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Eye-catching graffiti encourages &#8216Public Transport’

Posted by on April 7th, 2008 at 8:23 am

In the past few days, several readers have contacted me about some interesting graffiti near the Hollywood Transit Center in Northeast Portland (image below).

Somehow, a determined and bike-loving artist/vandal managed to scrawl three bicycles and the words “Public Transport” on the barricade that separates traffic on Interstate 84.

As you can see in the photo I shot over the weekend, there’s little to no shoulder and I’m not sure how someone could pull that off.

This graffiti is located on I-84. It faces the westbound traffic lanes and is just south of the Hollywood Transit Center MAX station. Click to enlarge
(Photo © J. Maus)

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heather andrews
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heather andrews

Particularly since all interstates within Portland city limits have cameras on them at all times? (They monitor for problems so they can send out ODOT response vehicles if needed.)

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

I feel like I\’ve seen another one somewhere else – the bikes and the tag – but now I can\’t remember where…

Marion rice
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Marion rice

I think it was in Jonathan\’s post about the Oregon Bike Summit Kick off ride.. that\’s where I saw the other pic.. It\’s cool. I hope they leave it there!

Joe
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Joe

awareness is great 🙂

Ian Clemons
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Ian Clemons

I usually hate graffiti, but this is way cool.

-Ian

wsbob
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wsbob

This probably happened sometime when traffic was at a stand-still. Someone likely just stepped out of the car, walked along and painted while their friend waited behind the wheel. Looks like all of about 2-3 minutes work. What an accomplishment.

I suppose the fact that the image depicted is a bicycle and includes the phrase \’public transport\’, elevates this one somewhat over the usual tag, but for the most part, this is just another instance of idiots crapping up the public landscape.

hickeymad
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hickeymad

Just how do readers contact you with this sort of information anyway?

wyatt
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wyatt

\”…idiots crapping up the public landscape.\”

They\’ve certainly ruined those lovely barricades.

jstern
Guest
jstern

There are better ways to promote bicycling in this city, other than by pissing transportation people off and costing the city whatever it will to have people go out there, close off the lane and remove the tag. Much better ways to get the mssage across. sigh.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”Just how do readers contact you with this sort of information anyway?\”

some folks call my 24-hour tipline (503-706-8804), others email me directly or use my contact form.

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

Thanks Jonathon; I\’ve been unable to find your contact info on your site.

Regarding the barricades; I think they are hilarious. Any motorists that get \”pissed-off\” are probably already pissed-off at the world anyway.

Wouldn\’t it be great if the City and PDOT painted permanent promotions for cycling and public transport and/or marketing material to disencentivize automobile travel in places like these? I don\’t see anything wrong with shaming drivers into changing their bad habits. It\’s only once we have a critical mass of citizens that understand the implications of the car culture on our health, public safety, neighborhood livability national security,and planetary environmental health that things will really start to change. The very successful anti-smoking marketing strategy is a great example of how this can be done.

I am visualizing an advertisement much like the black-lung magazine adds, or the anti-meth adds shown in the Willamette week. We need to make driving UGLY!

SkidMark
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SkidMark

Maybe someday even progressive-minded cyclists will be able to discern the difference between art and vandalism. When I think of urban blight, I think of billboards.

Tako
Guest
Tako

I think we should paint beautiful images of bikes cyclists on the barricades to make car drivers jealous. Maybe murals? This could be the start of something really cool. I think the city should USE this as a chance to make some ugly ass, prison looking barricades into a space for art, NOT ads.

Coaster
Guest
Coaster

While I am all for personal expression, I think this will lead people to believe that the vandals are cyclist\’s, which is a small mental jump to \”cyclist\’s are vandals\”, which would be a shame because it is simply untrue.

But they won\’t leave it up, they are required to clean it off, which will cost money, which is less money towards the things we need.

Skid, I agree with you that the real culprit is Billboards. Now if this art was scrawled on one of those privately owned billboards, instead of our publicly owned facilities. That would show what a much more socially conscious person that arstist is.

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

It would be hard to make a freeway more ugly than it already is. If there must be billboards, taget the freeways only, and use them for education. When I think of urban blight I think of anything automobile related. Car dealerships. Gas stations. Freeways. Trash on the side of every road. Overweight people in large vehicles. Billboards are way done this list for me, and I believe there is a place for community-minded marketing. These things CAN be done right…

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

No Wyatt, it\’s not simply as you said, \”..the lovely barricades..\” being crapped up. It\’s the public landscape that\’s being affected in a way that is most likely not beneficial to the public good.

It\’s the idea that certain people are somehow compelled to impose in a semi-permanent manner, their message upon the public, wherever and whenever they feel like doing so. There\’s no public process involved. There\’s no fairness involved in this action.

If this tag offers anything positive to promote biking or public transport, it does so just barely.

I believe most people are too weary of seeing the scrawls of idiots everywhere to be pissed off about this crap. Hopefully, the painters will wake up to the mess they\’re perpetrating.

Do the kind of people that create this sort of public message tag ever reflect upon how their responsibility as citizens of a basically good city such as Portland should enter into their actions?

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

wsbob:

What of the \”Portland newest greenspace\” billboards? What of the Bret Jarolimek memorial? What about the \”fight-back\” paintings that popped up on the bridges after his death? Not all graffiti and not all public marketing is considered ugly by all citizens or considered a detriment to the public good.

steve
Guest

Wsbob said-

\”I believe most people are too weary of seeing the scrawls of idiots everywhere…\”

I know I am tired of seeing your scrawlings Bob. They are definitely a blight on the public sphere*.

=====

[*NOTE From Editor: Steve (and others), Due to feedback from many readers, I am trying to watch comments more closely these days and I will have a much lower tolerance for any kind of personal insults between commenters. Please keep everything above the belt. Thank you. — Jonathan]

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

\”Portland newest greenspace\” billboards…are those the billboards advising the public about the new green bike boxes? Not sure I remember the \’fight back\’ paintings.

I\’d say that the Bret Jarolimek memorial mural is not comparable to paint-bomb tags, the majority of which seem to occur similarly to the way dogs, without their owners following closely ready to pick it up, can fill a public park with their defecation.

The Bret Jarolimek memorial mural was far from being a tag or a scrawl. Even without an official public process to approve its siting, it could easily have qualified for public art and expression with just a little latitude exercised in applying the law.

At any rate, I don\’t care so much about this one tag on those 4 Jersey barriers. Most people are going to be driving by so fast, that the only thing they\’re going to see is just a scribbly mess, as if there isn\’t plenty of that along freeways and construction zones.

What I do think is quite a concern is the incentive that outlaw tags such as those that this thread features, do to encourage and validate other less redeeming tags literally everywhere in the public view without respect for the public. Just walk downtown on SW Stark and 9th, west to 11th; taggers have virtually stolen parts of the public aesthetic landscape, and painted over big sections of buildings. Nothing escapes their bomb; brick, natural stone, churches, newsboxes, sidewalks. Nothing.

Imagine what skaters would think if a bunch of asshole motor heads decided to take up tagging, and started bombing Burnside skate park with big \”FORD\” tags. They\’d love it, right? ….because it\’s a-a-a-rt.

Citizen Gregg
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Citizen Gregg

@17, the \”public good\” is not what you think it should be, it\’s what the public as a whole establishes to be good through the democratic process. And the public by far has determined that graffiti is a nuisance and ugly, regardless of the content.

Somebody is now going to have to risk his/her life to clean this up.

april
Guest
april

I admit, I love funny/amusing/artful graffiti, and I like this.

I also love the \”You\’re cool\” \”You\’re still cool\” \”Nice bike!\” on the Hawthorne bridge, though. It always makes me smile.

Ben Foote
Guest

http://bikeportland.org/2007/06/13/pedalpalooza-day-7-rides-and-reports/

Next time Hunter Shobe (PSU Prof of Urban Geography who\’s studies partly focus on graffiti) hosts a graffiti ride I highly suggest trouping along. Not only are these rides an interesting displays of this (controversial) art form but his outlook on this art in the public landscape and the government\’s management of art in the right of way is really interesting. Graff has been around forever and it\’s protocols and accepted practices are being reinvented all the time.

Not to mention he\’s just a gregarious and hilarious guy.

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

The \”fight back\” tags on the steel bridge have been documented in this blog, and garnered the same sort of discussion that we are seeing here.

http://bikeportland.org/2007/08/22/fight-back-stencil-sparks-dialogue/

I for one am happy that our cycling community is of diversity range that spans business-people with briefcases on commuter bikes to Zoobombers and the tall-bike rogues. The small segment that is radicalized to the point of civil disobedience sometimes irks me as much as it does anyone else, however, they deserve our respect for actually doing something and stimulating the conversation that moves our mutual cause forward.

I believe that everyone can agree on one fact; that everybody has a differing impression of what is \”good\” for the public. Similarly, everyone has a differing opinion on what they consider \”art\” and what is simply vandalism. My own opinion is that this freeway barrier graffiti in Portland (who said they were in Jersey) adequately captures my own rage at having our public spaces “defaced” by the automobile culture. This graffiti is probably doing more to raise public awareness of cyclists’ anger than do most \”legitimate\” outlets for expression. Yes, we are diverse. Yes, some of us are radicalized, and yes, some of us break the law now and then. So what?

This being said, I can certainly understand and even sympathize with the concerns that these tags do more harm than good. It seems to me that the taggers may however be on to something; isn’t it time to start to confront the car-culture directly?

shawn.
Guest
shawn.

Hickeymad, \”Jersey barriers\” refers to the style of concrete barrier in the middle of the freeway.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_barrier
(i\’m guessing you\’re not from the east coast)

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

Is this for real? Are people really complaining about this graffiti? Wow, that\’s beyond uptight.

This makes me thing once again: what is \”bike community\” even supposed to mean? There is no identity or any kind of cultural unity… I myself feel uncomfortable being grouped together with people that are so uptight, just because they also ride a bike.

Torfinn
Guest
Torfinn

Hahahaha @ April, I ride over that every day always gives me a chortle.

wsbob
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wsbob

Thanks for the link hickeymad. I\’d forgotten the \’fight back\’ tags. I had mixed feelings about that one. Whatever it\’s creators implication was, it could have been easily misconstrued. Still, thinking about it now, I\’d like to give the artist the benefit of the doubt, and imagine that the intent was to imply a more positive, constructive, less lethal use of all the firearm hardware nations have stockpiled.

That tag, like the Jarolimek piece, also could fairly easily meet the definition of art as compared to so many tags bombed in every conceivable place that are little more than self absorbed signature squiggles that fuel illusions of territorial authority for the people throwing the paint.

The jersey barrier \’public transport\’ tag seems to derive from that squiggly style, but in this case, the tagger actually chose to produce something that addresses a topic that the public would be well to consider. As you more or less mentioned hickeymad, that\’s the redeeming thing about this tag.

Unfortunately, for a lot of people, I feel that the primary attraction of this tag will be the \’derring do\’ of having been able to place it in such a seemingly precarious location, rather than the positive message it attempts to convey. That means more junk going up that people will have to contend with unless we decide we\’re happy with the entire city being paint-bombed.

side note; graffitti isn\’t all bad, and I recognize that. It\’s produced some interesting phenomena as Ben Foot #22 touches on. If any of you haven\’t heard of it before, check out \’The Subconscious Art of Grafitti Removal\’ Matt McCormick/Periperal Produce.

peterL
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peterL

Everyone is familiar with the little green \”flags\” on top of the Jersey barriers that are angled to keep oncoming vehicles headlights from blinding drivers? There is a stretch of freeway on westbound SR-520 near Seattle leading up to the 520 bridge. That section of freeway is consistently clogged to the point of total gridlock – the kind where you can put your car in park and turn off the motor. Over the years, in this completely inhospitable place, people have left the safety of their vehicles and decorated the little green \”flags\” with all manner of stickers and scrawled graffiti.

For me, this serves to remind that cities are places where PEOPLE live! Not cars – cars are just machines. I feel that everything we as people can do to HUMANIZE our landscape and cityscape carries us one step closer to having cities that people can LIVE in without fear.

The tags on I-84 are art. Were I as talented with a spraycan as the person who created that tag, when PDOT paints over them I might just be inclined to put them back up. Kudos to whoever put it there…intrepidness completely aside.

trackback

[…] over at BikePortland that there was some “Public Transportation” graffiti on I-205.  Lo and behold, as we […]

Christian
Guest

Also have an image of this graffiti over at TriMetiquette:

http://www.trimetiquette.com/i-205-public-transportation-graffiti-at-42nd-ave-max-stop/

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

I imagine the artist had very little time to complete the work…

Former 49er..
Guest
Former 49er..

I love bike art! I doubt many people driving on the freeway will notice… \”Must talk on cell phone.. can\’t pay attention to road! Must drive faster..\”

Joe
Guest
Joe

place where people live not cars.. well put!

David Feldman
Guest
David Feldman

Nice! Having grown up in a partly Hispanic city I really appreciate graffiti as an art form. A very pleasant subject for it, too.

todd
Guest
todd

While I sympathize with the intention, graffiti isn\’t art and this kind of public vandalism doesn\’t endear bikes to the voters in cars. \”Screw you, cars, I got rights!\” can easily be reversed. You want to do some good? Convince a driver of the rightness of your pro-bike argument. Want to harden 10,000 people to dislike bikes? Scrawl some stupid slogans on the freeway.

BURR
Guest
BURR

todd, I really doubt the motorists care much one way or the other

dcufan
Guest
dcufan

wsbob sounds like a lawyer and is ***deleted by editor***.

[*dcufan, please don\’t insult other commenters. Thanks. — Jonathan]

Citizen Gregg
Guest
Citizen Gregg

dcufan. Trust me, you haven\’t heard from our resident lawyer yet.

Be very afraid.

Citizen Gregg
Guest
Citizen Gregg

Jonathon, I can\’t believe you left in the \”lawyer\” part of the insult. Why is that ok?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

No dcufan, and everyone else, I\’m not a lawyer. I\’m just a person that tries to think about the further consequences that result from actions people take, and how the result of those actions affect the environment that we all must share as a place to live.

I realize that some people really enjoy this tag. If their enjoyment of it has been spoiled somewhat through my having raised serious issues associated with that kind guerrilla expression, well, that\’s unfortunate. It can be that way in places where people are allowed to express different opinions.

steve
Guest

Which \’serious\’ issues have you raised again bob? Your take on this appears to be that it is Art if you say so, and that it is rubbish if you say so.

I for one, am thrilled that your opinions have no bearing on the outcome of anything. In fact, I find it to be awesome.

Isn\’t it about time for you to summarize a post and all the comments following it?

wyatt
Guest
wyatt

\”graffiti isn\’t art\”

so you get to decide what is art and what isn\’t?

do you get paid by the hour? is there an approval stamp?

BURR
Guest
BURR

I\’ve driven up and down I-84 several times over the past few days and kept my eye out for this, it\’s actually really hard to see at highway speed. The only time you\’re ever likely to see it is when you\’re stuck in a traffic jam…and I really don\’t think it detracts at all from the rubber tire marks that make up the only other decoration on the Jersey barriers.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

\”Isn\’t it about time for you to summarize a post and all the comments following it?\” Steve #41

How about \’incomprehensible\’ or intelligible? Steve, I could summarize your comment no other way, except for the fact that you seem to be trying to be rude an insulting without resorting to the usual street lingo.

By the way, check back on my comments if you like. Correct me if I\’m wrong, but I don\’t believe I ever said that the jersey barrier bike tag isn\’t art. I suggested that the tag was other things besides art, but never said it isn\’t art.

Of course, the tag is art to some people. Some have even said so on this thread. Personally, I don\’t even have a concern over whether it\’s art or not. My concern is where and how this tag was put in place, the desirability of the example it sets for others, and how this affects the environment we all have to live in.

steve
Guest

If you are so concerned, I would be curious to hear what you are actually doing about your concerns. You appear to be very concerned about a lot of topics here bob.

Oh yeah..

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Seriously Steve, the impression your comment leaves is that you don\’t really care, other than to be rude and insulting. In that case, I have no further answer for you. If you ever do make an effort to say something meaningful and with respect to people commenting here, that could change, but not for now.

icarus Falling
Guest
icarus Falling

No matter how you slice it, graffiti is bad.

j.rocker
Guest
j.rocker

i love graffiti so much. every time i see a dope tag it inspires me to go out and be creative or to just think about the world i live in more. to those who have never tried to take tags or to just apriciate the work of others, graffiti is an art, a sport, dance, civic and political engagement all bundled together. rather than being a sign of urban decay, i would contend that graffiti is a sign of urban vibrancy. Why choose to hate something you could just as easily choose to love? thanks for the post jonathan

Smarty Mouse
Guest
Smarty Mouse

The one thing that never seems to come up in the discussion of graffiti is the question of property. If you are painting on someone elses property you are causing harm to that person. You don\’t have the right to come paint on the side of my house, pull up my flowers or steal the tires off my car. It all amounts to the same thing. Whether you or I think it\’s art (and I have seen some beautiful graffiti) you still have no right. Even when I see graffiti that I find interesting and creative I still find it depressing for the violation it represents. Do it happily on your own property but not on someone elses.

The other problem of course is the issue of public property. I don\’t have an answer how this can be resolved. If it\’s public we ALL own it right? I do personally think so much of what is out there is just a blight on the landscape. I used to get really angry when I would take my kids to the playground and the brightly colored new play structure would be covered with black scrawl. How to answer the \”why do people DO that mom?\” questions. j.rocker\’s comment is really interesting to me because it is a view far from my own. I really want to know more about how a tag on the side of the building where I work is civic engagement.

We\’ve definitely gotten off the bike topic….. I do agree with those that have said that the particular graffiti that started this discussion just makes those who don\’t like bikes like them even less.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Smarty Mouse, the answer to this question \”If it\’s public we ALL own it right?\”, as I understand it, is \’yes\’.

We do all own it, but that shared ownership obliges each and everyone of us to consider the needs of the other owners in respect to public property and how we use it for our individual selves. We all own it, but that means that when we use it and after we\’re done using it, it should be left in a condition that meets accepted public standards.

The analogy of dogs in public parks illustrates the point. Before people… members of the public, demanded policy regulating their behavior, certain other members of the public thought that because public parks were owned by everyone, they were entitled to use public parks the way that fit their and their dog\’s personal needs without any particular consideration for other people using the park.

The consequences we\’re major. A prolonged, labor intensive process involving commitment from many community members was required to acquaint certain members of the public with the concept that it\’s not o.k. to let your dog run and leave its business in a place that people need to use for other purposes.

I appreciate the spirit and inspiration that j.rocker gets from seeing creative tags, but it\’s still important for citizens, including him, to think about the consequences of their actions upon other people, and act responsibly when they use public property.