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Updated: 15 hours 44 min ago

Matt Garrett has resigned from ODOT

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 15:12

Matt Garrett in 2012.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)


Huge news from the State of Oregon today: ODOT Director Matt Garrett has resigned from his post.

This is potentially – depending on his replacement – a massive development that could lead to a different culture in the automobile-centric agency.

I’m out of town at the moment and unable to fully analyze and report on this. So for now, here’s the statement from ODOT:

Oregon Transportation Director Matthew Garrett announced today that he will resign as Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) on or before June 30, 2019. “I’m eager to take the next few months to explore the opportunity to do something new,” Garrett remarked. “It was important to me to provide enough notice to allow time for a search to identify my replacement and provide a smooth transition to the new Director,” he added.

In his resignation letter to Governor Kate Brown and Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Tammy Baney, Garrett noted that he has been at ODOT for 22 years, the last 13 of which he has served as Director. Garrett has led the 4,700 person department under three Governors — Kate Brown, John Kitzhaber and Ted Kulongoski. Garrett is the longest continuously serving department of transportation director in the nation.

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Governor Brown thanked Garrett for his service: “Matt Garrett has driven Oregon forward through his steadfast commitment to improve transportation for his fellow Oregonians, both today and in the future. He has led ODOT with distinction, guiding the agency through the implementation of a historic transportation package, and we will reap the benefits for decades to come. I have deeply appreciated his thoughtful counsel and collaboration and want to extend my gratitude for his service to our state.”

“Matt has been a dedicated public servant in our state for almost a quarter of a century,” said Transportation Commission Chair Tammy Baney. “He is highly respected throughout Oregon and in transportation circles around the country. The Commission appreciates Matt’s many contributions to modernizing Oregon’s transportation system. We will work closely with him in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition from Matt to his successor.”

The Oregon Transportation Commission has the statutory authority to hire a new director for the department.

In his resignation letter, Garrett praised ODOT’s workforce, noting that he has led an organization that consistently delivers “exceptional service, infrastructure and innovation” to Oregonians. He also identified three achievements he is particularly proud of:

HB 2017, the 2017 transportation investment legislation, which he described as “historic and comprehensive;”

The “Area Commissions on Transportation,” which he characterized as “critical forums for statewide transportation planning;” and

The creation of the nation’s first Road Usage Charge, which will allow Oregon to eventually transition from a per gallon gas tax to a per mile fee to pay for Oregon roads, bridges and other infrastructure investments.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Jobs of the Week: Community Cycling Center, eBike Store, Velotech, River City Bicycles

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 10:31

We’ve had some great job opportunities listed in the past week.

Learn more about each one via the links below…

–> Director of Finance and Administration – Community Cycling Center

–> Experienced Bike Mechanic – The eBike Store

–> Customer Experience Specialist Full Time – Velotech

–> Bike Builder – River City Bicycles

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For a complete list of available jobs, click here.

Be the first to know about new job opportunities by signing up for our daily Job Listings email or by following @BikePortland on Twitter.

These are paid listings. And they work! If you’d like to post a job on the Portland region’s “Best Local Blog” two years running, you can purchase a listing online for just $75. Learn more at our Job Listings page.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Weekend Event Guide: Three speeds, MLK Day, lunar eclipse, palm trees, and more

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 09:52

Scene from the 2007 Wintertime Palm Tree Ride, where I first learned about the strange and wonderful monkey puzzle trees!
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to the weekend!

Here’s our menu of delicious rides and events happening in and around Portland in the next few days.:..

Saturday, January 19th

First Timer’s Ride – 10:00 am at River City Bicycles (SE)
Just getting started on two wheels? Love social city rides? Let the experienced staff of River City Bicycles show you theway on this short and sweet neighborhood jaunt. More info here.

State of Cyclocross, Final Hosted Show – 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm at Paris Theatre (SW)
It’s your last chance to see this beautiful and poignant film created by Portlander Drew Coleman. This will not be released on the web, so make plans to view it on the big screen! More info here.

Three Speed Get Together – 4:00 pm at Montavilla Brew Works (SE)
If you love the casual and cool riding that three-speeds afford, this is the get together for you. The Society of Three Speeds is hosting this event, so show up if you want to talk about bikes and plans for a great slate of three-speed rides in 2019. More info here.

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Sauvie Shootout – 9:00 am at Ovation Coffee & Tea (NW)
Ready to go fast? Or start training so you can go faster? This ride features group dynamics, hotspot sprints, and a supportive group of experienced riders. More info here.

Palm Tree Ride – 11:00 am at Fillmore Coffee (NE)
Shawn from the Urban Adventure League knows a thing or three about local Portland neighborhood history and the neat palm trees that live in them. This is one of his classic rides that you are very likely to enjoy. More info here.

NWTA Lunar Eclipse Fat Bike Snow Adventure – 6:30 pm at Government Camp (Mt. Hood)
What better way to view the lunar eclipse than from Trillium Lake on the saddle of a bicycle?! Ride happens clear or cloudly and it will be on the snow so a fat bike is required. More info here.

Community Ride to the Reclaim MLK Day March – 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm at Fire Station 21 (SE)
Friends on Bikes and Women Bike have joined up with Don’t Shoot PDX for a casual ride that will go from the Esplanade, up North Williams Avenue to Peninsula Park to join the Annual March for Human Rights and Dignity. More info here.

Stay plugged into all the bike and transportation-related events around the region via our comprehensive event calendar.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Opinion: Portland’s scooter success exposes stark double standard

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 08:57

Scooter riders in the mix of traffic in downtown Portland.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

*This post is by Joe Cortright and was originally published by City Observatory.

Data shows Portland’s scooter experiment worked. Maybe it’s time to critically appraise the failed, 110-year experiment with cars.

Why doesn’t PBOT apply the same approach to private cars that it has to scooters?

Starting in July, Portland, Oregon began allowing fleets of e-scooters, as an experiment, to see how they would work. Portland’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) just released its 36-page report on the city’s 120-day trial of allowing fleets of electric scooters on the city’s streets. It’s profusely illustrated — more like a sales brochure than a government report — and it has mostly favorable things to say about the city’s recent experience with scooters.

In four months, scooters went from nothing, to providing more an average of 5,800 trips per day. About 30 percent of city residents rode the scooters at least once during the trial period. The city estimates that roughly a third of scooter trips substituted for private car trips, helping to reduce traffic congestion. Scooters also tended to be used most during peak travel hours, with 20 percent of all trips taking place between 3pm and 6pm on weekdays. City surveys indicate that six percent of scooter users reported getting rid of a private car as a result of scooter availability. In addition, the city’s survey’s also suggest scooters effectively expanded the market for non-automobile transportation by attracting users who haven’t ridden bicycles for transportation. The survey also shows that 60 percent of Portlanders have a positive or somewhat positive view of scooters.

As transportation innovations go, this seems like a pretty wild success.

Scooters are a clean, green, fiscally-responsible alternative for making lots of short trips in dense urban areas. They’re overwhelmingly popular. Thanks to GPS, web-based applications and data sharing requirements, we have a clear picture of where and how scooters are used. If this is a data-driven process, the data clearly make a case for bringing scooters back–and widely expanding the program as well. Which is something that the Portland Bureau of Transportation indicates it will do later this year – although unfortunately, and inexplicably, only as a second trial period.

So that’s all to the good: The city regulated scooters, took a close and careful look at their impacts, and found that they work. But that got us thinking: Why are we applying this standard of scrutiny just to one tiny element of our transportation system. Why isn’t the Portland Bureau of Transportation taking this same careful, deliberate and detailed approach to analyzing all aspects of our transportation, especially the dominant mode of transportation: private automobiles?

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The Double Standard: Why aren’t we holding cars to the standard applied to scooters?

We plainly aren’t applying the same standards to cars that the city has applied to scooters. That’s abundantly clear both in the framing of the report, and in the substance of the questions asked. Consider the first paragraph of the report’s executive summary:

E-scooters emerged in 2017 as a new shared mobility service in the United States. Less than a year after their debut, e-scooters were operating in 65 U.S. cities. They did not arrive without disruption; companies Bird and Lime began operations in 43 markets without government permits or consent. Several cities responded with cease and desist orders, fines, or both. Portland chose a different, proactive path, creating the E-Scooter Pilot Program. With the pilot, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) focused on giving Portlanders access to this new transportation option while also ensuring that e-scooters would support Portland’s fundamental policy values

There’s an almost insufferable tone of condescension about the idea Portlanders have any right to use scooters on the public streets. It is as if the mandarins of PBOT have deigned, for a brief period, to suffer to allow the presence of these scooters on their streets. The report’s opening paragraph sets the tone: while scooter companies set up shop without asking permission in many cities, Portland strictly regulated their presence. And, as if to remove all doubts about the bureau’s hegemony of public streets, it terminated the operation of scooters entirely on November 20. The New York Times applauded Portland’s aggressive approach to regulating the entry of scooter companies into the city.

We’re waiting for a similarly incisive assessment of the city’s policy of allowing these vehicles to run rampant in the public realm.

One is left to wonder, at what point was it determined that small, personal two-wheeled electric vehicles required special bureaucratic dispensation (and per trip fees paid to the city), and that large gas guzzling, polluting, frequently deadly four-wheeled ones were allowed to roam free in unlimited numbers?

What if BPOT took a similar attitude, not to the paltry 2,000 scooters that operated on city streets for a few months, but instead at the hundreds of thousands of motor vehicles that have inundated the city over the past century? We’re waiting for a similarly incisive assessment of the city’s policy of allowing these vehicles to run rampant in the public realm. If we applied even a fraction of the scrutiny to cars that PBOT has applied to scooters, and applied even a tenth as stringent a standard to their performance, we’d be looking to have radical change. When will PBOT do a similarly rigorous assessment of the climate, health and safety, fiscal, equity and land use impacts of unfettered car use on the public streets?

Let’s focus just one issue: How much do scooters and cars pay to use city streets? The PBOT report indicates that the city levies a charge of 25 cents per trip for each scooter. The average length of a scooter journey, according to PBOT, is 1.1 miles. This means that scooter rider is paying 21.8 cents per mile to use city streets.

(Chart: City Observatory)

How does that compare to what people pay to drive cars?

Let’s take the gas tax, which is the major source of state and local road finance. Oregon’s gas tax is currently 30 cents per gallon, and the City of Portland has a gas tax of 10 cents per gallon. With the average vehicle getting about 20 miles per gallon, this means that the average automobile pays about 2 cents per mile (40 cents divided by 20 miles per gallon equals 2 cents per mile). And it has to be added that these are total taxes paid to city and state–the city receives only a fraction of the state imposed gas tax to pay for its streets. Bottom line: Scooter riders pay ten times as much in fees per mile traveled on city streets as car drivers pay in gas taxes.

And as we’ve pointed out before, its vastly unfair to charge scooters more than cars. Whether proportionate to vehicle value, the space vehicles take up on the roadway (in use and when parked) weight (and therefore road wear and maintenance costs), or pollution generated, cars should be paying anywhere from 10 to 1000 times more for use of the roadway. Instead, they pay ten times less.

Why doesn’t PBOT apply the same approach to private cars that it has to scooters? Why doesn’t it impose a cap on the number of cars in the city, to be sure that cars don’t overwhelm the street system? Why doesn’t it impose a fee of 20 cents per mile on car trips? Why doesn’t it require that cars operating in the city have electronic speed governors that keep vehicles from being operated at unsafe and illegal speeds? Why doesn’t it require that every trip by automobile be reported to a centralized database operated by PBOT: After all, if we can insist that the operators of 35 pound, $500 scooters share detailed telemetry on every trip taken in the city, why shouldn’t we have similar data about the two-ton, $20,000 or $50,000 vehicles.

There’s a clear double standard here: Scooters have been put to the test, and they’ve passed. Scooter operators have provided detailed data, have electronically limited vehicle speeds, reduced traffic and pollution, and paid the city generously for city streets. When will PBOT ask the same questions or impose the same standards on our car-dominated transportation system? We’re really looking forward to that report.

— Joe Cortright, @CityObs on Twitter.

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State of Oregon finalizes funding list for Safe Routes to School projects

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 07:51

(Image: ODOT)

The State of Oregon has finalized its first batch of Safe Routes to School projects funded through the $5.3 billion transportation package passed by legislators in 2017.

Region 1 (which covers all of Portland) will receive $3.39 million for four projects that will make it easier and safer for kids to walk and bike to class. ODOT awarded nearly $16 million for 24 projects statewide. Demand for these funds far outstripped supply as the agency received a total of 112 project applications requesting a total of $85 million.

Projects within a one-mile radius of schools are eligible for funding and schools where children come from low-income households were prioritized. Projects also scored high if they demonstrated an acute safety need, had “shovel-ready” status, and if they would benefit elementary and middle schools.

Here’s the list of Region 1 projects (view the full list here):

Multnomah County: Crossing enhancements for Reynolds Middle School – $90,957

Clackamas County: Sidewalks, ramps, rapid flashing beacons, and pedestrian refuge islands for Whitcomb Elementary School – $148,470

City of Portland: Sidewalks for Alder Elementary School – $2,000,000

City of Milwaukie: Sidewalks, enhanced crossings, crossing beacons, and bike lanes for Linwood Elementary School – $1,152,330

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All the project sponsors will be required to raise matching funds. As written, the law requires a 40% match; but sponsors can have that reduced to 20% if their project meets certain criteria. All the Region 1 projects qualify for the 20% match reduction (the City of Milwaukie has not requested the reduction). (Note: This matching funds issue has been a sticking point for Safe Routes advocates and the current legislative session includes Senate Bill 561, which seeks to decrease the match amount for all projects.)

This is the first allocation for ODOT’s Safe Routes to School Competitive Grant Program (PDF) and it covers the 2019-2020 cycle. The funds will double to $30 million for the next two-year cycle in 2021.

The full list is expected to be approved by the Oregon Transportation Commission at their meeting in Salem today (1/17).

Portland will add this project to its own, $8 million list of Safe Routes to School projects announced back in June.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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600-mile Oregon Emerald Outback event will traverse coast range

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 12:50


*Scenes from a reconnaissance ride on the route taken by Benjamin Colwill.

Many of you are familiar with the famous (or infamous, depending on your experiences) Oregon Coast Bike Route.

Coverage of unpaved adventures is sponsored by Co-Motion Cycles, Rolf Prima Wheels, and the Oregon Triple Crown (registration now open for this year’s rides!).

Can you imagine doing the entire thing — from Astoria to Brookings — but instead of rolling along the paved coastal highways, you’d be riding in the coast mountain range? Off-road?! That’s the promise of a new event known as the Oregon Emerald Outback.

At 600 miles and about 65,000 feet of elevation gain, it’s an audacious proposal.

I connected with the OEO’s creator, Benjamin Colwill, to learn more about him and the inspiration behind the event.

Ultra-cyclist Benjamin Colwill, shown here crossing the Missouri River during the Santa Fe Trail Race, is the creator of the route and event.

Tell us a little about your background:

I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and since my 20s, I’ve lived all over the northwest. I picked up bikepacking in 2010 and rode my bicycle all around the country touring for six years. I haven’t driven a vehicle since then. I currently spend my winters in Arizona mining for gold and occasionally riding in 70 degree weather.

How did you get into doing these “ultra” rides?

I bumped into some TransAm racers the first year they took off and talked to a few of them along route in Prairie City. From then on, I had my mind set on racing the TransAm and started my ultra-light, ultra-cycling career. I raced the TransAm in 2016 and finished 5th and then again in 2017 and I took the lead after 500 miles — only to lose it and have to drop out after an achilles tear about a thousand miles later.

I raced the Steens-Mazama 1000 the next month and finished 2nd behind Kraig Pauli and then raced it again in 2018 finishing first and setting a new course record.

View the route on RideWithGPS.


How’d the Oregon Emerald Outback come about?

After those races, I wanted to focus on rides I want to do, ones on backroads with gravel and dirt. I started the Santa Fe Trail Race in 2018 and when I got back from a test spin from the course, I realized Oregon had a lot to offer for backroads — especially along the coastline.

So I set up a route on RideWithGPS (a Portland-based route creation, event-planning, and mapping tool) and took off. I immediately fell in love with the non-motorized use roads the Oregon coastal Mountain ranges have to offer. Roads covered in pine needles with a layer of moss. I mean, come on! It was too serene: Dense vegetation among woodsy growth with ample opportunities to collect water from streams. What could be better?

How many people will join you on May 4th in Astoria for the inaugural ride?

The amount of people is still unknown for the 2019 ride. I like to keep these rides open to all who seek an adventure. Yes, it’s a race and you should stay true to the course; but I also like to see people use this as a bikepacking event where they can sluggishly join in too, no matter what battle they’re fighting. This is an event for all to enjoy.

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The route goes through some rugged and remote places. Are you taking safety precautions?

SPOT trackers are required and offer a little bit more safety to the event. There will be a live map with all the riders’ locations tracked by Trackleaders. The SPOT Gen 3 tracker has an emergency S-O-S button for riders who get in trouble and need to get carried away. Emergency use only of course! They will not come to fix your flat tire.

How long will the entire route take to complete?

600 miles and nearly 65,000 feet of elevation gain is a lot. You’re climbing over a 1,000 ft every 10 miles. I would venture to guess it will take in the three day range for our top riders — and that’s one hell of a push. There is some steep terrain that is going to take maximum effort. And a rouge lantern [back of the pack] time could be around two weeks.

I’ve ridden about 200 miles of the route and from what I’ve seen, it can be a physical challenge to the extreme. You add elements such as rain, and you have even more.

In true ride organizer fashion, Colwill tells us he plans to finish riding the remaining 400 miles of the course in March to vet the route and make changes if needed. As everyone who’s ridden in the coast range knows, you can never count on the existence of a road or trail until you see it with your own eyes.

Good luck Benjamin (and everyone else lucky enough to try this)! We can’t wait to hear how it goes.

If you’d like to sign up, see more photos, or take a closer look at the route, visit OregonEmeraldOutback.com.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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TRB dispatch: Micromobility, big data, and hyperloops

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 08:30

I couldn’t resist.
(Photos: Aaron Brown)

Welcome to the latest dispatch from our Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting Special Correspondent Aaron Brown, who’s in D.C. covering this event thanks to a funding partnership with the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University (TREC at PSU). See past coverage here.

New Modes, New Research, New Challenges, New Opportunities

As TRB gears up to celebrate its centennial (a detail that conference organizers are eager to mention as many times as possible), it’s hard not to pick up the infectious enthusiasm and energy surrounding the exciting new fields of academic research and inquiry. As recently as a decade or two ago, academic inquiry on bicycles as transportation options were limited to a handful of specific universities across the country. Now, virtually every up-and-coming transportation planning student is well-versed (and frequently seeking a career in) active transportation, and the role it plays in designing communities.

TREC at PSU at TRB

Learn more about Portland-based researchers from the Transportation Research and Education Center who are at TRB.

In some ways, the bicycle and pedestrian advocates are being usurped (if not in size, then certainly in sexy PR and attention) by the significant boom in new forms of urban micromobility (and a fastidiously curious army of graduate students interested in studying their implementation). Representatives from all the major e-scooter companies are here, and numerous studies are focused on how scooters, bike share systems (dockless or otherwise), and e-bikes (sharable or otherwise) are exploding in popularity in small, but growing niche communities. The studies undertaken by these modes – who rides them, in what conditions, at what costs, at what benefits, for what purposes – are being rolled out at a pace only limited by the rate at which they are rolled out to the public. I saw research today showing how e-bikes in a bikeshare fleet in Utah were used, how bike trailers in German cities were ideal for cargo delivery, and how scooters were solving “last-mile” problems of connecting people to transit stations in low-density suburban sprawl.

The timing is fortuitous, considering PBOT rolled out their statistical findings from the scooter pilot yesterday. The new innovations in micromobility are going to provide a whirlwind of options for people to easily travel 1-2 miles, if municipal governance is generous enough with the road space. As Portland and its suburbs continue to densify (which seems likely, with the slate of YIMBY housing legislation on deck in Salem and Portland’s Residential Infill Project in line), all of the research is suggesting the new technology represents a widespread democratization of the 1-2 mile trip. Making it easier for larger swaths of the public to feel comfortable and invited to not drive for a short trip – dropping off a library book, getting to the transit center, picking up groceries – is only going to grow the latent desire for walkable, dense communities that are, conveniently, also perfect for bicycling.

In short: please, please BikePortland readers: let’s welcome back the scooters with open arms. Make fun of them all you want; but every person on a scooter is a potential partner in our rabble-rousing for a Portland with less motordom and more options for low-carbon, healthy communities.

Data (But for Who?)

There’s another major trend underway that has spurred a blossoming of new transportation research. Every Biketown ride, every Lyft/Uber, every e-scooter is collecting an enormous amount of data. The crew of engineers and urban planners who attend TRB are finding all sorts of way to put this mountain of numbers to use – mapping them, modelling them, running regression analyses, finding correlations and so on. Enormous datasets like these are catnip for the planners and researchers trained in a pedagogy that heavily prioritizes quantitative analysis.

The University of Oregon’s Anne Brown (no familial relation, although full disclosure, we had classes together in college) conducted award-winning research on Lyft’s travel data. She was granted access to a data set of Lyft travel patterns in Los Angeles, and was able to determine all sorts of interesting facts about the role that Lyft was playing in filling mobility gaps in automobile-oriented Los Angeles (check out her website to learn more about her findings).

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The tricky problem, though, is that all of these ride-hailing services are notoriously fickle about sharing their information. This came up repeatedly in sessions today and yesterday – urban planners and researchers politely agreed that autonomous vehicles have the capacity to positively reshape american cities, but the fiercely guarded proprietary information held by these TNCs obstruct the ability for policymakers to appropriately plan for their arrival.

There are privacy concerns about this sort of data that need to be addressed, and there’s a case to be made that Lyft and Uber make their money on the closely guarded secrets hidden inside the data and therefore the government shouldn’t be prying into the numbers. But with the “AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES ARE COMING TO RESHAPE OUR CITIES” boosterism breathlessly championed and upheld by significant venture capital funding, it seems abundantly clear from the presentations I’ve seen today that the dearth of publicly available data on ride-sharing represents a challenge towards ensuring public sector entities can defend the public’s right to the street from all-too-eager-to-monopolize the right-of-way.

I Am Skeptical of the Hyperloop

In the interest of bemused self-flagellation, I stepped in to the second half of a presentation titled, “The Feasibility of Hyperloop Travel in North American Corridors”. To my surprise, the room was packed, with at least 120 people intently listening to four presentations with fancy graphics and futuristic designs explaining how hyperloop systems could immediately be built to connect Chicago to various far-flung cities across the midwest in under an hour or two. I suppose it’s entirely defensible to be lured in by the promise of a Jetsons-esque vision of people shooting about the country at seven hundred miles an hour in pneumatic tubes, and I don’t begrudge anyone for sparing a moment to daydream about some radically fantastic new infrastructure plans (if I did, I’d have to hide all those fantasy transit maps I’ve drawn up over the years).

At the end of the day, however, somehow, not-insignificant amounts of money are being peddled around between various consulting firms and business leaders showing up in destitute midwestern towns and promoting completely unproven, expensive technology at a time in which we can’t even fund potholes on our existing roads.

Bicycles and trains were invented in the 19th century, and while we’ve certainly improved on them in plenty of ways, the technology itself is still readily available and evidently effective at providing meaningful, scalable investments in mobility both at a national scale and at an urban scale. Forget that the idea the federal government will somehow manage to find a way to acquire the endless miles of land necessary to build these facilities, or that doing so won’t be an endless mess of litigation – is the problem with American transportation really that one can’t get to Chicago from Cleveland in under an hour? Or is it that doing so without an automobile is horrifically inconvenient, infrequent, and delayed? That Cleveland’s municipal bus system is underfunded and de-prioritized, that traffic fatalities are depressingly concentrated in low-income neighborhoods of each of these communities? What problems are we actually trying to solve, here, and what problems are only going to be exacerbated by building a gajillion dollar pneumatic tube? Whose rapid speed and movement (let alone safety) are we prioritizing, and whose are stuck waiting for some curb cuts and crosswalks?

OK. That’s all I can muster. Off to a gathering of our friends from TREC at PSU! Stay tuned.

Views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect those of TREC at PSU.

— Aaron Brown, @ambrown on Twitter.

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Join the family biking fun at Kidical Mass planning meeting

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 12:03

Kidical Mass kicks off in April with the annual egg hunt ride.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Want to help more families ride bikes?

We’ve just scheduled the 2019 Kidical Mass PDX planning meeting (details below) and everyone’s invited.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Kidical Mass PDX is an all-volunteer organization, and the more volunteers the better! The group has historically been primarily about the monthly bike rides and most volunteers are ride leaders, but we’re interested in adding all sorts of Kidical-Mass-related events, like seminars, storytimes, bike-based donation drives, and more! If you want to lead rides, collaborate with Kidical Mass, or share any new ideas, please join us.

Kidical Mass is a legal, safe, and fun bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families that started 11 years ago in Eugene and has propagated all around the globe in the years since. It’s long been a favorite organization of mine and my kids and we’ve led rides in Portland and Seattle and traveled to join rides in Eugene and Santa Monica. I love the fanfare of Kidical Mass — it’s a gleeful parade, but also a means for getting more families comfortable biking around town. I’ve seen so many kids taking their first pedal strokes away from home and it’s the best sight ever.

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Here are the meeting details:

Books with Pictures (1100 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202)
Friday, February 1, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Facebook event
BikePortland Calendar listing

Bring:
➤ YOUR 2019 events calendar.
➤ A laptop or other internet-connected device.
➤ Ideas, dreams, and wishes for Portland’s family biking community.
➤ Your best can-do attitude.

Agenda:
1) Visioning: What do we want Kidical Mass to be in 2019 and beyond?
2) Brainstorming: What COULD we do for each month’s ride?
3) Expanding: What events (storytime, bike camping seminar) beyond rides can/should we add?
4) Collaboration: How can we work with Go By Bike Shop, with Portland By Cycle, Portland Sunday Parkways, Cranksgiving, and others?
5) Planning: What WILL we do for each month? Who will own the event? What are next steps?

~ kid-friendly, though no childcare will be provided ~

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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TRB dispatch: Climate change urgency, Jarrett Walker on justice, and a visit to the Bicycle Committee

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 10:41

Portland resident and renowned transit expert Jarrett Walker at the lectern.
(Photos: Aaron Brown)

As we shared yesterday, BikePortland correspondent Aaron Brown is at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. thanks to a funding partnership with the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University. Here’s his first dispatch…

Jarrett Walker: Geometry of the City

“When we get excited about [a new form of transportation] that won’t scale, we’re basically getting excited about something that will only be for the rich.”
— Jarrett Walker at TRB

Considering his international profile and impressive career consulting for cities across the planet, Jarrett Walker keeps a relatively low profile in Portland. You may have read his book, Human Transit, or you might have heard his name come up a few times after Elon Musk called him an “idiot” on Twitter (which, in my book, is the most rarefied of compliments).

Walker’s presentation, titled “The Geometry of the City,” spoke to how to best match the efficacies of public transportation with the need to provide service to address unmet needs in underserved communities.

With characteristic simplicity and clarity, Walker explained the basic ingredients that make transit function most effectively – having dense, walkable destinations all located along a linear line that can be served with frequent, reliable service. The spatial dynamics of this sort of transit-oriented community allow for a community to continue to grow while only adding marginal additional costs in mobility. Auto-centric growth on the other hand, is enormously space-intensive (just look at how much urban space is taken up by freeways and parking lots) and therefore “scales” poorly. This will be true, Walker points out, of any auto-centric transportation system, whether the vehicles run on gas or electricity, and whether they’re driven by humans, source code, or robots.

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While other presentations in the panel were focused on specific tricks to make TNCs (transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft) and other mobility services more available to low-income individuals, Walker instead advocated for building as many effective, dense, transit-connected communities so that transit would be available to a larger number of people.

From Walker’s perspective, the best way to ensure that public transit can service low-income communities is to to build a transit system (and corresponding land-use plan) that makes transit as efficient as possible – doing so means that it’ll only be easier to “scale-up.” “Only an idea that scales is an idea that can be delivered to everyone,” Walker concludes. “When we get excited about [a new form of transportation] that won’t scale, we’re basically getting excited about something that will only be for the rich… We owe it to our children to try to not build unjust landscapes anymore.”

Climate Change

Norway is on pace to reduce transportation-related carbon emissions to 50% of their 2005 levels by 2030, and has done so by pricing carbon and massive investments in transit and biking in urban cores…

Perhaps I’m just paranoid, but I spend a lot of time thinking about how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently put out a report saying that our society has 11 years to fundamentally decarbonize to stave off horrific, destructive climate change. It’s mind-boggling to process the degree to which our planet might be inhospitable for basic human life in as little as a decade, and even more so to ask how institutions are evolving to prevent this from happening or mitigate the most negative of consequences.

With that warm thought looming in my head, I attended the “Decarbonizing Transportation: Current Efforts and Ongoing Needs (for the #1 Source of GHG Emissions in the US)” session. While the presentation from the American speakers in Rhode Island and Columbus were heartening, it was depressing to compare them to the presenter from Norway.

Norway is on pace to reduce transportation-related carbon emissions to 50% of their 2005 levels by 2030, and has done so by pricing carbon, massive investments in transit and biking in urban cores, and moving quickly to electrify the existing automobile fleet. Oregon isn’t doing any of that.

President Trump’s Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao spoke at the conference, and while I didn’t see her presentation, it sounds as though she didn’t mention climate change once. Instead, she spoke about the bright new future in drone delivery service. Yikes!

Bicycle Transportation Committee

PBOT’s Peter Koonce in upper left.

There are so many glitzy presentations, gimmicky PR stunts (I saw a bizarre-looking autonomous vehicle driving around), and hob-nobbing receptions throughout the conference that it’s easy to forgot the logistical work underway at the literally hundreds of committees and subcommittees that meet at TRB. These committees are where a lot of the “work” of TRB takes place — academics discuss trends in scholarship, prioritize topics that need to be funded for further research and inquiry in the future, and help set agendas that indirectly, yet inevitably, guide where research funding goes.

On the recommendation of Dr. Tara Goddard (a former Portlander and Portland State University alum), I sat in on the second half of the Standing Committee on Bicycle Transportation to round out my Monday afternoon. Dr. Goddard sits on the committee and noted that the amount of research on bicycle transportation has grown exponentially in recent years — scholars are now studying everything from the width of bike boxes, a racial equity lens to bike infrastructure planning, and cycling’s impacts on public health.

As scholars push the boundaries o scholarship to undertake increasingly intersectional studies of transportation and climate change, affordable housing, public health, and equity, these committees are the spaces where this work will be greenlit, funded, and promoted.

Of little surprise, then, to see the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s very own Peter Koonce (head of the agency’s Signals, Streetlights and Intelligent Transportation Services (ITS) division) swing by the hearing. Koonce gave an overview of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) ongoing research and how it relates to the Bicycle Transportation Committee.

Stay tuned for more from TRB. Follow me on Twitter for more updates.

— Aaron Brown, @ambrown on Twitter

Special thanks to TREC at PSU for making this coverage possible.

Views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect those of TREC at PSU.

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Portland releases final report on e-scooters, plans to bring them back in spring

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 08:30

(From the report)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation says last summer’s Shared Electric Scooter Pilot Program was such a success they plan to bring them back for a one-year pilot program this spring.

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Here’s the announcement (emphases mine):

The Portland Bureau of Transportation today released the 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report. Drawing on scooter use data, public opinion polling, staff observations and other sources, the report evaluates Portland’s first e-scooter pilot conducted from July 23 to Nov. 30, 2018. Based on this evaluation, the bureau also announced a one-year pilot program that will bring e-scooters back to Portland streets this spring.

“I’m glad that PBOT took a proactive approach, requiring e-scooter companies to share their data and to serve East Portland,” said Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. “While this technology has the potential to reduce congestion and pollution, I remain concerned about the unlawful use of e-scooters on sidewalks and in City parks, and the impact of e-scooters on people with mobility challenges or vision impairment. We will continue to seek public input on how to best serve all Portlanders.”

New data gathered by Multnomah County Health Department for PBOT show e-scooters were subject to risks similar to other ways of getting around. Scooter-related injuries (including injuries from non-motorized scooters) were a small portion of total traffic crash injuries, accounting for about 5 percent of the estimated 3,220 of total traffic crash injury visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers during the pilot period. Scooters generated 176 visits or less than half the 429 visits for bicycle-related injuries.

“We recognize people are interested in understanding the risk associated with a citywide scooter ride-share program, and this analysis provides an important baseline from which to make that determination,” said Environmental Health Director Jae Douglas, Ph.D. “After reviewing emergency department and urgent care clinic data, we found that e-scooters have risks similar to other parts of the transportation system. We did not find a disproportionate risk that would discourage the city from allowing a scooter ride-share pilot.”

A start date for the second pilot program has not been set. PBOT staff will brief community groups and transportation advisory committees on the findings report and seek input on how the bureau should conduct the second pilot program. A longer one-year pilot program will give PBOT the chance to test new measures to improve the use of e-scooters.

The bureau will also seek input through an on-line open house, which is set to begin in the coming days. The open house will give Portlanders the chance to submit their ideas about how the bureau can address some of the significant challenges related to scooter use, including sidewalk riding, improper parking and securing access to this new technology for all Portlanders. People wishing to be notified of the online open house, should sign up for email updates at the Shared E-Scooter Pilot Program website.

Here are the positive findings of the report:

A majority of Portlanders viewed e-scooters positively.
In a representative citywide poll conducted in December by DHM Research, 62 percent of all Portlanders viewed e-scooters positively at the end of the pilot. Support was even higher among Portlanders under 35 (71 percent), people of color (74 percent), and those with incomes below $30,000 (66 percent).

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Scooter safety risks were similar to other ways of getting around.
According to the Multnomah County Health Department, scooter related injuries increased from less than one per week before the pilot to about 10 per week during the pilot. Weekly emergency room visits peaked in late August and early September before decreasing to near pre-pilot levels by the end of the pilot in November.

Portlanders primarily used e-scooters for transportation.
71 percent of Portlanders reported that they most frequently used e-scooters to get to a destination, while only a third of respondents (28.6 percent) said they most frequently used e-scooters for recreation or exercise.

E-scooters replaced driving and ride-hailing trips.
34 percent of Portland riders and 48 percent of visitors took an e-scooter instead of driving a personal car or using Uber, Lyft, or a taxi.

Having safe scooter infrastructure mattered to riders.
Based on scooter ride data, riders preferred riding on low-traffic streets such as Neighborhood Greenways and on streets with bike lanes. This was also confirmed by rider survey data.

It wasn’t all roses and unicorns. Here are some of the findings that illustrate how, “e-scooter use created conflict with pedestrians and underperformed on some City goals”:

Portlanders reported widespread illegal sidewalk riding and incorrect scooter parking.
With speeds capped at 15 mph, scooters are appropriate for bike lanes or low-volume streets, but they are too fast for use on sidewalks, where they make it unsafe or uncomfortable for people walking or using mobility devices. And while staff observations showed most scooters parked properly in the sidewalk furnishing zone, improperly parked scooters negatively impacted accessibility and created a hazard for people with visual impairments.

E-scooter use in parks impacted other users and presented a significant management challenge for Portland Parks & Recreation staff.
Although bicycles are allowed in Portland parks, including Waterfront Park and the Eastbank Esplanade, motorized vehicles are not. E-scooter use on Portland parks trails violated Portland Parks & Recreation’s rules, but most riders (66 percent) said they weren’t aware of the rules.

E-scooter companies did not consistently comply with the East Portland fleet requirement and the pilot program showed other equity challenges.
Companies did not consistently comply with the East Portland fleet requirement. Companies only enrolled 43 Portlanders in a low-income plan. Along with staff observations, this suggests low company performance in aligning business practices with City equity goals.

They’ve also released this cool interactive map of all the routes taken by scooter users:

var divElement = document.getElementById('viz1547570085199'); var vizElement = divElement.getElementsByTagName('object')[0]; vizElement.style.width='100%';vizElement.style.height=(divElement.offsetWidth*0.75)+'px'; var scriptElement = document.createElement('script'); scriptElement.src = 'https://public.tableau.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js'; vizElement.parentNode.insertBefore(scriptElement, vizElement);

PBOT will present findings from the report at tonight’s (1/15) monthly meeting of the Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The meeting is open to the public. It takes place in the Pettygrove Room in City Hall from 6:00 to 8:30 pm. And tomorrow (1/16) from 4:00 to 6:00 pm at Ecotrust (721 NW 9th Ave), Forth Mobility will host a networking event titled, What’s next for e-scooters in Portland?.

You can learn more and download the report here – www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/e-scooter.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Another student hit by a driver near Harriet Tubman Middle School

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 16:05

(Graphic: BikePortland)

It happened again.

Here’s the email sent out by Tubman Middle School Principal Natasha Butler on Friday afternoon:

“I want to inform you about a recent incident involving student safety.

On the morning of Friday, January 4, on the way to school a student riding a bike collided with a car at the NE corner of Vancouver and Russell streets. According to a witness the student was crossing with the traffic light and that the driver stopped and talked with the student. The student was not seriously injured and is back in school.

I want all our students to be safe whether they walk, bike or ride the school bus. The middle school years are a time when our young adolescent students are maturing and learning valuable skills towards independence. Here are some bike riding safety tips for students as well as bike riding and driving tips for adults for families to review from our partners at Safe Routes to School.”

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Looking west from Russell onto Vancouver. The northeast corner is on the right.

The intersection of Russell and Vancouver is slightly offset, very wide-open, and dominated by the presence of drivers and their cars. The crossing distances are vast and it’s not hard to imagine someone being hit at this location.

As you may recall, back in October a student was hit by a driver while walking across North Flint just outside Tubman. Friday’s collision was just one block away.

After the last collision, I met with two concerned parents outside the school during the chaotic morning drop-off. One of them, Jillian Wieseneck, told me, “Everyone’s afraid their kid is going to get hit.” There were plans to do more community outreach and education about road safety. We haven’t confirmed if those things ever happened.

One Tubman parent posted Butler’s message on Twitter and expressed frustration about the existing conditions: “Harriet Tubman Middle School has been open six months, and already two students, one on foot and one on bike, have been hit by cars. Both kids were following traffic laws. What’s it going to take to make this area safer, @PBOTinfo?”

Safety concerns were paramount at the start of this year as Tubman re-opened as a Portland public school. It turns out those concerns were very warranted.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Parks bureau will begin paving key section of ‘Sellwood Gap’ next month

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 14:22

South of Umatilla, the Springwater turns into an unimproved gravel path. This will be smoothly paved and get significant upgrades by the end of summer.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

13 years after it was officially identified, the City of Portland plans to finally close a major gap in the Springwater Corridor.

Pink lines will be paved this summer. Orange line shows current detour. (Map courtesy Portland Parks)

Known as the Sellwood Gap, the popular paved path currently ends at SE Umatilla, forcing bicycle riders into a one-mile detour on surface streets before joining back up with the path at 19th and Ochoco (across from the Goodwill Outlet Store).

Now the Portland Parks and Recreation bureau is just weeks from breaking ground on a $1.83 million project that will close a half-mile of the gap — the section between Umatilla and 13th. Funding comes from a federal grant and Parks System Development Charges (fees paid by developers). Construction is due to start the first or second week of February and be completed by August of this year. Like other parts of the Springwater Corridor right-of-way, this section is adjacent to railroad tracks owned by Oregon Pacific Railroad. Metro, our regional elected government, acquired easements to build this section of the path in 2010.

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The project will make a direct and seamless connection from Umatilla to 13th. Once complete, the new path will end where 13th becomes SE Andover Place, just outside the entrance to a enclave of homes adjacent to Waverley Country Club. Despite the stone walls that mark the entry to this neighborhood, bicycle riders are allowed to use the streets. As some of you may already know, this neighborhood provides a quiet and low-stress way to connect to the path on SE 17th that goes to Milwaukie (but rumor has it they are not fond of “bicyclists” so I won’t be surprised if they make protest noises once this project is completed).

Looking northwest from 13th. This is where the new section will end.

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springwater-missing-gap-study-2006
(Springwater Missing Gap Report, Alta Planning + Design – 2006.)

By this August, the remaining gap in the Springwater Corridor will be only 2,000 feet (or 0.4 miles). In 2015, Metro negotiated the easement rights for the segment between 13th and 17th avenues. While there’s not timetable for that section, Parks says the planning process has started. Once it’s built we’ll be a tantalizing 450 feet or so from a full connection of the path. That final section won’t be as simple or cheap as adding pavement next to a rail line because the City of Portland will also have to build a safe crossing over 17th.

You can get a sense of design and planning recommendations for the future connection by looking through the 2006 Springwater Missing Gap Report embedded above.

Once this section is paved — except for a short stretch between OMSI and SE Ivon Street (thanks Ross Island Sand and Gravel!) — you’ll be able to bike on a relatively carfree path for about 8.5 miles between the Rose Quarter and (south of) Milwaukie using a combination of the Eastbank Esplanade, Springwater, and Trolley Trail.

Note that no closures or detours will be required during this project. However, if you this section of path (which is unpaved, but open to the public), expect it to be closed during construction.

For more info, see the project website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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BikePortland is at TRB thanks to TREC at PSU

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:27

These stickers (modeled by Portland State University’s Michael Espinoza) are a hot commodity at the conference.
(Photo: @TRECPdx on Instagram)


Publisher’s Note: I realize that’s a lot of acronyms for a headline; but anyone who cares about the big transportation research conference happening in Washington D.C. this week is probably fluent in them.

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting is the most important wonky gathering of the year. It’s such a big deal that we hired Portland organizer, writer, and activist Aaron Brown (@ambrown on Twitter, which I highly recommend following ASAP) to be our eyes and ears inside (and outside) the conference. His coverage from TRB is being made possible by the Transportation Research and Education Consortium at Portland State University (TREC at PSU, @TRECPdx on Twitter).

This week Aaron will be sharing his notes and observations with us right here on the Front Page. Take it away Aaron…

Do Uber and Lyft help mitigate urban traffic congestion or make it worse? How will the proliferation of e-bikes impact transit service? What is the optimal proportions of concrete mixtures for asphalt in different climates?

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Our correspondent, Aaron Brown.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus)

These disparate questions may not seem to have a lot in common, but the smartest researchers across the planet who know about these things have converged in our nation’s capital this week for the 98th annual TRB Annual Meeting (#TRBAM). Over 13,000 researchers, civil engineers, urban planners, policymakers, graduate students, and industry specialists are here, it’s a dizzying spectacle that overwhelms multiple floors of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

I’ve counted no less than six languages spoken by presenters during their poster sessions in the first three hours on Monday morning, and I’ve satisfied my inner cartography geek with more maps about cities and freeways and bike lanes than I could ever imagine possible to find in one place.

BikePortland and TREC at PSU were nice enough to send me to DC this week and report back to Portland my thoughts from the conference. Through Wednesday, I’ll be providing a daily roundup of the most interesting things I saw, some tidbits of Portlanders and Oregonians who are making waves with their presentations and research, and some perspectives on the state of national transportation research and governance at a time in which we have eleven years to solve climate change.

And yes, I’m going to provide updates on the latest research on bikes and scooters, too.

Stay tuned!

— Aaron Brown, @ambrown on Twitter

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The Monday Roundup: Baller bikes, cycling cheat sheet, car ad comedy, and more

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 10:35

*This week’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by the City of Portland, who reminds you that the Eastbank Esplanade will close for maintenance on February 1st.
See the Better Naito detour and more details at the project page.

Welcome to the week! I’m sure many of you have sore muscles in your face from all the smiling about the sunny weekend we just had. I saw so many people on out two wheels! Let’s start the week with a look at the most noteworthy items we came across in the past seven days…

Here are the ways. Where is the will?: Free bikes, filtered permeability, lower speeds, strict liability — this list from The Guardian on how to boost urban biking is like a cheat code to a happier city.

A mayor that bikes is not enough: Not satisfied with progress on cycling infrastructure, activists in New York City are calling on City Hall to appoint a Bicycle Mayor.

Baller bikes: State Bicycle Co worked with Phoenix Suns superstar Devin Booker to create custom bikes he used as Christmas gifts for his teammates.

Transgender competitor: First-ever transgender UCI World Champion Kate McKinnon has become a lightning rod of scrutiny and now she’s become an outspoken advocate for other transgender cyclists.

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Car commercials skewered: YouTuber Damien Slash set his talents on the car commercial genre in this hilariously accurate bit of audio from the BBC.

Burst of self-driving bubble: Americans so want to believe that AVs will solve all our problems, yet even an industry CEO says their capabilities have been oversold. Surprise, surprise!

Lower age, lower price: The City of Vancouver BC has lowered the legal age for using their Mobi bike share system to just 12 years old. They also unveiled a $20 per year price option.

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The trouble with the Census: Every year we need to remind you that the U.S. Census bike commuting numbers are not an accurate picture of our nation’s habits. Here’s a solid breakdown that explains why.

Big cars kill: Research from Canada proves what you’ve probably already speculated: That those ever-popular, absurdly large trucks are dangerous by design.

E-scooter laws: The city of Denver is adjusting their laws to clarify how e-scooters can be used. With Portland about to release a final report on our first pilot, we’re looking at how other cities are handling the era of micromobility.

Video of the Week: If you’re a pro cycling fan — especially of a certain age — you’ll appreciate this old footage of the legendary Morgul-Bismarck race.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Man riding a bicycle dies in collision with truck operator on Highway 30 near Scappoose

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 10:39


*Photo of the scene via Oregon State Police (Left). Scottie Graser at a ride in 2016.

A man riding his bicycle died yesterday after he was involved in a collision with a truck operator on Highway 30 south Scappoose.

Graser’s Instagram profile pic.

Oregon State Police say around 1:30 pm on Saturday, 40-year-old Dustan Thompson was driving a semi-truck (without a trailer attached) southbound on the highway (toward Portland) in the rightmost lane when he collided with 54-year-old Scottie Graser. Graser was riding in the same direction. The official OSP statement says Graser, “entered the eastbound right lane and a collision occurred.”

This language makes it appear as though Graser left the relatively wide shoulder and put himself into the path of the Thompson’s truck. OSP offered no evidence to support their claim about Graser’s behavior and the investigation is ongoing.

Highway 30 is a very popular bicycling route and it’s known as “Dirty 30” among many in the community due to its debris-filled shoulders.

The crash happened just a few hundred yards north of the turnoff to Rocky Pointe Road (map), a very well-known climb and descent that connects to Skyline Road.

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Thompson, the driver, is from St. Helens. Graser was from Scappoose.

According to friends who knew Graser, he was an enthusiastic and dedicated bicycle rider. He was a veteran of many of the marquee organized bike rides in Washington and Oregon. He had ridden the Seattle-to-Portland Classic, Cycle Oregon, Chilly Hilly, the Bike MS Tour de Farms, and many others.

Graser’s friend Daniel Hoyer shared with us via email that he was a, “Nice guy always with a smile and joke.” “He loved to ride long and hard and preferred open country roads to city riding,” Hoyer continued.

Hoyer is skeptical of the OSP version of what happened. “No way he or any other rider would pull into a traffic lane on 30,” he wrote to us. “This is a terrible tragedy.”

Graser worked as a negotiator for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and he married Peggy Grand in October 2018.

I reached out to Grand via Facebook today. “I have no words,” she replied. “I do know he was the most conscientious rider, he understood how little attention drivers paid to cyclists and was always sure he was extra diligent.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Get ready for a two month closure of the Esplanade that starts February 1st

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 17:11

Make plans to not use the Esplanade between February 1st and April 1st.
(Photo: Portland Parks)

Earlier today we shared the good news: That PBOT will re-open Better Naito three months early.

Here’s the bad news: They’re doing that because the Portland Parks and Recreation Bureau will close the Eastbank Esplanade for two months starting February 1st.

Click for larger version.

Parks is working in partnership with PBOT, the Bureau of Environmental Services, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council on a major maintenance and repair project on the popular path. The closure will last until April 1st and the affected section will be from the Hawthorne to the Steel Bridge. This is an extremely popular path that PBOT estimates carries about 2,400 daily bicycle trips and 1,200 daily walking trips.

“This long-planned project will improve safety and park amenities, replace invasive vegetation with native species, and restore our public art,” said Parks Commissioner Nick Fish in a statement released today. Among the improvements coming will be: replacement and repair of concrete, degraded surfaces, and various amenities, new and improved lights, and the cleaning of trash and graffiti.

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Two major events already planned — the Worst Day of the Year Ride (February 20th) and the Shamrock Run (March 17th) will be permitted to use the path during closure.

As we shared earlier today (the rollout of this announcement wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped because I was out of the office on-assignment most of the day), PBOT has stepped up to provide Better Naito to help with the detour. You’ll be able to start biking in the two-way protected path on Naito starting January 28th and it will stay up through the summer festival season.

The project to restore this 1.5-mile section of the Esplanade to its original beauty is brought to you by $500,000 in the City’s 2018-19 adopted budget and $200,000 in ongoing maintenance funding.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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PBOT: Better Naito will return three months early this year

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 12:14

Surprise! It’s Better Naito!
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has found a way to bring back Better Naito sooner than anyone expected.

The agency announced today that Naito Parkway will be upgraded with a protected lane for bicycling and walking from January 28th through the end of September. The early opening comes as the ever-opportunistic PBOT jumped on a chance to provide a safer and more comfortable detour for an upcoming closure of the Eastbank Esplanade.

In a statement today, PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said this early opening of Better Naito is, “An important first step in the implementation of projects within the Central City in Motion Plan… Community members have requested quick implementation of the projects within the plan, and we are listening. I look forward to more progress in 2019, 2020 and beyond.”

Portland Parks and Recreation will close the Esplanade between the Hawthorne and Steel bridges for two months beginning February 1st. The project will allow them to perform maintenance and repairs on the popular multi-use path.

PBOT says in working with Parks to come up with viable detour, they decided Better Naito would be the best option.

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PBOT spokesperson Hannah Schafer told us this morning that instead of taking the posts and signage down after the Parks closure, they’ll simply keep it up through summer. This is a nod to Better Naito’s popularity and success in several years of a pilot project first sparked by tactical urbanist group Better Block PDX in 2015.

PBOT is moving forward on a permanent Better Naito as outlined in the recently adopted Central City in Motion Plan (Project #17). Schafer said today that design work has started on the $4 million project that will include a two-way cycletrack and sidewalk along the west side of Waterfront Park. The public outreach process will start this spring (made much better by having Better Naito in place simultaneously!). PBOT still needs to find $1 million to build the CCIM project, but Schafer says they’re confident it will come through.

See our latest post for more information on the Esplanade closure.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Want $1,000? Help us solve the mystery of nails in the Interstate Ave bike lane

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 10:20

This has gotten out of hand. Let’s catch the perpetrator(s).

Enough is enough. Someone is deliberately throwing nails in a popular Portland bike lane and we’re tired of waiting for it to stop.

So here’s the deal: BikePortland is offering a $500 $1,000 cash reward for information that leads to an arrest in this case.

As we’ve reported, PBOT has reached out to Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s office and the Portland Police Bureau for help. So far don’t have any leads — and given everything on their plate, we need to encourage them to make this a high priority.

We need to treat this seriously. Intent to damage private property and hurt innocent people is a criminal act that we should not dismiss as a juvenile prank. If something like this targeted users of a freeway, you can bet the response from official authorities (and the media for that matter) would be much different. There’d be a manhunt underway and we’d have major engagement from all levels of law enforcement.

We need to send a clear message that this is a serious crime and that it won’t be tolerated.

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*Thanks to KOIN-TV for interviewing me for this story.

Someone in Oregon City is doing the same thing and police officers are offering a $1,000 reward for an arrest and prosecution in the case.

In Portland we have thousands of people using bike lanes every day and we have a long and proud legacy of respect for cycling. We should do at least as much about this as Oregon City. It’s time for our law enforcement agencies to step up. Crimestoppers of Oregon offers rewards for all types of crimes. We hope they’ll join us and work with the PPB to help raise the profile of these incidents until someone is caught. We’d also like to see Commissioner Eudaly and/or Mayor Wheeler make a more formal public statement to put our community on notice that bicycle riders deserve respect and that behavior like this will not be ignored.

Thanks to all of you who’ve pledged to make a financial contribution to BikePortland to help make this reward offer possible. We don’t have the funds to do this. My hope is that once someone’s caught, we can raise the necessary funds from the community. We’ll increase the reward amount if we raise more than $500.

When you find nails in bike lanes, please report it to PBOT maintenance dispatch (503-823-1700 or email pdxroads@portlandoregon.gov) and tag @BikePortland, @PBOTinfo and @ChloeEudalyPDX on Twitter. If you see someone spreading them, or have any evidence about the possible suspect, please come forward and call it in to either 911 (if it’s in progress) or the PPB’s non-emergency line at (503) 823-3333.

What else can we do to stop this from happening?

UPDATE, 4:43pm: An anonymous donor has come forward to match our reward, bringing it up to $1,000.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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The Weekend Guide: Gravel social, activism inspiration, OBRA awards party, and more

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 09:02

Where will you ride this weekend?
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to the weekend.

If you can get over the creeping unease about climate change-induced weird weather, you can relax and enjoy this mild winter we’re having. It should be dry and maybe even sunny this weekend. And as luck would have it, there are plenty of great rides and events to choose from.

Here’s our menu for the weekend, specially selected for you…

Saturday, January 12th

Endless Summer Saturdays with Club Roule – 9:00 am at Crema Coffee (NE)
A very nice group has been showing up to this weekly ride. With friendly faces and our mild weather, this is a great way to motivate yourself to keep riding through winter. More info here.

Be the Change: BikeLoud PDX 2019 Planning Meeting – 10:00 at NE Coalition of Neighbors (NE)
This small but mighty group of volunteer activists did great things in 2018. Now they want you to join them for a strategy and visioning session to make 2019 bigger and better. Bring your big ideas and a willingness to make them happen.More info here.

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Please subscribe or donate today!

OBRA Annual Rules Meeting and Awards Party – Chris King Precision Components HQ (NW)
Our statewide cycling event sanctioning body will host an evening at the Chris King cafe for a bit of work, play, and recognition of the year’s best racing teams and athletes. More info here.

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Portland Wheelmen Touring Club Welcome Ride – 10:00 am at corner of NE 99th and Pacific (Gateway Transit Center)
Led by PWTC member Ann Morrow, this leisurely “4 Path Loop” ride aims to acquaint you with some of the main bike routes in the city. More info here.

Sunday, January 13th

Sauvie Shootout – 9:00 am at Ovation Coffee (NW)
Keep your legs and skills sharp and connect with a community of riders at this “spirited” weekly ride. This is an intermediate-advanced group ride with a route that includes hot-spot sprints and goes around Sauvie Island and up through the West Hills. More info here.

OMTM Winter Social – 11:00 am at Golden Pliers Bike Shop (N)
Our Mother the Mountain, their legendary gravel rides, and their Unpaved email list, have spawned a robust and engaged community of riders. This event is a chance to come together and socialize without an epic ride getting in the way. Expect a fun, industrial alley-cat type ride to keep things interesting; but mostly this is about hanging-out at the bike shop to meet people and learn about their lives and their bikes. More info here.

Corvidae Bike Club Monthly Ride – 2:00 pm at Peninsula Park Rose Garden (N)
Corvidae (scientific name for crows and ravens) is a welcoming group of people who like riding bikes and exploring the streets of Portland together. This month’s ride ends at Fire on the Mountain to sample spicy chicken wings! More info here.

Stay plugged into all the bike and transportation-related events around the region via our comprehensive event calendar.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Truck driver Paul Thompson wants you to know he’s sorry for role in deadly crash

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 15:07

Paul Thompson.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

In the early morning hours of August 21st, 2017, Paul Thompson was on his usual route picking up recycled cardboard from businesses in Portland’s central eastside industrial district. A truck driver for over three decades, Thompson had a spotless record before that morning.

After a stop to empty the bins at All Service Moving on Southeast Morrison, he drove south on Water Avenue. Then he turned left onto Taylor and his life changed forever.

In that intersection Thompson and his truck collided with 41-year-old Tamar Monhait, who was bicycling north on Water. She died from the impact.

Thompson’s truck just moments after the collision.
(Captured from video taken by Water Avenue Coffee)

In October 2018 I got an email from Thompson. He wanted to talk and share his side of the story. I met him yesterday at the Burgerville on Southeast 122nd near Parkrose High School, just a couple miles from his home in the Wilkes neighborhood of east Portland.

As Thompson shared his story he oscillated between a warm smile (he’s a jovial guy) and a voice that quivered with regret as his face fought away tears during heart-wrenching recollections.

“There are some things I probably did wrong,” he recalled, as he stared out into the grey January rain. Throughout our conversation I could tell he fully accepted his role in what happened.

He said would have never been at that intersection at that time on August 21st if it wasn’t for the total solar eclipse. He started his route early that day with hopes of getting home in time to snap photos of it. A fan of astronomy-related conspiracy theories and an avid listener to Coast to Coast, a popular radio talk show that covers them, Thompson said he was excited to see the eclipse.

But it’s what he didn’t see in the darkness that morning that haunts him to this day.

“I’m looking down the road, just looking for lights or movement. And I’m not seeing anything. I’m not on my phone or anything, just driving,” Thompson said, recounting what happened in the moments before impact. “I think I had my four-way flashers on and I put on my signal,” he added. Then he said he wasn’t sure if the signal stayed on for the turn. The way he tells it, Thompson didn’t make a smooth left turn. He admittedly turned a bit too early, then tried to correct his trajectory — and in that twisting motion he said his blinker might have switched off. Then another thing happened during that left turn. “And this is the weirdest thing,” Thompson recalled, “I get up to the corner of Taylor and Water — and I still thought it was perfectly clear and didn’t see anything — but there was a guy walking over here [on the sidewalk to his left near Bunk Sandwiches]. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to walk across the street. So I looked over at him, and I’m turning, and then I turned back and looked out the other window and I said, ‘Holy Fuck!’ here comes the bicyclist.”

In video of the collision captured from a nearby business, it’s clear Thompson’s truck ends up in the wrong lane (over the centerline) on Taylor. He said that happened because of a last-ditch effort to lessen the impact. “When I saw her I turned my wheel as far as I could to see if I could get out of her way. I saw her right in my window and I was trying to get the truck as far away from her as I could.”

It didn’t help. Monhait’s head struck the front of his truck and she died shortly thereafter.

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Thompson remembers getting out of his truck and going to her side as she lay on the street. Then he started talking to her.

“This is gonna be in my head for the rest of my life.”

“I said, ‘Forgive me’. I was rubbing her leg, saying, ‘People are coming. Hang in there. Hang in there. I’m so sorry about this.’ I was tearing up quite a bit.”

In the video, you can see Thompson bolt out of his truck’s cab and run to Monhait — then run away. He did that twice, in what looked like frantic movements brought on by the blur of confusion that surrounds tragedy. Thompson explained to me yesterday that seeing Monhait on the ground instantly took him back to a day in 2009 when his wife died. “Tamar was the same age as my wife when she fell down our stairs and died from a head injury. It sent me visions from that day. So I ran away.”

Some time later, as he sat watching investigators go through the scene, a police officer walked up to him and informed him that Monhait had passed away. “I thought, oh my gosh… It’s just heartbreaking…heartbreaking.”

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Several times in our conversation Thompson expressed regret for not making different decisions that morning. “Why didn’t I hit my air horn?” “Somehow I should have seen her before I made that turn.” “I want to turn back time and go straight.”

Thompson, now 56, was born in Nebraska. His father moved the family to Oregon when he was four. He has two kids, an 18-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. He started driving garbage trucks in 1980 and used to have a route in the West Hills above Portland. He worked his way up to operations manager at one point, then realized management wasn’t for him and went back to being a driver.

After the crash, his employer (Republic Services) gave him paid time off. His company-provided attorney told him to not read comments about the crash on the Internet. “But I was at home doing nothing,” Thompson shared, “So of course I started reading them.” Thompson read comments from people who sympathized with him in The Oregonian. “On your site though,” he said. “Some people were very angry. Some said they should put me in jail.”

“I do care about people. I really cared about her. I tried to help her. I’m very sorry it happened and wish it didn’t happen. Not just cause of what’s happened to me, but what happened to her was the worst thing… she was too young.”

Thompson didn’t end up in jail. In the end he was charged with one traffic ticket for making a dangerous left turn (his lawyers got the failure to use a turn signal citation dismissed). The Multnomah County District Attorney declined to pursue a criminal case and he was never charged with Careless Driving so the Vulnerable Roadway User law — which would have given him a $12,500 fine, suspended license, and/or community service — wasn’t triggered.

A lawsuit filed by Monhait’s family was settled out of court. Republic allowed Thompson to come back to work a few months later; but not as a driver. He says they fired him unjustly in January 2018. “I think they just wanted to get rid of me,” he said. Getting fired meant he was unable to collect unemployment benefits. Thompson had trouble making ends meet before getting a job at another trash-hauling company, making substantially less per hour than he made at Republic.

Asked if he thinks justice has been served, Thompson said, “Yeah… I think so. I got a ticket. I lost my job. And no other place will hire me because of the incident. I’ve paid a price. I mean, I still feel terrible about it. This is gonna be in my head for the rest of my life. I even prayed to my wife, ‘Can you find her and say God bless her and I’m sorry?'”

Before sitting down with him, I wondered what Thompson’s true motivation was for wanting to talk. In my 14 years doing this site I’ve never had the driver in a fatal collision reach out to me like this. I asked why he contacted me: “I just wanted to say my truth to people,” he explained, “I felt like I needed to share it with somebody and you seemed like the best person to share it with.’

I also asked him what he hoped would come from our meeting. “That I’m not a bad guy that doesn’t care about people,” he said. “I do care about people. I really cared about her. I tried to help her. I’m very sorry it happened and wish it didn’t happen. Not just cause of what’s happened to me, but what happened to her was the worst thing… she was too young.”

Five days after Monhait died, her friends held a vigil at the intersection. Thompson was there. He brought his son with him and they watched from afar. “I said to him, ‘This is where it happened. This is a terrible thing. Look how I hurt all these people. Her friends and all these artists.”

___

Before parting ways Thompson and I talked about how he could help improve road safety by becoming an advocate and speaking out to more people about his experience. He said he’d be willing to do that. Trucks like his claim far too many lives in Portland and we must do more to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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