Cycling in Portland

The Tyee — Portland’s Bicycle Brilliance.

Here’s a piece on cycling in Portland from The Tyee.  It’s actually part two of three about Portland.  The first was about the arts community and having fun (aka bars and pubs in the article).  The third will be about homelessness in Portland.

I didn’t really care much about part one, although it did point out that Vancouver city hall has some interesting bylaw restrictions and liquor permit restrictions that I didn’t know about.

The cycling part is more interesting to me, particularly the theory on four cycling personalities

Four cycling personalities

In the early 2000s, [Roger] Geller sat in his office in the Portland department of transportation thinking hard about the demographic of bikers in the city. He developed a theory, later backed up by research at the Portland State University, that broke them into four separate groups.

On one end sits No Way No How, the one third of the population who has no interest in biking whatsoever. Maybe they’ll take a ride on a weekend through the park, but even in the best of conditions they probably won’t bike on a regular basis. They just don’t want to.

Then you have the Enthused and Confident, not quite kamakazis, but close. These are the roughly seven per cent of people who will bike in the city where it’s relatively safe, relatively comfortable, if not a little unnerving for the average person.

Above them, on the extreme end of the spectrum sit the Strong and Fearless, perched on their bikes in the pouring rain, in the middle of the street, ready to go. They represent almost nothing, maybe one per cent of the city’s population, the bike couriers and other kamakazis who will bike anywhere, anytime, now matter how dangerous or poor the conditions.

And everyone else? They’re the Interested but Concerned, the other 60 some-odd per cent of the population with a rational fear of cycling in the city. They like the idea of cycling, they know it’s good for their health, and for the environment, but they only want to do it if it’s as safe and comfortable as their ride in a car or bus. And these are the people that American cities, Portland and Vancouver included, need to aim their bike infrastructure at, Geller argues.

I think I would find myself in the Interested but Concerned group.  I would like to cycle to work, but I don’t think it’s practical enough to do on a daily basis.  I would really need to work my life around my ride to and from work.  The extra clothing that I have to carry and my lunch box, in particular, add a lot of weight.  I’m lucky that I have a shower at work, but I’m still only willing to bike once a week to and from work.  I just don’t like the hassle.  I have a 12km commute at the end of which I find myself dripping in sweat.  Bus and SkyTrain involve less changing of clothes.

However, I would love to have more bicycle infrastructure at the same time.  I use 10th Avenue the most, but I find parts of 10th to be hairy, especially near Vancouver General Hospital.  There isn’t even a signal at Fraser Street for this major bike route.  Also, the south of 45th Avenue is totally void of a major east-west bike route [although there are plans for a route along 59th Avenue].

What would Vancouver need to appeal to these people? I asked.

“Better infrastructure,” says Geller. “So the network is more complete. Most of our network is on street. It takes you where you need to go. Paths are wonderful, but they’ve got to be integrated with a good on-street network.”

Admittedly, he also says bike lanes aren’t enough for most of this group. Further separation, like buffered bike lanes, or separate cycle tracks (like the three glorious blocks of the Carrall Street Greenway Vancouverites are taunted by) are ideal, but a bike lane is a start.

I also use the 7-11 Trail that follows the Expo Line quite a bit.  However, that trail is simply not very commuter friendly.  It might be a nice bike jaunt on the weekend, but if you are trying to get somewhere, the trail throws you a few zig-zags along the way.  Not to mention that parts of the trail are more hilly than I care for.  Paths are wonderful, but I’d rather see something more direct in some cases.

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