With Micromobility, Tech Sparks Nimble Innovations in Transportation

By Jeff Mapes

It’s evening in Portland’s South Waterfront District, and Annie Rudwick is getting her kids loaded for the trip home from work and daycare. Many parents would see this as a job for something like a minivan. But Rudwick is helping her daughters – aged 1, 3 and 5 – onto the back of her electric-assist cargo bike. The e-boost gives her the power to easily carry a hundred pounds of kid. And because of Portland’s rush-hour congestion, she says her four mile trip each way is often quicker by bike.

Annie Rudwick bikes to work with her daughters.
Photo credit Cheyenne Thorpe/OPB

“I didn’t want to have to bike and take a shower. I wanted something I could just commute in and get to work,” said Rudwick, the associate dean for finance and administration at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Dentistry. “The electric bike allows me to not have to exercise as much,” she added. “It really is just a mode oftransportation.”

Rudwick’s 12-foot-long bike-and-trailer combination is not the only vehicle that turns heads in the bike lanes. She’s part of a new trend that transportation experts are calling micromobility. It’s the idea that new technology – including smartphones and more efficient batteries – is sparking a big jump in small, nimble vehicles suited for increasingly crowded city streets.

“We’re seeing a lot more users in bike lanes – bicycles, electric scooters, electric bikes. I see people on kind of skateboard sort of conveyances,” said Jillian Detweiler, executive director of The Street Trust, formerly known as the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

Most notable are those rental scooters that have been sprouting up in cities around the world. About 2,600 are now on the streets of Portland.

“I think people are just looking for different ways to get around,” said Chris Warner, director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. He added that the popularity of the scooters show that riders are finding them a fun and affordable way to make short trips. Those scooters themselves are evolving. Since June, two scooter companies have offered vehicles with seats and larger wheels. Warner said he tried one out and liked it. “You know, I found the seated one a little steadier,” he said, noting that it could attract riders who find the standing scooters intimidating.

A recent report from Deloitte, the international consulting firm, said the rapid growth of the scooter industry – at a pace faster than the early years of ride-hailing companies like Uber – has boosted business interest in micromobility. These vehicles “have the potential to better connect people with public transit, reduce reliance on private cars, and make the most of existing space by ‘right-sizing’ the vehicle, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the Deloitte reportsaid.

Nobody’s quite sure how far all this will go. For example, China is pumping out hundreds of thousands of low-speed electric cars that are typically about the size of golf carts. The Street Trust’s Detweiler said something like that could someday end up in Portland. “What we want to promote is using the right mode for the trip that you’re trying to take,” she said. Her trip to work, Detweiler added, is something she could readily make by bicycle. But maybe the “trip to the grocery store where I’m trying to get the 20% discount on a case of wine could be made a little two-seater electric car with a small cargo space in back.”

Sam Schwartz, a former New York City transportation commissioner, has long argued for reducing the use of single occupancy autos in dense cities. In his new book, “No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future,” Schwartz argues that the advent of autonomous vehicles could be either a boon or a bane for micromobility.

“Something’s got to give,” Schwartz said in a recent telephone interview. “You can’t have so many modes that move at different speeds.” Schwartz said he wants to see self-driving vehicles regulated, in order to spur the use of transit and low-speed autonomous vehicles in cities. What he doesn’t want to see are large, single-occupant autonomous vehicles that wind up pushing other users off the street. That’s something that could happen, he said, predicting that the tech-heavy automakers of the future “will be the most powerful industry on earth.”

Of course, there’s plenty to argue about besides the future of robot cars. Today, the proliferation of scooters is riling plenty of people who complain that riders are too apt to use them on sidewalks – or to park them in ways that interfere with pedestrians or cars. Cyclists using their own energy to pedal are also having to contend with a lot of vehicles in bike lanes that move in different ways and speeds.

Joe Kurmaskie, a longtime writer on bikes in Portland and executive director of the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition, started to say that the increasing diversity in the bike lanes has its good and bad points. “Well, bad is maybe not the right word,” he quickly added. “[It’s] more learning to share the limited space we’re given as cyclists.”

Warner, the Portland transportation director, said Portland still has a lot of capacity in its bike lanes and is well-positioned to be on the front lines of micromobility. The city has nearly 400 miles of bike routes and may expand its bike-share network next year to include electric bikes. That could attract potential riders who want the ease of e-bikes but don’t want to shell out the $1,500 to $4,000 cost of one. “We’re really open and hoping to encourage innovation and finding ways to get people around safely and sustainably,” Warner said.

Rudwick, who uses the electronic-assist cargo bike, said her daily commute gives her a glimpse of a city built around micromobility. “For me,” she said, “the system is so great.” Almost her entire ride is either in bike lanes or off-street paths. She gets free valet parking at the base of the tram up to OHSU, which means she doesn’t even have to lock her bike. In addition, OHSU gives Rudwick a $1.50-aday subsidy for cycling to work. More importantly, she avoids car parking fees that run at least $13 a day.

Annie Rudwick adjusts her daughter’s helmet as they prepare for
a bike ride. Photo credit Cheyenne Thorpe/OPB

“You can buy a lot of e-bike with the cost savings there,” said her husband, Allan Rudwick, who has long been avid about the potential of electric bikes. “I’m really excited to see where this goes,” he said of the emerging micromobility revolution.

Annie Rudwick said she now finds that the days when she has to drive to work are the most hassle. But she conceded that her daughters sometime complain about cycling in the rain.

Eliot Sewer and Stormwater Project Update

By Matthew Gough

Environmental Services has completed replacing or repairing approximately 10,000 feet of public sewer pipes in the southern part of the Eliot Neighborhood. These pipes were deteriorating due to age or were undersized for the sewer and stormwater flows in this area.

The project also constructed eight green street planters on public streets in key locations. These green street planters will divert 1.9 million gallons of stormwater annually from the sewer system, helping reduce the possibility of overflows into the river, basement backups, and street flooding during periods of heavy rain.

These improvements will help protect public health, property and our environment by reducing the possibility of sewage releases into streets, homes and businesses.

This was a major sewer and stormwater management project and we thank you for your cooperation and patience during construction. To learn more about the project visit http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/Eliot. If you have any questions or comments about the project you may also contact Matt Gough, Community Outreach for City of Portland Environmental Services at (503) 823-5352 or Matthew.Gough@portlandoregon.gov.

Eliot Sewer and Stormwater Project Update

By Matthew Gough

In July or early August of this year, Environmental Services will complete a project to replace or repair approximately 10,000 feet of public sewer pipes in the southern part of the Eliot Neighborhood. These pipes are deteriorating due to age or are undersized for the sewer and stormwater flows in this area. The oldest pipe being replaced is 115 years old. 

The project also includes constructing eight green street planters on public streets in key locations. These green street planters will divert 1.9 million gallons of stormwater annually from the sewer system, helping reduce the possibility of overflows into the river, basement backups, and street flooding during periods of heavy rains. 

These improvements will help protect public health, property and our environment by reducing the possibility of sewage releases into streets, homes and businesses.

To learn more about the project, where crews are currently working, or to sign up for email updates, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/Eliot. You may also contact Matt Gough, Community Outreach for City of Portland Environmental Services at (503) 823-5352 or Matthew.Gough@portlandoregon.gov.

Thank you for your patience during this important work.

Eliot Sewer and Stormwater Project

By Matthew Gough

To accommodate public sewer construction North Vancouver Avenue between Russell and Hancock streets, the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services will continue to detour traffic away from the construction zone Monday through Friday from 9:15 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Travelers trying to reach a home or business in the closed area are allowed to drive past closure points, but should expect delays. The detour is expected to continue through May 2019.

Continue reading Eliot Sewer and Stormwater Project

Last Chance to Submit Feedback on I-5 Expansion

The proposed I-5 expansion through Eliot and the Rose Quarter will have a dramatic impact on our air quality, traffic, and safety. ODOT is asking for feedback now through April 1st.

In addition to sending your feedback to ODOT, please also consider sending feedback to our elected leaders who also have sway over the project.

Continue reading Last Chance to Submit Feedback on I-5 Expansion

Sewer & Stormwater Project Update

Eliot Sewer and Stormwater Project Map

By Matthew Gough

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services has nearly completed upsizing and repairing sewer pipe on Rodney Avenue between Sacramento and San Rafael streets, and on Sacramento, Thompson, Tillamook, and San Rafael streets between Rodney Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. In January, February, and March crews will focus on mainline sewer construction east of Martin Luther King Boulevard between Brazee and Thompson Streets. Night work will be required to connect the new sewer to manholes in Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. To view the most current map that shows where crews will be working, go to http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/eliot.

Continue reading Sewer & Stormwater Project Update

Carried Away on a Bird

By Mike Warwick

montse-on-scooter.DPI_600.jpg
Mike Warwick’s scooter partner Montse Shepherd enjoying a fall day
on a Bird. Photo credit Mike Warwick

Being a senior citizen leads me to avoid risky behavior. I was never a skateboarder and my few attempts at rollerblading ended in scrapes and torn trousers. The idea of balancing on a narrow, two-wheeled platform that moved seemed insane. However, the recent favorable report about Portland’s scooter trial forced me to accept a neighbor’s invitation to test drive one. Like many residents, I begrudge riders on sidewalks, scooters blocking sidewalks, and worse, blocking curb cuts for strollers and wheelchairs. However, the report indicated users surveyed believe these could address the “last mile” problem keeping more city residents from using mass transit or their personal vehicle. So, time to put myself at risk to determine the truth for myself.

Continue reading Carried Away on a Bird

Eliot’s Suggested Contacts for the Freeway Expansion

The proposed I-5 expansion through Eliot and the Rose Quarter will have a dramatic impact on our air quality, traffic, and safety. ODOT is asking for feedback now through April 1st.

In addition to sending your feedback to ODOT, please also consider sending feedback to our elected leaders who also have sway over the project.

Continue reading Eliot’s Suggested Contacts for the Freeway Expansion

Call for New Members for the Land Use and Transportation Committee

The Land Use and Transportation Committee is looking for more neighbors to join our group. Anyone who works or lives in the neighborhood is welcome to join. Whether you’ve been in the neighborhood for a week or thirty years, regardless of if you’re an urban planner or are just curious to know about upcoming projects in the neighborhood, we’d love to have you join. The time commitment is fairly light with only one two-hour meeting a month.

The Land Use and Transportation Committee or LUTC is a group that participates in neighborhood review of land use, zoning, building and transportation regulation and planning. What that essentially boils down to is when a new project or policy is proposed that will affect the neighborhood, the group proposing the change with come to LUTC and ask for our input or feedback. LUTC then voices our opinions on what can lead to the proposed project having the largest positive impact on the neighborhood.

If this sounds interesting we’d love to have you. If you’re worried that you don’t have the right “background,” don’t let that stop you from joining. We’d be happy to train you and get you up to speed on things so that you can be a contributing member.

So if you’re interested in helping shape the direction our neighborhood and city grow, please consider joining. Our meetings are open to everyone, so if you’re interested in checking them out to see if you want to get involved, they’re the second Monday of the month at 7pm at 120 NE Knott. The next meeting is Monday, March 11.

Parking Permit Update

Parking permit sign in NW Portland for zone M
Parking permit sign in NW Portland

As you may remember, parking is an issue for neighbors in Eliot, especially in the southern part of the neighborhood. Whether it’s commuters parking here and taking the MAX into town, or Blazer fans using the streets for free event parking, it is becoming harder for neighbors to be able to find parking.

Continue reading Parking Permit Update

Portland Neighbors Addressing Diesel Pollution

The stretch of I5 interstate highway running through the Eliot Neighborhood was measured by ODOT using a rubber strip sensor to be among the busiest truck routes in Oregon. This is due to in-city short-haul trucks that pace back and forth through Eliot making Portland freight deliveries. Our research into ODOT and DMV data found 75% of these in-city short-haul trucks are unfiltered. Unfiltered trucks are illegal to manufacture and are banned from all of California because they produce ten times as much diesel particulate as a filtered truck.

Continue reading Portland Neighbors Addressing Diesel Pollution

The Case for NE 7th Avenue as a Calm, Local Street

Conceptual Design for 7th and Morris

Currently, the City of Portland is undergoing a project called the Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway. This project is looking at making a calm, safe route for bicycles from south of Broadway to north of Ainsworth Street. However, this project is also the best chance we have had for years to solve some major problems on NE 7th Avenue (NE 7th). Some neighborhood residents have been advocating for a safer NE 7th for over 5 years.

Continue reading The Case for NE 7th Avenue as a Calm, Local Street

Letter from the Land Use Chair Summer 2018

7th Avenue Traffic Calming Island

I think it is probably time for me to step down.  It has been 10+ years of involvement with the ENA Land Use committee and quite a few as chair.  During that time we have gone from a bust-to-boom economy and that means a bunch of new buildings in the works.  While many under-constructions projects are about to start renting out units, another cluster of buildings on the North Williams corridor is in the works with 4 new proposals adjacent to Williams and Cook alone. Portland’s new zoning map will be going into effect any day now and that might mean another flurry of proposals under the new rules, or a gentle slowdown in the incoming permits.

Continue reading Letter from the Land Use Chair Summer 2018