Archive | August, 2006

Wanted: Advocate

I got a note yesterday that Jessica Roberts, the BTA’s regional advocate extraordinaire, is leaving BTA to join Alta Planning. The BTA’s loss will be Alta’s gain – Mia Birk is collecting quite a pool of bikey talent there, and in the long run that’s a good thing for our community and a lot of other communities that Alta is helping plan transportation facilities for.

But I want to particularly appreciate Jessica for her work, and for playing a central role in helping get Portland Transport started. Jessica was one of our first contributors (back in the days before BTA had their own blog). And when we wanted to incorporate as a non-profit, Jessica stepped up to be a board member for our fledgling enterprise.

So thank you, Jessica, and we’ll expect more great things from you in your new role.

Now who’s going to step up and fill those big pedals? There’s no shortage of bikey commitment and savvy in this town, so start filling in that application form.

Rise to The Challenge

The official press release on the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge is out. Everyone who wants to reduce our dependence on autos and petroleum should try this out. See how many times in September you can get to work on your bike, or a combination of bike and transit. And get your co-workers in on the game at the same time.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance Sponsors
Bike Commute Challenge During September

Traffic Report Sponsorship Reminds Drivers That
There are Alternatives to Being Stuck in Traffic

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), a statewide nonprofit working to create healthy communities by opening minds and roads to bicycling, is launching its sixth annual Bike Commute Challenge during the month of September.

As a new feature this year, the BTA is sponsoring traffic reports on three radio stations to remind drivers who are worried about traffic that “on a bike, you’re never stuck in traffic” and encouraging them to try biking to work.

The Challenge encourages people to try biking to work through the month of September, using friendly competition and peer pressure at the workplace. In 2005, 534 businesses took part, and more than 1600 participants said that the Challenge got them to try bike commuting for the first time – and many others commuted more than they had before.

“More and more people are rediscovering the simple joy of riding a bike. With rising gas prices and better places to bike, they’re also realizing significant economic and health benefits. And businesses are realizing that getting their employees biking is good for their bottom line,” said Evan Manvel, Executive Director of the BTA. “Employees who bike are more alert and productive throughout the day, and absenteeism and health care costs are lower with healthier employees.”

All kinds of workplaces participated in the Challenge – from Congressional offices to landscaping businesses, health care companies to environmental nonprofits, and some of the state’s leading companies, including Intel and Hewlett-Packard. The BTA gives awards to businesses that bike to work the most often, using 13 size and type categories (bike shops, for example, are in their own category).

Dr. Jim Tuchschmidt, Director of the Portland VA Medical Center, noted that he started in 2004 during the Challenge: “I started riding during the 2004 Bike Commute Challenge and stuck with it – I still ride almost every day. I feel better: it’s better for me, it’s better for the environment, and it’s an example that motivates other people to bike to work.”

Mckenzie Zollner from Newton + Mercado Appraisers wrote the BTA last year to say: “I had considered commuting by bike before, but the Bike Commute Challenge provided the momentum to really get me going. I rode approximately 15 miles from my work in Beaverton to my home in NW Portland, up over Skyline and down through the zoo. I was completely exhausted but also entirely exhilarated. The feeling of accomplishment was awesome. I also found that I returned home much more energized and far less stressed than when I drove.”

As facilities improve and education and encouragement activities such as the Bike Commute Challenge grow, more and more Oregonians are choosing to bike. Bike trips across the four main bike-friendly bridges in Portland increased over threefold from 1992 to 2005.

More information can be found, and companies and individuals can register for the Challenge, at

Behind on my Reading

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail note about a book called “How to Live Well without Owning a Car.” I picked up a copy at Powells, but it’s still sitting in my ‘to read’ stack. My intent was to write a piece about it when I finished (in my defense, I’m reading another transportation book right now that I suspect I will write about when done).

But before I can get to it, the Trib comes along with an article about it:

There’s even a chapter titled “Should you move closer to where you work?,” which offers well-founded arguments for picking up and moving down the street from the office.

Balish recognizes that all of us have lives outside the workplace, so he also focuses on quandaries such as how to run errands, arrange a getaway weekend and avoid being seen as a car moocher by family and friends.

Singletons will take heart from the chapter “Socializing and dating without a car.” It includes 13 ways to respond when your dream date asks why you don’t own an automobile (“I’m trying to save enough money to buy a house”) and more than 25 date ideas (“Exercise together — attending the same yoga class can be very sexy”).

I’ll read it on the plane next week.

Sidewalk (Dis)Order

Aggressive panhandling and other ‘sidewalk fear-factor behaviors’ have been brought up on this site before. Gordon Price just posted an interesting perspective on the experience in Vancouver on his Price Tags blog. Here’s an excerpt:

What was happening in the West End was a failure of government to maintain social order. And that could happen anywhere where the rules became sufficiently ambiguous or unenforceable, and those who wished to ignore them could do so with impunity. Normally, social pressure maintains civility. It may be superficial, but it has to be sufficient. And if it isn’t, if a few abuse the rights of the many, then we rely on policing powers to establish the boundaries. And we rely on judiciary to prevent the many from abusing the rights of the few.

I don’t know if Canada, B.C., or Vancouver have the same broad freedom of expression guarantees that we do in Oregon.

What is an appropriate expression of social pressure?