BikePortland journalism scores two awards in five-state contest

BikePortland journalism scores two awards in five-state contest

NE Lombard at 42nd -12.jpg

The bike lane gap at NE Lombard at 42nd, where Martin Greenaugh died in December.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

For the first time, BikePortland’s reporting has been chosen by the Society of Professional Journalists as some of the best from small newsrooms in the Northwest.

In the annual awards announced Saturday, Jonathan’s December report about the circumstances around the death of Martin Greenough (“Why would anyone ride on that scary stretch of Lombard?”) took first place for general news reporting in the five-state contest among news organizations with 10 staff members or fewer.

Among the facts that might have been overlooked without Jonathan’s reporting: the fact that Greenough had moved to Portland two weeks before he died and may have been on his very first homeward commute when a man hit him with a car; that he was navigating with the city’s widely distributed bike map; and that the bike lane gap where he died, which we had happened to cover for the second time the day before the collision, is not marked on the city’s map.

In the past few days I’ve noticed a familiar thread of conversation around this tragic crash: Why was Martin even riding on that section of Lombard when everyone knows to avoid it like the plague? Some people, on a website that shall not be named, even go so far as blaming Martin for being in a place not meant for bike riders. …

It’s very likely that he simply opened up the map, saw that Lombard was listed as a bikeway and figured he’d take it to Cully, then up to Alberta. Straight and direct. Easy-peasy.

Unfortunately the bike map doesn’t point out that Lombard is a state highway where people drive 50+ mph. Or that the bike lane is often full of debris and gravel or that people often park their cars in the bike lane, forcing bike riders to contend with fast-moving auto traffic.

Just after Jonathan’s post ran, regional government Metro edited its online bike map to reflect the bike lane gap. Lombard Street, however, has yet to see any changes to a stretch of road we called dangerous by design in a subsequent piece. Three days after the collision, the Oregon Department of Transportation described itself as “saddened” while emphasizing the fact that the driver was allegedly driving while high on marijuana.

henderson with chip

Knock Software founder William Henderson with a matchbox-sized device similar to the one he’s developed that could sell for $50, last for two years and count every bike that passes by.

Also Saturday, a post I wrote in January 2015 about new, radically cheap bike-counting technology from Portland-based Knock Software took second place for business reporting in the five-state SPJ contest.

Titled “This $50 device could change bike planning forever,” the post looked at a clever new concept for using a low-power Bluetooth signal to cut the cost of a bike counter from $5,000 to $50, opening new potential for year-round, 24-hour bike counts in many locations.

Do bikes count?

A three-person Portland startup that hit a jackpot with its first mobile app is plowing profits into a new venture: a cheap, tiny device that could reinvent the science of measuring bike traffic — and help see, for the first time, thousands of people that even the bike-friendliest American cities ignore.

Our post went viral, becoming BikePortland’s most-read post of 2015. Knock got dozens of inquiries from cities around the country interested in the new technology.

In the 18 months since, Knock has concluded that to get counters with sufficient range, it’ll need a shoebox-sized device costing $300 or so rather than a matchbox-sized $50 one. Though that would itself be a big improvement to counting technology, Knock has decided to put that project on ice for the moment while it focuses more on its other project, Ride Report — the mobile app designed to crowdsource bike-route comfort information.

These contests were designed for newspapers, but lot of BikePortland’s work doesn’t fit neatly into the categories that newspapers have developed over the years. Our best narratives play out in multi-post loops and threads rather than 2,000-word packages. That said, we’re proud of our continuing work, which is made possible by our advertisers and our subscribers. It’s an honor to have some of our more traditional journalism pieces recognized by our peers as some of the best in the Northwest.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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