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Weekend Event Guide: Corn cross, Blazers Bike Night, sausage ride, and more

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 12:19
Let’s do this!
(Photo: J Maus/BikePortland)

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

Things are getting a bit lean on the various ride calendars… Except, that is, if you are a cyclocross fan (and can get to Bend). If you aren’t into racing and you’ll be in Portland this weekend… Might I suggest joining 100 other BikePortland readers for Blazers Bike Night on Sunday!?

Of course, Halloween is tomorrow and we all know that the streets will be full of folks headed to parties and filling up panniers with candy and treats.

Have fun!

Friday, October 31st

Halloween Bike Bash – 2:00 to 8:00 pm at Crows Feet Commons in Bend (875 NW Brooks St)
If you’re in Bend this weekend for the Cross Crusade races (see below), you don’t want to miss this. Crusaders and Crows Feet Commons have teamed up to offer craft and candy making, a kids bike race, beer, and general merriment to kick off the weekend. More info here.

Saturday, November 1st

Sandy/Boring Corn Cross – All day at Liepold Farms (1405 SE Richey Road in Boring)
Take a scenic farm, add the course design magic of Portland’s renowned cyclocross legend, veteran, and consummate pro Erik Tonkin, and mix in the support from Tonkin’s shop Sellwood Cycle Repair, and you get the Corn Cross. Another thing that makes this race so great is that two of its presenting sponsors are the City of Sandy and the Clackamas County Tourism board. Bring the family and enjoy the farm, the food, the corn maze, live music, and more. More info here (PDF).

Cross Crusade #5 – All day at Deschutes Brewery in Bend’s Old Mill District
This is day one of a big, two-day weekend of ‘cross racing in Bend. Racers and spectators at this event will enjoy one of the best courses on the Crusade circuit. More info here.

Verboort Populaire – 9:00 am in Forest Grove (Lincoln Park, 2749 Main Street)
If you are randoneurring-curious this is the event you’ve been waiting for. Start in Forest Grove and enjoy a scenic, 63-mile loop up the Vernonia, ending at the annual Verboort Sausage Festival. More info here.

North Portland Figure 8 – 10:30 AM at Wilshire Park (NE 36th and Skidmore)
28-mile route planned that will go from northeast up to north Portland with a stop at the Grand Central Bakery on Fremont. More info here.

Jungle Cross Warehouse Party – 8:00 pm to 3:00 am at Deschutes Brewery Warehouse (399 SW Shevlin-Hixon Dr.)
This is the Party of the Year for bike racers. Note the “Jungle” theme and get ready for great DJs, live jungle entertainment acts, lots of jungle juice, and probably lots of jungle boogie-ing. $15 entry fee benefits the High Desert Museum. More info here.

Sunday, November 2nd

Cross Crusade #6 – All day at Deschutes Brewery in Bend’s Old Mill District
Come to see the great costumed racers and revel in the annual Halloween cyclocross traditions. After a day of racing and a big, blowout party on Saturday, most racers and their fans will be tired and in recovery mode — which always makes for fun times! More info here.

BikePortland Blazers Bike Night — Meet at Peace Park at 4:15 pm
Join 100 (or so) of your fellow BikePortland readers for a night of Blazermania. We’ll meet at Peace Park and then do a short parade loop to the Moda Center. We’ll have our bikes and gear taken care of by the Go By Bike bike valet service, pick up the custom reflective Blazer logo stickers they’ve made just for us, give away a kids helmet signed by LaMarcus Aldridge, make some bike-themed signs to hold during the game (get ready for our big moment on the Jumbotron!) and enjoy the live music and other pre-game festivities. Ticket information and more info here.

— If we missed anything, feel free to let us know and/or give it a shout-out in the comments.


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Clackamas County wants Metro to fight climate change by widening roads

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 07:32
Climate change in action — or inaction, depending on your point-of-view.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This morning, Clackamas County’s commissioners are considering whether to urge the Portland region to attempt to fight climate change by adding more lanes to its freeways.

“Congestion is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” the five commissioners write in a draft letter to the regional government Metro, part of their public agenda this week (see p. 26). “It is critical that the language in the Preferred Strategy [of Metro's Climate Smart Communities plan] reflect a continued commitment to increasing highway capacity, particularly in those areas of critical congestion like the I-205 South Corridor and the Rose Quarter.”

The commissioners of the largely suburban and rural county to Portland’s south and southeast do not mention, in their draft letter, why they think that additional lanes added to local freeways would be unlikely to fill up just as others have.

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The letter is a response to Metro’s climate plan. Metro’s draft version of that plan (PDF) calls for the region to dedicate 58 percent of related funding over the next 20 years — about $20 billion — to roads, even though the report says that “adding lane miles to relieve congestion … will not solve congestion on its own.”

Metro’s draft plan calls for $12.4 billion to be spent on transit, which it rates as enough to achieve a 16 to 20 percent cut in per-capita carbon emissions. The plan calls for $2 billion to go to improving biking and walking, which it rates as enough for a 3 to 6 percent reduction.

But most of the money identified as part of Metro’s climate plan is slated to go to road improvement or construction, which the plan identifies as reducing greenhouse gases by less than 1 percent. (The report notes that this figure doesn’t include “synergies” with other policies, however.)

(Source: Metro Climate Smart Communities Scenarios Project Draft Approach)

Metro estimates that this set of investments would cut regional carbon emissions per person by 29 percent over the next 20 years.

Some have questioned Metro’s priorities. For example, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission recommended more spending on biking and walking relative to public transit (PDF), arguing that “While transit investments are critical, active transportation investments are likely to provide greater rates of return in mobility for the relatively modest funds invested and will also generate significant health co-benefits.”

According to widely cited studies of traffic behavior, increased freeway capacity tends to lead to more and longer driving trips rather than less congestion, because people adjust their habits to drive on a road until it becomes too congested to be useful.

Metro’s climate plan does not mention tolling as a way to reduce freeway congestion. Nor do the Clackamas County commissioners.

Last week, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance urged its supporters to contact Metro and push the organization to invest in transportation modes that emit less greenhouse gas and deprioritize the “road widening and highway construction” that make people emit more greenhouse gas.

— Earlier this month we looked at five smart things Metro’s plan does to fight climate change.


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Portlanders say street parking is getting worse, but their neighborhoods are getting better

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 15:35

The people have spoken, and they say that in most of Portland, it’s getting harder to park a car on the street:

(Source: 2011 and 2014 community surveys, Portland auditor’s office)

Since the central-city building boom resumed, residents of every part of the city except East Portland are more likely to say it’s annoying to find a car parking space.

But this is interesting: they say something else, too.

Since the central-city building boom resumed, residents of every part of the city except East Portland are more likely to say they’re highly satisfied with their neighborhoods.

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These are just a couple sets of numbers in the massive annual community survey out today from the Portland auditor’s office, and take them with a grain of salt: all of these changes are within the margins of error. (It’s ±4-5 percentage points for neighborhoods, ±1.7 percentage points citywide.)

In any case, as Portland begins a year-long process of trying to find long-term solutions to its street parking situation, it’s pretty clear that open street parking spaces have been getting scarcer. But to the extent that these figures are true, this would be exactly the outcome city planning officials say they’re shooting for: neighborhoods that are getting more crowded because they’re getting, on balance, more awesome.


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PPB officer on a mission to curb downtown bike theft

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 11:48
Officer David Sanders.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s a strong feeling among many in the community that the Portland Police Bureau simply doesn’t care about bike theft. I hear this sentiment all the time, and I agree that the bureau needs to step up and make this growing problem a higher priority.

In the meantime however, it’s good to know there are some PPB officers going out of their way to battle bike thieves. Officer David Sanders is one of them; but unfortunately he’s doing it inside a bureau that has yet to join him in the fight.

I met Sanders last week at his headquarters office in Old Town.

As he led me into a conference table, I noticed about 8-10 bikes strewn about. They were just the latest batch that Sanders and his partners have taken off the streets and now hope to connect with their owners. Sanders is one of six members of the the downtown Bicycle Patrol Unit (four of which are paid for by Portland Patrol Inc., a private security company that contracts with the PPB), whose job is to keep the peace on the streets. The bulk of his day is responding to low-level disputes and establishing relationships with downtown residents and business owners.

But whenever he can find a few extra minutes, his attention turns to bike theft.

Sanders and his partners cover a swath of downtown that sees more bike theft than anywhere else in the city. Its boundaries include: Portland State University to Union Station and SW 10th the the river.

The PPB recovered dozens of bikes during a raid in Old Town in July 2012.

As we chatted, he pulled out a thick folder with “bike theft” on the label. Inside were various bits of research and stories he’d printed up from the web, information on suspects, and statistics and maps showing the extent of the problem.

“There’s no one [in the bureau] dedicated to bike theft. It would be nice if the city said, ‘This is a priority for us.’”
— Officer David Sanders, Portland Police Bureau

According to stats Sanders requested from the Portland Police Data System (PPDS), there have been 887 bikes stolen in the central core area (downtown Portland and the lower eastside) in the past 20 months. Based on the bureau’s estimated value, those stolen bikes represent a total of $748,456 in lost property.

To Sanders, this dollar amount validates his hunch that bike theft is a serious issue. When I asked if he felt it deserved more attention from the bureau and City Hall, Sanders said, “Absolutely,” without hesitation. In three and-a-half years on his current beat, Sanders has noticed a definite uptick. Unfortunately, despite his interest and eagerness in tackling the problem, Sanders can only do so much because bike theft is not a significant part of his official job description.

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“There’s no one [in the bureau] dedicated to bike theft,” he shared, “It would be nice if the city said, ‘This is a priority for us.’”

Sanders said “person crimes” are where most of the bureau’s resources are focused; but he also pointed out that they do take auto theft seriously, so perhaps the consequences for bike theft in the criminal code should be more severe.

A lack of internal support, however, has not stopped Sanders. In addition to studying the crime by crunching numbers and bike theft hot spot maps, he’s also made personal visits to local bike shops to warn them about specific known thieves.

Top Stolen Bike Brands
(by cases and value, since 01/01/13):
  • Trek: 115, $103,915
  • Specialized: 81, $91,221
  • Cannondale: 43, $42,027
  • Giant: 38, $40,221

  • *Source: Portland Police Data System (PPDS)

On October 10th, Sanders issued a Central Precinct Bulletin with the mugshots and names of 11 bike theft subjects. He then printed it out and shared it with several downtown bike shops. He wants shop employees to know these faces because many of them are repeat offenders who specialize in taking bikes. Sanders told me about one person he arrested who had “About 10 u-lock keys on a key-ring.”

Many of the bikes Sanders recovers come from what he referred to as “chop shops” that operate in known encampments around the city. He mentioned two specific locations where he’s tracked down stolen bikes: NW 19th and Savier and under the I-5 freeway at SE Water and Stark. (For more on how the PPB handles chop shops, see our story from last year.)

Sanders also wants to start training other officers to get them up to speed on bicycles. A big problem, he explained, is that most officers — when they arrest someone and find bicycles in their possession — have no idea how to distinguish between a $5,000 racing bike and a $50 beater bike.

Raising the priority of this crime within the PPB culture also means that more officers must start seeing bicycles as vital transportation vehicles that have not just a similar (if not greater) street value as many used cars, but are also just as important to their owners.

One thing Sanders hasn’t pursued much is a bait-bike program where a decoy bike is put out and monitored by officers in hopes that a thief tries to take it. “No time,” replied Sanders when I asked about this, “I’m doing all of this stuff on-the-side as it is.”

If Sanders ran the bureau, he’d love to see a central investigator to coordinate bike theft efforts and two to three officers assigned to the project. “That would be a huge win for the city,” he said.

— This is part of our ongoing reporting on bike theft. Read past coverage here.

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Portland’s ‘Peacock Lane’ holiday light show will go car-free on busy nights

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 09:15
More bike visits mean less trouble for the neighborhood.

First, it was the Last Thursday art festival. Then, Old Town’s weekend nightlife district.

Now, Portland’s 90-year-old holiday light tradition is also dealing with crowded streets by going car-free on certain nights.

The catch: It looks as if the car-free nights this December on Peacock Lane, which is one block east of SE Chavez Boulevard between Stark and Belmont, won’t be announced in advance.

That’s the word this month from the Peacock Lane Neighborhood Association:

Due to record breaking crowds in recent years, the Portland Police Department has decided to take a more active role this year in managing vehicle access to the Lane and on surrounding streets. “Our goal is to maximize safety, and any time the crowds cannot be contained to sidewalks, we will redirect vehicles in order to protect pedestrians and prevent traffic backups throughout the neighborhood,” says Portland Cadet and Reserve Coordinator Officer John Shadron. Traffic management may include closing the street to motor vehicles, or allowing right turns only onto and from Peacock Lane during peak viewing hours. Peacock Lane residents will be sending out live updates on weather and traffic via Twitter and Facebook.

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As always, residents will be serving free hot cocoa and cider from the handmade booth in the center of Peacock Lane. Any optional donations collected at the cocoa booth are used to cover the costs of the event (cocoa and cider supplies, street maintenance and cleanup). In years when donations have exceeded event costs, a donation is made to a local charity selected by Lane residents. Vendors, performers, and other organizations are asked to refrain from soliciting or fundraising during viewing hours. Peacock Lane president Becky Patterson explains, “We’ve always felt that this should be a free event for the community. We will continue to appreciate everyone’s cooperation in keeping Peacock Lane festive and community-focused, rather than a commercial endeavor.”

The spectacular light displays are on from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night from Dec. 15-31, with the lightest crowds after Christmas and before 8 p.m.

This is a perfect example of why car-free spaces can work: not out of any crusading anti-car agenda, but because when a bunch of people want to enjoy the same space at the same time, you just run out of room if everybody tries to bring a car with them.

Maybe organizers and police will even consider publicizing these nights in advance, the way Crater Lake National Park did after its impromptu car-free weekend turned out to be a roaring success, in order to give people a cue that it’ll be a perfect night to roll over on a bike. That’d be another local holiday tradition worth looking forward to.

Thanks to reader Tony Jordan, president of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, for the tip.


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NYC investment company buys Alta Bicycle Share, hires former transit CEO

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 13:11
DC’s Capital Bikeshare system was a hit – a bigger one, it turned out, than an independently owned Alta Bicycle Share had the capacity to capitalize on.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

You might have heard by now: A local bike business that bootstrapped its way to the national stage, and then suffered a dizzying series of problems, has sold.

Alta Bicycle Share, a startup that unexpectedly became much larger than the bike planning company that birthed it after launching popular and successful systems in Boston and Washington DC, announced Tuesday that it has been purchased by New York City real estate developer REQX Ventures.

Terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed. In July, the Wall Street Journal pegged the deal at $40 million, but it’s not clear whether any of that money went to Alta’s founders or will be invested directly into the company. It’s also not clear whether Alta’s six cofounders (including local executive and former Portland bicycle coordinator Mia Birk) retain any ownership in the firm.

In July, Capital New York (the first to report on this deal) reported that 51 percent of the company was in talks to be sold. This came after news that NYC’s Citi Bike system had been operating in the red despite its popularity.

Whatever the case, the cofounders of Alta Bicycle Share still own and operate their separate company, Alta Planning + Design. That company has 150 employees worldwide and remains headquartered in Portland.

Tuesday’s announcement will have no immediate effect on Portland’s theoretical deal with Alta to launch a similar 750-bike system in Portland. As we reported this spring, Portland had reached verbal agreements with a private sponsor and was days away from a launch announcement before backing off amid concerns that Alta wouldn’t come up with working equipment for a local system.

Former VP of Alta Bicycle Share Mia Birk, shown
here outside her southeast Portland office in
September 2013, one day after the company signed
a $60 million contract with New York City.

Those hardware and software problems, in turn, emerged from the privately owned Alta’s lack of working capital and from the fact that Alta’s exclusive supplier, Montreal-based PBSC, wasn’t able to operate profitably.

It’s possible that the entrance of REQX into the bike share business will inject money into a company that has been treading water for the last year despite rising demand for its service among U.S. cities and their residents. It’s also possible that REQX, a major New York developer, will invest only enough to hold on to Alta’s existing contracts without making efforts to further evolve the business.

On that front, the most hopeful news Tuesday might be the selection of Jay Walder to take over leadership of Alta Bicycle Share. Walder was a successful executive at Transport for London before coming to New York City to run that city’s transit agency, the country’s largest.

As CEO of the MTA, Walder earned $350,000 a year. In 2011, he moved to a job running Hong Kong’s private transit system, where he earned the equivalent of $950,000. So it’s likely that Walder’s hire is a major investment by REQX and a vote of confidence in his ability to grow the bike sharing business.

“It sounds like they’re going to be making more investment into the company, which is great,” said Paul DeMaio of MetroBike, a bikesharing consultant and contractor for Arlington County, Virginia, which co-owns Alta affiliate Capital Bikeshare, in an interview. “They’re getting quality candidates to take some of the corporate roles. … I just hope that they continue to evolve and make improvements.”

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Here are some interesting tidbits from the recent flurry of media coverage.

From the New York Daily News:

Alta, the troubled operator of Citi Bike, sold its stake in the bike share company to REQX Ventures, a real estate company. Prices for an annual membership are expected to jump from $95 a year to $145.

Alta had struggled to make a profit with Citi Bike, the largest bike share program in the country. City officials had refused to greenlight hikes in the program unless new management was brought in.

The company is also benefiting from a whopping $70.5 million cash infusion from its prime corporate sponsor Citi Bank. That added capital brings the financial company’s investment in the program – which costs tax payers nothing – up to $111.5 million.

The Portland Mercury, which last Friday was the first local outlet to share news that a deal was nigh:

Internal Portland Bureau of Transportation documents obtained by the Mercury show Mia Birk, Portland’s former bike coordinator and vice president of Alta Bicycle Share, presented details about the acquisition by REQX in early August. Birk’s presentation apparently touted millions in “upfront new investment” to the company once REQX held the reins, but it appears that’s largely focused on New York’s CitiBike system. Birk’s presentation also mentioned the “building of a sales and marketing team to drive additional corporate sponsorships,” which could be great, if it means someone can find Portland sponsors.

Portland Business Journal, writing today:

Mia Birk said Tuesday that selling the bicycle share business will allow the company [Alta Planning + Design] to refocus on its original mission — facilitating bicycling by creating paths and corridors.

The 150-person company operates from 27 offices, with Portland as its headquarters. Its current projects include bike paths, projects to create protected bike lanes on city streets and sustainable transportation campaigns.

Birk said she loved working on bicycle sharing projects but it’s time to turn the reigns over to a well-funded organization with the connections needed to make the systems work. The 10 bicycle share systems now operating in the U.S. depend on sponsors to foot much of the cost.

The Oregonian, today:

[Portand Bureau of Transportation Spokesman Dylan] Rivera declined to comment about when – or if – the city hopes to launch a bike-share program that is supposed to be funded with a $2 million federal grant and $2 million from local sponsors.

“We’re still involved in an ongoing process to monitor other bike-share programs to see what makes them more successful and less successful,” he said. “We’re continuing to do our due diligence.”

Three years ago, as Alta celebrated the news of their big contract with New York City, Birk called it a “game-changer.” It turns out that was true — although probably not completely in the way she envisioned.

Here at BikePortland, we’re hoping that the willingness of two major New York companies is (like the entry of new companies into the bike share marketplace) a sign that the bike share business model in the United States is on its way out of an endearing but awkward adolescence.

Correction 10/29: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described Paul DeMaio’s relationship to Alta Bicycle Share.


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Willamette River ferry service tops ‘Fearless’ transportation ideas

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 12:39
I have an idea thiiis big. (Brad Biddle at last night’s event.)
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you want to figure out how to move a city’s people around in a way that does not bow to dominant, auto-centric power structures and paradigms, you’ve got to have guts. It was with that in mind that Portland’s nationally renown transportation research center hosted the Fearless event at Portland State University last night.

Before I share a recap of all the intriguing ideas, a bit of housekeeping is in order. That aforementioned research center has been known since its inception in 2006 as the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium, or OTREC. Last night they unveiled a new name. From now on they are simply TREC — the Transportation Research and Education Center.

TREC’s leader, Jennifer Dill, said dropping the “Oregon” from the name was done to reflect the “growth and natural evolution” of their work beyond regional borders.

Now, let’s learn more about the fearless ideas…

Event organizers chose 16 presenters from diverse professional backgrounds; everything from a bus advocate to an Intel engineer. In fact, the four highest vote-getters weren’t transportation-centric at all (I’ll come back to that later).

Each presenter was given three minutes and one slide to share their idea. Votes were taken and tallied immediately afterward.

PSU Professor Ethan Seltzer got things started by saying it’s time to end the standard practice of calling agencies “of transportation.” “Why do we have agencies that are called one thing when we are dealing with a world that is about anything but just one thing?” Getting beyond calling them “highway departments” was a big deal, but now, Seltzer said, “This about culture, not about stuff and it’s time to move on and adopt a different cultural perspective.”

Freelancer artist and designer (of Idaho Stop and CRC animation fame) Spencer Boomhower’s big idea is to promote a “Family Circuit” of multi-use paths that would become a big tourism draw and offer locals a quality opportunity for walking, biking, and exploring. The circuit would include the unbuilt Sullivan’s Gulch and the existing I-205, Springwater, and Esplanade paths. “It would take a lot of little ideas and turn it into one big idea,” he said, “and it would be a revenue generator.”

Nick Falbo, a senior planner at Alta Planning + Design, proposed that we should re-think gas stations. “They represent the most auto-oriented of land-uses yet they occupy some of our most walkable and dense districts.” Falbo wants to see the pumps placed curbside with other utilities and the mini-marts brought up to the edge of the sidewalk.

Bitch Media Online Editor and author Sarah Mirk might seem like a presenter out of left field, but many of you might recall her excellent transportation reporting while on the news staff of the Portland Mercury. Standing in front of a “Hot spot” map of fatal and serious injury collisions, Mirk said we should take the top ten most dangerous intersections and turn them into car-free zones every Sunday. “Have a block party at 82nd and Division, or how about a pet parade at Killingsworth and MLK?” she said. “Temporarily transforming the road can permanently transform our culture.”

Eugenio Arriaga, a graduate research assistant at PSU with a background at the vaunted Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in Guadalajara wants to make bike share more accessible to low-income and transit-starved neighborhoods. “How about serving those who need it the most, instead of individuals who already have a lot of transportation choices.” If we re-thought our bike sharing approach, Arriaga said, “Portland could become a true social innovator in an era of rising social inequality.”

Jerry Seinfeld — I mean, Chris DiStefano — who came out with a Seinfeld-esque, “Transportation planning, what’s the deal with that?! Am I right?” had a funny idea that would shame people who text and drive. The Rapha marketing and general bike industry insider said, “You get a ticket and we take you to the city limit. Just get out… no soup for you!”

How about we take transportation data gleaned from “smart” devices and use it to create fun and friendly competitions that encourage more walking, biking, and transit? That was the idea from PSU Professor Kelly Clifton.

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Citizen Charlie Pye said Portland should stop using trucks to deliver freight in the city. Instead, he wants us to use autonomous vehicles in a network of underground tubes. This “Cargocap” was designed by a German university and they’ve even got working prototypes that have an estimated cost of just $5 million per mile. Think that’s crazy? “In the 19th century everyone ran raw sewage through city streets,” he reminded the audience, “If you told them to use underground tubes they would have thought you were crazy.”

Vivian Satterfield, a bus advocate with OPAL Environmental Justice, had a simple pitch: Make transit free. “Passe livre!” she shouted as she walked off stage.

The BTA’s Rob Sadowsky was one of three presenters with a Sunday Parkways-related idea. He said we should make the event bigger and better by creating a permanent route that runs on 17 miles of Burnside, then spurs to the north and south on major roads like 122nd, NW 23rd, Grand, and so on. “Sunday Parkways isn’t big and grand enough, let’s make it ciclovia-style!”

There were two Intel employees on last nights list of presenters. One of them was Brad Biddle whose side project, the Open Bike Initiative, is an intriguing alternative to standard bike share systems. Biddle’s big idea is to expand his concept and create an “open, ubiquitous network of bike sharing systems that are completely interoperable from a technical and business point-of-view.” “We should not be city number 551 in the world to implement a previous version of bike share,” he said, “We should be city number one implementing the next generation of bike share.”

Sam Seskin of CH2MHill brought two balloons on stage and urged everyone to simply “Break the bubble.” He wants transportation planners to get out of their comfort zone. “We can’t maintain the vision of our transportation needs if we’re ignoring other people’s points of view,” he said, “Our planning culture has become a civic religion… We’re a weird kind of cult.”

PSU PhD student Kristi Currans was another person who wanted more carfree experiences. Her idea? Carfree happy hours throughout the city ever day. She’d use automated bollards that would pop up at the appropriate time so that the streets could come alive with people instead of just cars. “Stop thinking of roadways as links to desinations, think of them as destinations themselves.”

Kevin Bross, an Intel engineer by day (he’s also on the Open Bike Initiative team), shared what seems like a very sensible idea — yet still a bit fearless: High-speed passenger ferry service on the Willamette River. He got the idea during a trip to Brisbane, Australia and said such a service could connect St. Johns to Oregon City (with stations on both sides of the river) at a fraction of the cost and with fewer political/public controversies that usually come with rail projects.

GlobeSherpa’s Nat Parker had a big idea once. He wanted to be able to purchase transit tickets with his smartphone. With that done, he know has a wonkier request. He was the standardized transit data feed that developers use to create cool apps to include ticketing information so that “Wherever you go you have one common experience and you don’t have to figure it out in each place.”

Steve Thorne, a professor of world languages and literature at PSU, thinks Portland needs more “flaneurie,” or, urban strolling and wandering. The way to do that, he said, is to bury Burnside so we can have a continuous parkway/plaza space from Waterfront Park to the North Park Blocks. His inspiration came after he and his kids were “nearly killed” when someone ran a red light on Burnside. “And my 82-year old mother just got knee replacement surgery,” he added, “So we should offer electric bicycle share too.”

When the votes were tallied, Brad Biddle’s “ubiquitous open source bike share” and Steve Thorne’s “bury Burnside” proposals tied for third. Second place went to Eugenio Arriaga’s vision for bike share and the winner was Kevin Bross and his “MetroCat” high speed passenger ferry service.

It’s interesting that all of the most popular ideas came from people who are not directly involved in transportation planning. Will any of them see the light of day? That depends on how fearless Portland leaders want to be.

What are your favorites? Or, do you have a big idea of your own you wish you could have shared?


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Postcard from San Francisco: How not to build a parklet

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 08:07
A parklet on Powell Street in San Francisco.
(Photos by Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

I spent a few days in San Francisco last week, learning and sharing stories at the NACTO Designing Cities Conference. It’s not my favorite city (obviously) but it’s a lovely place.

Once in a while, though, they definitely screw up.

A lot of downtown SF has reached the point that its sidewalks are pretty much crowded all day. Nowhere is that more true than Powell Street, a Times Square-tier tourism zone that runs alongside the thrumping cords of the city’s historic cable car.

In 2011, with these crowds in mind, the city accepted a donation from Audi that paid for a row of aluminum parklets bumping out from the sidewalk along Powell.

Unlike with Portland’s “street seats,” there’s no pressure to buy a drink to use this public space. That’s nice. But the weird thing is that a bunch of this new “pedestrianized” space offers nothing at all to do.

You can’t walk on it, except sort of as a right-side passing lane, because it ends after 20 feet. You can’t sit in it, because there’s nowhere to sit. You could lean; people occasionally leaned. You could park a bike; a few folks did this. But in general: there is no way to use large swaths of these parklets.

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The obvious missing ingredient here is seating. And seating is not entirely missing from these parklets. Indeed, on almost every occasion that the parklets made seating available, it was being used:

I’m sure there are lots of things that people occasionally use this space for. I saw several cigarettes being smoked. On Friday night, I saw a man laying out artwork for sale, using this otherwise empty space as his display area.

And there’s little question that these parklets are doing Powell Street more good than they would as a few extra car parking spaces or a pair of additional travel lanes. Also, the plants look nice.

But for most of the day, these parklets are just pockets of dead real estate in the bustling, seating-starved city around them. I’m no landscape architect, but the lesson for cities couldn’t be clearer: if you build public parklets, put stuff in them.


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National ‘Bicyclist Safety’ report out today gets actual safety trends backwards

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 16:40
A high-profile report about bike safety warns that “the number of bicyclists killed on U.S. roadways is trending upward.” Wait, what?
(Click for report.)

A report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association Monday is a perfect example of what can go wrong when safety experts get stuck behind their own windshields.

The GHSA, an umbrella organization for state departments of transportation whose claims to fame include popularizing the phrase “aggressive pedestrians,” is surely staffed by smart people who are working hard to reduce injuries and deaths. But the problems in this report start right at the top.

Let’s take them one by one.

The language framing the report is pointlessly divisive

Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety

As Jonathan has said for years, the word “bicyclist” is silly because it’s rooted in the idea that people are monomodal — that a “bicyclist” is a fundamentally different sort of person than a “motorist.” We should all just use the word “bicycling” instead. Anybody can bicycle. (And most Americans do.)

As the headline of the GHSA press release about this report (and therefore the framing of umpteen media stories being published about it) shows, this isn’t a trivial concern:

Bicyclist Fatalities a Growing Problem for Key Groups
Adult Males and Urban Environments Now Represent Bulk of Deaths

As if fatalities among these “key groups” aren’t a problem for the rest of us, too?

Then there’s the subtitle, which gives a hint of the single biggest problem in this report…

The report makes no effort to calculate fatality rates as a share of ridership

Here’s one of the five terrifying infographics helpfully released by the GHSA, in accordance with the modern media best practice of making it easy for reporters to do their job entirely by copying and pasting.

I’m not sure why report author Dr. Allan Williams, the former chief scientist for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, decided to assess the risk of biking by tallying the number of times somebody died rather than considering the probability that somebody would die.

In any case, to help him out, I spent an hour looking up some figures from the 1977 and 2009 National Household Travel Surveys that might help put this report in perspective. For example, it’s possible that the increasing share of bike deaths among adults (shown in the chart above) might have something to do with this:

With a calculator we can also use Williams’s numbers to estimate the absolute number of adult bike fatalities per year:

And, oh yeah, it might be helpful to consider this:

Hey, you know what? We ought to be able to put this all together and figure out … well, what do you know.

For those of you keeping count, that’s a 43 percent decline in the risk of getting on bike.

That said, it’d be great to further reduce this risk. Let’s look at some other passages from the report.

The list of states where there are lots of bike fatalities is just a list of states where there are lots of people

The greatest numbers of bicyclist deaths occurred in high population states with many urban centers: California (338), Florida (329), Texas (143), New York (138), Illinois (80), and Michigan (72). These six states accounted for more than half (54 percent) of all bicyclist fatalities during this time period.

Here are the five most populous U.S. states: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois. Michigan is ninth. I believe the webcomic XKCD has offered the definitive analysis of an “analysis” such as this.

Between 2010 and 2012, deaths increased in 22 states, decreased in 23 and D.C. and stayed the same in five. That is, less than half the states had increases in deaths over this period when deaths were increasing nationally. This is due to a few states having large increases, especially in Florida (+37) and California (+23). There were also double-digit increases in Texas (+14) and Louisiana (+12). The largest decrease was in Michigan (-10).

Okay! This is a slightly more useful observation. Here’s another way to phrase it: though bike deaths continue to become less common in most states, in the last few years they’ve become more geographically concentrated, especially in Florida, California, Texas and Louisiana.

The report dismisses the rapidly spreading installation of protected bike lanes

Roads were built to accommodate motor vehicles with little concern for pedestrians and bicyclists. Integrating motor vehicles and bicycles in already-built environments presents challenges. The most protective way to accomplish this is through total physical separation of bicycles and motor vehicles. Research confirms that “cycle paths,” which do this, provide the best safety (Teschke, 2012), but they are rarely feasible.

Williams makes a policy judgment here in the face of the fact that cycle tracks (I think that’s the phrase he was looking for) are rapidly being installed across the country as we speak. He goes on to mention bike lanes, bike boulevards, and bike-only signals as more “feasible” ways to increase bike safety.

He does not discuss the feasibility of continuing to expand auto capacity throughout the nation’s suburbs in an unending hope that the next travel lane will be the one that never fills up.

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The report names drunk biking and biking without a helmet as major safety problems without offering evidence

Despite the association of biking with healthy lifestyles and environmental benefits, a surprisingly large number of fatally injured bicyclists have blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or higher. This was the case for 28 percent of those aged 16 and older in 2012, just a few percentage points lower than for passenger vehicle drivers with high BACs (33 percent). The percentage of bicyclists with high BACs has remained relatively constant from 1982 to 2012, ranging from 23 percent to 33 percent. Of note is the fact that between 1982 and 1992, the percentage of high BACs among bicyclists changed little, but dropped sharply for passenger vehicle drivers.

It’s not clear why it’s “surprising” that people involved in crashes while biking are slightly less likely to be drunk than people who are involved in crashes while driving. Absent from this section is any analysis of whether people on bikes were killed because their drunkenness led them to actually do anything wrong, or whether it impaired their ability to anticipate and avoid the illegal actions of people in cars. U.S. studies show that people are more or less equally likely to be at fault in a collision whether they’re biking or driving. (These figures, of course, rely on judgments by police, who are getting most of their information only from people who survived each crash.)

In any case, it’s true that drunk biking is generally a bad idea.

The central reason [not to require everyone to wear a helmet while biking] appears to be the concern that laws would discourage people from biking (Pless, 2014). However, the existing literature suggests that this is not the case (Dennis et al., 2010; Olivier et al., 2013), or that any drops in cycling are temporary (Finch et al., 1993; VicRoads, 2014). The lack of universal helmet use laws for bicyclists is a serious impediment to reducing deaths and injuries.

The first part of this paragraph makes a plausible argument that helmet mandates aren’t a big hassle, though it doesn’t seem to consider the global context that helmet use is rare in the countries where biking is overwhelmingly safe and popular. The final sentence in the paragraph, though, comes out of nowhere. Williams offers no evidence for the claim even though it’s subject to intense dispute among bike safety scholars.

The report does make some good points

Males age 20 and older accounted for 74 percent of all bicyclist deaths in 2012, followed by males younger than 20 (14 percent), females 21 and older (10 percent), and females younger than 20 (2 percent).

Though males outnumber females on bikes and adults outnumber children, it’s not by this much. Whatever the reason, a man is more likely to die while biking than a woman, and that’s worth knowing.

It is important that motorists be aware of bicycles not only while they are driving, but also when exiting a car to prevent opening the door on a bike. Education and law enforcement programs addressing both motorists and bicyclists have been used to encourage compliance. Appropriate and lawful behavior on the part of bicyclists and motorists would increase safety and help to reduce the tensions that can result when they share the same space. For this reason, information about relevant laws and best practices regarding bicycle and motor vehicle interactions should be covered in driver manuals, driver education courses, and written tests.

This is all true!

One state pointed out that the bicycle safety problem is “tiny” compared to alcohol, teen drivers, motorcycles, and other issues, and that there was “no justification for spending additional resources on a problem that is so small, relatively speaking.”

This useful bit of perspective is quoted by Williams without comment. It’s true that safety isn’t always the best reason to build bike infrastructure. But it’s certainly the most politically popular reason.

The report misses by far the most important story about bike safety from 1975 to 2012

Notably, current yearly deaths of bicyclists are among the lowest since 1975, when FARS data were first compiled. The highest annual total (1,003) occurred in 1975. Yearly deaths averaged 933 from 1975 to 1979, 889 in the 1980s, 792 in the 1990s, and 696 from 2000 to 2012. The 621 deaths in 2010 were the lowest in the 38 years of FARS. Motor vehicle deaths in general have decreased over this period, and the percent of deaths that are bicyclists has not increased since 1975.

For some reason, Williams decided not to put these figures on a chart. So let’s do that ourselves:

And finally — here’s what the report, once again, fails to do — let’s look at it on a per-trip basis:

OK, that’s the BikePortland Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicycling Safety report. Any questions?

Correction 6:40 pm: An earlier version of this post overstated the risk of adult biking in 2009. (In other words, we were even more right to criticize the report than we thought we were.)

Publisher’s note: To further understand how this report isn’t just sloppy but seriously flawed from a cultural perspective, I strongly recommend reading Michael’s comment below.


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Bixby and her human (Mike Minnick) roll through Portland

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 15:52
Mike Minnick and his trusty companion Bixby in northwest Portland today.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Bicycling is probably the biggest thing that has ever happened to Austin, Texas natives Bixby and Mike Minnick. Just three years ago, Mike was a self-described chain-smoking couch potato who took up cycling on a whim. Bixby was a shelter dog who needed a good home.

Together, they’re on a journey that is changing both of their lives — not to mention inspiring thousands of people along the way.

Minnick at Fields Park this afternoon.

The duo rolled into Portland yesterday, 14 months into a massive, cross-country journey that started in Lubec, Maine last year (Bixby is chronicling their journey at and on Facebook). Minnick, 38, has ridden his Yuba Mundo cargo bike from the east coast, down to the Florida Keys, through the Gulf Coast, and then up to the Pacific Northwest. After hearing about them on Facebook a few weeks ago, we met up at Fields Park earlier today.

Between bouts of fetch with Bixby, Minnick expounded on the virtues of traveling the country by bike with an adorable border collie mix as a co-pilot. “She’s a big attraction wherever we go,” he said. “I’ll leave her in the bucket while I run into a store and when I come out there will be 30 people standing around taking pictures.”

After she was done playing fetch, Bixby leaped up into her spot on the bike’s big rear rack. Minnick has bolted the bottom half of a dog crate to the rack and filled it with blankets, a pad, and a sleeping bag so Bixby stays warm and comfortable. A fetching stick is bolted to the side, along with some dog toys, a travel guitar, a spare tire, and the rest of the things you tend to accumulate when you live on your bike (like a big rear reflector he picked up off the road in Louisiana and an air horn he picked up in Florida, because “Florida is by far the most dangerous place to ride.”).

Minnick says his bike and all the gear (including Bixby) weighs 276 pounds.

Like many cross-country riders, Minnick is doing this for a cause. His goal is to raise money and awareness for dog adoptions through shelters and humane societies. “Bixby was a shelter dog too, and she’s a shining example of loyalty and she’s always ready for adventure.” (I can attest to Bixby’s awesomeness.)

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Mike has a nifty solar panel that keeps his speakers charged and he uses a bluetooth signal to get turn-by-turn directions from his phone.

But this ride’s cause is also Minnick himself. When the idea of bicycling got him up off that couch three years ago, he sold everything he owned and went on a long road trip that ended with the start of his current journey. Asked what the end point of his trip would be, he gave me that classic bike tourer non-answer. After trying to name a few places to satisfy my question, he admitted, “I set out on this to change my life, and I don’t want to stop anytime soon,” he said, gushing about how cycling has had such a profoundly positive impact on his life. “And this is coming from a guy who used to drive two blocks to get a pack of smokes.”

If he does ever settle down, Minnick says he’ll probably write a kids book about all the adventures he and Bixby have gone through. “Our daily life is so much like a cartoon.”

In the meantime, life will remain gloriously simple for this endearing pair. Asked for any words of wisdom as he pedaled off to his next destination (Cycle Dog on NW 23rd, naturally), Minnick said, “Hug your dog. Ride your bike.”

— Mike and Bixby are at Pioneer Square right now (Monday, 10/27) and will be there until about 5:30 or so. Roll over and say hi, then consider following them via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


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Construction will detour bikes off SE Clinton for up to a month

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 13:00
Click to enlarge.

Late Friday the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services issued a revision of their construction detour plans that will impact bicycle travel on SE Clinton between 33rd place and 35th Avenue.

The bureau’s Clinton Green Street project, which is replacing 3,800 feet of 100 year-old sewer pipe and adding bioswales and other stormwater retention elements, will close Clinton to both bicycling and driving. BES says bicycle riders will be detoured south one block to SE Woodward and car drivers will be directed north to SE Division.

The closure will be active Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm

Learn more about this project at the BES website.

If you have questions or comments, get in touch with Matt Gough at BES:

    Matt Gough
    Community Outreach and Information
    City of Portland Environmental Services
    1120 SW 5th Ave, Room 1000
    Portland, Oregon 97204
    Phone: 503-823-5352 l Cell Phone: 503-823-6622

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Cross Crusade #4 recap: Sticky mud takes its toll

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 12:11

After a record-setting week of rain, the Cross Crusade‘s fourth stop was mired in mud.

Cyclocross coverage
made possible by
Sellwood Cycle Repair.

Many cyclocross lovers rejoice in muddy conditions: A few mud bogs can be fun and navigating a few slippery corners can be a technical treat. But when about 90% of the entire course is slippery and sticky and so full of grass and muck that it seizes up your entire drivetrain? That’s pushing it.

At the Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro yesterday, there were 105 DNFs (did not finish) out of 1142 starters. That means you had around a 10% chance of not finishing. And the percentage was a lot higher later in the day, as the saturated dirt baked in the intermittent sunshine and morphed into a peanut-buttery consistency.

You can get a sense of how absurd the conditions were by the faces of these spectators who were camped out on a particularly tricky, off-camber section of the course…

The largest field of the day, the Master Cs, started at 10:35 AM and had only three DNFs out of 143 racers. That’s only 2%. The Category A men on the other hand started at 1:15 and lost 27% of their field to the mud (17 racers out of 62 starters).

Typically the culprit of a DNF in extremely mud conditions are rear derailleurs — or more specifically derailleur hangers. As the muck builds up inside the pulleys, it gets harder and harder for your chain to pass through. Then suddenly the whole system seizes up and, it only takes half a pedal stroke to rip the derailleur hanger right off. If you’re lucky, you simply replace the hangar for about $20 and you’re back in business.

I wasn’t so lucky: Just 2 1/2 laps into the race I heard a sudden, “Snap!” and that was it. I looked down and my derailleur was viciously bent, hangar was snapped clean off, and a spoke was dangling inside my wheel.

My poor, poor bike.

The funny thing is, I was really enjoying the race before that happened. There’s something zen about the extreme focus it takes to ride well in conditions like that. And I love it!

Many (smart) people opted to leave their geared bikes at home and race a singlespeed. But even without a derailleur, there were 10 DNFs in the singlespeed category. The mud was so sticky by their 3:15 start that it packed into every open space and made some bikes unrideable. One singlespeed racer I talked to said his pedal sheared off. “The spindle’s still there,” he said, “but I couldn’t even find the pedal.”

Here are a few more shots from the scene of the grime:

There were no good lines. Even singlespeeders found it tough to keep pedaling. Look how caked up this guy’s cleats are. Team support! This team tent had a Saloon theme and
played old Johnny Cash music all day.

The Crusade packs up and heads for Bend next weekend. There will be races Saturday and Sunday, and of course the traditional Halloween partying and whatnot.

Stay tuned for more ‘cross coverage!


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The Monday Roundup: Getting real in WA, tolling the Golden Gate, and more

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:47
Washington’s old and new traffic projections.
(Image: Sightline Institute)

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

Gas-tax realism: Washington state’s Office of Financial Management has just released what a Sightline Institute analyst calls “far and away the most responsible official traffic forecast I’ve seen from any government agency, ever.”

Sidewalk blocked: Saying there’s not enough parking in the area to “support” it, angry homeowners have blocked installation of a half-block sidewalk in Tulsa.

Texting alarmism? Does texting while driving get more blame than it deserves? Traffic fatalities actually correlate far better to a different statistic.

Seattle bike share: The 500 bikes in Seattle’s Pronto Cycle Share carried 4,000 trips in the system’s first week. Helmets, required by city law for all rides, are available for $13 each free from bins next to each station.

Foggy toll: The most famous bridge in the United States might be one of the first in the world to charge a toll for people biking and walking.

Reflective chic: A New York designer has made a wardrobe of clothes with reflective accents “that would look as good on the bike path as on the runway.”

Unionizing bike share: The workers behind Citi Bike have voted to join the union that operates NYC’s MTA.

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Low rider: Now that‘s a fender:

#fuckyeah you know what time of year it is! #fenderup!

A photo posted by molly cameron (@themollycameron) on Oct 10, 2014 at 7:24am PDT

London intrigue: A group of “old men in limos” are publicly supporting the British capital’s plan to build a 2.5-mile Dutch-quality bikeway even as they work quietly to kill it, claims a Guardian contributor.

Self-braking cars: The person-spotting, auto-braking technology available in a few high-end cars is making its way to mainstream Ford sedans.

School safety: When did Edinburgh start leading the UK in cool transportation initiatives? Their latest is a complete ban on cars within 300 yards of 11 primary schools during drop-off times.

Aging in motion: Too many Americans choose their retirement homes without considering the fact that eventually they’re probably going to stop driving, says the New York Times.

Bridge breakup: The left-right coalition that killed the Columbia River Crossing isn’t uniting around alternative plans.

Cargo families: Amy Subach of the PDX Cargo Bike Gang evangelizes her family transport of choice in one of the first few issues of True Parent magazine.

Purple Line? Looks as if it’d be surprisingly easy to start running a direct, evening-only MAX line between Portland Airport and Clackamas Town Center.

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


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Comment of the Week: The slow, possible work of progress

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 14:27
Ahh – can you feel that? That’s a successful
postcard campaign from 15 years ago.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

There’s nothing new under the sun, but effective political tactics have a way of staying effective.

That’s what reader and legendary bike advocate Phil Goff observed this week in a comment beneath Tuesday’s post about a series of postcard campaigns by activist group Bike Loud PDX:

This is exactly what I did 15-16 years ago to create the political pressure to bring in funding for the Morrison Bridge sidepath project. On two occasions, I had 300-400 signed postcards mailed to Multnomah County Chair Bev Stein (to get the County’s attention) and then 6 mo later to Metro Council chair Rod Monroe during the MTIP process. In the age of e-mail, Twitter and FB, a simple postcard campaign can pack a lot of punch. Its great to hear that advocates are reviving the tactic for other projects. Good luck BikeLoudPDX!

If you’ve never heard the story of Goff’s 12-year campaign to turn what was a temporary construction detour into a permanent, comfortable route over the Morrison between the heart of downtown and the central eastside, you can read Goff’s account of it in this 2010 guest post. It’s a great rainy-week reminder that if you keep at it, the sun always breaks through the clouds eventually.

— Barring any breaking news, Jonathan and I are signing off for the weekend. Thanks for another great week of comments — all 900 or so of them!


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PBOT, via blog comments, responds to “difficulties” of Williams project

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 14:02
Williams and it’s brand new, left-side bike lane has been a hot issue this week.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“I ride N Williams every day and am experiencing some difficulties myself.”
— Leah Treat, Director of PBOT

This week marked a very positive milestone for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT): They seem to be opening up a bit about joining the comment section here on BikePortland. I think this is a great development because it shows they understand the value of direct online engagement with their customers (us) and it could be a sign that they’re gaining confidence around the bicycling issue.

PBOT staff have been commenting on BikePortland ever since Day One. But in recent years, changes in media protocol coupled with a bit more critical tone toward the agency from this site, has scared some of them away (not to mention all the talk of stagnation might have sapped some staffers’ mojo).

However, I’m happy to report that in the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten our first comment ever from PBOT Director Leah Treat and an official statement from Diane Dulken, one of PBOT’s media relations staffers. Both of the comments are in response to our recent coverage of the Williams project.

Treat’s comment was unexpected — and unexpectedly candid. Here’s the comment she left last night:

“I ride N Williams every day and am experiencing some difficulties myself. There are some good questions posed here and I or my staff will post a response tomorrow.”

I think it’s a great sign that PBOT’s top staffer has shown this degree of candor on such a hot-button issue without hiding behind a spokesperson or politi-speak. It also shows that she respects other commenters — which is something I believe is key to hosting a productive online community. (And yes, I did confirm that Treat is the real author of that comment.)

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Then, just a few minutes ago, Treat’s promise of a response panned out. Agency spokeswoman Diane Dulken left a statement in the comment section of our 10/17 story on concerns that traffic from Williams is spilling onto Rodney:

On behalf of PBOT, we want to say thanks so much for all of these comments. We really appreciate the feedback. It helps as we keep rolling out the new road design for North Williams.

The biggest thing we want to stress is that Williams is still an active construction zone – you know that, but it bears emphasis: there are still elements of the bike lane that we haven’t installed yet. Part of the issue is all of the rain we got this week. We need to wait for some dry weather to stripe and install other segments.

We’re also very aware that an expanded left hand bike lane is an unusual treatment in Portland. Whether folks are walking, biking or driving, it’s going to take some time getting used to. To help with that, we are conducting the “A Safer Place for Everyone” education campaign (you can check that out here: We’re also passing out brochures and other info through the neighborhood and we plan to keep up education and outreach to help all travelers adjust to the new street design. For now, the biggest message is to please ride, drive and walk with care. We have to look out for each other out there.

A few other specifics: We plan to add signage on Broadway to make traffic patterns clearer, which should help reduce conflicts and confusion.

The issue with cars driving through the Rodney diverter is also on our radar and we’re discussing some possible solutions to that.

If you have addition comments, concerns or want to share some more info with us. please reach out to Dan Layden on our staff next week. He’s at a conference today, but will be back Monday. You can reach him by email at or by phone 503.823.2804. Thanks again for engaging with us.

So there you have it: PBOT is listening — and responding — to your feedback and they’re engaged in these important issues. That’s nothing new actually, I’ve always found them to be highly attentive. But what is new, and encouraging to me, is that they’re engaging with you and I directly here on BikePortland.


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Oregon prepares to launch its opt-in test of a vehicle mileage tax

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 09:43
A Bike Swarm ride passes a Portland gas station in 2012.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon keeps inching toward its goal of replacing or supplementing the gas tax it invented, back in 1919, with a Prius-proof mileage tax.

Next July 1, the first 5,000 volunteer drivers will get a chance to opt out of gas tax and into a so-called “usage charge.” As the state gets ready for that test, a meeting in Portland this Monday will be the last stop on a statewide tour to gather input about the concept.

It’s theoretically possible that a per-mile tax could eventually be made to vary based on location, creating an anti-congestion tool similar to the ones that have been effective in London, Singapore and San Diego. It’s also possible that the fees could vary by vehicle weight, which could preserve the gas tax’s energy efficiency incentives.

Oregon’s “2014 statewide listening tour” and the pilot project it’ll lead to are the results of a state law passed in 2013 that created the country’s first road usage charge program on a trial, opt-in basis.

Here’s the official summary of how the pilot program will work:

Oregon’s new road usage charge system will automatically collect mileage data from vehicles. Motorists will choose a mileage reporting device to interface with their vehicle and be paired with software to send mileage totals to a private account manager. ODOT will contract with private companies to maintain customer accounts, calculate charges and credits, and submit charges to the Oregon Treasury.

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The basic reason for the experiment:

Funding for transportation system maintenance and construction has been declining in Oregon and around the country since the 1990s. This is due in part to more fuel efficient vehicles purchasing less gas, thus paying less in gas taxes – which go toward maintaining and building roads and highways.

Another factor here is essentially the same as the one behind Portland’s effort to create a new income tax for transportation: Americans are driving less, Oregonians most rapidly. Our drop in miles driven per person began in 1999, one of the earliest states to see this trend, and by 2011 it was down 18.7 percent, the biggest decline in the country. (That’s due both to our unusually car-lite cities and our unusually struggling rural areas.)

Even if vehicle efficiency weren’t rising, Oregon’s highway expansion schedule is premised on traffic volumes rebounding, and its road maintenance requirements depend on people continuing to pay into the system.

Next week’s meeting is Monday, Oct. 27, at Portland’s World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St. downtown, from 9 a.m. to noon. The state is inviting “business leaders, elected officials, city/county public officials, transportation representatives, media and other stakeholders” to attend.


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People are driving right through new diverter on NE Rodney

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 08:58
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

A traffic diverter is a barrier placed in an intersection to prevent auto traffic from going through it. The goal is to make certain streets less attractive to auto drivers and reduce auto traffic volumes overall. So, when it’s relatively easy to drive through one — which is the case with a new diverter in northeast Portland — it sort of defeats the purpose.

The Bureau of Transportation recently installed a diagonal diverter on NE Rodney at Ivy. As we reported a few weeks ago, it was installed at the urging of the Eliot Neighborhood Association. With changes afoot on N Williams Ave, residents were concerned that Rodney would become a busy speedway full of impatient drivers cutting-through their neighborhood in search of a quick route north.

They were right. Since the lane changes on Williams (they’re still not fully complete), Rodney has seen a significant increase in auto traffic during the evening rush. And that’s where the diverter comes in.

Here’s what it looks like…

Looking north on Rodney at Ivy. Note the tire tracks. Note the tire tracks.

As you can see, the new diverter on Rodney consists of three separate median islands that stretch from the southeast to the northwest corner of the intersection. They’re only a few inches high and about a foot deep. On top of the concrete curbs are four foot high plastic bollards — a.k.a. “candlestick wands” — that are bright white with reflective tape at the top. In order for bicycle riders to be able to easily pass through, there are two openings in the median curbs which are about six to eight feet wide.

Unfortunately it turns out that that’s just wide enough for cars.

Last night I sat at NE Rodney and Ivy for about 30 minutes with my camera at the ready. It only took about 30 seconds to realize that the rumors I heard last week were true.

In the video below, you can see how easy it is for people to drive through. This person barely even slows down!

And here are several others caught in the act…

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It’s also worth noting that every person who drove over it was coming from south (on Rodney) to north.

While this shockingly lawless behavior is certainly nothing I would personally partake in, let’s give these folks the benefit of the doubt: The physical footprint of the diverter is relatively minimal and there’s no signage explicitly advising drivers that it’s illegal to drive through it. And heck, their cars fit, so why not try it?

The lightweight design of this diverter might have something to do with the fact that PBOT says it was installed only as an experiment and that it can be removed if the traffic data and/or public feedback warrants it.

Last night, volunteers from Bike Loud PDX led a ride on Rodney to encourage calmer traffic and show support for the diverter. One topic of conversation was how this diverter could be designed to work better. The trick is, the openings have to be wide enough for a large cargo bike, a handcycle, a trike, or a bike pulling a trailer to fit — yet narrow enough so cars aren’t tempted to squeeze through.

(The problem with this diverter reminds me of other situations around town where PBOT seems afraid to install infrastructure that appears too anti-car; like those “fire-friendly” speed humps that have slots where car tires can easily fit through. These devices don’t achieve desired outcomes and only end up annoying all road users.)

I think the answer on Rodney is to provide a second row of barriers with off-set openings that a bike rider could easily navigate but a driver could not. My favorite diverter in the entire city is the one PBOT installed on N Central and Tyler (in photo below). Perhaps — if it becomes permanent — the city will consider doing something similar on Rodney…

In the meantime, please tell your friends and neighbors that driving through a diverter is illegal, dangerous, and uncivilized.


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Weekend Event Guide: Thriller, a brewery tour, podcast party, and more!

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 14:39
It’s ‘Thrill the World’ weekend and Kidical Mass will be there to join in the creepy fun.
(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 know what you’re thinking… Who the heck wants to ride in all this rain!? Well, the truth is, riding in the rain isn’t so bad, especially with friends. And besides, there’s bound to be a break in the clouds here and there, so why not be prepared with a list of all the fun bike stuff to do?

Grab your jackets, get your fenders on, and have a great (wet) weekend..

Friday, October 24th

Gold Sprints with Revolights – 7:00 pm at Chrome Retail Hub (425 SW 10th Ave)
Revolights, a California-based designer of very cool bicycle lights, is in Portland. Join them at the Chrome store tonight for some fun and gold sprinting. $5 race entry and winner takes all. More info here.

EcoSpeed Kickstarter Crush Party – 7:30 pm at 2330 SE Clatsop
The crew at EcoSpeed wants to celebrate their hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. Join them for a big party that will feature a DJ, free beer and food, a prize giveaway, and lots of lofty prognostications for what will surely be an exciting future. More info here.

Saturday, October 25th

Bike Shop Tour – 9:45 am at New Seasons (SE Hawthorne and 41st)
The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Active Transportation Division will lead this tour of local bike shops. See what makes them tick and why our local shops are so fantastic. More info here.

Bike to the Ballot with Congressman Blumenauer – 9:45 am at Yes on 92 HQ (727 NE 24th Ave)
Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer is leading a ride to drop off ballots and raise awareness for Measure 92 (GMO labeling), the re-election of Senator Jeff Merkley, Governor Kitzhaber, and other issues Blumenauer supports. Expect an easy ride from northeast to the County Elections Division office at SE 10th and Morrison.

Western Bikeworks Shop Ride – 10:00 am at the shop (1015 NW 17th Ave)
Your basic shop ride led by the awesome and fun Maria Schur. Route depends on weather. If it’s really bad, she says they’ll just do a short urban loop. More info here.

Biking About Architecture – Montavilla – 11:00 am at Milepost 5 (900 NE 81st)
Residential architecture lover Jenny Fosmire leads another one of her fun adventures. This one will have a Halloween theme with ride-bys of the Munster Mashup, Terry Gilliam funhouse, a bunker home, the grotto, and lots of fun art gardens. Expect an easy, 8 mile route.
More info here (FB).

Tour De Brew – 12 noon at Oregon Public House (700 NE Dekum Street)
Not your average pub crawl, this tour of north Portland’s best breweries is a fundraiser that aims to help the water crisis in the Central African Republic. The route will start in Woodlawn and hit the Hopworks BikeBar, Ecliptic Brewery, and end at Ex Novo on N Flint. Limited to first 100 riders and there’s a minimum donation of $50 (entry comes with some nice freebies). More info here.

Kidical Mass Thrilleride – 1:45 pm at Dawson Park (145 N Stanton)
Get your zombie makeup on and join the fun folks from Kidical Mass for a ride to the annual “Thrill the World” dance performance (yes, it’s a thing). Don’t forget to throw some candy in your bag to keep the kiddos smiling bright throughout the night. More info here.

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The Athletic – Shop Opening Party – 5:00 pm at 925 NW 19th Ave
Founded by bike industry creative giant Jeremy Dunn (behind the Embrocation Cycling Journal among other things), The Athletic went big with their Portland Airport Carpet socks. Now they’ve got a large and quite beautiful line of socks that are sure to make you look better on or off the bike. Join them to celebrate the opening of their first retail store and you’ll also get a sneak peek at the Chris King/Cielo Cyclcross team and their drool-worthy steeds. More info here.

Transport-astic Studio Opener – 6:30 pm at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (SE 10th and Division)
Join the voices and personalities behind the Sprocket, BikePortland, and (new!) Transportini podcasts in this fun event at the home of Open Roads Broadcasting. We’ll be doing live radio, doing “urban growth boundary Twister” (I have no idea what that will entail), and sharing good drinks. Join us! More info here (FB).

Sunday, October 26th

Cross Crusade #4 – All day at Washington County Fairgrounds (Hillsboro)
It’s going to be funny and muddy out there. Add in the big Tailgator Competition and who knows how this weekend will turn out. Regardless, you know you’ll feel left out when everyone’s talking about how epic it was. More info here.

Pumpkin Carving at Velo Cult – 4:30 to 6:30 pm at Velo Cult (1969 NE 42nd Ave)
Bring a pumpkin to Velo Cult and carve amongst friends (and beer and fine bicycles). More info here

— If we missed anything, feel free to let us know and/or give it a shout-out in the comments.


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First look: New bike facilities open along MAX Orange Line

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:48
New multi-use path goes east-west just south of MAX line/UPRR tracks between SE 7th and 17th.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s less than one year to go until TriMet takes the wraps off the Orange Line, a 7.3 mile extension of the MAX light rail system that will connect downtown Portland to Milwaukie in northern Clackamas County. While the marquee component of the $1.5 billion project, the Tillikum Crossing Bridge, won’t open until next fall, many parts of the new project are already open for business.

Among the $40 million the project will spend on infrastructure for bicycling and walking, is a series of new multi-use paths and bike lanes that will connect the eastern end of the Tilikum Bridge to SE McLoughlin Blvd via new connections on SE Caruthers and SE 17th. While some final details remain, enough of this section is open that I figured it warranted a closer look.

Our (north to south) tour starts at SE 7th and Division Place where the beginning of the new multi-use path isn’t open yet, but you can see it behind some barriers. You can also see the nice new sidewalk being build on SE Caruthers as it goes under the MLK/Grand viaduct.

Looking west toward downtown at SE Caruthers. Start of multi-use path.

The new multi-use path is open right now starting at SE 8th and Division Pl. There’s a wide curb ramp that is a combo path/sidewalk at first that then splits into path-only and follows the new rail line to the multi-pronged intersection of SE Clinton, Milwaukie, 11th and 12th. At 11th and 12th, bicycle riders will wait for a signal and cross in the crosswalk…

Headed east at SE 8th/Division Place. At SE 11th and Clinton. Crossing onto path island between 11th and 12th.

Then, at the new MAX station at SE 12th and Clinton, the bike route goes onto SE Gideon where they’ve installed sharrows for two long blocks until the dedicated path starts up again. This path connects right to the new bridge over SE Powell. (Note the temporary bike route directional signage. I assume this will be made permanent eventually.)

View of sidewalk looking east from SE 12th/Clinton MAX station. Gideon (bike route) is to the right. <\/scr"+"ipt>"); //]]>-->
I want a t-shirt that reads: “I spent $1.5 billion on a new transportation corridor and all I got was this sharrow.” Kidding! Transition from shared-lane environment on Gideon back onto path.

Going up and over the path on the new SE Powell flyover bridge (which has been open since last year) shifts your direction to the south. If you want to continue south, there’s a new bike/walk crossing facility just before SE Pershing Street. The crossing is push-button activated and comes with ample signage, flashing lights, and a voice that blares “Cross street with caution, vehicles may not stop!”. You’ll note that this crossing is meant specifically for bicycles because of the color treatment — yellow for walkers, green for bikers…

These folks are headed north up onto the flyover of SE Powell. New crosswalk/bike looking south. New crosswalk/bike looking north toward Powell. Bikers on the left, walkers on the right.

Continuing south you are now on SE 17th, which has been striped with new buffered bike lanes from SE Powell all the way down to Holgate. The bike lane feels like a standard 5-6 foot width plus a 1-2 foot buffer…

Buffer goes away when things get too narrow. Out in the great, wide open.

Coming back north from Holgate, it’s pretty much the same. It’s a buffered bike lane from Holgate to Pershing, then the bike lane lead directly up onto the sidewalk/path that will get you back to the Powell Blvd bridge…

Route goes by TriMet Central yard, which means 17th has lots of bus traffic. Use caution around these driveways. Moving cars on one side, door-zone on the other. Bike lane transitions back to path/sidewalk just south of Powell.

Now that you have a sense of what’s out there, here are a few thoughts I scribbled in my notebook:

— In the northern section there are pretty good crossings over the tracks to access SE 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th. However, once you cross the tracks, you’re left with pretty much nothing in terms of dedicated bike infrastructure — so brace yourself!

Good luck!

— It’s great to see all the bike parking at the new Clinton/12th MAX station, but it seems — especially if we have $1.5 billion to spend — we should at least add some sort of roof over it.

A little roof to stay out of the rain would be nice.

— The public art poems, scrawled anonymously in the sidewalks and paths, are a fun diversion. Two of them in particular stood out: “Some have evolved to commute upright smiling,” and “Pass carefully by Ladd’s spiderweb of streets.”

— This sign placement on the ramp up to the new Powell bridge is unfortunate. One insignificant sign causes a jog in an otherwise direct path. I hope they add some reflectors to it before someone rides into it in the dark… UPDATE, 9:50 pm – According to our friend @Howrad on Twitter, PBOT has already added safety signage on the pole to prevent folks from running into it.

— The buffered bike lanes on SE 17th are better than nothing; but I can’t help but think it was a huge missed opportunity to not get a protected bike lane here. There’s a nice planter strip in some sections that should have been the outside edge of a protected bike lane. I just don’t understand how we spend $1.5 billion on a transportation project that started with a clean slate and we build what amounts to 1990s bike infrastructure. When I ride 17th with my kids, I’ll probably use the sidewalk.

Every mode here is protected — except cycling. Technically a sidewalk, but safer than the bike lane.

Reader Carrie Leonard said the changes have “had a significantly positive impact” on her family. The Leonards live on SE 19th in Westmoreland (north of Bybee). Carrie’s daughter goes to Cleveland High School and uses the new bike lanes on 17th and the new paths along Powell. “She has done this the past two mornings at 6:30 am,” Carrie shared with us via email, “and it’s So Much Better with the buffered bike lane and one lane on 17th (and the dedicated bridge over Powell) than crossing at 26th.”

My few quibbles aside, this project will have a huge and positive impact on biking in this area. The presence of SW Powell and other large and fast streets, as well as the impenetrable Union Pacific Railroad tracks made bikeway connectivity in this area abysmal before these changes came. (The Springwater is great, but it’s not convenient for running errands, meeting friends, or getting things done on Division or other points north of Powell.)

“The link between Westmoreland, SE 17th, and then SE Clinton just makes it easy and safe to get North,” Carrie said, “We are dedicated bike people, but even for us there were barriers to getting north of Powell from our location. This bridge and the improvements on 17th have removed that barrier.”

— Get full details on both of these sections of the project via PDFs available here (Caruthers to Gideon) and here (SE 17th). Have you used this new infrastructure yet? We’d love to hear from you.


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Two years after Portland’s auto parking wars, apartment garages aren’t filling up

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:39
The Linden apartments at SE 12th and Burnside are 98 percent leased, but 39 of their 110 on-site parking spaces, including the entire lower-level garage, have never been rented. These spaces rent for $110 a month, but street parking is free. (Note the occupied bike rack at the back of the garage.)
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

When Steven Van Zile moved from Los Angeles to the Pearl District last year for a job managing Guardian Management’s portfolio of Portland-area apartment buildings, the low number of parking spaces at some of the newer properties made him nervous.

Linden, the company’s new building on Burnside and 12th, had only 110 parking spaces for 132 units. In an interview at the time, Van Zile expressed gratitude to the building’s developer that the on-site parting lot was larger than at some other buildings. But what would happen if garage space ran short?

It turns out that Van Zile needn’t have worried.

A year after it opened, Linden is 98 percent full. Its one-bedrooms start at $1,295 a month for 576 square feet; a 922 square foot two-bedroom is $2,085. Parking in the on-site lots adds another $139 for the upper level, $110 for the lower.

The lower garage, however, is completely empty.

Of cars, that is.

Bike parking at Linden, meanwhile, has been swamped.

When I stopped by the building’s garage in late August, I saw every rack full:

I saw a bike locked to a pole inside the garage:

I saw bikes locked to the bars of the windows:

I saw a bike locked to a bike:

There are also bikes being stored on maybe half the balconies outside the building:

Brandy Guthery, Linden’s on-site manager, said the building has been working hard to keep up with the demand for bike parking.

“We’ve already installed more, and now we’re installing even more,” she told me in August. As for all the empty auto parking spaces, Guthery predicted that once winter came, Linden residents who have been parking their cars in the street for free would begin moving indoors.

If that’s true, it hasn’t happened yet. Guthery said in a follow-up interview Wednesday that garage occupancy is exactly what it was in August: three spaces open in the upper garage, every space open in the lower one.

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Linden’s bike parking situation is unusual, because the building was first approved as a senior housing development. During the city’s review process, Linden’s developers asked for and received a waiver from the city’s requirement that the building include at least 1.1 bike parking spaces for every unit. However, late in the process, Linden’s developers changed course and decided to market the building as a higher-end building for singles and small families — an approach that has apparently worked well when it comes to filling bedrooms.

It’s not clear how many Linden residents have ended up parking off site and how many don’t own cars at all.

“I live a couple of blocks from the Linden, and I haven’t heard any complaints about parking spillover,” said Greg Moulliet, co-chair of the Buckman Community Association.

Outside Linden at Southeast 12th and Burnside.

But Susan Lindsay, the association’s other co-chair, said parking spillover “has been an ongoing situation with many of the new apartment buildings recently built, even if there is some included parking.”

In any case, Linden’s auto parking situation captures a larger phenomenon in central Portland housing right now: a year after the city, responding to a wave of neighborhood complaints, began requiring new buildings of more than 30 units to include on-site auto parking even if they’re on a frequent bus line, many of the new parking spaces aren’t keeping cars off the streets.

“The reality is we can’t force people to pay for it,” developer Aaron Jones told the Portland Tribune this month after trying and failing to rent parking spaces for $85 a month near his apartment project at 48th and Division.

Developers charge for on-site auto parking because each auto parking space within the footprint of a building costs $20,000 to $55,000 to develop by taking up space that might otherwise be used for revenue-generating housing. Surface parking is cheaper to build, but still costly because a parking lot could otherwise be an entire apartment building.

Another option for developers would be to bundle parking into the cost of a unit, raising the rent for every tenant whether they use parking or not.

“These people do indeed bike. And they walk and they bus. But they still have cars.”
— William Gregg, Buckman Community Association

As it is, some residents who rarely use their cars seem to be finding that parking a few blocks from their home isn’t a big burden — at least when the price is $0.

“These people do indeed bike,” said William Gregg, a Buckman Community Association member who lives near a new apartment building at Southeast 12th and Taylor and who sits on the stakeholder committee for the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s new study of auto parking. “And they walk and they bus. But they still have cars.”

“They’re not just parking, they’re using the street for storage,” he added. “I’ve got cars parked back here that hasn’t moved for two weeks.”

Meanwhile, though the new building near his house is now half occupied, Gregg said its garage is empty. He said the developer is asking $120 to $150 for spaces in its parking area.

“I don’t see anybody parked there at midnight,” he said. “Not a single car.”

Correction 10/24: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described Gregg’s position with the Buckman Community Association. He is a member but not a board member.

— The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here. This sponsorship has opened up and we’re looking for our next partner. If interested, please call Jonathan at (503) 706-8804.


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