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Meeting could spark formation of a “more assertive advocacy group” in Portland

Posted by on August 20th, 2014 at 12:03 pm

The first step is showing up.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Many Portlanders who care about bicycling want to find a way to create more urgency for bike-friendly changes. As we’ve been reporting since May, Portland — once a biking beacon that other cities aspired to — has lost its mojo. With our largest bicycle advocacy organization, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), choosing to take a more conservative role, some in the community want to start a new advocacy group.

When Alex Reed moved to Portland in 2007, he thought that “There was so much excitement around bike it felt like everything was destined to get better.” Now that he’s “not seeing much progress,” the 29-year-old southeast Portland resident (and father) has planned a meeting this weekend to discuss the possible formation of a new group. “Are you frustrated at the lack of progress on bike issues in Portland in the last five years?” reads the event description on the Shift calendar. “If so, come join us to try to make things better!”

Specifically, Reed says he wants to discuss forming a “more-assertive Portland bike advocacy group/movement/initiative.”


This all might be causing a case of deja-vu for some close readers of BikePortland. Back in 2009, when the BTA — and therefore the local bike advocacy ecosystem on the whole — was at a turning point following the firing of their former leader Scott Bricker, we had a very similar discussion.

“It feels both like biking has stalled out in Portland and like there’s pent-up energy around bikes waiting to be nurtured and accessed.”
— Alex Reed

At a social hour hosted by BikePortland at a coffee shop in Old Town, we talked openly about the future of bike advocacy in Portland and wondered if our city needed a second, complementary advocacy group that would help hasten the changes many of us wanted to see.

That meeting led to the formation of Active Right of Way (AROW), an all volunteer group that has done some great work (most notably around streetcar/bike safety and SE Holgate), but it has stalled a bit due to a lack of financial and human resources.

Reed, who sees himself mostly as a facilitator hoping to spark a “grassroots initiative,” isn’t sure what will come of Saturday night’s meeting, but he does know that he wants biking conditions in Portland to improve sooner rather than later.

“It feels both like biking has stalled out in Portland and like there’s pent-up energy around bikes waiting to be nurtured and accessed,” he said in a recent email. “Maybe it will go so well that by the time the kid(s) are 12-ish I’ll feel confident sending them off to school across Powell with their friends!”

If you have something to add to this conversation, join Reed and other concerned citizens at the Lucky Lab (915 SE Hawthorne) at 3:00 pm this Saturday (8/23). Reed has also set up a Google Group where you can learn more and share your thoughts.


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Comments
  • 9watts August 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I wonder if some BTA staff will show up?

    Recommended Thumb up 17

  • Hart Noecker August 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Very interested to see where this could lead. Very aware of the barriers that such groups run into.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Aaron August 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I’m pretty happy with Portland’s bicycle infrastructure and wont be attending this meeting.

    Recommended Thumb up 13

    • Jimmy August 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      You obviously don’t spend any time on SW Barbur, tried to get from 20th Alberta to Division, or ridden anywhere east of 82nd.

      Recommended Thumb up 34

      • Rick August 21, 2014 at 7:49 am

        Barbur needs sidewalks and bike lanes between the Fred Meyers and the new Safeway by SW Capitol Hill Road

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    • spare_wheel August 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      I’m pretty happy not using Portland’s bicycle infrastructure. Nevertheless, I’m attending this meeting because I strongly support my friends and family who do not enjoy riding a few feet/inches from speeding cars.

      Recommended Thumb up 19

  • Brian August 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    “Are you frustrated at the lack of progress on bike issues in Portland in the last five years?”

    Would this include off-road riding opportunities, dirtjumps, skills parks, etc? If so, hell yes! I am wondering if this is all bike issues, or just those related to riding on the road.

    Recommended Thumb up 13

    • GlowBoy August 20, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      Brian, while I share your perspective that we need to do more to promote recreational off-road cycling in the area, this is about a different issue: the BTA’s failure to stand up for transportation cycling.

      Recommended Thumb up 8

      • Zimmerman August 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm

        They’re linked, no doubt.

        Plus, an aggressive broad reaching organization representing the largest number of cyclists and types of cycling has more influence than smaller fragmented groups making demands.

        I want better infrastructure for transportation cycling and more opportunities for recreational cycling that doesn’t involve using a vehicle to reach.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

        • Brian August 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

          Agreed. My story may be an anomaly, but I don’t know many people whose love of cycling began as just “transportation.” When we were young we practiced wheelies in parking lots and put 2 x 4′s on bricks to jump, then built dirt jumps anywhere we could and joined BMX teams for the LBS, and then started building trails later on. Fast forward many years and the story hasn’t changed. In my peer group here in Portland, everyone (and I mean everyone) began as mountain bikers and then picked up a road bike for transportation and exercise. If we don’t look to build a better place to ride for all types, we miss out on an opportunity to strengthen the cycling community overall. We should look to be more inclusive and support all user groups better than we have been. For example, we have dirt paths that run parallel to the Springwater Corridor and the Willamette Bike Paths. If those were built up to be fun trails, it may draw those who only own mountain bikes to commute more. It would also encourage more people to ride to trails, rather than hoist their bikes onto their cars. More people commuting and transporting on their mountain bikes means more people on bikes on the roads. That is a good thing.

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  • Alex Reed August 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Everyone’s welcome at the meeting; we’d love to see you there!

    Some clarifications: I’m not a father yet; we’re working on adoption so hopefully in a year or two.

    Jonathan mentioned AROW so I wanted to mention that there has been discussion on the bikeloupdx Google group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/bikeloudpdx of having this group/initiative join up with / be part of AROW. We’ll discuss that and other vision and organization questions on Saturday.

    Recommended Thumb up 19

  • Rob Chapman August 20, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for doing this Alex.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

  • Paul Atkinson August 20, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I have other obligations on Saturday, but I’ll be watching for the outcome of this meeting. I share the opinion that the BTA is neglecting to ‘lean in,’ and I’m a BTA member.

    Cooperative competition, right? Same resource pool, largely, but the same goal? We can make that work.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • Craig Harlow August 20, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Lamenting the lapse of the People’s Department of Transportation http://pdot.org/

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • nobody August 21, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Ah yes, the “people have to walk 250 feet instead of bolting across the middle of the street” folks. Who in their right mind is going to feel oppressed because they have to walk from the middle of the block to the corner, then cross the street?

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • dr2chase August 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm

        It only takes a minute, right? It’s perfectly okay for a mere pedestrian to be forced to take an extra minute, it’s not like they were an important person driving a car. *Their* impatience is perfectly justified.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

        • grumpcyclist August 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm

          Literally 250 feet. *250*. That’s less than 1/20th of a mile. The fact that Elly thought she could gin up widespread protests and anger about that 250 feet tells you everything you need to know about pdot.org.

          There are real issues that affect Portlanders, the fact is that “the wall” was not one of them. Elly smartly abandoned the concept and moved on to something more effective (or at least more profitable).

          Recommended Thumb up 1

          • grumpcyclist August 21, 2014 at 6:48 pm

            By the way, I accidentally posted under “nobody” above, I don’t mean to appear to be posting as two different people.

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      • Bjorn August 21, 2014 at 8:30 pm

        My objection was that not only was the “fix” one that inconvienenced only pedestrians, it was also the most expensive of all the options. Other cheaper solutions were dismissed because they might delay motor vehicle traffic.

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  • Dwaine Dibbly August 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    I hope that the pools of motivation and money are large enough for another group to flourish. Good luck!!

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • dr2chase August 20, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    So are they aiming to directly change things, or to create “room” for the BTA to be less conservative? Or, “yes”.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Alan 1.0 August 20, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      I understand why you won’t be at the ‘Lab on Saturday, Doc, but I think the question should be “we,” not “they,” and I’ll throw out an answer (c): “let’s see.” Got ideas? Share ‘em!

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Ted Buehler August 21, 2014 at 1:23 am

    I’m looking forward to meeting other folks who think we should ramp up grassroots advocacy in Portland.

    Thanks for organizing, Alex!

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Ted Buehler August 21, 2014 at 1:30 am

    FWIW, AROW is still around, and still somewhat active as a vehicle for grassroots activism.

    In its original mandate, AROW was not set up to be a large, powerful group. It did not have an opinionated mission statement, it was not a membership organization, and it did not have a formal internal governance structure.

    All of these are needed if you want to have a strong, consistent voice, and effectively wield power for your constituents.

    I think Portland would benefit from a more opinionated, focused, grassroots advocacy group. BTA is not Portland focused, is not particularly grassroots. AROW is not bicycle focused, does not have a focused mission statement.

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • dr2chase August 21, 2014 at 5:29 am

    I’m on the wrong coast, and trying to figure out how to make it work here. I *think* things are moving in a favorable direction here; last winter they kept some of the Hubway rentals running, for example, and after griping at Cambridge about the need to maybe also “salt” paths near a reservoir (which is a problem for salt) they did.

    Also, I’m not a “real” doctor. One of the piled-higher-and-deeper sort instead, and it’s my initials that are dr, thus drdr, or (dr)^2 (which is not shorter and still not a legal username). And drchase was already taken someplace when I wanted to get a username, long ago. I do get a lot of amusing spam.

    Portland vs Cambridge, I think part of your problem might be that you are artificially handicapped by low density (4.4k/sq-mi vs 16.4 Cambridge, 18.4 Somerville, 12.9 Boston) and have done great things in spite of that. Cambridge/Somerville/Boston is sufficiently crowded that it’s routine to run out of bike parking in places like Kendall Square (MIT area), the new cages at Alewife station a few years ago filled up in the space of one month after installation, and not only is there no place to put additional cars, the subway is also running full with maximum-length trains and (I think) the smallest headways they can run w/o replacing signalling equipment (and the MBTA is terribly in debt). Less enthusiasm for urban car projects after we spent 14 BEEEEELYUN dollars on the Big Dig. In many ways bicycles are about the only choice, and it’s obvious that adding bikes frees up parking and road space.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Scott Kocher August 21, 2014 at 8:17 am

    I’d like to see a chart online that lists all manner of active transportation Things that Could be Done, and has columns for (1) who’s working on it, (2) history of efforts, (3) opportunities, (4) challenges, and (5) who’s interested in taking it on. If it’s been done, or if you’d like to help, let me know offline.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Joe August 21, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Interesting I have also felt like the last couple years have really paused regarding bike related issues, have you noticed downtown drivers and peds yet? Oh and once you get out of downtown in some areas it’s total madness if you get caught on a road that lacks proper bike buffer from zipping cars.. SE division ahhh, Clinton ST detours? Lotta help needed, , interstate? For some reason I feel we have a back lash about moving forward and creating safety for all road users. Example some will drive so close to you from behind if you take lane when needed even if your moving at a good speed for that street. I could go on and on because I ride portland and have noticed huge gaps in the last 4 years.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • spencer August 21, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Count me as a + one. I’ll be camping out of town Saturday, but I’d gladly put some energy into a more vocal PDX bike group. The BTA has devolved away from what makes Portland great.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Chet August 22, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Nice work, Alex. Stalled or not, as the recent conversation surrounding how difficult it is for city planners to make obvious improvements on SE Clinton without support, this effort is great and I look forward to seeing what comes of it.

    On a related note, I noticed that hardly anyone has commented on the proposed bikeways projects for the current Portland planning process? I think the 20s and 70s bikeways have about 5-8 comments a piece. It’s the least people can do to comment on the map with support or suggestions of how these planning proposals might work better.

    http://www.portlandmaps.com/bps/cpmapp2/

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Aaron August 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I just had an excellent idea. Get an organized ride where everyone dresses up as a traffic cone (aka the recent police ‘sting’ where some drivers didn’t see the officer in a traffic cone)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paul Atkinson August 25, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Is there any feedback coming on how the meeting went?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 25, 2014 at 11:47 am

      it went really well Paul. At least in my opinion it did. I plan to share a recap soon. Stay tuned!

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Paul Atkinson August 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm

        Brilliant. Thank you!

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • spare_wheel August 26, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    A Clinton protest ride is occurring today (Tues) at 5:15 and 5:45.
    Meet at K and F Coffeehouse, SE 26th & Clinton Take Trimet

    We’re going to do protest rides at 5:15 and 5:45 on Tuesday, August 26th to highlight the importance of keeping motorized traffic volumes low on neighborhood greenways / bike boulevards. We’ll be riding up and down Clinton east of 26th slowwwly in a group. We’ll also have volunteers on the side of the street holding large hand-made signs (2-ft x 3-ft or larger) to encourage drivers to do the full detour to Powell, and to inform everyone of “Bikes in Lane” along Clinton.

    http://shift2bikes.org/cal/#26-4635

    Recommended Thumb up 1

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