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Where are all the cyclists?

Old 08-11-11, 07:16 PM
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Where are all the cyclists?

Recently, I spent a week in Portland, OR. It has been a couple years since I was in PDX. While I usually spend most of my time there in the SW quadrant, this time I purposely arranged to stay in the SE quadrant. As I have said in the past, when I am on the west side of the river I rarely see any bikes in Portland and it has led me to the conclusion that all the hoopla over Portland being some sort of leader in a cycling renaissance is just so much B.S.

I rode in from Eugene on a Tuesday evening during the heart of rush hour. I approached from Lake Oswego (ugly, emphasis on Ugh) and crossed over to the SE quadrant on the Sellwood Bridge so that I could ride the Springwater corridor. I figured this would maximize the number of cyclists I would see on my way in. Sadly, I saw maybe a dozen bikes between arriving in PDX and hitting the shower in the Ladd addition. Maybe my timing and location were bad, but there was no shortage of cars.

Over the next five days, I walked and rode around the SE and a bit of the NE quadrants when I had time (approximately fifteen hours total). Over the course of nearly a week I saw around sixty bikes total. I am just amazed that anyone could possibly claim that Portland, OR has become any sort of bike city.

Disclaimer: I lived in Davis, CA for twenty years and watched it go from a real bike city to just another car town. PDX hasn't even reached the level that Davis was during its darkest years.

Is this really the best we can do?
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Old 08-11-11, 07:33 PM
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In the Pearl District, apparently.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3nMnr8ZirI

Meanwhile, all signs point go Portland's cycling rates continuing their decades-long increase: https://www.portlandonline.com/transp...327783&c=44671
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Old 08-11-11, 07:52 PM
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https://www.portlandonline.com/transp...327783&c=44671

This report states there were 17,500 cyclists per day in Portland in 2010. So you missed 99.9% of them, somehow.

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Old 08-12-11, 01:18 AM
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Originally Posted by seeker333
https://www.portlandonline.com/transp...327783&c=44671

This report states there were 17,500 cyclists per day in Portland in 2010. So you missed 99.9% of them, somehow.
In a region with a population base of about 200 times that 17,500, I should expect to see one cyclist for every 200 cars. Even if that were the case (I have never observed that level of bike use in PDX), that's a pretty sad level of use. Improvement is great, but grandiose claims of having arrived as some sort of bike capital are a bit much.

Maybe my bar is just too high for our current population. On my way back to Eugene, I rode past a golf course just outside Lake Oswego (Ugh). I was shocked to look down at the parking lot and find that it was full of not only every car that had passed me over the past twenty minutes, but most of the cars had motorized golf carts pulled up to them. It seems the golfers can't even carry their clubs from their cars to the clubhouse anymore.
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Old 08-12-11, 03:04 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
In a region with a population base of about 200 times that 17,500, I should expect to see one cyclist for every 200 cars. Even if that were the case (I have never observed that level of bike use in PDX), that's a pretty sad level of use. Improvement is great, but grandiose claims of having arrived as some sort of bike capital are a bit much.

Maybe my bar is just too high for our current population. On my way back to Eugene, I rode past a golf course just outside Lake Oswego (Ugh). I was shocked to look down at the parking lot and find that it was full of not only every car that had passed me over the past twenty minutes, but most of the cars had motorized golf carts pulled up to them. It seems the golfers can't even carry their clubs from their cars to the clubhouse anymore.
I thought I recognized the tone of your post so I did a little searching. Wasn't hard to find this

https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...1#post12872811

I see you never answered me when I challenged your conclusions about Davis. Now you're pulling the same BS with Portland. The studies clearly show an increase in bike use in Portland going back 20 years. They are reaching some impressive numbers and it continues to grow. I have to wonder at this point what your agenda is. Do I smell a rat?
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Old 08-12-11, 04:26 AM
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As far as Davis is concerned (the linked thread), the Wikipedia page cites a drop in cycling usage from 22% to 15% (which is still really good, but keep in mind the amount dropped, 7 points, is higher than most cities entire cycling rate. That's significant, even though Davis still has one of, if not the highest, cycling populations in the US).

As far as Portland, I have no idea, because all the numbers I could find show growth (what some would describe as explosive growth in fact, especially after 2000).
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Old 08-12-11, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
As I have said in the past, when I am on the west side of the river I rarely see any bikes in Portland and it has led me to the conclusion that all the hoopla over Portland being some sort of leader in a cycling renaissance is just so much B.S.
There are 8,000 miles of bike lanes that go from one place no one would ever want to be, to another. But, at the end of the day, you're still in Portland.
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Old 08-12-11, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
Is this really the best we can do?
Welcome to America... yes, apparently 6% modal share IS the best we can do... Oh sure some isolated strange burg in the middle of California is claiming 15%... but apparently that is some sort of anomaly borne on both the left coast and in a college town.

The usual modal share for cyclists in the US of CARTOWN is something less than 2%... about what you might expect from the tiny contingent of off beat rebels that refuse to accept this auto-centric society as it is.

Yup... this apparently IS really the best we can do... as sorry as it is...

Hey, do they still make bicycles somewhere in America?
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Old 08-12-11, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by seeker333
https://www.portlandonline.com/transp...327783&c=44671

This report states there were 17,500 cyclists per day in Portland in 2010. So you missed 99.9% of them, somehow.
Actually, the report states there are "an average of approximately 17,580 daily weekday bicycle trips across the Willamette River". If one assumes that many of them are commuters crossing the river twice, then the number of "cyclists per day" may only be half that number.
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Old 08-12-11, 12:14 PM
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At present, it appears 6% is a great showing compared to most cities in the USA.... unfortunately. That said, I'm curious about the OP's low bicycle count after spending 5 days riding around Portland. I don't live there, but I spend quite a bit of time each year there for work projects and have cycled all over the city. It's true that the majority of cyclists I observe are in the central part of the city and east along the major arterials (Hawthorne, Division, Powell etc); if on a bike at one of those at rush hour, you'll be riding amid a ragged peloton of almost every type of bike and rider imaginable from one stoplight to the next. The only way I could imagine seeing so few bikes is if the OP spent lots of time in the outlying SW and SE districts, such as out toward Milwaukee or the south parts of Beaverton. It also drops off quite a bit when going north across I-5 or I-205 bike paths into Vancouver.
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Old 08-12-11, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by ArtM
Actually, the report states there are "an average of approximately 17,580 daily weekday bicycle trips across the Willamette River". If one assumes that many of them are commuters crossing the river twice, then the number of "cyclists per day" may only be half that number.
And how many bridges cross the Willamette... that cyclists might use? Seems to me one could find a location near one of these bridges just to see how many cyclists come across... if the number is anywhere near 8 or 9 thousand during "rush hour," then I would expect to see a few cyclists.

I know during my visits to Portland, I never had a hard time seeing cyclists... admittedly though I do tend to hang out around the Pearl, down by the waterfront and over at Henrys Tavern and Powells books... is there anything else to see in PDX?

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Old 08-12-11, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree

Maybe my bar is just too high for our current population. On my way back to Eugene, I rode past a golf course just outside Lake Oswego (Ugh). I was shocked to look down at the parking lot and find that it was full of not only every car that had passed me over the past twenty minutes, but most of the cars had motorized golf carts pulled up to them. It seems the golfers can't even carry their clubs from their cars to the clubhouse anymore.
Whining about golfers using golf carts?
What exactly is your "bar for our current population" all about? It apparantly has nothing to do with bicycling safety or advocacy.
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Old 08-12-11, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by yogi berra
"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
I almost never see any bikes on my commute. I don't know if we have a typical traffic distribution here, but I'm guessing we have more than the typical 2% given the student population. I have no idea what 6% would look like, but I'm guessing that it's not evenly distributed throughout the day.
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Old 08-12-11, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by genec
And how many bridges cross the Willamette... that cyclists might use? Seems to me one could find a location near one of these bridges just to see how many cyclists come across... if the number is anywhere near 8 or 9 thousand during "rush hour," then I would expect to see a few cyclists.
Again - back to the linked report, it was four bridges with weekday numbers. "The reported numbers reflect an average of weekday bicycle trips on the bridges, which for the Hawthorne, Burnside, Steel and Broadway Bridges were 7,133, 1,865, 3,287 and 5,291, respectively." With the highest daily number being around 7K, rush hour might be in the several thousand range. Still significant, but not 8 or 9 thousand.
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Old 08-12-11, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by ArtM
Again - back to the linked report, it was four bridges with weekday numbers. "The reported numbers reflect an average of weekday bicycle trips on the bridges, which for the Hawthorne, Burnside, Steel and Broadway Bridges were 7,133, 1,865, 3,287 and 5,291, respectively." With the highest daily number being around 7K, rush hour might be in the several thousand range. Still significant, but not 8 or 9 thousand.
Well 7K is close enough for government work.

With a number as high as that, one would think that the cyclists would be fairly obvious.
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Old 08-13-11, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by stubby
pulling the same BS with Portland. The studies clearly show an increase in bike use in Portland going back 20 years. They are reaching some impressive numbers and it continues to grow. I have to wonder at this point what your agenda is. Do I smell a rat?

yes, this disparaging of Davis and Portland makes one wonder, doesn't it?

I ride in portland regularly, and the only way to not see bicyclists in Portland is bad vision. Absolutely, the westside hills during the day see relatively few cyclists, its rich, hilly and wealthy up there...

You rarely see riders riding up towards the Fat Tire Farm during the day during the week or riding out in Gresham during the day, but that doesn't mean people living up those parts don't commute to work or run errands by bike.

the hills and affluence and burbs of beaverton, and the sprawl of the SE all skew ridership down slightly compared to the Pearl and Lloyd Center, but B. CArfree's fabricated demise of cycling in Portland is so contrived!

only saw 60 bikes all week in portland?

must have been quite the bender to get so blind drunk.

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Old 08-14-11, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Stubby
I thought I recognized the tone of your post so I did a little searching. Wasn't hard to find this

https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...1#post12872811

I see you never answered me when I challenged your conclusions about Davis. Now you're pulling the same BS with Portland. The studies clearly show an increase in bike use in Portland going back 20 years. They are reaching some impressive numbers and it continues to grow. I have to wonder at this point what your agenda is. Do I smell a rat?
Your linked post didn't really ask for a response. You mentioned an increase in population since the '50s, which is irrelevant. The distance from the campus and downtown to the farthest edges of town has not increased significantly since the '70s (when my former house was built on the edge of town). You agree that the rate of cycling did indeed decrease in Davis, so I didn't see any reason to reply. You did propose some reasons for the decrease, some of which no doubt played a role, but they were consistent with my comment about the power of the culture.

There are other factors involved. Since 1983 the cost of attending U.C. Davis has gone from so low that a person could work at student wages fifteen hours per week and graduate with money in the bank (even without any financial aid) to levels that challenge many middle-class families. This has substantially changed the make-up of the 30,000 or so students and skews the population towards students who are more inclined to drive than ride.

One thing that makes the counts look larger than they are today is the large number of bikes that are only used on campus. Thirty years ago, people would ride their bikes to campus and walk between campus destinations because the roads were simply too crowded with bikes and the available bike parking filled up so early that it wasn't worth the hassle of unlocking, jockeying for position, and hunting down a vacant parking place. Today, many people drive to campus and ride a campus-dedicated bike to their campus destinations. The formerly empty car parking lots have been tripled in size and are full. The formerly full bike racks now have spaces available at all times. The people who drive to campus and ride between buildings now count as cyclists; we used to call them motorists.

Go out and find someone else who has lived in Davis both during its "bike capital" days and more recently and ask them about the changes. Like I said, and you agreed with, even while adding bike infrastructure the rate of cycling decreased. Therefore, the infrastructure is not sufficient to get people to ride.

Back to this post. I don't doubt that there are times and places in PDX, and elsewhere, with substantial numbers of cyclists. However, the alleged large numbers are certainly not widespread, even within the city limits. It would be lovely if the reality matched the P.R. Until it does, I would prefer to have the self-congratulatory proclamations that emanate from places like Portland and even bike-hating Eugene toned down so that they fit more closely with what is seen on the ground. If you need to believe in a shining city on the hill in order to ride, then go right ahead. I just think we can more effectively work towards an improved future by taking note of just how far we have to go.
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Old 08-15-11, 12:23 AM
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Old 08-15-11, 02:52 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
Recently, I spent a week in Portland, OR. It has been a couple years since I was in PDX. While I usually spend most of my time there in the SW quadrant, this time I purposely arranged to stay in the SE quadrant. As I have said in the past, when I am on the west side of the river I rarely see any bikes in Portland and it has led me to the conclusion that all the hoopla over Portland being some sort of leader in a cycling renaissance is just so much B.S.

I rode in from Eugene on a Tuesday evening during the heart of rush hour. I approached from Lake Oswego (ugly, emphasis on Ugh) and crossed over to the SE quadrant on the Sellwood Bridge so that I could ride the Springwater corridor. I figured this would maximize the number of cyclists I would see on my way in. Sadly, I saw maybe a dozen bikes between arriving in PDX and hitting the shower in the Ladd addition. Maybe my timing and location were bad, but there was no shortage of cars.

Over the next five days, I walked and rode around the SE and a bit of the NE quadrants when I had time (approximately fifteen hours total). Over the course of nearly a week I saw around sixty bikes total. I am just amazed that anyone could possibly claim that Portland, OR has become any sort of bike city.

Disclaimer: I lived in Davis, CA for twenty years and watched it go from a real bike city to just another car town. PDX hasn't even reached the level that Davis was during its darkest years.

Is this really the best we can do?

"... when I am on the west side of the river I rarely see any bikes in Portland ..." B. Carfree

Where on the west side? Portland's west side downtown...the west side is actually Portland's downtown, is not very big...only about 15 by 15 200' sq blocks. What I notice when I'm downtown, is that a lot of people on bikes seem to be there. Probably though, not "...one cyclist for every 200 cars...", at any given time. I think that's because use of bikes for transportation is inherently different than use of cars for transportation.

Once arrived at their central destination, the people commuting by bike may be confining further travel needs within walking distance of their commute destination, possibly explaining why the number of bikes seen on the street may not reflect the numbers of them that are being used to otherwise get around. The beauty... dubious perhaps... of the car, has always been that because it's so effortless, people having access to them could jump in and motor over in air conditioned effortless comfort, even for the shortest imaginable trips...which is exactly what with people with access to cars do, thereby putting disproportionate numbers of cars on the street. Also, a lot of the cars on the street downtown probably represent out of town business people and tourists.

Living in Beaverton...over the west hills about 6 miles from Portland...what I hear is that during am/pm commute hours, certain streets between downtown and close in neighborhoods are seeing a great numbers of people using bikes for travel. NE Williams Ave, SE Hawthorne and SE Division would be a few of those streets. That's where I would have went and parked myself for awhile to make informal bike counts.

The Hawthorne Bridge too, because, within the last 10 years it received significant upgrades to the bike-pedestrian walkway of the bridge, making it superior to other Portland bridges for crossing the river by bike, and immensely popular for the am/pm commute. One of the Oregonian's long time newspaper columnists recently went to the bridge during rush hour and made his own informal count, and came up with a big number...which...of course, I can't remember. Many, many more cars though.

Staying at Ladd's Addition, a very nice, small, older neighborhood laid out in a unique diagonal street layout that's different from the neighborhoods around it, you would likely have seen quite a few people on bikes coming through this neighborhood during commute hours.
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Old 08-15-11, 03:22 AM
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I'm not going to pretend to have read it all and I am sure it is informative but I am sure there are other cyclists out there. Even riding San Francisco I see cyclists, but I don't think it is 'a lot'. How do you define a lot?

Your polling method seemed a bit flawed but I would recommend parking yourself along a well used bike route and see how many people come or go. You'd get a much accurate picture of how many people ride, vs riding out on your own to search out those 'elusive cycling packs of people'. These packs of cyclists don't exist, or at least not that I have seen on a regular basis. I have seem packs of organized cyclists, like say going to events together, group/team rides, etc. I have also ridden rush hour in SF, and I can't say that I have ever been grouped up with more than five riders on market street. The mode number of riders I usually come across is two, and I have ridden hope from the times of 4:30pm to 6:30pm.

If I park myself down on cross walk on market street, I will probably see no more than four commuters that come up to the cross walk and wait for the light to change. I wouldn't consider this a lot, but if you think about it over time it is going to be A LOT of cyclists over time if you waited and watched them pass by. I am certain that other cyclists are out there, and they are probably somewhere else and not where I am at any given time.

If you want to go for broke, just head out for critical mass. I'm sure you'll find some cyclists
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Old 08-15-11, 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
Your linked post didn't really ask for a response. You mentioned an increase in population since the '50s, which is irrelevant. The distance from the campus and downtown to the farthest edges of town has not increased significantly since the '70s (when my former house was built on the edge of town). You agree that the rate of cycling did indeed decrease in Davis, so I didn't see any reason to reply. You did propose some reasons for the decrease, some of which no doubt played a role, but they were consistent with my comment about the power of the culture.


There are other factors involved. Since 1983 the cost of attending U.C. Davis has gone from so low that a person could work at student wages fifteen hours per week and graduate with money in the bank (even without any financial aid) to levels that challenge many middle-class families. This has substantially changed the make-up of the 30,000 or so students and skews the population towards students who are more inclined to drive than ride.

One thing that makes the counts look larger than they are today is the large number of bikes that are only used on campus. Thirty years ago, people would ride their bikes to campus and walk between campus destinations because the roads were simply too crowded with bikes and the available bike parking filled up so early that it wasn't worth the hassle of unlocking, jockeying for position, and hunting down a vacant parking place. Today, many people drive to campus and ride a campus-dedicated bike to their campus destinations. The formerly empty car parking lots have been tripled in size and are full. The formerly full bike racks now have spaces available at all times. The people who drive to campus and ride between buildings now count as cyclists; we used to call them motorists.

Go out and find someone else who has lived in Davis both during its "bike capital" days and more recently and ask them about the changes. Like I said, and you agreed with, even while adding bike infrastructure the rate of cycling decreased. Therefore, the infrastructure is not sufficient to get people to ride.

Back to this post. I don't doubt that there are times and places in PDX, and elsewhere, with substantial numbers of cyclists. However, the alleged large numbers are certainly not widespread, even within the city limits. It would be lovely if the reality matched the P.R. Until it does, I would prefer to have the self-congratulatory proclamations that emanate from places like Portland and even bike-hating Eugene toned down so that they fit more closely with what is seen on the ground. If you need to believe in a shining city on the hill in order to ride, then go right ahead. I just think we can more effectively work towards an improved future by taking note of just how far we have to go.
You have a simplistic view of what has happened in Davis. A more comprehensive view can be found here

https://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/h...ke_history.pdf

The city grew from 20,000 to 60,000 from the 60's to present. There has been little done in recent years (really decades) to upgrade the bike infrastructure to deal with it until recently. Like other cities that had a strong bike culture in the 70's, and the city I live in Madison WI is one of those, we tended to rest on our butts for a few decades and coast along. Madison and the state of WI was one of the innovators in the 70's with the first state to create the rails to trails program. Madison was among of the first cities to use bike lanes and even mixed use paths within the city.

What we are learning is that bike infrastructure has to evolve. Even northern Europe has learned that with constant improvements to what they already have. We have likely taken the bike lane about as far as it can go within the city of Madison. The push now is for protected bike lanes. The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin has released a policy paper advocating for it.

https://www.bfw.org/uploads/media/201...Bike_Lanes.pdf

There is also advocacy groups within Madison that are now pushing for cycle tracks and buffered bike lanes. The last few years in Madison has seen an upgrade to the bike infrastructure for the first time in decades with things like green boxes, bike specific traffic lights, an increase in mixed use paths (and we already had some nice ones), bike boulevards and sharrows, traffic calming, and of course more bike lanes. Bike use is again growing. There are still some gaps in the infrastructure that cut off large parts of the city but it is improving. A new mixed us trail to be finished in 2012 will open up the south side of Madison to the downtown area. In the past this has been a lousy part of the city to try and bike into.

What we have learned is that without infrastructure we will never get good numbers of people using bikes in urban areas. Your chances of that happening are zero. Another lesson learned by the city of Madison is that quality matters. Badly designed bike lanes do little to increase bike use. A standard bike lane in the door zone does not attract new riders.

Your ill-informed misinformation about Portland and Davis tells me you have an agenda, and it certainly isn't getting more folks using bikes.
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Old 08-15-11, 09:52 AM
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Over the whole weekend, all 48 hours of it, I did not see one single Portland, OR cyclist. That proves that whatever Portland is doing does not work.

No, I was not in Portland, but that hardly matters when their is an agenda to be pushed.
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Old 08-15-11, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Stubby
Your ill-informed misinformation about Portland and Davis tells me you have an agenda, and it certainly isn't getting more folks using bikes.
The OP's agenda must have something to do with his own dreamy expectations and that his "bar is just too high for our current population."
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Old 08-15-11, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree
Over the next five days, I walked and rode around the SE and a bit of the NE quadrants when I had time (approximately fifteen hours total). Over the course of nearly a week I saw around sixty bikes total. I am just amazed that anyone could possibly claim that Portland, OR has become any sort of bike city.
They're grasping for that I think. I've never been there, but the percentages they state don't sound like a "bike city" to me either.

But it sounds a lot friendlier to bicyclists than places that consider it your fault if you're rear ended...
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Old 08-16-11, 08:59 PM
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There are lots of bike rider in Portland, what did they have for the bridge pedal last Sunday, 20,000? And if you go out at night they even ride naked, how bike friendly is that? And see in the picture how much the average Joe on the street likes bike riders
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