PBOT hires polling firm to help understand cycling decrease

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation isn’t sitting idly by while their once-heralded bike ridership numbers head in the wrong direction.

As we’ve reported, a recent report from PBOT found that bicycling in Portland dropped by 34.9% between 2019 and 2022. The news was not a surprise, but finally having the data (since it was the first bike count report the city released since 2014) to back up our hunches has crystallized the issue and adds urgency to calls to reverse the trend. For our part, we have hosted conversations about what’s behind the drop and have read hundreds of your comments and emails.

Despite behavior changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so far the City of Portland hasn’t offered any official rationale about what might be behind the numbers. A PBOT staffer shared some of his views at a recent Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, but it was based solely on only well-informed speculation and anecdotal evidence.

Now PBOT wants more direct input about what might be going on.

PBOT Communications Director Hannah Schafer shared with us last week that one step they have already taken is to contract with a well-known pollster to find out more. “We’re working with the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center to put a poll into the field soon,” Schafer wrote in an email to BikePortland. “It will include a couple open-ended questions as well as a few yes/no questions that are designed to determine what Portlanders at this time freely associate with “bicycling,” the number of bicyclists for any purpose, and the reasons why bicyclists are riding less than in the past.”

The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center is a nonprofit that describes their work as, “accurate, inclusive opinion research” that is, “independent and nonpartisan; representative of rural Oregon and communities of color; valid and statistically reliable; and quantitative and qualitative.”

It will be interesting to see what OVBC comes up with. One thing we’ve learned is that there are myriad overlapping reasons behind the decline. Socio-political changes, the rise of tele-commuting, dangerous drivers, vast public safety concerns, and a lack of traffic enforcement are just some of the concerns we’ve heard about most.

Once the poll is completed, OVBC will process the data and provide a report to PBOT. “Once we have that information,” Schafer says. “We’ll use it to inform future steps.”

We’ll get another chance to hear from PBOT about the decline on April 18th. According to the agenda for the Bicycle Advisory Committee that was just released, PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller will present on the 2022 counts report and then, “present some thoughts on factors contributing to the decline.”

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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Dwk
Dwk
10 months ago

Is this an Onion article or a missed April fools joke?

dwk
dwk
10 months ago

Policy makers and business leaders often express surprise when I tell them that researchers lack basic information about the beliefs and values of all Oregonians. Yet that information gap is real: surveys often collect information solely from target populations, such as likely voters or narrow consumer groups, thus preventing Oregonians from understanding the values and beliefs of all members of their community. The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center offers a plan to correct this problem by helping all groups of Oregonians — especially our rural and underrepresented neighbors — share their feelings and views about the issues affecting them. Through that plan, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center will provide Oregonians a better understanding of their communities and it will create a nonpartisan, reliable source of information that businesses, policy makers, and not-for-profits can use to advance the well-being and prosperity of our state.”

How much did we pay for the Polling firm to write statements like this?
What do our Rural neighbors have to do with cycling in Portland?

jakeco969
jakeco969
10 months ago

Am I missing something in the organization’s mission (i just perused their website, thank you for the link)? It looks like this is a poll, not any kind of actual analysis. What it looks like is PBOT killing time with some old fashioned crony capitalism while waiting for the original report of declining ridership to be quietly forgotten.

dwk
dwk
10 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Exactly, the polling company looks like someone”s buddies and if the city listened to polls, the homeless problems and garbage pick up would have been fixed 3 years ago.

bbcc
bbcc
10 months ago

Sure they’re professionals, but they aren’t experts. Pollsters like OVBC don’t actually understand survey analysis, and it drives me crazy that gov’t agencies continue to hire firms like this instead of using actual researchers.

For example, OVBC claims that a survey they performed has a margin of error of +/- 2.48%. You can’t just present a single margin of error at the end of a document and call it good, that’s not how margins of error work — they are affected not only by the sample size, but by the estimated proportion itself. For a given sample size, an estimate of 50% has a bigger margin of error than an estimate of 1% or 99%. There should be margins of error on all the point estimates they present in that document, and they should be calculated correctly. The omission is statistical malpractice.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
10 months ago

That’s interesting as many of the medium to large government bureaus in the City of Portland have people on staff to analyze data to see how well/bad they are doing and to determine working directions going forward.
Is PBOT’s professional analysists all on vacation or something?
Or is this just, yet another, stalling tactic on their part?

Dwk
Dwk
10 months ago

I understand that and most everyone does.
I can’t understand why anyone thinks that a poll like this helps in anyway.
PBOT and the city have million dollar budgets and lots of employees to figure things out.
I have no idea what your defensive posture is all about?

Platinum PBOT outreach
Platinum PBOT outreach
10 months ago

Exactly!

In addition to this poll there will be stakeholder meetings and consultations of neighborhood associations and community groups.

Will
Will
10 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

I feel like the Office of Community and Civic Life should have a small team of researchers exactly for this sort of thing.

MarkM
10 months ago
Reply to  Will

I agree. Coincidentally, the excerpt that follows is from the April edition of The Hollywood Star News.

HOW CAN RESIDENTS ENGAGE WITH CITY?
The city Office of Community & Civic Life wants to develop a new framework for civic engagement so that Portlanders won’t face barriers to engaging with their government.
The office has brought in Pregame, an independent consulting group, to lead the Portland Engagement Project. The current engagement effort was developed in 1974, but it needs updating to meet the city’s changes over the past 50 years, according to Civic Life.

The author continues and mentions that there will be 15 listening sessions held in April and a three-day event at the end of the month.

For now, I’m going to assume that our new city auditor will ensure that there is complete transparency and accountability between the city and these outside independent consulting groups.

Will
Will
10 months ago
Reply to  MarkM

Interesting. Cambridge does a big city-wide survey every other year to help direct city policy and get feedback on programs. Seems like a decent place to start.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  MarkM

I’ve attended one of these sessions, and, well, “utterly useless” would be a kind description.

If you want to see the sorts of spending the city is prioritizing in the face of crisis upon crisis, attend one of these and see the kind of quality that only an outside consultant can bring. Will a similar process focused on cycling be any better?

Fred
Fred
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

They are not utterly useless: you get to put sticky dots on big charts! Fun fun!

MarkM
10 months ago
Reply to  MarkM

For those who might not read the Hollywood Star article, this reference is at the end of the article: What is the Portland Engagement Project?
Now, I’m curious. Why couldn’t the Portland Engagement Project (PEP) also include PBOT’s poll questions? Two birds…

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  MarkM

The PEP asks only three questions, which are hugely vague and general, and in a manner that only marginally better than putting dots on a chart.

It would be very ill-suited to figuring out why bicycling rates have fallen off a cliff.

MarkM
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Thanks. Good points. I haven’t attended a PEP session, and it’s doubtful I’ll be able to do so. Regardless, for purposes of efficiency, it will be unfortunate if PBOT doesn’t feed their polling results back to PEP for inclusion in the Portland Insights Survey. Based on the following statement from the PEP webpage, it seems they should do this.

Portland Insights Survey: Important research, surveys, and studies are already happening. Rather than duplicating data presentation efforts, we’ll incorporate their findings into the design of the data-rich neighborhood profile map.
Ref: https://www.portland.gov/cbo/insights

Serenity
Serenity
10 months ago
Reply to  MarkM

For now, I’m going to assume that our new city auditor will ensure that there is complete transparency and accountability between the city and these outside independent consulting groups.

That’s an awfully big assumption.

cc_rider
cc_rider
10 months ago

but a city government can’t make decisions based on anecdata and assumptions

We have the data. There is mountains of data showing what motivates people to bike, what stops them from biking, and how to build safe infrastructure. We have thousands of pages of research done by PBOT staff that cost us millions of dollars to get. We have dozens of unbuilt projects from the 2030 bike plan. We have dozens of unbuilt projects for the pedestrian plan.

I’m all for being data driven, especially as a public sector data analyst, but lets not conflate PBOTs newest consultant graft with actually caring about data. A more intersting angle would be to try and figure out who at PBOT is getting kick backs from this.

This is pure government waste. Nothing more.

cc_rider
cc_rider
10 months ago

It’s graft, plain and simple. PBOT could point to the thousands of calls the city has received about trash and dangerous people on our MUPs. Or the thousands of calls about reckless and dangerous drivers.

They don’t need cover. This is the most obvious cause and effect in the world. This is just another mechanism to funnel tax payer money to their friends in the consulting world.

Dwk
Dwk
10 months ago

You are a Ted Wheeler democrat pure and simple.
There aren’t many of you so I appreciate your constant defense of the most milquetoast bureaucrats in the country.

Dwk
Dwk
10 months ago

This is obviously one of the dumbest stunts PBOT has ever done, A silly poll by a silly group and you bent over backwards defending it until the overwhelming response about how dumb this is was plain to you.

Serenity
Serenity
10 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

You are a Ted Wheeler democrat pure and simple.

What world are you living in, and what color is the sky?

idlebytes
idlebytes
10 months ago

This is it exactly. Without some sort of survey to point to as an excuse people will start asking why they’re building any bike infrastructure at all with these declining numbers. They already are the previous article was full of people saying we should return the streets to drivers. From an informative perspective ya it’s probably largely useless but from a political one it gives PBOT a reason to continue, as poorly as they have been, building out the 2030 plan.

Dwk
Dwk
10 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

Oh they could simply clean up the streets, enforce some traffic laws and see what happens…
You know, like what we pay taxes for?

idlebytes
idlebytes
10 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

PBOT generally doesn’t clean up streets (read homeless camps) or enforce traffic laws. You might as well be demanding they stop shootings or provide water and sewer services for a better price. We pay taxes for them to do precisely this.

The amount of griping you’ve done about this one poll is pretty overblown. This will cost basically nothing compared to what their budget is or projects cost. They spend nearly a million dollars a year just fixing infrastructure damaged by bad drivers. They spend 30 million repairing streets. They’ve said repeatedly they need upwards of 3 billion dollars over a decade to bring all of our streets up to good condition. This poll is nothing.

dwk
dwk
10 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

Ok, thanks, I am glad you know what this poll costs.
Am I the only one who’s griping or do the other 40 comments not really count or are you just obsessed with mine?
The top rated “gripe” was from Sam, who I don’t know.. its not a conspiracy though I promise…..

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

So, legit question, if their survey determines that the primary reasons people have stopped biking is illegal driving and street camping*, what, if anything, should PBOT do about it?

*For the record, I think these may be factors, but probably aren’t the dominant ones.

qqq
qqq
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I was thinking about that also. They’ll at least be mentioned if the survey allows that.

If would be great if the survey actually led to the commissioners and mayor saying we need to beef up traffic enforcement and keep routes clear, and then do that. In that case the survey would made a real impact.

That’s what SHOULD happen. My worry is PBOT would say, “Those things are outside our scope of responsibility” and just set them aside and move on to adding more bike signals, or whatever the next thing the survey said was an issue–meaning no improvement.

Serenity
Serenity
10 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

 They spend nearly a million dollars a year just fixing infrastructure damaged by bad drivers.

You have evidence of that?

qqq
qqq
10 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

Yes. The survey’s value isn’t so much for PBOT to learn why people aren’t biking so much as it’s for PBOT to use to justify what they’re spending money and effort on to City Council, the public or anyone else who’s asking. PBOT also knows commissioners and the mayor also can use the survey results to justify any support they give PBOT for spending money related to biking.

cc_rider
cc_rider
10 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

Without some sort of survey to point to as an excuse people will start asking why they’re building any bike infrastructure at all with these declining numbers.

The people who don’t want safe streets aren’t going to care about the results of this poll.

Sometimes, I think the people who live here have Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to their government.

PBOT certainly seems to have no problem not caring and charging ahead when people ask questions about why they allow motorists to park in “protected” bike lanes, or when people ask why the made Greeley and 7th faster for motorists.

The only time PBOT seems to care what the public thinks is when the question is making streets safer.

but from a political one it gives PBOT a reason to continue, as poorly as they have been, building out the 2030 plan.

PBOT never had and never will have any intention of building out the 2030 bike plan. It’s creation was performative nonsense.

PBOT does not like bikes. They don’t like people who ride them, and most of all they hate that bike infrastructure tends to slow motorist down. They aren’t our friends or allies. PBOT is the enemy of anyone who values the ability to safely move about the city.

Serenity
Serenity
10 months ago

It might be news to you and some others Dwk, but a city government can’t make decisions based on anecdata and assumptions.

No matter how hard they might try.

Sam Balto (Contributor)
Sam
10 months ago

What is the point if you don’t have political will to do whatever they suggest??

biker_logic
biker_logic
10 months ago
Reply to  Sam

2% of the population is often is often mad or despondent that there isn’t political will to implement their particular vision. Instead of bemoaning reality, bikers could consider 1) why they represent such a narrow demographic and 2) how to broaden their appeal to wider cross-sections of society.

idlebytes
idlebytes
10 months ago
Reply to  biker_logic

This isn’t about the 2% (love how you rounded down) it’s about the other 98%. Building bike infrastructure gives them an alternative option similar to mass transit. They don’t have to use it but it’s there. If you only build car infrastructure people will only drive. Feel free to visit Houston if you want to see what that kind of thinking gets you.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

gives them an alternative option similar to mass transit

Another option that a huge number of people have given up on.

biker_logic
biker_logic
10 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

it’s about the other 98%.

I agree and would add that those genuinely concerned about the staggering drop in cycling would exit their naval-gazing subcultural silos and:

… consider 1) why they represent such a narrow demographic and 2) how to broaden their appeal to wider cross-sections of society.

idlebytes
idlebytes
10 months ago
Reply to  biker_logic

It’s so odd to me that you assume every cyclist in town is some sort of activist that spends all their time trying to appeal to drivers in the city to ride a bike. I don’t care if other people use the bike infrastructure I’m just trying to get around, save money and get some exercise. Just like I don’t care if other people use the library.

Seriously out of that 2.8% what tiny percentage is actually some navel gazing activist in the weird silo you’ve made up in your mind?

MarkM
10 months ago
Reply to  Sam

Perhaps more significantly, how and will the polling results be used by our new city government in 2024?

“Going forward, the city council will set policy and the mayor will oversee city business with the help of a city administrator.”
Ref: https://www.portland.gov/transition/government/

MarkM
10 months ago
Reply to  MarkM

Oops. In 2025. I didn’t catch my edit in time.

bbcc
bbcc
10 months ago

Issuing a single poll in 2023 is a really bad way to understand why cycling started decreasing in 2014! They won’t have any longitudinal way to evaluate how attitudes have changed along with cycling patterns, only a single point-in-time estimate from this year. Recency bias (over-weighting recent changes) and survivorship bias (they probably won’t poll people who left the Portland area) will be impossible to adjust for.

I’d spend the money on a protected bike lane instead. There will be no meaningful results from this.

Steve
Steve
10 months ago

Easy, there are very few “safe” places to leave your bike while at work, shopping, etc. Make inroads on battling/prosecuting theft and maybe the trend will reverse.

Alan Henry
Alan Henry
10 months ago

Another possibility is that the well-publicized exodus of people from the city and county over the past few years, especially white-collar workers, has permanently reduced the population of who tend to cycle the most. These peoples’ voices will not be reflected in a survey.

Me
Me
10 months ago

I get the surveys from this organization (once a month) and received this specific survey last week.

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Me

How’d it look?

TJ
TJ
10 months ago
Reply to  Me

I’m already questioning the validity of a polling organization that sends surveys to the same people every month. How did you get selected?

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  TJ

Take this month’s survey from Cosmo and PBOT to find out what kind of cyclist you are: Sexy Cyclist, Sporty Cyclist, Party Cyclist, Rebel Cyclist, or Artistic Cyclist.

Laura
Laura
10 months ago
Reply to  TJ

There’s a button on their website “Join the Panel.” They also provide “points” for doing various surveys, online and in-person focus groups. Points can be translated to donations to charities of their choosing or to Fred Meyer card, or cash via Venmo or PayPal. I wonder how they intend to get broad representation on statewide issues.

Priscilla B
Priscilla B
10 months ago

LOL. Spending more taxpayer money to figure out the obvious? No traffic enforcement, record traffic deaths, record homicides, record shootings, MUP’s that have been allowed to turn into dangerous linear campgrounds and we need a poll to figure out why less people want to cycle ?

Ri
Ri
10 months ago

The core cadre of bicyclist absolutists aged out of daily riding, retired, or now work at home.
Current bicycling in Portland is demonstrably more dangerous today than pre-pandemic and pre-decay.
Folks just aren’t into riding into the city anymore.

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
10 months ago
Reply to  Ri

Exactly. Yet we need to pay for a poll to tell us what we already know?

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
10 months ago

oh ffs another blue ribbon commission that will produce zero action
pbot can’t force the police to get back to work and enforce traffic laws
pbot can’t solve the homeless, mental health, drug and crime crisis
pbot cant or won’t keep bike lanes clear or trash tents and debris
pbot can’t stop people from stealing any bike locked up more than 15 minutes
pbot refuses to put diverters in any meaningful way on greenways, such as every three blocks
pbot refuses build protected bike lanes at any real level and then tears them out when someone complains about the loss of parking
pbot can’t even build a bike network in a straight line! (28th street greenway anyone? – 7th street greenway disaster or is it 8th or 9th – I can’t keep up anymore!)

someone please tell me what pbot plans to do with this information they glean from this survey? They have no power to make the real changes that need to happen in this city, and refuse to use the power they do have to build safer streets!

Stephan
Stephan
10 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Nomination for comment of the week!

Chris I
Chris I
10 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Survey over.

qqq
qqq
10 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

If the survey shows that these things are reasons why people are biking less (it seems like they are) PBOT can announce that the results show that almost all the reasons are things other City bureaus or government agencies are responsible for, and the City needs to get them to step up and act. Then the City needs to do that. And then PBOT should go to work on the things PBOT can address.

Not saying that will happen, but that’s what should happen.

The survey can also be used to hold PBOT accountable. For the things in the survey PBOT can address, people can pressure PBOT to follow through, and periodically ask PBOT to show what it’s doing to fix the problems the survey identifies.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
10 months ago
Reply to  qqq

It sucks that this will probably be a “cover our asses” survey + let’s wring hands and try and work with other agencies and then nothing will happen

CDD
CDD
10 months ago

2 weeks ago I rode into town for fun. Did not stop at all anywhere, except Starbucks near PSU (bike chained to chair while ordering). Back to SE by MAX. I use a U lock on the bike on the train. I also have a ~1 ft of chain and padlock to lock the bike. It was down my pant leg, and padlock in my pocket + decent size knife too, in case some cray was to start something on MAX. Yah, that’s why I bike maybe 1x/month on a weekend if the weather is nice.

J1mb0
J1mb0
10 months ago
Reply to  CDD

I have been riding MAX 6x a week for a long time now and I have never needed a knife. You might be making life harder than it needs to be with unnecessary fear.

The ulock on the max bike rack is a classic, do that every day. U lock + chain is pretty good, I’ve left my city bike overnight locked outside at goose hallow before. Very nervous, but everything was fine.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  J1mb0

Needing to U lock while you are on the train seems insane to me. I may just be a frog, but this bath is starting to feel uncomfortably warm.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I always use a ulock on max also since you can’t sit with your bike. I’ve seen people snatch bikes off the hooks right as the doors are closing.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

It’s stuff like this that makes me hate riding the Max.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
10 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

I’ve seen this happen off the bus racks too. You’d be foolish to let a bike out of your sight for even a second these days.

curly
curly
10 months ago

With all the great infrastructure that has been built during Geller’s tenure, sadly, this will be part of his legacy.

Fred
Fred
10 months ago
Reply to  curly

“Great” and “infrastructure” aren’t words that go together. It’s mostly just OK.

Carrie
Carrie
10 months ago

I’m a data person. Geez, I volunteer for the summer bike counts because collecting data and seeing the numbers flow yearly and geographically brings me joy. This poll is ridiculous. There’s been so much research done on “barriers to cycling”. I agree with others that there are good policy analysts at the City who could take this body of research coupled with the bike count geographic data and make some excellent, data-driven analysis as to why ridership has decreased over the past 10 years. A poll isn’t going to tell you that. Heck you even dig into the BP archives and the meeting notes from the BAC to get some answers. We’ve got world-class transportation consultants headquartered in Portland who can answer the questions already.

I’d like to see an engineering analysis of the frequency of infrastructure decisions that prioritized car movement and/or storage over bike movement. I’d like to see the post-installation analysis of bikeway infrastructure to know if there was a before/after change in bike ridership in a geographic region after work was done. Did folks use the infrastructure or did they actually start riding elsewhere? AFAIK PBOT has never done anything like either of those and these would provide more actionable data than an opinion poll.

Is this poll going to capture those of us who moved here in 2014 BECAUSE of the cycling infrastructure and have cycled through the decline? Who have watched the bike racks at the elementary school go from overflowing to not even half full? Who watched her neighbor go from enthusiastically buying an electric cargo bike to migrating to all car transportation for their family?

So much hand wringing at the City about not meeting so many of our planning goals. And so much weird response to look like it’s trying to be addressed.

biker_logic
biker_logic
10 months ago
Reply to  Carrie

So much hand wringing at the City about not meeting so many of our planning goals. And so much weird response to look like it’s trying to be addressed.

The hand ringing, polls, and “outreach” are designed to give PBOT an excuse to not do much to address their failure. This performative strategy creates the appearance of concern while giving PBOT time to allow the low-attention-span public to become disinterested.

eawriste
eawriste
10 months ago
Reply to  Carrie

Amazing comment Carrie. Thanks for bringing this up. We already know why people typically choose to not bike based on decades of research. This has been an epic failure on the city’s part. PBOT has ridden the wave of bike culture by promoting this culture and failing to support it through 1) building a functional separated bike network, and 2) monitoring progress (eg injuries, ridership) on this network. Now we are seeing the consequences of their decisions.

Serenity
Serenity
10 months ago
Reply to  Carrie

Comment of the week.

maxD
maxD
10 months ago

PBOT is so frustrating! They simply do not treat cycling infrastructure like transportation infrastructure. They can design a simple, direct, well-connected, easy to navigate network for people driving, but when it comes to bikes- hard to navigate, disconnected, unsafe, indirect, and poorly built. For some reason, bike infrastructure is used to meet equity requirements or as a tool to meet other street goals. PBOT used to have planners who could plan and design a functional bike route, now they just cut/paste from NACTO standard details with no thought given to creating useful routes to build a functional network. PBOT does not need a poll, FFS, they just need to start pretending bikes are narrow cars, and design for that.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  maxD

They can design a simple, direct, well-connected, easy to navigate network for people driving

Can they? When was the last time PBOT added a new, direct, well connected car link in the city? Our street network has basically been fixed since it was first built.

maxD
maxD
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Example: The City rebuilt Greeley from Going to Interstate. All of the motor vehicle lanes flow smoothly and directly to each connection point. The bike infrastructure is is nice long protected section with a southern connection that is a narrow concrete section that doubles as a driveway, has a light pole in the middle of it, and ends with a single pedestrian ramp into a 5′ wide bike lane (90-degree turn) for 2-way bike traffic. The north ends with either a disruptive, angled crossing to continue north on Greeley, or a narrow sidewalk that is too narrow for a standard bike to continue on Going.

blumdrew
blumdrew
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Sometime between 2009 and 2011, PBOT oversaw some changes near the Burnside/Sandy intersection which constituted a fairly major update to the street network in the area. This involved simplifying the intersections of 11th/12th/Burnside/Sandy for motorists, at the expense of 14th (it’s now a one-way carrying WB Burnside to Couch and EB Sandy). This change also involved creating the one way couplet for Burnside/Couch – a change that primarily benefited drivers (in my opinion).

Less recently, the Pearl is an interesting example of the city building new streets. And while some of the Pearl has car-free streets, the new stuff is all pretty standard grid stuff. Not much in the way of useful bike infrastructure either. And while yeah it’s not like sexy car infrastructure (PBOT hasn’t really done any designing of that kind of stuff ever), the streets are primarily car links practically speaking. For reference, I think everything between 12th, Lovejoy, and Naito are new streets that were created sometime between 1990 and 2007.

The road network is pretty well connected. Cars can get to the front door of almost every single address in the city without any safety worry whatsoever. PBOT may not have built much of the network very recently themselves, but they do maintain its current shape of 99.99% connectivity for cars, and a hodge podge of mediocre stuff for everyone else.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Low volume street grid IS well-connected bike infrastructure. Just because people can drive cars there too doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well for cyclists.

The road network is pretty well connected. 

As is the bike network. There are very few places I know of that I can’t access reasonably well by bike due to poor connectivity. Most places, I can get closer to the front door on my bike than in my car (and certainly than by taking a bus).

I think part of the issue here is definitional. If you convince everyone the only places they can ride are where there are no cars, then I can see why cycling rates might crater.

blumdrew
blumdrew
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Low volume street grid IS well-connected bike infrastructure

It’s not, or at least not in the same way a bike path is. Local streets are definitely safe, and mostly comfortable to bike on. But as long as the prevailing notion of what a street is in American society is a place for automobiles, bikes will be barely tolerated guests – even on local streets.

I will say that I think Portland has fairly good “street vibes” for cyclists as larger cities go. I feel much safer biking on small streets in Portland than I do in Seattle, I think in part because the cultural attitudes here are genuinely better. I know people rag on aggressive drivers here (as they should), but I really think it’s largely pretty good. And better than many other cities out there, even if the recent trend feels negative. There’s tons more work to do on that front (even to just maintain the same level of cultural understanding), but Portland is a city that is at least somewhat well positioned for that.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

at least not in the same way a bike path is

See Carrie’s post about why greenways are better.

Being able to ride all over the city without encountering someone in a car just doesn’t feel like a realistic goal. If that’s what you’re holding out for, you’re facing a lifetime of disappointment.

blumdrew
blumdrew
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Surely Carrie would agree that somewhere like the Springwater Corridor between the Tilikum end and Sellwood is a wonderful place to ride a bike.

I would agree that some of the grenway issues are solved by actual diverters. It’s part of why Ankeny and Clinton are effective pieces of bike infrastructure. But they are also commercial streets in and of themselves. They are both historic streetcar corridors, and both have multiple interesting little corners and businesses to go to. And I would say the exclusion of automobiles around the 26th/Clinton and 28th/Ankeny serve a dual benefit of making riding better and the businesses more vibrant.

In my opinion, fully bypassing almost every significant commercial corridor in the city is not an insignificant problem. I don’t want to be treated like a second class citizen by the built environment just for cycling to the vintage store, bar, or grocery store.

Being able to ride all over the city without encountering a car is plainly not the goal. It’s to have a network of paths, greenways, cycletracks, and protected bike lanes that allow someone on a bike to navigate to all parts of the city without encountering stressful/deadly gaps. That cannot be accomplished with greenways (even if you think they are “better”).

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Surely Carrie would agree that somewhere like the Springwater Corridor between the Tilikum end and Sellwood is a wonderful place to ride a bike.

I actually find riding along the narrow parts of the Springwater to be pretty unpleasant when the trail is at all crowded. I’d much rather be on a wide street, especially if I’m riding with friends.

I don’t want to be treated like a second class citizen

I’ve never felt like a second-class citizen because riding along streets like Hawthorne can be a bit stressful. I don’t even fully understood that argument. I’m not defined by my transportation mode, and I have the same access to the streets that everyone else has.

Most places I ride I come pretty close to your criteria of avoiding “stressful gaps”, and where they do exist, they’re pretty short (like crossing Powell or navigating through the Rose Quarter).

Maybe it’s because I see how much better things are than they used to be, but I’m generally happy with our infrastructure and with cycling conditions in Portland. I’m usually much more concerned about my bike getting stolen at my destination than I am about the trip itself.

I’m sorry you find riding stressful, because stress isn’t fun.

maxD
maxD
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I can see where you are coming from, I have been a daily rider for decades. I can navigate the Rose Quarter, the bullshit parts of Interstate, crossing Powell, and the million other sketchy gaps. But I also don’t really need most of the infrastructure, I am also comfortable taking a lane downtown. You and are are the 2% of Portlanders using the bike network. The question is, what would get MORE people riding. I agree with blumdrew that complaint our network is significant part of the answer. All those gaps and dangerous points just don’t work for a lot of people. What pains me is for all of PBOT’s efforts to add new infrastructure, they consistently neglect neglect to make complete, safe, direct, easy to use connections in a way they would not consider designing infrastructure for cars. More and more gaps keep getting built into the network, so the overall distance of the bike infra grows, but the quality does not improve.

X
X
10 months ago

Now Bike Portland readers can self-select to stuff ‘data’, or their favorite anecdotes, into this poll!

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
10 months ago

What would be more interesting is to figure out why Portland got to such high numbers in the first place. When I first moved to Portland in 1997 the city already had a high bike mode split, yet the infrastructure was nothing particularly special, certainly no better than many other West Coast cities.

My guess is that the mode split has more to do with the types of people who live in the community and its relative affordability (lots of active people having good paying jobs and lots of disposable income) rather than the quality and quantity of bicycling infrastructure and/or bicycle-friendly city policies.

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

According to PBOT’s count report, the mode split in 1997 was 2% (commute). Guess I don’t buy your argument as plenty of affordable cities had (and have) young, active people. Only a few had people riding bikes in any numbers however, and all those cities seemed to be building bicycling infrastructure.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

When I first moved to Portland in 1997 the city already had a high bike mode split, yet the infrastructure was nothing particularly special

Yes, exactly. Great infrastructure isn’t why people rode back then (it really sucked bad compared to today), or because the city had policies encouraging us. It was actually cool and fun and part of the Portland culture. No one had invented Uber, and while theft was always a problem, it was nothing like it is today.

I think the key may be cultural. And it may not be something that PBOT has a lot of control over.

Serenity
Serenity
10 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

You… haven’t seen the bicycling infrastructure firsthand lately.

Fred
Fred
10 months ago

A City of Portland mantra: Never miss an opportunity to hire a contractor.

ITOTS
ITOTS
10 months ago

I’m sorry but this comment section is a clown show right now. PBOT (and y’all) has been flying blind for years and the pandemic has finally forced them to admit it: the reliance on a single data point to track how well biking is going was always a boneheaded move. And now you’re upset because they are trying to find more information???

PBOT and the TREC research industrial complex have been running and spreading the “build it and they’ll come” playbook (the book y’all sing your psalms from when you say “if only PBOT would build stuff the way I want them to” ad nauseum) for decades now and here we are: “Bike mode share” and “miles of bikeway” or “miles of low stress bikeway” are totally untethered from one another at present. How the armchair quarterbacks here have deduced they understand the situation better and care more about addressing it than the folks whose literal job this is (folks who didn’t get into it because they were dumb and didn’t care (as it seems many here implicitly suggest)—I mean have any of you actually talked to Roger Geller, Zef Wagner, Nick Falbo, or Mike Serritella??? Find four more thoughtful, shrewd, open-to-new-ideas, bicycling subject matter experts that work for the same jurisdiction and I’ll eat my freaking toe clips.) is clear evidence they have no grasp of the situation nor are they as thoughtful as they imagine.

Dave
Dave
10 months ago
Reply to  ITOTS

I mean have any of you actually talked to Roger Geller, Zef Wagner, Nick Falbo, or Mike Serritella???

These dudes took many, many years to publicly acknowledge that Portland bike mode share was evaporating. They are very bad at their jobs.

Rhillier
Rhillier
10 months ago

Hard to imagine this survey will uncover any new information they don’t already have. With the lax enforcement of traffic laws, high crime rates, bike thefts or fear of it, homeless camps and garbage along our bikeways, and hollowed out central city perhaps the new talking point should unfortunately be “destroy it and they will leave.” Until Portland is managed by experienced and effective leadership that can focus on providing and maintaining core city functions the decline in bike ridership and other quality of life issues will likely not improve. Having lived in Oregon for the past 30 years the entire situation in Portland is very disheartening.

Carrie
Carrie
10 months ago

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would answer this poll if I were asked. And of course this is just one person’s opinion, but it’s coalescing around conversations I’m reading in other spaces about places to teach your kids to ride, bike joy, and, yes, frustration around Portland’s infrastructure. And maybe just a bit about what was great about riding here 10 years ago that just feels different.

For me, all the protected bikeways and buffered bike lanes and broken flex posts don’t add up to a comfortable riding experience. A comfortable, FUN, and yes still mostly efficient biking experience were the greenways. They are wide. You can ride fast and you can ride slow. You can ride with your training group and you can ride with an all ages, meandering group. You would randomly see folks you hadn’t seen in months and stop and chat. We just don’t get that same feeling of community and all types in our new/improved/modern infrastructure. At least I don’t feel it. My most personal example is that I’d ride all over with my 10 year old on any of the greenways but would deliberately avoid the Williams bike lane because it was too much to ask with a kid who didn’t always ride straight.

10 years ago car volumes were WAY lower. Car speeds were WAY lower. Cars were MUCH smaller. And I think a lot of my frustration stems from knowing that we can solve much of that on the greenways tomorrow if we put diverters regularly. The greenways don’t become unrideable because there are inches of leaves/gravel/plowed snow in them. Sure they are annoying because they bypass the business districts. Some of them are just stupid (Klickitat). But most of them, from the Willamette to East of 205, could be the “low stress” network we need if ‘we’ were less focused on the fancy stuff.

There’s my opinion PBOT.

circular firing squad
circular firing squad
10 months ago
Reply to  Carrie

According to many enthusiasts who post on bike portland, neighborhood greenways are dangerous car infrastructure designed to appease drivers.

Carrie
Carrie
10 months ago

According to many enthusiasts who post on bike portland, neighborhood greenways are dangerous car infrastructure designed to appease drivers.

I would agree with this assessment of the current n’hood greenway experience.

steve scarich
steve scarich
10 months ago

Let’s start by being very open-eyed about a survey/study like this. I will state unequivocally that it will be impossible to get meaningful ‘data’. Why? Firstly, the only good information comes from those who either stopped, or reduced their bike-commuting. Many will not respond honestly, because they feel guilty about their choice. They know (either consciously or not) that they ‘should’ still be commuting and aren’t. There is social pressure to behave in a ‘green’ fashion, so, therefore, people have to admit that they aren’t. So they will make up a response that can live with. They can’t allow themselves to say un-PC stuff like I feel threatened by POC, or the homeless. They can’t admit that they have gotten soft, and don’t like getting wet or cold, and prefer the comfort of their motorized, heat-controlled box. You will get lots of answers like the roads are in bad repair, or drivers are too aggressive, or my job does not have showers, etc etc. Answers that seem meaningful, and ‘let them off the hook’ emotionally. I completely stopped bike commuting about 20 years ago for many reasons (safety, fear of bike theft, got too sweaty, etc.). It is virtually impossible to encapsulate my ‘reasons’ into poll responses. Even though it might lack scientific credibility, the best information would come from say twenty randomly selected 20-minute interviews, out of a universe of hundreds of former commuters. Let them tell their stories.