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Would you join a neighborhood bike patrol?

Posted by on February 14th, 2007 at 9:04 am

[At National Night Out in
the Piedmont neighborhood, 8/2/05]

OK everyone, here’s your chance to let the City of Portland know that volunteer, neighborhood bike patrols would be a new program worthy of their support.

First, some background.

I recently met with stakeholders from the Mayor’s Office, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the county District Attorney, and the Police Bureau.

This meeting was based on my thoughts after hearing and reading the community response around recent attacks on cyclists. The meeting was put together by John Canda (former director of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods and current head of the Mayor’s Office on Youth Crime Prevention) after a conversation we had a few weeks ago.

Everyone at that meeting shared my enthusiasm that bicycles could be a great way to lend a hand in their efforts to strengthen Portland neighborhoods.

Now the City of Portland is willing to add bicycles into their existing Community Foot Patrol program… a very exciting possibility!

But before they do, they’ve asked me to gauge public support for the program. Before I ask if you’d like to be involved, I’ll share more details of the bike patrols concept.

[Cool cruisers attract a crowd in Peninsula Park in North Portland, 8/2/05]

The concept of volunteer bike patrols is simple; to get more people active and engaged in our neighborhoods. Think of volunteers as bicycle-mounted neighborhood ambassadors.

Their role would be non-confrontational (I only use the word “patrols” for clarity) and the focus would be community building, not community policing.

How can bikes build community? Well, it’s not really about the bikes…it’s about the people.

Volunteers in this program would be out in the neighborhood meeting people, answering questions (who do I call for graffitti removal? abandoned cars?), passing out information (like where and when monthly neighborhood meetings are), picking up trash (I plan on pulling a trailer), helping older folks cross the street, and just about anything a nice person ought to do anyway.

And of course there are spin-off benefits to getting more people on bikes in our neighborhoods; bikes are infectiously fun, their presence slows down cars, they’re a great way to get healthy, and a program like this would have a valuable PR benefit for this City’s bicyclists.

It all sounds good, but before the City moves forward they want to know your answer to this question…

    If a neighborhood bike patrol program were available, would you get involved?*

Please leave your answers (and/or questions) in the comment section below. And don’t forget to mention which neighborhood you’re from. Thanks.

====
*Notes:

  • Take a look at the Community Foot Patrol Manual (PDF here). The most important page is the last one, the Volunteer Agreement. Your adherence to those eight basic rules, and a two-hour training session, is all the City officially requires in order for you to volunteer.
  • Regardless if there is sufficient interest to move forward with bike patrols, I still plan to hold a community meeting to talk about issues that have been raised around this topic.
  • The Skanner, a local community newspaper, has a story about this in their current issue.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Jonathan Maus
Guest

I’ll get the ball rolling by volunteering to be the first member of the Piedmont Neighborhood “Bike Beat” (my working name for the patrol).

Mike
Guest
Mike

I would be more than happy to do so.

sherry
Guest
sherry

I have, in the past, used my bike to help me distribute neighborhood newsletters for my neighborhood association.

Also, when riding around, it gives me the opportunity to introduce myself to new neighbors and invite them to the neighborhood meetings.

I think it’s a great idea!

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Absolutely –happy to participate. I live in NE Laurelhurst. The MAX pedestrian overpass to Hollywood creates a lot of foot traffic through the NE part of our neighborhood, which equals great opportunity for visibility.

Emily
Guest
Emily

I’m in too, for the Vernon Neighborhood. I also agree that if we’re gonna be out on bikes anyways, we could offer newsletter distribution as a service to the neighborhood associations.

Chris Sullivan
Guest
Chris Sullivan

I think the Arbor Lodge neighborhood will welcome this addition. We already have several residents involved in the foot patrol program, and the addition of bicycles will help get even more people involved, including myself.

Stephanie Reynolds, City of Portland Crime Prevention Program Manager
Guest

Hello, Portland cyclists. Our program is excited to work with you. Does anyone have any questions about our model for patrols? If so, I’ll be happy to answer them here.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I would join the Piedmont Neighborhood “Bike Beat”. Happy to.

Severt
Guest
Severt

I wholeheartedly support the concept and would be more than happy to participate in either my Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood or any of the adjacent neighborhoods.

joshua
Guest
joshua

does this make me 9th? i am in!

Jim F
Guest
Jim F

I would not join. I live in the Alberta neighborhood.

I think it’s a great idea, but personally I’m already spread too thin.

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

Count me in (Woodlawn Neighborhood). I’ll talk with our foot patrol coordinator.

Kathy
Guest
Kathy

I’m interested (Brooklyn neighborhood). I’ve been a foot patrol member and been assisted by the foot patrol when 2 pit bulls attacked my springer spaniel.

Martha
Guest
Martha

I’m taking a hiatus from active involvement in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood association (great crowd, but I needed a break from the committment), but a bike patrol could lure me back.

One thing I’ve noticed: foot patrol volunteers tend to be older adults — I’d love to see the bike patrol be a fun way to get them on bikes. They would soon find out how much more ground the patrol could cover, and how easy it is to get places by bike.

There should definitely be a bike improvement component as well: both for tuning up and lighting the patrol bikes, and for tuning up and passing out lights to people the patrol meets on the street.

Brentwood-Darlington has no hills (okay, there’s that one slope down to Harney) and plenty of quiet streets. Bring on the bikes!

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Yes…In 2 months when I don’t have to wear the boot and can ride again.

Stupid metatarsal…

Go Piedmont

Jonathan Maus
Guest

Martha,

thanks. Your comment touches on some of the main points that excite me most about getting this program started.

I see this as a great way to potentially get more people activated into their neighborhoods…but who, until now, didn’t find anything that really excited them.

nothing against walking…I just think bikes have more fun potential in so many ways.

Shamus
Guest
Shamus

I’d be interested up in St Johns. I’m already involved in the Neighborhood Association, so I’ll pass the invitation along to others. Thanks Jonathan.

Alison Hill
Guest

Way to go, Jonathan.

We at the Community Cycling Center have our “Get Lit” program, which is a bike light give away and would be interested in coordinating with a couple of bike patrols in NE and SE. Please email me and we can schedule offline.

Go cycling community!

Alison
alison@communitycyclingcenter.org

Casey
Guest

I’m definitely in, I live in Montevilla (near NE 78th and Glisan) and ride through Hollywood every day.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

I’d consider the “rough” NW area.

heather andrews
Guest
heather andrews

I’m in the newly-official Southgate neighborhood, I think, although I’m about 50 feet away from the Brentwood-Darlington border and have been active with the efforts of that neighborhood in the past. Actually I’m a little surprised at how many bikey people have mentioned B-D already, as I sometimes feel like I’m isolated in a sea of auto-centric folks and a variety of other unsavory types.

If a bike patrol were happening in my own area, SURE I’d volunteer! Since this is what the cops call a “high-activity area,” and they took away the community police station, I’d rather have a bike buddy to patrol with to promote personal safety. And of course my activity would have to be limited to my free time.

Ron Forrester
Guest
Ron Forrester

I live in North Portland (Denver/Lombard area), and would consider this only if I could be assured that the community bike patrol in my area was well represented by all races and economic classes from my neighborhood (the spectrum is considerable).

I would not sign up to be part of an all white, gentrifying force in my area.

Hope that makes sense,
Ron

Jonathan Maus
Guest

Ron,

I understand your concerns…and they make complete sense.

People from all ends of the racial and economic spectrum will be encouraged to get involved with this program.

This post is being forwarded throughout the city to neighborhood associations and other community groups.

In addition to that, I am meeting with the Community Cycling Center next week to discuss ways they (and the community they serve) can help and get involved.

There has also been considerable interest and publicity in the media (and therefore exposure in all communities) about this and I assume more will come once the program is made official.

If you have ideas about how to engage parts of the community that you feel are under-represented, feel free to contact me directly and we can talk about it.

Thanks again for your interest and keep in touch.

rachel
Guest
rachel

You bet!! I’m doing this now!

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

Great work, Jonathan.
I’m going to tell my friends and neighbors about this!

PFin
Guest

PFin ready for duty; SE Hawthorne & 35th.

Barbara Chapnick
Guest
Barbara Chapnick

The Beaverton Bicycle Advisory Committee just last week discussed this with the police officer who attends the monthly meetings. He mentioned there was a 40-hr training course invovled. I suggested providing the course on weekends for those interested.

YES I would certainly join a bike patrol in the Washington County area where I reside!

Jonathan Maus
Guest

Thanks Barbara.

Just so folks don’t get the wrong idea, that 40 hours of training you mention is for official Police Bike Patrols, which are a far cry from what we’re discussing here.

There would only be 2 hours of training for the volunteer patrols.

joe adamski
Guest
joe adamski

Would I join in? Probably. Would it have an ASTOUNDING impact on crime? probably not. the benefit i see is that hopefully, a group of folks who may or may not have done something together; would. and a little community building occurs. Since most folks ride their first bikes as kids an soon forget the habit, i would hope that it would be an avenue to encourage foks to drag that old Huffy out. and an opportunity for diverse groups to work together..

imagine the possibilities

Elly
Guest
Elly

Sunnyside up! Riding around and chatting with people sounds like an ideal afternoon for whatever reason.

But I’ll only join if I get to wear a *really* dorky orange vest. Fair’s fair.

Heidi
Guest

I’m in! I’m down in Lents by 82nd and Powell, and we could certainly use some more bicycle representation down here. Thanks for trying to organize this Jonathan!

Donald
Guest
Donald

Jonathan, thanks so much for your thoughtful approach to this and other matters. Please accept my response with the respect intended.

No, I wouldn’t join.

And, in fact, I would cringe seeing a group of well-minded riders tooling en masse down the avenue in front of my house, snooping for this and/or that.

Maybe it’s because it’s I’m not a joiner. The Boy Scouts gave me shivers as a lad. Political parties have always seemed to me to be mutual appreciation acadamies. I shrinkingly avoid the cliques at the indoor parks where my two toddlers romp a few times a winter week.

But after giving this a good few hours of thought, I think my main reservation is that I fear groups of cyclists, riding in organized scouting parties, will only serve to further the divide between me as a rider and the few in my community who see me as a harbinger of change that they would rather not see.

Never mind that I’ve been a student, tax payer and home owner in north Portland for over 20 years: My “nice” equipment and purpose-built wardrobe make a few folk feel that I’m part of some sweeping change that is disenfranchising this community of its historical roots. This is an accusation that I deny and that I’ve addressed in other strings here.

(And here, I’m sorry to take a NoPo-centric tack, but from what I can tell, it’s North Portland that Jonathan is focusing on here. While he may be asking for metro-wide comment, I believe it’s his and my home turf that is the center of his concern.)

While I appreciate the community spirit at the root of this call to unarmed observation, I can only think that it lends a taste of police state to a neighborhood sorely in need of exactly the opposite.

Can we take a second to think about what happens when some driver (or evil-doer) inconvenienced by the spoke-turning throng and too timid to act in the moment, comes across at some later date a lone and unsuspecting rider? “Take that, fancy-dressed, trailer-towing, buy-low-sell-high bepedaled gentrifier.”

You know, this stuff rolls downhill just like everything else.

Give me traffic calming, give me well-marked bike lanes, give me competent local bike shops. But, dangit, don’t give me meddlesome groups of pedal-powered Curtis Sliwas. The intended cure can so easily just spread the infection.

I can be a good neighbor. I can watch out for them what’s around me. I don’t need any help keeping my eyes open. And I certainly don’t want well-wishers effing things up despite their best intentions.

As your neighbor, Jonathan, this is my two cents. I hope you take it as well as it’s intendend. I really think we can spend our limited community volunteer resources more efficiently.

_DA

Cary
Guest
Cary

Count me in. Sabin neighborhood.

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

Sounds interesting. Mt. Scott is my ‘hood.

Kate Crow
Guest
Kate Crow

Jonathan – count me in. Am most interested in patroling my own neighborhood (Arbor Lodge), but am willing to ride in other neighborhoods to get experience and help the bicycling community in general. Could commit to riding in other neighborhoods once a month.

Elly
Guest
Elly

Just saw Stephanie Reynolds’ offer to answer questions about the program. Stephanie, could you explain to us a bit more about how these patrols will work? How many people go out and for how long? What does the training consist of? What’s the actual “job” description? Thanks!

Jonathan Maus
Guest

Donald (comment #32) said,

“riding in organized scouting parties, will only serve to further the divide between me as a rider and the few in my community who see me as a harbinger of change that they would rather not see.”

I understand this concern, and in n’hoods where bicycles are perceived in this way patrols should be extra sensitive to how they conduct themselves.

However I envision this program as being very low-key and not anything like a “police state” or “snooping”.

And I don’t assume all cyclists have “nice” equipment or that they look any different than anyone else in the community (besides wearing a helmet).

The training will encourage folks to dress casually and always be approachable and to tread lightly when/if necessary.

I guess I just don’t see such a big split between people on bikes and the community in general.

We’re all neighbors; some of us ride, some of us don’t, some of us are white, some are latino, some are black, some are rich, some are poor, etc…

I’m just hoping to get more people out in the streets, talking, helping each other out, offering information, playing, biking, whatever.

Being “meddlesome” is far from what I have in mind.

Thanks for your input.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

I think it only makes sense to do this in your own neighborhood, neighbor-to-neighbor. So, I live in Sunnyside, and would happily volunteer here, but unless I’m mistaken, this is in response to North Portland happenings. Yes?

And my bike and my riding gear are pretty much as low-tech as you can get. I doubt anybody would be scared off by me…

Jonathan Maus
Guest

Just to clarify.

While this conversation and idea was sparked by incidents in N/NE Portland, the program we’re considering would definitely be available (and needed!) citywide.

Thanks.

tori
Guest
tori

I’d jump in on the project!

Jake Faris
Guest
Jake Faris

Sign me up…way out here in bike-un-friendly SW Portland.

Nance
Guest
Nance

Count me in for NW Portland.

alex
Guest

I think bike patrols are a great idea. Let’s make it happen!

Thanks for keeping bikes front and center.

Alex

Dan Callaway
Guest
Dan Callaway

I’m in Overlook, but am happy to cross over to Piedmont, Humboldt, or Arbor Lodge.

Stephanie Reynolds, City of Portland Crime Prevention Program Manager
Guest

Here are answers to Elly’s questions:

Patrols usually have two or three people going out together, rarely more. We ask that people not go alone, but beyond that, there is no specific number. The biggest groups I’ve ever seen on patrol are doing it in conjunction with a special event, like a walk-along with a City official. The length of a patrol is really up to the people doing it. An hour? Six hours? Any amount of time is OK.

The training for Foot Patrols is two hours long, and covers a variety of topics. An outline of the training can be seen in the Foot Patrol manual on page 12, and there’s a link for the manual in Jonathan’s original post. We’ve never done a training for cyclists before, so we’d probably want to add some information in there about biking safely. We’d like to pick your brains for this content.

A basic job description can be found on page 2 of the manual. It is definitely NOT about snooping or spying on neighbors. It’s about building community and taking responsibility for the safety of a neighborhood rather than passing it off to others and hoping for the best.

JayS,
Guest
JayS,

I would consider participating in this and would deffinitly check out local planning meetings before making a final decision. For me a major hoop to jump is creating diversity in the group and not exasterbating the already existing divide we have in Sabin, my neighborhood.

JayS.

JeremyS
Guest
JeremyS

Add another to NW Portland, 29th & Upshur to be exact.

Donald
Guest
Donald

Thanks for the great responses, folks.

I know hearts are in the right places. I understand the drive to connect neighbor to neighbor.

I certainly tried to avoid loaded language, but call it what you want, I still feel these “patrols” straddle the slippery slope of organized observation and that gives me the willies.

And it was my equipment I was calling nice. I was trying to say that I’m the prototypical commuter in tights that some say epitomizes the N/NE cyclist. Sorry if I got lost along my descriptive journey.

Best of luck on this project and I hope it garners great results. I can see how some feel this is a way to build community. I don’t share that opinion. And I really wish that bikes weren’t tangled up in it, because cycling is something that I feel, left untangled from the fetters of the body politic, can genuinely improve society.

_DA

Matt V
Guest
Matt V

Another Arbor Lodge neigborhood voluntter willing to give it a try. Count me in.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Most of this I do already. Riding around the neighborhood and talking with people? check. Helping pedestrians cross the street? check.
So I would be thrilled to be involved in such a program. I even stopped to chat with some foot-patrol people near my house.