The Danger of Mode-Centrism

News came through this week that the Oregon Bike Summit was being re-christened as the Oregon Active Transportation Summit.

Reaction in the twitterverse was critical – some suggested transit was a very different thing from biking and walking, another suggested that if the tent gets too big, “we might start eating each other’s lunch”.

I find this disturbing. One of the goals in creating Portland Transport was to provide a forum where advocates of various modes could gather for discussion around a “common water cooler”.

I think it’s important to remember that modes are a means, not an end. The objectives for our transportation system are human and environment health, safety and access. It’s a tenet of this site that these goals are improved by reducing over-reliance on single-occupancy automobiles.

I find “Active Transportation” to be a very useful umbrella for the collection of modes that promote human health through personal motion as an alternative to over-reliance on autos: walking, biking and transit (and yes, there’s a lot of personal motion involved in using transit, you very seldom get a door-to-door trip).

There is no question that historically transit does much better at the funding table than the other modes in this bundle, and we need to fix that. But we’re not going to succeed by tearing each other down.

Auto-centrism is pretty ugly. But a single-mode-centric perspective for any other mode is no prettier. The only way we’re going to build a healthy city for the needs of all our citizens is with a strong mix of a variety of modes.

11 Responses to The Danger of Mode-Centrism