Comment of the Week: Parking and bike lanes in neighborhoods

The comment thread under Friday’s 33rd Ave bike lane story was among the strongest I’ve seen. The expertise that many BP commenters share sometimes goes beyond the original story, and the comments themselves end up being a whole new information source. That’s what happened with this thread.

One theme running through the comments was the city’s obligation (or rather, lack of obligation) to provide parking for private vehicles in public spaces.

Half of the comments were strong enough to be the “Comment of the Week,” I went with Keith’s for a few reasons. One, he’s read the other comments in the thread and is adding to the conversation. Keith is well-informed about local and state policy. And finally, he steps back from the immediate issue and looks at the big picture.

Portland is making a difficult transition to becoming a city which relies less on cars. Can we improve how we’re going about this so that cycling doesn’t have a big bulls-eye on it’s back?

I also thought it was interesting that Keith’s comment aligned with an editorial by Jonathan back in 2012 where he wrote, “Despite Portland planners’ dreams, most people still own cars and they need a place to put them… This increased demand on neighborhood parking has a lot of real consequences — many of which have come up in bike-related projects.”

Here’s what Keith had to say:

I agree with Woodsong’s comment about an agency in chaos. PBOT has historically had its problems, but it is clearly entering a new phase and beginning to spiral out of control.

Quickly following the SW Broadway debacle, we have another! This is disturbing on multiple levels – many articulated in the preceding comments. I’ll add a couple more.

First, PBOT is quick to point out that it doesn’t have sufficient funding to implement planned bicycle infrastructure projects in the TSP and In Motion plans, but then has no qualms about wasting it by installing a facility and then taking it out! Your tax dollars at work.

Second, the policy to not require off-street parking is appropriately intended to reduce housing cost (as with the 4-plex in the story), but the city (and state that now mandates this approach) has failed to recognize how this will only make on-street parking removal for active transportation needs more difficult politically and practically.

The transition to a car-free society will take time, and we need neighborhood parking strategies to deal with this issue so we don’t inadvertently create political roadblocks to providing the active transportation infrastructure that is essential for us to become car-free.

Thank you for your insights, Keith. A lot of other comments in this thread touch this same subject and are worth reading.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

45 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago

The transition to a car-free society will take time…

Even in Dutch and Danish cities with bike mode share at 40-50% of trips, the majority of trips over 5 km are via the bloody car. This is the kind of comment that only someone who wants to add fuel to the SUV culture war fire would make.

http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2019/08/the-car-free-myth-netherlands-is-great.html

Medium-long trips in the Netherlands:

comment image

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  pierre delecto

I read that and did not think Keith is making a statement about what he wants and/or what he believes will happen. To me, it sounds like a general comment about wanting to reduce driving. Guess I don’t read things as literally as you do.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago

general comment about wanting to reduce driving

I want this too, but the conditions necessary to make a significant dent in driving are currently utterly unimaginable in Portland.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  Watts

To you, maybe. But not to me. And I’m not alone. In fact, it’s very easy to see and simple to do. I think your comment reflects the incredible amount of timidity Portland leaders have displayed in the past decade or so. I think people would be shocked how quickly narratives and perspectives on transportation could shift if we were able to actually make a bold move or two without shooting ourselves in the foot every damn time we try.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago

it’s very easy to see and simple to do.

If you really believe this, you aren’t really thinking the issue through. Providing bus and transit service that could serve the needs of even half Portland’s population would be cripplingly expensive, environmentally damaging, and logistically difficult. Rebuilding the city in the mold of NYC (which still uses a lot of cars) isn’t going to happen in the next 100 years.

It’s going to take a LOT more than “a bold move or two” to fundamentally reshape how Portlanders think about transportation.

But, since you piqued my curiosity, what is the “bold move” that you think would upend everything? How could you get enough people to support it?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  Watts

There are many ways to go about this. Some are simple and easy. Others, not so much. They all depend on many factors, like who’s in city hall, who’s in leadership at PBOT, TriMet, Metro, ODOT, and so on. I’m someone who thinks about revolutionary change and what it might take to get there. I look at places like Paris or Bogota or Seville where they’ve had bold, visionary leadership who just got shit done without letting naysayers control the conversations.

As for bold moves that could be simple and easy and cheap. We could pedestrianize a large swath or swaths of downtown and create great public spaces that would help activate spaces and spur the revitalization everyone says they want (instead of the tired and terrible “free parking” idea they are currently focused on). We could also identify a key network of streets and install large concrete curbs in the outside lanes to create Low Impact Vehicle (LIV) lanes where bikers, walkers, and all other non-drivers would have ample space and safety. That would change the dynamic overnight.

There’s so much we can do. We have always just been either too satisfied with incrementalism (it’s a disease in Portland) and/or too timid to go from good to great.

(Also, how dare you say I’m not “really thinking the issue through”! Come on Watts! I think about this shit all day every day.)

Fred
Fred
3 months ago

Watts comes here to s**t on others’ optimism, so I hope you don’t take it too personally, JM. Please keep up the good work and advocacy that you do!

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

I’m the most optimistic person here! I’m probably the only one who thinks the riding is good and getting better.

socially engineered
socially engineered
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

“Optimistic” lol

71275PB_2048x
pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago

As for bold moves that could be simple and easy and cheap. We could pedestrianize a large swath or swaths of downtown and create great public spaces that would help activate spaces and spur the revitalization everyone says they want

Speak for yourself. Urban renewal had a disastrous impact on people of color and lower-income people. I expect market urbanist “revitalization” to similarly leave behind those who are not “winners” in our racial capitalist system.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  pierre delecto

Are you really comparing my call for more carfree spaces downtown to “urban renewal”? That’s pretty convenient of you and your narrative. And who do you think suffers the most when the only way to experience downtown is with a car or when you have to buy something at a business? Yep, rich people. Great cities have spaces where you can enjoy and take part in the urban core without having to buy anything and you can be safe and enjoy yourself around lots of other people. Cheapest/quickest way to make that happen IMO is to get cars out of the way and reclaim space for people.

Call that whatever you want, but don’t put words into my mouth.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago

And who do you think suffers the most when the only way to experience downtown is with a car or when you have to buy something at a business? Yep, rich people. 

To me reads like a tacit admission that “activating spaces”* and market urbanist “revitalization” is oriented towards upper-income people…but I would not want to put words in your mouth.

9watts
9watts
3 months ago

I think one of the reasons Watts says what he does is that neither Party in this country speaks the truth anymore (if they ever did). On the right we have grievance politics, scapegoating, violence, and the other party (not the left by any common measure) dabbles in virtue signaling, corporate double speak, and wishfulness.
Neither has resource to any language, or commitment to taking our predicament, the threat of climate change, diseases, food insecurity, inequality, etc. seriously, so if your litmus test is what either party offers then of course you might be inclined to say things that Watts (clear eyed realist) offers here.
But of course, as Bill McKibben is fond of saying, you can’t negotiate with physics. Just because neither party wishes to acknowledge physics or meteorology or inequality or … doesn’t mean those won’t carry the day. They will, and the longer we give credence to foolish nonsense from either party the worse the reckoning will be.

Charley
Charley
3 months ago
Reply to  9watts

You cannot negotiate with physics… but you also cannot pass a federal climate change bill *unless* you negotiate with Republicans or at least red state Democrats.

So, what’s your plan for creating a third party that is both electorally successful *and* further left than the Dems?

Also, if you actually think the two parties are the same on this issue, could you please remind me which politician passed the IRA, and which politician continually claims that climate change is a hoax?

Do you really think the Dems don’t acknowledge the physics? Or are they just not as aggressive as *you* would prefer?

I would totally understand and agree if you argued that neither of these parties or politicians satisfy *your personal* political goals, or if you argued that neither party has succeeded in arresting climate change.

But if you truly can’t see the difference between them, then I fear you are simply having trouble recognizing reality in front of you.

The reason I ask is because I see so much inflamed, exaggerated rhetoric in this forum, and I worry that the unhinged quality of this kind of absolutist language turns people off of politics. Does exaggerating the perfidy of mainstream left parties depress the strength of their constituents? Maybe the Dems would be further left, if the leftmost voters joined up and enthusiastically voted, instead of constantly yelling that the two parties are indistinguishable!

9watts
9watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Charley

Hey Charley,
we’re on the same team!

I didn’t say they were indistinguishable; I said neither is telling the truth or have their priorities straight: Justice, Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Climate Change, Inequality, Voter Suppression, Racist Police, etc. are not MY PREFERENCES, they are real flesh and blood, do or die issues.

Charley
Charley
3 months ago
Reply to  9watts

we’re on the same team!”

I’ll take your word on that. . . but it would honestly impossible to tell that from anything you’ve written about the issue!

Maybe I was being imprecise: when you write, “neither [party] is telling the truth or have their priorities straight”,, it does not literally mean that the parties are indistinguishable. But that’s kinda splitting hairs: your obvious disdain for and regular equivocating of both parties leaves a much stronger impression!

9watts
9watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Charley

I didn’t think the distinction would be controversial.

Indistinguishable (your word)
= the same when viewed from any angle

Neither party tells the truth on issues we discuss here
= The Biden administration has continued to approve massive fossil fuel projects like the Willow oil drilling complex in Alaska and the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Appalachia. Biden has also ramped up drilling on public lands and overseen the expansion of fossil gas exports, whose emissions could outpace the gains from Biden’s climate actions. All while mouthing platitudes about the importance of tackling climate change. It is, we might agree, not worth even bothering to quote the Republicans here who don’t even pretend to tell the truth.

We can perhaps agree to disagree on the implications here (whether the salutary stuff the Biden administration has accomplished over here on climate outweighs the terrible things they are approving over there). My point is that leadership does not look like this, does not mystify, blow smoke, strain credulity.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago

Come on Watts! I think about this shit all day every day.

Then you should know that fundamentally transforming our transportation system is not “very easy and simple to do”.

You know as well as I do that what you are proposing, even if it had the effect you claim (which I am highly skeptical about), any of those changes would be enormously difficult to implement.

This is especially true when we are entering an era where it will take 7 votes on city council to do anything, which will require at least some support from 3 of the 4 districts, which effectively means we can’t do much without some level of broad agreement (the opposite of conditions in which bold visionary leadership can flourish).

socially engineered
socially engineered
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

“Rebuilding the city in the mold of NYC…” How about in the mold of Portland, where electric trolleys served 100% of the (able-bodied) population a century ago?

laurelhurst-1912
Watts
Watts
3 months ago

How about in the mold of Portland, where electric trolleys served 100% of the (able-bodied) population a century ago?

Those worked great when the city was tiny, and it was literally built around transit lines. Conditions have changed, along with people’s expectations, so the range of viable solutions has to change as well.

Those lines were all privately owned, and they mostly went broke. If anyone thinks they can make a profit running a private transit service today, they should go for it.

socially engineered
socially engineered
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

If people’s expectations have changed so much, why are walkable neighborhoods close to transit still the most expensive (read: desirable)?

https://slate.com/business/2023/01/real-estate-walkable-home-prices-rent-smart-growth-america-report.html

socially engineered
socially engineered
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Conditions will be more favorable to public transportation, walking, and bicycling with increased infill density and transit-oriented development. Most daily trips are already under 3 miles, ideal for either bicycling or frequent transit. The average Portland metro household travels just over 28,000 miles annually, which could be brought a lot closer to New York’s 21,000 annual miles per household with the right policy choices.

https://www.axios.com/local/portland/2023/07/25/portland-residents-average-annual-mileage

Watts
Watts
3 months ago

We’ve been talking about infill and TOD since the 1990s, and it is happening, but slowly. More slowly now that interest rates are up and people are leaving the city.

I am one of the very few people I know who will still ride a bike to the grocery store, and I know the bike racks are much emptier than they used to be (sure, anecdotal, but confirmed by data about overall cycling rates).

Most people drive, even close in, and no one is going to just abandon housing outside the urban core, especially not in the time frame we care about.

This is an observation/prediction, not what I necessarily want to see. You talk about what we should do, and I may not disagree, but the limiting factor is always the ability to deliver.

In these conversations, no one is ever willing to talk about how to make their vision work given the reality of where we are. Even here in this forum, I can’t get people to agree we should slow down a two block section of NE 33rd. How are we going to reshape an entire city full of much less sympathetic residents?

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

no one is ever willing to talk about how to make their vision work given the reality of where we are.

YIMBYism:

1. Label anyone who disagrees with you as a NIMBY.
2. Mercilessly harass and bully “NIMBYs” on social media.
3. ????
4. Urbanist utopia!

9watts
9watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Watts,
perhaps the central issue we disagree about is the one of leadership. We don’t have it here; we have not had it for so long we don’t even know what we are missing anymore. Your theory of social change suffers from a blindness to what actual leadership could effect.

Our elected and other leaders drift about, have no center, no passion, no vision, haven’t persuaded me that they even understand our precarious predicament. In the face of that vacuum it should surprise no one when the public isn’t focused on change, is not inspired to *collectively* pursue any recognizable course of action.

I believe that many of our fellow citizens (a) understand we are in serious trouble, and (b) would support and even join a plausible vision by someone with integrity out of this mess. But where is that vision articulated? Nationally we have Ralph Nader, Bernie Sanders, AOC, but locally?

9watts
9watts
3 months ago

Made me smile. I asked my wife before I clicked post. and she said Elizabeth Warren.
Biden, unfortunately, has turned into an unmitigated dumpster fire as far as I’m concerned. Notwithstanding a few good appointments he made early in his administration. But leadership? Maybe that one speech he gave about the danger of MAGA extremists.

9watts
9watts
3 months ago

Rashida!

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  9watts

a plausible vision by someone with integrity out of this mess

Therein lies the rub. If someone can deliver this, I’ll support them. None of the names you mentioned seems to have offered a plausible vision that people are willing to follow.

Biden, who you decry below, is the only one who’s actually getting stuff done.

Maybe 2028?

socially engineered
socially engineered
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, most people drive. Nearly half of Portlanders also say they would choose alternatives to driving if they were safer and cheaper. If that seems “unimaginable”, that’s on you, buddy.

https://bikeportland.org/2023/08/02/nearly-half-of-portlanders-would-bike-more-if-it-was-safer-and-cheaper-citywide-survey-says-377709

No one said anything about abandoning housing outside the urban core. As for how to reshape the city, it starts with getting rid of artificial constraints on housing: restrictive zoning, FAR limits, overly complex permits, etc.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago

Nearly half of Portlanders also say they would choose alternatives to driving if they were safer and cheaper.

If we had better alternatives than driving I have no doubt that people would use them. The part that no one seems to be thinking clearly about is what it would take to provide those alternatives.

If we don’t abandon housing further out, it means the city will continue to sprawl as it currently does. That’s fine, but that means that whatever transportation system you are imagining needs to work for those folks too.

I would love to hear your ideas for how it would all work, preferably sticking within physical, political, economic, and environmental limits. I expect you have nothing to offer on this front.

PS If “safer” and “cheaper” were all it took, there would be a lot more folks on the bus. Clearly there are other factors at also highly valued, such as “faster”, “more comfortable”, “when I want to go”, and “not walking too far, especially at night or in the rain”.

socially engineered
socially engineered
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Once again actual research findings, i.e. *facts*, crash against the immovable wall of Watts’ gut *feeling* that those facts just can’t be true.

In a similar vein I suspect your idea of political and economic “limits” will conveniently turn out to be whatever makes the status quo inevitable. Not taking the bait, sorry. Feel free to refer to my past commentary on how the city might improve transportation quality.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago

*facts*, crash against the immovable wall of Watts’ gut *feeling* that those facts just can’t be true.

Considering I said I had “no doubt” people would do what they said they would do on the survey, I’m not sure where you get this from.

The point is while your vision for the future is compelling, there just isn’t any way to get there. I would love to be proven wrong.

socially engineered
socially engineered
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

“There just isn’t any way to get there..” Not with that attitude there isn’t.

X
X
3 months ago

Even the most efficient cars use more road space than other surface transportation. They need width and length and safe following distance to move. Most of the time they aren’t moving but a lot of cars inflexibly take up road space all the time for parking.

If there were no on-street parking a city would have little need for dedicated bike infrastructure. Imagine NE Ainsworth without car parking. One parked car per block is enough to impede the right of way.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  X

These “impeded rights of way” help slow car traffic.

John V
John V
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

While slower traffic on a road like that is good for when someone gets hit, for a road to feel safe to ride on it doesn’t really matter if traffic is going 25 or 35. Both are going to come up behind me and get road rage-y and unsafe pass, and that’s the kind of thing that scares people off of using the road at all.

This applies to the 33rd ave. case, where you suggested speed bumps and a (posted) 20mph speed limit. It’s on a hill. I’m probably moving 10-15mph up there and with a speed limit of 20 the cars are going to be moving 25-30 (at best!). With no bike lane, I’ll take the sidewalk like I do today.

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

The transition to a car-free society will take time, and we need neighborhood parking strategies to deal with this issue so we don’t inadvertently create political roadblocks to providing the active transportation infrastructure that is essential for us to become car-free.

Incrementalism does not work. Cities that are more successful than us have been less appeasing of motor vehicles (eg. Sadik-Kahn’s NYC, Hidalgo’s Paris). In PDX we are not on course for a reduced-car society, and never will be while we facilitate car usage as we do now. PBOT’s most optimistic transportation goals, in the unlikely event that they can even be met, still involve more motor vehicles on our streets than ever before (see PBOT strategic plan). I am not advocating for a bicycle dictatorship. We need to make healthy decisions as a group of people living together in a city. We need to find a way to have city-wide conversations about the reality of our transportation, health, economy, etc. Sadly, our current methods of communication and information exchange are making this less and less likely.

Perhaps bikes and transportation are too intertwined with other massive societal issues to be resolved separately. Providing ongoing parking for Black families does almost nothing to redress historic and current inequities. But it is something tangible, and PBOT works in the silo of transportation, with few other outlets for equity, so it is understandable why it comes to this. Maybe parking for under-served families is a better option than a bike lane, maybe not. It just shows how unserious, how un-joined-up, our society is about true, broad equity.

I am tired and tired and tired of organizational plans and narratives describing how we can have our cake and eat it. There will always be “political roadblocks” put up by people who don’t want to lose privileges. Agonizing over our language and approach does not create them. This does not mean that bicycle advocates should be belligerent or entitled. It does mean that societal choices cannot expect to please everyone all the time, and we should not delude ourselves about where we we are currently headed. We will not reduce motor vehicle use without making it less pleasant to use motor vehicles. Nothing else can compete with the ease-of-use of our created system of motordom and its unpaid, externalized costs and damages that are beyond calculation.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Sadik-Kahn’s NYC – a right-wing libertarian government that achieved 1.5% cycling mode share (currently at ~2% many years after the Randian billionaire left the mayorship)
.
Hidalgo’s Paris — coalition of socialist, communists, and radical greens who achieved 15% in less than a decade.
.
It’s really annoying how “market” urbanists steadfastly ignore the politics of effective mode shift.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim

I nominate this comment for comment of the week!

We’ll know Portland city gov’t is serious about undoing the ravages of motordom when they remove motor vehicles from some streets and give them over to cycling, walking, and other modes.

SD
SD
3 months ago

Parking requirement #1

People who park on public streets pay fees based on the size of their vehicle that are transfered as incentives to people who do not park on the street (minus admin fee). People who pay are socioeconomically matched to people who receive payments.

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

On second thought, the fees should only go to lower income Portlanders who would otherwise be displaced and live in buildings without parking.

Todd/ Boulanger
Todd/ Boulanger
3 months ago

Given all the mistakes of process that this project seems to have left out in the middle…perhaps it was the “only way” in “today’s Portland” it could have been accomplished.

Humans make errors. It brings to mind a similar very visible project – with an important network connection need. Turn your clocks back to 1998…a bike lane was proposed in “east Vancouver” [west of Grand Blvd]…the project manager got the support of the neighborhood association for the striping + parking removal in a public meeting but “someone” forgot to invite the small business association in the middle of the corridor. So long story short: the $5k striping project turned into a $300ks urban uplift (complete street project with ramps, traffic calming and pedestrian street lights + a new park (squared off an old highway intersection)). Perhaps the retention of the bike lanes will result in other missed traffic safety / place making improvements being made.

Todd/ Boulanger
Todd/ Boulanger
3 months ago

From a birds-eye view, this residential neighborhood looks to be a better than typical place to implement a swapping of on-street vehicle storage for protected bike lanes: postwar homes with attached 2 car garages and driveways with parking bays or garages with rear alley access and both. (Planned and designed for off street car storage vs 1800s/1900 homes.)

This process of transition is not easy even in the best of times and with the best of public processes. Our neighborhood (1910s/30s era residential Vancouver WA) went through a >15 year series of angst ridden public processes (3 eras) to exchange street parking for protected bikes lanes. Some interesting takeaways so far: bike traffic volumes are often now similar to the motor vehicle flows (reflecting a heavy pent up demand for direct and secure regional bike routes) and even vocal anti bike lane project protesters have been seen cycling on the protected bikes lanes now. Perhaps 33rd Avenue will have a similar future…

Aaron
3 months ago

So there’s a bike lane now where people used to park directly on the street, I don’t understand why those people can’t just park on another street? Why is it an unreasonable ask that someone with no car storage inside their property should have to store their car around the corner instead of directly in front of their house?

I am always hearing from car driver keyboard warriors “this street isn’t safe for cyclists so just bike on the next street over” so why can’t they park their cars on the next street over in this case?