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80 percent of Portland’s top-ranked restaurants have one thing in common

Fri, 11/27/2015 - 12:24
DOC on Northeast 30th, Lincoln on North Williams, Paley’s Place on Northwest 23rd.
(Images: Google Street View)

In a splashy report on last week, the much-loved Portland chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok lamented the recent lack of off-street auto parking on the street where he built his fame.

Developers of Portland’s future Division Streets are “going to need to lose some commercial space to parking,” Ricker told the news channel.

If that were to be the case, it’d be a big shift for future players in Portland’s nationally famous restaurant scene. Of the 93 Portland restaurants in Willamette Week’s “Restaurant Guide 2015” list released this month, 74 — Pok Pok among them — chose to set up shop in buildings that don’t have any car parking at all.


It’s not as if many or most customers at these restaurants don’t drive to them. Though all draw foot, bike and transit traffic, all also rely on street parking, or in several cases nearby paid garages or parking lots.

“All of the best places in Portland don’t have parking, and that’s part of what makes them great places.”
— Martin Cizmar, Willamette Week

But Ricker is right that street parking in Pok Pok’s neighborhood has become harder to find. So why are so many ambitious restaurants choosing to do business in exactly those spots? And why, to judge from Willamette Week’s enthusiasm, are they thriving despite the annoyances of parking nearby?

I asked Martin Cizmar, who edited Willamette Week’s restaurant guide, if his publication had perhaps disregarded restaurants in more auto-oriented areas because of his staff’s cultural links to the city center.

Just the opposite, Cizmar said.

“We’d really love to fuck with the urban elitists to tell them they have to drive to the suburbs to get any good food, but we could not in good conscience do that,” Cizmar said. “They just don’t have these kind of restaurants.”

Why not?

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Cizmar offered two main reasons.

First, he said, people prefer to spend money in areas that aren’t dominated by car parking.

“All of the best places in Portland don’t have parking, and that’s part of what makes them great places,” he said. “They’re in walkable areas where you have lots of nice density that people like. … You can walk next door and get a cocktail with their meal, or walk down the street later and get dessert.”

Second, Cizmar said, buildings without parking are probably better-suited to entrepreneurship, because they allow new businesses to draw on the foot traffic of existing ones, and also because parking lots are so expensive.

“When you open a restaurant in an area that doesn’t have other restaurants and doesn’t have foot traffic, you’re taking a bigger risk,” he said. “If you find yourself a space on the edge of town that has a giant parking lot, you’re risking flaming out. And if you’re paying to rent a parking lot in addition to renting your space, you’re also taking on a huge amount of overhead. … It probably doesn’t pencil out for almost any restaurant to want to have a parking lot when that space could be put to better use.”

Once you’re looking, in fact, it starts to seem as if Portland’s independent sit-down restaurants have been trying to locate anywhere except a building that has lost some commercial space to parking. Even in relatively auto-oriented areas like NE 52nd and Sandy or SE 64th and Powell, small restaurants like Cabezon and Rose VL have set up in commercial buildings that don’t have private parking. Nearby buildings with parking lots are home to regional or national chain stores like Gustav’s or 7-11.

Garrett Peck, general manager of Imperial, said that when he co-founded Willamette Week’s “Restaurant of the Year” parking was not a significant consideration.

The most important thing for Imperial, he said, was the number of potential customers within walking distance — in Imperial’s case, hotel patrons.

“We were looking to capture the hotel business,” he said. “There’s 1500 hotel rooms within a five-block area.”

Peck said he previously worked at Renata, a Southeast Portland restaurant that has an on-site parking lot. Renata, he said, pays quite a bit of rent for that lot, but it’s not nearly big enough to hold the restaurant’s patrons.

Dana McErlean, who owns two restaurants on the Willamette Week list, said that when she opened her first restaurant, Yakuza at 30th and Killingsworth in 1999, it was in a building she’d purchased herself. She rebuilt it into her home (upstairs) and into the corner’s first restaurant on the ground floor.

She said she never considered adding a parking lot with that building. When she opened her next two restaurants within a block of that corner — DOC and Nonna, both on Willamette Week’s 2015 list — on-site parking wasn’t a consideration either, even though on-street parking in the neighborhood is far scarcer than it was in 1999. Her main motivation was building the value of each of her restaurants by creating a hub of other restaurants and businesses within easy walking distance of one another.

“There is a really large community that commutes by bike or public transportation,” she said. “Parking lots take a lot of space … if you’ve got to park a couple blocks away and walk somewhere, is it really a big deal?”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here.

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Oakridge fire destroys headquarters of bike company with Portland roots

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 13:06
Planet X was on the left.
(Photos: Vincent Rodarte)

A fire in Oakridge early this past Sunday morning has completely destroyed the headquarters of Planet-X USA. The company sells bikes under the Planet-X, On-One and Titus brand names and is owned by its parent company which is based in Sheffield, England. Vincent Rodarte, the company’s operations manager, moved the business to the mountain biking mecca of Oakridge on August 1st of this year. Planet-X USA opened in Portland in 2011 and expanded significanly in 2013.

Planet-X’s Portland location had 10,000 square feet (we visited them back in 2013), but much of that inventory had been crammed into the 1,200 square foot showroom and office in Oakridge. Fortunately the company is insured against fire, but it’s a huge blow to Rodarte and his effort to strengthen the U.S. business.

Rodarte, who lives in Portland, just published photos of the damage and his thoughts about the fire at

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“The showroom is now a box filled with blackened debris of carbon shreds, partially consumed tires, and wheels that seem to have melted into the floor.

The office was reduced to blackened mounds of melted printers and computers. The tool box I left on my desk on Friday was a black pool of plastic with some tools embedded in it. There is the silhouette of two solid figures that stand out above the chaos all over the floor. Our Park Tool double armed repair stand in the back room and the Feedback Sports mobile stand standing by the front door.

I haven’t been able to see much else in the two back rooms, which were filled with our stock of Titus service parts, stems, seat posts, grips, bar tape, etc. Peaking through the busted out back windows, tool boxes are leaning as if they are drunk. Nothing else is recognizable.

Today I got the chance to stand inside the showroom. Steel frames were still holding up. Carbon frames were merely ghosts of their former selves. Carbon wheels had come unwoven. Disc brake rotors hung onto portions of hub shells. Display cases were reduced to piles of molten glass and charred wood. It was not the smell of a bicycle store.

I’ve been wearing a strong face for the last few days, but I think it’s only because it hasn’t quite hit me yet. Calls to utility companies are making it a bit more real to me. The community of Oakridge has been extremely supportive. The Brewers Union 180, our local pub, has been my makeshift office.

Standing in front of my home away from home since August, I cracked a little. It wasn’t due to the extreme physical loss I saw before me, it was for the loss of time, effort and pure love that went into making this shop in a tiny town happen.”

Reached today, Rodarte says authorities still don’t know what caused the fire (it also burned a bakery in the same building). For the immediate future, he says, “I will be back in Portland working from a home office. Planet X USA is in mobile mode now.”

For more about the fire read the story in The Register-Guard.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Jules Bailey says he’ll run for Portland mayor

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 12:15
Bailey was a fighter for cycling when he
first became a state legislator in 2009.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey has told the Willamette Week that he’ll enter the mayoral race.

This surprise announcement means current candidate Ted Wheeler won’t have the easy ride into City Hall many expected when Mayor Charlie Hales recently decided he wouldn’t run for re-election. Bailey, 36, has a significant political background from his stint as an Oregon state represenative and he’s very well-known among many Portland voters — especially voters who care about active transportation issues.

“…We can more effectively manage our transportation system by using transportation dollars not just for projects built for cars, but also for projects that reduce the need for cars.”
— Jules Bailey

In 2008 Bailey was endorsed by the Bike Walk Vote political action committee. Before he even got to Salem, he came out against the highly controversial Columbia River Crossing project as part of a coalition that wanted to stop it. Then, once Bailey got into office and the CRC project evolved into the defining political transportation issue of the past decade, he changed his mind.

Here’s a rundown of Bailey’s biking and transportation policy experience as culled from our archives…

Bailey voted in favor of the CRC project in February 2013 and it was a vote that upset and baffled many of his supporters. A week after his vote at an event hosted by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, activists crashed the party and presented Bailey with a mock award. (Bailey ultimately explained his support of the CRC funding bill as a way to, “change the course of the project to make it more reflective of our long term transportation needs.”)

While Bailey is likely to find himself explaining that vote again during the upcoming mayoral race, he’ll also have a lot of other, more popular, policies to talk about.

One of the first things Bailey did when he joined the legislature was come out as the chief sponsor of the “Idaho Stop” bill. This very popular bill would have made it legal for bicycle operators to treat stop signs as yield signs. “This is about the economy, people’s health, and about the environment,” Bailey once said during a hearing for the bill in March 2009. “We’re not legalizing bad behavior, we’re decriminalizing good behavior.”

Bailey at Kidical Mass in 2011.
(Photo: Michael Andersen)

The Idaho Stop bill ultimately failed and Bailey placed much of the blame on a late-in-the-game staffing change made by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

Bailey’s next big transportation idea was to base traffic fines on vehicle weight. His idea was to create a new weight class for non-motorized vehicles weighing under 50 pounds (a.k.a. bicycles) and then have state and local law enforcement index their fine amounts accordingly. His reasoning? “It’s your basic physics equation,” he explained to me at the time. “Force equals mass times velocity, squared.” That bill ultimately failed due to what Bailey said was a legislative technicality. (He said he’d bring the idea back up but never did.)

On three separate occasions Bailey tried to increase funding for biking and walking. He first wanted to include more money for biking and walking in the 2009 Jobs and Transportation Act. That attempt failed, but Bailey still voted in favor of the JTA despite it being called “highway-heavy” by bicycle and environmental groups.

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Bailey’s support of the JTA — which mandated ODOT to build nearly $1 billion in highway projects — was in some ways similar to his controversial support of the CRC funding bill. While each bill was scary to many of his progressive constituents, Bailey thought it better to go with the political mainstream and be a reformer from the inside rather than stake out an opposing position that might have ultimately left him with less negotiating power.

Here’s what I wrote after Bailey testified in support of the JTA in May 2009:

“I was clear that Bailey understands the perils of building too many highways. However, despite saying “We can’t simply build our way out of our transportation problems,” he threw whole-hearted support behind a bill that funds nearly $1 billion in new highway projects and gives relatively meager consideration to everything else.”

And Bailey wasn’t done trying to get more state funding for biking and walking projects. In the 2011 session he proposed a constitutional amendment that would have allowed gas taxes and other motor vehicle-related fees to be use for transportation projects that, “will prevent or reduce pollution and congestion created by use of motor vehicles.” That effort didn’t get very far.

Then in 2013 he was back at it again with a bill that would have made bike paths and other active transportation projects eligible for highway trust fund dollars. The bill, Bailey explained to me at the time, “Simply acknowledges that we can more effectively manage our transportation system by using transportation dollars not just for projects built for cars, but also for projects that reduce the need for cars.” It unfortunately didn’t pass.

In smaller battles, Bailey has proven himself a supporter of biking and common sense. Remember when House Representative Mitch Greenlick wanted to ban children under six from biking with adults? It was Jules Bailey who not only swooped in to clean up the mess, but made some political hay about it by showing up in the rain to join families on a Kidical Mass ride that same week.

More recently as a Multnomah County Commissioner, Bailey once again came to the aid of bicycle riders in our region when he struck language from the county’s Sauvie Island/Multnomah Channel Plan that would have made an unecessary and potentially harmful reference to “recreational bicycle activities.”

On a personal note, Bailey currently lives in the Multnomah Village neighborhood in southwest Portland and he’s a brand new dad.

Bailey’s entry into the mayoral race (which he’s not going to officially announce until January) is just what Portland needs. We look forward to covering it. For now, check out to learn more about him.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Bikesharing deal could be high-tech key to a low-car city

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 11:46
Open bike-share data and integrated payment systems can add up to something very big.
(Photo: M.Andersen)

The “single, supple mesh of mobility” that the government of Helsinki is hoping to use to “make car ownership pointless” by 2025 may be arising spontaneously and gradually in Portland.

For people reading between the lines, an announcement Tuesday from the North American Bike Share Association could lead to Portland becoming the first U.S. city where a single mobile app will be able to let you plan a trip and buy a ride from a bike share service, transit agency, carsharing company or ride-hailing service.

Even that would still be a far cry from the unified payment and fare system envisioned by Helsinki and by transportation dreamers around the world. That’s the digital key to the city that would be convenient enough to replace car ownership for a large share of the population.

“The holy grail that Tom Miller talked about … is interoperability.”
— Steve Hoyt-McBeth, Portland bike share

But it’s a significant step in that direction — and Portlanders are playing an outsize role in making it happen.

If it works, it’ll be part of a total rethink of urban mobility that’s been happening little by little for years. Instead of assuming that people choose a single mode (car, bike, transit) and use it exlusively, the public and private sectors would both be focusing on helping people choose the best mode for each individual trip they make.

In an interview earlier this month, Portland bike share project manager and NABSA board member Steve Hoyt-McBeth described “interoperability” between bike share and other modes as a “holy grail” that was being discussed by former transportation director Tom Miller back in 2011. It remains “part of the vision of things” as the local bike-sharing system prepares to hire its first general manager, Hoyt-McBeth said.

“In the short term I think we’re just trying to get a system on the ground,” he added.

Open data will make bike-share trip plans as easy as transitThere should be easier ways to do this.

Tuesday’s announcement from NABSA was so dry that it was easy to miss its importance.


But it’s a very important step for North American bike sharing — as important as the open data standard co-created by TriMet and Google in 2005 has been to public transportation.

There’s currently no way for Google Maps to figure out that a five-minute bike-share ride could shave half an hour from a transit trip.

That’s because the transit data standard, called the General Transit Feed Specification, is what makes it possible to get transit arrival information in third-party apps like Google Maps, PDX Bus, Transit App or RideScout.

Today, if you want to get around on bike share in an unfamiliar city or neighborhood, you need to download a special app for that bike share system, find a station with available bikes, then switch to Google Maps to plan a bike-friendly route, then switch back to the special bike share app to find a station to drop the bike at.

As for actual point-to-point trip planning, good luck. There’s currently no way for Google Maps to figure out that a five-minute bike-share ride could shave half an hour from a transit trip.

Tuesday’s announcement of the new “General Bikeshare Feed Specification” promises to wipe that problem away over the next few years.

The announcement included both Social Bicycles, the company that will provide equipment and software to the Portland bike share system that’s launching next year, and Motivate, the company that will operate that system.

“Social Bicycles is excited to be an early adopter of the new specification,” SoBi CEO Ryan Rzepecki said in a written statement.

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Portland-based mobile startup is driving payment integrationGlobeSherpa founders Michael Gray and Nat Parker
in 2013.
(Photo: M.Andersen)

The other reason Tuesday’s announcement is exciting has to do with a seemingly unrelated announcement last month by GlobeSherpa, the five-year-old Portland-based company that created TriMet’s mobile tickets app.

GlobeSherpa (which also operates transit ticketing apps in Los Angeles and Phoenix and began service last week on San Francisco’s Muni) announced that the TriMet app would be the nation’s first to partner with a ride-hailing company: TriMet app users will get a button that lets them look up and (eventually) book a Lyft ride.

Here’s why that matters: GlobeSherpa was bought in June by a trip-planning app called RideScout, which was bought last September by Car2go North America. (Car2go, in turn, is owned by Stuttgart-based auto company Daimler.)

RideScout, meanwhile, has close relationships with bike share companies. Also last month, it unveiled a new system that will let people book and unlock a B-Cycle bike-share bike using their RideScout app.

“I live out in Hillsboro, I’m not near the bus stop, I can use the TriMet app to get a carshare, get to the bus station and use that same payment credential, that same application, to then ride the bus.”
— Mac Brown, GlobeSherpa spokesman

In an interview Wednesday, GlobeSherpa spokesman Mac Brown said all of this means that it’s a matter of “resources and time” before a GlobeSherpa app like TriMet’s will be able to let people book car2go, Lyft, and bike share rides using the TriMet app.

“I live out in Hillsboro, I’m not near the bus stop, I can use the TriMet app to get a carshare, get to the bus station and use that same payment credential, that same application, to then ride the bus,” Brown said. “Same with bikeshare, same with rideshare taxi.”

Initially, Brown said, this will happen by “deep linking” to another app. But the companies have the technical capacity and the management buy-in to eventually allow purchases without leaving the TriMet app.

“It gives each entity the ability to acquire new users,” Brown said.

And that’s the key to the whole picture: because GlobeSherpa has (so far) secured exclusive relationships with transit agencies to operate branded mobile apps, it can offer transportation companies like Lyft and SoBi access to the huge user base of public transit riders if they sign on to the integrated platform.

“Transit is the backbone of the city when it comes to transportation,” Brown said.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

Correction 2:50 pm: An earlier version of this post included the wrong word in Brown’s final quote.

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Wednesday Video Roundup: Jeff Jones, Dream destinations and Detroit’s renaissance

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 09:13

Welcome to today’s pre-Thanksgiving video roundup! I’ve been riding around town but the fancy carbon bike is relegated to the trainer right now. Still, there are plenty of great videos to inspire us. We start with the European Bike Stealing Championships 2015 video above. The audio is a little busy, but it’s worth watching (action begins past the two minute mark).

Next, look at the Great Shasta Rail Trail! It’s rideable near McCloud. Laura from PathLessPedaled shows us how beautiful it is. This looks like a great destination for this upcoming year- perhaps combined with Crater Lake. Ah, winter season dreams.

Steve “Peaty” Peat takes us on a beautiful mountain adventure in Norway. Skip ahead 45 seconds if you want, the footage is gorgeous, but that area will go dark for the winter around December 9, the sun doesn’t return until January 4.

Ashland-based Jeff Jones has been featured here a few times but it’s been a while. His rigid all-terrain bike has a unique front fork and handlebars. He explains his rationale here:

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Do you remember Dave Roth? In this video he and Seb Kemp go cycling around British Columbia. It’s an older video (2 years old!) but it’s appropriate this time of year- it’s certainly wet and grey in the footage. I can’t tell what Seb is repairing around the 4 minute mark. If you are living outside the PNW right now, this may make you homesick.

Ellie Mitchell bikes to school. In Alaska. She also races against adults. What’s my excuse? Also, Al’s beard is nearly as awesome as his daughter.

Watch GCN ride on 1980-era wheels. It’s surreal to see the ancient (and narrow-range) cassette working with the (electronic) Di2 shifting.

Detroit’s Slow Roll weekly bike rides are encouraging. The progress Detroit is marking towards bike infrastructure and even bicycle manufacturing is inspiring. (Commenter Gregg rode with Slow Roll last year).

This week’s honorable mentions: Path Less Pedaled goes bike(fly)fishing in the Sacramento River, GCN’s guide to turbo training, Col Collective Season Two preview, former pro and current GCN host Matt Stephens interviews Frank Strack of Velominati at the Rouleur Classic (terrible video, great subject, good rationale on avoiding lifting your bike over your head), and finally the partying at SSCXWC (what is the “Canadian line”?).

Inclusion criteria: If I’ve missed something, post it in the comments! I’m trying to only include videos published in the last week or so. Note if there’s a specific point in a long video that is worth highlighting. Also note if there is colorful language. When it gets to spring, I will delay videos containing pro racing spoilers.

– Ted Timmons, @tedder42

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New signals on Couch at Broadway and first-ever ‘pedestrian scramble’ are up and running

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 15:03
One of the first people to wait at the new signal at Broadway and Couch.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation just flipped the switch on new traffic signals at Northwest Couch and Broadway, 10th and 11th Avenues. The signals on Broadway are on a major bike route where they were first flagged as necessary four years ago. At the intersection of Couch and 11th, PBOT has installed Portland’s first ever “pedestrian scramble signal.”

New signals at Couch and 11th.

NW Couch and Broadway (photos below) has been a safety concern for PBOT for many years now. Prior to 2012 this intersection only had stop signs on Couch (in the east-west direction). With Burnside just one block to the south, traffic frequently backed up and trying to cross Broadway was often a risky gamble. In February 2012, then City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield told us the agency was concerned about the intersection because it had a high crash rate. Between 2007 and 2012 PBOT had 103 collision recorded at Couch and Broadway — seven of which involved someone on a bicycle.

By the end of March 2012, PBOT had installed stop signs as interim measure. They wanted signals but claimed funding simply wasn’t available. At the time, many people — including members of PBOT’s own Bicycle Advisory Committee — felt the interim solution wasn’t enough. Given how the intersection has functioned since then, they were right.

A reader whose office faces the intersection of Couch and Broadway emailed us this morning elated that the new signals were finally turned on. “This is a dangerous intersection,” he wrote, “and I see near daily accidents and other terrible things.”

On the northwest corner of Couch and Broadway.

When I observed things today all appeared relatively calm. The new signals give priority to Broadway (north-south) traffic which gets a significantly longer green cycle than Couch traffic (about 50 seconds of green versus about 30 seconds of green respectively). With just stop signs the wait at this intersection was never more than a few seconds. If you get the green, you’re in business; but as is often the case with new signals, what you gain in safety and predictability, you might lose in efficiency if you get caught at a red. I’d say it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.

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Head west from Broadway and you’ll notice two more new signals on Couch at 10th and 11th. This area, near Powell’s and the “Brewery Blocks,” is always busy. People on bikes, in cars, in streetcars, and on foot via the sidewalks exist in an often chaotic state as they all vye for space on relatively narrow streets.

At 11th, PBOT has installed Portland’s first-ever “pedestrian scramble signal” (wikipedia entry here). What that means is there’s one phase of the new signal where all cross traffic is stopped and people who are walking can cross in any direction — including my favorite, diagonally.

While I observed the intersection no one used the diagonal crossing. They were either unaware of it or unsure of how safe it would be. (I crossed diagonally several times and thoroughly enjoyed it.) Perhaps one reason for the lack of people in the diagonal crossing is that the markings PBOT has laid down are very sparse. Instead of the bold “zebra” striping of some scramble signals (like this one in Tokyo), PBOT has made short elbow markings that only extend a few feet into the intersection. They suggest the diagonal to people who are looking for it, but I don’t think they make it obvious enough.

PBOT has installed a-board signs at the corners to help folks understand the new crossings:

Overall, the new signals at 11th are a welcome addition. I’ve always felt a bit uneasy at these intersections and it’s nice to take the guessing games out of the equation. That being said, even with the new signals, some people driving cars were still having trouble staying out of the intersection. Right before I packed up my camera two people nearly rammed their cars into each during a scramble phase…

Ooops. (Note how these two people have driven their cars into the intersection on a red light during the green scramble phase.)

All these signals (and a few others) are part of a $2.4 million project that was paid for by system development charges and urban renewal area funds.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be watching the new signal on Broadway during the morning rush. Stop and chat if you roll by. I’d love to know what you think.

For more about the scramble signal, read Elliot Njus’s piece in The Oregonian.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Very few poor people drive to work downtown

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 13:49

The Portland area has invested $4.8 billion in a regional public rail network, and currently spends $313 million a year to hold down ticket prices on the system.

Another several million dollars each year go toward expansions of the region’s biking network.

Despite that investment, at least one Portland city council member has been arguing in the lead-up to a hearing next month that the public should also be subsidizing downtown car trips.

His reasoning: some of the people who drive downtown are poor.

“If we’re charging for parking, we’re taking someone earning nine, ten an hour and we’re making that eight-something an hour.”
Commissioner Dan Saltzman

The issue is coming up as the city discusses possible rate changes for its parking meters and publicly financed Smart Park garages.

One of the questions that’s likely to come up during an upcoming City Hall discussion on Dec. 17: Should the city keep giving away its street parking after 7 p.m., even in areas where street parking consistently fills up at night with people visiting restaurants, theaters, clubs and bars?

In a work session last month, Commissioner Dan Saltzman argued that maybe nighttime meters should remain free in order to subsidize the car commutes of people who work downtown at night, such as janitors and dishwashers.

“It’s a subsidy for low-wage workers to have the meters stop at 7:00 pm, so why can’t we continue that?” Saltzman said. “If we’re charging for parking, we’re taking someone earning nine, ten an hour and we’re making that eight-something an hour.”

“Do you throw a big subsidy at everybody because some people might need it?”
Commissioner Steve Novick

Commissioner Steve Novick, who directly oversees the transportation bureau, disagreed.

“It’s a question of, do you throw a big subsidy at everybody because some people might need it?” Novick said.

A better option for holding down parking prices for nighttime commuters, Novick suggested, might be to create a low-price permit system for the Smart Park garages.

And if the money from a parking meter rate hike were spent on improving non-car transportation, that might come out to a win for low-income workers, both downtown and elsewhere.

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Novick and Saltzman’s disagreement raises a fair question. Is it a good idea for the government to subsidize a particular activity by poor people, even if it also subsidizes the same activity among rich and middle-income people?

Here’s one way to start answering the question: How many poor people actually drive downtown?

The best available data (which is, unfortunately, from 2006-2010) suggests that the central business district (south of Burnside, north of Jefferson) employs about 1,000 workers whose households make less than $15,000 a year. Of those, about 350 drive to work. That’s about 2 percent of the district’s drive-alone workforce.

Here’s a detailed version of the chart at the top of this post.

The stripes to the right represent higher-income households. Mouse over each stripe to see what income they represent, and approximately how many drive-alone commuters to the central business district make that much money. (For this chart, we looked at data for the central business district because it had by far the highest worker volumes and therefore the lowest margins of error. These margins of error are substantial, though, and these shouldn’t be interpreted as precise. You can see the source data here.)

Another 2,500 or so downtown commuters are in households that make $15,000 to $30,000 a year. About 700 of those people drive to work. That’s another 3 percent of the district’s drive alone workforce.

The remaining 95 percent of drive-alone commuters to Portland’s central business district make more than $30,000 — in most cases, much more. As the above chart shows, half of the district’s drive-alone workers are in households that bring in more than $100,000 a year.

Among those richest downtown workers, 59 percent drive alone to work. That compares to about 35 percent of the poorest downtown workers.

Hello subsidy.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

At the council’s Oct. 8 work session, Portland parking plan manager Judith Gray said there’s no question that higher parking prices are a disproportionate burden to the poorest people.

Then again, she added, a system that makes it hard to find a parking space also has a disproportionate burden on the poorest people.

People who are shift workers or low-wage earners, if they’re janitorial or working in restaurants, they have the least flexibility of all. If our system is not well managed, if it’s 99 percent full when they need to work, they don’t have an option. A lot of office workers or daytime workers other workers can be late. I worked in restaurants in Washington DC in the 80s. If you have to replace a daytime shift person, you’ve got to be on time. So a badly managed system is not an equity strategy for them.

Gray said she had an “open mind” for hearing ideas that could prevent poor people from being excessively hurt by parking costs.

Absent that, she suggested, the most broadly equitable strategy might involve the government charging what the market will bear for people who park cars on its land — and then “channeling the revenues to improve the system overall.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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A congressman, ice-cream, fruitcake, and 1,000 bikes for kids

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 11:57
Rep. Blumenauer at the Community Cycling Center this morning.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Looking to make his famous holiday fruitcake last even longer, Portland’s representative in the United States Congress, Earl Blumenauer, has issued a citywide challenge: He wants Portlanders to help provide 1,000 bikes for kids in the month of December.

CCC employee Patrick Loftus trains volunteers
from Nike to build bikes.

Blumenauer spoke this morning in the crowded volunteer service area of the Community Cycling Center on Northeast Alberta Street. “This is a way to bring together two of my favorite things,” the congressman said, “bicycles and fruitcake.”

Last year Blumenauer took his first foray into ice cream advocacy when he teamed with Portland’s famous Salt & Straw ice cream shop to make a new flavor based on his fruitcake recipe. Blumenauer is known for his holiday fruitcake, which he delivers along with a personal note to friends and colleagues each year.

Now Blumenauer and Salt & Straw are back again to re-up their partnership. And this year they’ve added corporate heavyweight Nike into the mix.

Together this unlikely trio have issued a 1,000 bike challenge to Portland.

Starting this Friday (11/27) at all three Salt & Straw locations (NW 23rd, NE Alberta, and SE Division) you can add a new bike for a child in need to your ice cream order. Salt & Straw co-founder Kim Malek said that for every $50 donation made in one of their stores, the company will match it with another $50, providing two bikes for two kids. (Donations will also be accepted with orders made at

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Salt & Straw also sells ice cream at the sprawling Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton. For every gift-pack of ice cream purchased by Nike employees, the company will donate $25 to the Community Cycling Center. Salt & Straw will then match that with another $25 until Nike has donated a total of 100 bikes.

At this morning’s event, Nike Senior Director of Public Affairs Julia Brim-Edwards said her company sees this as a perfect partnership because of Nike’s commitment to getting kids more active. Nike is also donating volunteer time by having their employees assemble the donated bikes.

The Community Cycling Center usually raises enough money around the holidays to provide 400-450 bikes for kids — most of them given out during their big Holiday Bike Drive event that takes place early next month. If this challenge is met it would more than double the number of bikes they typically provide to kids.

A longtime supporter of the Community Cycling Center, Congressman Blumenauer kicked things off this morning by handing CCC CEO Mychal Tetteh a check for $500 — which will get 10 bikes refurbished and built up for kids who otherwise might not get one.

“Cycling is one of the definitions of our community,” Blumenauer said, “But we have a long way to go to make sure everyone can be part of it.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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This blog will put you inside a TriMet bus operator’s head

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 15:29

Perspective is everything.

If I’ve learned anything in 10 years of blogging about bikes it’s that empathy for other people’s views is the key to quality discourse, policymaking, and reporting. Heck, I’d even say that walking, riding, and driving in someone else’s shoes might be the most powerful way for us to improve road culture in general.

That’s one reason I’m happy to have come across a new (to me) blog written by a TriMet bus operator.

For two and-a-half years now the From the driver’s side blog has offered what its author, The Deacon in Blue, calls, “Musings from a contemplative bus operator’s point of view.”

From what I’ve read so far, the blog offers important insights into what it’s like to operate a TriMet bus on Portland’s busy streets.

I first heard about it thanks to a reader who emailed us an excerpt from a post published yesterday titled, Blame sharing for tragic incidents. In that post The Deacon (I don’t know his/her real name) offers thoughts after a woman lost her leg following a collision with a MAX train on November 16th.

Here are The Deacon’s candid frustrations about how operators are often blamed, regardless of the circumstances of a collision:

“People just act as if the world around them is responsible for their safety, and if they wear earbuds it’s up to someone else to watch out for them. Bicyclists especially are guilty of taking foolish chances around transit vehicles. However, when we alert them of our presence with a firm “beep beep” of our horn, their idea of thanks is often an extended middle finger. Oh, how I’d love to bend those fingers back until I hear a “snap”, just to teach them a lesson! But no. Can’t do that. We’re not allowed to respond. At all.”

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Frustration with people’s lack of caution while sharing roads with buses is a common theme of The Deacon’s posts:

“Yes, I get a bit testy when the public, or the media, questions our “safety training”. It’s quite adequate, thank you. The public’s, however, is severely lacking.”

While some of you might not appreciate that tone, The Deacon ends the post with some heartfelt words:

“Even though this post seems a bit hard-hearted toward the dear lady who lost her leg recently, I can safely say that all operators feel terrible this happened. Especially me. Whenever we hear about an injury, or a fatality, you can be assured that at least a thousand operator voices are raised in prayer for the victim and family. We’re human, we truly care about our riding public.

Pay attention folks. We sure do.”

After a fatal collision involving a TriMet bus on SE 82nd last year, The Deacon wrote:

Our operators are easily some of the most challenged, most maligned, and most safety-conscious, of any in the world. We safely transport nearly 350,000 people daily. Impatient motorists cut us off, oblivious of the danger. We share very narrow streets with pedestrians who dart out in front of our buses and light rail vehicles, and we manage to avoid hitting 99% of them. Skateboarders, bicyclists, people using mobility devices… we safely share the streets with them. We’re always on the lookout for those who either refuse, or don’t know how, to safeguard themselves.

I plan to read more of The Deacon’s posts because without actually driving a bus myself, it’s a great way to gain some perspective about what’s like to pilot a large bus on city streets.

And in case you were wondering, the Deacon is not the first TriMet bus operator we’ve heard from. There’s Dan Christensen, the very outspoken (and funny) operator who was placed on administrative leave in 2010 after writing blog post titled “Portland! Kill This Bicyclist!” There’s also the gonzo blogging of Al Margulies who writes Rantings of a TriMet Bus Driver.

All these voices help bring perspective to bike-bus relations. The more, the merrier I say.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Here’s what those orange bikes around Northeast Portland are all about

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 15:12
A bike placed on NE Broadway to market
a new gym in the area.
(Photo via Tim Dowell)

A new gym that opened recently in Portland’s Lloyd District is following its national marketing playbook and distributing a handful of orange-painted bikes on nearby streets.

It’s the same phenomenon we covered in January when the same chain, Orangetheory Fitness, had recently opened locations in Beaverton and Tigard.

In an interview Monday, Orangethoery Oregon Regional Director Amanda Goolsby said her team plans to keep shifting them around nearby streets indefinitely.

“They don’t just stay out,” she said. “We take them down daily. We move them around.”

Goolsby said she didn’t know how many there were on Portland streets at the moment. She said her boss was unavailable Monday afternoon.

“We just bring them in and put them out there,” she said. “I think we’re going to be rotating the bikes through.”

One local man seemed annoyed that the bikes were taking up physical or mental space on the street:

Hey @OTheoryFitness if this is your marketing gimmick can you please get it off the corner of NE 12th & Broadway PDX

— Tim Dowell (@TdowellPDX) November 23, 2015

Goolsby said she doesn’t think running out of public bike parking spaces is a problem in Portland.

“As I’ve been going about the city, it seems like there’s five or six bike racks for every street,” she said.

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Under Portland city code, it’s illegal to “scatter notices or advertisements on any street right-of-way or to post a notice or advertisement anywhere on a street right-of-way.” Also, the city has the right to impound bikes that have been left on public property for more than 72 hours, or three days, and charge a fee to the bicycle’s owner if it does so.

Both rules are complaint-driven, meaning that the city generally enforces them only if people report them as problems.

Another issue that sometimes comes up with Orangetheory’s bikes is whether their use of a colored bicycle is exploitative of the “Ghost Bike” tradition.

Here’s a Facebook post along those lines from Naples, Florida:

I asked Goolsby if she had any thoughts on that possible reaction.

“If anyone does take that view, we apologize,” she said. “That’s not at all our goal with the orange bikes.”

She said Orangetheory’s goal is simply to give people a good way to be active.

“It’s an active city where it rains a lot and the wintertimes are really rough,” she said. “Our goal for 2016 is to help the community and Northeast Portland as much as possible, and really bring some new health and fitness to the area.”

New Year’s resolution season tends to be the hottest time of year for new gym memberships.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Bicycle ‘boneyard’ under I-5 freeway is a haven for thieves

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 13:27
Bike parts litter the ground at “the boneyard” under I-5 along the Eastbank Esplanade.
(Photo: Portland Police Bureau)

Portland police officers call it “the boneyard” and frustration is growing about how to clean it up once and for all.

Location of the boneyard.

The location — underneath the I-5 freeway between the Steel and Burnside bridges — is a well-hidden haven for bike thieves. Out of sight and with the roar of freeway traffic to drown out the clanking and buzzing of power tools, it’s relatively easy to disassemble bikes here, then repaint and rebuild them into untraceable products ready for illicit sales.

When I got my bike stolen last year, I found it in the boneyard. But luckily, mine was just a near-death experience.

Since my experience last year I had no idea the conditions at the boneyard had gotten so much worse. That was until our friends at the Portland Police Bureau shared a tweet about it earlier this month.

“Hands full” is right.

I followed up with Central Precinct Ofcr. David Sanders. He’s one of two officers the PPB has on a special Bike Theft patrol unit we helped create earlier this year. Sanders said the area is “essentially a bicycle graveyard.”

In the past year or so Sanders says, he and his team have recovered “scores of stolen bikes” in this area and have arrested and/or excluded (the term for prohibiting someone from a specific area) many suspects.

“It’s really a ‘go-to’ place for criminals who want to hide and do their dirty work largely out of sight by much of the public eye,” Sanders added, “so it also seems ‘safe’ for them to be there and not generate police calls.”

A hole cut in the chain-link fence that leads to the boneyard. That’s the Union Pacific headquarters building in the background.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)This view shows I-5 and the I-84 flyover with the Willamette River in the background.
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ODOT placed these rocks in the area to prevent camping.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The boneyard is an active place for another frustrating reason: It’s very easy to get to. When I retrieved my own stolen bike I was led to the area by a rather obvious and easily accessible hole that had been cut in a chain-link fence. That hole was there for many months after (it might still be open but I haven’t checked for a while). I could have also walked a few tenths of a mile to another large gate to the area that’s often left wide open.

Whose responsibility is it to manage these spaces? The land itself is owned and managed by Union Pacific and the Oregon Department of Transportation. UP is in charge of a certain distance around the rail lines and ODOT is responsible for the land underneath freeways.

“It’s off the hook right now. …unfortunately there are so many other fires we are trying to put out, it often falls lower on the priority list.”
— Ofcr. David Sanders

We’ve learned from ODOT that they are aware of illegal camping at 200 of their Portland-area parcels. At the boneyard in particular they go in and clean up the site every few months (according to Sanders), but nothing seems to change. Their spokesman Don Hamilton has told us it’s a “complicated issue.”

“We are merely the property owners,” ODOT’s Hamilton said. “When we see illegal activity, we can’t address it ourselves, we have to call in law enforcement. Our maintenance workers have been attacked before.” Hamilton said since the issues themselves (homelessness and criminal activity) go beyond ODOT’s responsibility, so too must the solutions.

Sanders said an ODOT effort to place large rocks in the area in order to make it uninhabitable was “very effective” but it was never completed.

It’s likely that as Portland does more to address its housing and homelessness crisis, fewer people will find themselves living on the streets and under freeways. But given the epidemic of bike theft and this convenient location to participate in it, the boneyard isn’t likely to go out of business any time soon.

If the status quo continues, the future does not look good. Police have a serious staffing shortage and there are not enough officers to address sites like this. “It’s not uncommon for this are a to fester for periods of time without any police presence,” Sanders said. By his estimation, it would take a team of officers spending a full-time effort to deal with the criminal activity he’s seeing under the bridges and overpasses along the Willamette River. “It’s off the hook right now,” he said, “[Officer] Dave [Bryant] and I get over there every now and then, but unfortunately there are so many other fires we are trying to put out, it often falls lower on the priority list.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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The Monday Roundup: Stop-sign messages, a cryptocurrency for walking and more

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 09:22
Stop sign instruction database.
(Image: Portlandness: a Cultural Atlas of Portland)

Here are the bike-related links from around the world that caught our eyes this week:

“Stop” signs: A new book of creative Portland maps includes a comprehensive directory of everything Southeast Portland’s traffic-sign graffiti artists don’t want you to do.

City liable: A California city will pay $5.8 million because a judge said “narrow bike lanes and lack of streetlights” contributed to an alleged drunk driver’s fatal rear-ending of a man on a bike.

Short commutes: Why did rich people return to central cities? A new paper theorizes that the rapid decline of rich people’s leisure time has reduced their tolerance for long commutes.

Collective freight: Gothenberg, Sweden, has created a service that pools freight deliveries to small city-center businesses with shared delivery vehicles, making its downtown safer, quieter and cleaner.

Speed cameras: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has sold them as ways to enforce school zones, but that’s undermined the city’s ability to use them elsewhere.

Walking currency: People can “mine” a new Bitcoin-style digital currency not through computer processing cycles but through steps logged on a smartphone app.

Athlete mechanics: The San Francisco 49ers teamed up with a pro cycling team to personally build 50 bikes for middle schoolers.

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Death and life: For the record, you are almost certainly going to die when your circulatory or resperatory systems fail, not when terrorists attack you.

Street empathy: The hardest thing to do while getting around the city by bike, car or foot might be to see things from another modal point of view.

Solar bike path: One year after opening, the much-shared Dutch concept has generated a “0.0057 percent return on investment.”

Nepal race: Yak Attack, the highest bike race on Earth, finished its first run since the country’s massive earthquake last spring.

Paid commute: The Italian city of Massarosa is the latest to see what happens when the government offers to pay you to bike to work.

More cars: A new report estimates that without decongestion pricing, self-driving cars will increase U.S. vehicle miles traveled by 30 percent, in part because they’ll automobilize children and seniors who currently don’t drive.

Cheap gas: The last year’s rising driving rates and street fatalities have proved what the previous decade did: people respond to prices.

If you come across a noteworthy story, send it in via email, Tweet @bikeportland, or whatever else and we’ll consider adding it to next Monday’s roundup.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Comment of the Week: South Dakota’s official road fatality markers

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 15:38
An idea from another state.

I’ve rarely seen BikePortland readers as frustrated as many seemed to be beneath Wednesday’s post about the state of Oregon’s decision to remove temporary memorials to people killed on state roads because they (the memorials, not the people who were killed) might cause people to slow down or stop while driving.

A huge wave of upvotes backed many of the black-humor responses that followed.

But amid the well-written venting was an interestingly constructive suggestion: if Oregon feels that handmade memorials are distracting, maybe it should create its own official memorials instead — just like South Dakota does.

That was the comment from BikePortland reader GlowBoy, who (if I’ve been following his comments correctly) recently relocated from Portland to Minneapolis:

I think we should have a monument to remember every single person who’s been killed by (or on) a road facility.

Oregon ought to enact the same law requiring signs like those in South Dakota, marking EVERY SINGLE SPOT where a person has died on their roads. SD may not be considered a very progressive state, but I think it’s a brilliant idea and should be copied everywhere.

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The SD signs have a big red “X” and “Marks the Spot”, followed by “THINK!” on one side and “WHY DIE?” on the other. The signs are actually fairly small and off to the side of the road, so presumably they’re less “distracting” than big cutouts, but they are there.

And when you come to an intersection with half a dozen of them scattered around it really does make you think.

GlowBoy went on to add that “Why Kill?” might be a better question than “Why Die?”

ODOT’s wanting to control signage along its roads isn’t unreasonable. But the context here — and the thing that memorials like South Dakota’s reveal — is that people are dying on the same streets again and again. These streets have much bigger problems than the unexpected appearance, for a few days, of ghosts.

Yes, we pay for good comments. This regular feature is sponsored by readers who’ve become BikePortland subscribers to keep our site and our community strong. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to GlowBoy in thanks for this great addition. Watch your email!

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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How Sunday Parkways helps bridge Portland’s racial divides (video)

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 14:28

When I started getting seriously interested in bicycles a few years ago, I already knew they were pollution-free, cheap, healthy, quiet, nonlethal and space-efficient.

What threw me for a loop, when I was talking to other Portlanders who were already interested in bicycles, was that they kept talking about community. Biking (and walking, and public transit) connected them with their neighbors and surroundings in a way that driving can’t.

The idea, it turned out, is backed up by science.

This week, two of the first Portlanders who I first heard talking about this concept, Elly Blue and Joe Biel of local company Microcosm Publishing, released a compelling short video about Portland’s Sunday Parkways open-streets festival that captures the idea and its relationship with one of Portland’s longstanding challenges: racial segregation, both socially and spacially.

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Linda Ginenthal, the Portland Transportation Bureau staffer who created Sunday Parkways, is one of several community voices here explaining how it works.

The piece is especially powerful if you know that one of the people behind this video is Phyllis Porter, a Seattle-based biking advocate who has been a force behind her city’s effort (so far with mixed success) to replicate Sunday Parkways there. Porter, who is black and lives in Seattle’s racially diverse Rainier Valley district, can be heard conducting some of the interviews.

This video (which actually premiered online yesterday on Seattle Bike Blog) is the latest in Microcosm’s Groundswell film series highlighting underappreciated participants the national biking movement. We covered an earlier Portland-based piece in the series here, and you can check out the full series so far here.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Future of bike trails uncertain with release of River View management plan

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 13:11
The River View parcel (foreground) is very close to downtown Portland and its trails are in demand.
(Photo from River View Natural Area Management Plan)

The Portland parks bureau has released its final management plan for the River View Natural Area and they’ve left the door cracked open — ever so slightly — for the possibility of off-road cycling access in the future. However, because the city’s process prevented a robust discussion of all potential trail uses, the plan is full of uncertainty. If it’s adopted by City Council as scheduled in mid-December it could have the unintended consequence of making it harder to allow cycling even if the city’s own planning process deems it appropriate at a later date.

A trail in River View. Look, but don’t touch (at least for now).

First, some background…

The 146-acre parcel that borders Lewis & Clark College and Riverview Cemetery in southwest Portland was the subject of a bruising public process that left biking supporters scorned. After the city bought the parcel, off-road cycling advocates worked hand-in-hand with the parks bureau with an understanding that biking — which has taken place at River View for decades and is by far the most requested use of the park in the city’s own surveys — would continue to be part of the future of the site. When the unexpected and unexplained decision to prohibit cycling came down in March it led to an appeal with the State Land Use board by the Northwest Trail Alliance.

Survey taken at the project’s first open house in September 2013.

That appeal was ultimately dismissed and the process continued toward its goal of creating a management plan that will dictate how the parcel will be developed in the future. That plan has now been released.

Planning for uncertainty?

“We have the chance to do this correctly by allowing the Master Plan process to be completed, and then making sound decisions based on that process.”
— Brian Baumann, NW Trail Alliance

At issue is a question of process and timing: The management plan itself doesn’t preclude the possibility of future cycling trails, yet it was intentionally developed without cycling in mind. Therefore, if the management plan is adopted by city council only to have the ongoing Off-Road Cycling Master Plan determine that cycling is a compatible use, the city would then have to re-open the plan and make a change. The un-sealing a plan that has already been adopted by council might prove too large of a process hoop for cycling trails to jump through.

Because of that unexpected and unexplained decision back in March by Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz to ban not only cycling itself but also any discussion of it during the planning process, the plan’s trail concepts and recommendations do not adequately reflect the valuable off-road cycling expertise and perspective that was on the project advisory committee.

The NWTA’s Brian Baumann said he thinks the management plan should not be adopted until after the master plan has assessed River View. Here’s what we heard from Baumann via email today:

“It is a ‘cart before the horse’ scenario to approve the RVNA Management Plan and begin to build trails while off-road cycling is temporarily banned. We have the chance to do this correctly by allowing the Master Plan process to be completed, and then making sound decisions based on that process… I see no harm in taking more time and not moving forward with it in it’s current form.”

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A glimmer of hope with “interim” status

The one small victory for cycling advocates is that the management plan does not shut the door entirely to future cycling.

In a section listing public uses that are “allowed” and “not allowed,” biking is put in a separate category: “interim prohibited.” “The use of mountain bikes will remain a prohibited use until completion of the City’s Off-Road Cycling Master Plan,” the plan states, “through which RVNA [River View Natural Area] will be considered as a candidate property for cycling.”

Is that “iterim” designation a legitimate placeholder for a full consideration of cycling at River View or is it just a political stall tactic? (Both parks bureau staffers assigned to this project are currently out of the office and unavailable for comment.)

The city has promised that the main goal of the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan is to take an objective look at all parcels in the city and assess whether or not they are compatible with cycling trails. The concern from bike advocates is that the management plan is set up in such a way to essentially guarantee that the Master Plan process will not find River View as a feasible site for cycling.

When cycling at River View comes up during the master plan process, it’s likely to stir up debate yet again, which is why some people felt it should have been dealt with more thoroughly in the management plan.

The debate today and what’s to come

“I take issue with this plan not expressly prohibiting mountain bikes as a use.”
— Torrey Lindbo, Tryon Creek Watershed Council Board President

In an official comment published with the management plan, the Collins View Neighborhood Association said that the mere consideration of cycling at River View is “irresponsible” due to ecological concerns. “Why is River View Natural Area being considered [for cycling],” their statement reads, “… Collins View is wary that the report leaves the Natural area totally open to off road cycling without qualifying the site’s suitability.”

In official comments on the plan, Tryon Creek Watershed Council Board President Torrey Lindbo also said cycling should be prohibited. He wanted the city to put cycling in the “not allowed” use category. “The site does not appear to provide conditions that would support safe incorporation of mountain biking as a trail use. …I take issue with this plan not expressly prohibiting mountain bikes as a use. …I will be extremely disappointed if the city considers allowing mountain biking within RVNA as part of the Off‐Road Cycling Master Plan process.

Countering those viewpoints, another influential conservation group supports biking in River View. Audubon Society of Portland Board Member and project advisory committee member Jay Withgott said he feels the city erred in not definitively answering the cycling question during the River View planning process:

“Speaking for Portland Audubon, I will mention that others at Audubon feel strongly that the issue of mountain biking should have been addressed as part of a holistic management plan for this site at this time, and not postponed pending a larger landscape scale review. They feel that there was sufficient information to have decided this issue at Riverview as part of the current process and that there is a place for mountain biking at River View.”

The minority report

Three members of the River View project advisory committee signed a minority report to express their disappointment with the management plan process and urge the city to make cycling a higher priority. In their dissenting opinion, Baumann with the Northwest Trail Alliance, River View neighbor Chris Sautter and professional cyclist Charlie Sponsel claimed that since hiking and running are acceptable uses at River View, cycling should be too. “No credible reason has been cited for removing off-road cycling from the plan,” they wrote. Their letter claims that properly built trails can handle biking and hiking without harming the ecology.

Here’s more from their letter:

“… off-road cycling can be done in a sustainable manner on properly-built trails. Off-road cycling on trails was not considered a significant ecological impact to RVNA during the initial surveying process. Off-road cyclists bring trail building expertise to RVNA, as well as the necessary volunteer labor to maintain trails. Off-road cyclists volunteered more than 450 hours of their time, in partnership with Portland Parks, to make the multi-use trails at RVNA more sustainable, and have proven to be the best trail stewards in many projects across Oregon. As we heard from PP&R’s staff, singletrack mountain bike trails do not pose a threat to TEES Interior habitat designations and do not pose a threat to Willamette River water quality or temperature. Those are the two most important resources we are tasked with protecting at River View, and the city’s own experts do not consider trails to be a significant threat.

… the draft plan as written provides reduced recreation opportunities for all uses, including off road cyclists and pedestrians. The proposed single large loop around the perimeter of the property and smaller upper loop are significantly limiting the variety of trails and routes.”

The signees of the minority report are also still stinging from how the River View process was handled. They say City Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish circumvented the public process when they “unilaterally and arbitrarily” banned cycling and any discussion of it back in March. “Before the ban,” the statement continues, “the Technical and Public Advisory Committees were engaged in spirited debate about mountain biking and its compatibility with the environmental and recreational goals for River View.”

The plan is scheduled for a council vote on December 16th. If Baumann and other advocates get their way, that “spirited debate” will play out long before any plan is set in stone.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Opinion: Welcome to blame the victim season

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 11:26

“The bicyclist was wearing dark clothing and had no rear lighting on the bicycle.”
— Oregon State Police statement

For the past week I’ve been standing by, reading headline after headline about “distracted pedestrians.” And then I get this in my inbox (emphases mine):

The Oregon State Police is continuing it’s investigation into Thursday evening’s fatal crash involving a bicyclist.

At approximately 9:05PM a Lane County Deputy in a patrol vehicle was traveling northbound on SR99W near MP118 (just south of Beltline Highway in Eugene) when he struck a female bicyclist in the northbound slow lane. The female was pronounced deceased on scene.

The highway was blocked for approximately 1 hour. The highway was then partially open, reduced to one lane in each direction. The scene was cleared at 1:00AM.

Preliminary information indicates the bicyclist was traveling northbound in the travel lane at the time of the incident. The bicyclist was wearing dark clothing and had no rear lighting on the bicycle. It was full darkness with very little ambient lighting when the crash occurred.

Efforts are still ongoing to make next of kin of the deceased. The Oregon State Police is the lead investigating agency and is being assisted by Eugene Police Department and the Oregon Department of Transportation. This in an ongoing investigation and more information will be released when it becomes available.

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The following behaviors — mentioned in the statement above — are perfectly legal in the state of Oregon:

  • Riding without “rear lighting.” The law only requires a rear reflector.
  • Wearing “dark clothing.” Oregon residents are free to wear whatever they want while operating a vehicle on public right-of-way.
  • Traveling in the travel lane. Bicycle operators are allowed to leave a shoulder to avoid hazards.

Yet despite what appears to be completely legal behavior – and before her next of kin have even been notified — the Oregon State Police has already acted as judge and jury and essentially declared her at fault for her own death. Imagine how this woman’s family and friends would feel if they read the comments under the media’s coverage of this crash — especially since most local media outlets run these police statements verbatim.

This should not be an acceptable communications strategy from the Oregon State Police.

It is unecessary and unfair to mention the behavior of the victim prior to a traffic crash and not also mention the behavior of the survivor. Was the deputy speeding? Surely “very little ambient lighting” is good reason to slow down and use extreme caution right? Was the deputy distracted for any reason?

I ask those questions not to blame anyone, but to make a larger point.

I’m all for educating the public about safety. That is very important. But it’s also important to be fair and sensitive to everyone involved in these tragedies. This issue is particularly upsetting to me because when someone dies or is incapacitated to the point of memory loss, we never hear their side of the story.

As I’ve advocated for many years now, one solution to this problem would be for police agencies to only release the very basic facts of a crash. Because emotions run high after serious injury and fatal crashes, police statements should refrain from making unsubstantiated and irrelevant claims about the behavior of crash victims until a thorough investigation is completed.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Weekend Event Guide: Cranksgiving, a kermesse, yoga, and more

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 15:08
Last year’s haul from Cranksgiving.
(Photo: Mick Orlosky)

This menu of delicious rides and events is brought to you by our friends at Hopworks Urban Brewery. Their support makes BikePortland possible.

We know what you’re thinking: Ride? In this weather? That’s what most people think, but you’re different. You embrace the beauty of this time of year and you relish the empty bikeways that were chock full of people just a few weeks ago.

And besides, it’s a time to be thankful for our freedom to ride. Or should I say crankful? Saturday is Cranksgiving where you and 100 of your fellow Portlanders will come together to talk, ride bikes, and help people in need.

What are your plans? Check out our suggestions below…

But first, here’s the forecast:

(Thanks, November 20th

Dropout Bike Club Monthly Ride – 9:00 pm at Colonel Summers Park (SE 20th and Belmont)
Bring your freak bike and join in the revelry. More info here.

Saturday, November 21st

OBRA State Cyclocross Championships/Corn Cross – All day at Liepold Farms (14050 SE Richey Road in Boring)
The whole season comes down to this. Who will wear the coveted state champion jersey? Sponsored by the City of Sandy (how cool is that?!), Corn Cross is back. Bring the whole family and enjoy the farm. More info here (PDF)

Stormwater Cycling – 10:00 am at Universal Cycles (SE Ankeny and 22nd)
Did you know Portland’s streets are built in such a way to protect our watershed while simultaneously being more pleasant to use on foot or on bike? It’s true; but you’ll have to show up to this ride to learn the who/what/why/where. More info here.

Cranksgiving – Fun starts at 1:00, ride at 2:00 at Velo Cult (1969 NE 42nd Ave)
The annual treasure-hunt food drive powered by bikes is back! Form a team and grab a list of items to buy, then hit the streets. It’s a fun competition and everyone wins because the items are donated to Outside In, a non-profit that helps homeless youth. Prizes for fastest team, best costumes, biggest spenders. More info here.

Weston Awards – 6:00 pm at The Eliot Center (1226 SW Salmon)
The big annual fundraiser for Oregon Walks is a night to honor the advocates who have made Portland a nicer place to perambulate. Learn about walking heros and support this great organization. This year’s emcee is none other than Sarah Mirk. More info here.

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Yoga for Cyclists – 5:00 pm at Bike Farm (1810 NE First Ave)
This time of year you need all the flexibility and awareness you can get when you’re on the bike. What better way to improve your spidey senses and ride with confidence than a bit of yoga? This one-hour class will be taught by Alejandra Parada of The Chakra Cave. More info here.

Sunday, November 22nd

Kruger’s Crossing Cyclocross Classic – All day at Kruger’s Farm on Sauvie Island
The 10th annual Crossing is back. Competitors will enjoy rutted farm roads full of surprises (some of them including wildlife) and spectators will enjoy the usual farm fixins’ like food, drink, a bonfire, and so on. More info here.

Race With the Squirrels – 10:00 am at Woodstock Park (SE 47th and Steele)
Join ride leader Benn S. for 32 miles of east county bliss. Expect a bagel stop and a medium pace. More info here.

— Did we miss anything? Let us know via the comments and make sure to drop us a line if you have an upcoming event you’d like us to feature next week.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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City finalizes plans for SE Clinton, promises two diverters by January

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 14:00
Detail of diverter that should be on the ground
at SE 32nd by January.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is moving forward on their plans to tame auto traffic on Southeast Clinton.

In a statement released today, the city clarified their intentions to install diverters and take other actions to improve cycling conditions and discourage people from driving on Clinton — a street set-aside as a low-stresss bicycling route that has seen traffic skyrocket as nearby Division Street has added housing and businesses.

As part of their Clinton Neighborhood Greenway Enhancement Project, here’s what PBOT has announced:

  • Diverters at SE 17th and 32nd. These median islands will be installed on a trial basis and will prevent people from driving east-west, while allowing those on bicycles to continue through.
  • SE 34th Avenue will be converted into a one-way northbound street for people biking and driving, with bicycle users being given a new “contra-flow” lane in the southbound direction.
  • Clinton between SE 12th and Cesar Chavez Blvd (39th) will be signed for 20 mph speed limit if traffic is reduced to below 2,000 cars per day (it currently carries around 2,300 cars per day).
  • Speed bumps will be installed east of Cesar Chavez Blvd.
  • A public awareness campaign will start in the next few weeks. This effort will include signs to educate people about why diversion is necessary and raise awareness about how to drive courteously on Clinton.
  • A citizen’s advisory commitee will be convened next spring to “assist in the evaluation of the trial period and recommend if modifications are needed for the project’s second phase.”

PBOT plans install the diverters by the first week of January (2016), using the next month or so for their public outreach plan. The diverters will remain for a six-month trial period. The speed bumps east of Cesar Chavez will be installed next spring in warmer weather.

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The changes to 34th aren’t directly related to the problems on Clinton, but PBOT is jumping on this opportunity to improve the street. With a signal at nearby Division, 34th is a major north-south connector. It’s also very narrow and people who live there have urged PBOT for over a year now to remove a parking lane and add a bike lane.

Design for 34th.

This announcement will be welcome news for many people who bike on Clinton. The diverters were intially promised by fall but PBOT waited to move forward while they garnered support, public feedback, and political buy-in. PBOT got a big policy and political boost when City Council unanimously passed a report about neighborhood greenways back in August.

One key new policy adopted in that report: It puts the acceptable threshold for a “safe and functioning neighborhood greenway” at 1,500 cars per day or fewer, thus giving PBOT the leverage to make design changes until that traffic level is reached.

As for the public, there’s been little to no opposition to do something about the traffic on Clinton. The only disagreements have been about where to put diverters, how many to install, and whether or not the changes might lead to spillover traffic on other streets (PBOT says it won’t).

During a phone interview today, PBOT project manager Rich Newlands said the public awareness campaign will be key to this project. “This conversation has been focused around the neighborhood, but our audience in terms of what we’re trying to achive is very much outside the neighborhood.” Newlands was referring to traffic analysis that showed during rush hour over half of the auto traffic comes from outside the ZIP code.

PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said they’re also in talks with the Portland Police Bureau about special enforcement actions in the area once the medians are installed.

The issue of too many people using Clinton as a cut-through was first flagged as a concern by advocates and even PBOT’s own staff nearly five and-a-half years ago. After City Council passed the Division Streetscape Project in 2010, PBOT bicycle coordinator Roger Geller said, “We already want to do something on Clinton because the auto volumes are too high.” Also at that time the Bicycle Transportation Alliance foresaw the problem and got the city to insert a promise into that plan that they would address cut-through traffic on Clinton if and when it became a problem.

Geller and the BTA were right. And when the issue reached a boiling point in the past year, a new group of activists, BikeLoudPDX, grabbed the football and ran it into the endzone.

For more on this story, browse our archives. You can learn more about the project and see design drawings of the diverters and changes coming to 34th at

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Republican legislators call for ODOT director to quit over emissions claims

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 11:55
Matt Garrett has led ODOT since 2005.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A few weeks after left-leaning former Metro president David Bragdon all but called for the firing of Oregon’s top transportation official, legislative Republicans are calling for it explicitly.

Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett is facing criticism from both sides over the incident, earlier this year, when his office and Gov. Kate Brown’s temporarily claimed that tens of millions of dollars in freeway investments would be part of reducing long-run carbon emissions in Oregon by more than 2 million metric tons.

“Director Garrett must resign effective immediately so ODOT can begin repairing its broken credibility and we can move forward with new negotiations to finally fix Oregon’s roads and bridges.”
— Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day)

When Garrett later retreated from that claim at a state Senate subcommittee meeting, it effectively killed a proposed bipartisan compromise that would have hiked state gas taxes by two cents and thrown out a forthcoming low-carbon fuel standard that’s expected to drive up Oregon gas prices but reduce greenhouse emissions per gallon burned.

As we wrote at the time, claims that freeway investments are energy savers usually rely on the false assumption that more free-access lanes reduce idling. That may happen temporarily, but they also tend to induce people to drive more and live further from their destinations.

According to emails acquired by Republican state legislators under the state’s open-records act, Garrett told two of Brown’s own top advisors about possible problems with the greenhouse gas reduction claims two weeks before Garrett finally told legislators that they were bad.

One of those gubernatorial advisors, energy policy advisor Margi Hoffmann, has since been replaced. The other, Karmen Fore, remains Brown’s top transportation advisor.

Garrett was appointed to lead ODOT in 2005 by former Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

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Here’s the account from Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day):

“In June, following the implosion of transportation negotiations, I demanded Governor Brown immediately request the resignation of Director Garrett due to gross incompetency at best and dishonest manipulation at worst,” said Ferrioli. “Whether Director Garrett knew the numbers ODOT provided the workgroup were wrong or he simply failed to provide the updated numbers in his possession, his decision to surprise workgroup members with new numbers in a public hearing without any advance warning led to the demise of a critical, bipartisan transportation infrastructure package for Oregonians that would have resulted in real carbon reduction. Director Garrett must resign effective immediately so ODOT can begin repairing its broken credibility and we can move forward with new negotiations to finally fix Oregon’s roads and bridges.” …

Despite being aware of clear inconsistencies related to the GHG reduction estimates, Director Garrett failed to have ODOT staff vet the numbers until less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to testify before the Senate Sustainable Transportation Committee.

At a City Club address last month, former Metro president Bragdon also cited “incompetence or dishonesty at the highest levels of ODOT” and later criticized Garrett by title.

Bragdon, who now runs a public transit think tank, tangled with Garrett and his subordinates for years over the proposed Columbia River Crossing freeway-rail expansion. So did some Republicans in Oregon’s legislature.

Governor’s office was also involvedKarmen Fore, now Gov. Brown’s top
transportation policy advisor, in 2007.

At The Oregonian, Ian Kullgren has a good summary of the twisting events that led up to the June 24 hearing:

The new emails show that Garrett had doubts by June 10. He sent an email to Margi Hoffmann, then Brown’s energy policy adviser, and Karmen Fore, Brown’s transportation policy adviser, saying the reduction estimates were 0.87 million metric tons — not the 2.02 million he’d been telling lawmakers — over 10 years.

The number mattered because the transportation deal proposed to repeal Oregon’s newly approved clean-fuels program and replace it with new carbon-reduction measures. House Democrats and environmentalists were already in revolt. If the new measures looked to be significantly less effective, all bets would be off.

Hoffmann replied, however, that the new number would still be enough to meet the goal.

“That gets us there,” wrote Hoffmann, whom Brown, a Democrat, went on to replace in September.

Other emails show department officials scrambling to figure out a correct estimate. Brian Dunn, a planning analyst for the department, notified Garrett that the 2.02 million number was wrong in an email sent at 12:16 p.m. the day of the hearing.

The Transportation Department had kept repeating the 2.02 number in official estimates until the day of the hearing. Then at the hearing itself, Garrett offered an even lower number: 0.43 million metric tons.

Further complicating the ethics of this situation: during most of the two weeks that Garrett was apparently keeping his opinions from legislators, legislators were keeping their opinions from the public. A bipartisan “gang of eight” legislators from both houses, plus legislative leaders and the governor’s office, negotiated a deal behind closed doors. Informed in part by ODOT’s inaccurate projections, they aimed to unveil and pass the compromise bill within days.

But only after the deal went public and the state’s projections were subject to general scrutiny outside the legislature did Garrett concede publicly that the numbers were wrong.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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State’s ORcycle app is now a one-stop shop for reporting road safety issues

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 08:35
A screenshot from the
ORcycle app.

If you run into a bike safety problem in Oregon and own a smartphone, you no longer need to know who to complain to.

The ORcycle mobile app, a partnership between the Oregon Department of Transportation and Portland State University, has just been hooked up directly to the state’s “Ask ODOT” hotline, which has pledged to forward all reports it receives about bike safety issues to the appropriate local agency — or to its own team, if the road is owned by ODOT.

It’s a huge leap for the project, which has existed in demo form for a year but has been little-used because any reports were stashed for weeks or months under PSU’s supervision rather than piped directly to ODOT, let alone forwarded to other agencies.

Now, however, the free app has been integrated directly into the state agency’s operations.

ORcycle offers categories such as “narrow bike lane,” “no bike lane or shoulder,” “high traffic speed,” “no bike push button,” “long wait time (traffic signal)” and so on. There’s also an “other” category that allows user input.

The app, available for Android and iOS, lets users upload photos and pinpoint the geographic location of the problem, either from the site of the issue or afterward.

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Hooking the reports up to the existing Ask ODOT service “seemed like a natural partnership when PSU said, ‘Hey, let’s get this to the next level,'” ODOT spokeswoman Shelley Snow said Wednesday.

Ask ODOT’s mandate is to either refer or address any issue within five days of a report. For issues on its own roads, Ask ODOT staff — there are three or four on duty at any given time, Snow said — respond with either an action plan or a clear statement that the agency isn’t able to prioritize a fix.

Snow said reports from the app are unlikely to overwhelm the hotline, which she said already fields “hundreds of phone calls and emails on a daily basis.”

The app also invites people to log “crashes or near misses” and gives users the option to log all their trips automatically, which ODOT hopes is a way to start gathering data about bike traffic flow in the area. Both of those options continue to send data to PSU for eventual review by ODOT but don’t lead directly to ODOT action.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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