Selling the city on "Bike Beats"

[Taken after our meeting at Northeast Precinct yesterday.]
From L to R, Back row: Commander Jim Ferraris (North Precinct, PPB), Havilah Ferschweiler (N Portland Crime Prevention, ONI) , Commander Bret Smith (NE Precinct, PPB), John Canda (Mayor’s Office of Youth Crime Prevention); Front row: Mary Tompkins (NE Portland Crime Prevention, ONI), Stephanie Reynolds (Crime Prevention Program Manager, ONI), Celeste Carey (NE Portland Crime Prevention, ONI), Jim Hayden (Neighborhood District Attorney, Mult. County)

Yesterday in the Northeast Precinct community meeting room, I sat around a table with eight neighborhood leaders to talk about recent safety issues, and to explore how the bike community might be part of a solution.

John Canda, head of the Mayor’s Office of Youth Crime Prevention, called the meeting after he and I met two weeks ago.

Around the table were:

I was grateful for the chance to represent the bike community to such an esteemed group.

The meeting started out with a discussion of recent assaults in the area. NE Precinct Commander Bret Smith said he feels this is not a “bicyclist issue” and that he has not noticed a marked increase in reports of assaults on cyclists.

I think Commander Smith assumed I was in the room to pound my fists and demand that the Police do more to protect cyclists. I made it clear to him and everyone else that I wasn’t there to complain, but to say that I think bicycles can play a larger role in building stronger and safer neighborhoods.

Once everyone figured out where I was coming from, we had a lively and positive discussion about creating a new, neighborhood-based, city-wide, volunteer bike patrol program. The idea is to utilize the infrastructure of Portland’s existing Foot Patrol Program.

Stephanie Reynolds is in charge of that program and, after addressing a few of her concerns, she seemed very keen on moving forward.

Others had some minor concerns and questions about how a bike patrol program would work. We openly discussed these concerns and none of them proved serious enough to cause hesitation.

By the end of the meeting, everyone around the table was enthusiastic about moving forward.

It’s important to note that my immediate goal is not to “patrol”, stop crime, or go out and bust people (hence the name, “Bike Beats”).

The purpose is just to get more people on bikes out in the neighborhoods. And no, this is not about promoting bicycle use, it’s about community interaction, building relationships and making neighborhood involvement fun and appealing to a new group of volunteers.

Next steps:

On the recommendation of Commander Smith and Ms. Reynolds, I’ll write a post with more details about Neighborhood Bike Beats. Then, I’ll ask for your feedback and whether or not you’d like to take part. The City will then send that post out to neighborhood associations and other community group email lists to get as much feedback as possible.

If there’s enough community support for the program, they’ll move forward.

Because not everyone has access to the web, feedback on this site will not be the only way to offer input. Once we’re sure at least a base of support exists for the program, we’ll have a community meeting to present the program, listen to more feedback and try and garner more support.

I think this is a very positive step forward, and I’m excited to hear what you all think about it. Stay tuned for more details and an opportunity to weigh in.

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