Comment of the Week: How Portland’s housing crisis impacts cycling

[Note: I know it’s been forever since we did a “Comment of the Week”. I hope to make it a more regular occurrence. You can help make that happen by flagging great comments for me, either via an email or text or smoke signal.]

Portland’s lack of housing and rising costs of what we do have is well-documented. The situation has vast impacts on many parts of our lives.

Of the 495 comments we had this week, the one that stood out to me most was related to this topic. It was actually a reply to another reader’s comment, so I guess we have two comments of the week. The comments come from the “Year in review” story we published from Joe Cortright.

It started from a regular commenter named “soren”. He wrote:

“The increase in driving in Portland is probably not only about lower fuel cost. The cost of housing and the lack of tenant protections is displacing many who walk, bike, or bus. Anecdotally, I know multiple people who previously lived a largely car-free lifestyle in the inner city who are now car-dependent because they were forced to move to the periphery or outside of Portland… As Portland increasingly becomes an exclusive playground for rentiers and the rich it will also increasingly become a car-centric city.”

[These comments educated me about the term “rentiers,” which refers to a person living on income from property or investments.]

And a reader named “Huey Lewis” shared a reply that added a very human element to soren’s comment:

“This is us. We had to move to outer SE to buy a place, all we could afford was east of 205. What was formerly a 2 mile ride to beer, pizza and Blazers with a friend is now closer to 8. Meeting someone on Alberta was maybe 3 miles. That same meeting is now a little over 9. A ride to Kelley Point park and home was 25, now that’s just over 40 round trip. It kinda sucks. More miles riding my bike is usually great. But not dark, rainy, miles surrounded by aggro drivers, crossing busy arterials and being crowded on side streets by people trying to beat the traffic.”

The idea that people with bike-oriented tendencies are moving further outside the central city and are therefore less able to enact those tendencies, isn’t new. In fact, TriMet has already blamed that same phenomenon on the decrease in transit ridership in Portland.

What to do about this? We need more housing and a more diverse range of housing choices of course — but we also need to make safe streets a standard feature of Portland life, instead of the special privilege of the few who can still live close-in.

Thanks for reading this week. I appreciate your support and your comments. Have a good weekend and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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