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Cars, bikes should coexist

by: David Plechl, Bicycle commuter Lee Shaver zips past backed-up car traffic on his way home from work. Readers had a lot to say about recent stories detailing more plans for bike programs.

Two Portland Tribune stories on cycling and funding for bike-friendly programs (Why we bike - or don't, July 6, and Wanted: More butts on bikes, July 20) have fostered an ongoing debate on our Web sites, www.portlandtribune.com and www.localnewsdaily.com. Here are excerpts from the discussions.

I've been commuting by bicycle for the last 20 years in Portland. I also drive a vehicle around town when cycling is not practical. When money was directed to bike lanes in the '90s, it made quite a difference in how safe it felt to commute.

The signage and bike route maps recently available also are helpful for planning quick and safe routes.

We need to acknowledge that people choose to live in certain neighborhoods (and in Portland) because those locations are conducive to cycling for errands, commuting, etc.

Areas with the most bike boulevards don't just happen to have the higher ridership - it's all very purposeful.

I think it's a mistake to believe spending money on bike lanes doesn't benefit drivers. The more designated bike lanes there are, the less often drivers will have to share space with bicyclists.

Cars aren't going to go away anytime soon, and neither are bikes. The city is going to just keep getting more crowded. Let's try to make the best of it and share the space safely.

Deborah Allison

Northeast Portland

Bike infrastructure shouldn't cost drivers

I try to ride my bike seven or eight months out of the year. It's good for me, but I don't really save any money (too long of a commute in the morning, so I take the MAX part of the way).

The problem is those other four or five months … I think they call it winter. Cold, wet, windy and dark conditions prevail - dangerous for everybody on the street.

I don't think there's a good year-round transportation solution.

I'd like to see more bike infrastructure, but not at the expense of the auto. The idea of deriving revenue from the biking community has merit, but somehow I doubt the biking community will see it that way.

Jim Ourada

Aloha

Adding paths will inspire more riders

As a new addition to the bicycle commuting population (I got a bike in March), I say hurray for spending on pedestrian and biking infrastructure!

My wife and I put off getting bikes for years, largely due to our fear of being hit by cars. Now, we've embraced bikes, as they are fun, provide exercise and are quick tools for getting to work.

I mostly commute on side streets in Southeast Portland to avoid cars. We go on main streets only if they have bike lanes - and even then we're nervous about being hit. Ideally, Portland would have bicycle-dedicated paths all over the city.

We have friends who live south of Milwaukie who say they'd bike, but they're terrified of getting killed on streets that are dangerous for bikes, like Southeast Oatfield Road, McLoughlin Boulevard and River Road.

More bike paths will bring more bike riders.

Mark Kuestner

Southeast Portland

Let's set some rules and license riders

I've been waiting for someone from the city's bicycling clubs and organizations to say it; now I'm going to say it:

Licensing of bicycles as vehicles of transportation is needed in Portland.

Bicycle licensing is the rule in most countries where the bicycle is a normal means of public transportation. If bicyclists here wish to be accepted as responsible users of the streets and roads, they should pay their portion of road and traffic enforcement costs, just like motorists.

License fees should cover bicycle lane and signage costs, bicycle theft and recovery costs, and the additional police needed to equally enforce good driving and bicycle riding.

And we need some rules:

• Keeping on the right side of the road and not riding against traffic.

• No riding on sidewalks except for children.

• No riding at night without approved head and taillights.

• No riding without a signaling device, horn or bell.

• No passing a motor vehicle on the right unless in a marked bicycle lane.

My family has a tandem bike for vacation and recreation cycling. We rode from Italy to Paris and London, then back to Luxembourg in 1973.

I rode solo back in 1965 up the Oregon Coast on my one-speed bicycle. But the behavior of some cyclists - riding against traffic with no lights or darting in and out of traffic lanes - truly frightens me. Licensing should be tied to stricter traffic rule enforcement for both cyclists and motorists.

Alfred M. Staehli

Southeast Portland

Adding density also increases traffic

When we add density, we increase traffic on our roads. If one out of three new residents rides a bike, we are not reducing traffic on our roads, as long as the other two new residents drive a car.

Bike riders may feel they are reducing traffic on our roads, but we are adding density faster than new bike riders.

Density equals more traffic for drivers and cyclists.

Craig Flynn

Northeast Portland

Bike lanes are better use of road space

In 'Wanted: More butts on bikes,' Craig Flynn is quoted as saying he wants more space for cars. Fair enough.

However, a lane of auto traffic has a capacity of about 2,000 cars per hour - a number that is independent of traffic speed. As speeds increase, spacing between cars also must increase, which cancels the capacity increase from the speed. Because most cars carry only one person, that translates to more than 2,000 people per hour, per lane.

A standard 12-foot lane given over to bicycles can carry three to five times the number of people per hour. So the mathematics are clear: Bicycles move several times more people per unit of road space than cars.

Since those who are biking are not driving, that frees up a disproportionate amount of space for drivers, including Flynn.

Thus, building bike infrastructure and getting people to use it creates more space for cars - eliminating bike infrastructure creates less.

Then there are the external costs imposed by cars on society. Wide, high-traffic roads become auto sewers and attract car-only development, like the strip malls on Southeast 82nd Avenue. Pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly roads become more like Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard or Northwest 23rd Avenue.

It's pretty obvious which of the two alternatives most people prefer.

Finally, there's the toxic pollution emitted by cars - up to a mile from major roads, as shown by studies at Portland State University.

If, as Flynn suggests, we should ding bicyclists to pay for the cost of bike infrastructure, then we also should find a way for motorists to pay environmental cleanup costs and added medical expenses caused by the pollution.

Brent Bolton

Southeast Portland