Monday Roundup: Fentanyl, French revolution, safer transit, and more

Hi everyone! I’ve been away from the Shed since Thursday on a family trip, so that’s why things have been slow around here. I am back now and slowly getting the gears turning again. (And yes, I realize it’s Tuesday.) Also note, the Weekly Reader (our weekly email newsletter that you should sign up for) will come out later today.

Without further ado, below are the most notable stories our community has come across in the past seven days…

Safer transit in Portland: Dismissing public safety fears is just as extreme as calling for a police-oriented, law-and-order approach says this opinion column about how to create a more safe and welcoming environment on TriMet. (Portland Mercury)

Cash for e-bikes: Another state has seen the light and will pay its residents to purchase e-bikes. Starting this summer, Minnesota will launch a program that will offer a purchase incentive of up to 75% of the price of a new e-bike, or $1,500 max. (Clean Technica)

The ubiquity of hit-and-runs: A harrowing story from Utah where hit-and-runs have become so common that it took officials a while to figure out that some of them might be linked — and intentional. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Historic declaration: An unprecedented coalition of European legislative bodies adopted a new plan they hope will, “unleash the full potential of cycling”. (Global Cycling Network)

Fentanyl and car crashes: Another reason we need to offer excellent alternatives to driving and make road designs as safe as possible is that far too many people end up driving cars while high on fentanyl. (Streetsblog USA)

But, we aren’t Paris!: The ascendancy of the French capital as a major cycling city continues to inspire as a new study shows the mode share scale has officially tipped from driving to cycling. The reason? A lot more bikeways criss-crossing the city. (Forbes)

Take back the streets: Portlander Cathy Tuttle says it’s time for women to speak up about the violence and harassment they face while biking. Her op-ed follows up the survey she conducted for BikeLoud PDX. (Momentum Mag)


Thanks to everyone who sent in links this week. The Monday Roundup is a community effort, so please feel free to send us any great stories you come across.

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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jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago

Always good to read an article from Taylor Griggs and glad to see how successful she’s become. I think she might be both siding it a bit hard on this particular article. I was one of the people who physically lowered Ricky Best into his final resting place at Willamette National as I did (too) many times each day. There was of course a lot of attention on his murder by a crazy person who was not in Taylor’s words, “mentally stable (or capable of hiding any mental health problems)” and who most definitely should not have been on that train. It is always difficult to bury a fellow veteran who passed before their time (I won’t even go into the child burials), but this one hit even harder. Many of us and most of the CWT’s used Trimet and we all shared stories of the crazies and drunks/druggies we were subjected to every day and were just happy that none of us had been attacked. I personally had gotten off the green line several stops early to try to get away from a ranting, angry young man who followed me off the train (in the early morning) yelling racial epithets about violence and how I was next. I walked up to two trimet armed security guards getting money from the ticket machines and asked for help and they shook their heads no. Fortunately he yelled some more and then wandered away in time for me to get back on the next train. Even back then there was no help from Trimet, it doesn’t seem to be in their duties to actually intervene.
So I have little sympathy for those who are not able to conduct themselves on public transportation. I do not want to be around them and I don’t feel intolerant because of this. I think expecting to be safe on public transportation shouldn’t be a radical idea, nor should it be a source of debate. Should I have been escorted off the train for being the target of someone experiencing what is now termed a mental crisis? Should Ricky Best’s murderer (i have no reason to use his name) been allowed to stay on the train despite his inability to hide his mental illness? Rhetorical question because he was allowed to stay on the train despite the fact he physically attacked someone earlier and then he murdered two people. I would hope the answer is that no, the normal people who are not violent, intoxicated should remain and those who cannot hide their anti social instincts should be escorted off.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Sure—if you belong to a demographic that hasn’t faced systematic police harassment and brutality, and are mentally stable (or capable of hiding any mental health problems) and sober (or capable of pretending to be).

This is the root of the problem. This is most people, its almost everyone, so we’re not willing to inconvenience the most unhinged, the most intoxicated, for fears of it being construed as harassment. So, we want everyone to ride, but we aren’t willing to do what is necessary for everyone to ride. This isn’t NYC, driving is still incredibly convenient, and this type of lecturing will convert no one to riding transit.
 

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

Author was trying to fit way too many social issues into a single vehicle. It was like an everything-bagel article of liberal social grievances stuffed into a single train car.

PS
PS
1 month ago

Of course, it’s the clown car of intersectionality.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago

Some kind of mass transit for social issues.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I left that article shaking my head…

Taylor Griggs
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Hi Jake, I appreciate your comment (and thanks, Jonathan, for including my story in the roundup!). The violent attacks that killed Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and more recently, Michael Brady, are horrible, and I did not mean for my article to convey sympathy for their attackers. The point I was trying to make (and apparently didn’t do clearly enough) was that there isn’t an easy solution here. I agree that violent people should not be allowed on public transit, but that’s not always an easy call to make. Most mentally ill people will not commit violence and are in a very vulnerable position themselves.

I understand your point and have heard a good deal of criticism of my argument as naive or overly Pollyanna-ish. I just don’t want us to head down a slippery slope where any out-of-the-ordinary behavior is automatically seen as a threat and treated as such. The problem extends far beyond the transit system and obviously will require a lot of work to fix. I completely agree that public transportation needs to be safe, I only believe there’s a need for more nuance within this conversation.

BB
BB
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

It was a fine article and I agree with some points and that it’s not easy to determine who to escort off a train but Perception is the only thing that matters and the gruesome murder of Mr Brady is not encouraging.
Did his attacker have a pass to be on the train?
We could start there with security and turn styles and all else that typically goes with normal mass transit in most places.
We have a system losing ridership and one ride on most trains any evening is all most people need to NOT ride again.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

FWIW, I don’t think you are being naive or pollyanish. If anything I think that you are being too permissive in your expectations of people and their inability to comport themselves for a relatively short time. (And of course I have the luxury of critiquing your article in the safety of my own anonymity) In an enclosed environment, out of the ordinary behavior is a problem and can’t or shouldn’t be condoned for the safety of others.
“Most mentally ill people will not commit violence and are in a very vulnerable position themselves.” I agree with you 100% on this. Technically most of the employees had issues with mentally illness at the cemetery and we were all able to function in society for the most part. Acting out to the extent where others are threatened or concerned through drugs/break with reality especially in an enclosed environment needs to be dealt with quickly. People can and do handle themselves according to societal standards all over the world, i just don’t think it’s a slippery slope to expect that here. Or is the violent insanity the new societal standard?

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Expecting people to follow “societal standards” isn’t the hard part or the slippery slope. You’re doing it already. Defining and enforcing it is the sticking point.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Defining and enforcing it (Societal Standards) is the sticking point.

The post I wrote further down mentions Singapore and they seem to have done an effective job of defining and enforcing societal standards that are to be met which from a transportation view point works very well. So maybe part of my problem with the MAX transportation is that I am expecting a different level of societal standard than someone who feels the need to act out loudly verbally and/or physically? (Not trying to be snarky, just trying to work through why some people don’t seem to mind people acting poorly on the MAX and so make excuses for them)

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Singapore, world famous for having very reasonable uses of corporal punishment. Just cane people for vandalism or doing drugs, cool cool. If your suggestion is we should cane people for acting out on the MAX, I would call that a definite sticking point.

You’re still being dishonest though, because

why some people don’t seem to mind people acting poorly on the MAX and so make excuses for them

Is not what is actually happening and you know it. Nobody doesn’t mind it. As I said, what to do about it is the sticking point.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

“Singapore”

It seems relevant to the conversation to remember that Singapore is a fairly authoritarian country. They can do a lot of things that just wouldn’t fly here.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Perhaps, but as Il Duce might say, the trains do run on time.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

Add all the nuance you want, but 95% of the population should not be held hostage by the 5% with imaginary grievances or anti-social behaviors they can’t control, who are protected by activists uncomfortable with reasonable solutions.

Until we’re willing to provide assurances (law and order, probably) those types of people are not going to be encountered with frequency, the majority everyone wants to see on public transit or in public areas aren’t going to do it.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

but 95% of the population should not be held hostage by the 5% with imaginary grievances or anti-social behaviors they can’t control

…versus 99.9% of our population being held hostage by our two main presidential candidates and our supposed democratic process…

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Sure, but in Portland its only one party and it has been for so long its funny that people here even bring up the opposition.

Charley
Charley
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I’m sorry but this comment is an unhelpful digression into an irrelevant subject, containing a wild exaggeration.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

5% of the population with imaginary grievances and antisocial behaviors they can’t control? Do you mean billionaires?

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Lol, yeah, the 0.0000006% of the population holding us hostage.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

Correct.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

They take transit?

Steven
Steven
1 month ago

No, they kill it. Hard to keep public transit safe when it doesn’t exist, wouldn’t you say?

ROH
ROH
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

Great article Taylor. I do think it’s possible to hold more than one complex thought at the same time. We can both have compassion for people suffering homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse AND also believe that the presence of tents, camps and garbage piles along streets and mentally ill or high people wandering the streets or riding transit is BAD for society. We have set up a system where some people are not accountable to follow laws, like not defecating in public or registering their cars. That fact makes life worse for all the rest of the people who live in society and try to follow the rules and live in a way that doesn’t negatively impact other people. It’s also infantalizing to people to say that they somehow don’t have responsibility to their community to behave in a socially appropriate way. It’s sad that we can’t talk about how damaging it has been to Portland (or any other city with a bad homeless/mental health/substance use issue) without being seen as uncompassionate. There can be solutions – they will be difficult and will require strong leadership, which has been missing.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I was riding the red line at night a couple weeks ago when it stopped to wait for TriMet security to escort off a person who was cursing and shouting angrily at no one in particular (and appeared to be suffering from delusions). So the reality is far from the lawless situation you describe. I would venture to say your experience is probably not the norm.

donel courtney
donel courtney
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Steven, i think you’re wrong. I have ridden Max thousands of times over the last two decades. I used to live 2 blocks from the Lents max stop. I hate driving.

Its a regular occurence on the Blue and Green lines to find people looking for someone to mess with and/or yell threats.

Its scary– and as a man one can never really understand what it feels like for women.

Best to take their word for it and judging by a recent comment from a woman on reddit that got 500 comments, they find these situations frightening. I do as well!

It’s a huge reason people aren’t riding and its a legitmiate reason and thankyou for left leaning Mercury for acknowledging it–the two extremes of politics must find common ground.

Interestingly, i’ve observed people screaming their heads off with unspecified threats only to shut up instantly when security gets on the train.

Now tell me even these neurodivergent people don’t know theyre doing something wrong. They do, its why they do it, like children, to act out their pain.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  donel courtney

I was responding to the idea that TriMet doesn’t intervene to deal with disruptive passengers. You yourself admit there are security guards who come on the train to deal with such incidents, which kind of proves my point.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

I guess I’ve just imagined all those disruptive passengers that get on the Max and bus and nothing ever happens. I haven’t seen security in years on the trains and even longer on the bus.
Are they out there, probably? But they sure don’t take care of every incident.
Where were they when that passenger was stabbed to death recently? Hmmm? What’s your inciteful answer for that?
That was a total and complete failure on TriMet’s part to provide a safe and secure transit system. The managers at TriMet responsible for that should be fired immediately.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

I believe it’s spelled “insightful”, not “inciteful”. But I’m not going to respond to needlessly personalized commentary like that.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago

E-bike rebate – not again!
It is really regrettable how bandwagon-y these programs are. What happened to regular bikes? Why not incentivize their purchase? All of the benefits and none of the e-specific costs to society, the planet.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Your question is always raised in some form, and the answer is always the same (and ignored): regular bikes are already dirt cheap, they don’t need to be incentivized. If people aren’t riding them, it’s not because of financial reasons. E-bikes, however, might be an option some (many?) people would use who (perhaps wrongly but not always) think it would be too difficult otherwise. Say, people with health problems who can’t ride a regular bike 10 miles but could do it with a lot of assistance. But e-bikes, unlike regular bikes, are expensive (I would say, they’re too expensive, a bit of a bubble).

Also the e-costs, as has been repeatedly said also, are completely overblown. The size of a battery on an e-bike is minuscule and you have to keep in mind that you’re comparing it to the cost of driving a car.

If it turns out the rebates don’t actually get anyone new to ride a bike, then I would agree it’s pointless. Preliminary actual evidence is that it does get more people riding a bike and it’s certainly too soon to say they don’t work. Not to mention, it’s pretty damned cheap.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

“you have to keep in mind that you’re comparing it to the cost of driving a car.”

I am certainly not comparing those two. I have no doubt that the boosters are very fond of that particular comparison, though, because it makes most anything look good.

My point here and elsewhere has for years been that as far as I know we are pretty ignorant of the exact ways ebike rebates translate to fewer car miles or whatever meaningful environmental parameter we might like. Plenty of wishful thinking but very little actual data.

Your familiar constructions of the problem as relying on people
+ with health problems
+ who are eager to jettison their car for an e-something and
+ who just need a rebate to make it all happen

is at this stage (at least to me) hilarious. It sounds like what we used to call special pleading.

BB
BB
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

The overwhelming prevailing opinion of cyclists on this website is that people are not riding bikes due to inadequate infrastructure and safety concerns about cycling on streets with car traffic.
Giving away money to purchase e-bikes addresses none of that.
They are really heavy, hard to store safely indoors especially it would seem for people with disabilities.
They are very theft prone due to their perceived cost.
They depreciate at an alarming rate for the expensive purchase price.
There is no evidence at present that e-bikes are increasing cycling share at all.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  BB

Amtrak won’t load any bike on the train over 50 lbs which excludes nearly all ebikes, so they aren’t very useful for intercity public transit either.

There’s also the depleted-battery disposal issue, in common with EV cars.

Phil
Phil
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Check out https://www.hungryforbatteries.org/ for ebike battery recycling. There are companies recycling EV batteries too.

Damien
Damien
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Amtrak won’t load any bike on the train over 50 lbs which excludes nearly all ebikes, so they aren’t very useful for intercity public transit either.

Not wading into any other part of this discussion, but a plug for the Brompton folding electric: It fits in the overhead storage on an Amtrak train. Though getting it up there does require significant strength (a non-electric Brompton would just as well, and weigh less, so less a plug for the electric part and more the folding part – it’s a cool bike).

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Damien

On a trip to New Haven CT last summer I did in fact see a passenger bring a Brompton analog fold-up and put it (easily) into the overhead luggage area at the rear of most passenger cars. They do work well. Most Northeast Corridor trains do not have baggage cars, so passengers have to bring their own bikes on board. Some passenger cars have interior hooks but you need to remove your front wheel, with lots of other passengers crowding on, not fun, particularly if you also have bags or panniers.

dw
dw
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

You’re arguing with a brick wall dude. The “ebikes bad” crowd isn’t going to be swayed by anything like logic or reality.

My ebike got me to ditch my car in a way my regular bike won’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love my analog bike, but my knees just aren’t what they used to be and can’t handle the long/hilly rides my ebike allows me to do. Those trips would otherwise be made by car for me.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

The ‘ebikes bad’ crowd”

Is it really so hard to differentiate between someone who—in the typical parlance here—hates e-bikes, and someone who is problematizing the constant boosterist celebration of ebikes as an environmental solution? I am not a member of an imagined e-bikes-bad-crowd, but I am allergic to wishfulness when it comes to the constantly asserted but rarely examined or verified environmental benefits of e-bikes, and the lazy arguments made all day long about their collective benefits.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

There are valid arguments against government subsidies for e-bikes. Saying that arguing with subsidy opponents is like “arguing with a brick wall” to people who aren’t “going to be swayed by anything like logic or reality” is really out of line–as is making the huge, illogical leap that anyone opposed to government subsidies for them must be in the ” “ebikes bad” crowd”.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

Did you need a rebate in order to buy your ebike?

I would support subsidies if (and only if) there is evidence they reduce car use.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

This argument doesn’t make sense.

Did dw need a rebate? Who knows. It doesn’t matter. We know rebates as a general concept work to help people buy things they otherwise wouldn’t. Or are you simply against the concept of rebates?

You can’t get evidence that the rebates work without offering rebates, and a pretty long term look at the results. People like you will then move the goalposts to absurd distances, like “we can’t know people replaced their car with an e-bike because we don’t have a mind reading device to read their inner thoughts”.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Watt’s question made sense. E-bikes have been popular for some time, because lots of people have been buying them without rebates.

Also, e-bikes (to use your term) ARE “dirt cheap” for many people, especially if they’re used to replace vehicle trips, and the resulting savings in fuel, parking, etc. get factored in. Yet most people who can easily afford them aren’t buying them. Addressing why that is might be more effective than subsidies.

And rebates haven’t been widespread, but they’ve still been around long enough to be able to gather useful statistics about whether they reduce car use.

Also, Watts said directly  “I would support subsidies if (and only if) there is evidence they reduce car use.” Why not accept that, instead of hypothesizing/arguing that he’d “then move the goalposts to absurd distances” if the evidence shows they work?

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

Why not accept that, instead of hypothesizing/arguing that he’d “then move the goalposts to absurd distances”

I accept it, but there already is evidence that they reduce car use. If people are getting and using e-bikes using the rebates, then they encourage using e-bikes. What else could they possibly be replacing? To what degree? More time would be needed (or maybe it exists, but I don’t have it on hand). So asking for “evidence they reduce car use” is already moving the goalposts. I assume they would be moved again.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

there already is evidence that they reduce car use. 

But in your last comment, where you were criticizing people who wanted evidence, you said “You can’t get evidence that the rebates work without offering rebates, and a pretty long term look at the results”.

 If people are getting and using e-bikes using the rebates, then they encourage using e-bikes. What else could they possibly be replacing?

There are lots of reasons people get e-bikes and ride them besides to replace car trips. They can replace bicycle trips or walking, be used for recreation, or for going places people wouldn’t have gone in a car, as a few examples. And none of those justify creating public subsidies for them. The reason for subsidies is to reduce car trips, not simply to get people to buy e-bikes.

So asking for “evidence they reduce car use” is already moving the goalposts.

No it’s not. Reducing car trips is the original–and only–justification for the subsidies. Asking for evidence that the subsidies are effective in meeting their original purpose is certainly not moving any goalposts!

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

“What else could they possibly be replacing?”

Conventional bike trips; walking trips; bus trips. Subsidized ebikes could also be used by people who drive to distant trailheads to ride them recreationally.

I don’t care if you subsidize people to do these things, but I don’t want to.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

“Or are you simply against the concept of rebates?”

Rebates are fine, but I don’t want to subsidize recreational vehicles. You don’t have to be a mind reader to know if ebike rebates are helping offset car travel… Economists measure stuff like this all the time.

I know it seems ridiculous in today’s Oregon, but I want government programs like this to have specific goal, I want to measure outcomes, and I want to discontinue programs that aren’t working.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

E-bikes can also be used by people who don’t currently own a car, or who have physical limitations that prevent them from riding a regular bicycle. Are better health and economic opportunities for such people not worth the cost?

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

“Are better health and economic opportunities for such people not worth the cost?”

Without knowing either the benefit or the cost, how could I possibly answer this? How could you?

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

The benefits are listed in the article I linked to—increased access to jobs, shopping, and other services for households without cars, older adults, and people with disabilities—as is the cost: about $4,000 for each additional e-bike purchase (accounting for people who would have bought one even without a discount).

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

If you want to improve access to jobs and shopping for older and disabled people, is spending $4000 for them (and anyone else) to buy an ebike the best way to do it? It could be, if your program were super targeted, but probably not. (As it is, I don’t see tons of older and disabled folks biking to the grocery store, and it doesn’t seem like the reason is lack of subsidy.)

As your article states, “there has been little research on the effectiveness of these types of programs, how to design them or how to define goals.”

I feel like you know the solution, and are looking around for the right problem.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

If the program were targeted, the extra administrative work might drive the cost even higher, and would probably also miss people who could genuinely benefit from it.

The article is summarizing the research that the authors conducted, and their finding that “incentives do spur extra e-bike purchases, but at a relatively high cost compared with narrowly defined climate benefits…In our view, cities and states should assess e-bike incentive investments based on this broad range of [economic, safety and mobility] benefits rather than focusing solely on a narrow environmental objective.”

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Purchase is one thing… displacing auto trips is quite another.

But regardless, you’re going about it backwards. Start with the policy outcome you want to achieve, then evaluate options to find the most efficient ones. You’re hunting around for some outcome that could possibly justify the solution you want to implement. That’s not how good policy is made.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

I don’t have a position for or against the policy. I am saying there are reasons to consider e-bike incentives other than displacing car trips.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

regular bikes are already dirt cheap, they don’t need to be incentivized. If people aren’t riding them, it’s not because of financial reasons.

Yes, so why not spend the money going to subsidize expensive e-bikes to address some of the reasons people aren’t riding dirt cheap regular bikes–safer routes, more secure bike parking, etc.? Everybody riding any type of bike can benefit from those.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

Yeah, probably do that too. Should every budget have exactly one line item, only the one most important priority as judged by qqq? Or do you think, just maybe, more than one thing can be funded at the same time. Because after all, even perfect infrastructure will leave out some people who would e-bike but not regular bike.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

It would be great if you could respond to others’ reasonable comments here without the dismissive snark.

To answer your questions, no, I don’t believe every budget should have exactly one line item, and I don’t expect to have personal authority to prioritize them.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

It’s not snark. I agree we should fund other things than just subsidies. And if you agree we can have multiple things on the budget, I don’t know what your point was in making your comment.

If you can fund more than one thing with the budget, then

why not spend the money going to subsidize expensive e-bikes to address some of the reasons people aren’t riding dirt cheap regular bikes–safer routes, more secure bike parking, etc.?

doesn’t follow. You can do both.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Nothing stopping you, and folks who agree with you, from forming a non-profit that gives away bikes.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

You are missing the point. A government subsidy is an invitation, an endorsement, a vote, a communication that this subsidized thing is better, something worthy of our dollars and our support. The decision to always send that message, apply it to e-things, but not to their analog ancestors, is what I am objecting to.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

If one does form a nonprofit to give away bikes, rapacious power companies often give out grants to pay for such bikes, to partly make up for obscenely raising your electrical rates for the sake of making more money.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Nothing stopping anyone from forming a non-profit that gives away or subsidizes e-bikes.

And if 9watts does form a non-profit to give away bikes, you and those who agree with you don’t have to finance it. But every taxpayer has to finance the e-bike subsidies, whether they agree or not.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Thank you for posting this. I’ve been the one to make this argument here many times before, but I did not have the emotional energy to have to challenge Mr. Maus YET AGAIN today.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

In terms of carbon emissions, e-bikes are the most eco-friendly form of transportation, even more than regular bicycles.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Lots of people wish to believe this, keep saying this, but that doesn’t by itself make it so. I am aware of a study https://ecf.com/files/wp-content/uploads/ECF_BROCHURE_EN_planche.pdf that I think folks who make this claim are referencing whether they realize it or not. The claim that an electric motor + battery + the electricity to power it has a lower environmental footprint than the extra quantum of food the bike rider eats over the ebike rider has long struck me as absurd. Which doesn’t mean ECF didn’t come up with that claim, just that I am registering my skepticism.
If anyone here knows of any math that tries to spell this out in greater detail, please share it.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Here you go, courtesy of The Guardian:

“Assuming a lifetime travel of 19,200km, a bicycle’s emissions come out at about 25-35g CO2e/km (depending on food footprint, which can be highly variable). With Trek’s updated figure and assuming an EU average electricity mix, e-bikes come in at 21-25g CO2e/km (yes, e-bikes can be less carbon intensive than conventional bikes, assuming the rider is doing less work).”

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

That is just the same numbers being endlessly recycled.
Trek and ECF both seem more than eager to champion the ebike. No surprise there.
What I am asking is for someone to plausibly show how it can be that the ebike (pedelec not throttle) rider consumes roughly one third (6gCO2e/km) as much as the leg-powered cyclist (16gCO2e/km) toward propelling his or her bike forward. That seems to be the ratio and the assumption that all of these comparative claims rest on.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Even without digging into the numbers, it is reasonable on the face of it to assume an electric motor is nearly as efficient at converting the stored battery energy to movement than a human is at doing the pedaling the using chemical energy and muscles. The motor is very efficient, human muscles are very lossy. The efficiency of bikes is in the low weight and friction, not the fact that they’re human powered.

So even without knowing the exact numbers, say an e-bike is slightly less efficient than human, they are very close to the same, which is more to the point that the energy use is a non-issue.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

soren and I were unable to get to the bottom of this back in 2018 (six years ago today): https://bikeportland.org/2018/04/10/oregon-begins-process-to-legalize-electric-assist-bikes-in-state-parks-274847#comment-6891164

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Both of the articles (and the video) I linked to are more recent than 2018. Not sure where the idea that the ECF is somehow in the pocket of Big E-bike comes from. Trek also makes conventional bicycles. I know because I used to own one.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

BikeRadar also crunched the numbers and calculated lifetime carbon emissions for e-bikes at 14.8g CO2e (CO2 equivalent) per kilometer traveled compared to 21g CO2e per km for conventional bikes. Their estimate that more than three-quarters of cycling’s carbon emissions come from food production is hardly shocking when you consider that the food system accounts for over a third of the world’s total carbon emissions.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Thanks, Steven, for that report. I found it interesting. More detailed than if also quite reliant on the ECF study. I especially appreciated their discussion of error bars, though they didn’t go very far with that.
The to me most troublesome assumption, which the Bike Radar folks carried over without comment from the ECF report, is the already mentioned almost three-fold greater caloric requirement of the bike rider over the ebike rider(!)

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

The article sounded like the articles that were popular warning us of the dangers of cow flatulence while completely ignoring the environmental toxicity of high density human living resulting in over specialization and the loss of the ability to raise one own’s food. Then I read it. Thank you for the link, it was instructive on how some of these ideas come to fruition.

In that same Bike Radar article…

Assuming the same 19,200km lifespan we used for the conventional bicycle, this equates to 7g CO2e per km for the ebike, compared to 5g for the normal bike.

The ECF also estimates that an ebike uses 23Wh (Watt-hours) of electricity per kilometre travelled, and multiplies this figure by the average amount of CO2e produced per Wh of electricity in Europe in 2006 (0.383 g CO2e per/Wh). This led to an estimate of 9g of CO2e per km.

So without factoring the food consumed by the rider, ebikes are close to twice as bad for the environment. As far as the food consumption goes…

It’s worth acknowledging that this method is simplistic for a few reasons.First, it assumes that every extra calorie burned is another calorie consumed through diet. But according to this review paper titled “The Effects of Exercise on Food Intake and Body Fatness: a Summary of Published Studies”, when people burn more calories through exercise they don’t typically consume as many extra calories in their diet.In other words, they lose weight through a calorie deficit. Therefore, this analysis may be an overestimate for cycling’s food-based emissions.

Second, it assumes that people don’t change the type of food they eat when they exercise, only the quantity. Different foods have very different environmental impacts.

So the food aspect is very close to assumptions to the point of wishful thinking and does not seem to generate any numbers worth writing down on paper (or a computer screen)

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Comparing conventional bikes to e-bikes without factoring in food consumed by the rider is like comparing gasoline cars to electric cars without factoring in the gasoline.

As for the emissions estimate, I applaud your commitment to hard data and look forward to your continued insights, which I’m sure will be free of all assumptions from now on.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Comparing conventional bikes to e-bikes without factoring in food consumed by the rider is like comparing gasoline cars to electric cars without factoring in the gasoline.”

this is a silly analogy. The studies we have been talking about are comparing a pedelec with a bike-bike. Folks here talk all day long about the similarity in workout from riding a pedelec to a bike-bike, that it is not cheating, not a throttle bike/e-motorcycle.

As such, the rider of a pedelec is nothing like the driver of a gasoline car or of an EV. Both of those technologies *require* fuel-generated-with-globe-spanning-technology, gasoline or a lithium battery+juice-out-of-the-wall-socket to move even an inch. A pedelec we are told requires the leg muscles of the rider who also has a button to regulate how much extra boost he or she gets from the e-components.

It is the DIFFERENTIAL food consumed by the two kinds of bike riders that is at issue here. Comparing ICE autos with EVs does not offer helpful analogies to the question before us.

look forward to your continued insights, which I’m sure will be free of all assumptions from now on.”

snark is not helping your case here.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Comparing conventional bikes to e-bikes without factoring in food consumed by the rider 

So I like the idea of ebikes. I see them used all the time here on Joint Base Lewis McChord where they are ideal along with the electric scooter razor things and even the uniwheel contraptions. I look forward to being able to try one and if my cycling gets back to pre-issue levels will consider purchasing one.

My dismay over the article is not about ebikes. It is about the assumptions being made about factoring caloric intake into the overall environmental aspects of an ebike. Individual intake is far too variable to create hard numbers out of, something the authors admit. If I eat a lot and ride an ebike, that would be even worse for the environment at large. If the results were, “Given a restricted diet and full use of the ebike over the estimated life of the machine, than ebikes CAN be more environmentally sound than an analog bike ridden by someone with an expansive diet over that same life span of a machine.” I would agree with it and not another word said. However, you are saying unequivocally that ebikes are better environmentally than analog bikes which is not supported by the presented information.

EEE
EEE
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

That’s because it’s totally absurd, its just there to push an agenda. In 50 years after we’ve raped the earth to extract every last gram of lithium and Wall-E is neatly stacking ebike husks in tall piles, we’ll be looking back at the proposed truism that ebikes are more environmentally friendly than regular bikes with a similar shock as the asbestos and cigarette ads of the earlier 20th century proclaiming them totally safe and actually better for you.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

I guess it would then also be true that comparing raking your lawn or sweeping your sidewalk to using an electric leaf blower is like comparing gasoline cars to electric cars without factoring in the gasoline.

And raking and sweeping probably consume even more calories compared to leaf blowing than bike riding does compared to e-bike riding.

So in terms of carbon emissions, electric leaf blowers are the most eco-friendly form of leaf removal.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

Exactly. It was because of extrapolations like this – and which you have articulated much better than I did – that the framing on this tradeoff by the ECF authors seemed so suspect.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

Maybe they are, but until somebody actually crunches the numbers, the facetious leaf blower example is just another appeal to incredulity, i.e. faulty reasoning.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

What’s faulty about it?

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

You’re comparing e-bikes to electric leaf blowers to satirize the idea that either is less carbon intensive than their respective human-powered counterparts. But we don’t actually know if that’s true for electric leaf blowers or not. It’s just a seemingly absurd idea, hence the appeal to incredulity.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Steven,
slow down, listen. You are so eager to pounce with another gotcha retort you are not absorbing what some of us are saying.
The electric leaf blower analogy is spot on. And shows the problematic nature of this framing (which, let’s not forget, you introduced into this Monday Roundup comments section).

But back to electric leaf blowers. The logical extension of the ECF claims that what matters when comparing two otherwise similar objects, one human powered, the other electrically assisted is that the extra food quantum consumed by the human powered version has a larger carbon footprint than the e-components and juice to charge the battery. It is perfectly reasonable, as qqq has done, to borrow this logic for another pair of objects, here rake & electric leaf blower. The specifics of the LCA—which we sitting here writing bikeportland comments probably don’t know—may or may not be crucial here. There is nothing I can see that suggests the comparison isn’t valid. We aren’t right now quibbling over the product life of rake vs electric leaf blower, or about other technical details which could be interesting but probably are not significant enough to change the outcome. Instead we are recognizing the parallel structure of the comparison.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

I am not convinced that it is a problematic framing. And yes, the specific LCA does matter when talking about relative climate impacts. Do we actually know that electric leaf blowers cause more carbon emissions than hand raking?

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Thanks!

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

So a) we don’t know if electric leaf blowers are less carbon intensive than raking or sweeping, but b) we DO know it’s such a wrong idea that it’s absurd? That doesn’t make sense to me.

I think it IS absurd, but given that sweeping and raking can both be much more strenuous than leaf blowing, and that leaf blowers run on much less powerful batteries than bikes, it’s not absurd to think that the same type of study you’re using to say e-bikes are less carbon intensive than regular bikes would also show that electric leaf blowers are less carbon intensive than raking or sweeping.

I realize you disagree, to the point you feel it’s important to tell me I’m satirizing, being facetious and absurd, and appealing to incredulity. So this is another facet of this subject where we disagree.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

No, we don’t know that, but most people probably assume it is. If the comparison wasn’t facetious, then the argument seems to be that admitting that e-bikes are better for the environment will open the floodgates to things like electric leaf blowers–the horror! This would be a slippery slope fallacy.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Let’s just leave it as we disagree, which I tried to do in my last comment, instead of saying that if I made the comparison for a reason I didn’t make it, then that would be wrong.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

I never said it was wrong, I said it was faulty reasoning.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

“has long struck me as absurd”

Because it is absurd. People don’t eat 1 1/8th hamburgers because they ride 2 extra miles, they eat one, regardless of how far they rode. People eat food in standard units, not incremental quanta, and their stomachs feel full after eating the usual amount.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Have you ever seen a bag of potato chips? The entire snack food industry relies on the fact that people do not stop eating when their stomachs are full, let alone consume “standard units” of food. Honestly, what even is this argument?

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

“Honestly, what even is this argument?”

Well it was started by your citing claims traced back to ECF’s report which purports to show that the reason (as you celebrated upthread) e-bikes are better for the environment than even regular bikes is that those who sit on them, pedal them, eat roughly one third as much food-required-to-turn-the-wheels as someone on a regular bike. I have been trying to problematize this every chance I get since that report was published and celebrated by the usual suspects here on bikeportland because it just doesn’t sound right.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Watts is talking about the article you shared. You are not bothering to refute his statement or even acknowledge that it is a respectable response and instead start rambling about the evils of the snack food industry. The whole point that article makes is that ebikes are better for the environment because people consume more food while using analog bikes. I disagree with that personally and Watts is making a further example about why that argument does not work. Do you have a response to support that article and the several posts you made agreeing with it?

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The idea that increased physical activity causes no additional food intake is absurd on its face. Tour de France riders eat between 5,000 and 8,000 calories per day compared to 3,600 calories for the average (overweight) American. Do pro cyclists have stomachs twice the normal size?

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

You are not very good at listening.
The study presumed 2400km/yr by both pedelec and bike-bike riders. which is 4mi/day on average. To me this output is both familiar and I would assume pretty hard to distinguish from the background caloric intake.
But – again – and just for you, the issue isn’t whether someone biking really, really hard burns calories..!? Obvi. But whether the *difference* between the extra calories the two types of bike riders burn at 4mi/day is really plausibly almost threefold.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

The idea that increased physical activity causes no additional food intake is absurd on its face.

It actually isn’t. Increased physical activity DOES NOT cause additional food intake. Those highly trained athletes who bear zero resemblance to anyone on this site CHOOSE to eat more to maximize/maintain mass. Anyone can eat 5-8000 calories a day whether they are athletes or not. Which is one of my points that caloric intake is too random and individualized to be quantified for a study as the authors acknowledge.
Perhaps you might want to reread the article and argue from that perspective?

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Increased physical activity DOES NOT cause additional food intake.

The relationship between physical activity and calories of energy burned is complex but for the typical north ‘murrican couch potato there is wide agreement in the literature that there a positive correlation between modest amounts of physical activity and increased caloric intake. For example, a recent study reported that a modest amount of total daily exercise (e.g. tens of minutes) increased caloric consumption by 150-200 kcals.

comment image

https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(15)01577-8

pretty hard to distinguish from the background caloric intake.

My evidence-less opinion is more important than your attempt at evidence-based analysis. Sigh.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago

The relationship between physical activity and calories of energy burned is complex

I would agree with this.

there is wide agreement in the literature that there a positive correlation between modest amounts of physical activity and increased caloric intake

And in your bold statement it starts to get confusing. To start with calories burned is very different than increased caloric intake. Yes, more exercise does equal more calories burned. Does it equal more calories consumed? No. The person who is burning the calories decides how much (or is often the case allowed) calories to consume.
Just because you are exercising and burning more calories does not mean the calories you put in your mouth magically increase. You might be hungrier and eat more, but that is a personal choice and not dictated by the calories your exercise has burned.
I have existed on a counted to the calorie decreased calorie count combined with an increased exercise level and subsequent increase in calories burned for months at a time. It is possible to be in control of your calorie count.
I don’t know who you are responding to with your last few sentences, I’m guessing you are trying to be snarky, but its hard to tell because it’s mainly confusing.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

“for the typical North American [fixed spelling] couch potato…”

We’re not talking about couch potatoes… We’re comparing two people engaged in regular light to moderate exercise; one on a bike, the other on an ebike.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

two people engaged in regular light to moderate exercise; one on a bike, the other on an ebike.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The average weight of Tour de France winners is about 155 lbs. To maintain that weight, a moderately active person needs to eat about 2,300 calories per day. Where do you think the additional 5,700 calories are going?

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

I feel silly for trying to debate with you since you don’t seem to be considering or even reading anything I say. You’re talking past me with constant two sentence responses and then a question that has no bearing and is I assume supposed to be a “gotcha” moment. Like I said earlier, bring that article back into it and you’ll make better sense.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

You said, “Those highly trained athletes…CHOOSE to eat more to maximize/maintain mass.” I responded with the actual daily caloric requirement for someone with the same body weight, which is nowhere near what top Tour de France cyclists actually eat. I am asking if you can account for the difference, which is evidently used to provide energy for pedaling during the race.

You also said, “Anyone can eat 5-8000 calories a day whether they are athletes or not.” However, the real question is whether a top endurance athlete can compete well on 2,300 calories a day (i.e. someone who is in ideal shape and not trying to lose weight). Feel free to cite any examples that illustrate this.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Kcals are a “personal choice”, Steven. They can just choose to not to eat!

The discourse here reminds me of breatharianism:

As one of the world’s foremost “Breatharians,” Nicolas Pilartz claims that sunlight, water and one meal a week is all he needs.

https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkdw77/nicolas-pilartz-breatharian-diet-interview

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

What I don’t like about the food intake argument is that, if you’re going to include that, it only makes sense to follow the argument further, and I don’t see that happening here:

–will the ebike rider replace the exercise lost by not pedaling while commuting by exercising at a gym, with all the associated food intake and weight room or pool carbon impacts?

–will the regular bike rider be in better health from the exercise and lower their environmental impacts associated with additional health care, hospital stays, etc. that they may avoid? What’s the carbon footprint of a heart surgery?

–will the regular bike rider lose weight from exercising, and lower the amount of calories they need to maintain that weight?

–should drivers be able to use the food intake argument to offset carbon impacts of driving? Car driving must use fewer calories than e-biking, and certainly fewer than regular biking, to say nothing of the worst calorie hogs–pedestrians.

–should we start factoring calorie cost into other activities associated with saving energy? Using a clothes line instead of a dryer, a rake instead of a leaf blower, growing vegetables in your backyard? The environmental benefits of all of those would be at least reduced.

I could go on. I think these arguments are silly, EXCEPT if the calorie argument is used to in a bike vs. e-bike comparison. Then the argument shouldn’t arbitrarily be cut off at the food consumption stage, with no thought to the subsequent consequences.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

Those are all valid questions, but they don’t support the apparently common misconception that e-bikes are more environmentally costly than conventional bikes throughout a full lifespan of use. That was the claim I was responding to initially.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

What?

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

That’s saying that food consumption is valid to consider in that calculation, but nothing else beyond that is. That makes no sense to me, but apparently it does to you.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

Nope, never said that.

Todd
Todd
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Is anyone else concerned that rebates ultimately serve to keep the cost of e-bikes high? Kind of like the relationship of student loans to college tuitions?

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  Todd

This was/ is also true of e-cars. I think those incentives still worked to persuade people to buy e-cars.

Acknowledging that it is different because it was incentivizing e-car vs car. In this case it is e-bike vs car, instead of e-bike vs bike. The rebates may be more like advertising than actual cost savings.

Charley
Charley
1 month ago
Reply to  Todd

I think the concern about rebates and higher market costs is entirely founded!

Charley
Charley
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

There’s a useful and intelligent conversation happening here about the effects of e-bike rebates, and their relationship to environmental goals… but it’s shot through with a lot of disdain and concern trolling about e-bikes.

I can see an argument that the rebate dollars could be better spent. But I can also tell you that I ride far more miles after buying an e-bike, and I commute downtown by car far less. I’m sure I’m not alone, and I’m pretty sure that doing so is better for the environment than driving the equivalent distance.

Yet there are dozens of comments, ranging from minute examinations comparing the calculated emissions of cyclists and e-bike riders, to concerns about theft, storage, battery disposal, and *even Amtrak weight limits!* Seriously, if some of you think owning an e-bike is such a dangerous hassle, I have to wonder how you manage riding a normal bike.

I’m surprised at the vehemence. I got into cycling partly because I viewed riding as a small personal step in the right direction for our environment. While I don’t know the whole suite of views held by the individual skeptical posters on here, I would guess that they view cycling similarly. Why should my e-bike, which replaces car trips, be any different?

Why do some people write about e-bikes as if e-bikes kicked their dog or pooped in their breakfast cereal???

I suspect that pushback to e-bikes has to do with an emotional sense that there’s something *wrong* or unsettling about e-bikes, as compared to regular bikes, rather than with an accounting of their value over that of a car, which is how we usually judge bikes (and trains, buses, etc).

I think this is a little like some of the furor over mountain biking in Forest Park:
Environmentalists who might love to see someone riding a bike on a paved road in their neighborhood get very upset to see a bike on a dirt path in the woods. To me, I think they’re ignoring the huge environmental cost of that paved road and exaggerating the impact of mountain biking.

But from their perspective, in Forest Park they’re seeing a wild place defiled by mechanical transport, while the bike on the city street represents a healthier, cleaner way of life. The Forest would be tainted by a bike, but a city street would be tamed by it.

I think there’s a similar emotion at work here: a feeling that since traditional bikes, untainted by carbon pollution, are a pure, unadulterated good for the environment, adding a motor could only possibly reduce that purity.

In other words, e-bikes are emotionally lumped into the same category as cars: the e-bike isn’t seen as better than a car, but rather *worse than a bike!*

I’ll just grant that e-bikes have greater marginal impact than traditional bikes, but I think that’s an absurd metric to judge their value.

This strikes me as a combination of…

– purity politics, in the sense that the small differences between bike and e-bike are more salient than the big differences between e-bike and motor vehicle…

– blindness to trade-offs, because it’s apparently hard to imagine the perspective of a person who isn’t willing to ride a traditional bike but for whom an e-bike purchase might reduce car mileage, thus reducing their net transportation impact (“if that person isn’t willing to gut it out and ride a real bike, they don’t count”)…

– a vaguely neo-pastoralist form of urbanism that idolizes the value of sweat and effort over efficiency…

— degrowth politics, in which the only better future is one in which people are resigned to a life of less economic productivity and opportunity, and a retvrn to “traditional” technologies.

I’m not 100% sure an e-bike rebate would drive e-bike sales that much, or reduce car driving all that much, or reduce carbon pollution all that much, honestly.

But I am sure that putting a small battery and motor on a bicycle isn’t the catastrophe that some passionate bike people believe it is.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Charley

Charley,
I enjoy your perspectives here on bikeportland, and this post of yours strikes many chords, You make plenty of good points in my view, but your ire at the stridency of some commenters’ tones (I’m sure mine included) is I think interfering with some of your judgments.

As I see it the simplest way to differentiate my project here and what I see you criticizing is that I am interested in getting to the bottom of these debates, sort out the fluff and the boosterist cant from the valid arguments, the claims we can agree are based on sound research. You are right that there are a few fluffy criticisms lobbed at e-bikes sprinkled throughout these conversations, but, I submit, at least two critical questions are valid.
(1) to what extent do e-bikes (and by extension ebike rebates) shift transport from cars to e-bikes? and
(2) under what conditions are e-bikes better for whatever environmental metric we might agree on than regular bikes?

The premise both of the rebate programs and underlying most every conversation here, not to mention the various studies, reports, youtube videos cited here and elsewhere is that e-bikes are (1) of course substituting for car trips, and (2) also under all plausible conditions better than regular bikes.

The reason I find both claims suspect isn’t because I like to piss in someone’s cheerios, want to ruin the fun, am a concern troll, but because I don’t find either assertion plausible, have seen so much boosterist nonsense over my lifetime about other similar issues that my antennae immediately go off (as they say).

You mentioned that you have shifted some of your transport from the car to an ebike. I have no doubt this is true, and also that this informs your perspective here, As for me, I have biked all my life and the idea that changes in my metabolic rate when biking swamps the environmental burden of an e-propulsion system just doesn’t compute, and folks here in the comments have offered a variety of insights that suggest my feelings are probably not entirely off base.

As I see it, we are here discussing policy, and by extension behaviors and questions that research can help us understand. Waiving our hands (as you just did in parts of your long post) and asserting that because the ebike is so trivial a burden (compared to a car) as to not warrant all this discussion feels in its own way boosterist, dismissive. The issue surely isn’t whether your commute has shifted away from the car because you ride an ebike, or whether my metabolism is unaffected by bike riding, but how these issues scale up. If another million e-bikes are produced, sold, rebated, ridden, what are the effects on food production, CO2 emissions, the environment? These are answerable questions, but endlessly recycling (in my view flawed) studies to support a celebratory perspective doesn’t cut it, isn’t the best we can do.

Wouldn’t you agree that there are important, unanswered questions at the heart of this conversation, questions that have absolutely central bearing on the degree to which e-bikes are in fact the open-and-shut case you and many others claim?

Charley
Charley
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

It is totally possible that my ire is interfering with my judgement.

From my perspective, I “ride a bike to work,” and doing so is an unalloyed good for my health and for the environment. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t like e-bikes, this decision deserves as much critical investigation as driving a car. Being on the receiving end that kind of in-group/out-group judgement feels bad, and may cloud my thinking!

I also agree that metabolic calculations are a stretch, and that our metabolisms don’t usually work that way.

As to your critical questions:

1) I do not believe anyone knows the extent to which e-bikes currently shift transport from cars to e-bikes. I know it’s non-zero. The fact that the rise of e-bikes has coincided with the decline of Portland’s cycling mode share, as well as the radical discontinuity of the Covid pandemic and the mass adoption of remote work, means that it can be hard to judge the e-bike’s impact. It might be easier to see the e-bike replacing more car trips if downtown were full of office works again. There are studies, but they are years old, and there are news articles, but they are short on stats.

2) Your second question (“under what conditions are e-bikes better for whatever environmental metric we might agree on than regular bikes?”) illustrates the faulty comparison that I mentioned in my original reply: you are demanding that an e-bike perform its transportation role “better” than a regular bike, with regards to environmental impact.

This is favorable terrain for you, because the bicycle is one of the most mechanically perfect inventions, and would compete favorably with any existing transportation technology.

But it’s not a relevant metric, because, as I keep trying to remind you, the use case is one in which a person replaces car mileage with bike mileage. In that case, the e-bike performs “better” than a regular bike with regards to speed and/or athletic ability necessary to take a certain trip.

Maybe I’m not as dedicated an environmentalist as you, but I’m not willing to spend an hour and a half on my regular bike every day, commuting, and arriving at work sweatier and more tired, when the option exists for me to spend less than an hour commuting, and arrive not smelling like I forgot to shower. There are a lot of people like me, and I think that e-bikes offer us the possibility of an increased quality of life, with less resulting impact than that of an equivalent amount of driving.

_____________________________

I think you’re right that some articles overstate the benefits of e-bike vs bike. But I’d also point out the scientists who have made the statistics in question are trying to do exactly what you think is critical to find out: create the statistics that would allow us to compare e-bikes to regular bikes. You’re just not satisfied with the answer.

I am also skeptical and think that probably the e-bike rider is not saving much on food, but I also do not think it’s that useful to compare bikes to e-bikes, because it is blindingly obvious that they are both better than driving!

I totally understand wanting to make a hard numerical calculation comparing different transportation modes, to avoid boosterism. But if your core motivation is environmental impact, and you’re aware of the radical differences across the many modes, you should see that these marginal differences are hard to calculate because they’re so small as to be meaningless!

Sure, it would be nice to know how many angels dance on the headset of my bike, but the question seems obviously trivial, compared to the passion some people invest.

Which brings me back to my earlier psychological speculation: that the controversy points out a category error, driven by deep emotions, in which some people see e-bikes (or their riders) as an out-group, and respond accordingly by policing the in-group against their adoption.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Charley

All good, Charley, and thank you for taking my call 😉

But it’s not a relevant metric…”

I agree that other metrics might be more useful, or shed more interesting light on our predicament, etc. But this metric you find irrelevant isn’t something I identified. I am responding to/pushing back against the (ECF) claim, found through this and previous conversations.

My reason for harping on this—and I think you may appreciate it—is that these claims circulate, gain currency, power, shape our thinking, reassure us. This matters, quite apart from the ebike-is-better-than-cars framing which you prefer, and which I agree has its own attractions.

Habituation is I think one of the most overlooked but central mechanisms by which we, individually and collectively, interact with technologies, fuels, transport; consume goodies, rationalize choices, shape our surroundings. We (most of us) not only want to accomplish a task, we also want to feel that the related decisions have some validity, are sound, are maybe even ‘good for the environment.’. In that context hearing that the ebike is actually, counterintuitively, better for the environment than the regular bike, does work, has the power to shift our thinking, and (if the claim is actually more nuanced, or even false) then we should tread carefully. Capitalist logics always lurk, both in the shadows and in the bright light of day.
Much of what we do (recycle, celebrate energy efficiency gains, pay taxes, celebrate housing density, build military bases, widen highways, drill deeper wells, save shipping by subscribing to Amazon prime, etc.) may or may not actually scale, deliver the results we were told or wish to be true. But as we become habituated to new ways of living, interacting, we are always making choices, and those choices heqd us in certain directions, foreclose other pathways.
As Amory Lovins once said: “A society cannot aspire to be both conspicuously consumptive and elegantly frugal. the Hard and Soft Paths are culturally and institutionally antagonistic, and furthermore complete for the same resources.”

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Charley

I see that you misunderstood me in one point: I don’t for a moment think your decision to e-bike to work deserves as much scrutiny as if you had driven to work.
The scrutiny of e-bikes in my mind is necessary not because e-bikes are bad, I hate e-bikes, or all the other lazy nonsense folks keep trotting out, but because fanciful claims about the planet-saving-virtuousness* of e-bikes keep circulating. Virtuos not only in relation to car-substitution (the extent of which is unknown but easily exaggerated), but also in relation to good old pedal biking (see ECF report and the reams of derivative copy out there).

E-bikes are great. What is not so great are exaggerated, Middle-Class-Consumer-Tastes-flattering claims that if we all bought and rode ebikes the planet would be better off.

//But we don’t know if the planet would be better off//

To know that we need to answer a few basic questions, which, after ten (?) years that this topic has now been circulating here on bikeportland we still can’t answer. That gives me pause.

*

e-bikes are environmentally better than regular bikes,e-bike rebates will get people out of their cars,e-bikes will get all those demographic groups who can’t pedal a regular bike to start biking,the lithium battery and motor are trivial additions; they are still for all intents and purposes bikes,etc.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Fixed it for you:

What is not so great are exaggerated, Middle-Class-Consumer-Tastes-flattering claims that if we all bought and rode bikes the planet would be better off.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago

You have a great username but I don’t think we’ve properly met yet.

Your cheeky FIFY makes no sense to me. Middle Class Tastes tend toward what will make me look good in the eyes of my peers, and in Portland starting ca. 2010 that was cargo bikes if you had kids, and more recently e-bikes fit this bill. But for what you rewrote above to be true we would see selfies-with-bikes proliferating on social media, and—as a Middle Class Society—ridership would be through the roof. At least where I spend my time we do not see either.

The Fact that if we all rode bikes the planet would be better off seems beyond dispute, or would you care to make the case that this is mistaken?

Charley
Charley
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Judging by the responses I’ve seen here, it seems that *you* and I agree about the importance of operating in the fact-based world. I’m a fan of Stuart Ritchie, and his criticism of the kinds of shoddy science and science journalism that produce and hype splashy, counterintuitive findings. That e-bikes could end up being “better” for the environment might end up being true, but I think skepticism is *very* warranted, and I will continue to assume that it’s not true.

We also agree that a *bike* subsidy would make as much sense as an e-bike subsidy, because bikes are great! No need to target e-bikes *to the exclusion of regular bikes.*

You’re right- I copied the wrong quote from your reply and ran with it. Oops! You wrote: “under what conditions are e-bikes better for whatever environmental metric we might agree on than regular bikes?”

My answer is that, instead of a dodgy study of metabolism and the carbon footprint of the average kcal of food, we’d need to study the sociology, marketing, risk tolerance heuristics, etc, of e-bike uptake and e-bikes as a car-trip replacement.

I’m skeptical that we could put a number on something so complicated, and that informs my feeling that this question is only critical if we are intent to subsidize e-bikes, and not regular bikes.

You’re right about the risk of path dependency following a poor understanding of a phenomenon. So, possibly, we will all look back, in a few decades, and rue the days when e-bikes gained mass acceptance, leading inexorably to environmental ruin and catastrophe. Perhaps you sense my skepticism.

I’m as interested in marginal differences as the next internet reply guy… but the scenario in which e-bike hype leads us into danger is so unlikely that I don’t think it’s important to game out. I don’t know, maybe you’re thinking about the kind of internet purchased, throttle controlled “e-bikes” that are basically like quiet mopeds? In which case, it’s a relatively question of market regulation (and maybe some enterprising liability lawyers).

None of these concessions, though, speak to the puzzling passion of the e-bike skeptics. Even those of us who agree that we must use science to know the world and maximize policy effects, must choose a goal for policy. What drives that choice?

These values and preferences don’t just pop out of thin air- they originate in emotional systems that evolved in our prehistory. If rationality were at the root our motivations, wouldn’t we be just as uncaring, as indiscriminate, as geologic processes?

So, I hope you’ll excuse my speculation as to the deeper feelings behind the so e of the skepticism I’ve seen.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
1 month ago
Reply to  Charley

I also agree that metabolic calculations are a stretch, and that our metabolisms don’t usually work that way.

The person who claimed the peer-reviewed Current Biology manuscript I cited was “dodgy” is linking to some random blog post by a non-scientist as support while claiming to be “fact-based”*. Hilariously, the blogpost discussed science that is consistent with the general findings of the manuscript I cited (e.g. literature showing that the relationship between physical activity and energy expenditure is constrained). In fact, the anthropologist cited in the blogpost was the first to propose that caloric expenditure is constrained (at higher levels of activity). The average ‘murrican and, almost certainly, the average transportation cyclist is not someone who participates in extreme levels of physical activity (where caloric expenditure becomes constrained) and would therefore be expected to see a relatively linear increase in calories consumed when they engage in light to moderate exercise.

*”facts” (or “truths”) are not how science works.

Charley
Charley
1 month ago

Wow! Okay. 

So… *I* am “the person” and I’m sorry you thought I was calling your study dodgy! I hadn’t read it until now, because your reply nested higher in the reply thread and I didn’t see it. I was instead referring to the calculations that 9watts mentioned, which arrived at the higher carbon footprint for bikes than e-bikes. I can see how it wasn’t clear, from the sentence I wrote. 

The metabolism study looks like better science than the carbon footprint comparison, in part because its thesis doesn’t rely on stretching causal links between disparate kinds of data that are harder to measure. 

I shared a link to a 2021 article that describes the work of Herman Pontzer, whose recent studies come to the conclusion that changes in a person’s activity level spur changes in their metabolism. You’re very dismissive of the article I shared, but it’s just an article and interview with the author of the study you cited: Herman Pontzer.  

I suppose I could have cited an actual study of his, but that can be dense reading, as compared to the executive summary offered in the article. If you think that the 2021 article mis-represents the science found in the 2016 study that you’re citing, please show me!

Finally, I can’t find anything in that article to confirm that a cyclist would necessarily burn fewer calories per kilometer if they switched to an e-bike. If Pontzer is correct about the adaptability of human metabolism, the difference may be very modest, indeed.

Home
Home
1 month ago

When I’ve used transit in foreign countries, I haven’t seen vulnerable people (I.e. visually intoxicated, verbally abusive, hauling around trash bags full of cans, passed out and slumped over). This seems to be an American thing, and it’s most prevalent, in my experience, on the Max, though not unheard of in buses.

I ride transit out of ideological conviction and a sense of duty, but I totally understand why people who don’t share my motivations choose not to. My mornings are so much more peaceful when I bike or drive a car to my destination. But I take transit most of the time, anyway.

Trimet Buses and Max trains have low frequency, terrible transfers under the best conditions, bad reliability, and poor connectivity to popular destinations, unless you’re trying to get to the Central City (which no one is these days). Throw in mentally unstable people who are using transit as a day shelter, and it becomes an extremely unsavory option.

I’m sorry, but the argument that transit security policies can’t be more exclusionary out of concern for the vulnerable is an argument for making transit unusable for everyone else.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  Home

Continually catering to the most problematic people is a disservice to the greater community who uses (and presumably pays for) those services.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Home

When I’ve used transit in foreign countries, I haven’t seen vulnerable people (I.e. visually intoxicated, verbally abusive, hauling around trash bags full of cans, passed out and slumped over).

I have seen visibly drunk transit users, vomiting even, peeing in public outside the interior train urinal, many times, particularly in Germany (Octoberfest) and France (near vineyards on holiday weekends) but also the UK. Lots of drunk youths (particularly young men), “hooligans”, folks out for a good time on public transit, racial taunts, drug dealing, the same crap as in the USA. In certain countries the police are draconian in the patrolling and don’t tolerate any nonsense (for example Switzerland), but in other places even in the same country the police are lax or non-existent, just like in the USA.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Riding the MRT in Singapore when we were there for Tiger Balm was very peaceful. Everything worked, it was clean, there were many people to enforce the rules and no tolerance for those breaking them. As long as one behaved themselves it was a wonderful experience.

“Train frequency is 2 to 3 minutes during the peak hours of 7am to 9am and about 5 to 7 minutes during off-peak times.”

Trimet simply isn’t serious about mass transit. Theres no other way to describe it. Until there is some epiphany that mass transit is a good thing to have then there really won’t be any improvement, because the political leadership and by extension Trimet just don’t care.
Singapore was a breath of fresh air on how a car lite society can work.

To own a car in Singapore, a buyer must bid for a certificate that now costs $106,000, equivalent to four Toyota Camry Hybrids in the U.S. Singapore has a 10-year “certificate of entitlement” (COE) system, introduced in 1990, to control the number of vehicles in the small country.

Instead of focusing on rich Euro countries for inspiration on how to create a car lite society here, places such as Singapore offer a real path forward on how to do it.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Trimet hasn’t been a transit company since the Max trains were inflicted on the Portland region. Since then, they are a “development” organization.
Trimet is great at making construction company owners very wealthy with their taxpayer paid construction projects. Being a customer oriented transit organization isn’t even in the top 10 reasons for existing.
Heck, they promised better bus facilities at Parkrose transit center as part of the unneeded “Better Red” project. Now there’s 1/2 the bus shelters as before and now there’s no reader boards to tell people waiting when the next bus is going to arrive. Yeah, I wonder where that money went that was supposed to improve Parkrose.

Home
Home
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

You don’t even have to look to Singapore for examples of safe and clean rapid transit. How about Vancouver bc? They have a massive homeless population, who suffer from rampant addiction problems on par with any American city. I spent a week there a while back, and rode the entire length of all their skytrain lines out into the suburbs. There was no sign of drug addicts or people sleeping on the train. But walking around downtown Vancouver, you could definitely find just as many people sleeping on the street as you can in Portland. Canada is not an authoritative country, but they seem to be able to provide safe, clean, and attractive transit that puts Portland and trimet to shame.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Home

I haven’t been to Vancouver BC in a long time so didn’t feel like I could speak to it well. I’m glad you brought it up. Why abhorrent behavior is acceptable on Portland public transportation is truly mystifying.

360Skeptic
360Skeptic
1 month ago

In the United States, there were 24 reported homicides on public transit in 2021 (24 too many, to be clear). During the same year, 42,939 people died in car crashes in the U.S.”

Sounds lopsided until you realize it’s not apples-to-apples. Most of the U.S. doesn’t have much viable public transit, so not many people ride it. (Instead, they’re driving.) Would be interesting to see “deaths per person-mile” or similar, compared.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  360Skeptic

I want to know how many people were killed by a passenger in their car who was also a stranger to them.

Taylor Griggs
1 month ago

I’m sorry, but why would that matter? Many people who die in car crashes are killed by drivers in other cars who are strangers to them. Those drivers may even be mentally unstable, intoxicated, or otherwise exhibiting anti-social behavior (i.e. texting and driving or fleeing the scene). But we don’t see their actions as causing the same amount of harm for some reason. Why? I’m really asking.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

MotRG comes up with the darnedest false equivalencies. Who knows, maybe there is some clever thought behind this one, but, typically, his quips here in the comments have struck me as pretty off-the-wall trolling.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

She is comparing homicides by a stranger on transit to car accidents.

Comparing those as if they are equivalent is the fallacy.

9watts
9watts
1 month ago

OK. And thanks for clarifying.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago

Why? People end up dead through no fault of their own either way. If the issue is personal safety, it seems an entirely reasonable comparison.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

Taylor, if you calculate the number of people killed by drivers in the Portland region in 2023 divided by the number of miles driven (VMT), and compare that to the number of people killed on or by TriMet in 2023 divided by the number of passenger miles, you’ll find the numbers do not favor TriMet. 2023 was a bad year, but the result is interesting. It’s probably more indicative of what’s happening here than national numbers would be.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

About those numbers: any statistician will tell you that N=5 is not a large enough sample size to draw any conclusions from.

donel courtney
donel courtney
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

Ride the max Taylor, say between Flavel and Lents, when someone is walking up and down the aisle trying to look people in the eye to start beef, when you are in between stops and have no where to run.

Then tell me, after you’ve experienced that feeling of cortisol and that feeling of being trapped, that you don’t understand the reason why.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  donel courtney

Yes, an unpleasant stretch. Flavel was where I’d get off to catch the bus up Mt. Scott BLVD to Willamette National. Sometimes there would still be homeless folks camping under the overpass where the bus stop was, sometimes there would only be the detritus left behind. Sometimes the bus would be there, too many times it would never show up and the few of us would start walking up the hill hoping that another employee would stop and give us a ride so we wouldn’t be late.

Taylor Griggs
1 month ago
Reply to  donel courtney

I have experienced things like that. It’s scary. I’ve also been hit by drivers while biking or walking several times and had more near-misses than I can count. All of those experiences were just as scary. I’ve been screamed at by people in cars while I was biking and had threats yelled at me. I didn’t have anywhere to run, then, either—if they wanted to hit me, they could’ve. There is no difference in the threat. It’s just how we perceive it.

BB
BB
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

Shouldn’t we have security and law enforcement on trains and in the streets?
I don’t know what you are arguing for?
No one I know thinks because the trains suck, it’s fine that the streets do also and we don’t need to fix both.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  donel courtney

That sounds like it’s still a non-sequitur, doesn’t answer the question. It also makes me very uncomfortable to be T-boned by a driver running a red light. Really gets the cortisol going. But that doesn’t give me the same class of people to dehumanize and scapegoat.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

doesn’t answer the question.

If the question is why is Trimet ridership plummeting, than I think that statement and others like it answer it very well. If it is another question I would like to hear what it is.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The question is why is Trimet ridership falling and car “drivership” not falling? Given that it’s more dangerous to drive than ride Trimet. And the given responses do not even come close to answering that, they’re just restating the complaints and pretending the question wasn’t asked.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

This makes no sense. I would think the results speak for themselves. People who actually use Trimet and aren’t just “day trippers” see it as unpleasant because it is. As you yourself state, the majority of people think it is worth risking being in a car accident to avoid that unpleasantness. If Trimet was serious about public transportation it would be an easy fix. Control who comes aboard, eject those that become hostile while on board. Trimet is not serious though and so it won’t change. Remember the classic line from Star Trek 2? When Spock is dying and says “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”
It is really okay not to include everyone in everything. Not everyone should be allowed on public transportation if they are aggressive towards others. “Ones right to swing ones arms ends where anothers nose begins”

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  Taylor Griggs

Because dying in a car crash isn’t a homicide by a stranger.

John V
John V
1 month ago

Do dead people care if they died by homicide by a stranger or a car crash (which yeah, actually can be homicide by a stranger for what it’s worth)?

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

“Do dead people care”

That’s the wrong question. People who are deciding how to travel care, and the thought of getting knifed by a stranger is very much more scary than the possibility of a car crash.

Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but that’s how our brains work.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s all thoughts and feelings when it maintains the status quo, and rationality and logic if that maintains the status quo. The only consistency is whatever maintains the status quo.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

The status quo is maintaining itself, and that has nothing to do with me.

My comments here are observations about how the world works. They do not reflect not how I wish it worked.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago

Ever heard of vehicular homicide?

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Ever heard of vehicular homicide?

Vehicular homicide does not simply mean being involved in a crash where someone dies. Here’s what it does mean, in Oregon:

https://oregon.public.law/statutes/ors_163.149

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago

I want to know how many people were killed by a passenger in their car who was also a stranger to them.

This is just Uber, keeping in mind all the other rideshare and taxi companies out there, not to mention hitch-hikers, jitney services, and the like.
https://brookslawgroup.com/practice-areas/car-accident-lawyer/uber-lyft-accidents/uber-and-lyft-crash-stats/: Uber vehicles were involved in 97 fatal crashes between 2017 and 2018, leading to 107 deaths. Of that number, 21 percent of the crash victims were the rider, 21 percent were the driver, and the remaining 58 percent were third parties.

blumdrew
1 month ago
Reply to  360Skeptic

Most of the US lives in urban areas, and most urban areas have at least somewhat usable transit. Per-mile metrics favor cars, since car trips tend to be much longer (and also include types of trips that really are apples to oranges – like long haul trips).

If we look at commute preferences, 5 million Americans use public transit while about 125 million Americans drive or carpool. That’s a 1:25 ratio, while the death ratio is 1:1800. People who drive to work use a mode that is ~72x more dangerous by this metric. Here is the census data table: https://data.census.gov/table/ACSST1Y2022.S0802?q=Commute

Commute might not be the perfect metric to use here, but I think it’s more useful than per-mile. Ultimately, I think a per trip would be an ideal metric but I wasn’t really able to find that on the car side of things.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  blumdrew

All the data I need:

-The fatality rate for driving is 1.5 per hundred million miles.

-I drive about 7,500 miles per year.

-The Max went 3.9mm miles last year.

-People have been murdered on the
Max in the last 12 months.

3.9mm is a lot less than 100mm.

YMMV.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Why is per trip better? A trip twice as long means twice the exposure to hazard.

blumdrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Length in miles, or length in time? Generally, people make judgments on travel based on time rather than distance and that time is (somewhat) fixed. Transit trips tend to be slower and shorter than driving trips, so per-mile statistics always make driving look safer (relative to other modes).

I’d also just say that really the relevant statistics are deaths, and per user deaths. If the per-mile fatality rate drops from 1.5 to 1.4 per billion VMT, but VMT doubles are we in a better or worse spot for road safety? I’d say worse, for more reason than one.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  blumdrew

“are we in a better or worse spot for road safety? I’d say worse”

I would too — the number we’re really concerned with is overall deaths, and everything else is a means to that end.

To that end, if moving everyone to transit would save lives, then perhaps the most important metric is stabbings per year, because that number is what is driving people away from transit to modes that feel safer.

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

VMT is mathematically appealing but probably not as meaningful as the requisite unit of a trip. If you had a 20 mile journey that required passage through an alligator pit compared to a 10 mile journey with an alligator pit, the 20 mile would appear safer based on VMT, but they are probably the same risk.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

Exactly what it felt like transferring through Gateway in the early morning 🙂

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

This is a great point. The weakest link, or most dangerous link of a trip often defines the success or adoption of that path. Too often, it seems that numbers used by PBOT or other transit agencies look at means rather than outliers, when it is the outliers that can define someone’s perception and experience.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  360Skeptic

Really, numbers likely don’t matter to the average Portland citizen. They don’t look at the stats to see if they’ll ride transit today or not. No, they saw that article where a bus driver was attacked, or the article that someone was stabbed, or that intoxicated folks are allowed to ride. That’s what they care about. Until TriMet steps up, and yes, does the awful thing of keeping transit safe for users and keeping those that aren’t off then likely those citizens will say F transit and go hop in their car.

For myself I’ve seen much on TriMet, and I’ve been so close to bagging it and driving to work, but I keep trying to tell myself “it’s the right thing to do.” One of these days, I think I too will say F transit and start driving if things don’t drastically improve.

mc
mc
1 month ago

RE: “Take Back The Streets’ – I’ve no doubt about the claims that women experience while biking, but I’m unsure about the results of speaking up and if we had good local governance and a good D.O.T, they wouldn’t need to, because they’d be doing the one and only thing that needs to be done to curb road violence and that’s severely restrict car movements and speed.

Until then, the damage, destruction, maiming and killing will continue ad nauseam.

Dominic
Dominic
1 month ago

Bold of trimet to say out loud if you are drunk or high the rules don’t apply and you must be protected. Hope this policy is put in front of voters so they can cancel all their tax support for the dumpster fire that is trimet.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic

I sense that we are reaching a tipping point on transit. Either Tri-Met is going to see ridership plummet to massive budget cut levels or we will see a rise in vigilantism on trains and busses. Neither is an attractive option, but if Tri-Met does not prioritize security…

Bigger picture: the Portland area better gets it act together and soon. Otherwise, some smart centrist Democrat or a Republican from outside of the metro area is going to push more aggressive legislation or run for Governor on aggressive “Stand Your Ground” laws, outlawing camping on public streets and parks, and other draconian zero tolerance measures targeting the homeless, the addicted, and the mentally ill. Enough people with declining home values and lifestyles will forget their liberal values very quickly when promised safety and cleaner neighborhoods. They won’t verbalize it, but they will vote it in private.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

Or maybe, just maybe, Metro, Multnomah, Portland, et al, would get their acts together, put those 100s of millions of tax dollars already collected into transitional/temporary housing (enough that everyone on street would at least have a bed each night) so that maybe we wouldn’t need “stand your ground” laws. But hey, our politicians are too busy building apartment buildings (that take a long time and enrichen builders) and forming committees rather than just doing the absolute basics to help with the whole homeless issue. No I’m not saying this will solve the issue, but it’s one of many things that needs to happen to help.
The thought that “housing first” is the only solution has been shown these most recent years to be a total failure as how the county has been running it.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

I don’t know, Solar. That sounds too simple to work. What we really need to do is spend 50% of those funds on consultants to evaluate the feasibility of your “Warm Bed/Hot Shower/Free Meals” proposal. What if someone doesn’t get a proper non-GMO vegan breakfast option or scratchy sheets? It could lead to chaos and an unpleasant write up in The Oregonian. Better to study it out for 2-3 years before arriving at a consensus to determine next steps.

You are spot on! Portland area leadership is more concerned with optics, purity for their voter base, and enriching their developer and consultant (read: former staffers) friends than solving problems. The longer that goes on, the worse it gets and the wider the door opens for empty. wrong headed populism to rise.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Yes, although I think “housing first” isn’t the problem, it’s doing “housing first” through all those builder-enrichening means, public-private partnerships, nonsense like that. It’s pretending to do housing first that is the problem. What you’re suggesting is a lot more like actual housing first.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic

Yeah, definitely don’t want to take a look at this…

https://trimet.org/about/pdf/trimetridership.pdf

Every metric of the platform is very discouraging.

Worst among them is the realization that the system is running 7 million fewer miles now than they were 15 years ago and the subsidy per ride has increased from just over a dollar to over $7 per ride. We know the cost to ride hasn’t kept up, but the operating costs have just exploded over time. How this is sustainable for us to all keep subsidizing an incredibly poor product is beyond me.

9watts
9watts
29 days ago

On the one hand we have those who say e-bikes (pedelecs, not just throttle bikes) are cheating, don’t give me the exercise I want, save so many calories over the regular bike that they are in fact environmentally superior.
https://bikeportland.org/2024/04/17/i-want-legs-of-steel-and-worry-my-e-bike-is-holding-me-back-385738

On the other hand we have those who say e-bikes burn (within the margin of error) as many calories, get your heart rate up, just like regular bikes.
https://www.cyclingelectric.com/news/are-e-bikes-cheating-no-says-studies

This in a nutshell is the problem with boosterism. Everyone picks their favorite assertion, statistic, wishful exaggeration and runs with it. Those who love e-bikes can be found on both sides. Championing their preferred machine for reasons that appear mutually exclusive. I’m sure there are ways to square this circle, but debating with boosters you will never get to the bottom of this, separate the wheat from the chaff.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
29 days ago
Reply to  9watts

Or here’s a crazy thought . . .
Let the consumer decide. If they want an e-bike, great. Perfectly legal to purchase.
If someone feels strongly against an e-bike they can very easily find their various elected officials that represent them and get laws changed. That’s how the process works.
It’s how I’ve tried to get laws changed. I’ve failed every time, but at least I attempted rather than uselessly shake my fist at the clouds and expect change.

9watts
9watts
29 days ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

“rather than uselessly shake my fist at the clouds…”

that’s all you’ve got?

Can you imagine that some people might be interested in more than just consumer preferences, and policy that is based on those preferences?