September 30, 2005
There’s no avoiding the truth. I got wet this morning biking to work.
In what was a rare Portland rain (usually it’s just drizzle), I put on my rain pants and my mediocre raincoat and biked through some serious rain and puddles to work. Coming across the Hawthorne Bridge, I was glad to see that Breakfast on the Bridges wasn’t closing up, and didn’t call it off because of the weather.
I stopped, and enjoyed free coffee and a Voodoo donut, and conversation with TriMet’s Kiran Limaye and the City of Portland’s Greg Raisman. We waived at the Coalition for Livable Future’s Teresa Huntsinger as she rode by (late to work?) and chatted about recumbent bicycles. Other dedicated cyclists rode by, and one stopped, along with a pedestrian. Smiles abounded, despite the wetness.
Cheered by the coffee and the company, I re-mounted my bike and got to work, where I found our bike racks full (as always), and employees bustling about but generally happy.
Taking off my wet socks and trading out my shirt, I was soon dry.
And felt alive.
Alive from biking, from feeling the weather, from being with these people, and living in this place. I love this job.
I've begun riding my new bicycle most places in lieu of taking the bus. It's at least fifteen minutes quicker than on my way to work compared to the bus (7.71 miles one way!). I choose a bike lane, bike/pedestrian only path which leads me down the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Generally, this proves to be quite pleasant - during the day. However, at night, it becomes borderline treacherous between the Hawthorne and Burnside bridges as there is no lighting to guide the way. This could be quite dangerous for someone who isn't familiar with the path, especially near the Portland Spirit loading zone with the stairs leading down to the dock.
I'm wondering if this topic has come up before, if there is any other concern for having this section moderately lit, and what else it would take to get this section moderately lit. The sections north and south of this bit have lighting, so why not this section?
Although, I was happy to be the 'guiding light' for a gentleman last night with my rear light blinking ferociously, it seems we could have a better way of getting folks to talk to one another!
My Metro Council colleague Rod Park took these photos while on a family trip to France.
“This is a new program Lyon is trying. You rent the bike for 1 euro for each hour after the first half hour which is free. They have about 20 stations city wide. You just pick one up and drop it off at one of the other stations. Very interesting concept that we might want to copy.
In the last picture you can see the line of those rent a bike spots with most of them in use.”
September 29, 2005
When I was starting this blog, I got feedback from a number of potential contributors that just talking about "mobility" was a problem, that "access" was the more comprehensive way to look at the issues. I eventually compromised and put both in the tag line for this site.
I'm getting a similar education about "freight". I'm coming to understand that the "movement of goods and services" is the more comprehensive way to look at this issue. This is particularly relevant as the Portland Freight Master Plan makes its way to the Planning Commission and then City Council.
While Professor Hunt's main theme was about the intracacies of modeling the movement of commercial vehicles, which make up perhaps 12-16% of all vehicles on the road (the rest being "household" vehicles), as context, he presented statistics about the composition of that traffic.
Only about two-thirds of commercial traffic is what a layman might think of as "freight", goods being shipped in large trucks. The other third is transported in smaller trucks, vans and cars. Commercial services are almost entirely delivered in smaller vehicles.
So as we plan how our transportation system will serve the region's economy, we would do well to think about ALL of the movements that contribute, not just tractor-trailers.
A press release from the American Public Transportation Assocation, released in conjunction with their EXPO 2005, notes sharp increases in transit ridership.
The increase is attributed to rising gas prices and new technologies:
Many transit system officials attribute this growth to higher gas prices, expansion of services and improved passenger services. Recent years have seen a proliferation of new technologies that have greatly enhanced the riding experience and made it easier than ever to use public transportation. On-board wireless Internet, GPS mapping services, smart fare cards, advanced passenger information technologies, and in-rail car television and radio networks are just a few examples of the innovations in today's public transportation systems.
September 28, 2005
Kent Lind passes on this pointer to an article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer and asks: "Seattle built a bus tunnel with 1980s federal transit money. Portland built a light rail. Which was smarter?"
Folks who follow this blog know I'm a transportation geek. What folks may not know is that I'm also a geek geek, i.e., my day job is doing Internet technology.
So sometimes my travels around the region require that I carry a laptop with me.
I have yet to find a way to do this on a bicycle where I feel confident about the integrity and safety of my laptop.
So what do you other bike commuters do when you need to carry a laptop? How do you protect it in case of a crash? Do you worry about (or have a way to mitigate) the affects of vibration during the ride?
September 27, 2005
I recently attended a meeting of the Portland Freight Advisory Committee, where the Freight Master Plan was being reviewed.
Once again, the Sellwood Bridge came up. The line of discussion: it's not a freight project, so don't list it as a project it in the master plan, and certainly don't spend any funds targeted on freight on it!
The basis of this argument is that as long as the bridge is only two lanes, and Tacoma Street is only two lanes, this is not a freight-friendly corridor. Arguments were advanced to reconsider the option of a new bridge south of the existing one (through the Waverly Country Club) or to rebuild the Sellwood with four lanes on the assumption that sometime during the bridge's 100-year-expected-life we'll wise up and widen Tacoma.
[Credit goes to PDOT staffer John Gillam who reminded the committee of the local delivery function the Sellwood bridge - even at two lanes - DOES provide for the movement of goods and services.]
Of course, this is exactly the thinking that caused the Sellwood Bridge to get zero funding from the state OTIA process, even though it scores 2 on a soundness scale of 100 (presumably it will get marked down to zero when it falls into the river).
Meanwhile, the bridge remains the top priority for bicycle and pedestrian advocates as the weakest link in our network for alternative modes.
So perhaps we should develop a plan for a bike and ped only bridge? After all, we wouldn't want to spend any of our precious bike dollars on something those stinking cars and trucks could use!
When will we get our thinking out of these single mode buckets and learn to think about multi-modal systems? That's the only path to assembling the funding required to actually do something about this failing bridge.
September 26, 2005
Today's Oregonian reports on the possibility of using tolls to fund new lanes on Highway 217, and reminds us that tolls are not completely foreign to Oregon. The Barlow Trail was a toll road and the Interstate Bridge was once tolled.
Metro forecasts that the 12-minutes average commute on 217 is headed to 16 minutes, but could be pared back to 12 minutes with an additional lane, or 7 minutes in an express toll lane.
Tolls have also been discussed for the Newberg/Dundee bypass, rebuilding the Sellwood Bridge and for the replacement or supplement to the Interstate Bridge.
What I find fascinating is that I hear tolls being promoted by both alternate mode advocates, because they may reduce or time-shift auto demand, and by folks like the Cascade Policy Institute, because they are market-based solutions to capacity and because they bring private equity to highway projects.
On the flip side is the possibility that the driving public just won't stand for it. There are also economic justice arguments that some of the folks who would need to use these routes are least able to afford tolls to get to their jobs.
What do you think?
September 23, 2005
I recently flew to the East Coast for a long weekend. As usual, I left straight from downtown Portland, leaving my bike at work, and riding the Red Line MAX to the airport. As we sped by alongside I-84, I looked at the hundreds of cars creeping along, nearly at a standstill, and I couldn't help wondering--why would anyone want to drive to the airport?
My trip was comfortable, convenient, stress-free, and, best of all, I knew exactly how long it would take me to get there. Sure, in the middle of the night it might take less time to drive to the airport, but at any other time...who knows? It could be smooth sailing, or it could be a parking lot.
I'm interested in this experience because it's one of the few times when the alternative transportation user actually has a clear advantage over the private automobile driver. I'm afraid that's not always the case. The key to helping people make the change to environmentally-friendly modes isn't to appeal to their sense of responsibility, and even less so to make them feel guilty. The key lies in making the alternative mode trip better than the car trip: faster, easier, cheaper, more fun, more beautiful, more reliable. Even one of these may be a deciding factor, but better yet is if we can combine them.
I can think of a few other local examples. During rush hour, bike lanes on major streets are like shortcuts for cyclists, allowing them to zoom past stopped cars. Likewise, bike boulevards (such as SE Ankeny or SE Clinton) offer cyclists direct routes while slowing down cars and restricting car access (such as enforced turns for cars while bikes can go straight through). Bikes also park free downtown (and everywhere), while the drive-alone worker faces a hefty monthly bill for the privilege of parking downtown. And, at least theoretically, HOV lanes on freeways offer an advantage to drivers who share their trip with others. Similarly, employer-funded transit passes offer a free ride on transit compared to the expense of driving.
These examples are few and far between, though. If you already own a car, it's still the fastest and most convenient way to get around for many trips in the city. What can we do to truly make the right thing to do the easiest thing to do as well? And how can we make sure that both politicians and the public understand and support these efforts? What are the tangible benefits we're trading for?
Here are a few ideas about what we could try:
- No more right turn on red--provide a truly protected phase for pedestrians to cross the street
- More bike priority signals (like at the Esplanade/Rose Garden) allowing bicyclists priority crossing
- A new Willamette River bridge only for streetcar/light rail, bikes, and peds
- Neighborhood intersections blocked to cars but open to people on foot and on bike
- More traffic calming to slow down traffic and make neighborhood routes less appealing to cars
- More bike boulevards that give priority to bike traffic and offer a truly superior route
- Rush-hour pricing on our most congested freeways and bridges (and maybe, eventually, into downtown?)
- More bike boxes, that allow cyclists to safely bypass stopped traffic and "go to the head of the line"
- Car-free days and car-free areas in our city
September 22, 2005
Konichi wa Portland Transport Gang!
Still in Japan. It has been more challenging than I thought trying to sketch, diagram, keep a journal, interview Japanese designers and planners and -- do laundry. Sorry only one report so far. Will try to do better in my last week
Being here has brought up a question I have been asking myself for years more forcefully than ever - should standards be standard?
I first started asking myself this question in earnest when my firm was hired by the city of Forest Grove to do a bike/ped masterplan. During this project I distinctly remember a cyclist coming in and pleading for space, any amount of space - no matter how narrow, on the notoriously treacherous Hwy 47. “Please” he said, “just give us something, anything - two feet would make a huge difference, even a foot. I’ve measured the road, I know there is enough space to move the fog line over at least a foot.”
The response to this, from ODOT, not us, was of course - a two foot wide bike lane doesn’t meet standards, therefore you can have nothing. There might be money for restriping if it was for a conforming to standard shoulder bike lane, but restriping for an extra foot or two of width, which met no standard and thus - had no reason for existing, was out of the question. Cyclists would continue to ride with NO shoulder space because there was not enough room to provide an ideal width bike lane.
This is a bike example, but the additional width would have made walking on the highway that much easier as well. And there are plenty of stories about missing sidewalks that fit the same script.
Now fast forward to Rick in Japan, summer of 2005. What do I see here? Zillions of sidewalks two feet wide. Not to say I am not seeing grand boulevards and 40’ sidewalks - they have those too. But on the many roads where for whatever reason space is really constrained, they put in whatever they can. Sidewalks 2 to 3’ (less than a meter) wide, shared by bikes and pedestrians, are not uncommon.
Know what? They work great. Bikes use them, often dipping out onto the adjacent roadway for short stretches to get out of pedestrians’ way. Pedestrian stop and wait for each other, or for oncoming bikes. Adjacent commercial buildings often provide some small “give back” space - a paved voluntary setback that provides a brief interlude of wider space.
There are innumerable other examples on Japanese streets and transit stations about the power of not making standards standard. Train stations have what seem to be horrifyingly narrow bottlenecks where flights of stairs come down onto train platforms, forcing massive waves of foot traffic on to narrow little ledges adjacent to open tracks, but it works.
Do the designs work because people are innately polite and cooperative or are people polite and cooperative because the designs give them no other choice? Not sure, but based on my experiences here I am more than ever against the tyranny of standards. I believe they come in part from American “me-ism”. Every mode must be accommodated in ideal fashion for that mode. The hell with everyone else. The hell with the fact that there is innate efficiency in sharing rather than segregating.
In the kind of dense, multi-layered and multi-modal society we envision for Portland’s future - I don’t think this approach works. I don’t even think it works right now.
If Japan was stuck with American risk management lawyers and code standard enforcement I think it would cease to function as a society within 24 hours. That it succeeds so brilliantly as a dense, multi-modal society (and it really has to be studied in some depth as I have been doing, to appreciate the stratospheric level to which it does succeed), is an eloquent argument that standards should not be standard.
September 21, 2005
Readers of this site will recognize that we have not been hesitant to criticize the new Bridgeport Village "Lifestyle Center" (the new term for shopping mall) in Durham. Its lack of multi-modal connectivity and the fact that it is not located where the 2040 plan calls for a center to occur (along with supporting transportation infrastructure) have been called out in past posts.
But recently, we heard criticism from a direction we had not anticipated - the freight community. Attending a meeting of the Portland Freight Committee we heard frustration on two fronts:
1) Bridgeport Village is creating congestion on I-5 that slows movement of other goods and services (a criticism also applied to the Woodburn factory outlet stores).
2) It is poorly designed for delivery of goods to the mall itself, increasing costs.
Let's hope local decision makers around the region can learn from this cautionary tale.
I just heard on OPB that the sales tax increase to support CTRAN passed with 67% of the vote. Whew!
Does anyone have more info or thoughts?
September 20, 2005
Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
TRANSPORTATION COURSES - Fall 2005
We are pleased to announce our Fall 2005 course offerings, and particularly encourage students and working professionals to register for these courses related to transportation:
CE 407/507 SEMINAR: TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH AND PRACTICE (1 credit, F 12-13:30**)* - Weekly seminar series where students, faculty, practitioners, community members and invited visitors discuss a wide variety of subjects related to current transportation research, education, policy and community issues. For credit, students must either present a seminar or submit a paper summarizing one seminar topic area.
Go to: http://www.cts.pdx.edu/seminars.htm
CE 410/510 TRANSPORTATION SAFETY ANALYSIS (4 credits, MW 12-1:50)* - Incorporating safety in highway engineering and transportation planning.
Includes highway design, operation, and maintenance, as well as human factors, statistical analysis, traffic control and public policy. Design concepts of intersections, interchanges, signals, signs and pavement markings; analyzing data sets for recommendations and prioritization; principles of driver and vehicle characteristics in relation to the roadway. Instructor: Monsere
CE 454 URBAN TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS (4 credits, MW 8-9:50)* - Urban street patterns and transportation demand, highway capacity analysis, process of urban transport planning, travel-demand forecasting and its application to traffic studies. Development of transport models, multiple regression analysis, models of land use and trip generations, stochastic trip distribution models, applications and case studies.
Route assignment analysis and traffic flow theory. Prerequisite: CE 351.
CE 455/555 INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS (4 credits, TTh 4-5:50)*
- Introduction to intelligent transportation systems, including:
enabling surveillance, navigation, communications and computer technologies. Application of technologies for monitoring, analysis, evaluation and prediction of transportation system performance.
Intervention strategies, costs and benefits, safety, human factors, institutional issues and case studies. Prerequisite: CE 351. Instructor:
USP 565 PEDESTRIAN/BICYCLE PLANNING (3 credits, M 4-6:30)* - Examines the importance of walking and bicycling as means of transportation in a sustainable urban environment. Covers planning, design, implementation, and maintenance of bikeways and walkways, as well as ancillary facilities such as bicycle parking. Focus on the role of education, advocacy, and outreach in improving walking and bicycling conditions.
Study relevant examples from various cities, with a heavy emphasis on Portland's experience. Instructor: Birk *
USP 537 ECONOMICS OF URBAN TRANSPORTATION (3 credits, Th 4-6:30)* - The transportation system is critical to the functioning of an urban area.
The movement of people and goods affects both the productivity and livability of the region. Transportation systems also affect and are affected by land use and location decisions. This course presents the economic analysis of urban transportation. This will include analysis of the effects of transportation systems on land use and location as well as the evaluation of transportation investments. These methods will then be applied to evaluation of various proposals to improve the urban transportation system. Prerequisite: USP 515 or 615. Instructor: Rufolo
Non-degree students may take classes via "Quick Entry":
Tuition and fee information:
Winter Class Schedule:
We look forward to welcoming you to campus!
Robert L. Bertini, Ph.D., P.E., Associate Professor Director, Center for Transportation Studies, Portland State University
Just 19 years ago, the Portland region opened its first MAX light rail line. The first 15-mile segment opened in 1986 between downtown Portland and Gresham. There was excitement in the community as we opened one of the first modern light rail lines in the country. Of course, there were a few derisive comments before it opened, including a suggestion that we should leave the keys inside and just walk away from it.
But all these years later, MAX has carried 199 million trips, and has helped spur more than $3 billion in transit-oriented development along the entire alignment.
Eastside MAX opened with an average of 19,500 weekday trips, which has now grown to an average of 41,100 daily trips. During the planning for the line, the city of Gresham didn’t want the MAX line in their front yard. But has since spent years and millions of dollars turning the city toward the MAX line.
A decade later, the 18-mile Westside MAX line opened, with half of the riders in the corridor new to transit. The success of the line could be seen since opening day – standing-room only trains during rush hour. First year boardings averaged 22,800 and has since climbed to an average of 32,700 weekday trips.
1st train to plane on West Coast
When the 5.5-mile Airport MAX Red Line opened Sept. 10, 2001, less than 24 hours before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center buildings, it was the first train-to-plane connection on the West Coast. In these four years, 3.3 million people have ridden to or from Portland International Airport. The former bus line that served PDX averaged about 900 people getting on or off on weekdays. MAX has nearly tripled transit trips with an average of 2,600 weekday trips.
TriMet’s overall MAX system now covers 44 miles with 65 light rail stations. Last year MAX carried 32 million rides, up from 27.5 million the year before. And Saturday ridership is 80% of weekday ridership, showing that ridership isn’t focused solely on commute trips. On similar systems, one out of four riders are choice riders, but MAX is carrying three out of four riders as a matter of choice – leaving many cars in their driveways.
Next month, the 8.3-mile I-205/Portland Mall Light Rail Project will enter the Final Design phase. The community is invited to provide comments on issues including station design, and how MAX can help enliven the Mall for retail, pedestrians and transit riders. The project will extend MAX from Gateway Transit Center to Clackamas Town Center, and between Union Station and Portland State University between 5th and 6th avenues. Construction is expected to begin in fall 2006 and open in September 2009. Get project updates by signing up at trimet.org/portlandmall.
The South Corridor Project Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement published in December 2002 that included the 2nd extension into Clackamas County – from Portland State University to SE Portland and Milwaukie – will have to be amended beginning early next year led by Metro. That work will focus on the connection across the Willamette River to Portland State University, and on the transit center and alignment in Milwaukie that was considered by a citizen committee last year and formally approved by the Milwaukie City Council. That South Corridor Phase 2 project could open in 2014.
In the meantime, a new phase of a bi-state study is considering a joint highway and transit project in the I-5 Corridor, crossing Portland’s other river to Vancouver. That study was led by the two state DOTs. A governor’s task force prepared recommendations in June 2005 that calls for a multi-modal approach to addressing the significant bi-state transportation needs. A light rail extension north from the Expo Center is being considered in that study, alongside bus options. Information on that effort is available at www.i-5partnership.com.
MAX has become a signature of our region and a tool for providing mobility while building and preserving neighborhoods. The success of MAX has made the Portland region a national model we can be proud.
September 19, 2005
It's taken a few weeks to really absorb and internalize the contents of the plan. What's the conclusion of the alternative transportation advocates? It doesn't do any harm. Some neighborhood leaders were concerned that they would find freight routes barrelling through their communities. That's not the case. The plan actually does a good job of identifying and classifying those streets and highways needed to move freight through our city.
And the plan also does a good job of articulating the difference between designing streets for 53 foot trailers, and 'accommodating' them for less frequent local deliveries (having watched some of those trailers try to turn off NW 23rd onto neighborhood streets - accommodating is something of a euphemism). What it does not do well - at least yet - is apply those distinct approaches to different classifications of streets and create design guidelines to actually implement them. Neighborhood leaders would do well to continue monitoring those developments - which are not likely until after this iteration of the plan has been adopted.
Perhaps the more important question is whether it really does anything to help the movement of goods and services? And even alternative transportation advocates understand that this movement is critical to our economy.
But I'm not sure this plan does much to help in the long term. Lack of investment in freight rail infrastructure pushes growth in goods movement to trucks, and trucks run into congestion primarily generated by passenger cars. Strategies to either give freight preferential treatment at keep points in the road network, or to reduce SOV travel in critical corridors, are not prominent in this plan.
Commissioner Sam Adams is contemplating a trip to Amsterdam this fall to understand how they do goods and services movement in a dense urban environment (and get ideas for how to make Portland the first Platinum Bicycle City in North America). Perhaps he'll come back with some new thinking that can jump start creativity on this problem.
Meanwhile, we do see one likely long-term conflict that this plan highlights. Barbur and Powell Boulevards are both quite reasonably defined as important corridors in the freight network. But we know that TriMet has designs on these streets as future MAX routes. The freight community is still bristling over what they perceive as the ruining of Interstate Avenue for freight with the Yellow Line. Can we figure out how to make Barbur and Powell work for both freight and high capacity transit, or will we have to decide in the future which of these uses is more important?
September 16, 2005
A few weeks ago, I once again had to go to a medical appointment near Washington Square, and put my bike on the bus to get there.
Much to my horror, just before we reached our destination, the driver stopped the bus and told me mike bike was slipping out of the rack! Apparently the clamp that goes over the front wheel had vibrated around and down off my wheel. This might be because the fender on my cruiser keeps me from putting the clamp on past the 12 o'clock position (as I believe is recommended). Has anyone else had this occur? I've since started using a bungee cord to secure the clamp in place. I'm very grateful to a very attentive driver for being on the ball and not running over my bike!
On the way back from my appointment, I was frustrated that the first bus to go by already had two bikes on it. 15 minutes later, the next bus has one bike slot open, so I grabbed it.
Unfortunately, along the way back into Portland we passed another rider who wanted to put his bike on the already full rack. The driver did something I have not seen before, and is probably against the rules, but very common sense. He asked those of us with bikes when we were getting off. When I told him I was getting off a few stops later, he let the 3rd bike owner put his bike in the wheel chair area temporarily - very nice!
In the few stops until I got off, I got an earful from rider # 3 about how often he can't get his bike on the rack because it is full, often on the last bus of the evening, which he said in some cases had required him to get a hotel room in Portland for the night.
TriMet, can we start getting racks that hold three bikes?
And thank you to the two drivers who made what could have been very frustrating experiences work out well (even if the rules got bent).
September 15, 2005
I swiped this one from 1000 Friends' e-mail newsletter.
Religious leaders are getting behind New Urbanism on the grounds that "the philosophy behind New Urbanism is a possible antidote to the isolation experienced by many churches and Christians."
Sprawl makes it more difficult for churches to achieve their objectives, Bess said. For example, anyone who can't operate a vehicle -- the young, old or disabled -- are disenfranchised, he said.
"Just as a matter of social justice it's arguably better to make mixed-use, walkable environments," Bess said.
September 14, 2005
A lot of the commentary on past posts about the Portland Bicycle (a locally manufactured entry-level commuter bike) has opined that we can't get the quality we want at the price point ($300 or under) that we're aiming for, and what we could produce for that price isn't anything anyone would want to ride for very long (i.e., as they became more experienced they would want a better bike).
So let's re-conceptualize the problem. We want a way to get a non-cyclist (or very casual cyclist) to make the leap into commuting. If we don't think we can build a quality bike at a price point low enough to help ease the transition, can we do it another way?
If the bike you want to ride when you start is not the bike you want to ride after 3 months of experience, could we turn this into a leasing program? You could start with an entry-level bike and then have the option to trade up later, or have some kind of credit for purchase of something else. Then we could take your entry bike and turn it around and lease it to another beginning cyclist.
We could bundle the lease with service options. A quarterly tune-up and all repairs included? How about roadside assistance (that should calm the folks afraid of flats) - you wouldn't actually need it that often - and how much could it cost to have Speed's towing pick you up and drop your bike at the nearest bike shop?
What do you think, could we define a leasing program with easy terms as a way to get folks into bike commuting? What kinds of services would make this attractive?
September 13, 2005
Yesterday Portland Transport had its 10,000th visitor.
We are still a relatively young site. How are we doing? What are your suggestions for how to make this blog more relevant or useful?
I don’t own a car, and yet (to the great surprise of many relatives and family friends) I can pretty much get everywhere I need to without feeling like I’m sacrificing anything. Most of the time I bike, and that is plenty fast and convenient for me (not to mention freeing me up from needing to go to the gym). When I need to get somewhere farther away, I usually combine bus or MAX and bike, which works great, or I’ll take transit the whole way (such as to the airport). When I need to haul something around, or get out of town, Flexcar hooks me up real good. And the thousands I save on not owning a car go straight to my yearly 3-week overseas vacation…so I really don’t feel deprived.
Watching the news coverage of the New Orleans evacuation, though, was sobering. It sure looked like car was the only way to get out of the city. What would we have done? Would we have tried to hitch a ride with a friend? What if we couldn’t find anyone in the chaos? Would we have tried to go to the corner and find a generous stranger? Would we have reserved—or just plain taken—a Flexcar, figuring that we’d have to work it out with the company after the emergency? Or tried to get a rental car? Would transit have been available or reliable?
None of those options seem like the rock-solid emergency plan you want to have in case of an emergency. That got me to thinking about the vehicles we do have—bikes. Could we have evacuated on bikes? Most of the evacuees, at least at first, were going a mere 30 miles away. 30 miles is definitely bikeable, especially with the traffic on the freeways slowed to a crawl or even stopped. Assuming our evacuation distance would be similar, could we have brought what we needed?
We discussed things, and the only things we felt like we really couldn’t leave behind would be our important papers, our laptops, and our two cats. Two cat carriers couldn’t fit in our one trailer, though. Should we get a second trailer just in case? Or would a better solution be to put two cats in one carrier, which does fit in the trailer? Of course, the trailer would be completely full with a cat carrier, plus food, cat food, and water. I suppose if you're biking, you’d want to bring warm clothes, rain gear, a tent and sleeping bags, because you're more exposed to the elements, and you might not be able to get far enough in one day. Now we’re talking a decent load…but I still think you could bring that with two people and a trailer, plus panniers and/or backpacks.
So, to conclude, I don’t think it would be impossible to evacuate on bicycles. But, most importantly: just because you could do it, should you? Would it be a bad idea to not have the warmth and relative safety of a car? On the other hand, you wouldn’t have to worry about filling up on gas, so maybe it would be a smarter option.
What do you think? Are there any flaws in my plan? Would you advise against bike evacuation and tell us to find a car at any cost? In case of an emergency, could bike organizations spread the word to car-free people about how to evacuate by bike? How about a giant bike caravan, for safety and shared carrying power?
Hopefully we’ll never have to evacuate…but just in case, I’d like to have a good plan in place.
September 12, 2005
My experience of Ped Summit II began when I boarded the #45 bus in downtown Portland. Over the next few blocks, 3 or 4 more transportation advocates boarded the bus, and on the way to Multnomah Village, the driver regaled us with the comparative advantages of the #44 versus his #45 to get us to our mutual destination.
Mayor Potter welcomed us to the summit (Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams is off at Railvolution this week). Updating us on the New Orleans evacuee status (off again?) the Mayor reminded us that a major earthquake awaits Portland sometime in the future and building community networks (like Pedestrian Advocacy) is critical to disaster preparedness.
The summit was hosted by activists from SW Trails, led by Don Baack, chair of SWTrails. Many of the presentations focused on the work of this organization and their effectiveness in getting trail projects done. Some of their "get it done" tactics include:
- Building a bridge over a creek for $500. The project is list in the Transportation System Plan for $95,000.
- Creating stairs from railroad ties rather than the more expensive poured concrete.
- Using ground up asphalt and concrete recovered by PDOT from repaving projects for trail surfaces.
Since these projects are not up to ADA standards, some concern was expressed about accessibility, but the general consensus was that since the City would not build ADA-standard projects in the same locations for many years, if ever, having non-ADA trails was better than having no trails at all.
The key to success in getting these projects done is getting buy in both from neighborhood associations and the adjoining property owners. The importance of this work is reinforced when you understand that only 15% of streets in SW Portland have sidewalks!
Wendy Bumgardner, the Portland-based guide for walking.about.com (with a million online readers) gave us an in-the-flesh presentation of the health benefits of walking and told us how to locate walking clubs (Volkswalking) in the region.
A discussion of pedestrian challenges included vocal complaints about poor pedestrian detours and lack of mitigation for sidewalk closures due to construction projects.
And we were reminded to call 503 823-SAFE (PDOT's safety line) when we encounter a pedestrian safety issue.
The Pedestrian Summit is one of the few city-wide gatherings of transportation advocates and I sincerely hope this series will continue!
September 10, 2005
My own transportation advocacy was greatly enhanced when I took the PDOT/PSU traffic and transportation class almost 10 years ago. Offered every spring and fall, I would recommend this course to anyone interested in improving transportation in their neighborhood, city or region. Here's the info on the fall class...
Neighborhood traffic, alternative transportation and how to get things done in your neighborhood are the focus for this well respected ten-week university course. Hundreds of Portland residents have taken this popular class and learned how to negotiate the maze of traffic and transportation agencies and issues. Here's your chance to hear about how you can make a difference even in these times of budget cuts and shrinking gas tax revenue.
Speakers include policy and decision-makers, planners, and engineers from Tri-Met, Metro, and Portland's Office of Transportation - people who can make things happen. Facilitated by Rick Gustafson, transportation planning consultant and former Metro executive officer.
What: A ten-week course sponsored by City of Portland Bureau of Transportation System Management and Portland State University Urban Studies Program
When: September 29, 2005 to December 8, 2005
Thursdays, 6:40 - 8:40 p.m.
Where: Portland State University Campus (classroom to be announced)
Who: This course is designed for the neighborhood activist, new or experienced, who wants to make a difference on traffic and transportation in their Portland neighborhood.
Limited space is available for the ten-week class during the Fall Term.
Full scholarships are available to qualified City of Portland residents for the non-credit course. To be eligible for a scholarship applicants must live in the City of Portland and not be a transportation or law enforcement professional. Deadline for scholarship application is September 16, 2005. If you are interested in taking the class for Tuition is $147 for non-credit or one credit and $293 for graduate credit.
September 9, 2005
Urban Bikers' Tricks and Tips
This book is the ultimate practical guide. All kinds of situations that a cyclist may run into are outlined and diagramed with pragrmatic (and usually legal) tips.
Every possible left turn scenario is covered! When should you take the lane? How do you pass a bus that's unloading passengers (it depends on how many passengers are left to board)? It's all here.
I'm giving this one to my 15-year-old daughter to read for cycling to school in downtown Portland.
The Art of Urban Cycling
While this book covers much of the same practical ground as the first (perhaps not in the same level of detail), it adds a lot of philosophy and theory about the role of the cyclist in the urban environment.
Do you know what the school of vehicular cycling is? Why does it eschew bike paths? When are helmets dangerous? A book that will make you think while it prepares you for your commute!
September 8, 2005
I got a TriMet alert last week reminding me that TriMet Passport (employer-based passes) would no longer be accepted on C-TRAN premimum express routes as of September 1.
This sent me to the C-TRAN site to see what how else the TriMet/C-TRAN integration might be affected, and I found this page about C-TRAN's "Service Preservation Plan", which requires a ballot measure to pass in September.
Do we have any cross-Columbia transit riders reading out there? How has the decrease in resources to C-TRAN since the 2000 ballot measure affected your lives? How do you make your connections across the river?
How is the differing resource level for transit on each side of the Columbia affecting our regional efforts?
September 7, 2005
The novelist H.G. Wells said that he felt hope for the human race whenever he saw an adult on a bicycle. Our current president is now notorious in his love of bicycling, even if he falls off once in awhile. What does this mean for national transportation policy? If he rides enough (or some wags might say, if he falls enough), will his administration see the bicycle as the machine of liberation, energy independence and obesity slayer that it can be?
Not being privy either to the mind of George Bush nor to the inside workings of the ruling party I can only guess. I would like to be like Mr. Wells, optimistically hoping that by hopping on a bike and discovering the world under his own power, Mr. Bush will experience the epiphany that I did when I realized that I didn’t need a car and all its burdens in order to live a full and fun life. I could actually do what I had to do, and have fun and save money while I was doing it.
The other, more cynical side of me tells my joyous, bicycle zealot self that I am fooling myself. After all, Bush rides on trails on his own (or other’s) private ranches. No traffic tussling for him. He just has to look out for all those Secret Service guys and the odd root and rock. So, he won’t have any opportunity to see the bicycle as a transportation tool, one that we need to use more in crafting sustainable cities. He also cycles solely for the exercise. Sorry, guys and gals in Spandex™, but the bicycle’s real value is in the day to day, mundane tasks of getting to the store, school and the job. Until he rides into Crawford for a latté or a replacement chain for his chain saw I doubt he will think of his expensive steed as anything but a toy.
Of course, it may just be a class thing. Remember when John Kerry rode through town on his $5000 bike clad in racing colors and Spandex? He probably hasn’t hopped on his bike to ride to work since he was in college either.
September 6, 2005
Yesterday, I was riding along a local street, cruising a downhill section and approaching an intersection with all-way stop signs. Already at the intersection was a car stopped at the cross street. There seemed to be a family inside-two kids, mom and dad, with grandma in the back seat. Arriving at the intersection I came to a complete and legal stop, even putting my foot down to indicate that this family clearly had the right of way and could proceed, which is what the Dad, sitting in the driver's seat, did. As they passed slowly through the intersection, the grandmother gave me a warm, beaming smile, full of appreciation. I swear, it looked like the woman was actually proud of me, and clearly very pleased, that I came to a complete stop. Her look was pure grandmother; you know, the way your grandmother looks at you after you've done something particularly clever, or behaved like a mensch (in Yiddish, a person who is good to other people, a nice person). From her and her family's reactions it was obvious that nobody in the car expected me to stop.
Contrast that to a more typical scenario that is all too talked about and common. Perhaps this will sound familiar:
Cyclist approaching a 4-way stop where a motorist is also stopped. Cyclist completely blows stop sign, somewhat shocking and slightly angering motorist who was just about to pull into the intersection. In pique, motorist taps horn as if to say "What's up with that!", which is essentially the equivalent of a cyclist yelling "Yo!" when faced with similarly obtuse behavior by motorist. Cyclist turns and stereotypically responds in expected fashion, angering motorist more. And so it goes.
I'd like to suggest that we individual cyclists consider trying more to elicit the grandmotherly smiles than the reproachful honks. And I even have one suggestion about how to do that:
Ride with utmost courtesy at all times.
Here's a few simple ways to do that:
- always yield to pedestrians
- come to a complete and legal stop at all stop signs whenever anybody else is at, or approaching the intersection.
- Do not run red lights, ever.
- Be pleasant at all times.
I challenge all who are reading this to ride for one day as above. It would helpful to be able to talk to Portland citizens without first addressing our reputation as law-breaking, righteous, anti-social, and scary. It's time to turn the conversation to something else. What do you think? Can you do it? Just try it for a day and see how it feels.
September 5, 2005
Or, what I did on my vacation.
As a neighborhood activist, I have frequently heard the question, "why don't we stripe more crosswalks?"
The stock-in-trade answer of the traffic engineers in Portland is that drivers are not sufficiently aware of crosswalks and they give pedestrians a false sense of security. This has always struck me as something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we act like they don't mean anything, they won't!
So while vacationing on Cape Cod last week, I couldn't help but notice that they appear to take their crosswalks a lot more seriously. They are often distinctively marked (or even use different materials) and are accompanied by very visible signage reminding drivers of the state law requiring cars to yield at crosswalks.
Does it work? I saw lots of instances where cars stopped as soon as someone put a foot in the crosswalk, something I don't see that often here in Portland.
So I had my family scratching their heads and humoring me while I took the photos below.
Maybe we can discuss this approach at the upcoming Pedestrian Summit II!
September 2, 2005
Last week my usual commute to Wilsonville took a detour. Since I had a mid-morning meeting in downtown Portland, I couldn’t catch the 96 as I usually do.
Since I also wanted to visit the Container Store (I’m an organization freak), I put my bike on the #12 and got off at Highway 99 and Hall Blvd. and pedaled down Hall and 72nd to Bridgeport Village (planning to catch the SMART bus from the Tualatin Transit Center to Wilsonville).
Riding through the mall, I got a strange look from one of the security folks directing traffic. When I reached the store, I was surprised to find no bike racks. I eventually found them inside the parking structure (apparently they’re too messy to put on the faux 'streets').
I’m sure they met code requirements, as there were no less than 45 hoops for bike parking. And at noon on a weekday, my bike was the ONLY one parked there. Now I understand the look from the security guy - he must not see a lot of bikes...
[Apologies for the washed out cell phone photo.]
September 1, 2005
2-5pm on October 3rd in the Portland Building. Details at http://www.portlandonline.com/index.cfm?&c=26361&a=90278.
Vice President Al Gore will be in Portland on Tuesday, September 6th, to present a slideshow on global warming. The event will be held at the Oregon Convention Center at 6:30 PM in ballrooms 201 and 202. Doors open at 6:00 PM. It is free to the public. Seating is limited. Spread the word.
Another entry in our series to design an entry-level commuter bike for design and manufacture here in Portland. A re-cap on the target market:
- beginning rider
- short trips, or used in conjunction with a bus for longer trips
- ridden in street clothes
- $300 or under
Today's topic is tires. Flat tires may be a significant fear of beginning riders. With this in mind, what's the best way to overcome this concern without sacrificing performance?
Should we consider a solid tire? Is that a heretical thought?
Is a wide tire better? What's the trade-off between flat resistance and pavement resistance?
Let us know what you think entry-level commuters need or want.