August 25, 2008
A recent flap over the idea of making bike helmets mandatory for adults appears to have died down, so I'm hoping it's not too soon for a little calm reflection.
The flap ensued when State Senator Floyd Prozanski (a bicycle advocate) floated the idea of a mandatory helmet law. That prompted more than 250 comments on BikePortland.org, most negative.
The Senator quickly backed off, triggering counter claims of a "knee-jerk" reaction.
Can we look at this a little more dispassionately, in the context of how Portland is developing its bicycle system?
Arguments in favor of helmet use:
- We want bike riders to be safe
- Crashes, particularly at speed, can lead to serious head injury
- Helmets can help reduce head injuries in crashes
Arguments against requiring helmet use (for adults - let's not get sidetracked on kids here):
- Pick your favorite civil-liberties argument
- Requiring helmets portrays cycling as an unsafe activity, creating unnecessary fear about an activity with substantial personal and societal benefits
- We want to remove obstacles to cycling, not add to the steps necessary to bike
- In cycling-centric European cities, helmets are not part of the culture, and head-injury rates are not higher than ours
I blogged on that last point after returning from a visit to Amsterdam.
So what's different now than three years ago, that might further inform my perspective?
We've shifted our strategy for building out our bicycle system. We have consciously adopted a strategy of expanding the system on low-speed, low-traffic bike boulevards with well-regulated crossings of arterial streets, rather than expanding the bike lane network on heavily-trafficked streets.
While we may not have a bicycle network that is as safe as Amsterdam's we're headed in that direction (in Amsterdam, the network is relatively slow by design - it's engineered for an average speed of about 9 miles-per-hour, a speed at which the risks of head injury are lower).
Could we develop a policy (advice, if not regulation) around bike helmets that reflected both the current state of safety (or lack thereof) on our system AND the aspiration for a very safe system? Something along the lines of:
"If you limit your travel the bike boulevards and off-street facilities at relatively low speeds, by all means use a helmet if you want, but don't feel like you have to. But if you're going to travel on bike lanes on arterial streets, or on busy streets with no bike lanes, you really should be wearing a helmet."
Perhaps we need to think of helmets not as a requirement, but as mitigation for safety conditions that are not yet what we want them to be?
Can we develop statistical data to support such a position (how many bike crashes with head injuries have occurred on the Esplanade, how many on the Springwater Trail)?
Would it be good policy?
Would it be understandable?
Would it help encourage more of the "interested but concerned" demographic to get on a bike?
August 21, 2008
Yesterday Portland City Council approved the start of final engineering for the Streetcar Loop. The Council had actually conditionally approved this last March. The condition was that we either had to have FTA approval of the Federal dollars, or Congressional earmark of those same dollars.
The facts on the ground did not quite line up with the way the conditions were written: the Senate earmarked the funds, but the House committee did not publish its results (presumably because of partisan issues around the work 'earmark').
This is not just an academic concern, since every month we delay adds about $500K in inflationary costs to the project. So today Council voted 4-0 to move the project forward!
Meanwhile, the District working groups for the Streetcar System Plan want YOUR input on potential corridors. Take one or more of our web surveys...
Curious about potential streetcar corridors?
Take the Portland Streetcar Survey for your part of town!
Surveys for North Portland, Northeast Portland, East Portland and Southeast Portland are available at http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/streetcarsystemplan.
Help the Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT) prioritize potential future streetcar corridors throughout the city. As part of the PDOT Streetcar System Plan (SSP) effort, DISTRICT STREETCAR SURVEYS are now available on the SSP website:
Please take the survey(s) for the area(s) where you live, work or own property.
These surveys were created by citizen-led District Working Groups (DWG) as an informal assessment of community support for potential streetcar corridors. This information about public support will be added to technical data that considers the level of service possible, anticipated ridership, compatibility with the existing transportation system, and opportunities for sustainable neighborhood development along each corridor.
The results of the technical and public involvement evaluation process will guide SSP project staff in developing a long-range, conceptual plan for how future streetcar investments could be prioritized. The SSP will be updated as necessary to reflect the results of later planning efforts, such as the Bureau of Planning's Portland Plan effort.
The surveys will remain open through Sept. 15, 2008.
Please help us get these surveys out to as many people as possible by forwarding this message to your colleagues, friends and neighbors.
August 20, 2008
Apparently the Portland and Western is up for it.
Forest Grove Mayor Richard Kidd has had a long-term interest in getting rail transit in some form to his community.
August 19, 2008
Once again, it's time for the annual PSU/PDOT Traffic and Transportation Class.
There's no better way to understand how transportation works in this city, and how to work to influence it. This class has launched many activists, including yours truly.
Calling all neighborhood activists - Learn how the city that works, works! And how you can affect change in your community.
The Portland Traffic and Transportation Class offers Portlanders the opportunity to learn about the city's transportation system while working on actual neighborhood projects that affect your community.
Work with decision and policy-makers, planners, scholars and engineers to get your neighborhood transportation project moving.
This interactive Portland State University class is open to all Portland citizens and full scholarships are available to qualified applicants. Learn more on the website.
Portland Office of Transportation
Transportation Options Division
August 18, 2008
Concerns voiced by the National Marine Fisheries Service about the Columbia River Crossing:
- Construction impacts
- Increased run-off from 40 acres of concrete
- Risk that sprawling development enabled by the bridge will impact creeks that fish depend on
Full story in the Oregonian.
Apparently, this article struck a cord in a number of place. The Overhead Wire blog has a catalog.
Original post, 8/14/08
Basking in the glow...
August 14, 2008
Don't miss your opportunity...
The High Capacity Transit System Plan will provide the region with a prioritized set of corridors or improvements to the existing system based on planned land uses, community values and potential ridership. The plan will be adopted by the Metro Council in spring 2009 after review by community members, elected officials and technical staff from around the region.
Attend a workshop to learn more about the project and provide input about what areas should be served with high capacity transit in the future. An online questionnaire will also be available beginning on August 12 at www.oregonmetro.gov/goingplaces.
5-8 p.m. Thursday, August 14
East Portland Community Center
740 SE 106th Ave., Portland
5-8 p.m. Wednesday, August 20
Tigard City Library
13500 SW Hall Blvd., Tigard
August 12, 2008
As part of an open house on the Central City Plan component of the overall "Portland Plan", PDOT release a preliminary assessment (PDF, 2.3M) of the transportation situation and future needs for the downtown core.
Are they on target?
August 11, 2008
Increasingly I'm hearing the buzz that the state legislatures may not be enthusiastic about putting gas tax dollars into the CRC, which would mean two primary funding sources: the Feds and TOLLS. In which case, tolling I-205 may not be just a policy move for a balanced system, it may be a financial necessity.
For my part, if the Oregon Legislature is going to finally manage a gas tax increase, I'd much rather they put it into maintenance...
August 8, 2008
William Thompson is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute.
Imagine an industry where two companies control 75% of the market, price-competition is non-existent, and new firms are prohibited from entering. While economists refer to this as an oligopoly, taxi customers in Portland know it best as high prices and long wait times.
On April 9, 2008, the Private for Hire Transportation Review Board voted down a proposal to end the long-standing moratorium on new taxi permits. Leaders cited the need of a “market-demand” study (at a cost of $130,000) before moving forward. But elsewhere in the economy, no such studies are necessary. When entrepreneurs introduce new goods or services, consumers vote with their dollars to determine whether or not there is a “market demand.”
Prohibiting new businesses inevitably raises the cost of service to consumers. The Review Board demonstrated that itself earlier that same morning by sponsoring an “emergency ordinance” which the City Council approved to increase the maximum rate taxi drivers can charge.
This is just the latest example of the price-gouging allowed by the Review Board. When Broadway Cab acquired Sassy Cab in October 2007, effectively decreasing competition, the board said nothing. Yet, when numerous town car companies began charging prices below the required minimum shortly thereafter (thus increasing competition and lowering prices for consumers), the board acted swiftly to increase enforcement of the mandatory “minimum price”.
Instead of awaiting approval to spend $130,000 on a “market demand study,” here’s one for free: Disallowing new companies from entering the market and restricting price competition lowers the quality of service customers receive and raises the price they must pay. The Review Board should just get out of the way and allow customers themselves to determine how many taxis the city needs.
August 7, 2008
The Dutch are experimenting with concrete that neutralizes pollutants...
August 6, 2008
Listen to the show (mp3, 9.3 MB)
Is there a war on wheels? Is there any difference between a "crash" and an "accident?" The August KBOO Bike Show will address recent media coverage of bike-related issues in Portland. Guests Amy Ruiz, Portland Mercury News Editor, and Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org join hosts Ayleen Crotty and Carl Larson to analyze recent incidents, the resulting media coverage, and its influence on public perceptions. Portland's streets are famously friendly to bicyclists. Can the same be said about Portland's news sources?
August 5, 2008
A couple of years ago, PDOT went through the exercise of developing a Freight Master Plan for the City of Portland. Metro is now going through similar exercise.
I testified before City Council in favor of the plan, believing that a clearly articulated system of where trucks should be for what purposes was a good thing. I did warn Council that the devil was in the details, and the street design guidelines for truck streets would be critical.
Well, PDOT has just released the design guidelines document (PDF, 5.2M).
Overall, I think they've done a good job, sorting through the complex trade-offs between trucks, cars, bikes and peds. But one section stuck in my craw a little bit:
In some instances, deliveries to businesses in these locations can be completed with smaller trucks. Their compact size and tight turning radius make them suitable for narrow street geometries and local deliveries. Typical trucks include the SU-30 and WB-40 truck types. However, there are times when larger trucks such as a WB-67 must circulate in Center and Main Street areas and these situations need to be accommodated during the street design process. The key design elements that need to be considered for the occasional large truck are lane widths and intersection design. (emphasis mine)
What that says is that we need to design the intersections in our centers and on our mainstreets to make sure that 53-foot trailers can turn (a WB-67 is a 53' trailer plus a 14' cab). This has a significant impact on livability, because it will mean that crossing distances may be wider in areas where pedestrians are intended to be a dominant mode.
Is it really necessary that businesses in places like Hollywood and Hawthorne get deliveries via 53' trailers? I realize it's a cost issue, but does livability have to be sacrificed to the least cost for deliveries?
August 4, 2008
Let's welcome Community Health Priorities to the local blogosphere...
August 1, 2008
Passed on by a reader, this site lets you find out the structural rating of all the bridges along a given route.