Fixing Greenways (or Bike Boulevards?)

Ok, so it seems the names change, so I will kick off this blog entry with a definition of what a greenway is.

Neighborhood Greenways are residential streets with low volumes of auto traffic and low speeds where bicycles and pedestrians are given priority.

Here is some more information on the Multnomah County Site. I’ve posted a screenshot of the map on that page below.

2016-03-12_17-05-24

There’s also a useful video, produced a good while ago, that explains when the bike boulevards became neighborhood greenways.

The goals of these greenways are simple: (PBOT description on the left, my translation on the right)

  • Reduce auto cut-throughReduce dangerous cut-through behavior unfamiliar with neighborhoods endangering people in those neighborhoods.
  • Safer cycling and pedestrian connectionsInsure motorists don’t kill more pedestrians, cyclists, and those in their homes (not joking, motorists keep running into stationary builds with people inside), and generally create safer ways to get where we all are trying to go.
  • Reduce auto speedsbecause seriously, slow down on neighborhood streets asshole. Whoops, that was a little aggressive, you get the point.
  • Help people cross busier more dangerous streets – Where streets are designed where motorists have killed people, improve the intersections and crossings to prevent motorists from killing more people.
  • Provide easier guides on the routeMake it easier to figure out where you’re going, even when you haven’t checked your google maps route.  😉
  • Provide more “eyes on the street”I think this means more people biking and walking means safer streets, as the data proves, as motorists tend to chill out when lots of people are out and about keeping an eye on their bad behavior. Or it just means more people are staring at the street. I’m not 100% sure about this one.

Ok, so now we have a shared understanding of what a greenway is and generally where they are in the Portland city limits.

But where are we now? There are problems…

A few events have taken place in Portland that have led to some pretty serious problems on the greenways that need to be resolved sooner rather than later.

First Event: There have been thousands upon thousands of new residents that have moved to Portland. Hello to all of you that have moved here over the last decade, welcome to the city! That’s all fine and dandy, this has had profound changes on the city – for better or worse – and the one big change I’d like to point out is that this influx of people have led to more people on the streets. It isn’t just cars, but all modes, however the mode taking up the most street space by orders of magnitude that moves less people are — drum roll please — cars, you guessed it. Because of this there is increased traffic. This leads to more people trying to take shortcuts. Taking shortcuts leads me to the next big event…

Second Event: This app called Waze happened. It’s great for the motorist stuck in traffic, but it enables the stuck like a pig in a cage driver to use the road system in a way it WAS NOT PLANNED TO BE USED. A motorist is NOT supposed to be cutting through neighborhoods (at 20mph or 50mph for that matter) to get from one highway or major arterial to another. But this app enables exactly that. It’s made once pleasant and low traffic neighborhood streets (i.e. greenways and such) into traffic sewer bypasses and cut throughs.

Third Event: The economy improved, yay! Good for us, good for you, good all around. It’s a good thing when the economy is enabling us to feed, eat and clothe ourselves along with enjoying life! However there is a dark side to this, because about 49% of trips into downtown Portland are not made by biking, walking, or transit, but by a single person in a single car, which creates a maddening and dangerous rush hour. Every single day the pollution skyrockets and the air quality decreases dramatically because so many people want to drive, drive, drive. So they do, and hey, we’re America land of freedom and stuff so we subsidize the hell out of that and enable as many people as possible to drive… but, a lot of these now employed people are out there driving, using things like Waze, moving here for work, and generally being a motorist sucking up a bunch of space in their private car and dirtying up the air in spite of the other 51% of trips into and out of downtown that are not done in such a selfish way.

So that is the root of our big issues. But now, how do we fix such issues? It’s actually super easy!

Solution #1: Diverters

Physical diverters direct auto traffic out of neighborhoods onto primary arterials where higher speeds and higher throughput of automobiles is possible. Instead of buzzing through neighborhoods for long trips automobiles are sent into the key automobile sewers like Highway 99 (MLK), Highway 26 (Powell), I-5, I-84, I-205 and other main drags like Hawthorne, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, and others.

These diverters do this and make neighborhoods better for those that live in the neighborhood. Diverters make the neighborhood safer for the children, the elderly, and all the rest of us just walking along the sidewalks, biking down the street, crossing to the local neighborhood coffee shop, or otherwise.

Implementing these is the key, there are some, but we’re in desperate need of many more. So many greenways have no diversion and easily fall prey to Waze and turning into a car sewer. Recently my wife and I stopped biking toward our destination and returned home because of the incessant motorists passing (most safely, but some unsafely with unclear motive or going straight, turning, or whatever they’re doing). Many of the motorists were clearly confused about where they were going, how to return to the Interstate (Avenue or I-5) and were overall, clearly perturbed that they’d taken a cut through and ended up getting stuck and routed back toward the road they were already on – stuck in rush hour traffic.

I learned two things, one is that rush hour is not a good time to ride to a location for dinner or drinks unless you’re a confident and fast rider (then you’re just always ahead of the motorists anyway) and two, the bicycle infrastructure leaves cyclists in a position prone to aggressive motorists and motorists are in a position that they’ve put themselves in – in traffic stuck. So in the future, I’d love to see some diverters to keep those aggressive, confused, and perturbed commuting motorists out of the neighborhoods. In the end, it’ll help the motorists and everybody in the neighborhood.

 

Solution #2: Bikeways, Cycle-tracks (Euro style), and the like need expanded dramatically.

The west side is perfect and can easily take on cycle-tracks and bike ways. But so can downtown Portland and the inner east side (re: river to about 20th should be easy to implement). So far though we’ve fallen short of what we can accomplish. To insure that the greenways can appropriately feed the city and people can bike to and from safely, the greenways need connected by cycle tracks and bikeways. Without we will not be able to go much beyond what we have now. The 8 year olds to the 80 year olds won’t bike. Regardless of the stats, it is simply to scary on the roadways for the somewhat less confident riders.

To summarize, adding real cycle-tracks and bikeways to the major hubs we bike to, would enable the greenways to truly thrive. The planners know it, the stoned guy on the corner knows it, anybody that connects any kind of simple thoughts knows it! The question is, will we act on it as a city and get diverters put in place and get some real greenway connections into and out of the city core. The possibilities are numerous, the only action left is to implement.

Stockholm

Portland, Gateway to Copenhagen, Amsterdam…

…Gronningen, Greifswald, Lund, Assen, Münster, Utrecht, Västerås, Ferrara, Malmö, Linköping, Odense, Basel, Osaka, Bremen, Bologna, Oulu, Munich, Florence, Rotterdam, Berne, Tübingen, Aarhus, Tokyo, Salzburg, Venice, Pardubice, York, Dresden, Basel, Ghent, Parma, Bern, Cambridge, Graz, Berlin, Strasbourg, Turku, Stockholm.

Stockholm

Stockholm

All cities that have 10%-55% biking mode share and it’s growing. They all have vibrant music scenes, from heavy metal to jazz to classical. They all have extensive art, museums and places of learning. They all have exceptional standards of living, and livability that’s off the charts. Continue reading →

Sprawling Milwaukie (South of Downtown Milwaukie)

Only 24% of Portlanders Want Suburbs, But 48% are Stuck Living There From Lack of Options!

Recently another article came out via OregonLive, “Most metro-area residents live in suburbs, but wish they didn’t: study“, that actually reflects something interesting about our living style here in Portland. The key measurement I’ve noted is that this article differentiates between town center neighborhood living versus suburban living. This is one of the biggest differentiators that often doesn’t come up between suburban and urban living. You see, town center living is dramatically more comparable to urban living versus suburban living.

Continue reading →

Meetings, Starting the Day and Trimet Bus #4

Overall, I have an odd day compared to many people. I don’t go to a specific office, nor location, but often to many different locations. I do this so that I can go to the people that I need to meet. I don’t use a car, that would make this style of life a rather unfortunate and morbid business. Not to say I haven’t experienced this lifestyle with a car, I have, and know it’s an unfortunate and morbid business because of that. In great luck and fortune I’ve been able to work my life into living and working this way. It’s a great benefit to myself and also a great benefit to those that I work with.

Today I had a number of places to go to throughout the city of Portland. One in the north eastern part of the city, one meeting in the south easy and one in downtown. Each of these meetings was business related, but also personal, for each of the people I’d be going to meet are friends. Again, one more thing to work towards in life, work and live in and around friends. It beats the hell out of working and living around mere acquaintances and enemies.

Another key to this day, each meeting was spaced perfectly. I wouldn’t need to hurry between each meeting so I could use a more relaxed and slower form of transportation. I decided it was going to be a transit only day. Usually, when there are a lot of meetings I use the fastest mode for city transportation, the bicycle. Yes, that’s right, and don’t even get me started, the bicycle is easily the fastest way to get around in any urban landscape. The automobile has to be one of the slowest (along with NYC buses). With that key bit of information ascertained I was off.

I started the day in north east Portland near Alberta street. Walking down the street on this cool brisk day my first ride was going to be the westward bound #72 Bus. The first meeting just a short 8 minute ride away at Coffee House Five at Albina and Killingsworth. The #72 is a great bus, usually arriving much more often than a freqent service bus (this by Trimet’s definition is every 15 minutes). Usually the #72, as with any non-dedicated right of way running transportation, gets bunched at times. Everything from traffic lights to people crossing the street throw a wrench in the scheduling, so the #72 is sometimes running in clumps of 5, 7 or some short variance between buses. Today was no exception. As I walked to the stop a bus drove by. But as I arrived at the stop another #72 arrived which I boarded.

Westward the bus rolled. The short distance was covered in not 8, but 7 minutes. Yes, I timed it because I tend to count everything. I strolled into Coffee House Five. Inside the regular chill crew was slinging the rounds. A cappuccino here and a macchiato there. It’s a consistent shop with a precocious vibe. Something that’s pleasant considering the onslaught of “San Francisco” vibe style coffee shops invading our Portland vibe these days. I enjoyed my cap and a standard boring bagel and cream cheese. After my meeting I walked across the street and waiting two minutes for the arrival of the south bound #4 heading into Portland.

The bus pulled up and she and I left for Portland.

Conversations Overheard

I pulled out my laptop, as I do, to write this blog entry and other material related to other things. While sitting in the raised rear seat by the back door of the bus a lady joined me. I went on with my typing and into the trip a ways she received a phone call. That phone call was rather interesting, and went something like this.

“Hello.”

…  [the other person talking]

“Yes, funny thing, I’m on the bus and I dropped off the car to get detailed. It’s actually a lot easier to just leave the car and take the bus into town, it only takes about 15 minutes.”

… [other person asking why she even brought the car down]

“Oh, I wanted to get it detailed. But usually I drive and then just park it somewhere to come into town. No really, it’s far easier than trying to park and figure out what is close to where I’m trying to go.”

… [other person realizes, yes, that this is obviously true, then says something about coming into town]

“Yeah, since it would take only 30 minutes to get into the city just take the bus.”

… [says something about the MAX]

“Oh yeah, that would actually be faster to get there [referring to Lloyd Center] and then you can just take the MAX or bus over to the city.”

… [says farewell, thanks and something else]

“See ya later.”

Then she turns to me and asks if Couch is closer to this or the next stop. I tell her the first stop we’re coming to is pretty close by one block. She then decides to get off there.

It just strikes me interesting when people make this realization, that there is little reason to drive into downtown Portland and that it is indeed, actually a bad idea. Just go to a park and ride or otherwise and do everybody and yourself a favor, leave the car outside of downtown.

Willamette Crossing

The bus went through downtown, turned onto the southern part of the #4 route toward Gresham and left downtown via the Hawthorne Bridge. I looked south toward the new bridge construction for the transit, bike and pedestrian only bridge. It’s a gorgeous structure that will eventually be immensely useful. I can only imagine what the final through count on that bridge will be when the buses, light rail, cycle and pedestrians are rolling across it daily.

Onward up Division the bus rolled, I eventually got off near 50th, close to where my next meeting would be and decided I’d hang out at Stumptown for a few. In I went and wrapped this blog entry up…   happy transiting all, regardless of your mode; feet, hull, wheel or wing.

Just Daily Portland Trips

A few weeks ago I took a trip around Portland and snagged some photos. I used a varying arrange of modes; streetcar, light rail, bus, bicycle and my own two feet. This is a pretty standard trip that could easily be told in pictures. Which is what I’ll do now, tell the small part of the day along with a respective picture. For all the pictures go here: http://photos.adron.me/Portland-Action/2014-Rolls-On-Up/Bikes-Buses-Streetcars-Car/

Here’s a shot of the streetcar traveling north up MLK. I always like to sit on the right hand side where the two seats face each other. That way I can easily see out the front of the streetcar as we’re rolling along.

Looking Out the Front of the Streetcar (Click for full size image)

Looking Out the Front of the Streetcar (Click for full size image)

I got off near Lloyd Center and snagged a few shots of the light rail trains coming by going east toward Gresham, Clackamas Town Center and the airport and in the other direction those coming into Portland.

Green Line bound for City Center (Click for full size image)

Green Line bound for City Center (Click for full size image)

As things go I saw a number of cyclists among the streets along with the proverbial onslaught of motorists driving their cars.

Cyclists and Motorists (Click for full size image)

Cyclists and Motorists (Click for full size image)

…and then something I see about 1 out of every 7 or 8 trips. Some dipshit motorists that have run into something. In this case someone obviously ran the light and hit the other motorists. Fortunately it appeared that nobody had gotten hurt but I only imagine, everytime I see this sickening situation, how many people might have been killed. In so many places a small negligent act that results in this outcome could have resulted in innocent people being killed. Everything day no less than 13 people, and sometimes as many as 15-20 people are killed by motorists while they simply walk down the street. Sure, one might say callously, that’s a lot number of 300 million people, but consider that this number is about 20-30x higher than in Europe. It really shows that we can indeed reduce these killings. Don’t even get me started on how many motorists other motorists kill, it’s an even higher number at 95-120 people per day and motorists maim another 400-1000 people per day.

Truly unacceptable.

Black Wrecked Car (Click for full size image)

Black Wrecked Car (Click for full size image)

The White Honda Smashed (Click for full size image)

The White Honda Smashed (Click for full size image)

…and more in the near future. Stay safe, think and happy travels. Cheers!

Ride To… Downtown Portland on Trimet Bus #6 – AKA Why Stereotypes Are Wrong

Boarded the #6 today. Another one of those days were life countermands stereatypes. Not that stereotypes are any good except as a joke (which I suppose that’s where they’re used most of the time anyway). I walked straight to the back of the bus for the last seat. The last seat is was center of bus between two people.

Stereotypes

As the bus pulled away from the Alberta and MLK stop an average person would assume many things. An average American might assume that I’m poor. An average person might assume that everybody on this bus is poor or close to below the poverty income. They might assume that the younger individuals are from broken homes and that the older folk are almost destitute. The average American might think that half the bus smokes pot. Average Americans would probably judge this bus to be full of uneducated individuals, that probaby didn’t attend high school.

Out of all those stereotypes about transit users there is one that’s true. It’s a fact about all of the population of the United States however, not just transit riders. Can you guess which one it is? Keep reading, I’ll let you in on that trivia in a bit. For all the other stereotypes the average American is wrong. Horribly, embarrassingly wrong. Let’s take a dive into this bus full of people and who they are.

You might ask how I know who these people are. Well, that’s easy. I talk to all of these people. I talk to my neighbors and the people in my community. Transit and urban living give a person, including myself, the maximum potential to connect with communities and have true transformative positive effect on society. It is the most dynamic, open minded, inclusive way to live in the United States. After all, the country is a melting pot, and the reason it is a melting pot is because of the cities and urban lifestyles.

Bus Demographics

This bus today, the 6 that arrives at the Convention Center transfer point at 9:45am, is full of a total melting pot of people. Even for white Portland it’s a diverse group of interesting, intelligent, educated and educating people. Here’s the break out.

Over the course of my trip 49 people got on and 58 people got off. 12 people were still on board when I got off. Doing a little math, double checking, and having sat on the back of the bus where I can see everybody and count like an obsessive compulsive, that totals 70 total riders that I saw while on the bus. The on and off occurred at many stops along the way, with the biggest exodus (11 people) from the bus to transfer to the MAX at Convention Center.

The bus was approximately 37 people of Western European descent (that’s caucasion), there were 13 black, 10 asian, 8 of mexican & South American descent and the last few I could tell. There were 37 men and 33 women.

As far as I could verify from people I know, identification hanging lazily at their side and other means I attained some other information about these riders. Several were heading to school, some to college and some to trade schools. Many of the riders were headed to work. However the bulk of people were out running their daily errands. It was about a 55% to 45% split between people out taking care of the daily life necessities and 45% heading off to business of some sort.

The other measurement, I know because I know the stats on Trimet ridership in Portland, is that over 60% of these people are riders that could have driven in an automobile but elected not to. They instead chose not to, for a multitude of reasons. Even though I didn’t get to talk to every single one of these people riding the bus I could tell, just by activities some of these reasons.

Reasons to Take Transit

Music: The number of people with earphones or headphones hit a peak of 16 people during the short commute in this morning. Those people could be seen enjoying their music, sometimes with heads bobbing back and forth a bit. Some scrolling through changing songs. But all of them were enjoying the opportunity to listen to music and just relax, sit back and not focus on anything but the music.

TV / Movie: One person was finishing up Shrek with their child. Yup, this parent was able to sit with a headphone splitter and watched the movie with their young girl. Both were polite, obivously the child being raised well, as they laughed the covered their mouths and looked at each other. Smiling and holding in an outright burst of laughter. The smile were contagious though and some of the people sitting behind them were giggling silently too while the commute progressed.

Another two people talked, while looking at each other and paying attention to a complex topic. They discussed how some type of architectural structure would work and after a moment pulled out some blue prints on an iPad and commenced to discuss and work through their discussion. They continued to gain more and more understanding as they worked through various floors and designs.

Another odd number, 5 total, had their laptops out and were working through a number of things. One person I could tell was working with office documents, another was writing some JavaScript code for a website they were building, and the others were beyond my perview. I only could see that the laptops were out and they were typing away with their keyboards.

Last metric, most of the people on the bus are employed above poverty line, and more than 30% are employed above median income (that’s more than 40ish thousand a year these days). In Portland, a little math will tell you this by simple looking at the demographics, looking at who takes transit, and the minimum amount of what percentage of what incomes are riding the bus. The math comes out pretty good and shows that the vast majority of riders are not poor, nor are they limited to only transit. They could be using other means, but indeed choose to make transit their mode.

Stereotypes Are Often Misinformed

Just like racism, sexism and other such absurd stereotypes that belittle and estrange people. So do stereotypes about people that take transit. The average American that might assume the bus is full of poor people, would be wrong. The stereotype that people are from broken homes, destitute or otherwise, also terribly wrong. Uneducated, lower than average IQ and a host of other stereotypes. All wrong.

The simple fact is, the average American assumption about transit is just wrong. In summary, the average American is wrong. So stop being average, take some transit, learn about your city and get out and among the people that keep this country ticking.

Oh, and the one thing you can assume though, is that the majority of people in this nation have actually tried pot. So besides enjoying your city, go ahead, light it up. Ya know, if you have the freedom to. We all will again eventually. 😉

Cheers, Transit Sleuth

Chevrolet Tries In Vain to be Cool!

…and fails pretty bad. There are sites like Buzzfeed that go on about goofy pictures and everything. It puts a laugh on a few zillion faces a day. Recently however I noticed one of the “feed” items was a blatant advertisement from Chevrolet focusing on how lame one’s carpool is. I will admit, I’m stoked they’re suggesting people carpool. Sadly, it seems that’s a rarity except maybe in places like Seattle.

Some of the pictures and labels kind of bug me. First reason is because Chevrolet isn’t actually being very funny. Second is because they really think very little of their customers or people that aren’t their customers. Another is the ongoing assumption that Chevrolet has that anybody in their customer knows or understand anything about public transit or alternates besides being dependent on one of their cars. So let’s take a look at a few of these pictures that Chevrolet thinks is hilarious through their disingenious use of a buzzfeed article.

Being they’ve taken a picture of the busiest Japanese Subway station, one of the busiest in the world and labeled it “you think public transit sounds exciting!” Here’s my simple response to Chevrolet about this particular image/animated gif.

First off, being that I’m not cowering in one of your subpar cages – I mean automobiles – and I’m out there with the community it is rather exciting thank you. I’ve met people I never would have otherwise. I’ve met people outside of my racial group (which automobiles tend to limit because you hide away from ever speaking to anybody outside of your circles). I’ve met others that have very unique lifestyles compared to mine. I met and was able to help out Jared one day because he was super short on a few bucks, and I knew he actually needed it because I know Jared now. I know the smiling lady, if not by name, by the friendly hellos we greet each other with when we are boarding the same bus. I know the hipster fixie rider who likes to skip the uphill. So yeah, the public transit is sweet. I’m not hiding away in one of your crappy cars, so thanks for pointing that out.

…but alas, why is that funny? Oh yeah, because you’re being condescending and treating transit users as if they’re second class citizens and lesser than your “auto dependent” users.

Then there is the next picture about pooping. Ya know, cuz’ that’s ALWAYS so freakin’ hilarious! Again, followed by my immediate thought and response.

So I guess add to the array of reasons to speed Chevy, Smoky and the Bandit wasn’t enough. Jeezum, could you pick a lamer, ancient and more recessively inane thing to post as an excuse for speeding.

Genius. Oh wait, no, the opposite of genius. Stupid.

The last image didn’t bother me so much as actually gross me out. Mainly because I see the result of fast food everyday. I’ve eaten the non-food crap they sell maybe a few times this last year now. I’m impressed by how they still sucker everybody they do into eating the shit. But hey, it isn’t particularly dishonest, the population makes an active decision.

So I only really have one response to the image titled “Every single one of your cupholders has fast cups in them”. No, no wait. I’ve got a few comments.

  1. Holy moly that is just sad.
  2. Stop eating that shit people. For your sake and everybody else’s.
  3. Clean up your car, have more respect for your things. Jeez.
  4. Wendy’s?  Well, I guess at least it isn’t McDonalds… but when comparing a pile of crap to a pile of crap it isn’t much of a stretch.

Anyway, it isn’t so much the behaviors they’r eattempting to make fun of. Those are mostly sad. What really irks me about the car companies these days, especially Chevrolet in this situation, is they’re dramatic increase in disingenous advertising. Attempting to make things just appear as user generated content or otherwise. By mere action belittling and assuming idiocy on part of the consumer. Maybe it’s my desire to not treat people like idiots, to encourage people to do better, or a number of other characteristics that I have that would never allow me to push such an advertising campaign. There’s a million other ads that are legit, honest and straight forward. For example, regardless of the shadiness of whatever companies…  at least their ads are well put together and not a disingenuous mess.

…and…

…and…

Anyway. Chevrolet, just forget it. You’re cars are lame, the population has voted more than once. The company had to be bailed out even in spite of buyers deciding against your cars. Way to impose yourself on the population. Shame on ya, an embarrassment for all Americans.