Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Time to unite the city behind biking (and other ideas shared at our Social)

Posted by on December 4th, 2009 at 9:04 am

Lake McTighe from Metro’s active
transportation initiative contributed
her perspective.
(Photos @ Adams Carroll)

Last night about 40-50 Portlanders (and at least one Vancouverite!) packed into a room at the back of Floyd’s Coffee Shop in Old Town for a mini town hall discussion on the state of bike activism in Portland.

We had pitched it as an informal Social Hour, and I wasn’t sure what form the event would take. As people trickled in and I took stock of the vibe in the room, I decided to turn it into a moderated (by me) discussion of the issues surrounding how Portland can most quickly make a major leap in bike-friendliness.

I was really excited at not just the turnout (especially given all the other events last night) but at who showed up. Here’s a sampling of the brains in the room:

  • Metro’s top active transportation initiative staffer Lake McTighe,
  • Community Cycling Center board member (and Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder staff person) Kathryn Sofich,
  • Evan Ross, Ryan Hashagen, Will Heiberg, Jed Lazar, and others from the surging Bicycle Business League,
  • Jocelyn Sycip, executive director of Oregon Manifest,
  • John Ossowski, who’s working on his PhD in social work at Portland State University,
  • A rep from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Michael O’ Leary,
  • West Side citizen activism legend Jim “K’Tesh” Parsons,
  • Moses Wrosen, a veteran bike activist and founding member of Bike Temple,
  • Executive Director of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition Steph Routh,
  • Founder of Cycle Wild (and active community member) Matt Picio,
  • Portland Police Bicycle Liaison Officer Robert Pickett,
  • Portland Mercury news reporter Sarah Mirk,
  • Portland State University Cycling Team member and advocate Peter Welte,
  • and many others.

Much of the conversation revolved around directed feedback about the role the BTA could/should play in galvanizing broad support for bicycling. Michael O’Leary was a good sport and took a fair amount of tough questions and critical feedback in stride, busily scribbling notes to take back to the rest of the BTA staff (most of whom were at a previously scheduled meeting and couldn’t make it last night).

Story continues below


I posed the question to the crowd of whether or not it’s possible to make big gains for bicycling with the conservative and friendly advocacy approach the BTA (and for the most part our entire community) has taken in the last several years. I wondered if perhaps we were at a point where more aggressive activism is needed. Some in the room bristled at my suggestion that maybe we need another Critical Mass type effort to break through the complacency I sometimes feels going on. O’Leary said we can expect the BTA to get more “bold” in the future, especially around a campaign for more funding on the Bike Master Plan.

“If you had $500,000 (and had to choose), would you spend it on bike infrastructure or a pro-bike advertising campaign?”

Kathryn Sofich spoke of the importance of having a unified voice. She shared that, whether or not the voice is conservative or more forceful, politicians are more likely to act when they hear citizens asking for change in a singular, focused way.

On that note, I shared my thoughts that Portland is in dire need of a campaign, an organization, or a rallying message that can somehow capture the broader community. My point was that while just 6-8% of us bike regularly, a strong majority of Portlanders are supportive of biking but don’t get involved in pushing for it because they are either too afraid to try it and/or they have nothing to attach their support to.

Michael O’Leary from the BTA
took an active role in the discussion.
(Photo © Adams Carroll)

We all agreed that unifying a massive, groundswell show of support for bicycling should be a priority. Then, we discussed the importance of having the right type of message to coalesce that support. Whatever the message, many of us agreed on the importance of needing clearly defined campaigns that could garner support for very specific projects.

Officer Robert Pickett said a big problem in broadening the support is the us vs. them divisiveness perpetuated by the local media. Given that the bike/car culture clash is such a common topic, I put forth the question, would people be willing to spend precious transportation dollars on a large and professional media/advertising campaign? Even if it meant one less bike project could be completed? The room was split on this decision.

Another topic that I proposed was whether or not Portland’s bike activism interests were being adequately served by just the BTA. Do we need/want a more nimble/aggressive/grassroots activist group? Can the BTA become that group or is a new group necessary? This question sparked comments about the impact of Portland’s sizable “bike fun” movement, symbolized for many as 5,000 naked people taking over the city once a year.

I thought the discussion was inspiring and I hope it was helpful and informative to all who attended. If you were there, please consider adding your thoughts in the comments below. If you weren’t there, consider this post your virtual invitation to join the conversation.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you.

  • Vance Longwell December 4, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I’m just curious, and I mean no disrespect, but J, do you ever read other people’s blogs? Sure you do, I guess what I’m getting at, do you ever interact with people who oppose your views?

    “…possible to make big gains for bicycling with the conservative and friendly advocacy approach the BTA…”

    And this too,

    “Do we need/want a more nimble/aggressive/grassroots activist group?”

    I know a lot of people, and I mean a lot, who consider the BTA to be an incredibly militant entity. Many of us have strong feelings about the role Critical-Mass played in our personal, bikey, lives. Your suggestion is then that the BTA, or a new group, should become more militant?

    Why? If the stated goal is to raise ridership, then that goal has been met and exceeded. If there is some goal outside of this, then couching it in terms of a cycling-issue, or at least including it in proposed action, is disingenuous. I make this point because opt-out types, like myself, are made to suffer that agenda right along with everybody else.

    As you well know, I’m not on-board with any of this. I hate to say it but I have an interest in goals of this sort failing. When you talk about becoming more aggressive I can’t help but wonder the outcome. In my mind this whole mess is boiling right now, and you don’t know this because you only preach to, and listen to, your own choir. No offense.

    So, I actually support this ‘becoming more aggressive’ position to a certain extent. I do so because I feel that all that needs happen now is a little, “nudge”, be deployed; and the whole simmering, volatile, situation will explode in a cascade of back-lash. Which is why I’m always on you guys. For the most part, while you all sit around and dream up ways to mess with motorists, people like me are actually out there on our bikes taking flack directed at your group.

    By all-means. Ratchet it up another notch. You don’t ride out of necessity, so you don’t have to suffer the consequences. Should some enraged motorist run you down, you’ve always got your car to use. That’s harsh. How about this: I think further forcing this issue is going to result in catastrophic back-lash; and ultimately then, only serve to hurt bicycling.

    I rode out to a job interview on 192nd and Division recently. I had extensive, positive, contact with my prospective employer prior to the interview. I had every reason to suspect the interview was, in fact, a mere formality. Only thing is, I caught some hard-stares from working employees, obviously aimed at my bikey-ness, when I showed up on my bike. Then the interview was, “weird”, and I left with a promise for a phone call, which of course has never come.

    I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that hostility engendered by militant anti-car, Church of Green policies is what cost me this job. And I don’t even really like you guys. 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Peter W December 4, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I thought Jonathan’s idea about having an organization like “MoveOn.org” but for bike stuff was interesting. Basically lower the barrier to entry for people to get involved in bike related advocacy. Compared with a $40 BTA membership, there would be a lot more of the 60% of people who are “interested in biking, but concerned” who’d join in. Maybe you get less committed people but get a hell of a lot more of them who’d do one small action occasionally? Maybe that adds up to a much larger impact?

    I talked with Aaron A and others later about having an umbrella organization which BTA, WPC, and perhaps landuse organizations are part of, but which might also have individual members (I’m not sure if the CLF could fill that role or if CLF’s focus is bigger than what we need). Perhaps this umbrella organization could have an activist approach similar to MoveOn.org.

    Aaron mentioned TransForm in California as a good example of a landuse+transportation advocacy group which has coalition members as well as individual members.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • fredlf December 4, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I agree with Robert P. about the major role of the “us vs. them” or “bikes vs. cars” divisiveness. The very fact that it can be spun as a conflict makes it attractive for the major media.
    The right-wing media in particular has been working hard to make cycling a partisan issue, something liberals want to force onto conservatives. Far right talk-show hosts, etc. make cyclists into caricatures of lycra-clad clowns or bumbling hippies. People internalize these images, make them into an “other” against which they can define themselves. In other words, this vision of cyclists/cycling becomes part of an ideology, which makes it powerful and effective.
    I think we need to fight back against these cartoon characters. Anyone involved in cycling culture or industry knows that cyclists come in all shapes, sizes and political leanings. We need campaigns that put personal faces on cyclists, that show that people riding bikes are not all naked activists or Lance wannabes, they are friends, family, neighbors, co-workers.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • matthew December 4, 2009 at 11:31 am

    thanks for the nod to us folks north of the columbia. i certainly understand that vancouver is not portland (there’s even a facebook page to that effect). we do however have close social, economic and even political ties to portland. for me this was more of a social event since i was late in heading south. it was nice to see some familiar faces. k’tesh-thanks for the washington county trails map and i hope the vancouver bike map helps with options on your I205 loops.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • AaronF December 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I think Vance has a point… and it actually seems like there’s room for some common ground.

    I went to some of the bigger critical mass rides back in 02 and 03 and watched anarchist punk rockers spraypaint ELF on the burnside bridge… I even saw someone slash an agitated driver’s car tire because he was revving his engine while we plugged up the burnside sandy intersection during Friday night rush hour traffic. In my humble attention, a lot of negative media attention was deserved.

    Maus, you seem to understand the importance of favorable media attention… I am not sure if a militant stance is going to help… given the “crowd” that these activities attracts.

    I don’t think critical mass ever did any good. I don’t think it ever made anyone take cycling seriously. Not the cops, not the media.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • KruckyBoy December 4, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I find it odd that people are decrying the ‘us vs them’ media while at the same time advocating a more aggressive strategy. Pick your poison, and be man/woman enough to except the consequences. Let’s stop pretending our actions and words have no impact.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Vance Longwell December 4, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    KruckyBoy #6 – Can I expand upon this without pummeling the deceased equine? You’ve made an excellent point, and I had been looking to do the same. Nice.

    Media like the O, and the TV stations here muck-rake. ‘Who cares’ is what I say. Consumers of that grade of media aren’t really politically active, in my opinion. This speaks to the crux of my earlier comment. I believe that an uninitiated type may stop by BikePortland for the first time, and read comments, and view post-topics, and whatnot, and be way more offended, and none-too-little threatened as well, than J might realize.

    This is why I question how, “in-touch”, with other view-points J is. I mean, if you honestly do not believe you are a MAJOR, MAJOR, contributor to the us vee them thing, then I have to wonder J? Twisting and conflating a convoluted headline is easily recognizable; and a separate issue. I really think rational people take this with a grain of salt.

    Yet in here, J, you are earnest and clearly believe in what you are doing. I don’t see the concerted effort at sensationalism, and I think that leaves you feeling like you don’t belong on a hook. In reality, no matter how earnest and well intended, much of what you support is toxic, and very alienating to a lot of people. You may not be trying to get hits, but man you maintain some very incendiary, very extreme, positions sir!

    Just ’cause you’re playing it straight doesn’t excuse you from aiding and abetting the Cars vs. Bikes mentality.

    Aside: I’m under the impression that the BTA formed via a rift in the Critical Mass crowd. Is this true? The BTA was the more responsible, less eff-poo-up, half of the CM thing, right? If true, this is why I use the term, “militant”, to describe the BTA. I did not mean to distinguish between the two, as some thought in comments here. ANY association with CM makes you militant, IMO; and the BTA is CM, as far as I know.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ben Foote December 4, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Ted Buehler and myself are hosting a discussion about transportation in our region on Thursday 12/10 at 6:30 at my gallery space at NW 6th & Everett.


    We have interest in striking at the roots and are starting to do some work towards that end.

    Please spread the word.

    On a slightly side note, Ted and I have invited our fellow graduates from Rick Gustafson’s PSU Traffic and Transportation Class, which just wrapped up last night. I can’t say enough good things about this class and the support that it offers to folks who have the desire to effect change in the public realm.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 4, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Critical mass type ‘aggressiveness’…not good. On that line, I’m not sure the WNBR is so good either, but it seems to be held at different hours than CM, and most everybody seems to either enjoying it or laughing it, so it’s probably fine at least for now.

    The word ‘assertive’ used to be in common use not so long ago. Here’s the WordWeb def of that term: “Aggressively self-assured”. The ‘self assured’ part of that definition speaks more of having well thought out ideas that are confidently pursued with some respect for other people, rather than the business of cramming stuff down people’s throats.

    Cities big and small have managed to access money to fund construction of bike lanes and various other bike infrastructure, some of it experimental. Increased bike use on roadways brought about by this infrastructure seems definitely to have raised consciousness amongst members of the general public, about issues related to the bicycle as transportation.

    More bikes on the road has been and continues to be a major adjustment for motor vehicle dominated roadways. It’s firsthand experience of people using the road… particularly those driving motor vehicles….in having to adjust to more bikes on the road and new bike infrastructure that represents a force that bike use advocates might be wise to consider and address positively.

    In comparison, provocatively headlined stories that media, such as Portland’s own Oregonian have been inclined to take advantage of, really aren’t much more than ‘tempests in teapots’. I’m sure some people don’t agree, but that’s my own thought.

    To get more backsides on bike seats for practical transportation needs, it seems to me that grassroots efforts directed to individual neighborhoods might be what’s needed. Find out from each neighborhood what it would take to interest residents in using their bikes instead of their car, for some basic transportation needs; and then, make a strong effort to provide the neighborhood with what it says it needs.

    Big money spent on big advertising campaigns can have a very negative connotation. People are tired and suspicious of big money being spent in a blitzkrieg manner.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR December 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    the ‘bike community’ will never speak with a unified voice as long as elements within the community continue to call for new segregated sidepaths without repeal of the state’s mandatory sidepath law.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Serena December 4, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    There are very different ways to be assertive or even aggressive. Critical mass, when it is seen as a sub-culture event, may even arguably be conservative, in that it is about asserting the identity of a group of people defined against the mass. I understand Johnathan to mean that we are at a moment in which a strong movement needs to be built, defined aggressively in terms of benchmarks of bicycling numbers, infrastructure, money, political support, not in terms of adolescent anarchism (which has its place, too, but is not I think what is meant).

    Class is an important thing to bear in mind. I’m middle class and I still don’t really feel like coughing up $40 for a BTA membership; it is certainly not something I would have considered when I was younger. So something like Moveon.org–which provides opportunities for both monetary and non-monetary activism–would be good.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh December 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    burr..the bike community will also never get the attention/power it strives for as a unified voice if it continue to flaunt traffic rules in the face of other road users and the police. Working against the system is not as effective as working within the system for gradual change.

    Adams himself said this last spring…

    and Vance, next time you have an interview, park the bike around the corner and clean yourself up before walking in. They never know it unless you show them….and in fact, they may just not have like you in person or have found a more qualified candidate.

    As for Maus, he’s never really reported both sides of the story..yet acts as a self-proclaimed “media” outlet…its an internet opinion blog, man, nothing more. (one that likes to censor its readers lately).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 4, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I certainly don’t mean to suggest CM is all bad, because it’s definitely not that. CM makes a very visible refutation of the notion that ‘nobody rides bikes anymore’.

    It seems though that as a vehicle…so to say…for advocating expansion of bike as transportation infrastructure, CM was unwieldy. The challenge of moving hundreds and on some days, thousands of CM participants through the streets without disabling use of the streets for other transportation modes seemed too much for CM volunteers to handle.

    Why? Wasn’t it something close to this type of traffic that China was able to manage in its streets for years?

    Whatever means bike advocates use to present their case, should be something that makes as positive an impression as possible on everybody that has to use the road.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR December 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    the bike community will also never get the attention/power it strives for as a unified voice if it continue to flaunt traffic rules in the face of other road users and the police. Working against the system is not as effective as working within the system for gradual change.
    completely irrelevant to my comment above. According to Robert Hurst, Portland already has the most law-abiding cyclist in the country; but that issue is completely separate from the most likely unachievable goal of creating a pseudo Amsterdam-style cycling environment throughout the city and forcing all cyclists to use the inherently unsafe sidepaths such a system will entail.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) December 4, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for all the feedback.

    First, conversations like this are tremendously difficult online.. that’s why more bike town hall discussions are in the works!

    But to respond… first, when I say “aggressive”, I don’t mean “militant” “anti-car”, etc… The situation we’re in now is that the BTA is not feared at all by politicians. Elected officials MUST have some level of fear from minority interest groups before they will act on their behalf. By aggressive I mean to be intelligent and use a mix of leverage and strategy to force politicians to do your bidding. Being friendly with them gets you a seat at the table, but it also gets you only incremental change.


    I’m excited to talk with folks about the MoveOn.org effort. This is what me and some other people were talking about several months ago in terms of galvanizing Portland businesses.

    As for a media campaign, again, some people jump to conclusions about what that might be. I’m talking about a savvy, smart, viral, multi-dimensional, branding/advertising effort that I think could really change perception and behavior… a key thing in moving forward.

    I am going to work on organizing these issues into some key points and then after the holidays, I’m thinking of having a larger scale Bicycle Town Hall Meeting. Stay tuned.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Steve B. December 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    I think the solution is not a BIKE-ONLY activism group, but a vulnerable/active/sustainable road users coalition. The consensus in our Traffic & Transportation class seems to be that we need a coalition of folks that aren’t activated by a particular transport mode, but rather the idea that we need to plan for things other than cars. Such building requires tremendous lobbying, advocacy, and activism.

    In that sense, it would be great to see folks coming together to support transit, walking, and biking infrastructure under a common umbrella. Perhaps the partnerships between BTA/WPC/Streetcar/Trimet need to be formalized in this way.

    I find that many folks want to support progressive infrastructure and education, but don’t see themselves fitting into a particular role within our current mode-based advocacy organizations.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR December 4, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    when the Ladd’s Addition neighbors get together to talk about the ‘bicycle problem’ in their ‘hood, how many cyclists do you think attend?

    when cyclists get together to talk about increasing support for bicycling, how many motorists do you think will attend?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • shuber December 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    It’s a big challenge to appease all the factions of the current bike community, to make biking appealing to people who don’t bike already, and to set up a safety and awareness program for non-bikers…

    It would be great to harness the effectiveness of “lead by example” into a campaign. But would this appeal to everyone? Not likely.

    Should be fun for your team to come up with the different tactics to appeal to all those factions 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • kernel December 4, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Without CM, there’d be no Shift.

    CM is dead locally, because of heavy handed police actions and black-masked tire slashers (who have clearly been in the employ of the police at other times. Agent-provocateers, they’re called.)

    CM continutes to take place globally and it’s a shame that bike activist in Portland have lost their connection with this historical and global movement. It is certianly not because we’ve “arrived” and there’s no work to be done.

    I enjoyed last night’s meeting and it’s the first time in a long time that I left a political inclined gathering feeling inspired

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • KJ December 4, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I think the choice to ride a bike need to be depoliticized for more people to embrace it. Right now it’s vewed as a political decision rather than practical or economical or even stylish.

    Someone(s) needs to start using more marking aimed at women families and children getting around doing every day things by bike, safely and affordably (or demonstrating how it is much more affordable than owning a car.)
    And then they need to see people like them doing exactly this in real life.

    Sad but true, the fact bikes are currently fashionably trendy is a boon.

    People need to see that the fastest most economical and safest way to get from a to b is on a bike, and not feel like they have to be Lance to do it.(Or a bike funnist). And then that has to be true and achievable.

    Part of this won’t happen until we build the infrastructure to support it.

    We want to be more aggressive? The we need to aggressively normalize and even trendify, rather than politicize.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Steph Routh December 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Hear, hear Peter W (#2) and Steve B. (#16).

    Streets are for people, and I think that is something anyone who lives in a neighborhood can get behind. Including Ray LaHood. http://bit.ly/16s0Fo

    Walking, transit use, and cycling together create a portrait of region-wide transportation that accommodates all ages and mobilities. We need to get beyond “incremental change”, as you say Jonathan, for one mode and focus on a sea change for complete streets.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lidwien December 4, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    As a long time BTA member, I’d like to be counted as one who does not support a more aggressive or assertive approach. If the objective is to increase bicycling, by getting the large percentage of potential riders who are “interested but concerned” out there on their bikes, then the strategy should be to reflect the style and preference of that large group of people, which includes the middle-aged, mothers, and others who do not fit the committed and fearless label. The more assertive approach may be appropriate at the initial stages of a movement, but thankfully bicycling has become mainstream in Portland, and the BTA’s approach should reflect that. Those who long for the good old days of critical mass, and those who are into the bike culture more than into bicycling as a legitimate and safe, but mundane means of transportation, maybe should join Shift.

    That’s why I feel angry and blindsided about the firing of Scott Bricker. As a member I don’t feel represented by a Board that wants to be more aggressive. Scott had gained the trust and respect of the legislature and transportation agencies, and now that has all been thrown away. A mature organization can handle the balance between being an effective advocate and being co-opted.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • matthew December 4, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    vance, often we’ve had oposing opinions on cycling issues but i think you are spot on in the distinction between militant and aggressive attitudes towards advocacy issues. (if i’m correctly reading what you’re laying down here.)

    i was a victim in 3 car/bike collisions this past august in the span of 10 days. it started with being rear ended waiting for a stoplight on 20th and hawthorne right in front of cinemagic. the next accident i’m still fuzzy on but i was riding north on williams at around 10pm and woke up being strapped to a backboard. sideswiped by a drunk driver or on purpose? who knows? the one thing i do know is that i don’t want to suffer any consequences from ratcheting it up a notch as you put it. in the last accident (the one that completed the trifecta) i t-boned a scrap metal collector who ran a stop sign in vancouver.

    i see the animosity from drivers regularly. i also see the bone headed mistakes on the part of drivers and cyclists on a daily basis. everyone makes mistakes-that’s what makes us human. simple things like respect, tolerance and forgiveness go a long way to making both riding and driving safer for everyone and it’s recipricol. since we all want to get home without killing someone or being killed ourselves isn’t that enough common ground to start with? this us vrs. them mentality does nothing but perpetuate anger between cyclists and drivers. to be honest i think i’ll live longer without these attitudes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    The common ground that people riding bikes, driving cars or using other types of motor vehicle transportation can unite on is ‘quality of life improvement’. Road congestion arising from too many motor vehicles attempting to use limited room on roads is one very conspicuous problem that detracts from quality of life.

    Most people, regardless of what means they use to travel, will agree with this; everywhere, even if they drive, many people are particularly tired of waiting for and having to dodge traffic consisting of heavy, polluting motor vehicles.

    Walking is too dangerous…biking is too dangerous… regular instances of high speed cars streaking through the neighborhood at all hours of the day occur. Nobody likes this kind of thing happening in their neighborhood. If improvements to bike-pedestrian infrastructure can offer hope of reducing these kinds of problems, it seems to me that people might support them.

    “when the Ladd’s Addition neighbors get together to talk about the ‘bicycle problem’ in their ‘hood, how many cyclists do you think attend?” Burr #17

    Burr, do you know for a fact that an actual Ladd’s Addition get together happened this way, in which neighbors talked about bicycles in their neighborhood as a problem? Did you attend?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Peter Smith December 5, 2009 at 4:14 am

    I think the solution is not a BIKE-ONLY activism group, but a vulnerable/active/sustainable road users coalition.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michael M. December 5, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Interesting discussion, in part because it illustrates some of the unifying and divisive attitudes and ideas of what is meant by promoting cycling. It seems to me that you have to pick your target and stick to it. Arguing for a complete streets approach to transportation infrastructure complements promoting cycling, but it isn’t exactly the same in terms of how you might proceed, what events or activities you might throw resources into, and where you put the most pressure. That doesn’t mean that to be “for cycling” means you must be “against complete streets,” just that you have to pick your battles.

    I strongly agree with KJ (#20) that cycling needs to be depoliticized to become more mainstream. People respond to positive incentives, and those incentives don’t have to be all that dramatic. How many people who bring a resusable shopping bag to Fred Meyer do it because they save a nickel? They do it because it is a relatively simple way to cut down on waste, and their behavior is reinforced by the message stores send with a discount or reward or prize entry (programs vary at different stores). Imagine if grocery stores had a “Bike Saturday” every week whereby people who biked to the store got something off their total bill. Imagine if more stores went the extra quarter-mile to provide better (more visible, more accessible, more stylish) bike parking facilities than most do now, even at the expense of a few car parking spaces. Those things send messages, just like most people who cycle currently recognize that businesses with a bike corral are businesses that support their cycling customers. Those messages will be heard by the “interested but concerned” populace the Bike Plan is trying to reach, especially by the women who, every study shows, still make most of the consumer decisions in U.S. households.

    I think the BTA’s approach has been excellent, we just need more of it. The Bike Commute Challenge should be, at least, all summer long, and should be supported by employers to a greater degree. Safe Routes to Schools should be expanded, and should be supported by Portland Public Schools to a greater degree. These things will happen only with greater grass-roots support and pressure, which you can only build if you start working on that level — business by business, school by school. That’s the way to get the BTA more “feared,” as Jonathan (#15) put it. They won’t happen with Critical Mass style activism, which just perpetuates divisiveness and an “us-vs-them” mentality.

    I think Jeff Mapes was right when he wrote in his book that most people cycle because they enjoy it, and that while they may be glad it is more environmentally friendly than driving, that isn’t the primary motivation. There are a lot more people out there who would enjoy doing it more often, who would start seeing it as a viable option for some of the trips they currently make by car, if they had some encouragement and if they felt relatively safe. You aren’t going to attract those people by demonizing driving, or by WNBR’s, or a lot of bike funnism. You’ll attract them with positive incentives and positive messaging.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    “…Imagine if grocery stores had a “Bike Saturday” every week whereby people who biked to the store got something off their total bill. Imagine if more stores went the extra quarter-mile to provide better (more visible, more accessible, more stylish) bike parking facilities than most do now, even at the expense of a few car parking spaces. …” Michael M. #27

    I think grocery stores could be very influential in encouraging bike use for shopping. Everybody has to buy groceries. Quite a few grocery stores already knock off 5 cents per bag when customers bring in and reuse a shopping bag, or use their own bags. Some kind of monetary reimbursement might be figured out for people that use less or no space in the parking lot.

    Grocery store owner interest in supporting bike use might be aided if it could be shown to them that bike use could reduce their overhead. Just guessing, but stores are probably required to provide ‘x’ amount of parking per store square footage in order to meet the projected numbers of customers the store is expected to draw.

    Land costs a lot of money. Providing more and better bike parking could possibly help stores reduce overall surface parking lot square footage, bringing significant savings to them. Land saved by providing bike parking could be leased to other complimentary businesses for further income to the store.

    Grocery stores might also gain customers and reduce land required for parking by sponsoring improved bike-pedestrian routes from nearby neighborhoods.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR December 5, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    wsbob – yes, I know for a fact that there have been meetings in Ladd’s Addition regarding the ‘bicyclist problem’, I got notices for them from my neighborhood association, HAND. And no, I have no intention of attending any of these meetings to defend cyclists or represent the cyclist’s ‘viewpoint’, IMO that just lends credibility to the complaints.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 5, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Burr, did it specifically say ‘bicyclist problem’ in the HAND notices you’ve received? I would hope not, but imagine it’s possible.

    I’m sorry to hear you haven’t gone…at least as a silent observer or participant. Being there as a silent observer/participant probably wouldn’t dramatically effect the legitimacy or credibility of whatever complaints you’re referring to, but it would give you the authority of offering here, in your comments to this thread, a personal first hand account of what went on there and what was said.

    For different reasons, I myself find it difficult to get to neighborhood meetings for my neighborhood (Beaverton)or the local bike advisory committee meeting.

    It’s hard to have representation for a point of view if nobody goes to the meeting to present it. Hard also, to find common ground if all viewpoints aren’t there to at least be acknowledged. I’m sure that to some extent, that’s why things never seem to change like some people would like them to. It’s the people that show up to work that shape the way things change.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • are December 6, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    before coming to portland, i lived in a similar-sized city in the midwest (that is, similar population, but of course it had been allowed to sprawl). there was next to zero “bike culture” there ten years ago when I started down the path that led to my eventually not using a car at all. there was a very small scale effort at staging a critical mass, but that faded away. a handful of us put together what is now a reasonably credible bike advocacy group that now has something like a seat at the kiddie table in policymaking. there was and is no substantial lycra or hipster or any other biking “culture,” even now, though it has begun to take root.

    i say all that by way of background to saying (to vance and others), vehicular cycling yes, mandatory sidepaths no, shoving inappropriate facilities down my throat no, but . . .

    motorists are gonna hate you and think you are “the other” without the help of the “church of green.” you gotta stake your claim to your space on the road. it is not cm, and it is not bta, and it is not the funnists that make your life with motorists difficult. there is a consumerist, motorist “culture” that the transportational bicyclist threatens merely by existing. got nothin to do with “church of green.”

    my gripe with the bta (and I am still a dues paying member) is that they seem to have been co-opted by the facilities people. how is it aggressive or assertive to push for more funding of a plan the city transpo department came up with? we need to be pushing for repeal of the mandatory sidepath law, local control of speed limits, and a fund from which nonmotorists can recover when they are injured by an uninsured or under-insured motorist. these things matter. a cycletrack on a downtown street with conflict points every two hundred feet does not matter. you want to change hearts and minds, put kiefer sutherland on a bike every week on television.

    safe routes to school, good. education, great. bike boulevards, fine, but let’s see some diversion of motor traffic and some good connections through the major intersections (thinking: ankeny at 11th), and let’s see lower speeds.

    what bta needs at this point is more transparency, open up the board meetings at least to the members if not the public, and let people see how decisions are made.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Vance Longwell December 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    are #31 – I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, put me on that ‘repeal 811.420′ list fuh-sho! You’d all be surprised how little I’d care about all of this at that point.

    Bike advocacy I was involved in stirred up a hornets nest of backlash I do not want to experience again. And it started with endless attempts to ban us from motorist traffic, and to confine us to bicycle-lanes. Never-mind the plethora of personal injuries received from enraged motorists, and the stuff they could find to throw at me from out of their car windows. No bike-lane, no ban, savvy?

    It’s so much easier to block the construction of bike-infrastructure, than it is to drag yourself out of being relegated to it, trust me. That’s my brand, and should be self-evident. Why give ’em the rope? Much better to suck-it-up a little and get by, IMO.

    Oh, and Mathew #24 – Hey thanks for that! 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 6, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    ” motorists are gonna hate you and think you are “the other” without the help of the “church of green.” ” are #31

    Phrases like ‘church of green’ come off as sarcastic, bitter name calling that alienate potential allies for better cycling conditions.

    “you gotta stake your claim to your space on the road. it is not cm, and it is not bta, and it is not the funnists that make your life with motorists difficult.” are #31

    “…funnists…” ? I’m not exactly sure who or what that is supposed to refer to. Oh well… . As for the rest of what’s said in that statement, I don’t think a very sizable percentage of potential bikes as transportation members of the public want to have to stake their claim to the road if that means being very aggressive. Very aggressive, oblivious, ignorant, inconsiderate road users are largely responsible for problems on the road today.

    People are looking for less tension on the road…not more. Bikes as transportation can help produce that if supported by good ideas, improved attitudes and better infrastructure.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • are December 6, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    the phrase “church of green” was used specifically to respond to points raised by vance, who uses the term. if i am a vegan who buys locally grown organics and grows stuff in my own yard, who does not have a car or a television or a dishwasher or a clothes washer or dryer, i might be green myself, so you may be assured i am not engaging in bitter name calling. the word “funnists” identifies a specific group here in portland, and i think does not really require further elaboration by me. though again i might note that i have participated in any number of pedalpalooza rides and other shift events, so again, no bitter name calling, just singling out certain subgroups who may be seen by outsiders as somehow constituting a “bike culture” that ordinary folks cannot get into.

    as far as staking your claim. there is an appropriate place in the travel lane, and it is not way the hell over on the right, that a cyclist needs to assert in order to maneuver safely in auto traffic. many motorists mistakenly believe you should be much further to the right, or off the road entirely. they are simply wrong.

    my taking the lane has nothing to do with aggression, and is actually the opposite of oblivious, ignorant, or inconsiderate. if a motorist becomes unhappy and is willing to engage in a civil discussion of the matter, it should be possible to have that conversation at the next light. but if a motorist insists on leaning on the horn and then passing too close when the first opening appears, i may become angry because my safety has been threatened. you might say i created the situation by taking the lane, but the alternative is to surrender the commons entirely to thugs.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 6, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    are, thanks for clarifying your thinking behind the two terms you used.

    The so called Oregon side path law, actually titled: “814.420 Failure to use bicycle lane or path; exceptions; penalty.” The word ‘exceptions’ in that title relieves people riding bikes from being confined to bike lanes. Read the statute in entirety to understand why.

    Many kinds of people that ride bikes or might be persuaded to…really benefit from having bike lanes available.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • are December 7, 2009 at 9:45 am

    wsbob, i have read 814.420 many, many times. the statute does not provide an exception for the circumstance in which the striped bike lane is poorly placed, so that if i were to use it i would encourage overtaking motorists to pass too close. possibly the most obvious example is the pinch point on williams at about graham, but there are countless others. only rarely will i use the striped lanes on either broadway or lovejoy descending from the bridge, and then only until i can find an opening. the safe passing distance law includes an express exception for overtaking a bike in a striped lane. you can paint all the stripes you want. i need to be able to make an independent judgment what is safe for me.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Steve Brown December 7, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Hope I can find time to be at the next discussion. Regardless of the approach, bikes are a quality of life issue. The more bikes, the better we live. One of the issues Scott Bricker and I discussed often was BTA serving as a platform or catalyst for greater political involvement statewide. It kind of sounds like this is what is emerging from a different ad hoc group. If you know what NARAL Oregon does in terms of political power in the state, you can imagine what the bike community can do.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 7, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    are, getting off topic I suppose. You might consider starting a thread in the forums. Through a web search today, my memory was refreshed, that some time back, Bricker and the BTA worked to have this statute amended to what it is today:

    CLARIFICATION OF BICYCLE LANE LAW, Ray Thomas, Swanson Thomas Coon Attorneys

    Seem as though, if a bike lane has a problem, an appeal would be in order according to subsection 2 of the law. For a given location or situation, what does the state/authority regard as ‘safe bicycle use’? What is the reasonable rate of speed at which it finds the bike lane to be safe to travel in? I wouldn’t imagine that a bike lane such as the one adjoining and amidst the main lanes of travel on NE Broadway would have a posted speed separate from that of the main travel lanes. So unless they attended the public hearing or had access to the records, how would people riding there know what speed the jurisdictional authority had approved for travel in that lane?

    Lacking commonly known answers to such questions, of course, there’s always the option of common sense. That should be enough for most people to decide to either leave the bike lane on a road such as NE Broadway and travel in the main lanes of travel, as long as the use was reasonable, or, possibly find a nearby route that’s more compatible for their needs.

    From ORS 814.420:

    (2) A person is not required to comply with this section unless the state or local authority with jurisdiction over the roadway finds, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • are December 8, 2009 at 10:02 am

    wsbob, you have perhaps inadvertently identified a very specific case in which the BTA has failed spectacularly to represent the interests of transportational bicyclists. yes, the statute needed to be changed, and yes, if you are going to have a far to the right law (which we already have in 814.430) you need the exceptions for road hazards. well done, thanks BTA. but they left subsection (2) untouched. the state appeals court has ruled that the burden is on the ticketed cyclist to show that there was _not_ a public hearing,
    and PBoT has taken the position that the public discussion that preceded the adoption of the present bicycle master plan constituted all the public hearings you need. the only reason Jeff Smith was let out of a ticket on this issue a couple of years ago is that the judge bought the argument that he needed to merge left a block and a half early to prepare for a left turn.
    that’s fine, but why should each of us be subject to the whim of the police when all we are trying to do is exercise our best judgment in a tricky situation? if the BTA will not represent us on this kind of thing, we need another, edgier group to step forward.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • are December 8, 2009 at 10:05 am

    oh, and get rid of the far to the right law too while we are at it

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob December 8, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    are, the OJD record and bikeportland story are interesting.

    Regarding the case covered by OJD record; it’s too bad that the defendant’s appeal arose out of a Critical Mass ride…on the Hawthorne Bridge.

    What the bikeportland story of PBOT employee Jeff Smith’s day in court over the failure to ride in a bike lane, was able to report about the ‘public meeting’ element of the bike lane statute was very interesting. Based on this story’s limited account, the opinion of the judge, and maybe the City of Portland’s Chief of Bicycles, Roger Geller assumption that the public meetings element of the bike lane statute has been met by approval of the city’s master bike plan isn’t very satisfying.

    I haven’t read through the city’s master bike plan, so I have little idea of the specifications to which bike lanes have designed, constructed and approved formally by governments in Oregon. The simple fact seems to be that though they are being built…and I think that’s a good thing, from a first hand user perspective, they frequently do not seem to be built according to a standard that would make them safe to be ridden on at a speed that is reasonable for many of the people riding bikes for transportation today.

    That presents the situation of how to proceed to address this problem. Too much to discuss on this thread.

    Recommended Thumb up 0