Bicycling in Greensboro NC really sucks, but the people here are so much nicer, and the housing is immensely more affordable.

MarkM
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Thanks, David. These are excellent referrals! I just did a quick flyover using a mapping service. I don’t know if I walked on San Rafael proper, but I was close when I did this photowalk during a 2018 Rosewood Walkways event that Oregon Walks hosted. Note the “A Safe 162nd” signs at their tent. I think I walked by the other sights that you mentioned on other photowalks, but I don’t recall taking any photos. I recently tagged ~9K of my ~40K Portland metro walks photos with keywords when uploading them to Flickr, so I’ll check. 

Relatedly, as I mention on my site, I haven’t geotagged my photos for privacy purposes. To be honest, some days I wish I had. It would certainly make it easier for me to retrace my steps, whenever I have the need.

I also don’t drive to or from my walks in the metro region, which means I have to rely on transit. Sometimes that can limit my reach for long walks, especially during our short winter days. I don’t like to walk after dark any more. I do miss exploring the metro region on a bicycle, as I did for many years.

MarkM
1 year ago
Reply to  MarkM

A correction. Oregon Walks was a partner and promoter, not the host. Following are two excerpts from this Metro article: https://www.oregonmetro.gov/news/oregon-walkways-event-promotes-safe-walking-rosewood

“On Saturday, July 14, Oregon Walks held its third annual Oregon Walkways, called Rosewood Walkways after its hosting neighborhood. The open-streets fair aims to create a safe walking environment, often in neighborhoods that have fewer sidewalks and bike lanes.

Rosewood Walkways helps people feel safe to be active in their neighborhoods, said Jenny Glass, the executive director of the Rosewood Initiative, which partnered with Oregon Walks.”

I’ll close with a BikePortland plug. Here are a few BP articles pertaining to the Rosewood Initiative: https://bikeportland.org/tag/rosewood-initiative

Even though I’m no longer in the saddle, having an archive repository of news articles such as these is one reason why I became a BP subscriber again this year.

City lover
City lover
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

I’m an inner-NE-er (Kerns neigborhood), but I feel you. My husband and I keep saying “it can’t get any worse” until it does. I just try to avoid it, but it’s hard when it’s blocking your sidewalk.

Dean
Dean
1 year ago
Reply to  Greatdane

100% agreed! Comment of the week!!

Bstedman
Bstedman
1 year ago

Well, at least car driving went down as well while working from home went up dramatically. I’m a good example of that: I went from biking to work 4 days a week to not at all for 18 months during the lockdowns, to two days a week while working from home the other two.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  Bstedman

Working from home decreases commutes but increases carSUV-driving overall.

Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

Yep…a lot of those “walk/ bike from office” work day errands downtown when to “drive SUV” on many very short suburb to suburb trip

Steve C
Steve C
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

When and where is that data from? Those who shifted to wfh in the last 3 years might be a different cohort than had the option of wfh prior to covid.

Don’t entirerly disagree but there might be more nuance here.

Roy Conant
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve C

Steve – You’re correct. While many (most?) comments here rightfully kvetch about conditions and safety, a deeper dive into the stats above show almost a 35% increase in WFH. That, combined with a missing stat (decrease in Central City jobs), accounts for a substantial decrease on rides. Have the jobs which have left city center relocated in equally bike-accessible locations?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this study probably also favors counting commutes to City Center rather than bike riders going anywhere from anywhere. I’m not sure we should accept it as definitive for Portland city-wide.

I have to admit to being more than somewhat bemused by POB investing so much in what-were-sure-to-be at best lightly used bike lanes in East Portland while simultaneously confounding residents with poorly engineered traffic changes which have in places made biking exponentially more dangerous. At a time when addressing homelessness should have been at the top of our list we couldn’t somehow have repurposed those funds to address homelessness? And, perhaps not coincidentally, ameliorated some of the problems with encampments along popular bike routes at the same time? The 10s of thousands of dollars so poorly invested could surely have been more appropriately repurposed to everyone’s benefit.

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 year ago

I’m glad you pointed out that the Census is severely flawed. Hopefully they control for time of year and weather but even if they do there are still other flaws. Primarily that it only asks which mode was used the most in the previous week. Someone who drove three days a week and biked two counts as a driver. I bike almost exclusively but nearly everyone else at my work uses a mix of modes. With our hybrid work schedule that mix for many is work from home and bike. The number of bicycles in our secure parking fluctuates wildly throughout the week depending on what’s going on in the office and people’s personal schedules.
 
The volunteer counts are a little better but still just focus on peak times which are mostly work commutes. The value of our bicycle infrastructure shouldn’t be limited to work commuters. There are plenty of non-work commute trips out there and not accounting for those does a huge disservice to the people that use our bicycle network. Also, I know this is anecdotal, but I’ve been seeing the same wild fluctuation in commuters on a daily basis and it’s not specific to the day of the week. So doing a single count at these locations is going to vary significantly more than it did in previous years.
 
It’s good to get more data but PBOT really needs to up their game if they’re going to use this information to decide how much to spend and where to make future investments.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  idlebytes

I agree with you about the census being flawed, particularly the American Community Survey, as well as a change in overall commuter patterns.

Nearly 25 years ago I had a class while getting my MURP at PSU from a professor Rubiega who pointed out to us how cities were already (in 1998) devolving from a central city downtown commuter core to what he called a “galactic city” of multiple centers, edge cities, malls, but also neighborhood and local centers of employment, business, and where people live and play. He also saw a growing role of home-businesses messing up traditional commuter patterns.

I’ve since learned that much of government planning in centered on a model of you living at home in the suburban area, you drive/bike/walk/transit to work, then return home in the evening. Errands, going to school, recreation, and so on are ignored, not part of the model. So if for some reason people stop commuting into work, the whole model starts breaking down – and yet folks continue to thrive and get around. The “mode split” is largely based on this model.

From my perspective, PBOT is basically admitting they no longer know how people are getting around, their travel demand model is breaking down, the 7.2% versus 2.8% bike mode split is officially meaningless – the 7.2% is a fairly accurate number for its time, but the current 2.8% is for a totally different situation that isn’t really comparable any longer.

What we actually need is to know our activity levels, how we are collectively getting around and where are we going. One potential source is cell phone usage – nearly everyone now has one, even little kids and many homeless – and the signals are monitored by each cell phone provider. Back in 2019 our commercial transit operator, a French called Keolis, bought 3 months worth of data usage by all the major cell companies and combined them into a single dataset. I only saw the Greensboro NC portion, but they assured me it was a national set. What they showed in a set of GIS maps was human activity at various times in the day – Weekday AM commute, PM commute, weekends, overall, and so on – as folks might stay at home, or drive somewhere, or walk the dog, or go for a bike ride, or walk to school, and so on. The maps showed us where folks were most active – typically in shopping districts, manufacturing areas, universities – and more of dead suburban locations of hardly any activity. What surprised us was how our downtown was just another minor suburb – all of our transit investment is made there, but no one actually does much business there – whereas some of our busiest locations were Walmarts and other similar big box retailers. Malls were dead even 2019, more so now.

I suspect Portland would show similar patterns.

And so the way I see it, this data is showing that we, and our cities, are changing how we travel and get around, and who we go where we do and when. Our old patterns are mute and ways of measuring them are of course becoming rapidly more and more irrelevant.

We are going through a transition – but I can’t tell you where we’ll end up.

Or as Rush said, the point of travel is not to arrive.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

They likely got part of the Street Light Data dataset. I’ve heard PBOT might be playing around with that, but I don’t know much more.

HJ
HJ
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Comment of the week here!
A 2hr count is ridiculous. Also we keep looking solely at CoP, and completely ignoring the western side of the metro area. I don’t know how to ram this point home already but a phenomenal number of people commute between Washington county and CoP.
If you want a true perspective on metro transit patterns (because frankly looking solely at CoP is idiotic) you have to consider the westside factor. I realize that PBOT doesn’t control those roads, but that doesn’t make the impact of them magically disappear.
Frankly I would be incredibly curious to see this data juxtaposed with similar info for Washington county. We’re only being shown part of the picture.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  HJ

Thank you for the comment, HJ. You said something that runs through my head all the time. Many BP commenters don’t seem to understand that the area west of the Tualatin Hills is not empty, not some unknown body of water with serpents in it.

There’s Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro. Some (maybe most) of the region’s largest employers are west of the Willamette, and west of Portland even.

 
 
1 year ago

Dare I say that Washington County is actually my favorite place in the metro area. Lots of clean multi-use paths such as the Westside Trail and Fanno Creek Trail, great access to natural areas such as the Tualatin Hills Nature Park and Cooper Mountain, plenty of great low- to moderate-stress bike routes as long as you know where to go, lots of great little walkable pockets like downtown Beaverton and Hillsboro, and probably the most racial/ethnic diversity in the state these days.

It’s quite funny how people who live east of the river pretend that ⅓ of the metro area doesn’t exist. But these people missing out just means that the area is less crowded and better for those of us who pay attention 😉

Shawne Martinez (Guest author)
Shawne Martinez
1 year ago
Reply to   

I’ll add that most Washington County parks that I’ve been to have public power outlets for e-bike charging which alleviates my range anxiety. It’s tough to find power outlets in Multnomah county. They are locked or turned off.

Priscilla T
Priscilla T
1 year ago

Here we go again with the “pandemic blaming“. While it no doubt had impacts on commuting to work downtown (and therefore biking) it had zero effect on people like me. I used to use the I-205 MUP to bike to work but started driving when it become a dangerous hellhole. This was due to what seemed to me to be a “complete hands off” approach to public safety and allowing our MUP’s to become linear campgrounds populated by many who are unfortunately drug addicted and/or have unstable mental conditions. I’d like to see some accountability for once.

Daniel Reimer
1 year ago

Maybe they should blame the street lights.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Maybe they should blame the speed bumps and crappy pavement all over town.

Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago
Reply to  Priscilla T

Before the pandemic they called this “messy vitality” when they did not want to raise a finger

Eastsider
Eastsider
1 year ago
Reply to  Priscilla T

Its very telling that spaces dedicated primarily for cycling are the least maintained by the city. All of their efforts to market Portland as a green, bike-friendly city are a farce if they can’t be bothered to keep the very few off-street paths clear enough to bike on.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago

BikePortland thanks for bringing this report to the public (as I had not seen any other press on it or a PBoT/ CoP news release it in my in box concerning it).

I will have to dig deep into the new report for additional comment, but reflecting on your finding’s, I am a bit surprised and shocked (positive) that Portland had a later “peak bike” than my memory of the analysis of these counts in ~2010; as back then – my memory – was that the public counts were showing it dropping a lot post 2009/ 2010 due to the great recession impact of work and that the belt of affordable housing was further away from the CBD…plus the “aging out” of single cyclists as they married and had kids. [Perhaps not a true aging out but a “aging pause” until these kids got big enough to be in trailers and then pedal themsleves with their parents returning to the saddle enough to be picked up in trends.]

Your point “…the recent rise in traffic fatalities began in 2014, the same year Portland’s bicycling rates began to fall.”…just goes to affirm [again] Geller’s or Birk’s (?) historic “safety in numbers” analysis from the mid 2000s.

wallis
wallis
1 year ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

These are great comments. Look forward to the rest after you dig deep.

PTB
PTB
1 year ago

If you pull out ’09-’12 from the historical counts graphs, because we were probably still riding that housing crisis wave of ’08 when gas was expensive and bikes were cool, then it seems like some count spots are up, some are down, it’s a mixed bag. The ’22 count means nothing. Covid, work from home. Even now I still see barely anyone on my commutes in or home. Why people like WFH is beyond me, but whatever. I’d die if my kitchen or spare room was ‘my workspace’.

Also, and I’ve said this in other posts; the people that have been moving to Portland, largely from the Sun Belt these days it seems, don’t give a shit about cycling because they likely didn’t cycle in whatever sprawling, Hot as Hell, city they moved here from. The newcomers aren’t the weirdos and sideliners and kooks that moved here in the 90s and early 00s. Portland is no longer some cool, cheap and overlooked West Coast Bohemia like it was. I honestly don’t know why someone moves here in 2023 but it simply can’t be because of course you’re gonna ride a bike to the Star E. Rose with your new housemates and then downtown to see a twee indie show at Umbra Penumbra and visit Reading Frenzy while you’re at it, afterwards you’re riding to Jarra’s for very cheap drinks and that cute guy your friend knows is supposedly gonna be there; all that is long dead and buried. New Portland is people who will likely work remote in a house they spent 750k on and meet other young professionals at a bar on Williams and not blink at an $18 cocktail. They drove to the bar (which has an & in the name, hopefully) in a hybrid or EV. They didn’t bike there and they will never bike there.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  PTB

Covid, work from home

PBOT’s analysis of 24 hr count sites found that the ratio of peak to non-peak hours did not change from previous years. WFH does not explain the precipitous drop in cycling.

PTB
PTB
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

WFH. I had the need and opportunity to walk from work, headed west, on the cycle infrastructure along the Orange line here in inner SE (from Rhine overpass to almost Tilikum Crossing). Pre-Covid, in the five o’clock hour, it was a near continuous stream of cyclists and walkers and joggers. This week, same time, I honestly don’t know if there were a dozen cyclists that passed me. WFH may not explain everything but it has to be a very sizable factor. Walking and seeing the skyline, totally lovely, it was a great evening. But the lack of people out, it’s really depressing. Portland feels gutted.

City lover
City lover
1 year ago
Reply to  PTB

Here’s my new slogan for PDX: “More grit than the 90s, but none of the cheap rents”

Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  City lover

YES. It was gritty, right? But it was cheap, so people with dreams could move here and get something started. Just heard the Dandy Warhols play tonight. They started in 1994. Would similar kids be able to afford to move here and start a band like that, these days?

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 year ago

Lots has changed since 2014, but something that leaps to mind is the proliferation of smart phones and the “tech car” era. Of course smart phones predate 2014 by a lot, but I think that distracted driving has gotten much worse in the last 10 years. I certainly read something about that recently. It doesn’t take many interactions with reckless/distracted drivers on a bike to scare you out of doing it as a primary means to get around.

It can’t help that just about every new car is chocked full of digital navigation screens, some of which you can play games on. It’s tough out there riding, and sharing space with increasingly large automobiles steered by distracted drivers has certainly taken a toll – even on me.

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 year ago

Another thing that comes to mind that is missing from this data are alternative electric vehicles. How many people on electric scooters, one-wheels and skateboards are using bike infrastructure now? How many were cyclists before?

I haven’t seen nearly as many in the winter but the summer it wasn’t uncommon for there to be as many or more of those vehicles waiting at a light than bicycles. PBOT will need to take that into account at some point especially if those commuters are using the infrastructure.

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  idlebytes

I did some volunteer bike counts for PBOT last summer. I noted every electric scooter I saw, every one-wheel and every skateboard. For most of the hours I counted I didn’t record a single one of any of them. That’s consistent with my day-to-day observations moving about town. Occasionally I’ll see some of those, but typically scant few to none.

Romy G
Romy G
1 year ago

It seems like many of the politically powerful in Portland (non profits, civic organizations, homeless advocates, justice advocates, city bureaucrats, etc) have spent the last 3 years downplaying and questioning the public safety and crime concerns of everyday Portlanders.

This survey shows that people don’t buy the narrative that “everything is fine” here. It is encouraging though to see influencers like Jonathan Maus finally agreeing that we do have a problem.

The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one. I hope more in Portland will do so. Then maybe we can working to making this once again “the city that works”.

SD
SD
1 year ago

Work from home more than tripled from 2019 to 2021.

While this is clearly the primary reason that the bike split decreased,

We should also be very concerned about all of the excess car infrastructure that is very expensive to maintain.

In these uncertain times, we should be removing SOV parking and travel lanes.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  SD

While this is clearly the primary reason that the bike split decreased,

Nice try, but no. If WFH is subtracted from the census ACS data the sharp decrease in bike and mass transit commutes (on a percentage basis) really stands out.

Moreover, PBOT measured bike traffic over 24 hr periods at many locations and they showed the same calamitous decrease in bike traffic (read the report).

Charley
Charley
1 year ago

Partial list of possible contributing factors, in no particular order:

Price of gasoline: the inflation adjusted price of gasoline ramped up from 1999 ($1.50) to 2008 ($4.68), then wiggled around. This is the same time-frame as our steady increase in bike ridership. But the gas price dropped from $4 to $2 between 2014 and 2016, just as bike ridership began its decline. I’m no statistician, and correlation is not causation, but it’s pretty obvious that this price signal will have an impact on transportation choices.
Price of gasoline: the price rose again in the last year, but maybe something about people’s choices is “sticky,” and path dependency has limited the number of people who return to cycling. Maybe the below factors limited the uptake of cycling as a cheaper alternative to gas. Or perhaps the increase in gas prices hasn’t gone on long enough (or expensively enough?) to generate that mode shift.
Electric cars might reduce the “environmental guilt” factor without requiring the lifestyle shift of actually riding a bike year-round.
Safety: bigger trucks and cars, with more aggressive drivers
Safety: Perceived Safety of roads/paths (campers)
Safety: Trump-era vehicle weaponization (I think a lot of us starting seeing the roads differently after the Trump campaign, and the resulting increase of overt vehicular political posturing, not to mention Charlottesville and the current trend of state-supported vehicular self-defense against marchers and protestors).
Technology: do people leave the house less because of the ready availability of addictive entertainment on cellphones, or of easy streaming of high-quality TV and movies?
Demographics: cost of living in inner neighborhoods creates a demographic shift toward yuppies, and away from people more likely to ride (housing affordability has made the hippy/grunge/hipster/co-op/bikey life less affordable, and depressed that share of local population).
Demographics: how many of yesterday’s bike-crazy transplants have aged into mid-life, and now must care for kids, or have too crazy a schedule, to allow the time tax of riding places?
Demographics: immigration to the area was legendarily that of the West Coast’s most liberal, most quirky people, finding the cheapest housing on the “coast.” How does that shift when our housing costs are this high (even if we’re still cheaper than other crazy expensive west coast cities)? Do the more recent wave of immigrants have the same interest in riding?
Culture: even on top of demographic shifts mentioned above, have many people stopped viewing personal transportation choices through a climate lens? In the Bush years, when fighting Big Oil seemed impossible, personal choices might have seemed like the only way to make a dent in carbon. Nowadays, there is a lot of awareness that individual choices are small compared to the effect of regulation, industry, and technological development.
Culture: have local environmentally-minded people shifted from a degrowth to a techno-utopianist view? If so, would they be putting faith in technology to limit carbon somehow, while maintaining their personal quality of life with carbon intensive transportation?
Culture: as Lance Armstrong’s heyday receded, and was replaced by a recognition of his doping, did interest in racing or fitness riding decrease? I have to wonder how many people were inspired to ride for fitness, and then realized they could avoid traffic on the way to work.
Culture: fixed gear bikes were a huge fad! Lots of people just got on a bike because the fixies were just so cool. Do those riders still ride as they get older? Do teens and young adults nowadays still see the sexy symbolism in a Bianchi Pista?
Work From Home boomed recently of course, but it was slowly ramping up over time, as the technology spread and improved.
Trimet: I used to combine bike rides with the bus or train frequently, but have had poor luck with regards to reliability. If people can’t count on the bus to take the edge off of dreary bike commutes, are they more likely to ride more of the mileage, or just substitute a car trip?
Trimet: are people replacing multi-modal trips (bike/bus/train) because of perceived safety on Trimet (drug use, mental health challenges, etc)?
Bike theft: I don’t have statistics, but theft did seem to increase over the years. At the very least, the obvious fact of open-air chop shops visible from popular bike paths may have increased perception of the risk for those who didn’t have the benefit of protected indoor parking.
Some of these are more national, some are more local. We have a long way to go if we want to reverse the trend.

Eastsider
Eastsider
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

I do wonder if there could be a generational shift in views towards cycling. 30 years ago, a big part of childhood was learning to ride a bike and then being allowed to roam freely in the neighborhood. Today, children are almost never unaccompanied by an adult outside of the home. Perhaps younger people no longer associate biking with freedom and independence.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Eastsider

Yes. I see parents teaching small kids to ride bikes all the time in the park near me. But I never see older kids or teenagers riding alone, with their families or with friends in my neighborhood. Quite a few commuting adult riders, and most adult non-commuting (from what I can tell) riders are old–the same people who were riding Stingrays when kids and then 10-speeds as teenagers in the 70s and 80s.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

This could end up having a huge effect on urban life. Reminds me of the comment of the week several weeks ago regarding the tangled webs of causality that end up determining our behavior.

Pockets the Coyote
Pockets the Coyote
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

A late addition, but on the difference in bike share increasing with the spike of gas prices in the 98-08 period and not during our last up-tick, there may have been a demand that was left unfulfilled or priced out due to the pandemic shipping issues. We saw a massive bike boom, that the market would have been challenged to meet under the best circumstances. I wonder if we’ll ever get an idea of how many people were discouraged out of riding due to limited availability of affordable new bikes or availability of used parts to fix the bike they already owned. Additionally I would speculate that many new or returning riders who were able to jump in early to the boom may have taken advantage of the used market booming and sold out at a profit.

Beth
Beth
1 year ago

From personal experience, the two factors that have caused me to bike less:

  1. Safety. I am a woman biking alone from NE to Downtown Portland and I’m honestly scared. Not as scared as I am on public transportation, but I feel less safe than I used to.
  2. Change in commuting routine: I don’t go into the office as much as I used to, so I lost my commuting routine. It also means the cost of fuel/parking isn’t as much as it would be if I drove every day, so driving takes up a bigger proportion of my commuting.
Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago
Reply to  Beth

Good point #2.

Bill Hasenjaeger
Bill Hasenjaeger
1 year ago

I visit maybe 2 or 3 times a year, via train and bike. On my last 2 trips, riding from the train station to the eastside was like Escape From New York, dodging sidewalk campers who were out n about in the streets. I think I saw Snake Pliskin. I definitely saw The Duke. It gives me pause to do it again.

Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago

I love the Snake…I wish the Checker Cab was still bopping around east Potland. I think his escape plane is on top of Big Pink…if he can get through the super marine grade of plywood on the doorways….otherwise ‘boom’.

Perhaps we should start the next era slogan for Portland post “Weird” and post Biketown”…Make Snake Mayor!

axoplasm
1 year ago

I was reflecting on this article & the one about Tri-met ridership (and also public school enrollment, and library usage, and more) during my school commute just now…

There is a noticeable decline in the enthusiastic use of public spaces since 2020. We can talk about causes but “public spaces feel less safe” is a popular answer, and because that answer uses “feelings” it is not wrong & also self-fulfilling. This isn’t just about bikes, or transit, but how we as a city view all our public spaces, including the privately owned ones, like office buildings or shopping malls. All that was in a decline pre-2020 but then it just fell of a cliff.

So seeing this data in this way is useful but not solution-oriented, because it only allows us to compare the time dimension. It asks “what can we do to get back to [time period]?” when the time dimension has a big old discontinuity in 2020. The pandemic might not be to blame but it shook stuff up in way that makes the time comparison kind of pointless. Of course our marathon times took a big hit after we got cancer, that kind of thing.

What we should be asking is “has Portland been hit harder than other comparable cities, and if so what are they doing that we aren’t?”

Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  axoplasm

The pandemic was experienced by a broad demographic cohort of Americans as a reason to stay indoors, and tech companies happily handed them a highly addictive form of stimulation as a replacement. Many people are using as these stimuli as a replacement to being out of the house, with friends, etc. Lots of these people aren’t particularly happy, but they’re okay.

Another cohort experienced a rapid destruction of tenuous social bonds that kept their life afloat, thanks to the closing of public facilities and public places, followed by the pandemic-fueled residential real estate price boom. A lot of these people are still trying to put the pieces back together, or have gotten dragged into anti-social behavior.

Many people from that second cohort have made our public spaces uncomfortable, and so staying indoors has become a more attractive option for the first cohort. Over time, this will reduce support for improving our public spaces, to the detriment of all.

It’s very sad all around.

Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

And fewer Third Places…for the 1s & 2s

Carrie
Carrie
1 year ago
Reply to  axoplasm

What we should be asking is “has Portland been hit harder than other comparable cities, and if so what are they doing that we aren’t?”

I just spent a few days visiting my sister who lives in Charlottesville VA. And we talked a lot about atmosphere and culture, etc. C-ville is experiencing a HUGE increase in gun violence and traffic violence (they are smaller than Portland, but seeing the same behaviors). She lives in a very upper middle class n’hood near UVA and they see spent needles in the woods on their block and there was a shooting just around the corner one night I was there.

My point being it was weirdly reassuring but also so very depressing to see the SAME THINGS there that I’ve felt/seen here over the past year. C-ville and Portland are very, very different in terms of culture and demographics (though the White supremacy folks like to have deadly rallies both places), but we’re both hurting.

Regarding the bike counts: if I worked at PBOT all I could do is view this report as a failure of my work. Even the nature of recruiting/encouraging the count volunteers has changed over the 5 years I’ve been volunteering. We used to be celebrated and now we’re simply encouraged (like the advisory committees, I suspect).

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 year ago

It’s scary to ride on Portland streets now. You personally might not be afraid to ride, but look at the skyrocketing traffic deaths, the out of control drivers, and zero traffic enforcement and you will see why others are not comfortable riding.A lot of the bike infrastructure has gone in to east of the 205 where as the data shows, hardly anyone bikes. It should go first where people are going to use it most and build out from that connected network.Ebikes are too expensive for the average low income commuter. People want bigger and heavier trucks and ebikes are not going to get that car consumer to give up the perceived protection that a large suv will.Broken glass is on pretty much every street, the multi use paths are blocked with tents.Meth zombie cars without license plates go unchecked.The complete lack of willpower for pbot to install traffic diverters.Greenways are still just side streets with sharrows on them, they should have diverters every 3 blocks if we want to stop cut though traffic.Portland no longer has a functioning Police force.

Helen
Helen
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

It’s true about the police, they’re all sulking because they got called violent racists and decided to respond by using violence to break up protests against police brutality and racism.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

I see lots of expensive luxury cars with no license plates or with fake or expired tags. I doubt many of them are driven by “meth zombies”. I guess it’s just easier and more comforting to demonize and dehumanize the least fortunate groups in society than to admit that the problem looks a lot like us.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

How many people have to swim across a river before we build a bridge? Hardly anyone bikes in East Portland because the streets are designed for fast car traffic. If you feel unsafe riding in close-in neighborhoods, how do you think it feels to ride down 162nd? The point of a public good like bike infrastructure is that it should be available equally to everyone, whether or not you think they’ve earned it.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago

This list is updated and re-formatted (Turns out the bullet point option didn’t work, and I timed out the ability to edit my previous comment).

Partial list of possible contributing factors, in no particular order:

Price of gasoline: the inflation adjusted price of gasoline ramped up from 1999 ($1.50) to 2008 ($4.68), then wiggled around. This is the same time-frame as our steady increase in bike ridership. But the gas price dropped from $4 to $2 between 2014 and 2016, just as bike ridership began its decline. I’m no statistician, and correlation is not causation, but it’s pretty obvious that this price signal will have an impact on transportation choices.

Price of gasoline: the price rose again in the last year, but maybe something about people’s choices is “sticky,” and path dependency has limited the number of people who return to cycling. Maybe the below factors limited the uptake of cycling as a cheaper alternative to gas. Or perhaps the increase in gas prices hasn’t gone on long enough (or expensively enough?) to generate that mode shift.

Electric cars might reduce the “environmental guilt” factor without requiring the lifestyle shift of actually riding a bike year-round.

Other electric vehicles (scooters) might be grabbing some small share of bike rides.

Safety: bigger trucks and cars, with more aggressive drivers

Safety: Perceived Safety of roads/paths (campers)

Safety: Trump-era vehicle weaponization (I think a lot of us starting seeing the roads differently after the Trump campaign, and the resulting increase of overt vehicular political posturing, not to mention Charlottesville and the current trend of state-supported vehicular self-defense against marchers and protestors).

Technology: do people leave the house less because of the ready availability of addictive entertainment on cellphones, or of easy streaming of high-quality TV and movies?

Demographics: cost of living in inner neighborhoods creates a demographic shift toward yuppies, and away from people more likely to ride (housing affordability has made the hippy/grunge/hipster/co-op/bikey life less affordable, and depressed that share of local population).

Demographics: how many of yesterday’s bike-crazy transplants have aged into mid-life, and now must care for kids, or have too crazy a schedule, to allow the time tax of riding places?

Demographics: immigration to the area was legendarily that of the West Coast’s most liberal, most quirky people, finding the cheapest housing on the “coast.” How does that shift when our housing costs are this high (even if we’re still cheaper than other crazy expensive west coast cities)? Do the more recent wave of immigrants have the same interest in riding?

Culture: even on top of demographic shifts mentioned above, have many people stopped viewing personal transportation choices through a climate lens? In the Bush years, when fighting Big Oil seemed impossible, personal choices might have seemed like the only way to make a dent in carbon. Nowadays, there is a lot of awareness that individual choices are small compared to the effect of regulation, industry, and technological development.

Culture: bike riding as a child may have decreased. I moved here in my 20’s, and it felt natural to ride around because I used to ride around my neighborhood on BMX-like department store bikes in my youth (in the 1980’s). Did today’s 20-30 year olds grow up with that same freedom and bike mobility in the aughts? My impression is that parent’s have reduced children’s free rein over the years. If so, are these children less likely to take up cycling as young adults?

Culture: similarly to above, if kids grew up spending more time on computers than previous generations, did they spend much time riding bikes around their neighborhood? If not, are they less likely to ride now?

Culture: have local environmentally-minded people shifted from a degrowth to a techno-utopianist view? If so, would they be putting faith in technology to limit carbon somehow, while maintaining their personal quality of life with carbon intensive transportation?

Culture: as Lance Armstrong’s heyday receded, and was replaced by a recognition of his doping, did interest in racing or fitness riding decrease? I have to wonder how many people were inspired to ride for fitness, and then realized they could avoid traffic on the way to work.

Culture: fixed gear bikes were a huge fad! Lots of people just got on a bike because the fixies were just so cool. Do those riders still ride as they get older? Do teens and young adults nowadays still see the sexy symbolism in a Bianchi Pista?

Work From Home boomed recently of course, but it was slowly ramping up over time, as the technology spread and improved.

Trimet: I used to combine bike rides with the bus or train frequently, but have had poor luck with regards to reliability. If people can’t count on the bus to take the edge off of dreary bike commutes, are they more likely to ride more of the mileage, or just substitute a car trip?

Trimet: are people replacing multi-modal trips (bike/bus/train) because of perceived safety on Trimet (drug use, mental health challenges, etc)?

Bike theft: I don’t have statistics, but theft did seem to increase over the years. At the very least, the obvious fact of open-air chop shops visible from popular bike paths may have increased perception of the risk for those who didn’t have the benefit of protected indoor parking.

Some of these are more national, some are more local. We have a long way to go if we want to reverse the trend.

Craig Giffen
1 year ago

I used to be the stereotypical Portland bike rider and rode everywhere.

Now, not so much. I’ve had WAY too many close calls in recent years. Drunk drivers, drivers on their phones, people running stop signs…it just doesn’t feel safe anymore. Even if I get ran down by a driver, will anything happen to them?…no. Once a week I see someone just going through a red light because nobody is coming and they don’t want to wait anymore.

It just isn’t worth my safety, I threw in the towel and gave up. Until there is actual consequences for bad driving, or, a completely separate biking infrastructure, my Portland biking-everywhere days are done.

So now I drive/use Lyft (if drinking) and my bike gathers dust. If I do ride my bike it’s for short trips that don’t involve a lot of major streets (like to the corner market or nearby food carts).

At least biking taught me to expect people to be running stop lights, that has made me a more cautious driver.

wallis
wallis
1 year ago

For good reason, individuals and advocacy groups like PB are making the public more aware of the statistics which illuminate the danger. The worse those statistics get, the more awareness, the more fear, and the less people are willing to bike. Elected officials appear to be ignoring those statistics and do nothing. A lot of the other comments mention great solutions. If those solutions are implemented, I think we will start an upward spiral.

ajj
ajj
1 year ago
Reply to  wallis

I agree. I originally stopped biking when my commute became way faster on transit than biking, and then the more stories I read about cyclists getting killed, the less inclined I was to start up again. I used to bike 100 miles/week in Los Angeles when I was in college, on all sorts of crazy dangerous streets, but I didn’t have the data to know how dangerous it really was. Ignorance is bliss!

Dan Kekeney
Dan Kekeney
1 year ago

I agree with the comments around safety. It’s also evident that cycling commuters are among the broader community of former commuters who now work mostly from home and therefore have no need to ride to work. Additionally, over the past 9 years there was a revolution of indoor virtual cycling options for recreational riders/racers that have made it unnecessary to brave the dangerous roads and terrible weather. I can speak firsthand that I have little interest in getting on the road until it’s dry and over 50F since I got a smart trainer.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Kekeney

Wow! I’ve only ever used a trainer or rollers and I’d rather be out in the rain.

Shiv
Shiv
1 year ago

3 reasons for my reduced bicycle use in the city..

(1) safety. reckless driving and lack of traffic control around it
(2) theft. Leaving outside of business I am worried I’ll lose a wheel by the time I walk back
(3) parking. no guarantee of bike stand outside the said business (depends on the neighborhood in Portland)

John
John
1 year ago

It’s not just bikes. Everywhere you look there are less people downtown and in public parks. People stay home, watch television, play video games, and get food delivered. I think this would be better understood if compared to general data on percentage of time people stay at home.

Roy Conant
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Yes. The personal ethereal isolation is palpable. Everywhere.

City lover
City lover
1 year ago
Reply to  John

If it gives you any hope, my 14 year old son is out every day after school with friends in central Portland. Walking down Sandy, Walking to the Plaid (where only 2 students at a time are allowed inside), Walking to Dave’s Hot Chicken, Walking to Freddies for somewhere to go. Playing sports, but just walking, walking walking (sorry, not biking, but they all live pretty close!) Gives me a lot of hope. Yes, on their phones a lot, video games a lot but SO MUCH Walking and hanging out.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  City lover

That’s good to hear!

Christopher of Portland
Christopher of Portland
1 year ago

The paint and sticks style of bike infrastructure has generally improved over the years but the greenways which will actually get you some useful distance feel much worse outside of a few recently diverted spots. My Clinton commute in the evening seems to be a spectacle that draws drivers with a loose interpretation of the word “stop” from many of the avenues that cross it. Even better when they want to watch me go for 20 or 30 blocks along Woodward. Fun!

Edward
Edward
1 year ago

I’m one of the people who switched and now regularly drive instead of bike. I can say for me it was pandemic changes in work policy that made the difference.

Pre pandemic I regularly rode my bike as a daily commuter all the time. It was fantastic. Paying to park a car was way too expensive and my work would only pay if there was some special work related reason to drive on a given day. My bike was faster than bus or MAX. So i mostly just rode my bike as a daily commuter.

Then at some point we hit remote work. The notion was stay at home and avoid each other and the work place as much as possible to avoid giving each other Covid. To encourage people to come back in to the office work switched the parking policy. It is now actively “Free Parking!” For all employees. They pay for parking every day we drive and now I drive a lot. I almost never ride my bike anymore.

I’ve become lazy and out of shape. I’ve been thinking about asking them to change the policy. But the problem is I really like driving. It’s my new very bad habit. I like “free” parking. It’s a drug I can’t resist. Every day I say I’m going to start riding my bike again soon. But I keep not doing it. The sum total has been lots of driving and almost no biking.

I’m wondering how many work places switched policies like this? I think it was a lot and they did it with good intentions. People alone in their cars aren’t spreading Covid. Right?

But cars are awful and unsustainable. We need policies that get businesses to have employees mode share.

Racer X
Racer X
1 year ago
Reply to  Edward

Take the blue pill and relax…its all good and you are still riding your hot fixie in your mind…

Callan Dennis C.
Callan Dennis C.
1 year ago

I’m not familiar with Portland. But here in a northern Detroit suburb drivers are pissed at politicians that do road diets to allow for bike lanes that no one uses. So the hostility towards biking increases. It’s the fault of woke politicians!
I bike on tertiary roads with no problem. I avoid the busy car lanes that have painted share the road with bicycles symbol.
I’m 70 and would like to see 80. Rail paths are for me too!!

AndrewP
AndrewP
1 year ago

3/15/2023 it is finally 50F and sunny, I pumped up my tires and rode crosstown Beaverton. I find car-drivers here are more aware and courteous to bicyclists than the many other USA cities I’ve lived in. Traffic jams cause slower cars, a good thing. I bike when temp is above 48f and not pouring rain, otherwise I’ll use transit or my pickup which I try not to use for more than 200 miles a month. USA cities were built for cars, unfortunately, the best I can do is to seek bike friendly pockets in which to live.

PaullyO
PaullyO
1 year ago

Reading through the comments, I think a lot of you all are on the right track. I moved here 25 years ago. I rode my bike exclusively until I had my kid and moved out to 82nd ten years back. Most of my biking friends from back in the day have moved further out than me in order to find affordable housing or have left Portland entirely. I have been trying to get back into commuting by bike at least a couple of days a week- now with my young son- and it is ROUGH. Like, having my ten year old seeing people shooting up at 11 in the morning on our way to Gateway Green is hard to stomach.
Bike theft was always a thing, but daytime block-spanning bicycle chop-shops a block from my work in produce row for the last four years are also a reality that didn’t exist ten years ago.
Summers getting wicked hot, wildfire smoke, stolen cars street racing around- It’s a jungle.

Romy G
Romy G
1 year ago
Reply to  PaullyO

Yeah, I went to Gateway Green three years ago for the first time. I thought it would be cool to check it out and then bring my 10-year-old daughter to introduce her to mountain biking. Of course when I went I saw some dude with a needle hanging out of his arm 4 yards from the trail and I thought : “Yep can’t do that.” I emailed the Parks department about it. Never heard back. Guess I wasn’t “vulnerable enough”.

Wendy
Wendy
1 year ago

It has become much more expensive to live in the core areas of Portland. Because of this, more people are being driven out and to the far east of Portland to be able to afford a place to live. When your job is 38 miles away, and takes an hour to drive, biking is not an option. And really, who feels safe leaving their home? Not me.

Andrea Brown
Andrea Brown
1 year ago

I retired a few years ago and don’t have to commute anymore. But will I park my bike at Freddie’s or Trader Joe’s? Nope. Will I ride to REI and park outside even with a U-Lock? You’ve got to be kidding. I just finished a 1200 mile ride in Thailand where the traffic sometimes is crazy and dogs dash out of nowhere and you run over live cobras. I still felt a ton safer there than here. Traffic might be crazy in the cities but I never detected deliberate hostility toward cyclists, in fact Thailand has a huge cycling boom going on right now.The bike got locked with a cable lock and I didn’t give it a thought.

I get sad every time I see all those empty bike racks outside the Hawthorne Fred Meyer. A few years ago you’d be hard pressed to find an open spot.

We have to improve safety and stop the river of bike thefts before people are going to return to their bikes. As we all know, there is safety in numbers and that’s how the culture can shift away from cars.

And the events that got people excited about biking in their communities? You mean Sunday Parkways that has gotten whittled down and moved to areas where people don’t really bike that much? Yeah, that’s all good in theory but that event is withering on the vine and a lot of fun, advocacy, and good will along with it.

This was such a depressing story.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea Brown

Yes, the new metric PBoT and its data consultants should use is bike rack bike turn over…the full corrals along Mississippi and CBD of 2006 are now empty of private bikes…
…and full of Biketown bikes, some which are being ridden and taking up the slack from personal bikes (basic convenience + 18v hand held grinder theft concerns)

dw
dw
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea Brown

Every time I go to the Hawthorne Freddie’s there are quite a few bikes parked on the racks along with mine.

Andrea Brown
Andrea Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  dw

Granted, I go to Freddie’s early on weekday mornings, as a certified retiree should! But that makes me happy to hear, dw.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  dw

I shop at the Hawthorne Freddie;s fairly often and its common for me to see only 1 or 2 other bikes parked on a weekend day. Back in the middle teens it was common to see more than dozen parked at Freddie’s..

Seann Woolery
Seann Woolery
1 year ago

Cars have gotten bigger and blinder. Drivers are ever more distracted, and seemingly just worse at following the rules of the road. Riding among lifted coal rolling turbocharged battering rams is just not inviting. I am really hesitant to let me kid ride anywhere except cycle paths, and am not surprised by a drop in cycling traffic.

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

The decline is directly related to two factors: 1. Bike infrastructure has largely been taken over by homeless camps – bike paths have become glass strewn trash piles littered with tents, carts, dogs and feces. 2. Traffic has gotten worse. Regardless of bike lanes and routes, biking with traffic feels like rolling dice with death. Portland no longer even remotely resembles the bike friendly city of just a few short years ago.

jseski
jseski
1 year ago

I am an avid cyclist, I’m all for supporting bike infrastructure & improving rider safety. But this article & almost all the comments I’m reading underneath, undermines the mission. If there’s a problem with safety, routes, promotion of rider retention/recruiting then address that with data that supports it.
Within 10 seconds of looking at the chart you can see that single operator car use, car pooling, & transit are all down comparatively to cycling last year versus previous years. Meanwhile working from home is up almost quadruple pre-vid #s. And it’s not taking into account the decrease in available jobs nor the increase in early retirements that have occurred. The data only means that all transportation is down as less people are commuting. Duh. Get real data regarding rider safety, what percentage of vehicles are violating traffic laws, get the surveyors w/their clipboards to count the number of jackwagons texting while driving vs total vehicles (to get a percentage). Then you’ve got something to create change…. using this data doesn’t prove anything more than the fact less people overall are commuting via any form of transportation less than before.

Seth Alford
Seth Alford
1 year ago
Reply to  jseski

Comparing 2014 to 2021 numbers shows that cycling is down in greater proportion than the other modes.

I’m going to round off numbers so, hopefully, this is easier to follow.

I’m looking at the census chart. In 2014 there were about 8 people out of 100 who were working from home. In 2021 there were about 35 people out of 100 who were working from home. In other words in 2014, 92 out of 100 people took some sort of transportation to get to work. In 2021, 27 of those 92 people converted to working from home. 27 out of 92 is about 1/3. So so only about 2/3 of the people who were commuting in 2014 were still commuting in 2021.

In 2014 there were about 7 people out of 100 cycling to work. If cycling were reduced proportionately, there should be about 2/3 of 7, or about 5 people, still cycling to work in 2021. Instead, there’s about 3.

Emily
Emily
1 year ago

There are a few things that don’t make me bike as much as i otherwise, would and those things would be.

1:bike theft you can’t park your bike anywhere in this city even if you leave it for a short amount of time it will most likely be stolen if you walk away from it even when you have multiple locks

2: while Portland has done pretty well with there bikes paths so far many more to useful places are needed. And they need to be sectioned off from car traffic when possible.

3: drivers they have been absolutely terrible and dangerous to have to deal with. I don’t feel safe biking next to them and there car exhausts often hurt my eyes and lungs early pandemic when not many cars where using the roads Portland was amazing to bike trough and i saw lots of people cycling but now that the cars are back in full force not so much.

4: more business should have places to lock your bike up or have a lock box for bikes or heck even have a charger available for E-bikes it would be nice if these places had some form of security so bike theft is somewhat fended off.

Mouse
Mouse
1 year ago

The simple truth is we are aging out of the ability to bike and the new generation is work from home.

Sky Miller
Sky Miller
1 year ago

Is no one factoring in COVID for this analysis? The data is in 4-year chunks, and half of those years were in lock down. The chart shows working from home went from 9% in 2019 to 35% in 2022. No one is bike commuting to their home office!

Donald Duck
Donald Duck
1 year ago

Our roads are severely damaged. When we moved here, I told everyone how great all the roads were in comparison to other places I’ve lived. All the construction, gentrification, condos.. it’s destroyed the asphalt.

The bar scene isn’t what it was. I don’t really want to lock my bike up next to an encampment, it won’t be there when I go to leave.

Concert tickets have gone way up, so I’m not riding out at night at all now.

And of course the people driving have lost their minds. It’s ok to miss a turn and circle back. These people cut across 4 lanes. They ride down bike lanes. They have no patience driving.

Keep in mind, I’m primarily a driver and only a recreational rider. But that’s what’s standing in my way specifically.

rick
rick
1 year ago
Reply to  Donald Duck

Earl Blum and others tried to put more money into repaving streets in the late 1980s, but it didn’t happen. There was an Oregonian article about it from around 2016. Oregon, unlike Washington, doesn’t have a fee or tax on metal-studded car tires.

MarkM
1 year ago

RE: To put a finer point on the decline since 2019, just nine years ago (in 2013) PBOT says there were 3,478 people riding bikes in the central city.

Thanks, Jonathan. Coincidentally, when I snapped this PBOT bicycle counter on 4/28/2013, I had no idea that the mode share would drop to the levels seen today.

BTW, I referenced this story in a few of my recent bicycle counter snaps. I think your historical perspective provides good context.

And FWIW, I think it would be helpful if PBOT would clean up the Hawthorne Bridge counter now and then. It’s no longer a ‘Welcome to Downtown Portland’ sign.

Lucas Perkins
Lucas Perkins
1 year ago

I was a PDX cyclist for 20 years. The reasons I stopped riding are very clear. 1) I almost got killed by a truck blowing a stop sign on SE 37th just south of Belmont on my commute home from work. 2) I had two bikes stolen, one of them locked in front of Fred Meyer’s on Hawthorne. After those events, its just not worth it.

Helen
Helen
1 year ago

I don’t ride to work anymore because I got a better job farther away and had to get a car to get there. As in, start driving for the first time at age 42. And I wouldn’t need to except that Trimet has cut MAX routes so drastically that that there’s no way to get there at 5:30am when my shift starts. If there were even one train running early enough, Trimet wouldn’t have lost a huge account where my job gave hundreds, maybe thousands of employees yearly transit passes. I biked when I had that benefit. It’s so dangerous on the trains, even. Violent attacks are commonplace. You want to be able to get away fast. So I drive.

Also thinking about moving back east after 20+ years now that rents are approachig NYC prices. This isn’t NYC.

One more thing. There aren’t as many places worth biking to. Everything I used to go downtown for is gone.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Helen

Wow, are you me Helen? Not the first paragraph MAX stuff, but regarding downtown. Lack of bus service to my neighborhood occupied a large space in my brain for a few years (I used to like to take the bus downtown, or ride it home after walking/jogging). And then I slowly came to realize, about five years ago, that many of my favorite downtown places were gone. New cool things have replaced them, surely.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago

New cool things have replaced them, surely.

How sure are you?

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

The urbanists who claim to care about “affordable housing” [sic] were jumping for joy over the new Ritz Carlton and its shi-shi boutiques and restaurants. Portland is back, they unironically tweeted. I guess there are new cool things but can those who used to bike for transportation afford them?

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

Yes. When I’m downtown now, many of the busy shops, brewpubs, etc. are fairly new, and not places I can really relate to. It feels like two economies occupying the same streets–not many people on the streets except the very poor, interspersed with crowded hotel restaurants and the Apple store.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

How many affordable housing units did the downtown parking lot replaced by the Ritz-Carlton have?

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

Are you really defending a development for the very rich in the midst of a dehumanizing low-income housing crisis? Yes, you are.

This is exactly why YIMBYs will never find much traction in tenant communities. We know who you represent.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

I’ll take that to mean”zero”.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

Perhaps the question should be how many could it have had? Opportunity costs are a real thing.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen

Beer and pizza in Portland have both already eclipsed NYC prices.

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen

You have to be kidding yourself if you think Portland rents are approaching New York City. It’s impossible to find any apartment under 2k/month in Manhattan – even a shoebox. I have a two bedroom, 800ish sq ft place 3 miles from the city center for $1600. I would think that would easily be double that in NYC, or at least in most parts of the city.

HJ
HJ
1 year ago

I’m one of the new WFH herd. I made a career change after getting laid off during the pandemic that finally allowed me to get the disability accommodation I need for my health of WFH. I used to commute by bike about half the time.
Meanwhile I also ride recreationally far less. In part because I stopped racing after we lost Alpenrose. Riding the roads, especially in the west hills where I live, especially while female, is hazardous to put it mildly. There is zero infrastructure, the roads are crumbling. (seriously, I laugh at most of the areas people complain about, those roads are fine by comparison) Drivers are increasingly distracted, and over the years the degree of harassment I’ve experienced while riding ranging from people yelling obscenities to fully intentionally running me off the road (yes this has happened more than twice within 2 miles of my home) has increased precipitously. Simply put riding is not safe any more and those vaunted infrastructure improvements and reimprovements in the same freaking spots (UP area and downtown) over and over again do absolutely nothing to improve my ability to safely access public transportation or ride.
If you can’t get between those systems and your own home you won’t use an alternate form of transportation. Once you’re in your car you’re going to drive the whole way. Park and ride is a fantasy. Particularly when there’s never parking available at the nearest transit center. (Sunset)
How much of the decline is due to people moving westside to escape insane CoP taxes then realizing they can’t get over the west hills in a sane manner without a car?
I get so tired of hearing about CoP and even Gresham, then seeing the entirety of anything west of Goose Hollow and the massive impact it has because hey, it’s half the metro area, completely ignored.

 
 
1 year ago
Reply to  HJ

Ironically it’s quite easy to get from Beaverton to the Multnomah-Washington County border using the wonderful Highway 26 multi-use path. But then the path immediately disappears and there is no good way to get between the zoo and the remainder of Portland on a bike. ODOT or MultCo (no idea which agency is responsible) completing a path along the freeway between the zoo and Goose Hollow would be an absolute game-changer for bike commuting, completing the final missing link in a low-stress route directly between Beaverton and Portland.

For anyone curious about the route, it’s Center Street, a small multi-use path, Mayfield Avenue, Roxbury Avenue, Wilshere St, the Highway 26 path, Pointer Road, and Canyon Court between downtown Beaverton and the zoo. Try it out sometime 🙂

rick
rick
1 year ago
Reply to  HJ

Did you know that Multnomah County plans to repave SW Scholls Ferry Road by late 2024 between Sylvan and SW Raleighwood Lane? They have the opportunity to make a road diet and put a sidewalk on the east side of the street or at least put in jersey barriers. Please contact the county for support of this idea.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  HJ

Park and ride is a fantasy. Particularly when there’s never parking available at the nearest transit center. (Sunset)

Nobody goes to the parking ride anymore because it’s too crowded.

hamiramani
1 year ago

Seems disingenuous for PBOT to say they don’t know what’s causing the drop in bicycling in Portland. Or, it shows me that most PBOT folks don’t ride a bike to get around town.

The reason people don’t bike in Portland is because it feels unsafe to do so. Also, the infrastructure is just not inviting nor beautiful. PBOT needs to make driving more difficult while making walking and biking easy, convenient, safe and beautiful. Further, PBOT and Trimet ought to work together to make transit hard NOT to use.

The answer to the decline of biking in Portland is clear. PBOT’s willingness to make the tough decisions to encourage biking is lacking.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  hamiramani

Also, the infrastructure is just not inviting nor beautiful

Or perhaps it’s because many people who biked for transportation (or might have biked for transportation) in this city of the rich have been priced out. Being economically evicted is also just not inviting nor beautiful.

Mateo
Mateo
1 year ago

Yea I had loved riding to work and leisure in Portland. Unfortunately there’s been a palpable change in transport culture and etiquette in the last 3 years. When we first moved here in 2014, cars would go out of there way to stop and give right of way to pedestrians and bike all with a smile and way. Now there’s a lawlessness and angry feel to the roads which correlates with the rest of Portland life. I’d love to see that change back but don’t see it happening. I’ll stick to barrier/protected bike paths, and leisure gravel and mountain biking instead.

Lishka
Lishka
1 year ago

Gosh…not surprised…the City has tried to shove biking down our throats. I could have predicted this would happen. Now they are building infill housing with no parking spaces, but prove bike storage? They must know people are not biking to work. They have ruined major arterials throughout the city to make room for spacious bike lanes and protection for bikers…that has done nothing but clog up those formerly 4 lane roads — such as Rosa Parks Blvd. Rosa Parks was a major busy road and traffic moved through the neighborhoods. Since the advent of those bike lanes, cars speed down side streets to avoid the clog from the now 2-lane arterial….Most people do NOT bike to work. People avoid the MAX because it is dangerous. If you expect people to use mass transit as a main mode of travel you need to make it safe. This City does not know what it is doing and the goes for their stupid efforts to curb homelessness.

wallis
wallis
1 year ago
Reply to  Lishka

ODOT’s “Strangle The Rat” Engineering Principal # 342.37.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 year ago
Reply to  Lishka

Comments like this never seem to equate a century of subsidized car infrastructure, parking mandates, and bulldozing neighborhoods for highways with “shoving driving down our throats”. Curious.

Chrys S
Chrys S
1 year ago

For me, it’s about the city allowing homeless to camp in public places. More than once I’ve had to dismount to get around tents, garbage, or people shooting up. I also don’t always have a secure place to ensure that my bike isn’t stolen while I’m at work. I still commute, but not as much as I used to and there are certain routes that I literally just can not take anymore due to blockages. (Hello, 205 bike corridor.)

Bernard
Bernard
1 year ago

I stopped commuting by bike after I got hit a third car in as many months that ran a stop sign on a green way…

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 year ago
Reply to  Bernard

I too was hit by a car running a stop on a greenway, and then they took off without even checking on me, awesome!