We are all traffic: An interview with Elly Blue

Posted by on November 14th, 2007 at 10:25 am

Press conference Friday, 12:30 at City Hall.
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.”
–Elly Blue

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?

Elly Blue

“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):

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janel
Guest

Thank you so much for organizing this! I will be there. I think it is important for those in the non-cycling community to see this rally, to see on the news/newspaper the mass of cyclists and their concerns. Will the press be invited to this? Having visuals for the press like signs etc. is always good.

9watts
Guest
9watts

It is also worth remembering that somewhat more than 15% of Portland households do not own a car (according to the 2000 census). The fact that most people are surprised by this statistic speaks to the larger problem of the invisibility of those without cars.

Paul Tay
Guest

I\’d like to go to this.

Chris Heaps
Guest
Chris Heaps

Elly\’s commitment to the grass roots movement necessary to achieve justice for cyclists in Portland, and her tireless work in support of that goal, are truly inspirational to me.

Thank you, Elly! You make Portland better for everyone.

9watts
Guest
9watts

…make that almost 19% of Portland households.

6% of all homeowners and 28% of all renters did not own a car according to the 2000 Census.

BURR
Guest
BURR

minor grammatical annoyance: it\’s not cars v. bikes, it\’s motorists v. cyclists.

Robin
Guest

I am so happy you are putting this all together especially in a peaceful way. I regret that I cannot make it on Saturday due to work but I am very happy more people will be able to attend.

peejay
Guest
peejay

I wish the \”all\” were modifying the \”we\” and not the \”traffic,\” because the meaning of this slogan is compromised. Language matters.

Elly
Guest
Elly

Thanks everyone — I hope we have a very large turnout. If anyone wants to make some signs to bring, please do — also, you can drop by the BTA office at 233 NW 5th and make signs there during business hours (you might want to bring some big paper, though — word is they\’re going through it quickly). We also need people to make armbands at the BTA — black to wear in memorial, and red to wear if you\’ve been injured in a traffic collision.

PJ, we tried out \”We All Are Traffic,\” and while more correct, it is a little bit awkward to say — people at the meeting Saturday stumbled over it and ended up defaulting to the original slogan, which is slightly more linguistically sonorant. Sayability trumped grammar at the time — I hope it was the right decision.

Burr, I\’m not sure what you\’re saying — I don\’t like \”motorists vs cyclists\” any more than \”cars vs bikes,\” though. Our message at this rally is one of finding common ground, not divisive stereotyping.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Can someone maybe offer a route for me
from Wilsonville to Portland? bus then
bike? I have maps but feel im on a remote
ISLAND in Wilsonville.. hehe

Thanks,
Joe

Wendy Ann
Guest
Wendy Ann

Joe,

Have you ever checked out the Bycycle Website? Perhaps it can help you out of the island sometimes. Good luck!

brian
Guest
brian

Thanks for all your work on this. I really like the tone. Seems a little more firm than the soft \’share the road\’ campaign.

Elly, after reading your comments above I\’m under the impression that you think an 8 year old girl on a bicycle on her way to school should have the same rights on the road as a middleaged machismo Escalade driver on his way to his super important job. That is utter nonsense and will never fly.

But lets keep trying to get there!

rev
Guest

how do we get this out to more non-biker-types?

jonathan, maybe you can have some printable files available for your readers to put up in their places of work, or at coffee shops etc?

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Keep reminding local media to cover this event in a positive and useful manner – don\’t they always remind us how they are all about HELPING our community?

newsroom@news.oregonian.com

webnews@koin.com

newstips-8@kgw.com

http://www.katu.com/about/contact [see comment box]

Joe
Guest
Joe

I also think a nice positive way to
help people understand the roads are for all to use,,some reason its a \” war \”
on the road these days..

take care,
Joe

Elly
Guest
Elly

Thanks for asking about flyers, Phil! We\’ll try to find a way to get the pdf online — in the meantime, if you want printable quarter-sheet and/or full sheet flyers, email me at eleanor dot blue at gmail dotcom.

Brian #12 — Good grief, does it have to be a zero sum game? I\’d like to have it all — give the girl on the bike better options and skills and safer streets with mellower people driving on them, and give the guy in the Escalade a smoother, less stressful commute as well, or maybe sell him a nice condo in walking distance from his job — sounds like he needs a break.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Here are PDFs of the flyer you can download:

(I\’ve also added this to the post.)

Rick Glos
Guest

I agree with PJ and his original request last week. We all are traffic, (with emphasis and pause on \’all\’) is much more inclusive. It immediately puts me and car drivers in the same group. Saying it the other way feels like I\’m trying to have them include me in their pre-existing group.

9watts
Guest
9watts

\”Motorized transportation monopolized traffic and blocked self-powered transit. … High speed is the critical factor which makes transportation socially destructive. A true choice among practical policies and of desirable social relations is possible only where speed is restrained. Participatory democracy demands low-energy technology, and free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle.\”

Ivan Illich, 1973
http://www.hubbertpeak.com/Illich/

Metal Cowboy
Guest

Spread the word, folks. We really want a strong showing on Saturday.

We get the world we put up with, the future we settle for… and though a rally will not solve the equality transportation challenges of a community, it\’s a step… to changing perceptions, buliding momentum, stating goals and actions we can all take to achieve them.

In addition to Elly\’s tireless efforts, Kris S, Erin G, Jonathan M, Kurt D, Angela K, Matt P. and a host of others I\’ve been working with on this deserve thanks. You guys \”\’help tie the room together\”, as The Dude in The Big Lebowski once pointed out.
PS. Bring out family friends, people who want to bike but think it\’s too dangerous. let\’s pack that park.
Cheers,
Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie

waimin
Guest
waimin

Joe — Check out ridesmart.com (http://www.ridesmart.com/Index.aspx?page=63) you can take the free WV-area bus to Tualatin and transfer to Trimet. They include the pertinent info on the website.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Don\’t forget http://www.andwebike.com

Joe
Guest
Joe

I will try and print some flyers out here
in Wilsonville, ask to put them up first.
* Thanks for the ride info * I will ride to Tualatin then trimet I think..

also note back in the day in SF we did this rally to the Mayors condo, when 2 riders died from city car wreaks. or
just wreckless driving.. peace on the streets was the motto.. it was like a crit-mass 10x\’s that was totaly peaceful
people handing our all kinds of stuff. even free soup at the end.. wow.. insain.. loved it..

its really what im about sharing the road

Joe
grew up on a bike.. 🙂

Donald
Guest
Donald

I just landed in San Jose and the first sign I bothered to notice was NO UNBOXED BIKES on the airport shuttle.

I asked the driver if that meant, theoreticaly, that bikes in suitcases weren\’t allowed. He hadn\’t ever heard of a Bike Friday and he added that coffee wasn\’t allowed either so I needed to get off his damn bus and wait for the next damn shuttle.

So, welcome to Cali!

I\’ll be back in time for our \”bike Friday\” and the press conference. Have handed out as many fliers as I had paper to print.

Thanks, Elly and everyone! See you soon.

_DA

Tricia
Guest

Joe #10(and anyone else),

I would be happy to help you plan your route. Please feel free to email me at tricia at bta4bikes dot org.

Thank you Elly and Metal Cowboy for working so hard to make this rally come together on such short notice!

Tricia

Joe
Guest
Joe

Thats San Jose for ya, born and raised
but, man I wish they would make hummer
land more bike/people friendly..

seems the valley is a sprawl these days
with weird transport setup.. caltrain
works ok, lightrail iffy,bus yuck..
i used it all when i lived thier, people
love autos.. 🙁

Oregon is mecca to me..

Have a Great Day
Joe

Joe