Archive | August, 2005

Time for More Diverse Vehicles

Biking to work this morning I passed a golf-cart like vehicle that was chugging down the street. I was reminded about how uncreative we are with our choices of vehicles. Most households have a couple of cars — and those cars are overbuilt for what they’re actually used for 95% of the time. They’re set up to carry five people, go really fast, etc. — when almost all our trips are single person to a close destination where speed isn’t paramount. It’s like using a sledgehammer to kill the housefly, or using a blunderbuss when a rubber band gun would do.

For getting around town, we could use those golf cart vehicles, which, if moving at 20 mph, would get us to our five-mile destination in 15 minutes, compared with 12 minutes for a 30 mph car ride. Many folks are moving to FlexCar for their second car, but we it seems we could be using more scooters, golf carts, electric bikes, etc. (and, of course, normal bikes) for short trips of one person. With transportation expenditures almost equal to housing costs, it seems just cultural expectation (and mental difficulty in adding fixed costs to marginal costs in our heads) that’s preventing us from thinking more creatively about matching our vehicles to our needs.

Traveling in the future may involve twelve or twenty significantly different types of vehicles all moving around town. From the Segway to the bike, the wheelchair to the golf cart, the pick-up to the bus, it seems more diversity is the way of the future.

When it comes to bikes, there are definitely some creative vehicles out there, and the industry seems to be constantly offering new products that actually meet the trips — the new around-town cruisers are the perfect example. When will other industries catch up? What price will gas have to reach?

The Portland Bicycle: Gearing

A few weeks ago we introduced the idea of “The Portland Bicycle”, an entry-level commuter bicycle that would appeal to folks first entering the bicycle commuting realm, designed and manufactured here in our region.

The discussion identified the need for commuting bikes at a variety of price/feature points, but we’d like to focus on the entry-level model. To recap, this is a bike that can be ridden for short trips, or put on a bus for longer trips, and is aimed at someone who is not an experienced cyclist. It should be ridable in street clothes, and the target price point is $300 or under.

So with those parameters in mind, I’d like to have some additional discussion about specific features, starting with the gearing.

How many gears do we need? 3, 4, 7?

What are the pros and cons of an internal hub versus a traditional derailleur?

What style of shifter would be best?

Other considerations?

Share your wisdom!

The Breaking Point for the Supply of Oil?

A recent story in the New York Times provides a fascinating and fairly balanced look at worldwide oil supply and demand. In brief, the story is that we don’t know for sure, but the long-term prospects are cause for concern. The issue is whether new reserves can be discovered and exploited fast enough to keep up with growing demand, in particular, as China becomes more industrialized and more dependent on oil.

There are those who go around talking about “peak oil,” apparently suggesting that soon all of us will be riding bicycles.

I am not one of those people.

Cars and trucks are currently the dominate forms of transportation in the United States, and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future. Even if oil supplies dry up, it is likely that motor vehicle technology will gradually shift to other sources of energy, thus perhaps making oil and gasoline obsolete but not motor vehicles and roads.

But the cost of gasoline will likely rise significantly over time, if not overnight. We are already seeing that with the current high gasoline prices. Of course, we have seen gasoline prices go up before and they eventually came down. Gasoline prices will probably fall somewhat after summer ends. But the long-term trend is upward.

As the price of gas rises, people won’t suddenly stop driving cars and trucks. But failing to plan is planning to fail. And those communities, states or nations that plan for a diversified transportation system that provides multiple practical transportation choices for both people and freight will have an economic advantage over those who don’t.

In particular, Oregon and especially the Portland metro area should strive to provide of a diversified transportation system, for economic and security reasons as well as for environmental reasons. We can and must do better in planning for a strong economic future for Oregon, in part, built on a well-diversified transportation system. To do otherwise would be to bury our heads in the (Saudi Arabian) sand.

Bike Safety Leadership Workshop on Friday

This Friday, August 26, from 9-noon, there will be a Bike Safety Leadership Workshop at Southeast Uplift. There will be a Workshop in each neighborhood district coalition in the city. These meetings will be an opportunity to create a common understanding about bicycle safety issues and to initiate a bicycle safety group in each neighborhood district coalition. This is a great opportunity to become more involved with bike safety issues and to be more involved with your neighborhood. If you are interested, please plan to attend the Workshop that is taking place in your neighborhood district coalition. If you are unsure which coalition you live in, please see

The Workshop will include:

  • a presentation about bicycle safety (including bike crash map
  • followed by a bicycle ride to locations emblematic of issues
    related to bicycle safety in the district,
  • followed by a re-group for a discussion about some of the more
    challenging questions (e.g., how do we respond as a community after a
    fatality? how do neighborhoods better access Transportation or Police
    services? etc).

The idea is to build a bicycle safety group in each district coalition
that has a common understanding of bike safety issues and to enable a
bicycle liaison in the Police precincts.

The schedule for the Workshops is:

Friday, 8/26, 9-12:00: Southeast Uplife (SEUL) 3534 SE Main Fireside
Room Thursday, 9/1 from 1-5: Central North Neighborhoods (CNN) 4415 NE
87th in the Community Room Friday, 9/9 from 1-5: North Portland
Neighborhood Services (NPNS) (Kenton Firehouse, 8105 N Brandon)
Thursday, 9/15 from 1-5: East Portland Neighborhood (EPNO) East
Precinct Community Room Thursday, 9/22 from 9-12: Northeast Coalition
of Neighbors (NECN) 4815 NE 7th, Community Room

Workshops will be scheduled for Southwest Neighbors, Inc (SWNI) and
Neighbors West, Northwest (NWNW) very soon. I will send an
announcement of those dates as soon as they are confirmed.

If you have any questions about this effort, please give me a phone
call and I’d be glad to provide any information I can.

Greg Raisman
Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership Portland Office of Transportation
(503) 823-1052