Updates from Portland, New York and Detroit

Portland: Attracting or Converting

There was an interesting article in Boston.com that discusses Portland, the apparently self-annointed Bike City USA.

One question: “Is [Portland] just filling a niche and attracting bicyclists from elsewhere, instead of changing the habits of residents?

According to Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, “We’re not draining the world of people who like to ride bikes. It’s facilities that make people switch over, not philosophy.’’

But perhaps the best quotes are from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in response to George Will.

Even if they could be replicated, however, the city’s policies have also made it a lightning rod for criticism from conservatives, who have derided the administration’s embrace of the city. Newsweek columnist George Will referred to Portland as “the P word’’ in a column in the spring and accused officials of pursuing “behavior modification’’ to coerce people out of cars.

In an interview with the Globe, LaHood said that such critics were “living in the past’’ and that continuing to build more highways was also coercive. “We’ve created a system that requires people to get in their cars if they want to get anywhere,’’ he said.

Cyclists and pedestrians have lived through over 80 years of coercion. It took a while, but the pendulum is swinging back a little.

Portland: How much for a used bike?

One side effect of more Portlanders taking up cycling is their used bike prices have increased.

Thankfully we haven’t heard of a similar price rise in Detroit. Such an increase could keep many Detroiters from jumping into the sport.

New York: Biking on the rise

WCBS TV has quoted  City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan saying biking is New York City’s “fastest growing mode of transportation.”

And article continues with:

The number of cyclists has jumped by 80 percent in the past decade — to 185,000 among the more than 8 million city denizens.

City officials say they’ve worked to make the city more biker friendly. They note the hundreds of miles of marked bike paths created in recent years, safety awareness campaigns and handouts of free helmets to unprotected cyclists.

Over that time, bicycle accidents have fallen more than 40 percent.

Unfortunately we do not know the number of cyclists on the road. The only information we have is from the Census Bureau. They keep track of the percent of people who bike to work. The percentage is low enough to not be very useful. In addition it does not include those cycling for transportation outside of work or for recreation. Children and seniors are also not included in the Census numbers.

Given the economy and proposed bus cuts in Detroit, the fastest growing mode of transportion in the city might be biking or walking.

Detroit is Lonely

Brian Kennedy is a former Detroiter now living in Chicago. And he’s a cyclist.

He recently visited Detroit and wrote this interesting ride report.

There are some updates to his story:

  • Comerica Park has or will soon install two bike racks near the stadium
  • Secondhand sources say that DDOT buses will have three-bike racks by Spring 2010. There had been some debate between the two- and three-bike racks, which are from different manufacturers.
  • Through my job with MTGA, I have been in contact with Brian and the Active Transportation Alliance about getting roll-on service for Amtrak trains running between Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. (“Roll-on” means you can roll your bike onto the train without having to disassemble or box it.) With the great cycling environment in all three cities, this seems like it could become very popular.

Brian also plans on returning for the Tour-de-Troit next month — and he plans on riding the Dequindre Cut and visiting the Honey Bee Super Mercado, too.

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7 Responses to “Updates from Portland, New York and Detroit”

  1. Bicycle Accidents – How To Avoid Them | I want to ride my bicycle Says:

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  3. Joel Batterman Says:

    Not to pick too many nits, but I tend to refrain from calling bike commuting a “sport.” I get some exercise out of it, sure, but it’s not something I do competitively, or because I’m an athlete (I’m not), or even because I’m in great shape (ditto). It’s just how I get around–no spandex required.

  4. Steve Roach Says:

    Two weeks ago, I rode my bike to Comerica Park, and asked 3 different employees where I could park my bike, one sent me to the north side of the stadium, one checked a book, and one said that there were none, but lock it to a stadium fence next to a gate. All 3 said they would relay my inquiry to management. It was rather fun to lock the bike up to the stadium fence, and I had more than one strange look.

  5. Rory Neuner Says:

    Todd, great post. I’ve also been interested in a roll-on policy on Amtrak — those three cities are key, but don’t forget about Michigan’s West Coast cities. They already command a large Chicago region following for tourism and would benefit from folks like Brian who want to leave the car at home / don’t own one. I was in the Holland / Saugatuck area this week and there were as many IL plates as there were MI ones.

    I have been working with the Michigan Association of Rail Passengers to talk to Amtrak. Let me know if there is a way we can combine forces.

  6. Todd Scott Says:

    Joel, I agree, especially in light of so many groups who perceive bicycling merely as recreation.

    Rory, I’ll send you an email regarding MARP and AMTRAK.

  7. Todd Scott Says:

    Steve, the Tigers have installed a bike rack in parking lot 3 near the intersection of Montcalm and John R. We bike past it last night.

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