The bicycling decline in Portland is very unfortunate. But it’s our new reality. The sooner we face the facts, embrace the issues that got us here, and have a productive conversation about what to do about it — the sooner we will get back on track.
Even though the decline wasn’t a surprise to me (BikePortland wrote about a major shift in local politics and culture at the start of the decline back in May 2014), reading the hard numbers from the City of Portland’s Bike Count Report still hit me hard. I’ve spent nearly two decades of my professional life trying to fan the flames of cycling in Portland, so to see us slip this far back down is a major bummer.
There are a lot of reasons why cycling is down in Portland, and Taylor Griggs and I talk about some of them in this episode, including:
- The pervasive sense of danger many people feel on our streets — from drivers and their cars, to interactions with unpredictable and/or unstable people
- The work-from-home shift and how it broke the cycling habit for many Portlanders
- How (and why) politics and culture in Portland shifted away from cycling
- The epidemic of bike theft
- The lack of bike routes on main streets (the “hidden” neighborhood greenways)
- The ease of driving and resulting increase in number of cars on the road
- and more!
We also read a few notable reader comments and share clips from interviews Taylor did around town over the weekend. My goal with this episode was to address what we feel are the key reasons for the decline and begin a conversation about how we can dig out of this hole. I hope it’s helpful and we’d love to hear your feedback.
Listen in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts. Read a full transcript below:
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Great podcast. It is nice to hear a myriad of possible influences being discussed directly. I hope you will you use this platform to take a more critical look at PBOT. The quality of their planning, design, construction and maintenance has really tanked over the last 10 years. I appreciate that there are individuals you know and respect within the bureau, but bikeportland is influential and a little critical reporting could help the bureau work on improving its performance across the board.
I hear you loud and clear maxD. I think about this a lot (how critical I should be). Also funny to read this because if you were to ask some folks at PBOT, I am way too critical already!
that’s funny! I realize that it would unproductive to be critical to the point of becoming adversarial. If you can get PBOT staff on the record, it would interesting to hear what went into certain decisions; for instance, you hinted at a future write-up about the convoluted bike routing at the north end of the Blumenauer Bridge- any chance of that coming out soon? It would be interesting to hear if PBOT has done a post-construction evaluation of projects like Greeley or 7th/Tillamook (or other projects where they received a lot of community input/resistance) to see if they are satisfied with the results.
Thanks for this podcast and your related story on the 15th, Jonathan. You’ve tackled some tough stories the last two weeks, and I’ve really appreciated your candor.
I’ve been feeling pretty down about the state of Portland lately, but your closing comments on the podcast yesterday gave me another reason to be optimistic.
In fact, it’s almost as if one of Michael’s responses to his article eight years ago (thanks!) also bears repeating: “My hope, in devoting a lot of pixels to exploring the fact that Portland seems to have lost touch with something we had for a few years there — a strong sense of our ability to be extraordinary — is that we can acknowledge the situation and move into our next period of being extraordinary. I love this city because I know that we are capable of finding our next story.”
Not sure how you can leave out the shift in who is likely to bike and how proximate they are to places (e.g., work) that they would ride to. If you see rents escalate this much (starting in 2012-2013) then as people get priced out, they will end up further away from the city center which is where a lot of people ended their ride to work pre-Covid. If you’re going from living at 30th to beyond 82nd and going to the same place, you’re probably going to be less likely to do it regardless of anything else changing.
Portland-Real-Estate-Market-Trend.png (692×406) (noradarealestate.com)
Not sure how you can comment on something without actually listening to the entire thing. I did talk about that! The list in the post is not an exhaustive list Blake.
Not sure why you’re so sensitive about commenting on a post about a podcast with a bullet point summary. I went back and listened to the podcast and it was breezed over, maybe one throwaway line about people getting wealthier and moving to further off places.
But regardless, that’s exactly who I’m not talking about. I’m talking about people being priced out who biked as transportation and not a status as a “bicyclist”. It’s the unbranded version of why people ride. Just because it’s a cheap way to get from A to B. But their distances are now longer because of the lack of affordable housing in the places where bike infrastructure has been developed the most.
That, plus recognizing that downtown isn’t going to be the center of the city post-Covid, leads to a different focus. Focus on the close-by trips (I agree about huge visibility and protection for greenways). Bike buses are a huge part of that, probably as big or bigger than Pedalpalooza/Naked Bike Rides/brand Portland biking things. Get people/families/kids introduced to their local greenways by super expanding the promotion and frequency of Sunday parkways. Less “brand Portland” more “just get people on bikes with neighborhood focused events focused on <2-3 miles from where people most likely to bike actually live, not where they could afford to live 10 years ago.
I’m sensitive because I get a lot of shit from people and sometimes I just get frustrated and tired of it. When I work really hard on something and a comment comes in from someone I respect that I hear as, “This isn’t good enough because you didn’t talk about this one specific thing,” (even though that might not have been your intent, that’s how I heard it, so I realize it’s me, not you) it is annoying to me. Sorry. It’s been a stressful week.
But yes, you make some great points that I agree with 100%! Thanks for listening to the pod and for commenting.
Maybe not the most effective audience engagement 😉 But on the other hand, it did lead me to listen and subscribe to the podcast.
With all due respect, I think it’s likely that “bike buses” are part of “Brand Portland” (e.g. lot’s of media attention but little lasting change in the ecocidal lifestyles of Portland residents).
I live by Alameda school where the bike bus originated, It’s a nice idea for very nice warm sunny days and the kids have fun in Nice weather.
I just rode by the school, there were 3 bicycles on the racks….normal for any rainy day. I doubt this is moving the needle but it’s better than nothing. The school is also in a nice neighborhood where bikes can be ridden easily.
Most days there is a car traffic jam picking up children….
A few kids may stick with it.
Many who are priced out become houseless and many of those who are priced out and have the means leave the Portland metro region. The displacement of lower-income people and the influx of high-income people likely explains much of the decrease in cycling mode share. I’m sure more luxury condo supply will fix this.
Yeah. I saw an email from Ron Wyden talking about his “plan” to deal with homelessness and I’m just constantly disappointed, although not surprised, that none of the alleged plans are going to do anything. They’re not solutions. Nowhere was there even a hint of a thought towards, I dunno, building public housing. Like has worked (as long as it was maintained) in the past. Our government is just terrified of actually taking any actions whatsoever unless it is police or military actions.
Yes we have built public housing and stlll do.. Are you so clueless and naive to think that it is built for free housing?
Do you think we should build it and give free housing to people or do you even think that deep?
That’s totally unfair for the thousands of people who work to pay rent in this city and I sincerely doubt that a lot of the tent crowd has the means to or even want to pay for it.
Nice thought though, completely delusional and unrealistic….
The viciously anti-poor Faircloth amendment effectively banned public housing in the United States.
The point about the political perspective and the associated comment is really important. While I doubt it would happen here anytime soon but if we continue down this path we could be added to the list of cities that remove bike lanes and return the street to drivers further exacerbating the problem. Hopefully the changes to our city council will get us some representation at city hall that will help hold that off.
All micro-mobility vehicles definitely need to be counted there’s no mention of them in the report but they’re using the bike infrastructure. There’s only one mention of e-bikes in the report as a caption for a photo. I assume they counted e-bikes but what if they didn’t?
First, I haven’t listened to the podcast (yet). But I want to keep my comments to the themes already mentioned here by Blake and Soren. As I’ve said in other posts, I’ve been a steady year-round Portland bike commuter for 22 years. I live just east of 82nd, and my commutes have been typically 5-10 miles each way, so I suppose my experience is atypical in regards to what the “typical” bike commuter is or has been. I can buy the argument that we may have lost some riders because they got priced out of the core and bike commuting got harder for them, or they left the metro area all together, or they have no reason to travel into the core anymore.
But my main question is this. Nearly every house/apartment/condo in the central city is occupied. Why aren’t those people bike commuting? I’m asking this as an honest question because I’m really stumped about it. Are we assuming only low income people are inclined to become bike commuters? Let’s say that the folks who moved in (gentrified, whatever) fit the typical Portland demographic of fairly highly educated and politically progressive. Why aren’t they riding? If the surveys are to be believed, bike-ability is one of the reasons that demographic chose to come to Portland in the first place. Yes, we need to do all we can to make riding safer and more convenient for those in the hinterlands, but how do we get the people who are in the core to choose bike instead of car?
I continue to believe that if the city is serious about reducing traffic deaths and injuries and meeting climate goals, they’ll get a lot more serious about social engineering the s*** out of our streets. It’s just too easy to reach for the car keys and let the bike keep gathering dust.
One thing to consider that I haven’t seen talk about much is that most of the newer developments that are happening are very walkable. Having lived somewhere before in the Portland metro where everything is a 15 minute walk, there is really no reason to bike. I think it is the only thing that can explain the increase in Portland’s population with a relatively steady VMT by car.
Definitely anecdotal, but I know quite a few people who live pretty close-in on the east side and NW, and their reasons for driving vary. Some people are concerned about their safety in regards to driver behavior. I get that. Some of them straight up don’t know how to ride a bike. Some of them work far out in the suburbs. Many more of them just don’t understand that biking is an option. They believe it’s something the only most hardcore commuters do – or something that you only do as a sport on the weekend after strapping your bike to your car and driving out to some mountain road. Riding a bike 15 minutes to the grocery store is seen as quaint and quirky, and not something serious busy people do.
I’m sure income is also a factor into it. For people that can afford a $2200/month studio, the cost of a car is negligible. There’s also the idea that the car is a fixed cost. “I already have it and I can go everywhere I want with it, might as well drive it.”
The negative externalities of cars are a huge blind spot for a lot of people that consider themselves progressive or left of center politically. Most folks are aware that tailpipe emissions are bad but they don’t take into account all the other pollution and societal costs that come from a car-exclusivist mindset. Electric vehicles have provided a feel-good cop-out for those folks too. Instead of doing what we can now – investing in biking, transit, walking, better land use, and social housing – it’s much more convenient to imagine some future 10 or 20 years down the road when everyone magically has an electric car.
We’ve been investing in biking, and mode share keeps dropping.
We have been making investment, but it has been very low quality- always relegated to only the low-hanging fruit and not tackling the tougher issues. PBOT seems focuses on metrics like miles of this or that, but they ignore the functional, network side of transportation. We need routes that are inter-connected most importantly, but also safe, direct, easy to navigate (good signs, well-lit, simple routes, etc). Even the brand new stuff PBOT builds has sketchy gaps, or is discontinuous, or has an incomprehensible route. This is transportation planning 101, but PBOT is not doing it- they are designing discrete segments and typical segments and NACTO standard details. 500 miles of disconnected segments of protected bike lanes has very little utility for people who want to get around the City by bike. PBOT needs to invest more in connecting our bike segments, better design, and better implementation. Here’s a quote from a coach: “practice does not make perfect, practice just builds muscle memory. Perfect practice makes perfect.” PBOT is simply stuck in the “low-hanging fruit”/”bikes infra only goes where it fits or is convenient” mode. They need something- outside pressure, new leadership, lawsuit?- to make them start to practice perfectly.
I feel like that response would have been better if my comment had been “We’ve been investing in biking, and mode share remains stubbornly unchanged.”
I don’t see much evidence that our decline in ridership is related to infrastructure, or lack thereof, or that continuing to build it will drive rates up.
You could be right, and I appreciate the nuance. However, I think the lack of quality infrastructure improvements is contributing to people feeling unsafe and/or unwilling to give cycling a chance. I live in NOPO, and I have heard from many people that they would bike more… except for _________(fil in the blank with a dangerous gap or unmaintained location)
Not only do they think everyone will magically have an electric car, but that we magically have infinite free energy, the cars magically drive themselves without errors, roads magically increase capacity without taking up more room, we magically have a zero impact source of vast amounts of lithium beyond imagining, and on and on. It’s all magical thinking to address the cognitive dissonance that they recognize they can’t keep living the way they do but they don’t want to change. People just don’t like the boring old but extremely functional solutions of mass transit and bikes.
I live out near NE 122nd & I-84.
I can only speak for myself, but I quit biking several years ago because of harassment by drivers in my area.
I quit walking to my local grocery store (~1 mile away) because ODOT/PDOT refuses to clear sidewalks so I’d have to walk in 122nd which has heavy traffic. They also have a sidewalk that I would normally take on their hitlist for closure.
I’ve just gotten to the point of “I don’t care” anymore. I’ve constantly tried to do the “right thing” but it’s not working anymore. There’s just too many barriers.
I’m still taking TriMet, but I’m very very close to abandon it and drive to work downtown (for various reasons).
This is the same question I have. I’m probably in the category of “gentrifier” in the sense that I bought a house in a place and houses are expensive. I live fairly close in, and I bike as much as I can.
However, I’m also in that group of work from home fake email jobs people, so I no longer have a “commute” to the city center. I take my kid to daycare and parks and buy groceries by bike. Maybe it’s the combination of more of the people moving in who just don’t have a commute anymore and people moving out who would otherwise have to commute. I mean, obviously there are multiple causes.
But I agree. For the people living very close in, so many of them could be biking and for some reason aren’t. And it’s weird.
From about 2004 to about 2016 I lived in shared houses in SE and NE. The big 4-5 room houses. We’d have more than 4-5 people living in the house and probably double that for bikes. Everyone got around on a bike. Starting around 2012 I had to move about twice a year. Every shared house I’d move into was sold. The people moving into the houses weren’t the bike riding type and would usually show up with a car or two.
Almost everyone I knew back then, all my roommates ended up moving out of the city. I think about that all the time, especially when I heard this report. There were a ton of big houses in Portland full of people that didn’t own a car and rode bikes, now a lot of them are gone and replaced by people who only drive cars, many of whom don’t care much for bikes.
They mentioned Zoobomb and Sprockettes. All those people who created the bike culture from nothing have all moved away
Nope. Many of them are still here and still deeply invested in Portland Bike Culture.
And what’s your point?
Found the homeowner!
Didn’t know you were looking.
This thread was about the people who helped create Portland’s bike culture. Eeore said they all moved away. I disagree. Pedalpalooza is stronger than ever, in large part because it continues to be maintained and supported by folks who have been part of the culture for 20+ years. Same with Breakfast on the Bridges. Drop by the Ladds 500 in a couple weeks and you’ll meet a bunch of the folks that have been here from before Bike Portland’s launch. Or come to Filmed By Bike in May and you’ll meet former Sprokettes, Zoobombers, bike advocates, and others who have been keeping the flame alive.
“Bike culture” is stronger than ever and transportation cycling has dropped steadily for almost a decade.
I think it’s possible to believe in the power of a strong cycling culture and also realize it’s not the be-all, end-all factor. But I would disagree with your implication here that it’s not important. Also, just FYI my definition of “Bike culture” has always been much more broad than just zoobomb,naked rides, sprockettes, etc… That’s just the most visually fun part. But “bike culture” in my mind is about the entire culture of Portland and how cycling fits into that. We had/have dozens of murals for instance, that include bike-related iconography.. We had relationships between bicycle folks and people at powerful local institutions like Prosper Portland (then the PDC), Travel Oregon/Travel Portland, the Portland Biz Alliance (!), and so on. City Club of Portland once hosted a custom bike show for crying out loud! Heck, in 2006 BikePortland put together a bike and art show that absolutely packed the atrium of City Hall. And remember BikeCraft? Or how about when the PPB had a designated Bicycle Liaison Officer (Hi Robert Pickett!) that came out of a community policing agreement following the tragic October of 2007? I could go on and on. But your assertion that bike culture isn’t a big deal in this conversation is totally off. Or maybe it’s just that your definition of bike culture is far too narrow.
You said “stronger than ever,” not me. I just said that contrary to what Eeore wrote, a lot of those people are still here and still involved. Eeore seemed (to me) to be implying that the (fictional) loss of those folks was somehow a contributing factor to the decline in transportation cycling. So let’s take the loss of “bike culture” icons off the table as a cause. There are plenty of other factors left to work on.
Portland police took the last 3 years off. But somehow our taxes are still paying for them? I want a refund! #impayingtomuchtaxesfornopoliceservices
And who told them to do that? The Mayor and DA did. Better send your bill to their offices.
They did it on their own.
I must of missed where the da has the power to make the cops go on strike for 3 years. If the mayor told them to stop working why do they still get a quarter of billion of our tax dollars every year?
I did listen to the entire 64-minute podcast and I only fell asleep twice. Might I suggest you edit it into 2 or 4 parts: An overview; interviews with folks; reader comments; and how do we recover?
49 minutes: The decline at PBOT started during the great recession of 2008-12 when the bureau suffered huge cuts combined with a commitment by Sam to fund bike and sidewalk projects in SW and EP, per the Portland Plan priorities (remember that?) PBOT has never recovered from those cuts – they effectively became paranoid after that, regularly sacrificing network expansion in favor of retaining personnel – useful on the short term but a disaster on the long term.
And then there’s the Bike Plan 2030, a total POS from the get go, largely ignoring the SW and EP to the point that politicians always had a good BIPOC excuse to not take it seriously.
How to recover? Maybe study peer US cities that have done well and ignore non-peer cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Paris that have absolutely no similarities whatsoever to Portland? Be humble and learn from others? Learn from your engineers why they prioritize car use? Create a community bike plan?
Dang david that’s harsh.
I’m always conscious of making things too long but I felt in this case, the topic was important and meaty enough to require all this time. Also, maybe you’re just not as invested in Portland since you haven’t lived hear for a long time? I think this topic is especially important to folks who live hear and are looking for analysis.
Also just wanted to remind you that you can fast-forward and scan through podcasts however you please. Also, I like keeping all this in one episode… makes it more convenient in some ways. But I hear your point. Thanks for the feedback.
And I like the idea of renewing the bike plan. Heck, the PBOT Commish just said he thinks the plan shd be updated! Wonder if anyone will follow-up with him on that and get it started? Seems like an easy ask from BikeLoud or The Street Trust!
JM, it literally needs to be diced into bite-sized chunks precisely because it is so meaty – there’s just too much to unpack.
IMO, the various In-Motion plans are a testament to how perfectly awful the original BMP 2030 really was.
Yes David I hear you. Keep in mind I am still relatively new to audio storytelling, podcasting and am still experimenting to see what works the best both for our listeners and for our work-flow… which is extremely constrained due to everything I’m trying to do all at once. Thanks.
Another tiny complaint:
I appreciate that you’ve added a transcript (because I will never have the time to listen to your podcast) but its format is essentially unreadable:
thanks soren. Totally hear you on that. Getting a nice transcript that is more readable costs a bit of money so I try to use that one. I will make it better. Thanks.
All of the podcasts I listen to (5-6 different ones each week) are 45-60 minutes long. I have no issue with the length of your podcasts, Jonathan. They are engaging and thought-provoking. If only the PBOT sweepers on NE Multnomah down into the Moda transit center were as engaging….
I just want to suggest a counter opinion: a podcast is the easiest thing in the universe to hit pause on and come back to later if you want but the best experience for a long conversation is to hear it as a long conversation.
I totally disagree with David. I really enjoyed this episode and all of the recent BP podcasts have been very well done. I disagree with some of Jonathan and Taylor’s opinions, but that makes the podcast more interesting. I don’t listen to hear my own ideas and perspectives told back to me. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the comment Scott. And for listening.
64 minutes isn’t that long. I regularly listen to podcasts that are 1.5 to 3 hours long. The podcasts could be on anything from avalanche safety to politics to neurology. These longer lengths are not abnormal at all from what I know of podcasts nowadays.
A couple of thoughts about the podcast:
Again, thanks for the interesting podcast and I hope you’ll follow it up with some more deep dives.
I can speak to my experience as a ‘new’ rider in Portland. I moved from a tiny town in Idaho where biking was seen as a frivolous activity at best and an impedance to society at worst. I brought that attitude when I moved here – well, the suburbs – in 2019, but I always felt a bit ‘off’ about the fact that I drove everywhere.
In June of 2020 I moved closer in and saw so many people out biking. They all looked so carefree, and like they were having so much fun. I also spent WAY too much time watching Not Just Bikes videos during the early months of the pandemic. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a kid, but I rented a Biketown bike for an afternoon (it cost a small fortune, lol) and rode all around my neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods. I had a blast. A week later I bought an old road bike from a retired guy.
In September of 2021, I decided to go car free for the entire month as a fun challenge for myself. My original intent was to just walk and use transit, but I met someone on one of my long bus rides to work who helped me figure out that I could turn my 1:15 commute into a 40 minutes by combining bus + bike. That was really the thing that got me a lot more serious about riding a bike for transportation. Now, I ride my bike pretty much everywhere – work, the grocery store, appointments. I even regularly do bike + MAX adventures to go visit friends in the suburbs. I still own the car but drive it maybe three times a month.
My experience has been a mixed bag. I think the honeymoon phase was pretty great. I was really sold on the greenway system at first, and didn’t mind going out of my way to use it. It took me a few months to be comfortable using painted bike lanes, and probably about a year of riding before I tried ‘vehicular cycling’ on more main streets. I think I’ve gone from being completely enamored with the infrastructure, to seeing its quirks, to being annoyed with how confusing and convoluted it often is to use. I still use it because I like riding a bike.
Probably the only thing that I’ve consistently disliked about it is the cars. Rain is fine, cold is fine, flats suck but it’s not going to get me off the bike. The first time a driver passed me too close I was shocked. I had a few close calls but figured that “came with the territory”. The straw that (almost) broke the camel’s back was being followed and harassed by a driver for about 13-14 blocks on a greenway. They tailgated me extremely close, honking and yelling slurs the whole time. Being inexperienced, I tried to go faster and stay really far to the right. I came around a corner too fast, hit a slippery patch of wet leaves, and went down. I ended up breaking my hand and getting some gnarly road rash. That event made me seriously consider selling the bike and just driving everywhere.
I think most normal people would probably give up at that point, but I’m weird so I stuck with it. I went on rides with some more experienced cyclists, learned the laws to a T, and am always trying to learn new skills to keep myself safe. The hand has since healed up, and I still really enjoy riding – I am just much more conscious and aware.
I think with the way people are allowed to drive now, most folks would not even entertain the idea of getting on a bike, let alone use it as a primary means of transportation.
Wow that crash is a terrible experience! I’m glad your hand has healed and you’ve pushed through the discomfort.
I got hit by a truck in 2010 and it took years to feel comfortable again. But I wasn’t being harassed when I got hit. I can’t imagine.
JM – I appreciate that BP is expanding the way you provide content, warts and all.
yeah! Thanks Zuckerdog. I think some people might forget how this enterprise started. Just one totally inexperienced dude typing up silly little personal journal entries in a “blog” format. I’ve always said I’m learning new things in a very public way and it requires a forgiving community. so thanks.
Thank you for the conversation and continuing to keep this issue front and center. Sadly, based on the way things are today in Portland and across the USA, I do not see much to encourage more people to get out of their cars. Culturally, the folks living in this country have been and continue to be inundated with car-culture/fossil fuel marketing. And, the (infrastructure) reality on the ground only helps bolster people’s perceptions that the car is the default mode of transportation. We can advocate until we are blue in the face but without support and action at the governmental/bureaucratic level we will never see the mode shift that is needed to feel safe riding a bike, walking, rolling, etc. If people *feel* unsafe and inconvenienced by a mode of transportation they will be very unlikely to take it up as their default. (Note: Feeling is about perception; drivers generally do not think about the thousands of people in cars that are killed every year because of the perception of safety while sheltered in a car; this perception of safety is dissolved when one is on public transit, on a walk or a bike ride and one encounters a discomfiting situation.)
As was mentioned during this conversation, it is way too easy to drive in Portland (really, anywhere in the States). Add that the ease to the lack of repercussions for breaking simple traffic laws (eg, stop at red light) and you get a toxic stew of selfish drivers who feel entitled to every inch of public space in our communities.
I am sad to say that I have been provided little reason to believe ANY of these solutions (or any solutions remotely like them) are even being considered at City Hall.
These are all really good solutions and I agree they would be effective. I don’t understand why at least the first two aren’t an easy sell. Nobody actually wants people speeding and running red lights, automated or not, a near guaranteed repercussion for running a light etc (absolutely without armed cops) would go a long way to improving driver behavior. I also feel like it it should be (but seems not somehow) an easy sell to locals to put in traffic diverters on almost every single block. Every block should be a cul-de-sac for cars. Seems like that should be low hanging fruit. Locals get less annoying cut through traffic without losing their precious car access, cyclists etc get safer streets.
I wish I knew why more people don’t care enough to advocate for easy solutions, at least at the neighborhood level. I feel that most people have given up on civic duties & life; most folks are content with their cars and the ability to move around “freely”. So, anything perceived as getting in their way may feel like an affront to their individual liberties, even if it means having a more hospitable neighborhood in which to live.
When I moved to Portland I thought I would be surrounded by people who simply wanted to live in a wonderfully walkable place; what I have encountered is actually the opposite. Most people want to drive at all cost.
Great pod! Thank you for years of service and content. These salty commenters should go start their own blog. wHY Isnt bikEPOrtLAnD tALkIng ABOUT THiS? I don’t think there’s anything yall havent covered.
I noticed a bunch of think-tank and nonprofit “urbanists” claiming that nominal (non-inflation-adjusted) gas prices were the primary cause of the sharp drop in cycling after 2014. Using this kind of logic. gas prices during 70s oil crisis would have been quite the bargain at ~80 cents/gal! It seems that proponents of Econ 101 solutions for just about every social problem desperately need an Econ 101 refresher course.
Car culture involves a lot more than gas prices, just like gun culture is about more than the price of ammo. But just looking at this chart, Portland’s bicycle mode share was at its highest level right about the time gas prices were at their highest (2012-2015), and started taking a dive about the time gas prices did (2015-2018). That’s just an observation; I’m not claiming correlation.
Listening to the podcast and the comments Taylor gathered, and reading the comments on the initial BP post about the PBOT numbers, it’s obvious that fear of drivers is a big factor in why many people have given up cycling. And some admitted that it’s just easier to drive, even if they know it’s a less sustainable or healthy choice. Cars are the fast food of transportation. If we know driving is bad for us physically and emotionally, destructive to the planet, and contributes to less livable communities (and by “driving” I know that’s a really broad generalization, but for the sake of argument let’s say I’m talking about trips that could be accomplished by some other mode than a SOV trip of 2-5 miles), then making driving more expensive (gas taxes and registration fees that actually pay for the infrastructure cars require, congestion pricing, tolls, parking fees that cover the real market value of the land the car sits on, etc) seems like one way to socially engineer people out of their cars.
No one actually knows why cycling is down. We’re all trying to figure it out, and commenters in these recent threads have come up with dozens of possible “reasons” to explain the drop. There won’t ever be a randomized control trial to determine that answer, so the best we can do is note correlations and possible cause.
Further, I think it would be safe to say that many possible factors have had an effect, and that the strength of those effects range from small to large.
I think you’re too quick to dismiss the effect of gas prices on cycling. I was personally very aware of the price of gas during the Bush years- the USA was fighting a whole war that many of us thought was about oil all along. The constant increase in that price was obvious and the concept of Peak Oil was also very much in the news. I think that this steady increase (just look at it go for almost an entire decade) had many of us assuming that the price would simply increase forever until we ran out.
So, for many of us riders, cycling was a way to reduce our carbon footprint and our personal budgetary expenses. I think that the price of gas goes a long way to explaining the rise in cycling here in Portland. In that case, it’s a reasonable guess that the substantial drop after 2014 is at least a partial factor in the coincident decrease of cycling.
The tone of your comment suggests that someone would have to be stupid or poorly uneducated to connect these dots. Or maybe I’m reading you wrong, and you’re really just hung up on “nominal” vs “inflation adjusted”. In which case I don’t know who these people are that you’re hearing mess up this distinction.