Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 7th, 2010 at 9:14 am
The Oregonian’s John Canzano is sad that Portland’s Triple A baseball team (the Beavers) played their final home game on Sunday; but instead of using his column to reminisce about innings past, he decided to take a few swings at bike lanes.
What do our bikeways have to do with baseball? Nothing. But that doesn’t stop Canzano from blaming the inability of Portland to hold onto a professional baseball team, at least in part, to “those silly bike lanes.”
Here’s an excerpt from his column (emphasis mine):
“Guilty, too, is the visionless City Council… afraid to ask Portland to act like a major city.
Oh, we have an aerial tram, that ran four times ($57 million) the original budget. And we have those silly bike lanes and a $613 million Portland Bicycle Plan. But what Portland doesn’t have after today is a Triple-A baseball team playing in a ballpark where you can bring your family. A piece of the infrastructure of a city just got ripped out.
I’ll think about that every time I see the underused bike lanes and that blasted empty tram running overhead. And you should never forget the names of the politicians who were on watch the next time you go to cast a vote…
What kind of city does Portland want to be?”
What makes this so surprising is that Canzano isn’t just another columnist, he’s consistently named one of the best sportswriters in America.
Perhaps Canzano simply doesn’t realize that tens of thousands of Portlanders rely on bike lanes every day (and many people take them to Beavers games!), or that, unlike baseball, providing safe and efficient non-motorized transportation infrastructure is an essential service our City is obligated to provide.
Unfortunately, Canzano is using bike infrastructure as a scapegoat when he’s really just upset at Mayor Sam Adams. This is a common occurrence in Portland. Here’s how it works:
Mayor Adams is closely tied to his “bike-friendly mayor” label and there are many people in this city who think he’s nothing more than a pawn of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and “a vocal pocket of elites” — both of which are so untrue it’s laughable. So, whenever someone gets upset at the Mayor’s policies, they look around and find bicycles as a convenient and powerful whipping boy. Journalists have an added incentive to take a few swipes at bicycling because they know it’s a surefire way to whip up emotions (Canzano’s article had 189 comments at last check).
It’s also worth noting that Canzano joins a legacy of negative, biased, and sensationalized reporting about bicycles in The Oregonian. In July of 2008, when criticized about a string of sensationalized “bike vs. car” stories, The Oregonian’s Associate Editor Rick Attig admitted, “Maybe we overplayed this story, but it was compelling to readers…”
Back in June, when NW Examiner publisher Allan Classen went on his “bicycle zealots” diatribe, I shared the following thoughts:
“This is just the latest example of the culture wars around biking that persist here in Portland… Biking is a convenient scapegoat, a frequently tossed political football, and a common source of sensationalized reporting.”
The BTA’s new leader Rob Sadowsky has published an “open letter” to Canzano. A big baseball fan himself, Sadowsky writes that, “It is not now and should never be a choice between investing in baseball or investing in bicycling.” Sadowsky then invited Canzano on a bike ride to show him, “the great things that are going on, talk about the challenges, and lament the loss of baseball.”
Read Canzano’s piece here.