Advocate’s Toolbox

PSU seminar report: How do people choose a travel mode?

Posted in Advocate's Toolbox, Thoughts on May 9th, 2011 by Alexis – Comments Off on PSU seminar report: How do people choose a travel mode?

Last Friday I attended the PSU Transportation Seminar lecture by Robert Schneider, “How do people choose a travel mode?” Schneider presented results from his dissertation research studying the travel patterns of people shopping at different Walgreens stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He shared a five-category scheme for factors that might influence travel behavior, as well as a five-prong scheme for looking at decision-making for individual trips, both of which offered insight into where to look to influence people’s mode choices, but in my opinion the most useful tool he presented for advocacy was the use of a detailed survey of people’s paths throughout their trips. Most surveys ask only about primary trip mode, but Schneider’s surveyers traced the participants’ routes on the map and asked how each part of the trip was taken, so that if a person drove to the shopping center and then walked around to different stores, the walking path was recorded as part of the trip too.

Even though many of the study participants had driven to the Walgreens location, a large percentage of trips included some walking around the shopping area. Schneider found that walking was more likely in shopping areas with certain characteristics, such as higher density and greater tree cover.

These results are a reminder that looking at single-destination trips, or thinking of trips as consisting only of their primary mode, is an oversimplification at best, and a serious mistake at worst; that it’s possible to influence people’s behavior at intermediate points in their journeys. Not only that, but it may be easier than getting them to change their major mode of travel.

Far more people choose to walk at some point during their day than choose to walk as their primary mode of travel, and all of these walkers are potential supporters of a better walking environment. We need to make sure, as Schneider did, that they are counted, so that they can play a part in our work.

Happy Valentines Day Holgate

Posted in Advocate's Toolbox, Infrastructure, News on February 14th, 2011 by AROW – Comments Off on Happy Valentines Day Holgate

This Valentines day is the perfect time to present a new AROW project:

We Heart Holgate

Complaining is easy, giving complements is not. The We Heart Holgate campaign is a show of appreciation designed to let everyone know that the buffered bike lanes on outer Holgate are needed and supported by many in the communities of east Portland.

The lanes on Holgate are not just buffered bike lanes, they are better bike lanes.

We know the new lanes did not receive the most welcoming response when they were first installed. Our goal is to make up for lost time, and show that we really do care. This site will be a way to organize and mobilize the many supporters of safer and more inclusive bicycling infrastructure in Portland.

Keep an eye out for the We Heart Holgate postcards at locations in east Portland.  If you support better bicycling infrastructure, take a minute to help the cause by signing your name in support – Every name helps.

Coming soon to the site will be profiles and videos of people who use and appreciate the Holgate lanes. Contact if you’d like to participate and find out how you can help. Follow us on twitter to receive news about Holgate and other potential buffered bike lane projects in the city.

Reporting problems on Oregon state highways

Posted in Advocate's Toolbox, News on February 7th, 2011 by Ted – 4 Comments

I’ve always thought that city and state transportation departments ought to take better care of bicycle facilities on their roads. I’ve sometimes written up long lists of every defect I’ve seen in an area, and presented it to the authorities, but not much has ever happened.

More recently I’ve had good success with the “Portland Transportation Hotline” where you send in a problem to . I’ve sent in a bunch of overgrown vegetation, construction signs in bike lanes, puddles in bike lanes, etc., and they’ve all gotten fixed. I’m very impressed so far, and it really improves my personal safety on a bicycle when these things are fixed. It’s kinda fun to send them in one by one, and, apparently, much more effective than giving them a laundry list.

This post is a primer on how to get common problems fixed on Oregon State Highways by sending in “maintenance requests.” These are roads like MLK, Lombard, and the I-5 bike paths on Hayden Island in Portland, and any other road in the state marked as a state, US or Interstate highway.



A couple months ago BikePortland had a guest article by John Beaston on riding Highway 101 down the Oregon Coast. John is a longtime bicycle advocate and BTA board member, and he reported finding four types of problems on the 101 route.

The ‘needs improvement’: There are also miles and miles of shoulder chock-full of debris (primarily gravel and wood chips). Particularly in the southern part of the route, sections of the travel lane have been repaired or repaved but the shoulder has not. Some places have dangerously narrow shoulders that require sharing the road with massive RVs and log trucks. Bridges are often pinch-points requiring taking the lane or walking.

(original article at

I figured all those problems were “reportable defects” on the highway, but I didn’t have the background info to cite the state standards and policies that would warrant a maintenance request. I’ve now found them all, and present them as follows:


ODOT’s Call for Maintenance Requests

ODOT has issued a directive to bicyclists to inform authorities of unsafe road conditions. From the Oregon Bicyclists Manual (2010), page 4:

Road Surface Hazards
“To make riding safer for you and other bicyclists, report unsafe road conditions to local authorities as soon as possible.” (as linked from

To follow their directive, you have three choices — phone, email, or web form. And don’t wait, do it now. Don’t wait until you have a long list, don’t figure that they should be clever enough to locate their own defects. Report now and report often. With smartphones, it’s easy to report from the field. And note that they say “report to local authorities” but in the case of state highways, ODOT is the “local authority.”

You can fill out the web form at , email them at , or call them at 1-888-ASK-ODOT

You can email them with a photo of the defect. If you use the form, you can’t upload an image, but you will receive an email confirmation from each submission, and you can reply to the confirmation with a photo.

Do your best to give them detailed, accurate information if you want a complete fix to your problem. Make each request as specific as possible. Avoid broad descriptions like “There’s crap on the shoulder all the way from Coos Bay to Bandon.” Instead be as precise as you can, with reports like: “There’s woodchip debris in the southbound shoulder of Highway 101 from milepost 121.6 to 120.3, and again from 119.8 to 117.2, and a 200′ long stretch of gravel at mp 116.2” Break it down into manageable work orders for ODOT staff.

And don’t be intimidated by all the information I’m posting here. You don’t need to know the specific codes that are in violation–you can use your own powers of judgement to determine that a) this is unsafe, and 2) it differs dramatically from what a well-designed, well-maintained road should look like. And if they tell you you’re wrong, then you can do a little homework and find some references to cite back at them.


Here’s how the four types of problems John observed can be reported:

Problem 1 — “There are also miles and miles of shoulder chock-full of debris (primarily gravel and wood chips)”

Solution — This is a “shoulder sweeping” issue, and there’s a state policy that shoulders should be swept. To request shoulder sweeping, send in a maintenance request. Give them the mileposts affected, in as accurate of detail as possible. (southbound shoulder, mp 40.5 – mp 38.9). If you break it into chunks of 5 miles or less they’ll probably find it more palatable.

Send photos of the worst spots. Photos will help the dispatcher decide whether to send out the sweeper, the grader, or the shovel team.

Refer to the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, p. 173. Section B.1. Sweeping.
“Sweep walkways and bikeways whenever there is an accumulation of debris on the facility;”
(as linked to from


Problem 2 — “sections of the travel lane have been repaired or repaved but the shoulder has not.”

Solution — This is a “step in the roadway surface” type of problem. Send in a maintenance request. Again, give them the mileposts with as much accuracy as possible. Take photos of the worst sections. Use a Contour Gauge if you have one, and trace the gauge shape on 1/4″ graph paper for best presentation. If you don’t want to bring a gauge, bring a lightweight ruler you can use with any straightedge to determine the height of the “step” between the shoulder and the travel lanes. Take photos of the ruler, straightedge, and a recognizable roadside feature in the background.

Refer to the Oregon Pavement Design Guide (2007), p. 22. Section Shoulders.
“For new work or reconstruction where shoulders are built at the same time as travel lanes, shoulders will be designed to the same asphalt thickness and materials as the travel lane.” (as linked from

Contour gauges are available for $21 at Woodcrafters at NE 8th and Davis in Portland.


Problem 3 — “Some places have dangerously narrow shoulders that require sharing the road with massive RVs and log trucks.”

Solution — bring a measuring tape or measuring wheel. In these “zero shoulder” spots, measure the width of the driving lanes. If they are more than 12′ wide, they are out of compliance and should be narrowed by moving the white stripe towards the center lines until they’re only 12′ wide.

Send in your maintenance requests. Anywhere where the bike lane/shoulder is less than 5′ wide and the car lane is more than 12′ wide is a candidate for stripe-moving. Take photos of your tape measure or measuring wheel, ideally with a recognizable roadside feature in the photo.

If the driving lane is only 12′ wide, you can send in a request to add a shoulder to the road. This costs much more, of course, but if they get a stack of requests asking for shoulders, it’s more likely to get funded than if they don’t hear from anyone.

(This one will take them about a year to complete, but it certainly isn’t going to happen unless you send it in. I sent in a request for this on NE MLK (Schmeer – Marine) and N Denver (Argyle – Schmeer) in 2008. It took 2 years, but it’s a big improvement now that it’s done — they had 5′ bike lanes and 15′ – 16′ wide driving lanes, and there’s now 8′ bike lanes and 12-13′ driving lanes — it’s a huge improvement).

Refer to the Oregon Highway Design Manual (2003), p. 7-10, Rural Highway Travel Lane Widths.
“Highways identified as freight routes by the Oregon Highway Plan should utilize a 12 foot lane, regardless of volume.”
(as linked to from

Buy a measuring wheel at Harbor Freight for $10 — you can use it as fast as you can walk across the street. Alternatively, you can use a measuring tape — wait for a gap, and be careful not to get run over. Have a friend hold one end for you.


Problem 4 — “Bridges are often pinch-points requiring taking the lane or walking.”

Solution — each of these bridges should have a “[Bicycles] ON BRIDGE ROADWAY” sign at the entrance to the bridge. This is a diamond yellow “bicycle symbol” sign (W11-1) and a rectangular yellow “ON BRIDGE ROADWAY” sign (OBW1-7) below it.

Send in your maintenance request for each of these. Look at both ends of the bridge to see if a sign is necessary for both directions.

Refer to the Oregon Sign Policy and Guidelines for the State Highway System (rev 3-23-2007) p. 8-32 for the “ON BRIDGE ROADWAY” sign
(as linked to from
and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (2009) p. 129, sec 2C.49 for the diamond bicycle sign.
(as linked to from


To wrap-up, remember ODOT’s directive to us bicyclists in the Oregon Bicyclist Manual —
To make riding safer for you and other bicyclists, report unsafe road conditions to local authorities as soon as possible.

Go out and ride, shoot pics with your cell phone, make notes at stops, and send in those maintenance requests. As soon as possible!

If anyone has any additional types of defects to report, post them and I’ll see if I can find the reference for a maintenance request.

Ted Buehler


If you want to browse all of ODOT’s manuals, they’re listed at

Here’s what your conversation might look like —

ODOT’s “Oregon Bicyclist Manual”

Posted in Advocate's Toolbox on February 3rd, 2011 by Ted – Comments Off on ODOT’s “Oregon Bicyclist Manual”

State Driver Manuals are something most folks know about — you need to study it before getting a license, and when you move to a new state.

I never knew there was an “Oregon Bicyclist Manual” until I gave a friend a ride to the DMV and had some time to peruse the literature while waiting. I was pleased to see such a document — it helps elevate the status of bicycling when you have official manuals, it provides solid information to new users, and there’s sure to be new snippets even for regular bicyclists. It’s a good document, it tells you all about Oregon laws, how to bike, how to bike in Oregon.

I’d suggest all bicyclists keep one around and read it once in a while, especially the parts about “reporting an accident” and other things where you need to keep the information current in your head. I got mine at the Kenton DMV, but I imagine the Lloyd Center and other DMVs also stock them. Or you can download the .pdf from odot’s website —
* 2010 (current version)
* 2006 (for comparison)

Here’s a few notes on the screen shots posted above —

Cover. Doesn’t give the year, but it’s 2010. Very official looking, it’s the same size, bulk, and format as the Driver Manual.

Page 4 — the age-old question — “how far to the right should you ride?” Don’t ride in the door zone. And, remember — “report unsafe conditions to authorities as soon as possible!”

Page 6 — passing on the right at traffic lights. I’m a bit disturbed by this — it says it’s “advisable to stop behind the first vehicle” when approaching an intersection where there is a bike lane but no right-turn lane. While this is a nice, conservative safe riding technique, if you actually do it in Portland you’ll be stuck in traffic all day. Especially downtown. And that “advisable” language goes against state law, which makes the practice legal. So the state instruction document is undermining state law. Not a good situation. Note that this advisory is absent from the 2006 manual, so it got tucked in recently — *after* hoards of bicyclists began packing the bike lanes in Portland. Better language might be “if you are an inexperienced rider or prefer to be cautious, you may stop behind the first car…”

Page 13 — Crosswalks. Good information on how far along a pedestrian has to be before you can legally ride through the crosswalk.

Page 13 — how to trigger a loop detector. If it’s not triggering, lay your bike on the pavement to get the metal closer to the loop. I figured I was the only person that knew how to do this, and feel like a nut whenever I do it. But new that I know it’s in the OBM I’ll do it with pride.

Page 17 — Left turn bike box — how to use them. This would be a good graphic to have mounted on kiosks near the new streetcar line where they are installing them (I hope!)

Page 19 — What to do when you have a crash — all the do’s and don’t’s — Note “Don’t discuss fault immediately after the collision.” Seems like whenever I read about anyone’s personal account of a crash, they blame themselves. Not a good idea, even if you do think that that is the case. Much better to commit this section to memory, or keep it under your bike seat to be retrieved at a moment’s notice.

Page 19 — Biking on Freeways. I was surprised to see that the I-5 ban ends at Exit 306 — Delta Park. This means it’s legal to ride the freeway from Delta Park up to the Columbia River Bridge. I’ve done this both ways to avoid the inane tangle of crummy bike paths you need to navigate to ride through here, but I had no idea that it was actually legal. Note that the sign on the I-5 southbound entrance at Jantzen Beach forbids motorized vehicles, though. If you ride this, carry along your handy copy of the Oregon Bicyclist Manual in case you are confronted by authorities.,-122.680646&spn=0,0.016265&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=45.611695,-122.680497&panoid=sUess2eB_hdI7UV7-eImug&cbp=12,145.9,,0,11.35

Thoughts, comments?
Ted Buehler