Editorial Section Archives

Opinion: Welcome to blame the victim season

Posted on November 20th, 2015 at 11:26 am.

“The bicyclist was wearing dark clothing and had no rear lighting on the bicycle.”
— Oregon State Police statement

For the past week I’ve been standing by, reading headline after headline about “distracted pedestrians.” And then I get this in my inbox (emphases mine):

The Oregon State Police is continuing it’s investigation into Thursday evening’s fatal crash involving a bicyclist.

At approximately 9:05PM a Lane County Deputy in a patrol vehicle was traveling northbound on SR99W near MP118 (just south of Beltline Highway in Eugene) when he struck a female bicyclist in the northbound slow lane. The female was pronounced deceased on scene.

The highway was blocked for approximately 1 hour. The highway was then partially open, reduced to one lane in each direction. The scene was cleared at 1:00AM.

Preliminary information indicates the bicyclist was traveling northbound in the travel lane at the time of the incident. The bicyclist was wearing dark clothing and had no rear lighting on the bicycle. It was full darkness with very little ambient lighting when the crash occurred.


Talk of a disastrous earthquake got you down? Just keep on biking

Posted on July 22nd, 2015 at 3:57 pm.

People who bike together, stick together.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Bikes won’t save you after the Big One, but the community built up around them just might.

There’s been a lot of unease in Portland since the publication of a fascinating yet gut-wrenching article in The New Yorker that laid out the impending Cascadia earthquake in excruciating detail.

After I read the piece, I was sort of numb for a while. Then my mind wondered (as if often does) and I started to ask the default question I ask myself around any seemingly intractable issue or policy, “How can bikes fix this?”


Opinion: Just 5 hours of Sunday Parkways is not enough

Posted on June 22nd, 2015 at 12:09 pm.

Sunday Parkways North Portland

Willamette Blvd as it should be.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Another Sunday Parkways is in the books, and it was simply sublime. The weather, the people, the parks — it was Portland summer and community spirit at its finest.

As I rode the nine-mile loop with my family (going slower than usual to ride alongside my wife Juli who decided to jog the loop), I kept wondering why it only happens in my neighborhood for five hours a year.

Just five precious hours out of 8,766 hours every year.



Enough is enough: Another death must spur real action

Posted on June 15th, 2015 at 11:17 am.

Aftermath of man who lost control and drove his car up onto the sidewalk.
(Photo: Portland Police Bureau)

Enough is enough.

A man lost control of his Subaru Forester SUV while driving eastbound on the Burnside Bridge Sunday afternoon. He swerved across the lanes and hit two people who were walking on the sidewalk.


What next? My suggestions for actions City Hall should take on bike safety

Posted on June 9th, 2015 at 2:57 pm.

Your move guys.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been one week since an “urgent” street safety meeting was called by Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick. City PR staff insisted the meeting was “multimodal” but it happened only because a scary spate of collisions involving people on bicycles was dominating the news cycle and social media. That meeting didn’t bear much fruit and was referred to later by the Mayor’s office as nothing more than a “listening session.”

Not surprisingly, the urgency around bike safety that existed two weeks ago among the local media and the greater Portland community is gone. The only people still focused on this issue (at least publicly) are the dedicated activists that played such a large role in putting the issue on the Mayor’s radar in the first place.


My opinion: Protests, politics, and progress?

Posted on June 2nd, 2015 at 2:22 pm.

May was a tumultuous month for Portlanders who care about safe streets. There have been tragic losses, protests, calls for reform and the early signs of progress. For me (and I’m sure others) it was a bit of a déjà vu.

My mind keeps going back to that sad October of 2007 when we suffered the loss of two people — and very nearly a third — in less than three weeks. The sequence of events was very similar. The collisions were followed by despair and anger and then action. We flooded the streets and grassroots activists sprung up to push the dialogue. Then, only after public pressure built a strong political foundation, electeds and other power-brokers stepped-up and engaged.

For the current Portland city council, that time for engagement is long overdue. Ever since running his mayoral campaign as the anti-Sam Adams, Charlie Hales has seemed to actively avoid the “b” word (bikes) out of fear that its mere mention would rile stakeholder groups and the media. And Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick has followed suit.


Ferguson, equity, and active transportation

Posted on November 26th, 2014 at 11:50 am.

A slide from Seeing & Believing in Bike Equity

Like many of you, I’ve been following the events in Ferguson and around the country very closely these past two days. Flipping from headlines to my social media feed, my head has been spinning with thoughts on issues ranging from racism and white privilege to our justice system and media culture. As last night’s protests spilled into the streets and freeways across America last night, this story came even closer to my own sphere of activism.

The shooting of Michael Brown and the decision by a Grand Jury to not indict Officer Darren Wilson isn’t a BikePortland story. We cover bike news and culture. But we also cover social issues — like sexism, racism, gentrification, and so on — that often intersect with bicycling.

So this morning, when I followed a link (shared by Elly Blue on Twitter) that led to a publication of the League of American Bicyclist’s Equity Initiative, I knew it was something I wanted to share here on the Front Page.


Holman Lane makes key connection through Forest Park, but only in one direction

Posted on December 18th, 2013 at 2:33 pm.

Holman Lane (red line) in relation to northwest Portland (to the right), Forest Park (shaded green), NW Cornell Rd (at the bottom) and Skyline Blvd (bottom left).
(Graphic: RideWithGPS)

Holman Lane is an unpaved fire lane in Forest Park. It winds uphill from northwest Portland almost a mile and nearly 500 feet in elevation from the corner of NW Aspen and Raleigh (map) before it meets with the quiet and tree-lined NW 53rd Avenue. Holman is open for cycling, and for those who know about it, provides a beautiful and safe connection between downtown and the West Hills, Skyline Boulevard, and points beyond.

But there’s an important detail about Holman Lane: bicycling is permitted only in the uphill direction. That’s too bad for people like Mike Owen, a Portlander who recently discovered Holman’s charms and utility.


Editorial: So much carnage on our streets, yet so little response

Posted on June 19th, 2013 at 11:22 am.

Mike Cooley is still in the hospital with serious
injuries after a man hit him
from behind while he rode on N. Interstate
Ave on Saturday night.

Road carnage in America has reached epidemic proportions. Consider the barrage of news I’ve encountered in the past 24 hours…

— The Portland Police released photos and offered a reward to try and find a man who drove his large pickup truck into 59 Mike Cooley as he rode home from work up N Interstate Avenue on Saturday night. Cooley has very serious injuries and remains hospitalized while the police search for the suspect.

— A major study from the Harvard School of Public Health has found a link between autism and air pollution from motor vehicles. As in, the unborn children of pregnant women that breath tailpipe emissions are impacted by our transportation policies that put the auto access and capacity above everything else. Do we really care more about auto traffic “flow” than the health of our babies?


East Portland fatality puts heat on City’s paving priority – UPDATED

Posted on March 1st, 2013 at 9:55 am.

Streetview of where a girl was struck and killed last night by someone driving a car as she tried to cross the street.

Mayor Hales and his interim PBOT Director Toby Widmer are on the hot seat this morning for their decision to make paving a higher priority than safety. The City’s budget plan to “realign” $7.15 million in PBOT funds — $1.2 million of which would come from an already planned sidewalk project on SE 136th Ave — was immediately controversial when it was announced last week. And that was before last night when a five-year-old girl was tragically killed just blocks away from where that new sidewalk was slated to go.

“Repaving streets is absolutely important for this city, but let’s not fix potholes at the expense of children’s safety and accessibility for people with disabilities.”
— Stephanie Routh, Oregon Walks

According to the Portland Police, around 7:00 pm last night Morgan Maynard-Cook was visiting a friend across the street from her home on SE 136th. She was on the east side of 136th. Her home is on the west side of the street at the corner of 136th and Harold (map). When ready to come home, she went to cross 136th after a northbound car slowed to let her cross. She then left the grasp of the person she was walking with, ran out and was struck by a 69-year old woman driving a car in the opposite lane. Maynard-Cook died on the way to the hospital.

There are no sidewalks on either side of 136th in this location. The posted speed limit is 35 mph (a speed that results in a fatality in 65% of collisions, whereas a speed of 20 mph comes with 0% chance of fatality).

This summer, PBOT was planning to build a sidewalk on the east side of 136th between SE Powell and Holgate, just 0.4 miles north of where Maynard-Cook was hit. While technically, the money PBOT — under the direction of Mayor Hales — is proposing to “realign” for paving would not have built a sidewalk in the location of this tragedy, last night’s news will weigh heavily on Hales’ mind as he ponders the budget. Especially since, according a police spokesman I spoke with this morning, Hales visited the scene last night just minutes after police arrived.

Not surprisingly, the mayor is already hearing from the public about the lack of sidewalks in this area.

KGW-TV’s story last night mentioned that Maynard-Cook’s mom, “said the neighborhood has no sidewalks, no crosswalks and lots of children trying to walk around in those conditions.” (Incidentally, an ad before the KGW online video was for a new Honda that comes with SMS texting in the dashboard.)

Executive Director of Oregon Walks Stephanie Routh released a statement this morning that said, “Proposing to cut a long-awaited basic sidewalk project in Portland’s poorest neighborhood and severely cutting funding for ADA access [another proposal from Hales/Widmer] is not in keeping with the city’s stated commitment to equity… Repaving streets is absolutely important for this city, but let’s not fix potholes at the expense of children’s safety and accessibility for people with disabilities.”

Former Mayor Sam Adams was not shy about saying his top transportation priority was safety. PBOT staffers had even started calling him “our traffic safety mayor.” And Adams put money where his mouth is by allocating $16 million to sidewalks in east and southwest Portland. Mayor Hales, looking to differentiate himself from Adams (perhaps more for politics than policy), has made it clear paving is Job #1.

Paving and maintenance is important. But it must be funding in a very careful balance with system improvements that will make people safer. No one has ever died because of a pothole or a rough road. (UPDATE That’s not true and it was a mistake to write it.)

Would a sidewalk have prevented last night’s tragedy? Of course we can’t say for sure. But as someone with three young children myself, I can say from experience that the presence of sidewalks and curbs matters. Curbs are an important physical feature that communicates something to kids even before they can speak. When my almost two-year-old comes to a curb, he knows a street with dangers lies ahead.

When I asked Mayor Hales about PBOT’s proposal to “realign” this sidewalk money for paving, he distanced himself from the decision. “It’s a bureau budget. It’s just a starting point.” Asked if the sidewalk funding cut would be adopted into the final budget, Hales said, “I’d say it’s about 50/50.”

After last night, I have no doubt those percentages have changed.

UPDATE 11:52 am: Statement from Mayor Hales just released:

“My heart goes out to the family of Morgan. As a parent, I can find no words that are sufficient to describe this horrible occurrence.

My thoughts also are with the Portland Police officers who responded last night. Each of them has family, too, and each is affected by such tragedies in different ways.

Safety throughout the city has to be our first priority. I have been at work fewer than 60 days, and so far the city of Portland has experienced eight automobile-related fatalities, four of which were pedestrian deaths.

There has been a lot of talk of late about paving streets, and about sidewalks and crosswalks throughout our city. There has been a lot of talk about the backlog of projects, and about how to pay for these core responsibilities. As always, public safety has to be our North Star, guiding all of our decisions in every part of the city.

We will work through these decisions together, as involved citizens, as elected officials, as city employees, as residents of Portland, and as people who are holding our families a little bit tighter today.”