Outside Magazine isn’t usually the place we turn to for the latest perspectives on transportation reform. But an article they published online last week, The bike industry’s sharpest minds on how to make roads safer for cyclists, is worth your attention.
And I don’t say just because it features a bit of a rant by yours truly.
Reporter Jeff Foss asked 11 people for their insights on how to make roads in America nicer to cycle on. I decided to share some of my thoughts about cars and car culture. Below is my blurb, followed by a brief outline of what the other 10 folks said:
The United States has fallen way behind in cycling and traffic safety because we don’t do enough to curtail and regulate automobile use. The auto lobby is kicking our butts, and too many of us don’t seem to mind. Far too often, we settle for incremental progress—a new bike lane here, a new bike law there—when what’s needed are big, bold changes in both culture and infrastructure.
Based on observations from the scene it was a classic right hook. The truck was stopped a few dozen feet from the intersection and Marsan and his bike were lodged just in front of the rear wheels.
That collision was just the latest in a long line of right hooks that have left bicycle riders dead in Portland over the years. As I stood at the scene of Marsan’s death, the names of other people who’ve died in fatal right hook collisions with trucks flashed through my head: Tracey Sparling, Brett Jarolimek, Kathryn Rickson, Kirke Johnson, Lydia Johnson (no relation).
Bicycles, large trucks and right hooks is one of Portland’s most vexing traffic safety problems. It’s maddening that we haven’t made more progress on it in the past decade.
With a shovel in his hand to drive the point home, Portland reporter Reed Andrews with KATU (our ABC affiliate) highlighted the problem of gravel in the bike lanes on their news broadcast last night.
Andrews focused his story on the layer of gravel on the St. Johns Bridge sidewalk we reported on Tuesday. He interviewed the owner of Block Bikes, a bike shop just steps away from the east end of the bridge who vouched for the problems it causes for his customers. The story also included an interview with a bicycle rider who said he often rides miles out of his way just to avoid riding the bridge sidewalk.
Biking in America suffers from a major image problem. Bike riders are rarely seen as cool, conquering heros in movies or advertisements the way auto users are. While we do our activism and political lobbying here and there, it has very limited impact when our entire culture is consumed by media that makes automobiles look like sexy, must-have products.
Many car commercials are fake, mean-spirited, and promote dangerous driving; but with billions of dollars to spend, the auto industry knows how to win the hearts and minds of Americans. The bike industry? Not so much. More often than not bike advertisements focus too much on racing or too much on the corny stuff bike advocates love but that non-believers (an important marketing target) can’t relate to or simply don’t care about. Granted, the marketing budget of the entire bike industry is probably equal to what Ford spends on office coffee for a week. But still.
Once upon a time, a bike-industry media consultant named Jonathan Maus observed that “blogs are changing the way people communicate on the web.”
That was 11 years ago, to be precise. And Jonathan’s feeling at the time — blogs are amazing, why doesn’t everyone and everything have one? — has basically come true; these days we just call most of them “Facebook pages.”
The media revolution between 2005 and today has changed a lot of other things, and one of them is biking. In the first episode of the rebooted BikePortland podcast, Jonathan, producer Lillian Karabaic and I talk about the modern bike media.
The Willamette Week bike issue came out today, which makes this the one day a year when we stoop mooching off their generally excellent reporting and they get to mooch off ours. (Seriously, y’all, no problem.)
But one piece in their nicely put-together bike issue falls clearly in the “wish we’d done that” category: a tally of median single-family home prices per Portland neighborhood ranked by the time it takes to bike to the city center.
“Portland has long been thought of as a cycling mecca for one big reason: Affordable homes were close enough to work to commute by bike,” Willamette Week’s Tyler Hurst writes in the piece, more or less accurately. “Housing prices rose by another 6.6 percent last year, and a February project by Governing magazine found the city is gentrifying faster than anywhere else in the nation. Does the promise of an affordable, bikeable Portland still hold up?”
“… you’re the one driving a two-ton bullet of a machine, and thus you’re the one with all the power.”
Portlanders are used to being on lists when it comes to the travel and tourism media; but not like this.
Matador Network, which bills itself as the “web’s best independent travel media site,” has published an article that makes light of driving a car into bicycle riders. The article, published on December 29th, says it’s one of the seven “rites of passage everyone will experience in Portland.”
Surrounded by six other completely innocuous items, here’s the part about bicycle riders:[Read more…]
A story posted on The Oregonian’s website earlier today seems to make a joke about very serious and potentially dangerous driving behavior.
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan, U.S. Senator 1976-2000
It’s one thing to be opposed to something on principle or policy grounds, but when the facts are twisted to suit an agenda, that’s something else entirely.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what The Oregonian Editorial Board and the Portland Business Alliance have done. Both of these groups are staunchly opposed to the latest transportation revenue proposal unveiled by Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick earlier this week. I’m not entirely in love with the proposal (I think a paltry 7% of total spending toward biking-specific infrastructure isn’t enough); but that’s a different conversation. For now, there’s one aspect of the argument from the PBA and The Oregonian that really needs to be called out.