Editorial Section Archives

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.”

The case for a better bikeway on Broadway in three pictures

Posted on February 27th, 2013 at 10:10 am.

Bike traffic yesterday morning on SW Broadway at Oak. (Now imagine what it would be like this summer.)
(Photo: Peter Koonce)


Editorial: Activism for safer streets underscores larger transportation debate

Posted on February 8th, 2013 at 10:20 am.

“Demands for new biking, walking, transit, and other system improvements are common, but do you ever see activists clamoring for paving and street maintenance?”

Twice this week citizens of Portland have taken action to raise awareness about unsafe streets.

Benjamin Kerensa emailed us a video (watch it below) he put together of the crosswalk at NE 79th and Glisan. Kerensa witnessed a fatal collision last week involving a woman who was walking across that intersection in the sidewalk when she was hit by someone driving a car. The video, which shows numerous people failing to yield to people crossing the street, was featured on The Oregonian’s Hard Drive blog on Wednesday.

In his description of the video on YouTube, Kerensa pressured City Hall to improve the crosswalk:


Dispatch from SE Foster Road

Posted on January 24th, 2013 at 4:43 pm.

SE Foster Road-10
Seeing SE Foster for myself — from the safety of the sidewalk.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Over the long weekend I was summoned by the sun (and the need to break in a new bike) to do an exploratory ride. I hadn’t rambled down the Springwater beyond Sellwood for ages so I thought I’d go do “the loop” (north Portland to Springwater via the Esplanade then back north via I-205 path). As I rolled north on the path, one of the overcrossings (thanks TriMet!) allowed me to gaze down on SE Foster Road. Foster has been on my mind lately as a redesign that could include bikeways has recently floated up during the ongoing streetscape planning process. Without any set route in my mind, I decided to ride up Foster and get a first-hand feel for the street.

Eek. After being out there myself, I have a much better sense of what we’re up against. It wasn’t the first time I’d been on Foster; but it’s the first time I spent time to soak in the atmosphere and think about what could be.


Editorial: Portland’s golden opportunity to invest in downtown bike access

Posted on January 15th, 2013 at 2:37 pm.

Ride-along SW Broadway-9-6
This is what bicycling is like
in much of downtown Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is prepping a $10.2 million list of active transportation projects they hope to get funded through a federal grant. According to sources at PBOT, conversations have already begun to focus all that money on a package of projects that would focus specifically on downtown bike access in the form of protected bike lanes and cycle tracks.

This is a golden opportunity we should not pass up.

The money is available through a pot of federal money doled out by Metro Council known as regional flexible funds. The amount of funding that will come to the City of Portland (for the 2016-18 cycle) is $14 million. As per a resolution passed by the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation in 2010, $10.2 million (or 75%) of that total must be spent on active transportation projects (the remaining $3.7 million will go to freight projects).


How bikes are becoming more like cars

Posted on December 5th, 2012 at 4:31 pm.

BikeBOT Radio Ride-37
A sound system, plenty of storage space,
high-powered lights… Who needs a truck?!
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It occurred to me today that, when it comes to accessories and their presence on the road, bikes are slowly but surely becoming more and more like cars. Consider this: Not only are more and more cities dedicated increased roadway space to bicycles; but the proliferation of sound systems, iPhone mounts on handlebars, super-bright hub-powered light systems, and other product trends point to a significant leveling of the vehicle playing field.


Talk in Portland, action in Chicago

Posted on December 4th, 2012 at 1:58 pm.

New bike lanes on Dearborn;
just in time for holiday shopping.
(Photo: Green Lane Project)

Like New York before them, Chicago has just taken a major step forward in becoming a city where biking is given equal respect to driving.

Advocates are buzzing today as the Chicago Department of Transportation has striped a new, two-way bikeway on N. Dearborn St between Polk and Kinzie. That’s a segment of over one mile on a high-profile downtown street in one of America’s largest cities.

“That’s huge and symbolic,” tweeted Portland Mercury News Editor Denis Theriault upon hearing the news, “[Would] Be like putting one here on Washington or Everett.”

Yeah. If only.