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Old 03-19-2013, 09:50 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
1,587 posts, read 2,618,593 times
Reputation: 1988

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Hi there,

I have never been to Portland but I'm intrigued by the city's biking culture. It has one of the highest rates of bike commuters in the country with around 7% of workers commuting by bike each day.

The city already seems like a paradise for bikes (by American standards) and it is going to get even better.

The Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 calls for expanding the quantity of bike lanes from 630 miles by 2016 to 962 miles by 2030 and increasing the daily bicycle modal share from the current 7-8% to 25% by 2030. This means that around 25% of trips in the city are projected to be by bike.

You can read more about the plan here:

Bicycle Plan for 2030 | The City of Portland, Oregon


I have some questions for y'all. Does biking play a role in your daily lives? Do any of you commute, exercise, go for leisure rides, and/or head to cafes/stores by bike, etc?

Portland is at the forefront of the national trend towards biking. My city of Austin is constantly looking up to Portland for insight on implementing bike infrastructure/increasing bike use.

I'm very interested in reading your responses.






Last edited by LiveUrban; 03-19-2013 at 09:59 PM..
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Old 03-20-2013, 03:26 AM
 
Location: Vancouver, WA
158 posts, read 333,415 times
Reputation: 108
As a former bike rider my perspective is one of not wanting to fight the traffic challenges any longer. Had too many close calls and too many rude drivers letting me know they didn't appreciate my taking up space on the street. I still appreciate the many parks and bike paths that Portland has made available. I don't currently own a bicycle but may invest in another one this summer as the bus / train / bike option is useful for taking advantage of some destinations where parking is too limited or expensive. People who live and work downtown have the best opportunity to ride a bike because it is relatively flat everywhere, there are bike lanes, and distances are short. It's also a good idea simply because parking in downtown Portland is a big problem.
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Old 03-20-2013, 08:57 AM
 
Location: the Beaver State
6,466 posts, read 11,978,556 times
Reputation: 3547
I am a bike commuter out in Beaverton, and tend to ride extensively around Portland. I also own three cars and love to drive them. I'm on the fence in both cases.

Some bicyclists need to learn to follow the law. Some drivers need to learn to follow the law. Until enforcement and education on both sides happen, and while the large local media outlets keeps up their anti-bike reporting, we are going to have issues on both sides.

As a driver, I will honk at other drivers in the bike lane, either using it as a lane, or going over the line to turn. As a biker, I will yell at other bikers who fail to use hand signals, or those who fail to stop at stop signs. Or bicyclists who cut cars off. As a car driver, I will treat bikes like another (just slower moving) vehicle, give them right of way when they own it and taking it when it's mine. As a bike rider, I will continue to do the same but I'm not going to be afraid to make eye contact with other drivers and clearly signal my intent to take a lane or make a turn.

The biggest problem continues to be drivers who claim that bicyclists "don't pay their own way." A large core of bicyclists are willing to be taxed, even though every municipality that has tried that ended up spending more money collecting the taxes then the tax brought in, just so we can move past that tired old argument. Not to mention the fact that something like 75% of all bike commuters in Portland also own a car, and most of the money for road repair comes from sources other then the gas tax anyways. But as a driver, it can be frustrating to see dollars being spent on bicycle infrastructure when streets are still in poor repair. Never mind the fact that paving a single mile of street can cost as much as all the bicycle infrastructure put in place in one year.

The shift to friendlier driving on both sides is happening though, it just seems that the anti-bike crowd is a small vocal minority egged on by the Oregonian and KATU or KOIN's scramble to get better ratings by following the FOX model. While we have stories like the bike counter on the Hawthorne Bridge or the mom who rides with six kids that are glossed over by those other media outlets.

Overall I feel safer on the roads, especially in Beaverton, then I did six years (it's been that long!?!?) ago when I first started. I see more bikes on the road then I did back then. Places where I used to be riding solo, I'll usually be passed by some spandexed person on a bike that costs more then my car or followed by fellow commuters weighed down by laptops and an extra change of clothes.

I think part of this is that smaller communities in rural Oregon are feeling the economic effects of the Scenic Bikeways program as tourists spend money in their towns. In Portland, despite the grumbles by many, removing parking spots in favor of bike racks has been a huge hit. Businesses near those spots have seen huge upticks in profits due to the added traffic to their front doors. Even on rainy days it can still be hard to bike parking downtown or along any of the popular streets. Companies that were previously against them are clamoring to have them on their own blocks. Safe Route also plays a huge part, getting families on bikes, getting kids to exercise, and quite importantly for many, clearing up the daily traffic jams around schools.

Keep in mind that Portland was a popular bike riding town in the 1880-1910 time frame, (I have an awesome vintage bike map of Portland,) until the automobile became popular. Culturally we are now moving back the other way a bit. I think we're going to stop somewhere in the middle, until the price in oil shifts dramatically. But for a lot of people, the costs of riding a bike vs. driving a car pen out quite favorably, even if you still have a car and just let it sit most of the time.
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Old 03-20-2013, 09:06 AM
 
Location: Milwaukie, Oregon
101 posts, read 157,379 times
Reputation: 168
I would advise anyone to leave the car home and take the bike downtown, even if including the MAX or a bus in the commute. Our downtown is great but would be absolutely awesome without most (or ALL) of the motorized traffic.

I'll admit to having been a bit spoiled when I worked outside the home because I had the Springwater MUP practically door-to-door, but with a little planning and a Bike There! map, using a bicycle to commute and to run errands is quite easy once you're acclimated to the effort and the logistics involved.
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Old 03-20-2013, 12:38 PM
 
Location: North Idaho
24,633 posts, read 32,256,920 times
Reputation: 49945
I don't bike, so my perspective is that the inconsiderate bike riders refuse to stay in the bike lanes and they want to ride in the middle of the road and impede traffic.

Then they whine a lot about the taxpayers not providing enough bike lanes or good enough bike lanes, or wide enough bike lanes. The bike lanes cost millions of dollars. The bike riders don't use them, and they don't pay any extra to have them built.
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Old 03-20-2013, 02:14 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
1,587 posts, read 2,618,593 times
Reputation: 1988
Quote:
Originally Posted by oregonwoodsmoke View Post
I don't bike, so my perspective is that the inconsiderate bike riders refuse to stay in the bike lanes and they want to ride in the middle of the road and impede traffic.

Then they whine a lot about the taxpayers not providing enough bike lanes or good enough bike lanes, or wide enough bike lanes. The bike lanes cost millions of dollars. The bike riders don't use them, and they don't pay any extra to have them built.
I have no idea what your physical situation is but if you are able to, I encourage you to try biking! It's such a freeing experience not being tied down to your car to get around.

As for people not staying in bike lanes, it's not fair to judge all cyclists by a minority. It's like judging all drivers as bad just because that one person cut you off on the highway. In addition, those people you saw out of the bike lane might've got out of it in order to turn left. Also, there might've been obstructions ahead in the bike lane (parked car, some obstacle, etc.) Here in Austin, whenever there's a bike lane, the majority of cyclists stay in it. I'm sure the same is in Portland.

Bike lanes are a lot cheaper than building new roads and the returns are high. They decrease car traffic and pollution. For those who ride the bikes, it saves them money and keeps them healthy. Bikes wear minimally on the roads compared to cars and so maintenance costs are lower. Businesses located along roads that accomodate cyclists have greater sales. Cars result in a net export of money from Portland because car insurance companies, auto manufacturers, and oil producers are all from other places.

As for paying for the bike lanes, many people on bikes also own cars. Is it fair to double charge these people? What about children who use bike lanes? Should we tax them as well?

In addition, roads/bike lanes are not solely paid for by car related taxes. Various other taxes contribute. It's a common misconception that people in cars are paying for bike infrastructure.

Last edited by LiveUrban; 03-20-2013 at 02:24 PM..
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Old 03-20-2013, 02:18 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
1,587 posts, read 2,618,593 times
Reputation: 1988
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeekOfTheOzarks View Post
As a former bike rider my perspective is one of not wanting to fight the traffic challenges any longer. Had too many close calls and too many rude drivers letting me know they didn't appreciate my taking up space on the street. I still appreciate the many parks and bike paths that Portland has made available. I don't currently own a bicycle but may invest in another one this summer as the bus / train / bike option is useful for taking advantage of some destinations where parking is too limited or expensive. People who live and work downtown have the best opportunity to ride a bike because it is relatively flat everywhere, there are bike lanes, and distances are short. It's also a good idea simply because parking in downtown Portland is a big problem.
I'm sorry you had to deal with rude drivers! The good news is that there are plans to greatly improve the safety of cyclists in the Portland area. Hopefully the bad experiences you had will start to diminish and will allow you to feel more comfortable about cycling again.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 03-20-2013, 02:38 PM
 
Location: the Beaver State
6,466 posts, read 11,978,556 times
Reputation: 3547
Quote:
Originally Posted by oregonwoodsmoke View Post
I don't bike, so my perspective is that the inconsiderate bike riders refuse to stay in the bike lanes and they want to ride in the middle of the road and impede traffic.
From the Oregon State Bike Manual,

"When You Should Take a Lane
if there is no shoulder or bike lane, and the travel lane is narrow, ride closer to the center of the lane. This will prevent motorists from passing you when there isn’t room. You should also take the lane when you’re traveling at the same speed as traffic. This will keep you out of motorists’ blind spots and reduce conflicts with right-turning traffic."

Generally, the State of Oregon considers a bicycle to be a 'vehicle' when looking at traffic laws. That does lead to some ambiguous ruling and misunderstandings on both sides. Recent modifications by the State Legislature have tried to shore some of that up but there are still issues. Bicycle Specific laws are here, the same web site discusses bike specific laws quite often and helps to give tips on riding safely and legally. I will admit, that like everywhere, there is some self serving bias in the comments on that web site, but the author tends to be pretty even handed in my opinion.

Of course I do not know the specific occasions that you may be talking about, but a huge problem here in Portland is people using the bike lanes as parking areas, debris in parking lanes, and storm water grates that like to catch bike tires. All of which serve to make bike lanes useless in some areas. In rural areas it's even worse, many of those bike lanes were mandated at the Federal level and never really used until recently. So there is a huge misunderstanding on both sides about who, when and how they should be used.

I think with time, these issues will iron themselves out. We're just in that awkward "figuring it out" phase still.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oregonwoodsmoke View Post
Then they whine a lot about the taxpayers not providing enough bike lanes or good enough bike lanes, or wide enough bike lanes. The bike lanes cost millions of dollars. The bike riders don't use them, and they don't pay any extra to have them built.
Fair argument to a certain extent: PolitiFact Oregon | Portland Mayor Sam Adams says Portland

and Government Relations News and Events

But, keep in mind that in Portland the bike infrastructure was NOT paid for from typical transportation funding sources. So in a sense, bike riders have been and will continue to be paying for these projects - just like we pay for resources that they not be using themselves, all for the greater public good. It can be argued that the Bike Lanes, and the "unused and useless" street cars on the East side are long term investments that we won't see a return on for years. Just like roads were in the first place.

The counter arguments are many "most bikers already have cars and pay taxes for road use." "Taxes punish the poor." "Collection of taxes would cost more then brought in"

OR "I'm willing to pay a tax, but then I want (more expensive,) extensive infrastructure like what NYC and Copenhagen has, at a minimum proper police enforcement of more of these violations by autos."The Seattle Bike Blog talks a bit more indepth about the tax issue.

So what is the answer? Does a bike tax really make sense for the greater good of all in creating bike specific infrastructure (if it somehow made money?) Or does it make more sense for bikes to take their legal space on the roads just like any other vehicle and cause even more issues?
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Old 03-20-2013, 03:49 PM
 
Location: Pacific NW
6,413 posts, read 10,777,189 times
Reputation: 5823
I'm not a bike rider ... too old now ... but did when I was younger. And I fully support all the bike lanes, commuting, etc. I think it's great for the city.

However, in my experience, a far too large percentage of bike riders are inconsiderate sharers of the road, than are auto drivers.

I'm not necessarily interested in the city taxing, bicyclists. But I'd sure like to see them have to have passed a rudimentary "rules of the road" test, and have some sort of a license plate attached to the bike. If an automobile has a hit and run, I can read the license plate and report that. A bicyclist, has no means of identification. Of course, that would come with some sort of licensing fee, but I don't see that it ought to be more than the cost of the license and processing.

I'd also like to see them banned from all sidewalks. Working in a building with a solid door ... and on a common commuting route ... it's really disconcerting, not to mention dangerous, to step out onto the sidewalk, and having a bicycle come flying past, right in my face. I'm on a one-way street, and they're always riding by, against traffic ... which is why they use the sidewalk, not the roadway.

I always find it ironic, because one of the most common arguments for bicycling is that it's great exercise, that so many bicyclists are too lazy to drive an extra block out of their way, in order to more safely share the road.

Kind of like, one of my old favorite ironies was driving up by Lloyd Center, and watching all the businessmen parking in the structure across the street from the Lloyd Athletic Club jaywalking in the middle of the block, dodging traffic, because they were too lazy to walk to the corner and cross legally, with the light. Or else they were in too much of a hurry to get over there and exercise, to get some exercise by walking down to the light and crossing. Not sure what their reasoning was, but I always had a good laugh on their behavior.
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Old 03-20-2013, 04:39 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
1,587 posts, read 2,618,593 times
Reputation: 1988
^^ You make some great points Enrico. I still disagree a bit about the licensing part though (it would discourage cycling).

By the way, no one is "too old" for biking!
I know that I personally will be biking as long as my health permits it which will hopefully be into old age (knock on wood).

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