This Week in the Mercury

Pricing Out Portland's Artists


Pricing Out Portland's Artists

Can Portland's Creative Community Survive Development, Price Surge?

New Column!


New Column!

Happy 15th Birthday, Portland Mercury! A Note from Editor in Chief Wm. Steven Humphrey


Monday, June 1, 2015

World Naked Bike Ride 2015 Kicks Off at Col. Summers Park

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Jun 1, 2015 at 2:13 PM

  • Leo Zarosinski

Last year, a few people in NE Portland got very upset indeed when organizers of the World Naked Bike Ride announced it was starting off at nearby Normandale Park. The previous two years, the ride had begun in less-residential settings—on the Central Eastside and in front of the Portland Art Museum.

This year? The mammoth flesh-fest is headed back to a city park, though one more accustomed to this sort of thing. It's starting at SE Portland's Colonel Summers Park, and begins at 9 pm, organizers announced today. Show up earlier than that if you want to ride.

Speaking of the WNBR, the first day of June is the perfect time to start planning out your Pedalpalooza (it begins Thursday). Check out a full schedule here, and be sure to pick up the Mercury on Wednesday for a full printout (and our picks).

That's all.

Friday, May 29, 2015

ANOTHER Cyclist Was Just Hit at SE Powell and 26th

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, May 29, 2015 at 12:42 PM


May is National Bike Month. That's an arbitrary designation, of course. I only bring it up because Portland's has been god-awful. Almost three weeks after a 22-year-old cyclists lost his leg in a crash at SE Powell and 26th (and just days after a cyclists was killed nearby) there's been ANOTHER crash at the intersection.

This one, thankfully, isn't catastrophic. According to Portland police, a still-unidentified cyclists was hit by a Jeep Cherokee at 11:12 am, and doesn't have life-threatening injuries.

In a city that's already seeing increased bike activism (after years of perceived apathy) this all feels like its reaching a tipping point. Activists were already planning a memorial ride this eveing for Mark Angeles, the 22-year-old Reed College graduate who was killed when a tow truck failed to yield on Wednesday. And it was just May 11 when protestors last took to SE Powell and 26th, in a slowdown to protest the Oregon Department of Transportation's stewardship of Powell. That action was a response to a crash where, once again, a truck driver failed to yield to 22-year-old cyclist Alistair Corkett.

Two days after the slowdown, the activist group BikeLoudPDX organized a "die-in" outside ODOT's Portland headquarters.


Today's crash creates more pressure to improve the 26th/Powell intersection, which most people agree needs better signals. And it'll likely renew calls that ODOT should relinquish control of the Powell to the City of Portland. Between 2004-2013 there were 73 traffic injuries attributed to the intersection, according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Of those, 60 were injuries to motorists, 8 were to cyclists. Injuries are rampant along that entire stretch of Powell, designated by PBOT as a high-crash corridor.

Update, 2:05 pm: Police now say the victim was a 37-year-old named Peter Anderson. He was stopped on 26th, headed north, and began to cross Powell when he was struck by 25-year-old Noah Gilbertson, who was going east. Cops aren't saying whether it was Gilbertson or Anderson who disobeyed the stop light at the intersection. No citations.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Another Ugly Bike-Truck Crash in SE Portland—This One Fatal

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 6:07 PM

SE Gladstone at Cesar E Chavez, looking west
  • Google Maps
  • SE Gladstone at Cesar E Chavez, looking west

An already bloody May got much worse today, when a cyclist was struck and killed by a tow-truck driver in SE Portland.

There's not a lot clear about the accident right now, other than that it occurred around noon at SE Cesar E Chavez and Gladstone. Reports even differ on the cyclist's sex, with most outlets (citing police) reporting the victim was male, and writing the opposite.

Whatever the case, it's the first fatal crash involving a cyclist since last March, and just the second since fall of 2012. That's a pretty sterling record for a town that has the highest percentage of cyclists of any big city in the country. But it's also alarming given another vicious crash May 10, in which a 22-year-old cyclist lost his leg in a collision with a pickup truck.

That incident spurred two demonstrations by bike activists: a "slow-down" of traffic on SE Powell, where the accident took place, and a die-in near the Portland headquarters of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Both of those actions were focused ODOT's stewardship of busy Powell, which activists say prioritizes vehicle speed rather than safety. The scene of today's crash—controlled by a Portland Bureau of Transportation that now says no traffic deaths are acceptable—is considered safer.

According to PBOT, there were 30 injury accidents at the intersection between 2004 and 2013—19 involving motorist injuries, six involving pedestrians, and five involving cyclists.

Early reports suggest today's victim might have been hit under circumstances similar to the May 10 crash: a driver turning left, and failing to yield to an oncoming cyclist. According to cops, the cyclist was heading westbound on Gladstone while the tow-truck headed east. Bikeportland notes:

Another person on Twitter who claims they saw the collision happen says the tow-truck operator was driving east on Gladstone and made a left turn (north) onto Cesar Chavez. The bicycle rider, he says, was coming downhill on Gladstone traveling westbound prior to the collision.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Dead Red" Gets the Go-Ahead

Posted by Shelby R. King on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 1:29 PM

Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation
  • Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation

Good news: If you're on a bicycle or motorcycle and a red light won't change for you, you can run it!

Oregon bicycle and motorcycle riders on Wednesday won the right to go on a "dead red" light following the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 533. The bill now heads to Gov. Kate Brown's desk for her signature. Don't do it yet, though, bikers, because it doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2016, according to Portland attorney and motorcycle enthusiast Christopher Slater.

"The effect of this law will be that when any (two-wheeled vehicle) comes to a sensor-operated signal, and it becomes clear to the operator that the sensor is not recognizing them, they can treat the signal as if it's a stop sign," Slater says. "When going, you should always act as if you do not have the right of way."

The bill allows two-wheelers to go on a red stoplight if it won't change for them after one full cycle where other lanes are given a green light. Many detectors do not recognize bikes and motorcycles because the materials they're made from.

Much like with all the cool ideas (legalized weed, Seattle's $15 minimum wage law, same-sex marriage), Washington beat us to the punch last month when Gov. Jay Inslee signed a "dead red" law into effect. Oregon is the 17th state to enact a law, though each state's restrictions are a little different.

Be careful out there, bikers!


Pedalpalooza Approaches—What's Your Ride?

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 11:14 AM

It's May, everybody, which is mostly significant because the bikey bacchanalia that is Pedalpalooza is right around the corner. Three weeks of ridiculousness begin June 4.

Every year, Pedalpalooza hosts the classic rides—the Lit 'n' Louds, the Bowie v Princes, the World Naked Bike Ride—but the best moments of the month can come from its surprises. Which is where y'all come in.

The deadline is midnight on May 21 for the Pedalpalooza schedule the Mercury will print on June 3. That's a week away, and currently there are about 80 rides planned.

This city can do better than that. It must do better than that. Recent Pedalpaloozas have featured nearly 300 rides, according to organizer Carl Larson. So figure out what absurd, thoughtful, difficult, or scenery-laden ride you and your crew want to host, and head over to the Shift website to make it happen. It's very, very easy.

Also, check out this year's excellent poster from Portland artist Matt Gauck.

  • Matt Gauck

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Angriest Guy at Today's Bike Protest of ODOT Wasn't a Cyclist

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, May 13, 2015 at 6:27 PM


For a minute, it seemed like Ted the dump truck driver might be an actor.

Dozens of cyclists laid down in an out-of-the-way stretch of NW Flanders this afternoon and played dead, a symbolic move to let the Oregon Department of Transportation staffers working nearby know the agency's stewardship of Powell Boulevard isn't good enough.

There was classical music playing from a bike speaker somewhere, and the occassional melodramatic outburst from an activist mourning the fake death of his friends. And muttering off to the side of it all—in a goddamn Route 66 baseball cap, and with a bushy grey mustache—was Ted. (He didn't want to give his last name, or have his picture taken, and I was fine with that.)

"How many laws are they breaking?" he asked an ODOT staffer, gesturing to the bike riders covered in fake blood and blocking the roadway. "You're ODOT, right? Don't you control these streets?"

ODOT does not control these streets. Not most of them. But it controls Powell, where a cyclist lost his leg in a brutal accident this weekend, and where hundreds of people—car drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians—have been injured in the last decade. The cyclists gathered today at the coaxing of activist group BikeLoudPDX.They wanted to send a message that the agency's doing a bad job, that—designated US highway or no—human safety should be prioritized above freight and auto movement on Powell.

Ted was incredulous. He'd taken off work just to come down and watch the protest, he said. He'd brought his GoPro camera, and was bearing witness with the TV stations and newspapers.

"I don't like 'em!" he said, of cyclists in general, and bike lanes, and his notions that the small children who'd come to the protest with their parents would one day grow to want to ride bikes on city streets. "Common sense says bicycles and vehicles do not mix. They never have mixed.

"City hall's going to hear about it." he said.

Continue reading »

Bike Share's Coming This Year! Just—You Know—Not the One You've Been Waiting For

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, May 13, 2015 at 10:29 AM

Which would YOU rather rent?
  • Images courtesy of Spinlister and Pronto Cycle Share
  • Which would YOU rather rent?

For years, Portlanders have bemoaned the city's inability to get bike share going. Now it looks like we may have two systems piling on top of each other within a year, and officials are wondering how it'll play out.

Back in March, the company Spinlister announced it's going to drop a brand new kind bike share offering on Portland this fall. The company's existing model has allowed people to rent their personal bikes to other users for years. Now, Spinlister's got another notion. Beginning in September, it's going to front specially designed "smart bikes" to willing users, who will rent out the bikes until they're paid off—then do whatever they want with them.

"We chose Portland because we have a very strong community in Portland," Spinlister CEO Marcelo Loureiro told the Mercury in April. "They are super engaged."

Continue reading »

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Cyclist Lost His Leg to A Driver's Inattention Yesterday. Activists Say SE Powell is to Blame

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, May 11, 2015 at 12:16 PM

SE 26th and Powell, seen looking southbound on 26th.
  • Google
  • SE 26th and Powell, seen looking southbound on 26th.

Street safety is often debated in this town, but it's relatively rare for an incident to shock Portland's consciousness like yesterday's mayhem in Southeast.

An avid cyclist and bike racer named Alistair Corkett—just 22—was biking south on SE 26th when an oncoming pickup driver didn't bother to yield as he turned left onto Powell. The vehicle plowed into Corkett, cutting off his leg in the process. He's expected to survive the injuries.

There's no word yet on charges against the driver, a 42-year-old named Barry Allen, but cops say he wasn't drunk or high when he failed to stop (he does, however, have a couple convictions for careless driving in his past, the most recent from 2013). Instead, criticisms from the active transportation community have turned to an old foe: SE Powell—a state-owned highway that's also a city street. And a magnet for injury and death.

Continue reading »

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Split Opinions on Motorcycle Lane-Splitting

Posted by Shelby R. King on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 12:14 PM

Motorcycles riding between lanes on a highway during heavy traffic
  • Oregon Department of Transportation
  • Motorcycles riding between lanes on a highway during heavy traffic

For six months last year, daily motorcycle commuter and downtown Portland resident Patrick Leyshock worked in Hillsboro. As a dedicated all-weather rider, Leyshock rode Highway 26 in morning and evening rush hour traffic five days a week, putting along in the exhaust haze of the cars around him, though there's plenty of room for a skilled rider to split the space between cars and keep moving. Leyshock was trapped on the open road because in Oregon, riding between two lanes—called "lane-splitting," also known as "lane-filtering"—is illegal.

Senate Bill 694 is looking to change that, and it's made it through the Senate with a sound 18-10 vote and two abstentions. The vote, says Leyshock, has broad bipartisan support partly because the proposed change has some pretty strict parameters. First, lane splitting would only be allowed on highways with posted speed limits of 50 mph or higher. Additionally, it would only be legal in situations where traffic is jammed to 10 mph or slower, and the rider would be limited to speeds under 20 mph while splitting the lanes.

It's also moved through, says Dave Peterson, the Portland Metro representative to the Governor's Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety, in part because Gov. Kate Brown has "made transportation a priority." He says former Gov. John Kitzhaber was historically reluctant to address motorcycle-related legislation.

Proponents of SB 694 cite data touting myriad advantages of allowing lane-splitting, including easing traffic congestion, reducing carbon emissions, and improving rider safety. Common opposition—of which there hasn't been a lot—sounds something like, "it would startle me when one rode by," or "why should they get to go but I (cars) have to wait?" There's also the sinister sounding, "what if someone opens their door?" (Which, OK, but who does that, really, and how often? Don't open your car door in traffic. Duh.)

"I can't think of a single good reason that it's necessary," says veteran rider Angie Jackson-Sprouse. "My entire family rides and ... well I guess my question is why? Patience? Convenience? What?"

Continue reading »


Monday, April 20, 2015

Rejoinder! The Debate Over Portland's Bike Reputation Continues, But Will It Ultimately Matter?

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 10:14 AM

Oh, you thought the debate about whether Portland deserves national laurels as a "platinum" bike city was done? That was foolish.

We've now got a rejoinder to the retort to the initial argument, which was that Portland's bike reputation is overblown, and that the city hasn't done nearly enough to welcome a mode of transportation that benefits everyone. The crew that's petitioning the League of American Bicyclists to downgrade Portland's rating spent the weekend looking over a memo from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, detailing ongoing efforts to improve the streets for bikes.

They're not particularly impressed:

"Nothing in the City’s 7-page defense of Portland’s Platinum status addresses the conflicts built into our roads, the discouraging response and lack of accounting for traffic crashes, nor our lack of meaningful progress towards the goals in the City’s Bicycle Master Plan," reads a note bike activist Will Vanlue appended to an online petition posted a week ago (634 signatures, currently). "Nothing addresses the fact that Portland falls short of the objective criteria for the Platinum ranking that’s clearly defined by the League of American Bicyclists."

Of course, this type back-and-forth could go on and on. And being downgraded by the League won't be particularly satisfying for anyone if it happens. What's most interesting about this debate is the conversation it's sparked (like here or here or here) and the notion that maybe people really are dissatisfied enough about where Portland's at to demand something better.

Vanlue and his co-petitioners are urging people to contact the Portland City Council about their concerns. And they're leveraging all this attention to float a list of low-cost options the city should try, Vanlue says.

But we've seen similar bouts of disaffection before, with little appreciable action, and taking 30 seconds to "sign" an online petition during your workday's idle web surfing is different than taking the morning off to testify before city council. So who knows?

If you feel strongly about this, though, Vanlue and others are right that perhaps the best thing you can do is become a consistent, respectful-but-urgent voice in our city leaders' ears. And bring all your friends.

Probably the worst thing you can do—no matter how satisfying:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Retort! PBOT Responds to Critics Who Say Portland's Not A "Platinum" Bike City

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 12:44 PM

The protected bike lane on SW Moody.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation says it's not asleep at the handlebars.

Following news Monday that a group of Portland cyclists want the League of American Bicyclists to downgrade Portland's "bike friendliness" rating from a stellar platinum, PBOT's fighting back.

Its response to the online petition (which has 550 signatures as of this writing)? A document of its own [pdf], detailing dozens of bike facilities created or improved since 2013, the last time the League dropped by to deliver a verdict, and 10 more that are on the way.

"Absolutely we're platinum and deserving of the rating," says PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera. "Even saying that, we think there’s more to be done and we’re committed to doing more."

PBOT's clearly taken the petition seriously—its retort runs seven pages. And it's a good reminder that there are improvements happening on the city's bikeways, even if they're not always trumpeted.

It's also true that many of those improvements aren't the sort of projects bike advocates have in mind when they talk about bold steps to increase cycling in Portland. As has been noted again and again, the city's once-amazing success at attracting new cyclists has been stalled for years. There's a notion that it'll take transformative new projects—protected bikeways in the vein of Amsterdam,for instance, as opposed to new sharrows on quiet neighborhood streets—to attract the next wave of bike riders.

PBOT's list of recent accomplishments is heavy on the latter, but it's also got meatier projects. The four-mile "50s bikeway" involved the removal of 200 on-street parking spaces, always a point of contention with such efforts. PBOT's installed "buffered bike lanes" on several stretches of road, which at least allow more space between cyclists and cars. And the bureau built a protected bike lane—often seen as the best option for bikes—on SW Multnomah...for less than half a mile.

PBOT also trumpets the 2-mile North Williams Traffic Safety Project, which probably won't help convince the petition's authors. Petitioner Will Vanlue holds the project up as an example of what the city has done poorly.

Everyone knows that PBOT's clamoring for more money, but the agency says there are decent funded projects on the horizon. The big three:

•A $6 million, federally funded project expected to create new protected bike lanes in downtown Portland.

•A reshaping of a 2-mile section of SE Foster that involves removing parking to create buffered bike lanes. "This project, though it could increase travel times alone the corridor by as much as 3 minutes during the afternoon rush hour and cause automotive diversion onto nearby streets, was vigorously supported by the business district as well as by local residents," PBOT writes.

•And most dubiously, the agency promises "Bike Share will launch in 2016." That's not a new promise, and not just because Leah Treat vehemently told the Mercury the same thing back in February. PBOT's promised bike share will launch in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The city's been unable to corral sponsorship money in that time, but still has $1.8 million to burn on the project.

PBOT also says Portland might not have plateaued as much as census commuting data suggests. Portland's been stalled at 6 percent of commuters traveling by bike for years, but PBOT says its volunteer counts each summer suggest bike use increasing by 3 percent per year the last three years.

Check out the intro to PBOT's retort after the jump. And read the whole thing here [pdf].

Continue reading »

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cyclists Want A National Organization to Downgrade Portland's Bike Friendliness

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 4:02 PM

Portland used to be America's self-styled "Bicycle Capital." Then city code enforcers killed the enormous downtown mural proclaiming as much.

We used to be a reliable pick for "Bike City USA," as ordained by the lycra-clad editors of Bicycling magazine. Then we plummeted, losing out to New York. And Chicago. And Minneapolis.

Now, there's a new threat to Portland's cycling smugness, and it's not coming from bureaucrats or East Coast editors. It's coming from inside the house.

Moved by what he says is a lack of inspired projects and continually unsafe streets, Portland cycling advocate Will Vanlue is asking the League of American Bicyclists to rescind a coveted "platinum" rating it bestowed on the Rose City in 2008.

The designation may be the most substantial validation Portland's ever received—signaling the city's gone above and beyond its peers in terms of bicycle inclusion. To date, we're the only major city to have secured a platinum rating.

Continue reading »

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Wilsonville Republican Has Realized Mandatory Safety Vests Are a Bad Idea

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 2:48 PM

  • Wikimedia

Don't buy those incandescent trousers just yet.

Facing pressure from cycling advocates and riders around the state, a Wilsonville Republican has announced he's backing off legislation that would have made it illegal to ride at night without special clothing "including but not limited to a reflective coat or reflective vest." Under House Bill 3255, getting popped for riding your bike in everyday clothes could have earned you a fine of $110 (and up to $250).

Rep. John Davis' decision to scrap the idea was first noted this afternoon by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, which had urged its thousands of members to speak out against the bill.

Instead of requiring reflective clothing, Davis' office now says he'd like to require a rear red light on bikes, visible from 600 feet (a red reflector is currently mandatory under state law). Here's a copy [pdf] of his amended suggestions.

"The bill will not be moving forward in its original form, and will have nothing to do with reflective clothing," says a statement Davis' legislative director sent the Mercury. "The bill will be amended to fully delete its original language, and only require a red light to be visible from the rear of the bicycle at night."

The reflective clothing requirement had to do with bike policy, so sparked the usual online flame wars. But in a city like Portland—trying, with little success, to get 25 percent of people riding bikes 15 years from now—Davis' idea would have been a huge step backwards.

As the BTA noted in a posting just yesterday: "Requiring reflective clothing for people on bikes after dark would create yet another barrier to getting people on bikes, discourage bicycling, and could decrease road safety. Studies have shown that when more people ride bicycles, safety conditions have improved for all road users."

Davis wasn't available to talk about his change of heart this afternoon. But BTA Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky says he thinks it's in part due backlash over the bill's punitive effects. (Punitive effects, by the way, for an activity that studies indicate can pay dividends to even Portlanders who don't bike.)

Davis' bill is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday in its new form.

RIP, bad idea.

Monday, March 16, 2015

That Traffic Light Is Probably Not Ignoring You: A Public Service Announcement

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 at 4:32 PM


See that subtle circle on the pavement there? Its technical name is "inductive loop detector," and it senses whether cars or bikes or motorcycles are waiting for a traffic light to turn green.

These things have been the subject of much keening lately, after the Oregonian reported last week on a "bill allowing bicycles, motorcycles to run red lights" (a headline that invited a higher-than-typical amount of invective on the O's already invective-drenched comment boards).

The post is about Senate Bill 553, which would allow cyclists and motorcyclists to proceed, cautiously, through a red light after they've watched and waited for "one full cycle" without being acknowledged by a sensor like the one above. The bill's got legs, the O's Joe Rose reports, with support on both sides of aisle. It's got precedent, too—more than a dozen states have similar laws.

This issue is the reddest and bloodiest of meats for Portland, where bike riders and car drivers are engaged in an eternal brinksmanship, forever topping the others' accusations of lawlessness and abuse of our otherwise civil roadways.

It's also almost completely not applicable here. A Portland traffic light won't leave you hanging. If, that is, you know what you're doing.

Continue reading »


Friday, February 13, 2015

Bike Share's Delayed Again, But PBOT's Director Guarantees a 2016 Launch

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 5:52 PM

PBOT Director Leah Treat
  • PBOT Director Leah Treat

You saw this coming, but now it's official: Portland's not getting a bike share system this year.


Those tidings come straight from Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat, who sat down with the Mercury earlier this afternoon. After two years of delay—Portlanders were initially told they'd be zooming around on public bikes by spring 2013—Treat says we've got a third coming to us.

But she also made a forceful promise, even pounding her hand on the table with each syllable as she did so.

"We will launch in 2016," Treat said. She stopped the table-pounding to add "I don't know what it's going to look like, but we will launch."

How? we asked. She wouldn't say. Has there been some new promise of funding? Treat was silent, except to note that Portland is still sitting on around $1.8 million left over from a 2012 Metro grant. "Even if that’s all we launch with, we’re launching. We have made a commitment and those funds are available for bike share."

Treat's got some experience in such things. She was a deputy director at Chicago's Department of Transportation when the city was getting its Divvy Bike system off the ground. But Divvy's business model isn't the same as what Portland's been attempting: finding lucrative corporate sponsorships that, along with user fees, could sustain a 750-bike system here.

Treat's promise could mean Portland is content to launch a far-smaller system with what funds we have. Or she might pursue a plan where additional public funds subsidize our system. (She didn't indicate or hint that to me. It's merely a possibility, but we've noted before Treat's shown signs she's sympathetic to that model.) Or maybe there's a bunch more federal money up for grabs. It's all unclear, except for the fist pounding and the guaranteeing.

Portland initially promised citizens a bike share launch in 2013, but has had to repeatedly push things back because no one wants to sponsor our system, and the people we planned to buy equipment from went bankrupt. There's been no sign of life in the program for a while now, but change continues. Former Portland outfit Alta Bicycle Share recently moved to New York City after being acquired by real estate honchos out there. It is now known as Motivate, but still has a contract with Portland to bring the city bike share.

Treat wouldn't say whether Motivate will be involved in whatever plans she has for next year. We've already paid the company tens of thousands of dollars, including a cool $40,000 for a report that was only supposed to be turned in once Motivate (then Alta) had "secured" us millions in sponsorships.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Can a New Name "Motivate" Bike Share in Portland? (Probably Not)

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 8:17 AM

  • puget sound bike share

Last year, Portland said goodbye to the popular, troubled Alta Bicycle Share, after the company was sold to a New York City outfit. Now, Alta's gone altogether—at least nominally. The company's new owners are swapping out the old name, which may have associations with the software bugs and accusations of poor management that have troubled some markets Alta operated in.

So now Alta has a less-obscure, less-Portland (Alta Bicycle Share was affiliated with the still-local company Alta Planning and Design) and cheesier moniker: Motivate. That decision came out in news reports last night, and was confirmed in a news release early this morning.

"Alta Bicycle Share is now Motivate, the global bike share leader bringing unparalleled experience in building and operating large, complex bike share systems," the release says.

Portland may have lost the company, but we're still counting on Motivate to forge a path for bike share in the Rose City. The city inked a contract with Alta Bicycle Share two years ago, but the company has been unable to secure the sponsorship money to purchase and operate bike share here. That's very much a local problem. Alta faced essentially the same scenario in Seattle, before city officials found millions in sponsorship money with a simple phone call. Now Seattleites have the Pronto bike share system.

If similar phone calls are being made in Portland, they haven't led to the same progress. (And lately, transportation officials are giving all their attentions to finding millions for Portland's roads.) Early rumors that health care giant Kaiser Permanente would sponsor "Kaiser Bikes" here don't look promising.

Portland officials, after repeatedly pushing back the launch of a bike share system, have said they'd like to get something running this year. You can check out the entire release from Motivate after the jump. It makes mention of a lot of cities its working in. Not Portland, though.

Continue reading »

Friday, October 24, 2014

Report: Alta Bicycle Share is No Longer a Portland Company

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 5:28 PM


For months now, there's been speculation Portland's Alta Bicycle Share—the company to which we've pinned our oft-dashed bike share hopes—would be moving on. Reports sprang up this summer about the company's impending acquisition by a New York real estate firm, and local officials acknowledged they'd been briefed by Alta about the change.

Now it's apparently happened, according to the website Capital New York.

A real estate company has closed on a deal to buy Alta Bicycle Share, according to two knowledgeable sources.

REQX Ventures, a company run by people affiliated with Related Companies—developer of the Time Warner Center and Hudson Yards—and its subsidiary Equinox, will own all of Alta Bicycle Share, according to one of those sources.

It will, according to that source, increase the size of the CitiBike fleet from 6,000 to 12,000.

Neither REQX, Alta, nor Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, which was a party to the negotiations, would comment.

This might not be a surprise, but it's still relatively unclear what it means for Portland, which has been hoping in vain for a bike share system to materialize since last year (promised roll outs have been delayed twice, and there's no sign the city's got the sponsorship money needed to purchase and run a system).

Internal Portland Bureau of Transportation documents obtained by the Mercury show Mia Birk, Portland's former bike coordinator and vice president of Alta Bicycle Share, presented details about the acquisition by REQX in early August. Birk's presentation apparently touted millions in "upfront new investment" to the company once REQX held the reins, but it appears that's largely focused on New York's CitiBike system. Birk's presentation also mentioned the "building of a sales and marketing team to drive additional corporate sponsorships," which could be great, if it means someone can find Portland sponsors.

Other highlights called out, in a powerpoint presentation titled "Bike Share 2.0," and heavily redacted by PBOT for our consumption:

•A "board of directors with experience in turnaround and growth companies."

•An "augmented leadership team with deep operational, marketing, finance and technology experience."

•The promise that "REQX Ventures will commit to deliver to new cities and existing clients the next generation bicycle share system."

Seattle, which started the hunt for bike share around the same time we did and also tapped Alta, got an operational system earlier this month.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Old Town's Got A Protected Bike Lane!... Through Sunday

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 11:29 AM

If you're at all interested in the discussion around more-livable streets—or just like riding and walking in urban areas where cars aren't given complete priority—check the stretch of NW/SW 3rd from Davis to Ash this weekend. Since very early this morning, volunteers have been lining the block with small "planters," traffic cones, and fresh markings, in an attempt to find out what a more-accessible Old Town looks like.

What is typically a miniature three-lane highway cutting south through downtown Portland is open to just a single lane of car traffic through Sunday. Those other lanes are being used for an ultra-wide semi-protected bike lane and a pedestrian plaza.

How's it look? At 8:40 this morning, sort of like a construction zone, complete with backed-up car and truck traffic.

That's going to change a bit. Better Block PDX, the group spearheading the project, is planning ping pong tables and balloon animals later today. Local businesses are going to offer seating (and there are hay bales scattered in the former traffic lanes for you to lounge on until that happens).

Even with all that, though, this project is going to look a little rough around the edges. That's sort of its beauty.

What Better Block is doing, with the help of thousands in donated money ($3,000 from Metro alone) and Old Town business owners, is experimenting in new ways for improving some of the city's more unwelcoming stretches. Rather than traversing the typical route toward permanent changes—endless planning meetings, the hardscrabble search for funding—Better Block got permits, marshaled its volunteer base to build dozens and dozens of "planters" in a very short time, and got to work showing Portland what a more-livable 3rd Avenue can look like for the weekend.

The idea is that a short-term project gives us a notion—and video evidence—of what works, what doesn't, and how the public responds to a more-welcoming Old Town. That's something not only transportation activists care about. Old Town business owners and community members tell the Mercury they're curious what putting 2nd, 3rd and 4th avenues on similar "diets" could do for making the long-downtrodden neighborhood more attractive. (It's a good bet people prefer the temporary, makeshift crosswalk at Ankeny Alley to Froggering their way across three pitiless lanes in pursuit of a donut phallus at Voodoo.)

Check this project out. Maybe this afternoon, before the bar-going masses decide it'd be funny to "break that wooden shit in the street."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

It's Happening Tonight!

Posted by Bobby Roberts on Sat, Sep 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM

BIKES—A yearly showcase of the city's best handmade bikes has now morphed into a showcase of the city's best handmade bikes, plus bike-themed local beer, and local bands. We hemmed and hawed—has the Handmade Bike and Beer Festival delved too deeply into Portland's self-congratulatory obsessions?—before deciding that it sounds awesome. DIRK VANDERHART
Hopworks Urban Brewery, 2944 SE Powell, Sat 10 am-9 pm, Sun noon-5 pm, $10 entry, beer tickets available


MUSIC—It's the mightiest music fest of the year, Project Pabst! And it comes with a home run of a lineup for the first day of the outdoor festivities: Tears for Fears, Red Fang, Violent Femmes, Phosphorescent (PAUSE TO GASP FOR BREATH), Rocket from the Crypt, Guantanamo Baywatch, and more. Dear god, how much entertainment can one person take? Oh, how about Modest Mouse and GZA tomorrow?! WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Zidell Yards, 3030 SW Moody, Sat & Sun, 1-9 pm, $35 a day ($60 weekend pass), see pullout guide this issue for complete schedule


Sunday, September 7, 2014

It's Happening Tonight!

Posted by Bobby Roberts on Sun, Sep 7, 2014 at 3:00 PM

BIKES/PETS—This town has scads of organized charity rides, but only the Tour de Lab, put on yearly by Lucky Labrador Brewing, is bringing the "pets" heat that earns a vaunted Busy Week nod. Pick a challenging 41-mile course or a timid 18-miler, drink free beer, eat hotdogs, and support nonprofit animal hospital DoveLewis at the same time. DIRK VANDERHART
Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, 915 SE Hawthorne, visit for more information

MUSIC—Don't get it twisted. Wyclef may have dropped the phrasing "refugee all stars" on that one Bee Gees ripoff, but it's Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars that have stayed alive. The band, formed in a refugee camp near their war-torn home country, has been in the game a decade, delivering an uplifting narrative of perseverance and all sorts of danceable goodness. DIRK VANDERHART
Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi, 8 pm, $18-22

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Burn! Bicycling Kicks Portland Down to Its Fourth-Best Bike City

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 4:02 PM

I have no idea why I subscribe to Bicycling magazine. It's obsessed with a road-cycling culture I could not be less interested in, it's endlessly repetitive, and it's stodgy. But I hesitate every time I consider canceling, and I flip through every single issue.

They sent a new one today, and it's got some unwelcome news. After years of being in the top one or two, Portland's no longer even in the top three American bike cities, according to the magazine. We're number four.

"The lack of a large bike-share system and protected bike lanes put Portland off the pace of the most innovative cycling cities and drop it to its lowest ranking in our survey since 2010," the magazine writes.

Who's beating us? New York, Chicago, and, maybe worst of all, long-time bike-city rival Minneapolis.

This comes at a bad time. It's not that Bicycling is some sort of final arbiter on bike worth—they're trying to sell magazines, and it's boring if Portland is at the top of the pack every year. Still, the magazine's rankings have undeniably been a source of pride. And its critiques on protected bike lanes and bike share are at the forefront of why even the city's biggest bike boosters are questioning whether the Rose City has lost its vaunted bike mojo.

Here, I wrote a long story about that doubt earlier this year. Read it!

While we've stalled out, New York, Chicago, and Minneapolis all have bike share systems (ours is supposedly coming) and the political will for innovative bike infrastructure Portland seems to have completely misplaced. Actually, by Bicycling's apparent metrics, Washington, DC, is another good candidate to beat out Portland (it's number 5). Rahm Emanuel has actually gloated about making Chicago one of the country's top bike cities. It ranked a lowly fifth in 2012—the last time Bicycling did this—and now Rahm's got room to gloat. That's the worst part, really.

Pretty sure Bicycling hasn't posted this to its site yet.

Here's the top 10.

1. New York
2. Chicago
3. Minneapolis
4. Portland
5. Washington, DC
6. Boulder
7. San Francisco
8. Seattle
9. Fort Collins
10. Cambridge

Monday, August 4, 2014

No Joy in Mudville—Seattle Has Won the Oregon Manifest

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Aug 4, 2014 at 10:29 AM

In what might be considered a worst-case scenario, gloating and haughty Seattle has won that bike design competition we mentioned last week. Worse than that, Seattle deserved to win. The bike produced by design firm Teague and Sizemore Bicycle looks sort of funny, but it also sported by far the most inventive feature in this year's competition: handlebars that double as a beefy lock.

The victorious bike is called the "Denny"—presumably after the Seattle street—and though I remain skeptical that brushes can replace fenders, and though I very much dislike the prospect of automatic shifting, this was the correct outcome. It means that inventive handlebar system will actually see the market, since bike manufacturer Fuji has agreed to release a limited run of whichever bike won. Here's the video:

SEA: TEAGUE X SIZEMORE BICYCLE'S DENNY from oregon manifest on Vimeo.

How did Portland's entry do? The people who run Oregon Manifest aren't saying. I asked for a total vote tally, and competition creator Shannon Holt politely declined to send one.

"Across the board, people responded to bike features - on every bike they were looking at and evaluating the features and functionality of each bike," Holt said in an email. "Denny had some standout features. Viewers really loved the handlebar lock, the unusual fender system and the overall look of the bike."

I voted for Portland, as I said, out of civic pride.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Did Portland Just Produce the Ultimate Urban Bicycle, or Get Schooled By Four More-Urban Cities?

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM

As we mentioned on Friday, the Portland-based squad that's been laboring for months to conceive the ultimate city bike unveiled their hard work. Check it out:


(Here are better pictures from Jonathan over at BikePortland, since he has a fancy camera and an actual interest in photography.)

Christened the "Solid", this fleet titanium beauty is Portland's entry in the 2014 Oregon Manifest, a competition among five cities to see who can produce the most groundbreaking urban bicycle. The Solid is an impressive concoction, made up of custom titanium pieces created by a 3D printer in The Dalles. It's got a toggle switch that electronically shifts its 11-gear hub, all-internal cables, and plenty of flash. There's a great-looking app that connects to the bike, allowing you to control its lights and set routes through the city. And when you're routing somewhere, the custom-made (and predictably not cushiony) titanium grips will vibrate: right grip when it's time to turn right, left grip for left.

Fancy. And prohibitively expensive. There's no real way to price the Solid, since it's one of a kind and sort of experimental, but the figure I heard bandied about by Dave Levy, founder of Ti Cycles and the man who built the bike, was roughly $25,000. The pedals alone cost more than your bike (assuming your bike cost less than $500, which is somehow what the pedals go for).

If this bike wins the most online votes (vote now), it'll be put into limited production by Fuji. Expect biggish changes to the concept if that happens. Fuji's not going to 3D print titanium.

I went through three distinct stages in looking over the Solid and the entries from the other cities in this year's competition: Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Chicago.

First, I was skeptical. The Solid felt more like an art piece than ultimate urban ride. I do just fine, with my modest steel Bianchi, navigating this city. How was the Solid going to enhance that experience, beyond the fleeting cachet of riding the most technologically insane bike in town?

Robb Hunter lead the team at local design firm Industry, which partnered with Levy and Ti Cycles to conceive the bike. He heard me grousing about practicality and explained that their prototype is "essentially maintenance free." There's a sturdy belt drive in the place of a greasy chain, and a sealed hub instead of fickle derailleurs. A generator in the front wheel means you don't have to worry about batteries running low. Titanium won't corrode in the rain.

"We threw everything at it," Hunter said. (See: $25,000). We talked about the bike's relative lack of storage capacity (there's a rear rack, that's it). "We wear backpacks here," Hunter told me. "Nothing's that far in Portland."

It's clear the team put a ton of thought into the bike, and it's a beautiful piece of work (if you can get over your blasted purism and embrace the atypical frame). The truth is, though, most bikes don't need very much maintenance as is. I'm not sure how far that argument goes without other helpful features.

Next stage: Pride. My reservations aside, I looked at large banners that showed the entries from other cities and figured, 'Portland's got this.' Seattle's prototype looks like a goddam exercise bike. Chicago's looks bizarre. Portland's bike is a titanium badass by comparison. Surely we'd do well in the voting, I assumed.

Then the videos for each team's entry dropped yesterday, and the third stage arrived: Deep doubts about the second stage's brash confidence. I was dismissive of Seattle's bike too soon, and New York and San Francisco's entries are inventive, attractive and more versatile than Portland's. Chicago's maybe my least favorite, but their marketing is great.

Civic pride still has me leaning toward a Portland vote, but there's a lot to like in each bike. All five videos are posted after the jump.

Continue reading »

Friday, July 25, 2014

Come Check Out Portland's Answer to the Ultimate Urban Bike Tonight

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 12:45 PM

As we mentioned in March, Oregon Manifest has returned after a years-long hiatus. Back in 2011, the competition produced more than 30 entrants, all with their own takes on the most bad-ass urban utility bike imaginable—a bike with the blingy bells and convenient whistles that could inspire fence-sitting car commuters to tumble off that stubborn palisade for keeps.

This year, the competition is vastly smaller, with just five teams invited to compete. It's also baiting/cudgeling us with civic pride, since those five teams come from five thriving American cities—Portland, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. (Note: I am unceasingly susceptible to said cudgeling.) If this year's competition produces less innovation by sheer numeric reality, it's also going to give you a better shot at owning whatever these teams come up with. Fuji bikes has agreed to build, in limited numbers, whichever model wins an online popularity contest.

So what are we looking at? The bikes will be formally unsheathed tonight, with each team holding an event in its hometown. Head down to the Pacific Northwest College of Art between 6 and 9 this evening to check out Portland's entry.

Everyone's being tight-lipped on specifics until the big reveal, but the teams are also giving stingy sneak peaks on Instagram.

Portland's entry is being constructed by local builder Ti Cycles, and so will be made of light, durable, expensive titanium. Titanium doesn't need paint to guard it from rust, so Portland's bike will be the brushed metal pallor of the raw material. It's also going to be an atypical frame, looks like—what the team is describing as "3D printed" on its social media posts. Some shots.

Useless previews from the other cities after the jump.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Washington Post Columnist Calls Bicyclists "Bullies," Makes Joke About Hitting Them with Cars

Posted by Paul Constant on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Take heed, automobile enthusiasts! Car drivers in other parts of the country are being crushed beneath the bootheels of bicyclists in a terrifying War on Cars, too. In a piece headlined "Bicyclist bullies try to rule the road in D.C.," Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy delineated the lengths to which those bicycle bullies will go to oppress the noble few who choose automobile transportation:

They fight to have bike lanes routed throughout the city, some in front of churches where elderly parishioners used to park their cars. They slow-pedal those three-wheel rickshaws through downtown during rush hour, laughing at motorists who want them to get out of the way.

Not the elderly! Dear God, is there any way for vulnerable car owners to strike back against these two-wheeled overlords?

It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.

Yes! Wait, no. Don't do that! that supposed to be satire?

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