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Meeting on Williams project turns into discussion of race, gentrification

Posted by on July 21st, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Portlanders came together last night to discuss the Williams project and the conversation quickly turned to race.
(Photos © J. Maus)

A meeting last night that was meant to discuss a new outreach campaign on N. Williams Avenue turned into a raw and emotional exchange between community members and project staff about racism and gentrification.

It was the first public meeting for the North Williams Traffic Safety Operations Project since the Bureau of Transportation decided to delay the project last June.

PBOT was on a path to remove one vehicle lane in order to create a wider bikeway; but some people in the community expressed concerns with the idea, on the grounds that the voices and input of black residents were not being adequately considered.

Lower Albina — the area of Portland just north and across the river from downtown through — was a thriving African-American community in the 1950s. Williams Avenue was at the heart of booming jazz clubs and home to a thriving black middle class. But history has not been kind to this area and through decades of institutional racism (through unfair development and lending practices), combined with the forces of gentrification, have led to a dramatic shift in the demographics of the neighborhood.

The history of the neighborhood surrounding Williams now looms large over this project.

Williams project meeting-7-7
Williams project meeting-9-9
There were large poster boards detailing the cultural past of the Williams area.

A brainstorming session was on the original agenda last night. Since engineering fixes are on hold until at least next summer, PBOT hoped to get input for an outreach campaign to promote “respectful traveling” on Williams. After about 30 minutes of group discussions and reports back to the full group, that discussion was derailed.

Michelle DePass felt that it was time to stop avoiding the race issue.

Michelle DePass, a woman who was born in the hospital where the meeting was taking place (Legacy Emanuel) and has lived in the area around N Williams all of her life, brought up the elephant in the room — racism.

Here’s what she said that dramatically changed the direction of last night’s meeting — and possibly the entire project:

“We have an issue of racism and of the history of this neighborhood. I think if we’re trying to skirt around that we’re not going to get very far. We really need to address some of the underlying, systemic issues that have happened over last 60 years. I’ve seen it happen from a front row seat in this neighborhood. It’s going to be very difficult to move forward and do a plan that suits all of these stakeholders until we address the history that has happened. Until we address that history and… the cultural differences we have in terms of respect, we are not going to move very far.”

Ms. DePass’s comments received applause from several other people at the meeting.

Donna Maxey was very animated in sharing her feelings on the importance of understand the racial injustice and history that defines the Williams area.

Donna Maxey, co-creator of Multnomah County’s Race Talks series, told PBOT staff that the project could be a golden opportunity to deal with an unjust history that has plagued Portland for decades:

“Before you can get into the racial issue, you have to get into the history. This has been going on since the ’20s here in Portland and so this is just a continuation of it. You can go ahead and move forward on this, or we can really come to grips with it and have an open discussion that makes Portland move forward in a different manner.

I mean, it’s been going on for 90 years, being pushed under the carpet. We’ve got to sit down and stop and talk; and maybe Williams ave is the vehicle to make that happen.”

Michelle Poyourow, the consultant hired by PBOT to manage the public process, at first tried to stick to the agenda; but quickly realized the time had come for the race discussion.

“I honestly don’t understand how a safety campaign on Williams is an issue of gentrification or racism.”

One man, Jack Olsen, objected to throwing out the agenda, saying he came to the meeting to discuss a safety campaign. “I came here for a discussion of the safety issues,” Olsen said, timidly, “I’m worried I might offend people with this statement… but I honestly don’t understand how a safety campaign on Williams is an issue of gentrification or racism.”

“The fact that you don’t understand it means there are a lot of other people who ride up Williams that don’t get it.”

Olsen’s question was met with shock by some people in attendance.

“The fact that you don’t understand it,” Ms. DePass responded, “means there are a lot of other people who ride up Williams that don’t get it.”

“I totally see these issues being integrated,” another woman replied, “It’s so integrated that it’s kind of disheartening to me to think that there are some folks in the room that really understand that and some folks who don’t. We need to have a basic, common understanding of what the history means and how it plays out in crosswalks and interactions between people.”

The woman (I failed to get her name), advocated for getting a group community leaders together to shape the project outcomes. “I think there’s a need to bring the African-American leadership forward to make sure that that voice is there in the outcome.” She then continued, “It’s sad to think that we have to protest to have our voices heard. We should be at the table making decisions about the outcomes.”

Another theme that emerged last night was a feeling among some people that the only reason safety is a major concern from the City now is because white people are the ones who are in danger.

Sharon Maxwell-Hendricks put it this way:

“You say you want it ‘safe’ for everybody, how come it wasn’t safe 10 years ago? That’s part of the whole racism thing… we wanted safe streets back then; but now that the bicyclists want to have safe streets than it’s all about the bicyclists getting safe streets.”

Donna Maxey told the story about her best friend in first Grade who was killed on Williams because of a lack of safety:

“What is causing the anger and resentment is that it’s only an issue of safety now that whites are the ones who are riding bicycles and walking on the streets. Because we have been in this community for years and it has not been an issue and now it’s an issue. So that’s the resentment you’re hearing… years of people being told, you don’t count, you don’t matter… but now that there’s a group of people who’s coming in that look like the people who are the power brokers — now it’s important. That’s the anger. That’s the hurt.”

Olsen, who asked the initial question about why race is connected to a safety project, then said,

“I can begin to comprehend why that resentment is there; but if we delay this safety campaign and project for a year, and in that time another first grader is hit and killed, I’d feel that it was a huge failure on our part as a community.”

Ms. Maxey responded by repeating earlier statements. When Olsen said he must not be explaining himself accurately, Maxey interjected with, “I understand what you’re saying, I’m just pissed.”

This was the kind of candid exchange that exemplified the meeting last night.

At this point, PBOT seems to be going with the flow of the discussion and has plans to continue this discussion at their next meeting on July 27th.

The project has touched a nerve for some in this North Portland community who have deep distrust of the City and anger borne from decades of institutional racism and ongoing struggles in the community.

There’s a lot more I have to say about his topic, but I wanted to get this recap of the meeting out so I’ll leave my other thoughts for another post. For now, listen to the OPB Think Out Loud show that aired this morning (I was a guest). There’s also a robust discussion about the issues going on in the comments from a story I posted yesterday.

CORRECTION: This story as initially published said that Donna Maxey was “an assistant professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University.” I have since found out that Ms. Maxey is not currently on PSU’s faculty. I’ve edited the story and I regret the error. — Jonathan Maus

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Comments
  • dan July 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    So, the net is to do nothing because making any changes turns a blind eye to / tacitly excuses Portland city government’s (current?) racist policies? I don’t know what the right answer is, but I don’t think that’s it.

    Of course, I ride Williams maybe once or twice a year, never during rush hour, so this is NIMBL (Not In My Bike Lane) and I’m not that invested in finding a solution.

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  • Andy Trail July 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    It’s kinda interesting to me that so much development and gentrification is occurring on Williams ( a one way road which leads out of the city) rather than on Vancouver (a 1 way into the city). I wonder how much of that is due to the large number of Vancouver folks who use Williams as a shortcut to I-5. Seems like this may be the first time a minority community stood up for the rights of rich Washingtonians to have an eclectic dinner at Tasty&Sons before scooting home.. Just saying.

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    • noah July 21, 2011 at 11:27 pm

      Shouldn’t there be about as many commuters going into Portland as out of?

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      • NF July 22, 2011 at 9:06 am

        Yes, but people have more flexibility in their schedules on the way home. Coming in, they might stop for coffe, but heading home they may get dinner, do some shopping and catch a show.

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    • Lazlo July 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

      That viewpoint assumes that “the city” consists only of the central core. Williams can also be seen as heading into another part of the city, the part where I live. North Portland has a long history of not being considered as valid a part of the city as some other areas. Portland dumped their garbage there for years, and communities were destroyed to route a freeway and build a sports complex. I for one would love to see improvements for cycling on Williams, I avoid it and opt for Mallory on most commutes. But I think that if there is a perception on the part of the African American communtiy that cycling improvements represent gentrification, whether you agree with that assessment or not, it’s a reality that has to be dealt with.

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    • Derek July 22, 2011 at 10:55 am

      There’s just more opportunity to build retail on Williams. One side of Vancouver is largely taken up by Emmanuel and much of the rest is residential. Williams was the old commercial strip which is why the old storerfronts and vacant lots(which there are a lot of) are being developed. I don’t think it has much to do with commute patterns, and I rarely see that many Washington plates commuting at rush hour and I live right off Williams.

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  • cyclist July 21, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Jonathan: I hope that this talk and future talks will help you understand why there’s a need to compromise on this issue. You’re inability to understand that previously was more than a little unsettling.

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  • Jack July 21, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    The man who’s name you didn’t get is Jack Olsen. I think he’s a frequent commenter on BikePortland.

    I spent a couple hours after the meeting last night talking with Mrs. Maxey and the discussion definitely opened my eyes a bit. To greatly summarize, I gathered that the black community often associates continued gentrification with cyclists simply because cyclists are the most visible new element in the area. Whether resenting cyclists and delaying safety projects because of that is rational or not, the resentment is there and Mrs. Maxey fears that projects that appear as accommodating bicyclists will only increase that resentment.

    Though our discussions were anything but hostile, I was occasionally offended — not just by Mrs. Maxey but also by others I spoke to after the meeting — by there assumptions that I was an active participant in intentionally driving black people out of the neighborhood. These assumptions were evident through leading questions, to all of which my answer was, ‘No’, such as ‘Did you tear down someone’s house and rebuild?’, ‘Oh, so you bought a house that was flipped?’, ‘You must have bought a foreclosure from the bank then?’, and ‘Were the previous owners black?’. I was somewhat frustrated that Mrs. Maxey and other apparent leaders of the black community seemed to want me to be the bad guy.

    I was greatly frustrated by the continual demands that PBOT, the city, or anyone hold a meeting where we could discuss these issues of race and gentrification. Michelle Poyourow did not once object to throwing out her agenda and having last night’s meeting be that meeting. But even after that, no one seemed interested in actually discussing the subject, rather they just continued to reassert the need to discuss the subject.

    Late last night when Mrs. Maxey and I were parting ways in the parking lot I asked simply, ‘Is there anything you think I, or other neighbors could do to help move all this forward?’ Mrs. Maxey’s only suggestion was that I attend Race Talks.

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    • Ted Buehler July 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm

      Jack Olsen — is this you? You spoke well at the meeting and asked the burning question I wanted to ask, and you conducted the discussion articulately and with respect. Thanks.

      I’m glad you kept the conversation going after the meeting.

      Ted Buehler

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      • Jack July 21, 2011 at 6:56 pm

        Yes, I am me.

        I will likely not be able to make next week’s meeting so I hope you, or anyone will be willing to keep up the conversation.

        On that note, I was extremely surprised by the small turn out of people (maybe 5) who seemed interested in moving this project forward. Hopefully next week will be better.

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        • Jene-Paul July 21, 2011 at 8:32 pm

          Jack:

          I haven’t read any more posts below this one yet, but I am confused by this statement of yours -

          “I was extremely surprised by the small turn out of people (maybe 5) who seemed interested in moving this project forward,”

          since I can count at least nine people in the third image above, most of whom are African American.

          Were you referring to the number of people who were in favor of traffic mods, as opposed to the number of people who felt that the issue of race should play a part in the expression of community will? Perception problems happen easily, don’t they?

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          • Jack July 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm

            I was referring to the number of people interested in moving forward with a safety education campaign; the original agenda of this meeting. That should not be confused with the actual engineering project(s) which have been tabled until at least next summer.

            My surprise was due to the extremely large number of people who often express seemingly passionate opinions about safety issues on N Williams, both here on BikePortland and by other means of discussion. Having been to a number of neighborhood greenway planning meetings I was expecting another event with standing room only and people crowded out in the hallway.

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          • John Landolfe July 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm

            From what I’ve taken away from these interactions, I have to credit Jack for his patience under what appears to me to be continual condescension and wiser-than-thou grandstanding.

            I was at an earlier Williams meeting (I also live on the street) which was attended by dozens of people. And Jack, it’s not for lack of interest. I was unaware of the meeting. And, beyond that, for one of the cheapest and simplest roadway improvements to come to the neighborhood, I felt that attending one meeting was adequate.

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    • Paul July 21, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      Cyclists are the most visible new thing in the area? I’ve been driving or riding up Williams for the past 10 years and it seems to me the most visible new thing is all the (I’m being presumptive here) white-owned businesses. Pondering…

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  • marshmallow July 21, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Get a roomful of mixed blacks and whites that ain’t a sports venue or a chris rock show, and the inevitable race “issue” rears its ugly head.

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    • noah July 21, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      Point taken, although things are pretty peaceful at the Maui bar on Williams, one of the very few places in town where the races mix.

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  • kww July 21, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    I understand the need for the context of the institutional racism issue to be included in the project scope, but the project needs to go on. It is a shame that the city can’t go back in time to right those wrongs, so let’s work for the future.

    A bicycle lane does not discriminate. On the contrary, it is an enabler for economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and a traffic calmer. It will have residual benefits for residents and pedestrians who don’t bike as well.

    To defuze the situation, I think the city (not just PBOT) has to go to the community and ask what can be done in addition to the bike lane?

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    • cyclist July 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm

      Translated:

      I understand that the black community has been ignored in Portland for more than a century, but we’re going to need to ignore your input so we can get this built. Maybe next time?

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      • naess July 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm

        translated: anything that doesn’t organicaly grow out of the “black community” is merely another example of keeping said community down.

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        • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 1:34 am

          Translation: I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a black community in Portland.

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          • Jon July 22, 2011 at 7:29 am

            Translation: The black community is the only race (?) in Portland worth talking about. There are no Hispanic, Asian, Indian, etc that should have much of a voice of their history.

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          • noah July 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

            Les jeux sont faits. Translation: the game is up. –Ed Rooney

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      • kww July 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

        Cyclist, I guess you didn’t read my last paragraph. It’s not a choice between the project or nothing at all, for fear of alienating said group.

        It’s a choice of doing this project alone, or doing this project in conjunction with other improvements for the group that will address their concerns of institutional racism.

        It would be awesome if they came to the table with a list of demands, what are their demands??? The article didn’t list any, did they come to the table with anything constructive?

        How about an outreach to help instruct, equip, and engender bicycling in their community? If you don’t have a $500/month car payment hanging over your head and you can ride a bike or transit to work and shopping, that is money back in your pocket. How about a program to help less mobile senior in their neighborhood by setting up a no cost bicycling delivery service?

        Don’t assume to ‘translate’ for anyone. Don’t be a troll, try to come up with some ideas to make it better.

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  • zenriver July 21, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    when there is pain, it’s the body’s signal that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. the same with conflict. we need to learn to see it as an opportunity to listen to each other, pay attention, and come together. i hope the organizers of the 7/27 meeting call in the people who raised the issue of race at tonight’s meeting to develop a process that will a) encourage long-time residents to tell their stories; b) publish and broadcast those stories to a citywide audience so formerly disenfranchised voices can now be heard; c) detail what’s involved for today’s policymakers to step up to make amends for the transgressions of the past; d) involve everyone in the N Williams community area in making proposals to address public safety in the bike lanes and beyond. it’s been a long time coming~

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  • Ted Buehler July 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I was there.

    It was a good meeting.

    I would not describe the meeting as “heated.” Heated to me means tempers flaring, people making angry, pointed comments.

    Instead, it was calm, civil, with different people expressing their own points of view. And everyone was heard.

    Nor did “the conversation quickly turned to race.” There were three exercises, and all parties completed the first one (“What dangerous and disrespectful behaviors do you see on Williams”) it was decided to discuss racial and gentrification issues for the 2nd half of the meeting, rather than proceed with the other 2 exercises. This was half way through the meeting.

    It was one of the more informative, interesting meetings I’ve been to.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Hugh Johnson July 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I agree. What in the world does it have to do with race? The bike lanes are open to everyone. Cycling is as inclusive as you make. It’s not “white” thing. Anybody can swing a leg over a bike and ride. Too bad the race card always gets pulled when lack of a better argument exists.

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    • dmc July 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm

      Exactly. People are stupid.

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  • A.K. July 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Wow. This quite frankly is a very interesting turn of developments. Previously I was somewhat annoyed that the process for “improving the street” (in my opinion it would be an improvement) was delayed. But if community members feel they are not being heard or considered, then it’s the right thing to do.

    However, I have to respectfully disagree with this part:

    “Donna Maxey told the story about her best friend in first Grade who was killed on Williams because of a lack of safety:

    “What is causing the anger and resentment is that it’s only an issue of safety now that whites are the ones who are riding bicycles and walking on the streets. Because we have been in this community for years and it has not been an issue and now it’s an issue. ”

    I’m white, and grew up in West Moreland, a neighborhood that I would guess is 99% white. The street I lived on was a common cut-through for motorist trying to reach Bybee blvd. I remember my mom and some other neighbors trying to petition the city to do something about the speeders – cops with radar guns, speed bumps, etc. and could never get anything done about it. It just wasn’t an issue that even hit the city’s radar. There were several high-speed crashes at our house, which was on a corner – including one car that took out a tree of ours, and another which took out the metal railing to the stairs leading to the backyard.

    I also had a friend get hit by a car when we were kids when he was skateboarding in the street. He didn’t die, but both legs were broken and he had a head injury, and spent quite a while in a wheelchair and then on crutches as he recovered. Kids get hit and killed by cars in every part of the city, not just the poor black areas.

    So, I have to say it’s an issue now because the city is trying to build a comprehensive network of safe bike facilities across the city – almost every area is getting bike lanes, boulevards, etc.

    Of course, the city could systematically deny these same facilities to neighborhoods in N/NE Portland – but then that would bring the same changes of racism that are being brought up now, I would imagine.

    I have no idea what the answer to these issues is, and I am very glad to not be the project director on this, that’s for sure. Every community has it’s own needs, but as part of a larger network of neighborhoods that forms the city as a whole, I think improvements like these needs to be made everywhere.

    I would also think that bike lanes don’t bring gentrification – bike lanes mean you have already BEEN gentrified. But they are one of the few ways someone in the community can have a voice, so at the same time I get the opposition – you don’t get a say over who moves in or what type of business come, but you can have some control over community projects like this.

    Any ways, those are just my thoughts. Ramble mode off.

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    • SteveD July 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      You make a good point. I think part of the issue is that the African American community was ignored by the City of Portland decades ago and fell to silence as a result. Long ago African Americans everywhere were “put in their place” by the majority whites and have long been silent. Maybe things have changed and the City is more responsive to everyone now? Today they have these “outsiders” taking over their neighborhood, speaking out, and asking for improvements. The City of Portland is actually listening and the African American community now says “wait a minute, how come you didn’t listen to our concerns 40 years ago?” They gave up asking for anything from the City long ago and have silently fumed over it for years. Maybe if they would speak up today, they may actually get listened to. Now is the time for the African American community to stand up and be heard. I don’t think that blocking improvements, or railing against those who buy vacant properties, are the appropriate things at which to direct their anger. Its kind of like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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  • rider July 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Not to mis-direct, but can we get the black community to start talk out against the CRC? That’s a project that will be truly detrimental to the community.

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    • A.K. July 21, 2011 at 6:29 pm

      It’s hard to see all the white folks invading your state when they are behind steel and glass! It’s just a bunch of CARS, after all…

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    • Jack July 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      I feel kind of bad that I laughed when I read this. The idea is immoral, disrespectful and ingenious.

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      • rider July 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm

        Eek, I re-read this and it sounds like I want to manipulate and use the black community. That certainly wasn’t my intent. I was more so thinking that this community clearly has a voice loud enough to make our politicians tremble in their shoes a bit, and that the CRC really will be devastating to the neighborhood.

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    • Joe Adamski July 21, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      I doubt you can. If they recognize it to be a concern, perhaps they will speak out. Oh wait… is there a black community, any more than a ‘bicycle community’? even within an easily identified community, there are many factions….

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  • Chris I July 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I still haven’t heard a good argument as to how this safety project is racist.

    This project is happening because there is a demand for the service (increased pedestrian and bike traffic). If this neighborhood had not gentrified, and we were seeing the same levels of bike traffic among the minority community, I really feel like the city would still be doing the project. I invite suggestions as to why that wouldn’t be the case.

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    • rider July 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm

      It isn’t that this project is racist, I don’t even think the community is truly opposed to the project as evidenced by the few specific demands for a change in the project. The issue is more that this community in this neighborhood has been abused and marginalized for years. That can be demonstrated through the building that the meeting was held in. The community likely feels that even after all the bullying from the city in the past, after the city assured that these things wouldn’t happen again, this project was designed and moved forward without significant input from them.

      I don’t know what efforts the city took to involve the black community in North Portland in the initial stages of the project, but it clearly wasn’t enough. It does seem that the community now has a full seat at the table and it’s time to start making suggestions and work toward improving safety in this neighborhood.

      On the plus side, whatever the outcome, it’s going to be real hard when all is said and done for some KATU reporter to sit in a lawn chair in the bike lane and create flame wars.

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      • naess July 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm

        i’m not sure with this project, but there will always be a portion of any community that feels there will NEVER be enough “community involvement” with any project. unfortunately when the city tries to have adequate “community involvement” you get something like the sellwood bridge, with what 8+ years now of “community involvement”? guess what, once they finalize a plan and start to move forward there will still be some group that says their oppinions were never asked and thus there wasn’t enough “community involvement.”

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  • captainkarma July 21, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    If you think about it, decent biking infrastructure is being RE-installed, just like streetcar access. etc. These are things that have been removed & *denied* for all those decades that Car was King. Cars and streetcars were here long before auotomobiles. Aren’t we trying to *restore* human scale & dignity and quality of life? But I guess that Williams can be put back at the end of the list, and get their infrastructure in 2032 when fuel will be what, $20 per gal? In the meantime, who to sue as people get injured or killed because willfully missed upgrades?

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  • Rick July 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    If someone is frustrated enough over an issue to hijack a public meeting over street improvements in order to be heard, then truly, the level of frustration must be high. But race issues still have nothing to do with traffic safety improvements that benefit everyone. I do not know what forums are available to address racial injustice, but traffic safety improvements ain’t the one.

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    • was carless July 22, 2011 at 9:39 am

      Well, I think thats the point. The city has pretty much ignored this section of Portland for a very long time, and these community members seem to be flexing their political muscle to make their voices heard. About the only other time you hear about N/NE Portland and the black community was in regards to the neighborhood church arsons and gang violence. Perhaps this venue seemed to offer more hope of generating a positive outcome, as the city will instead spend money to physically improve the neighborhood.

      Someone should bring up the storefront improvement program grants/low income loans that were offered years ago by the PDC to spruce up Alberta and Williams/Vancouver.

      http://www.pdc.us/city_wide/storefront/index.asp

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  • Ted Buehler July 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    My take on the meeting —

    The original topic of “safe and respectful behaviors” was a good one.

    There’s all sorts of structural conflict built in to operating a bike, car, bus, or sneakers on Williams.

    These conflicts are not as acute anywhere else in the city. Buses and bikes playing switcheroo. Bicyclists riding in heavy bike traffic who have never been trained how to ride safely and courteously in such. Cars tailgating. And lots more.

    I’d been to a handful of Williams meetings in the past, but this was the only one I’d been to where the black community had come in numbers. There were probably a dozen women, over 50, who had lived in the area their entire lives. State Rep. Lew Frederickson was also there.

    So I think it was a fair change to have half the meeting on safe travel behavior, and the other half on race, racism, gentrification, etc.

    It was fascinating to hear the dialogue.

    In other meetings, racism is the elephant in the room. Yesterday it came out, and was discussed openly, civilly, honestly, sometimes eloquently, and with the intent to come to a better understanding by all parties.

    Plainly, there is work to be done by the city to not disenfranchise the black community yet again. Whether N Williams lane allocation is a “good” place for this to surface or not is a valid question, but at this point it has surfaced, and it’s not going to go away, so we might as well take the opportunity to discuss it and figure out what the city needs to do in terms of housing, zoning, minority business and home loans, education, etc. to keep the black community here, happily, and fairly intact. These neighborhoods were built over the last 50 years to have all the urban and social services that they need, and its senseless on a bunch of levels to have gentrification steamroller them out of the neighborhood.

    Is the bike lane project being held hostage? Some say yes, some say no, the jury is still out.

    There’s still some elephants in the room. The “safety” question was the fundamental term in the discussion between Jack and Mrs. Maxey. Safety means different things — if we were really interested in safety we’d just cut the speed limit to 25, add crosswalks, and do a major outreach campaign to bicyclists to teach them how to ride safely and courteously in heavy bike traffic. Don’t pass on the right. Don’t share the lane. Don’t tailgate. Don’t cut off cars or bikes.

    Part of the issue is that bicyclists would like to go “fast,” and everyone has a different speed for “fast,” so you can’t have both fast and safe in the current engineered environment.

    And there’s compelling issues to make Williams a multilane “fast” bike facility — much of NE Portland is on/behind the Alameda Ridge, and Williams is the only street that goes north out of the downtown “loop” that doesn’t have a tedious climb up the ridge. Similarly, Williams is the only non-highway route to N Portland and St. Johns.

    So it is about speed and comfort, as well as safety. And that ought to be on the table.

    But also, the shorter and more comfortable the ride, the more people will take it. If the only access to NE Portland was up MLK or 33rd, and the only access to N Portland was on Greely or Interstate, people along Williams would have a lot more smog and road dust in their lungs, because fewer people would bike downtown.

    Anyhow, since the 2010 census data came out and showed the level of gentrification and shrinking black population in N/NE, I think the city has to start countering it. There are many good things that they can do to support and empower the black community. But the city will have to step up to the plate and do them, and at the same time make a rational case for the benefits to all people and all neighborhoods of making Williams a 2-bikelane street.

    Thanks for covering the meeting, Jonathan, and providing this forum for discussion.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Chris July 21, 2011 at 9:08 pm

      “Anyhow, since the 2010 census data came out and showed the level of gentrification and shrinking black population in N/NE, I think the city has to start countering it.”

      Ted – How does the city counter this? The change in my old stomping grounds of N Mississippi seemed to be free-markets at work – I see little the city could have done (morally/ethically) to stop it.

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      • spare_wheel July 22, 2011 at 11:03 am

        some of us don’t believe there is anything ethical or moral about free markets or social darwinism.

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      • Rain Panther July 22, 2011 at 11:07 am

        There’s plenty that can – or at least could have – been done to slow the gentrification process, or at least mitigate the most damaging effects, whether by way of tax reform or changes in land use and zoning laws. That’s kind of what government does.

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    • was carless July 22, 2011 at 9:43 am

      “These neighborhoods were built over the last 50 years to have all the urban and social services that they need”

      I would argue that this definitely wasn’t the case 10 years ago, when the neighborhood was devoid of places you could buy fresh food, which is a basic staple for human and animal life. Additionally, many of the storefronts even 6 years ago were boarded up and offered no economic activity.

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    • Michael, Portland Afoot July 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm

      +1, Ted.

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    • Esther July 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      Ted, you r ock. Thank you for upholding civility and mutual respect and listening in this conversation.

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  • Ali July 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    I understand that people would become frustrated at seeing ‘others’ going through their neighborhoods to get somewhere else, and then seeing money set aside to facilitate that, especially after the area has been built up with businesses that aren’t aimed at people who have lived there for years.
    I think that it’s a shame though, that bike issues are becoming the eye of this storm, partly because we are highly visible and because it has become such a hot button issue to talk about cyclists in this town – it’s guaranteed to create controversy.

    What I’m sorry about is that no one seems to question the wisdom of encouraging so many traffic uses on one stretch of road – drivers coming to the neighborhood, drivers avoiding I-5, cyclists in one narrow lane, parking to the right of that, a trimet bus route crossing back and forth over the bike lane and development that encourages people to walk. It’s expecting way too much from one narrow artery. Why not have a route several streets over like the one on Going rather than concentrating everyone on Williams? Though there aren’t many options for getting from downtown to NE, I avoid Williams as much as I can while commuting by bike – it’s not worth the hassle. And it would be so nice if cycling was not part of this controversial and important conversation.

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    • Derek July 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      Totally agree. I live right off N Williams, and I’ll ride my bike over on Rodney to the east or another street rather than deal with that whole mess. Add in ambulances going to Emmanuel, frequent street construction, pedestrians trying to cross a street with few traffic signals, and people getting on off I-405 and you have a recipe for disaster.

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  • Mitch July 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    This is pretty silly and really illustrates that Portlanders do not feel comfortable with African Americas. It is pure and simple Argumentum ad lazarum. Disliking someone because they are white and ride a bike and finding reasons to demonize them is no less rational that traditional forms of racism. If DePass cannot conduct herself sensibly and present a rational argument, she should be excused from the discussion.

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    • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 1:39 am

      Ah good, I’d been waiting for someone to use false equivalency. Not wanting someone to build a bike lane is akin to the racism experienced by African Americans, well done.

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      • Mitch July 22, 2011 at 7:45 am

        You misunderstand. I’m not saying it’s as bad as or worse than racism. White people complaining about not having good bike lanes are first world problems. Back to my point, I’m saying the race response is not a rational response or argument. If someone hates someone because their skin color that’s irrational. If someone hates someone because they ride a bike, that’s irrational. Sorry, that’s an inarguable fact unless you accept the biases of racism or stereotypes of bikers.

        The only difference no one tolerates entertaining biases around racism. When car drivers demonize bikers we have no trouble thrown that back as invalid because it’s irrational.

        Now there is a place for discussing issues facing minorities (safety, transportation and yeah being pushed out by a wealthy elite) but these are not issues of race or racism but more of income and conservatism . Bullying people using race as a defense beyond discussion is the most counterproductive approach possible.

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  • Edie Spencer July 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Lets put this in blunt, easy to understand language:

    What the women in that meeting were talking about was perception and their reality in living in the area. The fact is this: N Williams has turned into a mostly white corridor of businesses that do not serve nor does it seem to welcome the African American residents in that neighborhood. That Jack Olsen and others on the board don’t see that AND mostly importantly, refuse to see that is what is driving that resentment speaks to white, classist privilege. It’s about attitudes that are say “I am entitled, and your voice and experience does not mean anything.” In the course of my documentary research I have found a severe disconnect between members of the African American community here in Portland and bicyclists.

    This is what the women were talking by acknowledging that- and what Jack and others failed to do. There is a tactic by some when their lack of sensitivity is brought to make it seem as if they are victims. This is the tactic here. Jack Olsen and others on the board would greatly benefit from Race Talks- the comments here betray the need to examine how racist assumptions and attitudes play a part in life, even when we think we are not.

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    • Jill VW July 22, 2011 at 9:19 am

      Precisely, Edie!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

      Edie,

      Jack Olsen asked an honest question (which several people in room acknowledged was an important and fair question) about how and why the racial issues need to be tied to a transportation project.

      How do you take that and then accuse him of not understanding the racial history of the n’hood. I just don’t get that.

      I think it’s possible (and it explains my feelings) to care deeply and be open to the racial issues in that n’hood, while also thinking that it’s a mistake to tie them so closely to this one specific road project.

      Neither thing – the project or the race issue – is well-served by trying to deal with them concurrently and it’s not accurate IMO to label people who feel that was as somehow being out of touch or not being understanding of the racial issues.

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    • KJ July 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      +1

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  • marshmallow July 21, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Whities want to build a bicycle freeway masked as a safety agenda through a historically negro part of town to be used almost exclusively by whites with unrealized feelings of entitlement.

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    • oldcollegetry July 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      Right, because minorities are going to be banned from using the bike lanes. And we all know bikes are for rich, white folk. Surely, low income communities can afford a motor vehicle over a bicycle. Why don’t you try contributing to the conversation instead of posting inflammatory comments?

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  • Chris July 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    What exactly is it that the community members saying racism want? I don’t get it, what exactly is their goal? No one is going to deny the absolutely terrible things that have gone on this countries history, but how does that affect this issue?

    Instead of just saying “the problem is that you don’t understand” why not help people understand?

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    • Chris July 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm

      There is much discussion on who has been wronged, yet so little discussion on how we can go forward.

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      • looking_in July 21, 2011 at 11:20 pm

        Disclaimer: I was not at this meeting and I am not necessarily agreeing with what was reportedly said. However, I would like to respond to you, and to those who say that a bike lane does not discriminate. You are right: a bike lane is for all – who ride bicycles. The simple fact is that the black community has not embraced bicycle culture the way that the white community has. This is a cultural difference (NOT racial) that has to do with the way that black people interact with their children and friends.

        As a person of color and a 9-year Portland resident, I have to say that the only people in Portland who can afford to see the world as color blind are white people; it’s just that the city is predominantly white. In a racially diverse area, these issues are not so easily ignored. When you are “normal,” it is easy to see things as racially neutral; it is only when you are the “other” that you cannot. So here is the truth: these safety measures will predominantly benefit the majority, which happens to be white. For a community that has a LONG history of marginalization, that is not racially neutral. These measures will predominantly benefit white people. Now, in a city 80% white, every safety measure will benefit more white people than those of color, but bicycle safety disproportionately benefits white people over black people. Not through any design, but just because black people don’t bike as much (in general).

        Of course, everything I have said is a generalization (plenty of black people bike, plenty of white people don’t) but I am guessing that this is what frustrated those people. So they came to the only forum they could think of to air their grievances. Don’t worry, they knew what I know – the project will go ahead regardless of what they have to say, and their needs will continue to go unmet unless they happen to coincide with those of the majority.

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        • Max July 22, 2011 at 2:30 am

          Excellent comment, couldn’t have said it better myself!

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        • Jon July 22, 2011 at 7:34 am

          Very well put!

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        • Chris I July 22, 2011 at 7:41 am

          As a 9-year member of the minority commuter here, what transportation solutions would you recommend for the minority members of this community? What can PBOT do to help them get around?

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          • noah July 22, 2011 at 9:31 am

            It seems like the government is catering to my more refined needs quickly while their more basic needs have gone unfulfilled for a long time — stuff like (certainly) housing security, (maybe) protection against violence, (maybe) health care. That stuff precedes transportation improvements. If so, I think that’s what strikes them as unjust about this project.

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            • Chris I July 22, 2011 at 10:35 am

              You should compare the PBOT budget with the PPB budget. Then compare the PBOT budget dedicated to projects like this to the PPB budget. I think we have balanced the funding levels appropriately. Remember that transportation infrastructure helps drive the economy. A strong economy yields benefits in safety and health care.

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              • noah July 22, 2011 at 10:39 am

                But it’s hard to deny that the benefits are distributed unequally, particularly in the high-tech and services economy that is replacing industry in Portland. And doesn’t that inequality fuel the gentrification the opponents are railing against?

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            • John Landolfe July 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm

              Noah, I would agree with that statement if we were talking anything BUT transportation. Fatality rates for transportation are 3-4 times that of the homicide rate. I can’t find a good study that breaks down traffic deaths by race but it’s quite likely that more blacks die in the violence of an automobile collision than by any other means.

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          • Ted Buehler July 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm

            Chris –

            I think the bicycling members of the black community need to reach out to their elders and tell them your take on the matter as a bicyclist.

            And the rest of us bicyclists need to stand up with the black community on the issues of countering gentrification, and ask the city to actively pursue policies to prevent further displacement of the black community.

            Drop me a line if you’d like to talk about this, I’ve been going to some of the meetings, and I’m interested in your take on it.

            Ted101 at gmail

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        • Matt F July 22, 2011 at 10:14 am

          Agreed.

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        • joe-ji July 22, 2011 at 11:36 am

          Well put, and easily understood by anyone willing to understand. Thanks.

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        • KJ July 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm

          nicely put, thank you

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        • jeff July 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm

          people who ride bicycles are any single person who decides to pick one up. I didn’t ride at all 8 years ago. I do now, daily, to and from work. I also exercise on and race a bicycle quite often.
          That’s like saying the only people who use sidewalks are pedestrians. The facilities are there for you too to use and enjoy as much as you can or want to.

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          • Hugh Johnson July 24, 2011 at 10:27 am

            no sadly anybody who rides a bike through North Portland has been stereotyped as a “wealthy white person”. Well I am white, but far from wealthy. I grew in North Portland, but now live out on the east side near NE 122nd…talk about hell. The car IS king out here. They should be happy over there in NoPo that someone is attempting to keep car traffic in check instead of turning it into a “oh poor me” pissing match.

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      • Jimmy P July 22, 2011 at 8:55 am

        This is what I think, too. As someone who rides Williams everyday during rush hour, I find it very frustrating. Safety is taking a backseat in the discussion here.

        I have read papers and articles on gentrification, and I’ve seen it here in Portland and in other cities I’ve lived in the past decade. To the best of my ability as a white male, I can at least see the fear and angst from the community even if I can’t experience first hand.

        So, now the question is, what does the community want? The project has been shelved. They are now part of the discussion. The past two meetings have been all about race and their feelings of disrespect by the city. But it still comes down to what they want. Do they want only to be heard before the changes? Do they have an alternate change they’d like to see? Do they want no changes whatsoever? Do they want the bike lanes removed? This is the real issue. It’s not enough to get the city and others in a meeting and then just complain. The city can’t turn back the clock, but they can try and help resolve some problems they may have caused.

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  • rootbeerguy July 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    i dislike self-pityness/self-centeredness. it is totally time wasting. i gotta move on. it is hard sometimes but i need to keep going forward… i feel discriminated against many times anyway because i am deaf. i wont let this stop me. Cycling applies so much to my life journey.

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  • captainkarma July 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Good Job on Think Out Loud, JM.

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  • MIddle of the Road Guy July 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Just because a minority says something does not give it any more value than anyone else. People are scared to disagree with anything said by a minority for fear of being branded racist.

    Has it occurred to anyone that this really is not a race issue to whites, who likely feel that minorities are totally welcome on Williams, whereas the minority perception (possibly incorrect) is that they are not?

    I once took a black friend to the 5th Quadrant and he said he would never come in there himself for fear of having the police called on him. It was absurd and I told him that.

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    • Rain Panther July 22, 2011 at 11:17 am

      By “welcome” I guess you mean “not prohibited.”

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  • rider July 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with safety. Everything else is a distraction and misplaced feelings. Want to address race issues in Portland? Please do, there is a long, regrettable history. But neighborhoods change (how did N and NE Portland start?) so let’s look at how we can make this a more livable and safe place for all.

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  • looking_in July 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    What they wanted was what they got: to be heard. It was probably not the most appropriate forum, but it was probably also the only one that they will get. So they showed up with their charts, they said what was in their hearts, and they went home feeling a little better because they got to vent their frustration. Even though they knew it wouldn’t make a difference, because there is no way to solve their problem and they know it even better than you do.

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    • Kittens July 22, 2011 at 5:09 am

      Great point. But don’t you think this will just keep popping up?

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  • Bjorn July 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    I have had 2 friends killed by cars in Portland, one a minority, one not. I was also nearly killed when I was hit by a vehicle traveling 55 mph in 1990. Car bumpers don’t care what color you are.

    I was glad to see this quote: “I can begin to comprehend why that resentment is there; but if we delay this safety campaign and project for a year, and in that time another first grader is hit and killed, I’d feel that it was a huge failure on our part as a community.”

    I was glad to see it because I was that kid albeit as a 7th grader with a relatively unsafe route to school, who nearly died in part because there wasn’t safer infrastructure, and before I read it I felt like I wished I had been at the meeting to ask the semi-rhetorical question “How many white people need to die or be seriously injured on Williams in order for the score to be even so we can make safety improvements. I am glad that at least one person at the meeting recognizes that preventing safety improvements will have real impacts to people who walk and ride on Williams, and may even cause someone’s death.

    I know the whole area has a loaded history, but it seems counter-intuitive to try to force the neighborhood to stay in the safety dark ages because in the past it has been unsafe. If these residents are successful at blocking safety improvements the money will be spent in another, part of the city. Likely a whiter and richer area while this area which has a higher minority population will continue to be at a disadvantage from a safety point of view.

    Finally, I’ve worked with Michelle a few times through the BTA, and I have never seen anything but the highest level of integrity and honesty from her. I really hope that anyone involved in these meetings will take a moment to separate the issues they are concerned about from the people who are working hard to facilitate the discussion. I can’t imagine a scenario where Michelle would lie in a public forum like this, it simply wouldn’t happen.

    Bjorn

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    • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 1:43 am

      Perhaps for once we should listen to the people who have lived in the community for decades. The “we know what’s best for you” attitude strikes me as paternalistic to the Nth degree, and really has no place in our city. By ignoring the will of these residents you’re just perpetuating the disenfranchisement that’s existed there for a long time.

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      • middle of the road guy July 22, 2011 at 9:20 am

        Maybe it is the will of the residents that is continuing that sense of resentment and disenfranchisement.

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        • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 10:03 am

          You’re totally right, they’ve brought it on themselves. If only someone could enlighten them about the benefits of bike lanes the chains could be broken!

          My statement above wasn’t even a race issue. When you’re trying to build something through someone’s community you should at least make sure that the community agrees to the benefits. Didn’t we kill the Mt. Hood Expressway for similar reasons?

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

            “someone’s community”?

            cyclist, you are falling into the trap of thinking that this community “belongs” to any one group. That’s a falsehood that is easily perpetuated when the gentrification issue is raised.

            truth is, the community is owned by everyone in it… not based on the color of people’s skin. Not everyone in “the community” is opposed to the bikeway… In fact, a majority of people support it.

            Not saying majority should always just do whatever it wants with impunity, I’m just pointing out a fact.

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  • Kittens July 22, 2011 at 5:07 am

    Clearly the city needs to conduct a broad conversation about gentrification. Sorry, I don’t buy into the argument that removing a lane of traffic to allow more bikes is really the main issue here. This is displaced resentment that their neighborhood is changing dramatically for the better without their direct consent or involvement. Progress is scary (and impossible to halt)

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  • Dude July 22, 2011 at 7:59 am

    If the black community wants to have a respectful discussion about race, culture, and racism in Portland perhaps they could start by respectfully allowing the Williams process to move forward and not using it as a scapegoat for all of the bad history of their neighborhood. Hijacking the discussion is not fair, not respectful, and not appropriate. Given all the guilt-ridden liberals in Portland, I’m sure the broader community would be willing to create and support a far better forum for discussing Portland’s racist history.

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    • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 8:46 am

      The “guilt-ridden liberals” are the ones pushing their agenda in N Williams right now and gentrifying their neighborhood. Not too many “guilt-ridden liberals” here seem to be concerned about that.

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      • Colin July 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm

        Cyclist

        You keep purposely misinterpreting everyone’s comments and then when they respond to your misinterpretation you are silent. You’re not really adding anything productive to the conversation, you’re just attempting to label anyone advocating for the bike lane as basically racist, unsympathetic, and liberal.

        The area around Williams isn’t exclusively black, nor is Williams itself owned by the people who live immediately around it, white or black. I work on Mississippi and bike up Williams from not too far away, am I part of that community? Am I not part of it because I’m white? Am I not entitled to advocate for a bike lane there because I’m white? If I do advocate for a bike lane does that make me racist? Should my family have lived there for some predetermined amount of time before I’m considered a part of the community?

        Bike lanes are not for white people, they’re for whoever wants to use them. There’s been an increase in bicycle riders on Williams, so that increase has prompted calls for a wider bike lane. That’s it, that’s the whole story. This racism issue came out of nowhere. The only “connection” I can see is that the black residents in the area have felt neglected by the city, which is an entirely understandable complaint and should be discussed openly, but that does not make putting in a wider bike lane now racist.

        If you think cycling in Portland is a predominantly white activity than you’d have to come to the same conclusion about driving because most drivers in Portland are white, it’s irrelevant. Black people can and do use the bike lane on Williams already. This “connection” between racism and a wider bike lane is frivolous.

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  • cw July 22, 2011 at 8:20 am

    This whole discussion is shocking. Except for a few well informed comments, I have never seen or heard so much white entitlement masquerading in the form of liberal open-mindedness. I ride to work on Williams and Vancouver 3-4 times a week, and yes improved bike infrastructure would make my commute more comfortable, but that doesn’t mean we can bulldoze a bike lane into a community that doesn’t see the benefit.

    First of all, the comments about being shocked that so few people were interested in sticking to the original agenda just shows how wrong the agenda was to begin with. Who thought up the agenda? Was it created with input from the community? Or was it some planner at the city who decided what the meeting was going to be about? Some people might think of this as efficient meeting planning, others might take that to be the majority disenfranchising african americans by taking away their voice to set the agenda for a meeting concerning *their own neighborhood*. Just another example of the insensitivity with which this project has been approached.

    Also, if people were truly interested in benefiting the neighborhood and improving safety, they should consider all options — clearly the community that lives around N. Williams has not embraced the bike “improvements”. So why hasn’t PDOT looked at other traffic calming measures that can address ped-driver interaction and re-route cyclists somewhere else? Why is cycling infrastructure persistently part of the plan, when the community that lives there clearly doesn’t care about improving bike lanes?

    Williams is the quickest way for me to get to and from work and home, but perhaps MY convenience should be secondary to the needs and desires of the residents.

    I think alot of the outrage comes from the fact that the neighborhood has been asking for safety measures to be put in place for years, and now they are being offered a safety measure that doesn’t really benefit them, with no option on the table that puts their needs first and foremost.

    To say that race has nothing to do with this just shows the ignorance and privileged world view of the greater white majority. For the commenter that equated irrational hatred of race with irrational hatred of bicycles, that argument is a red herring — my skin color does not effect or impact your life in any way, shape or form. I live, breathe, and take up the same amount of room as a white person. However, your bicycle does have externalities that impact other peoples’ lives. “Hatred” of the two cannot be equated.

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    • middle of the road guy July 22, 2011 at 9:21 am

      that’s right….right from the start go ahead and accuse everyone of being an entitled racist.

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      • cw July 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

        Not sure how you got “everyone” when I prefaced my comment by saying there were a few informed comments? Way to generalize!

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    • Jack July 22, 2011 at 9:58 am

      If you had attended the meeting or read this article you would know that this meeting was not about putting in bike lanes. It was a meeting to discuss an upcoming safety education campaign. Michelle Poyourow started the meeting by stating that there is increasing concern regarding safety on and around the street. We then brainstormed ways in which we all felt people act disrespectfully when using the street. Then the discussion derailed. It was never about a bike lane.

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      • cw July 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm

        I never said the meeting was about bike lanes only — just pointed out the logical inconsistency of other posters complaining about the meeting getting “derailed.” Maybe it was on the wrong set of rails to begin with. You can’t say you are holding a meeting for community input, and then unilaterally set the meeting agenda and be surprised/annoyed when others have a different agenda or issues they’d like to raise.

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    • john July 22, 2011 at 10:19 am

      The “whole discussion is shocking” ??
      Huh? I guess ignorance and lack of logic is bliss?

      Here’s the bottom line. Vehicles can be convenient and are a great way to show how cool one is, but THEY ARE EVIL. They kill people, They poison children, they are noisy, they are an outrageous expense to societies around the world. They may be the cause of the end of the world. or They may cause a “long Emergency ” as oil supplies diminish and demand increases. They are perhaps the number cause of health issues in americans. etc. etc.

      SO here’s one way to look at:
      If you don’t support bicycles/pedestrian safe transportation in your neighborhood, You ARE a SUPPORTER OF POISONING CHILDREN. THATS THE BOTTOM LINE.

      History be damned, LETS STOP Poisoning our children NOW! Get your head of your ass, and seize the oppurtunity given you, LEAPFROG the mistakes american suburbia made! ITS your Moral duty, Its your patroitic duty, GET ON YOUR BIKE AND RIDE.

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      • Noelle July 22, 2011 at 10:37 am

        Agree, but your comment will alienate those who would benefit the most. No one likes to be accused of evil.

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      • cw July 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm

        umm…did you read any of my comment? I ride the williams/vancouver route 3-4 times a week ON MY BIKE. It is the quickest and most convenient route for me to get to/from work on my bike, but I do not think that my convenience outweighs the needs and desires of the locals who live there.

        I have not seen or heard anyone in PDOT or the cycling community seriously consider improving the street in a way that would primarily benefit local residents. Perhaps they would be better served by a dedicated bus boulevard? Perhaps the bike lane should move elsewhere, the sidewalk should be widened, and other traffic calming measures should be added? If this is really about safety, why not examine all options that would make the street safer for the residents and at least consider taking bike-centric improvements off the table?

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        • Alexis July 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm

          Have you been following any of the actual plans? Additional signalization, reconfiguration of bus stops to possibly include islands or bulbs, and additional crosswalks are all on the table. As is changing the lane configuration to make it easier for pedestrians to cross (and at the same time, ideally reducing cut-through traffic and providing more space for people riding).

          The thrust of your comment is interesting — whose safety, desires, convenience, etc. should the project be considering? That’s a question that’s central to this project and to any others the city des. But you don’t seem to know whose it actually is considering right now, and it’s important to know that in order to talk about what’s being caught and what’s being missed.

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    • zenriver July 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Thank you cw. Beautifully said.

      City of Portland public involvement people, are you listening? These issues in N and NE have been simmering for a long time. That they bubbled over at an ostensibly straightforward bike-lane meeting is beside the point. The City’s public involvement managers need to stop acting like PR/salespeople for master-planned URAs or whatever and *create* true design charrette processes involving the broadest spectrum of the community to address and *direct* how they want their neighborhoods to develop.

      The City needs to do more than allocate infrastructure resources to the area with squadrons of glib marketing people– it needs to procure the services of culturally literate, emotionally astute, process-skilled, and opinion-neutral facilitators to tap into the wellspring of creativity at the grassroots. The role of planners should be to present schematics of possible options at an early design stage, not the false choice of finished Proposals A, B, or C. Films of how model approaches in other communities have worked are very effective at opening up possibilities and imaginations in the audience. Also on hand should be notetakers, draftspeople, and engineers who can assimilate the community’s emerging ideas and priorities into working plans that come back to the community for refinement. And then the City builds what the community has designed. It really is that simple. In sum, the City’s role should be to support forums for diverse people to come together. The people are the experts of their own neighborhoods.

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  • looking_in July 22, 2011 at 8:22 am

    (Sorry for the double post, but I accidentally failed to hit “reply” the first time.)

    Chris, great question. I think the key is outreach and education. To be blunt, in the black community, most people who have historically ridden bikes are drug dealers. Parents who have children think, I need someplace safe to keep my kids and a bike isn’t safe for my kids! People who want to spend time with friends think, I want to talk to my friends in the car and listen to music on the way to dinner! These are the opportunity costs of bicycling, at least in some people’s minds. At this point, most of the black community still drives or takes the bus. So enhancing bus services or an outreach program designed to meet the cultural (again, NOT racial) needs of the black community and change the image of who it is that rides a bicycle. Show people the advantages to their health, show them that it is cheaper, show them that they don’t have to sacrifice safety or fun to ride a bike. Of course, it’s hard to speak for people I haven’t met, so what I would suggest is that someone contact the people who came to the meeting and talk to them about bicycling. Ask them how many members of their community ride bicycles. Then ask them why, and design a program that’s tailored to meet their needs.

    As much as it is a good thing that we have moved into a less-overtly racist society, it can also tend to make us get into that color-blind thing. Remember, this is culture not color. All people have been raised inside their own culture, which is why you can’t see that there is a white culture and that you have been pushing bicycling in a way that speaks to it. Teach about bicycling in a way that speaks to the black community, and they will respond positively. Because after all, that’s all they wanted, was to be included.

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  • halfwheeled July 22, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Maus, long time reader of BP, and admire your writing, but every postings about race from you have me conclude that you are out of touch with race issues. I was a bit horrified with some of your comments on Think out Loud. Prob best to stick with bikes and leave race out of your discussions. Thanks for your hard work.

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    • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 8:48 am

      I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t hear Think Out Loud until last night and I was absolutely appalled. Jonathan either doesn’t care about race issues or simply has an inability to understand that he comes off *terribly* when he talks about them.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 8:56 am

        thanks halfwheeled and cyclist for your critiques. I disagree strongly with your opinion of me, but that’s fine. FWIW I have received numerous messages from other readers and people in the community who feel I did a very admirable job on the radio given the circumstances.

        Again. I think you’re completely wrong in saying i’m out of touch with race issues. Yes, I am white and have only lived in Portland for 7 yrs and i will never fully understand the race issue because I haven’t lived it and I don’t live it now… But I don’t think I’m deserving of “you’re out of touch with race issues”. Pls explain why if you can. thanks.

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        • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

          Jonathan,

          The fact is that you don’t really care about race. When I asked you a few months back about taking a compromise position with members of the black community so as to move this discussion forward in a positive way you said that you’d be unwilling to do so. You say the same thing you always do, that you hear their complaints but you feel like your stance is correct and there’s thus no reason to compromise.

          Regardless of whether or not you’re right, you have to see that you are imposing your will on a group of people who have lived in the neighborhood for years without their consent. If you don’t make them feel like they have a say in what is going on in their own community then you’re part of the problem. You have to be willing to give up something that’s important to you in order to make everybody feel included, but you’re too attached to your position to do that for the greater good.

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 9:41 am

            cyclist, you are wrong in your interpretation of me. I am not the one making a deal and I’m not in a position to decide who should compromise on what.

            Characterizing me as being unwilling to compromise on this project is simply not who I am and not how I go about my thinking.

            The road is broken and it’s a public safety hazard that needs to be fixed. Yes, I don’t think we should simply give up fixing the road because of what I feel are unrelated concerns that are politicizing this project.

            I think you’d understand me better if we could talk this out in person.

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      • Jack July 22, 2011 at 8:57 am

        I would also be interested in hearing an explanation of why you feel this way? Citing specific things Jonathan Maus said would be appreciated.

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        • Mitch July 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm

          I agree. This pattern of calling people out but not giving a legitimate examples of how this is the case is already old. “The fact that you don’t understand my vaguely worded attack on you is your fault and makes you even worse”. Uh, what? Alternative viewpoint are not always alternately valid.

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      • middle of the road guy July 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

        Maybe Jonathan does not give any special treatment to one race of the other, because that in itself would be racist.

        I’ve said it before and I will say it again – a minority’s viewpoint is no more valid or less valid than anyone elses. Their perceptions of things are no more objective than yours or mine. You may have white people who truly are not racist and a minority telling them they are so does not make it true.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 8:58 am

      halfwheeled,

      which comments “horrified” you?

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    • sd July 22, 2011 at 9:09 am

      Interesting, I was thinking that the pastor on TOL knows nothing about transportation infrastructure or safety, and should stick to race and religion.

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  • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Jon
    Translation: The black community is the only race (?) in Portland worth talking about. There are no Hispanic, Asian, Indian, etc that should have much of a voice of their history.

    Take a look at the demographic makeup of the neighborhood we’re talking about here. When you talk about gentrification in the area around N Williams you’re talking about white people moving in and black people getting pushed out. There’s a separate conversation to be had about what’s happening in the Latino community here, but it doesn’t really apply in this neighborhood.

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  • looking_in July 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

    This is just a general response to all the posters who keep asking what it is that the black community (or at least those members who showed up to the meeting) wants out of this. The answer is to be heard.

    If that’s hard to understand, think of it this way. There has been, at least one time in your lives, one time when you were completely powerless to stop something that you saw as negatively impacting your life. You probably made a phone call to customer service (for most of us, this scenario involves a credit card company and a call to India) and complained to a person that you knew had no power to solve the problem. Maybe you said a bad word or two to them and hung up. Did it solve your problem? No, but you felt much better when you were done. This is what’s happening, but in their case we’re talking about decades of overt and unabashed racism and a clear policy to rid Portland of the black community that lasted so long there are still people alive in the community that remember it. It’s going to take a few more of those angry phone calls to help them feel better. And frankly, as those in the majority, the absolute LEAST you can do is listen, try to understand, and remember that you will get what you want because you are the majority. Maybe that will help take the edge off of having to listen.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

      I think saying that black people in the community haven’t been heard in this process isn’t entirely accurate. Yes, it’s always possible to hear more people and more perspectives… But as someone who has followed this project closely from the beginning, I can tell you that there have been numerous meetings and opportunities where people of color have been heard. PBOT has had open houses, a stakeholder committee process with leaders from the black community on it, and numerous private meetings with local groups like the Elks Lodge, churches, and so on.

      I’d like to see a proposal from people who are concerned about the public outreach process wherein they detail the type and number of opportunities they’d like to participate in before they’d feel comfortable with moving forward on some roadway engineering changes. Perhaps something like that is in the works.

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  • Rico July 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

    1) Compared with non-Hispanic white adults, the risk of diagnosed diabetes was 77 percent higher among non-Hispanic blacks.

    2) Physical activity plays an important part in preventing type 2 diabetes.

    *U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

    It seems like not providing safe streets in which to walk and bike would be racist.

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    • cw July 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      diet is a much greater contributor to diabetes than exercise. Perhaps the entire street (including the bike lane) should be removed and made into an urban farm.

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  • dirt_merchant July 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Very interesting problem and discussion.

    I’ll agree that I do not know what it is like to be a minority in our society if “they” agree they don’t know what it’s like to be a second-class citizen while simply riding my bike.

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    • bsped July 22, 2011 at 10:27 am

      You chose to ride a bike. Minorities never choose their social status. You are not a second class citizen. I am getting really tired of this trend from the bike community thinking they are a minority. It is really disrespectful to all minorities to think this way just because your mode of transportation is not the widely use one. This attitude really needs to stop.

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    • cw July 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

      This “us” vs “they” attitude is very detrimental. And as one of the very few minorities who bikes regularly on williams, I can absolutely state that being a person of color is something that you cannot leave behind, whereas you can choose to ride your bicycle, or another mode of transportation. Some days I drive, some days I take the bus, most days I bike. The one thing I can never do is wake up one morning and decide to be white. Equating the experience of daily discrimination for a characteristic that is inherent to myself and not something that I chose or can change, to a personal choice that you have made to be a cyclist is another example of white privilege.

      There is a difference between oppression and opportunity, here is a great explanation:
      http://www.timwise.org/2010/10/affirmative-action-for-dummies-explaining-the-difference-between-oppression-and-opportunity/

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  • cold worker July 22, 2011 at 9:38 am

    i’ve been commuting on williams since the last half of the 90s (off and on, depending on where i live). the traffic on williams isn’t what is was 10 years ago. bike traffic or car traffic. the street is broken and needs to be fixed.

    pbot works on roads and engineering them to make them safe and efficient for road users, no matter what color your skin. they don’t work on feelings management and hugs.

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  • lyle July 22, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I’m also disturbed by the lack of suggestions about how to make N. Williams more safe. Bicycles or pedestrians aren’t going away and they almost always tend to take the shorter, less hilly route. You can advocate for alternatives all you want but bicycles, like water take the path of least resistance.

    If the community feels the need to vent, fine, but safety needs to be the priority. Past injustices should be taken into account but to allow them to derail the process is just wrong.

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  • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
    cyclist, you are wrong in your interpretation of me. I am not the one making a deal and I’m not in a position to decide who should compromise on what.
    Characterizing me as being unwilling to compromise on this project is simply not who I am and not how I go about my thinking.
    The road is broken and it’s a public safety hazard that needs to be fixed. Yes, I don’t think we should simply give up fixing the road because of what I feel are unrelated concerns that are politicizing this project.
    I think you’d understand me better if we could talk this out in person.

    You absolutely ARE unwilling to compromise on this project, you’ve said exactly that in the past:

    “Just because there are different positions on something, doesn’t mean a compromise is imperative.”

    “Sorry I have not been clear. I don’t think PBOT should compromise in terms of the lane re-allocation issue.”

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 10:09 am

      cyclist,

      you’re playing the “gotcha!” game and i’m trying to tell you there is nuance and complexity behind my statements that I don’t feel you are willing or open to seeing.

      Also, this project and process is an ongoing learning experience for me. It is possible, you know, for people to learn and adjust and refine their opinion/perspectives on something as time goes on.

      Given what I’ve learned and heard and come to understand since I made those comment about compromise, I would not express myself in that same way today.

      thanks.

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      • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am

        I asked a question about how you would compromise on the project, that was your answer. I don’t see how that’s a game of “gotcha.”

        Put another way, what compromises would you make with regards to this particular project to help address the criticisms of people such as Maxine Hendricks (who does not want to get rid of one travel lane)?

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 11:44 am

          The project has already compromised by not going for a removal of on-street parking and by being delayed to expand and shift direction of the public outreach process.

          That being said, we are not talking about budget line items or obscure public policy here… This is about flesh and bones and people’s lives on a street. I don’t think the city should compromise the safety of Portlanders who travel by bike simply because of historical and ongoing social issues that remain unaddressed and because some people in the n’hood do not want to lose any motor vehicle access and who do not see the need for improved bike access.

          I am absolutely sensitive to the injustice this n’hood has experienced in the past — but I do not understand how preventing justice (in the form of traffic safety for all modes) in the present should be held hostage to those past (and ongoing) injustices.

          PBOT has come to this n’hood and given them an opportunity to make this important corridor better and safer for everyone.. I find it ironic that people who have been ignored by the City in the past are now ignoring an opportunity where the City is essentially saying, “OK, we want to spend money in your ‘hood to solve a safety problem that you have all told us exists. Please tell us your feedback and how we should proceed.”

          This is not just about race for people like Ms. Maxwell-Hendricks and others. She doesn’t want to lose a motor vehicle and she doesn’t see the urgent need for improved bike access that City engineers and many other people that live, work and ride in that community see.

          Everyone deserves a right to speak up and have an opinion about transportation projects. And in this specific case, many people have spoken up (both for and against it). But when people speak up, their input must be weighed fairly among many other — often competing — factors and opinions.

          This is a complicated project for a number of reasons. With the race and historical issues piled on top it, it becomes an impossible project.

          Why not separate the larger conversation about race from the conversation about road engineering? I’m not saying ignore the race issue completely, it will still be there, but give it the space and respect it deserves by de-coupling it from the road project.

          I think what you’d find is that, some people would still object to the project — even if a large-scale racial listening/understanding effort was launched… But if the race conversation is separate, those objections would have to be made based on purely engineering arguments and not on racial injustice arguments that engineering projects are ill-equipped to deal with.


          p.s.
          I would also love to see PBOT have all project staff in the agency be mandated to go through racial/gentrification sensitivity training.

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          • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 11:58 am

            I’m going to ask my question a second time since you failed to answer it the first time.

            You accused me of playing “gotcha” by quoting your earlier statements* and concluding that you are unwilling to make compromises in your position to help strike a N Williams deal. Can you explain what compromises you are willing to make on this particular project? If the answer is “none” then I can hardly see how my original conclusion was inaccurate.

            *For reference your statements were:

            “Just because there are different positions on something, doesn’t mean a compromise is imperative.”

            “Sorry I have not been clear. I don’t think PBOT should compromise in terms of the lane re-allocation issue.”

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  • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
    cyclist, you are wrong in your interpretation of me. I am not the one making a deal and I’m not in a position to decide who should compromise on what.
    Characterizing me as being unwilling to compromise on this project is simply not who I am and not how I go about my thinking.
    The road is broken and it’s a public safety hazard that needs to be fixed. Yes, I don’t think we should simply give up fixing the road because of what I feel are unrelated concerns that are politicizing this project.
    I think you’d understand me better if we could talk this out in person.

    And the claim that you can’t compromise because PBOT’s doing the actual construction is frankly bs. You can make a compromise in your position and advocate for change if you desire. You’ve got a lot of weight in this community because your’e the mouthpiece of the bike community, it gets you a lot of access that most of us don’t have. That’s why your issue with the Esplanade ramps got addressed so quickly.

    Lastly, ” Yes, I don’t think we should simply give up fixing the road because of what I feel are unrelated concerns that are politicizing this project” is exactly why I don’t think you care about issues of race. Race is not an unrelated concern in this particular case, and unless your inability to sit down and understand why illustrates that race is unimportant to you. You seem to think that so long as they’ve had a chance to speak then they’ve been served. Well if you hear what they say and disregard it then you’re part of the problem.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 10:06 am

      again cyclist. you’re simply not understanding the nuance of my position.

      Do I think race is unrelated to this project? NO

      Race and gentrification issues belong as a piece of this project, and they have been acknowledged and accepted as such since the project began.

      I just think that the race issue does not belong as a central focus of a roadway project.

      You seem committed to painting me as being insensitive to race. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

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      • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 10:07 am

        ” Yes, I don’t think we should simply give up fixing the road because of what I feel are unrelated concerns that are politicizing this project”

        These two statements contradict each other. What unrelated concerns were you speaking of?

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  • cyclist July 22, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
    halfwheeled,
    which comments “horrified” you?

    ” Yes, I don’t think we should simply give up fixing the road because of what I feel are unrelated concerns that are politicizing this project”

    This, by the way, is a pretty horrifying comment.

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    • Andrew Seger July 22, 2011 at 11:59 am

      Really? Horrified? The whole point is that people who advocate for better bike facilities have already compromised everything. There’s nothing else to give away. We’re talking about removing a traffic lane, which only matters for traffic speeds 6% of the time, at rush hour on weekdays.

      If you think stopping this project is going to delay the socioeconomic changes that are happening you’re so wrong. Mississippi and Alberta have both gotten more white and more developed with zero bike facilities added to them.

      If you’re concerned about more traffic on our neighborhood streets I’d invite you to direct your ire to the Columbia River Crossing project. If you really wanted to undo some of the damages the city has caused to this area you could join those of us who want to tear down parts of I-5.

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  • Champs July 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

    To be fair, just coming from Minneapolis (don’t hate!), I’ve seen similar “community opposition” to “gentrification” over adding an off-leash dog area to Martin Luther King Park, citing the use of dogs against civil rights protesters.

    I don’t know if it’s a “not invented here” mentality or what, but if you don’t want something in your neighborhood, you can just say that leave race out of it. Let them have their way, if they’re true representatives of the community, for that matter. But when they come back to say the city hasn’t done anything for them, note that it isn’t for lack of trying.

    This is time and effort that hasn’t been applied to more wanting neighborhoods of every stripe.

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  • Fronk July 22, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Can’t we all just address the real issue here? It all comes down to lycra.

    The Williams project might not even be an issue if it wasn’t for the lycra. Lets face it; cyclists are not thought of as regular folks of all shapes and sizes riding for all sorts of reasons. Instead they are perceived as an arrogant “community”, because they are 1) predominately young, white and well off enough to spend $1000 or more on a bike and 2) look egotistical as all get out wearing skin tight lycra even though they are on a 5 mile commute. And a lot of us ARE arrogant. Stereotypes exist for a reason. Every time a cyclist in lycra blows through a red light, the bike lane shrinks by a centimeter.

    Please think of the children. Don’t commute in lycra.
    An Australian study on how lycra is killing urban cycling:
    http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20101410-21429.html

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    • A.K. July 22, 2011 at 10:14 am

      Ah yes, I was wondering when the first blame the lycra comment would happen!

      I prefer to blame the hipsters wearing jeans who blow lights for our woes, but to each their own scapegoat!

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      • Fronk July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am

        Excellent point. Both stereotypes helped to land bicycles on the “Stuff White People Like” blog:
        http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/02/10/61-bicycles/

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        • A.K. July 22, 2011 at 10:36 am

          Well, I was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek with that comment, but then again I think people should commute in whatever they feel most comfortable in, and not what they think will appease the general population.

          In the mornings when it’s cool and I’m cycling to work I’ll wear jeans and a normal shirt over my bibs. And if I’m riding to the bar to meet friends I’m going to take it easy and wear street clothes.

          But you better believe on my ride home I’m rocking the lycra, or for that matter doing any sort of non-commute (i.e. sport/workout) ride. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing a 10 mile direct route home, or a 50 mile fun ride – it’s just far more comfortable to ride in lycra – and I don’t care what people think. You don’t go to the gym and run in jeans and a tshirt (unless you’re stupid), I’m not going to ride in street clothes either for fast rides, it just doesn’t make sense.

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    • oldcollegetry July 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      You have to have cycling specific gear and a $1000+ dollar bike to be a cyclist now? That’s news to me. I’ve made due without an automobile since selling my car in San Diego a couple years back and purchasing a $300 bike. I still use this same bike and have put MAYBE an additional $100-150 in it since then. Before that, I rode a $100 bike. It seems to me even a $2000 bike is more reasonable for a low-income community than a $1000 car plus maintenance, registration, fees, etc. Maybe you’re being tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t see the need to dress a certain way in order to be more positively perceived by non-cyclists.

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  • cold worker July 22, 2011 at 10:09 am

    others have probably said this; this is a project that is not indicative of the future change of neighborhood demographics and needs, but a reflection of change that has already happened and what is now needed.

    neighborhoods change. it happens.

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  • JRB July 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I think I have to go with Maus on this one.
    Safety improvements and the marginalization of communities of color are separate issues, even if members of those communities and their self-appointed defenders can’t or won’t see them separately. I have no time or interest in debating with posters who insist that anyone who doesn’t see this as a racial equality issue is racist or an oblivious elitist. Demonizing people who have a different point of view may make you feel like you are striking a blow against discrimination but does nothing to move us towards solutions.

    If we want more money for programs to prevent gang violence or to try and remedy the inequities of decades of racism, singling out traffic safety projects for criticism is not particularly productive. You have to look at the whole pie before deciding that a particular slice is too big.

    It seems to me that some of the folks upset about the proposed traffic improvements are angry about other things and are tired of not being heard. The Williams project is one of the rare times that somebody is asking them their opinion about something and they are using the opportunity afforded. We need to hear their legitimate frustration and anger and be there when they ask us for our assisting them in crafting their own solutions. If nothing else, hopefully the racial element in the debate over the Williams project has raised some awareness in the larger community that racial discrimination is still a problem that all members of the community have a duty to help eradicate, and that we should be actively looking for such opportunities.

    We have a long way to go before achieving racial equality in this country, but I just don’t see improved biking/ped facilities through a predominately black neighborhood as being symptomatic of racial inequality or discrimination. The fact that communities of color dispropotionately host polluting industries, that people of color are routinely discriminated against by the criminal justice system, that people of color do not have the same access to education or other opportunties, and that public and private investment in communities of color is disproporationately lower are all symptons that racism is alive and well and is what the conversation needs to be about.

    Sorry for the lengthy post.

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  • Diane Goodwin July 22, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I am glad this issue is finally being tackled. There is a huge connection between our infrastructure investments, lack of affordable housing and the impact of African-American community in N/NE Portland. I ride these streets everyday and feel the tension between motorists and cyclists. We need to bridge this gap if we want safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians.

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  • Chris July 22, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I never understood all this gentrification talk. People are going to move where they want to move, how would you ever stop this? A skin color/household income litmus test for home ownership? I am not being insensitive, I am being serious: how could gentrification ever be stopped?

    Perhaps changing communities is something we need to find a way to embrace instead of fight.

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  • Charley July 22, 2011 at 11:04 am

    For crying out loud. I guess it’s more important to these vocal few that Vancouverites (largely white) have their two lanes of I-5 bypass through the neighborhood, than that a black kid could ride on a safe bike lane from Broadway to Killingsworth.

    How this would somehow right the centuries of wrongs, I do not know.

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  • seeshellbike July 22, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I am disappointed that the City has allowed this project to be the platform for what should be a wider discussion about equity, race, gentrification, and as Noah suggested perhaps housing, health care, violence, schools, community, etc. Mayor Sam and Commissioners, you have an issue that has engendered longstanding resentment and is probably shared by different communities throughout the City. Step up to the plate and provide an appropriate venue for this discussion.

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  • outerspacebook July 22, 2011 at 11:44 am

    We are breaking new grounds every day, we have a black president, and still we choose to divide ourselves. Poor people are poor, it doesn’t matter which color you are. If we step back into the past and demand that the land was once ours we will have lots of problems. What about the Native Americans who were wrongfully kicked out of their land, we have been on stolen land from the forefront. All we can do is sit by and ask ourselves if we want to let go of the past and embrace a different future. If you are African American it is your choice to call the bicycle a white man machine, but it serves everyone all over the world the same, a very clean affordable form of transportation that should be taken seriously. Bicycles and gentrification don’t have anything in common unless you want to find the commonalities. Please look at what Safer Cycling offers to the human being and you will see that it allows the kids of today to get around and for people to pedal themselves all over town(especially those with low-income). Please try biking down Williams before you hate, Bicycling is something that is embraced all over this Cultured World, and Williams Ave. is a human death trap that needs an improvement.

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    • Hugh Johnson July 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm

      he is *not* a “black” president.

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      • grimm July 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

        I guess the glass is half empty here.

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  • Thomas Le Ngo July 22, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I’m glad that marginalized segments of our community are starting to be heard. They’ve been burned not just by the Robert Moses method of planning, but continually burned by the planning field and Portland’s leaders in general. The lack of socioeconomic diversity in how we do things and who calls those shots creates a serious lack of cultural sensitivity and understanding.

    Jonathan, I love what you’ve done for cycling in Portland. However, you and other advocates for safe streets need to better understand the power dynamics of the communities you want to improve. The ideas pitched for Williams didn’t sell because it reflected a pattern of disenfranchisement. It’s not just the destination (safer streets) that matters, but how you get there (grassroots community support vs. shoving down of values).

    The community not only needs to be involved in decision-making, but to feel empowered enough to function as decision-makers. Look at the communities that won and lost in the examples of: I-5 vs. the Mt. Hood Freeway and the closing of Marshall High School vs. Grant High School. Or even the families that lost a basketball court on the street when Going became a bike boulevard.

    Imagine how refreshing it would be to build greater support and understanding, then reaping the rewards when folks from all communities, specifically communities of color and low income households, advocate for more bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The Community Cycling Center is the only organization that does any work in doing that. Other than that, the cycling community is still thinking like Robert Moses and making him proud.

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    • Natalie July 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      Mad reps to Thomas Le Ngo for the most sensible, comprehensive, and rational voice in this discussion that is quickly turning ugly. For those who think that gentrification “just happens,” you’re kidding yourselves. White politicians prefer to call it urban renewal, and the city of Portland pumps huge amounts of money into it, as well as other forms of institutionalized racism (and classism–let’s not assume the two are always the same). It’s the city of Portland’s fault for not being more aware of its destructive policies and not having these crucial conversations with affected communities and neighborhoods. Personally, I would ride my $80 rusty bike through North Williams so that I could visit my friends–I don’t wear lycra, don’t have a $1000 bike, and don’t run reds–but I am white and I’m sick of white people thinking that everything except KKK rallies doesn’t connect to racism in America. Sucks for you that you want a bike lane and don’t want to deal with historical “issues”–guess who’s been dealing with such “issues” this whole time? Yeah, this bike lane is about safety, just like gun rights are just about the constitution and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is just about soldiers being able to fight. It’s an unpalatable comparison, but you can always say that an issue is ‘just’ about something that everyone can get behind. If this process is going to be done right, it’s going to be difficult, complex, messy, and probably emotional. But it’s long overdue, and to “separate” racism from “other” issues isn’t really to deal with it at all. This is our chance to do it right.

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      • Chris July 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm

        If the city pumps money into an urban area, its furthering gentrification. If they don’t, its discriminating against and neglecting a lower income community. Seems unwinnable – what is the solution? How can the city today help neighborhoods that were neglected in past? or should the city just stay out of it altogether?

        What is the solution to this problem?

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        • Thomas Le Ngo July 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

          Affordable housing.

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        • Natalie July 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm

          I totally see how it could seem like an unwinnable dichotomy, but I think the issue is more about what said money gets pumped into (highways cutting through a neighborhood or land being bought but never developed, for example) and the policies that further assist the negative consequences of that spending (ex: officially labeling certain neighborhoods as prone to gun violence, which ruins black homeowners’ property values, which is when white artists and punks start moving in to the cheap housing, followed by small white-owned businesses, followed by wealthy whites who are attracted to the “bohemian” lifestyle, all of which raises the property values AFTER a neighborhood has already been run to the ground). That’s a simplified picture, but my point is that it’s not just about whether or not to spend money in an area. It’s about how you do it, who you’re serving, and who/what you see as expendable in the process.

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          • Chris July 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm

            Thanks for the reply. Although mine may differ, I do see your point of view.

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        • was carless July 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm

          Affordable housing? A lot of these people already own their own homes. Gasp! Minorities who are homeowners!

          Stick to the basics – maintain opportunities for good jobs and good schools would be top on the list.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks Thomas

      The lack of socioeconomic diversity in how we do things and who calls those shots creates a serious lack of cultural sensitivity and understanding.

      I agree with that. I think PBOT should announce mandatory sensitivity training for all project managers/consultants and staff that interfaces w/ the public. Do it immediately and really commit to it.

      I disagree w/ you that there was any “shoving down of values” in this project. I have followed it from the start and PBOT has been very very open and consensus driven from the start. What about all the people in the community who strongly support one-lane?

      The community not only needs to be involved in decision-making, but to feel empowered enough to function as decision-makers.

      I hear you and I get that, but I don’t want community members to make decisions about vital basic services like managing the public right of way. I would rather make sure the community drove the process w/ input and feedback, but have decisions made by professional engineers and civic leaders who have a responsibility to not answer to a vocal minority, but to do what’s best for the most people.

      Look at the communities that won and lost in the examples of: I-5 vs. the Mt. Hood Freeway and the closing of Marshall High School vs. Grant High School.

      Those are great things to be aware of and to understand. I agree. That type of thing could be part of an ongoing education process around these issues.

      Imagine how refreshing it would be to build greater support and understanding, then reaping the rewards when folks from all communities, specifically communities of color and low income households, advocate for more bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

      I agree! That would be awesome!

      The Community Cycling Center is the only organization that does any work in doing that. Other than that, the cycling community is still thinking like Robert Moses and making him proud.

      PBOT and ODOT also do some work in that regard, the CCC just publicizes more and focuses on it more than anyone else.

      And I do not at all think a comparison to Robert Moses is accurate or appropriate here.

      Thanks for your comment.

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      • Thomas Le Ngo July 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

        Jonathan, thanks for responding. I’m glad to be able to have a thoughtful discussion on this issue. I admit that the comparison to Robert Moses may be a little bit of hyperbole, but I think we’re kidding ourselves when we pretend we have a consensus when that consensus is really among the people that we see at those meetings.

        When I refer to a “shoving down of values,” I refer to how decisions are made throughout the Portland region. There are institutional barriers that prevent people from being a part of the conversation. We may be one of the most engaged cities in the US, but the people at “stakeholder meetings” are too often not an accurate reflection of our communities.

        Thanks for pointing out some of the great folks at PBOT and ODOT. Unfortunately, those agencies–and I think our very white community–has a lot to learn about ignorance/racism-”lite” and how it permeates our society. Reading the comments on OregonLive is a daily reminder of that for me. Unfortunately, I felt a lot of that in the comments here regarding the Williams project.

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    • cw July 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      Thank you…the first thing that popped into my head when I started reading these comments was Robert Moses!

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    • Andrew Seger July 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      The Robert Moses crack is ridiculous. Reallocating one lane of traffic on Williams=tearing down most of Lower Albina for a freeway? Your rhetoric reveals the bad faith behind your arguments. The community cycling center does good work, but without high level bike infrastructure it’ll be hard to convince people to ride their bikes. The lack of infrastructure in outer east portland and other areas is the real inequality gap.

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      • Thomas Le Ngo July 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm

        Andrew, as I told Jonathan, I admit that the Moses “crack” is a little bit of hyperbole, but it’s the same approach with less magnitude.

        East Portland suffers from a number of problems, and the lack of infrastructure is just one of them. You’ve also got large blocks, more cul de sacs, lower density, and not as much mixed-use development to contend with.

        Framing that as the “real inequality gap” shows a lack of understanding of the issues of people whose lives we all want to improve. It ignores all of the other factors like race, income, education, etc.

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        • Andrew Seger July 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm

          Sorry I just saw that after I posted. I think you missed my point about east portland, I was using it as an example of where the city needs to spend large amounts of $$ to rectify the gap that exists between inner (white) portland and the outlying areas. This includes areas like New Columbia and other areas.

          I think your point about the institutional barriers to the various meetings is spot on. Just a few weeks ago there was an open house at Metro about the Lloyd district area central city plan. A large portion of the presentation was devoted to Lower Albina and what to do about it. While I was there the only nonwhite face I saw there was an employee of the CIty (either PDC or Portland Planning, can’t recall which). With representatives of all the relevant agencies that was an even better spot for this discussion to take place. How to get a more representative voice at various stakeholder meetings is something that I think everyone is, or ought to be, working on. Did you have particular suggestions in mind?

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          • Thomas Le Ngo July 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm

            Sorry, looks like I did miss your point. Thanks for the clarification.

            Recommendations: Make information relevant and easily accessible. Have meetings in the communities that you’re trying to target. Provide food and childcare, depending on type of meeting.

            I think what Jonathan has done for informing the active transportation community is awesome, and it would be great if we had the same sort of relevant outlet for people of color, where we could mobilize around. The Asian Reporter, for example, definitely doesn’t count because bikes aren’t as cute as babies or pandas. Maybe we should feature babies and pandas ON bikes!

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  • eli bishop July 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    how is this different than the bike lanes on holgate? people were just as angry there, too, but the city went ahead and made the changes because holgate was so dangerous — and it made a tremendous change in safety for the entire neighborhood. there are -vastly- more bikes on williams than holgate (almost 40% share!) why can’t the city do what they did on holgate?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm

      eli,

      this is much different Holgate on every level.

      PBOT messed up Holgate by not giving enough advance notice to residents about what was changing on their street.

      Also, the politics and history around Holgate — while also controversial — are much different than on Williams.

      I actually think the projects are linked in the sense that PBOT had the experience of debacle on Holgate in their minds as they approached the Williams project. That’s party why they’ve been so focused on letting the n’hood drive the process.

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  • Ted Buehler July 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Here’s a primer on the gentrification issue. Lots of numbers, lots of data.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/04/in_portlands_heart_diversity_dwindles.html

    Blacks have been moving out of North/Northeast Portland in huge numbers over the last 10 years.

    Generally, they’ve been displaced by whites who are buying houses in formerly black neighborhoods, and displacing the black community, one house at a time.

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  • Ted Buehler July 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    The Oregonian did a good story on the gentrification issue a couple months ago. They took the 2010 census data and showed that 1 in 4 black people had left N/NE Portland between 2000 and 2010.

    It’s a good primer on the matter, if you want to understand why the black community is fighting gentrification (= decimation) so vigorously.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/04/in_portlands_heart_diversity_dwindles.html

    To see what the city has done, and could do, there’s another article at

    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/04/lessons_learned_what_portland_leaders_did_–_and_didnt_do_–_as_people_of_color_were_forced_to_the_f_1.html

    Ted Buehler

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  • SV July 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    It shouldn’t be surprising that this issue quickly turns to race and gentrification. People need to step back and try to understand the big picture, the history of disinvestment of that community (and North Portland in general), when it was predominantly black. Yes safety is one of the issues, but don’t be ignorant to the fact that there is a valid reason why some residents are angry. Is it that hard to see?

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    • JRB July 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      Yes I understand that people are angry about racism and discrimination. I believe they have every right to voice their anger and to seek redress for their grieveances, which I know are legitimate. I know that that they are not often listened to and I understand their using the Williams project to get people’s attention. I just don’t agree that halting a project that would change Williams from two lane to one does anything to remedy discrimination and no matter how many times posters say that I am racist or just too stupid or wrapped up in my little world of white entitlement to see it is going to change my mind. I would rather we just stop using the Williams project as a proxy have a forthright discussion about what’s really pissing people off and so we can focus on that.

      All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights – Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

      Just because somebody is a member of historically oppressed minority or personally suffered discrimintation does not give them the right to deny the rights of others. See Israelis v. Palestinians. Members of the historically black community in the Williams corridor have no more right to decide who can or cannot buy a house or ride a bike through their neighborhood than the entitled folks in Lake Oswego should be able stop a street car because it might bring the wrong people into their burbclave.

      I have spent thousands of hours over the last 25 years advocating for the rights of people of every possible description and will continue to do so. If the City was proposing that we locate a municipal solid waste incinerator in the Williams neighborhood, I would eagerly join in a fight to oppose it. If the folks in that neighborhood want my help in seeking funding for infrastructure that benefits the long-term residents, I’ll be there. But I think the anger and opposition to the Williams project is misdirected and that doesn’t make me racist, stupid or oblivious.

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  • Oliver July 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Did any black home owners sell during this period of gentrification (in the run-up to the crash of 07), thereby abandoning the neighborhood in favor of a few extra dollars to be extracted from the increasing home values?

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  • spare_wheel July 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    despite being initially pro-bike project, i have now come to support the linkage of gentrification to this issue.

    new bike infrastructure has directly contributed to the run up in housing costs that is a primary cause of gentrification.

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  • Rick July 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    All this makes me want to drop it and go get a beer. But not on Williams St.

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  • kww July 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I speculate, that there is an unspoken issue behind this. Make improvements, population swells, housing prices go up, property tax get re-assessed.

    Poorer residents, can not afford taxes, have to move out. Can the City work something out with a moratorium? This is a similar process like rent control in NYC, but instead of keeping people in renting, it would keep disadvantaged people OWNING.

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  • JR July 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    This is why I don’t live in NoPo.

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  • JR July 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    But seriously.. How is this any different from the angry old white people in my NE neighborhood who resent any change at all and feel victimized by the City pushing higher density on them when the MAX came through? This seems like a generational issue.

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  • Mark Allyn July 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Here is a suggestion for this project and the issues around gentrification. . . .

    What would happen if we were to impose a hard freeze on all gentrification related evictions; ie; tenants cannot be evicted for reasons other than being a danger or damaging property.

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    • was carless July 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      So you’re going to make it illegal for black people who want to retire to sell their homes?

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  • BURR July 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    I think you mean mid 20th century, not mid 19th century.

    By far the worst thing imposed on this neighborhood in the time since has been the I-5 freeway

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  • John Landolfe July 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    It certainly does. But I don’t believe bike lanes are part of that gentrification. No matter how many jokes people make about white guys on bikes, real studies show only a gender gap. The largest segment of people biking is the poor. The problem is one of perception–that riding a bike (which costs as little as one car payment or less) is somehow a symbol of privilege.

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    • oldcollegetry July 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      It really is frustrating when people try to make cycling a “privileged activity.” How is buying a bike (which you can purchase for $50-100 if you’re being really thrifty) less attainable for low-income citizens then a motor vehicle which aside from the initial cost also factors in registration, gas, maintenance, etc. I’m fairly sure we’ve met in real life and had this discussion, but I’m glad someone else recognizes this.

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  • black dude on bicycle July 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
    The project has already compromised by not going for a removal of on-street parking and by being delayed to expand and shift direction of the public outreach process.
    That being said, we are not talking about budget line items or obscure public policy here… This is about flesh and bones and people’s lives on a street. I don’t think the city should compromise the safety of Portlanders who travel by bike simply because of historical and ongoing social issues that remain unaddressed and because some people in the n’hood do not want to lose any motor vehicle access and who do not see the need for improved bike access.
    I am absolutely sensitive to the injustice this n’hood has experienced in the past — but I do not understand how preventing justice (in the form of traffic safety for all modes) in the present should be held hostage to those past (and ongoing) injustices.
    PBOT has come to this n’hood and given them an opportunity to make this important corridor better and safer for everyone.. I find it ironic that people who have been ignored by the City in the past are now ignoring an opportunity where the City is essentially saying, “OK, we want to spend money in your ‘hood to solve a safety problem that you have all told us exists. Please tell us your feedback and how we should proceed.”
    This is not just about race for people like Ms. Maxwell-Hendricks and others. She doesn’t want to lose a motor vehicle and she doesn’t see the urgent need for improved bike access that City engineers and many other people that live, work and ride in that community see.
    Everyone deserves a right to speak up and have an opinion about transportation projects. And in this specific case, many people have spoken up (both for and against it). But when people speak up, their input must be weighed fairly among many other — often competing — factors and opinions.
    This is a complicated project for a number of reasons. With the race and historical issues piled on top it, it becomes an impossible project.
    Why not separate the larger conversation about race from the conversation about road engineering? I’m not saying ignore the race issue completely, it will still be there, but give it the space and respect it deserves by de-coupling it from the road project.
    I think what you’d find is that, some people would still object to the project — even if a large-scale racial listening/understanding effort was launched… But if the race conversation is separate, those objections would have to be made based on purely engineering arguments and not on racial injustice arguments that engineering projects are ill-equipped to deal with.

    p.s.
    I would also love to see PBOT have all project staff in the agency be mandated to go through racial/gentrification sensitivity training.

    I think the disconnect is that once you “finally” invite someone to the table that has been ignored for decades and ask them to participate in this discussion, the resentment that has been harbored for decades is going to come up first. Why should black people immediately jump at the ideas of white people when (1) their ideas/voice has largely been ignored and (2) they have suffered the injustices of their ideas in the past?

    It is easy for middle-class white people to say “this is purely about safety” because for them, their wills and desires have been met consistently for generations. Ask other groups that have been ignored their desires and you will get exactly what you are getting now.

    What many white people in this country do not understand (or choose to ignore) is that in order for any project to move forward AND be inclusive, some concerns from the past are going to have to be addressed. 400 years of being used as free labor and the ~150 years of being disenfranchised in this state doesn’t simply go away over night.

    What does this mean? It means that now that black folks are finally getting to the point of having the courage to stand in a room with white people, many of which do not feel that their ideas or values are important, all future projects are going to take a little bit longer. So while many people find this disconcerting, we are just trying to catch up to your 400 year head start.

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    • Hugh Johnson July 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm

      OMG…the slavery card…pulled once again.

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      • Lking July 27, 2011 at 5:39 pm

        Hugh Johnson – I am a white woman, a teacher and an antiracist. It pains me to see one community member dismiss another community member this way. I see the way this country’s disgraceful past continues to reverberate in our society today. I suggest you read an excellent book called *Braniwashed* by Tom Burrell to educate yourself on how. It might help you have a little more compassion and understanding in this conversation as well. If you aren’t interested in understanding where others are coming from I suggest you stay out of the conversation.

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  • q`Tzal July 22, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    The effects of gentrification affect every poor person in a neighborhood; not just blacks.

    The safety improvements of any road project help all people; not just rich whites.

    I am the wrong color to comment on any racial issue but on economic marginalization I can say I’ve felt the squeeze.

    Who here would love to live with in a few hundred feet of a MAX station and a couple miles tops from several relevant employers?
    And yet when we look at the pricing of housing near epicenters on NON-automotive transport we can see that the cost has been allowed to rise FAR beyond the means of those who need it most.

    Here lack of money is the great equalizer: if you’re too poor your color or race matter not.

    Kinda makes ya hate capitalism.

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  • John Boyd July 23, 2011 at 7:40 am

    These folks needed a forum and cyclists’ community engagement provided it, where nothing else had.

    This kerfuffle is testament to how engaging cycling is.

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  • maxadders July 23, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I feel like the black community has simply latched onto a “hot button” issue that they’ve seen anger people and grab headlines in local news and used it as an opportunity to make their concerns about gentrification known. Great for them, but why no outcry when the urban renewal zone decisions are made? Maybe they should protest new white businesses? Maybe they should chain themselves to bulldozers every time a new development breaks ground in an abandoned lot (of which there are still many– it’s better that way?)

    Bike lanes aren’t gentrifying the neighborhood– it’s the city growing and changing as our population swells. Why not blame the Portland travel magazines for hyping food carts and doughnuts? Blame Modest Mouse for having a hit video on MTV a few years ago. Where can I point my blame gun next?

    The last thing I need is black drivers disrespecting me because of my skin color, and I fear that’s going to be the only achievement of this whole racist-bike-lane issue.

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    • was carless July 25, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      I believe they did, but were simply steamrolled. The Portland Development Commission is pretty good at that.

      As has been posted here and reported on Oregonlive, the actual decision makers at the city have get-togethers (open houses) where they sit down and decide the fate of neighborhoods. These people should organize and show up there, not try to de-rail bikelane projects.

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  • Duncan July 23, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I have been thinking about this since reading this article the other day, and while I can understand the disagreement over the amount of bike infrastructure on Williams, I really don’t see what is gained with stopping a safety campaign- I mean maybe the folks at the meeting don’t bike, but if they live in that neighborhood I bet they walk there- there kids play at the park, they would like to be able to back out of their driveway without getting hit by someone speeding up Williams? Traffic civility helps all users, and to block this because of past wrongs looks spiteful to me. Why is it that there cannot be a talk on race AND a safety campaign at the same time while having a continuing discussion on ways to use the road that benefits all users.

    Gentrification sucks- I got gentrified out of my home state, and then again out of my first neighborhood in Portland. But as long as property values are a free market then nice neighborhoods will command higher prices and poorer people will have to move out as home prices and rents rise. Its really counter Intuitive because it means renters are encouraged to not make their neighborhoods nicer- because if they do, they get a rent increase. The law in Oregon prohibits the kind of rental controls that cities like NYC and Seattle have, so don’t blame the bicyclist, blame your legislator.

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  • q`Tzal July 24, 2011 at 12:09 am

    looking_in
    the project will go ahead regardless of what they have to say, and their needs will continue to go unmet unless they happen to coincide with those of the majority.

    That’s something we have in common and should a point of understanding: many cyclist oriented safety projects don’t go forward, aren’t started or are simply not acknowledged as even being a real safety issue for real citizens because “normal” people drive a car. They (drivers) are the majority and so the needs of cyclists are ignored.

    This is not to imply any sort of commonality between historic abuses heaped upon Africans (or any of the other peoples us former Europeans tried to and kill off) cyclists but to show a starting point of negotiation between two disparate factions whose stated goals seem now incompatible and whose stances are intractable.

    Let us now go towards a system of cooperation and mutual acknowledgement in which the past is considered as the most important part of improving our future, not punishing the sons and daughters of our ancestors for transgressions that cannot be undone.

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  • One Less :( July 25, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Was going to write something meaningful, but I think this issue doesn’t deserve it. This is about ROAD SAFTEY and NOT RACE. Sure, the road improvements could’ve been made a few years back, but they are being looked at now because of the amount and types of users of the road. This includes every race, every creed, and every mode of transportation. Stop making the focus of this something it is not and that is a singular personal agenda.

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  • Donna Maxey July 26, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I was sent this link by a bicycling friend of mine, who happens to be White and non-racist, but discusses race ALOT without derision. Since my name was mentioned so frequently, I thought I would weigh in on this topic in print. By the way, I, too, am a bike rider and an enthusiastic walker. Somehow the point I made initially about this meeting was lost in the fervor. Let me say at the onset, I am not a spokesperson for “the Black community” because it doesn’t exist as a monolithic entity anymore than the White community does.

    Our family has lived in this community and had businesses ON Williams Avenue and its corridor since the 1940′s. We were notified of the planning committees’ alternatives for Williams Ave. AFTER the public meetings were scheduled by a present business owner who is a friend (BTW that person is White and felt we should know what’s going on). Our concern has always been for the safety of the entire community, whether they are residents, passing through as motorists, bike riders, or walkers. As I stated, these are not the first meetings held in this community about the safety of walkers/bikers on Williams–they date back to 50′s, at least.

    What WE, MY family, requested of the staff holding the meetings was to be notified so that we could be a part of the planning process since the changes will effect us. We feel that as property owners on Williams we have a right, and presumably should be given the courtesy, to be a part of this discussion. We were met with some arrogance and rudeness for making that request. We persevered anyway.

    As to the quote that “I am pissed”: that comment was made in reference to the fact that our family lost our home (which was on a double lot with 2-3 car garages and chokeful of manicured vegetation), my father’s business, our school, our church and our community–some of whom I haven’t seen in over 50 years. We all were FORCED to sell our homes and businesses to the City, for minimal value, to provide the land for construction of the Broadway Bridge, the I-5 corridor, the expansion of Emanuel Hospital, and Lloyd Center. The hurt and anger are not at the cyclist–it is at the losses we suffered and the historical hubris exhibited by the power structure and evidently now some people who don’t know the history of the MANY attempts to have Williams be a safe venue. BTW, check out the corner of Williams and Russell–that vacant lot which has been empty for 50 years replaced a drug store, attorney’s office, shoe store, shoe repair shop, bar, pharmacy, hardware store, and apartments, to name a few. The community will continue to be concerned. And not everybody was Black–there were many White residents/business owners, who were a part of the concern for safety and displacement, as well.

    No one seemed to remember me saying this, so hear me now: I would like to see Williams have crosswalks that ensure the safety of walkers and bicyclists, especially between Fremont and Alberta and extending to Killingsworth and possibly have parking on just one side to help ensure visibility for both walkers and vehicular traffic (I’m including cars, bikes, skateboards, etc).

    What also needs to be addressed is the safety hazard that bicyclists pose to themselves, walkers and drivers by their lack of observance of traffic laws and “common courtesy”. I’m a nervous wreck driving down the street watching to make sure that I don’t hit someone–and that goes for every community I drive in.

    I believe that we all want and should have the safety and well-being, both physically and emotionally, of the entire community as a goal. How we achieve that is up to us. Continuing with a US and THEM attitude will not help. For the record, “some of my best friends are White people” as well as numerous family members. (Yes, I was being derisive).

    Since it was mentioned, please come to RACE TALKS which is the second Tuesday of every month, 7-9pm, sponsored by McMenamins Kennedy School & Uniting to Understand Racism. RACE TALKS offers the opportunity to hear speakers from the major Communities of Color discuss their personal and historical experiences in Oregon. The panels are followed by facilitated small and large group discussion. I think you will find it enlightening and may help in your understanding of Oregon’s historical events. It may even help you to further develop your opinions with a perspective that include viewpoints to which you may not have been otherwise exposed.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to continue dialogue at this venue. However, I WILL be at the future safety meetings and RACE TALKS. Here’s to a speedy and cordial resolution to this issue.

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  • Donna Maxey July 26, 2011 at 7:22 am

    “lookin_in” (July 21; 11:20 pm) nailed the topic perfectly. This is a “cultural” difference not racial. Also, please read my comments that somehow got put into a group of July 22nd comments. REALLY won’t be signing in again for today.

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  • Ethan July 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    There is arguably NO transportation recipe for that corridor that will have any ultimate bearing on the tide of gentrification. In that spirit, it is a poorly chosen battle. The Portland of today values property near the city core, and poor people (or any color) will be displaced as a result. Affordable housing and other City-led efforts might mitigate that to some degree, but my bet would be that the die is cast. Better/safer bike and pedestrian facilities won’t really change that to any meaningful degree, and as mentioned above, they benefit an elderly black person crossing the street as much as a white cyclist.

    I would also like to point out that the African American community during the civil rights era was, despite almost unimaginable discrimination and poverty, much more prone to a dignified taking of responsibility for their own fate than has been evident in the intervening decades. I always hear lots of talk about the wrongs done (which there is no argument against of course), but precious little responsibility taken for the decline of that area into the chaos that reigned not that long ago.

    For any economically disadvantaged group, the percentage of household income spent on motor vehicle ownership/use is of massive concern, and the resultant economic and health costs would be a much more productive area to focus attention on . . . but as Jimmy Carter points out, it is always easy to look out than in.

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