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The lower Northwest District is Portland’s invisible capital of bike commuting

The lower Northwest District is Portland’s invisible capital of bike commuting

invisible capital

Hidden in this street is an important lesson about bike transportation in the United States.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Part of NW Portland Week.

Almost every map or chart you will ever see of “where people commute by bike” is incomplete.

Nineteen times out of 20, it’s based on only half of the picture: the locations people commute from. In the United States, we make almost no effort to calculate where people are bike-commuting to.

Little-known fact: according to the best data available, almost nowhere in Portland brings in a larger percentage of its commuters by bicycle than the lower section of Northwest 21st and 23rd, between Marshall and Burnside.

You can only find this information in an obscure Census dataset maintained by the association of state transportation engineers. But according to that estimate, about one in 10 of the 3,000-odd people who work on these 24 city blocks got there by bike during the years 2006-2010, the most recent available.

That’s double the estimated rates for the Lloyd District or downtown Portland.

bike commute destinations

We omitted a few census tracts with higher biking rates because they have only a handful of workers total.
(Data: CTPP 2006-2010. Chart: BikePortland.)

One in 10 employees of this little Census tract isn’t actually a lot of bike commuters: just a few hundred, barely enough to fill a secure bike parking area at Portland State University. That’s why nobody notices them.

But hidden in the fact that the Northwest District has a large share of bike commuters is an important fact about bike transportation in general.

To be sure, Portland has changed a lot since this data was collected. But take a walk or ride through this little corner of northwest Portland and you’ll see the sort of employers that don’t often make headlines as bike-commuting powerhouses, but are secretly the bedrock of American bike commuting: neighborhood retailers.

More specifically: bars and restaurants.

One in 10 Portland jobs (and one in 11 jobs nationwide) is some form of food service. And across the United States, an estimated 2.9 percent of people who work at “eating and drinking places” get to their jobs by bicycle. The only major employer category that comes close to that level of bike commuting are colleges and universities.

bike commuting by job category

(Data: IPUMS. Chart: BikePortland.)

You’ll almost never see this fact mentioned by pro-bike politicians, urban planners, biking advocates or journalists, who love to talk about tech workers. But the combination of low-ish incomes, odd hours, youth and (probably) an affinity for after-work hijinks has made food service workers the footsoldiers of American bicycle transportation.

And that’s made the lower Northwest District, a dense hub of bars and restaurants with mediocre transit and terrible parking, a significant Portland bike commuting destination despite the area’s near-total lack of bike infrastructure.

It’s enough to make you wonder how much biking there would be if the bike infrastructure were actually improved.







On Tuesday afternoon I walked down 23rd from Overton toward Burnside, asking in each shop if any employees were bike commuters. Here are the first four bike commuters I met, in order.

Alfredo Reyes

alfredo

Reyes, 27, has been the manager at Little Big Burger for three years. He was given his first bike by his father, a biking buff who once biked across several states in his native Mexico.

Reyes lives near Portland State University and is also taking business administration classes from Portland Community College. On one day, he has to get from class to Northwest in 10 minutes; on those days he drives his car. Other days, he bikes.

“I really love bikes, and I believe in sustainable cities and saving a lot of natural resources,” Reyes said. He added, self-deprecatingly: “Probably that’s my super liberal thing.”

Reyes said that when he gets “philosophical” about his commute, he bikes because of the “sense of freedom” — “you feel your own being,” he said.

Reyes mentioned that he’s also proud that his commute preserves urban space.

“I read an article that a car takes up 25 square feet,” he said. (Note: It’s probably more like 250, but it wasn’t important to his point.) “Times two for work and home. Times three for school. People in developing countries live in 50 square feet.”

Mark Nunziata

mark

Nunziata, 35, is a barista at Barista, the award-winning coffee joint. He’s been biking in Portland since he first moved here in 2001 to attend PSU, and was soon involved in biking activism, “Critical Mass stuff.”

“It was a very different scene back then,” he said. Biking was his main transportation from then until 2005, when he moved home to Vermont for a few years. There, he got interested in motorcycles, and started building those into his commute when he returned to Portland in 2009.

He lives in north Portland and now usually uses truck and motorcycle, but just bought a “sweet new road bike” to bike-commute this summer.

“Being at work at 5:30 in the morning does not help your motivation to start pedaling when the truck and motorcycle are staring me in the face,” he confessed.

One of Nunziata’s main frustrations about bike-commuting to Nob Hill is the lack of comfortable east-west routes.

“I’ve done it tons of times and I still don’t think I’ve got a good way to get from the Steel Bridge across Naito and into Northwest Portland,” Nunziata said. “How cool would it be if we had a Going Street here? Stop signs, speed bumps — it’s almost like cars aren’t welcome. It’s great.”

Jason Elstad

jason

Elstad, 34, is a cook at the cafe Papa Haydn. For the last three years, he’s been biking seven and a half miles each way to work from his home near 82nd and Fremont.

“I come in and I pass everybody who’s stuck in traffic, and I’m coming home and I pass everybody who’s stuck in traffic,” he said happily. “Not paying for parking is a huge bonus.”

A bike racer in his spare time, Elstad sometimes worries about parking his bike at work, which doesn’t offer secure bike parking. But he hasn’t had any problems yet.

Ann Greisser

ann

Greisser, 52, works the counter at Escape from New York Pizza, a restaurant she started biking to as a customer more than 30 years ago. A Portland native, her first bike-commutes were to high school and Portland State University.

These days, she’s working two food service jobs, seven days a week. That includes four double shifts that keep her busy from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“I bought a condominium and I’m just trying to work my savings back up,” she said. “I don’t mind working. I like where I work. These are casual places.”

Her late and early shifts mean she doesn’t have good public transit to and from the Pearl District home she bought after many years of saving. She could walk, but feels safer on a bicycle.

“You get your sketchers” when you’re a woman walking solo through northwest, Greisser said, especially after 11 p.m. Actual problems have been rare, but on the bike she can cruise past drunken frat boys and aggressive street dwellers alike.

Greisser says biking in Portland has gotten worse as the streets have gotten more crowded.

“I used to enjoy it more,” she said. “My friend and I would get off at 11 and we would do a night ride out to Sauvie Island. That was in the 90s.”

Today, Greisser described herself as “a cautious rider.”

“I can’t afford to get hurt,” she said.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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The post The lower Northwest District is Portland’s invisible capital of bike commuting appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Street party caps Bike Commute Challenge, BTA says event will move to May

Street party caps Bike Commute Challenge, BTA says event will move to May

bcc awards drawing

Eagerly awaiting awards for the most dedicated bike commuters.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

More than 200 people came to the parking lot of Portland Design Works Wednesday to celebrate the 2015 Bike Commute Challenge — which may also be the last one to be held in September.

In 2016, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance announced, the BTA will move its annual friendly competition to May to coincide with National Bike Month.

“This year’s Challenge included more than 1,300 riders who identified as new bike commuters.”
— Steph Noll, BTA Deputy Director

“This year’s Challenge included more than 1,300 riders who identified as new bike commuters,” BTA Deputy Director Steph Noll said in an email Thursday. “By moving the Challenge to May, these new riders will have months of warmer, drier weather ahead of them to build the bike commuting habit and maybe even make the choice to invest in some rain gear and fenders to continue to have an enjoyable bike commute through the rainy season. We’re also hoping that with the attention on May as National Bike Month, the message of the Challenge will be further amplified through other channels beyond what we can reach with our very limited marketing budget.”

This year’s event drew 10,772 participants from 1,152 workplaces, including 3,954 first-time BCC participants. In all, participants logged 1,247,886 miles of bike commuting.

Below are a few more photos from the event followed by a list of the winners:

serabcc

The team from SERA Architects was 1st in the 100-499 employee category.
(Photo: SERA Architects)
bcc-daimler

bcc-ohsu-mostwomenriders

The team from OHSU had the most women riders with 90 (out of 297 total riders).
bcc-pedalpt

Team PedalPT had another 100% bike trip month.
Daimler

Businesses and nonprofits, 1 employee:
all at 100 percent bike commuting for the month

    – Airlineinfo
    – Axoplasm
    – Bikes4Peace
    – Boont rocks!
    – Dr. Jeffrey D. Sher
    – ESC Sports
    – Evolv Fitness
    – Kohles Bioengineering
    – P-Town Prints + Designs
    – Whelton Architecture

Businesses and nonprofits, 2-4 employees:

    – Pedal PT, 100%

Businesses and nonprofits, 5-24 employees:

    – Cast Iron Coding, 89%

Businesses and nonprofits, 25-99 employees:

    – Community Cycling Center, 90%

Businesses and nonprofits, 100-499 employees:

    – SERA Architects, 64%

Businesses and nonprofits, 500+ employees:

    – Reed College, 10%

Public agencies, 1-24 employees:

    – East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, 44%

Public agencies, 25-99 employees:

    – Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, 40%

Public agencies, 100-499 employees:

    – City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 35%

Public agencies, 500+ employees:

    – Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 12%

– Advertisement –


Bike shops, 1-8 employees:

    – Islabikes , 100%

Bike shops, 9-15 employees:

    – Bike Gallery downtown, 97%

Bike shops, 16+ employees:

    – Citybikes, 44%

Team with most new riders:

    – Nike, 69 new riders

Team with most mileage:

    – Daimler Trucks North America, 28,293.9 miles

New female rider with the most miles:

    – Kelly Boag, Portland General Electric, 371 miles

New male rider with the most miles:

    – Bill Blackwell, Leatherman Tool Group, 520 miles

Female rider with the most miles:

    – Colette Marthaller, Daimler Trucks North America, 682 miles (that’s 31 per weekday)

Male rider with the most miles:

    – Dave Weber, Northwest Natural, 1,644 miles (that’s 75 per weekday)

The BTA also honored Jordan Folk of Research Into Action, Inc., with its “Brad Buchanan Team Captain of the Year Award.”

The switch to May will be a significant change to next year’s challenge. In the Portland area, May tends to have about twice as many rainy days as September (13.6 compared to 6.7) and its average nightly lows are a few degrees cooler (48 degrees compared to 53).

However, as Noll points out, new riders activated by the challenge each May will be headed into a few months of dry weather rather than a few months of rainy weather. Hopefully that’ll make the challenge even better at getting more people used to bike commuting.

Some sort of change to the challenge seems to be needed. This year was the fourth in a row to see declining BCC participation among Portland-area workplaces; it’s down 20 percent since 2011. However, 2015 saw an uptick in the number of riders logging at least one trip in the challenge. That’s the first increase since 2011.

bcc workplaces

bcc participants

As we wrote when it launched, the Bike Commute Challenge is not only a great Portland tradition, it’s part of a scientifically proven strategy for getting people to start thinking seriously about bikes. Two weeks ago, I had a beer with a former co-worker who was lured into a bike commute for the first time in many years thanks to this year’s BCC. Though he’s worked in downtown Portland for five years now, he spoke with awe about how easy and intuitive it was to follow the growing river of bike commuters across the Interstate Bridge, down Interstate Avenue and across the Steel Bridge.

“Portland has hit this critical mass where it’s really possible,” he said.

Yep. Here’s to continuing to spread that message.


The post Street party caps Bike Commute Challenge, BTA says event will move to May appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Street party caps Bike Commute Challenge, BTA says event will move to May

Street party caps Bike Commute Challenge, BTA says event will move to May

bcc awards drawing

Eagerly awaiting awards for the most dedicated bike commuters.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

More than 200 people came to the parking lot of Portland Design Works Wednesday to celebrate the 2015 Bike Commute Challenge — which may also be the last one to be held in September.

In 2016, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance announced, the BTA will move its annual friendly competition to May to coincide with National Bike Month.

“This year’s Challenge included more than 1,300 riders who identified as new bike commuters.”
— Steph Noll, BTA Deputy Director

“This year’s Challenge included more than 1,300 riders who identified as new bike commuters,” BTA Deputy Director Steph Noll said in an email Thursday. “By moving the Challenge to May, these new riders will have months of warmer, drier weather ahead of them to build the bike commuting habit and maybe even make the choice to invest in some rain gear and fenders to continue to have an enjoyable bike commute through the rainy season. We’re also hoping that with the attention on May as National Bike Month, the message of the Challenge will be further amplified through other channels beyond what we can reach with our very limited marketing budget.”

This year’s event drew 10,772 participants from 1,152 workplaces, including 3,954 first-time BCC participants. In all, participants logged 1,247,886 miles of bike commuting.

Below are a few more photos from the event followed by a list of the winners:

serabcc

The team from SERA Architects was 1st in the 100-499 employee category.
(Photo: SERA Architects)
bcc-daimler

bcc-ohsu-mostwomenriders

The team from OHSU had the most women riders with 90 (out of 297 total riders).
bcc-pedalpt

Team Pedal PT had another 100% bike trip month.
Daimler

Businesses and nonprofits, 1 employee:
all at 100 percent bike commuting for the month

    – Airlineinfo
    – Axoplasm
    – Bikes4Peace
    – Boont rocks!
    – Dr. Jeffrey D. Sher
    – ESC Sports
    – Evolv Fitness
    – Kohles Bioengineering
    – P-Town Prints + Designs
    – Whelton Architecture

Businesses and nonprofits, 2-4 employees:

    – Pedal PT, 100%

Businesses and nonprofits, 5-24 employees:

    – Cast Iron Coding, 89%

Businesses and nonprofits, 25-99 employees:

    – Community Cycling Center, 90%

Businesses and nonprofits, 100-499 employees:

    – SERA Architects, 64%

Businesses and nonprofits, 500+ employees:

    – Reed College, 10%

Public agencies, 1-24 employees:

    – East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, 44%

Public agencies, 25-99 employees:

    – Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, 40%

Public agencies, 100-499 employees:

    – City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 35%

Public agencies, 500+ employees:

    – Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 12%

– Advertisement –


Bike shops, 1-8 employees:

    – Islabikes , 100%

Bike shops, 9-15 employees:

    – Bike Gallery downtown, 97%

Bike shops, 16+ employees:

    – Citybikes, 44%

Team with most new riders:

    – Nike, 69 new riders

Team with most mileage:

    – Daimler Trucks North America, 28,293.9 miles

New female rider with the most miles:

    – Kelly Boag, Portland General Electric, 371 miles

New male rider with the most miles:

    – Bill Blackwell, Leatherman Tool Group, 520 miles

Female rider with the most miles:

    – Colette Marthaller, Daimler Trucks North America, 682 miles (that’s 31 per weekday)

Male rider with the most miles:

    – Dave Weber, Northwest Natural, 1,644 miles (that’s 75 per weekday)

The BTA also honored Jordan Folk of Research Into Action, Inc., with its “Brad Buchanan Team Captain of the Year Award.”

The switch to May will be a significant change to next year’s challenge. In the Portland area, May tends to have about twice as many rainy days as September (13.6 compared to 6.7) and its average nightly lows are a few degrees cooler (48 degrees compared to 53).

However, as Noll points out, new riders activated by the challenge each May will be headed into a few months of dry weather rather than a few months of rainy weather. Hopefully that’ll make the challenge even better at getting more people used to bike commuting.

Some sort of change to the challenge seems to be needed. This year was the fourth in a row to see declining BCC participation among Portland-area workplaces; it’s down 20 percent since 2011. However, 2015 saw an uptick in the number of riders logging at least one trip in the challenge. That’s the first increase since 2011.

bcc workplaces

bcc participants

As we wrote when it launched, the Bike Commute Challenge is not only a great Portland tradition, it’s part of a scientifically proven strategy for getting people to start thinking seriously about bikes. Two weeks ago, I had a beer with a former co-worker who was lured into a bike commute for the first time in many years thanks to this year’s BCC. Though he’s worked in downtown Portland for five years now, he spoke with awe about how easy and intuitive it was to follow the growing river of bike commuters across the Interstate Bridge, down Interstate Avenue and across the Steel Bridge.

“Portland has hit this critical mass where it’s really possible,” he said.

Yep. Here’s to continuing to spread that message.


The post Street party caps Bike Commute Challenge, BTA says event will move to May appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Portland State University looks for solutions as biking decline continues

Portland State University looks for solutions as biking decline continues

bike racks at psu

Bike commuting remains common at PSU, but it’s dropping, and no one is sure why.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

In a trend that could develop into a huge expense for Portland’s largest school, the number of people biking to Portland’s single most popular bike destination has continued to fall.

“The barrier’s really downtown. They don’t feel safe.”
— Ray Atkinson, vice president of Bike PSU

Last year, for the first time on record, the share of Portland State University employee bike trips to work fell, while student biking continued its plateau after a recent fall.

Estimated student biking rates are down by a third since their 2011 peak, from 12 percent to 8 percent, according to an annual survey conducted by the school each fall. The 8 percent biking rate in 2014 was the same as the rate in 2013.

The student drive-alone rate, meanwhile, has edged from 19 percent up to 20 percent in the same three years even as the student body has grown. If nothing changes, the university could face pressure to spend tens of millions on a new parking garage.

PSU students

(Data: Portland State University surveys. Charts: BikePortland.)

As for PSU employees, the estimated biking rate is down from 15 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2014.

PSU employees

The annual surveys ask all employees and a random sample of students to report their main travel mode to work or to their first class on each day of the previous week. The results are expressed above as a share of all trips, meaning that a single person can contribute to multiple categories if she bikes on some days and rides the bus on others. (Not listed here are a variety of less common modes including carpooling, being dropped off, motorcycling and skating.)

Mitigating the apparent bad news about student biking over the last few years is the fact that more PSU students are walking to class, which is related to the 1,000 new on-campus beds that opened in 2012. But though the University Pointe building that opened in 2012 led to a one-time jump in student walking rates, those rates haven’t risen since.

The group of people who bike occasionally to PSU has been on a sharp decline, too. The dark line on this chart shows the percent of PSU students who bike to class at least once a week. It’s down even more sharply since a 2010 peak.

psu students once a week

PSU slips backward as other biking indicators rise
sw broadway open door

Southwest Broadway is the only bike infrastructure leading directly in or out of PSU’s campus.

PSU’s problems shifting students to bikes seem to be somewhat unique.

The U.S. Census estimates that overall bike commuting in Portland rose in 2014, probably by quite a bit. The city’s recent clipboard bike counts suggest that central-city bike traffic continues to rise and that it’s mostly a decline in bike use in outlying neighborhoods that has been preventing overall growth.

PSU has long seen much more biking than its hilltop neighbor to the south, Oregon Health and Science University. But since OHSU opened an aerial tram in 2006, a free bike valet in 2012 and last month the Tilikum Crossing bridge, bike commuting has grown rapidly, rising 22 percent from September 2013 to September 2015. On Tuesday, OHSU’s Go By Bike Valet reported its highest-ever number of bikes checked in a single day: 363.

Though that figure certainly doesn’t count every bike commuter, OHSU has 14,000 employees and 2,900 students. Bike commuting to OHSU has a long way to go yet.

Portland State University, meanwhile, has improved some things on its own grounds, including pay-to-park bike garages, an on-campus bike shop and an ever-rising supply of free short-term bike racks.

But it hasn’t yet been able to persuade the city to change the streets that lead to and from its campus. There is no dedicated east-west or northbound bike lane in or out of PSU. The only southbound bike lane that leads to PSU, on Broadway, runs through a high-traffic door zone past the doors of several hotels that get heavy taxi and truck traffic.

As we reported last year, the route from the new bridge to PSU’s campus is slow, awkward and uncomfortable to beginner riders.

With Portland-area housing prices rising fast, it’d be reasonable to think that PSU students are living further from their downtown destination. But (at least as of 2013, the last year data was available) more students than ever are actually living within six miles of campus, and not mostly because of the rise in on-campus residents.

distance from campus

More than half of PSU students now live 6 miles or less from campus; one in four lives between one and five miles away.

So last week I asked Ray Atkinson, vice president of the recently formed advocacy group Bike PSU, what he heard from fellow students.

“The barrier’s really downtown,” he said. “They don’t feel safe.”

– Advertisement –


New campus group looks to support biking
elk squeeze

This is one of the better routes between some of the country’s bikingest neighborhoods and Portland State University.

Last week, Atkinson and his Bike PSU co-founder, Gerald Fittipaldi, stood at a table at one of the school’s annual student organization fairs and worked to change PSU’s numbers one bike-commuter at a time.

bike psu cofounders

Atkinson, left, and Fittipaldi, right.

Propped next to them was a corkboard with a large map of the Portland area. They invited students who came in by bike, or who were interested in doing so, to stick numbered pins in the map to show their location. Atkinson and Fittipaldi are building a database that will let them match people with ride buddies and organize bike trains to help people get used to biking to school.

“We’re over 100!” Atkinson told me when I arrived near the end of their Thursday afternoon shift.

Atkinson is studying for a master’s degree in urban and regional planning. Fittipaldi, Bike PSU’s president, is a graduate civil engineering student. Both had co-founded biking groups at their undergraduate schools and were surprised to learn, when they came to PSU last year, that it didn’t have a student advocacy group of its own. So they started one.

“Instead of going out drinking and dancing, I like to volunteer,” Atkinson explained.

The pair co-founded Bike PSU last April, so this is its first full regular semester as an organization. Atkinson said it’s got about 10 core volunteers. 48 people are part of its Facebook group. It’ll kick off the school year tonight with a “welcome meeting” this evening in PSU’s engineering building, starting to plan the bike trains’ routes.

Why two students don’t bike

psu bike pins

DSC_1632

Avarie Fitzgerald.

Last Thursday I hung out near the Bike PSU table long enough to talk with a couple passers-by about their transportation choices.

“My friend was talking about in Southeast there’s some really cool bike path,” said Avarie Fitzgerald, looking over BikePSU’s map of the city. The fourth-year PSU undergrad who lives on campus but has a friend who lives near Johnson Creek and the Springwater Corridor. Her friend is a nurse at OHSU, she said, and has been talking about biking because “she doesn’t want to become one of those fat nurses. Those were her words.”

Fitzgerald said she hasn’t owned a bike herself since her parents sold her childhood one.

“I’ve wanted one for a while,” she said. “It’s silly to be in the most bikeable city in the world and not own a bike. … I don’t have the money right now.”

DSC_1637

Taylor Yocum-Peckham.

Taylor Yocum-Peckham, a third-year student who lives with his wife in Troutdale for the sake of the nature-rich surroundings there, said his schedule is set up so he only has to come to campus two days a week. He usually drives to a MAX park-and-ride in Gresham, but has considered tackling the 90-minute ride downtown sometimes for the sake of the exercise.

“I thought about it during the summer,” he said.

There are a thousand different reasons a person ends up biking or not biking, and some people never will. PSU’s challenge, like every other institution in Portland, is to find the people who can plausibly bike to school and get them to consider it.


The post Portland State University looks for solutions as biking decline continues appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Mayor Hales pedals to work and makes a coffee-shop campaign stop

Mayor Hales pedals to work and makes a coffee-shop campaign stop

hales ride on

Mayor Hales shows off his new helmet Monday morning.
It’s patterned after the Portland flag.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Two weeks after his first bike commute on the job, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales was back in the saddle this morning and ready for coffee with constituents at Ford Food & Drink at Southeast Division and 11th.

The inner-southeast hangout — which is in eyeshot of the new Tilikum Crossing, at once the newest asset to the city’s transport system and a $30 million factor in its transportation funding challenges — shares a building with Nutcase Helmets. The local company’s founder Michael Morrow was on hand to offer Hales a customized model from Nutcase’s new Portlander series.

Hales and his wife, Nancy (a frequent bike commuter to her own job), chatted with a handful of commuters and Nutcase employees.

– Advertisement –


Hales Digital Media Director Sara Hottman said the entourage had met a family on the way in from the Hales’ Eastmoreland home who were concerned about the lack of bike infrastructure on inner Holgate, which they said was part of the route to their child’s school.

Hottman said Hales will be in touch with the family by email and plans to check the problem it out on his next monthly bike commute.

“Seems like something we need to work on,” Hales said.

hales lock

I warned the mayor that he might get some grief in this town for using a cable lock. “But I like cable locks,” he replied. Nancy Hales said it was because they’d misplaced the keys to their U-locks.

After 45 minutes at Ford, the group was ready to head across Tilikum Crossing, which seems likely to be the Hales’ most direct bike route into downtown.

hales wave

Obviously Hales’ bike-commuting regimen may be motivated in part by next year’s newly competitive election. If it is, that’s great news. Giving our leaders an incentive to experience the city the way the rest of us do is exactly how democracy is supposed to work.


The post Mayor Hales pedals to work and makes a coffee-shop campaign stop appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Bikes, a perfectly normal part of growth in Portland’s Central Eastside

Bikes, a perfectly normal part of growth in Portland’s Central Eastside

bike parking at Central Eastside Lofts-13

Parking garage at the Central Eastside Lofts.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Since we’ve taken some shots at Oregonian news coverage lately, it’s worth highlighting a moment of bike-friendly perceptiveness in their coverage.

Sunday’s cover story was the second in the paper’s occasional series about Portland’s changing Central Eastside, an “industrial sanctuary” that’s gradually been adding more office workers and, at the developing Burnside Bridgehead, several big apartment buildings.

The first installment, back in January, included some interesting perspective of what it feels like to run a truck-dependent business facing the Taylor Street neighborhood greenway. This weekend’s focused specifically on the food industry, and mentioned bicycles in the most casual way possible.

Stumptown, a relative newcomer, moved in 2012 to its headquarters in a 12,000-square-foot warehouse that previously housed a lumber yard and a computer-repair shop.

Within a few blocks are other coffee roasters, five distilleries, a half-dozen wine companies and at least two breweries. That might seem a disadvantage — customers don’t have to go out of their way to visit a competitor, and workers can decide to hang their bicycle elsewhere.

But Ricci said the creation of a fluid workforce is an advantage of being in close quarters with competitors and compatriots. There’s a large experienced workforce to draw upon. And the competition, he says, makes firms experiment and innovate.

Portland economist Joe Cortright called it a prime example of a thriving business cluster, a group of related businesses that shares workforce skills, suppliers and customers — and a neighborhood.

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Did you blink and miss that? That was a bicycle commute being presented, with zero fanfare, as such a matter-of-fact activity that a bike can serve as a synecdoche for a job.

Best of all, the mini-metaphor is appropriate. Bike commuting is a huge part of the Central Eastside. Even back in 2006-2010, the most recent years for which workplace data is available, the Census-estimated bike-commute rate into the area was 6.3 percent, the highest for any employment-zoned part of the region. By now, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one in 10 Central Eastside workers arrived by bicycle as their primary mode. Many more workers than that surely bike in occasionally during the warm-weather months.

As one of the Central Eastside’s leading developers told us in 2013, bike access for workers is a major reason companies want to move to the area. Every time an institution like The Oregonian acknowledges that reality with a turn of phrase, bicycling becomes a little less exotic to the people reading it, and a little more like what it actually is: one of several standard options for moving around your city.

The post Bikes, a perfectly normal part of growth in Portland’s Central Eastside appeared first on BikePortland.org.

The Friday Profile: Kyle Carlson, Daimler Trucks’ 52-mile-a-day iron man

The Friday Profile: Kyle Carlson, Daimler Trucks’ 52-mile-a-day iron man

daimler-lead

Kyle Carlson.
(Photos by M Andersen/BikePortland)

Kyle Carlson was a couple hundred feet up the hills of Northwest Portland when he mentioned he used to ride all the way home without switching out of his biggest front gear.

“I compromised,” he said. “Now I just never use my smallest gear.”

Carlson, an electrical engineer for Daimler Trucks North America, might have the most intense bike commute in the country’s bikingest state. After rising at 4 a.m. on summer mornings in his family’s Hillsboro subdivision, this single father of three bikes 26 miles to work on his Marin 29er hybrid. Then he bikes 26 miles home.

He tries to get six hours of sleep each night, he says.

During the rainy months, he takes it easier on himself, rides only three days a week, and sticks to a 19-mile route — though that one heads directly over the West Hills.

“I like my heart beating,” he says.

Carlson is not, in general, a wordy man. His habits tend to speak for themselves.

Another of his habits: As part of his “5:2 diet,” on two days a week he eats only 600 calories total. He currently does this on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These are also days that Carlson bikes to work, a task that he says requires about 2,500 calories.

It’s easier than you’d think, he says.

This year, a whole month of 52-mile daily round-trip commutes were enough to net him the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s annual prize for the most miles of any participant in the statewide Bike Commute Challenge. Here’s a map of his summer commute, which he takes every weekday of September in honor of the BCC:

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And here’s his winter route:

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On a Tuesday last month, I joined Carlson for the shorter of those two. We started at 4 p.m. at the secure bike parking area that Daimler added to its parking lot last year. Carlson said the quality and visibility of the structure has been a big factor in the rapid growth of biking at Daimler.

kyle at daimler parking

“In September, it was all full,” he said.

A bike had been Carlson’s main transportation when he was a teen in small-town Idaho. He rediscovered bike commuting as an adult while working for Boeing in Seattle.

“Only 16 round trip,” he said, “no big deal.”

Still, it was enough exercise for him to lose some weight at the time. That caught his attention. He moved to Wichita for a while, then back to the Northwest for the job at Daimler Trucks’ North American headquarters in Portland.

“When I started getting overweight again, I was like, you know, riding a bike worked last time,” he recalled. “And then the Bike Commute Challenge happened and it all just kind of clicked together.”

“The first day I rode, I rode a mile to the MAX,” Carlson said. “The next day I said, ‘I bet I could ride my bike from the Rose Quarter to Swan Island.’”

Each week, Carlson would get off the MAX one stop further from Swan Island.

The turning point came a few Septembers ago. Daimler, working with the Swan Island Business Association, had set up a map for employees to indicate where they lived in order to share commutes. Carlson decided to see if he could find a biking buddy for the long ride.

bcc board

“I put my pin in,” Carlson said. “And a couple days later, I got an email that was like, ‘Howdy, neighbor.’”

The email was from Steve Taylor, a stranger who happened to live less than a mile from his house and had the same yen to ride. It was after the two started biking in together that Carlson was able to get religious about his commute.

Taylor’s company helped most, he said, when he was lying in bed in the dark, early in the morning.

If I don’t get up, I’ve got to call him, got to let him know,” Carlson would tell himself. “We just started inspiring each other.”

Taylor and Carlson still ride together sometimes. They’ve taken bike tours together, too, and shown “three or four” other people the way to bike in from Hillsboro.

“When people are looking for something to do and they see people riding, it just kind of clicks sometimes,” Carlson said.

Carlson said Daimler’s rapid growth in biking — last year, the company led the state in new Bike Commute Challenge participants — has been driven by heavy staff turnover that followed a buyout during the recent recession.

“That brought in a much younger crowd, and it just fueled the surge in riding,” he said. “46 new riders. That’s crazy. In one year!”

Carlson’s own homeward commute from Swan Island involves navigating a couple of the industrial area’s parking lots…

kyle parking lot

…and up Going Street’s wide sidewalk, which was greatly improved in 2010.

kyle on going

Carlson said he used to illicitly ride the private Cement Road to Swan Island but stopped after taking a spill and realizing it’d be safer to avoid. He also switched, at some point, from taking the mixed uphill traffic lane on Going, shared with semi trucks, to taking the sidepath.

“I just thought, I’m a single parent,” he said.

At the top of the hill, Carlson likes to vary his route a bit. We took the Michigan Avenue neighborhood greenway down to Interstate…

kyle intersection paint

…and over the flyover to the Broadway Bridge.

kyle on flyover

I asked Carlson for his advice on extreme commuting. Some tips from his experience:

Get a bike fitting. Carlson got one during the most recent Bike Commute Challenge. “That was amazing,” he said. “You may think you’re comfortable. A bike fitting is the best way to check.”

Choose where to put the cushion. “You either get the padded shorts or the padded seat. You don’t do both.” Carlson opts for the seat.

Gear up. Carlson wears Showers Pass rain pants and jacket in the winter. He always rides with water, a spare tube, a glueless tube patch kit, a bike multitool, a general Gerber multitool, brake pads, a shifter cable, a brake cable, a small pump and tire levers.

Keep building the music collection. Carlson listens to his Zune music player most of the way. He’s used a series of “10 free songs” cards to build a library of 300 to 400 songs — “everything but classical” — which he said is enough for his needs.

Teach the kids to cook. Carlson’s youngest is 14, something he says has been important to his ability to bike-commute. He’s got each of the three cooking the family one meal a week.

Over the West Hills and through the multi-use paths along Sunset Highway and onto the bike lanes that line Washington County’s wide roads, Carlson sees few others riding, at least during the rainy months.

kyle in dark bike lane better

It’s a long ride, but Carlson is in good spirits as he nears his neighborhood. Next year, he’s thinking he’ll finally buy a new bike, possibly a Surly Long Haul Trucker or maybe a cargo bike, and head on the longest trip of his life: seven weeks across the country.

He’s also thinking next summer will be the time he hits his target weight, 200 pounds. That’s down from 320 before he started to ride.

“I made kind of this deal with myself,” he said. “If I get myself to 200 pounds, I’ll get a tattoo.”

A few years after that, his kids will be out of high school and he’ll start thinking about moving. I told him I assumed he’d finally move closer to Swan Island at that point.

Carlson shook his head slightly.

“I’m not sure I’ll move closer,” he said. “I’m thinking I might move a little farther out.”

Or not.

“Who knows?” he said. “I might go on a trip and say, ‘I’m done with this.’ I might walk to work.”

kyle in dark by house

The post The Friday Profile: Kyle Carlson, Daimler Trucks’ 52-mile-a-day iron man appeared first on BikePortland.org.

At Employers Bike Summit, Novick praises health benefits of bike investments

At Employers Bike Summit, Novick praises health benefits of bike investments

Commissioner Steve Novick speaks Friday at
Regence headquarters.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland should be proud of its 6.1 percent bike commuting share, the highest of any large city, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick said at a summit Friday that gave local employers advice on supporting bike commuters.

“We beat Madison,” the city council member said. “We beat Minneapolis.”

The commissioner also returned to the subject he cites most frequently as a reason to support bike improvements: the local economy as a whole saves money through lower health costs when people build physical activity into their lives.

Recalling a 2013 trip he took to Copenhagen, Novick cited that country’s reasoning for investing heavily in bike infrastructure since 1970.

“When the number crunchers in the Danish government justify their investments in bike infrastructure, they look at the health benefits,” Novick said. “They did a study over the 14-year period and found that biking lowered the risk of death by 40 percent compared to sedentary commutes. … This is not, you know, fuzzy thinking in Copenhagen. They are crunching the numbers. And they are real numbers that are leading them to real conclusions.”

Novick also cited studies from Australia (“nearly $70 million in reduced health cost and over $72 million in reduced congestion and transportation cost”) and Charlotte, NC, where new riders of light rail lost six pounds on average, presumably due to their walking to and from the rail stop.

The commissioner also said he supports a monthly fee on households, businesses and government agencies that would pay mostly for, in his description, improvements to walking in outer neighborhoods and for pavement maintenance.

“We need to make investments so it’s safer to bike and walk to transit everywhere in our city,” Novick said. “You have major streets where kids are walking to school or would like to be able to walk to school without sidewalks. Intersections where traffic is rushing by and there’s not a flashing beacon or maybe even a crosswalk. So we have serious equity issues that need to be addressed. We need to make investments in sidewalks and in safer crossings — particularly in outer East and Southwest but in other places, too.”

Much of that money would also go to maintenance, Novick said.

“It is not alarmism to say that on our current path, at some point we would need to start deciding to do what the state of Texas is now doing in some areas, which is say, ‘Which streets do we need to convert to gravel because we can’t maintain them as paved streets any more?'”

The Portland Employers Bike Summit was sponsored by Regence, a health insurance company. It featured workshops on how to create a positive biking culture in the workplace, how to set up bike amenities like parking and tool areas, and more. After the workshops, attendees took a bike facility tour and then met up for networking time to share best practices (and a few locally brewed beverages).

Employers Bike Summit will let businesses share tips on bike-friendly commute programs

Employers Bike Summit will let businesses share tips on bike-friendly commute programs

Employers Bike Summit

Last year’s summit.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Four panels lined with heavy-hitting employers in Multnomah and Washington counties are lined up for next week’s free half-day summit about the best practices for businesses that want to support bike commuting.

Hosted for the third year by Regence, the regional health insurer affiliated with the Blue Cross-Blue Shield brand, the Portland Employers Bike Summit will also feature a keynote from city Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick.

The event is Friday, May 16, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Regence’s headquarters, 1621 SW First Ave. Before the event, human-resources and facilities professionals are invited to a free on-site lunch.

Here’s a listing of the breakout sessions planned:

Don’t Sweat the Commute
As the number of people pedaling to work continues to grow, bike gear and worksites are evolving to accommodate the bike commuter. This session covers both tips for biking to work while dressing for success, as well as policies and facilities that employers are offering to support bike commuting by their employees. Presentation includes sample gear from local bike shops and special attention on common concerns of women bike commuters.

Moderators: Rae-Leigh Stark, WTA & Lindsay Walker, Go Lloyd
Panelists:
Amy Long, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon
Hannah Dondy-Kaplan, Bonneville Power Admin.
Grace Cho, Oregon Metro
Martina Fahrner, Clever Cycles
Leah Benson, Gladys Bikes

Workplace Bike Amenities: What’s inside the neighbor’s garage?
This workshop will present the results of the BTA’s Bike Amenities Survey and give participants a snapshot of what different Portland Metro area workplaces are offering to employees to support bike commuting. Hear the stories from a few best in class examples.

Moderator: Stephanie Noll, Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Panelists:
Wade Lang, American Assets Trust
Bjorn Freeman-Benson, New Relic
Courtney Martin, Intel- Open Bike Inititave

More Bike Fun at Work
You catch more new commuters with donuts than with preaching. Hear fun examples from workplaces that are great at demonstrating the number one reason to get on a bike: it’s fun. Leave with accessible tools for increasing bike fun (and bike commuting) at your workplace. Whether or not you’re fun now, you’ll be more fun after this workshop.

Moderator: Stephanie Noll, Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Panelists:
Birgit Hess and Timothy Morita-McVey, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon Bike Commute Team
Shanna Brownstein, NW Natural
Theresa Carr, CH2M Hill

Joining Forces with Human Resources
We all know that bicycling makes for healthier employees and fewer sick days. This should make Human Resource professionals and bicyclists natural allies, yet workplace advocates and HR don’t always seem to speak the same language. Learn tips on presenting biking proposals to HR and hear case studies of successful partnerships.

Moderator: Steve Hoyt-McBeth, PBOT
Panelists:
Jodi Wilson, Metro
Jim Maestretti, Regence BlueCross Blue Shield of Oregon
Philip Moran, Stoel Rives

The event’s supporting organizers include Go Lloyd, the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. You (or your favorite HR colleague) can preregister now for free on the BTA’s website.

Full disclosure: BikePortland is also a media sponsor of the event. See you there!

Biking matters most to lowest-income local households, new data shows

Biking matters most to lowest-income local households, new data shows

34% of Portland-area bike commuters come from the poorest 25% of local working households.
Source: Census Transportation Planning Projects. Chart by BikePortland.

Last week, we shared some new Census data showing that people who bike to work in Portland have quicker commutes than you might expect. This week, let’s look at a different question: who bikes?

“We have to prioritize investments in communities that have not been prioritized for investments in the past.”
— Gerik Kransky, BTA

It turns out that in the Portland metro area, people of every household income level bike for transportation. But the lower your household’s income, the more likely you are to use a bike to get to work.

That fact — which national data has shown for years but had never been available at the local level — is part of the thinking behind a rising focus in the bicycle advocacy community on the ways that biking can help underprivileged groups.

“People living with multiple resource constraints are in the best position to benefit from increased access to healthy, active transportation options,” Mychal Tetteh, CEO of Portland’s Community Cycling Center, said Thursday. “If we want to see bike mode share increase, a focus on historically underesourced populations will result in the greatest return on investment.”

According to the new estimates, which are based on Census surveys that include margins of error, the poorest 25 percent of Portland-area households are home to about 34 percent of the metro area’s bike commuters. The other three quartiles are quite evenly split, suggesting that bike commuting is both a useful necessity for some and a desirable choice for most.

A bill introduced yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives reinforces this concept. The bipartisan measure championed by the League of American Bicyclists would create a low-interest long-term loan program for communities to build biking and walking networks, with one quarter of the cash set aside to be used in low-income communities.

U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ),
lead sponsor of H.R. 3978.

H.R. 3978 is worth just $11 million for the whole country — about enough for each state to get either one new stoplight, several blocks of sidewalk, a few bike share kiosks or a few miles of bikeways.

On the other hand, it’s showing (yet again) that the appeal of active transportation can cross party lines in a deeply divided Congress.

“It’s a good idea, it’s a good bill and we should certainly support it,” Bicycle Transportation Alliance Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky said in an interview Thursday. “It takes a small but important step toward acknowledging that we have to prioritize investments in communities that have not been prioritized for investments in the past. … These are the kinds of policy decisions we’re going to have to make to let low-income communities make their own decisions.”

Kransky said the risk that a bill like this becomes an excuse for politicians to avoid bigger changes is “always out there.” But he hopes the small amount of money could prove that there’s public support for further shifts, including increased “self-deterimination” by poorer communities of the transportation investments in their neighborhoods.

“A bill like this passes, the process is set forth, money is spent, the outcome is fantastic and the community support is there, then all of a sudden we have a working model for engagement and communication,” Kransky said. “If this works, we can use it as a model at the state or local level.”