Paul Andrews

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Seattle can provide a bike model for Portland

In Bicycle advocacy on February 24, 2010 at 12:41 pm

The controversy over a mile-long rogue mountain biking trail in Portland’s Forest Park represents a great opportunity for bike advocates to make a point: For all its reputation as a cycling mecca, Portland falls short in the fat tire arena.

Forest Park is admittedly a terrible place to build a bootleg trail. It’s widely used, it’s urban, it’s sensitive ecologically.

But the crudely constructed trail shows the desperation grommets feel who want rad places to ride. At a certain point it can only be expected that they’ll take matters into their own hands.

Instead of a lot of sturm und drang, name-calling and righteous indignation, the situation would be better served with understanding, dialogue and a plan.

That’s what’s happened in Portland’s sister city to the north. Under the leadership of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, urban mountain biking parks around Seattle are popping up all over, even under the I-5 freeway. As a result, rogue trail building — although it’s still happening — is far less pronounced and invasive.

One case in point: Lower Woodland Park. Time was when new trails were being sliced in everywhere, especially the steeps, where erosion quickly became a problem. Then the Parks Department put in a jump park down below, and a skate bowl (shared with bmxers). The bike trails that made sense and were well-built stayed. Others were blocked off with snow fencing.

Result: A city-wide magnet that keeps stunt riders occupied and happy, with no need to go rogue. Lower Woodland is even featured on YouTube videos and in the new film, “Women of Dirt,” where international mountain bike star and Seattle native Jill Kintner mixes it up.

Seattle’s example helped jump-start an urban ride park movement throughout the region. Almost overnight, Duthie Hill north of Issaquah has become a miniature Whistler mountain bike park. Not to be outdone, the trail hobbits around Black Diamond are doing amazing stuff on Summit Ridge and other areas near Lake Sawyer. A magnificent new cross-country trail has gone in on Grand Ridge, the result of savvy political spadework done by Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club (before it was renamed to Evergreen) when King County approved the Grand Ridge area for development more than a decade ago.

Other urban areas are following the same advise-and-consent path toward dealing with bootleg trailbuilding. Aptos and Santa Cruz, California, have become international icons for mountain biking’s elite with their expanding network of jump parks, freeride trails and even a new planned pump track. To the east of Portland, Bend OR has a thriving mtb scene. San Francisco is looking to build a new network at McLaren Park. There’s still mostly gray stuff (our preferred term for trails that fall in between authorized and unauthorized) in Marin County, but an incipient mtb culture fostered through high school leagues promises to change that in the future.

In British Columbia, there’s virtually no such thing as “unauthorized” or “rogue” trails. Whatever gets built gets used. If it’s in the way or gets taken out, another one pops up soon enough. B.C. admittedly has a lot more space, and tolerance, than the states.

Ultimately, a showcase cycling city like Portland faces the choice of fighting the urban freeride movement through finger-pointing, negative publicity and legislation, or supporting it with a forward-looking, collaborative vision for the future. The Forest Park flap is off on the wrong foot. But hopefully sensible heads will prevail, and this scandal will be used as a podium for invoking positive change.

News Cycle: Women of Dirt premiere, Pedaling consternation, Rider Ryder & more

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, News Cycle, Obama Bikes, Videos on February 5, 2010 at 12:53 am

Reminder: World premiere of “Women of Dirt” tonight in Seattle! The DVD is out btw and can be ordered online.

Washington’s “Vulnerable User” legislation is already further along than a similar bill made it last year.

Jonathan Maus at raises the question of why a local newspaper seems deliberately provocative (one might say antagonistic) on the issue of the city’s 2030 Bicycle Plan:

“Instead of helping to foster civil public discourse about a very important plan for our city’s future, I’m afraid this story will only serve to intensify the “bicyclist” versus “motorist” sensationalism that The Oregonian has admitted to “overplaying” in the past.”

As newspapers (the ones that survive) continue to focus on their natural constituency, that being local communities, our hope is that they’ll show more sensitivity and receptiveness to the bicycling community in the transportation matrix. The perplexing irony in this case is that The Oregonian has on staff one of the nation’s experts on just this subject — Jeff Mapes, author of “Pedaling Revolution.” Maybe he could persuade an editor or two at his newspaper to read his book?!

For your good deed of the day — heck, the whole weekend — take the Bicycle Leadership Conference survey.

We like Ryder Hesjedal for two reasons: First, his mountain bike heritage. Second, his first name. Keep an eye on him in the 2010 season.

Have a great weekend! Hopefully the weather will let you Get out ‘n RIDE!

News Cycle: Two strikes against bike hatred, new Seattle DOT director, Portland’s commuter drop, Life Cycles DVD, ski-bike & more

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, News Cycle, Obama Bikes, Videos on January 9, 2010 at 2:37 am

The Facebook protest against bike-hate continues to grow. Now there’s a “Help REMOVE this HATE GROUP against cyclists!” tribe. All instructions included. The outrage targets a Facebook page showing violence against cyclists as an appropriate traffic-management technique.

Speaking of hate: That deranged L.A. physician who doorstopped a group of cyclists with his car last summer has received a five-year sentence. As BikingBis notes, the judge characterized the case as a “wake-up call” to motorists and cyclists. The judge urged more bike lanes, but that (as the Facebook hate page shows) hardly guarantees progress toward equal rights for cycling. Still, there’s something going on with officialdom recognizing the need for more shall we say “infrastructure.” Full historiography of the case at LA Streetsblog.

The full and authorized version of the 2009 Portland bike count has been released, confirming an unexpected drop in ridership. No surprises in the speculative reasons why: Lower gas prices got cyclists back into their cars, and a “saturation” of Portland’s cycling infrastructure. The argument being that Portland has maxed out the number of folks who will ride bikes without more “infrastructure,” e.g., bike lanes, paths and services., as usual, has the full discussion.

“Life Cycles” is the name of a forthcoming mountain biking freeride DVD that promises to be something different. One line from producer I liked: “We decided to spend a lot of time instead of a lot of money.” Freeride DVDs have gotten awfully formulaic. How many more gap jumps and back flips can we take, anyway. We’ll see if these guys can truly break the mold.

BikeHacks ran across a bike-n-ski setup that’s a real hoot.

The fact that new Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s pick for the city’s new transportation director, Peter Hahn, doesn’t have an obvious City Hall connection, hold a dogmatic agenda or met any obvious litmus test bothers some folks. To me it’s a plus. A big plus.

Nominations for the 10th annual Bloggies close on Tuesday. Who gets my 3-slot?, and FatCyclist. BikePortland because Jonathan is relentlessly dedicated and productive, Cyclelicious because Yokota manages to find the interesting stuff and put it in a unique light, and FatCyclist because he endured the ultimate tragedy and then went out and raised a ton of money for a great cause. Best of luck to all, and dial in your votes now!

Daily Roundup: Shot on a mountain bike! BikePortland support, BikeJuju photo winners, Cyclists are sexier & more

In Bicycle advocacy, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes, This Day In Doping on December 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Please consider taking the BikePortland pledge. Jonathan & crew run a great blog, must reading here at Bike Intelligencer.

And while you’re at it, the Ghost Bikes Film Project is a worthwhile cause as well.

BikeJuju photo contest winners. Amazing, amazing shots.

BikePure: Trying to reboot a soiled sport.

SeattleLikesBikes: Making cyclists 2nd class citizens.

EcoVelo: A cafe in Oakland that thinks bike riders are sexier.

If you’ve ridden a mountain bike, chances are you’ve been shot…with a camera or camcorder. Not shot this way, and hopefully never this way.

Mercury News: A kid named Blake Sessions is doing custom chainrings for fixies. That’s right, his name is Sessions … really. Gotta get him on a mountain bike!

Once again, they’re talking about a mountain bike park at Stevens Pass in the coming year. Let’s hope it’s for real in 2010!

Followup: No 2008 comparables for Seattle bike commuter headcount

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on December 22, 2009 at 9:18 am

Following up on our recent post regarding Seattle bike commuter headcounts from last September, here’s what the Seattle Department of Transportation tells us.

We had wondered whether Seattle, which experienced a 15 percent gain in downtown ridership from 2007 to 2009, had collected 2008 numbers as well. The reason: Portland, which trended upward from 2007 to 2009, actually had a drop in rider count from 2008 to 2009, according to a preliminary report analyzed by

Seattle took a bike count in 2008, SDOT told us, but it did not include the same locations as the 2007 and 2009 counts. In 2008 the city inaugurated a city-wide survey. The 2007 and 2009 counts were for downtown ridership.

The city-wide and downtown counts are done on a rotating biennial basis. Next year (2010) will be another city-wide count, while the next commuter count won’t be till 2011.

So it’s an apples and oranges thing. But for the curious, we’re posting the 2008 city-wide bike count.

The reasons for Portland’s somewhat astonishing drop have not yet been officially published and may involve guesswork in any case. But Virginia Coffman, manager of SDOT’s bike and pedestrian program, noted that Portland’s unemployment rate is higher than Seattle’s (Bureau of Labor stats put Seattle at 9 and Portland at 10.7 percent as of October). And infrastructural saturation, a factor raised by BikePortland, may be playing a role as well, Coffman said.

We’ll look forward to publication of Portland’s official report after the first of the year.

Is Seattle Catching Portland as America’s “City to Bike”?

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting on December 20, 2009 at 4:13 am

Bike commuting is up in Seattle but curiously down in Portland. A September count showed a 15 percent increase in downtown Seattle bike traffic in 2009 compared with 2007. An unofficial report in Portland showed a decline of 6 percent in 2009 versus 2008.

But there’s more. Helmet use was up in Seattle, down in Portland. Women cyclists increased in Seattle and declined in Portland.

So what’s going on in America’s Bicycle City? Has Portland peaked or is there some flaw in the statistical counting or interpretation process?

First, the Portland numbers come from a report that was prematurely leaked and will not be formally issued till January. Presumably the final report will include explanations for the drops. A post on indicates, however, that one issue may be a saturated infrastructure in the City of Roses. Until upgrades are made to reach “world-class design standards,” Portland’s bike count may have topped out.

(This sounds a bit like political opportunism, which we’re all for. Bike infrastructure does need to be expanded. But our suspicion is that other factors may have not only contributed but in fact may override the infrastructure argument. They are, simply, economic pressures. Fewer jobs mean fewer commuters. Less commerce means less traffic of all kinds. A slowdown in business means a drop down in headcounts.)

Still, none of our economic factors explains how Seattle managed to spike. We sincerely doubt riders abandoned Portland for the Emerald City, so that one’s out. And Seattle’s economy can’t be that much different from Portland’s.

And in fact Seattle’s numbers could mirror Portland’s. BikePortland notes that if 2008 is omitted, 2009 counts actually trend positive (like Seattle’s) from 2007. Seattle’s report did not include 2008 numbers. (We’re trying to find out if, like Portland, Seattle’s ’09 counts are actually down from ’08.)

Whatever the reason, with a new bike-commuting mayor and bike-friendly city and county leadership, Seattle presumably has only upside, at least for the time being.

And we’re sure Portland will bounce back.

Lunch with and Richard Masoner

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling, Mountain Biking on July 8, 2009 at 8:23 am

Cyclelicious reports on lunch with Paul Andrews…wait a minute, that’s me! Actually it is I who should be reporting on lunch with Richard Masoner, founder of and one of the pioneers of bike-news blogging. As the estimable Jonathan Maus of put it in an interview with Bicycle Times:

“One of the first blogs that really made me have that light-bulb moment about a community bike site was a blog about cycling in Longmont, Colorado. It was run by Richard Masoner, now the proprietor of the blog. It had all sorts of info about this little city in Colorado. It really struck me how valuable that must have been for people who lived there.”

Richard has since moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I’m visiting for a few weeks. We got together for lunch in Silicon Valley, where Richard works for Sun Microsystems, recently acquired by Oracle. Richard brought along his son Ian, who graciously put up with an hour of bike-geek talk.

I’ve been blogging about cycling since I began blogging, as Richard notes, but there’s a different quality to the pursuit today. Bikes are being increasingly legitimized in a society desperate for green alternatives to oil, asphalt and the combustion engine. High gas prices, traffic congestion and health-care costs also are spurring a pedaling revolution, as Jeff Mapes terms it in the title of his book. You’re seeing dedicated cyclists being elected at the local, state and even national levels (Seattle has a cyclist running for mayor, and two avid cyclists on the city council). And of course, the bicycle has been proven to be the most efficient machine ever invented.

Richard and I, who do bike blogging as a labor of love, marvel at Jonathan’s success in Portland, but I see sites like and as a financially sustainable model for urban-based coverage of cycling everywhere. There’s certainly enough of an audience, and enough cultural momentum, to support a full news operation dedicated to cycling. Much of the news is road cycling-oriented, but that’s a factor of the blogger’s interest more than the news cycle itself. I try to be “ambidextrous” as I told Richard, perhaps getting the wrong limb in there (ambipedrous?), but the point is, bicycle consciousness is exploding in all manifestations. Thanks to people like Richard for showing us the way.