Portland’s “whiteness” cited as reason for bike-friendliness

Posted by on December 15th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

“…the City of Portland is 450,000 people. It’s a homogeneous community that is very white… We are a very diverse, disjointed city of 4 million people… So we’re a step behind Portland in what we’re trying to do.”
— Michelle Mowery, bicycle coordinator for the City of Los Angeles

We’ve discussed how race relates (or doesn’t) to bicycling on several occasions in the past here on BikePortland, but a story out of Los Angeles takes the conversation in an entirely new direction.

According to “LA’s hyper opinionated bicycle blog” Westside Bikeside, the bicycle coordinator for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation made some interesting comments at a City Council Transportation Committee meeting last week.

Mowery, speaking in defense of L.A.’s Bicycle Plan Update (which has come under fire from activists and advocates) said that the outreach process behind it was not as robust as Portland’s in part because Portland is “very white” as opposed to L.A. being “very diverse”. (It’s important to note that L.A.’s bike master plan update is being managed by Portland-based Alta Planning and Design.)

My California Adventure-33

Riding on Melrose Ave.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Westside Bikeside transcribed the exchange between City Councilor Bill Rosendahl and Mowery (emphasis mine):

BILL ROSENDAHL: Alta Planning is reportedly one of the finest consulting groups in the world for bike planning. How is it that the City of Los Angeles kicked off the Draft Bike Plan process with Alta but did not incorporate the robust Bike Plan process that Portland used/is using to develop their own Bike Plan? For example in Portland Alta maintained eleven working groups, and they used community bike rides to engage and survey.

MICHELLE MOWERY: With all due respect the City of Portland is 450,000 people. It’s a homogeneous community that is very white, and very progressive with respect to transportation. They have a trolley system that works very well, as well as their transit overall. We are a very diverse, disjointed city of 4 million people. They are 30 years ahead of us in the development of their, well, they’re not quite 30, they’re more like 20 years ahead of us in the development of their bikeway. So we’re a step behind Portland in what we’re trying to do. Granted, several of us would like to see a lot of changes in the city happen very quickly, but again we have a very diverse city with a lot of needs.

Westside Bikeside author Alex Thompson claims the real reason the L.A. plan doesn’t stack up to Portland’s is that too much of the project’s money was spent on things “other than community outreach”.

Story continues below

advertisement

About Mowery’s comments on race, Thompson wonders, “What possible connection can racial diversity have to it?” and he points out that both New York and Chicago — both examples of racially diverse cities — are “making huge strides toward bike friendliness.”

Here’s Thompson on Portland’s “whiteness”:

It all comes back to, why highlight Portland’s WHITENESS? The homogeneity argument isn’t convincing, but at least it’s color neutral. I don’t really think it has anything to do with bikes at all.

Read more at Westside Bikeside. [Hat tip on this story goes to Joe Bike.]

Please support BikePortland.

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

80 Comments
  • Avatar
    middle of the road guy December 15, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Completely correct. There is such a thing as cultural diversity, and that means people may choose to travel in different modes.

    For instance, some in the African American community do not like to walk because “that’s what poor people do”. Driving even a few blocks is done to avoid that assumption.

    That being said, what I also find humerous is when people describe how “diverse” Portland is.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Nick December 15, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    There was a recent article at NewGeography called The White City which touched on this in a broader sense.

    To me it seems like there is some link between whiteness and general liberal progressive sentiments. Another recent example is the gay marriage vote in California, where most blacks and Latinos supported the ban.

    Of course, there is also a link between whiteness and income… at the risk of jumping to conclusions, it seems like people who are more worried about meeting their basic needs are going to be less worried about progressive ideals.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Nick V December 15, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Maybe she meant that there is less of a language barrier here regarding cyclists interpreting laws, new developments, new amenities, etc? Regardless, after all the trouble that others have gotten into when they bring up race issues, she made a bad choice of words.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    maxadders December 15, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    wait, I thought the whole “black folks don’t ride” thing was debunked by the appearance of Scraper Bikes. I mean, before the white hipsters appropriated ’em.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anne Hawley December 15, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    If, as Nick (#2) says, there’s a link between whiteness and both liberal sentiments and higher income–a statement I have no argument with–then it seems okay to me to talk about how Portland’s bike-friendliness is because Portland is liberal, progressive and relatively rich.

    Race per se is irrelevant and I get tired of it being mentioned. Is LA really saying “We can’t do what you do because you’re whiter than us?” Really?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Morgan TT December 15, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    From last weeks Merc:
    “letters to the editor”
    WHITE WHEELED

    As a minority who lived in Portland my whole life I have to say riding a bike is pretty much a white people thing [“More Bleeding-Heart Liberal Jokes about Hate Crimes,” Letters, Dec 3]. And a tweaker thing. I don’t want to be on your team. Not now, not ever. Thanks.

    -Posted by P.Caulfield on portlandmercury.com

    http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/letters-to-the-editor/Content?oid=1949400

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    are December 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    hat tip to joe bike, okay, but also hat tip to elly, who did after all include a link to this in yesterday’s monday roundup

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    kgb December 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    On the other hand, last week it was 10 degrees out and today it is pouring down rain. In LA it has been 70 degrees and sunny.

    “Excuses are tools of incompetence and those who specialize in them rarely excel at anything else”

    MICHELLE MOWERY = FAIL.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    GLV December 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I get tired of the refrain that “white = not diverse.” I bet that the attendees at both a bike portland happy hour and a tea party protest are 99% white. But if you can’t see diversity there, there is something wrong with you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Rich, Your Neighbor December 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Michelle is right. Her reasoning also applies to violence and crime.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rex December 15, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    And how, pray tell, is biking liberal or progressive?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous Coward December 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Portland is the most European of American cities because it has the most European-Americans.

    Also, diversity is the number one negative factor effecting community cohesiveness. A Harvard prof discovered it hoping to quantify the strength of diversity. When he found otherwise, he sat on the data for 7 years trying to figure out some other way to spin it. (can’t find link at the moment, but it’s out there)

    Of course, PC group-think aside, there should be nothing wrong with this. Let people move to where they want and live how they most see fit. If you love sitting in traffic there are 4 million people waiting to make friends with in LA. If you love riding your bike to work, store, and home, Portland has an app for that…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Aaron December 15, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    This is a fascinating article. But I disagree with the assumption that Portland is homogeneous (though there are lots of very intelligent gay people here).
    I think the issue is that the central areas btwn 39th and PSU are predominantly white. But there are lots of neighborhoods north of Alberta and east towards the I-205 with a huge amount of black, hispanic, Russian, and Asian populations. I think that as the previous posts mention, these people don’t join in the bike community either because of cultural pressure or because their working long hours and/or have families which prevents civic involvement. Thankfully CCC is working on this issue.
    It sounds like Mowery is using cultural diversity as an excuse for poor initiative.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Daniel December 15, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    i agree that often income is a better indicator than race regarding progressive goals and values. i can find you vast populations of white folks who wouldn’t saddle a bike for the very same reasons that folks of color don’t.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous Coward December 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    A very interesting chart (and discussion) at http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/01/unbearable-whiteness-of-portland_25.html

    Among top 40 metros:
    Portland metro as a whole is 4th whitest at 78%
    Portland city core is most white at 84%
    Portland burbs are 11th whitest at 80%

    Ignoring Seattle, the urban core runner-up is only 67%. That is a considerable difference. Again, back to Occum’s Razor: Portland is most like N. Euro because Portlanders are mostly N. European. If you believe otherwise, the burden of proof is on you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    KWW December 15, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    honky-licious…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Esther December 15, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    It sounds to me like Mowery’s statements are just sloppy excuses for the city’s methodology, and I think that they’re, sort of, being taken out of context when being used to add fuel to the fire of a larger debate about Portland. I think Thompson nails when she (he?) calls out his poor choice of language and comparison of LAX to PDX, instead of somewhat more comparable NYC or ORD.

    Also, I’m really nervous about the spurious debate this is enflaming on Portland. Yes, we do have the question of outreach to diverse communities in Portland (including people of color) but this really doesn’t have much to do with biking in Portland, except for someone in LA describing Portland and its process somehwat inaccurately.

    Also, this is specifically directed at #2, but the general idea goes out to all the commenters here: DO NOT BLAME PROP 8 (and other ‘failures’ of ‘progressiveness’) ON PEOPLE OF COLOR. thanks. there is plenty of reading available on this topic.

    People way too often, and way too reductively, link color with not adhering to whatever ‘progressive’ standards or banners that they want to advocate for. I think linking ‘progressive sentiments’ with color is dangerous. I mean….then where did the ‘progressive sentiments’ of all the people of color who were working the civil rights movement in 19th and early-mid 20th centuries, come from if they weren’t white? Just because people of color aren’t all hopped up to advocate for cycling,d oesn’t mean there aren’t people of color out there bicycling, doesn’t mean there aren’t people of color involved in advocacy, and doesn’t mean that all people of color feel one way or the other about cycling. Even casting these general rules is specious. As the CCC study found, every micro-community and invidual has different reasons for cycling or not cycling.

    Yep, there are general ways that advocates can get out there and there are general rules of thumb that can be applied (doing things in other languages. being aware of cultural customs. all the stuff you learned in Cultural Competence 101), but I don’t think that this article/incident is a good tipping point for furthering the debate or discussion.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Nick December 15, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Correction, Anonymous Coward: Portland’s inner core is 74% white, not 84% (from the link you provided). So the suburbs of Portland are actually slightly more white than the inner city.

    Esther: I wasn’t being accusatory. I was trying to show that the common stereotype of minorities (especially blacks) being socially liberal is not necessarily true to the extent that it seems to be propagated, particularly when you break things down to individual issues instead of the red/blue dichotomy that our elections tend to be reduced to.

    rex: Bike culture in America, particularly in Portland, and particularly in regard to urban cycling (and even this website)– is overwhelmingly dominated by progressive thinking. I’m not sure what your objection is to this fairly obvious generalization, but it seems far-fetched and needlessly defensive

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    st December 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    @Anonymous Coward, #15

    Correlation does not imply causation.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Carter Kennedy December 15, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I sounds like Mowery was caught off guard without a good answer to an unexpected question. She was trying to think of an acceptable excuse for hiring a consultant instead of engaging in a public process. She talked around it and used one of the facts she knew about Portland to try to sound like she had good reasons. Sounds like the reasons for not having a public process are still hidden.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    velo December 15, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Portland is rather white. If LA was as white as Portland it wouldn’t make it into a bicycle mecca. Whiteness may co-vary with biking, this doesn’t make it causal.

    Homogeneity makes for easier planning and organizing, it makes it easier to build community support around a certain idea. A bike community in more diverse place will require that more diverse players be brought into the process.

    I’d be curious to look at the organizing efforts in more diverse communities. Have Chicago, New York, Minneapolis and elsewhere been able to bring a variety of groups to the table? Did it result in more effective lobbying and better biking?

    One thing worth analyzing is who views biking as an inferior good vs. being a straight substitute for other transit methods. Are attitudes similar across demographic groups? Basically, does race same people’s views of cycling as a form of transit.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    hmm December 15, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    maybe alta didn’t do a good job with outreach because…

    1) they just didn’t do a good job in a way that had nothing to do with whiteness

    or

    2) the city wasn’t involved enough in that aspect?

    i mean, you can’t just hire a firm from out of the area and expect that they’ll know all of the ins and outs of your community to the extent that city government should. it’s not fair to just bitch about it later, they should have made sure it was going right all along. but LA is such a cluster-you know what right now (and has been for some time, especially regarding transportation) that really it’s hard to expect a good public process there at all

    i’m just saying that it sounds to me like she was just trying to save her own ass, and the city should probably find someone else to replace her. preferably someone that’s not going to sell their city short on its potential

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    tbird December 15, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Aside from the comic absurdity that is the aforementioned statement. I find it stunning that it will take LA 20+ years to reach the level of bikability that PDX has today. We’re not that far ahead of the curve. Barely on the leading edge, which isn’t all that hard in the US.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous Coward December 15, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Found the diversity actually sucks link:
    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2007/11/paging-dr-putnam-paging-dr-putnam.html

    Harvard political scientist Robert D. “Bowling Alone” Putnam said:

    In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.

    He told Financial Times columnist John Lloyd: ““Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, ‘the most diverse human habitation in human history.’”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 15, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Wow, racist and provincial. But then again, that’s par for California.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    tbird, if you’ve visited LA at some point in the last 15 years, I’d say they’re easily 40 or more years behind Portland. 20 doesn’t even begin to come close to a long enough timespan to reverse the damage they inflicted on themselves out there in the desert.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Memo December 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I completely understand MICHELLE MOWERY’s argument. Having a more homogeneous group that is already inclined to one course of action is much different than how she describes LA and does deserve its own planning process that is not cook cut from a much different population. I feel that if someone does not believe that different ethnic (and I will include social/economic) groups often have varying views on issues as large is regional planning, I feel they should most likely spend more time with different ethnic and social/economic groups.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous Coward December 15, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Nick @18:
    Thanks, typo. My bad.

    st @19:
    Wow, Occam’s Razor completely blunted by the density of your wit. And your explanation as to Portland’s uniqueness is…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous Coward December 15, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    velo @21:
    I’d be curious to look at the organizing efforts in more diverse communities. Have Chicago, New York, Minneapolis and elsewhere…

    Um, do you mean more diverse than Portland, which is everywhere, or more diverse than average, which Minn-Sp is most certainly NOT?

    Whiteness may co-vary with biking, this doesn’t make it causal.

    Based on the evidence world-wide, for most (not all) communities, being white is a necessary, albeit insufficient, condition of cycling-by-choice. What causes white people to be that way, I dunno. But if you’re trying to take biking to non-whites, prepare yourself for a more difficult challenge… that is, based on the evidence.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    matt picio December 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Carter Kennedy (#20) has it right, though my question is why can’t Los Angeles hire a consultant AND engage in public process? Portland does it just fine. Heck, the City of Milwaukie did it better than just about anyone for their TSP update 2 years ago, and they don’t have anywhere near the planning budget of larger cities. Perhaps L.A. doesn’t have an equivalent to Katie Mangle or Mia Burk. Perhaps they do, and they’re hamstrung by the city. All I know is it’s hard to take seriously a person’s remarks on Portland’s racial background when they don’t even know our population figure. (557,000 – not 450,000)

    hmm (#22) – I wouldn’t be so quick to blame Alta for the lack of outreach. They’re limited by the scope of their contract with the city, and the funding provided for them. The city bears the greater burden – they create the contract, and they know the people. There has to be some initiative on the part of the municipality to engage the populace.

    General Comment – the greater Los Angeles basin has had 80 years to implement all of the worst aspects of car-dominated culture, and they’ve been more successful than any other metropolitan area in the country. L.A. has a legendary reputation for communal infighting, apathy, and antagonism. If there is even a shred of truth to the rumors, then perhaps those factors weigh as heavily as the perceived difference in diversity. I think a far greater factor in Portland’s success has been the fact that there are very active communities, groups, and neighborhood associations here.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous Coward December 15, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Councilor Rosendahl: How is it that the City of Los Angeles kicked off the Draft Bike Plan process with Alta but did not incorporate the robust Bike Plan process that Portland used/is using to develop their own Bike Plan?

    Mowery: With all due respect the City of Portland is 450,000 people. It’s a homogeneous community that is very white, and very progressive with respect to transportation.

    Race-aware anonymous coward’s translation of Mowery’s answer: Portland is a mostly white city of 450k. LA is a mostly Latin-Mexican city of 4,000k. Everything we know about sociology is that smaller groups are more cohesive than larger, homogenous more than hetero, white more than brown. So, just because Portland had group rides and the community showed up, doesn’t mean having group rides is going to help make people care here. Portlanders for the 3 obviously politically incorrect reasons I just gave do things differently than what can be accomplished here. They have a working street car for crying out loud!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    WOBG December 15, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Hmmm. Look how much of this thread is given to gazing at our own apparently white navels.

    Bigger picture: NY, Chi-town = far from homogeneous, yet stalwart bike cities. LA, suck it up.

    Aaron 13, what’s all this about “joining in the bike community”(whatever that may be)? Seems to me it’s about convincing folks to just plain old *ride*.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Peter Smith December 15, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    not sure what outreach, or lack thereof, has to do with a bike plan that doesn’t actually deliver much. if the LA bike plan sucks, then it needs to change, no matter the makeup of the community.

    regarding race, a commenter on the (last?) toronto spacing podcast said, essentially, that portland was able to do things in the 60s/70s that other cities were not able to, because those non-portland cities were busy with race riots and all the problems that come with racism. not sure how he came to that conclusion, but i thought it was interesting.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Esther December 15, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    @ Nick #18: Issues or not, data/statements like “80% of white people feel that bicycling is good for the environment” or “30% of black people feel that bicycling is what poor people do so they don’t like to do it because they’re desiring upwardly mobility” is harmful and reductive in the greater dialogue of increasing bicycle infrastructure and promoting cycling as a form of transportation. It does not serve ANY specific purpose and is fundamentally racist, because it is dividing things up by ethnicity in a way that is as pointless and overreaching as the “red/blue state dichotomy.”

    I’m not denying the existence of data like x% of Portland population is caucasian, y% of the inner city of Portland is caucasian, z% of people of color have lost housing because of rising prices/gentrification etc…I’m just exercising and encouraging caution about how those data are applied to enflame people about how Portland Sucks for Diversity, how Black People Don’t Bike, etc. when making blanket statements like that (which happens extremely often, both here and on other local fora) does not contribute to the greater discussion and plays into harmful stereotypes

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    joe December 15, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I have always enjoyed how a long time, multi generation portlander of european descent and a fob russian(for example, could be anyone, even say, gasp, someone from CA) are grouped in as some homogeneous “white” when it suits people.

    LA’s failure to adequately plan bike routes has little to do with the ethnic make up of portland. the more that people of all backgrounds ride, the better we are.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    velo December 15, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    @Anonymous Coward

    “Um, do you mean more diverse than Portland, which is everywhere, or more diverse than average, which Minn-Sp is most certainly NOT?”

    More diverse then Portland. Minnesota also has large immigrant communities that Portland lacks. I should really find the numbers but it seems like MSP is less segregated in the core urban neighborhoods. Still, more facts!

    “Based on the evidence world-wide, for most (not all) communities, being white is a necessary, albeit insufficient, condition of cycling-by-choice. What causes white people to be that way, I dunno. But if you’re trying to take biking to non-whites, prepare yourself for a more difficult challenge… that is, based on the evidence.”

    Getting non-whites to bike may be more difficult, but race might not have any causal implications. It may well be a confound for some other variable that roughly tracks race. If we want to explain something it is critical to move beyond things that co-vary and towards understanding causality.

    If whiteness is truly necessary but not sufficient we have a problem with any community that is NOT pasty white. My guess is whiteness is really acting as a proxy for other factors. Just a guess though. What about bicycles in China? Does anyone know enough to craft an example out of China?

    My instinct is also that reaching racial minorities is not going to be easy, but I’d be willing to bet that it is doable. There is no reason cycling is inherently a racial issue, it might be tied in with things that track, but that might be solvable.

    The economic rationality of cycling is undeniable. It is cheap, point to point transit. If you live within a certain distance of work, school or shopping it is very easy. This appeal with the right background may work for virtually anyone.

    Cycling is still a relatively small transit movement, lets be creative to grow it in a way that reaches out to as many people as possible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    velo December 15, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    From the 2000 Census Portland is about 10% whiter then Minneapolis or St. Paul. So, a fair difference. MSP is still fairly white.

    MSP seems like a good place to look at since it has a solid bike community and more diversity then PDX.

    LA’s problem isn’t race, it’s massive ungodly sprawl with the freeway as god and the car as king. If you live 40 miles from where you work bike commuting just isn’t practical for most people.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Eileen December 15, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    I wonder if the difference between NY and LA has to do with proximity and street design. New york was planned well before cars were popular and so it naturally has a walk-friendly infrastructure. LA became the city it is today in the age of cars. I couldn’t say what race has to do with it, but of course, I don’t live there. I do know that it’s much easier to be idealistic from a distance.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Roland Couture December 15, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    The truth of the matter is, LA’s bike plan and any of LA’s past, present, and future attempts at being a bikeable city, have been and will always be hampered by one thing most importantly, namely, almost a full century of automobile-centric urban “planning” and land-use decisions, which have led to the sprawled-out, over-paved, blighted, traffic-and-exhaust-choked urban dystopia that it is. Portland’s chief advantage is that it has a reasonably dense and compact core, it’s “small,” both in terms of population (which Mowery correctly picks up on) and area (more importantly). This debate about “whiteness” is a stupid bugaboo and remarkably boring. But it does happen that Portland is verifiably less racially diverse than LA.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Vance Longwell December 15, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Too many people from Europe? Oh that’s rich. Man, I was born at NW 22nd & NW Marshal. How’s that Europe? Oh, you mean 400 YEARS AGO?!! Right. I almost thought we were talking about something relevant.

    California is the place you all left, right, so what do you care what anybody has to say about you now? Less talking, more riding will surely solve the problem, yes?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    cold worker December 15, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    velo; mpls/stp isn’t nearly as diverse as you think. it is highly segregated. the twin cities as a whole is a large metro area. the cities of minneapolis and st. paul proper have much smaller populations than portland. like around 200k less than here, give or take some. the vast majority of cyclists there are white.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Schrauf December 15, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Nick 18, I disagree the idea “bike culture is dominated by progressive thinking” is an undisputed fact.

    Urban cycling, yes – as you said, many progressive people. However, a still much larger part of “bike culture” in the US includes roadies and weekend warrior type mountain bikers. Some are progressive, some not, but I would guess that a cross section of these groups would look very similar to a cross section of the general population.

    Roadies and mountain bikers may not really be the groups we are talking about in regards to this article on bike friendliness in cities, but they still control a huge part of so-called “bike culture”.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Hart December 15, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Hey, guess what? Blacks love cycling too. No reason diversity prevents social progress of cycling infrastructure.

    http://www.streetfilms.org/scraper-bikes/

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    solid gold December 16, 2009 at 7:00 am

    city biking isn’t directly a black or white thing, it’s an educated liberal thing. and most educated liberals are white. so, indirectly, yeah, biking is a white thing, until we manage to get some demographic shifts.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Nate December 16, 2009 at 7:47 am

    One thing to note is that Chicago is a very segregated city with white people on the North side, black people on the South side, and Hispanics to the west, with a few pockets of each mixed in. The neighborhoods are VERY clearly defined and there is little integration. The majority of the bike infrastructure changes are happening in these wealthier and majority white areas.

    I live in Chicago, and the vast majority of the people riding bikes that I see (I live on the North side, but not in Lakeview or Lincoln Park) are white. I work at a job that has me driving throughout Chicago in many neighborhoods, and I hardly see people in Black or Hispanic communities riding their bikes other than the occasional homeless person that uses it to get around. Chicago also has one of the highest obesity rates in the country – perhaps this is not a coincidence. I do have to say though that even in these communities that don’t seem to be using them, I have seen some random bike lanes.

    That being said, I think that LA is just using demographics as an excuse. They need to get out there and get community organizations behind what they are doing. If community organizations are behind a project in these communities, the rest of the people living there will likely also be behind it, or at least not fight it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Steve Brown December 16, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Take a look at Long Beach. Lots of bikes and fixies. Then again, it is a smaller self contained area. Bikes seem to work in neighborhoods in LA. But not between them. The area is a bit too spread out to work like Portland.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Duncan Watson December 16, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Portland invested more in cycling infrastructure, therefor it has more people cycling. I don’t see how this relates to its homogeneity.

    Yes, Portland is white, I am an ex-NYCer and lived in Portland for 5 years. It was shocking to my wife and I how white it is. And we were carless while living there, taking mass-transit everywhere. But it has good mass-transit, it has good cycling infrastructure and so those facilities get used.

    Los Angeles is known thoughout the US as a car centric locale. In NY we make jokes about how Angelos are born in a car, live in a car and die in a car. Shockingly a car-centric metro area has poor cycling infrastructure. The entire exchange makes me laugh.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Gary Kavanagh December 16, 2009 at 9:53 am

    “20 doesn’t even begin to come close to a long enough timespan to reverse the damage they inflicted on themselves out there in the desert.”

    I just want to say for clarity sake, Los Angeles is not a desert, an oft repeated myth. The rainfall pattern of the LA area is Mediterranean in nature, and as such has a unique range of biodiversity adapted to those conditions, which are rare on the planet. We don’t get much rainfall most years, but we are not living in a desert and it’s possible to ride a bike over to the forest from LA.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    david....no the other one December 16, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Statistics, graphs, opinions we got’em. But arn’t we discussing bicycling. That activity where you balance upon a wheeled device, that feels great when you coast down a hill and not as much when your going the other way.
    Maybe economically disadvantaged persons(poor)family’s view bicycle riding as something more well off financialy familys do, I don’t know. I havn’t been exposed to that mindset or have sought it out, but the familys that lived on our street were poor and hard working and most had bikes.
    They were what some would call clunkers, we just rode them. Some of us rode them far and wide. Some did not.
    If we are talking about higher population participation, we need to look around. Non-bicyclists are everywhere, they’re our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family, casual aquaintences, people we ride by on the way to the LBS, pub, or anywhere
    Look around, be friendly. Let’s build a great community of people, who bicycle.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    middle of the road guy December 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    One casual observation….

    as kids the less wealthy usually played sports with less equipment….like just a ball. Hoops, soccer, etc.

    The wealthier kids tended to play sports that required more equipment or “access” to facilities.

    I wonder how much impact riding a bike as a child has upon riding habits as an adult. If a poor kid grows up without a bike, are they more likely to not bike as an adult?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rrandom rider December 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Correlation does not equal causation. Whiteness cannot be said to be the reason for embracing bicycling.

    For those who believe otherwise, I have this magic rock I can sell you- I haven’t been hit by a car a single time since I started carrying it in my pocket.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    velo December 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    @ #41, Minnespolis and St. Paul have about 10% more racial minorities then Portland as of the 2000 census. As I said before, MSP is fairly white but Portland is whiter. If we want to make comparisons diversity isn’t the only issue to look at. People need to bike too.

    As has been stated be several people, LA was built as a car city, lots of big roads, big distances and big suburbs. Not surprised it’s hard to bike for transit there.

    That said, places like LA now exist and we need to figure out ways to move people though them with few cars and less pollution. Lets get creative. I’m doubting race is going to prevent cycling from continuing to spread and if becomes and issue we will have to figure out how to deal with it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    jim December 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I think what they left out is its just not safe to ride in LA. That would be because of the many gangs of many different nationalities

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] For example, […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    danceralamode December 16, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    I was listening via telephone audio to the entire meeting, and I live in Los Angeles as a car-free cyclist. For those of you who say Ms. Mowery was caught of guard, the questions were submitted 3 days or more ahead of the meeting for the express purpose of allowing the staff to prepare appropriate responses. What this showed me was that LA’s Bike Plan preparers are not at all serious about meeting the community’s need. If they can’t take the time to craft real answers to our questions, it’s quite clear they won’t take the time to craft a workable bike plan.

    Furthermore, Mowery’s argument that Portland is more homogenous than LA and has a smaller population goes to support Alex Thompson’s point: there should have been MORE outreach, not less. She could have just been honest and said, “only four meetings were funded, and due to this, we really need the help of the bicycle advocates in LA, like Thompson and Soapbox LA, as well as advocacy organizations CICLE and LA Bicycle Coalition to do further outreach and make up the difference.” That would have made the case that, yes, funding is scarce, and to solve the problem we are going to collaborate, which would make for a better process anyhow. In the end, the process was so disorganized that it did not take into account hardly any input from the aforementioned persons, and that leaves us where we are now, trying to re-work and revise Alta Planning’s less than mediocre plan, that, at it’s best, isn’t killing any trees because it’s only available online.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 16, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Gary #48:

    You might want to crack open a textbook or visit it sometime if you think LA has a Mediterranean climate or isn’t in the desert. Or heck, visit any historical site that predates suburbanization of LA County; I think you’ll learn something. And if you’re talking about the Angeles National “Forest”…that’s still a desert. Joshua trees don’t count as trees, they’re shrubs. I invite you to go up to Mt Hood National Forest sometime so you know what a forest actually looks like. Just remember Oregon is full, so remember to leave when you’re done visiting.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 16, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    David #49

    Not sure your logic holds out.

    Most people ride for transportation, not recreation. This is a worldwide trend.
    A midrange to high end bicycle costs less than a piece of shit car off Craigslist.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Jim #53:

    It would help greatly if California enforced licensing rules. Or for that matter, stopped giving the answers to the written test while potential licensees are taking the test. And passing people who get a high enough score on the written regardless of how badly they fail at the driving portion.

    Or if California, collectively as a culture, got over their “world revolves around MEEEE!” attitude and shared the road. If you bike in California, carry a gun, and learn how to use it. You will need it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Gary Kavanagh December 16, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Paul Johnson (56),

    Wow, that is some attitude there. Maybe you should check some books before telling others too, my ecology 101 class in college made it quite clear what the LA region is. Here is wiki for reference.

    http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_climate

    Yes obviously the forests of Oregon dwarf anything the LA region has to offer, but that wasn’t my point. I wasn’t trying to make it into a phallic contest of tree sizes. My point was the city of Los Angeles is not in a desert. Go out much further east and yes places like Joshua Tree are a desert, but that is vastly removed from LA. I know because I have ridden a bike all the way to Joshua Tree and saw the slow change of the ecosystems as I rolled along. Maybe you could try it sometime and learn something.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Gary Kavanagh December 16, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Paul,

    Here is a better break down of the Los Angeles basin climate description, which is most closely characterized by Mediterranean. You do know that in spite of the concrete monstrosity of a flood channel it has become, LA does have a river.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_the_Los_Angeles_Basin

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    danceralamode December 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Gary #59

    It’s also nice that Paul #56 tells you you’re not welcome to stay in Oregon. Last time I checked you didn’t have to ask permission to move to a different state. Talk about hospitality! Can’t we all play nice?!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 16, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    #61, Tenth Amendment. Oregon could, and should, reserve the right to close it’s borders to protect it’s labor market and economy. Deport the Californians, and we start having jobs, don’t have to worry about where to put more people. Cut the power lines to California, suddenly we’re not paying through the nose for their inability to build a power plant, and everyone but San Diego goes dark. I’m a little fed up with the attitude that California is entitled to all of Oregon’s resources.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Steve B. December 16, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    An interesting thing is that Portland actually does not have a long history of progressive transportation, it’s a recent phenomenon that really got kicked off when the Mt. Hood Freeway was killed off. Perhaps that’s long enough to give Portland a reputation, and we started a lot earlier with bike and transit projects because of it, but even in the 70’s the population was predominantly white.

    Race is certainly an interesting metric, but this is certainly more complicated than skin color.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Doug Klotz December 16, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Actually, most of Los Angeles, the city, is a grid of streets not that different from Portland’s east side. And LA had one of the largest rail transit systems in the world in the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the neighborhoods (like Venice and Inglewood, and what are now small cities like Torrance) were streetcar suburbs, with grids of bungalows and 2-story apartments and a streetcar or interurban line to downtown LA. The suburban areas (San Fernando Valley, and Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, broadly, and parts of the “south bay”) developed in the fifties and later, and are much more auto centric, with huge arterials and cul-de-sac neighborhoods.

    Areas like Santa Monica, mid-Wilshire, South Central, Los Feliz, even North Hollywood, are a grid. The mixed-use, “20-minute neighborhoods” are there. Admittedly, the major streets are crammed with traffic, but they’re actually mostly only four- (or six) lane streets, and mostly no wider than SE Powell Boulevard here. A network of bike boulevards, for instance, could easily be linked up out of other n-s and e-w streets in the grid (with protected crossings of major streets)

    There is the problem of longer distances between home and work, that would limit the number of straight bike commutes (vs. bike to transit, e.g.). Bike to the store could be easier to facilitate, but there’s all that traffic on even the minor arterials. Cycle tracks would be necessary in neighborhood shopping districts.

    It is my guess that LA would be easier to make bike friendly than truly auto-centric places like Atlanta (from what I read)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    John V December 16, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Paul Johnson, it’s not so bad in much of L.A. I have a 26-mile round trip commute which might sound long but really isn’t. I usually combine it with transit. I ride through some beautiful neighborhoods and it’s almost always nice out.

    And no, I don’t have to carry a gun. In fact I haven’t been honked at in months. This is because I know which small streets go through and because I am assertive but I don’t try to be a jerk. It would be nice if they formalized some of my routes into bike boulevards, sure, but even today it’s pretty easy to get around if you do a little homework.

    I have to agree with Gary, every source I’ve ever looked at classifies L.A.’s climate as Mediterranean. It sure felt like it today.

    Yes, I love your state of Oregon. I have family there who came from Vietnam in the 1970s. I’ve entertained thoughts of moving there but honestly I like Los Angeles, partly because I’ve become pretty good at getting around it without a car. Besides, there’s way more work to be done here to turn into a more livable city. I guess I’m a sucker for works in progress.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    jim December 16, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    remember too that in la you would not be able just to ride in a straight line from pt a to pt b, you would have to ride around certain parts off town. there are parts of la that the police don’t even want to go into

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Afro Biker December 17, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Maxadder:

    This black guy rides, but just chose not to fall into a ridiculous stereotype. And even as a black man, there are places in Los Angeles and back east where I came from where you would NOT want to be on a bicycle. Not because of cars so much but fear of assault.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 17, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I was right: If you ride in LA, bring a gun.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Gary Kavanagh December 17, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Are there areas of LA I would not ride a bike alone at night in, yes. However LA is really damn freaking huge place, and the total surface area of places I would be afraid to ride in due to assault is only a fraction of the city.

    Even some areas people get all freaked out over, I’ve ridden through and found people were more polite to me. I’ve ridden through Inglewood, but was never harassed by motorists there like in Beverly Hills where everyone has an entitlement complex.

    LA has ever kind of demographic, every ethnic group, every level of income from bums on skid row to mega millionaires in the Hollywood hills. Any one idea of what Los Angeles is, cannot adequately describe the city. There are pockets and communities only a few miles apart that are in many ways their own worlds.

    It gets kind of tiresome sometimes that everyone with a television set feels like they are an expert on life in Los Angeles. Is LA a great place to ride, no, it has a tremendous amount of catching up to do. But there are places far worse for cyclists and pedestrians, like just about anywhere in Florida.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    david....no the other one December 17, 2009 at 11:32 am

    To Paul @#57;

    To continue your thought, “most people ride for transportation, not recreation”.

    “Most” people her probably do. But, do we start out as comuters, or do we start out with small trips and turn into comuters.

    Can all of us afford a midrange to high end bicycle.
    Will most of us ride on all of the wonderful bikeways and shared roads this city affords?

    If we are again, talking about “inclusion” of more and more diverse people then each of US needs to look around at those OUR lives inpact.

    Yes big programs do impact lots of people, and most have a positive result. And take large dollars and time, and do have their place.

    For my money, in my opinion and of course only mine, I can affect more change by being open to oppertunities around me. Again it’s only an opinion.

    To Middle @#50, I wonder the same thing about not having a bike in childhood.

    To rrandom @#51, I’ve heard the magic rock theory, I’ve got my one good eye on you, just kidding.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    If you can afford a Craigslist beater car, you can afford a quality bicycle, especially since the bicycle has a negligible cost of maintenance and isn’t subject to wild fluctuations in fuel prices. Anybody who owns a car who says they can’t afford a decent bicycle is either supremely bad with money or has no idea what they’re talking about.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Johnson December 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Additionally, the single-time-use bicycles you find in discount stores tend to have maintenance costs similar to that of a used car, mostly because the cheap quality involved is the manufacturer banking on the purchaser only riding it a few times (50 miles over the lifetime of the bicycle, tops) before it sits in a shed to die until the owner goes “hey, I wanna go for a bike ride” and discovers they can’t without getting it fixed or buying another single-use bicycle…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Scott December 17, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Transportation and racism are related in US cities. Urban freeways and redlining were the mechanism for European Americans to move to the suburbs and isolate themselves from everyone else. It’s not good for a city when a large number of people of any background leave. They take wealth, education, skills, and local activism with them. In a more homogeneous city like Portland there was not as much desire to flee the city. There was not so much demand for suburb oriented automobile infrastructure. With more people living and working in the neighborhood where they grew up and fewer non-residents driving through on freeways it’s a lot easier to make bikes work.

    Racism was the force that made many US cities want to tear themselves apart. Automobile infrastructure was the enabler. You can get in a metal shell on a road that cuts through the neighborhood of people who you don’t like to get to a neighborhood of people that you do like. That’s hard to do on a bicycle.

    Without racism there would have been less sprawl and less suburb oriented automobile infrastructure. More people would have stayed in city neighborhoods where they grew up, where they supported local businesses, where they worked, where they paid taxes, and where they bicycled.

    The woman from LA is right. Because Portland is a more homogeneous city it is easier to promote bicycling. People don’t need to use cars to separate themselves.

    They have a hard problem down there and they need all the help and support we can provide.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    John V December 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    “If you ride in LA, bring a gun.”

    It’s comments like this that will drive more L.A. people into Oregon. Luckily your local Minuteman chapter will stop them cold since Oregon is apparently closed.

    ***

    “there are parts of la that the police don’t even want to go into”

    What parts might these be, and how would you know this? Gangsta rap albums?

    ***

    Paul Johnson is absolutely right about not buying crappy new department store bikes, though. There’s plenty of great used bikes on Craig’s List or from your local bike co-op.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] are so marginalized they’re not sure how to behave. It’s an unfortunate situation, but rest assured the city of Los Angeles is planning to do something about it by increasing the number of white peopl…:Yes, once Los Angeles can reduce the pesky racial diversity that somehow prevents them from being […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous December 18, 2009 at 12:00 am

    carrying a gun in LA is not going to save you. A cell phone and some really good connections might though.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    soundguysean December 18, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Haven’t read all the comments yet. But commenting on the pic…I would never ride a bike down Melrose at any hour, any day of the weeks. Just crossing the street on a walk sign is taking your life in your hands. People get up to 70 stoplight to stoplight. And this is on a weds mid morning.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Christa December 18, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Is it more a matter of affluence than ethnicity?

    bicycle-friendly city = wealth ?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Fatboy December 21, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Some historical perspective, here. When I started cycling in Los Angeles, in the late 1960’s, the touring club I rode with –Los Angeles Wheelmen–had a noticeable number of black and Hispanic cyclists. At races, there were two visible Hispanic clubs, Club Ciclistas Aztecas, and Club Ciclisto Mexico. Later, starting about 1973, there was and still is a mainly African-American club, the Major Motion cycling club.
    Two of the first cyclists in the LA Wheelmen to take me under their wing and teach me how to keep from becoming roadkill were black–Richard Mason and Henry Corbett. I think that IF there is a “whiter” cycling community here, it is due to the population at large–I moved here in 1977 and didn’t hear Spanish spoken by anyone until 1981.
    I think it makes sense to look for reasons beyond any kind of cultural, racial, or economic bias which seems like the first place many people look now. Very few Americans of any color were real cyclists from 1960 to 2000, not a whole lot more are these days. All ethnic groups in the US are underrepresented in cycling!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    J.Chong December 30, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Thx for the City of Chicago comments in post #45.
    And for fatboy in post #79, hope you write up a more detailed article on that history part for LA. Or if it’s written up already, please provide us the reference.

    As a Canadian cyclist from Vancouver, B.C. who lived and cycled in Toronto, Ontario for several years prior 2002, it might be useful that public education and public involvement on cycling, alternative transportation planning, livable/sustainable urban planning, may be on scale of complexity and magnitude might be similar to LA:

    Visible Minority
    Metro Toronto 5+million South Asian: 684,000+ 486,000 Chinese

    Metro Vancouver 2+ million South Asian 217,000+ 381,000+ Chinese

    From Statistics Canada 2006 census. I’ve given only the top figures.
    http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/hlt/97-562/pages/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo=CMA&Code=933__&Data=Count&Table=2&StartRec=1&Sort=3&Display=All&CSDFilter=5000

    The sheer size and magnitude of numbers for Metro Toronto and Metro Vancouver in demographic composition make it difficult to generalize. Yes, there are some neighbourhood differences, as well as heterogeneity within 1 particular ethnic group in terms of income, educational level, born in Canada vs. recent immigrants, etc.

    I have visited Portland twice in past 2 years as cyclist. Let me gently express: Vancouver and Toronto offer and aggressively market their cities for its obvious diversity: large/huge sections of South Asians, Chinese of which there are several large area concentrations, not just 1 area per group. Up to this point, I have not yet perceived Portland in this manner as a visitor. Nothing wrong with this for Portland. But it is important that Portland view its diversity issues and how it plans for it as quite frankly not on the same magnitude and complexity as LA, Vancouver BC or Toronto.

    There might be various socio-economic, linguistic and cultural reasons why cycling is perceived as dominated by certain folks in certain city areas. Also some of those reasons might simply be lack of cycling infrastructure and connectivity in certain neighbourhoods.

    But part of the question is: Does building cycling infrastructure (bike lanes, paths) and then the people will come? Is it like building new or wider highways, streets and in 5-10 years more cars will fill up the new roadways? Is it presumptuous to assume that with mere existence of cycling infrastructure people will eventually get of cars and flock to the bike routes?

    It may not be that simple for a variety of reasons, depending on the area of any city. Most of us know there needs to be other incentives or motives to help many people go to and use cycling often within their lives.

    Why bother looking at matters of which segments of the population in cycling and alternative transporation planning:

    For cycling advocacy groups, city planners: Serve your people. You are providing a service, a transportation program is a service.

    Serve the people well. If they don’t want to partake in the service, then at least you have listened, tailored your communication plans and programs to reach out. Then one might have to keep at cycling your talk and see change in 5-10 years in converting more cyclists.

    Small history note, on bilingual bike map, a first probably in Canada, but probably forgotten by now:

    http://thirdwavecyclingblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/bilingual-multilingual-bicycle-maps-canada%e2%80%99s-first-chinese-english-bicycle-map-for-metro-toronto-a-legacy-of-eugene-yao-community-and-cycling-activist/

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar