Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 2nd, 2007 at 4:00 pm
“Last weekend I was riding down NE Skidmore in broad sunlight, they walked out into the street as I passed and punched me…”
-Gabriel Amadeus, in a comment on the Portland Mercury blog
In the last few days I’ve heard of two more attacks on cyclists. Both of them happened in Northeast Portland. One near the Fred Meyer at 28th and Broadway and one near 9th and Skidmore.
The first was reported by Amy Jenniges on the Portland Mercury blog. She posted an email from someone who wrote in after reading the “Bike Beat” article in this week’s paper. Here’s an excerpt,
“I was riding home from work (around 10:30 p.m. on the 30th of Jan.)…when I a car full of kids, at least one a female, passed by slowly while firing a BB Gun/Airsoft saying, “I’ll kill you Mother *****! That’s how we do it!” I was hit a few times in the body, but I got one in the side of my head, right next to my temple…”
The account continues and there’s some good discussion in the comments.
The other one I heard about was a friend and someone I’ve featured on this site before. Gabriel Amadeus is the creative, fun-loving mastermind behind some of the coolest and funkiest mini-bikes in Portland. I recently mentioned him as the man behind the mini-bike chariot events at the upcoming Mini Bike Winter.
Last weekend Gabe was attacked while riding up NE 9th Avenue toward Skidmore. It was broad daylight and he was approached by a group of kids who said they wanted to ask him a question.
Luckily, Gabe never came to a complete stop and was able to ride away, but the kids still managed to land several punches and yell obscenities at him as he pedaled to safety.
I’m not sure what to make of all this.
Have attacks been happening at this rate all along (but never reported), or is this a serious new trend that deserves immediate action?
Here’s what Police spokesman Brian Schmautz said in an article in the Portland Tribune on Tuesday,
“You occasionally get calls about things like that, but I’m not aware of any kind of increase in any part of town.”
Whatever’s going on, these attacks raise more questions than answers.
Some people question whether race is a factor; others
blame cyclists for being holier-than-thou hipsters who have it coming to them* argue whether resentment over gentrification plays a part.
*[Editor’s note: A commenter questioned this statement and after more research and thought I now realize it is not accurate and I was confusing reaction to this topic with another one. I regret the misstatement and decided to edit and add to the sentence.]
Some people hope for a calm, community-based response; others prefer more aggressive actions to send a clear message to would-be attackers that cyclists are not fair game.
Race — which I don’t think is the primary factor — has come up in every reference to these attacks since the first media report. I realize race equals ratings, but comments on blogs have also mentioned it.
“Are bikes somehow symbolic of whites and gentrification to the eyes black community? I’m not sure…”
To borrow from my comment on the Mercury blog, I don’t think these attacks are solely about race, but I also don’t think the conversation is real and honest if we don’t mention it.
And I think any mention of race must also include the realities of gentrification in Northeast Portland. I think there remains resentment in the black community about gentrification…but whether that has to do with bikes and whites is hard to say.
Are bikes somehow symbolic of whites and gentrification to the eyes black community? I’m not sure, but it’s a question I’d like to delve deeper into. It’s certainly obvious that Portland’s cycling population could be more diverse.
Ultimately, I think these attacks are about (a lack of) neighborhood safety, the vulnerability of cyclists, a need for cyclists to report these incidents to the police, a need for the police to take those reports seriously, and a need for more neighborhood involvement by all of us.
As for the response by the media and the City of Portland…
The city has responded too, although I’m not sure if it’s on the radar of the Police Chief or the Mayor.
As a follow-up to my sit-down with John Canda (head of the Mayor’s Youth Crime Prevention Office), we’ve nearly confirmed a meeting on Monday to talk about the issue. Slated to join us are reps from the Mayor’s office, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and the Commander of NE Precinct.
No matter what the official response is, I plan to do my part to make my neighborhood better. I’ve committed to helping my neighborhood association and I will move forward with my plans for a volunteer bike patrol. I’m hoping to call it “The Bike Beat” and I’m talking with the Community Cycling Center about how we might work together on it.
Stay tuned and stay aware.