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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Soaking the hip

It's been raining cats and dogs in Portlandia all afternoon. Anything not protected with sturdy rain gear will be soaked in literally a minute or two. It's got us thinking: When the government planning army brags about the percentage of trips taken on bicycles, do the statistics from a day like this count?

One look out the window confirms how ludicrous the "car-free lifestyle" is. Given that it's Sunday, meaning that Tri-Met bus lines are running scarcely if at all, the "car-free" options today are staying in one's house or risking drowning.

Comments (33)


It's only one spot, but there is now a full-time bike counter for the Hawthorne bridge:


Because of the accident today on the bridge (which closed it), today's counts are artificially depressed.

I was wondering if the bike interests were sort of shooting themselves in the foot by putting this in - although it gives them apparently impressive traffic counts over multi-month periods, it also allows one to see how much bad weather depresses bicycle use. (Of course, the Hawthorne bridge is a commute route - you would expect more of a drop off in casual cycling in bad weather.)

The Springwater trail is essentially empty today. Great investment, especially the new bicycles only signal at SE Bell and Johnson Creek Blvd. More to follow on that.

True Oregonians do not use umbrellas. Last year 120 people fell off their bicycles...and drowned.

Shhhh... careful, Jack.
The elephant in the middle of the room might hear you.

Cycling is not a commute option nor is it a form of transportation.

Bicycling is a hobby, a form of excercise or a political statement.

And on days like today, it is an intelligence test. Glad to see few people out today failing that test!

Just got back from downtown - lunch at the Parrish and book browsing at Powells - and saw only one byciclist who was thoroughly bedraggled. At least the temps were moderate today - fast forward to January with the same rain and low 30s . . .

The counts are only taken June through September.
Then only on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday by "volunteers".
Give me a break!
More fun with numbers

I'm a recreational cyclist. I'd like to run for exercise, but I can't. Rain is a deal-breaker for me. I may be willing to risk a shower if it's dry when I start, but I won't go out in the rain. Not only is it unpleasant, it's really unsafe: rain impairs your vision, motorists' vision, and everyone's traction and brakes.

I might be willing to commute by bike, which would require a commitment to ride in the rain, but it would take a much more extensive bike infrastructure, more like, say, Amsterdam or Copenhagen, with more separation of bike and car traffic, along with a higher level of skill among drivers. I was out today in the car in the rain; other drivers seem downright suicidal.

I can just imagine trying to get Mrs. Wine and the little Winos into their rain suits to head off to the sustainable pumpkin patch on their bikes:

"OK kids, it's only 5 miles, but we can take bike boulevards the entire way."

"Daddy, my pumpkin is falling off my handlebars!"

"Daddy, why is that bioswale overflowing."

"Honey, I'm getting a divorce if you make us do this next year."

"C'mon it's fun. Look, there's Rex Burkholder juggling pumpkins while riding a unicycle."

From the 2011 Bicycle Count Report:

"The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has counted bicycles for decades to collect data about the number of people bicycling in Portland and where they ride. Data is also collected about gender and helmet use. This report identifies the key findings from bicycle counts conducted between July 20 and
September 30, 2011."

How phony is that? Notice how they emphasize how thorough the study is, lasting for decades and even counting gender and helmet use. Of course they leave out nearly 80 percent of the data to feature the 10 weeks or so when bicycles are at their peak. That's so sleazy. What a con job.

Cycling is not a commute option nor is it a form of transportation.

That's nonsense.

I amt on a TriMet bus and it is true there are few bikers out. They must all be doing sh*t home. That, or they decided to drive their cars today.

that's "am" and "s--- at home".

iPhone issues

I rode downtown yesterday during the storm. When I passed the counter at about 3pm it read right around 450.

I crossed over the Hawthorne (by car) and the bike counter was at 317 around 4:00 PM.

Coming soon: A city sponsored study that will statistically analyze the impact of rainy days to our economy by calculating how much money is NOT spent in our neighborhoods because cyclists aren't on the road, and then proposed solutions to increase economic output - including non-conventional methods to reduce rainfall (anthropologic climate change, anyone?).

There's a bike counter somewhere ?

How come I haven't seen it an episode of portlandia ?

I don't understand why non-bicycle commuters feel compelled to have an opinion about this - let alone a cynical one. When I see rain, I get in my car, but I would never think of ridiculing someone for choosing a healthier, cheaper, environmentally-friendly option that imposes less of a burden on society (i.e. bikes don't wear out the roads or create traffic). Some Portlanders aren't that bothered by rain (go figure), and/or their ethical beliefs/personal preferences are more important to them than creature comforts.

If you can't appreciate that, at least try to respect it, and move past the cynical bull crap. Criticizing the soundness of governmental transportation expenditures is one thing, but scoffing at bicyclists as a class is wrong-headed, petty, and divisive (and believe me, I tell my car-hating bicyclist friends the same thing about car drivers).

The city's bike counts are deliberately timed for fair weather, in part because that's when you can get volunteer counters, too. But I think they're mostly used to measure year-on-year change.

Most stats you see about bikes used for transportation come from the Census's American Community Survey, which applies to April. It asks people about the primary way they usually get to work, so somebody who drives or bikes 1 mile and then takes MAX for 6 miles counts only as MAX where Census is concerned.

Good point about how the new Hawthorne Bridge counter will be able to help estimate how much traffic declines in the rain! I'll get some numbers on that later in the winter.

Which is the whole point of this post. All of the numbers assembled so far are suspect.

McDonald, how do they determine "gender" with all the garb on, or either wise? Could this gender identification be construed as being sexist?

Haven't you heard? Gender is now a spectrum.

There are so many ways statistics can be hyped. We've all seen those studies where 6 people out of 100,000 who eat parsley (or whatever) get cancer, while only 3 people out of 100,000 people who do not eat parsley have cancer. That comes out as "Parsley makes you twice as likely to get cancer."

As far as these summertime bike rider numbers, here's what probably happens: These optimal numbers are bounced around from bureaucrat to bureaucrat and along the way the little caveats about the limited time window disappear. The qualifiers fade and are dropped, and the next you know somebody's sitting in a budget meeting presenting these July-September numbers as the year-around norm. They'll mention this is based on decades of research - that part will stay to prop up the sell job. But the extremely unfair, and limited glimpse the study is based on will fade away.

I'm not saying it happens, but it sure wouldn't surprise me.

"McDonald, how do they determine "gender" with all the garb on, or either wise? Could this gender identification be construed as being sexist?"

The nice weather counts indicate that about two-thirds of the riders are male - again, in nice weather. In an alternate universe, spending a lot of money on a transportation system utilized primarily by 15-30 year old white males would trigger off all sorts of discrimination lawsuits.

I won't be surprised to learn the BTA has "Rain Brigades" that go out and ride back and forth in front of bike counting machines on rainy days.

Road my bike to work today. Rain this morning was more typical of Portland - a light mist.

Oh, tell me about this. I admit that I'm one of those loons who used to ride in insane weather. Of course, I realized that I was getting too old for it when I was caught in one of the most intense Texas thunderstorms I've ever seen, where the only option was to keep going. Ever been in a storm where the rain is coming down so hard that you have to hold a hand above your mouth so you can breathe? Comparatively, Portland's worst downpours are a light mist, and I won't even bring up the lightning strikes on the high-tension power lines running over my head while doing so.

That said, I've had a few experiences that made me decide "To hell with the savings; I'm getting a second car." My wife works a different schedule, so she doesn't need to wake up in the morning until about four hours after I do. One morning, we had a good slushy snow here in Dallas, and I realized that biking in that mess was going to be incredibly uncomfortable. Well, she absolutely refused to wake up, so I figured "All right: time to make the commute." At the time, I lived a ways further, and had about a seven-mile ride to work. That's when I learned (a) that slush bypasses my rear bike fender and splashes all over, and (b) slush prevents gutters from draining properly. I got to work, and I had the same exact conversation at least ten times with supervisors, vice-presidents, and security guards:

"Did you BIKE in today?"

*sigh* "Yeah."

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

McDonald, how do they determine "gender" with all the garb on, or either wise? Could this gender identification be construed as being sexist?

It's not as difficult as you think. I won't go into the details of it, but think about what many bicyclists wear...and think about basic anatomy of a human being.

You look for...ahem...certain bumps in certain places.

(I am not a professional bike counter...but I do know that I had a female cyclist decide not to stop at a red light and ended up just outside my front passenger window. At least it was a nice view of a really stupid person.)

"Did you BIKE in today?"

*sigh* "Yeah."

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Bicycling is a hobby, a form of excercise or a political statement.

And on days like today, it is an intelligence test. Glad to see few people out today failing that test!"

TTR, I'm sure you had a witty comeback.... Please share.

My suggestion:
The Everest reply: Because it I wanted to see if it was humanly possible to bike in today.

I don't understand why non-bicycle commuters feel compelled to have an opinion about this - let alone a cynical one.

If you don't understand, then take a look around. It is about fairness. The transportation dollars primarily are going to benefit one group, the bicycle group, which is a huge lobby and Adams placed Miller in a position to push that agenda.
Favoritism for the bike lobby is why people are complaining.
Favoritism for the streetcar and developers is why people are complaining.
Favoritism for the politicians who continue that agenda supported by that lobby is why people are complaining.
Favoritism has left parts of the rest of the city in shambles.

I happened to drive down a neighborhood street out around 90th/Stark, hardly a street left! There was a only a tiny strip of pavement left in the middle of the road with the rest worn down to nothing. Almost looked like a war torn area in a third world country. About a year ago, I saw a street in the Holgate area north of 39th Ave. that was so full of potholes, it was shocking.

Harry, my only comment was "That's a damn good question."

Texas Triffid -
Your posting makes me laugh. Having lived my whole life in Oregon (50+ years) then moving to Houston - oh yeah, the definition of rain and how it comes down took a dramatic turn. There are people down here who are trying to champion biking here in Houston too. However, with weeks of near 100 degree temperatures in the summer, absolutely drenching rain (during which there can be as much as 2" of rain on the pavement and staying there because its raining so hard), and the rather long distances between places. To seriously suggest that biking becomes your main mode of commuting in Houston (in Texas in general) really means you seriously need your head examined.

I understand the point of the post - and agree that cyclist counts are very likely "doctored" based on weather. But I don't see the point of labeling folks. I am all of the following:

- a long-time bike commuter (initially because I didn't own a car, now to save fuel/cost/the environment, stay in shape, clear my head, avoid Tri-Met's slowness, etc)

- willing to ride rain or shine (I draw the line at snow and ice)

- completely opposed to bioswales, bike "safety" at the expense of vehicle expediency, green bike boxes, huge concrete islands at random dangerous places in the middle of the street, etc. Now, painting a white line on the side of the road, like they did on Greeley, where previously none existed, but without taking away traffic lanes, I think was inexpensive, a win-win, and does increase bike safety. That kind of improvement is reasonable.

- completely appalled at this city's inability to maintain basic infrastructure (roads, parks, pretty much all of downtown)

- opposed to Urban Renewal abuse

- NOT a hipster

- disappointed that my property taxes have risen from $4K to $5K per year over the past 6 yrs, especially consider what they fund

- voting for LaVonne!

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