To say 2007 was a big year for bikes in Portland would be a vast understatement.
New laws were pushed through the legislative process in Salem, our concerns reverberated through City Hall, the local bike economy gained national prominence, we broke records in rider participation in both our World Naked Bike Ride and in a cyclocross race, we launched an effort to revise our Bike Master Plan for the first time in over a decade (and fought to have its funding restored)…and that was just the start.
Along with all the triumph and tribulations, we had our share of tragedy and controversy.
In the paragraphs below, I share just some of the memorable stories that I reported on…
2007 got off to a fast start with lots of news on all fronts.
Inspired by a video created by Clarence Eckerson of Streetfilms, I wondered if it was time for Portland to try physically separated bike lanes.
No amount of separation would have helped one bike commuter from a vicious attack while riding in North Portland. The incident led to media coverage and a lot of community dialogue about safety, race, gentrification, and even gun rights. As the attacks continued, I set up a meeting with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI), officials from the Mayor’s Office, and the Portland Police Bureau to try and improve neighborhood safety. The result was ONI giving the green light to a project to add bicycles into their existing foot patrol program (the “bike patrol” program is still in the works).
In February, we discussed two controversial issues; the Columbia River Crossing Project and the idea of changing the stop sign law for bicycles. We also mourned our first of six fatalities that would happen withing Portland city limits in 2007.
On a dark, rainy night, just a few blocks from where he worked, Nick Bucher died when he collided with a car on Stark street in Southeast Portland.
Citizen activist Bjorn Warloe launched an effort to change Oregon’s stop sign law for bikes. To help with the ensuing debate, I published guest articles that tackled the pros and cons of the issue (Despite some support from the BTA, Warloe’s effort didn’t gain traction in Salem).
Also in February, the City of Portland’s plans for a bike-sharing system materialized (a decision on the vendor for the system is expected this month).
March was dominated by trips I took to the National Bike Summit (in Washington D.C.) and to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (in San Jose, CA). I published extensive photos and reports from both events. You can view the coverage at the links below:
The big stories in April were a bicycle enforcement action/sting in Ladds Circle and Mayor Potter’s decision to cut funding for the Bicycle Master Plan update process.
When cops staked out and ticketed cyclists rolling through Ladds Circle stop signs, it set off a firestorm that led to a report from the Police Bureau and a statement about the circle’s traffic engineering from PDOT.
Unfortunately, enforcement seems like the issue that just won’t go away. Hopefully we can make real progress in 2008.
One way we hope to fix the enforcement issue (and many others) is by a complete rewriting of our Bicycle Master Plan. The effort to renew the plan almost hit the skids when Mayor Tom Potter cut its funding from his budget.
Potter’s decision knocked the wind out of the bike community and touched off a massive amount of phone calls and emails of concern. In April alone, I published 11 stories about the decision. I tried to understand why he did it, I wondered if he just made an innocent mistake, and analyzed every possible angle of his decision.
In May, the Bicycle Master Plan funding saga was finally resolved. After commissioner Sam Adams showed his support for the plan at a monthly Master Plan Ride and the whole situation made me look back at whether or not Potter has been a bike-friendly mayor, Mr. Potter found the money and re-instated funding for the project.
On the business side of things, Clever Cycles — the store that has garnered national media attention and has come to symbolize Portland’s Dutch bike invasion — got ready to open their doors.
The big advocacy story of the month was the emergence of Chris Distefano as just one of many voices in a renewed call for more mountain biking opportunities within the Portland metro area.
We mourned the second bike fatality of the year with the death of Jerry Hinatsu on SE Foster Road.
June was a busy month on many fronts. The legislative session was in full swing, bike parking projects sprung up on both sides of the river and we had a healthy dose of both spirit (Pedalpalooza!) and sadness.
Down in Salem, we celebrated the passage of the Vulnerable Roadway Users law, but were left confused and shocked at a last-minute change to the bill that would have clarified the legal use of fixed-gear bicycles.
Continuing a push for more places to park bikes, PDOT completed their first “Bike Oasis” and they entered into a corporate partnership for two bike parking projects in the Pearl District. Meanwhile, citizen activists in the Belmont area applied for and received funding for two on-street bike parking projects of their own.
We were all saddened at the senseless death of Tim O’Donnell on a rural road in Washington County. The silver lining of this tragedy is that many insiders credit the media coverage of O’Donnell’s death and the testimony of his widow as keys to the passage of the Vulnerable Roadway Users law.
In July, the headlines belonged to clowns and a Congressman.
Earl Blumenauer, Portland’s man in the U.S. House of Representatives, came to City Hall to learn about local bike issues and we all shed a tear when we realized the fun run of the Alberta Street Clown House would soon be over.
Meanwhile, bike theft was happening at an alarming rate and I wondered if RFID technology would help. One local theft victim found his bike parted out on eBay, and, working with cops, set up a sting to nab the thief.
The wide bike lanes on Vancouver and Williams in North Portland were named the city’s best and an economist reported that the impact of Portland’s “green policies” (which includes encouragement of bicycle use) result in a $2.6 billion boost to our local economy.
In a gesture of discouragement, two police enforcement actions on weekend fun rides resulted in more outrage, which led to former Traffic Division Commander Mark Kruger sharing his prospectives on what happened.
Luckily there are no cops on mountain bike trails, and my quest for fun was wildly successful on a trip down to Oakridge for Mountain Bike Oregon.
In August, we learned a lot about perspective.
Continuing the theme of two sides trying to understand each other, the Zoobombers and the Police Bureau worked out their differences at a summit hosted by lawyer Mark Ginsberg.
In Southeast Portland, a man was intentionally run down while biking to work on SE Clinton. I covered this road rage incident in depth, including a visit to the scene and interviews with witnesses. The driver in the case, Johnny Eschweiler, is currently in custody and has a court date next week.
Daniel Hunt, who lived on the street and was well-known in the homeless community, died when he collided with another bike near SE Stark Street.
We all got a healthy dose of perspective when Brian Campbell, creator of the beloved “camper bike”, tore his creation apart. Suffering from depression and isolation, he was on in dire straits when I met with him and shared his story with you. Fortunately, that story helped raise nearly $1,000 in donations that allowed Brian to rebuild his camper bike, and his life. (I know I’m long overdue on a Brian update…stay tuned for some great news!)
I went on the road again in September and shared stories and photos from the 20th annual Cycle Oregon ride.
I demanded neon sign equality with my story about Portland’s lack of a “Go By Bike” sign.
Also in September, signs of a bike-friendly political future for Portland began to take shape. Transportation and neighborhood activist, Chris “Citizen” Smith declared his candidacy for City Council (read my Chris Smith interview) and current transportation Commissioner Sam Adams made his mayoral run official.
October 2007 is a month that changed this city forever.
Before I recount the tragedies, let’s not forget the other stories that made headlines.
In a gesture of respect for a beloved Portland tradition, the Regional Arts and Culture Council (with a nudge from Commissioner Adams) decided that a new Zoobomb Pyle (their stack of mini-bikes) would be deemed official public art.
Also seeking to make bikes more official, a local newspaper publisher wrote an editorial calling for all bikes in Portland to be licensed.
Official or not, the Cross Crusade kicked off in October with a record-breaking 1,000 participants taking part in a cyclocross race at Alpenrose Dairy. (I published photos and reports from six of the seven races in the series).
Then, tragedy struck.
On October 11th, 19 year-old art student Tracey Sparling was run over by a cement truck at the intersection of W. Burnside and 14th.
One week later, veteran rider Bob Verrinder was suffered life-threatening injuries when he was struck by a car while attempting to cross Marine Drive.
Transportation Commissioner Adams called an emergency meeting to discuss bike safety, Ghost Bikes were erected, the local media covered the stories closely, and hundreds turned out for memorial rides.
I have never covered an issue that touched so many people in the community (even those who don’t ride) and I was personally and professionally overwhelmed with these stories. The lives lost cannot be replaced (and should not be forgotten), but I am proud to know that positive change has and will come from these tragedies.
The two fatalities gave a heightened sense of urgency to PDOT’s plans to improve bike safety. I published a guest article from city bike coordinator Roger Geller that laid out their visions and plans to implement new bike safety improvements (bike boxes) on 14 of Portland’s most dangerous intersections.
Five days later, with the community already reeling from October’s tragedies, Siobhan Doyle was riding her bike to work down N. Interstate Avenue when she was right-hooked in the same location where Brett Jarolimek lost his life just two weeks prior. Luckily Doyle was not killed.
Later that same day, as community concern reached the boiling point, Commissioner Adams decided to take action and completely close off the right turn lane from Interstate onto Greeley.
With all three of the high-profile crashes, the response of the Police Bureau (both with their quotes in the local media and their traffic crash policies) created just as much concern as the issue of bike safety itself.
The community was confused and frustrated about how the Police Bureau handled these crashes and several prominent local lawyers went public with allegations that the Bureau has an entrenched bias against bicycles.
The result was nothing short of a major PR crisis for the Bureau that resulted in Police Chief Sizer coming to the table to discuss the issues in a meeting at City Hall hosted by Commissioner Adams.
Concerns over bicycle law enforcement and transportation equality spurred a new group of citizen activists to organize. Elly Blue coalesced community outcry into the “We are ALL Traffic” movement. Blue and an ad-hoc coalition of activists held a press conference and a rally (which was attended by Police Chief Sizer) to create awareness and drive home the message that bikes should be given the same respect as motor vehicles in all facets of city planning and policy.
We have definitely not heard the last of these issues and I plan to bring you updates and continued coverage well into 2008.
After the roller-coaster of October and November, December seemed pretty quiet.
The BTA continued their bike boulevard push with the unveiling of their “B2 Power mocu-mercial”.
SK Northwest also continued to push on the City of Portland. Despite a claim of victory from the BTA, and a major decision against them by the Land Use Board of Appeals, SK Northwest filed yet another appeal in their ongoing effort to develop on the Willamette riverfront without allowing for greenway trail access.
The impact of Jarolimek’s death was also felt in a decision by the City of Portland Water Bureau to ban their trucks from using Wheeler Road, which is part of a very tricky and dangerous intersection near N. Flint and Broadway.
And finally I was able to report on a bit of good Police news. Several bike patrol officers were recognized at the Chief’s Forum Awards for their community policing efforts.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at 2007.
If you’re a regular reader of this site, you were able to stay informed (and hopefully inspired!) every step of the way with my daily stories and photos. In 2007, traffic to this site more than doubled on all statistical measures. Here’s a little breakdown:
- Visits – 1,227,803
- Pageviews – 4,092,319
- Stolen bikes listed – 765 (many have been recovered!)
Everything that has happened as a result of this site would not be possible without your comments, tips, and the support of the community and my valued advertisers.
I pour my heart and soul into BikePortland.org. Yet, despite its successes and the improved ad revenue, it still makes much less money than you might think.
I do this because I love bikes, I love this community, and I know my work is having an impact.
This site has an impact because I am completely devoted to it. My #1 priority is on the stories, the photos, and the people of this community. Unfortunately the flip-side of that is that I have not developed the business side of things like I should.
If you are a regular reader and/or you just appreciate the role BikePortland.org plays in Portland (and beyond) please consider showing your financial support. You can leave a tip of appreciation via PayPal (button is in the sidebar) or if you’d like to contact me directly, please use my contact form.
Thanks for reading and being a part of this exciting movement. Here’s to another great year!
Now…if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some work to do…