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'Veloprovo' group to launch with ride this weekend

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 28th, 2013 at 4:30 pm

"We need streets for people, not more roads for cars. Portland needs to retake the lead as a America's most sustainable city."
— from the group's Facebook page

The latest sign that bicycle activism in Portland continues to take new forms is a new group called Veloprovo, which is planning its inaugural ride this Sunday.

Here's how the 55-member group describes themselves (via their Facebook page):

"Veloprovo are a group of cyclists and livable streets activists committed to enacting radical changes to the way we design, build, and enjoy urban social space.

We recognize the inherent harm that motorized traffic causes our health and human interactions, and the role that cars play in contributing to the climate crisis.

We realize that without grassroots organizing and activism, we cannot expect elected leaders to make the correct decisions needed to convert roads dominated by cars back into streets built for people.

We will strive for provocative, thoughtful action inspired by the Dutch provo movement and by Portland's own livable streets activists of generations past."

According to Wikipedia, the Dutch provo was a "counterculture movement in the mid-1960s that focused on provoking violent responses from authorities using non-violent bait."

Veloprovo seems to have been organized and started by people who were active in the PDX Bike Swarm that emerged from the Occupy Portland movement. The group also shares roots with the recent Tar Sands protest rides that confronted Portland businesses who they say are profiting from ties to Big Oil.

The group emerges from a growing sense that our region's established bicycling, planning, and environmental advocates have become too beholden to power and are too conservative and risk-averse as a result. "We need to continue building a radical livable streets movement," reads a Veloprovo statement, "We need streets for people, not more roads for cars. Portland needs to retake the lead as a America's most sustainable city."

Veloprovo's Facebook page includes links to a presentation by noted livable streets activist Mark Gorton and an article on Riverfront For People, a grassroots group that helped build support to tear out Harbor Drive (the old highway that once ran where Waterfront Park now sits) in the 1970s.

At their ride on Sunday, Veloprovo plans to tour various locations around the city they feel require "radical street-scape makeovers" (it'll be a long ride) and then meet for food, drinks, and "discussions about future direct actions."

Learn more about Veloprovo on their Facebook page.

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  • Barney March 28, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    A group "focused on provoking violent responses from authorities", in the name of cycling???

    Good grief, what next? What about the rest of us who just want to ride our bikes and not be associated with swarmers, provo's or whatever comes next. When you do whatever you do on a bike it also affects me, via guilt by association. Maybe I'll start riding my motorcycle more!

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    • Hart Noecker March 28, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Authorities respond violently to anything they don't understand. But look what a cycling paradise the Netherlands are now! Portland needs some new growing pains, that's for sure. I mean, if they're doing this stuff in TEXAS of all places then why the heck aren't we this creative in the Cycling Capital of America?

      Building Better Blocks:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ntwqVDzdqAU

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    • 9watts March 28, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      "When you do whatever you do on a bike it also affects me, via guilt by association."

      Is that the best you can do, Barney?
      Do you hear regular (car-)folks whining about drag racers or art cars or low riders or hypermiling? Do you hear (car-)people complaining about traffic jams or the 33,000 annual deaths from motordom as reflecting badly on them, as guilt by association?

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    • are March 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      whenever you apologize on behalf of other bicyclists, your self-effacement reflects on me

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  • 9watts March 28, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I look forward to hearing lots more about and from these folks.
    The surprisingly negative reactions the recent protest of the various oil, coal, and gas interests in town provoked here on bikeportland notwithstanding, I think this is a timely and important effort and I hope folks here can offer some constructive commentary as well.

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  • Mark March 28, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    I sure wish there was some other way to learn more about VeloProvo, as I don't have a Facebook account.

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    • Spiffy March 29, 2013 at 9:04 am

      same here... they must have their page privacy settings too tight... and I don't see the event on the Shift list... so right now it seems like it's an exclusive club...

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      • Hart Noecker March 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        Page is public: https://www.facebook.com/groups/262207910549571/

        Lots of great reading/video materials including the afore-mentioned Mark Gorton talk and Portland's radical history of opposing auto-centric infrastructure.

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        • Mark March 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm

          Page is public, as in, "You must log in to view this page."

          Well, I might even be interested in showing up in person to see what it's about, but so far all I know is that there's a ride somewhere, some time on Sunday. Outreach fail. Good luck with your "movement."

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  • 100th Monkey March 28, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Dan Kaufman and I were talking along the same exact lines as the raison d'etre held by Veloprovo at the Bicycle show last Sunday; COMPLACENCY! I have seen too many in Portland become too willing to just accept the bones thrown to us by politicians, in this City, County, State and Country re STREETS SAFE FOR HUMANITY and not just HIGHWAYS TO HELL! Dan implied that there was going to be other like-minded folks rising up together ala Copenhagen for change. Count me in!

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  • Barney March 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    "Do you hear regular (car-)folks whining about drag racers or art cars or low riders or hypermiling?"

    What does that even mean? Let's not complicate this. When "bike swarmers" hold up traffic or inconvenience "regular" people and do it on a bicycle then bicyclists will get the blame. If veloprovo goes out with the intent to antagonize citizens or public officials while on a bicycle then bicyclists will get the blame. Most people will not even know what you are protesting, they will just see a$$holes on bikes. How does that help bicycling as a movement?

    What it looks like to me is that you are willing to sacrifice the image of cyclists in the name of your "cause du jour". Those of us who just want to ride our bikes will suffer from the perception of the result your efforts. Thanks for pissing on the rest of us in the name of your crusade.

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    • spare_wheel March 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      "If veloprovo goes out with the intent to antagonize citizens or public officials"

      Enough with the strawmen. What part of peaceful protest did you not understand?

      PS: I am pretty sure there were naysayers just like you in Holland in the 70s.

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      • 9watts March 28, 2013 at 10:20 pm

        "What does that even mean?"

        That's what I was wondering when reading your post.

        I guess I just can't relate to 'what anyone on a bike does reflects badly on me who also happens to ride a bike.' Do you really think people can't help themselves, and think exclusively in these broad categories?
        ...Oh, look, someone in a car texting. Man, that does it. I'm going to resent/threaten/abuse everyone who drives from this day forward. Is that how you interact with the world?

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      • wsbob April 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm

        "...What part of peaceful protest..." spare_wheel\

        Passive aggression isn't exactly peaceful, which isn't to say that veloprovo is going to use that technique, or has, to accomplish something good. Other groups' peaceful efforts sometimes seem to succumb to being co-opted by people with less than peaceful intentions. There's the challenge...avoiding that fate.

        "...According to Wikipedia, the Dutch provo was a "counterculture movement in the mid-1960s that focused on provoking violent responses from authorities using non-violent bait." ..." maus/bikeportland

        Of course, this is from wikipedia, kind of an open contribution information source, the quality of information which has to be considered carefully, but that excerpted statement which characterizes Provo as having provoked violent response from authorities...whether that's accurate, I wouldn't know...is cautionary.

        The accompanying "...with non-violent bait..." part of the excerpted statement, kind of helps to suggest that the objective of provoking violence on the part of authorities, may have been to reveal inherently violent, unjustified tendencies on the part of authorities. That strategy may work to some extent, but how constructive it is, is debatable.

        The wikipedia page maus provided the link to, is brief, but has some really interesting info about the White Plans put together by the political branch of Provo, long ago in Amsterdam.

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  • Skid March 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Portland was post-Critical Mass for a while and would prefer it to stay that way. You can give it a different name but that is essentially what it is.

    I can get around Portland just fine by bike. I accept the fact that riding in traffic is potentially dangerous, and sometimes I like it that way. When I don't I pick a quieter street or use a multi-use path. Riding in a bike lane doesn't bother me, even if left turns get a little tricky. As far as I am concerned, it is part of being on a bicycle.

    I can understand showing up in support of some-bike related funding or legislation at City Hall, but the negative aspects of protesting I do not get. It's what (some) Police want, an excuse to use all their fancy people-hurting toys. Blocking traffic CM-style is just annoying and I agree that the blame for it and the ensuing hatred get focused on all cyclists. And personally I have had enough of that.

    I just want to ride my bike. And if in order to do that it ends up on top of a car, or on a bus/train I do not need to feel guilty or be admonished for that. I am realistic enough to understand that these modes of transportation will never go away although they could definitely be used more sensibly. There will always be 4+ wheeled vehicles with controlled environments in places like the Pacific Northwest. They may not always be powered by fossil fuels, not in the future that I see.

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    • Nick Falbo March 29, 2013 at 9:05 am

      "I can get around Portland just fine by bike. "

      In some part of town, most people can get around just fine by bike. But in other parts of Portland, this is absolutely not true. Perhaps this group can draw attention to those underserved areas?

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    • Hart Noecker March 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      "There will always be 4+ wheeled vehicles with controlled environments in places like the Pacific Northwest."

      There are people here in Portland that are envisioning a radically different post-car future, and are planning how to make that a reality.

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      • Dave salesky April 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

        There are people here in Portland envisioning a radically different time travel / crystal energy future and are working to make that happen. With funny hats. Perhaps more likely than the aforementioned scenario. Discuss?

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  • Skid March 28, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    If you really want something to fight for and protest, how about stiffer penalties for car vs. bike/ped hit-and-runs? And more Police effort to find the perpetrators.

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    • Hart Noecker March 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Sounds like you're nominating yourself to take on that fight. I wish you the best. We need people taking all fronts.

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  • dwainedibbly March 29, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Just trying "to start the conversation", right? A little pressure from the left isn't a bad thing if it gets people to expect more from out officials.

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  • Elliot March 29, 2013 at 6:31 am

    A 55-person Facebook group is worthy of a news story on the front page? What year is it, 2006?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 29, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Thanks for the feedback Elliot. And yes, I do think it's worthy. This is an important trend that is happening and I think it's worth staying on top of. When a very active, smart and passionate group of people get organized for a specific issue having to do directly with bicycling in Portland I think it behooves the community to not only know they exist, but to understand the context of their existence and follow their growth.

      My question to you would be... Why is this not worth of the Front Page?

      I have a hunch that your feelings about its newsworthiness are based in your disapproval of the group's mission/tone in general. Is that true? That sounds similar to how many people felt my publishing on Marcy Houle's Forest Park email should not have been on the front page.

      Thanks for the feedback.

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      • Elliot March 29, 2013 at 9:13 am

        Hi Jonathan, thanks for tolerating my snark. I'll take a crack at answering your question.

        I'm glad there are people in town who are motivated around taking direct action for bikes. That's a good thing. But your own article states that Veloprovo is just a rehash of Bike Swarm. The only new information presented is the ride announcement, whereas the bulk of the article consists of a block quote from their Facebook page, a Wikipedia reference, and a description of posted links. Those components seem like an indication that maybe there's not enough material for a story yet. A weekend event announcement and a later follow up covering their "direct actions" (sounds exciting) seems more appropriate.

        In any case, I'm nitpicking here. Thanks for hearing me out. :)

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        • 9watts March 29, 2013 at 9:46 am

          "Veloprovo is just a rehash of Bike Swarm"

          I am tired of hearing about those folks refusing to ride the segregated buses, walking, biking, even riding mules or driving horse-drawn buggies instead. And now you're telling me kids are sitting at lunch counters. Geez. Can't you find a real story to write about?

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 29, 2013 at 10:00 am

          Elliot,

          You make fair points, but realize that as is often the case I am not judging the merits of this story/event solely on what is on their Facebook or the size of the group or their influence/power at this moment in time.

          I have my own background knowledge/hunches that go into all my editorial decisions. Based on what I know about the unique bike activism/advocacy ecosystem in Portland and based on the people who are behind this effort and who are supportive of it, I decided that it deserved to be covered.

          Oh, and I never said this is a "rehash of the Bike Swarm." Those are your words, not mine.

          Thanks for your comment.

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          • longgone March 29, 2013 at 10:30 am

            Semantics,... Gotta agree with Elliot on his point. McDonalds removes one slice of cheese from a double cheeseburger, names it "McDouble", amazingly it tastes just about the same....just sayin".

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    • Hart Noecker March 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      It's worth noting that the group is now up to 79 people, so clearly there's latent demand for more aggressive methods of pushing Portland's bicycle envelope.

      It's easy to sit at home and whine about the people actually doing things. If only every person taking the time to type out their negativity devoted an equal amount of effort to actually doing something outside their comfort zone.

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      • CaptainKarma April 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm

        I'm # 95.

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  • mikeybikey March 29, 2013 at 10:25 am

    awesome. will def. try to make it!

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  • Joe March 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I want to make this, also feel its awesome and much needed, we need to " think outside the box " as riders! :) no flame suit needed

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  • Audie March 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I wish I could make it!
    It seems like people think that just because Portland streets are better than other places in the US we should just settle, leave the decisions for people wearing suits and ties. Compared to the rest of the world we could step it up, a lot.
    The rest of the world is suffering because of how fossil fuel dependent we are. The least we can do is attempt a movement for bicyclists holding dirty corporations responsible. And if a few cars become inconvenienced? Awesome. Maybe they will stop driving.

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  • joe biel March 29, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    The schism of comments in this thread display the disparity in liberal and radical viewpoints in a way that makes the best case for the need for groups like BikeProvo. And thanks for writing about it Jonathan. I didn't know about this until this post!

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  • Jim Lee March 29, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    There also is a extremely threatening BUNNY RIDE this Sunday!

    Avoid Ladd's Addition after 1430!

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  • Tyler w April 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Veloprovo great stuff! Keep it up!

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