Getting around - under your own power, or with a shiny, smartphone enabled micro-mobility device made available by a multinational?

My critical stance vis-a-vis scooters and bikeshare is no secret. I feel that the boosterist tilt to much of the discussion on BikePortland doesn’t serve us well. There is so much that should give us pause.
Lifestyle marker vs lowering auto dependence;
Lithium mines vs lithe legs;
Lyft vs live-and-learn;

Why do we keep chasing these complex, short-lived, offshore, globe-spanning, electronic ‘solutions’ when a bike, a pair of roller blades, or shoes can accomplish the needed transportation without all of this?

I hear you very clearly 9watts! I think one of the main reasons we (I, “most” people) get excited about stuff like bike share is because we just don’t have faith/confidence that the other way will have enough impact soon enough. And by “other way” I mean your way of trying to convince people about the reality and seriousness of the situation and the need for immediate and drastic shifts in behavior. Example: Advocate-types can spend years trying to convince people to “just ride a damn bike!” and it is like pushing a rock up a hill. And/or we can be seduced by cool new ideas and tech that actually appeals to non-bikers on a different, more visceral level and watch them swarm to it and maybe actually use it.

It’s the classic dynamic of hoping/wanting the best and accepting the reality of American human nature in 2020.

IMO there are flaws in both ways of approaching this: Your way ignores the reality of all the flaws in our dysfunctional culture; another way is too focused on the latest shining “short-lived, complex” “solutions”.

Also, you must consider how social/economic culture and systemic discrimination and privilege play into what you’re saying here. For many people, “lifestyle marker” has a much different resonance than it does for you and I. The system is so unbalanced and cruel that it’s wrong to assume that the values you have — as simple and basic and obvious as they might seem to you — are universal.

There are so many different lived experiences happening in our country and solutions to our problems have to reflect that.

  1. to be human is to find peace with hypocrisy. you know this. you don’t need me to explain this to you. you’re not-off grid. the steel of your bike didn’t smelt & become an alloy on its own. compromises are made.
  2. ableism. we’re all born on a physical spectrum and your point on that spectrum will change. I’m 45. I can go 20+ miles now. I will not always be able to…and I was born out of the box (lol) with societally accepted ‘normal’ physical capability. My husband’s bff was paraplegic. He, while not longer with us, had a van he could drive with his hands. ebikes bridge some very important physical gaps. rental bikes (rental-anything) bridge financial gaps.
  3. gateway drugs. ah. what a great phrase. really an analogy for so much, and really encompasses quite normal human addictive behaviors. any admitted addict will tell you, diversions are so very important. why do you think so many ex-smokers become runners? do you think my obsession with sewing is from all my clean living? LOL. NO. Car-addicts are the same. you want them to ween off, you need to give diversions. what better way than to let people sample without making them commit? maybe it’s a vacation whim? Maybe it’s a fun hometown tour? Maybe it’s a pandemic? Just chant to yourself, “one of us, one of us…” :smiley:

This +1,000,000

People won’t start cycling if we adopt an “us vs. them” posture and treat them like an enemy – especially since their friends and family are like them.

It has to be about showing a better way that doesn’t require them to think they can’t still be them. The big tent where all are welcome has much better prospects for success than purity.


To reinforce the addict angle on all of this:
I am enjoying reports of clean air and waters in places not accustomed to the. Nasa posted a satellite generated image of the NE that shows a 30% reduction in NO2 pollutants in March over the normal average.

All this makes the environmentalist in me happy and hopeful — that people might finally take notice that, yes, their (and our) car addiction is a major contributor toward pollution, ill health, and the destruction of our planet. That maybe, from this, we might collectively (more than just the minority) would demand meaningful reform that would end the car as the perceived cheapest, most convenient option available to us.

Then my inner cynic reminds me that we can more likely expect a full return to 'murican free-dumb obsessive consumerism, consumption and VMT in our mega-vehicles with allegedly guilt-canceling “hybrid” badges on them in very short order with nary any reform coming out of this.

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oh, absolutely - the cynic is speaking to me too… we are more addicted to our conveniences than our cars, per se, hence people feeling put-out by having to wear masks, or not get their hair done for a couple months. Cars are a convenience item… which is why right now, more than ever, we need to be out in force with smiles showing how convenient it is to bike, get groceries, and yes, even rent an electric bike or whatever. we’re also monkey see, monkey do… so hopefully if we can show just a few more people it’s conveniently sustainable…we’ll get more people biking? That, and all the kids biking now… teach them young! It’s harder to change when older. #askmehowIknow lol

I do love the Microsoft push to be carbon negative… it’s a good sign. even if individuals were carbon neutral, it would require the above said multinationals to get onboard. we need big business to come to the carbon negative side…and we can do that by showing as individuals we want it.

and that’s my positive spin. :smiley:

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I just took my bike out for a spin in the fist time in six and a half weeks after an okay from a doctor (I’ve been waiting for a suture site to heal on my leg). It felt so good to get out. Rode a few miles to a friend’s house, called him as I arrived and we had a nice distanced conversation outside for a while and then I rode home. I really needed that! There were a lot of people out riding on NE Going in the lovely afternoon sun.


I don’t think I was assuming anyone shared my priorities. I was just lamenting the fact that these shiny ‘solutions’ really aren’t actually solving anything. They are grinding up resources and garnering sponsorships and taking up staff time at PBOT and getting used - some - but they aren’t moving the needle.
We, most of us, want to believe they are, that fun electronic toys can help solve our screwed up systems, but if we discover that they don’t, isn’t it incumbent upon us to take stock, have an honest reckoning, stop chasing these chimeras?

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Well, that is really a different discussion. One I enjoy but sort of orthogonal to this one. Diversions are droll, but to the extent that what I was saying overlaps here I would suggest that it is important not to confuse diversions, whims, compensatory activities that we may undertake - with moving the needle. My chief complaint about ”micro mobility,” corporate-mediated locomotion, is that it is presented as solving some problem, environmentally salutary, or whatever. It is these claims I think we should be interrogating. Why are there so few of us asking these I guess uncomfortable questions?

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It’s not that we’re not asking them… it’s that the world isn’t black & white, and won’t change overnight. In Portland, at 18, I refused to shave. In Portland, that was not shocking. I traveled across the country at 19. I was shocked at how many people stared at me, and would follow me around in a store like I was a criminal. I shaved. It doesn’t do any good to underestimate or trivialize the colloquial nature of civilization.

Now, much older, I still won’t buy a diamond and I’m still pretty flippant and rude on occasion (“I’m sorry I offended you, but maybe you needed to be offended” -ST), but I also have the experience to know hitting people head-on doesn’t change their minds. Marketing 101 - know your audience. Marketing 102 - get people emotionally invested. Marketing 103 - create habits. This is applicable. You want people to ask questions? Find the common ground first. Prime the pump. Screaming at them that they’re only giving money to companies giving lip service to the “better good” isn’t going to get them to go to the next level.

I’m sure you’re old enough to know what “green washing” was and how it happened. It’s going to happen in biking too - but not at a detriment if you work at it. It can be used to the better good’s advantage. It will only be at a detriment if you throw up your hands and tell people they’re not “biking the right way.”

I teach sewing. Do you think if I tell people they’re not sewing the right way, and the only way to learn to sew is at a couture level, that they’ll stick with it? People just wanna make things. Teach them to make something. Then, THEN, slowly add on more complicated techniques. If I start with French seams, double-welt pockets, and zip-fly insertion no one will ever keep at it. Start with a pillowcase. It’s all math. You don’t start at calculus.

You can say they’re different discussions if you like, but I’m sure there are things in your life it took more than just waking up one day and deciding this was going to be what you were going to do and do perfectly. The point of diversions, or marketing, or build-on teaching like math or sewing, is that people can handle it. That’s how humans learn.


Maybe because the general population doesn’t care about social engineering and prefers to tune out crusaders when possible.

People won’t give up their cars until it makes sense to them, and helping building someone else’s utopia doesn’t qualify. Trying to force them to make the “right” decision will only set them against you.

The whole “micromobility” thing is not even a tempest in a teapot. I’ve never heard anyone outside a tiny subset of activists use the term, and it’s mostly used to describe how to help able-bodied people go walking distances with motorized assistance :wink:

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My concern here (and elsewhere) is that we don’t seem to have thought very hard about what the next level is, or if this level (bikeshare) has moved things in the right direction. How do we measure this? Who is doing the measuring? Who is asking the hard questions? So much of what we get behind turns out in my view to have been shiny, hype, oversold, and often comes with a sizable helping of lithium which causes untold suffering and ruins everything: soil, water, livelihood in far flung parts of the globe.

It doesn’t do any good to underestimate or trivialize the colloquial nature of civilization.

I am all for colloquial or convivial or collaborative or even controversial, but it seems we are still talking past each other.

green washing […] but not at a detriment if you work at it. It can be used to the better good’s advantage.

Please explain. I feel like this is perhaps closer to the core of our disagreement.

It will only be at a detriment if you throw up your hands and tell people they’re not “biking the right way.”

I would never tell anyone they are not biking the right way. But I would offer to an audience of thoughtful, astute, smart BikePortland readers the perspective that the corporate-mediated way will lead to ruin… already (always) has.
To me there is a vast difference.

That may be. But the message has to be crafted for the audience if it it’s going to have any chance of being accepted.

The term “car culture” is accurate – Americans love their cars. So any approach based on the idea that cars are the enemy and that we should be in battle against them is a ticket to nowhere.

A lot of what passes for bike advocacy reminds me of my college days when god squad types would hang outside bars to exhort people to give up their evil ways. When they weren’t ignored and dismissed as kooks, they’d be ridiculed and have beer poured over them.


In this instance I wasn’t talking about cars at all. I was trying to draw attention to our predisposition to cling to false promises.
(1) the inescapably breathless, corporate, venture capital model is or would certainly seem to be antithetical to the goals we purport to advocate here.

(2) I am a bit surprised at all the responses about the need to persuade, sell, flatter our imagined audiences. And the concomitant rejection of what I consider straight talk. I am not running for office, or trying to sell anything. I am trying to understand why we (individually and sometimes collectively) stumble. And whether we can learn from our mistakes.

Impact. Urgency. I’m all about impact; sorting out what kind of impact we have in mind, comparing alternative ways of accomplishing it; measuring it; etc.
What impact has bikeshare had? Can we think of other less fraught approaches that, for $10M, we could have pursued?


If we don’t do something that has a realistic possibility of transforming their behavior, what is the point of having an audience?


I think the problem may be in conceiving of the public as an audience, as a group we must appeal to with marketing techniques. Framing all policy challenges as consumption opportunities unhelpfully narrows the scope of our lives, our solutions, our options. Sometimes the answer lies outside the market, of marketing.

What if the solution does not involve buying something (like what is happening right now in this pandemic)?


Marketing is a dirty word and an industry built around information sharing. I’ve been in marketing for 20+ years, and yeah, there’s a whole lot of evil there. I’ve marketed everything from dildos to multi-function printers to freight trains. Whether you like it or not, it’s part of the machine you’ll have to contend with… even getting on here, talking about the lack of information about lithium-biohazards is information sharing. It falls under “native advertising.”

Ok, previous question RE us disagreeing and greenwashing.

I’m not entirely disagreeing with you other than on the ableism front and the information approach. For individuals with seen or unseen physical, emotional, or mental reasons, not everyone is going to be able to be 100% person-powered. Fossil fuels & lithium batteries are our options at the moment. Yes, we need more options. No, it won’t happen overnight. I love Greta’s fight, and we need Gretas in the world. Alternatively, Gretas and PETA etc. are polarizing and create as much false information machines as they help.

Greenwashing, or now the “do good” shit companies are doing is a good example of how the machine works. Around 2000, organic and “green” building materials were starting to take hold. Individual consumers were wanting more organic options and low/no VOC building materials. Eventually LEAD certifications and organic certifications were passed. Now, this didn’t stop companies putting “natural” on things as marketing or using words like green, eco-friendly, blah blah blah to their advantage. Technically, everything starts its lifecycle on the Periodic Table, so “natural” can be applied, but you and I know it’s bullshit. This all starts at the individual consumer level, and the drive for a market. You must push from down below. So, anyway, certifications happened, more greenwashing happened. It all grows to a point where NOW you can go to New Seasons and have a whole store of organic, but that took a decade of compromise.
Fast forward to 2010. I’m working in a colo/DR facility (server farm like the giant thing in the gorge owned by google.) These things are huge energy consuming beasts. One of the anchor tenants we wanted insisted we had enough energy carbon neutralizing credits in order to secure their business. They’re a huge SaaS company. THIS is where the 10 years of diligence and marketing pays off. A SaaS company out of California insists anyone they do business with is truly green and can back it up with receipts. We comply in order to get them, then I turn around and push it out on our marketing that we are a green company in order to further the agenda that responsible business practices are how it SHOULD be, and further the cause. Finally, something I wanted came to be, and we could push it out. Our customers then push it out that they use a green company for their DR (disaster recovery: required by a lot of business including all your medical, banking, public companies, etc.)

This is where over a decade of work and compromise on an individual level, and you’re right, research and facts and stats, finally come full circle and become part of our culture. It takes a lot more than holding press conferences and getting angry.

I’m not perfect. When Cone Mills in NC closed, I cried. I’m anti fast fashion. Then I wrote a piece in the Huff Po. That is nothing but a pretty thing on my resume. It does nothing. I know that. I wrote about many local small batch manufacturers. 3 of which are now closed. I cried again. But my work in the sewing community? That’s real. That’s my real work against fast fashion. That’s quantifiable and that helps.

Long winded. I wish we could just sit and talk. I hope this helps. I love your energy. and yes, at 45, maybe I’m a bit worn out. Us GenXers fought hard too, and we got the shaft too. I’m sorry. And yes, maybe it’s shitty I know how to work within the machine now. I try to only use my power for good now. I rarely do corporate work, and when I do, I’m pretty picky now.



Loving this entire conversation in general. Also, @9watts, I appreciate your comments always, even if I think they’re sometimes a bit all-or-nothing. I respect your thought process and perspective. I’m nearly always in agreement with your what, when and why, just not always the how. Please don’t ever stop.


this. 100%. You’re obviously smart @9watts and have privilege of education and searching out information. Not everyone has that, and it takes more coaxing, understanding, and patience than sometimes we want to give. By nature, I too am a “hit them head on” person and have had to retrain myself…sometimes more successfully than others. It’s going to be 2 steps forward, 1.8 steps back. Always.

You’ll have more success hitting companies financially if you can find a way. Lobby for a lithium tax. Shareholders & investment bankers don’t change for human lives or the environment (learn from my fast fashion frustrations), but if you put a financial cost to their actions, it makes waves.


Thanks, squareman,

That is where I rely on you folks to set me straight, fill in the gaps. I’m just a guy with a perspective that often seems orthogonal to many here in the BikePortland orbit. I have no corner on the truth and always count on you smart folks to hone my ideas or questions into words that I hope will eventually yield something useful. It is all about the give and take for me. Learning from others, discovering things none of us may have come to the conversation with.