Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 14th, 2007 at 10:25 am
Rally Saturday, 12 noon at Salmon Street Fountain.
More info here.
In the wake of a tragic October that revealed chinks in Portland’s bike-friendly armor, community members have come together and planned a press conference and rally under the banner of “We are all traffic”.
On Friday there will be a press conference in front of City Hall at 12:30 and on Saturday, a public rally has been planned for 12 noon at Salmon Street Fountain (more details about the event).
One of the main organizers of this effort has been Elly Blue (regular readers might be familiar with Elly’s contributions to this site). I interviewed Elly so she could explain the concept of “transportation equality”, what’s in story for Saturday’s rally, and the motivation behind this burgeoning movement.
“We’re concerned that people at all levels of government, and society, aren’t used to taking anyone seriously who isn’t in a car.”
Why the slogan, “We are all traffic”?
“We’ve been hearing a lot of talk on the media and on the street lately about bikes versus cars, but what gets lost in that discussion is that we’re all human beings…we’re just people out there on the roads, using different modes of transportation. I think we forget that common humanity.”
In the event flyer are the words “equality” and “justice”, can you explain what those concepts have to do with riding a bike?
“Riding a bike, or not having a car, is often associated with being less of an equal person. A full third of Oregonians don’t have drivers’ licenses, whether it’s because they’re too old or young or they’re disabled, or lost their license, or just choose not to get one. This is a huge part of society that gets overlooked, or looked down on — life is made very hard if you don’t have a car.
…the status quo is people have been driving everywhere, really taking driving for granted, and now there’s a growing movement to change that. I think a lot of the friction recently is around that social change.
We’re concerned that people at all levels of government, and society, aren’t used to taking anyone seriously who isn’t in a car. This can lead to bias and even negligence in enforcement, in media coverage, and the way people treat each other on the road. We have to get used to taking cycling issues seriously.
But isn’t Portland’s bike infrastructure the envy of the country?
“Maybe so, but we have more than 5% bike mode share — and up to much more in some parts of Portland — yet we still have to struggle and pull teeth to get less than 2% of the funding [from PDOT]. I think that has to change if we’re going to have facilities so that people can bike around, and drive when they need to, without so much contention and fear…
…and we need to have a better walking city, that’s probably the most important thing of all, we’re all pedestrians at some point in our day. I think this [movement] is something that the bike community can do for everyone.”
There seems to be a focus, at least in the media, about who’s breaking more laws; cars or bikes. Is this about everyone just following existing laws?
“The law is important, but we can’t let the law stand for safety, we tend to use the law as a handy talking point, but the truth is that in a lot of situations, like every time I’m subject to road rage, it’s often when I’m doing something legal…that’s not about the law.”
So what’s the deal for the rally on Saturday?
“First, I want to make it clear that this is not a protest, it’s a call to action for every Portlander. It’s also not going to be a ride, it’s going to be a peaceful assembly of citizens.
The rally is being organized by people in the bike community, but it’s about everyone’s right to be treated with equality, justice and respect when they’re moving around the city and everyone’s responsibility to treat each other respectfully.
[At the rally] We’ll have speakers from all different transportation perspectives. We’re going to ask the crowd to make a commitment to not just advocate for change, but to change their own behavior…ask people to give up road rage, always yield when in doubt, always stop, choose the high road.”
Besides the bike community, who else is involved?
“This is really broad cross-section of the community, from bike commuters to bike racers, families, transportation activists, social justice activists, just a whole lot of concerned citizens…people are starting to wake up and realize we can no longer ignore that 42,000 people die on our country’s roads ever year.”
What can people do to get involved?
“A great way to get involved is to come to the rally and other events. And, just talk to people…one of the main things someone can do is to get out of their car and onto a bike, or get off their bike and see things from other perspectives. Seeing the world through the eyes of someone else is a great education.
Also, get actively involved if you see something unsafe in the roads. Call 823-SAFE. When driving, set the pace. This is a community problem, and it will take everyone in the community doing their part to solve it.”
What do you see in the future for this movement?
“I’d really like to see this being the start of a whole new movement that goes beyond “bikes versus cars” to bring people together to work together for constructive change, to pressure for more funding, to look at improved transportation legislation, put consistent pressure on the media…I’d like to see people come together and have more public demonstrations around various topics.
Many people that are committed to making changes have already come together to make this rally happen…that energy will continue to be used, it won’t stop after this weekend.”
Here are the details on the events (read more here):
- Friday, November 16: Press Conference
12:30 – Press conference at City Hall (1221 SW 4th Street)
- Saturday, November 17: Community Rally in Waterfront Park
12:00 Noon – Gather by Salmon Street Springs Fountain (between Hawthorne Bridge and Morrison Bridge) to voice our concerns and demonstrate our commitment to justice, equality, and respect for all on the road.
Download and print event flyers (PDFs):