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Portland Oregon bicycle news, events, culture, travel and opinion.
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Summer stops by for a weekend, and Portland explodes with bikes

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 08:03
Hard to argue with.
(Photo from Yuriy Mikitchenko via Instagram)

One of the best things I did when I started writing for BikePortland a couple years ago was to use Tweetdeck to create a live feed of people in the Portland area who use the word “bike” or “bicycle” on their social media.

A day like Saturday really lights that list up. Here’s a sampling, roughly in chronological order through the day.

biking out to hit up 4-6 spots for #recordstoreday for my #vinyladdiction fix

— Optic Echo (@opticecho) April 18, 2015

We bike to eat shit-we bike to trucks to haul shit pic.twitter.com/qftNUDmPYq

— joelieohlie (@joelieohlie) April 18, 2015

Talk me out of asking an ex to go on a bike ride with me.

— JoAnn Schinderle (@joannlizabeth) April 18, 2015

#Portland where even the bikes have bike racks.

A photo posted by Marziah Karch (@haizram) on Apr 18, 2015 at 7:40am PDT

Well, now I get to bike to the Hollywood Farmer's Market on a gloriously sunny morning.

— Sonia Connolly (@sonia_pdx) April 18, 2015

Biking in the sun + green lights all the way up Williams = it's going to be a good summer.

— Max Calabro (@maxmakesart) April 18, 2015

My last bike ride with Robyn Woodman at Firebrand before she leaves for Europe!

A photo posted by @byronbeck on Apr 18, 2015 at 11:14am PDT

Ready for another bike ride! #family #picnic #pdx #waterfrontpark

A photo posted by KK LaFournaise (@kk_lafournaise) on Apr 18, 2015 at 1:54pm PDT

Such a beautiful day in #PDX to enjoy a beer after a bike ride. pic.twitter.com/peERLEnkar

— The Beer Doll (@Diana_Kitsune) April 18, 2015

Lovely-ginger-bearded dude just swooped by on nice bike w/toddler in front seat. Cuteness.

— Lizbon Grav (@lizbon) April 18, 2015

I got the Job at the Airport hahaha. Now I gotta figure out transportation. Maybe Bike and Max will work out Lol

— LegendKing Gasmoney (@Rh3aLm) April 18, 2015

Perfect bike riding weather. Ended up at Tilt. #PDX #springtime

A photo posted by Yuriy Mikitchenko (@ymikitchenko) on Apr 18, 2015 at 2:37pm PDT

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I would be lying if I said that I wasn't surprised that Harrison blew out the suspension on his bike already

An uncapturable night ride, the world’s best medicine

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 15:14
Some feelings can only be felt.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Spending a week writing and thinking a lot about frustrating news will wear you down. So by 7 p.m. on Friday night, I thought the last thing I wanted to do was ride downtown for the evening ride I’d said I’d attend.

In other words, I came pretty close to a pretty dumb decision.

Friday night was one of the first of something terrific: a new series of rides organized by Nathan Jones, owner of the 18-month-old Foster Road shop Ride Yr Bike and the founder of the Trans Am Bike Race.

The cross-country race, which starts in Astoria in early June, will be explored in a documentary this evening at the Mission Theater.

As we spoke, the light was fading fast. Here’s Jones on the left.

“I’m just trying to build stoke for Pedalpalooza,” he told me. He plans to organize rides all spring, building up to the launch of Portland’s annual bike festival in June, and then to start up again later in the summer after the festival wraps up.

As the sun dropped behind the West Hills, I hurried around to snap some other photos.

Friends, they were terrible.

But I had come all the way downtown for one more post in a long week, and I was going to keep shooting. So I started talking to people. I saw my friend Terry Dublinski-Milton:

“I took a brain day today,” said Dublinski-Milton, who devotes much of his available time to neighborhood advocacy in Southeast Portland. “I just rode around. I didn’t think about anything.”

Dublinski-Milton said he thought it had been an “interesting week, but a good week.” “I think now everyone’s fingers are pointing to one building,” he said, nodding toward City Hall.

Not everyone started conversations about politics, though. Branden Shelby was glad to show off his front-mounted wine holder.

Shelby’s friends noted that it accompanies not one but two bottle holders lower on his frame.

I met Laurel Stauske and Chris Blanco, who joked that they weren’t here to join the ride.

“We actually drove here,” Blanco said.

“Yeah, we’re just puncturing tires,” Stauske added.

I met Xavier Garcia, Serita Wiley and Miguel Chavez, who said they’d just been biking along the waterfront when they heard a ride was leaving from the fountain at 8.

“A dude was just walking around telling people, so we came,” Wiley asked. “Is this ride famous?”

Not yet, I said.

“Is there a calendar for these or something?” she said. I told her about BikePortland’s Weekend Event Guide and the Shift calendar, but that I thought most rides these days started on Facebook.

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I met Eric Meza and Gabriela Gallego:

I met Lori Sills (left) and a Sprockette who gave her name only as “Agent Riot”:

I met Brian Ngo, Joey Eromwangsa (hope I’m reading my handwriting correctly there, Joey), Rigo Vasquez, Tony Birch and Ron Nelson:

Then it was time to go and we headed north through Waterfront Park. There were about 40 of us.

As we cruised under the Burnside Bridge, some riders let out hoots to hear the echoes, the way Portlanders always have and always will.

I was next to Dublinski-Milton, who I knew had been a biking advocate in Madison, Wisconsin, in the 1990s.

“Was there anything like this there?” I asked.

“People commuted,” he said. “But there was nothing like this culture.”

“Do you think that’s because of the Internet?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered immediately.

On the Eastbank Esplanade I ran into Eric Iverson, who I’d met at the Rudolph ride in December. We talked about the overlapping Facebook groups that have become the core of Portland bike fun in the last few years, like the 71-member Grilled by Bike Club that hauls grills on their bikes and then uses them to prepare meals in the field.

The ride stopped at Plaid Pantry on Division Street to pick up drinks and snacks for what would be (for some riders, at least) a long night ahead. I ran into Dan Kaufman, the local videographer and activist who’s working on a plan for a continuous off-road bike trail down the Oregon coast.

That’s Kaufman on the left. Obviously.

Beside us in the bike-lined mini-mart parking lot, a young man opened his car door with a question. “What’s all this?” he asked.

“Just a Friday night ride,” I said.

He repeated my words, smiling, with what I think was admiration.

“Friday night ride,” he said.

Ted Buehler rolled up. Buehler was towing a bike trailer with a giant whiteboard on which he had been asking people to describe their problems with Portland bike infrastructure, then pose with a photograph at the site of the problem. Buehler pulled out his phone to show off a few of the shots.

“You’ll like this one,” Buehler said, pointing to a fat book sitting on the ground in one photo. “That is the MUTCD, open to the page with the solution.”

As the crew headed east on Clinton, I thought about how lucky I am to live where I do, to do what I do, and to be riding a bicycle with the people I was with, whether or not the photos were any good.

Some great things happen when it’s light. Some great things happen when it’s dark.

Whatever happens here in Portland, it’ll never be anything that won’t be improved by a slow roll with good people. See you at the next one.

Correction 4/19: A previous version of this post misspelled Lori Sills’s name.

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Comment of the Week: When ‘bike culture’ bites back

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 18:16
Priceless branding.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Biking has been a big part of the brand identity that has made Portland a come-from-behind economic success over the last 20 years.

But now that prosperity has arrived, at least for some Portlanders, where’s the love? And if it’s missing, do people who function as “props” in Portland’s triumphant narrative have an option to pull back?

That’s the question that BikePortland reader Kevin explored in a comment beneath our post Tuesday about a pair of Portlanders’ high-profile campaign to rescind the city’s “platinum” status with the League of American Bicyclists.

Here’s how Kevin put it, with a bit of emphasis added:

People are going to view this action through their own lens and decide whether or not to support it using their own judgement. For me, I think that it is a way of sending a message to the political powers (elected officials, bureaucrats, business alliances, etc.) that they can’t use Portland’s “bike culture” to promote their own interests and simultaneously snub those who have created it. The City and its businesses sell Portland’s bike-friendliness to promote tourism and as a way of attracting progressive professionals, yet they have refused to invest the time, energy or capital necessary to improve or even sustain the elements that create it. They use Chris King Components and the UBI as backdrops when convenient. They publish photos of swarms of cyclists crossing the Hawthorne Bridge or riding along the waterfront in their glossy promotional materials. Then they do something like refuse to remove a handful of parking spaces on 28th or ban cycling in River View.

Simply put, I think a lot of folks are tired of being props.

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Those with power use the Platinum Level designation when it’s convenient. This petition is a statement to take that tool away from them if they refuse to see cycling and cyclists as nothing more than symbols that can be trotted out when desired and then shoved back in a sealed box until the next photo op. Many cities are actively striving to improve cycling for a multitude of reasons. Portland is coasting and benefiting from a reputation once relevant but now stagnant.

I’m not saying that Portland is a bad place to ride a bike. Far from it! I feel happier and safer riding around town for commuting and recreation purposes than I have in any other place I’ve lived. But the desire to improve is not shared by those who control investment.

This effort is symbolic, but many folks have advocated within the system in a number of ways for the last several years to no effect. Advisory committees, advocacy organizations, town-hall meetings, letter writing campaigns and the like have not been productive. There aren’t a lot of other avenues available. This is one. Let’s give it a shot.

A friend of mine once described the reason she and her friends were enthusiastic about Portland when she decided to move here in 2009: “bikes, books and beer.” These days she’s putting her big brain into solving problems for one of the city’s most promising tech companies.

In the global economy, cities compete by being unique. Many Portlanders probably assume that their city is going to keep reaping the benefits of being a unique national mecca for this common activity that millions of Americans are passionate about.

People who think that’s still our image haven’t talked to many newcomers lately.

As Kevin argues here, Portlanders arguing for a downgrade of our Platinum status aren’t just exercising what negotiating power they might have with the many people who’ve profited from Portland’s bikey identity. They’re trying to warn their city about a very real problem it faces.

Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be mailing $5 to Kevin in thanks for this great one. Watch your email!

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My opinion: How Portland lost its biking mojo — and how to get it back

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 14:15
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This week has been somewhat cathartic for me.

The debate sparked by a petition to have Portland’s coveted Platinum bicycle-friendly city status stripped away has led to a very needed discussion.

For years here at BikePortland we’ve been trying to help people understand that Portland has lost its biking mojo. Don’t get me wrong, biking is OK here (especially compared to other U.S. cities); but OK is not good enough in a city with our potential. And to get where we want to go, I think we have to get real about where we are.

On that note, here’s a bit of history…

2008 was a Golden Year for bicycling in Portland. Or you could say it was platinum. From our first Sunday Parkways, our victory as the first big city to be named a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community; to the election of bike-riding mayor Sam Adams, that year capped a great run for Portland that had lasted over a decade. We were on a serious roll.

But as the accolades and #1 rankings poured in, so did complacency. Portland had enjoyed a bike-positive reputation for so many years — we were such a beacon in the biking darkness that defined America — that we began to spend too much time talking about it. It’s hard to ride fast with one hand on the bars and one hand patting yourself on the back.

That complacency left us vulnerable.

Just weeks after new Mayor Sam Adams brought a circus to City Hall (literally) and the bike party was just about to begin in earnest, everything changed. Adams lied to a reporter about the nature of his relationship with Beau Breedlove and the ensuing scandal nearly swept him out of office.

The scandal and its aftermath felt like a punch in the gut to the large majority of Portlanders who voted for Adams. And perhaps more importantly, if he believed in your pet issue, it severely compromised the power he’d need to push for it.

Portland was ready for a biking boom, but its most important leader was suddenly out of the game.

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After the scandal I watched how the local media and my fellow Portlanders took every opportunity to go after cycling as a proxy for expressing their disdain for Adams (especially as it became clear he wouldn’t resign even after our local paper of record wanted him to).

The years that followed have seemed like one bike-related controversy and PR misstep after another: the Southeast Holgate bike lane fiasco (which was a non-troversy fueled more by scoring points against Adams than hating on bikes); the “sewer money for bikeways” mantra that accompanied the misplaced hysteria over our “$600 million bike plan”; the loss of our #1 Bicycling Magazine ranking (twice); the long and bruising process for the Williams Ave project; our failure to launch a bike share system, and so on.

With so much negative political baggage and controversy in the not too distant past, it should come as no surprise that the new crop of faces now in City Hall don’t want to have anything to do with cycling.

When Portland Mayor Charlie Hales gave his State of the City address just a few months ago he didn’t mention bicycling in any shape, way or form.

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Amanda Fritz has stood by as her bureau has (so far) missed a huge opportunity to usher in a new era of user equality in our parks and open spaces. Her handling of the mountain biking issue is indefensible and shows a troubling lack of respect for cycling and the people who love it.

Commissioner Steve Novick come into his role as leader of the transportation bureau with some momentum. But he has yet to introduce one interesting or inspiring proposal that could light a fire under the tens of thousands of Portlanders who get on a bike every day.

I think this apathy around bicycling — real or perceived — from our current political administration is at the heart of the frustration that has led nearly 600 people to sign to Will Vanlue’s petition. It’s not the only thing causing concern for Portland’s everyday riders, but to me it feels like the biggest thing.

The good news is I feel like Portland has moved past the tumult of the past few years. We’re ready to move on.

The big question is, who is Portland’s next Earl Blumenauer, Sam Adams, or Bud Clark? Portland needs a new champion (or three) for cycling. Someone to put a vision on the table and stop at nothing until its achieved. It doesn’t have to come from City Hall, but it has to come from somewhere.

I signed the petition, but I can also still say with confidence that if you love bicycles, there is no better place to live than Portland. From our vibrant local bike industry to our scrappy street activists, creative ride leaders and entrepreneurs, bike-inspired artisans, bike-friendly local businesses, and more — bicycling is woven into the fabric of this city.

If I were an investor, I’d put my money on bikes in Portland: The fundamentals are strong, it has a solid history of performance, it has a reliable (yet a bit outdated) distribution system, a healthy brand and excellent position in the market. All it needs is a few tweaks, an infusion of capital, maybe some new faces in upper management, and it will soon become a juggernaut.

— Stay tuned as Michael and I bring you a new series on how Portland can come roaring back to the front of the peloton. In addition to original stories and reporting, we’d love to publish guest articles, so please get in touch if you have a perspective to share!

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Weekend Event Guide: Ronde, racing, a movie premiere and more

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 09:44
Neighbors coming out to support the De Ronde always makes the suffering a bit sweeter.
(Photo J Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to your menu of weekend rides and events, lovingly brought to you by our friends at Hopworks Urban Brewery.

I hope you’re ready to ride because the forecast for this weekend looks spectacular. It’ll start off with what looks like a big new night ride this Friday, joining up with the Dropouts and rolling into the night.

Whatever you do, relax and enjoy a few days off. We’ve had some intense and important conversations here lately and we need you to be fresh and ready for Monday.

Friday, April 17th

Friday Night Ride – 8 p.m. at Salmon Street Fountain
Foster Road shop Ride Yr Bike heads downtown to lead what will hopefully be the first of many big weekend kickoffs. More info here. At 10 p.m., they’re scheduled to meet up with…

Dropout BC ride – 9 p.m.-3 a.m. at Col. Summers Park, 20th and Belmont
The dropout bike club’s monthly freakbike social ride. Over the years, this ride has become the place to show off your newest bicycle oddities. Come ride, have an adventure, and socalize. All bikes welcome, but the pace is set by the freakbikes. More info here.

Saturday, April 18th

Meet the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club – 9:30 am at Lents Park (SE 92nd and Holgate)
Join ride leader Ann Morrow for a great introduction to group cycling while exploring southeast Portland. Expect an easy pace and a distance of 18 miles. “Find out why bicycling is such a popular sport – You can do it!” says Ann on the club’s website. They’ll end at Cartlandia for great food and drink. More info here.

De Ronde PDX – 10:00 am at Pyramid Brewing (2730 NW 31st Ave)
This is it! The local classic that’s guaranteed to test your limits. The 50-mile route winds through the toughest climbs in the West Hills and has over 7,900 feet elevation gain. Ride organizers say they’ve added three new sectors that “don’t add much difficulty, but they are cool roads that we thought people might want to see.” Also keep your head up mid-route for the Pixie Project party. Bring a donation and $20 for your souvenir De Ronde t-shirt. More info here.

Ride the Heart of the Valley – All day at Oregon State University in Corvallis
This is a fundraiser for the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Get to know Willamette Valley backroads on three different routes of 12, 30, or 62 miles in length. More info here.

Inspired to Ride Movie Premiere – 7:00 pm at McMenamins Mission Theater (1624 NW Glisan)
This new film is a perfect way to up your stoke just as you start to plan your big summer riding adventures. It takes a closer look at the people and places behind the first-ever unsupported Trans America Bicycle Race. Cast and crew will be in attendance. Tickets are $15. More info here.

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Sunday, April 19th

Bike Milwaukie Monthly Ride – 9:30 am at Milwaukie City Hall (10722 SE Main Street in Milwaukie)
Join Milwaukie’s bike advocacy group for a ride that will help deliver food donations to families in need. Bring a pannier, backpack, or cargo bike to help carry the load. Expect an easy 8-mile loop. More info here.

La Doyenne – 10:00 am at Cartlandia (SE 82nd Ave and Springwater)
This is a crazy climbing companion to the Ronde ride. Organizer Andrew Springer has mapped out a 50-mile route with over 7,000 feet of climbing in and around Happy Valley in outer southeast Portland. Andrew says he’s improved the route this year, added a Strava KOM competition, and will provide food about half-way through the ride. More info here.

Barton Park Circuit Race – All day at Barton Park (19009 SE Barton Park Road in Boring)
A new race in Estacada that promises some fast action. Laps are a 7-mile loop with just over 300 feet of climbing per lap. All categories are welcome. OBRA license required. 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.

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In 1934, The Oregonian’s ‘Let’s Quit Killing’ campaign declared a war on traffic deaths

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 07:55
The citywide campaign, which asked residents to pledge to drive safely and recruited citizens to report illegal driving behavior to the police, was created by The Oregonian and the Oregon State Motor association.
(Newspaper images: Oregonian archives at Multnomah County Library)

Slow-moving, prosperous and desirable arterial streets are nothing new; they’re just a return to the traditional ideas of our great-grandparents.

And here in Portland, a citywide goal to take public responsibility for traffic fatalities isn’t new, either. In the 1930s, as they felt their city changing fast, our great-grandparents’ generation responded with what became a nationally-known campaign that was strikingly similar to Vision Zero or the Dutch Stop de Kindermoord movement of the 1970s.

The campaign was called “Let’s Quit Killing,” and it was a collaboration among The Oregonian, the Oregon State Motor association, Mayor Joseph Carson, the police department’s traffic division and a citizen “army” of volunteer infraction-spotters.

Here’s some Oregonian coverage from 1935:

Mobilization of citizens of Portland to put an end to ruthlessness and carelessness on the city streets and eliminate many traffic accidents was launched yesterday by Mayor Carson, in line with the “Let’s Quit Killing” safety campaign sponsored by The Oregonian and the Oregon State Motor association.

Under the mayor’s direction an army of responsible citizens will be formed to work hand in hand with Captain Fred West of the police department’s traffic division in an effort to curb thoughtless drivers — enemies of all law-abiding citizens. …

The plan was adapted by Captain West and representatives of the Oregon State Motor association and The Oregonian from that used in Detroit. …

Mayor Carson yesterday said he would enlist the aid of every club, church and civic organization in the city.

The last calendar year’s traffic toll was 88 lives.

Each day this week, beginning tomorrow, observers for the “Let’s Quit Killing” safety campaign will station themselves at an unannounced street intersection in Portland at an unannounced time and watch for all violations of traffic regulations.

These violations will be tabulated and printed in The Oregonian.

The history of this campaign was unearthed early this morning by Aaron Brown, the board president of Oregon Walks, while he was researching the history of street-safety advocacy in the Multnomah County Library’s newspaper archives.

Here’s another notice in the O:

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“You know it was a big deal because the first thing we thought to do with it was to challenge Seattle,” Brown adds.

Mr. Riley pointed out that Portland is now ahead of Seattle in keeping the death toll down, but he felt that such a competition between the two cities would contribute much to the “Let’s Quit Killing” campaign, save lives and bring about much more careful driving.

Mr. Riley declared that the great toll is now being taken among persons of 50 years or over. He pointed out that Portland had but 64 deaths last year while Seattle had 85.

The campaign seems to have worked pretty well. News of its success reached Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where the New Era newspaper wrote:

The automobile death rate can be reduced. And the reckless and inconsiderate drivers, who are responsible for some 36,000 deaths a year in this country, can be curbed.

A number of cities have proven this. One of them is Portland, Oregon, which has been carrying on a “Let’s Quit Killing” campaign that has produced fine results in a relatively brief length of time. Where the national automobile death toll during the first ten months of this year, was at the highest point on record, traffic fatalities in Portland declined about 25 per cent. …

The local judiciary has co-operated by levying sizable fines and prison sentences to violators of the traffic laws.

The automobile, properly handled, is one of the most useful and pleasurable servants of man. The same automobile, improperly handled, is one of the most lethal of weapons.

The Portland Traction Company, one of our privately-run streetcar systems, had a vested interest in good walking — and, apparently, an understanding of multimodality that we sometimes struggle with today. In 1937, transit tickets were emblazoned with the shared pledge “I Will Drive Safely.”

Things took a turn eventually, though.

“As Peter Norton’s book suggests, the movement started with a lot of admoninations towards motorists but unsurprisingly, over time it got increasingly hostile towards pedestrians,” Brown writes.

Traffic accident analysts of the Oregonian-Oregon State Motor association “Let’s Quit Killing” campaign are turning up data which indicate that ambulators on public thoroughfares should stiffen their shoulders to bear a sizeable share of responsibility for motor mishaps. … In Portland this year 33 of the 49 dead were pedestrians.

Portland thus continues her reputation as “the most dangerous city to set foot in” in the United States.

The last mention of the campaign in The Oregonian seems to be from September 1939, three weeks after World War II began. By that point, the phrase was being used in a letter to the editor (from a man who himself worked as the editor of a publication called “Automotive News” – presumably the Jonathan Maus of his day) to attack the ideas of traditionalist traffic engineers and usher in a new concept of “traffic safety”: removing obstacles from the roadway.

How soon must the citizens of Portland organize a traffic vigilance committee to halt the erection of accident-insuring, death-inviting obstructions in our city streets by our “traffic engineers”? I search in vain for non-official defenders of the wide concrete wall that bisects Interstate avenue, such things as the new tombstones at Fifty-seventh and Sandy. …

I shudder when I think of what will happen to life and property when fog and rainy darkness obscure the pillboxes, concrete walls and one-lane chutes that obstruct our streets. Will the motorist — ignorant stranger or forgetful, heedless or glare-blinded Portlander — be solely responsible for accident, injury and death as our “traffic engineers” use city streets as a proving ground for every traffic-control idea they hear about?

Isn’t there some power that can restrain this mad urge to convert our city streets into an anti-tank no-man’s land?

Apparently there was.

For a while, at least.

— If you’re a local transportation history buff like we are, browse our archives.
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Jobs of the Week: Bike N Hike, Chris King, Velotech, Knock Software, and more

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 07:53

We’ve had seven great job opportunities listed this week. Learn more about them via the links below…

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For a complete list of available jobs, click here. These are paid listings. If you’d like to post a job, you can purchase a listing online by visiting our Job Listings page.

You can sign up for all the latest listings via RSS, email, or by following us on Twitter.

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Transportation bureau defends ‘Platinum’ status

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 12:33

“We’re a Platinum-level city because of the outcomes we’ve achieved.”— Roger Geller, PBOT Bike Coordinator

The Bureau of Transportation wants to remind everyone that Portland still deserves to be Platinum.

As local activist Will Vanlue continues to gain traction and headlines for his petition (it’s up to 550 signatures) to have Portland’s Platinum bicycle-friendly status downgraded by the League of American Bicyclists, PBOT has gone on the defensive.

The agency has put together a seven-page document outlining their case and they reached out to us for a conference call this morning to talk about it. On the call was PBOT Bike Coordinator Roger Geller, spokesman Dylan Rivera, and Margi Bradway the manager of PBOT’s Active Transportation division.

Geller opened up the conversation with a spirited defense of PBOT’s bike legacy which he delivered as if he were speaking to supporters at a political rally:

“We’re a Platinum-level city because of the outcomes we’ve achieved.

We’re Platinum because since 2000 bicycle transportation has contributed the most to our drop in drive-alone commute trips. Of the 40,000 additional commute trips since 2000, more than one-third of them have been from bicycling. So bicycle transportation is contributing the most to keeping congestion at bay.

We’re a Platinum-level city because our school kids are riding to school eight times the national average. And since 2006 we’ve seen a 35 percent increase in kids walking and biking to school.

We’re a Platinum-level city because we just installed our 125th bike corral and a there’s a good cross-section of business owners across the city who recognize that, as research shows, people who are riding bikes to commercial districts are spending more money than people who are arriving by any other way. And we have enough people going to commercial districts by bike that we need 125 bike corrals — and more!

It’s about outcomes. What we’re seeing are the outcomes.”

Those examples and more fill up the pages of a document titled Affirming Portland’s Platinum Status: Efforts since 2013 (PDF). PBOT sent me the document prior to our phone conversation.

“When you look at other cities who are upping their game on biking, the dollar amounts are [equal to] our entire capital budget… If we had three times the funding we could do three times the work.”
— Margi Bradway, PBOT Active Transportation Division Manager

The document outlines 26 bike-related projects that PBOT has completed since 2013 and lists 10 upcoming projects that are already funded and in the works. It also gives updates on the city’s big education and enforcement initiatives like Sunday Parkways, the High Crash Corridor program, their “embrace” of Vision Zero, and their efforts to reduce speed limits.

Geller’s defense, however, came with an acknowledgment that PBOT has a lot of work to do. “We’re not done,” he said. “We’re a quarter of the way to where our plans [Climate Action Plan, Bike Plan, Portland Plan] tell us we need to be. We’ve built only a third of our network and we’re continuing to advance.”

Geller’s biggest concern is that the downgrade petition sends the wrong message, one that focuses on what people don’t like and one that puts PBOT on the defensive. “What people in the city need to know is that there’s support for these things and people want more of them. That’s a positive message that needs to be embraced by people in general: ‘We like the direction this is going, give us more.’”

Rivera, Bradway, and Geller all said funding is the big constraint.

“When you look at other cities who are upping their game on biking,” explained Bradway, “they are making major investments and the dollar amounts are [equal to] our entire capital budget… If we had three times the funding we could do three times the work.”

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Then Geller added: “We agonize over $50,000. [He used an example of newly striped buffered bike lanes on a section of NE Killingsworth that was done as part of a pavement maintenance project]. It’s not a lot of money in transportation terms but it’s a third of the local discretionary funding we have available annually for making bike improvements. And what does that get us? One mile of buffered bike lanes…So that’s the environment we are working in.”

Then I asked: If Portland is doing all this for bikes and with so little funding, where is all this frustration in the public coming from?

Geller’s answer was spot-on in my opinion:

“I think we rightfully, raised the expectations of what Portland can achieve. Going back to the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030, and certainly going back to commissioner and then Mayor [Sam] Adams right? We started talking about Portland being a world-class bicycling city. And I think people are understandably frustrated that we are not there yet… There’s a level of frustration that we are not living up to our potential.”

City Bike Coordinator Roger Geller (in white shirt) and other current and former PBOT staff stand behind then Commissioner Sam Adams at a press conference to announce Portland’s Platinum award on April 29th, 2008.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

City Hall politics plays a huge role in Portland’s bike-friendly stature. I brought that issue up, but both Bradway and Geller didn’t think it was right for them to talk about it.

However, Geller had a lot to say about what the community could do differently to influence City Hall denizens.

Geller thinks that instead of hearing outrage from the community about PBOT’s lack of progress, Mayor Charlie Hales and the other commissioners would be more persuaded by statements of support — of both PBOT and more bike-related investments.

“I think if the end goal is a much more bike-friendly city I’m not sure this is the way to do it,” Geller said. “I think the frustration would be better channeled by going to City Council and telling them, ‘We want more and better bike facilities.’”

Here’s more from Geller:

“I think that whatever Will’s intent was, the message coming through is, ‘You guys are doing really badly and we don’t want to have anything to do with you. That’s just a dispiriting message for people who are making decisions about where should we spend our money. Should we spend our money where we’re getting support and people like what we’re doing? Or should we spend it where we get this huge, national outcry where we hear, hey you guys are doing poorly?”

It’s an interesting question to ponder: What if, for example, the 500-plus downgrade petition signers instead signed up to testify during the open communication period before City Council meetings? How would one year of hundreds of three-minute testimonies about the positive impact biking is having on Portlander’s lives — and how citizens want more of it — impact council members?

Earlier in our conversation I mentioned my concern that the community often demonstrates widespread support for biking, but then the City seems to make a decision based on one or two powerful people or special interest groups. I mentioned how we could “Get 1,000 people out on the street” to support biking but it wouldn’t matter if the City just listened to the most powerful people (like the Portland Business Alliance, for one).

Bradway and Geller both seemed to be eager to witness such a powerful demonstration for biking — but it hasn’t happened.

Geller then relayed a story from his ride into work this morning. He saw a protest (unrelated to biking) on SE Madison where about 100 people were holding up signs. “I’ve yet to see a 1,000 people on the street. That would be great if we had even 200 people in front of City Hall holding up signs.”

— Download PBOT’s Affirming Portland’s Platinum Status: Efforts since 2013.

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Possible cuts to Amtrak service raise stakes of Salem’s transportation limbo

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 10:20
The Cascades line is arguably the bike-friendliest
in the country.
(Photo: Will Vanlue)

One of the country’s most-ridden Amtrak lines could have its southern tail chopped off unless Oregon legislators find another $5 million to keep it whole.

The state-sponsored Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene and Portland, with stops in Albany, Salem, Woodburn and Oregon City, is likely to be eliminated unless the state is willing to cover the one-third of the line’s operating costs, $28 million annually, that aren’t covered by ticket revenue.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has already found $18 million from non-general funds, and the legislature’s working budget framework reportedly adds another $5 million from general funds. That leaves about $5 million left to find.

The Cascades line, which also runs north to Seattle, Vancouver BC and other cities, is maybe the country’s bike-friendliest train line; for $5, it lets you add a bike to any trip, rolling it on and off the platform yourself to hang it in the luggage car. This has proved popular; the line has been adding more bike parking hooks as its existing ones fill up on weekends.

The passenger rail service is just one of many transportation decisions caught in the crossfire of a fight between Republicans and Democrats over creating a low-carbon fuel standard in the state. Republicans have been blocking all action on a proposed gas tax hike unless Democrats kill the fuel standard, which would add an estimated 4 to 19 cents per gallon to the cost of gasoline by 2025.

The City of Portland, meanwhile, has put its own search for transportation revenue on hold in hopes that Salem will hike gas taxes.

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Three Cascades trains currently run south of Portland each day. The Coast Starlight, a different line that is less reliably on schedule, adds a fourth run.

On Monday, the Wallawa County Chieftan reported that State Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) was saying there is “no story here” because legislators would not fail to find $5 million.

Johnson suggested to the Chieftain that in order to get its state subsidy, the Cascades line should adjust its schedule to capture more commute traffic between Portland and Salem.

The Portland-to-Eugene route has been discussed as a future high-speed rail corridor, too. But ridership demand for that segment falls far short of those for the Portland-to-Seattle corridor, one of the nation’s most popular city pairings and the key segment on the Cascades line.

However, passenger rail advocates say that cutting Willamette Valley cities out of the network would hurt the entire line’s viability.

“If you think of it as a system, any change to one part of the system is going to affect all other parts of the system,” David Arnold, president of the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, told KOIN last month. “So this line is really critical.”

Meanwhile, Amtrak Cascades has faced private competition from BoltBus, a low-cost bus line with runs to Eugene, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC. BoltBus relies on the Interstate highway system, which is paid for by a combination of gas taxes and general funds, including its exemption from property taxes.

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Check out the beautiful bike parking at Pacific Northwest College of Art

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 09:44
With room for 42 bikes right up front, PNCA is doing it right.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

When the Pacific Northwest College of Art moved, they made sure one crucial piece of their old campus came with them: the bike parking.

The first time I rode by their old home on NW 13th and Johnson and noticed the racks were gone, I was sad. The racks at PNCA are one of the largest mass bike parking facilities in the city. They’re also artistic. But beyond that, the racks themselves transcend utility.

The “Pedal Garden” at PNCA was designed as a memorial to Tracey Sparling, the 19-year-old former student who died in a traffic collision while biking to class in October 2007.

That history made me all the more pleased when I finally went to check out PNCA’s new location at NW Glisan and Broadway. The school spent $34 million to transform a grand old historic post office building. And right out front of the main entrance they’ve installed their old bike racks. The Pedal Garden is blooming once again.

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Note the ample distance between the staples and the building. This not only allows for plenty of clearance — even for long/cargo bikes — but it also gives people room to breathe and relax. The staples also have plenty of room between them so bikes don’t bang into each other.

PNCA now has what I consider one of the best and most beautiful bike parking facilities in the entire city. 18 staples and six covered “Garden” spaces. That’s enough room for 42 bikes.

The key to the new installation is that it’s right up front. That’s important for many reasons: the good visibility deters thieves; it makes biking that much more convenient; and perhaps most importantly, it forces everyone who drives and parks in the campus’s surface parking lot to walk by it everyday. Seeing the bike racks is a gentle reminder to all visitors visits that biking is possible, encouraged, and respected.

From the few times I’ve observed the racks since these photos were taken, they have another quality that sets them apart. They’re almost always full. Like a successful street design, the true measure of good bike parking is whether or not anyone actually uses it. When I’ve watched the PNCA bike racks, I almost always see people coming and going, talking and mingling as they lock up or roll away.

To go with the racks, PNCA promotes biking to new students and staff and their student wellness department offers bike safety workshops. It’s no surprise that about one-third of the PNCA community gets to campus by bike.

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Portland’s Platinum downgrade petition finds support, nears 500 signatures

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:05

Looks like the grassroots effort to get a national organization to officially downgrade Portland from its lofty Platinum bicycle-friendly status has some legs. Nearly 500 people have signed on in under two days.
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Not only have petition authors Will Vanlue and Paul Jeffery struck a chord with Portlanders, they’ve also succeeded in getting major local and national attention for the idea. Today at noon Vanlue will join League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud radio show. Bicycling, a large national magazine has picked up the story. And, closer to home, The Oregonian has covered it too.

In The Oregonian, Rob Sadowsky, the leader of the Portland-based Bicycle Transportation Alliance, downplayed the general importance of the ranking but also said he wouldn’t mind if we were downgraded because, “We know there’s room for growth.”

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The BTA’s Advocacy Director weighed in on the petition this morning via a blog post titled, Personal Reflections on Portland and Platinum. Kransky said the major “challenges” Portland faces right now has to do with lack of funding and a lack of political support at City Hall:

“If we had a fully funded transportation bureau I have no doubt that Leah Treat would be leading us to more safe routes to school projects, new protected bike lanes, improvements in neighborhood greenways, and better conditions on the street for people who ride bikes… If we had more champions for street safety in City Hall they would have passed a new street fund months ago.”

Then Kransky put out a call-to-action:

“So I ask you this, if you are upset by a perceived lack of progress on bicycling issues in the City of Portland,what are you going to do about it? Are you going to complain to a Washington DC based group that has no decision making authority over the issues we face? Or are you going to step up and lead a movement to help our city fully fund its street safety goals and expand public support for bicycling in City Hall?”

Regardless of what happens next, Vanlue and Jeffery have certainly started a conversation. Whether all the words will lead to action — either on the part of Portland leaders and policymakers or from the League itself — remains to be seen.

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Owner of Foster storefront wrecked by drunk driver was already a leading voice for street safety

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 09:27
Matthew Mičetić, owner of Red Castle Games,
in front of the boarded-up window smashed
by a car on April 2.
(Photo courtesy Mičetić)

The owner of a game store on SE Foster Road whose front window was destroyed this month by a speeding car also happens to be one of the most prominent backers of safety improvements to Foster Road, and also of a citywide street fund.

In fact, Matthew Mičetić of Red Castle Games was one of two small business owners that Portland leaders invited to speak at the press conference where they launched their currently paused street fund effort last spring.

He’s also head of his local business association — a group that he said surprised Portland City Council last summer when its members showed up in force to support redesigning their street to add a center turn lane and bike lanes by removing two passing lanes.

Unfortunately for Mičetić’s storefront, the redesign won’t happen until next year. That meant that when a man named Myles Nees was allegedly drunk and fleeing from police during the early evening rush hour on Foster April 2, he had enough room to veer his car from lane to lane. Mičetić said Nees reached speeds of 60 to 80 mph before losing control and running onto the sidewalk into Red Castle’s building.

“If you were on Division at 5 o’clock, you’re never going to hit 60 mph,” Mičetić said in an interview Tuesday. “Whereas Foster or Sandy, at that time you can weave around vehicles.”

Mičetić later posted his security camera’s video of the collision on YouTube, as seen from inside the store:

Mičetić praised the employee pictured here, who can be seen diving immediately for the telephone to report the crash and then dashing out the front door in pursuit of the fleeing driver.

“She was pretty shaken up later, and is still a little shaken up now when she hears brakes screeching,” he said. “But within seconds she was on 911 to report the guy.”

No one was seriously injured in the collision. Nees was arraigned Tuesday on a battery of charges related to the incident. His next court date is in May.

Storefront crashes are common; the Storefront Safety Council calculates that 60 happen every day in the United States.

“It’s just sort of a hidden epidemic that’s happening all the time, and it’s not cheap,” Mičetić said. “My father used to own a 7-11 at 148th and Division, and he had the same thing happen to him when I was a kid. … I’ve Been Framed, down there at 51st and Foster, that happened to them.”

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Mičetić estimated that the total cost of his storefront crash may be around $20,000, including $6,000 in lost revenue from time the shop is closed for repairs. Because Nees’ auto insurance coverage is unclear — Mičetić said a police detective told him it may have been purchased under false pretenses — Red Castle isn’t yet sure how much money it’ll be out.

He said he’s grateful for a community of customers who’ve put up 7,600 in online donations to support the store, plus made other gestures of support.

“People brought us ketchup,” he said.

Street fee needed for maintenance and safety, Mičetić says View of the damage from inside the store. The white labels are messages of support from Red Castle Games customers.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

I reached out to Mičetić for a conversation last week, after my boss Jonathan Maus saw news coverage of the storefront crash and realized that he’d met Mičetić at last spring’s street fee launch event.

“How can the need be so apparent but the will to fix it be so small? … I really hope that Commissioner Novick and Hales really keep this on their plate.”

Mičetić said his support for the street fee has always been largely financial: as a longtime Portlander, he’s watched the city’s attempts to raise money for road maintenance fail year after year, with the estimated repair bill climbing higher and higher each time.

“This is the third or fourth go-around,” he said. “I sort of did the math, back on the previous fees, of how little it would have been if we’d started back in 2002, or 2008. … Every time we talk about it again, it’s not like my monthly fee doubles. It’s like my monthly fee goes up six times! Because the infrastructure gets so much worse.”

Mičetić said he’d welcome citywide safety investments, too.

“I go over Foster and 82nd every day, and that intersection is awful. it is really really bad,” he said. “How can the need be so apparent but the will to fix it be so small? … I really hope that Commissioner Novick and Hales really keep this on their plate.”

Prediction: Road diet will be “phenomenal” for Foster Red Castle Games is looking to expand by adding a cafe next door to its game shop; at the next storefront, a boiled bagel shop is preparing to open.

Then there’s the future of Mičetić’s own corner of Portland: the Foster Streetscape Plan. Though that plan’s bike lanes will be far from great — they’ll be paint-only, sometimes running in door zones and zigzagging off course at one point in order to preserve a few parking spaces — removing the passing lanes will be a huge improvement to the area, Mičetić said.

“For our business and the neighborhood in general it’s going to be phenomenal,” he predicted. “Any time you get them to go a little slower, there’s always that marginal chance they’ll remember you at Christmas or they’ll stop in for a birthday present.

“When you slow everything down it just becomes more pleasant as well,” Mičetić said. “I’m not very sympathetic, honestly, to those people who are upset that it’s going to add a minute or two to their commute. It’s not a road that should have been set up for people to go 40 or 50 mph down like they do now.”

Mičetić said his personal dream would be to once again have a streetcar line running down Foster, though he said he fears few would agree.

“The other benefit to us I think is going to be the bike lane,” he added. “I bike occasionally, but let me tell you I never bike on Foster.”

Mičetić, who is planning to open a cafe in the vacant storefront next to his current shop, has asked the city to convert one of the auto parking spaces outside his building to a bike corral.

“This morning we just got two more staples,” he said. “They’re always filling up, and geez, for the summer we want to have adequate parking. … I am just looking forward to that because it’ll bring up the bicycle commuter traffic. It’ll come right by my store and if I get that corral…”

Mičetić trailed off happily.

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Would-be fuel exporters offer annual payment that might fund transportation projects

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 08:22
Brought to you by… Pembina?
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Though it’s not likely to appease many Portlanders fighting to block the deal, there’s a chance that the construction of a propane export terminal in Portland could result in money for local biking improvements.

The opportunity arises as part of an offer from Pembina, the Calgary-based extraction company that needs city approval to run its pipeline through an environmental preservation zone on the way to the Port. Pembina has agreed that if its facility is built, it will among other things pay $6.2 million annually into a new “Portland Carbon Fund.”

According to the city, “the fund will be used for projects that reduce energy consumption, generate renewable energy and sequester carbon.”

The issue was covered Tuesday by the Portland Business Journal, which quoted mayoral spokesman Dana Haynes as saying “we haven’t had an opportunity to completely analyze what the planning commission has set forward.”

For comparison’s sake, the most recent draft of the city’s proposed street fund would bring $20 million a year for assorted street safety projects.

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If the project were approved by city council at an expected hearing on April 30, there would surely be many hands reaching toward that new stream of money. The city is near the end of a six-year update to its Climate Action Plan, which calculates that transportation accounts for 37 percent of the region’s carbon emissions.

That makes transportation the largest single share of local carbon pollution, but that doesn’t mean that reducing transportation emissions would be seen as the highest-reward use of each Carbon Fund dollar.

Still, even $1 million of those $6.2 million would be enough for quite a bit of bike infrastructure. That’d be enough to fully restore the city’s defunct neighborhood greenway expansion program, for example, or to imitate Minneapolis’s new $750,000-a-year fund for protected bike lane construction, or to build 12 high-end signalized crosswalks each year, or to triple the number of regional Safe Routes to Schools programs from 40 to 130.

On the other hand, the propane export terminal would if built be responsible for shipping an estimated 0.01 percent of the planet’s annual carbon pollution.

In a closely watched vote last week, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission voted 6-4 to recommend a change to city zoning laws that would allow the project to be built.

Chris Smith, a low-car transportation advocate who led opposition to the export terminal on the planning commission, downplayed the chances that it might result in better bike infrastructure if built.

“You’d have to make the case that the infrastructure was getting people out of cars,” Smith said in an email Wednesday. “That’s possible of course, but I would guess that programs that can show carbon reduction more directly, and with a stronger equity case (e.g., low-income weatherization) are going to compete more strongly.”

“I think most people will decide to support or oppose the terminal on more fundamental principles,” Smith concluded.

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Advocate has near-death experience on Barbur, a street he’s pushing to make safer

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 07:38
No room for improvements, state says.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

One of Southwest Portland’s most passionate advocates for a safer Barbur Boulevard said Tuesday that he was nearly killed while biking on the street.

“FYI since you’re waiting for someone to die before safe Barbur bike access: it was almost me today,” wrote Damian Miller, an assistant director of research and assessment at Lewis and Clark College’s graduate school, in the first of a trio of open Twitter messages to the Oregon Department of Transportation and its new regional manager. “Speeding delivery truck came up behind honked, veered wildly, almost hit me & left lane car.”

Though the route’s design evokes a freeway, it’s the only flat and direct street between most of Southwest Portland and the rest of the city. During the summer, about 300 to 500 people bike it each day.

As Miller discussed in a 2013 video interview with The Oregonian, it’s not just bikes that seem to be unsafe on this mile-long wooded stretch of Barbur Boulevard connecting Southwest Portland to the rest of the city. On average, one person has died there each of the last six years.

All but one of those collisions were speed-related.

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Last summer, ODOT studied the effects of reducing the street to one lane in each direction for a construction zone, and found that the number of people traveling at 55 mph or faster fell 68 percent.

It also found that average peak travel times on the busiest weekdays increased by only about one minute, and that essentially no one bothered to change routes.

As the data shows, almost all the drop in extreme speeding came during off-peak daytime hours when traffic would have been present, but light enough for someone to weave between lanes if both had been open.
(Data via ODOT. Chart by BikePortland.)

ODOT has offered various explanations for its not wanting to restripe the street to remove unnecessary passing lanes. Among them: that Barbur should serve as a permanent safety valve for the days when Interstate 5 becomes congested by a car crash; that Barbur needs to preserve its excess auto capacity in case an earthquake shuts down I-5 but not Barbur; and that without all its current space devoted to car traffic, the street might become congested by 2035.

Miller, left, at a BikePortland meetup in February.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Miller seemed to be alluding to the last of these possibilities in his final tweet about the issue Tuesday night.

“I lived,” he wrote. “You get to keep lanes for theoretical future traffic that’s more important than my life.”

The most likely decision-maker on this issue is ODOT’s Portland regional manager Rian Windsheimer, who to our knowledge hasn’t yet taken a public position about Barbur since being promoted into the position last year.

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New signs help raise visibility of ‘neighborhood greenways’

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 13:34
Look, ma, those side streets with bike arrows, speed bumps and crossing signals have a name now.
(Photo: Portland Bureau of Transportation)

Five years after it invented the term “neighborhood greenway” and three years after getting permission to set neighborhood greenway speed limits at 20 mph, Portland is putting the phrase directly on its streets.

The city is installing almost 100 of the above signs this week on the N Michigan, N/NE Blandena/Going/Alberta, SE Salmon/Taylor, and SE Bush/100th/101st neighborhood greenways.

Cost: less than $5,000, or about $50 per sign, installation included.

“It just kind of struck me that we have the speed 20 signs in, but they seem to be lacking a context,” city transportation demand management specialist Jeff Smith said Tuesday. Most people, he said, “probably look at it and say, why is it 20 here? If they notice it at all.”

Here’s a closer look at the signs, also from the transportation department’s Twitter feed:

Smith said the cost is so low because the city was able to hang them all from the existing speed limit signposts. Though the green-and-white sign isn’t part of the official manual of American traffic control devices, Smith said that’s not a problem.

“It’s just a white-on-green sign, so it’s informational,” Smith said. “There’s no regulatory nature to it.”

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Smith said he started working on the project about a year ago, and used a combination of geograhphical variety and anecdotal complaints about speeding to choose the greenways that would get the new signs first. Now that the city has a rich data set on neighborhood greenway traffic speeds and volumes, he said, he’ll use that to prioritize future sign signs.

“Next winter we’ll do four or five more” greenways, Smith said.

As wonderful as neighborhood greenways are, it seems to me that their biggest challenge is the same as that of a city bus: they’re not highly visible and people aren’t sure where they go, so they’re not very good at recruiting new riders.

The city of Vancouver BC pioneered signage on streets where bicycles have priority. BikePortland’s Jonathan Maus saw the signs first-hand back in 2007. Here’s how Vancouver does it:

We’re glad to see Portland do something similar. It looks like a wonderful way to help tackle the problem of recruiting new riders while also letting people know that they should think of these streets like school zones. Kudos to Smith and to PBOT for this sort of attention to detail.

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River View advisory committee forces Parks to address biking, access issues

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 11:41
Back to work.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

On Wednesday of last week, the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau hosted a Project Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting for the River View Natural Area. It was the first such meeting in 14 months for the group charged with developing a management plan for the 146-acre parcel.

Mountain bike advocates have been eager to re-engage with the process and learn more about why their activity was banned by Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish last month. (Prior to the city’s purchase of River View, Portlanders had ridden bikes on its many trails for over two decades.) That decision came without warning and was made completely outside of the established public process.

The decision has made Portland a national embarrassment.

While he can’t keep Portland’s anti-mountain biking stances out of the headlines, at Wednesday’s meeting Parks Director Mike Abbaté did his best to make sure the topic of biking remained out of the public process around River View.

Here’s Abbaté attempt at doing that in his opening address to the committee and the assembled public:

Parks Bureau Director Mike Abbaté.

“Tonight, we can’t address the change in policy direction that restricts mountain biking use on the site. That’s not the topic of the meeting tonight and we’re not going to talk about that… What we’re really here for today is moving forward the planning process that protects the natural resources of the site and compatible uses. As such, bicycling will not be considered — yay or nay — as part of this management plan.”

Several times in the course of the meeting, Abbaté and Parks planner Emily Roth were forced to repeat that they could not talk about the mountain biking decision.

“Why is cycling considered not compatible?” asked committee member and Northwest Trail Alliance representative Brian Baumann. “We have not made that decision,” Roth replied. “Then why is it restricted?” Baumann followed, “At this time, we’re just not allowed to talk about it at this moment.”

I tracked down Parks Director Abbaté when he left and asked him myself. “I can’t talk about it Jonathan, I just can’t talk about it,” he said.

This echoes what Parks announced in early April when they re-opened the public process. They also told their Technical Advisory Committee to carry on without biking in the mix.

The silence around cycling is likely due to the pending legal action against the city by the Northwest Trail Alliance.

Even before that legal filing, Abbaté, Roth, and their boss, Parks Commissioner Fritz, wanted all discussions of mountain biking in city parks to happen within the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan process. Yet despite talking like the plan is inevitable, it isn’t funded and it remains to be seen whether City Council will authorize its $350,000 price tag.

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This sudden silence around cycling was a bit awkward on Wednesday because two members of Project Advisory Committee (PAC) were there specifically to represent the activity: Charlie Sponsel, a professional rider; and Baumann with the Northwest Trail Alliance. Sponsel recently led a large protest rally in River View and it’s Baumann’s group that has filed an intent to appeal the Commissioners’ bike ban decision with the State’s Land-Use Board of Appeals.

“I’m not sure about the wisdom of finalizing the trail system before we’ve finalized the decision of trail uses.”
— Jay Withgott, Audubon Society of Portland

After Abbaté’s opening remarks, Sponsel asked the obvious question: “If we’re not going to discuss mountain biking, why are Brian and I here and how are you hoping we can contribute?”

Abbaté replied by telling Sponsel his perspective should not be “narrowly defined to focus on bike issues” and that his input in the River View process could help inform the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan.

Sponsel was very active during the meeting. He dogged Parks staff with a constant stream of questions that forced them to address not just bicycling’s future at River View but a myriad of other trail and access issues. His questions, combined with Baumann’s clear voice of opposition, resulted in a meeting that ended up with some positives for bike advocates, not to mention a few more supporters.

For Parks, the meeting didn’t go as planned. Instead of moving forward and getting committee endorsements of their draft trail plan prior to an upcoming open house event on May 4th, they’ve been left with more work to do and some tough questions to ponder.

Once the committee got to work, Parks’ Natural Resources Planner Emily Roth (she was also the agency’s point person on the Forest Park singletrack process) introduced the latest “access concept” map. This map shows two phases of a hiking-only trail that runs just over four miles and stays mostly around the outside edge of the parcel.

Detail of Parks’ draft “access concept” for River View.

This draft map raises concerns for bike advocates for several reasons: It was created (mostly) in secret by the Technical Advisory Committee without input from the PAC; it includes no trails built for bicycling; and it leaves a large interior section of the parcel devoid of public access.

On the other side of the debate, Jennifer Seamans, manager of the Southwest Watershed Resource Center, offered support for Parks’ current plan. “There are very few or no other areas like this in the city,” she said, “This is an unprecedented opportunity for a relatively in-tact watershed and I think Parks is right to recommend that we protect that interior habitat.”

The decision to endorse the draft access map is important, because of something Roth made clear at the outset meeting. “If, through the citywide mountain bike plan, River View is selected as an appropriate site,” she said, “the final recommended trail concept [approved by the PAC], will not change.”

Since whatever management plan and access map is approved by the PAC will be set in stone, much of the discussion on Wednesday centered around an effort by Baumann, Sponsel, and other supporters of cycling on the committee, to not preclude bike access or additional trails in the future.

In a discussion about the design of the trails in the draft plan (presented by Steve Roelof of ESA Vigil-Agrimis), Baumann from the NW Trail Alliance said any trail design that doesn’t have biking in mind might be a de facto prohibition (because some trails designed for hiking might not be suitable for bike use). “I’m concerned that if we’re not forward thinking about that, we’re putting this plan forward and eliminating the possibility of other uses in the future.”

Both Baumann and Sponsel made it clear that the current draft trail plan falls far short of what they’d like to see.

Here’s more from Bauman from an email he sent us after the meeting:

“The current plan calls for approximately four miles of trails. Even if these are to become multi-use, I feel this Plan falls miserably short of meetings the needs of cyclists… Mountain bikers have different trail needs than hikers, and if these trails are built for hikers (as they will be since cyclists are banned) they will not be quality trails for cyclists if/when they are allowed back into RVNA [River View Natural Area]. It will become Powell Butte West, which is not what cyclists want to experience. If the plan remains at 4 miles of shared use trails (assuming cyclists are added into the mix in the future), we may have overcrowding leading to user conflict.”

The public was allowed to comment at the end of the meeting.

At one point, as Baumann and Sponsel both expressed grave concerns that the existing plan would make it almost impossible to go back and add more biking access later, Abbaté stepped in and tried to soften Roth’s stance that the PAC’s adopted plan would be final. He wanted them to think that even if the plan goes through, it could always be changed at a future date.

“In the world we live in, nothing is forever,” he said. “Plans and policies that get adopted by city council get amended and modified… And that’s part of a democratic process.”

This did nothing to quell the fears of Sponsel and Baumann. They felt like Parks was trying to set them up for failure. Here’s how Sponsel replied to Abbaté:

“If this is a ‘forever plan,’ I’m trying to figure out if trail expansion is possible under this existing document. Because to change this existing document you’d be asking mountain bikers to not pay attention to the ecological prescriptions in this document…that’s a completely un-winnable argument. There’s no scenario where mountain bikers win by telling people to ignore ecological prescriptions, so it’s a de-facto ban forever for trail expansion. Or is it?”

Sponsel then proposed that the PAC endorse a new trail — one not in the current draft plan — that would go down the middle of the parcel (and not cross any streams).

The discussion that followed exposed how tricky and messy this process has gotten.

Roth, the Parks planner, says since biking is not currently considered a “compatible recreational use,” it cannot be considered in developing this trail plan. And when this trail plan is adopted by the PAC, Roth says it would be set in stone. But, what if a potential Off-Road Cycling Plan finds that biking is compatible at River View? Would the City and advocates have to then go through an entirely new process to amend the management plan?

That’s a question that Roth and the Parks bureau don’t seem to have fully thought through.

Jay Withgott, the committee’s representative from the Audubon Society of Portland, supports Parks’ conservation stance, but even he raised concerns about pre-empting future bike access. “I’m not sure about the wisdom of finalizing the trail system before we’ve finalized the decision of trail uses.”

To that end, Baumann then remarked, “If we’re going to make an educated trail plan here, doesn’t it make sense to do it all at once instead of doing hiking now and trying to do bicycling later?”

Roth tried to clarify by saying that even if the PAC endorsed a new trail in the middle of the parcel, the committee would have to assume it’s a hiking trail because biking can’t technically be even considered at this time.

Because bicycling is a “a restricted use at this time,” Roth said, the only option for the PAC is to endorse the existing draft access map and possibly add language to the management plan that would leave the door open for new trails in the future. There wasn’t much support for simply adding what would be an empty, one-line promise to the plan.

Or, as Baumann put it to me after the meeting,

“I felt the language that was being considered was too weak and open for interpretation that could be used against our desired outcomes. It did not mention the word “cycling,” nor did it include a timeline or even a requirement for doing so. In other words, the language included nothing measurable thereby reducing accountability for Parks to our desired outcomes as a user group.”

When asked by Sponsel if there were other access plans that were considered or that didn’t make the cut, Roth said no.

“For this process we didn’t give options,” Roth said. “We looked at the criteria and asked: ‘What is the best plan that could meet that criteria?’” Sponsel replied by saying, “Well, if that’s the plan that fits the criteria, do we really have a choice? If that’s the best a team of trained trail designers can come up with than there really isn’t a choice here.”

Aaron and Maddy Malone.

This debate fostered skepticism about Parks’ plan and seemed to win Sponsel and Baumann support on the committee. Steve Manton, a park neighbor, said he doesn’t want to see the door closed on future bike access at the park. Another committee member and nearby resident Chris Sautter said he also wants another trail in the middle of the parcel. “I like the idea of more loops… whether I’m walking or biking or running. Having more choices is great.” Mauricio Villarreal, a member of the Portland Parks Board and the committee, also supported the consideration of bike access in the future.

Since this PAC is only an advisory body and not able to make decisions, nothing was finalized on Wednesday. Parks hasn’t scheduled the next PAC meeting and their version of the notes have not been published yet.

At the end of the meeting, the public was allowed to make comments. Several people stood up to support cycling. One of them was Aaron Malone. He had sat through the entire two-plus hour meeting with his 20-month old daughter in his arms. “This is my daughter Maddy,” he announced to everyone in the room, “If this area is off-limits to mountain biking, where is she going to ride?”

The next step in this process is a public open house on May 4th. Parks hopes to have a draft plan in front of City Council by the end of September. Read all our River View coverage here.

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Ask BikePortland: As a driver, what does all that green mean?

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 09:03
Huh?
(Photo J Maus/BikePortland)

We get a lot of interesting emails here at BikePortland (and phone calls for that matter). And because we’re easy to find in search engines and we’ve been around for a decade or so, a lot of those emails come from people who aren’t daily readers or loyal fans. We often hear from people don’t even ride bikes and who just have something about cycling they want to get off their chest.

The question I want to share with you today comes via an email from David J., someone who identified himself as a driver. The subject of his email was “Autos and bikes”:

So…I want to be a good and kind driver wrt [with regard to] bike riders. The rub is that I have no idea what the green street markings mean. I get bike boxes. But what do the solid and the stripped green lanes mean? Can I drive in or over them as I proceed, keeping bikes in mind? Are there laws? Are things just being made up? Are there resources so that I can learn what is expected? Why don’t I, as a generally informed citizen, know?

David’s email caught my eye for several reasons. First, I love that he wants to be a more informed and capable driver around Porltand’s many bike riders. (Thanks David! We need more people like you!). And second, it reinforced my opinion that we can’t rely solely on paint if we want to create a safe, predictable, and easy-to-use transportation system.

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I have a strong hunch that if we had more protected bicycle infrastructure — with physical separation from drivers and walkers, separate signals, and so on — people like David would have a much easier time driving around people riding bikes. (That’s not the case in our lead photo, because it’s in an intersection.)

As for the answers to David’s questions; the solid and striped green that’s popping up in bike lanes all over Portland these days are simply a way of highlighting caution areas. They don’t change the legal standing of a bike lane — which means, no, you can’t drive in or over them. There are a few exceptions to this, such as when you are accessing a parking spot, turning, and so on. But as a general rule, bicycle lanes are for bicycling only.

And I’m happy to report that agencies using green color in bikeways are following clear federal guidelines. A few years ago when Portland first started going green, they were indeed just “making it up” but those days are behind us now.

David’s question about why he doesn’t know brings up another important issue. In Oregon (and in America in general) we don’t get nearly enough education and training with our driver’s license. If we were required to make more frequent visits to the DMV and pass harder driving tests, we’d all be better off.

What advice do you have for David?

Read more from our Ask BikePortland series If you’d like to ask us a question, please use our contact form.

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the design of Portland’s green bikeways did not always follow national guidelines. That was true a few years ago, but is no longer the case. Green-colored bike lanes are now accepted by the FHWA and local engineers and planners follow established guidance.

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Oregon House likely to pass bill to preserve income-diverse neighborhoods

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 08:26
SE Division Street: rapid infill but rapid price hikes.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Oregon seems to be nearing a series of party-line votes that would remove its statewide ban on inclusionary zoning.

IZ, as it’s sometimes known, is a type of zoning used in many U.S. cities that requires developers in certain areas to offer some housing units at below-market prices, usually to people with middle or low incomes.

House Bill 2564 is scheduled to hit the state House floor today, personally carried by House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-North Portland). After a party-line committee vote last week, a leading backer predicted Monday that the bill will pass the state House on another party-line vote, with every Democrat in favor and every Republican opposed.

“It’s a privilege to be able to build in the city. They benefit from a lot of public investments.”
— Jon Ostar, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

Because the bill seems likely to pass with or without moderate Republicans’ votes, said Jon Ostar of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, “all they’d be doing is exposing themselves to the homebuilders’ wrath” if they voted against it.

Backers of HB 2564, who include the Bicycle Transportation Alliance among other transportation, urbanism and equity advocates, say it’s a needed tool for preserving income diversity in high-demand neighborhoods like central Portland. Opponents, led by the state’s homebuilders’ association, say private developers shouldn’t bear the costs of keeping neighborhoods income-diverse.

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We wrote about inclusionary zoning in 2013, as the coalition was forming to get it through the legislature, and again last winter when advocates gathered to support it in Salem.

“Everyone should have the opportunity, at least, to live in communities where there’s transportation choices, but our current pattern of development hasn’t given us that,” Ostar’s colleague Vivian Satterfield told us in February.

Thanks to IZ-style agreements, the Pearl District
has more income diversity than many fast-growing
areas, but less than its developers pledged.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Ostar said Monday that the bill likely to pass the House today will do so thanks to an amendment brokered by Kotek that would set a maximum of 30 percent below-market units per project, or the equivalent. He said this “went a long way to shoring up some moderate Ds.”

Ostar said his group’s biggest objection to the change is that its language “undercuts the principle that development is a privilege, not a right.”

“We’re trying to shift people’s mindsets away from the idea that developers have a right to build things,” Ostar said. “It’s a privilege to be able to build in the city. They benefit from a lot of public investments.”

If successful, the bill will move to the state Senate.

“I anticipate having some pretty heated battles in the Senate as I think the homebuilders try to make those conditions a lot more specific in terms of delivering benefits to developers,” Ostar predicted.

Update 3 pm: The bill did indeed pass the house, 34-25, on a nearly party-line vote. Brian Clem (D-Salem) voted against the bill.

Correction 6:15 pm: An earlier version of this post omitted Clem’s vote against the bill.

Read more of our 2015 Legislative Session coverage.
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New bike signal north of Moda Center adds green time for southbound biking

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 14:22
The new southbound bike signal at Wheeler Avenue and Winning Way gives a little extra green time to people biking without interfering with people in cars.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

One of Portland’s busiest bike crossings will flow a little more efficiently thanks to a new bike signal activated last Thursday.

The signal gives a green light to people biking southbound on Wheeler Avenue, preparing to curve around the Moda Center into the Rose Quarter Transit Center area. Northbound bus and bike traffic here has a green signal phase of its own, but that doesn’t conflict with southbound bike traffic.

Now that the bike-specific traffic signal is installed, people can bike both north and south during that signal phase. Here’s the description from Peter Koonce, signals division manager at the Portland Bureau of Transportation:

I had wanted to do it this from my first day at the City, but there’s a lot of things like that. So, the story goes that [local traffic analyst] Kirk Paulsen reminded me of this. When a citizen asks for something, the City (with appropriate policies and resources: money, time, and expertise) has an ability to respond. In this case, I had an intern draw up the plans and get it to the hands of the electricians who do the construction work.

The signal is a simple addition that will reduce delay. The added green time for the southbound bike lane allows people on bikes to go through when the northbound bus/bike only movement is green. Previously, we treated each direction (north, south, eastbound) as separate movements because of the heavy left turn conflict of cars trying to get on the freeway. The southbound bicycle lane does not conflict with the northbound bus/bike movement.

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Koonce said the project cost about $5,000. The new signal phase adds about 12 to 15 seconds of southbound green time, depending on the time of day and amount of northbound traffic detected.

Koonce said the project actually includes at least two violations of the national standards for bike-specific signals, which are widely used in Europe but still considered “experimental” in the United States. The new signal violates two rules, he says:

- First, the bike signal is positioned too close to the main traffic signal, leading to a risk that people in cars will see the bike signal and think it’s for them. Koonce said Portland addressed this by inserting metal bars in the signal head that make the signal invisible to people in the rightmost mixed-traffic lane.

- Second, the bike signal isn’t allowed to be green in any situation where there’s a potential conflict from any direction, such as eastbound cars turning right from Winning onto Wheeler. Koonce said this didn’t seem to be a major risk in this situation.

“I don’t think a lot of people leaving the Moda Center are circulating around the Moda Center,” Koonce said. Still, he said the issue might be worth more investigation.

Koonce, who sits on the national board that oversees traffic signal regulations (where he’s generally been an outvoted voice for change) said the national signal standards had been written “to be as conservative as possible” to prevent “overuse of bike signals.”

He said Portland had installed the bike signal anyway.

“It seemed like a good idea,” he said.

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Petition launched to strip Portland of ‘Platinum’ bike-friendly status

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 11:08
Petition at Change.org.

It’s been nearly seven years since the League of American Bicyclists bestowed Portland with its highest honor; a Platinum-level bicycle-friendly community designation.

Now there’s an effort to strip Portland of that award.

Platinum is the highest ranking possible in the League’s widely-respected program that judges cities with a combination of technical analysis, local expert interviews, and an application process. Portland is the only large city to reach this status — the other cities are Fort Collins and Boulder in Colorado and Davis, California.

31-year old Portland resident Will Vanlue has launched a petition on Change.org to encourage the League to downgrade our status. Vanlue told us via phone this morning that he’s “fed up” with the lack of progress being made to improve access for bicycles in Portland and he hopes his effort will “light a fire” under Portland policy makers, elected leaders, and advocates.

Vanlue is a former volunteer and was communications director for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) before taking a job as a delivery rider for SoupCycle. Riding around Portland streets all day has given Vanlue a discouraging view of just how bad Portland streets are for biking. Back in January we profiled his crusade to report bike access shortcomings to the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation.

This petition, he says, is the “logical extension of the traffic hazard reporting I’ve been doing.”

“No one seems to be pushing the City to generally improve the streets that are being built and policies that are being implemented,” said Vanlue. “I’d like to talk about more positive things; but I just haven’t had a lot of positive experiences to talk about. When I’m out riding around I’m always watching my back to not get run over… I’m just fed up.”

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Last week Cedar Knoll, a co-worker of Vanlue’s, was hit by a truck while crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Knoll says the police failed to make an official report of his collision and he had to take the law into his own hands just to get justice.

That was the last straw for Vanlue.

“Seeing somebody I know get hit and not seeing anyone take action is ridiculous,” he said.

Part of Vanlue’s increased urgency around bike safety comes from the fact that he is about to become a father in August. “I’m going to have a kid that’s going to be riding around these streets and most of the place I ride in Portland feel like they’re getting worse, not better.”

Vanlue hopes to spur attention for his cause on social media via photos and messages tagged with #downgradePortland.

For their part, the League has already openly questioned Portland’s Platinum status after the city’s controversial decision to ban bicycling at River View Natural Area.

It would be an unprecedented move for the League to downgrade a city from Platinum. According to the League’s process, Portland’s status wouldn’t come up for possible changes until the renewal period in 2017 (the reward was last renewed in 2013).

Below is the text of Vanlue’s petition as posted at Change.org:

Introduction

We are asking the League of American Bicyclists to downgrade Portland’s ranking in their Bicycle Friendly Communities program.

Below are a number of ways that we, as people who want to ride bicycles in Portland, believe we have fallen short of the specific A​ttributes of a Bicycle Friendly Community ​(sometimes known as the “5 E’s”) outlined in the League of American Bicyclists’ B​icycle Friendly Communities​ program.

We are not bringing these issues to light to criticize people who drive or ride bicycles, nor indict specific people or organizations. We are outlining our concerns here because Portland should not be held up as an example for other cities to follow.

We hope that Portland, one day soon, will become a “Platinum” city, but our current status as a “Platinum” community is odds with the reality of our streets. If other communities follow our lead they too will end up constructing roads & policies that increase traffic conflict, risk, and stress.

Engineering
There are many instances when, even after someone dies while riding a bicycle, when the City puts the onus for safety on people who ride bicycles despite their having no legal obligation to yield to other people’s travel.
Warning signs targeting people choosing to ride a bicycle are readily applied, but rarely are people warned to drive safely through the installation of traffic signs.

Many streets are built using outdated design standards, or standards that do not adequately protect Portlanders in the context ­ volume and speed ­ of traffic on a particular street. Some of the few facilities “for bicycles” are not well maintained and often slow or restrict the travel of people on bicycles. Facilities on the street also frequently drop out or degrade at intersections, specifically where there are the most opportunities for conflict.
Many non­arterial streets have speed limits set at 30 MPH or above, which aren’t even enforced on a regular basis. Many streets with high speed traffic have no facilities for people on bicycles, at all.

The network of neighborhood greenways has been determined to be deficient in many ways, including being pockmarked with areas of high­speed, over­capacity traffic.

Traffic facilities do not connect well with transit hubs, and vice versa.

There is no convenient way to provide feedback about engineering of on­-street facilities, and feedback is often spread across different City departments that do not actively coordinate.

The City continues to actively restrict off­-road bicycle access.

Education
Neighborhood greenways are not designed in a way to clearly illustrate their low­-stress intent, nor is there a public campaign aimed to curb reckless behavior which degrades their practicality.

Public campaigns are often aimed at the victims of traffic violence, not the behaviors that cause crashes and fatalities.

No robust adult education program exists outside of the diversion program.

Encouragement
Sunday Parkways is a terrific, popular activity but it is chronically underfunded and is on a scant few weekends each year. The lack of a regular, perhaps weekly, program causes confusion on the part of people trying to drive around the event. Sunday Parkways routes are significantly constricted around motorways.

Tourism campaigns often over­sell the promise of a safe, comfortable experience, setting up visitors for a shock when they try to travel by bicycle in Portland.

Portland continues to lack a public bike share system.

There are no themed loop rides, as are suggested by the League of American Bicyclists, despite this being an easy activity that could be developed around our existing Neighborhood Greenways.

Enforcement
Traffic laws are regularly ignored in Portland. Basic laws governing safety ­ like the speed limit, prohibition of parking on sidewalks and in bike lanes, stopping for people in crosswalks and at stop signs ­ are rarely if ever enforced by the authorities

The City of Portland lacks effective tools for reporting dangerous behavior. The City’s official reporting app lacks a reporting category specifically for hazards or superfluous closures impacting bicycle traffic. The behavior of officers and dispatch operators discourages people who ride bikes from reporting traffic crashes.

Portland Police Bureau officers, as a matter of policy, do not report or cite people in motor vehicle crashes that result in minor injuries. However, PPB officers also stage enforcement stings on popular bicycle routes, targeting common behaviors that do not pose a significant safety risk, and pushing the action to local media which creates the appearance of a publicity stunt.

Our regional trail network, intended as a destination for families, is not consistently patrolled by law enforcement and many trails have history of violent, threatening, or illegal behavior.

Evaluation & Planning
Little progress has been made on the City’s Bicycle Master Plan. Responses to Portlanders’ concerns are recorded and acted upon inconsistently.

Traffic crashes are studied and some changes are implemented, but dangerous conflict points and chronically unsafe behavior is often ignored unless it causes a fatality or serious injury.

Data is not collected before and after enforcement actions to evaluate their long­-term impacts.

City officials frequently adapt street designs to fit pro-­motor vehicle, anti­-bike opinions. Suggestions from pro­bicycle grassroots advocacy organizations and other community groups are not equally represented in street design. Compounding this disparity, the largest local bicycle advocacy organization has, as a matter of strategy, shifted away from actively working in Portland and rarely speaks out regarding potential changes to Portland’s streets. These forces create situations where the concerns of large groups of residents are subjugated to the whims of a small number of wealthy, well-­connected interests.

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