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Author: Michael Andersen (News Editor)

Four things I learned by working for the world’s best bike blog

Four things I learned by working for the world’s best bike blog

Wonk Night on 82nd Ave-9.jpg

Not included in this listicle: always listen to Jim Howell.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Three years ago, when Jonathan and I were drafting the blog posts in which we’d talk about my joining BikePortland, he offered one of his many lessons that have stuck with me.

Don’t write about BikePortland as if it’s a thing I control, he said. Write about it like it’s a community.

My boss for the last three years isn’t always right. (Just ask him.) But that was one of the many times when he is.

I’ve been writing about local government for 16 years now, depending on how you count college. I’ve written for daily, weekly, twice-weekly and monthly newspapers; for topical blogs and nonprofit websites; for a mom-and-pop email newsletter and one time for the Guardian. I’ve never wanted to be anything but a reporter and I still don’t. (Frankly, I’m scared of ever finding out how terrible I would be at a job I don’t love.)

Before I go, I want to share a few of the lessons that being part of the BikePortland community has taught me.

But I’m almost certain I’ll never love journalism more than I’ve loved these three years at BikePortland. Being part of this miraculous journalistic community — and a miracle is exactly what it is — has been the opportunity of a lifetime.

And that’s why I’m leaving, more or less. BikePortland has been my nominally half-time job for three years, but despite my best efforts and despite the saintly respect for my needs as an employee and a person that Jonathan and his wife Juli have always provided, I can’t say no to BikePortland time. I’m typing this at 10:28 p.m. last Tuesday and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing right now. It’s my 1,402nd post for the site.

That equilibrium can’t continue once I’ve got a baby, and in a few weeks, my wife Mo and I will. (Yep, we’re stoked.) Both of us are going down to 60 percent time for a while, and for me that means walking away from BikePortland … because I can’t imagine ever successfully keeping BikePortland work within such neat boundaries. I will, however, get to more or less continue the Real Estate Beat — 10 percent of my professional time will be blogging for Portland for Everyone, a new local campaign that supports advocates for abundant, diverse and affordable housing.

Anyway, enough about me. Though it’s likely that my writing will keep popping up here sometimes, Friday was my last regular day at BikePortland. Before I go, I want to share a few of the lessons that being part of the BikePortland community has taught me.

1) People are hungry for a sense of direction and meaning in their local civic life

Protest on SE Powell-21.jpg

Cleveland High School sophomore Alyssa Hadley at a 2015 protest of Powell Boulevard’s dangerous design.

It is extremely common to hear people claim that local journalism is doomed in part because people don’t care that much about it.

That’s baloney.

Finding the money is difficult — Jonathan can tell you, though by any reasonable standard he’s been a wizard at making it work against difficult odds. But finding an audience for news that matters is entirely possible. People feel their locations deeply. People are already telling themselves stories that help them make sense of the places they live; they are grasping for meaning in what are, for most people, a bewildering and unpredictable series of events.

If there’s a problem in the local information market, it’s that there is actually a dangerously large shortage of people attempting to fill the public’s hunger for local news. When no one is providing people with accurate or helpful stories about their city, they wind up grabbing onto false or counterproductive ones, such as “the solution to congestion is more lanes of auto traffic” or “people of different culture X are the cause of my problems.”

BikePortland is fantastic because it’s organized around a story: “better biking can and will make Portland a better city for everyone.” That’s its sense of direction. Not everyone thinks this is the right direction to move, but having that story around is like a breeze on a hot day. You feel good about it just because it’s there.

2) Journalism is at its best when it opens people’s eyes to opportunities they didn’t see before

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-6

If I had to pick one accomplishment at BikePortland that I’m most proud of, it’d be the catalytic role we played in the emergence of Better Block PDX and the transformation of 3rd Avenue.

One day in July 2014, Jonathan and I were in the office kicking around story ideas and we decided to roll together three tidbits into an update about what might be BikePortland’s most enduring obsession: the potential for a downtown protected bike lane network.

The post that came out of that conversation happened to be read by two forces of nature: Ryan Hashagen, a young pedicab entrepreneur who had spent years with the patience of Jane Addams, laying the political groundwork for a campaign by retailers to support bike lanes in Old Town, and Boris Kaganovich, a young engineer who looks at car-dominated streets with the impatience of Elon Musk. Working with many essential allies, these two insanely energetic people forced the ambitious, experimental plaza in front of Voodoo Doughnut into existence — and opened the city’s eyes to a new way of making lasting change on its streets.

Better Block took it from there, holding meetings in Greg Raisman’s living room and finding more inspiring leaders like Gwen Shaw.

But the magic moment couldn’t have happened without BikePortland. Our role wasn’t to win an argument or lead a movement, though the site has done those things too over the years (like the time the BikePortland community saved the 2030 Bike Plan — that was cool too). All we had to do was tell people something they didn’t know. That felt great.

3) There is, and should be, no such thing as unanimity

Active Transportation Debate at PSU-18

They all agree, and they also all disagree.

One of the most important things to understand about BikePortland is that its readership and its comment-thread community are not the same. But BikePortland’s comment-thread community, for all its foibles, is awesome.

Have you noticed how, in the last few years, the comment sections on almost every other website have slunk away into Facebook, vanishing from shared public view and staying reassuringly out of the sight of the journalists whose work is being picked apart, corrected and expanded upon? Not on BikePortland; never on BikePortland.

Most people familiar with BikePortland fall into one of three layers of knowledge of its comment community, but the first two are wrong.

Most people familiar with BikePortland fall into one of three layers of knowledge of its comment community. And though I understand and sympathize with all three of these perspectives, the first two are mostly wrong.

The first layer, common among people who read the site occasionally, believes that BikePortland commenters are an undifferentiated horde of yes men who ride through the city muttering the word “bike” to themselves over and over. (I mean, that sketch was onto something, but still.) Mostly these people don’t read the comments, they’re just shocked and frightened to see the number 144 next to a headline like this one and assume that nobody could possibly have anything meaningful to say about such mundane issues except “yeah!”

The second layer of knowledge of BikePortland comments believes that the community is incurably negative and hates everything. OK, there’s some truth to this, sometimes hilariously so. But that’s a generalization about its culture. The better way to evaluate online discussions is to consider their best moments — because they often couldn’t occur anywhere else.

Spend enough time reading BikePortland comments and you’ll achieve the third layer of knowledge of what they are. And that is the best-informed, cleverest and (yes) most fundamentally optimistic source of divergent and valid bike-infrastructure opinions on the Internet.

Soren, it has been thrilling to watch you step out from behind spare_wheel and throw your irascible heart and brain into organized activism. Davemess, Hello Kitty and Mamacita, thanks for so reliably getting under my skin and forcing me to fight back. (Another great tip I got once from Jonathan: “Only argue with a comment if you think it made a pretty good point.”) Anne Hawley and rachel b and others anonymous and otherwise, thank you so much for slashing merrily through the Y-chromosome rainforest week after week and regularly adding the most interesting twists to the discussion. Gender imbalance is one of BikePortland’s biggest problems and you show us what we’re missing by not doing better at it.

All of you: I am in awe of your collective intelligence. Thank you so much for forcing me to become better, smarter and more honest.

4) Portland is going to achieve its biking destiny because of its impossibly deep well of civic energy

lombard open house

At a Lombard Street open house, 2013.

Portland has problems. Because so many of its creative people have been priced into day jobs or out of town, it doesn’t throw off cultural sparks like the city I fell for in 2006. It remains locked in institutional and structural racism, a fault I came to understand better thanks to BikePortland. And it’s maddeningly hard to reach difficult decisions in a culture that too often reads argument as disrespect and dissent as betrayal.

But thanks largely to BikePortland, I still love our city with everything I’ve got, and I’m still convinced that our love for it is paying off.

If you want a taste of my faith in this city, do what I did for one post and spend an hour reading comment cards from the 20s Bikeway open houses.

If you want a taste of how I feel, do what I did for one post and spend an hour reading comment cards from the 20s Bikeway open houses. Then tell me whether any other city could produce them. The breadth of vision and depth of knowledge by ordinary Janes and Joes, all showing up to a church basement to write on postcards with tiny pencils about a few blocks of bike lane — it’s crazy that this exists anywhere and I’m proud of Jonathan and BikePortland for being, I think, the most important ingredient in building it. But it’s just as crazy that Jonathan has been able to build this insane little business just by informing and inspiring that vision and knowledge. If he could have done that in any other city, I’ve never lived in it.

I’ll close by saying a little about Jonathan, since maybe for once it won’t come off as kissing up. Portland, he’s a treasure. Yes, more than some of us, he can be an asshole. Like every single one of us, he can be blind to his personal privileges. Exactly as I do, he tends to let thing A slide too far because it’s hard and he’s excited about thing B. Here’s a tip for all of you: don’t steer clear of arguing with the guy or calling him out. He needs it and he can take it.

But although BikePortland is relatively tiny in revenue (tinier than its reputation and importance are worth, I am certain) my boss for the last three years is one of the most successful local-news entrepreneurs in the country. (Yeah, it’s a tough business.) And he’s also one of the best. I’ve never had a boss who’s good at such a wide array of different things, or more openly conscious of his limitations. I’ve only had a few who care so deeply about their work, and only one other (Cal FitzSimmons, if you want to know) who enjoys it so much.

And maybe most remarkable for somebody with such deep opinions and such a love of sharing them, Jonathan has a mind that’s just as deeply open. The sort that has maybe been pried open by years of having good arguments.

I’m going to guess that it was this community, as much as anything, that has made Jonathan the impressive dude he is today. I can only guess that this community has changed many of our lives in smaller, similar ways. Let’s keep changing many more.

Want to say goodbye to Michael as a regular team member and talk about what’s next? We’re gathering for drinks and pizza at Rev Nat’s Hard Cider tasting room (1813 NE 2nd Ave, east of Williams, north of Broadway) this Friday (8/5) at 5:00 pm. Come by and join us. SORRY! We can’t make this happen this week. Stay tuned for details of a get together soon.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Who’s mad and who’s glad about ‘Better Naito’?

Who’s mad and who’s glad about ‘Better Naito’?

Naito Parkway traffic observations -13.jpg

Naito Parkway on Thursday afternoon as seen looking north from the Morrison Bridge.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This weekend, the City of Portland plans to remove the temporary multi-use path from the eastern side of Naito Parkway so the space can be used by cars instead.

It slowed rush-hour northbound auto trips somewhat: by about 1.5 minutes in the morning and between 30 seconds and two minutes in the evening, according to an independent analysis requested by The Oregonian and published Friday. (That’s for someone traveling all the way from I-405 to NW Everett.)

On the other hand, the project vastly improved the experience of biking or walking on Naito, especially during the summer festivals in which Waterfront Park is fenced up to the edge of the curb. In past years, people typically spill into the bike lane, forcing bikes into the auto lane, and the waterfront path regularly becomes almost impassable by bike because so many people are walking there.

So for politicians, here’s the question: How do you weigh the benefits of depressurizing the waterfront path and increasing the appeal of biking and walking downtown against the costs of increasing delay for people driving?

In short: how much were people who drive ticked off by those additional minutes of delay?

Well, out of the 10,400 people who drive northbound on Naito on the average weekday, exactly 45 sent either a voicemail or an email to the city opposing the project’s congestion effects. Just for fun, let’s look at that on a chart:

did not complain

“I work in Portland Monday-Friday,” wrote Paula Beard. “I drive North on Naito Parkway to Davis, then to 8th and Glisan. My evening commute has not been impacted by the Northbound Naito lane closure, but my morning commute time is greatly increased. I timed it today—25 minutes from the time I merged to Naito on the South end to when I arrived at the Davis Street stoplight. Without the lane closure it is about 5-10 minutes.”

Now, obviously there were many people annoyed by the Naito change who didn’t take the time to contact the city about the plan. Feedback like this is a better indicator of how many people are passionate about a policy — potentially to the extent that it’d influence their vote.

But in that case, we also need to consider the number of people who sent emails or voicemails supporting the project’s biking and walking benefits. We don’t have good data on how many people bike or walk on Naito, unfortunately, but a total of 65 people contacted the city since Better Naito was installed to express support for the idea. So here’s another chart:

direct feedback

The city also got a handful of letters and voicemails from people discussing design issues with the temporary path, such as trucks parking there or confusion about where bikes should turn. Those aren’t counted in this analysis unless they also mentioned general support for or opposition to the general change.

To be fair, all but nine of those positive comments came over the last week, when some biking advocates organized a letter-writing campaign in anticipation of the project being removed. But of course that only happened because someone was motivated to take the time to organize a letter-writing campaign … and because 56 people apparently cared enough to join that campaign even before the trial was removed.

“I’ve heard rumors that Better Naito is being torn out this weekend,” wrote Evan Heidtmann in an email to the city Tuesday. “Why would this happen? It doesn’t make any sense to me. I enjoyed riding on Naito this summer and I don’t know of anyone who wants it to go back to the way it was. Our waterfront is one of the best things going and we need to make it a great place to be, not a giant sewer for people driving fast in their cars. Everyone has already figured out how to use the street in its new configuration. Changing it now will just lead to confusion, frustration, and increased dangers for everyone on the street.”

By contrast, most of the negative feedback arrived at the start of the project; only nine of the 45 negative comments arrived in the last week.

Here are 19 more examples of things people had to say to the city about Naito, released to BikePortland after a public-records request. We’re publishing positive and negative feedback in the same ratio that the city received: about 60 percent positive.

Subject: Better, Better Naito

Dear Mayor and City Council – I have been loving the Better Naito project and had no idea it wasn’t going to become permanent! If there is a jewel of downtown Portland, it is the waterfront. I have taken family and friends there from Ohio, California, Colorado, Iowa and of course Portland, and everyone loves it. Having the security to ride and walk along more safely has been a great improvement, especially when there are thousands of people at the many events there.

What other city would do this grand experiment with traffic control? I congratulate you for conducting experiments like this and risking the wrath of other commuters. The investigative work is essentially done, and now we need to take it to the next step and make it permanent.

I love that we live in a city that is so progressive and tries things like this. And I agree with people who say we can’t really pave our way out of our new traffic problems, so where we can, let’s continue facilitating active transportation so that it becomes part of our lives.


Rob Hertert

Subject: Commuting from SW to NE


Just some feedback about clogged arteries. I am sure your office is aware of the worsening of traffic conditions in the past few years. I live in NE Portland and work on SW Macadam, a 6 mile commute by car. Whether due to new residents or tourists, the traffic on I5 and 405 has ramped up considerably. It can take 45 minutes for me to get home in the worst of the traffic jams. Naito Parkway has been an alternative option for me to use when the freeways are at a standstill. The blocked easternmost lane has created yet another traffic log jam. I see drivers taking unnecessary risks. The other day I saw a van driving down the blocked lane. The pedestrian flow was in Waterfront Park with people crossing Naito at lights or marked crossing points. I did not see people using the blocked lane as a walking space. The lane was empty. This experiment in blocking a lane of a main artery seems frivolous and potentially dangerous.

I have lived in NE Portland since 1980, long before it became trendy, and love its walkability. However, I am increasingly concerned about the liveability of the city as a whole. We have had a huge influx of people without the transportation infrastructure to move them quickly.

Jan Volkin
NE Portland

Subject: Commuter Experience

Heya! I heard your soliciting feedback on the Naito bike route.

I am a 100% car commuter. I drive from North Portland into SW downtown for work, dropping my kids off at school and daycare on the way. I don’t have time to bike to work, regardless of how nice or big the bike is …

… And I *LOVE* the bike path. It doesn’t significantly impact my commute time, I see tons of cyclists using it every day, it helps keep the waterfront pedestrian path clear and safe, and I think it’s the right thing for out growing city!!

Regarding the folks who complain about traffic snarls: in my experience, the #1 jam is the Hawthorne bridge on ramp from Naito. Everything else moves at a pretty steady clip. Opening up the Naito bike line to vehicular traffic isn’t a solution to any of the traffic problems I’ve seen. At best it’s a short term solution to the same congestion, whereas a bike path can accommodate many, many more commuters!

I’m thinking about the continuous development in the north Pearl, the south waterfront, and the upcoming inner SE — all need access, and all are extremely bikeable. Let’s set the right precedence and make our city even more friendly to cyclists …

And I say this as a 100% downtown car commuter!

-Peat Bakke

Subject: Please keep BetterNaito!

I’ve followed the instructions on your website and tweeted my thanks for #BetterNaito, but tonight I’ve learned that there is a chance that we can keep it.

Please, please, please! This would be great for family biking. Just last week we had a biking family visiting from Seattle and it was wonderful to be able to get to the BoltBus stop easily from the Hawthorne Bridge and then use it to connect to the path to the Tillicum. Lots of visitors want to ride the Tillicum and BetterNaito was a great, low-stress way to get there on our cargo bikes.

For those of us that don’t venture over the river to the westside very often, it’s hard to find a low-stress way to get where we do need to go. This is so helpful. My bakfiets weighs 90 pounds before the kids get in it with all their gear, so we need a flat or downhill route to get where we are going. BetterNaito lets me ride at my speed (I average 4 mph) without inconveniencing people walking or people biking faster than that. And it’s so flat!

I’m looking forward to taking the kids to Jamison Square if you keep it. I hope you do.

Thank you,
Kathleen Youell

Subject: A Joy


Thought I’d take a moment to say how much this project means to me. Traveling between SE to NW Portland is made easier when I can stay on the East side of Naito. This makes getting on and off the bridge easier. I wish it would carry on through the winter. I typically take the Eastbank home after work in the summer but when winter rolls around it’s too dark and I take Naito. Riding South on the West side of Naito, I have to watch the parked cars since they may pull out or open doors without warning. Also, it can be stressful to get across Naito at the Salmon St fountain to get to the Hawthorne bridge.

Thank you for taking the time to read my message. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Be well,

Subject: Please make Better Naito permanent

I just heard that the opening of Better Naito to pedestrians/cyclists/skaters is coming to an end this Sunday. This lane has made life better for so many at so little a cost. Walking down on the shared path by the water is so much safer and more welcome for the elderly and families and tourists. Meanwhile faster moving thru-cyclists, runners and skaters have taken to Better Naito to move through more efficiently without disturbing their fellow Portlanders. It really has been marvelous. I drive through here too and I have not noticed any significant change in the driving time.

There is limited capacity and growing demand for human-powered movement in this area. Better Naito eases both problems elegantly and inexpensively. This is future thinking. Please make it permanent.

William Rausch

Subject: “better naito” is not better

Regarding “better naito.” It seems like a nice idea, but really, it is a mess.

Your website has too much positive spin and doesn’t speak realistically. Fact is, delays are more like 10 minutes – you cite 45 seconds to 1 minute. Try again. I take the route daily and know this for a fact. Your website states there is a sign alerting drivers ahead of time – barely noticeable. But again – the alternate route adds 10 minutes.

Your solution only help bikes/peds even though you say “more connected way for all Oregonians.” What about people who are trying to get to work DURING A REGULAR MORNING WHEN THERE IS NO FESTIVAL? It is a ridiculous concept to create a traffic jam and a mess of construction cones during these times. How did anyone think this was smart?

A better solution that would indeed benefit all Oregonians using downtown would be to erect the lanes during festival HOURS only. Simple, efficient, smart for all.


Subject: Better Naito
Hello Mayor and City Commissioners;

I am an internal medicine physician at OHSU and bike to the tram every day from my home in NE Portland. I am writing to express my sincere and heartfelt support for the Better Naito project. Although there are certainly other areas of the city which sorely need bike infrastructure attention, I have personally experienced how the conversion of Naito the last several months has benefited a huge number of Portlanders and visitors to our great city- bicyclists and pedestrians alike. I can’t help but smile every time I bike down Naito now. Seriously!

I appreciate the hard work you all do on a daily basis for Portland (despite the complaints and grumblings of many). This project is important for you to support and I feel that it (and other bike and pedestrian friendly projects across the city) enhance what is already such a great place to live.


Joe Hardman, MD

Subject: Make #BetterNaito permanent!

Hello City of Portland representatives,

Today I write you to make my appeal for keeping the #BetterNaito changes permanent. It has been absolutely wonderful to have this dedicated cycle and pedestrian path for the last few months. I ride my bike five days a week from Inner SE to Naito and NW 9th Ave and this segment is crucial for my commute.

It has been wonderful to have this alternative bike path available, especially in the summer time. There is no easy traffic-free way for me to make an efficient north/south commute from the Pearl to the Hawthorne bridge except on this path. The festivals that take place on the Esplanade during the summer months make riding near impossible with people who are leisurely trying to enjoy those festivals and the park. Similarly, riding on the East side Esplanade is also extremely difficult. There are many people enjoying this space in a leisurely way and it does not feel very safe for me or for them to use these paths for my bicycle commute where I am often riding very fast.

Having said that, I’ll leave you with a few more points for consideration

– The four permanent lanes of auto traffic on Naito have access to the road for 8760 hours a year. I’m sure traffic volume studies show that this road can certainly afford to permanent lose a lane. Let’s get real and give cyclists a piece of that 8760 hour pie.

– The distance we’re talking about is a mere 0.70 miles. In the grand scheme of trips via automobile on this road, that is like a drop of water in the ocean. For cycling commuters, that can be a much more significant percentage of their commute.

– I ride five days a week all year long. I see the volume of traffic every day on Naito during peak hours. Northbound traffic can certainly support the change. Congestion is not that bad.

– I’ve also ridden for the last eight years using the Esplanade. I can tell you having more cyclists on this pathway will NOT work. I’ve seen it from both perspectives – as a pedestrian trying to dodge cyclists and as a cyclist trying to go to and from work. If it were not for #BetterNaito, I would simply divert to another street (3rd Ave). Riding on the bike path on Naito now really sucks, as there are at least nine traffic lights that kill my trip.

– This would be a tremendous sign of support from the city about taking cycling seriously. You’ve already got some great momentum with Biketown, closing the Naito gap, Ankeny Plaza. Keep the transformations coming!

– I’m invested in my city and my community. I am a tax-paying homeowner in Portland that wants to see my city work for me

Thank you for your time,
Evan Reeves

From: Jared Lorz
Subject: You suck
I have had to walk on dirt sidewalks and unpaved dilapidated streets for 30 years because you bastards won’t improve southwest Portland. Screw downtown and your little initiatives.

Subject: Bike lanes vs cars. Naito Parkway and foster and holgate.

You guys are idiots. If you want people to come to the festivals, more parking for CARS and lanes for CARS are needed. I used to live in portland and now won’t come to any of your festivals nor will any of my friends of family because you have let the bicyclist take over the roads that we ALL pay for. And yes I still work in portland and still pay taxes there but have moved across the river to a state that is CAR friendly for commuters.

Jason Lind

Subject: Please Keep #BetterNaito!

Hello oh transportational powers that be!

I heard through Twitter that #BetterNaito is scheduled to end on 7/31. I think this a terrible idea and here is why:

1) BetterNaito has helped to reduce car/bike and bike/ped conflicts on Naito and the Waterfront Path.

2) We are all used to it already. I drive 60-70% and bike 30-40%, and Naito seems fine to me. I often have to visit hotels on the waterfront for my job, and I haven’t seen any unusual or commerce-ending congestion, just the typical rush hour stuff that passes if you just chill for a few minutes — as we all should.

3) We don’t want to backslide into a car-centric downtown. It doesn’t make sense to say Portland is committed to #VisionZero if we are going to take away something that creates bike/ped safety!

4) There isn’t another really good north-south bike path in downtown until 14th Ave.

5) There are so many upcoming events on the waterfront throughout the fall, winter, and spring — from Portland Marathon, to Jingle Bell Run, to Shamrock Run — it doesn’t make sense to make everyone unlearn BetterNaito when it’s just going to go back in again in the summer, and when we have so many downtown events that BetterNaito helps. Let’s keep our vibrant downtown a year-round vibrant downtown!

Please — make BetterNaito permanent and help make Portland, Oregon into the multimodal utopia we want to be.

Thank you!

Emee Pumarega
Business Owner
Car Driver



I’m writing to ask that you strongly consider keeping Better Naito permanently. I’ve worked downtown for over a decade & often bike commuted from Milwaukie to downtown on a daily basis. Although the frequency of my commute has lessened I still commute using the same route every other week and often ride downtown for errands or shopping (Powell’s Books!). Riding my bike on Naito has been way too frightening so the majority of the time I’ve used waterfront park to connect from Hawthorne bridge to the US Bancorp Tower. Riding the sidewalks with pedestrians, which has become more crowded over the years, is not ideal and poses its own dangers to cyclists, pedestrians, and the wildlife (I’ve personally witnessed a goose getting caught in wheels of a passing cyclist in waterfront sidewalk)! Additionally, at lunch time I often walk down waterfront park & experience from a pedestrian standpoint the stress of having cyclists passing, especially when large groups of people are congested in particular spots. Riding waterfront park during any event is almost impossible with limited access to reach the streets, fence obstructions, and vendor trucks/cars on sidewalk.

I had actually forgotten Better Naito was set up this year when I commuted into downtown one morning. How refreshing to be able to safely ride down Naito all the way to work (while shaving several minutes from commute time)!! I have since been able to enjoy Better Naito with my 8yo son, with groups of friends riding to events at Powell’s Books, and many other regular commutes to/from work. I have twice helped lost strangers find & ride Better Naito with me as a better way to reach Hawthorne Bridge or the Tillikum Crossing. Their response has always been “this is great!” and my reply is always “yes, it is!”

I do own & sometimes commute into downtown by car. There’s always the “change pains” as people get used to anything different but people adjust quickly & I’ve experienced little change in my car commute due to Better Naito. Additionally, I have other options in my car but I don’t have many other options on my bike!

Keep the positive change momentum going for our city & allow Better Naito to stay. Safe streets & spaces for PEOPLE (not just people in cars) is important to me.

Thank you.

~Kelly Williams

Subject: Better Naito

Dear Portland,
I want to throw my support behind better naito, the expanded bike lanes and pedestrian access has been awesome.

Let me start by saying I am not a Portland resident. I am a frequent (monthly visitor to Portland because I LOVE what an amazing city the people of Portland have created.

Why do I come every month and stay downtown and spend money?
Do you realize that in the last 25 years Portland has transformed into one of the most unique and amazing North American Cities?
1. I can take MAX from PDX to downtown and then get around on public transit
2. I can now get bikeshare, but before rent bikes and get all over most of the central city without any hassles
3. I can walk to a lot of areas of downtown easily and without hassle.

Do you realize how UNIQUE that is in north America? Only New York City and Chicago offer those same options.. possibly San Francisco, but they’re Californians.

Please keep on being amazing and keep Naito with less cars.. it is an obstacle for bikes and pedestrians to get to the waterfront and yes that bike lane is an awesome North-South route between bridges.

Thanks for being awesome and please stay that way! Keep or reinstate better Naito!

Mike Cipriano

Subject: Naito Parkway Lane Closure

Dear City of Portland Officials,

I am a 21 year resident of the City, having lived in SW Portland (close-in) for the first 9 years, and in the Alameda neighborhood for the past 11 years. When my wife and I were looking for a home in close-in NE to raise our children, we chose to live on bike way – we are proud supporters of shared transportation resources, and appreciate the relatively new bike/ped-only arrangement the City constructed next to the Madeleine School. For years, I commuted to work by bike whenever possible. Now, I work in SW Portland close to Lake Oswego, and must commute by car.

Due partially (perhaps mostly) to people moving to the Portland area, my evening commute has, rather quickly, worsened from about 40 minutes (1 1/2 years ago) to about 50-55 minutes today. I select my route depending on the day, but find that the Interstates have become unbearable, particularly when I-5 is backed up from Barbur Blvd to the Washington border. One of the routes I take is North on Naito Pkwy, crossing the river at the Steel Bridge. Unfortunately, the summer lane closure on Naito Blvd has created traffic congestion that has worsened commutes even more.

I have been an ardent supporter of the City, and have never complained. However, the Naito Pkwy lane closure does not make good sense to me. I have read through the Better Naito materials, but can’t understand why closing one lane to vehicle traffic solves the problems that the closure is intended to solve. A wonderful bike/ped facility already exists along the river bank, very close to Naito Pkwy. Why do we need two North-South bike paths so close to one another? My experience has been that the bike lane next to me is rarely used. I believe that this is a poor use of a valuable and important transportation resource.

I have witnessed many times pedestrians gingerly walking on the curb or in the painted bike lane during waterfront events. This is obviously a dangerous and unacceptable situation. But, the question is; why not move the barrier on the West side of the event venue farther to the East, creating a path in the park for pedestrians to safely travel to/from the event? Why does the event venue barrier have to abut the roadway? Bikes can continue to use the river side path. Further, the event venue can be reduced in size to accommodate a pedestrian path along side Naito Pkwy. A fence could even be erected to keep pedestrians from wandering into the roadway.

In light of the ever increasing gridlock around this City, closing important arterial streets to vehicle traffic should be avoided. In the case of the Naito Pkwy lane closure, a valuable and needed roadway is being blocked to address problems that could be addressed in other, more effective, ways. I request that the City reconsider this short-term and potentially, long term lane closure, and look at other options for addressing pedestrian and cyclist safety during summer events.

David Carter

Subject: Naito Pilot Feedback

I would like to provide feedback on the Naito pilot. While I respect and understand the concept of increasing the ease for bike commuters, it is not possible for all of us to bike to work. Even though I am a resident of Portland and Multnomah County, I need to drive to work due to job requirements (the ability to travel to meetings in Salem and other locations with little notice) as well as childcare restrictions/hours. The lane closure has nearly doubled my commute time and increased my carbon footprint notably. Alternative routes require me to backtrack and idle more than the commute I previously took via two open lanes on Naito.

I find it additionally frustrating that I have been run off the sidewalk twice and hit by one bicycle while jogging on the waterfront during the lunch hour in the past two weeks. Even with the loss of the lane and increased commute time to give the bicycles an alternative route, I do not see bikes using the lane when I do take Naito and I have not seen a decrease in bike traffic along the waterfront walkways.

Please consider what the convenience of even more bike lanes (there are already bike lanes on both sides of Naito and a bike/walkway through the park) is doing to hard working families who are already doing what they can within reason for the environment and attempts at reducing road time. I hear my shared frustrations regularly from coworkers and friends. – I beg you not to chase honest hard working people and families out of Portland.

Thank you for providing the opportunity to voice my concerns and frustrations as a Portland native, Multnomah County tax payer/homeowner, and participant in paying the increasing fuel tax.

Gail Hammer

Subject: Naito Parkway Improvements

Hi Commissioner Novick,

I am very excited to see the improvements made to Naito Parkway! Thank you and PBOT for your support on this project. I do think it is essential to make the Better Blocks project permanent as well, even if it is temporarily just paint and/or cones. I envision an easy to use bikeway for all ages starting from the S. Waterfront extending all the way to Naito and NW 17th. This would enable easy access from east of the Willamette to anywhere on the west, whether it be NW 21st/23rd, the Pearl, Downtown or the South Waterfront. Essentially, this would form the backbone of downtown’s protected bicycle network. Maybe this is your vision too. I’m excited for the many great things coming to Portland. Thanks for your leadership.

Alex Gerace

Subject: Stop the insanity!

Seriously……A group of PSU students come up with a concept plan which calls for the closing of ½ of one of our city’s major arterials. The arterial which allows drivers to bypass the city’s congested core. It is tested last summer during three weeks of generally lower traffic volume due to summer vacations and such. The “Better Naito Summary Report” indicates that north bound traffic is only affected by 45 seconds to 1 minutes with the heaviest delay between Clay and Main due to the merging traffic.

Well, I would like to share with someone my experience of yesterday and today since the closing of Northbound Naito. I work in the Koin Tower on Clay. I commute in my car via Barbour Blvd. I use Front/Naito and turn right onto Clay. Yesterday the traffic northbound was stopped and heavy just north of SW Sheridan at 8:02am. I was able to finally turn left onto Clay at 8:15am. 13 minutes. Today, same route, traffic stopped and heavy just south of SW Sheridan at 8:12. I turned left onto Clay at 8:27. 15 minutes. There is a very large amount of traffic now attempting to turn off of Naito onto Clay and the other westbound streets leading into the core area to apparently attempt to avoid the delay on Naito.

$1.5 in the Mayor’s budget to screw things up. Here is a concept. Spend the money on……wait for it……a sidewalk next to the roadway. Why have we always had grass right up to the curb? Don’t take the road away. Lose ten feet of the grass and make everyone happy.

I can appreciate the difficult job you folks at PDOT have trying to make everyone happy, while at the same time building and providing a system that functions well.
I am certain that your department is monitoring the situation. Please use my input as constructive criticism.

Neil Jaques
SW Portland Resident


Dear Mayor Hales and Commissioners Fish, Fritz, Novick, and Saltzman:

With only a week left before it is scheduled to be removed, Better Naito pilot project should be retained indefinitely. Further, I encourage you to find and allocate the funds to permanently transform as much of Naito Parkway as possible for safe use by non-motorized transportation modes (pedestrian, skateboard, roller skating, bicycling, etc).

Tom McCall Waterfront Park is emblematic of our City’s historic efforts to reclaim auto thoroughfares for non-motorized public use. Extending this into Naito Parkway today extends our commitment to Portland’s car-free future.

Making Better Naito permanent is also desirable for the following reasons:
• The existing multi-use path along the waterfront is increasingly overcrowded. An alternate pathway will prevent potentially dangerous collisions between pedestrians and more quickly moving skaters and cyclists.
• Naito Parkway eventually narrows to one-lane only 7/10 of mile further down the road; we’re not reducing congesting, only postponing it.
• This is a low-investment infrastructure project with immediate, high-visibility benefits.
• The economic impacts will undoubtedly be net positive for merchants on this street and connecting streets on the eastern edge of downtown. Very little freight passes through this corridor. • • Locals and tourists alike will enjoy Naito Parkway as a recreational promenade, which is far more lucrative for our city than a commuter thoroughfare.
• Our streets in the city center should be for people first, not cars. Single-occupancy vehicle driver preferences should no longer be prioritized in our city’s transportation decision-making.

This repurposing of Naito Parkways is in line with our Comprehensive and Climate Action Plans; please, let’s put our words into action.

Thank you for your service to our city and your consideration in the matter,
Sarah Iannarone

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Bike and Build team rolls through Portland, changing lives all around

Bike and Build team rolls through Portland, changing lives all around

bike and build lot number

2016 Bike and Build riders Carmen Kuan and Kelsey Oesmann with local Habitat for Humanity worker Jake Antles at their work site in Cully Thursday.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

For the 15th year in a row, a crew of young adults on bikes pulled into Portland Wednesday almost ready to finish a cross-country bike trip designed to change the way they see their country.

Thursday’s time painting part of a new Habitat for Humanity house in the Cully neighborhood was one of 10 “build days” for the 24-person crew affiliated with the national organization Bike and Build. Part charity bike tour and part Americorps, Bike and Build’s mission is to “benefit affordable housing and empower young adults for a lifetime of service and civic engagement.”

Habitat for Humanity and similar home-building organizations rarely lack for volunteers. But as they finished up work near Northeast 60th and Killingsworth Thursday, Bike and Build participants said their person-hours aren’t really the point.

bike and build residents

“A lot of it is about kind of opening up people’s eyes to what’s going on across the country,” said Kelsey Oesmann, 25, a Washington D.C. resident. “In some places the land cost is really high; in others it’s policy restrictions.”

Each participant raises $4,500 for their tour, much of which is donated to affordable housing organizations and other Bike and Build partners. Riders can self-direct $500 to any affordable-housing organization.

But why the bikes?

“I think when you tell somebody that you’re biking across the country, it gets their attention,” Oesmann said. “A road trip wouldn’t.”

yorktown bike build

Getting ready to head out in Yorktown, Virginia, in May.
(Photo: Bike and Build)

Carmen Kuan of Athens, Georgia, said the 4,000-mile bike trip helps participants “develop grit and stamina” and gives them a physical connection to the country.

“You hear the wind whistling through the trees, you hear the hum of the tires on the pavement,” said Kuan, 25, who’s on leave from a research assistant internship. “You become so much more in tune with the environment around you.”


Anne Davis.
(Photo: Bike and build)

The crew that headed west out of Portland Friday morning was on Day 76 of a trip that started May 21 in Yorktown, Virginia. On July 13, two of their teammates, Anne Davis and Laura Stark, were struck by a woman driving a car on U.S. Highway 26 outside Idaho Falls, Idaho. Davis was killed and Stark remains hospitalized. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

“Distracted driving is extremely dangerous to both yourself and to others,” said Kuan, speaking carefully after being asked about the incident. She described it as “a collision, not an accident.”

Bike and Build saw no rider fatalities from 2002 until 2010. Since 2010 there have been four.

More than 3,000 riders have participated over the years; each must complete 500 miles of personal training and a skills course before leaving. Many, including Kuan and Oesmann, are already bike commuters in their home towns.

There are 11 Bike and Build routes: eight cross-country and three shorter coastal ones. The Central United States route currently runs through Portland.

“They were great,” said Jake Antles, a construction crew leader for the Portland-area Habitat organization who helped supervise the build day Thursday. “Hard workers.”

Next week, the 24 active members of the team expect to finish their cross-country trip with a ceremonial front-wheel dip in the Pacific Ocean on Cannon Beach. Despite the long journey, the traumatic loss of a teammate and Thursday’s blistering heat, Oesmann said she isn’t eager for the trip to end.

“I’m not sure where my next steps will take me,” she said. “But this has definitely been a transformative experience.”

bike and build shirt

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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East Portland advocates say they won’t take no for an answer on Powell bikeway

East Portland advocates say they won’t take no for an answer on Powell bikeway

outer powell street view

SE Powell near 125th. The state’s current plan is to add sidewalks and a center turn lane but potentially no vertical separation between bike and car traffic.
(Image: Google Street View)

East Portland’s most prominent advocacy group is unanimously opposed to the state’s current plan for outer Powell Boulevard, its top staffer said Thursday.

“Every one of our transportation advocates — from pedestrian to bicycle to transit to overall transportation — was in disagreement with their decision and they want a separated bike lane on Powell,” said Lore Wintergreen, advocate for the East Portland Action Plan.

“ODOT’s message to the community advisory group and to me was basically ‘It’s our way; it’s our highway.’”
— Lore Wintergreen, East Portland Action Plan

As we reported this morning, the Oregon Department of Transportation says it’s rejected raised bike lanes on outer Powell as inviable and plans to move ahead with what it called “buffered bike lanes,” which project managers said might or might not include some sort of vertical barriers.

Powell Boulevard is within Portland and Gresham city limits but controlled by the state government. It carries about 20,000 cars and trucks per day in the project area east of Interstate 205.

Wintergreen called BikePortland Thursday to say that EPAP volunteers had learned about ODOT’s decision only “a week and a half” ago themselves.

“ODOT’s message to the community advisory group and to me was basically ‘It’s our way; it’s our highway,’” Wintergreen said.

“They didn’t talk about it until the last meeting,” she continued. “They came to the last meeting basically saying ‘This is what we’re going to do and here’s why.’ … Their assumption was that they could kick the children out of the house if they could not get along with it. But these people are not children.”

concrete with durable striping

A sidewalk-colored bike lane (described here as a “concrete shoulder”) set off by slightly raised striping is ODOT staff’s currently preferred alternative.
(Image: ODOT)

Wintergreen, who essentially functions as a staff community organizer paid by the City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement to support the agenda of East Portland neighborhood advocates, said she and EPAP volunteers aren’t convinced that protected bike lanes are actually inviable on Powell.

“City engineers that I’ve spoken with think there are potentialities to make this safer, and they think they’re viable,” Wintergreen said.

She said that in the last week and a half, EPAP has gotten signoff from multiple legislators and the office of Gov. Kate Brown to convene a meeting between city and state engineers and reconsider the possibilities on Powell.

The reconstruction of Powell between 122nd and 136th avenues is possible because a coalition of seven state legislators struck a legislative deal in 2015 to get $17 million for the street.

EPAP feels that some sort of vertical barrier is needed on Powell, Wintergreen said, because if it’s not there then people will drive into the bike lanes.

“People are very accustomed to passing on the right, because they feel they can do it,” she said. “There is a need to have a separated bike lane on Powell to keep people safe.”

One problem is that with more than 300 driveways and side streets in the project area, a protective curb would look like “Morse code,” as ODOT engineer Matt Freitag put it.

That’s part of why a raised bike lane has been seen as a reasonable option. (Raised bike lanes crossed by numerous driveways are common on lower-density bike-friendly commercial districts in the Netherlands, for example.) But a raised lane might make stormwater drainage more difficult or expensive, ODOT says.

Mike Mason, an ODOT project manager, said in an email Thursday that although he had on Wednesday suggested that anything more than a slightly raised stripe might be inviable because of sweeping equipment and other issues, ODOT still sees a possibility for getting a physical barrier between bike and car traffic.

“The current plan is for the ODOT team to continue working with colleagues at the City of Portland to look at treatments in the buffer zone of the enhanced buffered bike facility that may provide some separation or protection to people bicycling,” Mason said.

Wintergreen said her understanding is that ODOT and city staff have already “agreed to disagree” about what’s possible on Powell.

“East Portland Action Plan members don’t agree to disagree,” Wintergreen said. “They feel that the safety of people is more important than relationships at this point.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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State says raised bike lanes won’t work on outer Powell after all

State says raised bike lanes won’t work on outer Powell after all

concrete with durable striping

A sidewalk-colored bike lane (described here as a “concrete shoulder”) set off by slightly raised striping is the state’s preferred alternative for bike lanes on a reconstructed Powell Boulevard east of Interstate 205. The state-run road carries about 20,000 motor vehicles daily.
(Image: ODOT)

After an advisory group agreed that it wanted an upcoming rebuild of outer Powell Boulevard to include raised bike lanes, the Oregon Department of Transportation says they’re not practical after all.

Instead, it’s drawing the ire of some (though not all) advisory committee members by saying there won’t be any vertical protection between bike and car traffic on the busy state-run street.

“[A raised bike lane] presents a long list of challenges.”
— Matt Freitag, ODOT project manager

Among the issues the agency has cited were difficulty getting water to run off the pavement and into drainage areas; the number of driveway crossings; and the difficulty of sweeping debris or snow from the bike lanes, which would be narrower than any of the equipment the agency currently owns.

“Each of their own wasn’t a dealbreaker, but taken in aggregate [a raised bike lane] presents a long list of challenges,” said Matt Freitag, an engineer and project manager for ODOT’s Portland regional office.

Instead, Freitag said, the agency’s “preferred alternative” for Powell between Interstate 205 and 172nd Avenue is what it calls a “buffered bike lane.” But Freitag and project manager Mike Mason said that the “buffer” along Powell might be built with a different-colored material from asphalt and/or might include some sort of non-curb vertical separators.

A February memo that summarized options for Powell illustrated the “buffered bike lane” option as including “durable profiled striping,” which ODOT has described elsewhere as thick enough to give “auditory signals” to people when they drive over it.

durable profiled striping

Another option for buffered bike lanes: durable profiled striping with no color change.

Freitag and Mason said Wednesday the project is mostly done discussing whether or not there will be a raised or buffered lane.

“What’s undecided is what gets in the buffer,” Mason said. “Is it profiled striping, that raised striping that creates a vibration when you go over it, or some other type of raised pavement markers?”

Potter and Grosjean: ODOT tried its best to make separation possible


A rendering of a raised bike lane on Powell, prepared by ODOT but rejected as an option.

In interviews, two members of the advisory committee who had previously expressed support for protected bike lanes on Powell said they’ve been persuaded that raised bike lanes aren’t worth the cost on the street, which gets unusually heavy runoff from nearby hills during rainstorms.

“They really went into it trying to figure out how to get enough drainage,” said Cora Potter, a frequent bike user who sits on the Outer Powell Safety Project’s Community Advisory Committee. “Anything that involves grade separation greatly increases, like quadruples, the cost. … If you have a curb, you basically get a puddle at the curb that then comes in and covers up the bike lane. If you don’t have a curb, it just flows off the bike lane in a sheet.”

Paul Grosjean, the committee’s co-chair and a member of the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association, said that “after thinking about it for several months,” he’d decided a buffered bike lane would be fine.

“I have driven the entire corridor with just that in mind, and kind of looked at as I drove and said ‘What is this going to be like?’” He said. “I think this is the best solution that is available.”

Potter said she thinks there’s still a chance for the street to get domes like those used in Houston, Washington DC and elsewhere.

“The turtle dome things are actually kind of good, I think, if they’re spaced close enough together,” Potter said.

Potter also said she expects the bike lane to be very visually distinct. If it isn’t, she said, more people will drive in the bike lane to jump the queue for right turns, etc.

“The asphalt would be a different color or they’d make it out of concrete,” she said. “If they don’t, then I’ll be really disappointed. Because it needs to be visually very very clear that the bike lane is not a place for cars on Powell.”

Protected intersections might yet be included


A rendering of a protected intersection included in ODOT’s memo for possible intersection treatments on Powell, for example at 122nd Avenue.
(Image: Nick Falbo)

Elizabeth Quiroz, a professional advocate for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance who sits on the advisory committee, said in a July 12 email she doesn’t like the new plan.

“Many community members are not happy with the final option presented by ODOT.”
— Elizabeth Quiroz, BTA

“Many community members are not happy with the final option presented by ODOT,” she said in an email. “Our understanding was that a raised bike lane was a top priority. … We expected better and safer infrastructure.”

Mason and Freitag said that none of the issues ODOT identified with a raised or otherwise protected bike lane were insurmountable.

The City of Portland might be able to get a narrower street sweeper. Higher-grade crossings and driveways might prevent the “up and down” bobbing that they fear a raised bike lane might give people biking. Even the drainage issues might be solved with enough money.

They and Potter, the advisory committee member, also said there’s still potential for greatly improving the signalized intersections at 122nd and 136th with Dutch-inspired elements like bend-out bike crossings and corner safety islands to force sharper turns.

“The intersections are what really scare me,” Potter said. “As a bike rider, my honest opinion is if they can do the treatment that makes it obvious it’s a bike lane, like a different surface, and then plow as much money as they can into the intersection treatment, as someone who will probably ride a bike there, that’s what I would do.”

Freitag said protected intersection designs are possible at the signalized intersections.

“We’re certainly looking at options that include those elements,” he said.

Mason said that whatever happens on Powell, it’s going to be settled quickly — at least for the stretch from 122nd to 136th where reconstruction was already funded by the state legislature.

“The discussions with the city should happen over the next couple of months if not sooner,” he said. “We’re on a fast track to get this designed and built, so we need to be making decisions.”

Update: The East Portland Action Plan, a prominent advocacy group that had four members on the project’s advisory committee, has come out strongly in favor of protected bike lanes and against what it sees as ODOT’s proposal not to use them.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Correction 10:05 am: An earlier version of this post’s headline incorrectly summarized the most recent position of the project’s community advisory committee.

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One-third of biking injuries in Toronto involve streetcar tracks, study finds

One-third of biking injuries in Toronto involve streetcar tracks, study finds

streetcar turn

Left turns from NW 9th Avenue onto Lovejoy Street toward the Broadway Bridge.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

In the city with North America’s largest streetcar system, on-street rails almost rival automobiles as a factor in collisions that injure people on bikes.

That’s one major finding in the first academic study in North America dedicated specifically to the danger of streetcar tracks to people biking.

Among bike-related injuries in Toronto that resulted in emergency-room trips, the study found, 32 percent directly involved streetcar tracks and more than half happened on streets with streetcar tracks. And in what lead author Kay Teschke described as “a surprise to us,” 67 percent of track-related injuries happen away from intersections.

“Streetcar tracks and people on bicycles are a bad mix; they need to be separated.”
— Dan Bower, Portland Streetcar

Teschke is a professor at the University of British Columbia. Her team’s previous work with this data set (gathered from interviews with people injured at Toronto and Vancouver BC hospitals) has been a major force behind the spread of protected bike lanes in North America.

“There are so many cities building streetcar and light rail these days,” Teschke said in an email Wednesday. “It is important to learn from the Toronto situation.”

Portland is among those cities. Today, its 7-mile system has only one-eighth the length of Toronto’s. But The Oregonian reported last month on its continuing plans to expand the streetcar system on Northeast Sandy, Northeast MLK, Northeast Broadway or Southwest Macadam, overlapping with bus lines there.

Dan Bower, executive director of Portland Streetcar and the former head of Portland’s active transportation division, said in an email Wednesday that the study confirms his conviction that “streetcar tracks and people on bicycles are a bad mix; they need to be separated.”

When new streetcar spurs include good bike infrastructure like the raised protected bike lane on Southwest Moody, Bower said, streetcar projects improve biking safety.

“I think you would be hard pressed to find anything designed after 2001 to be fundamentally flawed from a cycling perspective, with one major exception of NW 10th/Lovejoy, which, importantly, led to the building of the NW Johnson and NW Marshall St. Greenways,” Bower wrote.

Bike lanes cut track-injury odds by 66 to 85 percent

When a bike is present-1

Descent from the Broadway Bridge.

Other findings from the UBC study, which was published Friday as an “open peer review” piece in Bio Med Central Public Health:

The more often you bike, the less susceptible you are to tracks. Every additional 100 bike trips per year cut the odds of a track-related injury by one-third.

• Virtually all injuries of people who are making left turns on bikes were track-related.

Painted bike lanes greatly reduce the odds of streetcar track injuries. Having a painted bike lane on a major street with parked cars cut the odds of a track-related injury by 85 percent; having one on a street without parked cars does so by 66 percent.

• Independently of biking frequency, women biking have double the odds of a track-related injury compared to men.

• 54 percent of the bike types “commonly sold” in Toronto bike shops have tires narrower than the 34.5 mm flangeways in that city’s streetcar tracks. (Portland’s flangeways are 44.45 mm, Bower said. Based on Teschke’s data, the overwhelming majority of common bike types likely have tires narrower than flangeways here.)

I asked Teschke if she had any thoughts on the gender disparity.

“Data from other studies show that women on average ride slower than men,” she said. “Usually that is a safety benefit, but perhaps a detriment when riding over tracks.”

Streetcar director: ‘Fundamental issue’ is lack of good bike lanes, not presence of tracks


Portland Streetcar Executive Director Dan Bower cited SW Moody Avenue, rebuilt for biking with streetcar-associated funds, as a model of bike-streetcar harmony.
(Photo: M.Andersen)

As for the left-turn issue and the huge percentage of track-related injuries that happen mid-block, Teschke sees them as signs that streets with streetcars need clearly separated lanes and paths for bikes.

“Tracks don’t seem like a good place to perform ‘vehicular cycling’ left turns,” Teschke said, adding: “We didn’t see any non-intersection crashes on streets with dedicated streetcar rights of way.”

Bower said he’s taken two spills on streetcar tracks on his own bicycle, but noted that Toronto’s tracks were built “many, many years ago.” The “fundamental issue” with North American streetcars, he argued, is “the lack of proper bicycle facilities.”

“Streetcar has been a very active partner in trying to make the situation better here in Portland and we are constantly being asked by our peers across the country about lessons learned, which you will see applied,” Bower said. “In my role as executive director I try to be as active as possible in moving important bike projects forward because in my mind that is the best long-term solution for this issue.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Imagining an inner Powell that would actually solve the street’s problems

Imagining an inner Powell that would actually solve the street’s problems

powell vision

When more people use cars on a street, it becomes less and less efficient. When more people use mass transit, it becomes more and more efficient.
(Image: Nick Falbo)

The City of Portland and the State of Oregon both say they want to free more of their constituents from traffic congestion and to reduce planet-killing pollution.

There’s no mystery at all about what this would look like on inner Powell Boulevard. Everyone with some measure of power who has considered the issue knows the answer. But for some reason, the millions of public dollars spent talking about that possible answer have never resulted in a street-level picture of it.

That changed Monday when a Portland-based street designer, Nick Falbo, threw up a rough image of a Powell that would get more and more efficient as more people use it rather than less and less efficient.

Here’s the full before-and-after rendering Falbo shared on his Twitter feed:

powell double vision

Notice how both images feature the same number of cars.

Falbo’s day job is with Alta Planning + Design, but his Twitter feed is his own.

In March, project managers pulled the plug on short-term plans for a “rapid” bus line on inner Powell because they realized it wouldn’t actually be rapid. There was one basic reason: the Oregon Department of Transportation had silently vetoed the possibility of fully prioritizing bus traffic over car traffic with a dedicated lane, and no politicians in the state, city or regional government had tried to force them to do otherwise.

Would removing cars from two lanes of Powell in favor of buses (plus ambulances and, maybe, trucks) get a lot of people angry? Of course it would. Is it far easier and less stressful for an independent contractor like Falbo to throw up a nice-looking image and enjoy the cheers from like-minded folks on the Internet? Definitely.

But there’s a reason that people cheer for images like this one. Unlike any other traffic plan for inner Powell, including the status quo, it offers a way to actually solve the problems before us, rather than closing our eyes and hoping our grandchildren never ask us why we never got around to making those problems go away.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Portland’s drop in car use frees up $138 million in our local economy every year

Portland’s drop in car use frees up $138 million in our local economy every year

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-9.jpg

Per-person car ownership is down 7 percent since 2007 and miles driven are down 8 percent.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland unless noted)

Last month, we wrote about the 38,501 additional cars and trucks that would be in Multnomah County right now if its residents still owned cars at the rate they did in 2007.

What does it cost to own 38,501 cars? Or more to the point, what does it not cost to not own them?

For that post, we focused on the amount of space those nonexistent cars would take up. They’d fill a parking lot almost exactly the size of the central business district, for example.

But what about the money that isn’t being spent to move, maintain, insure and replace all those cars, and can therefore be spent on other things? How much money have Portlanders collectively saved by having a city where car ownership (or ownership of one car for each adult) feels less mandatory than it used to?

Because we already tackled parking space to some extent, let’s not even try to estimate its costs, even though occupying the most precious real estate in the state (maybe you’ve noticed that space has been getting more expensive?) is one of the biggest social costs of car ownership in Portland. For simplicity’s sake, let’s focus entirely in this post on the cost of owning and operating the cars that never showed up.

As we wrote last month, Multnomah County auto registrations per resident are down 7 percent since 2007, a rate that has barely rebounded despite a strong local economy that’s seen rising real wages, even though the rates in neighboring Washington and Clackamas counties are pretty much back to their long-term averages.

passenger vehicles per resident

What’s more (as a couple people pointed out in the comments to the previous piece) as of 2014 Portland-area residents are also driving about 8 percent less than they did in 2007, even though other Americans aren’t:


(Chart: Metro)

So what does it cost to own 38,501 cars?

Or more to the point, what does it not cost to not own them?

The widely cited American Auto Association cost estimate for car ownership is $8,558 in 2016 for an “average” sedan driven 15,000 miles per year. That figure doesn’t include parking (the cost of owning a property with a driveway or garage, for example) or the health costs of spending too much time in a car. But on direct costs it’s inflated, because it assumes you buy a new car every five years, buy top-quality insurance, drive it through five typical U.S. winters, and then trade it in. Most Americans don’t buy new cars constantly or top-quality insurance. And Portland winters don’t kill cars that fast.

So to be conservative, let’s cut AAA’s insurance cost estimate by 25 percent, to $917 per year. And let’s reduce its depreciation and financing by 75 percent, to just $1,111 per year. (This assumes that if you saved $93 every month, you could afford to buy a car with cash by the time the old one died.) And because auto registration fees in Oregon are very low and there’s no sales tax, let’s estimate $150 a year for registration, title fees and emission inspections rather than AAA’s $683 average.

That comes to:

$917 for insurance
$1,111 for purchase
$150 for taxes and fees
$2,178 for a very low estimate of direct car ownership costs per year

So just by not owning 38,501 cars that they would have owned in 2007, Multnomah County residents are saving $83,855,178 each year to spend on other things instead.

Next, we need to figure how much Multnomah County residents are saving by driving less. That’s easier. We’ll use AAA’s figures for gasoline (8.45 cents per mile), maintenance (5.28 cents) and tires (1 cent). So 14.7 cents per mile.

According to figures compiled by Metro, the average Portland-area resident drove 472 miles less in 2014 than in 2007. So that’s another $69 annual savings per person, or $53,945,366 for everybody in Multnomah County.

So Multnomah County’s transportation savings from reduced car ownership comes out to:

$83,855,178 that we’re saving by not owning cars at 2007 rates
$53,945,366 that we’re saving by not driving cars at 2007 rates
$137,800,544 every year that we can spend on other things

Breaking news: $138 million per year is quite a bit of money.

For example, it’s enough:

To buy every Multnomah County resident a new $700 bicycle every four years. ($138 million a year.)

Cyclocross clinic with Team Grouptrail-4.jpg

Or to cover the annual wages and benefits, including vacation and overtime, for every TriMet bus driver. ($123 million a year.)

Bus at Rose Quarter Transit Center

(Photos: TriMet)

Or to very nearly eliminate TriMet fares. ($139 million a year)

MAX Orange Line at SE Milwaukie Station

Or to have built the city’s entire Bike Plan for 2030 (“Can the city afford it?”, the Oregonian’s front page asked in 2010) … by last summer. ($613 million)

Bike Master Plan open house - SE-8

Or to eliminate tuition at Portland Community College. ($103 million a year.)

pcc sylvania

(Photo: PCC)

Or to sextuple the size of this November’s affordable housing ballot measure, paying for about 6,000 new price-controlled public housing units rather than the 1,000 currently planned. ($115 million.)


Velia Mendoza uses the bike lockers installed last fall at Hacienda CDC’s publicly backed housing development in Cully.
(Photo: Jaclyn Hoy for CCC)

Or to offer every Multnomah County resident one free pint of beer every Tuesday at the Lompoc 5th Quadrant, including tip. ($138 million a year.)

lompoc corral

(Photo: M.Andersen)

It’s not this simple, of course. The ways Portlanders are getting around instead of driving have some costs, too — a few more bus drivers in rush hour; the couple dozen new bike shops that have opened since 2007; thousands of bicycles; probably a few more burritos consumed per capita as more of us fuel our own movements.

This shift has already happened with hardly anyone noticing. And that’s sort of the point.

And the money being saved here can’t simply be moved from one use to another. The many thousands of families who enjoyed this savings have already spent it on other things they want … including the various tax hikes they may have voted for recently to improve local parks, schools and so on.

In other words, this shift has already happened with hardly anyone noticing. And that’s sort of the point. Not only has 7 percent of per-capita car ownership and 8 percent of per-capita driving been eliminated from the economy without overall ill effects — the local economy has been booming, with Multnomah County leading the pack.

Certainly the local economic boom is happening for many reasons. But it can’t hurt that in the last 10 years, we’ve successfully built a county whose residents don’t have to spend $138 million every year to move around inside well-crafted pieces of gradually disintegrating metal.

Imagine what other things we could do if we can keep chipping away at the $2 billion that we’re still spending on that.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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The Monday Roundup: A crash-proof human body, a San Jose bike bridge & more

The Monday Roundup: A crash-proof human body, a San Jose bike bridge & more


The head of “Graham,” a lifelike model of what humans might look like if they’d evolved to use cars.
(Image: Towards Zero)

This week’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by The Portland Century, a one or two-day bicycle tour coming August 6-7th.

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

Crash-proof human: An Australian artist collaborated with a trauma surgeon to create “Graham,” a full-body silicone model of what humans might look like if they evolved to survive car crashes.

Bike bridge: San Jose’s proposed biking-walking bridge over a freeway would certainly be spectacular.

Bicycle dystopia: The bicycle cops outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland were pretty intensely dressed.

Overemphasizing commutes: Because women take more non-work trips, “focusing only on commutes overlooks women’s transportation needs.”

Santiago biking: The biking rate in Chile’s capital has doubled in 10 years to six percent, about the same as Portland’s.

Best bike sharing? A moderator of Reddit’s bicycling page who visited Portland to test Biketown says it’s better than the systems in Paris, London, DC, Montreal, NYC, Austin or San Francisco.

Protection endorsement: AASHTO, the country’s most influential transportation engineering organization, seems prepared to finally endorse protected bike lanes.

New recruits: A survey of Londoners who bike found that one-third of them had started riding in the previous 12 months — just after protected bike lanes started being built.

Forgotten killing: Gothamist takes a long loo at the case of a Brooklyn man killed by a hit-and-run. It’s been painfully slow despite a seemingly open-and-shut case.

Self-driving bus: A prototype by Mercedes-Benz has successfully navigated a route of more than 12 miles … in suburban Amsterdam.

Indestructible murals? An obscure federal law from 1990 prohibits building owners from covering or destroying murals on their buildings unless the artists sign off, Willamette Week reported in its cover story.

Mural map: To accompany the above story, Willamette Week created a digital map of Portland’s pre-1999 murals.

NYC biking: The city’s “renaissance” in biking is happening “despite glaring failures in the design, politics, and security of bicycle infrastructure,” Slate economics writer Henry Grabar says in a personal essay.

Racialized enforcement: In the Minnesota suburbs where Philando Castile was killed during his 46th traffic stop in 14 years, darker-skinned people are seven times more likely than white people to be pulled over while driving.

Suburban efficiency: Minnesota-based Strong Towns imagines ways to make suburbs energy-efficient by putting their less-used spaces to work.

Transportation vision: The Republican party platform calls for eliminating federal funding for transit, walking and bicycling.

Uber for gasoline: A new crop of gasoline delivery startups wants to stop by and fill your car up for you.

Bike “mayor”: “Cycling is almost too successful” in Amsterdam, says Anna Luten, recently voted into volunteer office as the city’s unofficial “bike mayor.”

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

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

Our work is supported by subscribers. Please become one today.

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Comment of the Week: Portland’s five-step recipe for 25 percent biking

Comment of the Week: Portland’s five-step recipe for 25 percent biking

Bike traffic on N Williams Ave-16.jpg

Getting there.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Of all the wonderful ideas in Portland’s Bicycle Plan for 2030, the one I personally hope is never forgotten is its audacious use of a numeral: 25 percent.

That’s the target it set for the share of trips that could happen by bicycle in Portland. Today, the figure is something like 7 percent. Only several dozen cities in eastern Asia and northern Europe, probably, can currently boast 25 percent or more.

But 25 percent is possible and even imaginable, as BikePortland reader Alex Reedin spelled out in a Thursday morning comment estimating the payoff for each step that’ll be required to get us there.

It came in reply to another reader’s speculation that between bike sharing, new greenway diverters and better downtown bike lanes, Portland might be near a “tipping point” for biking.

I’d say there are many tipping points. We’re finally making substantial progress towards some. A few years ago, we were making veery slow progress which was in my opinion partially being taken back by increased driver meanness and shortcutting.

1) Some inner-Portland infrastructure, enough for sort of a network + drivers on average nicer compared to the rest of the U.S. –> enthused, confident, fit, prime-age people with origins and destinations in inner Portland bike, much more so in the summer than the winter. PASSED! (~6-8% mode share)

2) Truly comfortable inner-Portland infrastructure –> interested but concerned people of all ages with origins and destinations in inner Portland bike if they feel like it, much more so in the summer than the winter. MAKING PROGRESS (~5% additional mode share)

3) Some outer-Portland infrastructure, enough for sort of a network –> enthused, confident, fit, prime-age people with origins and destinations fairly close to each other in outer Portland bike, much more so in the summer than the winter. MAKING PROGRESS (~4% additional mode share)

4) Truly comfortable outer-Portland infrastructure –> interested but concerned people of all ages with origins and destinations fairly nearby, much more so in the summer than the winter. NOT EVEN CLOSE (~3% additional mode share)

5) Biking is more convenient than driving for most trips in inner Portland (greenways paved well and made convenient, major street protected bike lanes, car parking expensive/annoying, cars stuck in traffic)–> interested but concerned people of all ages with origins and destinations in inner Portland bike, all the time, unless it’s pouring. People traveling from outer Portland to inner Portland may start to e-bike in sizeable numbers, though still far from a majority (~7.5% additional mode share)

That final step, Reedin confessed in a follow-up, is the hardest and the one Portland is furthest from. But though you might disagree with the percentages he assigns to each step in this recipe, it’s encouraging to break down this difficult civic mission into more or less comprehensible steps.

Of course, the point of bicycling isn’t bicycling. If the 2030 Bike Plan has a failing, it’s that it didn’t create a durable consensus about why it would be a good thing for Portland to achieve 25 percent bicycling mode share.

But of course there are many reasons, from affordability to safety to community to physical quiet to clean air to economic prosperity. As long as Portland can keep moving along this path — and for all our grousing, it clearly is — those benefits will keep arriving in greater and greater amounts.

That’s how our city will, eventually, muster the political will required for that final crucial step.

Yes, we pay for good comments. This regular feature is sponsored by readers who’ve become BikePortland subscribers to keep our site and our community strong. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to Alex in thanks for this great addition. Watch your email!

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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